Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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of the gardens may be seen orange-trees
and citron-trees full of golden fruit
Ladies advance with slow steps over the
sand of the avenue, followed by chil-
dren rolling hoops or chatting with
gentlemen.
* * * * * ♦

A young lady had just passed out
through the door of her coquettish little
house facing La Croisette. She stops
for a moment to gaze at the promenad-
ers, smiles, and, with the gait of one
utterly enfeebled, makes her way toward
an empty bench right in front of the
sea. Fatigued after having gone twenty
paces, she sits down out of breath. Her
pale face seems that of a dead woman.
She coughs, and raises to her lips her
transparent fingers as if to stop those
shakings that exhaust her.

She gazes at the sky full of sunshine
and at the swallows, at the zigzag sum-
mits of the Esterel over there,, and at
the sea, quite close to her, so blue, so
calm, so beautiful.



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THE FIRST SNOWFALL



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She smiles still, and murmurs:

*'0h! how happy I ami"

She knows, however, that she is going
to die, that she will never see the spring-
time, that in a year, along the same
promenade, these same people who pass
before her now wiU come again to
breathe the warm air of this charming
spot, with their children a little bigger,
with their hearts all filled with hopes,
with tenderness, with happiness, while
at the bottom of an oak coffin the poor
flesh which is left to her still to-day
will have fallen into a condition of rot-
tenness, leaving only her bones lying in
the silk robe which she has selected for
a winding-sheet

She will be no more. Everything in
life will go on as before for others.
F'or her life will be over — over forever.
She will be no more. She smiles, and
inhales as well as she can, with her dis-
eased lungs, the perfumed air of the
gardens.

And she sinks into a reverie.
4t * * * * *

She recalls the past. She had been
married, four years ago, to a Norman
gentleman. He was a strong young man,
bearded, healthy looking, with wide
shoulders, narrow mind, and joyous dis-
position.

They had been united through worldly
motives which she did not auite under-
stand. She would willingly have said
"Yes." She did say "Yes" with a
movement of the head in order not to
thwart her father and mother. She was
a Parisian, gay and full of the joy of
living.

Her husband brought her home to his
i^orman chiteau. It was a huge stone
building surrounded by tall trees of



great age. A high clump of fir-trees
shut out the view in front. On th«
right an opening in the trees presented a
view of the plain which stretched out,
quite flat, up to the distant farmsteads.
A crossroad passed before the boundary-
line leading to the highroad three kilo-
meters away.

Oh! she could remember everything—
her arrival, her first day in her new
abode, and her isolated fate afterward.

When she stepped out of the carriage,
she glanced at the old building and
laughingly exclaimed:

"It does not look gay!"

Her husband began to laugh in his
turn and replied:

"Pooh! we get used to it! You'll see.
I never feel bored in it, for my part."

That day they passed their time in
embracing each other, and she did not
find it too long. This lasted for the
best part of three months. The days
passed one after the other in insignifi-
cant yet absorbing occupations. She
learned the value and the importance of
the little things of life. She knew that
people can interest themselves in the
price of eggs which cost a few centimes
more or less according to the seasons.

It was summer. She went to the
fields to see the harvest cut. The gaiety
of the sunshine kept up the gaiety of
her heart.

The autumn came. Her husband
went hunting. He started in the morn-
ing with his two dogs, Medor and
Mirza. Then she remained alone, with-
out grieving herself, moreover, at
Henry's absence. She was, however,
very fond of him, but he was not missed
by her. When he returned home, her
affection was specially absorbed by the



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S80



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



dogs. She took care of them every eve-
ning with a mother's affection, caressed
them incessantly, gave them a thousand
charming little names which she had no
idea of applying to her husband.

He invariably told her all about his
himting. He pointed out the places
where he found partridges, expressed his
astonishment at not having caught any
hares in Joseph Ledentu's clover, or else
appeared indignant at the conduct of M.
Lechapelier, of Havre, who always fol-
lowed the border of his estates to shoot
game that had been started by him,
Henry de Parville.

She replied: "Yes, indeed; it is not
fight," thinking of something else all the
while.

The winter came, the Norman winter,
cold and rainy. The endless rain-
storms came down on the slates of the
great many-angled roof, rising like a
blade toward the sky. The road seemed
like streams of mud, the country a plain
of mud, and no noise could be heard
save that of water falling; no movement
could be seen save the whirling flight of
crows rolling themselves out like a
cloud, alighting on a field, and then
hurrying away again.

