Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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mean is that you have directed your
love to the wrong address, for Count-

"Do not speak of her; she is engaged
to another man."

"As long as I choose to permit it,*
she said; "but what will you do if I
bring her back to your arms? Will you
still call me cruel?"

"Can you do this?" the young officer
asked, in great excitement.

"Well supposing I can do it, what
shall I be then?"

"An angel, whom I shall thank on my

A few days later, the rivals met at a
coffee-house; the Greek prince began to
lie and boast, and the Austrian officer
gave him the lie direct. In consequence,
it was arranged that they should fight a
duel with pistols next morning in a
wood close to Baden. But as the officer
was leaving the house with his seconds
the next morning, a Police Commissary
came up to him and begged him not to
trouble himself any further about the
matter, but another time to be m«re
careful before accepting a challenge.

'What does it mean?" the officer
asked, in some surprise.

"It means that this Maurokordatos
is a dangerous swindler and adventurer,
whom we have just taken into custody."

"He is not a prince?"

"No; a circus rider."

An hour later, the officer received &
letter from the charming Countess, in
which she humbly begged for pardom

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The happy lover set off to go and see
her immediately, but on the way a sud-
den thought struck him, and so he

turned back in order to thank beautiful
Wanda, as he had promised, on his

The False Gems

M. Lantin had met the young wo-
man at a soirie, at the home of the
assistant chief of his bureau, and at first
sight had fallen madly in love with her.

She was the daughter of a country
physician who had died some months
previously. She had come to live in
Paris, with her mother, who visited
much among her acquaintances, in the
hope of making a favorable marriage
for her daughter. They were poor and
honest, quiet and unaffected.

The young girl was a perfect type of
the virtuous woman whom every sen-
sible young man dreams of one day
winning for life. Her simple beauty had
the charm of angelic modesty, and the
imperceptible smile which constantly
hovered about her lips seemed to be
the reflection of a pure and lovely soul.
Her praises resounded on every side.
People were never tired of saying:
"Happy the man who wins her love! He
could not find a better wife."

Now M. Lantin enjoyed a snug little
income of $700, and, thinking he could
safely assume the responsibilities of
matrimony, proposed to this model
young girl and was accepted.

He was unspeakably happy with her;
she governed his household so cleverly
and economically that they seemed to
live in luxury. She lavished the most
delicate attentions on her husband,

coaxed and fondled him, and the charm
of her presence was so great that six
years after their marriage M. Lantin
discovered that he loved his wife even
more than during the first days of their

He only felt inclined to blame her for
two things: her love of the theater, and
a taste for false ;ewelry. Her friends
(she was acquainted with some ofl&cers*
wives) frequently procured for her a
box at the theater, often for the first
representations of the new plays; and
her husband was obliged to accompany
her, whether he willed or not, to these
amusements, though they bored him ex-
cessively after a day's labor at the ofl&ce.

After a time, M. Lantin begged his
wife to get some lady of her acquain-
tance to accompany her. She was at
first opposed to such an arrangement;
but, after much persuasion on his part,
she finally consented — ^to the infinite de-
light of her husband.

Now, with her love for the theater
came also the desire to adorn her per*
son. True, her costumes remained as
before, simple, and in the most correct
taste; but she soon began to ornament
her ears with huge rhinestones which
glittered and sparkled like real
diamonds. Around her neck she wore
strings of false pearls, and on her arm*
bracelets of imitation gold.

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Her husband frequently remonstrated
with her, saying:

''My dear, as you cannnot afford to
buy real diamonds, you ought to appear
adorned with your beauty and modesty
alone, which are the rarest ornaments
of your sex."

But she would smile sweetly, and say:

"What can I do? I am so fond of
jewelry. It is my only weakness. We
cannnot change our natures."

Then she would roll the pearl neck-
laces around her fingers, and bold up
the bright gems for her husband's ad-
miration, gently coaxing him:

"Look! are they not lovely? One
would swear they were real."

M. Lantin would then answer,, snul-

"You have BoHeinian tastes, my

Often of an evening, when they were
enjoying a tete-a-tete by the fireside, she
would place on the tea table the
leather box containing the "trash," as
M. Lantin called it. She would examine
the false gems with a passionate atten-
tion as though they were in some way
connected with a deep and secret joy;
and she often insisted on passing a neck-
lace around her husband's neck, and
laughing heartily would exclaim: "How
droll you look!" Then she would throw
herself into his arms and kiss him affec-

One evening in winter she attended
the opera, and on her return was chilled
through and through. The next morn-
ing she coughed, and eight days later
she died of inflammation of the lungs.

