Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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self into my arms. And our former con-
nection was renewed.

"I left the Ministry, and she came to
live in my house in the Rue de GreneUe.
She often spoke to me about the child,
but I scarcely listened to what she said
about it; it did not concern me. Now
and then I placed a rather large sum
of money in her hand, saying: Tut
that by for him.'

"Two more years glided by; and she
was more and more eager to tell me
some news about the youngster— *about

"Sometimes she would say in the
midst of tears: *You don't care about
him; you don't even wish to see him.
If you could know what grief you cause

"At last I was so much harassed by
her that I promised, one day, to go,
next morning, to the Champs-Elys6es
when she took the child there for an

"But at the moment when I was leav-
ing the house. I was stopped by a sud-
den apprehension. Man is weak and

foolish. What if I were to get fond of
this tiny being of whom I was the father
— ^my son?

"I had my hat on my head, my gloves
in my hands. I flung down the gloves
on my desk, and my hat on a chair:

" 'No, decidedly I will not go; it is
wiser not to go.'

"My door flow open. My brother en-
tered the room. He handed me an
anonymous letter he had received that

" *Wam the Comte de L , your

brother, that the little woman of the Rue
Casette is impudently laughing at him.
Let him make some inquiries about her.'

"I had never told anybody about this
intrigue, and I now told my brother
the history of it from the beginning to
the end. I added:

" Tor my part, I don't want to trou*
ble myself any further about the mat-
ter; but will you, like a good fellow, go
and find out what you can about her?'

'When my brother had left me, I said
to myself: *In what way can she have
deceived me? She has other lovers?
What does it matter to me? She is
young, fresh, and pretty; I ask nothing
more ifrom her. She seems to love me,
and as a matter of fact, she does not
cost me much. Really, I don't under-
stand this business.'

"My brother speedily returned. He
had learned from the police all that was
to be known about her husband: A
clerk in the Home Department, of regu-
lar habits and good repute, and, more^
over, a thinking man, but married to
a very pretty woman, whose expenses
seemed somewhat extravagant for h^
modest Dositi%n. That was alL

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"Now, my brother, having sought for
her at her residence, and finding that
she was gone out, succeeded, with the
assistance of a little gold, in making the

doorkeeper chatter: *Madame D ,

a very worthy woman, and her husband
a very worthy man, not proud, not rich,
but generous.'

"My brother asked, for the sake of
saying something:

" *How old is her little boy now?'

" *Why, she has not got any little boy,

"*What? LitUeLdon?'

" *No, Monsieur, you are making a

"'I mean the child she had while
she was in Italy two years ago?'

" *She has never been in Italy, Mon-
sieur; she has not quitted the house she
is living in for the last five years.'

"My brother, in astonishment, ques-
tioned the doorkeeper anew, and then
he pushed his investigation of the mat-
ter further. No child, no journey.

"I was prodigiously astonished, but
without clearly understanding the final
meaning of this comedy.

" 'I want,' said I to him, *to have
my mind perfectly clear about the af-
fair. I will ask her to come here to-
morrow. You shall receive her in-
stead of me. If she has deceived me,
you will hand her these ten thousand
francs, and I will never see her again.
In fact, I am beginning to find I have
had enough of her.'

'Would you believe it? I had been
grieved the night before because I had
a child by this woman; and I was
now irritated, ashamed, wounded at
having no more of her. I found my-
self free, released from all responsibil-

ity, from all anxiety; and yet I felt my-
self raging at the position in which I
was placed.

"Next morning my brother awaited
her in my study. She came in as
quickly as usual, rushing toward him
with outstretched arms, but when she
saw who it was she at once drew back.

"He bowed, and excused himself.

" *I beg your pardon, Madame, for
being here instead of my brother; but
he has authorized me to ask you for
some explanations which he would find
it painful to seek from you himself.'

"Then, fixing on her face a search-
ing glance, he said abruptly:

" *We know you have not a child by

"After the first moment of stupor, she
regained her composure, took a seat,
and gazed with a smile at this man who
was sitting in judgment on her.

"She answered simply:

"'No; I have no chOd.'

" ^We know also that you have never
been in Italy.'

"This time she burst out laughing in

" *No; I have never been in Italy.'

"My brother, quite stunned, went on:

" 'The Comte has requested me to
give you this money, and to tell you
that it is broken off.'

