Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

. (page 33 of 125)
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she got up and rushed at Herbon to
take a full glass out of his hands which
he was hastily emptying down La
Putois's throat, while the priest shook
with laughter, and said to the Sister:

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*Never mind, just this once, it will not
hurt her. Do leave them alone.'

"After the two fowls they ate the
ducky which was flanked by the three
pigeons and a blackbird, and then the
goose appeared, smoking, golden-colored,
and diffusing a warm odor of hot,
browned fat meat. La Paumelle who
was getting lively, clapped her hands;
La Jean-Jean left off answering the
Baron's numerous questions, and La
Putois uttered grunts of pleasure, half
cries and half sighs, like little children
do when one shows them sweets. *AI-
low me to carve this bird,' the cur6
said. 'I understand these sort of opera-
tions better than most people.'

" 'Certainly, * Monsieur rAbb6,' and
the Sister said: 'How would it be to
open the window a little; they are too
warm, and I am afraid they will be ill.'

"I turned to Marchas: 'Open the
window for a minute.' He did so; the
cold outer air as it came in made the
candles flare, and the smoke from the
goose — ^which the cur6 was scientifically
carving, with a table napkin round his
neck — whirl about. We watched him
doing it, without speaking now, for we
were interested in his attractive handi-
work, and also seized with renewed ap-
petite at the sight of that enormous
golden-colored bird, whose limbs fell
one after another into the brown gravy
at the bottom of the dish. At that mo-
ment, in the midst of greedy silence
which kept us all attentive, the distant
report of a shot came in at the open

**I started to my feet so quickly that
my chair fell down behind me, and I
shouted: 'Mount, all of you! You,

Marchas, will take two men and go and
see what it is. I shall expect you back
here in five minutes.' And while the
three riders went off at full gallop
through the night, I got inta the saddle
with my three remaining hussars, in
front of the steps of the villa, while the
cur6, the Sister, and the three old
women showed their frightened faces at
the window.

"We heard nothing more, except the
barking of a dog in the distance. The
rain had' ceased, and it was cold, very
cold. Sopn I heard the gallop of a
horse, of a single horse, coming back.
It was Marchas, and I called out to
him: 'WeU?'

"It is nothing; Frangois has
wounded an old peasant who refused to
answer his challenge and who continued
to advance in spite of the order to keep
off. They are bringing him here, and
we shall see what is the matter.*

"I gave orders for the horses to be
put back into the stable, and I sent my
two soldiers to meet the others, and re-
turned to the house. Then the cur6,
Marchas and I took a mattress into the
room to put the wounded man on; the
Sister tore up a table napkin in order
to make lint, while the three fright-
ened women remained huddled up in a

"Soon I heard the rattle of sabers on
the road, and I took a candle to show a
light to the men who were returning.
They soon appeared, carrying that
inert, soft, long, and sinister object
which a human body becomes when Kfc
no longer sustains it.

"They put the wounded man on the
mattress that had been prepared for

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him, and I saw at the first glance that
he was dying. He had the death rattle,
and was spitting up blood which ran out
of the comers of his mouth, forced out
of his lungs by his gasps. The man was
covered with itl His cheeks, his beard,
his hair, his neck, and his clothes seemed
to have been rubbed, to have been
dipped in a red tub; the blood had con-
gealed on him, and had become a dull
color which was horrible to look at.

''The old man, wrapped up in a large
shepherd's cloak, occasionally opened
his dull, vacant eyes. They seemed
stupid with astonishment, like the eyes
of hunted animals which fall at the
q;x>rtsman's feet, half dead before the
diot, stupefied with fear and surprise.

'The cur6 exclaimed: 'Ah! there is
old Placide, the shepherd from L«s
Marlins. He is deaf, poor man, and
heard nothing. Ah! Oh, God! they
have killed the unhappy man!* The
Sister had opened his blouse and shirt,
and was looking at a little blue hole in
the middle of his chest, which was not
bleeding any more.. ITiere is nothing
to be done,' she said.

"The shepherd was gasping terribly
and bringmg up blood with every breath.
In his throat to the very deptfi of his
lungs, they could hear an ominous and
continued gurgling. The cur6, standing
in front of him, raised his right hand,

made the sign of the cross, and in a
slow and solemn voice pronounced the
Latin words which purify men's souls.
But before they were finished, the old
man was shaken by a rapid shudder, as
if something had broken inside him; he
no longer breathed. He was dead.

