She asked herself as she walked along, “What am I going to say? How shall I begin?” And as she went on she recognised the thickets, the trees, the sea-rushes on the hill, the chateau yonder. All the sensations of her first tenderness came back to her, and her poor aching heart opened out amorously. A warm wind blew in her face; the melting snow fell drop by drop from the buds to the grass.
She entered, as she used to, through the small park-gate. She reached the avenue bordered by a double row of dense lime-trees. They were swaying their long whispering branches to and fro. The dogs in their kennels all barked, and the noise of their voices resounded, but brought out no one.
She went up the large straight staircase with wooden balusters that led to the corridor paved with dusty flags, into which several doors in a row opened, as in a monastery or an inn. His was at the top, right at the end, on the left. When she placed her fingers on the lock her strength suddenly deserted her. She was afraid, almost wished he would not be there, though this was her only hope, her last chance of salvation. She collected her thoughts for one moment, and, strengthening herself by the feeling of present necessity, went in.
He was in front of the fire, both his feet on the mantelpiece, smoking a pipe.
“What! it is you!” he said, getting up hurriedly.
“Yes, it is I, Rodolphe. I should like to ask your advice.”
And, despite all her efforts, it was impossible for her to open her lips.
“You have not changed; you are charming as ever!”
“Oh,” she replied bitterly, “they are poor charms since you disdained them.”
Then he began a long explanation of his conduct, excusing himself in vague terms, in default of being able to invent better.
She yielded to his words, still more to his voice and the sight of him, so that, she pretended to believe, or perhaps believed; in the pretext he gave for their rupture; this was a secret on which depended the honour, the very life of a third person.
“No matter!” she said, looking at him sadly. “I have suffered much.”
He replied philosophically –
“Such is life!”
“Has life,” Emma went on, “been good to you at least, since our separation?”
“Oh, neither good nor bad.”
“Perhaps it would have been better never to have parted.”
“You think so?” she said, drawing nearer, and she sighed. “Oh, Rodolphe! if you but knew! I loved you so!”
It was then that she took his hand, and they remained some time, their fingers intertwined, like that first day at the Show. With a gesture of pride he struggled against this emotion. But sinking upon his breast she said to him –
“How did you think I could live without you? One cannot lose the habit of happiness. I was desolate. I thought I should die. I will tell you about all that and you will see. And you – you fled from me!”
For, all the three years, he had carefully avoided her in consequence of that natural cowardice that characterises the stronger sex. Emma went on, with dainty little nods, more coaxing than an amorous kitten –
“You love others, confess it! Oh, I understand them, dear! I excuse them. You probably seduced them as you seduced me. You are indeed a man; you have everything to make one love you. But we’ll begin again, won’t we? We will love one another. See! I am laughing; I am happy! Oh, speak!”
And she was charming to see, with her eyes, in which trembled a tear, like the rain of a storm in a blue corolla.
He had drawn her upon his knees, and with the back of his hand was caressing her smooth hair, where in the twilight was mirrored like a golden arrow one last ray of the sun. She bent down her brow; at last he kissed her on the eyelids quite gently with the tips of his lips.
“Why, you have been crying! What for?”
She burst into tears. Rodolphe thought this was an outburst of her love. As she did not speak, he took this silence for a last remnant of resistance, and then he cried out –
“Oh, forgive me! You are the only one who pleases me. I was imbecile and cruel. I love you. I will love you always. What is it. Tell me!” He was kneeling by her.
“Well, I am ruined, Rodolphe! You must lend me three thousand francs.”
“But – but – ” said he, getting up slowly, while his face assumed a grave expression.
“You know,” she went on quickly, “that my husband had placed his whole fortune at a notary’s. He ran away. So we borrowed; the patients don’t pay us. Moreover, the settling of the estate is not yet done; we shall have the money later on. But to-day, for want of three thousand francs, we are to be sold up. It is to be at once, this very moment, and, counting upon your friendship, I have come to you.”
“Ah!” thought Rodolphe, turning very pale, “that was what she came for.” At last he said with a calm air –
“Dear madame, I have not got them.”
He did not lie. If he had had them, he would, no doubt, have given them, although it is generally disagreeable to do such fine things: a demand for money being, of all the winds that blow upon love, the coldest and most destructive.
First she looked at him for some moments.
“You have not got them!” she repeated several times. “You have not got them! I ought to have spared myself this last shame. You never loved me. You are no better than the others.”
She was betraying, ruining herself.
Rodolphe interrupted her, declaring he was “hard up” himself.
“Ah! I pity you,” said Emma. “Yes – very much.”
And fixing her eyes upon an embossed carabine, that shone against its panoply, “But when one is so poor one doesn’t have silver on the butt of one’s gun. One doesn’t buy a clock inlaid with tortoise shell,” she went on, pointing to a buhl timepiece, “nor silver-gilt whistles for one’s whips,” and she touched them, “nor charms for one’s watch. Oh, he wants for nothing! even to a liqueur-stand in his room! For you love yourself; you live well. You have a chateau, farms, woods; you go hunting; you travel to Paris. Why, if it were but that,” she cried, taking up two studs from the mantelpiece, “but the least of these trifles, one can get money for them. Oh, I do not want them, keep them!”
