Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
Shortly after Heloise dies, Monsieur Rouault stops at Charles’s house for a visit. After paying the medical bill for his broken leg, he offers a few words of comfort to the young widower. Monsieur Rouault is a widower himself, and he says that the grief of losing one’s love can last a long time. He adds that grieving is necessary but that one must not give up on life just because a loved one is gone.
Monsieur Rouault asks Charles to visit Les Bartaux, and Charles soon acts on the invitation. His host is very kind. Charles casually takes every opportunity to talk with Mademoiselle Rouault at Bartaux; they chat about their school experiences, their mothers, the funerals they have attended, and other topics of mutual interest. Mademoiselle Rouault is a highly expressive girl who goes through frequent, intense shifts in mood. One moment she is excited, and the next she is bored. To Charles, she is always fascinating. As time passes, he begins to call her by her first name, Emma.
At home, Charles finds himself unable to get his mind off of Emma. Eventually it dawns on him that he is single again and thus free to marry. Emma seems impossibly glamorous to him, but he resolves to ask her to marry him. He then finds it difficult to work up the courage to act on this decision.
Monsieur Rouault notices Charles’s behavior toward Emma and, after thinking it over, decides that it would be all right for her to marry the young doctor. Emma is not very useful on the farm, and Monsieur Rouault would not mind giving up the cost of keeping her. Charles is “a bit of a namby-pamby, not his dream of a son-in-law,” but the young man has a good reputation and is unlikely to push for a huge dowry.
In October, after a visit to Les Bartaux, Charles shyly tries to ask Monsieur Rouault for permission to marry Emma. Monsieur Rouault interrupts the young man’s hesitant stuttering to say it is a fine idea. He offers to ask Emma himself while Charles waits outside. If she says yes, Monsieur Rouault promises to slam open a window shutter as a signal. Charles agrees to this plan and hides nervously in the garden. He is forced to wait a long time, but eventually the window shutter opens with a bang.
Since the couple cannot get married too soon after the death of Charles’s first wife, a spring wedding date is set. The winter is spent making arrangements for the ceremony. Emma wants a romantic midnight festival, but her father insists on a normal country wedding.