Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Once in the middle of the day, in the open country, just as the sun

beat most fiercely against the old plated lanterns, a bared hand passed

beneath the small blinds of yellow canvas, and threw out some scraps

of paper that scattered in the wind, and farther off lighted like white

butterflies on a field of red clover all in bloom.
At about six o'clock the carriage stopped in a back street of the

Beauvoisine Quarter, and a woman got out, who walked with her veil down,

and without turning her head.

Chapter Two

On reaching the inn, Madame Bovary was surprised not to see the

diligence. Hivert, who had waited for her fifty-three minutes, had at

last started.
Yet nothing forced her to go; but she had given her word that she would

return that same evening. Moreover, Charles expected her, and in her

heart she felt already that cowardly docility that is for some women at

once the chastisement and atonement of adultery.

She packed her box quickly, paid her bill, took a cab in the yard,

hurrying on the driver, urging him on, every moment inquiring about

the time and the miles traversed. He succeeded in catching up the

"Hirondelle" as it neared the first houses of Quincampoix.

Hardly was she seated in her corner than she closed her eyes, and opened

them at the foot of the hill, when from afar she recognised Felicite,

who was on the lookout in front of the farrier's shop. Hivert pulled

in his horses and, the servant, climbing up to the window, said

"Madame, you must go at once to Monsieur Homais. It's for something


The village was silent as usual. At the corner of the streets were small

pink heaps that smoked in the air, for this was the time for jam-making,

and everyone at Yonville prepared his supply on the same day. But in

front of the chemist's shop one might admire a far larger heap, and that

surpassed the others with the superiority that a laboratory must have

over ordinary stores, a general need over individual fancy.

She went in. The large arm-chair was upset, and even the "Fanal de

Rouen" lay on the ground, outspread between two pestles. She pushed open

the lobby door, and in the middle of the kitchen, amid brown jars full

of picked currants, of powdered sugar and lump sugar, of the scales on

the table, and of the pans on the fire, she saw all the Homais, small

and large, with aprons reaching to their chins, and with forks in their

hands. Justin was standing up with bowed head, and the chemist was


"Who told you to go and fetch it in the Capharnaum."
"What is it? What is the matter?"
"What is it?" replied the druggist. "We are making preserves; they are

simmering; but they were about to boil over, because there is too

much juice, and I ordered another pan. Then he, from indolence, from

laziness, went and took, hanging on its nail in my laboratory, the key

of the Capharnaum."
It was thus the druggist called a small room under the leads, full of

the utensils and the goods of his trade. He often spent long hours there

alone, labelling, decanting, and doing up again; and he looked upon

it not as a simple store, but as a veritable sanctuary, whence there

afterwards issued, elaborated by his hands, all sorts of pills, boluses,

infusions, lotions, and potions, that would bear far and wide his

celebrity. No one in the world set foot there, and he respected it so,

that he swept it himself. Finally, if the pharmacy, open to all comers,

was the spot where he displayed his pride, the Capharnaum was the refuge

where, egoistically concentrating himself, Homais delighted in the

exercise of his predilections, so that Justin's thoughtlessness seemed

to him a monstrous piece of irreverence, and, redder than the currants,

he repeated--
"Yes, from the Capharnaum! The key that locks up the acids and caustic

alkalies! To go and get a spare pan! a pan with a lid! and that I

shall perhaps never use! Everything is of importance in the delicate

operations of our art! But, devil take it! one must make distinctions,

and not employ for almost domestic purposes that which is meant for

pharmaceutical! It is as if one were to carve a fowl with a scalpel; as

if a magistrate--"
"Now be calm," said Madame Homais.
And Athalie, pulling at his coat, cried "Papa! papa!"
"No, let me alone," went on the druggist "let me alone, hang it! My

word! One might as well set up for a grocer. That's it! go it! respect

nothing! break, smash, let loose the leeches, burn the mallow-paste,

pickle the gherkins in the window jars, tear up the bandages!"

"I thought you had--" said Emma.
"Presently! Do you know to what you exposed yourself? Didn't you see

anything in the corner, on the left, on the third shelf? Speak, answer,

articulate something."
"I--don't--know," stammered the young fellow.
"Ah! you don't know! Well, then, I do know! You saw a bottle of blue

glass, sealed with yellow wax, that contains a white powder, on which I

have even written 'Dangerous!' And do you know what is in it? Arsenic!

And you go and touch it! You take a pan that was next to it!"

"Next to it!" cried Madame Homais, clasping her hands. "Arsenic! You

might have poisoned us all."

And the children began howling as if they already had frightful pains in

their entrails.

