Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
The ball is exactly the kind of experience Emma has been craving, and she loves every moment of it. She gets to taste champagne, pineapple, and many other unfamiliar delicacies. She dines with the marquis and his guests. During the meal, she is especially impressed as she watches the marquis’ father-in-law, an aging man who, in his youth, lived at the royal court and supposedly had an affair with Marie-Antoinette.
After dinner, Emma carefully readies herself for the ball. After she gets dressed, she refuses to let Charles touch her in case he might clumsily ruin her appearance. She also forbids him to dance, advising him that dancing would be improper behavior for a doctor.
Emma herself dances a great deal. The music is exciting, as are her dance partners—wealthy young men who look and behave as though they own the world. The people around her hold exciting conversations about mysterious topics she does not always understand. Near the end of the ball, she waltzes with a young nobleman who is called by his title, vicomte. The spinning dance leaves her dizzy and breathless. The vicomte soon moves on to dance with a different partner, but the few moments he spends with Emma are the highlight of her evening.
Charles spends the evening standing by the card tables watching people play whist, a game he does not understand. When the party is over, he complains that his feet hurt. He quickly readies himself for bed and falls asleep. Emma remains awake as long as she can, reliving the evening in her mind, trying to savor the luxury all around her.
Morning comes too quickly, and Emma and Charles set out for home not long after breakfast. During their drive, Charles finds a beautiful embroidered cigar case on the ground. He takes it home with him and tries to smoke one of the fancy cigars, but he just makes himself sick.
Now that the most exciting experience of Emma’s life is over, her mood grows foul. Shortly after arriving home, she fires her maid for failing to get dinner ready on time. When Charles is not looking, she takes his beautiful cigar case for herself as a keepsake. By the next morning, the ball already seems like an event of the distant past. Her memories fade, but her desire to relive them does not. Her one “contact with luxury” has left her hungry for more.