Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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holding his head between both hands, plunged into the reading of it.
While he was studying equinus, varus, and valgus, that is to say,

katastrephopody, endostrephopody, and exostrephopody (or better, the

various turnings of the foot downwards, inwards, and outwards, with the

hypostrephopody and anastrephopody), otherwise torsion downwards and

upwards, Monsier Homais, with all sorts of arguments, was exhorting the

lad at the inn to submit to the operation.

"You will scarcely feel, probably, a slight pain; it is a simple prick,

like a little blood-letting, less than the extraction of certain corns."

Hippolyte, reflecting, rolled his stupid eyes.
"However," continued the chemist, "it doesn't concern me. It's for your

sake, for pure humanity! I should like to see you, my friend, rid of

your hideous caudication, together with that waddling of the lumbar

regions which, whatever you say, must considerably interfere with you in

the exercise of your calling."
Then Homais represented to him how much jollier and brisker he would

feel afterwards, and even gave him to understand that he would be more

likely to please the women; and the stable-boy began to smile heavily.

Then he attacked him through his vanity:

"Aren't you a man? Hang it! what would you have done if you had had to

go into the army, to go and fight beneath the standard? Ah! Hippolyte!"

And Homais retired, declaring that he could not understand this

obstinacy, this blindness in refusing the benefactions of science.

The poor fellow gave way, for it was like a conspiracy. Binet, who never

interfered with other people's business, Madame Lefrancois, Artemise,

the neighbours, even the mayor, Monsieur Tuvache--everyone persuaded

him, lectured him, shamed him; but what finally decided him was that it

would cost him nothing. Bovary even undertook to provide the machine

for the operation. This generosity was an idea of Emma's, and Charles

consented to it, thinking in his heart of hearts that his wife was an

So by the advice of the chemist, and after three fresh starts, he had a

kind of box made by the carpenter, with the aid of the locksmith,

that weighed about eight pounds, and in which iron, wood, sheer-iron,

leather, screws, and nuts had not been spared.
But to know which of Hippolyte's tendons to cut, it was necessary first

of all to find out what kind of club-foot he had.

He had a foot forming almost a straight line with the leg, which,

however, did not prevent it from being turned in, so that it was an

equinus together with something of a varus, or else a slight varus with

a strong tendency to equinus. But with this equinus, wide in foot like

a horse's hoof, with rugose skin, dry tendons, and large toes, on which

the black nails looked as if made of iron, the clubfoot ran about like

a deer from morn till night. He was constantly to be seen on the Place,

jumping round the carts, thrusting his limping foot forwards. He seemed

even stronger on that leg than the other. By dint of hard service it had

acquired, as it were, moral qualities of patience and energy; and

when he was given some heavy work, he stood on it in preference to its

Now, as it was an equinus, it was necessary to cut the tendon of

Achilles, and, if need were, the anterior tibial muscle could be seen to

afterwards for getting rid of the varus; for the doctor did not dare to

risk both operations at once; he was even trembling already for fear of

injuring some important region that he did not know.

Neither Ambrose Pare, applying for the first time since Celsus, after an

interval of fifteen centuries, a ligature to an artery, nor Dupuytren,

about to open an abscess in the brain, nor Gensoul when he first took

away the superior maxilla, had hearts that trembled, hands that shook,

minds so strained as Monsieur Bovary when he approached Hippolyte, his

tenotome between his fingers. And as at hospitals, near by on a table

lay a heap of lint, with waxed thread, many bandages--a pyramid of

bandages--every bandage to be found at the druggist's. It was Monsieur

Homais who since morning had been organising all these preparations,

as much to dazzle the multitude as to keep up his illusions. Charles

pierced the skin; a dry crackling was heard. The tendon was cut, the

operation over. Hippolyte could not get over his surprise, but bent over

Bovary's hands to cover them with kisses.
"Come, be calm," said the druggist; "later on you will show your

gratitude to your benefactor."

And he went down to tell the result to five or six inquirers who were

waiting in the yard, and who fancied that Hippolyte would reappear

walking properly. Then Charles, having buckled his patient into the

machine, went home, where Emma, all anxiety, awaited him at the door.

She threw herself on his neck; they sat down to table; he ate much,

and at dessert he even wanted to take a cup of coffee, a luxury he only

permitted himself on Sundays when there was company.
The evening was charming, full of prattle, of dreams together. They

talked about their future fortune, of the improvements to be made in

their house; he saw people's estimation of him growing, his comforts

increasing, his wife always loving him; and she was happy to refresh

herself with a new sentiment, healthier, better, to feel at last some

tenderness for this poor fellow who adored her. The thought of Rodolphe

for one moment passed through her mind, but her eyes turned again to

Charles; she even noticed with surprise that he had not bad teeth.

