Madame Bovary - Gustave Flauber

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CHAPTER ONE

Failure and Success
The older Monsieur Bovary, Monsieur Charles Denis Bartholome Bovary, had been a good-looking man when younger, with a big moustache and rings on his fingers. He was not, however, an impressive man, and although he wore expensive clothes, he always looked like an uncomfortable mixture of a military man and a cheap shopkeeper. His good looks and ability to sell himself did, nevertheless, win him a wife with a good income. After he was safely married, he lived for two or three years on her money. He ate and drank well, and spent his days lying in bed till midday, smoking his pipe and never coming home till the theatres and cafes closed.
When his father-in-law died, the old man left very little money to his daughter. Disappointed, Monsieur Bovary tried to start a textile business, but lost a lot of money and finally retired into the country with the idea of showing the people there how to run a farm. However, he knew as little about agriculture as he did about textiles. He rode his horses instead of making them work, ate the fattest chickens instead of selling them, and cleaned his shooting-boots with his own best bacon-fat. He soon discovered that he had little chance of making a fortune.
Around this time he found a place on the borders of Caux and Picardy, half farm, half private house, which he could rent for two hundred francs a year. He took it and there, an angry, disappointed man, at war with the rest of the world, he shut himself up at the age of forty-five. He said that he was disgusted with other people and wanted only to live by himself.
At the beginning, his wife had loved him above all others, but this only seemed to add to his dislike of the world and he never had a kind word for her. She had been cheerful, kind-hearted and friendly, but as she grew older, in the same way that good wine turns into vinegar, she became bad-tempered and bad company. She was a hard worker, though, unlike her husband. She was always on her feet, always busy, hurrying to see the lawyers, knowing exactly when the next bills had to be paid. Indoors she was always working: sewing, washing, keeping an eye on the men and paying them their wages. Her lord and master, paying no attention to what was going on around him, sat smoking by the fire.
When the first Madame Bovary had a child, it became the centre of her world. The child's father, however, would have been happy to let him go without shoes. He said that it would be more natural not to give him clothes and to let him run around like a young animal. In contrast to his wife's ideas, he thought a boy would grow up to be a better man if he undressed in the cold, learned to drink alcohol and laughed at the village priest. The child, a gentle little thing, made little progress in this kind of education. His mother always kept him close to her; she cut out pictures for him from the newspaper and made up countless stories. In loving her son, she was looking for something to make up for the loneliness of her life. She dreamed he would be famous. She could see him as a tall, handsome, clever man, high up in the government service. She taught him to read, and to sing — while she played on her old piano. Monsieur Bovary said this was all a waste of time. How were they ever going to afford to educate him for a government job, or help him start in business? Madame Bovary bit her lip and did not argue with her husband, and the child was allowed to run wild in the village.
He went around with the farm workers, scared the birds by throwing stones at them, looked for wild fruit, helped in the fields, wandered through the woods and played with other children. On Saints' days, he helped ring the bells in the church, and he loved to hang on to the big rope and feel himself carried up as it rose in the air. And he grew as strong as a young oak tree, with big hands and red cheeks.
When he reached the age of twelve, his mother managed to arrange for him to begin his studies with the priest, but the lessons were so short and badly organized that they did not do him much good. Sometimes it would be hot and the child would grow tired, and before long the old man would be sleeping with his mouth wide open. At other times the priest would see Charles playing with his friends and would call him over to test his Latin verbs. But then, perhaps, it would begin to rain, or someone they knew would come along, and lessons would be over for that day. The priest always had a good word for his pupil, though, and said that the young man had a very good memory.
By the time young Charles was thirteen, even his father saw that something must be done, and Charles left his unhappy home to spend three unhappy years in the College at Rouen. He wrote to his mother every week; he did his homework. He never did very well in his studies, but he never failed altogether. At the end of three years, his mother took him away from the College, with the plan that he should study medicine.
She got him a room on the fourth floor of a house overlooking a little river. She made arrangements for his meals, found some bits of furniture — a table and a couple of chairs and an old bed — and made sure there was plenty of firewood to keep her poor boy warm. After a week of preparations she went back home, asking him over and over again to look after himself and to study hard.
The list of lectures which he read at the beginning of the term made his head spin. There were lectures on subjects he had never heard of, with names he could not even pronounce. He listened as hard as he could, but he could not understand what the lecturers were talking about. However, he attended every lecture and filled notebook after notebook. He got through his work like a horse that is used to turn a mill-wheel, going round and round in the same place with his eyes covered, never knowing what he was doing or where he was going.
Charles failed his medical examinations the first time — the course was too difficult for him. But his mother still believed in him, and made his father pay for one more year. This time Charles managed to pass and his mother began to plan again. First he must have somewhere to work, and then he must have a wife.
The first problem was solved when the old doctor in Tostes, a small town near Rouen, died. Charles became the next doctor. Then his mother found a 45-year-old widow in Dieppe, with an income of twelve hundred francs a year. Though she was ugly and bad-tempered (and twenty-five years older than Charles), her income made her attractive and Charles thought the marriage would make his life better. He thought he would now have freedom and money to spend. He was wrong. His wife was in charge. She told him what to say, and what not to say. She opened his letters, watched his movements and, when women patients were in the surgery, she listened from the next room. At night, when Charles came to bed, she put her long bony arms round his neck and told him all her troubles. He did not love her, he loved someone else. Yes, she knew she would always be unhappy. And she always ended by asking him for some medicine — and for a little more love.
CHAPTER TWO
Mademoiselle Emma
One night, Charles received a letter asking him to come at once to a farm at Les Bertaux where the farmer had broken his leg. The night was dark and the farm was twenty-five kilometres away, but the farmer was a rich man and Charles was still building up his business. So at four o'clock in the morning, Dr Bovary set out. A child was waiting at an open gate as he approached the farm.
'Are you the doctor?' he asked.
As Charles rode along, he learned from the boy that Monsieur Rouault had broken his leg the night before. He also learned that he had lost his wife two years ago, and had no one with him now except for his daughter, who looked after the house for him.
