Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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to find Sonia in bed by herself.

"WeU!'' Ernest asked boldly, **and
what about Jthe Marquis?"

"He left very early," Sonia replied.

"A queer sort of Marquis, I must
say!" Ernest observed, contemptuously,
and growing bolder: "Why, I should
like to know?"

Sonia replied, drawing herself i:^).
"The man has his own habits^ I siq>-

"Do you know, Madame," Sabina
observed, "that he came back half an
hour after he left?"

"Ah!" said Sonia, getting up and
walking about the room. "He came
back? What did he want, I wonder?"

"He did not say, Madame. He mere-
ly went upstairs to see you. He was
dressed in his old clothes again."

Suddenly Sonia uttered a loud cry,
and clapped her hands, and the seven
came round to see what had caused her

"Look here! Just look here!" she
cried. "Do look on the mantelpiece!
It is really charming! Do look!"

And with a smiling, yet somewhat
melancholy expression in her eyes, with
a tender look which they could not un-
derstand, she showed them a small bunch
of wild flowers, by the side of a heap of
half-pennies. Mechanically she took
them up and counted them, and then
began to cry.

There were forty-seven of them.

A Deer Park in the Provinces

It is not very long ago that an Hun-
garian Prince, who was an officer in the
Austrian cavalry regiment, was quar-

tered in a wealthy Austrian garrison
town. The ladies of the local aristoc-
racy naturally did everything they

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could to allure the new-comer, who was
young, good-looking, animated, and
amusing, into their nets, and at last
one of these ripe beauties, who was now
resting on her amorous laurels, after
innumerable victories on the hot floors
of Viennese society, succeeded in taking
him in her toils. But only for a short
time, for she had very nearly reached
that limit in age where, on the man's
side, love ceases and esteem begins.
She had more sense, however, than most
women, and she recognized the fact in
good time. As she did not wish to give
up the leading part which she played in
30ciety there so easily she reflected as
to what means she could employ to bind
him to her in another manner. It is
well known that the notorious Madame
de Pompadour, who was one of the
mistresses of Louis XV. of France, when
her own charms did not sufl&ce to fetter
that changeable monarch, conceived the
idea of securing the chief power in the
State and in society for herself, by hav-
ing a pavilion in the deer park — ^which
belonged to her, and where Louis XV.
was in the habit of hunting — ^fitted up
with every accommodation of a harem,
where she brought beautiful women and
girls of all ranks of life to the arms of
her royal lover.

Inspired by such an historical exam-
ple, the Baroness began to arrange eve-
ning parties, balls, and private theatri-
cals in the winter, and, in the summer
excursions into the country. Thus she
gave the Prince, who at that time was
still, so to say, at her feet, the oppor-
tunity of plucking fresh flowers. But
even this clever expedient did not avail
in the long run, for beautiful women
were scarce in that provincial town^ and

the few which the local aristocracy could
produce were not able to offer the
Prince any fresh attraction, when he
had made their closer acquaintance. At
last, therefore, he turned his back on
these highly-born Messalinas, and began
to bestow marked attention on the
pretty women and girls of the middle
classes, either in the streets or when
he was in his box at the theater.

There was one girl in particular, the
daughter of a well-to-do merchant, who
was supposed to be the most beautiful
girl in the capital. On her his opera
glass was constantly leveled, and he
even followed her occasionally without
being noticed. But this modem Pompa-
dour soon got wind of his unprincely
taste, and determined to do everything
in her power to keep her lover and the
whole nobility, which was also threat-
ened, from such an unheard-of disgrace
as the intrigue of a prince with a girl
of the middle classes.

"It is really sad,'* the outraged Bar-
oness once said to me, "that in these
days princes and monarchs choose their
mistresses only from the stage, or from
the scum of the people. But it is the
fault of our ladies themselves. They
mistake their vocation! Ah! Where
are those delightful times when the
daughters of the flrst families looked
upon it as an honor to become their
prince's mistress?"

