Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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if you object, you can just go at once."

Then in her terror she replied from
upstairs: "I will come, master." She
looked for her candle, and he soon heaid
her small clogs pattering down the stairs.
When she had got to the bottom stqK,
be seized her by the arm, and as soon
as she had left her light wooden shoes
by the side of her master's heavy boots,
he pushed her into his room, growling
out: "Quicker than that, confound it!**

And without knowing what she was
saying she answered: "Here I am, here
I am, master."

Six months later, when slie went to
see her parents one Sunday, her father
looked at her curiously, and then said:
"Are you not enceinte?"

She remained thunderstruck, and

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looked at her waist, and then said:
"No, I do not think so."

Then he asked her, for he wanted to
know everything: "Just t^l me, didn't
you mix your clogs together, one night?"

"Yes, I mixed them the first night,
and then every other night."

"Well, then you are enceinte, you
great fool!"

On hearing that, she began to sob,
and stammered: "How could I know?
How was I to know?" Old Malandain
looked at her knowingly, and appeared
very pleased, and then he asked: "What
did you not know?" And amid tears
she replied: "How was I to know how
children were made?" And when her
mother came back, the man said, with-

out any anger: "There, she is enceinte,

But the woman was furious, her finer
instinct revolted, and she called her
daughter, who was in tears, every name
she could think of — a "trollop" and a
"strumpet." Then, however, the old
man made her hold her tongue, and as
he took up his cap to go and talk the
matter over with Master Cesaire Omont,
he remarked: "She is actually more
stupid than I thought she was; she did
not even know what he was doing, the

On the next Sunday, after the sermon,
the old Cur6 published the banns be-
tween Monsieur Onufre-C6saire Omont
and Celeste-Adelaide Malandain.


Pere Boitelle (Antoine) had the
reputation through the whole country
of a specialist in dirty jobs. Every time
a pit, a dunghill, or a cesspool required
to be cleared away, or a dirt-hole to be
cleansed out, he was the person em-
ployed to do it.

He would come there with his night-
man's tools and his wooden shoes cov-
ered with dirt, and would set to work,
-whining incessantly about the nature of
his occupation. When people asked him
■why he did this loathsome work, he
would reply resignedly:

"Faith, 'tis for my children whom I
must support. This brings in more than
anything else."

He had, indeed, fourteen children. If
anyone asked him what had become of

them, he would say with an air of in^*
difference :

"There are only eight of them left
in the house. One is out at service,
and five are married."

When the questioner wanted to know
whether they were well married, he re-
plied vivaciously:

"I did not cross them. I crossed
them in nothing. They married just as
they pleased. We shouldn't go against
people's likings — ^it turns our badly. I
am a night-cartman because my parents
went against my likings. But for that I
would have become a workman like the

Here is the way his parents had
thwarted him in his likings:
He was at that time a soldier stationed

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at Havre, not more stupid than another,
or sharper either, a rather simple fellow,
in truth. During his hours of freedom
his greatest pleasure was to walk along
the quay, where the bird-dealers congre-
gate. Sometimes alone, sometimes with
a soldier from his own part of the
country, he would slowly saunter along
by cages where parrots with green backs
and yellow heads from the banks of the
Amazon, parrots with gray backs and
red heads from Senegal, enormous ma-
caws, which looked like birds brought up
in conservatories, with their flower-like
feathers, plumes, and tufts, paroquets of
•every shape, painted with minute care
by that excellent miniaturist, God Al-
mighty, with the little young birds, hop-
ping about, yellow, blue, and variegated,
mingling their cries with the noise of
the quay, added to the din caused by
the imloading of the vessels, as well as
hy passengers and vehicles — a violent
clamor, loud, shrill, and deafening, as if
from some distant, monstrous forest.

