Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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a few years previously, a young woman
whom he dearly loved, but who now
treated him with the severity and au-
thority of an all-powerful despot. Sne
found fault with him continually for

ever3rthing that he did or did not do,
reproached him bitterly for his slightest
acts, his habits, his simple pleasures,
his tastes, his movements and walk, and
for having a round stomach and a placid

He still loved her, however, but above
all he loved the boy she had borne
him, and George, who was now three,
"had become the greatest joy, in fact the
preoccupation, of his heart. He himself
had a modest private fortune, and lived
without doing anything on his twenty
thousand francs* a year, and his wife,
who had been quite portionless, was
constantly angry at her husband*s in-

At last he reached his house, put down
the child, wiped his forehead and walked
upstairs. When he got to the second
floor, he rang. An old servant who had
brought him up, one of those mistress-
servants who are the tjnrants of families,
opened the door to him, and he asked
'her anxiously: "Has Madame come
in yet?"

The servant shrugged her shoulders:
•'When have you ever known Madame
to come home at half past six, Mon*

And he replied with some embarrass-
ment: "Very well; all the better; it
will give me time to change my things,
for I am very hot."

The servant looked at him with angry
and contemptuous pity, and grumbled:
"Oh! I can see that well enough, you
are covered with perspiration. Monsieur.
I suppose you walked quickly and car-
ried the child, and only to have to wait
until half past seven, perhaps, for Ma«

♦About $4000.

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dame. I have made up my mind not to
have it ready at the time, but shall get
it for eight o'clock, and if you have to
wait, I cannot help it; roast meat ought
not to be burnt!"

Monsieur Parent, however, pretended
not to hear, and only said: "All right!
all right. You must wash George's
hands, for he has been making sand
pits. I will go and change my clothes;
tell the maid to give the child a good

And he went into his own room, and
as soon as he got in he locked the door,
so as to be alone, quite alone. He was
so used now to being abused and badly
treated, that he never thought himself
safe, except when he was locked in. He
no longer ventured even to think, re-
flect and reason with himself unless he
had secured himself against her looks
and insinuations, by locking himself in.
Having thrown himself into a chair, in
order to rest for a few minutes before
he put on clean linen, he remembered
that Julie was beginning to be a fresh
danger in the house. She hated his wife
— ^that was quite plain; but she hated
still more his friend Paul Limousin, who
had continued to be the familiar and in-
timate friend of the house, after havhig
been the inseparable companion of his
bachelor days, which is very rare. It
was Limousin who acted as a buffer be-
tween his wife and himself, and who
defended him ardently, and even severe-
ly, against her undeserved reproaches,
against crying scenes, and against all
the daily miseries of his existence.

But now for six months, Julie had
constantly been saying things against
her mistress. She would repeat twenty
tiroes a day; "If I were you, Monsieur,

I should not allow myself to be led by
the nose like that. Well, well! But
there — everyone according to his na-
ture." And one day, she had even ven-
tured to be insolent to Henriette, who,
however, merely said to her husband,
at night: "You know, the next time
she speaks to me like that, I shall turn
her out of doors." But she, who feared
nothing, seemed to be afraid of the old
servant, and Parent attributed her mild-
ness to her consideration for the old
domestic who had brought him up, and
who had closed his mother's eyes. Now,
however, Henriette's patience was ex-
hausted, matters could not go on like
that much longer, and he was fright-
ened at the idea of what was going to
happen. What could he do? To get
rid of Julie seemed to him to be such
a formidable undertaking, that he hardly
ventured to think of it; but it was just
as impossible to uphold her against his
wife, and before another month could
pass, the situation between the two
would become unbearable. He re-
mained sitting there, with his arms
hanging down, vaguely trying to dis-
cover some means to set matters
straight, but without success, and he
said to himself: "It is lucky that I
have George; without him I should be
very miserable."

