فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

A Visit to the Theatre

Emma was pleased that her husband had bought good seats, and when she sat down she could not resist a little smile of pride as she looked at the ordinary people down below. Soon the candles were being lit, the musicians were taking their places and the opera was starting. When they began to play, she lost herself in the music, her eyes almost blinded by the richness of the colours, the beauty of the singers. And their voices, their beautiful bodies dressed in the finest clothes you could imagine, their noble emotions - it was too much!

Poor Charles, however, could understand none of it.

‘Why is he so unkind to her?’ he whispered.

‘But he isn’t,’ she answered. ‘He’s her lover.’

Emma tried to explain as well as she could, but he confessed that he could not follow the story because all this music stopped him from hearing the words.

‘What does it matter?’ said Emma. ‘Be quiet!’

‘Well, you see,’ he answered, leaning over on her shoulder, ‘I like to understand things; you know I always do.’

‘Oh, please be quiet!’ she cried impatiently.

So Charles sat in silence while Emma became more and more involved in the story of the tragic heroine, a story which made her think about her own life. As the singer came to the front of the stage, supported by her women, white flowers in her hair, and as pale as death, Emma began dreaming of her own marriage. She saw herself back again on the little footpath, when she and her father were making their way to the church. Why had she not fought against her father, as Lucia had done? Instead, she had been happy and light-hearted, never realizing how she was throwing herself away!

The curtain fell at the end of the first act. Emma wanted to go out; the corridors were crowded with people, and she sank back in her seat feeling as if she could not breathe. Charles thought she was going to faint, and rushed off to the bar to get her a glass of water. When he returned with the water, he also brought the news that he had seen Monsieur Leon.

‘Leon?’

‘The man himself! He’s coming round in a minute to see you!’

And before these words were out of his mouth, the ex-clerk from Yonville came and sat beside her. He put out his hand, and Madame Bovary gave him hers, mechanically, as if obeying some force of attraction she could not resist. She had not felt this hand since that spring evening when the rain was falling on the green leaves and they said goodbye standing beside the window.

‘Oh, how do you do? Imagine it! You here?’

They could not talk now, as the opera had begun again, but from that moment she stopped listening. Everything seemed to be taking place far away, like the sound of music from a distant room.

As soon as the opera had finished, all three of them went and sat in the open air, outside a cafe. They began by talking about her illness, Emma interrupting Charles every now and then for fear, she said, of boring Monsieur Leon. Then Leon told them how he was going to spend two years in a lawyer’s office here in Rouen. He said that he needed the experience as the work in Normandy was very different from the kind of thing he had been doing in Paris.

People coming away from the theatre passed along in front of them on the pavement, some still singing the tunes from the opera. Although Leon had not been impressed by the leading male singer, Charles (who had begun to understand things better towards the end of the show) had appreciated his voice and said he would love to hear him again.

‘Oh, well,’ said Leon, ‘he’ll be giving another performance soon.’

But Charles replied that they were going home in the morning. ‘Unless you’d like to stay a little longer by yourself,’ he added, turning to his wife.

When Leon saw that there was a chance Emma might be able to stay, he began to praise the singer, and Charles became even more certain that she must stay in Rouen for an extra night.

‘You can come back on Sunday. It’s silly of you not to stay, if you feel it’s doing you even the slightest bit of good.’

And so it was arranged that Charles would return to Yonville in the morning, and Leon would go to the opera with Madame Bovary on the following evening.

Since leaving Yonville, Leon had not forgotten Emma. In Paris, he had worked at his studies and had not had the wild time he had imagined. It had been a happy but unexciting period, and he had sometimes dreamed of the love that might have been between them. Seeing her again, after three long years, all his hopes returned. This time he thought he really would have to bring things to a conclusion. He was less shy now, more sure of himself, and after his time in Paris he felt quite confident that he could have his way with this country doctor’s wife. He would not have been brave enough to make the attempt in Paris, but away from the capital he had the courage.

When they met the following afternoon, he did his best to make himself interesting to her. He talked, therefore, about how unhappy he had been since he left Yonville, and how his dreams had been disappointed.

‘If you only knew,’ she said, ‘the dreams that I have dreamed.’ And tears shone in her beautiful eyes as she raised them to the ceiling.

‘And I, too!’ cried Leon. ‘I often went out, trying to lose myself in the noise of the crowd, but I was never able to get you out of my thoughts.’

Madame Bovary turned away her head so that he should not see the smile she felt on her lips. She let him speak, saying nothing, waiting for him to say what she wanted to hear. She did not have to wait long.

