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Rodolphe meets Emma at the Bovary house, when his servant has to be bled.
Emma immediately impresses him with her elegance and beauty, as well as her steady head during the bleeding.
That’s it – Rodolphe decides that Emma will be his next mistress. He doesn’t even wonder if she’ll say no. It’s inconceivable, apparently.
At the town fair, Emma and Rodolphe take a walk together. He launches into a long spiel about how very sad and lonely he is, and how hard it is to be him. This is totally Emma’s kind of thing – we’re amazed by Rodolphe’s skill with the ladies. And we’re nervous.
Rodolphe convinces Charles that Emma should go out horseback riding.
The next day, Rodolphe and Emma go for a ride in the woods. Rodolphe leads her to a secluded glade and declares his love for her. Emma resists – but very quickly abandons herself to him.
Rodolphe enjoys the affair for a while. He’s charmed by Emma's beauty and innocence, and seems to actually care about her.
Things wind down a little bit as time goes on, and the two fall into a pattern that resembles dull married life rather than thrilling adulterous adventures.
After the clubfoot debacle, Emma gives up on her attempt to be a good wife and runs back to Rodolphe.
Their affair intensifies after this point. Rodolphe is alternately irritated and amused by the romantic things Emma makes him do – she plies him with gifts, makes him swear oaths, and even wants to have wedding rings. Most importantly, she thinks they’re running away together.
Rodolphe, not one to spoil the fun, lets Emma believe that they will actually run off. They even pick a date. When the day comes, Rodolphe puts it off for longer…and longer. Finally, a definitive plan is made for their escape from Yonville.
When the day comes, though, Rodolphe can’t do it. He’s horrified by the idea of saddling himself not just with a woman, but with a child (Berthe). He writes a melodramatic note to Emma, and even adds fake teardrops.
We don’t see Rodolphe again until the end of the book. Emma comes to him to ask for the thousands of francs she owes Lheureux; first, she acts as though she wants to get back together with him (which almost works – he still has some feelings for her). When he finds out it’s just about the money, though, he sends her away. We’re told that if he had that much cash available, he would give it to her – which we believe.
After Emma’s death, Rodolphe has an awkward encounter with Charles. They have a drink, and Charles says that he doesn’t hold anything against Rodolphe – he thinks it was fate. Rodolphe doesn’t buy this, and leaves the bar thinking that Charles is pathetic.