Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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"To admit this, it must be concluded
that he was insane. But Moiron seemed
so reasonable, so calm, so full of judg-
ment and good sense ! It was Impossi-
ble to prove insanity in him.

"Proofs accumulated, nevertheless!
Bonbons, cakes, pdtes of marshmallow,
and other things seized at the shops
where the schoolmaster got his supplies,
were found to contain no suspected

"He pretended that some unknown
enemy had opened his closet with a
false key and placed the glass and nee-
dles in the eatables. And he implied ^
story of heritage dependent on the
death of a child, sought out and dis-
covered by a peasant, and so worked up
as to make the suspicion fall upon the
schoolmaster. This brute, he said, was
not interested in the other poor chil-
dren who had to die also.

"This theory was plausible. The
man appeared so sure of himself and so

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pitiful, ihsLt we should have acquitted
him without doubt, if two overwhehn-
ing discoveries had not been made at
one blow. The first was a snufiFboz full
of ground glass! It was his own snuff-
box, in a secret drawer of his secretary,
where he kept his money.

''He explained this in a manner not
acceptable, by saying that it was the
last ruse of an unknown guilty one.
But a merchant of Saint-Marlouf pre-
sented himself at the house of the judge,
telling him that Moiron had bought
needles of him many times, the finest
needles he could find, breaking them to
see whether they suited him.

''The merchant brought as witnesses
a dozen persons who recognized Moiron
at first glance. And the inquest revealed
the fact that the schoolmaster was at
Saint-Marlouf on tbe days designated
by the merchant.

"I pass over the terrible depositions
of the children upon the master's choice
of dainties, and his care in making the
little ones eat in his presence and des-
troying all traces of the feast.

"Public opinion, exasperated, re-
called capital pimishment, and took on
a new force from terror which permitted
no delays or resistance.

"Moiron was condemned to death.
His appeal was rejected. No recourse
remained to him for pardon. I knew
from my father that the Emperor
would not grant it.

*'One morning, as I was at work in
my office, the chaplain of the prison
was announced. He was an old priest
who had a great knowledge of men and
a large acquaintance among criminals.
He appeared troubled and constrained.
After talking a few moments of other

things, he said abruptly, on rising:

" 'If Moiron is decapitated, Monsieiur
Attorney-General, you will have allowed
the execution of an innocent man.'

"Then, without bowing, he went on»
leaving me under the profound effect of
his words. He had pronounced them in
a solemn, affecting fashion, opening lips,
closed and sealed by confession, in order
to save a life.

"An hour later I was on my way to
Paris, and my father, at my request,
asked an immediate audience with the

"I was received the next day. Na-
poleon III. was at work in a little room
when we were introduced. I exposed
the whole affair, even to the visit of the
priest, and, in the inidst of the story,
the door opened behind the chair of the
Emperor, and the Empress, who be-
lieved him alone, entered. His
Majesty consulted her. When she bad
run over the facts, she explaimed:

" 'This man must be pardoned ! He
must,-because he is innocent.'

"Why should this sudden conviction
of a woman so pious throw into my
mmd a terrible doubt?

"Up to that time I had ardently de-
sired a commutation of the sentence.
And now I felt myself the puppet, the
dupe of a criminal ruse, which had em-
ployed the priest and the confession as
a means of defense.

"I showed some hesitation to their
Majesties. The Emperor remained un-
decided, solicited on one hand by his
natural goodness, and on fj^e other held
back by the fear of allowing himself to
play a miserable part; but the Empress,
convinced that the priest had obeyed
a divine call, repeated: 'What does it

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matter? It is l)etter to spare a guilty
man than to kill an innocent one.' Her
advice prevailed. The penalty of death
aras commuted, and that of hard labor
'^as substituted.

"Some years after I heard that
Moiron, whose exemplary conduct at
Toulon had been made known again to
the Emperor, was employed as a do-
mestic by the director of the penitent
tiary. Aiid then I heard no word of this
man for a long time.

"About two years after this, when I
was passing the simimer at the house of
my cousin, De Larielle, a young priest
came to me one evening, as we were
sitting down to dinner, and wished to
speak to me.

"I told them to let him come in, and
he begged me to go with him to a dying
man, who desired, before all else, to see
me. This had happened often, during
my long career as judge, and, although
I had been put aside by the Republic,
I was still called upon from time to
time in like circumstances.

