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Selected Writings by Guy De Maupassant

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VOL. I {of III ??}



[*] At the close of the last volume will be found a complete list
of the French Titles of De Maupassant's writings, with their
English equivalents.


Of the French writers of romance of the latter part of the
nineteenth century no one made a reputation as quickly as did Guy
de Maupassant. Not one has preserved that reputation with more
ease, not only during life, but in death. None so completely
hides his personality in his glory. In an epoch of the utmost
publicity, in which the most insignificant deeds of a celebrated
man are spied, recorded, and commented on, the author of "Boule
de Suif," of "Pierre et Jean," of "Notre Coeur," found a way of
effacing his personality in his work.

Of De Maupassant we know that he was born in Normandy about 1850;
that he was the favorite pupil, if one may so express it, the
literary protege, of Gustave Flaubert; that he made his debut
late in 1880, with a novel inserted in a small collection,
published by Emile Zola and his young friends, under the title:
"The Soirees of Medan"; that subsequently he did not fail to
publish stories and romances every year up to 1891, when a
disease of the brain struck him down in the fullness of
production; and that he died, finally, in 1893, without having
recovered his reason.

We know, too, that he passionately loved a strenuous physical
life and long journeys, particularly long journeys upon the sea.
He owned a little sailing yacht, named after one of his books,
"Bel-Ami," in which he used to sojourn for weeks and months.
These meager details are almost the only ones that have been
gathered as food for the curiosity of the public.

I leave the legendary side, which is always in evidence in the
case of a celebrated man,--that gossip, for example, which avers
that Maupassant was a high liver and a worldling. The very number
of his volumes is a protest to the contrary. One could not write
so large a number of pages in so small a number of years without
the virtue of industry, a virtue incompatible with habits of
dissipation. This does not mean that the writer of these great
romances had no love for pleasure and had not tasted the world,
but that for him these were secondary things. The psychology of
his work ought, then, to find an interpretation other than that
afforded by wholly false or exaggerated anecdotes. I wish to
indicate here how this work, illumined by the three or four
positive data which I have given, appears to me to demand it.

And first, what does that anxiety to conceal his personality
prove, carried as it was to such an extreme degree? The answer
rises spontaneously in the minds of those who have studied
closely the history of literature. The absolute silence about
himself, preserved by one whose position among us was that of a
Tourgenief, or of a Merimee, and of a Moliere or a Shakespeare
among the classic great, reveals, to a person of instinct, a
nervous sensibility of extreme depth. There are many chances for
an artist of his kind, however timid, or for one who has some
grief, to show the depth of his emotion. To take up again only
two of the names just cited, this was the case with the author of
"Terres Vierges," and with the writer of "Colomba."

A somewhat minute analysis of the novels and romances of
Maupassant would suffice to demonstrate, even if we did not know
the nature of the incidents which prompted them, that he also
suffered from an excess of nervous emotionalism. Nine times out
of ten, what is the subject of these stories to which freedom of
style gives the appearance of health? A tragic episode. I cite,
at random, "Mademoiselle Fifi," "La Petite Roque," "Inutile
Beaute," "Le Masque," "Le Horla," "L'Epreuve," "Le Champ
d'Oliviers," among the novels, and among the romances, "Une Vie,"
"Pierre et Jean," "Fort comme la Mort," "Notre Coeur." His
imagination aims to represent the human being as imprisoned in a
situation at once insupportable and inevitable. The spell of this
grief and trouble exerts such a power upon the writer that he
ends stories commenced in pleasantry with some sinister drama.
Let me instance "Saint-Antonin," "A Midnight Revel," "The Little
Cask," and "Old Amable." You close the book at the end of these
vigorous sketches, and feel how surely they point to constant
suffering on the part of him who executed them.

This is the leading trait in the literary physiognomy of
Maupassant, as it is the leading and most profound trait in the
psychology of his work, viz, that human life is a snare laid by
nature, where joy is always changed to misery, where noble words
and the highest professions of faith serve the lowest plans and
the most cruel egoism, where chagrin, crime, and folly are
forever on hand to pursue implacably our hopes, nullify our
virtues, and annihilate our wisdom. But this is not the whole.

Maupassant has been called a literary nihilist--but (and this is
the second trait of his singular genius) in him nihilism finds
itself coexistent with an animal energy so fresh and so intense
that for a long time it deceives the closest observer. In an
eloquent discourse, pronounced over his premature grave, Emile
Zola well defined this illusion: "We congratulated him," said he,
"upon that health which seemed unbreakable, and justly credited
him with the soundest constitution of our band, as well as with
the clearest mind and the sanest reason. It was then that this
frightful thunderbolt destroyed him."

It is not exact to say that the lofty genius of De Maupassant was
that of an absolutely sane man. We comprehend it to-day, and, on
re-reading him, we find traces everywhere of his final malady.
But it is exact to say that this wounded genius was, by a
singular circumstance, the genius of a robust man. A physiologist
would without doubt explain this anomaly by the coexistence of a
nervous lesion, light at first, with a muscular, athletic
temperament. Whatever the cause, the effect is undeniable. The
skilled and dainty pessimism of De Maupassant was accompanied by
a vigor and physique very unusual. His sensations are in turn
those of a hunter and of a sailor, who have, as the old French
saying expressively puts it, "swift foot, eagle eye," and who are
attuned to all the whisperings of nature.

The only confidences that he has ever permitted his pen to tell
of the intoxication of a free, animal existence are in the
opening pages of the story entitled "Mouche," where he recalls,
among the sweetest memories of his youth, his rollicking canoe
parties upon the Seine, and in the description in "La Vie
Errante" of a night spent on the sea,--"to be alone upon the
water under the sky, through a warm night,"--in which he speaks
of the happiness of those "who receive sensations through the
whole surface of their flesh, as they do through their eyes,
their mouth, their ears, and sense of smell."

His unique and too scanty collection of verses, written in early
youth, contains the two most fearless, I was going to say the
most ingenuous, paeans, perhaps, that have been written since the
Renaissance: "At the Water's Edge" (Au Bord de l'Eau) and the
"Rustic Venus" (La Venus Rustique). But here is a paganism whose
ardor, by a contrast which brings up the ever present duality of
his nature, ends in an inexpressible shiver of scorn:

"We look at each other, astonished, immovable,
And both are so pale that it makes us fear."
* * * * * * *

"Alas! through all our senses slips life itself away."

