ness and enduring love are not the result of accident or perishable attractions; but of the virtues of the heart, the graces of the mind. These are the best marriage treasures that we can gather; they never become old.'

'Ah, Louise! he virtues can become old and ugly, like the fading charms of the face.'

'Alas, dear aunt! say you so?'

Name me one virtue that cannot become disagreeable or hateful with years.'

'Surely, aunt, the virtues are not mortal?'

'Even so!'

[ocr errors]

Can mildness and gentleness ever become odious?'

'When, with time, they become weakness and indecision.'

And manly spirit?'

'Becomes rude defiance.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'And modesty — discretion?'

- reserve.'


• And noble pride?'

'Arrogance and presumption.' And a wish to please?'

'Becomes sycophancy, and cringing for the approbation of all


'My dear aunt, you make me almost angry. My future husband, however, can never so degenerate. One thing will keep him from all by-paths; his own noble mind, his deep and indelible love for all that is great, and good, and beautiful. This delicate perception I think I also possess; and it is to me an innate security for our happiness.'

And when this changes to a vicious or sickly sensibility? My child, believe me, sentimentality is the true marriage-fiend. I speak not of your sentiment for each other; that may God preserve; but of a sentimentality which may make you a ridiculous or quarrelsome woman. Do you know the Countess Stammern?'

'Who separated from her husband a year or two ago?'
'Yes; do you know the true cause of their separation?'
'No; there has been so many contradictory reports.'

She told me herself; and as the story is both amusing and instructive, I will repeat it to you.'

Louise was all curiosity, and her aunt proceeded.

[ocr errors]

COUNT STAMMERN and his wife had long been considered an enviably happy pair. Their union was the result of a long and ardent attachment. Beautiful, good, and intellectual; congenial in taste and feeling; they seemed made for each other.

After their betrothment, some disagreement occurred between their parents, which threatened to put a stop to the consummation of the marriage. The young countess became alarmingly ill from grief; and the enthusiastic lover threatened to destroy himself, like Goethe's Werther, or Miller's Siegwart. However, to restore the countess, and prevent the desperate act of the count, the parents became apparently reconciled. This saved the life of the lovers; but no sooner was

the young lady pronounced out of danger, than her parents removed her, and sought to delay their union for an indefinite period. This was not to be endured. The young couple contrived to meet one night, escaped beyond the frontier, and under another government were united before the altar. They returned man and wife, having secured, as they fondly thought, a heaven upon earth. From this time, they seemed models of love and harmony. From morning until evening, never separate, they seemed but to think of, and live for, each other. The romance and sentimental tenderness of their love made their existence like life in a faëry tale. In winter, as well as in summer, he filled her apartment with significant flowers; and even every article of furniture was hallowed by some association or recollection.

The second year, this enthusiastic fondness seemed rather an overstrained, false sentiment; but still, in all society, whether in gay routs and balls, or in a small circle of friends, they seemed to see and think only of each other; so much so indeed, as to render themselves almost ridiculous. In the third year, they laid aside this amiable weakness before the world, though at home their love still retained its romantic fondness. In the fourth, they seemed to have recovered from this first intoxication of happiness, so far at least as to be contented apart. They often passed the evening, sometimes the whole day, in company; he here, she there. This, however, but enhanced the pleasure of their reunion. By the fifth year, the count could leave home for a week, without being almost heart-broken; and the countess could bear his absence with fortitude. But their letters to each other, written daily, were as tender and impassioned as those of Heloise. The sixth, they became more sensible; and even when separated for several weeks, were satisfied with a few friendly letters. In the seventh, both felt that they could love sincerely, without its being necessary to assure each other of it, from morning until night.

So far, all was well. In place of the all-absorbing passion of their first love, there was that abiding affection, that silent confidence in each other, that deeper friendship, which is the height of human happiness. In the eighth year, they had gradually thrown off so much of the selfishness of love, as to become sensible of the claims of the rest of the world, and no longer lived solely for each other, as if they were the only sentient beings, and the rest of mankind but pictures or statues upon the stage of life. In nine, they were amiable, sensible people, abroad as well as at home. In ten, they seemed very much like mankind in general, and like excellent people who had been married ten years, and could take care of themselves. They had certainly grown ten years older; so had their love; and, alas! so had their virtues also.

