Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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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 doctors.


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 is

here."
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 looking-glass.


"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 it?"


"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 vein.
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 milk.
"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 fainted.


"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 pistols."
"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 out.
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 reflects.
"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 prawns."
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 undressed her.


"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."


Chapter Eight


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 crown.


"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 with bills."


"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 sneak."
"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 on sticks.


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, said--


"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 his."
*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 light-hearted."
"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




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