Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419
At home, Rodolphe rummages through a box of letters, trinkets, and locks of hair from women. As he examines the letters and keepsakes from Emma, he gets them mixed up with his souvenirs from his many other lovers. He ends up tossing everything back in the box, telling himself that relationships are all “nonsense.” He believes this. He has had so many mistresses and spent so much time lying and scheming to get them that he is no longer capable of the pure emotion of love.
Rodolphe writes Emma a long letter about how he fears he will ruin her life unless her breaks off their relationship. He says that he wishes he did not have to hurt her, but that she will surely regret running away if she goes through with it. He claims that he is leaving town in order to prevent himself from rushing out to see her one last time—but in reality, he wants to leave for a while to avoid further confrontation with Emma.
When this note is delivered, Emma panics. She rushes up to the attic to read it where nobody will disturb her. As she reads, she feels anger and remorse. Distraught, she steps to the window. She is just on the point of throwing herself out when Charles calls her to dinner.
Instead of killing herself, Emma goes downstairs and sits at the table. She tries to get through the meal without making Charles suspicious, but she fails. She cannot eat, and she repeatedly surprises him with her odd reactions to simple comments. After the meal, she glances outside and glimpses Rodolphe, who is indeed on his way out of town. This is too much for her, and she faints.
Charles calls out for help, and Monsieur Homais rushes over with vinegar to resuscitate Emma. As Charles doctors her and Berthe cries in fear, Monsieur Homais delivers a lecture about the possible causes of this fainting spell. Eventually Emma is carried up to her room, where she lies ill for weeks. Charles cares for her devotedly, refusing to leave her side even to do his work.
After many weeks of illness, Emma’s health slowly begins to improve. When she is finally able to go for a walk in the garden, he is thrilled. She is doing fine until he encourages her to sit on the bench where—unbeknownst to him—she used to meet Rodolphe at night. Her illness returns, and Charles begins to worry that she has cancer.
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