Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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press what I suffered during those in-
terminable hours which separate the
morning from evening and the evening
from the morning.

"He died-«

"And smce — since that moment, I
have not passed an hour, no, not an hour
without tjiat atrocious, cutting memory,
a memory which gnaws, which tortures
and rends the mind, and stirs in me like
a writhing beast chained up in the bot-
tom of my soul.

"Oh! if I could have become mad!"

M. Poirel de la Voulte put up Yds
glasses, a movement which was usual
with him when he had finished reading
a contract, and the three heirs of the
dead man looked at each other without
saying a word, pale and immovable.
At the end of a minute the notary said:

"This must be destroyed."

The two others lowered their head in
sign of assent. He lighted a candle,
separated carefully the pages which con-
tained the dangerous confession from
the pages which contained the disposi-
tion of the money, then he presented
them to the flame and threw them into
the fireplace.

And they watched the white leaves aa
they were consumed. Soon they were
nothing more than a lot of little black
heaps. And as they still perceived some
letters which were legible on the paper,
the daughter crushed it with the end of
her foot, mixing it with the old ashes,

Then they all three remained quiet
for some time looking at it, as if the^
feared that the charred secret mi^
fly away up the chimney.

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On Cats

Cape op Antibes.

Seated on a bench, the other day at
my door, in the full sunlight, with a
cluster of anemones in flower before
me, I read a book recently published,
an honest book, something uncommon
and charming, — "The Cooper" by
George Duval. A large white cat that
belonged to the gardener jumped upon
my lap, and by the shock closed the
book, which I placed at my side in order
to caress the animal.

The weather was warm; a faint sug-
gestive odor of new flowers was in the
air, and at times came little cool
breezes from the great white sununits
that I could see in the distance. But
the sun was hot and sharp, and the
day was one of those that stir the earth,
make it aUve, break open the seed in
order to animate the sleeping germs,
and cleave the buds so that the young
leaves may spring forth. The cat rolled
itself on my knees, lying on its back,
its paws in the air, with claws protrud-
ing, then receding. The little creature
showed its pointed teeth beneath its lips,
and its green eyes gleamed in the half-
dosed slit of its eyelids. I caressed and
rubbed the soft, nervous animal, sup-
ine as a piece of silk, smooth, warm,
delicious, dangerous. She purred with
satisfaction, yet was quite ready to
scratch, for a cat loves to scratch as
well as to be petted. She held out her
neck and rolled again, and when I took
my hand from her, she raised herself
and pushed her head against my lifted

I made her nervous, and she made me
nervous also, for, although I like cats
in a certain way, I detest ♦bem at the

same time, — ^those animals so charming
and so treacherous. It gives me plea-
sure to fondle them, to rub imder my
hand their silky fur that sometimes
crackles, to feel their warmth through
this fine and exquisite covering. Noth'
ing is softer, nothing gives to the skin
a sensation more delicate, more refined,
more rare, than the warm, living coat
of a cat. But this living coat also com-
municates to me, through the ends of
my fingers, a strange and ferocious de-
sire to strangle the animal I am caress-
ing. I feel in her the desire she has to
bite and scratch me. I feel it, — that
same desire, as if it were an electric cur-
rent communicated from her to me. I
run my fingers through the soft fur and
the current passes through my nerves
from my finger-tips to my heart, even
to my brain; it tingles throughout my
being and causes me to shut my teeth

And if the animal begins to bite and
scratch me, I seize her by the neck, I
give her a turn and throw her far from
me, as I would throw a stone from a
sling, so quickly and so brutally that she
never has time to revenge herself.

I remember that when I was a child
I loved cats, yet I had even then that
strange desire to strangle them with my
little hands; and one day at the end
of the garden, at the beginning of the
woods, I perceived suddenly something
gray rolling in the high grass. I went
to see what it was, and foimd a cat
caught in a snare, strangling, suffocat-
ing, dying. It rolled, tore up the ground
with its claws, bounded, fell inert, then
began again, and its hoarse, rapid
breathing made a noise like a pump, a


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fijghtful noise which I hear yet. I
could have taken a spade and cut the
snare, I could have gone to find the
servant or tell my father. No, I did
not move, and with beating heart I
watched it die with a trembling and
cruel joy. It was a cat! If it had been
a dog, I would rather have cut the cop-
per wire with my teeth than let it suffer
a second more. When the cat was quite
dead, but yet warm, I went to feel of
it andpiill its tail I

These little creatures are delicious,
notkwithstanding, delicious above all,
because in caressing them, while they
are rubbing against our skin, purring
and rolling on us, looking at us with
their yellow eyes which seem never to
see us, we realize the insecurity of their
tenderness, the perfidious selfishness of
their pleasure.

