Guy de Maupassant.

The complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant online

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Every table was occupied. The waiter
asked us not to go, and there would soon
be a vacant table.

At that moment, I noticed an elderly
lady of noble figure, who, having paid
the amount of her check, seemed on
the point of going away. She saw me,
scanned me from head to foot, and did
not budge. For more than a full quar-
ter of an hour she sat there, immovable,
putting on her gloves, and calmly staring
at those who were waiting like myself.
Now, two young men who were just
finishing their dinner, having seen me in
their turn, quickly summoned the waiter
in order to pay whatever they owed, and
at once offered me their seats, even in-
sisting on standing while waiting for
their change. And, bear in mind, my
fair niece, that I am no longer pretty,
like you, but old and white-haired.

It is we (do you see?) who should be
taught politeness ; and the task would be
such a diflScult one that Hercules him-
self would not be equal to it. You
speak to me about Etretat, and about



the people who indulge in "tittle-tattle"
along the beach of that delightful water-
ing-place. It is a spot now lost to me, a
thing of the past, but I found much
amusement there in days gone by.

There were only a few of us, people
in good society, really good society, and
a few artists, and we all fraternized.
We paid little attention to gossip in
those days.

Well, as we had no insipid Casino,
where people only gather for show,
where they talk in whispers, where they
dance stupidly, where they succeed in
thoroughly boring one another, we
sought some other way of passing our
evenings pleasantly. Now, just guess
what came into the head of one of our
husbandry? Nothing else than to go
and dance each night in one of the
farmhouses in the neighborhood

We started out in a group with a
street-organ, generally played by Le
Poittevin, the painter, with a cotton
nightcap on his head. Two men carried
lanterns. We followed in procession,
laughing and chattering like a pack of
fools.

We woke up the farmer and his ser-
vant-maids and laboring men. We got
them to make onion-soup (horror), and
we danced under the apple-trees, to the
sound of the barrel-organ. The cocks
waking up began to crow in the darkness
of the outhouses ; the horses began pran-
cing on the straw of their stables. The
cool air of the country caressed our
cheeks with the smell of grass and of
new-mown hay.

How long ago it is! How long ago
it is. It is thirty years since then !

I do not want you, my darling, ta



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THE CORSICAN BANDIT



771



come for the opening of the hunting
season. Why spoil the pleasure of our
friends by inflicting on them fashionable
toilettes after a day of vigorous exer-



cise in the country? This is the way>

child, that men are spoiled. I embrace

you.

Your old aunty Genevieve de L.



The Corskan Bandit



The road, with a gentle winding,
reached the middle of the forest. The
huge pine-trees spread above our heads
a moumful-lookhig vault, and gave
forth a kind of long, sad wail, while at
either side their straight, slender tnmks
formed, as it were, an army of organ-
pipes, from which seemed to issue the
low, monotonous music of the wind
through the tree-tops.

After three hours' walking there was
an opening in this row of tangled
branches. Here and there an enormous
pine-parasol, separated from the others,
openmg like an immense umbrella, dis-
played its dome of dark green; then, all
of a sudden, we gained the boundary of
the forest, some hundreds of meters be-
low the defile which leads into the wild
valley of Niolo.

On the two projecting heights which
commanded a view of this pass, some
old trees, grotesquely twisted, seemed
to have mounted with painful efforts,
like scouts who had started in advance
of the multitude heaped together in the
rear. When we turned round we saw
the entire forest stretched beneath our
feet, like a gigantic basin of verdure,
whose edges, which seemed to reach the
sky, were composed of bare racks shut-
ting in on every side.

We resumed our walk, and, ten min-



utes later, we found ourselves in the
defile.

Then I beheld an astonishing land-
scape. Beyond another forest, a valley,
but a valley such as I had never seen
before, a solitude of stone ten leagues
long, hollowed out between two high
mountains, without a field or a tree to
be seen. This was the Niolo valley,
the fatherland of Corsican liberty, the
inaccessible citadel, from which the in-
vaders had never been able to drive out
the mountaineers.

My companion said to me: *lt ii
here, that all our bandits have takes
refuge."

Ere long we were at the further end
of this chasm, so wild, so inconceivably
beautiful.

