Madame Bovary HTML version

Chapter Fifteen
The crowd was waiting against the wall, symmetrically enclosed between the
balustrades. At the corner of the neighbouring streets huge bills repeated in
quaint letters "Lucie de Lammermoor-Lagardy-Opera-etc." The weather was fine,
the people were hot, perspiration trickled amid the curls, and handkerchiefs taken
from pockets were mopping red foreheads; and now and then a warm wind that
blew from the river gently stirred the border of the tick awnings hanging from the
doors of the public-houses. A little lower down, however, one was refreshed by a
current of icy air that smelt of tallow, leather, and oil. This was an exhalation from
the Rue des Charrettes, full of large black warehouses where they made casks.
For fear of seeming ridiculous, Emma before going in wished to have a little stroll
in the harbour, and Bovary prudently kept his tickets in his hand, in the pocket of
his trousers, which he pressed against his stomach.
Her heart began to beat as soon as she reached the vestibule. She involuntarily
smiled with vanity on seeing the crowd rushing to the right by the other corridor
while she went up the staircase to the reserved seats. She was as pleased as a
child to push with her finger the large tapestried door. She breathed in with all her
might the dusty smell of the lobbies, and when she was seated in her box she
bent forward with the air of a duchess.
The theatre was beginning to fill; opera-glasses were taken from their cases, and
the subscribers, catching sight of one another, were bowing. They came to seek
relaxation in the fine arts after the anxieties of business; but "business" was not
forgotten; they still talked cottons, spirits of wine, or indigo. The heads of old men
were to be seen, inexpressive and peaceful, with their hair and complexions
looking like silver medals tarnished by steam of lead. The young beaux were
strutting about in the pit, showing in the opening of their waistcoats their pink or
applegreen cravats, and Madame Bovary from above admired them leaning on
their canes with golden knobs in the open palm of their yellow gloves.
Now the lights of the orchestra were lit, the lustre, let down from the ceiling,
throwing by the glimmering of its facets a sudden gaiety over the theatre; then
the musicians came in one after the other; and first there was the protracted
hubbub of the basses grumbling, violins squeaking, cornets trumpeting, flutes
and flageolets fifing. But three knocks were heard on the stage, a rolling of drums
began, the brass instruments played some chords, and the curtain rising,
discovered a country-scene.
It was the cross-roads of a wood, with a fountain shaded by an oak to the left.
Peasants and lords with plaids on their shoulders were singing a hunting-song
together; then a captain suddenly came on, who evoked the spirit of evil by lifting
both his arms to heaven. Another appeared; they went away, and the hunters
started afresh. She felt herself transported to the reading of her youth, into the
midst of Walter Scott. She seemed to hear through the mist the sound of the
Scotch bagpipes re-echoing over the heather. Then her remembrance of the