Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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a cafe on the street, and towards the countryside a kitchen-garden.

Charles at once set out. He muddled up the stage-boxes with the gallery,

the pit with the boxes; asked for explanations, did not understand them;

was sent from the box-office to the acting-manager; came back to the

inn, returned to the theatre, and thus several times traversed the whole

length of the town from the theatre to the boulevard.
Madame Bovary bought a bonnet, gloves, and a bouquet. The doctor was

much afraid of missing the beginning, and, without having had time to

swallow a plate of soup, they presented themselves at the doors of the

theatre, which were still closed.

Chapter Fifteen
The crowd was waiting against the wall, symmetrically enclosed between

the balustrades. At the corner of the neighbouring streets huge bills

repeated in quaint letters "Lucie de Lammermoor-Lagardy-Opera-etc." The

weather was fine, the people were hot, perspiration trickled amid the

curls, and handkerchiefs taken from pockets were mopping red foreheads;

and now and then a warm wind that blew from the river gently stirred the

border of the tick awnings hanging from the doors of the public-houses.

A little lower down, however, one was refreshed by a current of icy air

that smelt of tallow, leather, and oil. This was an exhalation from

the Rue des Charrettes, full of large black warehouses where they made

For fear of seeming ridiculous, Emma before going in wished to have a

little stroll in the harbour, and Bovary prudently kept his tickets in

his hand, in the pocket of his trousers, which he pressed against his

Her heart began to beat as soon as she reached the vestibule. She

involuntarily smiled with vanity on seeing the crowd rushing to the

right by the other corridor while she went up the staircase to the

reserved seats. She was as pleased as a child to push with her finger

the large tapestried door. She breathed in with all her might the

dusty smell of the lobbies, and when she was seated in her box she bent

forward with the air of a duchess.

The theatre was beginning to fill; opera-glasses were taken from their

cases, and the subscribers, catching sight of one another, were bowing.

They came to seek relaxation in the fine arts after the anxieties of

business; but "business" was not forgotten; they still talked cottons,

spirits of wine, or indigo. The heads of old men were to be seen,

inexpressive and peaceful, with their hair and complexions looking like

silver medals tarnished by steam of lead. The young beaux were strutting

about in the pit, showing in the opening of their waistcoats their pink

or applegreen cravats, and Madame Bovary from above admired them leaning

on their canes with golden knobs in the open palm of their yellow

Now the lights of the orchestra were lit, the lustre, let down from the

ceiling, throwing by the glimmering of its facets a sudden gaiety over

the theatre; then the musicians came in one after the other; and

first there was the protracted hubbub of the basses grumbling, violins

squeaking, cornets trumpeting, flutes and flageolets fifing. But three

knocks were heard on the stage, a rolling of drums began, the brass

instruments played some chords, and the curtain rising, discovered a


It was the cross-roads of a wood, with a fountain shaded by an oak to

the left. Peasants and lords with plaids on their shoulders were singing

a hunting-song together; then a captain suddenly came on, who evoked

the spirit of evil by lifting both his arms to heaven. Another appeared;

they went away, and the hunters started afresh. She felt herself

transported to the reading of her youth, into the midst of Walter Scott.

