Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary

Emma watches the street out her window every day, and she always sees Monsieur Léon walking to and from work. It becomes a part of her routine to take note of his passing, and she does not question it. Often she waits until after he goes by in the evening before she orders the maid to set the table for dinner.

While Emma and Charles eat in the evenings, Monsieur Homais often comes to chat. He asks about Charles’s patients and relates the news from the day’s paper. He also delivers long lectures on the foods they are eating, explaining about the healthful qualities of the spices and advising Emma which pieces of meat are the most tender.

On Sundays, Charles and Emma usually visit the Homais household to play games and chat in the parlor. Monsieur Léon always attends these gatherings. After playing cards with Monsieur Homais for a while, Emma usually sits with Monsieur Léon, reading magazines or poetry. The pharmacist and the doctor usually drop off to sleep, and then Emma and Monsieur Léon get to talk quietly in relative privacy. In this way, they develop a close friendship.

Charles is not jealous of his wife’s new friendship. In truth, Monsieur Léon acts like a good friend to both of them. He gives Charles a phrenological head for his birthday and often picks up odds and ends for the couple on travels out of town. On one occasion, he hears that exotic plants are in fashion in Paris, and he gives Emma a gift of a few potted cacti. She responds by giving him a beautifully embroidered blanket.

Monsieur Léon talks about Madame Bovary all the time and shows his blanket proudly to everyone in town. This raises suspicions, and the gossips speculate that the two friends must be having an affair. To them, this is the only imaginable reason why a young wife would give a handmade present to a male friend.

For months, Monsieur Léon spends most of his time agonizing about whether and how he should speak his feelings aloud to Emma. In the end, he is not brave enough to speak at all. For her part, Emma assumes that love, if she felt it, would hit her “like a blinding flash of lightning.” She has never experienced such a feeling, so it does not occur to her that she may be in love with Monsieur Léon or he with her.