Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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Irma. ,He tore it up with rage and
made no reply to it.

A week later she wrote him again
that she was very ill and wished to see
him to say farewell.

He did not answer.

After some days more he received a
note from a chaplain of the hospital.

"The girl Irma Pavolin is on her death-
bed and begs you to come."

He dared not refuse to oblige the
chaplain, but he entered the hospital
with a heart swelling with wicked anger,
with woimded vanity, and humiliation.

He found her scarcely changed at all
and thought that she had deceived himu
"What do you wish of me?" he asked.

"I wish to say farewell. It appears
that I am near the end."

He did not believe it.

"Listen," said he, "you have made me
the laughing stock of the regiment, and
I do not wish it to continue."

She asked: "What have I done?"

He was irritated at not knowingjiow
to answer. But he said:

"Is it nothing that I return here to
be joked by everybody on your

She looked at him with languid eyes,
where shone a pale light of anger, and

"What can I have done? I have not
been genteel with you, perhaps! Is it
because I have sometimes asked for
something? But for you, I would have
remained with M. Templier-Papon, and
would not have foimd myself here to-
day. No, you see, if anyone has re-
proaches to make it is not you."

He answered in a clear tone: "I have
not made reproaches, but I cannot con-
tinue to come to see you, because youi
conduct with the Prussians has been tho
shame of the town."

She sat up, with a little shake, in thf
bed, as she replied:

"My conduct with the Prussians? But
when I tell you that they took me, and
when I tell you that if I took lo thought

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of mysell, it was because I wished to
poison them! If I had wished to cure
myself, it would not have been so diffi-
cult, I can tell you! But I wished to kill
them, and I have killed them, come
now! I have killed them!"

He remained standing: "In any case,"
said he, "it was a shame."

She had a kind of suffocation, and
then replied:

"Why is it a shame for me to cause
them to die and try to exterminate
them, tell me? You did not talk that
way when you used to-come to my house
in Jeanne-d'Arc street. Ah! it is a
shame! You have not done as much,
with your cross of honor! I deserve
more merit than you, do you understand,
more than you, for I have killed more
Prussians than you!"

He stood stupefied before her trem-
bling with indignation. He stammered:
"Be still— you must — ^be still — because
those things— I cannot allow — anyone
to touch upon — "

But she was not listening: "What
harm have you done the Prussians?
Would it ever have happened if you had
kept them from coming to Rouen? Tell
me! It is you who should stop and
tisten. And I have done more harm

than you, I, yes, more harm to them
than you, and I am going to die for it
while you are singing songs and making
yourself fine to inveigle women — "

Upon each bed a head was raised and
all eyes looked at this man in uniform
who stammered again:

"You must be still— more quiet — you
know — "

But she would not be quiet. She
cried out: __

"Ah! yes, you are a prtttyposer! 1
know you well. I know you^ And I
tell you that I have done them more
harm than you — ^I — and that I have
killed more than all your regiment to-
gether — come now, you coward.

He went away, in fact he fled^ stretch-
ing his long legs as he passed Ibetween
the two rows of beds where the s)T3hili-
tic patients were becoming excited. And
he heard the gaspmg, stifled voice of
Irma pursuing him:

"More than you — yes — I have killed
more than you — "

He tumbled down the staircase four
steps at a time, and ran until he was
shut fast in his room.

The next day he heard that she was


You ask me, my dear friend, to send
you my impressions of Africa, and an
account of my adventures, especially
of my love affairs in this seductive land.
You laughed a great deal beforehand at
my dusky sweethearts, as you called

them, and declared that you could see
me turning to France followed by a tallt
ebony-colored woman, with a yellow
silk handkerchief round her head, and
wearing voluminous bright-colored trous-

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No doubt the Moorish dames will
fiave their turn, for I have seen sev-
eral who made me feel very much in-
clined to fall in love with them. But
by way of making a beginning, I came
across something better and very origi-

In your last letter to me, you say:
**When I know how people love in a
country, I know that country well
enough to describe it, although I may
never have seen it." Let me tell you,
then, that here they love furiously.
From the very first moment one
feels a sort of trembling ardor, of con-
stant desire, to the very tips of
the fingers, which overexcites the
powers and faculties of physical sensa-
tion, from the simple contact of the
hands down to the requirement which
makes us commit so many follies.

