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When Emma returns to Yonville, she receives an urgent message instructing her to go to the pharmacy. When she arrives, she finds Homais angrily scolding Justin. Apparently, in the course of making jam, the young man took a pan from Homais' private laboratory. This laboratory is off limits to everyone but the pharmacist. Homais is especially angry because he had kept the pan on the same shelf as a bottle of arsenic. Homais claims that if arsenic had touched the pan, they might all have been poisoned. In his anger, Homais hardly notices Emma, who finally asks Madame Homais why she'd been summoned.
This scene is important, as it foreshadows Emma's suicide by means of arsenic poisoning.
The pharmacist reveals that something terrible has happened while Emma was in Rouen: Charles' father has died. She returns home, but even the death of her father-in-law can't distract her from memories of the day spent with Leon. Her only thought is to get away from her husband, whom she finds utterly weak and contemptible.
The next day, Charles' mother arrives in Yonville. Even she is able to pardon her husband for his past offenses, but Emma has no feeling for her late father-in-law. She just wants to be left alone so she can think about Leon.
Lheureux visits and asks to speak with Emma in private. He congratulates her about her forthcoming inheritance and tries to convince Emma that she should begin handling her husband's affairs. This makes sense to Emma, as Charles seems too upset about his father's death to think about practical matters. Lheureux tells Emma that if she had a power of attorney (to act legally for Charles), she could deal directly with him instead of getting Charles' approval.
During the next few days, Emma impresses Charles with her practical knowledge of their financial affairs. Charles suggests that Leon handle their affairs, and Emma agrees to go to Rouen to consult with him. It's a perfect excuse to see her lover again, and she stays in Rouen for three days.
In this chapter, Emma's dealings with Lheureux take on a new meaning. Some readers feel that Flaubert is attempting to balance Emma's heartlessness toward Charles by placing her in the role of Lheureux's victim. Others feel that Charles begins to emerge here as the only major character with no desire to hurt anyone else. Compared to Emma, Lheureux, and Leon-who think only of themselves-Charles stands out as a model of compassion, even though he is a plodding dullard.