Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

. (page 77 of 125)
Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 77 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the effect that the hussar had kept his
word, and that Fanny Lowenfuss had
become Countess Faniska W .

Then the newly-married couple sat
down to a beautiful little dinner in com-
pany with the chaplain, the steward, and
the castellan. The champagne made
them all very cheerful, and at last the
Count knelt down before his young
and beautiful wife, boldly took her white
satin slipper off her foot, filled it with
wine, and emptied it to her health.

At length night came, a thorough,
Polish wedding-night, and Faniska, who
had just assumed a demi-toilette, was
looking at herself with proud satisfac-
tion in the great mirror that was fas-
tened into the wall, from top to bottom.
A white satin train flowed down behind
her like rays from the moon, a half-
open jacket of bright green velvet,
trimmed with valuable ermine, covered
her voluptuous, virgin bust and her
classic arms, only to show them all the
more seductively at the slightest motion,
while the wealth of her dark hair, in
which diamonds hung here and there
like glittering dewdrops, fell down her
neck and mingled with the white fur.
The Count entered in a red velvet dress-
ing-gown trimmed with sable; at a sign
from him, the old woman who was
waiting on his divinity left the room,
and the next moment he was lying like
a slave at the feet of his lovely young
wife, who raised him up and was press-

ing him to her heaving bosom, when a
noise which she had never heard before,
a wild howling, startled the loving wo-
man in the midst of her bliss.

"What was that?'' she asked, trem-

The Count went to the window with-
out speaking, and she with him, her arms
round him. She looked half timidly,
half curiously out into the darkness,
where large bright spots were moving
about in pairs, in the park at her feet.

*'Are they willro'-the-wisps?*' she

"No, my child, they are wolves," the
Count replied, fetching his double-
barreled gun, which he loaded. Then he
went out on the snow-covered balcony,
while she drew the fur more closely over
her bosom, and followed him.

"Will you shoot?" the Count asked
her in a whisper, and when she nodded,
he said: "Aim straight at the first pair
of bright spots that you see; they are
the eyes of those amiable brutes."

Then he handed her the gun and
pointed it for her.

"That is the way — ^are you pointing


"Then fire."

A fl^sh, a report, which the echo from
the hills repeated four times, and two
of the unpleasant looking lights had

Then the Count fired, and by that time
their people were all awake ; they drove
away the wolves with torches and
laid the two large animals, the spoils
of a Polish wedding-night, at the feet
of their young mistress.

The days that followed resembled that

Digitized by




night. The Count showed himself a
most attentive husband, his wife's knight
and slave, and she felt quite at home
in that dull castle.. She rode, drove,
smoked, read French novels, and beat
her servants as well as any Polish
Countess could have done. In the
course of a few years, she presented the
Count with two children, and although
he appeared very happy at that, yet, like
most husbands, he grew continually
cooler, more indolent, and neglectful of
her. From time to time he left the
castle to see after his affairs in the cap-
ital, and the intervals between these
journeys became continually shorter.
Faniska felt that her husband was tired
of her, and much as it grieved her, she
did not let him notice it; she was al-
ways the same.

But at last the Count remained away
altogther. At first he used to write, but
at last the poor, weeping woman did
not even receive letters to comfort her
in her unhappy solitude, and his lawyer
sent the money that she and the children

She conjectiured, hoped, doubted, suf-
fered, and wept for more than a year;
then she suddenly went to the capital
and appeared unexpectedly in his apart-
ments. Painful explanations followed,
until at last the Count told her that he
no longer loved her, and would not live
with her for the future. When she
wished to make him do so by legal means,
and intrusted her case to a celebrated
lawyer, the Count denied that she was
his wife. She produced her marriage
certificate, and lo! the most infamous
haud came to light. A confidential ser-

vant of the Count had acted the part
of the priest, so that the tailor's beau-
tiful daughter had, as a matter of fact^
merely been the Count's mistress, and
her children therefore were bastards.

The virtuous woman then saw, when
it was too late, that it was she who had
formed a misalliance. Her parents
would have nothing to do with her, and
at last it came out that the Count was
married long before he knew her, but
that he did not live with his wife.

