Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Then there came forward on the platform a little old woman with timid

bearing, who seemed to shrink within her poor clothes. On her feet she

wore heavy wooden clogs, and from her hips hung a large blue apron. Her

pale face framed in a borderless cap was more wrinkled than a withered

russet apple. And from the sleeves of her red jacket looked out two

large hands with knotty joints, the dust of barns, the potash of washing

the grease of wools had so encrusted, roughened, hardened these that

they seemed dirty, although they had been rinsed in clear water; and

by dint of long service they remained half open, as if to bear humble

witness for themselves of so much suffering endured. Something of

monastic rigidity dignified her face. Nothing of sadness or of emotion

weakened that pale look. In her constant living with animals she had

caught their dumbness and their calm. It was the first time that she

found herself in the midst of so large a company, and inwardly scared by

the flags, the drums, the gentlemen in frock-coats, and the order of the

councillor, she stood motionless, not knowing whether to advance or run

away, nor why the crowd was pushing her and the jury were smiling at

Thus stood before these radiant bourgeois this half-century of

"Approach, venerable Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux!" said the

councillor, who had taken the list of prize-winners from the president;

and, looking at the piece of paper and the old woman by turns, he

repeated in a fatherly tone--"Approach! approach!"

"Are you deaf?" said Tuvache, fidgeting in his armchair; and he began

shouting in her ear, "Fifty-four years of service. A silver medal!

Twenty-five francs! For you!"
Then, when she had her medal, she looked at it, and a smile of beatitude

spread over her face; and as she walked away they could hear her

muttering "I'll give it to our cure up home, to say some masses for me!"
"What fanaticism!" exclaimed the chemist, leaning across to the notary.
The meeting was over, the crowd dispersed, and now that the speeches had

been read, each one fell back into his place again, and everything into

the old grooves; the masters bullied the servants, and these struck the

animals, indolent victors, going back to the stalls, a green-crown on

their horns.
The National Guards, however, had gone up to the first floor of the

town hall with buns spitted on their bayonets, and the drummer of the

battalion carried a basket with bottles. Madame Bovary took Rodolphe's

arm; he saw her home; they separated at her door; then he walked about

alone in the meadow while he waited for the time of the banquet.
The feast was long, noisy, ill served; the guests were so crowded that

they could hardly move their elbows; and the narrow planks used for

forms almost broke down under their weight. They ate hugely. Each one

stuffed himself on his own account. Sweat stood on every brow, and a

whitish steam, like the vapour of a stream on an autumn morning, floated

above the table between the hanging lamps. Rodolphe, leaning against

the calico of the tent was thinking so earnestly of Emma that he heard

nothing. Behind him on the grass the servants were piling up the dirty

plates, his neighbours were talking; he did not answer them; they filled

his glass, and there was silence in his thoughts in spite of the growing

noise. He was dreaming of what she had said, of the line of her lips;

her face, as in a magic mirror, shone on the plates of the shakos, the

folds of her gown fell along the walls, and days of love unrolled to all

infinity before him in the vistas of the future.

He saw her again in the evening during the fireworks, but she was with

her husband, Madame Homais, and the druggist, who was worrying about the

danger of stray rockets, and every moment he left the company to go and

give some advice to Binet.

The pyrotechnic pieces sent to Monsieur Tuvache had, through an excess

of caution, been shut up in his cellar, and so the damp powder would

not light, and the principal set piece, that was to represent a dragon

biting his tail, failed completely. Now and then a meagre Roman-candle

went off; then the gaping crowd sent up a shout that mingled with the

cry of the women, whose waists were being squeezed in the darkness. Emma

silently nestled against Charles's shoulder; then, raising her chin, she

watched the luminous rays of the rockets against the dark sky. Rodolphe

gazed at her in the light of the burning lanterns.
They went out one by one. The stars shone out. A few crops of rain began

to fall. She knotted her fichu round her bare head.

At this moment the councillor's carriage came out from the inn.
His coachman, who was drunk, suddenly dozed off, and one could see from

the distance, above the hood, between the two lanterns, the mass of his

body, that swayed from right to left with the giving of the traces.
"Truly," said the druggist, "one ought to proceed most rigorously

against drunkenness! I should like to see written up weekly at the door

of the town hall on a board ad hoc* the names of all those who during

the week got intoxicated on alcohol. Besides, with regard to statistics,

one would thus have, as it were, public records that one could refer to

in case of need. But excuse me!"

*Specifically for that.
And he once more ran off to the captain. The latter was going back to

see his lathe again.

"Perhaps you would not do ill," Homais said to him, "to send one of your

men, or to go yourself--"

"Leave me alone!" answered the tax-collector. "It's all right!"
"Do not be uneasy," said the druggist, when he returned to his friends.

