Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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At last these ladies thought they made out the word "francs," and Madame

Tuvache whispered in a low voice--

"She is begging him to give her time for paying her taxes."
"Apparently!" replied the other.
They saw her walking up and down, examining the napkin-rings, the

candlesticks, the banister rails against the walls, while Binet stroked

his beard with satisfaction.
"Do you think she wants to order something of him?" said Madame Tuvache.
"Why, he doesn't sell anything," objected her neighbour.
The tax-collector seemed to be listening with wide-open eyes, as if he

did not understand. She went on in a tender, suppliant manner. She came

nearer to him, her breast heaving; they no longer spoke.
"Is she making him advances?" said Madame Tuvache. Binet was scarlet to

his very ears. She took hold of his hands.

"Oh, it's too much!"
And no doubt she was suggesting something abominable to him; for the

tax-collector--yet he was brave, had fought at Bautzen and at Lutzen,

had been through the French campaign, and had even been recommended for

the cross--suddenly, as at the sight of a serpent, recoiled as far as he

could from her, crying--
"Madame! what do you mean?"
"Women like that ought to be whipped," said Madame Tuvache.
"But where is she?" continued Madame Caron, for she had disappeared

whilst they spoke; then catching sight of her going up the Grande Rue,

and turning to the right as if making for the cemetery, they were lost

in conjectures.

"Nurse Rollet," she said on reaching the nurse's, "I am choking; unlace

me!" She fell on the bed sobbing. Nurse Rollet covered her with a

petticoat and remained standing by her side. Then, as she did not

answer, the good woman withdrew, took her wheel and began spinning flax.

"Oh, leave off!" she murmured, fancying she heard Binet's lathe.
"What's bothering her?" said the nurse to herself. "Why has she come

She had rushed thither; impelled by a kind of horror that drove her from

her home.
Lying on her back, motionless, and with staring eyes, she saw things but

vaguely, although she tried to with idiotic persistence. She looked

at the scales on the walls, two brands smoking end to end, and a long

spider crawling over her head in a rent in the beam. At last she began

to collect her thoughts. She remembered--one day--Leon--Oh! how long

ago that was--the sun was shining on the river, and the clematis were

perfuming the air. Then, carried away as by a rushing torrent, she soon

began to recall the day before.

"What time is it?" she asked.
Mere Rollet went out, raised the fingers of her right hand to that side

of the sky that was brightest, and came back slowly, saying--

"Nearly three."
"Ahl thanks, thanks!"
For he would come; he would have found some money. But he would,

perhaps, go down yonder, not guessing she was here, and she told the

nurse to run to her house to fetch him.
"Be quick!"
"But, my dear lady, I'm going, I'm going!"
She wondered now that she had not thought of him from the first.

Yesterday he had given his word; he would not break it. And she already

saw herself at Lheureux's spreading out her three bank-notes on his

bureau. Then she would have to invent some story to explain matters to

Bovary. What should it be?
The nurse, however, was a long while gone. But, as there was no clock

in the cot, Emma feared she was perhaps exaggerating the length of time.

She began walking round the garden, step by step; she went into the path

by the hedge, and returned quickly, hoping that the woman would have

come back by another road. At last, weary of waiting, assailed by fears

that she thrust from her, no longer conscious whether she had been here

a century or a moment, she sat down in a corner, closed her eyes, and

stopped her ears. The gate grated; she sprang up. Before she had spoken

Mere Rollet said to her--
"There is no one at your house!"
"Oh, no one! And the doctor is crying. He is calling for you; they're

looking for you."

Emma answered nothing. She gasped as she turned her eyes about

her, while the peasant woman, frightened at her face, drew back

instinctively, thinking her mad. Suddenly she struck her brow and

uttered a cry; for the thought of Rodolphe, like a flash of lightning in

a dark night, had passed into her soul. He was so good, so delicate, so

generous! And besides, should he hesitate to do her this service, she

would know well enough how to constrain him to it by re-waking, in a

single moment, their lost love. So she set out towards La Huchette, not

seeing that she was hastening to offer herself to that which but a while

ago had so angered her, not in the least conscious of her prostitution.

Chapter Eight

She asked herself as she walked along, "What am I going to say? How

shall I begin?" And as she went on she recognised the thickets,

the trees, the sea-rushes on the hill, the chateau yonder. All the

sensations of her first tenderness came back to her, and her poor aching

heart opened out amorously. A warm wind blew in her face; the melting

snow fell drop by drop from the buds to the grass.

