Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

Chapter Twelve

They began to love one another again. Often, even in the middle of the day, Emma suddenly wrote to him, then from the window made a sign to Justin, who, taking his apron off, quickly ran to La Huchette. Rodolphe would come; she had sent for him to tell him that she was bored, that her husband was odious, her life frightful.

“But what can I do?” he cried one day impatiently.

“Ah! if you would —”

She was sitting on the floor between his knees, her hair loose, her look lost.

“Why, what?” said Rodolphe.

She sighed.

“We would go and live elsewhere — somewhere!”

“You are really mad!” he said laughing. “How could that be possible?”

She returned to the subject; he pretended not to understand, and turned the conversation.

What he did not understand was all this worry about so simple an affair as love. She had a motive, a reason, and, as it were, a pendant to her affection.

Her tenderness, in fact, grew each day with her repulsion to her husband. The more she gave up herself to the one, the more she loathed the other. Never had Charles seemed to her so disagreeable, to have such stodgy fingers, such vulgar ways, to be so dull as when they found themselves together after her meeting with Rodolphe. Then, while playing the spouse and virtue, she was burning at the thought of that head whose black hair fell in a curl over the sunburnt brow, of that form at once so strong and elegant, of that man, in a word, who had such experience in his reasoning, such passion in his desires. It was for him that she filed her nails with the care of a chaser, and that there was never enough cold-cream for her skin, nor of patchouli for her handkerchiefs. She loaded herself with bracelets, rings, and necklaces. When he was coming she filled the two large blue glass vases with roses, and prepared her room and her person like a courtesan expecting a prince. The servant had to be constantly washing linen, and all day Felicite did not stir from the kitchen, where little Justin, who often kept her company, watched her at work.

With his elbows on the long board on which she was ironing, he greedily watched all these women’s clothes spread about him, the dimity petticoats, the fichus, the collars, and the drawers with running strings, wide at the hips and growing narrower below.

“What is that for?” asked the young fellow, passing his hand over the crinoline or the hooks and eyes.

“Why, haven’t you ever seen anything?” Felicite answered laughing. “As if your mistress, Madame Homais, didn’t wear the same.”

“Oh, I daresay! Madame Homais!” And he added with a meditative air, “As if she were a lady like madame!”

But Felicite grew impatient of seeing him hanging round her. She was six years older than he, and Theodore, Monsieur Guillaumin’s servant, was beginning to pay court to her.

“Let me alone,” she said, moving her pot of starch. “You’d better be off and pound almonds; you are always dangling about women. Before you meddle with such things, bad boy, wait till you’ve got a beard to your chin.”

“Oh, don’t be cross! I’ll go and clean her boots.”

And he at once took down from the shelf Emma’s boots, all coated with mud, the mud of the rendezvous, that crumbled into powder beneath his fingers, and that he watched as it gently rose in a ray of sunlight.

“How afraid you are of spoiling them!” said the servant, who wasn’t so particular when she cleaned them herself, because as soon as the stuff of the boots was no longer fresh madame handed them over to her.

Emma had a number in her cupboard that she squandered one after the other, without Charles allowing himself the slightest observation. So also he disbursed three hundred francs for a wooden leg that she thought proper to make a present of to Hippolyte. Its top was covered with cork, and it had spring joints, a complicated mechanism, covered over by black trousers ending in a patent-leather boot. But Hippolyte, not daring to use such a handsome leg every day, begged Madame Bovary to get him another more convenient one. The doctor, of course, had again to defray the expense of this purchase.

So little by little the stable-man took up his work again. One saw him running about the village as before, and when Charles heard from afar the sharp noise of the wooden leg, he at once went in another direction.

It was Monsieur Lheureux, the shopkeeper, who had undertaken the order; this provided him with an excuse for visiting Emma. He chatted with her about the new goods from Paris, about a thousand feminine trifles, made himself very obliging, and never asked for his money. Emma yielded to this lazy mode of satisfying all her caprices. Thus she wanted to have a very handsome ridding-whip that was at an umbrella-maker’s at Rouen to give to Rodolphe. The week after Monsieur Lheureux placed it on her table.