"I followed the ecclesiastic, who made
me mount into a little miserable lodging,
under the roof of a high house. There,
upon a pallet of straw, I found a dying
man, seated with his back against the
wall, in order to breathe. He was a sort
of grimacing skeleton, with deep, shin-
ing eyes.

"When he saw me he murmured:
*You do not know me?'

" *No.'


"I shivered, but said: *The school-


" 'How is it you are here?'

" That would be too long— I haven't

time — ^I am going to die — ^They brought
me this curate — ^and as I knew you were
here, I sent him for you — ^It is to you
that I wish to confess — since you saved
my life before-^the other time — '

"He seized with his dry hands the
straw of his bed, and continued, in a
rasping, bass voice:

" 'Here it Is — I owe you the truth—
to you, because it is necessary to tell
it to some one before leaving Uie earth.

" *It was I who killed the ehildien—
all — ^it was I— for vengeance f

" ^Listen. I was an honest man, very
honest — ^very honest — very pure — ador-
ing God — ^the good God — ^the God that
they teach us to love, and not the false
God, the executioner, the robber, the
murderer who governs the earth — I
had never done wrong, never conmiitted
a villainous act. I was pure as one

" 'After I was married I had some
children, and I began to love them as
never father or mother loved their own.
I lived only for them. I was foolish
They died, all three of them! Why?
Why? What had I done? I? I had
a change of heart, a furious change.
Suddenly I opened my eyes as of one
awakening; and I learned that God is
wicked. Why had He killed my chil-
dren? I opened my eyes and I saw that
He loved to kill. He loves only that,
Monsieur. He exists only to destroy!
God is a murderer! Some death is nec-
essary to Him every day. He causes
them in all fashions, the better to amuse
Himself. He has invented sickness and
accident in order to divert Himsell
through all the long months and years.
And, when He is weary. He has epidem*
ics, pests, the cholera, quinsy, smallpox.

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** *How do I know all that this mon-
ster has imagined? All these evils are
not enough to suffice. From time to
time He sends war, in order to see
two hundred thousand soldiers laid low,
bruised in blood and mire, with arms
and legs torn off, heads broken by bul-
lets, like eggs that fall along the road.

" 'That is not all. He has made men
who eat one another. And then, as men
become better than He, He has made
beasts to see the men chase them,
slaughter, and nourish themselves with
them. That is not all. He has made
all the little animals that live for a day,
flies which increase by m3rriads in an
hour, ants, that one crushes, and others,
many, so many that we cannot even
imagine them. And all kill one another,
chase one another, devour one another,
murdering without ceasing. And the
good God looks on and is amused, be^
cause He sees all for Himself, the largest
as well as the smallest, those which are
in drops of water, as well as those in the
stars, ^e looks at them all and is
amused ! Ugh ! Beast !

" *So I, Monsieur, I also have killed
some chfldren. I acted the part for
Him. It was not He who had them. It
was not He, it was I. And I would
have killed still more, but you teok me
away. That's all!

" *I was going to die, guillotined. I!
How He would have laughed, the reptile!
Then I asked for a priest, ^nd lied to
him. I confessed. I lied, and I lived-

'* 'Now it is finished. I can no longer
escape Him. But I have no fear of
Him, Monsieur, I understand Him too

"It was frightful to see this miser-
able creature, hardly able to breathe,
talking in hiccoughs, opening an
enormous mouth to eject some words
scarcely heard, pulling up the cloth of
his straw bed, and, under a cover nearly
black, moving his meager limbs as if
to save himself.

"Oh! frightful bemg and frightful

I asked him: 'You have nothing
more to say?'

"*No, Monsieur.'

" Then, farewell.'

"Tarewell, sir, one day or the

"I turned toward the priest whose
somber silhouette was on the wall.

"'You will remain, M. Abb6?'

" 'I wai remain.'

"Then the dying man sneered: *Yes.
yes, he sends crows to dead bodies.'

"As for me, I had seen enou^. I
opened the door and went away in

An Old Maid

In Argenteuil they called her Queen
Hortense. No one ever knew the rea-
son why. Perhaps because she spoke
firmly, like an <^cer in command.

