by Gustave Flaubert
Dedication | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 |
Dreams of Paris; The groom in clogs; Training a maid; Medical practice; The homely husband; What's the good?; The hurdy-gurdy man; Visitors from les Bertaux; The fate of the bouquet.
OFTEN, when Charles was out of the house, she would go to the cupboard and take the green silk cigar-case from under the linen where she had hidden it. She would look at it, open it and even smell the scent of its lining- a blend of tobacco and verbena. Whose could it have been? It must have belonged to the Vicomte. Perhaps it was a present from his mistress. It must have been worked on some rosewood frame, a little gem of a thing hidden away from all eyes, a little thing whereon she had lavished hour upon hour, her soft tresses overshadowing it as she sat pensively at her task. Love had breathed its sighs amid the stitches on the canvas, every stitch had enwrought thereon a memory or a hope, and all those lines of interwoven threads did but symbolize the continuity of the same unuttered passion. And then, one morning, the Vicomte had taken it away with him. What had they talked about as it lay on the wide mantelpiece between the vases filled with flowers and the Pompadour clocks? She was at Tostes. And he, he was far away in Paris now. What sort of a place was Paris? What a sense of grandeur and immensity clung about the very name. Paris!- she murmured it under her breath, because she loved the sound of it. It boomed in her ears like the great bell of a cathedral; it seemed to glow with golden fire even on the labels of her pomade pots.
At night, when the fishermen went by in their carts, beneath her window, singing the Marjolaine, she would wake from her slumbers. And as she lay and listened to the sound of the iron-tyred wheels dying slowly away into silence along the country road, she said to herself, 'They will be 'there' tomorrow'.
And she followed them in thought, up hill and down dale, passing through village after village, rolling along the highway by the light of the stars. And then, somewhere along the route, there always came a blurring mist, in which her dream would melt away.
She bought a guide to Paris, and with her finger-tip on the map, she would make little imaginary journeys about the capital. She walked along the boulevards, staying her steps at every corner, between the lines of streets, in front of the houses. At last, her sight growing weary, she would let her eyelids fall, and then in the darkness she dreamt she saw the flame of the street lamps flickering in the wind, and the steps of the carriages let down with a clatter at the entrance to the theatre.
She buried herself in the 'Corbeille', a woman's paper, and the 'Sylphe des Salons'. She devoured, without skipping a word, all the accounts of first nights, race meetings and fashionable 'at homes'. She got excited about the 'debut' of a new operatic star or the opening of a new shop. She was up in all the latest fashions, knew where the best tailors were, the days for the Bois and the days for the Opera. She gloated over the descriptions of furniture in the novels of Eugene Sue; she read Balzac and George Sand, seeking some imaginary balm for the longings of her heart. She would even bring her book with her to table and go on turning the pages while Charles ate and talked. And as she read, the memory of the Vicomte continually came back to her. She compared and likened him to the characters in the books. But the circle of which he was the centre, gradually enlarged around him, and the aureole which encompassed him withdrew farther and farther from him, to shed its light on other dreams.
And so Paris, in Emma's eyes, gleamed vaster than the ocean, and was bathed in an atmosphere of rose and gold. The multifarious life that tossed in its restless tumult was divided into parts, classified in distinct categories. Of these Emma only perceived two or three, which shut out all the rest from her vision and which she looked on as representing the human race as a whole. People of ambassadorial rank walked on polished floors, in stately chambers hung with mirrors surrounding oval tables covered with velvet fringed with gold. There you might see dresses with long trains, and be a witness to profound mysteries, and look on at anguish dissembled by a smile. Then came the world of duchesses. How pale they all were! They got up at four o'clock. The women, poor dear angels, wore English point lace on their petticoats, and the men- you would never guess what brains lay hid beneath their careless bearing- rode their horses to death, for the mere fun of the thing, went to Baden for the hot season, and finally, when they were nearing forty, settled down with a wealthy heiress. In private rooms, in restaurants, all ablaze with candles, where suppers are served after midnight, the motley throng of writing men and actresses sped the hours in merry laughter. They were prodigal as kings, full of soaring ideals and fantastic conceits. They lived a life above the common herd, betwixt heaven and earth, where the storm-winds whirled, in the realms of the sublime. As for the rest of the world, it was difficult to say where it was; it seemed to have no definite existence. The nearer things were to her, the more she shunned their contact. All her immediate surroundings- the dreary country, the stupid little bourgeois folk, the mediocrity of daily life- struck her as something exceptional in the world, an accident peculiar to the time and place in which her lot was cast; while away beyond it all, as far as the eye could see, spread the limitless land of passion and felicity.
