Part 9 out of 10
"And what other can you expect, Emilie, in your present
"None," said Emilie.
"And here is an establishment--at least an independence for you--and
you call it sacrificing your happiness for ever to accept of it!"
"Yes," said Emilie; "because it is offered to me by one whom I can
neither love nor esteem. Dearest mamma! can you forget all his former
meanness of conduct?"
"His present behaviour makes amends for the past," said Mad. de
Coulanges, "and entitles him to my esteem and to yours, and that is
sufficient. As to love--well educated girls do not marry for love."
"But they ought not to marry without feeling love, should they?" said
"Emilie! Emilie!" said her mother, "these are strange ideas that have
come into the heads of young women since the Revolution. If you had
remained safe in your convent, I should have heard none of this
"Perhaps not, mamma," said Emilie, with a deep sigh. "But should I
have been happier?"
"A fine question, truly!--How can I tell? But this I can ask you--How
can any girl expect to be happy, who abandons the principles in which
she was bred up, and forgets her duty to the mother by whom she has
been educated--the mother, whose pride, whose delight, whose darling,
she has ever been? Oh, Emilie! this is to me worse than all I have
Mad. de Coulanges burst into a passion of tears, and Emilie stood
looking at her in silent despair.
"Emilie, you cannot deceive me," cried her mother; "you cannot pretend
that it is simply your want of esteem for M. de Brisac which renders
you thus obstinately averse to the match. You are in love with another
"Not in love," said Emilie, in a faltering voice.
"You cannot deceive me, Emilie--remember all you said to me about the
stranger who was our fellow prisoner at the Abbaye. You cannot deny
"Nor do I, dear mamma," said Emilie. "I _cannot_ deceive you, indeed
I _would_ not; and the best proof that I do not wish to deceive
you--that I never attempted it--is, that I told you all I thought and
felt about that stranger. I told you that his honourable, brave,
and generous conduct towards us, when we were in distress, made an
impression upon my heart--that I preferred him to any person I had
ever seen--and I told you, my dear mamma, that--"
"You told me too much," interrupted Mad. de Coulanges; "more than
I wished to hear--more than I will have repeated, Emilie. This is
romance and nonsense. The man, whoever he was--and Heaven knows who
he was!--behaved very well, and was a very agreeable person: but what
then? are you ever likely to see him again? Do you even know his
birth--his name--his country--or any thing about him, but that he
was brave and generous?--So are fifty other men, five hundred, five
thousand, five million, I hope. But is this any reason that you should
refuse to marry M. de Brisac? Henry the Fourth was brave and generous
two hundred years ago. That is as much to the purpose. You have as
much chance of establishing yourself, if you wait for Henry the Fourth
to come to life again, as if you wait for this nameless nobody of a
hero--who is perhaps married, after all--who knows!--Really, Emilie,
this is too absurd!"
"But, dear mamma, I cannot marry one man and love another--love I
did not quite mean to say. But whilst I prefer another, I cannot, in
honour, marry M. de Brisac."
"Honour!--Love!--But in France, in my time, who ever heard of a
young lady's being in love before she was married? You astonish, you
frighten, you shock me, child! Recollect yourself, Emilie! Misfortune
may have deprived you of the vast possessions to which you are
heiress; but do not, therefore, degrade yourself and me by forgetting
your principles, and all that the representative of the house of
Coulanges ought to remember. And as for myself--have I no claim upon
your affections, Emilie?--have not I been a fond mother?"
"Oh, yes!" said Emilie, melting into tears. "Of your kindness I
think more than of any thing else!--more than of the whole house of
"Do not let me see you in tears, child!" said Mad. de Coulanges, moved
by Emilie's grief. "Your tears hurt my nerves more even than Mrs.
Somers' _grossièreté_. You must blame Mrs. Somers, not me, for all
this--her temper drives me to it--I cannot live with her. We have no
alternative. Emilie, my sweet child! make me happy!--I am miserable in
this house. Hitherto you have ever been the best of daughters, and you
shall find me the most indulgent of mothers. One whole month I will
give you to change your mind, and recollect your duty. At the end
of that time, I must see you Mad. de Brisac, and in a house of your
own.--In the house of Mrs. Somers I will not, I cannot longer remain."
Poor Emilie was glad of the reprieve of one month. She retired from
her mother's presence in silent anguish, and hastened to her own
apartment, that she might give way to her grief. There she found Mrs.
Somers waiting for her, seated in an arm-chair, with an open letter in
"Why do you start, Emilie? You look as if you were sorry to find me
here," cried Mrs. Somers--"IF THAT be the case, Mlle. de Coulanges--"
"Oh, Mrs. Somers! do not begin to quarrel with me at this moment, for
I shall not be able to bear it--I am sufficiently unhappy already!"
"I am extremely sorry that any thing should make you unhappy, Emilie,"
said Mrs. Somers; "but I think that you had never less reason than at
this moment to suspect me of an intention of quarrelling with you--I
came here with a very different design. May I know the cause of your
Emilie hesitated, for she did not know how to explain the cause
without imputing blame either to Mrs. Somers or to her mother--she
could only say--"_M. de Brisac_--"
"What!" cried Mrs. Somers, "your mother wants you to marry him?"
"In one month."
"And you have consented?"
"_But_--Good Heavens! Emilie, what weakness of mind there is in that
"Is it weakness of mind to fear to disobey my mother--to dread to
offend her for ever--to render her unhappy--and to deprive her,
perhaps, even of the means of subsistence?"
"_The means of subsistence_! my dear. This phrase, you know, can only
be a figure of rhetoric," said Mrs. Somers. "Your refusing M. de
Brisac cannot deprive your mother of the means of subsistence. In the
first place, she expects to recover her property in France."
"No," said Emilie; "she has given up these hopes--you have persuaded
her that they are vain."
"Indeed I think them so. But still you must know, my dear, that your
mother can never be in want of the means of subsistence, nor any
of the conveniences, and, I may add, luxuries of life, whilst I am
Emilie sighed; and when Mrs. Somers urged her more closely, she said,
"Mamma has not, till lately, been accustomed to live on the bounty of
others; the sense of dependence produces many painful feelings, and
renders people more susceptible than perhaps they would be, were they
on terms of equality."
"To what does all this tend, my dear?" interrupted Mrs. Somers. "Is
Mad. de Coulanges offended with me?--Is she tired of living with
me?--Does she wish to quit my house?--And where does she intend to
go?--Oh! that is a question that I need not ask!--Yes, yes--I have
long foreseen it--you have arranged it admirably--you go to Lady
Littleton, I presume?"
"To M. de Brisac?"
"Mamma wishes to go--"
"Then to M. de Brisac, for Heaven's sake, let her go," cried Mrs.
Somers, bursting into a fit of laughter, which astonished Emilie
beyond measure. "To M. de Brisac let her go--'tis the best thing she
can possibly do, my dear; and seriously to tell you the truth, I have
always thought it would be an excellent match. Since she is so much
prepossessed in his favour, can she do better than marry him? and, as
he is so much attached to the house of Coulanges, when he cannot have
the daughter, can he do better than marry the mother?--Your mother
does not look too old for him, when she is well rouged; and I am sure,
if she heard me say so, she would forgive me all the rest--butterfly,
frivolity, and all inclusive. Permit me, Emilie, to laugh."
"I cannot permit any body to laugh at mamma," said Emilie; "and Mrs.
Somers is the last person whom I should have supposed would have been
inclined to laugh, when I told her that I was really unhappy."
"My dear Emilie, I forgive you for being angry, because I never saw
you angry before; and that is more than you can say for me. You do me
justice, however, by supposing that I should be the last person to
laugh when you are in woe, unless I thought--unless I was sure--that I
could remove the cause, and make you completely happy."
"That, I fear, is impossible," said Emilie: "for mamma's pride and her
feelings have been so much hurt, that I do not think any apology would
now calm her mind."
"Apology!--I am not in the least inclined to make any. Can I tell Mad.
de Coulanges that I do not think her frivolous?--Impossible, indeed,
my dear! I will do any thing else to oblige you. But I have as much
pride, and as much feeling, in my own way, as any of the house of
Coulanges: and if, after all I have done, madame can quarrel with
me about a butterfly, I must say, not only that she is the most
frivolous, but the most ungrateful woman upon earth; and, as she
desires to quit my house, far from attempting to detain her, I can
only wish that she may accomplish her purpose as soon as possible--as
soon as it may suit her own convenience. As for you, Emilie, I do not
suspect you of the ingratitude of wishing to leave me--I can make
distinctions, even when I have most reason to be angry. I do not blame
you, my dear--I do not ever ask you to blame your mother. I respect
your filial piety--I am sure you must think her to blame, but I do not
desire you to say so. Could any thing be more barbarously selfish than
the plan of marrying _you_ to this M. de Brisac, that _she_ might have
an establishment more to her taste than my house has been able to
Emilie attempted, but in vain, to say a few words for her mother. Mrs.
Somers ran on with her own thoughts.
"And at what a time, at what a cruel time for me, did Mad. de
Coulanges choose to express her desire to leave my house--at the
moment when my whole soul was intent upon a scheme for the happiness
of her daughter! Yes, Emilie, for your happiness!--and, my dear, your
mother's conduct shall change nothing in my views. You I have always
found uniformly kind, gentle, grateful--I will say no more--I have
found in you, Emilie, real magnanimity. I have tried your temper
much--sometimes too much--but I have always found you proof against
these petty trials. Your character is suited to mine. I love you, as
if you were my daughter, and I wish you to be my daughter.--Now you
know my whole mind, Emilie. My son--my _eldest_ son, I should with
emphasis say, if I were speaking to Mad. de Coulanges--will be here in
a few days: read this letter. How happy I shall be if you find him--or
if you will make him--such as you can entirely approve and love! You
will have power over him--your influence will do what his mother's
never could accomplish. But whatever reasons I may have to complain of
him, this is not the time to state them--you will connect him with me.
At all events, he is a man of honour and a gentleman; and as he is
not, thank Heaven! under the debasing necessity of considering fortune
in the choice of a wife, he is, at least in this respect, worthy of my
dear and high-minded Emilie."
Mrs. Somers paused, and fixed her eyes eagerly on Emilie, impatient
for her answer, and already half provoked by not seeing the sudden
transition of countenance which she had pictured in her imagination.