This ending of the "Water's Edge" is less sinister than the
murder and the vision of horror which terminate the pantheistic
hymn of the "Rustic Venus." Considered as documents revealing the
cast of mind of him who composed them, these two lyrical essays
are especially significant, since they were spontaneous. They
explain why De Maupassant, in the early years of production,
voluntarily chose, as the heroes of his stories, creatures very
near to primitive existence, peasants, sailors, poachers, girls
of the farm, and the source of the vigor with which he describes
these rude figures. The robustness of his animalism permits him
fully to imagine all the simple sensations of these beings, while
his pessimism, which tinges these sketches of brutal customs with
an element of delicate scorn, preserves him from coarseness. It
is this constant and involuntary antithesis which gives unique
value to those Norman scenes which have contributed so much to
his glory. It corresponds to, those two contradictory tendencies
in literary art, which seek always to render life in motion with
the most intense coloring, and still to make more and more subtle
the impression of this life. How is one ambition to be satisfied
at the same time as the other, since all gain in color and
movement brings about a diminution of sensibility, and
conversely? The paradox of his constitution permitted to
Maupassant this seemingly impossible accord, aided as he was by
an intellect whose influence was all powerful upon his
development--the writer I mention above, Gustave Flaubert.

These meetings of a pupil and a master, both great, are indeed
rare. They present, in fact, some troublesome conditions, the
first of which is a profound analogy between two types of
thought. There must have been, besides, a reciprocity of
affection, which does not often obtain between a renowned senior
who is growing old and an obscure junior, whose renown is
increasing. From generation to generation, envy reascends no less
than she redescends. For the honor of French men of letters, let
us add that this exceptional phenomenon has manifested itself
twice in the nineteenth century. Merimee, whom I have also named,
received from Stendhal, at twenty, the same benefits that
Maupassant received from Flaubert.

The author of "Une Vie" and the writer of "Clara Jozul" resemble
each other, besides, in a singular and analogous circumstance.
Both achieved renown at the first blow, and by a masterpiece
which they were able to equal but never surpass. Both were
misanthropes early in life, and practised to the end the ancient
advice that the disciple of Beyle carried upon his seal: memneso apistein>--"Remember to distrust." And, at the same time,
both had delicate, tender hearts under this affectation of
cynicism, both were excellent sons, irreproachable friends,
indulgent masters, and both were idolized by their inferiors.
Both were worldly, yet still loved a wanderer's life; both joined
to a constant taste for luxury an irresistible desire for
solitude. Both belonged to the extreme left of the literature of
their epoch, but kept themselves from excess and used with a
judgment marvelously sure the sounder principles of their school.
They knew how to remain lucid and classic, in taste as much as in
form--Merimee through all the audacity of a fancy most exotic,
and Maupassant in the realism of the most varied and exact
observation. At a little distance they appear to be two patterns,
identical in certain traits, of the same family of minds, and
Tourgenief, who knew and loved the one and the other, never
failed to class them as brethren.

They are separated, however, by profound differences, which
perhaps belong less to their nature than to that of the masters
from whom they received their impulses: Stendhal, so alert, so
mobile, after a youth passed in war and a ripe age spent in
vagabond journeys, rich in experiences, immediate and personal;
Flaubert so poor in direct impressions, so paralyzed by his
health, by his family, by his theories even, and so rich in
reflections, for the most part solitary.

Among the theories of the anatomist of "Madame Bovary," there are
two which appear without ceasing in his Correspondence, under one
form or another, and these are the ones which are most strongly
evident in the art of De Maupassant. We now see the consequences
which were inevitable by reason of them, endowed as Maupassant
was with a double power of feeling life bitterly, and at the same
time with so much of animal force. The first theory bears upon
the choice of personages and the story of the romance, the second
upon the character of the style. The son of a physician, and
brought up in the rigors of scientific method, Flaubert believed
this method to be efficacious in art as in science. For instance,
in the writing of a romance, he seemed to be as scientific as in
the development of a history of customs, in which the essential
is absolute exactness and local color. He therefore naturally
wished to make the most scrupulous and detailed observation of
the environment.

Thus is explained the immense labor in preparation which his
stories cost him--the story of "Madame Bovary," of "The
Sentimental Education," and "Bouvard and Pecuchet," documents
containing as much minutiae as his historical stories. Beyond
everything he tried to select details that were eminently
significant. Consequently he was of the opinion that the romance
writer should discard all that lessened this significance, that
is, extraordinary events and singular heroes. The exceptional
personage, it seemed to him, should be suppressed, as should also
high dramatic incident, since, produced by causes less general,
these have a range more restricted. The truly scientific romance
writer, proposing to paint a certain class, will attain his end
more effectively if he incarnate personages of the middle order,
and, consequently, paint traits common to that class. And not
only middle-class traits, but middle-class adventures.

From this point of view, examine the three great romances of the
Master from Rouen, and you will see that he has not lost sight of
this first and greatest principle of his art, any more than he
has of the second, which was that these documents should be drawn
up in prose of absolutely perfect technique. We know with what
passionate care he worked at his phrases, and how indefatigably
he changed them over and over again. Thus he satisfied that
instinct of beauty which was born of his romantic soul, while he
gratified the demand of truth which inhered from his scientific
training by his minute and scrupulous exactness.

The theory of the mean of truth on one side, as the foundation of
the subject,--"the humble truth," as he termed it at the
beginning of "Une Vie,"--and of the agonizing of beauty on the
other side, in composition, determines the whole use that
Maupassant made of his literary gifts. It helped to make more
intense and more systematic that dainty yet dangerous pessimism
which in him was innate. The mid- dle-class personage, in
wearisome society like ours, is always a caricature, and the
happenings are nearly always vulgar. When one studies a great
number of them, one finishes by looking at humanity from the
angle of disgust and despair. The philosophy of the romances and
novels of De Maupassant is so continuously and profoundly
surprising that one becomes overwhelmed by it. It reaches
limitation; it seems to deny that man is susceptible to grandeur,
or that motives of a superior order can uplift and ennoble the
soul, but it does so with a sorrow that is profound. All that
portion of the sentimental and moral world which in itself is the
highest remains closed to it.

In revenge, this philosophy finds itself in a relation cruelly
exact with the half-civilization of our day. By that I mean the
poorly educated individual who has rubbed against knowledge
enough to justify a certain egoism, but who is too poor in
faculty to conceive an ideal, and whose native grossness is
corrupted beyond redemption. Under his blouse, or under his
coat--whether he calls himself Renardet, as does the foul
assassin in "Petite Roque," or Duroy, as does the sly hero of
"Bel-Ami," or Bretigny, as does the vile seducer of "Mont Oriol,"
or Cesaire, the son of Old Amable in the novel of that name,
--this degraded type abounds in Maupassant's stories, evoked with
a ferocity almost jovial where it meets the robustness of
temperament which I have pointed out, a ferocity which gives them
a reality more exact still because the half-civilized person is
often impulsive and, in consequence, the physical easily
predominates. There, as elsewhere, the degenerate is everywhere a
degenerate who gives the impression of being an ordinary man.

