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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
From the poultry-yard was heard the screaming of the fowls whom the
servant was chasing in order to wring their necks.
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
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!"
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!"
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."
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.
the chemist, as soon as he was along with the landlady.
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."
makes the society-man."
possible," he added in a calmer tone. And he went on--
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.
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?"
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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--
change of place."
"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.
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