They were in bed when Monsieur Homais, in spite of the servant, suddenly

entered the room, holding in his hand a sheet of paper just written. It

was the paragraph he intended for the "Fanal de Rouen." He brought it

for them to read.

"Read it yourself," said Bovary.
He read--
"'Despite the prejudices that still invest a part of the face of Europe

like a net, the light nevertheless begins to penetrate our country

places. Thus on Tuesday our little town of Yonville found itself the

scene of a surgical operation which is at the same time an act of

loftiest philanthropy. Monsieur Bovary, one of our most distinguished


"Oh, that is too much! too much!" said Charles, choking with emotion.
"No, no! not at all! What next!"
"'--Performed an operation on a club-footed man.' I have not used the

scientific term, because you know in a newspaper everyone would not

perhaps understand. The masses must--'"
"No doubt," said Bovary; "go on!"
"I proceed," said the chemist. "'Monsieur Bovary, one of our most

distinguished practitioners, performed an operation on a club-footed man

called Hippolyte Tautain, stableman for the last twenty-five years at

the hotel of the "Lion d'Or," kept by Widow Lefrancois, at the Place

d'Armes. The novelty of the attempt, and the interest incident to the

subject, had attracted such a concourse of persons that there was

a veritable obstruction on the threshold of the establishment. The

operation, moreover, was performed as if by magic, and barely a

few drops of blood appeared on the skin, as though to say that the

rebellious tendon had at last given way beneath the efforts of art. The

patient, strangely enough--we affirm it as an eye-witness--complained

of no pain. His condition up to the present time leaves nothing to be

desired. Everything tends to show that his convelescence will be brief;

and who knows even if at our next village festivity we shall not see our

good Hippolyte figuring in the bacchic dance in the midst of a chorus

of joyous boon-companions, and thus proving to all eyes by his verve

and his capers his complete cure? Honour, then, to the generous savants!

Honour to those indefatigable spirits who consecrate their vigils to the

amelioration or to the alleviation of their kind! Honour, thrice honour!

Is it not time to cry that the blind shall see, the deaf hear, the lame

walk? But that which fanaticism formerly promised to its elect, science

now accomplishes for all men. We shall keep our readers informed as to

the successive phases of this remarkable cure.'"
This did not prevent Mere Lefrancois, from coming five days after,

scared, and crying out--

"Help! he is dying! I am going crazy!"
Charles rushed to the "Lion d'Or," and the chemist, who caught sight

of him passing along the Place hatless, abandoned his shop. He appeared

himself breathless, red, anxious, and asking everyone who was going up

the stairs--

"Why, what's the matter with our interesting strephopode?"
The strephopode was writhing in hideous convulsions, so that the machine

in which his leg was enclosed was knocked against the wall enough to

break it.
With many precautions, in order not to disturb the position of the limb,

the box was removed, and an awful sight presented itself. The outlines

of the foot disappeared in such a swelling that the entire skin seemed

about to burst, and it was covered with ecchymosis, caused by the famous

machine. Hippolyte had already complained of suffering from it. No

attention had been paid to him; they had to acknowledge that he had not

been altogether wrong, and he was freed for a few hours. But, hardly had

the oedema gone down to some extent, than the two savants thought fit

to put back the limb in the apparatus, strapping it tighter to hasten

matters. At last, three days after, Hippolyte being unable to endure it

any longer, they once more removed the machine, and were much surprised

at the result they saw. The livid tumefaction spread over the leg, with

blisters here and there, whence there oozed a black liquid. Matters

were taking a serious turn. Hippolyte began to worry himself, and Mere

Lefrancois, had him installed in the little room near the kitchen, so

that he might at least have some distraction.

But the tax-collector, who dined there every day, complained bitterly of

such companionship. Then Hippolyte was removed to the billiard-room.

He lay there moaning under his heavy coverings, pale with long beard,

sunken eyes, and from time to time turning his perspiring head on the

dirty pillow, where the flies alighted. Madame Bovary went to see him.

She brought him linen for his poultices; she comforted, and encouraged

him. Besides, he did not want for company, especially on market-days,

when the peasants were knocking about the billiard-balls round him,

fenced with the cues, smoked, drank, sang, and brawled.
"How are you?" they said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Ah! you're not

up to much, it seems, but it's your own fault. You should do this! do

that!" And then they told him stories of people who had all been cured

by other remedies than his. Then by way of consolation they added--

"You give way too much! Get up! You coddle yourself like a king! All the

same, old chap, you don't smell nice!"

Gangrene, in fact, was spreading more and more. Bovary himself turned

sick at it. He came every hour, every moment. Hippolyte looked at him

with eyes full of terror, sobbing--
"When shall I get well? Oh, save me! How unfortunate I am! How

unfortunate I am!"

