Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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"A footman all in black received us
and showed us into a pretty drawing-
room, furnished with taste, where we
waited some minutes. She appeared,
charming^, extending her hand to me,
making us be seated. When I explained
the motive of my visit, she rang.

"The footman reappeared.

" *See if Miss Isabelle can let us enter
her chapel,' she said to him.

"The young girl herself brought the
response. She was about fifteen, with
a good, modest appearance, and all the
freshness of youth. She wished to guide
us herself into her chapel.

"It was a sort of pious boudoir, where
a silver lamp was burning before the
Christ of the Renaissance, my property.

couched on a bed of black velvet. The
setting of the scene was charming and
very clever. The child made the sign
of the cross, and then said: 'Look,
gentlemen, is it not beautiful?'

"I took the object, examined it, and
declared it remarkable. The stranger,
also, considered it, but he seemed much
more occupied with the women than with
the Christ.

"One felt good in their home, fdt
the incense, the flowers, the perfume.
One found complete repose there. It
was truly a comfortable dwelling, in-
viting to rest.

"When we had re-entered the draw*
ing-room, I broached, with reserve and
delicacy, the question of price. Madame
Samoris asked, lowering her eyes, fifty
thousand francs. Then she added:

" If you wish to see it again, sir, I
scarcely ever go out before three o'clock,
and you will find me here any day,* i

"In the street, the stranger asked mil
some details about the Baroness, whoa I
he found charming. But I did not
undertake to say much for her, nor i

"Three months more passed.

"One morning, not more than fi^
days ago, she came to my house at til
breakfast houi and, placing a pockdl
book in my hand, said: *My dear, ydl
are an angel. Here are fifty thcusaJ
francs! / have bought your Christ
the Renaissance, and I pay twcri
thousand francs more than the pri
agreed upon, on the condition that 31
will always — ^always send me client*
because the piece is still for sale."*

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The Artisfs Wife

Curved like a crescent moon, the lit-
tie town of Etretat, with its white cliffs
and its blue sea, is reposing under the
sun of a grand July day. At the two
points of the crescent are the two gates,
the little one at the right, and the large
one at the left, as if it were gradually
advancing to the water — on one side a
dwarfed foot, on the other, a leg of
giant proportions; and the spire, nearly
as high as the cliff, large at the base and
fine at the summit, points its slim head
toward the heavens.

Along the beach, upon the float, a
crowd is seated watching the bathers.
Upon the terrace of the Casino, another
crowd, seated or walking, parades under
the full light of day, a garden of pretty
costumes, shaded by red and blue um-
brellas embroidered in great flowers of
silk. At the end of the promenade, on
•Jie terrace, there are other people, calm,
quiet, walking slowly along up and
down, as far as possible from the elegant

A young man, well-known, and cele-
brated as a painter, John Summer, was
walking along with a listless air beside
an invalid chair in which reposed a
young woman, his wife. A domestic
rolled the little carriage along, gently,
while the crippled woman looked with
sad eyes upon the joy of the heavens,
the joy of the day, and tEe joy of other

They were not talking, they were not
iooking at each other. The woman said:
*'Let us stop a little."

They stopped, and the painter seated
himself upon a folding chair arranged
for him by the valet. Those who passed

behind the couple^ sitting there mute and
motionless, regarded him with pitying:
looks. A complete legend of devotion
had found its way about. He had mar-
ried her in spite of her infirmity, moved
by his love, they said.

Not far from there, two young men
were seated on a capstan, chatting and
looking off toward the horizon.

"So, it is not true," said one of them,
"I tell you I know much of John Sum-
mer's life."

"Then why did he marry her? For
she was really an invalid at the time^
was she not?"

"Just as you see her now. He mar-
ried her — he married her — ^as one
marries — ^well, because he was a fool!"

"How is that?"

"How is that? That is how, my
friend. That is the whole of it. One is.
a goose because he is a goose. And
then you know, painters make a spe*
cialty of ridiculous marriages; they
nearly always marry their models, or
some old mistress, or some one of the-
women among the varied assortment
they run up against. Why is it? Doe»
anyone know? It would seem, on the
contrary, that constant association witb
this race that we call models would be
enough to disgust them forever with
that kind of female. Not at all. After
having made them pose, they marry
them. Read that little book of Alphonse
Daudet, 'Artists' Wives,' so true, so*
cruel, and so beautiful.

