Gustave Droz.

Monsieur, madame, and bébé online

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"Oh, yes! I am worn out"

"I thought so," he added, approaching the bed;
"you can not keep your eyes open; you can not even
look at me, my dear little wife."

"I will leave you," continued he. "I will leave you;
you need repose." And he drew still more closely to
me, which was not natural. Then, stretching out his
hand, which I knew was white and well cared for:
"Won't you give me a little shake of the hand, dear?
I am half asleep, too, my pretty little wife." His face
wore an expression which was alarming, though not
without its charm ; as he said this, I saw clearly that
he had lied to me like a demon, and that he was no
more sleepy than I was.

However that may be, I was guilty of the fault, the
carelessness that causes disaster, of letting him take
my hand, which was straying by chance under the lace
of the pillows.

I was that evening in a special condition of nervous
sensibility, for at this contact a strange sensation ran
through me from head to foot. It was not that the
Captain's hand had the softness of satin I believe that
physical sensations, in us women, have causes directly
contrary to those which move men; for that which
caused me such lively emotion was precisely its firm-
ness. There was something strong, manly, and power-
ful about it. He squeezed my hand rather strongly.

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

My rings, which I have a fancy for wearing all at once,
hurt me, and I really should not have believed it I
liked it very much, perhaps too much. For the first
time I found an inexplicable, an almost intoxicating,
charm in this intimate contact with a being who could
have crushed me between his fingers, and that in the
middle of the night too, in silence, without any possi-
bility of help. It was horribly delicious.

I did not withdraw my hand, which he kissed, but
lingeringly. The clock struck two, and the last sound
had long since died away when his lips were still there,
quivering with rapid little movements, which were so
many imperceptible kisses, moist, warm, burning. I
felt gleams of fire flashing .around me. I wished to
draw away my hand, but could not; I remember per-
fectly well that I could not. His moustache pricked
me, and whiffs of the scent with which he perfumed it
reached me and completed my trouble. I felt my nos-
trils dilating despite myself, and, striving but in vain
to take refuge in my inmost being, I exclaimed in-
wardly: "Protect me, Lord, but this time with all your
might. A drop of water, Lord; a drop of water!" I
waited no appreciable succor reached from above.
It was not till a week afterward that I understood the
intentions of Providence.

"You told me you were sleepy," I murmured, in a
trembling voice. I was like a shipwrecked person
clutching at a floating match-box; I knew quite well
that the Captain would not go away.

"Yes, I was sleepy, pet," said Georges, approaching
his face to mine ; "but now I am athirst." He put his

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GUSTAVE DROZ

lips to my ear and whispered softly, "A thirst for a kiss
from you, love."

This "love" was the beginning of another life. The
spouse now appeared, the past was fleeing away, I
was entering on the future. At length I had crossed
the frontier; I was in a foreign land. Oh! I ac-
knowledge for what is the use of feigning? that I
craved for this love, and I felt that it engrossed me and
spread itself through me. I felt that I was getting out
of my depth, I let go the last branch that held me to
the shore, and to myself I repeated: "Yes, I love you;
yes, I am willing to follow you; yes, I am yours, love,
love, love!"

"Won't you kiss your husband; come, won't you?"

And his mouth was so near my own that it seemed
to meet my lips.

"Yes," said I.

August 7th, 185 How many times have I not
read through you during the last two years, my little
blue note-book! How many things I might add as
marginal notes if you were not doomed to the flames,
to light my first fire this autumn! How could I have
written all this, and how is it that having done so I
have not dared to complete my confidences! No one
has seen you, at any rate; no one has turned your
pages. Go back into your drawer, dear, with, pending
the first autumn fire, a kiss from your Valentine.

NOTE. Owing to what circumstances this blue note-book, doomed
to the flames, was discovered by me in an old Louis XVI chiffonnier I
had just bought does not greatly matter to you, dear reader, and
would be out of my power to explain even if it did.

[118]




CHAPTER XIV

THE BLUE NOTE-BOOK AGAIN

NLY to think that I was going to
throw you into the fire, poor dear!
Was I not foolish? In whom else
could I confide ? If I had not you,
to whom could I tell all those little
things at which every one laughs, but
which make you cry!

This evening, for instance, I dined
alone, for Georges was invited out ; well, to whom else
can I acknowledge that when I found myself alone,
face to face with a leg of mutton, cooked to his liking,
and with the large carving-knife which is usually be-
side his plate, before me, I began to cry like a child?
To whom else can I admit that I drank out of the Bo-
hemian wine-glass he prefers, to console me a little ?