About four o'clock, the army of dark,
flymg creatures came and perched in the
tall beeches at the left of the chateau,
emitting deafening cries. During nearly
an hour, they fluttered from tree-top to
tree-top, seemed to be fighting, croaked,
and made the gray branches move with
their black wings. She gazed at them,
each evening, with a pressure of the
heart, so deeply was she penetrated by
the lugubrious melancholy of the night
falling on the desolate grounds.

Then she rang for the lamp, and she



drew near the fire. She burned heaps
of wood without succeeding in warming
the spacious apartments invaded by the
humidity. She felt cold every day,
everywhere, in the drawing-room, at
meals, in her own apartment. It seemed
to her she was cold even in the mar-
row of her bones. He only came in to
dinner, he was always himting, or else
occupied with sowing sc:ed, tilling the
soil, and all the work of the country.

He used to come back jolly and cov«
ered with mud, rubbing his hands while
he exclaimed:

*What wretched weather!" Or else:
"It is a good thing to have a fire." Or
sometimes : "Well, how are you to-day?
Do you feel in good spirits?"

He was happy, in good health, without
desires, thinking of nothing else save
this simple, sound, and quiet life.

About December, when the snow had
come, she suffered so much from the
icy-cold air of the chateau which seemed
to have acquired a chill with the cen-
turies it had passed through, as human
beings do with years, that she asked her
husband one evening:

"Look here, Henry! You ought tt»
have a hot-air plant put into the house;
it would dry the walls. I assure you I
cannot warm myself from morning tiH
night."

At first he was stunned at this ex-
travagant idea of introducing a hot-air
plant into his manor-house. It would
have seemed more natural to him to
have his dogs fed out of his silver plate.
Then, he gave a tremendous laugh which
made his chest heave, while he ex-
claimed :

"A hot-air jdant here! A hot-air



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THE FIRST SNOWFALL



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plant here! Ha! lia! ha! what a good
joke!"

She persisted :

"I assure you, dear, I feel frozen ; you
don't feel it because you are always
moving about; but, aH the same, I feel
frozen."

He replied, still laughing:

"Pooh! you will get used to it, and
besides it is excellent for the health.
You will only be all the better for it.
We are not Parisians, damn it! to live
in hot-houses. And besides the spring
is quite near."

4( 4> 4( 4( i( 4t

About the beginning of January, a
great misfortune befell her. Her father
and her mother died of a carriage-acci-
dent. She came to Paris for the funeral.
And her mind was entirely plunged in
grief on account of it for about six
months.

The softness of fine days at length
awakened her, and she lived a sad, drift-
ing life of languor until autumn.

When the cold weather came back,
she was brought face to face, for the
first time, with the gloomy future. What
was she to do? Nothing. What was
going to happen to her henceforth?
Nothing. What expectation, what
hope, could revive her heart? None.
A doctor who was consulted declared
that she would never have children.

Sharper, more penetrating still than
the year before, the cold made her
suffer continually.

She stretched out her shivering hands
to the big flames. The glaring fire
burned her face; but icy puffs seemed
to slip down her back and to penetrate
between the flesh and her underclothing.
And she shook from head to foot. In-



numerable currents of air appeared to
have taken up their abode in the apart-
ment, living, crafty currents of air, as
cruel as enemies. She encoimtered them
every moment; they were incessantly
buffeting her, sometimes on the face,
sometimes on the hands, sometimes on
the neck, with their treacherous,
frozen breath.

Once more she spoke of a hot-air
plant; but her husband heard her re-
quest as if she were asking for the moon.
The introduction of such an apparatus
at Parville appeared to him as impos-
sible as the disco^^ery of the Philoso-
pher's Stone.

Having been at Rouen on business one
day he brought back to his wife a dainty
foot-warmer made of copper, which ho
laughingly called a '^portable hot-water
heater"; and he considered that this
would prevent her henceforth from ever
being cold.

Toward the end of December she un-
derstood that she could not live thus
always, and she said timidly one evening
at dinner:

"Listen, dear! Are we not going to
spend a week or two in Paris before
spring?"

