Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



Download 1.37 Mb.
Page26/28
Date31.05.2016
Size1.37 Mb.
1   ...   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28

heart, sweet and indistinct like the echo of a symphony dying away.
"Bring me the child," she said, raising herself on her elbow.
"You are not worse, are you?" asked Charles.
"No, no!"
The child, serious, and still half-asleep, was carried in on the

servant's arm in her long white nightgown, from which her bare

feet peeped out. She looked wonderingly at the disordered room, and

half-closed her eyes, dazzled by the candles burning on the table. They

reminded her, no doubt, of the morning of New Year's day and Mid-Lent,

when thus awakened early by candle-light she came to her mother's bed to

fetch her presents, for she began saying--
"But where is it, mamma?" And as everybody was silent, "But I can't see

my little stocking."


Felicite held her over the bed while she still kept looking towards the

mantelpiece.


"Has nurse taken it?" she asked.
And at this name, that carried her back to the memory of her adulteries

and her calamities, Madame Bovary turned away her head, as at the

loathing of another bitterer poison that rose to her mouth. But Berthe

remained perched on the bed.


"Oh, how big your eyes are, mamma! How pale you are! how hot you are!"
Her mother looked at her. "I am frightened!" cried the child, recoiling.
Emma took her hand to kiss it; the child struggled.
"That will do. Take her away," cried Charles, who was sobbing in the

alcove.
Then the symptoms ceased for a moment; she seemed less agitated; and at

every insignificant word, at every respiration a little more easy, he

regained hope. At last, when Canivet came in, he threw himself into his

arms.
"Ah! it is you. Thanks! You are good! But she is better. See! look at

her."
His colleague was by no means of this opinion, and, as he said of

himself, "never beating about the bush," he prescribed, an emetic in

order to empty the stomach completely.


She soon began vomiting blood. Her lips became drawn. Her limbs were

convulsed, her whole body covered with brown spots, and her pulse

slipped beneath the fingers like a stretched thread, like a harp-string

nearly breaking.


After this she began to scream horribly. She cursed the poison, railed

at it, and implored it to be quick, and thrust away with her stiffened

arms everything that Charles, in more agony than herself, tried to make

her drink. He stood up, his handkerchief to his lips, with a rattling

sound in his throat, weeping, and choked by sobs that shook his whole

body. Felicite was running hither and thither in the room. Homais,

motionless, uttered great sighs; and Monsieur Canivet, always retaining

his self-command, nevertheless began to feel uneasy.


"The devil! yet she has been purged, and from the moment that the cause

ceases--"


"The effect must cease," said Homais, "that is evident."
"Oh, save her!" cried Bovary.
And, without listening to the chemist, who was still venturing the

hypothesis, "It is perhaps a salutary paroxysm," Canivet was about to

administer some theriac, when they heard the cracking of a whip; all the

windows rattled, and a post-chaise drawn by three horses abreast, up to

their ears in mud, drove at a gallop round the corner of the market. It

was Doctor Lariviere.


The apparition of a god would not have caused more commotion. Bovary

raised his hands; Canivet stopped short; and Homais pulled off his

skull-cap long before the doctor had come in.
He belonged to that great school of surgery begotten of Bichat, to that

generation, now extinct, of philosophical practitioners, who, loving

their art with a fanatical love, exercised it with enthusiasm and

wisdom. Everyone in his hospital trembled when he was angry; and his

students so revered him that they tried, as soon as they were themselves

in practice, to imitate him as much as possible. So that in all the

towns about they were found wearing his long wadded merino overcoat

and black frock-coat, whose buttoned cuffs slightly covered his brawny

hands--very beautiful hands, and that never knew gloves, as though to be

more ready to plunge into suffering. Disdainful of honours, of titles,

and of academies, like one of the old Knight-Hospitallers, generous,

fatherly to the poor, and practising virtue without believing in it, he

would almost have passed for a saint if the keenness of his intellect

had not caused him to be feared as a demon. His glance, more penetrating

than his bistouries, looked straight into your soul, and dissected every

lie athwart all assertions and all reticences. And thus he went along,

full of that debonair majesty that is given by the consciousness

of great talent, of fortune, and of forty years of a labourious and

irreproachable life.
He frowned as soon as he had passed the door when he saw the cadaverous

