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

"The good intention is sufficient."

"By no means, monsieur; the action ought
to correspond. I will send this bunch of rags
to my dressmaker to-morrow; she may do with
it whatever she pleases."

She ate her dinner ill humouredly. When
the dessert was served, she left the table to put
on a ball-dress to go to a soirée dansante at the
Minister of State's; shirt of white tulle covered
with a golden network, from each of whose
meshes protruded a puff of blonde, with a golden
star at the tip of each puffa fairy robe, with
quillings of blondean item of one hundred and
sixty pounds added to the milliner's bill.

"It seems, then, that I am married to four
different women," thought the husband, sorrowfully,
as he accompanied his wife to the square
of the Carrousel.

He regularly paid the second, third, and last
instalment of madame's private expenses; but,
lo, at the end of the year, the milliner presented
to the marquis a supplementary bill of two
thousand and eighty pounds for unforeseen outlay
on dress! The marquis began by turning
the milliner out of the house; but, upon reflection,
he called her back, and obediently paid the
bill. He added, however, a marginal note, to
the effect that it was the last bill of the kind he
would pay. One item, especially, made him
shudder; a parasol was set down at twelve
pounds. As if a parasol of that price had ever
existed under the sun!

The sacrifice once consummated, the marquis,
without giving any cause for scandal, without any
scolding, but, on the contrary, kindly although
firmly, entreated his wife to have the goodness
to confine her elegances within the bounds
of her credits. She listened to him quietly;
she regarded him with an air of astonishment:
then, as if yielding to an internal impulse, she
threw her arms round her husband's neck, and,
enveloping him with the totality of her affection,
stifling him in the embrace of her passion, she
sobbed, she wept, and begged his pardon. "It
was all done to please you," she said. "This
folly was committed through the coquetry of
love and in its intoxication. It shall be the
last; I swear it by your honour, on this sacred
altar," she added, laying her hand on his heart.

A lingering ray of the honeymoon still shone
on the tearful countenance of this Magdalen of
dress. All was pardoned, all was forgotten, and
the treaty of peace was sealed by an exchange of
signatures on the cheek of the wife and the
cheek of the husband.

And, nevertheless, Madame la Marquise
became more and more splendid, and underwent
continual transfigurations from one hour of the
day to another. But at the end of the year, the
milliner, implacable as Destiny, returned to put
in the husband's hands a fresh account of four
thousand pounds: which included several sums
advanced for the purchase of a screen, and the
trimmings of some drawing-room furniture.

The last quarter of the honeymoon had
disappeared from the conjugal firmament. The
marquis flatly refused to acknowledge this underhand
supply, illegally furnished without his
knowledge or consent. The milliner summoned
the refractory husband before the Tribunal de
Première Instance. The judge, to set a good
example, nonsuited the plaintiff.

After this domestic coup d'état, Madame la
Marquise sulks at her husband. She does not
weep: she never breaks out. She only maintains a
savage silence. She has covered her countenance
with a marble mask. When her husband speaks,
she appears not to hear him. When he asks a
question, she answers Yes or No indifferently;
she uses and abuses the terrible eloquence of
the monosyllable. When he wishes to take her
out for a walk or a drive, she has a headache;
when he wants to go into the country, she is
suffering from gastralgyshe is dying, she
demands to die in peace. Finally, if her
husband enjoys any dish at dinner, she affects never
to partake of it.

Sometimes, while sitting opposite to this
dumb woman, or rather this white insensible
shadow of a womanthis statue petrified with
vexationthe husband, boiling over with
impatience, strikes the table with his fist, and shouts,
in a fit of delirium, "But speak, madame; rail
at me, call me a monster, fire a pistol at me, do
anythingmake a gesture, a movement, to prove
that I have a living woman before me, and not
a phantom!"

The wife languishingly raises her head, and
smiles bitterly at this address. She is too well
aware of the power of passive resistance to have
any intention of changing her tactics.

She continues to die; she keeps her bed for
half the week, and receives visits there, with
the bed-clothes turned back very far, in order to
display to her intimate enemies (called acquaintances),
an embroidered chemise, an embroidered
under-waistcoat, an embroidered pillow-case, an
embroidered counterpane, and finally an embroidered
sheet, with a marquise's coronet in the

Then, all at once, under the pretence that the
doctor had advised her to take exercise, she
would keep out of doors and away from home
for half the day.

One evening, when, with flushed cheeks, she
returned to her own room, she cast a look of
triumph in the glass, and hastily threw back
her burnous, as if to give more air to her chest.
"At last, I am avenged," she said. What did
she mean by that? Nobody ever knew exactly.
There was some talk at the time about a smallsword
wound which her husband received in the
Bois de Meudon. Ever since that day, he has
resumed his agricultural pursuits on his Chalosse
estate. The last news of him, was, that he had
gained the prize for Durham oxen.

Who would believe that in Paris, in France,
where political earthquakes are continually
causing fortunes to totter, where the equal
division of property soon pulverises the largest
inheritance, there should be mothers of families so
devoid of prudence as to carry about upon their
persons something like a couple of thousand
pounds' worth of finery, swallowing up their