She entered, as she used to, through the small park-gate. She reached

the avenue bordered by a double row of dense lime-trees. They were

swaying their long whispering branches to and fro. The dogs in their

kennels all barked, and the noise of their voices resounded, but brought

out no one.
She went up the large straight staircase with wooden balusters that led

to the corridor paved with dusty flags, into which several doors in a

row opened, as in a monastery or an inn. His was at the top, right

at the end, on the left. When she placed her fingers on the lock her

strength suddenly deserted her. She was afraid, almost wished he

would not be there, though this was her only hope, her last chance of

salvation. She collected her thoughts for one moment, and, strengthening

herself by the feeling of present necessity, went in.

He was in front of the fire, both his feet on the mantelpiece, smoking a

"What! it is you!" he said, getting up hurriedly.

"Yes, it is I, Rodolphe. I should like to ask your advice."
And, despite all her efforts, it was impossible for her to open her

"You have not changed; you are charming as ever!"

"Oh," she replied bitterly, "they are poor charms since you disdained

Then he began a long explanation of his conduct, excusing himself in

vague terms, in default of being able to invent better.
She yielded to his words, still more to his voice and the sight of him,

so that, she pretended to believe, or perhaps believed; in the pretext

he gave for their rupture; this was a secret on which depended the

honour, the very life of a third person.

"No matter!" she said, looking at him sadly. "I have suffered much."
He replied philosophically--
"Such is life!"
"Has life," Emma went on, "been good to you at least, since our


"Oh, neither good nor bad."
"Perhaps it would have been better never to have parted."
"Yes, perhaps."
"You think so?" she said, drawing nearer, and she sighed. "Oh, Rodolphe!

if you but knew! I loved you so!"

It was then that she took his hand, and they remained some time, their

fingers intertwined, like that first day at the Show. With a gesture of

pride he struggled against this emotion. But sinking upon his breast she

said to him--

"How did you think I could live without you? One cannot lose the habit

of happiness. I was desolate. I thought I should die. I will tell you

about all that and you will see. And you--you fled from me!"
For, all the three years, he had carefully avoided her in consequence

of that natural cowardice that characterises the stronger sex. Emma went

on, with dainty little nods, more coaxing than an amorous kitten--
"You love others, confess it! Oh, I understand them, dear! I excuse

them. You probably seduced them as you seduced me. You are indeed a man;

you have everything to make one love you. But we'll begin again, won't

we? We will love one another. See! I am laughing; I am happy! Oh,

And she was charming to see, with her eyes, in which trembled a tear,

like the rain of a storm in a blue corolla.

He had drawn her upon his knees, and with the back of his hand was

caressing her smooth hair, where in the twilight was mirrored like a

golden arrow one last ray of the sun. She bent down her brow; at last he

kissed her on the eyelids quite gently with the tips of his lips.

"Why, you have been crying! What for?"
She burst into tears. Rodolphe thought this was an outburst of her

love. As she did not speak, he took this silence for a last remnant of

resistance, and then he cried out--
"Oh, forgive me! You are the only one who pleases me. I was imbecile and

cruel. I love you. I will love you always. What is it. Tell me!" He was

kneeling by her.
"Well, I am ruined, Rodolphe! You must lend me three thousand francs."
"But--but--" said he, getting up slowly, while his face assumed a grave


"You know," she went on quickly, "that my husband had placed his whole

fortune at a notary's. He ran away. So we borrowed; the patients don't

pay us. Moreover, the settling of the estate is not yet done; we shall

have the money later on. But to-day, for want of three thousand francs,

we are to be sold up. It is to be at once, this very moment, and,

counting upon your friendship, I have come to you."

"Ah!" thought Rodolphe, turning very pale, "that was what she came for."

At last he said with a calm air--

"Dear madame, I have not got them."
He did not lie. If he had had them, he would, no doubt, have given them,

although it is generally disagreeable to do such fine things: a demand

for money being, of all the winds that blow upon love, the coldest and

most destructive.

First she looked at him for some moments.
"You have not got them!" she repeated several times. "You have not got

them! I ought to have spared myself this last shame. You never loved me.

You are no better than the others."
She was betraying, ruining herself.
Rodolphe interrupted her, declaring he was "hard up" himself.
"Ah! I pity you," said Emma. "Yes--very much."
And fixing her eyes upon an embossed carabine, that shone against its

panoply, "But when one is so poor one doesn't have silver on the butt of

one's gun. One doesn't buy a clock inlaid with tortoise shell," she went

on, pointing to a buhl timepiece, "nor silver-gilt whistles for one's

whips," and she touched them, "nor charms for one's watch. Oh, he wants

for nothing! even to a liqueur-stand in his room! For you love yourself;

you live well. You have a chateau, farms, woods; you go hunting; you

travel to Paris. Why, if it were but that," she cried, taking up two

studs from the mantelpiece, "but the least of these trifles, one can get

money for them. Oh, I do not want them, keep them!"

And she threw the two links away from her, their gold chain breaking as

it struck against the wall.

