Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Emma's prostration, for she did not speak, did not listen, did not even

seem to suffer, as if her body and soul were both resting together after

all their troubles.

About the middle of October she could sit up in bed supported by

pillows. Charles wept when he saw her eat her first bread-and-jelly. Her

strength returned to her; she got up for a few hours of an afternoon,

and one day, when she felt better, he tried to take her, leaning on his

arm, for a walk round the garden. The sand of the paths was disappearing

beneath the dead leaves; she walked slowly, dragging along her slippers,

and leaning against Charles's shoulder. She smiled all the time.
They went thus to the bottom of the garden near the terrace. She drew

herself up slowly, shading her eyes with her hand to look. She looked

far off, as far as she could, but on the horizon were only great

bonfires of grass smoking on the hills.

"You will tire yourself, my darling!" said Bovary. And, pushing her

gently to make her go into the arbour, "Sit down on this seat; you'll be

"Oh! no; not there!" she said in a faltering voice.
She was seized with giddiness, and from that evening her illness

recommenced, with a more uncertain character, it is true, and more

complex symptoms. Now she suffered in her heart, then in the chest, the

head, the limbs; she had vomitings, in which Charles thought he saw the

first signs of cancer.
And besides this, the poor fellow was worried about money matters.

Chapter Fourteen

To begin with, he did not know how he could pay Monsieur Homais for all

the physic supplied by him, and though, as a medical man, he was not

obliged to pay for it, he nevertheless blushed a little at such an

obligation. Then the expenses of the household, now that the servant was

mistress, became terrible. Bills rained in upon the house; the tradesmen

grumbled; Monsieur Lheureux especially harassed him. In fact, at

the height of Emma's illness, the latter, taking advantage of the

circumstances to make his bill larger, had hurriedly brought the cloak,

the travelling-bag, two trunks instead of one, and a number of other

things. It was very well for Charles to say he did not want them. The

tradesman answered arrogantly that these articles had been ordered, and

that he would not take them back; besides, it would vex madame in her

convalescence; the doctor had better think it over; in short, he was

resolved to sue him rather than give up his rights and take back his

goods. Charles subsequently ordered them to be sent back to the shop.

Felicite forgot; he had other things to attend to; then thought no more

about them. Monsieur Lheureux returned to the charge, and, by turns

threatening and whining, so managed that Bovary ended by signing a

bill at six months. But hardly had he signed this bill than a bold idea

occurred to him: it was to borrow a thousand francs from Lheureux.

So, with an embarrassed air, he asked if it were possible to get them,

adding that it would be for a year, at any interest he wished. Lheureux

ran off to his shop, brought back the money, and dictated another bill,

by which Bovary undertook to pay to his order on the 1st of September

next the sum of one thousand and seventy francs, which, with the hundred

and eighty already agreed to, made just twelve hundred and fifty, thus

lending at six per cent in addition to one-fourth for commission: and

the things bringing him in a good third at the least, this ought in

twelve months to give him a profit of a hundred and thirty francs. He

hoped that the business would not stop there; that the bills would not

be paid; that they would be renewed; and that his poor little money,

having thriven at the doctor's as at a hospital, would come back to him

one day considerably more plump, and fat enough to burst his bag.
Everything, moreover, succeeded with him. He was adjudicator for a

supply of cider to the hospital at Neufchatel; Monsieur Guillaumin

promised him some shares in the turf-pits of Gaumesnil, and he dreamt of

establishing a new diligence service between Arcueil and Rouen, which

no doubt would not be long in ruining the ramshackle van of the "Lion

d'Or," and that, travelling faster, at a cheaper rate, and carrying more

luggage, would thus put into his hands the whole commerce of Yonville.
Charles several times asked himself by what means he should next year be

able to pay back so much money. He reflected, imagined expedients, such

as applying to his father or selling something. But his father would be

deaf, and he--he had nothing to sell. Then he foresaw such worries that

he quickly dismissed so disagreeable a subject of meditation from

his mind. He reproached himself with forgetting Emma, as if, all his

thoughts belonging to this woman, it was robbing her of something not to

be constantly thinking of her.

The winter was severe, Madame Bovary's convalescence slow. When it

was fine they wheeled her arm-chair to the window that overlooked the

square, for she now had an antipathy to the garden, and the blinds on

that side were always down. She wished the horse to be sold; what she

formerly liked now displeased her. All her ideas seemed to be limited to

the care of herself. She stayed in bed taking little meals, rang for the

servant to inquire about her gruel or to chat with her. The snow on

the market-roof threw a white, still light into the room; then the rain

began to fall; and Emma waited daily with a mind full of eagerness for

the inevitable return of some trifling events which nevertheless had no

relation to her. The most important was the arrival of the "Hirondelle"

in the evening. Then the landlady shouted out, and other voices

answered, while Hippolyte's lantern, as he fetched the boxes from the

boot, was like a star in the darkness. At mid-day Charles came in;

then he went out again; next she took some beef-tea, and towards five

o'clock, as the day drew in, the children coming back from school,

dragging their wooden shoes along the pavement, knocked the clapper of

the shutters with their rulers one after the other.

