Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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horse, who set off every time the re-
frain was sung, and galloped a hundred
yards, to their great delight. Occasion-
ally a stone breaker by the roadside
sat up, and looked at the wild and shout-
ing female load, through his wire spec-

When they got out at the station, the
carpenter said:

"I am sorry you are going; we might
have had some fun together."

But Madame replied very sensibly:
"Everything has its right time, and we
cannot always be enjoying ourselves."

And then he had a sudden inspiration:
"Look here, I will come and see you
at FecamD next month." And he gave

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a knowing look, with his bright and
roguish eyes.

"Come/' Madame said, "you must be
sensible; you may come if you like, but
you are not to be up to any of your

He did not reply, and as they heard
the whistle of the train he immediately
began to kiss them all. When it came
to Rosa's turn, he tried to get to her
mouth, which she, however, smiling
with her lips closed, turned away from
him each time by a rapid movement of
her head to one side. He held her in
his arms, but he could not attain his
object, as his large whip, which he was
holding in his hand and waving behind
the girl's back in desperation, interfered
with his efforts.

"Passengers for Rouen, take your
seats, please!" a guard cried, and they
got in. There was a slight whistle fol-
lowed by a loud one from the engine,
which noisily puffed out its first jet of
steam, while the wheels began to turn a
little, with visible effort. Rivet left the
station and went to the gate by the side
of the line to get another look at Rosa,
and as the carriage full of human mer-
chandise passed him, he began to crack
his whip and to jump, singing at the
top of his voice:

"How I regret

My dimpled arms,
My well-made legs,
And my vanished charms I"

And then he watched a white pocket-
handkerchief, which somebody was
waving, as it disappeared in the dis-


They slept the peaceful sleep of quiet
consciences, until they got to Rouen,
When they returned to the house, re-
freshed and rested, Madame could not
help saying:

"It was all very well, but I was al-
ready longing to get home."

They hurried over their supper, and
then, when they had put on their usual
light evening costumes, waited for their
usual customers. The little colored lamp
outside the door told the passers-by that
the flock had returned to the fold, and
in a moment the news spread, nobody
knew how, or by whom.

Monsieur Philippe, the banker's son,
even carried his audacity so far as to
send a special messenger to Monsieut
Tournevau who was in the bosom of his

The fish-curer used every Sunday to
have several cousins to dinner, and they
were having coffee, when a man came in
with a letter in his hand. Monsieur
Tournevau was much excited; he opened
the envelope and grew pale; it only con-
tained these words in pencil:

"The cargo of fish has been f oimd ; the
ship has come into port; good business
for you. Come immediately."

He felt in his pockets, gave the mes-
senger two-pence, and suddenly blushing
to his ears, he said: "I must go out."
He handed his wife the laconic and mys%
terious note, rang the bell, and when the
servant came in, he asked her to bring
him his hat and overcoat immediately.
As soon as he was in the street, he be-
gan to run, and the way seemed to him

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to be twice as long as usual, in conse-
quence of his impatience.

Madame Tellier's establishment had
put on quite a holiday look. On the
ground floor, a number of sailors were
making a deafening noise, and Louise
and Flora drank with one and the other,
so as to merit their name of the Two
Pumps more than ever. They were be-
ing called for everywhere at once; al-
ready they were not quite sober enough
for their business, and the night bid
fair to be a very jolly one.

The upstairs room was full by nine
o'clock. Monsieur Vassi, the Judge of
the Tribunal of Commerce, Madame's
usual Platonic wooer, was talking to her
in a comer, in a low voice, and they
were both smiling, as if they were about
to come to an understanding.

Monsieur Poulin, the ex-mayor, was
holding Rosa on his knees; and she,
with her nose' close to his, was running
her hands through the old gentleman's
white whiskers.

Tall Fernande, who was lying on the
sofa, had both her feet on Monsieur
Pinipesse the tax-collector's stomach,
and her back on young Monsieur
Philippe's waistcoat; her right arm was
round his neck, and she held a cigarette
in her left.

Raphaelle appeared to be discussing
matters with Monsieur Depuis, the in-
surance agent, and she finished by say-
ing: '"Yes, my dear, I will."

