Part 3 out of 8
the hem of the cloth with her nail. She did not speak; he was
silent, captivated by her silence, as he would have been by her
"Poor fellow!" she thought.
"How have I displeased her?" he asked himself.
At last, however, Leon said that he should have, one of these
days, to go to Rouen on some office business.
"Your music subscription is out; am I to renew it?"
"No," she replied.
And pursing her lips she slowly drew a long stitch of grey
This work irritated Leon. It seemed to roughen the ends of her
fingers. A gallant phrase came into his head, but he did not risk
"Then you are giving it up?" he went on.
"What?" she asked hurriedly. "Music? Ah! yes! Have I not my house
to look after, my husband to attend to, a thousand things, in
fact, many duties that must be considered first?"
She looked at the clock. Charles was late. Then, she affected
anxiety. Two or three times she even repeated, "He is so good!"
The clerk was fond of Monsieur Bovary. But this tenderness on his
behalf astonished him unpleasantly; nevertheless he took up on
his praises, which he said everyone was singing, especially the
"Ah! he is a good fellow," continued Emma.
"Certainly," replied the clerk.
And he began talking of Madame Homais, whose very untidy
appearance generally made them laugh.
"What does it matter?" interrupted Emma. "A good housewife does
not trouble about her appearance."
Then she relapsed into silence.
It was the same on the following days; her talks, her manners,
everything changed. She took interest in the housework, went to
church regularly, and looked after her servant with more
She took Berthe from nurse. When visitors called, Felicite
brought her in, and Madame Bovary undressed her to show off her
limbs. She declared she adored children; this was her
consolation, her joy, her passion, and she accompanied her
caresses with lyrical outburst which would have reminded anyone
but the Yonville people of Sachette in "Notre Dame de Paris."
When Charles came home he found his slippers put to warm near the
fire. His waistcoat now never wanted lining, nor his shirt
buttons, and it was quite a pleasure to see in the cupboard the
night-caps arranged in piles of the same height. She no longer
grumbled as formerly at taking a turn in the garden; what he
proposed was always done, although she did not understand the
wishes to which she submitted without a murmur; and when Leon saw
him by his fireside after dinner, his two hands on his stomach,
his two feet on the fender, his two cheeks red with feeding, his
eyes moist with happiness, the child crawling along the carpet,
and this woman with the slender waist who came behind his
arm-chair to kiss his forehead: "What madness!" he said to
himself. "And how to reach her!"
And thus she seemed so virtuous and inaccessible to him that he
lost all hope, even the faintest. But by this renunciation he
placed her on an extraordinary pinnacle. To him she stood outside
those fleshly attributes from which he had nothing to obtain, and
in his heart she rose ever, and became farther removed from him
after the magnificent manner of an apotheosis that is taking
wing. It was one of those pure feelings that do not interfere
with life, that are cultivated because they are rare, and whose
loss would afflict more than their passion rejoices.
Emma grew thinner, her cheeks paler, her face longer. With her
black hair, her large eyes, her aquiline nose, her birdlike walk,
and always silent now, did she not seem to be passing through
life scarcely touching it, and to bear on her brow the vague
impress of some divine destiny? She was so sad and so calm, at
once so gentle and so reserved, that near her one felt oneself
seized by an icy charm, as we shudder in churches at the perfume
of the flowers mingling with the cold of the marble. The others
even did not escape from this seduction. The chemist said--
"She is a woman of great parts, who wouldn't be misplaced in a
The housewives admired her economy, the patients her politeness,
the poor her charity.
But she was eaten up with desires, with rage, with hate. That
dress with the narrow folds hid a distracted fear, of whose
torment those chaste lips said nothing. She was in love with
Leon, and sought solitude that she might with the more ease
delight in his image. The sight of his form troubled the
voluptuousness of this mediation. Emma thrilled at the sound of
his step; then in his presence the emotion subsided, and
afterwards there remained to her only an immense astonishment
that ended in sorrow.
Leon did not know that when he left her in despair she rose after
he had gone to see him in the street. She concerned herself about
his comings and goings; she watched his face; she invented quite
a history to find an excuse for going to his room. The chemist's
wife seemed happy to her to sleep under the same roof, and her
thoughts constantly centered upon this house, like the "Lion
d'Or" pigeons, who came there to dip their red feet and white
wings in its gutters. But the more Emma recognised her love, the
more she crushed it down, that it might not be evident, that she
might make it less. She would have liked Leon to guess it, and
she imagined chances, catastrophes that should facilitate this.
What restrained her was, no doubt, idleness and fear, and a sense
of shame also. She thought she had repulsed him too much, that
the time was past, that all was lost. Then, pride, and joy of
being able to say to herself, "I am virtuous," and to look at
herself in the glass taking resigned poses, consoled her a little
for the sacrifice she believed she was making.
Then the lusts of the flesh, the longing for money, and the
melancholy of passion all blended themselves into one suffering,
and instead of turning her thoughts from it, she clave to it the
more, urging herself to pain, and seeking everywhere occasion for
it. She was irritated by an ill-served dish or by a half-open
door; bewailed the velvets she had not, the happiness she had
missed, her too exalted dreams, her narrow home.
What exasperated her was that Charles did not seem to notice her
anguish. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed to
her an imbecile insult, and his sureness on this point
ingratitude. For whose sake, then was she virtuous? Was it not
for him, the obstacle to all felicity, the cause of all misery,
and, as it were, the sharp clasp of that complex strap that
bucked her in on all sides.
On him alone, then, she concentrated all the various hatreds that
resulted from her boredom, and every effort to diminish only
augmented it; for this useless trouble was added to the other
reasons for despair, and contributed still more to the separation
between them. Her own gentleness to herself made her rebel
against him. Domestic mediocrity drove her to lewd fancies,
marriage tenderness to adulterous desires. She would have liked
Charles to beat her, that she might have a better right to hate
him, to revenge herself upon him. She was surprised sometimes at
the atrocious conjectures that came into her thoughts, and she
had to go on smiling, to hear repeated to her at all hours that
she was happy, to pretend to be happy, to let it be believed.
Yet she had loathing of this hypocrisy. She was seized with the
temptation to flee somewhere with Leon to try a new life; but at
once a vague chasm full of darkness opened within her soul.
"Besides, he no longer loves me," she thought. "What is to become
of me? What help is to be hoped for, what consolation, what
She was left broken, breathless, inert, sobbing in a low voice,
with flowing tears.
"Why don't you tell master?" the servant asked her when she came
in during these crises.
"It is the nerves," said Emma. "Do not speak to him of it; it
would worry him."
"Ah! yes," Felicite went on, "you are just like La Guerine, Pere
Guerin's daughter, the fisherman at Pollet, that I used to know
at Dieppe before I came to you. She was so sad, so sad, to see
her standing upright on the threshold of her house, she seemed to
you like a winding-sheet spread out before the door. Her illness,
it appears, was a kind of fog that she had in her head, and the
doctors could not do anything, nor the priest either. When she
was taken too bad she went off quite alone to the sea-shore, so
that the customs officer, going his rounds, often found her lying
flat on her face, crying on the shingle. Then, after her
marriage, it went off, they say."
"But with me," replied Emma, "it was after marriage that it
One evening when the window was open, and she, sitting by it, had
been watching Lestiboudois, the beadle, trimming the box, she
suddenly heard the Angelus ringing.
It was the beginning of April, when the primroses are in bloom,
and a warm wind blows over the flower-beds newly turned, and the
gardens, like women, seem to be getting ready for the summer
fetes. Through the bars of the arbour and away beyond, the river
seen in the fields, meandering through the grass in wandering
curves. The evening vapours rose between the leafless poplars,
touching their outlines with a violet tint, paler and more
transparent than a subtle gauze caught athwart their branches. In
the distance cattle moved about; neither their steps nor their
lowing could be heard; and the bell, still ringing through the
air, kept up its peaceful lamentation.
With this repeated tinkling the thoughts of the young woman lost
themselves in old memories of her youth and school-days. She
remembered the great candlesticks that rose above the vases full
of flowers on the altar, and the tabernacle with its small
columns. She would have liked to be once more lost in the long
line of white veils, marked off here and there by the stuff black
hoods of the good sisters bending over their prie-Dieu. At mass
on Sundays, when she looked up, she saw the gentle face of the
Virgin amid the blue smoke of the rising incense. Then she was
moved; she felt herself weak and quite deserted, like the down of
a bird whirled by the tempest, and it was unconsciously that she
went towards the church, included to no matter what devotions, so
that her soul was absorbed and all existence lost in it.
On the Place she met Lestivoudois on his way back, for, in order
not to shorten his day's labour, he preferred interrupting his
work, then beginning it again, so that he rang the Angelus to
suit his own convenience. Besides, the ringing over a little
earlier warned the lads of catechism hour.
Already a few who had arrived were playing marbles on the stones
of the cemetery. Others, astride the wall, swung their legs,
kicking with their clogs the large nettles growing between the
little enclosure and the newest graves. This was the only green
spot. All the rest was but stones, always covered with a fine
powder, despite the vestry-broom.
The children in list shoes ran about there as if it were an
enclosure made for them. The shouts of their voices could be
heard through the humming of the bell. This grew less and less
with the swinging of the great rope that, hanging from the top of
the belfry, dragged its end on the ground. Swallows flitted to
and fro uttering little cries, cut the air with the edge of their
wings, and swiftly returned to their yellow nests under the tiles
of the coping. At the end of the church a lamp was burning, the
wick of a night-light in a glass hung up. Its light from a
distance looked like a white stain trembling in the oil. A long
ray of the sun fell across the nave and seemed to darken the
lower sides and the corners.
