Stage 3 (Journeyman): Madame Bovary, chapter 5



From the top of the Leux Hill, a river flows dividing arable(1) and pasture land. In the far distance lies the forest of Argueil, a green velvet cape. Here on the confines of the Ile-de-France, the language is without accent, the landscape is without fertile soil, and its cheeses are horrendous(2).  The people of Yonville-l’Abbaye pay no attention to this.


At the foot of the hill lies a bridge and beyond that, a roadway leads to a line of houses. They are knotted together, close-pressed like vines. At the end of the road is the sole exception – the notary’s ornamented(3) house.


On the other side of the street is the dilapidated(4) Church. It is most notable for the cemetery that surrounds it – it is so full of graves that little grass can be seen between them. The choir stalls are austere(5) and unvarnished. It is a functional church, but that is all that can be accurately said about it.


The market is a tiled roof supported by some twenty posts, and it occupies about half the public square. The town hall is an atrocious(6) translation of a Greek temple. The only building that draws the eye positively is the chemist’s shop, that of Monsieur Homais. A lamp streaks light across the peculiar verdigris(7) jars on the shop-front, and the shadow of the chemist can be seen bending over his desk. At the back of the shop, “Laboratory” appears above a glass door.


Beyond this, there is nothing to see in Yonville. There is only one street before the cemetery. The keeper of it is both a gravedigger and church beadle; he takes advantage of the unused plot of ground in the cemetery to plant potatoes. Whether there is an epidemic(8) that year or not, he profits.


On the evening the Bovary’s were to arrive in Yonville, Widow Lefrancois, the inn’s landlady, was in a panic. Tomorrow was market day; thus there was meat to be cut, soup and coffee to be made, and the boarders’ meals and accommodations to be seen. The dining room burst with laughter and from the poultry yard, she heard the screaming of servants chasing after the fowl.


The chemist looked upon the scene sedately(9).


“Good heavens!” The landlady shouted. “The billiard-room looks about to be torn right in half!” She clenched her strainer in her hand.


“You could just buy another,” Monsieur Homais replied, serenely (10). “You must keep up with the times, after all.”


She shrugged her shoulders. “As long as the Lion d’Or exists, people will come to it.”

As soon as six o’clock struck, Monsieur Binet arrived. He walked in, not a single hair standing out from his jaw. He stood near the stove for a few minutes and shut the door behind him.


“At least he won’t wear out his tongue,” the chemist said.


“He never does speak. Just last week, two chaps were telling the most wonderful jokes – and he stood there, never saying a word.”


Just then, a man dressed in black came into the kitchen. “What can I do for you, Monsieur le Curie?” the landlady asked. “Will you take a thimbleful of Cassis(11)?”


The priest declined very cordially(12). He had come for his umbrella. This behavior seemed to the chemist as the most odious(13) hypocrisy.


The landlady took up the priest’s defense. “Be quiet, Monsieur Homais – you have no religion.”


“On the contrary, I adore God. I just don’t see the point of handing out silver coins to love him. It’s absurd – and against all the physical and natural laws of the universe, if you really think about it, that priests are running amok(14)-”


He paused, looking for an audience. He found none. Even the landlady was looking out the window.


A carriage had stopped at the door. It was an inexplicably(15) ugly yellow thing, but it drew the attention of some of Yonville’s inhabitants nonetheless. It was not often that they received visitors.


The arrival of the carriage had been delayed an hour. Madame Bovary’s greyhound had gone running across a field, and she had whistled and cried after him for some time before it had been deemed necessary to go on. Emma wept, growing angry. Emma got out of the carriage first, then Felicite, Monsieur Lheureux, a nurse, and lastly Charles, who had fallen asleep for quite some time now.


Madame Bovary went to the chimney in the kitchen and watched the fire light up the fine pores of her fair skin.


On the other side of the half-open door, a young man watched her silently. This was Monsieur Léon Dupuis, who worked for the notary in town. He had been looking for some company, having gotten a great deal of boredom from the lack of work at Yonville. Thus, it was with mirth(16) that he accepted the landlady’s suggestion that he should dine with the newcomers.


At the table for four, Homas spoke: “Madame is no doubt a little fatigued(17) from the journey.”


“That is true,” Emma replied, “but there is nothing I like quite so much as moving around a bit.”


“To be always rooted in the same place is tedious(18),” the clerk obliged(19).


“If you were like me-” said Charles.


