Part 1 out of 8
By Gustave Flaubert
Translated from the French by Eleanor Marx-Aveling
To Marie-Antoine-Jules Senard
Member of the Paris Bar, Ex-President of the National Assembly,
and Former Minister of the Interior
Dear and Illustrious Friend,
Permit me to inscribe your name at the head of this book, and
above its dedication; for it is to you, before all, that I owe
its publication. Reading over your magnificent defence, my work
has acquired for myself, as it were, an unexpected authority.
Accept, then, here, the homage of my gratitude, which, how great
soever it is, will never attain the height of your eloquence and
Paris, 12 April 1857
We were in class when the head-master came in, followed by a "new
fellow," not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant
carrying a large desk. Those who had been asleep woke up, and
every one rose as if just surprised at his work.
The head-master made a sign to us to sit down. Then, turning to
the class-master, he said to him in a low voice--
"Monsieur Roger, here is a pupil whom I recommend to your care;
he'll be in the second. If his work and conduct are satisfactory,
he will go into one of the upper classes, as becomes his age."
The "new fellow," standing in the corner behind the door so that
he could hardly be seen, was a country lad of about fifteen, and
taller than any of us. His hair was cut square on his forehead
like a village chorister's; he looked reliable, but very ill at
ease. Although he was not broad-shouldered, his short school
jacket of green cloth with black buttons must have been tight
about the arm-holes, and showed at the opening of the cuffs red
wrists accustomed to being bare. His legs, in blue stockings,
looked out from beneath yellow trousers, drawn tight by braces,
He wore stout, ill-cleaned, hob-nailed boots.
We began repeating the lesson. He listened with all his ears, as
attentive as if at a sermon, not daring even to cross his legs or
lean on his elbow; and when at two o'clock the bell rang, the
master was obliged to tell him to fall into line with the rest of
When we came back to work, we were in the habit of throwing our
caps on the ground so as to have our hands more free; we used
from the door to toss them under the form, so that they hit
against the wall and made a lot of dust: it was "the thing."
But, whether he had not noticed the trick, or did not dare to
attempt it, the "new fellow," was still holding his cap on his
knees even after prayers were over. It was one of those
head-gears of composite order, in which we can find traces of the
bearskin, shako, billycock hat, sealskin cap, and cotton
night-cap; one of those poor things, in fine, whose dumb ugliness
has depths of expression, like an imbecile's face. Oval,
stiffened with whalebone, it began with three round knobs; then
came in succession lozenges of velvet and rabbit-skin separated
by a red band; after that a sort of bag that ended in a cardboard
polygon covered with complicated braiding, from which hung, at
the end of a long thin cord, small twisted gold threads in the
manner of a tassel. The cap was new; its peak shone.
"Rise," said the master.
He stood up; his cap fell. The whole class began to laugh. He
stooped to pick it up. A neighbor knocked it down again with his
elbow; he picked it up once more.
"Get rid of your helmet," said the master, who was a bit of a
There was a burst of laughter from the boys, which so thoroughly
put the poor lad out of countenance that he did not know whether
to keep his cap in his hand, leave it on the ground, or put it on
his head. He sat down again and placed it on his knee.
"Rise," repeated the master, "and tell me your name."
The new boy articulated in a stammering voice an unintelligible
The same sputtering of syllables was heard, drowned by the
tittering of the class.
"Louder!" cried the master; "louder!"
The "new fellow" then took a supreme resolution, opened an
inordinately large mouth, and shouted at the top of his voice as
if calling someone in the word "Charbovari."
A hubbub broke out, rose in crescendo with bursts of shrill
voices (they yelled, barked, stamped, repeated "Charbovari!
Charbovari"), then died away into single notes, growing quieter
only with great difficulty, and now and again suddenly
recommencing along the line of a form whence rose here and there,
like a damp cracker going off, a stifled laugh.
However, amid a rain of impositions, order was gradually
re-established in the class; and the master having succeeded in
catching the name of "Charles Bovary," having had it dictated to
him, spelt out, and re-read, at once ordered the poor devil to go
and sit down on the punishment form at the foot of the master's
desk. He got up, but before going hesitated.
"What are you looking for?" asked the master.
"My c-a-p," timidly said the "new fellow," casting troubled looks
"Five hundred lines for all the class!" shouted in a furious
voice stopped, like the Quos ego*, a fresh outburst. "Silence!"
continued the master indignantly, wiping his brow with his
handkerchief, which he had just taken from his cap. "As to you,
'new boy,' you will conjugate 'ridiculus sum'** twenty times."
Then, in a gentler tone, "Come, you'll find your cap again; it
hasn't been stolen."
*A quotation from the Aeneid signifying a threat.
**I am ridiculous.
Quiet was restored. Heads bent over desks, and the "new fellow"
remained for two hours in an exemplary attitude, although from
time to time some paper pellet flipped from the tip of a pen came
bang in his face. But he wiped his face with one hand and
continued motionless, his eyes lowered.
In the evening, at preparation, he pulled out his pens from his
desk, arranged his small belongings, and carefully ruled his
paper. We saw him working conscientiously, looking up every word
in the dictionary, and taking the greatest pains. Thanks, no
doubt, to the willingness he showed, he had not to go down to the
class below. But though he knew his rules passably, he had little
finish in composition. It was the cure of his village who had
taught him his first Latin; his parents, from motives of economy,
having sent him to school as late as possible.
His father, Monsieur Charles Denis Bartolome Bovary, retired
assistant-surgeon-major, compromised about 1812 in certain
conscription scandals, and forced at this time to leave the
service, had taken advantage of his fine figure to get hold of a
dowry of sixty thousand francs that offered in the person of a
hosier's daughter who had fallen in love with his good looks. A
fine man, a great talker, making his spurs ring as he walked,
wearing whiskers that ran into his moustache, his fingers always
garnished with rings and dressed in loud colours, he had the dash
of a military man with the easy go of a commercial traveller.
Once married, he lived for three or four years on his wife's
fortune, dining well, rising late, smoking long porcelain pipes,
not coming in at night till after the theatre, and haunting
cafes. The father-in-law died, leaving little; he was indignant
at this, "went in for the business," lost some money in it, then
retired to the country, where he thought he would make money.
But, as he knew no more about farming than calico, as he rode his
horses instead of sending them to plough, drank his cider in
bottle instead of selling it in cask, ate the finest poultry in
his farmyard, and greased his hunting-boots with the fat of his
pigs, he was not long in finding out that he would do better to
give up all speculation.
For two hundred francs a year he managed to live on the border of
the provinces of Caux and Picardy, in a kind of place half farm,
half private house; and here, soured, eaten up with regrets,
cursing his luck, jealous of everyone, he shut himself up at the
age of forty-five, sick of men, he said, and determined to live
His wife had adored him once on a time; she had bored him with a
thousand servilities that had only estranged him the more. Lively
once, expansive and affectionate, in growing older she had become
(after the fashion of wine that, exposed to air, turns to
vinegar) ill-tempered, grumbling, irritable. She had suffered so
much without complaint at first, until she had seem him going
after all the village drabs, and until a score of bad houses sent
him back to her at night, weary, stinking drunk. Then her pride
revolted. After that she was silent, burying her anger in a dumb
stoicism that she maintained till her death. She was constantly
going about looking after business matters. She called on the
lawyers, the president, remembered when bills fell due, got them
renewed, and at home ironed, sewed, washed, looked after the
workmen, paid the accounts, while he, troubling himself about
nothing, eternally besotted in sleepy sulkiness, whence he only
roused himself to say disagreeable things to her, sat smoking by
the fire and spitting into the cinders.
When she had a child, it had to be sent out to nurse. When he
came home, the lad was spoilt as if he were a prince. His mother
stuffed him with jam; his father let him run about barefoot, and,
playing the philosopher, even said he might as well go about
quite naked like the young of animals. As opposed to the maternal
ideas, he had a certain virile idea of childhood on which he
sought to mould his son, wishing him to be brought up hardily,
like a Spartan, to give him a strong constitution. He sent him to
bed without any fire, taught him to drink off large draughts of
rum and to jeer at religious processions. But, peaceable by
nature, the lad answered only poorly to his notions. His mother
always kept him near her; she cut out cardboard for him, told him
tales, entertained him with endless monologues full of melancholy
gaiety and charming nonsense. In her life's isolation she
centered on the child's head all her shattered, broken little
vanities. She dreamed of high station; she already saw him, tall,
handsome, clever, settled as an engineer or in the law. She
taught him to read, and even, on an old piano, she had taught him
two or three little songs. But to all this Monsieur Bovary,
caring little for letters, said, "It was not worth while. Would
they ever have the means to send him to a public school, to buy
him a practice, or start him in business? Besides, with cheek a
man always gets on in the world." Madame Bovary bit her lips, and
the child knocked about the village.
He went after the labourers, drove away with clods of earth the
ravens that were flying about. He ate blackberries along the
hedges, minded the geese with a long switch, went haymaking
during harvest, ran about in the woods, played hop-scotch under
the church porch on rainy days, and at great fetes begged the
beadle to let him toll the bells, that he might hang all his
weight on the long rope and feel himself borne upward by it in
its swing. Meanwhile he grew like an oak; he was strong on hand,
fresh of colour.
When he was twelve years old his mother had her own way; he began
lessons. The cure took him in hand; but the lessons were so short
and irregular that they could not be of much use. They were given
at spare moments in the sacristy, standing up, hurriedly, between
a baptism and a burial; or else the cure, if he had not to go
out, sent for his pupil after the Angelus*. They went up to his
room and settled down; the flies and moths fluttered round the
candle. It was close, the child fell asleep, and the good man,
beginning to doze with his hands on his stomach, was soon snoring
with his mouth wide open. On other occasions, when Monsieur le
Cure, on his way back after administering the viaticum to some
sick person in the neighbourhood, caught sight of Charles playing
about the fields, he called him, lectured him for a quarter of an
hour and took advantage of the occasion to make him conjugate his
verb at the foot of a tree. The rain interrupted them or an
acquaintance passed. All the same he was always pleased with him,
and even said the "young man" had a very good memory.
*A devotion said at morning, noon, and evening, at the sound of a
bell. Here, the evening prayer.
Charles could not go on like this. Madame Bovary took strong
steps. Ashamed, or rather tired out, Monsieur Bovary gave in
without a struggle, and they waited one year longer, so that the
lad should take his first communion.
Six months more passed, and the year after Charles was finally
sent to school at Rouen, where his father took him towards the
end of October, at the time of the St. Romain fair.