She mingled, in her longings, the material pleasures of the senses with the joys of the heart, the refinements of elegant society with the subtle delicacies of feeling. Did not love require, even as tropical plants, a duly prepared soil, a particular temperature? Sighs breathed beneath the moonlight, prolonged embraces, tears falling upon hands kissed in a last farewell, all the fevers of the flesh, all the languors of tender love, could not then be found apart from the balconies of noble chateaux, where time fleets by unheeded, or from boudoirs with silken hangings and luxurious carpets, from flower-stands filled with richest blooms, a bed raised upon a dais, the glitter of precious stones and the shoulder-knots of liveried flunkeys.
The lad from the posting-house came every morning to groom the mare and stumped through the passage in his heavy clogs. His blouse had holes in it and his feet were innocent of socks. And this was the groom in knee-breeches she had to put up with! When his job was done, he left for the day, and Charles, when he got home, saw to the mare himself, led her into the stable, took off the saddle and put on the halter, while the maid struggled along with an armful of straw and heaved it as best she could into the manger.
In place of Nastasie (who left Tostes weeping in torrents) Emma engaged a young girl of fourteen; a wistful-faced orphan. She forbade her to wear cotton caps, taught her to address her betters in the third person, to hand a glass of water on a tray, to knock before entering a room, to iron, to starch, and to dress her mistress, for she wanted to make a lady's-maid of her. The new girl obeyed without a murmur, so as not to lose her place, and as Madame usually left the key in the sideboard, Felicite took a little stock of sugar up to bed with her every night and had it all to herself, in bed, after she had said her prayers. Sometimes, of an afternoon, she would go across and have a gossip with the post-boys, while Madame was upstairs in her room.
Emma wore an open dressing-gown, which showed between the shawl lining of her corsage, a pleated chemisette with three gilt buttons. Her belt was a corded girdle with big tassels and her little crimson slippers had bows of broad ribbon puffed out above the instep. She had bought herself a blotting-pad, a writing-case, a penholder and some envelopes, although she had no one to write to. She dusted her whatnot, looked at herself in the glass, picked up a book, and then, sinking into a dream as she read, let it fall on her knees. She thought she would like to travel, or to go back to the convent. She longed at one and the same time to die and to go and live in Paris.
Come rain, come snow, Charles jogged on by lane and by road, across the country. He ate omelettes in farmhouse kitchens, put his arm into steamy beds, let blood and caught the spirt of it full in the face, listened to the death rattle of the dying, examined chambers, and mauled about a good deal of dirty linen. But every night he came home to a blazing fire, a good dinner, a comfortable chair and a dainty wife, as charming as she was fragrant, so mysteriously fragrant, that you wondered whether it was not her skin that lent its perfume to her clothes.
She had countless little ways of giving pleasure. Now, it would be a new mode of making paper shades for the candles, or a new sort of flounce to her gown, or an extraordinary name for a very ordinary dish, which the maid perchance had ruined, but of which Charles made a clean sweep, enjoying every bit of it. At Rouen she happened to see some ladies wearing a bunch of seals attached to their watches. So she bought some seals. She must needs have a pair of big blue glass vases on her chimneypiece, and, very soon after that, an ivory 'necessaire' with a silver-gilt thimble. The less Charles understood these refinements, the more he was impressed by them. They added something to the pleasure of his senses and to the amenities of his home. It was like gold-dust sprinkled along the narrow pathway of his life.
He felt well, and looked well. His reputation was firmly established. The country folk liked him because there was no side about him. He made a fuss with the children, did not drink, and, from the moral standpoint, was looked upon as thoroughly trustworthy. He was especially good in catarrhal and bronchial cases. In point of fact, Charles was so afraid of killing his patients that he never prescribed anything but soothing draughts, with now and again an emetic, a hot foot-bath or a leech or two. Not that he was afraid of surgery. He bled his people profusely, like a 'vet.', and he had the devil of a wrist for pulling out a tooth!
