Part 18 out of 31
One morning, just as he was finishing breakfast, he suddenly heard a
great noise in the kitchen. He hastened in there. Denis was struggling
with two gendarmes. An officer was taking notes on his pad.
As soon as he saw his master, the servant began to sob, exclaiming:
"You told on me, monsieur, that's not right, after what you had promised
me. You have broken your word of honor, Monsieur Marambot; that is not
right, that's not right!"
M. Marambot, bewildered and distressed at being suspected, lifted his
"I swear to you before the Lord, my boy that I did not tell on you. I
haven't the slightest idea how the police could have found out about your
attack on me."
The officer started:
"You say that he attacked you, M. Marambot?"
The bewildered druggist answered:
"Yes--but I did not tell on him--I haven't said a word--I swear it--he
has served me excellently from that time on--"
The officer pronounced severely:
"I will take down your testimony. The law will take notice of this new
action, of which it was ignorant, Monsieur Marambot. I was commissioned
to arrest your servant for the theft of two ducks surreptitiously taken
by him from M. Duhamel of which act there are witnesses. I shall make a
note of your information."
Then, turning toward his men, he ordered:
"Come on, bring him along!"
The two gendarmes dragged Denis out.
The lawyer used a plea of insanity, contrasting the two misdeeds in order
to strengthen his argument. He had clearly proved that the theft of the
two ducks came from the same mental condition as the eight knife-wounds
in the body of Maramlot. He had cunningly analyzed all the phases of
this transitory condition of mental aberration, which could, doubtless,
be cured by a few months' treatment in a reputable sanatorium. He had
spoken in enthusiastic terms of the continued devotion of this faithful
servant, of the care with which he had surrounded his master, wounded by
him in a moment of alienation.
Touched by this memory, M. Marambot felt the tears rising to his eyes.
The lawyer noticed it, opened his arms with a broad gesture, spreading
out the long black sleeves of his robe like the wings of a bat, and
"Look, look, gentleman of the jury, look at those tears. What more can I
say for my client? What speech, what argument, what reasoning would be
worth these tears of his master? They, speak louder than I do, louder
than the law; they cry: 'Mercy, for the poor wandering mind of a while
ago! They implore, they pardon, they bless!"
He was silent and sat down.
Then the judge, turning to Marambot, whose testimony had been excellent
for his servant, asked him:
"But, monsieur, even admitting that you consider this man insane, that
does not explain why you should have kept him. He was none the less
Marambot, wiping his eyes, answered:
"Well, your honor, what can you expect? Nowadays it's so hard to find
good servants--I could never have found a better one."
Denis was acquitted and put in a sanatorium at his master's expense.
It had been a stag dinner. These men still came together once in a while
without their wives as they had done when they were bachelors. They
would eat for a long time, drink for a long time; they would talk of
everything, stir up those old and joyful memories which bring a smile to
the lip and a tremor to the heart. One of them was saying: "Georges, do
you remember our excursion to Saint-Germain with those two little girls
"I should say I do!"
And a little detail here or there would be remembered, and all these
things brought joy to the hearts.
The conversation turned on marriage, and each one said with a sincere
air: "Oh, if it were to do over again!" Georges Duportin added: "It's
strange how easily one falls into it. You have fully decided never to
marry; and then, in the springtime, you go to the country; the weather is
warm; the summer is beautiful; the fields are full of flowers; you meet a
young girl at some friend's house--crash! all is over. You return
Pierre Letoile exclaimed: "Correct! that is exactly my case, only there
were some peculiar incidents--"
His friend interrupted him: "As for you, you have no cause to complain.
You have the most charming wife in the world, pretty, amiable, perfect!
You are undoubtedly the happiest one of us all."
The other one continued: "It's not my fault."
"It is true that I have a perfect wife, but I certainly married her much
against my will."
"Yes--this is the adventure. I was thirty-five, and I had no more idea
of marrying than I had of hanging myself. Young girls seemed to me to be
inane, and I loved pleasure.
"During the month of May I was invited to the wedding of my cousin, Simon
d'Erabel, in Normandy. It was a regular Normandy wedding. We sat down
at the table at five o'clock in the evening and at eleven o'clock we were
still eating. I had been paired off, for the occasion, with a
Mademoiselle Dumoulin, daughter of a retired colonel, a young, blond,
soldierly person, well formed, frank and talkative. She took complete
possession of me for the whole day, dragged me into the park, made me
dance willy-nilly, bored me to death. I said to myself: 'That's all very
well for to-day, but tomorrow I'll get out. That's all there is to it!'
"Toward eleven o'clock at night the women retired to their rooms; the men
stayed, smoking while they drank or drinking while they smoked, whichever
"Through the open window we could see the country folks dancing. Farmers
and peasant girls were jumping about in a circle yelling at the top of
their lungs a dance air which was feebly accompanied by two violins and a
clarinet. The wild song of the peasants often completely drowned the
sound of the instruments, and the weak music, interrupted by the
unrestrained voices, seemed to come to us in little fragments of
scattered notes. Two enormous casks, surrounded by flaming torches,
contained drinks for the crowd. Two men were kept busy rinsing the
glasses or bowls in a bucket and immediately holding them under the
spigots, from which flowed the red stream of wine or the golden stream of
pure cider; and the parched dancers, the old ones quietly, the girls
panting, came up, stretched out their arms and grasped some receptacle,
threw back their heads and poured down their throats the drink which they
preferred. On a table were bread, butter, cheese and sausages. Each one
would step up from time to time and swallow a mouthful, and under the
starlit sky this healthy and violent exercise was a pleasing sight, and
made one also feel like drinking from these enormous casks and eating the
crisp bread and butter with a raw onion.
"A mad desire seized me to take part in this merrymaking, and I left my
companions. I must admit that I was probably a little tipsy, but I was
soon entirely so.
"I grabbed the hand of a big, panting peasant woman and I jumped her
about until I was out of breath.
"Then I drank some wine and reached for another girl. In order to
refresh myself afterward, I swallowed a bowlful of cider, and I began to
bounce around as if possessed.
"I was very light on my feet. The boys, delighted, were watching me and
trying to imitate me; the girls all wished to dance with me, and jumped
about heavily with the grace of cows.
"After each dance I drank a glass of wine or a glass of cider, and toward
two o'clock in the morning I was so drunk that I could hardly stand up.
"I realized my condition and tried to reach my room. Everybody was
asleep and the house was silent and dark.
"I had no matches and everybody was in bed. As soon as I reached the
vestibule I began to, feel dizzy. I had a lot of trouble to find the
banister. At last, by accident, my hand came in contact with it, and I
sat down on the first step of the stairs in order to try to gather my
"My room was on the second floor; it was the third door to the left.
Fortunately I had not forgotten that. Armed with this knowledge, I
arose, not without difficulty, and I began to ascend, step by step. In
my hands I firmly gripped the iron railing in order not to fall, and took
great pains to make no noise.
"Only three or four times did my foot miss the steps, and I went down on
my knees; but thanks to the energy of my arms and the strength of my
will, I avoided falling completely.
"At last I reached the second floor and I set out in my journey along the
hall, feeling my way by the walls. I felt one door; I counted: 'One';
but a sudden dizziness made me lose my hold on the wall, make a strange
turn and fall up against the other wall. I wished to turn in a straight
line: The crossing was long and full of hardships. At last I reached the
shore, and, prudently, I began to travel along again until I met another
door. In order to be sure to make no mistake, I again counted out loud:
'Two.' I started out on my walk again. At last I found the third door.
I said: 'Three, that's my room,' and I turned the knob. The door opened.
Notwithstanding my befuddled state, I thought: 'Since the door opens,
this must be home.' After softly closing the door, I stepped out in the
darkness. I bumped against something soft: my easy-chair. I immediately
stretched myself out on it.
"In my condition it would not have been wise to look for my bureau, my
candles, my matches. It would have taken me at least two hours. It
would probably have taken me that long also to undress; and even then I
might not have succeeded. I gave it up.
"I only took my shoes off; I unbuttoned my waistcoat, which was choking
me, I loosened my trousers and went to sleep.
"This undoubtedly lasted for a long time. I was suddenly awakened by a
deep voice which was saying: 'What, you lazy girl, still in bed? It's
"A woman's voice answered: 'Already! I was so tired yesterday.'
"In bewilderment I wondered what this dialogue meant. Where was I? What
had I done? My mind was wandering, still surrounded by a heavy fog. The
first voice continued: 'I'm going to raise your curtains.'
"I heard steps approaching me. Completely at a loss what to do, I sat
up. Then a hand was placed on my head. I started. The voice asked:
'Who is there?' I took good care not to answer. A furious grasp seized
me. I in turn seized him, and a terrific struggle ensued. We were
rolling around, knocking over the furniture and crashing against the
walls. A woman's voice was shrieking: 'Help! help!'
"Servants, neighbors, frightened women crowded around us. The blinds
were open and the shades drawn. I was struggling with Colonel Dumoulin
"I had slept beside his daughter's bed!
"When we were separated, I escaped to my room, dumbfounded. I locked
myself in and sat down with my feet on a chair, for my shoes had been
left in the young girl's room.
"I heard a great noise through the whole house, doors being opened and
closed, whisperings and rapid steps.
