Monsieur Leon, while studying law, had gone pretty often to the dancing-rooms,
where he was even a great success amongst the grisettes, who thought he had a
distinguished air. He was the best-mannered of the students; he wore his hair
neither too long nor too short, didn't spend all his quarter's money on the first day
of the month, and kept on good terms with his professors. As for excesses, he
had always abstained from them, as much from cowardice as from refinement.
Often when he stayed in his room to read, or else when sitting of an evening
under the lime-trees of the Luxembourg, he let his Code fall to the ground, and
the memory of Emma came back to him. But gradually this feeling grew weaker,
and other desires gathered over it, although it still persisted through them all. For
Leon did not lose all hope; there was for him, as it were, a vague promise floating
in the future, like a golden fruit suspended from some fantastic tree.
Then, seeing her again after three years of absence his passion reawakened. He
must, he thought, at last make up his mind to possess her. Moreover, his timidity
had worn off by contact with his gay companions, and he returned to the
provinces despising everyone who had not with varnished shoes trodden the
asphalt of the boulevards. By the side of a Parisienne in her laces, in the
drawing-room of some illustrious physician, a person driving his carriage and
wearing many orders, the poor clerk would no doubt have trembled like a child;
but here, at Rouen, on the harbour, with the wife of this small doctor he felt at his
ease, sure beforehand he would shine. Self-possession depends on its
environment. We don't speak on the first floor as on the fourth; and the wealthy
woman seems to have, about her, to guard her virtue, all her banknotes, like a
cuirass in the lining of her corset.
On leaving the Bovarys the night before, Leon had followed them through the
streets at a distance; then having seen them stop at the "Croix-Rouge," he turned
on his heel, and spent the night meditating a plan.
So the next day about five o'clock he walked into the kitchen of the inn, with a
choking sensation in his throat, pale cheeks, and that resolution of cowards that
stops at nothing.
"The gentleman isn't in," answered a servant.
This seemed to him a good omen. He went upstairs.
She was not disturbed at his approach; on the contrary, she apologised for
having neglected to tell him where they were staying.
"Oh, I divined it!" said Leon.
He pretended he had been guided towards her by chance, by, instinct. She
began to smile; and at once, to repair his folly, Leon told her that he had spent
his morning in looking for her in all the hotels in the town one after the other.
"So you have made up your mind to stay?" he added.