But if I were to mention this they would laugh in
my face. Father Cyprien himself, who nevertheless
has a heart running over with kindness, would say to
me:

"Let us pass that by, my dear child; let us pass that
by."

I know him so well, Father Cyprien; while you, you
always listen to me, my poor little note-book; if a tear

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GUSTAVE DROZ

escapes me, you kindly absorb it and retain its trace
like a good-hearted friend. Hence I love you.

And, since we are tete-a-tete, let us have a chat.
You won't be angry with me for writing with a pencil,
dear. You see I am very comfortably settled in my
big by-by and I do not want to have any ink-stains.
The fire sparkles on the hearth, the street is silent; let
us forget that George will not return till midnight, and
turn back to the past.

I can not recall the first month of that dear past
without laughing and weeping at one and the same
time.

How foolish we were ! How sweet it was! There is
a method of teaching swimming which is not the least
successful, I am told. It consists in throwing the fut-
ure swimmer into the water and praying God to help
him. I am assured that after the first lesson he keeps
himself afloat.

Well, I think that we women are taught to be wives
in very much the same fashion.

Happy or otherwise the point is open to discussion
marriage is a hurricane something unheard-of and
alarming.

In a single night, and without any transition, every-
thing is transformed and changes color; the erst white-
cravatted, freshly curled, carefully dressed gentleman
makes his appearance in a dressing-gown. That which
was prohibited becomes permissible, the code is altered,
and words acquire a meaning they never had before, et
cetera, et cetera.

It is not that all this is so alarming, if taken the right
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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

way a woman with some courage in her heart and
some flexibility in her mind supports the shock and
does not die under it ; but the firmest of us are amazed
at it, and stand open-mouthed amid all these strange
novelties, like a penniless gourmand in the shop of
Potel and Chabot.

They dare not touch these delicacies surrounding
them, though invited to taste. It is not that the wish
or the appetite is lacking to them, but all these fine
fruits have been offered them so lately that they have
still the somewhat acid charm of green apples or for-
bidden fruit. They approach, but they hesitate to
bite.

After all, why complain? What would one have to
remember if one had entered married life like an inn,
if one had not trembled a little when knocking at the
door? And it is so pleasant to recall things, that one
would sometimes like to deck the future in the gar-
ments of the past.

It was, I recollect, two days after the all-important
one. I had gone into his room, I no longer remember
why for the pleasure of going in, I suppose, and there-
by acting as a wife. A strong desire is that which
springs up in your brain after leaving church to look
like an old married woman. You put on caps with
ribbons, you never lay aside your cashmere shawl, you
talk of "my home" two sweet words and then you
bite your lips to keep from breaking out into a laugh;
and "my husband," and "my maid," and the first
dinner you order, when you forget the soup. All this
is charming, and, however ill at ease you may feel at

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GUSTAVE DROZ

first in all these new clothes, you are quite eager to put
them on.

So I had gone into the dressing-room of my husband,
who, standing before the glass, very lightly clad, was
prosaically shaving.

"Excuse me, dear," said he, laughing, and he held
up his shaving-brush, covered with white lather. "You
will pardon my going on with this. Do you want any-
thing?"

"I came, on the contrary," I answered, "to see
whether you had need of anything;" and, greatly em-
barrassed myself, for I was afraid of being indiscreet,
and I was not sure whether one ought to go into one's
husband's room like this, I added, innocently, "Your
shirts have buttons, have they not?"

"Oh, what a good little housewife I have married!
Do not bother yourself about such trifles, my pet. I
will ask your maid to look after my buttons," said he.

I felt confused ; I was afraid of appearing too much
of a schoolgirl in his eyes. He went on working his
soap into a lather with his shaving-brush. I wanted to
go away, but I was interested in such a novel fashion
by the sight of my husband, that I had not courage to
do so. His neck was bare a thick, strong neck, but
very white and changing its shape at every movement
the muscles, you know. It would have been horri-
ble in a woman, that neck, and yet it did not seem
ugly to me. Nor was it admiration that thus inspired
me; it was rather like gluttony. I wanted to touch it.
His hair, cut very short according to regulation
grew very low, and between its beginning and the ear

