Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

part. This was the time. Charles gave

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full of ruts; they were about to part. This was the time. Charles gave

himself as far as to the corner of the hedge, and at last, when past

"Monsieur Rouault," he murmured, "I should like to say something to

They stopped. Charles was silent.

"Well, tell me your story. Don't I know all about it?" said old Rouault,

laughing softly.

"Monsieur Rouault--Monsieur Rouault," stammered Charles.
"I ask nothing better", the farmer went on. "Although, no doubt, the

little one is of my mind, still we must ask her opinion. So you get

off--I'll go back home. If it is 'yes', you needn't return because of

all the people about, and besides it would upset her too much. But so

that you mayn't be eating your heart, I'll open wide the outer shutter

of the window against the wall; you can see it from the back by leaning

over the hedge."
And he went off.
Charles fastened his horse to a tree; he ran into the road and waited.

Half an hour passed, then he counted nineteen minutes by his watch.

Suddenly a noise was heard against the wall; the shutter had been thrown

back; the hook was still swinging.

The next day by nine o'clock he was at the farm. Emma blushed as

he entered, and she gave a little forced laugh to keep herself in

countenance. Old Rouault embraced his future son-in-law. The discussion

of money matters was put off; moreover, there was plenty of time before

them, as the marriage could not decently take place till Charles was out

of mourning, that is to say, about the spring of the next year.

The winter passed waiting for this. Mademoiselle Rouault was busy with

her trousseau. Part of it was ordered at Rouen, and she made herself

chemises and nightcaps after fashion-plates that she borrowed. When

Charles visited the farmer, the preparations for the wedding were talked

over; they wondered in what room they should have dinner; they dreamed

of the number of dishes that would be wanted, and what should be

Emma would, on the contrary, have preferred to have a midnight wedding

with torches, but old Rouault could not understand such an idea. So

there was a wedding at which forty-three persons were present, at which

they remained sixteen hours at table, began again the next day, and to

some extent on the days following.

Chapter Four

The guests arrived early in carriages, in one-horse chaises, two-wheeled

cars, old open gigs, waggonettes with leather hoods, and the young

people from the nearer villages in carts, in which they stood up in

rows, holding on to the sides so as not to fall, going at a trot

and well shaken up. Some came from a distance of thirty miles, from

Goderville, from Normanville, and from Cany.

All the relatives of both families had been invited, quarrels between

friends arranged, acquaintances long since lost sight of written to.

From time to time one heard the crack of a whip behind the hedge; then

the gates opened, a chaise entered. Galloping up to the foot of the

steps, it stopped short and emptied its load. They got down from all

sides, rubbing knees and stretching arms. The ladies, wearing bonnets,

had on dresses in the town fashion, gold watch chains, pelerines with

the ends tucked into belts, or little coloured fichus fastened down

behind with a pin, and that left the back of the neck bare. The lads,

dressed like their papas, seemed uncomfortable in their new clothes

(many that day hand-sewed their first pair of boots), and by their

sides, speaking never a work, wearing the white dress of their first

communion lengthened for the occasion were some big girls of fourteen or

sixteen, cousins or elder sisters no doubt, rubicund, bewildered, their

hair greasy with rose pomade, and very much afraid of dirtying their

gloves. As there were not enough stable-boys to unharness all the

carriages, the gentlemen turned up their sleeves and set about it

themselves. According to their different social positions they wore

tail-coats, overcoats, shooting jackets, cutaway-coats; fine tail-coats,

redolent of family respectability, that only came out of the wardrobe

on state occasions; overcoats with long tails flapping in the wind and

round capes and pockets like sacks; shooting jackets of coarse

cloth, generally worn with a cap with a brass-bound peak; very short

cutaway-coats with two small buttons in the back, close together like

a pair of eyes, and the tails of which seemed cut out of one piece by a

carpenter's hatchet. Some, too (but these, you may be sure, would sit at

the bottom of the table), wore their best blouses--that is to say,

with collars turned down to the shoulders, the back gathered into small

plaits and the waist fastened very low down with a worked belt.
And the shirts stood out from the chests like cuirasses! Everyone had

just had his hair cut; ears stood out from the heads; they had been

close-shaved; a few, even, who had had to get up before daybreak, and

not been able to see to shave, had diagonal gashes under their noses or

cuts the size of a three-franc piece along the jaws, which the fresh

air en route had enflamed, so that the great white beaming faces were

mottled here and there with red dabs.
The mairie was a mile and a half from the farm, and they went thither

on foot, returning in the same way after the ceremony in the church.

