Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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H saw that it was little Countess

W , and that the handsome man

was her former riding-master, whom
she had married, and for whom she had
bought a title from the Pope*; and as
the two boats passed each other, the
short sable cloak, which was thrown
carelessly over his shoulders, exhaled,
like the old cat's skin jacket of the fe-
male circus rider, a strong stable per-
fume.



♦Frequently done formerly, and not
unknown even now.



The Will



I KNEW that tall young fellow, Ren6
de Boumeval. He was an agreeable
man, though of a rather melancholy turn
of mind, and prejudiced against every-
thing, very skeptical, and fond of tear-
ing worldly hypocrisies to pieces. He
often used to say:

"There are no honorable men, or, at
any rate, they only appear so when com-
pared to low people."

He had two brothers, whom he
shunned, the Messieurs de Courcils. I
thought they were by another father, on
account of the difference in the name.
I had frequently heard that something



strange had happened in the family, but
I did not know the details.

As I took a great liking to him, we
soon became intimate, and one evening,
when I had been dining with him alone,
I asked him by chance: "Are you by
your mother's first or second marriage?**
He grew rather pale; then he flushed,
and did not speak for a few mom^its,
he was visibly embarrassed. Then he
smiled in that melancholy and gentle
manner peculiar to him, and said:

"My dear friend, if it will not weary
you, I can give you some very strange
particulars about my life. I know you



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THE WILL



56S



to be a sensible man, so I do not fear
that our friendship will suffer by my
revelations, and should it suffer, I should
not care about having you for my friend
any longer.

"My mother, Madame de Courcils,
was a poor, little, timid woman, whom
her husband had married for the sake
of her fortune. Her whole life was a
continual martyrdom. Of a loving,
delicate mind, she was constantly ill-
treated by the man who ought to have
been my father, one of those boors
called country gentlemen. A month
after their marriage he was living with
a servant, and besides that, the wives
and daughters of his tenants were his
mistresses, which did not prevent him
from having three children by his wife,
that is, if you count me in. My mother
said nothing, and lived in that noisy
house like a little mouse. Set aside,
disparaged, nervous, she looked at peo-
ple with bright, uneasy, restless eyes,
the eyes of some terrified creature which
can never shake off its fear. And yet
she was pretty, very pretty and fair, a
gray blonde, as if her hair had lost its
color through her constant fears.

"Among Monsieur de Courcils's
friends who constantly came to the
chiteau there was an ex-cavalry ofl&cer,
e widower, a man to be feared, a man
at the same time tender and violent, and
capable of the most energetic resolution,
Monsieur de Boumeval, whose name I
bear. He was a tall, thin man, with a
heavy black mustache, and I am very
like him. He was a man who had read
a great deal, and whose ideas were not
like those of most of his dass. His
greatgrandmother had been a friend of
J. J» Housseau. and you might have



said that he had inherited something of
this ancestral connection. He knew the
"Contrat SociaP' and the "Nouvelle
H61oise" by heart, and, indeed, all those
philosophical books which led the way
to the overthrow of our old usages,
prejudices, superannuated laws, and im»
becile morality.

"It seems that he loved my mother^
and she loved him, but their intrigue
was carried on so secretly that no one
guessed it. The poor, neglected, un»
happy woman must have clung to him
in a despairing manner, and in her
intimacy with him must have imbibed
all his ways of thinking, theories of free
thought, audacious ideas of independent
love. But as she was so timid that she
never ventured to speak aloud, it was
all driven back, condensed, and ex-
pressed in her heart, which never opened
itself.

"My two brothers were very cruel to
her, like their father, and never gave
her a caress. Used to seeing her count
for nothing in the house, they treated
her rather like a servant, and so I was
the only one of her sons who really loved
her, and whom she loved.

"When she died I was seventeen, and
I must add, in order that you may im-
derstand what follows, that there had
been a lawsuit between my father and
my mother. Their property had been
separated, to my mother's advantage,
as, thanks to the workings of the law
and the intelligent devotion of a lawyer
to her interests, she had preserved the
right to make her will in favor of any-
one she pleased.

*We were told that there was a will
lying at the lawyer's, and were invited
to be present at the reading of it. I cao



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564



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



remember it, as if it were yesterday.
It was a grand, dramatic, yet burlesque
and surprising scene, brought about by
the posthumous revolt of a dead woman,
by a cry for liberty from the depths of
her tomb, on the part of a martyred
woman who had been crushed by a
man's habits during her life, and, who,
from her grave, uttered a despairing ap-
peal for independence.