With a mixture of dignity and affectionate gratitude in her manner,
Emilie was beginning to thank Mrs. Somers for the generous kindness
of her intention; but this susceptible lady interrupted her, and
exclaimed, "Spare me your thanks, Mlle. de Coulanges, and tell me at
once what is passing in your mind; for something very extraordinary is
certainly passing there, which I cannot comprehend. Surely you cannot
for a moment imagine that your mother will insist upon your now
accepting of M. de Brisac; or, if she does, surely you would not have
the weakness to yield. I must have some proof of strength of mind from
my friends. You must judge for yourself, Emilie, or you are not the
person I take you for. You will have full opportunity of judging in
a few days. Will you promise me that you will decide entirely for
yourself, and that you will keep your mind unbiassed? Will you promise
me this? And will you speak, at all events, my dear, that I may
Emilie, who saw that even before she spoke Mrs. Somers was on the
brink of anger, trembled at the idea of confessing the truth--that her
heart was already biassed in favour of another: she had, however, the
courage to explain to her all that passed in her mind. Mrs. Somers
heard her with inexpressible disappointment. She was silent for some
minutes. At last she said, in a voice of constrained passion, "Mlle.
de Coulanges, I have only one question to ask of you--you will reflect
before you answer it, because on your reply depends the continuance
or utter dissolution of our friendship--do you, or do you not, think
proper to refuse my son before you have seen him?"
"Before I have seen Mr. Somers, it surely can be no affront to you
or to him," said Emilie, "to decline an offer that I cannot accept,
especially when I give as my reason, that my mind is prepossessed in
favour of another. With that prepossession, I cannot unite myself to
your son: I can only express to you my gratitude--my most sincere
gratitude--for your kind and generous intentions, and my hopes that he
will find, amongst his own countrywomen, one more suited to him than I
can be. His fortune is far above--"
"Say no more, I beg, Mlle. de Coulanges--I asked only for a simple
answer to a plain question. You refuse my son--you refuse to be my
daughter. I am satisfied--perfectly satisfied. I suppose you have
arranged to go to Lady Littleton's. I heartily hope that she may be
able to make her house more agreeable to you than I could render mine.
Shake hands, Mlle. de Coulanges. You have my best wishes for your
health and happiness--Here we part."
"Oh! do not let us part in anger!" said Emilie.
"In anger!--not in the least--I never was cooler in my life. You have
completely cooled me--you have shown me the folly of that warmth of
friendship which can meet with no return."
"Would it be a suitable return for your warm friendship to deceive
your son?" said Emilie.
"To deceive me, I think still less suitable!" cried Mrs. Somers.
"And how have I deceived you?"
"You know best. Why was I kept in ignorance till the last moment? Why
did you never confide your thoughts to me, Emilie? Why did you never
till now say one word to me of this strange attachment?"
"There was no necessity for speaking till now," said Emilie. "It is a
subject I never named to any one except to mamma--a subject on which I
did not think it right to speak to any one but to a parent."
"Your notions of right and wrong, ma'am, differ widely from mine--we
are not fit to live together. I have no idea of a friend's
concealing any thing from me: without entire confidence, there is no
friendship--at least no friendship with me. Pray no tears. I am not
fond of _scenes_. Nobody ever is that feels much.--Adieu!--Adieu!"
Mrs. Somers hurried out of the room, repeating, "I'll write
directly--this instant--to Lady Littleton. Mad. de Coulanges shall not
be kept prisoner in _my_ house." Emilie stood motionless.
In a few minutes Mrs. Somers returned with an unfolded letter, which
she put into Emilie's passive hand. "Read it, ma'am, I beg--read it. I
do every thing openly--every thing handsomely, I hope--whatever may be
The letter was written with a rapid hand, which was scarcely legible,
especially to a foreigner. Emilie, with her eyes full of tears, had no
chance of deciphering it.
"Do not hurry yourself, ma'am," said Mrs. Somers. "I will leave you my
letter to show to madame la comtesse, and then you will be so good as
to despatch it.--Mlle. de Coulanges," cried Mrs. Somers, "you will be
so obliging as to refrain from mentioning to the countess the foolish
offer that I made you in my son's name this morning. There is no
necessity for mortifying my pride any farther--a refusal from you is
quite decisive--so pray let there be no consultations. As to the rest,
the blame of our disagreement will of course be thrown upon me."
As Emilie moved towards the door, Mrs. Somers said, "Mlle. de
Coulanges, I beg pardon for calling you back: but should you ever
think of this business or of me, hereafter, you will do me the justice
to remember that I made the proposal to you at a time when I was under
the firm belief that you would never recover an inch of your estates
"And you, dear Mrs. Somers, if you should ever think of me hereafter,"
said Emilie, "will, I hope, remember that my answer was given under
the same belief."
With a look which seemed to refuse assent, Mrs. Somers continued, "I
am as well aware, ma'am, as you, or Mad. de Coulanges, can be, that if
you should recover your hereditary property, the heiress of the house
of Coulanges would be a person to whom my son should not presume to
"Oh, Mrs. Somers! Is not this cruel mockery--undeserved by
me--unworthy of you?"
"Mockery!--Ma'am, it is not three days since your mother was so
positive in her expectations of being in the Hotel de Coulanges before
next winter, that she was almost in fits because I ventured to differ
on this point from her and Lady Littleton--Lady Littleton's judgment
is much better than mine, and has, of course, had its weight--very
justly--But I insist upon your understanding clearly that it had no
weight with me in this affair. Whatever you may imagine, I never
thought of the Coulanges estate."
"Believe me, I never could have imagined that you did. If _I_ could
suspect Mrs. Somers of interested motives," said Emilie, with emotion
so great that she could scarcely articulate the words, "I must be an
unfeeling--an ungrateful idiot!"
"No, not an idiot, Mlle. de Coulanges--nobody can mistake you for an
idiot: but, as I was going to say, if you inquire, Lady Littleton can
tell you that I was absolutely provoked when I first heard you had a
chance of recovering your property--you may smile, ma'am, but it is
perfectly true. I own I might have been more prudent; but prudence,
in affairs of the heart, is not one of my virtues: I own, however,
it would have been more prudent to have refrained from making this
proposal, till you had received a positive answer from France."
"And why?" said Emilie. "Whatever that answer might have been, surely
you must be certain that it would not have made any alteration in
my conduct.--You are silent, Mrs. Somers!--You wound me to the
heart!--Oh! do me justice!--Justice is all I ask."
"I think that I do you justice--full justice--Mlle. de Coulanges; and
if it wounds you to the heart, I am sorry for it; but that is not my
Emilie's countenance suddenly changed from the expression of
supplicating tenderness to haughty indignation. "You doubt my
integrity!" she exclaimed: "then, indeed, Mrs. Somers, it is best that
we should part!"
Mlle. de Coulanges disappeared, and Mrs. Somers shut herself up in her
room, where she walked backwards and forwards for above an hour, then
threw herself upon a sofa, and remained nearly another hour, till Mrs.
Masham came to say that it was time to dress for dinner. She then
started up, saying aloud, "I will think no more of these ungrateful
"They are gone, ma'am," said Mrs. Masham--"gone, and gave no
vails!--which I don't think _on_, upon my own account, God knows! for
if millions were offered me, in pocket-pieces, I would not touch one
from any soul that comes to the house, having enough, and more than
enough, from my own generous lady, who is the only person I stoop to
receive from with pleasure. But there are others in the house who
are accustomed to vails, and, after staying so long, it was a little
ungenteel to go without so much as offering any one any thing--and to
go in such a hurry and huff--taking only a French leave, after all!
I must acknowledge with you, ma'am, that they are the ungratefullest
people that ever were seen in England. Why, ma'am, I went backwards
and forwards often enough into their apartments, to try to make out
the cause of the packings and messages to the washer-woman, that I
might inform you, but nothing transpired; yet I am certain, in their
hearts, they are more black and ungrateful than any that ever were
born; for there!--at the last moment, when even, for old acquaintance
sake, the tears stood in my eyes, there was Miss Emilie, sitting as
composedly as a judge, painting a butterfly's wing on some of her
Frenchifications! Her eyes were red, to do her justice; but whether
with painting or crying, I can't pretend to be certain. But as to Mad.
de Coulanges, I can answer for her that the sole thing in nature
she thought of, in leaving this house, was the bad step of the
"Hackney-coach!" cried Mrs. Somers, with surprise. "Did they go away
in a hackney-coach?"
"Yes, ma'am, much against the countess' stomach, I am sure: I only
wish you had seen the face she made when the glass would not come up."
"But why did not they take my carriage, or wait for Lady Littleton's?
They were, it seems, in a violent hurry to be gone," said Mrs. Somers.
"So it seems, indeed, ma'am--no better proof of their being the most
ungratefullest people in the universe: but so it is, by all accounts,
with all of their nation--the French having no constant hearts for any
thing but singing, and dancing, and dressing, and making merry-andrews
of themselves. Indeed, I own, till to-day, I thought Miss Emilie had
less of the merry-andrew nature than any of her country; but the
butterfly has satisfied me that there is no striving against climate
and natural character, which conquer gratitude and every thing else."
Mrs. Somers sighed, and told Masham that she had said enough upon
this disagreeable subject. At dinner the subject was renewed by many
visitors, who, as soon as they found that Mad. and Mlle. de Coulanges
had left Mrs. Somers, began to find innumerable faults with the French
in general, and with the countess and her daughter in particular. On
the chapter of gratitude they were most severe; and Mrs. Somers was
universally pitied for having so much generosity, and blamed for
having had so much patience. Every body declared that they foresaw
how she would be treated; and the exclamations of wonder at Lady
Littleton's inviting to her house those who had behaved so ill to
her friend were unceasing. Mrs. Somers all the time denied that she
had any cause of complaint against either Mad. de Coulanges or her
daughter; but the company judiciously trusted more to her looks than
her words. Every thing was said or hinted that could exasperate her
against her former favourites: for Mad. de Coulanges had made many
enemies by engrossing an unreasonable share in the conversation; and
Emilie by attracting too great a portion of attention by her beauty
and engaging manners. Malice often overshoots the mark: Mrs. Somers
was at first glad to hear the objects of her indignation abused; but
at last she began to think the profusion of blame greater than was
merited, and when she retired to rest at night, and when Masham began
with "Oh, ma'am! do you know that Mlle. de Coulanges--" Mrs. Somers
interrupted her, and said, "Masham, I desire to hear nothing more
about Mlle. de Coulanges: I have heard her and her mother abused,
without ceasing, these two hours, and that is enough."
