Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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Duclos is still on her?"

He was astonished, uneasy, and
wished, before answering, to learn some-
thing further.

"Do you know him?"

She became distrustful in turn.

"Oh! 'tis not myself — 'tis a woman
who is acquainted with him."

"A woman from this place?"

"No, from a place not far off."

"In the street? What sort of a wo^
man?"

"Why, then, a woman*"-a woman like
myself."

"What has she to say to him, this wo«
man?"

"I believe she is a countrywoman of
his."

They stared into one another's eyes,
watching one another, feeling, divining
that something of a grave nature was
going to arise between them.
' He resumed:

"I could see her there, this woman."

"What would you say to her?"

"I would say to her — ^I would say to
her— that I had seen Celestin Duclos."

"He is quite well— isn't he?"

"As well as you or me — he is a strap-
ping young f ellow.' -

She became silent again, trying to col-
lect her ideas; then slowly.

^*Where has the 'Notre Dame des
Vents' gone to?"



"Why, just to MarseiUcs."

She could not repress a start.

"Is that really true?"

"'TIS really true,"

"Do you know Duclos?"

"Yes, I do know him."

She still hesitated; then .in a very
gentle tone:

"Good! Thafs good!"

"What do you want with him?"

"Listen!— you will tell him — noth-
ing!"

He stared at her, more and more
perplexed. At last he put this question
to her:

"Do you know him, too, yourself?"

"No," said she.

"Then what do you want with him?"

Suddenly, she made up her mind what
to do, left her seat, rushed over to the
bar where the landlady of the tavern
presided, seized a lemon, which she tore
open and shed its juice into a glass,
then she filled this glass with pure
water, and carrying it across to him:

"Drink this!"

"Why?"

"To make it pass for wine. I will
talk to you afterward."

He drank it without further protest,
wiped his lips with the back of his
hand, then observed:

"That's all right. I am listenmg to
you."

**You will promise not to tell him you
have seen me, or from whom you learned
what I am going to tell you. You must
swear not to do so."

He raised his hand.

"All right. I swear I will not**

"Before God?"

"Before God."

"Well, you wiU tell him that Ms father



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285



died, that his mother died, that his
brother died, the whole three in one
month, of typhoid fever, in January,
1883 — three years and a half ago."

In his turn he felt all his blood set
in motion through his entire body, and
for a few seconds he was so much over-
powered that he could make no reply;
th^ he began to doubt what ^e had
told him, and asked:

"Are you sure?"

"I am sure."

"Who told it to you?"

She laid her hands on his shoidders,
and looking at him out of the depths of
her eyes:

"You swear not to Mab?"

"I swear that I will not."

"I am his sister!'*

He uttered that name in spite of him-
self:

"Fran^oise?"

She contemplated him once more with
a fixed stare, then, excited by a wUd
feeling of terror, a sense of profound
horror, she faltered in a very low tone,
almost speaking into his mouth:

"Oh! oh! it is you, Celestin."

They no longer stirred, their eyes
riveted in one another.

Arotmd them, his comrades were still
yelling. The sounds made by glasses, by
fists, by heels keeping time to the
choruses, and the shrill cries of the wo-
men, mingled with the roar of their
songs.

He felt her leaning on him, clasping
him, ashamed and frightened, his sister.
Then, in a whisper, lest anyone might
hear him, so hushed that she could
scarcely catch his words:

"What a misfortune! I have made a
nice piece of work of it!"



The next moment her eyes were filled
with tears, and she faltered:

"Is that my fault?"

But, all of a sudden, he said:

"So then, they are dead?"

"They are dead."

"The father, the mother, and the
brother?"

"The three in one month, as I told
you. I was left by myself with nothing
but my clothes, for I was in debt to the
apothecary and the doctor and for the
funeral, of the three, and had to pay
what I owed with the furniture.

"After that I went as a servant to
the house of Maitre Cacheux,— you
know him well, — the cripple. I was
just fifteen at the time, for you went
away when I was not quite fourteen. I
tripped with him. One is so senselesi'
when one is young. Then I went, as a
nursery-maid to the notary, who de-
bauched me also, and brought me to
Havre, where he took a room for me.
After a little while he gave up coming
to see me. For three days I lived withi-
out eating a morsel of food; and then,
not being able to get employment, I
went to a house, like many others. I,
too, have seen different places — ^ah! and
dirty places! Rouen, Evreux, Lille, Bor-
deaux, Perpignan, Nice, and then Mar-^
seilles, where I am now!"