The procession, first united like one long coloured scarf that undulated

across the fields, along the narrow path winding amid the green corn,

soon lengthened out, and broke up into different groups that loitered to

talk. The fiddler walked in front with his violin, gay with ribbons at

its pegs. Then came the married pair, the relations, the friends, all

following pell-mell; the children stayed behind amusing themselves

plucking the bell-flowers from oat-ears, or playing amongst themselves

unseen. Emma's dress, too long, trailed a little on the ground; from

time to time she stopped to pull it up, and then delicately, with her

gloved hands, she picked off the coarse grass and the thistledowns,

while Charles, empty handed, waited till she had finished. Old Rouault,

with a new silk hat and the cuffs of his black coat covering his hands

up to the nails, gave his arm to Madame Bovary senior. As to Monsieur

Bovary senior, who, heartily despising all these folk, had come simply

in a frock-coat of military cut with one row of buttons--he was passing

compliments of the bar to a fair young peasant. She bowed, blushed,

and did not know what to say. The other wedding guests talked of their

business or played tricks behind each other's backs, egging one another

on in advance to be jolly. Those who listened could always catch the

squeaking of the fiddler, who went on playing across the fields. When

he saw that the rest were far behind he stopped to take breath, slowly

rosined his bow, so that the strings should sound more shrilly, then set

off again, by turns lowering and raising his neck, the better to mark

time for himself. The noise of the instrument drove away the little

birds from afar.
The table was laid under the cart-shed. On it were four sirloins, six

chicken fricassees, stewed veal, three legs of mutton, and in the middle

a fine roast suckling pig, flanked by four chitterlings with sorrel. At

the corners were decanters of brandy. Sweet bottled-cider frothed round

the corks, and all the glasses had been filled to the brim with wine

beforehand. Large dishes of yellow cream, that trembled with the least

shake of the table, had designed on their smooth surface the initials of

the newly wedded pair in nonpareil arabesques. A confectioner of Yvetot

had been intrusted with the tarts and sweets. As he had only just set up

on the place, he had taken a lot of trouble, and at dessert he himself

brought in a set dish that evoked loud cries of wonderment. To begin

with, at its base there was a square of blue cardboard, representing a

temple with porticoes, colonnades, and stucco statuettes all round, and

in the niches constellations of gilt paper stars; then on the second

stage was a dungeon of Savoy cake, surrounded by many fortifications

in candied angelica, almonds, raisins, and quarters of oranges; and

finally, on the upper platform a green field with rocks set in lakes of

jam, nutshell boats, and a small Cupid balancing himself in a chocolate

swing whose two uprights ended in real roses for balls at the top.
Until night they ate. When any of them were too tired of sitting, they

went out for a stroll in the yard, or for a game with corks in the

granary, and then returned to table. Some towards the finish went to

sleep and snored. But with the coffee everyone woke up. Then they began

songs, showed off tricks, raised heavy weights, performed feats with

their fingers, then tried lifting carts on their shoulders, made broad

jokes, kissed the women. At night when they left, the horses, stuffed

up to the nostrils with oats, could hardly be got into the shafts; they

kicked, reared, the harness broke, their masters laughed or swore;

and all night in the light of the moon along country roads there were

runaway carts at full gallop plunging into the ditches, jumping over

yard after yard of stones, clambering up the hills, with women leaning

out from the tilt to catch hold of the reins.
Those who stayed at the Bertaux spent the night drinking in the kitchen.

The children had fallen asleep under the seats.

The bride had begged her father to be spared the usual marriage

pleasantries. However, a fishmonger, one of their cousins (who had even

brought a pair of soles for his wedding present), began to squirt water

from his mouth through the keyhole, when old Rouault came up just in

time to stop him, and explain to him that the distinguished position

of his son-in-law would not allow of such liberties. The cousin all the

same did not give in to these reasons readily. In his heart he accused

old Rouault of being proud, and he joined four or five other guests in

a corner, who having, through mere chance, been several times running

served with the worst helps of meat, also were of opinion they had been

badly used, and were whispering about their host, and with covered hints

hoping he would ruin himself.

Madame Bovary, senior, had not opened her mouth all day. She had been

consulted neither as to the dress of her daughter-in-law nor as to the

arrangement of the feast; she went to bed early. Her husband, instead

of following her, sent to Saint-Victor for some cigars, and smoked till

daybreak, drinking kirsch-punch, a mixture unknown to the company. This

added greatly to the consideration in which he was held.

Charles, who was not of a facetious turn, did not shine at the wedding.

