Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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detested him now. This failing to keep their rendezvous seemed to her an

insult, and she tried to rake up other reasons to separate herself from

him. He was incapable of heroism, weak, banal, more spiritless than a

woman, avaricious too, and cowardly.


Then, growing calmer, she at length discovered that she had, no doubt,

calumniated him. But the disparaging of those we love always alienates

us from them to some extent. We must not touch our idols; the gilt

sticks to our fingers.


They gradually came to talking more frequently of matters outside their

love, and in the letters that Emma wrote him she spoke of flowers,

verses, the moon and the stars, naive resources of a waning passion

striving to keep itself alive by all external aids. She was constantly

promising herself a profound felicity on her next journey. Then

she confessed to herself that she felt nothing extraordinary. This

disappointment quickly gave way to a new hope, and Emma returned to him

more inflamed, more eager than ever. She undressed brutally, tearing off

the thin laces of her corset that nestled around her hips like a gliding

snake. She went on tiptoe, barefooted, to see once more that the

door was closed, then, pale, serious, and, without speaking, with one

movement, she threw herself upon his breast with a long shudder.


Yet there was upon that brow covered with cold drops, on those quivering

lips, in those wild eyes, in the strain of those arms, something vague

and dreary that seemed to Leon to glide between them subtly as if to

separate them.


He did not dare to question her; but, seeing her so skilled, she must

have passed, he thought, through every experience of suffering and of

pleasure. What had once charmed now frightened him a little. Besides, he

rebelled against his absorption, daily more marked, by her personality.

He begrudged Emma this constant victory. He even strove not to love her;

then, when he heard the creaking of her boots, he turned coward, like

drunkards at the sight of strong drinks.
She did not fail, in truth, to lavish all sorts of attentions upon him,

from the delicacies of food to the coquettries of dress and languishing

looks. She brought roses to her breast from Yonville, which she threw

into his face; was anxious about his health, gave him advice as to his

conduct; and, in order the more surely to keep her hold on him, hoping

perhaps that heaven would take her part, she tied a medal of the

Virgin round his neck. She inquired like a virtuous mother about his

companions. She said to him--


"Don't see them; don't go out; think only of ourselves; love me!"
She would have liked to be able to watch over his life; and the idea

occurred to her of having him followed in the streets. Near the hotel

there was always a kind of loafer who accosted travellers, and who would

not refuse. But her pride revolted at this.


"Bah! so much the worse. Let him deceive me! What does it matter to me?

As If I cared for him!"


One day, when they had parted early and she was returning alone along

the boulevard, she saw the walls of her convent; then she sat down on a

form in the shade of the elm-trees. How calm that time had been! How she

longed for the ineffable sentiments of love that she had tried to figure

to herself out of books! The first month of her marriage, her rides in

the wood, the viscount that waltzed, and Lagardy singing, all repassed

before her eyes. And Leon suddenly appeared to her as far off as the

others.
"Yet I love him," she said to herself.


No matter! She was not happy--she never had been. Whence came this

insufficiency in life--this instantaneous turning to decay of everything

on which she leant? But if there were somewhere a being strong and

beautiful, a valiant nature, full at once of exaltation and refinement,

a poet's heart in an angel's form, a lyre with sounding chords ringing

out elegiac epithalamia to heaven, why, perchance, should she not find

him? Ah! how impossible! Besides, nothing was worth the trouble of

seeking it; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom,

every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left

upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight.


A metallic clang droned through the air, and four strokes were heard

from the convent-clock. Four o'clock! And it seemed to her that she had

been there on that form an eternity. But an infinity of passions may be

contained in a minute, like a crowd in a small space.


Emma lived all absorbed in hers, and troubled no more about money

matters than an archduchess.


Once, however, a wretched-looking man, rubicund and bald, came to her

house, saying he had been sent by Monsieur Vincart of Rouen. He took out

the pins that held together the side-pockets of his long green overcoat,

stuck them into his sleeve, and politely handed her a paper.


It was a bill for seven hundred francs, signed by her, and which

Lheureux, in spite of all his professions, had paid away to Vincart. She

sent her servant for him. He could not come. Then the stranger, who

had remained standing, casting right and left curious glances, that his

thick, fair eyebrows hid, asked with a naive air--
"What answer am I to take Monsieur Vincart?"
"Oh," said Emma, "tell him that I haven't it. I will send next week; he

must wait; yes, till next week."