"The man who thought that he was
my father, a stout, ruddy-faced man,
who gave you the idea of a butcher, and
my brothers, two great fellows of
twenty and twenty-two, were waiting
quietly in their chairs. Monsieur de
Boumeval, who had been invited to be
present, came in and stood behind me.
He was very pale, and bit his mustache,
which was turning gray. No doubt he
was prepared for what was going to
happen. The lawyer, after opening the
envelope in our presence, double-locked
the door and began to read the will,
which was sealed with red wax, and the
contents of which he knew not."

My friend stopped suddenly and got
up, and from his writing-table took an
old paper, unfolded it, kissed it and
then continued:

"This is the will of my beloved
mother:

"I, the undersigned, Anne-Catherine-
Genevieve-Mathilde de Croixluce, the
legitimate wife of Leopold- Joseph Gon-
tran de Courcils, sound in body and
mind, here express my last wishes :

'*I first of all ask God, and then my
dear son Rene, to pardon me for the
act I am about to commit. I believe
that my child's heart is great enough
to understand me, and to forgive me. I
have suffered my whole life long. I
was married out of calculation, then de-



spised, misunderstood, oppressed, and
constantly deceived by my husband.

"I forgive him, but I owe him nothing.

'*My eldest sons never loved me, never
caressed me, scarcely treated me as a
mother, but during my whole life I was
everything that I ought to have becan,
and I owe them nothing more after my
death. The ties of blood cannot exist
without daily and constant affection.
An ungrateful son is less tluui a
stranger; he is a culprit, for he has no
right to be indifferent toward his mother.

'T have always trembled before men,
before their tmjust laws, their inhtmian
customs, their shameful prejudices. Be-
fore God, I have no longer any fear.
Dead, I fling aside disgraceful hypoc-
risy; I dare to speak my thoughts, and
to avow and to sign the secret of my
heart.

"I therefore leave that part of my
fortune of which the law allows me to
dispose, as a deposit with my dear Ic ler
Pierre-Gennes-Simon de Boumeval, to
revert afterward to our dear son Rend.

"(This wish is, moreover, formulated
more precisely in a notarial deed.)

"And I declare before the Supreme
Judge who hears me, that I should have
cursed Heaven and my own existence, il
I had not met my lover's deep, devoted,
tender, unshaken affection, if I had not
felt in his arms that the Creator made
His creatures to love, sustain, and con-
sole each other, and to weep together in
the hours of sadness.

"Monsieur de G>urcils is the father of
my two eldest sons; Rend alone owes
his life to Monsieur de Boumeval. I
pray to the Master of men and of their
destinies to place father and son above
social prejudices, to make them love each
other until they die, and to love me also
in my coffin.

"These are my last thoughts, and my
last wish.

"Mathilde de Croixluck.

"Monsieur de Courcils had risen, am^
he cried:



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IN mS SWEETHEART'S LIVERY



565



** *It is the will of a mad woman.'

'*Then Monsieur de Bouraeval stepped
forward and said in a loud and pene-
trating voice: 'I, Simon de Boumeval,
solemnly declare that this writing con-
tains nothing but the strict truth, and
I am ready to prove it by letters which
I possess.'

"On hearing that, Monsieur de Cour-
cils went up to him, and I thought that
they were going to collar each other.
There they stood, both of them, tall,
one stout and the other thin, both trem-
bling. My mother's husband stanmiered
out:

" *You are a worthless wretch!'

"And the other replied in a loud, dry
voice:

" *We will meet somewhere else. Mon-
sieur. I should have already slapped
your ugly face, and challenged you a
long time ago, if I had not, before all
else, thought of the peace of mind of
that poor woman whom you made to
suffer so much during her lifetime.'

"Then, turning to me, he said;

•* TToii are my son; will you come with



me? I have no right to take you away,
but I shall assume it, if you will allow
me.' I shook his hand without replying,
and we went out together; I was cer-
tainly three parts mad.

"Two days later Monsieur de Boume-
val killed Monsieur de Courdls in a
duel. My brothers, fearing some ter-
rible scandal, held their tongues. I
offered them, and they accepted, half
the fortune which my mother had left
me. I took my real father's name, re-
nouncing that which the law gave me,
but which was not really mme. Mon-
sieur de Boumeval died three years
afterward, and I have not consoled my-
self yet."