Mademoiselle Emma, the farmer's daughter, came to the door and showed him into the kitchen. A fire was burning and the men's dinner was cooking in big polished pans. Charles went upstairs to see the farmer. The broken leg was a simple problem and Charles asked the servant and the young woman to help with the patient. As they tied up the farmer's leg, Charles was surprised to see how white her nails were. Her hands, however, were not beautiful — perhaps a little too red. She herself was too tall, and she did not have the kind of soft figure Charles liked. Her good point was her eyes. They were dark, almost black, and she looked at you honestly and fearlessly.
As soon as he had finished looking after his patient, the doctor was invited by Monsieur Rouault to eat before he left. Charles went down into the room below, where two places had been laid with shining silver on a small table and Mademoiselle Emma was waiting for him. A smell of flowers and clean clothes came from a cupboard opposite the window and on the floor, in the corner, stood a few bags of wheat. Someone had hung a drawing of a Greek god in the middle of one of the walls. It was in an attractive frame, and written at the bottom were the words 'To my dear Father'.
They began by talking about Monsieur Rouault, and went on to discuss the weather and the cold winter. Mademoiselle Emma did not like the country very much, especially now she had almost all the responsibility of the farm on her shoulders.
When Charles, who had been upstairs to say goodbye to the farmer, came back into the dining room, he found her standing by the window looking out into the garden. She turned round.
'Are you looking for something?' she asked.
'Yes, I'm trying to find my riding-whip,' he replied, and he began to look behind the doors and under the chairs.
Mademoiselle Emma found it between the bags of wheat and the wall, and Charles went over to help. As he bent down, he felt the young woman's back rubbing against his chest. She stood up, blushing, and, looking at him over her shoulder, handed him his whip.
Instead of going back to Les Bertaux three days later, as he said he would, he returned the next day, and he then went to the farm twice a week. After forty-six days, Monsieur Rouault could move around without help, and people began to say what an excellent doctor Monsieur Bovary was. Pere Rouault said the very best doctors in Yvetot or Rouen itself could not have treated him better.
Charles did not ask himself why he liked going to Les Bertaux. If he had thought about it he would have said to himself that it was a serious case, or he expected to earn a good fee. But was that really the reason why these visits to the farm were so pleasant? On days when he was visiting, he got up early and rode to the farm as quickly as he could, only stopping to clean his boots and to put on his black gloves before going into the house. He liked to ride into the yard, and see the farm boys as they came forward to meet him. He liked the house, and Monsieur Rouault, who held his hand and said he had saved his life; he liked the sound of Mademoiselle Emma's wooden shoes on the clean stone floor of the kitchen.
When he left, she always came with him to the top of the steps, and would wait with him until the boys brought his horse. One day, at the end of the winter, it started to rain as he was leaving the house. She went back inside for an umbrella and put it up. It was a silk one, and it caught the sunlight, reflecting little coloured patches of light on to the whiteness of her skin. She smiled at him, and you could hear the sound of the rain drops as they fell, one by one, on to the tight surface of the silk.
When Charles first began his visits to Les Bertaux, his wife always asked about his patient. But when she learned that the farmer's daughter had been to school and had learned dancing, geography and drawing, and could play the piano, her interest changed to anger and dislike. At first she made unfriendly remarks about Mademoiselle Rouault, but Charles ignored them because he did not want an argument. So at last she told him to his face what she thought of him, and he did not know what to reply. Why did he keep going to Les Bertaux? Monsieur Rouault was well again now and he had not paid his bill. Ah, she knew all about it! There was someone else there, someone who was a good talker, someone who was well educated and clever. That was what he liked — young, pretty ladies!
So Charles agreed to stop his visits to Les Bertaux, but now that he could not see Mademoiselle Emma he decided he could love her. His wife was so unattractive, just skin and bone. She wore the same black clothes and gray stockings, the same ugly shoes all year round. So if he could not see the farmer's daughter any more, he would dream of her!
This unhappy situation lasted for several months until, one fine day in the early spring, the lawyer who had looked after Madame Bovary's affairs left town with all his clients' money. She still had a share in a ship that was worth six thousand francs, and her house in Dieppe, but there was nothing left of that fortune she had been so proud of.
And when her financial affairs were looked into more carefully, Charles's father found out that the house in Dieppe was mortgaged and her share in the vessel was not worth more than two hundred francs. She had lied, the good lady! Monsieur Bovary senior was so angry that he took up a chair and smashed it on the stone floor, and he told his wife she had ruined her son by making him marry an old woman like that. They came to Tostes to tell Charles's rich wife what they thought of her. There was a terrible argument. Heloise begged her husband to defend her against his parents, and Charles did his best, but the old people were still angry when they left the house.
The damage had been done. A week later, as she was hanging out the washing in the yard, Heloise Bovary found that she was spitting blood. The next day, while Charles had his back to her, opening the curtains, she cried out, 'Oh God!' and fell to the floor. She was dead! How amazing!
When the funeral was over, Charles returned to the house. He went up into the bedroom and saw her dress hanging up at the foot of the bed. He stayed there until it was dark, lost in sorrowful thought. After all, perhaps she had loved him.
CHAPTER THREE
A New Wife
One morning Pere Rouault came to pay Charles for his treatment, and to say how sorry he was to hear about his wife's death. Seeing how unhappy Charles looked, he said, 'You must make an effort, Monsieur Bovary; you will be happy again one day. Come and see us. My daughter asks about you and says that you are forgetting her. Spring will soon be here. Come and shoot a rabbit or two!'
Charles took his advice. He went back to Les Bertaux, and found everything there just the same as before. The apple trees were already in flower, and Pere Rouault did his best to make the doctor feel comfortable. He even told him a few stories, and Charles was surprised to find himself laughing. When he remembered his wife he became serious again, but then the coffee came in and he thought no more about her.
Back home, he also thought of her less and less as he got used to living alone. He was free now to have his meals when he liked, he could go out and come in without having to give explanations, and when he was very tired he could stretch out his arms and legs in bed as far as he liked. He gave himself little treats, let himself feel self-pity and let people be nice to him. Moreover, his wife's death had been rather good for him professionally because, for a whole month, people had been saying, 'Poor young man! What bad luck!' So his name had been heard and his practice had increased and he could go to Les Bertaux whenever he wanted to. He was strangely happy and, looking at himself in the mirror as he brushed his moustache, he thought he had become better-looking.