Consequently, the horror of the blue^
blooded, aristocratic lady was intense
when the Prince, in his usual, amiable,
careless manner, suggested to her to peo-
ple her deer park with girls of the lower

"It is a ridiculous prejudice," the
Prince said on that occasion, "which

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obliges us to shut ourselves off from the
other ranks, and to con^e ourselves
altogether to our own circle, for mo-
notony and boredom are the inevitable
consequences of ,it. How many honor-
able men of sense and education, and
especially how many charming women
and girls there are, not of the aristoc-
racy, who would infuse fresh life and
a new charm into our dull, listless so-
ciety! I very much wish that a lady
Hke you would make a beginning, would
give up an exclusiveness which cannot
be maintained in these days, and would
enrich our circle with the charming
daughters of middle-class families."

A wish of the Prince's was as good as
a command; so the Baroness made a
wry face, but accommodated herself to
circumstances, and promised to invite
some of the prettiest girls of the plebe?
to a ball in a few days. She really
issued a number of invitations, and even
condescended to drive to the house of
each of them in person.

"But I must ask one thing of you,"
she said to each of the pretty ^rls,
"and that is to come dressed as simply
as possible; washing muslins will be
best. The Prince dislikes all finery and
ostentation, and he would be very vexed
with me if I were the cause of any ex-
travagance on your part."

The great day arrived. It was quite
an event for the little town, and all
classes of society were in a state of the
greatest excitement. The pretty, ple-
beian girls, with the one whom the
Prince had first noticed at their head,
appeared in all their innocence, in plain,
washing dresses, according to the

Prince's orders, with their hair plainly
dressed, and without any ornament ex-
cept their own fresh charms. They were
all captives in the den of the proud,
aristocratic Baroness, and the poor Httle
mice were very much terrified when sud-
denly the aristocratic ladies came into
the ball-room, rustling in whole oceans
of silks and lace, with their haughty
heads changed into so many hanging
gardens of Semiramis, loaded with all
the treasures of the Indies, and radiant
as the sun.

At first the poor girls looked down in
shame and confusion, and the Baroness's
eyes glistened with all the joy of tri-
umph. But her ill-natured pleasure did
not last long, for the intrigue on which
the Prince's ignoble passions were to
make shipwreck recoiled on the highly-
born lady patroness of the deer park.

No, the aristocratic ladies in their
magnificent toilettes did not throw the
girls from the middle classes into the
shade. On the contrary, these pretty
girls in their washing dresses, and with
the plain but splendid ornament of their
abundant hair, looked more charming
than they would have looked in silk
dresses and long trains, with flowers in
their hair; and the novelty and un-
wontedness of their appearance there
allured not only the Prince, but all the
other gentlemen and officers, so that
the prbud granddaughters of heraldic
lions, griffins, and eagles were quite neg-
lected by the gentlemen, who danced al-
most exclusively with the pretty girls
of the middle class.

The faded lips of the Baroness and
Countesses uttered many a "For
shame!" but all in vain. Neither wm

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it any good f6r the Baroness to make up
her mind that she would never again put
a social medley before the Prince in her
dravring-room, for he had seen through

her intrigue, and gave her up altogether,
Sic transit gloria mundil

The Baroness, however, ccmsoled her-
self as best she could.

An Adventure

"Come! Gomel** said Pierre Du-
faille, shrugging his shoulders. ''Do you
know what you are talking about, when
you say that there are no more adven-
tures? Say that 'there are no more ad-
venturous men and you will be right!
Yes, nobody takes a chance, in these
days, for as soon as there is any slight
mystery, or a spice of danger, they
draw back. If, however, a man is will-
ing to go into anything blindly and to
run the risk of anything that may hap-
pen he can still meet with adventures.
Even I, who never look for them, met
with one in my life, and a very startling
one. Let me tell you of it.

"I was staying in Florence, and was
living very quietly. All I indulged in,
in the way of adventures, was to listen
occasionally to the immoral proposals
with which every stranger is beset at
night on the Piazza della Signora, by
some worthy Pandarus or other, with a
head like that of a venerable priest.
These excellent fellows generally intro-
duce you to their families, where de-
bauchery is carried on in a very simple
and almost patriarchal fashion, and
where one does not nm the slightest risk.

"One day as I was admiring Benvenuto
Cellini's wonderful Perseus, in front of
the Loggia dei Lanzi, I suddenly felt my
sleeve pulled somewhat roughly. On

turning round, I found m3rself face to
face with a woman of about fifty who
said to me with a strong German ac-
cent: 'You are French, Monsieur, are
you not?*

" 'Certainly, I am,' I repUed.