Then he thought he would consult
Limousin, but the recollection of the
hatred that existed between his friend
and the servant made him fegir lest the
former should advise him to turn her
away, and again he was lost in doubt
and sad uncertainty. Just then the
clock struck seven, and he started up.
Seven o'clock, and he had not even
changed his clothes! Then, nervous and

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breathless, he undressed, put on a clean
shirt, and hastily finished his toilette, as
if he had been expected in the next
room for some event of extreme impor-
tance; then he went into the drawing-
room, happy at having nothing to fear.
He glanced at the newspaper, went and
looked out of the window, and then sat
down on a sofa again. The door opened,
and the boy came in, washed, brushed,
and smiling, and Parent took him up in
his arms and kissed him passionately;
then he tossed him into the air, and held
him up to the ceiling, but soon sat down
again, as he was tired with all his ef-
forts, and taking George on to his knee,
he made him "ride a cock-horse." The
child laughed and clapped his hands, and
shouted with pleasure, as his father did,
laughing until his big stomach shook, for
it amused him almost more than it did
the child.

Parent loved the boy with all the heart
of a weak, resigned, ill-used man. He
loved with mad bursts of affection, with
caresses and with all the bashful ten-
derness which was hidden in him, and
which had never found an outlet, even
at the early period of his married life,
for his wife had always shown herself
cold and reserved. Just then, how-
ever, Julie came to the door, with a pale
face and glistening eyes, and said in a
voice which trembled with exasperation:
*lt is half past seven, Monsieur."
Parent gave an uneasy and resigned look
at the clock and replied: "Yes, it cer-
tainly is half past seven."

'Well, my dinner is quite ready,

Seeing the storm which was coming,
he tried to turn it aside. "But did you

not tell me when I came in that it
would not be ready before eight?"

"Eight ! what are you thinking about?
You surely do not mean to let the child
dine at eight o'clock? It would ruin his
stomach. Just suppose that he only had
his mother to look after him! She
cares a great deal about her child. Oh!
yes, we will speak about her; she is a
mother. What a pity it is that there
should be any mothers like her!"

Parent thought it was time to cut
short a threatened scene, and so he
said: "Julie, I will not allow you to
speak like that of your mistress. You
understand me, do you not? Do not
forget it for the future."

The old servatot, who was nearly
choked with surprise, turned round and
went out, slamming the door so violently
after her, that the lusters on the chan-
delier rattled, and for some seconds it
sounded as if a number of little in-
visible bells were ringing in the draw-

George, who was surprised at first,
began to clap his hands merrily, and
blowing out his cheeks, he gave a great
boom with all the strength of his lungs,
to imitate the noise of the door bang-
ing. Then his father began telling him
stories, but his mind was so preoccupied
that he continually lost the thread of
his story, and the child, who could not
understand him, opened his eyes wide,
in astonishment.

Parent never took his eyes off tlic
clock; he thought he could see the
hands move, and he would have liked
to have stopped them until his wife's
return. He was not vexed with her for
being late, but he was frightened, fright-
ened of her and of Julie, frightened at

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tlie thought of all that might happen.
Ten minutes more would suffice to bring
about an irreparable catastrophe, words
and acts of violence that he did not dare
to picture to himself. The mere idea
of a quarrel, of loud voices, of insults
flying through the air like bullets, of
two women standing face to face, look-
ing at each other and flinging abuse at
each other, made his heart beat, and his
tongue feel as parched as if he had
been walking in the sun. He felt as limp
as a rag, so limp that he no longer had
the strength to lift up the child and
dance him on his knee.

Eight o'clock struck, the door opened
once more and Julie came in again.
She had lost her look of exasperation,
but now she put on an air of cold and
determined resolution, which was still
more formidable.

"Monsieur," she said, "I served your
mother until the day of her death, and
I have attended to you from your birth
until now, and I think it may be said
that I am devoted to the family."

She waited for a reply, and Parent
stammered :
Why yes, certainly, my good Julie."
She continued: "You know quite
well that I have never done anything for
the sake of money, but always for your
sake; that I have never deceived you
nor lied to you, that you have never
had to find fault with me."
"Certainly, my good Julie."
"Very well then. Monsieur, it can-
not go on any longer like this. I have
said nothing, and left you in your igno-
rance, out of respect and liking for you,
but it is too much, and everyone in the
neighborhood is laughing at you. Every-
body knows about it, and so I must tell

you also, although I do not like to re«
peat it. The reason why Madame comes
in at any time she chooses is that she
is doing abominable things."