Do not misunderstand me. I do not
know whether you call love of the heart
a love of the soul; whether sentimental
idealism, Platonic love, in a word, can
exist on this earth; I doubt it, myself.
But that other love, sensual love, which
has something good, a great deal of
good about it, is really terrible in this
climate. The heat, the burning atmos-
phere which makes you feverish, the
suffocating blasts of wind from the
south, waves of -fire from the desert
which is so near us, that oppressive
sirocco which is more destructive and
withering than fire, a perpetual con-
flagration of an entire continent, burned
even to its stones by a fierce and de-
vouring sun, inflame the blood, excite
the flesh, and make brutes of us.

But to come to my story. I shall not
dwell on the beginning of my stay in
Africa. After visiting; Bona, Constan-

tine, Biskara, and Steif, I went to
Bougie through the defiles of Chabetv
by an excellent road cut through a large
forest, which follows the sea at a height
of six hundred feet above it and leads
to that wonderful bay of Bougie, which
is as beautiful as that of Naples, of
Ajaccio, or of Douamenez, which are
the most lovely that I know of.

Far away in the distance, before one
rounds the large inlet where the water
is perfectly calm, one sees Bougie. It
is built on the steep sides of a high
hill covered with trees, and forms a
white spot on that green slope; it might
almost be taken for the foam of &
cascade falling into the sea.

I had no socmer set foot in that small^
delightful town, than I knew that £
should stay for a long time. In all di-
rections the eye rests on rugged,
strangely shaped hilltops, so close to-
gether that you can hardly see the open
sea, so that the gulf looks like a lake.
The blue water is wonderfully trans-
parent, and the azure sky, a deep azure,
as if it had received two coats of color,
expands its wonderful beauty above
it. They seem to be looking at them-
selves in a glass, a veritable reflection
of each other.

Bougie is a town of ruins, and on the
quay is such magnificent ruin that you
might imagine you were at the opera.
It is the old Saracen Gate, overgrown
with ivy, and there are ruins in all di-
rections on the hills round the town,
fragments of Roman walls, bits of
Saracen monuments, and remains of
Arabic buildings.

I had taken a small, Moorish house,
in the upper town. You know those
dwellings, which have been described so

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often. They have no windows on the
oufside; but they are lighted from top
to bottom by an inner court. On the
first floor, they have a large, cool room,
in which one spends the days, and a ter-
race on the roof, on which one spends
the nights.

I at once fell in with the custom of
all hot countries, that is to say, of tak«
ing a siesta after lunch. That is the
hottest time in Africa, the time when
one can scarcely breathe; when the
streets, the fields, and the long, daz«
zlmg, white roads are deserted, when
everyone is asleep or at any rate, try-
ing to sleep, attired as scantily as pos-

In my drawing-room, which had col-
umns of Arabic architecture, I had
placed a large, soft couch, covered with
a carpet from Djebel Amour. There,
very nearly in the costume of Assan, I
sought to rest, but I could not sleep, as
I was tortured by continence. There
are two forms of torture on this earth
which I hope you will never know: the
want of water, and the want of women,
and I do not know which is the worst.
In the desert, men would commit any
infamy for the sake of a glass of clean,
cold water, and what would one not do
in some of the towns of the littoral for
the companionship of a handsome wo-
man? There is no lack of girls in Africa;
on the contrary, they abound, but, to
continue my comparison, they are as
unwholesome as the muddy water in the
pools of Sahara.

Well one day when I was feeling
more enervated than usual, I was try-
ing in vain to close my eyes. My legs
twitched as if they were being pricked,
and I tossed about uneasily on my

couch. At last, unable to bear it any
longer, I got up and went out. It was a
terribty hot day, in the middle of July,
and the pavement was hot enough to bake
bread on. My shirt, which was soakedwith
perspiration, clung to my body; on the
horizon there was a slight, white vapor,
which seemed to be palpable heat.

I went down to the sea, and circling
the port, walked along the shore of the
pretty bay where the baths are. There
was nobody about, and nothing was
stirring; not a sound of bird or of beast
was to be heard, the very waves did
not lap, and the sea appeared to be
asleep in the sun.

