"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,
"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.
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
"How so?" she asked.
"What!" said he. "Do you not know that there are souls constantly
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.
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?"
"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,
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:
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,
"Where is Catherine Leroux?" repeated the councillor.
She did not present herself, and one could hear voices whispering--
"Don't be afraid!"
"Oh, how stupid she is!"
"Well, is she there?" cried Tuvache.
"Yes; here she is."
"Then let her come up!"