"As for the couple you see there, the:
accident that brought about that mar-
riage was of a unique and terrible kind.
The little woman played a comedy, or


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rather a frightful drama. In fact, she
risked all for all. Was she sincere?
Does she really love John? Can one
ever know that? Who can determine,
with any precision, the real from the
make-bdieve, in the acts of women?
They are always sincere in an eternal
change of impressions. They are pas-
sionate, criminal, devoted, admirable,
and ignoble, ready to obey unseizable
emotions. They lie without ceasing,
without wishing to, without knowing it,
without comprehension, and they have
with this, in spite of this, an absolute
freedom from sensation and sentiment,
which they evince in violent resolutions,
unexpected, incomprehensible folly, put-
ting to rout all our reason, all our cus-
tom of deliberation, and all our com-
bmation of egotism. The imforeseen
bluntness of their determination makes
them, to us, indecipherable enigmas.
We are always asking: *Are they sin-
cere? Are they false?'

"But, my friend, they are sincere and
false at the same time, because it is in
their nature to be the two extremes and
neither the one nor the other. Look at
the means the most honest employ for
obtaining what they wish. They are
both complicated and simple, these
means are. So complicated that we
never guess them in advance, so simple
that after we have been the victims of
them, we cannot help being astonished
and saying to ourselves: *My! Did
she play me as easily as that?' And
they succeed always, my good friend,
especially when it is a question of mak-
ing us marry them.

'*But here is John Summer's story:

•'The little wife was a model, as the
Wm is usually understood. She posed

for him. She was pretty, particulail)
elegant, and possessed, it appears, a
divine figure. He became her lover, as
one becomes the lover of any seductive
woman he sees often. He imagines he
loves her with his whole soul. It is a
singular phenomenon. As soon as one
desires a woman, he believes sincerely
that he can no longer live without her.
They know very well that their time has
arrived. They know that disgust always
follows possession ; that, in order to pass
one's existence by the side of another
being, not brutal, physical appetite, so
quickly extinguished, is the need, but an
accordance of soul, of temperament, of
humor. In a seduction that one under-
takes, in bodily form, it is necessary to
mingle a certain sensual intoxication with
a charming depth of mind.

"Well, he believed that he loved her;
he made her a heap of promises of fi-
delity and hVed completely with her.
She was gentle and endowed with that
undeniable elegance which the Parisian
woman acquires so easily. She tippled
and babbled and said silly things, which
seemed spirituelle, from the droll way in
whicb she put them. She had each mo-
ment some little trick or pretty gesture
to charm the eye of the painter. When
she raised an arm, or stooped down, her
movements were always perfect, exactly
as they should be.

"For three months John did not per-
ceive that, in reality, she was like all
models. They rented for the summer
a little house at Andressy. I was there
one evening, when the first disquiet
germinated in the mind of my friend.

"As the ni^t was radiant, we wished
to take a turn along the bank of the
river. The moon threw in the water »

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littering shower of Kght, crumbling its
/allow reflections in the eddy, in the cur-
rent, in the whole of the large river,
flowing slowly along.

"We were going along the bank, a
little quiet from the vague exaltation
which the dreaminess of the evening
threw about us. We were wishing we
might accomplish superhuman things,
might love some unlmown beings, de-
liciously poetic. Strange ecstasies, de-
sires,' and aspirations were trembling in

"And we kept silent, penetrated by
the serene and living freshness of the
charming night, by that freshness of
the moon which seems to go through
the body, penetrate it, bathe the mind,
perfume it and steep in it happiness.

"Suddenly Josephine (she called her-
self Josephine) cried out:

" 'Oh! did you see the great fish that
jiunped down there?'

"He replied, without looking or know-
ing: *Yes, dearie.'

"She was angry. *No, you have not
seen it since your back was turned to

"He laughed. 'Yes, it is true. It is
so fine here that I was thinking of

"She was silent; but at the end of a
minute, the need of speaking seized her,
and she asked :

" *Are you going to Paris to-morrow?'

"He answered: *I don't know.'

"Again she was irritated:

" Terhaps you think it is amusing to
walk out without sa)dng anything,' sh«
said; 'one usually talks if he is not too

"He said nothing. Then, knowing
well, thanks to her wicked, womanly in-

stinct, that he would be exasperated,
she began to sing that irritating air with
which our ears and minds had beec
wearied for the past two years:

" *I was looking in the air.

