Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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took my arm in a ceremonious manner,
and we went into the dining-room. A
footman wheeled in the old man's arm*
chair, who gave a greedy and curious
Vook at the dessert, as with difficulty he
tamed his shaking head from one dish
to t^e other.

Simon rubbed his hands, saying:
•You will be amused." All the children
understood that I was going to be in-
dulged with the si^t of their greedy
grandfather and they began to laugh
accordingly, while their mother merely
smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
Simon, making a speaking tnmipet of
his hands, shouted at the old man:
"This evening there is sweet rice-
cream,'* and the wrinkled face of the
grandfather bri^tened, he trembled
violently all over, showing that he had
understood and was very pleased. The
dinner began.

"Just look!" Simon whispered.
The grandfather did not like the soiip,
and refused to eat it; but he was made
to, on account of his health. The foot-
man forced the spoon into his mouth,
while the old man blew energetically, so
as not to swallow the soup, which was
thus scattered like a stream of water
on to the table and over his neighbors.
The children shook with delight at the
spectacle, while their father, who was
also amused, said: "Isn't the old man
funny?"

During the whole meal they were all
taken up solely with him. With his



eyes he devoured the dishes which were
put on the table, and with trembling
hands tried to seize them and pull them
to him. They put them almost within
his reach to see his useless efforts, his
trembling clutches at them, the piteous
appeal of his whole nature, of his eyes,
of his mouth, and of his nose as he
smelled them. He slobbered on to his
table napkin with eagerness, while utter-
ing inarticulate gnmts, and the whole
family was highly amused at this hor-
rible and grotesque scene.

Then they put a tiny morsel on to
his plate, which he ate with feverish
gluttony, in order to get something
more as soon as possible. When the
rice-cream was brought in, he nearly
had a fit, and groaned with greediness^
Gontran called out to him: "You have
eaten too much already; you will have
no more." And they pretended not to
give him any. Then he began to cry-
cry and tremble more violently than
ever, while all the children laughed. At
last, however, they gave him his help-
ing, a very small piece. As he ate the
Urst mouthful of the pudding, he made
a comical and greedy noise in his throat,
and a movement with his neck like
ducks do, when they swallow too large
a morsel, and then, when he had done,
he began to stamp his feet, so as to get
more.

I was seized with pity for this piti-
able and ridiculous Tantalus, and inter-
posed on his behalf: "Please, will you
not give him a little more rice?"

But Simon replied: "Oh! no my dear
fellow, if he were to eat too much, it
might harm him at his age."

I held my tongue, and thought over
these words. Oh! ethics! Oh! logicl



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212



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



Oh! wisdom! At his age! So they de-
prived him of his only remaining
pleasure out of regard for his health!
His health! What would he do with it,
inert and trembling wreck that he was?
They were taking care of his life, so
they said. His life? How many days?
Ten, twenty, fifty, or a hundred? Why?
For his own sake? Or to preserve for
some time longer, the spectacle of his
impotent greediness in the family.

There was nothing left for him to do
in this life, nothing whatever. He had
one single wish left, one sole pleasure;



why not grant him that last solace con-
stantly, until he died?

After playing cards for a long time, I
went up to my room and to bed; I
was low-spirited and sad, sad, sad! I
sat at my window, but I heard nothing
but the beautiful warbling of a bird in
a tree, somewhere in the distance. No
doubt the bird was singing thus in a
low voice during the night, to lull his
mate, who was sleeping on her eggs.

And I thought of my poor friend's
five children, and to myself picturedj
him snoring by the side of his ugly
wife.



Bellflower



How strange are those old recollec-
tions which haunt us, without our being
able to get rid of them!

This one is so very old that I cannot
understand how it has clung so vividly
and tenaciously to my memory. Since
then I have seen so many sinister things,
either affecting or terrible, that I am
astonished at not being able to pass a
single day without the face of Mother
Bellflower recurring to my mind's eye,
just as I knew her formerly long, long
ago, when I was ten or twelve years old.

She was an old seamstress who came
to my parents' house once a week, every
Thursday, to mend the linen. My parents
lived in one of those country houses
called chateax, which are merely old
houses with pointed roofs, to which are
attached three or four adjacent farms.

The village, a large village, almost a
small market town, was a few hundred



yards off, and nestled round the churchy
a red brick church, which had become
black with age.