He arrived at the farm one day at about three o'clock when everyone was out in the fields. He went into the kitchen, but did not see Emma at first. The sunlight shone on the kitchen floor in long narrow bars, reflecting on the ceiling. Flies on the table crawled up the glasses that had not been washed, or drowned in the cider in the bottom of a jug. Between the window and the fireplace Emma sat sewing. She had no scarf around her neck, and he could see the fine hairs on her shoulders.
Like all country people, she offered him a drink. He said no at first, but at last, with a laugh, she persuaded him to have a glass with her. She went to the cupboard and brought out the bottle, took down two small glasses, filled one, poured two or three drops into the other and, tapping it against the doctor's, put it to her lips. As it was nearly empty, she leaned back to drink and, with her head back, she began to laugh because she could not taste anything. At the same time, she tried to catch some of the drops from the bottom of the glass with the tip of her tongue.
Then she sat down and took up her work again — a white cotton sock which she was repairing. She worked with her head bent forward. She did not talk, nor did Charles. As he watched her, the only sound he could hear was the excitement of a hen that had laid an egg in the yard outside.
After some time, Emma started to talk to him. She had been complaining ever since the spring about feeling dizzy; she wondered whether bathing in the sea would do her any good. She began to talk about her convent school, and Charles about his college days. They went upstairs to her room, where she showed him her old music books and the prizes she had won. And she went on to speak of her mother, and even pointed out the bed in the garden where she gathered flowers on the first Friday in every month, to lay on her mothers grave. She said she would like to live in town in the winter, although perhaps the long days made the country even more boring in the summer; and according to what she was saying, her voice was clear and strong, musical or almost a whisper, as if she were speaking to herself.
That night, as he was riding home, Charles thought about the different things she had said, trying to remember them exactly to discover what they meant, so that he might understand how her life had been before he met her. Then he began to wonder how she would become if she married — and whom she would marry. Unfortunately, old Rouault was apparently very wealthy, and she herself… so beautiful! But the thought kept coming to him: 'The doctor wants a wife. Yes, the doctor wants a wife.'
That night he could not sleep. He got up, took a drink from the water-jug and opened his window. The sky was filled with stars, a warm breeze was blowing and, a long way off, some dogs were barking. He turned his head towards Les Bertaux. Thinking that, after all, he had nothing to lose by it, Charles made up his mind to ask her to marry him. But every time he was alone with her, the fear of being unable to find the right words left him unable to speak.
In fact Pere Rouault would have been happy to see his daughter married, especially as she was very little use in the house. He made excuses for her, telling himself that she had too much intelligence for the farming life. When, therefore, he noticed that Charles blushed each time he was near his daughter, and that the young man was clearly interested in her, he gave the matter some thought. Although Charles was not the sort of man he would have chosen for a son-in-law, he was well educated and a hard worker, and would not ask him for too much money to take his daughter off his hands. This mattered, as Monsieur Rouault had debts with most of his suppliers and had just had to sell a large amount of land.
'If he asks me,' he said to himself, 'he can have her.'
A little later, Charles came to spend three days at Les Bertaux. The time went quickly, and he never seemed to find the right moment to speak. As he was leaving, Monsieur Rouault came out to see him on his way. They had reached a bend in the road and were preparing to say goodbye. It was now or never. Charles gave himself until the corner of the field and at last, when they had passed it, he said, almost in a whisper, 'Monsieur Rouault, there is something I want to say to you.'
They stopped. Charles could not speak.
'Come on then, out with it! Do you think I don't know what it's all about?' said the farmer, laughing quietly.
'Pere Rouault… Pere Rouault...'
'Well,' the farmer went on, 'there's nothing I would like better. But, though I am sure my little girl will agree, we must put the question to her. You go on; I'll go back to the farm. If it's yes, there'll be no need for you to come back… She'll need some time to get used to the idea! But so you can be sure, I'll open the window in the front bedroom. You'll be able to see it from the back here.'
And with these words he returned to the house.
Charles tied his horse to a tree. He hurried back to take up his position, and waited. Half an hour went by, then nineteen more minutes, which he timed by his watch. Suddenly something banged against the wall. The window was open. She had accepted him!
Next day, by nine o'clock, he was at the farm. Emma blushed when he came in, but tried to laugh a little, too. Pere Rouault took his son-in-law in his arms. Then they began to talk about the arrangements. They had plenty of time before them, since the wedding could not take place until at least twelve months after the death of Charles's first wife, and that meant the spring of the following year.
The wedding dinner was a grand affair. Forty-three people sat down at the table and remained there for sixteen hours, and the party which followed went on for several days. For most of the guests it was a wedding to remember. The only person who did not enter the spirit of things seemed to be Madame Bovary senior, who sat through the whole event with a sour look on her face. No one had asked her about the bride's dress, or the arrangements for the party. She went to bed early. Her husband, however, did not follow her, but sent into Saint-Victor for cigars. He sat with the men and smoked until the morning, drinking and laughing until the sun rose.
On the day of the wedding, Charles had not been a great success; he was neither a confident speaker nor a great teller of jokes. Next day, however, he seemed a different man. While Emma did not give the smallest idea of what she thought about it all, Charles was completely changed. He called her his wife, his dear, kept asking where she was, looked for her everywhere and frequently took her out into the yard, where he was seen among the trees with his arm round her waist.
Two days after the wedding, the newly married couple left. Charles could not be away from his practice any longer. Monsieur Rouault sent them home in his carriage, and went with them himself as far as Vassonville. There he kissed his daughter goodbye, and started for home again on foot. When he had gone about a hundred metres he stopped and looked back at the carriage disappearing down the road. Then he thought of his own wedding. Like Charles, he, too, had been happy when he took his wife from her father's house, back to his own. She had ridden behind him through the snow; it was near Christmas and the country all white. One of her arms held on to him, and over the other she carried her basket. When he turned his head he saw close by him, just above his shoulder, her little smiling face. To warm her fingers she had pushed them, from time to time, inside his jacket. How far away it seemed now. He looked back again, and there was nothing to be seen along the road. He felt as sad as an empty house.
Monsieur and Madame Charles arrived at Tostes at about six o'clock. The neighbours came to their windows to take a look at the doctor's new wife. The old servant came to meet them and made excuses for the dinner not being ready, and suggested that, for the moment, Madame should come in and look around the house.
