Letters of Two Brides/Chapter XXV

Letters of Two Brides by Honore de Balzac
Chapter XXV: RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU

Saucy girl! Why should I write? What could I say? Whilst your life is varied by social festivities, as well as by the anguish, the tempers, and the flowers of love—all of which you describe so graphically, that I might be watching some first-rate acting at the theatre—mine is as monotonous and regular as though it were passed in a convent.

We always go to bed at nine and get up with daybreak. Our meals are served with a maddening punctuality. Nothing ever happens. I have accustomed myself without much difficulty to this mapping out of the day, which perhaps is, after all, in the nature of things. Where would the life of the universe be but for that subjection to fixed laws which, according to the astronomers, so Louis tells me, rule the spheres! It is not order of which we weary.

Then I have laid upon myself certain rules of dress, and these occupy my time in the mornings. I hold it part of my duty as a wife to look as charming as possible. I feel a certain satisfaction in it, and it causes lively pleasure to the good old man and to Louis. After lunch, we walk. When the newspapers arrive, I disappear to look after my household affairs or to read—for I read a great deal—or to write to you. I come back to the others an hour before dinner; and after dinner we play cards, or receive visits, or pay them. Thus my days pass between a contented old man, who has done with passions, and the man who owes his happiness to me. Louis' happiness is so radiant that it has at last warmed my heart.

For women, happiness no doubt cannot consist in the mere satisfaction of desire. Sometimes, in the evening, when I am not required to take a hand in the game, and can sink back in my armchair, imagination bears me on its strong wings into the very heart of your life. Then, its riches, its changeful tints, its surging passions become my own, and I ask myself to what end such a stormy preface can lead. May I not swallow up the book itself? For you, my darling, the illusions of love are possible; for me, only the facts of homely life remain. Yes, your love seems to me a dream!

Therefore I find it hard to understand why you are determined to throw so much romance over it. Your ideal man must have more soul than fire, more nobility and self-command than passion. You persist in trying to clothe in living form the dream ideal of a girl on the threshold of life; you demand sacrifices for the pleasure of rewarding them; you submit your Felipe to tests in order to ascertain whether desire, hope, and curiosity are enduring in their nature. But, child, behind all your fantastic stage scenery rises the altar, where everlasting bonds are forged. The very morrow of your marriage the graceful structure raised by your subtle strategy may fall before that terrible reality which makes of a girl a woman, of a gallant a husband. Remember that there is not exemption for lovers. For them, as for ordinary folk like Louis and me, there lurks beneath the wedding rejoicings the great "Perhaps" of Rabelais.

I do not blame you, though, of course, it was rash, for talking with Felipe in the garden, or for spending a night with him, you on your balcony, he on his wall; but you make a plaything of life, and I am afraid that life may some day turn the tables. I dare not give you the counsel which my own experience would suggest; but let me repeat once more from the seclusion of my valley that the viaticum of married life lies in these words—resignation and self-sacrifice. For, spite of all your tests, your coyness, and your vigilance, I can see that marriage will mean to you what it has been to me. The greater the passion, the steeper the precipice we have hewn for our fall—that is the only difference.

Oh! what I would give to see the Baron de Macumer and talk with him for an hour or two! Your happiness lies so near my heart.