Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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before I had my overcoat off. Then
she began to laugh:

" Well, what is the matter with you?
Are you changed into a pillar of salt?
Come! Make haste!'

"I imitated her and joined her. Five
minutes later I had a foolish desire to
dress again and go out. But the over-
whelming lassitude which had seized me
at my house, returned to me, depriv-
ing me of all sti*ength to move, and I
^emalned^ in spite of the disgust which I



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408



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



hacT' for this public bed^ The sensual
charm which TT)elieved I saw down
there, under the lights of the theater,
had disappeared in my arms, and I jgd
with me, flesh to flesh, onty ar^Sgag
girl, like all the rest, "\vhdse indmerSit
and complaisant kiss had an after-taste
of garlic^

*1 began to talk to her:

" *Have you been here long?' said I.

"*Six months the fifteenth of Janu-
ary.'

" 'Where were you before that?'

"*I was in Clauzel street. But the
janitor made me so miserable that I
left.'

"And she began to relate an intermi-
nable story of the concierge who had
made some scandal about her.

"Suddenly I heard something moving
near us. At first there was a sigh, then
a light noise, but distinct, as if some
one bad fallen from a chair.

"I sat up quickly in bed and de-
manded: *What was that noise?'

"She answered with assurance and
composure: 'Don't disturb yourself,
my dear, it is my neighbor. The parti-
tion is so thin that we hear all as if
they were here. These are dirty boxes.
They are made of pasteboard.'

"My indolence was so strong that I
got down under the clothes again. We
continued our talk. Incited by the
curiosity which drives all men to ques-
tion these creatures upon their first ad-
venture, to wish to raise the veil from
their first fault in order to find in them
some far-off trace of innocence, that we
may find something to love, perhaps, in
the rapid recital evoked by their candor
and the shame of long ago, I asked her
laDout her first lover.



"I knew that she lied. What did it
matter? Among all the lies I might
discover, perhaps, some sincere or touch-
ing incident.

" *Come,' said I, 'tell me who he was.'

*' 'He was an oarsman.'

"*Ah! Tell me about it. Where
were you?'

" 'I was at Argenteuil.*

"'What were you doing there?'

" 'I was maid in a restaurant.'

" 'What restaurant?'

"'At the Freshwater Sailors, do you
know it?'

" 'Well, yes; Bonanfan's.*

" 'Yes, that's the one.'

** 'And how did he pay his court, this
oarsman?'

" 'While I was making his bed. He
forced me.'

"But suddenly I recalled the theory
of a doctor of my acquaintance, an ob-
serving, philosophic doctor who, in his
practice in agre^Jipspital^Jiai daily
examples oflfEesegirl-mothers and pub-
^c gifls^'and knew all the shame and
inisery of women, the poor women who
pecome the hideous prey of the wander-
ihg md^ with money in his pocket.,
^^ 'Invariably,' he told me, 'is a girl
debauched by a man of her own class
and station in life. I have made-AW)l'
umes of observations upon it. jit is cus-
tomary to accuse the rich of culling the
flower of innocence from the children
<ii the people. That is not true. The
rich pay for the culled bouquet. They
,cull also, but at the second flowering ^
they never cut the first.'

"Then turning toward my companion,
I began to laugh:

" 'You may as well know that I know
all about your story. The oarsman



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FLORENTINE



409



was not the first, as you well know.'

"'Oh! yes, my dear, I swear it!'

" 'You are lying.'

" *0h! no, I promise you I am not.*

" 'You lie. Come, tell me the truth.'
• "She seemed to hesitate, astonished.
I continued:

" 'I am a sorcerer, my good child, a
hypnotist. If you do not tell me the
truth, I shall put you to sleep, and then
I can find it out.'

"She was afraid, beiag stupid like
her kind. She murmured :

" 'How did you ever guess it?*

"I replied: 'Come, speak.*

" 'Oh! the first time, that amounted
to nothing. It was at a festival in the
country. They called in a chef for the
occasion, Mr. Alexander. After he
came he had it all his own way in the
house. He ordered everybody, even to
the master and mistress, as if he had
been a king. He was a large, handsome
man who would not stay in place before
his stove. He was always crying out:
"Here, some butter — some eggs — ^some
Madeira!" And it was necessary to
carry him ever3rthing on the run, or he
would get angry and say things to you
that would make you blush under the
skirts.