And the doctor left, always recommending him to diet himself.
"Don't listen to him, my lad," said Mere Lefrancois, "Haven't they

tortured you enough already? You'll grow still weaker. Here! swallow

And she gave him some good beef-tea, a slice of mutton, a piece of

bacon, and sometimes small glasses of brandy, that he had not the

strength to put to his lips.
Abbe Bournisien, hearing that he was growing worse, asked to see him.

He began by pitying his sufferings, declaring at the same time that he

ought to rejoice at them since it was the will of the Lord, and take

advantage of the occasion to reconcile himself to Heaven.

"For," said the ecclesiastic in a paternal tone, "you rather neglected

your duties; you were rarely seen at divine worship. How many years is

it since you approached the holy table? I understand that your work,

that the whirl of the world may have kept you from care for your

salvation. But now is the time to reflect. Yet don't despair. I have

known great sinners, who, about to appear before God (you are not yet

at this point I know), had implored His mercy, and who certainly died in

the best frame of mind. Let us hope that, like them, you will set us a

good example. Thus, as a precaution, what is to prevent you from saying

morning and evening a 'Hail Mary, full of grace,' and 'Our Father which

art in heaven'? Yes, do that, for my sake, to oblige me. That won't cost

you anything. Will you promise me?"

The poor devil promised. The cure came back day after day. He chatted

with the landlady; and even told anecdotes interspersed with jokes and

puns that Hippolyte did not understand. Then, as soon as he could, he

fell back upon matters of religion, putting on an appropriate expression

of face.
His zeal seemed successful, for the club-foot soon manifested a desire

to go on a pilgrimage to Bon-Secours if he were cured; to which Monsieur

Bournisien replied that he saw no objection; two precautions were better

than one; it was no risk anyhow.

The druggist was indignant at what he called the manoeuvres of the

priest; they were prejudicial, he said, to Hippolyte's convalescence,

and he kept repeating to Madame Lefrancois, "Leave him alone! leave him

alone! You perturb his morals with your mysticism." But the good woman

would no longer listen to him; he was the cause of it all. From a spirit

of contradiction she hung up near the bedside of the patient a basin

filled with holy-water and a branch of box.
Religion, however, seemed no more able to succour him than surgery, and

the invincible gangrene still spread from the extremities towards

the stomach. It was all very well to vary the potions and change the

poultices; the muscles each day rotted more and more; and at last

Charles replied by an affirmative nod of the head when Mere Lefrancois,

asked him if she could not, as a forlorn hope, send for Monsieur Canivet

of Neufchatel, who was a celebrity.
A doctor of medicine, fifty years of age, enjoying a good position

and self-possessed, Charles's colleague did not refrain from laughing

disdainfully when he had uncovered the leg, mortified to the knee. Then

having flatly declared that it must be amputated, he went off to the

chemist's to rail at the asses who could have reduced a poor man to such

a state. Shaking Monsieur Homais by the button of his coat, he shouted

out in the shop--
"These are the inventions of Paris! These are the ideas of those gentry

of the capital! It is like strabismus, chloroform, lithotrity, a heap of

monstrosities that the Government ought to prohibit. But they want to do

the clever, and they cram you with remedies without, troubling about

the consequences. We are not so clever, not we! We are not savants,

coxcombs, fops! We are practitioners; we cure people, and we should

not dream of operating on anyone who is in perfect health. Straighten

club-feet! As if one could straighten club-feet! It is as if one wished,

for example, to make a hunchback straight!"
Homais suffered as he listened to this discourse, and he concealed his

discomfort beneath a courtier's smile; for he needed to humour Monsier

Canivet, whose prescriptions sometimes came as far as Yonville. So he

did not take up the defence of Bovary; he did not even make a single

remark, and, renouncing his principles, he sacrificed his dignity to the

more serious interests of his business.

This amputation of the thigh by Doctor Canivet was a great event in the

village. On that day all the inhabitants got up earlier, and the Grande

Rue, although full of people, had something lugubrious about it, as

if an execution had been expected. At the grocer's they discussed

Hippolyte's illness; the shops did no business, and Madame Tuvache, the

mayor's wife, did not stir from her window, such was her impatience to

see the operator arrive.
He came in his gig, which he drove himself. But the springs of the right

side having at length given way beneath the weight of his corpulence, it

happened that the carriage as it rolled along leaned over a little, and

on the other cushion near him could be seen a large box covered in red

sheep-leather, whose three brass clasps shone grandly.
After he had entered like a whirlwind the porch of the "Lion d'Or," the

doctor, shouting very loud, ordered them to unharness his horse. Then he

went into the stable to see that he was eating his oats all right; for

on arriving at a patient's he first of all looked after his mare and his

gig. People even said about this--
"Ah! Monsieur Canivet's a character!"
And he was the more esteemed for this imperturbable coolness. The

universe to the last man might have died, and he would not have missed

the smallest of his habits.
Homais presented himself.
"I count on you," said the doctor. "Are we ready? Come along!"
But the druggist, turning red, confessed that he was too sensitive to

assist at such an operation.

