Their long march to perdition begins with efforts at conquering their new land: farming and gardening. They move on to the body medicine, which they even practise leading on to the sciences generally. They turn to archaeology, which leads to history. But: "Without imagination, history is flawed", so they turn to Walter Scott and literature.
The Revolution of leads them to dabble in politics -- even consider a run for the Chamber of Deputies. The straws settled nothing, so they went to consult the doctor about the matter. They study politics, moving eventually even to Fourierism. And he became lost in daydreams about a harmonized world. Intellectual disappointment leads them to embrace physical fitness. Thrilled by the idea of "its use as a means of rescue", they ask to borrow children from the school to practise on they're always great experimenters. Their games delight them, but they always need that sense of purpose behind them -- and often lose it.
It was too much. They gave up. Defeat -- complete and often humiliating -- is par for the course for them. After philosophy they're left only with the brief retreat into the comforting fog of religion, but that doesn't fulfill them adequately either. A final desperate act by those who have never learnt their lesson is to embrace education and become pedagogues: they take in two children and try to teach them.
Yet, though their wide-eyed enthusiasm falters on occasion, they can't be brought down: they really don't learn, but because of that they can also go on almost as merrily as always. They're not great businessmen or hosts, or employers , either, but fit in well in this slice of society Flaubert presents, made up of rogues and fools and his two anti-heroes aren't the only ones he pokes a lot of fun at as he, for example, gleefully describes a group of national guardsmen turning tail because: "they had mistaken an apple tree for a man aiming a rifle at them".
They go about their business, and don't seem to care much what anybody thinks. And they are adults who are willing and able to indulge in a childish sense of wonder. Stonier, accurately reveals the artistry of Flaubert to an English-reading audience. Flaubert's is a special kind of satire; it deals in particulars. He did not see the middle class or the intellectual activity of his time as generally despicable entities; instead, he ranted at the individual trait, the peculiar trend.
It is for this reason that he called his last work, "a kind of encyclopedia made into a farce. So thorough is his technique that no character-type and no superficial mode of thought escapes his treatment. After they renounce their lives as Paris copy clerks and move to the country, Bouvard and Pecuchet hop from one intellectual endeavor to the other. Their failure at preserving vegetables leads them to chemistry, and each successive disappointment leads to a new venture: geology, biology, medicine, verse, politics, literary criticism.
Each new "study" leaves them uncertain and confused, but they feel sure that with one more book, one more discovery, a certain subject will become entirely clear to them. Yet Flaubert seems always to have his sympathies with his two befuddled heroes. The follies of Bouvard and Pecuchet are pitiable but not hateful. Accepted as men of mediocre capabilities, the limited success that they do have is a glorious triumph. In comparison to the other characters in the book, their enlightenment is a miracle and their learning, shallow as it is, approaches the profound. Bouvard and Pecuchet are loyal friends, and for Flaubert, friendship is a virtue.
Therefore, although these two heroes are the vehicle for some of the author's bitterest comments on the bourgeoisie, they are not the only object of his tirade. It was Barberou who came to their rescue. It consisted of a farm with thirtyeight hectares, a kind of manor house, and fields that boasted a good yield. They headed straightaway to the Calvados region and were enchanted.
Only, for both the farm and the house one would not be sold without the other , the seller was asking one hundred forty-three thousand francs. Bouvard would offer only one hundred twenty.
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He had never breathed a word about it, reserving this nest egg for a major occasion. The final payment was made toward the end of , six months before his retirement. Bouvard was no longer a copy-clerk. At first he had continued his functions out of mistrust for the future, but had resigned once he was certain of the inheritance. Still, he gladly returned to visit Descambos Bros. He still had to oversee the packing, run a heap of errands, do some more shopping, and say goodbye to Dumouchel!
The academic suggested they maintain a correspondence, in which he would keep him abreast of literary developments; he congratulated him again and wished him good luck. He abandoned a game of dominos, promised to come see him out there, ordered two anisettes, and gave him a hug. Never again would he return here—so much the better!
Still, to leave something of himself behind, he carved his name into the plaster above the fireplace. The largest trunks had already left the day before. The gardening implements, bunks, mattresses, tables, chairs, a heater, the bathtub, and three barrels of Burgundy would be transported via the Seine up to Le Havre, and from there would be shipped to Caen, where Bouvard, awaiting their arrival, would have them brought to Chavignolles.
