Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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"Are there any eyes on earth that
contain more dreams than yours, more
unknown promises, greater depths of
love? I do not think so. And when
that mouth of yours, with its curved
lips, smiles and shows the ivory gates
within, one is tempted to say that from
this ravishing mouth comes ineffable
music, something inexpressibly delicate,
a sweetness which extorts sighs.

"It is then that you speak to me, and
that is what troubles me, don't you see,
troubles me more than tongue can tefl.
I would prefer never to see you at all.

"You go on pretending not to imder-
stand anything, do you not? But I
calculated on that.

"Do you remember the first time you
came to see me at my residence? How
gaily you stepped inside, an odor o!
violets, which clung to your skirts,
heralding your entrance ; how we looked
at each other, for ever so long, without
uttering a word, after which we em-
braced like two fools. Then from that
time to the end we never exchanged a
word.

"But when we separated, did not out
trembling hands and our eyes say maqy



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WORDS OF LOVE



691



things, things which cannot be expressed
in any language. At least, I thought so;
and when you went away, you mur-
mured:

"*We shall meet again soonl*

"That was all you said, and you will
never guess what delightful dreams you
left me, all that I, as it were, caught a
glimpse of, all that I fancied I could
guess in your thoughts.

"You see, my poor child, for men
who are not stupid, who are rather re-
fined and somewhat superior, love is
such a complicated instrument that the
tnerest trifle puts it out of order. You
women never perceive the ridiculous
side of certain things when you love, and
you fail to see the grotesqueness of
some expressions.

"Why does a word which sounds quite
right in the mouth of a small, dark
woman seem quite wrong and funny in
the mouth of a fat, light-haired woman?
Why are the wheedling ways of the one
altogether out of place in the other?

"Why is it that certain caresses which
are delightful from the one should be
wearisome from the other? Why?
Because in everything, and especially in
love, perfect harmony — absolute agree-
ment in motion, voice, words, and in
demonstrations of tenderness, is neces-
sary in the person who moves, speaks,
and manifests affection; harmony is
necessary in age, in height, in the color
of the hair, and in the style of beauty.

"If a woman of thirty-five, who has
arrived at the age of violent tem-
X)estuous passion, were to preserve the
slightest traces of the caressing arch-
ness of her love affairs at twenty, were
not to understand that she ought to ex-
press herself differently, look at her



lover differently and kiss him dif-
ferently, were not to see that she ought
to be a Dido and not a Juliette, she
would infallibly disgust nine lovers out
of ten, even if they could not account to
themselves for their estrangement. Do
you imderstand me? No? I hoped so.

"From the time that you gave rein
to your tenderness, it was all over foi
me, my dear friend. Sometimes we
would embrace for five minutes, in one
interminable kiss, one of those kisses
which makes lovers close their eyes, lest
part of it should escape through their
clouded soul which it is ravaging. And
then, when our lips separated, you
would say to me:

" 'That was nice, you fat old dog.'

"At such moments, I could have
beaten you; for you gave me succes-
sively all the names of animals and
vegetables which you doubtless found
in some cookery book, or gardener's
manual. But that is nothing.

"The caresses of love are brutal
bestial, and if one comes to think of it,
grotesque! Oh! My poor child, whal
joking elf, what perverse sprite could
have prompted the concluding words of
your letter to me? I have made a col-
lection of them, but out of love for you,
I will not show them to you.

"And sometimes you really said
things which were quite inopportune.
For instance you managed now and then
to let out an exalted / love you! on such
singular occasions that I was obliged to
restrain a strong desire to laugh. There
are times when the words / love you!
are so out of place that they become
indecorous; let me tell you that.

"But you do not understand me, and
many other women also will not under*



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAtfTPASSANT



stand me, but think me stupid, though
that matters very little to me. Hungry
men eat like gluttons, but peoi^ of re-
finement are disgusted at it and often
feel an invincible dislike for a dish, on
account of a mere trifle. It is the same
with love, as with cookery.

"What I cannot comprehend for ex-
ample is that certain women who fully
understand the irresistible attraction of
£ne, embroidered stockings, the exqui-
site charm of shades, the witchery oi
valuable lace concealed in the depths of
their underclothing, the exciting zest of
hidden luxury, ^ and all the subtle
delicacies of female elegance, never un-
derstands the invincible disgust with
which words that are out of place or
f oofishly tender, inspire us.

