Madame Bovary HTML version

Chapter Four
The guests arrived early in carriages, in one-horse chaises, two-wheeled cars,
old open gigs, waggonettes with leather hoods, and the young people from the
nearer villages in carts, in which they stood up in rows, holding on to the sides so
as not to fall, going at a trot and well shaken up. Some came from a distance of
thirty miles, from Goderville, from Normanville, and from Cany.
All the relatives of both families had been invited, quarrels between friends
arranged, acquaintances long since lost sight of written to.
From time to time one heard the crack of a whip behind the hedge; then the
gates opened, a chaise entered. Galloping up to the foot of the steps, it stopped
short and emptied its load. They got down from all sides, rubbing knees and
stretching arms. The ladies, wearing bonnets, had on dresses in the town
fashion, gold watch chains, pelerines with the ends tucked into belts, or little
coloured fichus fastened down behind with a pin, and that left the back of the
neck bare. The lads, dressed like their papas, seemed uncomfortable in their
new clothes (many that day hand-sewed their first pair of boots), and by their
sides, speaking never a work, wearing the white dress of their first communion
lengthened for the occasion were some big girls of fourteen or sixteen, cousins or
elder sisters no doubt, rubicund, bewildered, their hair greasy with rose pomade,
and very much afraid of dirtying their gloves. As there were not enough stable-
boys to unharness all the carriages, the gentlemen turned up their sleeves and
set about it themselves. According to their different social positions they wore
tail-coats, overcoats, shooting jackets, cutaway-coats; fine tail-coats, redolent of
family respectability, that only came out of the wardrobe on state occasions;
overcoats with long tails flapping in the wind and round capes and pockets like
sacks; shooting jackets of coarse cloth, generally worn with a cap with a brass-
bound peak; very short cutaway-coats with two small buttons in the back, close
together like a pair of eyes, and the tails of which seemed cut out of one piece by
a carpenter's hatchet. Some, too (but these, you may be sure, would sit at the
bottom of the table), wore their best blouses—that is to say, with collars turned
down to the shoulders, the back gathered into small plaits and the waist fastened
very low down with a worked belt.
And the shirts stood out from the chests like cuirasses! Everyone had just had his
hair cut; ears stood out from the heads; they had been close-shaved; a few,
even, who had had to get up before daybreak, and not been able to see to
shave, had diagonal gashes under their noses or cuts the size of a three-franc
piece along the jaws, which the fresh air en route had enflamed, so that the great
white beaming faces were mottled here and there with red dabs.
The mairie was a mile and a half from the farm, and they went thither on foot,
returning in the same way after the ceremony in the church. The procession, first
united like one long coloured scarf that undulated across the fields, along the