Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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What was certain was that he made complex calculations in his head that

would have frightened Binet himself. Polite to obsequiousness, he always

held himself with his back bent in the position of one who bows or who

After leaving at the door his hat surrounded with crape, he put down

a green bandbox on the table, and began by complaining to madame, with

many civilities, that he should have remained till that day without

gaining her confidence. A poor shop like his was not made to attract

a "fashionable lady"; he emphasized the words; yet she had only to

command, and he would undertake to provide her with anything she might

wish, either in haberdashery or linen, millinery or fancy goods, for

he went to town regularly four times a month. He was connected with the

best houses. You could speak of him at the "Trois Freres," at the "Barbe

d'Or," or at the "Grand Sauvage"; all these gentlemen knew him as

well as the insides of their pockets. To-day, then he had come to show

madame, in passing, various articles he happened to have, thanks to

the most rare opportunity. And he pulled out half-a-dozen embroidered

collars from the box.

Madame Bovary examined them. "I do not require anything," she said.
Then Monsieur Lheureux delicately exhibited three Algerian scarves,

several packets of English needles, a pair of straw slippers, and

finally, four eggcups in cocoanut wood, carved in open work by convicts.

Then, with both hands on the table, his neck stretched out, his figure

bent forward, open-mouthed, he watched Emma's look, who was walking up

and down undecided amid these goods. From time to time, as if to remove

some dust, he filliped with his nail the silk of the scarves spread

out at full length, and they rustled with a little noise, making in the

green twilight the gold spangles of their tissue scintillate like little

"How much are they?"

"A mere nothing," he replied, "a mere nothing. But there's no hurry;

whenever it's convenient. We are not Jews."

She reflected for a few moments, and ended by again declining Monsieur

Lheureux's offer. He replied quite unconcernedly--

"Very well. We shall understand one another by and by. I have always got

on with ladies--if I didn't with my own!"

Emma smiled.
"I wanted to tell you," he went on good-naturedly, after his joke, "that

it isn't the money I should trouble about. Why, I could give you some,

if need be."
She made a gesture of surprise.
"Ah!" said he quickly and in a low voice, "I shouldn't have to go far to

find you some, rely on that."

And he began asking after Pere Tellier, the proprietor of the "Cafe

Francais," whom Monsieur Bovary was then attending.

"What's the matter with Pere Tellier? He coughs so that he shakes his

whole house, and I'm afraid he'll soon want a deal covering rather than

a flannel vest. He was such a rake as a young man! Those sort of people,

madame, have not the least regularity; he's burnt up with brandy. Still

it's sad, all the same, to see an acquaintance go off."
And while he fastened up his box he discoursed about the doctor's


"It's the weather, no doubt," he said, looking frowningly at the floor,

"that causes these illnesses. I, too, don't feel the thing. One of these

days I shall even have to consult the doctor for a pain I have in my

back. Well, good-bye, Madame Bovary. At your service; your very humble

servant." And he closed the door gently.
Emma had her dinner served in her bedroom on a tray by the fireside; she

was a long time over it; everything was well with her.

"How good I was!" she said to herself, thinking of the scarves.
She heard some steps on the stairs. It was Leon. She got up and took

from the chest of drawers the first pile of dusters to be hemmed. When

he came in she seemed very busy.
The conversation languished; Madame Bovary gave it up every few minutes,

whilst he himself seemed quite embarrassed. Seated on a low chair near

the fire, he turned round in his fingers the ivory thimble-case. She

stitched on, or from time to time turned down the hem of the cloth with

her nail. She did not speak; he was silent, captivated by her silence,

as he would have been by her speech.

"Poor fellow!" she thought.
"How have I displeased her?" he asked himself.
At last, however, Leon said that he should have, one of these days, to

go to Rouen on some office business.

"Your music subscription is out; am I to renew it?"
"No," she replied.
And pursing her lips she slowly drew a long stitch of grey thread.
This work irritated Leon. It seemed to roughen the ends of her fingers.

A gallant phrase came into his head, but he did not risk it.

"Then you are giving it up?" he went on.
"What?" she asked hurriedly. "Music? Ah! yes! Have I not my house to

look after, my husband to attend to, a thousand things, in fact, many

duties that must be considered first?"
She looked at the clock. Charles was late. Then, she affected anxiety.

Two or three times she even repeated, "He is so good!"

The clerk was fond of Monsieur Bovary. But this tenderness on his behalf

astonished him unpleasantly; nevertheless he took up on his praises,

which he said everyone was singing, especially the chemist.
"Ah! he is a good fellow," continued Emma.
"Certainly," replied the clerk.
And he began talking of Madame Homais, whose very untidy appearance

generally made them laugh.

"What does it matter?" interrupted Emma. "A good housewife does not

trouble about her appearance."