"*And would you like to go home
with a very pretty woman?'

"'Most certainly I should," I re-
plied, with a laugh.

"Nothing could have been funnier
than the looks and serious air of the
procuress, save the strangeness of the
proposal, made in broad daylight, and
in very bad French. It was even worse
when she added: 'Do you know every-
thing they do in Paris?'

" 'What do you mean, my good wo-
man?' I asked her, rather startled.
'What is done in Paris that is not done
everywhere else?'

"However, when she explained her
meaning, I replied that I certainly did
not, and as I was not quite so immodest
as the lady, I blushed a little. But no*
for long, for almost immediately after-
ward I grew pale, when she said: *I
want to assure myself of it personally*
And she said this in the same phleg-
matic manner, which did not seem so
funny to me now, but, on the contrary,
rather frightened me.

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"'What!' Isaid. TersonaUyl You!
Explain yourself T

'If I had been rather surprised be-
fore, I was now altogether astonished at
her explanation. It was indeed an ad-
venture — almost like a romance. I
could scarcely believe my ears, but this
is what she told me.

"She was the confidential attendant
on a lady moving in high society, who
wished to be initiated into the most se-
cret refinements of Parisian high life,
and had done me the honor of choosing
me for her companion. But then, this
preliminary test!

"'By Jove!' I said to myself, *this
old German hag is not so stupid as she
looks!' And I laughed in my sleeve, as
I listened inattentively to what she was
sa>ing to presuade me.

" 'My mistress is the prettiest woman
you can dream of; a real beauty;
springtime! A flower!'

"'You must excuse me, but if your
mistress is really like springtime and a
flower, you (pray excuse me for being
so blunt) are not exactly that, and per-
haps I should not exactly be in a mood
to humor you, my dear lady, in the
same way that I might her.'

"She jumped back, astonished in
turn: 'Why, I only want to satisfy
myself with my own eyes; not by in-
juring you.' And she finished her ex-
planation, which had been incomplete
before. All she had to do was to go
with me to 'Mother Patata's well-known
establishment, and there to be present
while I conversed with one of its fair
and frail inhabitants.

" 'Oh!' I said to myself, 1 was mis-
taken in her tastes. She is of course an
old, shriveled-up woman, as I guessed,

but she is a specialist. This is interest*
ing; upon my word! I never met with
such a one before!'

"Here, gentlemen, I must beg you to
allow me to hide my face for a moment.
What I said was evidently not strictly
correct, and I am rather ashamed of it;
my excuse must be, that I was young,
that Patata's was a celebrated place, of
which I had heard wonderful things
said, but the entry to which was barred
me, on account of my small means.
Five napoleons was the price! Fancy!
I could not treat myself to it, and so I
accepted the good lady's offer. I do not
say that it was not disagreeable, but
what was I to do? And then, the old
woman was a German, and so her five
napoleons were a slight return for our
five milliards, which we paid them as
our war indemnity.

"Well, Patata's boarder was charming,
the old woman was not too trouble-
some, and your humble servant did his
best to sustain the ancient glory of

"Let me drink my disgrace to the
dregs! On the next day but one after,
I was waiting at the statue of Perseus.
It was shameful, I confess, but I en-
joyed the partial restitution of the five
mflliards, and it is surprising how a
Frenchman loses his dignity when he is

"The good lady made her appearance
at the appointed time. It was quite
dark and I followed her without a word,
for, after all, I was not very proud of
the part I was playing. But if you only
knew how fair that little girl at Patata's
was. As I went along, I thought only
of her, and did not pay any attention to
where we were going. I was only

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roused from my reverie by hearing the
old woman say: *Here we are. Try
and be as entertaining as you were the
day before yesterday/

"We were not outside Patata's house,
but in a narrow street running by the
Side of a paiace with high walls, and in
front of us was a small door, which the
old woman opened gently.

"For a moment I felt inclined to draw
back. Apparently the old hag was also
ardent on her own account! She had
me in a trap! No doubt she wanted
in her turn to make use of my small
talents! But, no! That was impos-

"'Go in! Go in!' she said. 'What
are you afraid of? My mistress is so
pretty, so pretty, much prettier than the
little girl of the other day.'

