Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

. (page 27 of 125)
Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 27 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

whether the old man had taken that
road, and then he began to walk along
the moraines with rapid and uneasy
steps. The day was declining; the snow
was assuming a rosy tint, and a dry,
frozen wind blew in rough gusts over
its crystal surface. Ulrich uttered a
long, shrill, vibrating call. His voice
sped through the deathlike silence in
which the mountains were sleeping; it
reached into the distance, over the pro-
found and motionless waves of glacial
foam, like the cry of a bird over the
waves of the sea; then it died away
and nothing answered him.

He started off agam. The sun had
simk behind the mountain tops, which
still were purpled with the reflection
from the heavens, but the depths of
the valley were becoming gray, and
suddenly the young man felt frightened.
It seemed to him as if the silence, the
cold, the solitude, the wintry death of
these mountains were taking possession
of him, were stopping and freezing his
blood, making his limbs grow stiff, and
turning him into a motionless and frozen
object; and he began to run rapidly
toward the dwelling. The old man, he
thought, would have returned during his
absence. He had probably taken an-
other road; and would, no doubt, be
sitting before the fire, with a dead
chamois at his feet.

He soon came in sight of the inn, but
no smoke rose from it. Ulrich ran
faster. Opening the door he met Sam
who ran up to him to greet him, but
Gaspard Hari had not returned. Kunsi,
in his alarm, turned round suddenly,
as if he had expected to find his com«
rade hidden in a comer. Then he re-
lighted the fire and made the soup;
hoping every moment to see the old
man come in. From time to time he
went out to see if Gaspard were not in
sight. It was night now, that wan night
of the mountain, a livid night, with the
crescent moon, yellow and dim, just
disappearing behind the moimtain tops,
and shining faintly on the edge of the

Then the young man went in and sat
down to warm his hands and feet, while
he pictured to himself every possible
sort of accident. Gaspard might have
broken a leg, have fallen into a crevasse,
have taken a false step and dislocated

Digitized by




bis ankle. Perhaps he was lying on
the snow, overcome and stiff with the
cold, in agony of mind, lost and per-
haps shouting for help, calling with all
his might, in the silence of the night.

But where? The mountain was so
vast, s;o rugged, so dangerous in places,
especially at that time of the year, that
it would have required ten or twenty
guides walking for a week in all direc-
tions, to find a man in that immense
space. Ulrich Kunsi, however, made
up his mind to set out with Sam, if
Gaspard did not return by one in the
morning; and he made his preparations.

He put provisions for two days into
a bag, took his steel climbing-irons, tied
a long, thin, strong rope round his waist
and looked to see that his iron-shod
stick and his ax, which served to cut
steps in the ice, were in order. Then
h€ waited. The fire was burning on the
hearth, the great dog was snoring in
front of it, and the clock was ticking in
its case of resoimding wood, as regularly
as a heart beating.

He waited, his ears on the alert for
distant soimds, and shivered when the
wind blew against the roof and the
walls. It struck twelve, and he trem-
bled. Then, as he felt frightened and
shivery, he put some water on the fire,
so that he might have hot coffee be-
fore starting. When the clock struck
one he got up, woke Sam, opened the
door and went off in the direction of
the Wildstrubel. For five hours he
ascended, scaling the rocks by means of
his climbing-irons, cutting into the ice,
advancing continually, and occasionally
hauling up the dog, who remained be-
low at the foot of some slope that was
too steep for him, by means of the

rope. About six o'clock he reached one
of the summits to which old Gaspard
often came after chamois, and he waited
till it should be daylight.

The sky was growing pale overhead,
and suddenly a strange light, springing,
nobody coiid tell whence, suddenly
illuminated the immense ocean of pale
moimtain peaks, which stretched for
many leagues around him. It seemed
as if this vague brightness arose from
the snow itself, in order to spread it-
self into space. By degrees the highest
and most distant summits assumed a
delicate, fleshlike rpse color, and the
red sun appeared behind the ponderous
giants of the Bernese Alps.

Ulrich Kunsi set off agam, walking
like a hunter, stooping and looking for
any traces, and saying to his dog:
"Seek old feUow, seek!"