There are quantities of men of this stamp in large cities. No
writer has felt and expressed this complex temperament with more
justice than De Maupassant, and, as he was an infinitely careful
observer of milieu and landscape and all that constitutes a
precise middle distance, his novels can be considered an
irrefutable record of the social classes which he studied at a
certain time and along certain lines. The Norman peasant and the
Provencal peasant, for example; also the small officeholder, the
gentleman of the provinces, the country squire, the clubman of
Paris, the journalist of the boulevard, the doctor at the spa,
the commercial artist, and, on the feminine side, the servant
girl, the working girl, the demigrisette, the street girl, rich
or poor, the gallant lady of the city and of the provinces, and
the society woman--these are some of the figures that he has
painted at many sittings, and whom he used to such effect that
the novels and romances in which they are painted have come to be
history. Just as it is impossible to comprehend the Rome of the
Caesars without the work of Petronius, so is it impossible to
fully comprehend the France of 1850-90 without these stories of
Maupassant. They are no more the whole image of the country than
the "Satyricon" was the whole image of Rome, but what their
author has wished to paint, he has painted to the life and with a
brush that is graphic in the extreme.

If Maupassant had only painted, in general fashion, the
characters and the phase of literature mentioned he would not be
distinguished from other writers
of the group called "naturalists." His true glory is in the
extraordinary superiority of his art. He did not invent it, and
his method is not alien to that of "Madame Bovary," but he knew
how to give it a suppleness, a variety, and a freedom which were
always wanting in Flaubert. The latter, in his best pages, is
always strained. To use the expressive metaphor of the Greek
athletes, he "smells of the oil." When one recalls that when
attacked by hysteric epilepsy, Flaubert postponed the crisis of
the terrible malady by means of sedatives, this strained
atmosphere of labor--I was going to say of stupor--which pervades
his work is explained. He is an athlete, a runner, but one who
drags at his feet a terrible weight. He is in the race only for
the prize of effort, an effort of which every motion reveals the

Maupassant, on the other hand, if he suffered from a nervous
lesion, gave no sign of it, except in his heart. His intelligence
was bright and lively, and above all, his imagination, served by
senses always on the alert, preserved for some years an
astonishing freshness of direct vision. If his art was due to
Flaubert, it is no more belittling to him than if one call
Raphael an imitator of Perugini.

Like Flaubert, he excelled in composing a story, in distributing
the facts with subtle gradation, in bringing in at the end of a
familiar dialogue something startlingly dramatic; but such
composition, with him, seems easy, and while the descriptions are
marvelously well established in his stories, the reverse is true
of Flaubert's, which always appear a little veneered.
Maupassant's phrasing, however dramatic it may be, remains easy
and flowing.

Maupassant always sought for large and harmonious rhythm in his
deliberate choice of terms, always chose sound, wholesome
language, with a constant care for technical beauty. Inheriting
from his master an instrument already forged, he wielded it with
a surer skill. In the quality of his style, at once so firm and
clear, so gorgeous yet so sober, so supple and so firm, he equals
the writers of the seventeenth century. His method, so deeply and
simply French, succeeds in giving an indescribable "tang" to his
descriptions. If observation from nature imprints upon his tales
the strong accent of reality, the prose in which they are shrined
so conforms to the genius of the race as to smack of the soil.

It is enough that the critics of to-day place Guy de Maupassant
among our classic writers. He has his place in the ranks of pure
French genius, with the Regniers, the La Fontaines, the Molieres.
And those signs of secret ill divined everywhere under this
wholesome prose surround it for those who knew and loved him with
a pathos that is inexpressible. {signature}


BORN in the middle year of the nineteenth century, and fated
unfortunately never to see its close, Guy de Maupassant was
probably the most versatile and brilliant among the galaxy of
novelists who enriched French literature between the years 1800
and 1900. Poetry, drama, prose of short and sustained effort, and
volumes of travel and description, each sparkling with the same
minuteness of detail and brilliancy of style, flowed from his pen
during the twelve years of his literary life.

Although his genius asserted itself in youth, he had the patience
of the true artist, spending his early manhood in cutting and
polishing the facets of his genius under the stern though
paternal mentorship of Gustave Flaubert. Not until he had
attained the age of thirty did he venture on publication,
challenging criticism for the first time with a volume of poems.

Many and various have been the judgments passed upon Maupassant's
work. But now that the perspective of time is lengthening,
enabling us to form a more deliberate, and therefore a juster,
view of his complete achievement, we are driven irresistibly to
the conclusion that the force that shaped and swayed Maupassant's
prose writings was the conviction that in life there could be no
phase so noble or so mean, so honorable or so contemptible, so
lofty or so low as to be unworthy of chronicling,--no groove of
human virtue or fault, success or failure, wisdom or folly that
did not possess its own peculiar psychological aspect and
therefore demanded analysis.

To this analysis Maupassant brought a facile and dramatic pen, a
penetration as searching as a probe, and a power of psychological
vision that in its minute detail, now pathetic, now ironical, in
its merciless revelation of the hidden springs of the human
heart, whether of aristocrat, bourgeois, peasant, or priest,
allow one to call him a Meissonier in words.

The school of romantic realism which was founded by Merimee and
Balzac found its culmination in De Maupassant. He surpassed his
mentor, Flaubert, in the breadth and vividness of his work, and
one of the greatest of modern French critics has recorded the
deliberate opinion, that of all Taine's pupils Maupassant had the
greatest command of language and the most finished and incisive
style. Robust in imagination and fired with natural passion, his
psychological curiosity kept him true to human nature, while at
the same time his mental eye, when fixed upon the most ordinary
phases of human conduct, could see some new motive or aspect of
things hitherto unnoticed by the careless crowd.

It has been said by casual critics that Maupassant lacked one
quality indispensable to the production of truly artistic work,
viz: an absolutely normal, that is, moral, point of view. The
answer to this criticism is obvious. No dissector of the gamut of
human pas- sion and folly in all its tones could present aught
that could be called new, if ungifted with a viewpoint totally
out of the ordinary plane. Cold and merciless in the use of this
point de vue De Maupassant undoubtedly is, especially in such
vivid depictions of love, both physical and maternal, as we find
in "L'histoire d'une fille de ferme" and "La femme de Paul." But
then the surgeon's scalpel never hesitates at giving pain, and
pain is often the road to health and ease. Some of Maupassant's
short stories are sermons more forcible than any moral
dissertation could ever be.

