Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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id. These great ones generally conceal



an excellent character, a goodness that
approaches weakness and a gentleness
that borders on timidity.

And then, above all else, why I adore
a mustache is because it is French. It
has descended to us from our fathers,
the Gauls, and has continued as a sign
of our national character.

It is romantic, gallant, and brave. It
dips itself daintily in wine and knows
how to laugh with elegance, while large
bearded jaws are heavy in all that they
do.

Wait! I recall something which made
me weep bitter tears, and which also
made me love a mustache upon a man's
lip, as I now plainly see.

It was during the war, when I was at
home in papa's house. I was a young
girl then. One day there was a battle
near the house. Since morning I had
heard cannons and guns and, in the
evening, a German colonel entered our
house and installed himself there. He
went away the next day. They came
to tell my father that there had been
many deaths on the field. He went to
find them and bring them home, in or-
der to bury them together. They laid
them all along the avenue of pines, on
both sides, from the stretcher on which
they brought them. And, as they com-
menced to smell badly, they threw some
earth on the bodies to await the digging
of the great ditch. In this way only
their heads were to be seen, which
seemed to come up out of the soil, yel-
low as the soil itself, with their eyes
closed.

I wished to see them; but when I per-
ceived these two lines of frightful faces,
I thought it would make me ill. I be-
gan to examine them, however, on9



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



by one, seeking to find out to what na-
tion they belonged. Their uniforms
were buried, concealed by the earth, but
immediately, yes, immediately, my dear,
I recognized them as Frenchmen by
their mustaches !

Some had been shaved the day of the
battle, as if wishing to be attractive to
the last moment! Their beard, never-
theless, had grown a little, for you know
it grows a little even after death.
Others seemed to have gone a week
without shaving; but all wore the French
mustache, distinctly, the proud mus-



tache which seemed to say: "Do not
confound me with my bearded friend,
little one, I am your brother."

And I wept, oh! I wept more than if
I had not thus recognized them, the
poor dead men!

I did wrong to tell you this story.
Here I am now, sad and incapable of
chatting any more. Adieu, then, my
dear Lucy; I embrace you with all my
heart. Long live the mustache!

Jeanne.
Submitted to Guy de Maupassant.



A Fair Exchange



M. BoNTRAM, the celebrated Parisian
advocate who for the last ten years had
obtained many separations between
badly matched husbands and wives,
opened the door of his ofl5ce and stood
back to allow a new client to enter.

He was a large, red man, with close,
blond whiskers, a corpulent man, full-
blooded and vigorous. He bowed.

"Take a seat," said the advocate.

The client was seated and, after some
hemming, said:

"I came to ask you, sir, to plead a di-
vorce, case for me."

"Speak, sir," said the advocate, "I
am listening."

"I am, sir, an old notary."

"Already!"

"Yes, already. I am thirty-seven
years of age."

"Continue."

"Sir, I have made an imfortunate
marriage, very imfortunate."



"You are not the only one."
"I know it, and I pity the others.
But my case is entirely different, and my
complaint against my wife is of a very
particular nature. I will commence at
the marriage rite. I was married in
strange fashion. Do you believe in dan-
gerous ideas?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Do you believe that certain ideas are
as dangerous for the mind as poison is
to the body?"

"Well, yes, perhaps."
"It is certain. There are ideas which
enter into us, corrode us, and kill us
or render us mad, if we do not know
how to resist them. Tliey are a sort of
poison to the soul. If we have the mb«-
f ortune to allow one of these thoughts to
glide in upon us, if we do not perceive
at the beginning that it is an invader,
a mistress, a tyrant, then it will extend
itself hour by hour and day by day, will



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475



keep returning and finally install itself,
driving out all ordinary occupation of
our minds, absorbing our attention,
changing our views and our judgment
until we are lost.

"That is what happened to me, sir.
As I have told you, I am a notary at
Rouen, not poor but in straitened cir-
cumstances, full of care, forced to a
constant economy, obliged to limit my
tastes, yes, in everythmg! And it is
hard, at my age.

"As a notary, I read, with great care,
the advertisements on four pages of
the newspapers, the wants, offers, little
correspondence, etc., etc., and I had
been enabled sometimes by this means
to make advantageous marriages for my
clients.

One day, I fell upon this:

"'A pretty girl, fashionable, well
brought up, would marry honorable
gentleman and bring him two million five
hundred thousand francs, clear. No
agencies.'

