Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

A few delicious tidbits in here, to which we will add as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by.

Re: Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

Postby admin » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:43 am

CHAPTER VII. "Unlucky in Love."

And now the days began to be sad. They studied no longer, fearing lest they might be disillusioned. The inhabitants of Chavignolles avoided them. The newspapers they tolerated gave them no information; and so their solitude was unbroken, their time completely unoccupied.

Sometimes they would open a book, and then shut it again—what was the use of it? On other days they would be seized with the idea of cleaning up the garden: at the end of a quarter of an hour they would be fatigued; or they would set out to have a look at the farm, and come back disenchanted; or they tried to interest themselves in household affairs, with the result of making Germaine break out into lamentations. They gave it up.

Bouvard wanted to draw up a catalogue for the museum, and declared their curios stupid.

Pécuchet borrowed Langlois' duck-gun to shoot larks with; the weapon burst at the first shot, and was near killing him.

Then they lived in the midst of that rural solitude so depressing when the grey sky covers in its229 monotony a heart without hope. The step of a man in wooden shoes is heard as he steals along by the wall, or perchance it is the rain dripping from the roof to the ground. From time to time a dead leaf just grazes one of the windows, then whirls about and flies away. The indistinct echoes of some funeral bell are borne to the ear by the wind. From a corner of the stable comes the lowing of a cow. They yawned in each other's faces, consulted the almanac, looked at the clock, waited for meal-time; and the horizon was ever the same—fields in front, the church to the right, a screen of poplars to the left, their tops swaying incessantly in the hazy atmosphere with a melancholy air.

Habits which they formerly tolerated now gave them annoyance. Pécuchet became quite a bore from his mania for putting his handkerchief on the tablecloth. Bouvard never gave up his pipe, and would keep twisting himself about while he was talking. They started disputes about the dishes, or about the quality of the butter; and while they were chatting face to face each was thinking of different things.

A certain occurrence had upset Pécuchet's mind.

Two days after the riot at Chavignolles, while he was airing his political grievance, he had reached a road covered with tufted elms, and heard behind his back a voice exclaiming, "Stop!"

It was Madame Castillon. She was rushing across from the opposite side without perceiving him.

A man who was walking along in front of her turned round. It was Gorju; and they met some six feet away from Pécuchet, the row of trees separating them from him.

"Is it true," said she, "you are going to fight?"230

Pécuchet slipped behind the ditch to listen.

"Well, yes," replied Gorju; "I am going to fight. What has that to do with you?"

"He asks me such a question!" cried she, flinging her arms about him. "But, if you are killed, my love! Oh! remain!"

And her blue eyes appealed to him, still more than her words.

"Let me alone. I have to go."

There was an angry sneer on her face.

"The other has permitted it, eh?"

"Don't speak of her."

He raised his fist.

"No, dear; no. I don't say anything." And big tears trickled down her cheeks as far as the frilling of her collarette.

It was midday. The sun shone down upon the fields covered with yellow grain. Far in the distance carriage-wheels softly slipped along the road. There was a torpor in the air—not a bird's cry, not an insect's hum. Gorju cut himself a switch and scraped off the bark.

Madame Castillon did not raise her head again. She, poor woman, was thinking of her vain sacrifices for him, the debts she had paid for him, her future liabilities, and her lost reputation. Instead of complaining, she recalled for him the first days of their love, when she used to go every night to meet him in the barn, so that her husband on one occasion, fancying it was a thief, fired a pistol-shot through the window. The bullet was in the wall still. "From the moment I first knew you, you seemed to me as handsome as a prince. I love your eyes, your voice, your walk, your smell," and in a lower tone231 she added: "and as for your person, I am fairly crazy about it."

He listened with a smile of gratified vanity.

She clasped him with both hands round the waist, her head bent as if in adoration.

"My dear heart! my dear love! my soul! my life! Come! speak! What is it you want? Is it money? We'll get it. I was in the wrong. I annoyed you. Forgive me; and order clothes from the tailor, drink champagne—enjoy yourself. I will allow everything—everything."

She murmured with a supreme effort, "Even her—as long as you come back to me."

He just touched her lips with his, drawing one arm around her to prevent her from falling; and she kept murmuring, "Dear heart! dear love! how handsome you are! My God! how handsome you are!"

Pécuchet, without moving an inch, his chin just touching the top of the ditch, stared at them in breathless astonishment.

"Come, no swooning," said Gorju. "You'll only have me missing the coach. A glorious bit of devilment is getting ready, and I'm in the swim; so just give me ten sous to stand the conductor a drink."

She took five francs out of her purse. "You will soon give them back to me. Have a little patience. He has been a good while paralysed. Think of that! And, if you liked, we could go to the chapel of Croix-Janval, and there, my love, I would swear before the Blessed Virgin to marry you as soon as he is dead."

"Ah! he'll never die—that husband of yours."

Gorju had turned on his heel. She caught hold of him again, and clinging to his shoulders:232

"Let me go with you. I will be your servant. You want some one. But don't go away! don't leave me! Death rather! Kill me!"

She crawled towards him on her knees, trying to seize his hands in order to kiss them. Her cap fell off, then her comb, and her hair got dishevelled. It was turning white around her ears, and, as she looked up at him, sobbing bitterly, with red eyes and swollen lips, he got quite exasperated, and pushed her back.

"Be off, old woman! Good evening."

When she had got up, she tore off the gold cross that hung round her neck, and flinging it at him, cried:

"There, you ruffian!"

Gorju went off, lashing the leaves of the trees with his switch.

Madame Castillon ceased weeping. With fallen jaw and tear-dimmed eyes she stood motionless, petrified with despair; no longer a being, but a thing in ruins.

What he had just chanced upon was for Pécuchet like the discovery of a new world—a world in which there were dazzling splendours, wild blossomings, oceans, tempests, treasures, and abysses of infinite depth. There was something about it that excited terror; but what of that? He dreamed of love, desired to feel it as she felt it, to inspire it as he inspired it.

However, he execrated Gorju, and could hardly keep from giving information about him at the guard-house.

Pécuchet was mortified by the slim waist, the regular curls, and the smooth beard of Madame Castillon's lover, as well as by the air of a conquering233 hero which the fellow assumed, while his own hair was pasted to his skull like a soaked wig, his torso wrapped in a greatcoat resembled a bolster, two of his front teeth were out, and his physiognomy had a harsh expression. He thought that Heaven had dealt unkindly with him, and felt that he was one of the disinherited; moreover, his friend no longer cared for him.

Bouvard deserted him every evening. Since his wife was dead, there was nothing to prevent him from taking another, who, by this time, might be coddling him up and looking after his house. And now he was getting too old to think of it.

But Bouvard examined himself in the glass. His cheeks had kept their colour; his hair curled just the same as of yore; not a tooth was loose; and, at the idea that he had still the power to please, he felt a return of youthfulness. Madame Bordin rose in his memory. She had made advances to him, first on the occasion of the burning of the stacks, next at the dinner which they gave, then in the museum at the recital, and lastly, without resenting any want of attention on his part, she had called three Sundays in succession. He paid her a return visit, and repeated it, making up his mind to woo and win her.

Since the day when Pécuchet had watched the little servant-maid drawing water, he had frequently talked to her, and whether she was sweeping the corridor or spreading out the linen, or taking up the saucepans, he could never grow tired of looking at her—surprised himself at his emotions, as in the days of adolescence. He had fevers and languors on account of her, and he was stung by the picture left234 in his memory of Madame Castillon straining Gorju to her breast.

He was about to clasp her in his arms

He questioned Bouvard as to the way libertines set about seducing women.

"They make them presents; they bring them to restaurants for supper."

"Very good. But after that?"

"Some of them pretend to faint, in order that you may carry them over to a sofa; others let their handkerchiefs fall on the ground. The best of them plainly make an appointment with you." And Bouvard launched forth into descriptions which inflamed Pécuchet's imagination, like engravings of voluptuous scenes.

"The first rule is not to believe what they say. I have known those who, under the appearance of saints, were regular Messalinas. Above all, you must be bold."

But boldness cannot be had to order.

From day to day Pécuchet put off his determination, and besides he was intimidated by the presence of Germaine.

Hoping that she would ask to have her wages paid, he exacted additional work from her, took notice every time she got tipsy, referred in a loud voice to her want of cleanliness, her quarrelsomeness, and did it all so effectively that she had to go.

Then Pécuchet was free! With what impatience he waited for Bouvard to go out! What a throbbing of the heart he felt as soon as the door closed!

Mélie was working at a round table near the window by the light of a candle; from time to time she broke the threads with her teeth, then she half-closed her eyes while adjusting it in the slit of the needle.235 At first he asked her what kind of men she liked. Was it, for instance, Bouvard's style?

"Oh, no." She preferred thin men.

He ventured to ask her if she ever had had any lovers.


Then, drawing closer to her, he surveyed her piquant nose, her small mouth, her charmingly-rounded figure. He paid her some compliments, and exhorted her to prudence.

In bending over her he got a glimpse, under her corsage, of her white skin, from which emanated a warm odour that made his cheeks tingle. One evening he touched with his lips the wanton hairs at the back of her neck, and he felt shaken even to the marrow of his bones. Another time he kissed her on the chin, and had to restrain himself from putting his teeth in her flesh, so savoury was it. She returned his kiss. The apartment whirled round; he no longer saw anything.

He made her a present of a pair of lady's boots, and often treated her to a glass of aniseed cordial.

To save her trouble he rose early, chopped up the wood, lighted the fire, and was so attentive as to clean Bouvard's shoes.

Mélie did not faint or let her handkerchief fall, and Pécuchet did not know what to do, his passion increasing through the fear of satisfying it.

Bouvard was assiduously paying his addresses to Madame Bordin. She used to receive him rather cramped in her gown of shot silk, which creaked like a horse's harness, all the while fingering her long gold chain to keep herself in countenance.236

Their conversations turned on the people of Chavignolles or on "the dear departed," who had been an usher at Livarot.

Then she inquired about Bouvard's past, curious to know something of his "youthful freaks," the way in which he had fallen heir to his fortune, and the interests by which he was bound to Pécuchet.

He admired the appearance of her house, and when he came to dinner there was struck by the neatness with which it was served and the excellent fare placed on the table. A succession of dishes of the most savoury description, which intermingled at regular intervals with a bottle of old Pomard, brought them to the dessert, at which they remained a long time sipping their coffee; and, with dilating nostrils, Madame Bordin dipped into her saucer her thick lip, lightly shaded with a black down.

One day she appeared in a low dress. Her shoulders fascinated Bouvard. As he sat in a little chair before her, he began to pass his hands along her arms. The widow seemed offended. He did not repeat this attention, but he pictured to himself those ample curves, so marvellously smooth and fine.

Any evening when he felt dissatisfied with Mélie's cooking, it gave him pleasure to enter Madame Bordin's drawing-room. It was there he should have lived.

The globe of the lamp, covered with a red shade, shed a tranquil light. She was seated close to the fire, and his foot touched the hem of her skirt.

After a few opening words the conversation flagged.

However, she kept gazing at him, with half-closed lids, in a languid fashion, but unbending withal.

Bouvard could not stand it any longer, and, sinking on his knees to the floor, he stammered:237

"I love you! Marry me!"

Madame Bordin drew a strong breath; then, with an ingenuous air, said he was jesting; no doubt he was trying to have a laugh at her expense—it was not fair. This declaration stunned her.

