Homais introduces himself to the newcomers and asks to join them for dinner. A young blond man watches Emma as she warms herself by the fire: it is another one of the inn’s regulars, a clerk named Léon Dupuis. Monsieur Homais describes, in a pointedly learned and scientific way, the area’s climate and most prevalent diseases, while Léon talks to Emma romantically about the beauties of nature, the pleasures of music, and the wonder of a good book. Whatever subject they touch on, they seem instantly to agree, though they say almost nothing of their actual lives. After dinner, Charles and Emma go to their new home.
Just as Homais is well-versed in the rhetoric of progress, Léon and Emma are well-versed in the rhetoric of sentimental melancholy. Each sort of rhetoric is a string of platitudes, which express nothing about the speaker or about the surrounding world. A language relatively free from cliché might form a link from the person to the world, and from the world to another person; but rhetoric only connects one person’s frothy self-image to another’s.