Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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net meant money, much money— five
hundred francs; it belonged to the elder
Javel, who held to his property.

With tortured heart he cried out:
"No, don't cut; I'll luff the ship." And
he ran to the wheel, putting the hehn
about. The boat scarcely obeyed,
paralyzed by the net which counteracted
its power, and dragged besides from the
force of the leeway and the wind.

Young Javel fell to his knees with
set teeth and haggard eyes. He said
nothing. His brother returned, fearing
the sailor's cutting.

"Wait! wait!" he said, "don't cut,
we must cast anchor."

The anchor was thrown overboard, aD
the chain paid out, and they then tried
to take a turn aroimd the capstan with
the cables in order to loosen the strain
from the weight of the net. They were
successful, finally, and released the am



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SELFISHNESS



895



which hung inert under a sleeve of
bloody woolen cloth.

Young Javel was nearly beside him-
self. They removed the covering from
his arm, and then saw something hor-
rible; bruised flesh, from which the blood
spurted in waves, as if it were forced by
a pump. The man himself looked at his
arm and murmured: "Fool!"

Then, as the hemorrhage made a river
on the deck of the boat, the sailors
cried: "He'll lose all his blood. We
must bind the vein!"

They then took a rope, a great, black,
tarred rope and, twisting it around the
member above the wound, bound it with
all their strength. Little by little the
jets of blood stopped, and Anally ceased
altogether.

Young Javel arose, his arm hanging
by his side. He took it by the other
hand, raised it, turned it, shook it.
Everything was broken; the bones were
crushed completely; only the muscles
held it to his body. He looked at it
with sad eyes, as if reflectiflg. Then he
seated himself on a folded sail, and his
comrades came around him, advising him
to soak it continually to prevent its
turning black.

They put a bucket near him and,
from minute to minute, he would poor
water from a glass upon the horrible
wound, leaving a thread of color in the
clear water.

''You would be better down below,"
said his brother. He went down, but at
the end of an hour came up again, feel-
ing better not to be alone. And then, he
preferred the open air. He sat down
again upon the sail and continued bath-
ing his arm.

The fishing was good. Large fishes



with white bodies were lying beside him,
shaken by the spasms of death. He
looked at them without ceasing to
sprinkle his mangled flesh.

When they started to return to
Boulogne, another gale of wind pre-
vented. The little boat began again its
mad course, bounding, tumbling, shaking
sadly the wounded man.

The night came. The weather was
heavy until daybreak. At sunrise, they
could see England again, but as the sea
was a little less rough, they turned
toward France, beating in the wind.

Toward evening, young Javel called
his comrades and showed them black
traces and a villainous look of decay
around that part of his arm which was
no longer joined to his body.

The sailors looked at it, giving ad-
vice: "That must be gangrene," said
one.

"It must have salt water on it," said
another.

Then they brought salt water and
poured it on the wound. The wounded
man became livid, grinjiing his teeth,
and twisting with pain; but he uttered
no cry.

When the burning grew less, he said
to his brother: "Give me your knift."
The brother gave it to him.

"Hold this arm up for me, drawn out
straight."

lEs brother did as he was asked.

Then he began to cut. He cut gently,
with caution, severing the last tendons
with the sharp blade as one would a
thread with a razor. Soon he had only a
stump. He fetched a deep sigh and
said: "That had to be done. Fool!"

He seemed relieved and breathed with
force. He continued to pour water on



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S96



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



die part of his arm remaining to him.

The night was still bad and they could
not land. When the day appeared,
yoimg Javel took his detached arm and
examined it carefully. Putrefaction had
begim. The comrades came also and ex-
amined it, passing it from hand to hand,
touching it, turning it over, and smelling
it.

His brother said: "It's about time to
throw that into the sea."

Young Javel was angry, he replied:
"No, oh! no! I will not. It is mine,
iai't it? Worse still, it is my arm." He
took it and held it between his legs.

"It won't grow any less putrid," said
the elder.

Then an idea came to the woimded
man. In order to keep the fish which
they kept out a long time, they had with
them barrels of salt. "Couldn't I put
it in there in the brine?" he asked.

"That's so," declared the others.

Then they emptied one of the barrels,
already full of fish from the last few
days, and, at the bottom, they deposited
the arm. "Then they turned salt upon it
and replaced the fishes, one by one.

One of the sailors made a little joke:
•Terhaps I could sell it, if I cried it
around town."

