فصل 01

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فصل 01

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Failure and Success

The older Monsieur Bovary, Monsieur Charles Denis Bartholome Bovary, had been a good-looking man when younger, with a big moustache and rings on his fingers. He was not, however, an impressive man, and although he wore expensive clothes, he always looked like an uncomfortable mixture of a military man and a cheap shopkeeper. His good looks and ability to sell himself did, nevertheless, win him a wife with a good income. After he was safely married, he lived for two or three years on her money. He ate and drank well, and spent his days lying in bed till midday, smoking his pipe and never coming home till the theatres and cafes closed.

When his father-in-law died, the old man left very little money to his daughter. Disappointed, Monsieur Bovary tried to start a textile business, but lost a lot of money and finally retired into the country with the idea of showing the people there how to run a farm. However, he knew as little about agriculture as he did about textiles. He rode his horses instead of making them work, ate the fattest chickens instead of selling them, and cleaned his shooting-boots with his own best bacon-fat. He soon discovered that he had little chance of making a fortune.

Around this time he found a place on the borders of Caux and Picardy, half farm, half private house, which he could rent for two hundred francs a year. He took it and there, an angry, disappointed man, at war with the rest of the world, he shut himself up at the age of forty-five. He said that he was disgusted with other people and wanted only to live by himself.

At the beginning, his wife had loved him above all others, but this only seemed to add to his dislike of the world and he never had a kind word for her. She had been cheerful, kind-hearted and friendly, but as she grew older, in the same way that good wine turns into vinegar, she became bad-tempered and bad company. She was a hard worker, though, unlike her husband. She was always on her feet, always busy, hurrying to see the lawyers, knowing exactly when the next bills had to be paid. Indoors she was always working: sewing, washing, keeping an eye on the men and paying them their wages. Her lord and master, paying no attention to what was going on around him, sat smoking by the fire.

When the first Madame Bovary had a child, it became the centre of her world. The child’s father, however, would have been happy to let him go without shoes. He said that it would be more natural not to give him clothes and to let him run around like a young animal. In contrast to his wife’s ideas, he thought a boy would grow up to be a better man if he undressed in the cold, learned to drink alcohol and laughed at the village priest. The child, a gentle little thing, made little progress in this kind of education. His mother always kept him close to her; she cut out pictures for him from the newspaper and made up countless stories. In loving her son, she was looking for something to make up for the loneliness of her life. She dreamed he would be famous. She could see him as a tall, handsome, clever man, high up in the government service. She taught him to read, and to sing - while she played on her old piano. Monsieur Bovary said this was all a waste of time. How were they ever going to afford to educate him for a government job, or help him start in business? Madame Bovary bit her lip and did not argue with her husband, and the child was allowed to run wild in the village.

He went around with the farm workers, scared the birds by throwing stones at them, looked for wild fruit, helped in the fields, wandered through the woods and played with other children. On Saints’ days, he helped ring the bells in the church, and he loved to hang on to the big rope and feel himself carried up as it rose in the air. And he grew as strong as a young oak tree, with big hands and red cheeks.

When he reached the age of twelve, his mother managed to arrange for him to begin his studies with the priest, but the lessons were so short and badly organized that they did not do him much good. Sometimes it would be hot and the child would grow tired, and before long the old man would be sleeping with his mouth wide open. At other times the priest would see Charles playing with his friends and would call him over to test his Latin verbs. But then, perhaps, it would begin to rain, or someone they knew would come along, and lessons would be over for that day. The priest always had a good word for his pupil, though, and said that the young man had a very good memory.

By the time young Charles was thirteen, even his father saw that something must be done, and Charles left his unhappy home to spend three unhappy years in the College at Rouen. He wrote to his mother every week; he did his homework. He never did very well in his studies, but he never failed altogether. At the end of three years, his mother took him away from the College, with the plan that he should study medicine.

She got him a room on the fourth floor of a house overlooking a little river. She made arrangements for his meals, found some bits of furniture - a table and a couple of chairs and an old bed - and made sure there was plenty of firewood to keep her poor boy warm. After a week of preparations she went back home, asking him over and over again to look after himself and to study hard.

The list of lectures which he read at the beginning of the term made his head spin. There were lectures on subjects he had never heard of, with names he could not even pronounce. He listened as hard as he could, but he could not understand what the lecturers were talking about. However, he attended every lecture and filled notebook after notebook. He got through his work like a horse that is used to turn a mill-wheel, going round and round in the same place with his eyes covered, never knowing what he was doing or where he was going.

Charles failed his medical examinations the first time - the course was too difficult for him. But his mother still believed in him, and made his father pay for one more year. This time Charles managed to pass and his mother began to plan again. First he must have somewhere to work, and then he must have a wife.

The first problem was solved when the old doctor in Tostes, a small town near Rouen, died. Charles became the next doctor. Then his mother found a 45-year-old widow in Dieppe, with an income of twelve hundred francs a year. Though she was ugly and bad-tempered (and twenty-five years older than Charles), her income made her attractive and Charles thought the marriage would make his life better. He thought he would now have freedom and money to spend. He was wrong. His wife was in charge. She told him what to say, and what not to say. She opened his letters, watched his movements and, when women patients were in the surgery, she listened from the next room. At night, when Charles came to bed, she put her long bony arms round his neck and told him all her troubles. He did not love her, he loved someone else. Yes, she knew she would always be unhappy. And she always ended by asking him for some medicine - and for a little more love.

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