Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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confession, as I have confessed it to you,
and without danger to myself."

Three months later, Monsieur de

Vargnes met Monsieur X at an

evening party, and at first sight, and
without the slightest hesitation, he
recognized in him those very pale, very
cold, and very clear blue eyes, eyes
which it was impossible to forget.

The man himself remained perfectly
impassive, so that Monsieur de Vargnes
was forced to say to himself:

"Probably I am the sport of an hal-
lucination at this moment, or else there
are two pairs of eyes that are perfectly
similar, in the world. And what eyes!
Can it be possible?"

The magistrate instituted inquiries

into his life, and he discovered this,
which removed all his doubts.

Five years previously. Monsieur

X had been a very poor but very

brilliant medical student, who although
he never took his doctor's degree, had
already made himself remarkable by his
microbiological researches.

A young and very rich widow had
fallen in love with him and married
him. She had one child by her first
marriage, and in the space of six
months, first the child and then the
mother died of typhoid fever. Thus

Monsieur X had inherited a large

fortune, in due form, and without any
possible dispute. Everybody said that
he had attended to the two patients
with the utmost devotion. Now, were
these two deaths the two crimes men-
tioned in his letter?

But then, Monsieur X musthavf)

poisoned his two victims with the
microbes of typhoid fever, which he
had skillfully cultivated in them, so as
to make the disease incurable, even by
the most devoted care and attention.
Why not?

"Do you really believe it?" I asked
Monsieur de Vargnes.

"Absolutely," he replied. "And the
most terrible thing about it is that the
villain is light when he defies me to
force him to confess his crime publicly,!
for I see no means of obtaining a con^
fession, none whatever. For a mo-
ment I thought of magnetism, but who
could magnetize that man with those!
pale, cold, bright eyes? With suclf
eyes, he would force the magnetizer ti
denounce himself as the culprit."

And then he said, with a deep sigh: ,

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"Ah! Formerly mere was sometning
good about justice!"

When he saw my inquiring looks, he
added in a firm and perfectly convinced

"Formerly, justice had torture at its

"Upon my word," I replied, with all
an author's unconscious and simple
egotism, "it is quite certain that without
the torture, this strange tale will have
no conclusion, and that is very unfor-
tunate, so far as regards the story I in-
tended to make out of it."

An Artifice

The old doctor and his young patient
were talking by the side of the fire.
There was nothing really the matter with
her, except that she had one of those
little feminine ailments from which
pretty women frequently suffer — slight
anaemia, nervous attack, and a suspicion
of fatigue, probably of that fatigue from
which newly-married people often suffer
at the end of the first month of their
married life, when they have made a
love match.

She was lying on the couch and talk-
ing, "No, doctor," she said; "I shall
never be able to understand a woman
deceiving her husband. Even allowing
that she does not love him, that she pays
no heed to her vows and promises, how
can she give herself to another man?
How can she conceal the intrigue from
other people's eyes? How can it be
possible to love amid lies and treason?''

The doctor smiled, and replied: "It
Is perfectly easy, and I can assure you
that a woman does not think of all those
little subtle details, when she has made
lip her mind to go astray. I even feel
certain that no woman is ripe for true
)ve tmtil she has passed through all
le promiscuousness and all the irksome-

ness of married life, which, according to
an illustrious man, is nothing but an
exchange of ill-tempered words by day
and perfunctory caresses at night.
Nothing is more true, for no woman
can love passionately until after she
has married.

"As for dissimulation, all women have
plenty of it on hand on such occasions.
The simplest of them are wonderful
tacticians, and extricate themselves from
the greatest dilemmas in an extraor-
dinary way."

The yoimg woman, however, seemed
incredulous. "No, doctor," she said;
"one never thinks, until after it has
happened, of what one ought to have
done in a dangerous affair, and women
are certainly more liable than men to
lose their head on such occasions."

The doctor raised his hands: "After
it has happened, you say! Now I will
tell you something that happened to one
of my female patients, whom I always
considered an immaculate woman.

"It happened in a provincial town.
One night when I was sleeping pro-
foundly, in that deep, first sleep from
which it is so difficult to rouse your-
self, it seemed to me in my dreams as

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if the bells in the town were sounding a
bie alarm and I woke up with a start.
It was my own bell which was ringing
wildly, and as my footman did not seem
to be answering the door, I in turn
pulled the bell at the head of my bed.
Soon I heard banging and steps in the
silent house, and then Jean came into
my room and handed me a letter which
said: *Madame LeUevre begs Dr.
Sim6on to come to her immediately.'

