Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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Then, spitting on his hands, he took the oars again.
Yet they had to part. The adieux were sad. He was to send his letters to

Mere Rollet, and she gave him such precise instructions about a double

envelope that he admired greatly her amorous astuteness.
"So you can assure me it is all right?" she said with her last kiss.
"Yes, certainly."
"But why," he thought afterwards as he came back through the streets

alone, "is she so very anxious to get this power of attorney?"


Chapter Four


Leon soon put on an air of superiority before his comrades, avoided

their company, and completely neglected his work.


He waited for her letters; he re-read them; he wrote to her. He called

her to mind with all the strength of his desires and of his memories.

Instead of lessening with absence, this longing to see her again grew,

so that at last on Saturday morning he escaped from his office.


When, from the summit of the hill, he saw in the valley below the

church-spire with its tin flag swinging in the wind, he felt that

delight mingled with triumphant vanity and egoistic tenderness that

millionaires must experience when they come back to their native

village.
He went rambling round her house. A light was burning in the kitchen. He

watched for her shadow behind the curtains, but nothing appeared.


Mere Lefrancois, when she saw him, uttered many exclamations. She

thought he "had grown and was thinner," while Artemise, on the contrary,

thought him stouter and darker.
He dined in the little room as of yore, but alone, without the

tax-gatherer; for Binet, tired of waiting for the "Hirondelle," had

definitely put forward his meal one hour, and now he dined punctually at

five, and yet he declared usually the rickety old concern "was late."


Leon, however, made up his mind, and knocked at the doctor's door.

Madame was in her room, and did not come down for a quarter of an hour.

The doctor seemed delighted to see him, but he never stirred out that

evening, nor all the next day.


He saw her alone in the evening, very late, behind the garden in the

lane; in the lane, as she had the other one! It was a stormy night, and

they talked under an umbrella by lightning flashes.
Their separation was becoming intolerable. "I would rather die!" said

Emma. She was writhing in his arms, weeping. "Adieu! adieu! When shall I

see you again?"
They came back again to embrace once more, and it was then that

she promised him to find soon, by no matter what means, a regular

opportunity for seeing one another in freedom at least once a week. Emma

never doubted she should be able to do this. Besides, she was full of

hope. Some money was coming to her.
On the strength of it she bought a pair of yellow curtains with large

stripes for her room, whose cheapness Monsieur Lheureux had commended;

she dreamed of getting a carpet, and Lheureux, declaring that it wasn't

"drinking the sea," politely undertook to supply her with one. She could

no longer do without his services. Twenty times a day she sent for him,

and he at once put by his business without a murmur. People could not

understand either why Mere Rollet breakfasted with her every day, and

even paid her private visits.


It was about this time, that is to say, the beginning of winter, that

she seemed seized with great musical fervour.


One evening when Charles was listening to her, she began the same piece

four times over, each time with much vexation, while he, not noticing

any difference, cried--
"Bravo! very goodl You are wrong to stop. Go on!"
"Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty."
The next day he begged her to play him something again.
"Very well; to please you!"
And Charles confessed she had gone off a little. She played wrong notes

and blundered; then, stopping short--


"Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but--" She bit her lips

and added, "Twenty francs a lesson, that's too dear!"


"Yes, so it is--rather," said Charles, giggling stupidly. "But it seems

to me that one might be able to do it for less; for there are artists of

no reputation, and who are often better than the celebrities."
"Find them!" said Emma.
The next day when he came home he looked at her shyly, and at last could

no longer keep back the words.


"How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres to-day. Well,

Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at

La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and that from an

excellent mistress!"


She shrugged her shoulders and did not open her piano again. But when

she passed by it (if Bovary were there), she sighed--


"Ah! my poor piano!"
And when anyone came to see her, she did not fail to inform them she

had given up music, and could not begin again now for important reasons.

Then people commiserated her--
"What a pity! she had so much talent!"
They even spoke to Bovary about it. They put him to shame, and

especially the chemist.


"You are wrong. One should never let any of the faculties of nature lie

fallow. Besides, just think, my good friend, that by inducing madame to

study; you are economising on the subsequent musical education of

your child. For my own part, I think that mothers ought themselves to

instruct their children. That is an idea of Rousseau's, still rather

new perhaps, but that will end by triumphing, I am certain of it, like

mothers nursing their own children and vaccination."
So Charles returned once more to this question of the piano. Emma

replied bitterly that it would be better to sell it. This poor piano,

that had given her vanity so much satisfaction--to see it go was to

Bovary like the indefinable suicide of a part of herself.


"If you liked," he said, "a lesson from time to time, that wouldn't

after all be very ruinous."