But the next day he called on her with a bill for two hundred and seventy francs, not counting the centimes. Emma was much embarrassed; all the drawers of the writing-table were empty; they owed over a fortnight’s wages to Lestiboudois, two quarters to the servant, for any quantity of other things, and Bovary was impatiently expecting Monsieur Derozeray’s account, which he was in the habit of paying every year about Midsummer.

She succeeded at first in putting off Lheureux. At last he lost patience; he was being sued; his capital was out, and unless he got some in he should be forced to take back all the goods she had received.

“Oh, very well, take them!” said Emma.

“I was only joking,” he replied; “the only thing I regret is the whip. My word! I’ll ask monsieur to return it to me.”

“No, no!” she said.

“Ah! I’ve got you!” thought Lheureux.

And, certain of his discovery, he went out repeating to himself in an undertone, and with his usual low whistle —

“Good! we shall see! we shall see!”

She was thinking how to get out of this when the servant coming in put on the mantelpiece a small roll of blue paper “from Monsieur Derozeray’s.” Emma pounced upon and opened it. It contained fifteen napoleons; it was the account. She heard Charles on the stairs; threw the gold to the back of her drawer, and took out the key.

Three days after Lheureux reappeared.

“I have an arrangement to suggest to you,” he said. “If, instead of the sum agreed on, you would take —”

“Here it is,” she said placing fourteen napoleons in his hand.

The tradesman was dumfounded. Then, to conceal his disappointment, he was profuse in apologies and proffers of service, all of which Emma declined; then she remained a few moments fingering in the pocket of her apron the two five-franc pieces that he had given her in change. She promised herself she would economise in order to pay back later on. “Pshaw!” she thought, “he won’t think about it again.”

Besides the riding-whip with its silver-gilt handle, Rodolphe had received a seal with the motto Amor nel cor14 furthermore, a scarf for a muffler, and, finally, a cigar-case exactly like the Viscount’s, that Charles had formerly picked up in the road, and that Emma had kept. These presents, however, humiliated him; he refused several; she insisted, and he ended by obeying, thinking her tyrannical and overexacting.

Then she had strange ideas.

“When midnight strikes,” she said, “you must think of me.”

And if he confessed that he had not thought of her, there were floods of reproaches that always ended with the eternal question —

“Do you love me?”

“Why, of course I love you,” he answered.

“A great deal?”

“Certainly!”

“You haven’t loved any others?”

“Did you think you’d got a virgin?” he exclaimed laughing.

Emma cried, and he tried to console her, adorning his protestations with puns.

“Oh,” she went on, “I love you! I love you so that I could not live without you, do you see? There are times when I long to see you again, when I am torn by all the anger of love. I ask myself, Where is he? Perhaps he is talking to other women. They smile upon him; he approaches. Oh no; no one else pleases you. There are some more beautiful, but I love you best. I know how to love best. I am your servant, your concubine! You are my king, my idol! You are good, you are beautiful, you are clever, you are strong!”

He had so often heard these things said that they did not strike him as original. Emma was like all his mistresses; and the charm of novelty, gradually falling away like a garment, laid bare the eternal monotony of passion, that has always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of so much experience, the difference of sentiment beneath the sameness of expression. Because lips libertine and venal had murmured such words to him, he believed but little in the candour of hers; exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.

But with that superior critical judgment that belongs to him who, in no matter what circumstance, holds back, Rodolphe saw other delights to be got out of this love. He thought all modesty in the way. He treated her quite sans facon.15 He made of her something supple and corrupt. Hers was an idiotic sort of attachment, full of admiration for him, of voluptuousness for her, a beatitude that benumbed her; her soul sank into this drunkenness, shrivelled up, drowned in it, like Clarence in his butt of Malmsey.

By the mere effect of her love Madame Bovary’s manners changed. Her looks grew bolder, her speech more free; she even committed the impropriety of walking out with Monsieur Rodolphe, a cigarette in her mouth, “as if to defy the people.” At last, those who still doubted doubted no longer when one day they saw her getting out of the “Hirondelle,” her waist squeezed into a waistcoat like a man; and Madame Bovary senior, who, after a fearful scene with her husband, had taken refuge at her son’s, was not the least scandalised of the women-folk. Many other things displeased her. First, Charles had not attended to her advice about the forbidding of novels; then the “ways of the house” annoyed her; she allowed herself to make some remarks, and there were quarrels, especially one on account of Felicite.

