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Petty Troubles of Married Life   By: (1799-1850)

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By Honore De Balzac




A friend, in speaking to you of a young woman, says: "Good family, well bred, pretty, and three hundred thousand in her own right." You have expressed a desire to meet this charming creature.

Usually, chance interviews are premeditated. And you speak with this object, who has now become very timid.

YOU. "A delightful evening!"

SHE. "Oh! yes, sir."

You are allowed to become the suitor of this young person.

THE MOTHER IN LAW (to the intended groom). "You can't imagine how susceptible the dear girl is of attachment."

Meanwhile there is a delicate pecuniary question to be discussed by the two families.

YOUR FATHER (to the mother in law). "My property is valued at five hundred thousand francs, my dear madame!"

YOUR FUTURE MOTHER IN LAW. "And our house, my dear sir, is on a corner lot."

A contract follows, drawn up by two hideous notaries, a small one, and a big one.

Then the two families judge it necessary to convoy you to the civil magistrate's and to the church, before conducting the bride to her chamber.

Then what?... Why, then come a crowd of petty unforeseen troubles, like the following:



Is it a petty or a profound trouble? I knew not; it is profound for your sons in law or daughters in law, but exceedingly petty for you.

"Petty! You must be joking; why, a child costs terribly dear!" exclaims a ten times too happy husband, at the baptism of his eleventh, called the little last newcomer, a phrase with which women beguile their families.

"What trouble is this?" you ask me. Well! this is, like many petty troubles of married life, a blessing for some one.

You have, four months since, married off your daughter, whom we will call by the sweet name of CAROLINE, and whom we will make the type of all wives. Caroline is, like all other young ladies, very charming, and you have found for her a husband who is either a lawyer, a captain, an engineer, a judge, or perhaps a young viscount. But he is more likely to be what sensible families must seek, the ideal of their desires the only son of a rich landed proprietor. (See the Preface .)

This phoenix we will call ADOLPHE, whatever may be his position in the world, his age, and the color of his hair.

The lawyer, the captain, the engineer, the judge, in short, the son in law, Adolphe, and his family, have seen in Miss Caroline:

I. Miss Caroline;

II. The only daughter of your wife and you.

Here, as in the Chamber of Deputies, we are compelled to call for a division of the house:

1. As to your wife.

Your wife is to inherit the property of a maternal uncle, a gouty old fellow whom she humors, nurses, caresses, and muffles up; to say nothing of her father's fortune. Caroline has always adored her uncle, her uncle who trotted her on his knee, her uncle who her uncle whom her uncle, in short, whose property is estimated at two hundred thousand.

Further, your wife is well preserved, though her age has been the subject of mature reflection on the part of your son in law's grandparents and other ancestors. After many skirmishes between the mothers in law, they have at last confided to each other the little secrets peculiar to women of ripe years.

"How is it with you, my dear madame?"

"I, thank heaven, have passed the period; and you?"

"I really hope I have, too!" says your wife.

"You can marry Caroline," says Adolphe's mother to your future son in law; "Caroline will be the sole heiress of her mother, of her uncle, and her grandfather."

2. As to yourself.

You are also the heir of your maternal grandfather, a good old man whose possessions will surely fall to you, for he has grown imbecile, and is therefore incapable of making a will.

You are an amiable man, but you have been very dissipated in your youth... Continue reading book >>

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