It was at this hour that Monsieur Bournisien came to see her. He

inquired after her health, gave her news, exhorted her to religion, in a

coaxing little prattle that was not without its charm. The mere thought

of his cassock comforted her.

One day, when at the height of her illness, she had thought herself

dying, and had asked for the communion; and, while they were making the

preparations in her room for the sacrament, while they were turning the

night table covered with syrups into an altar, and while Felicite was

strewing dahlia flowers on the floor, Emma felt some power passing

over her that freed her from her pains, from all perception, from

all feeling. Her body, relieved, no longer thought; another life was

beginning; it seemed to her that her being, mounting toward God, would

be annihilated in that love like a burning incense that melts into

vapour. The bed-clothes were sprinkled with holy water, the priest drew

from the holy pyx the white wafer; and it was fainting with a celestial

joy that she put out her lips to accept the body of the Saviour

presented to her. The curtains of the alcove floated gently round her

like clouds, and the rays of the two tapers burning on the night-table

seemed to shine like dazzling halos. Then she let her head fall back,

fancying she heard in space the music of seraphic harps, and perceived

in an azure sky, on a golden throne in the midst of saints holding green

palms, God the Father, resplendent with majesty, who with a sign sent to

earth angels with wings of fire to carry her away in their arms.
This splendid vision dwelt in her memory as the most beautiful thing

that it was possible to dream, so that now she strove to recall her

sensation. That still lasted, however, but in a less exclusive fashion

and with a deeper sweetness. Her soul, tortured by pride, at length

found rest in Christian humility, and, tasting the joy of weakness, she

saw within herself the destruction of her will, that must have left a

wide entrance for the inroads of heavenly grace. There existed, then,

in the place of happiness, still greater joys--another love beyond all

loves, without pause and without end, one that would grow eternally! She

saw amid the illusions of her hope a state of purity floating above the

earth mingling with heaven, to which she aspired. She wanted to become

a saint. She bought chaplets and wore amulets; she wished to have in her

room, by the side of her bed, a reliquary set in emeralds that she might

kiss it every evening.

The cure marvelled at this humour, although Emma's religion, he thought,

might, from its fervour, end by touching on heresy, extravagance. But

not being much versed in these matters, as soon as they went beyond a

certain limit he wrote to Monsieur Boulard, bookseller to Monsignor,

to send him "something good for a lady who was very clever." The

bookseller, with as much indifference as if he had been sending off

hardware to niggers, packed up, pellmell, everything that was then the

fashion in the pious book trade. There were little manuals in questions

and answers, pamphlets of aggressive tone after the manner of Monsieur

de Maistre, and certain novels in rose-coloured bindings and with

a honied style, manufactured by troubadour seminarists or penitent

blue-stockings. There were the "Think of it; the Man of the World at

Mary's Feet, by Monsieur de ***, decorated with many Orders"; "The

Errors of Voltaire, for the Use of the Young," etc.

Madame Bovary's mind was not yet sufficiently clear to apply herself

seriously to anything; moreover, she began this reading in too much

hurry. She grew provoked at the doctrines of religion; the arrogance

of the polemic writings displeased her by their inveteracy in attacking

people she did not know; and the secular stories, relieved with

religion, seemed to her written in such ignorance of the world, that

they insensibly estranged her from the truths for whose proof she was

looking. Nevertheless, she persevered; and when the volume slipped

from her hands, she fancied herself seized with the finest Catholic

melancholy that an ethereal soul could conceive.

As for the memory of Rodolphe, she had thrust it back to the bottom of

her heart, and it remained there more solemn and more motionless than

a king's mummy in a catacomb. An exhalation escaped from this embalmed

love, that, penetrating through everything, perfumed with tenderness the

immaculate atmosphere in which she longed to live. When she knelt on her

Gothic prie-Dieu, she addressed to the Lord the same suave words that

she had murmured formerly to her lover in the outpourings of adultery.