Perhaps because she was large, bony,
and imperious. Perhaps because she
governed a multitude of domestic ani-
mals^ hens, dogs, cats, canaries, and

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parrots, — those animals so dear to old
maids. But she gave these familiar sub*
jects neither dainties, nor pretty words,
nor those tender puerilities which seem
to slip from the lips of a woman to
the velvety coat of the cat she is fon-
dling. She governed her beasts with
authority. She ruled.

She was an old maid, one of those old
maids with cracked voice, and awkward
gesture, whose soul seems hard. She
never allowed contradiction from any
person, nor argument, nor would she
tolerate hesitation, or indifference, or
idleness, or fatigue. No one ever heard
her complain, or regret what was, or de-
sire what was not. "Each to his part,"
ehe said, with the conviction of a fatalist
She never went to church, cared nothing
for the priests, scarcely believed in God,
and called all religious things "mourn-
ing merchandise."

For thirty years she had lived in her
little house, with its tiny garden in
front, extending along the street, never
modifying her garments, changing only
maids, and that mercilessly, when they
became twenty-one years old.

She replaced, without tears and with-
out regrets, her dogs or cats or birds,
when they died of old age, or by acci-
dent, and she buried trespassing ani-
mals in a flower-bed, heaping the earth
above them and treading it down with
perfect indifference.

She had in the town some acquain-
tances, the families of employers, whose
men went to Paris every day. Some-
times they would invite her to go to the
theater with them. She inevitably fell
asleep on these occasions, and they were
obliged to wake her when it was time
to go home. She never allowed anyone

to accompany her, having no fear 1^
night or day. She seemed to have no
love for children.

She occupied her time with a thou-
sand masculine cares, carpentry, gar-
dening, cutting or sawing wood, repair-
ing her old house, even doing mason's
work when it was necessary.

She had some relatives who came to
see her twice a year. Her two sisters,
Madame Cimme and Madame Colum-
bel, were married, one to a florist, the
other to a small householder. Madame
Cimme had no children; Madame
Columbel had three. Henry, Pauline,
and Joseph. Henry was twenty-one,
Pauline and Joseph were three, having
come when one wotdd have thought the
mother past the age. No tenderness
united this old maid to her kinsfolk.

In the spring of 1882, Queen Hortense
became suddenly ill. The neighboo
went for a physician, whom she drove
away. When the priest presented him-
self she got out of bed, half naked, and
put him out of doors. The little maid,
weeping, made gruel for her.

After three days in bed, the situation
became so grave that the carpenter liv-
ing next door, after counsel with the
physician (now reinstated with author*
ity), took it upon himself to summon
the two families.

They arrived by the same train, about
ten o'clock in the morning; the Colum-
bels having brought their little Joseph.

When they approached the gate, they
saw the maid seated in a chair against
the wall, weeping. The dog lay asleep
on the mat before the door, under a
broiling sun; two cats, that looked as if
dead, lay stretched out on the window-
sills« witJi c^res closed and paws and taib

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xtended at full length. A great glossy
len was promenading before the door,
it the head of a flock of chickens, cov-
ired with yellow down, and in a large
age hung against the wall, covered with
ihickweed, were several birds, singing
hemselves hoarse in the light of this
lot spring morning.

Two others, inseparable, in a little
age in the form of a cottage, remained
[uiet, side by side on their porch.

M. Cimme, a large, wheezy person-
ge, who always entered a room first,
cutting aside men and women when it
ns necessary, remarked to the maid:
Eh, Celeste! Is it so bad as that?"

The little maid sobbed through her

"She doesn't know me any more. The
loctor says it is the end."

They all looked at one another.

Madame Cimme and Madame Colum-
cl embraced each other instantly, not
aying a word.

They resembled each other much, al-
ways wearing braids of hair and shawls
f red cashmere, as bright as hot coals.

Cimme turned toward his brother-in-
w, a pale man, yellow and thin, tor-
lented by indigestion, who limped
adly, and said to him in a serious tone:

"Gad! It was time!"

But no one dared to go into the room
f the dying woman situated on the
roimd floor. Cimme himself stopped
t that step. Columbel was the first to
2cide upon it; he entered, balancing
imself like the mast of a ship, making

noise on the floor with the iron of his

The two women ventured to follow,
id M. Cimme brought up the line.

Little Joseph remained outside, play-
ing with the dog.