Just then, the door opened suddenly,
and Monsieur Toumevau came in. He
was greeted with enthusiastic cries of:
*T,ong live Toumevau!" and Raphaelle,
who was twirling round, went and threw
herself into his arms. He seized her in
a vigorous embrace, and without sayini;

a word, lifting her up as if she had
been a feather, he carried her through
the room.

Rosa was chatting to the ex-mayor,
kissing him every moment, and pulling
both his whiskers at the same time in
order to keep his head straight.

Femande and Madame remained with
the four men, and Monsieur Philippe
exclaimed: "I will pay for some
champagne; get three bottles, Madame
Tellier." And Femande gave him a
hug, and whispered to him: "Play us
a waltz, will you?" So he rose and sat
down at the old piano in the comer, and
managed to get a hoarse waltz out of
the entrails of the instrument.

The tall girl put her arms round the
tax-collector, Madame asked Monsieur
Vassi to take her in his arms, and the
two couples turned round, kissing as
the> danced. Monsieur Vassi, who had
formerly danced in good society, waltzed
with such elegance that Madame was
quite captivated.

Frederic brought the champagne; the
first cork popped, and Monsieur Philippe
played the introduction to a quadrille,
through which the four dancers walked
in society fashion, decorously, with pro-
priety of deportment, with bows, and
curtsies, and then they began to drink.

Monsieur Philippe next struck up a
lively polka, and Monsieur Toumevau
started off with the handsome Jewess,
whom he held up in the air, without
letting her feet touch the ground. Mon-
sieur Pinipesse and Monsieur Vassi had
started off with renewed vigor and from
time to time one or other couple would
stop to toss o£F a long glass of sparkling
wine. The dance was threatening to be-

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come never-ending, when Rosa opened
the door.

"I want to dance," she exclaimed.
And she caught hold of Monsieur
Dupuis, who was sitting idle on the
couch, and the dance began again.

But the bottles were empty. "I will
pay for one," Monsieur Tournevau said.

"So will I," Monsieur Vassi declared.

"And I will do the same," Monsieur
Dupuis remarked.

They all began to clap their hands,
and it soon became a regular ball. From
time to time, Louise and Flora ran up-
stairs quickly, had a few turns while
their customers downstairs grew im-
patient, and then they returned regret-

fully to the cafi. At midnight they
were still dancing.

Madame shut her eyes to what was
going on, and she had long private talks
in comers with Monsieur Vassi, as if to
settle the last details of something that
had already been agreed upon.

At last, at one o^clock, the two married
men. Monsieur Tournevau and Monsieur
Pinipesse, declared that they were gomg
home, and wanted to pay. Nothing was
charged for except the champagne, and
that only cost six francs a bottle, in-
stead of ten, which was the usual price,
and when they expressed their surprise
at such generosity, Madame, who was
beaming, said to them:

"We don't have a holiday every day."



I HAVE just read among the general
news in one of the papers a drama of
passion. He killed her and then he
killed himself, so he must have loved
her. What matters He or She? Their
love alone matters to me; and it does
not interest me because it moves me
or astonishes me, or because it softens
me or makes me think, but because it re-
calls to my mind a remembrance of
my youth, a strange recollection of a
hunting adventure where Love appeared
to me, as the Cross appeared to the ea,rly
Christians, in the midst of the heavens.

I was born with all the instincts and
the senses of primitive man, tempered
by the arguments and the restraints of
a civilized being. I am passionately

fond of shooting, yet the sight of the
wounded animal, of the blood on its
feathers and on my hands, affects my
heart so as almost to make it stop.

That year the cold weather set in
suddenly toward the end of autumn, and
I was invited by one of my cousins^
Karl de Rauville, to go with him and
shoot ducks on the marshes, at day-

My cousin was a jolly fellow of forty,
with red hair, very stout and bearded,
a country gentleman, an amiable semi-
brute, of a happy disposition and en-
dowed with that Gallic wit which makes
even mediocrity agreeable. He lived in
a house, half farm-house, half chateau,
situated in a broad valley through
which a river ran. The hills right and

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left were covered with woods, old
manorial woods where magnificent trees
still remained, and where the rarest
feathered game in that part of France
was to be found. Eagles were shot
there occasionally, and birds of pas-
sage, such as rarely venture into our
over-populated part of the country, in-
variably lighted amid these giant oaks,
as if they knew or recognized some
little corner of a primeval forest which
had remained there to serve them as
a shelter during their short nocturnal

In the valley there were large mea-
dows watered by trenches and separated
by hedges; then, further on, the river,
which up to that point had been kept
between banks, expanded into a vast
marsh. That marsh was the best shoot-
ing ground I ever saw. It was my
cousin's chief care, and he kept it as a
preserve. Through the rushes that
covered it, and made it rustling and
rough, narrow passages had been cut,
through which the flat-bottopied boats,
impelled and steered by poles, passed
along silently over dead water, brush-
ing up against the reeds and m^ddng the
swift fish take refuge in the weeds, and
the wild fowl, with their pointed, iDlack
heads, dive suddenly.

