Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

. (page 31 of 125)
Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 31 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in his wheat under very favorable cir-

La Rapet was getting exasperated;
every passing minute now seemed to her
so much time and money stolen from
her. She felt a mad inclination to
choke this old ass, this headstrong old
fool, this obstinate old wretch — ^to stop
that short, rapid breath, which was
robbing her of her time and money, by
squeezing her throat a little. But then
she reflected on the danger of doing so,
and other thoughts came into her head,
so she went up to the bed and said to
her: "Have you ever seen the Devil?"

Mother Bontemps whispered: "No."

Then the sick-nurse began to talk and
to tell her tales likely to terrify her
weak and dying mind. "Some minutes
before one dies the Devil appears," she
said, "to all. He has a broom in his
hand, a saucepan on his head and he
utters loud cries. When anybody had
seen him, all was over, and that person
had only a few moments longer to live";
and she enumerated all those to whom
the Devil had appeared that year:
Josephine Loisel, Eiialie Ratier, Sophie
Padagnau, Seraphine Grospied.

Mother Bontemps, who was at last
most disturbed in mind, moved about,
wrung her hands, and tried to turn her
head to look at the other end of the
room. Suddenly La Rapet disappeared
at the foot of the bed. She took a
sheet out of the cupboard and wrapped
herself up in it; then she put the iron
pot on to her head, so that its three
short bent feet rose up like horns, took
a broom in her right hand and a tin pail
in her left, which she threw up suddenly,
so that it might fall to the groimd

Certainly when it came down, it made
a terrible noise. Then, climbing on to

Digitized by




a chair, the nurse showed herself,
gesticulating and uttering shrill cries into
the pot which covered her face, while
she menaced the old peasant woman,
who was nearly dead, with her broom.

Terrified, with a mad look on her
face, the dying woman made a super-
human effort to get up and escape; she
even got her shoulders and chest out
of bed; then she fell back with a deep
sigh. All was over, and La Rapet calmly
put everything back into its place; the
broom into the comer by the cupboard,
the sheet inside it, the pot on to the
hearth, the pail pn to the floor, and the
rhair against the wall. Then with a

professional air, she closed the dead
woman's enormous eyes, put a plate on
the bed and poured some holy water into
it, dipped the twig of boxwood into it,
and kneeling down, she fervently re-
peated the prayers for the dead, which
she knew by heart, as a matter of busi-

When HonorS returned in the evening,
he found her praying. He calculated
immediately that she had made twenty
sous out of him, for she had only spent
three days and one night there, which
made five francs altogether, instead of
the six which he owed her.

The Venus of Braniza

Some years ago there lived in Bramza
a celebrated Talmudist, renowned no
less on account of his beautiful wife,
than for his wisdom, his learning, and
his fear of God. The Venus of Braniza
deserved that name thoroughly; she de-
served it for herself, on account » of her
singular beauty, and even more as the
wife of a man deeply versed in the Tal-
mud, for the wives of the Jewish phi-
^osoi^ers are, as a rule, ugly or possess
iome bodily defect.

The Talmud explains this in the fol-
lowing manner: It is well known that
marriages are made in heaven, and at
the birth of a boy a divine voice calls
out the name of his future wife, and
vice versd. But just as a good father
tries to get rid of his good wares out
of doors, and only uses the damaged
stuff at home for his children, so Grod

bestows on the Talmudists those women
whom other men would not care to

Well, God made an exception in the
case of our Talmudist, and had bestowed
a Venus on him, perhaps only in order
to confirm the rule by means of this
exception, and to make it appear less
hard. TTiis philosopher's wife was a
woman who would have done honor to
any king's throne, or to a pedestal in
any sculpture gallery. Tall, and with a
wonderfully voluptuous figure, she car-
ried a strikingly beautiful head, sur-
mounted by thick, black plaits, on her
proud shoulders. Two large, dark eyes
languished and glowed beneath long
lashes, and her beautiful hands looked
as if they were carved out of ivory.

This glorious woman, who seemed to
have been designed by nature to rule,

Digitized by




to see slaves at her feet, to provide
occupation for the painter's brush, the
sculptor's chisel, and the poet's pen,
lived the life of a rare and beautiful
flower shut up in a hothouse. She
would sit the whole day long wrapped
up in her costly furs looking down
dreamily into the street.