Well, every Thursday Mother Bell-i
flower came between half past six and
seven in the morning, and went imme^
diately into the linen-room and began
to work. She was a tall, thin, bearded
or rather hairy woman, for she had ^
beard all over her face, a surprising, an
unexpected beard, growing in improbi
able tufts, in curly bunches which
looked as if they had been sown by a
madman over that great face, the fac^
of a gendarme in petticoats. She hac|
them on her nose, under her nose^
round her nose, on her chin, on hei
cheeks; and her eyebrows, which were
extraordinarily thick and long, and
quite gray, bushy and bristling, lookec]



♦Clochette.



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BELLFLOWER



213^



exactly like a pair of mustaches stuck
on there by mistake.

She limped, but not like lame people
generally do, but like a ship pitching.
When she planted her great, bony, vi-
brant body on her sound leg, she seemed
to be preparing to moimt some enor-
mous wave, and then suddenly she
dipped as if to disappear in an abyss,
and buried herself in the ground. Her
walk reminded one of a ship in a storm,
and her head, which was always cov-
ered with an enormous white cap, whose
ribbons fluttered down her back, seemed
to traverse the horizon from North to
South and from South to North, at each
limp.

I adored Mother Bellflower. As soon
as I was up I used to go into the linen-
room, where I foimd her installed at
work, with a foot-warmer under her
feet. As soon as I arrived, she made me
take the foot-warmer and sit upon it, so
that I might not catch cold in that
large, chilly room xmder the roof.

"That draws the blood from your
head," she would say to me.

She told me stories, while mending
the linen with her long, crooked, nimble
fingers; behind her magnifjdng spec-
tacles, for age had impaired her sight,
her eyes appeared enormous to me,
strangely profound, double.

As far as I can remember from the
things which she told me and by which
my childish heart was moved, she had
the krge heart of a poor woman. She
told me what had happened in the
village, how a cow had escaped from
the cowhouse and had been found the
next morning in front of Prosper
Malet's mill, looking at the sails turn-
ing, or about a hen's egg which had been



found in the church belfry without any-
one being able to understand what
creature had been there to lay it, or
the queer story of Jean Pilars dog, who
had gone ten leagues to bring back his
master's breeches which a tramp had
stolen while they were hanging up to
dry out of doors, after he had been
caught in the rain. She told me these
simple adventures in such a manner
that in, my mind they assumed the
proportions of never-to-be-forgotten
dramas, of grand and mysterious
poems; and the ingenious stories in-
vented by the poets, which my mother
told me in the evening, had none of the
flavor, none of the fullness or of the
vigor of the peasant woman's narra-
tives.

Well, one Thursday when I had spent
all the morning in listening to Mother
Clochette, I wanted to go upstairs to
her again during the day, after picking
hazelnuts with the manservant in the
wood behind the farm. I remember it
all as clearly as what happened only
yesterday.

On opening the door of the linen-
room, I saw the old seamstress lying on
the floor by the side of her chair, her
face turned down and her arms
stretched out, but still holding her
needle in one hand and one of my
shirts in the other. One of her legs
in a blue stocking, the longer one no
doubt, was extended under her chair,
and her spectacles glistened by the wall,
where they had rolled away from her.

I ran away uttering shrill cries. They
all came running, and in a few minutes
I was told that Mother Clochette was
dead.

I cannot describe the profoimd, poig-



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214



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



nanty terrible emotion which stirred my
childish heart. I went slowly down
into the drawing-room and hid myself
in a dark comer, in the depths of a
great, old armchair, where I knelt and
wept. I remained there for a long time
no doubt, for night came on. Suddenly
some one came in with a lamp — ^without
seeing me, however — ^and I heard my
father and mother talkmg with the
medical man, whose voice I recognized.

He had been sent for immediately,
and he was explaining the cause of the
accident, of which I understood noth*
ing, however. Then he sat down and
had a glass of liqueur and a biscuit.

He went on talking, and what he
then said will remain engraved on my
mind until I die! I think that I can
give the exact words which he used.

"Ah!" said he, "the poor woman!
she broke her leg the day of my arrival
here. I had not even had time to wash
my hands after getting off the diligence
before I was sent for in all haste, for
it was a bad case, very bad.

"She was seventeen, and a pretty girl,
very pretty! Would anyone believe it?
I have never told her story before, in
fact no one but myself and one other
person, who is no longer living in this
part of the coimtry, ever knew it. Now
that she is dead, I may be less discreet.

