Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Part II

Chapter One

Yonville-l'Abbaye (so called from an old Capuchin abbey of which not

even the ruins remain) is a market-town twenty-four miles from Rouen,

between the Abbeville and Beauvais roads, at the foot of a valley

watered by the Rieule, a little river that runs into the Andelle after

turning three water-mills near its mouth, where there are a few trout

that the lads amuse themselves by fishing for on Sundays.

We leave the highroad at La Boissiere and keep straight on to the top of

the Leux hill, whence the valley is seen. The river that runs through it

makes of it, as it were, two regions with distinct physiognomies--all on

the left is pasture land, all of the right arable. The meadow stretches

under a bulge of low hills to join at the back with the pasture land of

the Bray country, while on the eastern side, the plain, gently rising,

broadens out, showing as far as eye can follow its blond cornfields. The

water, flowing by the grass, divides with a white line the colour of the

roads and of the plains, and the country is like a great unfolded mantle

with a green velvet cape bordered with a fringe of silver.

Before us, on the verge of the horizon, lie the oaks of the forest of

Argueil, with the steeps of the Saint-Jean hills scarred from top

to bottom with red irregular lines; they are rain tracks, and these

brick-tones standing out in narrow streaks against the grey colour of

the mountain are due to the quantity of iron springs that flow beyond in

the neighboring country.

Here we are on the confines of Normandy, Picardy, and the Ile-de-France,

a bastard land whose language is without accent and its landscape is

without character. It is there that they make the worst Neufchatel

cheeses of all the arrondissement; and, on the other hand, farming is

costly because so much manure is needed to enrich this friable soil full

of sand and flints.

Up to 1835 there was no practicable road for getting to Yonville, but

about this time a cross-road was made which joins that of Abbeville to

that of Amiens, and is occasionally used by the Rouen wagoners on their

way to Flanders. Yonville-l'Abbaye has remained stationary in spite of

its "new outlet." Instead of improving the soil, they persist in keeping

up the pasture lands, however depreciated they may be in value, and

the lazy borough, growing away from the plain, has naturally spread

riverwards. It is seem from afar sprawling along the banks like a

cowherd taking a siesta by the water-side.
At the foot of the hill beyond the bridge begins a roadway, planted with

young aspens, that leads in a straight line to the first houses in the

place. These, fenced in by hedges, are in the middle of courtyards

full of straggling buildings, wine-presses, cart-sheds and distilleries

scattered under thick trees, with ladders, poles, or scythes hung on to

the branches. The thatched roofs, like fur caps drawn over eyes, reach

down over about a third of the low windows, whose coarse convex glasses

have knots in the middle like the bottoms of bottles. Against the

plaster wall diagonally crossed by black joists, a meagre pear-tree

sometimes leans and the ground-floors have at their door a small

swing-gate to keep out the chicks that come pilfering crumbs of bread

steeped in cider on the threshold. But the courtyards grow narrower,

the houses closer together, and the fences disappear; a bundle of

ferns swings under a window from the end of a broomstick; there is a

blacksmith's forge and then a wheelwright's, with two or three new carts

outside that partly block the way. Then across an open space appears a

white house beyond a grass mound ornamented by a Cupid, his finger

on his lips; two brass vases are at each end of a flight of steps;

scutcheons* blaze upon the door. It is the notary's house, and the

finest in the place.

*The panonceaux that have to be hung over the doors of


The Church is on the other side of the street, twenty paces farther

down, at the entrance of the square. The little cemetery that surrounds

it, closed in by a wall breast high, is so full of graves that the old

stones, level with the ground, form a continuous pavement, on which the

grass of itself has marked out regular green squares. The church was

rebuilt during the last years of the reign of Charles X. The wooden roof

is beginning to rot from the top, and here and there has black hollows

in its blue colour. Over the door, where the organ should be, is a

loft for the men, with a spiral staircase that reverberates under their

wooden shoes.

The daylight coming through the plain glass windows falls obliquely upon

the pews ranged along the walls, which are adorned here and there with

a straw mat bearing beneath it the words in large letters, "Mr.

So-and-so's pew." Farther on, at a spot where the building narrows, the

confessional forms a pendant to a statuette of the Virgin, clothed in

a satin robe, coifed with a tulle veil sprinkled with silver stars, and

with red cheeks, like an idol of the Sandwich Islands; and, finally, a

copy of the "Holy Family, presented by the Minister of the Interior,"

overlooking the high altar, between four candlesticks, closes in the

perspective. The choir stalls, of deal wood, have been left unpainted.

The market, that is to say, a tiled roof supported by some twenty posts,

occupies of itself about half the public square of Yonville. The town

hall, constructed "from the designs of a Paris architect," is a sort of

Greek temple that forms the corner next to the chemist's shop. On

the ground-floor are three Ionic columns and on the first floor a

semicircular gallery, while the dome that crowns it is occupied by a

Gallic cock, resting one foot upon the "Charte" and holding in the other

the scales of Justice.