"Lord! ma'am, I was not going to abuse them--God forbid! I was just
going to tell you," cried Masham, "that never was any thing so
mistaken as all I said before dinner. Just now, ma'am, when I went
into the little dressing-room, within Mad. de Coulanges' room, and
happened to open the wardrobe, I was quite struck back with shame at
my own unjustice: there, ma'am, poor Miss Emilie left something--and
out of her best things!--to every maid-servant in the house; all
directed in her own hand, and with a good word for each; and this ring
for me, which she is kind enough to say is of no value but to put me
in mind of all the attentions I have shown her and her mother--which,
I am sure, were scarcely worth noticing, especially at such a time
when she had enough to do, and her heart full, no doubt, poor
soul!--There are her little paintings and embroideries, and pretty
things, that she did when she was confined with her sprain, all laid
out in order--'tis my astonishment how she found time!--and directed
to her friends in London, as keep-sakes:--and the very butterfly that
I was so angry with her for staying to finish, is on something for
you, ma'am; and here's a packet that was with it, and that nobody saw
till this minute."
"Give it me!" cried Mrs. Somers. She tore it open, and found, in the
first place, the pocketbook, full of bank notes, which she had given
Mad. de Coulanges, with a few polite but haughty lines from the
countess, saying that only twenty guineas had been used, which she
hoped, at some future period, to be able to repay. Then came a note
from Emilie, in which Mrs. Somers found her own letter to Lady
Littleton. Emilie expressed herself as follows.
"Many thanks for the enclosed, but we have determined not to go to
Lady Littleton's: at least we will take care not to be the cause
of quarrel between friends to whom we are so much obliged.--No,
dear Mrs. Somers! we do not part in anger. Excuse me, if the last
words I said to you were hasty--they were forced from me by a
moment of passion--but it is past: all your generosity, all your
kindness, the recollection of all that you have done, all that you
have wished for my happiness, rush upon my mind; and every other
thought, and every other feeling, is forgotten. Would to Heaven
that I could express to you my gratitude by actions!--but words,
alas! are all that I have in my power--and where shall I find
words that can reach your heart? I had better be silent, and trust
to time and to you. I know your generous temper--you will soon
blame yourself for having judged too severely of Emilie. But
do not reproach yourself--do not let this give you a moment's
uneasiness: the clouds pass away, and the blue sky remains. Think
only--as I ever shall--of your goodness to mamma and to me. Adieu!
"EMILIE DE COULANGES."
Mrs. Somers was much affected by this letter, and by the information
that Emilie and her mother had declined taking refuge with Lady
Littleton, lest they should occasion jealousies between her and her
friend. Generous people are, of all others, the most touched by
generosity of sentiment or of action. Mrs. Somers went to bed, enraged
against herself--but it was now too late.
In the mean time, Emilie and her mother were in an obscure lodging, at
a haberdasher's near Golden Square. The pride of Mad. de Coulanges,
at first, supported her even beyond her daughter's expectations; she
uttered no complaints, but frequently repeated, "Mais nous sommes
bien ici, très bien--we cannot expect to have things as well as at
the Hotel de Coulanges." In a short time she was threatened with fits
of her _vapeurs noirs_; but Emilie, with the assistance of her whole
store of French songs, a bird-organ, a lap-dog, and a squirrel,
belonging to the girl of the house, contrived to avert the danger for
the present--as to the future, she trembled to think of it. M. de
Brisac seemed to be continually in her mother's thoughts; and whatever
occurred, or whatever was the subject of conversation, Mad. de
Coulanges always found means to end with "_à propos de M. de Brisac_."
Faithful to her promise, however, which Emilie, with the utmost
delicacy, recalled to her mind, she declared that she would not give
M. de Brisac an answer till the end of the month, which she had
allowed her daughter for reflection, and that, till that period,
she would not even let him know where they were to be found. Emilie
thought that the time went very fast, and her mother evidently
rejoiced at the idea that the month would soon be at an end. Emilie
endeavoured, with all her skill, to demonstrate to her mother that
it would be possible to support themselves, by her industry and
ingenuity, without this marriage; and to this, Mad. de Coulanges at
first replied, "Try, and you will soon be tired, child." Emilie's
spirits rose on receiving this permission: she began by copying music
for a music-shop in the neighbourhood; and her mother saw, with
astonishment, that she persevered in her design, and that no fatigue
or discouraging circumstances could vanquish her resolution.
"Good Heavens! my child," said she, "you will wear yourself to a
skeleton with copying music, and with painting, and embroidery,
besides stooping so many hours over that tambour frame. My dear, how
can you bear all this?"
"How!--Oh! dear mamma!" said Emilie, "there is no great difficulty in
all this to me--the difficulty, the impossibility would be, to live
happily with a man I despise."
"I wish," cried Mad. de Coulanges, "I wish to all the saints, that
that hero of yours, that fellow-prisoner of ours at the Abbaye, with
his humanity, and his generosity, and his courage, and all his fine
qualities, had kept out of your way, Emilie: I wish he were fairly at
the bottom of the Black Sea."
"But you forget that he was the means of obtaining your liberty,
"I wish I could forget it--I am always doomed to be obliged to those
whom I cannot love. But, after all, you might as well think of the
khan of Tartary as of this man, whom we shall never hear of more.
Marry M. de Brisac, like a reasonable creature, and do not let me see
you bending, as you do, for ever, over a tambour frame, wasting your
fine eyes and spoiling your charming shape."
"But, mamma," said Emilie, "would it not be much worse to marry one
man, and like another?"
"For mercy's sake! say something new to me, Emilie; at all events, I
have heard this a hundred times."
"The simple truth, alas!" said Emilie, "must always be the same: I
wish I could put it in any new light that would please you, dear
"It never can please me, child," cried Mad. de Coulanges, angrily;
"nor can you please me, either, as you are going on. Fine heroism,
truly!--you will sacrifice your duty and your mother to your obstinacy
in an idle fancy. But, remember, the last days of the month are at
hand--longer I will not listen to such provoking nonsense--it has half
killed me already."
Neither lap-dog, squirrel, bird-organ, nor Emilie's whole stock of
French songs, could longer support the vivacity of Mad. de Coulanges;
for some days she had passed the time in watching and listening to the
London cries, as she sat at her window: the figures and sounds in this
busy part of the town were quite new to her; and, whilst the novelty
lasted, she was, like a child, good-humoured and full of exclamations.
The want of some one to listen to these exclamations was an
insupportable evil; she complained terribly of her daughter's silence,
whilst she was attending to her different employments. This want of
conversation, and of all the luxuries she enjoyed at the house of Mrs.
Somers, her anger against that lady, her loss of all hope of hearing
from France, and her fear that Emilie would at last absolutely refuse
to obey and marry M. de Brisac, all together operated so powerfully
upon Mad. de Coulanges, that she really felt sick, and kept her bed.
Emilie now confined herself to her mother's room, and attended her
with the most affectionate care, and with a degree of anxiety, which
those only can comprehend who have believed themselves to be the cause
of the illness of a friend--of a parent. Mad. de Coulanges would
sometimes reply, when her daughter asked her if such or such a thing
had done her good, "No, my child, nothing will do me good but your
obedience, which you refuse me--perhaps on my deathbed."
Though Emilie did not apprehend that her mother was in any immediate
danger, yet these continual fits of low spirits and nervous attacks
excited much alarm. Emilie's reflections on her own helpless situation
contributed to magnify her fears: she considered that she was a
stranger, a foreigner, without friends, without credit, almost without
money, and deprived, by the necessary attendance on her sick mother,
of all power to earn any by her own exertions. The bodily fatigue
that she endured, even without any mental anxiety, would have been
sufficient to wear out the spirits of a more robust person than
Emilie. She had no human being to assist her but a young girl, a
servant-maid belonging to the house, who, fortunately, was active and
good-natured; but her mistress was excessively cross, vulgar, and
avaricious; avarice, indeed, often seemed to conquer in her the common
feelings of humanity. Once, whilst Mad. de Coulanges was extremely
ill, she forced her way into her bedchamber, to insist upon changing
the counterpane upon the bed, which she said was too good to be
stained with coffee: another day, when she was angry with Mlle. de
Coulanges, for having cracked a basin by heating some soup for her
mother, she declared, in the least ceremonious terms possible, that
she hated to have any of the French _refugees_ and emigrants in the
house, for that she was not accustomed to let her lodgings to folk
that nobody ever came near to visit, and that lived only upon soups
and salads, and such low stuff; "and who, when they were ill, never so
much as called in a physician, or even a nurse, but must take up the
time of people that were not bound to wait upon them."
Mlle. de Coulanges bore all this patiently rather than run the
hazard of removing to other lodgings whilst her mother was so ill.
The countess had a prejudice against English physicians, as she
affirmed that it was impossible that they could understand French
constitutions, especially hers, which was different from that of any
other human being, and which, as she said, only one medical man in
France rightly understood. At last, however, she yielded to the
persuasions of her daughter, and permitted Emilie to send for a
physician. When she inquired what he thought of her mother, he said,
that she was in a nervous fever, and that unless her mind was kept
free from anxiety he could not answer for her recovery. Mad. de
Coulanges looked full at her daughter, who was standing at the foot
of her bed; a mist came before Emilie's eyes, a cold dew covered
her forehead, and she was forced to hold by the bed-post to support
At this instant the door opened, and Lady Littleton appeared. Emilie
sprang forward, and threw herself into her arms--Mad. de Coulanges
started up in her bed, exclaiming "Ah Ciel!" and then all were
silent--except the mistress of the house, who went on making apologies
about the dirt of her stairs, and its being Friday night. But as she
at length perceived that not a soul in the room knew a word she was
saying, she retreated. The physician took leave--and, when they were
thus left at liberty, Lady Littleton seated herself in the broken
arm-chair beside the bed, and told Mad. de Coulanges that Mrs. Somers
had been very unhappy, in consequence of their quarrel; and that she
had been indefatigable in her inquiries and endeavours to find out the
place of their retreat; that she had at last given up the search in
despair. "But," continued Lady Littleton, "it has been my good fortune
to discover you by means of this flower of Emilie's painting"--(she
produced a little hand-screen, which Emilie had lately made, and which
she had sent to be disposed of at the Repository for Ingenious Works).
