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- The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 8/19 -
amusing myself, and of giving you liberty; for I believed you had a weakness for young Rostanges."
"I?" exclaimed Louise, "God preserve me from it, my dear; he is the most intolerable coxcomb in the world. No, I assure you, I love my husband! You may laugh as you choose; it is true. I know it may seem ridiculous, but consider, he has made my fortune, he is no miser, and he is everything to me, for it has been my unhappy lot to be left an orphan. Now even if I did not love him, I ought to try to preserve his esteem. Have I a family who will some day give me shelter?"
"Come, my darling, let us speak no more about it," said Emilie, interrupting her friend, "for it tires me to death."
After a few trifling remarks the baroness left.
"How is this, monsieur?" cried Madame B-----, opening the door of the closet where the baron was frozen with cold, for this incident took place in winter; "how is this? Aren't you ashamed of yourself for not adoring a little wife who is so interesting? Don't speak to me of love; you may idolize me, as you say you do, for a certain time, but you will never love me as you love Louise. I can see that in your heart I shall never outweigh the interest inspired by a virtuous wife, children, and a family circle. I should one day be deserted and become the object of your bitter reflections. You would coldly say of me 'I have had that woman!' That phrase I have heard pronounced by men with the most insulting indifference. You see, monsieur, that I reason in cold blood, and that I do not love you, because you never would be able to love me."
"What must I do then to convince you of my love?" cried the baron, fixing his gaze on the young woman.
She had never appeared to him so ravishingly beautiful as at that moment, when her soft voice poured forth a torrent of words whose sternness was belied by the grace of her gestures, by the pose of her head and by her coquettish attitude.
"Oh, when I see Louise in possession of a lover," she replied, "when I know that I am taking nothing away from her, and that she has nothing to regret in losing your affection; when I am quite sure that you love her no longer, and have obtained certain proof of your indifference towards her--Oh, then I may listen to you!--These words must seem odious to you," she continued in an earnest voice; "and so indeed they are, but do not think that they have been pronounced by me. I am the rigorous mathematician who makes his deductions from a preliminary proposition. You are married, and do you deliberately set about making love to some one else? I should be mad to give any encouragement to a man who cannot be mine eternally."
"Demon!" exclaimed the husband. "Yes, you are a demon, and not a woman!"
"Come now, you are really amusing!" said the young woman as she seized the bell-rope.
"Oh! no, Emilie," continued the lover of forty, in a calmer voice. "Do not ring; stop, forgive me! I will sacrifice everything for you."
"But I do not promise you anything!" she answered quickly with a laugh.
"My God! How you make me suffer!" he exclaimed.
"Well, and have not you in your life caused the unhappiness of more than one person?" she asked. "Remember all the tears which have been shed through you and for you! Oh, your passion does not inspire me with the least pity. If you do not wish to make me laugh, make me share your feelings."
"Adieu, madame, there is a certain clemency in your sternness. I appreciate the lesson you have taught me. Yes, I have many faults to expiate."
"Well then, go and repent of them," she said with a mocking smile; "in making Louise happy you will perform the rudest penance in your power."
They parted. But the love of the baron was too violent to allow of Madame B-----'s harshness failing to accomplish her end, namely, the separation of the married couple.
At the end of some months the Baron de V----- and his wife lived apart, though they lived in the same mansion. The baroness was the object of universal pity, for in public she always did justice to her husband and her resignation seemed wonderful. The most prudish women of society found nothing to blame in the friendship which united Louise to the young Rostanges. And all was laid to the charge of Monsieur de V-----'s folly.
When this last had made all the sacrifices that a man could make for Madame B-----, his perfidious mistress started for the waters of Mount Dore, for Switzerland and for Italy, on the pretext of seeking the restoration of her health.
The baron died of inflammation of the liver, being attended during his sickness by the most touching ministrations which his wife could lavish upon him; and judging from the grief which he manifested at having deserted her, he seemed never to have suspected her participation in the plan which had been his ruin.
This anecdote, which we have chosen from a thousand others, exemplifies the services which two women can render each other.