"After half an hour some one knocked on my door. I cried: 'Who is
there?' It was my uncle, the bridegroom's father. I opened the door:
"He was pale and furious, and he treated me harshly: 'You have behaved
like a scoundrel in my house, do you hear?' Then he added more gently
'But, you young fool, why 'the devil did you let yourself get caught at
ten o'clock in the morning? You go to sleep like a log in that room,
instead of leaving immediately-immediately after.'
"I exclaimed: 'But, uncle, I assure you that nothing occurred. I was
drunk and got into the wrong room.'
"He shrugged his shoulders! 'Don't talk nonsense.' I raised my hand,
exclaiming: 'I swear to you on my honor.' My uncle continued: 'Yes,
that's all right. It's your duty to say that.'
"I in turn grew angry and told him the whole unfortunate occurrence. He
looked at me with a bewildered expression, not knowing what to believe.
Then he went out to confer with the colonel.
"I heard that a kind of jury of the mothers had been formed, to which
were submitted the different phases of the situation.
"He came back an hour later, sat down with the dignity of a judge and
began: 'No matter what may be the situation, I can see only one way out
of it for you; it is to marry Mademoiselle Dumoulin.'
"I bounded out of the chair, crying: 'Never! never!'
"Gravely he asked: 'Well, what do you expect to do?'
"I answered simply: 'Why-leave as soon as my shoes are returned to me.'
"My uncle continued: 'Please do not jest. The colonel has decided to
blow your brains out as soon as he sees you. And you may be sure that he
does not threaten idly. I spoke of a duel and he answered: "No, I tell
you that I will blow his brains out."
"'Let us now examine the question from another point of view. Either you
have misbehaved yourself--and then so much the worse for you, my boy; one
should not go near a young girl--or else, being drunk, as you say, you
made a mistake in the room. In this case, it's even worse for you. You
shouldn't get yourself into such foolish situations. Whatever you may
say, the poor girl's reputation is lost, for a drunkard's excuses are
never believed. The only real victim in the matter is the girl. Think
"He went away, while I cried after him: 'Say what you will, I'll not
"I stayed alone for another hour. Then my aunt came. She was crying.
She used every argument. No one believed my story. They could not
imagine that this young girl could have forgotten to lock her door in a
house full of company. The colonel had struck her. She had been crying
the whole morning. It was a terrible and unforgettable scandal. And my
good aunt added: 'Ask for her hand, anyhow. We may, perhaps, find some
way out of it when we are drawing up the papers.'
"This prospect relieved me. And I agreed to write my proposal. An hour
later I left for Paris. The following day I was informed that I had been
"Then, in three weeks, before I had been able to find any excuse, the
banns were published, the announcement sent out, the contract signed, and
one Monday morning I found myself in a church, beside a weeping young
girl, after telling the magistrate that I consented to take her as my
companion--for better, for worse.
"I had not seen her since my adventure, and I glanced at her out of the
corner of my eye with a certain malevolent surprise. However, she was
not ugly--far from it. I said to myself: 'There is some one who won't
laugh every day.'
"She did not look at me once until, the evening, and she did not say a
"Toward the middle of the night I entered the bridal chamber with the
full intention of letting her know my resolutions, for I was now master.
I found her sitting in an armchair, fully dressed, pale and with red
eyes. As soon as I entered she rose and came slowly toward me saying:
'Monsieur, I am ready to do whatever you may command. I will kill myself
if you so desire'
"The colonel's daughter was as pretty as she could be in this heroic
role. I kissed her; it was my privilege.
"I soon saw that I had not got a bad bargain. I have now been married
five years. I do not regret it in the least."
Pierre Letoile was silent. His companions were laughing. One of them
said: "Marriage is indeed a lottery; you must never choose your numbers.
The haphazard ones are the best."
Another added by way of conclusion: "Yes, but do not forget that the god
of drunkards chose for Pierre."
We were speaking of adventures, and each one of us was relating his story
of delightful experiences, surprising meetings, on the train, in a hotel,
at the seashore. According to Roger des Annettes, the seashore was
particularly favorable to the little blind god.
Gontran, who was keeping mum, was asked what he thought of it.
"I guess Paris is about the best place for that," he said. "Woman is
like a precious trinket, we appreciate her all the more when we meet her
in the most unexpected places; but the rarest ones are only to be found
He was silent for a moment, and then continued:
"By Jove, it's great! Walk along the streets on some spring morning.
The little women, daintily tripping along, seem to blossom out like
flowers. What a delightful, charming sight! The dainty perfume of
violet is everywhere. The city is gay, and everybody notices the women.
By Jove, how tempting they are in their light, thin dresses, which
occasionally give one a glimpse of the delicate pink flesh beneath!
"One saunters along, head up, mind alert, and eyes open. I tell you it's
great! You see her in the distance, while still a block away; you
already know that she is going to please you at closer quarters. You can
recognize her by the flower on her hat, the toss of her head, or her
gait. She approaches, and you say to yourself: 'Look out, here she is!'
You come closer to her and you devour her with your eyes.
"Is it a young girl running errands for some store, a young woman
returning from church, or hastening to see her lover? What do you care?
Her well-rounded bosom shows through the thin waist. Oh, if you could
only take her in your arms and fondle and kiss her! Her glance may be
timid or bold, her hair light or dark. What difference does it make?
She brushes against you, and a cold shiver runs down your spine. Ah, how
you wish for her all day! How many of these dear creatures have I met
this way, and how wildly in love I would have been had I known them more
"Have you ever noticed that the ones we would love the most distractedly
are those whom we never meet to know? Curious, isn't it? From time to
time we barely catch a glimpse of some woman, the mere sight of whom
thrills our senses. But it goes no further. When I think of all the
adorable creatures that I have elbowed in the streets of Paris, I fairly
rave. Who are they! Where are they? Where can I find them again?
There is a proverb which says that happiness often passes our way; I am
sure that I have often passed alongside the one who could have caught me
like a linnet in the snare of her fresh beauty."
Roger des Annettes had listened smilingly. He answered: "I know that as
well as you do. This is what happened to me: About five years ago, for
the first time I met, on the Pont de la Concorde, a young woman who made
a wonderful impression on me. She was dark, rather stout, with glossy
hair, and eyebrows which nearly met above two dark eyes. On her lip was
a scarcely perceptible down, which made one dream-dream as one dreams of
beloved woods, on seeing a bunch of wild violets. She had a small waist
and a well-developed bust, which seemed to present a challenge, offer a
temptation. Her eyes were like two black spots on white enamel. Her
glance was strange, vacant, unthinking, and yet wonderfully beautiful.
"I imagined that she might be a Jewess. I followed her, and then turned
round to look at her, as did many others. She walked with a swinging
gait that was not graceful, but somehow attracted one. At the Place de
la Concorde she took a carriage, and I stood there like a fool, moved by
the strongest desire that had ever assailed me.
"For about three weeks I thought only of her; and then her memory passed
out of my mind.
"Six months later I descried her in the Rue de la Paix again. On seeing
her I felt the same shock that one experiences on seeing a once dearly
loved woman. I stopped that I might better observe her. When she passed
close enough to touch me I felt as though I were standing before a red
hot furnace. Then, when she had passed by, I noticed a delicious
sensation, as of a cooling breeze blowing over my face. I did not follow
her. I was afraid of doing something foolish. I was afraid of myself.
"She haunted all my dreams.
"It was a year before I saw her again. But just as the sun was going
down on one beautiful evening in May I recognized her walking along the
Avenue des Champs-Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe stood out in bold relief
against the fiery glow of the sky. A golden haze filled the air; it was
one of those delightful spring evenings which are the glory of Paris.
"I followed her, tormented by a desire to address her, to kneel before
her, to pour forth the emotion which was choking me. Twice I passed by
her only to fall back, and each time as I passed by I felt this
sensation, as of scorching heat, which I had noticed in the Rue de la
"She glanced at me, and then I saw her enter a house on the Rue de
Presbourg. I waited for her two hours and she did not come out. Then I
decided to question the janitor. He seemed not to understand me. 'She
must be visiting some one,' he said.
"The next time I was eight months without seeing her. But one freezing
morning in January, I was walking along the Boulevard Malesherbes at a
dog trot, so as to keep warm, when at the corner I bumped into a woman
and knocked a small package out of her hand. I tried to apologize. It
"At first I stood stock still from the shock; then having returned to her
the package which she had dropped, I said abruptly:
"'I am both grieved and delighted, madame, to have jostled you. For more
than two years I have known you, admired you, and had the most ardent
wish to be presented to you; nevertheless I have been unable to find out
who you are, or where you live. Please excuse these foolish words.
Attribute them to a passionate desire to be numbered among your
acquaintances. Such sentiments can surely offend you in no way! You do
not know me. My name is Baron Roger des Annettes. Make inquiries about
me, and you will find that I am a gentleman. Now, if you refuse my
request, you will throw me into abject misery. Please be good to me and
tell me how I can see you.'
"She looked at me with her strange vacant stare, and answered smilingly:
"'Give me your address. I will come and see you.'
"I was so dumfounded that I must have shown my surprise. But I quickly
gathered my wits together and gave her a visiting card, which she slipped
into her pocket with a quick, deft movement.
"Becoming bolder, I stammered:
"'When shall I see you again?'
"She hesitated, as though mentally running over her list of engagements,
and then murmured:
"'Will Sunday morning suit you?'
"'I should say it would!'