"Where is the cure?" asked Madame Bovary of one of the lads, who
was amusing himself by shaking a swivel in a hole too large for
"He is just coming," he answered.
And in fact the door of the presbytery grated; Abbe Bournisien
appeared; the children, pell-mell, fled into the church.
"These young scamps!" murmured the priest, "always the same!"
Then, picking up a catechism all in rags that he had struck with
is foot, "They respect nothing!" But as soon as he caught sight
of Madame Bovary, "Excuse me," he said; "I did not recognise
He thrust the catechism into his pocket, and stopped short,
balancing the heavy vestry key between his two fingers.
The light of the setting sun that fell full upon his face paled
the lasting of his cassock, shiny at the elbows, unravelled at
the hem. Grease and tobacco stains followed along his broad chest
the lines of the buttons, and grew more numerous the farther they
were from his neckcloth, in which the massive folds of his red
chin rested; this was dotted with yellow spots, that disappeared
beneath the coarse hair of his greyish beard. He had just dined
and was breathing noisily.
"How are you?" he added.
"Not well," replied Emma; "I am ill."
"Well, and so am I," answered the priest. "These first warm days
weaken one most remarkably, don't they? But, after all, we are
born to suffer, as St. Paul says. But what does Monsieur Bovary
think of it?"
"He!" she said with a gesture of contempt.
"What!" replied the good fellow, quite astonished, doesn't he
prescribe something for you?"
"Ah!" said Emma, "it is no earthly remedy I need."
But the cure from time to time looked into the church, where the
kneeling boys were shouldering one another, and tumbling over
like packs of cards.
"I should like to know--" she went on.
"You look out, Riboudet," cried the priest in an angry voice;
"I'll warm your ears, you imp!" Then turning to Emma, "He's
Boudet the carpenter's son; his parents are well off, and let him
do just as he pleases. Yet he could learn quickly if he would,
for he is very sharp. And so sometimes for a joke I call him
Riboudet (like the road one takes to go to Maromme) and I even
say 'Mon Riboudet.' Ha! Ha! 'Mont Riboudet.' The other day I
repeated that just to Monsignor, and he laughed at it; he
condescended to laugh at it. And how is Monsieur Bovary?"
She seemed not to hear him. And he went on--
"Always very busy, no doubt; for he and I are certainly the
busiest people in the parish. But he is doctor of the body," he
added with a thick laugh, "and I of the soul."
She fixed her pleading eyes upon the priest. "Yes," she said,
"you solace all sorrows."
"Ah! don't talk to me of it, Madame Bovary. This morning I had to
go to Bas-Diauville for a cow that was ill; they thought it was
under a spell. All their cows, I don't know how it is--But pardon
me! Longuemarre and Boudet! Bless me! Will you leave off?"
And with a bound he ran into the church.
The boys were just then clustering round the large desk, climbing
over the precentor's footstool, opening the missal; and others on
tiptoe were just about to venture into the confessional. But the
priest suddenly distributed a shower of cuffs among them. Seizing
them by the collars of their coats, he lifted them from the
ground, and deposited them on their knees on the stones of the
choir, firmly, as if he meant planting them there.
"Yes," said he, when he returned to Emma, unfolding his large
cotton handkerchief, one corner of which he put between his
teeth, "farmers are much to be pitied."
"Others, too," she replied.
"Assuredly. Town-labourers, for example."
"It is not they--"
"Pardon! I've there known poor mothers of families, virtuous
women, I assure you, real saints, who wanted even bread."
"But those," replied Emma, and the corners of her mouth twitched
as she spoke, "those, Monsieur le Cure, who have bread and have
"Fire in the winter," said the priest.
"Oh, what does that matter?"
"What! What does it matter? It seems to me that when one has
firing and food--for, after all--"
"My God! my God!" she sighed.
"It is indigestion, no doubt? You must get home, Madame Bovary;
drink a little tea, that will strengthen you, or else a glass of
fresh water with a little moist sugar."
"Why?" And she looked like one awaking from a dream.
"Well, you see, you were putting your hand to your forehead. I
thought you felt faint." Then, bethinking himself, "But you were
asking me something? What was it? I really don't remember."
"I? Nothing! nothing!" repeated Emma.
And the glance she cast round her slowly fell upon the old man in
the cassock. They looked at one another face to face without
"Then, Madame Bovary," he said at last, "excuse me, but duty
first, you know; I must look after my good-for-nothings. The
first communion will soon be upon us, and I fear we shall be
behind after all. So after Ascension Day I keep them recta* an
extra hour every Wednesday. Poor children! One cannot lead them
too soon into the path of the Lord, as, moreover, he has himself
recommended us to do by the mouth of his Divine Son. Good health
to you, madame; my respects to your husband."
*On the straight and narrow path.
And he went into the church making a genuflexion as soon as he
reached the door.
Emma saw him disappear between the double row of forms, walking
with a heavy tread, his head a little bent over his shoulder, and
with his two hands half-open behind him.
Then she turned on her heel all of one piece, like a statue on a
pivot, and went homewards. But the loud voice of the priest, the
clear voices of the boys still reached her ears, and went on
"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes, I am a Christian."
"What is a Christian?"
"He who, being baptized-baptized-baptized--"
She went up the steps of the staircase holding on to the
banisters, and when she was in her room threw herself into an
The whitish light of the window-panes fell with soft undulations.
The furniture in its place seemed to have become more immobile,
and to lose itself in the shadow as in an ocean of darkness. The
fire was out, the clock went on ticking, and Emma vaguely
marvelled at this calm of all things while within herself was
such tumult. But little Berthe was there, between the window and
the work-table, tottering on her knitted shoes, and trying to
come to her mother to catch hold of the ends of her
"Leave me alone," said the latter, putting her from her with her
The little girl soon came up closer against her knees, and
leaning on them with her arms, she looked up with her large blue
eyes, while a small thread of pure saliva dribbled from her lips
on to the silk apron.
"Leave me alone," repeated the young woman quite irritably.
Her face frightened the child, who began to scream.
"Will you leave me alone?" she said, pushing her with her elbow.
Berthe fell at the foot of the drawers against the brass handle,
cutting her cheek, which began to bleed, against it. Madame
Bovary sprang to lift her up, broke the bell-rope, called for the
servant with all her might, and she was just going to curse
herself when Charles appeared. It was the dinner-hour; he had
"Look, dear!" said Emma, in a calm voice, "the little one fell
down while she was playing, and has hurt herself."
Charles reassured her; the case was not a serious one, and he
went for some sticking plaster.
Madame Bovary did not go downstairs to the dining-room; she
wished to remain alone to look after the child. Then watching her
sleep, the little anxiety she felt gradually wore off, and she
seemed very stupid to herself, and very good to have been so
worried just now at so little. Berthe, in fact, no longer sobbed.
Her breathing now imperceptibly raised the cotton covering. Big
tears lay in the corner of the half-closed eyelids, through whose
lashes one could see two pale sunken pupils; the plaster stuck on
her cheek drew the skin obliquely.
"It is very strange," thought Emma, "how ugly this child is!"
When at eleven o'clock Charles came back from the chemist's shop,
whither he had gone after dinner to return the remainder of the
sticking-plaster, he found his wife standing by the cradle.
"I assure you it's nothing." he said, kissing her on the
forehead. "Don't worry, my poor darling; you will make yourself
He had stayed a long time at the chemist's. Although he had not
seemed much moved, Homais, nevertheless, had exerted himself to
buoy him up, to "keep up his spirits." Then they had talked of
the various dangers that threaten childhood, of the carelessness
of servants. Madame Homais knew something of it, having still
upon her chest the marks left by a basin full of soup that a cook
had formerly dropped on her pinafore, and her good parents took
no end of trouble for her. The knives were not sharpened, nor the
floors waxed; there were iron gratings to the windows and strong
bars across the fireplace; the little Homais, in spite of their
spirit, could not stir without someone watching them; at the
slightest cold their father stuffed them with pectorals; and
until they were turned four they all, without pity, had to wear
wadded head-protectors. This, it is true, was a fancy of Madame
Homais'; her husband was inwardly afflicted at it. Fearing the
possible consequences of such compression to the intellectual
organs. He even went so far as to say to her, "Do you want to
make Caribs or Botocudos of them?"
Charles, however, had several times tried to interrupt the
conversation. "I should like to speak to you," he had whispered
in the clerk's ear, who went upstairs in front of him.
"Can he suspect anything?" Leon asked himself. His heart beat,
and he racked his brain with surmises.
At last, Charles, having shut the door, asked him to see himself
what would be the price at Rouen of a fine daguerreotypes. It was
a sentimental surprise he intended for his wife, a delicate
attention--his portrait in a frock-coat. But he wanted first to
know "how much it would be." The inquiries would not put Monsieur
Leon out, since he went to town almost every week.
Why? Monsieur Homais suspected some "young man's affair" at the
bottom of it, an intrigue. But he was mistaken. Leon was after no
love-making. He was sadder than ever, as Madame Lefrancois saw
from the amount of food he left on his plate. To find out more
about it she questioned the tax-collector. Binet answered roughly
that he "wasn't paid by the police."