face of Emma stretched out on her back with her mouth open. Then, while

apparently listening to Canivet, he rubbed his fingers up and down

beneath his nostrils, and repeated--


"Good! good!"
But he made a slow gesture with his shoulders. Bovary watched him; they

looked at one another; and this man, accustomed as he was to the sight

of pain, could not keep back a tear that fell on his shirt-frill.
He tried to take Canivet into the next room. Charles followed him.
"She is very ill, isn't she? If we put on sinapisms? Anything! Oh, think

of something, you who have saved so many!"


Charles caught him in both his arms, and gazed at him wildly,

imploringly, half-fainting against his breast.


"Come, my poor fellow, courage! There is nothing more to be done."
And Doctor Lariviere turned away.
"You are going?"
"I will come back."
He went out only to give an order to the coachman, with Monsieur

Canivet, who did not care either to have Emma die under his hands.


The chemist rejoined them on the Place. He could not by temperament keep

away from celebrities, so he begged Monsieur Lariviere to do him the

signal honour of accepting some breakfast.
He sent quickly to the "Lion d'Or" for some pigeons; to the butcher's

for all the cutlets that were to be had; to Tuvache for cream; and

to Lestiboudois for eggs; and the druggist himself aided in the

preparations, while Madame Homais was saying as she pulled together the

strings of her jacket--
"You must excuse us, sir, for in this poor place, when one hasn't been

told the night before--"


"Wine glasses!" whispered Homais.
"If only we were in town, we could fall back upon stuffed trotters."
"Be quiet! Sit down, doctor!"
He thought fit, after the first few mouthfuls, to give some details as

to the catastrophe.


"We first had a feeling of siccity in the pharynx, then intolerable

pains at the epigastrium, super purgation, coma."


"But how did she poison herself?"
"I don't know, doctor, and I don't even know where she can have procured

the arsenious acid."


Justin, who was just bringing in a pile of plates, began to tremble.
"What's the matter?" said the chemist.
At this question the young man dropped the whole lot on the ground with

a crash.
"Imbecile!" cried Homais, "awkward lout! block-head! confounded ass!"


But suddenly controlling himself--
"I wished, doctor, to make an analysis, and primo I delicately

introduced a tube--"


"You would have done better," said the physician, "to introduce your

fingers into her throat."


His colleague was silent, having just before privately received a severe

lecture about his emetic, so that this good Canivet, so arrogant and so

verbose at the time of the clubfoot, was to-day very modest. He smiled

without ceasing in an approving manner.


Homais dilated in Amphytrionic pride, and the affecting thought of

Bovary vaguely contributed to his pleasure by a kind of egotistic

reflex upon himself. Then the presence of the doctor transported him.

He displayed his erudition, cited pell-mell cantharides, upas, the

manchineel, vipers.
"I have even read that various persons have found themselves

under toxicological symptoms, and, as it were, thunderstricken by

black-pudding that had been subjected to a too vehement fumigation.

At least, this was stated in a very fine report drawn up by one of our

pharmaceutical chiefs, one of our masters, the illustrious Cadet de

Gassicourt!"


Madame Homais reappeared, carrying one of those shaky machines that

are heated with spirits of wine; for Homais liked to make his coffee

at table, having, moreover, torrefied it, pulverised it, and mixed it

himself.
"Saccharum, doctor?" said he, offering the sugar.


Then he had all his children brought down, anxious to have the

physician's opinion on their constitutions.


