Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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"No, never, never!"
"If you knew," she went on, raising to the ceiling her beautiful eyes,

in which a tear was trembling, "all that I had dreamed!"

"And I! Oh, I too have suffered! Often I went out; I went away. I

dragged myself along the quays, seeking distraction amid the din of the

crowd without being able to banish the heaviness that weighed upon me.

In an engraver's shop on the boulevard there is an Italian print of one

of the Muses. She is draped in a tunic, and she is looking at the

moon, with forget-me-nots in her flowing hair. Something drove me there

continually; I stayed there hours together." Then in a trembling voice,

"She resembled you a little."

Madame Bovary turned away her head that he might not see the

irrepressible smile she felt rising to her lips.

"Often," he went on, "I wrote you letters that I tore up."
She did not answer. He continued--
"I sometimes fancied that some chance would bring you. I thought I

recognised you at street-corners, and I ran after all the carriages

through whose windows I saw a shawl fluttering, a veil like yours."
She seemed resolved to let him go on speaking without interruption.

Crossing her arms and bending down her face, she looked at the rosettes

on her slippers, and at intervals made little movements inside the satin

of them with her toes.

At last she sighed.
"But the most wretched thing, is it not--is to drag out, as I do, a

useless existence. If our pains were only of some use to someone, we

should find consolation in the thought of the sacrifice."
He started off in praise of virtue, duty, and silent immolation, having

himself an incredible longing for self-sacrifice that he could not

"I should much like," she said, "to be a nurse at a hospital."
"Alas! men have none of these holy missions, and I see nowhere any

calling--unless perhaps that of a doctor."

With a slight shrug of her shoulders, Emma interrupted him to speak of

her illness, which had almost killed her. What a pity! She should not be

suffering now! Leon at once envied the calm of the tomb, and one evening

he had even made his will, asking to be buried in that beautiful rug

with velvet stripes he had received from her. For this was how they

would have wished to be, each setting up an ideal to which they were now

adapting their past life. Besides, speech is a rolling-mill that always

thins out the sentiment.

But at this invention of the rug she asked, "But why?"
"Why?" He hesitated. "Because I loved you so!" And congratulating

himself at having surmounted the difficulty, Leon watched her face out

of the corner of his eyes.
It was like the sky when a gust of wind drives the clouds across. The

mass of sad thoughts that darkened them seemed to be lifted from her

blue eyes; her whole face shone. He waited. At last she replied--
"I always suspected it."
Then they went over all the trifling events of that far-off existence,

whose joys and sorrows they had just summed up in one word. They

recalled the arbour with clematis, the dresses she had worn, the

furniture of her room, the whole of her house.

"And our poor cactuses, where are they?"
"The cold killed them this winter."
"Ah! how I have thought of them, do you know? I often saw them again as

of yore, when on the summer mornings the sun beat down upon your blinds,

and I saw your two bare arms passing out amongst the flowers."
"Poor friend!" she said, holding out her hand to him.
Leon swiftly pressed his lips to it. Then, when he had taken a deep

"At that time you were to me I know not what incomprehensible force that

took captive my life. Once, for instance, I went to see you; but you, no

doubt, do not remember it."

"I do," she said; "go on."
"You were downstairs in the ante-room, ready to go out, standing on

the last stair; you were wearing a bonnet with small blue flowers; and

without any invitation from you, in spite of myself, I went with you.

Every moment, however, I grew more and more conscious of my folly, and

I went on walking by you, not daring to follow you completely, and

unwilling to leave you. When you went into a shop, I waited in the

street, and I watched you through the window taking off your gloves and

counting the change on the counter. Then you rang at Madame Tuvache's;

you were let in, and I stood like an idiot in front of the great heavy

door that had closed after you."

Madame Bovary, as she listened to him, wondered that she was so old. All

these things reappearing before her seemed to widen out her life; it was

like some sentimental immensity to which she returned; and from time to

time she said in a low voice, her eyes half closed--

"Yes, it is true--true--true!"
They heard eight strike on the different clocks of the Beauvoisine

quarter, which is full of schools, churches, and large empty hotels.