"Or poison a patient!" continued the druggist. "Do you want to see me

in the prisoner's dock with criminals, in a court of justice? To see

me dragged to the scaffold? Don't you know what care I take in managing

things, although I am so thoroughly used to it? Often I am horrified

myself when I think of my responsibility; for the Government persecutes

us, and the absurd legislation that rules us is a veritable Damocles'

sword over our heads."
Emma no longer dreamed of asking what they wanted her for, and the

druggist went on in breathless phrases--

"That is your return for all the kindness we have shown you! That is how

you recompense me for the really paternal care that I lavish on you! For

without me where would you be? What would you be doing? Who provides

you with food, education, clothes, and all the means of figuring one day

with honour in the ranks of society? But you must pull hard at the oar

if you're to do that, and get, as, people say, callosities upon your

hands. Fabricando fit faber, age quod agis.*"
* The worker lives by working, do what he will.

He was so exasperated he quoted Latin. He would have quoted Chinese

or Greenlandish had he known those two languages, for he was in one

of those crises in which the whole soul shows indistinctly what it

contains, like the ocean, which, in the storm, opens itself from the

seaweeds on its shores down to the sands of its abysses.

And he went on--
"I am beginning to repent terribly of having taken you up! I should

certainly have done better to have left you to rot in your poverty and

the dirt in which you were born. Oh, you'll never be fit for anything

but to herd animals with horns! You have no aptitude for science! You

hardly know how to stick on a label! And there you are, dwelling with me

snug as a parson, living in clover, taking your ease!"

But Emma, turning to Madame Homais, "I was told to come here--"
"Oh, dear me!" interrupted the good woman, with a sad air, "how am I to

tell you? It is a misfortune!"

She could not finish, the druggist was thundering--"Empty it! Clean it!

Take it back! Be quick!"

And seizing Justin by the collar of his blouse, he shook a book out of

his pocket. The lad stooped, but Homais was the quicker, and, having

picked up the volume, contemplated it with staring eyes and open mouth.
"CONJUGAL--LOVE!" he said, slowly separating the two words. "Ah! very

good! very good! very pretty! And illustrations! Oh, this is too much!"

Madame Homais came forward.
"No, do not touch it!"
The children wanted to look at the pictures.
"Leave the room," he said imperiously; and they went out.
First he walked up and down with the open volume in his hand, rolling

his eyes, choking, tumid, apoplectic. Then he came straight to his

pupil, and, planting himself in front of him with crossed arms--
"Have you every vice, then, little wretch? Take care! you are on a

downward path. Did not you reflect that this infamous book might fall

in the hands of my children, kindle a spark in their minds, tarnish the

purity of Athalie, corrupt Napoleon. He is already formed like a man.

Are you quite sure, anyhow, that they have not read it? Can you certify

to me--"
"But really, sir," said Emma, "you wished to tell me--"

"Ah, yes! madame. Your father-in-law is dead."
In fact, Monsieur Bovary senior had expired the evening before suddenly

from an attack of apoplexy as he got up from table, and by way of

greater precaution, on account of Emma's sensibility, Charles had begged

Homais to break the horrible news to her gradually. Homais had thought

over his speech; he had rounded, polished it, made it rhythmical; it was

a masterpiece of prudence and transitions, of subtle turns and delicacy;

but anger had got the better of rhetoric.
Emma, giving up all chance of hearing any details, left the pharmacy;

for Monsieur Homais had taken up the thread of his vituperations.

However, he was growing calmer, and was now grumbling in a paternal tone

whilst he fanned himself with his skull-cap.

"It is not that I entirely disapprove of the work. Its author was a

doctor! There are certain scientific points in it that it is not ill a

man should know, and I would even venture to say that a man must know.

But later--later! At any rate, not till you are man yourself and your

temperament is formed."
When Emma knocked at the door. Charles, who was waiting for her, came

forward with open arms and said to her with tears in his voice--

"Ah! my dear!"
And he bent over her gently to kiss her. But at the contact of his lips

the memory of the other seized her, and she passed her hand over her

face shuddering.
But she made answer, "Yes, I know, I know!"
He showed her the letter in which his mother told the event without any

sentimental hypocrisy. She only regretted her husband had not received

the consolations of religion, as he had died at Daudeville, in the

street, at the door of a cafe after a patriotic dinner with some

Emma gave him back the letter; then at dinner, for appearance's sake,

she affected a certain repugnance. But as he urged her to try, she

resolutely began eating, while Charles opposite her sat motionless in a

dejected attitude.

Now and then he raised his head and gave her a long look full of

distress. Once he sighed, "I should have liked to see him again!"

She was silent. At last, understanding that she must say something, "How

old was your father?" she asked.

And that was all.
A quarter of an hour after he added, "My poor mother! what will become

of her now?"