"A young assistant teacher had just
come to live in the village; he was
good-looking and had the bearing of a
soldier. All the girls ran after him, but
he was disdainful. Besides that, he was
very much afraid of his superior, the
schoolmaster, old Grabu, who occasion-
ally got out of bed the wrong foot first.

"Old Grabu already employed pretty
fiortense, who has just died here, and



who was afterward nicknamed Clo*
chette. The assistant master singled
out the pretty young girl, who was no
doubt flattered at being chosen by this
disdainful conqueror; at any rate, she
fell in love with him, and he succeeded
in persuading her to give him a first
meeting in the hayloft behind the
school, at night after she had done her
day's sewing.

"She pretended to go home, but in-
stead of going downstairs when she left
the Grabus', she went upstairs and hid
among the hay, to wait for her lover.
He soon joined her, and he was be-
ginning to say pretty things to her,
when the door of the hayloft opened
and the schoolmaster appeared, and
asked: "What are you doing up there,
Sigisbert?" Feeling sure that he would
be caught, the young schoolmaster lost
his presence of mind and replied
stupidly: 1 came up here to rest a
little among the buncDes of hay. Mon-
sieur Grabu.*

"The loft was very large and abso-
lutely dark. Sigisbert pushed the
frightened girl to the further end and
said: *Go there and hide yourself. I
shall lose my situation, so get away and
hide yourself.'

"When the schoolmaster heard the
whispering, he continued: *Why, you
are not by yourself.'

"*Yes I am, Monsieur Grabu!*

" *But you are not, for you are talk*
ing.'

" *I swear I am, Monsieur Grabu.'

" *I will soon find out,' the old man
replied, and double-locking the door,
he went down to get a li^t.

"Then the young man, who was a
coward such as one sometimes meetSg



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IN THE WOOD



ns



lost his head, and he repeated, having
grown furious all of a sudden: 'Hide
yourself, so that he may not ^d you.
You will deprive me of my bread for
my whole life; you will ruin my whole
career! Do hide yourself!'

"They could hear the key turning in
the lock agam, and Hortense ran to
the window which looked out on to
the street, opened it quickly, and then
in a low and determined voice said:
Tou will come and pick me up when
he is gone,' and she jumped out.

"Old Grabu found nobody, and went
down again in great surprise. A quar-
ter of an hour later, Monsieur Sigisbert
came to me and related his adventure.
The girl had remained at the foot of the
wall unable to get up, as she had fallen
from the second story, and I went with
him to fetch her. It was raining in tor-
rents, and I brought the unfortunate
girl home with me, for the ri^t leg
was broken in three places, and the
hones had come out through the flesh.
She did not complain, and merely said,
with admirable resignation: 1 am
punished, well pimished!'

"I sent for assistance and for the



workgirl's friends and told them a
made-up story of a runaway carriage
which had knocked her down and lamed
her, outside my door. They believed me,
and the gendarmes for a whole month
tried in vain to find the author of this
accident.

"That is all! Now I say that this
woman was a heroine, and had the
fiber of those who accomplish the
grandest deeds in history. *

"That was her only love affair, and
she died a virgin. She was a martyr, a
noble soul, a sublimely devoted woman!
And if I did not absolutely admire her,
I should not have told you this story,
which I would never tell anyone during
her life: you understand why."

The doctor ceased; mamma cried
and papa said some words which I did
not catch; then they left the room, and
I remained on my knees in the armchair
and sobbed, while I heard a strange
noise of heavy footsteps and something
knocking against the side of the stair-
case.

They were carrying away Clochette*s
body.



In the Wood



The mayor was just going to sit
down to breakfast, when he was told
that the rural policeman was waiting for
him at the mairie, with two prisoners.
He went there immediately, and found
(Ad Hochedur standing up and watch-
ing a middle-class couple of mature
years with stem looks.



The man, a fat old fellow with a red
nose and white hair, seemed utterly
dejected; while the woman, a little
roundabout, stout creature, with shining
cheeks, looked at the agent who had
arrested them with defiant eyes.

