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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Gyp (Madame de Martel) (1849–1932)

Civil Marriage: Dialogue

On the terrace of the Orangerie. A LADY, about thirty, walking quickly and seeming preoccupied.

Lady.Brrr! it’s freezing here! There’s no good staying any longer! To-morrow’s the bazaar, Saturday the races, Sunday the Grand Prix. It’s just the weather for catching cold. How I must love Adalbert to come in search of a wife for him in such weather! There’s devotion! Shall I find one? That’s the important point! She must be as handsome as he is—slender, beautiful, and intelligent. So far, I’ve seen no one that attracts me in the least; he is far better than all of them! He is so handsome, so—wait! It seems to me there was one who—(She retraces her steps for a short distance. Turning back sadly.)No, it’s not to be thought of! She is awkward, common! He wouldn’t approve, I’m sure. Besides, I don’t like her, and it’s most important that I should. Oh, how annoying it is! I must continue seeking, begin these interminable fatiguing expeditions all over again! But I’ll go now, for it’s quite certain I sha’n’t find what I want here.(She walks down the terrace, and is going out into the Place de la Concorde. At the same moment a GENTLEMAN, aged forty-five, enters the garden.)

Lady(to the gentleman, who passes very quickly).How do you do?

Gentleman.Ah! I beg your pardon, I didn’t see you! Where are you going, walking in this freezing weather?

Lady.To my carriage. I left it at this gate—and you?

Gentleman.I’m taking Mme. X., who is arranging her stall, an address I promised her.

Lady.Will they let you in?

Gentleman.Oh, yes; I’m part of the business.

Lady.What business?

Gentleman.I’m an organizer don’t you know? Will you come with me?

Lady.No, I’m too cold.

Gentleman.It will warm you. We’ll run.

Lady.Come along then, but we must be quick.

Gentleman.In very truth, you look frozen. Why do you come to the Tuileries all alone in such weather?

Lady.Not for my pleasure! I’ve just been there(pointing to the Orangerie).

Gentleman(absently).Ah! very nice!(Resuming the conversation.)But what did you go there for?

Lady.I went to look for—for—a marriage.

Gentleman.For yourself?

Lady.Oh! rather not! In the first place, I don’t exactly see why I should go there for that; and in the second, I am far too happy as I am to——

Gentleman(interrupting her).There, that will do. Since the rest of the explanation would contain unflattering remarks on the sex to which I’ve the honor to belong, I’d rather not hear them from your pretty mouth. Then whom is it you are marrying?

Lady.I’m not marrying yet, unfortunately. I want to marry, which is by no means the same thing——

Gentleman.But whom?

Lady.My best friend.

Gentleman.Ah! is he young?

Lady.Yes; but just the right age to marry, and he wants to——

Gentleman.I hope so, for his sake. Is he nice?


Gentleman.Well, a man marries on less than that.

Lady.And then he has every possible good quality. You’ve no notion of it.

Gentleman.I’m very sorry! And naturally you are very fond of him?

Lady(emphatically).I adore him!

Gentleman(surprised).Hm, I did not think you were so extravagant in your likings. I even thought you cold.

Lady.So I am, generally. But he knew how to conquer my indifference, and what would you have? It’s stupid, I know, but now I love him madly; and to please him there’s nothing I wouldn’t do.

Gentleman.He’s to be envied! But tell me, if you love him as much as all that, why are you trying to marry him?

Lady.Because he’s dying to get married!

Gentleman.Are you sure? Has he told you so?

Lady(shrugging her shoulders).Do you only understand things when you’re told them? Don’t you suppose I’ve seen it by a thousand trifles?

Gentleman.What, what? A thousand trifles!

Lady.Of course! For instance— Stay! you’ll make me say something foolish. Well, then, admitting that I haven’t seen it myself, I’ve been told, don’t you know?

Gentleman.You’ve been told! Who could have been stupid enough to tell you that?

Lady.Why, your friend X.

Gentleman(astonished).He! Why does he interfere, the idiot?

Lady.He did me a great service in informing me, and I’m exceedingly obliged to him.

Gentleman.Naturally. That’s exactly what he counted on, the wretch! I’m very curious to know how he managed to—inform—you, as you call it. It was a delicate thing to do.

Lady.Oh! with the greatest propriety. He said, “If you don’t marry Adalbert, he’ll give you some trouble.”

Gentleman.Ah! his name is Adalbert?(He seems to be trying to remember.)

Lady.Yes. Do you think it an ugly name?

Gentleman.Oh! names are a matter of entire indifference to me. And so you decided to take X.’s advice?

Lady.Yes, and since—I’m looking about!

Gentleman.And doesn’t he, on his part, look about too?

Lady.He’d like to, but I won’t let him.

Gentleman(taken aback).What?

Lady.You look surprised!

Gentleman.Well, during the last five minutes I’ve seen you in quite a new light—I assure you I never suspected——

Lady.You consider me and my follies absurd?

Gentleman.Your “follies”? You call things by suitable names! God forbid that I should consider you absurd; on the contrary. And since you have mentioned it, I must tell you frankly that from to-day I find a new charm in you.


Gentleman.Because you were perfect in my eyes, with one exception.

Lady.Really? And that exception is——?

Gentleman.It—it’s rather difficult to explain! I feared that in you, the side—how shall I put it?—the side “of the affections,” to speak correctly, was but little developed. But I was mistaken, entirely mistaken.