"At times coarse and brutal expres-



sions work wonders, as they excite the
senses and make the heart beat, and
they are allowable at the hours of com-
bat. Is not that sentence of Cam-
bronne's sublime?*

"Nothing shocks us that comes at the
light time; but then, we must also know
when to hold our tongue, and to avoid
phrases d la Paid de Kock, at certain
moments.

"And I embrace you passionately, on
the condition that you say nothing.

"Rene.''



♦At Waterloo, General Cambronne is
reported to have said, when called on to
surrender : "The Guard dies, but docs
not surrender." But according to Victor
Hugo, in **Les Mis^rables," he used the
expression "Merdef" which cannot be
put into English fit for ears polite.



The Upstart



You know good-natured, stout Du^
pontel, who looks like the type of a
happy man, with fat cheeks the color
of ripe aisles, a small, reddish mus-
tache, turned up over his thick lips,
promment eyes, which never know any
^notion or sorrow, and remind one of
the calm eyes of cows and oxen, and a
long back fixed on to two wriggling
crooked legs, which have obtained for
him the nickname of "corkscrew** from
some nymph of the ballet.

Dupontel, who had taken the trouble
to be bom, but not like the grand
seigneurs whom Beaumarcbais made fun
of once upon a time, was ballasted with
a resectable number of millions, as he^



fitted the sole heir of a bouse that bad
sold household utensils and appliances
for over a pentury.

Naturally, like every other i^jstart
who respects himself, he wished to ap-
pear to be something, to be known as
a clubman, and to i^y to the gallery,
because he had been educated at
Vaugirard and knew a little English, had
gone through his voluntary service in
the army for twelve months"** at Rouen;

♦Although, in France, as in Germany,
military service is compulsory, men are
allowed to serve in both countries as
one-year volunteers; they enjoy certain
privileges, find their own tmiform, etc,
which entails, of course, considerable ex-
pense.



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THE UPSTART



695



was a tolerable singer, could drive f our-
in-band| and play lawn-tennis.

Always studiously well-dressed, cor-
rect in every way, he copied his way of
from the three or four snobs who set
the fashion, reproduced other people's
witticisms, learned anecdotes and jokes
by heart, like a lesson, to use them
again at small parties, constantly
laughed, without knowing why his
friends burst into roars of merriment,
and was in the habit of keeping pretty
girls for the pleasure of his best friends.
Of course, he was a perfect fool, but
after all, was a capital fellow, to whom
it was only right to extend a good deal
of indulgence.

When he had taken his thirty-first
mistress, and had made the discovery
that in love money does not create hap-
piness two-thirds of the time, that they
had all deceived him, and made him per-
fectly ridiculous at the end of a week,
Charles Dupontel made up his mind to
settle down as a respectable married
man, and to marry not from calculation
or from reason, but for love.

One autumn afternoon, at Auteuil, he
noticed in front of the club stand among
a number of pretty women who were
standing round the braziers, a girl with
such a lovely, delicate complexion that
it looked like apple blossoms. Her hair
was like threads of gold, and she was
&o slight and supple that she reminded
him of those outlines of saints which
one sees in old stained glass church
windows. There was also something
enigmatical about her, for she had the
delightfully ingenuous look of a school-
girl during the holidays, combined with
the sovoir faire of some enlightened
young lady, who already knows the how



and the why of everything, who is ex-
uberant with youth and life, and who
is eagerly waiting for the moment when
her marriage will at length allow her
to say and to do everything that comes
into her head to amuse herself to
satiety.

Then she had such small feet that
they would have gone into a woman's
hand, a waist that vould have been
clasped by a bracelet, tumed-up eye-
lashes, which fluttered like the wings of
a butterfly, an impudent and saucy
nose, and a vague mocking smile that
made folds in her lips, like the petals
of a rose.

Her father was a member of the
Jockey Club. He was generally
"cleaned," as they call it, in great races,
but managed by his coolness and wit
to keep himself afloat. He belonged
to a race which could prove that his
ancestors had been at the Court of
Charlemagne, and not as musicians or
cooks, as some people declared.

Her youth and beauty, and her
father's pedigree, dazzled Dupontel, up-
set his brain, and altogether turned
him upside down. The combination
seemed to him to be a mirage of hap-
piness and of pride of family.