Bouvard returned that she did not require anyone's consent. "What's to hinder you? Is it the trousseau? Our linen has the same mark, a B—we'll unite our capital letters!"

The idea caught her fancy. But a more important matter prevented her from arriving at a decision before the end of the month. And Bouvard groaned.

She had the politeness to accompany him to the gate, escorted by Marianne, who carried a lantern.

The two friends kept their love affairs hidden from each other.

Pécuchet counted on always cloaking his intrigue with the servant-maid. If Bouvard made any opposition to it, he could carry her off to other places, even though it were to Algeria, where living is not so dear. But he rarely indulged in such speculations, full as he was of his passion, without thinking of the consequences.

Bouvard conceived the idea of converting the museum into the bridal chamber, unless Pécuchet objected, in which case he might take up his residence at his wife's house.

One afternoon in the following week—it was in her garden; the buds were just opening, and between the clouds there were great blue spaces—she stopped to gather some violets, and said as she offered them to him:

"Salute Madame Bouvard!"

"What! Is it true?"238

"Perfectly true."

He was about to clasp her in his arms. She kept him back. "What a man!" Then, growing serious, she warned him that she would shortly be asking him for a favour.

"'Tis granted."

They fixed the following Thursday for the formality of signing the marriage contract.

Nobody should know anything about it up to the last moment.


And off he went, looking up towards the sky, nimble as a roebuck.

Pécuchet on the morning of the same day said in his own mind that he would die if he did not obtain the favours of his little maid, and he followed her into the cellar, hoping the darkness would give him courage.

She tried to go away several times, but he detained her in order to count the bottles, to choose laths, or to look into the bottoms of casks—and this occupied a considerable time.

She stood facing him under the light that penetrated through an air-hole, with her eyes cast down, and the corner of her mouth slightly raised.

"Do you love me?" said Pécuchet abruptly.

"Yes, I do love you."

"Well, then prove it to me."

And throwing his left arm around her, he embraced her with ardour.

"You're going to do me some harm."

"No, my little angel. Don't be afraid."

"If Monsieur Bouvard——"

"I'll tell him nothing. Make your mind easy."239

There was a heap of faggots behind them. She sank upon them, and hid her face under one arm;—and another man would have understood that she was no novice.

Bouvard arrived soon for dinner.

The meal passed in silence, each of them being afraid of betraying himself, while Mélie attended them with her usual impassiveness.

Pécuchet turned away his eyes to avoid hers; and Bouvard, his gaze resting on the walls, pondered meanwhile on his projected improvements.

Eight days after he came back in a towering rage.

"The damned traitress!"

"Who, pray?"

"Madame Bordin."

And he related how he had been so infatuated as to offer to make her his wife, but all had come to an end a quarter of an hour since at Marescot's office. She wished to have for her marriage portion the Ecalles meadow, which he could not dispose of, having partly retained it, like the farm, with the money of another person.

"Exactly," said Pécuchet.

"I had had the folly to promise her any favour she asked—and this was what she was after! I attribute her obstinacy to this; for if she loved me she would have given way to me."

The widow, on the contrary, had attacked him in insulting language, and referred disparagingly to his physique, his big paunch.

"My paunch! Just imagine for a moment!"

Meanwhile Pécuchet had risen several times, and seemed to be in pain.240

Bouvard asked him what was the matter, and thereupon Pécuchet, having first taken the precaution to shut the door, explained in a hesitating manner that he was affected with a certain disease.

"What! You?"


"Oh, my poor fellow! And who is the cause of this?"

Pécuchet became redder than before, and said in a still lower tone:

"It can be only Mélie."

Bouvard remained stupefied.

The first thing to do was to send the young woman away.

She protested with an air of candour.

Pécuchet's case was, however, serious; but he was ashamed to consult a physician.

Bouvard thought of applying to Barberou.

They gave him particulars about the matter, in order that he might communicate with a doctor who would deal with the case by correspondence.

Barberou set to work with zeal, believing it was Bouvard's own case, and calling him an old dotard, even though he congratulated him about it.

"At my age!" said Pécuchet. "Is it not a melancholy thing? But why did she do this?"

"You pleased her."

"She ought to have given me warning."

"Does passion reason?" And Bouvard renewed his complaints about Madame Bordin.

Often had he surprised her before the Ecalles, in Marescot's company, having a gossip with Germaine. So many manœuvres for a little bit of land!

"She is avaricious! That's the explanation."241

So they ruminated over their disappointments by the fireside in the breakfast parlour, Pécuchet swallowing his medicines and Bouvard puffing at his pipe; and they began a discussion about women.

"Strange want!—or is it a want?" "They drive men to crime—to heroism as well as to brutishness." "Hell under a petticoat," "paradise in a kiss," "the turtle's warbling," "the serpent's windings," "the cat's claws," "the sea's treachery," "the moon's changeableness." They repeated all the commonplaces that have been uttered about the sex.

It was the desire for women that had suspended their friendship. A feeling of remorse took possession of them. "No more women. Is not that so? Let us live without them!" And they embraced each other tenderly.

There should be a reaction; and Bouvard, when Pécuchet was better, considered that a course of hydropathic treatment would be beneficial.

Germaine, who had come back since the other servant's departure, carried the bathing-tub each morning into the corridor.

The two worthies, naked as savages, poured over themselves big buckets of water; they then rushed back to their rooms. They were seen through the garden fence, and people were scandalised.
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Re: Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

Postby admin » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:45 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER VIII. New Diversions.

Satisfied with their regimen, they desired to improve their constitutions by gymnastics; and taking up the Manual of Amoros, they went through its atlas. All those young lads squatting, lying back, standing, bending their legs, lifting weights, riding on beams, climbing ladders, cutting capers on trapezes—such a display of strength and agility excited their envy.

However, they were saddened by the splendour of the gymnasium described in the preface; for they would never be able to get a vestibule for the equipages, a hippodrome for the races, a sweep of water for the swimming, or a "mountain of glory"—an artificial hillock over one hundred feet in height.

A wooden vaulting-horse with the stuffing would have been expensive: they abandoned the idea. The linden tree, thrown down in the garden, might have been used as a horizontal pole; and, when they were skilful enough to go over it from one end to the other, in order to have a vertical one, they set up a beam of counter-espaliers. Pécuchet clambered to the top; Bouvard slipped off, always fell back, finally gave it up.243

The "orthosomatic sticks" pleased him better; that is to say, two broomsticks bound by two cords, the first of which passes under the armpits, and the second over the wrists; and for hours he would remain in this apparatus, with his chin raised, his chest extended, and his elbows close to his sides.

For want of dumbbells, the wheelwright turned out four pieces of ash resembling sugar-loaves with necks of bottles at the ends. These should be carried to the right and to the left, to the front and to the back; but being too heavy they fell out of their hands, at the risk of bruising their legs. No matter! They set their hearts on Persian clubs, and even fearing lest they might break, they rubbed them every evening with wax and a piece of cloth.

Then they looked out for ditches. When they found one suitable for their purpose, they rested a long pole in the centre, sprang forward on the left foot, reached the opposite side, and then repeated the performance. The country being flat, they could be seen at a distance; and the villagers asked one another what were these extraordinary things skipping towards the horizon.

When autumn arrived they went in for chamber gymnastics, which completely bored them. Why had they not the indoor apparatus or post-armchair invented in Louis XIV.'s time by the Abbé of St. Pierre? How was it made? Where could they get the information?

Dumouchel did not deign to answer their letter on the subject.

Then they erected in the bakehouse a brachial weighing-machine. Over two pulleys attached to the ceiling a rope was passed, holding a crossbeam at244 each end. As soon as they had caught hold of it one pushed against the ground with his toes, while the other lowered his arms to a level with the floor; the first by his weight would draw towards him the second, who, slackening his rope a little, would ascend in his turn. In less than five minutes their limbs were dripping with perspiration.

In order to follow the prescriptions of the Manual, they tried to make themselves ambidextrous, even to the extent of depriving themselves for a time of the use of their right hands. They did more: Amoros points out certain snatches of verse which ought to be sung during the manœuvres, and Bouvard and Pécuchet, as they proceeded, kept repeating the hymn No. 9: "A king, a just king is a blessing on earth."

When they beat their breast-bones: "Friends, the crown and the glory," etc.

At the various steps of the race:

"Let us catch the beast that cowers!Soon the swift stag shall be ours! Yes! the race shall soon be won, Come, run! come, run! come, run!"[17]
And, panting more than hounds, they cheered each other on with the sounds of their voices.

One side of gymnastics excited their enthusiasm—its employment as a means of saving life. But they would have required children in order to learn how to carry them in sacks, and they begged the schoolmaster to furnish them with some. Petit objected245 that their families would be annoyed at it. They fell back on the succour of the wounded. One pretended to have swooned: the other rolled him away in a wheelbarrow with the utmost precaution.

As for military escalades, the author extols the ladder of Bois-Rosé, so called from the captain who surprised Fécamp in former days by climbing up the cliff.

In accordance with the engraving in the book, they trimmed a rope with little sticks and fixed it under the cart-shed. As soon as the first stick is bestridden and the third grasped, the limbs are thrown out in order that the second, which a moment before was against the chest, might be directly under the thighs. The climber then springs up and grasps the fourth, and so goes on.

In spite of prodigious strainings of the hips, they found it impossible to reach the second step. Perhaps there is less trouble in hanging on to stones with your hands, just as Bonaparte's soldiers did at the attack of Fort Chambray? and to make one capable of such an action, Amoros has a tower in his establishment.

The wall in ruins might do as a substitute for it. They attempted the assault with it. But Bouvard, having withdrawn his foot too quickly from a hole, got frightened, and was seized with dizziness.

Pécuchet blamed their method for it. They had neglected that which relates to the phalanxes, so that they should go back to first principles.

His exhortations were fruitless; and then, in his pride and presumption, he went in for stilts.

Nature seemed to have destined him for them, for he immediately made use of the great model with246 flat boards four feet from the ground, and, balanced thereon, he stalked over the garden like a gigantic stork taking exercise.

Bouvard, at the window, saw him stagger and then flop down all of a heap over the kidney-beans, whose props, giving way as he descended, broke his fall.

He was picked up covered with mould, his nostrils bleeding—livid; and he fancied that he had strained himself.

Decidedly, gymnastics did not agree with men of their age. They abandoned them, did not venture to move about any longer for fear of accidents, and they remained the whole day sitting in the museum dreaming of other occupations.

This change of habits had an influence on Bouvard's health. He became very heavy, puffed like a whale after his meals, tried to make himself thin, ate less, and began to grow weak.

Pécuchet, in like manner, felt himself "undermined," had itchings in his skin and lumps in his throat.

"This won't do," said they; "this won't do."

Bouvard thought of going to select at the inn some bottles of Spanish wine in order to put his bodily machinery in order.

As he was going out, Marescot's clerk and three men brought from Beljambe a large walnut table. "Monsieur" was much obliged to him for it. It had been conveyed in perfect order.

Bouvard in this way learned about the new fashion of table-turning. He joked about it with the clerk.

However, all over Europe, America, Australia and the Indies, millions of mortals passed their lives in247 making tables turn; and they discovered the way to make prophets of canaries, to give concerts without instruments, and to correspond by means of snails. The press, seriously offering these impostures to the public, increased its credulity.

The spirit-rappers had alighted at the château of Faverges, and thence had spread through the village; and the notary questioned them particularly.

Shocked at Bouvard's scepticism, he invited the two friends to an evening party at table-turning.