All the same, his companion seemed very strange to him, for Leon
often threw himself back in his chair, and stretching out his
arms. Complained vaguely of life.
"It's because you don't take enough recreation," said the
"If I were you I'd have a lathe."
"But I don't know how to turn," answered the clerk.
"Ah! that's true," said the other, rubbing his chin with an air
of mingled contempt and satisfaction.
Leon was weary of loving without any result; moreover he was
beginning to feel that depression caused by the repetition of the
same kind of life, when no interest inspires and no hope sustains
it. He was so bored with Yonville and its inhabitants, that the
sight of certain persons, of certain houses, irritated him beyond
endurance; and the chemist, good fellow though he was, was
becoming absolutely unbearable to him. Yet the prospect of a new
condition of life frightened as much as it seduced him.
This apprehension soon changed into impatience, and then Paris
from afar sounded its fanfare of masked balls with the laugh of
grisettes. As he was to finish reading there, why not set out at
once? What prevented him? And he began making home-preparations;
he arranged his occupations beforehand. He furnished in his head
an apartment. He would lead an artist's life there! He would take
lessons on the guitar! He would have a dressing-gown, a Basque
cap, blue velvet slippers! He even already was admiring two
crossed foils over his chimney-piece, with a death's head on the
guitar above them.
The difficulty was the consent of his mother; nothing, however,
seemed more reasonable. Even his employer advised him to go to
some other chambers where he could advance more rapidly. Taking a
middle course, then, Leon looked for some place as second clerk
at Rouen; found none, and at last wrote his mother a long letter
full of details, in which he set forth the reasons for going to
live at Paris immediately. She consented.
He did not hurry. Every day for a month Hivert carried boxes,
valises, parcels for him from Yonville to Rouen and from Rouen to
Yonville; and when Leon had packed up his wardrobe, had his three
arm-chairs restuffed, bought a stock of neckties, in a word, had
made more preparations than for a voyage around the world, he put
it off from week to week, until he received a second letter from
his mother urging him to leave, since he wanted to pass his
examination before the vacation.
When the moment for the farewells had come, Madame Homais wept,
Justin sobbed; Homais, as a man of nerve, concealed his emotion;
he wished to carry his friend's overcoat himself as far as the
gate of the notary, who was taking Leon to Rouen in his carriage.
The latter had just time to bid farewell to Monsieur Bovary.
When he reached the head of the stairs, he stopped, he was so out
of breath. As he came in, Madame Bovary arose hurriedly.
"It is I again!" said Leon.
"I was sure of it!"
She bit her lips, and a rush of blood flowing under her skin made
her red from the roots of her hair to the top of her collar. She
remained standing, leaning with her shoulder against the
"The doctor is not here?" he went on.
"He is out." She repeated, "He is out."
Then there was silence. They looked at one another and their
thoughts, confounded in the same agony, clung close together like
two throbbing breasts.
"I should like to kiss Berthe," said Leon.
Emma went down a few steps and called Felicite.
He threw one long look around him that took in the walls, the
decorations, the fireplace, as if to penetrate everything, carry
away everything. But she returned, and the servant brought
Berthe, who was swinging a windmill roof downwards at the end of
a string. Leon kissed her several times on the neck.
"Good-bye, poor child! good-bye, dear little one! good-bye!" And
he gave her back to her mother.
"Take her away," she said.
They remained alone--Madame Bovary, her back turned, her face
pressed against a window-pane; Leon held his cap in his hand,
knocking it softly against his thigh.
"It is going to rain," said Emma.
"I have a cloak," he answered.
She turned around, her chin lowered, her forehead bent forward.
The light fell on it as on a piece of marble, to the curve of the
eyebrows, without one's being able to guess what Emma was seeing
on the horizon or what she was thinking within herself.
"Well, good-bye," he sighed.
She raised her head with a quick movement.
They advanced towards each other; he held out his hand; she
"In the English fashion, then," she said, giving her own hand
wholly to him, and forcing a laugh.
Leon felt it between his fingers, and the very essence of all his
being seemed to pass down into that moist palm. Then he opened
his hand; their eyes met again, and he disappeared.
When he reached the market-place, he stopped and hid behind a
pillar to look for the last time at this white house with the
four green blinds. He thought he saw a shadow behind the window
in the room; but the curtain, sliding along the pole as though no
one were touching it, slowly opened its long oblique folds that
spread out with a single movement, and thus hung straight and
motionless as a plaster wall. Leon set off running.
From afar he saw his employer's gig in the road, and by it a man
in a coarse apron holding the horse. Homais and Monsieur
Guillaumin were talking. They were waiting for him.
"Embrace me," said the druggist with tears in his eyes. "Here is
your coat, my good friend. Mind the cold; take care of yourself;
look after yourself."
"Come, Leon, jump in," said the notary.
Homais bend over the splash-board, and in a voice broken by sobs
uttered these three sad words--
"A pleasant journey!"
"Good-night," said Monsieur Guillaumin. "Give him his head." They
set out, and Homais went back.
Madame Bovary had opened her window overlooking the garden and
watched the clouds. They gathered around the sunset on the side
of Rouen and then swiftly rolled back their black columns, behind
which the great rays of the sun looked out like the golden arrows
of a suspended trophy, while the rest of the empty heavens was
white as porcelain. But a gust of wind bowed the poplars, and
suddenly the rain fell; it pattered against the green leaves.
Then the sun reappeared, the hens clucked, sparrows shook their
wings in the damp thickets, and the pools of water on the gravel
as they flowed away carried off the pink flowers of an acacia.
"Ah! how far off he must be already!" she thought.
Monsieur Homais, as usual, came at half-past six during dinner.
"Well," said he, "so we've sent off our young friend!"
"So it seems," replied the doctor. Then turning on his chair;
"Any news at home?"
"Nothing much. Only my wife was a little moved this afternoon.
You know women--a nothing upsets them, especially my wife. And we
should be wrong to object to that, since their nervous
organization is much more malleable than ours."
"Poor Leon!" said Charles. "How will he live at Paris? Will he
get used to it?"
Madame Bovary sighed.
"Get along!" said the chemist, smacking his lips. "The outings at
restaurants, the masked balls, the champagne--all that'll be
jolly enough, I assure you."
"I don't think he'll go wrong," objected Bovary.
"Nor do I," said Monsieur Homais quickly; "although he'll have to
do like the rest for fear of passing for a Jesuit. And you don't
know what a life those dogs lead in the Latin quarter with
actresses. Besides, students are thought a great deal of in
Paris. Provided they have a few accomplishments, they are
received in the best society; there are even ladies of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain who fall in love with them, which
subsequently furnishes them opportunities for making very good
"But," said the doctor, "I fear for him that down there--"
"You are right," interrupted the chemist; "that is the reverse of
the medal. And one is constantly obliged to keep one's hand in
one's pocket there. Thus, we will suppose you are in a public
garden. An individual presents himself, well dressed, even
wearing an order, and whom one would take for a diplomatist. He
approaches you, he insinuates himself; offers you a pinch of
snuff, or picks up your hat. Then you become more intimate; he
takes you to a cafe, invites you to his country-house, introduces
you, between two drinks, to all sorts of people; and
three-fourths of the time it's only to plunder your watch or lead
you into some pernicious step.
"That is true," said Charles; "but I was thinking especially of
illnesses--of typhoid fever, for example, that attacks students
from the provinces."
"Because of the change of regimen," continued the chemist, "and
of the perturbation that results therefrom in the whole system.
And then the water at Paris, don't you know! The dishes at
restaurants, all the spiced food, end by heating the blood, and
are not worth, whatever people may say of them, a good soup. For
my own part, I have always preferred plain living; it is more
healthy. So when I was studying pharmacy at Rouen, I boarded in a
boarding house; I dined with the professors."
And thus he went on, expounding his opinions generally and his
personal likings, until Justin came to fetch him for a mulled egg
that was wanted.
"Not a moment's peace!" he cried; "always at it! I can't go out
for a minute! Like a plough-horse, I have always to be moiling
and toiling. What drudgery!" Then, when he was at the door, "By
the way, do you know the news?"
"That it is very likely," Homais went on, raising his eyebrows
and assuming one of his most serious expression, "that the
agricultural meeting of the Seine-Inferieure will be held this
year at Yonville-l'Abbaye. The rumour, at all events, is going
the round. This morning the paper alluded to it. It would be of
the utmost importance for our district. But we'll talk it over
later on. I can see, thank you; Justin has the lantern."
The next day was a dreary one for Emma. Everything seemed to her
enveloped in a black atmosphere floating confusedly over the
exterior of things, and sorrow was engulfed within her soul with
soft shrieks such as the winter wind makes in ruined castles. It
was that reverie which we give to things that will not return,
the lassitude that seizes you after everything was done; that
pain, in fine, that the interruption of every wonted movement,
the sudden cessation of any prolonged vibration, brings on.
As on the return from Vaubyessard, when the quadrilles were
running in her head, she was full of a gloomy melancholy, of a
numb despair. Leon reappeared, taller, handsomer, more charming,
more vague. Though separated from her, he had not left her; he
was there, and the walls of the house seemed to hold his shadow.
She could not detach her eyes from the carpet where he had
walked, from those empty chairs where he had sat. The river still
flowed on, and slowly drove its ripples along the slippery banks.