It was to make faith come; but no delights descended from the heavens,

and she arose with tired limbs and with a vague feeling of a gigantic

This searching after faith, she thought, was only one merit the more,

and in the pride of her devoutness Emma compared herself to those grand

ladies of long ago whose glory she, had dreamed of over a portrait of La

Valliere, and who, trailing with so much majesty the lace-trimmed trains

of their long gowns, retired into solitudes to shed at the feet of

Christ all the tears of hearts that life had wounded.
Then she gave herself up to excessive charity. She sewed clothes for the

poor, she sent wood to women in childbed; and Charles one day, on coming

home, found three good-for-nothings in the kitchen seated at the table

eating soup. She had her little girl, whom during her illness her

husband had sent back to the nurse, brought home. She wanted to teach

her to read; even when Berthe cried, she was not vexed. She had made

up her mind to resignation, to universal indulgence. Her language about

everything was full of ideal expressions. She said to her child, "Is

your stomach-ache better, my angel?"
Madame Bovary senior found nothing to censure except perhaps this mania

of knitting jackets for orphans instead of mending her own house-linen;

but, harassed with domestic quarrels, the good woman took pleasure in

this quiet house, and she even stayed there till after Easter, to escape

the sarcasms of old Bovary, who never failed on Good Friday to order


Besides the companionship of her mother-in-law, who strengthened her a

little by the rectitude of her judgment and her grave ways, Emma almost

every day had other visitors. These were Madame Langlois, Madame Caron,

Madame Dubreuil, Madame Tuvache, and regularly from two to five o'clock

the excellent Madame Homais, who, for her part, had never believed any

of the tittle-tattle about her neighbour. The little Homais also came to

see her; Justin accompanied them. He went up with them to her bedroom,

and remained standing near the door, motionless and mute. Often even

Madame Bovary; taking no heed of him, began her toilette. She began by

taking out her comb, shaking her head with a quick movement, and when

he for the first time saw all this mass of hair that fell to her knees

unrolling in black ringlets, it was to him, poor child! like a sudden

entrance into something new and strange, whose splendour terrified him.
Emma, no doubt, did not notice his silent attentions or his timidity.

She had no suspicion that the love vanished from her life was there,

palpitating by her side, beneath that coarse holland shirt, in that

youthful heart open to the emanations of her beauty. Besides, she

now enveloped all things with such indifference, she had words so

affectionate with looks so haughty, such contradictory ways, that one

could no longer distinguish egotism from charity, or corruption from

virtue. One evening, for example, she was angry with the servant, who

had asked to go out, and stammered as she tried to find some pretext.

Then suddenly--

"So you love him?" she said.
And without waiting for any answer from Felicite, who was blushing, she

added, "There! run along; enjoy yourself!"

In the beginning of spring she had the garden turned up from end to end,

despite Bovary's remonstrances. However, he was glad to see her at last

manifest a wish of any kind. As she grew stronger she displayed more

wilfulness. First, she found occasion to expel Mere Rollet, the nurse,

who during her convalescence had contracted the habit of coming too

often to the kitchen with her two nurslings and her boarder, better

off for teeth than a cannibal. Then she got rid of the Homais family,

successively dismissed all the other visitors, and even frequented

church less assiduously, to the great approval of the druggist, who said

to her in a friendly way--

"You were going in a bit for the cassock!"
As formerly, Monsieur Bournisien dropped in every day when he came out

after catechism class. He preferred staying out of doors to taking the

air "in the grove," as he called the arbour. This was the time when

Charles came home. They were hot; some sweet cider was brought out, and

they drank together to madame's complete restoration.
Binet was there; that is to say, a little lower down against the terrace

wall, fishing for crayfish. Bovary invited him to have a drink, and he

thoroughly understood the uncorking of the stone bottles.
"You must," he said, throwing a satisfied glance all round him, even to

the very extremity of the landscape, "hold the bottle perpendicularly on

the table, and after the strings are cut, press up the cork with

little thrusts, gently, gently, as indeed they do seltzer-water at

But during his demonstration the cider often spurted right into their

faces, and then the ecclesiastic, with a thick laugh, never missed this

"Its goodness strikes the eye!"
He was, in fact, a good fellow and one day he was not even scandalised

at the chemist, who advised Charles to give madame some distraction

by taking her to the theatre at Rouen to hear the illustrious tenor,

Lagardy. Homais, surprised at this silence, wanted to know his opinion,

and the priest declared that he considered music less dangerous for

morals than literature.

But the chemist took up the defence of letters. The theatre, he

contended, served for railing at prejudices, and, beneath a mask of

pleasure, taught virtue.
"'Castigat ridendo mores,'* Monsieur Bournisien! Thus consider the

greater part of Voltaire's tragedies; they are cleverly strewn with

philosophical reflections, that made them a vast school of morals and

diplomacy for the people."

*It corrects customs through laughter.

