Stage 3 (Journeyman): Madame Bovary, chapter 10

Chapter 10

On Leon’s journeys to Yonville, he dined often enough at Monsieur Homais’ to feel obliged(1) to return the offer.

“With pleasure!” The chemist accepted.

This all seemed well until one Thursday, Homais arrived in town and demanded to spend lunch with Leon. One hour later, they were still at the table. Homais was clearly enjoying himself, while Leon was apprehensively(2) eyeing the clock.

Wiping his mouth, the chemist spoke: “It is good that your lady-love is not too far.”

Leon blushed. “I don’t–”

“Come, come. You cannot say that you are not making love to Madame Bovary–”

“What are–”

“Bovary’s servant!”

Out of pride, Leon denied the deed. “Are we going now?” Leon was keen(3) to leave.

The chemist laughed. “Yes, yes.” But before they could leave, he had to pay his respects to the chef in person and inquire about the origin of the wine.

Leon left him there and ran to the hotel where he found Emma turned away from the door. He drew close to her, encircling her waist, but just as she turned, a servant appeared: a gentleman had called for him.

“When will you come back?” Emma asked, eyes infrared(4) with anger.

“Immediately.”

That was his plan until he saw the chemist. “Let’s go have a glass of wine,” Homais suggested.

“I have to get back to my office.”

“Leave your office for a while, won’t you? Be a man!”

“I have to–”

“I’ll come with you, then. I’ve come all this way to town just to see you, so–”

Bewildered(5) and tired from the heaviness of the midday meal, Leon finally acquiesced to be led to Bridoux. Finally managing to escape one hour later, he rushed back to the hotel only to find it empty.

The following time that their arms embraced, their hearts did not. They spoke of the most romantic words, but the effect was bathetic(6). Their new love had transmogrified into consistent disappointment. Neither was truly happy with the other.

In Yonville, the clock rang four times, and Emma was broken out of her trance. An old man had come to her door with a bill for 700 francs.

“I haven’t the money,” she told him. “Monsieur must wait a week.”

The next morning, there was a paper on her door. Emma fled to the shop of Monsieur Lheureux, but he would not help her.

That evening, she begged Charles to ask his mother for more money. She began selling her old possessions and even nick-nacks from the servants. The house grew forlorn(7); little Berthe wore torn clothes and when she cried for her mother, Charles only called for the servant.

“Mama does not like to be bothered.”

Emma sat in her room, dreaming of gala days and no longer of Leon. Both wondered how to rid themselves of the other, for it was only habit that kept their arms intertwined. One night, she decided not to return to Yonville. She went to a masked ball, but upon realizing that her companions of the night had been indigent(8), she fainted.

Upon returning home, Felicite reminded her of her debts.

“This must be a joke,” she told Monsieur Lheureux at his place.

“A joke? How so?” He was facing the window.

She cried out. “This isn’t my fault. Couldn’t you wait–”

“I’ve enough of that. It’s too late.”

She pressed her svelte(9) hand against his knee, and he flinched in response. “You really must be going now.” He shut the door behind her.

The next day, the bailiff arrived to draw up an inventory of her belongings. She was stoic(10) but could not help but recoil when her letters to Rodolphe were touched and read through. When the bailiff had gone at last, Emma hurried to Leon. It was two AM when she knocked on his door, demanding: “Leon, I need eight thousand francs.”

He splurted out his drink of water. “You must be mad.” After hearing the entire story, he still appeared shocked. “Could 1000 euros impede(11) the man?”

He went out to ask his friends, but after a few hours, he came back with nothing.

“Could you not get some from your office? I would love you so.”

Her bold eyes terrified him. “Tomorrow.” But both knew that he was lying.

At five o’clock, Emma returned to Yonville. It was a clear and crisp March day, and the sky was whiter than her soul. Fingering a dark black handkerchief, she entered the place of Monsieur Homais with his favorite turban-shaped loaf of bread. He only sent her to the notary’s, distracted by the affairs of his servants and family.

Putting on a black gown and her best jewels, Emma took the path by the river to the notary’s. It was the type of house that she had always dreamt of having. As soon as the notary entered, she began her explanation. But he knew, better than her, how bills accumulated(12). He seemed moved until she asked for a thousand francs.

“Will you not provide me with the money?”

“For what?”

She grew wan(13), and he fell to his knees, clutching her waist. She blanched(14), pushing him back. “I am not selling myself.”

And she left.

“Charles will condone(15) me,” she thought to herself. She and Felicite had gone through the lists of all the names that they knew, but none would provide them with even a hundred francs. It was then that she thought of Rodolphe.

He was in the same house that they had often met in, with the same dark blue pipe. “What are you doing here?” He immediately jumped to his feet.

“I would like your advice.” She sat down beside him.

“You are as enamoring(16) as ever,” he noted.

“Though not charming enough for you, it seems. I loved you so!”

And they remained there some time, fingers intertwined. Suddenly, she burst into tears. “I need three thousand francs.”

“I do not have them.” He was not lying but their fingers were no longer networked.

She stood up, angrily. “You have this chandelier on the ceiling and a clock with tortoise shell and whistles of silver, but nothing for the love of your life?”

“I do not have them,” he repeated.

And so she left.

The walls oscillated(17) around her and the wind was suffocating her. Crows flew around her hair and she ran back to her home, only to find Justin outside. “The key! There’s the Capharnaum-”

“What?”

She spoke in a loving voice. “I want it. To kill rats,” she added after a moment.

“I must ask my master first.”