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND BEBE

there was quite a smooth white place. The idea at
once occurred to me that if ever I became brave enough,
it was there that I should kiss him oftenest; it was
strange, that presentiment, for it is in fact on that little
spot that I

He stopped short. I fancied I understood that he
was afraid of appearing comical in my eyes, with his
face smothered in lather; but he was wrong. I felt
myself all in a quiver at being beside a man the word
man is rather distasteful to me, but I can not find an-
other, for husband would not express my thoughts at
being beside a man in the making of his toilette. I
should have liked him to go on without troubling him-
self; I should have liked to see how he managed to
shave himself without encroaching on his moustache,
how he made his parting and brushed his hair with the
two round brushes I saw on the table, what use he
made of all the little instruments set out in order on
the marble tweezers, scissors, tiny combs, little pots
and bottles with silver tops, and a whole arsenal of
bright things, that aroused quite a desire to beautify
one's self.

I should have liked him while talking to attend to
the nails of his hands, which I was already very fond
of; or, better still, to have handed them over to me.
How I should have rummaged in the little corners, cut,
filed, arranged all that.

"Well, dear, what are you looking at me like that
for?" said he, smiling.

I lowered my eyes at once, and felt that I was
blushing. I was uneasy, although charmed, amid

[ I2 3]



GUSTAVE DROZ

these new surroundings. I did not know what to
answer, and mechanically I dipped the tip of my
finger into the little china pot in which the soap was
being lathered.

"What is the matter, darling?" said he, approaching
his face to mine; "have I offended you?"

I don't know what strange idea darted through my
mind, but I suddenly took my hand from the pot and
stuck the big ball of lather at the end of my finger on
the tip of his nose. He broke out into a hearty laugh,
and so did I; though I trembled for a moment, lest he
should be angry.

"So that's the way in which you behave to a captain
in the lancers ? You shall pay for this, you wicked
little darling;" and, taking the shaving brush in his
hand, he chased me round the room. I dodged round
the table, I took refuge behind the armchair, upsetting
his boots with my skirt, getting the tongs at the same
time entangled in it. Passing the sofa, I noticed his
uniform laid out he had to wait on the General that
morning and, seizing his schapska, I made use of it
as a buckler. But laughter paralyzed me, and besides,
what could a poor little woman do against a soldier,
even with a buckler?

He ended by catching me the struggle was a lovely
on. It was all very well for me to scream, as I threw
my head backward over the arm by which he clasped
me; I none the less saw the frightful brush, like a big
snowball, at the end of a little stick, come nearer and
yet nearer.

But he was merciful; he was satisfied with daubing

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

a little white spot on my chin and exclaiming, "The
cavalry have avenged themselves."

Seizing the brush in turn, I said to him roguishly,
"Captain, let me lather your face," for I did so want
to do that.

In answer, he held his face toward me, and, observ-
ing that I was obliged to stand on the tips of my toes
and to support myself a little on his shoulder, he knelt
down before me and yielded his head to me.

With the tip of my finger I made him bend his face
to the right and the left, backward and forward, and I
lathered and lathered, giggling like a schoolgirl. It
amused me so to see my Captain obey me like a child ;
I would have given I don't know what if he had only
had his sword and spurs on at that moment. Unfort-
unately, he was in his slippers. I spread the lather
over his nose and forehead ; he closed his eyes and put
his two arms round me, saying:

" Go on, my dear, go on; but see that you don't put
any into my mouth.

At that moment I experienced a very strange feeling.
My laughter died away all at once; I felt ashamed at
seeing my husband at my feet and at thus amusing
myself with him as if he were a doll.

I dropped the shaving-brush; I felt my eyes grow
moist; and, suddenly, becoming more tender, I bent
toward him and kissed him on the neck, which was the
only spot left clear.

Yet his ear was so near that, in passing it, my lips
moved almost in spite of myself, and I whispered :

"Don't be angry, dear," then, overcome by emotion
[125]



GUSTAVE DROZ

and repentance, I added: "I love you, I do love
you."

"My own pet!" he said, rising suddenly. His voice
shook.

What delightful moments these were ! Unfortunately,
oh! yes, indeed, unfortunately, he could not press his
lathered face to mine !

"Wait a little," he exclaimed, darting toward the
wash-basin, full of water, "wait an instant!"

But it seemed as if it took him a week to wash it off.



