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Poor Emma. It’s springtime, and she finally attempts to do something to change her life. Remembering how much she loved the convent school, she goes to church to talk to Father Bournisien.
She finds the priest much preoccupied by the schoolboys he’s in charge of. He’s something of an irritable and unpleasant man.
Emma flat-out tells the priest that she’s suffering. He assumes that her suffering is physical, and asks if Charles has prescribed anything for it. When Emma attempts to explain her situation, he gets distracted by the boys again, and breaks off the conversation to yell at them.
This is hopeless. The priest obviously has nothing to offer Emma – they talk for a while longer, their conversation punctuated by the children. Father Bournisien eventually just dismisses Emma, telling her to go home and have a cup of tea. She leaves, disgruntled.
When she gets home, the stillness of the house seems to mock her. Berthe tries to come over and hug her mother. Emma (who, if you hadn’t guessed, is a terrible mother), angrily pushes the little girl away. Pushing a baby? Come on, Emma. This is a new low.
Poor Berthe falls and hits her head on the dresser. She starts to bleed, and Emma freaks out. She feels terrible.
Charles comes home, and Emma tells him that the baby fell over while she was playing. He takes care of the injury and tells Emma not to worry. Emma feels bad for a while, but her anxiety eventually wears off. She looks at Berthe dispassionately, thinking about how ugly the child is.
Charles, in the meanwhile, has been visiting the Homais family. Mr. and Mrs. Homais. try to cheer him up in a truly warped way, by talking about the various dangers that children face in their everyday lives. The Homais kids live in a totally child-safe household without sharp knives and with bars on the windows.
Léon is also around. Charles pulls him aside – the clerk worries that the doctor suspects his feelings for Emma.
Luckily for Léon, Charles is still the same old well-intentioned buffoon he always was. He actually wants Léon to go into Rouen for him and make some inquiries about getting a portrait of Charles made.
It turns out that Léon goes into the city every week – nobody knows why. Homais suspects that the young man has a secret lover there (wrong!). Nobody can figure out what Léon’s deal is.
Madame Lefrançois notices that he’s started leaving food on his plate at dinner. Binet suggests that Léon should take up carpentry to improve his disposition (a rather odd choice).
Léon’s boredom with Yonville and angst about his love for Emma are at a breaking point. However, he’s also afraid of moving away. In the end, though, he decides to leave right away for Paris, to start his studies in the big city.
Soon enough it’s time to go. The Homais give Léon a tearful seeing-off, but before he leaves, he goes to bid Charles and Emma farewell.
Charles isn’t at home, so he and Emma have a tense parting moment. He kisses baby Berthe goodbye, then he and Emma are left alone. They shake hands awkwardly – the tension is palpable.
Léon leaves Yonville, accompanied by the notary, Monsieur Guillaumin.
After he’s gone, Emma mopes around, wondering where he is. Monsieur Homais comes over to visit as usual, and they discuss Léon’s fate in Paris.
Homais and Charles are worried that Léon will be corrupted by the city, or else catch some horrible disease. Emma is distressed.
Soon enough, though, Homais acts as though nothing has happened. He heads back home merrily.