"When I turned round I saw a sight
which was even more horrible than the
death struggle of this unfortunate man.
The three old women were standing up
huddled close together, hideous, and
grimacing with fear and horror. I went
up to them, and they began to utter
shrill screams, while La Jean-Jean»
whose leg had been burned and could
not longer support her, fell to the
ground at full length.

"Sister Saint-Benedict left the dead
man, ran up to her infirm old women,
and without a word or a look for me
wrapped their shawls round them, gave
them their crutches, pushed them to the
door, made them go out, and disap-
peared with them into the dark night.

"I saw that I could not even let a
hussar accompany them, for the mere
rattle of a sword would have sent them
mad with fear.

"The curS was still looking at the
dead man; but at last he turned to me
and said:

"*0h! What a horrible thing.' "

Simon^s Papa

Noon had just struck. The school-
door opened and the yoimgsters
streamed out tumbling over one another

in their haste to get out quickly. But
instead of promptly dispersing and go-
ing home to dinner as was their daily

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wont, they stopped a few paces off,
broke up into knots and set to whisper-

The fact was that that morning Si-
mon, the son of La Blanchotte, had, for
the first time, attended school.

They had all of them in their families
lieard of La Blanchotte; and although
in public she was welcome enough, the
mothers among themselves treated her
with compassion of a somewhat disdain-
ful kind, which the children had caught
without in the least knowing why.

As for Simon himself, they did not
know him, for he never went abroad,
and did not play around with them
through the streets of the village or
along the banks of the river. So they
loved him but little; and it was with a
certain delight, mingled with astonish-
ment, that they gathered in groups this
morning, repeating to each other this
sentence, concocted by a lad of four-
teen or fifteen who appeared to know
all about it, so sagaciously did he wink:
**You know Simon — well, he has no

La Blanchotte*s son appeared in his
turn upon the threshold of the school.

He was seven or eight years old,
rather pale, very neat, with a timid and
almost awkward manner.

He was making his way back to his
mother's house when the various groups
of his schoolfellows, perpetually whis-
pering, and watching him with the mis-
chievous and heartless eyes of children
bent upon playing a nasty trick, gradu-
ally surrounded him and ended by in-
closing altogether. There he stood amid
them, surprised and embarrassed, not
understanding what they were going to
do with him. But the lad who had

brought the news, puffed up with the
success he had met with, demanded:

"What do you call yourself?"

He answered: "Simon."

"Simon what?" retorted the other.

The child, altogether bewildered, re-
peated: "Simon."

The lad shouted at him: **You must
be named Simon something! That is
not a name — Simon indeed!"

And he, on the brink of tears, replied
for the third time:

"I am named Simon."

The lurchins began laughmg. The lad
triimiphantly lifted up his voice: "You
can see plainly that he has no papa."

A deep silence ensued. The children
were dumfounded by this extraordinary,
impossibly monstrous thing — a boy who
had not a papa; they looked upon him
as a phenomenon, an unnatural being,
and they felt rising in them the hitherto
inexplicable pity of their mothers for
La Blanchotte. As for Simon, he had
propped himself against a tree to avoid
falling, and he stopd there as if paral-
yzed by an irreparable disaster. He
sought to explain, but he could think of
no answer for them, no way to deny this
horrible charge that he had no papa.
At last he shouted at them quite reck-
lessly: "Yes, I have one."

"Where is he?" demanded the boy.

Simon was silent, he did not know.
The children shrieked, tremendously ex-
cited. These sons of toil, nearly related
to animals, experienced the cruel crav-
ing which makes the fowls of a farm-
yard destroy one of their own kind ad
soon as it is wounded. Simon suddenly
spied a little neighbor, the son of a
widow, whom he had always seen, as he

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faiinself was to be seen, quite alone with
his mother.

"And no more have you," he said,
"no more have you a papa."

"Yes," repHed the other, *1 have

"Where is he?" rejoined Simon.

"He is dead," declared the brat with
superb dignity, "he is in the cemetery,
is my papa."