CHAPTER FOUR
Two Worlds
The front of the house looked straight on to the street. Hanging up behind the front door were the doctor's coat, a belt, a black leather cap and, on the floor in the corner, a pair of boots covered with dried mud. To the right was the sitting room, where meals were also eaten. White cotton curtains with a red border were hung along the windows, and above the fireplace there was a splendid clock and a head of Hippocrates. On the other side of the passage was Charles's consulting room, a little box of a place about two metres wide with a table, three ordinary chairs and one armchair. A set of books, the Dictionary of Medical Science, took up almost all the six shelves of the bookcase; they had been owned by many earlier doctors in Tostes, but never read. The smell of cooking would come in through the thin wall during consultations, and anyone in the kitchen could hear the patients coughing and talking to the doctor as clearly as if they were in the room.
The long, narrow garden ran down to the fields. Fruit trees grew along the stone walls and four flower beds, planted with weak-looking roses, were set around a square area which was used for vegetables. At the far end, under some low trees, there was a small white statue of a priest reading a prayer book.
Emma went up to see the bedrooms. There was no furniture in the first one but the second, their bedroom, contained their new bed with its red curtains. There was a box made of seashells on a chest of drawers and on the desk, by the window, stood a glass bottle with a bunch of dried flowers tied with white ribbon. They were the flowers from his first wife's wedding. Charles saw her looking at them, and took them out of the room. Sitting in an armchair, while her maid unpacked her things, Emma thought about her own wedding flowers, lying in one of the boxes, and she wondered what would happen to them if she died young.
Charles was a happy man now. In bed in the morning, with her head on the pillow beside him, he would look at the sunlight on her cheek and at her beautiful eyes when she woke. He could lose himself in those eyes, looking into them until he saw a tiny picture of himself, his nightcap on his head and the collar of his shirt open. As soon as he was up and dressed, she would go to the window to see him start his day. Down in the street below, Charles would prepare to get on to his horse while she went on talking to him from above. Sometimes she might find a feather and send it floating through the air to be caught in the long hair on his old white horse's neck. As he rode off, Charles would blow her a kiss and she would wave back to him.
It was the first time in his life that he had tasted such happiness. He had been lonely and friendless at school and when he was studying medicine. And then he had had fourteen months of married life with the widow, whose feet, in bed, were like lumps of ice. But now this lovely woman was his for life!
Before she married, Emma too had thought she was in love, but the happiness that should have come from love was somehow missing. It seemed to her that she must have made a mistake, must have misunderstood things in one way or another. And as she stood by her bedroom window, morning after morning, Emma tried hard to understand what, exactly, the words joy, love, desire meant. They had always seemed so beautiful to her in books, but what did they mean in real life?
Novels had always seemed more real to her than the life she had to live. When she was at her convent school, a teacher sometimes secretly lent such books to the older girls. They were all about love, lovers, beautiful girls, ladies in danger, horses ridden till they dropped dead, dark forests, tears and kisses, and gentlemen as brave as lions. When she was fifteen, Emma read the works of Walter Scott for the first time and found she was happier in this imagined past than her rather boring present; the characters she read about in these books were much more interesting than the teachers and students she saw around her.
She had felt a thrill each time she blew back the thin paper which protected the pictures. She saw young men holding young women in white dresses in their arms, or English ladies with golden hair, who looked at you with big, bright eyes. In her reading she was able to listen to the sound of heavenly music and of falling leaves. Later, after her mother died, she even fell in love with the church and thought of staying in the convent, of never going out into the world. But in her last year of school, she began to lose her interest in religion. When her father took her away, her teachers were not sorry to see her go. She had, they thought, stopped showing any respect for their community.
On her return home, Emma tried to find an interest in managing her father's house, but she soon grew tired of the country and wished herself back in her convent. When Charles came to Les Bertaux for the first time, she thought of herself as a disappointed woman, one for whom life had nothing new to offer, either in knowledge or experience. Maybe her wish for a change — possibly, too, the unrest caused by the presence of an unknown man — had been enough to make her believe that she was at last in love. But now she could not believe that her present state was the happiness she had dreamed about.
Nevertheless, she sometimes thought that these were, in fact, the happiest days of her life. Of course, it would have been so much better if they could have gone far away to lands whose names fall like music on the ear, where the weddings of lovers are followed by mornings of soft delight and where, when the sun goes down, you breathe, sitting beside the sea, the sweet perfume of the lemon trees. Why did her bedroom window not look out on to the Swiss or Scottish mountains? Why did her husband not stand beside her in a black silk jacket, the wind blowing his long hair back from his pale, white forehead?
But Charles could not read these thoughts, and was not able to share her dreams, and as their lives became closer Emma, in fact, began to have a secret feeling of distance from her husband. Charles's conversation was uninteresting to her. He told her that when he lived in Rouen he never had the smallest desire to go to the theatre. He could not swim, he had no idea of how to use a sword, he could not fire a gun. He knew nothing, and he wanted nothing. He thought she was happy, and his heavy, comfortable happiness had begun to annoy her.
A few weeks after they came to Tostes, one of Charles's patients presented Madame with a little Italian hunting dog. She took it with her for walks, because she used to go out sometimes just to get a few moments to herself and to enjoy a change from the garden and the dusty road.
She would go as far as the woods near Banneville, along by the empty summer house at the end of the wall, towards the open country. There, at the side of the lake, the plants grew higher than a man and had leaves as sharp as knives. Sitting at the edge of the wood among the pink and blue wild flowers, her thoughts would wander here and there, like her dog, which ran from one place to the next chasing the birds and insects. But in the same way that her dog always came back to her, she always came back to the same question: 'My God, why did I marry him?'
She would then call Djali (the name she had given her dog) to come to her and, stroking her long, graceful head, would say, 'Come, kiss your mistress; you have no worries, have you?'
Then she would look into the creature's beautiful, sad eyes, and a feeling of tenderness would come over her. Pretending the animal was herself, she would talk to her aloud as if she were comforting someone.
