Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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you have just related to us.

"I, for my part, utterly refuse to
absolve him even when extenuating cir-
cumstances plead in his favor, even



when he is carrying on a dangerous flir-
tation, in which a man tries in vain to
keep his balance and not to exceed the
limits of the ^ame any more than at
'lawn tennis, even when the parts are re-
versed and a man's adversary is some
precocious, curious, seductive girl, who
shows you immediately that she has
nothing to learn and nothing to experi-
ence, except the last chapter of love —
one of those girls from whom may fate
always preserve our sons, and whom a
psychological novel writer has christened
'Demi-Virgins.'

"It is of course difl&cult and painful
for that coarse and unfathomable vanity
which is characteristic of every man,
and which might be called malism, not
to stir such a charming fire, to act the
Joseph and the fool, to turn away his
eyes, and, as it were, to put wax into
his ears, as did the companions of
Ulysses when attracted by the divine,
seductive songs of the Sirens. It is hard
not to touch that pretty table, covered
with a perfectly new cloth, at which
you are invited to take a seat before
anyone else, in such a suggestive voice,
and are requested to quench your thirst
and to taste that new wine whose fresh
and strange flavor you will never forget
But who would hesitate to exercise such
self-restraint if, when he rapidly ex-
amines his conscience in one of those
instinctive moments of reason in which
a man thinks clearly and recovers his
head — if he were to measure the gravity
of the fault, think of the error, think of
its consequences, of the reprisals, of the
uneasiness which he would always feel
in the future, and which would destroy
the repose and the happiness of his life?



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THE THIEF



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'TTou may guess that beliind all these
moral reflections, such as a gray-beard
like myself may indulge in, there is a
story hidden, and sad as it is, I am sure
it will interest you on account of the
strange heroism that it shows."

He was silent for a few moments as
if to classify his recollections, and with
elbows resting on the arms of his easy-
chair, and eyes looking into space, he
continued in the slow voice of a hospital
professor, who is explaining a case to
his class of students, at a bedside:

"He was one of those men who as
our grandfathers used to say, never met
with a cruel woman, the tjTJe of an
adventurous knight who was always
foraging, who had something of the
scamp about him, but who despised dan-
ger and was bold even to rashness. He
was ardent in the pursuit of pleasure,
had an irresistible charm about him,
and was one of those men in whom we
excuse the greatest excesses as the most
natural things in the world. He had
run through all his money through gam-
bling and with pretty girls, and so be-
came, as it were, a soldier of fortune,
who amused himself whenever and how-
ever he could, and was at that time
quartered at Versailles.

"I knew him to the very depths of
his childish heart, which was only too
easily penetrated and sounded. I loved
him like some old bachelor uncle loves
a nephew who plays him tricks, but who
knows how to make him indulgent, and
how to wheedle him. He had made me
his confidant far more than his adviser,
kept me informed of his slightest tricks,
though he always pretended to be speak-
ing about one of his friends, and not
about himself, and I must confess that



his youthful impetuosity, his careless
gaiety, and his amorous ardor sometimes
distracted my thoughts and made me
envy the handsome, vigorous young fel-
low who was so happy in being alive.
I had not the courage to check him, to
show him his right road, and to call out
to him Take care!' as children do at
blindman's bluff.

"And one day, after one of those in-
terminable cotillons, where the couples
do not leave each other for hours, but
have a loose rein and can disappear to-
gether without anybody noticing it, the
poor fellow at last discovered what, love
was, that real love which takes up its
abode in the very center of the heart
and in the brain, and is proud of being
there, which rules like a sovereign and
a tjnrannous master. He grew desper-
ately enamored of a pretty, but badly
brought up girl, who was as disquiet-
ing and as wayward as she was pretty.

"She loved him, however, or rather
she idolized him despotically, madly,
with all her enraptured soul, and all her
excited person. Left to do as she
pleased by imprudent and frivolous par-
ents, suffering from neurosis, in con-
sequence of the unwholesome friend-
ships contracted at the convent-school,
instructed by what she saw and heard
and knew was going on around her, in
spite of her deceitful and artificial con-
duct, knowing that neither her father
nor her mother, who were very proud of
their race as well as avaricious, would
ever agree to let her marry the man
whom she had taken a liking to, — ^that
handsome fellow who had little besides
visionary ideas and debts, and who be-
longed to the middle classes, — she laid
aside all scruples, thought of nothing



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



but of belonging to Mm altogether, of
taking him for her lover, and of tri-
umphing over his desperate resistance
as an honorable man.

