It was about this time, that is to say, the beginning of winter, that I conjured within me a great musical fervour.

One evening when Charles was listening to me, I began the same piece four times over, each time with much vexation, while he, not noticing any difference, cried–

“Bravo! Very good, you are wrong to stop. Go on!”

“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty.”

The next day he pestered me about playing something else.

“Very well; to please you!”

This time Charles confessed I had gone off a little. I knew I had made some wrong notes, but he interpreted it as me just blundering through the piece.

“Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but–” I bit my lips and added, “Twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!”

“Yes, so it is–rather,” said Charles, giggling. “But it seems to me that one might be able to do it for less; for there are artists of no reputation, and who are often better than the celebrities.”

“Find them!” I said.

The next day when Charles came home, he gave me a curious look before he said:

“How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres today. Well, Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and that from an excellent mistress!”

I shrugged and did not open the piano again. But when I passed by it—when Bovary was there—I would sigh:

“Ah! my poor piano!”

And when anyone came to see me, I did not fail to inform them I had given up music, and could not begin again now for important reasons. Then people commiserated me–

“What a pity! You had so much talent!”

Perhaps my guests had spoken to Charles about it all; he returned once more to this question of the piano within the week.

I replied, bitterly, that it would be better to sell it.

“If you liked,” he said, “a lesson from time to time, that wouldn’t after all be very ruinous.”

“But lessons,” I replied, “are only of use when followed up.”

And thus it was that I obtained my husband’s permission to go to town once a week to see my lover. At the end of a month Charles listened to me play again—apparently I had made considerable progress.

It was about this time, that is to say, the beginning of winter, that Emma seemed seized with great musical fervour.

One evening I decided to listen to her. She began the same piece four times over, each time with much vexation. There was not much difference, and I cried–

“Bravo! Very good, you are wrong to stop. Go on!”

“Oh, no; it is execrable! My fingers are quite rusty.”

The next day I asked her to play something again.

“Very well; to please you!”

After, I confessed she had gone off a little. She played wrong notes and blundered.

“Ah! it is no use. I ought to take some lessons; but–” She bit her lips and added, “Twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!”

“Yes, so it is–rather,” I said. “But it seems to me that one might be able to do it for less; for there are artists of no reputation, and who are often better than the celebrities.”

“Find them!” said Emma.

The next day when I came home and exclaimed:

“How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres today. Well, Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and that from an excellent mistress!”

She shrugged her shoulders and did not open her piano again. But sometimes, at least when I saw her pass by it, she would sigh–

“Ah! my poor piano!”

Some of the townspeople scolded me about my handling of her musical abilities, like the chemist.

“Besides, just think, my good friend, that by inducing madame to study; you are economising on the subsequent musical education of your child. For my own part, I think that mothers ought themselves to instruct their children. That is an idea of Rousseau’s, still rather new , but that will end by triumphing, I am certain, like mothers nursing their own children and vaccination.”

So I returned once more to this question of the piano. Emma replied, perhaps bitterly, that it would be better to sell it. But I had already thought up a better idea.

“If you liked,” he said, “a lesson from time to time, that wouldn’t after all be very ruinous.”

“But lessons,” she replied, “are only of use when followed up.”

And thus it was that she began weekly piano lessons. I listened to her again at the end of a month—she played quite smoother that time.

Instructor Response

Yes! See how the POV affects the reader differently. This will always be a clever passage, but when Charles or Emma (or a narrator) is delivering it, the ironies take on different intensities. The value of the exercise is to learn to choose the point of view that you think will best suit the story and its characters. Sometimes, a narrator’s telling story can take advantage of different POVs (search SILF website for examples and comments) by using multiple third-person POVs.  Virginia Woolf is often cited as the best example of this (Mrs. Dalloway), although you have to read carefully to fully comprehend the changes. Note how first person, with its limitations on what can reasonably be told, does often have advantages in the delivery of irony.
Thanks for the submission. WHC

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