Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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play of light had hardened and altered
the color of her delicate features,
effacing their ideal prettiness, but the
more I looked at them both, at the one
who was young and the one who was
old, the greater the distressing resem-
blance became.



"I saw Lucy growing older and older,
striving against those accimiulating years
which bring wrinkles in the face, pro-
duce a double chin and crow's-feet, and
spoil the mouth. They almost looked
like twins,

"I suffered so, that I thought I should
go mad. Yet in spite of myself, in-
stead of shaking off this feeling and
making my escape out of the theater,
far scway into the noise and life of the
boulevards, I persisted in looking at the
other, at the old one, in examining her,
in judging her, in dissecting her with
my eyes. I got excited over her flabby
cheeks, over those ridiculous dimples,
that were half filled up, over that treble
chin, that dyed hair, those lusterless
eyes, and that nose, which was a carica-
ture of Lucy's beautiful, attractive little
nose.

"I had a prescience of the future. I
loved her, and I should love her more
and more every day, that little sorceress
who had so despotically and so quickly
conquered me. I should not allaw any
participation or any intrigue from the
day she gave herself to me, and once in-
timately connected, who could tell
whether, just as I was defending myself
against it most, the legitimate termina-
tion — marriage — ^might not come?

"Why not give one's name to a wo-
man whom one loves, and whom one
trusts? The reason was that I should
be tied to a disfigured, ugly creature,
with whom I should not venture to be
seen in public. My friends would leer
at her with laughter in their eyes, and
with pity in their hearts for the man
who was accompanying those remains.

"And so, as soon as the curtain had



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A NIGHT IN WHITECBLXPEL



571



fallen, without saying good day or good
evening, I had myself driven to the
Moulin Rouge.
♦ » ♦ ♦ 4( ^^ ♦



"Well/' Florise d'Anglet exclaimed,
"I shall never take mamma to the
theater with me again, for the men are
really going crazy!"



A Night in Whitechapel



My friend Ledantec and I were each
twenty-five, and we were visiting Lon-
don for the first time in our lives. It
was a Saturday evening in December,
cold and foggy, and I think that this
combination is more than enough to ex-
plain why my friend Ledantec and I
managed to get abominably drimk,
though, to tell the truth, we were not
experiencing any discomfort from it.
On the contrary, we were floating in an
atmosphere of perfect bliss. We did not
speak, certainly, for we were incapable
of doing so, but then we had no incli-
nation for conversation. What would
be the good of it? We could easily read
all our thoughts in each other's eyes, the
more so because we knew that we were
thinking about nothing whatever.

It was not, however, in order to ar-
rive at that state of delicious, intellec-
tual nullity, that we had gone to mys-
terious Whitechapel. We had gone into
the first public-house we saw, with the
firm intention of studying manners and
customs there, — ^not to mention morals,
— ^as spectators, artists, and philoso-
phers, but in the second public-house
we entered, we ourselves began to re-
semble the objects of our investigations,
that is to say, sponges soaked in alcohol.
Between one public-house and the other,
the outer air seemed to squeeze thos^



sponges dry, and thus we rolled from
public-house to public-house, till at last
the sponges could hold no more.

Consequently, we had ioj some time
bidden farewell to our studies in morals;
they were now limited to two impres-
sions: zigzags through the darkness out-
side, and a gleam of light outside the
public houses. As to the imbibition of
brandy, whisky, and gin, that was done
mechanically, and our stdhiachs scarcely
noticed it.

But what strange beings we had el-
bowed with during our long stoppages!
What a nimiber of faces to be remem-
bered; what clothes, what attitudes,
what talk, and what squalor!

At first we tried to note these things
exactly in our memory, but there were
so many of them, and our brains got
muddled so quickly, that just then we
had no very dear recollection of any-
thing or anybody. Even objects im-
mediately before us passed by in vague,
dusky phantasmagoria, confounded with
things farther away in an inextricable
manner. The world became a sort of
kaleidoscope to us, seen in a dream
through the penumbra of an aquarium.

Suddenly we were roused from this
state of somnolence, awakened as if by
a blow on the chest, forced to fix our
attention on what wie saw, f or^ amid this



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



whirl of strange sights, one stranger
than all attracted our eyes, and seemed
to say: "Look at me."

It was at the open door of a public
house. A ray of light streamed into
the street through the half-open door,
and the revealing ray fell right on to
the specter that had just risen up there,
dumb and motionless.