He was descending the mountain now,
scanning the depths closely, and from
time to time shouting, uttering a loud,
prolonged familiar cry which soon died
away in that silent vastness. Then, he
put his ear to the ground, to listen.
He thought he could distinguish a voice,
and so he began to run and shout again.
But he heard nothing more and sat
down, worn out and in despair. Toward
midday he breakfasted and gave Sam,
who was as tired as himself, something
to eat also; then he reconmienced his

When evening came he was still walk-
ing, having traveled more than thirty
miles over the mountains. As he was
too far away to return home, and too
tired to drag himself along any further,
he dug a hole in the snow and crouched
in it with his dog, imder a blanket
which he had brouj^t with bim. Tb**

Digitized by




man and the dog lay side by side,
warming themselves one against the
other, but frozen to the marrow never-
theless. Ulrich scarcely slept, his mind
haunted by visions and his limbs shak-
ing with cold.

Day was breaking when he got up.
His legs were as stiff as iron bars, and
his spirits so low that he was ready to
weep, while his heart was beating so
that he almost fell with excitement
whenever he thought he heard a noise.

Suddenly he imagined that he also
was going to die of cold in the midst
of this vast solitude. The terror of
such a death roused his energies and
gave him renewed vigor. He was de-
scending toward the inn, fallmg down
and getting up again, and followed at
a distance by Sam, who was limping on
three legs. They did not reach Sch-
warenbach imtn four o'clock in the
afternoon. The house was empty, and
the young man made a fire, had some-
thing to eat, and went to sleep, so worn-
out that he did not think of anything

He slept for a long time, for a very
long time, the unconquerable sleep of
exhaustion. But suddenly a voice, a
cry, a name: "Ulrich," aroused him
from his profound slumber, and made
him sit up in bed. Had he been dream-
ing? Was it one of those strange ap-
peals which cross the dreams of dis-
quieted minds? No, he heard it still,
that reverberating cry, — ^which had en-
tered at his ears and remained in his
brain, — ^thrilling him to the tips of his
sinewy fingers. Certainly, somebody
had cried out, and called: "Ulrich!"
There was somebody there, near the
house, there could be no doubt of that,

and he opened the door and shouted:
"Is it you, Gaspard?" with all the
strength of his lungs. But there was no
reply, no murmur, no groan, nothing.
It was quite dark, and the snow looked

The wind had risen, that icy wind
which cracks the rocks, and leaves noth-
ing alive on those deserted heights. It
came in sudden gusts, more parching
and more deadly than the burning wind
of the desert, and again Ulrich shouted:
"Gaspard! Gaspard! Gaspard!" Then
he waited again. Ever3^ing was silent
on the mountain! Then he shook with
terror, and with a bound he was inside
the inn. He shut and bolted the door,
and then fell into a chair, trembling
all over, for he felt certain that his
comrade had called him at the moment
of dissolution.

He was certain of that, as certain as
one is of conscious life or of taste when
eating. Old Gaspard Hari had been
dying for two days and three nights
somewhere, in some hole, in one of
those deep, untrodden ravines whose
whiteness is more sinister than subter-
ranean darkness. He had been dying
for two days and three nights and he
had just then died, thinking of his
comrade. His soul, almost before it
was released, had taken its flig,ht to the
inn where Ulrich was sleeping, and it
had called him by that terrible and
mysterious power which the spirits of
the dead possess. That voiceless soul
had cried to the womout soul of the
sleeper; it had uttered its last farewell,
or its reproach, or its curse on the man
who had not searched carefully enough.

And Ulrich felt that it was there,
quite close to him, behind the wall, be*

Digitized by




hind the door which he had just fast-
ened. It was wandering about, like a
night bird which skims a lighted window
with his wings, and the terrified young
man was ready to scream with horror.
He wanted to run away, but did not
dare go out; he did not dare, and would
never dare in the future, for that phan-
tom would remain there day and night,
round the inn, as long as the old man's
body was not recovered and deposited
in the consecrated earth of a church-

Daylight came, and Kunsi recovered
some of his courage with the return of
the bright sun. He prepared his meal,
gave his dog some food, and then re-
mained motionless on a chair, tortured
at heart as he thought of the old man
lying on the snow. Then, as soon as
night once more covered the mountains,
new terrors assailed him. He now
walked up and down the dark kitchen,
which was scarcely lighted by the flame
of one candle. He walked from one end
of it to the other with great strides,
listening, listening to hear the terrible
cry of the preceding night again break
the dreary silence outside. He felt him-
self alone, unhappy man, as no man had
ever been alone before! Alone in this
immense desert of snow, alone five
thousand feet above the inhabited earth,
above human habitations, above that
stirring, noisy, palpitating life, alone
under an icy sky! A mad longing im-
pelled him to run away, no matter
where, to get down to Loeche by fling-
ing himself over the precipice; but he
did not even dare to open the door, as
he felt sure that the other, the dead,