Suddenly, behind one of the rocks,
which were half covered by the silent
water, I heard a slight movement.
Turning round, I saw a tall, naked
girl, sitting up to her bosom in the
water, taking a bath; no doubt she
reckoned on being alone at that hot
period of the day. Her head was turned
toward the sea, and she was moving
gently up and down, without seeing

Nothing could be more surprising
than that picture of a beautiful woman
in the water, which was as clear as
crystal, under a blaze of light. She
was a statue. She turned round, ut-
tered a cry, and half swinnning, half
walking, hid herself altogether behind
her rock. I knew she must necessarily
come out, so I sat down on the beach
and waited. Presently, she just showed
her head, which was covered with thick
black plaits of hair. She had a rathei
large mouth, with full lips, large, bold
eyes, and her skin, which was tanned
by the climate, looked like a piece of
old, hard, polished ivory.

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She called out to me: ''Go awayl"
and her full voice, \7hich corresponded
to her strong build, had a guttival ac-
cent. As I did not move, she added:
"It is not right of you to stop there,
Monsieur." I did not move, however,
and her head disai^ared. Ten min-
utes passed, and then her hair, then her
forehead, and then her eyes reappeared,
but slowly and prudently, as if she
were playing at hide-and-seek, and were
looking to see who was near. This time
she was furious, and called out: ''You
will make me catch a chill, for I shall
not come out as long as you are there."
Thereupon, I got up and went away,
but not without looking round several
times. When she thought I was far
enough off, she came out of the water.
Bending down and turning her back to
me, she disappeared in a cavity of the
rock, behind a petticoat that was hang-
ing up in front of it.

I went back the next day. She was
bathing again but she had a bathing
costume and she began to laugh, and
showed her white teeth. A week later
we were friends, and in another week
we were eager lovers. Her name was
Marroca, and she pronounced it as if
there were a dozen rs in it. She was the
daughter of Spanish colonists, and had
married a Frenchman, whose name was
Pontab^e. He was in government em-
ploy, though I never exactly knew what
his functions were. I found out that
he was always very busy, and I did
not care for anything else.

She then altered her time for hav-
ing her bath, and came to my house
every day, to take her siesta there.
What a siesta! It could scarcely be
called reposing! She was a ^lendid

girl, of a somewhat animal but superb
type. Her eyes were always glowing
with passion; her half -open mouth, her
sharp teeth, and even her smiles, had
something ferociously loving about
them; and her curious, long and con«
ical breasts gave her whole body some-
thing of the animal, made her a sort of
inferior yet magnificent being, a crea-
ture destined for unbridled love, and
roused in me the idea of those ancient
deities who gave expression to their
tenderness on the grass and under thu

And then, her mind was as simple as
two and two are four, and a sonorous
laugh served her instead of thought.

Instinctively proud of her beauty,
she hated the slightest covering, and
ran and frisked about my house with
daring and unconscious immodesty.
When she was at last overcome and
worn out by her cries and movements,
she used to sleep soundly and peace-
fully, while the overwhelming heat
brought out minute spots of perspira*
tion on her brown skin.

Sometimes she returned in the eve*
ning, when her husband was on duty
somewhere, and we used to lie on the
terrace, scarcely covered by some fine,
gauzy. Oriental fabric. When the full
moon lit up the town and the gulf, with
its surroimding frame of hills, we saw
on all the other terraces a recumbent
army of silent phantoms, who would
occasionally get up, change their places,
and lie down again, in the languorous
warmth of the starry night.

In spite of the brightness of African
nights, Marroca would insist upon strip-
ping herself almost naked in the clear
rays of the moon; she did not trouble

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aersdf much about anybody who might
see us, and often, in spite of my fears
and entreaties, she uttered long, re-
sounding cries, which made the dogs in
the distance howl.

One night, when I was sleeping un-
der the starry sky, she came and kneeled
down on my carpet, and putting her
lips, which curled slightly, close to my
face, she said:

"You must come and stay at my

I did not understand her, and asked:

*'What do you mean?"

"Yes, when my husband has gone
away you must come and be with me."

I could not help laughing, and said:
"Why, as you come here?"

And she went on, almost talking into
my mouth, sending her hot breath into
my throat, and moistening my mustache
with her lips:

"I want it as a remembrance."

