The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 18.

“Lost is the dear delight of giving pain!”

Mortified by her dear friend’s affectionate letter and postscript, Griselda was the more determined to persist in her resolution to defy her husband to the utmost. The catastrophe, she thought, would always be in her own power; she recollected various separation scenes in novels and plays where the lady, after having tormented her husband or lover by every species of ill conduct, reforms in an instant, and a reconciliation is effected by some miraculous means. Our heroine had seen Lady Townley admirably well acted, and doubted not that she could now perform her part victoriously. With this hope, or rather in this confidence, she went in search of Mr. Bolingbroke. He was not in the house; he had gone out to take a solitary walk. Griselda hoped that she was the object of his reflections, during his lonely ramble.

“Yes,” said she to herself, “my power is not exhausted: I shall make his heart ache yet; and when he yields, how I will revenge myself!”

She rang for her woman, and gave orders to have every thing immediately prepared for her departure. “As soon as the trunks are packed, let them be corded, and placed in the great hall,” said she.

Our heroine, who had a happy memory, full well recollected the effect which the sight of the corded trunks produced in the “Simple Story,” and she thought the stroke so good that it would bear repetition. With malice prepense, she therefore prepared the blow, which she flattered herself could not fail to astound her victim. Her pride still revolted from the idea of consulting Mrs. Granby; but some apology was requisite for thus abruptly quitting her house. Mrs. Bolingbroke began in a tone that seemed intended to preclude all discussion.

“Mrs. Granby, do you know that Mr. Bolingbroke and I have come to a resolution to be happy the rest of our lives; and, for this purpose, we find it expedient to separate. Do not start or look so shocked, my dear. This word separation may sound terrible to some people, but I have, thank Heaven! sufficient strength of mind to hear it with perfect composure. When a couple who are chained together pull different ways, the sooner they break their chain the better. I shall set out immediately for Weymouth. You will excuse me, my dear Mrs. Granby; you see the necessity of the case.”

Mrs. Granby, with the most delicate kindness, began to expostulate; but Griselda declared that she was incapable of using a friend so ill as to pretend to listen to advice, when her mind was determined irrevocably. Emma had no intention, she said, of obtruding her advice, but she wished that Mrs. Bolingbroke would give her own excellent understanding time to act, and that she would not throw away the happiness of her life in a fit of passion. Mrs. Bolingbroke protested that she never was freer from passion of every sort than she was at this moment. With an unusually placid countenance, she turned from Mrs. Granby and sat down to the piano-forte. “We shall not agree if I talk any more upon this subject,” continued she, “therefore I had better sing. I believe my music is better than my logic: at all events I prefer music.”

In a fine bravura style Griselda then began to sing —

“What have I to do with thee,

Dull, unjoyous constancy?” &c.

And afterwards she played all her gayest airs to convince Mrs. Granby that her heart was quite at ease. She continued playing for an unconscionable time, with the most provoking perseverance.

Emma stood at the window, watching for Mr. Bolingbroke’s return. “Here comes Mr. Bolingbroke! — How melancholy he looks! — Oh, my dear Griselda,” cried she, stopping Mrs. Bolingbroke’s hand as it ran gaily over the keys, “this is no time for mirth or bravado: let me conjure you —”

“I hate to be conjured,” interrupted Griselda, breaking from her; “I am not a child, to be coaxed and kissed and sugar-plummed into being good, and behaving prettily. Do me the favour to let Mr. Bolingbroke know that I am in the study, and desire to speak to him for one minute.”

No power could detain the peremptory lady: she took her way to the study, and rejoiced as she crossed the hall, to see the trunks placed as she had ordered. It was impossible that her husband could avoid seeing them the moment he should enter the house. — What a satisfaction! — Griselda seated herself at ease in an arm-chair in the study, and took up a book which lay open on the table. Mr. Bolingbroke’s pencil-case was in it, and the following passage was marked:

“Il y a un lieu sur la terre où les joies pures sont inconnues; d’où la politesse est exilée et fait place à l’ègoîsme, à la contradiction, aux injures à demivoilées; le remords et l’inquiétude, furies infatigables, y tourmentent les habitans. Ce lieu est la maison de deux époux qui ne peuvent ni s’estimer, ni s’aimer.

“Il y a un lieu sur la terre où le vice ne s’introduit pas, où les passions tristes n’ont jamais d’empire, où le plaisir et l’innocence habitent toujours ensemble, où les soins sont chers, où les travaux sont doux, où les peines s’oublient dans les entretiens, où l’on jouit du passé, du présent, de l’avenir; et c’est la maison de deux époux qui s’aiment.”21

21 M. de Saint Lambert, Oeuvres Philosophiques, tome ii.]

A pang of remorse seized Griselda, as she read these words; they seemed to have been written on purpose for her. Struck with the sense of her own folly, she paused — she doubted; — but then she thought that she had gone too far to recede. Her pride could not bear the idea of acknowledging that she had been wrong, or of seeking reconcilement.

“I could live very happily with this man; but then to yield the victory to him! — and to reform! — No, no — all reformed heroines are stupid and odious.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54