^ would bar his road, so that he

might not be obliged to remain up there

Toward midnight, tired with walking,
worn-out by grief and fear, he fell into
a doze in his chair, for he was afraid of
his bed, as one is of a haunted spot.
But suddenly the strident cry of the
preceding evening pierced his ears, so
shrill that Ulrich stretched out his arms
to repulse the ghost, and he fell on to
his back with his chair.

Sam, who was awakened by the noise,
began to howl as frightened dogs do,
and trotted all about the house trying
to find out where the danger came from.
When he got to the door, he sniffed
beneath it, smelling vigorously, with his
coat bristlmg and his tail stiff while
he growled angrily. Kunsi, who was
terrified, jumped up, and holding his
chair by one leg, cried: "Don't come
in, don't come in, or I shall kill you."
And the dog, excited by this threat,
barked angrily at that invisible enemy
who defied his master's voice. By de-
grees, however, he quieted down, came
back and stretched himself in front of
the fire. But he was uneasy, and kept
his head up, and growled between his

Ulrich, in turn, recovered his senses,
but as he felt f amt with terror, he went
and got a bottle of brandy out of the
sideboard, and drank off several glasses,
one after another, at a gulp. His ideas
became vague, his courage revived, and
a feverish glow ran through his veins.

Ha ate scarcely anything the next
day, and limited himself to alcohol;
so he lived for several days, like a
drunken brute. As soon as he thought
of Gaspard Hari he began to drink
again, and went on drinking until h»

Digitized by




fell on to the floor, overcome by in-
toxication. And there he remained on
his face, dead drunk, his limbs be-
numbed, and snoring with his face to
the ground. But scarcely had he di-
gested the maddening and burning
liquor, than the same cry, "Ulrich,*'
woke him like a bullet piercing his brain,
and he got up, still staggering, stretch-
ing out his hands to save himself from
falling, and calling to Sam to help him.
And the dog, who appeared to be going
mad like his master, rushed to the door,
scratched it with his claws, and gnawed
it with his long white teeth, while the
young man, his neck thrown back, and
his head in the air, drank the brandy in
gulps, as if it were cold water, so that it
might by and by send his thoughts, his
frantic terror, and his memory, to sleep

In three weeks he had consumed all
his stock of ardent spirits. But his
continual drunkenness only lulled his
terror, which awoke more furiously than
ever, as soon as it was impossible for
hhn to calm it by drinking. His fixed
idea, which had been intensified by a
month of drunkenness, and which was
continually increasing in his absolute
solitude, penetrated him like a gimlet.
He now walked about his house like a
wild beast in its cage, putting his ear
to the door to listen if the other were
there, and defying him through the
wall. Then as soon as he dozed, over-
come by fatigue, he heard the voice
which made him leap to his feet.

At last one night, as cowards do when
driven to extremity, he sprang to the
door and opened it, to see who was
calling him, and to force him to keep
quiet. But such a gust of cold wind

blew into his face that it chilled him
to the bone. He closed and bolted the
door again immediately, without notic-
ing that Sam had rushed out. Then,
as he was shivering with cold, he threw
some wood on the fire, and sat down in
front of it to warm himself. But sud-
denly he started, for somebody was
scratching at the wall, and crying. In
desperation he called out: "Go awayT'
but was answered by another long, sor^
rowful wail.

Then all his remaining senses forsook
him, from sheer fright. He repeated:
"Go away!" and turned round to find
some comer in which to hide, while the
other person went round the house still
crying, and rubbing against the wall.
Ulrich went to the oak sideboard, which
was full of plates and dishes and of
provisions, and lifting it up with super-
human strength, he dragged it to the
door, so as to form a barricade. Then
piling up all the rest of the furniture,
the mattresses, paillasses, and chairs, he
stopped up the windows as men dci
when assailed by an enemy.

