It was about this time, that is to say, the beginning of winter, that she seemed seized with great musical fervour.
One evening when Charles was listening to her, she began the same piece four times over, each time with much vexation, while he, not noticing any difference, cried—
“Bravo! very goodl You are wrong to stop. Go on!”
“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty.”
The next day he begged her to play him something again.
“Very well; to please you!”
And Charles confessed she had gone off a little. She played wrong notes and blundered; then, stopping short—
“Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but—” She bit her lips and added, “Twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!”
“Yes, so it is—rather,” said Charles, giggling stupidly. “But it seems to me that one might be able to do it for less; for there are artists of no reputation, and who are often better than the celebrities.”
“Find them!” said Emma.
The next day when he came home he looked at her shyly, and at last could no longer keep back the words.
“How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres to-day. Well, Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and that from an excellent mistress!”
She shrugged her shoulders and did not open her piano again. But when she passed by it (if Bovary were there), she sighed—
“Ah! my poor piano!”
And when anyone came to see her, she did not fail to inform them she had given up music, and could not begin again now for important reasons. Then people commiserated her—
“What a pity! she had so much talent!”
They even spoke to Bovary about it. They put him to shame, and especially the chemist.
“You are wrong. One should never let any of the faculties of nature lie fallow. Besides, just think, my good friend, that by inducing madame to study; you are economising on the subsequent musical education of your child. For my own part, I think that mothers ought themselves to instruct their children. That is an idea of Rousseau’s, still rather new perhaps, but that will end by triumphing, I am certain of it, like mothers nursing their own children and vaccination.”
So Charles returned once more to this question of the piano. Emma replied bitterly that it would be better to sell it. This poor piano, that had given her vanity so much satisfaction—to see it go was to Bovary like the indefinable suicide of a part of herself.
“If you liked,” he said, “a lesson from time to time, that wouldn’t after all be very ruinous.”
“But lessons,” she replied, “are only of use when followed up.”
And thus it was she set about obtaining her husband’s permission to go to town once a week to see her lover. At the end of a month she was even considered to have made considerable progress.