" 'When the day was finished, he
would smoke his pipe before the door.
And, as I passed him with a pile of
plates, he said to me this : "Come, little
goose, come down to the edge of the
lake and show me the country." As
for me, I went, like a fool ; and scarcely
had we arrived at the bank when he
forced me so quickly that I did not even
know that it was done. And then he
went away by the nine o'clock train, and
I never saw him again after that/



"I asked: 'Is that aU?'

"She stammered: 'Oh! I believe
Florentme belongs to him.*

" 'Who is Florentine?'

" 'He is my little boy.'

" 'Ah! very well. And you made
the oarsman believe that he was the
father, did you not?'

" 'Yes.'

" 'He had money, this oarsman?'

" 'Yes, he left me an income of three
himdred francs for Florentine's stq^rt.*

"I commenced to be amused. I con*
tinued :

" 'Very well, my girl, very well. You
are all less sensual than one would be-
lieve. And how old is Florentine now?*'

"She answered: Twelve years old..
He will take his fiirst commimion in the
spring.'

'''That is g^oodj and jsince that you
have made a trade with your cpn- ,
science.' f

"She_5ighed resignedly: ^One must
do what she can.^

"iBut a great noise in another part of
the room made me leap out of bed with
a bound; it was the noise of one fall-
ing, then rising and groping with his
hands upon the wall. I had seized the
candle and was looking about, fright-
ened and furious. She got up also and
tried to hold me back, saying:

"'It is nothing, my dear, I assure
you it is nothing.'

"But I had discovered on which side
of the wall thic strange noise was. I
went straight toward a concealed door
at the head of the bed and opened it
suddenly — and perceived there a poor
little boy, trembling and staring at me
with frightened eyes, a pale, thin little



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



boy beside a large chair filled with
straw, from which he had fallen.

"When he saw me, he began to cry
and, opening his arms to his mother:

" *It was not my fault, mamma, it
was not my fault. I was asleep and I
fell. You mustn't scold me, for it was
not my fault.'

'1 turned toward the woman and
said:

" What does he mean?'

''She seemed confused and disheart-
ened. But finally she said in a broken
voice:

"*What can you expect? I do not
earn enough to put the child in school!
I must take care of him somehow, and
I cannot afford to hire another room.
He sleeps with me when I have no one.
iJYhen some one comes for an hour or



two, he can stay in the closet very wdl
and keep quiet; he knows how. But
when one remains all night, as you have,
his muscles are fatigued from sleeping
on the chair — ^and it is not the child's
fault. I would like to see you — you —
sleep all night on a chair — ^you would
sing another song — *

"She was angry, wrought up, and was
crying.

"The child wept too. A poor child,
pitiful and timid, a good child of the
closet, of the cold, dark closet, a child
who came from time to time to get a
little warmth in the bed a moment
empty.

"I, too, had a desire to weep.

"And I returned home to my own
bed."



Consideration



Simon Bombard often foimd life very
bad! He was bom with an unbeliev-
able aptitude for doing nothing and
with an immoderate desire to follow this
vocation. All effort, whether moral or
physical, each movement accomplished
for a purpose, appeared to him beyond
his strength. As soon as he heard any*
one speak of anything serious he be*
came confused, his mind being incap-
able of tension or even attention.

The son of a novelty merchant of
Caen, he glided along smoothly, as
they said in the family, until he was
twenty-five years of age. But as his
parents were always nearer bankruptcy
than fortune, he suffered greatly for
of money.



He was a tall, large, pretty youth with
red whiskers, worn Norman fashion, of
florid complexion, blue eyes, sensual
and gay, corpulence already apparent,
and dressed with the swagger elegance
of a provincial at a festival. He
laughed, cried, and gesticulated at the
same time, displaying a storm of good
nature with all the assurance of the sea«
soned traveler. He considered that Ufa
was made principally for joys and pleas-
ures, and as soon as it became neces-
sary to curb his noisy enjoyment, he
fell into a kind of chronic somnolence,
being incapable of sadness.

His need for money harassed him urv-
til he formed the habit of repeating a
phrase now celebrated in his circle of



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CONSIDERATION



411



acquaintance: "For ten thousand francs
a year, I would become an executioner."

Now, he went each year to Trouville
to pass two weeks. He called this
"spending the season." He would in-
stall himself at the house of his cousins
who gave him the use of a room, and
from the day of his arrival to that of his
departure he would promenade along
the board walk which extends along the
great stretch of seashore.

