فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Yonville-l’Abbaye is a market town about twenty-six kilometres from Rouen, between the Abbeville and Beauvais roads. It is on the borders of Normandy, Picardy and the Ile-de-France, the sort of place where the language has no accent and the landscape no character. Here they make the worst cheese in the whole district, and farming is expensive because the sandy, stony soil is so poor.

Until 1835 there was no good road to Yonville, and although a new one has been built, nothing has really changed there for a hundred years. Walking into the town you still pass small farmhouses set in their own gardens, and see that the fields stretch almost into the centre of the town. The market, with its red roof supported by twenty or more wooden posts, takes up half of the town square. The Town Hall is a large, important looking building, but what really catches the eye is the pharmacy of Monsieur Homais just opposite the town’s one hotel, the Lion d’Or.

The pharmacy is especially attractive at night when the lamps are lit and the big red and green glass bottles in the window send long beams of coloured light far out along the ground. From top to bottom, the building is covered with advertisements for medicines and mineral water, and the shop-sign which goes right across the front carries in golden letters the words ‘Homais, Pharmacist’. At the far end of the shop, the word ‘Laboratory’ appears over a glass door on which, halfway up, the name ‘Homais’ is repeated in more gold letters on black.

And that is all there is worth seeing in Yonville. The one and only street, with a shop or two on either side of it, stops at the bend in the road. If you turn to your right and follow the path at the foot of the hill, you come to the cemetery.

The night the Bovarys arrived in Yonville, Madame Lefrancois, who ran the inn, was so busy that the sweat ran down her face as she rushed around among her pots and pans. Tomorrow was market day and she still had the meat to cook, the soup to make and the coffee to get ready. Then there was the meal for her regular customers, as well as for the new doctor and his wife and maid - whose coach was now half an hour late.

Shouts of laughter came from the bar, where three workmen were calling for more wine and the wood fire was burning. A man in soft green leather shoes, a smoking cap on his head, was standing warming his back by the fire. He had a look of complete self-satisfaction on his face, and he appeared to be as carefree as the small bird in the cage which hung from the ceiling. It was the pharmacist, waiting for the evening meal which he regularly ate at the hotel.

He did not have to wait too long. Soon, Madame Lefrancois heard the sound of wheels and the metal shoes of a tired horse on the road outside.

As soon as the coach stopped, other villagers came to the inn, and all began to speak at once, asking for news, explanations and packages they had been waiting for. As he gave out his parcels, Hivert, the coachman, told them they had been delayed because Madame Bovary’s little dog had run away and had not been found.

Emma had, in fact, been crying for the last hour. She said it was Charles’s fault. Monsieur Lheureux, who was travelling inside the coach and who had the fabric shop in the village, had done his best to make her happier by telling her of several cases in which dogs had come back to their masters after years of separation. There was a story, he said, of a dog that found its way back to Paris all the way from Constantinople!

Dog or no dog, they had arrived at their new home, and had to leave the coach. Emma got out first, then Felicite, her maid, and then Monsieur Lheureux. They had to wake Charles up; he had fallen asleep in his corner as soon as it grew dark.

Homais introduced himself, offered his services to Madame and his respects to Monsieur, told them he was charmed to have been able to do them a service, adding with a smile that he had invited himself to dinner as his wife was away from home.

As soon as she was in the kitchen, Madame Bovary went over to the fire. With the tips of two fingers she took hold of her dress at the knee and, raising it above her ankles, stretched out a foot to the flames - a little foot in a black boot. The fire lit her from top to toe, its red light making her dress shine and showing the perfect white skin of her face. On the other side of the fireplace, a fair-haired young man watched her in silence.

Monsieur Leon Dupuis, clerk to the town’s only lawyer, also ate regularly at the Lion d’Or. As he found life in Yonville almost impossibly boring, he would often delay his meal in the hope that a traveller would arrive at the inn with whom he could enjoy a conversation in the evening. It was therefore with some pleasure that he accepted the suggestion that he should sit down with the Bovarys.

At the table, Homais asked permission to keep on his cap, for fear of catching cold.

‘Madame must be a little tired,’ he said, turning to Emma. ‘It is not a comfortable journey.’

‘Very true,’ she answered, ‘but I love moving around. I hate staying in one place.’

‘Oh, I agree. Staying in one place is horrible!’ said the clerk.

‘But if you were like me,’ said Charles, ‘and always had to be on your horse…’

And so the meal continued. Charles spent most of his time discussing medical matters with Monsieur Homais, while Leon told Madame Bovary about the attractions of the neighbourhood. They quickly discovered that they shared the same romantic tastes.

‘I think there’s nothing so beautiful as a sunset, especially by the sea!’ said Madame Bovary.

‘Oh, I love the sea!’ Monsieur Leon replied.

‘And doesn’t it seem to you, somehow, that you think more freely, and that it raises your soul and makes you think of the endless nature of things?’

‘It’s just the same where there are mountains,’ Leon went on.

So they continued talking of Switzerland and Italy, which they had never visited, and music, which neither of them could play, and reading - the one thing that both of them did enthusiastically.

‘What can be better than sitting by the fire in the evening with a book, when the lamp is lit and the wind beats against the window?’ said Leon.

‘That’s just what I think,’ she replied, looking at him with her big, dark eyes.

‘You forget everything,’ he went on. ‘The hours slip by. Sitting still in your armchair, you can wander in strange places and imagine they are there before your eyes.’

‘Oh yes, that’s true!’ she said.

They had been at the table for two and a half hours by now, since Artemise, the servant, did not hurry as she brought the dishes in from the kitchen. Quite unconsciously, Leon had put his foot up on one of the bars of the chair on which Madame Bovary was sitting, moving closer so he could catch everything she said. And so, while Charles and the pharmacist went on with their discussion, Emma and Leon sat close to one another, and entered into a conversation in which they talked about the interests they shared: the Paris theatres, names of novels, the latest dances, the world of fashion, which neither of them knew anything about, Tostes, where she had lived, and Yonville, where they were now. They discussed anything and everything, and talked all through dinner.

When the coffee was brought in, Felicite went to arrange the bedroom in the new house, and the group around the dinner table soon afterwards rose to go. Madame Lefrancois had fallen asleep by the dying fire, while the manservant, lamp in hand, was waiting to show Monsieur and Madame Bovary to their house.

The house felt damp and cold after the warmth of the inn. The walls were new and the wooden stairs had no carpet. Upstairs in the bedroom, a pale light came in through the curtainless windows. The tops of some trees could just be seen, and beyond them, the fields in the moonlight.

This would be the fourth time Emma had slept in a new bedroom. The first was when she went to the convent, the second when she came to Tostes, the third at La Vaubyessard, and now this was the fourth. And every time, it had seemed as if she were entering a new stage in her life. She could not believe that things would look and be the same in different places. The most recent period of her life had been bad, so the next part would have to be better.

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