Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary

The wedding guests include the couple's families, as well as many of the people who live in the nearby towns. The guests all dress in their finest—which, given the provincial setting where they live, is not very fine at all. However, the procession is colorful as everyone walks from the church to the mayor’s office and back to Les Bartaux for the wedding feast. Emma frequently stops on the way to pick grass and thorns out of her gown. Charles’s mother walks arm-in-arm with Monsieur Rouault. Charles’s father watches the activities with an air of superiority, but he is not above flirting with the pretty young girls.

The wedding feast is abundant, with many different kinds of meat, baked goods, cider, and wine. The caterer, new in the area, has made a magnificent wedding cake to impress the guests. People eat and drink until midnight, sometimes pausing to take walks or play games. Many of the guests stay at the farm all night. Their children sleep on the floor, while some of the adults stay awake and keep drinking.

Emma knows that drunken wedding guests often play practical jokes on the bride, and she has asked her father to protect her from this treatment. After she and Charles retire for the night, Monsieur Rouault finds a cousin spitting water through the keyhole of their bedroom door. Monsieur Rouault stops this, saying that Charles is too distinguished to receive such treatment. This annoys the cousin, who spends the rest of the night sitting with a small group of other unhappy guests.

Charles’s mother does not enjoy the wedding. She is offended because nobody bothered to ask her opinions in planning it. She holds herself aloof, refusing to speak very often with other guests. She goes to bed early while her husband stays up late, drinking and smoking without her.

The morning after the wedding, Charles is very cheerful, as if he were the one who “lost his virginity overnight.” For her part, Emma seems totally composed, almost bored. People find her behavior strange, but Charles does not appear to notice. He follows his new wife around and frequently asks where she is if she leaves his sight even for a moment.

After another day passes, Emma and Charles go to his house in Tostes. When they leave, Monsieur Rouault feels sad. He reminisces about his own marriage and his now deceased wife. Meanwhile, the young couple arrives at Tostes, and Emma begins a tour of her new home.