"Monsieur Binet has assured me that all precautions have been taken. No

sparks have fallen; the pumps are full. Let us go to rest."
"Ma foi! I want it," said Madame Homais, yawning at large. "But never

mind; we've had a beautiful day for our fete."

Rodolphe repeated in a low voice, and with a tender look, "Oh, yes! very


And having bowed to one another, they separated.
Two days later, in the "Final de Rouen," there was a long article on the

show. Homais had composed it with verve the very next morning.

"Why these festoons, these flowers, these garlands? Whither hurries this

crowd like the waves of a furious sea under the torrents of a tropical

sun pouring its heat upon our heads?"
Then he spoke of the condition of the peasants. Certainly the Government

was doing much, but not enough. "Courage!" he cried to it; "a thousand

reforms are indispensable; let us accomplish them!" Then touching on

the entry of the councillor, he did not forget "the martial air of our

militia;" nor "our most merry village maidens;" nor the "bald-headed old

men like patriarchs who were there, and of whom some, the remnants of

our phalanxes, still felt their hearts beat at the manly sound of the

drums." He cited himself among the first of the members of the jury,

and he even called attention in a note to the fact that Monsieur Homais,

chemist, had sent a memoir on cider to the agricultural society.

When he came to the distribution of the prizes, he painted the joy of

the prize-winners in dithyrambic strophes. "The father embraced the son,

the brother the brother, the husband his consort. More than one showed

his humble medal with pride; and no doubt when he got home to his good

housewife, he hung it up weeping on the modest walls of his cot.
"About six o'clock a banquet prepared in the meadow of Monsieur Leigeard

brought together the principal personages of the fete. The greatest

cordiality reigned here. Divers toasts were proposed: Monsieur

Lieuvain, the King; Monsieur Tuvache, the Prefect; Monsieur Derozerays,

Agriculture; Monsieur Homais, Industry and the Fine Arts, those twin

sisters; Monsieur Leplichey, Progress. In the evening some brilliant

fireworks on a sudden illumined the air. One would have called it a

veritable kaleidoscope, a real operatic scene; and for a moment our

little locality might have thought itself transported into the midst of

a dream of the 'Thousand and One Nights.' Let us state that no untoward

event disturbed this family meeting." And he added "Only the absence

of the clergy was remarked. No doubt the priests understand progress in

another fashion. Just as you please, messieurs the followers of Loyola!"

Chapter Nine

Six weeks passed. Rodolphe did not come again. At last one evening he


The day after the show he had said to himself--"We mustn't go back too

soon; that would be a mistake."

And at the end of a week he had gone off hunting. After the hunting he

had thought it was too late, and then he reasoned thus--

"If from the first day she loved me, she must from impatience to see me

again love me more. Let's go on with it!"

And he knew that his calculation had been right when, on entering the

room, he saw Emma turn pale.

She was alone. The day was drawing in. The small muslin curtain along

the windows deepened the twilight, and the gilding of the barometer, on

which the rays of the sun fell, shone in the looking-glass between the

meshes of the coral.

Rodolphe remained standing, and Emma hardly answered his first

conventional phrases.

"I," he said, "have been busy. I have been ill."
"Seriously?" she cried.
"Well," said Rodolphe, sitting down at her side on a footstool, "no; it

was because I did not want to come back."

"Can you not guess?"
He looked at her again, but so hard that she lowered her head, blushing.

He went on--

"Sir," she said, drawing back a little.
"Ah! you see," replied he in a melancholy voice, "that I was right not

to come back; for this name, this name that fills my whole soul, and

that escaped me, you forbid me to use! Madame Bovary! why all the

world calls you thus! Besides, it is not your name; it is the name of

He repeated, "of another!" And he hid his face in his hands.
"Yes, I think of you constantly. The memory of you drives me to despair.

Ah! forgive me! I will leave you! Farewell! I will go far away, so far

that you will never hear of me again; and yet--to-day--I know not what

force impelled me towards you. For one does not struggle against Heaven;

one cannot resist the smile of angels; one is carried away by that which

is beautiful, charming, adorable."

It was the first time that Emma had heard such words spoken to herself,

and her pride, like one who reposes bathed in warmth, expanded softly

and fully at this glowing language.
"But if I did not come," he continued, "if I could not see you, at least

I have gazed long on all that surrounds you. At night-every night-I

arose; I came hither; I watched your house, its glimmering in the moon,

the trees in the garden swaying before your window, and the little lamp,

a gleam shining through the window-panes in the darkness. Ah! you never

knew that there, so near you, so far from you, was a poor wretch!"

She turned towards him with a sob.
"Oh, you are good!" she said.
"No, I love you, that is all! You do not doubt that! Tell me--one

word--only one word!"