Madame Bovary senior, the evening before, passing along the passage, had surprised her in company of a man — a man with a brown collar, about forty years old, who, at the sound of her step, had quickly escaped through the kitchen. Then Emma began to laugh, but the good lady grew angry, declaring that unless morals were to be laughed at one ought to look after those of one’s servants.

“Where were you brought up?” asked the daughter-in-law, with so impertinent a look that Madame Bovary asked her if she were not perhaps defending her own case.

“Leave the room!” said the young woman, springing up with a bound.

“Emma! Mamma!” cried Charles, trying to reconcile them.

But both had fled in their exasperation. Emma was stamping her feet as she repeated —

“Oh! what manners! What a peasant!”

He ran to his mother; she was beside herself. She stammered

“She is an insolent, giddy-headed thing, or perhaps worse!”

And she was for leaving at once if the other did not apologise. So Charles went back again to his wife and implored her to give way; he knelt to her; she ended by saying —

“Very well! I’ll go to her.”

And in fact she held out her hand to her mother-in-law with the dignity of a marchioness as she said —

“Excuse me, madame.”

Then, having gone up again to her room, she threw herself flat on her bed and cried there like a child, her face buried in the pillow.

She and Rodolphe had agreed that in the event of anything extraordinary occurring, she should fasten a small piece of white paper to the blind, so that if by chance he happened to be in Yonville, he could hurry to the lane behind the house. Emma made the signal; she had been waiting three-quarters of an hour when she suddenly caught sight of Rodolphe at the corner of the market. She felt tempted to open the window and call him, but he had already disappeared. She fell back in despair.

Soon, however, it seemed to her that someone was walking on the pavement. It was he, no doubt. She went downstairs, crossed the yard. He was there outside. She threw herself into his arms.

“Do take care!” he said.

“Ah! if you knew!” she replied.

And she began telling him everything, hurriedly, disjointedly, exaggerating the facts, inventing many, and so prodigal of parentheses that he understood nothing of it.

“Come, my poor angel, courage! Be comforted! be patient!”

“But I have been patient; I have suffered for four years. A love like ours ought to show itself in the face of heaven. They torture me! I can bear it no longer! Save me!”

She clung to Rodolphe. Her eyes, full of tears, flashed like flames beneath a wave; her breast heaved; he had never loved her so much, so that he lost his head and said “What is, it? What do you wish?”

“Take me away,” she cried, “carry me off! Oh, I pray you!”

And she threw herself upon his mouth, as if to seize there the unexpected consent if breathed forth in a kiss.

“But —” Rodolphe resumed.

“What?” “Your little girl!” She reflected a few moments, then replied —

“We will take her! It can’t be helped!”

“What a woman!” he said to himself, watching her as she went. For she had run into the garden. Someone was calling her.

On the following days Madame Bovary senior was much surprised at the change in her daughter-in-law. Emma, in fact, was showing herself more docile, and even carried her deference so far as to ask for a recipe for pickling gherkins.

Was it the better to deceive them both? Or did she wish by a sort of voluptuous stoicism to feel the more profoundly the bitterness of the things she was about to leave?

But she paid no heed to them; on the contrary, she lived as lost in the anticipated delight of her coming happiness.

It was an eternal subject for conversation with Rodolphe. She leant on his shoulder murmuring —

“Ah! when we are in the mail-coach! Do you think about it? Can it be? It seems to me that the moment I feel the carriage start, it will be as if we were rising in a balloon, as if we were setting out for the clouds. Do you know that I count the hours? And you?”

Never had Madame Bovary been so beautiful as at this period; she had that indefinable beauty that results from joy, from enthusiasm, from success, and that is only the harmony of temperament with circumstances. Her desires, her sorrows, the experience of pleasure, and her ever-young illusions, that had, as soil and rain and winds and the sun make flowers grow, gradually developed her, and she at length blossomed forth in all the plenitude of her nature. Her eyelids seemed chiselled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared, while a strong inspiration expanded her delicate nostrils and raised the fleshy corner of her lips, shaded in the light by a little black down. One would have thought that an artist apt in conception had arranged the curls of hair upon her neck; they fell in a thick mass, negligently, and with the changing chances of their adultery, that unbound them every day. Her voice now took more mellow infections, her figure also; something subtle and penetrating escaped even from the folds of her gown and from the line of her foot. Charles, as when they were first married, thought her delicious and quite irresistible.