Towards the end of September, however, an extraordinary event happened in her life: she was invited to La Vaubyessard, the home of the Marquis d'Andervilliers. The Marquis, who had been a Minister in the national government, wanted to get back into politics, and he was now doing his best to make himself popular. During the winter months he had given firewood to the poor, and he was always the first to demand new roads for his district. During the summer, he had had a painful mouth infection, which Charles had managed to cure before it became really serious. The servant who was sent to Tostes to pay for the treatment told his master, when he got back, that he had seen some splendid cherries in the doctor's little garden. Cherries did not grow well at La Vaubyessard, and the Marquis asked Bovary to let him have a few baskets. He then decided to come in person to thank the doctor, saw Emma, and noted that she had a pretty figure and good manners. After this, the Marquis decided that he would not harm his chances in the coming vote if he sent the young people an invitation to his house.
And so, one Wednesday at three o'clock, Monsieur and Madame Bovary set off in their carriage to La Vaubyessard, with a big travelling bag tied on behind, and a hatbox fixed in front. They arrived when it was getting dark, just as the lamps were being lit in the park to guide the carriages. The Chateau la Vaubyessard, a large building in sixteenth-century style, stood in the centre of parkland. A stream flowed between tall trees and beneath a bridge, and through the evening mist they could see cottages and farm buildings. Charles stopped the carriage at the foot of the steps leading up to the front door, and two servants came down to take their bags. Then the Marquis came forward and, offering his arm to the doctor's lady, walked with her into the hall.
Under the high ceiling, their voices and footsteps sounded as if they were in a church. As she passed through on her way to the main room, Emma saw large, dark paintings of the Marquis's relatives, some in the clothes of the royal court, others in the uniforms of army or navy officers. When the Marquis opened the door for them, one of the ladies rose (it was the Marquise herself) and came forward to welcome Emma. She made her sit down beside her on a low chair, and began to chat with her, as if she had known her for a long time.
At seven o'clock dinner was served. The men were seated at the first table, in the hall, the ladies at the second, in the dining room, with the Marquis and the Marquise. At the long dining tables, the glasses were filled with iced champagne. Emma felt a thrill go through her as she tasted the coldness of it in her mouth. She had never seen some of the fruit that they had on the table, and even the sugar seemed whiter here, and more finely powdered, than elsewhere.
After dinner, there was dancing. More guests were arriving and the room filled with people. Emma sat down near the door and watched the men talking and smoking cigars in small groups in their black and white evening dress, as the servants moved among them carrying drinks and more small, delicate things to eat. All along the rows of seated women she could see smiles half-hidden, half-revealed, by the flowers the ladies held; everywhere there was silk, the flash of jewels and gold, white arms, and hair piled high on elegant heads.
Emma's heart beat faster when, her partner holding her by the tips of her fingers, she took her place in line and stood waiting for the dance to begin. But her nervousness soon disappeared and, moving to the music, she flew on as light as a bird. The memories of her past life, which until then had always been so clear, disappeared so completely in the magic of the moment that she could hardly persuade herself they were not a dream. There she was. No doubt about that!
During a break in the dancing supper was served, and again the wine flowed freely, accompanied by sea-food soup, sweet puddings and all kinds of cold meats. Now people with longer journeys began to get into their carriages and drive off one after another. Charles was half-asleep with his back against a door. But not everyone was ready to leave, and it was at three in the morning when the last dance began.
Only the guests who were staying the night at the chateau were still there. One of these, a Viscount whose evening dress fitted him like a glove, came a second time to invite Madame Bovary to dance. They began slowly, and then increased their speed. They turned, and everything around them turned — the lamps, the furniture and the floor. As they swung past the doors, Emma's dress blew up in the air. The Viscount looked down at her, she raised her eyes to his; for a moment she lost her breath and stopped. Then off they went again, quicker than ever, racing down to the high windows at the far end of the room, where she nearly fell and, for a moment, rested her head on his chest. And then, still turning, but more gently now, he took her to her seat. She leaned back against the wall and covered her eyes with her hands. Then there was a little more conversation and, after saying goodnight (or good morning), the guests went off to bed.
Charles dragged himself upstairs on heavy legs. But Emma did not want to sleep. She opened the window and sat with her head in her hand. The night was dark. A few drops of rain were falling. She breathed in the damp wind that blew cool against her eyelids. The dance music was still playing in her ears, and she tried to keep awake in order to keep the dream alive for as long as she could. As she stood there, the sun began to rise beyond the trees and she shivered with cold. She undressed and got down between the sheets, close up to Charles, who was asleep.
There were twelve or fifteen of them at breakfast, which, to Charles's surprise, was all over in ten minutes. After that, a small group went with Mademoiselle d'Andervilliers for a walk through the park, and then, to amuse the lady, the Marquis took Emma to see his stables, while Charles went to ask one of the men to bring his horse and carriage.
When Emma returned, the Bovarys said their goodbyes to the Marquis and Marquise and turned their horse's head towards Tostes and home. Emma sat in silence. Their bags banged against the back of the carriage as they made their way down the rough road. They had reached the high ground at Thibourville when suddenly a group of gentlemen, laughing and smoking cigars, rode past them. Emma thought she recognized the Viscount who had danced with her last night. She turned round to have another look, but they were already too far away.
A little later, they had to stop to make a small repair to the carriage. When he had finished, Charles noticed something lying on the ground between his horse's legs. He bent down and picked up a beautifully-made green silk cigar-case with two cigars still inside it.
'They'll be good this evening after dinner.'
He put the case in his pocket and started the horse.
When they got home, the evening meal was not ready. Madame became angry and the maid, Nastasie, replied rudely.
'You can leave,' said Emma. 'You are finished here!'
So all they had for dinner was onion soup with a small piece of meat and some vegetables.
'How nice it is to be back home again!' said Charles, cheerfully rubbing his hands as he sat down opposite Emma.
They could hear Nastasie weeping as they ate. Charles was rather fond of the poor girl, who had kept him company after his first wife died, when he had nothing to do. She had been his first patient, the first person he ever got to know in Tostes.
'Have you really told her to leave?' he said at last.
'Yes. Why not?' she replied.
After supper, they went into the kitchen to warm themselves while the bedroom was being prepared. Charles began to smoke. He pushed out his lips, spat repeatedly, and pulled his head back every time he breathed in the smoke from the cigar.
'You'll make yourself ill!' she said.
He put the cigar down, and went to get himself a drink of water. Quick as lightning, Emma picked up the cigar-case and threw it into the back of the cupboard.