Still I did not grasp her meaning.
Then she put her arms around my neck
and said: "When you are no longer
here, I shaU think of it."

I was touched and amused at the
came 'time and replied: "You must
be mad. I would much rather stop

As a matter of fact, I have no liking
for assignations under the conjugal
roof; they are mouse-traps, in which
the unwary are always caught. But
she begged and prayed, and even cried,
and at last said: "You shall see how
I will love you there."

Her wish seemed so strange that I
could not explain it to myself; but on
thinking it over, I thought I could dis-
cern a profound hatred for her hus-
band, the secret vengeance of a woman

who takes a pleasure in deceiving ton,
and who, moreover, wishes to deceive
him in his own house.

"Is you husband very unkind to
you?" I asked her. She looked vexed,
and said:

"Oh, no, he is very kind."
"But you are not fond of him?"
She looked at me with astonishment
in her large eyes. "Indeed, I am very
fond of him, very; but not so fond as
I am of you."

I could not understand it all, and
while I was trying to get at her mean-
ing, she pressed one of those kisses,
whose power she knew so well, on to
my lips, and whispered: "But you
will come, will you not?"

I resisted, however, and so she got
up immediately, and went away; nor
did she come back for a week. On the
eighth day she came back, stopped
gravely at the door of my abode, and
said: "Are you coming to my house
to-night? If you refuse, I shaU go

Eight days is a very long time, my
friend* and in Africa those eight days
are as good as a month. "Yes," I said,
and opened my arms, and she threw
herself into them.

At night she waited for me in a neigh-
boring street, and took me to their
house, which was very small, and near
the harbor. I first of all went through
the kitchen, where they had their
meals, and then into a very tidy, white-
washed room, with photographs on the
walls and paper flowers imder a glass
case. Marroca seemed beside herself
with pleasure, and she jumped about
and said: "There, you are at home,
now." And I certainly acted as though

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I were, though I fdt rather embarrassed
and somewhat uneasy.

Suddenly a loud knocking at the
door made us start, and a man's voice
called out: "Marroca, it is I."

She started: **My husband! Here,
hide under the bed, quickly."

I was distractedly looking for my
coat, but she gave me a push, and
panted out : "Come along, come along."

I lay down flat on my stomach, and
crept under the bed without a word,
while she went into the kitchen. I
heard her open a cupboard and then
shut it again, and she came back into
the room carrying some object which
I could not see, but which she quickly
put down. Then, as her husband was
getting impatient, she said calmly: "T
cannot find the matches." Suddenly
she added: "Oh, here they are; I will
come and let you in."

The man came in, and I could see
nothing of him but his feet, which
were enormous. If the rest of him
was in proportion, he must have been
a giant.

I heard kisses, a little pat on her
nakSd flesh, and a laugh, and he said,
m a strong Marseilles accent: "I for-
got my purse, so I was obliged to
come back; you were sound asleep, I

He went to the cupboard, and was
a long time in finding what he wanted;
and as Marroca had thrown herself on
to the bed, as if she were tired out, he
went up to her, and no doubt tried to
caress her, for she flung a volley of
angry rs at him. His feet were so close
to me that I felt a stupid, inexplicable
longing to catch hold of them, but I
restrained myself. When he saw that

he could not succeed in his wish, he
got angry, and said: "You are not at
all nice, to-night. Good-bye."

I heard another kiss, then the big
feet turned, and I saw the nails in his
shoes as he went into the next room, the
front door was shut, and I was saved!

I came slowly out of my retreat, feel-
ing rather humiliated, and while Mar-
roca danced a jig around me, shouting
with laughter, and clapping her hands,
I threw myself heavily into a chair.
But I jumped up with a bound, for I
had sat down on something cold, and
as I was no more dressed than my ac-
complice was, the contact made me
start. I looked round. I had sat
down on a small ax, used for cutting
wood, and as sharp as a knife. How
had it got there? I had certainly not
seen it when I went in; but Marroca
seeing me jump up, nearly choked with
laughter, and coughed with both hands
on her sides:

I thought her amusement rather out
of place; we had risked our lives stU'
pidly, I still felt a cold shiver down my
back, and I was rather hurt at her fool-
ish laughter.

"Supposing your husband had seen
me?" I said.

