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   Chapter 15 MY WIFE GOES TO A DANCE

Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C By Gustave Droz Characters: 13865

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


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

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

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

Monsieur-A mystery?

Madame-Yes, Monsieur, I have a little surprise for you, and I fancy that it will delight you.

Monsieur-Well, what is the surprise?

Madame-Oh! it is a real surprise. How curious you look! your eyes are glittering already. Suppose I were not to tell you anything?

Monsieur-Then you would vex me very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monsieur-(raising his hands aloft)-I thought so. She and her evening may go to the dogs. What have I done to this woman that she should so pester me?

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

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

Madame-When is what?

Monsieur-The party, of course.

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

Monsieur-(stopping short)-What! this party is a ball, and this ball is for this evening. But, hang it! people don't invite you to a ball like that. They always give notice some time beforehand.

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

Monsieur-You forgot! you forgot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monsieur-What would you do in my place, dear?

Madame-I should-kiss my wife.

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

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

Monsieur-Why, for Madame de Lyr's-

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

Monsieur-And the hairdresser, has he been sent for?

Madame-No, he has not been sent for; but I am not anxious to go to this ball. We will settle down by the fireside, read a little, and go to bed early. You remind me, however, that, on leaving, Madame de Lyr did say, "Your hairdresser is the same as mine, I will send him word." How stupid I am; I remember now that I did not answer her. But it is not far, I can send Marie to tell him not to come.

Monsieur-Since this blessed hair

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

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

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

Madame-Au revoir.

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

In the courtyard the carriage is standing waiting.

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

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

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

Monsieur-The monster!

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

There is a ring. The door opens and the lady's-maid exclaims, "It is he, Madame!"

Madame-It is he!

Monsieur-It is he!

The artist enters hurriedly and bows while turning his sleeves up.

Madame-My dear Silvani, this is unbearable.

Silvani-Very sorry, very, but could not come any sooner. I have been dressing hair since three o'clock in the afternoon. I have just left the Duchesse de W., who is going to the Ministry this evening. She sent me home in her brougham. Lisette, give me your mistress's combs, and put the curling-tongs in the fire.

Madame-But, my dear Silvani, my maid's name is not Lisette.

Silvani-You will understand, Madame, that if I had to remember the names of all the lady's-maids who help me, I should need six clerks instead of four. Lisette is a pretty name which suits all these young ladies very well. Lisette, show me your mistress's dress. Good. Is the ball an official one?

Madame-But dress my hair, Silvani.

Silvani-It is impossible for me to dress your hair, Madame, unless I know the circle in which the coiffure will be worn. (To the husband, seated in the corner.) May I beg you, Monsieur, to take another place? I wish to be able to step back, the better to judge the effect.

Monsieur-Certainly, Monsieur Silvani, only too happy to be agreeable to you. (He sits down on a chair.)

Madame-(hastily)-Not there, my dear, you will rumple my skirt. (The husband gets up and looks for another seat.) Take care behind you, you are stepping on my bustle.

Monsieur-(turning round angrily)-Her bustle! her bustle!

Madame-Now you go upsetting my pins.

Silvani-May I beg a moment of immobility, Madame?

Monsieur-Come, calm yourself, I will go into the drawing-room; is there a fire there?

Madame-(inattentively)-But, my dear, how can you expect a fire to be in the drawing-room?

Monsieur-I will go to my study, then.

Madame-There is none there, either. What do you want a fire in your study for? What a singular idea! High up, you know, Silvani, and a dash of disorder, it is all the rage.

Silvani-Would you allow a touch of brown under the eyes? That would enable me to idealize the coiffure.

Monsieur-(impatiently)-Marie, give me my top-coat and my cap. I will walk up and down in the anteroom. (Aside.) Madame de Lyr shall pay for this.

Silvani-(crimping)-I leave your ear uncovered, Madame; it would be a sin to veil it. It is like that of the Princesse de K., whose hair I dressed yesterday. Lisette, get the powder ready. Ears like yours, Madame, are not numerous.

Madame-You were saying-

Silvani-Would your ear, Madame, be so modest as not to listen?

Madame's hair is at length dressed. Silvani sheds a light cloud of scented powder over his work, on which he casts a lingering look of satisfaction, then bows and retires.

In passing through the anteroom, he runs against Monsieur, who is walking up and down.

Silvani-A thousand pardons, I have the honor to wish you good night.

Monsieur-(from the depths of his turned-up collar) Good-night.

A quarter of an hour later the sound of a carriage is heard. Madame is ready, her coiffure suits her, she smiles at herself in the glass as she slips the glove-stretchers into the twelve-button gloves.

Monsieur has made a failure of his necktie and broken off three buttons. Traces of decided ill-humor are stamped on his features.

Monsieur-Come, let us go down, the carriage is waiting; it is a quarter past eleven. (Aside.) Another sleepless night. Sharp, coachman; Rue de la Pepiniere, number 224.

They reach the street in question. The Rue de la Pepiniere is in a tumult. Policemen are hurriedly making way through the crowd. In the distance, confused cries and a rapidly approaching, rumbling sound are heard. Monsieur thrusts his head out of the window.

Monsieur-What is it, Jean?

Coachman-A fire, Monsieur; here come the firemen.

Monsieur-Go on all the same to number 224.

Coachman-We are there, Monsieur; the fire is at number 224.

Doorkeeper of the House-(quitting a group of people and approaching the carriage)-You are, I presume, Monsieur, one of the guests of Madame de Lyr? She is terror-stricken; the fire is in her rooms. She can not receive any one.

Madame-(excitedly)-It is scandalous.

Monsieur-(humming)-Heart-breaking, heartbreaking! (To the coachman.) Home again, quickly; I am all but asleep. (He stretches himself out and turns up his collar.) ( Aside.) After all, I am the better for a well-cooked partridge.

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