And she threw the two links away from her, their gold chain breaking as it struck against the wall.
“But I! I would have given you everything. I would have sold all, worked for you with my hands, I would have begged on the highroads for a smile, for a look, to hear you say ‘Thanks!’ And you sit there quietly in your arm-chair, as if you had not made me suffer enough already! But for you, and you know it, I might have lived happily. What made you do it? Was it a bet? Yet you loved me – you said so. And but a moment since – Ah! it would have been better to have driven me away. My hands are hot with your kisses, and there is the spot on the carpet where at my knees you swore an eternity of love! You made me believe you; for two years you held me in the most magnificent, the sweetest dream! Eh! Our plans for the journey, do you remember? Oh, your letter! your letter! it tore my heart! And then when I come back to him – to him, rich, happy, free – to implore the help the first stranger would give, a suppliant, and bringing back to him all my tenderness, he repulses me because it would cost him three thousand francs!”
“I haven’t got them,” replied Rodolphe, with that perfect calm with which resigned rage covers itself as with a shield.
She went out. The walls trembled, the ceiling was crushing her, and she passed back through the long alley, stumbling against the heaps of dead leaves scattered by the wind. At last she reached the ha-ha hedge in front of the gate; she broke her nails against the lock in her haste to open it. Then a hundred steps farther on, breathless, almost falling, she stopped. And now turning round, she once more saw the impassive chateau, with the park, the gardens, the three courts, and all the windows of the facade.
She remained lost in stupor, and having no more consciousness of herself than through the beating of her arteries, that she seemed to hear bursting forth like a deafening music filling all the fields. The earth beneath her feet was more yielding than the sea, and the furrows seemed to her immense brown waves breaking into foam. Everything in her head, of memories, ideas, went off at once like a thousand pieces of fireworks. She saw her father, Lheureux’s closet, their room at home, another landscape. Madness was coming upon her; she grew afraid, and managed to recover herself, in a confused way, it is true, for she did not in the least remember the cause of the terrible condition she was in, that is to say, the question of money. She suffered only in her love, and felt her soul passing from her in this memory; as wounded men, dying, feel their life ebb from their bleeding wounds.
Night was falling, crows were flying about.
Suddenly it seemed to her that fiery spheres were exploding in the air like fulminating balls when they strike, and were whirling, whirling, to melt at last upon the snow between the branches of the trees. In the midst of each of them appeared the face of Rodolphe. They multiplied and drew near her, penetrating, her. It all disappeared; she recognised the lights of the houses that shone through the fog.
Now her situation, like an abyss, rose up before her. She was panting as if her heart would burst. Then in an ecstasy of heroism, that made her almost joyous, she ran down the hill, crossed the cow-plank, the foot-path, the alley, the market, and reached the chemist’s shop. She was about to enter, but at the sound of the bell someone might come, and slipping in by the gate, holding her breath, feeling her way along the walls, she went as far as the door of the kitchen, where a candle stuck on the stove was burning. Justin in his shirt-sleeves was carrying out a dish.
“Ah! they are dining; I will wait.”
He returned; she tapped at the window. He went out.
“The key! the one for upstairs where he keeps the – ”
And he looked at her, astonished at the pallor of her face, that stood out white against the black background of the night. She seemed to him extraordinarily beautiful and majestic as a phantom. Without understanding what she wanted, he had the presentiment of something terrible.
But she went on quickly in a love voice; in a sweet, melting voice, “I want it; give it to me.”
As the partition wall was thin, they could hear the clatter of the forks on the plates in the dining-room.
She pretended that she wanted to kill the rats that kept her from sleeping.
“I must tell master.”
“No, stay!” Then with an indifferent air, “Oh, it’s not worth while; I’ll tell him presently. Come, light me upstairs.”
She entered the corridor into which the laboratory door opened. Against the wall was a key labelled Capharnaum.
“Justin!” called the druggist impatiently.
“Let us go up.”
And he followed her. The key turned in the lock, and she went straight to the third shelf, so well did her memory guide her, seized the blue jar, tore out the cork, plunged in her hand, and withdrawing it full of a white powder, she began eating it.
“Stop!” he cried, rushing at her.
“Hush! someone will come.”
He was in despair, was calling out.
“Say nothing, or all the blame will fall on your master.”
Then she went home, suddenly calmed, and with something of the serenity of one that had performed a duty.
When Charles, distracted by the news of the distraint, returned home, Emma had just gone out. He cried aloud, wept, fainted, but she did not return. Where could she be? He sent Félicité to Homais, to Monsieur Tuvache, to Lheureux, to the “Lion d’Or,” everywhere, and in the intervals of his agony he saw his reputation destroyed, their fortune lost, Berthe’s future ruined. By what? – Not a word! He waited till six in the evening. At last, unable to bear it any longer, and fancying she had gone to Rouen, he set out along the highroad, walked a mile, met no one, again waited, and returned home. She had come back.
“What was the matter? Why? Explain to me.”