But that which most attracts the eye is opposite the Lion d'Or inn, the

chemist's shop of Monsieur Homais. In the evening especially its argand

lamp is lit up and the red and green jars that embellish his shop-front

throw far across the street their two streams of colour; then across

them as if in Bengal lights is seen the shadow of the chemist

leaning over his desk. His house from top to bottom is placarded with

inscriptions written in large hand, round hand, printed hand: "Vichy,

Seltzer, Barege waters, blood purifiers, Raspail patent medicine,

Arabian racahout, Darcet lozenges, Regnault paste, trusses, baths,

hygienic chocolate," etc. And the signboard, which takes up all the

breadth of the shop, bears in gold letters, "Homais, Chemist." Then at

the back of the shop, behind the great scales fixed to the counter, the

word "Laboratory" appears on a scroll above a glass door, which about

half-way up once more repeats "Homais" in gold letters on a black

Beyond this there is nothing to see at Yonville. The street (the only

one) a gunshot in length and flanked by a few shops on either side stops

short at the turn of the highroad. If it is left on the right hand and

the foot of the Saint-Jean hills followed the cemetery is soon reached.

At the time of the cholera, in order to enlarge this, a piece of wall

was pulled down, and three acres of land by its side purchased; but all

the new portion is almost tenantless; the tombs, as heretofore,

continue to crowd together towards the gate. The keeper, who is at once

gravedigger and church beadle (thus making a double profit out of the

parish corpses), has taken advantage of the unused plot of ground to

plant potatoes there. From year to year, however, his small field grows

smaller, and when there is an epidemic, he does not know whether to

rejoice at the deaths or regret the burials.
"You live on the dead, Lestiboudois!" the curie at last said to him one

day. This grim remark made him reflect; it checked him for some time;

but to this day he carries on the cultivation of his little tubers, and

even maintains stoutly that they grow naturally.

Since the events about to be narrated, nothing in fact has changed

at Yonville. The tin tricolour flag still swings at the top of the

church-steeple; the two chintz streamers still flutter in the wind from

the linen-draper's; the chemist's fetuses, like lumps of white amadou,

rot more and more in their turbid alcohol, and above the big door of

the inn the old golden lion, faded by rain, still shows passers-by its

poodle mane.
On the evening when the Bovarys were to arrive at Yonville, Widow

Lefrancois, the landlady of this inn, was so very busy that she sweated

great drops as she moved her saucepans. To-morrow was market-day. The

meat had to be cut beforehand, the fowls drawn, the soup and coffee

made. Moreover, she had the boarders' meal to see to, and that of the

doctor, his wife, and their servant; the billiard-room was echoing with

bursts of laughter; three millers in a small parlour were calling for

brandy; the wood was blazing, the brazen pan was hissing, and on the

long kitchen table, amid the quarters of raw mutton, rose piles of

plates that rattled with the shaking of the block on which spinach was

being chopped.
From the poultry-yard was heard the screaming of the fowls whom the

servant was chasing in order to wring their necks.

A man slightly marked with small-pox, in green leather slippers, and

wearing a velvet cap with a gold tassel, was warming his back at the

chimney. His face expressed nothing but self-satisfaction, and he

appeared to take life as calmly as the goldfinch suspended over his head

in its wicker cage: this was the chemist.
"Artemise!" shouted the landlady, "chop some wood, fill the water

bottles, bring some brandy, look sharp! If only I knew what dessert to

offer the guests you are expecting! Good heavens! Those furniture-movers

are beginning their racket in the billiard-room again; and their van has

been left before the front door! The 'Hirondelle' might run into it when

it draws up. Call Polyte and tell him to put it up. Only think, Monsieur

Homais, that since morning they have had about fifteen games, and drunk

eight jars of cider! Why, they'll tear my cloth for me," she went on,

looking at them from a distance, her strainer in her hand.
"That wouldn't be much of a loss," replied Monsieur Homais. "You would

buy another."

"Another billiard-table!" exclaimed the widow.
"Since that one is coming to pieces, Madame Lefrancois. I tell you again

you are doing yourself harm, much harm! And besides, players now want

narrow pockets and heavy cues. Hazards aren't played now; everything is

changed! One must keep pace with the times! Just look at Tellier!"

The hostess reddened with vexation. The chemist went on--
"You may say what you like; his table is better than yours; and if one

were to think, for example, of getting up a patriotic pool for Poland or

the sufferers from the Lyons floods--"
"It isn't beggars like him that'll frighten us," interrupted the

landlady, shrugging her fat shoulders. "Come, come, Monsieur Homais; as

long as the 'Lion d'Or' exists people will come to it. We've feathered

our nest; while one of these days you'll find the 'Cafe Francais' closed

with a big placard on the shutters. Change my billiard-table!" she went

on, speaking to herself, "the table that comes in so handy for folding

the washing, and on which, in the hunting season, I have slept six

visitors! But that dawdler, Hivert, doesn't come!"

