Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe

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Author: Gustave Droz

Chapter XVIII from One Thing to Another

SCENE.—The country in autumn—The wind is blowing without—MADAME,
seated by the fireside in a large armchair, is engaged in needlework
—MONSIEUR, seated in front of her, is watching the flames of the
fire—A long silence.

Monsieur—Will you pass me the poker, my dear?

Madame—(humming to herself)—"And yet despite so many fears." (Spoken.) Here is the poker. (Humming.) "Despite the painful----"

Monsieur—That is by Mehul, is it not, my dear? Ah! that is music—I saw Delaunay Riquier in Joseph. (He hums as he makes up the fire.) "Holy pains." (Spoken.) One wonders why it does not burn, and, by Jove! it turns out to be green wood. Only he was a little too robust—Riquier. A charming voice, but he is too stout.

Madame—(holding her needlework at a distance, the better to judge of the effect)—Tell me, George, would you have this square red or black? You see, the square near the point. Tell me frankly.

Monsieur—(singing) "If you can repent." (Spoken without turning his head.) Red, my dear; red. I should not hesitate; I hate black.

Madame—Yes, but if I make that red it will lead me to— (She reflects.)

Monsieur—Well, my dear, if it leads you away, you must hold fast to something to save yourself.

Madame—Come, George, I am speaking seriously. You know that if this little square is red, the point can not remain violet, and I would not change that for anything.

Monsieur—(slowly and seriously)—My dear, will you follow the advice of an irreproachable individual, to whose existence you have linked your fate? Well, make that square pea-green, and so no more about it. Just look whether a coal fire ever looked like that.

Madame—I should only be too well pleased to use up my pea-green wool; I have a quantity of it.

Monsieur—Then where lies the difficulty?

Madame—The difficulty is that pea-green is not sufficiently religious.

Monsieur—Hum! (Humming.) Holy pains! (Spoken.) Will you be kind enough to pass the bellows? Would it be indiscreet to ask why the poor peagreen, which does not look very guilty, has such an evil reputation? You are going in for religious needlework, then, my dear?

Madame—Oh, George! I beg of you to spare me your fun. I have been familiar with it for a long time, you know, and it is horribly disagreeable to me. I am simply making a little mat for the confessional-box of the vicar. There! are you satisfied? You know what it is for, and you must understand that under the present circumstances pea-green would be altogether out of place.

Monsieur—Not the least in the world. I can swear to you that I could just as well confess with pea-green under my feet. It is true that I am naturally of a resolute disposition. Use up your wool; I can assure you that the vicar will accept it all the same. He does not know how to refuse. (He plies the bellows briskly.)

Madame—You are pleased, are you not?

Monsieur—Pleased at what, dear?

Madame—Pleased at having vented your sarcasm, at having passed a jest on one who is absent. Well, I tell you that you are a bad man, seeing that you seek to shake the faith of those about you. My beliefs had need be very fervent, principles strong, and have real virtue, to resist these incessant attacks. Well, why are you looking at me like that?

Monsieur—I want to be converted, my little apostle. You are so pretty when you speak out; your eyes glisten, your voice rings, your gestures— I am sure that you could speak like that for a long time, eh? (He kisses her hand, and takes two of her curls and ties them under hey chin.) You are looking pretty, my pet.

Madame—Oh! you think you have reduced me to silence because you have interrupted me. Ah! there, you have tangled my hair. How provoking you are! It will take me an hour to put it right. You are not satisfied with being a prodigy of impiety, but you must also tangle my hair. Come, hold out your hands and take this skein of wool.

Monsieur—(sitting down on a stool, which he draws as closely as possible to Madame, and holding up his hands) My little Saint John!

Madame—Not so close, George; not so close. (She smiles despite herself.) How silly you are! Please be careful; you will break my wool.

Monsieur—Your religious wool.

Madame—Yes, my religious wool. (She gives him a little pat on the cheek.) Why do you part your hair so much on one side, George? It would suit you much better in the middle, here. Yes, you may kiss me, but gently.

Monsieur—Can you guess what I am thinking of?

Madame—How do you imagine I could guess that?

Monsieur—Well, I am thinking of the barometer which is falling and of the thermometer which is falling too.

Madame—You see, cold weather is coming on and my mat will never be finished. Come, let us make haste.

Monsieur—I was thinking of the thermometer which is falling and of my room which faces due north.

Madame—Did you not choose it yourself? My wool! Good gracious! my wool! Oh! the wicked wretch!

Monsieur—In summer my room with the northern aspect is, no doubt, very pleasant; but when autumn comes, when the wind creeps in, when the rain trickles down the windowpanes, when the fields, the country, seem hidden under a huge veil of sadness, when the spoils of our woodlands strew the earth, when the groves have lost their mystery and the nightingale her voice—oh! then the room with the northern aspect has a very northern aspect, and—

Madame—(continuing to wind her wool)—What nonsense you are talking!

Monsieur—I protest against autumns, that is all. God’s sun is hidden and I seek another. Is not that natural, my little fairhaired saint, my little mystic lamb, my little blessed palmbranch? This new sun I find in you, pet—in your look, in the sweet odor of your person, in the rustling of your skirt, in the down on your neck which one notices by the lamplight when you bend over the vicar’s mat, in your nostril which expands when my lips approach yours—

Madame—Will you be quiet, George? It is Friday, and Ember week.

