Read MEDITATION XII - THE ART OF RETURNING HOME. of The Physiology of Marriage‚ Part II., free online book, by Honore de Balzac, on

Finding himself incapable of controlling the boiling transports of his anxiety, many a husband makes the mistake of coming home and rushing into the presence of his wife, with the object of triumphing over her weakness, like those bulls of Spain, which, stung by the red banderillo, disembowel with furious horns horses, matadors, picadors, toréadors and their attendants.

But oh! to enter with a tender gentle mien, like Mascarillo, who expects a beating and becomes merry as a lark when he finds his master in a good humor!  Well ­that is the mark of a wise man! ­

“Yes, my darling, I know that in my absence you could have behaved badly!  Another in your place would have turned the house topsy-turvy, but you have only broken a pane of glass!  God bless you for your considerateness.  Go on in the same way and you will earn my eternal gratitude.”

Such are the ideas which ought to be expressed by your face and bearing, but perhaps all the while you say to yourself: 

“Probably he has been here!”

Always to bring home a pleasant face, is a rule which admits of no exception.

But the art of never leaving your house without returning when the police have revealed to you a conspiracy ­to know how to return at the right time ­this is the lesson which is hard to learn.  In this matter everything depends upon tact and penetration.  The actual events of life always transcend anything that is imaginable.

The manner of coming home is to be regulated in accordance with a number of circumstances.  For example: 

Lord Catesby was a man of remarkable strength.  It happened one day that he was returning from a fox hunt, to which he had doubtless promised to go, with some ulterior view, for he rode towards the fence of his park at a point where, he said, he saw an extremely fine horse.  As he had a passion for horses, he drew near to examine this one close at hand, There he caught sight of Lady Catesby, to whose rescue it was certainly time to go, if he were in the slightest degree jealous for his own honor.  He rushed upon the gentleman he saw there, and seizing him by the belt he hurled him over the fence on to the road side.

“Remember, sir,” he said calmly, “it rests with me to decide whether it well be necessary to address you hereafter and ask for satisfaction on this spot.”

“Very well, my lord; but would you have the goodness to throw over my horse also?”

But the phlegmatic nobleman had already taken the arm of his wife as he gravely said: 

“I blame you very much, my dear creature, for not having told me that I was to love you for two.  Hereafter every other day I shall love you for the gentleman yonder, and all other days for myself.”

This adventure is regarded in England as one of the best returns home that were ever known.  It is true it consisted in uniting, with singular felicity, eloquence of deed to that of word.

But the art of re-entering your home, principles of which are nothing else but natural deductions from the system of politeness and dissimulation which have been commended in preceding Meditations, is after all merely to be studied in preparation for the conjugal catastrophes which we will now consider.