Then Fanny applied to the police
magistrates; she wanted to appeal to
justice; but was dissuaded from taking
criminal proceedings; for although they
would certainly lead to the punishment
of her daring seducer, they would also
bring about her own ruin.

At last, however, her lawyer effected
a settlement between them, which was
favorable to Fanny, and which she ac-
cepted for the sake of her children. The
Count paid her a considerable sum
down, and gave her the gloomy castle to
live in. Thither she returned with a
broken heart, and from that time lived
alone, a sidlen misanthrope, a fierce

From time to time, you may meet
wandering through the Carpathians a
pale woman of almost unearthly beauty,
wearing a magnificent sable-skin jacket
and carrying a gun over her shoulder, in
the forest, or in the winter in a sledge,
driving her foaming horses imtil they
nearly drop from fatigue, while the har-
ness bells utter a melancholy sound, and
at last die away in the distance, like the
weeping of a solitary, deserted human

Digitized by


An Honest Deal

Among my numerous friends in
Vienna there is an author who has al-
ways amused me by his childish idealism.

Not by his idealism from an abstract
point of view, for in spite of my
pessimism I am an absurd idealist, and
because I am perfectly well aware of
this, I never, as a rule, laugh at other
people's idealism. But his brand was
really too funny.

He was a serious man of great ca-
pabilities who only just fell short of
being learned. He had a clear, critical
intellect; was a man without any illu-
sions about society, the state, literature,
or anything else, and especially about
women ; but he was the craziest optimist
as soon as he got upon the subject of
actresses, theatrical princesses, and
heroines. He was one of those men
who, like Hacklander, cannot discover
the Ideal of Virtue anywhere but in a
ballet girl.

My friend was always in love with
some actress or other — of course only
platonically — ^and by preference with
some girl of rising talent, whose literary
knight he constituted himself, until the
time came when her admirers laid some-
thing much more substantial than laurel
wreaths at her feet. Then he withdrew
and sought for fresh talent which would
allow itself to be patronized by him.

He was never without a photograph
of his ideal in his breast pocket, and
when he was in a good temper, he used
to show me one or other of them —
whom I had of course never seen — ^with
a knowing smile. Once, when we were
sitting in a caji in the Prater, he took
out a portrait without saying a word,
and laid it on the table before me.

It was the portrait of a beautiful
woman, but what struck me in it first of
all, was not the almost classic cut of
her features, but her white eyes.

"If she had not the black hair of a
living woman, I should take her for a
statue," I said.

''Certainly," my friend replied; "for
a statue of Venus, perhaps for the Ve-
nus of Milo herself.**

"Who is she?"

"A young actress.'*

"That is a matter of course in your
case; what I meant was, what is her

My friend told me. It was a name
which is at present one of the best
known on the German stage, a name
with which a number of earthly adven-
tures are connected, as every Viennese
knows. Compared with hers those of
Venus herself were but innocent toying,
but I then heard of her for the first

My idealist described her as a woman
of the highest talent — ^which I believed,
and as an angel of purity — which I did
not believe; on that particular occasion,
however, I, at any rate did not believe
the contrary.

A few days later, I was accidentally
turning over the leaves of the portrait
album of another intimate friend of
mine, who was a thoroughly careless,
somewhat dissolute Viennese, and I came
across that strange, female face with the
dead eyes again.

"How did you come by the picture of
this Venus?" I asked him.

"Well, she certainly is a Venus," he
replied, "but one of that cheap kind whc


Digitized by




are to be met with in the Graben *
which is their ideal grove."


"I give you my word of honor it is

I could say nothing more after that.
So my intellectual friend's new ideal,
that woman of the highest dramatic
talent, that wonderful woman with the
white eyes, was a street Venus!

But my friend was right in one re-
spect. He had not deceived himself
with regard to her wonderful dramatic
gifts, and she very soon made a career
for herself. From being a mute char-
acter on some suburban stage, she rose
in two years to be the leading actress at
one of the principal theaters.

My friend interested himself in her
behalf with the manager of it, who was
not blinded by any prejudices. She
acted in a rehearsal, and pleased him;
whereupon he sent her to star in the
provinces. My friend accompanied her,
and took care she was well puffed.