"She went on, after having stared at me, judged, weighed and analyzed me
with this heavy and vacant gaze which seemed to leave a quieting and
deadening impression on the person towards whom it was directed.
"Until Sunday my mind was occupied day and night trying to guess who she
might be and planning my course of conduct towards her. I finally
decided to buy her a jewel, a beautiful little jewel, which I placed in
its box on the mantelpiece, and left it there awaiting her arrival.
"I spent a restless night waiting for her.
"At ten o'clock she came, calm and quiet, and with her hand outstretched,
as though she had known me for years. Drawing up a chair, I took her hat
and coat and furs, and laid them aside. And then, timidly, I took her
hand in mine; after that all went on without a hitch.
"Ah, my friends! what a bliss it is, to stand at a discreet distance and
watch the hidden pink and blue ribbons, partly concealed, to observe the
hazy lines of the beloved one's form, as they become visible through the
last of the filmy garments! What a delight it is to watch the ostrich-
like modesty of those who are in reality none too modest. And what is so
pretty as their motions!
"Her back was turned towards me, and suddenly, my eyes were irresistibly
drawn to a large black spot right between her shoulders. What could it
be? Were my eyes deceiving me? But no, there it was, staring me in the
face! Then my mind reverted to the faint down on her lip, the heavy
eyebrows almost meeting over her coal-black eyes, her glossy black hair--
I should have been prepared for some surprise.
"Nevertheless I was dumfounded, and my mind was haunted by dim visions of
strange adventures. I seemed to see before me one of the evil genii of
the Thousand and One Nights, one of these dangerous and crafty creatures
whose mission it is to drag men down to unknown depths. I thought of
Solomon, who made the Queen of Sheba walk on a mirror that he might be
sure that her feet were not cloven.
"And when the time came for me to sing of love to her, my voice forsook
me. At first she showed surprise, which soon turned to anger; and she
said, quickly putting on her wraps:
"'It was hardly worth while for me to go out of my way to come here.'
"I wanted her to accept the ring which I had bought for her, but she
replied haughtily: 'For whom do you take me, sir?' I blushed to the roots
of my hair. She left without saying another word.
"There is my whole adventure. But the worst part of it is that I am now
madly in love with her. I can't see a woman without thinking of her.
All the others disgust me, unless they remind me of her. I cannot kiss a
woman without seeing her face before me, and without suffering the
torture of unsatisfied desire. She is always with me, always there,
dressed or nude, my true love. She is there, beside the other one,
visible but intangible. I am almost willing to believe that she was
bewitched, and carried a talisman between her shoulders.
"Who is she? I don't know yet. I have met her once or twice since. I
bowed, but she pretended not to recognize me. Who is she? An Oriental?
Yes, doubtless an oriental Jewess! I believe that she must be a Jewess!
But why? Why? I don't know!"
The subject of sequestration of the person came up in speaking of a
recent lawsuit, and each of us had a story to tell--a true story, he
said. We had been spending the evening together at an old family mansion
in the Rue de Grenelle, just a party of intimate friends. The old
Marquis de la Tour-Samuel, who was eighty-two, rose, and, leaning his
elbow on the mantelpiece, said in his somewhat shaky voice:
"I also know of something strange, so strange that it has haunted me all
my life. It is now fifty-six years since the incident occurred, and yet
not a month passes that I do not see it again in a dream, so great is the
impression of fear it has left on my mind. For ten minutes I experienced
such horrible fright that ever since then a sort of constant terror has
remained with me. Sudden noises startle me violently, and objects
imperfectly distinguished at night inspire me with a mad desire to flee
from them. In short, I am afraid of the dark!
"But I would not have acknowledged that before I reached my present age.
Now I can say anything. I have never receded before real danger, ladies.
It is, therefore, permissible, at eighty-two years of age, not to be
brave in presence of imaginary danger.
"That affair so completely upset me, caused me such deep and mysterious
and terrible distress, that I never spoke of it to any one. I will now
tell it to you exactly as it happened, without any attempt at
"In July, 1827, I was stationed at Rouen. One day as I was walking along
the quay I met a man whom I thought I recognized without being able to
recall exactly who he was. Instinctively I made a movement to stop. The
stranger perceived it and at once extended his hand.
"He was a friend to whom I had been deeply attached as a youth. For five
years I had not seen him; he seemed to have aged half a century. His
hair was quite white and he walked bent over as though completely
exhausted. He apparently understood my surprise, and he told me of the
misfortune which had shattered his life.
"Having fallen madly in love with a young girl, he had married her, but
after a year of more than earthly happiness she died suddenly of an
affection of the heart. He left his country home on the very day of her
burial and came to his town house in Rouen, where he lived, alone and
unhappy, so sad and wretched that he thought constantly of suicide.
"'Since I have found you again in this manner,' he said, 'I will ask you
to render me an important service. It is to go and get me out of the
desk in my bedroom--our bedroom--some papers of which I have urgent need.
I cannot send a servant or a business clerk, as discretion and absolute
silence are necessary. As for myself, nothing on earth would induce me
to reenter that house. I will give you the key of the room, which I
myself locked on leaving, and the key of my desk, also a few words for my
gardener, telling him to open the chateau for you. But come and
breakfast with me tomorrow and we will arrange all that.'
"I promised to do him the slight favor he asked. It was, for that
matter, only a ride which I could make in an hour on horseback, his
property being but a few miles distant from Rouen.
"At ten o'clock the following day I breakfasted, tete-a-tete, with my
friend, but he scarcely spoke.
"He begged me to pardon him; the thought of the visit I was about to make
to that room, the scene of his dead happiness, overcame him, he said.
He, indeed, seemed singularly agitated and preoccupied, as though
undergoing some mysterious mental struggle.
"At length he explained to me exactly what I had to do. It was very
simple. I must take two packages of letters and a roll of papers from
the first right-hand drawer of the desk, of which I had the key. He
"'I need not beg you to refrain from glancing at them.'
"I was wounded at that remark and told him so somewhat sharply. He
"'Forgive me, I suffer so,' and tears came to his eyes.
"At about one o'clock I took leave of him to accomplish my mission.
"'The weather was glorious, and I trotted across the fields, listening to
the song of the larks and the rhythmical clang of my sword against my
boot. Then I entered the forest and walked my horse. Branches of trees
caressed my face as I passed, and now and then I caught a leaf with my
teeth and chewed it, from sheer gladness of heart at being alive and
vigorous on such a radiant day.
"As I approached the chateau I took from my pocket the letter I had for
the gardener, and was astonished at finding it sealed. I was so
irritated that I was about to turn back without having fulfilled my
promise, but reflected that I should thereby display undue
susceptibility. My friend in his troubled condition might easily have
fastened the envelope without noticing that he did so.
"The manor looked as if it had been abandoned for twenty years. The open
gate was falling from its hinges, the walks were overgrown with grass and
the flower beds were no longer distinguishable.
"The noise I made by kicking at a shutter brought out an old man from a
side door. He seemed stunned with astonishment at seeing me. On
receiving my letter, he read it, reread it, turned it over and over,
looked me up and down, put the paper in his pocket and finally said:
"'Well, what is it you wish?'
"I replied shortly:
"'You ought to know, since you have just read your master's orders. I
wish to enter the chateau.'
"He seemed overcome.
"'Then you are going in--into her room?'
"I began to lose patience.
"'Damn it! Are you presuming to question me?'
"He stammered in confusion:
"'No--sir--but--but it has not been opened since--since the-death. If
you will be kind enough to wait five minutes I will go and--and see if--'
"I interrupted him angrily:
"'See here, what do you mean by your tricks?
"'You know very well you cannot enter the room, since here is the key!'
"He no longer objected.
"'Then, sir, I will show you the way.'
"'Show me the staircase and leave me. I'll find my way without you.'
"This time I lost patience, and pushing him aside, went into the house.
"I first went through the kitchen, then two rooms occupied by this man
and his wife. I then crossed a large hall, mounted a staircase and
recognized the door described by my friend.
"I easily opened it, and entered the apartment. It was so dark that at
first I could distinguish nothing. I stopped short, disagreeably
affected by that disagreeable, musty odor of closed, unoccupied rooms.
As my eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness I saw plainly enough
a large and disordered bedroom, the bed without sheets but still
retaining its mattresses and pillows, on one of which was a deep
impression, as though an elbow or a head had recently rested there.
"The chairs all seemed out of place. I noticed that a door, doubtless
that of a closet, had remained half open.
"I first went to the window, which I opened to let in the light, but the
fastenings of the shutters had grown so rusty that I could not move them.
I even tried to break them with my sword, but without success. As I was
growing irritated over my useless efforts and could now see fairly well
in the semi-darkness, I gave up the hope of getting more light, and went
over to the writing desk.
"I seated myself in an armchair and, letting down the lid of the desk, I
opened the drawer designated. It was full to the top. I needed but
three packages, which I knew how to recognize, and began searching for
"I was straining my eyes in the effort to read the superscriptions when I
seemed to hear, or, rather, feel, something rustle back of me. I paid no
attention, believing that a draught from the window was moving some
drapery. But in a minute or so another movement, almost imperceptible,
sent a strangely disagreeable little shiver over my skin. It was so
stupid to be affected, even slightly, that self-respect prevented my
turning around. I had just found the second package I needed and was
about to lay my hand on the third when a long and painful sigh, uttered
just at my shoulder, made me bound like a madman from my seat and land
several feet off. As I jumped I had turned round my hand on the hilt of
my sword, and, truly, if I had not felt it at my side I should have taken
to my heels like a coward.