Of De Maupassant's sustained efforts "Une Vie" may bear the palm.
This romance has the distinction of having changed Tolstoi from
an adverse critic into a warm admirer of the author. To quote the
Russian moralist upon the book:

" 'Une Vie' is a romance of the best type, and in my judgment the
greatest that has been produced by any French writer since Victor
Hugo penned 'Les Miserables.' Passing over the force and
directness of the narrative, I am struck by the intensity, the
grace, and the insight with which the writer treats the new
aspects of human nature which he finds in the life he describes."

And as if gracefully to recall a former adverse criticism,
Tolstoi adds:

"I find in the book, in almost equal strength, the three cardinal
qualities essential to great work, viz: moral purpose, perfect
style, and absolute sincerity. . . . Maupassant is a man whose
vision has penetrated the silent depths of human life, and from
that vantage- ground interprets the struggle of humanity."

"Bel-Ami" appeared almost two years after "Une Vie," that is to
say, about 1885. Discussed and criticised as it has been, it is
in reality a satire, an indignant outburst against the corruption
of society which in the story enables an ex-soldier, devoid of
conscience, honor, even of the commonest regard for others, to
gain wealth and rank. The purport of the story is clear to those
who recognize the ideas that governed Maupassant's work, and even
the hasty reader or critic, on reading "Mont Oriol," which was
published two years later and is based on a combination of the
motifs which inspired "Une Vie" and "Bel-Ami," will reconsider
former hasty judgments, and feel, too, that beneath the triumph
of evil which calls forth Maupassant's satiric anger there lies
the substratum on which all his work is founded, viz: the
persistent, ceaseless questioning of a soul unable to reconcile
or explain the contradiction between love in life and inevitable
death. Who can read in "Bel-Ami" the terribly graphic description
of the consumptive journalist's demise, his frantic clinging to
life, and his refusal to credit the slow and merciless approach
of death, without feeling that the question asked at Naishapur
many centuries ago is still waiting for the solution that is
always promised but never comes?

In the romances which followed, dating from 1888 to 1890, a sort
of calm despair seems to have settled down upon De Maupassant's
attitude toward life. Psychologically acute as ever, and as
perfect in style and sincerity as before, we miss the note of
anger. Fatality is the keynote, and yet, sounding low, we detect
a genuine subtone of sorrow. Was it a prescience of 1893? So much
work to be done, so much work demanded of him, the world of
Paris, in all its brilliant and attractive phases, at his feet,
and yet--inevitable, ever advancing death, with the question of
life still unanswered.

This may account for some of the strained situations we find in
his later romances. Vigorous in frame and hearty as he was, the
atmosphere of his mental processes must have been vitiated to
produce the dainty but dangerous pessimism that pervades some of
his later work. This was partly a consequence of his honesty and
partly of mental despair. He never accepted other people's views
on the questions of life. He looked into such problems for
himself, arriving at the truth, as it appeared to him, by the
logic of events, often finding evil where he wished to find good,
but never hoodwinking himself or his readers by adapting or
distorting the reality of things to suit a preconceived idea.

Maupassant was essentially a worshiper of the eternal feminine.
He was persuaded that without the continual presence of the
gentler sex man's existence would be an emotionally silent
wilderness. No other French writer has described and analyzed so
minutely and comprehensively the many and various motives and
moods that shape the conduct of a woman in life. Take for
instance the wonderfully subtle analysis of a woman's heart as
wife and mother that we find in "Une Vie." Could aught be more
delicately incisive? Sometimes in describing the apparently
inexplicable conduct of a certain woman he leads his readers to a
point where a false step would destroy the spell and bring the
reproach of banality and ridicule upon the tale. But the
catastrophe never occurs. It was necessary to stand poised upon
the brink of the precipice to realize the depth of the abyss and
feel the terror of the fall.

Closely allied to this phase of Maupassant's nature was the
peculiar feeling of loneliness that every now and then breaks
irresistibly forth in the course of some short story. Of kindly
soul and genial heart, he suffered not only from the oppression
of spirit caused by the lack of humanity, kindliness, sanity, and
harmony which he encountered daily in the world at large, but he
had an ever abiding sense of the invincible, unbanishable
solitariness of his own inmost self. I know of no more poignant
expression of such a feeling than the cry of despair which rings
out in the short story called "Solitude," in which he describes
the insurmountable barrier which exists between man and man, or
man and woman, however intimate the friendship between them. He
could picture but one way of destroying this terrible loneliness,
the attainment of a spiritual--a divine--state of love, a
condition to which he would give no name utterable by human lips,
lest it be profaned, but for which his whole being yearned. How
acutely he felt his failure to attain his deliverance may be
drawn from his wail that mankind has no UNIVERSAL measure of

"Each one of us," writes De Maupassant, "forms for himself an
illusion through which he views the world, be it poetic,
sentimental, joyous, melancholy, or dismal; an illusion of
beauty, which is a human convention; of ugliness, which is a
matter of opinion; of truth, which, alas, is never immutable."
And he concludes by asserting that the happiest artist is he who
approaches most closely to the truth of things as he sees them
through his own particular illusion.

Salient points in De Maupassant's genius were that he possessed
the rare faculty of holding direct communion with his gifts, and
of writing from their dictation as it was interpreted by his
senses. He had no patience with writers who in striving to
present life as a whole purposely omit episodes that reveal the
influence of the senses. "As well," he says, "refrain from
describing the effect of intoxicating perfumes upon man as omit
the influence of beauty on the temperament of man."

De Maupassant's dramatic instinct was supremely powerful. He
seems to select unerringly the one thing in which the soul of the
scene is prisoned, and, making that his keynote, gives a picture
in words which haunt the memory like a strain of music. The
description of the ride of Madame Tellier and her companions in a
country cart through a Norman landscape is an admirable example.
You smell the masses of the colza in blossom, you see the yellow
carpets of ripe corn spotted here and there by the blue coronets
of the cornflower, and rapt by the red blaze of the poppy beds
and bathed in the fresh greenery of the landscape, you share in
the emotions felt by the happy party in the country cart. And yet
with all his vividness of description, De Maupassant is always
sober and brief. He had the genius of condensation and the
reserve which is innate in power, and to his reader could convey
as much in a paragraph as could be expressed in a page by many of
his predecessors and contemporaries, Flaubert not excepted.

Apart from his novels, De Maupassant's tales may be arranged
under three heads: Those that concern themselves with Norman
peasant life; those that deal with Government employees
(Maupassant himself had long been one) and the Paris middle
classes, and those that represent the life of the fashionable
world, as well as the weird and fantastic ideas of the later
years of his career. Of these three groups the tales of the
Norman peasantry perhaps rank highest. He depicts the Norman
farmer in surprisingly free and bold strokes, revealing him in
all his caution, astuteness, rough gaiety, and homely virtue.