Monsieur—And your dispensation? (He kisses her.) Don’t you see that your hand shakes, that you blush, that your heart is beating?

Madame—George, will you have done, sir? (She pulls away her hand, throws herself back in the chair, and avoids her husband’s glance.)

Monsieur—Your poor little heart beats, and it is right, dear; it knows that autumn is the time for confidential chats and evening caresses, the time for kisses. And you know it too, for you defend yourself poorly, and I defy you to look me in the face. Come! look me in the face.

Madame—(she suddenly leans toward hey husband, the ball of wool rolling into the fireplace, the pious task falling to the ground. She takes his head between her hands)—Oh, what a dear, charming husband you would be if you had—

Monsieur—If I had what? Tell me quickly.

Madame—If you had a little religion. I should only ask for such a little at the beginning. It is not very difficult, I can assure you. While, now, you are really too—

Monsieur—Pea-green, eh?

Madame—Yes, pea-green, you great goose. (She laughs frankly.)

Monsieur—(lifting his hands in the air)—Sound trumpets! Madame has laughed; Madame is disarmed. Well, my snowwhite lamb, I am going to finish my story; listen properly, there, like that—your hands here, my head so. Hush! don’t laugh. I am speaking seriously. As I was saying to you, the north room is large but cold, poetic but gloomy, and I will add that two are not too many in this wintry season to contend against the rigors of the night. I will further remark that if the sacred ties of marriage have a profoundly social significance, it is—do not interrupt me—at that hour of one’s existence when one shivers on one’s solitary couch.

Madame—You can not be serious.

Monsieur—Well, seriously, I should like the vicar’s mat piously spread upon your bed, to keep us both warm together, this very evening. I wish to return as speedily as possible to the intimacy of conjugal life. Do you hear how the wind blows and whistles through the doors? The fire splutters, and your feet are frozen. (He takes her foot in his hands.)

Madame—But you are taking off my slipper, George.

Monsieur—Do you think, my white lamb, that I am going to leave your poor little foot in that state? Let it stay in my hand to be warmed. Nothing is so cold as silk. What! openwork stockings? My dear, you are rather dainty about your foot-gear for a Friday. Do you know, pet, you can not imagine how gay I wake up when the morning sun shines into my room. You shall see. I am no longer a man; I am a chaffinch; all the joys of spring recur to me. I laugh, I sing, I speechify, I tell tales to make one die of laughter. Sometimes I even dance.

Madame—Come now! I who in the morning like neither noise nor broad daylight—how little all that suits!

Monsieur—(suddenly changing his tone)—Did I say that I liked all that? The morning sun? Never in autumn, my sweet dove, never. I awake, on the contrary full of languor and poesy; I was like that in my very cradle. We will prolong the night, and behind the drawn curtain, behind the closed shutter, we will remain asleep without sleeping. Buried in silence and shadow, delightfully stretched beneath your warm eider-down coverlets, we will slowly enjoy the happiness of being together, and we will wish one another good-morning only on the stroke of noon. You do not like noise, dear. I will not say a word. Not a murmur to disturb your unfinished dream and warn you that you are no longer sleeping; not a breath to recall you to reality; not a movement to rustle the coverings. I will be silent as a shade, motionless as a statue; and if I kiss you— for, after all, I have my weaknesses—it will be done with a thousand precautions, my lips will scarcely brush your sleeping shoulder; and if you quiver with pleasure as you stretch out your arms, if your eye half uncloses at the murmur of my kiss, if your lips smile at me, if I kiss you, it would be because you would like me to, and I shall have nothing to reproach myself with.

Madame—(her eyes half closed, leaning back in hey armchair, her head bent with emotion, she places her hands before his mouth. In a low voice)—Hush, hush! Don’t say that, dear; not another word! If you knew how wrong it was!

Monsieur—Wrong! What is there that is wrong? Is your heart of marble or adamant, that you do not see that I love you, you naughty child? That I hold out my arms to you, that I long to clasp you to my heart, and to fall asleep in your hair? What is there more sacred in the world than to love one’s wife or love one’s husband? (Midnight strikes.)

Madame—(she suddenly changes hey expression at the sound, throws her arms round her husband, and hurriedly kisses him thrice)—You thought I did not love you, eh, dear? Oh, yes! I love you. Great baby! not to see that I was waiting the time.

Monsieur—What time, dear?

Madame—The time. It has struck twelve, see. (She blushes crimson.) Friday is over. (She holds out her hand for him to kiss.)

Monsieur—Are you sure the clock is not five minutes fast, love?

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Chicago: Gustave Droz, "Chapter XVIII from One Thing to Another," Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe, ed. Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896 and trans. Hogarth, C. J. in Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe Original Sources, accessed January 25, 2020, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SKL1RKIURVG3V7.

MLA: Droz, Gustave. "Chapter XVIII from One Thing to Another." Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe, edited by Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896, and translated by Hogarth, C. J., in Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe, Original Sources. 25 Jan. 2020. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SKL1RKIURVG3V7.

Harvard: Droz, G, 'Chapter XVIII from One Thing to Another' in Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe, ed. and trans. . cited in , Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe. Original Sources, retrieved 25 January 2020, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SKL1RKIURVG3V7.