I am passionately fond of the water:
of the sea, though it is too vast, too
full of movement, impossible to hold;
of the rivers which are so beautiful, but
which pass on, and flee away; and above
all of the marshes, where the whole un-
known existence of aquatic animals pal-
pitates. The marsh is an entire world
in itself on the world of earth — ^a differ-
ent world, which has its own life, its
settled inhabitants and its passing

travelers, its voices, its noises, and above
all its mystery. Nothing is more im-
pressive, nothing more disquieting, more
terrifying occasionally, than a fen.
Why should a vague terror hang over
these low plains covered with water?
Is it the low rustling of the rushes, the
strange wiU-o-the-wisp lights, the
silence which prevails on calm nights,
the still mists which hang over the sur-
face like a shroud; or is it the almost
inaudible splashing, so slight and so
gentle, yet sometimes more terrif3dng
than the cannons of men or the thunders
of the skies, which make these marshes
resemble countries one has dreamed of,
terrible countries holding an unknown
and dangerous secret?

No, something else belongs to it —
imothir mystery, perhaps the mystery
of the creation itself! For was it not
in stagnant and muddy water, amid the
heavy humidity of moist land imder the
heat of the sun, that the first germ of
life pulsated and expanded to the day?

I arrived at my cousin's in the eve-
ning. It was freezing hard enough to
split the stones.

During dinner, in the large rocnn
whose sideboards, walls, and ceiling were
covered with stuffed birds, with wings'
extended or perched on branches to
which they were nailed, — ^hawks, herons,
owls, nightjars, buzzards, tiercels, vul-
tures, falcons, — ^my cousin who, dressed
in a sealskin jacket, himself resembled
some strange animal from a cold coun-
try, told me what preparations lie had
made for that same night.

We were to start at half -past three
in the morning, so as to arrive at the
place which he had chosen for our

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watcliing-place at about half past four.
On that spot a hut had been built of
lumps of ice, so as to shelter us some-
what from the trying wind which pre-
cedes daybreak, a wind so cold as to
tear the flesh like a saw, cut it like the
blade of a knife, prick it like a poisoned
sting, twist it like a pair of pincers,
and bum it like Are.

My cousin rubbed his hands: **i
have never known such a frost," he
said; "it is already twelve degrees be-
low zero at six o'clock in the evening."

I threw myself on to my bed imme-
diately after we had finished our meal,
and went to sleep by the light of a bright
fire burning in the grate.

At three o'clock he woke me. In
my turn, I put on a sheepskin, and
found my cousin Karl covered with a
bearskin. After having each swallowed
two cups of scalding coffee, followed
by glasses of liqueur brandy, we started,
accompanied by a gamekeeper and our
dogs, Plongeon and Pierrot.

From the first moment that I got
outside, I felt chilled to the very mar-
row. It was one of those nights on
which the earth seems dead with cold.
The frozen air becomes resisting and
palpable, such pain does it cause; no
breath of wind moves it, it is fixed and
motionless; it bites you, pierces through
you, dries you, kills the trees, the plants,
the insects, the small birds themselves,
who fall from the branches on to the
hard ground, and become stiff themselves
under the grip of the cold.

The moon, which was in her last quar-
ter and was inclining all to one side,
seemed fainting in the midst of space,
so weak that she was unable to wane,
forced to stay up yonder, seized and

paralyzed by the severity of the weather.
She shed a cold, mournful light over
the world, that dying and wan light
which she gives us every month, at the
end of her period.

Karl and I walked side by side, our
backs bent, our hands in our pockets and
our guns under our arms. Our boots,
which were wrapped in wool so that
we might be able to walk without slip*
ping on the frozen river, made no sound,
and I looked at the white vapor which
our dogs' breath made.