"A tall woman dressed in white, stood gazing at me from the back of the
chair where I had been sitting an instant before.
"Such a shudder ran through all my limbs that I nearly fell backward. No
one who has not experienced it can understand that frightful, unreasoning
terror! The mind becomes vague, the heart ceases to beat, the entire
body grows as limp as a sponge.
"I do not believe in ghosts, nevertheless I collapsed from a hideous
dread of the dead, and I suffered, oh! I suffered in a few moments more
than in all the rest of my life from the irresistible terror of the
supernatural. If she had not spoken I should have died perhaps. But she
spoke, she spoke in a sweet, sad voice that set my nerves vibrating.
I dare not say that I became master of myself and recovered my reason.
No! I was terrified and scarcely knew what I was doing. But a certain
innate pride, a remnant of soldierly instinct, made me, almost in spite
of myself, maintain a bold front. She said:
"'Oh, sir, you can render me a great service.'
"I wanted to reply, but it was impossible for me to pronounce a word.
Only a vague sound came from my throat. She continued:
"'Will you? You can save me, cure me. I suffer frightfully. I suffer,
oh! how I suffer!' and she slowly seated herself in my armchair, still
looking at me.
"'Will you?' she said.
"I nodded in assent, my voice still being paralyzed.
"Then she held out to me a tortoise-shell comb and murmured:
"'Comb my hair, oh! comb my hair; that will cure me; it must be combed.
Look at my head--how I suffer; and my hair pulls so!'
"Her hair, unbound, very long and very black, it seemed to me, hung over
the back of the armchair and touched the floor.
"Why did I promise? Why did I take that comb with a shudder, and why did
I hold in my hands her long black hair that gave my skin a frightful cold
sensation, as though I were handling snakes? I cannot tell.
"That sensation has remained in my fingers, and I still tremble in
"I combed her hair. I handled, I know not how, those icy locks. I
twisted, knotted, and unknotted, and braided them. She sighed, bowed her
head, seemed happy. Suddenly she said, 'Thank you!' snatched the comb
from my hands and fled by the door that I had noticed ajar.
"Left alone, I experienced for several seconds the horrible agitation of
one who awakens from a nightmare. At length I regained my senses. I ran
to the window and with a mighty effort burst open the shutters, letting a
flood of light into the room. Immediately I sprang to the door by which
that being had departed. I found it closed and immovable!
"Then the mad desire to flee overcame me like a panic the panic which
soldiers know in battle. I seized the three packets of letters on the
open desk, ran from the room, dashed down the stairs four steps at a
time, found myself outside, I know not how, and, perceiving my horse a
few steps off, leaped into the saddle and galloped away.
"I stopped only when I reached Rouen and alighted at my lodgings.
Throwing the reins to my orderly, I fled to my room and shut myself in to
reflect. For an hour I anxiously asked myself if I were not the victim
of a hallucination. Undoubtedly I had had one of those incomprehensible
nervous attacks those exaltations of mind that give rise to visions and
are the stronghold of the supernatural. And I was about to believe I had
seen a vision, had a hallucination, when, as I approached the window, my
eyes fell, by chance, upon my breast. My military cape was covered with
long black hairs! One by one, with trembling fingers, I plucked them off
and threw them away.
"I then called my orderly. I was too disturbed, too upset to go and see
my friend that day, and I also wished to reflect more fully upon what I
ought to tell him. I sent him his letters, for which he gave the soldier
a receipt. He asked after me most particularly, and, on being told I was
ill--had had a sunstroke--appeared exceedingly anxious. Next morning I
went to him, determined to tell him the truth. He had gone out the
evening before and had not yet returned. I called again during the day;
my friend was still absent. After waiting a week longer without news of
him, I notified the authorities and a judicial search was instituted.
Not the slightest trace of his whereabouts or manner of disappearance was
"A minute inspection of the abandoned chateau revealed nothing of a
suspicious character. There was no indication that a woman had been
"After fruitless researches all further efforts were abandoned, and for
fifty-six years I have heard nothing; I know no more than before."
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES, Vol. 8.
By Guy de Maupassant
GUY DE MAUPASSANT
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES
ALBERT M. C. McMASTER, B.A.
A. E. HENDERSON, B.A.
MME. QUESADA and Others
THE LEGION OF HONOR
FOUND ON A DROWNED MAN
MY UNCLE JULES
THE FISHING HOLE
IN THE WOOD
A PIECE OF STRING
How strange those old recollections are which haunt us, without our being
able to get rid of them.
This one is so very old that I cannot understand how it has clung so
vividly and tenaciously to my memory. Since then I have seen so many
sinister things, which were either affecting or terrible, that I am
astonished at not being able to pass a single day without the face of
Mother Bellflower recurring to my mind's eye, just as I knew her
formerly, now so long ago, when I was ten or twelve years old.
She was an old seamstress who came to my parents' house once a week,
every Thursday, to mend the linen. My parents lived in one of those
country houses called chateaux, which are merely old houses with gable
roofs, to which are attached three or four farms lying around them.
The village, a large village, almost a market town, was a few hundred
yards away, closely circling the church, a red brick church, black with
Well, every Thursday Mother Clochette came between half-past six and
seven in the morning, and went immediately into the linen-room and began
to work. She was a tall, thin, bearded or rather hairy woman, for she
had a beard all over her face, a surprising, an unexpected beard, growing
in improbable tufts, in curly bunches which looked as if they had been
sown by a madman over that great face of a gendarme in petticoats. She
had them on her nose, under her nose, round her nose, on her chin, on her
cheeks; and her eyebrows, which were extraordinarily thick and long, and
quite gray, bushy and bristling, looked exactly like a pair of mustaches
stuck on there by mistake.
She limped, not as lame people generally do, but like a ship at anchor.
When she planted her great, bony, swerving body on her sound leg, she
seemed to be preparing to mount some enormous wave, and then suddenly she
dipped as if to disappear in an abyss, and buried herself in the ground.
Her walk reminded one of a storm, as she swayed about, and her head,
which was always covered with an enormous white cap, whose ribbons
fluttered down her back, seemed to traverse the horizon from north to
south and from south to north, at each step.
I adored Mother Clochette. As soon as I was up I went into the linen-
room where I found her installed at work, with a foot-warmer under her
feet. As soon as I arrived, she made me take the foot-warmer and sit
upon it, so that I might not catch cold in that large, chilly room under
"That draws the blood from your throat," she said to me.
She told me stories, whilst mending the linen with her long crooked
nimble fingers; her eyes behind her magnifying spectacles, for age had
impaired her sight, appeared enormous to me, strangely profound, double.
She had, as far as I can remember the things which she told me and by
which my childish heart was moved, the large heart of a poor woman. She
told me what had happened in the village, how a cow had escaped from the
cow-house and had been found the next morning in front of Prosper Malet's
windmill, looking at the sails turning, or about a hen's egg which had
been found in the church belfry without any one being able to understand
what creature had been there to lay it, or the story of Jean-Jean Pila's
dog, who had been ten leagues to bring back his master's breeches which a
tramp had stolen whilst they were hanging up to dry out of doors, after
he had been in the rain. She told me these simple adventures in such a
manner, that in my mind they assumed the proportions of never-to-be
-forgotten dramas, of grand and mysterious poems; and the ingenious
stories invented by the poets which my mother told me in the evening, had
none of the flavor, none of the breadth or vigor of the peasant woman's
Well, one Tuesday, when I had spent all the morning in listening to
Mother Clochette, I wanted to go upstairs to her again during the day
after picking hazelnuts with the manservant in the wood behind the farm.
I remember it all as clearly as what happened only yesterday.
On opening the door of the linen-room, I saw the old seamstress lying on
the ground by the side of her chair, with her face to the ground and her
arms stretched out, but still holding her needle in one hand and one of
my shirts in the other. One of her legs in a blue stocking, the longer
one, no doubt, was extended under her chair, and her spectacles glistened
against the wall, as they had rolled away from her.
I ran away uttering shrill cries. They all came running, and in a few
minutes I was told that Mother Clochette was dead.
I cannot describe the profound, poignant, terrible emotion which stirred
my childish heart. I went slowly down into the drawing-room and hid
myself in a dark corner, in the depths of an immense old armchair, where
I knelt down and wept. I remained there a long time, no doubt, for night
came on. Suddenly somebody came in with a lamp, without seeing me,
however, and I heard my father and mother talking with the medical man,
whose voice I recognized.
He had been sent for immediately, and he was explaining the causes of the
accident, of which I understood nothing, however. Then he sat down and
had a glass of liqueur and a biscuit.
He went on talking, and what he then said will remain engraved on my mind
until I die! I think that I can give the exact words which he used.
"Ah!" said he, "the poor woman! She broke her leg the day of my arrival
here, and I had not even had time to wash my hands after getting off the
diligence before I was sent for in all haste, for it was a bad case, very
"She was seventeen, and a pretty girl, very pretty! Would any one
believe it? I have never told her story before, and nobody except myself
and one other person who is no longer living in this part of the country
ever knew it. Now that she is dead, I may be less discreet.