"When one is a simple spectator," he said, "the imagination, you know,

is impressed. And then I have such a nervous system!"

"Pshaw!" interrupted Canivet; "on the contrary, you seem to me inclined

to apoplexy. Besides, that doesn't astonish me, for you chemist fellows

are always poking about your kitchens, which must end by spoiling your

constitutions. Now just look at me. I get up every day at four o'clock;

I shave with cold water (and am never cold). I don't wear flannels, and

I never catch cold; my carcass is good enough! I live now in one way,

now in another, like a philosopher, taking pot-luck; that is why I

am not squeamish like you, and it is as indifferent to me to carve a

Christian as the first fowl that turns up. Then, perhaps, you will say,

habit! habit!"

Then, without any consideration for Hippolyte, who was sweating with

agony between his sheets, these gentlemen entered into a conversation,

in which the druggist compared the coolness of a surgeon to that of a

general; and this comparison was pleasing to Canivet, who launched out

on the exigencies of his art. He looked upon, it as a sacred office,

although the ordinary practitioners dishonoured it. At last, coming back

to the patient, he examined the bandages brought by Homais, the same

that had appeared for the club-foot, and asked for someone to hold the

limb for him. Lestiboudois was sent for, and Monsieur Canivet having

turned up his sleeves, passed into the billiard-room, while the druggist

stayed with Artemise and the landlady, both whiter than their aprons,

and with ears strained towards the door.

Bovary during this time did not dare to stir from his house.
He kept downstairs in the sitting-room by the side of the fireless

chimney, his chin on his breast, his hands clasped, his eyes staring.

"What a mishap!" he thought, "what a mishap!" Perhaps, after all, he had

made some slip. He thought it over, but could hit upon nothing. But the

most famous surgeons also made mistakes; and that is what no one would

ever believe! People, on the contrary, would laugh, jeer! It would

spread as far as Forges, as Neufchatel, as Rouen, everywhere! Who could

say if his colleagues would not write against him. Polemics would ensue;

he would have to answer in the papers. Hippolyte might even prosecute

him. He saw himself dishonoured, ruined, lost; and his imagination,

assailed by a world of hypotheses, tossed amongst them like an empty

cask borne by the sea and floating upon the waves.

Emma, opposite, watched him; she did not share his humiliation; she felt

another--that of having supposed such a man was worth anything. As if

twenty times already she had not sufficiently perceived his mediocrity.
Charles was walking up and down the room; his boots creaked on the

"Sit down," she said; "you fidget me."

He sat down again.
How was it that she--she, who was so intelligent--could have allowed

herself to be deceived again? and through what deplorable madness had

she thus ruined her life by continual sacrifices? She recalled all her

instincts of luxury, all the privations of her soul, the sordidness of

marriage, of the household, her dream sinking into the mire like wounded

swallows; all that she had longed for, all that she had denied herself,

all that she might have had! And for what? for what?
In the midst of the silence that hung over the village a heart-rending

cry rose on the air. Bovary turned white to fainting. She knit her

brows with a nervous gesture, then went on. And it was for him, for this

creature, for this man, who understood nothing, who felt nothing! For he

was there quite quiet, not even suspecting that the ridicule of his name

would henceforth sully hers as well as his. She had made efforts to love

him, and she had repented with tears for having yielded to another!
"But it was perhaps a valgus!" suddenly exclaimed Bovary, who was


At the unexpected shock of this phrase falling on her thought like a

leaden bullet on a silver plate, Emma, shuddering, raised her head in

order to find out what he meant to say; and they looked at the other in

silence, almost amazed to see each other, so far sundered were they

by their inner thoughts. Charles gazed at her with the dull look of

a drunken man, while he listened motionless to the last cries of the

sufferer, that followed each other in long-drawn modulations, broken by

sharp spasms like the far-off howling of some beast being slaughtered.

Emma bit her wan lips, and rolling between her fingers a piece of coral

that she had broken, fixed on Charles the burning glance of her eyes

like two arrows of fire about to dart forth. Everything in him irritated

her now; his face, his dress, what he did not say, his whole person, his

existence, in fine. She repented of her past virtue as of a crime, and

what still remained of it rumbled away beneath the furious blows of her

pride. She revelled in all the evil ironies of triumphant adultery.

The memory of her lover came back to her with dazzling attractions; she

threw her whole soul into it, borne away towards this image with a fresh

enthusiasm; and Charles seemed to her as much removed from her life, as

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