We were soon on the edge of the
marsh, and entered one of the lanes of
dry rushes which ran through the lo¥»

Our elbows, which touched the long,
ribbonlike leaves, left a slight noise be-
hind us, and I was seized, as I had
never been before, by the powerful and
singular emotion which marshes cause
m me. This one was dead, dead from
cold, since we were walking on it, in
the middle of its population of dried

Suddenly, at the turn of one of the
lanes, I perceived the ice-hut which had
been constructed to shelter us. I went
in, and as we had nearly an hour to
wait before the wandering birds would
awake, I rolled myself up in my rug in
order to try and get warm. Then, ly-
ing on my back, I began to look at
the misshapen moon, which had four
horns through the vaguely transparent
walls of this polar house. But the frost
of the frozen marshes, the cold of these
walls, the cold from the firmament
penetrated me so terribly that I began
to cough. My cousin Karl became un-

"No matter if we do not kill much to*

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day," he said: "I do not want you to
catch cold; we will light a fire." And
he told the gamekeeper to cut some

We made a pile in the middle of our
hut which had a hole in the middle of
the* roof to let out the smoke, and when
the red flames rose up to the clear,
crystal blocks they began to melt,
gently, imperceptibly, as if they were
sweating. Karl, who had remained out-
side, called out to me: "Come and look
here!*' I went out of the hut and re-
m^'ned struck with astonishment. Our
hut, in the shape of a cone, looked like
an enormous diamond with a heart of
fire, which had been suddenly planted
there in the midst of the frozen water
of the marsh. And inside, we saw two
fantastic forms, those of our dogs, who
were warming themselves at the fire.

But a peculiar cry, a lost, a wander-
ing cry, passed over our heads, and the
light from our hearth showed us the wild
birds. Nothing moves one so much as
the first clamor of a life which one does
not see, which passes through the som-
ber air so quickly and so far off, just
before the first streak of a winter's day
appears on the horizon. It seems to
me, at this glacial hour of dawn, as if
that passing cry which is carried away
by the wings of a bird is the sigh of a
soul from the world!

"Put out the fire," said Karl, "it is
getting daylight."

The sky was, in fact, beginning to
grow pale, and the flights of ducks made
long, rapid streaks which v/ere soon ob-
literated on the sky.

A stream of light burst out into the
night; Karl had fired, and the two dogs
fan forward.

And then, nearly every minute, now
he, now I, aimed rapidly as soon as the
shadow of a flying flock appeared above
the rushes. And Pierrot and Plongeon,
out of breath but happy, retrieved the
bleeding birds, whose eyes still, oc-
casionally, looked at us.

The sun had risen, and it was a bright
day with a blue sky, and we were think-
ing of taking our departure, when two
birds with extended necks and out«
stretched wings, glided rapidly over our
heads. I fired, and one of them fell
almost at my feet. It was a teal, with a
silver breast, and then, in the blue space
above me, I heard a voice, the voice of
a bird. It was a short, repeated, heart-
rending lament; and the bird, the little
animal that had been spared began to
turn round in the blue sky, over our
heads, looking at its dead companion
which I was holding in my hand.

Karl was on his knees, his gan to his
shoulder watching it eagerly, until it
should be within shot. '*You have killed
the duck," he said, "and the drake will
not fly away."

He certainly did not fly away; he
circled over our heads continually, and
continued his cries. Never have any
groans of suffering pained me so much
as that desolate appeal, as that lament-
able reproach of this poor bird which
was lost in space.

Occasionally he took flight under the
menace of the gun which followed his
movements, and seemed ready to con-
tinue his flight alone, but as he could
not make up his mind to this, he re-
turned to find his mate.

"Leave her on the ground," Karl said
to me, "he will come within shot by
and by." And he did indeed come neai

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us, cardess of danger, iQf atuated by his
animal love, by his 'affection for his
niate, which I had just killed.

Karl fcred, and it was as if somebody
had cut/ the string which held the bird
suspendi^d. I saw something black de-

scend, and I heard the noise of a fall
among the rushes. And Pierrot brought
it to me.

I put them — ^they were already cold —
into the same game-bag, and I returned
to Paris the same evening.

