Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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I did not at all understand what she
meant. My forehead was covered wkh
perspiration, so I took my pocket-hand-
kerdiief out of my helmet. She took
it and wiped my brow with it; then she
kissed me, and whispered: *'Then you

" * "I will do anything you like, Ma-
dame," I replied; "as that is what I
came for."

" Then she made herself clearly im-
derstood by her actions, and when I saw
what it was, I put my helmet on a chair
and showed her that in the dragoons a
man never retires, Captain.

" *Not that I cared much about is,
for she was certainly not in her prime,
but it is no good being too particular in
such a matter, as francs are scarce, and
then I have relations whom I like to
help. I said to myself: **There will be
five francs for my father, out of that."

"*When I had finished my allotted
task, Captain, I got ready to go, though
she wanted me to stop longer, but I
said to her:

" * "To everyone their due, Madame.
A small glass of brandy costs two sous,
and two glasses cost four."

" *She understood my meaning, and
put a gold ten-franc piece into my hand.
I do not like that coin. It is so small
that if your pockets are not very well
made, and come at all unsewn, one is apt
to find it in one's boots, or not to find
it at all, and so, while I was looking at
it, she was looking at me. She got
red in the face, as she had misunder-
stood my looks, and said: "Is not that

" * "I did not mean that, Madame,"
I replied; "but if it is all the same to
you, I would rather have two five-franc

pieces." And she gave them to me, and
I took my leave.

"#^This has been going on for a year
and a half. Captain. I go every Tues^
day evening, when you give me leave
to go out of barracks; she prefers that,
as her servant has gone to bed then, but
last week I was not well, and I had to
go into the infirmary. When Tuesday
came I could not get out, and I was
very vexed, because of the ten francs
which I had been receiving every week,
and I said to myself:

" * "If anybody goes there, I shall be
done for; and she will be sure to take
an artilleryman," and that made me
angry. So I sent for Paumelle, who
comes from my part of the country, and
I told him how matters stood:

" * "There will be five francs for you,
and five for me," I said. He agreed,
and went, as I had given him full in-
structions. She opened the door as soon
as he knocked, and let him in, and as
she did not look at his face, she did not
perceive that it was not I, for you know.
Captain, one dragoon is very like
another with a helmet on.

" 'Suddenly, however, she noticed th6
change, and she asked, angrily: **Who
are you? What do you want? I do not
know you."

" 'Then Paumelle explained matters,
he told her that I was not well, and that
I had sent him as my substitute ; so she
looked at him, made him also swear to
keep the matter secret, and then she
accepted him, as you may suppose, for
Paumelle is not a bad-looking fellow,
either. But when he came back. Cap-
tain, he would not give me my five
francs. If they had been for myself,
I should not have said a word; but

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they were for my father, and on that
score I would stand no nonsense, and
said to him:

" * "You are not particular in what
you do, for a dragoon; you are a dis-
credit to your uniform."

" *He raised his fist, Captain, saying
that fatigue duty like that was worth
double. Of course, everybody has his
own ideas, and he ought not to have
accepted it. You know the rest.'

"Captain d'Anglemare laughed imtil
he cried as he told me the story, but he
also made me promise to keep the mat-
ter a secret, just as he had promised the

two soldiers. So, above all, do not be-
tray me, but promise me to keep it to

"Oh! You may be quite easy about
that. But how was it all arranged in the

"How? It is a joke in a thousand!
Mother Bonderoi keeps her two dra-
goons, and reserves his own particular
day for each of them, and in that way,
everybody is satisfied.*'

"Oh! That is capital! Really capi-

"And he can send his old father and
mother the money as usual, and thus
morality is satisfied."

A Passion

The sea was brilliant and unruffled,
scarcely stirred, and on the pier the
entire town of Havre watched the ships
as they came on.

They could be seen at a distance, in
great numbers, some of them, the
steamers, with plumes of smoke; the
others, the sailing vessels, drawn by al-
most invisible tugs, lifting toward the
sky their bare masts, like leafless trees.

They hurried from every end of the
horizon toward the narrow mouth of the
jetty which devoured these monsters;
and they groaned, they shrieked, they
hissed while they spat out puffs of steam
like animals panting for breath.

