Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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"But still, now talk it over."
And she began beating about the bush; she had known nothing about it; it

was a surprise.


"Whose fault is that?" said Lheureux, bowing ironically. "While I'm

slaving like a nigger, you go gallivanting about."


"Ah! no lecturing."
"It never does any harm," he replied.
She turned coward; she implored him; she even pressed her pretty white

and slender hand against the shopkeeper's knee.


"There, that'll do! Anyone'd think you wanted to seduce me!"
"You are a wretch!" she cried.
"Oh, oh! go it! go it!"
"I will show you up. I shall tell my husband."
"All right! I too. I'll show your husband something."
And Lheureux drew from his strong box the receipt for eighteen hundred

francs that she had given him when Vincart had discounted the bills.


"Do you think," he added, "that he'll not understand your little theft,

the poor dear man?"


She collapsed, more overcome than if felled by the blow of a pole-axe.

He was walking up and down from the window to the bureau, repeating all

the while--
"Ah! I'll show him! I'll show him!" Then he approached her, and in a

soft voice said--


"It isn't pleasant, I know; but, after all, no bones are broken, and,

since that is the only way that is left for you paying back my money--"


"But where am I to get any?" said Emma, wringing her hands.
"Bah! when one has friends like you!"
And he looked at her in so keen, so terrible a fashion, that she

shuddered to her very heart.


"I promise you," she said, "to sign--"
"I've enough of your signatures."
"I will sell something."
"Get along!" he said, shrugging his shoulders; "you've not got

anything."


And he called through the peep-hole that looked down into the shop--
"Annette, don't forget the three coupons of No. 14."
The servant appeared. Emma understood, and asked how much money would be

wanted to put a stop to the proceedings.


"It is too late."
"But if I brought you several thousand francs--a quarter of the sum--a

third--perhaps the whole?"


"No; it's no use!"
And he pushed her gently towards the staircase.
"I implore you, Monsieur Lheureux, just a few days more!" She was

sobbing.
"There! tears now!"


"You are driving me to despair!"
"What do I care?" said he, shutting the door.

Chapter Seven


She was stoical the next day when Maitre Hareng, the bailiff, with two

assistants, presented himself at her house to draw up the inventory for

the distraint.
They began with Bovary's consulting-room, and did not write down

the phrenological head, which was considered an "instrument of his

profession"; but in the kitchen they counted the plates; the saucepans,

the chairs, the candlesticks, and in the bedroom all the nick-nacks on

the whatnot. They examined her dresses, the linen, the dressing-room;

and her whole existence to its most intimate details, was, like a corpse

on whom a post-mortem is made, outspread before the eyes of these three

men.
Maitre Hareng, buttoned up in his thin black coat, wearing a white

choker and very tight foot-straps, repeated from time to time--"Allow

me, madame. You allow me?" Often he uttered exclamations. "Charming!

very pretty." Then he began writing again, dipping his pen into the horn

inkstand in his left hand.


When they had done with the rooms they went up to the attic. She kept a

desk there in which Rodolphe's letters were locked. It had to be opened.


"Ah! a correspondence," said Maitre Hareng, with a discreet smile. "But

allow me, for I must make sure the box contains nothing else." And he

tipped up the papers lightly, as if to shake out napoleons. Then she

grew angered to see this coarse hand, with fingers red and pulpy like

slugs, touching these pages against which her heart had beaten.
They went at last. Felicite came back. Emma had sent her out to watch

for Bovary in order to keep him off, and they hurriedly installed the

man in possession under the roof, where he swore he would remain.
During the evening Charles seemed to her careworn. Emma watched him with

a look of anguish, fancying she saw an accusation in every line of his

face. Then, when her eyes wandered over the chimney-piece ornamented

with Chinese screens, over the large curtains, the armchairs, all

those things, in a word, that had, softened the bitterness of her life,

remorse seized her or rather an immense regret, that, far from crushing,

irritated her passion. Charles placidly poked the fire, both his feet on

the fire-dogs.


