A Comedy of Marriage

A Comedy of Marriage

A COMEDY OF MARRIAGE GUY DE MAUPASSANT A COMEDY OF MARRIAGE MUSOTTE THE LANCER'S WIFE AND OTHER TALES TABLE OF CONTENTS LA PAIX DU MENAGE MUSOTTE ADDENDA THE LANCER'S WIFE HAUTOT SENIOR AND HAUTOT JUNIOR NO QUARTER THE ORPHAN A LIVELY FRIEND THE BLIND MAN THE IMPOLITE SEX THE CAKE THE CORSICAN BANDIT THE DUEL LA PAIX DU MENAGE DRAMATIS PERSONAE MONSIEUR DE SALLUS JACQUES DE RANDOL MADAME DE SALLUS Time: Paris 1890 ACT I. SCENE I. Mme. de Sallus _in her drawing-room seated in a corner by the fireplace. Enter_ Jacques de RANDOL _noiselessly; glances to see that no one is looking and kisses_ Mme. de Sallus _quickly upon her hair. She starts; utters a faint cry and turns upon him._ MME. DE SALLUS Oh! How imprudent you are! JACQUES DE RANDOL Don't be afraid; no one saw me. MME. DE SALLUS But the servants! JACQUES DE RANDOL Oh they are in the outer hall. MME. DE SALLUS How is that? No one announced you JACQUES DE RANDOL No they simply opened the door for me. MME. DE SALLUS But what will _they_ think? JACQUES DE RANDOL Well they will doubtless think that _I_ don't count. MME. DE SALLUS But I will not permit it. I must have you announced in future. It does not look well. JACQUES DE RANDOL [_laughs_] Perhaps they will even go so far as to announce your husband-- MME. DE SALLUS Jacques this jesting is out of place. JACQUES DE RANDOL Forgive me. [_Sits_.] Are you waiting for anybody? MME. DE SALLUS Yes--probably. You know that I always receive when I am at home. JACQUES DE RANDOL I know that I always have the pleasure of seeing you for about five minutes--just enough time to ask you how you feel and then some one else comes in--some one in love with you of course--who impatiently awaits my departure. MME. DE SALLUS [_smiles_] Well what can I do? I am not your wife so how can it be otherwise? JACQUES DE RANDOL Ah! If you only were my wife! MME. DE SALLUS If I were your wife? JACQUES DE RANDOL I would snatch you away for five or six months far from this horrible town and keep you all to myself. MME. DE SALLUS You would soon have enough of me. JACQUES DE RANDOL No no! MME. DE SALLUS Yes yes! JACQUES DE RANDOL Do you know that it is absolute torture to love a woman like you? MME. DE SALLUS [_bridles_] And why? JACQUES DE RANDOL Because I covet you as the starving covet the food they see behind the glassy barriers of a restaurant. MME. DE SALLUS Oh Jacques! JACQUES DE RANDOL I tell you it is true! A woman of the world belongs to the world; that is to say to everyone except the man to whom she gives herself. He can see her with open doors for a quarter of an hour every three days--not oftener because of servants. In exceptional cases with a thousand precautions with a thousand fears with a thousand subterfuges she visits him once or twice a month perhaps in a furnished room. Then she has just a quarter of an hour to give him because she has just left Madame X in order to visit Madame Z where she has told her coachman to take her. If he complains she will not come again because it is impossible for her to get rid of her coachman. So you see the coachman and the footman and Madame Z and Madame X and all the others who visit her house as they would a museum--a museum that never closes--all the he's and all the she's who eat up her leisure minute by minute and second by second to whom she owes her time as an employee owes his time to the State simply because she belongs to the world--all these persons are like the transparent and impassable glass: they keep you from my love. MME. DE SALLUS [_dryly_] You seem upset to-day. JACQUES DE RANDOL No no but I hunger to be alone with you. You are mine are you not? Or I should say I am yours. Isn't it true? I spend my life in looking for opportunities to meet you. Our love is made up of chance meetings of casual bows of stolen looks of slight touches--nothing more. We meet on the avenue in the morning--a bow; we meet at your house or at that of some other acquaintance--twenty words; we dine somewhere at the same table too far from each other to talk and I dare not even look at you because of hostile eyes. Is that love? We are simply acquaintances. MME. DE SALLUS Then you would like to carry me off? JACQUES DE RANDOL Unhappily I cannot. MME. DE SALLUS Then what? JACQUES DE RANDOL I do not know. I only know this life is wearing me out. MME. DE SALLUS It is just because there are so many obstacles in the way of your love that it does not fade. JACQUES DE RANDOL Oh! Madeline can you say that? MME. DE SALLUS [_softening_] Believe me dear