Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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He had broken his leg the evening before on his way home from a

Twelfth-night feast at a neighbour's. His wife had been dead for two

years. There was with him only his daughter, who helped him to keep

house.
The ruts were becoming deeper; they were approaching the Bertaux.


The little lad, slipping through a hole in the hedge, disappeared;

then he came back to the end of a courtyard to open the gate. The

horse slipped on the wet grass; Charles had to stoop to pass under

the branches. The watchdogs in their kennels barked, dragging at their

chains. As he entered the Bertaux, the horse took fright and stumbled.
It was a substantial-looking farm. In the stables, over the top of the

open doors, one could see great cart-horses quietly feeding from new

racks. Right along the outbuildings extended a large dunghill, from

which manure liquid oozed, while amidst fowls and turkeys, five or six

peacocks, a luxury in Chauchois farmyards, were foraging on the top of

it. The sheepfold was long, the barn high, with walls smooth as your

hand. Under the cart-shed were two large carts and four ploughs, with

their whips, shafts and harnesses complete, whose fleeces of blue wool

were getting soiled by the fine dust that fell from the granaries. The

courtyard sloped upwards, planted with trees set out symmetrically, and

the chattering noise of a flock of geese was heard near the pond.
A young woman in a blue merino dress with three flounces came to the

threshold of the door to receive Monsieur Bovary, whom she led to the

kitchen, where a large fire was blazing. The servant's breakfast was

boiling beside it in small pots of all sizes. Some damp clothes were

drying inside the chimney-corner. The shovel, tongs, and the nozzle

of the bellows, all of colossal size, shone like polished steel, while

along the walls hung many pots and pans in which the clear flame of the

hearth, mingling with the first rays of the sun coming in through the

window, was mirrored fitfully.
Charles went up the first floor to see the patient. He found him in his

bed, sweating under his bed-clothes, having thrown his cotton nightcap

right away from him. He was a fat little man of fifty, with white skin

and blue eyes, the forepart of his head bald, and he wore earrings. By

his side on a chair stood a large decanter of brandy, whence he poured

himself a little from time to time to keep up his spirits; but as soon

as he caught sight of the doctor his elation subsided, and instead of

swearing, as he had been doing for the last twelve hours, began to groan

freely.
The fracture was a simple one, without any kind of complication.
Charles could not have hoped for an easier case. Then calling to mind

the devices of his masters at the bedsides of patients, he comforted the

sufferer with all sorts of kindly remarks, those Caresses of the surgeon

that are like the oil they put on bistouries. In order to make some

splints a bundle of laths was brought up from the cart-house. Charles

selected one, cut it into two pieces and planed it with a fragment

of windowpane, while the servant tore up sheets to make bandages, and

Mademoiselle Emma tried to sew some pads. As she was a long time before

she found her work-case, her father grew impatient; she did not answer,

but as she sewed she pricked her fingers, which she then put to her

mouth to suck them. Charles was surprised at the whiteness of her nails.

They were shiny, delicate at the tips, more polished than the ivory of

Dieppe, and almond-shaped. Yet her hand was not beautiful, perhaps not

white enough, and a little hard at the knuckles; besides, it was too

long, with no soft inflections in the outlines. Her real beauty was in

her eyes. Although brown, they seemed black because of the lashes, and

her look came at you frankly, with a candid boldness.
The bandaging over, the doctor was invited by Monsieur Rouault himself

to "pick a bit" before he left.


Charles went down into the room on the ground floor. Knives and forks

and silver goblets were laid for two on a little table at the foot of a

huge bed that had a canopy of printed cotton with figures representing

Turks. There was an odour of iris-root and damp sheets that escaped

from a large oak chest opposite the window. On the floor in corners were

sacks of flour stuck upright in rows. These were the overflow from

the neighbouring granary, to which three stone steps led. By way of

decoration for the apartment, hanging to a nail in the middle of the

wall, whose green paint scaled off from the effects of the saltpetre,

was a crayon head of Minerva in gold frame, underneath which was written

in Gothic letters "To dear Papa."
First they spoke of the patient, then of the weather, of the great cold,
of the wolves that infested the fields at night.
Mademoiselle Rouault did not at all like the country, especially now

that she had to look after the farm almost alone. As the room was

chilly, she shivered as she ate. This showed something of her full lips,

that she had a habit of biting when silent.


Her neck stood out from a white turned-down collar. Her hair, whose

two black folds seemed each of a single piece, so smooth were they, was

parted in the middle by a delicate line that curved slightly with the

curve of the head; and, just showing the tip of the ear, it was joined

behind in a thick chignon, with a wavy movement at the temples that the

country doctor saw now for the first time in his life. The upper part of

her cheek was rose-coloured. She had, like a man, thrust in between two

buttons of her bodice a tortoise-shell eyeglass.


