Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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few intermittent fevers at harvest-time; but on the whole, little of a

serious nature, nothing special to note, unless it be a great deal of

scrofula, due, no doubt, to the deplorable hygienic conditions of our

peasant dwellings. Ah! you will find many prejudices to combat, Monsieur

Bovary, much obstinacy of routine, with which all the efforts of your

science will daily come into collision; for people still have recourse

to novenas, to relics, to the priest, rather than come straight to the

doctor or the chemist. The climate, however, is not, truth to tell, bad,

and we even have a few nonagenarians in our parish. The thermometer (I

have made some observations) falls in winter to 4 degrees Centigrade

at the outside, which gives us 24 degrees Reaumur as the maximum, or

otherwise 54 degrees Fahrenheit (English scale), not more. And, as a

matter of fact, we are sheltered from the north winds by the forest of

Argueil on the one side, from the west winds by the St. Jean range on

the other; and this heat, moreover, which, on account of the aqueous

vapours given off by the river and the considerable number of cattle

in the fields, which, as you know, exhale much ammonia, that is to say,

nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen (no, nitrogen and hydrogen alone), and

which sucking up into itself the humus from the ground, mixing together

all those different emanations, unites them into a stack, so to say,

and combining with the electricity diffused through the atmosphere, when

there is any, might in the long run, as in tropical countries, engender

insalubrious miasmata--this heat, I say, finds itself perfectly tempered

on the side whence it comes, or rather whence it should come--that is to

say, the southern side--by the south-eastern winds, which, having cooled

themselves passing over the Seine, reach us sometimes all at once like

breezes from Russia."

"At any rate, you have some walks in the neighbourhood?" continued

Madame Bovary, speaking to the young man.

"Oh, very few," he answered. "There is a place they call La Pature, on

the top of the hill, on the edge of the forest. Sometimes, on Sundays, I

go and stay there with a book, watching the sunset."
"I think there is nothing so admirable as sunsets," she resumed; "but

especially by the side of the sea."

"Oh, I adore the sea!" said Monsieur Leon.
"And then, does it not seem to you," continued Madame Bovary, "that the

mind travels more freely on this limitless expanse, the contemplation of

which elevates the soul, gives ideas of the infinite, the ideal?"
"It is the same with mountainous landscapes," continued Leon. "A cousin

of mine who travelled in Switzerland last year told me that one could

not picture to oneself the poetry of the lakes, the charm of the

waterfalls, the gigantic effect of the glaciers. One sees pines of

incredible size across torrents, cottages suspended over precipices,

and, a thousand feet below one, whole valleys when the clouds open. Such

spectacles must stir to enthusiasm, incline to prayer, to ecstasy; and I

no longer marvel at that celebrated musician who, the better to inspire

his imagination, was in the habit of playing the piano before some

imposing site."

"You play?" she asked.
"No, but I am very fond of music," he replied.
"Ah! don't you listen to him, Madame Bovary," interrupted Homais,

bending over his plate. "That's sheer modesty. Why, my dear fellow, the

other day in your room you were singing 'L'Ange Gardien' ravishingly. I

heard you from the laboratory. You gave it like an actor."

Leon, in fact, lodged at the chemist's where he had a small room on the

second floor, overlooking the Place. He blushed at the compliment of his

landlord, who had already turned to the doctor, and was enumerating to

him, one after the other, all the principal inhabitants of Yonville. He

was telling anecdotes, giving information; the fortune of the notary

was not known exactly, and "there was the Tuvache household," who made a

good deal of show.
Emma continued, "And what music do you prefer?"
"Oh, German music; that which makes you dream."
"Have you been to the opera?"
"Not yet; but I shall go next year, when I am living at Paris to finish

reading for the bar."

"As I had the honour of putting it to your husband," said the chemist,

"with regard to this poor Yanoda who has run away, you will find

yourself, thanks to his extravagance, in the possession of one of the

most comfortable houses of Yonville. Its greatest convenience for a

doctor is a door giving on the Walk, where one can go in and out unseen.

Moreover, it contains everything that is agreeable in a household--a

laundry, kitchen with offices, sitting-room, fruit-room, and so on. He

was a gay dog, who didn't care what he spent. At the end of the garden,

by the side of the water, he had an arbour built just for the purpose of

drinking beer in summer; and if madame is fond of gardening she will be

"My wife doesn't care about it," said Charles; "although she has

been advised to take exercise, she prefers always sitting in her room

"Like me," replied Leon. "And indeed, what is better than to sit by

one's fireside in the evening with a book, while the wind beats against

the window and the lamp is burning?"
"What, indeed?" she said, fixing her large black eyes wide open upon

"One thinks of nothing," he continued; "the hours slip by. Motionless we

traverse countries we fancy we see, and your thought, blending with

the fiction, playing with the details, follows the outline of the

adventures. It mingles with the characters, and it seems as if it were

yourself palpitating beneath their costumes."