He rose from his chair, walked up
and down the room, and, standing in
front of me, said:

"I maintain that my mother's will
was one of the most beautiful and loyal,
as well as one of the grandest, acts that
a woman could perform. Do you not
think so?"

I gave him both my hands:

"Most certainly I do, my friend."



In His Sweetheart's Livery



At present she is a great lady, an
elegant, intellectual woman, and a cele-
brated actress. But in the year 1847,
when our story begins, she was a beauti-
ful, but not very moral girl, and then it
was that the young, talented Hungarian
poet who was the first to discover her
gifts for the stage made her acquain-
tance.

The slim, ardent girl, with her bright



brown hair and her large blue eyes, at-
tracted the careless poet. He loved her,
and all that was good and noble in her
nature put forth fresh buds and blos-
soms in the sunshine of his poetic love.
They lived in an attic in the old im-
perial city on the Danube; she shared
his poverty, his triumphs, and his plea-
sures, and would have become his true
and faithful wife, if the Hungarian revo^



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566



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



lution had not torn liim from her arms.

The poet became the soldier of free-
dom. He followed the Magyar tricolor,
and the Honved drums, while she was
carried away by the current of the
movement in the capital, and might have
been seen discharging her musket, like
a brave Amazon, at the Croats who were
defending the town against Gorgey's as-
saulting battalions.

But at last Hungary was subdued, and
was governed as if it had been a con-
quered country.

It was said that the young poet had
fallen at Temesvar. His mistress wept
for him, and married another man,
which was nothing either new or ex-
traordinary. Her name was now Frau
von Kubinyi, but her married life was
not happy. One day she remembered
that her lover had told her that she had
talent for the stage, and as whatever he
said had always proved correct, she
separated from her husband, studied a
few parts, appeared on the stage, and
lo! the public, the critics, actors, and
writers were lying at her feet.

She obtained a very profitable engage-
ment, and her reputation increased with
every part she played. Before the end
of a year after her first appearance, she
was the lioness of society. Everybody
paid homage to her, and the wealthiest
men tried to obtain her favors. But
she remained cold and reserved, until
the General commanding the district,
who was a handsome man, of noble
bearing, and a gentleman in the highest
sense of the word, approached her.

Whether she was flattered at seeing
that powerful man — ^before whom mil-
lions trembled, who had power over the
^^'^e and death, the honor and happiness



of so many thousands — ^fettered by her
soft curls, or whether her enigmatical
heart for once really felt what true love
was, suffice it to say that in a short
time she was his acknowledged mistress,
and her princely lover surrounded her
with the luxury of an Eastern queen.

But just then a miracle occurred —
the resurrection of a dead man. Frau
von Kubinyi was driving through the
Corso in the General's carriage; she was
lying back n^ligently in the soft
cushions, and looking carelessly at the
crowd on the pavement. Then — she
caught sight of a common Austrian sol*-
dier and screamed aloud.

Nobody heard that cry, which came
from the depths of a woman's heart,
nobody saw how pale and how excited
that woman was, who usually seemed
made of marble, not even the soldier
who was the cause of it. He was a
Hungarian poet, who, like so many other
Honveds,* now wore the uniform of an
Austrian soldier.

Two days later, to the poet's no small
surprise, he was told to go to the Gen«
eral in command as orderly. When he
reported himself to the adjutant, he told
him to go to Frau von Kubinyi's, and tc
await her orders.

Our poet only knew her by report, but
he hated and despised intensely tlic
beautiful woman who had sold herself
to the enemy of his country; he bad no
choice, however, but to obey.

When he arrived at her house, be
seemed to be expected, for the porter
knew his name, took him into his lodge.



*A Hungarian word meaning: De-
fender of the Fatherland. The tenp
Honved is applied to the Hungarian
Landwehr, or militia.



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IN HIS SWEETHEART'S LIVERY



567



and without any further explanation,
told him immediately to put on the
livery of his mistress, which was lying
there ready for him. He ground his
teeth, but resigned himself without a
word to his wretched though laughable
fate; it was quite clear that the actress
had some purpose in making the poet
wear her livery. He tried to remember
whether he could formerly have offended
her by his notices as a theatrical critic,
but before he could arrive at any conclu-
sion, he was told to present himself to
Frau von Kubinyi. She evidently
wished to enjoy his himiiliation.