She sat down at her writing-table and wrote a letter, which she sealed slowly, adding the date and the hour. Then she said in a solemn tone:
“You are to read it to-morrow; till then, I pray you, do not ask me a single question. No, not one!”
“But – ”
“Oh, leave me!”
She lay down full length on her bed. A bitter taste that she felt in her mouth awakened her. She saw Charles, and again closed her eyes.
She was studying herself curiously, to see if she were not suffering. But no! nothing as yet. She heard the ticking of the clock, the crackling of the fire, and Charles breathing as he stood upright by her bed.
“Ah! it is but a little thing, death!” she thought. “I shall fall asleep and all will be over.”
She drank a mouthful of water and turned to the wall. The frightful taste of ink continued.
“I am thirsty; oh! so thirsty,” she sighed.
“What is it?” said Charles, who was handing her a glass.
“It is nothing! Open the window; I am choking.”
She was seized with a sickness so sudden that she had hardly time to draw out her handkerchief from under the pillow.
“Take it away,” she said quickly; “throw it away.”
He spoke to her; she did not answer. She lay motionless, afraid that the slightest movement might make her vomit. But she felt an icy cold creeping from her feet to her heart.
“Ah! it is beginning,” she murmured.
“What did you say?”
She turned her head from side to side with a gentle movement full of agony, while constantly opening her mouth as if something very heavy were weighing upon her tongue. At eight o’clock the vomiting began again.
Charles noticed that at the bottom of the basin there was a sort of white sediment sticking to the sides of the porcelain.
“This is extraordinary – very singular,” he repeated.
But she said in a firm voice, “No, you are mistaken.”
Then gently, and almost as caressing her, he passed his hand over her stomach. She uttered a sharp cry. He fell back terror-stricken.
Then she began to groan, faintly at first. Her shoulders were shaken by a strong shuddering, and she was growing paler than the sheets in which her clenched fingers buried themselves. Her unequal pulse was now almost imperceptible.
Drops of sweat oozed from her bluish face, that seemed as if rigid in the exhalations of a metallic vapour. Her teeth chattered, her dilated eyes looked vaguely about her, and to all questions she replied only with a shake of the head; she even smiled once or twice. Gradually, her moaning grew louder; a hollow shriek burst from her; she pretended she was better and that she would get up presently. But she was seized with convulsions and cried out –
“Ah! my God! It is horrible!”
He threw himself on his knees by her bed.
“Tell me! what have you eaten? Answer, for heaven’s sake!”
And he looked at her with a tenderness in his eyes such as she had never seen.
“Well, there – there!” she said in a faint voice. He flew to the writing-table, tore open the seal, and read aloud: “Accuse no one.” He stopped, passed his hands across his eyes, and read it over again.
“What! help – help!”
He could only keep repeating the word: “Poisoned! poisoned!” Félicité ran to Homais, who proclaimed it in the market-place; Madame Lefrancois heard it at the “Lion d’Or”; some got up to go and tell their neighbours, and all night the village was on the alert.
Distraught, faltering, reeling, Charles wandered about the room. He knocked against the furniture, tore his hair, and the chemist had never believed that there could be so terrible a sight.
He went home to write to Monsieur Canivet and to Doctor Lariviere. He lost his head, and made more than fifteen rough copies. Hippolyte went to Neufchâtel, and Justin so spurred Bovary’s horse that he left it foundered and three parts dead by the hill at Bois-Guillaume.
Charles tried to look up his medical dictionary, but could not read it; the lines were dancing.
“Be calm,” said the druggist; “we have only to administer a powerful antidote. What is the poison?”
Charles showed him the letter. It was arsenic.
“Very well,” said Homais, “we must make an analysis.”
For he knew that in cases of poisoning an analysis must be made; and the other, who did not understand, answered –
“Oh, do anything! save her!”
Then going back to her, he sank upon the carpet, and lay there with his head leaning against the edge of her bed, sobbing.
“Don’t cry,” she said to him. “Soon I shall not trouble you any more.”
“Why was it? Who drove you to it?”
She replied. “It had to be, my dear!”
“Weren’t you happy? Is it my fault? I did all I could!”
“Yes, that is true – you are good – you.”
And she passed her hand slowly over his hair. The sweetness of this sensation deepened his sadness; he felt his whole being dissolving in despair at the thought that he must lose her, just when she was confessing more love for him than ever. And he could think of nothing; he did not know, he did not dare; the urgent need for some immediate resolution gave the finishing stroke to the turmoil of his mind.
So she had done, she thought, with all the treachery; and meanness, and numberless desires that had tortured her. She hated no one now; a twilight dimness was settling upon her thoughts, and, of all earthly noises, Emma heard none but the intermittent lamentations of this poor heart, sweet and indistinct like the echo of a symphony dying away.
“Bring me the child,” she said, raising herself on her elbow.
“You are not worse, are you?” asked Charles.