Two young officers were walking on
the landing-stage, where a number of
people were waiting, saluting or return-
ing salutes, and sometimes stopping to

Suddenly, one of them, the taller,
Paul dTIenricol, pressed the arm of his
comrade, Jean Renoldi, then, in a whis-
per, said:

"Hallo, here-s Madame Poincot; give
a good look at her. I assure you that
she's making eyes at you."

She was moving along on the arm of
her husband. She was a woman of
about forty, very handsome still, slightly
stout, but, owing to her graceful full-
ness of figure, as fresh as she was at
twenty. Among her friends she was
known as the Goddess, on account of
her proud gait, her large black eyes,
and the air of nobility attached to her
person. She remained irreproachable;
never had the least suspicion cast a
breath on her life's purity. She was
regarded as the very type of a virtuous,
uncorrupted woman — so upright that no

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man had ever dared to think of her.

And yet for the last month Paul
d'Henricol had been assuring his friend
Renoldi that Madame Poincot was in
love with him, and he maintained that
there was no doubt of it.

"Be sure I don't deceive myself. I
see it clearly. She loves you — she loves
you passionately, like a chaste woman
who had never loved. Forty years is a
terrible age for virtuous women when
they possess senses; they become fool-
ish, and commit utter follies. She is
Wt, my dear fellow; she is falling like
% wounded bird, and is ready to drop
into your arms. I say — ^just look at

The tall woman, preceded by her two
daughters, aged twelve and fifteen years,
suddenly turned pale, on her approach,
as her eyes lighted on the officer's face.
She gave him an ardent glance, concen-
trating her gaze upon him, iand no longer
seemed to have any eyes for her chil-
dren, her husband, or any other person
around her. She returned the saluta-
tion of the two young men without low-
ering her eyes, glowing with such a flame
that a doubt, at last, forced its way
into Lieutenant Renoldi's mind.

His friend said, in the same hushed
voice: "I was sure of it. Did you not
notice her this time? By Jove, she is
a nice woman!"

But Jean Renoldi had no desire for
a society intrigue. Caring little for love,
he longed, above all, for a quiet life, and
contented himself with occasional
amours such as a young man can always
have. All the sentimentality, the atten-
tions, and the tenderness which a well-
bred woman exacts bored him. The

chain, however slight it might be, which
is always formed by an adventure of
this sort, filled him with fear. He said:
*'At the end of a month I'll have had
enough of it, and I'll be forced to wait
patiently for six months through polite-

Then a rupture would exasperate him,
with the senses, the illusions, the cling-
ing attachment, of the abandoned

He avoided meeting Madame Poincot.

But one evening he found himself by
her side at a dinner-party, and he felt
on his skin, in his eyes, and even in his
heart, the burning glance of his fair
neighbor. Their hands met, and almost
involuntarily were pressed together in a
warm clasp. Already the intrigue was
almost begun. •

He saw her again, always in spite of
himself. He realized that he was" loved.
He felt himself moved by a kind of
pitying vanity when he saw what a vio-
lent passion for him swayed this wo-
man's breast. So he allowed himself to
be adored, and merely displayed gallan-
try, hoping that the affair would be only

But, one day, she made an appoint*
ment with him for the ostensible purpose
of seeing him and talking freely to him.
She fell, swooning, into his arms; and
he had no alternative but to be her

And this lasted six months. She loved
him with an unbridled, panting love.
Absorbed in this frenzied passion, she
no longer bestowed a thought on any-
thing else. She surrendered herself to it
utterly; her body, her soul her reputa-
tion, her position, her happiness, — she
had cast all into that fire of her heart«

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as one casts, as a sacrifice, every preci-
ous object into a funeral pyre.

He had for some time grown tired of
her, and deeply regretted his easy con-
quest as a fascinating officer; but he
was bound, held prisoner. At every mo-
ment she said to him: *1 have given
you everything. What more would you
have?*' He felt a desire to answer:

"But I have asked nothing from you,
and I beg of you to take back what
you gave me."

Without caring about being seen, com-
promised, ruined she came to see him
every evening, her passion becoming
more inflamed each time they met. She
fltmg herself into his arms, strained him
in a fierce embrace, fainted under the
force of rapturous kisses which to him
were now terribly wearisome.