They had often walked there to the murmur of the waves over the
moss-covered pebbles. How bright the sun had been! What happy
afternoons they had seen alone in the shade at the end of the
garden! He read aloud, bareheaded, sitting on a footstool of dry
sticks; the fresh wind of the meadow set trembling the leaves of
the book and the nasturtiums of the arbour. Ah! he was gone, the
only charm of her life, the only possible hope of joy. Why had
she not seized this happiness when it came to her? Why not have
kept hold of it with both hands, with both knees, when it was
about to flee from her? And she cursed herself for not having
loved Leon. She thirsted for his lips. The wish took possession
of her to run after and rejoin him, throw herself into his arms
and say to him, "It is I; I am yours." But Emma recoiled
beforehand at the difficulties of the enterprise, and her
desires, increased by regret, became only the more acute.
Henceforth the memory of Leon was the centre of her boredom; it
burnt there more brightly than the fire travellers have left on
the snow of a Russian steppe. She sprang towards him, she pressed
against him, she stirred carefully the dying embers, sought all
around her anything that could revive it; and the most distant
reminiscences, like the most immediate occasions, what she
experienced as well as what she imagined, her voluptuous desires
that were unsatisfied, her projects of happiness that crackled in
the wind like dead boughs, her sterile virtue, her lost hopes,
the domestic tete-a-tete--she gathered it all up, took
everything, and made it all serve as fuel for her melancholy.
The flames, however, subsided, either because the supply had
exhausted itself, or because it had been piled up too much. Love,
little by little, was quelled by absence; regret stifled beneath
habit; and this incendiary light that had empurpled her pale sky
was overspread and faded by degrees. In the supineness of her
conscience she even took her repugnance towards her husband for
aspirations towards her lover, the burning of hate for the warmth
of tenderness; but as the tempest still raged, and as passion
burnt itself down to the very cinders, and no help came, no sun
rose, there was night on all sides, and she was lost in the
terrible cold that pierced her.
Then the evil days of Tostes began again. She thought herself now
far more unhappy; for she had the experience of grief, with the
certainty that it would not end.
A woman who had laid on herself such sacrifices could well allow
herself certain whims. She bought a Gothic prie-dieu, and in a
month spent fourteen francs on lemons for polishing her nails;
she wrote to Rouen for a blue cashmere gown; she chose one of
Lheureux's finest scarves, and wore it knotted around her waist
over her dressing-gown; and, with closed blinds and a book in her
hand, she lay stretched out on a couch in this garb.
She often changed her coiffure; she did her hair a la Chinoise,
in flowing curls, in plaited coils; she parted in on one side and
rolled it under like a man's.
She wanted to learn Italian; she bought dictionaries, a grammar,
and a supply of white paper. She tried serious reading, history,
and philosophy. Sometimes in the night Charles woke up with a
start, thinking he was being called to a patient. "I'm coming,"
he stammered; and it was the noise of a match Emma had struck to
relight the lamp. But her reading fared like her piece of
embroidery, all of which, only just begun, filled her cupboard;
she took it up, left it, passed on to other books.
She had attacks in which she could easily have been driven to
commit any folly. She maintained one day, in opposition to her
husband, that she could drink off a large glass of brandy, and,
as Charles was stupid enough to dare her to, she swallowed the
brandy to the last drop.
In spite of her vapourish airs (as the housewives of Yonville
called them), Emma, all the same, never seemed gay, and usually
she had at the corners of her mouth that immobile contraction
that puckers the faces of old maids, and those of men whose
ambition has failed. She was pale all over, white as a sheet; the
skin of her nose was drawn at the nostrils, her eyes looked at
you vaguely. After discovering three grey hairs on her temples,
she talked much of her old age.
She often fainted. One day she even spat blood, and, as Charles
fussed around her showing his anxiety--
"Bah!" she answered, "what does it matter?"
Charles fled to his study and wept there, both his elbows on the
table, sitting in an arm-chair at his bureau under the
Then he wrote to his mother begging her to come, and they had
many long consultations together on the subject of Emma.
What should they decide? What was to be done since she rejected
all medical treatment? "Do you know what your wife wants?"
replied Madame Bovary senior.
"She wants to be forced to occupy herself with some manual work.
If she were obliged, like so many others, to earn her living, she
wouldn't have these vapours, that come to her from a lot of ideas
she stuffs into her head, and from the idleness in which she
"Yet she is always busy," said Charles.
"Ah! always busy at what? Reading novels, bad books, works
against religion, and in which they mock at priests in speeches
taken from Voltaire. But all that leads you far astray, my poor
child. Anyone who has no religion always ends by turning out
So it was decided to stop Emma reading novels. The enterprise did
not seem easy. The good lady undertook it. She was, when she
passed through Rouen, to go herself to the lending-library and
represent that Emma had discontinued her subscription. Would they
not have a right to apply to the police if the librarian
persisted all the same in his poisonous trade? The farewells of
mother and daughter-in-law were cold. During the three weeks that
they had been together they had not exchanged half-a-dozen words
apart from the inquiries and phrases when they met at table and
in the evening before going to bed.
Madame Bovary left on a Wednesday, the market-day at Yonville.
The Place since morning had been blocked by a row of carts,
which, on end and their shafts in the air, spread all along the
line of houses from the church to the inn. On the other side
there were canvas booths, where cotton checks, blankets, and
woollen stockings were sold, together with harness for horses,
and packets of blue ribbon, whose ends fluttered in the wind. The
coarse hardware was spread out on the ground between pyramids of
eggs and hampers of cheeses, from which sticky straw stuck out.
Near the corn-machines clucking hens passed their necks through
the bars of flat cages. The people, crowding in the same place
and unwilling to move thence, sometimes threatened to smash the
shop front of the chemist. On Wednesdays his shop was never
empty, and the people pushed in less to buy drugs than for
consultations. So great was Homais' reputation in the
neighbouring villages. His robust aplomb had fascinated the
rustics. They considered him a greater doctor than all the
Emma was leaning out at the window; she was often there. The
window in the provinces replaces the theatre and the promenade,
she was amusing herself with watching the crowd of boors when she
saw a gentleman in a green velvet coat. He had on yellow gloves,
although he wore heavy gaiters; he was coming towards the
doctor's house, followed by a peasant walking with a bent head
and quite a thoughtful air.
"Can I see the doctor?" he asked Justin, who was talking on the
doorsteps with Felicite, and, taking him for a servant of the
house--"Tell him that Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger of La Huchette
It was not from territorial vanity that the new arrival added "of
La Huchette" to his name, but to make himself the better known.
La Huchette, in fact, was an estate near Yonville, where he had
just bought the chateau and two farms that he cultivated himself,
without, however, troubling very much about them. He lived as a
bachelor, and was supposed to have "at least fifteen thousand
francs a year."
Charles came into the room. Monsieur Boulanger introduced his
man, who wanted to be bled because he felt "a tingling all over."
"That'll purge me," he urged as an objection to all reasoning.
So Bovary ordered a bandage and a basin, and asked Justin to hold
it. Then addressing the peasant, who was already pale--
"Don't be afraid, my lad."
"No, no, sir," said the other; "get on."
And with an air of bravado he held out his great arm. At the
prick of the lancet the blood spurted out, splashing against the
"Hold the basin nearer," exclaimed Charles.
"Lor!" said the peasant, "one would swear it was a little
fountain flowing. How red my blood is! That's a good sign, isn't
"Sometimes," answered the doctor, "one feels nothing at first,
and then syncope sets in, and more especially with people of
strong constitution like this man."
At these words the rustic let go the lancet-case he was twisting
between his fingers. A shudder of his shoulders made the
chair-back creak. His hat fell off.
"I thought as much," said Bovary, pressing his finger on the
The basin was beginning to tremble in Justin's hands; his knees
shook, he turned pale.
"Emma! Emma!" called Charles.
With one bound she came down the staircase.
"Some vinegar," he cried. "O dear! two at once!"
And in his emotion he could hardly put on the compress.
"It is nothing," said Monsieur Boulanger quietly, taking Justin
in his arms. He seated him on the table with his back resting
against the wall.
Madame Bovary began taking off his cravat. The strings of his
shirt had got into a knot, and she was for some minutes moving
her light fingers about the young fellow's neck. Then she poured
some vinegar on her cambric handkerchief; she moistened his
temples with little dabs, and then blew upon them softly. The
ploughman revived, but Justin's syncope still lasted, and his
eyeballs disappeared in the pale sclerotics like blue flowers in
"We must hide this from him," said Charles.
Madame Bovary took the basin to put it under the table. With the
movement she made in bending down, her dress (it was a summer
dress with four flounces, yellow, long in the waist and wide in
the skirt) spread out around her on the flags of the room; and as
Emma stooping, staggered a little as she stretched out her arms.
The stuff here and there gave with the inflections of her bust.
Then she went to fetch a bottle of water, and she was melting
some pieces of sugar when the chemist arrived. The servant had
been to fetch him in the tumult. Seeing his pupil's eyes staring
he drew a long breath; then going around him he looked at him
from head to foot.
"Fool!" he said, "really a little fool! A fool in four letters! A
phlebotomy's a big affair, isn't it! And a fellow who isn't
afraid of anything; a kind of squirrel, just as he is who climbs
to vertiginous heights to shake down nuts. Oh, yes! you just talk
to me, boast about yourself! Here's a fine fitness for practising
pharmacy later on; for under serious circumstances you may be
called before the tribunals in order to enlighten the minds of
the magistrates, and you would have to keep your head then, to
reason, show yourself a man, or else pass for an imbecile."