She made a gesture that signified she did not know. Seeing her so

taciturn, Charles imagined her much affected, and forced himself to say

nothing, not to reawaken this sorrow which moved him. And, shaking off

his own--

"Did you enjoy yourself yesterday?" he asked.
When the cloth was removed, Bovary did not rise, nor did Emma; and as

she looked at him, the monotony of the spectacle drove little by little

all pity from her heart. He seemed to her paltry, weak, a cipher--in

a word, a poor thing in every way. How to get rid of him? What an

interminable evening! Something stupefying like the fumes of opium

seized her.

They heard in the passage the sharp noise of a wooden leg on the boards.

It was Hippolyte bringing back Emma's luggage. In order to put it down

he described painfully a quarter of a circle with his stump.
"He doesn't even remember any more about it," she thought, looking at

the poor devil, whose coarse red hair was wet with perspiration.

Bovary was searching at the bottom of his purse for a centime, and

without appearing to understand all there was of humiliation for him

in the mere presence of this man, who stood there like a personified

reproach to his incurable incapacity.

"Hallo! you've a pretty bouquet," he said, noticing Leon's violets on

the chimney.

"Yes," she replied indifferently; "it's a bouquet I bought just now from

a beggar."

Charles picked up the flowers, and freshening his eyes, red with tears,

against them, smelt them delicately.

She took them quickly from his hand and put them in a glass of water.
The next day Madame Bovary senior arrived. She and her son wept much.

Emma, on the pretext of giving orders, disappeared. The following day

they had a talk over the mourning. They went and sat down with their

workboxes by the waterside under the arbour.

Charles was thinking of his father, and was surprised to feel so much

affection for this man, whom till then he had thought he cared little

about. Madame Bovary senior was thinking of her husband. The worst

days of the past seemed enviable to her. All was forgotten beneath the

instinctive regret of such a long habit, and from time to time whilst

she sewed, a big tear rolled along her nose and hung suspended there a

moment. Emma was thinking that it was scarcely forty-eight hours since

they had been together, far from the world, all in a frenzy of joy, and

not having eyes enough to gaze upon each other. She tried to recall the

slightest details of that past day. But the presence of her husband and

mother-in-law worried her. She would have liked to hear nothing, to see

nothing, so as not to disturb the meditation on her love, that, do what

she would, became lost in external sensations.
She was unpicking the lining of a dress, and the strips were scattered

around her. Madame Bovary senior was plying her scissor without looking

up, and Charles, in his list slippers and his old brown surtout that he

used as a dressing-gown, sat with both hands in his pockets, and did not

speak either; near them Berthe, in a little white pinafore, was raking

sand in the walks with her spade. Suddenly she saw Monsieur Lheureux,

the linendraper, come in through the gate.
He came to offer his services "under the sad circumstances." Emma

answered that she thought she could do without. The shopkeeper was not

to be beaten.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "but I should like to have a private talk

with you." Then in a low voice, "It's about that affair--you know."

Charles crimsoned to his ears. "Oh, yes! certainly." And in his

confusion, turning to his wife, "Couldn't you, my darling?"

She seemed to understand him, for she rose; and Charles said to his

mother, "It is nothing particular. No doubt, some household trifle." He

did not want her to know the story of the bill, fearing her reproaches.
As soon as they were alone, Monsieur Lheureux in sufficiently clear

terms began to congratulate Emma on the inheritance, then to talk of

indifferent matters, of the espaliers, of the harvest, and of his own

health, which was always so-so, always having ups and downs. In fact, he

had to work devilish hard, although he didn't make enough, in spite of

all people said, to find butter for his bread.

Emma let him talk on. She had bored herself so prodigiously the last two

"And so you're quite well again?" he went on. "Ma foi! I saw your

husband in a sad state. He's a good fellow, though we did have a little


She asked what misunderstanding, for Charles had said nothing of the

dispute about the goods supplied to her.

"Why, you know well enough," cried Lheureux. "It was about your little

fancies--the travelling trunks."

He had drawn his hat over his eyes, and, with his hands behind his

back, smiling and whistling, he looked straight at her in an unbearable

manner. Did he suspect anything?
She was lost in all kinds of apprehensions. At last, however, he went

"We made it up, all the same, and I've come again to propose another

This was to renew the bill Bovary had signed. The doctor, of course,

would do as he pleased; he was not to trouble himself, especially just

now, when he would have a lot of worry. "And he would do better to give

it over to someone else--to you, for example. With a power of attorney

it could be easily managed, and then we (you and I) would have our

little business transactions together."

