Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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were more desirable, more smiling than
others, that there was hair in which it
must be delicious to bury the fingers
as in fine silk, and which it must be de-
lightful to kiss, and that there were
eyes which contained an infinitude of
caresses. He wandered right through
the eclogue, which at length revealed
true happiness to him, and he had a
child, a son. by her.

This was the only secret that Ramel
jealously concealed, and of which no
more than two or three of his oldest

friends knew aught. While he hesitated
about spending twopence on himself,
and went to the Institute and to the
Chamber of Deputies outside an omni-
bus, Pepa led the happy life of a mil-
lionaire who is not frightened of the
to-morrow, and brought up her son like a
little prince, with a tutor and three
servants, who had nothing to do but to
look after him.

All that Ramel made went into his
mistress's hands, and when he felt that
his last hour was approaching, and that
there was no hope of his recovery — in
full possession of his faculties and with
joy in his dull eyes, he gave his name
to Pepa, and made her his lawful widow,
in the presence of all hii friends. She
inherited everything that her former
^over left behind, a considerable income
from the royalties on his books, and also
his pension, which the State continued
to pay to her.

Little Ramel throve wonderfully amid
all this luxury, and gave free scope to
his instincts and his caprices, without
his mother ever having the courage to
reprove him in the least, and he did
not bear the slightest resemblance to
Jean Ramel.

Full of pranks, effeminate, a superfine
dandy, and precociously vicious, be sug-
gested the idea of those pages at the
Court of Florence, whom we meet with
in the "Decameron,** and who were the
pla5^things for the idle hands of patrician

He was very ignorant, lived at a great
rate, bet on races, and played cards for
heavy stakes with seasoned gamblers,
old enough to be his father. It was dis-
tressing to hear this lad joke about the

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memory of him wliom he called the old
man, and persecute his mother because
of the worship and adoration which she
felt for Jean Ramel, whom she spoke
of as if he had become a demigod, when
he died, as in the Roman theogony.

He would have liked altogether to
have altered the arrangement of that
sanctuary, the drawing-room, where
Pepa kept some of her husband's manu-
scripts, the furniture that he had most
frequently used, the bed on which he
bad died, his pens, his clothes, and his
weapons. And one evening, not know-
ing how to dress himself up more
originally than the rest for a masked ball
that stout Toinette Danicheff was going
to give as a housewarming, without say-
ing a word to his mother, he took down
the Academician's dress, the sword and
cocked hat that had belonged to Jean

Ramel, and put it on as if it had been
a disguise on Shrove Tuesday.

Slightly built and with thin arms and
legs, the wide clothes hung ' on him.
He was a comical sight with the em-
broidered skirt of his coat sweeping the
carpet, and his sword knocking against
his heels. The elbows and the collar
were shiny and greasy from wear, for
the Master had worn it until it was
threadbare, to avoid having to buy an-
other, and had never thought of r^lac-

He made a tremendous hit, and fair
Liline Ablette laughed so at his grimaces
and his disguise, that that night she
threw over Prince Noureddin for him,
although he had paid for her house, her
horses, and everything else, and allowed
her six thousand francs a month for
extras and pocket money.

A Rupture

"It is just as I tell you, my dear fel-
low. Those two poor things whom we
all of us envied, who looked like a
couple of doves when they are billing
and cooing, and were always spooning,
until they made themselves ridiculous,
now hate each other just as much as
they used to adore each other. It is a
complete break, and one of those which
cannot be mended like an old plate!
And all for a bit of nonsense, for some-
thing so funny that it ought to have
brought them closer together and have
amused them immensely.

"But how can a man explain himself
when he is dying of jealousy and keeps

repeating to his terrified mistress: *You
are lying! you are lying!' When he
shakes her, interrupts her while she is
speaking, and says such hard things to
her that at last she files into a rage,
and thinks of nothing but of giving him
tit for tat and of paying him out in his
own coin, does not care a straw about
destroying his happiness, consigns every-
thing to the devil, and talks a lot of
bosh which she certainly does not be-
lieve — can you blame her? And then,
because there is nothing so stupid and
so obstinate in the whole world as a
lover, neither he nor she will take the
first step, and own to having been 1t}

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the wrong, and apologize for having gone
too far. Both wait and watch and do
not even write a few lines about nothing,
a subterfuge which would restore peace.
No, they let day succeed day, and there
are feverish and sleepless nights when
the bed seems so hard, so cheerless, and
so large, and habits get weakened and
the fire of love that was still smolder-
ing at the bottom of each heart dies in
smoke. By degrees both find some rea-
son for what they wish to do, think
themselves idiots to lose the time which
will never return, in that fashion, and
so good-bye, and there you are! That
is how Josine Cadenette and that great
idiot Servance separated."

