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   Chapter 21 A LONGING

Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C By Gustave Droz Characters: 10603

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


MONSIEUR and MADAME are quietly sitting together-The clock has just

struck ten-MONSIEUR is in his dressing-gown and slippers, is

leaning back in an armchair and reading the newspaper-MADAME is

carelessly working squares of laces.

Madame-Such things have taken place, have they not, dear?

Monsieur-(without raising his eyes)-Yes, my dear.

Madame-There, well I should never have believed it. But they are monstrous, are they not?

Monsieur-(without raising his eyes)-Yes, my dear.

Madame-Well, and yet, see how strange it is, Louise acknowledged it to me last month, you know; the evening she called for me to go to the perpetual Adoration, and our hour of adoration, as it turned out, by the way, was from six to seven; impossible, too, to change our turn; none of the ladies caring to adore during dinner-time, as is natural enough. Good heavens, what a rage we were in! How good God must be to have forgiven you. Do you remember?

Monsieur-(continuing to read)-Yes, dear.

Madame-Ah! you remember that you said, 'I don't care a...' Oh! but I won't repeat what you said, it is too naughty. How angry you were! 'I will go and dine at the restaurant, confound it!' But you did not say confound, ha! ha! ha! Well, I loved you just the same at that moment; it vexed me to see you in a rage on God's account, but for my own part I was pleased; I like to see you in a fury; your nostrils expand, and then your moustache bristles, you put me in mind of a lion, and I have always liked lions. When I was quite a child at the Zoological Gardens they could not get me away from them; I threw all my sous into their cage for them to buy gingerbread with; it was quite a passion. Well, to continue my story. (She looks toward her husband who is still reading, and after a pause,) Is it interesting-that which you are reading?

Monsieur-(like a man waking up)-What is it, my dear child? What I am reading? Oh, it would scarcely interest you. (With a grimace.) There are Latin phrases, you know, and, besides, I am hoarse. But I am listening, go, on. (He resumes his newspaper.)

Madame-Well, to return to the perpetual Adoration, Louise confided to me, under the pledge of secrecy, that she was like me.

Monsieur-Like you? What do you mean?

Madame-Like me; that is plain enough.

Monsieur-You are talking nonsense, my little angel, follies as great as your chignon. You women will end by putting pillows into your chignons.

Madame-(resting her elbows on her husband's knees)-But, after all, the instincts, the resemblances we have, must certainly be attributed to something. Can any one imagine, for instance, that God made your cousin as stupid as he is, and with a head like a pear?

Monsieur-My cousin! my cousin! Ferdinand is only a cousin by marriage. I grant, however, that he is not very bright.

Madame-Well, I am sure that his mother must have had a longing, or something.

Monsieur-What can I do to help it, my angel?

Madame-Nothing at all; but it clearly shows that such things are not to be laughed at; and if I were to tell you that I had a longing-

Monsieur-(letting fall his newspaper)-The devil! a longing for what?

Madame-Ah! there your nostrils are dilating; you are going to resemble a lion again, and I never shall dare to tell you. It is so extraordinary, and yet my mother had exactly the same longing.

Monsieur-Come, tell it me, you see that I am patient. If it is possible to gratify it, you know that I love you, my... Don't kiss me on the neck; you will make me jump up to the ceiling, my darling.

Madame-Repeat those two little words. I am your darling, then?

Monsieur-Ha! ha! ha! She has little fingers which-ha! ha!-go into your neck-ha! ha!-you will make me break something, nervous as I am.

Madame-Well, break something. If one may not touch one's husband, one may as well go into a convent at once. (She puts her lips to MONSIEUR'S ear and coquettishly pulls the end of his moustache.) I shall not be happy till I have what I am longing for, and then it would be so kind of you to do it.

Monsieur-Kind to do what? Come, dear, explain yourself.

Madame-You must first of all take off that great, ugly dressing-gown, pull on your boots, put on your hat and go. Oh, don't make any faces; if you grumble in the least all the merit of your devotedness will disappear ... and go to the grocer's at the corner of the street, a very respectable shop.

Monsieur-To the grocer's at ten o'clock at night! Are you mad? I will ring for John; it is his business.

Madame (staying his hand) You indiscreet man. These are our own private affairs; we must not take any one into our confidence. I will go into your dressing-room to get your things, and you will put your boots on before the fire comfortably... to please me, Alfred, my love, my life. I would give my little finger to have...

Monsieur-To have what, hang it all, what, what, what?

Madame-(her face alight and fixing her eyes on him)-I want a sou's worth of paste. Had not you guessed it?

Monsieur-But it is madness, delirium, fol-

Madame-I said paste, dearest; only a sou's worth, wrapped in strong paper.