Was this a trap? Madame Bordin was to be there. Pécuchet went alone.

There were present as spectators the mayor, the tax-collector, the captain, other residents and their wives, Madame Vaucorbeil, Madame Bordin, of course, besides Mademoiselle Laverrière, Madame Marescot's former schoolmistress, a rather squint-eyed lady with her hair falling over her shoulders in the corkscrew fashion of 1830. In an armchair sat a cousin from Paris, attired in a blue coat and wearing an air of insolence.

The two bronze lamps, the whatnot containing a number of curiosities, ballads embellished with vignettes on the piano, and small water-colours in huge frames, had always excited astonishment in Chavignolles. But this evening all eyes were directed towards the mahogany table. They would test it by and by, and it had the importance of things which contain a mystery. A dozen guests took their places around it with outstretched hands and their little fingers touching one another. Only the ticking of the clock could be heard. The faces indicated profound attention. At the end of ten minutes several complained of tinglings in the arms.248

Pécuchet was incommoded.

"You are pushing!" said the captain to Foureau.

"Not at all."

"Yes, you are!"

"Ah! sir."

The notary made them keep quiet.

By dint of straining their ears they thought they could distinguish cracklings of wood.

An illusion! Nothing had budged.

The other day when the Aubert and Lorraine families had come from Lisieux and they had expressly borrowed Beljambe's table for the occasion, everything had gone on so well. But this to-day exhibited a certain obstinacy. Why?

The carpet undoubtedly counteracted it, and they changed to the dining-room.

The round table, which was on rollers, glided towards the right-hand side. The operators, without displacing their fingers, followed its movements, and of its own accord it made two turns. They were astounded.

Then M. Alfred articulated in a loud voice:

"Spirit, how do you find my cousin?"

The table, slowly oscillating, struck nine raps. According to a slip of paper, in which the number of raps were translated by letters, this meant "Charming."

A number of voices exclaimed "Bravo!"

Then Marescot, to tease Madame Bordin, called on the spirit to declare her exact age.

The foot of the table came down with five taps.

"What? five years!" cried Girbal.

"The tens don't count," replied Foureau.

The widow smiled, though she was inwardly annoyed.249

The replies to the other questions were missing, so complicated was the alphabet.

Much better was the plane table—an expeditious medium of which Mademoiselle Laverrière had made use for the purpose of noting down in an album the direct communications of Louis XII., Clémence Isaure, Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and others. These mechanical contrivances are sold in the Rue d'Aumale. M. Alfred promised one of them; then addressing the schoolmistress: "But for a quarter of an hour we should have a little music; don't you think so? A mazurka!"

Two metal chords vibrated. He took his cousin by the waist, disappeared with her, and came back again.

The sweep of her dress, which just brushed the doors as they passed, cooled their faces. She flung back her head; he curved his arms. The gracefulness of the one, the playful air of the other, excited general admiration; and, without waiting for the rout cakes, Pécuchet took himself off, amazed at the evening's exhibition.

In vain did he repeat: "But I have seen it! I have seen it!"

Bouvard denied the facts, but nevertheless consented to make an experiment himself.

For a fortnight they spent every afternoon facing each other, with their hands over a table, then over a hat, over a basket, and over plates. All these remained motionless.

The phenomenon of table-turning is none the less certain. The common herd attribute it to spirits; Faraday to prolonged nervous action; Chevreuil to unconscious efforts; or perhaps, as Segouin admits,250 there is evolved from the assembly of persons an impulse, a magnetic current.

This hypothesis made Pécuchet reflect. He took into his library the Magnetiser's Guide, by Montacabère, read it over attentively, and initiated Bouvard in the theory: All animated bodies receive and communicate the influence of the stars—a property analogous to the virtue of the loadstone. By directing this force we may cure the sick; there is the principle. Science has developed since Mesmer; but it is always an important thing to pour out the fluid and to make passes, which, in the first place, must have the effect of inducing sleep.

"Well! send me to sleep," said Bouvard.

"Impossible!" replied Pécuchet: "in order to be subject to the magnetic action, and to transmit it, faith is indispensable."

Then, gazing at Bouvard: "Ah! what a pity!"


"Yes, if you wished, with a little practice, there would not be a magnetiser anywhere like you."

For he possessed everything that was needed: easiness of access, a robust constitution, and a solid mind.

The discovery just made of such a faculty in himself was flattering to Bouvard. He took a plunge into Montacabère's book on the sly.

Then, as Germaine used to feel buzzings in her ears that deafened her, he said to her one evening in a careless tone:

"Suppose we try magnetism?"

She did not make any objection to it. He sat down in front of her, took her two thumbs in his hands, and looked fixedly at her, as if he had not done anything else all his life.251

The old dame, with her feet on a footwarmer, began by bending her neck; her eyes closed, and quite gently she began to snore. At the end of an hour, during which they had been staring at her, Pécuchet said in a low tone:

"What do you feel?"

She awoke.

Later, no doubt, would come lucidity.

This success emboldened them, and, resuming with self-confidence, the practice of medicine, they nursed Chamberlan, the beadle, for pains in his ribs; Migraine the mason, who had a nervous affection of the stomach; Mère Varin, whose encephaloid under the collar-bone required, in order to nourish her, plasters of meat; a gouty patient, Père Lemoine, who used to crawl by the side of taverns; a consumptive; a person afflicted with hemiplegia, and many others. They also treated corns and chilblains.

After an investigation into the disease, they cast questioning glances at each other to determine what passes to use, whether the currents should be large or small, ascending or descending, longitudinal, transversal, bidigital, tridigital, or even quindigital.

When the one had had too much of it, the other replaced him. Then, when they had come back to their own house, they noted down their observation in their diary of treatment.

Their suave manners captivated everyone. However, Bouvard was liked better, and his reputation spread as far as Falaise, where he had cured La Barbée, the daughter of Père Barbée, a retired captain of long standing.

She had felt something like a nail in the back of her head, spoke in a hoarse voice, often remained several252 days without eating, and then would devour plaster or coal. Her nervous crises, beginning with sobs, ended in floods of tears; and every kind of remedy, from diet-drinks to moxas, had been employed, so that, through sheer weariness, she accepted Bouvard's offer to cure her.

When he had dismissed the servant-maid and bolted the door, he began rubbing her abdomen, while leaning over the seat of the ovaries. A sense of relief manifested itself by sighs and yawns. He placed his finger between her eyebrows and the top of her nose: all at once she became inert. If one lifted her arms, they fell down again. Her head remained in whatever attitude he wished, and her lids, half closed, vibrating with a spasmodic movement, allowed her eyeballs to be seen rolling slowly about; they riveted themselves on the corners convulsively.

Bouvard asked her if she were in pain. She replied that she was not. Then he inquired what she felt now. She indicated the inside of her body.

"What do you see there?"

"A worm."

"What is necessary in order to kill it?"

She wrinkled her brow. "I am looking for—I am not able! I am not able!"

At the second sitting she prescribed for herself nettle-broth; at the third, catnip. The crises became mitigated, then disappeared. It was truly a miracle. The nasal addigitation did not succeed with the others, and, in order to bring on somnambulism, they projected the construction of a mesmeric tub. Pécuchet already had even collected the filings and cleaned a score of bottles, when a scruple made him hesitate.253

Amongst the patients there would be persons of the other sex.

"And what are we to do if this should give rise to an outburst of erotic mania?"

This would not have proved any impediment to Bouvard; but for fear of impostures and attempts to extort hush-money, it was better to put aside the project. They contented themselves with a collection of musical glasses, which they carried about with them to the different houses, so as to delight the children.

One day, when Migraine was worse, they had recourse to the musical glasses. The crystalline sounds exasperated him; but Deleuze enjoins that one should not be frightened by complaints; and so they went on with the music.

"Enough! enough!" he cried.

"A little patience!" Bouvard kept repeating.

Pécuchet tapped more quickly on the glass plates, and the instrument was vibrating in the midst of the poor man's cries when the doctor appeared, attracted by the hubbub.

"What! you again?" he exclaimed, enraged at finding them always with his patients.

They explained their magnetic method of curing. Then he declaimed against magnetism—"a heap of juggleries, whose effects came only from the imagination."

However, animals are magnetised. Montacabère so states, and M. Fontaine succeeded in magnetising a lion. They had not a lion, but chance had offered them another animal.

For on the following day a ploughboy came to inform them that they were wanted up at the farm for a cow in a hopeless condition.254

They hurried thither. The apple trees were in bloom, and the herbage in the farmyard was steaming under the rays of the rising sun.

At the side of a pond, half covered with a cloth, a cow was lowing, while she shivered under the pails of water that were being emptied over her body, and, enormously swollen, she looked like a hippopotamus.

Without doubt she had got "venom" while grazing amid the clover. Père Gouy and his wife were afflicted because the veterinary surgeon was not able to come, and the wheelwright who had a charm against swelling did not choose to put himself out of his way; but "these gentlemen, whose library was famous, must know the secret."

Having tucked up their sleeves, they placed themselves one in front of the horns, the other at the rump, and, with great internal efforts and frantic gesticulations, they spread wide their fingers in order to scatter streams of fluid over the animal, while the farmer, his wife, their son, and the neighbours regarded them almost with terror.

The rumblings which were heard in the cow's belly caused borborygms in the interior of her bowels. She emitted wind.

Pécuchet thereupon said: "This is an opening door for hope—an outlet, perhaps."

The outlet produced its effect: the hope gushed forth in a bundle of yellow stuff, bursting with the force of a shell. The hide got loose; the cow got rid of her swelling. An hour later there was no longer any sign of it.

This was certainly not the result of imagination. Therefore the fluid contained some special virtue.255 It lets itself be shut up in the objects to whom it is given without being impaired. Such an expedient saves displacements. They adopted it; and they sent their clients magnetised tokens, magnetised handkerchiefs, magnetised water, and magnetised bread.

Then, continuing their studies, they abandoned the passes for the system of Puységur, which replaces the magnetiser by means of an old tree, about the trunk of which a cord is rolled.

A pear tree in their fruit garden seemed made expressly for the purpose. They prepared it by vigorously encircling it with many pressures. A bench was placed underneath. Their clients sat in a row, and the results obtained there were so marvellous that, in order to get the better of Vaucorbeil, they invited him to a séance along with the leading personages of the locality.

Not one failed to attend. Germaine received them in the breakfast-room, making excuses on behalf of her masters, who would join them presently.

From time to time they heard the bell ringing. It was the patients whom she was bringing in by another way. The guests nudged one another, drawing attention to the windows covered with dust, the stains on the panels, the frayed pictures; and the garden, too, was in a wretched state. Dead wood everywhere! The orchard was barricaded with two sticks thrust into a gap in the wall.

Pécuchet made his appearance. "At your service, gentlemen."

And they saw at the end of the garden, under the Edouïn pear tree, a number of persons seated.

Chamberlan, clean-shaven like a priest, in a short cassock of lasting, with a leathern cap, gave himself256 up to the shivering sensations engendered by the pains in his ribs. Migraine, whose stomach was always tormenting him, made wry faces close beside him. Mère Varin, to hide her tumour, wore a shawl with many folds. Père Lemoine, his feet stockingless in his old shoes, had his crutches under his knees; and La Barbée, who wore her Sunday clothes, looked exceedingly pale.