"But lessons," she replied, "are only of use when followed up."
And thus it was she set about obtaining her husband's permission to go

to town once a week to see her lover. At the end of a month she was even

considered to have made considerable progress.

Chapter Five


She went on Thursdays. She got up and dressed silently, in order not to

awaken Charles, who would have made remarks about her getting ready too

early. Next she walked up and down, went to the windows, and looked out

at the Place. The early dawn was broadening between the pillars of the

market, and the chemist's shop, with the shutters still up, showed in

the pale light of the dawn the large letters of his signboard.


When the clock pointed to a quarter past seven, she went off to the

"Lion d'Or," whose door Artemise opened yawning. The girl then made

up the coals covered by the cinders, and Emma remained alone in the

kitchen. Now and again she went out. Hivert was leisurely harnessing his

horses, listening, moreover, to Mere Lefrancois, who, passing her head

and nightcap through a grating, was charging him with commissions and

giving him explanations that would have confused anyone else. Emma kept

beating the soles of her boots against the pavement of the yard.


At last, when he had eaten his soup, put on his cloak, lighted his pipe,

and grasped his whip, he calmly installed himself on his seat.


The "Hirondelle" started at a slow trot, and for about a mile stopped

here and there to pick up passengers who waited for it, standing at the

border of the road, in front of their yard gates.
Those who had secured seats the evening before kept it waiting; some

even were still in bed in their houses. Hivert called, shouted, swore;

then he got down from his seat and went and knocked loudly at the doors.

The wind blew through the cracked windows.


The four seats, however, filled up. The carriage rolled off; rows of

apple-trees followed one upon another, and the road between its two long

ditches, full of yellow water, rose, constantly narrowing towards the

horizon.
Emma knew it from end to end; she knew that after a meadow there was

a sign-post, next an elm, a barn, or the hut of a lime-kiln tender.

Sometimes even, in the hope of getting some surprise, she shut her eyes,

but she never lost the clear perception of the distance to be traversed.
At last the brick houses began to follow one another more closely, the

earth resounded beneath the wheels, the "Hirondelle" glided between the

gardens, where through an opening one saw statues, a periwinkle plant,

clipped yews, and a swing. Then on a sudden the town appeared. Sloping

down like an amphitheatre, and drowned in the fog, it widened out

beyond the bridges confusedly. Then the open country spread away with

a monotonous movement till it touched in the distance the vague line of

the pale sky. Seen thus from above, the whole landscape looked immovable

as a picture; the anchored ships were massed in one corner, the river

curved round the foot of the green hills, and the isles, oblique in

shape, lay on the water, like large, motionless, black fishes. The

factory chimneys belched forth immense brown fumes that were blown away

at the top. One heard the rumbling of the foundries, together with the

clear chimes of the churches that stood out in the mist. The leafless

trees on the boulevards made violet thickets in the midst of the

houses, and the roofs, all shining with the rain, threw back unequal

reflections, according to the height of the quarters in which they were.

Sometimes a gust of wind drove the clouds towards the Saint Catherine

hills, like aerial waves that broke silently against a cliff.
A giddiness seemed to her to detach itself from this mass of existence,

and her heart swelled as if the hundred and twenty thousand souls that

palpitated there had all at once sent into it the vapour of the passions

she fancied theirs. Her love grew in the presence of this vastness, and

expanded with tumult to the vague murmurings that rose towards her. She

poured it out upon the square, on the walks, on the streets, and the

old Norman city outspread before her eyes as an enormous capital, as a

Babylon into which she was entering. She leant with both hands against

the window, drinking in the breeze; the three horses galloped, the

stones grated in the mud, the diligence rocked, and Hivert, from afar,

hailed the carts on the road, while the bourgeois who had spent the

night at the Guillaume woods came quietly down the hill in their little

family carriages.
They stopped at the barrier; Emma undid her overshoes, put on other

gloves, rearranged her shawl, and some twenty paces farther she got down

from the "Hirondelle."
The town was then awakening. Shop-boys in caps were cleaning up the

shop-fronts, and women with baskets against their hips, at intervals

uttered sonorous cries at the corners of streets. She walked with

downcast eyes, close to the walls, and smiling with pleasure under her

lowered black veil.
For fear of being seen, she did not usually take the most direct road.

She plunged into dark alleys, and, all perspiring, reached the bottom

of the Rue Nationale, near the fountain that stands there. It, is the

quarter for theatres, public-houses, and whores. Often a cart would

pass near her, bearing some shaking scenery. Waiters in aprons were

sprinkling sand on the flagstones between green shrubs. It all smelt of

absinthe, cigars, and oysters.
She turned down a street; she recognised him by his curling hair that

escaped from beneath his hat.


