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- The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 19/19 -

"Oh, I have won the /Diadeste/ twenty times in that way," she laughingly replied.

"It was, I believe, from the playing of this game, whose origin is Arabian or Chinese, that my apologue takes its point. But if I tell you," she went on, putting her finger to her nose, with a charming air of coquetry, "let me contribute it as a finale to your work."

"This would indeed enrich me. You have done me so many favors already, that I cannot repay--"

She smiled slyly, and replied as follows:

A philosopher had compiled a full account of all the tricks that women could possibly play, and in order to verify it, he always carried it about with him. One day he found himself in the course of his travels near an encampment of Arabs. A young woman, who had seated herself under the shade of a palm tree, rose on his approach. She kindly asked him to rest himself in her tent, and he could not refuse. Her husband was then absent. Scarcely had the traveler seated himself on a soft rug, when the graceful hostess offered him fresh dates, and a cup of milk; he could not help observing the rare beauty of her hands as she did so. But, in order to distract his mind from the sensations roused in him by the fair young Arabian girl, whose charms were most formidable, the sage took his book, and began to read.

The seductive creature piqued by this slight said to him in a melodious voice:

"That book must be very interesting since it seems to be the sole object worthy of your attention. Would it be taking a liberty to ask what science it treats of?"

The philosopher kept his eyes lowered as he replied:

"The subject of this book is beyond the comprehension of ladies."

This rebuff excited more than ever the curiosity of the young Arabian woman. She put out the prettiest little foot that had ever left its fleeting imprint on the shifting sands of the desert. The philosopher was perturbed, and his eyes were too powerfully tempted to resist wandering from these feet, which betokened so much, up to the bosom, which was still more ravishingly fair; and soon the flame of his admiring glance was mingled with the fire that sparkled in the pupils of the young Asiatic. She asked again the name of the book in tones so sweet that the philosopher yielded to the fascination, and replied:

"I am the author of the book; but the substance of it is not mine: it contains an account of all the ruses and stratagems of women."

"What! Absolutely all?" said the daughter of the desert.

"Yes, all! And it has been only by a constant study of womankind that I have come to regard them without fear."

"Ah!" said the young Arabian girl, lowering the long lashes of her white eyelids.

Then, suddenly darting the keenest of her glances at the pretended sage, she made him in one instant forget the book and all its contents. And now our philosopher was changed to the most passionate of men. Thinking he saw in the bearing of the young woman a faint trace of coquetry, the stranger was emboldened to make an avowal. How could he resist doing so? The sky was blue, the sand blazed in the distance like a scimitar of gold, the wind of the desert breathed love, and the woman of Arabia seemed to reflect all the fire with which she was surrounded; her piercing eyes were suffused with a mist; and by a slight nod of the head she seemed to make the luminous atmosphere undulate, as she consented to listen to the stranger's words of love. The sage was intoxicated with delirious hopes, when the young woman, hearing in the distance the gallop of a horse which seemed to fly, exclaimed:

"We are lost! My husband is sure to catch us. He is jealous as a tiger, and more pitiless than one. In the name of the prophet, if you love your life, conceal yourself in this chest!"

The author, frightened out of his wits, seeing no other way of getting out of a terrible fix, jumped into the box, and crouched down there. The woman closed down the lid, locked it, and took the key. She ran to meet her husband, and after some caresses which put him into a good humor, she said:

"I must relate to you a very singular adventure I have just had."

"I am listening, my gazelle," replied the Arab, who sat down on a rug and crossed his feet after the Oriental manner.

"There arrived here to-day a kind of philosopher," she began, "he professes to have compiled a book which describes all the wiles of which my sex is capable; and then this sham sage made love to me."

"Well, go on!" cried the Arab.

"I listened to his avowal. He was young, ardent--and you came just in time to save my tottering virtue."

The Arab leaped to his feet like a lion, and drew his scimitar with a shout of fury. The philosopher heard all from the depths of the chest and consigned to Hades his book, and all the men and women of Arabia Petraea.

"Fatima!" cried the husband, "if you would save your life, answer me-- Where is the traitor?"

Terrified at the tempest which she had roused, Fatima threw herself at her husband's feet, and trembling beneath the point of his sword, she pointed out the chest with a prompt though timid glance of her eye. Then she rose to her feet, as if in shame, and taking the key from her girdle presented it to the jealous Arab; but, just as he was about to open the chest, the sly creature burst into a peal of laughter. Faroun stopped with a puzzled expression, and looked at his wife in amazement.

"So I shall have my fine chain of gold, after all!" she cried, dancing for joy. "You have lost the /Diadeste/. Be more mindful next time."

The husband, thunderstruck, let fall the key, and offered her the longed-for chain on bended knee, and promised to bring to his darling Fatima all the jewels brought by the caravan in a year, if she would refrain from winning the /Diadeste/ by such cruel stratagems. Then, as he was an Arab, and did not like forfeiting a chain of gold, although his wife had fairly won it, he mounted his horse again, and galloped off, to complain at his will, in the desert, for he loved Fatima too well to let her see his annoyance. The young woman then drew forth the philosopher from the chest, and gravely said to him, "Do not forget, Master Doctor, to put this feminine trick into your collection."

"Madame," said I to the duchess, "I understand! If I marry, I am bound to be unexpectedly outwitted by some infernal trick or other; but I shall in that case, you may be quite sure, furnish a model household for the admiration of my contemporaries."

PARIS, 1824-29.

The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 19/19

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