Rodolphe keeps away from Emma for six weeks, to stoke her interest. Finally he comes to visit, explaining that he loves her too much to see her casually; he tried to stay away to conquer his love, but he can’t help but yield, since she is so wonderful. His flattery melts Emma’s last defenses. Sensing his success, he tells her that he stood outside her house every night to be near her. He pretends to be in love.
Rodolphe pretends to love Emma, though, in his flimsy way, he really does love her. He has constructed an abstract, cynical framework, and in that framework love is only lust, women are all the same, and the world is simple and manipulable.
Charles walks in, and Rodolphe suggests that horseback-riding might improve Emma’s health. Charles readily agrees, and Rodolphe offers Emma one of his horses. When Rodolphe leaves, Charles himself convinces a hesitant Emma to accept the man’s offer; she is finally compelled by the prospect of a pretty riding outfit.
Clothes play a truly inordinate role in Emma’s life. In a way, this riding outfit turns the course of her life, just as Rodolphe’s green jacket first sparked her attraction. It’s not that Emma is empty or emotionless: rather, she invests her deepest and strongest emotions in surfaces.
Emma and Rodolphe go riding the following day. They ride through the countryside and into the forest, where they dismount, walk into a meadow, and sit down. Rodolphe tells Emma about his love, and nearly attacks her; she repulses him, and he becomes timid again, saying that he thinks her pure and holy. Finally, they sleep together in the grass.
Rodolphe’s aggressive behavior directly contradicts both his timid words and his general claims about his romantic and genteel nature. But Emma’s books have not taught her to interpret such contradictions, only to trust romantic rhetoric.
They return to town in the evening. Charles compliments Emma’s complexion, and tells her he has bought her a horse. When he leaves for work, she sits dreaming, and thinks to herself that she has finally known true passion. She finally sees herself as one of the heroines of her books.
Emma and Rodolphe begin to see one another on a regular basis, meeting in a hut in the forest. They write each other love letters every day, though Emma feels Rodolphe’s are too short. One morning, when Charles is away, she visits Rodolphe unexpectedly at La Huchette. After that, she surprises him any morning Charles is at work. At first he is pleased to see her, fresh from the morning walk, but eventually her ardor begins to tire him. He tells her she is putting her reputation in danger.
Emma shapes their relationship on the model of the books, as dutifully as Charles repeating his mysterious medical lessons. She writes letters, acts impulsive, and focuses on physical love, without wondering what any of it might mean, what the impetus might be. She is reciting her lessons without understanding them.