M. Lantin's despair was so great that
Jus hair became white in one month. He
wept unceasinriy; his heart was torn

with grief, and his mind was haunted h^f
the remembrance, the smile, the voice —
by every charm of his beautiful, dead

Time, the healer, did not assuage his
grief. Often during office hours, while
his colleagues were discussing the topics
of the day, his eyes would suddenly fill
with tears, and he would give vent to
his grief in heartrending sobs. Every-
thing in his wife's room remained as
before her decease; and here he was
wont to seclude himself daily and think
of her who had been his treasure — the
joy of his existence.

But life soon became a struggle. His
income, which in the hands of his wife
had covered all household expenses, was
now no longer sufficient for his own
immediate wants ; and he wondered how
she could have managed to buy such ex-
cellent wines, and such rare delicacies,
things which he could no longer pro-
cure with his modest resources.

He incurred some debts and was soon
reduced to absolute poverty. One morn-
ing, finding himself without a cent in his
pocket, he resolved to sell something,
and, immediately, the thought occurred
to him of disposing of his wife's paste
jewels. He cherished in his heart a sort
of rancor against the false gems. They
had always irritated him in the past,
and the very sight of them spoiled
somewhat the memory of his lost dar-

To the last days of her life, she had
continued to make purchases; bringing
home new gems almost every evening.
He decided to sell the heavy necklace
which she seemed to prefer, and which,
he thought, ought to be worth about six
or seven francs; for although paste it

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was nevertheless, of very fine workman-

He put it in his pocket and started
out in search of a jeweler's shop. He
entered the first one he saw; feeling a
little ashamed to expose his misery, and
also to offer such a worthless article
for sale.

"Sir," said he to the merchant, "I
would like to know wha* this is worth."

The man took his necklace, examined
it, called his clerk and made some re-
marks in an undertone; then he put the
ornament back on the counter, and
looked at it from a distance to judge of
the effect.

M. Lantin was annoyed by all this
detail and was on the point of saying:
'*0h! I know well enough it is not worth
anything/' when the jeweler said: "Sir,
that necklace is worth from twelve to
5fteen thousand francs; but I could not
buy it unless you tell me now whence
it comes."

The widower opened his eyes wide
and remained gaping, not comprehend-
ing the merchant's meaning. Finally he
stammered: "You say — are you sure?"
The other replied dryly: "You can
search elsewhere and see if anyone will
offer you more. I consider it worth
fifteen thousand at the most. Come
back here if you cannot do better."

M. Lantin, beside himself with aston-
ishment, took up the necklace and left
the store. He wished time for reflec-

Once outside, he felt inclined to laugh,
and said to himself: "The fool! Had I
only taken him at his word! That
jeweler cannot distinguish real diamonds
from paste."

A few minutes after, he entered

another store in the Rue de la Paix. As
soon as the proprietor glanced at the
necklace, he cried out:

"Ah, par bleu! I know it well; it
was bought here."

M. Lantin was disturbed, and asked:

"How much is it worth?" ^

"Well, I sold it for twenty thousand
francs. I am willing to take it back
for eighteen thousand when you inform
me, according to our legal formality
how it comes to be in your possession."

This time M. Lantin was dum-
founded. He replied:

"But— but — examine it well. Until
this moment I was under the impression
that it was paste."

Said the jeweler:

"What is your name, sir?"

'Xantin — ^I am in the employ of the
Minister of the Interior. I live at No.
16 Rue des Martyrs."

The merchant looked through his
books, found the entry, and said: "That
necklace was sent to Mme. Lantin's ad-
dress, 16 Rue des Martyrs, July 20,

The two men looked into each other's
eyes — the widower speechless with
astonishment, the jeweler scenting a
thief. The latter broke the silence by

"Will you leave this necklace here for
twenty-four hours? I will give you a

"Certainly," answered M. Lantin,
hastily. Then, putting the ticket in his
pocket, he left the store.

