When the first cold days set in Emma left her bedroom for the sitting-room, a long
apartment with a low ceiling, in which there was on the mantelpiece a large
bunch of coral spread out against the looking-glass. Seated in her arm chair near
the window, she could see the villagers pass along the pavement.
Twice a day Leon went from his office to the Lion d'Or. Emma could hear him
coming from afar; she leant forward listening, and the young man glided past the
curtain, always dressed in the same way, and without turning his head. But in the
twilight, when, her chin resting on her left hand, she let the embroidery she had
begun fall on her knees, she often shuddered at the apparition of this shadow
suddenly gliding past. She would get up and order the table to be laid.
Monsieur Homais called at dinner-time. Skull-cap in hand, he came in on tiptoe,
in order to disturb no one, always repeating the same phrase, "Good evening,
everybody." Then, when he had taken his seat at the table between the pair, he
asked the doctor about his patients, and the latter consulted his as to the
probability of their payment. Next they talked of "what was in the paper."
Homais by this hour knew it almost by heart, and he repeated it from end to end,
with the reflections of the penny-a-liners, and all the stories of individual
catastrophes that had occurred in France or abroad. But the subject becoming
exhausted, he was not slow in throwing out some remarks on the dishes before
Sometimes even, half-rising, he delicately pointed out to madame the tenderest
morsel, or turning to the servant, gave her some advice on the manipulation of
stews and the hygiene of seasoning.
He talked aroma, osmazome, juices, and gelatine in a bewildering manner.
Moreover, Homais, with his head fuller of recipes than his shop of jars, excelled
in making all kinds of preserves, vinegars, and sweet liqueurs; he knew also all
the latest inventions in economic stoves, together with the art of preserving
cheese and of curing sick wines.
At eight o'clock Justin came to fetch him to shut up the shop.
Then Monsieur Homais gave him a sly look, especially if Felicite was there, for
he half noticed that his apprentice was fond of the doctor's house.
"The young dog," he said, "is beginning to have ideas, and the devil take me if I
don't believe he's in love with your servant!"
But a more serious fault with which he reproached Justin was his constantly
listening to conversation. On Sunday, for example, one could not get him out of
the drawing-room, whither Madame Homais had called him to fetch the children,
who were falling asleep in the arm-chairs, and dragging down with their backs
calico chair-covers that were too large.
Not many people came to these soirees at the chemist's, his scandal-mongering
and political opinions having successfully alienated various respectable persons
from him. The clerk never failed to be there. As soon as he heard the bell he ran