Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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place where I would not be too much
crowded. So I went and sat down by
the side of a man who seemed to me to
be old, and who smoked a half-penny
day pipe, which had become as black as
coal. From six to eight beer saucers
were piled up on the table in front -of
him, indicating the number of "bocks"
he had already absorbed. With that
same glance I had recognized in him a
"regular toper," one of those frequenters
of beer-houses, who come in the morn-
ing as soon as the place is open, and
only go away in the evening when it is
about to close. He was dirty, bald to
about the middle of the cranium, while
his long gray hair fell over the neck of
his frock coat. His clothes, much too
large for him, appeared to have been
made for him at a time when he was
very stout. One could guess that his
pantaloons were not held up by braces,
and that this man could not take ten
paces without having to pull them up
and readjust them. Did he wear a
vest? The mere thought of his boots
and the feet they enveloped filled me
with horror. The frayed cuffs were as
black at the edges as were his nails.

As soon as I had sat down near him,



this queer creature said to me in a tran-
quil tone of voice:

"How goes it with you?"

I turned sharply round to him and
closely scanned his features, whereupon
he continued:

"I see you do not recognize me."

"No, I do not."

"Des Barrets."

I was stupefied. It was Coimt Jean
des Barrets, my old college chum.

I seized him by the hand, so dum-
founded that I could find nothing to
say. I, at length, managed to stanmier
out:

"And you, how goes it with you?"

He responded placidly:

"With me? Just as I like."

He became silent. I wanted to be
friendly, and I selected this phrase:

"What are you domg now?"

"You see what I am doing," he an-
swered, quite resignedly.

I felt my face getting red. I insisted:

"But every day?"

"Every day is alike to me," was his
response, accompanied with a thick puff
of tobacco smoke.

He then tapped on the top oi the
marble table with a sou, to attract the
attention of the waiter, and called out:

"Waiter, two 'bocks.' "

A voice in the distance repeated:

"Two *bocks,* instead of four."

Another voice, more distant stilly
shouted out:

"Here they are, sir, here they are."

Immediately there appeared a man
with a white apron, carrying two
"bocks," which he set down foaming
on the table, the foam running over the
edge, tn to the sandv floor.



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WAITER, A BOCK



261



DCS Barrets emptied his glass at a sin-
gle draught and replaced it on the table,
sucking in the drops of beer that had
been left on his mustache. He next
asked :

"What is there new?"

"I know of nothing new, worth men-
tioning, really," I stammered: "But
nothing has grown old for me; I am a
commercial man."

In an equable tone of voice, he said:

"Indeed — does that amuse you?"

"No, but what do you mean by that?
Surely you must do something!*

"What do you mean by that?"

"I only mean, how do you pass your
time!"

"What's the use of occupying myself
with anything. For my part, I do noth-
ing at all, as you see, never anything.
When one has not got a sou one can
tmderstand ^hy one has to go to work.
What is ^e good of working? Do you
work for yourself, or for others? If
you work for yourself you do it for
your own amusement, which is all right;
if you work for others, you reap noth-
ing but ingratitude."

Then sticking his pipe into his mouth,
he called out anew:

**Waiter, a *bock.' It makes me thirsty
to keep calling so. I am not accus-
tomed to that sort of thing. Yes, I
do nothing; I let things slide, and I am
growing old. In dying I shall have
nothmg to regret. If so, I should re-
member nothing, outside this public-
house. I have no wife, no children, no
cares, no sorrows, nothing. That is the
very best thing that could happen to
one.*'

He then emptied the glass which had



been brought him, passed his tongue
over his lips, and resumed his pipe.

I looked at him stupefied and asked
him:

"But you have not always been like
that?"

"Pardon me, sir; ever since I left*
college."

"It is not a proper life to lead, my
dear sir; it is simply horrible. Come,
you must indeed have done something,
you must have loved something, you
must have friends."

, "No; I get up at noon, I come here,
I have my breakfast, I drink my *bock';
I remain until evening, I have my din-
ner, I drink *bock.' Then about one
in the morning, I return to my couch,
because the place closes up. And it
is this latter that embitters me more
than anything. For the last ten years,
I have passed six-tenths of my time on
this bench, in my comer; and the other
four-tenths in my bed, never changing.
I talk sometimes with the habituis'*

"But on arriving in Paris what did
you do at first?"