It was indeed a pitiful and terrible
specter, and, above all, most real, as it
stood out boldly agamst the dark back-
ground of the street, which it made
darker still!

Young? yes, the woman was certainly
young. There could be no doubt about
that, when one looked at her smooth
skin, her smiling moiith showing white
teeth, and the firm bust which could be
plainly noted .under her thin dress.

But then, how explain her perfectly
white hair, not gray or growmg gray,
but absolutely white, as white as any
octogenarian's?

And then her eyes, those eyes be-
neath a smooth brow, were surely the
eyes of an old woman? Certainly they
were, and of how old a woman you
could not tell, for it must have taken
years of trouble and sorrow, of tears
and of sleepless nights, and a long ex-
istence, thus to dull, wear out and
roughen those vitreous pupils.

Wreous? Not exactly that. For
roughened glass still retains a dull and
milky brightness, a recollection, as it
were, of its former transparency. But
these eyes seemed rather to be of metal
which had turned rusty, and really, if
pewter could rust, I should have com-
pared them to pewter covered with rust
They had the dead color of pewter, and



at the same time emitted a glance wbi^
was the color of reddish water.

But it was not until some time later
that I tried to define them approxi*
mately by retrospective analysis. At
that moment, being altogether incapable
of such effort, I could only realize in
my own mind the idea of extreme de*
crepitude and horrible old age which
they produced in my imagination.

Have I had said that they were set in
very puffy eyelids, which had no Iashe»
whatever, and that on her unwrinkled
forehead there was not a vestige* of eye-^
brow? When I tell you this, and em-
phasize the dullness of their look be-
neath the hair of an octogenarian, it is
not surprising that Ledantec and I said
in a low voice at the sight of this wo-
man, who from her physique must ha>^
been young:

"Oh! poor, poor old woman!''
Her age was further accentuated by
the terrible poverty revealed by her
dress. If she had been better dressed,
her youthful looks would, perhaps, have
struck us more; but her thin shawl,
which was all that she had over her
chemi3e, her single petticoat which was
full of holes and almost in rags, not
nearly reaching to her bare feet, her
straw hat with ragged feathers and with
ribbons of no particular color through
age, seemed altogether so ancient, so
prodigiously antique that we were de-
ceived.

From what remote, superannuated,
and obsolete period did they all spring?
You could not guess, and by a pei^ectly
natural association of ideas, you would
Infer that the unfortunate creature was
as old as her clothes were. Now, by
"you" I mean by Ledantec and mysd^



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A NIGHT IN WHITECHAPEL



sy:^



that is to say, by two men who were
abominably drunk and who were arguing
with the peculiar logic of intoxication.

Under the softening influence of al-
cohol we looked at the vague smile on
those lips hiding the teeth of a child,
without considering the youthful beauty
of the latter. We saw nothing but her
fixed and almost idiotic smile, which no
longer contrasted with the dull expres-
sion of her face, but, on the contrary,
strengthened it. For in spite of her
teeth, to us it was the smile of an old
woman, and as for myself, I was really
pleased at my acuteness when I inferred
that this grandmother with such pale
lips had the teeth of a young girl. Still,
thanks to the softening influence of al-
cohol, I was not angry with her for this
artifice. I even thought it particularly
praiseworthy, since, after all, the poor
creature thus conscientiously pursued
her calling, which was to seduce men.
For there was no possible doubt that
this grandmother was nothing more nor
less than a prostitute.

And then, drunk! Horribly drunk,
much more drunk than Ledantec and I
were, for we really could manage to say:
**0h! Pity the poor, poor old woman 1"
while she was incapable of articulating
a single syllable, of making a gesture,
or even of imparting a gleam of prom-
ise, a furtive flash of allurement to her
eyes. With her hands crossed on her
stomach, and leaning against the front
of the public house, her whole body as
stiff as if in a fit of catalepsy, she had
nothing alluring about her, save her sad
smile. This inspired us with all the
more pity because she was even more
tipsy than we were, and so, by an iden-
tical, spontaneous movement, we each



seized her by an arm to take her into the
public-house with us.