Once the man, no doubt bored in his hiding-place, made a slight noise.
"Is anyone walking upstairs?" said Charles.
"No," she replied; "it is a window that has been left open, and is

rattling in the wind."


The next day, Sunday, she went to Rouen to call on all the brokers whose

names she knew. They were at their country-places or on journeys. She

was not discouraged; and those whom she did manage to see she asked for

money, declaring she must have some, and that she would pay it back.

Some laughed in her face; all refused.
At two o'clock she hurried to Leon, and knocked at the door. No one

answered. At length he appeared.


"What brings you here?"
"Do I disturb you?"
"No; but--" And he admitted that his landlord didn't like his having

"women" there.


"I must speak to you," she went on.
Then he took down the key, but she stopped him.
"No, no! Down there, in our home!"
And they went to their room at the Hotel de Boulogne.
On arriving she drank off a large glass of water. She was very pale. She

said to him--


"Leon, you will do me a service?"
And, shaking him by both hands that she grasped tightly, she added--
"Listen, I want eight thousand francs."
"But you are mad!"
"Not yet."
And thereupon, telling him the story of the distraint, she explained

her distress to him; for Charles knew nothing of it; her mother-in-law

detested her; old Rouault could do nothing; but he, Leon, he would set

about finding this indispensable sum.


"How on earth can I?"
"What a coward you are!" she cried.
Then he said stupidly, "You are exaggerating the difficulty. Perhaps,

with a thousand crowns or so the fellow could be stopped."


All the greater reason to try and do something; it was impossible that

they could not find three thousand francs. Besides, Leon, could be

security instead of her.
"Go, try, try! I will love you so!"
He went out, and came back at the end of an hour, saying, with solemn

face--
"I have been to three people with no success."


Then they remained sitting face to face at the two chimney corners,

motionless, in silence. Emma shrugged her shoulders as she stamped her

feet. He heard her murmuring--
"If I were in your place _I_ should soon get some."
"But where?"
"At your office." And she looked at him.
An infernal boldness looked out from her burning eyes, and their lids

drew close together with a lascivious and encouraging look, so that the

young man felt himself growing weak beneath the mute will of this woman

who was urging him to a crime. Then he was afraid, and to avoid any

explanation he smote his forehead, crying--
"Morel is to come back to-night; he will not refuse me, I hope" (this

was one of his friends, the son of a very rich merchant); "and I will

bring it you to-morrow," he added.
Emma did not seem to welcome this hope with all the joy he had expected.

Did she suspect the lie? He went on, blushing--


"However, if you don't see me by three o'clock do not wait for me, my

darling. I must be off now; forgive me! Goodbye!"


He pressed her hand, but it felt quite lifeless. Emma had no strength

left for any sentiment.


Four o'clock struck, and she rose to return to Yonville, mechanically

obeying the force of old habits.


The weather was fine. It was one of those March days, clear and sharp,

when the sun shines in a perfectly white sky. The Rouen folk, in

Sunday-clothes, were walking about with happy looks. She reached the

Place du Parvis. People were coming out after vespers; the crowd flowed

out through the three doors like a stream through the three arches of

a bridge, and in the middle one, more motionless than a rock, stood the

beadle.
Then she remembered the day when, all anxious and full of hope, she had

entered beneath this large nave, that had opened out before her, less

profound than her love; and she walked on weeping beneath her veil,

giddy, staggering, almost fainting.


"Take care!" cried a voice issuing from the gate of a courtyard that was

thrown open.


She stopped to let pass a black horse, pawing the ground between the

shafts of a tilbury, driven by a gentleman in sable furs. Who was it?