Lalie Spring had lighted a cigarette,
and the blue smoke played about her
fine, fair hair, making one think of those
last rays of the setting sun which pierce
through the clouds at sunset. Resting
her elbows on his knees, and with her
chin in her hand in a dreamy attitude,
she murmured:

"Sad, isn't it?"

"Bah!" I replied, "at their age people
easily console themselves, and every-
thing begins over again, even love!"

"Well, Josine has already found some-
body else — '*

"And did she tell you her story?**

"Of course she did, and it is such a
joke! You know that Servance is one
of those fellows you would wish to have
when you have time to amuse yourself,
so self-possessed that he would be capa-
ble of ruining all the older ones in a
girls' school, and given to trifling as
much as most men, so that Josine calls
him 'perpetual motion.* He would have
liked to prolong his fun imtil the Day
of Judgment and seemed to fancy that

beds were not made to sleep in at all
But she could not get used to being de-
prived of nearly all her rest, and it really
made her ill. But as she wished to be
as conciliatory as possible, to love and
to be loved as ardently as in the past,
and also to sleep off the effects of her
happiness peacefully, she rented a small
room in a distant quarter, in a quiet
shady street, giving out that she had
just come from the country, and put
hardly any furniture into it except a
good bed and a dressing-table.

"Then she invented an old aunt, who
was ill and always grumbling, who suf-
fered from heart disease and lived in
one of the suburbs, and so, several times
a week, Josine took refuge in her sleep-,
ing place, and used to sleep late there
as if it had been some delicious abode,
where one forgets the ^hole world.
Once they forgot to call her at the proper
time; she got back late, tired, with red
and swollen eyelids, involved herself in
lies, contradicted herself, and looked so
much as if she had just come from the
confessional, feeling horribly ashamed of
herself, or, as if she had hurried home
from some assignation, that Servance
worried hunself about it, thought that
he was being made a fool of, as so many
of his comrades were, got into a rage
and made up his mind to set the matter
straight, and to discover who this aunt
was who had so suddenly fallen from
the skies.

"He applied to an obliging agency,
where they excited his jealousy, exas*
perated him day after day by making
him believe that Josine Cadenette was
making an absolute fool of him, had no
more a sick aunt than she had any vir-
tue, but that during the day she con-

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tinued the little debaucheries which she
committed with him at night, and that
she shamelessly frequented some dis-
creet bachelor's lodgings, where probably
more than one of his best friends was
amusing himself at his expense, and hav-
ing his share of the cake.

"He was fool enough to believe these
fellows, in stead of going and watching
Josine himself, putting his nose into
the business, and finding and knocking
at the door of her room. He wanted
to hear no more, and would not listen
to her. For a trifle, in spite of her
tears, he would have turned the poor
thing into the streets, as if she had been
a bundle of dirty linen. You may guess
how she flew out at him and told him
all sorts of things to annoy him; she
let him believe he was not mistaken^
that she had had enough of his affec-
tion, and that she was madly in love

with another man. He grew very pale
when she said that, looked at her fur-
iously, clenched his teeth, and said in a
hoarse voice:

"Tell me his name, tell me his

" *0h!' she said, chaffingly, *you know
him very well!' and if I had not hap-
pened to have gone in I think there
would have been a tragedy. How stupid
they are : they were so happy and loved
each other so. And now Josine is living
with fat Schweinssohn, a low scoundrel
who will live upon her, and Servance
has taken up with Sophie Labisque, who
might easily be his mother. You know
her, that bundle of red and yellow, who
has been at that kind of thing for eight-
een years, and whom Iagland6e has
christened *Saecida saecidoruml* "

"By Jove! I should rather think 1

Margofs Tapers


On the evening of Midsummer day,
Margot Fresquyl had allowed hersdf
to taste for the first time the delicious
intoxication of the mortal sin of loving.