Next, they began to see the faults and foibles that had heretofore been covered with the mantle of love. They spoke not of them, but viewed each other's errors with kindness and indulgence. Soon, however, came a gentle admonition; but if it wounded the feelings, the offender was sure to make a full and sweet atonement. Then these admonitions came oftener; atonement was not so easily made; yet still harmony prevailed. Then followed occasional irritation, and anger, and differences of opinion; but they still loved each other,

and such things will occur in the happiest unions. At length their mutual feelings dictated avoidance of too frequent contact.

'You are sentimental, and sometimes irritable,' said the count, one day, to his wife. So am I. It is useless to have these idle differences. We will not interfere with each other, but each take our own way. We can be sincerely attached, without letting our attachment torment us to death.'

The countess acquiesced in her husband's sensible view of the matter, and henceforth they led an almost separate existence. Rarely meeting, except at meals, no one asked, 'Whence comest or whither goest thou?' In this complaisant manner, they lived in peace and


One evening, in the twentieth year of their marriage, they attended the theatre, and were charmed with the delightful picture of domestic life and connubial happiness which the play represented. They returned full of the feelings which had been excited in their susceptible hearts. The love of their youth seemed revived, and they sat conversing affectionately by the fireside, before supper.

Ah!' said the countess, it would all be charming, if we could only remain young!'

You, at least, have no reason to regret the loss of youth,' said her husband, tenderly. Few women remain so youthful and lovely. Indeed, I can see no difference between you now, and the day of our marriage. Some little faults of temper, perhaps, are discoverable; but that we must all expect; for were it not for these, our happiness would be too great for this earth. Indeed, were I to live my life over again, you would be my choice.'

'You are kind and gallant,' answered the countess, with a sigh; 'but think what I was twenty years ago, and what I am now!' 'Now a lovely wife then a lovely maiden! I would not exchange the one for the other,' said her husband, kissing her affectionately.

[ocr errors]

We want but one thing, my love, to perfect our happiness,' said the countess.


Ah! I understand you; an only child, to perpetuate your virtues and graces. Heaven may yet bless us.'

'We should be indeed happy; but then an only child causes more anxiety and care, than pleasure; lest, by some accident, we should lose it. Two children

'You are right; and not two, but three; for with two, if we lose one, there is the same anxiety and fear, lest we should be robbed of the other. I trust that heaven will yet hear our prayers, and bestow upon us three children.'


My beloved friend,' said the countess, smiling, 'three are almost too many. We should be placed in a new embarrassment; for example, if they were all sons

Good! We have five-and-twenty thousand florins a year; enough for us and for them. I would place the eldest in the army; of the second I would make a diplomatist; neither requires much expense; and we have rank, friends, and influence.'

'But you forget the youngest !'

The youngest! By no means! He shall be in the church; a perhaps a prebend.'



'What! a priest? - my son a priest? No, indeed! Beside, he has no prospect of advancement.'

and why not? He might become an abbot, a bishop, or even a cardinal.'

No prospect of advancement?

Never! I would never be the mother of a monk, and see my son with the shaven crown and dark habit of the cloister! What can you be thinking of? If I had a hundred sons, not one should be a priest !'

'You are in a very strange temper, my dear wife, to withhold your consent to a profession which would not only be for his happiness and advantage, but ours.'

[ocr errors]

'Call it temper, or what you please, I care not. But I firmly declare, that I shall never consent; and remember, Sir, a mother has some right.'

'Very little. The father has the authority, and superior knowledge.'

But the father is often wrong; his superior knowledge' is not infallible.'

'Ah well! I, at least, do not claim knowledge that I do not possess; and I repeat, when the time arrives, I shall act as I think proper, without paying the slightest attention to your ridiculous and unfounded prejudices.'