She knew him. The carriage darted by and disappeared.
Why, it was he--the Viscount. She turned away; the street was empty. She

was so overwhelmed, so sad, that she had to lean against a wall to keep

herself from falling.
Then she thought she had been mistaken. Anyhow, she did not know. All

within her and around her was abandoning her. She felt lost, sinking

at random into indefinable abysses, and it was almost with joy that, on

reaching the "Croix-Rouge," she saw the good Homais, who was watching

a large box full of pharmaceutical stores being hoisted on to the

"Hirondelle." In his hand he held tied in a silk handkerchief six

cheminots for his wife.
Madame Homais was very fond of these small, heavy turban-shaped loaves,

that are eaten in Lent with salt butter; a last vestige of Gothic food

that goes back, perhaps, to the time of the Crusades, and with which

the robust Normans gorged themselves of yore, fancying they saw on the

table, in the light of the yellow torches, between tankards of hippocras

and huge boars' heads, the heads of Saracens to be devoured. The

druggist's wife crunched them up as they had done--heroically, despite

her wretched teeth. And so whenever Homais journeyed to town, he never

failed to bring her home some that he bought at the great baker's in the

Rue Massacre.


"Charmed to see you," he said, offering Emma a hand to help her into the

"Hirondelle." Then he hung up his cheminots to the cords of the netting,

and remained bare-headed in an attitude pensive and Napoleonic.
But when the blind man appeared as usual at the foot of the hill he

exclaimed--


"I can't understand why the authorities tolerate such culpable

industries. Such unfortunates should be locked up and forced to work.

Progress, my word! creeps at a snail's pace. We are floundering about in

mere barbarism."


The blind man held out his hat, that flapped about at the door, as if it

were a bag in the lining that had come unnailed.


"This," said the chemist, "is a scrofulous affection."
And though he knew the poor devil, he pretended to see him for the first

time, murmured something about "cornea," "opaque cornea," "sclerotic,"

"facies," then asked him in a paternal tone--
"My friend, have you long had this terrible infirmity? Instead of

getting drunk at the public, you'd do better to die yourself."


He advised him to take good wine, good beer, and good joints. The blind

man went on with his song; he seemed, moreover, almost idiotic. At last

Monsieur Homais opened his purse--
"Now there's a sou; give me back two lairds, and don't forget my advice:

you'll be the better for it."


Hivert openly cast some doubt on the efficacy of it. But the druggist

said that he would cure himself with an antiphlogistic pomade of his own

composition, and he gave his address--"Monsieur Homais, near the market,

pretty well known."


"Now," said Hivert, "for all this trouble you'll give us your

performance."


The blind man sank down on his haunches, with his head thrown back,

whilst he rolled his greenish eyes, lolled out his tongue, and rubbed

his stomach with both hands as he uttered a kind of hollow yell like a

famished dog. Emma, filled with disgust, threw him over her shoulder

a five-franc piece. It was all her fortune. It seemed to her very fine

thus to throw it away.


The coach had gone on again when suddenly Monsieur Homais leant out

through the window, crying--


"No farinaceous or milk food, wear wool next the skin, and expose the

diseased parts to the smoke of juniper berries."


The sight of the well-known objects that defiled before her eyes

gradually diverted Emma from her present trouble. An intolerable fatigue

overwhelmed her, and she reached her home stupefied, discouraged, almost

asleep.
"Come what may come!" she said to herself. "And then, who knows? Why, at

any moment could not some extraordinary event occur? Lheureux even might

die!"
At nine o'clock in the morning she was awakened by the sound of voices

in the Place. There was a crowd round the market reading a large bill

fixed to one of the posts, and she saw Justin, who was climbing on to

a stone and tearing down the bill. But at this moment the rural guard

seized him by the collar. Monsieur Homais came out of his shop, and Mere

Lefrangois, in the midst of the crowd, seemed to be perorating.
"Madame! madame!" cried Felicite, running in, "it's abominable!"
And the poor girl, deeply moved, handed her a yellow paper that she had

just torn off the door. Emma read with a glance that all her furniture

was for sale.
Then they looked at one another silently. The servant and mistress had

no secret one from the other. At last Felicite sighed--


"If I were you, madame, I should go to Monsieur Guillaumin."
"Do you think--"
And this question meant to say--
"You who know the house through the servant, has the master spoken

sometimes of me?"