While most of the young people were
holding one another's hands and danc-
ing in a circle round the burning logs,
the girl had shyly taken the deserted
road which lead to the wood, leaning on
the arm of her partner, a tall, vigorous
farm-servant, whose Christian name was
Hennou, which, by the way, was the
only name he had borne from his birth.

For he was entered on the register of
births with this curt note, "Father and
mother unknown," having been found on
St. Stephen's Day under a shed on a
farm, where some poor, despairing
wretch had abandoned him, perhaps even
without turning her head to look at him.
For months Tiennou had madly wor-
shiped the pretty blond girl, who was
now trembling as he clasped in his arms,
imder the sweet coolness of the leaves.
He well remembered how she had daz-
zled him — ^like some ecstatic and inef-
faceable vision, — ^the first time that he
saw her in her father's mill, where he

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had gone to ask for work. She stood
out all rosy from the warmth of the
day, amid the impalpable clouds of flour,
which diffused a misty whiteness through
the ain With her hair hanging about
her in imtidy curls, as if she had just
awakened from a profound sleep, she
stretched herself lazily, her bare arms
clasped behind her head, yawning so as
to show her white teeth, which glistened
like those of a young wolf, and from
beneath her unbuttoned bodice her
maiden bosom appeared with innocent
immodesty. He told her that he thought
her adorable, so stupidly that she made
fun of him and scourged him with her
cruel laughter. From that day, he spent
his life in Margot's shadow. He might
have been taken for one of those wild
beasts ardent with desire, which cease-
lessly utter maddened cries to the stars
on nights when the constellations bathe
the dark coverts in warm light. Mar-
got met him wherever she went, and .
seized with pity, and by degrees attracted
by his ardor, by his dumb entreaties, by
the burning looks which flashed from his
large eyes, she had returned his love.
She had dreamed restlessly that during
a whole night she had been in his vigor-
ous arms, which pressed her like com
that is being crushed in the mill; that
she was obeying a man who had subdued
her, and was learning strange things
which other girls talked about in a low
voice when drawing water at the well.

She had, however, been obliged to
wait until Midsummer day, for the miller
watched over his heiress very carefully.

The two lovers told each other all this
as they were going along the dark road,
innocently giving utterance to words of
happiness which rose to their lips like

the refrain of a forgotten song. At
times they were silent, not knowing
what more to say and not daring to
embrace each other any more. The
night was soft and warm, the warmth
of a half-closed alcove in a bedroom,
and had the effect of a tumbler of new

The leaves were sleeping motionless
and in supreme peace, and in the dis-
tance they could hear the monotonous
trill of the brooks as they flowed over
the stones. Amid the faint noise of
the insects, the nightingales were an-
swering each other from tree to tree.
Everything seemed alive with hidden life,
the sky was bright, and the falling
stars might have been taken for white
forms wandering among the dark trunks
of the trees.

'*Why have we come?" Margot asked,
in a panting voice. "Do you not want
me any more, Tiennou?"

"Alas! I dare not," he repHed. 'lis-
ten: you know that I was picked up on
the highroad, that I have nothing in the
world except my two arms, and that
miller Fresquyl will never let his daugh-
ter marry a poor devil like me."

She interrupted him with a painful
gesture, and putting her lips to his, she

"What does that matter? I love you,
and I want you. Take me."

And thus it was, on St. John*s eve,
that Margot Fresquyl for the first time
yielded to the mortal sin of love.


Did the miller guess his daughter's
secret when he heard her singing merrily
from dawn till dusk and saw her sitting
dreaming at her window Instead of sew-

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ing as she was in the habit of doing?

Did he see it when she threw ardent
kisses from the tips of her fingers to her
lover at a distance?

Whether he did or not, he shut up
poor Margot in the mill as if it had been
a prison. No more love or pleasure, no
more meetings at night on the verge of
the wood. When she chatted i^ith the
passers-by, or tried furtively to open the
gate of the inclosure to make her escape,
her father beat her as if she had been
some disobedient animal, beat her until
she would fall on her knees, on the
floor with clasped hands, scarcely able
to move, her whole body covered with
purple bruises.