She had no children; her husband,
the philosopher, studied and prayed and
studied again from early morning until
late at night; his mistress was "the
Veiled Beauty," as the Talmudists call
the Kabbalah. She paid no attention
to her house, for she was rich, and
everything went of its own accord like
a clock which has only to be wound
up once a week; nobody came to see
her, and she never went out of the
house; she sat and dreamed and brooded
and— yawned.

One day when a terrible storm of
thunder and lightning had spent its fury
over the town, and all windows had
been opened in order to let the Messias
in, the Jewish Venus was sitting as usual
in her comfortable easy-chair, shivering
in spite of her furs, and thinking. Sud-
denly she fixed her glowing eyes on her
husband who was sitting before the Tal-
mud, swaying his body backward and
forward, and said suddenly:

"Just tell me, when will Messias,
the son of David, come?"

**He will come," the philosopher re-
plied, "when all the Jews have become
either altogether virtuous or altogether
vicious, says the Talmud."

"Do you believe that all the Jews
will ever become virtuous?" the Venus

"How am I to believe that?"
"So Messias will come when all the
Jews have become vicious?"

The philosopher shrugged his shoul-
ders, and lost himself again in the laby-
rinth of the Talmud, out of which, so
it is said, only one man retuf^d in
perfect sanity. The beautiful woman at
the window again looked dreamily out
into the heavy rain, while her white
fingers played unconsciously with the
dark furs of her splendid robe.

One day the Jewish philosopher had
gone to a neighboring town, where an
important question of ritual was to be
decided. Thanks to his learning, the
question was settled sooner than he had
expected, and instead of returning the
next morning, as he had intended, he
came back the same evening witii a
friend who was no less learned than
himself. He got out of the carriage at
his friend's house and went home on
foot. He was not a little surprised
when he saw his windows brilliantly
illuminated, and found an officer's serv-
ant comfortably smcking his pipe in
front of his house

"What are you doing here?" he asked
in a friendly manner, but with some
curiosity, nevertheless.

"I am on guard, lest the husband of
the beautiful Jewess should come home

"Indeed? Well, mind and keep a
good lookout."

Saying this, the philosopher pretended
to go away, but went into the house
through the garden entrance at the back.
When he got into the first room, he
found a table laid for two, which had

Digitized by




evidently only been left a short time
previously. His wife was sitting as
usual at her bedroom window wrapped
in her furs, but her cheeks were sus*
piciously red, and her dark eyes had
not their usual languidiing look, but
now rested on her husband with a gaze
which expressed at the same time satis-
faction and mockery. At that moment
his foot stuck against an object on
the floor, which gave out a strange
sound. He picked it up and examined
it in the light. It was a pair of spurs.
"Who has been here with you?" asked
the Talmudist.

The Jewish Venus shrugged her shoul*
ders contemptuously, but did not re*

"Shall I tell you? The CapUin of
Hussars has been with you."

"And why should he not have Keen
here with me?" she said, smoothing the
fur on her jacket with her white hand.

"Woman ! are you out of your mind?"

"I am in full possession of my
senses," she replied, and a knowing
smile hovered roimd her red voluptuous
lips. "But must I not also do my part,
in order that Messias may come and re-
deem us poor Jews?"

The Rabbit

Old Lecacheur appeared at the door
of his house at his usual hour, between
five and a quarter past five in the morn-
ing, to look after his men who were
going to work.

With a red face, only half awake, his
right eye open and the left nearly closed,
he was buttoning his braces over his fat
stomach with some difficulty, all the
time looking into every comer of the
farmyard with a searching glance. The
sun was darting his oblique rays through
the beech-trees by the side of the ditch
and the apple-trees outside, making the
cocks crow on the dung-hill, and the
pigeons coo on the roof. The smell
of the cow stalls came through the
open door, mingling in the fresh morn-
ing air with the pungent odor of the
stable where the horses were neighing,
with their heads turned toward the light.

As soon as his trousers were properly

fastened, Lecacheur cam« out, and went
first of all toward the hen-house to
count the morning's eggs, for he had
been suspecting thefts fo^ some time.
But the servant girl ran up to him with
lifted arms and cried:

"Master! Master! they have stolen a
rabbit during the night."

"A rabbit?"

**yes, Master, the big gray rabbit,
from the hutch on the left." Where-
upon the farmer quite opened his left
eye, and said, simpjy:

"I must see that."

