Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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sight of a cemetery by moonlight have I not asked myself whether it were

not better to join those sleeping there!"

"Oh! and your friends?" she said. "You do not think of them."
"My friends! What friends? Have I any? Who cares for me?" And he

accompanied the last words with a kind of whistling of the lips.

But they were obliged to separate from each other because of a great

pile of chairs that a man was carrying behind them. He was so overladen

with them that one could only see the tips of his wooden shoes and the

ends of his two outstretched arms. It was Lestiboudois, the gravedigger,

who was carrying the church chairs about amongst the people. Alive to

all that concerned his interests, he had hit upon this means of turning

the show to account; and his idea was succeeding, for he no longer knew

which way to turn. In fact, the villagers, who were hot, quarreled for

these seats, whose straw smelt of incense, and they leant against the

thick backs, stained with the wax of candles, with a certain veneration.

Madame Bovary again took Rodolphe's arm; he went on as if speaking to


"Yes, I have missed so many things. Always alone! Ah! if I had some aim

in life, if I had met some love, if I had found someone! Oh, how I would

have spent all the energy of which I am capable, surmounted everything,

overcome everything!"

"Yet it seems to me," said Emma, "that you are not to be pitied."
"Ah! you think so?" said Rodolphe.
"For, after all," she went on, "you are free--" she hesitated, "rich--"
"Do not mock me," he replied.
And she protested that she was not mocking him, when the report of a

cannon resounded. Immediately all began hustling one another pell-mell

towards the village.
It was a false alarm. The prefect seemed not to be coming, and the

members of the jury felt much embarrassed, not knowing if they ought to

begin the meeting or still wait.
At last at the end of the Place a large hired landau appeared, drawn by

two thin horses, which a coachman in a white hat was whipping lustily.

Binet had only just time to shout, "Present arms!" and the colonel to

imitate him. All ran towards the enclosure; everyone pushed forward. A

few even forgot their collars; but the equipage of the prefect seemed

to anticipate the crowd, and the two yoked jades, trapesing in their

harness, came up at a little trot in front of the peristyle of the town

hall at the very moment when the National Guard and firemen deployed,

beating drums and marking time.
"Present!" shouted Binet.
"Halt!" shouted the colonel. "Left about, march."
And after presenting arms, during which the clang of the band, letting

loose, rang out like a brass kettle rolling downstairs, all the guns

were lowered. Then was seen stepping down from the carriage a gentleman

in a short coat with silver braiding, with bald brow, and wearing a tuft

of hair at the back of his head, of a sallow complexion and the most

benign appearance. His eyes, very large and covered by heavy lids, were

half-closed to look at the crowd, while at the same time he raised his

sharp nose, and forced a smile upon his sunken mouth. He recognised the

mayor by his scarf, and explained to him that the prefect was not able

to come. He himself was a councillor at the prefecture; then he added

a few apologies. Monsieur Tuvache answered them with compliments; the

other confessed himself nervous; and they remained thus, face to face,

their foreheads almost touching, with the members of the jury all round,

the municipal council, the notable personages, the National Guard and

the crowd. The councillor pressing his little cocked hat to his

breast repeated his bows, while Tuvache, bent like a bow, also smiled,

stammered, tried to say something, protested his devotion to the

monarchy and the honour that was being done to Yonville.

Hippolyte, the groom from the inn, took the head of the horses from the

coachman, and, limping along with his club-foot, led them to the door

of the "Lion d'Or", where a number of peasants collected to look at the

carriage. The drum beat, the howitzer thundered, and the gentlemen one

by one mounted the platform, where they sat down in red utrecht velvet

arm-chairs that had been lent by Madame Tuvache.

All these people looked alike. Their fair flabby faces, somewhat tanned

by the sun, were the colour of sweet cider, and their puffy whiskers

emerged from stiff collars, kept up by white cravats with broad bows.

All the waist-coats were of velvet, double-breasted; all the watches

had, at the end of a long ribbon, an oval cornelian seal; everyone

rested his two hands on his thighs, carefully stretching the stride of

their trousers, whose unsponged glossy cloth shone more brilliantly than

the leather of their heavy boots.

The ladies of the company stood at the back under the vestibule between

the pillars while the common herd was opposite, standing up or sitting

on chairs. As a matter of fact, Lestiboudois had brought thither all

those that he had moved from the field, and he even kept running back

every minute to fetch others from the church. He caused such confusion

with this piece of business that one had great difficulty in getting to

the small steps of the platform.
"I think," said Monsieur Lheureux to the chemist, who was passing to his

place, "that they ought to have put up two Venetian masts with something

rather severe and rich for ornaments; it would have been a very pretty

"To be sure," replied Homais; "but what can you expect? The mayor took

everything on his own shoulders. He hasn't much taste. Poor Tuvache! and

he is even completely destitute of what is called the genius of art."