And everybody laughed except the
Javel brothers.

The wind still blew. They beat about
In sight of Boulogne irntil the next day
at ten o'clock. The wounded man still
poured water on his arm. From time to



tune he would get up and walk from
one end of the boat to the other, ffis
brother, who was at the wheel, shook his
head and followed him with his eye.

Finally, they came into port.

The doctor examined the woimd and
declared it in good shape. He dressed it
perfectly and ordered rest. But Javd
could not go to bed without seeing his
arm again, and went quickly back to
the dock to find the barrel which he
had marked with a cross.

They emptied it before him, and he
found his arm refreshed, well preserved
in the salt. He wrapped it in a na{ddn
brought for this purpose, and took it
home.

His wife and children examined care-
fully this fragment of their father,
touching the fingers, taking up the grains
of salt that had lodged under the nails.
Then they went to the joiner for a little
coffin.

The next day a complete procession of
the crew of the fishing smack followed
the detached arm to its interment. The
two brothers, side by side, conducted the
ceremony, ihe parish priest held the
coffin under his arm.

Javel the younger gave up going to
sea. He obtained a small position in
port, and, later, whenever he spoke of
the accident, he would say to his audi-
tor, in a low tone: "If my brother had
been willing to cut the cable, I should
still have my arm, be sure. But he was
looking to his own pocket/'



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The Watchdog



Madams LsrEVRE was a country wo-
man, a widow, one of those half peasants
with ribbons and furbelows on her cap,
a person who spoke with some care,
taking on grandiose airs in public, and
concealing a pretentious, brute soul un-
der an exterior comically glossed over, as
she concealed her great red hands under
gloves of ecru silk.

She had for a servant a simple, rustic,
named Rose. The two women lived in a
little house with green shutters, on a
highway in Normandy, in the center of
the country of Caux. As there was a
garden spot in front of the house, they
cultivated some vegetables.

One night, some one robbed them of a
dozen onions. When Rose perceived the
larceny, she ran to tell Madame, who
came down in a wool petticoat. Here
was a sorrow, and a terror, besides!
Some one had robbed, robbed Madame
Lefevre! And when a robber visits one
in the country, he may come again.

And the two frightened women studied
the footprints, prattled, and supposed
certain things:

"Here," they would say, "they must
have passed here. They must have put
their foot on the wall and then leaped
into the flower bed.**

And they trembled for the future.
How could they sleep peacefully now?

The news of the robbery spread. The
neighbors arrived to prove and discuss
the matter, each in his turn. To each
newcomer the two -women explained
their observations and their ideas. A
farmer on the other side of them said:

"You ought to keep a dog."

That was true, that was; they ought
to keep a dog, even if it were good for



nothing but to give an alarm. Not a
big dog. Monsieur 1 What would they
do with a big dog? It would ruin them
to feed it! But a little dog, a little
puppy that could yap.

When everybody was gone, Madame
Lefevre discussed this idea of having a
dog for a long time. After reflection,
she made a thousand objections, terrified
at the thought of a bowlful of porridge.
Because she was of that race of parsi-
monious country dames who alwajrs
carry pennies in their pockets, in order
to give alms ostensibly along the street,
and to the contributions on Sunday.

Rose, who loved animals, brought for-
ward her reasons and defended them
with astuteness. And finally, it was de-
cided that they should have a dog, but
a little dog.

They began to look for one, but could
only find big ones, swallowers of food
enough to make one tremble. The Rolle-
ville grocer had one, very small; but
he asked two francs for him, to cover
the expense of bringing him up. Madame
Lefevre declared that she was willing
to feed a dog, but she never would buy
one.

Then tht baker, who knew the circum-
stances, brought them, one morning, a
little, yellow animal, nearly all paws,
with the body of a crocodile, the head
of a fox, a tail, trumpet-shaped, a regu-
lar plume, large like the rest of his
person. Madame Lefevre found this cur
that cost nothing very beautiful. Rose
embraced it, and then asked its name.
The baker said it was, "Pierrot."

He was installed in an old soap box,
and he was given first, a drink of water.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



He drank. Then they gave him a piece
of bread. He ate.

Madame Lef evre, somewhat disturbed,
had one idea:

"When he gets accustomed to' the
house, we can let him run loose. He will
find something to eat in roaming around
the country.'*

In fact, they did let him run, but it
did not prevent him from being fam-
ished. Besides, he only barked to ask
for his pittance, in which case, he did
indeed bark with fury.