“But,” Leon went on, facing Emma, “nothing is more pleasant.”


“Medically speaking,” the druggist said. “The practice of medicine is not much hard work in this part of the world – there are few illnesses and nothing of a serious sort. There are some prejudices, though, against the efforts of science. Many would rather turn to the priest than come straight to the doctor when they fall ill.”


“More importantly, though,” Madame Bovary turned to face the young man directly. “There are some paths upon which to walk hereabouts?”


“La Pature is at the top of a hill. On Sundays, I go there with a book to watch the sunset.”


“There is nothing so admirable, especially if it was by the sea.”


“Oh, I adore the sea!”


“Does not the mind travel freely there?”


“It is the same with those Swiss mountainous landscapes, the type that could inspire any musician to play marvelously.”


“You play?”


“No, but I am fond of music.”


“That’s just modesty,” Homais interrupted. “He’s a ravishing singer.”


Leon blushed at the compliment, but Homais had already turned away and was engrossing Charles with anecdotes(20) about wind and chemicals.


“What music do you prefer?” Emma continued.


“Oh, German music – that which makes you dream.”


“Have you ever been to the opera?”


“Not yet, but I shall go next year to Paris.”


“As I was saying to your husband,” the chemist said, “the house that you will be staying at is one of the most comfortable in Yonville. It contains everything agreeable in a household-even a garden-”


“My wife doesn’t care for gardens,” said Charles.


“Like me,” replied Leon. “Why go out into the wind-whipping garden when there is a fireside to sit by in the evening?” She fixed her large black eyes upon him. “One thinks of nothing there. Motionless, we traverse countries; we blend in with the fiction and become one with the characters.”


“Oh, how that is true!”


“That is why I love the poets.”


“To me, they are tiring. I adore stories that frighten one breathlessly.”


“Living in a place such as this, they are my one true distraction.”


“I always subscribed to a lending library,” Emma confessed.


“I also have a library,” the chemist interjected. “One composed of the best authors in the vicinity.”


They had been sitting for two and a half hours at the table like this, side by side splitting into conversations of two, and it was nightfall. They bid adieu to each other at the door.


When Emma entered the new house and bedroom, she felt the cold fall about her shoulders. It was a strange place to sleep in – items strewn across the countries, the wood a stark white.


It was the fourth time that she had slept in such strange a place – the first at the convent, the second at Tostes, the third at Vaubyessard; this was the fourth. Each one had marked the inauguration of a new phase in her life.


Since the latter portion of her life had been bad, she had no doubt that this portion must be better.



1/arable(adj)-describing fertile soil, capable of producing crops, suitable for growing crops

2/horrendous(adj)-describing something that is incredible horrible and terrifying; incredibly unpleasant

3/ornamented(adj)-a highly decorated building, embellished with ornaments to look more attractive

4/dilapidated(adj)-run down, in a state of disrepair and ruin due to age or neglect; shabby; broken down

5/austere(adj)-severe or strict in manner and appearance; having no comforts, unadorned; extremely plain and simple in appearance

6/atrocious(adj)-of a very bad and unpleasant quality; terrible; horrifyingly brutal and savage

7/verdigris(n)-a blue-green pigment that is obtained by applying acetic acid to copper plates

8/epidemic(n)-a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a particular community at a time; an outbreak; a plague

9/sedately(adv)-describing the manner or appearance of an individual that is very calm and tranquil; quiet, moderate

10/serene(adj)-calm and peaceful; tranquil; relaxed, as if it without any worries

11/cassis(n)- a sweet black currant liqueur, similar to a traditional type of wine at the time

12/cordially(adv)-acting in a manner that is very formal and polite; affectionate, warm, and friendly

13/odious(adj)-deserving and causing hatred and revulsion; extremely and unusually unpleasant; vile, foul

14/amok(adv)-to behave in an uncontrollable and disruptive manner; to get out of control

15/inexplicably(adv)-to act in a way without explanation, in a way that is uncalled for

16/mirth(n)-gentle amusement, expressed through laughter; euphoria, joyfulness

17/fatigued(adj)-to be feeling tired and exhausted, especially after a long journey; overtired, enervated

18/tedious(adj)-describing something that is dull and monotonous; uneventful, boring

19/oblige(v)-to make somebody do something, to carry out a course of action solely in order to please another

20/anecdote(n)-a short retelling of a biographical event, a brief story about a real incident or person


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