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- The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 7/19 -

Up to the age of thirty the face of a woman is a book written in a foreign tongue, which one may still translate in spite of all the /feminisms/ of the idiom; but on passing her fortieth year a woman becomes an insoluble riddle; and if any one can see through an old woman, it is another old woman.

Some diplomats have attempted on more than one occasion the diabolical task of gaining over the dowagers who opposed their machinations; but if they have ever succeeded it was only after making enormous concessions to them; for diplomats are practiced people and we do not think that you can employ their recipe in dealing with your mother-in- law. She will be the first aid-de-camp of her daughter, for if the mother did not take her daughter's side, it would be one of those monstrous and unnatural exceptions, which unhappily for husbands are extremely rare.

When a man is so happy as to possess a mother-in-law who is well- preserved, he may easily keep her in check for a certain time, although he may not know any young celibate brave enough to assail her. But generally husbands who have the slightest conjugal genius will find a way of pitting their own mother against that of their wife, and in that case they will naturally neutralize each other's power.

To be able to keep a mother-in-law in the country while he lives in Paris, and vice versa, is a piece of good fortune which a husband too rarely meets with.

What of making mischief between the mother and the daughter?--That may be possible; but in order to accomplish such an enterprise he must have the metallic heart of Richelieu, who made a son and a mother deadly enemies to each other. However, the jealousy of a husband who forbids his wife to pray to male saints and wishes her to address only female saints, would allow her liberty to see her mother.

Many sons-in-law take an extreme course which settles everything, which consists in living on bad terms with their mothers-in-law. This unfriendliness would be very adroit policy, if it did not inevitably result in drawing tighter the ties that unite mother and daughter. These are about all the means which you have for resisting maternal influence in your home. As for the services which your wife can claim from her mother, they are immense; and the assistance which she may derive from the neutrality of her mother is not less powerful. But on this point everything passes out of the domain of science, for all is veiled in secrecy. The reinforcements which a mother brings up in support of a daughter are so varied in nature, they depend so much on circumstances, that it would be folly to attempt even a nomenclature for them. Yet you may write out among the most valuable precepts of this conjugal gospel, the following maxims.

A husband should never let his wife visit her mother unattended.

A husband ought to study all the reasons why all the celibates under forty who form her habitual society are so closely united by ties of friendship to his mother-in-law; for, if a daughter rarely falls in love with the lover of her mother, her mother has always a weak spot for her daughter's lover.


Louise de L-----, daughter of an officer killed at Wagram, had been the object of Napoleon's special protection. She left Ecouen to marry a commissary general, the Baron de V-----, who is very rich.

Louise was eighteen and the baron forty. She was ordinary in face and her complexion could not be called white, but she had a charming figure, good eyes, a small foot, a pretty hand, good taste and abundant intelligence. The baron, worn out by the fatigues of war and still more by the excesses of a stormy youth, had one of those faces upon which the Republic, the Directory, the Consulate and the Empire seemed to have set their impress.

He became so deeply in love with his wife, that he asked and obtained from the Emperor a post at Paris, in order that he might be enabled to watch over his treasure. He was as jealous as Count Almaviva, still more from vanity than from love. The young orphan had married her husband from necessity, and, flattered by the ascendancy she wielded over a man much older than herself, waited upon his wishes and his needs; but her delicacy was offended from the first days of their marriage by the habits and ideas of a man whose manners were tinged with republican license. He was a predestined.

I do not know exactly how long the baron made his honeymoon last, nor when war was declared in his household; but I believe it happened in 1816, at a very brilliant ball given by Monsieur D-----, a commissariat officer, that the commissary general, who had been promoted head of the department, admired the beautiful Madame B-----, the wife of a banker, and looked at her much more amorously than a married man should have allowed himself to do.

At two o'clock in the morning it happened that the banker, tired of waiting any longer, went home leaving his wife at the ball.

