Madame Bovary HTML version

Chapter Eight
At last it came, the famous agricultural show. On the morning of the solemnity all
the inhabitants at their doors were chatting over the preparations. The pediment
of the town hall had been hung with garlands of ivy; a tent had been erected in a
meadow for the banquet; and in the middle of the Place, in front of the church, a
kind of bombarde was to announce the arrival of the prefect and the names of
the successful farmers who had obtained prizes. The National Guard of Buchy
(there was none at Yonville) had come to join the corps of firemen, of whom
Binet was captain. On that day he wore a collar even higher than usual; and,
tightly buttoned in his tunic, his figure was so stiff and motionless that the whole
vital portion of his person seemed to have descended into his legs, which rose in
a cadence of set steps with a single movement. As there was some rivalry
between the tax-collector and the colonel, both, to show off their talents, drilled
their men separately. One saw the red epaulettes and the black breastplates
pass and re-pass alternately; there was no end to it, and it constantly began
again. There had never been such a display of pomp. Several citizens had
scoured their houses the evening before; tri-coloured flags hung from half-open
windows; all the public-houses were full; and in the lovely weather the starched
caps, the golden crosses, and the coloured neckerchiefs seemed whiter than
snow, shone in the sun, and relieved with the motley colours the sombre
monotony of the frock-coats and blue smocks. The neighbouring farmers' wives,
when they got off their horses, pulled out the long pins that fastened around them
their dresses, turned up for fear of mud; and the husbands, for their part, in order
to save their hats, kept their handkerchiefs around them, holding one corner
between their teeth.
The crowd came into the main street from both ends of the village. People
poured in from the lanes, the alleys, the houses; and from time to time one heard
knockers banging against doors closing behind women with their gloves, who
were going out to see the fete. What was most admired were two long lamp-
stands covered with lanterns, that flanked a platform on which the authorities
were to sit. Besides this there were against the four columns of the town hall four
kinds of poles, each bearing a small standard of greenish cloth, embellished with
inscriptions in gold letters.
On one was written, "To Commerce"; on the other, "To Agriculture"; on the third,
"To Industry"; and on the fourth, "To the Fine Arts."
But the jubilation that brightened all faces seemed to darken that of Madame
Lefrancois, the innkeeper. Standing on her kitchen-steps she muttered to herself,
"What rubbish! what rubbish! With their canvas booth! Do they think the prefect
will be glad to dine down there under a tent like a gipsy? They call all this fussing
doing good to the place! Then it wasn't worth while sending to Neufchatel for the
keeper of a cookshop! And for whom? For cowherds! tatterdemalions!"