"He murmured: 1 beg you be qiiiet.'

"She answered furiously: 'Why
should I keep quiet?' , ^^ ^u^a^

"He replied: 'You will a rouse - thc X

"Then the scene took place, the odious
scene, with unexpected reproaches, tem-
pestuous recriminations, then tears. All
was over. They went back to tlio house.
He allowed her to go on without reply,
calmed by the divine evening and over-
whelmed by the whirlwind of foolish-

"Three months later, he was strug-
gling desperately in the invincible, in-
visible bonds with which habit enlaces
our life. She held him, oppressed him
mart3nized him. They quarreled from
morning until evening, insulting and
combating each other.

"Finally, he wished to end it, to break, .
at any price. He sold all his work,
realizing some twenty thousand francs
(he was then little known) and, borrow-
ing some money from friends, he left
it all on the chinmey-piece with a letter
of adieu.

"He came to my house as a refuge!.
Toward three o'clock in the afternoon,
the bell rang. I opened the door. A
woman jumped into my face, brushed
me aside, and rushed into my studio;
it was she.

"He stood up on seeing her enter.
She threw at his feet the envelope con*
taininer the bank-notes, with a truly

<. J)

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noble gesture and said, ^th short

" 'Here is your money. I do jiot
care for it.'

"She was very pale and trembling,
ready, apparently for any folly. He,
too, grew pale, pale from anger and
vexation, ready, perhaps, for any vio-

"He asked: *What do you want,

"She replied: *I do not wish to be
treated like a child. You have implored
me and taken me. I ask you for nothing
— only protect me.'

"He stamped his foot, saying: *No,
it is too much ! And if you believe
that you are going — '

"I took hold of his arm. Wait, John,'
said I, 'let me attend to it.'

"I went toward her, and gently, little
by little, I reasoned with her, emptying
the sack of arguments that are usually
employed in such cases. She listened
to me motionless, with eyes fixed, ob-
stinate and dumb. Finally, thinking of
nothing more to say, and seeing that
the affair would not end pleasantly, I
struck one more last note. I said:

" *He will always love you, little one,
but his family wishes him to marry, and
you know — '

"This was a surprise for her! *Ah! —
Ah! — ^now I comprehend — ' she began.

"And turning toward him she con-
tinued: 'And so — ^you are going to
marry!' A?t^Y^^1

"He answered cAplessly: *Yes.'

"Then she took a step forward: *If
you marry, I wil] kill myself — ^you un-

" 'Well, then, kiU yourself,' he hifee^
over his shoulder. t^'t^^N'

"She choked two or three times, hei
throat seeming bound by a frightful an-
guish. 'You say — you say — Repeat

"He repeated: 'Well, kill yourself, if
that pleases you!'

"She replied, very pale with fright:
'It is not necessary to dare me. I will
throw myself from that window.'

"He began to laugh, advanced to the
window, opened it, bowed like a person
allowing some one to precede him, say-

" 'Here is the way; after you!'

"She looked at him a second with fixed
eyes, terribly excited; then, taking a
leap, as one does in jumping a hedge
in the field, she passed before him, be-
fore me, leaped over the sill and dis-

"I shall never forget the effect that
this open window made upon me, after
having seen it traversed by that falling
body; it appeared to me in a second,
great as the sky and as empty as space.
And I recoiled instinctively, not daring
to look, as if I had fallen myself.

"John, dismayed, made no motion.

"They took up the poor girl with
both legs broken. She could never walk

"Her lover, foolish with remorse, and
perhaps touched by remembrance, took
her and married her. There you have
it, my dear."

The evening was come. The young
woman, being cold, wished to go in; and
the domestic began to roll the invaUd's
little carriage toward the village. The
painter walked along beside his wife,
without having exchanged a word witn
her for an hour.

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In the Spring

When the first fine spring days come,
and the earth awakes and assumes its
garment of verdure, when the perfumed
warmth of the air caresses your face
and fills your lungs, and even seems to
reach your heart, you feel vague long-
ings for an undefined happiness, a wish
to run, to walk anywhere and every-
where, to inhale the soul of the spring.
As the winter had been very severe the
year before, this longing assumed an in-
toxicating feeling in May; it was like a
superabundance of sap.

