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- Petty Troubles of Married Life, Second Part - 1/18 -


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

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

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

PETTY TROUBLES OF MARRIED LIFE

SECOND PART

BY

HONORE DE BALZAC

PREFACE

If, reader, you have grasped the intent of this book,--and infinite honor is done you by the supposition: the profoundest author does not always comprehend, I may say never comprehends, the different meanings of his book, nor its bearing, nor the good nor the harm it may do--if, then, you have bestowed some attention upon these little scenes of married life, you have perhaps noticed their color--

"What color?" some grocer will doubtless ask; "books are bound in yellow, blue, green, pearl-gray, white--"

Alas! books possess another color, they are dyed by the author, and certain writers borrow their dye. Some books let their color come off on to others. More than this. Books are dark or fair, light brown or red. They have a sex, too! I know of male books, and female books, of books which, sad to say, have no sex, which we hope is not the case with this one, supposing that you do this collection of nosographic sketches the honor of calling it a book.

Thus far, the troubles we have described have been exclusively inflicted by the wife upon the husband. You have therefore seen only the masculine side of the book. And if the author really has the sense of hearing for which we give him credit, he has already caught more than one indignant exclamation or remonstrance:

"He tells us of nothing but vexations suffered by our husbands, as if we didn't have our petty troubles, too!"

Oh, women! You have been heard, for if you do not always make yourselves understood, you are always sure to make yourselves heard.

It would therefore be signally unjust to lay upon you alone the reproaches that every being brought under the yoke (/conjugium/) has the right to heap upon that necessary, sacred, useful, eminently conservative institution,--one, however, that is often somewhat of an encumbrance, and tight about the joints, though sometimes it is also too loose there.

I will go further! Such partiality would be a piece of idiocy.

A man,--not a writer, for in a writer there are many men,--an author, rather, should resemble Janus, see behind and before, become a spy, examine an idea in all its phases, delve alternately into the soul of Alceste and into that of Philaenete, know everything though he does not tell it, never be tiresome, and--

We will not conclude this programme, for we should tell the whole, and that would be frightful for those who reflect upon the present condition of literature.

Furthermore, an author who speaks for himself in the middle of his book, resembles the old fellow in "The Speaking Picture," when he puts his face in the hole cut in the painting. The author does not forget that in the Chamber, no one can take the floor /between two votes/. Enough, therefore!

Here follows the female portion of the book: for, to resemble marriage perfectly, it ought to be more or less hermaphroditic.

PETTY TROUBLES OF MARRIED LIFE

HUSBANDS DURING THE SECOND MONTH.

Two young married women, Caroline and Stephanie, who had been early friends at M'lle Machefer's boarding school, one of the most celebrated educational institutions in the Faubourg St. Honore, met at a ball given by Madame de Fischtaminel, and the following conversation took place in a window-seat in the boudoir.

It was so hot that a man had acted upon the idea of going to breathe the fresh night air, some time before the two young women. He had placed himself in the angle of the balcony, and, as there were many flowers before the window, the two friends thought themselves alone. This man was the author's best friend.

One of the two ladies, standing at the corner of the embrasure, kept watch by looking at the boudoir and the parlors. The other had so placed herself as not to be in the draft, which was nevertheless tempered by the muslin and silk curtains.

The boudoir was empty, the ball was just beginning, the gaming-tables were open, offering their green cloths and their packs of cards still compressed in the frail case placed upon them by the customs office. The second quadrille was in progress.

All who go to balls will remember that phase of large parties when the guests are not yet all arrived, but when the rooms are already filled --a moment which gives the mistress of the house a transitory pang of terror. This moment is, other points of comparison apart, like that which decides a victory or the loss of a battle.

You will understand, therefore, how what was meant to be a secret now obtains the honors of publicity.

"Well, Caroline?"

"Well, Stephanie?"

"Well?"

"Well?"

A double sigh.

"Have you forgotten our agreement?"

"No."

"Why haven't you been to see me, then?"

"I am never left alone. Even here we shall hardly have time to talk."

"Ah! if Adolphe were to get into such habits as that!" exclaimed Caroline.

"You saw us, Armand and me, when he paid me what is called, I don't know why, his court."

"Yes, I admired him, I thought you very happy, you had found your ideal, a fine, good-sized man, always well dressed, with yellow gloves, his beard well shaven, patent leather boots, a clean shirt, exquisitely neat, and so attentive--"

"Yes, yes, go on."

"In short, quite an elegant man: his voice was femininely sweet, and then such gentleness! And his promises of happiness and liberty! His sentences were veneered with rosewood. He stocked his conversation with shawls and laces. In his smallest expression you heard the rumbling of a coach and four. Your wedding presents were magnificent. Armand seemed to me like a husband of velvet, of a robe of birds' feathers in which you were to be wrapped."

"Caroline, my husband uses tobacco."

"So does mine; that is, he smokes."

"But mine, dear, uses it as they say Napoleon did: in short, he chews, and I hold tobacco in horror. The monster found it out, and went without out it for seven months."

"All men have their habits. They absolutely must use something."

"You have no idea of the tortures I endure. At night I am awakened with a start by one of my own sneezes. As I go to sleep my motions bring the grains of snuff scattered over the pillow under my nose, I inhale, and explode like a mine. It seems that Armand, the wretch, is used to these /surprises/, and doesn't wake up. I find tobacco everywhere, and I certainly didn't marry the customs office."

"But, my dear child, what does this trifling inconvenience amount to, if your husband is kind and possesses a good disposition?"

"He is as cold as marble, as particular as an old bachelor, as communicative as a sentinel; and he's one of those men who say yes to everything, but who never do anything but what they want to."

"Deny him, once."

"I've tried it."

"What came of it?"


Petty Troubles of Married Life, Second Part - 1/18

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