"She became serious again, calml)
putting the money into her pocket, and,
in an ingenuous tone, asked:

" 'And I am not, then, to see the
Comte any more?'

" 'No, Madame.'

"She appeared to be annoyed, and in
a passionless voice she said:

" 'So much the worse; I was very
fond of him.'

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''Seeing that she had made tip her
mind on the subject so resolutdy, my
brother, smiling in his turn, said to her:

" *Look here, now, tell me why you
invented all this long, tricky yam, com-
plicating it by bringing in the sham
journey to Italy and the child?'

"She gazed at my brother in amaze-
ment, as if he had asked her a stupid
question, and replied:

" 'Well, I declare! How spiteful you
are! Do you believe a poor little
woman of the people such as I am —
nothing at all — could have for three
years kept on my hands the Comte de

L , Minister, a great personage, a

man of fashion, wealthy, and seductive,
if she had not taken a little trouble
about it? Now it is all over. So much
the worse. It couldn't last forever.
None the less I succeeded in doing it
for three years. You will say many
things to him on my behalf.'

"She rose up. My brother continued
questioning her:

" 'But— the child? You had one to
show him?'

" 'Certainly— my sister's child. She
lent it to me. I'd bet it was she gave
you the information.'

" 'Good ! And all those letters from

"She sat down again so as to laugh
at her ease.

" 'Oh I those letters — ^well, they were
a bit of poetry. The Comte was not
a Minister of Foreign Affairs for noth*

" 'But— another thing?'

" 'Oh! the other thing is my secret
I don't want to compromise anyone.'

"And bowing to him with a rather
mocking smile she left the room with-
out any emotion, an actress who had
played her part to the end."

And the Comte de L added by

way of moral:

"So take care about putting yout
trust in that sort of turtledove!"


Madame Julie Roubere was await-
ing her elder sister, Madame Henriette
Letore, who had just returned after
a trip to Switzerland.

The Letore household had left nearly
five weeks ago. Madame Henriette had
allowed her husband to return alone
to their estate in Calvados, where some
matters of business required his atten-
tion, and came to spend a few days in
Paris with her sister. Night came on.
In the quiet parlor darkened by twi-

light shadows, Madame Roubere vm
reading in an absent-minded fashioQ.
raising her eyes whenever she heard a

At last she heard a ring at the door,
and presently her sister appeared,
wrapped in a traveling cloak. And im-
mediately, without any formal greeting,
they clasped each other ardently, only
desisting for a moment to be^ em*
bracing each other over again. Then
they talked, asking questions about eacb

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<>ther's health, about their respective
families, and a thousand other things,
gossiping, jerking out hurried, broken
sentences, and rushing about while Ma-
dame Henriette was removing her hat
and veil.

It was now quite dark. Madame
Roub^re rang for a lamp, and as soon
as it was brought in, she scanned her
sister's face, and was on the point of
embracing her once i^ore. But she held
back, scared and astonished at the
other's appearance. Around her tem-
ples, Madame Letore had two long locks
of white hair. All the rest of her hair
was of a glossy, raven-black hue; but
there alone, at each side of her head,
ran, as it were, two silvery streams
which were immediately lost in the black
mass surro^mding them. She was,
nevertheless, only twenty-four years old,
and this change had come on suddenly
since her departure for Switzerland.

Without moving, Madame Roub^re
gazed at her in amazement, tears ris-
ing to her eyes, as she thought that
some mysterious and terrible calamity
must have fallen on her sister. She

**What is the matter with you, Hen-

Smiling with a sad smile, the smile of
one who is heartsick, the other replied:

"Why, nothing, I assure you. Were
you noticing my white hair?"

But Madame Roubfere impetuously
seized her by the shoulders, and with a
searching glance at her, repeated:

"What is the matter with you? Tell
me what is the matter with you. And
if you tell me a falsehood 111 soon
find it out."

They remained face to face, and

Madame Henriette, who became so pale
that she was near fainting, had two
pearly tears at each comer of her
drooping eyes.

Her sister went on asking:

"What has happened to' you? What
is the matter with you? Answer me!**

Then, in a subdued voice, the other

"I have — ^I have a lover."

And, hiding her forehead on the shoul-
der of her younger sister, she sobbed.