And Rodolphe imperceptibly glided from the footstool to the ground; but

a sound of wooden shoes was heard in the kitchen, and he noticed the

door of the room was not closed.
"How kind it would be of you," he went on, rising, "if you would humour

a whim of mine." It was to go over her house; he wanted to know it; and

Madame Bovary seeing no objection to this, they both rose, when Charles

came in.
"Good morning, doctor," Rodolphe said to him.

The doctor, flattered at this unexpected title, launched out into

obsequious phrases. Of this the other took advantage to pull himself

together a little.
"Madame was speaking to me," he then said, "about her health."
Charles interrupted him; he had indeed a thousand anxieties; his wife's

palpitations of the heart were beginning again. Then Rodolphe asked if

riding would not be good.
"Certainly! excellent! just the thing! There's an idea! You ought to

follow it up."

And as she objected that she had no horse, Monsieur Rodolphe offered

one. She refused his offer; he did not insist. Then to explain his visit

he said that his ploughman, the man of the blood-letting, still suffered

from giddiness.

"I'll call around," said Bovary.
"No, no! I'll send him to you; we'll come; that will be more convenient

for you."

"Ah! very good! I thank you."
And as soon as they were alone, "Why don't you accept Monsieur

Boulanger's kind offer?"

She assumed a sulky air, invented a thousand excuses, and finally

declared that perhaps it would look odd.

"Well, what the deuce do I care for that?" said Charles, making a

pirouette. "Health before everything! You are wrong."

"And how do you think I can ride when I haven't got a habit?"
"You must order one," he answered.
The riding-habit decided her.
When the habit was ready, Charles wrote to Monsieur Boulanger that his

wife was at his command, and that they counted on his good-nature.

The next day at noon Rodolphe appeared at Charles's door with two

saddle-horses. One had pink rosettes at his ears and a deerskin

Rodolphe had put on high soft boots, saying to himself that no doubt she

had never seen anything like them. In fact, Emma was charmed with his

appearance as he stood on the landing in his great velvet coat and white

corduroy breeches. She was ready; she was waiting for him.

Justin escaped from the chemist's to see her start, and the chemist also

came out. He was giving Monsieur Boulanger a little good advice.

"An accident happens so easily. Be careful! Your horses perhaps are


She heard a noise above her; it was Felicite drumming on the windowpanes

to amuse little Berthe. The child blew her a kiss; her mother answered

with a wave of her whip.
"A pleasant ride!" cried Monsieur Homais. "Prudence! above all,

prudence!" And he flourished his newspaper as he saw them disappear.

As soon as he felt the ground, Emma's horse set off at a gallop.
Rodolphe galloped by her side. Now and then they exchanged a word. Her

figure slightly bent, her hand well up, and her right arm stretched out,

she gave herself up to the cadence of the movement that rocked her in

her saddle. At the bottom of the hill Rodolphe gave his horse its head;

they started together at a bound, then at the top suddenly the horses

stopped, and her large blue veil fell about her.

It was early in October. There was fog over the land. Hazy clouds

hovered on the horizon between the outlines of the hills; others, rent

asunder, floated up and disappeared. Sometimes through a rift in the

clouds, beneath a ray of sunshine, gleamed from afar the roots of

Yonville, with the gardens at the water's edge, the yards, the walls and

the church steeple. Emma half closed her eyes to pick out her house, and

never had this poor village where she lived appeared so small. From the

height on which they were the whole valley seemed an immense pale lake

sending off its vapour into the air. Clumps of trees here and there

stood out like black rocks, and the tall lines of the poplars that rose

above the mist were like a beach stirred by the wind.
By the side, on the turf between the pines, a brown light shimmered

in the warm atmosphere. The earth, ruddy like the powder of tobacco,

deadened the noise of their steps, and with the edge of their shoes the

horses as they walked kicked the fallen fir cones in front of them.

Rodolphe and Emma thus went along the skirt of the wood. She turned

away from time to time to avoid his look, and then she saw only the pine

trunks in lines, whose monotonous succession made her a little giddy.

The horses were panting; the leather of the saddles creaked.

Just as they were entering the forest the sun shone out.
"God protects us!" said Rodolphe.
"Do you think so?" she said.
"Forward! forward!" he continued.
He "tchk'd" with his tongue. The two beasts set off at a trot.
Long ferns by the roadside caught in Emma's stirrup.
Rodolphe leant forward and removed them as they rode along. At other

times, to turn aside the branches, he passed close to her, and Emma felt

his knee brushing against her leg. The sky was now blue, the leaves no

longer stirred. There were spaces full of heather in flower, and plots

of violets alternated with the confused patches of the trees that were

grey, fawn, or golden coloured, according to the nature of their leaves.

Often in the thicket was heard the fluttering of wings, or else the

hoarse, soft cry of the ravens flying off amidst the oaks.