And then, to keep up with the times, he took out a subscription to the 'Ruche medicale', a new publication of which a prospectus had been sent him. He used to read it after dinner, but the warmth of the room and the process of digestion would send him to sleep after five minutes of it. And there he sat, his head resting on his two hands and his hair hanging over like a mane right down to the bottom of the lamp. Emma looked at him and shrugged her shoulders. Why had she not got one of those strong, silent men for a husband, men who sit up at night over their books, and when they are sixty and rheumatic wear a decoration on their ill-fitting dress clothes? She would have liked the name of Bovary, which was hers now, to be famous, posted up in the bookshops, talked about in the papers, known all over France. But Charles had no ambition. An Yvetot doctor, whom he had recently met in consultation, had made him look a fool in the patient's own bedroom and before all the relations. When Charles told her about it that night, Emma spoke her mind pretty freely about the other man. Charles thought this tremendously nice of her. He was touched, and when he kissed her forehead, he had tears in his eyes. But she was exasperated with shame, felt like hitting him, and went and flung open the window in the passage, to get a little air to calm herself. 'What a poor specimen! What a poor specimen!' she said to herself, biting her lips.
Moreover, she felt herself getting less and less able to put up with him. He was growing more boorish as he got older. He had a trick of whittling the corks of the empty bottles during dessert. He sucked his teeth after eating, and made a horrid gulping noise at every mouthful of soup he swallowed, and as he was beginning to put on flesh, his eyes, which were beady enough to begin with, looked as if they would be squeezed up into his forehead by his podgy cheeks.
Sometimes Emma would have to push back the red border of his vest to keep it from showing, or put his tie straight, or throw aside a pair of soiled gloves he was just going to put on. And all this wasn't, as he thought it was, for him; it was for herself, the effect of ultra-selfishness and nervous irritation. Sometimes she would talk to him about things she had read in a book, a passage in a novel, a new play or some bit of news about the fashionable world which she had picked up from the newspaper. For, at all events, Charles was somebody, somebody willing to listen and to approve what he heard. She told a lot of things to her greyhound. She would have done as much to the logs in the fireplace, or the pendulum of the clock.
Deep down in her heart, she was waiting and waiting for something to happen. Like a shipwrecked mariner, she gazed out wistfully over the wide solitude of her life, if so be she might catch the white gleam of a sail away on the dim horizon. She knew not what it would be, this longed-for barque; what wind would waft it to her, or to what shores it would bear her away. She knew not if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, burdened with anguish or freighted with joy. But every morning when she awoke she hoped it would come that day. She listened to every sound, started swiftly from her bed, and could not understand why nothing happened. And then at sunset, more sad at heart than ever, she would long for the morrow to come.
The springtime came again. With the first touch of heat, when the pear-trees were in blossom, she began to have attacks of breathlessness. 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 void in her heart, and the endless succession of empty days began again as before.
Thus then they were fated to follow, 'one after one, tomorrow like today', bringing her no new thing. Other people, however drab their lives, could at least tell themselves that something might happen. Some chance event might bring with it endless changes of place and scene. But for her there came no change. God willed it so. The future was like a corridor in which there was no light, and at the end of it, only a door fast closed. She gave up her music. What was the use of playing? Who was there to hear? Since it would never be hers to play at a concert, attired in a velvet gown with short sleeves, touching with lightsome fingers the ivory keys of an Erard, and to feel, like a breeze about her, the delighted murmurs of the audience, it was waste of time to practise. She let her drawing-blocks and tapestry lie neglected in the cupboard. What was the good, what was the good of it all? Sewing got on her nerves.
'There's nothing left to read,' she said to herself. And there she sat, making the tongs red hot or staring at the falling rain.
How sad she was on Sundays, when the bell rang for vespers! She sat and listened, with a kind of dazed attention, to each stroke of the cracked bell. Sometimes a cat, walking leisurely along the roof opposite, would arch its back against the pale rays of the sun. On the highroad the wind would stir up little eddying trails of dust. Sometimes, far away, a dog would howl; and all the while the bell, with rhythmic beat, went on sounding its monotonous summons that died away over the open fields.