"On that very day I dined with two
friends, one an attorney and the other
the proprietor of a spinning mill. I
don't know how the conversation turned
to marriages, but I told them, laughing,
about the pretty young lady with the
two million five hundred thousand
francs.

"The spinner said: 'What can these
women be thinking of?'

"The attorney affirmed that he had
several times seen excellent marriages
made under these conditions, and gave
some details. Then he added, turning
to me: *Why the devil don't you look
this up for yourself? Jove! that would
drive away care, two million five hun-
dred thousand francs,'



"We all three laughed over it and
then spoke of other things. An hour
later I returned home.

"It grew cold that night. Besides,
I lived in an old house, one of those old
houses of the provinces which resemble
mushroom-beds. In taking hold of the
iron balustrade of the staircase, a cold-
ness penetrated my arm, and as I put
out the other to find the wall, in coming
in contact with it, a second shiver en-
veloped me, joining with the other in
my lungs, filling me with pain, with sad-
ness, and weakness. And, seized by a
sudden remembrance, I murmured:
*Gad! if I only had the two million five
hundred thousand!'

"My room was dreary, the room of a
bachelor in Rouen, which is taken care
of by a maid who is also in charge of the
kitchen. You know that kind of room!
A great bed without curtains, a ward-
robe, a commode, and a dressing table;
no fire. Some coats were on the chairs,
papers on the floor. I began to sing,
to the air of a concert-hall tune that I
frequently heard about that time:

" Two millions, two millions
Are fine.
With five hundred thousand
And woman divine.'

"In fact I had not yet thought about
the woman, but I thought of her then as
I was sliding into my bed. I even
thought of her so much that I was a
long time getting to sleep.

"The next day, on opening my eyes,
I remembered that I ought to be at
Dametal at eight o'clock on important
business. To do this I must be up at
six-^and it was cold! Only think of
two million five hundred thousand!



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



"I returned to my study about ten
o'clock. In it was the odor of the red-
hot stove, of old papers, with the pa-
pers of advance proceedings, — ^nothing
can equal these,— and an odor of clerks
— ^boots, overcoats, hair, and skin, skin
in wmter, too little bathed, and all
heated to seventy degrees.

"I breakfasted, as I do every day,
on a cutlet and a piece of cheese. Then
I put myself to work. For the first
time, I then began to think seriously of
the pretty young lady with the two mil-
lion five hundred thousand. Who was
she? Why not write to her? Why not
find out?

"Finally, sir, to abridge, for two
weeks this idea haunted me, possessed
me, and tortured me. All my little
cares and troubles, of which I had plenty
but had thought little about before this
time, began to sting me now like the
sharp points of needles, and each of
my sufferings made me think still more
of the pretty young lady with the two
millions.

"I ended by imagining all her history.
When one desires a thing, sir, he is very
apt to figure it as he hopes it to be.
Certainly it was not natural that a young
girl of good family, dowered in such a
generous fashion, should be seeking a
husband by means of the newspapers.
Yet, it might be that this girl was hon-
orable but unhappy.

"Then, at first this fortime of two
million five hundred thousand had not
struck me as anything fairylike. We are
accustomed, we who read the offers of
this nature, to propositions of marriage
accompanied by six, eight, ten, or even
twelve millions. The figure of twelve
millions is common enough. It pleases.



I know well that we can scarcely believe
the validity of these promises. They,
however, make us enter into the spirit
of fantastic numbers, render probable,
up to a certain point in our listless
credulity, the prodigious sums which
they represent and dispose us to con*
sider a dowry of two million five hun-
dred thousand as very possible and
right.

"Then a young girl, the natural child
of a rich man and a chambermaid, hav-
ing suddenly inherited from her father,
could have learned at the same time of
the stain upon her birth, and in order
not to have to reveal it to some man
whom she might have loved, she might
make an appeal to the unknown by this
means, which carries in itself a sort of
avowal of defect.

"My supposition was stupid. I be-
lieved in it, nevertheless. We notaries
ought never to read romances, but I
read one in this, sir.

"Then I wrote, as a notary, in the
name of a client, and I waited. Five
days later, toward three o'clock in the
afternoon, when I was hard at work in
my office, the chief clerk annoimced:

" 'Mile. Chantefrise.'

" Xet her come in.'

"There appeared a woman about
thirty, a little stout, dark, and some-
what embarrassed.

" *Be seated, Mademoiselle.'