Anybody could enter the garden.
Pierrot would go and caress each new-
comer, remaining absolutely mute.
Nevertheless, Madame Lefevre became
accustomed to the beast. She even came
to love it, and to give it from her hand,
sometimes, pieces of bread dipped in the
sauce from her meat.

But she had never dreamed of a tax,
and when they came to her for eight
francs — eight francs, Madame ! — for this
little cur of a dog, that would not even
bark, she almost fainted from shock. It
Y^s immediately decided that they must
get rid of Pierrot. No one wanted him.
All the inhabitants, for ten miles aroimd,
refused him. Then it was resolved that,
by some means, they must make him ac-
quainted with the little house. Now, to
be acquainted with the little house is to
eat of the chalk pit. They make all
dogs acquainted with the little house
when they wish to get rid of them.

In the midst of a vast plain, there ap-
peared a kind of hut, or rather, the
little roof of a cottage, rising above the
sod. It is the entrance to the marlpit.
One great shaft went down about twenty
meters, where it was met by a series of
long galleries, penetrating the mine.



Once a year they descended in a sort
of carriage and marled the clay. All
the rest of the time, the pit serves as a
cemetery for condemned dogs; and
often, when one passes near the mouth,
there comes to his ears plaintive howls,
furious barking, and lementable appeals.

Hunting and shepherd dogs flee with
fright at the first sound of these noises;
and when one stoops down above thk
opening, he finds an abominable odor of
putrefaction. Frightful dramas have
taken place within the bounds of this
shadow.

When a beast suffers from hunger at
the bottom of the pit for ten or twelve
days, nourished only on the remains of
his predecessors, sometimes a new ani-
mal, larger and more vigorous, is sud-
denly thrown in. There they are, alone,
famished, their eyes glittering. They
watch each other, follow each other,
hesitate anxiously. But hunger presses;
they attack each other, struggling a
long time infuriated; and the strong
eats the weak, devouring him alive.

When it was decided that they would
get rid of Pierrot, they looked about
them for an executioner. The laborer
who was digging in the road, demanded
six sous for the trouble. This appeared
exaggerated folly to Madame Lefevre.
A neighbor's boy would be content with
five sous ; that was still too much. Then
Rose observed that it would be better
for them to take him themselves, be-
cause he would not then be tortured on
the way and warned of his lot; and so
it was decided that they go together dk
nightfall.

They gave him, this evening, a good
soup with a bit of butter in it. He
swallowed it to the last drop. .\nd when



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THE WATCHDOG



89Q



he wagged his tail with contentment,
Rose took him in her apron.

They went at a great pace, like marau-
ders, across the plain. As soon as they
Beached the pit, Madame Lefevre
stooped to listen; she wanted to know if
any other beast was howling in there.
No, there was no sound. Pierrot would
be alone. And Rose, who was weeping,
embraced him, then threw him in the
hole. And they stooped, both of them,
and listened.

They heard first a heavy thud; then
the sharp, broken cry of a wounded
beast; then a succession of imploring
supplications, the head raised to the
opening.

He yapped, oh! how he yapped!

They were seized with remorse, with a
foolish, inexplicable fear. They jumped
up and ran away. And, as Rose ran
more quickly, Madame Lefevre would
cry: "Wait, Rose, wait for me!"

Their night was filled with frightful
nightmares. Madame Lefevre dreamed
that she seated herself at the table to
eat soup, and when she uncovered the
tureen, Pierrot was in it. He darted out
and bit her on the nose. She awoke and
thought she heard the barking still; she
fistened; she was deceived. Again she
slept, and found herself upon a great
road, an interminable road, that she
must follow. Suddenly, in the middle
of the road, she perceived a basket, a
great, farmer's basket, a basket that
brought her fear. Nevertheless, she
finished by opening it, and Pierrot, hid-
den within, seized her hand, not loosing
it again. And she knew that she was
lost, carrying about forever suspended
upon her arm, a dog with open mouth.



At the dawn of day, she arose, almost
insane, and ran to the pit.

He was barking, barking still; he had
barked all night. She began to sob and
called him with a thousand caressing
names. He responded with all the ten-
der inflections a dog's voice is capable
of. Then she wished to see him again,
promising herself to make him happy to
the day of her death. She ran to the
house of the man in charge of the mine,
and told him her story. The man lis-
tened without laughing. When she had
finished, he said: "You want your dog?
That will be four francs.'*

It was a shock. All her grief van-
ished at a blow.