He wandered aimlessly through the
streets, his mind in a state of dreadful
confusion. He tried to reason, to un-
derstand. He could not afford to pur-
chase such a costly ornament. Certainly

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not. But, then, it must have been a
present! — a, present! — a, present from
whom? Why was it given her?

He stopped and remained standing in
the middle of the street. A horrible
doubt entered his mind — she? Then all
the*other gems must have been presents,
too! The earth seemed to tremble be-
neath him, — the tree before him was
falling — ^throwing up his arms, he fell to
the ground, unconscious. He recovered
his senses in a pharmacy into which the
passers-by had taken him,. and was then
taken to his home. When he arrived he
shut himself up in his room and wept
until nightfall. Finally, overcome with
fatigue, he threw himself on the bed,
where he passed an uneasy, restless

The following morning he arose and
prepared to go to the ofl&ce. It was hard
to work after such a shock. He sent a
letter to his employer requesting to be
excused. Then he remembered that he
had to return to the jeweler's. He did
not like the idea; but he could not
leave the necklace with that man. So
he dressed and went out.

It was a lovely day; a clear blue
sky smiled on the busy city below, and
men of leisure were strolling about with
their hands in their pockets.

Observing them, M. Lantin said to
himself: "The rich, indeed, are happy.
With money it is possible to forget even
the deepest sorrow. One can go where
one pleases, and in travel ^nd that dis-
traction which is the surest cure for
grief. Oh! if I were only rich!"

He began to feel hungry, but his
pocket was empty. He again remem-
i»ered the necklace. Eighteen thousand

francs! Eighteoi thousand fxanott
What a sum !

He soon arrived in the Rue de la
Paix, opposite the jeweler's. Eighteen
thousand francs! Twenty times he re-
solved to go in, but shame kept hin»
back. He was hungry, however, — ^very-
hungry, and had not a cent in his poc-
ket. He decided quickly, ran across the
street in order not to have time for
reflection, and entered the store.

The proprietor immediately came for-
ward, and politely offered him a chair;
the clerks glanced at him knowingly.

"I have made inquiries, M. Lantin,'*
said the jeweler, "and if you are still re-
solved to dispose of the gems, I am
ready to pay you the price I offered."

"Certainly, sir,'* stammered M. Lan-

Whereupon the proprietor took from
a drawer eighteen large bills, counted
and handed th^n to M. Lantin, who
signed a receipt and with a trembling
hand put the maney into his pocket.

As he was about to leave the store,
he turned toward the merchant, who
still wore the same knowing smile, and
lowering his eyes, said:

"I have — I have other gems which I
have received from the same source.
Will you buy them also?"

The merchant bowed: "Certainly,

M. Lantin said gravely: "I will bring
them to you." An hour later he re-
turned with the gems.

The large diamond earrings were
worth twenty thousand francs; the
bracelets thirty-five thousand ; the rings,
sixteen thousand; a set of emeralds and
sapphires, fourteen thousand; a gold
chain with solitaire pendant, forty

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thousand^making the sum of one hun-
dred and forty-three thousand francs.

The jeweler remarked, jokingly:

"There was a person who invested all
her earnings in precious stones."
. M. Lantin replied, seriously:

"It is only another way of investing
one's money."

That day he lunched at Voisin's and
drank wine worth twenty francs a
bottle. Then he hired a carriage and
made a tour of the Bois, and as he
scanned the various turn-outs with a
contemptuous air he could hardly re-
frain from crying out to the occupants:

"I, too, am rich! — ^I am worth two
hundred thousand francs."

Suddenly he thought of his employer.
He drove up to tht office, and entered
gaily, saying:

"Sir, I have come to resign my posi«
tion. I have just inherited three hun«
dred thousand francs."

He shook hands with his former col-
leagues and confided to them some of
his projects for the future; then he went
off to dine at the Caf6 Anglais.

He seated himself beside a gentleman
of aristocratic bearing, and during the
meal informed the latter confidentially
that he had just inherited a fortune of
four hundred thousand francs.

For the first time in his life he was
not bored at the theater, and spent the
remainder of the night in a gay frolic.

Six months afterward he married
again. His second wife was a very
virtuous woman, with a violent temper.
She caused him much sorrow,

Countess Satan

They were discussing dynamite, the
social revolution, Nihilism, and even
those who cared least about politics had
something to say. Some were alarmed,
others philosophized, and others again
tried to smile.