The child, serious, and still half-asleep, was carried in on the servant’s arm in her long white nightgown, from which her bare feet peeped out. She looked wonderingly at the disordered room, and half-closed her eyes, dazzled by the candles burning on the table. They reminded her, no doubt, of the morning of New Year’s day and Mid-Lent, when thus awakened early by candle-light she came to her mother’s bed to fetch her presents, for she began saying –
“But where is it, mamma?” And as everybody was silent, “But I can’t see my little stocking.”
Félicité held her over the bed while she still kept looking towards the mantelpiece.
“Has nurse taken it?” she asked.
And at this name, that carried her back to the memory of her adulteries and her calamities, Madame Bovary turned away her head, as at the loathing of another bitterer poison that rose to her mouth. But Berthe remained perched on the bed.
“Oh, how big your eyes are, mamma! How pale you are! how hot you are!”
Her mother looked at her. “I am frightened!” cried the child, recoiling.
Emma took her hand to kiss it; the child struggled.
“That will do. Take her away,” cried Charles, who was sobbing in the alcove.
Then the symptoms ceased for a moment; she seemed less agitated; and at every insignificant word, at every respiration a little more easy, he regained hope. At last, when Canivet came in, he threw himself into his arms.
“Ah! it is you. Thanks! You are good! But she is better. See! look at her.”
His colleague was by no means of this opinion, and, as he said of himself, “never beating about the bush,” he prescribed, an emetic in order to empty the stomach completely.
She soon began vomiting blood. Her lips became drawn. Her limbs were convulsed, her whole body covered with brown spots, and her pulse slipped beneath the fingers like a stretched thread, like a harp-string nearly breaking.
After this she began to scream horribly. She cursed the poison, railed at it, and implored it to be quick, and thrust away with her stiffened arms everything that Charles, in more agony than herself, tried to make her drink. He stood up, his handkerchief to his lips, with a rattling sound in his throat, weeping, and choked by sobs that shook his whole body. Félicité was running hither and thither in the room. Homais, motionless, uttered great sighs; and Monsieur Canivet, always retaining his self-command, nevertheless began to feel uneasy.
“The devil! yet she has been purged, and from the moment that the cause ceases – ”
“The effect must cease,” said Homais, “that is evident.”
“Oh, save her!” cried Bovary.
And, without listening to the chemist, who was still venturing the hypothesis, “It is perhaps a salutary paroxysm,” Canivet was about to administer some theriac, when they heard the cracking of a whip; all the windows rattled, and a post-chaise drawn by three horses abreast, up to their ears in mud, drove at a gallop round the corner of the market. It was Doctor Lariviere.
The apparition of a god would not have caused more commotion. Bovary raised his hands; Canivet stopped short; and Homais pulled off his skull-cap long before the doctor had come in.
He belonged to that great school of surgery begotten of Bichat, to that generation, now extinct, of philosophical practitioners, who, loving their art with a fanatical love, exercised it with enthusiasm and wisdom. Everyone in his hospital trembled when he was angry; and his students so revered him that they tried, as soon as they were themselves in practice, to imitate him as much as possible. So that in all the towns about they were found wearing his long wadded merino overcoat and black frock-coat, whose buttoned cuffs slightly covered his brawny hands – very beautiful hands, and that never knew gloves, as though to be more ready to plunge into suffering. Disdainful of honours, of titles, and of academies, like one of the old Knight-Hospitallers, generous, fatherly to the poor, and practising virtue without believing in it, he would almost have passed for a saint if the keenness of his intellect had not caused him to be feared as a demon. His glance, more penetrating than his bistouries, looked straight into your soul, and dissected every lie athwart all assertions and all reticences. And thus he went along, full of that debonair majesty that is given by the consciousness of great talent, of fortune, and of forty years of a labourious and irreproachable life.
He frowned as soon as he had passed the door when he saw the cadaverous face of Emma stretched out on her back with her mouth open. Then, while apparently listening to Canivet, he rubbed his fingers up and down beneath his nostrils, and repeated –
But he made a slow gesture with his shoulders. Bovary watched him; they looked at one another; and this man, accustomed as he was to the sight of pain, could not keep back a tear that fell on his shirt-frill.
He tried to take Canivet into the next room. Charles followed him.
“She is very ill, isn’t she? If we put on sinapisms? Anything! Oh, think of something, you who have saved so many!”
Charles caught him in both his arms, and gazed at him wildly, imploringly, half-fainting against his breast.
“Come, my poor fellow, courage! There is nothing more to be done.”
And Doctor Lariviere turned away.
“You are going?”
“I will come back.”
He went out only to give an order to the coachman, with Monsieur Canivet, who did not care either to have Emma die under his hands.
The chemist rejoined them on the Place. He could not by temperament keep away from celebrities, so he begged Monsieur Lariviere to do him the signal honour of accepting some breakfast.
He sent quickly to the “Lion d’Or” for some pigeons; to the butcher’s for all the cutlets that were to be had; to Tuvache for cream; and to Lestiboudois for eggs; and the druggist himself aided in the preparations, while Madame Homais was saying as she pulled together the strings of her jacket –
“You must excuse us, sir, for in this poor place, when one hasn’t been told the night before – ”
“Wine glasses!” whispered Homais.
