Gradually Rodolphe's fears took possession of her. At first, love had intoxicated her; and she had thought of nothing beyond. But now that he was indispensable to her life, she feared to lose anything of this, or even that it should be disturbed. When she came back from his house she looked all about her, anxiously watching every form that passed in the horizon, and every village window from which she could be seen. She listened for steps, cries, the noise of the ploughs, and she stopped short, white, and trembling more than the aspen leaves swaying overhead.
One morning as she was thus returning, she suddenly thought she saw the long barrel of a carbine that seemed to be aimed at her. It stuck out sideways from the end of a small tub half-buried in the grass on the edge of a ditch. Emma, half-fainting with terror, nevertheless walked on, and a man stepped out of the tub like a Jack-in-the-box. He had gaiters buckled up to the knees, his cap pulled down over his eyes, trembling lips, and a red nose. It was Captain Binet lying in ambush for wild ducks.
"You ought to have called out long ago!" he exclaimed; "When one sees a gun, one should always give warning."
The tax-collector was thus trying to hide the fright he had had, for a prefectorial order having prohibited duckhunting except in boats, Monsieur Binet, despite his respect for the laws, was infringing them, and so he every moment expected to see the rural guard turn up. But this anxiety whetted his pleasure, and, all alone in his tub, he congratulated himself on his luck and on his cuteness. At sight of Emma he seemed relieved from a great weight, and at once entered upon a conversation.
"It isn't warm; it's nipping."
Emma answered nothing. He went on —
"And you're out so early?"
"Yes," she said stammering; "I am just coming from the nurse where my child is."
"Ah! very good! very good! For myself, I am here, just as you see me, since break of day; but the weather is so muggy, that unless one had the bird at the mouth of the gun — "
"Good evening, Monsieur Binet," she interrupted him, turning on her heel.
"Your servant, madame," he replied drily; and he went back into his tub.
Emma regretted having left the tax-collector so abruptly. No doubt he would form unfavourable conjectures. The story about the nurse was the worst possible excuse, everyone at Yonville knowing that the little Bovary had been at home with her parents for a year. Besides, no one was living in this direction; this path led only to La Huchette. Binet, then, would guess whence she came, and he would not keep silence; he would talk, that was certain. She remained until evening racking her brain with every conceivable lying project, and had constantly before her eyes that imbecile with the game-bag.
Charles after dinner, seeing her gloomy, proposed, by way of distraction, to take her to the chemist's, and the first person she caught sight of in the shop was the taxcollector again. He was standing in front of the counter, lit up by the gleams of the red bottle, and was saying —
"Please give me half an ounce of vitriol."
"Justin," cried the druggist, "bring us the sulphuric acid." Then to Emma, who was going up to Madame Homais' room, "No, stay here; it isn't worth while going up; she is just coming down. Warm yourself at the stove in the meantime. Excuse me. Good-day, doctor," (for the chemist much enjoyed pronouncing the word "doctor," as if addressing another by it reflected on himself some of the grandeur that he found in it). "Now, take care not to upset the mortars! You'd better fetch some chairs from the little room; you know very well that the arm-chairs are not to be taken out of the drawing-room."
And to put his arm-chair back in its place he was darting away from the counter, when Binet asked him for half an ounce of sugar acid.
"Sugar acid!" said the chemist contemptuously, "don't know it; I'm ignorant of it! But perhaps you want oxalic acid. It is oxalic acid, isn't it?"
Binet explained that he wanted a corrosive to make himself some copperwater with which to remove rust from his hunting things.
Emma shuddered. The chemist began saying —
"Indeed the weather is not propitious on account of the damp."
"Nevertheless," replied the tax-collector, with a sly look, "there are people who like it."
She was stifling.
"And give me — "
"Will he never go?" thought she.
"Half an ounce of resin and turpentine, four ounces of yellow wax, and three half ounces of animal charcoal, if you please, to clean the varnished leather of my togs."
The druggist was beginning to cut the wax when Madame Homais appeared, Irma in her arms, Napoleon by her side, and Athalie following. She sat down on the velvet seat by the window, and the lad squatted down on a footstool, while his eldest sister hovered round the jujube box near her papa. The latter was filling funnels and corking phials, sticking on labels, making up parcels. Around him all were silent; only from time to time, were heard the weights jingling in the balance, and a few low words from the chemist giving directions to his pupil.
"And how's the little woman?" suddenly asked Madame Homais.
"Silence!" exclaimed her husband, who was writing down some figures in his waste-book.
"Why didn't you bring her?" she went on in a low voice.
"Hush! hush!" said Emma, pointing with her finger to the druggist.
But Binet, quite absorbed in looking over his bill, had probably heard nothing. At last he went out. Then Emma, relieved, uttered a deep sigh.
"How hard you are breathing!" said Madame Homais.
"Well, you see, it's rather warm," she replied.
So the next day they talked over how to arrange their rendezvous. Emma wanted to bribe her servant with a present, but it would be better to find some safe house at Yonville. Rodolphe promised to look for one.
All through the winter, three or four times a week, in the dead of night he came to the garden. Emma had on purpose taken away the key of the gate, which Charles thought lost.