He got introduced to her father at the
end of a game of a baccarat, invited him
to shoot with him, and a month later,
as if it were an affair to be hurried
over, he asked for and obtained the
hand of Mademoiselle Th^r^e de
Montsaigne. Then he felt as happy
as a miner who has discovered a vein
of precious metal.

The young woman did not require
more than twenty-four hours to dis-
cover that her husband was nothing but



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



a ridiculous puppet, and immediately
set about to consider how she might
best escape from her cage, and befool
the poor fellow, who loved her with all
his heart.

She deceived him without the least
pity or the slightest scruple; she did
it as from instinctive hatred, as if it
were necessary for her not only to make
him ridiculous, but also to forget that
she ought to sacrifice her virgin dreams
to him, to belong to him, and to sub-
mit to his hateful caresses without be-
ing able to repel him.

She was cruel, like all women are
when they do not love, and delighted
in doing audacious and absurd things,
in visiting everything, and in braving
danger. She seemed like a young colt
intoxicated with the sun, the air, and
its liberty, which gallops wildly across
the meadows, jumps hedges and ditches,
kicks, and whinnies joyously, and rolls
about in the long, sweet grass.

But Dupontel remained quite im-
perturbable; he had not the slightest
suspicion, and was the first to laugh
when an5^body told him some good story
of a husband who had been cuckolded,
although his wife repelled him, quarreled
with him, and constantly pretended to
be out of sorts or tired out, in order
to escape from him. She seemed to
take a malicious pleasure in checkmat-
ing him by her personal remarks, her
disenchanting answers, and her ap-
parent listlessness.

They saw a great deal of company,
and he called himself Du Pontel now,
even entertaining thoughts of buying a
title from the Pope. He only read cer-
tain newspapers, kept up a regular cor-



respondence with the Orleans Princes,
was thinking of starting a racing stable,
and finished up by believing that he
really was a fashionable man. He
strutted about and was puffed out with
conceit, having probably never read
La Fontaine's fable of the ass that is
laden with relics which people salute,
and takes the bow himself.

Suddenly, however, anonymous let-
ters disturbed his quietude, and tore
the bandage from his eyes.

At first he tore them up without
reading them, and shrugged his shoulders
disdainfully; but he received so many
of them, and the writers seemed so
determined to dot his i's and cross his
t's and to clear his brain for him, that
the unhappy man began to grow dis-
turbed,, and to watch and to ferret
about. He instituted minute inquiries,
and arrived at the conclusion that he
no longer had the right to make fun
of other husbands — that he was the
perfect counterpart of Sganarelle*

Furious at having been duped, he
set a whole private inquiry agency to
work, continually acted a part, and one
evening appeared unexpectedly with a
commissary of police in the snug little
bachelor's quarters which concealed his
wife's escapades.

Ther^se, pale with terror and ter-
ribly frightened, at her wits' end at be-
ing thus surprised in all the disorder of
her lover's apartments, hid herself be-
hind the bed curtains, while he, who was
an officer of dragoons, very much vexed
at being mixed up in such a pinchbeck



♦The Cocu Imaginaire (The Imaginary
Cuckold), in Moliere*? r>iav of that name.



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HAPPINESS



695



scandal, and at being caught in a silk
shirt by men who were so correctly
dressed in frock coats, frowned angrily,
and had to restrain himself from throw-
ing his victim out of the window.

The police commissioner, who was
calmly looking at this little scene with
the coolness of experience, prepared to
verify the fact that they were caught
in flagrante delictu, and in an ironical



voice said to the husband, who had
claimed his services:

"I must ask for you name in full,
Monsieur?"

"Charles Joseph Edward Dupontel,"
was the answer. And as the commis-
sary was writing it down from his dic-
tation, he added suddenly: "Du Pontel
in two words, if you please, Monsieur
le Commissionnaire!''



Happiness



The sky was blue, with light clouds
that looked like swans slowly sailing on
the waters of a lake, and the atmos-
phere was so warm, so saturated with
the subtle odors of the mimosas, that
Madame de Viellemont ordered coffee
to be served on the terrace which over-
looked the sea.