"Just then a young assistant-teacher came to live in the village; he was
a handsome, well-made fellow, and looked like a non-commissioned officer.
All the girls ran after him, but he paid no attention to them, partly
because he was very much afraid of his superior, the schoolmaster, old
Grabu, who occasionally got out of bed the wrong foot first.
"Old Grabu already employed pretty Hortense who has just died here, and
who was afterwards nicknamed Clochette. The assistant master singled out
the pretty young girl, who was, no doubt, flattered at being chosen by
this impregnable conqueror; at any rate, she fell in love with him, and
he succeeded in persuading her to give him a first meeting in the hay-
loft behind the school, at night, after she had done her day's sewing.
"She pretended to go home, but instead of going downstairs when she left
the Grabus' she went upstairs and hid among the hay, to wait for her
lover. He soon joined her, and was beginning to say pretty things to
her, when the door of the hay-loft opened and the schoolmaster appeared,
and asked: 'What are you doing up there, Sigisbert?' Feeling sure that
he would be caught, the young schoolmaster lost his presence of mind and
replied stupidly: 'I came up here to rest a little amongst the bundles of
hay, Monsieur Grabu.'
"The loft was very large and absolutely dark, and Sigisbert pushed the
frightened girl to the further end and said: 'Go over there and hide
yourself. I shall lose my position, so get away and hide yourself.'
"When the schoolmaster heard the whispering, he continued: 'Why, you are
not by yourself?' 'Yes, I am, Monsieur Grabu!' 'But you are not, for you
are talking.' 'I swear I am, Monsieur Grabu.' 'I will soon find out,' the
old man replied, and double locking the door, he went down to get a
"Then the young man, who was a coward such as one frequently meets, lost
his head, and becoming furious all of a sudden, he repeated: 'Hide
yourself, so that he may not find you. You will keep me from making a
living for the rest of my life; you will ruin my whole career. Do hide
yourself!' They could hear the key turning in the lock again, and
Hortense ran to the window which looked out on the street, opened it
quickly, and then said in a low and determined voice: 'You will come and
pick me up when he is gone,' and she jumped out.
"Old Grabu found nobody, and went down again in great surprise, and a
quarter of an hour later, Monsieur Sigisbert came to me and related his
adventure. The girl had remained at the foot of the wall unable to get
up, as she had fallen from the second story, and I went with him to fetch
her. It was raining in torrents, and I brought the unfortunate girl home
with me, for the right leg was broken in three places, and the bones had
come trough the flesh. She did not complain, and merely said, with
admirable resignation: 'I am punished, well punished!'
"I sent for assistance and for the work-girl's relatives and told them a,
made-up story of a runaway carriage which had knocked her down and lamed
her outside my door. They believed me, and the gendarmes for a whole
month tried in vain to find the author of this accident.
"That is all! And I say that this woman was a heroine and belonged to
the race of those who accomplish the grandest deeds of history.
"That was her only love affair, and she died a virgin. She was a martyr,
a noble soul, a sublimely devoted woman! And if I did not absolutely
admire her, I should not have told you this story, which I would never
tell any one during her life; you understand why."
The doctor ceased. Mamma cried and papa said some words which I did not
catch; then they left the room and I remained on my knees in the armchair
and sobbed, whilst I heard a strange noise of heavy footsteps and
something knocking against the side of the staircase.
They were carrying away Clochette's body.
My Little Darling: So you are crying from morning until night and from
night until morning, because your husband leaves you; you do not know
what to do and so you ask your old aunt for advice; you must consider her
quite an expert. I don't know as much as you think I do, and yet I am
not entirely ignorant of the art of loving, or, rather, of making one's
self loved, in which you are a little lacking. I can admit that at my
You say that you are all attention, love, kisses and caresses for him.
Perhaps that is the very trouble; I think you kiss him too much.
My dear, we have in our hands the most terrible power in the world: LOVE.
Man is gifted with physical strength, and he exercises force. Woman is
gifted with charm, and she rules with caresses. It is our weapon,
formidable and invincible, but we should know how to use it.
Know well that we are the mistresses of the world! To tell the history
of Love from the beginning of the world would be to tell the history of
man himself: Everything springs from it, the arts, great events, customs,
wars, the overthrow of empires.
In the Bible you find Delila, Judith; in fables we find Omphale, Helen;
in history the Sabines, Cleopatra and many others.
Therefore we reign supreme, all-powerful. But, like kings, we must make
use of delicate diplomacy.
Love, my dear, is made up of imperceptible sensations. We know that it
is as strong as death, but also as frail as glass. The slightest shock
breaks it, and our power crumbles, and we are never able to raise it
We have the power of making ourselves adored, but we lack one tiny thing,
the understanding of the various kinds of caresses. In embraces we lose
the sentiment of delicacy, while the man over whom we rule remains master
of himself, capable of judging the foolishness of certain words. Take
care, my dear; that is the defect in our armor. It is our Achilles'
Do you know whence comes our real power? From the kiss, the kiss alone!
When we know how to hold out and give up our lips we can become queens.
The kiss is only a preface, however, but a charming preface. More
charming than the realization itself. A preface which can always be read
over again, whereas one cannot always read over the book.
Yes, the meeting of lips is the most perfect, the most divine sensation
given to human beings, the supreme limit of happiness: It is in the kiss
alone that one sometimes seems to feel this union of souls after which we
strive, the intermingling of hearts, as it were.
Do you remember the verses of Sully-Prudhomme:
Caresses are nothing but anxious bliss,
Vain attempts of love to unite souls through a kiss.
One caress alone gives this deep sensation of two beings welded into one
--it is the kiss. No violent delirium of complete possession is worth
this trembling approach of the lips, this first moist and fresh contact,
and then the long, lingering, motionless rapture.
Therefore, my dear, the kiss is our strongest weapon, but we must take
care not to dull it. Do not forget that its value is only relative,
purely conventional. It continually changes according to circumstances,
the state of expectancy and the ecstasy of the mind. I will call
attention to one example.
Another poet, Francois Coppee, has written a line which we all remember,
a line which we find delightful, which moves our very hearts.
After describing the expectancy of a lover, waiting in a room one
winter's evening, his anxiety, his nervous impatience, the terrible fear
of not seeing her, he describes the arrival of the beloved woman, who at
last enters hurriedly, out of breath, bringing with her part of the
winter breeze, and he exclaims:
Oh! the taste of the kisses first snatched through the veil.
Is that not a line of exquisite sentiment, a delicate and charming
observation, a perfect truth? All those who have hastened to a
clandestine meeting, whom passion has thrown into the arms of a man, well
do they know these first delicious kisses through the veil; and they
tremble at the memory of them. And yet their sole charm lies in the
circumstances, from being late, from the anxious expectancy, but from the
purely--or, rather, impurely, if you prefer--sensual point of view, they
Think! Outside it is cold. The young woman has walked quickly; the veil
is moist from her cold breath. Little drops of water shine in the lace.
The lover seizes her and presses his burning lips to her liquid breath.
The moist veil, which discolors and carries the dreadful odor of chemical
dye, penetrates into the young man's mouth, moistens his mustache. He
does not taste the lips of his beloved, he tastes the dye of this lace
moistened with cold breath. And yet, like the poet, we would all
Oh! the taste of the kisses first snatched through the veil.
Therefore, the value of this caress being entirely a matter of
convention, we must be careful not to abuse it.
Well, my dear, I have several times noticed that you are very clumsy.
However, you were not alone in that fault; the majority of women lose
their authority by abusing the kiss with untimely kisses. When they feel
that their husband or their lover is a little tired, at those times when
the heart as well as the body needs rest, instead of understanding what
is going on within him, they persist in giving inopportune caresses, tire
him by the obstinacy of begging lips and give caresses lavished with
neither rhyme nor reason.
Trust in the advice of my experience. First, never kiss your husband in
public, in the train, at the restaurant. It is bad taste; do not give in
to your desires. He would feel ridiculous and would never forgive you.
Beware of useless kisses lavished in intimacy. I am sure that you abuse
them. For instance, I remember one day that you did something quite
shocking. Probably you do not remember it.
All three of us were together in the drawing-room, and, as you did not
stand on ceremony before me, your husband was holding you on his knees
and kissing you at great length on the neck, the lips and throat.
Suddenly you exclaimed: "Oh! the fire!" You had been paying no attention
to it, and it was almost out. A few lingering embers were glowing on the
hearth. Then he rose, ran to the woodbox, from which he dragged two
enormous logs with great difficulty, when you came to him with begging
"Kiss me!" He turned his head with difficulty and tried to hold up the
logs at the same time. Then you gently and slowly placed your mouth on
that of the poor fellow, who remained with his neck out of joint, his
sides twisted, his arms almost dropping off, trembling with fatigue and
tired from his desperate effort. And you kept drawing out this torturing
kiss, without seeing or understanding. Then when you freed him, you
began to grumble: "How badly you kiss!" No wonder!
Oh, take care of that! We all have this foolish habit, this unconscious
need of choosing the most inconvenient moments. When he is carrying a
glass of water, when he is putting on his shoes, when he is tying his
scarf--in short, when he finds himself in any uncomfortable position--
then is the time which we choose for a caress which makes him stop for a
whole minute in the middle of a gesture with the sole desire of getting
rid of us!