Then she relapsed into silence.
It was the same on the following days; her talks, her manners,

everything changed. She took interest in the housework, went to church

regularly, and looked after her servant with more severity.
She took Berthe from nurse. When visitors called, Felicite brought her

in, and Madame Bovary undressed her to show off her limbs. She declared

she adored children; this was her consolation, her joy, her passion,

and she accompanied her caresses with lyrical outburst which would have

reminded anyone but the Yonville people of Sachette in "Notre Dame de

When Charles came home he found his slippers put to warm near the fire.

His waistcoat now never wanted lining, nor his shirt buttons, and it was

quite a pleasure to see in the cupboard the night-caps arranged in piles

of the same height. She no longer grumbled as formerly at taking a turn

in the garden; what he proposed was always done, although she did not

understand the wishes to which she submitted without a murmur; and when

Leon saw him by his fireside after dinner, his two hands on his stomach,

his two feet on the fender, his two cheeks red with feeding, his eyes

moist with happiness, the child crawling along the carpet, and this

woman with the slender waist who came behind his arm-chair to kiss his

forehead: "What madness!" he said to himself. "And how to reach her!"

And thus she seemed so virtuous and inaccessible to him that he lost all

hope, even the faintest. But by this renunciation he placed her on

an extraordinary pinnacle. To him she stood outside those fleshly

attributes from which he had nothing to obtain, and in his heart she

rose ever, and became farther removed from him after the magnificent

manner of an apotheosis that is taking wing. It was one of those pure

feelings that do not interfere with life, that are cultivated because

they are rare, and whose loss would afflict more than their passion

Emma grew thinner, her cheeks paler, her face longer. With her black

hair, her large eyes, her aquiline nose, her birdlike walk, and always

silent now, did she not seem to be passing through life scarcely

touching it, and to bear on her brow the vague impress of some divine

destiny? She was so sad and so calm, at once so gentle and so reserved,

that near her one felt oneself seized by an icy charm, as we shudder

in churches at the perfume of the flowers mingling with the cold of the

marble. The others even did not escape from this seduction. The chemist

"She is a woman of great parts, who wouldn't be misplaced in a


The housewives admired her economy, the patients her politeness, the

poor her charity.

But she was eaten up with desires, with rage, with hate. That dress with

the narrow folds hid a distracted fear, of whose torment those chaste

lips said nothing. She was in love with Leon, and sought solitude that

she might with the more ease delight in his image. The sight of his

form troubled the voluptuousness of this mediation. Emma thrilled at

the sound of his step; then in his presence the emotion subsided, and

afterwards there remained to her only an immense astonishment that ended

in sorrow.

Leon did not know that when he left her in despair she rose after he had

gone to see him in the street. She concerned herself about his comings

and goings; she watched his face; she invented quite a history to find

an excuse for going to his room. The chemist's wife seemed happy to her

to sleep under the same roof, and her thoughts constantly centered upon

this house, like the "Lion d'Or" pigeons, who came there to dip their

red feet and white wings in its gutters. But the more Emma recognised

her love, the more she crushed it down, that it might not be evident,

that she might make it less. She would have liked Leon to guess it, and

she imagined chances, catastrophes that should facilitate this.

What restrained her was, no doubt, idleness and fear, and a sense of

shame also. She thought she had repulsed him too much, that the time was

past, that all was lost. Then, pride, and joy of being able to say to

herself, "I am virtuous," and to look at herself in the glass taking

resigned poses, consoled her a little for the sacrifice she believed she

was making.

Then the lusts of the flesh, the longing for money, and the melancholy

of passion all blended themselves into one suffering, and instead of

turning her thoughts from it, she clave to it the more, urging herself

to pain, and seeking everywhere occasion for it. She was irritated by

an ill-served dish or by a half-open door; bewailed the velvets she had

not, the happiness she had missed, her too exalted dreams, her narrow

What exasperated her was that Charles did not seem to notice her

anguish. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed to her an

imbecile insult, and his sureness on this point ingratitude. For whose

sake, then was she virtuous? Was it not for him, the obstacle to all

felicity, the cause of all misery, and, as it were, the sharp clasp of

that complex strap that bucked her in on all sides.

On him alone, then, she concentrated all the various hatreds that

resulted from her boredom, and every effort to diminish only augmented

it; for this useless trouble was added to the other reasons for despair,

and contributed still more to the separation between them. Her own

gentleness to herself made her rebel against him. Domestic mediocrity

drove her to lewd fancies, marriage tenderness to adulterous desires.