Time went so slowly the next day! Emma walked around her little garden, up and down, up and down, stopping to look at the flower-beds, at the fruit trees; looking at all these familiar things, things that she knew so well but which now seemed so strange. How far away the chateau seemed already! Her journey to La Vaubyessard had changed her life, but left it feeling empty. However, she accepted her fate. She folded up her beautiful dress and laid it carefully away in the chest of drawers, with her dancing shoes. She had now known wealth and luxury, and life would never be the same.
The memory of this visit to the chateau became part of her life. Each Wednesday she would sigh as she awoke and say to herself, 'A week ago today… a fortnight ago… three weeks ago, I was there!' But little by little the faces of the people became faint in her memory, and she forgot the tunes she had danced to. The servants' clothes, the look of the rooms came back less clearly to her vision. Some of the details faded away, but the empty space in her heart remained.
CHAPTER FIVE
Moving Home
Often, when Charles was out of the house, Emma would go to the cupboard and take out the green silk cigar-case she had hidden there. It must have belonged to the Viscount. Perhaps it was a present from a lady friend in Paris, made with love and care in every stitch. Paris! What sort of a place was it? 'Paris!' — she said the name under her breath, because she loved the sound of it. It was like the great bell in an old church; the word seemed to add a golden light to everything around it — even to the labels of her little pots of cheap make-up.
She bought a guidebook to Paris and, with her fingertip on the map, she would make little imaginary journeys around the capital. She pretended she was walking along the wide streets, looking in wonder at the great houses. At last, growing tired, she would let her eyes close, and then in the darkness she dreamed she saw the flame of the street lamps, and the steps of the carriages being let down at the entrance to the theatre.
She buried herself in women's magazines, reading every word about opera and fashion and the life of the rich. She read the latest novels — even bringing her book with her to the table and turning the pages while Charles ate and talked. And as she read, the memory of the Viscount came back to her and her dreams became more important, more real to her than her life as a country doctor's wife.
But she tried to improve things in her house. She taught her maid to hand a glass of water held in a white cloth, to knock before entering a room, to dress her mistress. In the daytime, Emma wore a long dress with a silk belt and little red silk shoes. She had bought herself a writing-case, a pen-holder and some envelopes, although she had no one to write to. She thought she would like to travel, or to go back to her school. She wanted to die — and she wanted to go and live in Paris.
And Charles rode from farm to farm on his old horse. He ate breakfast in farmhouse kitchens, visited sick people in their dirty beds, got blood on his hands and face and listened to the last words of the dying. But every night he came home to a fire, a good dinner, a comfortable chair, and a pretty wife who had so many little ways of giving pleasure. It might be paper shades for the candles, a new ribbon for her dress or an extraordinary name for a very ordinary dish, which Charles ate happily, enjoying every bit of it. Everything Emma did added something to the pleasure of his senses and of his home. It was like finding gold-dust in the middle of the narrow pathway of his life.
He felt well, and looked well. People liked him. He talked to their children, did not drink, could be trusted and was especially good with the chest complaints that were so common among country people. A major reason for Charles's success was that he was so afraid of killing his patients that he never gave them anything more than simple medicines — but he was not frightened of surgery, and had a strong wrist when he pulled teeth. The people of the region were happy with their doctor.
Charles did have some ambitions. He tried to read a professional journal after dinner, but the warmth of the room and the good meal he had eaten would send him to sleep after five minutes. And there he sat, his head resting on his two hands and his long hair hanging over his face. Emma looked at him and asked herself why she had not got one of those strong, silent men for a husband, men who sit up at night with their books, and become famous, if not rich. She would have liked the name of Bovary, which was hers now, to be famous, to be seen in the bookshops, talked about in the papers, known all over France. But Charles did not have that kind of ambition, and sometimes she felt like hitting him. 'What a man! What a poor kind of man!' she said to herself, biting her lips.
So as time went on, Emma felt herself less and less able to put up with her husband. He was growing more unpleasant as he got older. He sucked his teeth after eating, and made a horrible noise at every mouthful of soup he swallowed. As he was beginning to put on weight, his eyes, which were already small, looked as if they would start to disappear into his increasingly fat face.
Deep down in her heart, she was waiting for something to happen. She did not know what it would be, what the wind would blow to her. But every morning when she awoke, she hoped it would come that day. She listened to every sound, watched every new face in the street outside her house for a sign, and could not understand why nothing happened. And then at sunset, sadder than ever, she would long for the next day to come.
The spring came again. With the first touch of heat, when the apple trees were in flower, she began to have attacks of dizziness. And when July came, she counted on her fingers how many weeks it would be to October, thinking that perhaps the Marquis d'Andervilliers would be giving another dance at La Vaubyessard. But September came and went, and no one called or wrote.
After this disappointment there was the same emptiness in her heart, and the empty days began again as before. The future was like a corridor in which there was no light, and at the end of it only a closed door. She gave up her music. What was the use of playing? Who was there to hear? She stopped her drawing. What was the good, what was the good of it all? Even sewing bored her.
'There's nothing left to read,' she said to herself. And there she sat, staring at the falling rain.
Was this hopeless life going to last for ever? Was there no escape? She knew she was just as good as the luckier ones. At La Vaubyessard she had seen great ladies who were not as pretty or intelligent as her; why was she so unlucky? She would lean her head against the wall and weep, wanting so much for a life of excitement, pleasures, all the delights which must be out there in the world, but which were not hers. There were days when she would talk and talk; then the excitement would die away, and she would fall back into a kind of dream world and sit without moving or saying a word.
As she was always saying how she hated Tostes, Charles thought her illness must be caused by the place itself. The idea grew on him, and he began seriously to think of going elsewhere. Then she started drinking vinegar to make herself lose weight, coughed a little dry cough and could not touch her food.
It was hard for Charles to leave Tostes. He had been there for four years and was building a good practice. However, what must be must be. He took her to Rouen to see another doctor. The doctor said it was a case of nerves. What she needed was a change. So Charles looked around all over the place, and at last heard of a busy little market town called Yonville-l'Abbaye, somewhere in the Neufchatel area, where the doctor had recently left town and no replacement had been found. He wrote to the local pharmacist asking him to let him know how many people there were in the place, what sort of competition there was, and how much a year the other man used to make. The answers were satisfactory, and Charles decided he would make a move in the spring if Emma's health had not improved.
