Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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of his woe.
Everyone, he thought, must have adored her; all men assuredly must have

coveted her. She seemed but the more beautiful to him for this; he

was seized with a lasting, furious desire for her, that inflamed his

despair, and that was boundless, because it was now unrealisable.


To please her, as if she were still living, he adopted her

predilections, her ideas; he bought patent leather boots and took to

wearing white cravats. He put cosmetics on his moustache, and, like her,

signed notes of hand. She corrupted him from beyond the grave.


He was obliged to sell his silver piece by piece; next he sold the

drawing-room furniture. All the rooms were stripped; but the bedroom,

her own room, remained as before. After his dinner Charles went up

there. He pushed the round table in front of the fire, and drew up her

armchair. He sat down opposite it. A candle burnt in one of the gilt

candlesticks. Berthe by his side was painting prints.


He suffered, poor man, at seeing her so badly dressed, with laceless

boots, and the arm-holes of her pinafore torn down to the hips; for the

charwoman took no care of her. But she was so sweet, so pretty, and her

little head bent forward so gracefully, letting the dear fair hair fall

over her rosy cheeks, that an infinite joy came upon him, a happiness

mingled with bitterness, like those ill-made wines that taste of

resin. He mended her toys, made her puppets from cardboard, or sewed up

half-torn dolls. Then, if his eyes fell upon the workbox, a ribbon lying

about, or even a pin left in a crack of the table, he began to dream,

and looked so sad that she became as sad as he.


No one now came to see them, for Justin had run away to Rouen, where he

was a grocer's assistant, and the druggist's children saw less and less

of the child, Monsieur Homais not caring, seeing the difference of their

social position, to continue the intimacy.


The blind man, whom he had not been able to cure with the pomade, had

gone back to the hill of Bois-Guillaume, where he told the travellers of

the vain attempt of the druggist, to such an extent, that Homais when

he went to town hid himself behind the curtains of the "Hirondelle" to

avoid meeting him. He detested him, and wishing, in the interests of his

own reputation, to get rid of him at all costs, he directed against

him a secret battery, that betrayed the depth of his intellect and the

baseness of his vanity. Thus, for six consecutive months, one could read

in the "Fanal de Rouen" editorials such as these--
"All who bend their steps towards the fertile plains of Picardy have, no

doubt, remarked, by the Bois-Guillaume hill, a wretch suffering from

a horrible facial wound. He importunes, persecutes one, and levies a

regular tax on all travellers. Are we still living in the monstrous

times of the Middle Ages, when vagabonds were permitted to display in

our public places leprosy and scrofulas they had brought back from the

Crusades?"
Or--
"In spite of the laws against vagabondage, the approaches to our great

towns continue to be infected by bands of beggars. Some are seen going

about alone, and these are not, perhaps, the least dangerous. What are

our ediles about?"


Then Homais invented anecdotes--
"Yesterday, by the Bois-Guillaume hill, a skittish horse--" And then

followed the story of an accident caused by the presence of the blind

man.
He managed so well that the fellow was locked up. But he was released.

He began again, and Homais began again. It was a struggle. Homais won

it, for his foe was condemned to life-long confinement in an asylum.
This success emboldened him, and henceforth there was no longer a dog

run over, a barn burnt down, a woman beaten in the parish, of which

he did not immediately inform the public, guided always by the love of

progress and the hate of priests. He instituted comparisons between the

elementary and clerical schools to the detriment of the latter; called

to mind the massacre of St. Bartholomew a propos of a grant of one

hundred francs to the church, and denounced abuses, aired new views.

That was his phrase. Homais was digging and delving; he was becoming

dangerous.
However, he was stifling in the narrow limits of journalism, and soon a

book, a work was necessary to him. Then he composed "General Statistics

of the Canton of Yonville, followed by Climatological Remarks." The

statistics drove him to philosophy. He busied himself with great

questions: the social problem, moralisation of the poorer classes,

pisciculture, caoutchouc, railways, etc. He even began to blush at being

a bourgeois. He affected the artistic style, he smoked. He bought two

chic Pompadour statuettes to adorn his drawing-room.


