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Chapter 7 "Unlucky in Love."

  • And now the days began to be sad. They studied no longer, fearing lest the_ight be disillusioned. The inhabitants of Chavignolles avoided them. Th_ewspapers they tolerated gave them no information; and so their solitude wa_nbroken, their time completely unoccupied.
  • Sometimes they would open a book, and then shut it again—what was the use o_t? On other days they would be seized with the idea of cleaning up th_arden: at the end of a quarter of an hour they would be fatigued; or the_ould set out to have a look at the farm, and come back disenchanted; or the_ried to interest themselves in household affairs, with the result of makin_ermaine break out into lamentations. They gave it up.
  • Bouvard wanted to draw up a catalogue for the museum, and declared thei_urios stupid.
  • Pécuchet borrowed Langlois' duck-gun to shoot larks with; the weapon burst a_he first shot, and was near killing him.
  • Then they lived in the midst of that rural solitude so depressing when th_rey sky covers in its monotony a heart without hope. The step of a man i_ooden shoes is heard as he steals along by the wall, or perchance it is th_ain dripping from the roof to the ground. From time to time a dead leaf jus_razes one of the windows, then whirls about and flies away. The indistinc_choes of some funeral bell are borne to the ear by the wind. From a corner o_he stable comes the lowing of a cow. They yawned in each other's faces, consulted the almanac, looked at the clock, waited for meal-time; and th_orizon was ever the same—fields in front, the church to the right, a scree_f poplars to the left, their tops swaying incessantly in the hazy atmospher_ith a melancholy air.
  • Habits which they formerly tolerated now gave them annoyance. Pécuchet becam_uite a bore from his mania for putting his handkerchief on the tablecloth.
  • Bouvard never gave up his pipe, and would keep twisting himself about while h_as talking. They started disputes about the dishes, or about the quality o_he butter; and while they were chatting face to face each was thinking o_ifferent things.
  • A certain occurrence had upset Pécuchet's mind.
  • Two days after the riot at Chavignolles, while he was airing his politica_rievance, he had reached a road covered with tufted elms, and heard behin_is back a voice exclaiming, "Stop!"
  • It was Madame Castillon. She was rushing across from the opposite side withou_erceiving him.
  • A man who was walking along in front of her turned round. It was Gorju; an_hey met some six feet away from Pécuchet, the row of trees separating the_rom him.
  • "Is it true," said she, "you are going to fight?"
  • Pécuchet slipped behind the ditch to listen.
  • "Well, yes," replied Gorju; "I am going to fight. What has that to do wit_ou?"
  • "He asks _me_ such a question!" cried she, flinging her arms about him. "But, if you are killed, my love! Oh! remain!"
  • And her blue eyes appealed to him, still more than her words.
  • "Let me alone. I have to go."
  • There was an angry sneer on her face.
  • "The other has permitted it, eh?"
  • "Don't speak of her."
  • He raised his fist.
  • "No, dear; no. I don't say anything." And big tears trickled down her cheek_s far as the frilling of her collarette.
  • It was midday. The sun shone down upon the fields covered with yellow grain.
  • Far in the distance carriage-wheels softly slipped along the road. There was _orpor in the air—not a bird's cry, not an insect's hum. Gorju cut himself _witch and scraped off the bark.
  • Madame Castillon did not raise her head again. She, poor woman, was thinkin_f her vain sacrifices for him, the debts she had paid for him, her futur_iabilities, and her lost reputation. Instead of complaining, she recalled fo_im the first days of their love, when she used to go every night to meet hi_n the barn, so that her husband on one occasion, fancying it was a thief, fired a pistol-shot through the window. The bullet was in the wall still.
  • "From the moment I first knew you, you seemed to me as handsome as a prince. _ove your eyes, your voice, your walk, your smell," and in a lower tone sh_dded: "and as for your person, I am fairly crazy about it."
  • He listened with a smile of gratified vanity.
  • She clasped him with both hands round the waist, her head bent as if i_doration.
  • "My dear heart! my dear love! my soul! my life! Come! speak! What is it yo_ant? Is it money? We'll get it. I was in the wrong. I annoyed you. Forgiv_e; and order clothes from the tailor, drink champagne—enjoy yourself. I wil_llow everything—everything."
  • She murmured with a supreme effort, "Even her—as long as you come back to me."
  • He just touched her lips with his, drawing one arm around her to prevent he_rom falling; and she kept murmuring, "Dear heart! dear love! how handsome yo_re! My God! how handsome you are!"
  • Pécuchet, without moving an inch, his chin just touching the top of the ditch, stared at them in breathless astonishment.
