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The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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band, very dainty, petite, and pretty,
wrapped closely in furs and looking with
sad eyes at the interior of the carriage.

^Her neighbors, the Count and Count-
^s sjlubert de Breyijle,^ hove the name
of one oT^e most ancient and noble
families of Normandy. The Count, an
old gentleman of good- -figure, accen-
tuated, by the artifices of his toilette,
his resemblance to King Henry IV.,
who, following a glorious legend of the
family, had impregnated one of the



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



De Breville ladies, whose husband, for
this reason, was made a count and
governor of the province.

A colleague of Mr. Carre-Lamadon
in the General Council, Count Hubert
represented the Orleans party in the
Department.

The story of his marriage with the
daughter of a little captain of a priva-
teer had always remained a mystery.
But as the Countess had a grand air,
received better than anyone, and passed
for having been loved by the son of
Loub Philippe, all the nobility did her
honor, and her salon remained the first
in the country, the only one which pre-
served the old gallantry, and to which
the entrie was difficult. The fortune
of the Brevilles amounted, it was said,
to five hundred thousand francs in in-
come, all in good securities.

These six persons formed the foun-
dation of the carriage company, the
society side, serene and strong, honest,
established people, who had both re-
ligion and principles.

By a strange chance, all the women
were upon the same seat; and the Count-
ess had for neighbors two sisters who
picked at long strings of beads and
muttered some Paters and Aves, One
was old and as pitted with smallpox as
if she had received a broadside of grape-
shot full in the face. The other, very
sad, had a pretty face and a disease
of the limgs, which, added to their de-
voted faith, illumined them and made
them appear like martyrs.

Opposite these two devotees were a
man and a woman who attracted the
notice of all. The man, well known,
was Comadet the democrat, the terror
of respectable people. For twenty years



he had soaked his great red beard in
the bocks of all the democratic cafis.
He had consumed with his friends and
confr^es a rather pretty fortune left
him by his father, an old confectioner,
and he awaited the establishing of thq
Republic with impatience, that he might
have the position he merited by his
great expenditures. On the fourth of
September, by some joke perhaps, he
believed himself elected prefect, but
when he went to assume the duties,
the clerks of the office were masters of
the place and refused to recognize him,
obliging him to retreat. Rather a good
bachelor, on the whole, inoffensive and
serviceable, he had busied himself, with
incomparable ardor, in organizing the
defense against the Prussians. He had
dug holes in all the plains, cut down
young trees from the neighboring
forests, sown snares over all routes and,
at the approach of the enemy, took
himself quickly back to the town. He
now thought he could be of more use
in Havre where more entrenchments
would be necessary.

The woman, one of those called a
coquette^ was celebrated for her cw-i
bonpomty which had given her the nick-
name of "Ball-of-Fat." Small, round,
and fat as lard, with puffy fingers choked •
at the phalanges, like chaplets of short'
sausages; with a stretched and shining;
skin, an enormous bosom which shook
under her dress, she was, neverthe*,
less, pleasing and sought after, on ac<j
coimt of a certain freshness and breezi4
ness of disposition. Her face was a|
round apple, a peony bud ready to poi>
into bloom, and inside that opened two
great black eyes, shaded with thid^



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BALL-OF-FAT



brows that cast a shadow within; and
below, a charming mouth, humid for
kissing, furnished with shining, micro-
scopic baby teeth. She was, it was said,
full of admirable qualities.

As soon as she was recognized, a
, whisper went around among the honest
women, and the words "prostitute'^and
'^public — gliamA" j gere whispered Jj so
loud that she raised her head. Then she
threw at her nd^ibiJfff such a provok-
ing, courageous look that a great silence
reigned, and everybody looked down ex-
cept Loiseau, who watched her with an
eihOarated air.

And immediately conversation began
among the three ladies, whom the pres-
ence of this girl had suddenly rendered
friendly, almost intimate. It seemed
to them they should bring their married
dignity into imion in opposition to that
sold without shame; for legal love al-
ways takes on a tone of contempt for
its free confrbre.