"I knew it to be yours, my dear, because it is an exact resemblance
of one upon your watch of Flora, which was drawn from the flower I
brought you from Kew Gardens. Now you must not be angry with me for
finding you out, nor for begging of you to be reconciled to poor Mrs.
Somers, who has suffered much in your absence--much from the idea of
what you would endure--and more from her self-reproaches. She has,
indeed, an unfortunate susceptibility of temper, which makes her
sometimes forget both politeness and justice: but, as you well know,
her heart is excellent. Come, you must promise me to meet her at my
house, as soon as you are able to go out, my dear Mad. de Coulanges."
"I do not know when that will be," replied Mad. de Coulanges, in a
sick voice: "I was never so ill in my life--and so the physician says.
But I am revived by seeing Lady Littleton--she is, and ever has been,
all goodness and politeness to us. I am ashamed that she should see us
in such a miserable place. Emilie, give me my other night-riband, and
the wretched little looking-glass."
Mad. de Coulanges sat up and arranged her head-dress. At this moment,
Lady Littleton took Emilie aside, and put into her hand a letter from
France!--"I would not speak of it suddenly to your mother, my dear,"
said she; "but you will find the proper time. I hope it contains good
news--at present I will have patience. You shall see me again soon;
and you must, at all events, let me take you from this miserable
place. Mrs. Somers has been punished enough.--Adieu!--I long to know
the news from France."
The news from France was such as made the looking-glass drop from the
hand of Mad. de Coulanges. It was a letter from the son of her old
steward, to tell her that his father was dead--that he was now in
possession of all the family fortune, which he was impatient to
restore to the wife and daughter of his former master and friend.
"Heaven be praised!" exclaimed Mad. de Coulanges, in an ecstasy of
joy--"Heaven be praised! we shall once more see dear Paris, and the
Hotel de Coulanges!"
"Heaven be praised!" cried Emilie, "I shall never more see M. de
Brisac. My mother, I am sure, will no longer wish me to marry him."
"No, in truth," said the countess, "it would now be a most unequal
match, and one to which he is by no means entitled. How fortunate it
is that I had not given him my promise!--After all, your aversion to
him, child, was quite providential. Now you may form the most splendid
alliance that your heart can desire."
"My heart," said Emilie, sighing, "desires no splendid alliance. But
had you not better lie down, dear mamma?--You will certainly catch
cold--and remember, your mind must be kept quiet."
It was impossible to keep her mind quiet; she ran on from one subject
to another with extravagant volubility; and Emilie was afraid that she
would, the next day, be quite exhausted; but, on the contrary, after
talking above half the night, she fell into a sound sleep; and when
she wakened, after having slept fourteen hours, she declared that she
would no longer be kept a prisoner in bed. The renovating effects of
joy and the influence of the imagination were never more strongly
displayed. "Le malheur passé n'est bon qu'à être oublié," was la
comtesse's favourite maxim--and to do her justice, she was as ready to
forget past quarrels as past misfortunes. She readily complied with
Emilie's request that she would, as soon as she was able to go out,
accompany her to Lady Littleton's, that they might meet and be
reconciled to Mrs. Somers.
"She has the most tormenting temper imaginable," said the countess;
"and I would not live with her for the universe--Mais d'ailleurs c'est
la meilleure femme du monde."
If, instead of being the best woman in the world, Mrs. Somers had been
the worst, and if, instead of being a benefactress, she had been an
enemy, it would have been all the same thing to the countess; for,
in this moment, she was, as usual, like a child, a _friend_ to every
creature of every kind.
Her volubility was interrupted by the arrival of Lady Littleton, who
came to carry Mad. de Coulanges and Emilie to her house, where, as
her ladyship said, Mrs. Somers was impatiently waiting for them. Lady
Littleton had prevented her from coming to this poor lodging-house,
because she knew that the being seen there would mortify the pride of
some of the house of Coulanges.
Mrs. Somers was indeed waiting for them with inexpressible impatience.
The moment she heard their voices in the hall at Lady Littleton's, she
ran down stairs to meet them; and as she embraced Emilie she could not
refrain from bursting into tears.
"Tears of joy, these must be," cried Mad. de Coulanges: "we are
all happy now--perfectly happy--Are not we?--Embrace me, Mrs.
Somers--Emilie shall not have all your heart--I have some gratitude
as well as my daughter; and I should have none if I did not love
you--especially at this moment."
Mad. de Coulanges was, by this time, at the head of the stairs; a
servant opened the drawing-room door; but something was amiss with the
strings of her sandals--she would stay to adjust them--and said to
Emilie, "Allez, allez--entrez."
Emilie obeyed. An instant afterwards Mad. de Coulanges thought she
heard a sudden cry, either of joy or grief, from Emilie--she hurried
into the drawing-room.
"Bon Dieu! c'est notre homme de l'Abbaye!" cried she, starting back at
the sight of a gentleman who had been kneeling at Emilie's feet, and
who arose as she entered.
"My son!" said Mrs. Somers, eagerly presenting him to Mad. de
Coulanges--"my son! whom it is in your power to make the happiest or
the most miserable of men!"
"In my power!--in Emilie's, you mean, I suppose," said the countess,
smiling. "She is so good a girl that I cannot make her miserable;
and as for you, Mrs. Somers, the honour of your alliance--and our
obligations--But then I shall be miserable myself if she does not go
back with me to the Hotel de Coulanges--Ah! Ciel!--And then poor M.
de Brisac, he will be miserable, unless, to comfort him, I marry him
myself."--Half laughing, half crying, Mad. de Coulanges scarcely knew
what she said or did.
It was some time before she was sufficiently composed to understand
clearly what was said to her by any person in the room, though she
asked, half a dozen times, at least, from every one present, an
explanation of all that had happened.
Lady Littleton was the only person who could give an explanation. She
had contrived this meeting, and even Mrs. Somers had not foreseen the
event--she never suspected that her own son was the very person to
whom Emilie was attached, and that it was for Emilie's sake her son
had hitherto refused to comply with her earnest desire that he should
marry and settle in the world. He had no hopes that she would consent
to his marrying a French girl without fortune, because she formerly
quarrelled with him for refusing to marry a rich lady of quality, who
happened to be, at that time, high in her favour. Upon the summons
home that he received from her, he was alarmed by the apprehension
that she had some new alliance in view for him, and he resolved,
before he saw his mother, to trust his secret to Lady Littleton, who
had always been a mediatrix and peace-maker. He declined telling the
name of the object of his affections; but, from his description, and
from many concomitant dates and circumstances, Lady Littleton was led
to suspect that it might be Emilie de Coulanges. She consequently
contrived an interview, which she knew must be decisive.
Mad. de Coulanges, whose imagination was now at Paris, felt rather
disappointed at the idea of her daughter's marrying an Englishman, who
was neither a count, a marquis, nor even a baron; but Lady Littleton
at length obtained that consent which she knew would be necessary to
render Emilie happy, even in following the dictates of her heart, or
Some conversation passed between Lady Littleton and Mrs. Somers about
a dormant title in the Somers' family, which might be revived. This
made a wonderful impression on the countess. She yielded, as she did
every thing else, with a good grace.
History does not say, whether she did or did not console M. de Brisac:
we are only informed that, immediately after her daughter's marriage,
she returned to Paris, and gave a splendid ball at her Hotel de
Coulanges. We are further assured that Mrs. Somers never quarrelled
with Emilie from the day of her marriage till the day of her
death--but that is incredible.
THE MODERN GRISELDA.
"And since in man right reason bears the sway,
Let that frail thing, weak woman, have her way."
"Blest as th'immortal gods is he,
The youth who fondly sits by thee,
Who sees and hears thee all the while,
Softly speak and sweetly smile."
"Is not this ode set to music, my dear Griselda?" said the happy
bridegroom to his bride.
"Yes, surely, my dear: did you never hear it?"
"Never; and I am glad of it, for I shall have the pleasure of hearing
it for the first time from you, my love: will you be so kind as to
play it for me?"
"Most willingly," said Griselda, with an enchanting smile; "but I am
afraid that I shall not be able to do it justice," added she, as she
sat down to her harp, and threw her white arm across the chords.
"Charming! Thank you, my love," said the bridegroom, who had listened
with enthusiastic devotion.--"Will you let me hear it once more?"
The complaisant bride repeated the strain.
"Thank you, my dear love," repeated her husband. This time he omitted
the word "_charming_"--she missed it, and, pouting prettily, said,
"I never can play any thing so well the second time as the
first."--She paused: but as no compliment ensued, she continued, in a
more pettish tone, "And for that reason, I do hate to be made to play
any thing twice over."
"I did not know that, my dearest love, or I would not have asked you
to do it; but I am the more obliged to you for your ready compliance."
"Obliged!--Oh, my dear, I am sure you could not be the least obliged
to me, for I know I played it horridly: I hate flattery."
"I am convinced of that, my dear, and therefore I never flatter: you
know I did not say that you played as well the last time as the first,
"No, I did not say you did," cried Griselda, and her colour rose as
she spoke: she tuned her harp with some precipitation--"This harp is
terribly out of tune."
"Is it? I did not perceive it."
"Did not you, indeed? I am sorry for that."
"Why so, my dear?"
"Because, my dear, I own that I would rather have had the blame thrown
on my harp than upon myself."
"Blame? my love!--But I threw no blame either on you or your harp. I
cannot recollect saying even a syllable that implied blame."
"No, my dear, you did not say a syllable; but in some cases the
silence of those we love is the worst, the most mortifying species of
The tears came into Griselda's beautiful eyes.