The tragic stage of De Maupassant's life may, I think, be set
down as beginning just before the drama of "Musotte" was issued,
in conjunction with Jacques Normand, in 1891. He had almost given
up the hope of interpreting his puzzles, and the struggle between
the falsity of the life which surrounded him and the nobler
visions which possessed him was wearing him out. Doubtless he
resorted to unwise methods for the dispelling of physical
lassitude or for surcease from troubling mental problems. To this
period belong such weird and horrible fancies as are contained in
the short stories known as "He" and "The Diary of a Madman." Here
and there, we know, were rising in him inklings of a finer and
less sordid attitude 'twixt man and woman throughout the world
and of a purer constitution of existing things which no exterior
force should blemish or destroy. But with these yearningly
prophetic gleams came a period of mental death. Then the physical
veil was torn aside and for Guy de Maupassant the riddle of
existence was answered. {signature}


The Major Graf[1] von Farlsberg, the Prussian commandant, was
reading his newspaper, lying back in a great armchair, with his
booted feet on the beautiful marble fireplace, where his spurs
had made two holes, which grew deeper every day, during the three
months that he had been in the chateau of Urville.

[1] Count.

A cup of coffee was smoking on a small inlaid table, which was
stained with liquors burnt by cigars, notched by the penknife of
the victorious officer, who occasionally would stop while
sharpening a pencil, to jot down figures, or to make a drawing on
it, just as it took his fancy.

When he had read his letters and the German newspapers, which his
baggage-master had brought him, he got up, and after throwing
three or four enormous pieces of green wood on to the fire--for
these gentlemen were gradually cutting down the park in order to
keep themselves warm--he went to the window. The rain was
descending in torrents, a regular Normandy rain, which looked as
if it were being poured out by some furious hand, a slanting
rain, which was as thick as a curtain, and which formed a kind of
wall with oblique stripes, and which deluged everything, a
regular rain, such as one frequently experiences in the
neighborhood of Rouen, which is the watering-pot of France.

For a long time the officer looked at the sodden turf, and at the
swollen Andelle beyond it, which was overflowing its banks, and
he was drumming a waltz from the Rhine on the window-panes, with
his fingers, when a noise made him turn round; it was his second
in command, Captain Baron von Kelweinstein.

The major was a giant, with broad shoulders, and a long, fair
beard, which hung like a cloth on to his chest. His whole, solemn
person suggested the idea of a military peacock, a peacock who
was carrying his tail spread out on to his breast. He had cold,
gentle, blue eyes, and the scar from a sword-cut, which he had
received in the war with Austria; he was said to be an honorable
man, as well as a brave officer.

The captain, a short, red-faced man, who was tightly girthed in
at the waist, had his red hair cropped quite close to his head,
and in certain lights almost looked as if he had been rubbed over
with phosphorus. He had lost two front teeth one night, though he
could not quite remember how. This defect made him speak so that
he could not always be understood, and he had a bald patch on the
top of his head, which made him look rather like a monk, with a
fringe of curly, bright, golden hair round the circle of bare

The commandant shook hands with him, and drank his cup of coffee
(the sixth that morning) at a draught, while he listened to his
subordinate's report of what had occurred; and then they both
went to the window, and declared that it was a very unpleasant
outlook. The major, who was a quiet man, with a wife at home,
could accommodate himself to everything; but the captain, who was
rather fast, being in the habit of frequenting low resorts, and
much given to women, was mad at having been shut up for three
months in the compulsory chastity of that wretched hole.

There was a knock at the door, and when the commandant said,
"Come in," one of their automatic soldiers appeared, and by his
mere presence announced that breakfast was ready. In the dining-
room, they met three other officers of lower rank: a lieutenant,
Otto von Grossling, and two sub-lieutenants, Fritz Scheunebarg,
and Count von Eyrick a very short, fair-haired man, who was proud
and brutal toward men, harsh toward prisoners, and very violent.

Since he had been in France, his comrades had called him nothing
but "Mademoiselle Fifi." They had given him that nickname on
account of his dandified style and small waist, which looked as
if he wore stays, from his pale face, on which his budding
mustache scarcely showed, and on account of the habit he had
acquired of employing the French expression, fi, fi donc, which
he pronounced with a slight whistle, when he wished to express
his sovereign contempt for persons or things.

The dining-room of the chateau was a magnificent long room, whose
fine old mirrors, now cracked by pistol bullets, and Flemish
tapestry, now cut to ribbons and hanging in rags in places, from
sword-cuts, told too well what Mademoiselle Fifi's occupation was
during his spare time.

There were three family portraits on the walls; a steel-clad
knight, a cardinal, and a judge, who were all smoking long
porcelain pipes, which had been inserted into holes in the
canvas, while a lady in a long, pointed waist proudly exhibited
an enormous pair of mustaches, drawn with a piece of charcoal.

The officers ate their breakfast almost in silence in that
mutilated room, which looked dull in the rain, and melancholy
under its vanquished appearance, although its old, oak floor had
become as solid as the stone floor of a public-house.

When they had finished eating, and were smoking and drinking,
they began, as usual, to talk about the dull life they were
leading. The bottles of brandy and of liquors passed from hand to
hand, and all sat back in their chairs, taking repeated sips from
their glasses, and scarcely removing the long, bent stems, which
terminated in china bowls painted in a manner to delight a
Hottentot, from their mouths.

As soon as their glasses were empty, they filled them again, with
a gesture of resigned weariness, but Mademoiselle Fifi emptied
his every minute, and a soldier immediately gave him another.
They were enveloped in a cloud of strong tobacco smoke; they
seemed to be sunk in a state of drowsy, stupid intoxication, in
that dull state of drunkenness of men who have nothing to do,
when suddenly, the baron sat up, and said: "By heavens! This
cannot go on; we must think of something to do." And on hearing
this, Lieutenant Otto and Sub-lieutenant Fritz, who pre-eminently
possessed the grave, heavy German countenance, said: "What,

He thought for a few moments, and then replied "What? Well, we
must get up some entertainment; if the commandant will allow us."

"What sort of an entertainment, captain?" the major asked, taking
his pipe out of his mouth.

"I will arrange all that, commandant," the baron said. "I will
send Le Devoir to Rouen, who will bring us some ladies. I know
where they can be found. We will have supper here, as all the
materials are at hand, and, at least, we shall have a jolly

Graf von Farlsberg shrugged his shoulders with a smile: "You must
surely be mad, my friend."

But all the other officers got up, surrounded their chief, and
said: "Let the captain have his own way, commandant; it is
terribly dull here."

And the major ended by yielding. "Very well," he replied, and the
baron immediately sent for Le Devoir.

