I do not want you to answer me now. I do not want us to speak any more about the matter here.
When we meet again in Paris you will let me know what you have resolved upon.
Until then, not a word. Is it not so?"
He had uttered all this without looking at her, as though scattering his words abroad in the night before him.
She seemed not to have heard them, so motionless had she remained, looking also straight before her with a fixed and vague stare at the vast landscape lit up by the moon.
They remained for some time side by side, elbow touching elbow, silent and reflecting.
Then she murmured: "It is rather cold," and turning round, returned towards the bed.
He followed her.
When he drew near he recognized that Forestier's body was really beginning to smell, and drew his chair to a distance, for he could not have stood this odor of putrefaction long.
He said: "He must be put in a coffin the first thing in the morning."
"Yes, yes, it is arranged," she replied. "The undertaker will be here at eight o'clock."
Duroy having sighed out the words, "Poor fellow," she, too, gave a long sigh of heartrending resignation.
They did not look at the body so often now, already accustomed to the idea of it, and beginning to mentally consent to the decease which but a short time back had shocked and angered them--them who were mortals, too.
They no longer spoke, continuing to keep watch in befitting fashion without going to sleep.
But towards midnight Duroy dozed off the first.
When he woke up he saw that Madame Forestier was also slumbering, and having shifted to a more comfortable position, he reclosed his eyes, growling:
"Confound it all, it is more comfortable between the sheets all the same."
A sudden noise made him start up.
The nurse was entering the room.
It was broad daylight.
The young wife in the armchair in front of him seemed as surprised as himself.
She was somewhat pale, but still pretty, fresh-looking, and nice, in spite of this night passed in a chair.
Then, having glanced at the corpse, Duroy started and exclaimed:
"Oh, his beard!"
The beard had grown in a few hours on this decomposing flesh as much as it would have in several days on a living face.
And they stood scared by this life continuing in death, as though in presence of some fearful prodigy, some supernatural threat of resurrection, one of these startling and abnormal events which upset and confound the mind.
They both went and lay down until eleven o'clock.
Then they placed Charles in his coffin, and at once felt relieved and soothed.
They had sat down face to face at lunch with an aroused desire to speak of the livelier and more consolatory matters, to return to the things of life again, since they had done with the dead.
Through the wide-open window the soft warmth of spring flowed in, bearing the perfumed breath of the bed of pinks in bloom before the door.
Madame Forestier suggested a stroll in the garden to Duroy, and they began to walk slowly round the little lawn, inhaling with pleasure the balmy air, laden with the scent of pine and eucalyptus.
Suddenly she began to speak, without turning her head towards him, as he had done during the night upstairs. She uttered her words slowly, in a low and serious voice. "Look here, my dear friend, I have deeply reflected already on what you proposed to me, and I do not want you to go away without an answer.
Besides, I am neither going to say yes nor no.
We will wait, we will see, we will know one another better.
Reflect, too, on your side. Do not give way to impulse.
But if I speak to you of this before even poor Charles is lowered into the tomb, it is because it is necessary, after what you have said to me, that you should thoroughly understand what sort of woman I am, in order that you may no longer cherish the wish you expressed to me, in case you are not of a--of a--disposition to comprehend and bear with me.
Understand me well.
Marriage for me is not a charm, but a partnership.
I mean to be free, perfectly free as to my ways, my acts, my going and coming.
I could neither tolerate supervision, nor jealousy, nor arguments as to my behavior.
I should undertake, be it understood, never to compromise the name of the man who takes me as his wife, never to render him hateful and ridiculous.
But this man must also undertake to see in me an equal, an ally, and not an inferior or an obedient and submissive wife.
My notions, I know, are not those of every one, but I shall not change them.
There you are.
I will also add, do not answer me; it would be useless and unsuitable.
We shall see one another again, and shall perhaps speak of all this again later on.
Now, go for a stroll.
I shall return to watch beside him.
Till this evening."
He printed a long kiss on her hand, and went away without uttering a word.