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Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

The Husband. Paris

I HAD counted twenty pulsations, and was going on fast towards the fortieth, when her husband coming unexpected from a back parlor into the shop, put me a little out of my reckoning.—’T was nobody but her husband, she said—so I began a fresh score.—Monsieur is so good, quoth she, as he pass’d by us, as to give himself the trouble of feeling my pulse.—The husband took off his hat, and making me a bow, said, I did him too much honor—and having said that, he put on his hat and walk’d out.

Good God! said I to myself, as he went out—and can this man be the husband of this woman!

Let it not torment the few who know what must have been the grounds of this exclamation, if I explain it to those who do not.

In London a shopkeeper and a shopkeeper’s wife seem to be one bone and one flesh: in the several endowments of mind and body, sometimes the one, sometimes the other has it, so as in general to be upon a par, and to tally with each other as nearly as man and wife need to do.

In Paris, there are scarce two orders of beings more different: for the legislative and executive powers of the shop not resting in the husband, he seldom comes there—in some dark and dismal room behind, he sits commerceless in his thrum nightcap, the same rough son of Nature that Nature left him.

The genius of a people where nothing but the monarchy is salique, having ceded this department, with sundry others, totally to the women—by a continual higgling with customers of all ranks and sizes from morning to night, like so many rough pebbles shook long together in a bag, by amicable collisions, they have worn down their asperities and sharp angles, and not only become round and smooth, but will receive, some of them, a polish like a brilliant.—Monsieur le Mari is little better than the stone under your foot.—

—Surely—surely, man! it is not good for thee to sit alone—thou wast made for social intercourse and gentle greetings, and this improvement of our natures from it, I appeal to, as my evidence.

—And how does it beat, Monsieur? said she.—With all the benignity, said I, looking quietly in her eyes, that I expected.—She was going to say something civil in return—but the lad came into the shop with the gloves.—A propos, said I, I want a couple of pair myself.