One day, when she was emptying a drawer in preparation for the move, Emma felt something sharp against her finger. It was the piece of wire around her wedding flowers, faded and dusty now, and the ribbon eaten by insects. She threw them on the fire, where they burned like a handful of dry grass and then lay like a red bush in the fireplace. As she watched them burn, the paper berries burst, the wire bent and twisted, and the paper flowers were held in the hot air like black insects until, at last, they flew up the chimney.
In March, when they left Tostes, Madame Bovary was pregnant.
CHAPTER SIX
Yonville
Yonville-l'Abbaye is a market town about twenty-six kilometres from Rouen, between the Abbeville and Beauvais roads. It is on the borders of Normandy, Picardy and the Ile-de-France, the sort of place where the language has no accent and the landscape no character. Here they make the worst cheese in the whole district, and farming is expensive because the sandy, stony soil is so poor.
Until 1835 there was no good road to Yonville, and although a new one has been built, nothing has really changed there for a hundred years. Walking into the town you still pass small farmhouses set in their own gardens, and see that the fields stretch almost into the centre of the town. The market, with its red roof supported by twenty or more wooden posts, takes up half of the town square. The Town Hall is a large, important looking building, but what really catches the eye is the pharmacy of Monsieur Homais just opposite the town's one hotel, the Lion d'Or.
The pharmacy is especially attractive at night when the lamps are lit and the big red and green glass bottles in the window send long beams of coloured light far out along the ground. From top to bottom, the building is covered with advertisements for medicines and mineral water, and the shop-sign which goes right across the front carries in golden letters the words 'Homais, Pharmacist'. At the far end of the shop, the word 'Laboratory' appears over a glass door on which, halfway up, the name 'Homais' is repeated in more gold letters on black.
And that is all there is worth seeing in Yonville. The one and only street, with a shop or two on either side of it, stops at the bend in the road. If you turn to your right and follow the path at the foot of the hill, you come to the cemetery.
The night the Bovarys arrived in Yonville, Madame Lefrancois, who ran the inn, was so busy that the sweat ran down her face as she rushed around among her pots and pans. Tomorrow was market day and she still had the meat to cook, the soup to make and the coffee to get ready. Then there was the meal for her regular customers, as well as for the new doctor and his wife and maid — whose coach was now half an hour late.
Shouts of laughter came from the bar, where three workmen were calling for more wine and the wood fire was burning. A man in soft green leather shoes, a smoking cap on his head, was standing warming his back by the fire. He had a look of complete self-satisfaction on his face, and he appeared to be as carefree as the small bird in the cage which hung from the ceiling. It was the pharmacist, waiting for the evening meal which he regularly ate at the hotel.
He did not have to wait too long. Soon, Madame Lefrancois heard the sound of wheels and the metal shoes of a tired horse on the road outside.
As soon as the coach stopped, other villagers came to the inn, and all began to speak at once, asking for news, explanations and packages they had been waiting for. As he gave out his parcels, Hivert, the coachman, told them they had been delayed because Madame Bovary's little dog had run away and had not been found.
Emma had, in fact, been crying for the last hour. She said it was Charles's fault. Monsieur Lheureux, who was travelling inside the coach and who had the fabric shop in the village, had done his best to make her happier by telling her of several cases in which dogs had come back to their masters after years of separation. There was a story, he said, of a dog that found its way back to Paris all the way from Constantinople!
Dog or no dog, they had arrived at their new home, and had to leave the coach. Emma got out first, then Felicite, her maid, and then Monsieur Lheureux. They had to wake Charles up; he had fallen asleep in his corner as soon as it grew dark.
Homais introduced himself, offered his services to Madame and his respects to Monsieur, told them he was charmed to have been able to do them a service, adding with a smile that he had invited himself to dinner as his wife was away from home.
As soon as she was in the kitchen, Madame Bovary went over to the fire. With the tips of two fingers she took hold of her dress at the knee and, raising it above her ankles, stretched out a foot to the flames — a little foot in a black boot. The fire lit her from top to toe, its red light making her dress shine and showing the perfect white skin of her face. On the other side of the fireplace, a fair-haired young man watched her in silence.
Monsieur Leon Dupuis, clerk to the town's only lawyer, also ate regularly at the Lion d'Or. As he found life in Yonville almost impossibly boring, he would often delay his meal in the hope that a traveller would arrive at the inn with whom he could enjoy a conversation in the evening. It was therefore with some pleasure that he accepted the suggestion that he should sit down with the Bovarys.
At the table, Homais asked permission to keep on his cap, for fear of catching cold.
'Madame must be a little tired,' he said, turning to Emma. 'It is not a comfortable journey.'
'Very true,' she answered, 'but I love moving around. I hate staying in one place.'
'Oh, I agree. Staying in one place is horrible!' said the clerk.
'But if you were like me,' said Charles, 'and always had to be on your horse...'
And so the meal continued. Charles spent most of his time discussing medical matters with Monsieur Homais, while Leon told Madame Bovary about the attractions of the neighbourhood. They quickly discovered that they shared the same romantic tastes.
'I think there's nothing so beautiful as a sunset, especially by the sea!' said Madame Bovary.
'Oh, I love the sea!' Monsieur Leon replied.
'And doesn't it seem to you, somehow, that you think more freely, and that it raises your soul and makes you think of the endless nature of things?'
'It's just the same where there are mountains,' Leon went on.
So they continued talking of Switzerland and Italy, which they had never visited, and music, which neither of them could play, and reading — the one thing that both of them did enthusiastically.
'What can be better than sitting by the fire in the evening with a book, when the lamp is lit and the wind beats against the window?' said Leon.
'That's just what I think,' she replied, looking at him with her big, dark eyes.
'You forget everything,' he went on. 'The hours slip by. Sitting still in your armchair, you can wander in strange places and imagine they are there before your eyes.'
'Oh yes, that's true!' she said.
They had been at the table for two and a half hours by now, since Artemise, the servant, did not hurry as she brought the dishes in from the kitchen. Quite unconsciously, Leon had put his foot up on one of the bars of the chair on which Madame Bovary was sitting, moving closer so he could catch everything she said. And so, while Charles and the pharmacist went on with their discussion, Emma and Leon sat close to one another, and entered into a conversation in which they talked about the interests they shared: the Paris theatres, names of novels, the latest dances, the world of fashion, which neither of them knew anything about, Tostes, where she had lived, and Yonville, where they were now. They discussed anything and everything, and talked all through dinner.
