The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 17.

“L’ai-je vu se troubler, et me plaindre un moment?

En ai-je pu tirer un seul gémissement?”

Ashamed of her late weakness, our heroine rallied all her spirits, and resolved to meet her husband at supper with an undaunted countenance. Her provoking composure was admirably prepared: but it was thrown away, for Mr. Bolingbroke did not appear at supper. When Griselda retired to rest, she found a note from him on her dressing-table; she tore it open with a triumphant hand, certain that it came to offer terms of reconciliation.

“You will appoint whatever friend you think proper to settle the terms of our separation. The time I desire to be as soon as possible. I have not mentioned what has passed to Mr. or Mrs. Granby; you will mention it to them or not, as you think fit. On this point, as on all others, you will henceforward follow your own discretion.

“T. BOLINGBROKE.”

“Twelve o’clock;

“Saturday, Aug. 10th.”

Mrs. Bolingbroke read and re-read this note, weighed every word, examined every letter, and at last exclaimed aloud, “He will not, cannot, part from me.”

“He cannot be in earnest,” thought she. “Either he is acting a part or he is in a passion. Perhaps he is instigated by Mr. Granby: no, that cannot be, because he says he has not mentioned it to Mr. or Mrs. Granby, and he always speaks the truth. If Emma had known it, she would have prevented him from writing such a harsh note, for she is such a good creature. I have a great mind to consult her; she is so indulgent, so soothing. But what does Mr. Bolingbroke say about her? He leaves me to my own discretion, to mention what has passed or not. That means, mention it, speak to Mrs. Granby, that she may advise you to submit. I will not say a word to her; I will out-general him yet. He cannot leave me when it comes to the trial.”

She sat down, and wrote instantly this answer to her husband’s note:

“I agree with you entirely, that the sooner we part the better. I shall write to-morrow to my friend Mrs. Nettleby, with whom I choose to reside. Mr. John Nettleby is the person I fix upon to settle the terms of our separation. In three days I shall have Mrs. Nettleby’s answer. This is Saturday: on Tuesday, then, we part — for ever.

“GRISELDA BOLINGBROKE.”

Mrs. Bolingbroke summoned her maid. “Deliver this note,” said she, “with your own hand; do not send Le Grand with it to his master.”

Griselda waited impatiently for her maid’s return.

“No answer, madam.”

“No answer! are you certain?”

“Certain, ma’am: my master only said, ‘Very well.’”

“And why did not you ask him if there was any answer?”

“I did, ma’am. I said, ‘Is there no answer for my lady?’ ‘No answer,’ said he.”

“Was he up?”

“No, ma’am: he was in bed.”

“Was he asleep when you went in?”

“I cannot say positively, ma’am: he undrew the curtain as I went in, and asked, ‘Who’s there?’”

“Did you go in on tiptoe?”

“I forget, really, ma’am.”

“You forget really! Idiot!”

“But, ma’am, I recollect he turned his head to go to sleep as I closed the curtain.”

“You need not wait,” said Mrs. Bolingbroke.

Provoked beyond the power of sleep, Mrs. Bolingbroke gave free expression to her feelings, in an eloquent letter to Mrs. Nettleby; but even after this relief, Griselda could not rest; so much was she disturbed by the repose that her husband enjoyed, or was reputed to enjoy. In the morning she placed her letter in full view upon the mantel-piece in the drawing-room, in hopes that it would strike terror into the heart of her husband. To her great mortification, she saw Mr. Bolingbroke, with an unchanged countenance, give it to the servant, who came to ask for “letters for the post.” She had now three days of grace, before Mrs. Nettleby’s answer could arrive; but of these she disdained to take advantage: she never mentioned what had passed to Mrs. Granby, but persisted in the same haughty conduct towards her husband, persuaded that she should conquer at last.

The third day came, and brought an answer from Mrs. Nettleby. After a prodigious parade of professions, a decent display of astonishment at Mr. Bolingbroke’s strange conduct, and pity for her dear Griselda, Mrs. Nettleby came to the point, and was sorry to say, that Mr. Nettleby was in one of his obstinate fits, and could not be brought to listen to the scheme so near her heart: “He would have nothing to do, he said, with settling the terms of Mr. and Mrs. Bolingbroke’s separation, not he! — He absolutely refuses to meddle between man and wife; and calls it meddling,” continued Mrs. Nettleby, “to receive you as an inmate, after you have parted from your husband. Mr. Bolingbroke, he says, has always been very civil to him, and came to see him in town; therefore he will not encourage Mrs. Bolingbroke in her tantarums. I represented to him, that Mr. B. desires the thing, and leaves the choice of a residence to yourself: but Mr. Nettleby replied, in his brutal way, that you might choose a residence where you would, except in his house; that his house was his castle, and should never be turned into an asylum for runagate wives; that he would not set such an example to his own wife, &c. But,” continued Mrs. Nettleby, “you can imagine all the foolish things he said, and I need not repeat them, to vex you and myself. I know that he refuses to receive you, my dear Mrs. Bolingbroke, on purpose to provoke me. But what can one do or say to such a man? — Adieu, my dear. Pray write when you are at leisure, and tell me how things are settled, or rather what is settled upon you; which, to be sure, is now the only thing that you have to consider.

“Ever yours, affectionately,

“R. H. NETTLEBY.

“P.S. Before you leave Devonshire, do, my dear, get me some of the fine Devonshire lace; three or four dozen yards will do. I trust implicitly to your taste. You know I do not mind the price; only let it be broad, for narrow lace is my aversion.”

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