He settled in next to the driver on the bench, covered in his oldest frock coat, a muffler, mittens, and his office foot-muff; and at daybreak on Sunday, March 20, he set out from the capital. The movement and the newness of the journey occupied him for the first few hours. Then the horses slowed, which led to arguments with the driver and the carter.
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The next morning they left at dawn; and the road, always the same, rose unendingly toward the horizon. Yards of gravel followed each other, the ditches were full of water, the countryside stretched in large surfaces of cold and monotonous green, clouds chased each other across the sky, some rain fell now and then. On the third day, the wind rose. With every bump in the road he heard his luggage rattling behind him, and redoubled. Seeing that they got him nowhere, he changed tactics. He acted easygoing, went out of his way to be accommodating; on the steep climbs, he shouldered the wheel with the men; he even bought their after-dinner schnapps.
From then on, they rolled more speedily, so much so that around Gauburge the axle broke and the wagon sat at a tilt. He threw up his arms, gnashing his teeth, and cursed the two imbeciles; and the next day was wasted because the carter got drunk. But he no longer had the strength to complain, his cup of bitterness having run over. Bouvard had left Paris a full two days later to dine one more time with Barberou. He made it to the depot at the last minute, then awoke to find himself staring at the Rouen cathedral: he had taken the wrong coach.
All the seats for Caen that evening were reserved. Past Bretteville, having left the main road, they veered onto a cross path, expecting at any moment to see the rooftops of Chavignolles. But the ruts became scarcer, then disappeared altogether, and they found themselves in the middle of plowed fields.
Night was falling. What would become of them? When he neared a farm, dogs began barking. He shouted at the top of his lungs for directions. No one answered. Growing afraid, he headed back to the road. Suddenly two lanterns shone. He spotted a cabriolet and ran to meet it. Bouvard was inside. But where could the moving van have disappeared to? For an hour they called to it in the dark.
Finally it showed up, and they arrived in Chavignolles. A large fire of shrubs and pinecones was roaring in the dining room. Two places had been set. The furniture delivered by the cart cluttered the vestibule. Nothing was missing. They sat at the table. Onion soup, a chicken, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs had been prepared for them.
The old woman who handled the cooking came in now and again to make sure everything was to their liking. There were gaps in the floor tiles and the walls oozed moisture. Still, they gazed around them with satisfaction, while eating at the small table on which a candle was burning.
Their cheeks were ruddy from the fresh air. It seems like a dream! Bouvard was all for it. They picked up the candle, which they shielded behind an old newspaper, and walked alongside the flowerbeds. Ah, cabbages! Sometimes a spider made a dash up the wall, the twin shadows of their bodies standing against it, enlarged, repeating their movements. The tips of the grasses were pearled with dew. The night was utterly black, and everything lay in complete silence, complete stillness. A cock crowed in the distance.
Between their two bedrooms was a small door masked by the wallpaper. Someone, bumping it with a chest of drawers, had recently knocked out the nails that kept it in place. They found it gaping open. It was a surprise. And the two of them snored beneath the moonlight streaming in through the windows.
Then they headed out to see the countryside.
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Before them were fields, to the right a barn and the church spire, to the left a curtain of poplars. Two wide paths, forming a cross, divided the garden into four sections. The vegetables grew in the garden, and here and there rose dwarf cypresses and cordon trees. On one side, a bower led to an ornamental monticule that the locals called a vigneau, and on the other a wall supported the espaliers; in the background, a lattice fence allowed a view of the fields.
Past the wall was an orchard, after the arbor a wood, and behind the fence a small path. They were contemplating this grouping when a man with graying hair and dressed in a black cardigan came strolling along the path, raking the lattice with his cane. The old servant woman informed them that this was Dr. Vaucorbeil, who was famous throughout the area. The other notables were Count de Faverges, formerly of the Chamber of Deputies, whose cowsheds were reputed far and wide; the mayor, Mr. As for herself, they called her Germaine, after Germain, her late husband.
They accepted and set out for the farm, which stood about half a mile away. When they entered the barnyard, the farmer, Gouy, was scolding a boy, and his wife, seated on a stepstool, was squeezing a turkey between her legs and gorging it with gobs of flour. The man had a low forehead, an aquiline nose, a shifty look, and strong shoulders.
His wife was very blond, with freckles on her cheeks and the simple expression one sees on yokels in stained-glass windows. In the kitchen, bundles of hemp hung from the ceiling. Three old rifles were spaced at intervals on the tall mantel. A dresser loaded with flower-print china occupied the middle of the wall, and squares of bottle glass cast a pallid light on the tin and copper utensils.