He walked with an air of confidence,
his hands in his pockets or crossed be-
hind his back, always clothed in ample
garments, with light waistcoats and
showy cravats, his hat somewhat over
his ear and a cheap cigar in one comer
of his mouth.

He went along, brushing by the ele-
gantly dressed women and eying con-
temptuously the merry men who were
ready to make a disturbance for the
sake of it, and seeking — seeking — ^what
he was seeking.

He was after a wife, counting entirely
lipon his face and. his physique. He said
to himself: "Why the devil, in all the
crowd that comes here, should I not be
able to find my fate?" And he hunted
with the scent of a dog in the chase,
with the Norman scent, sure that he
should recognize her, the woman who
would make him rich, the moment he
perceived her.

It was one Monday morning that he
murmured: "Wait! wait! wait!" The
weather was superb, one of those yel-
low and blue da3rs of the month of
July, when one might say that the sky
wept from the heat. The vast shore
covered with people, costumes, colors,
had the air of a garden of women; and



the fishing boats with their brown sails,
almost immovable upon the blue watei
which reflected them upside down,
seemed asleep under the great sun at
ten o'clock in the morning. There they
remained opposite the wooden pier,
some near, some further off, some still
further, as if overcome by a summer
day idleness, too indifferent to seek the
high sea or even to return to port. And
down there one could vaguely perceive
in the mist the coast of Havre, show-
ing two white points on its summit, the
lighthouses of Sainte-Adresse.

He said to himself: **Wait, wait,
wait!" For he had passed her now for
the third time and perceived that she
had noticed him, this mature woman,
experienced and courageous, who was
making a bid for his attention. He had
noticed her before on the days preced-
ing, because she seemed also in quest of
some one. She was an Englishwoman,
rather tall, a little thin, an audacious
Englishwoman whom circumstances and
much journeying had made a kind of
man. Not bad, on the whole, walking
along slowly with short steps, soberly
and simply clothed, but wearing a queer
sort of hat as Englishwomen always do.
She had rather pretty eyes, high cheek-
bones, a little red, teeth that were too
long and always visible.

When he came to the pier, he re-
turned upon his steps to see if she would
meet him again. He met her and she
threw him a knowing glance, a glance
which seemed to say: "Here I am!^*

But how should he speak to her?
He returned a fifth time, and when he
was again face to face with her she
dropped her umbrella. He threw him-



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WORKS OF GIT? DE MAUPASSANT



self forward, picked it up and presented
it to her, saying:

"Permit me, Madame — "

She responded: "Oh, you are very
kind!"

And then they looked at each other.
They knew nothing more to say. But
she blushed. Then becoming courage-
ous, he said:

"We are having beautiful weather
here."

And she answered: "Oh, delicious!'*

And then they remained opposite each
other embarrassed, neither thinking of
going away. It was she who finally had
the audacity to ask: "Have you been
about here long?"

He answered laughing: "Oh! yes,
about as long as I care about it." llien
brusquely he proposed: "Would you
like to go down to the pier? It is pretty
there such days as this."

She simply said: "I should be much
pleased."

And they walked along side by side,
she with her harsh, direct allurement, he
alluring her with his dandyism, which
makes for rakishness later on.

Three months later the notables in
the commercial world of Caen received
one morning a square white card which
said:

"Mr. and Mrs. Prosper Bombard
have the honor to announce the
marriage of their son, Mr, Simon
Bombard, to Mrs. Kate Robert^



Jod on the other side:

*'Mrs. Kate Robertson has the
honor or announcing her marriage
to Mr. Simon Bombard**



They went to live in Paris. The for*
tune of the wife amounted to fifteen
thousand francs a year income, free and
clear. Simon wished to have four him-
dred francs a month for his personal ex-
penses. He had to prove that his ten-
derness merited this amount; he did
prove it easily and obtained what he
asked for.

At first everything went well. Yoimg
Mrs. Bombard was no longer young,
assuredly, and her freshness had un-
dergone some wear; but she had a way
of exacting things which made it im-
possible for anyone to refuse her. She
would say, with her grave, willful, Eng-
lish accent: "Oh! Simon, now we must
go to bed," which made Simon start
toward the bed like a dog that had been
ordered, "To your kennel." And she
knew how to have her way by day and
night, in a manner there was no resist-
ing.

She did not get angry; she made no
scenes; she never cried; she never had
the appearance of being irritated or
hurt, or even disturbed. She knew how
to talk, that was all; and she spoke to
the point, and in a tone that admitted
no contradiction.