"By degrees, the unfortunate man's
strength gave way, his heart grew soft-
ened, his nerves became excited, and he
allowed himself to be carried away by
the current which buffeted him, sur-
rounded him, and left him on the shore
like a waif and a stray.

"They wrote letters full of temptation
and of madness to each other, and not
a day passed without their meeting,
either accidentally, as it seemed, or at
parties and balls. She had given him
her lips in long, ardent caresses, and she
had sealed their compact of mutual pas-
sion with kisses of desire and of hope.
And at last she brought him to her room,
almost in spite of himself."

The doctor stopped, and his eyes sud-
denly filled with tears, as these former
troubles came back to his mind. Then
in a hoarse voice, he went on, full of the
horror of what he was going to relate:

"Each night, for months, he scaled the
garden wall, and holding his breath and
listening for the slightest noise, like a
burglar who is going to break into a
house, he entered by the servants' door,
which she had left open, went barefoot
down a long passage and up the broad
staircase, which creaked occasionally, to
the second story, where his mistress's
room was, and stopped there nearly the
whole night.

"One night, when it was darker than
usual, and he was hurrying lest he should
be later than the time agreed on, the
officer knocked up against a piece of
furniture in the anteroom and upset it.
It so happened that the (girl's mother



had not gone to sleep yet, either because
she had a sick headache, or else be-
cause she had sat up late over some
novel. Frightened at the unusual noise;
which disturbed the silence of the house,
she jumped out of bed, opened the door,
saw some one indistinctly running away
and keeping close to the wall, and, im-
mediately thinking that there were
burglars in the house, she aroused her
husband and the servants by her frantic
screams. The unfortunate man knew
what he was about, and seeing his di-
lemma he determined to be taken for
a common thief rather than dishonor
his adored mistress and betray the secret
of their guilty love. So he ran into the
drawing-room, felt on the tables and
whatnots, filled his pockets at random
with valuable knickknacks, and then
cowered down behind the grand piano,
which barred up a corner of a large
room.

"The servants, who had run in with
lighted candles, found him, and over-
whelming him with abuse, seized him
by the collar and dragged him, panting
and half dead with shame and terror,
to the nearest police station. He de-
fended himself with intentional awk-
wardness when he was brought up for
trial, kept up his part with the most
perfect self-possession, and without any
signs of the despair and anguish that
he felt in his heart. Condemned and
degraded and made to suffer martyrdom
in his honor as a man and as a soldier,
he did not protest, but went to prison
as one of those criminals whom society
destroys like noxious vermin.

"He died there of misery and of bit-
terness of spirit, with the name of the
fair-haired idol for whom he had sacri-



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THE DIARY OF A MADMAN



557



ficed himself oh Us lips, as if it bad
been an ecstatic prayer. He intrusted
his will to the priest who administered
extreme unction to him, and requested
him to give it to me. In it, without
mentioning anybody, and without in the
least lifting the veil, he at last explained
the enigma, and cleared himself of those



accusations, the terrible burden of which
he had borne until his last breath.

"I have always thought myself,
though I do not know why, that the girl
married and had several charming chil-
dren, whom she brought up with austere
strictness, and in the serious piety of
former days!"



The Diary of a Madman



He was dead— the head of a high
tribunal, the upright magistrate, whose
irreproachable life was a proverb in all
the courts of France. Advocates, young
counselors, judges had saluted, bowing
low in token of profound respect, re-
membering that grand face, pale and
thin, illumined by two bright, deep-set
eyes.

He had i)assed his life in pursuing
crime and in protecting the weak.
Swindlers and murderers had no more
redoubtable enemy, for he seemed to
read in the recesses of their souls their
most secret thoughts.

He was dead, now, at the age of eighty-
two, honored by the homage and fol-
lowed by the regrets of a whole people.
Soldiers in red breeches had escorted
him to the tomb, and men in white
cravats had shed on his grave tears that
seemed to be real.

But listen to the strange paper found
by the dismayed notary in the desk
v^here the judge had kept filed the rec-
ords of great criminals ! It was entitled:

WHY?