Justin did not answer. The chemist went on--
"Who asked you to come? You are always pestering the doctor and
madame. On Wednesday, moreover, your presence is indispensable to
me. There are now twenty people in the shop. I left everything
because of the interest I take in you. Come, get along! Sharp!
Wait for me, and keep an eye on the jars."
When Justin, who was rearranging his dress, had gone, they talked
for a little while about fainting-fits. Madame Bovary had never
"That is extraordinary for a lady," said Monsieur Boulanger; "but
some people are very susceptible. Thus in a duel, I have seen a
second lose consciousness at the mere sound of the loading of
"For my part," said the chemist, "the sight of other people's
blood doesn't affect me at all, but the mere thought of my own
flowing would make me faint if I reflected upon it too much."
Monsieur Boulanger, however, dismissed his servant, advising him
to calm himself, since his fancy was over.
"It procured me the advantage of making your acquaintance," he
added, and he looked at Emma as he said this. Then he put three
francs on the corner of the table, bowed negligently, and went
He was soon on the other side of the river (this was his way back
to La Huchette), and Emma saw him in the meadow, walking under
the poplars, slackening his pace now and then as one who
"She is very pretty," he said to himself; "she is very pretty,
this doctor's wife. Fine teeth, black eyes, a dainty foot, a
figure like a Parisienne's. Where the devil does she come from?
Wherever did that fat fellow pick her up?"
Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger was thirty-four; he was of brutal
temperament and intelligent perspicacity, having, moreover, had
much to do with women, and knowing them well. This one had seemed
pretty to him; so he was thinking about her and her husband.
"I think he is very stupid. She is tired of him, no doubt. He has
dirty nails, and hasn't shaved for three days. While he is
trotting after his patients, she sits there botching socks. And
she gets bored! She would like to live in town and dance polkas
every evening. Poor little woman! She is gaping after love like a
carp after water on a kitchen-table. With three words of
gallantry she'd adore one, I'm sure of it. She'd be tender,
charming. Yes; but how to get rid of her afterwards?"
Then the difficulties of love-making seen in the distance made
him by contrast think of his mistress. She was an actress at
Rouen, whom he kept; and when he had pondered over this image,
with which, even in remembrance, he was satiated--
"Ah! Madame Bovary," he thought, "is much prettier, especially
fresher. Virginie is decidedly beginning to grow fat. She is so
finiky about her pleasures; and, besides, she has a mania for
The fields were empty, and around him Rodolphe only heard the
regular beating of the grass striking against his boots, with a
cry of the grasshopper hidden at a distance among the oats. He
again saw Emma in her room, dressed as he had seen her, and he
"Oh, I will have her," he cried, striking a blow with his stick
at a clod in front of him. And he at once began to consider the
political part of the enterprise. He asked himself--
"Where shall we meet? By what means? We shall always be having
the brat on our hands, and the servant, the neighbours, and
husband, all sorts of worries. Pshaw! one would lose too much
time over it."
Then he resumed, "She really has eyes that pierce one's heart
like a gimlet. And that pale complexion! I adore pale women!"
When he reached the top of the Arguiel hills he had made up his
mind. "It's only finding the opportunities. Well, I will call in
now and then. I'll send them venison, poultry; I'll have myself
bled, if need be. We shall become friends; I'll invite them to my
place. By Jove!" added he, "there's the agricultural show coming
on. She'll be there. I shall see her. We'll begin boldly, for
that's the surest way."
At last it came, the famous agricultural show. On the morning of
the solemnity all the inhabitants at their doors were chatting
over the preparations. The pediment of the town hall had been
hung with garlands of ivy; a tent had been erected in a meadow
for the banquet; and in the middle of the Place, in front of the
church, a kind of bombarde was to announce the arrival of the
prefect and the names of the successful farmers who had obtained
prizes. The National Guard of Buchy (there was none at Yonville)
had come to join the corps of firemen, of whom Binet was captain.
On that day he wore a collar even higher than usual; and, tightly
buttoned in his tunic, his figure was so stiff and motionless
that the whole vital portion of his person seemed to have
descended into his legs, which rose in a cadence of set steps
with a single movement. As there was some rivalry between the
tax-collector and the colonel, both, to show off their talents,
drilled their men separately. One saw the red epaulettes and the
black breastplates pass and re-pass alternately; there was no end
to it, and it constantly began again. There had never been such a
display of pomp. Several citizens had scoured their houses the
evening before; tri-coloured flags hung from half-open windows;
all the public-houses were full; and in the lovely weather the
starched caps, the golden crosses, and the coloured neckerchiefs
seemed whiter than snow, shone in the sun, and relieved with the
motley colours the sombre monotony of the frock-coats and blue
smocks. The neighbouring farmers' wives, when they got off their
horses, pulled out the long pins that fastened around them their
dresses, turned up for fear of mud; and the husbands, for their
part, in order to save their hats, kept their handkerchiefs
around them, holding one corner between their teeth.
The crowd came into the main street from both ends of the
village. People poured in from the lanes, the alleys, the houses;
and from time to time one heard knockers banging against doors
closing behind women with their gloves, who were going out to see
the fete. What was most admired were two long lamp-stands covered
with lanterns, that flanked a platform on which the authorities
were to sit. Besides this there were against the four columns of
the town hall four kinds of poles, each bearing a small standard
of greenish cloth, embellished with inscriptions in gold letters.
On one was written, "To Commerce"; on the other, "To
Agriculture"; on the third, "To Industry"; and on the fourth, "To
the Fine Arts."
But the jubilation that brightened all faces seemed to darken
that of Madame Lefrancois, the innkeeper. Standing on her
kitchen-steps she muttered to herself, "What rubbish! what
rubbish! With their canvas booth! Do they think the prefect will
be glad to dine down there under a tent like a gipsy? They call
all this fussing doing good to the place! Then it wasn't worth
while sending to Neufchatel for the keeper of a cookshop! And for
whom? For cowherds! tatterdemalions!"
The druggist was passing. He had on a frock-coat, nankeen
trousers, beaver shoes, and, for a wonder, a hat with a low
"Your servant! Excuse me, I am in a hurry." And as the fat widow
asked where he was going--
"It seems odd to you, doesn't it, I who am always more cooped up
in my laboratory than the man's rat in his cheese."
"What cheese?" asked the landlady.
"Oh, nothing! nothing!" Homais continued. "I merely wished to
convey to you, Madame Lefrancois, that I usually live at home
like a recluse. To-day, however, considering the circumstances,
it is necessary--"
"Oh, you're going down there!" she said contemptuously.
"Yes, I am going," replied the druggist, astonished. "Am I not a
member of the consulting commission?"
Mere Lefrancois looked at him for a few moments, and ended by
saying with a smile--
"That's another pair of shoes! But what does agriculture matter
to you? Do you understand anything about it?"
"Certainly I understand it, since I am a druggist--that is to
say, a chemist. And the object of chemistry, Madame Lefrancois,
being the knowledge of the reciprocal and molecular action of all
natural bodies, it follows that agriculture is comprised within
its domain. And, in fact, the composition of the manure, the
fermentation of liquids, the analyses of gases, and the influence
of miasmata, what, I ask you, is all this, if it isn't chemistry,
pure and simple?"
The landlady did not answer. Homais went on--
"Do you think that to be an agriculturist it is necessary to have
tilled the earth or fattened fowls oneself? It is necessary
rather to know the composition of the substances in question--the
geological strata, the atmospheric actions, the quality of the
soil, the minerals, the waters, the density of the different
bodies, their capillarity, and what not. And one must be master
of all the principles of hygiene in order to direct, criticize
the construction of buildings, the feeding of animals, the diet
of domestics. And, moreover, Madame Lefrancois, one must know
botany, be able to distinguish between plants, you understand,
which are the wholesome and those that are deleterious, which are
unproductive and which nutritive, if it is well to pull them up
here and re-sow them there, to propagate some, destroy others; in
brief, one must keep pace with science by means of pamphlets and
public papers, be always on the alert to find out improvements."
The landlady never took her eyes off the "Cafe Francois" and the
chemist went on--
"Would to God our agriculturists were chemists, or that at least
they would pay more attention to the counsels of science. Thus
lately I myself wrote a considerable tract, a memoir of over
seventy-two pages, entitled, 'Cider, its Manufacture and its
Effects, together with some New Reflections on the Subject,' that
I sent to the Agricultural Society of Rouen, and which even
procured me the honour of being received among its
members--Section, Agriculture; Class, Pomological.
Well, if my work had been given to the public--" But the druggist
stopped, Madame Lefrancois seemed so preoccupied.
"Just look at them!" she said. "It's past comprehension! Such a
cookshop as that!" And with a shrug of the shoulders that
stretched out over her breast the stitches of her knitted bodice,
she pointed with both hands at her rival's inn, whence songs were
heard issuing. "Well, it won't last long," she added. "It'll be
over before a week."
Homais drew back with stupefaction. She came down three steps and
whispered in his ear--
"What! you didn't know it? There is to be an execution in next
week. It's Lheureux who is selling him out; he has killed him
"What a terrible catastrophe!" cried the druggist, who always
found expressions in harmony with all imaginable circumstances.