I paid my devoirs to the Caf6 de
Medicis."

"What next?"

"Next? I crossed the water and
came here."

"Why did you take even that trou-
ble?"

"What do you mean? One cannot
remain all one's life in the Latin Quar-*
ter. The students make too much noise.
But I do not move about any longer.
Waiter, a lock.*'*

I now began to think that he waa
making fun of me, and I continued:

"Come now, be frank. You have been



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



the victim of some great sorrow;
despair in love, no doubt! It is easy
to see that you are a man whom mis-
fortune has hit hard. What age are
you?"

"I am thirty years of age, but I look
to be forty-five at least."

I looked him straight in the face.
His shrunken figure, badly cared for,
gave one the impression that he was an
old man. On the summit of his cranium,
a few long hairs shot straight up from
a skin of doubtful cleanness. He had
enormous eyelashes, a large mustache,
and a thick beard. Suddenly I had a
kind of vision, I know not why— the
vision of a basin filled with noisome
water, the water which should have
been applied to that poll. I said to
him:

"Verily, you look to be more than
that age. Of a certainty you must have
experienced some great dissappoint-
ment."

He replied:

"I tell you that I have not. I am old
because I never take air. There is noth-
ing that vitiates the life of a man more
than the atmosphere of a cafS.'^

I could not believe him.

"You must surely have been married
as well? One could not get baldheaded
as you are without having been much
in love."

He shook his head, sending down his
back little hairs from the scalp:

"No, I have always been virtuous.'*

And raising his eyes toward the luster,
which beat down on our heads, he said:

"If I am baldheaded, it is the fault
of the gas. It is the enemy of hair.
Waiter, a •bock,' You must be thirsty
also?"



"No, thank you. But you certamly
interest me. When did you have your
first discouragement? Your life is not
normal, is not natural. There is some-
thing under it all."

"Yes, and it dates from my infancy.
I received a heavy blow when I was
very young. It turned my life into
darkness, which will last to the end."

"How did it come about?"

"You wish to know about it? Well,
then, listen. You recall, of course, the
castle in which I was brought up, seeing
that you used to visit it for five or six
months during the vacations? You re-
member that large, gray building in the
middle of a great park, and the long
avenues of oaks, which, opened toward
the four cardinal points! You remem-
ber my father and my mother, both of
whom were ceremonious, solenm., and
severe.

"I worshiped my mother; I was sus-
picious of my fadier; but I respected
both, accustomed always as I was to
see everyone bow before them. In
the country, they were Monsieur le
Comte and Madame la Comtesse; and
our neighbors, the Tannemares, the
Ravelets, the Brennevilles, showed the
utmost consideration for them.

"I was then thirteen years old, happy,
satisfied with everj^ing, as one is at
that age, and full of joy and vivacity.

"Now toward the end of September, a
few days before entering the Lycte,
while I was enjoying myself in the
mazes of the park, climbing the trees
and swinging on the branches, I saw
crossing an avenue my father and
mother, who were walking together.

"I recall the thing as though it were
yesterday. It was a very windy day.



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WAITER, A BOCK



263



The whole line of trees bent under the
pressure of the wind, moaned and
seemed to utter cries— cries dull, yet
deep — so that the whole forest groaned
under the gale.

"Evening had come on, and it was
dark in the thickets. The agitation of
the wind and the branches excited me,
made me skip about like an idiot, and
howl in imitation of the wolves.

"As soon as I perceived my parents,
I crept furtively toward them, under
the branches, in order to surprise them,
as though I had been a vertible wolf.
But suddenly seized with fear, I stopped
a few paces from them. My father, a
prey to the most violent passion, cried:

"'Your mother is a fool; moreover,
it is not your mother that is the ques-
tion, it is you. I tell you that I want
money, and I will make you sign this.*

"My mother responded in a firm
voice:

" 1 will not sign it. It is Jean's for-
tune, I shall guard it for him and I will
not allow you to devour it with strange
women, as you have your ewn heritage.'

"Then my father, full of rage,
wheeled round and seized his wife by
the throat, and began to slap her full
in the face with the disengaged hand.

"My mother's hat fell off, her hair be-
came disheveled and fell down her
back: she essayed to parry the blows,
but could not escape from them. And
my father, like a madman, banged and
banged at her. My mother rolled over
(m the ground, covering her tace in
both her hands. Then he turned her
over on her back in order to batter her
still more, pulling away the hands which
were covering her face.