Well, one morning on waking, I saw
from my window the blue sky glowing
in the sun above the neighboring houses.
The canaries hanging in the windows
were singing loudly, and so were the
servants on every floor; a cheerful noise
rose up from the streets, and I went
out, with my spirits as bright as the
day, to go — ^I did not exactly know
where. Everybody I met seemed to be
smiling; an air of happiness appeared to
pervade everything in the warm light of
returning spring. One might almost
have said that a breeze of love was
blowing through the city, and the young
women whom I saw in the streets in
morning toilettes, in the depths of
whose eyes there lurked a hidden tender-
ness, and who walked with languid grace,
filled my heart with agitation.

Without knowing how or why, I found
myself on the banks of the Seine.
Steamboats were starting for Suresnes,
and suddenly I was seized by an un-
conquerable wish for a walk through the
wood. The deck of the mouche* was
crowded with passengers, for the sun
in. early spring draws you out of the

house, in spite of yourself, and every-
one is active, visiting and gossiping with
the people sitting near.

I had a female neighbor; a little work-
girl, no doubt, who possessed the true
Parisian charm. Her little head had
light curly hair like frizzed light, which
came down to her ears and to the nape
of her neck, danced in the wind, and
then became such fine, such light-colored
down, that you could scarcely see it,
but on which you felt an irresistible de-
sire to impress a shower of kisses.

Under the magnetism of my looks,
she turned her head toward me, and
then immediately looked down, while a
slight dimpling of the flesh, the fore-
runner of a smile, also showed that fine,
pale down which the sun was gilding a

The calm river grew wider; the at-
mosphere was warm and perfectly still,
but a murmur of life seemed to fill all

My neighbor raised her eyes again,
and, this time, as I was still looking at
her, she smiled, decidedly. She was
charming, and in her passing glance I
saw a thousand things of which I had
hitherto been ignorant. I saw in it un-
known depths, all the charm of tender-
ness, all the poetry which we dream of,
all the happiness which we are continu-
ally in search of. I felt an insane long-
ing to open my arms and to carry her
off somewhere, so as to whisper the
sweet music of words of love into her

I was just going to speak to her when

♦Fly. A name given to tiie small
steamboats on the Seine.


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* somebody touched me on the shoulder.
Turning round in some surprise, I saw
an ordinary looking man, who was
neither young nor old, and who ^azed
at me sadly:

"I should like to speak to you," he

I made a grimace, which he no doubt
saw, for he added:

"It is a matter of importance."

I got up, therefore, and followed him
to the other end of the boat» and then
he said:

"Monsieur, when winter comes, with
its cold, wet, and snowy weather, your
doctor says to you constantly: *Keep
your feet warm, guard against chills,
colds, bronchitis, rheumatism, and

"Then you are very careful, you wear
flannel, a heavy great-coat, and thick
shoes, but all this does not prevent you
from passing two months in bed. But
when spring returns, with its leaves and
flowers, its^ warm, soft breezes, and its
smell of the fields, causing you vague
disquiet and causeless emotion, nobody
says to you:

"'Monsieur, beware of love! It is
lying in ambush everywhere; it is watch-
ing for you at every comer; all its
snares are laid, all its weapons are sharp-
ened, all its guiles are prepared! Be-
ware of love. Beware of love. It is
more dangerous than brandy, bronchitis,
or pleurisy! It never forgives, and
makes everybody commit irreparable

"Yes, Monsieur, I say that the French
government ought to put large public
notices on the walls, with these words:
'Return of spring. French citizens, be-

ware of love'; just as they put. 'Be*
ware of paint.'

"However, as the government will not
do this. I must supply its place, and I
say to you: *Beware of love,' for it is
just going to seize you, and it is my
duty to inform you of it, just as in
Russia they inform anyone that his nose
is frozen."

I was much astonished at this in-
dividual, and assuming a dignified man-
ner, I said:

"Really, Monsieur, you appear to me
to be interfering in a matter which is no
business of yours."

He made an abrupt movement, and
replied :

"Ah, Monsieur, Monsieur! If I see
that a man is in danger of being
drowned at a dangerous spot, ought I
to let him perish? So just listen to my
story, and you will see why I ventured
to speak to you like this.

