The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 14.

“Et cependant avec toute sa diablerie,

Il faut que je l’appelle et mon coeur et ma mie.”

Our heroine was still meditating upon the extraordinary method by which Emma had acquired power over her husband, when a carriage drove down the lane, and Mr. Bolingbroke’s head appeared looking out of the chaise window. His face did not express so much joy as she thought it ought to display at the sight of her, after three weeks’ absence. She was vexed, and received him coldly. He turned to Mr. and Mrs. Granby, and was not miserable. Griselda did not speak one word during their walk home; still her husband continued in good spirits: she was more and more out of humour, and took no pains to conceal her displeasure. He bore it well, but then he seemed to feel it so little, that she was exasperated beyond measure; she seized the first convenient opportunity, when she found him alone, of beginning a direct attack.

“This is not the way in which you used to meet me, after an absence ever so short.” He replied, that he was really very glad to see her, but that she, on the contrary, seemed sorry to see him.

“Because you are quite altered now,” continued she, in a querulous tone. “I always prophesied, that you would cease to love me.”

“Take care, my dear,” said he, smiling; “some prophecies are the cause of their own accomplishment — the sole cause. Come, my Griselda,” continued he, in a serious tone, “do not let us begin to quarrel the moment we meet.” He offered to embrace her, but she drew back haughtily. “What! do you confess that you no longer love me?” cried she.

“Far from it: but it is in your own power,” said he, hesitating, “to diminish or increase my love.”

“Then it is no love, if it can be either increased or diminished,” cried she; “it is no love worth having. I remember the day when you swore to me, that your affection could not be increased or diminished.”

“I was in love in those days, my dear, and did not know what I swore,” said Mr. Bolingbroke, endeavouring to turn the conversation: “never reproach a man, when he is sober, with what he said when he was drunk.”

“Then you are sober now, are you?” cried she angrily.

“It is to be hoped I am,” said he, laughing.

“Cruel, barbarous man!” cried she.

“For being sober?” said he: “have not you been doing all you could to sober me these eighteen months, my dear? and now do not be angry if you have in some degree succeeded.”

“Succeeded! — Oh, wretched woman! this is thy lot!” exclaimed Griselda, clasping her hands in an agony of passion. “Oh, that my whole unfortunate sex could see me — could hear you at this instant! Never, never did the love of man endure one twelvemonth after marriage. False, treacherous, callous, perjured tyrant! leave me! leave me!”

He obeyed; she called him back, with a voice half suffocated with rage, but he returned not.

Never was departing love recalled by the voice of reproach. It is not, as the poet fables, at the sight of human ties, that Cupid is frightened, for he is blind; but he has the most delicate ears imaginable: scared at the sound of female objurgation, Love claps his wings and urges his irrevocable flight.

Griselda remained for some time in her apartment to indulge her ill-humour; she had leisure for this indulgence; she was not now, as formerly, disturbed by the fond interruptions of a husband. Longer had her angry fit lasted, but for a circumstance, which may to many of our readers appear unnatural: our heroine became hungry. The passions are more under the control of the hours of meals20 than any one, who has not observed human life out of novels, can easily believe. Dinner-time came, and Mrs. Bolingbroke appeared at dinner as usual. In the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Granby pride compelled Griselda to command herself, and no one could guess what had passed between her and her husband: but no sooner was she again tête-à-tête with him, than her reproaches recommenced with fresh violence. —“Will you only do me the justice to tell me, Mr. Bolingbroke,” cried she, “what reason you have to love me less?”

20 De Retz’ Memoirs.]

“Reason, my dear,” said he; “you know love is independent of reason, according to your own definition: love is involuntary, you cannot therefore blame me for its caprices.”

“Insulting casuistry!” said she, weeping; “sophistical nonsense! Have you any rational complaint to make against me, Bolingbroke?”

“I make no complaints, rational or irrational, my dear; they are all on your side.”

“And well they may be,” cried Griselda, “when you treat me in such a barbarous manner: but I do not complain; the world shall be my judge; the world will do me justice, if you will not. I appeal to every body who knows me, have I ever given you the slightest cause for ill-usage? Can you accuse me of any extravagance, of any imprudence, sir?”

“I accuse you of neither, Mrs. Bolingbroke.”

“No, because you cannot, sir; my character, my fidelity is unimpeached, unimpeachable: the world will do me justice.”

Griselda contrived to make even her virtues causes of torment. Upon the strength of this unimpeachable fidelity, she thought she might be as ill-humoured as she pleased; she seemed now to think that she had acquired an indefeasible right to reproach her husband, since she had extorted from him the confession that he loved her less, and that he had no crime to lay to her charge. Ten days passed on in this manner; the lady becoming every hour more irritable, the gentleman every hour more indifferent.

To have revived or killed affection secundem artem, the fair practitioner should now have thrown in a little jealousy: but, unluckily, she was so situated that this was impossible. No object any way fit for the purpose was at hand; nothing was to be found within ten miles of her but honest country squires; and,

“With all the powers of nature and of art,

She could not break one stubborn country heart.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37