When he came home in the middle of the night, he did not dare to wake her. The porcelain night-light threw a round trembling gleam upon the ceiling, and the drawn curtains of the little cot formed as it were a white hut standing out in the shade, and by the bedside Charles looked at them. He seemed to hear the light breathing of his child. She would grow big now; every season would bring rapid progress. He already saw her coming from school as the day drew in, laughing, with ink-stains on her jacket, and carrying her basket on her arm. Then she would have to be sent to the boarding-school; that would cost much; how was it to be done? Then he reflected. He thought of hiring a small farm in the neighbourhood, that he would superintend every morning on his way to his patients. He would save up what he brought in; he would put it in the savings-bank. Then he would buy shares somewhere, no matter where; besides, his practice would increase; he counted upon that, for he wanted Berthe to be well-educated, to be accomplished, to learn to play the piano. Ah! how pretty she would be later on when she was fifteen, when, resembling her mother, she would, like her, wear large straw hats in the summer-time; from a distance they would be taken for two sisters. He pictured her to himself working in the evening by their side beneath the light of the lamp; she would embroider him slippers; she would look after the house; she would fill all the home with her charm and her gaiety. At last, they would think of her marriage; they would find her some good young fellow with a steady business; he would make her happy; this would last for ever.

Emma was not asleep; she pretended to be; and while he dozed off by her side she awakened to other dreams.

To the gallop of four horses she was carried away for a week towards a new land, whence they would return no more. They went on and on, their arms entwined, without a word. Often from the top of a mountain there suddenly glimpsed some splendid city with domes, and bridges, and ships, forests of citron trees, and cathedrals of white marble, on whose pointed steeples were storks’ nests. They went at a walking-pace because of the great flag-stones, and on the ground there were bouquets of flowers, offered you by women dressed in red bodices. They heard the chiming of bells, the neighing of mules, together with the murmur of guitars and the noise of fountains, whose rising spray refreshed heaps of fruit arranged like a pyramid at the foot of pale statues that smiled beneath playing waters. And then, one night they came to a fishing village, where brown nets were drying in the wind along the cliffs and in front of the huts. It was there that they would stay; they would live in a low, flat-roofed house, shaded by a palm-tree, in the heart of a gulf, by the sea. They would row in gondolas, swing in hammocks, and their existence would be easy and large as their silk gowns, warm and star-spangled as the nights they would contemplate. However, in the immensity of this future that she conjured up, nothing special stood forth; the days, all magnificent, resembled each other like waves; and it swayed in the horizon, infinite, harmonised, azure, and bathed in sunshine. But the child began to cough in her cot or Bovary snored more loudly, and Emma did not fall asleep till morning, when the dawn whitened the windows, and when little Justin was already in the square taking down the shutters of the chemist’s shop.

She had sent for Monsieur Lheureux, and had said to him —

“I want a cloak — a large lined cloak with a deep collar.”

“You are going on a journey?” he asked.

“No; but — never mind. I may count on you, may I not, and quickly?”

He bowed.

“Besides, I shall want,” she went on, “a trunk — not too heavy — handy.”

“Yes, yes, I understand. About three feet by a foot and a half, as they are being made just now.”

“And a travelling bag.”

“Decidedly,” thought Lheureux. “there’s a row on here.”

“And,” said Madame Bovary, taking her watch from her belt, “take this; you can pay yourself out of it.”

But the tradesman cried out that she was wrong; they knew one another; did he doubt her? What childishness!

She insisted, however, on his taking at least the chain, and Lheureux had already put it in his pocket and was going, when she called him back.

“You will leave everything at your place. As to the cloak”— she seemed to be reflecting —“do not bring it either; you can give me the maker’s address, and tell him to have it ready for me.”

It was the next month that they were to run away. She was to leave Yonville as if she was going on some business to Rouen. Rodolphe would have booked the seats, procured the passports, and even have written to Paris in order to have the whole mail-coach reserved for them as far as Marseilles, where they would buy a carriage, and go on thence without stopping to Genoa. She would take care to send her luggage to Lheureux whence it would be taken direct to the “Hirondelle,” so that no one would have any suspicion. And in all this there never was any allusion to the child. Rodolphe avoided speaking of her; perhaps he no longer thought about it.

