Letters of Two Brides
It is an epistolary novel by the French writer Honoré de Balzac. the first work in the second volume of Balzac's La Comédie humaine. It was dedicated to the French novelist George Sand.
Two hours later, my mother and I, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Mme. d'Espard, were all four blooming like roses in the front of the box. I had seated myself sideways, giving only a shoulder to the house, so that I could see everything, myself unseen, in that spacious box which fills one of the two angles at the back of the hall, between the columns.
Macumer came, stood up, and put his opera-glasses before his eyes so that he might be able to look at me comfortably.
In the first interval entered the young man whom I call "king of the profligates." The Comte Henri de Marsay, who has great beauty of an effeminate kind, entered the box with an epigram in his eyes, a smile upon his lips, and an air of satisfaction over his whole countenance. He first greeted my mother, Mme. d'Espard, and the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, the Comte d'Esgrignon, and M. de Canalis; then turning to me, he said:
"I do not know whether I shall be the first to congratulate you on an event which will make you the object of envy to many."
"Ah! a marriage!" I cried. "Is it left for me, a girl fresh from the convent, to tell you that predicted marriages never come off."
M. de Marsay bent down, whispering to Macumer, and I was convinced, from the movement of his lips, that what he said was this:
"Baron, you are perhaps in love with that little coquette, who has used you for her own ends; but as the question is one not of love, but of marriage, it is as well for you to know what is going on."
Macumer treated this officious scandal-monger to one of those glances of his which seem to me so eloquent of noble scorn, and replied to the effect that he was "not in love with any little coquette." His whole bearing so delighted me, that directly I caught sight of my father, the glove was off.
Felipe had not a shadow of fear or doubt. How well did he bear out my expectations! His faith is only in me, society cannot hurt him with its lies. Not a muscle of the Arab's face stirred, not a drop of the blue blood flushed his olive cheek.
The two young counts went out, and I said, laughing, to Macumer:
"M. de Marsay has been treating you to an epigram on me."
"He did more," he replied. "It was an epithalamium."
"You speak Greek to me," I said, rewarding him with a smile and a certain look which always embarrasses him.
My father meantime was talking to Mme. de Maufrigneuse.
"I should think so!" he exclaimed. "The gossip which gets about is scandalous. No sooner has a girl come out than everyone is keen to marry her, and the ridiculous stories that are invented! I shall never force Armande to marry against her will. I am going to take a turn in the promenade, otherwise people will be saying that I allowed the rumor to spread in order to suggest the marriage to the ambassador; and Caesar's daughter ought to be above suspicion, even more than his wife—if that were possible."
The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Mme. d'Espard shot glances first at my mother, then at the Baron, brimming over with sly intelligence and repressed curiosity. With their serpent's cunning they had at last got an inkling of something going on. Of all mysteries in life, love is the least mysterious! It exhales from women, I believe, like a perfume, and she who can conceal it is a very monster! Our eyes prattle even more than our tongues.
Having enjoyed the delightful sensation of finding Felipe rise to the occasion, as I had wished, it was only in nature I should hunger for more. So I made the signal agreed on for telling him that he might come to my window by the dangerous road you know of. A few hours later I found him, upright as a statue, glued to the wall, his hand resting on the balcony of my window, studying the reflections of the light in my room.
"My dear Felipe," I said, "You have acquitted yourself well to-night; you behaved exactly as I should have done had I been told that you were on the point of marrying."
"I thought," he replied, "that you would hardly have told others before me."
"And what right have you to this privilege?"
"The right of one who is your devoted slave."
"In very truth?"
"I am, and shall ever remain so."
"But suppose this marriage was inevitable; suppose that I had agreed . . ."
Two flashing glances lit up the moonlight—one directed to me, the other to the precipice which the wall made for us. He seemed to calculate whether a fall together would mean death; but the thought merely passed like lightning over his face and sparkled in his eyes. A power, stronger than passion, checked the impulse.
"An Arab cannot take back his word," he said in a husky voice. "I am your slave to do with as you will; my life is not mine to destroy."