At the opposite side of the tree were other persons. A woman with an albino type of countenance was sponging the suppurating glands of her neck; a little girl's face half disappeared under her blue glasses; an old man, whose spine was deformed by a contraction, with his involuntary movements knocked against Marcel, a sort of idiot clad in a tattered blouse and a patched pair of trousers. His hare-lip, badly stitched, allowed his incisors to be seen, and his jaw, which was swollen by an enormous inflammation, was muffled up in linen.

They were all holding in their hands pieces of twine that hung down from the tree. The birds were singing, and the air was impregnated with the refreshing smell of grass. The sun played with the branches, and the ground was smooth as moss.

Meanwhile, instead of going to sleep, the subjects of the experiment were straining their eyes.

"Up to the present," said Foureau, "it is not funny. Begin. I am going away for a minute."

And he came back smoking an Abd-el-Kader, the last that was left from the gate with the pipes.

Pécuchet recalled to mind an admirable method of magnetising. He put into his mouth the noses of all the patients in succession, and inhaled their breath, in order to attract the electricity to himself; and at257 the same time Bouvard clasped the tree, with the object of augmenting the fluid.

The mason interrupted his hiccoughs; the beadle was agitated; the man with the contraction moved no more. It was possible now to approach them, and make them submit to all the tests.

The doctor, with his lancet, pricked Chamberlan's ear, which trembled a little. Sensibility in the case of the others was manifest. The gouty man uttered a cry. As for La Barbée, she smiled, as if in a dream, and a stream of blood trickled under her jaw.

Foureau, in order to make the experiment himself, would fain have seized the lancet, but the doctor having refused, he vigorously pinched the invalid.

The captain tickled her nostrils with a feather; the tax-collector plunged a pin under her skin.

"Let her alone now," said Vaucorbeil; "it is nothing astonishing, after all. Simply a hysterical female! The devil will have his pains for nothing."

"That one there," said Pécuchet, pointing towards Victoire, the scrofulous woman, "is a physician. She recognises diseases, and indicates the remedies."

Langlois burned to consult her about his catarrh; but Coulon, more courageous, asked her for something for his rheumatism.

Pécuchet placed his right hand in Victoire's left, and, with her lids closed uninterruptedly, her cheeks a little red, her lips quivering, the somnambulist, after some rambling utterances, ordered valum becum.

She had assisted in an apothecary's shop at Bayeux. Vaucorbeil drew the inference that what she wanted to say was album Græcum a term which is to be found in pharmacy.258

Then they accosted Père Lemoine, who, according to Bouvard, could see objects through opaque bodies. He was an ex-schoolmaster, who had sunk into debauchery. White hairs were scattered about his face, and, with his back against the tree and his palms open, he was sleeping in the broad sunlight in a majestic fashion.

The physician drew over his eyes a double neckcloth; and Bouvard, extending a newspaper towards him, said imperiously:


He lowered his brow, moved the muscles of his face, then threw back his head, and ended by spelling out:


But with skill the muffler could be slipped off!

These denials by the physician roused Pécuchet's indignation. He even ventured to pretend that La Barbée could describe what was actually taking place in his own house.

"May be so," returned the doctor.

Then, taking out his watch:

"What is my wife occupying herself with?"

For a long time La Barbée hesitated; then with a sullen air:

"Hey! what? I am there! She is sewing ribbons on a straw hat."

Vaucorbeil snatched a leaf from his note-book and wrote a few lines on it, which Marescot's clerk hastened to deliver.

The séance was over. The patients went away.

Bouvard and Pécuchet, on the whole, had not succeeded. Was this due to the temperature, or to the smell of tobacco, or to the Abbé Jeufroy's umbrella,259 which had a lining of copper, a metal unfavourable to the emission of the fluid?

Vaucorbeil shrugged his shoulders. However, he could not deny the honesty of MM. Deleuze, Bertrand, Morin, Jules Cloquet. Now these masters lay down that somnambulists have predicted events, and submitted without pain to cruel operations.

The abbé related stories more astonishing. A missionary had seen Brahmins rushing, heads down, through a street; the Grand Lama of Thibet rips open his bowels in order to deliver oracles.

"Are you joking?" said the physician.

"By no means."

"Come, now, what tomfoolery that is!"

And the question being dropped, each of them furnished an anecdote.

"As for me," said the grocer, "I had a dog who was always sick when the month began on a Friday."

"We were fourteen children," observed the justice of the peace. "I was born on the 14th, my marriage took place on the 14th, and my saint's-day falls on the 14th. Explain this to me."

Beljambe had often reckoned in a dream the number of travellers he would have next day at his inn; and Petit told about the supper of Cazotte.

The curé then made this reflection:

"Why do we not see into it quite easily?"

"The demons—is that what you say?" asked Vaucorbeil.

Instead of again opening his lips, the abbé nodded his head.

Marescot spoke of the Pythia of Delphi.

"Beyond all question, miasmas."

"Oh! miasmas now!"260

"As for me, I admit the existence of a fluid," remarked Bouvard.

"Nervoso-siderial," added Pécuchet.

"But prove it, show it, this fluid of yours! Besides, fluids are out of fashion. Listen to me."

Vaucorbeil moved further up to get into the shade. The others followed him.

"If you say to a child, 'I am a wolf; I am going to eat you,' he imagines that you are a wolf, and he is frightened. Therefore, this is a vision conjured up by words. In the same way the somnambulist accepts any fancies that you desire him to accept. He recollects instead of imagining, and has merely sensations when he believes that he is thinking. In this manner it is possible for crimes to be suggested, and virtuous people may see themselves ferocious beasts, and involuntarily become cannibals."

Glances were cast towards Bouvard and Pécuchet. Their scientific pursuits were fraught with dangers to society.

Marescot's clerk reappeared in the garden flourishing a letter from Madame Vaucorbeil.

The doctor tore it open, turned pale, and finally read these words:

"I am sewing ribbons on a straw hat."

Amazement prevented them from bursting into a laugh.

"A mere coincidence, deuce take it! It proves nothing."

And as the two magnetisers wore looks of triumph, he turned round at the door to say to them:

"Don't go further. These are risky amusements."

The curé, while leading away his beadle, reproved them sternly:261

"Are you mad? Without my permission! Practices forbidden by the Church!"

They had all just taken their leave; Bouvard and Pécuchet were talking to the schoolmaster on the hillock, when Marcel rushed from the orchard, the bandage of his chin undone, and stuttered:

"Cured! cured! good gentlemen."

"All right! enough! Let us alone."

Petit, a man of advanced ideas, thought the doctor's explanation commonplace and unenlightened. Science is a monopoly in the hands of the rich. She excludes the people. To the old-fashioned analysis of the Middle Ages it is time that a large and ready-witted synthesis should succeed. Truth should be arrived at through the heart. And, declaring himself a spiritualist, he pointed out several works, no doubt imperfect, but the heralds of a new dawn.

They sent for them.

Spiritualism lays down as a dogma the fated amelioration of our species. Earth will one day become Heaven. And this is the reason why the doctrine fascinated the schoolmaster. Without being Catholic, it was known to St. Augustine and St. Louis. Allan Kardec even has published some fragments dictated by them which are in accordance with contemporary opinions. It is practical as well as benevolent, and reveals to us, like the telescope, the supernal worlds.

Spirits, after death and in a state of ecstasy, are transported thither. But sometimes they descend upon our globe, where they make furniture creak, mingle in our amusements, taste the beauties of Nature, and the pleasures of the arts.

Nevertheless, there are amongst us many who possess an astral trunk—that is to say, behind the262 ear a long tube which ascends from the hair to the planets, and permits us to converse with the spirits of Saturn. Intangible things are not less real, and from the earth to the stars, from the stars to the earth, a see-saw motion takes place, a transmission, a continual change of place.

Then Pécuchet's heart swelled with extravagant aspirations, and when night had come Bouvard surprised him at the window contemplating those luminous spaces which are peopled with spirits.

Swedenborg made rapid journeys to them. For in less than a year he explored Venus, Mars, Saturn, and, twenty-three times, Jupiter. Moreover, he saw Jesus Christ in London; he saw St. Paul; he saw St. John; he saw Moses; and in 1736 he saw the Last Judgment.

He has also given us descriptions of Heaven.

Flowers, palaces, market-places, and churches are found there, just as with us. The angels, who were formerly human beings, lay their thoughts upon leaves, chat about domestic affairs or else on spiritual matters; and the ecclesiastical posts are assigned to those who, in their earthly career, cultivated the Holy Scripture.

As for Hell, it is filled with a nauseous smell, with hovels, heaps of filth, quagmires, and ill-clad persons.

And Pécuchet racked his brain in order to comprehend what was beautiful in these revelations. To Bouvard they seemed the delirium of an imbecile. All such matters transcend the bounds of Nature. Who, however, can know anything about them? And they surrendered themselves to the following reflections:263

Jugglers can cause illusions amongst a crowd; a man with violent passions can excite other people by them; but how can the will alone act upon inert matter? A Bavarian, it is said, was able to ripen grapes; M. Gervais revived a heliotrope; one with greater power scattered the clouds at Toulouse.

It is necessary to admit an intermediary substance between the universe and ourselves? The od, a new imponderable, a sort of electricity, is perhaps nothing else. Its emissions explain the light that those who have been magnetised believe they see: the wandering flames in cemeteries, the forms of phantoms.

These images would not, therefore, be illusions, and the extraordinary gifts of persons who are possessed, like those of clairvoyants, would have a physical cause.

Whatever be their origin, there is an essence, a secret and universal agent. If we could take possession of it, there would be no need of force, of duration. That which requires ages would develop in a minute; every miracle would be practicable, and the universe would be at our disposal.

Magic springs from this eternal yearning of the human mind. Its value has no doubt been exaggerated, but it is not a falsehood. Some Orientals who are skilled in it perform prodigies. All travellers have vouched for its existence, and at the Palais Royal M. Dupotet moves with his finger the magnetic needle.

How to become magicians? This idea appeared to them foolish at first, but it returned, tormented them, and they yielded to it, even while affecting to laugh.

A course of preparation is indispensable.264

In order to excite themselves the better, they kept awake at night, fasted, and, wishing to convert Germaine into a more delicate medium, they limited her diet. She indemnified herself by drinking, and consumed so much brandy that she speedily ended in becoming intoxicated. Their promenades in the corridor awakened her. She confused the noise of their footsteps with the hummings in her ears and the voices which she imagined she heard coming from the walls. One day, when she had put a plaice into the pantry, she was frightened on seeing it covered with flame; she became worse than ever after that, and ended by believing that they had cast a spell over her.

Hoping to behold visions, they pressed the napes of each other's necks; they made themselves little bags of belladonna; finally they adopted the magic box, out of which rises a mushroom bristling with nails, to be worn over the heart by means of a ribbon attached to the breast. Everything proved unsuccessful. But they might make use of the sphere of Dupotet!

Pécuchet, with a piece of charcoal, traced on the ground a black shield, in order to enclose within its compass the animal spirits whose duty it is to assist the ambient spirits, and rejoicing at having the mastery over Bouvard, he said to him, with a pontifical air:

"I defy you to cross it!"

Bouvard viewed this circular space. Soon his heart began throbbing, his eyes became clouded.

"Ha! let us make an end of it!" And he jumped over it, to get rid of an inexpressible sense of unpleasantness.265

Pécuchet, whose exultation was increasing, desired to make a corpse appear.

Under the Directory a man in the Rue de l'Échiquier exhibited the victims of the Terror. There are innumerable examples of persons coming back from the other world. Though it may be a mere appearance, what matter? The thing was to produce the effect.

