Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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were clocks and carpets everywhere, he
gave a broad, contented smile. He had
been working for thirty years to get to-
gether a wretched five or six thousand
francs. This girl was evidently no fooL

One fine morning the son of Touchard,
the cooper at the other end of the street,
came and asked him for the hand of
Rose, the second girl. The old man's
heart began to beat, for the Touchards
were rich and in a good position. He
was decidedly lucky with his girls.

The marriage was agreed upon. It
was settled that it should be a grand
affair, and the wedding dinner was to be
held at Sainte-Addresse, at Mother
Lusa's restaurant. It would cost a lot
certainly; but never mind, it did not
matter just for once in a way.

But one morning, just as the old man
was going home to breakfast with his
two daughters, the door opened sud-
denly and Anna appeared. She was ele-
gantly dressed, wore rings and an ex-
pensive bonnet, and looked undeniably
pretty and nice. She threw her arms

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who had been led astray from the paths
of virtue. No one took up the refrain
about this bread, supposed to be eaten
with tears, except old Touchard and the
two servants. Anna had grown deadly
pale and cast down her eyes, while the
bridegroom looked from one to the other
without understanding the reason for this
sudden coldness, and the cook hastily
dropped the crust as if it were poisoned.

M. Sauvetanin said solemnly, in order
to save the situation: "That last couplet
is not at all necessary"; and Daddy
Taille, who had got red up to his ears,
iooked round the table fiercely.

Then Anna, with her eyes swimming
«n tears, told the servants, in the falter-

ing voice of a woman trying to stifle het
sobs, to bring the champagne.

AU the guests were suddenly seized
with exuberant joy, and their faces be-
came radiant again. And when old Tou«
chard, who had seen, felt, and under*
stood nothing of what was going on, and,
pointing to the guests so as to emphasize
his words, sang the last words of the
refrain: "Children, I warn you all to
eat not of that bread," the whole com-
pany, when they saw the champagne
bottles with their necks covered with
gold foil appear, burst out singing, as if
electrified by the sight:

"Children, I warn you all to eat not
of that bread."

My Twenty 'five Days

I HAD just taken possession of my
room in the hotel, a nanow apartment
between two papered partitions, so that
X could hear all the sounds made by my
neighbors. I was beginning to arrange
in the glass cupboard my clothes and my
linen, when I opened the drawer which
was in the middle of this pece of fur-
niture, I immediately noticed a manu-
script of rolled paper. Having unrolled
it, I spread it open before me, and read
this tide:

"My TwENTY-nvE Days."

It was the diary of a bather, of the
last occupant of my room, and had been
left behind there in f orgetfulness at the
hour of departure.

These notes may be of some interest

to sensible and healthy persons who

ever leave tbeir own homes. It is for

their benefit that I here transcribe them
without altering a letter.

"Chatel-Guyon, July 15.
"At the first glance, it is not gay, this
country. So, I am going to spend
twenty-five days here to have my liver
and my stomach treated, and to get
rid of flesh. The twenty-five dajrs of a
bather are very like the twenty-eight
days of a reserviste; they are all de-
voted to fatigue-duty, severe fatigue-
duty. To-day, nothing as yet; I am
installed; I have made the acquain-
tance of locality and the doctors.
Chatel-Guyon is composed of a stream
in which flows yellow water, in the
midst of several mountain-peaks, where
are erected a Casino, houses, and stone-
crosses. At the side of the stream, in
the depths of the valley, may be seeu a
square building surrounded I^ a little

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pLtdea: this is the establisliment of the
baths. Sad people wander around this
building — ^the invalids. A great silence
reigns in these walks shaded by trees,
this is not a pleasure-station but a true
health-station: you take care of your
health here through conviction, but you
cannot get cured, it seems.

"Competent people declare that the
mineral springs perform true miracles
here. However, no votive oflFering is
hung aroimd the cashier's office.

"From time to time, <% gentleman or
a lady comes over to a kiosk with a slate
roof, which shelters a woman of smiling
and gentle aspect and a spring boiling
in a basin of cement. Not a word is
exchanged between the invalid and the
female custodian of the healing water.
She hands to the newcomer a little glass
in which air-bubbles quiver in the trans-
parent liquid. The other drinks and
goes off with a grave step in order to
resume his interrupted walk under the

"No noise in the little park, no breath
of air in the leaves, no voice breaks
through this silence. Inscribed over the
entrance to this district should be: 'Here
you no longer laugh; you nurse yourself.'
"The people who chat resemble mutes
who open their mouths in order to
simulate sounds, so much are they
afraid of letting their voices escape.

