Part 3, Chapter 3 Summary

Emma’s three days in Rouen are like “a real honeymoon.” She and Léon stay at a hotel by the river, where they spend most of the time shut up with all the doors locked. They fling flowers all over the room and order cold drinks whenever they feel like it. In the evenings they rent a boat to take them out to a small island, where they find a little restaurant. After eating dinner, they find a patch of grass and sit embracing each other in the cool night air. At these moments, they both wish that they could spend years on the island getaway, “like two Robinson Crusoes.” They are so lovesick that the trees and sky and water all seem more beautiful than ever before:

It was as though nature had not existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful with the slaking of their desires.

When it gets dark, Emma and Léon return to their rented boat and have the boatman row them back to Rouen. On one of these trips, Emma quietly sings a song to the moon. Léon sits across from her, watching and listening to the sweet sounds she makes. He thinks that she looks even more beautiful now than she ever has before.

Moments later, Léon notices a little piece of ribbon in the bottom of the boat. The boatman says it belonged to “a jolly lot” who rented his boat a few nights ago. In that group, even the girls acted raucous and drank champagne, but one particular man was the clear leader, funnier and livelier than anyone else. The boatman describes this reveler, and Emma realizes it was Rodolphe.

Thinking of her former lover, Emma shivers. Léon notices, but she plays it down, saying that she is just cold. The boatman comments that men like Rodolphe and Léon never have to worry about attracting women. He does not know that Emma has a history with both men; he merely means to compliment Léon for being good looking and well-dressed.

When Emma has to go back home to Yonville, she and Léon are both miserable. Emma gives him detailed instructions about how to send discrete letters. He is impressed by her ability to think strategically, unaware that she is experienced at extramarital affairs.

Before she leaves, Emma makes sure that the power of attorney is properly arranged. She boards a coach to drive away, and Léon walks off alone through the city. As he wanders, he wonders why she is so interested in having the power to manage her husband's money.