"Yes, you'd do well to go there."
She dressed, put on her black gown, and her hood with jet beads, and

that she might not be seen (there was still a crowd on the Place), she

took the path by the river, outside the village.
She reached the notary's gate quite breathless. The sky was sombre, and

a little snow was falling. At the sound of the bell, Theodore in a

red waistcoat appeared on the steps; he came to open the door almost

familiarly, as to an acquaintance, and showed her into the dining-room.


A large porcelain stove crackled beneath a cactus that filled up the

niche in the wall, and in black wood frames against the oak-stained

paper hung Steuben's "Esmeralda" and Schopin's "Potiphar." The

ready-laid table, the two silver chafing-dishes, the crystal door-knobs,

the parquet and the furniture, all shone with a scrupulous, English

cleanliness; the windows were ornamented at each corner with stained

glass.
"Now this," thought Emma, "is the dining-room I ought to have."
The notary came in pressing his palm-leaf dressing-gown to his breast

with his left arm, while with the other hand he raised and quickly put

on again his brown velvet cap, pretentiously cocked on the right side,

whence looked out the ends of three fair curls drawn from the back of

the head, following the line of his bald skull.
After he had offered her a seat he sat down to breakfast, apologising

profusely for his rudeness.


"I have come," she said, "to beg you, sir--"
"What, madame? I am listening."
And she began explaining her position to him. Monsieur Guillaumin knew

it, being secretly associated with the linendraper, from whom he always

got capital for the loans on mortgages that he was asked to make.
So he knew (and better than she herself) the long story of the bills,

small at first, bearing different names as endorsers, made out at long

dates, and constantly renewed up to the day, when, gathering together

all the protested bills, the shopkeeper had bidden his friend Vincart

take in his own name all the necessary proceedings, not wishing to pass

for a tiger with his fellow-citizens.


She mingled her story with recriminations against Lheureux, to which the

notary replied from time to time with some insignificant word. Eating

his cutlet and drinking his tea, he buried his chin in his sky-blue

cravat, into which were thrust two diamond pins, held together by a

small gold chain; and he smiled a singular smile, in a sugary, ambiguous

fashion. But noticing that her feet were damp, he said--


"Do get closer to the stove; put your feet up against the porcelain."
She was afraid of dirtying it. The notary replied in a gallant tone--
"Beautiful things spoil nothing."
Then she tried to move him, and, growing moved herself, she began

telling him about the poorness of her home, her worries, her wants.

He could understand that; an elegant woman! and, without leaving off

eating, he had turned completely round towards her, so that his knee

brushed against her boot, whose sole curled round as it smoked against

the stove.


But when she asked for a thousand sous, he closed his lips, and declared

he was very sorry he had not had the management of her fortune before,

for there were hundreds of ways very convenient, even for a lady, of

turning her money to account. They might, either in the turf-peats

of Grumesnil or building-ground at Havre, almost without risk, have

ventured on some excellent speculations; and he let her consume herself

with rage at the thought of the fabulous sums that she would certainly

have made.


"How was it," he went on, "that you didn't come to me?"
"I hardly know," she said.
"Why, hey? Did I frighten you so much? It is I, on the contrary, who

ought to complain. We hardly know one another; yet I am very devoted to

you. You do not doubt that, I hope?"
He held out his hand, took hers, covered it with a greedy kiss, then

held it on his knee; and he played delicately with her fingers whilst

he murmured a thousand blandishments. His insipid voice murmured like a

running brook; a light shone in his eyes through the glimmering of his

spectacles, and his hand was advancing up Emma's sleeve to press her

arm. She felt against her cheek his panting breath. This man oppressed

her horribly.
She sprang up and said to him--
"Sir, I am waiting."
"For what?" said the notary, who suddenly became very pale.
"This money."
"But--" Then, yielding to the outburst of too powerful a desire, "Well,

yes!"
He dragged himself towards her on his knees, regardless of his

dressing-gown.
"For pity's sake, stay. I love you!"
He seized her by her waist. Madame Bovary's face flushed purple. She

recoiled with a terrible look, crying--


"You are taking a shameless advantage of my distress, sir! I am to be

pitied--not to be sold."


