Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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able to collect her thoughts, though at
moments she remembered a part of that
which had happened, and then she was
frightened at the idea of what might
happen. Her terror increased, and
every time the great kitchen clock struck
the hour, she broke into a perspiration
from grief. She lost her head, and had
a nightmare; her candle went out, and
then she began to imagine that some
one had thrown a spell over her, as
country people so often fancy, and she
felt a mad inclination to run away, to
escape and flee before her misfortime,
as a ship scuds before the wind.

An owl hooted, and she shivered, sat
up, put her hands to her face, into her
hair, and all over her body, and then
she went downstairs, as if ghe were
walking in her sleep. When she got into
the yard, she stooped down, so as not to
be seen by any prowling scamp, for the
moon, which was setting, shed a bright
light over the fields. Instead of open-
ing the gate, she scrambled over th<»
fence, and as soon as she was outside,
she started off. She went on straight



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46



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



before her, with a quick, elastic trot,
and from time to time, she unconsci-
ously uttered a piercing cry. Her long
shadow accompanied her, and now and
then some night-bird flew over her head,
while the dogs in the farmyards barked,
as they heard her pass. One even
jumped over the ditch, followed her,
and tried to bite her, but she turned
roimd at it, and gave such a terrible yell
that the frightened animal ran back,
and cowered in silence in its kennel.

The stars grew dim, and the birds
began to twitter; day was breaking.
The gill was worn out and panting, and
when the sun rose in the purple sky, she
stopped, for her swollen feet refused to
go any further. But she saw a pond
in the distance, a large pond whose stag-
nant water looked like blood under the
reflection of this new day, and she
limped on with short steps and with her
hand on her heart, in order to dip both
her feet in it.

She sat down on a tuft of grass, took
off her sabots which were full of dust,
pulled off her stockings and plunged her
legs into the still water, from which
bubbles were rising here and there.

A feeling of delicious coolness per-
vaded her from head to foot, and sud-
denly, while she was looking fixedly at
the deep pool, she was seized with giddi-
ness, and with a mad longing to throw
herself into it. All her sufferings would
be over in there; over forever. She no
longer thought of her child; she only
wanted peace, complete rest, and to
sleep forever, and she got up with raised
arms and took two steps forward. She
was in the water up to her thighs, and
she was just about to throw herself in,
Yihen sharp, pricking pains in her ankles



made her jump back. She uttered a
cry of despair, for, from her knees to
the tips of her feet, long, black leeches
were sucking in her life blood, and were
swelling, as they adhered to her flesh.
She did not dare to touch them, and
screamed with horror, so that her cries
of despair attracted a peasant, who was
driving along at some distance, to the
spot. He pulled off the leeches, one by
one, applied herbs to the woimds, and
drove the girl to her master's farm, in
his gig.

She was in bed for a fortnight, and
as she was sitting outside the door on
the first morning that she got up, the
farmer suddenly came and planted him-
self before her.

"Well," he said, *1 suppose the affair
is settled, isn't it?"

She did not reply at first, and then,
as he remained standing and looking at
her intently with his piercing eyes, she
said with difficulty: *'No, master, I can-
not."

But he inmiediately flew into a rage.
''You cannot, girl; you cannot? I
should just like to know the reason
why?"

She began to cry, and repeated: "I
cannot."

He looked at her, and then exclaimed,
angrily: *'Then I suppose you have a
lover?"

"Perhaps that is it," she replied, trem-
bling with shame.

The man got as red as a poppy, and
stammered out in a rage: "M! So you
confess it, you slut! And pray who is
the fellow? Some penniless, half-
starved ragamuflfin, without a roof to
his head, I suppose? Who is it, I say?"

And as she gave him no answer, he



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THE STORY OF A FARM-GIRL



47



continued: "Abl So you mU. not tell
me. Then I will tell you; it is Jean
Bauda!"

"No, not he," she exclaimed.

'Ihen it is Pierre Martin?"

*'0h\ no, master."

And he angrily mentioned all the
young fellows in the neighborhood,
while she denied that he had hit upon
the right one, and every moment wiped
her eyes with the corner of her blue
apron. But he still tried to find it out,
with his brutish obstinacy, and, as it
were, scratched her heart to discover
her secret, as a terrior scratches at a
hole to try and get at the animal which
he scents in it. Suddenly, however, the
man shouted: "By George! It is
Jacques, the man who was here last year.
They used to say that you were always
talking together, and that you thought
about getting married."

