“That is true,” said Charles; “but I was thinking especially of illnesses—of typhoid fever, for example, that attacks students from the provinces.”
“Because of the change of regimen,” continued the chemist, “and of the perturbation that results therefrom in the whole system. And then the water at Paris, don’t you know! The dishes at restaurants, all the spiced food, end by heating the blood, and are not worth, whatever people may say of them, a good soup. For my own part, I have always preferred plain living; it is more healthy. So when I was studying pharmacy at Rouen, I boarded in a boarding house; I dined with the professors.”
And thus he went on, expounding his opinions generally and his personal likings, until Justin came to fetch him for a mulled egg that was wanted.
“Not a moment’s peace!” he cried; “always at it! I can’t go out for a minute! Like a plough-horse, I have always to be moiling and toiling. What drudgery!” Then, when he was at the door, “By the way, do you know the news?”
“That it is very likely,” Homais went on, raising his eyebrows and assuming one of his most serious expression, “that the agricultural meeting of the Seine-Inferieure will be held this year at Yonville-l’Abbaye. The rumour, at all events, is going the round. This morning the paper alluded to it. It would be of the utmost importance for our district. But we’ll talk it over later on. I can see, thank you; Justin has the lantern.”
The next day was a dreary one for Emma. Everything seemed to her enveloped in a black atmosphere floating confusedly over the exterior of things, and sorrow was engulfed within her soul with soft shrieks such as the winter wind makes in ruined castles. It was that reverie which we give to things that will not return, the lassitude that seizes you after everything was done; that pain, in fine, that the interruption of every wonted movement, the sudden cessation of any prolonged vibration, brings on.
As on the return from Vaubyessard, when the quadrilles were running in her head, she was full of a gloomy melancholy, of a numb despair. Leon reappeared, taller, handsomer, more charming, more vague. Though separated from her, he had not left her; he was there, and the walls of the house seemed to hold his shadow.
She could not detach her eyes from the carpet where he had walked, from those empty chairs where he had sat. The river still flowed on, and slowly drove its ripples along the slippery banks.