Madame Bovary



ONE We were in class w hen the head-master came in, followed by a ?new fellow,? not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those who had be en asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his work. The head-master made a sign to us to sit down. Then, turning to the class-ma ster, he sai d to hi m i n a low voice? ?Monsieur Roger, here is a pupil whom I recommend to your car e; he?ll be in the second. If his work and conduct are satisfactory, he will go into one of the upper classes, a s becomes his ag e.? The ?new fellow,? standing in the corner behind the door so that he could hardly be seen, was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair was cu t square on his forehead like a villa ge chorister?s; he looked reliable, but very ill at ease. Although he was not broad- shouldered, his short school ja cket of green cloth with black buttons must have been tight about the ar m-holes, and showed at the opening of the cuffs red wrists accu sto med to being bare. Hi s le gs, in blue stockings, 4 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y looked out from beneath yellow trousers, drawn tight by braces, He wore stout, ill-cleaned, hob-nailed boots. We began repeating the lesson. He listened with all his ears, as attentive as if at a s ermon, not daring even to cross his legs or lean on his elbow; and when at two o?clock the bell rang, the master was obliged to tell him to fall into line with the rest of us. When we came back to work, we were in the habit of throwing our caps on the ground so as to have our hand s more free; we used from the door to toss them under the form, so tha t they hi t a gainst the w all and mad e a lot of dust: it was ?the thing.? But, whethe r he had not no ticed the trick, or did not dare to attempt it, the ?new fellow,? was still holding his cap on his knees even af ter prayers were ov er. It was one of those head-gears of composi te order, in which we can find traces of the bearskin, s hako, billycock hat, sealskin cap, and co tton night- cap; one of those poor things, in fine, whose dumb ugliness has depths of expression, like an imbecile?s face. Oval, stiffened with whalebone, it began with three round knobs; the n came in succession lozenges of velvet and rabbit-skin se parated by a red band; after that a sort of bag that ended in a cardboard polygon covered wit h complicated braiding, from which hung, at 5 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y the end of a long thin cord, small twisted gold threads in the manner of a tassel. The cap was new; its peak shone. ?Rise,? said the master. He stood up; his cap fell. The whole class be gan to laugh. He stooped to pi ck it up. A neighbor knocked it down again with his elbow; he picked it up once more. ?Get rid of your helmet,? said the master, who was a bit of a wag. There was a burst of laughter from the boys, which so thoroughly put the poor lad out of countenance that he did not know whether to keep his cap in his hand, leave it on the ground, or put it on his head. He sat down again and placed it on his knee. ?Rise,? repeated the master, ?and tell me your name.’ The new boy articulated in a stammering voice an unintelligible name. ?Again!? The same sputtering of syllables was heard, drowned by the tittering of the class. ?Louder!? cried the master; ?louder!? The ?new f ellow? then took a supreme resolution, opened an inordinately large mouth, and shouted at the 6 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y top of his voice as if calling someone in the word ?Charbovari.? A hubbub b roke out, ro se in cresce ndo with b ursts of shrill voices (they yelled, barked, stamped, repeated ?Charbovari! Charbovari?), then died away into single notes, growing quieter o nly with great difficulty, and now and again suddenly recommencing along the line of a form whence rose here and there, lik e a damp cracker going off, a stifled laugh. However, amid a rain of impositions, order was gradually re-established in the class; and the master having succeeded in catching the name of ?Charles Bovary,? having had it dictated to him, spelt out, and r e-read, at once ordered the poor devil to go and sit d own on the punishment form at the foot of the master?s desk. He got up, but before going hesitated. ?What are you looking for?? asked the master. ?My c-a-p,? timidly said the ?new fellow,? casting troubled looks round him. ?Five hundred lines for all the class!? shouted in a furious voice stopped, like the Quos ego*, a fresh outburst. ?S ilence!? continued the master indignantly, wiping his b row with hi s handkerchi ef, which he had just 7 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y taken from his cap. ?As to you, ?new boy,? you will conjugate ?ridiculus sum?