A murmur of approval rose amid the
scapegraces, as if the fact of possessing
a papa dead in a cemetery made their
comrade big enough to crush the other
one who had no papa at all. And these
rogues, whose fathers were for the most
part evil-doers, drunkards, thieves, and
iU-treaters of their wives hustled each
other as they pressed closer and closer
to Simon as though they, the ligitimate
ones, would stifle iii their pressure ont
who was beyond the law.

The lad next Simon suddenly put his
tongue out at him with a waggish air
and shouted at him:

"No papa! No papa!"

Sin^on seized him by the hair with
both hands and set to work to de-
molish his legs with kicks, while he bit
his cheek ferociously. A tremendous
struggle ensued between the two boys,
and Simon found himself beaten, torn,
bruised, rolled on the ground in the mid-
dle of the ring of applauding little vaga-
bonds. As he arose, mechanically
brushing his little blouse all covered
with dust with his hand, some one
shouted at him:

"Go and tell your papa."

He then felt a great sinking in his
heart. They were stronger than he,
they had beaten him and he had no an-
swer to give them, for he knew it was

true that he had no papa. Full of pride
he tried for some moments to struggle
against the tears which were suffocating
him. He had a choking fit, and then
without cries he began to weep with
great sobs which shook him incessantly.
Then a ferocious joy broke out among
his enemies, and, just like savages in
fearful festivals, they took one another
by the hand and danced in a circle about
him as they repeated in refrain:

"No papa I No papa ! "

But suddenly Simon ceased sobbinfir.
Frenzy overtook him. There were
stones under his feet; he picked them
up and with all his strength hurled them
at his tormentors. Two or three were
struck and ran away yelling, and so
formidable did he appear that the rest
became panic-stricken. Cowards, like
a jeering crowd in the presence of an
exasperated man, they broke up and
fled. Left alone, the little thing with-
out a father set off running toward the
fields, for a recollection had been awak«
ened which nerved his soul to a great
determination. He made up his mind to
drown himself in the river.

He remembered, in fact, that ei^t
days ago a poor devil who begged for
his livelihood had thrown himself inta
the water because he had no more
money. Simon had been there when
they fished him out again; and the
sight of the fellow, who had Feemed to
him so miserable and ugly, had then im-
pressed him — his pale cheeks, his long^
drenched beard, and his open eyes beinj!^
full of calm. The bystanders had saidt

"He is dead."

And some one had added:

"He is quite happy now."

So Simon wished to drown himselir

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also because he had no father, just as
the wretched being did who had no

He reached the water and watched it
flowing. Some fishes were rising briskly
in the clear stream and occasionally
made little leaps and caught the flies
en the surface. He stopped crying in
order to watch them, for their feeding
interested him vastly. But, at intervals,
as in the lulls of a tempest, when tre-
mendous gusts of wind snap off trees
acd then die away, this thought would
return to him with intense pain:

"I am about to drown myself because
I have no papa."

It was very warm and fine weather.
The pleasant smishine warmed the
grass; the water shone like a mirror;
and Simon enjoyed for some minutes
the happiness of that languor which fol-
lows weeping, desirous even of falling
asleep there upon the grass in the
warmth of noon.

A little green f rong leaped from imder
his feet. He endeavored to catch it.
It escaped him. He pursued it and lost
it three times following. At last he
caught it by one of its hind legs and
began to laugh as it saw the efforts the
creature made to escape. It gathered
itself up on its large legs and then with
a violent spring suddenly stretched them
out as stiff as two bars.

Its eyes stared wide open in their
round, golden circle, and it beat the air
with its front limbs, using them as
though they were hands. It reminded
him of a toy made with strai^t slips
of wood nailed zigzag one on the other,
which by a similar movement regulated
the exercise of the little soldiers fastened
thereon. Then he thou(dit of his home

and of his mother, and overcome by
great sorrow he again began to weep.
His lips trembled; and he placed him-
self on his knees and said his prayers as
before going to bed. But he was unable
to finish them, for such hurried and vio-
lent sobs overtook him that he was com-
pletely overwhelmed. He thought no
more, he no longer heeded anything
around l^m but was wholly given up to

Suddenly a heavy hand was placed
upon his shoulder, and a rough voice
asked him:

''What is it that causes you so much
grief, my fine fellow?"

Simon turned round. A tall work-
man, with a black beard and hair all
curled, was staring at him good-
naturedly. He answered with his eyes
and throat full of tears:

"They have beaten me because — ^I — ^I
have no papa — ^no papa."