Boitelle would stop, with strained
eyes, wide-open mouth, laughing and en-
raptured, showing his teeth to the cap-
tive cockatoos, who kept nodding their
white or yellow topknots toward the
glaring red of his breeches and the cop-
per buckle of his belt. When he found
a bird that could talk, he put questions
to it, and if it happened at the time to
be disposed to reply and to hold a con-
versation with him, he would remain
there till nightfall filled with gaiety and
contentment. He also found heaps of
fun in looking at the monkeys, and
could conceive no greater luxury for a
rich man than to possess these animals,
just like cats and dogs. This taste for
the exotic he had in his blood, as people

have a taste for the chase, or for medi-
cine, or for the priesthood. He could
not refrain, every time the gates of the
barracks opened, from going back to the
quay, as if drawn toward it by an irre-
sistible longing.

Now, on one occasion, having stOKJCcl
almost in ecstasy before an enormous
ararauna, which was swelling out its
plumes, bending forward, and bridling
up again, as if making the court-courte-
sies of parrot-land, he saw the door of
a little tavern adjoining the bird-dealer's
shop opening, and his attention was at-
tracted by a young negress, with a silk
kerchief tied round her head, sweeping
into the street the rubbish and the sand
of the establishment.

Boitelle's attention was soon divided
between the bird and the woman, and he
really could not tell which of these two
beings he contemplated with the greater
astonishment and delight.

The negress, having got rid of the
sweepings of the tavern, raised her eyes,
and, in her turn, was dazzled by the
soldier's uniform. There she stood fac-
ing him with her broom in her hands as
if she were presenting arms for him,
while the ararauna continued making
courtesies. Now at the end of a few
seconds the soldier began to get em-
barrassed by this attention, and he
walked away gingerly so as not to pre-
sent the appearance of beating a retreat

But he came back. Almost every day
he passed in front of the Colonial tav-
ern, and often he could distinguish
through the windowpanes the figure of
the little black-skiimed maid filling out
"bocks" or glasses of brandy for the
sailors of the port. Frequently, too, she
would come out to the door on seeing

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him. Soon, without even having ex-
changed a word, they smiled at one an-
other like old acquaintances; and Boi-
telle felt his heart moved when he saw
suddenly glittering between the dark lips
of the girl her shining row of white
teeth. At length, he ventured one day
to enter, and was quite surprised to
find that she could speak French like
everyone else. The bottle of lemonade,
of which she was good enough to accept
a glassful, remained in the solider's
recollection memorably delicious; and it
became habitual with him to come and
absorb in this little tavern on the quay
all the agreeable drinks which he could

For him it was a treat, a happiness,
on which his thoughts were constantly
dwelling, to watch the black hand of the
little maid pouring out something into
his glass while her teeth, brighter than
her eyes, showed themselves as she
laughed. When they had kept company
in this way for two months, they be-
came fast friends, and Boitelle, after his
first astonishment at discovering that
this negress was in principle as good
as the best girls in the country, that she
exhibited a regard for economy, indus-
try, religion, and good conduct, loved
her more on that account, and became
so much smitten with her that he wanted
to marry her.

He told her about his intentions,
which made her dance with joy. Be-
sides, she had a little money, left her
by a female oyster-dealer, who had picked
her up when she had been left on the
quay at Havre by an American captain.
This captain had found her, when she
was only about six years old, lying on
bales of cotton in the hold of his ship,

some hours after his departure from
New York. On his arrival in Havre, he
there abandoned to the care of this com-
passionate oyster-dealer the little black
creature, who had been hidden on board
his vessel, he could not tell how or why.

The oyster-woman having died, the
young negress became a servant at the
Colonial tavern.

Antoine Boitelle added: "This will be
all right if my parents don't go against
it. I will never go against them, you
understand — never! I'm going to say a
word or two to them the first time I go
back to the country."

On the following week, in fact, hav-
ing obtained twenty-four hours' leave, he
went to see his family, who cultivated a
little farm at TourteviUe near Yvetot.

He waited till the meal was finished,
the hour when the coffee baptized with
brandy makes people more open-hearted,
before informing his parents that he had
found a girl answering so well to his
likings in every way that there could
not exist any other in all the world so
perfectly suited to him.

The old people, at this observation,
immediately assumed a circumspect air,
and wanted explanations. At first he
concealed nothing from them except the
color of her skin.