"Four francs," said she, "Four francs!
would you make a murderer of your-
self!"

He replied: ''You believe that I am
going to bring my ropes and tackle and
set them up, and go down there with my
boy and get bitten, perhaps, by your
mad dog, for the pleasures of giving him
back to you? You shouldn't have thrown
him in there!"

She went away indignant. "Four
francs!"

As soon as she entered, she called
Rose and told her the demands of the
miner. Rose, always resigned, answered:
*Tour francs ! It is considerable money,
Madame." Then she added that they
might throw the poor dog something to
eat, so that it might not die there.

Madame Lefevre approved galdly, and
again they set out with a big piece of
bread and butter. They broke off mor-
sels, which they threw in one after
the other, calling in turn to Pierrot.
And as soon as the dog had got one
piece, he barked for the next.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



They returned that evemng, then the
next day, every day. But never more
than one journey.

One morning, at the moment they
dropped the first morsel, they heard sud-
denly, a formidable barking in the shaft.
There were two of them! Another dog
had been thrown in, a big dog!

Rose cried: "Pierrot!'' And Pierrot
answered: ''Yap, Yap!" Then they be-
gan to feed him, but each time they
threw down a bit, they heard a terrible
tussle, then the plaintive cries of Pier-
rot bitten by his companion, who ate
all, being the stronger.



Then they specified: "This is for
you Pierrot!" Pierrot evidently got
nothing.

The two women, amazed, looked at
each other. And Madame Lefevre de-
clared in a sharp voice:

"I certainly can't feed all the dogs
they throw in there. We must give it
up."

Overcome with the idea of all those
dogs living at her expense, she went
away, carrying even the bread that she
had begun to feed to poor Pierrot.

Rose followed, wiping her eyes on the
corner of her blue apron.



The Dancers



''Great misfortunes grieve me little,"
said John Bridelle, an old bachelor who
passed for a sceptic. "I have seen war
at close range; I could stride over dead
bodies pitilessly. The strong brutaUties
of nature, where we can utter cries of
horror or indignation, do not wring our
hearts or send the shiver down the back,
as do the little wondering sights of life.

"Certainly the most violent grief that
one can experience is for a mother the
loss of a child, and for a son the loss of
a mother. It is violent and terrible, it
overturns land lacerates; but one is
healed of such catastrophes, as of large,
bleeding wounds. But, certain accidents,
certain things hinted at, suspected, cer-
tain secret griefs, certain perfidy, of the
sort that stirs up in us a world of griev-
ous thoughts, which opens before us sud-
denly the mysterious door of moral
suffering, complicated, ii-^-urable* so



much the more profound because it
seems worthy, so much the more sting-
ing because imseizable, the more tena-
cious because artificial, these leave iqxui
the soul a train of sadness, a feeling of
sorrow, a sensation of disenchantment
that we are long in ridding ourselves of.

"I have ever before my eyes two or
three things, that possibly had not beoi
noticed by others, but which entered
into my sympathies like deep, unhealable
stings.

"You will not comprehend, perhaps,
the emotion that has relieved me from
these rapid impressions. I will tell you
only one. It is old, but lives with me
as if it occurred yesterday. It may be
imagination alone that keeps it fredi in
my memory.

"I am fifty years old. 1 was jroung
then and studious by nature. A little
sad, a little dreamy, impregnated with



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THE DANCERS



901



a melancholy philosophy, I never cared
SLUch for the brilliant cafis, noisy com-
rades, nor stupid girls. I rose early,
and ont of my sweetest indulgences was
to take a walk alone, about eight o'clock
in the morning, in the nursery of the
Luxemburg.

"Perhaps you do not know this
nursery? It was like a forgotten gar-
den of another century, a pretty garden,
like the smile of an old person. Trimmed
hedges separated the straight, regular
walks, calm walks between two walls of
foliage neatly pruned. The great scis-
sors of the gardener clipped without
mercy the offshoots of the branches.
While here and there were walks bor-
dered with flowers, and clumps of little
trees, arranged like collegians promenad-
ing, masses of magnificent roses, and
regiments of fruit-trees.