The nearer to us we feel the phantom, the more promptly it responds to our appeal. But he had no relic of his family—ring, miniature, or lock of hair—while Bouvard was in a position to conjure up his father; but, as he testified a certain repugnance on the subject, Pécuchet asked him:

"What are you afraid of?"

"I? Oh! nothing at all! Do what you like."

They kept Chamberlan in their pay, and he supplied them by stealth with an old death's-head. A seamster cut out for them two long black robes with hoods attached, like monks' habits. The Falaise coach brought them a large parcel in a wrapper. Then they set about the work, the one interested in executing it, the other afraid to believe in it.

The museum was spread out like a catafalque. Three wax tapers burned at the side of the table pushed against the wall beneath the portrait of Père Bouvard, above which rose the death's-head. They had even stuffed a candle into the interior of the skull, and rays of light shot out through the two eyeholes.

In the centre, on a chafing-dish, incense was smoking. Bouvard kept in the background, and Pécuchet, turning his back to him, cast handfuls of sulphur into the fireplace.266

Before invoking a corpse the consent of the demons is required. Now, this day being a Friday—a day which is assigned to Béchet—they should occupy themselves with Béchet first of all.

Bouvard, having bowed to the right and to the left, bent his chin, and raised his arms, began:

"In the names of Ethaniel, Anazin, Ischyros——"

He forgot the rest.

Pécuchet rapidly breathed forth the words, which had been jotted down on a piece of pasteboard:

"Ischyros, Athanatos, Adonaï, Sadaï, Eloy, Messiasös" (the litany was a long one), "I implore thee, I look to thee, I command thee, O Béchet!"

Then, lowering his voice:

"Where art thou, Béchet? Béchet! Béchet! Béchet!"

Bouvard sank into the armchair, and he was very pleased at not seeing Béchet, a certain instinct reproaching him with making an experiment which was a kind of sacrilege.

Where was his father's soul? Could it hear him? What if, all at once, it were about to appear?

The curtains slowly moved under the wind, which made its way in through a cracked pane of glass, and the wax-tapers caused shadows to oscillate above the corpse's skull and also above the painted face. An earthy colour made them equally brown. The cheek-bones were consumed by mouldiness, the eyes no longer possessed any lustre; but a flame shone above them in the eyeholes of the empty skull. It seemed sometimes to take the other's place, to rest on the collar of the frock-coat, to have a beard on it; and the canvas, half unfastened, swayed and palpitated.267

Little by little they felt, as it were, the sensation of being touched by a breath, the approach of an impalpable being. Drops of sweat moistened Pécuchet's forehead, and Bouvard began to gnash his teeth: a cramp gripped his epigastrium; the floor, like a wave, seemed to flow under his heels; the sulphur burning in the chimney fell down in spirals. At the same moment bats flitted about. A cry arose. Who was it?

And their faces under their hoods presented such a distorted aspect that, gazing at each other, they were becoming more frightened than before, not venturing either to move or to speak, when behind the door they heard groans like those of a soul in torture.

At length they ran the risk. It was their old housekeeper, who, espying them through a slit in the partition, imagined she saw the devil, and, falling on her knees in the corridor, kept repeatedly making the sign of the Cross.

All reasoning was futile. She left them the same evening, having no desire to be employed by such people.

Germaine babbled. Chamberlan lost his place, and he formed against them a secret coalition, supported by the Abbé Jeufroy, Madame Bordin, and Foureau.

Their way of living, so unlike that of other people, gave offence. They became objects of suspicion, and even inspired a vague terror.

What destroyed them above all in public opinion was their choice of a servant. For want of another, they had taken Marcel.

His hare-lip, his hideousness, and the gibberish he talked made people avoid him. A deserted child, he268 had grown up, the sport of chance, in the fields, and from his long-continued privations he became possessed by an insatiable appetite. Animals that had died of disease, putrid bacon, a crushed dog—everything agreed with him so long as the piece was thick; and he was as gentle as a sheep, but utterly stupid.

Gratitude had driven him to offer himself as a servant to MM. Bouvard and Pécuchet; and then, believing that they were wizards, he hoped for extraordinary gains.

Soon after the first days of his employment with them, he confided to them a secret. On the heath of Poligny a man had formerly found an ingot of gold. The anecdote is related by the historians of Falaise; they were ignorant of its sequel: Twelve brothers, before setting out on a voyage, had concealed twelve similar ingots along the road from Chavignolles to Bretteville, and Marcel begged of his masters to begin a search for them over again. These ingots, said they to each other, had perhaps been buried just before emigration.

This was a case for the use of the divining-rod. Its virtues are doubtful. They studied the question, however, and learned that a certain Pierre Garnier gives scientific reasons to vindicate its claims: springs and metals throw out corpuscles which have an affinity with the wood.

"This is scarcely probable. Who knows, however? Let us make the attempt."

They cut themselves a forked branch from a hazel tree, and one morning set forth to discover the treasure.
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Re: Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

Postby admin » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:45 am

Part 2 of 2

"It must be given up," said Bouvard.269

"Oh, no! bless your soul!"

After they had been three hours travelling, a thought made them draw up: "The road from Chavignolles to Bretteville!—was it the old or the new road? It must be the old!"

They went back, and rushed through the neighbourhood at random, the direction of the old road not being easy to discover.

Marcel went jumping from right to left, like a spaniel running at field-sports. Bouvard was compelled to call him back every five minutes. Pécuchet advanced step by step, holding the rod by the two branches, with the point upwards. Often it seemed to him that a force and, as it were, a cramp-iron drew it towards the ground; and Marcel very rapidly made a notch in the neighbouring trees, in order to find the place later.

Pécuchet, however, slackened his pace. His mouth was open; the pupils of his eyes were contracted. Bouvard questioned him, caught hold of his shoulders, and shook him. He did not stir, and remained inert, exactly like La Barbée. Then he said he felt around his heart a kind of compression, a singular experience, arising from the rod, no doubt, and he no longer wished to touch it.

They returned next day to the place where the marks had been made on the trees. Marcel dug holes with a spade; nothing, however, came of it, and each time they felt exceedingly sheepish. Pécuchet sat down by the side of a ditch, and while he mused, with his head raised, striving to hear the voices of the spirits through his astral body, asking himself whether he even had one, he fixed his eyes on the peak of his cap; the ecstasy of the previous day once270 more took possession of him. It lasted a long time, and became dreadful.

Above some oats in a by-path appeared a felt hat: it was that of M. Vaucorbeil on his mare.

Bouvard and Marcel called out to him.

The crisis was drawing to an end when the physician arrived. In order to examine Pécuchet he lifted his cap, and perceiving a forehead covered with coppery marks:

"Ha! ha! Fructus belli! Those are love-spots, my fine fellow! Take care of yourself. The deuce! let us not trifle with love."

Pécuchet, ashamed, again put on his cap, a sort of head-piece that swelled over a peak shaped like a half-moon, the model of which he had taken from the Atlas of Amoros.

The doctor's words astounded him. He kept thinking of them with his eyes staring before him, and suddenly had another seizure.

Vaucorbeil watched him, then, with a fillip, knocked off his cap.

Pécuchet recovered his faculties.

"I suspected as much," said the physician; "the glazed peak hypnotises you like a mirror; and this phenomenon is not rare with persons who look at a shining substance too attentively."

He pointed out how the experiment might be made on hens, then mounted his nag, and slowly disappeared from their view.

Half a league further on they noticed, in a farmyard, a pyramidal object stretched out towards the horizon. It might have been compared to an enormous bunch of black grapes marked here and there with red dots. It was, in fact, a long pole, garnished,271 according to the Norman custom, with cross-bars, on which were perched turkeys bridling in the sunshine.

"Let us go in." And Pécuchet accosted the farmer, who yielded to their request.

They traced a line with whiting in the middle of the press, tied down the claws of a turkey-cock, then stretched him flat on his belly, with his beak placed on the line. The fowl shut his eyes, and soon presented the appearance of being dead. The same process was gone through with the others. Bouvard passed them quickly across to Pécuchet, who ranged them on the side on which they had become torpid.

The people about the farm-house exhibited uneasiness. The mistress screamed, and a little girl began to cry.

Bouvard loosened all the turkeys. They gradually revived; but one could not tell what might be the consequences.

At a rather tart remark of Pécuchet, the farmer grasped his pitchfork tightly.

"Clear out, in God's name, or I'll smash your head!"

They scampered off.

No matter! the problem was solved: ecstasy is dependent on material causes.

What, then, is matter? What is spirit? Whence comes the influence of the one on the other, and the reciprocal exchange of influence?

In order to inform themselves on the subject, they made researches in the works of Voltaire, Bossuet, Fénelon; and they renewed their subscription to a circulating library.

The ancient teachers were inaccessible owing to the length of their works, or the difficulty of the language; 272but Jouffroy and Damiron initiated them into modern philosophy, and they had authors who dealt with that of the last century.

Bouvard derived his arguments from Lamettrie, Locke, and Helvetius; Pécuchet from M. Cousin, Thomas Reid, and Gérando. The former adhered to experience; for the latter, the ideal was everything. The one belonged to the school of Aristotle, the other to that of Plato; and they proceeded to discuss the subject.

"The soul is immaterial," said Pécuchet.

"By no means," said his friend. "Lunacy, chloroform, a bleeding will overthrow it; and, inasmuch as it is not always thinking, it is not a substance which does nothing but think."

"Nevertheless," rejoined Pécuchet, "I have in myself something superior to my body, which sometimes confutes it."

"A being in a being—homo duplex! Look here, now! Different tendencies disclose opposite motives. That's all!"

"But this something, this soul, remains identical amid all changes from without. Therefore, it is simple, indivisible, and thus spiritual."

"If the soul were simple," replied Bouvard, "the newly-born would recollect, would imagine, like the adult. Thought, on the contrary, follows the development of the brain. As to its being indivisible, neither the perfume of a rose nor the appetite of a wolf, any more than a volition or an affirmation, is cut in two."

"That makes no difference," said Pécuchet. "The soul is exempt from the qualities of matter."

"Do you admit weight?" returned Bouvard. "Now, if matter can fall, it can in the same way273 think. Having had a beginning, the soul must come to an end, and as it is dependent on certain organs, it must disappear with them."

"For my part, I maintain that it is immortal. God could not intend——"

"But if God does not exist?"

"What?" And Pécuchet gave utterance to the three Cartesian proofs: "'Primo: God is comprehended in the idea that we have of Him; secundo: Existence is possible to Him; tertio: How can I, a finite being, have an idea of the Infinite? And, since we have this idea, it comes to us from God; therefore, God exists.'"

He passed on to the testimony of conscience, the traditions of different races, and the need of a Creator.

"When I see a clock——"

"Yes! yes! That's a well-known argument. But where is the clockmaker's father?"

"However, a cause is necessary."

Bouvard was doubtful about causes. "From the fact that one phenomenon succeeds another phenomenon, the conclusion is drawn that it is caused by the first. Prove it."

"But the spectacle of the universe indicates an intention and a plan."

"Why? Evil is as perfectly organised as good. The worm that works its way into a sheep's head and causes it to die, is as valuable from an anatomical point of view as the sheep itself. Abnormalities surpass the normal functions. The human body could be better constructed. Three fourths of the globe are sterile. That celestial lamp-post, the moon, does not always show itself! Do you think the ocean was274 destined for ships, and the wood of trees for fuel for our houses?"