As the steam rose from the delicate
china cups, one felt an almost inex-
pressible pleasure in watching the sails
as they gradually disappeared in the
mysterious distance. The almost mo-
tionless sea had the sheen of jewels
and attracted the eyes like the looks of
a dreamy woman.

Monsieur de Pardeillac, who had just
arrived from Paris, fresh from the re-
membrance of the last election there,
from that carnival of variegated posters
which for weeks had imparted the
strange aspect of an Oriental bazaar to
the whole dty, had just been relatmg
the victory of "The General," and went
on to say that those who had thought
that the game was lost were beginning to
hope again.



After listening to him, old Count de
Lancolme, who had spent his whole
life in rummaging libraries, and who
had certainly annotated more manu-
scripts than any Benedictine friar,
shook his bald head and exclaimed in
his shrill, rather mocking voice:

"Will you allow me to tell you a
very old story, which came into my
head while you were speaking, my dear
friend? I read it formerly in an old
Italian city, though I forget at this
moment where.

'Tt happened in the fifteenth century,
which is far removed from our epoch,
but you shall judge for yourselves
whether it might not have happened
yesterday.

• "Since the day, when mad with rage
and rebellion, the town had made a
bonfire of the Ducal palace, and had
ignominiously expelled the patrician
who had been their podestat* as if he
had been some vicious scoundrel^ had
thrust his lovely daughter into a coi>



*A Venetian or Genoese magistrate.

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696



WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



vent and had forced his sons, who
might have claimed their parental heri-
tage and have again imposed the ab-
horred yoke upon them, into a monas-
tery, the town had never known any
prosperous times. One after another,
the shops closed, and money became
as scarce as if some invasion of bar-
barian hordes had emptied the State
Treasury and stolen the last gold coin.

"The poor people were in abject
misery, and in vain held out their hands
to passers-by under the church porches
and in the squares. Only the watchmen
disturbed the silence of the starlit
nights, by the monotonous and melan-
choly call which announced the flight
of the hours as they passed.

"There were no more serenades; no
longer did viol and flute trouble the
slumbers of the lover's choice; no longer
were amorous arms thrown round wo-
men's supple waists, or bottles of red
wine put to cod in the fountains under
the trees. There were no more love
adventures, to the rhythm of laughter
and of kisses; nothing but heavy, mo-
notonous weariness, and anxiety as to
what the next day might bring forth,
and ceasdess, unbridled ambitions and
lusts.

"The palaces were deserted, one by
one, as k the plague were raging, and
the nobility had fled to Florence and
to Rome. In the beginning, the com-
mon people, artisans and shopkeepers,
had installed themselves in power, as
in a conquered dty, had seized posts
of honor and well-paid offices, and had
sacked the Treasury with their greedy
and eager hands. After them came the
middle classes, and these solemn up-
starts and hypocrites, like leather bot-



tles blown out with wind, acting like
tyrants and lying without the least
^ame, disowned their former promises,
and would soon have given the finishing
stroke to the unfortunate city, which
was already on its last legs.

"Discontent was increasing, and tiie
sbirri* could scarcely find time to tear
the seditious placards, posted up by
unknown hands, from the walls.

"But now that the old podestai had
died in exile, worn out with grief, and
his children, brought up under monastic
rule, were accustomed to nothing but
prayer, and thought only of their own
salvation, there was nobody to take his
place.

"And so these kinglets profited by
the occasion to strut about at their
ease like nobles, to stuff themselves
with luxurious meals, to increase their
property by degrees, to put everythmg
up for sale, and to get rid of those who,
later on, would have called for ac«
countings, and have nailed them to the
pillory by their ears.

"Their arrogance knew no bounds,
and when they were questioned about
their acts, they only replied by menaces
or raillery. 'Hiis state of affairs lasted
for twenty years, when, as war was im-
minent with Lucca, the Council raised
troops and enrolled mercenaries. Sev-
eral battles were fought, in which the
enemy was tfeaten and was obliged to
flee, abandoning their colors, their arms,
prisoners, and all the booty la their
camp.

"The man who led the soldiers to
victory, whom they had acclaimed as
a triumphant and laurel-crowned Caesar



^Italian police officers.



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HAPPINESS



697



around their camp-fires, was a poor
condottiere,* who possessed nothing in
the world except his clothes, his buff
jerkin, and his heavy sword.

"They called him *Hercules,' on ac-
count of his strong muscles, his im-
posing build, and his large head, and
also 'Malavista' because in battle he
had no pity, no weakness, but seemed,
with his great murderous arms, as if
he had the long reach of death itself.
He had neither title-deeds, fortune,
nor relatives, for he had been bom one
night in the tent of a female camp fol-
lower. For a long time, an old broken
drum had been his cradle, and he had
grown up without knowing those ma-
ternal kisses and endearments that
warm the heart, or the pleasure of
sleeping on a soft bed, or of eating de-
cent beef. He had known what it was
to tighten his sword belt when luck had
turned — ^like a weathercock when the
wind shifts, and sometimes would
gladly have given his share of the next
booty for a mouldy crust of bread and
a glass of water.

"He was a simple and brave man,
whose heart was as virgin as some shore
on which no human has ever yet left
its imprint.

'The Oiiefs of the Council were im-
prudent enough to summon Hercules
Malavista within the walls of the town,
and to celebrate his arrival with almost
imperial splendor— more, however, to
deceive the people and to regain their
waning popularity by means of a cere-
mony copied from pagan Rome, than
to honor and recompense the services
of a soldier whom they despised at the
bottom of their hearts.

**The bells rang a full peal, and the



archbishop and clergy and choir boys
went to meet the Captain, singing
psalms and hymns of joy, as if it were
Easter. The streets and squares were
strewn with branches of box, roses, and
marjoram, while the meanest homes
were decorated with flags and hung
with drapery and rich stuffs.

"The conqueror came in through
Trajan's gate, bare-headed, and with the
symbolical golden laurel wreath on his
head. Sitting on his horse, which was
as black as a starless night, he appeared
even taller, more vigorous and more mas*
culine than he really was. He had a
joyous and tranquil smile on his lips,
and a hidden fire burning in his eyes.
His soldiers bore flags and the trophies
that he had gained before him, and be-
hind him there was a noise of clash-
ing partisans and crossbows, and of
loud voices shouting vivats in his honor.

"In this fashion, he traversed all the
quarters of the town, and even the sub-
urbs. The women thought him hand-
some and proud, blew kisses to him,
and held up their children so that they
might see him, and he might touch
them. The men cheered him, and
looked at him with emotion, and many
of them reflected and dreamed about
this bright, unknown man, who ap-
peared to be surrounded bym halo of
glory.

"The members of the Council be-
gan to perceive the extent of the al-
most irreparable fault they had com-
mitted. They did not know what to do
in order to ward off the danger by
which they were menaced, and to rid



*An Italian mercenary or free-lance, in
the Middle Aires.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



themselves of a guest who was quite
ready to become their master. They
saw clearly that their hours were num-
bered, that they were approaching the
fatal period at which rioting becomes
imminent, and leaders are carried away
like pieces of straw in a swift current.

"Hercules could not show himself in
public without being received with
shouts of acclamation and noisy greet-
ings, and deputations from the nobility,
as well as from the people, came re-
peatedly and told him that he had only
to make a sign and to say a word, for
his name to be in every mouth, and for
his authority to be accepted. They
begged him on their knees to accept
the supreme authority, as though he
would be conferring a favor on them,
but the free-lance did not seem to under-
stand them, and repelled their offers
with the superb indifference of a soldier
who has nothing to do with the people
or a crown.

"At length, however, his resistance
grew weaker; he felt the intoxication
of power and grew accustomed to the
idea of holding the lives of thousands
in his hands, of having a palace, ar-
senals full of arms, chests full of gold,
ships which he could send on ad-
venturous cruises wherever he pleased,
of governing that city, with all its
houses and all its churches, and of be-
ing a leading fiprure at all grand func-
tions in the cathedral.

"The shopkeepers and merchants
were overcome by terror at the idea,
and bowed before th shadow of the
sword, which might sweep them all away
and upset their false weights and
scales. So they assembled secretly in a
monastery of the Carmelite friars out-



side the gates of the city and a short
time afterward the weaver Marconelli
and the money changer Rippone
brought Giaconda, who was one of the
most beautiful courtesans in Venice,
who knew every secret in the Art of
Love, and whose kisses were a fore-
taste of Paradise, back with them from
that city. She soon managed to touch
the soldier with her delicate, fair skin,
to make him inhale its bewitching odor



Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 87 of 125)