She was a servant, without much
means, but strong, thrifty, clean, well-
conducted, and sen<^ible. All these
were better than money would be in the
hands of a bad housewife. Moreover,
she had a few sous, left her by a wo-
man who had reared her, — ^a good nirai-
ber of sous, almost a little dowry,—
fifteen hundred francs in the savings*
bank. The old people, overcome by his
talk, and relying, too, on their own judg-

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ment, were graduaDy giving way, when
he came to the delicate point. Laughing
in rather a constrained fashion, he said:

"There's only one thing you may not
like. She is not white.''

They did not understand, and he had
to explain at some length and very cau-
tiously, to avoid shocking them, that she
belonged to the dusky race of which they
had only seen samples among figures ex-
hibited at Epinal. Then, they became
restless, per^exed, alarmed, as if he
had proposed a union with the Devil.

The mother said: **Black? How
much of her is black? Is it the whole
of her?"

He replied: "Certainly. Everywhere,
just as you are white everywhere.*'

The father interposed: "Black? Is it
as black as the pot?"

The son answered: "Perhaps a little
less than that. She is black, but not dis-
gustingly black. The curb's cossack is
black; but it is not uglier than a sur-
plice, white is white."

The father said: "Are there more
black people besides her in her coun-

And the son, with an air of convic-
tion, exclaimed: "Certainly!"

But the old man shook his head:
"This must be disagreeable!"

Said the son: "It isn't more dis-
agreeable than anything else, seeing that
you get used to it in no time."

The mother asked: "It doesn't soil
linen more than other skins, this black

"Not more than your own, as it is
her proper color."

Then, after many other questions, it
was agreed that the parents should see
this girl before coming to any decision

and that the young fellow, whose period
of service was coming to an end in the
course of a month, should bring her to
the house in order that they might a«
amine her, and decide by talking the
matter over whether or not she was too
dark to enter the Boitelle family.

Antoine accordingly annoimced that
on Sunday, the twenty-second of May,
the day of his discharge, he would start
for Tourteville with his sweetheart.

She had put on, for this journey to
the house of her lover's parents, her
most beautiful and most gaudy clothes,
in which .yellow, red, and blue were the
prevailing colors, so that she had the
appearance of one adorned for a national

At the terminus, as they were leaving
Havre, people stared at her very mudi,
and Boitelle was proud of giving his am
to a person who commanded so mucb
attention. Then, in the third-class car-
riage, in which she took a seat by his
side, she excited so much astonishment
among the peasants that the people in
the adjoining compartments got up on
their benches to get a look at her over
the wooden partition which divided the
different portions of the carriage from
one another. A child, at sight of her,
began to cry with terror, another con*
cealed his face in his mother's apron.
Everything went off well, however, up to
their arrival at their destination. But,
when the train slackened its rate of mo*
tion as they drew near Yvetot, Antoine
felt ill at ease, as he would have done
at an inspection when he did not knov
his drill-practice. Then, as he put his
head out through the carriage door, he
recognized, some distance away, his
father, who was holding the bridle of

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the horse yoked to a carriage, and his
mother who had made her way to the
railed portion of the platform where a
number of spectators had gathered.

He stepped out first, gave his hand
to his sweetheart, and holding himself
erect, as if he were escorting a gen-
eral, he advanced toward his family.

The mother, on seeing this black lady,
in variegated costmne in her son's com-
pany, remained so stupefied that she
could not open her mouth; and the
father found it hard to hold the horse,
which the engine or the negress caused
to rear for some time without stopping.
But Antoine, suddenly seized with the
unmingled joy of seeing once more the
old people, rushed forward with open
arms, embraced his mother, embraced
his father, in spite of the nag's fright,
and then turning toward his companion,
at whom the passengers on the platform
stopped to stare with amazement, he
proceeded to explain:

"Here she is! I told you that, at first
sight, she seems odd; but as soon as
you know her, in very truth, there's not
a better sort in the whole world. Say
good morrow to her without making any
bother about it."

Thereupon, Mhre Boitelle, herself
nearly frightened out of her wits, made
a sort of courtesy, while the father
took off his cap, murmuring: *1 wish
you good luck!"

Then, without further delay, they
climbed up on the car, the two women
at the lower end on seats, which made
them jump up and down as the vehicle
went jolting along the road, and the
two men outside on the front seat.

