Letters of Two Brides/Chapter XLIII

Letters of Two Brides by Honore de Balzac

For the first time in my life, my dear Renee, I have been alone and crying. I was sitting under a willow, on a wooden bench by the side of the long Chantepleurs marsh. The view there is charming, but it needs some merry children to complete it, and I wait for you. I have been married nearly three years, and no child! The thought of your quiver full drove me to explore my heart.

And this is what I find there. "Oh! if I had to suffer a hundred-fold what Renee suffered when my godson was born; if I had to see my child in convulsions, even so would to God that I might have a cherub of my own, like your Athenais!" I can see her from here in my mind's eye, and I know she is beautiful as the day, for you tell me nothing about her—that is just like my Renee! I believe you divine my trouble.

Each time my hopes are disappointed, I fall a prey for some days to the blackest melancholy. Then I compose sad elegies. When shall I embroider little caps and sew lace edgings to encircle a tiny head? When choose the cambric for the baby-clothes? Shall I never hear baby lips shout "Mamma," and have my dress pulled by a teasing despot whom my heart adores? Are there to be no wheelmarks of a little carriage on the gravel, no broken toys littered about the courtyard? Shall I never visit the toy-shops, as mothers do, to buy swords, and dolls, and baby-houses? And will it never be mine to watch the unfolding of a precious life—another Felipe, only more dear? I would have a son, if only to learn how a lover can be more to one in his second self.

My park and castle are cold and desolate to me. A childless woman is a monstrosity of nature; we exist only to be mothers. Oh! my sage in woman's livery, how well you have conned the book of life! Everywhere, too, barrenness is a dismal thing. My life is a little too much like one of Gessner's or Florian's sheepfolds, which Rivarol longed to see invaded by a wolf. I too have it in me to make sacrifices! There are forces in me, I feel, which Felipe has no use for; and if I am not to be a mother, I must be allowed to indulge myself in some romantic sorrow.

I have just made this remark to my belated Moor, and it brought tears to his eyes. He cannot stand any joking on his love, so I let him off easily, and only called him a paladin of folly.

At times I am seized with a desire to go on pilgrimage, to bear my longings to the shrine of some madonna or to a watering-place. Next winter I shall take medical advice. I am too much enraged with myself to write more. Good-bye.