He by no means gave up his shop. On the contrary, he kept well abreast

of new discoveries. He followed the great movement of chocolates; he

was the first to introduce "cocoa" and "revalenta" into the

Seine-Inferieure. He was enthusiastic about the hydro-electric

Pulvermacher chains; he wore one himself, and when at night he took off

his flannel vest, Madame Homais stood quite dazzled before the golden

spiral beneath which he was hidden, and felt her ardour redouble for

this man more bandaged than a Scythian, and splendid as one of the Magi.


He had fine ideas about Emma's tomb. First he proposed a broken column

with some drapery, next a pyramid, then a Temple of Vesta, a sort of

rotunda, or else a "mass of ruins." And in all his plans Homais always

stuck to the weeping willow, which he looked upon as the indispensable

symbol of sorrow.
Charles and he made a journey to Rouen together to look at some tombs

at a funeral furnisher's, accompanied by an artist, one Vaufrylard, a

friend of Bridoux's, who made puns all the time. At last, after having

examined some hundred designs, having ordered an estimate and made

another journey to Rouen, Charles decided in favour of a mausoleum,

which on the two principal sides was to have a "spirit bearing an

extinguished torch."
As to the inscription, Homais could think of nothing so fine as Sta

viator*, and he got no further; he racked his brain, he constantly

repeated Sta viator. At last he hit upon Amabilen conjugem calcas**,

which was adopted.


* Rest traveler.
** Tread upon a loving wife.
A strange thing was that Bovary, while continually thinking of Emma, was

forgetting her. He grew desperate as he felt this image fading from his

memory in spite of all efforts to retain it. Yet every night he dreamt

of her; it was always the same dream. He drew near her, but when he was

about to clasp her she fell into decay in his arms.
For a week he was seen going to church in the evening. Monsieur

Bournisien even paid him two or three visits, then gave him up.

Moreover, the old fellow was growing intolerant, fanatic, said Homais.

He thundered against the spirit of the age, and never failed, every

other week, in his sermon, to recount the death agony of Voltaire, who

died devouring his excrements, as everyone knows.


In spite of the economy with which Bovary lived, he was far from being

able to pay off his old debts. Lheureux refused to renew any more

bills. A distraint became imminent. Then he appealed to his mother, who

consented to let him take a mortgage on her property, but with a great

many recriminations against Emma; and in return for her sacrifice she

asked for a shawl that had escaped the depredations of Felicite. Charles

refused to give it her; they quarrelled.
She made the first overtures of reconciliation by offering to have the

little girl, who could help her in the house, to live with her. Charles

consented to this, but when the time for parting came, all his courage

failed him. Then there was a final, complete rupture.


As his affections vanished, he clung more closely to the love of his

child. She made him anxious, however, for she coughed sometimes, and had

red spots on her cheeks.
Opposite his house, flourishing and merry, was the family of the

chemist, with whom everything was prospering. Napoleon helped him in the

laboratory, Athalie embroidered him a skullcap, Irma cut out rounds of

paper to cover the preserves, and Franklin recited Pythagoras' table in

a breath. He was the happiest of fathers, the most fortunate of men.
Not so! A secret ambition devoured him. Homais hankered after the cross

of the Legion of Honour. He had plenty of claims to it.


"First, having at the time of the cholera distinguished myself by a

boundless devotion; second, by having published, at my expense,

various works of public utility, such as" (and he recalled his pamphlet

entitled, "Cider, its manufacture and effects," besides observation

on the lanigerous plant-louse, sent to the Academy; his volume of

statistics, and down to his pharmaceutical thesis); "without counting

that I am a member of several learned societies" (he was member of a

single one).


"In short!" he cried, making a pirouette, "if it were only for

distinguishing myself at fires!"


Then Homais inclined towards the Government. He secretly did the

prefect great service during the elections. He sold himself--in a word,

prostituted himself. He even addressed a petition to the sovereign

in which he implored him to "do him justice"; he called him "our good

king," and compared him to Henri IV.
And every morning the druggist rushed for the paper to see if his

nomination were in it. It was never there. At last, unable to bear it

any longer, he had a grass plot in his garden designed to represent the

Star of the Cross of Honour with two little strips of grass running from

the top to imitate the ribband. He walked round it with folded arms,

meditating on the folly of the Government and the ingratitude of men.