The tears started from her eyes,'
flowed over hen nose, wet her cheeks,
and trickled into her mouth.

She went on:

"I thought you were dead, too? — ^my
poor C61estin."

He said:

"I would not have recognized you my-
self—you were, such a little thing then.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



and here you are so big! — but how is it
that you did not recognize me?''

She answered with a despairing move-
ment of her hands:

"I see so many men that they all seem
to me alike."

He kept his eyes still fixed on her in-
tently, oppressed by an emotion that
dazed him and filled him with such pain
as to make him long to cry like a
little child that has been whipped. He
still held her in his arms, while she sat
astride on his knees, with his open hands
against the girl's back; and now by sheer
dint of looking continually at her, he at
length recognized her, the little sister
left behind in the country with all those
whom she had seen die, while he had
been tossing on the seas. Then, sud-
denly taking between his big seaman's
paws this head found once more, he be-
gan to kiss her, as one kisses kindred
flesh. And after that, sobs, a man's deep
sobs, heaving like great billows, rose up
in his throat, resembling the hiccoughs
of drunkenness.

He stammered:

"And this is you— this is you, Fran-
^oise— my little Fran^oisel"



Then, all at once, he sprang up, be«
gan swearing in an awful voice, and
struck the table such a blow widi hia
fist that the glasses were knocked down
and smashed. After that, he advanced
three steps, staggered, stretched out his
arms, and fell on his face. And he rolled
on the floor, crying out, beating the
boards with his hands and feet, and
uttering such groans that they seemed
like a death rattle.

All those comrades of his stared at
him, and laughed.

"He's not a bit dnmk," said one.

"He ought to be put to bed," said
another.

"If he goes out, we'll all be run in to-
gether."

Then, as he had money in his poc*
kets, the landlady offered to let him have
a bed, and his comrades, themselves so
much intoxicated that they could not
stand upright, hoisted him up the nar«
row stairs to the apartment of the wo«
man who had just been in his company,
and who remained sitting on a chair, at
the foot of that bed of crime, weeping
quite as freely as he had wept, iintil the
morning dawned.



Chali



Adboral de la Vallee, who seemed
to be half asleep in his armchair, said in
a voice which soimded like an old wo-



man s :



"I had a very singular little love ad-
venture once; would you like to hear
it?"

He spoke from the dQ>ths of his great



armchair, with that everlasting dry»
wrinkled smile on his lips, that smile ^
la Voltaire, which made people take
for a terrible sceptic.



"I was thirty years of age and a first
lieutenant in die navy, when I was in*



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CHAU



287



trusted mth an astronomical expedition
to Central India. The English Govem-
inent provided me with all the necessary
means' for carrying out my enterprise,
and I was soon busied witii a few fol-
lowers in that vast, strange, surprising
country.

'It would take me ten volumes to
relate that journey. I went through
wonderfully magnificent regions, was re-
ceived by strangely handsome princes,
and was entertained with incredible mag-
nificence. For two months it seemed to
me as if I were walking in a fairy king-
dom, on the back of imaginary elephants.
In the midst of wild forests I discovered
extraordinary ruins, delicate and chiseled
like jewels, fine as lace and enormous
as mountains, those fabulous, divine
monuments which are so graceful that
one falls in love with their form as with
a woman, feeling a physical and sensual
pleasure in looking at them. As Vic-
tor Hugo says, 'Whilst wide-awake, I
was walking in a dream.'

"Toward the end of my journey I
reached Ganhard, which was formerly
one of the most prosperous towns in
Central India, but is now much decayed.
It is governed by a wealthy, arbitrary,
violent, generous, and cruel prince. His
name is Rajah Maddan, a true Oriental
potentate, delicate and barbarous, affa-
ble and sanguinary, combining feminine
grace with pitiless ferocity.

"The city lies at the bottom of a val-
ley, on the banks of a little lake sur-
rounded by pagodas, which bathe then:
walls in the water. At a distance the
city looks like a white spot, which grows
larger as one approaches it, and by
degrees you discover the domes and



spires, the slender and graceftd sum«
mits of Indian monuments.