"The whole of one comer of this de-
lightful copse was inhabited by bees.
Their straw houses, skillfully spaced
upon the planks, opened to the sun their
great odors, like the opening of a sew-
ing thimble. And all along the path
golden flies were buzzing, true mistresses
of this peaceful place, ideal inhabitants
of these walks and corridors.

"I went there nearly every morning.
I would seat myself upon a bench and
read. Sometimes, I would allow my book
to fall upon my knees, while I dreamed
and listened to the living Paris all about
me, and enjoyed the infinite repose of
these rows of ancient oaks.

"All at once I perceived that I was
not alone a frequenter of this spot,
reached through an opening in the fence.
From time to time I encountered, face
to face, an old man in the corner of the
thicket. He wore shoes with silver



buckles, trousers with a flap, a tobacoo-
colored coat, lace in place of a cravat,
and an unheard-of hat with nap and
edges worn, which made one think of
the deluge.

"He was thin, very thin, angular,
smiling, grimacing. His bright eyes
sparkled, agitated by a continual move-
ment of the pupils; and he always car-
ried a superb cane, with a gold head,
which must have been a souvenir, and a
magnificent one.

"This good man astonished me at first,
then interested me beyond measure.
And I watched him behind a wall of
foliage, and followed him from afar,
stopping behind shrubbery, so as not to
be seen.

"It happened one morning as he be-
lieved himself entirely alone, that he be«
gan some singular movements; some
little bounds at first, then a bow; then
he struck up some capers with his lank
legs, then turned cleverly, as if on a
pivot, bending and swaying in a droll
fashion, smiling as if before the public,
making gestures with outstretched arms^
twisting his poor body like a jumping-
jack, throwing tender, ridiculous saluta-*
tions to the open air. He was
dancing !

"I remained petrified with amazement,
asking myself which of the two was mad,
he or I. But he stopped suddenly, ad-
vanced as actors do upon the stage,
bowed, and took a few steps backward,
with the gracious smiles and kisses of
the comedian, which he threw with trem-
bling hand to the two rows of shapely
trees.

"After that, he resumed his walk with
gravity.
"From this day, I never lost sight of



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ORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



him. And each morning he recommenced
his peculiar exercise.

"A foolish desire led me to speak to
bim. I ventured and, having bowed, I
^d:

" *It is a fine day, to-day, sir.'

**He bowed. *Yes, sir, it is like the
weather of long ago.'

"A week after this, we were friends,
and I knew his history. He had been
dancing master at the Opera from the
time of Louis XV. His beautiful cane
was a gift from Count de Chrmont.
And when he began to speak of dancing,
he never knew when to stop.

"One day he confided in me:

" *I married La Castris, sir. I will
present her to you, if you wish, but she
never comes here so early. This gar-
den, you see, is our pleasure and our
life. It is all that remains to us of
former times. It seems to us that we
could not exist if we did not have it.
It is old and distinguished, is it not?
Here I can seem to breathe air that has
not changed since my youth. My wife
•ind I pass every afternoon here. But
I, I come again in the morning, because
I rise so early.'

"After luncheon, I returned to the
Luxemburg, and soon I perceived my
friend, who was giving his arm with
great ceremony to a little old woman
clothed in black, to whom I was pre-
sented. It was La Castris, the great
dancer, loved of princes, loved of the
king, loved of all that gallant century
which seems to have left in the world
an odor of love.

"We seated ourselves upon a bench.
It was in the month cf May. A perfume
of flowers flitted through all the tidy
walks; a pleasant sun glistened between



the leaves and spread over us large
spots of light. The black robe of La
Castris seemed all permeated with
brightness.

"The garden was empty. The roll of
carriages could be heard in the distance.

" *Will you explain to me,' said I to
the old dancing master, 'what the
minuet was?'

"He started. 'The minuet, sir, is the
queen of dances and the dance of
queens, do you understand? Since there
are no more kings, there are no more
minuets.'

"And he commenced, in pompous
style, a long, dithyrambic eulogy of
which I comprehended nothing. I
wanted him to describe the step to me,
all the movements, the poses. He per-
plexed and exasperated himself with his
lack of strength, and then became ner-
vous and spent. Then, suddenly, turning
toward his old companion, always silent
and grave, he said:

" *Elise, will you, I say — ^will you be
so kind as to show this gentleman what
the minuet really was?'

"She turned her unquiet eyes in every
direction, then rising, without; a word,



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 112 of 125)