Leon walked along the pavement. She followed him to the hotel. He went

up, opened the door, entered--What an embrace!


Then, after the kisses, the words gushed forth. They told each other the

sorrows of the week, the presentiments, the anxiety for the letters; but

now everything was forgotten; they gazed into each other's faces with

voluptuous laughs, and tender names.


The bed was large, of mahogany, in the shape of a boat. The curtains

were in red levantine, that hung from the ceiling and bulged out too

much towards the bell-shaped bedside; and nothing in the world was so

lovely as her brown head and white skin standing out against this purple

colour, when, with a movement of shame, she crossed her bare arms,

hiding her face in her hands.


The warm room, with its discreet carpet, its gay ornaments, and its

calm light, seemed made for the intimacies of passion. The curtain-rods,

ending in arrows, their brass pegs, and the great balls of the fire-dogs

shone suddenly when the sun came in. On the chimney between the

candelabra there were two of those pink shells in which one hears the

murmur of the sea if one holds them to the ear.


How they loved that dear room, so full of gaiety, despite its rather

faded splendour! They always found the furniture in the same place, and

sometimes hairpins, that she had forgotten the Thursday before, under

the pedestal of the clock. They lunched by the fireside on a little

round table, inlaid with rosewood. Emma carved, put bits on his plate

with all sorts of coquettish ways, and she laughed with a sonorous and

libertine laugh when the froth of the champagne ran over from the

glass to the rings on her fingers. They were so completely lost in

the possession of each other that they thought themselves in their

own house, and that they would live there till death, like two spouses

eternally young. They said "our room," "our carpet," she even said "my

slippers," a gift of Leon's, a whim she had had. They were pink satin,

bordered with swansdown. When she sat on his knees, her leg, then too

short, hung in the air, and the dainty shoe, that had no back to it, was

held only by the toes to her bare foot.
He for the first time enjoyed the inexpressible delicacy of feminine

refinements. He had never met this grace of language, this reserve of

clothing, these poses of the weary dove. He admired the exaltation of

her soul and the lace on her petticoat. Besides, was she not "a lady"

and a married woman--a real mistress, in fine?
By the diversity of her humour, in turn mystical or mirthful, talkative,

taciturn, passionate, careless, she awakened in him a thousand desires,

called up instincts or memories. She was the mistress of all the novels,

the heroine of all the dramas, the vague "she" of all the volumes

of verse. He found again on her shoulder the amber colouring of the

"Odalisque Bathing"; she had the long waist of feudal chatelaines, and

she resembled the "Pale Woman of Barcelona." But above all she was the

Angel!
Often looking at her, it seemed to him that his soul, escaping towards

her, spread like a wave about the outline of her head, and descended

drawn down into the whiteness of her breast. He knelt on the ground

before her, and with both elbows on her knees looked at her with a

smile, his face upturned.


She bent over him, and murmured, as if choking with intoxication--
"Oh, do not move! do not speak! look at me! Something so sweet comes

from your eyes that helps me so much!"


She called him "child." "Child, do you love me?"
And she did not listen for his answer in the haste of her lips that

fastened to his mouth.


On the clock there was a bronze cupid, who smirked as he bent his arm

beneath a golden garland. They had laughed at it many a time, but when

they had to part everything seemed serious to them.
Motionless in front of each other, they kept repeating, "Till Thursday,

till Thursday."


Suddenly she seized his head between her hands, kissed him hurriedly on

the forehead, crying, "Adieu!" and rushed down the stairs.


She went to a hairdresser's in the Rue de la Comedie to have her hair

arranged. Night fell; the gas was lighted in the shop. She heard the

bell at the theatre calling the mummers to the performance, and she saw,

passing opposite, men with white faces and women in faded gowns going in

at the stage-door.
It was hot in the room, small, and too low where the stove was hissing

in the midst of wigs and pomades. The smell of the tongs, together with

the greasy hands that handled her head, soon stunned her, and she dozed

a little in her wrapper. Often, as he did her hair, the man offered her

tickets for a masked ball.
Then she went away. She went up the streets; reached the Croix-Rouge,

put on her overshoes, that she had hidden in the morning under the seat,

and sank into her place among the impatient passengers. Some got out

at the foot of the hill. She remained alone in the carriage. At every

turning all the lights of the town were seen more and more completely,

making a great luminous vapour about the dim houses. Emma knelt on the

cushions and her eyes wandered over the dazzling light. She sobbed;

called on Leon, sent him tender words and kisses lost in the wind.