  • "Come, no swooning," said Gorju. "You'll only have me missing the coach. _lorious bit of devilment is getting ready, and I'm in the swim; so just giv_e ten sous to stand the conductor a drink."
  • She took five francs out of her purse. "You will soon give them back to me.
  • Have a little patience. He has been a good while paralysed. Think of that!
  • And, if you liked, we could go to the chapel of Croix-Janval, and there, m_ove, I would swear before the Blessed Virgin to marry you as soon as he i_ead."
  • "Ah! he'll never die—that husband of yours."
  • Gorju had turned on his heel. She caught hold of him again, and clinging t_is shoulders:
  • "Let me go with you. I will be your servant. You want some one. But don't g_way! don't leave me! Death rather! Kill me!"
  • She crawled towards him on her knees, trying to seize his hands in order t_iss them. Her cap fell off, then her comb, and her hair got dishevelled. I_as turning white around her ears, and, as she looked up at him, sobbin_itterly, with red eyes and swollen lips, he got quite exasperated, and pushe_er back.
  • "Be off, old woman! Good evening."
  • When she had got up, she tore off the gold cross that hung round her neck, an_linging it at him, cried:
  • "There, you ruffian!"
  • Gorju went off, lashing the leaves of the trees with his switch.
  • Madame Castillon ceased weeping. With fallen jaw and tear-dimmed eyes sh_tood motionless, petrified with despair; no longer a being, but a thing i_uins.
  • What he had just chanced upon was for Pécuchet like the discovery of a ne_orld—a world in which there were dazzling splendours, wild blossomings, oceans, tempests, treasures, and abysses of infinite depth. There wa_omething about it that excited terror; but what of that? He dreamed of love, desired to feel it as she felt it, to inspire it as he inspired it.
  • However, he execrated Gorju, and could hardly keep from giving informatio_bout him at the guard-house.
  • Pécuchet was mortified by the slim waist, the regular curls, and the smoot_eard of Madame Castillon's lover, as well as by the air of a conquering her_hich the fellow assumed, while his own hair was pasted to his skull like _oaked wig, his torso wrapped in a greatcoat resembled a bolster, two of hi_ront teeth were out, and his physiognomy had a harsh expression. He though_hat Heaven had dealt unkindly with him, and felt that he was one of th_isinherited; moreover, his friend no longer cared for him.
  • Bouvard deserted him every evening. Since his wife was dead, there was nothin_o prevent him from taking another, who, by this time, might be coddling hi_p and looking after his house. And now he was getting too old to think of it.
  • But Bouvard examined himself in the glass. His cheeks had kept their colour; his hair curled just the same as of yore; not a tooth was loose; and, at th_dea that he had still the power to please, he felt a return of youthfulness.
  • Madame Bordin rose in his memory. She had made advances to him, first on th_ccasion of the burning of the stacks, next at the dinner which they gave, then in the museum at the recital, and lastly, without resenting any want o_ttention on his part, she had called three Sundays in succession. He paid he_ return visit, and repeated it, making up his mind to woo and win her.
  • Since the day when Pécuchet had watched the little servant-maid drawing water, he had frequently talked to her, and whether she was sweeping the corridor o_preading out the linen, or taking up the saucepans, he could never grow tire_f looking at her—surprised himself at his emotions, as in the days o_dolescence. He had fevers and languors on account of her, and he was stung b_he picture left in his memory of Madame Castillon straining Gorju to he_reast.
  • He questioned Bouvard as to the way libertines set about seducing women.
  • "They make them presents; they bring them to restaurants for supper."
  • "Very good. But after that?"
  • "Some of them pretend to faint, in order that you may carry them over to _ofa; others let their handkerchiefs fall on the ground. The best of the_lainly make an appointment with you." And Bouvard launched forth int_escriptions which inflamed Pécuchet's imagination, like engravings o_oluptuous scenes.
  • "The first rule is not to believe what they say. I have known those who, unde_he appearance of saints, were regular Messalinas. Above all, you must b_old."
  • But boldness cannot be had to order.
  • From day to day Pécuchet put off his determination, and besides he wa_ntimidated by the presence of Germaine.
  • Hoping that she would ask to have her wages paid, he exacted additional wor_rom her, took notice every time she got tipsy, referred in a loud voice t_er want of cleanliness, her quarrelsomeness, and did it all so effectivel_hat she had to go.
  • Then Pécuchet was free! With what impatience he waited for Bouvard to go out!
  • What a throbbing of the heart he felt as soon as the door closed!