She went on the boards as Schiller's
"Marie Stuart,'' and achieved the most
brilliant success. Before she had fin-
ished her starring tour, she obtained an
engagement at a large theater in a
northern town, where her appearance
was the signal for a triumphant success.

Her reputation, that is her reputation
as a most gifted actress, grew very high
in less than a year, and the manager of
the Court theater invited her to star

She was received with some doubt at
first, but she soon overcame all prej-
udices and uncertainty; the applause
grew more and more vehement at every
performance, and at the close of the
season her future was decided. She ob-

tained a splendid engagement, and soon
afterward became a leader at the Court

A well-known author wrote a racy
novel, of which she was the heroine; one
of the leading bankers and financiers
was at her feet ; she was a most popular
personage, and the lioness of the capital;
she had splendid apartments, and all her
surroundings were of the most luxurious
character. She had reached that stage
in her career at which my idealistic
friend, who had constituted himself her
literary knight, quietly took his leave of
her, and went in search of fresh talent.

But the beautiful woman with the
dead eyes and the dead heart seemed
destined to be the scourge of the ideal-
ists, quite against her will. Scarcely had
one spread his wings and flown away
from her, than another fell out of the
nest into her net.

A very young student, who was
neither handsome nor of good family,
and certainly not rich or even well off,
but who was enthusiastic, intellectual,
and impressionable, saw her as ''Maris
Stuart," as "The Maid of Orleans,'*
"The Lady with the Camelias," and in
most of the plays of the best French
dramatists, for the manager was making
experiments with her, and she was doing
the same with her talents.

The poor student was enraptiured with
the celebrated actress, and at the same
time conceived a passion for the woman
which bordered on madness.

He saved up penny by penny, he
nearly starved himself, in order that he
might be able to pay for a seat in the

*TIie street where most of the best
shops are to be found, and mudi fre-
quented by venal beauties.

Digitized by




gallery whenever she acted, and be able
to devour her with his eyes. He al-
ways got a seat in the front row, for
he was always outside three hours be-
fore the doors opened, so as to be one of
the first to gain his Olympus, the seat
of the theatrical enthusiasts. He grew
pale, and his heart beat violently when
she appeared; he laughed when she
wept, applauded her, as if he had been
paid to do it by the highest favors that .
a woman can bestow, and yet she did
not know him, and was ignorant of his
very existence.

The regular frequenters of the Court
theater noticed him at last, and spoke
about his infatuation for her, until at
last she heard about him. Still she did
not know him, and although he could not
send her any costly jewelry, not even a
bouquet, he at last succeeded in attract-
ing her attention.

When she had finished acting and the
audience had gone home, she would leave
the theater wrapped in valuable furs
and get into the carriage of her banker,
which was waiting for her at the stage
door. He always stood there, often up
to his ankles in snow, or in the pouring

At first she did not notice him, but
when her maid said something to her in
a whisper on one occasion, she looked
round in surprise, and he got a look
from those large eyes, which were not
dead then, but dark and bright — a. look
which recompensed him for all his suffer-
ings and filled him with a proud hope,
which constantly gained more power
over the young idealist, usually so

At last there was a thorough, silent
understanding between the theatrical

princess and her dumb adorer. Whoi
she put her foot on the carriage step,
she looked round at him, and every
time he stood there, devouring her with
his eyes; she saw it and got contentedly
into her carriage, but she did not see
how he ran after her carriage, or how he
reached her house, panting for breath,
when she did, or how he lay down out-
side after the door had closed behind

One stormy summer night, when the
wind was howling in the chimneys, and
the rain was beating against the windows
and on the pavement, the poor student
was again lying on the stone steps out-
side her house. The front door was
opened very cautiously and quietly; for
it was not the economical banker who
was leaving the house, but a wealthy
young ojficer whom the maid was letting
out; he kissed the pretty little Cerberus
as he put a gold coin into her hand, and
then accidentally trod on the idealist,
who was lying outside.

They all three simultaneously uttered
a cry; the girl blew out the candle, the
officer instinctively half drew his sword,
and the student ran away.