He seemed stupefied, unable to un-
derstand, and could only stammer out:
''Hold your tongue, you know I have
forbidden you — "^ But she interrupted
him with irresistible resolution.

"No, Monsieur, I must tell you
everything, now. For a long time Ma-
dame has been doing wrong with Mon-
sieur Limousin, I have seen them kiss
scores of times behind the doors. Ah!
you may be sure that if Monsieur Li-
mousin had been rich, Madame would
never have married Monsieur Parent.
If you remember how the marriage
was brought about, you would under-
stand the matter from beginning to

Parent had risen, and stammered out,
deadly pale: "Hold your tongue — hold
your tongue or — "

She went on, however: "No, I mean
to tell you everything. She married
you from interest, and she deceived you
itrom the very first day. It was all set-
tled between them beforehand. You
need only reflect for a few moments to
understand it, and then, she was not
satisfied with having married you, as
she did not love you, she has made your
life miserable, so miserable that it has
almost broken my heart when I have
seen it — "

He walked up and down the room
with his hands clenched, repeating:
"Hold your tongue — ^hold your tongue
— " for he could find nothing else to
say; the old servant, however, would
not yield; she seemed resolved on every-
thing, but George who had been at

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first astonished, and then frightened at
those angry voices, began to utter shrill
screams. He hid behind his father,
and roared, with his face puckered up
and his mouth open.

His son's screams exasperated Parent,
and filled him with rage and courage.
He rushed at Julie ^ with both arms
raised, ready to strike her, and exclaim-
ing: "Ah! you wretch! you will send
the child out of his senses." He was
almost touching her, when she said:

"Monsieur, you may beat me if you
like, me who reared you, but that wiU
not prevent your wife from deceiving
you, or alter the fact that your child
is not yours!"

He stopped suddenly, and let his
arms fall, and he remained standing op-
posite to her, so everwhelmed that he
could understand nothing more, and she
added: "You need only look at the
child to know who is its father! He is
the very image of Monsieur Limousin,
you need only look at his eyes and tore-
head, why, a blind man could not be
mistaken in him."

But he had taken her by the shoul-
ders, and was now shaking her with all
his might, while he ejaculated: "Viper!
viper! Go out the room, viper! Go
out, or I shall kill you! Go out! Go

And with a desperate effort he threw
her into the next room. She fell on
to the table which was laid for dinner,
breaking the glasses. Then, getting up,
she put it between her master and her-
self, and while he was pursuing her,
in order to take hold of her again, she
flung terrible words at him : "You need
only go out this evening after dinner,
and come in again immediately, and you

will see — ^you will see whether I have
been lying! Just try it — ^and you will
see." She had reached the kitchen door
and escaped, but he ran after her, up
the backstairs to her bedroom into
which she had locked herself, and
knocking at the door, he said: "You
will leave my house this very instant."

"You may be certain of that. Mon-
sieur," was her reply. "In an hour's
time I shall not be here any longer."

He then went slowly downstairs
again, holding on to the banister, so as
not to fall, and went back to the draw-
ing-room, where little George was sit-
ting on the floor, crying; he fell into a
chair, and looked at the child with dull
eyes. He understood nothing, he knew
nothing more, he felt dazed, stupefied,
mad, as if he had just fallen on his head,
and he scarcely even remembered the
dreadful things the servant had told him.
Then, by degrees his reason grew clearer,
like muddy water settling, and the
abominable revelation began to work h>
his heart.

Julie had spoken so clearly, with so
much force, assurance, and sincerity,
that he did not doiibt her good faith,
but he persisted in not believing her
penetration. She might have been de-
ceived, blinded by her devotion to him,
carried away by unconscious hatred
for Henriette. However, in measure as
he tried to reassure and to convince
himself, a thousand small facts recurred
to his recollection, his wife's words,
Limousin's looks, a number of unob-
served, almost unseen trifles, her going'
out late, their simultaneous absence, and j
even some almost insignificant, butj
strange gestures, which he could not un
derstand, now assumed an extreme im-

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portance for him and established a con<
nivance between them. Everything
that had happened since his engagement,
surged through his over-excited brain,
in his misery, and he doggedly went
through his five years of married life,,
trying to recollect every detail month
by month, day by day, and every dis-
quieting circumstance that he remem-
bered stung him to the quick like a
wasp's sting.

