Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary

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Emma constantly complains to Rodolphe that her life is horrible. One day when he snaps that he cannot do anything about it, she replies that he can. She begs him to take her away. He brushes her off, but she does not forget the idea.

Charles’s recent failure with the clubfoot operation has renewed Emma’s disgust for him. Her feelings for the two men have a curious connection to each other. The more she hates Charles, the more she loves Rodolphe. Every time she comes home after seeing Rodolphe, Charles seems worse than before.

Monsieur Lheureux, the owner of the dry goods store in Yonville, frequently lets Emma have pretty objects for herself on credit. He never bothers her about paying her bills, so she makes expensive purchases whenever she wants. One day she orders a fancy riding crop for Rodolphe, assuming that Monsieur Lheureux will allow her to have it on credit as usual. She is surprised when he begins pestering her to pay the bill.

One day Emma receives a large payment from one of Charles’s patients, and she gives almost the entire amount to Monsieur Lheureux to pay for the riding crop. He seems disappointed, and she feels nervous at having spent so much money on her lover. Nevertheless, she tells herself that Charles will never notice what she has done.

As Emma’s moral expectations for herself decline, she stops caring about other people’s morals as well. One day, when Charles’s mother is in town on one of her periodic visits, she walks in on the maid, Félicité, kissing a man in the kitchen. When Emma hears about this, she just laughs. Shocked, Charles’s mother insists that a woman in Emma’s position must watch over the moral behavior of her servants. Emma grows furious and orders her mother-in-law out of the room.

After this ugly scene, Charles persuades Emma to apologize to his mother. Emma does so, but she is humiliated. She immediately calls Rodolphe and begs him to take her away. In the heat of the moment, he agrees.

Buoyed by the promise of a different life, Emma begins acting happier and more respectful at home. She is polite to her mother-in-law and kind to Charles. Meanwhile she spends all of her time planning to run away. She orders a traveling cloak, a trunk, and a small bag from Monsieur Lheureux, who asks if she is planning a trip. She tells him she is not going anywhere. She instructs him not to send her packages to her house, but to wait for her to pick them up.

Rodolphe delays the date of departure several times, first because he is having trouble obtaining passports and making travel arrangements, and then because he says he is sick. Eventually, however, he cannot put her off any longer. Two nights before their departure, they sit together in Emma’s garden. Emma prattles on about how wonderful it will be to travel and be together. Rodolphe answers with an occasional laconic syllable. He tells her that everything is ready and that he will meet her at the hotel at noon on Monday.

As Rodolphe walks home after this meeting, he briefly considers actually going through with Emma’s plan—but then he decides that he is being ridiculous. He does not want to live outside France for the rest of his life, nor does he want to take care of a child. He mutters to himself that he is “a fool,” and then adds, musingly, “But she certainly made a pretty mistress!”

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