Rodolphe, meanwhile, with Madame Bovary, had gone up to the first

floor of the town hall, to the "council-room," and, as it was empty,

he declared that they could enjoy the sight there more comfortably. He

fetched three stools from the round table under the bust of the monarch,

and having carried them to one of the windows, they sat down by each

There was commotion on the platform, long whisperings, much parleying.

At last the councillor got up. They knew now that his name was Lieuvain,

and in the crowd the name was passed from one to the other. After he had

collated a few pages, and bent over them to see better, he began--
"Gentlemen! May I be permitted first of all (before addressing you on

the object of our meeting to-day, and this sentiment will, I am sure, be

shared by you all), may I be permitted, I say, to pay a tribute to the

higher administration, to the government to the monarch, gentle men, our

sovereign, to that beloved king, to whom no branch of public or private

prosperity is a matter of indifference, and who directs with a hand at

once so firm and wise the chariot of the state amid the incessant perils

of a stormy sea, knowing, moreover, how to make peace respected as well

as war, industry, commerce, agriculture, and the fine arts?"
"I ought," said Rodolphe, "to get back a little further."
"Why?" said Emma.
But at this moment the voice of the councillor rose to an extraordinary

pitch. He declaimed--

"This is no longer the time, gentlemen, when civil discord ensanguined

our public places, when the landlord, the business-man, the working-man

himself, falling asleep at night, lying down to peaceful sleep, trembled

lest he should be awakened suddenly by the noise of incendiary tocsins,

when the most subversive doctrines audaciously sapped foundations."
"Well, someone down there might see me," Rodolphe resumed, "then

I should have to invent excuses for a fortnight; and with my bad

"Oh, you are slandering yourself," said Emma.
"No! It is dreadful, I assure you."
"But, gentlemen," continued the councillor, "if, banishing from my

memory the remembrance of these sad pictures, I carry my eyes back

to the actual situation of our dear country, what do I see there?

Everywhere commerce and the arts are flourishing; everywhere new means

of communication, like so many new arteries in the body of the state,

establish within it new relations. Our great industrial centres have

recovered all their activity; religion, more consolidated, smiles in

all hearts; our ports are full, confidence is born again, and France

breathes once more!"
"Besides," added Rodolphe, "perhaps from the world's point of view they

are right."

"How so?" she asked.
"What!" said he. "Do you not know that there are souls constantly

tormented? They need by turns to dream and to act, the purest passions

and the most turbulent joys, and thus they fling themselves into all

sorts of fantasies, of follies."

Then she looked at him as one looks at a traveller who has voyaged over

strange lands, and went on--

"We have not even this distraction, we poor women!"
"A sad distraction, for happiness isn't found in it."
"But is it ever found?" she asked.
"Yes; one day it comes," he answered.
"And this is what you have understood," said the councillor.
"You, farmers, agricultural labourers! you pacific pioneers of a work

that belongs wholly to civilization! you, men of progress and morality,

you have understood, I say, that political storms are even more

redoubtable than atmospheric disturbances!"

"It comes one day," repeated Rodolphe, "one day suddenly, and when

one is despairing of it. Then the horizon expands; it is as if a voice

cried, 'It is here!' You feel the need of confiding the whole of your

life, of giving everything, sacrificing everything to this being. There

is no need for explanations; they understand one another. They have seen

each other in dreams!"

(And he looked at her.) "In fine, here it is, this treasure so sought

after, here before you. It glitters, it flashes; yet one still doubts,

one does not believe it; one remains dazzled, as if one went out iron

darkness into light."

And as he ended Rodolphe suited the action to the word. He passed his

hand over his face, like a man seized with giddiness. Then he let it

fall on Emma's. She took hers away.
"And who would be surprised at it, gentlemen? He only who is so blind,

so plunged (I do not fear to say it), so plunged in the prejudices

of another age as still to misunderstand the spirit of agricultural

populations. Where, indeed, is to be found more patriotism than in the

country, greater devotion to the public welfare, more intelligence, in a

word? And, gentlemen, I do not mean that superficial intelligence,

vain ornament of idle minds, but rather that profound and balanced

intelligence that applies itself above all else to useful objects, thus

contributing to the good of all, to the common amelioration and to

the support of the state, born of respect for law and the practice of

"Ah! again!" said Rodolphe. "Always 'duty.' I am sick of the word.

