Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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brigjit eye, and glossy hair. When one
grows old one wakes up in a different

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state. Dull eyes, red, swollen cheeks,
dry lips, the hair and beard all disar-
ranged, impart an old, fatigued, worn-
out look to the face.

The Baron opened his traveling
dressing-case, made himself as tidy as
he could, and then waited.

The engine whistled and the train
stopped, and his neighbor moved. No
doubt he was awake. They started off
again, and then an oblique ray of the
sun shone into the carriage just on to
the sleeper, who moved again, shook
himself, and then calmly showed his

It was a young, fair, pretty, stout
woman, and the Baron looked at her
in amazement. He did not know what
to believe. He could have sworn that
it was his wife — but wonderfully
changed for the better: stouter — ^why,
she had grown as stout as he was —
only it suited her much better than it
did him.

She looked at him quietly, did not
seem to recognize him, and then slowly
laid aside her wraps. She had that
claim assurane of a woman who as
sure of herself, the insolc;pt audacity of
a first awaking, knowing and feeling
that she was in her full beauty and

The Baron really lost his head. Was
it his wife, or somebody else who was
as like her as any sister could be? As
he had not seen her for six years he
might be mistaken.

She yawned, and he knew her by the
gesture. She turned and looked at him
again, calmly, indifferently, as if sho
scarcely saw him, and then looked out
at the country again.

He was iq)set and dreadfully i>er-

plexed and waited, looking at her sid»
ways, steadfastly.

Yes; it was certainly his wife. How
could he possibly have doubted? There
could certainly not be two noses like
that, and a thousand recollections
flashea through him, slight details of
her body, a beauty-spot on one of her
limbs and another on her back. How
often he had kissed them! He fdt
the old feeling of the intoxication of
love stealing over him, and he called
to mind the sweet odor of her skin,
her smile when she put her arms on
to his shoulders, the soft intonations of
her voice, all her graceful, coaxing

But how she had changed and im*
proved! It was she and yet not she. He
thought her riper, more developed,
more of a woman, more seductive, more
desirable, adorably desirable.

And this strange, unknown woman,
whom he had accidently met in a rail-
way-carriage belonged to him; he had
only to say to her:

"I insist upon it."

He had formerly slept in her arms,
existed only in her love, and now he
had found her again certainly, but so
changed that he scarcely knew Her. It
was another, and yet she at the same
time. It was another who had beai
bom, formed, and grown since he had
left her. It was she, indeed; she
whom he had possessed but who was
now altered, with a more assured smile
and greater self-possession. There
were two women in one, mingling a
great deal of what was new and un-
known with many sweet recollections of
the past. There was something singular,
disturbing, exciting about it — a kind of

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mystery of love in which there floated
a delicious confusion. It was his wife
in a new body and in new flesh which
his lips had never pressed.

And he remembered that in six or
seven years everything changes in us,
only outlines can be recognized, and
sometimes even they disappear.

The blood, the hair, the skin, all
change and are reconstituted and when
people have not seen each other for a
long time they find when they meet,
another totally different being, al-
though it be the same and bear the
same name.

And the heart also can change. Ideas
may be modified and renewed, so that
in forty years of life we may, by
gradual and constant transformations,
become four or five totally new and
different beings.

He dwelt on this thought till it
troubled him; it had first taken pos-
session of him when he surprised her
in the Princess's room. He was not
the least angry; it was not the same
woman that he was looking at — ^that
thin, excitable doll of those days.

What was he to do? How should he
address her? and what could he say to
her? Had she recognized him?

The train stopped again. He got up,
bowed, and said: "Bertha, do you
want an)^hingT can bring you?"

She looked at him from head to foot,
and answered, without showing the
slightest surprise or confusion or anger,
but with the most perfect indifference:

"I do not want anything — thank you."

He got out and walked up and down
the platform in order to think, and, as
it were, to recover his senses after a
^aU. What should he do now? If he

got into another carriage it would look
as if he were running away. Should he
be polite or importunate? That would
look as if he were asking for forgive-
ness. Should he speak as if he were
her master? He would look like a fool,
and besides, he really had no right to
do so.

He got in again and took his place.