On the hillside a poor devil wandered about with his stick in the midst

of the diligences. A mass of rags covered his shoulders, and an old

staved-in beaver, turned out like a basin, hid his face; but when he

took it off he discovered in the place of eyelids empty and bloody

orbits. The flesh hung in red shreds, and there flowed from it liquids

that congealed into green scale down to the nose, whose black nostrils

sniffed convulsively. To speak to you he threw back his head with an

idiotic laugh; then his bluish eyeballs, rolling constantly, at the

temples beat against the edge of the open wound. He sang a little song

as he followed the carriages--


"Maids an the warmth of a summer day Dream of love, and of love always"
And all the rest was about birds and sunshine and green leaves.
Sometimes he appeared suddenly behind Emma, bareheaded, and she drew

back with a cry. Hivert made fun of him. He would advise him to get a

booth at the Saint Romain fair, or else ask him, laughing, how his young

woman was.


Often they had started when, with a sudden movement, his hat entered the

diligence through the small window, while he clung with his other arm

to the footboard, between the wheels splashing mud. His voice, feeble

at first and quavering, grew sharp; it resounded in the night like the

indistinct moan of a vague distress; and through the ringing of the

bells, the murmur of the trees, and the rumbling of the empty vehicle,

it had a far-off sound that disturbed Emma. It went to the bottom of

her soul, like a whirlwind in an abyss, and carried her away into the

distances of a boundless melancholy. But Hivert, noticing a weight

behind, gave the blind man sharp cuts with his whip. The thong lashed

his wounds, and he fell back into the mud with a yell. Then the

passengers in the "Hirondelle" ended by falling asleep, some with open

mouths, others with lowered chins, leaning against their neighbour's

shoulder, or with their arm passed through the strap, oscillating

regularly with the jolting of the carriage; and the reflection of the

lantern swinging without, on the crupper of the wheeler; penetrating

into the interior through the chocolate calico curtains, threw

sanguineous shadows over all these motionless people. Emma, drunk with

grief, shivered in her clothes, feeling her feet grow colder and colder,

and death in her soul.


Charles at home was waiting for her; the "Hirondelle" was always late

on Thursdays. Madame arrived at last, and scarcely kissed the child. The

dinner was not ready. No matter! She excused the servant. This girl now

seemed allowed to do just as she liked.


Often her husband, noting her pallor, asked if she were unwell.
"No," said Emma.
"But," he replied, "you seem so strange this evening."
"Oh, it's nothing! nothing!"
There were even days when she had no sooner come in than she went up to

her room; and Justin, happening to be there, moved about noiselessly,

quicker at helping her than the best of maids. He put the matches

ready, the candlestick, a book, arranged her nightgown, turned back the

bedclothes.
"Come!" said she, "that will do. Now you can go."
For he stood there, his hands hanging down and his eyes wide open, as if

enmeshed in the innumerable threads of a sudden reverie.


The following day was frightful, and those that came after still more

unbearable, because of her impatience to once again seize her happiness;

an ardent lust, inflamed by the images of past experience, and that

burst forth freely on the seventh day beneath Leon's caresses. His

ardours were hidden beneath outbursts of wonder and gratitude. Emma

tasted this love in a discreet, absorbed fashion, maintained it by all

the artifices of her tenderness, and trembled a little lest it should be

lost later on.


She often said to him, with her sweet, melancholy voice--
"Ah! you too, you will leave me! You will marry! You will be like all

the others."


He asked, "What others?"
"Why, like all men," she replied. Then added, repulsing him with a

languid movement--


"You are all evil!"
One day, as they were talking philosophically of earthly disillusions,

to experiment on his jealousy, or yielding, perhaps, to an over-strong

need to pour out her heart, she told him that formerly, before him, she

had loved someone.


"Not like you," she went on quickly, protesting by the head of her child

that "nothing had passed between them."


The young man believed her, but none the less questioned her to find out

what he was.


"He was a ship's captain, my dear."
Was this not preventing any inquiry, and, at the same time, assuming a

higher ground through this pretended fascination exercised over a man

who must have been of warlike nature and accustomed to receive homage?
The clerk then felt the lowliness of his position; he longed for

epaulettes, crosses, titles. All that would please her--he gathered that

from her spendthrift habits.
Emma nevertheless concealed many of these extravagant fancies, such as

her wish to have a blue tilbury to drive into Rouen, drawn by an English

horse and driven by a groom in top-boots. It was Justin who had inspired

her with this whim, by begging her to take him into her service as

valet-de-chambre*, and if the privation of it did not lessen the

pleasure of her arrival at each rendezvous, it certainly augmented the

bitterness of the return.
* Manservant.

Often, when they talked together of Paris, she ended by murmuring, "Ah!

how happy we should be there!"
"Are we not happy?" gently answered the young man passing his hands over




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