It would now be impossible for any of us to remember anything
about him. He was a youth of even temperament, who played in
playtime, worked in school-hours, was attentive in class, slept
well in the dormitory, and ate well in the refectory. He had in
loco parentis* a wholesale ironmonger in the Rue Ganterie, who
took him out once a month on Sundays after his shop was shut,
sent him for a walk on the quay to look at the boats, and then
brought him back to college at seven o'clock before supper. Every
Thursday evening he wrote a long letter to his mother with red
ink and three wafers; then he went over his history note-books,
or read an old volume of "Anarchasis" that was knocking about the
study. When he went for walks he talked to the servant, who, like
himself, came from the country.
*In place of a parent.
By dint of hard work he kept always about the middle of the
class; once even he got a certificate in natural history. But at
the end of his third year his parents withdrew him from the
school to make him study medicine, convinced that he could even
take his degree by himself.
His mother chose a room for him on the fourth floor of a dyer's
she knew, overlooking the Eau-de-Robec. She made arrangements for
his board, got him furniture, table and two chairs, sent home for
an old cherry-tree bedstead, and bought besides a small cast-iron
stove with the supply of wood that was to warm the poor child.
Then at the end of a week she departed, after a thousand
injunctions to be good now that he was going to be left to
The syllabus that he read on the notice-board stunned him;
lectures on anatomy, lectures on pathology, lectures on
physiology, lectures on pharmacy, lectures on botany and clinical
medicine, and therapeutics, without counting hygiene and materia
medica--all names of whose etymologies he was ignorant, and that
were to him as so many doors to sanctuaries filled with
He understood nothing of it all; it was all very well to listen--
he did not follow. Still he worked; he had bound note-books, he
attended all the courses, never missed a single lecture. He did
his little daily task like a mill-horse, who goes round and round
with his eyes bandaged, not knowing what work he is doing.
To spare him expense his mother sent him every week by the
carrier a piece of veal baked in the oven, with which he lunched
when he came back from the hospital, while he sat kicking his
feet against the wall. After this he had to run off to lectures,
to the operation-room, to the hospital, and return to his home at
the other end of the town. In the evening, after the poor dinner
of his landlord, he went back to his room and set to work again
in his wet clothes, which smoked as he sat in front of the hot
On the fine summer evenings, at the time when the close streets
are empty, when the servants are playing shuttle-cock at the
doors, he opened his window and leaned out. The river, that makes
of this quarter of Rouen a wretched little Venice, flowed beneath
him, between the bridges and the railings, yellow, violet, or
blue. Working men, kneeling on the banks, washed their bare arms
in the water. On poles projecting from the attics, skeins of
cotton were drying in the air. Opposite, beyond the roots spread
the pure heaven with the red sun setting. How pleasant it must be
at home! How fresh under the beech-tree! And he expanded his
nostrils to breathe in the sweet odours of the country which did
not reach him.
He grew thin, his figure became taller, his face took a saddened
look that made it nearly interesting. Naturally, through
indifference, he abandoned all the resolutions he had made. Once
he missed a lecture; the next day all the lectures; and, enjoying
his idleness, little by little, he gave up work altogether. He
got into the habit of going to the public-house, and had a
passion for dominoes. To shut himself up every evening in the
dirty public room, to push about on marble tables the small sheep
bones with black dots, seemed to him a fine proof of his freedom,
which raised him in his own esteem. It was beginning to see life,
the sweetness of stolen pleasures; and when he entered, he put
his hand on the door-handle with a joy almost sensual. Then many
things hidden within him came out; he learnt couplets by heart
and sang them to his boon companions, became enthusiastic about
Beranger, learnt how to make punch, and, finally, how to make
Thanks to these preparatory labours, he failed completely in his
examination for an ordinary degree. He was expected home the same
night to celebrate his success. He started on foot, stopped at
the beginning of the village, sent for his mother, and told her
all. She excused him, threw the blame of his failure on the
injustice of the examiners, encouraged him a little, and took
upon herself to set matters straight. It was only five years
later that Monsieur Bovary knew the truth; it was old then, and
he accepted it. Moreover, he could not believe that a man born of
him could be a fool.
So Charles set to work again and crammed for his examination,
ceaselessly learning all the old questions by heart. He passed
pretty well. What a happy day for his mother! They gave a grand
Where should he go to practice? To Tostes, where there was only
one old doctor. For a long time Madame Bovary had been on the
look-out for his death, and the old fellow had barely been packed
off when Charles was installed, opposite his place, as his
But it was not everything to have brought up a son, to have had
him taught medicine, and discovered Tostes, where he could
practice it; he must have a wife. She found him one--the widow of
a bailiff at Dieppe--who was forty-five and had an income of
twelve hundred francs. Though she was ugly, as dry as a bone, her
face with as many pimples as the spring has buds, Madame Dubuc
had no lack of suitors. To attain her ends Madame Bovary had to
oust them all, and she even succeeded in very cleverly baffling
the intrigues of a port-butcher backed up by the priests.
Charles had seen in marriage the advent of an easier life,
thinking he would be more free to do as he liked with himself and
his money. But his wife was master; he had to say this and not
say that in company, to fast every Friday, dress as she liked,
harass at her bidding those patients who did not pay. She opened
his letter, watched his comings and goings, and listened at the
partition-wall when women came to consult him in his surgery.
She must have her chocolate every morning, attentions without
end. She constantly complained of her nerves, her chest, her
liver. The noise of footsteps made her ill; when people left her,
solitude became odious to her; if they came back, it was
doubtless to see her die. When Charles returned in the evening,
she stretched forth two long thin arms from beneath the sheets,
put them round his neck, and having made him sit down on the edge
of the bed, began to talk to him of her troubles: he was
neglecting her, he loved another. She had been warned she would
be unhappy; and she ended by asking him for a dose of medicine
and a little more love.
One night towards eleven o'clock they were awakened by the noise
of a horse pulling up outside their door. The servant opened the
garret-window and parleyed for some time with a man in the street
below. He came for the doctor, had a letter for him. Natasie came
downstairs shivering and undid the bars and bolts one after the
other. The man left his horse, and, following the servant,
suddenly came in behind her. He pulled out from his wool cap with
grey top-knots a letter wrapped up in a rag and presented it
gingerly to Charles, who rested on his elbow on the pillow to
read it. Natasie, standing near the bed, held the light. Madame
in modesty had turned to the wall and showed only her back.
This letter, sealed with a small seal in blue wax, begged
Monsieur Bovary to come immediately to the farm of the Bertaux to
set a broken leg. Now from Tostes to the Bertaux was a good
eighteen miles across country by way of Longueville and
Saint-Victor. It was a dark night; Madame Bovary junior was
afraid of accidents for her husband. So it was decided the
stable-boy should go on first; Charles would start three hours
later when the moon rose. A boy was to be sent to meet him, and
show him the way to the farm, and open the gates for him.
Towards four o'clock in the morning, Charles, well wrapped up in
his cloak, set out for the Bertaux. Still sleepy from the warmth
of his bed, he let himself be lulled by the quiet trot of his
horse. When it stopped of its own accord in front of those holes
surrounded with thorns that are dug on the margin of furrows,
Charles awoke with a start, suddenly remembered the broken leg,
and tried to call to mind all the fractures he knew. The rain had
stopped, day was breaking, and on the branches of the leafless
trees birds roosted motionless, their little feathers bristling
in the cold morning wind. The flat country stretched as far as
eye could see, and the tufts of trees round the farms at long
intervals seemed like dark violet stains on the cast grey
surface, that on the horizon faded into the gloom of the sky.
Charles from time to time opened his eyes, his mind grew weary,
and, sleep coming upon him, he soon fell into a doze wherein, his
recent sensations blending with memories, he became conscious of
a double self, at once student and married man, lying in his bed
as but now, and crossing the operation theatre as of old. The
warm smell of poultices mingled in his brain with the fresh odour
of dew; he heard the iron rings rattling along the curtain-rods
of the bed and saw his wife sleeping. As he passed Vassonville he
came upon a boy sitting on the grass at the edge of a ditch.
"Are you the doctor?" asked the child.
And on Charles's answer he took his wooden shoes in his hands and
ran on in front of him.
The general practitioner, riding along, gathered from his guide's
talk that Monsieur Rouault must be one of the well-to-do farmers.
He had broken his leg the evening before on his way home from a
Twelfth-night feast at a neighbour's. His wife had been dead for
two years. There was with him only his daughter, who helped him
to keep house.
The ruts were becoming deeper; they were approaching the Bertaux.
The little lad, slipping through a hole in the hedge,
disappeared; then he came back to the end of a courtyard to open
the gate. The horse slipped on the wet grass; Charles had to
stoop to pass under the branches. The watchdogs in their kennels
barked, dragging at their chains. As he entered the Bertaux, the
horse took fright and stumbled.
It was a substantial-looking farm. In the stables, over the top
of the open doors, one could see great cart-horses quietly
feeding from new racks. Right along the outbuildings extended a
large dunghill, from which manure liquid oozed, while amidst
fowls and turkeys, five or six peacocks, a luxury in Chauchois
farmyards, were foraging on the top of it. The sheepfold was
long, the barn high, with walls smooth as your hand. Under the
cart-shed were two large carts and four ploughs, with their
whips, shafts and harnesses complete, whose fleeces of blue wool
were getting soiled by the fine dust that fell from the
granaries. The courtyard sloped upwards, planted with trees set
out symmetrically, and the chattering noise of a flock of geese
was heard near the pond.
A young woman in a blue merino dress with three flounces came to
the threshold of the door to receive Monsieur Bovary, whom she
led to the kitchen, where a large fire was blazing. The servant's
breakfast was boiling beside it in small pots of all sizes. Some
damp clothes were drying inside the chimney-corner. The shovel,
tongs, and the nozzle of the bellows, all of colossal size, shone
like polished steel, while along the walls hung many pots and
pans in which the clear flame of the hearth, mingling with the
first rays of the sun coming in through the window, was mirrored
Charles went up the first floor to see the patient. He found him
in his bed, sweating under his bed-clothes, having thrown his
cotton nightcap right away from him. He was a fat little man of
fifty, with white skin and blue eyes, the forepart of his head
bald, and he wore earrings. By his side on a chair stood a large
decanter of brandy, whence he poured himself a little from time
to time to keep up his spirits; but as soon as he caught sight of
the doctor his elation subsided, and instead of swearing, as he
had been doing for the last twelve hours, began to groan freely.
The fracture was a simple one, without any kind of complication.
