Madame bovary by Gustave Flaubert



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shoes, and trying to come to her mother to catch hold of the ends of her

apron-strings.
"Leave me alone," said the latter, putting her from her with her hand.
The little girl soon came up closer against her knees, and leaning on

them with her arms, she looked up with her large blue eyes, while a

small thread of pure saliva dribbled from her lips on to the silk apron.
"Leave me alone," repeated the young woman quite irritably.
Her face frightened the child, who began to scream.
"Will you leave me alone?" she said, pushing her with her elbow.
Berthe fell at the foot of the drawers against the brass handle, cutting

her cheek, which began to bleed, against it. Madame Bovary sprang to

lift her up, broke the bell-rope, called for the servant with all her

might, and she was just going to curse herself when Charles appeared. It

was the dinner-hour; he had come home.
"Look, dear!" said Emma, in a calm voice, "the little one fell down

while she was playing, and has hurt herself."


Charles reassured her; the case was not a serious one, and he went for

some sticking plaster.


Madame Bovary did not go downstairs to the dining-room; she wished

to remain alone to look after the child. Then watching her sleep, the

little anxiety she felt gradually wore off, and she seemed very stupid

to herself, and very good to have been so worried just now at so little.

Berthe, in fact, no longer sobbed.
Her breathing now imperceptibly raised the cotton covering. Big tears

lay in the corner of the half-closed eyelids, through whose lashes one

could see two pale sunken pupils; the plaster stuck on her cheek drew

the skin obliquely.


"It is very strange," thought Emma, "how ugly this child is!"
When at eleven o'clock Charles came back from the chemist's shop,

whither he had gone after dinner to return the remainder of the

sticking-plaster, he found his wife standing by the cradle.
"I assure you it's nothing." he said, kissing her on the forehead.

"Don't worry, my poor darling; you will make yourself ill."


He had stayed a long time at the chemist's. Although he had not seemed

much moved, Homais, nevertheless, had exerted himself to buoy him up, to

"keep up his spirits." Then they had talked of the various dangers that

threaten childhood, of the carelessness of servants. Madame Homais knew

something of it, having still upon her chest the marks left by a basin

full of soup that a cook had formerly dropped on her pinafore, and

her good parents took no end of trouble for her. The knives were not

sharpened, nor the floors waxed; there were iron gratings to the windows

and strong bars across the fireplace; the little Homais, in spite of

their spirit, could not stir without someone watching them; at the

slightest cold their father stuffed them with pectorals; and until

they were turned four they all, without pity, had to wear wadded

head-protectors. This, it is true, was a fancy of Madame Homais'; her

husband was inwardly afflicted at it. Fearing the possible consequences

of such compression to the intellectual organs. He even went so far as

to say to her, "Do you want to make Caribs or Botocudos of them?"


Charles, however, had several times tried to interrupt the conversation.

"I should like to speak to you," he had whispered in the clerk's ear,

who went upstairs in front of him.
"Can he suspect anything?" Leon asked himself. His heart beat, and he

racked his brain with surmises.


At last, Charles, having shut the door, asked him to see himself

what would be the price at Rouen of a fine daguerreotypes. It was a

sentimental surprise he intended for his wife, a delicate attention--his

portrait in a frock-coat. But he wanted first to know "how much it would

be." The inquiries would not put Monsieur Leon out, since he went to

town almost every week.


Why? Monsieur Homais suspected some "young man's affair" at the bottom

of it, an intrigue. But he was mistaken. Leon was after no love-making.

He was sadder than ever, as Madame Lefrancois saw from the amount of

food he left on his plate. To find out more about it she questioned

the tax-collector. Binet answered roughly that he "wasn't paid by the

police."
All the same, his companion seemed very strange to him, for Leon often

threw himself back in his chair, and stretching out his arms. Complained

vaguely of life.


"It's because you don't take enough recreation," said the collector.
"What recreation?"
"If I were you I'd have a lathe."
"But I don't know how to turn," answered the clerk.
"Ah! that's true," said the other, rubbing his chin with an air of

mingled contempt and satisfaction.


Leon was weary of loving without any result; moreover he was beginning

to feel that depression caused by the repetition of the same kind of

life, when no interest inspires and no hope sustains it. He was so bored

with Yonville and its inhabitants, that the sight of certain persons,

of certain houses, irritated him beyond endurance; and the chemist, good

fellow though he was, was becoming absolutely unbearable to him. Yet

the prospect of a new condition of life frightened as much as it seduced

him.
This apprehension soon changed into impatience, and then Paris from afar

sounded its fanfare of masked balls with the laugh of grisettes. As he

was to finish reading there, why not set out at once? What prevented

him? And he began making home-preparations; he arranged his occupations

beforehand. He furnished in his head an apartment. He would lead an

artist's life there! He would take lessons on the guitar! He would have

a dressing-gown, a Basque cap, blue velvet slippers! He even already was

admiring two crossed foils over his chimney-piece, with a death's head

on the guitar above them.