"At about an hour's distance from the
gates, I met a superbly caparisoned ele-
phant, surrounded by a guard of honor
which the sovereign had sent me, and I
was conducted to the palace with great
ceremony.

"X should have liked to have taken
the time to put on my gala uniform, but
royal impatience woiild not admit of it.
He was anxious to make my acquain-
tance, to know what he might expect
from me.

'1 was ushered into a great hall sur-
rounded by galleries, in the midst of
bronze-colored soldiers in splendid uni-
forms, while all about were standing men
dressed in striking robes, §tudded with
precious stones.

'1 saw a shining mass, a kind of setr
ting sun reposing on a bench like our
garden benches, without a back; it was
the rajah who was waiting fpr me, mo-
tionless, in a robe of the purest canary
color. He had some ten or fifteen mil-
lion francs' worth of diamonds on him,
and by itself, on his forehead, glistened
the famous star of Delhi, which has al-
ways belonged to the illustrious dynasty
of the Pariharas of Mundore, from
whom my host was descended.

"He was a man of about five-and-
twenty, who seemed to have some negro
blood in his veins, although he belonged
to the purest Hindoo race. He had
large, almost motionless, rather vague
eyes, fat lips, a curly beard, low fore-
head, and dazzling sharp white teeth,
which he frequently showed wiih a me-
chanical smile. He got up aiid gave me
his hand in the English fashion, and then
made me sit down beside him on a



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WORKS OF GUY BE' MAUPASSANT



bench which was so high that my feet
hardly touched the ground, and on
which I was very uncomfortable.

**He immediately proposed a tiger
hunt for the next day; war and himting
were his chief occupations, and he could
(hardly understand how one could care
for anything else. He was evidently
fully persuaded that I had only come all
that distance to amuse him a little, and
to be the companion of his pleasures.

"As I stood greatly in need of his
assistance, I tried to flatter his tastes,
and he was so pleased with me that he
immediately wished to show me how
his trained boxers fought, and led the
way into a kind of arena situated with-
in the palace.

''At his command two naked men
appeared, their hands covered with steel
claws. They immediately began to
attack each other, trying to strike one
another with these sharp weapons, which
left long cuts, from which the blood
flowed freely down their dark skins.

*lt lasted for a long time, till their
bodies were a mass of wounds, and the
combatants were tearing each other's
flesh with these pointed blades. One of
them had his jaw smashed, while the
ear of the other was split into three
pieces.

"The prince looked on with ferocious
pleasure, utteicd grunts of delight, and
imitated all their movements with
careless gestures, crying out constantly:

"'Strike, strike hard!'

"One fell down unconscious and had
to be carried out of the arena, covered
with blood, while the rajah uttered a sigh
of regret because it was over so soon.

"He turned to me to know my opin-
ion; I was disgusted, but I congratulated



him loudly. He then gave orders that
I was to be conducted to Kuch-Mahal
(the palace of pleasure), where I was
to be lodged.

"This bijou palace was situated at the
extremity of the royal park, and one of
its walls was built into the sacred lake of
Vihara. It was square, with three rows
of galleries with colonnades of most
beautiful workmanship. At each angle
there were light, lofty, or low towers,
standing either singly or in pairs; no two
were alike, and they looked like flowers
growing out of that graceful plant of
Oriental architecture. All were sur*
mounted by fantastic roofs, like coquet*
tish ladies' caps.

"In the middle of the ediflce a large
dome raised its roimd ci4)ola, like a
woman's bosom, beside a beautifid
dock-tower.

"The whole building was covered with
sculpture from top to bottom, with ex-
quisite arabesques which delighted the
eye, motionless processions of delicate
figures whose attitudes and gestures in
stone told the story of Indian manners
and customs.

"The rooms were lighted by windows
with dentelated arches, looking on to
the gardens. On the marble floor were
designs of graceful bouquets in onyx,
lapis-lazuli, and agate.

"I had scarcely had time to finish my
toilette when Haribada, a court digni<»
tary who was specially charged to com*
municate between the prince and me^
announced his sovereign's visit.

"The saffron-colored rajah appeared,
again shook hands with me, and began
to tell me a thousand different things,
constantly asking me for my opinion,
which I had great difficulty in giving him.



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Then he wished to show me the nuns of
the former t)alace at the other extremity
of the gardens.