At last Monsieur Lariviere was about to leave, when Madame Homais asked

for a consultation about her husband. He was making his blood too thick

by going to sleep every evening after dinner.
"Oh, it isn't his blood that's too thick," said the physician.
And, smiling a little at his unnoticed joke, the doctor opened the

door. But the chemist's shop was full of people; he had the greatest

difficulty in getting rid of Monsieur Tuvache, who feared his spouse

would get inflammation of the lungs, because she was in the habit of

spitting on the ashes; then of Monsieur Binet, who sometimes experienced

sudden attacks of great hunger; and of Madame Caron, who suffered

from tinglings; of Lheureux, who had vertigo; of Lestiboudois, who had

rheumatism; and of Madame Lefrancois, who had heartburn. At last the

three horses started; and it was the general opinion that he had not

shown himself at all obliging.


Public attention was distracted by the appearance of Monsieur

Bournisien, who was going across the market with the holy oil.


Homais, as was due to his principles, compared priests to ravens

attracted by the odour of death. The sight of an ecclesiastic was

personally disagreeable to him, for the cassock made him think of the

shroud, and he detested the one from some fear of the other.


Nevertheless, not shrinking from what he called his mission, he returned

to Bovary's in company with Canivet whom Monsieur Lariviere, before

leaving, had strongly urged to make this visit; and he would, but for

his wife's objections, have taken his two sons with him, in order

to accustom them to great occasions; that this might be a lesson, an

example, a solemn picture, that should remain in their heads later on.


The room when they went in was full of mournful solemnity. On the

work-table, covered over with a white cloth, there were five or six

small balls of cotton in a silver dish, near a large crucifix between

two lighted candles.


Emma, her chin sunken upon her breast, had her eyes inordinately wide

open, and her poor hands wandered over the sheets with that hideous

and soft movement of the dying, that seems as if they wanted already to

cover themselves with the shroud. Pale as a statue and with eyes red as

fire, Charles, not weeping, stood opposite her at the foot of the bed,

while the priest, bending one knee, was muttering words in a low voice.


She turned her face slowly, and seemed filled with joy on seeing

suddenly the violet stole, no doubt finding again, in the midst of

a temporary lull in her pain, the lost voluptuousness of her first

mystical transports, with the visions of eternal beatitude that were

beginning.
The priest rose to take the crucifix; then she stretched forward her

neck as one who is athirst, and glueing her lips to the body of the

Man-God, she pressed upon it with all her expiring strength the fullest

kiss of love that she had ever given. Then he recited the Misereatur and

the Indulgentiam, dipped his right thumb in the oil, and began to give

extreme unction. First upon the eyes, that had so coveted all worldly

pomp; then upon the nostrils, that had been greedy of the warm breeze

and amorous odours; then upon the mouth, that had uttered lies, that had

curled with pride and cried out in lewdness; then upon the hands that

had delighted in sensual touches; and finally upon the soles of the

feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and

that would now walk no more.


The cure wiped his fingers, threw the bit of cotton dipped in oil into

the fire, and came and sat down by the dying woman, to tell her that

she must now blend her sufferings with those of Jesus Christ and abandon

herself to the divine mercy.


Finishing his exhortations, he tried to place in her hand a blessed

candle, symbol of the celestial glory with which she was soon to be

surrounded. Emma, too weak, could not close her fingers, and the taper,

but for Monsieur Bournisien would have fallen to the ground.


However, she was not quite so pale, and her face had an expression of

serenity as if the sacrament had cured her.


The priest did not fail to point this out; he even explained to Bovary

that the Lord sometimes prolonged the life of persons when he thought it

meet for their salvation; and Charles remembered the day when, so near

death, she had received the communion. Perhaps there was no need to

despair, he thought.
In fact, she looked around her slowly, as one awakening from a dream;

then in a distinct voice she asked for her looking-glass, and remained

some time bending over it, until the big tears fell from her eyes. Then

she turned away her head with a sigh and fell back upon the pillows.


Her chest soon began panting rapidly; the whole of her tongue protruded

from her mouth; her eyes, as they rolled, grew paler, like the two

globes of a lamp that is going out, so that one might have thought

her already dead but for the fearful labouring of her ribs, shaken

by violent breathing, as if the soul were struggling to free itself.

