Stage 3 (Journeyman): Madame Bovary, chapter 9

CHAPTER 9

Upon reaching the inn, Madame Bovary rushed to return back to the town. There was nothing that was goading(1)​ her to fall back to Charles, but she remembered that he was waiting for her.

The carriage ride was short and uneventful, and before she knew it, she saw Felicite standing outside of the house.

Enigmatically(2)​, the servant said, “Madame, you must go at once to Monsieur Homais.”

The town was silent except for the crowd that had gathered around the chemist’s shop. Chairs and pillows were strewn across the front room, and Justin was cowering​(3) at a corner with the chemist screaming at him.

“Who told you to go there!”

“What has happened?” She interrupted.

“What has happened! I was making jams for my children’s breakfast and this lad stole my keys to the Capharnaum(4)​.” It was there that the poisons of the mind and heart rested, egoistically guarded by Homais. “I must call the magistrate(5)​!”

“Be calm,” Madame Homais said.

“Papa! Where is the breakfast?” His daughter pulled on his coat.

“He might as well have stolen from a grocer! Would that not be a crime! Speak!”

Justin could only stutter and stammer.

“Were you even reading the labels? I asked you to get me jam and you gave me arsenic!”

“We could have died!” Madame Homais exclaimed. “But why were the bottles of jam and arsenic side by side?”

Her husband ignored the logic. “Is this what you give us in return for all our kindness? Death!”

He began to spout(6)​ Latin and Emma, giving up, turned to Madame Homais.

“Felicite told me to come here—”

“Oh, my dear,” Madame Homais began. “Yet another misfortune has befallen upon you.” As Justin was being accosted(7)​, verbally and physically, she continued: “Your father-in-law is dead.”

In fact, Monsieur Bovary had passed away the previous day at 11 in the morning. Charles, worried for Emma’s sensitivities, had asked Madame Homais to say the words gently, but in the confusion and the maelstrom(8)​ of Justin, this had been overlooked.

Emma left and upon returning to the house, she found Charles waiting for her with open arms and tears running down his face. “My dear!” As he enclosed her in an embrace, she shuddered.

He showed her letters from his mother that she sighed at. At dinner, for appearances’ sake, she put a smile on her face and coaxed(9)​ Charles to eat something. “How old was your father?”

“Fifty eight.” He sighed.

Not too young. “Ah,” she said, and that was it.

Fifteen minutes later: “My poor mother!”

Emma did not respond, but poor Charles interpreted her silence as dolefulness(10)​. Luckily for the both of them, there came a distraction in the form of a knock at the door. It was Hippolyte with Emma’s luggage. Charles rummaged​(11) through the purse for a centime, the unbearable heat of poverty and humiliation upon him.

“That’s a comely(12)​ bouquet,” Hippolyte noted, seeing Leon’s violets.

“They’re from a beggar,” she replied.

Charles, eyes red, finally found and gave away the coin.

The next day, there was much tears when the recently widowed Madame Bovary senior arrived. The three of them sat by the waterside, Charles and his mother lost in regrets, in penitence(13), ​and Emma calmly undoing the lining of a dress. Near them, Berthe was sleeping in the shade.

Suddenly, she saw Monsieur Lheureux, the linen draper, come in through the gate; under the guise of offering condolences(14)​, he was there to collect the bill. Seeing Charle’s tears pour even faster, Emma hastily ushered(15)​ the linen draper into the house.

Monsieur Lheureux began his speech-first with small talk about expectations of the harvest and the bountiful​(16) weather, and suddenly, he spoke of the inheritance and her bad health. “You seem much better. By faith, your husband was in such a sad state the last time I saw him!”

Charles had not told Emma the complete story of the bills as he was worried of her sensitive nature. She was lost in all sorts of apprehensions(17)​-did he know about Rodolphe and Leon and–

“I have a proposal for you. Let’s renew the bill. Now that you are better, perhaps you should take over the money affairs of your house. Charles seems incapable of that right now.”