The three men, also drawn together
by an instinct of preservation at the
s^t of {&3mudet^ talked money with
a certainBigh tone of disdain for the
poor. Coimt Hubert talked of the
havoc which the Prussians had caused,
the losses which resulted from being
robbed of cattle and from destroyed
crops, with the assurance of a gre^t
lord, ten times millionaire whom these
ravages would scarcely cramp for a
year. Mr. Carr^-Lamadon, largely ex-
perienced in the cotton industry, had
had need of sending six hundred thou-
sand francs to England, as a trifle in
reserve if it should be needed. As for
Loiseau, he had arranged with the
French administration to sell them all
the wines that remained in his cellars.



on accoimt of which the State owed
him a formidable sum, which he
coimted on collecting at Havre.

And all three threw toward each othtf
swift and amicable glances.

Although in different conditions, they
felt themselves to be brothers through
money, that grand free-masonry of
those who possess it, and make the
gold rattle by putting their hands in
their trousers* pockets.

The carriage went so slowly that at
ten o'clock in the morning they had
not gone four leagues. The men had
got down three times to climb hills on
foot. They began to be disturbed be-
cause they should be now taking break-
fast at Totes and they despaired now
of reaching there before ni^t. Each
one had begun to watch for an inn along
the route, when the carriage foundered
in a snowdrift, and it took two hours to
extricate it.

Growing appetites trouWed their
minds; and no eating-house, no wine
shop ^owed itself, the aK>roach of the
Prussians and the passage of the troops
having frightened away all these in-
dustries.

The gentlemen rah to the farms along
the way for provisions, but they did
not even find bread, for the defiant
peasant had concealed his stores for
fear of being pillaged by the soldiers
who, having nothing to put between
their teeth, took by force whatever they
discovered.

Toward one o'clock m the afternoon,
Loiseau announced that there was a de-
cided hollow in his stomach. Every-
body suffered with him, and the violent
need of eating, ever increasing, had
killed conversation.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



From time to time soiu^ one yawned;
another immediately imitated him; and
each, in his turn, in accordance with
his character, his knowledge of life, and
his social position, opened his mouth
with carelessness or modesty, placing
his hand quickly before the yawning
hole from whence issued a vapor.

Ball-of-Fat, after many attempts,
bent down as if seeking something un-
der her skirts. She hesitated a second,
looked at her neighbors, then sat up
again tranquilly. The faces were pale
and drawn. Loiseau afl&rmed that he
would give a thousand francs for a smajl
ham. His wife made a gesture, as if
in protest; but she kept quiet. She was
always troubled when anyone spoke of
squandering money, and could not com-
prehend any pleasantry on the subject.
**The fact is," said the Count, "I can-
not understand why I did not think to
bring some provisions with me." Each
reproached himself in the same way.

However, Comudet had a flask full
of rum. He offered it; it was refused
coldly. Loisea u alon e accepted Jwo
swallows, and^en jpassei tack^ the
^g:^ying3y way ^ Iha^s^ "It is
good all the same;' it is warming and
checks the appetite.*' The alcohol put
him in good-humor and he proposed
that they do as tfiey did on the little
ship in the song, feat^ the fattest of the
passengers. This indirect allusion to
Ball-of-Fat choked the weU-bred people.
They said nothmg. 'Comudet alone
lauded. The two good" sisters had
ceased to mumble their rosaries and,
with their hands enfolded in their great
sleeves, held themselves immovable, ob-
irtinatdy lowering their , eyes, without



doubt offering to Heaven the suffering
it had brought upon them.

Finally at three o'clock, when they
found tiemselves in the midst of an
interminable plain, without a single vil-
lage in sight, Ball-of-Fat bending down
quickly drew from under the seat a
large basket covered with a white
napkin.

At first she brought out a little china
plate and a silver cup; then a large
dish in which there were two whole
chickens, cut up and imbedded in their
own jelly. And one could still see
in the basket other good things, some
pdtis, fruits, and sweetmeats, pro-
visions for three days if they should
not see the kitchen of an inn. Four
necks of bottles were seen among the
packages of food. She took a wing
of a chicken and began to eat it deli-
cately, with one of those little biscuits
called "Regence" in Normandy.

AU looks were turned in her direction.
Then the odor spread, enlarging the
nostrils and making the mouth water,
besides causing a painful contraction of
the jaw behind the ears. The scorn of
the women for this girl became fero-
cious, as if they had a desire to kill her
and throw her out of the carriage into
the snow, her, her silver cup, her bad»t,
provisions and all.

But Loiseau with his eyes devoured
the dish of chicken. He said: "For-
tunately Madame had more precaution
than we. There are some people who
know how to think ahead always."

