فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Starting Again

The next day, for Emma, was like a funeral. She felt the same grey unhappiness she had known when she came back from La Vaubyessard with the dance tunes playing in her head and her boring husband sitting opposite her. In her imagination, Leon came back to her, taller, more beautiful than ever; though he was separated from her, he had not left her. He was there, and the walls of the house seemed to hold his shadow. She asked herself again and again why she had not taken the chance when it was offered to her. Why hadn’t she held him back with both hands, begged and prayed to him on her knees, when he tried to leave? She cursed herself for not giving her love to Leon; she was thirsty for his lips. She wanted to fly after him and join him, to throw herself into his arms and say, ‘I have come, I am yours!’ But Emma was afraid of all the difficulties in the way; she wanted Leon and dared not give herself, and her desire seemed to grow day by day.

And so the memory of Leon became the centre of her sorrow. It shone in the darkness, and she hurried towards it to warm herself by the dying flames. But the fires died down and, little by little, the flame of love cooled. Then the unhappy days of Tostes began all over again, but she felt herself much more unfortunate now; she had experience of grief, and she knew with certainty that it would never end.

A woman who has given up as much as she had, had the right to a few luxuries. In a single month, she bought fourteen francs’ worth of lemons to clean her nails. She wrote to Rouen and ordered a blue silk dress, and from Lheureux she bought the finest scarf he had in his shop. She tied it round her waist, outside her dressing-gown, and would lie by the hour on the sofa with the curtains closed and a book in her hand.

But despite her little comforts, Emma did not become happy. She had that tight look at the corners of her mouth which you see in people who have failed in their lives. She was pale, white as a sheet, and she had an uncertain, hunted look in her eyes. And because she had discovered three grey hairs, she talked about being an old woman. Also, she had frequent attacks of dizziness. One day she spat blood and, as Charles rushed over to her, obviously very anxious, all she said was, ‘Bah! What does it matter?’ Charles went and shut himself in the surgery and wept.

Although the Bovary household had become a place of unhappiness again, life in Yonville continued as usual. People went to the church on Sundays, and on Wednesdays the market was held in the town square. From early morning the square filled up with farmers and people with goods to sell from as far as Rouen.

On Wednesdays the pharmacy never emptied. Some came to buy medicine, others to get advice. Monsieur Homais was a well-known man in all the villages near Yonville, and they thought he knew more about doctoring than all the doctors put together. Emma was seated at her window and was amusing herself by looking at the crowd of country people, when she noticed a gentleman in a green coat. He was wearing yellow gloves and heavy, highly polished brown leather boots, and was making his way towards the doctor’s house, followed by a farm worker.

‘Can I see the doctor?’ he asked the maid. ‘Tell him Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger of La Huchette is here.’

Charles came into the room, and Monsieur Boulanger presented his man, who said he wanted to be bled to cure his dizziness. So Bovary told them to bring him a bandage and a basin, and asked the maid to hold it.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, turning to the farm worker, who had gone as white as a sheet.

‘Not me, sir!’ he replied. And he stuck out a great arm for Charles to cut, and out shot the blood.

‘Hold the bowl nearer!’ cried Charles.

‘Look!’ said the worker. ‘You’d think it was a little fountain. My blood’s red enough! You’d say that was a good sign now, wouldn’t you?’

‘Sometimes they feel nothing to start with. Then faintness begins, especially with big, strong people like this man here,’ said Charles to Monsieur Boulanger.

Hearing this, the man gave a sudden movement and fell back into the chair.

‘I knew it!’ said Bovary, putting his finger on the vein. But now the bowl of blood was beginning to shake in the maid’s hands, and she also turned pale.

‘Emma! Quick! I want you!’ shouted Charles.

She ran down the stairs.

‘Get me some vinegar,’ he said. ‘Good Lord, two of them at once!’

‘It’s nothing at all,’ said Monsieur Boulanger calmly, as he took the maid in his arms and leaned her against the wall.

Madame Bovary took hold of the basin. She bent down to put it under the table, and as she did so her long yellow dress spread out all around her on the floor. Then, as she stretched out her arm, she swayed a little and the cloth moved with her, following the shape of the body beneath it. After a moment she went to fetch a jug of water, and she was putting some pieces of sugar in it when the pharmacist arrived to see what was happening.

When things had become calmer, they began to talk about fainting attacks. Madame Bovary said she had never had one herself.

‘That’s unusual for a woman,’ commented Monsieur Boulanger. ‘But there are some sensitive people around. I have seen soldiers faint at the sound of the big guns being prepared.’ Emma listened to him with admiration in her eyes. ‘Anyway, my man’s fainting has given me the pleasure of meeting Madame,’ he added, looking at Emma as he spoke.