The two Parisians wished to make their inspection, having seen the property only once, and briefly at that. Farmer Gouy and his wife escorted them, and the litany of complaints began. All the buildings, from the carriage barn to the cider distillery, needed repairs. They would have to build another room for the cheeses, run new wire on the fences, raise the banks, dig the pond, and replant a considerable number of apple trees in the three yards.
Then they visited the arable lands, which Farmer Gouy disparaged: they ate up too much fertilizer, the cartage was costly; impossible to get all the rocks out, the weeds were poisoning the meadows. And this denigration of his land lessened the pleasure Bouvard felt in walking on it. They returned via the sunken road, beneath a canopy of beeches. The house, from this side, showed its main courtyard and facade. It was painted white with yellow trim. The shed and the cellar, the bakehouse, and the woodshed formed two additional wings lower down. The kitchen was connected to a small room.
Then came the vestibule, a second, larger room, and the living room. The four bedrooms upstairs opened onto a hallway that looked out on the courtyard. When they opened the armoires they found other volumes, but did not take the time to read their titles. For now, the most urgent thing was the garden. Bouvard, passing near the arbor, discovered the plaster statue of a woman beneath its branches. She was pulling up her skirt with two fingers, her knees bent, looking over her shoulder as if afraid of being discovered.
Meanwhile, the burghers of Chavignolles were curious to meet the newcomers: people came to stare through the lattice fence. They stopped up the openings with planks. The population was offended. He also had a large apron with a pocket in front, in which a pair of pruning shears, his scarf, and his tobacco pouch jostled against each other.
Arms bare and standing side-by-side they labored, weeded, pruned, gave themselves chores. They ate as quickly as possible, but still took their coffee on the monticule to enjoy the view. If they encountered a slug, they snuck up on it and crushed it, grimacing at the corner of their mouths as if cracking a nut. To rid themselves of caterpillars, they beat the branches furiously with a long pole. Bouvard planted a peony in the middle of the garden and tomatoes that were meant to rain down like a chandelier, beneath the bower archway.
And he daydreamed at the edge of his ditch, seeing in the future mountains of fruits, cascades of flowers, avalanches of vegetables. Bordin, one fine day, came upon him on the main road. She greeted him, then asked after his friend. He answered tersely and turned back to his labors—an impoliteness for which Bouvard rebuked him. Then came the difficult days of winter, with its snows and deep frosts. They settled into their kitchen and made latticework; or else wandered around the rooms, chatted by the fire, watched the rains fall.
The asparagus looked plentiful. The vines gave promise. Since they knew how to garden, they could easily succeed in agriculture; and they were seized by the ambition of cultivating their farm. First they needed to see how others did it, and so they drafted a letter asking Mr.
The count immediately granted them an appointment. The river ran through the bottom of it, sinuously. Blocks of red sandstone rose here and there, and farther on large boulders formed a kind of cliff hanging over a countryside covered in ripe wheat. Opposite that, on the other hillside, the vegetation was so abundant that it concealed the houses. Trees divided the fields into uneven squares of grass, with darker lines running through the middle. The entire domain suddenly came into view. Tile roofs identified the farm.
The two friends entered a field where alfalfa was being tossed. Women wearing straw hats, Indian headscarves, or paper visors used rakes to lift the hay that had fallen to the ground, and at the far end of the plain, past the bales, they were tossing sheaves onto a long cart harnessed to three horses. The count came forward, followed by his. He had a linen suit, a stiff bearing, and muttonchops, looking at once like a magistrate and a dandy. His facial features never moved, even when he spoke. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, he explained his system with regard to forage: you had to toss the swaths without scattering them; the bales had to be conical and the sheaves made on the spot, then stacked by tens.
As for the mechanical rake, the ground was too uneven for such an implement. A little girl, her feet bare in her clogs, her body visible through rips in her dress, served drink to the women, pouring cider from an ewer that she balanced against her hip. The count asked where this child had come from; no one knew. The women had picked her up to serve them during the harvest.
He shrugged his shoulders and, walking away, uttered a few remarks about the immorality of our rural areas. Bouvard praised his alfalfa. Seven coulters in the bottom traced fine, parallel furrows, into which the seed fell through tubes stretching to the ground. Kohlrabi is the basis of my quadrennial cultivation. But a domestic ran up to find him: he was needed back at the chateau.
His estate manager took over for him, a man with a sly face and obsequious manner. Their blades whistled in the straw, which fell to the right.
