Chapter 6. The Cool Couple

by Charles Dickens

There is an old-fashioned weather-glass representing a house with two doorways, in one of which is the figure of a gentleman, in the other the figure of a lady.  When the weather is to be fine the lady comes out and the gentleman goes in; when wet, the gentleman comes out and the lady goes in.  They never seek each other’s society, are never elevated and depressed by the same cause, and have nothing in common.  They are the model of a cool couple, except that there is something of politeness and consideration about the behaviour of the gentleman in the weather-glass, in which, neither of the cool couple can be said to participate.

The cool couple are seldom alone together, and when they are, nothing can exceed their apathy and dulness: the gentleman being for the most part drowsy, and the lady silent.  If they enter into conversation, it is usually of an ironical or recriminatory nature.  Thus, when the gentleman has indulged in a very long yawn and settled himself more snugly in his easy-chair, the lady will perhaps remark, ‘Well, I am sure, Charles!  I hope you’re comfortable.’  To which the gentleman replies, ‘Oh yes, he’s quite comfortable quite.’  ‘There are not many married men, I hope,’ returns the lady, ‘who seek comfort in such selfish gratifications as you do.’  ‘Nor many wives who seek comfort in such selfish gratifications as you do, I hope,’ retorts the gentleman.  ‘Whose fault is that?’ demands the lady.  The gentleman becoming more sleepy, returns no answer.  ‘Whose fault is that?’ the lady repeats.  The gentleman still returning no answer, she goes on to say that she believes there never was in all this world anybody so attached to her home, so thoroughly domestic, so unwilling to seek a moment’s gratification or pleasure beyond her own fireside as she.  God knows that before she was married she never thought or dreamt of such a thing; and she remembers that her poor papa used to say again and again, almost every day of his life, ‘Oh, my dear Louisa, if you only marry a man who understands you, and takes the trouble to consider your happiness and accommodate himself a very little to your disposition, what a treasure he will find in you!’  She supposes her papa knew what her disposition was—he had known her long enough—he ought to have been acquainted with it, but what can she do?  If her home is always dull and lonely, and her husband is always absent and finds no pleasure in her society, she is naturally sometimes driven (seldom enough, she is sure) to seek a little recreation elsewhere; she is not expected to pine and mope to death, she hopes.  ‘Then come, Louisa,’ says the gentleman, waking up as suddenly as he fell asleep, ‘stop at home this evening, and so will I.’  ‘I should be sorry to suppose, Charles, that you took a pleasure in aggravating me,’ replies the lady; ‘but you know as well as I do that I am particularly engaged to Mrs. Mortimer, and that it would be an act of the grossest rudeness and ill-breeding, after accepting a seat in her box and preventing her from inviting anybody else, not to go.’  ‘Ah! there it is!’ says the gentleman, shrugging his shoulders, ‘I knew that perfectly well.  I knew you couldn’t devote an evening to your own home.  Now all I have to say, Louisa, is this—recollect that I was quite willing to stay at home, and that it’s no fault of mine we are not oftener together.’

With that the gentleman goes away to keep an old appointment at his club, and the lady hurries off to dress for Mrs. Mortimer’s; and neither thinks of the other until by some odd chance they find themselves alone again.

But it must not be supposed that the cool couple are habitually a quarrelsome one.  Quite the contrary.  These differences are only occasions for a little self-excuse,—nothing more.  In general they are as easy and careless, and dispute as seldom, as any common acquaintances may; for it is neither worth their while to put each other out of the way, nor to ruffle themselves.

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