From respect, or from a sort of sensuality that made him carry on his

investigations slowly, Charles had not yet opened the secret drawer of

a rosewood desk which Emma had generally used. One day, however, he

sat down before it, turned the key, and pressed the spring. All Leon's

letters were there. There could be no doubt this time. He devoured them

to the very last, ransacked every corner, all the furniture, all the

drawers, behind the walls, sobbing, crying aloud, distraught, mad. He

found a box and broke it open with a kick. Rodolphe's portrait flew full

in his face in the midst of the overturned love-letters.
People wondered at his despondency. He never went out, saw no one,

refused even to visit his patients. Then they said "he shut himself up

to drink."
Sometimes, however, some curious person climbed on to the garden hedge,

and saw with amazement this long-bearded, shabbily clothed, wild man,

who wept aloud as he walked up and down.
In the evening in summer he took his little girl with him and led her to

the cemetery. They came back at nightfall, when the only light left in

the Place was that in Binet's window.
The voluptuousness of his grief was, however, incomplete, for he had no

one near him to share it, and he paid visits to Madame Lefrancois to be

able to speak of her.
But the landlady only listened with half an ear, having troubles

like himself. For Lheureux had at last established the "Favorites du

Commerce," and Hivert, who enjoyed a great reputation for doing errands,

insisted on a rise of wages, and was threatening to go over "to the

opposition shop."
One day when he had gone to the market at Argueil to sell his horse--his

last resource--he met Rodolphe.


They both turned pale when they caught sight of one another. Rodolphe,

who had only sent his card, first stammered some apologies, then grew

bolder, and even pushed his assurance (it was in the month of August and

very hot) to the length of inviting him to have a bottle of beer at the

public-house.
Leaning on the table opposite him, he chewed his cigar as he talked, and

Charles was lost in reverie at this face that she had loved. He seemed

to see again something of her in it. It was a marvel to him. He would

have liked to have been this man.


The other went on talking agriculture, cattle, pasturage, filling out

with banal phrases all the gaps where an allusion might slip in. Charles

was not listening to him; Rodolphe noticed it, and he followed the

succession of memories that crossed his face. This gradually grew

redder; the nostrils throbbed fast, the lips quivered. There was at

last a moment when Charles, full of a sombre fury, fixed his eyes on

Rodolphe, who, in something of fear, stopped talking. But soon the same

look of weary lassitude came back to his face.


"I don't blame you," he said.
Rodolphe was dumb. And Charles, his head in his hands, went on in a

broken voice, and with the resigned accent of infinite sorrow--


"No, I don't blame you now."
He even added a fine phrase, the only one he ever made--
"It is the fault of fatality!"
Rodolphe, who had managed the fatality, thought the remark very offhand

from a man in his position, comic even, and a little mean.


The next day Charles went to sit down on the seat in the arbour. Rays

of light were straying through the trellis, the vine leaves threw their

shadows on the sand, the jasmines perfumed the air, the heavens were

blue, Spanish flies buzzed round the lilies in bloom, and Charles was

suffocating like a youth beneath the vague love influences that filled

his aching heart.


At seven o'clock little Berthe, who had not seen him all the afternoon,

went to fetch him to dinner.


His head was thrown back against the wall, his eyes closed, his mouth

open, and in his hand was a long tress of black hair.


"Come along, papa," she said.
And thinking he wanted to play; she pushed him gently. He fell to the

ground. He was dead.


Thirty-six hours after, at the druggist's request, Monsieur Canivet came

thither. He made a post-mortem and found nothing.


When everything had been sold, twelve francs seventy-five centimes

remained, that served to pay for Mademoiselle Bovary's going to

her grandmother. The good woman died the same year; old Rouault was

paralysed, and it was an aunt who took charge of her. She is poor, and

sends her to a cotton-factory to earn a living.
Since Bovary's death three doctors have followed one another at Yonville

without any success, so severely did Homais attack them. He has an

enormous practice; the authorities treat him with consideration, and

public opinion protects him.


He has just received the cross of the Legion of Honour.


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