And now the people would be coming out of church. The women in waxed 'sabots', the men in their best blouses, the little bareheaded children jumping about in front of them. Everybody went back home save only five or six men, always the same, who would hang about playing shove-halfpenny outside the door of the inn.
The winter was a hard one: windows covered with hoar-frost every morning, and the wan light that filtered through them as through ground-glass never varied the whole day long. The lamps had to be lit by four o'clock.
When the weather was fine she would go into the garden. On the cabbages the dew had left arabesques of silver with long bright threads stretching from one to another. The birds were hushed, the whole world seemed asleep; the espalier was covered with straw. The trailing vine looked like a great moping serpent under the coping of the wall, and if you went close up to it you could see the wood-lice crawling about with their countless legs. Under the firs, near the hedge, the 'cure' in his three-cornered hat, buried in his breviary, had lost his right foot, and the plaster, scaling off with the frost, had left white patches on his face.
After a while she would go up again and shut the door, stir the fire and, sinking down limply in the warmth of the hearth, feel the burden of ennui more heavy than ever upon her. She would willingly have gone down and talked to the servant girl, but a sense of propriety restrained her.
Every day, at the same time, the schoolmaster in his black silk skull-cap opened the shutters of his house, and the rural policeman went by on his rounds, with his sword buckled on over his blouse. Morning and evening the post-horses, three by three, would troop across the street to water at the pond. From time to time the door of a cabaret would tinkle as it opened, and when there was a wind you could hear the hairdresser's little copper basins- his shop sign- squeaking on their hooks. His shop was adorned with an old fashion-plate gummed on to a window-pane and a waxen bust of a woman with yellow hair. The hairdresser, too, was dissatisfied with his lot; he, too, bewailed his frustrate ambitions, his ruined prospects and, dreaming of a shop in some big town- like Rouen, for example- down near the shipping and close to the theatre, paced to and fro the whole day long between the 'mairie' and the church, gloomy of mien and waiting for custom. Whenever Madame Bovary raised her eyes, there he was like a soldier on sentry-go, in his lasting waistcoat, his cap perched over one ear.
Sometimes of an afternoon, a man's face would appear at the dining-room window, a weather-beaten face fringed with black whiskers, a face that grinned at you softly- a broad, easy grin that displayed two rows of white teeth. The strains of a dance-tune would then be heard, and in a tiny drawing-room, on the top of his hurdy-gurdy, people as tall as your finger- women in pink turbans, Tyrolese peasants in short coats, monkeys in dress-coats, gentlemen in knee-breeches- would turn round and round, threading their way among arm-chairs, sofas and whatnots, mirrored in little bits of looking-glass stuck up with strips of gilt paper pasted at the corners. The man kept grinding away looking now to the right, now to the left, now glancing up at the windows of the houses. Every now and then, as he shot out a long squirt of brown spittle against the kerb, he would hoist up his instrument with his knee, for the hard strap of it galled his shoulder. And now plaintive and slow, now gay and impetuous, the music of his box would come droning through pink silk curtains suspended from a clasp in copper filigree. The tunes he played were all the rage at the theatres, in drawing-rooms and garish dance halls, echoes of a far-off world that thus found their way even to Emma's ears. Sarabandes wove their endless mazes in her brain, and like a Nautch girl on her flower carpet, her thoughts went leaping with the music, swung from dream to dream, from wistfulness to wistfulness. When the man had gathered a few coppers in his cap, he pulled down an old blue cloth cover, hoisted up his instrument on to his back and stumped heavily off. She watched him as he went his way.
But it was at meal-times that life seemed especially unbearable, down there in that little ground-floor dining-room with its smoking stove, its creaking door, its sweating walls, and its damp floors. It seemed as though all the bitterness of life was served up to her on her plate and that with the fumes of the stew there rose up from her inmost being all manner of other sickly exhalations. Charles was a slow eater; she would nibble a few nuts or, leaning on her elbow, beguile the time by making little lines on the shiny table-cover with the point of her knife.
