فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Two Worlds

The front of the house looked straight on to the street. Hanging up behind the front door were the doctor’s coat, a belt, a black leather cap and, on the floor in the corner, a pair of boots covered with dried mud. To the right was the sitting room, where meals were also eaten. White cotton curtains with a red border were hung along the windows, and above the fireplace there was a splendid clock and a head of Hippocrates. On the other side of the passage was Charles’s consulting room, a little box of a place about two metres wide with a table, three ordinary chairs and one armchair. A set of books, the Dictionary of Medical Science, took up almost all the six shelves of the bookcase; they had been owned by many earlier doctors in Tostes, but never read. The smell of cooking would come in through the thin wall during consultations, and anyone in the kitchen could hear the patients coughing and talking to the doctor as clearly as if they were in the room.

The long, narrow garden ran down to the fields. Fruit trees grew along the stone walls and four flower beds, planted with weak-looking roses, were set around a square area which was used for vegetables. At the far end, under some low trees, there was a small white statue of a priest reading a prayer book.

Emma went up to see the bedrooms. There was no furniture in the first one but the second, their bedroom, contained their new bed with its red curtains. There was a box made of seashells on a chest of drawers and on the desk, by the window, stood a glass bottle with a bunch of dried flowers tied with white ribbon. They were the flowers from his first wife’s wedding. Charles saw her looking at them, and took them out of the room. Sitting in an armchair, while her maid unpacked her things, Emma thought about her own wedding flowers, lying in one of the boxes, and she wondered what would happen to them if she died young.

Charles was a happy man now. In bed in the morning, with her head on the pillow beside him, he would look at the sunlight on her cheek and at her beautiful eyes when she woke. He could lose himself in those eyes, looking into them until he saw a tiny picture of himself, his nightcap on his head and the collar of his shirt open. As soon as he was up and dressed, she would go to the window to see him start his day. Down in the street below, Charles would prepare to get on to his horse while she went on talking to him from above. Sometimes she might find a feather and send it floating through the air to be caught in the long hair on his old white horse’s neck. As he rode off, Charles would blow her a kiss and she would wave back to him.

It was the first time in his life that he had tasted such happiness. He had been lonely and friendless at school and when he was studying medicine. And then he had had fourteen months of married life with the widow, whose feet, in bed, were like lumps of ice. But now this lovely woman was his for life!

Before she married, Emma too had thought she was in love, but the happiness that should have come from love was somehow missing. It seemed to her that she must have made a mistake, must have misunderstood things in one way or another. And as she stood by her bedroom window, morning after morning, Emma tried hard to understand what, exactly, the words joy, love, desire meant. They had always seemed so beautiful to her in books, but what did they mean in real life?

Novels had always seemed more real to her than the life she had to live. When she was at her convent school, a teacher sometimes secretly lent such books to the older girls. They were all about love, lovers, beautiful girls, ladies in danger, horses ridden till they dropped dead, dark forests, tears and kisses, and gentlemen as brave as lions. When she was fifteen, Emma read the works of Walter Scott for the first time and found she was happier in this imagined past than her rather boring present; the characters she read about in these books were much more interesting than the teachers and students she saw around her.

She had felt a thrill each time she blew back the thin paper which protected the pictures. She saw young men holding young women in white dresses in their arms, or English ladies with golden hair, who looked at you with big, bright eyes. In her reading she was able to listen to the sound of heavenly music and of falling leaves. Later, after her mother died, she even fell in love with the church and thought of staying in the convent, of never going out into the world. But in her last year of school, she began to lose her interest in religion. When her father took her away, her teachers were not sorry to see her go. She had, they thought, stopped showing any respect for their community.

On her return home, Emma tried to find an interest in managing her father’s house, but she soon grew tired of the country and wished herself back in her convent. When Charles came to Les Bertaux for the first time, she thought of herself as a disappointed woman, one for whom life had nothing new to offer, either in knowledge or experience. Maybe her wish for a change - possibly, too, the unrest caused by the presence of an unknown man - had been enough to make her believe that she was at last in love. But now she could not believe that her present state was the happiness she had dreamed about.

Nevertheless, she sometimes thought that these were, in fact, the happiest days of her life. Of course, it would have been so much better if they could have gone far away to lands whose names fall like music on the ear, where the weddings of lovers are followed by mornings of soft delight and where, when the sun goes down, you breathe, sitting beside the sea, the sweet perfume of the lemon trees. Why did her bedroom window not look out on to the Swiss or Scottish mountains? Why did her husband not stand beside her in a black silk jacket, the wind blowing his long hair back from his pale, white forehead?