Then the landlady began telling him the story that she had heard
from Theodore, Monsieur Guillaumin's servant, and although she
detested Tellier, she blamed Lheureux. He was "a wheedler, a
"There!" she said. "Look at him! he is in the market; he is
bowing to Madame Bovary, who's got on a green bonnet. Why, she's
taking Monsieur Boulanger's arm."
"Madame Bovary!" exclaimed Homais. "I must go at once and pay her
my respects. Perhaps she'll be very glad to have a seat in the
enclosure under the peristyle." And, without heeding Madame
Lefrancois, who was calling him back to tell him more about it,
the druggist walked off rapidly with a smile on his lips, with
straight knees, bowing copiously to right and left, and taking up
much room with the large tails of his frock-coat that fluttered
behind him in the wind.
Rodolphe, having caught sight of him from afar, hurried on, but
Madame Bovary lost her breath; so he walked more slowly, and,
smiling at her, said in a rough tone--
"It's only to get away from that fat fellow, you know, the
druggist." She pressed his elbow.
"What's the meaning of that?" he asked himself. And he looked at
her out of the corner of his eyes.
Her profile was so calm that one could guess nothing from it. It
stood out in the light from the oval of her bonnet, with pale
ribbons on it like the leaves of weeds. Her eyes with their long
curved lashes looked straight before her, and though wide open,
they seemed slightly puckered by the cheek-bones, because of the
blood pulsing gently under the delicate skin. A pink line ran
along the partition between her nostrils. Her head was bent upon
her shoulder, and the pearl tips of her white teeth were seen
between her lips.
"Is she making fun of me?" thought Rodolphe.
Emma's gesture, however, had only been meant for a warning; for
Monsieur Lheureux was accompanying them, and spoke now and again
as if to enter into the conversation.
"What a superb day! Everybody is out! The wind is east!"
And neither Madame Bovary nor Rodolphe answered him, whilst at
the slightest movement made by them he drew near, saying, "I beg
your pardon!" and raised his hat.
When they reached the farrier's house, instead of following the
road up to the fence, Rodolphe suddenly turned down a path,
drawing with him Madame Bovary. He called out--
"Good evening, Monsieur Lheureux! See you again presently."
"How you got rid of him!" she said, laughing.
"Why," he went on, "allow oneself to be intruded upon by others?
And as to-day I have the happiness of being with you--"
Emma blushed. He did not finish his sentence. Then he talked of
the fine weather and of the pleasure of walking on the grass. A
few daisies had sprung up again.
"Here are some pretty Easter daisies," he said, "and enough of
them to furnish oracles to all the amorous maids in the place."
He added, "Shall I pick some? What do you think?"
"Are you in love?" she asked, coughing a little.
"H'm, h'm! who knows?" answered Rodolphe.
The meadow began to fill, and the housewives hustled you with
their great umbrellas, their baskets, and their babies. One had
often to get out of the way of a long file of country folk,
servant-maids with blue stockings, flat shoes, silver rings, and
who smelt of milk, when one passed close to them. They walked
along holding one another by the hand, and thus they spread over
the whole field from the row of open trees to the banquet tent.
But this was the examination time, and the farmers one after the
other entered a kind of enclosure formed by a long cord supported
The beasts were there, their noses towards the cord, and making a
confused line with their unequal rumps. Drowsy pigs were
burrowing in the earth with their snouts, calves were bleating,
lambs baaing; the cows, on knees folded in, were stretching their
bellies on the grass, slowly chewing the cud, and blinking their
heavy eyelids at the gnats that buzzed round them. Plough-men
with bare arms were holding by the halter prancing stallions that
neighed with dilated nostrils looking towards the mares. These
stood quietly, stretching out their heads and flowing manes,
while their foals rested in their shadow, or now and then came
and sucked them. And above the long undulation of these crowded
animals one saw some white mane rising in the wind like a wave,
or some sharp horns sticking out, and the heads of men running
about. Apart, outside the enclosure, a hundred paces off, was a
large black bull, muzzled, with an iron ring in its nostrils, and
who moved no more than if he had been in bronze. A child in rags
was holding him by a rope.
Between the two lines the committee-men were walking with heavy
steps, examining each animal, then consulting one another in a
low voice. One who seemed of more importance now and then took
notes in a book as he walked along. This was the president of the
jury, Monsieur Derozerays de la Panville. As soon as he
recognised Rodolphe he came forward quickly, and smiling amiably,
"What! Monsieur Boulanger, you are deserting us?"
Rodolphe protested that he was just coming. But when the
president had disappeared--
"Ma foi!*" said he, "I shall not go. Your company is better than
*Upon my word!
And while poking fun at the show, Rodolphe, to move about more easily,
showed the gendarme his blue card, and even stopped now and then in
front of some fine beast, which Madame Bovary did not at all admire.
He noticed this, and began jeering at the Yonville ladies and their
dresses; then he apologised for the negligence of his own. He had that
incongruity of common and elegant in which the habitually vulgar think
they see the revelation of an eccentric existence, of the
perturbations of sentiment, the tyrannies of art, and always a
certain contempt for social conventions, that seduces or
exasperates them. Thus his cambric shirt with plaited cuffs was
blown out by the wind in the opening of his waistcoat of grey
ticking, and his broad-striped trousers disclosed at the ankle
nankeen boots with patent leather gaiters.
These were so polished that they reflected the grass. He trampled
on horses's dung with them, one hand in the pocket of his jacket
and his straw hat on one side.
"Besides," added he, "when one lives in the country--"
"It's waste of time," said Emma.
"That is true," replied Rodolphe. "To think that not one of these
people is capable of understanding even the cut of a coat!"
Then they talked about provincial mediocrity, of the lives it
crushed, the illusions lost there.
"And I too," said Rodolphe, "am drifting into depression."
"You!" she said in astonishment; "I thought you very
"Ah! yes. I seem so, because in the midst of the world I know how
to wear the mask of a scoffer upon my face; and yet, how many a
time at the sight of a cemetery by moonlight have I not asked
myself whether it were not better to join those sleeping there!"
"Oh! and your friends?" she said. "You do not think of them."
"My friends! What friends? Have I any? Who cares for me?" And he
accompanied the last words with a kind of whistling of the lips.
But they were obliged to separate from each other because of a
great pile of chairs that a man was carrying behind them. He was
so overladen with them that one could only see the tips of his
wooden shoes and the ends of his two outstretched arms. It was
Lestiboudois, the gravedigger, who was carrying the church chairs
about amongst the people. Alive to all that concerned his
interests, he had hit upon this means of turning the show to
account; and his idea was succeeding, for he no longer knew which
way to turn. In fact, the villagers, who were hot, quarreled for
these seats, whose straw smelt of incense, and they leant against
the thick backs, stained with the wax of candles, with a certain
Madame Bovary again took Rodolphe's arm; he went on as if
speaking to himself--
"Yes, I have missed so many things. Always alone! Ah! if I had
some aim in life, if I had met some love, if I had found someone!
Oh, how I would have spent all the energy of which I am capable,
surmounted everything, overcome everything!"
"Yet it seems to me," said Emma, "that you are not to be pitied."
"Ah! you think so?" said Rodolphe.
"For, after all," she went on, "you are free--" she hesitated,
"Do not mock me," he replied.
And she protested that she was not mocking him, when the report
of a cannon resounded. Immediately all began hustling one another
pell-mell towards the village.
It was a false alarm. The prefect seemed not to be coming, and
the members of the jury felt much embarrassed, not knowing if
they ought to begin the meeting or still wait.
At last at the end of the Place a large hired landau appeared,
drawn by two thin horses, which a coachman in a white hat was
whipping lustily. Binet had only just time to shout, "Present
arms!" and the colonel to imitate him. All ran towards the
enclosure; everyone pushed forward. A few even forgot their
collars; but the equipage of the prefect seemed to anticipate the
crowd, and the two yoked jades, trapesing in their harness, came
up at a little trot in front of the peristyle of the town hall at
the very moment when the National Guard and firemen deployed,
beating drums and marking time.
"Present!" shouted Binet.
"Halt!" shouted the colonel. "Left about, march."
And after presenting arms, during which the clang of the band,
letting loose, rang out like a brass kettle rolling downstairs,
all the guns were lowered. Then was seen stepping down from the
carriage a gentleman in a short coat with silver braiding, with
bald brow, and wearing a tuft of hair at the back of his head, of
a sallow complexion and the most benign appearance. His eyes,
very large and covered by heavy lids, were half-closed to look at
the crowd, while at the same time he raised his sharp nose, and
forced a smile upon his sunken mouth. He recognised the mayor by
his scarf, and explained to him that the prefect was not able to
come. He himself was a councillor at the prefecture; then he
added a few apologies. Monsieur Tuvache answered them with
compliments; the other confessed himself nervous; and they
remained thus, face to face, their foreheads almost touching,
with the members of the jury all round, the municipal council,
the notable personages, the National Guard and the crowd. The
councillor pressing his little cocked hat to his breast repeated
his bows, while Tuvache, bent like a bow, also smiled, stammered,
tried to say something, protested his devotion to the monarchy
and the honour that was being done to Yonville.
Hippolyte, the groom from the inn, took the head of the horses
from the coachman, and, limping along with his club-foot, led
them to the door of the "Lion d'Or", where a number of peasants
collected to look at the carriage. The drum beat, the howitzer
thundered, and the gentlemen one by one mounted the platform,
where they sat down in red utrecht velvet arm-chairs that had
been lent by Madame Tuvache.