^As for me, my friend, it seemed as



though the world had come to an end,
that the eternal laws had changed. I
experienced the overwhelming dread
that one has in presence of things super-
natural, in presence of irreparable dis-
aster. My boyish head whirled round
and soared. I began to cry with all my
might, without knowing why, a prey to
terror, to grief, to a dreadful bewilder-
ment. My father heard me. I believed
that he wanted to kill me, and I fled
like a hunted animal, running straight
in front of me through the woods.

*T ran perhaps for an hour, perhaps
for two, I know not. Darkness had sef*
in, I tumbled over some thick herbs, ex**
hausted, and I lay there lost, devoured
by terror, eaten up by a sorrow capable
of breaking forever the heart of a child.
I became cold, I became hungry. At
length day broke. I dared neither get
up, walk, return home, nor save myself,
fearing to encounter my father whom I
did not wish to see again.

"I should probably have died • of
misery and of hunger at the foot of a
tree if the guard had not discovered
me and led me by force.

"I found my parents wearing their
ordinary aspect. My mother alone spoke
to me:

" *How you have frightened me, you
naughty boy; I have been the whole
night sleepless.*

"I did not answer, but began to weep.
My father did not utter a single word.

"Eight days later I entered Lyc6e.

"Well, my friend, it was all over with
me. I had witnessed the other side of
things, the bad side; I have not been
able to perceive the good side since that
day. What things have passed in my
mind, what strange phenomena havo



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264



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



waiped my ideas, I do not know. But
I no longer liav^ a taste for anything, a
wish for anything, a love for anybody, a
desire for anything whatever, no ambi*
tion, no hope. And I always see my
p)oor mother lying on the ground, in the
avenue, while my father was maltreat-
ing her. My mother died a few years
after; my father lives still. I have not
seen him since. Waiter, a *bock.' "
A waiter brought him his ^'bock,''



which he swallowed at a gulp. But, In
taking up his pipe again, trembling as
he was, he broke it. Then he made a
violent gesture:

"Zounds! This is indeed a grief, a
real grief. I have had. it for a month,
and it was coloring so beautifully!''

Then he went off through the vast
saloon, which was now full of smoke
and of people drinking, calling out:

"Waiter, a *bock'— and a new pipe."



The Sequel to a Divorce



Certainly, although he had been en-
gaged in the most extraordinary, most
unlikely, most extravagant, and funniest
cases, and had won legal games without
a trump in his hand — ^although he had
worked out the obscure law of divorce,
as if it had been a Califomian gold
mine, Maitre* Gamilier, the celebrated,
the only Gamilier, could not check {i
movement of surprise, nor a dishearten-
ing shake of the head, nor a smile, when
the Coimtess de Baud6mont explained
her affairs to him for the first time.

He had just opened his correspon-
dence, and his slender hands, on which
he bestowed the greatest attention,
buried themselves in a heap of female
letters, and one might have thought one-
self in the confessional of a fashionable
preacher, so impregnated was the atmos-
phere with delicate perfumes.

Immediately— even before she had
said a word — ^with the sharp glance of a
practised man of the world, that look
which made beautiful Madame de Ser*
penoise say: "He strips your heart



bare!" the lawyer had classed her in
the third category. Those who suffer
came into his first category, those who
love, into the second, and those who are
bored, into the third — ^and she belonged
to the latter.

She was a pretty windmill, whose sails
turned and flew round, and fretted the
blue sky with a delicious shiver of joy,
as it were, and had the brain of a bird,
in which four correct and healthy ideas
cannot exist side by side, and in which
all dreams and every kind of folly are
engulfed, like a great kaleidoscope.

Incapable of hurting a fly, emotional,
charitable, ^^ith a feeling of tenderness
for the street girl who sells bimches of
violets for a penny, for a cab horse
which a driver is ill-using, for a mel-
ancholy pauper's funeral, when the
body, without friends or relations to
follow it, is being conveyed to the com-
mon grave, doing anything that mig^t
afford five minutes' amusement, not

*Title given to advocates in France.