He was not thinking of George any
more, who was quiet now and on the
carpet, but seeing that no notice was
being taken of him, the boy began to
cry. Then his father ran up to him,
took him into his arms, and covered
him with kisses. His child remaiiied to
him at any rate! What did the rest
matter? He held him in his arms and
pressed his lips on to his light hair, and
relieved and composed, he whispered:
"George, — ^my little George,— my dear
little George!" But he suddenly re-
membered what Julie had said! Yes!
she had said that he was Limousin's
child. Oh! It could not be possible,
surely! He could not believe it, could
Qot doubt, even for a moment, that
George was his own child. It was one
of those low scandals which spring
from servants' brains ! And he repeated :
"George — ^my dear little George." The
youngster was quiet again, now that his
father was fondling him.

Parent felt the warmth of the little
chest penetrate to his through their
clothes, and it filled him with love, cour-
age, and happiness; that gentle heat
soothed him, fortified him, and saved
him. Then he put the small, curly head
away from him a little and looked at it
affectionately, still repeating: "George!

Oh! my little George!" But suddenly
he thought: "Suppose he were to re-
semble Limousin, after all!''

There was something strange work-
ing within him, a fierce feeling, a poig-
nant and violent sensation of cold in
his whole body, in all his limbs, as if his
bones had suddenly been turned to ice.
Oh! if the child were to resemble
Limousin — ^and he continued to look- at
George, who was laughing now. He
looked at him with haggard, troubled
eyes, and tried to discover whether
there was any likeness in his forehead,
in his nose, mouth, or cheeks. His
thoughts wandered like they do when a
person is going mad and his child's face
changed in his eyes, and assumed a
strange look, and unlikely resemblances.

Julie had said : "A blind man could
not be mistaken in him." There must,
therefore, be something striking, an im-
deniable likeness! But what? The
forehead? Yes, perhaps; Limousin's
forehead, however, was narrower. The
mouth, then? But Limoiisin wore a
beard, and how could anyone verify the
likeness between the plump chin of the
child, and the hairy chin of that man?

Parent thought : "I cannot see any-
thing now, I am too much upset; I
could not recognize anything at pres-
ent. I must wait; I must look at him
well to-morrow morning, when I am
getting up." And immediately after-
ward, he said to himself: "But if he
is like me, I shall be saved! saved!"
And he crossed the drawing-room in two
strides, to examine the child's face by
the side of his own in the looking-glass.
He had George on his arm so that their
faces might be close together, and he
spoke out loud almost without know-

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ing. **Yes— we liave the same nose—
the same nose perhaps, but that is not
sure — ^and the same look. But no, he
has blue eyes. Then — good heavens!
I shall go mad. I cannot see anything
more — ^I am going mad ! '*

He went away from the glass, to the
other end of the drawing-room, and put-
ting the child into an easy-chair, he
fell into another and began to cry. He
sobbed so violently that George, who
was frightened at hearing him, imme-
diately began to scream. The hall bell
rang, and Parent gave a bound as if a
bullet had gone through him.

"There she is," he said. "What shall
I do?" And he ran and locked himself
up in his room, so at any rate to have
time to bathe his eyes. But in a few
moments another ring at the bell made
him jump again, and then he remem-
bered that Julie had left without the
housemaid knowing it, and so nobody
would go to open the door. What was
he to do? He went himself, and sud-
denly he felt brave, resolute, ready for
{Simulation and the struggle. The
terrible blow had matured him in a few
moments, and then he wished to know
the truth, he wished it with the rage of
a timid man, with the tenacity of an
easy-going man who has been exasper-

But nevertheless he trembled! Was
it fear? Yes. Perhaps he was still
frightened of her? Does one know how
much excited cowardice there often is
in boldness? He went to the door with
furtive steps, and stopped to listen; his
heart beat furiously, and he heard noth-
ing but the noise of that dull throbbing
in his chest, and of George's shrill
voice, who was still crying in the draw-

ing-room. Suddenly, however, the ncnse
of the bell over his head startled him
like an explosion; then he seized the
lock, turned the key, and, opening the
door, saw his wife and Limousin stand**
ing before him on the steps.

