Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 528
When Rodolphe sees Emma, his first thought is that she looks more beautiful than ever. She complains that he broke her heart, and she asks him to become her lover again. He seems ready to agree until she confesses that she needs money. Then he realizes that this is the only reason for her visit. He tells her that he does not have the money.
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Emma grows furious. In an ugly outburst, she points out Rodolphe’s expensive possessions and reminds him of the money he spends on hobbies and vacations. Surely a man who spends so much on himself can spend a few thousand on a friend. Rodolphe grows angry, but he stays calm. He firmly tells her that he cannot help her. Inwardly, he reflects that if he had the money, he would probably give it to her.
Thwarted again, Emma returns to town in a daze. She does not really think about where she is going until she arrives at Monsieur Homais’s house. Remembering that he once mentioned where he keeps his arsenic, Emma bullies his apprentice, Justin, into unlocking the room. To Justin’s horror, she grabs the bottle and eats a large dose of the poison. Justin moves to call for help, but she scares him into silence, saying that he and Monsieur Homais will be blamed if anyone finds out where she got the poison.
Feeling peaceful now that her fate is sealed, Emma goes home. There she refuses to tell Charles how she managed to bankrupt him. Instead, she writes a letter, seals it, and instructs him to open it in the morning. Then she goes to bed and waits for the poison to take effect.
When Emma begins vomiting in the night, Charles grows worried. After trying and failing to help her, he opens her letter and learns that she has eaten arsenic. At this, his grief is so obvious and so intense that Emma realizes the force of his love for her. She recognizes at last that Charles’s love is far greater and purer than any other love she has experienced.
Charles calls Monsieur Homais, who makes a series of inept attempts to help Emma. Charles also issues emergency calls to the two most renowned doctors in his region. They both rush to Emma’s bedside and try to help. However, there is little they can do. They tell Charles that Emma is going to die, and then they leave for a few hours to let nature take its course.
Monsieur Homais is awestruck by the presence of these two famous doctors, so he invites them to his house for lunch. Justin and his wife hurry to prepare a fancy meal, leaning on many of the other villagers to provide supplies suitable for the important guests. As Emma lies dying, everyone else in town clamors to impress the famous doctors and get advice on their small medical problems.
Everything is quiet and still in Emma’s room. The priest comes to minister to her, and she appears to relax a little. Seeing this, Charles grows hopeful. The improvement is short-lived, however. A few hours later, she dies.