All these people looked alike. Their fair flabby faces, somewhat
tanned by the sun, were the colour of sweet cider, and their
puffy whiskers emerged from stiff collars, kept up by white
cravats with broad bows. All the waist-coats were of velvet,
double-breasted; all the watches had, at the end of a long
ribbon, an oval cornelian seal; everyone rested his two hands on
his thighs, carefully stretching the stride of their trousers,
whose unsponged glossy cloth shone more brilliantly than the
leather of their heavy boots.
The ladies of the company stood at the back under the vestibule
between the pillars while the common herd was opposite, standing
up or sitting on chairs. As a matter of fact, Lestiboudois had
brought thither all those that he had moved from the field, and
he even kept running back every minute to fetch others from the
church. He caused such confusion with this piece of business that
one had great difficulty in getting to the small steps of the
"I think," said Monsieur Lheureux to the chemist, who was passing
to his place, "that they ought to have put up two Venetian masts
with something rather severe and rich for ornaments; it would
have been a very pretty effect."
"To be sure," replied Homais; "but what can you expect? The mayor
took everything on his own shoulders. He hasn't much taste. Poor
Tuvache! and he is even completely destitute of what is called
the genius of art."
Rodolphe, meanwhile, with Madame Bovary, had gone up to the first
floor of the town hall, to the "council-room," and, as it was
empty, he declared that they could enjoy the sight there more
comfortably. He fetched three stools from the round table under
the bust of the monarch, and having carried them to one of the
windows, they sat down by each other.
There was commotion on the platform, long whisperings, much
parleying. At last the councillor got up. They knew now that his
name was Lieuvain, and in the crowd the name was passed from one
to the other. After he had collated a few pages, and bent over
them to see better, he began--
"Gentlemen! May I be permitted first of all (before addressing
you on the object of our meeting to-day, and this sentiment will,
I am sure, be shared by you all), may I be permitted, I say, to
pay a tribute to the higher administration, to the government to
the monarch, gentle men, our sovereign, to that beloved king, to
whom no branch of public or private prosperity is a matter of
indifference, and who directs with a hand at once so firm and
wise the chariot of the state amid the incessant perils of a
stormy sea, knowing, moreover, how to make peace respected as
well as war, industry, commerce, agriculture, and the fine arts?"
"I ought," said Rodolphe, "to get back a little further."
"Why?" said Emma.
But at this moment the voice of the councillor rose to an
extraordinary pitch. He declaimed--
"This is no longer the time, gentlemen, when civil discord
ensanguined our public places, when the landlord, the
business-man, the working-man himself, falling asleep at night,
lying down to peaceful sleep, trembled lest he should be awakened
suddenly by the noise of incendiary tocsins, when the most
subversive doctrines audaciously sapped foundations."
"Well, someone down there might see me," Rodolphe resumed, "then
I should have to invent excuses for a fortnight; and with my bad
"Oh, you are slandering yourself," said Emma.
"No! It is dreadful, I assure you."
"But, gentlemen," continued the councillor, "if, banishing from
my memory the remembrance of these sad pictures, I carry my eyes
back to the actual situation of our dear country, what do I see
there? Everywhere commerce and the arts are flourishing;
everywhere new means of communication, like so many new arteries
in the body of the state, establish within it new relations. Our
great industrial centres have recovered all their activity;
religion, more consolidated, smiles in all hearts; our ports are
full, confidence is born again, and France breathes once more!"
"Besides," added Rodolphe, "perhaps from the world's point of
view they are right."
"How so?" she asked.
"What!" said he. "Do you not know that there are souls constantly
tormented? They need by turns to dream and to act, the purest
passions and the most turbulent joys, and thus they fling
themselves into all sorts of fantasies, of follies."
Then she looked at him as one looks at a traveller who has
voyaged over strange lands, and went on--
"We have not even this distraction, we poor women!"
"A sad distraction, for happiness isn't found in it."
"But is it ever found?" she asked.
"Yes; one day it comes," he answered.
"And this is what you have understood," said the councillor.
"You, farmers, agricultural labourers! you pacific pioneers of a
work that belongs wholly to civilization! you, men of progress
and morality, you have understood, I say, that political storms
are even more redoubtable than atmospheric disturbances!"
"It comes one day," repeated Rodolphe, "one day suddenly, and
when one is despairing of it. Then the horizon expands; it is as
if a voice cried, 'It is here!' You feel the need of confiding
the whole of your life, of giving everything, sacrificing
everything to this being. There is no need for explanations; they
understand one another. They have seen each other in dreams!"
(And he looked at her.) "In fine, here it is, this treasure so
sought after, here before you. It glitters, it flashes; yet one
still doubts, one does not believe it; one remains dazzled, as if
one went out iron darkness into light."
And as he ended Rodolphe suited the action to the word. He passed
his hand over his face, like a man seized with giddiness. Then he
let it fall on Emma's. She took hers away.
"And who would be surprised at it, gentlemen? He only who is so
blind, so plunged (I do not fear to say it), so plunged in the
prejudices of another age as still to misunderstand the spirit of
agricultural populations. Where, indeed, is to be found more
patriotism than in the country, greater devotion to the public
welfare, more intelligence, in a word? And, gentlemen, I do not
mean that superficial intelligence, vain ornament of idle minds,
but rather that profound and balanced intelligence that applies
itself above all else to useful objects, thus contributing to the
good of all, to the common amelioration and to the support of the
state, born of respect for law and the practice of duty--"
"Ah! again!" said Rodolphe. "Always 'duty.' I am sick of the
word. They are a lot of old blockheads in flannel vests and of
old women with foot-warmers and rosaries who constantly drone
into our ears 'Duty, duty!' Ah! by Jove! one's duty is to feel
what is great, cherish the beautiful, and not accept all the
conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon
"Yet--yet--" objected Madame Bovary.
"No, no! Why cry out against the passions? Are they not the one
beautiful thing on the earth, the source of heroism, of
enthusiasm, of poetry, music, the arts, of everything, in a
"But one must," said Emma, "to some extent bow to the opinion of
the world and accept its moral code."
"Ah! but there are two," he replied. "The small, the
conventional, that of men, that which constantly changes, that
brays out so loudly, that makes such a commotion here below, of
the earth earthly, like the mass of imbeciles you see down there.
But the other, the eternal, that is about us and above, like the
landscape that surrounds us, and the blue heavens that give us
Monsieur Lieuvain had just wiped his mouth with a
pocket-handkerchief. He continued--
"And what should I do here gentlemen, pointing out to you the
uses of agriculture? Who supplies our wants? Who provides our
means of subsistence? Is it not the agriculturist? The
agriculturist, gentlemen, who, sowing with laborious hand the
fertile furrows of the country, brings forth the corn, which,
being ground, is made into a powder by means of ingenious
machinery, comes out thence under the name of flour, and from
there, transported to our cities, is soon delivered at the
baker's, who makes it into food for poor and rich alike. Again,
is it not the agriculturist who fattens, for our clothes, his
abundant flocks in the pastures? For how should we clothe
ourselves, how nourish ourselves, without the agriculturist? And,
gentlemen, is it even necessary to go so far for examples? Who
has not frequently reflected on all the momentous things that we
get out of that modest animal, the ornament of poultry-yards,
that provides us at once with a soft pillow for our bed, with
succulent flesh for our tables, and eggs? But I should never end
if I were to enumerate one after the other all the different
products which the earth, well cultivated, like a generous
mother, lavishes upon her children. Here it is the vine,
elsewhere the apple tree for cider, there colza, farther on
cheeses and flax. Gentlemen, let us not forget flax, which has
made such great strides of late years, and to which I will more
particularly call your attention."
He had no need to call it, for all the mouths of the multitude
were wide open, as if to drink in his words. Tuvache by his side
listened to him with staring eyes. Monsieur Derozerays from time
to time softly closed his eyelids, and farther on the chemist,
with his son Napoleon between his knees, put his hand behind his
ear in order not to lose a syllable. The chins of the other
members of the jury went slowly up and down in their waistcoats
in sign of approval. The firemen at the foot of the platform
rested on their bayonets; and Binet, motionless, stood with
out-turned elbows, the point of his sabre in the air. Perhaps he
could hear, but certainly he could see nothing, because of the
visor of his helmet, that fell down on his nose. His lieutenant,
the youngest son of Monsieur Tuvache, had a bigger one, for his
was enormous, and shook on his head, and from it an end of his
cotton scarf peeped out. He smiled beneath it with a perfectly
infantine sweetness, and his pale little face, whence drops were
running, wore an expression of enjoyment and sleepiness.
The square as far as the houses was crowded with people. One saw
folk leaning on their elbows at all the windows, others standing
at doors, and Justin, in front of the chemist's shop, seemed
quite transfixed by the sight of what he was looking at. In spite
of the silence Monsieur Lieuvain's voice was lost in the air. It
reached you in fragments of phrases, and interrupted here and
there by the creaking of chairs in the crowd; then you suddenly
heard the long bellowing of an ox, or else the bleating of the
lambs, who answered one another at street corners. In fact, the
cowherds and shepherds had driven their beasts thus far, and
these lowed from time to time, while with their tongues they tore
down some scrap of foliage that hung above their mouths.