Lady.Then you understand my love for Adalbert?

Gentleman.Adalbert or any other! I think it is always necessary to love some one.

Lady.Another! Oh, dear, no! When he dies, I’ve quite decided not to have another.

Gentleman(absently).Why should Adalbert die? Is he ill?

Lady.No, but I don’t imagine he’ll last forever; my affection does not blind me to that degree.

Gentleman.Does he love you?

Lady.He? I should just think he does! He worships me. He spends his days at my feet.

Gentleman.I can understand that. But why the deuce do you want him to marry?

Lady.I am not sufficient for him! It’s not surprising.(She laughs.)


Lady.He never leaves me for a second! Even in the house I can’t move an inch without him.

Gentleman.Don’t you find that inconvenient?


Gentleman.But sometimes—just for a moment, you know—you want to leave even those you love best—the most amusing people get fatiguing in the long run, and——

Lady.But that’s precisely Adalbert’s superiority over the most amusing people.

Gentleman.You are probably not anxious that the young lady shall be pretty?

Lady.On the contrary, it’s most essential. Beauty’s of the greatest importance.


Lady.Bah—character I You can train it! It’s only myself to whom that could matter, and as long as she’s not altogether bad——

Gentleman.Do you insist on talent?

Lady.Oh, no. I hate prodigies.

Gentleman.And you were to see something to-day, here?

Lady.No. I was only looking. I hoped to find something. But there’s nothing at all, and I must begin all over again.


Gentleman.Do you want to marry him to get rid of him?

Lady.To get rid of him? but I shall never leave him!

Gentleman(surprised).Ah! you shouldn’t talk like that.


Gentleman(more and more taken aback).What? Why? You say the most dreadful things with a calmness, I had almost said a candor, which— And then you’re astonished that I seem surprised, and you ask me why, opening your eyes wide——

Lady.I think you attach too much importance to a folly——

Gentleman.A folly! Again!

Lady.A weakness, if you prefer it.

Gentleman.That’s better.

Lady.But a very innocent weakness, that does no one any harm.

Gentleman.I understand all weaknesses, as you say, because I am acquainted with them all more or less! I’m not surprised at the weakness, but at the unconcern with which you speak of it. I thought you prudish—almost austere.

Lady.But I don’t see that I’ve said anything that could change that opinion.

Gentleman.The deuce! But——

Lady.Instead of being scandalized by my search, you would do better to help me. You would be doing me a service. You must know of some one.

Gentleman.I? Why, indeed?

Lady.Through your friends, through——

Gentleman.My friends are no longer young, it’s true, but all the same they like match-making.

Lady.How funny you are! You talk just as if it were a serious affair.

Gentleman.But so it seems to me. You certainly want beauty, and of course beauty must be combined with virtue?

Lady.Oh, that’s of no consequence at all!


Lady.Why “Oh”? I know it is said that the early caprices of the mother almost always injure her children, but——

Gentleman(breathless).It’s not only for the sake of the children, it’s——

Lady.For Adalbert’s? Do you imagine he’ll care? Now, come, find me some one. It’ll be so nice of you. If you only knew how disagreeable it is for a woman to bother about such things! And then she’s nearly always taken in.

Gentleman.So are men.

Lady.Much less, I assure you.

Gentleman.That’s strange. I should have said the contrary. What do you want her to be like? Tell me, and then if I hear of anything I shall know if it would be likely to suit.

Lady.I want her to be a little smaller than he is, if possible.

Gentleman.That’s rather a vague size—for me.

Lady.I’ll show him to you one of these fine days.

Gentleman.I confess I am curious to——

Lady.She must be dark, with tawny locks—a little curly, but not too much—and silky—with golden-color eyes—small short teeth, and extremely delicate ears and limbs.

Gentleman.Well, I must say! Dark, with tawny locks, short teeth, gold eyes, likewise delicate ears and limbs. That is to say, that if one met any one like that, one would be almost inclined to marry her oneself. I can quite understand that you won’t find that model in a week.

Lady.I’m most anxious about the ears and limbs, for that’s a sure sign of race.

Gentleman.Ah! she must be of good family?

Lady.Of course.

Gentleman.Adalbert will have a good time.

Lady.That’s just what I wish.

Gentleman.We haven’t mentioned the nose. Would you like a majestic nose or a little pink snub nose?

Lady(protesting).A pink nose? But you don’t know anything at all about it. Pink noses are dreadful.

Gentleman.Eh, eh! But I assure you that——

Lady.I want a black nose like his, or at least chocolate.

Gentleman(horrified).What! black or chocolate like his? He has a black and chocolate nose?



Lady.Well, what is there so surprising in that?

Gentleman.He’s a negro then?

Lady.A negro? Whom are you talking about?

Gentleman.Why, of your friend.

Lady.What!(A light dawning on her.)Oh! great Heaven! you thought that—but it’s my poodle I’m talking of—and all that I’ve said—and that you have replied—oh!—it’s dreadful!

Gentleman(breathing freely).Lord! I’m so glad! But put yourself in my place. I meet you looking frozen and bored. You tell me, “I want to marry one of my friends—the best; I have just been looking for a wife for him; his name is Adalbert, etc.”

Lady.And in telling you that I pointed to the Orangerie.

Gentleman.Ah! the dog-show! I had quite forgotten. I thought you were talking about a marriage in good earnest, or at least about a civil marriage.