He put down three francs on the corner of the table, bowed and departed. He was soon on the other side of the river, on the road back to La Huchette, and from the bedroom window Emma could see him slowing down from time to time, like someone lost in thought.

‘Pretty little woman, this doctor’s wife - very pretty indeed! Lovely teeth, dark eyes, neat foot. She could be a Parisian. Where does she come from, and where did our fat country doctor pick her up?’ Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger was a man of thirty-four, hard-hearted but clever. He had plenty of experience with women, and knew how to get on with them. This latest one had attracted his attention. ‘The doctor looks a dull dog to me. I expect she’s sick of him. He’s got dirty nails and three days’ beard. While he’s out seeing his patients, she sits at home mending socks. And she’s sick to death of it, wants to live in town and go to a dance every night. Poor little woman! She’s dying for love. A word or two about hearts and flowers and she’d be at your feet. But getting rid of her afterwards, that’s where the trouble would come in.’

There was no one around, and the only sounds Rodolphe heard were the grass brushing against his boots and the cry of the insects in the fields. Once more he imagined Emma, dressed as he had seen her, and he started to undress her in his mind.

‘Oh, I’ll have her!’ he cried, striking out at the earth with his stick.

Two weeks later it was the day of the famous Yonville Agricultural Show, the most important event of the year. On the morning of the great day, the inhabitants were all out on their doorsteps discussing the arrangements. The front of the Town Hall had been decorated, a tent had been put up for the lunch, and the whole town was alive with activity.

The crowd poured into the High Street from both ends of the village. What caused the greatest admiration were two tall poles covered with tiny lamps, standing beside the platform where the most important guests would sit. Madame Lefrancois, the landlady of the Lion d’Or, and Monsieur Homais, the pharmacist, stood on the steps of the hotel watching the growing crowd and the men going in and out of the Cafe de France - the main competition to the Lion d’Or.

‘Well, that won’t last much longer,’ she said. ‘One more week and that will be the end of it.’

Homais looked at her in surpise. She walked down her three steps.

‘What!’ she said, speaking into his ear. ‘Didn’t you know? They’re going to have to close down and move this week. It’s Lheureux that’s making them do it, he’s got them so deep into debt!’ And Madame Lefrancois began to tell Monsieur Homais how the draper had lent the owners of the Cafe de France more money than they could ever pay back, and now they were having to sell everything.

‘Look!’ she said. ‘There he is, Lheureux - over there, in the market. Look! He’s bowing to Madame Bovary. Do look! She’s got a green hat on. Do you see her? She’s leaning on Monsieur Boulanger’s arm.’

‘Madame Bovary!’ said Homais. ‘Oh, I must go over and say how do you do to her! She might like to have a seat on the platform.’

Rodolphe saw him coming and walked more quickly but then, as Madame Bovary was getting out of breath, he slowed down.

‘I wanted to avoid that fool - you know, that chemist fellow,’ he said to her with a laugh.

Emma smiled at him.

‘What does that smile mean?’ he wondered. ‘Is she making fun of me?’ And he looked at her out of the corner of his eye as they walked on more quickly.

When they reached the corner, Rodolphe, instead of going right into the square, suddenly turned down a side-path, dragging Emma with him.

‘Good evening, Monsieur Lheureux,’ he called out. ‘See you later.’

‘You did that very well!’ said Emma, laughing.

‘Why should I let these people bother me? And today of all days, when I have the luck to be with you…’

Emma blushed. He did not finish his sentence. Then he remarked on the fine weather, and said how nice it was to walk on the grass where small yellow flowers had sprung up.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘young girls in love use these to see if they are loved. Suppose I picked one of these. What do you think it would tell me?’

‘Are you in love?’ she said, with a little cough.

‘Ah! Who knows?’ answered Rodolphe.

The market square and the fields around continued to fill up with people. The judging was now going on and the farmers, lined up one after another, were all crowding into a ring. There were the farm animals in a long, irregular line. Among the sleepy pigs and cows, bare-armed men were holding on to great male horses which pulled with all their strength in the direction of the females. These stood quite still, holding their heads down, while their young rested in their shadows.

By now, Emma and Monsieur Boulanger had come round to the field. They discussed the people they saw, how Paris was so much more interesting than a place like Yonville, and they laughed at the fashions of the farmers’ wives.

‘But anyway,’ he said, ‘when you live in the country -‘

‘What’s the point of looking good?’

‘I agree,’ answered Rodolphe. ‘Not one of these people knows when a coat is well cut and when it isn’t.’

And they agreed that life away from town was hardly worth living.

‘Which is why,’ said Rodolphe, ‘I am so sad at times.’

‘You!’ she broke in with amazement. ‘I thought you had nothing to worry about!’