"In the hotel, the same silence. It
is a big hotel where. you dine solemnly
with people of good position, who have
nothing to say to each other. Their
manners bespeak good-breeding and their
faces reflect the conviction of a supe-
riority of which it would be difficult to
give actual proof.

"At two o'clock, I make my way up

to the Casino, a little wooden hut
perched on a hillock to which one climbs
by paths frequented by goats. But the
view from that height is admirable.
Chitel-Guyon is situated in a very nar-
row valley, exactly between the plain
and the mountains. At the left I see
the first great waves of the mountains
of Auvergne covered with woods, ex-
hibiting here and there big gray spots,
their hard lava-bones, for we are at the
foot of the extinct volcanoes. At the
right, through the narrow slope of the
valley, I discover a plain infinite as the
sea, steeped in a bluish fog which lets
one only dimly discern the villages, the
towns, the yellow fields of ripe com, and
the green square of meadow-land
shaded with appletrees. It is the Li-
magne, immense and flat, always en-
veloped in a light veil of vapor.

"The night has come. And now, after
having dined alone, I write these lines
beside my open window. I hear, over
there, in front of me, the little orchestra
of the Casino, which plays airs just as a
wild bird sings all alone in ihe desert.

"From time to time a dog barks. This
great calm does me good. Good night.

"/tt/y 16. Nothing. I have taken a
bath, or rather a douche. I have swal-
lowed three glasses of water and I have
walked in the pathways of the park for
a quarter of an hour between each glass,
then half-an-hour after the last. I have
begun my twenty-five days.

"Jidy 17. Remarked two mysterious
pretty women who are taking their
baths and their meals £.fter everyone

''My 18. Nothing.
Vidy 19. Saw the two pretty wo*
men again. They have style and a

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little indescribaUe air which I like very

''July 20. Long walk in a charming
wooded valley as far as the Hermitage
of Sans-Souci. This country is delight-
ful though sad; it is so calm, so sweet,
so green. Along the mountain-roads you
meet the long wagons loaded with hay
drawn by two cows at a slow pace or
held back in descending the slopes by
their straining heads, which are tied to-
gether. A man with a big black hat on
his head is driving them with a slight
switch, tipping them on the side or on
the forehead; and often with an ample
gesture, a gesture energetic and grave,
he suddenly draws them up when the
excessive load hastens their journey
down the rougher descents.

"The air is good in these valleys.
And, if it is very warm, the dust bears
with it a light odor of vanilla and of the
stable, for so many cows pass over these
routes that they leave a little scent
everywhere. And the odor is a* perfume,
whereas it would be a stench if it came
from other animals.

"/tt/y 21. Excursion to the valley of
the Enval. It is a narrow gorge in-
closed in superb rocks at the very foot
pi the mountain. A stream flows
through the space between the heaped-
up bowlders.

**As I reached the bottom of this
ravine, I heard women's voices, and I
soon perceived the two mysterious ladies
of my hotel, who were chatting seated
on a stone.

"l*he occasion appeared to me a good
one, and without hesitation I presented
myself. My overtures were received
without embarrassment. We walked
'^ck together to the hotel. And we

talked about Paris. They knew, t
seemed, many people whom I knew too.
Who can they be?

"I shall see them to-morrow. There
is nothing more amusing than such
meetings as this.

''July 22. Day almost entirely
passed with the two unknown ladies.
They are very pretty, by Jove, one a
bnmette and the other a blonde. They
say they are widows. Hum !

"I offered to accompany them in a
visit to Royat to-morrow, and they ac-
cepted my offer.

"•Chitel-Guyon is less sad than I
thought on my arrival.

"July 23. Day spent at Royat. Royat
is a little cluster of hotels at the bottom
of a valley, at the gate of Clermont*
Ferrand. A great deal of society there.
A great park full of movement. Superb
view of the Puy-de-D6me, seen at the
end of a perspective of vales.