I am aware, Sir, that you are my lord and husband; but I desire you to know, that I have not yet the honor of being your servant.' Nor am I your fool, Madam! I have ever yielded to you haps too much. Ill humor I can bear and forgive; beside, little quarrels give variety and incident to life. But this foolishness is too in



'Much obliged to you! Practice proves how much you have yielded. I beg to know who has ever given up most? For long years I have endured your faults in silence, and magnanimously pardoned them, as more the errors of education and the understanding, than of the heart. But the most angelic forbearance and amiability can be too severely tried.'


There you are quite right. Had I not the most forbearing, forgiving disposition in the world, I could not have borne your ill humor and caprice so long. But I must plainly say, that it is too much, to expect me to be the obedient servant of folly. I can bear the yoke no longer.'

'I too will plainly say, what I have long thought, that you are a haughty, self-conceited egotist; a heartless man, always talking of 'feeling' and 'love' which you do not possess. Such people always boast of what they have not.'

That is the reason you speak so frequently of your amiable disposition, and fine mind. You may deceive others, perhaps; thank heaven, I was undeceived, long ago! Virtue, with you, is nothing more than a feminine affectation. The more intimately I know you, the more does this disgust me. Indeed, I should not be very miserable, if you should wish to return to your family, and leave me in peace.'

'You have anticipated my wishes! A more tedious, conceited egotist was surely never created to amuse a sensible woman; and after a man becomes ridiculous in the eyes of his wife, you must know there can be no greater happiness, than for her to be speedily rid of him.'

'Extremely amiable, truly! All is then unmasked. I take you at your word. Adieu! Truly, it seems like some pleasing dream! In the morning the matter shall be duly arranged.'

The earlier, the better, my Lord Count!'

And so they parted. The next morning, a notary was sent for; witnesses came; the act of divorce was written and signed by both; and notwithstanding the entreaties and remonstrances of friends and relatives, the separation took place.

Thus was a long and apparently happy union suddenly broken. A ridiculous dispute about the future destinies of three sons, who were yet by no means in the world, had broken a tie which should have been for eternity.* And yet both the count and countess belonged to the better class of mankind, and had no faults worse than the frailties to which all are subject.

'DID you call the story amusing?' asked Louise, sorrowfully; 'it has made me very sad. I can easily comprehend how unhappiness and disagreement can affect excellent people; but as you have made me fearful and anxious, can you not encourage and comfort me? What a fate to lose my husband's love!'

'What do you mean?' asked her aunt.

Ah! my dear aunt; could I always remain young, I might then be certain of my husband's constancy.'

'You are still in error, my beloved child; for even if you should remain beautiful, and blooming, as you are to-day, your husband's eyes would become so accustomed to your loveliness, as to view it with indifference. And yet familiarity is the greatest enchantress in the world, and one of the most beneficent fairies in our home. She knows no difference between the beautiful and the ugly. The husband grows old; familiarity prevents the wife from perceiving the change. On the contrary, should the wife remain young and beautiful, and the husband become old, the consequences might be unhappy; for the old are sometimes jealous and exacting. It is better as it has been ordered, in wisdom and love, by the Almighty Father. If you should become a withered old woman, and your husband remain a blooming youth, how could you expect to retain his heart?' 'Alas! I know not!' sighed Louise.

'I will tell you,' continued her aunt, 'two things, which I have fully proved. The first will go far toward preventing the possibility of any discord; the second is the best and surest preservative of feminine charms.'

SOMETHING kindred with this, is the story of two peasant sons of Erin, who, in that maudlin state where a little difference of opinion goes a great way, were occupying a position under a bedge, by a meadow-side, one pleasant summer night. They were very chatty and loving, until one chanced to remark, 'I wish I had as much land as I can see sky;' to which the other replied: 'I wish I had as many cattle as I can see stars, this blessed minute.' 'Where would you put them?' asked the first, with some asperity. 'I'd put 'em on your land, sure! Not by a dd sight! I'd like to see you after trying that game!' A regular fray soon came off; and when, with bloody noses and cracked crowns, they paused to recruit their wasted strength: 'Now where's your land?' said the one; and where's your cattle?' asked the other. The storm of passion subsided at once, as the ridiculous absurdity of the quarrel flashed upon them.




« 上一页继续 »