He was stupefied:

"In Paris? In Paris? But what are
we to do there? No, by Jove! We are
better off here. What odd ideas come
into your head sometimes."

She faltered:

"It might distract us a little."

He did not xmderstand:

*What is it you want to distract you?
Theaters, evening parties, dinners in
town? You know, however, well that
in coming here you ought not to expect
any distractions of that kind!"



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



She saw a reproach in these words
and in the tone in which they were
uttered. She relapsed into silence. She
Was timid and gentle, without resisting
power and without strength of will.

In January, the cold weather re-
turned with violence. Then the snow
covered the earth.

One evening, as she watched the great
whirling cloud of crows v/inding round
the trees, she began to weep, in spite of
herself.

Her husband came in. He asked, in
great surprise:

"What is the matter with you?"

He was happy, quite happy, never
having dreamed of another life or other
pleasures. He had been bom and had
grown up in this melancholy district.
He felt well in his own house, at his
ease in body and mind.

He did not realize that we may desire
events, have a thirst for changing plea-
sures; he did not understand that it
does not seem natural to certain beings
to remain in the same places during the
four seasons; he seemed not to know
that spring, summer, autumn, and
winter, have for multitudes of persons,
new pleasures in new countries.

She could not say anything in reply,
and she quickly dried her eyes. At
last she murmured, in a distracted sort
of way:

"I am — I — ^I am a little sad — I am a
little bored."

But she was seized with terror for
having even said so much, and she added
very quickly:

"And besides — ^I am — ^I am a little
cold."

At this statement he got angry:

"Ah! yes, still your idea of the hot-



air plant. But look here, deuce take ill
you have only had one cold since yoa
came here."
# 4i 4i « ♦ « «

The night came. She went up to ha
room, for she had insisted on having a
separate apartment. She went to bed
Even in the bed, she felt cold. She
thought: "Is it to be like tMs always,
always till death?"

And she thought of her husband.
How could he have said this:

"You have only had one cold since
you came here?"

Then she must get ill ; she must coo^
in order that he might understand what
she suffered!

And she was filled with indignation,
the angry indignation of a weak, a timid
being.

She must cough. Then, without
doubt, he would take pity on her. WcH,
she would cough; he would hear her
coughing; the doctor should be called
in; he would see that her husband would
see.

She got up with her legs and her feet
naked, and a childish idea made her
smile:

"I want a hot-air plant, and I must
have it. I shall cough so much that hell
have to put one into the house."

And she sat down almost naked in a
chair. She waited an hour, two hours.
She shivered, but she did not catch cold.
Then she resolved to make use of a bold
expedient.

She noiselessly left her room, de*
scended the stairs, and opened the gar-
den-gate.

The earth, covered with snow, seemed
dead. She abruptly thrust forward hff
naked foot, and plunged it into the li|^



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and icy froth. A sensation of cold,
painful as a wound, mounted up to her
heart. However, she stretched out the
other leg and began to descend the steps
slowly.

Then she advanced through the grass,
saying to herself;

"I'll go as far as the fir-trees."

She walked with quick steps, out of
breath, choking every time she drove her
foot through the snow.

She touched the first fir-tree with her
hand, as if to convince herself that she
carried out her plan to the end; then she
went back into the house. She believed
two or three times that she was going
to fall, so torpid and weak did she feel.
Before going in, meanwhile, she sat in
that icy snow, and she even gathered
some in order to rub on her breast.

Then she went in, and got into bed.
It seemed to her, at the end of an hour,
that she had a swarm of ants in her
throat, and that other ants were running
all over her limbs. She slept, however.

Next day, she was coughing, and she
could not get up.

She got inflammation of the limgs.
She became delirious, and in her delirium
she asked for a hot-air plant. The
doctor insisted on having one put in.
Henry yielded, but with an irritated
repugnance.

4c 4" 4> 4c 4c 4> 4(

She could not be cured. The lungs,
severely attacked, made those who at-
tended on her uneasy about her life.

"If she remains here, she will not last
as long as the next cold weather," said
the doctor.

She was sent to the south. She came
to Cannes, recognized the sun, loved the



sea, and breathed the air of orange-
blossoms. Then in the spring, she re-
turned north. But she lived with the
fear of being cured, with the fear of the
long winters of Normandy; and as soon
as she was better, she opened her win-
dow by night while thinking of the sweet
banks of the Mediterranean. And now
she was going to die. She knew it and
yet she was contented.