To our great astonishment she re-
sisted, and sprang back into the shadow
again, out of the ray of light which
came through the door. At the same
time, she started off through the dark-
ness dragging us with her, for she was
clinging to our arms. We went along
vfith her without speaking, not knowing
where wc were going, but without the
least uneasiness on that score. Only,
when she suddenly burst into violent
sobs as she walked, Ledantec and I be-
gan to sob in unison.

The cold and the fog had suddenly
congested our brains again, and we had
again lost all precise consciousness of
our acts, our thoughts, and our sensa^
tions. Our sobs had nothing of grief in
them; we were floating in an atmosphere
of perfect bliss, and I can remember
that at that moment it was no longer
the exterior world at which I seemed to
be looking as through the penumbra of
an aquarium; it was myself, a self com-
posed of three, which was changing into
something that was floating adrift in
something, though what it was I did
not know, composed as it was of im-
palpable fog and intangible water. But
it was exquisitely delightful.

From that moment I remember noth*
ing more until something happened
which had the effect of a clap of thim-
der on me, and made me sober in an
instant.

Ledantec was standing in front of me,
his face convulsed with horror, his hair
standing on end, and his eyes staring out
of his head. He shouted to me:

"Let us escape! Let us escape 1*^
Whereupon I opened my eyes wide, and



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



found in3rself lying on the floor, in a
room into which daylight was shining.
I saw some rags hanging against the
wall, two chairs, a broken jug lying on
the floor by my side, and in a comer a
•^eretched bed on which a woman was
lying, who was no doubt dead, for her
head was hanging over the side, and her
long white hair reached almost to my
feet.

With a bound I was up, like Ledantec.

"What!" I said to him, while my
teeth chattered: "Did you kill her?"

"No, no," he repHed. "But that
makes no difference; let us be off."

I felt completely sober by that time,
but I did think that he was ctill suffer-
mg somewhat from the effects of last
night's drinking; otherwise, why should
he wish to escape? Pity for the un-
fortunate woman forced me to say:

"What is the matter with her? If
she is ill, we must look after her."

I went over to the wretched bed, in
order to put her head back on the pil-
low, and discovered that she was neither
dead nor ill, but only sound asleep. I
also noticed that she was quite young.
She still wore that idiotic smile, but her
teeth were her own and those of a girl.
Her smooth skin and firm bust showed
that she was not more than sixteen;
perhaps not so much.

"There! You see it, you can see it!"
said Ledantec. "Let us be off."

He tried to drag me out. He was still
drunk; I could see it by his feverish
movements, his trembling hands, and
his nervous looks. Then he said.

"I slept beside the old woman; but
she is not old. Look at her; look at
her; yes, she is old after all!"

And he lifted up her long hair by



handfuls; it was like handfuls of white
silk, and then he added, evidently in a
sort of frenzy, which made me fear an
attack of delirium tremens: "To think
that I have begotten children, three,
four children— who knows how many
children, all in one night! And they
were bom immediately, and have grown
up already! Let us be off."

Decidedly it was an attack of znacC
ness. Poor Ledantec! What could 1
do for him? I took his arm and tried
to calm him, but he thought that I was
going to try and make him go over to
her again, and he pushed me away and
exclaimed with tears in his voice: "If
you do not believe me, look under the
bed; the children are there; they are are
there, I tell you. Look here, just look
here."

He threw himself down flat on his
stomach, and actually pulled out onc»
two, three, four children, who had hid-
den under the bed. I do not exactly
know whether they were boys or girls,
but all, like the sleeping woman, had
white hair, the hair of octogenarians.

Was I still dnmk, like Ledantec, or
was I mad? What was the meaning of
this strange hallucination? I hesitated
for a moment, and shook myself to be
sure that I was awake.

No, no, I had all my wits about me,
and in reality saw that horrible lot of
little brats. They all had their faces in
their hands, and were crying and squall-
ing; then one of them suddenly jumped
on to the bed; all the others followed
his example, and the woman woke up.

And there we stood, while those five
pairs of eyes, without eyebrows or ^ye-



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LOST!



57S



lashes, eyes of the color of dull pewter,
with pupils the color of red water, were
steadily fixed on us.

"Let us be off! let us be off!*' Ledan-
tec repeated, loosing his hold of me.



said, and after throwing some small
change on to the floor, I followed him,
to make him understand, when he be-
came quite "sober, that he saw before
him a poor Albino unfortunate, who



This time I paid attention to what he had several brothers and sisters.



l/)st!