Rose was choking, and she grew scar-
let, while her tears suddenly stopped,
and dried up on her cheeks, like drops
of water on hot iron, and she exclaimed:
"No, it is not he, it is not he!"

"Is that really a fact?" asked the cun-
ning farmer, who partly guessed the
truth, and she replied hastily:

*I will swear it; I will swear it to
you." She tried to think of something
by which to swear, as she did not dare
to invoke sacred things.

But he interrupted her: "At any rate,
he used to follow you into every comer,
and devoured you with his eyes at meal
times. Did you ever give him your
promise, eh?"

This time she looked her master
straight in the face. "No, never, never;
I will solemnly swear to you, that if
he were to come to-day and ask me to



marry him, I would have nothing to do
with him."

She spoke with such an air of sin-
cerity, that the farmer hesitated, and
then he continued, as if speaking to
himself: "What, then? You have not
had a misfortune, as they call it, or it
would have been known, and as it has
no consequences, no girl would refuse
her master on that account. There must
be something at the bottom of it, how-
ever."

She could say nothing; she had not
the strength to speak, and he asked her
again: "You will not?"

"I cannot, master," she said, with a
sigh, and he turned on his heel.

She thought she had got rid of him
altogether, and spent the rest of the day
almost tranquilly, but as worn out as if
she, instead of the old white horse, had
been turning the threshing machine all
day. She went to bed as soon as she
could, and fell asleep immediately. In
the middle of the night, however, two
hands touching the bed woke her. She
trembled with fear, but she immediately
recognized the farmer's voice, when he
said to her: "Don't be frightened.
Rose; I have come to speak to you."

She was surprised at first, but when
he tried to take liberties with her, she
understood what he wanted, and began
to tremble violently. She felt quite
alone in the darkness, still heavy from
sleep, and quite unprotected, by the side
of the man who stood near her. She
certainly did not consent, but resisted
carelessly, herself struggling against
that instinct which is always strong in
simple natures, and very imperfectly ^
protected, by the undecided will of an
exhausted body. She turned her head



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



now to the wall, and now toward the
room, in order to avoid the attentions
which the farmer tried to press on her,
and her body writhed imder the cover-
let, weakened as she y^s by the fatigue
of the struggle, wiile he became brutal,
intoxicated by desire.

They lived together as man and wife,
and one morning he said to her: "I
have put up our banns, and we will get
married next month."

She did not reply, for what could she
say? She did not resist, for what could
she do?

IV.

She married him. She felt as if she
were in a pit with inaccessible edges,
from which she could uever get out,
and all kinds of misfortimes remained
hanging over her head, like huge rocks,
which would fall on the first occasion.
Her husband gave her the impression
of a man whom she had stolen, and who
would find it out some day or other.
And then she thought of her child, who
was the cause of her misfortunes, but
was also the cause of all her happiness
on earth. She went to see him twice a
year, and she came back more imhappy
each time.

But she gradually grew accustomed
to her life, her fears were allayed, her
heart was at rest, and she lived with
an easier mind, although still with some
vague fear floating in her mind. So
years went on, and the child was six.
She was almost happy now, when sud-
denly the farmer's temper grew very
bad.

For two or three years, he seemed to
have been nursing some secret anxiety,
to be troubled by some care, some men-



tal disturbance, which Was gradually in-
creasing. He remained at table a Icmg
time after dinner, with his head in his
hands, sad and devoured by sorrow. He
always spoke hastily, sometimes even
brutally, and it even seemed as if he
bore a grudge against his wife, for at
times he answered her roughly, almost
angrily.

One day, when a neighbor's boy came
for some eggs, and she spoke rather
crossly to him, for she was very busy,
her husband suddenly came in, and said
to her in his unpleasant voice: *lf that
were your own child, you would nol
treat him So,"

She was hurt and did not reply, and
then she went back into the house with
all her grief awakened afresh. At din-
ner, the farmer neither spoke to her nor
looked at her, and seemed to hate her,
to despise her, to know something about
the affair at last. In consequence, she
lost her head and did not venture to re-
main alone with him after the meal was
over, but left the room and hastened
to the church.