Do not think that this criticism is insignificant. Love, my dear, is a
delicate thing. The least little thing offends it; know that everything
depends on the tact of our caresses. An ill-placed kiss may do any
amount of harm.
Try following my advice.
Your old aunt,
This story appeared in the Gaulois in November, 1882, under the pseudonym
THE LEGION OF HONOR
HOW HE GOT THE LEGION OF HONOR
From the time some people begin to talk they seem to have an
overmastering desire or vocation.
Ever since he was a child, M. Caillard had only had one idea in his head-
to wear the ribbon of an order. When he was still quite a small boy he
used to wear a zinc cross of the Legion of Honor pinned on his tunic,
just as other children wear a soldier's cap, and he took his mother's
hand in the street with a proud air, sticking out his little chest with
its red ribbon and metal star so that it might show to advantage.
His studies were not a success, and he failed in his examination for
Bachelor of Arts; so, not knowing what to do, he married a pretty girl,
as he had plenty of money of his own.
They lived in Paris, as many rich middle-class people do, mixing with
their own particular set, and proud of knowing a deputy, who might
perhaps be a minister some day, and counting two heads of departments
among their friends.
But M. Caillard could not get rid of his one absorbing idea, and he felt
constantly unhappy because he had not the right to wear a little bit of
colored ribbon in his buttonhole.
When he met any men who were decorated on the boulevards, he looked at
them askance, with intense jealousy. Sometimes, when he had nothing to
do in the afternoon, he would count them, and say to himself: "Just let
me see how many I shall meet between the Madeleine and the Rue Drouot."
Then he would walk slowly, looking at every coat with a practiced eye for
the little bit of red ribbon, and when he had got to the end of his walk
he always repeated the numbers aloud.
"Eight officers and seventeen knights. As many as that! It is stupid to
sow the cross broadcast in that fashion. I wonder how many I shall meet
And he returned slowly, unhappy when the crowd of passers-by interfered
with his vision.
He knew the places where most were to be found. They swarmed in the
Palais Royal. Fewer were seen in the Avenue de l'Opera than in the Rue
de la Paix, while the right side of the boulevard was more frequented by
them than the left.
They also seemed to prefer certain cafes and theatres. Whenever he saw a
group of white-haired old gentlemen standing together in the middle of
the pavement, interfering with the traffic, he used to say to himself:
"They are officers of the Legion of Honor," and he felt inclined to take
off his hat to them.
He had often remarked that the officers had a different bearing to the
mere knights. They carried their head differently, and one felt that
they enjoyed a higher official consideration and a more widely extended
Sometimes, however, the worthy man would be seized with a furious hatred
for every one who was decorated; he felt like a Socialist toward them.
Then, when he got home, excited at meeting so many crosses--just as a
poor, hungry wretch might be on passing some dainty provision shop--he
used to ask in a loud voice:
"When shall we get rid of this wretched government?"
And his wife would be surprised, and ask:
"What is the matter with you to-day?"
"I am indignant," he replied, "at the injustice I see going on around us.
Oh, the Communards were certainly right!"
After dinner he would go out again and look at the shops where the
decorations were sold, and he examined all the emblems of various shapes
and colors. He would have liked to possess them all, and to have walked
gravely at the head of a procession, with his crush hat under his arm and
his breast covered with decorations, radiant as a star, amid a buzz of
admiring whispers and a hum of respect.
But, alas! he had no right to wear any decoration whatever.
He used to say to himself: "It is really too difficult for any man to
obtain the Legion of Honor unless he is some public functionary. Suppose
I try to be appointed an officer of the Academy!"
But he did not know how to set about it, and spoke on the subject to his
wife, who was stupefied.
"Officer of the Academy! What have you done to deserve it?"
He got angry. "I know what I am talking about. I only want to know how
to set about it. You are quite stupid at times."
She smiled. "You are quite right. I don't understand anything about
An idea struck him: "Suppose you were to speak to M. Rosselin, the
deputy; he might be able to advise me. You understand I cannot broach
the subject to him directly. It is rather difficult and delicate, but
coming from you it might seem quite natural."
Mme. Caillard did what he asked her, and M. Rosselin promised to speak to
the minister about it; and then Caillard began to worry him, till the
deputy told him he must make a formal application and put forward his
"What were his charms?" he said. "He was not even a Bachelor of Arts."
However, he set to work and produced a pamphlet, with the title, "The
People's Right to Instruction," but he could not finish it for want of
He sought for easier subjects, and began several in succession. The
first was, "The Instruction of Children by Means of the Eye." He wanted
gratuitous theatres to be established in every poor quarter of Paris for
little children. Their parents were to take them there when they were
quite young, and, by means of a magic lantern, all the notions of human
knowledge were to be imparted to them. There were to be regular courses.
The sight would educate the mind, while the pictures would remain
impressed on the brain, and thus science would, so to say, be made
visible. What could be more simple than to teach universal history,
natural history, geography, botany, zoology, anatomy, etc., etc., in this
He had his ideas printed in pamphlets, and sent a copy to each deputy,
ten to each minister, fifty to the President of the Republic, ten to each
Parisian, and five to each provincial newspaper.
Then he wrote on "Street Lending-Libraries." His idea was to have little
pushcarts full of books drawn about the streets. Everyone would have a
right to ten volumes a month in his home on payment of one sou.
"The people," M. Caillard said, "will only disturb itself for the sake of
its pleasures, and since it will not go to instruction, instruction must
come to it," etc., etc.
His essays attracted no attention, but he sent in his application, and he
got the usual formal official reply. He thought himself sure of success,
but nothing came of it.
Then he made up his mind to apply personally. He begged for an interview
with the Minister of Public Instruction, and he was received by a young
subordinate, who was very grave and important, and kept touching the
knobs of electric bells to summon ushers, and footmen, and officials
inferior to himself. He declared to M. Caillard that his matter was
going on quite favorably, and advised him to continue his remarkable
labors, and M. Caillard set at it again.
M. Rosselin, the deputy, seemed now to take a great interest in his
success, and gave him a lot of excellent, practical advice. He, himself,
was decorated, although nobody knew exactly what he had done to deserve
such a distinction.
He told Caillard what new studies he ought to undertake; he introduced
him to learned societies which took up particularly obscure points of
science, in the hope of gaining credit and honors thereby; and he even
took him under his wing at the ministry.
One day, when he came to lunch with his friend--for several months past
he had constantly taken his meals there--he said to him in a whisper as
he shook hands: "I have just obtained a great favor for you. The
Committee of Historical Works is going to intrust you with a commission.
There are some researches to be made in various libraries in France."
Caillard was so delighted that he could scarcely eat or drink, and a week
later he set out. He went from town to town, studying catalogues,
rummaging in lofts full of dusty volumes, and was hated by all the
One day, happening to be at Rouen, he thought he should like to go and
visit his wife, whom he had not seen for more than a week, so he took the
nine o'clock train, which would land him at home by twelve at night.
He had his latchkey, so he went in without making any noise, delighted at
the idea of the surprise he was going to give her. She had locked
herself in. How tiresome! However, he cried out through the door:
"Jeanne, it is I!"
She must have been very frightened, for he heard her jump out of her bed
and speak to herself, as if she were in a dream. Then she went to her
dressing room, opened and closed the door, and went quickly up and down
her room barefoot two or three times, shaking the furniture till the
vases and glasses sounded. Then at last she asked:
"Is it you, Alexander?"
"Yes, yes," he replied; "make haste and open the door."
As soon as she had done so, she threw herself into his arms, exclaiming:
"Oh, what a fright! What a surprise! What a pleasure!"
He began to undress himself methodically, as he did everything, and took
from a chair his overcoat, which he was in the habit of hanging up in the
hall. But suddenly he remained motionless, struck dumb with
astonishment--there was a red ribbon in the buttonhole:
"Why," he stammered, "this--this--this overcoat has got the ribbon in
In a second, his wife threw herself on him, and, taking it from his
hands, she said:
"No! you have made a mistake--give it to me."
But he still held it by one of the sleeves, without letting it go,
repeating in a half-dazed manner:
"Oh! Why? Just explain--Whose overcoat is it? It is not mine, as it
has the Legion of Honor on it."
She tried to take it from him, terrified and hardly able to say:
"Listen--listen! Give it to me! I must not tell you! It is a secret.
Listen to me!"
But he grew angry and turned pale.
"I want to know how this overcoat comes to be here? It does not belong
Then she almost screamed at him:
"Yes, it does; listen! Swear to me--well--you are decorated!"
She did not intend to joke at his expense.
He was so overcome that he let the overcoat fall and dropped into an
"I am--you say I am--decorated?"
"Yes, but it is a secret, a great secret."
She had put the glorious garment into a cupboard, and came to her husband
pale and trembling.
"Yes," she continued, "it is a new overcoat that I have had made for you.
But I swore that I would not tell you anything about it, as it will not
be officially announced for a month or six weeks, and you were not to
have known till your return from your business journey. M. Rosselin
managed it for you."
"Rosselin!" he contrived to utter in his joy. "He has obtained the
decoration for me? He--Oh!"
And he was obliged to drink a glass of water.
A little piece of white paper fell to the floor out of the pocket of the
overcoat. Caillard picked it up; it was a visiting card, and he read
"You see how it is," said his wife.
He almost cried with joy, and, a week later, it was announced in the
Journal Officiel that M. Caillard had been awarded the Legion of Honor on
account of his exceptional services.