“If only we were in town, we could fall back upon stuffed trotters.”
“Be quiet! Sit down, doctor!”
He thought fit, after the first few mouthfuls, to give some details as to the catastrophe.
“We first had a feeling of siccity in the pharynx, then intolerable pains at the epigastrium, super purgation, coma.”
“But how did she poison herself?”
“I don’t know, doctor, and I don’t even know where she can have procured the arsenious acid.”
Justin, who was just bringing in a pile of plates, began to tremble.
“What’s the matter?” said the chemist.
At this question the young man dropped the whole lot on the ground with a crash.
“Imbecile!” cried Homais, “awkward lout! block-head! confounded ass!”
But suddenly controlling himself –
“I wished, doctor, to make an analysis, and primo I delicately introduced a tube – ”
“You would have done better,” said the physician, “to introduce your fingers into her throat.”
His colleague was silent, having just before privately received a severe lecture about his emetic, so that this good Canivet, so arrogant and so verbose at the time of the clubfoot, was to-day very modest. He smiled without ceasing in an approving manner.
Homais dilated in Amphytrionic pride, and the affecting thought of Bovary vaguely contributed to his pleasure by a kind of egotistic reflex upon himself. Then the presence of the doctor transported him. He displayed his erudition, cited pell-mell cantharides, upas, the manchineel, vipers.
“I have even read that various persons have found themselves under toxicological symptoms, and, as it were, thunderstricken by black-pudding that had been subjected to a too vehement fumigation. At least, this was stated in a very fine report drawn up by one of our pharmaceutical chiefs, one of our masters, the illustrious Cadet de Gassicourt!”
Madame Homais reappeared, carrying one of those shaky machines that are heated with spirits of wine; for Homais liked to make his coffee at table, having, moreover, torrefied it, pulverised it, and mixed it himself.
“Saccharum, doctor?” said he, offering the sugar.
Then he had all his children brought down, anxious to have the physician’s opinion on their constitutions.
At last Monsieur Lariviere was about to leave, when Madame Homais asked for a consultation about her husband. He was making his blood too thick by going to sleep every evening after dinner.
“Oh, it isn’t his blood that’s too thick,” said the physician.
And, smiling a little at his unnoticed joke, the doctor opened the door. But the chemist’s shop was full of people; he had the greatest difficulty in getting rid of Monsieur Tuvache, who feared his spouse would get inflammation of the lungs, because she was in the habit of spitting on the ashes; then of Monsieur Binet, who sometimes experienced sudden attacks of great hunger; and of Madame Caron, who suffered from tinglings; of Lheureux, who had vertigo; of Lestiboudois, who had rheumatism; and of Madame Lefrancois, who had heartburn. At last the three horses started; and it was the general opinion that he had not shown himself at all obliging.
Public attention was distracted by the appearance of Monsieur Bournisien, who was going across the market with the holy oil.
Homais, as was due to his principles, compared priests to ravens attracted by the odour of death. The sight of an ecclesiastic was personally disagreeable to him, for the cassock made him think of the shroud, and he detested the one from some fear of the other.
Nevertheless, not shrinking from what he called his mission, he returned to Bovary’s in company with Canivet whom Monsieur Lariviere, before leaving, had strongly urged to make this visit; and he would, but for his wife’s objections, have taken his two sons with him, in order to accustom them to great occasions; that this might be a lesson, an example, a solemn picture, that should remain in their heads later on.
The room when they went in was full of mournful solemnity. On the work-table, covered over with a white cloth, there were five or six small balls of cotton in a silver dish, near a large crucifix between two lighted candles.
Emma, her chin sunken upon her breast, had her eyes inordinately wide open, and her poor hands wandered over the sheets with that hideous and soft movement of the dying, that seems as if they wanted already to cover themselves with the shroud. Pale as a statue and with eyes red as fire, Charles, not weeping, stood opposite her at the foot of the bed, while the priest, bending one knee, was muttering words in a low voice.
She turned her face slowly, and seemed filled with joy on seeing suddenly the violet stole, no doubt finding again, in the midst of a temporary lull in her pain, the lost voluptuousness of her first mystical transports, with the visions of eternal beatitude that were beginning.
The priest rose to take the crucifix; then she stretched forward her neck as one who is athirst, and glueing her lips to the body of the Man-God, she pressed upon it with all her expiring strength the fullest kiss of love that she had ever given. Then he recited the Misereatur and the Indulgentiam, dipped his right thumb in the oil, and began to give extreme unction. First upon the eyes, that had so coveted all worldly pomp; then upon the nostrils, that had been greedy of the warm breeze and amorous odours; then upon the mouth, that had uttered lies, that had curled with pride and cried out in lewdness; then upon the hands that had delighted in sensual touches; and finally upon the soles of the feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and that would now walk no more.
The cure wiped his fingers, threw the bit of cotton dipped in oil into the fire, and came and sat down by the dying woman, to tell her that she must now blend her sufferings with those of Jesus Christ and abandon herself to the divine mercy.