And the fellow went without another word.
But the next day at twelve o'clock she received a summons, and the sight

of the stamped paper, on which appeared several times in large letters,

"Maitre Hareng, bailiff at Buchy," so frightened her that she rushed in

hot haste to the linendraper's. She found him in his shop, doing up a

parcel.
"Your obedient!" he said; "I am at your service."
But Lheureux, all the same, went on with his work, helped by a young

girl of about thirteen, somewhat hunch-backed, who was at once his clerk

and his servant.
Then, his clogs clattering on the shop-boards, he went up in front

of Madame Bovary to the first door, and introduced her into a narrow

closet, where, in a large bureau in sapon-wood, lay some ledgers,

protected by a horizontal padlocked iron bar. Against the wall, under

some remnants of calico, one glimpsed a safe, but of such dimensions

that it must contain something besides bills and money. Monsieur

Lheureux, in fact, went in for pawnbroking, and it was there that he had

put Madame Bovary's gold chain, together with the earrings of poor old

Tellier, who, at last forced to sell out, had bought a meagre store

of grocery at Quincampoix, where he was dying of catarrh amongst his

candles, that were less yellow than his face.
Lheureux sat down in a large cane arm-chair, saying: "What news?"
"See!"
And she showed him the paper.
"Well how can I help it?"
Then she grew angry, reminding him of the promise he had given not to

pay away her bills. He acknowledged it.


"But I was pressed myself; the knife was at my own throat."
"And what will happen now?" she went on.
"Oh, it's very simple; a judgment and then a distraint--that's about

it!"
Emma kept down a desire to strike him, and asked gently if there was no

way of quieting Monsieur Vincart.
"I dare say! Quiet Vincart! You don't know him; he's more ferocious than

an Arab!"


Still Monsieur Lheureux must interfere.
"Well, listen. It seems to me so far I've been very good to you." And

opening one of his ledgers, "See," he said. Then running up the page

with his finger, "Let's see! let's see! August 3d, two hundred francs;

June 17th, a hundred and fifty; March 23d, forty-six. In April--"


He stopped, as if afraid of making some mistake.
"Not to speak of the bills signed by Monsieur Bovary, one for seven

hundred francs, and another for three hundred. As to your little

installments, with the interest, why, there's no end to 'em; one gets

quite muddled over 'em. I'll have nothing more to do with it."


She wept; she even called him "her good Monsieur Lheureux." But he

always fell back upon "that rascal Vincart." Besides, he hadn't a brass

farthing; no one was paying him now-a-days; they were eating his coat

off his back; a poor shopkeeper like him couldn't advance money.


Emma was silent, and Monsieur Lheureux, who was biting the feathers of a

quill, no doubt became uneasy at her silence, for he went on--


"Unless one of these days I have something coming in, I might--"
"Besides," said she, "as soon as the balance of Barneville--"
"What!"
And on hearing that Langlois had not yet paid he seemed much surprised.

Then in a honied voice--


"And we agree, you say?"
"Oh! to anything you like."
On this he closed his eyes to reflect, wrote down a few figures, and

declaring it would be very difficult for him, that the affair was shady,

and that he was being bled, he wrote out four bills for two hundred and

fifty francs each, to fall due month by month.


"Provided that Vincart will listen to me! However, it's settled. I don't

play the fool; I'm straight enough."


Next he carelessly showed her several new goods, not one of which,

however, was in his opinion worthy of madame.


"When I think that there's a dress at threepence-halfpenny a yard, and

warranted fast colours! And yet they actually swallow it! Of course you

understand one doesn't tell them what it really is!" He hoped by this

confession of dishonesty to others to quite convince her of his probity

to her.
Then he called her back to show her three yards of guipure that he had

lately picked up "at a sale."


"Isn't it lovely?" said Lheureux. "It is very much used now for the

backs of arm-chairs. It's quite the rage."


And, more ready than a juggler, he wrapped up the guipure in some blue

paper and put it in Emma's hands.


"But at least let me know--"
"Yes, another time," he replied, turning on his heel.
That same evening she urged Bovary to write to his mother, to ask her

to send as quickly as possible the whole of the balance due from the

father's estate. The mother-in-law replied that she had nothing more,

the winding up was over, and there was due to them besides Barneville an

income of six hundred francs, that she would pay them punctually.
Then Madame Bovary sent in accounts to two or three patients, and she

made large use of this method, which was very successful. She was always

careful to add a postscript: "Do not mention this to my husband; you

know how proud he is. Excuse me. Yours obediently." There were some

complaints; she intercepted them.
To get money she began selling her old gloves, her old hats, the old

odds and ends, and she bargained rapaciously, her peasant blood standing

her in good stead. Then on her journey to town she picked up nick-nacks

secondhand, that, in default of anyone else, Monsieur Lheureux would

certainly take off her hands. She bought ostrich feathers, Chinese

porcelain, and trunks; she borrowed from Felicite, from Madame

Lefrancois, from the landlady at the Croix-Rouge, from everybody, no

matter where.