** twenty times.? Then, in a gentler tone, ?Come, you?ll find your cap again; it hasn?t been stolen.? *A quotati on from the Aeneid signifying a threat. **I am ridic ulous. Quiet was restored. Heads bent o ver desks, and the ?new fellow? remained for two hours in an exemplary attitude, although from time to ti me some p aper pellet flipped from the tip of a pen came bang in his face. But he wiped his face with one hand and continued motionless, his eyes low ered. In the evening, at preparation, he p ulled out hi s pens from his desk, arranged his small belongings, and carefully ruled his paper. We saw him wor king conscientiously, looking up every word in the dictionary, and taking the greatest pains. Thank s, no doubt, to the willingness he showed, he had not to go down to the class be low. But though he k new his rul es passably, he had little finish i n composition. It was the cure of his v illage who had taught him his first Latin; his p arents, from motives of economy , having sent him to school as late as possible. His father, Monsieur C harles Denis Bartolome Bovary, retired assistant-surgeon-major, compromised about 181 2 8 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y in certain co nscription scandals, a nd f orced at thi s time to leave the service, had taken advantage of his fine figure to get hold of a dowry of sixty t housand francs that offered in the person of a hosier?s daughter who had fallen in love with hi s good looks. A fi ne man, a great talker, making hi s spurs ring as he walked, wearin g whiskers that ran into hi s moustache, his fingers always garnished with r ings and dressed in loud colours, he had the dash of a mili tary man with the easy go of a co mmercial traveller. Once marri ed, he lived for three o r four years on his wife?s fortune, dining well, ri sing late, smoking long porcelain pipes, not coming in at night till after the theatre, and haunti ng cafes. The father-in-law died, leaving little; he was indignant at this, ?went i n for the business,? lo st some money in it, then retired to the country, where he thought he would make money. But, as he knew no more about farming than cali co, as he rode his horses instead of sending them to plough, drank his cider in bottle instead of selling it in cask, ate the finest poultr y in his farmyard, and greased his hunting- boots wi th the fat of his pigs, he was not long i n finding out that he would do better to give up all speculation. For two hundred francs a year he managed to live on the border o f the provinces of Caux and Picardy, in a kind 9 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y of place hal f farm, half private house; and he re, soured, eaten up with regret s, cursing his luck, j ealous of everyone, he shut himself up at the age of forty-five, sick of men, he said, and determined to live at peace. His wife had adored him once on a ti me; she had bored him with a thousand servilities that had only estranged him the more. Lively once, expansive and affecti onate, in growing older she had b ecome (af ter the fa shion of wine that, exposed to air, turns to vinegar) ill-tempered, grumbling, irritable. She had suffered so much withou t complaint at first, until she had seem him going after all the village drabs, and until a score of bad houses sent him back to her at night, weary, stinking drunk. Then her pride revolted. After that she was silent, burying her anger in a dumb stoicism that she maintained till her death. She was constantly going about looki ng after business matters. She called on the lawyers, the president, remembered when bills fell due, got them renewed, and at home ironed, sewed, washed, looked after the workmen, paid the accounts, while he, trou bling himself about nothing, eternally besotted in sleepy sulkiness, whence he only roused himself to say disagreeabl e things to her, sat smoking by the fire and s pitting into the cinders. 10 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y When she had a child, it had to be sent out to nurse. When he came home, the lad was spoilt as if he were a prince. His mother stu ffed him with jam; his fath er let him run about barefoot, and, playing the philosopher, even said he might as well go about quite naked like the young of animals. As opposed to the mat ernal ideas, he had a certain virile idea of childhood on which he sought to mould hi s son, wishing him to be broug ht up hardily, like a Spartan, to give him a strong consti tutio n. He sent him to bed without any fire, taught him to drink off large draughts of rum and to jeer at religio us pr ocessions. But, peaceable by nature, the lad answered only poorly to his notions. His mother always kept him near her; s he cut out cardboard for him, to ld him tales, entertained him with endless monologues full of melancholy gaiety and charming nonsense. In her life?s isolation she ce ntered on the child?s head all her shattered, broken little vanities. She dreamed of high station; she alr eady saw him, tall, handsome, clever, settled as an engineer or in the law. She taught him to read, and even, on an old piano, she had taught hi m two or three little songs. But to all this Mo nsieu r Bovary, caring little for letters, said, ?It was not worth while. Would they ever have the means to send hi m to a publi c school, to buy him a practice, or start him in business? 