Finishing his exhortations, he tried to place in her hand a blessed candle, symbol of the celestial glory with which she was soon to be surrounded. Emma, too weak, could not close her fingers, and the taper, but for Monsieur Bournisien would have fallen to the ground.
However, she was not quite so pale, and her face had an expression of serenity as if the sacrament had cured her.
The priest did not fail to point this out; he even explained to Bovary that the Lord sometimes prolonged the life of persons when he thought it meet for their salvation; and Charles remembered the day when, so near death, she had received the communion. Perhaps there was no need to despair, he thought.
In fact, she looked around her slowly, as one awakening from a dream; then in a distinct voice she asked for her looking-glass, and remained some time bending over it, until the big tears fell from her eyes. Then she turned away her head with a sigh and fell back upon the pillows.
Her chest soon began panting rapidly; the whole of her tongue protruded from her mouth; her eyes, as they rolled, grew paler, like the two globes of a lamp that is going out, so that one might have thought her already dead but for the fearful labouring of her ribs, shaken by violent breathing, as if the soul were struggling to free itself. Félicité knelt down before the crucifix, and the druggist himself slightly bent his knees, while Monsieur Canivet looked out vaguely at the Place. Bournisien had again begun to pray, his face bowed against the edge of the bed, his long black cassock trailing behind him in the room. Charles was on the other side, on his knees, his arms outstretched towards Emma. He had taken her hands and pressed them, shuddering at every beat of her heart, as at the shaking of a falling ruin. As the death-rattle became stronger the priest prayed faster; his prayers mingled with the stifled sobs of Bovary, and sometimes all seemed lost in the muffled murmur of the Latin syllables that tolled like a passing bell.
Suddenly on the pavement was heard a loud noise of clogs and the clattering of a stick; and a voice rose – a raucous voice – that sang –
“Maids in the warmth of a summer day Dream of love and of love always”
Emma raised herself like a galvanised corpse, her hair undone, her eyes fixed, staring.
“Where the sickle blades have been, Nannette, gathering ears of corn, Passes bending down, my queen, To the earth where they were born.”
“The blind man!” she cried. And Emma began to laugh, an atrocious, frantic, despairing laugh, thinking she saw the hideous face of the poor wretch that stood out against the eternal night like a menace.
“The wind is strong this summer day, Her petticoat has flown away.”
She fell back upon the mattress in a convulsion. They all drew near. She was dead.
There is always after the death of anyone a kind of stupefaction; so difficult is it to grasp this advent of nothingness and to resign ourselves to believe in it. But still, when he saw that she did not move, Charles threw himself upon her, crying –
Homais and Canivet dragged him from the room.
“Yes.” said he, struggling, “I’ll be quiet. I’ll not do anything. But leave me alone. I want to see her. She is my wife!”
And he wept.
“Cry,” said the chemist; “let nature take her course; that will solace you.”
Weaker than a child, Charles let himself be led downstairs into the sitting-room, and Monsieur Homais soon went home. On the Place he was accosted by the blind man, who, having dragged himself as far as Yonville, in the hope of getting the antiphlogistic pomade, was asking every passer-by where the druggist lived.
“There now! as if I hadn’t got other fish to fry. Well, so much the worse; you must come later on.”
And he entered the shop hurriedly.
He had to write two letters, to prepare a soothing potion for Bovary, to invent some lie that would conceal the poisoning, and work it up into an article for the “Fanal,” without counting the people who were waiting to get the news from him; and when the Yonvillers had all heard his story of the arsenic that she had mistaken for sugar in making a vanilla cream. Homais once more returned to Bovary’s.
He found him alone (Monsieur Canivet had left), sitting in an arm-chair near the window, staring with an idiotic look at the flags of the floor.
“Now,” said the chemist, “you ought yourself to fix the hour for the ceremony.”
“Why? What ceremony?” Then, in a stammering, frightened voice, “Oh, no! not that. No! I want to see her here.”
Homais, to keep himself in countenance, took up a water-bottle on the whatnot to water the geraniums.
“Ah! thanks,” said Charles; “you are good.”
But he did not finish, choking beneath the crowd of memories that this action of the druggist recalled to him.
Then to distract him, Homais thought fit to talk a little horticulture: plants wanted humidity. Charles bowed his head in sign of approbation.
“Besides, the fine days will soon be here again.”
“Ah!” said Bovary.
The druggist, at his wit’s end, began softly to draw aside the small window-curtain.
“Hallo! there’s Monsieur Tuvache passing.”
Charles repeated like a machine – -
“Monsieur Tuvache passing!”
Homais did not dare to speak to him again about the funeral arrangements; it was the priest who succeeded in reconciling him to them.
He shut himself up in his consulting-room, took a pen, and after sobbing for some time, wrote –
“I wish her to be buried in her wedding-dress, with white shoes, and a wreath. Her hair is to be spread out over her shoulders. Three coffins, one of oak, one of mahogany, one of lead. Let no one say anything to me. I shall have strength. Over all there is to be placed a large piece of green velvet. This is my wish; see that it is done.”
The two men were much surprised at Bovary’s romantic ideas. The chemist at once went to him and said –
“This velvet seems to me a superfetation. Besides, the expense – ”
“What’s that to you?” cried Charles. “Leave me! You did not love her. Go!”