"What!" said the man smiling, "why,
everybody has one."

The child answered painfully amid his
spasms of grief:

"But i— I— I have none."

Then the workman became serious.
He had recognized La Blanchotte's son,
and although a recent arrival to the
neighborhood he had a vague idea of her

"Well," said he, "console yourself,
my boy, and come with me home to
your mother. She will give you a

And so they started on the way, the
big one holding the little one by the
hand. The man smiled afresh, for he
was not sorry to see this Blanchotte,
who by popular report was one of the
prettiest girk in the country-side — and,

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perhaps, he said to himself, at the bot-
tom of his heart, that a lass who had
erred once might very well err again.

They arrived in front of a very neat
little white house.

'There it is," exclaimed the child, and
he cried: "Mamma."

A woman appeared, and the workman
instantly left off smiling, for he at once
perceived that there was no more fool-
ing to be done with the taU pale girl,
^o stood austerely at her door as
though to defend from one man the
threshold of that house where she had
aheady been betrayed by another. In-
timidated, his cap in his hand, he stam-
mered out:

''See, Madame, I have brought you
back your little boy, who had lost him-
self near the river."

But Simon flung his arms about his
mother's neck and told her, as he again
began to cry:

"No, mamma, I wished to drown my-
self, because the others had beaten me
— had beaten me — ^because I have no

A burning redness covered the yoimg
woman's cheeks, and, hurt to the quick,
she embraced her child passionately,
while the tears coursed down her face.
The man, much moved, stood there,
not knowing how to get away. But
Simon suddenly ran to him and said:

"Will you be my papa?"

A deep silence ensued. La Blan-
chotte, dumb and tortured with shame,
leaned against the wall, her hands upon
her heart. The child, seeing that no an-
swer was made him, replied:

"If you do not wish it, I shall return
to drown myself."

The workman took the matter as A

jest and answered laug^ng:

"Why, yes, I wish it certainly."

"What is your name, then,*' went on
the child, "so that I may tell the others
when they wish to know your name?"

"Philip," answered the man.

Simon was silent a moment so that he
might get the name well into his mem"
ory; then he stretched out his arms,
quite consoled, and said:

"Well, then, Philip, you are my

The workman, lifting him from the
ground, kissed him hastily on both
cheeks, and then strode away quickly.

When the child returned to school
next day he was received with a spite-
ful laugh, and at the end of school,
when the lads were on the point of
recommencing, Simon threw these
words at their heads as he would have
done a stone: "He is named Philip, my

Yells of delight burst out from all

"Philip who? Philip what? What
on earth is Philip? Where did Jrou pick
up your Philip?"

Simon answered nothing; and im-
movable in faith he defied them with
his eye, ready to be martjnred rather
than fly before them. The schoolmaster
came to his rescue and he returned home
to his mother.

For a space of three months, the tall
workman, Philip, frequently passed by
La Blanchotte's house, and sometimes
made bold to speak to her when he saw
her sewing near the window. She an-
swered him civilly, always sedately,
never joking with him, nor permitting
him to enter her house. Notwithstand*

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iBg this, being, like ail men, a bit of a
coxcomb, he imagined that she was
often rosier than usual when she chatted
with him.

But a fallen reputation is so difficult
to recover, and always remains so frag-
ile that, in spite of the shy reserve La
Blanchotte maintained, they already
gossiped in the neighborhood.

As for Simon, he loved his new papa
much, and walked with him nearly every
evening when the day's work was done.
He went regularly to school and mixed
in a dignified way with his schoolfellows
without ever answering them back.

One day, however, the lad who had
first attacked him said to him:

"You have lied. You have not a
papa named Philip."

"Why do you say that?" demanded
Simon, much disturbed.

The youth rubbed his hands. He re-

"Because if you had one he would be
your mamma's husband."

Simon was confused by the truth of
this reasoning; nevertheless he retorted:

"He is my papa all the same."

"That can very well be," exclaimed
the urchin with a sneer, "but that is not
being your papa altogether."

La Blanchotte's little one bowed his
head and went off dreaming in the di-
rection of the forge belonging to old
Loizon, where Philip worked.