“It’s really not that much of a bother,” she spoke, mellow(18). “Let’s go up.”

He followed her up the stairs to the cabinet, but as soon as he gave her the blue jar, she began eating the white powder.

“Stop!” He rushed at her, knocking the bottle out of her hands.

“Say nothing,” she whispered. Her fretfulness(19) was now replaced by a state of calm.

When Emma returned to her home, she sat down at the writing-table and slowly wrote a letter. After sealing it, she gave it to Charles in a portentous(20) tone. “You must only read this tomorrow, and not ask me a question about it until then.” She lay down upon the bed, the bitter taste in her mouth burning her eyes.

“Ah, death is but a little thing-it will soon be over.” But she was choking then, and at eight, the vomiting began. When Charles massaged her stomach gently, she cried out and grew pale, sweat oozing from her bluish face.  

He threw himself on his knees by her side. “What have you eaten?”

Now in spasms, she only pointed at the sealed letter, which he tore open, exclaiming: “Poisoned! Poisoned!” The entire village must have heard his words. He lost his head that day, writing letters to every physician and chemist that he knew.

Homais spoke calmly to him: “An antidote must be made.”

“Anything! Save her!” Charles only fell back to her bedside, sobbing. It was only then that Emma saw the true love within his eyes, far too late.

“My dear, this had to be,” she said. A little later, raising herself, she said, “Bring me the child.” Berthe was still half-asleep, but upon seeing her mother’s sickened face, she grew frightened and was taken away.

By the time that the doctor arrived, she was vomiting blood. The priest soon came, and Emma pressed the most passionate of kisses upon the crucifix. Her eyes rolled back and forth, as if struggling to free themselves from the turmoil within. She suddenly fell backwards. They all drew near. She was dead.

Charles could not let himself believe that Emma had died and had to be dragged from the room.

“You ought to prepare yourself for the ceremony,” the chemist urged him.

Charles sat across from him in a state of shock, and it was only when the priest returned that he began composing his wife’s funeral arrangements. “She will buried in her wedding-dress and overlaid with a large piece of green velvet–”

“You cannot afford the expense of velvet–”

He was already writing more. When his mother arrived at daybreak, she too spoke out against the expenses, but he became so angry that she grew silent.

Emma seemed lost beneath the veil of her white gown. Looking at her from above, Charles saw the two of them on their wedding-day, on the threshold of the house, in the yard with little Berthe. He was not the only one lost in the past. When Old Rouault arrived, he fainted. He had thought that his daughter was still alive, so poor was the timing of the letter.

When the bell began tolling, they had to begin. Men sang in shrill voices, and they all knelt together on the floor of the church. Charles put on a brave mask as they left the church, the procession leading to the trees where she would be buried. The sky was a rose color when the coffin descended, and Charles sank to his knees, crying “Adieu! Adieu! Adieu!” Upon her gravestone was written Amabilen conjugem calcas – tread upon a loving wife.

“You’re a good fellow,” old Rouault remarked to his son-in-law. “I shall never forget what you did for her.”

When he had left, Charles and his mother spoke at great length of their future. His mother planned to come live with him. But at midnight, only Charles will still awake. Leon will be in his hotel, Rodolphe in his chateau, even Justin in his attic.

Berthe soon forgot her mother, for she had spent much more time with the nurse. Taking advantage of Charles’ poor state, Monsieur Lheureux charged greater sums and bills. The whole world seemed to be against him – Emma’s nonexistent piano teachers, the bookshop keeper, even Felicite, who had run away with Madame’s gowns. It was at this time that an invitation came in the mail for the marriage of Monsieur Leon Dupuis to Mademoiselle Leocadie Leboeuf. How glad she would have been! Charles thought.

One day, when walking through the attic, he came across Rodolphe’s letters. “All men must have loved her,” he said to himself.

As he sold each and every one of his belongings, he would keep her room untouched. He suffered at seeing his daughter so poorly dressed, but even he was sad. No one came to see them now that they were poor. Homais was flourishing, having composed novels, introduced cocoa to the town, and even receiving medals from the Government.

One night, Berthe came to fetch her father from the garden. His head was resting against the wall, and she pushed him gently. “Come on, papa.” He suddenly fell backwards. He was dead.

Fin.

GLOSSARY:

1/oblige(v)-make (someone) legally or morally bound to do something

2/apprehensively(adj)-uneasy or fearful about something that might happen

3/keen(adj)-having or showing eagerness or enthusiasm

4/infrared(adj)-having a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum but less than that of microwaves

5/bewildered(adj)-confused and indecisive; puzzled

6/bathetic(adj)-producing an unintentional effect of anticlimax

7/forlorn(adj)-pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely

8/indigent(adj)-poor; needy

9/svelte(adj)-slender and elegant

10/stoic(n)-a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining

11/impede(v)-delay or prevent (someone or something) by obstructing them; hinder

12/accumulate(v)-gather together or acquire an increasing number or quantity of

13/wan(v)-(of a person’s complexion or appearance) pale and giving the impression of illness or exhaustion

14/blanch(v)-flinch or grow pale from shock, fear, or a similar emotion

15/condone(v)-accept (behaviour that is considered morally wrong or offensive)

16/enamoring(adj)-be filled with love for

17/oscillate(v)-move or swing back and forth in a regular rhythm

18/mellow(adj)-(especially of a sound, flavour, or colour) pleasantly smooth or soft; free from harshness

19/fretfulness(n)-inclined to be vexed or troubled; peevish

20/portentous(adj)-done in a pompous or overly solemn manner so as to impress

 

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