Not a blade of grass, not a plant —
nothing but granite. As far as our eyes
could reach we saw in front of us a
desert of glittering stone, heated like an
oven by a burning sun which seemed to
hang for that very purpose right above
the gorge. When we raised our eyes
toward the crests we stood dazzled and
stupefied by what we saw. They looked
red and notched like festoons of coral,
for all the summits are made of por-
phyry; and the sky overhead seemed
violet, lilac, discolored by the vicinity
of these strange mountains. Lower



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



down the granite was of scintillating
gray, and under our feet it seemed
rasped, pounded; we were walking over
shining powder. At our right, along a
long and irregular course, a tumultuous
torrent ran with a continuous roar. And
we staggered along under this heat, in
this light, in this burning, arid, desolate
valley cut by this ravine of turbulent
water which seemed to be ever hurrymg
onward, without being able to fertilize
these rocks, lost in this furnace which
greedily drank it up without being pene-
trated or refreshed by it.

But suddenly there was visible at our
right a little wooden cross sunk in a
little heap of stones. A man had been
killed there; and I said to my com-
panion:

"Tell me about your bandits.*'

He replied:

"I knew the most celebrated of them,
the terrible St. Lucia. I will tell you his
history.

"His father was killed in a quarrel by
a young man of the same district, it is
said; and St. Lucia was left alone with
his sister. He was a weak and timid
youth, small, often ill, without any
energy. He did not proclaim the ven-
detta against the assassin of his father.
All his relatives came to see him, and
implored of him to take vengeance; he
remained deaf to their menaces and their
supplications.

"Then, following the old Corsican
custom, his sister, in her indignation,
carried away his black clothes, in order
that he might not wear mourning for a
dead man who had not been avenged.
He was insensible to even this outrage,
and rather than take down from the rack
his father's gun, which was still loaded,



he shut himself up, not daring to brave
the looks of the young men. of the
district.

"He seemed to have even forgotten
the crime, and he lived with his sister
in the obscurity of their dwelling.

"But, one day, the man who was sus-
pected of having committed the murder
was about to get married. St. Lucia did
not appear to be moved by this news;
but, no doubt out of sheer bravado, the
bridegroom, on his way to the church,
passed before the two orphans' house.

"The brother and the sister, at their
window, were eating little fried cakes
when the young man saw the bridal
procession moving past the house. Sud-
denly he began to tremble, rose up with-
out uttering a word, made the sign of
the cross, took the gun which was hang-
ing over the fireplace, and went out

"When he spoke of this latei oh, he
said: *I don't know what was the mat-
ter with me; it was like fire in my
blood; I felt that I should do it, that in
spite of everything, I could not resist,
I concealed the gun in a cave on the
road to Corte.*

"An hour later, he came back, with
nothing in his hand, and with his habit-
ual sad air of weariness. His sister be-
lieved that there was nothing further in
his thoughts.

"But when night fell he disappeared.

"His enemy had, the same evening, to
repair to Corte on foot, accompanied by
his two bridesmen.

'THe was pursuing his way, singing as
he went, when St. Lucia stood before
him, and looking straight in the mur-
derer's face, exclaimed: *Now is the
time!' and shot him point-blank in the
chest



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THE DUEL



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"One of tbe bridesmen fled; the other
stared at the young man, saying:

" 'What have you done, St. Lucia?'

"Then he was going to hasten to
Corte for help, but St. Lucia said in a
stem tone:

" If you move another step, I'll shoot
you through the legs.*

"The other, aware that till now he
had always appeared timid, said to him:
*You would not dare to do it!' and he
-was hurrying off when he fell, instane-
ously, his thigh shattered by a bullet.

"And St. Lucia, coming over to where
he lay, said:

" *I am going to look at your woimd;
if it is not serious, I'll leave you there;
if it is mortal, I'll finish you off.'

"He inspected the wound, considered
it mortal, and slowly re-loadiing his gun,
told the wounded man to say a prayer,
and shot him through the head.

"Next day he was in the mountains.

"And do you know what this St. Lucia
did after this?

"All his family were arrested by the
gendarmes. His uncle, the cur6, who
was suspected of having incited him to
this deed of vengeance, was himself put
into prison, and accused by the dead



man's relatives. But he escaped, took a
gun in his turn, and went to join his
nephew in the cave.

"Next, St. Lucia killed, one after the
other, his uncle's accusers, and tore out
their eyes to teach the others never to
state what they had seen with their eyes.

