Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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would have any suspicion. And in all this there never was any allusion

to the child. Rodolphe avoided speaking of her; perhaps he no longer

thought about it.

He wished to have two more weeks before him to arrange some affairs;

then at the end of a week he wanted two more; then he said he was ill;

next he went on a journey. The month of August passed, and, after all

these delays, they decided that it was to be irrevocably fixed for the

4th September--a Monday.
At length the Saturday before arrived.
Rodolphe came in the evening earlier than usual.
"Everything is ready?" she asked him.
Then they walked round a garden-bed, and went to sit down near the

terrace on the kerb-stone of the wall.

"You are sad," said Emma.
"No; why?"
And yet he looked at her strangely in a tender fashion.
"It is because you are going away?" she went on; "because you are

leaving what is dear to you--your life? Ah! I understand. I have nothing

in the world! you are all to me; so shall I be to you. I will be your

people, your country; I will tend, I will love you!"

"How sweet you are!" he said, seizing her in his arms.
"Really!" she said with a voluptuous laugh. "Do you love me? Swear it

"Do I love you--love you? I adore you, my love."

The moon, full and purple-coloured, was rising right out of the earth

at the end of the meadow. She rose quickly between the branches of the

poplars, that hid her here and there like a black curtain pierced with

holes. Then she appeared dazzling with whiteness in the empty heavens

that she lit up, and now sailing more slowly along, let fall upon the

river a great stain that broke up into an infinity of stars; and the

silver sheen seemed to writhe through the very depths like a heedless

serpent covered with luminous scales; it also resembled some monster

candelabra all along which sparkled drops of diamonds running together.

The soft night was about them; masses of shadow filled the branches.

Emma, her eyes half closed, breathed in with deep sighs the fresh wind

that was blowing. They did not speak, lost as they were in the rush of

their reverie. The tenderness of the old days came back to their hearts,

full and silent as the flowing river, with the softness of the perfume

of the syringas, and threw across their memories shadows more immense

and more sombre than those of the still willows that lengthened out over

the grass. Often some night-animal, hedgehog or weasel, setting out on

the hunt, disturbed the lovers, or sometimes they heard a ripe peach

falling all alone from the espalier.
"Ah! what a lovely night!" said Rodolphe.
"We shall have others," replied Emma; and, as if speaking to herself:

"Yet, it will be good to travel. And yet, why should my heart be

so heavy? Is it dread of the unknown? The effect of habits left? Or

rather--? No; it is the excess of happiness. How weak I am, am I not?

Forgive me!"
"There is still time!" he cried. "Reflect! perhaps you may repent!"
"Never!" she cried impetuously. And coming closer to him: "What ill

could come to me? There is no desert, no precipice, no ocean I would not

traverse with you. The longer we live together the more it will be like

an embrace, every day closer, more heart to heart. There will be

nothing to trouble us, no cares, no obstacle. We shall be alone, all to

ourselves eternally. Oh, speak! Answer me!"

At regular intervals he answered, "Yes--Yes--" She had passed her hands

through his hair, and she repeated in a childlike voice, despite the big

tears which were falling, "Rodolphe! Rodolphe! Ah! Rodolphe! dear little


Midnight struck.
"Midnight!" said she. "Come, it is to-morrow. One day more!"
He rose to go; and as if the movement he made had been the signal for

their flight, Emma said, suddenly assuming a gay air--

"You have the passports?"
"You are forgetting nothing?"
"Are you sure?"
"It is at the Hotel de Provence, is it not, that you will wait for me at

He nodded.

"Till to-morrow then!" said Emma in a last caress; and she watched him

He did not turn round. She ran after him, and, leaning over the water's

edge between the bulrushes--
"To-morrow!" she cried.
He was already on the other side of the river and walking fast across

the meadow.

After a few moments Rodolphe stopped; and when he saw her with her white

gown gradually fade away in the shade like a ghost, he was seized with

such a beating of the heart that he leant against a tree lest he should

"What an imbecile I am!" he said with a fearful oath. "No matter! She

was a pretty mistress!"
And immediately Emma's beauty, with all the pleasures of their love,

came back to him. For a moment he softened; then he rebelled against

"For, after all," he exclaimed, gesticulating, "I can't exile

myself--have a child on my hands."

He was saying these things to give himself firmness.
"And besides, the worry, the expense! Ah! no, no, no, no! a thousand

times no! That would be too stupid."

Chapter Thirteen

No sooner was Rodolphe at home than he sat down quickly at his bureau

under the stag's head that hung as a trophy on the wall. But when he had

the pen between his fingers, he could think of nothing, so that, resting

on his elbows, he began to reflect. Emma seemed to him to have receded

into a far-off past, as if the resolution he had taken had suddenly

placed a distance between them.

