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
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
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.
"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.