Soon, Emma herself begins to worry about her reputation – not because she cares about the townspeople’s opinions, but because she is afraid of forfeiting Rodolphe’s love. An accidental morning encounter with Binet nearly exposes her secret. Emma and Rodolphe think of a new strategy for their meetings. Rodolphe comes to the house late at night, Emma waits until Charles falls asleep, and then she and Rodolphe go the arbor or the consulting-room. Rodolphe begins to get tired of Emma’s fancies and demands, her sentimental mannerisms. But he still finds her very charming and beautiful, so he puts up with it.
Rodolphe successfully imitated the rhetoric of romantic love at the beginning of the relationship, but he is not as well-versed in it as Emma. Because he does not want or expect to maintain any relationship for too long, he has not bothered to learn the rhetoric of continued romantic love – only the rhetoric of seduction. Therefore, Emma’s games and elaborate marks of affection are like a foreign language to him. He doesn’t understand their purpose.
Since Emma is already so obviously devoted to him, Rodolphe stops taking care to woo and flatter her, and she begins to fear that he no longer loves her. The months go by, and their love becomes at once hostile and boring.
Eventually he stops complying with this aspect of the game, and, stripped of rhetorical froth, their relationship dwindles to what it’s always been – impersonal lust.
One day, Emma receives a sweet and lonely letter from her father, along with his yearly gift – a turkey. She thinks about her carefree childhood, with its “abundance of illusions,” of which little remains. She wonders why she is so unhappy. Her house is lovely and comfortable, her child is playing happily. She calls the girl over, kisses her, washes her ears, and talks to her with tearful love – all very unusual for her. She quarrels slightly with Rodolphe, and begins to wish that she loved Charles instead, though there’s very little about him she can love.
Emma has placed all her faith in surfaces and appearances: she has animated them with the power of her strongest feelings. Now, the surface of her life corresponds in every important detail to the lives of her heroines, yet it doesn’t bear fruit – it doesn’t give her joy. When she thinks vaguely about illusions crumbling, she comes close to realizing that her surface-centered abstractions have betrayed her.