"I thought for a few moments, and
then I said to myself: *A nervous at-
tack, vapors, nonsense; I am too tired.'
And so I replied: 'As Doctor Sim6on
is not at all well, he must beg Madame
Lelievre to be kind enou^ to call in
his colleague, Monsieur Bonnet.'

"I put the note into an envelope, and
went to sleep again, but about half an
hour later, the street bell rang again,
and Jean came to me and said: There
is somebody downstairs — ^I do not quite
know whether it is a man or a woman,
as the individual is so wrapped up — ^who
wishes to speak to you immediately.
He says it is a matter of life and death
for two people. Whereupon, I sat up
in bed and told him to show the person

"A kind of black phantom appeared,
who raised her veil as soon as Jean had
left the room. It was Madame Bertha
Lelievre, quite a young woman, who
had been married for three years to a
large shopkeeper in the town, and was
said to have been the prettiest girl in the

"She was terribly pale, her face was
contracted like the faces of mad peo-
ple are, occasionally, and her hands
trembled violently. Twice she tried to
speak without being able to utter a

soimd, but at last she stammered out:

" 'Come — quick ^- quick, doctor-
Come — ^my — ^my lover has just died in
my bedroom.' She stopped, half suffo-
cated with emotion, and then went on:
'My husband will — ^be coming home
from the club very soon.'

"I jumped out of bed, without even
considering that I was only in my night-
shirt, and dressed myself in a few mo-
ments. Then I said: 'Did you come a
short time ago?'

" 'No,' she said, standing like a statue
petrified with horror. 'It was my serv-
ant — she knows.' And then, after a
shoi;t silence, she wait on: *I was there
— by his side.' And she uttered a sort
of cry of horror, and after a fit of chok-
ing, which made her gasp, she wept vio-
lently, shaking with spasmodic sobs for
a minute or two. Then her tears sud-
denly ceased, as if dried by an internal
fire, and with an air of tragic calmness,
she said: 'Let us make haste.'

"I was ready, but I exclaimed: 1
quite forgot to order my carriage.'

"'I have one,' she said; *it is his,
which was waiting for. him!' She
wrapped herself up, so as to completely
conceal her face, and we started.

"When she was by my side in the
darkness of the carriage, she suddenly
seized my hand, and crushing it in her
delicate fingers she said, with a shaking
voice, that proceeded from a distracted
heart: 'Oh! If you only knew, if you
only knew what I am suffering! I loved
him, I have loved him distractedly, like
a mad woman, for the last six months."

"*Is anyone up in your house?* I

"*No, nobody except Rose, who
knows everything.'

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"We stopped at the door. Evidently
everybody was asleep, and we went in
without making any noise, by means of
her latchkey, and walked upstairs on
tiptoe. The frightened servant was sit-
ting on the top of the stairs, with a
lighted candle by her side, as she was
afraid to stop by the dead man. I went
into the room, which was turned up-
side down, as if there had been a strug-
gle in it. The bed, which was tumbled
and open, seemed to be waiting for
somebody; one of the sheets was thrown
on to the floor, and wet napkins, with
which they had bathed the young man'^
temples, were lying by the side of a
wash-hand basin and a glass, while a
strong smell of vinegar pervaded the

"The dead man's body was lying at
full length in the middle of the room,
and I went up to it, looked at it, and
touched it. I opened the eyes, and felt
the hands, and then, turning to the two
women, who were shaking as if they
were frozen, I said to them: 'Help
me to lift him on to the bed.* When
we had laid him gently on to it, I
listened to his heart, put a looking-glass
to his lips, and then said: It is all over;
let us make haste and dress him.* It
was a terrible sight!

"I took his limbs one by one, as if
they had belonged to some enormous
doll, and held them out to the clothes
which the women brought, and they put
on his socks, drawers, trousers, waist-
coat, and lastly the coat; but it was
a difficult matter to get the arms into
I the sleeves.