When Charles, after bidding farewell to old Rouault, returned to the

room before leaving, he found her standing, her forehead against the

window, looking into the garden, where the bean props had been knocked

down by the wind. She turned round. "Are you looking for anything?" she

asked.
"My whip, if you please," he answered.
He began rummaging on the bed, behind the doors, under the chairs. It

had fallen to the floor, between the sacks and the wall. Mademoiselle

Emma saw it, and bent over the flour sacks.
Charles out of politeness made a dash also, and as he stretched out his

arm, at the same moment felt his breast brush against the back of the

young girl bending beneath him. She drew herself up, scarlet, and looked

at him over her shoulder as she handed him his whip.


Instead of returning to the Bertaux in three days as he had promised,

he went back the very next day, then regularly twice a week, without

counting the visits he paid now and then as if by accident.
Everything, moreover, went well; the patient progressed favourably; and

when, at the end of forty-six days, old Rouault was seen trying to walk

alone in his "den," Monsieur Bovary began to be looked upon as a man

of great capacity. Old Rouault said that he could not have been cured

better by the first doctor of Yvetot, or even of Rouen.
As to Charles, he did not stop to ask himself why it was a pleasure

to him to go to the Bertaux. Had he done so, he would, no doubt, have

attributed his zeal to the importance of the case, or perhaps to the

money he hoped to make by it. Was it for this, however, that his visits

to the farm formed a delightful exception to the meagre occupations of

his life? On these days he rose early, set off at a gallop, urging on

his horse, then got down to wipe his boots in the grass and put on black

gloves before entering. He liked going into the courtyard, and noticing

the gate turn against his shoulder, the cock crow on the wall, the lads

run to meet him. He liked the granary and the stables; he liked old

Rouault, who pressed his hand and called him his saviour; he like the

small wooden shoes of Mademoiselle Emma on the scoured flags of the


kitchen--her high heels made her a little taller; and when she walked in

front of him, the wooden soles springing up quickly struck with a sharp

sound against the leather of her boots.
She always accompanied him to the first step of the stairs. When his

horse had not yet been brought round she stayed there. They had said

"Good-bye"; there was no more talking. The open air wrapped her round,

playing with the soft down on the back of her neck, or blew to and fro

on her hips the apron-strings, that fluttered like streamers. Once,

during a thaw the bark of the trees in the yard was oozing, the snow on

the roofs of the outbuildings was melting; she stood on the threshold,

and went to fetch her sunshade and opened it. The sunshade of silk of

the colour of pigeons' breasts, through which the sun shone, lighted

up with shifting hues the white skin of her face. She smiled under the

tender warmth, and drops of water could be heard falling one by one on

the stretched silk.


During the first period of Charles's visits to the Bertaux, Madame

Bovary junior never failed to inquire after the invalid, and she had

even chosen in the book that she kept on a system of double entry a

clean blank page for Monsieur Rouault. But when she heard he had a

daughter, she began to make inquiries, and she learnt the Mademoiselle

Rouault, brought up at the Ursuline Convent, had received what is called

"a good education"; and so knew dancing, geography, drawing, how to

embroider and play the piano. That was the last straw.


"So it is for this," she said to herself, "that his face beams when he

goes to see her, and that he puts on his new waistcoat at the risk of

spoiling it with the rain. Ah! that woman! That woman!"
And she detested her instinctively. At first she solaced herself by

allusions that Charles did not understand, then by casual observations

that he let pass for fear of a storm, finally by open apostrophes to

which he knew not what to answer. "Why did he go back to the Bertaux now

that Monsieur Rouault was cured and that these folks hadn't paid yet?

Ah! it was because a young lady was there, some one who know how to

talk, to embroider, to be witty. That was what he cared about; he wanted

town misses." And she went on--


"The daughter of old Rouault a town miss! Get out! Their grandfather was

a shepherd, and they have a cousin who was almost had up at the assizes

for a nasty blow in a quarrel. It is not worth while making such a fuss,

or showing herself at church on Sundays in a silk gown like a countess.

Besides, the poor old chap, if it hadn't been for the colza last year,

would have had much ado to pay up his arrears."


For very weariness Charles left off going to the Bertaux. Heloise made

him swear, his hand on the prayer-book, that he would go there no more

after much sobbing and many kisses, in a great outburst of love. He

obeyed then, but the strength of his desire protested against the

servility of his conduct; and he thought, with a kind of naive

hypocrisy, that his interdict to see her gave him a sort of right to

love her. And then the widow was thin; she had long teeth; wore in all

weathers a little black shawl, the edge of which hung down between her

shoulder-blades; her bony figure was sheathed in her clothes as if they

were a scabbard; they were too short, and displayed her ankles with the

laces of her large boots crossed over grey stockings.
Charles's mother came to see them from time to time, but after a few

days the daughter-in-law seemed to put her own edge on her, and

then, like two knives, they scarified him with their reflections and

observations. It was wrong of him to eat so much.