The latter was an old corporal who had never been seen to smile,
but who carried out all the orders of his superiors to the
letter, no matter what they might be. He stood there, with an
impassive face while he received the baron's instructions, and
then went out; five minutes later a large wagon belonging to the
military train, covered with a miller's tilt, galloped off as
fast as four horses could take it, under the pouring rain, and
the officers all seemed to awaken from their lethargy, their
looks brightened, and they began to talk.

Although it was raining as hard as ever, the major declared that
it was not so dull, and Lieutenant von Grossling said with
conviction, that the sky was clearing up, while Mademoiselle Fifi
did not seem to be able to keep in his place. He got up, and sat
down again, and his bright eyes seemed to be looking for
something to destroy. Suddenly, looking at the lady with the
mustaches, the young fellow pulled out his revolver, and said:
"You shall not see it." And without leaving his seat he aimed,
and with two successive bullets cut out both the eyes of the

"Let us make a mine!" he then exclaimed, and the conversation was
suddenly interrupted, as if they had found some fresh and
powerful subject of interest. The mine was his invention, his
method of destruction, and his favorite amusement.

When he left the chateau, the lawful owner, Count Fernand d'Amoys
d'Urville, had not had time to carry away or to hide anything,
except the plate, which had been stowed away in a hole made in
one of the walls, so that, as he was very rich and had good
taste, the large drawing-room, which opened into the dining-room,
had looked like the gallery in a museum, before his precipitate

Expensive oil-paintings, water-colors, and drawings hung upon the
walls, while on the tables, on the hanging shelves, and in
elegant glass cupboards, there were a thousand knickknacks: small
vases, statuettes, groups in Dresden china, grotesque Chinese
figures, old ivory, and Venetian glass, which filled the large
room with their precious and fantastical array.

Scarcely anything was left now; not that the things had been
stolen, for the major would not have allowed that, but
Mademoiselle Fifi WOULD HAVE A MINE, and on that occasion all the
officers thoroughly enjoyed themselves for five minutes. The
little marquis went into the drawing-room to get what he wanted,
and he brought back a small, delicate china teapot, which he
filled with gunpowder, and carefully introduced a piece of German
tinder into it, through the spout. Then he lighted it, and took
this infernal machine into the next room; but he came back
immediately and shut the door. The Germans all stood expectantly,
their faces full of childish, smiling curiosity, and as soon as
the explosion had shaken the chateau, they all rushed in at once.

Mademoiselle Fifi, who got in first, clapped his hands in delight
at the sight of a terra-cotta Venus, whose head had been blown
off, and each picked up pieces of porcelain, and wondered at the
strange shape of the fragments, while the major was looking with
a paternal eye at the large drawing-room which had been wrecked
in such a Neronic fashion, and which was strewn with the
fragments of works of art. He went out first, and said, with a
smile: "He managed that very well!"

But there was such a cloud of smoke in the dining-room, mingled
with the tobacco smoke, that they could not breathe, so the
commandant opened the window, and all the officers, who had gone
into the room for a glass of cognac, went up to it.

The moist air blew into the room, and brought a sort of spray
with it, which powdered their beards. They looked at the tall
trees which were dripping with the rain, at the broad valley
which was covered with mist, and at the church spire in the
distance, which rose up like a gray point in the beating rain.

The bells had not rung since their arrival. That was the only
resistance which the invaders had met with in the neighborhood.
The parish priest had not refused to take in and to feed the
Prussian soldiers; he had several times even drunk a bottle of
beer or claret with the hostile commandant, who often employed
him as a benevolent intermediary; but it was no use to ask him
for a single stroke of the bells; he would sooner have allowed
himself to be shot. That was his way of protesting against the
invasion, a peaceful and silent protest, the only one, he said,
which was suitable to a priest, who was a man of mildness, and
not of blood; and everyone, for twenty-five miles round, praised
Abbe Chantavoine's firmness and heroism, in venturing to proclaim
the public mourning by the obstinate silence of his church bells.

The whole village grew enthusiastic over his resistance, and was
ready to back up their pastor and to risk anything, as they
looked upon that silent protest as the safeguard of the national
honor. It seemed to the peasants that thus they had deserved
better of their country than Belfort and Strassburg, that they
had set an equally valuable example, and that the name of their
little village would become immortalized by that; but with that
exception, they refused their Prussian conquerors nothing.

The commandant and his officers laughed among themselves at that
inoffensive courage, and as the people in the whole country round
showed themselves obliging and compliant toward them, they
willingly tolerated their silent patriotism. Only little Count
Wilhelm would have liked to have forced them to ring the bells.
He was very angry at his superior's politic compliance with the
priest's scruples, and every day he begged the commandant to
allow him to sound "ding-dong, ding-dong," just once, only just
once, just by way of a joke. And he asked it like a wheedling
woman, in the tender voice of some mistress who wishes to obtain
something, but the commandant would not yield, and to console
HERSELF, Mademoiselle Fifi made A MINE in the chateau.

The five men stood there together for some minutes, inhaling the
moist air, and at last, Lieutenant Fritz said, with a laugh: "The
ladies will certainly not have fine weather for their drive."
Then they separated, each to his own duties, while the captain
had plenty to do in seeing about the dinner.

When they met again, as it was growing dark, they began to laugh
at seeing each other as dandified and smart as on the day of a
grand review. The commandant's hair did not look as gray as it
did in the morning, and the captain had shaved--had only kept his
mustache on, which made him look as if he had a streak of fire
under his nose.

In spite of the rain, they left the window open, and one of them
went to listen from time to time. At a quarter past six the baron
said he heard a rumbling in the distance. They all rushed down,
and soon the wagon drove up at a gallop with its four horses,
splashed up to their backs, steaming and panting. Five women got
out at the bottom of the steps, five handsome girls whom a
comrade of the captain, to whom Le Dervoir had taken his card,
had selected with care.

They had not required much pressing, as they were sure of being
well treated, for they had got to know the Prussians in the three
months during which they had had to do with them. So they
resigned themselves to the men as they did to the state of
affairs. "It is part of our business, so it must be done," they
said as they drove along; no doubt to allay some slight, secret
scruples of conscience.

They went into the dining-room immediately, which looked still
more dismal in its dilapidated state, when it was lighted up;
while the table covered with choice dishes, the beautiful china
and glass, and the plate, which had been found in the hole in the
wall where its owner had hidden it, gave to the place the look of
a bandits' resort, where they were supping after committing a
robbery. The captain was radiant; he took hold of the women as if
he were familiar with them; appraising them, kissing them,
valuing them for what they were worth as LADIES OF PLEASURE; and
when the three young men wanted to appropriate one each, he
opposed them authoritatively, reserving to himself the right to
apportion them justly, according to their several ranks, so as
not to wound the hierarchy. Therefore, so as to avoid all
discussion, jarring, and suspicion of partiality, he placed them
all in a line according to height, and addressing the tallest, he
said in a voice of command:

"What is your name?"

