Searching for a moment alone II – La Rencontre by Courbet

La Rencontre by Gustave Courbet

As he doffs his hat to two gentlemen on the way to the bakery, Sam pauses for a while. Blum at his side, stares at one of the men who appears to be a traveller. Holding a stick, staff, carrying a bursting rucksack, and sporting a beard which attests that he hasn’t shaved for a while, the man standing before Sam, Blum, and the other passer-by tilts his head pensively.

‘I see that you are busy travelling. May I ask where you are going, gentleman?’ asks Sam timidly. He doesn’t quite grasp why he shies away in front of this young man. Something in his attitude reminds him of his son, Joachim who is at home revising his notes with a tutor.
‘Well yes, sir, you are indeed right. I am travelling to visit family members I haven’t seen in a while.’
Blum barks at this moment and Sam has to shush him.

The other man standing not far behind, holding a cane and a warmer coat waits for his turn to interfere in the conversation. He has recognised Sam and wants to salute him on this hot summer day.
‘I have been walking since this morning from the South. I appreciate the sun beams but it is starting to be warm now. I am ready for a break.’
‘Well, there is always the tavern in the village or, if you cannot afford it, the fountain across this field could do too.’ The man holding his coat finally spoke but in a condescending tone which makes Sam uncomfortable.
‘Here, son, have a sip from my water bottle,’ said Sam, taking a small transparent container out from his coat pocket. At the word son, the young man looked down, glancing at Blum who barked. Again.
‘Thank you, sir, but I will do as this wise man says and walk across this field of wheat to find the nearest water fountain.’
‘Please, you can call me Sam, and I insist that you quench your thirst with my water.’ Sam stared at the man for a moment, waiting for him to introduce himself. ‘Alfred. It’s Alfred.’
Confused and unwell, Sam briskly returned his doffed hat. Alfred wondered what could be the matter and if his presence was now unwanted.

His head ached and his vision became blurry. It happens to him from time to time that is perhaps why his wife had been so protective toward him. Sam felt like something from the past was resurfacing but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. Today he could and this news was not welcome.
‘You are not feeling alright, Sam,’ said Alfred in a calm and soft voice. ‘Let’s sit you down on this rock.’
He held Sam’s arm and offered him his stick to lean on. As they walked slowly a few meters away, the man who had witnessed the scene passed them and said that he was going to seek medical help. Both Sam and Alfred did not even consider his offer and let him go.
‘I am sorry for this man’s behaviour,’ Sam sighed. ‘He has been rude all the way.’
‘Don’t you worry about him. I have experienced a lot worse during my travels. Let’s get you feeling better.’

Both men were now sitting on a large rock. The sun was at its zenith and unfortunately the tall svelte trees aligned on each side of the road were not providing enough shadow.
‘I think I should return home,’ Sam announced. ‘And I think you should come with me.’
Both men stared at each other, knowing that it was right but having a hard time justifying it to themselves.
Without asking any question they both acquiesced by nodding, and as they both stood up on their feet, Blum began to hop and dance around both of them.

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