They no longer spoke, but they felt as they looked upon each other a

buzzing in their heads, as if something sonorous had escaped from the

fixed eyes of each of them. They were hand in hand now, and the past,

the future, reminiscences and dreams, all were confounded in the

sweetness of this ecstasy. Night was darkening over the walls, on which

still shone, half hidden in the shade, the coarse colours of four bills

representing four scenes from the "Tour de Nesle," with a motto in

Spanish and French at the bottom. Through the sash-window a patch of

dark sky was seen between the pointed roofs.
She rose to light two wax-candles on the drawers, then she sat down

"Well!" said Leon.

"Well!" she replied.
He was thinking how to resume the interrupted conversation, when she

said to him--

"How is it that no one until now has ever expressed such sentiments to

The clerk said that ideal natures were difficult to understand. He from

the first moment had loved her, and he despaired when he thought of the

happiness that would have been theirs, if thanks to fortune, meeting her

earlier, they had been indissolubly bound to one another.
"I have sometimes thought of it," she went on.
"What a dream!" murmured Leon. And fingering gently the blue binding of

her long white sash, he added, "And who prevents us from beginning now?"

"No, my friend," she replied; "I am too old; you are too young. Forget

me! Others will love you; you will love them."

"Not as you!" he cried.
"What a child you are! Come, let us be sensible. I wish it."
She showed him the impossibility of their love, and that they must

remain, as formerly, on the simple terms of a fraternal friendship.

Was she speaking thus seriously? No doubt Emma did not herself know,

quite absorbed as she was by the charm of the seduction, and the

necessity of defending herself from it; and contemplating the young

man with a moved look, she gently repulsed the timid caresses that his

trembling hands attempted.
"Ah! forgive me!" he cried, drawing back.
Emma was seized with a vague fear at this shyness, more dangerous to her

than the boldness of Rodolphe when he advanced to her open-armed. No man

had ever seemed to her so beautiful. An exquisite candour emanated from

his being. He lowered his long fine eyelashes, that curled upwards.

His cheek, with the soft skin reddened, she thought, with desire of her

person, and Emma felt an invincible longing to press her lips to it.

Then, leaning towards the clock as if to see the time--
"Ah! how late it is!" she said; "how we do chatter!"
He understood the hint and took up his hat.
"It has even made me forget the theatre. And poor Bovary has left me

here especially for that. Monsieur Lormeaux, of the Rue Grand-Pont, was

to take me and his wife."
And the opportunity was lost, as she was to leave the next day.
"Really!" said Leon.
"But I must see you again," he went on. "I wanted to tell you--"
"Something--important--serious. Oh, no! Besides, you will not go; it is

impossible. If you should--listen to me. Then you have not understood

me; you have not guessed--"
"Yet you speak plainly," said Emma.
"Ah! you can jest. Enough! enough! Oh, for pity's sake, let me see you

once--only once!"

"Well--" She stopped; then, as if thinking better of it, "Oh, not here!"
"Where you will."
"Will you--" She seemed to reflect; then abruptly, "To-morrow at eleven

o'clock in the cathedral."

"I shall be there," he cried, seizing her hands, which she disengaged.
And as they were both standing up, he behind her, and Emma with her head

bent, he stooped over her and pressed long kisses on her neck.

"You are mad! Ah! you are mad!" she said, with sounding little laughs,

while the kisses multiplied.

Then bending his head over her shoulder, he seemed to beg the consent of

her eyes. They fell upon him full of an icy dignity.

Leon stepped back to go out. He stopped on the threshold; then he

whispered with a trembling voice, "Tomorrow!"

She answered with a nod, and disappeared like a bird into the next room.
In the evening Emma wrote the clerk an interminable letter, in which she

cancelled the rendezvous; all was over; they must not, for the sake of

their happiness, meet again. But when the letter was finished, as she

did not know Leon's address, she was puzzled.