She turned toward him, saying: *Tf
you would like some of it, sir? It is
hard to go without breakfast so long."

He saluted her and replied: "Faith, I
frankly cannot refuse; I can stand it no



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BALL-OF-FAT



longer. Everything goes in time of war,
does it not, Madame?" And then cast-
ing a comprehensive glance around, he
added: *'In moments like this, one can
but be j^eased to hnd people who are
obliging."

He had a newspaper which he
spread out on his knees, that no spot
Blight come to his pantaloons, rnd upon
the point of a knife that he always
carried in his pocket, he took up a leg
all glistening with jelly, put it between
his teeth and masticated it with a satis-
faction so evident that there ran through
the carriage a great sigh of distress.

Then Ball-of-Fat, in a sweet and
humble voice, proposed that the two
sisters partake of her collation. They
both accepted instantly and, without
raising their eyes, began to eat very
quickly, after stammering their thanks.
Comudet no longer refused the offers
of his neighbor, and they formed with
the sisters a sort of table, by spreading
out some newspapers upon their knees.

The mouths opened and shut with-
out ceasing, they masticated, swallowed,
gulping ferociously. Loiseau in his
comer was working hard and, in a low
voice, was trying to induce his wife to
follow his example. She resisted for a
long time; then, when a drawn sen-
sation ran through her body, she
yielded. Her husband, rounding his
phrase, asked their "charming com-
panion" if he might be allowed to offer
a little piece to Madame Loiseau.

She replied: "Why, yes, certamly,
sir," with an amiable smile, as she
passed the dish.

An embarrassing thing confronted
them when they opened the first bottle
of Bordeaux: they had but one cup.



Each passed it after havuxg tasted.
Comudet alone, for politeness without
doubt, placed his lips at the spot left
humid by his fair neighbor.

Then, surrounded by people eating,
suffocated by the odors of the food, the
Count and Countess de Breville, as well
Ls Madame and M. Carr6-Lamadon,
were — suffering that odious -torment
which has preserved the name of Tan-
tdiis. Suddenly the yoimg wife of the
manufacturer gave forth such a sigh
that all heads were tumed in her direc-
tion; she was as white as the snow
without; her eyes closed, her head
drooped; she had lost consciousness.
Her husband, much excited, implored
the help of everybody. Each lost his
head completely, until the elder of the
two sisters, holding the head of the
sufferer, slipped Ball-of -Fat's cup be-
tween her lips and forced her to swal-
low a few drops of wine. The pretty
little lady revived, opened her eyes,
smiled, and declared in a dymg voice
that she felt very well now. But, in
order that the attack might not retum,
the sister urged her to drink a full glass
of Bordeaux, and added: 'Tt is just
hunger, nothing more."

Th^ Ball-of-Fat, blushing and em-
barrassed, looked at the four travelers
who had fasted and stammered: "Good-
ness knows! if I dared to offer any
thing to these gentlemen and ladies, I
would — " Then she was silent, as if
fearing an insult. i^iseauHook up the
word: "Ah1 certainlyr'm times like
these all the world are brothers and
ought to aid each other. Come, ladies,
without ceremony; why the devil not
accept? We do not know whether we
shall even find a house where we can



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



pass the night. At the pace we are
going now, we shall not reach Totes
before noon to-morrow—"

They still hesitated, no one daring to
assume the responsibility of a "Yes."
The Comit decided the question. He
turned toward the fat^ intimidated girl
and, taking on a grand air of con-
descension, he said to her:

*'We accept with gratitude, Madame."

It is the ^st step that counts. The
Rubicon passed, one lends himself to
the occasion squarely. The basket was
stripped. It still contained a pate de
foie gras, a path of larks, a piece of
smoked tongue, some preserved pears,
a loaf of hard bread, some wafers, and
a full cup of piclded gherkins and
onions, of which crudities Ball-of-Fat,
like all women, was extremely fond.

They could not eat this girl's pro-
visions without speaking to her. And
so they chatted, with reserve at first;
^en, as she carried herself well, with
more abandon. The ladies De Breville
and Carre-Lamadon, who were ac-
quainted with all the ins and outs of
good-breeding, were gracious with a
certain delicacy. The Countess, espe-
cially, showed that amiable condescen-
sion of very noble ladies who do not fear
being spoiled by contact with anyone,
imd was charming. But the great Ma-
dame Loiseau, who had the soul of a
plebian, remained crabbed, saying little
and eating much.