Charles could not have hoped for an easier case. Then calling to
mind the devices of his masters at the bedsides of patients, he
comforted the sufferer with all sorts of kindly remarks, those
Caresses of the surgeon that are like the oil they put on
bistouries. In order to make some splints a bundle of laths was
brought up from the cart-house. Charles selected one, cut it into
two pieces and planed it with a fragment of windowpane, while the
servant tore up sheets to make bandages, and Mademoiselle Emma
tried to sew some pads. As she was a long time before she found
her work-case, her father grew impatient; she did not answer, but
as she sewed she pricked her fingers, which she then put to her
mouth to suck them. Charles was surprised at the whiteness of her
nails. They were shiny, delicate at the tips, more polished than
the ivory of Dieppe, and almond-shaped. Yet her hand was not
beautiful, perhaps not white enough, and a little hard at the
knuckles; besides, it was too long, with no soft inflections in
the outlines. Her real beauty was in her eyes. Although brown,
they seemed black because of the lashes, and her look came at you
frankly, with a candid boldness.
The bandaging over, the doctor was invited by Monsieur Rouault
himself to "pick a bit" before he left.
Charles went down into the room on the ground floor. Knives and
forks and silver goblets were laid for two on a little table at
the foot of a huge bed that had a canopy of printed cotton with
figures representing Turks. There was an odour of iris-root and
damp sheets that escaped from a large oak chest opposite the
window. On the floor in corners were sacks of flour stuck upright
in rows. These were the overflow from the neighbouring granary,
to which three stone steps led. By way of decoration for the
apartment, hanging to a nail in the middle of the wall, whose
green paint scaled off from the effects of the saltpetre, was a
crayon head of Minerva in gold frame, underneath which was
written in Gothic letters "To dear Papa."
First they spoke of the patient, then of the weather, of the
great cold, of the wolves that infested the fields at night.
Mademoiselle Rouault did not at all like the country, especially
now that she had to look after the farm almost alone. As the room
was chilly, she shivered as she ate. This showed something of her
full lips, that she had a habit of biting when silent.
Her neck stood out from a white turned-down collar. Her hair,
whose two black folds seemed each of a single piece, so smooth
were they, was parted in the middle by a delicate line that curved
slightly with the curve of the head; and, just showing the tip of
the ear, it was joined behind in a thick chignon, with a wavy
movement at the temples that the country doctor saw now for the
first time in his life. The upper part of her cheek was
rose-coloured. She had, like a man, thrust in between two buttons
of her bodice a tortoise-shell eyeglass.
When Charles, after bidding farewell to old Rouault, returned to
the room before leaving, he found her standing, her forehead
against the window, looking into the garden, where the bean props
had been knocked down by the wind. She turned round. "Are you
looking for anything?" she asked.
"My whip, if you please," he answered.
He began rummaging on the bed, behind the doors, under the
chairs. It had fallen to the floor, between the sacks and the
wall. Mademoiselle Emma saw it, and bent over the flour sacks.
Charles out of politeness made a dash also, and as he stretched
out his arm, at the same moment felt his breast brush against the
back of the young girl bending beneath him. She drew herself up,
scarlet, and looked at him over her shoulder as she handed him
Instead of returning to the Bertaux in three days as he had
promised, he went back the very next day, then regularly twice a
week, without counting the visits he paid now and then as if by
Everything, moreover, went well; the patient progressed
favourably; and when, at the end of forty-six days, old Rouault
was seen trying to walk alone in his "den," Monsieur Bovary began
to be looked upon as a man of great capacity. Old Rouault said
that he could not have been cured better by the first doctor of
Yvetot, or even of Rouen.
As to Charles, he did not stop to ask himself why it was a
pleasure to him to go to the Bertaux. Had he done so, he would,
no doubt, have attributed his zeal to the importance of the case,
or perhaps to the money he hoped to make by it. Was it for this,
however, that his visits to the farm formed a delightful
exception to the meagre occupations of his life? On these days he
rose early, set off at a gallop, urging on his horse, then got
down to wipe his boots in the grass and put on black gloves
before entering. He liked going into the courtyard, and noticing
the gate turn against his shoulder, the cock crow on the wall,
the lads run to meet him. He liked the granary and the stables;
he liked old Rouault, who pressed his hand and called him his
saviour; he like the small wooden shoes of Mademoiselle Emma on
the scoured flags of the kitchen--her high heels made her a
little taller; and when she walked in front of him, the wooden
soles springing up quickly struck with a sharp sound against the
leather of her boots.
She always accompanied him to the first step of the stairs. When
his horse had not yet been brought round she stayed there. They
had said "Good-bye"; there was no more talking. The open air
wrapped her round, playing with the soft down on the back of her
neck, or blew to and fro on her hips the apron-strings, that
fluttered like streamers. Once, during a thaw the bark of the
trees in the yard was oozing, the snow on the roofs of the
outbuildings was melting; she stood on the threshold, and went to
fetch her sunshade and opened it. The sunshade of silk of the
colour of pigeons' breasts, through which the sun shone, lighted
up with shifting hues the white skin of her face. She smiled
under the tender warmth, and drops of water could be heard
falling one by one on the stretched silk.
During the first period of Charles's visits to the Bertaux,
Madame Bovary junior never failed to inquire after the invalid,
and she had even chosen in the book that she kept on a system of
double entry a clean blank page for Monsieur Rouault. But when
she heard he had a daughter, she began to make inquiries, and she
learnt the Mademoiselle Rouault, brought up at the Ursuline
Convent, had received what is called "a good education"; and so
knew dancing, geography, drawing, how to embroider and play the
piano. That was the last straw.
"So it is for this," she said to herself, "that his face beams
when he goes to see her, and that he puts on his new waistcoat at
the risk of spoiling it with the rain. Ah! that woman! That
And she detested her instinctively. At first she solaced herself
by allusions that Charles did not understand, then by casual
observations that he let pass for fear of a storm, finally by
open apostrophes to which he knew not what to answer. "Why did he
go back to the Bertaux now that Monsieur Rouault was cured and
that these folks hadn't paid yet? Ah! it was because a young lady
was there, some one who know how to talk, to embroider, to be
witty. That was what he cared about; he wanted town misses." And
she went on--
"The daughter of old Rouault a town miss! Get out! Their
grandfather was a shepherd, and they have a cousin who was almost
had up at the assizes for a nasty blow in a quarrel. It is not
worth while making such a fuss, or showing herself at church on
Sundays in a silk gown like a countess. Besides, the poor old
chap, if it hadn't been for the colza last year, would have had
much ado to pay up his arrears."
For very weariness Charles left off going to the Bertaux. Heloise
made him swear, his hand on the prayer-book, that he would go
there no more after much sobbing and many kisses, in a great
outburst of love. He obeyed then, but the strength of his desire
protested against the servility of his conduct; and he thought,
with a kind of naive hypocrisy, that his interdict to see her
gave him a sort of right to love her. And then the widow was
thin; she had long teeth; wore in all weathers a little black
shawl, the edge of which hung down between her shoulder-blades;
her bony figure was sheathed in her clothes as if they were a
scabbard; they were too short, and displayed her ankles with the
laces of her large boots crossed over grey stockings.
Charles's mother came to see them from time to time, but after a
few days the daughter-in-law seemed to put her own edge on her,
and then, like two knives, they scarified him with their
reflections and observations. It was wrong of him to eat so much.
Why did he always offer a glass of something to everyone who
came? What obstinacy not to wear flannels! In the spring it came
about that a notary at Ingouville, the holder of the widow
Dubuc's property, one fine day went off, taking with him all the
money in his office. Heloise, it is true, still possessed,
besides a share in a boat valued at six thousand francs, her
house in the Rue St. Francois; and yet, with all this fortune
that had been so trumpeted abroad, nothing, excepting perhaps a
little furniture and a few clothes, had appeared in the
household. The matter had to be gone into. The house at Dieppe
was found to be eaten up with mortgages to its foundations; what
she had placed with the notary God only knew, and her share in
the boat did not exceed one thousand crowns. She had lied, the
good lady! In his exasperation, Monsieur Bovary the elder,
smashing a chair on the flags, accused his wife of having caused
misfortune to the son by harnessing him to such a harridan, whose
harness wasn't worth her hide. They came to Tostes. Explanations
followed. There were scenes. Heloise in tears, throwing her arms
about her husband, implored him to defend her from his parents.
Charles tried to speak up for her. They grew angry and left the
But "the blow had struck home." A week after, as she was hanging
up some washing in her yard, she was seized with a spitting of
blood, and the next day, while Charles had his back turned to her
drawing the window-curtain, she said, "O God!" gave a sigh and
fainted. She was dead! What a surprise! When all was over at the
cemetery Charles went home. He found no one downstairs; he went
up to the first floor to their room; say her dress still hanging
at the foot of the alcove; then, leaning against the
writing-table, he stayed until the evening, buried in a sorrowful
reverie. She had loved him after all!
One morning old Rouault brought Charles the money for setting his
leg--seventy-five francs in forty-sou pieces, and a turkey. He
had heard of his loss, and consoled him as well as he could.
"I know what it is," said he, clapping him on the shoulder; "I've
been through it. When I lost my dear departed, I went into the
fields to be quite alone. I fell at the foot of a tree; I cried;
I called on God; I talked nonsense to Him. I wanted to be like
the moles that I saw on the branches, their insides swarming with
worms, dead, and an end of it. And when I thought that there were
others at that very moment with their nice little wives holding
them in their embrace, I struck great blows on the earth with my
stick. I was pretty well mad with not eating; the very idea of
going to a cafe disgusted me--you wouldn't believe it. Well,
quite softly, one day following another, a spring on a winter,
and an autumn after a summer, this wore away, piece by piece,
crumb by crumb; it passed away, it is gone, I should say it has
sunk; for something always remains at the bottom as one would
say--a weight here, at one's heart. But since it is the lot of
all of us, one must not give way altogether, and, because others
have died, want to die too. You must pull yourself together,
Monsieur Bovary. It will pass away. Come to see us; my daughter
thinks of you now and again, d'ye know, and she says you are
forgetting her. Spring will soon be here. We'll have some
rabbit-shooting in the warrens to amuse you a bit."
Charles followed his advice. He went back to the Bertaux. He
found all as he had left it, that is to say, as it was five
months ago. The pear trees were already in blossom, and Farmer
Rouault, on his legs again, came and went, making the farm more
full of life.
Thinking it his duty to heap the greatest attention upon the
doctor because of his sad position, he begged him not to take his
hat off, spoke to him in an undertone as if he had been ill, and
even pretended to be angry because nothing rather lighter had
been prepared for him than for the others, such as a little
clotted cream or stewed pears. He told stories. Charles found
himself laughing, but the remembrance of his wife suddenly coming
back to him depressed him. Coffee was brought in; he thought no
more about her.