"She sat down, and murmured: *lt
is I, sir.'

" 'But I have not the honor of know-
ing you.'

" 'The person to whom you wrote-*

"'About a marriage?'

" 'Yes, sir.'

" 'Ah! very well!'



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477



" *I have come myself because I
thought it better to attend to those
things in person.'

"*I am of your opinion, Mademoi-
selle. And so you desire to marry?'

" *Yes, sir.'

" *You have some family?*

"She hesitated, lowered her eyes,- and
stammered: *No, sir. My mother and
my father — are dead.'

"I started. Then I had guessed right
— ^and a lively sympathy was suddenly
awakened in my heart for this poor
creature. I could not altogether spare
her delicacy of feeling and I inquired:

" *Your fortune is in your own right?'

"She responded this time without
hesitating: *0h! yes, sir!'

"I looked at her with close attention
and truly she did not displease me, only
a little hard, harder, than I would have
liked. She was a beautiful person, a
strong person, a masterly woman. And
the idea came to me of playing with her
a little comedy of sentiment, of becom-
ing her lover, of supplanting my im-
aginary client, when I was once assured
that the dowry was not illusory. I
spoke to her of this client whom I de-
picted as a sad man, very honorable,
but a little of an invalid.

"She said vivaciously: *OhI sir, I
love people to be well.'

" *But you will see him — only not for
three or four days, because he left for
England yesterday.'

" *0h! how annoying,' she replied.

" 'Well, yes and no. Are you in a
hurry to return home?'

« 'Not at aU.'

" 'Then stay here, and I will attempt
to make the time pass pleasantly for
you.'



" *You are very amiable, sir.'

'* *You are at some hotel?'

'*She named the best hotel in Rouen.

"'Well, then, Madmoiselle Chante-
frise, will you permit your future —
notary to offer to take you to dinner
this evening?'

'*She appeared to hesitate, seemed dis-
turbed, and undecided. Then she said:
'Yes, sir.'

" *I will be at your hotel at seven
o'clock.'

" 'Yes, sir.'

" 'Then until this evening, Mademoi-
sene?'

" 'Yes, sir.'

"And I conducted her as far as my
door.

"At seven o'clock I was at her hotel.
She had made a fresh toilette for me
and received me in a very coquettish
fashion. I took her to dine in a res-
taurant where I was known and ordered
a troublesome menu. An hour later we
were very friendly and she had told me
her story.

"She was the daughter of a great lady
seduced by a gentleman, and she had
been brought up among peasants. She
was rich now, having inherited large
sums from her father and from her
mother, whose name she would never
divulge, never. It was useless to ask it
of her, useless to beg, she would never
tell it. As I cared little to know these
things, I asked about her fortune. She
spoke about it like a practical woman,
sure of herself, sure of her figures, of
her titles, of her income, her interest,
and investments. Her understanding of
these matters gave me great confidence
in her, and I became gallant, with some



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478



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



reserve, nevertheless. But I showed her
clearly that I had a liking for her.

*'She affected an excessive refinement,
not without grace. I offered her some
champagne, and I drank some, which
blurred my ideas. I then felt clearly
that I was going to be entrapped, and I
was afraid, afraid of myself and afraid
of her, afraid that she was not moved
and that she would not succumb. In
order to calm myself, I began again to
speak to her of her fortune, saying that
it would be necessary to precisely un-
derstand matters, since my client was a.
man of affairs.

"She answered with gaiety: *OhI I
know. I have brought all the proofs.'

'* *Here, to Rouen?'

" 'Yes, to Rouen.'

" *You have them at the hotel?'

" 'Yes, I have them all there.*

"'Could you show them to me?*

" 'Yes, indeed.'

" 'This evening?'

•"Yes, indeed.*

"That pleased me in every way. I
paid the score and we went back to the
hotel. She had, in fact, brought all her
certificates. I could not doubt them,
for I held them in my hands, felt them,
and read them. They put such a joy in
my heart that I suddenly felt a violent
desire to embrace her. I understood
this as a chaste desire, the desire of a
contented man. And I did embrace her,
in fact, once, twice, ten times — so much
that — ^with the aid of the champagne — ^I
succumbed — or rather — ^no— she suc-
cumbed.

"Ah! sir, I had a head after that, and
she! She wept like a fountain, begging
me not to expose her or she should be
lost. I promised all that she wished,



and I myself got into a terrible state
of mind.

