Stage 3 (Journeyman): Madame Bovary, chapter 3


The cool brick front of the apartment hid away a warm expanse.

Within, there were at once a medley(1) of things: a garland of flaxen(2) flowers, a pair of muddied leggings, a clock with the head of Hippocrates.

To the right was the dining and sitting room, to the left Charles’s consulting room.

His room was both within and without the kitchen. When he saw to patients, the redolence(3) of melted butter penetrated(4) through the walls, and, likewise, in the kitchen, one could hear his patients coughing.

Outside lay the garden: four flower beds surrounded the more utilitarian(5) kitchen garden bed.

Upstairs were two rooms. While the first was yet to be furnished(6), the second —their bedroom— had a mahogany bedstead. On the table near the window was a bouquet of orange blossoms a bride’s bouquet. The former bride’s, the other one. Charles, noticing Emma’s look at it, carried it to the attic. Meanwhile, Emma sat in an armchair and wondered what would be done with her bridal flowers if she were to die.

During the first few days, she occupied herself with renovations(7) of the house. She had new wallpaper plastered, the staircase repainted, and even a basin with a fountain was ordered to her liking.

Then, Charles was happy. Things of pleasure which he had never dreamed of before now made up his days — a meal together, a walk in the evening, the sight of her straw hat. In bed, he watched her, basked(8) in the sunlight of the morning. He lost himself in the depth of her eyes.

When he would leave in the mornings, she came to the window to see him off. She would talk to him from above. And from horseback, he threw her a kiss. She answered with a nod and shut the window. He set off along the highroad. His heart full of euphoria(9) as he went on, re-chewing his happiness.

Until now, what good had he had? His time at school, when he had been sequestered(10) from his richer companions? Later, when he studied medicine, and had never had a full purse? Later, when he had lived fourteen months with the widow, whose feet were as cold as ice?

But now, he had, for life, this beautiful woman whom he adored. His world did not exist past the circumference(11) of her.

Emma had long tried to find out what exactly words such as felicity(12) and passion meant in life.

When she was thirteen, her father had placed her in the convent. Far from being bored, she had taken pleasure in the society of the good sisters. She played little during recreation and knew her catechism(13) well.

Yet Emma was lulled(14) by the mystic aura of the altar, the lights of the tapers(15), the freshness of the holy water. When she went to confession, she invented little sins so that she might stay there longer, that place of unexpected sweetness. She opened her heart to the romantic melancholies(16) of religious readings.

Yet, she soon grew too accustomed to the calm aspects of life; she turned to those of excitement, loving the sea for its storms, the green fields for their disarray. She yearned(17) for personal profit, rejecting everything that did not serve her needs immediately as useless.

At the convent, she often slipped out of the study to see an old maid who knew love songs. While she most often told stories and gave news, on the sly, the old maid lent the older girls some novels. They were all the same: lovers, sweethearts, “gentleman”, tears and kisses.

Through these books, Emma fell in love with the past, dreaming of black horses and old manors. She had a penchant(18) for the stories of the unhappy — Joan of Arc, Agnes Sorel, the dying Bayard.

As these books had to be hidden, they were read in the dormitory. Emma trembled as she blew back the tissue paper of the books, letting the first page fall gently onto its wooden backing. Within its words lay men beneath balconies and ladies lounging in their carriages. The romantic and idealized scenes touched something deep within her.

When Emma’s mother died, she cried much the first few days. She only heard the songs of dying swans and immersed(19) herself even further in the feelings of melancholy that had long characterized her temperament.

The good sisters, who had been so sure of Emma’s vocation(20), perceived with great astonishment that Mademoiselle Rouault seemed to have stepped off the path. When her father took her from the convent, no one was sorry to see her go.

At home once more, Emma first took pleasure in looking after the servants, but soon grew disgusted with the country.

When Charles came to the Berteaux, she had thought that he would make her once more feel that wondrous passion and felicity.

But now? The calm in which she now lived? That could not be the happiness of which she had dreamed.


1/medley(n)-an assortment of different, varied things; a mixture (as in cooking)

2/flaxen(adj)-a shade of yellow, that is a mixture between tan and yellow

3/redolence(n)-a particular odor (often referring to that from cooking); a strong smell; a pungent fragrance

4/penetrate(v)-to pass through; to force oneself into something or through something (for instance, a wall)

5/utilitarian(adj)-useful; practical; economical

6/furnish(v)-to be adorned or decorated with furniture; to provide someone with something

7/renovation(n)-restoration; the action of renovating a place (such as a building); a makeover, often with the intent of modernizing some place

8/bask(v)-to revel in something; to make the most of a situation; to lie exposed to warmth and light

9/euphoria(n)-a state of utter bliss and happiness; elation; contented glee

10/sequester(v)-to isolate oneself from something (whether by one’s own volition or not); to cloister away; to segregate

11/circumference(n)-the boundary of something; the perimeter of a circle

12/felicity(n)-a state of glee and unbounded happiness, typically ‘in the moment’

13/catechism(n)-the religious principles of Christianity used for the instruction of Christians, often in the form of questions and answers

14/lull(v)-to fall into sleep; to calm someone with soothing movements

15/taper(n)-a slender candle that reduces in thickness towards one end

16/melancholy(n)-a state of utter sorrow and disillusionment; a deep sadness

17/yearn(v)-to desire for something or someone; to have an intense feeling of longing for something lost

18/penchant(n)-a particular liking for something or someone; a tendency to do something particular

19/immerse(v)-to engross oneself in some task or activity; to submerge oneself into a liquid

20/vocation(n)-a feeling of suitability for an occupation or a profession

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