[126]




CHAPTER XV

MY WIFE GOES TO A DANCE

^'ADAME Ah! it is so nice of you to
come home early! (Looking at the
clock.) A quarter to six. But how
cold you are! your hands are frozen;
come and sit by the fire. (She puts
a log on the fire.) I have been think-
ing of you all day. It is cruel to
have to go out in such weather.
Have you finished your doubts ? are you satisfied ?

Monsieur Quite well satisfied, dear. (Aside) But
I have never known my wife to be so amiable. (Aloud,
taking up the bellows) Quite well satisfied, and I am
very hungry. Has my darling been good ?

Madame You are hungry. Good! (Calling out)
Marie, call into the kitchen that your master wants to
dine early. Let them look after everything and send
up a lemon.
Monsieur A mystery?

Madame Yes, Monsieur, I have a little surprise for
you, and I fancy that it will delight you.
Monsieur Well, what is the surprise ?
Madame Oh! it is a real surprise. How curious
you look! your eyes are glittering already. Suppose I
were not to tell you anything?

[127]



Monsieur Then you would vex me very much.

Madame There, I don't want to vex you. You are
going to have some little green oysters and a partridge.
Am I good?

Monsieur Oysters and a partridge! You are an
angel. (He kisses her.) An angel. (Aside.) What
on earth is the matter with her? (Aloud.) Have you
had visitors to-day?

Madame I saw Ernestine this morning, but she
only stayed a fnoment. She has just discharged her
maid. Would you believe it, that girl was seen the
night before last dressed up as a man, and in her
master's clothes, too! That was going too far.

Monsieur That comes of having confidential ser-
vants. And you just got a sight of Ernestine?

Madame And that was quite enough, too. (With
an exclamation.) How stupid I am! I forgot. I had
a visit from Madame de Lyr as well.

Monsieur God bless her! But does she still laugh
on one side of her mouth to hide her black tooth?

Madame How cruel you are! Yet, she likes you
very well. Poor woman! I was really touched by her
visit. She came to remind me that we now you will
be angry. (She kisses him and sits down beside him.)

Monsieur Be angry! be angry! I'm not a Turk.
Come, what is it ?

Madame Come, we shall go to dinner. You know
that there are oysters and a partridge. I won't tell
you you are already in a bad temper. Besides, I all
but told her that we are not going.

Monsieur (raising his hands aloft) I thought so.

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

She and her evening may go to the dogs. What have I
done to this woman that she should so pester me?

Madame But she thinks she is affording you pleas-
ure. She is a charming friend. As for me, I like her
because she always speaks well of you. If you had
been hidden in that cabinet during her visit, you could
not have helped blushing. (He shrugs his shoulders.}
"Your husband is so amiable," she said to me, "so
cheery, so witty. Try to bring him; it is an honor to
have him." I said, "Certainly," but without meaning
it, you know. But I don't care about it at all. It is
not so very amusing at Madame de Lyr's. She always
invites such a number of serious people. No doubt
they are influential people, and may prove useful, but
what does that matter to me? Come to dinner. You
know that there is a bottle left of that famous Pomard ;
I have kept it for your partridge. You can not imagine
what pleasure I feel in seeing you eat a partridge. You
eat it with such a gusto. You are a glutton, my dear.
(She takes his arm.} Come, I can hear your rascal of
a son getting impatient in the dining-room.

Monsieur (with a preoccupied air] Hum ! and when
is it?

Madame When is what ?

Monsieur The party, of course.

Madame Ah! you mean the ball I was not think-
ing of it. Madame de Lyr's ball. Why do you ask
me that, since we are not going ? Let us make haste,
dinner is getting cold. . . . This evening.

Monsieur (stopping short) What! this party is a
ball, and this ball is for this evening. But, hang it!
9 [129]



GUSTAYE DROZ

people don't invite you to a ball like that. They al-
ways give notice some time beforehand.

Madame But she sent us an invitation a week ago,
though I don't know what became of the card. I forgot
to show it to you.

Monsieur You forgot! you forgot!

Madame Well, it is all for the best; I know you
would have been sulky all the week after. Come to
dinner.

They sat down to table. The cloth was white, the
cutlery bright, the oysters fresh; the partridge, cooked
to perfection, exhaled a delightful odor. Madame was
charming, and laughed at everything. Monsieur un-
bent his brows and stretched himself on the chair.

Monsieur This Pomard is very good. Won't you
have some, little dear?