Felicite knelt down before the crucifix, and the druggist himself

slightly bent his knees, while Monsieur Canivet looked out vaguely at

the Place. Bournisien had again begun to pray, his face bowed against

the edge of the bed, his long black cassock trailing behind him in the

room. Charles was on the other side, on his knees, his arms outstretched

towards Emma. He had taken her hands and pressed them, shuddering at

every beat of her heart, as at the shaking of a falling ruin. As the

death-rattle became stronger the priest prayed faster; his prayers

mingled with the stifled sobs of Bovary, and sometimes all seemed lost

in the muffled murmur of the Latin syllables that tolled like a passing

bell.
Suddenly on the pavement was heard a loud noise of clogs and the

clattering of a stick; and a voice rose--a raucous voice--that sang--
"Maids in the warmth of a summer day Dream of love and of love always"
Emma raised herself like a galvanised corpse, her hair undone, her eyes

fixed, staring.


"Where the sickle blades have been, Nannette, gathering ears of corn,

Passes bending down, my queen, To the earth where they were born."


"The blind man!" she cried. And Emma began to laugh, an atrocious,

frantic, despairing laugh, thinking she saw the hideous face of the poor

wretch that stood out against the eternal night like a menace.
"The wind is strong this summer day, Her petticoat has flown away."
She fell back upon the mattress in a convulsion. They all drew near. She

was dead.


Chapter Nine


There is always after the death of anyone a kind of stupefaction;

so difficult is it to grasp this advent of nothingness and to resign

ourselves to believe in it. But still, when he saw that she did not

move, Charles threw himself upon her, crying--


"Farewell! farewell!"
Homais and Canivet dragged him from the room.
"Restrain yourself!"
"Yes." said he, struggling, "I'll be quiet. I'll not do anything. But

leave me alone. I want to see her. She is my wife!"


And he wept.
"Cry," said the chemist; "let nature take her course; that will solace

you."
Weaker than a child, Charles let himself be led downstairs into the

sitting-room, and Monsieur Homais soon went home. On the Place he

was accosted by the blind man, who, having dragged himself as far as

Yonville, in the hope of getting the antiphlogistic pomade, was asking

every passer-by where the druggist lived.


"There now! as if I hadn't got other fish to fry. Well, so much the

worse; you must come later on."


And he entered the shop hurriedly.
He had to write two letters, to prepare a soothing potion for Bovary, to

invent some lie that would conceal the poisoning, and work it up into an

article for the "Fanal," without counting the people who were waiting to

get the news from him; and when the Yonvillers had all heard his story

of the arsenic that she had mistaken for sugar in making a vanilla

cream. Homais once more returned to Bovary's.


He found him alone (Monsieur Canivet had left), sitting in an arm-chair

near the window, staring with an idiotic look at the flags of the floor.


"Now," said the chemist, "you ought yourself to fix the hour for the

ceremony."


"Why? What ceremony?" Then, in a stammering, frightened voice, "Oh, no!

not that. No! I want to see her here."


Homais, to keep himself in countenance, took up a water-bottle on the

whatnot to water the geraniums.


"Ah! thanks," said Charles; "you are good."
But he did not finish, choking beneath the crowd of memories that this

action of the druggist recalled to him.


Then to distract him, Homais thought fit to talk a little horticulture:

plants wanted humidity. Charles bowed his head in sign of approbation.


"Besides, the fine days will soon be here again."
"Ah!" said Bovary.
The druggist, at his wit's end, began softly to draw aside the small

window-curtain.


"Hallo! there's Monsieur Tuvache passing."
Charles repeated like a machine---
"Monsieur Tuvache passing!"
Homais did not dare to speak to him again about the funeral

arrangements; it was the priest who succeeded in reconciling him to

them.
He shut himself up in his consulting-room, took a pen, and after sobbing

for some time, wrote--


"I wish her to be buried in her wedding-dress, with white shoes, and a

wreath. Her hair is to be spread out over her shoulders. Three coffins,

one of oak, one of mahogany, one of lead. Let no one say anything to me.

