This name was to him a biting jest, more than a jest, almost an insult.
It said to him:
"It is your wife who does your work, as she did that of the other.
You would be nothing without her."
He admitted that Forestier would have been no one without Madeleine; but as to himself, come now!
Then, at home, the haunting impression continued.
It was the whole place now that recalled the dead man to him, the whole of the furniture, the whole of the knicknacks, everything he laid hands on.
He had scarcely thought of this at the outset, but the joke devised by his comrades had caused a kind of mental wound, which a number of trifles, unnoticed up to the present, now served to envenom.
He could not take up anything without at once fancying he saw the hand of Charles upon it.
He only looked at it and made use of things the latter had made use of formerly; things that he had purchased, liked, and enjoyed.
And George began even to grow irritated at the thought of the bygone relations between his friend and his wife.
He was sometimes astonished at this revolt of his heart, which he did not understand, and said to himself,
"How the deuce is it?
I am not jealous of Madeleine's friends.
I am never uneasy about what she is up to.
She goes in and out as she chooses, and yet the recollection of that brute of a Charles puts me in a rage."
He added, "At the bottom, he was only an idiot, and it is that, no doubt, that wounds me.
I am vexed that Madeleine could have married such a fool."
And he kept continually repeating,
"How is it that she could have stomached such a donkey for a single moment?"
His rancor was daily increased by a thousand insignificant details, which stung him like pin pricks, by the incessant reminders of the other arising out of a word from Madeleine, from the man-servant, from the waiting-maid.
One evening Du Roy, who liked sweet dishes, said, "How is it we never have sweets at dinner?"
His wife replied, cheerfully, "That is quite true. I never think about them.
It is all through Charles, who hated--"
He cut her short in a fit of impatience he was unable to control, exclaiming, "Hang it all!
I am sick of Charles. It is always Charles here and Charles there, Charles liked this and Charles liked that.
Since Charles is dead, for goodness sake leave him in peace."
Madeleine looked at her husband in amazement, without being able to understand his sudden anger.
Then, as she was sharp, she guessed what was going on within him; this slow working of posthumous jealousy, swollen every moment by all that recalled the other.
She thought it puerile, may be, but was flattered by it, and did not reply.
He was vexed with himself at this irritation, which he had not been able to conceal.
As they were writing after dinner an article for the next day, his feet got entangled in the foot mat.
He kicked it aside, and said with a laugh:
"Charles was always chilly about the feet, I suppose?"
She replied, also laughing:
"Oh! he lived in mortal fear of catching cold; his chest was very weak."
Du Roy replied grimly: "He has given us a proof of that."
Then kissing his wife's hand, he added gallantly: "Luckily for me."
But on going to bed, still haunted by the same idea, he asked:
"Did Charles wear nightcaps for fear of the draughts?"
She entered into the joke, and replied: "No; only a silk handkerchief tied round his head."
George shrugged his shoulders, and observed, with contempt,
"What a baby."
From that time forward Charles became for him an object of continual conversation.
He dragged him in on all possible occasions, speaking of him as "Poor Charles," with an air of infinite pity.
When he returned home from the office, where he had been accosted twice or thrice as Forestier, he avenged himself by bitter railleries against the dead man in his tomb.
He recalled his defects, his absurdities, his littleness, enumerating them with enjoyment, developing and augmenting them as though he had wished to combat the influence of a dreaded rival over the heart of his wife.
He would say, "I say, Made, do you remember the day when that duffer Forestier tried to prove to us that stout men were stronger than spare ones?"
Then he sought to learn a number of private and secret details respecting the departed, which his wife, ill at ease, refused to tell him.
But he obstinately persisted, saying,