"I," said Binet, "once saw a piece called the 'Gamin de Paris,' in which

there was the character of an old general that is really hit off to a

T. He sets down a young swell who had seduced a working girl, who at the

"Certainly," continued Homais, "there is bad literature as there is bad

pharmacy, but to condemn in a lump the most important of the fine arts

seems to me a stupidity, a Gothic idea, worthy of the abominable times

that imprisoned Galileo."

"I know very well," objected the cure, "that there are good works,

good authors. However, if it were only those persons of different sexes

united in a bewitching apartment, decorated rouge, those lights, those

effeminate voices, all this must, in the long-run, engender a

certain mental libertinage, give rise to immodest thoughts and impure

temptations. Such, at any rate, is the opinion of all the Fathers.

Finally," he added, suddenly assuming a mystic tone of voice while

he rolled a pinch of snuff between his fingers, "if the Church has

condemned the theatre, she must be right; we must submit to her


"Why," asked the druggist, "should she excommunicate actors? For

formerly they openly took part in religious ceremonies. Yes, in the

middle of the chancel they acted; they performed a kind of farce called

'Mysteries,' which often offended against the laws of decency."

The ecclesiastic contented himself with uttering a groan, and the

chemist went on--

"It's like it is in the Bible; there there are, you know, more than one

piquant detail, matters really libidinous!"

And on a gesture of irritation from Monsieur Bournisien--
"Ah! you'll admit that it is not a book to place in the hands of a young

girl, and I should be sorry if Athalie--"

"But it is the Protestants, and not we," cried the other impatiently,

"who recommend the Bible."

"No matter," said Homais. "I am surprised that in our days, in this

century of enlightenment, anyone should still persist in proscribing an

intellectual relaxation that is inoffensive, moralising, and sometimes

even hygienic; is it not, doctor?"

"No doubt," replied the doctor carelessly, either because, sharing the

same ideas, he wished to offend no one, or else because he had not any

The conversation seemed at an end when the chemist thought fit to shoot

a Parthian arrow.

"I've known priests who put on ordinary clothes to go and see dancers

kicking about."

"Come, come!" said the cure.
"Ah! I've known some!" And separating the words of his sentence, Homais

repeated, "I--have--known--some!"

"Well, they were wrong," said Bournisien, resigned to anything.
"By Jove! they go in for more than that," exclaimed the druggist.
"Sir!" replied the ecclesiastic, with such angry eyes that the druggist

was intimidated by them.

"I only mean to say," he replied in less brutal a tone, "that toleration

is the surest way to draw people to religion."

"That is true! that is true!" agreed the good fellow, sitting down again

on his chair. But he stayed only a few moments.

Then, as soon as he had gone, Monsieur Homais said to the doctor--
"That's what I call a cock-fight. I beat him, did you see, in a

way!--Now take my advice. Take madame to the theatre, if it were only

for once in your life, to enrage one of these ravens, hang it! If anyone

could take my place, I would accompany you myself. Be quick about it.

Lagardy is only going to give one performance; he's engaged to go to

England at a high salary. From what I hear, he's a regular dog; he's

rolling in money; he's taking three mistresses and a cook along with

him. All these great artists burn the candle at both ends; they require

a dissolute life, that suits the imagination to some extent. But they

die at the hospital, because they haven't the sense when young to lay

by. Well, a pleasant dinner! Goodbye till to-morrow."
The idea of the theatre quickly germinated in Bovary's head, for he at

once communicated it to his wife, who at first refused, alleging the

fatigue, the worry, the expense; but, for a wonder, Charles did not give

in, so sure was he that this recreation would be good for her. He saw

nothing to prevent it: his mother had sent them three hundred francs

which he had no longer expected; the current debts were not very large,

and the falling in of Lheureux's bills was still so far off that

there was no need to think about them. Besides, imagining that she

was refusing from delicacy, he insisted the more; so that by dint of

worrying her she at last made up her mind, and the next day at eight

o'clock they set out in the "Hirondelle."
The druggist, whom nothing whatever kept at Yonville, but who thought

himself bound not to budge from it, sighed as he saw them go.

"Well, a pleasant journey!" he said to them; "happy mortals that you

Then addressing himself to Emma, who was wearing a blue silk gown with

four flounces--
"You are as lovely as a Venus. You'll cut a figure at Rouen."
The diligence stopped at the "Croix-Rouge" in the Place Beauvoisine. It

was the inn that is in every provincial faubourg, with large stables

and small bedrooms, where one sees in the middle of the court chickens

pilfering the oats under the muddy gigs of the commercial travellers--a

good old house, with worm-eaten balconies that creak in the wind on

winter nights, always full of people, noise, and feeding, whose black

tables are sticky with coffee and brandy, the thick windows made yellow

by the flies, the damp napkins stained with cheap wine, and that always

smells of the village, like ploughboys dressed in Sundayclothes, has

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