"Pamela," she replied, raising her voice.

Then he said: "Number One, called Pamela, is adjudged to the

Then, having kissed Blondina, the second, as a sign of
proprietorship, he proffered stout Amanda to Lieutenant Otto!
Eva, "the Tomato," to Sub-lieutenant Fritz, and Rachel, the
shortest of them all, a very young, dark girl, with eyes as black
as ink, a Jewess, whose snub nose confirmed by exception the rule
which allots hooked noses to all her race, to the youngest
officer, frail Count Wilhelm von Eyrick.

They were all pretty and plump, without any distinctive features,
and all were very much alike in look and person, from their daily
dissipation, and the life common to houses of public

The three younger men wished to carry off their women
immediately, under the pretext of finding them brushes and soap;
but the captain wisely opposed this, for he said they were quite
fit to sit down to dinner, and that those who went up would wish
for a change when they came down, and so would disturb the other
couples, and his experience in such matters carried the day.
There were only many kisses; expectant kisses.

Suddenly Rachel choked, and began to cough until the tears came
into her eyes, while smoke came through her nostrils. Under
pretense of kissing her, the count had blown a whiff of tobacco
into her mouth. She did not fly into a rage, and did not say a
word, but she looked at her possessor with latent hatred in her
dark eyes.

They sat down to dinner. The commandant seemed delighted; he made
Pamela sit on his right, and Blondina on his left, and said, as
he unfolded his table napkin: "That was a delightful idea of
yours, captain."

Lieutenants Otto and Fritz, who were as polite as if they had
been with fashionable ladies, rather intimidated their neighbors,
but Baron von Kelweinstein gave the reins to all his vicious
propensities, beamed, made doubtful remarks, and seemed on fire
with his crown of red hair. He paid them compliments in French
from the other side of the Rhine, and sputtered out gallant
remarks, only fit for a low pot-house, from between his two
broken teeth.

They did not understand him, however, and their intelligence did
not seem to be awakened until he uttered nasty words and broad
expressions, which were mangled by his accent. Then all began to
laugh at once, like mad women, and fell against each other,
repeating the words, which the baron then began to say all wrong,
in order that he might have the pleasure of hearing them say
doubtful things. They gave him as much of that stuff as he
wanted, for they were drunk after the first bottle of wine, and,
becoming themselves once more, and opening the door to their
usual habits, they kissed the mustaches on the right and left of
them, pinched their arms, uttered furious cries, drank out of
every glass, and sang French couplets, and bits of German songs,
which they had picked up in their daily intercourse with the

Soon the men themselves, intoxicated by that which was displayed
to their sight and touch, grew very amorous, shouted and broke
the plates and dishes, while the soldiers behind them waited on
them stolidly. The commandant was the only one who put any
restraint upon himself.

Mademoiselle Fifi had taken Rachel on to his knees, and, getting
excited, at one moment kissed the little black curls on her neck,
inhaling the pleasant warmth of her body, and all the savor of
her person, through the slight space there was between her dress
and her skin, and at another pinched her furiously through the
material, and made her scream, for he was seized with a species
of ferocity, and tormented by his desire to hurt her. He often
held her close to him, as if to make her part of himself, and put
his lips in a long kiss on the Jewess's rosy mouth, until she
lost her breath; and at last he bit her until a stream of blood
ran down her chin and on to her bodice.

For the second time, she looked him full in the face, and as she
bathed the wound, she said: "You will have to pay for that!"

But he merely laughed a hard laugh, and said: "I will pay."

At dessert, champagne was served, and the commandant rose, and in
the same voice in which he would have drunk to the health of the
Empress Augusta, he drank: "To our ladies!" Then a series of
toasts began, toasts worthy of the lowest soldiers and of
drunkards, mingled with filthy jokes, which were made still more
brutal by their ignorance of the language. They got up, one after
the other, trying to say something witty, forcing themselves to
be funny, and the women, who were so drunk that they almost fell
off their chairs, with vacant looks and clammy tongues, applauded
madly each time.

The captain, who no doubt wished to impart an appearance of
gallantry to the orgy, raised his glass again, and said: "To our
victories over hearts!" Thereupon Lieutenant Otto, who was a
species of bear from the Black Forest, jumped up, inflamed and
saturated with drink, and seized by an access of alcoholic
patriotism, cried: "To our victories over France!"

Drunk as they were, the women were silent, and Rachel turned
round with a shudder, and said: "Look here, I know some
Frenchmen, in whose presence you would not dare to say that." But
the little count, still holding her on his knees, began to laugh,
for the wine had made him very merry, and said: "Ha! ha! ha! I
have never met any of them, myself. As soon as we show ourselves,
they run away!"

The girl, who was in a terrible rage, shouted into his face: "You
are lying, you dirty scoundrel!"

For a moment, he looked at her steadily, with his bright eyes
upon her, as he had looked at the portrait before he destroyed it
with revolver bullets, and then he began to laugh: "Ah! yes, talk
about them, my dear! Should we be here now, if they were brave?"
Then getting excited, he exclaimed: "We are the masters! France
belongs to us!" She jumped off his knees with a bound, and threw
herself into her chair, while he rose, held out his glass over
the table, and repeated: "France and the French, the woods, the
fields, and the houses of France belong to us!"

The others, who were quite drunk, and who were suddenly seized by
military enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of brutes, seized their
glasses, and shouting, "Long live Prussia!" emptied them at a

The girls did not protest, for they were reduced to silence, and
were afraid. Even Rachel did not say a word, as she had no reply
to make, and then the little count put his champagne glass, which
had just been refilled, on to the head of the Jewess, and
exclaimed: "All the women in France belong to us, also!"

At that she got up so quickly that the glass upset, spilling the
amber colored wine on to her black hair as if to baptize her, and
broke into a hundred fragments as it fell on to the floor. With
trembling lips, she defied the looks of the officer, who was
still laughing, and she stammered out, in a voice choked with
rage: "That--that--that--is not true,--for you shall certainly
not have any French women."

He sat down again, so as to laugh at his ease, and trying
ineffectually to speak in the Parisian accent, he said: "That is
good, very good! Then what did you come here for, my dear?"

She was thunderstruck, and made no reply for a moment, for in her
agitation she did not understand him at first; but as soon as she
grasped his meaning, she said to him indignantly and vehemently:
"I! I! I am not a woman; I am only a strumpet, and that is all
that Prussians want."

Almost before she had finished, he slapped her full in her face;
but as he was raising his hand again as if he would strike her,
she, almost mad with passion, took up a small dessert knife from
the table, and stabbed him right in the neck, just above the
breastbone. Something that he was going to say, was cut short in
his throat, and he sat there, with his mouth half open, and a
terrible look in his eyes.