Mademoiselle Fiji

The Major Graf* von Farlsberg, the
Prussian commandant, was reading his
newspaper, lying back in a great arm-
chair, with his booted feet on the beau-
tiful marble fireplace, where his spurs
had made two holes, which grew deeper
every day, during the three months that
he had been in the chateau of Urville.

A cup of coffee was smoking on a
small, inlaid table, which was stained
with liquors, burnt by cigars, notched by
the penknife of the victorious officer,
who occasionally would stop while
sharpening a pencil, to jot down figures,
or to make a drawing on it, just as it
took his fancy.

When he had read his letters and the
German newspapers, which his baggage-
iraster had brought him, he got up, and
after throwing three or four enormous
pieces of green wood on to the fire — for
these gentlemen were gradually cutting
down the park in order to keep them-
selves warm — ^he went to the window.
The rain was descending in torrents,
a regular Normandy rain, which looked
as if it were being poured out by some
furious hand, a slanting rain, which was
as thick as a curtain, and which formed
a kind of wall with oblique stripes, and
which deluged everything, a regular

rain, such as one frequently experiences
in the neighborhood of Rouen, which
is the watering-pot of France.

For a long time the officer looked at
the sodden turf, and at the swollen
Andelle beyond it, which was overflow-
ing its banks, and he was drumming a
waltz from the Rhine on the window-
panes, with his fingers, when a noise
made him turn round; it was his second
in command, Captain Baron von Kel-

The major was a giant, with broad
shoulders, and a long, fair beard, which
hung like a cloth on to his chest. His
whole, solemn person suggested the idea
of a military peacock, a peacock who
was carrying his tail spread out on to his
breast. He had cold, gentle, blue eyes,
and the scar from a sword-cut, which
he had received in the war with Austria;
he was said to be an honorable man, as
well as a brave officer.

The captain, in short, red-faced man,
who was tightly girthed in at the waist,
had his red hair cropped quite close to
his head, and in certain lights almost
looked as if he had been rubbed over
with phosphorus. He had lost two front


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teeth one night, though he could not
quite remember how. This defect made
him speak so that he could not always be
understood, and he had a bald patch on
the top of his head, which made him
look rather like a monk, with a fringe of
curly, bright, golden hair round the
circle of bare skin.

The commandant shook hands with
him, and drank his cup of coffee (the
sixth that morning) at a draught, while
he listened to his subordinate's report
of what had occurred; and then they
both went to the window, and declared
that it was a very unpleasant outlook.
The major, who was a quiet man, with
a wife at home, could accommodate
himself to everything; but the captain,
who was rather fast, being in the habit
of frequenting low resorts, and much
given to women, was mad at having
been shut up for three months in the
compulsory chastity of that wretched

There was a knock at the door, and
when the commandant said, "Come in,"
one of their automatic soldiers appeared,
and by his mere presence announced
that breakfast was ready. In the dining-
room, they met three other officers of
lower rank: a lieutenant, Otto von
Grossling, and two sub-lieutenants, Fritz
Scheunebarg, and Count von Eyrick,
a very short, fair-haired man, who was
proud and brutal toward men, harsh
toward prisoners, and very violent.

Since he had been in France, his com-
rades had called him nothing but
''Mademoiselle Fifi." They had given
him that nickname on account of his
dandified style and small waist, which
looked as if he wore stays, from his
pale face, on which his budding mus-

tache scarcely showed, and oni account
of the habit he ^ had acquire^ of em^
ploying the French expression, fi, fi
done, which he pronounced witjn a slight
whistle, when he wished to express his
sovereign contempt for persons or

The dining-room of the chateau was a
magnificent long room, whose fine old
mirrors, now cracked by pistol bullets,
and Flemish tapestry, now cut to rib-
bons and hanging in rags in places, from
sword-cuts, told too well what Ma-
demoiselle Fifi's occupation was during
his spare time.

There were three family portraits on
the walls ; a steel-clad knight, a cardinal,
and a judge, who were all smoking long
porcelain pipes, which had been inserted
into holes in the canvas, while a lady
in a long, pointed waist proudly ex-
hibited an enormous pair of mustaches,
drawn with a piece of charcoal.

The officers ate their breakfast al-
most in silence in that mutilated room,
which looked dull in the rain, and mel-
ancholy under its vanquished appear-
ance, although its old, oak floor had be-
come as solid as the stone floor of a

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 10 of 125)