if your love has to endure these hardships it is because it is not lawful love. JACQUES DE RANDOL Well I never met a woman as positive as you. Then you think that if chance made me your husband I should cease to love you? MME. DE SALLUS Not all at once perhaps but--eventually. JACQUES DE RANDOL What you say is revolting to me. MME. DE SALLUS Nevertheless it is quite true. You know that when a confectioner hires a greedy saleswoman he says to her "Eat all the sweets you wish my dear." She stuffs herself for eight days and then she is satisfied for the rest of her life. JACQUES DE RANDOL Ah! Indeed! But why do you include me in that class? MME. DE SALLUS Really I do not know--perhaps as a joke! JACQUES DE RANDOL Please do not mock me. MME. DE SALLUS I say to myself here is a man who is very much in love with me. So far as I am concerned I am perfectly free morally since for two years past I have altogether ceased to please my husband. Now since this man loves me why should I not love him? JACQUES DE RANDOL You are philosophic--and cruel. MME. DE SALLUS On the contrary I have _not_ been cruel. Of what do you complain? JACQUES DE RANDOL Stop! you anger me with this continual raillery. Ever since I began to love you you have tortured me in this manner and now I do not even know whether you have the slightest affection for me. MME. DE SALLUS Well you must admit that I have always been--good-natured. JACQUES DE RANDOL Oh you have played a queer little game! From the day I first met you I felt that you were coquetting with me coquetting mysteriously obscurely coquetting as only you can without showing it to others. Little by little you conquered me with looks with smiles with pressures of the hand without compromising yourself without pledging yourself without revealing yourself. You have been horribly upright--and seductive. I have loved you with all my soul yes sincerely and loyally and to-day I do not know what feeling you have in the depths of your heart what thoughts you have hidden in your brain; in fact I know-I know nothing. I look at you and I see a woman who seems to have chosen me and seems also to have forgotten that she _has_ chosen me. Does she love me or is she tired of me? Has she simply made an experiment--taken a lover in order to see to know to taste--without desire hunger or thirst? There are days when I ask myself if among those who love you and who tell you so unceasingly there is not one whom you really love. MME. DE SALLUS Good heavens! Really there are _some_ things into which it is not necessary to inquire. JACQUES DE RANDOL Oh how hard you are! Your tone tells me that you do not love me. MME. DE SALLUS Now what _are_ you complaining about? Of things I do not say?--because--I do not think you have anything else to reproach me with. JACQUES DE RANDOL Forgive me I am jealous. MME. DE SALLUS Of whom? JACQUES DE RANDOL I do not know. I am jealous of everything that I do not know about you. MME. DE SALLUS Yes and without my knowing anything about these things too. JACQUES DE RANDOL Forgive me I love you too much--so much that everything disturbs me. MME. DE SALLUS Everything? JACQUES DE RANDOL Yes everything. MME. DE SALLUS Are you jealous of my husband? JACQUES DE RANDOL [_amazed_] What an idea! MME. DE SALLUS [_dryly_] Well you are wrong. JACQUES DE RANDOL Always this raillery! MME. DE SALLUS No I want to speak to you seriously about him and to ask your advice. JACQUES DE RANDOL About your husband? MME. DE SALLUS [_seriously_] Yes I am not laughing or rather I do not laugh any more. [_In lighter tone_.] Then you are not jealous of my husband? And yet you know he is the only man who has authority over me. JACQUES DE RANDOL It is just because he has authority that I am not jealous. A woman's heart gives nothing to the man who has authority. MME. DE SALLUS My dear a husband's right is a positive thing; it is a title-deed that he can lock up--just as my husband has for more than two years--but it is also one that he can use at any given moment as lately he has seemed inclined to do. JACQUES DE RANDOL [_astonished_] You tell me that your husband-- MME. DE SALLUS Yes. JACQUES DE RANDOL Impossible! MME. DE SALLUS [_bridles_] And why impossible? JACQUES DE RANDOL Because your husband has--has--other occupations. MME. DE SALLUS Well it pleases him to vary them it seems. JACQUES DE RANDOL Jesting apart Madeline what has happened? MME. DE SALLUS Ah! Ah! Then you _are_ becoming jealous of him. JACQUES DE RANDOL Madeline I implore you; tell me are you mocking me or are you speaking seriously? ...