"That is true! That is true?" she said.
"Has it ever happened to you," Leon went on, "to come across some vague

idea of one's own in a book, some dim image that comes back to you from

afar, and as the completest expression of your own slightest sentiment?"
"I have experienced it," she replied.
"That is why," he said, "I especially love the poets. I think verse more

tender than prose, and that it moves far more easily to tears."

"Still in the long run it is tiring," continued Emma. "Now I, on the

contrary, adore stories that rush breathlessly along, that frighten one.

I detest commonplace heroes and moderate sentiments, such as there are

in nature."

"In fact," observed the clerk, "these works, not touching the heart,

miss, it seems to me, the true end of art. It is so sweet, amid all

the disenchantments of life, to be able to dwell in thought upon noble

characters, pure affections, and pictures of happiness. For myself,

living here far from the world, this is my one distraction; but Yonville

affords so few resources."

"Like Tostes, no doubt," replied Emma; "and so I always subscribed to a

lending library."

"If madame will do me the honour of making use of it", said the chemist,

who had just caught the last words, "I have at her disposal a library

composed of the best authors, Voltaire, Rousseau, Delille, Walter

Scott, the 'Echo des Feuilletons'; and in addition I receive various

periodicals, among them the 'Fanal de Rouen' daily, having the advantage

to be its correspondent for the districts of Buchy, Forges, Neufchatel,

Yonville, and vicinity."
For two hours and a half they had been at table; for the servant

Artemis, carelessly dragging her old list slippers over the flags,

brought one plate after the other, forgot everything, and constantly

left the door of the billiard-room half open, so that it beat against

the wall with its hooks.
Unconsciously, Leon, while talking, had placed his foot on one of the

bars of the chair on which Madame Bovary was sitting. She wore a small

blue silk necktie, that kept up like a ruff a gauffered cambric collar,

and with the movements of her head the lower part of her face gently

sunk into the linen or came out from it. Thus side by side, while

Charles and the chemist chatted, they entered into one of those vague

conversations where the hazard of all that is said brings you back to

the fixed centre of a common sympathy. The Paris theatres, titles of

novels, new quadrilles, and the world they did not know; Tostes, where

she had lived, and Yonville, where they were; they examined all, talked

of everything till to the end of dinner.
When coffee was served Felicite went away to get ready the room in the

new house, and the guests soon raised the siege. Madame Lefrancois was

asleep near the cinders, while the stable-boy, lantern in hand, was

waiting to show Monsieur and Madame Bovary the way home. Bits of straw

stuck in his red hair, and he limped with his left leg. When he had

taken in his other hand the cure's umbrella, they started.

The town was asleep; the pillars of the market threw great shadows; the

earth was all grey as on a summer's night. But as the doctor's house was

only some fifty paces from the inn, they had to say good-night almost

immediately, and the company dispersed.

As soon as she entered the passage, Emma felt the cold of the plaster

fall about her shoulders like damp linen. The walls were new and the

wooden stairs creaked. In their bedroom, on the first floor, a whitish

light passed through the curtainless windows.

She could catch glimpses of tree tops, and beyond, the fields,

half-drowned in the fog that lay reeking in the moonlight along

the course of the river. In the middle of the room, pell-mell, were

scattered drawers, bottles, curtain-rods, gilt poles, with mattresses

on the chairs and basins on the ground--the two men who had brought the

furniture had left everything about carelessly.

This was the fourth time that she had slept in a strange place.
The first was the day of her going to the convent; the second, of her

arrival at Tostes; the third, at Vaubyessard; and this was the fourth.

And each one had marked, as it were, the inauguration of a new phase in

her life. She did not believe that things could present themselves in

the same way in different places, and since the portion of her life

lived had been bad, no doubt that which remained to be lived would be


Chapter Three

The next day, as she was getting up, she saw the clerk on the Place. She

had on a dressing-gown. He looked up and bowed. She nodded quickly and

reclosed the window.
Leon waited all day for six o'clock in the evening to come, but on going

to the inn, he found no one but Monsieur Binet, already at table. The

dinner of the evening before had been a considerable event for him; he

had never till then talked for two hours consecutively to a "lady." How

then had he been able to explain, and in such language, the number of

things that he could not have said so well before? He was usually

shy, and maintained that reserve which partakes at once of modesty and


At Yonville he was considered "well-bred." He listened to the arguments

of the older people, and did not seem hot about politics--a remarkable

thing for a young man. Then he had some accomplishments; he painted in

water-colours, could read the key of G, and readily talked literature

after dinner when he did not play cards. Monsieur Homais respected him

for his education; Madame Homais liked him for his good-nature, for

he often took the little Homais into the garden--little brats who were

always dirty, very much spoilt, and somewhat lymphatic, like their

mother. Besides the servant to look after them, they had Justin, the

chemist's apprentice, a second cousin of Monsieur Homais, who had been

taken into the house from charity, and who was useful at the same time

as a servant.