"But I! I would have given you everything. I would have sold all, worked

for you with my hands, I would have begged on the highroads for a smile,

for a look, to hear you say 'Thanks!' And you sit there quietly in your

arm-chair, as if you had not made me suffer enough already! But for you,

and you know it, I might have lived happily. What made you do it? Was

it a bet? Yet you loved me--you said so. And but a moment since--Ah!

it would have been better to have driven me away. My hands are hot with

your kisses, and there is the spot on the carpet where at my knees you

swore an eternity of love! You made me believe you; for two years you

held me in the most magnificent, the sweetest dream! Eh! Our plans for

the journey, do you remember? Oh, your letter! your letter! it tore my

heart! And then when I come back to him--to him, rich, happy, free--to

implore the help the first stranger would give, a suppliant, and

bringing back to him all my tenderness, he repulses me because it would

cost him three thousand francs!"
"I haven't got them," replied Rodolphe, with that perfect calm with

which resigned rage covers itself as with a shield.

She went out. The walls trembled, the ceiling was crushing her, and she

passed back through the long alley, stumbling against the heaps of dead

leaves scattered by the wind. At last she reached the ha-ha hedge in

front of the gate; she broke her nails against the lock in her haste to

open it. Then a hundred steps farther on, breathless, almost falling,

she stopped. And now turning round, she once more saw the impassive

chateau, with the park, the gardens, the three courts, and all the

windows of the facade.

She remained lost in stupor, and having no more consciousness of herself

than through the beating of her arteries, that she seemed to hear

bursting forth like a deafening music filling all the fields. The earth

beneath her feet was more yielding than the sea, and the furrows seemed

to her immense brown waves breaking into foam. Everything in her

head, of memories, ideas, went off at once like a thousand pieces of

fireworks. She saw her father, Lheureux's closet, their room at home,

another landscape. Madness was coming upon her; she grew afraid, and

managed to recover herself, in a confused way, it is true, for she did

not in the least remember the cause of the terrible condition she was

in, that is to say, the question of money. She suffered only in her

love, and felt her soul passing from her in this memory; as wounded men,

dying, feel their life ebb from their bleeding wounds.
Night was falling, crows were flying about.
Suddenly it seemed to her that fiery spheres were exploding in the air

like fulminating balls when they strike, and were whirling, whirling,

to melt at last upon the snow between the branches of the trees. In the

midst of each of them appeared the face of Rodolphe. They multiplied and

drew near her, penetrating, her. It all disappeared; she recognised the

lights of the houses that shone through the fog.

Now her situation, like an abyss, rose up before her. She was panting as

if her heart would burst. Then in an ecstasy of heroism, that made

her almost joyous, she ran down the hill, crossed the cow-plank, the

foot-path, the alley, the market, and reached the chemist's shop. She

was about to enter, but at the sound of the bell someone might come, and

slipping in by the gate, holding her breath, feeling her way along the

walls, she went as far as the door of the kitchen, where a candle stuck

on the stove was burning. Justin in his shirt-sleeves was carrying out a

"Ah! they are dining; I will wait."
He returned; she tapped at the window. He went out.
"The key! the one for upstairs where he keeps the--"
And he looked at her, astonished at the pallor of her face, that stood

out white against the black background of the night. She seemed to

him extraordinarily beautiful and majestic as a phantom. Without

understanding what she wanted, he had the presentiment of something

But she went on quickly in a love voice; in a sweet, melting voice, "I

want it; give it to me."

As the partition wall was thin, they could hear the clatter of the forks

on the plates in the dining-room.

She pretended that she wanted to kill the rats that kept her from


"I must tell master."
"No, stay!" Then with an indifferent air, "Oh, it's not worth while;

I'll tell him presently. Come, light me upstairs."

She entered the corridor into which the laboratory door opened. Against

the wall was a key labelled Capharnaum.

"Justin!" called the druggist impatiently.
"Let us go up."
And he followed her. The key turned in the lock, and she went straight

to the third shelf, so well did her memory guide her, seized the blue

jar, tore out the cork, plunged in her hand, and withdrawing it full of

a white powder, she began eating it.

"Stop!" he cried, rushing at her.
"Hush! someone will come."
He was in despair, was calling out.
"Say nothing, or all the blame will fall on your master."
Then she went home, suddenly calmed, and with something of the serenity

of one that had performed a duty.

When Charles, distracted by the news of the distraint, returned home,

Emma had just gone out. He cried aloud, wept, fainted, but she did not

return. Where could she be? He sent Felicite to Homais, to Monsieur

Tuvache, to Lheureux, to the "Lion d'Or," everywhere, and in the

intervals of his agony he saw his reputation destroyed, their fortune

lost, Berthe's future ruined. By what?--Not a word! He waited till six

in the evening. At last, unable to bear it any longer, and fancying she

had gone to Rouen, he set out along the highroad, walked a mile, met no

one, again waited, and returned home. She had come back.
"What was the matter? Why? Explain to me."
She sat down at her writing-table and wrote a letter, which she sealed

slowly, adding the date and the hour. Then she said in a solemn tone:

"You are to read it to-morrow; till then, I pray you, do not ask me a

single question. No, not one!"