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Each man described a wide semi-circle before him, and all in the same line they advanced in cadence. Afterward, they walked alongside several areas being plowed. Dusk was falling; crows dropped into the furrows. Then they were shown the herd. Sheep grazed here and there, and one could hear their continual munching.
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The shepherd, sitting on a tree trunk, was knitting a woolen stocking, his dog beside him. All the farm buildings were near each other and occupied three sides of the. The work there was done mechanically, using a turbine powered by a stream that had been diverted for that purpose. Copper wiring stretched from one roof to the next, and in the middle of the muck heap an iron pump was in operation. The estate manager pointed out small openings at ground level in the sheep pens, and in the pigpens there were ingenious doors that shut by themselves.
The barn was vaulted like a cathedral, with brick arches resting on stone walls. To entertain the gentlemen, a servant girl tossed handfuls of oats to the hens. The shaft of the cider press looked gigantic, and they climbed into the dovecote. The dairy particularly fascinated them. Faucets in the corners supplied enough water to rinse the stone slabs, and when you entered, the freshness of it was surprising. Brown jugs, lined up on lattice fences, were full to the brim with milk. Shallower vessels contained cream. Loaves of butter stretched in a line, like sections of copper piping, and foam spilled over tin pails that had just been set on the ground.
But the jewel of the farm was the cattle barn. Slats of wood stretching perpendicularly from floor to ceiling divided it into two sections, one for the cattle, the other for the operation. It was hard to see, as all the shutters were closed. The cows ate chained to racks, and the heat from their bodies was reflected by the low ceiling. Then some light was let in and water trickled into the trough bordering the racks.
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A lowing arose; the sound of the hooves was like the clicking of sticks. All the cattle advanced their snouts between the slats and drank slowly. The teams of workhorses entered the farmyard and the foals whinnied. On the ground floor, two or three lanterns were lit, then disappeared. The laborers passed by, sliding their clogs along the gravel, and the dinner bell sounded.
The two visitors departed. Everything they had seen enchanted them; their decision was made. To get to the cattle markets more easily, they bought an old cart, which Bouvard drove. Dressed in blue smocks and wide-brimmed hats, gaiters to their knees and crops in their hands, they prowled among the beasts, questioned the laborers, and never missed a single agricultural fair. They soon exasperated Farmer Gouy with their advice, and especially deplored his system of letting certain parcels of land lie fallow.
But the farmer clung to his routine. He went so far as to request that they waive part of the house rent, using the hailstorms as his excuse. As for his land rent, he paid none at all. From that point on, Gouy skimped on the manure, let the weeds grow, ruined the soil, and finally departed with a hostile expression that presaged acts of vengeance. Bouvard thought that twenty thousand francs, more than four times the amount of the farm rent, would do for a start. His notary in Paris sent the money. Their farming operation included fifteen hectares in yards and meadows, twentythree in arable land, and five in fallow ground located on a stone-covered hillock referred to as the Knoll.
They acquired all the indispensable tools, four horses, a dozen cows, six pigs, one hundred sixty sheep, and, as farmhands, two carters, two servant girls, a valet, a shepherd, and to top it all off a huge dog. For ready cash, they sold off their fodder. They were paid at the house; the gold napoleons counted out on the oats chest seemed shinier than any others, rarer and more valuable. In the month of November, they brewed cider. They panted as they tightened the vise, ladled in the vat, checked the stoppers, wore heavy clogs, and enjoyed themselves tremendously.
Starting with the principle that you can never have enough wheat, they did away with roughly half of their meadowlands; and, since they had no fertilizer, they used clods of manure, which they buried intact. The yield was pitiful. The following year, they sowed very densely. The storms came. The seedlings washed away. Nonetheless, they clung stubbornly to wheat and undertook to clear the Knoll of stones. A small rubbish cart carried off the rocks. All the year long, from morning until evening, in rain or shine, one saw the sempiternal cart, with the same man and the same horse, creak its way up, down, and back up the little hill.
Sometimes Bouvard walked behind it, stopping halfway to mop his brow. Trusting no one, they treated the animals themselves, administering purges and enemas. Serious troubles occurred. The girl who looked after the farmyard got pregnant. They hired only married couples; children proliferated, as did cousins, uncles, and sisters-in-law. A horde was living at their expense, and they decided to take turns sleeping at the farm. But the evenings were sad. The squalor of the room offended them, and Germaine, who brought their meals, grumbled at every trip. And still things went on behind their backs.
