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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/262

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

sixteenth century Smeton's nightcap had been found under Anne Boleyn's pillow.

If the word woman signifies frailty, never was woman so womanly as then. Never, covering her frailty by her charms, and her weakness by her omnipotence, has she claimed absolution more imperiously. In making the forbidden the permitted fruit. Eve fell; in making the permitted the forbidden fruit, she triumphs. That is the climax. In the eighteenth century the wife bolts out her husband. She shuts herself up in Eden with Satan. Adam is left outside.


III.

All Josiana's instincts impelled her to yield herself wantonly rather than to give herself legally. To surrender one's self thus, is considered a sure indication of genius, recalls Menalcas and Amaryllis, and is almost a literary act. Mademoiselle de Scudéry, aside from the charm of ugliness (for ugliness has its charm), could have had no other motive for yielding to Pélisson.

The maiden a sovereign, the wife a subject,—such was the old English notion. Josiana was deferring the hour of subjection as long as she could. She must eventually marry Lord David, since such was the royal pleasure. It was a necessity, doubtless; but what a pity! Josiana appreciated Lord David, and showed him off. There was between them a tacit agreement neither to conclude nor to break off the engagement. They eluded each other. This method of making love—one step in advance, and two back—is expressed in the dances of the period, the minuet and the gavotte.

It is unbecoming to be married; it fades one's ribbons, and makes one look old. An espousal is a dreary ab-