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

Gustave Droz (1832–1895)

My Wife Goes to the Ball

From “Husband, Wife, and Baby”

Dialogue between HUSBAND and WIFE.

Wife.Ah, how nice of you to come home so early!(Looking at the clock.)A quarter to six. But how cold you are, my dear; your hands are frozen! Come and sit by the fire.(She puts a lump of coal on the fire.)I’ve been thinking of you all day. It’s cruel that you should have to go out in such weather! Is everything right here? Are you comfortable now?

Husband.Quite comfortable, my darling.(Aside.)I’ve never seen my wife so amiable.(Aloud, taking the bellows.)Yes, quite comfortable, and I’ve such an appetite! Has baby been good?

Wife.You’re hungry? That’s capital!(Calling out.)Marie, tell cook the master would like dinner early. Don’t forget what I told you—and a lemon.


Wife.Yes, sir; I’ve got a little surprise for you. I flatter myself that you’ll be charmed with it.

Husband.Tell me what it is.

Wife.Oh, it’s a real surprise! How inquisitive you are! Your eyes are glittering already. What if I don’t tell you?

Husband.Oh, I should break my heart!

Wife.Come, then, I won’t tease you. You are to have fresh oysters and a young partridge for dinner to-night. Now, don’t you love me?

Husband.Oysters and a partridge! You’re an angel!(He kisses her.)An angel!(Aside.)What the deuce is the matter with my wife?(Aloud.)Have you had any visitors to-day?

Wife.I saw Ernestine this morning, but she only just came in for a moment. She has had to send her maid away. Would you believe it, the girl was seen the evening before last dressed as a man, and in her master’s clothes? That was too much of a good thing!

Husband.That’s what it is to have confidential servants. And you’ve only seen Ernestine?

Wife.Yes, and quite enough too.(With annoyance.)How stupid I am! I forgot I had a visit from Mme. de Lyr.

Husband.God bless her! Does she still laugh askew in order to hide her discolored tooth?

Wife.How naughty you are! But she’s very fond of you. Poor woman! I was really touched by her visit. She came to remind me that her— You will be cross, now.(She kisses him, and sits down very close to him.)

Husband.What, I shall be cross? I’m not a Turk! Tell me, what’s it all about?

Wife.But remember the oysters and partridge. Let’s go in to dinner. I won’t tell you. You’re in a bad temper already. Besides, I almost told her we shouldn’t go.

Husband.Ah, I knew it! Let her and her tea-party go to Jericho. What have I done to her, anyhow?

Wife.She means to give you pleasure. She’s a delightful friend. I like her because she always speaks so well of you. If you had been hidden in the cupboard during her visit you wouldn’t have been able to help blushing.(HUSBAND shrugs his shoulders.)“Your husband is so amiable,” she said; “so lively, so witty. Try to bring him; it’s a privilege to have him.” I replied, “Certainly,” but without any meaning, you know. Oh, I’ve not the least wish to go! It’s not particularly amusing at Mme. de Lyr’s. Her rooms are filled with a crowd of dull people. I know they’re very influential, and might be useful, but what’s that to me? Let’s go in to dinner. There’s still one bottle of that famous Pomard; I kept it to wash down your partridge. You can’t think how I love to see you eat a partridge. You consume it with such unction. You’re a bit of a glutton, you know.(She takes his arm.)Come, dearest, I hear your little rascal of a son getting impatient in the dining-room.

Husband(gravely).Hm! And when is it?

Wife.When is what?

Husband.Why, the tea-party.

Wife.Ah! the ball, you mean—I hadn’t given it another thought—Mme. de Lyr’s ball? Why do you ask, since we’re not going? Let’s make haste; the dinner will be getting cold. It’s to-night.

Husband(stopping suddenly).What! the party is a ball, and the ball is to-night! But, hang it! a ball isn’t thrown at your head in that sort of fashion! You are informed beforehand.

Wife.Of course she sent us an invitation a week ago. I don’t know what became of the card. I forgot to show it you. It was very wrong of me.

Husband.You forgot? You forgot?

Wife.And a good thing I did. You’d have been sulky all the week. Let’s begin dinner.


Husband.But come, tell me(pouring out more wine),you haven’t your gown ready?

Wife(with innocent astonishment).What gown, dearest?

Husband.Why, for Mme. de Lyr’s!

Wife.For the ball! What a memory you have! You’re still thinking of it? No, I haven’t. Oh, yes; I have my tarlatan gown; a woman can manufacture a ball-gown so easily!

Husband.And the hair-dresser isn’t ordered.

Wife.That’s true, he’s not ordered; and, besides, I’ve not the least desire to go to the ball. We’ll settle down cozily by the fire, read a little, and go to bed early. Ah! I just recollect that as she went away Mme. de Lyr said, “Your hair-dresser is the same as mine; I shall order him for you.” And I was so stupid I didn’t answer. But it’s not far; I can send Marie to countermand him.

Husband.Since he is ordered, this miserable wig-maker, let him come, and let us try to enjoy ourselves a little at this ball. But I must find everything laid out ready on the bed: gloves, coat, and so on; and you must tie my white cravat.

Wife.Done!(She kisses him.)You’re the best of husbands. I’m delighted, darling, because I know you are sacrificing yourself to give me pleasure, although I’m utterly indifferent to the ball itself. I really haven’t the least desire to go.


Husband.Come along, let us go down; the carriage is waiting. It’s a quarter past eleven.(Aside.)Another night without sleep…. Whip up, coachman—224 Rue de la Pépinière.(They reach their destination. The Rue de la Pépinière seems in great commotion. Policemen push their way through the crowd. In the distance confused shouts and the sound of approaching wheels are heard. HUSBAND leans out of the window.)

Husband.What’s the matter, coachman?

Coachman.It’s a fire, sir; the firemen have just arrived.

Husband.All the same, drive us to 224.

Coachman.We are there, sir; that’s where the fire is.

House Porter(pushes his way through the crowd and approaches the carriage).Probably, sir, you were coming to Mme. de Lyr’s. She’s dreadfully sorry, but her house is on fire. She cannot possibly receive her friends.

Wife(excitedly).It’s outrageous!

Husband(humming).How distressing! How heart-rending!(To the COACHMAN.)Home, as quickly as possible. I’m fearfully sleepy.(He settles himself comfortably in the carriage, and turns up his collar. Aside.)Anyhow, I got a well-cooked partridge.