The threshers in the barn stuffed corn into their drinking jugs. Moreover, he missed his garden. If he spent all his time just trying to maintain it, it would still not be enough. Bouvard could handle the farm. They talked it over, and this arrangement was adopted. The first order of business was to have good hotbeds. He painted the frame himself and, fearing sunstroke, whitewashed all the bell jars. For the cuttings, he was careful to clip the buds with the leaves. Then he started in with layering. He tried out several kinds of grafts: splice grafts, crown grafts, inoculates, herbaceous grafts, and whip grafts.
And he took such care in adjusting the two libers! How well he had tightened the ligatures! He used so much paste to cover them! Twice a day, he took his watering can and swung it over the plants as if he were diffusing incense. As the leaves turned greener, beneath the water falling in a fine rain, he felt as if he were being refreshed and reborn with them. Then, ceding to a moment of giddiness, he yanked off the sprinkler head and drenched them copiously.
At the end of the arbor, near the plaster lady, stood a kind of log cabin. To take a break, he sat on a crate by the door and planned improvements to the garden. He had made two bushels of geraniums for the foot of the steps. Between the cypresses and the cordons he planted sunflowers.
And as the flowerbeds were covered in buttercups, and all the alleyways in fresh sand, the garden was resplendent with a variety of yellow tones. But the hotbed was soon crawling with larvae; and despite the insulation of the dead leaves, beneath the painted frame and slathered lids the growth was sickly to behold. The wind enjoyed flattening the beanstalks.
The abundance of sludge ruined the strawberries, the lack of pinching killed the tomatoes. There was no broccoli, eggplant, turnips, or watercress, which he had tried to grow in a tub. After the thaw, they lost the artichokes. The cabbages were his only consolation. One in particular gave him hope. It blossomed, grew, ended up being huge and absolutely inedible. Then he attempted what seemed to him the summa of the art: growing melons.
He planted seeds of several varieties in dishes filled with compost, which he buried in his hotbed. Then he set up another hotbed; and when it had given off its heat, he bedded out the best-looking plants and covered them with lids. He did all his pruning following the instructions in the gardening manual, respected the buds, let the fruits intertwine, chose one per shoot, eliminated the others, and as soon as they had reached the size of a nut, he slipped a small board under the skin to keep them from rotting on contact with the dung.
He sprayed them, aerated them, wiped the condensation from the bell jars with his handkerchief, and if the sky grew cloudy he quickly brought straw matting. He even got up several times and, barefoot in his boots, shivering beneath his nightshirt, he crossed the entire length of the garden to go spread his quilt over the canvas tarpaulins. The cantaloupes ripened. At the first one, Bouvard made a face. The second was no better, nor the third.
In fact, as he had grown different varieties in close proximity, the sweet melons had mixed with the squashes, the large Portugal with the grand Mongolian, and with the tomatoes completing the anarchy, the result had been abominable hybrids that tasted like pumpkin. He wrote to Dumouchel to get shrubs with seeds, brought in a supply of peat moss, and resolutely set to the task. As the cold weather approached, he sheltered the wild roses beneath cardboard domes coated in wax: they looked like sugarloaves held aloft by sticks. The dahlias were leggy, and between the straight lines one could see the tortuous branches of a Sophora japonica that remained immutable, refusing to perish or to grow.
All his efforts failed. Each time he was nonplused. Like him, Bouvard encountered obstacles. When it came to marl, for instance, Puvis recommended it, the Roret manual was steadfastly against it. Rigaud seemed less than enthusiastic. Letting parcels lie fallow, according to Bouvard, was a gothic prejudice. Nevertheless, Leclerc noted cases in which this was all but indispensable. Gasparin cited a man from Lyons who, for half a century, grew cereals in the same field: so much for the theory of crop rotation.
Tull preferred plowing to fertilizers, but then there was Major Beatson, who did away with fertilizers and plowing! They contemplated the ones that stretched out like plumes, the ones that looked like islands, and the ones you could mistake for snowcapped mountains; endeavored to distinguish nimbus from cirrus, stratus from cumulus. The shapes changed before they could remember the names. The barometer misled them, the thermometer told them nothing.
They resorted to the expedient dreamed up by a priest from Touraine under Louis XV: a flea in a jar should climb up the sides in case of rain, stay at the bottom in fair weather, and hop around if storms were threatening. But the atmosphere almost always contradicted the flea.