"Are you waiting for him for your gentlemen's dinner?"
"Wait for him! And what about Monsieur Binet? As the clock strikes

six you'll see him come in, for he hasn't his equal under the sun for

punctuality. He must always have his seat in the small parlour. He'd

rather die than dine anywhere else. And so squeamish as he is, and so

particular about the cider! Not like Monsieur Leon; he sometimes comes

at seven, or even half-past, and he doesn't so much as look at what he

eats. Such a nice young man! Never speaks a rough word!"
"Well, you see, there's a great difference between an educated man and

an old carabineer who is now a tax-collector."

Six o'clock struck. Binet came in.
He wore a blue frock-coat falling in a straight line round his thin

body, and his leather cap, with its lappets knotted over the top of

his head with string, showed under the turned-up peak a bald forehead,

flattened by the constant wearing of a helmet. He wore a black cloth

waistcoat, a hair collar, grey trousers, and, all the year round,

well-blacked boots, that had two parallel swellings due to the sticking

out of his big-toes. Not a hair stood out from the regular line of fair

whiskers, which, encircling his jaws, framed, after the fashion of a

garden border, his long, wan face, whose eyes were small and the nose

hooked. Clever at all games of cards, a good hunter, and writing a

fine hand, he had at home a lathe, and amused himself by turning napkin

rings, with which he filled up his house, with the jealousy of an artist

and the egotism of a bourgeois.
He went to the small parlour, but the three millers had to be got out

first, and during the whole time necessary for laying the cloth, Binet

remained silent in his place near the stove. Then he shut the door and

took off his cap in his usual way.

"It isn't with saying civil things that he'll wear out his tongue," said

the chemist, as soon as he was along with the landlady.

"He never talks more," she replied. "Last week two travelers in the

cloth line were here--such clever chaps who told such jokes in the

evening, that I fairly cried with laughing; and he stood there like a

dab fish and never said a word."

"Yes," observed the chemist; "no imagination, no sallies, nothing that

makes the society-man."

"Yet they say he has parts," objected the landlady.
"Parts!" replied Monsieur Homais; "he, parts! In his own line it is

possible," he added in a calmer tone. And he went on--

"Ah! That a merchant, who has large connections, a jurisconsult, a

doctor, a chemist, should be thus absent-minded, that they should become

whimsical or even peevish, I can understand; such cases are cited in

history. But at least it is because they are thinking of something.

Myself, for example, how often has it happened to me to look on the

bureau for my pen to write a label, and to find, after all, that I had

put it behind my ear!"
Madame Lefrancois just then went to the door to see if the "Hirondelle"

were not coming. She started. A man dressed in black suddenly came into

the kitchen. By the last gleam of the twilight one could see that his

face was rubicund and his form athletic.

"What can I do for you, Monsieur le Curie?" asked the landlady, as she

reached down from the chimney one of the copper candlesticks placed

with their candles in a row. "Will you take something? A thimbleful of

Cassis*? A glass of wine?"

*Black currant liqueur.
The priest declined very politely. He had come for his umbrella, that

he had forgotten the other day at the Ernemont convent, and after

asking Madame Lefrancois to have it sent to him at the presbytery in the

evening, he left for the church, from which the Angelus was ringing.

When the chemist no longer heard the noise of his boots along the

square, he thought the priest's behaviour just now very unbecoming. This

refusal to take any refreshment seemed to him the most odious hypocrisy;

all priests tippled on the sly, and were trying to bring back the days

of the tithe.
The landlady took up the defence of her curie.
"Besides, he could double up four men like you over his knee. Last year

he helped our people to bring in the straw; he carried as many as six

trusses at once, he is so strong."
"Bravo!" said the chemist. "Now just send your daughters to confess to

fellows which such a temperament! I, if I were the Government, I'd have

the priests bled once a month. Yes, Madame Lefrancois, every month--a

good phlebotomy, in the interests of the police and morals."

"Be quiet, Monsieur Homais. You are an infidel; you've no religion."
The chemist answered: "I have a religion, my religion, and I even have

more than all these others with their mummeries and their juggling.