This forge was entombed in trees.
It was very dark there, the red glare of
a formidable furnace alone lit up with
great flashes five blacksmiths, who ham-
mered upon their anvils with a terrible
din. Standing enveloped in flame, they
worked like demons, theu: eyes fixed on
the red-hot iron they were pounding;

and their dull ideas rising and falling
with their hammers.

Simon entered without being noticed
and quietly plucked his friend by the
sleeve. Philip turned round. All at once
the work came to a standstill and the
men looked on very attentively. Then, in
the midst of this unaccustomed silence,
rose the little slender pipe of Simon:

"Philip, explam to me what the lad at
La Michande has just told me, that you
are not altogether my papa."

"And why that?" asked the smith.

The child replied in all innocence:

"Because you are not my mamma's
husband." ^

No one laughed. Philip remained
standing, leanmg his forehead upon the
back, of his great hands, which held the
handle of his hammer upright upon the
anvil. He mused. His four companions
watched him, and, like a tiny mite
among these giants, Simon anxiously
waited. Suddenly, one of the smiths,
voicing the sentiment of all, said to

"All the same La Blanchotte is a good
and honest girl, stalwart and steady in
spite of her misfortune, and one who
would make a worthy wife for an honest

"That is true," remarked the three

The smith continued:

"Is it the girl's fault if she has fallen?
She had been promised marriage, and I
know more than one who is much re-
spected to-day and has sinned every
bit as much."

"That is true," responded the three
men in chorus.

He resumed:

"How hard she has toiled, poor thing

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to educate her lad all alone, and how
much she has wept since she no longer
goes out, save to church, God only

"That also is true," said the others.

Then no more was heard save the roar
of the bellows which fanned the fire of
the furnace. Philip hastily bent himself
down to Simon:

"Go and tell your mamma that I
shall come to speak to her.''

Then he pushed the child out by the
shoulders. He returned to his work and
in unison the five hammers again fell
upon their anvils. Thus they wrought
the iron until nightfall, strong, power-
ful, happy, like Vulcans satisfied. But
as the great bell of a cathedral resounds
upon feast days above the jingling of the
other bells, so Philip's hammer, domi-
nating the noise of the others, clanged
second after second with a deafening up-
roar. His eye on the fire, he plied his
trade vigorously, erect amid the sparks.

The sky was full of stars as he
knocked at La Blanchotte's door. He
had his Sunday blouse on, a fresh shirt,
and his beard was trimmed. The young
woman showed herself upon the thres-
hold and said in a grieved tone:

"It is ill to come thus when night has
faUen, Mr. Phaip."

He wished to answered, but stam-
mered and stood confused before her.

She resumed:

"And you understand quite well that
it will not do that I should be talked
about any more."

Then he said aU at once:

"What does that matter to me, if you
will be my wife!"

No voice replied to him, but he be-
lieved that he heard in the shadow of
the room the sound of a body falling.
He entered very quickly; and Simon,
who had gone to his bed, distinguished
the sound of a kiss and some words that
his mother said very softly. Then he
suddenly found himself lifted up by
the hands of his friend, who, holding
him at the length of his herculean arms,
exclaimed to him:

**You will tell your school-fellows that
your papa is Philip Remy, the black-
smith, and that he will pull the ears of
all who do you any harm."

On the morrow, when the school was
full and lessons about to begin, little
Simon stood up quite pale with trem-
bling lips:

"My papa," said he in a clear voice,
"is Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and
he. has promised to box the ears of all
who do me any harm."

This time no one laughed any longer,
for he was very well known, was Philip
Remy, the blacksmith, and he was a
papa of whom anyone in the world
would be proud.

Waiter, a Bock!

Why on this particular evening, did
I enter a certain beer shop? I cannot
explain it. It was bitterly cold. A fine
rain, a watery mist floated about, veil-

ing the gas jets in a transparent fog,
making the pavements imder the shadow

♦Bavarian beer.

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of the shop fronts glitter, which re-
vealed the soft slush and the soiled feet
of the passers-by.

I was going nowhere in particular;
was simply having a short walk after
dinner. I had passed the Credit Lyon-
nais, the Rue Vivienne, and several
other streets. Suddenly I descried a
large cafi, which was more than half
full. I walked inside, with no object
in mind. I was not the least thirsty.

By a searching glance I detected a

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 33 of 125)