The priest took him by the arm for a turn in the garden. He discoursed on the vanity of earthly things. God was very great, was very good: one must submit to his decrees without a murmur; nay, must even thank him.
Charles burst out into blasphemies: “I hate your God!”
“The spirit of rebellion is still upon you,” sighed the ecclesiastic.
Bovary was far away. He was walking with great strides along by the wall, near the espalier, and he ground his teeth; he raised to heaven looks of malediction, but not so much as a leaf stirred.
A fine rain was falling: Charles, whose chest was bare, at last began to shiver; he went in and sat down in the kitchen.
At six o’clock a noise like a clatter of old iron was heard on the Place; it was the “Hirondelle” coming in, and he remained with his forehead against the windowpane, watching all the passengers get out, one after the other. Félicité put down a mattress for him in the drawing-room. He threw himself upon it and fell asleep.
Although a philosopher, Monsieur Homais respected the dead. So bearing no grudge to poor Charles, he came back again in the evening to sit up with the body; bringing with him three volumes and a pocket-book for taking notes.
Monsieur Bournisien was there, and two large candles were burning at the head of the bed, that had been taken out of the alcove. The druggist, on whom the silence weighed, was not long before he began formulating some regrets about this “unfortunate young woman.” and the priest replied that there was nothing to do now but pray for her.
“Yet,” Homais went on, “one of two things; either she died in a state of grace (as the Church has it), and then she has no need of our prayers; or else she departed impertinent (that is, I believe, the ecclesiastical expression), and then – ”
Bournisien interrupted him, replying testily that it was none the less necessary to pray.
“But,” objected the chemist, “since God knows all our needs, what can be the good of prayer?”
“What!” cried the ecclesiastic, “prayer! Why, aren’t you a Christian?”
“Excuse me,” said Homais; “I admire Christianity. To begin with, it enfranchised the slaves, introduced into the world a morality – ”
“That isn’t the question. All the texts-”
“Oh! oh! As to texts, look at history; it, is known that all the texts have been falsified by the Jesuits.”
Charles came in, and advancing towards the bed, slowly drew the curtains.
Emma’s head was turned towards her right shoulder, the corner of her mouth, which was open, seemed like a black hole at the lower part of her face; her two thumbs were bent into the palms of her hands; a kind of white dust besprinkled her lashes, and her eyes were beginning to disappear in that viscous pallor that looks like a thin web, as if spiders had spun it over. The sheet sunk in from her breast to her knees, and then rose at the tips of her toes, and it seemed to Charles that infinite masses, an enormous load, were weighing upon her.
The church clock struck two. They could hear the loud murmur of the river flowing in the darkness at the foot of the terrace. Monsieur Bournisien from time to time blew his nose noisily, and Homais’ pen was scratching over the paper.
“Come, my good friend,” he said, “withdraw; this spectacle is tearing you to pieces.”
Charles once gone, the chemist and the cure recommenced their discussions.
“Read Voltaire,” said the one, “read D’Holbach, read the ‘Encyclopaedia’!”
“Read the ‘Letters of some Portuguese Jews,’” said the other; “read ‘The Meaning of Christianity,’ by Nicolas, formerly a magistrate.”
They grew warm, they grew red, they both talked at once without listening to each other. Bournisien was scandalized at such audacity; Homais marvelled at such stupidity; and they were on the point of insulting one another when Charles suddenly reappeared. A fascination drew him. He was continually coming upstairs.
He stood opposite her, the better to see her, and he lost himself in a contemplation so deep that it was no longer painful.
He recalled stories of catalepsy, the marvels of magnetism, and he said to himself that by willing it with all his force he might perhaps succeed in reviving her. Once he even bent towards he, and cried in a low voice, “Emma! Emma!” His strong breathing made the flames of the candles tremble against the wall.
At daybreak Madame Bovary senior arrived. Charles as he embraced her burst into another flood of tears. She tried, as the chemist had done, to make some remarks to him on the expenses of the funeral. He became so angry that she was silent, and he even commissioned her to go to town at once and buy what was necessary.
Charles remained alone the whole afternoon; they had taken Berthe to Madame Homais’; Félicité was in the room upstairs with Madame Lefrancois.
In the evening he had some visitors. He rose, pressed their hands, unable to speak. Then they sat down near one another, and formed a large semicircle in front of the fire. With lowered faces, and swinging one leg crossed over the other knee, they uttered deep sighs at intervals; each one was inordinately bored, and yet none would be the first to go.
Homais, when he returned at nine o’clock (for the last two days only Homais seemed to have been on the Place), was laden with a stock of camphor, of benzine, and aromatic herbs. He also carried a large jar full of chlorine water, to keep off all miasmata. Just then the servant, Madame Lefrancois, and Madame Bovary senior were busy about Emma, finishing dressing her, and they were drawing down the long stiff veil that covered her to her satin shoes.
Félicité was sobbing – “Ah! my poor mistress! my poor mistress!”