During his absence she had hastily
arranged her dress and hair, and was
now lying stretched out on the seat,
radiant, but without showing any emo-

He turned to her, and said: "My dear
Bertha, since this singular chance has
brought us together after a separation
of six years — a quite friendly separa-
tion — ^are we to continue to look upon
each other as irreconcilable enemies?
We are shut up together, tete-h-tete,
which is so much the better or so much
the worse. I am not going to get into
another carriage, so don't you think it
is preferable to talk as friends till the
end of our journey?"

She answered quite calmly again:

"Just as you please."

Then he suddenly stopped, really not
knowing what to say; but as he had
plenty of assurance, he sat down on the
middle seat, and said:

"Well, I see I must pay my court to
you; so much the better. It is, how-
ever, really a pleasure, for you are
charming. You cannot imagine how
you have improved in the last six
years. I do not know any woman who
could give me that delightful sensation
which I experienced just now when you
emerged from your wraps. I should
really have thought such a change im«

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Without moving her head or looking
at him she said : "I cannot say the same
with regard to you; you have certainly
deteriorated a great deal."

He got red and confused, and then,
with a smUe of resignation, he said:

"You are rather hard."

"Why?" was her reply. "I am only
rtating facts. I don't suppose you in-
tend to offer me your love? It must,
therefore, be a matter of perfect in-
difference to you what I think about
you. But I see it is a painful subject,
so let us talk of something else. What
have you been doing since I last saw

He felt rather out of countenance,
and stammered:

"I? I have traveled, shot, and grown
old, as you see. And you?"

She said, quite calmly: *1 have
taken care of appearances as you
ordered me.'*

He -was very nearly saying something
brutal, but he checked himself, and
kissed his wife's hand:

"And I thank you," he said.

She was surprised. He was indeed
strong and always master of himself.

He went on: "As you have acceded
to my first request, shall we now talk
without any bitterness?"

She made a little movement of sur-

"Bitterness! I don't feel any; you
are a complete stranger to me; I am
only trying to keep up a difl&cult con-

He was still looking at her, carried
away in spite of her harshness^ and he
felt seized with a brutal desire, the de-
sire of the master.

Perceiving that she had hurt his fed-
ings, she said:

"How old are you now? I thought
you were youngpr than you look."

He grew pale:

"I am forty-five;" and then he
added: "I forgot to ask after Princess
de Raynes. Are you still intimate
with her?"

She looked at him as if she hated

"Yes, certainly I am. She is very
well, thank you."

They remainjd sitting side by side,
agitated and irritated. Suddenly he

"My dear Bertha, I have changed
my mind. You are my wife, and I a-
pect you to come with me to-day. You
have, I think, improved both morally
and physically, and I am going to take
you back again. I am your husband
and it is my right to do so."

She was stupefied, and looked at him,
trying to divine his thoughts; but his
face was resolute and impenetrable.

"I am very sorry," she said, *1>ut 1
have made other engagements."

"So much the worse for you," was his
reply. "The law gives me the poi?er,
and I mean to use it."

They were getting to Marseilles, and
the train whistled and slackened speed
The Baroness got up, carefully rolled
up her wraps, and then turning to her
husband, she said:

"My dear Raymond, do not make
a bad use of the tete-h-tete which I had
carefully prepared. I wished to take
precautions, according to your advice,
so that I might have nothing to feir
from you or from other people^ what-

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ever might happen. You are going to
Nice, are you not?"

"I shall go wherever you go."

**Not at all; just listen to me, and I
am sure that you will leave me in
peace. In a few moments, when we
get to the station, you will see the
Princess dc Raynes and Countess Her-
mit waiting for me with their husbands.
I wished them to see us, and to know
that we speQt the night together in the
railway-carriage. Dont be alarmed;
they will tell it everywhere as a most
surprising fact.