The difficulty was the consent of his mother; nothing, however, seemed

more reasonable. Even his employer advised him to go to some other

chambers where he could advance more rapidly. Taking a middle course,

then, Leon looked for some place as second clerk at Rouen; found none,

and at last wrote his mother a long letter full of details, in which

he set forth the reasons for going to live at Paris immediately. She

consented.
He did not hurry. Every day for a month Hivert carried boxes, valises,

parcels for him from Yonville to Rouen and from Rouen to Yonville;

and when Leon had packed up his wardrobe, had his three arm-chairs

restuffed, bought a stock of neckties, in a word, had made more

preparations than for a voyage around the world, he put it off from week

to week, until he received a second letter from his mother urging him to

leave, since he wanted to pass his examination before the vacation.
When the moment for the farewells had come, Madame Homais wept, Justin

sobbed; Homais, as a man of nerve, concealed his emotion; he wished to

carry his friend's overcoat himself as far as the gate of the notary,

who was taking Leon to Rouen in his carriage.


The latter had just time to bid farewell to Monsieur Bovary.
When he reached the head of the stairs, he stopped, he was so out of

breath. As he came in, Madame Bovary arose hurriedly.


"It is I again!" said Leon.
"I was sure of it!"
She bit her lips, and a rush of blood flowing under her skin made her

red from the roots of her hair to the top of her collar. She remained

standing, leaning with her shoulder against the wainscot.
"The doctor is not here?" he went on.
"He is out." She repeated, "He is out."
Then there was silence. They looked at one another and their thoughts,

confounded in the same agony, clung close together like two throbbing

breasts.
"I should like to kiss Berthe," said Leon.
Emma went down a few steps and called Felicite.
He threw one long look around him that took in the walls, the

decorations, the fireplace, as if to penetrate everything, carry away

everything. But she returned, and the servant brought Berthe, who was

swinging a windmill roof downwards at the end of a string. Leon kissed

her several times on the neck.
"Good-bye, poor child! good-bye, dear little one! good-bye!" And he gave

her back to her mother.


"Take her away," she said.
They remained alone--Madame Bovary, her back turned, her face pressed

against a window-pane; Leon held his cap in his hand, knocking it softly

against his thigh.
"It is going to rain," said Emma.
"I have a cloak," he answered.
"Ah!"
She turned around, her chin lowered, her forehead bent forward.
The light fell on it as on a piece of marble, to the curve of the

eyebrows, without one's being able to guess what Emma was seeing on the

horizon or what she was thinking within herself.
"Well, good-bye," he sighed.
She raised her head with a quick movement.
"Yes, good-bye--go!"
They advanced towards each other; he held out his hand; she hesitated.
"In the English fashion, then," she said, giving her own hand wholly to

him, and forcing a laugh.


Leon felt it between his fingers, and the very essence of all his being

seemed to pass down into that moist palm. Then he opened his hand; their

eyes met again, and he disappeared.
When he reached the market-place, he stopped and hid behind a pillar to

look for the last time at this white house with the four green blinds.

He thought he saw a shadow behind the window in the room; but the

curtain, sliding along the pole as though no one were touching it,

slowly opened its long oblique folds that spread out with a single

movement, and thus hung straight and motionless as a plaster wall. Leon

set off running.
From afar he saw his employer's gig in the road, and by it a man in

a coarse apron holding the horse. Homais and Monsieur Guillaumin were

talking. They were waiting for him.
"Embrace me," said the druggist with tears in his eyes. "Here is your

coat, my good friend. Mind the cold; take care of yourself; look after

yourself."
"Come, Leon, jump in," said the notary.
Homais bend over the splash-board, and in a voice broken by sobs uttered

these three sad words--


"A pleasant journey!"
"Good-night," said Monsieur Guillaumin. "Give him his head." They set

out, and Homais went back.


Madame Bovary had opened her window overlooking the garden and watched

the clouds. They gathered around the sunset on the side of Rouen and

then swiftly rolled back their black columns, behind which the great

rays of the sun looked out like the golden arrows of a suspended trophy,

while the rest of the empty heavens was white as porcelain. But a gust

of wind bowed the poplars, and suddenly the rain fell; it pattered

against the green leaves.
Then the sun reappeared, the hens clucked, sparrows shook their wings in

the damp thickets, and the pools of water on the gravel as they flowed

away carried off the pink flowers of an acacia.
"Ah! how far off he must be already!" she thought.
Monsieur Homais, as usual, came at half-past six during dinner.
"Well," said he, "so we've sent off our young friend!"
"So it seems," replied the doctor. Then turning on his chair; "Any news

at home?"