And she went out.
The notary remained quite stupefied, his eyes fixed on his fine

embroidered slippers. They were a love gift, and the sight of them at

last consoled him. Besides, he reflected that such an adventure might

have carried him too far.


"What a wretch! what a scoundrel! what an infamy!" she said to herself,

as she fled with nervous steps beneath the aspens of the path. The

disappointment of her failure increased the indignation of her outraged

modesty; it seemed to her that Providence pursued her implacably, and,

strengthening herself in her pride, she had never felt so much esteem

for herself nor so much contempt for others. A spirit of warfare

transformed her. She would have liked to strike all men, to spit in

their faces, to crush them, and she walked rapidly straight on, pale,

quivering, maddened, searching the empty horizon with tear-dimmed eyes,

and as it were rejoicing in the hate that was choking her.


When she saw her house a numbness came over her. She could not go on;

and yet she must. Besides, whither could she flee?


Felicite was waiting for her at the door. "Well?"
"No!" said Emma.
And for a quarter of an hour the two of them went over the various

persons in Yonville who might perhaps be inclined to help her. But each

time that Felicite named someone Emma replied--
"Impossible! they will not!"
"And the master'll soon be in."
"I know that well enough. Leave me alone."
She had tried everything; there was nothing more to be done now; and

when Charles came in she would have to say to him--


"Go away! This carpet on which you are walking is no longer ours. In

your own house you do not possess a chair, a pin, a straw, and it is I,

poor man, who have ruined you."
Then there would be a great sob; next he would weep abundantly, and at

last, the surprise past, he would forgive her.


"Yes," she murmured, grinding her teeth, "he will forgive me, he who

would give a million if I would forgive him for having known me! Never!

never!"
This thought of Bovary's superiority to her exasperated her. Then,

whether she confessed or did not confess, presently, immediately,

to-morrow, he would know the catastrophe all the same; so she must wait

for this horrible scene, and bear the weight of his magnanimity. The

desire to return to Lheureux's seized her--what would be the use? To

write to her father--it was too late; and perhaps, she began to repent

now that she had not yielded to that other, when she heard the trot of

a horse in the alley. It was he; he was opening the gate; he was whiter

than the plaster wall. Rushing to the stairs, she ran out quickly to the

square; and the wife of the mayor, who was talking to Lestiboudois in

front of the church, saw her go in to the tax-collector's.
She hurried off to tell Madame Caron, and the two ladies went up to

the attic, and, hidden by some linen spread across props, stationed

themselves comfortably for overlooking the whole of Binet's room.
He was alone in his garret, busy imitating in wood one of those

indescribable bits of ivory, composed of crescents, of spheres hollowed

out one within the other, the whole as straight as an obelisk, and of no

use whatever; and he was beginning on the last piece--he was nearing his

goal. In the twilight of the workshop the white dust was flying from his

tools like a shower of sparks under the hoofs of a galloping horse; the

two wheels were turning, droning; Binet smiled, his chin lowered, his

nostrils distended, and, in a word, seemed lost in one of those complete

happinesses that, no doubt, belong only to commonplace occupations,

which amuse the mind with facile difficulties, and satisfy by a

realisation of that beyond which such minds have not a dream.
"Ah! there she is!" exclaimed Madame Tuvache.
But it was impossible because of the lathe to hear what she was saying.




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