"So it was really true, this story out
of 'The Arabian Nights?' Why not?
And after all, what was I risking? The
good woman would certainly not injure
me, and so I went in, though somewhat

"My friend, what an hour I spent
there! Paradise! It would be useless,
impossible to describe it to you.* Apart-
ments fit for a princess, and one of
those princesses out of fairy tales, a
fairy herself. An exquisite German
woman, exquisite as German women can
be, when they try. An Undine of Hein-
nch Heine's, with hair like the Virgin
Mary's, innocent blue eyes, and a skin
like strawberries and cream.

"Suddenly, however, my Undine got
up, and her face convulsed with fury
and pride. Then, she rushed behind
some hangings, where she began to give
vent to a flood of German words, which
I did not understand, while I remained

standing, dumfounded. But just then
the old woman came in, and said, shak-
ing with fear: *Quick, quick; dress
yourself and go, if you do not wish to
be kiUed.'

"I asked no questions, for what was
the good of trying to imderstand? Be-
sides, the old woman, who grew more
and more terrified, could not find any
French words, and chattered wildly. I
jumped up and got into my shoes and
overcoat and ran down the stairs and
into the street.

"Ten minutes later, I recovered my
breath and my senses, without knowing
what streets I had been through, nor
where I had come from, and I stole fur-
tively into my hotel, as if I had been a

"In the cafis the next morning, noth-
ing was talked of except a crime that
had been committed during the night.
A German Baron had killed his wife
with a revolver, but had been liberated
on bail, as he had appealed to his coun-
sel, to whom he had given the following
explanation, to the truth of which the
lady companion of the Baroness had

"She had been married to her hus-
band almost by force; she detested him,
and had some particular reasons (which
were not specified) for her hatred of
him. Il\ order in have her revenge on
him, she had had him seized, bound, and
gagged by four hired ruffians, who had
been caught, and who had confessed
everjrthing. Thus, reduced to immo-
bility, and unable to help himself, the
Baron had been obliged to witness a
degrading scene, in which his wife ca-
ressed a Frenchman, and thus outraged
conjugal fidelity and German honor at

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;jhe same time. As soon as he "was set
at liberty, the Baron had punished his
faithless wife, and was now seeking her

"And what did you do?" some one
asked Pierre Dufaille.

"The only thing I could do, by
George!" he replied. "I put myself at
the poor devil's disposal; it was his

right, and so we fought a duel. Alasl
It was with swords, and he ran me
right through the body. That was also
his right, but he exceeded his right
when he called me her ponce. Then I
gave him his change, and as I fell, I
called out with all the strength that re-
mained to me: 'A Frenchman! A
Frenchman! Long live France!'"

The Bed

On a hot afternoon during last sum-
mer, the large auction rooms seemed
asleep, and the auctioneers were knock-
ing down the various lots in a listless
manner. In a back room, on the first
floor, two or three lots of old silk eccle-
siastical vestments were lying in a

They were copes for solemn occa-
sions, and graceful chasubles on which
embroidered flowers surrounded sym-
bolic letters on a yellowish ground,
which had originally been white. Some
secondhand dealers were there, two or
^ree men with dirty beards, and a fat
woman with a big stomach, one of those
women who deal in secondhand finery
and manage illicit love affairs, women
who are brokers in old and young hu-
man flesh, just as much as they are la
new and old clothes.

Presently, a beautiful Louis XV.
chasuble was put up for salt, which was
as pretty as the dress of a marchioness
of that period. It had retained all its
colors, and was embroidered with lilies
of the valley round the cross, and long
blue irises, which came up to the foot

of the sacred emblenr, and with wreaths
of roses in the corners. When I had
bought it, I noticed that there was a
faint scent about it, as if it were per-
meated with the remains of incense, or
still pervaded by delicate, sweet scents
of bygone years, by the memory of a
petfume, the soul of an evaporated es-

When I got home, I wished to have a
small chair of the same period covered
with it; and as I was handling it in or-
der to take the necessary measures, I
felt some paper beneath my fingers.
When I cut the lining, some letters fell
at my feet. They were yellow with
age, and the faint ink was the color of
rust; outside the sheets, which were
folded in the fashion of years long past,
it was addressed iu a delicate hand
"To Monsieur rAbb6 d'Argence.*'

The first three letters merely settled
places of meeting, but here is the third:

"My Friend,— I am very unwell, ill
in fact, and I cannot leave my bed. The
rain is beating against my windows, and
I lie dreaming comfortably and wannly

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tinder my eider-down coverlet. I have
a book of which I am very fond, and
which seems as if it really applied to
me. Shall I tell you what it is? No,
for you would only scold me. Then,
when I have read a little, I think, and
will tell you what about.