And off he went to inspect it. The
hutch had been broken open and the
rabbit was gone. Then he became
thoughtful, closed his left eye again,
scratched his nose, and after a little
consideration, said to the frightened
girl, who was standing stupidly before

Digitized by




••Go and fetch the gendarmes; say I
expect them as soon as possible."

Lecacheur was mayor of the village,
Paiigry-le Gras, and ruled it like a
tyrant, on account of his money and
position. As soon as the servant had
disappeared in the direction of the vil-
lage, which was only about five hundred
yards off, he went into the house to
have his morning coffee and to discuss
the matter with his wife. He found her
on her knees in front of the fire, trying
to get it to bum up quickly. As soon
as he got to the door, he said:

"Somebody has stolen the gray rab-

She turned roimd so quickly that she
found herself sitting on the floor, and
looking at her husband with distressed
eyes, she said:

**What is it, Cacheux! Somebody has
stolen a rabbit?"
"The big gray one."
She sighed: "How sad! Who can
liave done it?"

She was a little, thin, active, neat
^oman, who knew all about farming.
But Lecacheur had his own ideas about
the matter.

"It must be that fellow Polyte."
EGs wife got up suddenly and said
in a furious voice:

"He did it! he did it! You need not
look for any one else. He did it!
You have said it, Cacheux!"

All her peasant's fury, all her avarice,
Idl the rage of a saving woman against
the man of whom she had always been
suspicious, and against the girl whom
she had always suspected, could be seen
in the contraction of her mouth, in the
"Wrinkles in her cheeks, and in the fore-
head of her thin, exasperated face*

"And what have you done?" she

"I have sent for the gendarmes."

This Polyte was a laborer, who had
been employed on the farm for a few
days, and had been dismissed by Le-
cacheur for an insolent answer. He was
an old soldier, and was supposed to
have retained his habits of marauding
and debauchery from his campaigns in
Africa. He did anything for a liveli-
hood, but whether working as a mason,
a navvy, a reaper, whether he broke
stones or lopped trees, he was always
lazy. So he remained in no position
long, and had, at times, to change his
neighborhood to obtain work.

From the first day that he came to
the farm. Lecacheur's wife had detested
him, and now she was sure that he had
committed the robbery.

In about half an hour the two gen*
darmes arrived. Brigadier S^nateur was
very tall and thin, and Gendarme
Lenient, short and fat. Lecacheur made
them sit down and told them the affair,
and then they went and saw the scene
of the theft, in order to verify the
fact that the hutch had been broken
open, and to collect all the proofs they
could. When they got back to the
kitchen, the mistress brought in some
wine, filled t&eir glasses and asked witlf
a distrustful look:

"Shall you catch him?''

The brigadier, who had his sword be-*
tween his legs, appeared thoughtfuL
Certainly, he was sure of taking him,
if he was pointed out to him, but if not,
he could not himself answer for being
able to discover him. After reflecting
for a long time, he put this simple ques*

Digitized by




"Do you know the thief?"

And Lecacheur replied, with a look of
Normandy slyness in his eyes:

"As for knowing him, I do not. as
I did not see him commit the robbery.
If I had seen him, I should have made
him eat it raw, skin and flesh, without
a drop of cider to wash it down. As
for saying who it is, I cannot, although
I believe it is that good-for-nothing

Then he related at length his troubles
with Polyte, his leaving his service, his
bad reputation, things which had been
told him, accumulating insignificant and
minute proofs. Then the brigadier, who
had been listening very attentively while
he emptied his glass and filled it again,
turned to his gendarme with an indiffer-
ent air, and said:

"We must go and look in the cottage
of Severin's wife.'* At which the gen-
darme smiled and nodded three times.

Then Madame Lecacheur came to
them, and very quietly, with all a
peasant's cunning, questioned the briga-
dier in her turn. The shepherd Severin,
a simpleton, a sort of brute who had
been brought up from youth among his
oleating flocks, and who knew of scarcely
anything besides them in the world, had
nevertheless preserved the peasant's in-
stinct for saving, at the bottom of his
heart. For years and years he had
hidden in hollow trees and crevices in
the rocks, all that he earned, either as
shepherd, or by curing the fractures of
animals (for the bonesetter's secret had
been handed down to him by the old
shepherd whose place he took^, by touch
or advice, for one day he bought a small
proprety consisting of a cottage and a
field, for three thousand francs.