*T am greatly occupied with my fair
companions, which is flattering to myself.
The man who escorts a pretty woman
always believes himself crowned with an
aureole, — ^with much more reason,
therefore, the man who goes along with
one on each side of him. Nothing is so
pleasant as to dine in a restaurant well
frequented, with a female companion at
whom everybody stares, and besides
there is nothing better calculated to set
a man up in the estimation of his

"To go to the Bois in a trap drawn by
a sorry nag, or to go out into the boule-
vard escorted by a plain woman, are the
two most humiliating accidents which
could strike a delicate heart preoccufned
with the opinions of others. Of alt
luxuries woman is the rarest and tho

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most distinguished; she is the one that
costs most, and which we desire most;
she is, therefore, the one that we like
best to exhibit under the jealous eyes of
the public.

"To show the world a pretty woman
leaning on your arm is to excite, all at
once, every kind of jealousy. It is as
much as to say: Look here! I am rich,
since I possess this rare and costly ob-
ject; I have taste, since I have blown
how to discover this pearl ; perhaps even
I am loved, unless I am deceived by her,
which would still prove that others, too,
consider her charming.

"But what a disgraceful thing it is to
bring an ugly woman with you through
the city! And how many humiliating
things this gives people to understand!

"In the first place, they assume she
must be your wife, for how could it be
supposed that you would have an imat-
tractive mistress? A real wife might be
ungraceful; but then her ugliness sug-
gests a thousand things disagreeable to
you. One supposes you must be a
notary or a magistrate, as those two pro-
fessions have a monopoly of grotesque
and well-dowered spouses. Now, is this
not painful for a man? And then it
seems to proclaim to the public that you
have the odious courage, and are even
tmder a legal obligation, to caress that
ridiculous face and that ill-shaped body,
and that you will, without doubt, be
shameless enough to make a mother of
this by no means desirable being, —
which is the very height of ridicule.

'Vfi/y 24. I never leave the side of
the two unknown widows, whom I am
beginning to know well. This country is
delightful and our hotel is excellent.

Good season. The treatment has done
me an iomiense amount of good.

"/tt/y 25. Drive in a landau to the
lake of Tazenat. An exquisite and un-
expected party, decided on at lunch.
Abrupt departure after getting up from
the table. After a long journey through
the mountains, we suddenly perceived an
admirable little lake, quite round, quite
blue, clear as glass, and situated at the
bottom of a dead crater. One edge of
this immense basin is barren, the othei
is wooded. In the midst of the trees
is a small house, where sleeps a good*
natured, intellectual man, a sage who
passes his days in this Virgilian region.
He opens his dwelling for us. An idea
comes into my head. I exclaim'
'Suppose we bathe?*

" *Yes,' they said, *but — costimiesP'

"*Bah! we are in the desert.'

"And we did bathe!

"If I were a poet, how I would de-
scribe this unforgettable vision of bodies
young and naked in thtf transparency of
the water! The sloping high sides shut
in the lake, motionless, glittering, and
round, like a piece of silver; the sun
pours into it its warm light in a flood;
and along the rocks the fair flesh slips
into the almost invisible wave in which
the swimmers seemed suspended. On
the sand at the bottom of the lake we
saw the shadows of the light movements
passing and repassing!

"/tt/y 26. Some persons seemed to
look with shocked and disapproving eyes
at my rapid intimacy with the two fair
widows! Persons so constituted im-
agine that life is made for worrying one-
self. Ever3rthing that appears to be
amusing becomes immediately a breach
of good-breeding or morality. For them

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duty has inflexible and mortally sad

"I would diaw their attrition with
all respect to the fact that duty is not
the same for Mormons, Arabs, Zulus,
Turks, Englishmen, and Frenchmen; and
that one will find very virtuous people
among all those nations. As for me, I
take a little off each people's notion of
duty, and of the whole I make a result
comparable to the morality of holy King

"/tt/y 27. Good news. I havt grown
620 grams thinner. Excellent, this water
of Chitel-GuyonI I am bringing the
widows to dine at Riom. Sad town!
Its anagram constitutes an offense in
the vicinity of healing springs: Riom,

"Jidy 28. Hoity-toity! My two wid-
ows have been visited by two gentle-
men who came to look for them. Two
widows, without doubt. They are leav-
ing this evening. They have written to
me on fancy note-piq)er.

*' July 29, Alone! Long excursion on
foot to the extinct crater of Nack^re.
Splendid view.

''July 30. Nothing. I am taking the

''July 31. Ditto. Ditto. This pretty
country is full of polluted streams. I
am drawing the notice of the munici-
pality to the abominable sink which poi-
sons the road in front of the hotel. All
the remains of the kitchen of the estab-
lishment are thrown into it. This is a
good way to breed cholera.