They put three more fleas in with it. Each one behaved differently. After much thought, Bouvard admitted he had made a mistake. His property required large-scale farming, the intensive system, and he invested what remained of his available capital, some thirty thousand francs. In the compost ditch he piled branches, blood, entrails, feathers, and whatever else he could find. He used Belgian liqueur, Swiss fertilizer, lye, pickled herrings, wrack, and rags; had guano brought in and tried to make his own—and, standing firm on his principles, did not tolerate any waste of urine; he got rid of the commodes.
Into his farmyard they brought animal cadavers, with which he manured his lands. Their dismembered corpses littered the countryside. Bouvard smiled in the midst of this infection. A pump installed in a tipcart spat puree on the crops. Pure gold! How fortunate were those who lived where you could find natural grottoes full of bird droppings!
The rapeseed was puny, the oats mediocre, and the wheat sold very poorly because of its odor.
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One odd thing was that the Knoll, finally rid of rocks, yielded less than before. He decided to update his tools. Nor could he compel them to follow his orders about the bell jars. He was constantly yelling after them, running from one place to another, jotting his observations in a notebook. He set meetings, forgot about them, and his head seethed with industrial projects. He managed not to kill any of his hogs, but gorged them on salted oats. Soon the pigsty became too small.
They cluttered up the farmyard, knocked down the fences, bit people. During the hot weather, twenty-five sheep began to turn in circles, then dropped dead. To destroy cockchafer grubs, he thought to shut the hens in a spinning cage that the. He made beer from oak leaves and gave it to the harvesters instead of cider.
Stomach cramps became rampant. The children wailed, the women moaned, and the men were furious. They all threatened to pack up and leave; Bouvard gave in. Still, to convince them of how innocuous his beverage was, he drank several bottles of it in their presence, started feeling funny, but hid his discomfort beneath an air of enjoyment. He even had the mixture brought to the house. Besides, it would be a shame to let it go to waste. He was a serious individual with a bulging forehead, who began by striking a little terror in his patient.
He asked what it was made of, and disparaged it in scientific terms with a shrug of his shoulders. But despite the pernicious whitewashings, neglected hoeings, and weedings at the wrong time, the following year Bouvard had before his eyes a fine harvest of wheat. He decided to dry it by fermentation——the Dutch method, the Clap-Mayer system—in other words, he had it all cut down in one shot and piled in stacks, which would be knocked down once the gas had escaped on contact with the open air. After which, Bouvard walked away without giving it another thought.
The next day, as they were having dinner, they heard the beating of a drum beneath the row of beech trees. Germaine went out to see what the matter was; but the man was already too far away. Almost immediately, the church bell began tolling violently. They stood up and, impatient to learn the news, rushed bareheaded toward Chavignolles. An old woman passed by.
Finally, they reached the first houses of the village. They reached the top, near the Knoll, and saw the full extent of the disaster. All the haystacks were flaming like volcanoes in the middle of the razed field, in the evening calm. Around the largest one were perhaps three hundred people. Mayor Foureau, wearing a tricolor sash, shouted orders while boys with poles and hooks pulled the burning straw from the top, trying to save the rest.
Bouvard, in his rush, nearly knocked over Mme. Bordin, who happened to be there. Then, spotting one of his valets, he heaped insults on the man for not warning him. Bouvard lost his head. His domestics surrounded him, all talked at once, and he forbade them from demolishing the haystacks, begged for help, demanded water, called for the firemen. He got carried away, yelled out some unfortunate remarks, and everyone admired the patience demonstrated by Mr. Foureau—who could be fairly brutal, as indicated by his thick lips and bulldog jaw. Under the devouring flames, the straw twisted and crackled; the grains of wheat stung your face like buckshot.
Then the stack collapsed to the ground in a huge brazier that threw up a curtain of sparks. Ripples undulated from the red mass, the alternations of its color making parts of it pink like vermilion and others brown like dried blood. Night had come, the wind was blowing; whorls of smoke engulfed the crowd. Now and then, a spark floated through the darkened sky. Bouvard pondered the fire, weeping softly. His eyes disappeared under puffy lids, and his whole face looked swollen with pain. Since there was nothing to be done, he should just put it behind him. Very pale, or rather pallid, his jaw hanging slack and his hair glued down by cold sweat, he stood to one side, lost in thought.
What a shame. They chatted with smiles on their faces, hands stretched out toward the flames. An old man picked up burning stalks to light his pipe. Some children began to dance. One urchin even cried out that it was funny. The fire died down, the stacks got smaller, and an hour later all that remained were ashes, which left round, black marks in the fields.
At which point, everyone left.