Pécuchet answered: "Yet the stomach is made to digest, the leg to walk, the eye to see, although there are dyspepsias, fractures, and cataracts. No arrangements without an end. The effects came on at the exact time or at a later period. Everything depends on laws; therefore, there are final causes."

Bouvard imagined that perhaps Spinoza would furnish him with some arguments, and he wrote to Dumouchel to get him Saisset's translation.

Dumouchel sent him a copy belonging to his friend Professor Varelot, exiled on the 2nd of December.

Ethics terrified them with its axioms, its corollaries. They read only the pages marked with pencil, and understood this:

"'The substance is that which is of itself, by itself, without cause, without origin. This substance is God. He alone is extension, and extension is without bounds.'"

"What can it be bound with?"

"'But, though it be infinite, it is not the absolute infinite, for it contains only one kind of perfection, and the Absolute contains all.'"

They frequently stopped to think it out the better. Pécuchet took pinches of snuff, and Bouvard's face glowed with concentrated attention.

"Does this amuse you?"

"Yes, undoubtedly. Go on forever."

"'God displays Himself in an infinite number of attributes which express, each in its own way, the infinite character of His being. We know only two of them—extension and thought.275

"'From thought and extension flow innumerable modes, which contain others. He who would at the same time embrace all extension and all thought would see there no contingency, nothing accidental, but a geometrical succession of terms, bound amongst themselves by necessary laws.'"

"Ah! that would be beautiful!" exclaimed Bouvard.

"'If God had a will, an end, if He acted for a cause, that would mean that He would have some want, that He would lack some one perfection. He would not be God.

"'Thus our world is but one point in the whole of things, and the universe, impenetrable by our knowledge, is a portion of an infinite number of universes emitting close to ours infinite modifications. Extension envelops our universe, but is enveloped by God, who contains in His thought all possible universes, and His thought itself is enveloped in His substance.'"

It appeared to them that this substance was filled at night with an icy coldness, carried away in an endless course towards a bottomless abyss, leaving nothing around them but the Unseizable, the Immovable, the Eternal.

This was too much for them, and they renounced it. And wishing for something less harsh, they bought the course of philosophy, by M. Guesnier, for the use of classes.

The author asks himself what would be the proper method, the ontological or the psychological.

The first suited the infancy of societies, when man directed his attention towards the external world. But at present, when he turns it in upon himself, "we believe the second to be more scientific."276

The object of psychology is to study the acts which take place in our own breasts. We discover them by observation.

"Let us observe." And for a fortnight, after breakfast, they regularly searched their consciousness at random, hoping to make great discoveries there—and made none, which considerably astonished them.

"'One phenomenon occupies the ego, viz., the idea. What is its nature? It has been supposed that the objects are put into the brain, and that the brain transmits these images to our souls, which gives us the knowledge of them.'"

But if the idea is spiritual, how are we to represent matter? Thence comes scepticism as to external perceptions. If it is material, spiritual objects could not be represented. Thence scepticism as to the reality of internal notions.

"For another reason let us here be careful. This hypothesis will lead us to atheism."

For an image, being a finite thing, cannot possibly represent the Infinite.

"Yet," argued Bouvard, "when I think of a forest, of a person, of a dog, I see this forest, this person, this dog. Therefore the ideas do represent them."

And they proceeded to deal with the origin of ideas.

According to Locke, there are two originating causes—sensation and reflection; and Condillac reduces everything to sensation.

But then reflection will lack a basis. It has need of a subject, of a sentient being; and it is powerless to furnish us with the great fundamental truths: God, merit and demerit, the Just, the Beautiful—ideas which are all innate, that is to say, anterior to facts, and to experience, and universal.277

"If they were universal we should have them from our birth."

"By this word is meant dispositions to have them; and Descartes——"

"Your Descartes is muddled, for he maintains that the fœtus possesses them, and he confesses in another place that this is in an implied fashion."

Pécuchet was astonished. "Where is this found?"

"In Gérando." And Bouvard tapped him lightly on the stomach.

"Make an end of it, then," said Pécuchet.

Then, coming to Condillac:

"'Our thoughts are not metamorphoses of sensation. It causes them, puts them in play. In order to put them in play a motive power is necessary, for matter of itself cannot produce movement.' And I found that in your Voltaire," Pécuchet added, making a low bow to him.

Thus they repeated again and again the same arguments, each treating the other's opinion with contempt, without persuading his companion that his own was right.

But philosophy elevated them in their own estimation. They recalled with disdain their agricultural and political preoccupations.

At present they were disgusted with the museum. They would have asked nothing better than to sell the articles of virtù contained in it. So they passed on to the second chapter: "Faculties of the Soul."

"'They are three in number, no more: that of feeling, that of knowing, and that of willing.

"'In the faculty of feeling we should distinguish physical sensibility from moral sensibility. Physical sensations are naturally classified into five species,278 being transmitted through the medium of the senses. The facts of moral sensibility, on the contrary, owe nothing to the body. What is there in common between the pleasure of Archimedes in discovering the laws of weight and the filthy gratification of Apicius in devouring a wild-boar's head?

"'This moral sensibility has five genera, and its second genus, moral desires, is divided into five species, and the phenomena of the fourth genus, affection, are subdivided into two other species, amongst which is the love of oneself—a legitimate propensity, no doubt, but one which, when it becomes exaggerated, takes the name of egoism.

"'In the faculty of knowing we find rational perception, in which there are two principal movements and four degrees.

"'Abstraction may present perils to whimsical minds.

"'Memory brings us into contact with the past, as foresight does with the future.

"'Imagination is rather a special faculty, sui generis.'"

So many intricacies in order to demonstrate platitudes, the pedantic tone of the author, and the monotony of his forms of expression—"We are prepared to acknowledge it," "Far from us be the thought," "Let us interrogate our consciousness"—the sempiternal eulogy on Dugald Stewart; in short, all this verbiage, disgusted them so much that, jumping over the faculty of willing, they went into logic.

It taught them the nature of analysis, synthesis, induction, deduction, and the principal causes of our errors.279

Nearly all come from the misuse of words.

"The sun is going to bed." "The weather is becoming brown," "The winter is drawing near"—vicious modes of speech which would make us believe in personal entities, when it is only a question of very simple occurrences. "I remember such an object," "such an axiom," "such a truth"—illusion! These are ideas and not at all things which remain in me; and the rigour of language requires, "I remember such an act of my mind by which I perceived that object," "whereby I have deduced that axiom," "whereby I have admitted this truth."

As the term that describes an incident does not embrace it in all its aspects, they try to employ only abstract words, so that in place of saying, "Let us make a tour," "It is time to dine," "I have the colic," they give utterance to the following phrases: "A promenade would be salutary," "This is the hour for absorbing aliments," "I experience a necessity for disburdenment."

Once masters of logic, they passed in review the different criterions; first, that of common sense.

If the individual can know nothing, why should all individuals know more? An error, were it a hundred thousand years old, does not by the mere fact of its being old constitute truth. The multitude invariably pursues the path of routine. It is, on the contrary, the few who are guided by progress.

Is it better to trust to the evidence of the senses? They sometimes deceive, and never give information save as to externals. The innermost core escapes them.

Reason offers more safeguards, being immovable and impersonal; but in order that it may be manifested 280it is necessary that it should incarnate itself. Then, reason becomes my reason; a rule is of little value if it is false. Nothing can show such a rule to be right.

We are recommended to control it with the senses; but they may make the darkness thicker. From a confused sensation a defective law will be inferred, which, later, will obstruct the clear view of things.

Morality remains.

This would make God descend to the level of the useful, as if our wants were the measure of the Absolute.

As for the evidence—denied by the one, affirmed by the other—it is its own criterion. M. Cousin has demonstrated it.

"I see no longer anything but revelation," said Bouvard. "But, to believe it, it is necessary to admit two preliminary cognitions—that of the body which has felt, and that of the intelligence which has perceived; to admit sensation and reason. Human testimonies! and consequently open to suspicion."

Pécuchet reflected—folded his arms. "But we are about to fall into the frightful abyss of scepticism."

In Bouvard's opinion it frightened only weak brains.

"Thank you for the compliment," returned Pécuchet. "However, there are indisputable facts. We can arrive at truth within a certain limit."

"Which? Do two and two always make four? Is that which is contained in some degree less than that which contains it? What is the meaning of nearly true, a fraction of God, the part of an indivisible thing?"281

"Oh, you are a mere sophist!" And Pécuchet, annoyed, remained for three days in a sulk.

They employed themselves in running through the contents of several volumes. Bouvard smiled from time to time, and renewing the conversation, said:

"The fact is, it is hard to avoid doubt; thus, for the existence of God, Descartes', Kant's, and Leibnitz's proofs are not the same, and mutually destroy one another. The creation of the world by atoms, or by a spirit, remains inconceivable. I feel myself, at the same time, matter and thought, while all the time I am ignorant of what one or the other really is. Impenetrability, solidity, weight, seem to me to be mysteries just as much as my soul, and, with much stronger reason, the union of the soul and the body. In order to explain it, Leibnitz invented his harmony, Malebranche premotion, Cudworth a mediator, and Bossuet sees in it a perpetual miracle."

"Exactly," said Pécuchet. And they both confessed that they were tired of philosophy. Such a number of systems confused them. Metaphysics is of no use: one can live without it. Besides, their pecuniary embarrassments were increasing. They owed one bill to Beljambe for three hogsheads of wine, another to Langlois for two stone of sugar, a sum of one hundred francs to the tailor, and sixty to the shoemaker.

Their expenditures were continuous, of course, and meantime Maître Gouy did not pay up.

They went to Marescot to ask him to raise money for them, either by the sale of the Ecalles meadow, or by a mortgage on their farm, or by giving up their house on the condition of getting a life annuity and keeping the usufruct.282

In Marescot's opinion this would be an impracticable course; but a better means might be devised, and they should be informed about it.

After this they thought of their poor garden. Bouvard undertook the pruning of the row of elms and Pécuchet the trimming of the espalier. Marcel would have to dig the borders.

At the end of a quarter of an hour they stopped. The one closed his pruning-knife, the other laid down his scissors, and they began to walk to and fro quietly, Bouvard in the shade of the linden trees, with his waistcoat off, his chest held out and his arms bare; Pécuchet close to the wall, with his head hanging down, his arms behind his back, the peak of his cap turned over his neck for precaution; and thus they proceeded in parallel lines without even seeing Marcel, who was resting at the side of the hut eating a scrap of bread.

In this reflective mood thoughts arose in their minds. They grasped at them, fearing to lose them; and metaphysics came back again—came back with respect to the rain and the sun, the gravel in their shoes, the flowers on the grass—with respect to everything. When they looked at the candle burning, they asked themselves whether the light is in the object or in our eyes. Since stars may have disappeared by the time their radiance has reached us, we admire, perhaps, things that have no existence.

Having found a Raspail cigarette in the depths of a waistcoat, they crumbled it over some water, and the camphor moved about. Here, then, is movement in matter. One degree more of movement might bring on life!283

But if matter in movement were sufficient to create beings, they would not be so varied. For in the beginning lands, water, men, and plants had no existence. What, then, is this primordial matter, which we have never seen, which is no portion of created things, and which yet has produced them all?

Sometimes they wanted a book. Dumouchel, tired of assisting them, no longer answered their letters. They enthusiastically took up the new question, especially Pécuchet. His need of truth became a burning thirst.