She seemed to hear through the mist the sound of the Scotch bagpipes

re-echoing over the heather. Then her remembrance of the novel helping

her to understand the libretto, she followed the story phrase by phrase,

while vague thoughts that came back to her dispersed at once again with

the bursts of music. She gave herself up to the lullaby of the melodies,

and felt all her being vibrate as if the violin bows were drawn over her

nerves. She had not eyes enough to look at the costumes, the scenery,

the actors, the painted trees that shook when anyone walked, and the

velvet caps, cloaks, swords--all those imaginary things that floated

amid the harmony as in the atmosphere of another world. But a young

woman stepped forward, throwing a purse to a squire in green. She was

left alone, and the flute was heard like the murmur of a fountain or the

warbling of birds. Lucie attacked her cavatina in G major bravely. She

plained of love; she longed for wings. Emma, too, fleeing from life,

would have liked to fly away in an embrace. Suddenly Edgar-Lagardy


He had that splendid pallor that gives something of the majesty of

marble to the ardent races of the South. His vigorous form was tightly

clad in a brown-coloured doublet; a small chiselled poniard hung against

his left thigh, and he cast round laughing looks showing his white

teeth. They said that a Polish princess having heard him sing one night

on the beach at Biarritz, where he mended boats, had fallen in love

with him. She had ruined herself for him. He had deserted her for

other women, and this sentimental celebrity did not fail to enhance his

artistic reputation. The diplomatic mummer took care always to slip into

his advertisements some poetic phrase on the fascination of his

person and the susceptibility of his soul. A fine organ, imperturbable

coolness, more temperament than intelligence, more power of emphasis

than of real singing, made up the charm of this admirable charlatan

nature, in which there was something of the hairdresser and the

From the first scene he evoked enthusiasm. He pressed Lucy in his arms,

he left her, he came back, he seemed desperate; he had outbursts of

rage, then elegiac gurglings of infinite sweetness, and the notes

escaped from his bare neck full of sobs and kisses. Emma leant forward

to see him, clutching the velvet of the box with her nails. She was

filling her heart with these melodious lamentations that were drawn

out to the accompaniment of the double-basses, like the cries of the

drowning in the tumult of a tempest. She recognised all the intoxication

and the anguish that had almost killed her. The voice of a prima donna

seemed to her to be but echoes of her conscience, and this illusion that

charmed her as some very thing of her own life. But no one on earth had

loved her with such love. He had not wept like Edgar that last moonlit

night when they said, "To-morrow! to-morrow!" The theatre rang with

cheers; they recommenced the entire movement; the lovers spoke of

the flowers on their tomb, of vows, exile, fate, hopes; and when they

uttered the final adieu, Emma gave a sharp cry that mingled with the

vibrations of the last chords.
"But why," asked Bovary, "does that gentleman persecute her?"
"No, no!" she answered; "he is her lover!"
"Yet he vows vengeance on her family, while the other one who came on

before said, 'I love Lucie and she loves me!' Besides, he went off with

her father arm in arm. For he certainly is her father, isn't he--the

ugly little man with a cock's feather in his hat?"

Despite Emma's explanations, as soon as the recitative duet began

in which Gilbert lays bare his abominable machinations to his master

Ashton, Charles, seeing the false troth-ring that is to deceive Lucie,

thought it was a love-gift sent by Edgar. He confessed, moreover, that

he did not understand the story because of the music, which interfered

very much with the words.

"What does it matter?" said Emma. "Do be quiet!"
"Yes, but you know," he went on, leaning against her shoulder, "I like

to understand things."

"Be quiet! be quiet!" she cried impatiently.
Lucie advanced, half supported by her women, a wreath of orange blossoms

in her hair, and paler than the white satin of her gown. Emma dreamed

of her marriage day; she saw herself at home again amid the corn in the

little path as they walked to the church. Oh, why had not she, like

this woman, resisted, implored? She, on the contrary, had been joyous,

without seeing the abyss into which she was throwing herself. Ah! if

in the freshness of her beauty, before the soiling of marriage and the

disillusions of adultery, she could have anchored her life upon some

great, strong heart, then virtue, tenderness, voluptuousness, and duty

blending, she would never have fallen from so high a happiness. But that

happiness, no doubt, was a lie invented for the despair of all desire.

She now knew the smallness of the passions that art exaggerated. So,

striving to divert her thoughts, Emma determined now to see in this

reproduction of her sorrows only a plastic fantasy, well enough to

please the eye, and she even smiled internally with disdainful pity when

at the back of the stage under the velvet hangings a man appeared in a

black cloak.
His large Spanish hat fell at a gesture he made, and immediately the

instruments and the singers began the sextet. Edgar, flashing with fury,

dominated all the others with his clearer voice; Ashton hurled homicidal

provocations at him in deep notes; Lucie uttered her shrill plaint,

Arthur at one side, his modulated tones in the middle register, and the

bass of the minister pealed forth like an organ, while the voices of the

women repeating his words took them up in chorus delightfully. They were

all in a row gesticulating, and anger, vengeance, jealousy, terror, and

stupefaction breathed forth at once from their half-opened mouths. The

outraged lover brandished his naked sword; his guipure ruffle rose with

jerks to the movements of his chest, and he walked from right to left

with long strides, clanking against the boards the silver-gilt spurs of

his soft boots, widening out at the ankles. He, she thought must have an

inexhaustible love to lavish it upon the crowd with such effusion.

All her small fault-findings faded before the poetry of the part

that absorbed her; and, drawn towards this man by the illusion of the

character, she tried to imagine to herself his life--that life resonant,

extraordinary, splendid, and that might have been hers if fate had

willed it. They would have known one another, loved one another. With

him, through all the kingdoms of Europe she would have travelled from

capital to capital, sharing his fatigues and his pride, picking up the

flowers thrown to him, herself embroidering his costumes. Then each

evening, at the back of a box, behind the golden trellis-work she would

have drunk in eagerly the expansions of this soul that would have sung

for her alone; from the stage, even as he acted, he would have looked

at her. But the mad idea seized her that he was looking at her; it was

certain. She longed to run to his arms, to take refuge in his strength,

as in the incarnation of love itself, and to say to him, to cry out,

"Take me away! carry me with you! let us go! Thine, thine! all my ardour

and all my dreams!"