"I'll give it to him myself," she said; "he will come."
The next morning, at the open window, and humming on his balcony, Leon

himself varnished his pumps with several coatings. He put on white

trousers, fine socks, a green coat, emptied all the scent he had into

his handkerchief, then having had his hair curled, he uncurled it again,

in order to give it a more natural elegance.
"It is still too early," he thought, looking at the hairdresser's

cuckoo-clock, that pointed to the hour of nine. He read an old fashion

journal, went out, smoked a cigar, walked up three streets, thought it

was time, and went slowly towards the porch of Notre Dame.

It was a beautiful summer morning. Silver plate sparkled in the

jeweller's windows, and the light falling obliquely on the cathedral

made mirrors of the corners of the grey stones; a flock of birds

fluttered in the grey sky round the trefoil bell-turrets; the square,

resounding with cries, was fragrant with the flowers that bordered its

pavement, roses, jasmines, pinks, narcissi, and tube-roses, unevenly

spaced out between moist grasses, catmint, and chickweed for the birds;

the fountains gurgled in the centre, and under large umbrellas, amidst

melons, piled up in heaps, flower-women, bare-headed, were twisting

paper round bunches of violets.

The young man took one. It was the first time that he had bought flowers

for a woman, and his breast, as he smelt them, swelled with pride, as if

this homage that he meant for another had recoiled upon himself.
But he was afraid of being seen; he resolutely entered the church. The

beadle, who was just then standing on the threshold in the middle of the

left doorway, under the "Dancing Marianne," with feather cap, and rapier

dangling against his calves, came in, more majestic than a cardinal, and

as shining as a saint on a holy pyx.
He came towards Leon, and, with that smile of wheedling benignity

assumed by ecclesiastics when they question children--

"The gentleman, no doubt, does not belong to these parts? The gentleman

would like to see the curiosities of the church?"

"No!" said the other.
And he first went round the lower aisles. Then he went out to look at

the Place. Emma was not coming yet. He went up again to the choir.

The nave was reflected in the full fonts with the beginning of the

arches and some portions of the glass windows. But the reflections of

the paintings, broken by the marble rim, were continued farther on upon

the flag-stones, like a many-coloured carpet. The broad daylight from

without streamed into the church in three enormous rays from the three

opened portals. From time to time at the upper end a sacristan passed,

making the oblique genuflexion of devout persons in a hurry. The crystal

lustres hung motionless. In the choir a silver lamp was burning, and

from the side chapels and dark places of the church sometimes rose

sounds like sighs, with the clang of a closing grating, its echo

reverberating under the lofty vault.
Leon with solemn steps walked along by the walls. Life had never seemed

so good to him. She would come directly, charming, agitated, looking

back at the glances that followed her, and with her flounced dress, her

gold eyeglass, her thin shoes, with all sorts of elegant trifles that he

had never enjoyed, and with the ineffable seduction of yielding virtue.

The church like a huge boudoir spread around her; the arches bent down

to gather in the shade the confession of her love; the windows shone

resplendent to illumine her face, and the censers would burn that she

might appear like an angel amid the fumes of the sweet-smelling odours.
But she did not come. He sat down on a chair, and his eyes fell upon a

blue stained window representing boatmen carrying baskets. He looked at

it long, attentively, and he counted the scales of the fishes and the

button-holes of the doublets, while his thoughts wandered off towards

The beadle, standing aloof, was inwardly angry at this individual who

took the liberty of admiring the cathedral by himself. He seemed to him

to be conducting himself in a monstrous fashion, to be robbing him in a

sort, and almost committing sacrilege.

But a rustle of silk on the flags, the tip of a bonnet, a lined

cloak--it was she! Leon rose and ran to meet her.

Emma was pale. She walked fast.
"Read!" she said, holding out a paper to him. "Oh, no!"
And she abruptly withdrew her hand to enter the chapel of the Virgin,

where, kneeling on a chair, she began to pray.