"I told you just now that I had care-
fully followed your advice and saved
appearances. Anything else does not
matter, does it? Well, in order to do
so, I wished to be seen with you. You
told me carefully to avoid any scandal,
and I am avoiding it, for, I am afraid
—I am afraid—"

She waited till the train had quite
stopped, and as her friends ran up to
open the carriage door, she said:

*1 am afraid that I am enceitUeJ*

The Princess stretched out her arms
to embrace her, and the Baroness said,
pointing to the Baron, who was dumb
with astonishment, and trying to get at
the truth:

"You do not recognize Raymond? He
has certainly changed a good deal and
he agreed to come with me so that I
might not travel alone. We take little
trips like this occasionally, like good
friends who cannot live together. We
are going to separate here; he has had
enough of me already."

She put out her hand, which he took
mechanically, and then she jumped out
on to the platform among her friends,
who were waiting for her.

The Baron hastily shut the carriage
door, for he was too much disturbed to
say a word or come to any determina-
tion. He heard his wife's voice, and
their merry laughter as they went away.

He never saw her again, nor did he
ever discover whether she had told him
a lie or was speaking the truth.

A New Year's Gift

Jacques db Randai«, having dined at
home alone, told his valet he might go,
and then sat down at a table to write
his letters.

He finished out every year by writ-
ing and dreaming, making for himself a
sort of review of things that had hap-
pened since last New Year's Day, things
that were now all over and dead; and,
in proportion as the faces of his friends
rose up before his eyes, he wrote them

a few lines, a cordial ''Good morning'
on the first of January.

So he sat down, opened a drawer
took out of it a woman's photograph,
gazed at it a few moments, and kissed
it. Then, having laid it beside a sheet
of note-paper, he began:

"My Dear Irene: You must have
by this time the little souvenir which I
sent you. I have shut myself up this
evening in order to tell you—"

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The pen here ceased to move. Jacques
rose up and began walking up and down
the room.

For the last six months he had a
mistress, not a mistress like the others,
a woman with whom one engages in a
passing intrigue, of the theatrical world
or the demi-monde, but a woman whom
he loved and won. He was no longer a
young man, although still comparatively
young, and he looked on life seriously
in a positive and practical spirit.

Accordingly, he drew up the balance-
sheet of his passion, as he drew up
every year the balance-sheet of friend-
ships that were ended or freshly con-
tracted, of circumstances and persons
that had entered his life. His first
ardor of love having grown calmer, he
asked himself, with the precision of a
merchant maldng a calculation, what
was the state of his heart with regard
to her, and he tried to form an idea
of what it would be in the future. He
found there a great and deep affection,
made up of tenderness, gratitude, and
the thousand subtleties which give
birth to long and powerful attachments.

A ring of the bell made him start. He
hesitated. Should he open? But he
deemed it was his duty to open, on this
New Year's night, to the Unknown who
knocks while passing, no matter whom
it may be.

So he took a wax-candle, passed
through the ante-chamber, removed the
bolts, turned the key, drew the door
back, and saw his mistress standing
pale as a corpse leaning against the

He stammered: "What is the matter
with you?"

She replied: **Are you alone?"

' "Yes."

"Without servants?"


"You are not going out?"


She entered with the air of a woman
who knew the house. As soon as she
was in the drawing-room, she sank into
the sofa, and, covering her face with
her hands, began to weep dreadfully.

He kneeled down at her feet, seized
hold of her hands to remove them from
her eyes, so that he might look at them,
and exclaimed:

"Ir^ne, Ir^ne, what is the matter
with you? I implore of you to tefl
me what is the matter with you?"

Then in the midst of her sobs she
murmured: "I can no longer live like

He did not understand.

"Like this? What do you mean?"

"Yes. I can no longer live like this
I have endured so much. He strud
me this afternoon."

"Who — ^your husband?"

"Yes— my husband."


He was astonished, having never sus-
pected that her husband could be
brutal. He was a man of the world,
of the better class, a clubman, a lover
of horses, a theater-goer and an ex-
pert swordsman; he was known, talked
about, appreciated everywhere, having
very courteous manners but a very
mediocre intellect, an absence of edu-
cation and of the real culture needed
in order to think like all well-bred
people, and finally a respect tor aB
conventional prejudices.

He appeared to devote himself to his
wife, as a man ought to do in tlie case

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of wealthy and well-bred people. He
displayed enough anxiety about her
wishes, her health, her dresses, and, be-
yond that, left her perfectly free.