11 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y Besides, with cheek a man always gets on in the world.? Madame Bovary bit her lips, and the child knocked about the village. He went after the labourers, drov e away with clods of earth the rav ens that were flyi ng abo ut. He ate blackberries along the hedges, minded the gees e with a long switch, went haymaking during harvest, ran about in the woods, played hop-scotch unde r the church porch on rainy days, and at great fetes begged the beadle to let him toll the bells, that he might hang all his weight on the long rope and feel himself borne upward by it in its swing . Meanwhile he grew like an oak; he was strong on hand, fresh of colour. When he was twelve years old his mother had her own way; he began lessons. The cure took him in hand; but the lessons were so short and irregular that they could not be of mu ch use. They were given at spare mome nts in the sacristy, stan ding up, hu rrie dly, between a baptism and a burial; or else the cure, if he had not to go out, sent for his pupil after the Angelus*. They went up to his room and settled down; the flies and moths fluttered round the candle. It was close, the child fell a sleep, and t he good man, beginning to doze with hi s hands on hi s stomach, was soon snoring with his mouth wide open. On other 12 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y occasions, w hen Monsie ur le Cure, on his way back after administering the viati cum to some sick perso n in the neighbourhood, caught sight of Charles playing about the fields, he called him, lectured him for a quarter of an hour and took advantage of the occasion to make him conjugate his verb at the foot of a tree. The rain interrupted them or an acquaintance passed. All the same he was always pleased with him, and even said t he ?young man? had a very good memory. *A devotion said at mor ning, noon, and evening, at the sound of a bell. Here, the evening prayer. Charles could not go on like this. Madame Bovary took strong steps. Asha med, or rather tired out, Monsieur Bovary gave in without a struggle, and they waited one year longer, so that the lad should take his first communion. Six months more passed, and the year after Charles was finally sent to school at Rouen, where his father took him towards the end of October, at the time of the St. Romai n fair. It would now be impossible for any of us to remember anything about him. He was a youth of even temperament, who played in playtime, worked in school- hours, was attentive in class, slept w ell in the dormitory, 13 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y and ate well in the refectory. He had in loco parentis* a wholesale ironmonger in the Rue Ganterie, who took him out once a month on Sund ays after his shop was shut, sent him for a walk on the quay to look at the b oats, and then brought him back to college at seven o?clock before supper. Every Thursday evening he wrote a long letter to his mother with red ink and three wafers; then he went over his history note-b ooks, or read an old v olume of ?Anarchasis? that was knockin g abou t the study. When he went for walks he talked to the serva nt, who, like himself, came from the country. *In place of a parent. By dint of hard work he kept always about the middle of the class; once even he got a certificate i n natural history. But at the end of hi s third year his parents withdrew him from the school to make him study medicine, convinced that he c ould even take his degree by himself. His mother chose a room for him on the fourth floor of a dyer?s she knew, overlooking the Eau-de-Robec. She made arrangements for his board, g ot hi m furni ture, table and two chairs, sent home for an old cherry-tree bedstead, and bought besides a small ca st-iron stove with the supply of wood that was to warm the poor child. 14 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y Then at the end of a week she departed, after a thousand inj unctions to be good now that he was going to be left to himself. The syllabus that he read on the notice-board stunned him; lectures on ana tomy, lectures o n path ology, lectures on physiology, lectures on pharmacy, lectures on botany and clinical medicine, and therapeutics, without counting hygiene and materia medica?all names of whose etymologies he was ignorant, and that were to him as so many doors to sanctuaries f illed with magnificent darkness. He understood nothing of it all; it was all very well to listen? he did not follow. Still he worked; he had bound note-books, he attended all the courses, never missed a single lecture. He did his little daily task like a mill-horse , who goes round and round with his eyes bandaged, not knowing what work he is doing. To spare him expense his mother sent him every week by the carrier a piece of veal baked in the oven, with which he lunched when he came back from the hospital , while he sat kicking his feet against the wall. After this he had