With his elbows on the long board on which she was ironing, he greedily watched all these women’s clothes spread about him, the dimity petticoats, the fichus, the collars, and the drawers with running strings, wide at the hips and growing narrower below.
“What is that for?” asked the young fellow, passing his hand over the crinoline or the hooks and eyes.
“Why, haven’t you ever seen anything?” Felicite answered laughing. “As if your mistress, Madame Homais, didn’t wear the same.”
“Oh, I daresay! Madame Homais!” And he added with a meditative air, “As if she were a lady like madame!”
But Felicite grew impatient of seeing him hanging round her. She was six years older than he, and Theodore, Monsieur Guillaumin’s servant, was beginning to pay court to her.
“Let me alone,” she said, moving her pot of starch. “You’d better be off and pound almonds; you are always dangling about women. Before you meddle with such things, bad boy, wait till you’ve got a beard to your chin.”
“Oh, don’t be cross! I’ll go and clean her boots.”
And he at once took down from the shelf Emma’s boots, all coated with mud, the mud of the rendezvous, that crumbled into powder beneath his fingers, and that he watched as it gently rose in a ray of sunlight.
“How afraid you are of spoiling them!” said the servant, who wasn’t so particular when she cleaned them herself, because as soon as the stuff of the boots was no longer fresh madame handed them over to her.
Emma had a number in her cupboard that she squandered one after the other, without Charles allowing himself the slightest observation. So also he disbursed three hundred francs for a wooden leg that she thought proper to make a present of to Hippolyte. Its top was covered with cork, and it had spring joints, a complicated mechanism, covered over by black trousers ending in a patent-leather boot. But Hippolyte, not daring to use such a handsome leg every day, begged Madame Bovary to get him another more convenient one. The doctor, of course, had again to defray the expense of this purchase.
So little by little the stable-man took up his work again. One saw him running about the village as before, and when Charles heard from afar the sharp noise of the wooden leg, he at once went in another direction.
It was Monsieur Lheureux, the shopkeeper, who had undertaken the order; this provided him with an excuse for visiting Emma. He chatted with her about the new goods from Paris, about a thousand feminine trifles, made himself very obliging, and never asked for his money. Emma yielded to this lazy mode of satisfying all her caprices. Thus she wanted to have a very handsome ridding-whip that was at an umbrella-maker’s at Rouen to give to Rodolphe. The week after Monsieur Lheureux placed it on her table.
But the next day he called on her with a bill for two hundred and seventy francs, not counting the centimes. Emma was much embarrassed; all the drawers of the writing-table were empty; they owed over a fortnight’s wages to Lestiboudois, two quarters to the servant, for any quantity of other things, and Bovary was impatiently expecting Monsieur Derozeray’s account, which he was in the habit of paying every year about Midsummer.