"What was to be done? I had abused
my client's confidence. That would not
have been so bad if I had had a client
for her, but I had none. I was the
client, the simple client, the deceived
client, and deceived by herself. What
a situation ! I could let her go, it is true.
But the dowry, the handsome dowry,
the good dowry, palpable and sure! And
then, had I the right to let her go, the
poor girl, after having thus surprised
her? But what of the disquiet later on?
How much security would one have with
a woman who thus yielded?

"I passed a terrible night of indeci-
sion, tortured by remorse, ravaged by
fears, buffeted by every scruple. But
in the morning, my reason cleared. I
dressed myself with care, and, as eleven
o'clock struck, presented myself at the
hotel where she was staying.

"On seeing me, she blushed to the
eyes. I said to her: 'Mademoiselle
Chantefrise, there is only one thing to
do to repair our wrong. I ask your
hand in marriage.'

"She murmured: *I give it to you.'

"I married her and all went well for
six months. I had given up my office
and lived as a stockholder, and truly I
had not a reproach, not a single fault to
find with my wife.

"Then I noticed that, from time to
time, she made long visits. This hap-
pened on a certain day, one week Tues-
day, the next week Wednesday. I be-
gan to believe myself deceived and I
followed her. It was on a Tuesday. She
went out on foot about one o'clock into
Republic street, turned to the right, by



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THE TOBACCO SHOP



479



the street which follows the archiepis-
copal palace, and took Great-Bridge
street to the Seine, followed the wharf
up to Peter's bridge and crossed the
water. From this moment she appeared
disturbed, turning around often and
looking sharply at all passers.

"As I was dressed like a coal driver
she did not know me. Finally, she en-
tered a dock on the left bank. I no
longer doubted that her lover would ar-
rive on the one-forty-five train.

"I seated myself behind a dray and
waited. A blow of the whistle — a crowd
of passengers. She advanced, rushed
forward, seized in her arms a little girl
of three years, whom a large peasant
accompanied, and embraced her with
passion. Then she turned, perceived
another child, younger, either girl or boy,
it might be, carried by fjiother nurse,
threw herself upon it, drew it to her
with violence, and went along escorted
by the two monkeys and the two nurses



toward the long, somber, deserted prom-
enade of the Queen's Course.

"I returned home dismayed, distressed
in mind, comprehending and still not
comprehending, nor darmg to guess.
When she returned for dinner, I threw
these words at her:

" 'Whose children are those?*

" 'What children?' she asked.

" *Those that you waited at the Saint-
Sever train for.*

"She gave a great cry and fainted.
When she returned to consciousness she
confessed to me, in a deluge of tears,
that she had four. Yes, sir, two for
Tuesday, two girls, and two for Wed-
nesday, two boys.

"And this was — ^what shame ! this was
the origin of her fortune. The four
fathers! She had amassed her dowry!
Now sir, what do you advise me to
do?"

The advocate replied with gravity:
"Recognize your children, sir."



The Tobacco Shop



I WENT down to Barviller alone be-
cause I saw in the guidebook (I do not
remember which one): "A beautiful
museum, two Rubens, one Tenier, and a
Ribera.'' I thought to myself: "I will
see that. Then I will dine at the Hotel
Europe, which the guidebook affirms ex-
cellent, and return to-morrow."

The museum was closed. They only
opened it at the request of travelers.
It was opened for my benefit and
I was able to look upon some daubs
attributed by a whimsical collector to
the first masters of painting.



After that, I found myself alone with
absolutely nothing to do. I was in a
long street of a little unknown town,
a kind of artery, through which I wan-
dered, examining some of the poor
little shops. I foimd it was only four
o'clock, and I was suddenly seized with
that feeling of discouragement which
makes simpletons of the most energetic.

What could I do? Great heavens!
what was there to do? I would have
paid five hundred francs for some dis-
tracting idea. Finding myself barren of
invention. I simply decided to smoke a



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480



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



good cigar, and looked about for a
tobacco shop. I soon recognized one by
its red lantern and entered it. The
saleswoman held out several boxes for
me to choose from. Having looked
carefully at the cigars, all of which ap-
peared detestable, I turned by chance
and glanced at the proprietress.

She was a woman of about forty-five,
strong and gray-haired. She had a fat,
respectable face, in which I seemed to
see something familiar. Could I have
known this woman somewhere; No,
assuredly not. But it might be that I
had seen her somewhere? Yes, that was
possible. The face before me must
be an acquaintance of my eyes, some
old acquaintance lost to sight and, with-
out doubt, changed by being enormously
fattened.