She pretended to obey him, but she
revolted in her whole being, and the
string of bitter insults which he heaped
upon her rang in her head. With
clenched hands, and a gesture of terrible
hatred, she cursed him for standing in
the way of her love. At night, she
rolled about on her bed, bit the sheets,
moaned, stretched herself out for
imaginary embraces, maddened by the
longing with which her body was still
palpitating. She called out Tiennou's
name aloud, she broke the peaceful still-
ness of the sleeping house with her
heartrending sobs, and her weeping
drowned the monotonous sound of the
water dripping under the arch of the
mill, between the immovable paddles of
the wheel


Then came that terrible week in Oc-
tober when the unfortunate young fel-
lows who had drawn bad numbers had
to join their regiments.* Tienncu was
one of them. Margot was desperate at

the thought of not seeing him for five
interminable years, and grieving that
they could not even, at that hour of
sad farewell, be alone and exchange
those consoling words which afterward
soften the pang of absence.

Tiennou prowled about the house, like
a starving beggar, and one morning^
while the miller was mending the wheel,
he managed to see Margot.

"I will wait for you In the old place
to-night," he whispered, in terrible grief.
"I know it is the last time. I shall
throw myself into some deep hole in the
river if you do not come!"

"I will be there, Tiennou," she re-
plied, in a bewildered manner. "I swear
I will be there, even if I have to do
something terrible to enable me to

* * « * * * 4t

The village was on fire, illumining the
dark night, and the flames, fanned by
the wind, rose up like evil torches. The
thatched roofs, the ricks of com, the
haystacks, and the bams fell in and
crackled like rockets, while the sky
looked as if it was illuminated by an
aurora borealis. Fresquyl's mill was
smoking, and its calcined ruins were re*
fleeted on the deep water. The sheep
and cows were running about the fields
in terror, the dogs were howling, and
the women were sitting on the broken
furniture, crying and wringing their
hands. At this time Margot was aban-
doning herself to her lover's ardent

♦Written before universal service waj
obligatory, and When soldiers were se«
lected by conscription, a certain propor-
tion of those who drew high numbers
lieinff exempt from service.

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caresses, and with her arms round his
neck she said to him, tenderly:

"You see that I have kept my prom-
ise. I set fire to the mill so that I might
be able to get out. So much the worse
if all have suffered. But I do not care
as long as you love me, are happy with

And pointing to the fire, which was

still burning fiercely in the distance, die
added with a burst of savage laughter:

"Tiennou, we shall not have such
beautiful tapers at our wedding Mass
when you come back from your regi-

And thus it was that for the second
time Margot Fresquyl yielded to the
mortal sin of love.

The Accent

It was a large sheltered house, with
long white terraces shaded by vines,
from which one could see the sea. Large
pines stretched a dark arch over the
ruined fagade, and there was a look of
neglect, of want, and wretchedness about
the place, such as irreparable losses, de-
parture to other countries, and death
leave behind them.

The interior wore a strange look, with
half unpacked tnmks serving for ward-
robes, with piles of bandboxes, and for
seats an array of worm-eaten armchairs,
into which bits of velvet and silk, cut
from old dresses, had been patched at
random. Along the walls there were
rows of rusty nails which made one
think of old portraits and of pictures
full of family history, which had one
by one been sold for a song to some
second-hand furniture broker.

The rooms were in disorder and fur-
nished at random, while velvets hanging
from the ceilings and in the comers
seemed to show that as the servants
were no longer paid except by prom-
ises, they no longer did more than oc-
casionally give them an accidental, care-

less touch with the duster. The draw*
ing-room, which was extremely large,
was full of useless knickknacks, the sort
of rubbish which is put up for sale at
stalls at watering-places, daubs — they
could not be called paintings — of por-
traits and of flowers, and an old piano
with yellow keys.

