Stage 3 (Journeyman): Madame Bovary, chapter 6

CHAPTER 6

Leon waited all day until six o’clock. But, when he went to the inn, there was nobody but Monsieur Binet at the table. The dinner of the previous night had been a rare and remarkable experience for him. He had never waxed(1) so eloquently or even spoken with such a lady; despite being well-bred, he was typically shy and timid(2).

 

He was certainly respected by Monsieur Homais, who proved to be an incredibly helpful neighbor to the Bovary’s. He informed them where the best supplies of wine were to be procured(3) and where to purchase cheap butter. Yet it was purely the goodness of his heart that brought about this exceedingly cordial behavior. Many years ago, he had transgressed(4) the law by practicing medicine without proper certification. It had been almost certain that he would be imprisoned, his business destroyed, and his family brought to ruins. While he had only been reprimanded by the king, the memory of this censure always appeared before his eyes. Thus, by gaining the favor of Monsieur Bovary, he hoped to prevent any negative attention being drawn to himself.

 

But Charles, still, was a doctor poorly attended. Few patients approached him, and thus, he spent the majority of his time either sitting or sleeping. He was filled with trepidation(5) when thoughts concerning money took his mind prisoner. Madame’s repairs at Tostes, the replacement of items lost in the journey, and the purchase of newfangled treasures had caused the entire dowry to slip between his fingers.

 

His only escape came from his wife’s pregnancy. He cherished(6) her even more than before; he was often found embracing her, half-laughing, half-crying, delighted with the idea of a child being his. Their union was even further cemented. There was little else he could ask for.

 

But Emma, who at first was surprised, now grew sullen(7). There would be no embroidered outfits or silk sheets for her child, so what was the purpose? While her affection was negligible, Charles did mention the child at every meal. She desired, more than anything, that it would be a boy – a strong one would be ample revenge for all the impotence(8) of her past. A man could be free, whereas a woman was forever cursed to be dependent and weak.

 

“It is a girl!” Charles exclaimed. She fainted.

 

While getting well, Emma busied herself in finding a name for her daughter. Perhaps Clara or Amanda; certainly not her mother-in-law’s name, as Charles had suggested. They consulted calendars and books and perfect strangers. The chemist suggested Madeleine – the fashion – but Madame Bovary cried out that this was the name of a sinner. When all seemed to be lost, Emma remembered that at the chateau of Vaubyessard, she had heard the name Berthe. And thus, Berthe it would be.

The ceremony was a cheerful event, replete with sweets and sweet faces. Monsieur Homais and Monsieur Leon sang folk songs; M. Bovary insisted on baptizing(9) the child with champagne; and Madame Bovary, senior, told a tale of romance. The mockery of traditional baptism made the priest angry, he wanted to leave, the ladies begged him to stay, Monsieur Homais spoke ill words, the priest stood to leave, but then he sat down again.

 

 

One day, Emma felt the sudden desire to see her little girl, who had been set to the carpenter’s wife’s house to be nursed. Disregarding religious tradition, she ventured out towards the house, which was at the very outskirts of Yonville. The unforgiving wind was blowing fiercely, and she felt indisposed(10), and wondered, for a moment, whether she would be able to make the journey.

 

At that moment, Monsieur Leon exited a door and came to greet her. She told him that she was going to see her little girl, but was feeling fatigued.

 

“If–” he began.

“Have you any urgent task?”

 

On his response, she begged him to accompany her. She leaned upon him as she walked, and they walked slowly through the cemetery and little houses. The mayor’s wife, upon viewing this, declared that “Madame Bovary had compromised(11) herself.”

 

The flowers were in full bloom, with insects swarming around them. The two soon came across the house. On the garret(12) hung a string of onions, and dirty water flowed across the grass, weaving its way between old rags and sticks. At the noise of their entrance, the nurse appeared, a baby on one arm, the other hand attached to an abandoned little boy plagued with scrofula(13).

 

“Your little one is inside,” she said.

 

The house only had one floor, and right beside the door lay Emma’s child. Emma took her up and rocked her slowly, singing a soft song. Leon stood back; it felt strange regarding this beautiful woman amidst abject(14) poverty. Emma reddened at his look.

 

When the child spewed forth vomit on her dress, the nurse came to dry Madame Bovary. “I am always washing her. A little soap would much be appreciated.”