The curtain fell.
The smell of the gas mingled with that of the breaths, the waving of the

fans, made the air more suffocating. Emma wanted to go out; the

crowd filled the corridors, and she fell back in her arm-chair with

palpitations that choked her. Charles, fearing that she would faint, ran

to the refreshment-room to get a glass of barley-water.
He had great difficulty in getting back to his seat, for his elbows were

jerked at every step because of the glass he held in his hands, and

he even spilt three-fourths on the shoulders of a Rouen lady in short

sleeves, who feeling the cold liquid running down to her loins, uttered

cries like a peacock, as if she were being assassinated. Her husband,

who was a millowner, railed at the clumsy fellow, and while she was with

her handkerchief wiping up the stains from her handsome cherry-coloured

taffeta gown, he angrily muttered about indemnity, costs, reimbursement.

At last Charles reached his wife, saying to her, quite out of breath--
"Ma foi! I thought I should have had to stay there. There is such a

crowd--SUCH a crowd!"

He added--
"Just guess whom I met up there! Monsieur Leon!"
"Himself! He's coming along to pay his respects." And as he finished

these words the ex-clerk of Yonville entered the box.

He held out his hand with the ease of a gentleman; and Madame Bovary

extended hers, without doubt obeying the attraction of a stronger will.

She had not felt it since that spring evening when the rain fell upon

the green leaves, and they had said good-bye standing at the window.

But soon recalling herself to the necessities of the situation, with an

effort she shook off the torpor of her memories, and began stammering a

few hurried words.
"Ah, good-day! What! you here?"
"Silence!" cried a voice from the pit, for the third act was beginning.
"So you are at Rouen?"
"And since when?"
"Turn them out! turn them out!" People were looking at them. They were

But from that moment she listened no more; and the chorus of the guests,

the scene between Ashton and his servant, the grand duet in D major, all

were for her as far off as if the instruments had grown less sonorous

and the characters more remote. She remembered the games at cards at the

druggist's, and the walk to the nurse's, the reading in the arbour,

the tete-a-tete by the fireside--all that poor love, so calm and so

protracted, so discreet, so tender, and that she had nevertheless

forgotten. And why had he come back? What combination of circumstances

had brought him back into her life? He was standing behind her, leaning

with his shoulder against the wall of the box; now and again she felt

herself shuddering beneath the hot breath from his nostrils falling upon

her hair.
"Does this amuse you?" said he, bending over her so closely that the end

of his moustache brushed her cheek. She replied carelessly--

"Oh, dear me, no, not much."
Then he proposed that they should leave the theatre and go and take an

ice somewhere.

"Oh, not yet; let us stay," said Bovary. "Her hair's undone; this is

going to be tragic."

But the mad scene did not at all interest Emma, and the acting of the

singer seemed to her exaggerated.

"She screams too loud," said she, turning to Charles, who was listening.
"Yes--a little," he replied, undecided between the frankness of his

pleasure and his respect for his wife's opinion.

Then with a sigh Leon said--
"The heat is--"
"Unbearable! Yes!"
"Do you feel unwell?" asked Bovary.
"Yes, I am stifling; let us go."
Monsieur Leon put her long lace shawl carefully about her shoulders, and

all three went off to sit down in the harbour, in the open air, outside

the windows of a cafe.
First they spoke of her illness, although Emma interrupted Charles

from time to time, for fear, she said, of boring Monsieur Leon; and the

latter told them that he had come to spend two years at Rouen in a large

office, in order to get practice in his profession, which was different

in Normandy and Paris. Then he inquired after Berthe, the Homais, Mere

Lefrancois, and as they had, in the husband's presence, nothing more to

say to one another, the conversation soon came to an end.
People coming out of the theatre passed along the pavement, humming or

shouting at the top of their voices, "O bel ange, ma Lucie!*" Then Leon,

playing the dilettante, began to talk music. He had seen Tambourini,

Rubini, Persiani, Grisi, and, compared with them, Lagardy, despite his

grand outbursts, was nowhere.
*Oh beautiful angel, my Lucie.

"Yet," interrupted Charles, who was slowly sipping his rum-sherbet,

"they say that he is quite admirable in the last act. I regret leaving

before the end, because it was beginning to amuse me."

"Why," said the clerk, "he will soon give another performance."
But Charles replied that they were going back next day. "Unless," he

added, turning to his wife, "you would like to stay alone, kitten?"

And changing his tactics at this unexpected opportunity that presented

itself to his hopes, the young man sang the praises of Lagardy in the

last number. It was really superb, sublime. Then Charles insisted--
"You would get back on Sunday. Come, make up your mind. You are wrong if

you feel that this is doing you the least good."