"When it came to buttoning his boots^
the two women kneeled down, while I
held the light. As his feet were rather

swollen, it was very difficult, and as
they could not find a button hook, they
had to use their hairpins. When the
terrible toilette was over, I looked at
our work and said: 'You ought to ar-
range his hair a little.* The girl went
and brought her mistresses large-toothed
comb and brush, but as she was trem-
bling, and pulling out his long, tangled
hair in doing it, Madame Leli^vre took
the comb out of her hand, and arranged
his hair as if she were caressing him.
She parted it, brushed his beard, rolled
his mustaches gently round her fingers,
as she had no doubt been in the habit
of doing, in the familiarities of their

"Suddenly, however, letting go of his
hair, she took her dead lover's inert head
hi her hands, and looked for a long time
in despair at the dead face, which no
longer could smile at her. Then, throw-
ing herself on to him, she took him
into her arms and kissed him ardently.
Her kisses fell like blows on to his
closed mouth and eyes, on to his fore-
head and temples, and then, putting her
lips to his ear, as if he could still hear
her, and as if she were about to whisper
somethmg to him, to make their em-
braces still more ardent, she said sev-
eral times, in a heartrending voice:
*Adieu, my darling!*

"Just then the clock struck twelve,
and I started up. Twelve o'clock!' I
exclaimed. *That is the time when the
club closes. Come, Madame, we have
not a moment to lose!'

"She started up, and I said: *We
must carry him into the drawing-room.*
When we had done this, I placed him on
a sofa, and lit the chandeliers, and just
then the front door was opened and shut

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noisily. The husband had come back,
and I said: 'Rose, bring me the basin
and the towels, and make the room
look tidy. Make haste, for heaven's
sake! Monsieur Lelievre is coming in.

"I heard his steps on the stairs, and
then his hands feeling along the walls.
'Come here, my dear fellow,' I said;
*we have had an accident.'

^'And the astonished husband ap-
peared in the door with a cigar in his
mouth, and said: 'What is the matter?
What is the meaning of this?'

"'My dear friend,' I said, going up
to him; 'you find us in great embarrass-
ment. I had remained late, chatting
with your wife and our friend, who had
brought me in his carriage, when he
suddenly fainted, and in spite of all we
have done, he has remained unconscious
for two hours. I did not like to call in
strangers, and if you will now help me
downstairs with him, I shall be able to
attend to him better at his own house.*

"The husband, who was surprised, but
quite unsuspicious, took off his hat.
Then he took his rival, who would be
quite inoffensive for the future, imder
the arms. I got between his two legs,
as if I had been a horse between the
shafts, and we went downstairs, while
his wife lighted us. When we got out-
side, I held the body up, so as to de-
ceive the coachman, and said: 'Come,

my friend; it is nothing; you feel bettei
already^ I expect. Pluck up your cour-
age, and make an attempt. It will soon
be over.' But as I felt that he was
slipping out of my hands, I gave him a
slap on the shoulder, which sent him
forward and made him fall into the car-
riage; then I got in after him.

"Monsieur Lelievre, who was rather
alarmed, said to me: 'Do you think it
is anj^thing serious?' To which I re-
plied, Wo/ with a smile, as I looked at
his wife, who had put her arm into
that of her legitimate husband, and was
trying to see into the carriage.

"I shook hands with them, and told
my coachman to start, and during the
whole drive the dead man kept falling
against me. When we got to his house,
I said that be had become imconscious
on the way home, and helped to carry
him upstairs, where I certified that he
was dead, and acted another comedy to
his distracted family. At last I got
back to bed, not without swearing at

The doctor ceased, thou^ he was still
smiling, and the young woman, who was
in a very nervous state, said: "Why
have you told me that terrible story.**

He gave her a gallant bow, and re-

"So that I may offer you my services,
if necessary."

The Specter

In speaking of a recent lawsuit, our
conversation had turned on sequestra-
tion, and each of us, thereupon, had a

story to tell — 3, story affirmed to be
true. We were a party of intimate
friends, who had passed a pleasant evf-

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ning, now drawing to a close, in. an old
family residence in the Rue de Crenelle.
The aged Marquis de la Tour-Samuel,
bowed 'neath the weight of eighty-two
winters, at last rose, and leaning on
the mantelpiece, said, in somewhat trem-
bling tones :

"I also know something strange, so
strange that it has been a haunting
memory all my life. It is now fifty-
six years since the incident occurred,
and yet not a month has passed in which
I have not seen it again in a dream,
so great was and is the impression of
fear it left on my mind. For ten min-
utes I experienced such horrible fright
that, ever since, a sort of constant ter-
ror has made me tremble at unexpected
noises, and objects half -seen in the gloom
of night inspire me with a mad desire
to take flight. In short, I am afraid
of the dark!