The druggist proved the best of neighbours. He gave Madame Bovary

information as to the trades-people, sent expressly for his own cider

merchant, tasted the drink himself, and saw that the casks were properly

placed in the cellar; he explained how to set about getting in a

supply of butter cheap, and made an arrangement with Lestiboudois, the

sacristan, who, besides his sacerdotal and funeral functions, looked

after the principal gardens at Yonville by the hour or the year,

according to the taste of the customers.

The need of looking after others was not the only thing that urged the

chemist to such obsequious cordiality; there was a plan underneath it

He had infringed the law of the 19th Ventose, year xi., article I, which

forbade all persons not having a diploma to practise medicine; so that,

after certain anonymous denunciations, Homais had been summoned to Rouen

to see the procurer of the king in his own private room; the magistrate

receiving him standing up, ermine on shoulder and cap on head. It was

in the morning, before the court opened. In the corridors one heard

the heavy boots of the gendarmes walking past, and like a far-off noise

great locks that were shut. The druggist's ears tingled as if he were

about to have an apoplectic stroke; he saw the depths of dungeons,

his family in tears, his shop sold, all the jars dispersed; and he was

obliged to enter a cafe and take a glass of rum and seltzer to recover

his spirits.

Little by little the memory of this reprimand grew fainter, and

he continued, as heretofore, to give anodyne consultations in his

back-parlour. But the mayor resented it, his colleagues were jealous,

everything was to be feared; gaining over Monsieur Bovary by his

attentions was to earn his gratitude, and prevent his speaking out later

on, should he notice anything. So every morning Homais brought him "the

paper," and often in the afternoon left his shop for a few moments to

have a chat with the Doctor.

Charles was dull: patients did not come. He remained seated for hours

without speaking, went into his consulting room to sleep, or watched

his wife sewing. Then for diversion he employed himself at home as a

workman; he even tried to do up the attic with some paint which had been

left behind by the painters. But money matters worried him. He had

spent so much for repairs at Tostes, for madame's toilette, and for the

moving, that the whole dowry, over three thousand crowns, had slipped

away in two years.

Then how many things had been spoilt or lost during their carriage from

Tostes to Yonville, without counting the plaster cure, who falling out

of the coach at an over-severe jolt, had been dashed into a thousand

fragments on the pavements of Quincampoix! A pleasanter trouble came

to distract him, namely, the pregnancy of his wife. As the time of her

confinement approached he cherished her the more. It was another bond of

the flesh establishing itself, and, as it were, a continued sentiment

of a more complex union. When from afar he saw her languid walk, and

her figure without stays turning softly on her hips; when opposite one

another he looked at her at his ease, while she took tired poses in her

armchair, then his happiness knew no bounds; he got up, embraced her,

passed his hands over her face, called her little mamma, wanted to

make her dance, and half-laughing, half-crying, uttered all kinds of

caressing pleasantries that came into his head. The idea of having

begotten a child delighted him. Now he wanted nothing. He knew human

life from end to end, and he sat down to it with serenity.

Emma at first felt a great astonishment; then was anxious to be

delivered that she might know what it was to be a mother. But not

being able to spend as much as she would have liked, to have a

swing-bassinette with rose silk curtains, and embroidered caps, in a fit

of bitterness she gave up looking after the trousseau, and ordered the

whole of it from a village needlewoman, without choosing or discussing

anything. Thus she did not amuse herself with those preparations that

stimulate the tenderness of mothers, and so her affection was from the

very outset, perhaps, to some extent attenuated.
As Charles, however, spoke of the boy at every meal, she soon began to

think of him more consecutively.

She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him

George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected

revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he

may travel over passions and over countries, overcome obstacles, taste

of the most far-away pleasures. But a woman is always hampered. At once

inert and flexible, she has against her the weakness of the flesh and

legal dependence. Her will, like the veil of her bonnet, held by a

string, flutters in every wind; there is always some desire that draws

her, some conventionality that restrains.
She was confined on a Sunday at about six o'clock, as the sun was

"It is a girl!" said Charles.