"It was about this time last year that
it occurred. But, first of all, I must
tell you that I am a clerk in the Ad-
miralty, where our chiefs, the com-
missioners, take their gold lace as quill-
driving officers seriously, and treat us
like f oretop men on board a ship. Well,
from my ofiSce I could see a small bit of
blue sky and the swallows, and I felt in-
clined to dance among my portfolios.

"My yearning for freedom grew so
intense, that, in spite of my repugnance,
I went to see my chief j who was a short,
bad-tempered man, who was always
cross. When I told him that I was not
well, he looked at me, and said: 1 do
not believe it. Monsieur, but be off with
you! Do you think that any oflice can
go on with clerks like you?* I started
at once, and went down the Seine. It

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was a day like this, and I took the
fnouche to go as far as Saint-Cloud. Ah I
What a good thing it would haye been
if my chief had refused me permission
to leave the office for the day!

"I seemed to expand in the sun. I
loved it all; the steamer, the river, the
trees, the houses, my feUow-passengers,
everything. I felt inclined to kiss some- •
thing, no matter what; it was love lay-
ing its snare. Presently, at the Troc-
adero, a girl, with a small parcel in her
hand, came on board and sat down op-
posite to me. She was certainly pretty;
but it is surprising. Monsieur, how much
prettier women seem to us when it is
fine, at the beginning of the spring.
Then they have an intoxicating charm,
something quite peculiar about them.
It is just like drinking wine after the

"I looked at her, and she also looked
at me, but only occasionally, like that
girl did at you, just now; but at last,
by dint of looking at each other con-
stantly, it seemed to me that we knew
each other well enough to enter into
conversation, and I spoke to her, and
she replied. She was decidedly pretty
and nice, and she intoxicated me, Mon-

"She got out at Saint-Cloud, and I
followed her. She went and delivered
her parcel, but when she returned, the
boat had just started. I walked by her
side, and the warmth of the air made us
both sigh.

" *It would be very nice in the wood,'
I said.

"^Indeed, it would!' she replied.

" 'Shall we go there for a walk. Ma-

"She gave me a quick, upward look,

as if to see exactly what I was like, and
then, after a little hesitation, she ac-
cepted my proposal, and soon we were
there, walking side by side. Under the
foliage, which was still rather thin, the
tall, thick, bright, green grass was in-
undated by the sun and full of small
insects making love to one another, and
birds were singing in all directions. My
companion began to jump and to run,
intoxicated by the air and the smell of
the country, and I ran and jumped be-
hind her. How stupid we are at times,

"Then she wildly sang a thousand
things; opera airs and the song of
Musette! The song of M-usette! How
poetical it seemed to me, then! I al-
most cried over it. Ah! Those silly
songs make us lose our heads; take my
advice, never marry a woman who sings
in the country, especially if she sings
the song of Musette!

"She soon grew tired, and sat down
on a grassy slope, and I sat down at hei
feet. I took her hands, her little hands,
so marked with the needle, and they
moved me. I said to myself: 'These
are the sacred marks of toil.' Oh, Mon-
sieur! do you know what those sacred
marks of labor mean? They mean all
the gossip of the workroom, the whis-
pered blackguardism, the mind soiled
by all the filth that is talked; they mean
lost chastity, foolish chatter, all the
wretchedness of daily bad habits, alJ
the narrowness of ideas which belongs
to women of the lower orders, united
in the girl whose sacred fingers bear
the sacred marks of toil.

"Then we looked into each other's
eyes for a long while. What power a
woman's eye has! How it agitates us,

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how it invades our very being, take^
possession of us, and dominates us.
How profound it seems, how full of in-
finite promise! People call that looking
into each other's soiils! Oh! Monsieur,
what humbug! If we could see into
each other's souls, we should be more
careful of what we did. However, I
was caught, and crazy after her, and
tried to take her into my arms, but
she said: *Hands off!' Then I threw
myself down, and opened my heart to
her, and poured out all the affection that
was suffocating me, my head on her
knees. She seemed surprised at my
manner, and gave me a sidelong glance,
as if to say: *Ah! So that is the way
women make a fool of you, old fellow!
Very well, we will see.* In love. Mon-
sieur, men are the artists, and women
are the dealers.

**No doubt I could have won her,
and I saw my own stupidity later, but
what I wanted was not a woman's per-

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 80 of 125)