Madame Bovary HTML version

Part II
Chapter One
Yonville-l'Abbaye (so called from an old Capuchin abbey of which not even the
ruins remain) is a market-town twenty-four miles from Rouen, between the
Abbeville and Beauvais roads, at the foot of a valley watered by the Rieule, a
little river that runs into the Andelle after turning three water-mills near its mouth,
where there are a few trout that the lads amuse themselves by fishing for on
We leave the highroad at La Boissiere and keep straight on to the top of the Leux
hill, whence the valley is seen. The river that runs through it makes of it, as it
were, two regions with distinct physiognomies—all on the left is pasture land, all
of the right arable. The meadow stretches under a bulge of low hills to join at the
back with the pasture land of the Bray country, while on the eastern side, the
plain, gently rising, broadens out, showing as far as eye can follow its blond
cornfields. The water, flowing by the grass, divides with a white line the colour of
the roads and of the plains, and the country is like a great unfolded mantle with a
green velvet cape bordered with a fringe of silver.
Before us, on the verge of the horizon, lie the oaks of the forest of Argueil, with
the steeps of the Saint-Jean hills scarred from top to bottom with red irregular
lines; they are rain tracks, and these brick-tones standing out in narrow streaks
against the grey colour of the mountain are due to the quantity of iron springs
that flow beyond in the neighboring country.
Here we are on the confines of Normandy, Picardy, and the Ile-de-France, a
bastard land whose language is without accent and its landscape is without
character. It is there that they make the worst Neufchatel cheeses of all the
arrondissement; and, on the other hand, farming is costly because so much
manure is needed to enrich this friable soil full of sand and flints.
Up to 1835 there was no practicable road for getting to Yonville, but about this
time a cross-road was made which joins that of Abbeville to that of Amiens, and
is occasionally used by the Rouen wagoners on their way to Flanders. Yonville-
l'Abbaye has remained stationary in spite of its "new outlet." Instead of improving
the soil, they persist in keeping up the pasture lands, however depreciated they
may be in value, and the lazy borough, growing away from the plain, has
naturally spread riverwards. It is seem from afar sprawling along the banks like a
cowherd taking a siesta by the water-side.
At the foot of the hill beyond the bridge begins a roadway, planted with young
aspens, that leads in a straight line to the first houses in the place. These, fenced
in by hedges, are in the middle of courtyards full of straggling buildings, wine-
presses, cart-sheds and distilleries scattered under thick trees, with ladders,
poles, or scythes hung on to the branches. The thatched roofs, like fur caps
drawn over eyes, reach down over about a third of the low windows, whose
coarse convex glasses have knots in the middle like the bottoms of bottles.