Rodolphe had drawn nearer to Emma, and said to her in a low
voice, speaking rapidly--
"Does not this conspiracy of the world revolt you? Is there a
single sentiment it does not condemn? The noblest instincts, the
purest sympathies are persecuted, slandered; and if at length two
poor souls do meet, all is so organised that they cannot blend
together. Yet they will make the attempt; they will flutter their
wings; they will call upon each other. Oh! no matter. Sooner or
later, in six months, ten years, they will come together, will
love; for fate has decreed it, and they are born one for the
His arms were folded across his knees, and thus lifting his face
towards Emma, close by her, he looked fixedly at her. She noticed
in his eyes small golden lines radiating from black pupils; she
even smelt the perfume of the pomade that made his hair glossy.
Then a faintness came over her; she recalled the Viscount who had
waltzed with her at Vaubyessard, and his beard exhaled like this
air an odour of vanilla and citron, and mechanically she
half-closed her eyes the better to breathe it in. But in making
this movement, as she leant back in her chair, she saw in the
distance, right on the line of the horizon, the old diligence,
the "Hirondelle," that was slowly descending the hill of Leux,
dragging after it a long trail of dust. It was in this yellow
carriage that Leon had so often come back to her, and by this
route down there that he had gone for ever. She fancied she saw
him opposite at his windows; then all grew confused; clouds
gathered; it seemed to her that she was again turning in the
waltz under the light of the lustres on the arm of the Viscount,
and that Leon was not far away, that he was coming; and yet all
the time she was conscious of the scent of Rodolphe's head by her
side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old
desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind,
eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which
suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to
drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took
off her gloves, she wiped her hands, then fanned her face with
her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she
heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councillor
intoning his phrases. He said--"Continue, persevere; listen
neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty
councils of a rash empiricism.
"Apply yourselves, above all, to the amelioration of the soil, to
good manures, to the development of the equine, bovine, ovine,
and porcine races. Let these shows be to you pacific arenas,
where the victor in leaving it will hold forth a hand to the
vanquished, and will fraternise with him in the hope of better
success. And you, aged servants, humble domestics, whose hard
labour no Government up to this day has taken into consideration,
come hither to receive the reward of your silent virtues, and be
assured that the state henceforward has its eye upon you; that it
encourages you, protects you; that it will accede to your just
demands, and alleviate as much as in it lies the burden of your
Monsieur Lieuvain then sat down; Monsieur Derozerays got up,
beginning another speech. His was not perhaps so florid as that
of the councillor, but it recommended itself by a more direct
style, that is to say, by more special knowledge and more
elevated considerations. Thus the praise of the Government took
up less space in it; religion and agriculture more. He showed in
it the relations of these two, and how they had always
contributed to civilisation. Rodolphe with Madame Bovary was
talking dreams, presentiments, magnetism. Going back to the
cradle of society, the orator painted those fierce times when men
lived on acorns in the heart of woods. Then they had left off the
skins of beasts, had put on cloth, tilled the soil, planted the
vine. Was this a good, and in this discovery was there not more
of injury than of gain? Monsieur Derozerays set himself this
problem. From magnetism little by little Rodolphe had come to
affinities, and while the president was citing Cincinnatus and
his plough, Diocletian, planting his cabbages, and the Emperors
of China inaugurating the year by the sowing of seed, the young
man was explaining to the young woman that these irresistible
attractions find their cause in some previous state of existence.
"Thus we," he said, "why did we come to know one another? What
chance willed it? It was because across the infinite, like two
streams that flow but to unite; our special bents of mind had
driven us towards each other."
And he seized her hand; she did not withdraw it.
"For good farming generally!" cried the president.
"Just now, for example, when I went to your house."
"To Monsieur Bizat of Quincampoix."
"Did I know I should accompany you?"
"A hundred times I wished to go; and I followed you--I remained."
"And I shall remain to-night, to-morrow, all other days, all my
"To Monsieur Caron of Argueil, a gold medal!"
"For I have never in the society of any other person found so
complete a charm."
"To Monsieur Bain of Givry-Saint-Martin."
"And I shall carry away with me the remembrance of you."
"For a merino ram!"
"But you will forget me; I shall pass away like a shadow."
"To Monsieur Belot of Notre-Dame."
"Oh, no! I shall be something in your thought, in your life,
shall I not?"
"Porcine race; prizes--equal, to Messrs. Leherisse and
Cullembourg, sixty francs!"
Rodolphe was pressing her hand, and he felt it all warm and
quivering like a captive dove that wants to fly away; but,
whether she was trying to take it away or whether she was
answering his pressure; she made a movement with her fingers. He
"Oh, I thank you! You do not repulse me! You are good! You
understand that I am yours! Let me look at you; let me
A gust of wind that blew in at the window ruffled the cloth on
the table, and in the square below all the great caps of the
peasant women were uplifted by it like the wings of white
"Use of oil-cakes," continued the president. He was hurrying on:
"Flemish manure-flax-growing-drainage-long leases-domestic
Rodolphe was no longer speaking. They looked at one another. A
supreme desire made their dry lips tremble, and wearily, without
an effort, their fingers intertwined.
"Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux, of Sassetot-la-Guerriere,
for fifty-four years of service at the same farm, a silver
medal--value, twenty-five francs!"
"Where is Catherine Leroux?" repeated the councillor.
She did not present herself, and one could hear voices
"Don't be afraid!"
"Oh, how stupid she is!"
"Well, is she there?" cried Tuvache.
"Yes; here she is."
"Then let her come up!"
Then there came forward on the platform a little old woman with
timid bearing, who seemed to shrink within her poor clothes. On
her feet she wore heavy wooden clogs, and from her hips hung a
large blue apron. Her pale face framed in a borderless cap was
more wrinkled than a withered russet apple. And from the sleeves
of her red jacket looked out two large hands with knotty joints,
the dust of barns, the potash of washing the grease of wools had
so encrusted, roughened, hardened these that they seemed dirty,
although they had been rinsed in clear water; and by dint of long
service they remained half open, as if to bear humble witness for
themselves of so much suffering endured. Something of monastic
rigidity dignified her face. Nothing of sadness or of emotion
weakened that pale look. In her constant living with animals she
had caught their dumbness and their calm. It was the first time
that she found herself in the midst of so large a company, and
inwardly scared by the flags, the drums, the gentlemen in
frock-coats, and the order of the councillor, she stood
motionless, not knowing whether to advance or run away, nor why
the crowd was pushing her and the jury were smiling at her.
Thus stood before these radiant bourgeois this half-century of
"Approach, venerable Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux!" said
the councillor, who had taken the list of prize-winners from the
president; and, looking at the piece of paper and the old woman
by turns, he repeated in a fatherly tone--"Approach! approach!"
"Are you deaf?" said Tuvache, fidgeting in his armchair; and he
began shouting in her ear, "Fifty-four years of service. A silver
medal! Twenty-five francs! For you!"
Then, when she had her medal, she looked at it, and a smile of
beatitude spread over her face; and as she walked away they could
hear her muttering "I'll give it to our cure up home, to say some
masses for me!"
"What fanaticism!" exclaimed the chemist, leaning across to the
The meeting was over, the crowd dispersed, and now that the
speeches had been read, each one fell back into his place again,
and everything into the old grooves; the masters bullied the
servants, and these struck the animals, indolent victors, going
back to the stalls, a green-crown on their horns.
The National Guards, however, had gone up to the first floor of
the town hall with buns spitted on their bayonets, and the
drummer of the battalion carried a basket with bottles. Madame
Bovary took Rodolphe's arm; he saw her home; they separated at
her door; then he walked about alone in the meadow while he
waited for the time of the banquet.
The feast was long, noisy, ill served; the guests were so crowded
that they could hardly move their elbows; and the narrow planks
used for forms almost broke down under their weight. They ate
hugely. Each one stuffed himself on his own account. Sweat stood
on every brow, and a whitish steam, like the vapour of a stream
on an autumn morning, floated above the table between the hanging
lamps. Rodolphe, leaning against the calico of the tent was
thinking so earnestly of Emma that he heard nothing. Behind him
on the grass the servants were piling up the dirty plates, his
neighbours were talking; he did not answer them; they filled his
glass, and there was silence in his thoughts in spite of the
growing noise. He was dreaming of what she had said, of the line
of her lips; her face, as in a magic mirror, shone on the plates
of the shakos, the folds of her gown fell along the walls, and
days of love unrolled to all infinity before him in the vistas of
He saw her again in the evening during the fireworks, but she was
with her husband, Madame Homais, and the druggist, who was
worrying about the danger of stray rockets, and every moment he
left the company to go and give some advice to Binet.
The pyrotechnic pieces sent to Monsieur Tuvache had, through an
excess of caution, been shut up in his cellar, and so the damp
powder would not light, and the principal set piece, that was to
represent a dragon biting his tail, failed completely. Now and
then a meagre Roman-candle went off; then the gaping crowd sent
up a shout that mingled with the cry of the women, whose waists
were being squeezed in the darkness. Emma silently nestled
against Charles's shoulder; then, raising her chin, she watched
the luminous rays of the rockets against the dark sky. Rodolphe
gazed at her in the light of the burning lanterns.
They went out one by one. The stars shone out. A few crops of
rain began to fall. She knotted her fichu round her bare head.
At this moment the councillor's carriage came out from the inn.
His coachman, who was drunk, suddenly dozed off, and one could
see from the distance, above the hood, between the two lanterns,
the mass of his body, that swayed from right to left with the
giving of the traces.