The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 8.

“With patient, meek, submissive mind,

To her hard fate resign’d.”

POTTER’S ÆSCHYLUS

Left to her own good genius, Griselda reflected that novelty has the most powerful effect upon the heart of man. In all the variations of her humour, her husband had never yet seen her in the sullen mood; and in this she now sat prepared to receive him. He came with an earnest desire to speak to her in the kindest and most reasonable manner. He began by saying how much it had cost him to give her one moment’s uneasiness:— his voice, his look, were those of truth and love.

Unmoved, Griselda, without raising her leaden eyes, answered in a cold voice, “I am very sorry that you should have felt any concern upon my account.”

Any! my love; you do not know how much I have felt this night.”

She looked upon him with civil disbelief; and replied, “that she was sure she ought to be much obliged to him.”

This frigid politeness repressed his affection: he was silent for some moments.

“My dear Griselda,” said he, “this is not the way in which we should live together; we who have every thing that can make us contented: do not let us throw away our happiness for trifles not worth thinking of.”

“If we are not happy, it is not my fault,” said Griselda.

“We will not inquire whose fault it is, my dear; let the blame rest upon me: let the past be forgotten; let us look towards the future. In future, let us avoid childish altercations, and live like reasonable creatures. I have the highest opinion of your sex in general, and of you in particular; I wish to live with my wife as my equal, my friend; I do not desire that my will should govern: where our inclinations differ, let reason decide between us; or where it is a matter not worth reasoning about, let us alternately yield to one another.” He paused.

“I do not desire or expect that you should ever henceforward yield to my wishes either in trifles or in matters of consequence,” replied Griselda, with provoking meekness; “you have taught me my duty: the duty of a wife is to submit; and submit I hope I shall in future, without reply or reasoning, to your sovereign will and pleasure.”

“Nay, my dear,” said he, “do not treat me as a brutal tyrant, when I wish to do every thing in my power to make you happy. Use your own excellent understanding, and I shall always, I hope, be inclined to yield to your reasons.”

“I shall never trouble you with my reasons; I shall never use my own understanding in the least: I know that men cannot bear understanding in women; I shall always, as it is my duty, submit to your better judgment.”

“But, my love, I do not require duty from you; this sort of blind submission would be mortifying, instead of gratifying to me, from a wife.”

“I do not know what a wife can do to satisfy a husband, if submitting in every thing be not sufficient.”

“I say it would be too much for me, my dearest love!”

“I can do nothing but submit,” repeated the perverse Griselda, with a most provoking immoveable aspect of humility.

“Why will you not understand me, my dear?” cried her husband.

“It is not my fault if I cannot understand you, my dear: I do not pretend to have your understanding,” said the fair politician, affecting weakness to gain her point; like those artful candidates for papal dominion, who used to affect decrepitude and imbecility, till they secured at once absolute power and infallibility.

“I know my abilities are quite inferior to yours, my dear,” said Griselda; “but I thought it was sufficient for a woman to know how to obey; I can do no more.”

Fretted beyond his patience, her husband walked up and down the room greatly agitated, whilst she sat content and secure in tranquil obstinacy.

“You are enough to provoke the patience of Job, my dear,” cried her husband; “you’ll break my heart.”

“I am sorry for it, my dear; but if you will only tell me what I can do more to please you, I will do it.”

“Then, my love,” cried he, taking hold of her white hand, which hung in a lifeless attitude over the arm of the couch, “be happy, I conjure you! all I ask of you is to be happy.”

“That is out of my power,” said she, mildly, suffering her husband to keep her hand, as if it was an act of duty to submit to his caresses. He resigned her hand; her countenance never varied; if she had been slave to the most despotic sultan of the East, she could not have shown more utter submission than she displayed to this most indulgent European “husband lover.”

Unable to command his temper, or to conceal how much he was hurt, he rose and said, “I will leave you for the present, my dear; some time when you are better disposed to converse with me, I will return.”

“Whenever you please, sir; all times are alike to me: whenever you are at leisure, I can have no choice.”

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