“There is no one at your house!”
“Oh, no one! And the doctor is crying. He is calling for you; they’re looking for you.”
Emma answered nothing. She gasped as she turned her eyes about her, while the peasant woman, frightened at her face, drew back instinctively, thinking her mad. Suddenly she struck her brow and uttered a cry; for the thought of Rodolphe, like a flash of lightning in a dark night, had passed into her soul. He was so good, so delicate, so generous! And besides, should he hesitate to do her this service, she would know well enough how to constrain him to it by re-waking, in a single moment, their lost love. So she set out towards La Huchette, not seeing that she was hastening to offer herself to that which but a while ago had so angered her, not in the least conscious of her prostitution.
She asked herself as she walked along, “What am I going to say? How shall I begin?” And as she went on she recognised the thickets, the trees, the sea-rushes on the hill, the chateau yonder. All the sensations of her first tenderness came back to her, and her poor aching heart opened out amorously. A warm wind blew in her face; the melting snow fell drop by drop from the buds to the grass.
She entered, as she used to, through the small park-gate. She reached the avenue bordered by a double row of dense lime-trees. They were swaying their long whispering branches to and fro. The dogs in their kennels all barked, and the noise of their voices resounded, but brought out no one.
She went up the large straight staircase with wooden balusters that led to the corridor paved with dusty flags, into which several doors in a row opened, as in a monastery or an inn. His was at the top, right at the end, on the left. When she placed her fingers on the lock her strength suddenly deserted her. She was afraid, almost wished he would not be there, though this was her only hope, her last chance of salvation. She collected her thoughts for one moment, and, strengthening herself by the feeling of present necessity, went in.
He was in front of the fire, both his feet on the mantelpiece, smoking a pipe.
“What! it is you!” he said, getting up hurriedly.
“Yes, it is I, Rodolphe. I should like to ask your advice.”
And, despite all her efforts, it was impossible for her to open her lips.
“You have not changed; you are charming as ever!”
“Oh,” she replied bitterly, “they are poor charms since you disdained them.”
Then he began a long explanation of his conduct, excusing himself in vague terms, in default of being able to invent better.
She yielded to his words, still more to his voice and the sight of him, so that, she pretended to believe, or perhaps believed; in the pretext he gave for their rupture; this was a secret on which depended the honour, the very life of a third person.