But the person outside now uttered
long, plaintive, mournful groans, to
which the young man replied by similar
groans, and thus days and nights passed
without their ceasing to howl at each
other. The one was continually walk-
ing round the house and scraped the
walls with his nails so vigorously that
it seemed as if he wished to destroy
them, while the other, inside, followed
all his movements, stooping down, and
holding his ear to the walls, and reply
ing to all his appeals with terrible cries.
One evening however, Ulrich heard
nothing more, and he sat down, so over-
come by fatigue that he went to sleep

Digitized by




immediately, and awoke in the morning
without a tiought, without any recollec-
tion of what had happened, just as if his
head had been emptied during his heavy
sleep. But he felt hungry, and he ate.

The winter was over, and the Genmii
pass was practicable again, so the Hau-
ser family started off to return to their
inn. As soon as they had reached the
top of the ascent, the women mounted
their mule, and spoke about the two
men who they would meet again shortly.
They were, indeed, rather surprised that
neither of them had come down a few
days before, as soon as the road be-
came passable, in order to tell them all
about their long winter sojourn. At
last, however, they saw the inn, still
covered with snow, like a quilt. The
door and the windows were closed, but
a little smoke was coming out of the
chimney, which reassured old Hauser;
on going up to the door, however, he
saw the skeleton of an animal which
had been torn to pieces by the eagles,
a large skeleton lying on its side.

They all looked closely at it, and the
mother said: **That must be Sam."
Then she shouted: "Hi! Gaspard!" A
cry from the interior of the house an-
swered her, so sharp a cry that one
might have thought some animal uttered

it. Old Hauser repeated: "Hi! Gas*
pard!" and they heard another cry,
similar to the first.

Then the three men, the father and
the two sons, tried to open the door, but
it resisted their efforts. From the
empty cow-stall they took a beam to
serve as a battering-ram, and hurled it
against the door with all their might.
The wood gave way, and the boards
flew into splinters; then the house was
shaken by a loud voice, and inside, be*
hind the sideboard which was over-
turned, they saw a man standing up-
right, his hair falling on to his shoulders
and a beard descending to his breast,
with shining eyes and nothing but rags
to cover him. They did not recognize
him, but Louise Hauser exclaimed: "It
is Ulrich, mother." And her mother de*
clared that it was Ulrich, although his
hair was white.

He allowed them to go up to him,
and to touch him, but he did not rqdy
to any of their questions, and they were
obliged to take him to Loeche, where
the doctors found that he was mad.
Nobody ever knew what had become
of his companion.

Little Louise Hauser nearly died that
simmier of decline, which the medical
men attribii^ed to the cold air of the

A Family

I WAS going to see my friend Simon spend long, quiet, and happy evenings

Radevin once more, for I had not seen with him. He was one of those men

him for fifteen years. Formerly he was to whom one tells the most intimate

my most intimate friend, and I used to affairs of the heart, and in whom one

Digitized by




finds, when quietly talking, rare, clever,
ingenious, and refined thou^ts —
thoughts which itimulate and capture
the mind.

For years we had scarcely been sepa-
rated: we had lived, traveled, thought,
and dreamed together; had liked the
same things with the same liking, ad-
mired the same books, comprehended
the same works, shivered with the same
sensations, and very often laughed at
the same individuals, whom we under-
stood completely, by merely exchanging
a glance.

Then he married — quite unexpectedly
married a little girl from the provinces,
who had come to Paris in search of a
husband. How ever could that little,
thin, insipidly fair girl, with her weak
hands, her light, vacant eyes, and her
clear, silly voice who was exactly like
a hundred thousand marriageable dolls,
have picked up that intelligent, clever
young fellow? Can anyone understand
these things? No doubt he had hoped
for happiness, simple, quiet, and long-
enduring happiness, in the arms of a
good, tender, and faithful woman ; he
had seen all that in the transparent
looks of that schoolgirl with light hair-
He had not dreamed of the fact that
an active, living, and vibrating man
grows tired as soon as he has compre-
hended the stupid reality of a common-
place life, unless indeed, he becomes so
brutalized as to be callous to externals.
What would he be like when I met
him again? Still lively, witty, light-
hearted, and enthusiastic, or in a state
of mental torpor through provincial
life? A man can change a great deal in
the course of fifteen years!