‘And,’ he went on, ‘I wrote you so many letters that I never sent.’

‘But why?’ she asked.

‘Why?’ And he hesitated a moment. ‘Because I loved you!’

Congratulating himself for having said the words, Leon watched her out of the corner of his eye.

It was like looking at the sky after the sun has chased away the clouds. Her whole face was lit up with joy.

He waited, and at last she said, ‘I always thought you did.’

Then they talked about all the things that had happened when he lived in Yonville. They spoke of the flowers in her garden, the dresses she used to wear, the furniture in her bedroom, and of all the things in and around the house. They talked and talked, and before they realized how time had passed, it was eight o’clock.

She rose to light the candles; then she came and sat down again.

‘Well?’ said Leon, and he reached out and touched her hand. ‘What could stop us from beginning all over again now?’

‘No, my friend,’ she replied. ‘I am too old… you are too young… Forget all about me. Others will love you… and you will love them.’

‘Not as I love you,’ he cried.

‘What a child you are! We have to be sensible! I mean it!’

And she did mean it - she intended to keep her distance, to be responsible. She had suffered too much to want to open those wounds again. However, she was not prepared for Leon’s shyness. If he had been another Rodolphe, it would have been easy; she could have pushed him away without an effort. But Leon was so beautiful, so full of desire for her - she could see it in his eyes - but so gentle, she did not know what to do. When he took her face in his hands and kissed her, she could not resist, because he did it without force, with such care. But still, she could not let this happen!

So she looked at the clock above the fireplace and said, ‘Heavens, look at the time! We have forgotten all about the theatre! And I must go back to my poor husband tomorrow, so there is my last chance gone!’

‘Are you really going back?’ said Leon.

‘I am.’

‘But I must see you again,’ he said. ‘I had something I wanted to tell you…’

‘What is it?’

‘Something… Oh, something very serious, very important! Ah, but no! You won’t go back. You can’t. If you only knew… Listen, you mustn’t go like this! Let me see you again, I beg you. Once, just once!’

‘Well…’ And she stopped. And then, as if on second thoughts, she said, ‘Oh, no. Not here!’

‘Wherever you like.’

‘Will you…?’ She seemed to be thinking. Then suddenly she said, ‘Tomorrow, at eleven, in the cathedral.’

‘I shall be there,’ he cried, taking both her hands.

But that night Emma wrote a long, long letter, excusing herself from meeting him. It was all over now, and, for their own sakes, it would be better for them not to meet. But when the letter was sealed up, she realized she did not know Leon’s address.

‘I will give it to him myself,’ she said. ‘He is sure to come.’

Leon arrived early at the cathedral, and had to wait in the cool shadows for what seemed like hours. Suddenly, at around eleven o’clock, there was the sound of silk upon the stones, the shadow of a hat on the wall… It was Emma! Leon rose and went to meet her.

Emma was pale, and she was walking quickly.

‘Read this!’ she said, holding out a paper. But then, seeming to change her mind, she cried out, ‘Oh no! Never mind!’

And she quickly tore away her hand, and went out into the sunshine again. She did not know what to do, how to go on. She wanted to be here, to be with him, and at the same time to fly, fly away.

Leon followed, feeling that his love was in danger of disappearing like smoke. Wanting to take back control of the situation (which he felt was slipping through his fingers), he decided to hire one of the carriages which were waiting. They could drive away, be together in this private, dark space. They could not go to his room, nor to hers, so a carriage, hired for the day, would be their shelter.

‘Leon, really… I don’t know whether I ought. It’s not the proper thing to do. You know it isn’t!’

‘Why not?’ answered the clerk. ‘It’s done in Paris.’

Emma had no reply to this.

‘Where to, sir?’ said the driver.

‘Wherever you like,’ said Leon, pushing Emma inside; and so they set off, first going down to the bridge over the river, then across the main square, past the town hall and stopping beside a statue.

‘Keep going,’ said a voice from inside.

The carriage started again and, following the downhill road after leaving the centre of town, it drove at full speed into the square in front of the railway station.

‘No, no, straight on!’ shouted the voice again.

The driver took them out of town through the big gates, down to the waterside. Along by the river the vehicle went, towards the little town of Oyssel.

And on and on went the carriage, with its sweating driver and tired horse. Each time they stopped, the man’s voice cried out, ‘Drive on, drive on!’ until, at about six in the evening, the carriage stopped in a side street and a woman got out. She walked away with her face hidden, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

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