Love is stronger than death, and con-
sequently, also, than the greatest dis-
aster.

A young and by no means bad-look-
ing son of Palestine, one of the barons
of the Almanac of the Ghetto,* who
had left the field covered with wounds in
the last general engagement on the Stock
Exchange, used very frequently to visit
the Universal Exhibition in Vienna in
1873, in order to divert his thoughts, and
to console himself amid the varied
scenes and the numerous objects of at-
traction there. One day, in the Russian
section, he met a newly-married couple,
who had a very old coat of arms, but on
the other hand, a very modest income.

This latter circumstance frequently
emboldened the stockbroker to make
secret overtures to the delightful little
lady; overtures which might have fas-
cinated certain Viennese actresses, but
were an insult to a respectable woman.
The Baroness, whose name appeared in
the "Almanach de Gotha,"t felt some-
thing very like hatred for the man from
the Ghetto, and for a long time her
pretty little head had been full of
various plans of revenge.

The stockbroker, who was really and
even Dassionatelv in love with her, got



close to her one day in the Exhibition
buildings. He did this the more easily
through the flight of the little woman's
husband who had scented extravagance
as soon as she went up to the show-case
of a Russian fur-dealer, before which
she remained standing in rapture.

"Do look at that lovely fur," the
Baroness said, while her dark eyes ex-
pressed her pleasure; "I must have it."

But she looked at the white ticket on
which the price was marked.

"Four thousand rubles," she said in
despair; "that is about six thousand
florins."t

"Certainly," he replied, %ut what of
that? It is a sum not worth mentioning
in the presence of such a charming
lady."

"But my husband is not in a posi-
tion—"

"Be less cruel than usual for once,''
the man from the Ghetto said to the
young woman in a low voice, "and allow
me to lay this sable skin at your feet.*



♦The Jews* quarter in some towns.

tAn Almanac published early in
Gotha, which contains a full account
and genealogies of reigning families,
mediatized princes, princely, non-reign*
ing families, etc., etc

t$3,000.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



"I presume that you are joking.'*

"Not 11"

"I think you must be joking, as I
cannot think that you intend to insult
me."

"But, Baroness, I love you."

"That is one reason more why you
should not make me angry.'*

"But—"

"This is outrageous," cried the ener-
getic little woman; "I could flog you
like *Venus in the Fur'* did her slave."

"Let me be your slave," the Stock
Exchange baron replied ardently, "and I
will gladly put up with everything from
you. Really, in this sable cloak, and
with a whip in your hand, you would
make a most lovely picture of the hero-
ine of that story."

The Baroness looked at the man for a
moment with a peculiar smile.

"Then if 1 were to listen to you favor-
ably, you would let me flog you?" said
she after a pause.

"With pleasure."

"Very well," she replied quickly.
"You will let me give you twenty-five
cuts with a whip, and I will be yours
after the twenty-fifth blow."

"Are you in earnest?"

"Fully."

The man from the Ghetto took her
hand, and pressed it ardently to his lips.

"When may I come?"

"To-morrow evening at eight o'clock."

"And I may bring the sable cloak and
the whip with me?"

"No, I will see about that myself."

Next evening the enamored stock-
broker came to the abode of the charm-
ing little Baroness, and found her alone,
lying on a couch, wrapped in dark fur



and holding a dog whip in her smaQ
hand, which the man from the Ghetto
kissed.

"You know our agreement," she be-
gan.

"Of course I do," the Stock Exchange
baron replied. "I am to allow you to
give me twenty-five cuts with the whip,
and after the twenty-fifth you will listen
to me."

"Yes, but I am going to tie your
hands first of all."

The amorous baron quietly allowed
this new Delila to tie his hands behind
him, and then at her bidding, he knelt
down before her, and she raised her
whip and hit him hard.

"Oh! That hurts most confoimdedly,**
he exclaimed.

"I mean it to hurt you," she said with
a mocking laugh, and went on thrash-
ing him without mercy. At last the
poor fool groaned with pain, but he con-
soled himself with the Uiought that each
blow brought him nearer to his happi-
ness.

At the twenty-fourth cut, she threw
the whip down.

"That only makes twenty-four," the
beaten and would-be Don Juan re-
marked.

"I will make you a present of the
twenty-fifth," she said with a laugh.