Then, when she had grown a little
calmer, when the heaving of her breast
had subsided, she commenced to im«
bosom herself, as if to cast forth this
secret from herself, to empty this sor^
row of hers into a S3nmpathetic heart

Thereupon, holding each other's
hands tightly grasped, the two women
went over to a sofa in a dark comer of
the room, into which they sank, and the
younger sister, passing her arm over the
elder one's neck and drawing her close
to her heart, listened.

"Oh! I recognize that there was no
excuse for one ; I do not understand my-
self, and since that day I feel as if I
were mad. Be careful, my child, about
yourself—be careful ! If you only knew
how weak we are, how quickly we
yield, a moment of tenderness, one of
those sudden fits of melancholy which
steal into your soul, one of those long-
ings to open your arms, to love, to em-
brace, which we all have at certain mo-

"You know my husband, and you
know how fond of him I am; but he is
mature and sensible, and cannot even
comprehend the tender vibrations of a
woman's heart. He is always, always

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the same, always good, always smiling,
always kind, always perfect. Oh! how
I sometimes have wished that he would
roughly clasp me in his arms, that he
would embrace me with those slow, sweet
kisses which make two beings inter-
mingle, which are like mute confidences!
How I wished that he was self -abandoned
and even weak, so that he should have
need of me, of my caresses, of my

"This all seems very silly; but we
women are made like that. How can
we help it?

"And yet the thought of deceiving
never came near me. To-day, it has
happened, without love, without reason,
without anything, simply because the
moon shone one night on the Lake of

"During the month when we were
traveling together, my husband, with
his calm indifference, paralyzed my en-
thusiasm, extinguished my poetic ardor.
When we were descending the moun-
tain paths at sunrise, when as the four
horses galloped along with the diligence,
we saw, in the transparent morning haze,
valleys, woods, streams, and villages, I
clasped my hands with delight, and
said to him: *What a beautiful scene,
darling! Kiss me now!' he only an-
swered, with a smile of chilling kindli-
ness, 'There is no reason why we should
kiss each other because you Kke the

"And his words froze me to the heart.
It seems to me that when people love
each other, they ought to feel more
moved by love than ever in the presence
of beautiful scenes.

"Indeed, he prevented the effervescent
poetry that bubbled up within me from

gushing out. How can I express it? I
was almost like a boiler, filled with
steam, and hermetically sealed.

"One evening (we had been for four
days staying in the Hotel de Fluelen),
Robert, having got one of his sick head-
aches, went to bed immediately after
dinner, and I went to take a walk all
alone along the edge of the lake.

"It was a night such as one might
read of in a fairy tale. The full moon
showed itself in the middle of the sky;
the tall mountains, with their snowy
crests, seemed to wear silver crowns;
the waters of the lake glittered with
tiny rippling motions. The air was
mild, with that kind of penetrating
freshness which softens us till we seem
to be swooning, to be deeply affected
without any apparent cause. But how
sensitive, how vibrating, the heart is at
such moments! How quickly it leaps
up, and how intense are its emotions!

"I sat down on the grass, and gazed
at that vast lake so melancholy and so
fascinating; and a strangS thing passed
into me; I became possessed with an
insatiable need of love, a revolt against
the gloomy dullness of my life. What!
would it never be my fate to be clasped
in the arms of a man whom I loved on
a bank like this under the glowing
moonlight? Was I never then, to feel
on my lips those kisses so deep, deli-
cious, and intoxicating which lovers ex-
change on nights that seem to have been
made by God for passionate embraces?
Was I never to know such ardent,
feverish love in the moonlit shadows
of a summer's night?

"And I burst out weeping like a
woman who has lost her reason. I
heard some person stirring behind me.

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A man was intently gazing at me. When
I turned my head round, he recognized
me, and, advancing, said:

" *You are weeping, Madame?*

"It was a young barrister who was
traveling with his mother, and whom we
bad often met. His eyes had fre-
quently followed me.

"I was so much confused that I did
not know what answer to give or what
to think of the situation. I told him I
felt iU.

"He walked on by my side in a
natural and respectful fashion, and be-
gan talking to me about what we had
seen during our trip. All that I ihad
felt he translated into words; every-
thing that made me thrill he understood
perfectly, better even than I did myself.
And all of a sudden he recited some
verses of Alfred de Musset. I felt my-
self choking, seized with indescribable

emotion. It seemed to me that the
mountains themselves, the lake, the
moonlight, were singing to me about
things ineffably sweet.