When the coffee was brought in, Felicite went to arrange the bedroom in the new house, and the group around the dinner table soon afterwards rose to go. Madame Lefrancois had fallen asleep by the dying fire, while the manservant, lamp in hand, was waiting to show Monsieur and Madame Bovary to their house.
The house felt damp and cold after the warmth of the inn. The walls were new and the wooden stairs had no carpet. Upstairs in the bedroom, a pale light came in through the curtainless windows. The tops of some trees could just be seen, and beyond them, the fields in the moonlight.
This would be the fourth time Emma had slept in a new bedroom. The first was when she went to the convent, the second when she came to Tostes, the third at La Vaubyessard, and now this was the fourth. And every time, it had seemed as if she were entering a new stage in her life. She could not believe that things would look and be the same in different places. The most recent period of her life had been bad, so the next part would have to be better.
CHAPTER SEVEN
In Love
Next morning, when she awoke, Emma saw the clerk walking across the square. She was in her dressing-gown. He looked up and took off his hat. She gave a little nod and quickly shut the window.
All day long, Leon waited for six o'clock to arrive. But when he went round to the inn, the only person there was Monsieur Binet, the tax collector, already seated at the table. The dinner of the night before had been an important event for Leon. It was the first time in his life that he had talked to a woman for a whole evening. How did he manage to tell her, and in such brilliant language, so many things he could not have expressed so well before? Unfortunately, it did not look as if he would have the chance to repeat his performance for the moment.
Monsieur Homais, the pharmacist, however, was able to visit Madame Bovary and show what a good neighbour he was. He told her all about the shopkeepers, where to get her butter cheaply, and he helped her find a gardener. It has to be said, however, that he was not doing this out of pure kindness. Monsieur Homais had, a year earlier, broken the law which forbade the practice of medicine by all unqualified persons. Someone had told the authorities, and Monsieur Homais had been given a very severe warning by the magistrate in Rouen. The problem was that he still liked to give quick, innocent consultations in his shop, but the Mayor did not like him, others were jealous, and he was playing a dangerous game. So Monsieur Homais thought to himself that if he did things for Monsieur and Madame Bovary, Monsieur Bovary would be grateful, and a grateful man does not make complaints to the authorities in Rouen.
Every morning, Homais would come across with the newspaper and often, during the afternoon, he would leave his shop for a minute or two to chat with the new doctor. Charles was not a happy man; patients did not come. He sat for hour after hour in silence, or he went to sleep in his surgery or watched his wife sew. He even started doing some small jobs at home, trying to paint the bedroom with some paint the men had left behind. Money was his great worry. He had spent such a lot on repairs at Tostes, on his wife's clothes and on moving, and most of his savings and Emma's money had gone in two years.
But Charles also had something pleasant to think about, as his wife was expecting a child, and the closer they got to the time, the more loving he became. It was another link between them, real evidence of their marriage. When he watched her heavier walk, when she sat opposite him at the table, or when she was in her armchair after dinner, he could not stop himself getting up, kissing her, stroking her face, calling her 'little mother'. The idea of being a father pleased him very much. He lacked nothing.
At first Emma was surprised by his attention; then all she wanted was to have the baby as soon as possible, so that she would know how it felt to be a mother. Their shortage of money meant that she could not buy all the things she wanted for the new arrival, so perhaps she did not feel as much love for the child she carried as she wanted to give. But she thought about it all the time.
She hoped it would be a boy. He should be strong and dark, and they would call him George. And the thought of having a boy somehow made her feel better. A man would be free, while a woman is always limited. She is weaker and economically dependent, and the habits of society do not permit her the same freedom.
Emma's baby was born on a Sunday morning at about six, just as the sun was rising.
'It's a girl,' said Charles.
She turned away her head and fainted.
Madame Homais came to the house as soon as the news was given to congratulate her, and so did Madame Lefrancois of the Lion d'Or. The pharmacist offered his congratulations through the half-open door. He then asked to see the baby and declared it was the most well formed he had ever seen.
As the doctor felt that his wife was not strong enough to feed the baby herself, the little girl was sent to a wet nurse. With nothing else to do in the days after the birth, Emma tried to think of a name for her daughter. First she went through names with Italian endings, like Clara, Louisa, Amanda. She rather liked old names like Galsuinde, or Yseult or Leocadie. Charles wanted the child to be called after her mother. Emma said no.
At last Emma remembered that at the Chateau de la Vaubyessard she had heard the Marquise call a young woman by the name of Berthe. That decision was made.
Four or five weeks after the birth, Emma felt a sudden need to see her little girl, so she set out in the direction of the wet nurse's house at the far end of the village. It was midday and the sun beat down from a cloudless sky. A hot wind was blowing and when she had gone some way, Emma began to feel weak from the effort of walking. She started to think she should return home or go in somewhere and sit down.
Just then, Monsieur Leon came out from a house close by, with some papers under his arm. He came up and spoke, and took her into the shade outside Lheureux's shop. Madame Bovary said she was on her way to see her baby, but that she was beginning to feel tired.
'If...' began Leon, but he stopped, not daring to continue.
'Are you very busy?' she asked.
And when the clerk said that he was not, she begged him to walk with her.
To reach the nurse's house they had to go along to the end of the street and then turn, as if they were going to the cemetery. They set off side by side, and recognized the house by an old tree that shaded it. It was a low, badly maintained house with a brown roof and small, untidy garden.
Hearing the gate open, the woman came out, carrying a baby at her breast. With her other hand she was dragging along a poor, miserable-looking two-year-old with spots all over his face.
'Come in,' she said. 'Your little one is in there asleep.'
She went into the dark bedroom, and showed Emma where the little girl was sleeping. Emma took the baby in her arms, wrapped up in a dirty blanket, and began to sing gently as she held her.
Leon walked up and down the room. It seemed strange to him to see this beautiful, elegantly dressed woman in such poor surroundings. Madame Bovary saw him looking and blushed bright red. He turned away, thinking he had perhaps seemed too curious, as she gave the baby back to the nurse. It had just been sick all over her collar.
Having lost enthusiasm for her baby, Emma again took Monsieur Leon's arm, and they left the nurse holding the chi
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