"Augtist 1. Nothing. The treatment.

"August 2. Admirable walk to
Chateauneuf , a station for rheumatic pa-
tients where everybody is lame. Nothing

can be queerer than this population of
criiH)les !

"August 3. Nothing. The treatment.

"August 4. Ditto. Ditto.

"Augusts. Ditto. Ditto.

"August 6. Despair 1 I have just
weighed myseli. I havt got fattei by
310 grams. But what then?

"August 7. 66 kilometers in a car-
riage in the mountain. I will not men-
tion the name of the country- through
respect for its women.

"This excursion had been ix)ikited out
to me as a beautiful one, and one that
was rarely made. After four hours on
the road I arrived at a rather pretty
village, on the border of a river in the
midst of an admirable wood of walnut-
trees. I had not yet seen a forest of
walnut-trees of such dimensions in Au-
vergne. It constitutes, moreover, all the
wealth of the district, for it is planted
on the common. This common was for-
merly only a hillside covered with brush-
wood. The authorities had tried in vain
to get it cultivated. It was scarcely
enough to feed a few sheep.

"To-day it is a superb wood, thanVs to
the women, and it has a curious name:
it is called — 'the Sins of the Cur6.*

"Now it is right to say that the wo-
men of the mountain district have the
reputation of being light, lighter than in
the plain. A bachelor who meets them
owes them at least a kiss; and if he does
not take more, he is only a blockhead.
If we think rightly on it, this way of
looking at the matter is the only one
that is logical and reasonable. As wo-
man, whether she be of the town or the
coimtry, has for her natural mission to
please man, man should always prove
that she pleases him. If he abstains from

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every sort of demonstration, this means
that he has found her ugly; it is ahnost
an insult to her. If I were a woman, I
would not receive a second time a man
who failed to show me respect at our
first meeting, for I would consider that
he had failed to appreciate my beauty,
my charm, and my feminine qualities.

"So the bachelors of the village X

often proved to the women of the dis-
trict that they found them to their
taste, and, as the ciu:6 was unable to
prevent these demonstrations as gallant
as they were natural, he resolved to
utilize them for the profit of the natural
prosperity. So he imposed as a pen-
ance, on every woman who had gone
wrong a walnut to be planted on the
common. And every night lanterns were
seen moving about like wiU-o'-the-wisps
on the hillock, for the erring ones
scarcely liked to perform their penances
in broad daylight.

"In two years there was no room any
longer on the lands belonging to the
village; and to-day they calculate that
there are more than three thousand trees

around the belfry which rings for tho
offices through their foliage. These are
'the Sins of the Cur6.'

"Since we have been seeking for so
many plans for rewooding in France, the
Administration of Forests might siurely
enter into some arrangement with the
clergy to employ a method so simple as
that employed by this humble cur6.

^'August 8. Treatment.

^'August 9. I am packing up my
trunks, and saying good-bye to the
charming little district so calm and si-
lent, to the green mountain, to the quiet
valleys, to the deserted Casino from
which you can see, almost veiled by its
light, bluish mist, the immense plain of
the Limagne.

"I shall leave to-morrow."
♦ ♦ ♦ 4i 4i ♦ ♦

Here the manuscript stopped. I
wish to add nothing to it, my impres-
sions of the country not having been
exactly the same as those of my prede-
cessor. For I did not find the two
widows !

A Lucky "Burglar

They were seated in the dining-room
of a hotel in Barbizon.

"I tell you, you will not believe it."

"WeU, teU it anyhow."

"All right, here goes. But first I
must tell you that my story is abso-
lutely true in every respect; even if it
does sound improbable." And the old
artist commenced:

**We had dined at Soriel's that night.

When I say dined, that means that wo
were all pretty well tipsy. We were
three young madcaps. Soriel (poor fel-
low I he is dead now), Le Poittevin, the
marine painter, and myself. Le Poitte-
vin is dead, also.

"We had stretched ourselves on the
floor of the little room adjoining the
studio and the only one in the crowd
who was rational was Le Poittevia

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Soriel, who was always the maddest, lay
flat on his back, with his feet propped
up on a chair, discussing war and the
uniforms of the Empire, when, sud-
denly, he got up, took out of the big
wardrobe where he kept his accessories a
complete hussar's uniform and put it
on. He then took a grenadier's uniform
and told Le Poittevin to put it on; but
he objected, so we forced him into it.
It was so big for him that he was com-
pletely lost in it. I arrayed myself as a
cuirassier. After we were ready, Soriel
made us go through a complicated drill.
Then he exclaimed: *As long as we are
troopers let us drink like troopers.'