"My sweet love," said he, "how can you let such a trifle affect you so
"Nothing is a trifle to me which concerns those I love," said
Griselda.--Her husband kissed away the pearly drops which rolled over
her vermeil-tinctured cheeks. "My love," said he, "this is having too
"Yes, I own I have too much sensibility," said she, "too much--a great
deal too much, for my own happiness.--Nothing ever can be a trifle to
me which marks the decline of the affection of those who are most dear
The tenderest protestations of undiminished and unalterable affection
could not for some time reassure this timid sensibility: but at length
the lady suffered herself to be comforted, and with a languid smile
said, that she hoped she was mistaken--that her fears were perhaps
unreasonable--that she prayed to Heaven they might in future prove
A few weeks afterwards her husband unexpectedly met with Mr. Granby,
a friend, of whose company he was particularly fond: he invited him
home to dinner, and was talking over past times in all the gaiety
and innocence of his heart, when suddenly his wife rose and left the
room.--As her absence appeared to him long, and as he had begged his
friend to postpone _an excellent story_ till her return, he went to
her apartment and called "Griselda!--Griselda, my love!"--No Griselda
answered.--He searched for her in vain in every room in the house:
at last, in an alcove in the garden, he found the fair dissolved in
"Good Heavens! my dear Griselda, what can be the matter?"
A melancholy, not to say sullen, silence was maintained by his dear
Griselda, till this question had been reiterated in all the possible
tones of fond solicitude and alarm: at last, in broken sentences, she
replied that she saw he did not love her--never had loved her; that
she had now but too much reason to be convinced that all her fears
were real, not imaginary; that her presentiments, alas! never deceived
her; that she was the most miserable woman on earth.
Her husband's unfeigned astonishment she seemed to consider as an
aggravation of her woes, and it was an additional insult to plead
ignorance of his offence.
If he did not understand her feelings, it was impossible, it was
needless, to explain them. He must have lost all sympathy with her,
all tenderness for her, if he did not know what had passed in her
The man stood in stupid innocence. Provoked to speak more plainly, the
lady exclaimed, "Unfeeling, cruel, barbarous man!--Have not you this
whole day been trying your utmost skill to torment me to death? and,
proud of your success, now you come to enjoy your triumph."
"Yes, triumph!--I see it in your eyes--it is in vain to deny it. All
this I owe to your friend Mr. Granby. Why he should be my enemy!--I
who never injured him, or any body living, in thought, word, or
deed--why he should be my enemy!"--
"Enemy!--My love, this is the strangest fancy! Why should you imagine
that he is your enemy?"
"He _is_ my enemy--nobody shall ever convince me of the contrary;
he has wounded me in the tenderest point, and in the basest manner:
has not he done his utmost, in the most artful, insidious way,--even
before my face,--to persuade you that you were a thousand times
happier when you were a bachelor than you are now--than you ever have
been since you married me?"
"Oh, my dear Griselda, you totally misunderstand him: such a thought
never entered his mind."
"Pardon me, I know him better than you do."
"But I have known him ever since I was a child."
"That is the very reason you cannot judge of him as well as I can: how
could you judge of character when you were a child?"
"But now that I am a man--"
"Now that you are a man you are prejudiced in his favour by all the
associations of your childhood--all those associations," continued the
fair one, renewing her tears, "all those early associations, which are
stronger than every other species of affection--all those associations
which I never _can_ have in your mind, which ever must act against me,
and which no merit--if I had any merit--no tenderness, no fidelity, no
fondness of mine, can ever hope to balance in the heart of the man I
"My dearest Griselda! be reasonable, and do not torment yourself and
me for no earthly purpose about these associations: really it is
ridiculous. Come, dry these useless tears, let me beseech you, my
love. You do not know how much pain they give me, unreasonable as they
At these words they flowed more bitterly.
"Nay, my love, I conjure you to compose yourself, and return to the
company: you do not know how long you have been away, and I too. We
shall be missed; we shall make ourselves ridiculous."
"If it be ridiculous to love, I shall be ridiculous all my life. I am
sorry you think me so; I knew it would come to this; I must bear it if
I can," said Griselda; "only be so kind to excuse me from returning
to the company to-night--indeed I am not fit, I am not able: say that
I am not well; indeed, my love, you may say so with truth.--Tell
your friend that I have a terrible head-ache, and that I am gone
to bed--but not to rest," added she, in a lower and more plaintive
tone, as she drew her hand from her husband's, and in spite of all
his entreaties retired to her room with an air of heart-broken
Whoever has had the felicity to be beloved by such a wife as our
Griselda, must have felt how much the charms of beauty are heightened
by the anguish of sensibility. Even in the moment when a husband is
most tormented by her caprices, he feels that there is something so
amiable, so flattering to his vanity in their source, that he cannot
complain of the killing pleasure. On the contrary, he grows fonder of
his dear tormentor; he folds closer to him this pleasing bosom ill.
Griselda perceived the effects, and felt the whole extent of the power
of sensibility; she had too much prudence, however, at once to wear
out the excitability of a husband's heart; she knew that the influence
of tears, potent as it is, might in time cease to be irresistible,
unless aided by the magic of smiles; she knew the power of contrast
even in charms; she believed the poets, who certainly understand these
things, and who assure us that the very existence of love depends on
this blest vicissitude. Convinced, or seemingly convinced, of the
folly of that fond melancholy in which she persisted for a week, she
next appeared all radiant with joy; and she had reason to be delighted
by the effect which this produced. Her husband, who had not yet been
long enough her husband to cease to be her lover, had suffered much
from the obstinacy of her sorrow; his spirits had sunk, he had become
silent, he had been even seen to stand motionless with his arms
folded; he was in this attitude when she approached and smiled upon
him in all her glory. He breathed, he lived, he moved, he spoke.--Not
the influence of the sun on the statue of Memnon was ever more
Let any candid female say, or, if she will not say, imagine, what she
should have felt at that moment in Griselda's place.--How intoxicating
to human vanity, to be possessed of such powers of enchantment!--How
difficult to refrain from their exercise!--How impossible to believe
in their finite duration!
"_Some_ hope a lover by their faults to win,
As spots on ermine beautify the skin."
When Griselda thought that her husband had long enough enjoyed his new
existence, and that there was danger of his forgetting the taste of
sorrow, she changed her tone.--One day, when he had not returned home
exactly at the appointed minute, she received him with a frown,--such
as would have made even Mars himself recoil, if Mars could have beheld
such a frown upon the brow of his Venus.
"Dinner has been kept waiting for you this hour, my dear."
"I am very sorry for it; but why did you wait, my dear? I am really
very sorry I am so late, but (looking at his watch) it is only half
past six by me."
"It is seven by me."
They presented their watches to each other; he, in an apologetical,
she, in a reproachful attitude.
"I rather think you are too fast, my dear," said the gentleman.
"I am very sure you are too slow, my dear," said the lady.
"My watch never loses a minute in the four-and-twenty hours," said he.
"Nor mine a second," said she.
"I have reason to believe I am right, my love," said the husband,
"Reason!" exclaimed the wife, astonished; "what reason can you
possibly have to believe you are right, when I tell you I am morally
certain you are wrong, my love?"
"My only reason is, that I set my watch by the sun to-day."
"The sun must be wrong, then," cried the lady, hastily.--"You need not
laugh; for I know what I am saying--the variation, the declination,
must be allowed for in computing it with the clock. Now you know
perfectly well what I mean, though you will not explain it for me,
because you are conscious I am in the right."
"Well, my dear, if _you_ are conscious of it, that is sufficient. We
will not dispute any more about such a trifle.--Are they bringing up
"If they know that you are come in; but I am sure I cannot tell
whether they do or not.--Pray, my dear Mrs. Nettleby," cried the
lady, turning to a female friend, and still holding her watch in her
hand, "what o'clock is it by you? There is nobody in the world hates
disputing about trifles as much as I do; but I own I do love to
convince people that I am in the right."
Mrs. Nettleby's watch had stopped. How provoking!--Vexed at having no
immediate means of convincing people that she was in the right, our
heroine consoled herself by proceeding to criminate her husband, not
in this particular instance, where he pleaded guilty, but upon the
general charge of being always late for dinner, which he strenuously
There is something in the species of reproach, which advances thus
triumphantly from particulars to generals, peculiarly offensive to
every reasonable and susceptible mind: and there is something in the
general charge of being always late for dinner, which the punctuality
of man's nature cannot easily endure, especially if he be hungry.
We should humbly advise our female friends to forbear exposing a
husband's patience to this trial, or at least to temper it with much
fondness, else mischief will infallibly ensue. For the first time
Griselda saw her husband angry; but she recovered him by saying, in
a softened tone, "My love, you must be sensible that I can have but
one reason for being so impatient for your return home.--If I liked
your company less, I should not complain so much of your want of
Finding that this speech had the desired effect, it was afterwards
repeated with variations whenever her husband stayed from home to
enjoy any species of amusement, or to gratify any of his friends.
When he betrayed symptoms of impatience under this constraint, the
expostulations became more urgent, if not more forcible.
"Indeed, my dear, I take it rather unkindly of you that you pay so
little attention to my feelings--"
"I see I am of no consequence to you _now_; I find every body's
society is preferred to mine: it was not always so.--Well! it is what
I might have expected--"
Griselda's sighs were still persuasive, and her husband,
notwithstanding that he felt the restraints which daily multiplied
upon his time and upon his personal liberty becoming irksome, had not
the barbarity to give pain to the woman by whom he was so tenderly
beloved. He did not consider that in this case, as well as in many
others, apparent mercy is real cruelty. The more this monopolizing
humour of his wife's was indulged, the more insatiable it became.
Every person, every thing but herself, was to be excluded from his
heart; and when this sole patent for pleasure was granted to her, she
became rather careless in its exercise, as those are apt to be who
fear no competitors. In proportion as her endeavours to please abated,
her expectations of being adored increased: the slightest word of
blame, the most remote hint that any thing in her conduct, manners, or
even dress, could be altered for the better, was the signal for battle
or for tears.
One night she wept for an hour, and debated for two, about an
alteration in her head-dress, which her husband unluckily happened to
say made it more becoming. _More becoming_! implied that it was before
unbecoming. She recollected the time when every thing she wore was
becoming in his eyes--but that time, alas! was completely past; and
she only wished that she could forget that it had ever been.
"To have been happy is additional misery."