‘Ah, yes, it seems so, but we cannot always show the world who we really are, our true selves. Whenever I look at a cemetery by moonlight, I ask myself if I wouldn’t be happier lying there asleep with the rest of them.’

‘But what about your friends? You don’t think of them.’

‘My friends? What friends? What friends have I got? Who cares about me?’

So they walked on arm in arm, ignoring the arrival of the guests of honour, Emma leaning against this strong man with such pain in his heart. As the crowd gathered to hear the speeches, Rodolphe, accompanied by Madame Bovary, went up on to the first floor of the Town Hall into the empty council meeting room. He fetched two chairs and, bringing them close up to the window, they sat down side by side.

As soon as the speeches began, people quietened down a little, and Emma leaned forward to see better.

‘I’d better get a bit farther back,’ said Rodolphe.

‘Why?’ asked Emma.

‘They might see me from down below. And then I would have to give explanations for at least a fortnight, and with my reputation…’

‘Oh, you’re making yourself sound much worse than you are,’ said Emma.

‘No, no; it’s horrible, I tell you!’

The voice of the next speaker went on like an angry insect in the hot sun.

‘But,’ added Rodolphe, ‘the world may be right.’

‘What do you mean?’ she asked.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘don’t you know that there are some people who are never at peace; people who desire dreams and action, the wildest pleasures - but after passion comes regret!’

She looked at him as if he were a traveller who has journeyed through strange and far-off lands.

‘We poor women, we never have such good reasons for regret,’ she said.

‘Ah, but to behave as badly as I have does not make you any happier!’

‘But does one ever find happiness?’

‘Yes, one day,’ he replied.

The speaker continued to praise the farmers, their animals and their rich fields. Some listened and some began to sleep in their seats, heads falling forward in the summer heat.

‘Yes,’ said Rodolphe, ‘you don’t have to think about it; one day you meet someone, and the horizon opens up in front of you. There are no more questions. It’s as if you have already met one another in your dreams.’ (Here he looked at Emma.) ‘There in front of you is the jewel you have been looking for; there before your eyes. Nevertheless, you dare not believe it; you cannot see clearly, it is as if you had just stepped out of the darkness into the light.’

And as he said this, Rodolphe passed his hand over his face, then he let it fall on Emma’s, who took hers away. Still the speaker read on, praising those who did their duty on the land.

‘Ah, there he goes again!’ said Rodolphe. ‘Duty, duty - always duty! I’m sick to death of the word! We must follow our hearts - that is our true duty!’

‘Yes, but - but -‘ said Madame Bovary, ‘don’t you also think we must follow the laws of society?’

‘Ah! But there are two laws,’ he replied. ‘There is the little, unimportant man-made law, always changing, made by fools like that one down there. And there is the other, which never changes and is all around us, like the countryside and the blue heavens that give us light.’

The whole square was now crowded with people. They could be seen leaning on their elbows at every window, others standing at their doors. In spite of the silence, the speaker’s voice was lost in the air. It rose in broken phrases, interrupted here and there by the sound of chairs on the stones.

Rodolphe had moved nearer to Emma, and said to her in a low voice, speaking rapidly, ‘Don’t society’s demands disgust you? The best feelings, the purest thoughts are attacked, controlled, and if at last two souls do meet, they cannot unite. They will try, they will call out to each other. But sooner or later - in six months, ten years - they will come together, they will love; they are born for each other.’

Lifting his face towards Emma, he looked closely at her. She noticed in his eyes small golden lines coming from the dark centre, she smelt the perfume on his hair, and she half closed her eyes to breathe it in. She took off her gloves, she wiped her hands, then tried to cool her face with her handkerchief. Through the sound of her blood beating in her ears, she heard the sound of the crowd and the voice of the speaker telling them to work harder, to be good citizens.

Now Rodolphe took her hand and she did not take it away. As the names of the prize winners in the show were read out below, he told her he had never loved anyone before her, and he would love her for the rest of his life. He pressed her hand, and felt its warmth and life - like a bird held for a moment, perhaps trying to escape, perhaps responding.

‘Oh, thank you, thank you!’ he cried. ‘You do not reject me. How sweet you are! You know that I am yours.’

Suddenly the wind rose, shaking the curtains and causing the peasant women in the square to hold on to the wings of their white hats. The speaker began to speak more quickly, more enthusiastically, but neither Rodolphe nor Emma were listening. They sat and looked into each other’s eyes. Their lips were dry, their bodies full of desire, and Emma no longer felt a need to resist. Down in the square the speakers continued, the prizes were given. The celebrations would be over soon.

Madame Bovary took Rodolphe’s arm, and he walked with her back to her house. They said goodbye at her front door, after which he went and walked in the fields near the river.

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