But Charles could not read these thoughts, and was not able to share her dreams, and as their lives became closer Emma, in fact, began to have a secret feeling of distance from her husband. Charles’s conversation was uninteresting to her. He told her that when he lived in Rouen he never had the smallest desire to go to the theatre. He could not swim, he had no idea of how to use a sword, he could not fire a gun. He knew nothing, and he wanted nothing. He thought she was happy, and his heavy, comfortable happiness had begun to annoy her.

A few weeks after they came to Tostes, one of Charles’s patients presented Madame with a little Italian hunting dog. She took it with her for walks, because she used to go out sometimes just to get a few moments to herself and to enjoy a change from the garden and the dusty road.

She would go as far as the woods near Banneville, along by the empty summer house at the end of the wall, towards the open country. There, at the side of the lake, the plants grew higher than a man and had leaves as sharp as knives. Sitting at the edge of the wood among the pink and blue wild flowers, her thoughts would wander here and there, like her dog, which ran from one place to the next chasing the birds and insects. But in the same way that her dog always came back to her, she always came back to the same question: ‘My God, why did I marry him?’

She would then call Djali (the name she had given her dog) to come to her and, stroking her long, graceful head, would say, ‘Come, kiss your mistress; you have no worries, have you?’

Then she would look into the creature’s beautiful, sad eyes, and a feeling of tenderness would come over her. Pretending the animal was herself, she would talk to her aloud as if she were comforting someone.

Towards the end of September, however, an extraordinary event happened in her life: she was invited to La Vaubyessard, the home of the Marquis d’Andervilliers. The Marquis, who had been a Minister in the national government, wanted to get back into politics, and he was now doing his best to make himself popular. During the winter months he had given firewood to the poor, and he was always the first to demand new roads for his district. During the summer, he had had a painful mouth infection, which Charles had managed to cure before it became really serious. The servant who was sent to Tostes to pay for the treatment told his master, when he got back, that he had seen some splendid cherries in the doctor’s little garden. Cherries did not grow well at La Vaubyessard, and the Marquis asked Bovary to let him have a few baskets. He then decided to come in person to thank the doctor, saw Emma, and noted that she had a pretty figure and good manners. After this, the Marquis decided that he would not harm his chances in the coming vote if he sent the young people an invitation to his house.

And so, one Wednesday at three o’clock, Monsieur and Madame Bovary set off in their carriage to La Vaubyessard, with a big travelling bag tied on behind, and a hatbox fixed in front. They arrived when it was getting dark, just as the lamps were being lit in the park to guide the carriages. The Chateau la Vaubyessard, a large building in sixteenth-century style, stood in the centre of parkland. A stream flowed between tall trees and beneath a bridge, and through the evening mist they could see cottages and farm buildings. Charles stopped the carriage at the foot of the steps leading up to the front door, and two servants came down to take their bags. Then the Marquis came forward and, offering his arm to the doctor’s lady, walked with her into the hall.

Under the high ceiling, their voices and footsteps sounded as if they were in a church. As she passed through on her way to the main room, Emma saw large, dark paintings of the Marquis’s relatives, some in the clothes of the royal court, others in the uniforms of army or navy officers. When the Marquis opened the door for them, one of the ladies rose (it was the Marquise herself) and came forward to welcome Emma. She made her sit down beside her on a low chair, and began to chat with her, as if she had known her for a long time.

At seven o’clock dinner was served. The men were seated at the first table, in the hall, the ladies at the second, in the dining room, with the Marquis and the Marquise. At the long dining tables, the glasses were filled with iced champagne. Emma felt a thrill go through her as she tasted the coldness of it in her mouth. She had never seen some of the fruit that they had on the table, and even the sugar seemed whiter here, and more finely powdered, than elsewhere.

After dinner, there was dancing. More guests were arriving and the room filled with people. Emma sat down near the door and watched the men talking and smoking cigars in small groups in their black and white evening dress, as the servants moved among them carrying drinks and more small, delicate things to eat. All along the rows of seated women she could see smiles half-hidden, half-revealed, by the flowers the ladies held; everywhere there was silk, the flash of jewels and gold, white arms, and hair piled high on elegant heads.

Emma’s heart beat faster when, her partner holding her by the tips of her fingers, she took her place in line and stood waiting for the dance to begin. But her nervousness soon disappeared and, moving to the music, she flew on as light as a bird. The memories of her past life, which until then had always been so clear, disappeared so completely in the magic of the moment that she could hardly persuade herself they were not a dream. There she was. No doubt about that!