He wished to have two more weeks before him to arrange some affairs; then at the end of a week he wanted two more; then he said he was ill; next he went on a journey. The month of August passed, and, after all these delays, they decided that it was to be irrevocably fixed for the 4th September — a Monday.

At length the Saturday before arrived.

Rodolphe came in the evening earlier than usual.

“Everything is ready?” she asked him.

“Yes.”

Then they walked round a garden-bed, and went to sit down near the terrace on the kerb-stone of the wall.

“You are sad,” said Emma.

“No; why?”

And yet he looked at her strangely in a tender fashion.

“It is because you are going away?” she went on; “because you are leaving what is dear to you — your life? Ah! I understand. I have nothing in the world! you are all to me; so shall I be to you. I will be your people, your country; I will tend, I will love you!”

“How sweet you are!” he said, seizing her in his arms.

“Really!” she said with a voluptuous laugh. “Do you love me? Swear it then!”

“Do I love you — love you? I adore you, my love.”

The moon, full and purple-coloured, was rising right out of the earth at the end of the meadow. She rose quickly between the branches of the poplars, that hid her here and there like a black curtain pierced with holes. Then she appeared dazzling with whiteness in the empty heavens that she lit up, and now sailing more slowly along, let fall upon the river a great stain that broke up into an infinity of stars; and the silver sheen seemed to writhe through the very depths like a heedless serpent covered with luminous scales; it also resembled some monster candelabra all along which sparkled drops of diamonds running together. The soft night was about them; masses of shadow filled the branches. Emma, her eyes half closed, breathed in with deep sighs the fresh wind that was blowing. They did not speak, lost as they were in the rush of their reverie. The tenderness of the old days came back to their hearts, full and silent as the flowing river, with the softness of the perfume of the syringas, and threw across their memories shadows more immense and more sombre than those of the still willows that lengthened out over the grass. Often some night-animal, hedgehog or weasel, setting out on the hunt, disturbed the lovers, or sometimes they heard a ripe peach falling all alone from the espalier.

“Ah! what a lovely night!” said Rodolphe.

“We shall have others,” replied Emma; and, as if speaking to herself: “Yet, it will be good to travel. And yet, why should my heart be so heavy? Is it dread of the unknown? The effect of habits left? Or rather —? No; it is the excess of happiness. How weak I am, am I not? Forgive me!”

“There is still time!” he cried. “Reflect! perhaps you may repent!”

“Never!” she cried impetuously. And coming closer to him: “What ill could come to me? There is no desert, no precipice, no ocean I would not traverse with you. The longer we live together the more it will be like an embrace, every day closer, more heart to heart. There will be nothing to trouble us, no cares, no obstacle. We shall be alone, all to ourselves eternally. Oh, speak! Answer me!”

At regular intervals he answered, “Yes — Yes —” She had passed her hands through his hair, and she repeated in a childlike voice, despite the big tears which were falling, “Rodolphe! Rodolphe! Ah! Rodolphe! dear little Rodolphe!”

Midnight struck.

“Midnight!” said she. “Come, it is to-morrow. One day more!”

He rose to go; and as if the movement he made had been the signal for their flight, Emma said, suddenly assuming a gay air —

“You have the passports?”

“Yes.”

“You are forgetting nothing?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Certainly.”

“It is at the Hotel de Provence, is it not, that you will wait for me at midday?”

He nodded.

“Till to-morrow then!” said Emma in a last caress; and she watched him go.

He did not turn round. She ran after him, and, leaning over the water’s edge between the bulrushes

“To-morrow!” she cried.

He was already on the other side of the river and walking fast across the meadow.

After a few moments Rodolphe stopped; and when he saw her with her white gown gradually fade away in the shade like a ghost, he was seized with such a beating of the heart that he leant against a tree lest he should fall.

“What an imbecile I am!” he said with a fearful oath. “No matter! She was a pretty mistress!”

And immediately Emma’s beauty, with all the pleasures of their love, came back to him. For a moment he softened; then he rebelled against her.

“For, after all,” he exclaimed, gesticulating, “I can’t exile myself — have a child on my hands.”

He was saying these things to give himself firmness.

“And besides, the worry, the expense! Ah! no, no, no, no! a thousand times no! That would be too stupid.”

14A loving heart.

15Off-handedly.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:53