“Look at her,” said the landlady, sighing; “how pretty she still is! Now, couldn’t you swear she was going to get up in a minute?”
Then they bent over her to put on her wreath. They had to raise the head a little, and a rush of black liquid issued, as if she were vomiting, from her mouth.
“Oh, goodness! The dress; take care!” cried Madame Lefrancois. “Now, just come and help,” she said to the chemist. “Perhaps you’re afraid?”
“I afraid?” replied he, shrugging his shoulders. “I dare say! I’ve seen all sorts of things at the hospital when I was studying pharmacy. We used to make punch in the dissecting room! Nothingness does not terrify a philosopher; and, as I often say, I even intend to leave my body to the hospitals, in order, later on, to serve science.”
The cure on his arrival inquired how Monsieur Bovary was, and, on the reply of the druggist, went on – “The blow, you see, is still too recent.”
Then Homais congratulated him on not being exposed, like other people, to the loss of a beloved companion; whence there followed a discussion on the celibacy of priests.
“For,” said the chemist, “it is unnatural that a man should do without women! There have been crimes – ”
“But, good heaven!” cried the ecclesiastic, “how do you expect an individual who is married to keep the secrets of the confessional, for example?”
Homais fell foul of the confessional. Bournisien defended it; he enlarged on the acts of restitution that it brought about. He cited various anecdotes about thieves who had suddenly become honest. Military men on approaching the tribunal of penitence had felt the scales fall from their eyes. At Fribourg there was a minister –
His companion was asleep. Then he felt somewhat stifled by the over-heavy atmosphere of the room; he opened the window; this awoke the chemist.
“Come, take a pinch of snuff,” he said to him. “Take it; it’ll relieve you.”
A continual barking was heard in the distance. “Do you hear that dog howling?” said the chemist.
“They smell the dead,” replied the priest. “It’s like bees; they leave their hives on the decease of any person.”
Homais made no remark upon these prejudices, for he had again dropped asleep. Monsieur Bournisien, stronger than he, went on moving his lips gently for some time, then insensibly his chin sank down, he let fall his big black boot, and began to snore.
They sat opposite one another, with protruding stomachs, puffed-up faces, and frowning looks, after so much disagreement uniting at last in the same human weakness, and they moved no more than the corpse by their side, that seemed to be sleeping.
Charles coming in did not wake them. It was the last time; he came to bid her farewell.
The aromatic herbs were still smoking, and spirals of bluish vapour blended at the window-sash with the fog that was coming in. There were few stars, and the night was warm. The wax of the candles fell in great drops upon the sheets of the bed. Charles watched them burn, tiring his eyes against the glare of their yellow flame.
The watering on the satin gown shimmered white as moonlight. Emma was lost beneath it; and it seemed to him that, spreading beyond her own self, she blended confusedly with everything around her – the silence, the night, the passing wind, the damp odours rising from the ground.
Then suddenly he saw her in the garden at Tostes, on a bench against the thorn hedge, or else at Rouen in the streets, on the threshold of their house, in the yard at Bertaux. He again heard the laughter of the happy boys beneath the apple-trees: the room was filled with the perfume of her hair; and her dress rustled in his arms with a noise like electricity. The dress was still the same.
For a long while he thus recalled all his lost joys, her attitudes, her movements, the sound of her voice. Upon one fit of despair followed another, and even others, inexhaustible as the waves of an overflowing sea.
A terrible curiosity seized him. Slowly, with the tips of his fingers, palpitating, he lifted her veil. But he uttered a cry of horror that awoke the other two.
They dragged him down into the sitting-room. Then Félicité came up to say that he wanted some of her hair.
“Cut some off,” replied the druggist.
And as she did not dare to, he himself stepped forward, scissors in hand. He trembled so that he pierced the skin of the temple in several places. At last, stiffening himself against emotion, Homais gave two or three great cuts at random that left white patches amongst that beautiful black hair.
The chemist and the cure plunged anew into their occupations, not without sleeping from time to time, of which they accused each other reciprocally at each fresh awakening. Then Monsieur Bournisien sprinkled the room with holy water and Homais threw a little chlorine water on the floor.
Félicité had taken care to put on the chest of drawers, for each of them, a bottle of brandy, some cheese, and a large roll. And the druggist, who could not hold out any longer, about four in the morning sighed –
“My word! I should like to take some sustenance.”
The priest did not need any persuading; he went out to go and say mass, came back, and then they ate and hobnobbed, giggling a little without knowing why, stimulated by that vague gaiety that comes upon us after times of sadness, and at the last glass the priest said to the druggist, as he clapped him on the shoulder –
“We shall end by understanding one another.”
In the passage downstairs they met the undertaker’s men, who were coming in. Then Charles for two hours had to suffer the torture of hearing the hammer resound against the wood. Next day they lowered her into her oak coffin, that was fitted into the other two; but as the bier was too large, they had to fill up the gaps with the wool of a mattress. At last, when the three lids had been planed down, nailed, soldered, it was placed outside in front of the door; the house was thrown open, and the people of Yonville began to flock round.
Old Rouault arrived, and fainted on the Place when he saw the black cloth!