to run off to lectur es, to the operation-room, to the hospital, and return to his hom e at the other end of the town. In the evening, aft er the poor dinner of hi s landlord, he went back to hi s room and set to w ork again 15 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y in his wet cl othes, which smoke d as he sat in front of the hot stove. On the fine summer ev enings , at the time wh en the close streets are empty, when the servants are playing shuttle-cock at the doors, he opened his wi ndow and leaned out. The river, t hat makes of this quarter of Rouen a wretched little Venice, flowed beneath him, between the bridges and the railings, yello w, violet, or blue. Working men, kneeling on the banks, wa shed their bare arms in the water. On poles projecting from the attics, skeins of cotton were drying in the air. Opposite, beyond the roots spread the pure heaven with the red sun setting. How pleasant it must be at home ! How fresh under the beech- tree! And he expanded his nostrils to breathe in the sweet odours of the country which did not reach him. He grew thin, his figure became taller, his face took a saddened look that made it nearly interesting. Naturally, through indifference, he aband oned all the resolutions he had made. Once he missed a lecture; the next day all the lectures; and, enjoying his idleness, little by little, he gave up work altogether. He got into th e habit of going to the public-house, and had a passi on for dominoes. To shut himself up e very evenin g in the dirty public room, to push about on marble tables the small sheep bones with black 16 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y dots, seeme d to him a fine proof of his freedom, which raised him in his own esteem. It was beginning to see life, the sweetness of stolen pleasu res; and when he entered, he put his hand on the door-handle with a joy al most sensual . Then many things hidde n withi n him came out; he learnt couplets by heart and sa ng them to his boo n co mpanion s, became enthusiastic about B eranger, learnt how to make punch, and, finally, how to make love. Thanks to these pr eparatory labours, he failed completely i n his exa minati on for an ordinary degree. He was expected home the same nigh t to celebrate his success. He started on foot, stopp ed at the beginning of the village, sent for his mother, and told her all. She exc used him, threw the blame of hi s failure on the inju sti ce of the examiners, encouraged him a little, and took upon herself to set matters straight. It was only five years later tha t Monsieur Bovary knew the trut h; it was old then, and he accepted it. Moreover, he c ould n ot believe that a man born of him could be a fool. So Charles set to work again and crammed for his examination, ceaselessly learning all the old questions by heart. He passed pretty well. What a happy day for his mother! They gave a gra nd dinner. 17 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y Where should he go to pra ctice? To Tostes, where there was only one old doctor. For a long time Madame Bovary had been on the look-out for his death, and the old fellow had barely been packed off when Charles was installed, op posite his pla ce, as his successor. But it was not everything to have brought up a son, to have had him taught medicine, and discovered Tostes, where he could practice it; he must have a wife. She found hi m one?the widow of a b ailiff at Dieppe?who was forty-fi ve and had an income of twelve hundred francs. Though she was ugly, as dry as a bone , her face with as many pimples as the sprin g has bud s, Madame Dubuc h ad no lack of suitors. To a ttain her end s Mad ame Bovary had to oust the m all, and she even succeeded in very cleverly baffling the intrigues of a port -butcher backed up by the priests. Charles had seen in marriage the advent of an easier life, thinking he would be more free to do as he liked with himself and his money. But his wife was master; he had to say this a nd not say that in compa ny, to fast every Friday, dress as she liked, harass at her bidding those patients who did not pay. She opened his letter, watched his comings and goings, and listened at the partition-wall when women came to consult him in his su rgery. 18 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y She must have her chocolate every morning, attentions without end . She constantly compl ained of her nerves, her chest, her liver. The noise of footsteps made her ill; when people left her, solitude became o dious to her; if they came back, it was doubtless to see her die. When Charles returned in the evening, she stretche d forth two long thin arms from beneath the sheets, put them round his neck, and having made him si t down on the edge of the bed, began to talk to him of her troubles: he was neglecting her, he loved another. She had been warned she would be unhappy; and she end ed by asking him for a dose of medicine and a little more love. 19 of 570 Mad ame Bovar y

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