Moved by Bouvard's preachings, he gave up spiritualism, but soon resumed it again only to abandon it once more, and, clasping his head with his hands, he would exclaim:

"Oh, doubt! doubt! I would much prefer nothingness."

Bouvard perceived the insufficiency of materialism, and tried to stop at that, declaring, however, that he had lost his head over it.

They began with arguments on a solid basis, but the basis gave way; and suddenly they had no longer a single idea—just as a bird takes wing the moment we wish to catch it.

During the winter evenings they chatted in the museum at the corner of the fire, staring at the coals. The wind, whistling in the corridor, shook the window-panes; the black masses of trees swayed to and fro, and the dreariness of the night intensified the seriousness of their thoughts.

Bouvard from time to time walked towards the further end of the apartment and then came back. The torches and the pans on the walls threw slanting shadows on the ground; and the St. Peter, seen284 in profile, showed on the ceiling the silhouette of his nose, resembling a monstrous hunting-horn.

They found it hard to move about amongst the various articles, and Bouvard, by not taking precautions, often knocked against the statue. With its big eyes, its drooping lip, and its air of a drunkard, it also annoyed Pécuchet. For a long time he had wished to get rid of it, but through carelessness put it off from day to day.

One evening, in the middle of a dispute on the monad, Bouvard hit his big toe against St. Peter's thumb, and turning on him in a rage, exclaimed:

"He plagues me, this jackanapes! Let us toss him out!"

It was difficult to do this over the staircase. They flung open the window, and gently tried to tip St. Peter over the edge. Pécuchet, on his knees, attempted to raise his heels, while Bouvard pressed against his shoulders. The old codger in stone did not budge. After this they had recourse to the halberd as a lever, and finally succeeded in stretching him out quite straight. Then, after a see-saw motion, he dashed into the open space, his tiara going before him. A heavy crash reached their ears, and next day they found him broken into a dozen pieces in the old pit for composts.

An hour afterwards the notary came in, bringing good news to them. A lady in the neighbourhood was willing to advance a thousand crown-pieces on the security of a mortgage of their farm, and, as they were expressing their satisfaction at the proposal:

"Pardon me. She adds, as a condition, that you should sell her the Ecalles meadow for fifteen285 hundred francs. The loan will be advanced this very day. The money is in my office."

They were both disposed to give way.

Bouvard ended by saying: "Good God! be it so, then."

"Agreed," said Marescot. And then he mentioned the lender's name: it was Madame Bordin.

"I suspected 'twas she!" exclaimed Pécuchet.

Bouvard, who felt humiliated, had not a word to say.

She or some one else—what did it matter? The principal thing was to get out of their difficulties.

When they received the money (they were to get the sum for the Ecalles later) they immediately paid all their bills; and they were returning to their abode when, at the corner of the market-place, they were stopped by Farmer Gouy.

He had been on his way to their house to apprise them of a misfortune. The wind, the night before, had blown down twenty apple trees into the farmyard, overturned the boilery, and carried away the roof of the barn.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon in estimating the amount of the damage, and they continued the inquiry on the following day with the assistance of the carpenter, the mason, and the slater. The repairs would cost at least about eighteen hundred francs.

Then, in the evening, Gouy presented himself. Marianne herself had, a short time before, told him all about the sale of the Ecalles meadow—a piece of land with a splendid yield, suitable in every way, and scarcely requiring any cultivation at all, the best bit in the whole farm!—and he asked for a reduction.286

The two gentlemen refused it. The matter was submitted to the justice of the peace, who decided in favour of the farmer. The loss of the Ecalles, which was valued at two thousand francs per acre, caused him an annual depreciation of seventy, and he was sure to win in the courts.

Their fortune was diminished. What were they to do? And soon the question would be, How were they to live?

They both sat down to table full of discouragement. Marcel knew nothing about it in the kitchen. His dinner this time was better than theirs.

The soup was like dish-water, the rabbit had a bad smell, the kidney-beans were underdone, the plates were dirty, and at dessert Bouvard burst into a passion and threatened to break everything on Marcel's head.

"Let us be philosophers," said Pécuchet. "A little less money, the intrigues of a woman, the clumsiness of a servant—what is it but this? You are too much immersed in matter."

"But when it annoys me?" said Bouvard.

"For my part, I don't admit it," rejoined Pécuchet.

He had recently been reading an analysis of Berkeley, and added:

"I deny extension, time, space, even substance! for the true substance is the mind-perceiving qualities."

"Quite so," said Bouvard; "but get rid of the world, and you'll have no proof left of God's existence."

Pécuchet uttered a cry, and a long one too, although he had a cold in his head, caused by the iodine of potassium, and a continual feverishness287 increased his excitement. Bouvard, being uneasy about him, sent for the doctor.

Vaucorbeil ordered orange-syrup with the iodine, and for a later stage cinnabar baths.

"What's the use?" replied Pécuchet. "One day or another the form will die out. The essence does not perish."

"No doubt," said the physician, "matter is indestructible. However——"

"Ah, no!—ah, no! The indestructible thing is being. This body which is there before me—yours, doctor—prevents me from knowing your real self, and is, so to speak, only a garment, or rather a mask."

Vaucorbeil believed he was mad.

"Good evening. Take care of your mask."

Pécuchet did not stop. He procured an introduction to the Hegelian philosophy, and wished to explain it to Bouvard.

"All that is rational is real. There is not even any reality save the idea. The laws of the mind are laws of the universe; the reason of man is identical with that of God."

Bouvard pretended to understand.

"Therefore the absolute is, at the same time, the subject and the object, the unity whereby all differences come to be settled. Thus, things that are contradictory are reconciled. The shadow permits the light; heat and cold intermingled produce temperature. Organism maintains itself only by the destruction of organism; everywhere there is a principle that disunites, a principle that connects."

They were on the hillock, and the curé was walking past the gateway with his breviary in his hand.288

Pécuchet asked him to come in, as he desired to finish the explanation of Hegel, and to get some notion of what the curé would say about it.

The man of the cassock sat down beside them, and Pécuchet broached the question of Christianity.

"No religion has established this truth so well: 'Nature is but a moment of the idea.'"

"A moment of the idea!" murmured the priest in astonishment.

"Why, yes. God in taking a visible envelope showed his consubstantial union with it."

"With nature—oh! oh!"

"By His decease He bore testimony to the essence of death; therefore, death was in Him, made and makes part of God."

The ecclesiastic frowned.

"No blasphemies! it was for the salvation of the human race that He endured sufferings."

"Error! We look at death in the case of the individual, where, no doubt, it is a calamity; but with relation to things it is different. Do not separate mind from matter."

"However, sir, before the Creation——"

"There was no Creation. It has always existed. Otherwise this would be a new being adding itself to the Divine idea, which is absurd."

The priest arose; business matters called him elsewhere.

"I flatter myself I've floored him!" said Pécuchet. "One word more. Since the existence of the world is but a continual passage from life to death, and from death to life, so far from everything existing, nothing is. But everything is becoming—do you understand?"289

"Yes; I do understand—or rather I don't."

Idealism in the end exasperated Bouvard.

"I don't want any more of it. The famous cogito stupefies me. Ideas of things are taken for the things themselves. What we understand very slightly is explained by means of words which we don't understand at all—substance, extension, force, matter, and soul. So much abstraction, imagination. As for God, it is impossible to know in what way He is, if He is at all. Formerly, He used to cause the wind, the thunderstorms, revolutions. At present, He is diminishing. Besides, I don't see the utility of Him."

"And morality—in this state of affairs."

"Ah! so much the worse."

"It lacks a foundation in fact," said Pécuchet.

And he remained silent, driven into a corner by premises which he had himself laid down. It was a surprise—a crushing bit of logic.

Bouvard no longer even believed in matter.

The certainty that nothing exists (deplorable though it may be) is none the less a certainty. Few persons are capable of possessing it. This transcendency on their part inspired them with pride, and they would have liked to make a display of it. An opportunity presented itself.

One morning, while they were going to buy tobacco, they saw a crowd in front of Langlois' door. The public conveyance from Falaise was surrounded, and there was much excitement about a convict named Touache, who was wandering about the country. The conductor had met him at Croix-Verte between two gendarmes, and the people of Chavignolles breathed a sigh of relief.290

Girbal and the captain remained on the green; then the justice of the peace made his appearance, curious to obtain information, and after him came M. Marescot in a velvet cap and sheepskin slippers.

Langlois invited them to honour his shop with their presence; they would be more at their ease; and in spite of the customers and the loud ringing of the bell, the gentlemen continued their discussion as to Touache's offences.

"Goodness gracious!" said Bouvard, "he had bad instincts. That was the whole of it!"

"They are conquered by virtue," replied the notary.

"But if a person has not virtue?"

And Bouvard positively denied free-will.

"Yet," said the captain, "I can do what I like. I am free, for instance, to move my leg."

"No, sir, for you have a motive for moving it."

The captain looked out for something to say in reply, and found nothing. But Girbal discharged this shaft:

"A Republican speaking against liberty. That is funny."

"A droll story," chimed in Langlois.

Bouvard turned on him with this question:

"Why don't you give all you possess to the poor?"

The grocer cast an uneasy glance over his entire shop.

"Look here, now, I'm not such an idiot! I keep it for myself."

"If you were St. Vincent de Paul, you would act differently, since you would have his character. You obey your own. Therefore, you are not free."291

"That's a quibble!" replied the company in chorus.

Bouvard did not flinch, and said, pointing towards the scales on the counter:

"It will remain motionless so long as each scale is empty. So with the will; and the oscillation of the scales between two weights which seem equal represents the strain on our mind when it is hesitating between different motives, till the moment when the more powerful motive gets the better of it and leads it to a determination."

"All that," said Girbal, "makes no difference for Touache, and does not prevent him from being a downright vicious rogue."

Pécuchet addressed the company:

"Vices are properties of Nature, like floods, tempests."

The notary stopped, and raising himself on tiptoe at every word:

"I consider your system one of complete immorality. It gives scope to every kind of excess, excuses crimes, and declares the guilty innocent."

"Exactly," replied Bouvard; "the wretch who follows his appetites is right from his own point of view just as much as the honest man who listens to reason."

"Do not defend monsters!"

"Wherefore monsters? When a person is born blind, an idiot, a homicide, this appears to us to be opposed to order, as if order were known to us, as if Nature were striving towards an end."

"You then raise a question about Providence?"

"I do raise a question about it."

"Look rather to history," exclaimed Pécuchet. "Recall to mind the assassinations of kings, the292 massacres amongst peoples, the dissensions in families, the affliction of individuals."

"And at the same time," added Bouvard, for they mutually excited each other, "this Providence takes care of little birds, and makes the claws of crayfishes grow again. Oh! if by Providence you mean a law which rules everything, I am of the same opinion, and even more so."

"However, sir," said the notary, "there are principles."

"What stuff is that you're talking? A science, according to Condillac, is so much the better the less need it has of them. They do nothing but summarise acquired knowledge, and they bring us back to those conceptions which are exactly the disputable ones."

"Have you, like us," went on Pécuchet, "scrutinised and explored the arcana of metaphysics?"

"It is true, gentlemen—it is true!"

Then the company broke up.

But Coulon, drawing them aside, told them in a paternal tone that he was no devotee certainly, and that he even hated the Jesuits. However, he did not go as far as they did. Oh, no! certainly not. And at the corner of the green they passed in front of the captain, who, as he lighted his pipe, growled:

"All the same, I do what I like, by God!"