"There was no danger of that," shd

"What do you mean? No danger?
That is a good joke! If he had stooped
down, he must have seen me."

She did not laugh any more, she only
looked at me with her large eyes, which
were bright with merriment.

"He would not have stooped.'*

**Why?" I persisted. "Just suppose
that he had let his hat fall, he would
have been sure to pick it up, and then

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*-I was well prepared to defend my-
self, in this costume!''

She put her two strong, round arms
about my neck, and, lowering her voice,
as she did when she said "I adorre you,"
she whispered:

"Then he would never have got up

I did not understand her, and said:
"What do you mean?"

She gave me a cunning wink, and put
out her hand to the chair on which I
had sat down, and her outstretched
hands, her smile, her half-open lips, her

white, sharp, and ferocious teeth, aB
drew my attention to the little ax which
was used for cutting wood, the sharp
blade of which was glistening in tl^
candle-light. While she put out her
hand as if she were going to take it,
she put her left arm round me, and
drawing me to her, and putting her lips
against mine, with her right arm ^e
made a motion as if she were cutting
off the head of a kneeling man!

This, my friend, is the manner in
which people here understand conjugal
duties, love, and hospitality!

A Philosopher

Blerot had been my most intimate
friend from childhood; we had no se-
crets from each other, and were united
heart and soul by a brotherly intimacy
and a boundless confidence in each
other. I had been intrusted with the
secret of all his love affairs, as he had
been with mine.

When he told me that he was going
to get married I was hurt, just as if
he had been guilty of a treacherous act
with regard to me. I felt that it must
interfere with that cordial and absolute
affection which had united us hitherto.
His wife would come between us. The
intimacy of the marriage-bed establishes
a kind of complicity, a mysterious al-
liance between two persons, even when
they have ceased to love each other.
Man and wife are like two discreet part-
ners who will not let anyone else into
then: secrets. But that close bond
which the conjugal kiss fastens is widely

loosened on the day on which the
woman takes a lover.

I remember B16rot's wedding as if
it were but yesterday. I would not be
present at the signing of the marriage
contract, as I have no particular liking
for such ceremonies. I only went to the
civil wedding and to the church.

His wife, whom I had never seenr be-
fore, was a tall, slight girl, with pale
hair, pale cheeks, pale hajids, and eyes
to match. She walked with a slightly
undulating motion as if she were on
board a ship, and seemed to advance
with the succession of long graceful

B16rot seemed very much in love
with her. He looked at her constantly,
and I felt a shiver of an immoderate
desire for her pass through my frame.

I went to see him in a few days, and
he said to me:

'Tou do not know how haj^y I am;

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I am madly in love with her; but then
she is — she is — " He did not finish his
sentence, but he put the tips of his
fingers to his lips with a gesture which
signified *'divine! delicious! perfect!''
and a good deal more besides.

I asked laughing, "What! aU that?"

"Everything that you can imagine,"
was his answer.

He introduced me to her. She was
very pleasant, on easy terms with me,
as was natural, and begged me to look
upon their house as my own. I felt
that he, B16rot, did not belong to me
any longer. Our intimacy was alto«
gether checked, and we hardly found a
word to say to each other.

I soon took my leave, and shortly
afterward went to the East, returning
by way of Russia, Germany, Sweden,
and Holland, after an absence of
eighteen months from Paris.

The morning after my arrival, as I
was walking along the boulevards to
breathe the air once more, I saw a pale
man with sunken cheeks coming toward
me, who was as much like 616rot as it
was possible for a physical, emaciated
man to resemble a strong, ruddy, rather
stout man. I looked at him in sur-
prise, and asked myself: "Can it pos-
sibly be he?" But he saw me, and came
toward me with outstietched arms, and
we embraced in the middle of the

After we had gone up and down once
or twice from the Rue Drouot to the
Vaudeville Theatre, just as we were
taking leave of each other, — for he al-
ready seemed quite done up with walk-
ing, — ^I said to him:

"You don't look at all well. Are
yim ill?"

"I do feel rather out of sorts," was
all he said.

He looked like a man who was going
to die, and I felt a flood of affection for
my old friend, the only real one that I
had ever had. I squeezed his hands.

"What is the matter with you? Are
you in pain?"

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 50 of 125)