With an air of astonishment, which
also betrayed a little irration she said:
"So you open the door now? Where
is Julie?" His throat felt tight and
his breathing was labored, and he tried
to reply without being able to utter a
wordy so she continued:

"Are you dumb? I asked you where
Julie is?"

And then he managed to say: "She
— she — ^has — gone."

Whereupon his wife began to get
angry. "What do you mean by gone.
Where has she gone? Why?"

By degrees he regained his coolness,
and he felt rising in him an immense
hatred for that insolent woman who was
standing before Inm. "Yes, she has
gone altogether. I sent her away."

"You have sent away Julie? Why,
you must be mad."

"Yes, I sent her away because she
was insolent — and because, because she
was ill-using the child."


"Yes, Julie."

"What was she insolent about?"

"About you."

"About me?"

**Yes, because the dinner was bumt^
and you did not come in."

"And she said?"

"She said offensive things about you*
which I ought not — ^which I could not
listen to."

"What did she say?"

"It is no good r^^eating them.**

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•*I want to liear them."

"She said it was unfortunate for a
man like me to be married to a woman
like you, impunctual, careless, disor-
derly, a bad mother, and a bad wife."

The young woman had gone into the
anteroom followed by Limousin, who
did not say a word at this unexpected
position of things. She shut the door
quickly, threw her cloak on to a chair,
and going straight up to her husband,
she stammered out:

"You say? — ^you say? — that I am — ?"

He was very pale and calm and re-

"I say nothing, my dear. I am sim-
ply repeating what Julie said to me, as
you wanted to know what it was, and
I wish you to remark that I turned her
off just on account of what she said."

She trembled with a violent longing
to tear out his beard and scratch his
face. In his voice and manner she felt
that he was asserting his position as
master, although she had nothing to
say by way of reply, and she tried to
assume the offensive, by saying some-
thing unpleasant:

*T suppose you have had dinner?"
she asked.

"No, I waited for you."

She shrugged her shoulders impa-
tiently. "It is very stupid of you to
wait after half past seven," she said.
**You might have guessed that I was
detained, that I had a good many things
to do, visits and shopping."

And then, suddenly, she felt that she
wanted to explain how she had spent
her time, and she told him in abrupt,
haughty words, that having to buy some
furniture in a shop /a long distance off,
very far off« in the Rue de Rennes, she

had met Limousin at past seven o'clock
on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and
that then she had gone with him to have
something to eat in a restaurant, as she
did not like to go to one by herself, al-
though she was faint with hunger. That
was how she had dinner, with Limousin,
if it could be called dining, for they
had only had some soup and half a
fowl, as they were in a great hurry to
get back, and Parent replied simply:

"Well, you were quite right. I am
not finding fault with you."

Then Limousin, who had not spoken
till then, and who had been half hidden
behind Henriette, came forward, and
put out his hand, saying: "Are you
very well?"

Parent took his hand, and shaking it
gently, replied: "Yes, I am very well."

But the young woman had felt a re-
proach in her husband's last words:
"Finding fault! Why do you speak of
finding fault? One might think that
you meant to imply something."

"Not at all," he replied, by way of
excuse. "I simply meant, that I was
not at all anxious although you were
late, and that I did not find fault with
you for it." She, however, took the
high hand, and tried to find a pretext
for a quarrel.

"Although I was late? One might
really think that it was one o'clock in
the morning, and that I speiit my nights
away from home."

"Certainly not, my dear. I said late,
because I could find no other word.
You said you should be back at half
past six, and you returned at half past
eight. That was surely being late! I
understand it perfectly well. I am not

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at all surprised, even. But — ^but — ^I
can hardly use any other word."

"But you pronounce them, as if I had
been out all night.''

"Oh! no; oh! no!"

She saw that he would yield on every
point, and she was going into her own
room, when at last she noticed that
George was screaming, and then she
asked, with some feeling: "Whatever
is the matter with the child?"

"I told you, that Julie had been rather
unkind to him."

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 12 of 125)