It was getting dusk; the narrow nave
was in total darkness, but she heard
footsteps in the choir, for the sacristan
was preparing the tabernacle lamp for
the night. That spot of trembling light,
which was lost in the darkness of the
arches, looked to Rose like her last
hope, and with her eyes fixed on it,
she fell on her knees. The chain rattled
as the little lamps swung up into the air,
and almost immediately the small bell
rang out the "Angelus" through the in-
creasing mist. She went up to him, as
he was going out

"Is Monsieur le Cur6 at home?" she
asked



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THE STORY OF A FARM-GIRL



4^



"Of course he is; this is his dinner-
time."

She trembled as she rang the bell of
Ae parsonage. The priest was just
sitting down to dinner, and he made her
sit down also. "Yes, yes, I know all
about it; your husband has mentioned
the matter to me that brings you here."

The poor woman nearly fainted, and
the priest continued: "What do you
want, my child?" And he hastily
swallowed several spoonfuls of soup,
some of which dropped on to his greasy
cassock. But Rose did not venture to
say an3rthing more, but got up to go,
while the priest said: "Courage."

So she went out, and returned to the
farm, without knowing what she was
doing. The farmer was waiting for her,
as the laborers had gone away during
her absence, and she fell heavily at his
feet, and shedding a flood of tears, she
said to him: "What have you got
against me?"

He began to shout and to swear:
'What have I got against you? That I
have no children, by God! When a
man takes a wife, he does not want to
be left alone with her until the end of
hb days. That is what I have against
you. When a cow has no calves, she is
not worth anything, and when a woman
has no children, she is also not worth
anything."

She beean to cry, and said: "It is not
my fault! It is not my fault!"

He grew rather more gentle when he
heard that, and added: "I do not say
that it is, but it is very annoying, all the
same."

V.

From that day forward, she had only
o»ie thought — to have a child, another



child. She con&ded her wish to every*
body, and in consequence of this, a
nei^bor told her of an infallible
method. This was, to make her hus-
band a glass of water with a pinch of
ashes in it, every evening. The fanner
consented to try it, but without success,
so they said to each other: "Perhaps
there are some secret ways?" And they
tried to find out. They were told of a
shepherd who lived ten leagues off, and
so Vallin one day drove off to consult
him. The shepherd gave him a loaf on
which he had made some marks; it was
kneaded up with herbs, and both of
them were to eat a piece of it before
and after their mutual caresses; but
they ate the whole loaf without obtain-
ing any results from it.

Next, a schoolmaster unveiled mys-
teries and processes of love which were
unknown in the country, but infallible,
so he declared; but none of them had
the desired effect. Then the priest ad-
vised them to make a pilgrimage to the
shrine at Fecamp. Rose went with the
crowd and prostrated herself in the
abbey, and mingling her prayers with
the coarse wishes of the peasants around
her, she prayed that she might be fruit-
ful a second time; but it was in vain,
and then she thought that she was be-
ing punished for her first fault, and
she was seized by terrible grief. She
was wasting away with sorrow: her hus-
band was growing old prematurely, and
was wearing himself out in useless
hopes.

Then war broke out between them;
he called her names and beat her. They
quarreled all day long, and when they
were in bed together at night he flung
insults dad obscenities at ber, panting



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



^th rage, until one night, not being
able to think of any means of making
her suffer more, he ordered her to get
up and go and stand out of doors in the
rain, until daylight. As she did not
obey him, he seized her by the neck,
and began to strike her in the face with
his fists, but sne said not'ning, and did
not move. In his exasperation he knelt
on her, and with clenched teeth and
mad with rage began to beat her. Then
in her despair she rebelled, and flmging
him against the wall with a furious ges-
ture, she sat up, and in an altered voice,
she hissed: "I have had a child, I have
had one! I had it by Jacques; you
know Jacques well. He promised to
marry me, but he left this neighborhood
without keeping his word."

The man was thunderstruck, and
could hardly speak, but at last he
stammered out: "What are you say-
ing? What are you saying?"

Then she began to sob, and amid her
tears she said: "That was the reason
why I did not want to marry you. I
could not tell you, for you would have
left me without any bread for my
child. You have never had any chil-
dren, so you cannot understand, you
cannot understand!"

He said again, mechanically, with in-
creasing surprise: **You have a child?
You have a child?"