J'une 20, 1851. I have just left court.
I have condemned Blonde to death!
Now, why did this man kill his five chil-



dren? Frequently one meets with pco*
pie to whom killing is a pleasure. Yes,
yes, it should be a pleasure — the great-
est of all, perhaps, for is not killing
most like eating? To make and to de-
stroy! These two words contain the
history of the universe, the history of
all worlds, all that is, all! Why is it
not intoxicating to kill?

June 25. To think that there is a
being who lives, who walks, who runs.
A being? What is a being? An
animated thing which bears in it the
principle of motion, and a will ruling
that principle. It clings to nothing,
this thing. Its feet are independent of
the ground. It is a grain of lif e^ that
moves on the earth, and this grain of
life, coming I know not whence, one
can destroy at one's will. Then nothing
— ^nothing more. It perishes; it is
finished.

June 26, Why, then, is it a crime to
kill? Yes, why? On the contrary, it is
the law of nature. Every being has the
mission to kill; he kills to live, and he
lives to kill. The beast kills without
ceasing, all day, every instant of its
existence. Man kills without ceasing,
to nourish himself; but since in addition
he needs to kill for pleasure, he has



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



invented the chase! The child kills the
insects he finds, the little birds, all the
little animals that come in his way.
But this does not sufl&ce for the ir-
resistible need of massacre that is in us.
It is not enough to kill beasts; we must
kill man too. Long ago this need was
satisfied by human sacrifice. Now, the
necessity of living in society has made
murder a crime. We condemn and pun-
ish the assassin! But as we cannot live
without yielding to this natural and im-
perious instinct of death, we relieve our-
selves, from time to time, by wars.
Then a whole nation slaughters another
nation. It is a feast of blood, a feast
that maddens armies and intoxicates the
civilians, women and children, who read,
by lamplight at night, the feverish story
of massacre.

And do we despise those picked out
to accomplish these butcheries of men?
No, they are loaded with honors. They
are clad in gold and in resplendent
stuffs; they wear plumes on their heads
and ornaments on their breasts; and
they are given crosses, rewards, titles
of every kind. They are proud, re-
spected, loved by women, cheered by
the crowd, solely because their mission
is to shed human blood! They drag
through the streets their instruments of
death, and the passer-by, clad in black,
looks on with envy. For to kill is the
great law put by nature in the heart
of existence! There is nothing more
beautiful and honorable than killing!

June 30. To kill is the law, because
Nature loves eternal youth. She seems
to cry in all her unconscious acts:
"Quick! quick! quick!" The more she
destroys, the more she renews herself.

July 3. It must be a pleasure, unique



and full of zest, to kill: to place before
you a living, thinking being; to make
therein a Httle hole, nothing but a little
hole, and to see that red liquid flow
which is the blood, which is the life;
and then to have before you only a heap
of limp flesh, cold, void of thought!

August 5. I, who have passed my life
in judgmoit, condemning, killing by
words pronounced, killing by the guillo-
tine those who had killed by the knife,
if I should do as all the assassins whom
I have smitten have done, I, I — who
would know it?

August 10. Who would ever know?
Who would ever suspect me, especially
if I should choose a being I had no in*
terest in doing away with? ?

August 22. I could resist no longer.
I have killed a little creature as an ex-
periment, as a beginning. Jean, my
servant, had a goldfinch in a cage hung
in the office window. I sent him on an
errand, and I took the little bird in
my hand, in my hand where I felt its
heart beat. It was warm. I went up
to my room. From time to time I
squeezed it tighter; its heart beat faster;
it was atrocious and delicioife. I was
nearly choking it. But I could not see
the blood.

Then I took scissors, short nail scis-
sors, and I cut its throat in three strokes,
quite gently. It opened it bill, it strug-
gled to escape me, but I held it, oh!
I held it — ^I could have held a mad dog
— and I saw the blood trickle.

And then I did as assassins do — ^real
ones. I washed the scissor and washed
my hands. I sprinkled water, and took
the body, the corpse, to the garden to
hide it. I buried it under a strawberry-
plant. It will never be found. Every



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THE DIARY OF A MADMAN



559



^y I can cat a strawberry from that
plant. How one can enjoy life, when
oDe knows how!

My servant cried; he thought his bird
flown. How could he suspect me? Ah I

August 25. I must kill a man! I
must!