"And It happened, I dbn't know how,
I don't know why, in a sort of hallucina-

"As for him, I did not see him again
till the morning of his departure.

"He gave me his card!"

* * * * 4t 4t

And, sinking into her sister's arms,
Madame Letore broke into groans — By-
most into shrieks.

Then Madame Roub^re, witii a self<^
contained and serious air, said very

"You see, sister, very often it is not
a man that we love, but kve. And
your real lover that night was the moon-

Doubtful Happiness

1 CAN neither tell you the name of
the country nor of the man. It was
far, far from here, upon a hot, fertile
coast. We folloved, since morning, the
shore and the wheat fields and the sea
covered with the sun. Flowers grew
down very near the waves, the light
waves, so sweet and sleepy. It was
very warm; but a gentle heat, perfumed
with the fat, humid, fruitful earth; one
could believe that he was breathing

I had been told that this evening I
would find hospitality in the house of a
Frenchman who lived at the end of the

promontory, in a grove of orangp-trees.
Who was he? I do not know yet. He
had arrived one morning, ten years be*
fore this, bought the land, planted his
vines, and sown his seed; he had worked,
had this man, with passion and fury.
Month after month and year after year
he had added to his domains, making
the fertile, virgin soil yield without
ceasing, and amassing a fortune by his
indefatigable labor.

It was said that he worked constantly.
Up with the dawn, going through his
fields until night, superintending every-
thing without rest, he seemed harassed

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by a fixed idea, tortured by an in*
satiable desire for money which nobh-
satiable desire for money which noth-

Now he seemed to be very rich.

The sun was setting when I reached
his dwelling. This dwelling was at the
end of a point in the midst of orange-
trees. It was a large, square house, very
simple, overlooking the sea.

As I approached, a Harge, bearded
man appeared in the doorway. Hav-
ing saluted him, I asked for shelter for
the night. He extended his hand and
said, smiling:

"Enter, sir, you are at home."

He led me to a room, gave some or-
ders to a servant with the perfect ease
and good grace of a man of the world,
then he left me saying:

"We will dine when you are ready to
come down."

We dined, tete-H-tete, upon a terrace
opposite the sea. At first, I spoke of
his country, so rich, so far away, so lit-
tle known! He smiled, answering in an
abstracted way:

"Yes, this is a pretty coimtry. But
no country pleases one much when it is
far from those they love."

"You regret France?"

"I— I long for Paris."

"Why not return there?"

"Oh! I am going to return there."

And gradually we begin to talk of the
French world, of the boulevards, and
of the many features of Paris. He asks
me about men he has known, cites
names, all of them familiar names upon
the vaudeville stage.

"Who does one see at Tortoni's these

"The same ones, except the dead."

I looked at him with marked interest,

pursued by some vague remembrance.
Certainly I had seen that head some-
where! But where? And when? He
seemed fatigued, although vigorous, sad,
though resolute. His great blond beard
fell upon his breast, and sometimes he
would take it near his chin and draw
it through his closed hand, slipping it
along to the very end. He was a little
bald but had thick eyebrows and a
heavy mustache which mingled with the
hair of his beard.

Behind us the sim was disappearing
in the sea, throwing upon the coast a
cloud of fire. The orange-trees, ill
flower, exhaled a powerful, delidous
fragrance on the evening air. Seeing
nothing but me, and fixing his look upoa
me, he seemed to discover in my eyes,
to see at the depth of my soul, the well-
known, much loved image of the broad
walk, so far away, that extends from the
Madeleine to the Rue Drouot.

"Do you know Bourtelle?" he asked.

"Yes, certainly."

"Is he much changed?"

**Yes, he is all white."

"And the Ridamie?"

"Always the same."

"And the women? Tell me about the
women. Let us see. Did you know
Suzanne Vemer?"

"Yes, very well, to the end."

"Ah! And Sophie AsUer?"


"Poor girl! Can it be— Did yoa
know — "

He was suddenly silent. Then, in 8
changed voice, his face growing pale, hfl

"No, it is better not to speak of hei;
it disturbs me so."

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Then, as if to change the trend of
his thought, he rose and said:

**Do you wish to go in?"

"I am willing to go." And I followed
him into the house.