More than once Simon was on the
point of rebelling; but before the brief
and imperious desires of this singular
woman he found himself unable to stand
out. Nevertheless, when the conjugal
kisses began to be meager and monoton-
ous, and he had in his pocket what
would bring him something greater, he
paid for satiety, but T:ith a thousand
precautions.

Mrs. Bombard perceived all this,
without his surmising it; and one eve-
ning she announced to him that she



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CONSIDERATION



'413



had rented a bouse at Mantes where
they would live in the future.

Then existence became harder. He
tried various kinds of diversion which
did not at all compensate for the con-
quests he had a taste for.

He fished with a line, learned how to
tell the places which the gudgeon liked,
which the roach and carp preferred, the
favorite spots of the bream and the
kinds of bait that divers fishes will take.

But in watching his bob as it trem-
bled on the surface of the water, other
visions haunted his mind. Then he be-
came the friend of the chief of the office
of the subprefect and the captain of
the police; and they played whist of
evenings, at the Commerce cafS; but his
sorrowfid eye would disrobe the queen
of clubs, or the lady of the diamonds,
while the problem of the absent legs
on these two-headed figures would bring
lip images suddenly that confused his
thoughts.

Then he conceived a plan, a true Nor-
man plan of deceit. He would have his
wife take a maid who would be a con-
venience to him; not a beautiful girl, a
coquette, adorned and showy, but a
gawky woman, rough and strong-backed,
who would not arouse suspicions and
whom he would acquaint beforehand
with his plans.

She was recommended to them by the
director of the city farm, his accomplice
and obliging friend, who guaranteed her
under all relations and conditions. And
Mrs. Bombard accepted with confidence
the treasure they brought to her.

Simon was happy, happy with pre-
caution, with fear, and with unbelieva-
ble difficulties. He could never un-
dress beyond the watchful eye of his



wife, except for a tew short moments
from time to time, and then without
tranquillity. He sought some plan,
some stratagem, and he ended by find*^
ing one that suited him perfectly.

Mrs. Bombard, who had nothing to
do, retired early, while Bombard, who
played whist at the Commerce cafS, re-
turned each evening at half past nine,
exactly. He got Victorine to wait for
him in the passageway of his house,
under the vestibule steps, in the dark-
ness.

He only had five minutes or more for
he was always in fear of a surprise;
but five minutes from time to time suf-
ficed for his ardor, and he slid a louis
into the servant's hand, for he was gen-
erous in his pleasures, and she would
quickly remount to her garret.

And he laughed, he triimiphed all
alone, and repeated aloud, like King
Midas's barber fishing for the gold-fish
from the reeds on the river bank: "The
mistress is safe within."

And the happiness of having Mrs.
Bombard safely fixed within made up
for him in great part for the imperfec-
tion and incompleteness of his conquest.

One evening he found Victorine wait-
ing for him as was her custom, but she
appeared to him more lively, more ani-
mated than usual, and he remained per-
haps ten minutes in the rendezvous in
the corridor.

When he entered the conjugal cham-
ber, Mrs. Bombard was not there. He
felt a cold chill run down his back and
sunk into a chair, tortured with fear.

She appeared with a candlestick in
her hand. He asked trembling:

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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



''You have been out?"

She answered quietly: "I went to
the kitchen for a glass of water."

He forced himself to calm his suspi*
cions of what she might have heard; but
she seemed tranquil, happy, confident,
and he was reassured.

When they entered the dining-room
for breakfast the next morning, Vic-
torine put the cutlets on the table. As
she turned to go out, Mrs. Bombard



handed her a louis which she held u^
delicately between her two fingers, and
said to her, with her calm, serious ac-
cent:

"Wait, my girl, here are twenty francs
which I deprived you of last night. I
wish to give them to you."

And the girl, amazed, took the piece
of gold which she looked at with a
stupid air, while Bombard, frightened*
opened his eyes wide at his wife.



Woman^s Wiles



**W0MEN?''

"Well, what do you say about

women?"

