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- The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 3/19 -
To make a false plea every moment, in order to elicit the truth, a true plea in order to unmask falsehood; to charge the battery when least expected, and to spike your gun at the very moment of firing it; to scale the mountain with the enemy, in order to descend to the plain again five minutes later; to accompany the foe in windings as rapid, as obscure as those of a plover on the breezes; to obey when obedience is necessary, and to oppose when resistance is inertial; to traverse the whole scale of hypotheses as a young artist with one stroke runs from the lowest to the highest note of his piano; to divine at last the secret purpose on which a woman is bent; to fear her caresses and to seek rather to find out what are the thoughts that suggested them and the pleasure which she derived from them--this is mere child's pay for the man of intellect and for those lucid and searching imaginations which possess the gift of doing and thinking at the same time. But there are a vast number of husbands who are terrified at the mere idea of putting in practice these principles in their dealings with a woman.
Such men as these prefer passing their lives in making huge efforts to become second-class chess-players, or to pocket adroitly a ball in billiards.
Some of them will tell you that they are incapable of keeping their minds on such a constant strain and breaking up the habits of their life. In that case the woman triumphs. She recognizes that in mind and energy she is her husband's superior, although the superiority may be but temporary; and yet there rises in her a feeling of contempt for the head of the house.
If many man fail to be masters in their own house this is not from lack of willingness, but of talent. As for those who are ready to undergo the toils of this terrible duel, it is quite true that they must needs possess great moral force.
And really, as soon as it is necessary to display all the resources of this secret strategy, it is often useless to attempt setting any traps for these satanic creatures. Once women arrive at a point when they willfully deceive, their countenances become as inscrutable as vacancy. Here is an example which came within my own experience.
A very young, very pretty, and very clever coquette of Paris had not yet risen. Seated by her bed was one of her dearest friends. A letter arrived from another, a very impetuous fellow, to whom she had allowed the right of speaking to her like a master. The letter was in pencil and ran as follows:
"I understand that Monsieur C----- is with you at this moment. I am waiting for him to blow his brains out."
Madame D----- calmly continued the conversation with Monsieur C-----. She asked him to hand her a little writing desk of red leather which stood on the table, and he brought it to her.
"Thanks, my dear," she said to him; "go on talking, I am listening to you."
C----- talked away and she replied, all the while writing the following note:
"As soon as you become jealous of C----- you two can blow out each other's brains at your pleasure. As for you, you may die; but brains-- you haven't any brains to blow out."
"My dear friend," she said to C-----, "I beg you will light this candle. Good, you are charming. And now be kind enough to leave me and let me get up, and give this letter to Monsieur d'H-----, who is waiting at the door."
All this was said with admirable coolness. The tones and intonations of her voice, the expression of her face showed no emotion. Her audacity was crowned with complete success. On receiving the answer from the hand of Monsieur C-----, Monsieur d'H----- felt his wrath subside. He was troubled with only one thing and that was how to disguise his inclination to laugh.
The more torch-light one flings into the immense cavern which we are now trying to illuminate, the more profound it appears. It is a bottomless abyss. It appears to us that our task will be accomplished more agreeably and more instructively if we show the principles of strategy put into practice in the case of a woman, when she has reached a high degree of vicious accomplishment. An example suggests more maxims and reveals the existence of more methods than all possible theories.
One day at the end of a dinner given to certain intimate friends by Prince Lebrun, the guests, heated by champagne, were discussing the inexhaustible subject of feminine artifice. The recent adventure which was credited to the Countess R. D. S. J. D. A-----, apropos of a necklace, was the subject first broached. A highly esteemed artist, a gifted friend of the emperor, was vigorously maintaining the opinion, which seemed somewhat unmanly, that it was forbidden to a man to resist successfully the webs woven by a woman.
"It is my happy experience," he said, "that to them nothing is sacred."
The ladies protested.
"But I can cite an instance in point."
"It is an exception!"
"Let us hear the story," said a young lady.
"Yes, tell it to us," cried all the guests.
The prudent old gentleman cast his eyes around, and, after having formed his conclusions as to the age of the ladies, smiled and said:
"Since we are all experienced in life, I consent to relate the adventure."
Dead silence followed, and the narrator read the following from a little book which he had taken from his pocket: x
I was head over ears in love with the Comtesse de -----. I was twenty and I was ingenuous. She deceived me. I was angry; she threw me over. I was ingenuous, I repeat, and I was grieved to lose her. I was twenty; she forgave me. And as I was twenty, as I was always ingenuous, always deceived, but never again thrown over by her, I believed myself to have been the best beloved of lovers, consequently the happiest of men. The countess had a friend, Madame de T-----, who seemed to have some designs on me, but without compromising her dignity; for she was scrupulous and respected the proprieties. One day while I was waiting for the countess in her Opera box, I heard my name called from a contiguous box. It was Madame de T-----.
"What," she said, "already here? Is this fidelity or merely a want of something to do? Won't you come to me?"
Her voice and her manner had a meaning in them, but I was far from inclined at that moment to indulge in a romance.
"Have you any plans for this evening?" she said to me. "Don't make any! If I cheer your tedious solitude you ought to be devoted to me. Don't ask any questions, but obey. Call my servants."
I answered with a bow and on being requested to leave the Opera box, I obeyed.
"Go to this gentleman's house," she said to the lackey. "Say he will not be home till to-morrow."
She made a sign to him, he went to her, she whispered in his ear, and he left us. The Opera began. I tried to venture on a few words, but she silenced me; some one might be listening. The first act ended, the lackey brought back a note, and told her that everything was ready. Then she smiled, asked for my hand, took me off, put me in her carriage, and I started on my journey quite ignorant of my destination. Every inquiry I made was answered by a peal of laughter. If I had not been aware that this was a woman of great passion, that she had long loved the Marquis de V-----, that she must have known I was aware of it, I should have believed myself in good luck; but she knew the condition of my heart, and the Comtesse de -----. I therefore rejected all presumptuous ideas and bided my time. At the first stop, a change of horses was supplied with the swiftness of lightning and we started afresh. The matter was becoming serious. I asked with some insistency, where this joke was to end.
"Where?" she said, laughing. "In the pleasantest place in the world, but can't you guess? I'll give you a thousand chances. Give it up, for you will never guess. We are going to my husband's house. Do you know him?"
"Not in the least."
"So much the better, I thought you didn't. But I hope you will like him. We have lately become reconciled. Negotiations went on for six months; and we have been writing to one another for a month. I think it is very kind of me to go and look him up."
"It certainly is, but what am I going to do there? What good will I be in this reconciliation?"
"Ah, that is my business. You are young, amiable, unconventional; you suit me and will save me from the tediousness of a tete-a-tete."
"But it seems odd to me, to choose the day or the night of a reconciliation to make us acquainted; the awkwardness of the first interview, the figure all three of us will cut,--I don't see anything particularly pleasant in that."
"I have taken possession of you for my own amusement!" she said with an imperious air, "so please don't preach."
I saw she was decided, so surrendered myself to circumstances. I began to laugh at my predicament and we became exceedingly merry. We again changed horses. The mysterious torch of night lit up a sky of extreme clearness and shed around a delightful twilight. We were approaching the spot where our tete-a-tete must end. She pointed out to me at intervals the beauty of the landscape, the tranquillity of the night, the all-pervading silence of nature. In order to admire these things in company as it was natural we should, we turned to the same window and our faces touched for a moment. In a sudden shock she seized my hand, and by a chance which seemed to me extraordinary, for the stone over which our carriage had bounded could not have been very large, I found Madame de T----- in my arms. I do not know what we were trying
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