"He killed all the relatives, all the
connections of his enemy's family. He
massacred during his life fourteen gen-
darmes, burned down the houses of his
adversaries, and was up to the day of
his death the most terrible of the ban-
dits, whose memory we have preserved.*'

The Sim disappeared behind Monte
Cinto and the tall shadow of the granite
mountain went to sleep on the granitfl
of the valley. We quickened our pace
in order to reach before night the little
village of Albertaccio, nothing better
than a heap of stones welded beside the
stone flanks of a wild gorge. And I
said as I thought of the bandit:

''What a terrible custom your ven*
detta is!"

My companion answered with an air
of resignation:

"What would you have? A man must
do his duty!" *



The Duel



In society, they called him "The
handsome Signoles." He called himself
Viscount Gontram Joseph de Signoles.

An orphan and master of a sufficient
fortune, he cut something of a figure, as
the saying is. He had an attractive
form, enough readiness of speech to



make some attempt at wit, a certain
natural grace of manner, an air of no-
bility and pride, and a mustache which
was both formidable and pleasant to the
eye — ^a thing that pleases the ladies.

He was in demand in drawing-rooms,
sought for by waltzers, and he inspired



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



in mei^ that smiling enmity which one
has for people of energetic physique.
He was suspected of some love affairs
which showed him capable of much dis-
cretion, for a young man. He lived
happily, tranquil, in a state of moral
well-being most complete. It was well
known that he was good at handling a
sword, and still better with a pistol.

"If I were to fight,'' he said, "I
should choose a pistol. With that
weapon, I am sure of killing my man."

Now, one evening, having escorted
two young women, friends of his, to the
theater, being also accompanied by their
husbands, he offered them, after the
play, an ice at Tortoni*s. They had
been there about ten mmutes, when he
perceived that a gentleman, seated at a
neighboring table, gazed persistently at
one of the ladies of his party. She
seemed troubled and disturbed, lowering
her eyes. Finally, she said to her hus-
band :

"That" man is staring me out of
countenance. I do not know him; do
you?''

The husband, who had seen nothing,
raised his eyes but declared :

"No, not at all."

The young woman replied, half laugh-
ing, half angry: "It is very annoying;
that individual is spoiling my ice."

The husband shrugged his shoulders,
replying:

"Pshaw! Pay no attention to him.
If we were to notice all the insolent
people we meet, there would be no end
to it."

But the Viscount arose brusquely. He
could not allow this unknown man to
Q>oil an ice he had offered. It was to
him that the injury was addressed, as it



was through him and for him that his
friends had entered this caji. The affair,
then, concerned him only. He advanced
toward the man and said to him :

"You have, sir, a manner of looking
at these ladies that is not to be toler-
ated. I beg to ask you to cease this
attention."

The other replied : "So you command
me to keep the peace, do you?"

With set teeth, the Viscount an-
swered: "Take care, sir, or you will
force me to forget myself!"

The gentleman replied with a single
word, an obscene word which resounded
from one end of the caf6 to the other,
and made each guest start with a sud-
den movement as if they were all on
springs. Those that were in front turned
around; all the others raised their
heads; three waiters turned about on
their heels as if on pivots; the two
ladies at the counter boimded forward,
then entirely turned their backs upon
the scene, as if they had been two au-
tomatons obeying the same manipula*
tion.

There was a great silence. Then^
suddenly, a sharp noise rent the air.
The Viscount had struck his adversary.
Everybody got up to interpose. Card?
were exchanged.

After, the Viscount had returned
home, he walked up and down his room
at a lively pace for some minutes. He
was too much agitated to reflect upon
anything. One idea only hovered over
his mind: "a duel"; and yet this idea
awoke in him as yet, no emotion what-
ever. He had done what he ought to
do; he had shown himself what he
ought to be. People would talk of it*



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approve of it, and congratulate him.
He said aloud, in a high voice, as one
speaks when he is much troubled in
thought:

**What a beast that man is."

Then he sat down and began to re-
flect. He would have to find some
seconds in the morning. Whom should
he choose? He thought over the people
of his acquaintance who were the most
celebrated and in the best positions. He
took finally, Marquis de la Tour-Noire
and Colonel Bourdin, a great lord and a
soldier who was very strong. Their
names would carry in the journals. He
perceived that he was thirsty and he
drank, one after the other, three glasses
of water; then he began to walk again.
He felt himself full of energy. By
showing himself hot-brained, resolute in
all things, by exacting rigorous, dan-
gerous conditions, and by claiming a
serious duel, a very serious one, his ad-
versary would doubtless withdraw and
make some excuses.