He said in a languid tone: "Look
Uere! be reasonable!"

She replied:

"I love you," and sank on her knees
gazing at him for a long time in an at-
titude of admiration. At length, exas-
perated by her persistent gaze, he tried
to make her rise.

"Sit down. Let us talk," he said.

She murmured: "No, leave me";
and remained there, her soul in a state
of ecstasy.

He said to his friend D'Henricol:

"You know, 'twill end by my beating
her. I won't have any more of it! It
must end, and that without further de-
lay!" Then he went on: *What do
you advise me to do?"

The other replied: "Break it off."

And Renoldi added, shrugging his

**You speak indifferently about the
matter; you believe that it is easy to

break with a woman who tortures you
with attention, who annoys you with
kindness, who persecutes you with her
affection, whose only care is to please
you, and whose only wrong is that she
gave herself to you in spite of you."

But suddenly, one morning the news
came that the regiment was about to be
removed from the garrison. Renoldi be^
gan to dance with joy. He was saved!
Saved without scenes, without cries!
Saved! All he had to do now was to
wait patiently for two months more.
Saved !

In the evening she came to him more
excited than she had ever been before.
She had heard the dreadful news, and,
without taking off her hat, she caught
his hands and pressed them nervously,
with her eyes fixed on his and her voice
vibrating and resolute.

"You are leaving," she said; "I know
it. At first, I felt heartbroken; then, I
understood what I had to do. I don't
hesitate about doing it. I have come to
give you the greatest proof of love that
a woman can offer. I follow you. For
you I am abandoning my husband, my
children, my family. I am ruining my-
self, but I am happy. It seems to me
that I am giving myself to you over
again. It is the last and the greatest
sacrifice. I am yours forever!"

He felt a cold sweat down his back,
and was seized with a dull and violent
rage, the anger of weakness. However,
he became calm, and, in a disinterested
tone, with a show of kindness, he re-
fused to accept her sacrifice, tried to
appease her, to bring her to reason, to
make her see her own folly! She lis-
tened to him, staring at him with her
great black eyes and with a smile oil

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disdain on her lips, and said not a word
in reply. He went on talking to her,
and when, at length, he stopped, she said

"Can you really be a coward? Can
you be one of those who seduce a woman
and then throw her over, through sheer

He became pale, and renewed his ar-
guments; he pointed out to her the in-
evitable consequences of such an action
to both of them as long as they lived —
how their lives would be shattered and
how the world would shut its doors
against them. She replied obstinately:
"What does it matter when we love each
other?" Then, all of a sudden, he burst
out furiously:

"Well, then, I will not. No — do you
understand? I will not do it, and I for-
bid you to do it." Then carried away
by the rancorous feeling which had
seethed within him so long, he relieved
his heart:

"Ah ! danm it all, you have now been
sticking on to me for a long time in
5pite of myself, and the best thing for
you now is to take yourself off. I'll be
much obliged if you do so, upon my

She did not answer him, but her livid
(countenance began to look shriveled up,
Ibls if all her nerves and muscles had
been twisted out of shape. And she
went away without saying good-bye.

The same night she poisoned herself.

For a week she was believed to be in
a hopeless condition. And in the city
people gossiped about the case, and
pitied her, excusing her sin on account
of the violence of her passion, for over-
strained emotions, becoming heroic
through their intensity, always obtain

forgiveness for whatever is blame%
worthy in them. A woman who kills
herself is, so to speak, not an adulteress.
And ere long there was a feeling of gen-
eral reprobation against Lieutenant
Renoldi for refusing to see her again — a
imanimous sentiment of blame.

It was a matter of common talk that
he had deserted her, betrayed her, ill
treated her. The Colonel, overcome by
compassion, brought his officer to book
in a quiet way. Paul d'Henricol called
on his friend: "Deuce take it, Renoldi,
it's a damnable shame to let a woman
die; it's not the right thing anyhow."

The other, enraged, told him to hold
his tongue, whereupon DUenricol made
use of the word "infamy." The result
was a duel, Renoldi was wounded, to
the satisfaction of everybody, and was
for some time confined to his bed.

She heard about it, and only loved
him the more for it, believing that it
was on her account he had fought the
duel; but, as she was too ill to move,
she was unable to see him again before
the departure of the regiment.