I shall have strength. Over all there is to be placed a large piece of

green velvet. This is my wish; see that it is done."
The two men were much surprised at Bovary's romantic ideas. The chemist

at once went to him and said--


"This velvet seems to me a superfetation. Besides, the expense--"
"What's that to you?" cried Charles. "Leave me! You did not love her.

Go!"
The priest took him by the arm for a turn in the garden. He discoursed

on the vanity of earthly things. God was very great, was very good: one

must submit to his decrees without a murmur; nay, must even thank him.


Charles burst out into blasphemies: "I hate your God!"
"The spirit of rebellion is still upon you," sighed the ecclesiastic.
Bovary was far away. He was walking with great strides along by the

wall, near the espalier, and he ground his teeth; he raised to heaven

looks of malediction, but not so much as a leaf stirred.
A fine rain was falling: Charles, whose chest was bare, at last began to

shiver; he went in and sat down in the kitchen.


At six o'clock a noise like a clatter of old iron was heard on the

Place; it was the "Hirondelle" coming in, and he remained with his

forehead against the windowpane, watching all the passengers get

out, one after the other. Felicite put down a mattress for him in the

drawing-room. He threw himself upon it and fell asleep.
Although a philosopher, Monsieur Homais respected the dead. So bearing

no grudge to poor Charles, he came back again in the evening to sit up

with the body; bringing with him three volumes and a pocket-book for

taking notes.


Monsieur Bournisien was there, and two large candles were burning at the

head of the bed, that had been taken out of the alcove. The druggist, on

whom the silence weighed, was not long before he began formulating some

regrets about this "unfortunate young woman." and the priest replied

that there was nothing to do now but pray for her.
"Yet," Homais went on, "one of two things; either she died in a state of

grace (as the Church has it), and then she has no need of our prayers;

or else she departed impertinent (that is, I believe, the ecclesiastical

expression), and then--"


Bournisien interrupted him, replying testily that it was none the less

necessary to pray.


"But," objected the chemist, "since God knows all our needs, what can be

the good of prayer?"


"What!" cried the ecclesiastic, "prayer! Why, aren't you a Christian?"
"Excuse me," said Homais; "I admire Christianity. To begin with, it

enfranchised the slaves, introduced into the world a morality--"


"That isn't the question. All the texts-"
"Oh! oh! As to texts, look at history; it, is known that all the texts

have been falsified by the Jesuits."


Charles came in, and advancing towards the bed, slowly drew the

curtains.


Emma's head was turned towards her right shoulder, the corner of her

mouth, which was open, seemed like a black hole at the lower part of her

face; her two thumbs were bent into the palms of her hands; a kind

of white dust besprinkled her lashes, and her eyes were beginning to

disappear in that viscous pallor that looks like a thin web, as if

spiders had spun it over. The sheet sunk in from her breast to her

knees, and then rose at the tips of her toes, and it seemed to Charles

that infinite masses, an enormous load, were weighing upon her.


The church clock struck two. They could hear the loud murmur of the

river flowing in the darkness at the foot of the terrace. Monsieur

Bournisien from time to time blew his nose noisily, and Homais' pen was

scratching over the paper.


"Come, my good friend," he said, "withdraw; this spectacle is tearing

you to pieces."


Charles once gone, the chemist and the cure recommenced their

discussions.


"Read Voltaire," said the one, "read D'Holbach, read the

'Encyclopaedia'!"


"Read the 'Letters of some Portuguese Jews,'" said the other; "read 'The

Meaning of Christianity,' by Nicolas, formerly a magistrate."


They grew warm, they grew red, they both talked at once without

listening to each other. Bournisien was scandalized at such audacity;

Homais marvelled at such stupidity; and they were on the point of




Share with your friends:
1   ...   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page