Such is the home where she who had
been called the handsome Madame de
Maurillac was spending her monotonous
existence, like some unfortunate doll
which inconstant, childish hands have
thrown into a comer in a loft — she who
had almost passed for a professional
seductress, and whose coquetries, at least
so the faithful ones of the Party said,
had been able to excite a passing and
last spark of desire in the dull eyes
of the Emperor.

Like many others, she and her hus-
band had waited for his return from
Elba, had discounted a fresh, inmie-
diate chance, had kept up boldly and
spent the remains of fortune in the game
of luxury.

On the day when the illusion vanished,
and he was forced to awake from his

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dream, Monsieur de Maurillac, without
considering that he was leaving his wife
and daughter behind him almost penni-
less, and not strong enough morally to
make up his mind to come down in the
world, to vegetate, to fight creditors, to
accept some sinecure, poisoned himself,
like a shopgirl forsaken by her lover.

Madame de Maurillac did not mourn
for him. As this lamentable event had
made her interesting, and as she was
Assisted and supported by imexpected
acts of kindness, and had a good adviser
In one of those old Parisian lawyers who
can extricate you out of the worst diffi-
culties, she managed to save something
from the wreck, and to keep a small in-
come. Then reassured and emboldened,
and resting her ultimate illusions and
her frail hopes on her daughter's radiant
beauty, she prepared for that last game
in which they would risk everything,
and hoping also that she might herself
marry again, the ancient flirt arranged
a double existence.

For months and months she would
disappear from the world, and, as a pre-
text for her isolation and for hiding
herself in the country, alleged her daugh-
ter's delicate health, and the important
interests she had to look after in the
South of France.

Her frivolous friends looked upon this
as a great act of heroism, as something
almost superhuman, and so courageous,
that they tried to distract her by their
incessant letters, and religiously in-
formed her of all the scandals and love
adventures that came to light in the
suburbs as well as in the apotheosis of
the capital.

The difficult struggle which Madame
de Maurillac had to keep up in order

to maintain her rank was really as fine
as any campaign in the twilight of de-
feat, a slow retreat where men only give
way inch by inch, fighting until the last
cartridge is expended or fresh troops
arrive, to bar the way to the enemy,
and save the threatened flag.

Broken in by the same discipline, and
haunted by the same dream, mother and
daughter lived on almost nothing in the
dull, dilapidated house which the peas-
ants called the chateau, and economized
like poor people who only have a few
hundred francs a year to live on. But
Fabienne de Maurillac developed well
in spite of ever3^hing, and grew up into
a woman — ^like some rare flower pre-
served from all contact with the outer
air and reared in a hothouse.

In order that she might not lose her
Parisian accent by speaking too much
with the servants, who had remained
peasants though in livery, Madame de
Maurillac, who had not been able to
bring a lady's maid with her, on account
of the extra cost which traveling ex-
penses and wages would have entailed,
and who, moreover, was afraid that
some indiscretion might betray he?
maneuver and cover her with ridicule,
made up her mind to wait on her daugh-
ter herself. And Fabienne talked with
nobody but her, saw nobody but her,
and was Uke a little novice in a convent.
Nobody was allowed to speak to her^
or to interfere with her walks in the
large garden, or on the white terraces
that were reflected in the blue water.

As soon, however, as the season for
the country and the seaside came, they
packed up their trunks, and locked the
doors of their house of exile. As they
were not known, and took those terrible

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trains which stop at every station, by
which you arrive at your destination in
the middle of the night, with the cer-
tainty that nobody will be waiting for
you and see you get out of the carriage,
they traveled third class, so that they
might have a few bank notes the more
with which to make a show,

A fortnight in Paris in the family
house at Auteuil, a fortnight in which
to try on dresses and bonnets and to
show themselves, and then Trouville,
Aix, or Biarritz, the whole show com-
plete, with parties succeeding parties,
money spent as if they did not know
its vaJue, balls at the Casinos, constant
flirtations, compromising intimacies with
that kind of admirers who immediately
surround two pretty women, one in the
radiant beauty of her eighteen years,
and the other in the brightness of that
maturity which the beautiful September
days bring with them.

Unfortunately, however, they had to
do the same thing over again every year,
and as if bad luck were continuing to
follow them implacably, Madame de
Maurillac and her daughter did not suc-

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 74 of 125)