He answered feebly to the puns, doubles entendres*, compliments, and

chaff that it was felt a duty to let off at him as soon as the soup


*Double meanings.
The next day, on the other hand, he seemed another man. It was he who

might rather have been taken for the virgin of the evening before,

whilst the bride gave no sign that revealed anything. The shrewdest did

not know what to make of it, and they looked at her when she passed

near them with an unbounded concentration of mind. But Charles concealed

nothing. He called her "my wife", tutoyed* her, asked for her of

everyone, looked for her everywhere, and often he dragged her into the

yards, where he could be seen from far between the trees, putting his

arm around her waist, and walking half-bending over her, ruffling the

chemisette of her bodice with his head.

*Used the familiar form of address.
Two days after the wedding the married pair left. Charles, on account of

his patients, could not be away longer. Old Rouault had them driven back

in his cart, and himself accompanied them as far as Vassonville. Here

he embraced his daughter for the last time, got down, and went his way.

When he had gone about a hundred paces he stopped, and as he saw the

cart disappearing, its wheels turning in the dust, he gave a deep sigh.

Then he remembered his wedding, the old times, the first pregnancy of

his wife; he, too, had been very happy the day when he had taken her

from her father to his home, and had carried her off on a pillion,

trotting through the snow, for it was near Christmas-time, and the

country was all white. She held him by one arm, her basket hanging from

the other; the wind blew the long lace of her Cauchois headdress so that

it sometimes flapped across his mouth, and when he turned his head he

saw near him, on his shoulder, her little rosy face, smiling silently

under the gold bands of her cap. To warm her hands she put them from

time to time in his breast. How long ago it all was! Their son would

have been thirty by now. Then he looked back and saw nothing on the

road. He felt dreary as an empty house; and tender memories mingling

with the sad thoughts in his brain, addled by the fumes of the feast, he

felt inclined for a moment to take a turn towards the church. As he was

afraid, however, that this sight would make him yet more sad, he went

right away home.

Monsieur and Madame Charles arrived at Tostes about six o'clock.
The neighbors came to the windows to see their doctor's new wife.
The old servant presented herself, curtsied to her, apologised for not

having dinner ready, and suggested that madame, in the meantime, should

look over her house.

Chapter Five

The brick front was just in a line with the street, or rather the road.

Behind the door hung a cloak with a small collar, a bridle, and a black

leather cap, and on the floor, in a corner, were a pair of leggings,

still covered with dry mud. On the right was the one apartment, that was

both dining and sitting room. A canary yellow paper, relieved at the

top by a garland of pale flowers, was puckered everywhere over the badly

stretched canvas; white calico curtains with a red border hung crossways

at the length of the window; and on the narrow mantelpiece a clock with

a head of Hippocrates shone resplendent between two plate candlesticks

under oval shades. On the other side of the passage was Charles's

consulting room, a little room about six paces wide, with a table,

three chairs, and an office chair. Volumes of the "Dictionary of Medical

Science," uncut, but the binding rather the worse for the successive

sales through which they had gone, occupied almost along the six shelves

of a deal bookcase.
The smell of melted butter penetrated through the walls when he saw

patients, just as in the kitchen one could hear the people coughing in

the consulting room and recounting their histories.
Then, opening on the yard, where the stable was, came a large

dilapidated room with a stove, now used as a wood-house, cellar, and

pantry, full of old rubbish, of empty casks, agricultural implements

past service, and a mass of dusty things whose use it was impossible to

The garden, longer than wide, ran between two mud walls with espaliered

apricots, to a hawthorn hedge that separated it from the field. In the

middle was a slate sundial on a brick pedestal; four flower beds with

eglantines surrounded symmetrically the more useful kitchen garden bed.

Right at the bottom, under the spruce bushes, was a cure in plaster

reading his breviary.

Emma went upstairs. The first room was not furnished, but in the second,

which was their bedroom, was a mahogany bedstead in an alcove with red

drapery. A shell box adorned the chest of drawers, and on the secretary

near the window a bouquet of orange blossoms tied with white satin

ribbons stood in a bottle. It was a bride's bouquet; it was the other

one's. She looked at it. Charles noticed it; he took it and carried it

up to the attic, while Emma seated in an arm-chair (they were putting

her things down around her) thought of her bridal flowers packed up in

a bandbox, and wondered, dreaming, what would be done with them if she

were to die.