They are a lot of old blockheads in flannel vests and of old women with

foot-warmers and rosaries who constantly drone into our ears 'Duty,

duty!' Ah! by Jove! one's duty is to feel what is great, cherish the

beautiful, and not accept all the conventions of society with the

ignominy that it imposes upon us."

"Yet--yet--" objected Madame Bovary.
"No, no! Why cry out against the passions? Are they not the one

beautiful thing on the earth, the source of heroism, of enthusiasm, of

poetry, music, the arts, of everything, in a word?"
"But one must," said Emma, "to some extent bow to the opinion of the

world and accept its moral code."

"Ah! but there are two," he replied. "The small, the conventional, that

of men, that which constantly changes, that brays out so loudly, that

makes such a commotion here below, of the earth earthly, like the mass

of imbeciles you see down there. But the other, the eternal, that is

about us and above, like the landscape that surrounds us, and the blue

heavens that give us light."

Monsieur Lieuvain had just wiped his mouth with a pocket-handkerchief.

He continued--

"And what should I do here gentlemen, pointing out to you the uses

of agriculture? Who supplies our wants? Who provides our means of

subsistence? Is it not the agriculturist? The agriculturist, gentlemen,

who, sowing with laborious hand the fertile furrows of the country,

brings forth the corn, which, being ground, is made into a powder by

means of ingenious machinery, comes out thence under the name of flour,

and from there, transported to our cities, is soon delivered at the

baker's, who makes it into food for poor and rich alike. Again, is it

not the agriculturist who fattens, for our clothes, his abundant

flocks in the pastures? For how should we clothe ourselves, how nourish

ourselves, without the agriculturist? And, gentlemen, is it even

necessary to go so far for examples? Who has not frequently reflected

on all the momentous things that we get out of that modest animal, the

ornament of poultry-yards, that provides us at once with a soft pillow

for our bed, with succulent flesh for our tables, and eggs? But I should

never end if I were to enumerate one after the other all the different

products which the earth, well cultivated, like a generous mother,

lavishes upon her children. Here it is the vine, elsewhere the apple

tree for cider, there colza, farther on cheeses and flax. Gentlemen, let

us not forget flax, which has made such great strides of late years, and

to which I will more particularly call your attention."
He had no need to call it, for all the mouths of the multitude were wide

open, as if to drink in his words. Tuvache by his side listened to him

with staring eyes. Monsieur Derozerays from time to time softly closed

his eyelids, and farther on the chemist, with his son Napoleon between

his knees, put his hand behind his ear in order not to lose a syllable.

The chins of the other members of the jury went slowly up and down in

their waistcoats in sign of approval. The firemen at the foot of the

platform rested on their bayonets; and Binet, motionless, stood with

out-turned elbows, the point of his sabre in the air. Perhaps he could

hear, but certainly he could see nothing, because of the visor of his

helmet, that fell down on his nose. His lieutenant, the youngest son of

Monsieur Tuvache, had a bigger one, for his was enormous, and shook on

his head, and from it an end of his cotton scarf peeped out. He smiled

beneath it with a perfectly infantine sweetness, and his pale little

face, whence drops were running, wore an expression of enjoyment and


The square as far as the houses was crowded with people. One saw folk

leaning on their elbows at all the windows, others standing at doors,

and Justin, in front of the chemist's shop, seemed quite transfixed by

the sight of what he was looking at. In spite of the silence Monsieur

Lieuvain's voice was lost in the air. It reached you in fragments of

phrases, and interrupted here and there by the creaking of chairs in the

crowd; then you suddenly heard the long bellowing of an ox, or else the

bleating of the lambs, who answered one another at street corners. In

fact, the cowherds and shepherds had driven their beasts thus far, and

these lowed from time to time, while with their tongues they tore down

some scrap of foliage that hung above their mouths.
Rodolphe had drawn nearer to Emma, and said to her in a low voice,

speaking rapidly--

"Does not this conspiracy of the world revolt you? Is there a single

sentiment it does not condemn? The noblest instincts, the purest

sympathies are persecuted, slandered; and if at length two poor souls do

meet, all is so organised that they cannot blend together. Yet they will

make the attempt; they will flutter their wings; they will call upon

each other. Oh! no matter. Sooner or later, in six months, ten years,

they will come together, will love; for fate has decreed it, and they

are born one for the other."

His arms were folded across his knees, and thus lifting his face towards

Emma, close by her, he looked fixedly at her. She noticed in his eyes

small golden lines radiating from black pupils; she even smelt the

perfume of the pomade that made his hair glossy.