  • Mélie was working at a round table near the window by the light of a candle; from time to time she broke the threads with her teeth, then she half-close_er eyes while adjusting it in the slit of the needle. At first he asked he_hat kind of men she liked. Was it, for instance, Bouvard's style?
  • "Oh, no." She preferred thin men.
  • He ventured to ask her if she ever had had any lovers.
  • "Never."
  • Then, drawing closer to her, he surveyed her piquant nose, her small mouth, her charmingly-rounded figure. He paid her some compliments, and exhorted he_o prudence.
  • In bending over her he got a glimpse, under her corsage, of her white skin, from which emanated a warm odour that made his cheeks tingle. One evening h_ouched with his lips the wanton hairs at the back of her neck, and he fel_haken even to the marrow of his bones. Another time he kissed her on th_hin, and had to restrain himself from putting his teeth in her flesh, s_avoury was it. She returned his kiss. The apartment whirled round; he n_onger saw anything.
  • He made her a present of a pair of lady's boots, and often treated her to _lass of aniseed cordial.
  • To save her trouble he rose early, chopped up the wood, lighted the fire, an_as so attentive as to clean Bouvard's shoes.
  • Mélie did not faint or let her handkerchief fall, and Pécuchet did not kno_hat to do, his passion increasing through the fear of satisfying it.
  • Bouvard was assiduously paying his addresses to Madame Bordin. She used t_eceive him rather cramped in her gown of shot silk, which creaked like _orse's harness, all the while fingering her long gold chain to keep hersel_n countenance.
  • Their conversations turned on the people of Chavignolles or on "the dea_eparted," who had been an usher at Livarot.
  • Then she inquired about Bouvard's past, curious to know something of his
  • "youthful freaks," the way in which he had fallen heir to his fortune, and th_nterests by which he was bound to Pécuchet.
  • He admired the appearance of her house, and when he came to dinner there wa_truck by the neatness with which it was served and the excellent fare place_n the table. A succession of dishes of the most savoury description, whic_ntermingled at regular intervals with a bottle of old Pomard, brought them t_he dessert, at which they remained a long time sipping their coffee; and, with dilating nostrils, Madame Bordin dipped into her saucer her thick lip, lightly shaded with a black down.
  • One day she appeared in a low dress. Her shoulders fascinated Bouvard. As h_at in a little chair before her, he began to pass his hands along her arms.
  • The widow seemed offended. He did not repeat this attention, but he picture_o himself those ample curves, so marvellously smooth and fine.
  • Any evening when he felt dissatisfied with Mélie's cooking, it gave hi_leasure to enter Madame Bordin's drawing-room. It was there he should hav_ived.
  • The globe of the lamp, covered with a red shade, shed a tranquil light. Sh_as seated close to the fire, and his foot touched the hem of her skirt.
  • After a few opening words the conversation flagged.
  • However, she kept gazing at him, with half-closed lids, in a languid fashion, but unbending withal.
  • Bouvard could not stand it any longer, and, sinking on his knees to the floor, he stammered:
  • "I love you! Marry me!"
  • Madame Bordin drew a strong breath; then, with an ingenuous air, said he wa_esting; no doubt he was trying to have a laugh at her expense—it was no_air. This declaration stunned her.
  • Bouvard returned that she did not require anyone's consent. "What's to hinde_ou? Is it the trousseau? Our linen has the same mark, a B—we'll unite ou_apital letters!"
  • The idea caught her fancy. But a more important matter prevented her fro_rriving at a decision before the end of the month. And Bouvard groaned.
  • She had the politeness to accompany him to the gate, escorted by Marianne, wh_arried a lantern.
  • The two friends kept their love affairs hidden from each other.
  • Pécuchet counted on always cloaking his intrigue with the servant-maid. I_ouvard made any opposition to it, he could carry her off to other places, even though it were to Algeria, where living is not so dear. But he rarel_ndulged in such speculations, full as he was of his passion, without thinkin_f the consequences.
  • Bouvard conceived the idea of converting the museum into the bridal chamber, unless Pécuchet objected, in which case he might take up his residence at hi_ife's house.
  • One afternoon in the following week—it was in her garden; the buds were jus_pening, and between the clouds there were great blue spaces—she stopped t_ather some violets, and said as she offered them to him:
  • "Salute Madame Bouvard!"
  • "What! Is it true?"
  • "Perfectly true."
  • He was about to clasp her in his arms. She kept him back. "What a man!" Then, growing serious, she warned him that she would shortly be asking him for _avour.
  • "'Tis granted."
  • They fixed the following Thursday for the formality of signing the marriag_ontract.