**The punch-bowl had been brought
out and filled for the second time. We
•were bawling some old camp songs at
the top of our voice, when Le Poittevin,
who in spite of all the punch had re-
tained his self-control, held up his hand
and said: 'Hush! I am sure I heard
some one walking in the studio.'

" 'A burglar!' said Soriel, staggering to
his feet. *Good luck!' And he began
the 'Marseillaise':

"*To arms, citizens!'

"Then he seized several weapons from
the wall and equipped us according to
our uniforms. I received a musket and
a saber. Le Poittevin was handed an
enormous gun with a bayonet attached.
Soriel, not finding just what he wanted,
seized a pistol, stuck it in his belt, and
brandishing a battle-axe in one hand, he
opened the studio door cautiously. The
army advanced. Having reached the
middle of the room, Soriel said:

" 1 am general. You [pointing to
me], the cuirassiers, will keep the enemy
from retreating — that is, lock the door.

You [pointing to Le Poittevin], tlie
grenadiers, will be my escort.'

"I executed my orders and rejoined
the troops, who were behind a large
screen reconnoitering. Just as I reached
it I heard a terrible noise. I rushed up
with the candle to investigate the cause
of it and this is what I saw. Le Poitte-
vin was piercing the dummy's breast
with his bayonet and Soriel was splitting
his head open with his axe! When the
mistake had been discovered the General
commanded: *Be cautious!'

"We had explored every nook and
comer of the studio for the post twenty
minutes without success, when Le Poitte-
vin thought he would look in the cup-
board. As it was quite deep and very
dark, I advanced with the candle and
looked in. I drew back stupefied. A
man, a real live man this time, stood
there looking at me! I quickly recov-
ered myself, however, and locked the
cupboard door. We then retired a few
paces to hold a council.

"Opinions were divided. Soriel wanted
to smoke the burglar out; Le Poittevin
;5uggested starvation, and I proposed to
blow him up with dynamite. Le Poittc-
vin's idea being finally accepted as the
best, we proceed to bring the punch and
pipes into the studio, while Le Poittevin
kept guard with his big gun on his
shoulder, and settling ourselves in front
of the cupboard we drank the prisoner'^
health. We had done this repeatedly,
when Soriel suggested that we bring out
the prisoner and take a look at him.

"'Hooray!' cried L We picked up
our weapons and made a mad rush for
the cupboard door. It was finally
opened, and Soriel, cocking his ^Hstd
which was not loaded, rushed in first

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Le Poittevin and I followed yelling like
lunatics and, after a mad scramble in
the dark, we at last brought out the
burglar. He was a haggard-looking,
white-hired old bandit, with shabby,
ragged clothes. We bound him hand
and foot and dropped him in an arm-
chair. He said nothing.

*' We will try this wretch' said Soriel,
whom the punch had made very solemn.
I was so far gone that it seemed to me
quite a natural thing. Le Poittevin was
named for the defense and I for the
prosecution. The prisoner was con-
demned to death by all except his

"*We will now execute him,' said
Soriel. 'Still, this man cannot die
without repenting,* he added, feeling
somewhat scrupulous. *Let us send for
a priest.'

"I objected that it was too late, so he
proposed that I officiate and forthwith
told the prisoner to confess his sins to
me. The old man was terrified. He
wondered what kind of wretches we
were and for the first time he spoke.
His voice was hollow and cracked:

" *Say, you don't mean it, do you?'

*'Soriel forced him to his knees, and
for fear he had not been baptized, poured
a glass of rum over his head, saying:
'Confess your sins; your last hour has

"'Help! Help!' screamed the old
man rolling himself on the floor and
kicking everything that came his way.
For fear he should wake the neighbors
we gagged him.

" *Come, let us end this'; said Soriel
impatiently. He pointed his pistol at
the old man and pressed the trigger. I
followed his example, but as neither of

our guns were loaded we made very
little noise. Le Poittevin, who had been
looking on said:

" 'Have we really the right to kill this

"*We have condemned him to
death!' said Soriel.

" "Yes, but we have no right to shoot
a civilian. Let us take him to the

"We agreed with him, and as the old

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 120 of 125)