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Emma mourns the departure of Leon. Gloom pervades her thoughts over the loss, and romanticism colors her vision, as she makes him into "a taller, handsomer, a more delightful, and a vaguer Leon." With the passage of time, her passion dims, and "the black days she had known at Tostes (begin) again." She becomes unpredictable, given to strange whims. Charles' mother only makes things worse.
In the midst of Emma's depression, Rodolphe Boulanger, a wealthy bachelor and landowner, calls on Charles when one of his servants needs urgent medical treatment. Boulanger sees Emma as she helps her husband and notices her sensuousness. Attracted to Emma, he wonders how to get rid of his present mistress.
Flaubert constantly portrays Emma as overtly romantic and sentimental. She wallows in grief over the loss of Leon and berates herself for not wanting to get involved with him. The thought that she had happiness within her reach and had let it go nearly drives her crazy. Emma has an impulse "to run after him, to throw herself into his arms and say 'It is I! I am yours!'." It is only her status of wife and mother that prevents her from doing so.
As time passes, her passion for Leon subsides and is replaced by a black depression, similar to what she had experienced at Tostes. This time, however, she finds herself "far more wretched and acts in an erratic manner. Neither Charles, nor his mother, is able to see that her uncontrollable behavior is the sign of a more serious problem.
Monsieur Boulanger is introduced in the chapter. He is a well-to- do bachelor whose eye is always trained on beautiful women. He is also used to getting what he wants. Emma captures his attention because she seems different and more sensuous than the ordinary middle-class ladies of Yonville. Boulanger is attracted to her and immediately wonders how he can get rid of his present mistress; he correctly assumes that Emma will be interested in him. It is ironic to note that the very reason for which Boulanger chooses Emma, her difference from others of her class, is ultimately the thing that causes her doom.