A ray of sunlight fell on the bed,
lighting up the hands which moved ner-
vously, opening and shutting without
ceasing. The fingers moved as if a
thought animated them, as if they would
signify something, indicate some idea,
obey some intelligence. The rest of the
body remained motionless under the
covers. The angular figure gave no
start. The eyes remained closed.

The relatives arranged themselves in a
semicircle and, without saying a word,
regarded the heaving breast and the
short breathing. The little maid had
followed them, still shedding tears.

Finally, Cimme asked: "What was
it the doctor said?"

The servant whispered: "He said we
should leave her quiet, that nothing
more could be done."

Suddenly the lips of the old maid
began to move. She seemed to pro-
nounce some silent words, concealed in
her dying brain, and her hands quicks
ened their singular movement.

Then she spoke in a little, thin voice,
quite unlike her own, an utterance that
seemed to come from far off, perhaps
from the bottom of that heart always

Cimme walked upon tiptoe, finding
this spectacle painful. Columbel, whose
lame leg wearied him, sat down.

The two women remained standing.

Queen Hortense muttered something
quickly, which they were unable to un-
derstand. She pronounced some names,
called tenderly some imaginary persons:

"Come here, my little Philip, kiss
your mother. You love mamma, don't
you, my child? You, Rose, you wiD

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watch your little sister while I am out.
Especially, don't leave her alone, do you
hear? And I forbid you to touch

She was silent some seconds; then, in
A loud tone, as if she would call, she
said: "Henrietta!" She waited a little
and continued: "Tell your father to
come and speak to me before going to
his office.'' Then suddenly: "I am
suffering a little to-day, dear; promise
me you will not return late; you will
tell your chief that I am ill. You know
it is dangerous to leave the children
alone when I am in bed. I am going to
make you a dish of rice and sugar for
dinner. The little ones like it so much.
Claire will be the happy one!"

She began to laugh, a young and noisy
laugh, as she had never laughed before.
"Look, John," she said, "what a droll
head he has. He has smeared himself
with the sugarplums, the dirty thing!
Look! my dear, how funny he looks!"

Columbel, who changed the position
of his lame leg every moment, mur-
mured: "She is dreaming that she has
diildren and a husband; the end is

The two sisters did not move, but
seemed surprised and stupid.

The little maid said: "Will you take
off your hats and your shawls, and go
into the other room?"

They went out without having said a
word. And Columbel followed them
limping, leaving the dying woman alone

When they were relieved of their
outer garments, the women seated them-
selves. Then one of the cats left the
window, stretched herself, jumped into
the room, then upon the knees of Ma-

dame Cimme, who begdn to caress her.

They heard from the next room the
voice of agony, living, without doubt, in
this last hour, the life she had expected,
living her dreams at the very moment
when all T^ould be finished for her.

Cimme, in the garden^ played with
the little Joseph and the dog, amusing
himself much, with the gaiety of a great
man in the country, without thought of
the dying woman.

But suddenly he entered, addressing
the maid: "Say, then, my ^rl, are yon
going to give us some luncheon? What
are you going to eat, ladies?"

They decided upon an omelet of fine
herbs, a piece of fillet with new pota-
toes, a cheese, and a cup of coffee.

And as Madame Columbel was fum-
bling in her pocket for her purse,
Cimme stopped her, and turning to the
maid said, "You need money?" and
she answered: "Yes, sir."

"How much?"

"Fifteen francs."

"Very well. Make haste, now, my
girl, because I am getting hungry."

Madame Cimme, looking out at the
climbing flowers bathed in the sunlight,
and at two pigeons making love on the
roof opposite, said, with a wounded air:
"It is unfortunate to have come for so
sad an event. It would be nice in the
country, to-day."

Her sister sighed without response,
aiid Columbel murmured, moved per-
haps by the thought of a walk:

"My leg plagues me awfully."

Little Joseph and the dog made &
terrible noise, one shouting with joy and
the other barking violently. They played
at hide-and-seek around the three

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liower-beds, ninning after each other
like mad.

The dying woman continued to call
her children, chatting with each, im-
agining that she was dressing them, that
she caressed them, that she was teaching
them to read: "Come, Simon, repeat,
A, B, C, D. You do not say it well;
see, D, D, D, do you hear? Repeat,

Cimme declared : "It is curious what
she talks about at this time."

Then said Madame Columbel: "It
would be better, perhaps, to go in there."

But Cimme dissuaded her from it:

"Why go in, since we are not able to
do anything for her? Besides we are as
well off here."