Then a faintness came over her; she recalled the Viscount who had

waltzed with her at Vaubyessard, and his beard exhaled like this air an

odour of vanilla and citron, and mechanically she half-closed her eyes

the better to breathe it in. But in making this movement, as she leant

back in her chair, she saw in the distance, right on the line of the

horizon, the old diligence, the "Hirondelle," that was slowly descending

the hill of Leux, dragging after it a long trail of dust. It was in this

yellow carriage that Leon had so often come back to her, and by this

route down there that he had gone for ever. She fancied she saw him

opposite at his windows; then all grew confused; clouds gathered; it

seemed to her that she was again turning in the waltz under the light of

the lustres on the arm of the Viscount, and that Leon was not far away,

that he was coming; and yet all the time she was conscious of the scent

of Rodolphe's head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced

through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust

of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which

suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink

in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves,

she wiped her hands, then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while

athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the

crowd and the voice of the councillor intoning his phrases. He

said--"Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of

routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism.
"Apply yourselves, above all, to the amelioration of the soil, to good

manures, to the development of the equine, bovine, ovine, and porcine

races. Let these shows be to you pacific arenas, where the victor in

leaving it will hold forth a hand to the vanquished, and will fraternise

with him in the hope of better success. And you, aged servants, humble

domestics, whose hard labour no Government up to this day has taken into

consideration, come hither to receive the reward of your silent virtues,

and be assured that the state henceforward has its eye upon you; that it

encourages you, protects you; that it will accede to your just

demands, and alleviate as much as in it lies the burden of your painful

Monsieur Lieuvain then sat down; Monsieur Derozerays got up, beginning

another speech. His was not perhaps so florid as that of the councillor,

but it recommended itself by a more direct style, that is to say, by

more special knowledge and more elevated considerations. Thus the praise

of the Government took up less space in it; religion and agriculture

more. He showed in it the relations of these two, and how they had

always contributed to civilisation. Rodolphe with Madame Bovary was

talking dreams, presentiments, magnetism. Going back to the cradle of

society, the orator painted those fierce times when men lived on acorns

in the heart of woods. Then they had left off the skins of beasts, had

put on cloth, tilled the soil, planted the vine. Was this a good, and

in this discovery was there not more of injury than of gain? Monsieur

Derozerays set himself this problem. From magnetism little by little

Rodolphe had come to affinities, and while the president was citing

Cincinnatus and his plough, Diocletian, planting his cabbages, and the

Emperors of China inaugurating the year by the sowing of seed, the

young man was explaining to the young woman that these irresistible

attractions find their cause in some previous state of existence.

"Thus we," he said, "why did we come to know one another? What chance

willed it? It was because across the infinite, like two streams that

flow but to unite; our special bents of mind had driven us towards each

And he seized her hand; she did not withdraw it.

"For good farming generally!" cried the president.
"Just now, for example, when I went to your house."
"To Monsieur Bizat of Quincampoix."
"Did I know I should accompany you?"
"Seventy francs."
"A hundred times I wished to go; and I followed you--I remained."
"And I shall remain to-night, to-morrow, all other days, all my life!"
"To Monsieur Caron of Argueil, a gold medal!"
"For I have never in the society of any other person found so complete a

"To Monsieur Bain of Givry-Saint-Martin."

"And I shall carry away with me the remembrance of you."
"For a merino ram!"
"But you will forget me; I shall pass away like a shadow."
"To Monsieur Belot of Notre-Dame."
"Oh, no! I shall be something in your thought, in your life, shall I

"Porcine race; prizes--equal, to Messrs. Leherisse and Cullembourg,

sixty francs!"
Rodolphe was pressing her hand, and he felt it all warm and quivering

like a captive dove that wants to fly away; but, whether she was trying

to take it away or whether she was answering his pressure; she made a

movement with her fingers. He exclaimed--

"Oh, I thank you! You do not repulse me! You are good! You understand

that I am yours! Let me look at you; let me contemplate you!"

A gust of wind that blew in at the window ruffled the cloth on the

table, and in the square below all the great caps of the peasant women

were uplifted by it like the wings of white butterflies fluttering.
"Use of oil-cakes," continued the president. He was hurrying on:

"Flemish manure-flax-growing-drainage-long leases-domestic service."

Rodolphe was no longer speaking. They looked at one another. A supreme

desire made their dry lips tremble, and wearily, without an effort,

their fingers intertwined.
"Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux, of Sassetot-la-Guerriere, for

fifty-four years of service at the same farm, a silver medal--value,

twenty-five francs!"
"Where is Catherine Leroux?" repeated the councillor.
She did not present herself, and one could hear voices whispering--
"Go up!"
"Don't be afraid!"
"Oh, how stupid she is!"
"Well, is she there?" cried Tuvache.
"Yes; here she is."
"Then let her come up!"

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