She would have liked Charles to beat her, that she might have a better

right to hate him, to revenge herself upon him. She was surprised

sometimes at the atrocious conjectures that came into her thoughts, and

she had to go on smiling, to hear repeated to her at all hours that she

was happy, to pretend to be happy, to let it be believed.
Yet she had loathing of this hypocrisy. She was seized with the

temptation to flee somewhere with Leon to try a new life; but at once a

vague chasm full of darkness opened within her soul.
"Besides, he no longer loves me," she thought. "What is to become of me?

What help is to be hoped for, what consolation, what solace?"

She was left broken, breathless, inert, sobbing in a low voice, with

flowing tears.

"Why don't you tell master?" the servant asked her when she came in

during these crises.

"It is the nerves," said Emma. "Do not speak to him of it; it would

worry him."

"Ah! yes," Felicite went on, "you are just like La Guerine, Pere

Guerin's daughter, the fisherman at Pollet, that I used to know at

Dieppe before I came to you. She was so sad, so sad, to see her

standing upright on the threshold of her house, she seemed to you like a

winding-sheet spread out before the door. Her illness, it appears, was

a kind of fog that she had in her head, and the doctors could not do

anything, nor the priest either. When she was taken too bad she went

off quite alone to the sea-shore, so that the customs officer, going his

rounds, often found her lying flat on her face, crying on the shingle.

Then, after her marriage, it went off, they say."

"But with me," replied Emma, "it was after marriage that it began."

Chapter Six

One evening when the window was open, and she, sitting by it, had been

watching Lestiboudois, the beadle, trimming the box, she suddenly heard

the Angelus ringing.
It was the beginning of April, when the primroses are in bloom, and a

warm wind blows over the flower-beds newly turned, and the gardens, like

women, seem to be getting ready for the summer fetes. Through the bars

of the arbour and away beyond, the river seen in the fields, meandering

through the grass in wandering curves. The evening vapours rose between

the leafless poplars, touching their outlines with a violet tint, paler

and more transparent than a subtle gauze caught athwart their branches.

In the distance cattle moved about; neither their steps nor their lowing

could be heard; and the bell, still ringing through the air, kept up its

peaceful lamentation.

With this repeated tinkling the thoughts of the young woman lost

themselves in old memories of her youth and school-days. She remembered

the great candlesticks that rose above the vases full of flowers on the

altar, and the tabernacle with its small columns. She would have liked

to be once more lost in the long line of white veils, marked off here

and there by the stuff black hoods of the good sisters bending over

their prie-Dieu. At mass on Sundays, when she looked up, she saw the

gentle face of the Virgin amid the blue smoke of the rising incense.

Then she was moved; she felt herself weak and quite deserted, like the

down of a bird whirled by the tempest, and it was unconsciously that she

went towards the church, included to no matter what devotions, so that

her soul was absorbed and all existence lost in it.

On the Place she met Lestivoudois on his way back, for, in order not

to shorten his day's labour, he preferred interrupting his work,

then beginning it again, so that he rang the Angelus to suit his own

convenience. Besides, the ringing over a little earlier warned the lads

of catechism hour.
Already a few who had arrived were playing marbles on the stones of the

cemetery. Others, astride the wall, swung their legs, kicking with their

clogs the large nettles growing between the little enclosure and the

newest graves. This was the only green spot. All the rest was but

stones, always covered with a fine powder, despite the vestry-broom.
The children in list shoes ran about there as if it were an enclosure

made for them. The shouts of their voices could be heard through the

humming of the bell. This grew less and less with the swinging of the

great rope that, hanging from the top of the belfry, dragged its end on

the ground. Swallows flitted to and fro uttering little cries, cut the

air with the edge of their wings, and swiftly returned to their yellow

nests under the tiles of the coping. At the end of the church a lamp was

burning, the wick of a night-light in a glass hung up. Its light from a

distance looked like a white stain trembling in the oil. A long ray of

the sun fell across the nave and seemed to darken the lower sides and

the corners.
"Where is the cure?" asked Madame Bovary of one of the lads, who was

amusing himself by shaking a swivel in a hole too large for it.

"He is just coming," he answered.
And in fact the door of the presbytery grated; Abbe Bournisien appeared;

the children, pell-mell, fled into the church.

"These young scamps!" murmured the priest, "always the same!"
Then, picking up a catechism all in rags that he had struck with is

foot, "They respect nothing!" But as soon as he caught sight of Madame

Bovary, "Excuse me," he said; "I did not recognise you."
He thrust the catechism into his pocket, and stopped short, balancing

the heavy vestry key between his two fingers.

The light of the setting sun that fell full upon his face paled the

lasting of his cassock, shiny at the elbows, unravelled at the hem.