The rooms downstairs were enormous,
bare, sad, and seemed abandoned. Some
glass dishes were set upon the table by
the tawny-skinned servants who con-
stantly roamed around this dwelling.
Two gims hung upon two nails on the
wall; and, in the comers, were to be
seen some spades, some fish lines, dried
pahn leaves, and objects of every kind
placed there at random by those en-
tering, that they might find them at
hand should they chance to have need
of them on going out.

My host smiled:

"This is a lodge, or rather the lodging
place of an exile," said he, "but my
chamber is more as it should be. Let
us go in there."

I thought, on entering, that I was in
a curiosity shop, so filled was the room
with all kinds of things, things discon-
nected, strange, and varied, that one
felt to be souvenirs of something. Upon
the walls were two pretty engravings of
^ell-known paintings, some stuffs, some
arms, swords, pistols; then, in the mid-
die of the principal panel, a square of
white satin in a gold frame.

Surprised, I approached to look at it,
when I perceived a pin which held a
hair in the middle of the shining silk.

My host placed his hand on my shoul-
der and said, smiling:

"That is the only thing that I see
here and the only thing I have seen for
ten years. Mr. Prudhomme exclaims:
'*This sword is the most beautiful day in

my life.' But I say: 'This pin is all
of my Ufe.' "

I sought for a commonplace phrase
and ended by saying:

"You have suffered through some

He replied brusquely: **You may
say I have suffered, miserably, — but
come out on my balcony. A name
has suddenly come to my lips that I
have not dared to pronounce, because,
if you had answered 'dead' as you did
when I spoke of Sophie Astier, my
brain would be on fire, even to-day."

We were upon a large balcony where
we could see two gulfs, one on the right
and the other on the left, shut in by
high, gray mountains. It was the hoiu:
of twilight, when the sun, entirely out
of sight, no longer lights the earth, ex-
cept by reflection from the sky.

He continued: "Do you know if
Jeanne de Limours still lives?"

His eye, fixed on mine, was full of
trembling anxiety. I smiled and an-

"Yes, indeed, and prettier than ever."

"You know her?"


He hesitated. Then asked: "Com«


He took my hand. "Tell me about
her," said he.

"I have nothing to tell; she is one of
the most charming women, or rather
girls, in Paris, and the most courted.
She leads an agreeable, princess-like
existence, that is all."

He murmured: "I love her," as if
he had said: "I am going to die."
Then, brusquely: "Ah! for three years
that was a frightful but delicious exist-

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ence of ours. I was very near killing
her five or six times and she tried to put
out my eyes with that pin you were just
looking at. Wait! Do you see the lit-
tle white point under my left eye? That
shows how we loved each other! How
can I explain this passion? You could
never comprehend it.

"There should be such a thmg as a
sunple lo' e, bom of the force of two
hearts and two souls; and assuredly
there is such a thing as an atrocious love,
cruelly torturing, born of the invinci-
ble rapture of two beings totally un-
like, who detest while they adore each

"This girl ruined me in three years.
I possessed four millions which she
squandered m her calm way, tranquilly,
and destroyed with a sweet smile which
seemed to fall from her eyes upon her

"You know her? Then you know that
there is something irresistible about her!
What is it! I do not know. Is it those
gray eyes, whose look enters into you
and remains there like the barb of an.
arrow? Or is it rather that sweet smile,
indifferent and seductive, which stays
on her face like a mask? Her slow man-
ner penetrates, little by little, and takes
hold of you like a perfume, as does her
tall figure, which seems to balance it-
self as she passes, for she glides instead
of walking, and her sweet voice, which
drags a little and is so pretty that it
seems to be the music of her smile; her
gestures too, her always moderate ges-
tures, always right, which intoxicate the
eye, so harmonious are they.

"For three years, I saw only her upon
the earth! How I suffered! Because
she deceived me as well as everybody

else. Why? For no reason, only for
the sake of deceiving. And when I
found it out and accused her of being a
street girl, a bad woman, she said tran-
quilly: Well, we are not married, are

"Since I have come here, I have
thought much about her, and have suc-
ceeded in understanding her, that girl is
Manon Lescaut over again. Manon
could never love without deceiving, and
for her love, pleasure and money were

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 53 of 125)