No one insisted. Madame observed
the two green birds called inseparable.
She remarked pleasantly upon this sin-
' gulat fidelity, and blamed men for not
imitating these little creatures. Cimme
looked at his wife and laughed, singing
with a bantering air, "Tra-la-la, Tra-la-
t la," as if to say he could tell some things
about her fidelity to him.

Columbel, taken with cramps in his
stomach, struck the floor with his cane.
The other cat entered, tail in the air.
They did not sit down at table imtil one

When he had tasted the wine, Colimi-
bel, whom some one had recommended
to drink only choice Bordeaux, called
the servant:

"Say, is there nothing better than
this in the cellar?"

"Yes, sir! there is some of the wine
that was served to you when you were
here before."

"Oh, well, go and bring three bottles."

They tasted this wine, which seemed

excellent. Not that it proved to be re-
markable, but it had been fifteen years
in the cellar. Cinune declared it was
just the wine for sickness.

Colimibel, seized with a desire of
possessing some of it, asked of the maid:
"How much is left of it, my girl?"

"Oh, nearly all, sir; Miss never drinks
any of it. It is the heap at the bottom."

Then Columbel turned toward his
brother-in-law: "If you wish, Cimme,
I will take this wine instead of any-
thing else; it agrees with my stomach

The hen, in her turn, had entered
with her troop of chickens; the two
women amused themselves by throwing
crumbs to them. Joseph and the dog,
who had eaten enough, returned to the

Queen Hortense spoke continually,
but the voice was Idwer now, so that
it was no longer possible to distinguish
the words.

When they had finished the coffee,
they all went in to learn the condition
of the sick one. She seemed calm.

They went out and seated themselves
in a circle in the garden, to aid diges-

Presently the dog began to run
around the chairs with all speed, carry-
ing something in his mouth. The child
ran after him violently. Both disap-
peared into the house. Cimme fell
asleep, with his stomach in the sun.

The dying one began to speak loud
again. Then suddenly she shouted.

The two women and Columbel has-
tened in to see what had happened
Cimme awakened but did not move,
liking better things as they were.

The dying woman was sitting up^

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staring with haggard eyes. Her dog,
to escape the pursuit of little Joseph,
had jumped upon the bed, startling her
from the death agony. The dog was in-
trenched behind the pillow, peeping at
his comrade with eyes glistening, ready
to jump again at the least movement.
He held in his mouth one of the slippers
of his mistress, shorn of its heel in the
hour he had played with it.

The child, intimidated by the woman
rising so suddenly before him, remained
motionless before the bed.

The hen, having just entered, had
jmnped upon a chair, frightened by the
noise. She called desperately to her
chickens, which peeped, frightened,

from under the four legs of the seat

Queen Hortense cried out with a pierc-
ing tone: "No, no, I do not wish to
die! I am not willing! Who will bring
up my children? Who will care for
them? Who will love them? No, I
am not willing! I am not — "

She turned on her back. All was over.

The dog, much excited, jumped into
the room and skipped about.

Columbel ran to the window and
called his brother-in-law: "Come quick-
ly! come quickly! I believe she is

Then Cimme got up and resolutely
went into the room, muttering : "It was
not as long as I should have believed.''


After sweanng for a long time that
he would never marry. Jack Boudill^re
suddenly changed his mind. It happened
one summer at the seashore, quite un-

One morning, as he was extended on
the sand, watching the women come out
of the water, a little foot caught his at-
tention, because of its slimness and deli-
cacy. Raising his eyes higher, the entire
person seemed attractive. Of this entire
person he had, however, seen only the
ankles and the head, emerging from a
white flannel bathing suit, fastened with
care. He may be called sensuous and
impressionable, but it was by grace of
form alone that he was captured. Af-
terward, he was held by the charm and
sweet spirit of the young girl, who was
simple and good and fresh, like her
cheeks and her lips.

Presented to the family, he was
pleased, and straightway became love-
mad. When he saw Bertha Lannis at a
distance, on the long stretch of yellow
sand, he trembled from head to foot.
Near her he was dumb, incapable of say-
ing an5rthing or even of thinking, with a
kind of bubbling in his heart, a hum-
ming in his ears, and a frightened feel-

Online LibraryGuy de MaupassantThe complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant → online text (page 90 of 125)