Why did he always offer a glass of something to everyone who came?

What obstinacy not to wear flannels! In the spring it came about that a

notary at Ingouville, the holder of the widow Dubuc's property, one fine

day went off, taking with him all the money in his office. Heloise,

it is true, still possessed, besides a share in a boat valued at six

thousand francs, her house in the Rue St. Francois; and yet, with all

this fortune that had been so trumpeted abroad, nothing, excepting

perhaps a little furniture and a few clothes, had appeared in the

household. The matter had to be gone into. The house at Dieppe was found

to be eaten up with mortgages to its foundations; what she had placed

with the notary God only knew, and her share in the boat did not exceed

one thousand crowns. She had lied, the good lady! In his exasperation,

Monsieur Bovary the elder, smashing a chair on the flags, accused his

wife of having caused misfortune to the son by harnessing him to such

a harridan, whose harness wasn't worth her hide. They came to Tostes.

Explanations followed. There were scenes. Heloise in tears, throwing her

arms about her husband, implored him to defend her from his parents.
Charles tried to speak up for her. They grew angry and left the house.
But "the blow had struck home." A week after, as she was hanging up some

washing in her yard, she was seized with a spitting of blood, and

the next day, while Charles had his back turned to her drawing the

window-curtain, she said, "O God!" gave a sigh and fainted. She was

dead! What a surprise! When all was over at the cemetery Charles went

home. He found no one downstairs; he went up to the first floor to

their room; say her dress still hanging at the foot of the alcove; then,

leaning against the writing-table, he stayed until the evening, buried

in a sorrowful reverie. She had loved him after all!

Chapter Three


One morning old Rouault brought Charles the money for setting his

leg--seventy-five francs in forty-sou pieces, and a turkey. He had heard

of his loss, and consoled him as well as he could.
"I know what it is," said he, clapping him on the shoulder; "I've been

through it. When I lost my dear departed, I went into the fields to be

quite alone. I fell at the foot of a tree; I cried; I called on God; I

talked nonsense to Him. I wanted to be like the moles that I saw on the

branches, their insides swarming with worms, dead, and an end of it.

And when I thought that there were others at that very moment with their

nice little wives holding them in their embrace, I struck great blows on

the earth with my stick. I was pretty well mad with not eating; the very

idea of going to a cafe disgusted me--you wouldn't believe it. Well,

quite softly, one day following another, a spring on a winter, and an

autumn after a summer, this wore away, piece by piece, crumb by crumb;

it passed away, it is gone, I should say it has sunk; for something

always remains at the bottom as one would say--a weight here, at one's

heart. But since it is the lot of all of us, one must not give way

altogether, and, because others have died, want to die too. You must

pull yourself together, Monsieur Bovary. It will pass away. Come to see

us; my daughter thinks of you now and again, d'ye know, and she says

you are forgetting her. Spring will soon be here. We'll have some

rabbit-shooting in the warrens to amuse you a bit."
Charles followed his advice. He went back to the Bertaux. He found all

as he had left it, that is to say, as it was five months ago. The pear

trees were already in blossom, and Farmer Rouault, on his legs again,

came and went, making the farm more full of life.


Thinking it his duty to heap the greatest attention upon the doctor

because of his sad position, he begged him not to take his hat off,

spoke to him in an undertone as if he had been ill, and even pretended

to be angry because nothing rather lighter had been prepared for him

than for the others, such as a little clotted cream or stewed pears. He

told stories. Charles found himself laughing, but the remembrance of his

wife suddenly coming back to him depressed him. Coffee was brought in;

he thought no more about her.


He thought less of her as he grew accustomed to living alone. The new

delight of independence soon made his loneliness bearable. He could now

change his meal-times, go in or out without explanation, and when he was

very tired stretch himself at full length on his bed. So he nursed and

coddled himself and accepted the consolations that were offered him.

On the other hand, the death of his wife had not served him ill in his

business, since for a month people had been saying, "The poor young

man! what a loss!" His name had been talked about, his practice had

increased; and moreover, he could go to the Bertaux just as he liked.

He had an aimless hope, and was vaguely happy; he thought himself better

looking as he brushed his whiskers before the looking-glass.
One day he got there about three o'clock. Everybody was in the fields.