He had been three months in Lille
when he received, one morning, a visit
from the sister of his former mistress.

After long suffering and a feeling of
dejection, which she could not conquer,
Madame Poincot's life was now de-
spaired of, and she merely asked to see
him for a minute, only for a minute,
before closing her eyes forever.

Absence and time had appeased the
young man's satiety and anger; he was
touched, moved to tears, and he started
at once for Havre.

She seemed to be in the agonies of
death. They were left alone together;
and by the bedside of this womafi whom

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he now believed to be dying and whom
lie blamed himself for killing, though
it was not by his own hand, he was
fairly crushed with grief. He burst out
sobbing, embraced her with tender, pas-
sionate kisses, more lovingly than he had
ever done in the past. He murmured
in a broken voice :

"No, no, you shall not die! You shall
get better! We shall love each other
forever — forever ! "

She said in famt tones:

"Then it is true. You do love me,
after all?''

And he, in his sorrow for her misfor-
tunes, swore, promised to wait till she
had recovered, and full of loving pity,
kissed again and again the emaciated
hands of the poor woman whose heart
was panting with feverish, irregular

The next day, he returned to the

Six weeks later she went to meet him,
quite old-looking, unrecognizable, and
more enamored than ever.

In his condition of mental prostration,
he consented to live with her. Then,
when they remained together as if they
had been legally united, the same col-
onel who had displayed indignation with
him for abandoning her, objected to this
irregular connection as being incompat-
ible with the good example officers
ought to give in a regiment. He warned
the lieutenant on the subject, and then
furiously denounced his conduct, so
Renoldi retired from the army.

He went to live in a village on the
shore of the Mediterranean, the classic
sea of lovers.

And three years passed. Renoldi,
i)ent under the yoke, wa* vanquished.

and became accustomed to the woman's
unchanging devotion. His hair had now
turned white.

He looked upon himself as a man
done for, gone imder. Henceforth, he
had no hope, no ambition, no satisfac-
tion in life, and he looked forward to
no pleasure in existence.

But one morning a card was placed in
his hand, with the name — "Joseph Poin-
cot, Shipowner, Havre.**

The husband! The husband, who
had said nothing, realizing that there
was no use in struggling against the
desperate obstinacy of women. What
did he want?

He was waiting in the garden, having
refused to come into the house. Hd
bowed politely, but would not sit down,
even on a bench in a gravel-path, and
he commenced talking clearly and

"Monsieur, I did not come here to
address reproaches to you. I know too
well how things happened. I have been
the victim of — we have been the vic-
tims of — a kind of fatality. I would
never have disturbed you in your retreat
if the situation had not changed. I have
two daughters. Monsieur. One of them,
the elder, loves a young man, and is
loved by him. But the family of this
young man is opposed to the marriage,
basing their objection on the situation of
— ^my daughter's mother. I have no
feelmg of either anger or spite, but I
love my children, Monsieur. I have,
therefore, come to ask my wife to re-
turn home. I hope that to-day she wiU
consent to go back to my house — to her
own house. As for me, I will make a
show of having forgotten, for — for the
sake of mv daughters."

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Renoldi felt a wild movement in his
heart, and he was inundated with a de-
lirium of joy like a condenmed man
who receives a pardon.

He stammered: "Why, yes— cer-
tainly, Monsieur— I myself— be assured
of it— no doubt— it is right, it is only
quite right."

This time M. Poincot no longer de-
clined to sit down.

Renoldi then rushed up the stairs, and
pausing at the door of his mistress's
room, to collect his senses, entered

"There is somebody below waiting to
see you," he said. " Tis to teU you
something about your daughters."

She rose. "My daughters? What
about them? They are not dead?"

He replied: "No; but a serious sit-
uation has arisen, which you alone can

She did not wait to hear more, but
rapidly descended the stairs.

Then he sank down on a chair, greatly
moved, and waited.

He waited a long, long time. Then
he heard angry voices below stairs, and
made up his mind to go down.