They dismounted. Rodolphe fastened up the horses. She walked on in

front on the moss between the paths. But her long habit got in her way,

although she held it up by the skirt; and Rodolphe, walking behind her,

saw between the black cloth and the black shoe the fineness of her white

stocking, that seemed to him as if it were a part of her nakedness.
She stopped. "I am tired," she said.
"Come, try again," he went on. "Courage!"
Then some hundred paces farther on she again stopped, and through her

veil, that fell sideways from her man's hat over her hips, her face

appeared in a bluish transparency as if she were floating under azure

"But where are we going?"

He did not answer. She was breathing irregularly. Rodolphe looked round

him biting his moustache. They came to a larger space where the coppice

had been cut. They sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree, and Rodolphe

began speaking to her of his love. He did not begin by frightening her

with compliments. He was calm, serious, melancholy.
Emma listened to him with bowed head, and stirred the bits of wood on

the ground with the tip of her foot. But at the words, "Are not our

destinies now one?"
"Oh, no!" she replied. "You know that well. It is impossible!" She rose

to go. He seized her by the wrist. She stopped. Then, having gazed

at him for a few moments with an amorous and humid look, she said


"Ah! do not speak of it again! Where are the horses? Let us go back."
He made a gesture of anger and annoyance. She repeated:
"Where are the horses? Where are the horses?"
Then smiling a strange smile, his pupil fixed, his teeth set, he

advanced with outstretched arms. She recoiled trembling. She stammered:

"Oh, you frighten me! You hurt me! Let me go!"
"If it must be," he went on, his face changing; and he again became

respectful, caressing, timid. She gave him her arm. They went back. He

"What was the matter with you? Why? I do not understand. You were

mistaken, no doubt. In my soul you are as a Madonna on a pedestal, in

a place lofty, secure, immaculate. But I need you to live! I must have

your eyes, your voice, your thought! Be my friend, my sister, my angel!"

And he put out his arm round her waist. She feebly tried to disengage

herself. He supported her thus as they walked along.

But they heard the two horses browsing on the leaves.
"Oh! one moment!" said Rodolphe. "Do not let us go! Stay!"
He drew her farther on to a small pool where duckweeds made a greenness

on the water. Faded water lilies lay motionless between the reeds.

At the noise of their steps in the grass, frogs jumped away to hide


"I am wrong! I am wrong!" she said. "I am mad to listen to you!"
"Why? Emma! Emma!"
"Oh, Rodolphe!" said the young woman slowly, leaning on his shoulder.
The cloth of her habit caught against the velvet of his coat. She threw

back her white neck, swelling with a sigh, and faltering, in tears, with

a long shudder and hiding her face, she gave herself up to him--
The shades of night were falling; the horizontal sun passing between the

branches dazzled the eyes. Here and there around her, in the leaves

or on the ground, trembled luminous patches, as it hummingbirds flying

about had scattered their feathers. Silence was everywhere; something

sweet seemed to come forth from the trees; she felt her heart, whose

beating had begun again, and the blood coursing through her flesh like a

stream of milk. Then far away, beyond the wood, on the other hills, she

heard a vague prolonged cry, a voice which lingered, and in silence she

heard it mingling like music with the last pulsations of her throbbing

nerves. Rodolphe, a cigar between his lips, was mending with his

penknife one of the two broken bridles.
They returned to Yonville by the same road. On the mud they saw again

the traces of their horses side by side, the same thickets, the same

stones to the grass; nothing around them seemed changed; and yet for her

something had happened more stupendous than if the mountains had moved

in their places. Rodolphe now and again bent forward and took her hand

to kiss it.

She was charming on horseback--upright, with her slender waist, her knee

bent on the mane of her horse, her face somewhat flushed by the fresh

air in the red of the evening.
On entering Yonville she made her horse prance in the road. People

looked at her from the windows.

At dinner her husband thought she looked well, but she pretended not to

hear him when he inquired about her ride, and she remained sitting there

with her elbow at the side of her plate between the two lighted candles.
"Emma!" he said.
"Well, I spent the afternoon at Monsieur Alexandre's. He has an old cob,

still very fine, only a little broken-kneed, and that could be bought; I

am sure, for a hundred crowns." He added, "And thinking it might please

you, I have bespoken it--bought it. Have I done right? Do tell me?"

She nodded her head in assent; then a quarter of an hour later--
"Are you going out to-night?" she asked.
"Yes. Why?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing, my dear!"
And as soon as she had got rid of Charles she went and shut herself up

in her room.

At first she felt stunned; she saw the trees, the paths, the ditches,

Rodolphe, and she again felt the pressure of his arm, while the leaves

rustled and the reeds whistled.
But when she saw herself in the glass she wondered at her face. Never

had her eyes been so large, so black, of so profound a depth. Something

subtle about her being transfigured her. She repeated, "I have a lover!

a lover!" delighting at the idea as if a second puberty had come to her.

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