  • Nobody should know anything about it up to the last moment.
  • "Agreed."
  • And off he went, looking up towards the sky, nimble as a roebuck.
  • Pécuchet on the morning of the same day said in his own mind that he would di_f he did not obtain the favours of his little maid, and he followed her int_he cellar, hoping the darkness would give him courage.
  • She tried to go away several times, but he detained her in order to count th_ottles, to choose laths, or to look into the bottoms of casks—and thi_ccupied a considerable time.
  • She stood facing him under the light that penetrated through an air-hole, wit_er eyes cast down, and the corner of her mouth slightly raised.
  • "Do you love me?" said Pécuchet abruptly.
  • "Yes, I do love you."
  • "Well, then prove it to me."
  • And throwing his left arm around her, he embraced her with ardour.
  • "You're going to do me some harm."
  • "No, my little angel. Don't be afraid."
  • "If Monsieur Bouvard——"
  • "I'll tell him nothing. Make your mind easy."
  • There was a heap of faggots behind them. She sank upon them, and hid her fac_nder one arm;—and another man would have understood that she was no novice.
  • Bouvard arrived soon for dinner.
  • The meal passed in silence, each of them being afraid of betraying himself, while Mélie attended them with her usual impassiveness.
  • Pécuchet turned away his eyes to avoid hers; and Bouvard, his gaze resting o_he walls, pondered meanwhile on his projected improvements.
  • Eight days after he came back in a towering rage.
  • "The damned traitress!"
  • "Who, pray?"
  • "Madame Bordin."
  • And he related how he had been so infatuated as to offer to make her his wife, but all had come to an end a quarter of an hour since at Marescot's office.
  • She wished to have for her marriage portion the Ecalles meadow, which he coul_ot dispose of, having partly retained it, like the farm, with the money o_nother person.
  • "Exactly," said Pécuchet.
  • "I had had the folly to promise her any favour she asked—and this was what sh_as after! I attribute her obstinacy to this; for if she loved me she woul_ave given way to me."
  • The widow, on the contrary, had attacked him in insulting language, an_eferred disparagingly to his physique, his big paunch.
  • "My paunch! Just imagine for a moment!"
  • Meanwhile Pécuchet had risen several times, and seemed to be in pain.
  • Bouvard asked him what was the matter, and thereupon Pécuchet, having firs_aken the precaution to shut the door, explained in a hesitating manner tha_e was affected with a certain disease.
  • "What! You?"
  • "I—myself."
  • "Oh, my poor fellow! And who is the cause of this?"
  • Pécuchet became redder than before, and said in a still lower tone:
  • "It can be only Mélie."
  • Bouvard remained stupefied.
  • The first thing to do was to send the young woman away.
  • She protested with an air of candour.
  • Pécuchet's case was, however, serious; but he was ashamed to consult _hysician.
  • Bouvard thought of applying to Barberou.
  • They gave him particulars about the matter, in order that he might communicat_ith a doctor who would deal with the case by correspondence.
  • Barberou set to work with zeal, believing it was Bouvard's own case, an_alling him an old dotard, even though he congratulated him about it.
  • "At my age!" said Pécuchet. "Is it not a melancholy thing? But why did she d_his?"
  • "You pleased her."
  • "She ought to have given me warning."
  • "Does passion reason?" And Bouvard renewed his complaints about Madame Bordin.
  • Often had he surprised her before the Ecalles, in Marescot's company, having _ossip with Germaine. So many manœuvres for a little bit of land!
  • "She is avaricious! That's the explanation."
  • So they ruminated over their disappointments by the fireside in the breakfas_arlour, Pécuchet swallowing his medicines and Bouvard puffing at his pipe; and they began a discussion about women.
  • "Strange want!—or is it a want?" "They drive men to crime—to heroism as wel_s to brutishness." "Hell under a petticoat," "paradise in a kiss," "th_urtle's warbling," "the serpent's windings," "the cat's claws," "the sea'_reachery," "the moon's changeableness." They repeated all the commonplace_hat have been uttered about the sex.
  • It was the desire for women that had suspended their friendship. A feeling o_emorse took possession of them. "No more women. Is not that so? Let us liv_ithout them!" And they embraced each other tenderly.
  • There should be a reaction; and Bouvard, when Pécuchet was better, considere_hat a course of hydropathic treatment would be beneficial.
  • Germaine, who had come back since the other servant's departure, carried th_athing-tub each morning into the corridor.
  • The two worthies, naked as savages, poured over themselves big buckets o_ater; they then rushed back to their rooms. They were seen through the garde_ence, and people were scandalised.