August 30. It is done. But what a
little thing! I had gone for a walk in
the forest of Vernes. I was thinking
of nothing, literally nothing. See! a
child on the road, a little child eating a
slice of bread and butter. He stops to
see me pass and says, **Good day, Mr.
President."

And the thought enters my head:
"Shall I kill him?"

I answer: "You are alone, my boy?".

'Yes, sir."

"All alone in the wood?"

"Yes, sir."

The wish to kill him intoxicated me
like wine. I approached him quite
softly, persuaded that he was going to
mn uway. And suddenly I seized him
by the throat. He held my wrists in
his little hands, and his body writhed
like a feather on the fire. Then he
moved no more. I threw the body in
the ditch, then some weeds on top of it.
I returned home and dined well. What
a little thing it was! In the evening
I was very gay, light, rejuvenated, and
passed the evening at the Prefect*s.
They found me witty. But I have not
seen blood ! I am not tranquil.

August 31. The body has been dis-
covered. They are hunting for the as-
sassin. Ah!

September 1. Two tramps have been
arrested. Proofs are lacking.
'September 2. The parents have been
to see me. They wept! Ah!



October 6. Nothing has been dis-
covered. Some strolling vagabond must
have done the deed. Ah! If I had
seen the blood flow it seems to me I
should be tranquil now!

October 10. Yet another. I was
walking by the river, after breakfast.
And I saw, under a willow, a fisherman
asleep. It was noon. A spade, as if
expressly put there for me, was stand'
ing in a potato-field near by.

I took it. I returned ; I raised it like
a club, and with one blow of the edge
I cleft the fisherman's head. Oh! he
bled, this one! — rose-colored blood. It
flowed into the water quite gently. And
I went away with a grave step. If I
had been seen! Ah! I should have
made an excellent assassin.

October 25. The affair of the fisher-
man makes a great noise. His nephew,
who fished with him, is charged with the
murder.

October 26. The examining magis-
trate affirms that the nephew is guilty.
Everybody in town believes it. Ah!
ah!

October 27. The nephew defends
himself badly. He had gone to the vil-
lage to buy bread and cheese, he de-
clares. He swears that his uncle had
been killed in his absence! Who would
believe him?

October 28. The nephew has all but
confessed^ so much have they made him
lose his head! Ah! Justice!

November 15. There are overwhelm-
ing proofs agamst the nephew, who was
his uncle's heir. I shall preside at the
sessions.

January 25, 1852. To death! to
death! to death! I have had him con-



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560



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



demned to death! The advocate-gen-
eral spoke like an angel! Ah! Yet
another! I shall go to see him exe-
cuted!

March 10. It is done. They guillo-
tined him this morning. He died very
well! very well! That gave me plea-
sure ! How fine it is to see a man's head
cut off!

Now, I shall wait, I can wait. It



would take such a little thing to let my-
self be caught.

3|( 4c 4c 3|c 4c 4t

The manuscript contained more pages,
but told of no new crime.

Alienist physicians to whom the aw-
ful story has been submitted declare
that there are in the world many un-
known madmen, as adroit and as terrible
as this monstrous lunatic,



On Perfumes



Three ladies belonging to that class
of society wnich has nothing useful to
do, and therefore cannot employ its time
sensibly, were sitting on a bench in the
shade of some pine-trees at Ischl, and
talkmg incidentally on the subject of
perfumes.

One of the ladies. Princess F , a

slim, handsome brunette, declared there
was iiothing like the smell of Russia
leather; she wore dull brown Russia
leather boots, a Russia leather dress sus-
pender, to keep her petticoats out of
the dirt and dust, a Russia leather belt
which spanned her wasplike waist, and
carried a Russia leather purse. She
even wore a brooch and bracelet of gilt
Russia leather; people declared that her
bedroom was papered with Russia
leather, and that her cicisbeo was
obliged to wear high Russia leather
boots and tight breeches, but that, on the
other hand, her husband was excused
from wearing anything at all in Russia
leather.

Countess H , a very stout lady,

who had formerly been very beautiful



and of a very loving nature, but loving,
.after the fashion of her time, d la
Parthenia and Griselda, could not gei
over the vulgar taste of the young
Princess. All she cared for was the
smell of hay, and she it was who brought
the perfume New Mown Hay into fash-
ion. Her ideal was a freshly mown
field in the moonlight, and when she
rolled slowly along, she looked like a
moving haystack, and exhaled an odor
of hay around her.