"Ah, nol I would not have avowed
that before having reached my present
age! Now I can say anything. I have
never receded before real danger. So
at eighty-two years of age, I do not feel
compelled to be brave over an imag-
inary danger.

"The affair upset me so completely,
and caused me such lasting and mys-
terious imeasiness, that I never spoke
of it to anyone. I will now tell it to
you exactly as it happened, without any
attempt at explanation.

*1n July, 1827, I was in garrison at
Rouen. One day, as I was walking on
the quay, I met a man whom I thought
I recognized, without being able to re-
call exactly who he was. Instinctively,
I made a movement to stop; the
stranger perceived it and at once ex-
tended his hand

*'He was a friend to whom I had been
deeply attached as a youth. For five
years I had not seen him, and he seemed
to have aged half a century. His hair
was quite white, and he walked with
a stoop as though completely wom out.
He apparently comprehended my sur-
prise, for he told me of the misfortune
which had shattered his life.

"Having fallen madly in love with a
young girl he had married her, but,
after a year of more than earthly happi-
ness, she died suddenly of heart failure.
He had left his chiteau on the very day
of her burial and had come to live at
Rouen. There he still dwelt, more dead
than alive, desperate and solitary, ex-
hausted by grief, and so miserable that
he thought constantly of suicide.

" 'Now that I have found you again,'
said he, 1 will ask you to render me
an important service. It is to go to
my old home and get for me, from the
desk of my bedroom — our bedroom —
some papers which I greatly need. I
cannot send a servant or an agent, as
discretion and absolute silence are neces-
sary. As for myself, nothing on earth
would induce me to re-enter that house.
I will give you the key of the room,
which I myself locked on leaving, and
the key of my desk — ^also a note to my
gardener, telling him to open the cha-
teau for you. But come and breakfast
with me to-morrow, and we will arrange
all that.'

"I promised to do him the slight
favor he asked. For that matter, it
was nothing of a trip, his property
being but a few miles distant from
Rouen and easily reached in an hour on

"At ten o'dock the following day I

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breakfasted, tete-drtite, with my friend,
but he scarcely spoke.

"He begged me to pardon him; the
thought of the visit I was about to make
to that room, the scene of his dead
happiness, overwhehned him, he said.
He, indeed, seemed singularly agitated
and preoccupied, as though undergoing
some mysterious mental combat.

''At l^gth he explained to me exactly
what I had to do. It was very simple.
I must take two packages of letters and
a roil of papers from the first drawer
on the right of the desk of which I had
the key. He added, *I need not beg
you to refrain from glancing at them.'

'1 was wounded at that remark, and
told him so somewhat sharply. He
stammered, Torgive me, I suffer so,*
and tears came to his eyes.

"At about one o'clock I took leave
of him to accomplish my mission.

"The weather was glorious, and I
cantered over the turf, listening to the
songs of the larks and the rhythmical
striking of my sword against my boot.
Then I entered the forest and walked
my horse. Branches of the trees ca-
ressed my face as I passed, and, now and
then, I caught a leaf with my teeth,
from sheer gladness of heart at being
alive and strong on such a radiant day.

"As I approached the chateau, I took
from my pocket the letter I had for
the gardener, and was astonished at
finding it sealed. I was so irritated
that I was about to turn back without
having fulfilled my promise, but re-
flected that I should thereby display un-
due susceptibility. My friend's state of
mind might easily have caused him to
close the envelope without noticing that
be dwl so

"The manor seemed to have been
abandoned for twenty years. The open
gate was dropping from its hinges; the
walks were overgrown with grass, and
the flower-beds were no longer distin-

"The noise I made by tapping loudly
an a shutter brought an old man from
out a door near by, who seemed stunned
with astonishment at seeing me. On
receiving my letter, he read it, reread
it, turned it over and over, looked me
up and down, put the paper in his
pocket, and finally asked:

"*Well! what is it you wish?'

"I replied shortly: *You ought to
know, since you have just read your
master's orders. I wish to enter the

"He seemed overcome. *Then you
are going in — ^in her room?'