A few months latei it became known
that he was going to marry a servant
notorious for her bad morals, the inn-
keeper's servant. The young fellows
said that the girl, knowing that he was
pretty well off, had been to his cottage
every night, and had taken him, be-
witched him, led him on to matrimony,
little by little, night by night.

And then, having been to the mayor's
office and to church, she lived in the
house which her man had bought, while
he continued to tend his flocks, day and
night, on the plains.

And the brigadier added:

"Polyte has been sleeping with hei
for three weeks, for the thief has nc
place of his own to go to!"

The gendarme made a little joke :

"He takes the shepherd's blankets.1

Madame Lecacheur, seized by a f resl
access of rage, of rage increased by 2
married woman's anger against debauch^
ery, exclaimed:

"It is she, I am sure. Go therd
Ah! the blackguard thieves!"

But the brigadier was quite unmove<J

"A minute," he said. "Let us -wai
until twelve o'clock; as Polyte goes an<
dines there every day I shall catch ther
with it under their noses."

The gendarme smiled, pleased at hi
chief's idea, and Lecacheur also smile
now, for the affair of the shepher
struck him as very funny: deceived huj
bands are always amusing.

4c 4c 'I' « «

Twelve o'clock had just struck whc
Ihe brigadier, followed by his ma]
knocked gently three times at the do<
of a small lonely house, situated at tt

Digitized by




comer of a wood, some five hundred
yards from the village.

They stood close against the wall, so
as not to be seen from within, and
waited. As nobody answered, the briga-
dier knocked again in a minute or two.
It was so quiet that the house seemed
uninhabited; but Lenient, the gendarme,
who had very quick ears, said that he
heard somebody moving about inside.
Senateur got angry. He would not al-
low anyone to resist the authority of the
law for a moment, and, knocking at
the door with the hilt of his sword, he
cried out:

''Open the door, in the name of the

As this order had no effect, he roared

"If you do not obey, I shall smash
the lock. I am the brigadier of the
gendarmerie, by G — d! Here, Lenient."

He had not finished speaking when
the door opened and Senateur saw be-
fore him a fat girl, with a very red
color, blowsy, with pendent breasts, big
stomach, and broad hips, a sort of
sanguine and sensual female, the wife
of the shepherd Severin. He entered
the cottage.

"I have come to pay you a visit, as
I want to make a little search," he said,
and he looked about him. On the table
there was a plate, a jug of cider and a
gkss half full, which proved that a
meal had been going on. Two knives
were lying side by side, and the shrewd
gendarme winked at his superior officer.

"It smells good," the latter said.

"One might swear that it was stewed
rabbit," Lenient added, much amused.

**Will you have a glass of brandy?"
the peasant woman asked.

"No, thank you; I only want the skin
of the rabbit that you are eating."

She pretended not to understand, but
she was trembling.

"What r^bit?"

The brigadier had taken a seat, and
was calmly wiping his forehead.

"Come, come, you are not going to
try and make us believe that you live on
couch grass. What were you eating
there all by yourself for your dinner?"

"I? Nothing whatever, I swear to
you. A mite of butter on my bread."

"You are a novice, my good woman
— a mite of butter on your bread. You
are mistaken; you ought to have said:
a mite of butter on the rabbit. By
G — d, your butter smells good! It is
special butter, extra good butter, butter
fit for a wedding; certainly not house*
hold butter!"

The gendarme was shaking with
laughter, and repeated :

"Not household butter, certainly."

As Brigadier Senateur was a joker,
all the gendarmes had grown facetious,
and the officer continued:

"Where is your butter?"

"My butter?"

"Yes, your butter."

"In the jar."

"Then where is the butter jar."

"Here it is."

Sht brought out an old cup, at the
bottom of which there was a layer of
rancid, salt butter. The brigadier
smelled it, and said, with a shake of
his head:

"It is not the same.. I want the but-
ter that smells of the rabbit. Come,
Lenient, open your eyes; look imder the
sideboard, my good fellow, and I will
look under the bed."

Digitized by




Having shut the door, he went up to
the bed and tried to move it; but it
was fixed to the wall, and had not
been moved for more than half a cen-
tury, apparently. Then the brigadier
stooped, and made his uniform crack.
A button had flown off.

"Lenient,** he said.

•*Yes, brigadier?"

"Come here, my lad, and look under
the bed; I am too tall. I will look after
the sideboard."

He got up and waited while his man
executed his orders.