I adore God, on the contrary. I believe in the Supreme Being, in a

Creator, whatever he may be. I care little who has placed us here below

to fulfil our duties as citizens and fathers of families; but I don't

need to go to church to kiss silver plates, and fatten, out of my

pocket, a lot of good-for-nothings who live better than we do. For one

can know Him as well in a wood, in a field, or even contemplating the

eternal vault like the ancients. My God! Mine is the God of Socrates, of

Franklin, of Voltaire, and of Beranger! I am for the profession of faith

of the 'Savoyard Vicar,' and the immortal principles of '89! And I can't

admit of an old boy of a God who takes walks in his garden with a

cane in his hand, who lodges his friends in the belly of whales, dies

uttering a cry, and rises again at the end of three days; things absurd

in themselves, and completely opposed, moreover, to all physical laws,

which prove to us, by the way, that priests have always wallowed in

turpid ignorance, in which they would fain engulf the people with them."
He ceased, looking round for an audience, for in his bubbling over

the chemist had for a moment fancied himself in the midst of the town

council. But the landlady no longer heeded him; she was listening to a

distant rolling. One could distinguish the noise of a carriage mingled

with the clattering of loose horseshoes that beat against the ground,

and at last the "Hirondelle" stopped at the door.

It was a yellow box on two large wheels, that, reaching to the tilt,

prevented travelers from seeing the road and dirtied their shoulders.

The small panes of the narrow windows rattled in their sashes when the

coach was closed, and retained here and there patches of mud amid the

old layers of dust, that not even storms of rain had altogether washed

away. It was drawn by three horses, the first a leader, and when it came

down-hill its bottom jolted against the ground.
Some of the inhabitants of Yonville came out into the square; they all

spoke at once, asking for news, for explanations, for hampers. Hivert

did not know whom to answer. It was he who did the errands of the place

in town. He went to the shops and brought back rolls of leather for

the shoemaker, old iron for the farrier, a barrel of herrings for his

mistress, caps from the milliner's, locks from the hair-dresser's and

all along the road on his return journey he distributed his parcels,

which he threw, standing upright on his seat and shouting at the top of

his voice, over the enclosures of the yards.
An accident had delayed him. Madame Bovary's greyhound had run across

the field. They had whistled for him a quarter of an hour; Hivert had

even gone back a mile and a half expecting every moment to catch sight

of her; but it had been necessary to go on.

Emma had wept, grown angry; she had accused Charles of this misfortune.

Monsieur Lheureux, a draper, who happened to be in the coach with

her, had tried to console her by a number of examples of lost dogs

recognizing their masters at the end of long years. One, he said had

been told of, who had come back to Paris from Constantinople. Another

had gone one hundred and fifty miles in a straight line, and swum four

rivers; and his own father had possessed a poodle, which, after twelve

years of absence, had all of a sudden jumped on his back in the street

as he was going to dine in town.

Chapter Two

Emma got out first, then Felicite, Monsieur Lheureux, and a nurse, and

they had to wake up Charles in his corner, where he had slept soundly

since night set in.
Homais introduced himself; he offered his homages to madame and his

respects to monsieur; said he was charmed to have been able to render

them some slight service, and added with a cordial air that he had

ventured to invite himself, his wife being away.

When Madame Bovary was in the kitchen she went up to the chimney.
With the tips of her fingers she caught her dress at the knee, and

having thus pulled it up to her ankle, held out her foot in its black

boot to the fire above the revolving leg of mutton. The flame lit up the

whole of her, penetrating with a crude light the woof of her gowns, the

fine pores of her fair skin, and even her eyelids, which she blinked now

and again. A great red glow passed over her with the blowing of the wind

through the half-open door.
On the other side of the chimney a young man with fair hair watched her


As he was a good deal bored at Yonville, where he was a clerk at the

notary's, Monsieur Guillaumin, Monsieur Leon Dupuis (it was he who

was the second habitue of the "Lion d'Or") frequently put back his

dinner-hour in hope that some traveler might come to the inn, with whom

he could chat in the evening. On the days when his work was done early,

he had, for want of something else to do, to come punctually, and endure

from soup to cheese a tete-a-tete with Binet. It was therefore with

delight that he accepted the landlady's suggestion that he should dine

in company with the newcomers, and they passed into the large parlour

where Madame Lefrancois, for the purpose of showing off, had had the

table laid for four.
Homais asked to be allowed to keep on his skull-cap, for fear of coryza;

then, turning to his neighbour--

"Madame is no doubt a little fatigued; one gets jolted so abominably in

our 'Hirondelle.'"

"That is true," replied Emma; "but moving about always amuses me. I like

change of place."

"It is so tedious," sighed the clerk, "to be always riveted to the same

"If you were like me," said Charles, "constantly obliged to be in the

"But," Leon went on, addressing himself to Madame Bovary, "nothing, it

seems to me, is more pleasant--when one can," he added.

"Moreover," said the druggist, "the practice of medicine is not very

hard work in our part of the world, for the state of our roads allows us

the use of gigs, and generally, as the farmers are prosperous, they pay

pretty well. We have, medically speaking, besides the ordinary cases

of enteritis, bronchitis, bilious affections, etc., now and then a

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