The conversation was about the war,
naturally. They related the horrible
deeds of the Prussians, the brave acts of
the French; and all of them, althou^
running away, did homage to those who
sta}^ behind. Then personal stories
^•«an to be told, and Ball-of-Fat re-



lated, with sincere emotion, and in the
heated words that such girls sometimes
use in expressing their natural feelings,
how she had left Rouen:

"I believed at first that I could re-
main," she said. "I had my house full
of provisions, and I preferred to feed
a few soldiers rather than expatriate
myself, to go I knew not where. But as
soon as I saw them, those Prussians,
that was too much for me! They made
my blood boil with anger, and I wq)t
for very shame all day long. Oh! if 1
were only a man! I watched them
from my windows, the great porkers
with their pointed hehnets, and my maid
held mv hands to keep me from throw-
ing the furniture down upon them.
Then one of them came to lodge at my
house; I sprang at his throat the first
thing; they are no more difl&cult to
strangle than other people. And I
should have put an end to that one then
and there had they not pulled me away
by the hair. After that, it was neces-
sary to keep out of sight. And finally,
when I found an opportunity, I left
town and— here I am!"

They congratulated her. She grew
in the estimation of her companions,
who had not shown themselves so hot-
brained, and Comudet, while Hst^iing
to her, took on the approving, benevo-
lent smile of an apostle, as a priest
would if he heard a devotee praise God,
for the long-bearded democrats have a
monopoly of patriotism, as the men in
cassocks have of religion. In his turn
he spoke, in a doctrinal tone, with the
emphasis of a proclamation such as we
see pasted on the walls about town,
and finished bj a bit of eloquence



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BALL-OF^FAT



U



virhereby he gave that "scamp of a
Badinguet" a good lashing.

Thea Ball-of-Fat was angry, for she
was a Bonapartist. She grew redder
than a cherry and, stammering with
indignation, said:

"I would like to have seen you in
his place, you other people. Then
everything would have been quite right;
oh, yes! It is you who have betrayed
this man! One would never have had
to leave France if it had been governed
by blackguards like you!"

Comudet, undisturbed, preserved a
disdainful, superior smile, but all felt
that the high note had been struck, until
the Count, not without some difficulty,
calmed the exasperated girl and pro-
claimed with a manner of authority that
all sincere opinions should be respected.
But the Countess and the manufac-
turer's wife, who had in their souls an
unreasonable hatred for the people that
favor a Republic, and the same instinct-
ive tenderness that all women have for
a decorative, despotic government, felt
themselves drawn, in spite of them-
selves, toward this prostitute so full of
dignity, whose sentiments so strongly
resembled their own.

The basket was empty. By ten
o'clock they had easily exhausted the
contents and regretted that there was
not more. Conversation continued for
some time, but a little more coldly since
they had finished eating.

The night fell, the darkness little by
little became profound, and the cold,
feh more during digestion, made Ball-
of-Fat shiver in spite of her plumpness.
Then Madame de Breville offered her
the little footstove, in which the fuel
had been renewed many times since



morning; she accepted it immediately,
for her feet were becoming numb with
cold. The ladies Carr6-Lamadon and
Loiseau gave theirs to the two religious
sisters.

The driver had lighted his lanterns.
They shone out with a lively glimmer
showing a cloud of foam beyond, the
sweat of the horses; and, on both sides
of the way, the snow seemed to roll
itself along imder the moving reflection
of the lights.

Inside the carriage one could distin-
guish nothing. But a sudden movement
seemed to be made between Ball-of-Fat
and Comudet; and Loiseau, whose eye
penetrated the shadow, believed that he
saw the big-bearded man start back
quickly as if he had received a swift,
noiseless blow.

Then some twinkling points of fire
appeaj^d^ thp^istance along the road. J
It i?<(^sT6t^. ifrhey had traveled eleven I
hoursTwhicb, with the two hours given I
to resting and feeding the horses, made ^
thirteen. They entered the town and
stopped before the Hotel of Commerce.

The carriage door opened! A well-
known sound gave the travelers a start;
it was the scabbard of a sword hitting
the ground. Immediately a German
voice was heard in the darkness.

Although the diligence was not mov-
ing, no one offered to alight, fearing
some one might be waiting to murder
them as they stepped out. Then the
conductor appeared, holding in his hand
one of the lanterns which lighted the
carriage to its depth, and showed the
two rows of frightened faces, whose
mouths were open and whose eyes were
wide with surprise and fear.