Some women, also, give us that sen-
sation, — ^women who are charming, ten-
der, with clear yet false eyes, who have
chosen us entirely for their gratification.
Near them, when they open their arms
and offer their lips, when a man folds
them to his heart with bounding pulses,
when he tastes the joy of their delicate
caress, he realizes weU that he holds a
perfidious, tricky cat, with claws and
fangs, an enemy in love, who will bite
him when she is tired of kisses.

Many of the poets have loved cats.
Baudelaire has sung to them divinely.

I Had one day the strange sensation of
having inhabited the enchanted palace
of the White Cat, a magic castle where
reigned one of those undulant, mysteri-
ous, troubling animals, the only one,
perhaps, of all living creatures that one
never hears walk.

This adventure occurred last year on

this same shore of the Mediterranean.
At Nice there was atrocious heat, and
I asked myself as to whether there was
not, somewhere in the mountains above
us, a fresh valley where one might find
a breath of fresh air.

Thorence was recommended to me,
and I wished to see it immediately.
To get there I had first to go to Grasse,
the town of perfumes, concerning which
I shall write some day, and tell how the
essences and quintessences of flowers
are manufactured there, costing up to
two thousand francs the liter. I passed
the night in an old hotel of the town,
a poor kind of inn, where the quality
of the food was as doubtful as the
cleanliness of the rooms. I went on
my way in the morning.

The road went straight up into the
mountains, following the deep ravines,
which were overshadowed by sterile
peaks, pointed and savage. I thought
that my advisers had recommended to
me a very extraordinary kind of sum-
mer excursion, and I was almost on the
point of returning to Nice the same day,
when I saw suddenly before me, on a
mountain which appeared to close the
entrance to the entire valley, an im-
mense and picturesque ruined castle,
showing towers and broken walls, of a
strange architecture, in profile against
the sky. It proved to be an ancient cas-
tle that had belonged to the Templars,
who, in bygone days, had governed this
country of Thorence.

I made a detour of this mountain^
and suddenly discovered a long, green
valley, fresh and reposeful. Upon its
level were meadows, running waters,
and willows; and on its sides grew tall
pines-trees. In front of the ruins, on

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Google —



the other side of the valley, but stand-
ing lower, was an inhabited castle, called
the Castle of the Four Towers, which
was built about the y«ar 1530. One
could not see any trace of the Renais-
sance period, however. It was a strong
and massive square structure, apparently
possessing tremendous powers of re-
sistance, and it was suf^orted by four
defensive towers, as its name would in-

I had a letter of introduction to the
owner of this manor, who would not
permit me to go to the hotel. The
whole valley is one of the most charm-
ing spots in summer that one could
dream of. I wandered about there un-
til evening, and after dinner I went to
the apartment that had been reserved
for me. I first passed through a sort of
sitting-room, the walls of which were
covered by old Cordova leather; then I
went through another room, where, by
the light of my candle, I noticed rapidly,
in passing, several old portraits of ladies
— ^those paintings of which Th^ophile
Gautier has written.

I entered the room where my bed
was, and looked aroimd me. The walls
where hung with antique tapestries,
where one saw rose-colored donjons in
blue landscapes, and great fantastic
birds sitting under foliage of precious
stones! My dressing-room was in one
of the towers. The windows wide on
the inside and narrowed to a mere slit
on the outside, going through the entire
thickness of the walls, were, in reality,
nothing but loopholes, through which
one might kill an approaching enemy.

I shut my door, went to bed, and
slept. Presently I dreamed; usually
one dreams a little of something that

has passed during the day. I seemed
to be traveling; I entered an inn, where
I saw at a table before the fire a ser«
vant in complete livery, and a mason,—
a strange association which did not as*
tonish me. These people spoke of
Victor Hugo, who had just died, and I
took part in their conversation. At
last I went to bed in a room, the door
of which I could not shut; and sud-
denly, I saw the servant and the mason,
armed with sabers, coming softly to-
ward my bed.

