The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 5.

“She that can please, is certain to persuade,

To-day is lov’d, to-morrow is obey’d.”

A few days after the reading party, Griselda was invited to spend an evening at Mrs. Granby’s.

“I shall not go,” said she, throwing down the card with an air of disdain.

“I shall go,” said her husband, calmly.

“You will go, my dear!” cried she, amazed. “You will go without me?”

“Not without you, if you will be so kind as to go with me, my love,” said he.

“It is quite out of my power,” said she: “I am engaged to my friend, Mrs. Nettleby.”

“Very well, my dear,” said he; “do as you please.”

“Certainly I shall. And I am surprised, my dear, that you do not go to see Mr. John Nettleby.”

“I have no desire to see him, my dear. He is, as I have often heard you say, an obstinate fool. He is a man I dislike particularly.”

“Very possibly; but you ought to go to see him notwithstanding.”

“Why so, my dear?”

“Because he is married to a woman I like. If you had any regard for me, your own feelings would have saved you the trouble of asking that question.”

“But, my dear, should not your regard for me also suggest to you the propriety of keeping up an acquaintance with Mrs. Granby, who is married to a man I like, and who is not herself an obstinate fool?”

“I shall not enter into any discussion upon the subject,” replied our heroine; for this was one of the cases where she made it a rule never to reason. “I can only say that I have my own opinion, and that I beg to be excused from keeping up any acquaintance whatever with Mrs. Granby.”

“And I beg to be excused from keeping up any acquaintance whatever with Mr. Nettleby,” replied her husband.

“Good Heavens!” cried she, raising herself upon the sofa, on which she had been reclining, and fixing her eyes upon her husband, with unfeigned astonishment: “I do not know you this morning, my dear.”

“Possibly not, my dear,” replied he; “for hitherto you have seen only your lover; now you see your husband.”

Never did metamorphosis excite more astonishment. The lady was utterly unconscious that she had had any part in producing it — that she had herself dissolved the spell. She raged, she raved, she reasoned, in vain. Her point she could not compass. Her cruel husband persisted in his determination not to go to see Mr. John Nettleby. Absolutely astounded, she was silent. There was a truce for some hours. She renewed the attack in the evening, and ceased not hostilities for three succeeding days and nights, in reasonable hopes of wearying the enemy, still without success.

The morning rose, the great, the important day, which was to decide the fate of the visit. The contending parties met as usual at breakfast; they seemed mutually afraid of each other, and stood at bay. There was a forced calm in the gentleman’s demeanour — treacherous smiles played upon the lady’s countenance. He seemed cautious to prolong the suspension of hostilities — she fond to anticipate the victory. The name of Mrs. Granby, or of Mr. John Nettleby, was not uttered by either party, nor did either inquire where the other was to spend the evening. At dinner they met again, and preserved on this delicate subject a truly diplomatic silence; whilst on the topics foreign to their thoughts, they talked with admirable fluency: actuated by as sincere desire as ever was felt by negotiating politicians to establish peace on the broadest basis, they were, with the most perfect consideration, each other’s devoted, and most obedient humble servants. Candour, however, obliges us to confess, that though the deference on the part of the gentleman was the most unqualified and praiseworthy, the lady was superior in her inimitable air of frank cordiality. The volto sciolto was in her favour, the pensieri stretti in his. Any one but an ambassador would have been deceived by the husband; any one but a woman would have been duped by the wife.

So stood affairs when, after dinner, the high and mighty powers separated. The lady retired to her toilette. The gentleman remained with his bottle. He drank a glass of wine extraordinary. She stayed half an hour more than usual at her mirror. Arrayed for battle, our heroine repaired to the drawing-room, which she expected to find unoccupied; — the enemy had taken the field.

“Dressed, my dear?” said he.

“Ready, my love!” said she.

“Shall I ring the bell for your carriage, my dear?” said the husband.

“If you please. You go with me, my dear?” said the wife.

“I do not know where you are going, my love.”

“To Mrs. Nettleby’s of course — and you?”

“To Mrs. Granby’s.”

The lightning flashed from Griselda’s eyes, ere he had half pronounced the words. The lightning flashed without effect.

“To Mrs. Granby’s!” cried she, in a thundering tone. “To Mrs. Granby’s!” echoed he. She fell back on the sofa, and a shower of tears ensued. Her husband walked up and down the room, rang again for the carriage, ordered it in the tone of a master. Then hummed a tune. The fair one sobbed: he continued to sing, but was out in the time. The lady’s sobs grew alarming, and threatened hysterics. He threw open the window, and approached the sofa on which she lay. She, half recovering, unclasped one bracelet; in haste to get the other off, he broke it. The footman came in to announce that the carriage was at the door. She relapsed, and seemed in danger of suffocation from her pearl necklace, which she made a faint effort to loosen from her neck.

“Send your lady’s woman instantly,” cried Griselda’s husband to the footman.

Our heroine made another attempt to untie her necklace, and looked up towards her husband with supplicating eyes. His hands trembled; he entangled the strings. It would have been all over with him if the maid had not at this instant come to his assistance. To her he resigned his perilous post; retreated precipitately; and before the enemy’s forces could rally, gained his carriage, and carried his point.

“To Mr. Granby’s!” cried he, triumphantly. Arrived there, he hurried to Mr. Granby’s room.

“Another such victory,” cried he, throwing himself into an arm-chair, “another such victory, and I am undone.”

He related all that had just passed between him and his wife.

“Another such combat,” said his friend, “and you are at peace for life.”

We hope that our readers will not, from this speech, be induced to consider Mr. Granby as an instigator of quarrels between man and wife; or, according to the plebeian but expressive apophthegm, one who would come between the bark and the tree. On the contrary, he was most desirous to secure his friend’s domestic happiness; and, if possible, to prevent the bad effects which were likely to ensue from excessive indulgence, and inordinate love of dominion. He had a high respect for our heroine’s powers, and thought that they wanted only to be well managed. The same force which, ill-directed, bursts the engine, and scatters destruction, obedient to the master-hand, answers a thousand useful purposes, and works with easy, smooth, and graceful regularity. Griselda’s husband, or, as he now deserves to have his name mentioned, Mr. Bolingbroke, roused by his friend’s representations, and perhaps by a sense of approaching danger, resolved to assume the guidance of his wife, or at least — of himself. In opposition to his sovereign lady’s will, he actually spent this evening as he pleased.

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