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- Petty Troubles of Married Life - 18/18 -


"Now and then a shudder passes over me--"

"Very good!"

"I have melancholy fits, I am always thinking of death, I feel promptings of suicide--"

"Dear me! Really!"

"I have rushes of heat to the face: look, there's a constant trembling in my eyelid."

"Capital! We call that a trismus."

The doctor goes into an explanation, which lasts a quarter of an hour, of the trismus, employing the most scientific terms. From this it appears that the trismus is the trismus: but he observes with the greatest modesty that if science knows that the trismus is the trismus, it is entirely ignorant of the cause of this nervous affection, which comes and goes, appears and disappears--"and," he adds, "we have decided that it is altogether nervous."

"Is it very dangerous?" asks Caroline, anxiously.

"Not at all. How do you lie at night?"

"Doubled up in a heap."

"Good. On which side?"

"The left."

"Very well. How many mattresses are there on your bed?"

"Three."

"Good. Is there a spring bed?"

"Yes."

"What is the spring bed stuffed with?"

"Horse hair."

"Capital. Let me see you walk. No, no, naturally, and as if we weren't looking at you."

Caroline walks like Fanny Elssler, communicating the most Andalusian little motions to her tournure.

"Do you feel a sensation of heaviness in your knees?"

"Well, no--" she returns to her place. "Ah, no that I think of it, it seems to me that I do."

"Good. Have you been in the house a good deal lately?"

"Oh, yes, sir, a great deal too much--and alone."

"Good. I thought so. What do you wear on your head at night?"

"An embroidered night-cap, and sometimes a handkerchief over it."

"Don't you feel a heat there, a slight perspiration?"

"How can I, when I'm asleep?"

"Don't you find your night-cap moist on your forehead, when you wake up?"

"Sometimes."

"Capital. Give me your hand."

The doctor takes out his watch.

"Did I tell you that I have a vertigo?" asks Caroline.

"Hush!" says the doctor, counting the pulse. "In the evening?"

"No, in the morning."

"Ah, bless me, a vertigo in the morning," says the doctor, looking at Adolphe.

"The Duke of G. has not gone to London," says the great physician, while examining Caroline's skin, "and there's a good deal to be said about it in the Faubourg St. Germain."

"Have you patients there?" asks Caroline.

"Nearly all my patients are there. Dear me, yes; I've got seven to see this morning; some of them are in danger."

"What do you think of me, sir?" says Caroline.

"Madame, you need attention, a great deal of attention, you must take quieting liquors, plenty of syrup of gum, a mild diet, white meat, and a good deal of exercise."

"There go twenty francs," says Adolphe to himself with a smile.

The great physician takes Adolphe by the arm, and draws him out with him, as he takes his leave: Caroline follows them on tiptoe.

"My dear sir," says the great physician, "I have just prescribed very insufficiently for your wife. I did not wish to frighten her: this affair concerns you more nearly than you imagine. Don't neglect her; she has a powerful temperament, and enjoys violent health; all this reacts upon her. Nature has its laws, which, when disregarded, compel obedience. She may get into a morbid state, which would cause you bitterly to repent having neglected her. If you love her, why, love her: but if you don't love her, and nevertheless desire to preserve the mother of your children, the resolution to come to is a matter of hygiene, but it can only proceed from you!"

"How well he understand me!" says Caroline to herself. She opens the door and says: "Doctor, you did not write down the doses!"

The great physician smiles, bows and slips the twenty franc piece into his pocket; he then leaves Adolphe to his wife, who takes him and says:

"What is the fact about my condition? Must I prepare for death?"

"Bah! He says you're too healthy!" cries Adolphe, impatiently.

Caroline retires to her sofa to weep.

"What is it, now?"

"So I am to live a long time--I am in the way--you don't love me any more--I won't consult that doctor again--I don't know why Madame Foullepointe advised me to see him, he told me nothing but trash--I know better than he what I need!"

"What do you need?"

"Can you ask, ungrateful man?" and Caroline leans her head on Adolphe's shoulder.

Adolphe, very much alarmed, says to himself: "The doctor's right, she may get to be morbidly exacting, and then what will become of me? Here I am compelled to choose between Caroline's physical extravagance, or some young cousin or other."

Meanwhile Caroline sits down and sings one of Schubert's melodies with all the agitation of a hypochondriac.


Petty Troubles of Married Life - 18/18

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