I awoke at once, and a few moments
passed before I could recollect where
I was. Then I recalled quickly my ar-
rival of the day before at Thorence, the
occurraices of the evening, and my
pleasant reception by the owner. I was
just about to close my eyes, when I
saw distinctly in the darkness, in the
middle of my room, at about the height
of a man's head, two fiery eyes watch-
ing me.

I seized a match, and while striking
it I heard a noise, a light, soft noise,
like the sound of a wet rag thrown on
the floor, but after I had lighted the
candle I saw nothing but a tall table in
the middle of the room. I rose, went
through both apartments, looked under
the bed and into the closets, and found
nothing. I thought then that perhaps I
had continued dreaming after I was
awake, and so I went to sleep again, but
not without trouble.

I dreamed again. This time I trav-
eled once more, but in the Orient, in
the country that I love. I arrived at
the house of a Turk, who lived in the
middle of a desert. He was a superb
Turk,— not an Arab, but a Turk, fat,
friendly, and charming. He was dressed

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fn Turkish attire, with a turban on his
head, and a whole shopful of silk on
his back, — a real Turk of the Theatre
Frangais, who made me compliments
idiile offering me sweetmeats, sitting on
a voluptuous divan.

Then a little black boy took me to a
room — ^all my dreams ended in this fash-
ion in those days! It was a perfumed
room decorated in sky blue, with skins
of wild beasts on the floor, and before
the fire, — ^the idea of fire pursued me
even in the desert, — on a low chair, was
a woman, lightly clothed, who was wait-
ing on me. She was of the purest Ori-
ental t3rpe, with stars tattooed on her
cheeks and forehead and chin; she had
immense eyes, a beautiful form, and
slightly brown skin, — a warm and ex-
citing skin.

She looked at me, and I thought:
"This is what I understand to be the
true meaning of the word hospitality.
In our stupid and prudish northern
countries, with their hateful mawkish-
ness of ideas, and silly notions of moral-
ity, a man would never receive a
stranger in this fashion."

I went up to the woman and spoke to
her, but she replied only by signs, not
knowing a word of my language, which
the Turk, her master, understood so
well. All the happier that she would
be silent, I took her by the han^ and
led her toward my couch, where I placed
myself by her side, • • •

But one always awakens at those
moments! So I opened my eyes and
was not greatly surprised to feel be-
neath my hand something soft and
warm, which I caressed lovingly. Then,
my mind clearing, I recognized that it
was a cat, a big cat rolled up against my
cheek, sleeping there with confidence.
I left it there and composed myself to
sleep once more. When daylight ap-
peared he was gone; and I really
thought I had dreamed he had been with
me; for I could not understand how he
could have come in and gone out, as
my door was locked.

When I related my dream and my ad*
venture to my agreeable host (not the
whole of it!) he began to laugh, and
said: "He came in through his own
door," and raising a curtain, he showed
me a little round hole in the wall. I
learned then that the old habitations of
this country have long narrow runways
through the walls, which go from the
cellar to the garret, from the servants*
rooms to the rooms of the seigneur, and
these passages render the cat king and
master of the interior of the house. He
goes where it pleases him, visits his do-
main at his pleasure, sleeps in all the
beds, sees all, hears all, knows all the
secrets, all the habits, all the shames
of the house. Everywhere he is at
home, the animal that moves without
noise, the silent prowler, the nocturnal
rover of the hollowed walls. And I
thought of Baudelaire.

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Room No, Eleven

"What! You do not know why
President Amandon was removed?'*

"No, not at aU."

"As far as he is concerned, it would
never have been known. But it is a
story of the strangest sort.''

"Relate it to me."

"You remember Mrs. Amandon, that
pretty brunette, thin, and so distin-
guished and pretty that she was called
Madame Marguerite in all Perthuis-le-

"Yes, perfectly."

"Very well, then. You recall also
how much she was respected and con-
sidered, and better loved than anyone
in the town; she knew how to receive,
how to organize a festival or a charity
fair, how to find money for the poor,
and how to please the young people in
a thousand ways.