She unfolds a newspaper which she
had not already opened, and reads this
heading:

"The First Snow in Paris."

After this, she shivers and yet smiles.
She looks across the Esterel which is
turning rose-colored under the setting
sun. She looks at the vast blue sea, so
very blue also, and rises up and returns
to the house, with slow steps, only stop-
ping to cough, for she had remained out
too long; and she has caught cold, a
slight cold.

She finds a letter from her husband.
She opens it still smiling, and she reads:

"My dear Love: I hope you are go-
ing on well, and that you do not regret
too much our beautiful district. We
have had for some days past a good
frost which announces snow. For my
part, I adore this weather, and you un-
derstand that I am keeping that cursed
hot-air plant of yours going — "

She ceases reading, quite happy at the
thought that she has had her hot-air
plant. Her right hand, which holds the
letter, falls down slowly over her knees,
while she raises her left hand to her
mouth, as if to calm the obstinate cough
which is tearing her chest.



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The Wooden Shoes



The old priest was sputtering out the
last words of his sermon over the white
caps of the peasant women, and the
rough or greasy heads of the men. Tlie
large baskets of the farmers' wives
who had come from a distance to attend
mass were on the ground beside them,
and the heavy heat of a July day caused
them all to exhale a smell like that of
cattle, or of a flock of sheep, and the
cocks could be heard crowing through
the large west door, which was wide
open, as well as the lowing of the cows
in a neighboring field.

"As God wishes. Amen!" the priest
said. Then he ceased, opened a book,
and, as he did every week, began to give
notice of all the small parish events for
the following week. He was an old man
with white hair who had been in the
parish for over forty years, and from
the pulpit was in the habit of discours-
ing familiarly to them all; so he went
on: "I will recommend Desird Vallin,
who is very ill, to your prayers, and
also La Paumelle, who is not recovering
from her confinement satisfactorily."

He had forgotten the rest, and so he
looked for the slips of paper which
were put away in a breviary. At last
he found two and continued: "I will
not have the lads and girls come into
the church-yard in the evening, as they
do; otherwise I shall inform the rural
policeman. Monsieur C^saire Omont
would like to find a respectable girl as
servant." He reflected for a few mo-
ments, and then added: "That is all,
my brethren, and I wish that all of you
may find the Divine mercy." And he
came down from the pulpit, to finish
mass.



When the Malandains had returned
to their cottage, which was the last in
the village of La Sabli^re, on the road
to Fourville, the father, a thin, wrinkled
old peasant, sat down at the table, while
his wife took the saucepan off the fire,
and Adelaide, the daughter, took the
glasses and plates out of the sideboard.
Then the father said: "I think that
place at Maitre Omont's ought to be a
good one, as he is a widower and his
daughter-in-law does not like him. He
is all alone and has money. I think it
would be a good thing to send Adelaide
there."

His wife put the black saucepan on
to the table, took the lid off, and while
the steam, which smelled strongly of
cabbage, rose into the air she pondered
on the suggestion. Presently the old
man continued: "He has got some
money, that is certain, but any one go-
ing there ought to be very ^rp, and
Adelaide is not that at all."

His wife replied: "I might go and
see, all the same," and turning to her
daughter, a strapping, silly looking gid
with yellow hair and fat, red checks
like apples, she said: 'TDo you hear,
you great silly? You are to go to
Maitre Omont's and offer yourself as
his servant, and you will do whatever he
tells you."

The girl began to laugh in a foolish
manner, without replying, and then tht
three began their dinner. In a few min-
utes, the father continued: 'listen to
me, girl, and try not to make a mistake
about what I am going to say to you."*
And slowly and minutely he laid down
for her her line of conduct, anticipating
the minutest details, and preparing her



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THE WOODEN SHOES



S85'



for the conquest of an old widower who
was on unfriendly terms with his family.
The mother ceased eating to Hsten to
him, and she sat there, with her fork in
her hand, looking at her husband and
her daughter by turns, and following
every word with concentrated and silent
attention, while Adelaide remained list-
less, docile, and stupid, with vague and
wandering eyes.