She did not understand and remained silent.

“I’ll bring you a black gown tomorrow!”

“I don’t need a gown–”

“Hush, hush, one must not argue. It is the custom to wear a black gown during a funeral. You can trust me too, you know, I have the eye of an American designer.”

He planned to make her the most extravagant and extortionate(18)​ of gowns.

Madame Bovary senior was amazed by the transformation that Emma had undergone: no longer would she make heedless(19)​ expenses but instead be practical and pragmatic. Her jargon​(20) showcased her financial literacy, a field she was much more advanced in than Charles was.

One day, she brought home a paper that the linen draper gave her. “I don’t trust this attorney,” she remarked. “Yet we know no other notary.”

“Leon,” replied Charles, almost immediately. “Perhaps he could help?”

She hid her smile. “It would be difficult to explain such a complicated manner by letter, would it not?”

“My dear, what with the funeral and my patients, there is no other way that I could communicate with him, at least not for the next few weeks.”

“Perhaps I could go.” She held her breath in anticipation.

“Are you sure? It’s quite a journey, and you’d be going alone this time.”

“Of course.”

“Thank you,” he smiled for the first time in days. “Thank you, my dear, for being so good.”

The next morning, she set off to Rouen where she would stay for three days; her time there could best be described as a honeymoon. She and Leon stayed at Hotel-de-Boulogne by the river where they lived with closed doors and closed blinds and flowers strewn across the floor, even room service each meal time.

One particularly gorgeous evening, they took a covered dinner boat to reach one of the islands.

Smoke surrounded the boat, but the sun was radiant, gleaming bronze across the purplish water. Dogs began to yelp as they landed, and the two chose the second tavern to dine at.

They sat down near the secluded back and exchanged kisses every now and then. When they returned at night, Leon noted that it was a full moon and Emma, struck by how beautiful everything now seemed, felt the desire to make some poetry. “One night, we were sailing,” but her voice was weak and carried off by the wind.

She was wearing a black dress, and in the darkness of the night, it seemed as though she was never truly there. Noticing a scarlet ribbon by his side, Leon inquired its origin to the boatman.

“I took out a party of gentlemen and ladies earlier today—they were such a jolly group! There was this one particularly handsome man; I believe his name was Rodolphe.”

Emma shuddered.

“Are you okay?” Leon asked.

“Yes, yes, it is just the wind.”

Leon ignored the fact that the air was humid, for this was the last of the three nights. They made plans for how they would stay in contact, and he admired every detail of her albeit elaborate letter writing process.

“It will be alright?” She worried.

He kissed her to ease her. “Of course.”

Only when she had left did Leon remember her earlier strange request. “Why is she so anxious to get the power of attorney?”

GLOSSARY:

1/goad(v): provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate some action or reaction

2/enigmatic(adj): difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious

3/cower(v): crouch down in fear

4/capharnaum(n): a place where poisons are stored

5/magistrate(n): a civil officer or lay judge who administers the law, especially one who conducts a court that deals with minor offenses and holds preliminary hearings for more serious ones

6/spout(v): express (one’s views or ideas) in a lengthy, declamatory, and unreflecting way

7/accost(v): approach and address (someone) boldly or aggressively

8/maelstrom(n): a body of swirling water produced by the meeting of opposing currents

9/coax(v): persuade (someone) gradually or by flattery to do something

10/dolefulness(n): Filled with or expressing grief; mournful

11/rummage(v): search unsystematically and untidily through a mass or receptacle

12/comely(adj): (typically of a woman) pleasant to look at; attractive

13/penitence(n): the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong; repentance

14/condolence(n): an expression of sympathy, especially on the occasion of a death

15/usher(v): show or guide (someone) somewhere

16/bountiful(adj): large in quantity; abundant

17/apprehension(n): anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen

18/extortionate(adj): (of a price) much too high; exorbitant

19/heedless(adj): showing a reckless lack of care or attention

20/jargon(n): special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand

 

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