"Having been in bed for three days,
I think aboul my bed, and even in my
sleep I meditate on it still. I have come
to the conclusion that the bed compre-
hends our whole life; for we were bom
in it, we live in it, and we shall die in
it. If, therefore, I had Monsieur de
Cr6billon's pen, I should write the his-
tory of a bed, and what exciting and
terrible, as well as delightful and mov-
ing, occurrences would not such a book
contain! What lessons and what sub-
jects for moralizing could one not draw
from it, for everyone?

"You know my bed, my friend, but
you will never guess how many things
I have discovered in it within the last
three days, and how much more I love
it, in consequence. It seems to me to
be inhabited, haunted, if I may say so,
by a number of people I never thought
of who, nevertheless, have left some-
thing of themselves in that couch.

"Ah! I cannot understand people
who buy new beds, beds to which no
memories or cares are attached. Mine,
ours, which is so shabby, and so spa-
cious, must have held many existences
in it, from birth to the grave. Think
of that, my friend; think of it all;
review all those lives, a great part of
which was spent between these four
posts, surrounded by these hangmgs
embroidered by human figures, which
have seen so many things. What
have they seen during the three cen-

turies since they were first put up?

"Here is a young woman lying in
this bed.

"From time to time she sighs, and
then she groans and cries out; her
mother is with her, and presently a little
creature that makes a noise like a cat
mewing, and which is all shiveled and
wrinkled, appears. It is a male child to
which she has given birth, and the young
mother feels happy in spite of her pain;
she is nearly suffocated with joy at that
first cry, and stretches out her arms,
and those around her shed tears of
pleasure. For that little morsel of hu-
manity which has come from her means
perpetuation of the blood, of the heart,
and of the soul of the old people, who
are looking on, trembling with excite-

"And then, here are two lovers, who
for the first time are together in that
tabernacle of life. They tremble; but
transported with delight, they have the
delicious sensation of being close to-
gether, and by degrees their lips meet.
That divine Idss makes them one, that
kiss which is the gate of a terrestrial
heaven, that kiss which speaks of hu-
man delights, which continually prom-
ises them, announces them, and pre-
cedes them. And their bed is agitated
like the tempestuous sea, it bends and
murmurs, and itself seems to become
animated and joyous, for the maddening
mystery of love is being accomplished
on it. What is there sweeter, what more
perfect in this world than those em-
braces which make one single being out
of two, and which give to both of them
at the same moment the same thought,
the same expectation, and the same
maddening pleasure, a joy which de-

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scends upon them like a celestial and
devouring fire?

"Do you remember those lines from
some old poet, which you read to me
last year? I should like to have them
embroidered on the top of my bed,
^ere Pyramus and Thisbe are continu-
ally looking at me out of their tapes-
tried eyes.

"And think of death, my friend, of
all those who have breathed out their
last sigh to God in this bed. For it is
also the tomb of hopes ended, the door
which closes everything, after havmg
been the entrance to the world. What
cries, what anguish, what sufferings,
what groans; how many arms stretched
out toward the past; what appeals to
a happiness that has vanished forever;
what convulsions, what death-rattles,
what gaping lips and distorted eyes,
have there not been in this bed from
which I am writing to you, during the
three centuries that it has Weltered hu-
man beings!

"The bed, you must remember, is the
symbol of life; I have discovered this
within the last three days. There is
nothing good except the bed, and are
not some of our best moments spent in

"But then, again, we suffer in bed!
It is the refuge of those who are ill and
suffering; a place of repose and comfort
for worn-out bodies, in one word, a part
and ]\arcel of humanity.

"Many other thoughts have struck
me, but I have no time to note them
down for you, and then, should I re-
member them all? Besides that I am
so tured that I mean to shake up my

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 85 of 125)