This misery may appear comic to some people, but it certainly was
not so to our heroine's unfortunate husband. It was in vain that, in
mitigation of his offence, he pleaded total want of knowledge in the
arcana of the toilette, absolute inferiority of taste, and a willing
submission to the decrees of fashion.
This submission was called indifference--this calmness construed into
contempt. He stood convicted of having said that the lady's dress was
unbecoming--she was certain that he thought more than he said, and
that every thing about her was grown disagreeable to him.
It was in vain he represented that his affection had not been created,
and could not be annihilated, by such trifles; that it rested on the
solid basis of esteem.
"Esteem!" cried his wife--"that is the unkindest stroke of all! When a
man begins to talk of esteem, there is an end of love."
To illustrate this position, the fair one, as well as the disorder of
her mind would permit, entered into a refined disquisition, full of
all the metaphysics of gallantry, which proved that love--genuine
love--is an æthereal essence, a union of souls, regulated by none of
those formal principles, and founded upon none of those vulgar moral
qualities on which friendship, and the other connexions of society,
depend. Far, far above the jurisdiction of reason, true love creates
perfect sympathy in taste, and an absolute identity of opinion upon
all subjects, physical, metaphysical, moral, political, and economic.
After having thus established her theory, her practice was wonderfully
consistent, and she reasonably expected from her husband the most
exact conformity to her principles--of course, his five senses and
his understanding were to be identified with hers. If he saw, heard,
felt, or understood differently from her, he did not, could not, love
her. Once she was offended by his liking white better than black; at
another time she was angry with him for loving the taste of mushrooms.
One winter she quarrelled with him for not admiring the touch of
satin, and one summer she was jealous of him for listening to the song
of a blackbird. Then because he could not prefer to all other odours
the smell of jessamine, she was ready "to die of a rose in aromatic
pain." The domain of taste, in the more enlarged sense of the
word, became a glorious field of battle, and afforded subjects of
inextinguishable war. Our heroine was accomplished, and knew how to
make all her accomplishments and her knowledge of use. As she was
mistress not only of the pencil, but of all "the cant of criticism,"
had infinite advantages in the wordy war. From the _beau ideal_ to
the choice of a snuffer-dish, all came within her province, and was
to be submitted, without appeal, to her instinctive sense of moral
order.--Happy fruits of knowledge!--Happy those who can thus enlarge
their intellectual dominion, and can vary eternally the dear delight
of giving pain. The range of opinion was still more ample than the
province of taste, affording scope for all the joys of assertion
and declamation--for the opposing of learned and unlearned
authorities--for the quoting the opinions of friends--counting voices
instead of arguments--wondering at the absurdity of those who can be
of a different way of thinking--appealing to the judgment of the whole
world--or resting perfectly satisfied with her own. Sometimes the most
important, sometimes the most trivial, and seemingly uninteresting
subjects, gave exercise to Griselda's powers; and in all cases being
entirely of her opinion was the only satisfactory proof of love.
Our heroine knew how, with able generalship, to take advantage of
time and situation.--Just before the birth of their child, which,
by-the-bye, was born dead, a dispute arose between the husband
and wife concerning public and private education, which, from its
vehemence, alarmed the gentleman into a perfect conviction that he was
in the wrong. Scarcely had Griselda gained this point, when a question
arose at the tea-table respecting the Chinese method of making tea. It
was doubted by some of the company whether it was made in a tea-pot or
a tea-cup. Griselda gave her opinion loudly for the tea-pot--her lord
and master inclined to the tea-cup; and as neither of them had been
in China, they could debate without fear of coming to a conclusion.
The subject seemed at first insignificant; but the lady's method of
managing it supplied all deficiencies, and roused all the passions
of human nature on the one side or the other. Victory hung doubtful;
but our heroine won the day by taking time into the account.--Her
adversary was in a hurry to go to meet some person on business, and
quitted the field of battle.
"Self-valuing Fancy, highly-crested Pride,
Strong sovereign Will, and some desire to chide."
"There are," says Dr. Johnson, "a thousand familiar disputes which
reason can never decide; questions that elude investigation, and make
logic ridiculous--cases where something must be done, and where
little can be said.--Wretched would be the pair above all names of
wretchedness who should be doomed to adjust by reason every morning
all the detail of a domestic day."
Our heroine made a double advantage of this passage: for she regularly
reasoned where logic was ridiculous, and could not be prevailed upon
to listen to reason when it might have been useful.--She substituted
her _will_ most frequently for arguments, and often opposed it to her
husband's, in order to give him the merit of sacrificing his wishes.
When he wanted to read, she suddenly wished to walk; when he wished
to walk, she was immersed in her studies. When he was busy, she was
talkative; when he was eager to hear her converse, she was inclined
to be silent. The company that he liked, she disliked; the public
amusements that she most frequented were those of which he least
approved. This species of wilfulness was the strongest proof of her
solicitude about his good opinion.--She could not bear, she said, that
he should consider her as a child, who was not able to govern herself.
She could not believe that a man had confidence in her unless he
proved it by leaving her at liberty to decide and act for herself.
Sometimes she receded, sometimes she advanced in her claims; but
without marking the daily ebbs and flows of her humour, it is
sufficient to observe, that it continually encroached upon her
husband's indulgence. She soon insisted upon being _consulted_, that
is, obeyed, in affairs which did not immediately come under the
cognizance of her sex--politics inclusive. This apparently exorbitant
love of power was veiled under the most affectionate humility.
"Oh, my love! I know you despise my abilities; you think these things
above the comprehension of poor women. I know I am but your plaything
after all: you cannot consider me for a moment as your equal or your
friend--I see that!--You talk of these things to your friend Mr.
Granby--I am not worthy to hear them.--Well, I am sure I have no
ambition, except to possess the confidence of the man I love."
The lady forgot that she had, upon a former occasion, considered
a profession of esteem from her husband as an insult, and that,
according to her definition of true love, esteem was incompatible with
Tacitus remarks, that it is common with princes to will
contradictories; in this characteristic they have the honour to
resemble some of the fair sex, as well as all spoiled children. Having
every feasible wish gratified, they are obliged to wish for what
is impossible, for want of something to desire or to do: they are
compelled to cry for the moon, or for new worlds to conquer.--Our
heroine having now attained the summit of human glory and happiness,
and feeling almost as much ennui as was expressed by the conqueror
of the world, yawned one morning, as she sat tête-à-tête with her
husband, and said--
"I wish I knew what was the matter with me this morning.--Why do you
keep the newspaper all to yourself, my dear?"
"Here it is for you, my dear: I have finished it."
"I humbly thank you for giving it to me when you have done with it--I
hate stale news.--Is there any thing in the paper? for I cannot be at
the trouble of hunting it."
"Yes, my dear, there are the marriages of two of our friends--"
"Your friend the Widow Nettleby, to her cousin John Nettleby."
"Mrs. Nettleby! Lord! but why did you tell me?"
"Because you asked me, my dear."
"Oh! but it is a hundred times pleasanter to read the paragraph one's
self: one loses all the pleasure of the surprise by being told.--Well!
whose was the other marriage?"
"Oh! my dear, I will not tell you--I will leave you the pleasure of
"But you see I cannot guess it.--How provoking you are, my dear! Do
pray tell it me."
"Our friend Mr. Granby."
"Mr. Granby!--Dear! Why did not you make me guess? I should have
guessed him directly: but why do you call him our friend? I am sure he
is no friend of mine, nor ever was; I took an aversion to him, as you
may remember, the very first day I saw him: I am sure he is no friend
"I am sorry for it, my dear; but I hope you will go and see Mrs.
"Not I, indeed, my dear.--Who was she?"
"Cooke!--but there are so many Cookes.--Can't you distinguish her any
way?--Has she no Christian name?"
"Emma, I think--yes, Emma."
"Emma Cooke!--No; it cannot be my friend Emma Cooke--for I am sure she
was cut out for an old maid."
"This lady seems to me to be cut out for a good wife."
"May be so--I am sure I'll never go to see her--Pray, my dear, how
came you to see so much of her?"
"I have seen very little of her, my dear: I only saw her two or three
times before she was married."
"Then, my dear, how could you decide that she is cut out for a good
wife?--I am sure you could not judge of her by seeing her only two or
three times, and before she was married."
"Indeed, my love, that is a very just observation."
"I understand that compliment perfectly, and thank you for it, my
dear.--I must own I can bear any thing better than irony."
"Irony! my dear; I was perfectly in earnest."
"Yes, yes; in earnest--so I perceive--I may naturally be dull of
apprehension, but my feelings are quick enough: I comprehend you too
well. Yes--it is impossible to judge of a woman before marriage, or
to guess what sort of a wife she will make. I presume you speak from
experience; you have been disappointed yourself, and repent your
"My dear, what did I say that was like this? Upon my word I meant no
such thing; I really was not thinking of you in the least."
"No--you never think of me now: I can easily believe that you were not
thinking of me in the least."
"But I said that only to prove to you that I could not be thinking ill
of you, my dear."
"But I would rather that you thought ill of me than that you did not
think of me at all."
"Well, my dear," said her husband, laughing, "I will even think ill of
you, if that will please you."
"Do you laugh at me?" cried she, bursting into tears. "When it comes
to this, I am wretched indeed! Never man laughed at the woman he
loved! As long as you had the slightest remains of love for me,
you could not make me an object of derision: ridicule and love are
incompatible, absolutely incompatible. Well, I have done my best, my
very best, to make you happy, but in vain. I see I am not _cut out_ to
be a good wife. Happy, happy Mrs. Granby!"
"Happy I hope sincerely that she will be with my friend; but my
happiness must depend on you, my love; so, for my sake, if not for
your own, be composed, and do not torment yourself with such fancies."
"I do wonder," cried our heroine, starting from her seat, "whether
this Mrs. Granby is really that Miss Emma Cooke. I'll go and see her
directly; see her I must."
"I am heartily glad of it, my dear; for I am sure a visit to his wife
will give my friend Granby real pleasure."
"I promise you, my dear, I do not go to give him pleasure, or you
either; but to satisfy my own--_curiosity_."
The rudeness of this speech would have been intolerable to her husband
if it had not been for a certain hesitation in the emphasis with which
she pronounced the word curiosity, which left him in doubt as to her
Jealousy is sometimes thought to be a proof of love; and, in
this point of view, must not all its caprices, absurdities, and
extravagances, be graceful, amiable, and gratifying?