She did not understand. He was silent. Then, passing to his trade,

Lheureux declared that madame must require something. He would send her

a black barege, twelve yards, just enough to make a gown.
"The one you've on is good enough for the house, but you want another

for calls. I saw that the very moment that I came in. I've the eye of an

He did not send the stuff; he brought it. Then he came again to measure

it; he came again on other pretexts, always trying to make himself

agreeable, useful, "enfeoffing himself," as Homais would have said, and

always dropping some hint to Emma about the power of attorney. He never

mentioned the bill; she did not think of it. Charles, at the beginning

of her convalescence, had certainly said something about it to her,

but so many emotions had passed through her head that she no longer

remembered it. Besides, she took care not to talk of any money

questions. Madame Bovary seemed surprised at this, and attributed the

change in her ways to the religious sentiments she had contracted during

her illness.
But as soon as she was gone, Emma greatly astounded Bovary by her

practical good sense. It would be necessary to make inquiries, to look

into mortgages, and see if there were any occasion for a sale by auction

or a liquidation. She quoted technical terms casually, pronounced the

grand words of order, the future, foresight, and constantly exaggerated

the difficulties of settling his father's affairs so much, that at last

one day she showed him the rough draft of a power of attorney to manage

and administer his business, arrange all loans, sign and endorse all

bills, pay all sums, etc. She had profited by Lheureux's lessons.

Charles naively asked her where this paper came from.

"Monsieur Guillaumin"; and with the utmost coolness she added, "I don't

trust him overmuch. Notaries have such a bad reputation. Perhaps we

ought to consult--we only know--no one."
"Unless Leon--" replied Charles, who was reflecting. But it was

difficult to explain matters by letter. Then she offered to make the

journey, but he thanked her. She insisted. It was quite a contest of

mutual consideration. At last she cried with affected waywardness--

"No, I will go!"
"How good you are!" he said, kissing her forehead.
The next morning she set out in the "Hirondelle" to go to Rouen to

consult Monsieur Leon, and she stayed there three days.

Chapter Three

They were three full, exquisite days--a true honeymoon. They were at

the Hotel-de-Boulogne, on the harbour; and they lived there, with drawn

blinds and closed doors, with flowers on the floor, and iced syrups were

brought them early in the morning.

Towards evening they took a covered boat and went to dine on one of the

islands. It was the time when one hears by the side of the dockyard the

caulking-mallets sounding against the hull of vessels. The smoke of

the tar rose up between the trees; there were large fatty drops on the

water, undulating in the purple colour of the sun, like floating plaques

of Florentine bronze.

They rowed down in the midst of moored boats, whose long oblique cables

grazed lightly against the bottom of the boat. The din of the town

gradually grew distant; the rolling of carriages, the tumult of voices,

the yelping of dogs on the decks of vessels. She took off her bonnet,

and they landed on their island.
They sat down in the low-ceilinged room of a tavern, at whose door hung

black nets. They ate fried smelts, cream and cherries. They lay down

upon the grass; they kissed behind the poplars; and they would fain,

like two Robinsons, have lived for ever in this little place, which

seemed to them in their beatitude the most magnificent on earth. It was

not the first time that they had seen trees, a blue sky, meadows; that

they had heard the water flowing and the wind blowing in the leaves;

but, no doubt, they had never admired all this, as if Nature had

not existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful since the

gratification of their desires.

At night they returned. The boat glided along the shores of the islands.

They sat at the bottom, both hidden by the shade, in silence. The square

oars rang in the iron thwarts, and, in the stillness, seemed to mark

time, like the beating of a metronome, while at the stern the rudder

that trailed behind never ceased its gentle splash against the water.
Once the moon rose; they did not fail to make fine phrases, finding the

orb melancholy and full of poetry. She even began to sing--

"One night, do you remember, we were sailing," etc.
Her musical but weak voice died away along the waves, and the winds

carried off the trills that Leon heard pass like the flapping of wings

about him.
She was opposite him, leaning against the partition of the shallop,

through one of whose raised blinds the moon streamed in. Her black

dress, whose drapery spread out like a fan, made her seem more slender,

taller. Her head was raised, her hands clasped, her eyes turned towards

heaven. At times the shadow of the willows hid her completely; then she

reappeared suddenly, like a vision in the moonlight.

Leon, on the floor by her side, found under his hand a ribbon of scarlet

silk. The boatman looked at it, and at last said--

"Perhaps it belongs to the party I took out the other day. A lot

of jolly folk, gentlemen and ladies, with cakes, champagne,

cornets--everything in style! There was one especially, a tall handsome

man with small moustaches, who was that funny! And they all kept saying,

'Now tell us something, Adolphe--Dolpe,' I think."
She shivered.
"You are in pain?" asked Leon, coming closer to her.
"Oh, it's nothing! No doubt, it is only the night air."
"And who doesn't want for women, either," softly added the sailor,

thinking he was paying the stranger a compliment.

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