*lt was a real forest of stones in-
habited by a large tribe of apes. On our
approach the males began to run along
the walls, making the most hideous faces
at us, while the females ran away, carry-
ing off their young in their arms. The
rajah shouted with laughter and pinched
my arm to draw my attention, and to
testify his own delight, and sat down in
the midst of the ruins, while around us,
squatting on the top of the walls, perch-
ing on every eminence, a number of
animals with white whiskers put oiut
their tongues and shook thdr fists at us.

"When he had seen enough of this, the
yellow rajah rose and began to walk
iedately on, keeping me always at his
side, happy at having shown me such
things on the very day of my arrival,
and reminding me that a grand tiger-
hunt was to take place the next day, in
my honor.

"I was present at it, at a second, a
third, at ten, twenty in succession. We
hunted all the animals which the coimtry
produces in turn; the panther, the bear,
elephant, antelope, and the crocodile —
half the beasts in creation I should say.
I was disgusted at seeing so much blood
flow, and tired of this monotonous plea-
sure.

"At length the prince's ardor abated
and, at my urgent request, he left me
a little leisure for work, contenting him-
self by loading me with costly presents.
He sent me jewels, magnificent stuffs,
and well-broken animals of all sorts,
which Haribada presented to me with
apparently as grave respect as if I had
been the sun himself, although he



heartily despised me at the bottom of
his heart.

"Every day a procession of sei-vants
brought me, in covered dishes, a portion
of each course that was served at the
royal table. Every day he seemed to
take an extreme pleasure in getting up
some new entertainment for me — dances
by the bayaderes, jugglers, reviews of
the troops, and I was obliged to pretend
to be most delighted with it, so as not to'
hurt his feelings when he wished to
show me his wonderful coimtry in all its
charm and all its splendor.

"As soon as I was left alone for a
few moments I either worked or went
to see the monkeys, whose company
pleased me a great deal better than that
of their royal master.

"One evening, however, on coming ^
back from a walk, I found Haribada
outside the gate of my palace. He told
me in mysterious tones that a gift from
the king was waiting for me in my abode>
and he said that his master begged me to
excuse him for not having sooner
thought of offering me that of which I
had been deprived for such a long time.

"After these obscure remarks the am-
bassador bowed and withdrew.

**When I went in I saw six little girls
standing against the wall, motionless,
side-by-side, like smelts on a skewer.
The eldest was perhaps ten and the
youngest eight years old. For the first
moment I could not understand why this
girls' school had taken up its abode in
my rooms; then, however, I divined
the prince's delicate attention: he had
made me a present of a harem, and had
chosen it very young from an excess of
generosity. There, the more unripe the



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



fruit is, in the higher estimation it is
held.

"For some time I remained confused,
embarrassed, and ashamed in the pres-
ence of these children, who looked at me
with great grave eyes which seemed al-
ready to divine what I might want of
them.

"I did not know what to say to them;
I felt inclined to send them back; but
.1 could not return the presents of a
prince; it would have been a mortal in-
sult. I was obliged, therefore, to install
this troop of children in my palace.

"They stood motionless, looking at
me, waiting for my orders, trying to
read my thoughts in my eyes. Con-
found such a present! How absurdly it
was in my way. At last, thinking that
^ I must be looking rather ridiculous, I
asked the eldest her name.

" *ChaU,' she repUed.

"This little creature, with her beauti-
ful skin, which was slightly yellow, like
old ivory, was a marvel, a perfect statue,
with her face and its long and severe
lines.

"I then asked, in order to see what
she would reply, and also, perhaps, to
embarrass her:

" 'What have you come here for?'

"She replied in her soft, harmonious
voice : *I have come to be altogether at
my lord's disposal, and to do whatever
he wishes/ She was evidently quite
resigned.

"I put the same question to the
youngest, who answered immediately in
her shrill voice:

" 1 am here to do whatever you ask
me, my master.*

"This one was like a little mouse, and
was very taking, just as they all were,



so I took her in my arms and kissed her.
The others made a movement to go
away, thinking, no doubt, that I had
made my choice; but I ordered them to
stay, and sitting down in the Indian
fashion, I made them all sit round me
and began to tell them fairy-tales, for I
spoke their language tolerably well.

"They listened very attentively, and
trembled, wringing their hands in agony.
Poor little things, they were not thinking
any longer of the reason why they were
sent 10 me.