He was shown into a small drawing-
room, which was furnished with an
amoimt of taste and magnificence such
as he had never seen before, and was
told to wait. But he had not been
alone many minutes, before the door-
curtains were parted and Frau von
Kubinyi came in, calm but deadly pak,
in a splendid dressing-gown of some
Turkish material, and he recognized his
former mistress.

"Irmal" he exclaimed.

The cry came from his heart, and
affected th« heart of this pleasure-sur-
feited woman so greatly that the next
moment she was lying on the breast of
the man whom she had believed to be
dead, but only for a moment, for he
freed himself from her.

"We are fated to meet again thus!"
she began.

"Not through any fault of mine," he
replied bitterly.

"And not through mine either," she
said quickly; "everybody thought that*
you were dead, and I wept for you;
that is my justification."

•'You are really too kind," he replied



sarcastically. "How can you condescend
to make any excuses to me? I wear
your livery; you have to order, and I
have to obey; our relative positions are
clear enough."

Frau von Kubinyi turned away to
hide her tears.

"I did not intend to hurt your feel-
ings," he continued; "but I must con-
fess that it would have been better for
both of us, if we had not met again. But
what do you mean by making me wear
your livery? Is it not enough that I
have been robbed of my happiness?
Does it afford you any pleasure to hu-
miliate me as well?"

"How can you think that?" the actress
exclaimed. "Ever since I discovered
your unhappy lot, I have thought of
nothing but the means of delivering you
from it, and until I succeed in doing this,
however, I can at least make it more
bearable for you."

"I understand," the unhappy x)oet said
with a sneer. "And in order to do this,
you have begged your present worshiper
to turn your former lover into a foot-
man."

"What a thing to say to me!"

"Can you find any other pleasure for
it? You wish to punish me for having
loved you, idolized you, I suppose?" the
poet continued. "So exactly like a wo-
man! But I can perfectly well imder-
stand that the situation promises to have
a fresh charm for you."

Before he could finish what he was
saying, the actress quickly left the room ;
he could hear her sobbing, but he did
not regret his words, and his contempt
and hatred for her only increased when
he saw the extravagance and the
princely luxury with which she was sur-



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56d



WCmKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



rounded. But what was the use of his
indignation? He was wearing her livery,
he was obliged to wait upon her and to
obey her, for she had the corporal's cane
at her command. It really seemed as if
he incurred the vengeance of the of-
fended woman; as if the GeneraFs in-
solent mistress wished to make him feel
her whole power; as if he were not to
be spared the deepest humiliation.

The General and two of Frau von
Kubinyi's friends, who were also ser-
vants of the Muses, for one was a ballet
dancer and the other an actress, had
come to tea, and he was to wait on
them.

While it was being made, he heard
them laughing in the next room. The
blood flew to his head when the butler
opened the door and Frau von Kubinyi
appeared on the General's arm. She did
not, however, look at her new footman,
her former lover, triumphantly or con-
temptuously, but gave him a glance of
the deepest commiseration.

Could he, after all, have wronged her?

Hatred and love, contempt and jeal-
ousy were struggling in his breast, and
when he had to fill the glasses, the
bottle shook in his hand.

"Is this the man?" the General said,
looking at him closely.

Frau von Kubinyi nodded.

"He was evidently not bom for a
footman," the General added.

"And still less for a soldier," the
actress observed.

These words fell heavily on the un-
fortunate poet's heart, but she was evi-
dently taking his part, and trying to
rescue him from his terrible position.

Suspicion, however, once more gained
the day.



"She is tired of all pleasures, and
satiated with enjoyment,'* he said to
himself; "she requires excitement and it
amuses her to see the man whom she
formerly loved, and who, as she knows,
still loves her, tremble before her. And
when she pleases, she can see me
tremble; not for my life, but for fear of
the disgrace which she can inflict upon
me, at any moment, if it should give her
any pleasure."

But suddenly the actress gave him a
look, which was so sad and so implor-
ing, that he looked down in confusion.