Lenient, who was short and stout,
took off his kepi, laid himself on his
stomach, and putting his face on the
floor looked at the black cavity under
the bed. Then, suddenly, he exclaimed:

"All right, here we are!"

"What have you got? The rabbit?"

"No, the thief."

"The thief! Pull him out, pull him

The gendarme had put his arms under
the bed and laid hold jof something.
He pulled with all his might, and at last
a foot, shod in a thick boot, appeared,
which he was holding in his right hand.
The brigadier grabbed it, crying:

•*Pull, pull!"

And Lenient, who was on his knees by
that time, was pulling at the other leg.
But it was a hard job, for the prisoner
kicked out h^d, and arched up his back
across the bed.

"Courage! courage! pull! pull!"
SInateur cried, and they pulled with all
their strength — so hard that the wooden
bar gave way, and the victim came out
as far as his head. At last they got
that out also, and saw the terrified and
furious face of Polyte, whose arms re-

mained stretched out imder the bed
"Pull away!" the brigadier kept on
exclaiming. Then they heard a strange
noise as the arms followed the shoulders
and the hands the arms. In the hands
was the handle of a saucepan, and at
the end of the handle the pan itself,
which contained stewed rabbit.

"Good Lord! good Lord!" the briga-
dier shouted in his delight, while Lenient
took charge of the man. The rabbit's
skin, an overwhelming proof, was dis-
covered under the mattress, and the gen-
darmes returned in triumph to the vil-
lage with their prisoner and their booty.

A week later, as the affair had made
much stir, Lecacheur, on going into the
mairie to consult the schoolmaster, wai
told that the shepherd Severin had bees
waiting for him for more than an hout |
He f oimd him sitting on a chair in i
comer with his stick between his legs. |
When he saw the mayor, he got up, took
off his cap, and said: |

"Good morning, Maitre Cacheux";
and then he remained standing, timid
and embarrassed.

"What do you want?" the former

*This is it. Monsieur. Is it true that
somebody stole one of your rabbits last
"Yes, it is quite true, Severin."
"Who stole the rabbit?"
"Polyte Ancas, the laborer."
"Right! right! And is it also trot
that it was found under my bed?"
"What do you mean, the rabbit?"
•The rabbit and then Polyte."
"Yes, my poor Severin, quite trud
but who told you?"
"Pretty wdl everybody. I undci^

Digitized by




stand! And I suppose you know all
about marriages, as you marry^ peo«

**What about marriage?"

"With regard to one's rights."

'What rights?"

'The husband's rights and then the
wife's rights."

'W couree I do."

"Oh! Then just tell me, M'sieu
Cacheuz, has my wife the right to go
to bed with Polyte?"

"What do you mean by going to bed
with Polyte?"

*Tes, has she any right before the
law, and seeing that she is my wife, to
go to bed with Polyte?"

"Why of course not, of coiurse not."

"If I catch him there again, shall I

have the rig^t to thrash him and her

"Why— why— why, yes."

"Very well, then; I will tell you why
I want to know. One night last week,
as I had my suspicions, I came in sud-
denly, and Uiey were not behaving prop-
erly. I chucked Polyte out, to go and
sleep somewhere else; but that was allj.
as I did not know what my rights were.
This time I did not see them; I only
heard of it from others. That is over,
and we will not say any more about it;
but if I catch them again, by G — dl
if I catch them again, I will make them
lose all taste for such nonsense, Maitre
Cacheux, as sure as my name is

*In France, the civil marriage is com»

La Morillonne

They called her *'La Morillonne,"*
not only on account of her black hair
and of a complexion which resembled
autumnal leaves, but because of her
thick purple lips which were like black*
berries, when she curled them.

That she should be as dark as this
in a district where everybody was fair,
and bom of parents who had tow-colored
hair and butter-like complexions was one
of the mysteries of atavism. A female
ancestor must have had intimacy with
one of those traveling tinkers who have
gone about the country from time im-
memorial, with faces the color of bister
and indigo, crowned by a wisp of light

From that ancestor she derived not
only her dark complexion, but also her
dark soul and her deceitful eyes, whose
depths were at times illuminated by
flashes of every vice, the eyes of an
obstinate and malicious anunal.

Handsome? Certainly not, nor even
pretty. Ugly, with an absolute ugliness!
Such a false look! Her nose was flat^
having been smashed by a blow, while
her unwholesome-looking mouth was al-

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 31 of 125)