Randal, having become Irene's friend,
had a right to the affectionate hand-
clasp which every husband endowed
with good manners owes to his wife's
intimate acquaintances. Then, when
Jacques, after having been for some
tune the friend, became the lover, his re-
lations with the husband were more

Jacques had never dreamed that there
were storms in this household, and he
was scared at this unexpected revelation.

He asked.

"How did it happen? Tell me,"

Thereupon she related a long history,
the entire history of her life, since the
day of her marriage — ^the first discus-
sion arising out of a mere nothing, then
accentuating itself in the estrangement
which grows up each day between two
opposite types of character.

Then came quarrels, a comi^ete
separation, not apparent, but real; next,
her husband showed himself aggressive,
susiMcious, violent. Now, he was jealous,
jealous of Jacques, and this day even,
after a scene, he had struck her.

She added with decision: "I will not
go back to him. Do with me what you

Jacques sat down oj^osite to her,
their knees touching each other. He
caught hold of her hands;

"My dear love, you are going to com-
mit a gross, an irreparable folly. If you
want to quit your husband, put wrongs
on one side, so that your situation as a
woman of the world may be saved."

She asked, as she cast at him a rest*
less glance:

"Then, what do you advise me?"

"To go back home, and to put up witk
your life there till the day when you caa
obtain either a separation or a divorce^
with the honors of war."

"Is not this thing which you advise-
me to do a little cowardly?"

"No; it is wise and reasonable. You
have a high position, a reputation to*
safeguard, friends to preserve, and rela-
tions to deal with. You must not lose
all these through a mere caprice."

She rose up, and said with violence:

**Well, no! I cannot have any more
of it! It is at an end! it is at an end!""

Then, placing her two hands on her
lover's shoulders and looking at him
straight in the face, she asked:

"Do you love me?"


"Really and truly?"


"Then keep me!"

He exclaimed:

"Keep you? In my own house?"
Here? Why, jrou are mad. It would
mean losing you forever; losing you be-
yond hope of recall! You are mad!"

She replied, slowly and seriously, like
a woman who feels the weight of her
words :

"Listen, Jacques. He has forbidden
me to see you again, and I will not play
this comedy of coming secretly to your
house. You must either lose me or
take me."

"My dear Ir^ne, in that case, obtain
your divorce, and I will marry you."

"Yes, you will marry me in — ^two
years at the soonest. Yours is a patient

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*Xook licre ! Reflect ! If you remain
here, he'll come to-morrow to take you
away, seeing that he is your husband,
seeing that he has right and law on his

"I did not ask you to keep me in your
own house, Jacques, but to take me any-
where you like. I thought you loved
me enough to do that. I have made a
mistake. Good-bye ! "

She turned round, and went toward
the door so quickly that he was only
able to catch hold of her when she was
outside the room.

"Listen, Ir^ne."

She struggled, and did not want to
listen to him any longer, her eyes full
of tears, and with these words only on
her lips:

"Let me alone! let me alone! let me

He made her sit down by force, and
falling once more on his knees at her
feet, he now brought forward a number
of arguments and counsels to make her
understand the folly and terrible risk
of her project. He omitted nothing
which he deemed it necessary to say to
convince her, finding in his very affec-
tion for her strong motives of persua-

As she remained silent and cold, he
begged of her, implored of her to listen
to him, to trust him, to follow his

When he had finished speaking, she
only replied:

"Are you disposed to let me go away
now? Take away your hands, so that I
may rise up."

'Xook here, Irfene."

"Will you let go?''

"Ir^e — ^is your resolution irrevo-

"Do let me go."

"Tell me only whether this resolu-
tion, this foolish resolution of yours,
which you will bitterly regret, is irre*

"Yes: let me go!"

"Then stay. You know well that you
are at home here. We shall go away
to-morrow morning."

She rose up, in spite of him, and
said in a hard tone:

"No. It is too late. I do not want
sacrifice; I want devotion."

"Stay! I have done what I ought to
do; I have said what I ought to say. I
have no further responsibility on your
behalf. My conscience is at peace.
Tell me what you want me to do, and
I will obey."

She resumed her seat, looked at hin:
for a long time, and then asked, in a
very calm voice:

"Explain, then."

