Madame Bovary HTML version

Chapter Seven
She was stoical the next day when Maitre Hareng, the bailiff, with two assistants,
presented himself at her house to draw up the inventory for the distraint.
They began with Bovary's consulting-room, and did not write down the
phrenological head, which was considered an "instrument of his profession"; but
in the kitchen they counted the plates; the saucepans, the chairs, the
candlesticks, and in the bedroom all the nick-nacks on the whatnot. They
examined her dresses, the linen, the dressing-room; and her whole existence to
its most intimate details, was, like a corpse on whom a post-mortem is made,
outspread before the eyes of these three men.
Maitre Hareng, buttoned up in his thin black coat, wearing a white choker and
very tight foot-straps, repeated from time to time—"Allow me, madame. You
allow me?" Often he uttered exclamations. "Charming! very pretty." Then he
began writing again, dipping his pen into the horn inkstand in his left hand.
When they had done with the rooms they went up to the attic. She kept a desk
there in which Rodolphe's letters were locked. It had to be opened.
"Ah! a correspondence," said Maitre Hareng, with a discreet smile. "But allow me,
for I must make sure the box contains nothing else." And he tipped up the papers
lightly, as if to shake out napoleons. Then she grew angered to see this coarse
hand, with fingers red and pulpy like slugs, touching these pages against which
her heart had beaten.
They went at last. Felicite came back. Emma had sent her out to watch for
Bovary in order to keep him off, and they hurriedly installed the man in
possession under the roof, where he swore he would remain.
During the evening Charles seemed to her careworn. Emma watched him with a
look of anguish, fancying she saw an accusation in every line of his face. Then,
when her eyes wandered over the chimney-piece ornamented with Chinese
screens, over the large curtains, the armchairs, all those things, in a word, that
had, softened the bitterness of her life, remorse seized her or rather an immense
regret, that, far from crushing, irritated her passion. Charles placidly poked the
fire, both his feet on the fire-dogs.
Once the man, no doubt bored in his hiding-place, made a slight noise.
"Is anyone walking upstairs?" said Charles.
"No," she replied; "it is a window that has been left open, and is rattling in the
The next day, Sunday, she went to Rouen to call on all the brokers whose names
she knew. They were at their country-places or on journeys. She was not
discouraged; and those whom she did manage to see she asked for money,
declaring she must have some, and that she would pay it back. Some laughed in
her face; all refused.