The young man was irritated at this bigot fancy; then he nevertheless

experienced a certain charm in seeing her, in the middle of a

rendezvous, thus lost in her devotions, like an Andalusian marchioness;

then he grew bored, for she seemed never coming to an end.

Emma prayed, or rather strove to pray, hoping that some sudden

resolution might descend to her from heaven; and to draw down divine

aid she filled full her eyes with the splendours of the tabernacle. She

breathed in the perfumes of the full-blown flowers in the large vases,

and listened to the stillness of the church, that only heightened the

tumult of her heart.

She rose, and they were about to leave, when the beadle came forward,

hurriedly saying--

"Madame, no doubt, does not belong to these parts? Madame would like to

see the curiosities of the church?"

"Oh, no!" cried the clerk.
"Why not?" said she. For she clung with her expiring virtue to the

Virgin, the sculptures, the tombs--anything.

Then, in order to proceed "by rule," the beadle conducted them right to

the entrance near the square, where, pointing out with his cane a large

circle of block-stones without inscription or carving--
"This," he said majestically, "is the circumference of the beautiful

bell of Ambroise. It weighed forty thousand pounds. There was not its

equal in all Europe. The workman who cast it died of the joy--"
"Let us go on," said Leon.
The old fellow started off again; then, having got back to the chapel of

the Virgin, he stretched forth his arm with an all-embracing gesture

of demonstration, and, prouder than a country squire showing you his

espaliers, went on--

"This simple stone covers Pierre de Breze, lord of Varenne and of

Brissac, grand marshal of Poitou, and governor of Normandy, who died at

the battle of Montlhery on the 16th of July, 1465."
Leon bit his lips, fuming.
"And on the right, this gentleman all encased in iron, on the

prancing horse, is his grandson, Louis de Breze, lord of Breval and of

Montchauvet, Count de Maulevrier, Baron de Mauny, chamberlain to the

king, Knight of the Order, and also governor of Normandy; died on the

23rd of July, 1531--a Sunday, as the inscription specifies; and below,

this figure, about to descend into the tomb, portrays the same person.

It is not possible, is it, to see a more perfect representation of


Madame Bovary put up her eyeglasses. Leon, motionless, looked at her,

no longer even attempting to speak a single word, to make a gesture,

so discouraged was he at this two-fold obstinacy of gossip and


The everlasting guide went on--
"Near him, this kneeling woman who weeps is his spouse, Diane de

Poitiers, Countess de Breze, Duchess de Valentinois, born in 1499, died

in 1566, and to the left, the one with the child is the Holy Virgin. Now

turn to this side; here are the tombs of the Ambroise. They were both

cardinals and archbishops of Rouen. That one was minister under Louis

XII. He did a great deal for the cathedral. In his will he left thirty

thousand gold crowns for the poor."
And without stopping, still talking, he pushed them into a chapel

full of balustrades, some put away, and disclosed a kind of block that

certainly might once have been an ill-made statue.
"Truly," he said with a groan, "it adorned the tomb of Richard Coeur de

Lion, King of England and Duke of Normandy. It was the Calvinists, sir,

who reduced it to this condition. They had buried it for spite in the

earth, under the episcopal seat of Monsignor. See! this is the door by

which Monsignor passes to his house. Let us pass on quickly to see the

gargoyle windows."

But Leon hastily took some silver from his pocket and seized Emma's

arm. The beadle stood dumfounded, not able to understand this untimely

munificence when there were still so many things for the stranger to

see. So calling him back, he cried--

"Sir! sir! The steeple! the steeple!"
"No, thank you!" said Leon.
"You are wrong, sir! It is four hundred and forty feet high, nine less

than the great pyramid of Egypt. It is all cast; it--"

Leon was fleeing, for it seemed to him that his love, that for nearly

two hours now had become petrified in the church like the stones, would

vanish like a vapour through that sort of truncated funnel, of oblong

cage, of open chimney that rises so grotesquely from the cathedral like

the extravagant attempt of some fantastic brazier.
"But where are we going?" she said.
Making no answer, he walked on with a rapid step; and Madame Bovary

was already, dipping her finger in the holy water when behind them they

heard a panting breath interrupted by the regular sound of a cane. Leon

turned back.