Madame Poincot was standing up ex-
asperated, just on the point of going
away, while her husband had seized hold
of her dress, exclaimmg: "But remem-
ber that you are destroying our daugh-
ters, your daughters, our children!'*

She answered stubbornly:

"I will not go back to you!**

Renoldi understood everything, came
over to them in a state of great agita-
tion, and gasped:

"What, does she refuse to go?*'

She turned toward him, and, with 8<
kind of shamefacedness, addressing him
without any familiarity of tone in the
presence of her legitimate husband, said:

"Do you know what he asks me to
do? He wants me to go back, and live
under one roof with him!"

And she tittered with a profound dis-
dain for this man, who was appealing to
her almost on his knees.

Then Renoldi with the determination
of a desperate man playing his last card
began talking to her in his turn, and
pleaded the cause of the poor girls, the
cause of the husband, his own cause.
And when he stopped, trying to find
some fresh argument, M. Poincot, at his
wits' end, murmured, in the affectionate
style in which he used to speak to her
in days gone by:

"Look here, Delphine! Think of your

Then she turned on both of them a
glance of sovereign contempt, and, after
that, flying with a bound toward the
staircase, she flung at them these scorn-
ful words:

"You are a pair of wretches!"

Left alone, they gazed at each other
for a moment, both equally crestfallen,
equally crushed. M. Poincot picked up
his hat, which had fallen down near
where he sat, dusted c*! his knees the
signs of kneeling on the floor, then rais-
ing both hands sorrowfully, while
Renoldi was seeing him to the door^ re-
marked with a parting bow:

"We are very imfortunate. Monsieur.**

Then he walked away from the house
with a heavy step.

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A YOUNG and charming lady, who
was a member of the Viennese aristoc-
racy, went last summer, without her
husband, as many young and charming
ladies do, to a fashionable Austrian
watering place, Karlsbad, much fre-
quented by foreigners.

As is usually the case in their rank
of life, she had married from family
considerations and for money; and the
short spell of love after marriage was
not sufl&cient to take deep root. After
she had satisfied family traditions and
her husband's wishes by giving birth to
a son and heir, they both went their
way; the young, handsome, and fas-
cinating man to his clubs, to the race-
course, and behind the scenes at the
theaters, and his charming, coquettish
wife to her box at the opera, to the
south in winter, and to some fashionable
watering-place in the summer.

On the present occasion she brought
with her from one of the latter resorts a
young, very highly-connected Pole who
enjoyed all the rights and the liberty of
an avowed favorite, and performed all
the duties of a slave.

As is usual in such cases, the lady
rented a small house in one of the
suburbs of Vienna, had it beautifully
furnished, and received' her lover there.
She was always dressed very attrac-
tively, sometimes as *T,a Belle Helene"
in Offenbach's opera, only rather more
after the ancient Greek fashion; another
time as an odalisque in the Sultan's
harem, and another time as a light-
hearted Suabian girl, and so forth. In
winter, however, she grew tired of such
meetings, and as she wanted to have
matters arranged more comfortably she

took it into her head to receive her lover
in her own house. But how was it to
be done?

That, however, gave her no particular
difficulty, as is the case with every wo-
man, when once she has made up her
mind to a thing. After thinking it over
for a day or two she went to the next
rendezvous, with a fully prepared plan
of war.

The Pole was one of those types of
handsome men which are rare. He was
almost womanly in the delicacy of his
features, of middle height, sHm, and
well-made, and resembled a youthful
Bacchus who might very easily be made
to pass for a Venus by the help of false
locks — the more so as there was not
even the slightest down on his lips. The
lady, therefore, who was very fertile in
resources, suggested to the handsome
Pole that he might just as well trans-
form himself into a handsome Polish
lady, so that he might, under cover of
the feminine, be able to visit her un-
disturbed. As it was winter, a thick,
heavy, voluminous dress assisted the

The lady, accordingly, bought a num-
ber of very beautiful costumes for her
lover, and in the course of a few days
told her husband that a charming young
Polish lady, whose acquaintance she had
made in the summer at Karlsbad, was
going to spend the winter in Vienna,
and would very frequently come and see
her. Her husband listened to her with
the greatest indifference, for it was one
of his fundamental rules never to make
love to any of his wife's female friends.
He went to his club as usual at night.


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and the next dty had forgotten all about
the Polish lady.

Half an hour after the husband had
left the house, a cab drove up, and a
tall, slim, heavily veiled lady got out and
went up the thickly carpeted stairs, only

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 62 of 125)