To get back something of her, he fetched from the cupboard at the

bedside an old Rheims biscuit-box, in which he usually kept his letters

from women, and from it came an odour of dry dust and withered

roses. First he saw a handkerchief with pale little spots. It was a

handkerchief of hers. Once when they were walking her nose had bled; he

had forgotten it. Near it, chipped at all the corners, was a miniature

given him by Emma: her toilette seemed to him pretentious, and her

languishing look in the worst possible taste. Then, from looking at this

image and recalling the memory of its original, Emma's features little

by little grew confused in his remembrance, as if the living and the

painted face, rubbing one against the other, had effaced each other.

Finally, he read some of her letters; they were full of explanations

relating to their journey, short, technical, and urgent, like business

notes. He wanted to see the long ones again, those of old times. In

order to find them at the bottom of the box, Rodolphe disturbed all the

others, and mechanically began rummaging amidst this mass of papers and

things, finding pell-mell bouquets, garters, a black mask, pins, and

hair--hair! dark and fair, some even, catching in the hinges of the box,

broke when it was opened.
Thus dallying with his souvenirs, he examined the writing and the style

of the letters, as varied as their orthography. They were tender or

jovial, facetious, melancholy; there were some that asked for love,

others that asked for money. A word recalled faces to him, certain

gestures, the sound of a voice; sometimes, however, he remembered

nothing at all.

In fact, these women, rushing at once into his thoughts, cramped each

other and lessened, as reduced to a uniform level of love that equalised

them all. So taking handfuls of the mixed-up letters, he amused himself

for some moments with letting them fall in cascades from his right into

his left hand. At last, bored and weary, Rodolphe took back the box to

the cupboard, saying to himself, "What a lot of rubbish!" Which summed

up his opinion; for pleasures, like schoolboys in a school courtyard,

had so trampled upon his heart that no green thing grew there, and that

which passed through it, more heedless than children, did not even, like

them, leave a name carved upon the wall.

"Come," said he, "let's begin."
He wrote--
"Courage, Emma! courage! I would not bring misery into your life."
"After all, that's true," thought Rodolphe. "I am acting in her

interest; I am honest."

"Have you carefully weighed your resolution? Do you know to what an

abyss I was dragging you, poor angel? No, you do not, do you? You were

coming confident and fearless, believing in happiness in the future. Ah!

unhappy that we are--insensate!"

Rodolphe stopped here to think of some good excuse.
"If I told her all my fortune is lost? No! Besides, that would stop

nothing. It would all have to be begun over again later on. As if one

could make women like that listen to reason!" He reflected, then went

"I shall not forget you, oh believe it; and I shall ever have a profound

devotion for you; but some day, sooner or later, this ardour (such is

the fate of human things) would have grown less, no doubt. Lassitude

would have come to us, and who knows if I should not even have had the

atrocious pain of witnessing your remorse, of sharing it myself, since

I should have been its cause? The mere idea of the grief that would come

to you tortures me, Emma. Forget me! Why did I ever know you? Why were

you so beautiful? Is it my fault? O my God! No, no! Accuse only fate."
"That's a word that always tells," he said to himself.
"Ah, if you had been one of those frivolous women that one sees,

certainly I might, through egotism, have tried an experiment, in that

case without danger for you. But that delicious exaltation, at once your

charm and your torment, has prevented you from understanding, adorable

woman that you are, the falseness of our future position. Nor had I

reflected upon this at first, and I rested in the shade of that ideal

happiness as beneath that of the manchineel tree, without foreseeing the


"Perhaps she'll think I'm giving it up from avarice. Ah, well! so much

the worse; it must be stopped!"

"The world is cruel, Emma. Wherever we might have gone, it would have

persecuted us. You would have had to put up with indiscreet questions,

calumny, contempt, insult perhaps. Insult to you! Oh! And I, who would

place you on a throne! I who bear with me your memory as a talisman! For

I am going to punish myself by exile for all the ill I have done you.

I am going away. Whither I know not. I am mad. Adieu! Be good always.

Preserve the memory of the unfortunate who has lost you. Teach my name

to your child; let her repeat it in her prayers."

The wicks of the candles flickered. Rodolphe got up to, shut the window,

and when he had sat down again--

"I think it's all right. Ah! and this for fear she should come and hunt

me up."
"I shall be far away when you read these sad lines, for I have wished to

flee as quickly as possible to shun the temptation of seeing you again.

No weakness! I shall return, and perhaps later on we shall talk together

very coldly of our old love. Adieu!"
And there was a last "adieu" divided into two words! "A Dieu!" which he

thought in very excellent taste.

"Now how am I to sign?" he said to himself. "'Yours devotedly?' No!

'Your friend?' Yes, that's it."