Ever since that night, the poor, crazy
fellow went about with a dagger, which
he concealed in his belt. It was his
constant companion to the theater and
the stage door, where the actress's car-
riage used to wait for her, and to h&
house, where he nightly kept his painful

His first idea was to kill his fortunate
rival, then himself, then the theatrical
.princess, but at last he lay down again
outside her door, or stood on the pave-
ment and watched the shadows that
flitted hither and thither on her window.

Digitized by




lis head turned by the magic spell of
the woman.

And then, the most incredible thing
happened, something which he could
never have hoped for, and which he
scarcely believed when it did occur.

One evening, when she had been play-
ing a very important part, she kept her
carriage waiting much longer than usual.
At last she appeared, and got into it;
she did not shut the door, however, but
beckoned to the young idealist to follow

He was almost delirious with joy,
just as a moment before he had been
almost mad from despair. He obeyed
her immediately, and during the drive
he lay at her feet and covered her hands
with kisses. She allowed it quietly and
even merrily, and when the carriage
stopped at her door, she let him lift her
out of the carriage, and went upstairs
leaning on his arm.

There, the lady's maid showed him
into a luxuriously furnished drawing-
room, while the actress changed her

Presently she appeared in her peig"
noir, sat down carelessly in an easy chair,
and asked him to sit down beside her.

'*You take a great interest in me?"
6he said.

•*You are my ideal!" the student cried

The theatrical princess smiled, and

"Well, I will at any rate be an honest
ideal; I will not deceive you, and you
shall not be able to say that I have
misused your youthful enthusiasm. I
will give myself to you."

"Oh! Heavens!'' the poor idealist ex-
claimed, throwing himself at her feet

"Wait a moment! Wait a moment!"
Wait a moment!" she said, with a
smile, I have not finished yet. I can
only love a man who is in a position
to provide me with all those luxuries
which an actress or, if you like,
which I, cannot do without. As
far as I know you are poor, but I
will belong to you — only for to-night,
however — ^and in return you must prom-
ise me not to rave about me, or to fol-
low me, from to-night. Will you do

The wretched idealist was kneeling
before her; he was having a terrible
mental struggle.

"Will you promise me to do this?'*
she said again.

"Yes," he said, almost groaning.

The next morning a man who had
buried his ideal tottered downstairs. He
was pale enough; almost as pale as a
corpse; but in spite of this, he is still
alive, and if he has any ideal at all at
present, it is certainly not a theatrical

The Log

It was a small drawing-room, with
thick hangings, and with a faint aro-
matic smell of flowers and sr^nt in the

air. A large fire was burning in the grate,
and one lamp, covered with a shade of
old lace, on the comer of th^^ mantel

Digitized by




[Mece thiew a soft light on to the two
persons who were talking.

She, the mistress of the house, was an
old lady with white hair, one of those
adorable old ladies whose unwrinkled
skin IS as smooth as the finest paper,
and is scented, impregnated with per-
fume, the deHcate essences used in
the bath for so many years having
penetrated through the epidermis.

He was a very old friend, who had
never married, a constant friend, a com-
panion in the journey of life, but noth-
ing else.

They had not spoken for about a
minute, and were both looking at the
fire, dreaming of nothing in particular.-
It was one of those moments of sympa-
thetic silence between people who have
no need to be constantly talking in
order to be happy together. Suddenly
a large log, a stump covered with burn-
ing roots, fell out. It fell over the
firedogs on to the drawing-room floor,
scattering great sparks all round. TTie
old lady sprang up with a scream, as if
to run away, but he kicked the log
back on to die hearth and trod out the
burning sparks with his boots.

When the disaster was repaired, there
was a strong smell of burning. Sitting
down opposite to his friend, the man
looked at her with a smile, and said, as
he pointed to the log:

"That accident recalls the reason I
never married.'*

She looked at him in astonishment,
with the inquisitive gaze of women who
wish to know everything, eying him as
women do who are no longer young,
with intense and malicious curiosity.
Then she asked:

"How so?"

"CHi! it is a long story," he replied;
"a rather sad and unpleasant story.