"Bah!" N said, **when we are all

blown up, we shall see what it is like.
Perhaps, after all, it may be an amusing
sensation, provided one goes high

"But we shall not be blown up at all,"

G , the optimist, said, interrupting

him. "It is all a romance."

"You are mistaken, my dear fellow,"
Jules de C replied. "It is like a

romance, but with thiS cOnfound6d Ni-
hilism, everything is the same; it would
be a mistake to trust to it. For instance^
the manner in which I made Bakoun-
ine's acquaintance — "

They knew that he was a good narra-
tor, and it was no secret that his life had
been an adventurous one, so they drew
closer to him, and listened intently.
This is what he told them:


"I met Countess Nisoka W , that

strange woman who was usually called
Countess Satan, in Naples. I imme-
diately attached myself to her out of
curiosity, and soon fell in love with hec

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Not that she ix^as beautiful, for she was
a Russian with the bad characteristics
of the Russian type. She was thin and
squat at the same time, while her face
was sallow and puffy, with high cheek*
bones and a Cossack's nose. But her
conversation bewitched everyone.

"She was many-sided, learned, a phi-
losopher, scientifically depraved, satanic.
Perhaps the word is rather pretentious,
but it exactly expresses what I want to
lay, for in other words she Ipved evil
for the sake of evil. She rejoiced in
other people'sr vices; she liked to sow
the seed of evil» in order to see it
flourish. And that, too, by fraud on an
enormous scale. It was not enough for
her to corrupt individuals, she only did
that to keep her hand in; what she
wished to do was to corrupt the masses.
By slightly altering it after her own
fashion, she infght have used Caligula's
famous wish. She also might have
wished that the whole himian race had
but one head; not in order that she
might cut it off, but that she might
make the philosophy of Nihilism flourish

"What a temptation to become the
lord and master of such a monster! I
jdlowed myself to be tempted, and un-
dertook the adventure. The means
came unsought for by me, and the only
thing that I had to do was to show my-
self more perverted and satanic than she
was herself. And so I played the devil.

" 'Yes,' I said, *we writers are the best
workmen for doing evil, as our books
may be bottles of poison. The so-called
men of action only turn the handle of
the miltraUleuse which we have loaded.
Formulas will destroy the world, and it
if we who invent them/

" 'That is true,' said she, 'and that i?
what is wanting iix Bakoimine, I am
sorry to say.'

"That name was constantly in hel
mouth. So I asked her for details,
which she gave me, as she knew the man

" 'After all,' she said, with a con-
temptuous grimace, 'he is only a kind
of Garibaldi.'

"She told me, although she made fun
of him as she did so, about that
'Odyssey' of the barricades and of the
hulks which made up Bakounine's his*
tory, and which is, nevertheless, the ex-
act truth; about his adventures as chief
of the msurgents at Prague and then
at Dresden; of his first death sentence;
about his imprisonment at Olmiitz, in
the casemates of the fortress of St.
Peter and St. Paul, and in a subterra-
nean dungeon at Schiisselburg; about
his exile to Siberia and his wonderful
escape down the river harbour, on a
Japanese coasting-vessel, and about his
final arrival, by way of Yokohama and
San Francisco, in London, whence he
was directing all the operations of

" 'You see,' she said, 'he is a thorough
adventurer, and now all his adventures
are over. He got married at Tobolsk
and became a mere respectable, middle-
class man. And then he has no indi-
vidual ideas. Herzen, the pamphletcei
of "Kolokol," inspired him with the
only fertile phrase that he ever uttered:
"Land and Liberty!" But that is not
yet the definite formula, the general
formula — ^what I may call the d)mamitc
formula. At best, Bakoimine would
only become an incendiary, and bum
down cities. And what is that, I ask

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you? Bah! A second-hand Rostopt-
chin! He wants a prompter, and I
offered to become his, but he did not
take me seriously/

4t 4( ^ 4( 4( 4( 4(

"It would be useless to enter into all
the psychological details which marked
the course of my passion for the
Countess, and to explain to you more
fully the curious and daily growing
attraction which she had for me. It
was getting exasperating, and the more
so as she resisted me as stoutly as the
shyest of innocents could have done. At
the end of a month of mad Satanism,
I saw what her game was. Do you
know what she intended? She meant
to make me Bakounine's prompter, or,
At any rate, that is what she said. But
DO doubt she reserved the right to her-
self — at least that is how I understood
her — to iMTompt the prompter, and my
yassion for her, which she purposely left
unsatisfied, assured her that absolute
power over me.