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THE SEQUEL TO A DIVORCE



26S



caring if she made men miserable for
the rest of their days, and taking plea-
sure in kindling passions which consumed
men's whole being, looking upon life as
too short to be anything else than one
uninterrupted round of gaiety and en-
joyment, she thou^t that people might
find plenty of time for being serious and
reasonable in the evening of life, when
they are at the bottom of the hill, and
their looking-glasses reveal a wrinkled
face, surrounded with white hair.

A thorough-bred Parisian, whom one
would follow to the end of the world,
like a poodle; a woman whom one
adores with the head, the heart, and
the senses imtil one is nearly driven
mad, as soon as one has inhaled the
delicate perfume that emanates from
her dress and hair, or touched her skin,
and heard her laugh; a woman for whom
one would fight a duel and risk one's
life without a thought; for whom a
man would remove mountains, and sell
his soul to the devil several times over,
if the devil were still in the habit of
frequenting the places of bad repute on
this earth.

She had perhaps come to see this
Garrulier, whom she had so often heard
mentioned at five o'clock teas, so as to
be able to describe him to her female
friends subsequently in droll phrases,
imitating his gestures and the unctuous
inflections of his voice, in order, perhaps,
to experience some new sensation, or,
perhaps, for the sake of dressing like a
woman who was going to try for a di-
vorce; and, certainly, the whole effect
was perfect. She wore a splendid cloak
embroidered with jet— which gave an
almost serious effect to her golden hair,
to her small slightly tumed-uo nose^



with its quivering nostrils, and to hex
large eyes, full of enigma and fun — over
a dark stuff dress, which was fastened
at the neck by a sapi^ire and a diamond
pin.

The barrister did not interrupt her,
but allowed her to get excited and to
chatter, to enumerate her causes for
complaint against poor Count de Baud6-
mont, who certainly had no suspicion of
his wife's escapade, and who would have
b^en very much surprised if anyone told
him of it at that moment, when he was
taking his fencing lessoil at the club.

When she had quite finished, he said
coolly, as if he were throwing a pail of
water on some burning straw:

"But, Madame, there is not the slight-
est pretext for a divorce in an3rthing
that you have told me here. The judges
would ask me whether I took the Law
Courts for a theater, and intended to
make fun of them."

And seeing how disheartened she was,
— that she looked like a child whose fa-
vorite toy had been broken, that she was
so pretty that he would have liked to
kiss her hands in his devotion, and as
she seemed to be witty, and very amus-
ing, and as, moreover, he had no objec-
tion to such visits being prolonged, when
papers had to be looked over, while
sitting close together, — Maitre Garrulier
appeared to be considering. Taking his
chin in his hand, he said:

"However, I will think it over; there
is sure to be some dark spot that can be
made out worse. Write to me, and
come and see me again."

In the course of her visits, that black
spot had increased y>o much, and Ma-
dame de Baud6mopt had followed her
lawyer's advice so punctually, and had



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266



WORKS OF GUY BE MAUPASSANT



played on the various strings so skillfully
that a few months later, after a law-
suit, which is still spoken of in the
course of which the President had to
take off his spectacles, and to use his
pocket-handkerchief noisily, the divorce
was pronounced in favor of the Countess
Marie Anne Nicole Boumet de Baude-
mont, nie de Tanchart de Peothus.

The Count, who was nonplussed at
such an adventure turning out so seri-
ously, first of all flew into a terrible
rage, rushed off to the lawyer's office and
threatened to cUt off his knavish ears for
him. But when his access of fury was
over, and he thought of it, he shrugged
his shoulders and said:

"All the better for her, if it amuses
her!"

Then he bought Baron Silberstein's
racht, and with some friends, got up a
cruise to Ceylon and India.

Marie Anne began by triumphing,
and felt as happy as a schoolgirl going
home for the holidays; she committed
every possible folly, and soon, tired,
satiated, and disgusted, began to yawn,
cried, and found out that she had sacri-
ficed her happiness, like a millionaire
who has gone mad and has cast his
banknotes and shares into the river, and
that she was nothing more than-^ dis-
abled waif and stray. Consequently,
she now married again, as the solitude
of her home made her morose from
morning till night; and then, besides she
found a woman requires a mansion when
she goes into society, to race meetings,
or to the theater.