Bouvard and Pécuchet gave utterance on other occasions to their scandalous paradoxes. They threw doubt on the honesty of men, the chastity of women, the intelligence of government, the good sense of the people—in short, they sapped the foundations of everything.293

Foureau was provoked by their behaviour, and threatened them with imprisonment if they went on with such discourses.

The evidence of their own superiority caused them pain. As they maintained immoral propositions, they must needs be immoral: calumnies were invented about them. Then a pitiable faculty developed itself in their minds, that of observing stupidity and no longer tolerating it. Trifling things made them feel sad: the advertisements in the newspapers, the profile of a shopkeeper, an idiotic remark overheard by chance. Thinking over what was said in their own village, and on the fact that there were even as far as the Antipodes other Coulons, other Marescots, other Foureaus, they felt, as it were, the heaviness of all the earth weighing down upon them.

They no longer went out of doors, and received no visitors.

One afternoon a dialogue arose, outside the front entrance, between Marcel and a gentleman who wore dark spectacles and a hat with a large brim. It was the academician Larsoneur. He observed a curtain half-opening and doors being shut. This step on his part was an attempt at reconciliation; and he went away in a rage, directing the man-servant to tell his masters that he regarded them as a pair of common fellows.

Bouvard and Pécuchet did not care about this. The world was diminishing in importance, and they saw it as if through a cloud that had descended from their brains over their eyes.

Is it not, moreover, an illusion, a bad dream? Perhaps, on the whole, prosperity and misfortune are294 equally balanced. But the welfare of the species does not console the individual.

"And what do others matter to me?" said Pécuchet.

His despair afflicted Bouvard. It was he who had brought his friend to this pass, and the ruinous condition of their house kept their grief fresh by daily irritations.

In order to revive their spirits they tried discussions, and prescribed tasks for themselves, but speedily fell back into greater sluggishness, into more profound discouragement.

At the end of each meal they would remain with their elbows on the table groaning with a lugubrious air.

Marcel would give them a scared look, and then go back to his kitchen, where he stuffed himself in solitude.

About the middle of midsummer they received a circular announcing the marriage of Dumouchel with Madame Olympe-Zulma Poulet, a widow.

"God bless him!"

And they recalled the time when they were happy.

Why were they no longer following the harvesters? Where were the days when they went through the different farm-houses looking everywhere for antiquities? Nothing now gave them such hours of delight as those which were occupied with the distillery and with literature. A gulf lay between them and that time. It was irrevocable.

They thought of taking a walk as of yore through the fields, wandered too far, and got lost. The sky was dotted with little fleecy clouds, the wind was shaking the tiny bells of the oats; a stream was295 purling along through a meadow—and then, all at once, an infectious odour made them halt, and they saw on the pebbles between the thorn trees the putrid carcass of a dog.

The four limbs were dried up. The grinning jaws disclosed teeth of ivory under the bluish lips; in place of the stomach there was a mass of earth-coloured flesh which seemed to be palpitating with the vermin that swarmed all over it. It writhed, with the sun's rays falling on it, under the gnawing of so many mouths, in this intolerable stench—a stench which was fierce and, as it were, devouring.

Yet wrinkles gathered on Bouvard's forehead, and his eyes filled with tears.

Pécuchet said in a stoical fashion, "One day we shall be like that."

The idea of death had taken hold of them. They talked about it on their way back.

After all, it has no existence. We pass away into the dew, into the breeze, into the stars. We become part of the sap of trees, the brilliance of precious stones, the plumage of birds. We give back to Nature what she lent to each of us, and the nothingness before us is not a bit more frightful than the nothingness behind us.

They tried to picture it to themselves under the form of an intense night, a bottomless pit, a continual swoon. Anything would be better than such an existence—monotonous, absurd, and hopeless.

They enumerated their unsatisfied wants. Bouvard had always wished for horses, equipages, a big supply of Burgundy, and lovely women ready to accommodate him in a splendid habitation. Pécuchet's ambition was philosophical knowledge. Now, the296 vastest of problems, that which contains all others, can be solved in one minute. When would it come, then? "As well to make an end of it at once."

"Just as you like," said Bouvard.

And they investigated the question of suicide.

Where is the evil of casting aside a burden which is crushing you? and of doing an act harmful to nobody? If it offended God, should we have this power? It is not cowardice, though people say so, and to scoff at human pride is a fine thing, even at the price of injury to oneself—the thing that men regard most highly.

They deliberated as to the different kinds of death. Poison makes you suffer. In order to cut your throat you require too much courage. In the case of asphyxia, people often fail to effect their object.

Finally, Pécuchet carried up to the garret two ropes belonging to their gymnastic apparatus. Then, having fastened them to the same cross-beam of the roof, he let a slip-knot hang down from the end of each, and drew two chairs underneath to reach the ropes.

This method was the one they selected.

They asked themselves what impression it would cause in the district, what would become of their library, their papers, their collections. The thought of death made them feel tenderly about themselves. However, they did not abandon their project, and by dint of talking about it they grew accustomed to the idea.

On the evening of the 24th of December, between ten and eleven o'clock, they sat thinking in the museum, both differently attired. Bouvard wore a blouse over his knitted waistcoat, and Pécuchet,297 through economy, had not left off his monk's habit for the past three months.

As they were very hungry (for Marcel, having gone out at daybreak, had not reappeared), Bouvard thought it would be a healthful thing for him to drink a quart bottle of brandy, and for Pécuchet to take some tea.

While he was lifting up the kettle he spilled some water on the floor.

"Awkward!" exclaimed Bouvard.

Then, thinking the infusion too small, he wanted to strengthen it with two additional spoonfuls.

"This will be execrable," said Pécuchet.

"Not at all."

And while each of them was trying to draw the work-box closer to himself, the tray upset and fell down. One of the cups was smashed—the last of their fine porcelain tea-service.

Bouvard turned pale.

"Go on! Confusion! Don't put yourself about!"

"Truly, a great misfortune! I attribute it to my father."

"Your natural father," corrected Pécuchet, with a sneer.

"Ha! you insult me!"

"No; but I am tiring you out! I see it plainly! Confess it!"

And Pécuchet was seized with anger, or rather with madness. So was Bouvard. The pair began shrieking, the one excited by hunger, the other by alcohol. Pécuchet's throat at length emitted no sound save a rattling.

"It is infernal, a life like this. I much prefer death. Adieu!"298

He snatched up the candlestick and rushed out, slamming the door behind him.

Bouvard, plunged in darkness, found some difficulty in opening it. He ran after Pécuchet, and followed him up to the garret.

The candle was on the floor, and Pécuchet was standing on one of the chairs, with a rope in his hand. The spirit of imitation got the better of Bouvard.

"Wait for me!"

And he had just got up on the other chair when, suddenly stopping:

"Why, we have not made our wills!"

"Hold on! That's quite true!"

Their breasts swelled with sobs. They leaned against the skylight to take breath.

The air was chilly and a multitude of stars glittered in a sky of inky blackness.

The whiteness of the snow that covered the earth was lost in the haze of the horizon.

They perceived, close to the ground, little lights, which, as they drew near, looked larger, all reaching up to the side of the church.

Curiosity drove them to the spot. It was the midnight mass. These lights came from shepherds' lanterns. Some of them were shaking their cloaks under the porch.

The serpent snorted; the incense smoked. Glasses suspended along the nave represented three crowns of many-coloured flames; and, at the end of the perspective at the two sides of the tabernacle, immense wax tapers were pointed with red flames. Above the heads of the crowd and the broad-brimmed hats of the women, beyond the chanters, the priest299 could be distinguished in his chasuble of gold. To his sharp voice responded the strong voices of the men who filled up the gallery, and the wooden vault quivered above its stone arches. The walls were decorated with the stations of the Cross. In the midst of the choir, before the altar, a lamb was lying down, with its feet under its belly and its ears erect.

The warm temperature imparted to them both a strange feeling of comfort, and their thoughts, which had been so tempestuous only a short time before, became peaceful, like waves when they are calmed.

They listened to the Gospel and the Credo, and watched the movements of the priest. Meanwhile, the old, the young, the beggar women in rags, the mothers in high caps, the strong young fellows with tufts of fair down on their faces, were all praying, absorbed in the same deep joy, and saw the body of the Infant Christ shining, like a sun, upon the straw of a stable. This faith on the part of others touched Bouvard in spite of his reason, and Pécuchet in spite of the hardness of his heart.

There was a silence; every back was bent, and, at the tinkling of a bell, the little lamb bleated.

The host was displayed by the priest, as high as possible between his two hands. Then burst forth a strain of gladness inviting the whole world to the feet of the King of Angels. Bouvard and Pécuchet involuntarily joined in it, and they felt, as it were, a new dawn rising in their souls.
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Re: Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

Postby admin » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:46 am


[1]Roughly speaking, about 93 acres.—Translator.


[3]One hectare contains 2 acres 1 rood 38 perches.—Translator.

[4]The [Text missing in original.—Transcriber.]

[5]Raspail, the author of the work here referred to, was called in to attend Gustave Flaubert's sister Caroline before her death in 1846.—Translator.

[6]A decalitre contains over two gallons.—Translator.

[7]A myriamètre is over six miles.—Translator.

[8]This would, roughly speaking, be about eleven yards.—Translator.

[9] Oui, prince, je languis, je brûle pour Thésée—
Je l'aime!

[10]The Vinegar Merchant's Wheelbarrow.

[11] Des flammes de les yeux inonde ma paupière.
Chante-moi quelque chant, comme parfois, le soir,
Tu m'en chantais, avec des pleurs dans ton œil noir.

[12] Soyons heureux! buvons! car la coupe est remplie,
Car cette heure est à moi, et le reste est folie!

[13] N'est-ce pas qu'il est doux
D'aimer, et savoir qu'on vous aime à genoux?

[14] Oh! laisse-moi dormir et rêver sur ton sein,
Doña Sol, ma beauté, mon amour!

[15] Que dans tous vos discours la passion emue
Aille chercher le cœur, l'échauffe et le remue.

[16]La savate—a military practice of beating with an old shoe soldiers unskilful at drill.—Translator.

[17] A nous l'animal timide!
Atteignons le cerf rapide!
Oui! nous vaincons!
Courons! courons! courons!
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Re: Bouvard and Pécuchet, by Gustave Flaubert

Postby admin » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:46 am

Transcriber's Notes:

Page 12: Bartholemée sic

Page 15: Bartholemée sic

Page 36: The text of the second footnote on this page is missing in the original edition of the book.

Page 111: Single opening quote changed to double quote (... returned Pécuchet, "has disappeared...")

Page 114: Heurteaux amended to Heurtaux

Page 133: Heurteaux amended to Heurtaux

Page 150: Full stop added after "well-balanced idea"

Page 167: comma added after Mauprat

Page 218: abbê amended to abbé

Page 221: parlimentary amended to parliamentary

Page 250: Loadstone sic

Page 259: Full stop added after "imagination"

Page 276: Comma added after "Yet"

Small discrepancies between the Table of Contents and the chapter headings have been retained.

Hyphenation has been standardised. Where the hyphenated and unhyphenated version of a word occur an equal number of times, both have been retained: cocoa-nuts/cocoanuts; cross-beam/crossbeam; foot-warmer/footwarmer; night-cap/nightcap; sugar-loaves/sugarloaves; tri-coloured/tricoloured; wash-house/washhouse.
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