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On his many trips back to Yonville, Léon often has dinner with Homais, and thus feels obliged to invite him to come visit in Rouen. One Thursday, Homais unexpectedly takes him up on the offer.
Emma is shocked to see the pharmacist waiting for the Hirondelle – he’s excited about his trip to the city, and tells her all about his plans to revisit the places of his youth. Emma is not pleased.
Upon arrival in Rouen, Homais dashes off to find Léon, and drags him into a café. They proceed to linger there for hours as Homais reminisces about the good old days.
In the meantime, Emma is getting impatient. She waits for Léon all afternoon in their hotel room.
Back at the café, Homais starts teasing Léon about his mistress. Worried that the pharmacist knows something, Léon plays dumb – it turns out that Homais thinks that Léon is in love with Félicité.
This sets Homais off on a long diatribe about women. He goes on and on, as is his way, and Léon loses his patience. He rushes off, claiming to have an appointment.
The pharmacist follows him all the way to the hotel. Léon rushes upstairs, and finds Emma distraught. He attempts to console her, but is called away again by Homais. He promises to return.
Léon keeps trying to come up with new ways to get rid of the pharmacist. He says he has to work; Homais wants to come to the office. It’s impossible to escape this man.
Finally, Léon gives in to the pushy pharmacist, and they stop to visit a friend of Homais’s. However, in the end, Léon manages to escape and run to the hotel – but Emma is gone.
Emma decides first that she hates Léon, then that she’s being too harsh on him. The pair reconciles, but things are different.
In the following days, Emma and Léon’s relationship sours. She still attempts to throw herself at him, hoping to find happiness again, but it’s no use.
Léon starts to wonder if Emma’s going a little mad. She makes him nervous now, and he also starts to resent her domination. However, unfortunately for Léon, he still melts into a little puddle of love every time he sees her.
Emma actually is getting more than a little obsessive – she wants to know what Léon is doing all the time, and even thinks of having him followed.
Nothing makes her happy anymore and, once again, she looks back on her life and wonders where it all went wrong. Sound familiar? It should – this has all happened before. Life seems hopeless once again.
One day, the financial situation gets even worse – it turns out that Lheureux has turned Emma’s debt over to one of his associates, one Monsieur Vinçart. Emma sends the messenger away, claiming that she’ll pay up later. Unfortunately, the next day an official protest of non-payment shows up. Yikes.
Emma runs to complain to Lheureux. He plays dumb, then attempts to shift the blame over to the mysterious Monsieur Vinçart. Emma leaves, somewhat pacified, and even accepts some fabric from the merchant (which, of course, she’ll have to pay for later).
Emma steps it up a notch, and figures out ways to get some money. The money from both Emma’s and Charles’s families has run out, so she starts billing patients behind Charles’s back.
She manages to limp along in this fashion for a while, paying off her debt in small portions, then signing more of those awful promissory notes. Clearly, Emma doesn’t really get what’s going on – when she tries to figure it out, she gets confused and gives up, which is so not the right thing to do.
The house falls into disrepair; Emma snaps whenever anyone asks her about it.
Poor Charles is still madly in love with Emma, and can’t figure out what’s going on with her. They don’t even sleep in the same bed anymore – Emma stays in the bedroom, reading horror novels all night, while Charles is exiled to the attic.
Emma’s only happiness comes from her weekly escapes to Rouen. She still enjoys the luxury of the hotel room, and helps Léon pay for the room, despite her debts.
He suggests that they might try a cheaper place, but Emma isn’t down with that. They stick with the expensive hotel.
To pay for this, Emma sells some of her things – she even asks Léon to pawn the fancy spoons her father gave her for her wedding. He’s uncomfortable with this, and begins to wonder if his friends and family are right in telling him to ditch the mistress.
Léon vows never to see Emma again, and this resolve diminishes her power over him. Now he’s bored by her melodramatic outbursts.
Just as in her affair with Rodolphe, Emma also feels the excitement go out of the relationship. She blames Léon, and wishes something terrible might happen so she can have an excuse to get out of their entanglement, but she’s too cowardly to actually say anything to him.
All the while, Emma imagines another ideal man, one made up of her assorted memories and desires, who can carry her away from her dull, humdrum life. Again, her fantasy world begins to consume reality.
One Thursday, Emma stays the night in Rouen, partying it up with Léon and his friends at a masked ball. She is horrified by the company she finds herself in – the other women present are prostitutes. She faints, revives, then flees the party, disgusted with herself.
Back in Yonville the next afternoon, Emma arrives home to a dreadful surprise: her house is being seized by governmental order! An official document had been sent the day before, demanding that she pay the whopping sum of eight thousand francs within twenty four hours.
She doesn’t believe it can possibly be true – the ridiculous enormity of the sum makes her think that it’s just Lheureux trying to scare her.
She goes to visit the merchant, confident that they can work something out.
But Lheureux is not in a forgiving mood. It’s payback time – literally. Emma realizes that this is serious business. She even tries to use her feminine wiles on Lheureux, but it’s no use; he only wants his money.
Lheureux heartlessly kicks Emma out of the office, desperate and helpless.