He took up the card which he had
drawn from his pocket and thrown upon
the table and re-read it as he had in the
cafS, by a glance of the eye, and again
in the cab, on returning home, by the
light of a gas jet: ^'George Lamil, 51
Moncey street." That was all.

He examined these assembled letters
which appeared so mysterious to him,
his senses all confused: George Lamil?
Who was this man? What had he done?
Why had he looked at that woman in
such a way? Was it not revolting that
a stranger, an unknown should come to
trouble his life thus, at a blow, because
he had been pleased to fix his insolent
gaze upon a woman? And the Viscount
repeated again, in a loud voice:



"What a brute."

Then he remained motionless, stand-
ing, thinking, his look ever fixed upon
the card. A certain anger against this
piece of paper was awakened in him, a
hateful anger which was mingled with a
strange sentiment of malice. It was
stupid, this whole story! He took a
penknife which lay open at his hand,
and pricked the card through the middle
of the printed name, as if he were
using a poignard upon some one.

So he must fight! Should he choose
the sword or pistol, for he considered
himself the insulted one. With the
sword he risked less; but with the
pistol, there was a chance of his ad-
versary withdrawing. It is rarely that
a duel with the sword is mortal, a re-
ciprocal prudence hindering the com-
batants from keeping near enough to
each other for the point to strike very
deep; with the pistol he risked his life
very seriously; but he could also meet
the affair with all the honors of the
situation and without arriving at a meet-
ing. He said aloud:

*Tt is necessary to be firm. He will
be afraid."

The soimd of his own voice made him
tremble and he began to look about him.
He felt very nervous. He drank still
another glass of water, then commenced
to undress, preparatory to retiring.

When he was ready, he put out his
light and closed his eyes. Then he
thought :

"I have all day to-morrow to busy
myself with my affairs. I must sleep
first, in order to be calm."

He was very warm under the clothes,
but he could not succeed in falling
asleep. He turned and turned again.



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



remained for five minutes upon his back,
then placed himself upon his left side,
then rolled over to the right.

He was still thirsty. He got up and
drank. Then a kind of disquiet seized
him:

"Can it be that I am afraid?" said he.

Why should his heart begin to beat so
foolishly at each of the customary noises
about his room? — ^when the clock was
going to strike and the spring made that
little grinding noise as it raised itself to
make the turn? And he found it was
necessary for him to open his mouth in
order to breathe for some seconds fol-
lowing this start, so great was his feel-
ing of oppression. He began to reason
with himself upon the possibilities of the
thing:

"What have I to fear?"

No, certainly, he should not fear,
since he was resolved to follow it out
to the end and since he had fully made
up his mind to fight without a qualm.
But he felt himself so profoundly
troubled that he asked himself:

"Can it be that I am afraid in spite
of myself?"

And this doubt invaded him, this dis-
quiet, this fear; if a force more power-
ful than his will, dominating, irresistible,
should conquer him, what would happen
to him? Yes, what would happen?
Certainly he could walk upon the earth,
if he wished to go there. But if he
should tremble? And if he should lose
consciousness? And he thought of his
situation^ iof his reputation, of his name.

And a singular desire took possession
'^f him to get up and look at himself
m the glass. He relighted his candle.
When he perceived his face reflected in
the polished glass« he scarcely knew



himself, and it seemed to him that he
had never seen himself before. His
eyes appeared enormous; he was pale,
certainly; he was pale, very pale.

He remained standing there before
the mirror. He put out his tongue as
if to examine the state of his health,
and suddenly this thought entered his
brain after Uie fashion of a bullet :

"After to-morrow at this time, I shall
perhaps be dead."

And his heart began to beat furiously.

"After to-morrow at this time, I shall
perhaps be dead. This person opposite
me, this being I have so often seen in
this glass, will be no more. How can
it be! I am here, I see myself, I feel
that I am alive, and in twenty-four
hours I shall be stretched upon that
bed, dead, my eyes closed, cold, inani-
mate, departed."