"She was very elegant and very
coquettish, nevertheless, but in a Pla-
tonic fashion, and with the charming
elegance of the provinces, for she was
a provincial, this pretty little woman,
an exquisite provincial.

"The poets and writers who are all
Parisian sing to us of the Parisian
woman and of her charm, because they
know only her; but I declare here that
the provincial is worth a hundred times
more when she is of superior quality.

"The provincial has an attraction all
her own; she is more discreet than the
Parisian, more humble, promising noth-
ing and giving much, while the Parisian
for the most part, promises much and
gives nothing but deshabille.

"The Parisian is a triumph in the ele-
gant effrontery of falseness; the pro-

vincial, an examine of the modesty of

"Yet the provincial, with her air of
homely alertness, her deceitful, school-
girl candor, her smile which means noth-
ing, and her good little passions, direct
and tenacious, is capable of a thou-
sand times more deceit, artifice, and
feminine invention than all the Pari-
sians together, for gratifying her own
tastes or vices, and that without awaken-
ing suspicion, or scandal, or gossip in
the little town which watches her with
all its eyes from all its windows.

"Mrs. Amandon was a type of this
rare race, but charming. Never had
anyone suspected her, never had any-
one thought that her life was not as
limpid as her look, a sly look, trans-
parent and warm, but seemingly so
honest — ^you should have seen it!

"Then she had admirable tact, a
marvelous ingenuity and power of in-
vention, and unbelievable simplicity.

"She picked all her lovers from the
army and kept them three years, the
time of their sojourn in the garrison.
In short, she not only had love, she
had sense.

"When some new regiment arrived at
Perthuis-le-Long, she carefully observed
all the officers between thirty and forty
years of age — for, before thirty one is
not discreet, and after forty, one is
often feeble.

"Oh! she knew the list of (^cers as
well as the colonel. She knew all, all
the habits, manners, instruction, educa-
tion, physical qualities, the power of
resistance to fatigue, the character,
whether patient or violent, the fortune,
and the tendency to closeness or prod-


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igality of each of them. Then she
made her choice. She gave the pref-
erence to men of cahn allurement, like
herself, but they must be handsome.
She also wished them to have had no
previous entanglements, any passion
having the power to leave traces, or
that had made any trouble. Because
the man whose loves are mentioned is
never a very discreet man.

"After having decided upon the one
she would love for the three years of
his regulation sojourn, it only remained
to throw down the gauntlet.

**While some women would find them-
selves embarrassed, would have taken
ordinary means, following the way of
others, having court paid them in
marked-off stages of conquest and re-
sistance, allowing her fingers to be kissed
one day, her wrist the next, her cheek
the foUowing, then the lips, then the
rest, she had a method more prompt,
more discreet, and more sure. She gave
a ball.

"The chosen officer was invited to
dance with the mistress of the house.
Then, in waltzing, led on by the rapid
movement, bewildered by the intoxica-
tion of the dance, she would throw her-
self against him as if giving herself, and
hold his hand with a nervous, con-
tinued pressure.

"If he did not comprehend, he was
only a fool, and she passed on to the
next, classed as number two, on the
list of her desires.

"If he comprehended, the thing was
done, without fuss, without compromis-
ing gallantries, without numerous visits.

"What could be more simple or more

"How women might make use of a

process similar to this to make us un-
derstand their pleasure! How much it
would suppress difficulties, hesitations,
and trouble from misunderstandings!
How often we pass by, without knowing
it, a possible happiness, — ^without sus-
pecting it, because we are unable to pen-
etrate the mystery of thought, the se-
cret abandon of the will, the mute ap-
peal of the flesh, the unknown soul of
a woman whose mouth preserves si-
lence, whose eye is impenetrable and

"When the chosen one comprehended,
he asked for a rendezvous. But she al-
ways made him wait a month or six
weeks in order to watch and be sure that
he had no dangerous faults.

"During this time he was racking
his brain to think of some place where
they could meet without peril, and
imagining combinations difficult and un-

"Then, at some official feast, she
would say to him in a low voice:

" *Come Tuesday evening, at nine
o'clock, to the Golden Horse hotel near
the ramparts, on the Vouziers road, and
ask for Miss Clarisse. I shall be wait-
ing for you. And be sure to be in civil

"For eight years she had in fact
rented this furnished room by the year,
in this obscure inn. It was an idea of
her first lover which she found practical,
and after the man departed, she kept
the nest.

