Letters of Two Brides/Chapter XXX

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

January 1826.

Macumer has just wakened me, darling, with your husband's letter. First and foremost—Yes. We shall be going to Chantepleurs about the end of April. To me it will be a piling up of pleasure to travel, to see you, and to be the godmother of your first child. I must, please, have Macumer for godfather. To take part in a ceremony of the Church with another as my partner would be hateful to me. Ah! if you could see the look he gave me as I said this, you would know what store this sweetest of lovers sets on his wife!

"I am the more bent on our visiting La Crampade together, Felipe," I went on, "because I might have a child there. I too, you know, would be a mother! . . . And yet, can you fancy me torn in two between you and the infant? To begin with, if I saw any creature—were it even my own son—taking my place in your heart, I couldn't answer for the consequences. Medea may have been right after all. The Greeks had some good notions!"

And he laughed.

So, my sweetheart, you have the fruit without the flowers; I the flowers without the fruit. The contrast in our lives still holds good. Between the two of us we have surely enough philosophy to find the moral of it some day. Bah! only ten months married! Too soon, you will admit, to give up hope.

We are leading a gay, yet far from empty life, as is the way with happy people. The days are never long enough for us. Society, seeing me in the trappings of a married woman, pronounces the Baronne de Macumer much prettier than Louise de Chaulieu: a happy love is a most becoming cosmetic. When Felipe and I drive along the Champs-Elysees in the bright sunshine of a crisp January day, beneath the trees, frosted with clusters of white stars, and face all Paris on the spot where last year we met with a gulf between us, the contrast calls up a thousand fancies. Suppose, after all, your last letter should be right in its forecast, and we are too presumptuous!

If I am ignorant of a mother's joys, you shall tell me about them; I will learn by sympathy. But my imagination can picture nothing to equal the rapture of love. You will laugh at my extravagance; but, I assure you, that a dozen times in as many months the longing has seized me to die at thirty, while life was still untarnished, amidst the roses of love, in the embrace of passion. To bid farewell to the feast at its brightest, before disappointment has come, having lived in this sunshine and celestial air, and well-nigh spent myself in love, not a leaf dropped from my crown, not an illusion perished in my heart, what a dream is there! Think what it would be to bear about a young heart in an aged body, to see only cold, dumb faces around me, where even strangers used to smile; to be a worthy matron! Can Hell have a worse torture?

On this very subject, in fact, Felipe and I have had our first quarrel. I contended that he ought to have sufficient moral strength to kill me in my sleep when I have reached thirty, so that I might pass from one dream to another. The wretch declined. I threatened to leave him alone in the world, and, poor child, he turned white as a sheet. My dear, this distinguished statesman is neither more nor less than a baby. It is incredible what youth and simplicity he contrived to hide away. Now that I allow myself to think aloud with him, as I do with you, and have no secrets from him, we are always giving each other surprises.

Dear Renee, Felipe and Louise, the pair of lovers, want to send a present to the young mother. We would like to get something that would give you pleasure, and we don't share the popular taste for surprises; so tell me quite frankly, please, what you would like. It ought to be something which would recall us to you in a pleasant way, something which you will use every day, and which won't wear out with use. The meal which with us is most cheerful and friendly is lunch, and therefore the idea occurred to me of a special luncheon service, ornamented with figures of babies. If you approve of this, let me know at once; for it will have to be ordered immediately if we are to bring it. Paris artists are gentlemen of far too much importance to be hurried. This will be my offering to Lucina.

Farewell, dear nursing mother. May all a mother's delights be yours! I await with impatience your first letter, which will tell me all about it, I hope. Some of the details in your husband's letter went to my heart. Poor Renee, a mother has a heavy price to pay. I will tell my godson how dearly he must love you. No end of love, my sweet one.