The Bondels were a happy family, and although they frequently quarrelled
about trifles, they soon became friends again.
Bondel was a merchant who had retired from active business after saving
enough to allow him to live quietly; he had rented a little house at
Saint-Germain and lived there with his wife. He was a quiet man with
very decided opinions; he had a certain degree of education and read
serious newspapers; nevertheless, he appreciated the gaulois wit.
Endowed with a logical mind, and that practical common sense which is the
master quality of the industrial French bourgeois, he thought little, but
clearly, and reached a decision only after careful consideration of the
matter in hand. He was of medium size, with a distinguished look, and
was beginning to turn gray.
His wife, who was full of serious qualities, had also several faults.
She had a quick temper and a frankness that bordered upon violence. She
bore a grudge a long time. She had once been pretty, but had now become
too stout and too red; but in her neighborhood at Saint-Germain she still
passed for a very beautiful woman, who exemplified health and an
Their dissensions almost always began at breakfast, over some trivial
matter, and they often continued all day and even until the following
day. Their simple, common, limited life imparted seriousness to the most
unimportant matters, and every topic of conversation became a subject of
dispute. This had not been so in the days when business occupied their
minds, drew their hearts together, and gave them common interests and
But at Saint-Germain they saw fewer people. It had been necessary to
make new acquaintances, to create for themselves a new world among
strangers, a new existence devoid of occupations. Then the monotony of
loneliness had soured each of them a little; and the quiet happiness
which they had hoped and waited for with the coming of riches did not
One June morning, just as they were sitting down to breakfast, Bondel
"Do you know the people who live in the little red cottage at the end of
the Rue du Berceau?"
Madame Bondel was out of sorts. She answered:
"Yes and no; I am acquainted with them, but I do not care to know them."
"Why not? They seem to be very nice."
"This morning I met the husband on the terrace and we took a little walk
Seeing that there was danger in the air, Bendel added: "It was he who
spoke to me first."
His wife looked at him in a displeased manner. She continued: "You would
have done just as well to avoid him."
"Because there are rumors about them."
"Oh! rumors such as one often hears!"
M. Bondel was, unfortunately, a little hasty. He exclaimed:
"My dear, you know that I abhor gossip. As for those people, I find them
She asked testily: "The wife also?"
"Why, yes; although I have barely seen her."
The discussion gradually grew more heated, always on the same subject for
lack of others. Madame Bondel obstinately refused to say what she had
heard about these neighbors, allowing things to be understood without
saying exactly what they were. Bendel would shrug his shoulders, grin,
and exasperate his wife. She finally cried out: "Well! that gentleman is
deceived by his wife, there!"
The husband answered quietly: "I can't see how that affects the honor of
She seemed dumfounded: "What! you don't see?--you don't see?--well,
that's too much! You don't see!--why, it's a public scandal! he is
He answered: "Ah! by no means! Should a man be considered disgraced
because he is deceived, because he is betrayed, robbed? No, indeed!
I'll grant you that that may be the case for the wife, but as for him--"
She became furious, exclaiming: "For him as well as for her. They are
both in disgrace; it's a public shame."
Bondel, very calm, asked: "First of all, is it true? Who can assert such
a thing as long as no one has been caught in the act?"
Madame Bondel was growing uneasy; she snapped: "What? Who can assert it?
Why, everybody! everybody! it's as clear as the nose on your face.
Everybody knows it and is talking about it. There is not the slightest
He was grinning: "For a long time people thought that the sun revolved
around the earth. This man loves his wife and speaks of her tenderly and
reverently. This whole business is nothing but lies!"
Stamping her foot, she stammered: "Do you think that that fool, that
idiot, knows anything about it?"
Bondel did not grow angry; he was reasoning clearly: "Excuse me. This
gentleman is no fool. He seemed to me, on the contrary, to be very
intelligent and shrewd; and you can't make me believe that a man with
brains doesn't notice such a thing in his own house, when the neighbors,
who are not there, are ignorant of no detail of this liaison--for I'll
warrant that they know everything."
Madame Bondel had a fit of angry mirth, which irritated her husband's
nerves. She laughed: "Ha! ha! ha! they're all the same! There's not a
man alive who could discover a thing like that unless his nose was stuck
The discussion was wandering to other topics now. She was exclaiming
over the blindness of deceived husbands, a thing which he doubted and
which she affirmed with such airs of personal contempt that he finally
grew angry. Then the discussion became an angry quarrel, where she took
the side of the women and he defended the men. He had the conceit to
declare: "Well, I swear that if I had ever been deceived, I should have
noticed it, and immediately, too. And I should have taken away your
desire for such things in such a manner that it would have taken more
than one doctor to set you on foot again!"
Boiling with anger, she cried out to him: "You! you! why, you're as big a
fool as the others, do you hear!"
He still maintained: "I can swear to you that I am not!"
She laughed so impertinently that he felt his heart beat and a chill run
down his back. For the third time he said:
"I should have seen it!"
She rose, still laughing in the same manner. She slammed the door and
left the room, saying: "Well! if that isn't too much!"
Bondel remained alone, ill at ease. That insolent, provoking laugh had
touched him to the quick. He went outside, walked, dreamed. The
realization of the loneliness of his new life made him sad and morbid.
The neighbor, whom he had met that morning, came to him with outstretched
hands. They continued their walk together. After touching on various
subjects they came to talk of their wives. Both seemed to have something
to confide, something inexpressible, vague, about these beings associated
with their lives; their wives. The neighbor was saying:
"Really, at times, one might think that they bear some particular ill-
will toward their husband, just because he is a husband. I love my wife
--I love her very much; I appreciate and respect her; well! there are
times when she seems to have more confidence and faith in our friends
than in me."
Bondel immediately thought: "There is no doubt; my wife was right!"
When he left this man he began to think things over again. He felt in
his soul a strange confusion of contradictory ideas, a sort of interior
burning; that mocking, impertinent laugh kept ringing in his ears and
seemed to say: "Why; you are just the same as the others, you fool!" That
was indeed bravado, one of those pieces of impudence of which a woman
makes use when she dares everything, risks everything, to wound and
humiliate the man who has aroused her ire. This poor man must also be
one of those deceived husbands, like so many others. He had said sadly:
"There are times when she seems to have more confidence and faith in our
friends than in me." That is how a husband formulated his observations
on the particular attentions of his wife for another man. That was all.
He had seen nothing more. He was like the rest--all the rest!
And how strangely Bondel's own wife had laughed as she said: "You, too--
you, too." How wild and imprudent these creatures are who can arouse
such suspicions in the heart for the sole purpose of revenge!
He ran over their whole life since their marriage, reviewed his mental
list of their acquaintances, to see whether she had ever appeared to show
more confidence in any one else than in himself. He never had suspected
any one, he was so calm, so sure of her, so confident.
But, now he thought of it, she had had a friend, an intimate friend, who
for almost a year had dined with them three times a week. Tancret, good
old Tancret, whom he, Bendel, loved as a brother and whom he continued to
see on the sly, since his wife, he did not know why, had grown angry at
the charming fellow.
He stopped to think, looking over the past with anxious eyes. Then he
grew angry at himself for harboring this shameful insinuation of the
defiant, jealous, bad ego which lives in all of us. He blamed and
accused himself when he remembered the visits and the demeanor of this
friend whom his wife had dismissed for no apparent reason. But,
suddenly, other memories returned to him, similar ruptures due to the
vindictive character of Madame Bondel, who never pardoned a slight. Then
he laughed frankly at himself for the doubts which he had nursed; and he
remembered the angry looks of his wife as he would tell her, when he
returned at night: "I saw good old Tancret, and he wished to be
remembered to you," and he reassured himself.
She would invariably answer: "When you see that gentleman you can tell
him that I can very well dispense with his remembrances." With what an
irritated, angry look she would say these words! How well one could feel
that she did not and would not forgive--and he had suspected her even for
a second? Such foolishness!
But why did she grow so angry? She never had given the exact reason for
this quarrel. She still bore him that grudge! Was it?--But no--no--and
Bondel declared that he was lowering himself by even thinking of such
Yes, he was undoubtedly lowering himself, but he could not help thinking
of it, and he asked himself with terror if this thought which had entered
into his mind had not come to stop, if he did not carry in his heart the
seed of fearful torment. He knew himself; he was a man to think over his
doubts, as formerly he would ruminate over his commercial operations, for
days and nights, endlessly weighing the pros and the cons.
He was already becoming excited; he was walking fast and losing his
calmness. A thought cannot be downed. It is intangible, cannot be
caught, cannot be killed.
Suddenly a plan occurred to him; it was bold, so bold that at first he
doubted whether he would carry it out.
Each time that he met Tancret, his friend would ask for news of Madame
Bondel, and Bondel would answer: "She is still a little angry." Nothing
more. Good Lord! What a fool he had been! Perhaps!
Well, he would take the train to Paris, go to Tancret, and bring him back
with him that very evening, assuring him that his wife's mysterious anger
had disappeared. But how would Madame Bondel act? What a scene there
would be! What anger! what scandal! What of it?--that would be
revenge! When she should come face to face with him, unexpectedly, he
certainly ought to be able to read the truth in their expressions.