He thought less of her as he grew accustomed to living alone. The
new delight of independence soon made his loneliness bearable. He
could now change his meal-times, go in or out without
explanation, and when he was very tired stretch himself at full
length on his bed. So he nursed and coddled himself and accepted
the consolations that were offered him. On the other hand, the
death of his wife had not served him ill in his business, since
for a month people had been saying, "The poor young man! what a
loss!" His name had been talked about, his practice had
increased; and moreover, he could go to the Bertaux just as he
liked. He had an aimless hope, and was vaguely happy; he thought
himself better looking as he brushed his whiskers before the
One day he got there about three o'clock. Everybody was in the
fields. He went into the kitchen, but did not at once catch sight
of Emma; the outside shutters were closed. Through the chinks of
the wood the sun sent across the flooring long fine rays that
were broken at the corners of the furniture and trembled along
the ceiling. Some flies on the table were crawling up the glasses
that had been used, and buzzing as they drowned themselves in the
dregs of the cider. The daylight that came in by the chimney made
velvet of the soot at the back of the fireplace, and touched with
blue the cold cinders. Between the window and the hearth Emma was
sewing; she wore no fichu; he could see small drops of
perspiration on her bare shoulders.
After the fashion of country folks she asked him to have
something to drink. He said no; she insisted, and at last
laughingly offered to have a glass of liqueur with him. So she
went to fetch a bottle of curacao from the cupboard, reached down
two small glasses, filled one to the brim, poured scarcely
anything into the other, and, after having clinked glasses,
carried hers to her mouth. As it was almost empty she bent back
to drink, her head thrown back, her lips pouting, her neck on the
strain. She laughed at getting none of it, while with the tip of
her tongue passing between her small teeth she licked drop by
drop the bottom of her glass.
She sat down again and took up her work, a white cotton stocking
she was darning. She worked with her head bent down; she did not
speak, nor did Charles. The air coming in under the door blew a
little dust over the flags; he watched it drift along, and heard
nothing but the throbbing in his head and the faint clucking of a
hen that had laid an egg in the yard. Emma from time to time
cooled her cheeks with the palms of her hands, and cooled these
again on the knobs of the huge fire-dogs.
She complained of suffering since the beginning of the season
from giddiness; she asked if sea-baths would do her any good; she
began talking of her convent, Charles of his school; words came
to them. They went up into her bedroom. She showed him her old
music-books, the little prizes she had won, and the oak-leaf
crowns, left at the bottom of a cupboard. She spoke to him, too,
of her mother, of the country, and even showed him the bed in the
garden where, on the first Friday of every month, she gathered
flowers to put on her mother's tomb. But the gardener they had
never knew anything about it; servants are so stupid! She would
have dearly liked, if only for the winter, to live in town,
although the length of the fine days made the country perhaps
even more wearisome in the summer. And, according to what she was
saying, her voice was clear, sharp, or, on a sudden all languor,
drawn out in modulations that ended almost in murmurs as she
spoke to herself, now joyous, opening big naive eyes, then with
her eyelids half closed, her look full of boredom, her thoughts
Going home at night, Charles went over her words one by one,
trying to recall them, to fill out their sense, that he might
piece out the life she had lived before he knew her. But he never
saw her in his thoughts other than he had seen her the first
time, or as he had just left her. Then he asked himself what
would become of her--if she would be married, and to whom! Alas!
Old Rouault was rich, and she!--so beautiful! But Emma's face
always rose before his eyes, and a monotone, like the humming of
a top, sounded in his ears, "If you should marry after all! If
you should marry!" At night he could not sleep; his throat was
parched; he was athirst. He got up to drink from the water-bottle
and opened the window. The night was covered with stars, a warm
wind blowing in the distance; the dogs were barking. He turned
his head towards the Bertaux.
Thinking that, after all, he should lose nothing, Charles
promised himself to ask her in marriage as soon as occasion
offered, but each time such occasion did offer the fear of not
finding the right words sealed his lips.
Old Rouault would not have been sorry to be rid of his daughter,
who was of no use to him in the house. In his heart he excused
her, thinking her too clever for farming, a calling under the ban
of Heaven, since one never saw a millionaire in it. Far from
having made a fortune by it, the good man was losing every year;
for if he was good in bargaining, in which he enjoyed the dodges
of the trade, on the other hand, agriculture properly so called,
and the internal management of the farm, suited him less than
most people. He did not willingly take his hands out of his
pockets, and did not spare expense in all that concerned himself,
liking to eat well, to have good fires, and to sleep well. He
liked old cider, underdone legs of mutton, glorias* well beaten
up. He took his meals in the kitchen alone, opposite the fire, on
a little table brought to him all ready laid as on the stage.
*A mixture of coffee and spirits.
When, therefore, he perceived that Charles's cheeks grew red if
near his daughter, which meant that he would propose for her one
of these days, he chewed the cud of the matter beforehand. He
certainly thought him a little meagre, and not quite the
son-in-law he would have liked, but he was said to be well
brought-up, economical, very learned, and no doubt would not make
too many difficulties about the dowry. Now, as old Rouault would
soon be forced to sell twenty-two acres of "his property,"
as he owed a good deal to the mason, to the harness-maker, and as
the shaft of the cider-press wanted renewing, "If he asks for
her," he said to himself, "I'll give her to him."
At Michaelmas Charles went to spend three days at the Bertaux.
The last had passed like the others in procrastinating from hour
to hour. Old Rouault was seeing him off; they were walking along
the road full of ruts; they were about to part. This was the
time. Charles gave himself as far as to the corner of the hedge,
and at last, when past it--
"Monsieur Rouault," he murmured, "I should like to say something
They stopped. Charles was silent.
"Well, tell me your story. Don't I know all about it?" said old
Rouault, laughing softly.
"Monsieur Rouault--Monsieur Rouault," stammered Charles.
"I ask nothing better", the farmer went on. "Although, no doubt,
the little one is of my mind, still we must ask her opinion. So
you get off--I'll go back home. If it is "yes", you needn't
return because of all the people about, and besides it would
upset her too much. But so that you mayn't be eating your heart,
I'll open wide the outer shutter of the window against the wall;
you can see it from the back by leaning over the hedge."
And he went off.
Charles fastened his horse to a tree; he ran into the road and
waited. Half an hour passed, then he counted nineteen minutes by
his watch. Suddenly a noise was heard against the wall; the
shutter had been thrown back; the hook was still swinging.
The next day by nine o'clock he was at the farm. Emma blushed as
he entered, and she gave a little forced laugh to keep herself in
countenance. Old Rouault embraced his future son-in-law. The
discussion of money matters was put off; moreover, there was
plenty of time before them, as the marriage could not decently
take place till Charles was out of mourning, that is to say,
about the spring of the next year.
The winter passed waiting for this. Mademoiselle Rouault was busy
with her trousseau. Part of it was ordered at Rouen, and she made
herself chemises and nightcaps after fashion-plates that she
borrowed. When Charles visited the farmer, the preparations for
the wedding were talked over; they wondered in what room they
should have dinner; they dreamed of the number of dishes that
would be wanted, and what should be entrees.
Emma would, on the contrary, have preferred to have a midnight
wedding with torches, but old Rouault could not understand such
an idea. So there was a wedding at which forty-three persons were
present, at which they remained sixteen hours at table, began
again the next day, and to some extent on the days following.
The guests arrived early in carriages, in one-horse chaises,
two-wheeled cars, old open gigs, waggonettes with leather hoods,
and the young people from the nearer villages in carts, in which
they stood up in rows, holding on to the sides so as not to fall,
going at a trot and well shaken up. Some came from a distance of
thirty miles, from Goderville, from Normanville, and from Cany.
All the relatives of both families had been invited, quarrels
between friends arranged, acquaintances long since lost sight of
From time to time one heard the crack of a whip behind the hedge;
then the gates opened, a chaise entered. Galloping up to the foot
of the steps, it stopped short and emptied its load. They got
down from all sides, rubbing knees and stretching arms. The
ladies, wearing bonnets, had on dresses in the town fashion, gold
watch chains, pelerines with the ends tucked into belts, or
little coloured fichus fastened down behind with a pin, and that
left the back of the neck bare. The lads, dressed like their
papas, seemed uncomfortable in their new clothes (many that day
hand-sewed their first pair of boots), and by their sides,
speaking never a work, wearing the white dress of their first
communion lengthened for the occasion were some big girls of
fourteen or sixteen, cousins or elder sisters no doubt, rubicund,
bewildered, their hair greasy with rose pomade, and very much
afraid of dirtying their gloves. As there were not enough
stable-boys to unharness all the carriages, the gentlemen turned
up their sleeves and set about it themselves. According to their
different social positions they wore tail-coats, overcoats,
shooting jackets, cutaway-coats; fine tail-coats, redolent of
family respectability, that only came out of the wardrobe on
state occasions; overcoats with long tails flapping in the wind
and round capes and pockets like sacks; shooting jackets of
coarse cloth, generally worn with a cap with a brass-bound peak;
very short cutaway-coats with two small buttons in the back,
close together like a pair of eyes, and the tails of which seemed
cut out of one piece by a carpenter's hatchet. Some, too (but
these, you may be sure, would sit at the bottom of the table),
wore their best blouses--that is to say, with collars turned down
to the shoulders, the back gathered into small plaits and the
waist fastened very low down with a worked belt.
And the shirts stood out from the chests like cuirasses! Everyone
had just had his hair cut; ears stood out from the heads; they
had been close-shaved; a few, even, who had had to get up before
daybreak, and not been able to see to shave, had diagonal gashes
under their noses or cuts the size of a three-franc piece along
the jaws, which the fresh air en route had enflamed, so that the
great white beaming faces were mottled here and there with red
The mairie was a mile and a half from the farm, and they went
thither on foot, returning in the same way after the ceremony in
the church. The procession, first united like one long coloured
scarf that undulated across the fields, along the narrow path
winding amid the green corn, soon lengthened out, and broke up
into different groups that loitered to talk. The fiddler walked
in front with his violin, gay with ribbons at its pegs. Then came
the married pair, the relations, the friends, all following
pell-mell; the children stayed behind amusing themselves plucking
the bell-flowers from oat-ears, or playing amongst themselves
unseen. Emma's dress, too long, trailed a little on the ground;
from time to time she stopped to pull it up, and then delicately,
with her gloved hands, she picked off the coarse grass and the
thistledowns, while Charles, empty handed, waited till she had
finished. Old Rouault, with a new silk hat and the cuffs of his
black coat covering his hands up to the nails, gave his arm to
Madame Bovary senior. As to Monsieur Bovary senior, who, heartily
despising all these folk, had come simply in a frock-coat of
military cut with one row of buttons--he was passing compliments
of the bar to a fair young peasant. She bowed, blushed, and did
not know what to say. The other wedding guests talked of their
business or played tricks behind each other's backs, egging one
another on in advance to be jolly. Those who listened could
always catch the squeaking of the fiddler, who went on playing
across the fields. When he saw that the rest were far behind he
stopped to take breath, slowly rosined his bow, so that the
strings should sound more shrilly, then set off again, by turns
lowering and raising his neck, the better to mark time for
himself. The noise of the instrument drove away the little birds
The table was laid under the cart-shed. On it were four sirloins,
six chicken fricassees, stewed veal, three legs of mutton, and in
the middle a fine roast suckling pig, flanked by four
chitterlings with sorrel. At the corners were decanters of
brandy. Sweet bottled-cider frothed round the corks, and all the
glasses had been filled to the brim with wine beforehand. Large
dishes of yellow cream, that trembled with the least shake of the
table, had designed on their smooth surface the initials of the
newly wedded pair in nonpareil arabesques. A confectioner of
Yvetot had been intrusted with the tarts and sweets. As he had
only just set up on the place, he had taken a lot of trouble, and
at dessert he himself brought in a set dish that evoked loud
cries of wonderment. To begin with, at its base there was a
square of blue cardboard, representing a temple with porticoes,
colonnades, and stucco statuettes all round, and in the niches
constellations of gilt paper stars; then on the second stage was
a dungeon of Savoy cake, surrounded by many fortifications in
candied angelica, almonds, raisins, and quarters of oranges; and
finally, on the upper platform a green field with rocks set in
lakes of jam, nutshell boats, and a small Cupid balancing himself
in a chocolate swing whose two uprights ended in real roses for
balls at the top.
Until night they ate. When any of them were too tired of sitting,
they went out for a stroll in the yard, or for a game with corks
in the granary, and then returned to table. Some towards the
finish went to sleep and snored. But with the coffee everyone
woke up. Then they began songs, showed off tricks, raised heavy
weights, performed feats with their fingers, then tried lifting
carts on their shoulders, made broad jokes, kissed the women. At
night when they left, the horses, stuffed up to the nostrils with
oats, could hardly be got into the shafts; they kicked, reared,
the harness broke, their masters laughed or swore; and all night
in the light of the moon along country roads there were runaway
carts at full gallop plunging into the ditches, jumping over yard
after yard of stones, clambering up the hills, with women leaning
out from the tilt to catch hold of the reins.
Those who stayed at the Bertaux spent the night drinking in the
kitchen. The children had fallen asleep under the seats.
The bride had begged her father to be spared the usual marriage
pleasantries. However, a fishmonger, one of their cousins (who
had even brought a pair of soles for his wedding present), began
to squirt water from his mouth through the keyhole, when old
Rouault came up just in time to stop him, and explain to him that
the distinguished position of his son-in-law would not allow of
such liberties. The cousin all the same did not give in to these
reasons readily. In his heart he accused old Rouault of being
proud, and he joined four or five other guests in a corner, who
having, through mere chance, been several times running served
with the worst helps of meat, also were of opinion they had been
badly used, and were whispering about their host, and with
covered hints hoping he would ruin himself.
Madame Bovary, senior, had not opened her mouth all day. She had
been consulted neither as to the dress of her daughter-in-law nor
as to the arrangement of the feast; she went to bed early. Her
husband, instead of following her, sent to Saint-Victor for some
cigars, and smoked till daybreak, drinking kirsch-punch, a
mixture unknown to the company. This added greatly to the
consideration in which he was held.
Charles, who was not of a facetious turn, did not shine at the
wedding. He answered feebly to the puns, doubles entendres*,
compliments, and chaff that it was felt a duty to let off at him
as soon as the soup appeared.
The next day, on the other hand, he seemed another man. It was he
who might rather have been taken for the virgin of the evening
before, whilst the bride gave no sign that revealed anything. The
shrewdest did not know what to make of it, and they looked at her
when she passed near them with an unbounded concentration of
mind. But Charles concealed nothing. He called her "my wife",
tutoyed* her, asked for her of everyone, looked for her
everywhere, and often he dragged her into the yards, where he
could be seen from far between the trees, putting his arm around
her waist, and walking half-bending over her, ruffling the
chemisette of her bodice with his head.
*Used the familiar form of address.
Two days after the wedding the married pair left. Charles, on
account of his patients, could not be away longer. Old Rouault
had them driven back in his cart, and himself accompanied them as
far as Vassonville. Here he embraced his daughter for the last
time, got down, and went his way. When he had gone about a
hundred paces he stopped, and as he saw the cart disappearing,
its wheels turning in the dust, he gave a deep sigh. Then he
remembered his wedding, the old times, the first pregnancy of his
wife; he, too, had been very happy the day when he had taken her
from her father to his home, and had carried her off on a
pillion, trotting through the snow, for it was near
Christmas-time, and the country was all white. She held him by
one arm, her basket hanging from the other; the wind blew the
long lace of her Cauchois headdress so that it sometimes flapped
across his mouth, and when he turned his head he saw near him, on
his shoulder, her little rosy face, smiling silently under the
gold bands of her cap. To warm her hands she put them from time
to time in his breast. How long ago it all was! Their son would
have been thirty by now. Then he looked back and saw nothing on
the road. He felt dreary as an empty house; and tender memories
mingling with the sad thoughts in his brain, addled by the fumes
of the feast, he felt inclined for a moment to take a turn
towards the church. As he was afraid, however, that this sight
would make him yet more sad, he went right away home.
Monsieur and Madame Charles arrived at Tostes about six o'clock.
The neighbors came to the windows to see their doctor's new wife.
The old servant presented herself, curtsied to her, apologised
for not having dinner ready, and suggested that madame, in the
meantime, should look over her house.
The brick front was just in a line with the street, or rather the
road. Behind the door hung a cloak with a small collar, a bridle,
and a black leather cap, and on the floor, in a corner, were a
pair of leggings, still covered with dry mud. On the right was
the one apartment, that was both dining and sitting room. A
canary yellow paper, relieved at the top by a garland of pale
flowers, was puckered everywhere over the badly stretched canvas;
white calico curtains with a red border hung crossways at the
length of the window; and on the narrow mantelpiece a clock with
a head of Hippocrates shone resplendent between two plate
candlesticks under oval shades. On the other side of the passage
was Charles's consulting room, a little room about six paces
wide, with a table, three chairs, and an office chair. Volumes of
the "Dictionary of Medical Science," uncut, but the binding
rather the worse for the successive sales through which they had
gone, occupied almost along the six shelves of a deal bookcase.
The smell of melted butter penetrated through the walls when he
saw patients, just as in the kitchen one could hear the people
coughing in the consulting room and recounting their histories.
Then, opening on the yard, where the stable was, came a large
dilapidated room with a stove, now used as a wood-house, cellar,
and pantry, full of old rubbish, of empty casks, agricultural
implements past service, and a mass of dusty things whose use it
was impossible to guess.
The garden, longer than wide, ran between two mud walls with
espaliered apricots, to a hawthorn hedge that separated it from
the field. In the middle was a slate sundial on a brick pedestal;
four flower beds with eglantines surrounded symmetrically the
more useful kitchen garden bed. Right at the bottom, under the
spruce bushes, was a cure in plaster reading his breviary.
Emma went upstairs. The first room was not furnished, but in the
second, which was their bedroom, was a mahogany bedstead in an
alcove with red drapery. A shell box adorned the chest of
drawers, and on the secretary near the window a bouquet of orange
blossoms tied with white satin ribbons stood in a bottle. It was
a bride's bouquet; it was the other one's. She looked at it.
Charles noticed it; he took it and carried it up to the attic,
while Emma seated in an arm-chair (they were putting her things
down around her) thought of her bridal flowers packed up in a
bandbox, and wondered, dreaming, what would be done with them if
she were to die.
During the first days she occupied herself in thinking about
changes in the house. She took the shades off the candlesticks,
had new wallpaper put up, the staircase repainted, and seats made
in the garden round the sundial; she even inquired how she could
get a basin with a jet fountain and fishes. Finally her husband,
knowing that she liked to drive out, picked up a second-hand
dogcart, which, with new lamps and splashboard in striped
leather, looked almost like a tilbury.
He was happy then, and without a care in the world. A meal
together, a walk in the evening on the highroad, a gesture of her
hands over her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from the
window-fastener, and many another thing in which Charles had
never dreamed of pleasure, now made up the endless round of his
happiness. In bed, in the morning, by her side, on the pillow, he
watched the sunlight sinking into the down on her fair cheek,
half hidden by the lappets of her night-cap. Seen thus closely,
her eyes looked to him enlarged, especially when, on waking up,
she opened and shut them rapidly many times. Black in the shade,
dark blue in broad daylight, they had, as it were, depths of
different colours, that, darker in the centre, grew paler towards
the surface of the eye. His own eyes lost themselves in these
depths; he saw himself in miniature down to the shoulders, with
his handkerchief round his head and the top of his shirt open. He
rose. She came to the window to see him off, and stayed leaning
on the sill between two pots of geranium, clad in her dressing
gown hanging loosely about her. Charles, in the street buckled
his spurs, his foot on the mounting stone, while she talked to
him from above, picking with her mouth some scrap of flower or
leaf that she blew out at him. Then this, eddying, floating,
described semicircles in the air like a bird, and was caught
before it reached the ground in the ill-groomed mane of the old
white mare standing motionless at the door. Charles from
horseback threw her a kiss; she answered with a nod; she shut the
window, and he set off. And then along the highroad, spreading
out its long ribbon of dust, along the deep lanes that the trees
bent over as in arbours, along paths where the corn reached to
the knees, with the sun on his back and the morning air in his
nostrils, his heart full of the joys of the past night, his mind
at rest, his flesh at ease, he went on, re-chewing his happiness,
like those who after dinner taste again the truffles which they
Until now what good had he had of his life? His time at school,
when he remained shut up within the high walls, alone, in the
midst of companions richer than he or cleverer at their work, who
laughed at his accent, who jeered at his clothes, and whose
mothers came to the school with cakes in their muffs? Later on,
when he studied medicine, and never had his purse full enough to
treat some little work-girl who would have become his mistress?
Afterwards, he had lived fourteen months with the widow, whose
feet in bed were cold as icicles. But now he had for life this
beautiful woman whom he adored. For him the universe did not
extend beyond the circumference of her petticoat, and he
reproached himself with not loving her. He wanted to see her
again; he turned back quickly, ran up the stairs with a beating
heart. Emma, in her room, was dressing; he came up on tiptoe,
kissed her back; she gave a cry.
He could not keep from constantly touching her comb, her ring,
her fichu; sometimes he gave her great sounding kisses with all
his mouth on her cheeks, or else little kisses in a row all along
her bare arm from the tip of her fingers up to her shoulder, and
she put him away half-smiling, half-vexed, as you do a child who
hangs about you.
Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness
that should have followed this love not having come, she must,
she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what
one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion,
rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books.
She had read "Paul and Virginia," and she had dreamed of the
little bamboo-house, the nigger Domingo, the dog Fiddle, but
above all of the sweet friendship of some dear little brother,
who seeks red fruit for you on trees taller than steeples, or who
runs barefoot over the sand, bringing you a bird's nest.
When she was thirteen, her father himself took her to town to
place her in the convent. They stopped at an inn in the St.
Gervais quarter, where, at their supper, they used painted plates
that set forth the story of Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The
explanatory legends, chipped here and there by the scratching of
knives, all glorified religion, the tendernesses of the heart,
and the pomps of court.
Far from being bored at first at the convent, she took pleasure
in the society of the good sisters, who, to amuse her, took her
to the chapel, which one entered from the refectory by a long
corridor. She played very little during recreation hours, knew
her catechism well, and it was she who always answered Monsieur
le Vicaire's difficult questions. Living thus, without every
leaving the warm atmosphere of the classrooms, and amid these
pale-faced women wearing rosaries with brass crosses, she was
softly lulled by the mystic languor exhaled in the perfumes of
the altar, the freshness of the holy water, and the lights of the
tapers. Instead of attending to mass, she looked at the pious
vignettes with their azure borders in her book, and she loved the
sick lamb, the sacred heart pierced with sharp arrows, or the
poor Jesus sinking beneath the cross he carries. She tried, by
way of mortification, to eat nothing a whole day. She puzzled her
head to find some vow to fulfil.
When she went to confession, she invented little sins in order
that she might stay there longer, kneeling in the shadow, her
hands joined, her face against the grating beneath the whispering
of the priest. The comparisons of betrothed, husband, celestial
lover, and eternal marriage, that recur in sermons, stirred
within her soul depths of unexpected sweetness.
In the evening, before prayers, there was some religious reading
in the study. On week-nights it was some abstract of sacred
history or the Lectures of the Abbe Frayssinous, and on Sundays
passages from the "Genie du Christianisme," as a recreation. How
she listened at first to the sonorous lamentations of its
romantic melancholies reechoing through the world and eternity!
If her childhood had been spent in the shop-parlour of some
business quarter, she might perhaps have opened her heart to
those lyrical invasions of Nature, which usually come to us only
through translation in books. But she knew the country too well;
she knew the lowing of cattle, the milking, the ploughs.
Accustomed to calm aspects of life, she turned, on the contrary,
to those of excitement. She loved the sea only for the sake of
its storms, and the green fields only when broken up by ruins.
She wanted to get some personal profit out of things, and she
rejected as useless all that did not contribute to the immediate
desires of her heart, being of a temperament more sentimental
than artistic, looking for emotions, not landscapes.
At the convent there was an old maid who came for a week each
month to mend the linen. Patronized by the clergy, because she
belonged to an ancient family of noblemen ruined by the
Revolution, she dined in the refectory at the table of the good
sisters, and after the meal had a bit of chat with them before
going back to her work. The girls often slipped out from the
study to go and see her. She knew by heart the love songs of the
last century, and sang them in a low voice as she stitched away.
She told stories, gave them news, went errands in the town, and
on the sly lent the big girls some novel, that she always carried
in the pockets of her apron, and of which the good lady herself
swallowed long chapters in the intervals of her work. They were
all love, lovers, sweethearts, persecuted ladies fainting in
lonely pavilions, postilions killed at every stage, horses ridden
to death on every page, sombre forests, heartaches, vows, sobs,
tears and kisses, little skiffs by moonlight, nightingales in
shady groves, "gentlemen" brave as lions, gentle as lambs,
virtuous as no one ever was, always well dressed, and weeping
like fountains. For six months, then, Emma, at fifteen years of
age, made her hands dirty with books from old lending libraries.
Through Walter Scott, later on, she fell in love with historical
events, dreamed of old chests, guard-rooms and minstrels. She
would have liked to live in some old manor-house, like those
long-waisted chatelaines who, in the shade of pointed arches,
spent their days leaning on the stone, chin in hand, watching a
cavalier with white plume galloping on his black horse from the
distant fields. At this time she had a cult for Mary Stuart and
enthusiastic veneration for illustrious or unhappy women. Joan of
Arc, Heloise, Agnes Sorel, the beautiful Ferroniere, and Clemence
Isaure stood out to her like comets in the dark immensity of
heaven, where also were seen, lost in shadow, and all
unconnected, St. Louis with his oak, the dying Bayard, some
cruelties of Louis XI, a little of St. Bartholomew's Day, the
plume of the Bearnais, and always the remembrance of the plates
painted in honour of Louis XIV.
In the music class, in the ballads she sang, there was nothing
but little angels with golden wings, madonnas, lagunes,
gondoliers;-mild compositions that allowed her to catch a glimpse
athwart the obscurity of style and the weakness of the music of
the attractive phantasmagoria of sentimental realities. Some of
her companions brought "keepsakes" given them as new year's gifts
to the convent. These had to be hidden; it was quite an
undertaking; they were read in the dormitory. Delicately handling
the beautiful satin bindings, Emma looked with dazzled eyes at
the names of the unknown authors, who had signed their verses for
the most part as counts or viscounts.
She trembled as she blew back the tissue paper over the engraving
and saw it folded in two and fall gently against the page. Here
behind the balustrade of a balcony was a young man in a short
cloak, holding in his arms a young girl in a white dress wearing
an alms-bag at her belt; or there were nameless portraits of
English ladies with fair curls, who looked at you from under
their round straw hats with their large clear eyes. Some there
were lounging in their carriages, gliding through parks, a
greyhound bounding along in front of the equipage driven at a
trot by two midget postilions in white breeches. Others, dreaming
on sofas with an open letter, gazed at the moon through a
slightly open window half draped by a black curtain. The naive
ones, a tear on their cheeks, were kissing doves through the bars
of a Gothic cage, or, smiling, their heads on one side, were
plucking the leaves of a marguerite with their taper fingers,
that curved at the tips like peaked shoes. And you, too, were
there, Sultans with long pipes reclining beneath arbours in the
arms of Bayaderes; Djiaours, Turkish sabres, Greek caps; and you
especially, pale landscapes of dithyrambic lands, that often show
us at once palm trees and firs, tigers on the right, a lion to
the left, Tartar minarets on the horizon; the whole framed by a
very neat virgin forest, and with a great perpendicular sunbeam
trembling in the water, where, standing out in relief like white
excoriations on a steel-grey ground, swans are swimming about.
And the shade of the argand lamp fastened to the wall above
Emma's head lighted up all these pictures of the world, that
passed before her one by one in the silence of the dormitory, and
to the distant noise of some belated carriage rolling over the
When her mother died she cried much the first few days. She had a
funeral picture made with the hair of the deceased, and, in a
letter sent to the Bertaux full of sad reflections on life, she
asked to be buried later on in the same grave. The goodman
thought she must be ill, and came to see her. Emma was secretly
pleased that she had reached at a first attempt the rare ideal of
pale lives, never attained by mediocre hearts. She let herself
glide along with Lamartine meanderings, listened to harps on
lakes, to all the songs of dying swans, to the falling of the
leaves, the pure virgins ascending to heaven, and the voice of
the Eternal discoursing down the valleys. She wearied of it,
would not confess it, continued from habit, and at last was
surprised to feel herself soothed, and with no more sadness at
heart than wrinkles on her brow.
The good nuns, who had been so sure of her vocation, perceived
with great astonishment that Mademoiselle Rouault seemed to be
slipping from them. They had indeed been so lavish to her of
prayers, retreats, novenas, and sermons, they had so often
preached the respect due to saints and martyrs, and given so much
good advice as to the modesty of the body and the salvation of
her soul, that she did as tightly reined horses; she pulled up
short and the bit slipped from her teeth. This nature, positive
in the midst of its enthusiasms, that had loved the church for
the sake of the flowers, and music for the words of the songs,
and literature for its passional stimulus, rebelled against the
mysteries of faith as it grew irritated by discipline, a thing
antipathetic to her constitution. When her father took her from
school, no one was sorry to see her go. The Lady Superior even
thought that she had latterly been somewhat irreverent to the
Emma, at home once more, first took pleasure in looking after the
servants, then grew disgusted with the country and missed her
convent. When Charles came to the Bertaux for the first time, she
thought herself quite disillusioned, with nothing more to learn,
and nothing more to feel.
But the uneasiness of her new position, or perhaps the
disturbance caused by the presence of this man, had sufficed to
make her believe that she at last felt that wondrous passion
which, till then, like a great bird with rose-coloured wings,
hung in the splendour of the skies of poesy; and now she could
not think that the calm in which she lived was the happiness she
She thought, sometimes, that, after all, this was the happiest
time of her life--the honeymoon, as people called it. To taste
the full sweetness of it, it would have been necessary doubtless
to fly to those lands with sonorous names where the days after
marriage are full of laziness most suave. In post chaises behind
blue silken curtains to ride slowly up steep road, listening to
the song of the postilion re-echoed by the mountains, along with
the bells of goats and the muffled sound of a waterfall; at
sunset on the shores of gulfs to breathe in the perfume of lemon
trees; then in the evening on the villa-terraces above, hand in
hand to look at the stars, making plans for the future. It seemed
to her that certain places on earth must bring happiness, as a
plant peculiar to the soil, and that cannot thrive elsewhere. Why
could not she lean over balconies in Swiss chalets, or enshrine
her melancholy in a Scotch cottage, with a husband dressed in a
black velvet coat with long tails, and thin shoes, a pointed hat
and frills? Perhaps she would have liked to confide all these
things to someone. But how tell an undefinable uneasiness,
variable as the clouds, unstable as the winds? Words failed
her--the opportunity, the courage.
If Charles had but wished it, if he had guessed it, if his look
had but once met her thought, it seemed to her that a sudden
plenty would have gone out from her heart, as the fruit falls
from a tree when shaken by a hand. But as the intimacy of their
life became deeper, the greater became the gulf that separated
her from him.
Charles's conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and
everyone's ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb,
without exciting emotion, laughter, or thought. He had never had
the curiosity, he said, while he lived at Rouen, to go to the
theatre to see the actors from Paris. He could neither swim, nor
fence, nor shoot, and one day he could not explain some term of
horsemanship to her that she had come across in a novel.