She turned her head away and fainted.
Madame Homais, as well as Madame Lefrancois of the Lion d'Or, almost

immediately came running in to embrace her. The chemist, as man of

discretion, only offered a few provincial felicitations through the

half-opened door. He wished to see the child and thought it well made.

Whilst she was getting well she occupied herself much in seeking a

name for her daughter. First she went over all those that have Italian

endings, such as Clara, Louisa, Amanda, Atala; she liked Galsuinde

pretty well, and Yseult or Leocadie still better.

Charles wanted the child to be called after her mother; Emma opposed

this. They ran over the calendar from end to end, and then consulted

"Monsieur Leon," said the chemist, "with whom I was talking about it

the other day, wonders you do not chose Madeleine. It is very much in

fashion just now."
But Madame Bovary, senior, cried out loudly against this name of a

sinner. As to Monsieur Homais, he had a preference for all those that

recalled some great man, an illustrious fact, or a generous idea, and it

was on this system that he had baptized his four children. Thus Napoleon

represented glory and Franklin liberty; Irma was perhaps a concession to

romanticism, but Athalie was a homage to the greatest masterpiece of the

French stage. For his philosophical convictions did not interfere

with his artistic tastes; in him the thinker did not stifle the man of

sentiment; he could make distinctions, make allowances for imagination

and fanaticism. In this tragedy, for example, he found fault with the

ideas, but admired the style; he detested the conception, but applauded

all the details, and loathed the characters while he grew enthusiastic

over their dialogue. When he read the fine passages he was transported,

but when he thought that mummers would get something out of them for

their show, he was disconsolate; and in this confusion of sentiments in

which he was involved he would have liked at once to crown Racine with

both his hands and discuss with him for a good quarter of an hour.
At last Emma remembered that at the chateau of Vaubyessard she had heard

the Marchioness call a young lady Berthe; from that moment this name was

chosen; and as old Rouault could not come, Monsieur Homais was requested

to stand godfather. His gifts were all products from his establishment,

to wit: six boxes of jujubes, a whole jar of racahout, three cakes of

marshmallow paste, and six sticks of sugar-candy into the bargain that

he had come across in a cupboard. On the evening of the ceremony there

was a grand dinner; the cure was present; there was much excitement.

Monsieur Homais towards liqueur-time began singing "Le Dieu des bonnes

gens." Monsieur Leon sang a barcarolle, and Madame Bovary, senior, who

was godmother, a romance of the time of the Empire; finally, M. Bovary,

senior, insisted on having the child brought down, and began baptizing

it with a glass of champagne that he poured over its head. This mockery

of the first of the sacraments made the Abbe Bournisien angry; old

Bovary replied by a quotation from "La Guerre des Dieux"; the cure

wanted to leave; the ladies implored, Homais interfered; and they

succeeded in making the priest sit down again, and he quietly went on

with the half-finished coffee in his saucer.

Monsieur Bovary, senior, stayed at Yonville a month, dazzling the

natives by a superb policeman's cap with silver tassels that he wore

in the morning when he smoked his pipe in the square. Being also in the

habit of drinking a good deal of brandy, he often sent the servant

to the Lion d'Or to buy him a bottle, which was put down to his

son's account, and to perfume his handkerchiefs he used up his

daughter-in-law's whole supply of eau-de-cologne.
The latter did not at all dislike his company. He had knocked about the

world, he talked about Berlin, Vienna, and Strasbourg, of his soldier

times, of the mistresses he had had, the grand luncheons of which he had

partaken; then he was amiable, and sometimes even, either on the stairs,

or in the garden, would seize hold of her waist, crying, "Charles, look

out for yourself."

Then Madame Bovary, senior, became alarmed for her son's happiness, and

fearing that her husband might in the long-run have an immoral influence

upon the ideas of the young woman, took care to hurry their departure.

Perhaps she had more serious reasons for uneasiness. Monsieur Bovary was

not the man to respect anything.
One day Emma was suddenly seized with the desire to see her little

girl, who had been put to nurse with the carpenter's wife, and, without

looking at the calendar to see whether the six weeks of the Virgin were

yet passed, she set out for the Rollets' house, situated at the extreme

end of the village, between the highroad and the fields.
It was mid-day, the shutters of the houses were closed and the slate

roofs that glittered beneath the fierce light of the blue sky seemed to

strike sparks from the crest of the gables. A heavy wind was blowing;

Emma felt weak as she walked; the stones of the pavement hurt her; she

was doubtful whether she would not go home again, or go in somewhere to

At this moment Monsieur Leon came out from a neighbouring door with a

bundle of papers under his arm. He came to greet her, and stood in the

shade in front of the Lheureux's shop under the projecting grey awning.

Madame Bovary said she was going to see her baby, but that she was

beginning to grow tired.

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