"Your friend."
He re-read his letter. He considered it very good.
"Poor little woman!" he thought with emotion. "She'll think me harder

than a rock. There ought to have been some tears on this; but I can't

cry; it isn't my fault." Then, having emptied some water into a glass,

Rodolphe dipped his finger into it, and let a big drop fall on the

paper, that made a pale stain on the ink. Then looking for a seal, he

came upon the one "Amor nel cor."

"That doesn't at all fit in with the circumstances. Pshaw! never mind!"
After which he smoked three pipes and went to bed.
The next day when he was up (at about two o'clock--he had slept late),

Rodolphe had a basket of apricots picked. He put his letter at

the bottom under some vine leaves, and at once ordered Girard, his

ploughman, to take it with care to Madame Bovary. He made use of this

means for corresponding with her, sending according to the season fruits

or game.
"If she asks after me," he said, "you will tell her that I have gone on

a journey. You must give the basket to her herself, into her own hands.

Get along and take care!"

Girard put on his new blouse, knotted his handkerchief round the

apricots, and walking with great heavy steps in his thick iron-bound

galoshes, made his way to Yonville.
Madame Bovary, when he got to her house, was arranging a bundle of linen

on the kitchen-table with Felicite.

"Here," said the ploughboy, "is something for you--from the master."
She was seized with apprehension, and as she sought in her pocket for

some coppers, she looked at the peasant with haggard eyes, while he

himself looked at her with amazement, not understanding how such a

present could so move anyone. At last he went out. Felicite remained.

She could bear it no longer; she ran into the sitting room as if to take

the apricots there, overturned the basket, tore away the leaves, found

the letter, opened it, and, as if some fearful fire were behind her,

Emma flew to her room terrified.

Charles was there; she saw him; he spoke to her; she heard nothing, and

she went on quickly up the stairs, breathless, distraught, dumb, and

ever holding this horrible piece of paper, that crackled between her

fingers like a plate of sheet-iron. On the second floor she stopped

before the attic door, which was closed.
Then she tried to calm herself; she recalled the letter; she must finish

it; she did not dare to. And where? How? She would be seen! "Ah, no!

here," she thought, "I shall be all right."
Emma pushed open the door and went in.
The slates threw straight down a heavy heat that gripped her temples,

stifled her; she dragged herself to the closed garret-window. She drew

back the bolt, and the dazzling light burst in with a leap.
Opposite, beyond the roofs, stretched the open country till it was lost

to sight. Down below, underneath her, the village square was empty; the

stones of the pavement glittered, the weathercocks on the houses were

motionless. At the corner of the street, from a lower storey, rose a

kind of humming with strident modulations. It was Binet turning.
She leant against the embrasure of the window, and reread the letter

with angry sneers. But the more she fixed her attention upon it, the

more confused were her ideas. She saw him again, heard him, encircled

him with her arms, and throbs of her heart, that beat against her breast

like blows of a sledge-hammer, grew faster and faster, with uneven

intervals. She looked about her with the wish that the earth might

crumble into pieces. Why not end it all? What restrained her? She was

free. She advanced, looking at the paving-stones, saying to herself,

"Come! come!"
The luminous ray that came straight up from below drew the weight of

her body towards the abyss. It seemed to her that the ground of the

oscillating square went up the walls and that the floor dipped on

end like a tossing boat. She was right at the edge, almost hanging,

surrounded by vast space. The blue of the heavens suffused her, the air

was whirling in her hollow head; she had but to yield, to let herself

be taken; and the humming of the lathe never ceased, like an angry voice

calling her.

"Emma! Emma!" cried Charles.
She stopped.
"Wherever are you? Come!"
The thought that she had just escaped from death almost made her faint

with terror. She closed her eyes; then she shivered at the touch of a

hand on her sleeve; it was Felicite.
"Master is waiting for you, madame; the soup is on the table."
And she had to go down to sit at table.
She tried to eat. The food choked her. Then she unfolded her napkin as

if to examine the darns, and she really thought of applying herself to

this work, counting the threads in the linen. Suddenly the remembrance

of the letter returned to her. How had she lost it? Where could she find

it? But she felt such weariness of spirit that she could not even invent

a pretext for leaving the table. Then she became a coward; she was

afraid of Charles; he knew all, that was certain! Indeed he pronounced

these words in a strange manner:

"We are not likely to see Monsieur Rodolphe soon again, it seems."
"Who told you?" she said, shuddering.
"Who told me!" he replied, rather astonished at her abrupt tone. "Why,

Girard, whom I met just now at the door of the Cafe Francais. He has

gone on a journey, or is to go."
She gave a sob.
"What surprises you in that? He absents himself like that from time

to time for a change, and, ma foi, I think he's right, when one has a

fortune and is a bachelor. Besides, he has jolly times, has our friend.

He's a bit of a rake. Monsieur Langlois told me--"

He stopped for propriety's sake because the servant came in. She put

back into the basket the apricots scattered on the sideboard. Charles,

without noticing his wife's colour, had them brought to him, took one,

and bit into it.