 

“Very well!” Emma went out quickly. The nurse accompanied her to the gate, speaking endlessly on the troubles that she had been taking for the little girl. Emma was halfway down the path of departure when she heard the footsteps of the nurse. “What is it?”

 

The woman began speaking of her husband and his trade (“Be quick!”)–and then coffee (“I’ll give you some!”)–and even cramps–

 

“Well,” the nurse begged. “A jar of brandy(15) would really be wonderful. If it isn’t too much.”

 

Having escaped the nurse, Emma took Monsieur Leon’s arm, and they walked side by side in the direction of the town. It was supper time; thus, as they passed by the tranquil rivers and farmland, there were no sounds but their own steps and their own words. Fulvous(16) flowers sprung up in their path and strings of honeysuckle(17) caught on the ends of her dress.

 

They were speaking of a troupe(18) of dancers that was to perform at the local theatre.

 

“Are you going?” she asked.

 

“If I can,” he answered.

 

Had they nothing else to say? Yet, their words were rich with soul, and their eyes with sweetness. They did not dare to disturb this peace with unnecessary words. As soon as they returned to town, she ran into her house, and Leon returned to his office.

 

Later that day, he went to La Pature, threw himself upon the ground, and sighed. “How bored I am!” He should be pitied, he thought, for living with Homais and his boring, common wife, and the bigoted(19) mayor and his sons. There was little else in the town – but Emma. Her face stood above them all, but he knew not how to approach her.

 

 

When winter first entered Yonville, Emma spent most of her days in the sitting-room. Through the window she watched the villagers pass by. Twice a day, she watched Leon trek from his office to the Lion d’Or. She always knew when he was coming – he would pass by the curtains, dressed in the same way, walking in even the same manner. As he passed, she would order for the table to be laid.

 

Dinner was always spent with Monsieur Homais, who repeated the same phrases – about the doctor’s patients, about the catastrophes abroad, about the delicate dishes – of which he did, she had to concede, found excellent and singular adjectives.

 

But on Sundays, they attended his soirees(20). Monsieur Homais’s scandalous opinions alienated the majority of the town’s respectable inhabitants, but the clerk was always there. He would run to take her shawl and shoes, and watch as her neck reddened. As the druggist and doctor played cards, at her request, he would read verses of love to her. As the noise of the game died out and the druggist and doctor fell asleep by the fire, Leon would read. They spoke in low tones, secret conversations about books and romances.

 

Monsieur Bovary had not given into jealousy, and largely disregarded it. But Leon and Madame Bovary exchanged gifts – beautiful rugs and novels – and shared secrets about their matching window gardens. The town decided that the two must be lovers.

 

It was torture to Leon to decide how he could confess to her. He wrote letters until three hours past midnight, and subsequently tore them into shreds. He ran out of his residence to her door, and then halted. Always halted.

 

Emma did not wonder if she loved. Love, she thought, must be sudden – like a hurricane.

 

And so, the storm brewed.

 

GLOSSARY:

1/wax(v)-to speak eloquently, in a fluent and persuasive manner; can apply to both speech and writing; silver-tongued; expressive

2/timid(adj)-characterized by a lack of courage or confidence; apprehensive; fearful

3/procure(v)-to obtain or acquire something, with especial care and effort

4/transgress(v)-to go beyond the bounds of law or an established societal or moral principle

5/trepidation(n)-a feeling of excessive fear that something dreadful is about to occur

6/cherish(v)-to protect and care for someone or something, in a loving manner

7/sullen(adj)-ill-tempered and gloomy; resentful; sour; morose

8/impotence(n)-the inability to take effective action; the inability to have power; helplessness

9/baptize(v)-to admit a child into a church, a process often involving holy water

10/indisposed(adj)-to be unwell and sick; ill

11/compromise(v)-to accept standards that are lower than is desirable

12/garret(n)-a top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one

13/scrofula(n)-a disease with glandular swellings, probably a form of tuberculosis

14/abject(adj)-(of something bad) experienced or present to the maximum degree; wretched

15/brandy(n)-a spirit produced by distilling wine

16/fulvous(adj)-reddish yellow; tawny

17/honeysuckle(n)-arching shrubs or twining vines

18/troupe(n)-a group of dancers, actors, or other entertainers who tour to different venues

19/bigoted(adj)-having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others

20/soiree(n)-an evening party or gathering, typically in a private house, for conversation or music

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