Madame Yes, your little dear will. (She pushes
forward her glass with a coquettish movement.}

Monsieur Ah! you have put on your Louis Seize
ring. It is a very pretty ring.

Madame (putting her hand under her husband's nose)
Yes; but look see, there is a little bit coming off.

Monsieur (kissing his wife's hand} Where is the
little bit?

Madame (smiling} You jest at everything. I am
speaking seriously. There look it is plain enough!
(They draw near one another and bend their heads to-
gether to see it.) Don't you see it ? (She points out a
spot on the ring with a rosy and slender finger.) There !
do you see now there?

Monsieur That little pearl which What on earth

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

have you been putting on your hair, my dear? It
smells very nice You must send it to the jeweller.
The scent is exquisite. Curls don't become you badly.

Madame Do you think so? (She adjusts her coif-
fure with her white hand.) I thought you would like
that scent; now, if I were in your place I should

Monsieur What would you do in my place, dear?

Madame I should kiss my wife.

Monsieur (kissing her) Well, I must say you have
very bright ideas sometimes. Give me a little bit
more partridge, please. (With his mouth full.) How
pretty these poor little creatures look when running
among the corn. You know the cry they give when the
sun sets? A little gravy. There are moments when
the poetic side of country life appeals to one. And
to think that there are barbarians who eat them with
cabbage. But (filling his glass) have you a gown
ready?

Madame (with innocent astonishment.) What for,
dear?

Monsieur Why, for Madame de Lyr's

Madame For the ball? What a memory you have
There you are still thinking of it No, I have not
ah! yes, I have my tarletan, you know; but then a
woman needs so little to make up a ball-room toilette.

Monsieur And the hairdresser, has he been sent
for?

Madame No, he has not been sent for; but I am
not anxious to go to this ball. We will settle down by
the fireside, read a little, and go to bed early. You
remind me, however, that, on leaving, Madame de Lyr

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GUSTAVE DROZ

did say, "Your hairdresser is the same as mine, I will
send him word." How stupid I am; I remember now
that I did not answer her. But it is not far, I can send
Marie to tell him not to come.

Monsieur Since this blessed hairdresser has been
told, let him come and we will go and amuse ourselves
a little at Madame de Lyr's. But on one condition
only; that I find all my dress things laid out in readi-
ness on my bed with my gloves, you know, and that
you tie my necktie.

Madame A bargain. (She kisses him.) You are a
jewel of a husband. I am delighted, my poor dear,
because I see you are imposing a sacrifice upon your-
self in order to please me; since, as to the ball itself, I
am quite indifferent, about it. I did not care to go;
really now I don't care to go.

Monsieur Hum. Well, I will go and smoke a cigar
so as not to be in your way, and at ten o'clock I will be
back here. Your preparations will be over and in five
minutes I shall be dressed. Adieu.

Madame Au revoir.

Monsieur, after reaching the street, lit his cigar and
buttoned up his great-coat. Two hours to kill. It
seems a trifle when one is busy, but when one has
nothing to do it is quite another thing. The pavement
is slippery, rain is beginning to fall fortunately the
Palais Royal is not far off. At the end of his four-
teenth tour round the arcades, Monsieur looks at his
watch. Five minutes to ten, he will be late. He
rushes home.

In the courtyard the carriage is standing waiting.



MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

In the bedroom two unshaded lamps shed floods of
light. Mountains of muslin and ribbons are piled on
the bed and the furniture. Dresses, skirts, petticoats,
and under-petticoats, lace, scarfs, flowers, jewels, are
mingled in a charming chaos. On the table there are
pots of pomade, sticks of cosmetic, hairpins, combs
and brushes, all carefully set out. Two artificial plaits
stretch themselves languishingly upon a dark mass not
unlike a large handful of horsehair. A golden hair
net, combs of pale tortoise-shell and bright coral, clus-
ters of roses, sprays of white lilac, bouquets of pale
violets, await the choice of the artist or the caprice of
the beauty. And yet, must I say it ? amidst this luxury
of wealth Madame's hair is undressed, Madame is un-
easy, Madame is furious.

Monsieur (looking at his watch) Well, my dear, is
your hair dressed ?

Madame (impatiently) He asks me whether my
hair is dressed ? Don't you see that I have been wait-
ing for the hairdresser for an hour and a half ? Can't
you see that I am furious, for he won't come, the
horrid wretch ?

Monsieur The monster!

Madame Yes, the monster; and I would advise you
not to joke about it.


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