The train stopped at a small station,
and as I got out of the carriage, a stout,
a very stout man with red cheeks and
a big stomach rushed up to me with
open arms, exclaiming: "George!"

I embraced him, but I had not recog-
nized him, and then I said, in astonish-
ment: "By jove! You have not grown

And he replied with a laugh: "What
did you expect? Good living, a good
table, and good nights! Eating and
sleeping, that is my existence!"

I looked at him closely, trying to
find the features I held so dear in that
broad face. His eyes alone had not
altered, but I no longer saw the same
looks in them, and I said to myself: "If
looks be the reflection of the mind, the
thoughts in that head are not what they
used to be — ^those thoughts which I
knew so well."

Yet his eyes were bright, full of
pleasure and friendship, but they had
not that clear, intelligent expression
which tells better than do words the
value of the mind. Suddenly he said to

"Here are my two ddest children."
A girl of fourteen, who was almost a
woman, and a boy of thirteen, in the
dress of a pupil from a lycee, came for-
ward in a hesitating and awkward man-
ner, and I said in a low voice: "Are
they yours?"

"Of course they are," he replied

"How many have you?"

"Five! There are three more in

He said that in a proud, self-satis-
fied, almost triumphant manner, and I
felt profound pity, mingled with a feel-

Digitized by




ing of vague contempt for this vain-
glorious and simple reproducer of his
species, who spent his nights in his
country house in uxorious pleasures.

I got into a carriage, which he drove
himself, and we set off through the
town, a dull, sleepy, gloomy town where
nothing was moving in the streets save
a few dogs and two or three maidser-
vants. Here and there a shopkeeper
standing at his door took off his hat,
and Simon returned the salute and told
me the man's name — no doubt to show
me that he knew all the inhabitants per-
sonally. The thought struck me that
he was thinking of becoming a candi-
date for the Chamber of Deputies, that
dream of all who have buried them*
selves in the provinces.

We were soon out of the town; the
carriage turned into a garden which had
some pretensions to a park, and stopped
in front of a turrejted house, which tried
to pass for a chiteau.

"That is my den," Simon said, so that
he mi^t be complimented on it, and I
replied that it was delightful.

A lady appeared on the steps, dressed
up for a visitor, her hair done for a
visitor, and with phrases ready prepared
for a visitor. She was no longer the
light-haired, insipid girl I had seen in
church fifteen years previously, but a
stout lady in curls and flounces, one of
those ladies of \mcertain age, without
intellect, without any of those things
which constitute a woman. In short she
was a mother, a stout, commonplace
mother, a human layer and brood mare,
a machine of flesh which procreates,
without mental care save for her chil-
dren and her housekeeping book.

She welcomed me, and I went mto

the hall, where three children, ranged
according to their height, were ranked
for review, like firemen before a mayor.
"Ah! ah! so there are the others?" said
I. And Simon, who was radiant with
pleasure, named them: "Jean, Sophie,
and Gontran."

The door of the drawing-room was
open. I went in, and in the depths of
an easy-chair I saw something trem-
bling, a man, an old, paralyzed man.
Madame Radevin came forward and
said: "This is my grandfather, Mon-
sieur; he is eighty-seven." And then she
shouted into the shaking old man's ears:
"This is a friend of Simon's, grand-

The old gentleman tried to say "Good
day" to me, and he muttered: "Qua,
oua, oua," and waved his hand.

I took a seat saying: **You are very
kind. Monsieur."

Simon had just come in, and he said
with a laugh: "So! You have made
grandpapa's acquaintance. He is price-
less, is that old man. He is the delight
of the children, and he is so greedy that
he almost kills himself at every meal.
You have no idea what he would eat if
he were allowed to do as he pleased.
But you will see, you will see. He looks
an the sweets over as if they were so
many girls. You have never seen any-
thing funnier; you will see it presently."

I was then shown to my room to
change my dress for dinner, and hearing
a great clatter behind me on the stairs,
I turned round and say that all the
children were following me behind thdr
father — to do me honor, no doubt.

My windows looked out on to a plain,
a bare, interminable plain, an ocean of
grass, of wheat, and of oatft without a

Digitized by




dump of trees or any rising ground, a
stnkkig and melancholy picture of the
life which they must be leading in that

A bell rang; it was for dinner, and so
I went downstairs. Madame Radevin

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 27 of 125)