"Oh! it was a mediocre nest; four
walls covered with gray paper adorned
with blue flowers, a pine bedstead un-
der muslin curtains, an armchair
bought at her order by the innkeeper's
wife, two chairs, and some necessary

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articles for the toilette, — ^what more was

"Upon the walls were three large
photographs. Three colonels on horse-
back; the colonels of her lovers! Why
not? It would not do to preserve the
true likeness, the exact likeness, but
she could perhaps keep some souvenirs
by proxy.

"And she had never been recognized
by anyone in all these visits to the
Golden Horse, you ask?

"Never, by anyone!

"The means she employed were ad-
mirable and simple. She had thought
out and organized some charity re-
unions and religious meetings, some of
which she attended, others she did not.
Her husband, knowing her good works,
which cost him dear, lived without sus-
picions. Then, when a rendezvous had
been agreed upon, she would say at din-
ner, before the servants:

" *I am going this evening to the As-
sociation for making flannel bandages
for old paralytics.'

"And she went out about eight o'clock,
went straight to the Association, came
out again very soon, passed through
divers streets, and, finding herself alone
in some little street, in some somber
comer without a light, she would take
off her hat, replace it by a maid's cap
which she carried under her mantle, fold
a kerchief after the same fashion and
tie it over her shoulders, carrying her
hat and the garment she had worn in
a nai^in; she would go trotting along,
full of courage, the hips uncovered, like
a good little maid thiat had been sent
upon some errand; and sometimes she
would even run, as if she were in a
great hurry.

"Who could have recognized in thia
trim servant the lively wife of President

"She would arrive at the Golden
Horse, go up to her room, of which
she had the key, and the big proprietor,
master Trouveau, seeing her pass his
desk, would murmur:

" There is Miss Clarisse coming to
meet some lover.'

"He had indeed guessed something,
the rogue, but did not try to learn more,
and he would certainly have been much
surprised to find that his client was Mrs.
Amandon, or Madame Marguerite, as
she was called in Perthuis-le-Long. And
this is how the horrible discovery took

"Never had Miss Clarisse come to
her meeting place two evenings in suc-
cession, never! being too nice and too
prudent for that. And master Trou-
veau knew this well, since not once in
eight years had he seen her come the
next day after a visit. Often, therefore,
in days of need, he had disposed of her
room for a night.

"Now, sometime last summer, Mr.
Amandon, the trustful president, ab-
sented himself from home for a week.
It was in July. Madame was ardently
in love, and as there was no fear of be-
ing surprised, she asked her lover, the
handsome Commander Varangelles, one
Tuesday evening on leaving him, if he
wished her to return the next day.

"He replied: *With aU my heart!'

"And it was agreed that they should
return at the usual hour on Wednesday.
She said to him in a low tone:

" *If you arrive first, my dear, you
can wait for me in bed.'

'*Then they embraced and separated.

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The next day, as master Trouveau sat
reading the Terthuis Tablet/ the Re-
publican organ of the town, he cried
out to his wife, who was plucking a
fowl in the courtyard:

" 'Here ! the cholera has broken out
in the country. There was a man died
yesterday of it in Vauvigny.' But he
thought no nlore about it, his inn being
full of people, and business very good.

"Toward noon a traveler presented
himself on foot, a kind of tourist, who
ordered a good breakfast, after having
drank two absinthes. And, as he was
very warm, he absorbed a bottle of wine
and two bottles of water at least. Then
he took his coffee and his little glass, or
rather three little glasses. And feel-
ing a little heavy, he asked for a room
where he might sleep for an hour or
two. There was no longer a vacant
room, and the proprietor, after consult-
ing his wife, gave him Miss Clarisse's.

"The man went in there and, toward
five o'clock as he had not been seen to
come out, the landlord went to wake
him. What was his astonishment to
find him dead!

"The innkeeper descended to find his
wife: *Say,' he whispered to her, *the
tourist I put in number 11, I believe
is dead.'

"She raised her arms, crying: *It's
not possible! Lord God! It is the

Master Trouveau shook his head:

" *I should sooner believe that it was
a cerebral congestion, seeing that he is

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 58 of 125)