■'You won me by force, as I suppose
you know. I did not want to marry
you," she said, still sobbing.

Then he got up, lighted the candle,
and began to walk up and down, with
bis arms behind him. She was cower-
ing on the bed and crying, and sud-
denly he stopped in front of her, and



said: **Then it is my fault that you
have no children?"

She gave him no answer, and he be-
gan to walk up and down again, and
then, stopping again, he continued:
"How old is your child?"

"Just six," she whispered.

"Why did you not tell me aboui it?"
he asked.

"How could I?" she replied, with a
sigh.

He remained standing, motionless.
"Come, get up," he said.

She got up, with some difficulty, and
then when she was standing on the floor,
!he suddenly began to laugh, with his
hearty lau^ of his good days, and see-
ing how surprised she was, he added:
"Very well, we will go and fetch the
child, as you and I can have none to-
gether."

She was so scared that if she had the
strength she would assuredly have run
away, but the farmer rubbed his hands
and said: "I wanted to adopt one, and
now we have found one. I asked the
Cur6 about an orphan, some time ago."

Then, still laughing, he kissed his
weeping and agitated wife on both
cheeks, and shouted out, as if she could
not hear him: "Come along, mother,
we will go and see whether there is any
soup left; I should not mind a plateful."

She put on her petticoat, and they
went downstairs; and while she was
kneeling in front of the fireplace, and
lighting the fire under the saucepan, he
continued to walk up and down the
kitchen with long strides, and said:
*Well, I am really glad at this; I am
not saying it for form's sake, but I am
glad. I am really very glad."



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In the Moonlight



Well-merited was the name, "sol-
dier of God," by the Abb6 Marignan.
He was a tall, tiiin priest, fanatical to
a degree, but just, and of an exalted
soul. All his beliefs were fixed, with
never a waver. He thought that he un-
derstood God thoroughly, that he pene-
trated His designs. His wishes, His in-
tentions.

Striding up and down the garden walk
of his little country parsonage, some-
times a question arose in his mind:
"Why did God make that?" Then in
his thoughts, putting himself in God's
fdace, he searched obstinately, and
nearly alwa}^ was satisfied that he
found the reason. He was not the man
to murmur in transports of pious hu-
mility, "O Lord, thy ways are past
finding out!" What he said was: "I am
the servant of God; I ought to know
the reason of what he does, or to divine
it if I do not."

Everything in nature seemed to him
created with an absolute and admirable
logic. The "wherefore" and the "be-
cause** were always balanced. The
dawns were made to rejoice you on
waking, the days to ripen the harvests,
the rains to water them, the evenings to
prepare for sleeping, and the nights dark
for sleep.

The four seasons corresponded per-
fectly to all the needs of agriculture;
and to him the suspicion could never
have come that nature has no inten-
tion, and that all which lives has accus-
tomed itself, on the contrary, to the
hard conditiwis of different periods, of
climates, and of matter.

But he hated women; he hated them



imconsciously, and despised them by
instinct. He often repeated the words
of Christ, "Woman, what have I to do-
with thee?" and he would add, "One
would almost say that God himself was
ill-pleased with that particular work of
his hands." Woman for him was indeed
the "child twelve times unclean" of
whom the poet speaks. She was the
temptress who had ensnared the first
man, and who still continued her dam-
nai)le work; she was the being who is
feeble, dangerous, mysteriously troub-
lous. And even more than her poisonous
beauty, he hated her loving soul.

He had often felt women's tenderness
attack him, and though he knew himself
to be unassailable, he grew exasperated
at this need of loving which quivers
continually in their hearts.

To his mind, God had only created
woman to tempt man and to test him.
Man should not approach her without
those precautions for defense which he
would take, and the fears he would
cherish, near an ambush. Woman, in-
deed, was just like a trap, with her arms
extended and her lips open toward a
man.

He had toleration only for nuns, ren-
dered harmless by their vow; but he
treated them harshly notwithstanding,
because, ever at the bottom of their
chained-up hearts, their chastened
hearts, he perceived the eternal tender-
ness that constantly went out even to
him, although he was a priest.