She now let the house take care of itself, and when, during Lent, Madame Bovary senior came to spend a few days at Tostes, she was astonished at the change. Emma, once so dainty and particular, now went for days together without dressing herself properly, trailed about in cotton stockings, and lit the place with tallow dips. She kept saying that they must save, since they had no money to fall back upon, averring that she was quite contented, quite happy, that she liked Tostes very much, and other novel things that quite took the wind out of the old woman's sails. Moreover, Emma exhibited no inclination now to listen to her advice. Once when Madame offered the opinion that a mistress ought to look after her servant's religious ideas, Emma answered her with such an angry glint in her eye and such a chilling smile on her lips, that the worthy dame took care not to refer to the subject again.
Emma grew hard to please, full of whims and caprices. She ordered special dishes for herself and then left them untouched. One day she must drink fresh milk by the quart; next day, cups of tea by the dozen. Often enough she wouldn't stir outside the house, and then she would make out she was stifled, fling open all the windows and put on the thinnest of dresses. She would bully the servant and immediately afterwards give her a present or let her go out to see her friends, just as she would sometimes give the poor all the silver in her purse, although she was by no means soft-hearted or easily moved to compassion, any more than the majority of country folk, whose hearts usually retain something of the hardness of their ancestors' toilworn hands.
Towards the end of February, Farmer Rouault, in memory of his mended leg, brought his son-in-law a magnificent turkey and stayed three days at Tostes. Charles being busy with his patients, it fell to Emma to entertain him. He smoked in the bedroom, spat into the grate, talked of nothing but farming, calves, cows, poultry and the local council; so that when he took his departure, she closed the door on him with such a feeling of relief, that she herself was at a loss to explain it.
She said openly what she thought about everything and everybody, and it was anything but flattering. She would take a sort of perverse delight in praising what others blamed and expressed views about wrong-doing and immorality that made her husband open his eyes.
Was this hopeless existence going to last for ever? Was there to be no escape? Yet she was every bit as good as the luckier ones. Why, at la Vaubyessard she had seen titled women whose figures and manners were a good deal clumsier than hers; and she railed at the cruelty of Providence. She would lean her head against the wall and weep, longing for a life of excitement, masked balls and tumultuous pleasures, with all the frenzied delights which they must yield but which she knew not of. She sometimes looked as if she were going to faint, and had attacks of palpitation. Charles dosed her with valerian and prescribed camphor baths. But everything they tried only worried and upset her the more.
There were days when she would talk, and talk, with feverish volubility; then the excitement would die away, and she would relapse into a kind of torpor, and sit without moving or uttering a word. The best thing to bring her round when she was like that, was to empty a bottle of eau-de-Cologne over her arms.
As she was always saying how she hated Tostes, Charles put her illness down to something in the place. The idea grew on him, and he began seriously to think of going elsewhere. Then she started drinking vinegar to reduce her figure, coughed a little dry hacking cough, and could not touch her food.
It was something of a wrench for Charles to leave Tostes. He had been there four years and was getting pretty well settled. However, what must be, must be. He took her to Rouen to see his old professor. It was a case of nerves. What she wanted was a change.
Charles looked about all over the place, and at last heard of a rather thriving little market-town called Yonville l'Abbaye, somewhere in Neufchatel, where the doctor, who was a Polish refugee, had packed up his traps and cleared out only about a week before. He wrote off to the local chemist 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 being satisfactory he decided he would make a move in the spring, if Emma's health showed no improvement.
One day, when she was turning out a drawer in preparation for the move, she ran something sharp into her finger. It was a bit of the wire in her wedding bouquet. The buds of orange blossom were faded and dusty and the satin ribbon bordered with silver was all fraying away at the edges. She tossed it on the fire. It blazed up like a handful of dry straw, and then lay glowing like a red bush on the ashes, slowly crumbling to pieces. She watched it burn. The cardboard berries popped, the wire writhed and twisted, the gold braid melted, and the paper blossoms, shrivelling up, hovered a moment like black butterflies and at last flew up the chimney.
In March, when they went away from Tostes, Madame Bovary was pregnant.
Dedication | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 |
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