During a break in the dancing supper was served, and again the wine flowed freely, accompanied by sea-food soup, sweet puddings and all kinds of cold meats. Now people with longer journeys began to get into their carriages and drive off one after another. Charles was half-asleep with his back against a door. But not everyone was ready to leave, and it was at three in the morning when the last dance began.

Only the guests who were staying the night at the chateau were still there. One of these, a Viscount whose evening dress fitted him like a glove, came a second time to invite Madame Bovary to dance. They began slowly, and then increased their speed. They turned, and everything around them turned - the lamps, the furniture and the floor. As they swung past the doors, Emma’s dress blew up in the air. The Viscount looked down at her, she raised her eyes to his; for a moment she lost her breath and stopped. Then off they went again, quicker than ever, racing down to the high windows at the far end of the room, where she nearly fell and, for a moment, rested her head on his chest. And then, still turning, but more gently now, he took her to her seat. She leaned back against the wall and covered her eyes with her hands. Then there was a little more conversation and, after saying goodnight (or good morning), the guests went off to bed.

Charles dragged himself upstairs on heavy legs. But Emma did not want to sleep. She opened the window and sat with her head in her hand. The night was dark. A few drops of rain were falling. She breathed in the damp wind that blew cool against her eyelids. The dance music was still playing in her ears, and she tried to keep awake in order to keep the dream alive for as long as she could. As she stood there, the sun began to rise beyond the trees and she shivered with cold. She undressed and got down between the sheets, close up to Charles, who was asleep.

There were twelve or fifteen of them at breakfast, which, to Charles’s surprise, was all over in ten minutes. After that, a small group went with Mademoiselle d’Andervilliers for a walk through the park, and then, to amuse the lady, the Marquis took Emma to see his stables, while Charles went to ask one of the men to bring his horse and carriage.

When Emma returned, the Bovarys said their goodbyes to the Marquis and Marquise and turned their horse’s head towards Tostes and home. Emma sat in silence. Their bags banged against the back of the carriage as they made their way down the rough road. They had reached the high ground at Thibourville when suddenly a group of gentlemen, laughing and smoking cigars, rode past them. Emma thought she recognized the Viscount who had danced with her last night. She turned round to have another look, but they were already too far away.

A little later, they had to stop to make a small repair to the carriage. When he had finished, Charles noticed something lying on the ground between his horse’s legs. He bent down and picked up a beautifully-made green silk cigar-case with two cigars still inside it.

‘They’ll be good this evening after dinner.’

He put the case in his pocket and started the horse.

When they got home, the evening meal was not ready. Madame became angry and the maid, Nastasie, replied rudely.

‘You can leave,’ said Emma. ‘You are finished here!’

So all they had for dinner was onion soup with a small piece of meat and some vegetables.

‘How nice it is to be back home again!’ said Charles, cheerfully rubbing his hands as he sat down opposite Emma.

They could hear Nastasie weeping as they ate. Charles was rather fond of the poor girl, who had kept him company after his first wife died, when he had nothing to do. She had been his first patient, the first person he ever got to know in Tostes.

‘Have you really told her to leave?’ he said at last.

‘Yes. Why not?’ she replied.

After supper, they went into the kitchen to warm themselves while the bedroom was being prepared. Charles began to smoke. He pushed out his lips, spat repeatedly, and pulled his head back every time he breathed in the smoke from the cigar.

‘You’ll make yourself ill!’ she said.

He put the cigar down, and went to get himself a drink of water. Quick as lightning, Emma picked up the cigar-case and threw it into the back of the cupboard.

Time went so slowly the next day! Emma walked around her little garden, up and down, up and down, stopping to look at the flower-beds, at the fruit trees; looking at all these familiar things, things that she knew so well but which now seemed so strange. How far away the chateau seemed already! Her journey to La Vaubyessard had changed her life, but left it feeling empty. However, she accepted her fate. She folded up her beautiful dress and laid it carefully away in the chest of drawers, with her dancing shoes. She had now known wealth and luxury, and life would never be the same.

The memory of this visit to the chateau became part of her life. Each Wednesday she would sigh as she awoke and say to herself, ‘A week ago today… a fortnight ago… three weeks ago, I was there!’ But little by little the faces of the people became faint in her memory, and she forgot the tunes she had danced to. The servants’ clothes, the look of the rooms came back less clearly to her vision. Some of the details faded away, but the empty space in her heart remained.

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