During the first days she occupied herself in thinking about changes in

the house. She took the shades off the candlesticks, had new wallpaper

put up, the staircase repainted, and seats made in the garden round the

sundial; she even inquired how she could get a basin with a jet fountain

and fishes. Finally her husband, knowing that she liked to drive out,

picked up a second-hand dogcart, which, with new lamps and splashboard

in striped leather, looked almost like a tilbury.
He was happy then, and without a care in the world. A meal together,

a walk in the evening on the highroad, a gesture of her hands over her

hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from the window-fastener, and

many another thing in which Charles had never dreamed of pleasure, now

made up the endless round of his happiness. In bed, in the morning, by

her side, on the pillow, he watched the sunlight sinking into the down

on her fair cheek, half hidden by the lappets of her night-cap. Seen

thus closely, her eyes looked to him enlarged, especially when, on

waking up, she opened and shut them rapidly many times. Black in the

shade, dark blue in broad daylight, they had, as it were, depths of

different colours, that, darker in the centre, grew paler towards the

surface of the eye. His own eyes lost themselves in these depths; he saw

himself in miniature down to the shoulders, with his handkerchief round

his head and the top of his shirt open. He rose. She came to the window

to see him off, and stayed leaning on the sill between two pots of

geranium, clad in her dressing gown hanging loosely about her. Charles,

in the street buckled his spurs, his foot on the mounting stone, while

she talked to him from above, picking with her mouth some scrap of

flower or leaf that she blew out at him. Then this, eddying, floating,

described semicircles in the air like a bird, and was caught before

it reached the ground in the ill-groomed mane of the old white mare

standing motionless at the door. Charles from horseback threw her a

kiss; she answered with a nod; she shut the window, and he set off. And

then along the highroad, spreading out its long ribbon of dust, along

the deep lanes that the trees bent over as in arbours, along paths where

the corn reached to the knees, with the sun on his back and the morning

air in his nostrils, his heart full of the joys of the past night, his

mind at rest, his flesh at ease, he went on, re-chewing his happiness,

like those who after dinner taste again the truffles which they are


Until now what good had he had of his life? His time at school, when

he remained shut up within the high walls, alone, in the midst of

companions richer than he or cleverer at their work, who laughed at his

accent, who jeered at his clothes, and whose mothers came to the school

with cakes in their muffs? Later on, when he studied medicine, and never

had his purse full enough to treat some little work-girl who would have

become his mistress? Afterwards, he had lived fourteen months with the

widow, whose feet in bed were cold as icicles. But now he had for life

this beautiful woman whom he adored. For him the universe did not extend

beyond the circumference of her petticoat, and he reproached himself

with not loving her. He wanted to see her again; he turned back quickly,

ran up the stairs with a beating heart. Emma, in her room, was dressing;

he came up on tiptoe, kissed her back; she gave a cry.
He could not keep from constantly touching her comb, her ring, her

fichu; sometimes he gave her great sounding kisses with all his mouth on

her cheeks, or else little kisses in a row all along her bare arm

from the tip of her fingers up to her shoulder, and she put him away

half-smiling, half-vexed, as you do a child who hangs about you.
Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that

should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought,

have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in

life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so

beautiful in books.

Chapter Six

She had read "Paul and Virginia," and she had dreamed of the little

bamboo-house, the nigger Domingo, the dog Fiddle, but above all of the

sweet friendship of some dear little brother, who seeks red fruit for

you on trees taller than steeples, or who runs barefoot over the sand,

bringing you a bird's nest.
When she was thirteen, her father himself took her to town to place

her in the convent. They stopped at an inn in the St. Gervais quarter,

where, at their supper, they used painted plates that set forth the

story of Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The explanatory legends, chipped

here and there by the scratching of knives, all glorified religion, the

tendernesses of the heart, and the pomps of court.

Far from being bored at first at the convent, she took pleasure in the

society of the good sisters, who, to amuse her, took her to the chapel,

which one entered from the refectory by a long corridor. She played very

little during recreation hours, knew her catechism well, and it was she

who always answered Monsieur le Vicaire's difficult questions. Living

thus, without every leaving the warm atmosphere of the classrooms, and

amid these pale-faced women wearing rosaries with brass crosses, she

was softly lulled by the mystic languor exhaled in the perfumes of the

altar, the freshness of the holy water, and the lights of the tapers.

Instead of attending to mass, she looked at the pious vignettes with

their azure borders in her book, and she loved the sick lamb, the sacred

heart pierced with sharp arrows, or the poor Jesus sinking beneath the

cross he carries. She tried, by way of mortification, to eat nothing a

whole day. She puzzled her head to find some vow to fulfil.

When she went to confession, she invented little sins in order that she

might stay there longer, kneeling in the shadow, her hands joined,

her face against the grating beneath the whispering of the priest.

The comparisons of betrothed, husband, celestial lover, and eternal

marriage, that recur in sermons, stirred within her soul depths of

unexpected sweetness.

In the evening, before prayers, there was some religious reading in

the study. On week-nights it was some abstract of sacred history or

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