"I began to lose patience and said
sharply: *0f course; but is that your

"He stammered in confusion: *N<h-
sir — ^but it is because — that is, it has
not been opened since — since the—
death. If you will be kind enough to
wait five minutes, I will go to — to see
if - '

"I intertupted him, angrily: *Look
here, what do you mean with your
tricks? You know very well you can-
not enter the room, since I have the

"He no longer objected. Then, sir,
I will show you the way.'

" 'Show me the staircase and leave
me. I'll find my way without you.'

" 'But— sir— indeed— '

"This time I silenced him effectually,
pushed him aside, and went into fbe

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"I first traversed the kitchen; then
two rooms occupied by the servant and
his wife; next, by a wide hall, I reached
the stairs, which I mounted, and recog-
nized the door indicated by my friend.

"I easily opened it and entered. The
apartment was so dark that, at first, I
could distinguish nothing. I stopped
shorty my nostrils penetrated by the dis-
agreeable, moldy odor of long-unoccu-
pied rooms. Then, as my eyes slowly
became accustomed to the darkness, I
saw plainly enough, a large and dis-
ordered bedroom, the bed without
sheets, but still retaining its mattresses
and pillows, on one of which was a
deep impression, as though an elbow or
a head had recently rested there.

''The chairs all seemed out of place.
I noticed that a door, doubtless that of
a closet, had remained half open.

"I first went to the window, which I
opened to let in the light; but the fast-
enings of the shutters had grown so
rusty that I could not move them. I
even tried to break them with my sword»
but without success. As I was growing
irritated over my useless efforts, and
could now see fairly well in the semi-
obscurity, I renounced the idea of get-
ting more light and went over to the

"Seating myself in an armchair and
ktting down the lid of the desk, I
opened the designated drawer. It was
full to the top. I needed but three
packages, which I knew how to recog-
nize, and began searching for them.

"I was straining my eyes in the effort
to read the superscriptions, when I
seemed to hear, or rather feel, some-
thing rustle back of me. I paid no at-
tention, believing that a draught from.

the window was moving some drapery.
But, in a minute or so, another move-
ment, almost imperceptible, sent a
strangely disagreeable little shiver over
my skin. It was so stupid to be af-
fected, even slightly, that self-fespect
prevented my turning aroimd. I had
then found the second packet I needed
and was about to lay my hand on the
third when a long and painful sigh, ut-
tered just over my shoulder, made me
boimd like a madman from my seat and
land several feet away. As I jumped I
had turned about, my hand on the hilt
of my sword, and, truly, had I not felt
it at my side, I should have taken to
my heels like a coward.

"A tall woman, dressed in white,
stood gazmg at me from the back of the
chair where I had been sitting an instant

"Such a shudder ran through all my
limbs that I nearly fell backward. No
one can understand unless he has felt
it, that frightful, unreasoning terror!
liie mind becomes vague; the heart
ceases to beat; the entire body grows as
limp as a sponge. \

"I do not believe in ^osts, never-
theless I completely gave way to a
hideous fear of the dead ; and I suffered
more in those few moments than in all
the rest of my life, from the irresistible
anguish of supernatural fright. If she
had not spoken, I should have died, per-
haps! But she s^ke, she spoke in a
sweet, sad voice, that set my nerves
vibrating. I dare not say that I became
master of myself and recovered my rea-
son. No! I was so frightened that I
scarcely knew what I was doing; but &
certain innate pride, a remnant of sol-
dierly instinct, made me, almost in spito

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of myself, maintahi a creditable coun-

"She said: *0h! sir, you can render
me a great service.'

"I wanted to reply, but it was im*
possible for me to pronounce a word.
Only a vague sound came from my

"She continued: * Will you? You can
save me, cure me. I suffer frightfully.
I suffer, oh! how I suffer!' and she
slowly seated herself in the armchair,
still looking at me.

" *Will you?' she said.

"I replied *Yes' by a nod, my voice
still being paralyzed.

"Then she held out to me a tortoise-
shell comb, and murmured:

" *Comb iny hair, oh! comb my hair;
that will cure me; it must be combed.
Look at my head — ^how I suffer; and my
hair pulls so!'

"Her hair, unbound, very long and
very black, it seemed to me, hung over

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