From the words--"Let me have the pleasure of bringing my husband" up to the conception of the drama, whose denouement was inflammation of the liver, every female perfidy was assembled to work out the end. Certain incidents will, of course, be met with which diversify more or less the typical example which we have given, but the march of the drama is almost always the same. Moreover a husband ought always to distrust the woman friends of his wife. The subtle artifices of these lying creatures rarely fail of their effect, for they are seconded by two enemies, who always keep close to a man--and these are vanity and desire.
4. OF THE LOVER'S ALLIES.
The man who hastens to tell another man that he has dropped a thousand franc bill from his pocket-book, or even that the handkerchief is coming out of his pocket, would think it a mean thing to warn him that some one was carrying off his wife. There is certainly something extremely odd in this moral inconsistency, but after all it admits of explanation. Since the law cannot exercise any interference with matrimonial rights, the citizens have even less right to constitute themselves a conjugal police; and when one restores a thousand franc bill to him who has lost it, he acts under a certain kind of obligation, founded on the principle which says, "Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you!"
But by what reasoning can justification be found for the help which one celibate never asks in vain, but always receives from another celibate in deceiving a husband, and how shall we qualify the rendering of such help? A man who is incapable of assisting a gendarme in discovering an assassin, has no scruple in taking a husband to a theatre, to a concert or even to a questionable house, in order to help a comrade, whom he would not hesitate to kill in a duel to-morrow, in keeping an assignation, the result of which is to introduce into a family a spurious child, and to rob two brothers of a portion of their fortune by giving them a co-heir whom they never perhaps would otherwise have had; or to effect the misery of three human beings. We must confess that integrity is a very rare virtue, and, very often, the man that thinks he has most actually has least. Families have been divided by feuds, and brothers have been murdered, which events would never have taken place if some friend had refused to perform what passes to the world as a harmless trick.
It is impossible for a man to be without some hobby or other, and all of us are devoted either to hunting, fishing, gambling, music, money, or good eating. Well, your ruling passion will always be an accomplice in the snare which a lover sets for you, the invisible hand of this passion will direct your friends, or his, whether they consent or not, to play a part in the little drama when they want to take you away from home, or to induce you to leave your wife to the mercy of another. A lover will spend two whole months, if necessary, in planning the construction of the mouse-trap.
I have seen the most cunning men on earth thus taken in.
There was a certain retired lawyer of Normandy. He lived in the little town of B-----, where a regiment of the chasseurs of Cantal were garrisoned. A fascinating officer of this regiment had fallen in love with the wife of this pettifogger, and the regiment was leaving before the two lovers had been able to enjoy the least privacy. It was the fourth military man over whom the lawyer had triumphed. As he left the dinner-table one evening, about six o'clock, the husband took a walk on the terrace of his garden from which he could see the whole country side. The officers arrived at this moment to take leave of him. Suddenly the flame of a conflagration burst forth on the horizon. "Heavens! La Daudiniere is on fire!" exclaimed the major. He was an old simple-minded soldier, who had dined at home. Every one mounted horse. The young wife smiled as she found herself alone, for her lover, hidden in the coppice, had said to her, "It is a straw stack on fire!" The flank of the husband was turned with all the more facility in that a fine courser was provided for him by the captain, and with a delicacy very rare in the cavalry, the lover actually sacrificed a few moments of his happiness in order to catch up with the cavalcade, and return in company with the husband.
Marriage is a veritable duel, in which persistent watchfulness is required in order to triumph over an adversary; for, if you are unlucky enough to turn your head, the sword of the celibate will pierce you through and through.
5. OF THE MAID.
The prettiest waiting-maid I have ever seen is that of Madame V----y, a lady who to-day plays at Paris a brilliant part among the most fashionable women, and passes for a wife who keeps on excellent terms with her husband. Mademoiselle Celestine is a person whose points of beauty are so numerous that, in order to describe her, it would be necessary to translate the thirty verses which we are told form an inscription in the seraglio of the Grand Turk and contain each of them an excellent description of one of the thirty beauties of women.
"You show a great deal of vanity in keeping near you such an accomplished creature," said a lady to the mistress of the house.
"Ah! my dear, some day perhaps you will find yourself jealous of me in
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