The third lady's taste was even more

peculiar than Countess H 's, and

more vulgar than the Princess's, for the
small, delicate, light-haired Countess

W lived only for — the smell of

stables. Her friends could not under-
stand this at all; the Princess raised her
beautiful, full arm with its broad brace-
let to her Grecian nose and inhaled the
sweet smell of the Russia leather, while
the sentimental hayrick exclaimed over
and over again:

"How dreadful! What dost thou say
to it, chaste moon?"

The delicate little Countess seemed



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ON PERFUMES



56)



very much embarrassed at tlie effect
made by her confession, and tried to
justify her taste.

"Prmce T told me that that smell

had quite bewitched him once," she
said. "It was in a Jewish town in
Galicia, where he was quartered once
with his hussar regiment, and a mmiber
of poor, ragged circus riders, with half-
starved horses, came from Russia and
put up a circus with a few poles and
some rags of canvas. The Prince went
to see them, and found a woman among
them, who was neither young nor beau-
tiful, but bold and impudent. She wore
a faded, bright red jacket trimmed with
old, shabby imitation ermine, which
reeked of the stable, as the Prince ex-
pressed it. But she bewitched him with
the odor, so that every time that the
shameless wretch visited him, smelling
abominably of the stable, he felt as if
he were mesmerized."

"How disgusting!" both the other
ladies said, and involuntarily held their
noses.

'What dost thou say to it, chaste
moon?" the haystack said with a sigh,
and the little light-haired Countess
was abashed, and held her tongue.

At the beginning of the winter sea-
son the three friends were together
again in the gay, imperial city on the
blue Danube. O^e morning the Princess
accidentally met the enthusiast for hay
at the house of the little, light-haired
Countess, and was obliged to follow the
latter to her private riding-school,
where she was taking her daily lesson.
As soon as she saw them, she came up,
and beckoned her riding-master to her
to help her out of the saddle. He was
a young man of extremely good and



athletic build, which was set off by
tight breeches and a short, velvet coat.
He ran up and took his lovely burden
into his arms with visible pleasure, to
help her off the quiet, perfectly broken
horse.

When the ladies saw the handsome,
vigorous man, it was quite enough to
explain their little friend's predilection
for the smell of a stable. When the
latter saw their looks, she blushed up to
the roots of her hair, and thought her
only way out of the difficulty was to
order the riding-master, in a very au-
thoritative manner, to take the horse
back to the stable. He merely bowed,
with an indescribable smile, and obeyed
her.

A few months afterward, Viennese so-
ciety was alarmed at the news that

Countess W had been divorced from

her husband. The event was un«r-
pected, as they had apparently always
lived very happily together, and gossip
was unable to mention any man on
whom she had bestowed even the most
passing attention, beyond the require-
ments of politeness.

Long afterward, however, a strange
report became current. A chattering
lady's maid declared that the handsome
riding-master had once so far forgotten
himself as to strike the Countess with
his riding-whip. A groom had told the
Count of the occurrence, and when the
latter called the insolent fellow to ac-
count for it, the Countess covered him
with her own body, and thus gave oc-
casion for the divorce.

Years had passed since then and the

Countess H had grown stouter and

more sentimental. Ischl and hayricks
were not enough for her any longer;



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562



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



she ^)ent the winter on lovely Lago
Maggiore, where she walked among
laurel bushes and cypress-trees, and was
rowed about on the warm, moonlight
nights.

One evening she was returning home
from Isola Bella, in the company of an
English lady who was also a great lover
of nature, when they met a beautiful
private boat in whidh a very unusual
couple were sitting — a, small, delicate,
light-haired woman, wrapped in a white
burnoose, and a handsome, athletic man,
in tight, white breeches, a short, black
velvet coat trimmed with sable, a red
fez on his head, and a riding-whip in
his hand.

Countess H involuntarily uttered

a loud exclamation.

**What is the matter with you?" the
English lady asked. "Do you know those
people?"



"Certainly! She is a Viennese lady,**
Countess H whispered; "Coimtess

W — :*

"Oh! Indeed you are quite mistaken;
it is a Count Savelli and his wife. They
are a handsome couple, don't you think
so?"

When the boat came nearer. Countess



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