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- Petty Troubles of Married Life - 1/18 -


PETTY TROUBLES OF MARRIED LIFE, FIRST PART By Honore de Balzac

Etext prepared by Dagny, dagnypg@yahoo.com and John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz

PETTY TROUBLES OF MARRIED LIFE

FIRST PART

BY

HONORE DE BALZAC

PREFACE

IN WHICH EVERY ONE WILL FIND HIS OWN IMPRESSIONS OF MARRIAGE.

A friend, in speaking to you of a young woman, says: "Good family, well bred, pretty, and three hundred thousand in her own right." You have expressed a desire to meet this charming creature.

Usually, chance interviews are premeditated. And you speak with this object, who has now become very timid.

YOU.--"A delightful evening!"

SHE.--"Oh! yes, sir."

You are allowed to become the suitor of this young person.

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW (to the intended groom).--"You can't imagine how susceptible the dear girl is of attachment."

Meanwhile there is a delicate pecuniary question to be discussed by the two families.

YOUR FATHER (to the mother-in-law).--"My property is valued at five hundred thousand francs, my dear madame!"

YOUR FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW.--"And our house, my dear sir, is on a corner lot."

A contract follows, drawn up by two hideous notaries, a small one, and a big one.

Then the two families judge it necessary to convoy you to the civil magistrate's and to the church, before conducting the bride to her chamber.

Then what? . . . . . Why, then come a crowd of petty unforeseen troubles, like the following:

PETTY TROUBLES OF MARRIED LIFE

THE UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL.

Is it a petty or a profound trouble? I knew not; it is profound for your sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, but exceedingly petty for you.

"Petty! You must be joking; why, a child costs terribly dear!" exclaims a ten-times-too-happy husband, at the baptism of his eleventh, called the little last newcomer,--a phrase with which women beguile their families.

"What trouble is this?" you ask me. Well! this is, like many petty troubles of married life, a blessing for some one.

You have, four months since, married off your daughter, whom we will call by the sweet name of CAROLINE, and whom we will make the type of all wives. Caroline is, like all other young ladies, very charming, and you have found for her a husband who is either a lawyer, a captain, an engineer, a judge, or perhaps a young viscount. But he is more likely to be what sensible families must seek,--the ideal of their desires--the only son of a rich landed proprietor. (See the /Preface/.)

This phoenix we will call ADOLPHE, whatever may be his position in the world, his age, and the color of his hair.

The lawyer, the captain, the engineer, the judge, in short, the son- in-law, Adolphe, and his family, have seen in Miss Caroline:

I.--Miss Caroline;

II.--The only daughter of your wife and you.

Here, as in the Chamber of Deputies, we are compelled to call for a division of the house:

1.--As to your wife.

Your wife is to inherit the property of a maternal uncle, a gouty old fellow whom she humors, nurses, caresses, and muffles up; to say nothing of her father's fortune. Caroline has always adored her uncle, --her uncle who trotted her on his knee, her uncle who--her uncle whom--her uncle, in short,--whose property is estimated at two hundred thousand.

Further, your wife is well preserved, though her age has been the subject of mature reflection on the part of your son-in-law's grandparents and other ancestors. After many skirmishes between the mothers-in-law, they have at last confided to each other the little secrets peculiar to women of ripe years.

"How is it with you, my dear madame?"

"I, thank heaven, have passed the period; and you?"

"I really hope I have, too!" says your wife.

"You can marry Caroline," says Adolphe's mother to your future son-in- law; "Caroline will be the sole heiress of her mother, of her uncle, and her grandfather."

2.--As to yourself.

You are also the heir of your maternal grandfather, a good old man whose possessions will surely fall to you, for he has grown imbecile, and is therefore incapable of making a will.

You are an amiable man, but you have been very dissipated in your youth. Besides, you are fifty-nine years old, and your head is bald, resembling a bare knee in the middle of a gray wig.

III.--A dowry of three hundred thousand.

IV.--Caroline's only sister, a little dunce of twelve, a sickly child, who bids fair to fill an early grave.

V.--Your own fortune, father-in-law (in certain kinds of society they say /papa father-in-law/) yielding an income of twenty thousand, and which will soon be increased by an inheritance.

VI.--Your wife's fortune, which will be increased by two inheritances --from her uncle and her grandfather. In all, thus:

Three inheritances and interest, 750,000 Your fortune, 250,000 Your wife's fortune, 250,000 _________

Total, 1,250,000

which surely cannot take wing!

Such is the autopsy of all those brilliant marriages that conduct their processions of dancers and eaters, in white gloves, flowering at the button-hole, with bouquets of orange flowers, furbelows, veils, coaches and coach-drivers, from the magistrate's to the church, from the church to the banquet, from the banquet to the dance, from the dance to the nuptial chamber, to the music of the orchestra and the accompaniment of the immemorial pleasantries uttered by relics of dandies, for are there not, here and there in society, relics of dandies, as there are relics of English horses? To be sure, and such is the osteology of the most amorous intent.

The majority of the relatives have had a word to say about this marriage.

Those on the side of the bridegroom:

"Adolphe has made a good thing of it."

Those on the side of the bride:

"Caroline has made a splendid match. Adolphe is an only son, and will have an income of sixty thousand, /some day or other/!"

Some time afterwards, the happy judge, the happy engineer, the happy captain, the happy lawyer, the happy only son of a rich landed proprietor, in short Adolphe, comes to dine with you, accompanied by his family.

Your daughter Caroline is exceedingly proud of the somewhat rounded form of her waist. All women display an innocent artfulness, the first time they find themselves facing motherhood. Like a soldier who makes a brilliant toilet for his first battle, they love to play the pale, the suffering; they rise in a certain manner, and walk with the prettiest affectation. While yet flowers, they bear a fruit; they enjoy their maternity by anticipation. All those little ways are exceedingly charming--the first time.

Your wife, now the mother-in-law of Adolphe, subjects herself to the pressure of tight corsets. When her daughter laughs, she weeps; when Caroline wishes her happiness public, she tries to conceal hers. After


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