He had a niece who lived with her
mother in a little house near by. He
was bent on making her a sister of
charity. She was pretty and hare*



51



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



brained^ and a great tease. When the
ahbe sermonized, she laughed; when he
was angry a! her, she kissed him ve-
hemently, pressing him to her heart,
while he would seek involuntarily to
free himself from her embrace. Not-
withstanding, it made him taste a cer-
tain sweet joy, awaking deep within him
that sensation of fatherhood which
slumbers in every man.

Often he talked to her of God, of his
God, walking beside her along the foot-
paths through the fields. She hardly
listened, but looked at the sky, the
grass, the flowers, with a joy of living
which covld be seen in her eyes. Some-
times she rushed forward to catch some
flying creature, and bringing it back
would cry: "Look, my imcle, how
pretty it is; I should like to kiss it."
And this necessity to *'kiss flies" or
sweet flowers worried, irritated, and
revolted the priest, who saw, even in
that, the ineradicable tenderness which
ever springs in the hearts of women.

One day the sacristan's wife, who
kept house for the Abb6 Marignan, told
him, very cautiously, that his niece had
a lover!

He experienced a dreadful emotion,
and he stood choking, with the soap all
over his face, in the act of shaving.

When he found himself able to think
and speak once more, he cried: "It is
not true; you are lying, Melanie!"

But the peasant woman put her hand
on her heart; "May our Lord judge
me if I am lying. Monsieur le Cur6
I tell you she goes to him every eve-
ning as soon as your sister is in bed.
They meet each other beside the river.
You have only to go there between ten



o'clock and midni^t, and see for your«
self."

He ceased scratching his chin and
commenced to pace the room quickly,
as he always did in his hours of gravest
thought. When he tried to begin his
shaving again, he cut himself three
times from nose to ear.

All day long, he remained silent,
swollen with anger and with rage. To
his priestly zeal against the mighty
power of love was added the moral in-
dignation of a father, of a teacher, of a
keeper of souls, who has been deceived,
robbed, played with by a child. He felt
the egotistical sorrow that parents feel
when their daughter announces that she
has chosen a husband without them
and in spite of their advice.

After his dinner, he tried to read a
little, but he could not attune himself
to it; and he grew angrier and angrier.
When it struck ten, he took his cane,
a formidable oaken club which he al«
ways carried when he had to go out at
night to visit the sick. Smilingly he
regarded the enormous cudgel, holding
it in his solid, countryman's fist and
cutting threatening circles with it in the
air. Then, suddenly, he raised it, and
grinding his teeth, he brought it down
XQ)on a chair, the back of which, split in
two, fell heavily to the groimd.

He opened his door to go out; but he
stopped upon the threshold, surprised
by such a splendor of moonlight as you
seldom see.

Endowed as he was with an exalted
spirit, such a spirit as must have be-
longed to those dreamer-poets, the
Fathers of the Church, he felt himself
suddenly softened and moved by the



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IN THE MOONLIGHl



5^



grand and serene beauty of the pale-
faced night.

In his little garden, bathed in the soft
brilliance, his fruit-trees, all a-row, were
outlining in shadow upon the walk their
slender limbs of wood scarce clothed
with green; while the giant honeysuckle
climbing on the house wall exhaled
delicious, sugared breaths, which
hovered through the warm, clear night
like a perfumed soul.

He began to breathe deep, drinking
the air as dnmkards drink their wine,
and walking slowly, ravished, surprised,
and almost oblivious of his niece.

As he stepped into the open country
he stopped to contemplate the whole
plain, inundated by this caressing radi-
ance, and drowned in the tender and
languishing charm of the serene night.
In chorus the frogs threw into space
their short, metallic notes, and with the
seduction of the moonlight, distant
nightingales mingled that fitful music
of theirs which brings no thoughts but
dreams, a light and vibrant melody
which seems attuned to kisses.

The abb6 continued his walk, his
courage failing, he knew not why. He
felt, as it were, enfeebled, and sud-
denly exhausted; he had a great desire
to sit down, to pause right there and
praise God in all His works.

Below him, following the bends of
the little river, wound a great line of
poplars. On and about the banks,
wrapping all the tortuous watercourse
in a kind of light, transparent wadding,
hung suspended a fine mistj a white va-
por, which the moon-rays crossed, and
silvered, and caused to gleam.

The priest paused yet again, pene-
trated to the depths of his soul by a



strong and growing emouua. And ^
doubt, a vague uneasiness, seized on



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 7 of 125)