He turned around to the bed and dis-
tinctly saw himself stretched on his
back in the same clothes he had worn
on going out. In his face were the
lines of death, and a rigidity in the
hands that would never stir again.

Then a fear of his bed came over him,
and in order to see it no more he passed
into his smoking-room. Mechanically
he took a cigar, lighted it, and began to
walk about. He was cold. He went
toward the bell to waken his valet; but
he stopped with his hand on the cord:

"This man would perceive at once that
I am afraid."

He did not ring, but made a fire.
His hands trembled a little from a ner-
vous shiver when they came in contact
with any object. His mind wandered;
his thoughts from trouble became fright-
ened, hasty, and sorrowful; an intoxi-
cation seemed to invade his mind as if



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he were drunk. And without ceasing
he asked:

"What am I going to do? What is
going to become of me?"

His whole body was vibrating,
traversed by a jerking and a trembling;
he got up and approached the window,
opening the curtains.

The day had dawned, a summer day.
A rose-colored sky made the city rosy
on roof and wall. A great fall of spread
out light, like a caress from the rising
sun, enveloped the waking world; and,
with this light, a gay, rapid, brutal hope
invaded the heart of the Viscount! He
was a fool to aHow himself to be thus
cast down by fear, even before anything
was decided, before his witnesses had
seen those of this George Lamil, before
he yet knew whether he were going to
fight a duel.

He made his toilette, dressed himself,
and walked out with firm step.

He repeated constantly, in walking:

"It will be necessary for me to be
energetic, very energetic. I must prove
that I am not afraid."

His witnesses, the Marquis and the
Colonel, placed themselves at his dis-
posal and, after having shaken hands
with him energetically, discussed the
conditions. The Colonel asked:

"Do you wish it to be a serious duel?"

The Viscount responded: "Very
serious."

The Marquis continued: *Will you
use a pistol?"

"Yes."

"We leave you free to regulate the
rest."

The Viscount enunciated, in a dry,
jerky voice;



"Twenty steps at the order, and on
raising the arm instead of lowering it
Exchange of bullets until one is griev-
ously wounded."

The Colonel declared, in a satisfied
tone:

"These are excellent conditions. You
shoot well, all the chances are in your
favor."

They separated. The Viscoimt re-
turned home to wait for them. His
agitation, appeased for a moment, grew
now from minute to minute. He felt
along his arms, his legs, and in his
breast a kind of trembling, of continued
vibration; he could not keep still, either
sitting or standing. There was no longer
an appearance of saliva in his mouth,
and each instant he made a noisy move-
ment with his tongue, as if to unglue it
from the roof of his mouth.

He wished to breakfast but he coul(^
not eat. Then the idea came to him of
drinking to give himself courage and he
brought out a small bottle of rum, which
he swallowed in six glasses, one aftet
the other.

A heat, like that of a burning fire,,
invaded him, followed almost immedi-
ately by a numbness of the soul. He
thought :

"I have found the remedy. Now all
goes well."

But at the end of an hour, he had
emptied the bottle and his state of agi^
tation became intolerable. He felt a
foolish impulse to roll on the ground, to
cry out and bite. Then night fell.

A stroke of the bell gave him such a
shock that he had not sufficient strength
left to rise and receive his witnesses.
He dared not even speak to them to
say "Good evening," to pronoimce a



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WORKS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT



single word, for fear that they would
discover a change in his voice.

The Colonel announced:

"All is arranged according to the con-
ditions that you have fixed upon. Your
adversary claimed the privileges of the
offended, but he soon yielded and ac-
cepted all. His witnesses are two mili-
tary men."

The Viscount pronounced the word:

"Thanks."

The Marquis continued:

"Excuse us if we only come in and go
out, for we have still a thousand things
to occupy our attention. A good doctor
will be necessary, since the combat is
only to cease after a severe wound, and
you know that bullets are no trifles.
Then, a place must be found, in some
proximity to a house, where we may
carry the wounded, if necessary, etc.,
etc.; finally we have but two or three
hours for it."

The Viscount, for the second time,
articulated:

"Thanks."

The Colonel asked:

"How is it with you? Are you calm?"

"Yes, very calm, thank you."

The two men then retired.

When he again found himself alone,
it seemed to him that he was mad. His
domestic having lighted the lamps, he



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