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