“It is settled, isn’t it? To-morrow at six o’clock?”
Charles explained once more that he could not absent himself longer, but that nothing prevented Emma—
“But,” she stammered, with a strange smile, “I am not sure—”
“Well, you must think it over. We’ll see. Night brings counsel.” Then to Leon, who was walking along with them, “Now that you are in our part of the world, I hope you’ll come and ask us for some dinner now and then.”
The clerk declared he would not fail to do so, being obliged, moreover, to go to Yonville on some business for his office. And they parted before the Saint-Herbland Passage just as the clock in the cathedral struck half-past eleven.
Monsieur Leon, while studying law, had gone pretty often to the dancing-rooms, where he was even a great success amongst the grisettes, who thought he had a distinguished air. He was the best-mannered of the students; he wore his hair neither too long nor too short, didn’t spend all his quarter’s money on the first day of the month, and kept on good terms with his professors. As for excesses, he had always abstained from them, as much from cowardice as from refinement.
Often when he stayed in his room to read, or else when sitting of an evening under the lime-trees of the Luxembourg, he let his Code fall to the ground, and the memory of Emma came back to him. But gradually this feeling grew weaker, and other desires gathered over it, although it still persisted through them all. For Leon did not lose all hope; there was for him, as it were, a vague promise floating in the future, like a golden fruit suspended from some fantastic tree.
Then, seeing her again after three years of absence his passion reawakened. He must, he thought, at last make up his mind to possess her. Moreover, his timidity had worn off by contact with his gay companions, and he returned to the provinces despising everyone who had not with varnished shoes trodden the asphalt of the boulevards. By the side of a Parisienne in her laces, in the drawing-room of some illustrious physician, a person driving his carriage and wearing many orders, the poor clerk would no doubt have trembled like a child; but here, at Rouen, on the harbour, with the wife of this small doctor he felt at his ease, sure beforehand he would shine. Self-possession depends on its environment. We don’t speak on the first floor as on the fourth; and the wealthy woman seems to have, about her, to guard her virtue, all her banknotes, like a cuirass in the lining of her corset.
On leaving the Bovarys the night before, Leon had followed them through the streets at a distance; then having seen them stop at the “Croix-Rouge,” he turned on his heel, and spent the night meditating a plan.
So the next day about five o’clock he walked into the kitchen of the inn, with a choking sensation in his throat, pale cheeks, and that resolution of cowards that stops at nothing.