"What is it?"
And he recognised the beadle, holding under his arms and balancing

against his stomach some twenty large sewn volumes. They were works

"which treated of the cathedral."
"Idiot!" growled Leon, rushing out of the church.
A lad was playing about the close.
"Go and get me a cab!"
The child bounded off like a ball by the Rue Quatre-Vents; then they

were alone a few minutes, face to face, and a little embarrassed.

"Ah! Leon! Really--I don't know--if I ought," she whispered. Then with a

more serious air, "Do you know, it is very improper--"

"How so?" replied the clerk. "It is done at Paris."
And that, as an irresistible argument, decided her.
Still the cab did not come. Leon was afraid she might go back into the

church. At last the cab appeared.

"At all events, go out by the north porch," cried the beadle, who was

left alone on the threshold, "so as to see the Resurrection, the Last

Judgment, Paradise, King David, and the Condemned in Hell-flames."
"Where to, sir?" asked the coachman.
"Where you like," said Leon, forcing Emma into the cab.
And the lumbering machine set out. It went down the Rue Grand-Pont,

crossed the Place des Arts, the Quai Napoleon, the Pont Neuf, and

stopped short before the statue of Pierre Corneille.
"Go on," cried a voice that came from within.
The cab went on again, and as soon as it reached the Carrefour

Lafayette, set off down-hill, and entered the station at a gallop.

"No, straight on!" cried the same voice.
The cab came out by the gate, and soon having reached the Cours, trotted

quietly beneath the elm-trees. The coachman wiped his brow, put his

leather hat between his knees, and drove his carriage beyond the side

alley by the meadow to the margin of the waters.

It went along by the river, along the towing-path paved with sharp

pebbles, and for a long while in the direction of Oyssel, beyond the

But suddenly it turned with a dash across Quatremares, Sotteville, La

Grande-Chaussee, the Rue d'Elbeuf, and made its third halt in front of

the Jardin des Plantes.
"Get on, will you?" cried the voice more furiously.
And at once resuming its course, it passed by Saint-Sever, by the

Quai'des Curandiers, the Quai aux Meules, once more over the bridge, by

the Place du Champ de Mars, and behind the hospital gardens, where old

men in black coats were walking in the sun along the terrace all green

with ivy. It went up the Boulevard Bouvreuil, along the Boulevard

Cauchoise, then the whole of Mont-Riboudet to the Deville hills.

It came back; and then, without any fixed plan or direction, wandered

about at hazard. The cab was seen at Saint-Pol, at Lescure, at Mont

Gargan, at La Rougue-Marc and Place du Gaillardbois; in the Rue

Maladrerie, Rue Dinanderie, before Saint-Romain, Saint-Vivien,

Saint-Maclou, Saint-Nicaise--in front of the Customs, at the "Vieille

Tour," the "Trois Pipes," and the Monumental Cemetery. From time to time

the coachman, on his box cast despairing eyes at the public-houses.

He could not understand what furious desire for locomotion urged these

individuals never to wish to stop. He tried to now and then, and at

once exclamations of anger burst forth behind him. Then he lashed his

perspiring jades afresh, but indifferent to their jolting, running up

against things here and there, not caring if he did, demoralised, and

almost weeping with thirst, fatigue, and depression.
And on the harbour, in the midst of the drays and casks, and in the

streets, at the corners, the good folk opened large wonder-stricken

eyes at this sight, so extraordinary in the provinces, a cab with blinds

drawn, and which appeared thus constantly shut more closely than a tomb,

and tossing about like a vessel.

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