"All this may appear madness to you,
but it is, nevertheless, the eract truth.
In short, one morning she blmitly made
the offer:

" 'Become Bakounine's soul, and you
shall possess me.'

"Of course I accepted, for it was too
fantastically strange to refuse. Don't
you think so? What an adventure!
What luck! A number of letters be-
tween the Countess and Bakounine pre-
pared the way; I was introduced to
him at his house, and they discussed
me there. I became a sort of Western
prophet, a mystic charmer who was
ready to nihilize the Latin races, the
Saint Paul of the new religion of noth-
ingness, and at last a day was fixed for

us to meet in London. He lived in a
small, one-storied house in Pimlico, with
a tiny garden in front, and nothing
noticeable about it.

"We were first of all shown into the
commonplace parlor of all English
homes, and then upstairs. The room
where the Countess and I were left was
small, and very badly furnished. It had
a square table with writing materials on
it, in the center of the room. This was
his sanctuary. The deity soon appeared,
and I saw him in flesh and bone — espe-
cially in flesh, for he was enormously
stout. His broad face, with prominent
cheek-bones, in spite of fat; a nose like
a double funnel; and small, sharp eyes,
which had a magnetic look, proclaimed
the Tartar, the old Turanian blood
which produced the Attilas, the Gen*
ghis-Khans, the Tamerlanes. The
obesity which is characteristic of nomad
races, who are always on horseback or
driving, added to his Asiatic look. The
man was certainly not a European, a
slave, a descendant of the diestic Aryans,
but a scion of the atheistic hordes who
had several times already overrun
Europe, and who, instead of ideas of
progress, have Nihilism buried in their

"I was astonished, for I had not ex-
pected that the majesty of a whole race
could be thus revived in a man, and my
stupefaction increased after an hour's
conversation. I could quite understand
why such a Colossus had not wished for
the Countess as his Egeria; she was a silly
child to have dreamed of acting such a
part to such a thinker. She had not
felt the profoundness of that horrible
philosophy which was hidden imder his
material activity, nor had she seen tho

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prophet under this hero of the barri-
cades. Perhaps he had not thought it
advisable to reveal himself to her; but
he revealed himself to me, and inspired
me with terror.

"A prophet? Oh I yes. He thought
himself an Attila, and foresaw the con-
sequences of his revolution; it was not
only from instinct but also from theory
that he urged a nation on to Nihilism.
The phrase is not his, but Turgenieff's,
I believe, but the idea certainly be-
longed to him. He got his programme
of agricultural communism from Her-
zen, and his destructive radicalism from
Pougatcheff, but he did not stop there.
I mean that he went on to evil for the
sake of evil. Herzen wished for the
happiness of the Slav peasant; Pougat-
cheff wanted to be elected Emperor, but
all that Bakounine wanted was to over-
throw the actual order of things, no
matter by what means, and to replace
social concentration by a universal up-

*lt was the dream of a Tartar; it was
true Nihilism pushed to extreme and
practical conclusions. It was, in a
word, the applied philosophy of chance,
the indeterminate end of anarchy.
Monstrous it may be, but grand in Its

"And you must note that the typical
man of action so despised by the
Coimtess was, in Bakounine, the gigan-
tic dreamer whom I have just shown to
you. His dream did not remain a
dream, but began to be realized. It was
by the care of Bakounine that the Nihil-
istic party became an entity; a party

in which there is a little of everything,
you know, but on the whole, a for-
midable party, the advanced guard of
which is true Nihilism, whose object is
nothing less than to destroy the Western
world, to see it blossom from under the
ruins of a general dispersion, the last
conception of modem Tartarism.

"I never saw Bakounine again, for
the Countesses conquest would have
been too dearly bought by any attempt
to act a comedy with this *01d-Man-of-
the-Mountain.' And besides that, after
this visit, poor Countess Satan appeaxed
to me quite silly. Her famous Satanism
was nothing but the flicker of a spirit-
lamp, after the general conflagration of
which the other had dreamed. She had

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 66 of 125)