"Oh, leave me!"
She lay down full length on her bed. A bitter taste that she felt in her

mouth awakened her. She saw Charles, and again closed her eyes.

She was studying herself curiously, to see if she were not suffering.

But no! nothing as yet. She heard the ticking of the clock, the

crackling of the fire, and Charles breathing as he stood upright by her

"Ah! it is but a little thing, death!" she thought. "I shall fall asleep

and all will be over."
She drank a mouthful of water and turned to the wall. The frightful

taste of ink continued.

"I am thirsty; oh! so thirsty," she sighed.
"What is it?" said Charles, who was handing her a glass.
"It is nothing! Open the window; I am choking."
She was seized with a sickness so sudden that she had hardly time to

draw out her handkerchief from under the pillow.

"Take it away," she said quickly; "throw it away."
He spoke to her; she did not answer. She lay motionless, afraid that

the slightest movement might make her vomit. But she felt an icy cold

creeping from her feet to her heart.
"Ah! it is beginning," she murmured.
"What did you say?"
She turned her head from side to side with a gentle movement full of

agony, while constantly opening her mouth as if something very heavy

were weighing upon her tongue. At eight o'clock the vomiting began

Charles noticed that at the bottom of the basin there was a sort of

white sediment sticking to the sides of the porcelain.
"This is extraordinary--very singular," he repeated.
But she said in a firm voice, "No, you are mistaken."
Then gently, and almost as caressing her, he passed his hand over her

stomach. She uttered a sharp cry. He fell back terror-stricken.

Then she began to groan, faintly at first. Her shoulders were shaken by

a strong shuddering, and she was growing paler than the sheets in which

her clenched fingers buried themselves. Her unequal pulse was now almost


Drops of sweat oozed from her bluish face, that seemed as if rigid in

the exhalations of a metallic vapour. Her teeth chattered, her dilated

eyes looked vaguely about her, and to all questions she replied only

with a shake of the head; she even smiled once or twice. Gradually, her

moaning grew louder; a hollow shriek burst from her; she pretended she

was better and that she would get up presently. But she was seized with

convulsions and cried out--
"Ah! my God! It is horrible!"
He threw himself on his knees by her bed.
"Tell me! what have you eaten? Answer, for heaven's sake!"
And he looked at her with a tenderness in his eyes such as she had never

"Well, there--there!" she said in a faint voice. He flew to the

writing-table, tore open the seal, and read aloud: "Accuse no one." He

stopped, passed his hands across his eyes, and read it over again.

"What! help--help!"
He could only keep repeating the word: "Poisoned! poisoned!" Felicite

ran to Homais, who proclaimed it in the market-place; Madame Lefrancois

heard it at the "Lion d'Or"; some got up to go and tell their

neighbours, and all night the village was on the alert.

Distraught, faltering, reeling, Charles wandered about the room. He

knocked against the furniture, tore his hair, and the chemist had never

believed that there could be so terrible a sight.
He went home to write to Monsieur Canivet and to Doctor Lariviere. He

lost his head, and made more than fifteen rough copies. Hippolyte went

to Neufchatel, and Justin so spurred Bovary's horse that he left it

foundered and three parts dead by the hill at Bois-Guillaume.

Charles tried to look up his medical dictionary, but could not read it;

the lines were dancing.

"Be calm," said the druggist; "we have only to administer a powerful

antidote. What is the poison?"

Charles showed him the letter. It was arsenic.
"Very well," said Homais, "we must make an analysis."
For he knew that in cases of poisoning an analysis must be made; and the

other, who did not understand, answered--

"Oh, do anything! save her!"
Then going back to her, he sank upon the carpet, and lay there with his

head leaning against the edge of her bed, sobbing.

"Don't cry," she said to him. "Soon I shall not trouble you any more."
"Why was it? Who drove you to it?"
She replied. "It had to be, my dear!"
"Weren't you happy? Is it my fault? I did all I could!"
"Yes, that is true--you are good--you."
And she passed her hand slowly over his hair. The sweetness of this

sensation deepened his sadness; he felt his whole being dissolving

in despair at the thought that he must lose her, just when she was

confessing more love for him than ever. And he could think of nothing;

he did not know, he did not dare; the urgent need for some immediate

resolution gave the finishing stroke to the turmoil of his mind.

So she had done, she thought, with all the treachery; and meanness,

and numberless desires that had tortured her. She hated no one now; a

twilight dimness was settling upon her thoughts, and, of all earthly

noises, Emma heard none but the intermittent lamentations of this poor

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