+ ~ -
 
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
 
Report an Error
Go!
 
Go!
 
TOC
 

are we to think of his customers, the aristocracy
of the Exchange, virtuous, but sufficiently
forgetful of themselves and their husbands to
discuss with a man-milliner, at night, the perilous
problem of the height of a dress?

And mark the contrast: in the same street,
a course of literature, poetry, history, geography,
&c., was open every evening, and
conducted by professors of celebrity. Not one of
those spoiled children of fortune who mounted
to the first floor to try on a dress, ever had the
curiosity to step in at the ground floor, to live
for a few minutes a life of intelligence. And
yet, at the very same time, the working
dressmakers of that establishment put by a trifle out
of their modest wages, to obtain admission to
those literary conferences. Confined to their
own thoughts during their long employment
with the needle, they thirsted after knowledge
as flowers thirst after dew. It is the working
class, now, who read or listen; the classes at
ease, dine and dance. Meanwhile, the hand is
moving along the dial-plate, and a new generation
is coming, with a mystery marked upon
its forehead.

Would you like to know how much a fashionable
wife costs her husband? You shall be
favoured with a slight glimpse of the interior
of a Parisian household.

A man of good family lately married a young
lady, also of good family, in the eyes of the city.
The match doubtless was the consequence of
the acknowledged affinities which exist between
birth and fortune. The husband bore the title
of marquis, to which it appears he had really a
right. He owned a heavily mortgaged estate
in La Chalosse, and a dilapidated ch√Ęteau whose
roof he got kept in repair by the year. He had
served in the Second Hussars until he reached
the rank of accountant-captain; but when his
fortieth birthday arrived, he resigned his
commission, in order to turn his territorial marquisate
to the best account. He was an intrepid
sportsman, an excellent shot, a still better
dinner companion, and had hitherto kept clear
of the matrimonial yoke.

The young lady was descended from a
Seine-et-Marne miller, who had an instinctive
knowledge of the science of flour, and who had got
together, some say three, others four, millions
of francs, by skilfully handling the bushel measure.
She had been educated at the convent of
the Sacr√©-Cœur, in company with the titled
offspring of the Faubourg Saint Germain,
where she learned to dance, to play the piano, to
make a curtsey, and to lower her eyelids. The
father marvelling at his daughter's perfections,
gave her a dowry in accordance with his enthusiasm.
He rigged her out, on the wedding-day,
with a couple of thousand pounds a year:
half in gas shares, and half in the omnibus de
Paris; but with a proper care of his daughter's
wardrobe, he stipulated that the bride should
have an annual allowance of eight hundred
pounds a year, for the little elegant expenses
which are defrayed by what is called pin-money.

The husband punctually fulfilled his engagement.On the first day of the second three
months, he scrupulously gave her the quarter's
pin-money. The marquise conscientiously spent
it, with the delight of an emancipated school-girl
who feels a bank-note burn her fingers until
she has got rid of it in some foolish outlay. In
the morning, at the breakfast hour, she made
her first appearance in a white Indian cashmere
dress, embroidered with blue flowers, lined with
satin, slightly open in front to allow a glimpse
of a Valenciennes petticoat trimmed with ribbons
a trifle of some eighty pounds.

"How do you like this robe de chambre?"
she would say to her husband.

The marquis would cast a sidelong glance at
madame, and bluntly answer, "Perfect." And,
as he was always hungry in the morning, he
would valiantly attack a slice of pie-crust.

"I put it on, on your account," the young
wife continued, accompanying the your with one
of those lingering looks which seem to promise
eternity of happiness.

"My wife is decidedly fond of me," thought
the husband.

At one o'clock in the afternoon the marquise
reappeared on the horizon with a change of
decoration. This time, she wore a toilette de
Bois, that is, a dress in which to appear at the
Bois de Boulogne: a grey velvet dress, with
manteau of the same, both trimmed with sable
furthe whole estimated at one hundred and
sixty pounds, at the lowest farthing. She first
offered her husband her forehead to kiss; then,
resting her two arms on his chest, and looking
at him from head to foot, in a sort of ecstasy:
"You have again forgotten to compliment me,"
said she, in a caressing tone of reproach.

"About what, madame?"

She abruptly stepped a yard or two back, and
taking her dress in both hands, as if she were
dancing, " About this," she replied. "Ingrate
that you are, it is again for your sake!"

"Delicious!" the husband answered. And
then he added, mentally, " I might safely state
that my wife grows more and more affectionate
every minute."

The dinner hour arrived; but madame first
underwent her third moult, and put on a dress
embroidered, in colours, at the bottom, with
bouquets of corn-flowers and poppies,
interspersed with ears of corn, fastened by azure
ribbon, so abundant and rustling that it could
be heard, behind the scenes, approaching from
the next room. This last fancy, however, had
cost only one bank-note. The husband thought
he would have his revenge, and without awaiting
any fresh provocation to compliment, "Divine!"
he exclaimed, as he beheld his wife enter the
dining-room in her third transformation.

"What nonsense are you talking, my dear?"
she sulkily answered. " The dress is a complete
failure, a frightful dress; frightful in cut, and
frightful in colour. The blue and the red give
you the idea of fireworks. In the shop-window
it had a tolerable effect, but on me, it makes me
look a year older. I am really ashamed to
appear in it before you."