He went into the kitchen, but did not at once catch sight of Emma; the

outside shutters were closed. Through the chinks of the wood the sun

sent across the flooring long fine rays that were broken at the corners

of the furniture and trembled along the ceiling. Some flies on the table

were crawling up the glasses that had been used, and buzzing as they

drowned themselves in the dregs of the cider. The daylight that came in

by the chimney made velvet of the soot at the back of the fireplace, and

touched with blue the cold cinders. Between the window and the hearth

Emma was sewing; she wore no fichu; he could see small drops of

perspiration on her bare shoulders.
After the fashion of country folks she asked him to have something to

drink. He said no; she insisted, and at last laughingly offered to have

a glass of liqueur with him. So she went to fetch a bottle of curacao

from the cupboard, reached down two small glasses, filled one to the

brim, poured scarcely anything into the other, and, after having clinked

glasses, carried hers to her mouth. As it was almost empty she bent

back to drink, her head thrown back, her lips pouting, her neck on the

strain. She laughed at getting none of it, while with the tip of her

tongue passing between her small teeth she licked drop by drop the

bottom of her glass.


She sat down again and took up her work, a white cotton stocking she was
darning. She worked with her head bent down; she did not speak, nor did

Charles. The air coming in under the door blew a little dust over the

flags; he watched it drift along, and heard nothing but the throbbing

in his head and the faint clucking of a hen that had laid an egg in the

yard. Emma from time to time cooled her cheeks with the palms of her

hands, and cooled these again on the knobs of the huge fire-dogs.


She complained of suffering since the beginning of the season from

giddiness; she asked if sea-baths would do her any good; she began

talking of her convent, Charles of his school; words came to them. They

went up into her bedroom. She showed him her old music-books, the little

prizes she had won, and the oak-leaf crowns, left at the bottom of a

cupboard. She spoke to him, too, of her mother, of the country, and even

showed him the bed in the garden where, on the first Friday of every

month, she gathered flowers to put on her mother's tomb. But the

gardener they had never knew anything about it; servants are so stupid!

She would have dearly liked, if only for the winter, to live in town,

although the length of the fine days made the country perhaps even more

wearisome in the summer. And, according to what she was saying, her

voice was clear, sharp, or, on a sudden all languor, drawn out in

modulations that ended almost in murmurs as she spoke to herself, now

joyous, opening big naive eyes, then with her eyelids half closed, her

look full of boredom, her thoughts wandering.


Going home at night, Charles went over her words one by one, trying to

recall them, to fill out their sense, that he might piece out the life

she had lived before he knew her. But he never saw her in his thoughts

other than he had seen her the first time, or as he had just left her.

Then he asked himself what would become of her--if she would be married,

and to whom! Alas! Old Rouault was rich, and she!--so beautiful! But

Emma's face always rose before his eyes, and a monotone, like the

humming of a top, sounded in his ears, "If you should marry after

all! If you should marry!" At night he could not sleep; his throat was

parched; he was athirst. He got up to drink from the water-bottle and

opened the window. The night was covered with stars, a warm wind blowing

in the distance; the dogs were barking. He turned his head towards the

Bertaux.
Thinking that, after all, he should lose nothing, Charles promised

himself to ask her in marriage as soon as occasion offered, but each

time such occasion did offer the fear of not finding the right words

sealed his lips.


Old Rouault would not have been sorry to be rid of his daughter, who was

of no use to him in the house. In his heart he excused her, thinking

her too clever for farming, a calling under the ban of Heaven, since one

never saw a millionaire in it. Far from having made a fortune by it,

the good man was losing every year; for if he was good in bargaining, in

which he enjoyed the dodges of the trade, on the other hand, agriculture

properly so called, and the internal management of the farm, suited him

less than most people. He did not willingly take his hands out of his

pockets, and did not spare expense in all that concerned himself, liking

to eat well, to have good fires, and to sleep well. He liked old cider,

underdone legs of mutton, glorias* well beaten up. He took his meals in

the kitchen alone, opposite the fire, on a little table brought to him

all ready laid as on the stage.
*A mixture of coffee and spirits.
When, therefore, he perceived that Charles's cheeks grew red if near his

daughter, which meant that he would propose for her one of these days,

he chewed the cud of the matter beforehand. He certainly thought him a

little meagre, and not quite the son-in-law he would have liked, but he

was said to be well brought-up, economical, very learned, and no doubt

would not make too many difficulties about the dowry. Now, as old

Rouault would soon be forced to sell twenty-two acres of "his property,"

as he owed a good deal to the mason, to the harness-maker, and as the

shaft of the cider-press wanted renewing, "If he asks for her," he said

to himself, "I'll give her to him."


At Michaelmas Charles went to spend three days at the Bertaux.
The last had passed like the others in procrastinating from hour to

hour. Old Rouault was seeing him off; they were walking along the road




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