A man, on the contrary, should he not know everything, excel in
manifold activities, initiate you into the energies of passion,
the refinements of life, all mysteries? But this one taught
nothing, knew nothing, wished nothing. He thought her happy; and
she resented this easy calm, this serene heaviness, the very
happiness she gave him.
Sometimes she would draw; and it was great amusement to Charles
to stand there bolt upright and watch her bend over her
cardboard, with eyes half-closed the better to see her work, or
rolling, between her fingers, little bread-pellets. As to the
piano, the more quickly her fingers glided over it the more he
wondered. She struck the notes with aplomb, and ran from top to
bottom of the keyboard without a break. Thus shaken up, the old
instrument, whose strings buzzed, could be heard at the other end
of the village when the window was open, and often the bailiff's
clerk, passing along the highroad bare-headed and in list
slippers, stopped to listen, his sheet of paper in his hand.
Emma, on the other hand, knew how to look after her house. She
sent the patients' accounts in well-phrased letters that had no
suggestion of a bill. When they had a neighbour to dinner on
Sundays, she managed to have some tasty dish--piled up pyramids
of greengages on vine leaves, served up preserves turned out into
plates--and even spoke of buying finger-glasses for dessert. From
all this much consideration was extended to Bovary.
Charles finished by rising in his own esteem for possessing such
a wife. He showed with pride in the sitting room two small pencil
sketched by her that he had had framed in very large frames, and
hung up against the wallpaper by long green cords. People
returning from mass saw him at his door in his wool-work
He came home late--at ten o'clock, at midnight sometimes. Then he
asked for something to eat, and as the servant had gone to bed,
Emma waited on him. He took off his coat to dine more at his
ease. He told her, one after the other, the people he had met,
the villages where he had been, the prescriptions ha had written,
and, well pleased with himself, he finished the remainder of the
boiled beef and onions, picked pieces off the cheese, munched an
apple, emptied his water-bottle, and then went to bed, and lay on
his back and snored.
As he had been for a time accustomed to wear nightcaps, his
handkerchief would not keep down over his ears, so that his hair
in the morning was all tumbled pell-mell about his face and
whitened with the feathers of the pillow, whose strings came
untied during the night. He always wore thick boots that had two
long creases over the instep running obliquely towards the ankle,
while the rest of the upper continued in a straight line as if
stretched on a wooden foot. He said that "was quite good enough
for the country."
His mother approved of his economy, for she came to see him as
formerly when there had been some violent row at her place; and
yet Madame Bovary senior seemed prejudiced against her
daughter-in-law. She thought "her ways too fine for their
position"; the wood, the sugar, and the candles disappeared as
"at a grand establishment," and the amount of firing in the
kitchen would have been enough for twenty-five courses. She put
her linen in order for her in the presses, and taught her to keep
an eye on the butcher when he brought the meat. Emma put up with
these lessons. Madame Bovary was lavish of them; and the words
"daughter" and "mother" were exchanged all day long, accompanied
by little quiverings of the lips, each one uttering gentle words
in a voice trembling with anger.
In Madame Dubuc's time the old woman felt that she was still the
favorite; but now the love of Charles for Emma seemed to her a
desertion from her tenderness, an encroachment upon what was
hers, and she watched her son's happiness in sad silence, as a
ruined man looks through the windows at people dining in his old
house. She recalled to him as remembrances her troubles and her
sacrifices, and, comparing these with Emma's negligence, came to
the conclusion that it was not reasonable to adore her so
Charles knew not what to answer: he respected his mother, and he
loved his wife infinitely; he considered the judgment of the one
infallible, and yet he thought the conduct of the other
irreproachable. When Madam Bovary had gone, he tried timidly and
in the same terms to hazard one or two of the more anodyne
observations he had heard from his mamma. Emma proved to him with
a word that he was mistaken, and sent him off to his patients.
And yet, in accord with theories she believed right, she wanted
to make herself in love with him. By moonlight in the garden she
recited all the passionate rhymes she knew by heart, and,
sighing, sang to him many melancholy adagios; but she found
herself as calm after as before, and Charles seemed no more
amorous and no more moved.
When she had thus for a while struck the flint on her heart
without getting a spark, incapable, moreover, of understanding
what she did not experience as of believing anything that did not
present itself in conventional forms, she persuaded herself
without difficulty that Charles's passion was nothing very
exorbitant. His outbursts became regular; he embraced her at
certain fixed times. It was one habit among other habits, and,
like a dessert, looked forward to after the monotony of dinner.
A gamekeeper, cured by the doctor of inflammation of the lungs,
had given madame a little Italian greyhound; she took her out
walking, for she went out sometimes in order to be alone for a
moment, and not to see before her eyes the eternal garden and the
dusty road. She went as far as the beeches of Banneville, near
the deserted pavilion which forms an angle of the wall on the
side of the country. Amidst the vegetation of the ditch there are
long reeds with leaves that cut you.
She began by looking round her to see if nothing had changed
since last she had been there. She found again in the same places
the foxgloves and wallflowers, the beds of nettles growing round
the big stones, and the patches of lichen along the three
windows, whose shutters, always closed, were rotting away on
their rusty iron bars. Her thoughts, aimless at first, wandered
at random, like her greyhound, who ran round and round in the
fields, yelping after the yellow butterflies, chasing the
shrew-mice, or nibbling the poppies on the edge of a cornfield.
Then gradually her ideas took definite shape, and, sitting on the
grass that she dug up with little prods of her sunshade, Emma
repeated to herself, "Good heavens! Why did I marry?"
She asked herself if by some other chance combination it would
have not been possible to meet another man; and she tried to
imagine what would have been these unrealised events, this
different life, this unknown husband. All, surely, could not be
like this one. He might have been handsome, witty, distinguished,
attractive, such as, no doubt, her old companions of the convent
had married. What were they doing now? In town, with the noise of
the streets, the buzz of the theatres and the lights of the
ballroom, they were living lives where the heart expands, the
senses bourgeon out. But she--her life was cold as a garret whose
dormer window looks on the north, and ennui, the silent spider,
was weaving its web in the darkness in every corner of her heart.
She recalled the prize days, when she mounted the platform to
receive her little crowns, with her hair in long plaits. In her
white frock and open prunella shoes she had a pretty way, and
when she went back to her seat, the gentlemen bent over her to
congratulate her; the courtyard was full of carriages; farewells
were called to her through their windows; the music master with
his violin case bowed in passing by. How far all of this! How far
away! She called Djali, took her between her knees, and smoothed
the long delicate head, saying, "Come, kiss mistress; you have no
Then noting the melancholy face of the graceful animal, who
yawned slowly, she softened, and comparing her to herself, spoke
to her aloud as to somebody in trouble whom one is consoling.
Occasionally there came gusts of winds, breezes from the sea
rolling in one sweep over the whole plateau of the Caux country,
which brought even to these fields a salt freshness. The rushes,
close to the ground, whistled; the branches trembled in a swift
rustling, while their summits, ceaselessly swaying, kept up a
deep murmur. Emma drew her shawl round her shoulders and rose.
In the avenue a green light dimmed by the leaves lit up the short
moss that crackled softly beneath her feet. The sun was setting;
the sky showed red between the branches, and the trunks of the
trees, uniform, and planted in a straight line, seemed a brown
colonnade standing out against a background of gold. A fear took
hold of her; she called Djali, and hurriedly returned to Tostes
by the high road, threw herself into an armchair, and for the
rest of the evening did not speak.
But towards the end of September something extraordinary fell
upon her life; she was invited by the Marquis d'Andervilliers to
Secretary of State under the Restoration, the Marquis, anxious to
re-enter political life, set about preparing for his candidature
to the Chamber of Deputies long beforehand. In the winter he
distributed a great deal of wood, and in the Conseil General
always enthusiastically demanded new roads for his
arrondissement. During the dog-days he had suffered from an
abscess, which Charles had cured as if by miracle by giving a
timely little touch with the lancet. The steward sent to Tostes
to pay for the operation reported in the evening that he had seen
some superb cherries in the doctor's little garden. Now cherry
trees did not thrive at Vaubyessard; the Marquis asked Bovary for
some slips; made it his business to thank his personally; saw
Emma; thought she had a pretty figure, and that she did not bow
like a peasant; so that he did not think he was going beyond the
bounds of condescension, nor, on the other hand, making a
mistake, in inviting the young couple.
On Wednesday at three o'clock, Monsieur and Madame Bovary, seated
in their dog-cart, set out for Vaubyessard, with a great trunk
strapped on behind and a bonnet-box in front of the apron.
Besides these Charles held a bandbox between his knees.
They arrived at nightfall, just as the lamps in the park were
being lit to show the way for the carriages.
The chateau, a modern building in Italian style, with two
projecting wings and three flights of steps, lay at the foot of
an immense green-sward, on which some cows were grazing among
groups of large trees set out at regular intervals, while large
beds of arbutus, rhododendron, syringas, and guelder roses bulged
out their irregular clusters of green along the curve of the
gravel path. A river flowed under a bridge; through the mist one
could distinguish buildings with thatched roofs scattered over
the field bordered by two gently sloping, well timbered hillocks,
and in the background amid the trees rose in two parallel lines
the coach houses and stables, all that was left of the ruined old
Charles's dog-cart pulled up before the middle flight of steps;
servants appeared; the Marquis came forward, and, offering his
arm to the doctor's wife, conducted her to the vestibule.
It was paved with marble slabs, was very lofty, and the sound of
footsteps and that of voices re-echoed through it as in a church.
Opposite rose a straight staircase, and on the left a gallery
overlooking the garden led to the billiard room, through whose
door one could hear the click of the ivory balls. As she crossed
it to go to the drawing room, Emma saw standing round the table
men with grave faces, their chins resting on high cravats. They
all wore orders, and smiled silently as they made their strokes.
On the dark wainscoting of the walls large gold frames bore at
the bottom names written in black letters. She read:
"Jean-Antoine d'Andervilliers d'Yvervonbille, Count de la
Vaubyessard and Baron de la Fresnay, killed at the battle of
Coutras on the 20th of October, 1857." And on another:
"Jean-Antoine-Henry-Guy d'Andervilliers de la Vaubyessard,
Admiral of France and Chevalier of the Order of St. Michael,
wounded at the battle of the Hougue-Saint-Vaast on the 29th of
May, 1692; died at Vaubyessard on the 23rd of January 1693." One
could hardly make out those that followed, for the light of the
lamps lowered over the green cloth threw a dim shadow round the
room. Burnishing the horizontal pictures, it broke up against
these in delicate lines where there were cracks in the varnish,
and from all these great black squares framed in with gold stood
out here and there some lighter portion of the painting--a pale
brow, two eyes that looked at you, perukes flowing over and
powdering red-coated shoulders, or the buckle of a garter above a
The Marquis opened the drawing room door; one of the ladies (the
Marchioness herself) came to meet Emma. She made her sit down by
her on an ottoman, and began talking to her as amicably as if she
had known her a long time. She was a woman of about forty, with
fine shoulders, a hook nose, a drawling voice, and on this
evening she wore over her brown hair a simple guipure fichu that
fell in a point at the back. A fair young woman sat in a
high-backed chair in a corner; and gentlemen with flowers in
their buttonholes were talking to ladies round the fire.