The tables round them, however, were emptying; a waiter came and stood

discreetly near them. Charles, who understood, took out his purse; the

clerk held back his arm, and did not forget to leave two more pieces of

silver that he made chink on the marble.

"I am really sorry," said Bovary, "about the money which you are--"
The other made a careless gesture full of cordiality, and taking his hat

"It is settled, isn't it? To-morrow at six o'clock?"

Charles explained once more that he could not absent himself longer, but

that nothing prevented Emma--

"But," she stammered, with a strange smile, "I am not sure--"
"Well, you must think it over. We'll see. Night brings counsel." Then to

Leon, who was walking along with them, "Now that you are in our part of

the world, I hope you'll come and ask us for some dinner now and then."
The clerk declared he would not fail to do so, being obliged, moreover,

to go to Yonville on some business for his office. And they parted

before the Saint-Herbland Passage just as the clock in the cathedral

struck half-past eleven.

Part III

Chapter One

Monsieur Leon, while studying law, had gone pretty often to the

dancing-rooms, where he was even a great success amongst the grisettes,

who thought he had a distinguished air. He was the best-mannered of the

students; he wore his hair neither too long nor too short, didn't spend

all his quarter's money on the first day of the month, and kept on good

terms with his professors. As for excesses, he had always abstained from

them, as much from cowardice as from refinement.
Often when he stayed in his room to read, or else when sitting of an

evening under the lime-trees of the Luxembourg, he let his Code fall to

the ground, and the memory of Emma came back to him. But gradually this

feeling grew weaker, and other desires gathered over it, although it

still persisted through them all. For Leon did not lose all hope; there

was for him, as it were, a vague promise floating in the future, like a

golden fruit suspended from some fantastic tree.
Then, seeing her again after three years of absence his passion

reawakened. He must, he thought, at last make up his mind to possess

her. Moreover, his timidity had worn off by contact with his gay

companions, and he returned to the provinces despising everyone who had

not with varnished shoes trodden the asphalt of the boulevards. By

the side of a Parisienne in her laces, in the drawing-room of some

illustrious physician, a person driving his carriage and wearing many

orders, the poor clerk would no doubt have trembled like a child; but

here, at Rouen, on the harbour, with the wife of this small doctor

he felt at his ease, sure beforehand he would shine. Self-possession

depends on its environment. We don't speak on the first floor as on the

fourth; and the wealthy woman seems to have, about her, to guard her

virtue, all her banknotes, like a cuirass in the lining of her corset.
On leaving the Bovarys the night before, Leon had followed them

through the streets at a distance; then having seen them stop at the

"Croix-Rouge," he turned on his heel, and spent the night meditating a

So the next day about five o'clock he walked into the kitchen of the

inn, with a choking sensation in his throat, pale cheeks, and that

resolution of cowards that stops at nothing.

"The gentleman isn't in," answered a servant.
This seemed to him a good omen. He went upstairs.
She was not disturbed at his approach; on the contrary, she apologised

for having neglected to tell him where they were staying.

"Oh, I divined it!" said Leon.
He pretended he had been guided towards her by chance, by, instinct. She

began to smile; and at once, to repair his folly, Leon told her that he

had spent his morning in looking for her in all the hotels in the town

one after the other.

"So you have made up your mind to stay?" he added.
"Yes," she said, "and I am wrong. One ought not to accustom oneself to

impossible pleasures when there are a thousand demands upon one."

"Oh, I can imagine!"
"Ah! no; for you, you are a man!"
But men too had had their trials, and the conversation went off into

certain philosophical reflections. Emma expatiated much on the misery of

earthly affections, and the eternal isolation in which the heart remains


To show off, or from a naive imitation of this melancholy which called

forth his, the young man declared that he had been awfully bored during

the whole course of his studies. The law irritated him, other vocations

attracted him, and his mother never ceased worrying him in every one

of her letters. As they talked they explained more and more fully the

motives of their sadness, working themselves up in their progressive

confidence. But they sometimes stopped short of the complete exposition

of their thought, and then sought to invent a phrase that might express

it all the same. She did not confess her passion for another; he did not

say that he had forgotten her.

Perhaps he no longer remembered his suppers with girls after masked

balls; and no doubt she did not recollect the rendezvous of old when she

ran across the fields in the morning to her lover's house. The noises

of the town hardly reached them, and the room seemed small, as if

on purpose to hem in their solitude more closely. Emma, in a dimity

dressing-gown, leant her head against the back of the old arm-chair; the

yellow wall-paper formed, as it were, a golden background behind her,

and her bare head was mirrored in the glass with the white parting in

the middle, and the tip of her ears peeping out from the folds of her

"But pardon me!" she said. "It is wrong of me. I weary you with my

eternal complaints."

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