"We are going to take you home to your house," said the baroness to Madame B-----. "Monsieur de V-----, offer your arm to Emilie!"

And now the baron is seated in his carriage next to a woman who, during the whole evening, had been offered and had refused a thousand attentions, and from whom he had hoped in vain to win a single look. There she was, in all the lustre of her youth and beauty, displaying the whitest shoulders and the most ravishing lines of beauty. Her face, which still reflected the pleasures of the evening, seemed to vie with the brilliancy of her satin gown; her eyes to rival the blaze of her diamonds; and her skin to cope with the soft whiteness of the marabouts which tied in her hair, set off the ebon tresses and the ringlets dangling from her headdress. Her tender voice would stir the chords of the most insensible hearts; in a word, so powerfully did she wake up love in the human breast that Robert d'Abrissel himself would perhaps have yielded to her.

The baron glanced at his wife, who, overcome with fatigue, had sunk to sleep in a corner of the carriage. He compared, in spite of himself, the toilette of Louise and that of Emilie. Now on occasions of this kind the presence of a wife is singularly calculated to sharpen the unquenchable desires of a forbidden love. Moreover, the glances of the baron, directed alternately to his wife and to her friend, were easy to interpret, and Madame B----- interpreted them.

"Poor Louise," she said, "she is overtired. Going out does not suit her, her tastes are so simple. At Ecouen she was always reading--"

"And you, what used you to do?"

"I, sir? Oh, I thought about nothing but acting comely. It was my passion!"

"But why do you so rarely visit Madame de V-----? We have a country house at Saint-Prix, where we could have a comedy acted, in a little theatre which I have built there."

"If I have not visited Madame de V-----, whose fault is it?" she replied. "You are so jealous that you will not allow her either to visit her friends or to receive them."

"I jealous!" cried Monsieur de V-----, "after four years of marriage, and after having had three children!"

"Hush," said Emilie, striking the fingers of the baron with her fan, "Louise is not asleep!"

The carriage stopped, and the baron offered his hand to his wife's fair friend and helped her to get out.

"I hope," said Madame B-----, "that you will not prevent Louise from coming to the ball which I am giving this week."

The baron made her a respectful bow.

This ball was a triumph of Madame B-----'s and the ruin of the husband of Louise; for he became desperately enamored of Emilie, to whom he would have sacrificed a hundred lawful wives.

Some months after that evening on which the baron gained some hopes of succeeding with his wife's friend, he found himself one morning at the house of Madame B-----, when the maid came to announce the Baroness de V-----.

"Ah!" cried Emilie, "if Louise were to see you with me at such an hour as this, she would be capable of compromising me. Go into that closet and don't make the least noise."

The husband, caught like a mouse in a trap, concealed himself in the closet.

"Good-day, my dear!" said the two women, kissing each other.

"Why are you come so early?" asked Emilie.

"Oh! my dear, cannot you guess? I came to have an understanding with you!"

"What, a duel?"

"Precisely, my dear. I am not like you, not I! I love my husband and am jealous of him. You! you are beautiful, charming, you have the right to be a coquette, you can very well make fun of B-----, to whom your virtue seems to be of little importance. But as you have plenty of lovers in society, I beg you that you will leave me my husband. He is always at your house, and he certainly would not come unless you were the attraction."

"What a very pretty jacket you have on."

"Do you think so? My maid made it."

"Then I shall get Anastasia to take a lesson from Flore--"

"So, then, my dear, I count on your friendship to refrain from bringing trouble in my house."

"But, my child, I do not know how you can conceive that I should fall in love with your husband; he is coarse and fat as a deputy of the centre. He is short and ugly--Ah! I will allow that he is generous, but that is all you can say for him, and this is a quality which is all in all only to opera girls; so that you can understand, my dear, that if I were choosing a lover, as you seem to suppose I am, I wouldn't choose an old man like your baron. If I have given him any hopes, if I have received him, it was certainly for the purpose of

The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 7/19

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