“Everything,” answered he.
“Ha! I should be a great fool to give myself against my inclination! If you fancied you would find my virtue unarmed you made a great error. Behold the poniard of the king, with which I will kill you if you make the semblance of a step towards me.”
So saying, she took a cinder, and having still her eyes upon her lord she drew a circle on the floor, adding, “These are the confines of the king’s domain. Beware how you pass them.”
The advocate, with whose ideas of love-making the dagger sadly interfered, stood quite discomfited, but at the same time he heard the cruel speech of his tormentor he caught sight through the slits and tears in her robe of a sweet sample of a plump white thigh, and such voluptuous specimens of hidden mysteries, et cetera, that death seemed sweet to him if he could only taste of them a little. So that he rushed within the domain of the king, saying, “I mind not death.” In fact he came with such force that his charmer fell backwards onto the bed, but keeping her presence of mind she defended herself so gallantly that the advocate enjoyed no further advantage than a knock at the door that would not admit him, and he gained as well a little stab from the poniard which did not wound him deeply, so that it did not cost him very dearly, his attack upon the realm of his sovereign. But maddened with this slight advantage, he cried, “I cannot live without the possession of that lovely body, and those marvels of love. Kill me then!” And again he attacked the royal preserves. The young beauty, whose head was full of the king, was not even touched by this great love, said gravely, “If you menace me further, it is not you but myself I will kill.” She glared at him so savagely that the poor man was quite terrified, and commenced to deplore the evil hour in which he had taken her to wife, and thus the night which should have been so joyous, was passed in tears, lamentations, prayers, and ejaculations. In vain he tempted her with promises; she should eat out of gold, she should be a great lady, he would buy houses and lands for her. Oh! if she would only let him break one lance with her in the sweet conflict of love, he would leave her for ever and pass the remainder of his life according to her fantasy. But she, still unyielding, said she would permit him to die, and that was the only thing he could do to please her.
“I have not deceived you,” said she. “Agreeable to my promise, I shall give myself to the king, making you a present of the peddler, chance passers, and street loungers with whom I threatened you.”
When the day broke she put on her wedding garments and waited patiently till the poor husband had to depart to his office client’s business, and then ran out into the town to seek the king. But she had not gone a bow-shot from the house before one of the king’s servants who had watched the house from dawn, stopped her with the question–
by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.