"What is it? What is it, Hochedur?'*
The rural policeman made his dep-



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216



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



osition. He had gone out that morn-
ing at his usual time, in order to patrol
his beat from the forest of Champioux
as far as the boundaries of Argenteuil.
He had not noticed anything unusual
in the country except that it was a
fine day, and that the wheat was doing
well, when the son of old Bredel, who
was going over his vines a second time,
called out to him : "Here, daddy Hoche-
dur, go and have a look into the skirts
of the wood, in the first thicket, and
you will catdi a pair of pigeons there
who must be a himdred and thirty years
old between them!"

He went in the direction that had
been indicated to him, and had gone
into the thicket. There he heard words
and gasps, which made him suspect a
flagrant breach of morality. Advancing,
therefore, on his hands and knees as if
to surprise a poacher, he had arrested
this couple, at the very moment when
they were going to abandon themselves
to their natural instincts.

The mayor looked at the culprits in
astonishment, for the man was cer-
tainly sixty, and the woman fifty-five at
least. So he begai^ to question them,
beginning with the man, who replied in
such a weak voice, that he could
scarcely be heard.

"What is your name?"

"Nicolas Beaurain."

"Your occupation?"

"Haberdasher, in the Rue des Mar-
trys, in Paris."

"What were you doing in the wood?"

The haberdasher remained silent,
with his eyes on his fat stomach, and
his hands resting on his thighs, and the
mayor continued:



"Do you deny what the officer of the
municipal authorities states?"

"No, Monsieur."

"So you confess it?"

"Yes, Monsieur."

"What have you to say in your de-
fense?"

"Nothing, Monsieur."

"Where did you meet the partner in
your misdemeanor?"

"She is my wife, Monsieur."

"Your wife?"

"Yes, Monsieur."

"Then — ^then — ^you do not live to-
gether in Paris?"

"I beg your pardon. Monsieur, but
we are living together!"

"But in that case you must be mad,
altogether mad, my dear sir, to get
caught like that in the country at ten
o'clock in the morning."

The haberdasher seemed ready to cry
with shame, and he murmured: "It was
she who enticed me! I told her it was
stupid, but when a woman has got a
thing into her head, you know, you can-
not get it out."

The mayor, who liked open speaking,
smiled and replied:

"In your case, the contrary ought to
have happened. You would not be
here, if she had had the idea only in
her head."

Then Monsieur Beaurain was seized
with rage, and turning to his wife, he
said: "Do you see to what you have
brought us with your poetry? And
now we sh^l have to go before the
Courts, at our age, for a breach of
morals! And we shall have to shut up
the shop, sell our good-will, and go to
some other neighborhood! That's what
it has come to!"



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IN THE WOOD



217



Madame BeauraSn got up, and with-
out looking at her husband, ejq)iained
herself without any embarrassment,
without useless modesty, and almost
without hesitation.

"Of course, Monsieur, I know that we
have made ourselves ridiculous. Will
you allow me to plead my cause like an
advocate, or rather like a poor woman;
and I hope that you will be kind enough
to send us home, and to spare us the
disgrace of a prosecution.

"Years ago, whwi I was young, I
made Monsieur Beaurain's acquain-
tance on Sunday in this neighborhood.
He was employed in a draper's shop,
and I was a saleswoman in a ready-made
clothing establishment. I remember it,
as if it were yesterday. I used to come
and spend Sundays here occasionally
with a friend of mine, Rose Lev^que,
with whom I lived in the Rue Pigalle,
and Rose had a sweetheart, while I had
not. He used to bring us here, and one
Saturday, he told me laughing, that he
should bring a friend with him the next
day. I quite understood what he
meant, but I replied that it would be
no good; for I was virtuous. Monsieur.

"The next day we met Monsieur
Beaurain at the railway station. In
those days he was good-looking, but I
had made up my mind not to jrield to
him, and I did not jdeld. Well, we
arrived at Bezons. It was a lovely day,
the sort of day that tickles your heart.
When it is fine even now, just as it
used to be formerly, I grow quite
foolish, and when I am in the country, I
utterly lose my head. The verdure, the
swallows flying so swiftly, the smell of
the grass, the scarlet poppies, the
daisies, all that makes me quite excited!



It is like champagne when one is not
used to it!