With the money she at last received from Barneville she paid two bills;

the other fifteen hundred francs fell due. She renewed the bills, and

thus it was continually.
Sometimes, it is true, she tried to make a calculation, but she

discovered things so exorbitant that she could not believe them

possible. Then she recommenced, soon got confused, gave it all up, and

thought no more about it.


The house was very dreary now. Tradesmen were seen leaving it with angry

faces. Handkerchiefs were lying about on the stoves, and little Berthe,

to the great scandal of Madame Homais, wore stockings with holes in

them. If Charles timidly ventured a remark, she answered roughly that it

wasn't her fault.
What was the meaning of all these fits of temper? He explained

everything through her old nervous illness, and reproaching himself with

having taken her infirmities for faults, accused himself of egotism, and

longed to go and take her in his arms.


"Ah, no!" he said to himself; "I should worry her."
And he did not stir.
After dinner he walked about alone in the garden; he took little Berthe

on his knees, and unfolding his medical journal, tried to teach her

to read. But the child, who never had any lessons, soon looked up with

large, sad eyes and began to cry. Then he comforted her; went to fetch

water in her can to make rivers on the sand path, or broke off branches

from the privet hedges to plant trees in the beds. This did not spoil

the garden much, all choked now with long weeds. They owed Lestiboudois

for so many days. Then the child grew cold and asked for her mother.


"Call the servant," said Charles. "You know, dearie, that mamma does not

like to be disturbed."


Autumn was setting in, and the leaves were already falling, as they did

two years ago when she was ill. Where would it all end? And he walked up

and down, his hands behind his back.
Madame was in her room, which no one entered. She stayed there all

day long, torpid, half dressed, and from time to time burning Turkish

pastilles which she had bought at Rouen in an Algerian's shop. In order

not to have at night this sleeping man stretched at her side, by dint of

manoeuvring, she at last succeeded in banishing him to the second floor,

while she read till morning extravagant books, full of pictures of

orgies and thrilling situations. Often, seized with fear, she cried out,

and Charles hurried to her.


"Oh, go away!" she would say.
Or at other times, consumed more ardently than ever by that inner flame

to which adultery added fuel, panting, tremulous, all desire, she threw

open her window, breathed in the cold air, shook loose in the wind her

masses of hair, too heavy, and, gazing upon the stars, longed for some

princely love. She thought of him, of Leon. She would then have given

anything for a single one of those meetings that surfeited her.


These were her gala days. She wanted them to be sumptuous, and when he

alone could not pay the expenses, she made up the deficit liberally,

which happened pretty well every time. He tried to make her understand

that they would be quite as comfortable somewhere else, in a smaller

hotel, but she always found some objection.
One day she drew six small silver-gilt spoons from her bag (they were

old Roualt's wedding present), begging him to pawn them at once for her,

and Leon obeyed, though the proceeding annoyed him. He was afraid of

compromising himself.


Then, on, reflection, he began to think his mistress's ways were growing

odd, and that they were perhaps not wrong in wishing to separate him

from her.
In fact someone had sent his mother a long anonymous letter to warn her

that he was "ruining himself with a married woman," and the good lady at

once conjuring up the eternal bugbear of families, the vague pernicious

creature, the siren, the monster, who dwells fantastically in depths of

love, wrote to Lawyer Dubocage, his employer, who behaved perfectly in

the affair. He kept him for three quarters of an hour trying to open

his eyes, to warn him of the abyss into which he was falling. Such

an intrigue would damage him later on, when he set up for himself. He

implored him to break with her, and, if he would not make this sacrifice

in his own interest, to do it at least for his, Dubocage's sake.


At last Leon swore he would not see Emma again, and he reproached

himself with not having kept his word, considering all the worry and

lectures this woman might still draw down upon him, without reckoning

the jokes made by his companions as they sat round the stove in the

morning. Besides, he was soon to be head clerk; it was time to settle

down. So he gave up his flute, exalted sentiments, and poetry; for every

bourgeois in the flush of his youth, were it but for a day, a moment,

has believed himself capable of immense passions, of lofty enterprises.

The most mediocre libertine has dreamed of sultanas; every notary bears

within him the debris of a poet.


He was bored now when Emma suddenly began to sob on his breast, and his

heart, like the people who can only stand a certain amount of music,

dozed to the sound of a love whose delicacies he no longer noted.
They knew one another too well for any of those surprises of possession

that increase its joys a hundred-fold. She was as sick of him as he

was weary of her. Emma found again in adultery all the platitudes of

marriage.