Monsieur-No, no. I am kind-hearted, but I should reproach myself-

Madame-(closing his mouth with her little hands)-Oh, not a word; you

are going to utter something naughty. But when I tell you that I have a mad longing for it, that I love you as I have never loved you yet, that my mother had the same desire-Oh! my poor mother (she weeps in her hands), if she could only know, if she were not at the other end of France. You have never cared for my parents; I saw that very well on our wedding-day, and (she sobs) it will be the sorrow of my whole life.

Monsieur-(freeing himself and suddenly rising)-Give me my boots.

Madame-(with effusion)-Oh, thanks, Alfred, my love, you are good, yes, you are good. Will you have your walking-stick, dear?

Monsieur-I don't care. How much do you want of that abomination-a franc's worth, thirty sous' worth, a louis' worth?

Madame-You know very well that I would not make an abuse of it-only a sou's worth. I have some sous for mass; here, take one. Adieu, Alfred; be quick; be quick!

(Exit MONSIEUR.)

Left alone, Madame wafts a kiss in her most tender fashion toward the door Monsieur has just closed behind him, then goes toward the glass and smiles at herself with pleasure. Then she lights the wax candle in a little candlestick, and quietly makes her way to the kitchen, noiselessly opens a press, takes out three little dessert plates, bordered with gold and ornamented with her initials, next takes from a box lined with white leather, two silver spoons, and, somewhat embarrassed by all this luggage, returns to her bedroom.

Then she pokes the fire, draws a little buhl table close up to the hearth, spreads a white cloth, sets out the plates, puts the spoons by them, and enchanted, impatient, with flushed complexion, leans back in an armchair. Her little foot rapidly taps the floor, she smiles, pouts-she is waiting.

At last, after an interval of some minutes, the outer door is heard to close, rapid steps cross the drawingroom, Madame claps her hands and Monsieur comes in. He does not look very pleased, as he advances holding awkwardly in his left hand a flattened parcel, the contents of which may be guessed.

Madame-(touching a gold-bordered plate and holding it out to her husband)-Relieve yourself of it, dear. Could you not have been quicker?

Monsieur-Quicker?

Madame-Oh! I am not angry with you, that is not meant for a reproach, you are an angel; but it seems to me a century since you started.

Monsieur-The man was just going to shut his shop up. My gloves are covered with it... it's sticky... it's horrid, pah! the abomination! At last I shall have peace and quietness.

Madame-Oh! no harsh words, they hurt me so. But look at this pretty little table, do you remember how we supped by the fireside? Ah! you have forgotten it, a man's heart has no memory.

Monsieur-Are you so mad as to imagine that I am going to touch it? Oh! indeed! that is carrying-

Madame-(sadly)-See what a state you get in over a little favor I ask of you. If in order to please me you were to overcome a slight repugnance, if you were just to touch this nice, white jelly with you lips, where would be the harm?

Monsieur-The harm! the harm! it would be ridiculous. Never.

Madame-That is the reason? "It would be absurd." It is not from disgust, for there is nothing disgusting there, it is flour and water, nothing more. It is not then from a dislike, but out of pride that you refuse?

Monsieur-(shrugging his shoulders)-What you say is childish, puerile, silly. I do not care to answer it.

Madame-And what you say is neither generous nor worthy of you, since you abuse your superiority. You see me at your feet pleading for an insignificant thing, puerile, childish, foolish, perhaps, but one which would give me pleasure, and you think it heroic not to yield. Do you want me to speak out, well? then, you men are unfeeling.

Monsieur-Never.

Madame-Why, you admitted it to me yourself one night, on the Pont des Arts, as we were walking home from the theatre.

Monsieur-After all, there is no great harm in that.

Madame-(sadly)-I am not angry with you, this sternness is part of your nature, you are a rod of iron.

Monsieur-I have some energy when it is needed, I grant you, but I have not the absurd pride you imagine, and there (he dips his finger in the paste and carries it to his lips), is the proof, you spoilt child. Are you satisfied? It has no taste, it is insipid.

Madame-You were pretending.

Monsieur-I swear to you...

Madame (taking a little soon, filling it with her precious paste and holding it to her husband's lips)-I want to see the face you will make, love.

Monsieur-(Puts out his lips, buries his two front teeth, with marked disgust, in the paste, makes a horrible face and spits into the fireplace)-Eugh.

Madame-(still holding the spoon and with much interest) Well?

Monsieur-Well! it is awful! oh! awful! taste it.

Madame-(dreamily stirring the paste with the spoon, her little finger in the air)-I should never have believed that it was so nasty.

Monsieur-You will soon see for yourself, taste it, taste it.

Madame-I am in no hurry, I have plenty of time.

Monsieur-To see what it is like. Taste a little, come.

Madame-(pushing away the plate with a look of horror)-Oh! how you worry me. Be quiet, do; for a trifle I could hate you. It is disgusting, this paste of yours!

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