"When I had finished my story, I
called Latchman, my confidential ser-
vant, and made him bring sweetmeats
and cakes, of which they ate enough to
make themselves ill. Then, as I be-
gan to find the adventure rather funny,
I organized games to amuse my wives.

"One of these diversions had an enor-
mous success. I made a bridge of my
legs and the six children ran imder-
neath, the smallest beginning and the
tallest always knocking against them a
little, because she did not stoop enough.
It made them shout with laughter, and
these young voices sounding through the
low vaults of my sumptuous palace
seemed to wake it up and to people it
with childlike gaiety and life.

"Next I took great interest in seeing
to the sleeping apartments of my inno-
cent concubines, and in the end I saw
them safely locked up under the surveil-
lance of four female servants, whom the
prince had sent me at the same time in
order to take care of my sultanas.

"For a week I took Uie greatest plea-
sure in acting the part of a father to-
ward these living dolls. We had capital
games of hide-and-seek and puss-in-the-
comer, which gave them the greatest



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291



pleasure. Every day I taught them a
new game, to their intense delight.

"My house now seemed to be one
large nursery, and my little friends,
dressed in beautiful silk stuffs, and in
materials embroidered with gold and sil-
ver, ran up and down the long galleries
and the quiet rooms like little human
animals.

"Chali was an adorable little creature,
timid and gentle, who soon got to love
me ardently, with some degree of shame,
with hesitation as if afraid of European
morality, with reserve and scruples, and
yet with passionate tenderness. I cher-
ished her as if I had been her father.

"The others continued to play in the
palace like a lot of happy kittens, but
Chali never left me except when I went
to the prince.

"We passed delicious hours together
in the ruins of the old castle, among the
monkeys, who had become our friends.
"5he used to lie on my knees, and re-
main there, turning all sorts of things
over in her little sphinx's head, or per-
haps not thinking of anything, retain-
ing that beautiful, charming, hereditary
pose of that noble and dreamy people,
the hieratic pose of the sacred statues.

"In a large brass dish I had one day
brought provisions, cakes, fruits. The
apes came nearer and nearer, followed
t>y their young ones, who were more
timid; at last they sat down roimd us
in a circle, without daring to come any
nearer, waiting for me to distribute my
delicacies. Then, almost invariably, a
xnale more daring than the rest would
come to me with outstretched hand, like
a. beggar, and I would give him some-
thing, which he would take to his wife.
All the others immediately began to



utter furious cries, cries of rage and
jealousy; and I could not make the
terrible racket cease except by throwing
each one his share.

"As I was very comfortable in the
ruins I had my instruments brought
there, so that I might be able to work.
As soon, however, as they saw the copper
fittings on my scientific instruments, the
monkeys, no. doubt taking them for
some deadly engines, fied on all bides,
uttering the most piercing cries.

"I often spent my evenings with
Chali on one of the external galleries
that looked on to the lake of Vihara.
One night in silence we looked at the
bright moon gliding over the sky, throw-
ing a mantle of trembling silver over the
water, and, on the further shore, upon
the row of small pagodas like carved
mushrooms with their stalks in the
water. Taking the thoughtful head of
my little mistress between my hands,
I printed a long, soft kiss on her polished
brow, on her great eyes, which were full
of the secret of that ancient and fabu-
lous land, and on her calm lips which
opened to my caress. I felt a confused,
powerful above all a poetical, sensa-
tion, the sensation that I possessed a
whole race in this little girl, that mys-
terious race from which all the others
5eem to have taken their origin.

"The prince, however, continued to
load me with presents. One day he sent
me a very unexpected object, which ex-
cited a passionate admiration in Chali.
It was merely one of those cardboard'
boxes covered with shells stuck on out-
side, which can be bought at any Euro*
pean seaside resort for a penny or twa
But there it was a jewel beyond price,
and no doubt was the first that had



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



found its way into the kingdom. I put
It on a table and left it there, wonder-
ing at the value which was set upon this
trumpery article out of a bazaar.

"But Chali never got tired of looking
at it, of admiring it ecstatically. From
time to time she would say to me, *May
I touch it?* And when I had given her
permission she raised the lid, closed it
again with the greatest precaution,
touched the shells very gently, and the
contact seemed to give her real physical
pleasure.

"However, I had finished my scientific
work, and it was time for me to return.
I was a long time in making up my



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 37 of 125)