"Well, there are no conjurors more
subtle in taking us in at every available
opportunity with or without reason,
often for the sole pleasure of playing
tricks on us. And they play these tricks
with incredible simplicity, astonishing
audacity, unparalleled ingenuity. They
play tricks from morning till night, and
they all do it — the most virtuous, the
most upright, the most sensible of them.
You may add that sometimes they are
to some extent driven to do these things.
Man has always idiotic fits of obstinacy
and tyrannical desires. A husband is
continually giving ridiculous orders in
his own house. He is full of caprices;
his wife plays on them even while she
makes use of them for the purpose of
deception. She persuades him that a
thing costs so much because he would
kick up a row if its price were higher.
And she always extricates herself from
the difficulty cunningly by means so



simple and so sly that we gape with
amazement when by chance we discover
them. We say to ourselves in a stupe-
fied state of mind, 'How is it we did
not see this till now?' "

♦ ♦ 4e 4c 4c 4c

The man who uttered the words was
an ex-Minister of the Empire, the Comte

de L , thorough profligate, it was

said, and a very accomplished gentle-
man. A group of young men were lis-
tening to him.

He went on :

"I was outwitted by an ordinary un-
educated woman in a comic and thor-
ough-going fashion. I will tell you
about it for your instruction.

"I was at the time Minister for For-
eign Affairs, and I was in the habit of
taking a long walk every morning in
the Champs-Elys6es. It was the month
of May; I walked along, sniflSng in
eagerly that sweet odor of budding
leaves.

"Ere long, I noticed that I used to
meet every day a charming little wonuuu



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WOMAN'S WILES



415



one of those marvelous, graceful crea-
tures, who bear the trade-mark of Paris.
Pretty? Well, yes and no. Well-made?
Ko, better than that: her waist was too
slight, her shoulders too narrow, her
breast too full, no doubt; but I prefer
those exquisite human dolls to that great
statuesque corpse, the Venus of Milo.

"And then this sort of woman trots
along in an incomparable fashion, and
the very rustle of her skirt fills the mar-
row of your bones with desire. She
seemed to give me a side-glance as she
passed me. But these women give you
all sorts of looks — ^you never can tell —

"One morning I saw her sitting on a
bench with an open book between her
liands. I came across, and sat down
beside her. Five minutes later, we
were friends. Then, each day, after
the smiling salutation: *Good day,
Madame,* 'Good day, Monsieur,' we be-
gin to chat. She told me that she was
the wife of a government clerk, that her
life was a sad one, that in it pleasures
were few and cares numerous, and a
thousand other things.

"I told her who I was, partly through
thoughtlessness, and partly perhaps
through vanity. She pretended to be
much astonished.

" 'Next day she called at the Min-
istry to see me; and she came again
there so often that the ushers, having
their attention drawn to her appear-
ance, used to whisper to one another, as
soon as they saw her, the name with
which they had christened her: 'Ma-
dame Leon' — ^that is my Christian name.

"For three months I saw her every
morning without growing tired of heir
for a second, so well was she able in-
cessantly to give variety and piquancy



to her ph3rsical attractiveness. But
one day I saw that her eyes were blood-
shot and glowing with suppressed tears,
that she could scarcely speak, so much
was she preoccupied with secret troubles.

"I begged of her, I implored of her,
to tell me what was the cause of her
agitation.

"She faltered out, at length, with a
shudder: 1 am — ^I am enceinte i'

"And she burst out sobbing. Oh! 1
made a dreadful grimace, and I have no
doubt I turned pale, as men generally
do at hearing such a piece of news.
You cannot conceive what an unpleas-
ant stab you feel in your breast at the
announcement of an unexpected pater-
nity of this kind. But you are sure to
know it sooner or later. So, in my
turn, I gasped: 'But— but— you are
married, are you not?*

"She answered: 'Yes, but my hus-
band has been away in Italy for the last
two months and he will not be back for
some time.'

"I was determined at any cost to get
out of my responsibility.

"I said: 'You must go and join him
immediately,'

"She reddened to her very temples,
and with downcast eyes, murmured:
'Yes—but—' She either dared not or
would not finish the sentence.

"I understood, and I prudently in-
closed her in an envelope the expenses
of the journey,

♦ ♦ 4t ♦ 4t 4t

"Eight days later, she sent me a let-
ter from Genoa. The following week I
received one from Florence. Then let^
ters reached me from Leghorn, Rome^
and Naples.

"She said to me:



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



**1 am in good health, my dear love,
but I am loo^ng frightful. I would not
care to have you see me till it is all over ;
you would not love me. My husband
suspects nothing. As his business in this
country will require him to stay there
mudi longer. I will not return to France
imtil after my confinement*

"And, at the end of about eight
months, I received from Venice these
few words:

-"It is a boy/

**Some time after she suddenly en-
tared my study one morning, fresher
and prettier than ever, and flung her-



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 52 of 125)