**-My old friends were often sur-
prised at the coldness which suddenly
sprang up between one of my best
friends, whose Christian name was
Julien, and myself. They could not
understand how two such intimate and
inseparable friends as we had been
could suddenly become almost strangers
to one another. I will tell you the reason
of it.

"He and I used to live together at
one time. We were never apart, and
the ' friendship that united us seemed
so strong that nothing could break it.

"One evening when he came home, he
told me that he was going to be married,
and it gave me a shock just as if he
had robbed me or betrayed me. When
a man's friend marries, all is over be-
tween them. The jealous affection of
a woman, a suspicious, imeasy, and
carnal affection, will not tolerate that
sturdy and frank attachment, that at-
tachment of the mind and of the heart,
and the mutual confidence which exists
between two men.

"However great the love may be that
unites them, a man and a woman are
always strangers in mind and intellect;
they remain belligerents, they belong
to different races. There must always
be a conqueror and a conquered, a
master and a slave; now the one, no'or
the other — they are never equal. They
press each other's hands, hands trem-
bling with amorous passion; but they
never press them with a long, strong,
loyal pressure, a pressure which seems
to open hearts and to lay them bare in
a burst of sincere, strong, manly affec-
tion. Ancient ohilosophers, as a con*

Digitized by




eolation for old age, sought for a good
reliable friend, and grew old with him
in that communion of thought which
exists between men. They did not
marry and procreate children who
would, when grown, abandon them.

**Well, my friend Julien married. His
wife was pretty, charming, a light,
curly-haired, plump, bright little woman,
who seemed to worship him. At first I
went but rarely to their house, as I was
afraid of interfering with their affec-
tion, and averse to being in their way.
But somehow they attracted me to
their house; they were constantly in-
viting me, and seemed very fond of
me. Consequently, by degrees I al-
lowed myself to be allured by the charm
of their life. I often dined with them,
and frequently, when I returned home
at night, thought that I would do as he
had done, and get married, as I found
my empty house very dull. They
seemed very much in love with one
another, and were never apart.

"Well, one evening, Julien wrote and
asked me to go to dinner, and naturally
I went.

"*My dear fellow,' he said, *I must
go out directly afterward on business,
and I shall not be back until eleven
o'clock, but I shall not be later. Can
I depend on you to keep Bertha com-

"The young woman smiled.

" Tt was my idea,* she said, 'to send
for you.'

"I held out my hand to her.

" 'You are as nice as ever,' I said, and
I felt a long, friendly pressure of my
fmgers, but I paid no attention to it.
We sat down to dinner, and at eight
o'clock Julien went out.

"As soon as he had gone, a kind of
strange embarrassment immediately
seemed to come over his wife and me.
We had never been alone together yet,
and in spite of our daily increasing inti-
macy this tete-d'tete placed us in a new
position. At first I spoke vaguely of
those indifferent matters with which one
fills up an embarrassing silence, but
she did not reply, and remained op-
posite to me looking down in an unde-
cided manner, as if thinking over some
difficult subject. As I was at a loss
for commonplace ideas, I held my
tongue. It is surprising how hard it is
at times to find anjrthing to say.
. "And then, again, I felt in the air,
in my bones, so to speak, something
which it is impossible for me to ex-
press, that mysterious premonition
which tells you beforehand of the secret
intentions, be they good or evil, of
another person with respect to your-

"The painful silence lasted some time,
and then Bertha said to me:

"Will you kindly put a log on the
fire, for it is gomg out.'

"So I opened the box where the wood
was kept, which was placed just where
yours is, took out the largest log, and
put it on top of the others, which were
three-parts burned, and then silence
reigned in the room again.

"In a few minutes the log was burning
so brightly that it scorched our faces,
and the young woman raised her eye",
to me — eyes that had a strange look to

"*It is too hot now,* she said; *let
us go and sit on the sofa over there.'
"So we went and sat on the sofa.

Digitized by




and then she said suddenly, looking me
full in the face:

" *What should you do if a woman
were to tell you that she was in love
with you?*

" *Upon my word/ I replied, very
much at a loss for an answer, I can-
not imagine such a case; but it would
very much depend upon the woman.'

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 77 of 125)