Grease and tobacco stains followed along his broad chest the lines

of the buttons, and grew more numerous the farther they were from his

neckcloth, in which the massive folds of his red chin rested; this was

dotted with yellow spots, that disappeared beneath the coarse hair of

his greyish beard. He had just dined and was breathing noisily.
"How are you?" he added.
"Not well," replied Emma; "I am ill."
"Well, and so am I," answered the priest. "These first warm days weaken

one most remarkably, don't they? But, after all, we are born to suffer,

as St. Paul says. But what does Monsieur Bovary think of it?"
"He!" she said with a gesture of contempt.
"What!" replied the good fellow, quite astonished, "doesn't he prescribe

something for you?"

"Ah!" said Emma, "it is no earthly remedy I need."
But the cure from time to time looked into the church, where the

kneeling boys were shouldering one another, and tumbling over like packs

of cards.
"I should like to know--" she went on.
"You look out, Riboudet," cried the priest in an angry voice; "I'll warm

your ears, you imp!" Then turning to Emma, "He's Boudet the carpenter's

son; his parents are well off, and let him do just as he pleases. Yet he

could learn quickly if he would, for he is very sharp. And so sometimes

for a joke I call him Riboudet (like the road one takes to go to

Maromme) and I even say 'Mon Riboudet.' Ha! Ha! 'Mont Riboudet.' The

other day I repeated that just to Monsignor, and he laughed at it; he

condescended to laugh at it. And how is Monsieur Bovary?"

She seemed not to hear him. And he went on--
"Always very busy, no doubt; for he and I are certainly the busiest

people in the parish. But he is doctor of the body," he added with a

thick laugh, "and I of the soul."
She fixed her pleading eyes upon the priest. "Yes," she said, "you

solace all sorrows."

"Ah! don't talk to me of it, Madame Bovary. This morning I had to go to

Bas-Diauville for a cow that was ill; they thought it was under a spell.

All their cows, I don't know how it is--But pardon me! Longuemarre and

Boudet! Bless me! Will you leave off?"

And with a bound he ran into the church.
The boys were just then clustering round the large desk, climbing over

the precentor's footstool, opening the missal; and others on tiptoe were

just about to venture into the confessional. But the priest suddenly

distributed a shower of cuffs among them. Seizing them by the collars of

their coats, he lifted them from the ground, and deposited them on their

knees on the stones of the choir, firmly, as if he meant planting them

"Yes," said he, when he returned to Emma, unfolding his large cotton

handkerchief, one corner of which he put between his teeth, "farmers are

much to be pitied."
"Others, too," she replied.
"Assuredly. Town-labourers, for example."
"It is not they--"
"Pardon! I've there known poor mothers of families, virtuous women, I

assure you, real saints, who wanted even bread."

"But those," replied Emma, and the corners of her mouth twitched as she

spoke, "those, Monsieur le Cure, who have bread and have no--"

"Fire in the winter," said the priest.
"Oh, what does that matter?"
"What! What does it matter? It seems to me that when one has firing and

food--for, after all--"

"My God! my God!" she sighed.
"It is indigestion, no doubt? You must get home, Madame Bovary; drink

a little tea, that will strengthen you, or else a glass of fresh water

with a little moist sugar."
"Why?" And she looked like one awaking from a dream.
"Well, you see, you were putting your hand to your forehead. I thought

you felt faint." Then, bethinking himself, "But you were asking me

something? What was it? I really don't remember."
"I? Nothing! nothing!" repeated Emma.
And the glance she cast round her slowly fell upon the old man in the

cassock. They looked at one another face to face without speaking.

"Then, Madame Bovary," he said at last, "excuse me, but duty first, you

know; I must look after my good-for-nothings. The first communion will

soon be upon us, and I fear we shall be behind after all. So after

Ascension Day I keep them recta* an extra hour every Wednesday. Poor

children! One cannot lead them too soon into the path of the Lord, as,

moreover, he has himself recommended us to do by the mouth of his Divine

Son. Good health to you, madame; my respects to your husband."
*On the straight and narrow path.
And he went into the church making a genuflexion as soon as he reached

the door.

Emma saw him disappear between the double row of forms, walking with a

heavy tread, his head a little bent over his shoulder, and with his two

hands half-open behind him.
Then she turned on her heel all of one piece, like a statue on a pivot,

and went homewards. But the loud voice of the priest, the clear voices

of the boys still reached her ears, and went on behind her.
"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes, I am a Christian."
"What is a Christian?"
"He who, being baptized-baptized-baptized--"
She went up the steps of the staircase holding on to the banisters, and

when she was in her room threw herself into an arm-chair.

The whitish light of the window-panes fell with soft undulations.
The furniture in its place seemed to have become more immobile, and to

lose itself in the shadow as in an ocean of darkness. The fire was out,

the clock went on ticking, and Emma vaguely marvelled at this calm of

all things while within herself was such tumult. But little Berthe was

there, between the window and the work-table, tottering on her knitted

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