From that time he remained in her
house without performing any duties,
and without receiving any orders from
her; in fact he never saw her, and did
not venture to ask after her. Two
months had passed in this way, when the
General unexpectedly sent for him. He
waited, with many others, in the ante-
room. The General came back from
parade, saw him, and beckoned him to
follow him, and as soon as they were
alone, said:

"You are free, as you have been al-
lowed to purchase your discharge."

"Good heavens!** the poet stam-
mered, "how am I to — "

"That is already done," the G^eral
replied. "You are free."

"How is it possible? How can 1 thank
your Excellency!"

"You owe me no thanks," he replied;
"Frau von Kubinyi bought you out."

The poor poet's heart seemed to stop;
he could not speak, nor even stammer
a word ; but with a low bow, he rushed
out and tore wildly through the streets,
until he reached the mansion of the
woman whom he had so misunderstood,



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AN UTMFORTUNATE LIKENESS



S60



quite out of breath; he muit see her
again, and throw himself at her feet.

*'Where are you going to?" the porter
asked him.

"To Frau von Kubinyi's."



"She is not here.

"Not here?"

"She has gone away."

"Gone away? Where to?"

"She started for Paris two hours ago."



An Unfortunate Likeness



It was during one of those sudden
changes of the electric light, which at
one time throws rays of exquisite pale
pink, of a liquid gold filtered through
the light hair of a woman, and at an-
other, rays of bluish hue with strange
tints, such as the sky assumes at twi-
light, in which the women with their
bare shoulders looked like living flow-
ers — ^it was, I say, on the night of the
first of January at Montonirail's, the
dainty painter of tall, undulating figures,
of bright dresses of Parisian prettiness
— that tall Pescarelle, whom some called
"Pussy,*', though I do not know why,
suddenly said in a low voice:

"Well, people were not altogether
mistaken, in fact, were only half wrong
when they coupled my name with that
of pretty Lucy Ponelle. She had
caught me, just as a birdcatcher on a
frosty morning catches an imprudent
wren on a limed twig — ^in fact, she might
have done whatever she liked with me.

"I was under the charm of her enig-
matical and mocking smile, that smile in
which her teeth gleamed cruelly be-
tween her red lips, and glistened as if
they were ready to bite and to heighten
the pleasure of the most delightful, the
most voluptuous, kiss by pain.



"I loved everything in her— her
feline suppleness, her languid looks
which emerged from her half -closed lids,
full of promises and temptation, her
somewhat extreme elegance, and her
hands, those long, delicate white hands,
with blue veins, like the bloodless hands
of a female saint in a stained glass win-
dow, and her slender fingers, on which
only the large blooddrop of a ruby
glittered.

"I would have given her all my re-
maining youth and vigor to have laid
my burning hands upon the back of her
cool, round neck, and to feel that bright,
silk, golden mane enveloping me and
caressing my skin. I was never tired of
hearing her disdainful, petulant voice,
those vibrations which sounded as if
they proceeded from clear glass, whose
music, at times, became hoarse, harsh,
and fierce, like the loud, sonorous calls
of the Valkyries.

"Good heavens! to be her lover, to
be her chattel, to belong to her, to de-
vote one's whole existence to her, to
spend one's last half-penny and to sink
in misery, only to have the glory and
the happines of possessing her splendid
beauty, the sweetness of her kisses, the
pink and the white of her demonlike



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570



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



soul all to m)rself, if only for a few
months!

"It makes you laugh, I know, to
think that I should have been caught
like that — ^I who give such good, pru-
dent advice to my friends — I who fear
love as I do those quicksands and shoals
which appear at low tide and in which
one may be swallowed up and disappear!

"But who can answer for himself,
who can defend himself against such a
danger, as the magnetic attraction that
inheres in such a woman? Nevertheless,
I got cured and perfectly cured, and
that quite accidentally. This is how the
enchantment, which was apparently so
infrangible, was broken.

"On the first night of a play, I was
sitting in the stalls close to Lucy, whose
motlier had accompanied her, as usual.
They occupied the front of a box, side
by side. From some unsurmountable
attraction, I never ceased looking at the
woman whom I loved with all the force
of my being. I feasted my eyes on her
beauty, I saw nobody except her in the
theater, and did not listen to the piece
that was being performed on the stage.

"Suddenly, however, I felt as if I had
received a blow from a dagger in my
heart, and I had an insane hallucina-
tion. Lucy had moved, and her pretty
head was in profile, in the same attitude
and with the same lines as her mother.
I do not know what shadow or what



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