It was a Sunday in February, an afternoon when the snow was falling.
They had all, Monsieur and Madame Bovary, Homais, and Monsieur Leon, gone
to see a yarn-mill that was being built in the valley a mile and a half from Yonville.
The druggist had taken Napoleon and Athalie to give them some exercise, and
Justin accompanied them, carrying the umbrellas on his shoulder.
Nothing, however, could be less curious than this curiosity. A great piece of
waste ground, on which pell-mell, amid a mass of sand and stones, were a few
break-wheels, already rusty, surrounded by a quadrangular building pierced by a
number of little windows. The building was unfinished; the sky could be seen
through the joists of the roofing. Attached to the stop-plank of the gable a bunch
of straw mixed with corn-ears fluttered its tricoloured ribbons in the wind.
Homais was talking. He explained to the company the future importance of this
establishment, computed the strength of the floorings, the thickness of the walls,
and regretted extremely not having a yard-stick such as Monsieur Binet
possessed for his own special use.
Emma, who had taken his arm, bent lightly against his shoulder, and she looked
at the sun's disc shedding afar through the mist his pale splendour. She turned.
Charles was there. His cap was drawn down over his eyebrows, and his two thick
lips were trembling, which added a look of stupidity to his face; his very back, his
calm back, was irritating to behold, and she saw written upon his coat all the
platitude of the bearer.
While she was considering him thus, tasting in her irritation a sort of depraved
pleasure, Leon made a step forward. The cold that made him pale seemed to
add a more gentle languor to his face; between his cravat and his neck the
somewhat loose collar of his shirt showed the skin; the lobe of his ear looked out
from beneath a lock of hair, and his large blue eyes, raised to the clouds,
seemed to Emma more limpid and more beautiful than those mountain-lakes
where the heavens are mirrored.
"Wretched boy!" suddenly cried the chemist.
And he ran to his son, who had just precipitated himself into a heap of lime in
order to whiten his boots. At the reproaches with which he was being
overwhelmed Napoleon began to roar, while Justin dried his shoes with a wisp of
straw. But a knife was wanted; Charles offered his.
"Ah!" she said to herself, "he carried a knife in his pocket like a peasant."
The hoar-frost was falling, and they turned back to Yonville.
In the evening Madame Bovary did not go to her neighbour's, and when Charles
had left and she felt herself alone, the comparison re-began with the clearness of
a sensation almost actual, and with that lengthening of perspective which
memory gives to things. Looking from her bed at the clean fire that was burning,
she still saw, as she had down there, Leon standing up with one hand behind his