A few days after Griselda had satisfied her curiosity, she thus, in
the presence of her husband, began to vent her spleen:
"For Heaven's sake, dear Mrs. Nettleby," cried she, addressing herself
to the new-married widow, who came to return her wedding visit--"for
pity's sake, dear Mrs. Nettleby, can you or any body else tell me what
possessed Mr. Granby to marry Emma Cooke?"
"I am sure I cannot tell, for I have not seen her yet."
"You will be less able to tell after you have seen her, and still less
after you have heard her."
"What, then, she is neither a wit nor a beauty! I'm quite surprised at
that; for I thought, to be sure, Mr. Granby, who is such a judge and
such a critic, and so nice about female manners, would not have been
content without something very extraordinary."
"Nothing can be more ordinary."
"Astonishing! but I am quite tired of being astonished at marriages!
One sees such strange matches every day, I am resolved never to be
surprised at any thing: who _can_, that lives in the world? But really
now I am surprised at Mr. Granby. What! is she nothing?"
"Nothing--absolutely nothing; a cipher; a nonentity."
"Now really? you do not tell me so," said Mrs. Nettleby. "Well, I am
so disappointed; for I always resolved to take example by Mr. Granby's
"I would rather that she should take warning by me," said Griselda,
laughing. "But to be candid, I must tell you that to some people's
taste she is a pattern wife--a perfect Grizzle. She and I should have
changed names--or characters. Which, my dear?" cried she, appealing to
"Not names, my dear," answered he.
The conversation might here have ended happily, but unluckily our
heroine could not be easily satisfied before Mrs. Nettleby, to whom
she was proud of showing her conjugal ascendancy.
"My dear," said she to her husband, "a-propos to pattern wives: you
have read Chaucer's Tales. Do you seriously like or dislike the real,
original, old Griselda?"
"It is so long since I have seen her that I cannot tell," replied he.
"Then, my dear, you must read the story over again, and tell me
"And if he could read it before Mrs. Granby and me, what a compliment
that would be to one bride," added the malicious Mrs. Nettleby, "and
what a lesson for another!"
"Oh, it must be so! it must be so!" cried Griselda. "I will ask her
here on purpose to a reading party; and you, my dear Mrs. Nettleby,
will come for your lesson. You, my love, who read so well--and who,
I am sure, will be delighted to pay a compliment to your favourite,
Mrs. Granby--you will read, and I will--weep. On what day shall it be?
Let me see: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, I'm engaged: but Sunday is only a party at home; I can put
that off:--then Sunday let it be."
"Sunday, I am unluckily engaged, my dear," said her husband.
"Engaged? Oh, nonsense! You have no engagements of any consequence:
and when I put off _my_ party on purpose to have the pleasure of
hearing you read, oblige me, my love, for once."
"My love, to oblige you, I will do any thing."
Griselda cast a triumphant glance at Mrs. Nettleby, which said as
plainly as a look could say, "You see how I rule him!"
"Feels every vanity in fondness lost,
And asks no power but that of pleasing most."
On Sunday evening a large company assembled at our heroine's summons.
They were all seated in due form: the reader with his book open, and
waiting for the arrival of the bride, for whom a conspicuous place was
destined, where the spectators, and especially Mrs. Nettleby and our
Griselda, could enjoy a full view of her countenance.
"Lord bless me! it is getting late: I am afraid--I am really afraid
Mrs. Granby will not come."
The ladies had time to discuss who and what she was: as she had lived
in the country, few of them had seen, or could tell any thing about
her; but our heroine circulated her opinion in whispers, and every
one was prepared to laugh at _the pattern wife, the original Griselda
revived_, as Mrs. Nettleby sarcastically called her.
Mrs. Granby was announced. The buzz was hushed and the titter
suppressed; affected gravity appeared in every countenance, and
all eyes turned with malicious curiosity upon the bride as she
entered.--The timidity of Emma's first appearance was so free both
from awkwardness and affectation, that it interested at least every
gentleman present in her favour. Surrounded by strangers, but quite
unsuspicious that they were prepared to consider her as an object of
ridicule or satire, she won her way to the lady of the house, to whom
she addressed herself as to a friend.
"Is not she quite a different person from what you had expected?"
whispered one of the ladies to her neighbour, as Emma passed. Her
manner seemed to solicit indulgence rather than to provoke envy. She
was very sorry to find that the company had been waiting for her; she
had been detained by the sudden illness of Mr. Granby's mother.
Whilst Emma was making this apology, some of the audience observed
that she had a remarkably sweet voice; others discovered that there
was something extremely feminine in her person. A gentleman, who saw
that she was distressed at the idea of being seated in the conspicuous
place to which she was destined by the lady of the house, got up, and
offered his seat, which she most thankfully accepted.
"Oh, my dear Mrs. Granby, I cannot possibly allow you to sit there,"
cried the lady of the house. "You must have the honours of the day,"
added she, seizing Emma's hand to conduct her to the _place of
"Pray excuse me," said Mrs. Granby, "honours are so little suited to
me: I am perfectly well here."
"But with that window _at your back_, my dear madam!" said Mrs.
"I do not feel the slightest breath of air. But perhaps I crowd these
"Not in the least, not in the least," said the ladies, who were on
each side of her: they were won by the irresistible gentleness of
Emma's manner. Our heroine was vexed to be obliged to give up her
point; and relinquishing Mrs. Granby's hand, returned to her own seat,
and said in a harsh tone to her husband,
"Well! my dear, if we are to have any reading to-night, you had better
The reading began; and Emma was so completely absorbed, that she did
not perceive that most of the audience were intent upon her. Those who
act any part may be ridiculous in the playing it, but those are safe
from the utmost malignity of criticism who are perfectly unconscious
that they have any part to perform. Emma had been abashed at her first
appearance in an assembly of strangers, and concerned by the idea that
she had kept them waiting; but as soon as this embarrassment passed
over, her manners resumed their natural ease--a degree of ease which
surprised her judges, and which arose from the persuasion that she
was not of sufficient consequence to attract attention. Our heroine
was provoked by the sight of this insolent tranquillity, and was
determined that it should not long continue. The reader came to the
promise which Gualtherus exacts from his bride:--
"Swear that with ready will, and honest heart,
Like or dislike, without regret or art,
In presence or alone, by night or day,
All that I will, you fail not to obey;
All I intend to forward, that you seek,
Nor ever once object to what I speak.
Nor yet in part alone my wish fulfil;
Nor though you do it, do it with ill-will;
Nor with a forced compliance half refuse;
And acting duty, all the merit lose.
To strict obedience add a willing grace,
And let your soul be painted in your face;
No reasons given, and no pretences sought,
To swerve in deed or word, in look or thought."
"Well, ladies!" cried the modern Griselda, "what do you think of
Shrill exclamations of various vehemence expressed with one accord the
sentiments, or rather feelings, of almost all the married ladies who
"Abominable! Intolerable! Insufferable! Horrible! I would rather have
seen the man perish at my feet; I would rather have died: I would have
remained unmarried all my life rather than have submitted to such
A few young unmarried ladies who had not spoken, or who had not
been heard to speak in the din of tongues, were appealed to by the
gentlemen next them. They could not be prevailed upon to pronounce any
distinct opinion: they qualified, and hesitated, and softened, and
equivocated, and "were not positively able to judge, for really they
had never thought upon the subject."
Upon the whole, however, it was evident that they did not betray that
natural horror which pervaded the more experienced matrons. All agreed
that the terms were "hard terms," and ill expressed: some added, that
only love could persuade a woman to submit to them: and some still
more sentimental maidens, in a lower voice, were understood to say,
that as nothing is impossible to Cupid, they might be induced to
such submission; but that it must be by a degree of love which they
solemnly declared they had never felt or could imagine as yet.
"For my part," cried the modern Griselda, "I would sooner have lived
an old maid to the days of Methusalem than have been so mean as to
have married any man on earth upon such terms. But I know there are
people who can never think 'marriage dear-bought.' My dear Mrs.
Granby, we have not yet heard your opinion, and we should have had
yours first, as bride."
"I forgot that I was bride," said Emma.
"Forgot! Is it possible?" cried Mrs. Nettleby: "now this is an excess
of modesty of which I have no notion."
"But for which Mr. Granby," continued our heroine, turning to Mr.
Granby, who at this moment entered the room, "ought to make his best
bow. Here is your lady, sir, who has just assured us that she forgot
she was a bride: bow to this exquisite humility."
"Exquisite vanity!" cried Mr. Granby; "she knows
"'How much the wife is dearer than the bride.'"
"She will be a singularly happy woman if she knows _that_ this time
twelvemonth," replied our heroine, darting a reproachful look at her
silent husband. "In the mean time, do let us hear Mrs. Granby speak
for herself; I must have her opinion of Griselda's promise to obey her
lord, right or wrong, in all things, no reasons given, to submit in
deed, and word, and look, and thought. If Mrs. Granby tells us that is
her theory, we must all reform our practice."
Every eye was fixed upon Emma, and every ear was impatient for her
"I should never have imagined," said she, smiling, "that any person's
practice could be influenced by my theory, especially as I have no
"No more humility, my dear; if you have no theory, you have an opinion
of your own, I hope, and we must have a distinct answer to this simple
question: Would you have made the promise that was required from
"No," answered Emma; "distinctly no; for I could never have loved or
esteemed the man who required such a promise."
Disconcerted by this answer, which was the very reverse of what she
expected; amazed at the modest self-possession with which the timid
Emma spoke, and vexed by the symptoms of approbation which Emma's
words and voice excited, our heroine called upon her husband, in a
more than usually authoritative tone, and bid him--read on.
He obeyed. Emma became again absorbed in the story, and her
countenance showed how much she felt all its beauties, and all its
pathos. Emma did all she could to repress her feelings; and our
heroine all she could to make her and them ridiculous. But in this
attempt she was unsuccessful; for many of the spectators, who at her
instigation began by watching Emma's countenance to find subject for
ridicule, ended by sympathizing with her unaffected sensibility.
When the tale was ended, the modern Griselda, who was determined
to oppose as strongly as possible the charms of spirit to those of
sensibility, burst furiously forth into an invective against the
meanness of her namesake, and the tyranny of the odious Gualtherus.