And so, while she became a
marchioness, and pronounced her second
"Yes," before a very few friends, at the
office of the mayor of the English urban



district, malicious people in the Fau-
bourg were making fun of the whole
affair, and affirming this and that,
whether rightly or wrongly, and com-
paring the present husband to the for-
mer one, even declaring that he had par-
tially been the cause of the former di-
vorce. Meanwhile Monsieur de Baud6-
mont was wandering over the four quar-
ters of the globe trying to overcome his
homesickness, and to deaden his longing
for love, which had taken possession of
his heart and of his body, like a slow
poison.

He traveled through the most out-of-
the-way places, and the most lovely
countries, and spent months and months
at sea, and plunged into every kind of
dissipation and debauchery. But neither
the supple forms nor the luxurious ges-
tures of the bayaderes, nor the large
passive eyes of the Creoles, nor flirta-
tions with English girls with hair the
color of new cider, nor nights of wak-
ing dreams, when he saw new constella-
tions in the sky, nor dangers during
which a man thinks it is all over with
him, and mutters a few words of prayer
in spite of himself, when the waves are
high, and the sky black, nothing was
able to make him forget that little Pa-
risian woman who smelled so sweet that
she might have been taken for a bouquet
of rare flowers; who was so coaxing, so
curious, so funny; who never had the
same caprice, the same smile, or the
same look twice, and who, at bottom,
was worth more than many others,
either saints or sinners.

He thought of her constantly, during
long hours of sleeplessness. He carried
her portrait about with him in the
breast pocket of bis pea-jacket — a



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THE SEQUEL TO A DIVORCE



267



charming portrait in which she was smil-
ing, and showing her white teeth be-
tween her half-open lips. Her gentle
eyes with their magnetic look had a
happy, frank expression, and from the
mere arrangement of her hair, one could
see that she was fair among the fair.

He used to kiss that portrait of the
woman who had been his wife as if he
wished to efface it, would look at it for
hours, and then throw himself down on
the netting and sob like a child as he
looked at the infinite expanse before
him, seeming to see their lest happiness,
the joys of their perished affections, and
the divine remembrance of their love, in
the monotonous waste of green waters.
And he tried to accuse himself for all
that had occurred, and not to be angry
with her, to think that his grievances
were imaginary, and to adore her in
spite of everything and always.

And so he roamed about the world,
tossed to and fro, suffering and hoping
he knew not what. He ventured into
the greatest dangers, and sought for
death just as man seeks for his mistress,
and death passed close to him without
touching him, perhaps amused at his
grief and misery.

For he was as wretched as a stone-
breaker, as one of those poor devils who
work and nearly break their backs over
the hard flints the whole day long, tra-
der the scorching sun or the cold rain;
and Marie Anne herself was not happy,
for she was pining for the past and re-
membered their former love.

At last, however, he returned to
France, changed, tanned by exposure,
sun, and rain, and transformed as if by
some witch's philter.

Nobody would have recognized the



elegant and effeminate clubman in this
corsair with broad shoulders, a skin the
color of tan, with very red lips, who
rolled a little in his walk; who seemed
to be stifled in his black dress-coat, but
who still retained the distinguished man-
ners and bearing of a nobleman of the
last century, one of those who, when
he was ruined, fitted out a privateer,
and fell upon the English wherever he
met them, from St. Mil© to Calcutta.
And wherever he showed himself his
friends exclaimed:

"Why! Is that you? I should never
have known you again!"

He was very nearly starting off again
immediately; he even telegraphed orders
to Havre to get the steam-yacht ready
for sea directly, when he heard that
Marie Anne had married again.

He saw her in the distance, at the
Theatre Frangais one Tuesday, and
when he noticed how pretty, how fair,
how desirable she was, — ^looking so mel-
ancholy, with all the appearance of an
unhappy soul that regrets something,—
his determination grew weaker, and he
delayed his departure from week to
week, and waited, without knowing why,
until, at last, worn out with the strug-
gle, watching her wherever she went,
more in love with her than he had ever
been before, he wrote her long, mad,
ardent letters in which his passion over-
flower like a stream of lava.

He altered his handwriting, as he re-
membered her restless brain, and her
many whims. He sent her the flowers
which he knew she liked best, and told
her that she was his life, that he was
dying of waiting for her, of longing for
her, for her his idol.

At last, very much puzzled and sur-



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



prised, guessing— who knows? — from
the instinctive beating of her heart, and
her general emotion, that it must be he
this time, he whose soul she had tor*
tured with such cold cruelty, and know-



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 34 of 125)