But how to get rid of him? Then, though she might feel humiliated at

the baseness of such enjoyment, she clung to it from habit or from

corruption, and each day she hungered after them the more, exhausting

all felicity in wishing for too much of it. She accused Leon of her

baffled hopes, as if he had betrayed her; and she even longed for some

catastrophe that would bring about their separation, since she had not

the courage to make up her mind to it herself.
She none the less went on writing him love letters, in virtue of the

notion that a woman must write to her lover.


But whilst she wrote it was another man she saw, a phantom fashioned out

of her most ardent memories, of her finest reading, her strongest

lusts, and at last he became so real, so tangible, that she palpitated

wondering, without, however, the power to imagine him clearly, so lost

was he, like a god, beneath the abundance of his attributes. He dwelt in

that azure land where silk ladders hang from balconies under the breath

of flowers, in the light of the moon. She felt him near her; he was

coming, and would carry her right away in a kiss.


Then she fell back exhausted, for these transports of vague love wearied

her more than great debauchery.


She now felt constant ache all over her. Often she even received

summonses, stamped paper that she barely looked at. She would have liked

not to be alive, or to be always asleep.
On Mid-Lent she did not return to Yonville, but in the evening went to

a masked ball. She wore velvet breeches, red stockings, a club wig, and

three-cornered hat cocked on one side. She danced all night to the wild

tones of the trombones; people gathered round her, and in the morning

she found herself on the steps of the theatre together with five or six

masks, debardeuses* and sailors, Leon's comrades, who were talking about

having supper.
* People dressed as longshoremen.

The neighbouring cafes were full. They caught sight of one on the

harbour, a very indifferent restaurant, whose proprietor showed them to

a little room on the fourth floor.


The men were whispering in a corner, no doubt consorting about expenses.

There were a clerk, two medical students, and a shopman--what company

for her! As to the women, Emma soon perceived from the tone of their

voices that they must almost belong to the lowest class. Then she was

frightened, pushed back her chair, and cast down her eyes.
The others began to eat; she ate nothing. Her head was on fire, her eyes

smarted, and her skin was ice-cold. In her head she seemed to feel the

floor of the ball-room rebounding again beneath the rhythmical pulsation

of the thousands of dancing feet. And now the smell of the punch, the

smoke of the cigars, made her giddy. She fainted, and they carried her

to the window.


Day was breaking, and a great stain of purple colour broadened out

in the pale horizon over the St. Catherine hills. The livid river was

shivering in the wind; there was no one on the bridges; the street lamps

were going out.


She revived, and began thinking of Berthe asleep yonder in the servant's

room. Then a cart filled with long strips of iron passed by, and made a

deafening metallic vibration against the walls of the houses.
She slipped away suddenly, threw off her costume, told Leon she must get

back, and at last was alone at the Hotel de Boulogne. Everything, even

herself, was now unbearable to her. She wished that, taking wing like a

bird, she could fly somewhere, far away to regions of purity, and there

grow young again.
She went out, crossed the Boulevard, the Place Cauchoise, and the

Faubourg, as far as an open street that overlooked some gardens. She

walked rapidly; the fresh air calming her; and, little by little, the

faces of the crowd, the masks, the quadrilles, the lights, the supper,

those women, all disappeared like mists fading away. Then, reaching the

"Croix-Rouge," she threw herself on the bed in her little room on the

second floor, where there were pictures of the "Tour de Nesle." At four

o'clock Hivert awoke her.


When she got home, Felicite showed her behind the clock a grey paper.

She read--


"In virtue of the seizure in execution of a judgment."
What judgment? As a matter of fact, the evening before another paper

had been brought that she had not yet seen, and she was stunned by these

words--
"By order of the king, law, and justice, to Madame Bovary." Then,

skipping several lines, she read, "Within twenty-four hours, without

fail--" But what? "To pay the sum of eight thousand francs." And there

was even at the bottom, "She will be constrained thereto by every

form of law, and notably by a writ of distraint on her furniture and

effects."


What was to be done? In twenty-four hours--tomorrow. Lheureux, she

thought, wanted to frighten her again; for she saw through all his

devices, the object of his kindnesses. What reassured her was the very

magnitude of the sum.


However, by dint of buying and not paying, of borrowing, signing bills,

and renewing these bills that grew at each new falling-in, she had ended

by preparing a capital for Monsieur Lheureux which he was impatiently

awaiting for his speculations.


She presented herself at his place with an offhand air.
"You know what has happened to me? No doubt it's a joke!"
"How so?"
He turned away slowly, and, folding his arms, said to her--
"My good lady, did you think I should go on to all eternity being your

purveyor and banker, for the love of God? Now be just. I must get back

what I've laid out. Now be just."
She cried out against the debt.
"Ah! so much the worse. The court has admitted it. There's a judgment.

It's been notified to you. Besides, it isn't my fault. It's Vincart's."


"Could you not--?"
"Oh, nothing whatever."



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