"How is that? What do you wish mc
to explain?"

"Everything— everything that you
have thought about before coming to
this resolution. Then I will see what
I ought to do."

"But I have thought about nothing at
all. I ought to warn you that you are
going to accomplish an act of folly.
You persist; then I ask to share in
this act of folly, and I even insist on it**

"It is not natural to change one^
opinion so quickly."

'^Listen, my dear love. It is not «
question here of sacrifice or devotioa.
On the day when I realized that I loved
you, I sa'd this to myself, which evay
lover ought to say to himself in tte

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same case: 'The man who loves a wo-
man, who makes an effort to win her,
who gets her and who takes her con-
tracts so far as he is himself and so far
as she is concerned, a sacred engage-
ment/ It is, mark you, a question of
dealing with a woman like you, and
not with a woman of an impidsive and
yielding disposition.

"Marriage, which has a great social
value, a great legal value, possesses in
my eyes only a very slight moral value,
taking into account the conditions under
which it generally takes place.

"Therefore, when a woman, united by
this lawful bond, but having no attach-
ment to a husband whom she cannot
love, a woman whose heart is free,
meets a man for whom she cares, and
gives herself to him, when a man who
has no other tie takes a woman in this
way, I say that they pledge themselves
toward each other by this mutual and
free agreement much more than by the
*yes* uttered in the presence of the

"I say that, if they are both honor-
able persons, their union must be more
intimate, more real, more healthy than
if all the sacraments had consecrated it.

"This woman risks everything. And
it is exactly because she knows it, be-

cause she gives everything, her heart,
her body, her soul, her honor, her life,
because she has foreseen all miseries, all
dangers, all catastrophes, because she
dares to do a bold act, an intrepid act,
because she is prepared, determined to
brave everything — ^her husband who
might kill her, and society which may
cast her out. This is why she is heroic
in her conjugal infidelity; this is why
her lover in taking her must also have
foreseen everything, and preferred her
to everything, whatever might happen.
I have nothing more to say. I spoke
in the beginning like a man of sense
whose duty it was to warn you; and
now there is left in me only one man—
the man who loves you. Say, then, what
lam to do!"

Radiant, she closed his mouth with
her lips, and said to him in a low

"It is not true, darling! There is
nothing the matter! My husband does
not suspect anything. But I wanted to
see, I wanted to know, what you would
do. I wished for a New Year's gift —
the gift of your heart — another gift be-
sides the necklace you have just sent
me. You have given it to me. Thanks !
thanks I God be thanked for the happi-
ness you have given me!"

My Uncle Sosthenes

My uncle Sosthenes was a Free-
thinker, like many others are, from pure
stupidity, people are very often reli-
gious in the same way. The mere
sight of a priest threw him into a violent
rage; he would shake his fist and gri-

mace at him, and touch a piece of iron
when the priest's back was turned, for-
getting that the latter action showed a
belief after all, the belief in the evU
Now when beliefs are unreasonable

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one should have all or none at all. I
myself am a Freethinker; I revolt at all
the dogmas which have invented the
fear of death, but I feel no anger toward
places of worship, be they Catholic
Apostolic, Roman, Protestant, Greek,
Russian, Buddhist, Jewish, or Moham-
medan. I have a peculiar manner of
looking at them and explaining them.
A place of worship represents the hom-
age paid by man to "The Unknown."
The more extended our thoughts and
our views become the more The Un-
known diminishes, and the more places
of worship will decay. I, however, in
the place of church furniture, in the
place of pulpits, reading desks, altars,
and so on, would fit them up with
telescopes, microscopes, and electrical
machines; that is all.

My uncle and I differed on nearly
every point. He was a patriot, while I
was not — for after all patriotism is a
kind of religion; it is the egg from
which wars are hatched.

My uncle was a Freemason, and I
iised to declare that they are stupider
than old women devotees. That is my
opinion, and I maintain it; if we must
have any religion at all the old one is
good enough for me.

What is their object? Mutual help
to be obtained by tickling the palms of
each other's hands. I see no barm in
it, for they put into practice the Chris-
tian precept: "Do unto others as ye

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 107 of 125)