At seven dinner was served. The men, who were in the majority,
sat down at the first table in the vestibule; the ladies at the
second in the dining room with the Marquis and Marchioness.
Emma, on entering, felt herself wrapped round by the warm air, a
blending of the perfume of flowers and of the fine linen, of the
fumes of the viands, and the odour of the truffles. The silver
dish covers reflected the lighted wax candles in the candelabra,
the cut crystal covered with light steam reflected from one to
the other pale rays; bouquets were placed in a row the whole
length of the table; and in the large-bordered plates each
napkin, arranged after the fashion of a bishop's mitre, held
between its two gaping folds a small oval shaped roll. The red
claws of lobsters hung over the dishes; rich fruit in open
baskets was piled up on moss; there were quails in their plumage;
smoke was rising; and in silk stockings, knee-breeches, white
cravat, and frilled shirt, the steward, grave as a judge,
offering ready carved dishes between the shoulders of the guests,
with a touch of the spoon gave you the piece chosen. On the large
stove of porcelain inlaid with copper baguettes the statue of a
woman, draped to the chin, gazed motionless on the room full of
Madame Bovary noticed that many ladies had not put their gloves
in their glasses.
But at the upper end of the table, alone amongst all these women,
bent over his full plate, and his napkin tied round his neck like
a child, an old man sat eating, letting drops of gravy drip from
his mouth. His eyes were bloodshot, and he wore a little queue
tied with black ribbon. He was the Marquis's father-in-law, the
old Duke de Laverdiere, once on a time favourite of the Count
d'Artois, in the days of the Vaudreuil hunting-parties at the
Marquis de Conflans', and had been, it was said, the lover of
Queen Marie Antoinette, between Monsieur de Coigny and Monsieur
de Lauzun. He had lived a life of noisy debauch, full of duels,
bets, elopements; he had squandered his fortune and frightened
all his family. A servant behind his chair named aloud to him in
his ear the dishes that he pointed to stammering, and constantly
Emma's eyes turned involuntarily to this old man with hanging
lips, as to something extraordinary. He had lived at court and
slept in the bed of queens! Iced champagne was poured out. Emma
shivered all over as she felt it cold in her mouth. She had never
seen pomegranates nor tasted pineapples. The powdered sugar even
seemed to her whiter and finer than elsewhere.
The ladies afterwards went to their rooms to prepare for the
Emma made her toilet with the fastidious care of an actress on
her debut. She did her hair according to the directions of the
hairdresser, and put on the barege dress spread out upon the bed.
Charles's trousers were tight across the belly.
"My trouser-straps will be rather awkward for dancing," he said.
"Dancing?" repeated Emma.
"Why, you must be mad! They would make fun of you; keep your
place. Besides, it is more becoming for a doctor," she added.
Charles was silent. He walked up and down waiting for Emma to
He saw her from behind in the glass between two lights. Her black
eyes seemed blacker than ever. Her hair, undulating towards the
ears, shone with a blue lustre; a rose in her chignon trembled on
its mobile stalk, with artificial dewdrops on the tip of the
leaves. She wore a gown of pale saffron trimmed with three
bouquets of pompon roses mixed with green.
Charles came and kissed her on her shoulder.
"Let me alone!" she said; "you are tumbling me."
One could hear the flourish of the violin and the notes of a
horn. She went downstairs restraining herself from running.
Dancing had begun. Guests were arriving. There was some crushing.
She sat down on a form near the door.
The quadrille over, the floor was occupied by groups of men
standing up and talking and servants in livery bearing large
trays. Along the line of seated women painted fans were
fluttering, bouquets half hid smiling faces, and gold stoppered
scent-bottles were turned in partly-closed hands, whose white
gloves outlined the nails and tightened on the flesh at the
wrists. Lace trimmings, diamond brooches, medallion bracelets
trembled on bodices, gleamed on breasts, clinked on bare arms.
The hair, well-smoothed over the temples and knotted at the nape,
bore crowns, or bunches, or sprays of mytosotis, jasmine,
pomegranate blossoms, ears of corn, and corn-flowers. Calmly
seated in their places, mothers with forbidding countenances were
wearing red turbans.
Emma's heart beat rather faster when, her partner holding her by
the tips of the fingers, she took her place in a line with the
dancers, and waited for the first note to start. But her emotion
soon vanished, and, swaying to the rhythm of the orchestra, she
glided forward with slight movements of the neck. A smile rose to
her lips at certain delicate phrases of the violin, that
sometimes played alone while the other instruments were silent;
one could hear the clear clink of the louis d'or that were being
thrown down upon the card tables in the next room; then all
struck again, the cornet-a-piston uttered its sonorous note, feet
marked time, skirts swelled and rustled, hands touched and
parted; the same eyes falling before you met yours again.
A few men (some fifteen or so), of twenty-five to forty,
scattered here and there among the dancers or talking at the
doorways, distinguished themselves from the crowd by a certain
air of breeding, whatever their differences in age, dress, or
Their clothes, better made, seemed of finer cloth, and their
hair, brought forward in curls towards the temples, glossy with
more delicate pomades. They had the complexion of wealth--that
clear complexion that is heightened by the pallor of porcelain,
the shimmer of satin, the veneer of old furniture, and that an
ordered regimen of exquisite nurture maintains at its best. Their
necks moved easily in their low cravats, their long whiskers fell
over their turned-down collars, they wiped their lips upon
handkerchiefs with embroidered initials that gave forth a subtle
perfume. Those who were beginning to grow old had an air of
youth, while there was something mature in the faces of the
young. In their unconcerned looks was the calm of passions daily
satiated, and through all their gentleness of manner pierced that
peculiar brutality, the result of a command of half-easy things,
in which force is exercised and vanity amused--the management of
thoroughbred horses and the society of loose women.
A few steps from Emma a gentleman in a blue coat was talking of
Italy with a pale young woman wearing a parure of pearls.
They were praising the breadth of the columns of St. Peter's,
Tivoly, Vesuvius, Castellamare, and Cassines, the roses of Genoa,
the Coliseum by moonlight. With her other ear Emma was listening
to a conversation full of words she did not understand. A circle
gathered round a very young man who the week before had beaten
"Miss Arabella" and "Romolus," and won two thousand louis jumping
a ditch in England. One complained that his racehorses were
growing fat; another of the printers' errors that had disfigured
the name of his horse.
The atmosphere of the ball was heavy; the lamps were growing dim.
Guests were flocking to the billiard room. A servant got upon a
chair and broke the window-panes. At the crash of the glass
Madame Bovary turned her head and saw in the garden the faces of
peasants pressed against the window looking in at them. Then the
memory of the Bertaux came back to her. She saw the farm again,
the muddy pond, her father in a blouse under the apple trees, and
she saw herself again as formerly, skimming with her finger the
cream off the milk-pans in the dairy. But in the refulgence of
the present hour her past life, so distinct until then, faded
away completely, and she almost doubted having lived it. She was
there; beyond the ball was only shadow overspreading all the
rest. She was just eating a maraschino ice that she held with her
left hand in a silver-gilt cup, her eyes half-closed, and the
spoon between her teeth.
A lady near her dropped her fan. A gentlemen was passing.
"Would you be so good," said the lady, "as to pick up my fan that
has fallen behind the sofa?"
The gentleman bowed, and as he moved to stretch out his arm, Emma
saw the hand of a young woman throw something white, folded in a
triangle, into his hat. The gentleman, picking up the fan,
offered it to the lady respectfully; she thanked him with an
inclination of the head, and began smelling her bouquet.
After supper, where were plenty of Spanish and Rhine wines, soups
a la bisque and au lait d'amandes*, puddings a la Trafalgar, and
all sorts of cold meats with jellies that trembled in the dishes,
the carriages one after the other began to drive off. Raising the
corners of the muslin curtain, one could see the light of their
lanterns glimmering through the darkness. The seats began to
empty, some card-players were still left; the musicians were
cooling the tips of their fingers on their tongues. Charles was
half asleep, his back propped against a door.
*With almond milk
At three o'clock the cotillion began. Emma did not know how to waltz.
Everyone was waltzing, Mademoiselle d'Andervilliers herself and the
Marquis; only the guests staying at the castle were still there,
about a dozen persons.
One of the waltzers, however, who was familiarly called Viscount,
and whose low cut waistcoat seemed moulded to his chest, came a
second time to ask Madame Bovary to dance, assuring her that he
would guide her, and that she would get through it very well.
They began slowly, then went more rapidly. They turned; all
around them was turning--the lamps, the furniture, the
wainscoting, the floor, like a disc on a pivot. On passing near
the doors the bottom of Emma's dress caught against his trousers.
Their legs commingled; he looked down at her; she raised her eyes
to his. A torpor seized her; she stopped. They started again, and
with a more rapid movement; the Viscount, dragging her along
disappeared with her to the end of the gallery, where panting,
she almost fell, and for a moment rested her head upon his
breast. And then, still turning, but more slowly, he guided her
back to her seat. She leaned back against the wall and covered
her eyes with her hands.
When she opened them again, in the middle of the drawing room
three waltzers were kneeling before a lady sitting on a stool.
She chose the Viscount, and the violin struck up once more.
Everyone looked at them. They passed and re-passed, she with
rigid body, her chin bent down, and he always in the same pose,
his figure curved, his elbow rounded, his chin thrown forward.
That woman knew how to waltz! They kept up a long time, and tired
out all the others.
Then they talked a few moments longer, and after the goodnights,
or rather good mornings, the guests of the chateau retired to
Charles dragged himself up by the balusters. His "knees were
going up into his body." He had spent five consecutive hours
standing bolt upright at the card tables, watching them play
whist, without understanding anything about it, and it was with a
deep sigh of relief that he pulled off his boots.
Emma threw a shawl over her shoulders, opened the window, and
The night was dark; some drops of rain were falling. She breathed
in the damp wind that refreshed her eyelids. The music of the
ball was still murmuring in her ears. And she tried to keep
herself awake in order to prolong the illusion of this
luxurious life that she would soon have to give up.
Day began to break. She looked long at the windows of the
chateau, trying to guess which were the rooms of all those she
had noticed the evening before. She would fain have known their