Nobody spoke. Antoine, ill at ease,
whistled a barrack-room air; his father

lashed the nag; and his mother, from
where she sat in the comer, kept casting
sly glances at the negress, whose fore-
head and cheek-bones shone in the sun-
light like well-blacked shoes.

Wishing to break the ice, Antoine
turned round.

"Well," said he, "we don't seem in-
clined to talk."

"We must get time," replied the old

He went on:

"Come! tell us the little story about
that hen of yours that laid eight eggs."

It was a funny anecdote of long stand-
ing in the family. But, as his mother
still remained silent, paralyzed by emo-
tion, he started the talking himself and
narrated, with much laughter on his own
part, this memorable adventure. The
father, who knew it by heart, brightened
up at the opening words of the narra-
tive; his wife soon followed his example-
and the negress herself, when he had
reached the drollest part of it, suddenly
gave vent to a laugh so noisy, rolling
and torrentlike that the horse, becoming
excited, broke into a gallop for a little

This served as the introduction to
their acquaintanceship. The company
at length began to chat.

On reaching the house they all
alighted, and he conducted his sweet-
heart to a room so that she might take
off her dress, to avoid staining it while
preparing a good dish intended to win
the old people's affections by appealing
to their stomachs. Then he drew his
parents aside near the door, and with
beating heart, asked:

"Well, what do you say now?^

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The father said nothmg. The mother,
less timid, exclaimed:

"She is too black. No, indeed, this is
too much for me. It turns my blood."

"That may be, but it is only for the

They then made their way into the
interior of the house where the good
woman was somewhat affected at the
spectacle of the negress engaged in cook-
ing. She at once proceeded to assist
her, with petticoats tucked up, active in
spite of her age.

The meal wss an excellent one— very
long, very enjoyable. When they had
afterward taken a turn together, An-
toine said to his father:

'*Well, dad, what do you say to this?"

The peasant took care never to com-
promise himself.

*T have no opinion about it. Ask your

So Antoine went back to his mother,
and, leading her to the end of the
room, said:

"Well, mother, what do you think of

"My poor lad, she is really too black.
If she were only a little less black, I
would not go against you, but this is too
much. One would think it was Satan!"

He did not press her, knowing how
obstinate the old woman had always
been, but he felt a tempest of disap-
pointment sweepmg over his heart. He
was turning over in his mind what lie
ought to do, what plan he could devise,
surprised, moreover, that she had not
conquered ithem already as she had cap-
tivated himself. And they all four set
out with slow steps through the corn-

fields, having again relapsed into
silence. Whenever they passed a fence,
they saw a countryman sitting on the
stile and a group of brats climbing up to
stare at them. Peoi^e rushed out into
the road to see the "black" whom young
Boitelle had brought home with him.
At a distance they noticed people scam-
pering across the fields as they do when
the drum beats to draw public attention
to some living phenomenon. P^re and
Mfere Boitelle, scared by this curiosity,
which was exhibited ever3rwheFe throu^
the coimtry at their approach, quickened
their pace, walking side by side, leaving
far behind their son, whom his dark
companion asked what bis parents
thought of her.

He hesitatingly replied that they had
not yet made up their minds.

But on the village-green, people
rushed out of all the houses in a flutter
of excitement; and, at the sight of the
gathering rabble, old Boitelle took to his
heels, and regained his abode, while
Antoine, swelling with rage, his sweet-
heart on his arm, advanced majestically
under the battery of staring eyes opened
wide in amazement.

He understood that it was at an end,
that there was no hope for him, that he
could not marry his negress. She also
understood it; and as they drew near
the farmhouse they both began to weep.
As soon as they had got back to the
house, she once more took off her dress
to aid the mother in her household du-
ties, and followed her everywhere, to
the dairy, to the stable, to the henhouse,
taking on herself the hardest part of the
work, repeating always, **Let me do it,
Madame Boitelle," so that, when night

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came on, the old woman, touched but
inexorable, said to her son: "She is a
good girl, all the same. Tis a pity she
is so black; but indeed she is too much
so. I couldn't get used to it. She must
go back again. She is too black!"