"And now you are mine, altogether
mine," he exclaimed ardently.
"What are you thinking of?"
"Have I not let you beat me?**
"Certainly; but I promised you to
grant your wish after the twenty-fifth
blow, and you have only received
twenty-four," the cruel little atom of



♦One of Sachcr-Masoch's novels.



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A COUNTRY EXCURSION



577



virtue cried, *'ahd I have witnesses to
prove it.'*

With these words she drew back the
curtains over the door, and her husband,
fohowed by two other gentlemen came
out of the next room, smiling. For a



moment the stockbroker remained
speechless on his knees before his
Delila; then he gave a deep sigh, and
sadly uttered that one, most significant
word:



A Country Excursion



For five months they had been talk-
ing of going~ to lunch at some country
restaurant in the neighborhood of Paris,
on Madame Dufour's birthday, and as
they were looking forward very impati-
ently to the outing, they had risen very
early that morning. Monsieur Dufour
had borrowed the milkman's tilted cart,
and drove himself. It was a very neat,
two-wheeled conveyance, with a hood,
and in it Madame Dufour, resplendent
in a wonderful, Cherry-colored silk dresy,
sat by the side of her husband.

The old grandmother and the daughter
were accommodated with two chairs,
and a yellow-haired youth, of whom,
howevefpnothing was to be seen except
his head, lay at the bottom of the trap.

When they got to the bridge of
Neuilly, Monsieur Dufour said: "Here
we are in the country at last!'' At
that warning, his wife grew sentimental
about the beauties of nature. When
they got to the crossroads at Courbe-
voie, they were seized with admiration
for the tremendous view down there:
on the right was the spire of Argenteuil
church, above it rose the hills of Sannois
and the mill of Orgemont, while on the
left, the aqueduct of Marly stood out
against the clear morning sky. In the



distance they could see the terrace of
Saint-Germain, and opposite to them, at
the end of a low chain of hills, the new
fort of Cormeilles. Afar — a very long
way off, beyond the plams and villages
— one could see the somber green of the
forests.

The sun was beginning to shine in
their faces, the dust got into their eyes,
and on either side of the road there
stretched an interminable tract of bare,
ugly country, which smelled unpleas-
antly. You would have thought that it
had been ravaged by a pestilence which
had even attacked the buildings, for
skeletons of dilapidated and deserted
houses, or small cottages left in an im-
finished state, as if the contractors had
not been paid, reared their four roofless
walls on each side.

Here and there tall factory-chimneys
rose up from the barren soil, the oidy
vegetation on that putrid land, where
the spring breezes wafted an odor of
petroleum and soot, mingled with an-
other smell that was even still less agree-
able. At last, however, they crossed the
Seine a second time. It was delightful
on the bridge; the river sparkled in the
sun, and they had a feeling of quiet
satisfaction and enjoyment in drmking



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



in purer air, not impregjiated by the
black smoke of factories, nor by the
miasma from the deposits of night-soil.
A man whom they met told them that
the name of the place was Bezons; so
Monsieur Dufour pulled up, and read
the attractive announcement outside an
eating-house :

''Restaurant Poulin, stews and fried
fish, private rooms, arbors, and swmgs."

"Well! Madame Dufour, will this
suit you? Will you make up your mind
at last?"

She read the announcement in her
turn, and then looked at the house for
a time.

It was a white coimtry inn, built by
the roadside, and through the open door
she coidd see the. bright zinc of the coun-
ter, at which two workmen out for the
day tyere sitting. At last she made up
her mind, and said:

"Yes, this will do; and, besides, there
is a view."

So they drove into a large yard
studded with trees, behind the inn, which
was only separated from the river by
the towing-path, and got out. The
husband sprang out first, and held out
his arms for his wife. As the step was
very high, Madame Dufour, in order to
reach him, had to show the lower part
of her limbs, whose former slenderness
had disappeared in fat. Monsieur Du-
four, who was already getting excited
by the country air, pinched her calf, and
then, taking her in his arms, set her on
to the ground, as if she had been some
enormous bimdle. She shook the dust
out of the silk dress, and then looked
round, to see in what sort of a place
5he was.

She was a stout woman^ of about



thirty-six full-blown and delightful to
look at. She could hardly breathe, as
she was laced too tightly, which forced
the heaving mass of her superabundant
bosom up to her double chin. Next, the
girl put her hand on to her father's
shoulder, and jumped lightly down. The
youth with the yellow hair had got



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