"Well, it was lovely weather, warm
and bright, and it seemed to penetrate
into your body by your eyes when you
looked, and by your mouth when you
breathed. Rose and Simon hugged and
kissed each other every minute, and
that gave me something to look at I
Monsieur Beaurain and I walked behind
them, without speaking much, for when
people do not know each other well,
they cannot find much to talk about.
He looked timid, and I liked to see hb
embarrassment. At last we got to the
little wood; it was as cool as in a bath
there, and we all four sat down. Rose
and her lover joked me because I looked
rather stem, but you will understand
that I could not be otherwise. And
then they began to kiss and hug again,
without putting any more restraint upon
themselves than if we had not been
there. Then they whispered together,
and got up and went off among the trees
without saying a word. You may fancy
how I felt, alone with this young fellow
whom I saw for the first time. I felt
so confused at seeing them go that it
gave me courage and I began to talk.
I asked him what his business was, and
he said he was a linen draper's assistant,
as I told you just now. We talked for
a few minutes and that made him bold,
and he wanted to take liberties with me,
but I told him sharply to keep his own
place. Is not that true, Monsieur Beau-
rain?"

Monsieur Beaurain, who was looking
at his feet in confusicm, did not reply,
and she continued: "Then he saw that I
was virtuous, and he began to make
love to me nicely, like an honorable



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21ft



WORKS OF <3UY DE MAUPASSANT



man, and from diat time he came eveiy
Sunday, for he was very much in love
with me. I was very fond of him also,
very fond of him! He was a good-look-
feg fellow, formerly, and in short he
married me the next September, and we
started business in the Rue des Martyrs.

'*It was a hard struggle for some
years, Monsieur. Business did not
prosper, and we could not afford many
country excursions, and then we be-
came imaccustomed to them. One has
other things in one's head and thinks
more of the cash box than of pretty
speeches when one is in business. We
were growing old by degrees without
perceiving it, like quiet people who do
not thmk much about love. But one
does not regret anything as long as one
does not notice what one has lost.

"And after that, Monsieur, business
went better, and we became tranquil as
to the future! Then, you see, I do not
exactly know what passed within me —
no, I really do not know, but I began
to dream like a little boarding-school
girl. The sight of the little carts full of
flowers which are peddled about the
streets made me cry; the smell of
violets sought me out in my easy-chair,
behind my cash box, and made my heart
beat! Then I used to get up and go on
to the doorstep to look at the blue sky
between the roofs. When one looks at
the sky from a street, it seems like a
river flowing over Paris, winding as it
goes, and the swallows pass to and fro
in it Eke fish. These sort of things are
very stupid at my age! But what can
one do, Monsieur, when one has worked
til one's life? A moment comes in



whiich one p^ceives that one could have
done something else, and then, one re«>
grets, oh! yes, one feels great regret!
Just think that for twenty years I mi^t
have gone and had kisses in the woods,
like other women. I used to think how
delightful it would be to lie under the
trees, loving some one! And I thou^t
of it every day and every ni^tl I
dreamed of the moonlight on the water,
until I felt inclined to drown myself.

"I did not venture to speak to Mon«
sieur Beaurain about this at first. I
knew that he would make fun of me,
and send me back to sell my needles
and cotton! And then, to speak the
truth. Monsieur Beaurain never said
much to me, but when I looked in the
glass, I also imderstood quite well that
I also no longer aK>ealed to anyone!

"Well, I made up my mind, and I
I^oposed an excursion into the country
to him, to the place where we had fir^
become acquainted. He agreed without
any distrust, and we arrived here this
morning, about nine o'clocL

"I felt quite young agam when I got
among the com, for a woman's heart
never grows old! And really, I no
longer saw iny husband as he is at
present, but just like he was formerly!
That I will swear to you, Monsieur. As
true as I am standing here, I was in-
toxicated. I began to kiss him, and he
was more surprised than if I had tried
to murder him. He kept saying to me:
*Why, you must be mad this morning!
What is the matter with you — ^ I did
not listen to him, I only listened to my
own heart, and I made him come into
the wood with me. There is the story.



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THE MARQUIS DE FUMEROL



219



I have spoken the truth, Monsieur le
Maire, the whole truth."
The mayor was a sensible man. He



rose from his chair, smiled, and said:
"Go in peace, Madame, and sm no
more — ^under the trees."



The Marquis de Fumerol



Roger de Toumevillf was sitting
astride a chair in the midst of his
fiiends and talking; he held a cigar in
his hand, and from time to time took
a whiff and blew out a small cloud of
smoke.

**We were at dinner when a letter was
brought in, and my father opened it.
You know my father, who thinks that



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