And young Boitelle said to his sweet-
heart :

"She will not consent. She thinks
you are too black. You must go back
again. I will go with you to the train.
No matter — don't fret. I am going to
talk to them after you have started."

He then conducted her to the railway-
station, still cheering her up with hope,
and, when he had kissed her. he put her
into the train, which he watched as it
passed out of sight, his eyes swollen
with tears. In vain did he appeal to the

old people. They would not give their

And when he had told this story,
which was known all over the country,
Antoine Boitelle would always add:

"From that time forward I have had
no heart for anything — for anything at
all. No trade suited me any longer, and
so I became what I am — a night-

People would say to him: "Yet you
got married."

**Yes, and I can't say that my wife
didn't please me, seeing that IVe got
fourteen children; but she is not the
other one, oh! no — certainly not! The
other one, mark you, my negress, she
had only to give me one glance and I
felt as if I were in Heaven!"


We kead lately in the journals, the
foUbwing lines:

"Boulognb-Sur-Mer, January 22,
"A frightful disaster has occurred
which throws into consternation our
maritime population, so grievously af-
flicted two years since. The fishing
boat, commanded by shipmaster Javel,
entering into port, was carried to the
west, and broken upon the rocks of the
breakwater near the pier. In spite of
the efforts of the salvage boat, and of
life lines shot out to 5iem, four men
and a cabin boy perished. The bad
weather continues. We fear new

Who is this shipmaster Javd? Is he
the brother of the one-armed Javel? If
this poor man tossed by the waves, and

dead perhaps, under the dihris of his
boat cut in pieces, is the one I think
he is, he assisted, eighteen years ago, at
another drama, terrible and simple as
are all the formidable dramas of the

Javel the elder was then master of a
smack. The smack is the fishing boat
par excellence. Solid, fearing no kind
of weather, with round body, rolled
incessantly by the waves, like a cork,
always lashed by the hard, foul winds
of the Channel, it travels the sea in-
defatigably, with sail filled, making in
its wake a path which reaches the bot-
tom of the ocean, detaching all the
sleeping creatures from the rocks, the
flat fishes glued to the sand, the heavy
ciabs with their hooked claws, and the

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lobster with his pointed mustaches.

When the breeze is fresh and the
waves choppy, the boat puts about to
fish. A rope is fastened to the end of a
great wooden shank tipped with iron,
which is let down by means of two
cables slipping over two spools at the
extreme end of the craft. And the boat,
driving under wind and current, drags
after her this apparatus, which ravages
and devastates the bottom of the sea.

Javel had on board his younger
brother, four men, and a cabin boy.
He had set out from Boulogne in fair
weather to cast the nets. Then, sud-
denly, the wind arose and an unlooked-
for squall forced the boat along over the
waters. It gained the coast of England;
but a tremendous sea beat so against
the cliffs and the shore that it was im-
possible to enter port. The little boat
put to sea again and returned to the
coast of France. The tempest continued
to make the piers unapproachable, en-
veloping them with foam, and shutting
off all places of refuge by noise and

The fishing boat set out again, nmning
under the billows, tossed about, shaken
up, suffocated in mountains of water,
but merry in spite of all, accustomed
to heavy weather, which sometimes held
it for five or six hours between the two
countries, unable to land in the one or
the other.

Finally, the hurricane ceased, when
they came out into open sea, and al-
though the sea was still high, the com-
mander ordered them to cast the net.
Then the great fishing tackle was thrown
overboard, and two men at one side and
two at the other begin to unwind from
rollers the cable which holds it. Sud-

denly it touches the bottom, but a hi^Ji
wave tips the boat. Javel the younger,
who is in the prow directing the casting
of the net, totters, and finds his ann
caught between the cable, stopped an
instant by the motion, and the wood on
which it slipped. He made a desperate
effort with his other hand to lift the
cable, but the net already dragged and
the rapidly slipping cable would not

Faint from pain, he called. All ran
to him. His brother left the helm. They
threw their full force upon the rope,
forcing it away from the arm it was
grinding. It was in vain. "We must
cut it," said a sailor, and he drew from
his pocket a large knife which could, in
two blows, save young Javel's ann.
But to cut was to lose the net, and the

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 111 of 125)