"_Could_ you have forgiven him, Mrs. Granby? could you have forgiven
"He repented," said Emma; "and does not a penitent cease to be a
"Oh, I never, never would have forgiven him, penitent or not penitent;
I would not have forgiven him such sins."
"I would not have put it into his power to commit them," said Emma.
"I confess the story never touched me in the least," cried our
"Perhaps for the same reason that Petrarch's friend said that he read
it unmoved," replied Mrs. Granby: "because he could not believe that
such a woman as Griselda ever existed."
"No, no, not for that reason: I believe many such poor, meek,
mean-spirited creatures exist."
Emma was at length wakened to the perception of her friend's envy and
"She mild forgave the failing of her sex."
"I cannot admire the original Griselda, or any of her imitators,"
continued our heroine.
"There is no great danger of her finding imitators in these days,"
said Mr. Granby. "Had Chaucer lived in our enlightened times, he would
doubtless have drawn a very different character."
The modern Griselda looked "fierce as ten furies." Emma softened her
husband's observation by adding, "that allowance should certainly be
made for poor Chaucer, if we consider the times in which he wrote.
The situation and understandings of women have been so much improved
since his days. Women were then slaves, now they are free. My dear,"
whispered she to her husband, "your mother is not well; shall we go
Emma left the room; and even Mrs. Nettleby, after she was gone, said,
"Really she is not ugly when she blushes."
"No woman is ugly when she blushes," replied our heroine; "but,
unluckily, a woman cannot _always_ blush."
Finding that her attempt to make Emma ridiculous had failed, and that
it had really placed Mrs. Granby's understanding, manners, and temper
in a most advantageous and amiable light, Griselda was mortified
beyond measure. She could scarcely bear to hear Emma's name mentioned.
"She that can please, is certain to persuade,
To-day is lov'd, to-morrow is obey'd."
A few days after the reading party, Griselda was invited to spend an
evening at Mrs. Granby's.
"I shall not go," said she, throwing down the card with an air of
"I shall go," said her husband, calmly.
"You will go, my dear!" cried she, amazed. "You will go without _me_?"
"Not without you, if you will be so kind as to go with me, my love,"
"It is quite out of my power," said she: "I am engaged to my friend,
"Very well, my dear," said he; "do as you please."
"Certainly I shall. And I am surprised, my dear, that you do not go to
see Mr. John Nettleby."
"I have no desire to see him, my dear. He is, as I have often heard
you say, an obstinate fool. He is a man I dislike particularly."
"Very possibly; but you ought to go to see him notwithstanding."
"Why so, my dear?"
"Because he is married to a woman I like. If you had any regard for
me, your own feelings would have saved you the trouble of asking that
"But, my dear, should not your regard for me also suggest to you the
propriety of keeping up an acquaintance with Mrs. Granby, who is
married to a man I like, and who is not herself an obstinate fool?"
"I shall not enter into any discussion upon the subject," replied our
heroine; for this was one of the cases where she made it a rule never
to reason. "I can only say that I have my own opinion, and that I beg
to be excused from keeping up any acquaintance whatever with Mrs.
"And I beg to be excused from keeping up any acquaintance whatever
with Mr. Nettleby," replied her husband.
"Good Heavens!" cried she, raising herself upon the sofa, on which
she had been reclining, and fixing her eyes upon her husband, with
unfeigned astonishment: "I do not know you this morning, my dear."
"Possibly not, my dear," replied he; "for hitherto you have seen only
your lover; now you see your husband."
Never did metamorphosis excite more astonishment. The lady was utterly
unconscious that she had had any part in producing it--that she had
herself dissolved the spell. She raged, she raved, she reasoned, in
vain. Her point she could not compass. Her cruel husband persisted
in his determination not to go to see Mr. John Nettleby. Absolutely
astounded, she was silent. There was a truce for some hours. She
renewed the attack in the evening, and ceased not hostilities for
three succeeding days and nights, in reasonable hopes of wearying the
enemy, still without success.
The morning rose, the great, the important day, which was to decide
the fate of the visit. The contending parties met as usual at
breakfast; they seemed mutually afraid of each other, and stood at
bay. There was a forced calm in the gentleman's demeanour--treacherous
smiles played upon the lady's countenance. He seemed cautious to
prolong the suspension of hostilities--she fond to anticipate the
victory. The name of Mrs. Granby, or of Mr. John Nettleby, was not
uttered by either party, nor did either inquire where the other was
to spend the evening. At dinner they met again, and preserved on this
delicate subject a truly diplomatic silence; whilst on the topics
foreign to their thoughts, they talked with admirable fluency:
actuated by as sincere desire as ever was felt by negotiating
politicians to establish peace on the broadest basis, they were,
_with the most perfect consideration_, each other's devoted, and most
obedient humble servants. Candour, however, obliges us to confess,
that though the deference on the part of the gentleman was the most
unqualified and praiseworthy, the lady was superior in her inimitable
air of frank cordiality. The _volto sciolto_ was in her favour, the
_pensieri stretti_ in his. Any one but an ambassador would have been
deceived by the husband; any one but a woman would have been duped by
So stood affairs when, after dinner, the high and mighty powers
separated. The lady retired to her toilette. The gentleman remained
with his bottle. He drank a glass of wine extraordinary. She stayed
half an hour more than usual at her mirror. Arrayed for battle, our
heroine repaired to the drawing-room, which she expected to find
unoccupied;--the enemy had taken the field.
"Dressed, my dear?" said he.
"Ready, my love!" said she.
"Shall I ring the bell for your carriage, my dear?" said the husband.
"If you please. You go with me, my dear?" said the wife.
"I do not know where you are going, my love."
"To Mrs. Nettleby's of course,--and you?"
"To Mrs. Granby's."
The lightning flashed from Griselda's eyes, ere he had half pronounced
the words. The lightning flashed without effect.
"To Mrs. Granby's!" cried she, in a thundering tone. "To Mrs.
Granby's!" echoed he. She fell back on the sofa, and a shower of tears
ensued. Her husband walked up and down the room, rang again for the
carriage, ordered it in the tone of a master. Then hummed a tune. The
fair one sobbed: he continued to sing, but was out in the time. The
lady's sobs grew alarming, and threatened hysterics. He threw open
the window, and approached the sofa on which she lay. She, half
recovering, unclasped one bracelet; in haste to get the other off, he
broke it. The footman came in to announce that the carriage was at the
door. She relapsed, and seemed in danger of suffocation from her pearl
necklace, which she made a faint effort to loosen from her neck.
"Send your lady's woman instantly," cried Griselda's husband to the
Our heroine made another attempt to untie her necklace, and looked
up towards her husband with supplicating eyes. His hands trembled;
he entangled the strings. It would have been all over with him if
the maid had not at this instant come to his assistance. To her he
resigned his perilous post; retreated precipitately; and before the
enemy's forces could rally, gained his carriage, and carried his
"To Mr. Granby's!" cried he, triumphantly. Arrived there, he hurried
to Mr. Granby's room.
"Another such victory," cried he, throwing himself into an arm-chair,
"another such victory, and I am undone."
He related all that had just passed between him and his wife.
"Another such combat," said his friend, "and you are at peace for
We hope that our readers will not, from this speech, be induced to
consider Mr. Granby as an instigator of quarrels between man and wife;
or, according to the plebeian but expressive apophthegm, one who would
come between the bark and the tree. On the contrary, he was most
desirous to secure his friend's domestic happiness; and, if possible,
to prevent the bad effects which were likely to ensue from excessive
indulgence, and inordinate love of dominion. He had a high respect for
our heroine's powers, and thought that they wanted only to be well
managed. The same force which, ill-directed, bursts the engine, and
scatters destruction, obedient to the master-hand, answers a thousand
useful purposes, and works with easy, smooth, and graceful regularity.
Griselda's husband, or, as he now deserves to have his name mentioned,
Mr. Bolingbroke, roused by his friend's representations, and perhaps
by a sense of approaching danger, resolved to assume the guidance of
his wife, or at least--of himself. In opposition to his sovereign
lady's will, he actually spent this evening as he pleased.
"E sol quei giorni io mi vidi contenta,
Ch'averla compiaciuto mi trovai."
"You are a great deal more courageous than I am, my dear," said Emma
to her husband, after Mr. Bolingbroke had left them. "I should be very
much afraid of interfering between your friend and his wife."
"What is friendship," said Mr. Granby, "if it will run no risks? I
must run the hazard of being called a mischief-maker."
"That is not the danger of which I was thinking," said Emma; "though I
confess that I should be weak enough to fear that a little: but what I
meant to express was an apprehension of our doing harm where we most
wish to do good."
"Do you, my dear Emma, think Griselda incorrigible?"
"No, indeed," cried Emma, with anxious emphasis; "far from it. But
without thinking a person incorrigible, may we not dislike the idea
of inflicting correction? I should be very sorry to be the means of
giving Griselda any pain; she was my friend when we were children; I
have a real regard for her, and if she does not now seem disposed to
love me, that must be my fault, not hers: or if it is not my fault,
call it my misfortune. At all events, I have no right to force myself
upon her acquaintance. She prefers Mrs. Nettleby; I have not the false
humility to say, that I think Mrs. Nettleby will prove as safe or as
good a friend as I hope I should he. But of this Mrs. Bolingbroke has
a right to judge. And I am sure, far from resenting her resolution to
avoid my acquaintance, my only feeling about it, at this instant, is
the dread that it should continue to be a matter of dispute between
her and her husband."
"If Mr. Bolingbroke insisted, or if I advised him to insist upon his
wife's coming here, when she does not like it," said Mr. Granby,
"I should act absurdly, and he would act unjustly; but all that he
requires is equality of rights, and the liberty of going where _he_
pleases. She refuses to come to see you: he refuses to go to see Mr.
John Nettleby. Which has the best of the battle?"
Emma thought it would be best if there were no battle; and observed,
that refusals and reprisals would only irritate the parties, whose
interest and happiness it was to be pacified and to agree. She said,
that if Mr. Bolingbroke, instead of opposing his will to that of his
wife, which, in fact, was only conquering force by force, would speak
reasonably to her, probably she might be induced to yield, or to
command her temper. Mrs. Granby suggested, that a compromise, founded