Outside beside the driver, in plain



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



si^t, stood a German officer, an ex-
cessively tall young man, thin and blond,
squeezed into his imiform like a girl
in a corset, and wearing on his head
a flat, oilcloth cap which made him
resemble the porter of an English hotel.
His enormous mustache, of long straight
hairs, growing gradually thin at eadi
side and terminating in a single blond
thread so flne that one could not per-
ceive where it ended, seemed to weigh
heavily on the corners of his mouth and,
drawing down the cheeks, left a decided
wrinkle about the lips.

In Alsatian French, he invited the
txavelers to come in, saying in a suave
tone: "Will you descend, gentlemen
and ladies?"

The two good sisters were the first
to obey, with the docility of saints
accustomed ever to submission. The
Count and Countess then appeared, fol-
lowed by the manufacturer and his wife;
then Loiseau, pushing ahead of him
his larger half. The last-named, as he
set foot on the earth, said to the officer:
"Good evening, sir," more as a mea-
sure of prudence than politeness. The
officer, insolent as all powerful people
usually are, looked at him without a
word.

6all-of-Fat and Comudet, although
nearest the door, were the last to de-
scend, grave and haughty before the
enemy. The fat giil tried to control
herself and be calm. The democrat
waved a tragic hand and his long beard
seemed to tremble a little and grow
redder. They wished to preserve their
dignity, comprehending that in such
meetings as these they represented in
some degree their great country, and
somewhat disgusted with the docility of



her companions, the fat sid tried to
show more pride than her neighbors,
the honest women, and, as she felt that
some one should set an example, she
continued her attitude of resistance as-
sumed at the beginning of the journey.

They entered the vast kitchen of the
inn, and the German, having demanded
their traveling papers signed by the
G^eral-in-chief (in which the name, the
description, and profession of each
traveler was mentioned), and having ex-
amined them all critically, comparing
the people and their sismatures, said:
"It b quite right," and went out.

Then they breathed. They were still
hungry and su^^r was ordered. A half
hour was necessary to prepare it, and
while two servants were attending to
this they went to their rooms. They
found them along a corridor which
terminated in a large glazed door.

Finally, they sat down at table, when
the proprietor of the inn himself j^
peared. He was a former horse mer**
chant, a large, asthmatic man, with a
constant wheezing and rattling in his
throat. His father had left him the
name of FoUenvie. He asked:

"Is Miss Elizabeth Rousset here?'*

Ball-of-Fat started as she answered:
"It is I."

"The Prussian officer mhes to speak
with you immediately."

"With me?"

"Yes, that is, if you are Miss Eliza-
beth Rousset."

She was disturbed, and refleoting for
an instant, declared flatly:

"That is my name, but I shall not
go.''

A stir was felt around her; each dis-
cussed and tried to think of the cause



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BALL-OF-FAT



13



of this order. The Count approached
her, saying:

"You are wrong, Madame, for your
refusal may lead to considerable diffi-
culty, not only for yourself, but for all
your companions. It is never worth
while to resist those in power. This re-
quest cannot assuredly bring any dan-
ger; it is, without doubt, about some
forgotten formality."

Everybody agreed with him, asking,
begging, beseeching her to go, and at
last they convinced her that it was best;
they all feared the complications that
mi^t result from disobedience. She
finally said:

"It is for you that I do this, you
understand."

The Coimtess took her by the hand,
saying: "And we are grateful to you
for it"

She went out. They waited before
sitting down at table.

Each one regretted not having been
sent for in the place of this violent,
irascible girl, and mentally prepared
some platitudes, in case they should be
called in their turn.

But at the end of ten minutes Ae
reappeared, out of breath, red to suffo-
cation, and exasperated. She stam-
mered: "Oh! the rascal; the rascal!"

All gathered aroimd to learn some-
thing, but she said nothing; and when
the Count insisted, she responded with
great dignity: "No, it does not concern
you; I can say nothing."

Then they all seated themselves
around a high soup tureen, whence came
the odor of cabbage. In spite of alarm,
the supper was gay. The cider was
|ood, the beverage Loiseau and the
good sisters took as a means of econ-



omy. The others called for wine;
Comudet demanded beer. He had a
special fashion of uncorking the bottle,
making froth on the liquid, carefully
filling the glass and then holding it be-



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