"Nothing much. Only my wife was a little moved this afternoon. You know

women--a nothing upsets them, especially my wife. And we should be

wrong to object to that, since their nervous organization is much more

malleable than ours."


"Poor Leon!" said Charles. "How will he live at Paris? Will he get used

to it?"
Madame Bovary sighed.


"Get along!" said the chemist, smacking his lips. "The outings at

restaurants, the masked balls, the champagne--all that'll be jolly

enough, I assure you."
"I don't think he'll go wrong," objected Bovary.
"Nor do I," said Monsieur Homais quickly; "although he'll have to do

like the rest for fear of passing for a Jesuit. And you don't know what

a life those dogs lead in the Latin quarter with actresses. Besides,

students are thought a great deal of in Paris. Provided they have a few

accomplishments, they are received in the best society; there are even

ladies of the Faubourg Saint-Germain who fall in love with them, which

subsequently furnishes them opportunities for making very good matches."
"But," said the doctor, "I fear for him that down there--"
"You are right," interrupted the chemist; "that is the reverse of the

medal. And one is constantly obliged to keep one's hand in one's pocket

there. Thus, we will suppose you are in a public garden. An individual

presents himself, well dressed, even wearing an order, and whom one

would take for a diplomatist. He approaches you, he insinuates himself;

offers you a pinch of snuff, or picks up your hat. Then you become more

intimate; he takes you to a cafe, invites you to his country-house,

introduces you, between two drinks, to all sorts of people; and

three-fourths of the time it's only to plunder your watch or lead you

into some pernicious step.


"That is true," said Charles; "but I was thinking especially of

illnesses--of typhoid fever, for example, that attacks students from the

provinces."
Emma shuddered.
"Because of the change of regimen," continued the chemist, "and of the

perturbation that results therefrom in the whole system. And then the

water at Paris, don't you know! The dishes at restaurants, all the

spiced food, end by heating the blood, and are not worth, whatever

people may say of them, a good soup. For my own part, I have always

preferred plain living; it is more healthy. So when I was studying

pharmacy at Rouen, I boarded in a boarding house; I dined with the

professors."


And thus he went on, expounding his opinions generally and his personal

likings, until Justin came to fetch him for a mulled egg that was

wanted.
"Not a moment's peace!" he cried; "always at it! I can't go out for a

minute! Like a plough-horse, I have always to be moiling and toiling.

What drudgery!" Then, when he was at the door, "By the way, do you know

the news?"


"What news?"
"That it is very likely," Homais went on, raising his eyebrows and

assuming one of his most serious expression, "that the agricultural

meeting of the Seine-Inferieure will be held this year at

Yonville-l'Abbaye. The rumour, at all events, is going the round. This

morning the paper alluded to it. It would be of the utmost importance

for our district. But we'll talk it over later on. I can see, thank you;

Justin has the lantern."

Chapter Seven


The next day was a dreary one for Emma. Everything seemed to her

enveloped in a black atmosphere floating confusedly over the exterior of

things, and sorrow was engulfed within her soul with soft shrieks such

as the winter wind makes in ruined castles. It was that reverie which we

give to things that will not return, the lassitude that seizes you after

everything was done; that pain, in fine, that the interruption of every

wonted movement, the sudden cessation of any prolonged vibration, brings

on.
As on the return from Vaubyessard, when the quadrilles were running in

her head, she was full of a gloomy melancholy, of a numb despair.

Leon reappeared, taller, handsomer, more charming, more vague. Though

separated from her, he had not left her; he was there, and the walls of

the house seemed to hold his shadow.


She could not detach her eyes from the carpet where he had walked, from

those empty chairs where he had sat. The river still flowed on, and

slowly drove its ripples along the slippery banks.
They had often walked there to the murmur of the waves over the

moss-covered pebbles. How bright the sun had been! What happy afternoons

they had seen alone in the shade at the end of the garden! He read

aloud, bareheaded, sitting on a footstool of dry sticks; the fresh wind

of the meadow set trembling the leaves of the book and the nasturtiums

of the arbour. Ah! he was gone, the only charm of her life, the only

possible hope of joy. Why had she not seized this happiness when it came

to her? Why not have kept hold of it with both hands, with both knees,

when it was about to flee from her? And she cursed herself for not

having loved Leon. She thirsted for his lips. The wish took possession

of her to run after and rejoin him, throw herself into his arms and

say to him, "It is I; I am yours." But Emma recoiled beforehand at the

difficulties of the enterprise, and her desires, increased by regret,

became only the more acute.


