Madame Bovary: Life in a Country Town

By Gustave Flaubert; Gerard Hopkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI

ONE evening when she was sitting by the open window watching Lestiboudois, the sexton, trimming the box-hedge, she suddenly heard the sound of the angelus bell.

It was at the beginning of April, when the primroses are in bloom. A warm wind was blowing over the dug flower-beds, and the gardens, like women, seemed to be furbishing their finery for the gaieties of summer. Through the lattice of the arbour, and all around beyond it, she could see the river meandering slow and carefree through the meadow grasses. The mist of evening was drifting between the leafless poplars, blurring their outline with a violet haze, paler and more transparent than a fine gauze hung upon their branches. Cattle were moving in the distance, but her ear could catch neither the noise of their hooves nor the sound of their lowing. The bell, continuously ringing, struck upon the air with its note of peaceful lamentation.

The repeated tolling took the young woman's mind back to the memories of childhood and of her school. She remembered the branched candlesticks which used to stand upon the altar, overtopping the flower-filled vases and the tabernacle with its little columns. She would have liked, as then, to be an unnoticed unit in the long line of white veils in which, here and there, the stiff coiffs of the good sisters kneeling at their desks showed as accents of black. At mass, on Sundays, whenever she raised her head, she could see the sweet face of the Virgin in a blue cloud of eddying incense. At such moments she had been conscious of deep emotion, had felt alone and immaterial, like a piece of down from a bird's breast at the mercy of a raging wind. It was, therefore, almost without knowing what she was doing, that she set out towards the church, ready to enter into any act of devotion provided only that her feelings might be wholly absorbed, and the outer world forgotten.

As she crossed the square, she met Lestiboudois on his way home. For, in order that too great a hole might not be made in his day, he would leave the job in hand, perform his church duties, and then go straight back to what he was doing. The result was that the angelus was rung at such times as he found convenient. It didn't, he felt, really matter, because if it sounded a little earlier than it should, it would serve to remind the children of the hour of catechism.

-98-

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Madame Bovary: Life in a Country Town
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Select Bibliography xxi
  • A Chronology of Gustave Flaubert xxiii
  • Part One - Chapter I 1
  • Chapter II 10
  • Chapter II 17
  • Chapter II 22
  • Chapter II 27
  • Chapter VI 31
  • Chapter VII 35
  • Chapter VII 41
  • Chapter VII 50
  • Part Two - Chapter I 61
  • Chapter II 69
  • Chapter II 75
  • Chapter II 85
  • Chapter II 89
  • Chapter VI 98
  • Chapter VII 110
  • Chapter VIII 117
  • Chapter VIII 138
  • Chapter VIII 148
  • Chapter VIII 156
  • Chapter XII 169
  • Chapter XIII 182
  • Chapter XIV 191
  • Chapter XIV 201
  • Part Three - Chapter I 211
  • Chapter I 211
  • Chapter II 225
  • Chapter II 234
  • Chapter II 236
  • Chapter II 239
  • Chapter II 255
  • Chapter II 271
  • Chapter II 284
  • Chapter II 301
  • Chapter X 309
  • Chapter XI 314
  • Explanatory Notes 325
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