He immediately went to the station, bought his ticket, got into the car,
and as soon as he felt him self being carried away by the train, he felt
a fear, a kind of dizziness, at what he was going to do. In order not to
weaken, back down, and return alone, he tried not to think of the matter
any longer, to bring his mind to bear on other affairs, to do what he had
decided to do with a blind resolution; and he began to hum tunes from
operettas and music halls until he reached Paris.
As soon as he found himself walking along the streets that led to
Tancret's, he felt like stopping, He paused in front of several shops,
noticed the prices of certain objects, was interested in new things, felt
like taking a glass of beer, which was not his usual custom; and as he
approached his friend's dwelling he ardently hoped not meet him. But
Tancret was at home, alone, reading. He jumped up in surprise, crying:
"Ah! Bondel! what luck!"
Bondel, embarrassed, answered: "Yes, my dear fellow, I happened to be in
Paris, and I thought I'd drop in and shake hands with you."
"That's very nice, very nice! The more so that for some time you have
not favored me with your presence very often."
"Well, you see--even against one's will, one is often influenced by
surrounding conditions, and as my wife seemed to bear you some ill-will"
"Jove! 'seemed'--she did better than that, since she showed me the door."
"What was the reason? I never heard it."
"Oh! nothing at all--a bit of foolishness--a discussion in which we did
not both agree."
"But what was the subject of this discussion?"
"A lady of my acquaintance, whom you may perhaps know by name, Madame
"Ah! really. Well, I think that my wife has forgotten her grudge, for
this very morning she spoke to me of you in very pleasant terms."
Tancret started and seemed so dumfounded that for a few minutes he could
find nothing to say. Then he asked: "She spoke of me--in pleasant
"You are sure?"
"Of course I am. I am not dreaming."
"And then--as I was coming to Paris I thought that I would please you by
coming to tell you the good news."
"Why, yes--why, yes--"
Bondel appeared to hesitate; then, after a short pause, he added: "I even
had an idea."
"What is it?"
"To take you back home with me to dinner."
Tancret, who was naturally prudent, seemed a little worried by this
proposition, and he asked: "Oh! really--is it possible? Are we not
exposing ourselves to--to--a scene?"
"No, no, indeed!"
"Because, you know, Madame Bendel bears malice for a long time."
"Yes, but I can assure you that she no longer bears you any ill--will.
I am even convinced that it will be a great pleasure for her to see you
"Well, then! let us go along. I am delighted. You see, this
misunderstanding was very unpleasant for me."
They set out together toward the Saint-Lazare station, arm in arm. They
made the trip in silence. Both seemed absorbed in deep meditation.
Seated in the car, one opposite the other, they looked at each other
without speaking, each observing that the other was pale.
Then they left the train and once more linked arms as if to unite against
some common danger. After a walk of a few minutes they stopped, a little
out of breath, before Bondel's house. Bondel ushered his friend into the
parlor, called the servant, and asked: "Is madame at home?"
"Please ask her to come down at once."
They dropped into two armchairs and waited. Both were filled with the
same longing to escape before the appearance of the much-feared person.
A well-known, heavy tread could be heard descending the stairs. A hand
moved the knob, and both men watched the brass handle turn. Then the
door opened wide, and Madame Bondel stopped and looked to see who was
there before she entered. She looked, blushed, trembled, retreated a
step, then stood motionless, her cheeks aflame and her hands resting
against the sides of the door frame.
Tancret, as pale as if about to faint, had arisen, letting fall his hat,
which rolled along the floor. He stammered out: "Mon Dieu--madame--it is
I--I thought--I ventured--I was so sorry--"
As she did not answer, he continued: "Will you forgive me?"
Then, quickly, carried away by some impulse, she walked toward him with
her hands outstretched; and when he had taken, pressed, and held these
two hands, she said, in a trembling, weak little voice, which was new to
"Ah! my dear friend--how happy I am!"
And Bondel, who was watching them, felt an icy chill run over him, as if
he had been dipped in a cold bath.
FOUND ON A DROWNED MAN
Madame, you ask me whether I am laughing at you? You cannot believe that
a man has never been in love. Well, then, no, no, I have never loved,
Why is this? I really cannot tell. I have never experienced that
intoxication of the heart which we call love! Never have I lived in that
dream, in that exaltation, in that state of madness into which the image
of a woman casts us. I have never been pursued, haunted, roused to fever
heat, lifted up to Paradise by the thought of meeting, or by the
possession of, a being who had suddenly become for me more desirable than
any good fortune, more beautiful than any other creature, of more
consequence than the whole world! I have never wept, I have never
suffered on account of any of you. I have not passed my nights
sleepless, while thinking of her. I have no experience of waking
thoughts bright with thought and memories of her. I have never known the
wild rapture of hope before her arrival, or the divine sadness of regret
when she went from me, leaving behind her a delicate odor of violet
I have never been in love.
I have also often asked myself why this is. And truly I can scarcely
tell. Nevertheless I have found some reasons for it; but they are of a
metaphysical character, and perhaps you will not be able to appreciate
I suppose I am too critical of women to submit to their fascination. I
ask you to forgive me for this remark. I will explain what I mean. In
every creature there is a moral being and a physical being. In order to
love, it would be necessary for me to find a harmony between these two
beings which I have never found. One always predominates; sometimes the
moral, sometimes the physical.
The intellect which we have a right to require in a woman, in order to
love her, is not the same as the virile intellect. It is more, and it is
less. A woman must be frank, delicate, sensitive, refined,
impressionable. She has no need of either power or initiative in
thought, but she must have kindness, elegance, tenderness, coquetry and
that faculty of assimilation which, in a little while, raises her to an
equality with him who shares her life. Her greatest quality must be
tact, that subtle sense which is to the mind what touch is to the body.
It reveals to her a thousand little things, contours, angles and forms on
the plane of the intellectual.
Very frequently pretty women have not intellect to correspond with their
personal charms. Now, the slightest lack of harmony strikes me and pains
me at the first glance. In friendship this is not of importance.
Friendship is a compact in which one fairly shares defects and merits.
We may judge of friends, whether man or woman, giving them credit for
what is good, and overlooking what is bad in them, appreciating them at
their just value, while giving ourselves up to an intimate, intense and
In order to love, one must be blind, surrender one's self absolutely, see
nothing, question nothing, understand nothing. One must adore the
weakness as well as the beauty of the beloved object, renounce all
judgment, all reflection, all perspicacity.
I am incapable of such blindness and rebel at unreasoning subjugation.
This is not all. I have such a high and subtle idea of harmony that
nothing can ever fulfill my ideal. But you will call me a madman.
Listen to me. A woman, in my opinion, may have an exquisite soul and
charming body without that body and that soul being in perfect harmony
with one another. I mean that persons who have noses made in a certain
shape should not be expected to think in a certain fashion. The fat have
no right to make use of the same words and phrases as the thin. You, who
have blue eyes, madame, cannot look at life and judge of things and
events as if you had black eyes. The shade of your eyes should
correspond, by a sort of fatality, with the shade of your thought. In
perceiving these things, I have the scent of a bloodhound. Laugh if you
like, but it is so.
And yet, once I imagined that I was in love for an hour, for a day.
I had foolishly yielded to the influence of surrounding circumstances.
I allowed myself to be beguiled by a mirage of Dawn. Would you like me
to tell you this short story?
I met, one evening, a pretty, enthusiastic little woman who took a poetic
fancy to spend a night with me in a boat on a river. I would have
preferred a room and a bed; however, I consented to the river and the
It was in the month of June. My fair companion chose a moonlight night
in order the better to stimulate her imagination.
We had dined at a riverside inn and set out in the boat about ten
o'clock. I thought it a rather foolish kind of adventure, but as my
companion pleased me I did not worry about it. I sat down on the seat
facing her; I seized the oars, and off we starred.
I could not deny that the scene was picturesque. We glided past a wooded
isle full of nightingales, and the current carried us rapidly over the
river covered with silvery ripples. The tree toads uttered their shrill,
monotonous cry; the frogs croaked in the grass by the river's bank, and
the lapping of the water as it flowed on made around us a kind of
confused murmur almost imperceptible, disquieting, and gave us a vague
sensation of mysterious fear.
The sweet charm of warm nights and of streams glittering in the moonlight
penetrated us. It was delightful to be alive and to float along thus,
and to dream and to feel at one's side a sympathetic and beautiful young
I was somewhat affected, somewhat agitated, somewhat intoxicated by the
pale brightness of the night and the consciousness of my proximity to a
"Come and sit beside me," she said.
She went on:
"Recite some poetry for me."
This appeared to be rather too much. I declined; she persisted. She
certainly wanted to play the game, to have a whole orchestra of
sentiment, from the moon to the rhymes of poets. In the end I had to
yield, and, as if in mockery, I repeated to her a charming little poem by
Louis Bouilhet, of which the following are the last verses:
"I hate the poet who with tearful eye
Murmurs some name while gazing tow'rds a star,
Who sees no magic in the earth or sky,
Unless Lizette or Ninon be not far.
"The bard who in all Nature nothing sees
Divine, unless a petticoat he ties
Amorously to the branches of the trees
Or nightcap to the grass, is scarcely wise.
"He has not heard the Eternal's thunder tone,
The voice of Nature in her various moods,
Who cannot tread the dim ravines alone,
And of no woman dream mid whispering woods."
I expected some reproaches. Nothing of the sort. She murmured: