Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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the "White Lady" was disturbing the

*A castle, now a well-preserved ruin,
in the Giant Mountains in N. Germany.
The legend is that its mistress, Ktmi-
gerude, vowed to marry nobody cxtfpt
the Knight who should ride round the
parapet of the castle, and many perished
in the attempt. At last one of them
succeeded in performing the feat, but he
merely sternly rebuked her, and took his
leave. He was accompanied by his wife,
disguised as his page, according to some
versions of the legend.

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castle again, and that she had latterly
been seen very often.

"Yes, indeed," Countess Ida ex-
elaimed, "you must take care, Baron,
for she haunts the very wing where
your room is."

The hussar was just in the frame of
mind to take the matter seriously, but,
on the other hand, when he saw the dark,
ardent eyes of the Countess, and then
the merry blue eyes of her daughter,
hxed on him, any real fear of ghosts was
quite out of the question with him. For
Baron T. feared nothing in this world,
but he possessed a very lively imagina-
tion, which could conjure up threaten-
ing forms from another world so plainly
that sometimes he felt very uncom-
fortable at his own fancies. But on the
present occasion the malicious appari-
tion had no power over him; the ladies
took care of that, for both of them
were beautiful and amiable.

The Countess was a mature Venus of
thirty-six, of middle height, with bright
^es, thick dark hair, beautiful white
teeth, and with the voluptuous figure
of a true Viennese, while her daughter,
Ida, who was seventeen, had light hair,
the pert little nose of the china figures
of shepherdesses in the dress of the pe-
riod of Louis XIV., and was short,
slim, and full of French grace. Be-
sides th^n and the Count, a son of
twelve and his tutor were present at
supper. It struck the hussar as strange
that the tutor, who was a strongly-built
young man, with a winning face and
those refined manners which the great-
est plebeian quickly acquires when
brought into close and constant con-
tact with the aristocracy, was treated
with great consideration by all the fam-

ily except the Coimtess, who treated him
very haughtily. She assumed a particu-
larly imperious manner toward hei
son's tutor, and she eithet found fault
with, or made fun of, everything that
he did, while he put up with it all
with smiling humility.

Before supper was over their conver-
sation again turned on the ghost, and
Baron T. asked whether they did not
possess a picture of the White Lady.

"Of course we have one," they all re*
plied at once; whereupon Baron T.
begged to be allowed to see it.

"I will show it to you to-morrow,'*
the Coimt said.

"No, papa, now, immediately," the
younger lady said mockingly; "just be-
fore the ghostly hour, such a thing
creates a much greater impression."

All who were present, not excepting
the boy and his tutor, took a candle.
Then they walked, as if in a torchlight
procession, to the wing of the house
where the hussar's room was. There
was a life-size picture of the White
Lady hanging in a Gothic passage near
his room, among other ancestral por-
traits, and it by no means made a ter-
rible impression on anyone who looked
at it, but rather the contrary. The
ghost, dressed in stiff, gold brocade and
purple velvet, and with a hawk on her
wrist, looked like one of those seduc-
tive Amazons of the fifteenth century
who knew the art of laying men and
game at their feet with equal skill.

"Don't you think that the White Lady
is very like mamma?" Countess Ida
said, interrupting the Baron's silent
contemplation of the picture.

"There is no doubt of it," the hus-
sar replied, while the Countess smiled

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and the tutor turned red. They were
still standing before the picture, when a
strong gust of wind suddenly extin-
guished all the lights, and they all ut-
tered a simultaneous cry.

"The White Lady/' the little Count
whispered, but she did not come, and
as it was luckily a moonlight night,
they soon recovered from their momen-
tary shock. The family retired to their
apartments, whUe the hussar and the
tutor went to their own rooms, which
were situated in the wing of the castle
which was haunted by the White Lady;
the officer's apartment being scarcdy
thirty yards from the portrait, while the
tutor's was rather further down the cor-

The hussar went to bed, and was soon
fast asleep, and though he had rather
uneasy dreams nothing further hap-
pened. But while they were at break-
fast the next morning, the Count's body-
servant told them, with every ap-
pearance of real terror, that as he was
crossing the courtyard at midnight, he
had suddenly heard a noise like bats in
the open cloisters, and when he looked
he distinctly saw the White Lady
gliding slowly through them. But they
merely laughed at the poltroon, and
though oiu: hussar laughed also, he fully
made up his mind, without saying a
word about it, to keep a lookout for the
jhost that night.

Again they had supper alone, without
any company, had some music and
pleasant talk, and separated at half past
eleven. The hussar, however, only went
to his room for form's sake; he loaded
his pistols, and when all was quiet in the
castle, he crept down into the court-

yard and took up his position behind
a pillar which was quite hidden in the
shade, while the moon, which was nearly
at the full, flooded the cloisters with
its clear, pale light.

There were no lights to be seen in
the castle except from two windows,
which were those of ^the Countess's
apartments, and soon they were also
extinguished. The clock struck twelve,
and the hussar could scarcely breathe
from excitement; the next moment,
however, he heard the noise which the
Count's body-servant had compared to
that of bats, and almost at the same
instant a white figure glided slowly
through the open cloisters and passed so
close to him, that it almost made his
blood curdle. Then it disappeared »
the wing of the castle which he and the
tutor occupied.

The officer, who was usually so
brave, stood as though he was paralyzed
for a few moments. But then he took
heart, and feeling determined to make
the nearer acquaintance of the spectral
beauty, he crept softly up the broad
staircase and took up his position in s
deep recess in the cloisters, where no-
body could see him.

He waited for a long time; he heard
every quarter strike, and at last, just
before the close of the "witching hour,**
he heard the same noise like the rus-
tling of bats, and then she came. He
felt the flutter of her white dress, and
she stood before him — ^it was indeed
the Coimtess.

He presented his pistol at her as he
challenged her, but she raised her hand

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''Who are you?" he exclaimed. "If
you are really a ghost, prove it, for I
am going to fire-"

"For heaven's sake!" the White
L-ady whispered, and at the same in-
stant two white arms were thrown
round him, and he felt a full, warm
bosom heaving against his own.

After that night the ghost appeared
more frequently still. Not only did
the White Lady make her appearance
every night in the cloisters, only to dis-
appear in the proximity of the hussar's
roonis as long as the family remained at

the castle, but she even followed them
to Vienna.

Baron T., who went to that capital on
leave of absence during the following
winter, and who was the Count's guest
at the express wish of his wife, was
frequently told by the footman that al-
though hitherto she had seemed to be
confined to the old castle in Bohemia,
she had shown herself now here, now
there, in the mansion in Vienna, in a
white dress making a noise like the
wings of a bat, and bearing a striking
resemblance to the beautiful Countessu

Madame Baptiste

When I went into the waiting*room
at the station at Loubaih, the first thing
I did was to look at the clock, and I
found that I had two hours and t^i
minutes to wait for the Paris express.

I fdt suddenly tired, as if I had
walked twenty iniles. Then I looked
about me, as if I could find some means
of killihg the time on the station walls.
At last I went out again, and halted out-
side the gates of the station, racking my
brains to find something to do. The
street, which was a kind of boulevard
planted with acacias, between two rows
of houses of unequal shape and different
styles of architecture, houses such as
one only sees in a small town, ascended
a slight hill, and at the extreme end of
it there were some trees, as if it ended
in a park.

From time to time a cat crossed the
street, and jumped over the gutters,
carefully. A cur sniffed at every treie.

and hunted for fragments from the
kitchens, but I did not see a single hu-
man being. I felt likless and disheart-
ened. What could I do with myself? I
was already thinking of the inevitaMe
and interminable visit to the ^mall cafS
at the railway station, where I should
have to sit over a glass of undrinkable
beer, and an illegible newspaper, when
I saw a funeral procession coming out
of a side street into the one in which
I was, and the sight of the hearse was
a relief to me. It would, at any rate,
give me something to do for ten min-

Suddenly, however, my curiosity was
aroused. The corpse was followed by
eight gentlemen, one of whom was weep-
ing, while the others were chatting to-
gether. But there was no priest, and I
thought to myself: **This is a non-
religious funeral," but then I reflected
that a town like Loubain must coDftain

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at least a hundred freethinkers^ who
would have made a point of making a
manifestation. What could it be then?
The rapid pace of the procession clear-
ly proved that the body was to be buried
without ceremony, and, consequently,
without the intervention of religion.

My idle curiosity framed the most
complicated suppositions, and as the
hearse passed a strange idea struck me,
which was to follow it with the eight
gentlemen. That would take up my
time for an hour, at least, and I, ac-
cordingly, walked with the others, with
a sad look on my face, and on seeing
this, the two last turned round in sur-
prise, and then spoke to each other in
a low voice.

No doubt, they were asking each
other whether I belonged to the town,
and then they consulted the two in front
of them, who stared at me in turn.
The close att^tion they paid me an-
noyed me, and to put an end to it, I
went up to them, and after bowing, said:

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen, for
interrupting your conversation, but see-
ing a civil funeral, I have followed it,
although I did not know the deceased
gentleman whom you are accompany-

"It is a woman," one of them said.

I was much surprised at hearing this,
and asked:

"But it is a civil funeral, is it not?"

The other gentleman, who evidently
wished to teQ me all about it, then said:
"Yes and no. The clergy have refused
to allow us the use of the church."

On hearing that, I uttered a prolonged
A — hi of astonishment. I could not un-
derstand it at all, but my obliging neigh-
bor continued:

"It is rather a long story. This young
woman committed suicide, and that 15
the reason why she cannot be buried
with any religious ceremony. The gentle-
man who is walking first, and who is
crying, is her husband."

I replied, with some hesitation:

'^ou surprise and interest me very
much, Monsieur. Shall I be indiscreet
if I ask you to tell me the facts of the
case? If I am troubling you, think that
I have said nothing about the matter."

The gentleman took my arm fa-

"Not at all, not at alL Let us stop
a little behind the others, and I wiH
tell it to you, although it is a very sad
story. We have plenty of time before
getting to the cemetery, whose trees you
see up yonder, for it is a stiff pull up
this hill."

And he began:

"This young woman, Madame Paid
Hamot, was the daughter of a wealtby
merchant in the neighborhood. Mon-
sieur Fontanelle. When she was a mere
child of eleven, she had a terrible adven-
ture; a footman violated her. She
nearly died, in consequence, and the
wretch's brutality betrayed him. A ter-
rible aiminal case was the result, and
as it was proved that for three months
the poor yoimg martyr had been the
victim of that brute's disgraceful prac-
tices, he was sentenced to penal servi-
tude for life.

"The little girl grew up, stigmatised
by her disgrace, isolated, without any
companions, and growniq> people would
scarcely kiss her, for they thought they
would soil their lips if they toudied
her forehead. She became a sort of
monster^ a phenomenon to all the towtu

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People said to each other in a whisper:
*You know little Fontanellt," and
everybody turned away in the streets
when she passed. Her parents could not
even get a nurse to take her out for a
walk, and the other servants held aloof
from her, as if contact with her would
poison everybody who came near her.

"It was pitiable to see the poor child
when the brats played every afternoon.
She remained quite by herself, standing
by her maid, and looking at the other
children amusing themselves. Some-
times, yielding to an irresistible desire
to mix with the other children, she ad-
vanced, timidly, with nervous gestures,
and mingled with a group, with furtive
steps, as if conscious of her own infamy.
And immediately the mothers, aimts,
and nurses used to come running from
every seat, taking the children intrusted
to their care by the hand and dragging
them brutally away.

"Little Fontanelle would remain
isolated, wretched, without understand-
ing what it meant, and then would be-
gin to cry, heartbroken with grief, and
to run and hide her head in her nurse's
lap, sobbing.

"As she grew up, it was worse still.
They kept the girls from her, as if she
were stricken with the plague. Remem-
ber that she had nothing to learn, noth-
ing; that she no longer had the right to
the symbolical wreath of orange-flowers;
that almost before she could read, she
had penetrated that redoubtable mys-
tery which mothers scarcely allow their
daughters to guess, trembling as they
enlighten them on the night of then:

**When she went through the streets,
always accompanied by a governess — ^as

if her parents feared some fresh, terri-
ble adventure— ^ith her eyes cast down
under the load of that mysterious dis-
grace which she felt was always weigh-
ing upon her, the other girls, who were
not nearly so innocent as people thought,
whispered and giggled as they looked at
her knowingly, and immediately turned
their heads absently if she happened to
look at them. People scarcely greeted
her; only a few men bowed to her, and
the mothers pretended not to see her,
while some yoimg blackguards called
her "Madame Baptiste," after the name
of the footman who had outraged and
ruined her.

"Nobody knew the secret torture oi
her mind for she hardly ever spoke
and never laughed; her parents them-
selves appeared uncomfortable in her
presence, as if they bore her a constant
grudge for some irreparable fault.

"An honest man would not willingly
give his hand to a liberated convict,
would he, even if that convict were his
own son? And Monsieur and Madame
Fontanelle looked on their daughter as
they would have done on a son who had
just been released from the hulks. She
was pretty and pale, tall, slender, dis-
tinguished-looking, and she would have
pleased me very much, Monsieur, but
for that unfortimate affair.

"Well, when a new sub-orefect was
appointed here eighteen months ago, he
brought his private secretary with him.
He was a queer sort of fellow, who had
lived in the Latin Quarter,* it appears.
He saw Mademoiselle Fontanelle, and
fell in love with her, and when told of

♦The students' quarter in Parli^
where many of them Jead fast lives.

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what occurred, he merely said: *Bah!
That is just a guarantee for the future,
and I would rather it should have hap-
pened before I married her, than after-
ward. I shall sleep tranquilly with that

"He paid his addresses to her, asked
for her hand, and married her, and then,
not being deficient in boldness, he paid
wedding-calls,"' as if nothing had hap-
pened. Some people returned them,
others did not, but at last the affair be-
gan to be forgotten and she took her
proper place in society.

"She adored her husband as if he had
been a god, for you must remember that
he had restored her to honor and to so-
cial life, that he had braved public opin-
ion, faced insults, and, in a word, per-
formed a courageous act, such as few
men would accomplish, and she felt the
most exalted and imceasing love for him.

"When she became pregnant, and it
was known, the most particular people
and the greatest sticklers opened their
doors to her, as if she had been definitely
purified by maternity.

"It is funny, but true, and thus every-
thing was going on as well as possible,
when, the other day, occurred the feast
of the patron saint of our town. The
prefect, surroimded by his staff and the
authorities, presided at the musical com-
petition, and when he had finished his
soeech, the distribution of medals be-
gan, which Paul Hamot, his private sec-
retary, handed to those who were en-
titled to them.

"As you know, there are always jeal-
ousies and rivalries, which make people

♦In France and Germany, the newly-
married couple pay the wedding-calls,
which is the reverse of our custom.

forget all propriety. All the ladies of
the town were there on the platform,
and, in his proper turn, the bandmaster
from the village of Mourmillon came
up. This band was only to receive a
second-class madel, for you caimot give
first-class medals to everybody, can
you? But when the private secretary
handed him his badge, the man threw
it in his face and exclaimed:

" 'You may keep your medal for
Baptiste. You owe him a first-class one,
also, just as you do me.*

There were a number of peoi^e
there who began to laugh. The
common herd are neither charitable nor
refined, and every eye was turned to-
ward that poor lady. Have you ever
seen a woman gomg mad, Monsieur?
Well, we were present at the sight ! She
got up, and fell back on her chair three
times in succession, as if she wished to
make her escape, but saw that she could
not make her way through the crowd
Then another voice in the crowd ex-

"*OhI Oh! Madame Baptiste!*

"And a great uproar, partly laughter
and partly indignation, arose. The word
was repeated over and over again; peo-
ple stood on tiptoe to see the unhappy
woman's face; husbands lifted their
wives up in their arms so that they
might see her, and people a^ed.

" *Which is shiB? The one in bhic?'

"The boys crowed like cocks and
laughter was heard all over the place.

"She did not move now on her state
chair, just as if she had beoi put there
for the crowd to look at. She could
not move, nor dissappear. nor hide her
face. Her eyelids blinked quickly, as if
a vivid light were shining in her face,

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and she panted like a horse tbat is go-
ing up a steep hill, so that it almost
broke one's heart to see it. Meanwhile,
however, Monsieur Hamot had seized
the rufl&au by the throat, and they were
rolling on the ground together, amid a
scene of indescribable confusion, and the
ceremony was interrupted.

"Aft hour later, as the Hamots were
returning home, the young woman, who
had not uttered a word since the insult,
but who was trembling as if all her
nerves had been set in motion by sprmgs,
suddenly sprang on the parapet of the
bridge, and threw herself into the river,
before her husband could prevent it.
The water is very deep under the arches,
and it was two hours before her body
was recovered. Of course, she was dead."
The narrator stopped, and then added:
*Tt was, perhaps, the best thing she
could do in her position. There are some

things which cannot be wiped out, and
now you understand why the clergy re-
fused to have her taken into church.
Ah! If it had been a religious funeral,
the whole town would have been present,
but you can understand that her suicide,
added to the other affair, made fami-
lies abstain from attending her funeral.
And then, it is not an easy matter, here,
to attend a funeral which is performed
without religious rites."

We passed through the cemetery
gates, and I waited, much moved by
what I had heard, until the coffm had
been lowered into the grave before I
went up to the poor husband, who was
sobbing violently, to press his hand vig-
orously. He looked at me in surprise
through his tears, and said:

"Thank you, Monsieur."

I was not sorry that I had followed
the funeral.


As they were still speaking of Pran-
zini, M. Maloureau, who had been Attor-
ney-General under the Empire, said:

*T knew aiiother case like that, a very
curious affair, curious from many points,
as you shall See.

*T was at that time Imperial attorney
in the province, and stood very well at
Court, thanks to my father, who was
first President at Paris. I had charge
of a still celebrated case, called *The
Affair of Schoolmaster Moiron.*

"M. Moiron, a schoolmaster in the
north of France, bore an excellent repu-
tation in all the country thereabout. He

was an intelligent, reflective, very re-
ligious man, and had married in the dis-
trict of Boislinot, where he practiced
his profession. He had had three chil-
dren, who all died in succession from
weak lungs. After the loss of his own
little ones, he seemed to lavish upon
the urchins confided to his care all the
tenderness concealed in his heart. He
bought, with his own pennies, playthings
for his best pupils, the diligent and
good. He allowed them to have play
dinners, and gorged them with dainties
of candies and cakes. Everybody loved
scd praised this brave man. this bravo

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heart, and it was like a blow when five
of his, pupils died of the same disease
that had carried off his children. It
was believed that an epidemic prevailed,
caused by the water being made impure
from drought. They looked for the
cause, without discovering it, more than
they did at the symptoms, which were
very strange. The children appeared to
be taken with a languor, could eat noth-
thing, complained of pains in the stom-
ach, and finally died in most terrible

**An autopsy was made of the last to
die, but nothing was discovered. The
entrails were sent to Paris and analyzed,
but showed no sign of any toxic sub-

"For one year no further deaths t)C-
currcd; then two little boys, the best
pupils in the class, favorites of father
Moiron, expired in four days' time. An
examination was ordered, and in each
body fragments of pounded glass were
found imbedded in the organs. They
concluded that the two children had
eaten imprudently of something care-
lessly prepared. Sufficient broken glass
remained in the bottom of a bowl of
milk to have caused this frightful acci-
dent, and the matter would have rested
there bad not Moiron's servant been
taken ill in the interval. The physician
found the same morbid signs that he
observed in the preceding attacks of the
children, and, upon questioning her,
finally obtained the confession that she
had stolen and eaten some bonbons,
bought by the master for his pupils.

"Upon order of the court, the school-
house was searched and a closet was
found, full of sweetmeats and dainties
for the children. Nearly all these edi-

bles contained fragments of s^ass or
broken needles.

"Moiron ^as immediately arrested.
He was so indignant and stupefied at
the weight of suspicion upon him that
he was nearly overcome. Nevertheless,
the indications of his guilt were so ap-
parent that they fought hard in my mind
against my first conviction, which was
based upon his good reputation, his en-
tire life of truthfulness, and the abso-
lute absence of any motive for sucb
a crime.

"Why should this good, simple religi'
ous man kill children, and the children
whom he seemed to love best? Why
should he select those he had feasted
with dainties, for whom he had spent in
playthings and bonbons half his stipend?

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 89 of 125)