"Ah! perfect!" said he; "just taste!"
And he handed her the basket, which she put away from her gently.
"Do just smell! What an odour!" he remarked, passing it under her nose

several times.

"I am choking," she cried, leaping up. But by an effort of will the

spasm passed; then--

"It is nothing," she said, "it is nothing! It is nervousness. Sit down

and go on eating." For she dreaded lest he should begin questioning her,

attending to her, that she should not be left alone.
Charles, to obey her, sat down again, and he spat the stones of the

apricots into his hands, afterwards putting them on his plate.

Suddenly a blue tilbury passed across the square at a rapid trot. Emma

uttered a cry and fell back rigid to the ground.

In fact, Rodolphe, after many reflections, had decided to set out for

Rouen. Now, as from La Huchette to Buchy there is no other way than by

Yonville, he had to go through the village, and Emma had recognised him

by the rays of the lanterns, which like lightning flashed through the

The chemist, at the tumult which broke out in the house ran thither. The

table with all the plates was upset; sauce, meat, knives, the salt, and

cruet-stand were strewn over the room; Charles was calling for help;

Berthe, scared, was crying; and Felicite, whose hands trembled, was

unlacing her mistress, whose whole body shivered convulsively.
"I'll run to my laboratory for some aromatic vinegar," said the


Then as she opened her eyes on smelling the bottle--
"I was sure of it," he remarked; "that would wake any dead person for

"Speak to us," said Charles; "collect yourself; it is your Charles, who

loves you. Do you know me? See! here is your little girl! Oh, kiss her!"
The child stretched out her arms to her mother to cling to her neck. But

turning away her head, Emma said in a broken voice "No, no! no one!"

She fainted again. They carried her to her bed. She lay there stretched

at full length, her lips apart, her eyelids closed, her hands open,

motionless, and white as a waxen image. Two streams of tears flowed from

her eyes and fell slowly upon the pillow.

Charles, standing up, was at the back of the alcove, and the chemist,

near him, maintained that meditative silence that is becoming on the

serious occasions of life.
"Do not be uneasy," he said, touching his elbow; "I think the paroxysm

is past."

"Yes, she is resting a little now," answered Charles, watching her

sleep. "Poor girl! poor girl! She had gone off now!"

Then Homais asked how the accident had come about. Charles answered that

she had been taken ill suddenly while she was eating some apricots.

"Extraordinary!" continued the chemist. "But it might be that the

apricots had brought on the syncope. Some natures are so sensitive to

certain smells; and it would even be a very fine question to study both

in its pathological and physiological relation. The priests know the

importance of it, they who have introduced aromatics into all their

ceremonies. It is to stupefy the senses and to bring on ecstasies--a

thing, moreover, very easy in persons of the weaker sex, who are more

delicate than the other. Some are cited who faint at the smell of burnt

hartshorn, of new bread--"
"Take care; you'll wake her!" said Bovary in a low voice.
"And not only," the druggist went on, "are human beings subject to such

anomalies, but animals also. Thus you are not ignorant of the singularly

aphrodisiac effect produced by the Nepeta cataria, vulgarly called

catmint, on the feline race; and, on the other hand, to quote an example

whose authenticity I can answer for. Bridaux (one of my old comrades, at

present established in the Rue Malpalu) possesses a dog that falls into

convulsions as soon as you hold out a snuff-box to him. He often even

makes the experiment before his friends at his summer-house at Guillaume

Wood. Would anyone believe that a simple sternutation could produce such

ravages on a quadrupedal organism? It is extremely curious, is it not?"

"Yes," said Charles, who was not listening to him.
"This shows us," went on the other, smiling with benign

self-sufficiency, "the innumerable irregularities of the nervous system.

With regard to madame, she has always seemed to me, I confess, very

susceptible. And so I should by no means recommend to you, my dear

friend, any of those so-called remedies that, under the pretence

of attacking the symptoms, attack the constitution. No; no useless

physicking! Diet, that is all; sedatives, emollients, dulcification.

Then, don't you think that perhaps her imagination should be worked

"In what way? How?" said Bovary.
"Ah! that is it. Such is indeed the question. 'That is the question,' as

I lately read in a newspaper."

But Emma, awaking, cried out--
"The letter! the letter!"
They thought she was delirious; and she was by midnight. Brain-fever had

set in.
For forty-three days Charles did not leave her. He gave up all his

patients; he no longer went to bed; he was constantly feeling her pulse,

putting on sinapisms and cold-water compresses. He sent Justin as far as

Neufchatel for ice; the ice melted on the way; he sent him back again.

He called Monsieur Canivet into consultation; he sent for Dr. Lariviere,

his old master, from Rouen; he was in despair. What alarmed him most was

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