Henceforth the memory of Leon was the centre of her boredom; it burnt

there more brightly than the fire travellers have left on the snow of

a Russian steppe. She sprang towards him, she pressed against him, she

stirred carefully the dying embers, sought all around her anything

that could revive it; and the most distant reminiscences, like the most

immediate occasions, what she experienced as well as what she imagined,

her voluptuous desires that were unsatisfied, her projects of happiness

that crackled in the wind like dead boughs, her sterile virtue, her

lost hopes, the domestic tete-a-tete--she gathered it all up, took

everything, and made it all serve as fuel for her melancholy.


The flames, however, subsided, either because the supply had exhausted

itself, or because it had been piled up too much. Love, little by

little, was quelled by absence; regret stifled beneath habit; and this

incendiary light that had empurpled her pale sky was overspread and

faded by degrees. In the supineness of her conscience she even took her

repugnance towards her husband for aspirations towards her lover, the

burning of hate for the warmth of tenderness; but as the tempest still

raged, and as passion burnt itself down to the very cinders, and no help

came, no sun rose, there was night on all sides, and she was lost in the

terrible cold that pierced her.


Then the evil days of Tostes began again. She thought herself now far

more unhappy; for she had the experience of grief, with the certainty

that it would not end.
A woman who had laid on herself such sacrifices could well allow herself

certain whims. She bought a Gothic prie-dieu, and in a month spent

fourteen francs on lemons for polishing her nails; she wrote to Rouen

for a blue cashmere gown; she chose one of Lheureux's finest scarves,

and wore it knotted around her waist over her dressing-gown; and, with

closed blinds and a book in her hand, she lay stretched out on a couch

in this garb.
She often changed her coiffure; she did her hair a la Chinoise, in

flowing curls, in plaited coils; she parted in on one side and rolled it

under like a man's.
She wanted to learn Italian; she bought dictionaries, a grammar, and

a supply of white paper. She tried serious reading, history, and

philosophy. Sometimes in the night Charles woke up with a start,

thinking he was being called to a patient. "I'm coming," he stammered;

and it was the noise of a match Emma had struck to relight the lamp. But

her reading fared like her piece of embroidery, all of which, only just

begun, filled her cupboard; she took it up, left it, passed on to other

books.
She had attacks in which she could easily have been driven to commit any

folly. She maintained one day, in opposition to her husband, that she

could drink off a large glass of brandy, and, as Charles was stupid

enough to dare her to, she swallowed the brandy to the last drop.
In spite of her vapourish airs (as the housewives of Yonville called

them), Emma, all the same, never seemed gay, and usually she had at the

corners of her mouth that immobile contraction that puckers the faces of

old maids, and those of men whose ambition has failed. She was pale all

over, white as a sheet; the skin of her nose was drawn at the nostrils,

her eyes looked at you vaguely. After discovering three grey hairs on

her temples, she talked much of her old age.
She often fainted. One day she even spat blood, and, as Charles fussed

around her showing his anxiety--


"Bah!" she answered, "what does it matter?"
Charles fled to his study and wept there, both his elbows on the table,

sitting in an arm-chair at his bureau under the phrenological head.


Then he wrote to his mother begging her to come, and they had many long

consultations together on the subject of Emma.


What should they decide? What was to be done since she rejected all

medical treatment? "Do you know what your wife wants?" replied Madame

Bovary senior.
"She wants to be forced to occupy herself with some manual work. If she

were obliged, like so many others, to earn her living, she wouldn't have

these vapours, that come to her from a lot of ideas she stuffs into her

head, and from the idleness in which she lives."


"Yet she is always busy," said Charles.
"Ah! always busy at what? Reading novels, bad books, works against

religion, and in which they mock at priests in speeches taken from

Voltaire. But all that leads you far astray, my poor child. Anyone who

has no religion always ends by turning out badly."


So it was decided to stop Emma reading novels. The enterprise did not

seem easy. The good lady undertook it. She was, when she passed through

Rouen, to go herself to the lending-library and represent that Emma had

discontinued her subscription. Would they not have a right to apply

to the police if the librarian persisted all the same in his poisonous

trade? The farewells of mother and daughter-in-law were cold. During

the three weeks that they had been together they had not exchanged

half-a-dozen words apart from the inquiries and phrases when they met at

table and in the evening before going to bed.
Madame Bovary left on a Wednesday, the market-day at Yonville.
The Place since morning had been blocked by a row of carts, which, on

end and their shafts in the air, spread all along the line of houses

from the church to the inn. On the other side there were canvas booths,

where cotton checks, blankets, and woollen stockings were sold,

together with harness for horses, and packets of blue ribbon, whose ends

fluttered in the wind. The coarse hardware was spread out on the ground

between pyramids of eggs and hampers of cheeses, from which sticky straw

stuck out.


Near the corn-machines clucking hens passed their necks through the bars

of flat cages. The people, crowding in the same place and unwilling

to move thence, sometimes threatened to smash the shop front of the




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