As soon as their meal was over, her
mother made her put her cap on, and
they both started off to see Monsieur
C6saire Omont. He lived in a small,
brick house adjoining his tenants' cot-
tages, for he had retired, and was liv-
ing by subdividing and letting his land.

He was about fifty-five years old, and
was stout, jovial, and rough-mannered,
as rich men often are. He laughed and
shouted loud enough to make the walls
fall down, drank brandy and cider by
the glassful, and was said to be still of
an amorous disposition, in spite of his
age. He liked to walk about his fields
with his hands behind his back, digging
his wooden shoes into the fat soil, look-
ing at the sprouting corn or the flower-
ing colza with the ey2 of a retired
farmer, at his ease, who likes to see the
crops but does not trouble himself about
them any longer. People used to say of
him: "There is a Mr. Merry-man, who
does not get up in a good temper every
day."

He received the two women, as he
was finishing his coffee, with his fat
stomach against the table, and turning
round said: 'What do you want?"

The mother was spokeswoman. "This
is our girl Adelaide, and I have come
to ask you to take her as servant, as



Monsieur le Cur6 told us you wanted
one."

Maitre Omont looked at the girl, and
then he said roughly: "How old is the
great she-goat?"

"Twenty last Michaelmas-Day, Mon-
sieur Omont." •

"That is settled, she will have fifteen
francs a month and her food. I shall
expect her to-morrow, to make my soup
in the morning." And he dismissed the
two women.

The next day Adelaide entered upon
her duties, and began to work hard,
without saying a word, as she was in the
habit of doing at home. About nine
o'clock, as she was scrubbing the kitchen
floor. Monsieur Omont called her:
"Adelaide!"

She came immediately saying: "Here
I am, master." As soon as she was op-
posite him, with her red and neglected
hands, and her troubled looks, he said.
"Now just listen to me, 60 that there
may be no mistake between us. You
are my servant, but nothing else; you
understand what I mean. We shall keep
our shoes apart."

*^es, master."

"Each in our own place, my girl, you
in your kitchen; I in my dining-room,
and with that exception, everything will
be for you just as it is for me. Is that
settled?"

*^es, master."

"Very well; that is all right, and now
go to your work."

And she went out, to attend to her
duties, and at midday she served up her
master's dinner in the little drawing-
room with the flowered paper on the
walls, and then, when the soup was on



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886



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



the table, she went to tell him. ''Din-
ner is ready, master."

He went in and sat down, looked
round, unfolded his table napkin, hesi-
tated for a moment and then in a voice
of thunder he shouted: "Adelaide!"

She rushed in, terribly frightened, for
he had shouted as if he meant to murder
her.

'Well, in heaven's name, where is
your place?"

"But, master!"

"I do not like to eat alone," he
roared; "you will sit there, or go to the
devil, if you don't choose to do so.
Go and get your plate and glass."

She brought them in, feeling very
frightened, and stammered: "Here I
am, master," and then sat down opposite
to him. He grew jovial; clinked glasses
with her, rapped the table, and told her
stories to which she listened with down-
cast eyes, without daring to say a word,
and from time to time she got up to
fetch some bread, cider, or plates.
When she brought in the coffee she
only put one cup before him, and then
he grew angry again, and growled:
"Well, what about yourself?"

"I never take any, master.'*

"Why not?"

"Because I do not like it."

Then he burst out afresh: "I am not
fond of having my coffee by myself, con-
found it! If you will not take it here,
you can go to the devil. Go and get a
cup, and make haste about it."

So she went and fetched a cup, sat
down again, tasted the black liquor and
made faces over it, but swallowed it to
the last drop, under her master's furi-
ous looks. Then he made her also drink



her first glass of brandy as an extra
drop, the second as a livener, and the
third as a kick behind, and then he told
her to go and wash up her plates and
dishes, adding, that she was "a good
sort of girl."

It was the same at supper, after which
she had to play dominoes with him.
Then he sent her to bed. saying that he
should come upstairs soon. So she went
to her room, a garret under the roof,
and after saying her prayers, undressed
and got into bed. But very soon she
sprang up in a fright, for a furious shout
had shaken the house. "Adelaide!"
She opened her door, and replied from
her attic: "Here I am, master."

"Where are you?"

"In bed, of course, master."

Then he roared out: "Will you come
downstairs, in heaven's name? I do
not like to sleep alone, and, by Jove,



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 110 of 125)