I murmured: "Excuse, me, Madame,
for looking at you so closely, but it
seems to me that I have seen you be-
fore, long ago."

She responded, blushing a little: "It
is strange — ^but I also—"

I exclaimed: "Ah! so it goes!"

She raised both hands in a comical
despair, frightened by the sound of the
old name, and stammered: "Oh! oh!—
if anyone should hear you — " Then
suddenly she cried out, in her turn:
"Wait! It is you— George!'* Then she
looked around in terror to see if any-
one were listening. But we were alone,
all alone!

"So-it-Goes!" How had I ever recog-
nized her! "So-it-Goes," the poor "So-
it-Goes," the thin, the desolate "So-it-
Goes," transformed into this fat, tran-
quil functionary of the government?

"So-it-Goes!" How many memories
this name awakened in me: Bougival,



"The Frog," Chatou, the Foumaise
restaurant, long journeys in a yawl along
the steep banks, in short, ten years of
my life, passed in that corner of the
country, upon that delicious part of the
river.

There was a band of a dozen of us
inhabiting the Galopois house, at
Chatou, living a queer kind of life, half
nude and half tipsy. The customs of
canoeists have changed since then.
Now, these gentlemen wear monocles.

Our band was composed of twenty
canoeists, regular and irregular. On
certain Sundays there would only be
four of them, on others, all. That is
to say, some there were there to stay,
others came when they had nothing
better to do. Five or six of them lived
together, after the fashion of men with-
out wives, and among them dwelt "So-
it-Goes."

She was a poor, thin girl who limped.
This gave her some of the attractions
of a grasshopper. She was timid, awk-
ward, and unskillful in all that she did.
With fear, she attached herself to the
humblest, the most unnoticed of us,
anyone who would keep her a day or
a month, according to his means. How
she ever came to be among us, nobody
knew. Some one had met her one
evening at poker-dice, at a riverside
ball, and had been led into one of those
raffles for wives that were so much
the fashion. We invited her to limch,
seeing her seated alone at a little table
in the comer. No one could have
asked her, but she made a part of our
band.

We baptized her "So-it-Goes" {Qa
Ira), because she was already complain-
ing of her destiny, of her misfortune^



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THE TOBACCO SHOP



481



and her sorrows. Each Sunday morn-
ing they would say to her: "Well, *So-
it-Goes,' how goes it?" And she
would always answer: "Not so bad,
but we must always hope that it will
be better some day."

How this poor, ungraceful, awkward
being came to adopt the trade which
demands the most grace, tact, clever-
ness, and beauty, was a mystery. How-
ever, Paris is full of girls of love that
are ugly enough to disgust a policeman.

What did she do the other six days
of the week? She told us many times
that she worked. At what? We were
as ignorant of it as we were indifferent
to her existence.

After that, I nearly lost sight of her.
Our group had dispersed, little by little,
leaving its place to another generation,
to whom we also left *'Qa Ira," I heard
of her m going to breakfast at the
Foumaise from time to time.

Our successors, not knowing why we
had christened her as we did, believed
her name to be Oriental and called her
Zaira; then they bestowed her, with all
their canoes and some of the canoeists,
to the following generation. (A gener-
ation of canoeists generally lives three
years upon the water, then leaves the
Seine to enter the law, medicine, or
politics.)

Zaira had now become Zara, and later
Zara was modified into Sarah. Then
they thought she was an Israelite.

The last ones, those with the mono-
cles, called her simply "the Jewess."
Then she disappeared. And behold! I
had found her in Barviller, selling to-
bacco.

I said to her: "Well, how goes it
now?"



She answered: "A little better.**
I had a curiosity to know the life of
this woman. At any other time I would
not have cared; to-day I felt interested,
puzzled, attracted. I asked her: "How
did you come to get this place?"

"I don't know," said she, "it came
to me when I was expecting the least."

"Was it at Chatou that you came
upon it?"
"Oh! no.'*
"Then where?"

*'At Paris, in a hotel where I lived.**
"Ah! then you had a place in Paris?**
"Yes, I was with Madame Ravelet."
"Who is she, this Madame Ravelet?'*
"And you don't know who Madame
Ravelet is? WeUI"
"No, I do not."

"The dressmaker, the great dress-
maker of Rivoli street."

And then she told me a thousand
things of her former life, a thousand



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