All the officers shouted in horror, and leaped up tumultuously;
but throwing her chair between Lieutenant Otto's legs, who fell
down at full length, she ran to the window, opened it before they
could seize her, and jumped out into the night and pouring rain.

In two minutes, Mademoiselle Fifi was dead. Fritz and Otto drew
their swords and wanted to kill the women, who threw themselves
at their feet and clung to their knees. With some difficulty the
major stopped the slaughter, and had the four terrified girls
locked up in a room under the care of two soldiers. Then he
organized the pursuit of the fugitive, as carefully as if he were
about to engage in a skirmish, feeling quite sure that she would
be caught.

The table, which had been cleared immediately, now served as a
bed on which to lay Fifi out, and the four officers made for the
window, rigid and sobered, with the stern faces of soldiers on
duty, and tried to pierce through the darkness of the night, amid
the steady torrent of rain. Suddenly, a shot was heard, and then
another, a long way off; and for four hours they heard, from time
to time, near or distant reports and rallying cries, strange
words uttered as a call, in guttural voices.

In the morning they all returned. Two soldiers had been killed
and three others wounded by their comrades in the ardor of that
chase, and in the confusion of such a nocturnal pursuit, but they
had not caught Rachel.

Then the inhabitants of the district were terrorized, the houses
were turned topsy-turvy, the country was scoured and beaten up,
over and over again, but the Jewess did not seem to have left a
single trace of her passage behind her.

When the general was told of it, he gave orders to hush up the
affair, so as not to set a bad example to the army, but he
severely censured the commandant, who in turn punished his
inferiors. The general had said: "One does not go to war in order
to amuse oneself, and to caress prostitutes." And Graf von
Farlsberg, in his exasperation, made up his mind to have his
revenge on the district, but as he required a pretext for showing
severity, he sent for the priest and ordered him to have the bell
tolled at the funeral of Count von Eyrick.

Contrary to all expectation, the priest showed himself humble and
most respectful, and when Mademoiselle Fifi's body left the
Chateau d'Urville on its way to the cemetery, carried by
soldiers, preceded, surrounded, and followed by soldiers, who
marched with loaded rifles, for the first time the bell sounded
its funereal knell in a lively manner, as if a friendly hand were
caressing it. At night it sounded again, and the next day, and
every day; it rang as much as anyone could desire. Sometimes
even, it would start at night, and sound gently through the
darkness, seized by strange joy, awakened, one could not tell
why. All the peasants in the neighborhood declared that it was
bewitched, and nobody, except the priest and the sacristan would
now go near the church tower, and they went because a poor girl
was living there in grief and solitude, secretly nourished by
those two men.

She remained there until the German troops departed, and then one
evening the priest borrowed the baker's cart, and himself drove
his prisoner to Rouen. When they got there, he embraced her, and
she quickly went back on foot to the establishment from which she
had come, where the proprietress, who thought that she was dead,
was very glad to see her.

A short time afterward, a patriot who had no prejudices, who
liked her because of her bold deed, and who afterward loved her
for herself, married her, and made a lady of her.


Paris had just heard of the disaster of Sedan. The Republic was
proclaimed. All France was panting from a madness that lasted
until the time of the Commonwealth. Everybody was playing at
soldier from one end of the country to the other.

Capmakers became colonels, assuming the duties of generals;
revolvers and daggers were displayed on large rotund bodies,
enveloped in red sashes; common citizens turned warriors,
commanding battalions of noisy volunteers, and swearing like
troopers to emphasize their importance.

The very fact of bearing arms and handling guns with a system
excited a people who hitherto had only handled scales and
measures, and made them formidable to the first comer, without
reason. They even executed a few innocent people to prove that
they knew how to kill; and, in roaming through virgin fields
still belonging to the Prussians, they shot stray dogs, cows
chewing the cud in peace, or sick horses put out to pasture. Each
believed himself called upon to play a great role in military
affairs. The cafes of the smallest villages, full of tradesmen in
uniform, resembled barracks or field hospitals.

Now, the town of Canneville did not yet know the exciting news of
the army and the Capital. It had, however, been greatly agitated
for a month over an encounter between the rival political
parties. The mayor, Viscount de Varnetot, a small, thin man,
already old, remained true to the Empire, especially since he saw
rising up against him a powerful adversary, in the great,
sanguine form of Doctor Massarel, head of the Republican party in
the district, venerable chief of the Masonic lodge, president of
the Society of Agriculture and of the Fire Department, and
organizer of the rural militia designed to save the country.

In two weeks he had induced sixty-three men to volunteer in
defense of their country--married men, fathers of families,
prudent farmers and merchants of the town. These he drilled every
morning in front of the mayor's window.

Whenever the mayor happened to appear, Commander Massarel,
covered with pistols, passing proudly up and down in front of his
troops, would make them shout, "Long live our country!" And this,
they noticed, disturbed the little viscount, who no doubt heard
in it menace and defiance, and perhaps some odious recollection
of the great Revolution.

On the morning of the fifth of September, in uniform, his
revolver on the table, the doctor gave consultation to an old
peasant couple. The husband had suffered with a varicose vein for
seven years, but had waited until his wife had one too, so that
they might go and hunt up a physician together, guided by the
postman when he should come with the newspaper.

Dr. Massarel opened the door, grew pale, straightened himself
abruptly and, raising his arms to heaven in a gesture of
exaltation, cried out with all his might, in the face of the
amazed rustics:

"Long live the Republic! Long live the Republic! Long live the

Then he dropped into his armchair weak with emotion.

When the peasant explained that this sickness commenced with a
feeling as if ants were running up and down in his legs, the
doctor exclaimed: "Hold your peace. I have spent too much time
with you stupid people. The Republic is proclaimed! The Emperor
is a prisoner! France is saved! Long live the Republic!" And,
running to the door, he bellowed: "Celeste! Quick! Celeste!"

The frightened maid hastened in. He stuttered, so rapidly did he
try to speak: "My boots, my saber --my cartridge box--and--the
Spanish dagger, which is on my night table. Hurry now!"

The obstinate peasant, taking advantage of the moment's silence,
began again: "This seemed like some cysts that hurt me when I

The exasperated physician shouted: "Hold your peace! For Heaven's
sake! If you had washed your feet oftener, it would not have
happened." Then, seizing him by the neck, he hissed in his face:
"Can you not comprehend that we are living in a Republic,

But professional sentiment calmed him suddenly, and he let the
astonished old couple out of the house, repeating all the time:

"Return to-morrow, return to-morrow, my friends; I have no more
time to-day."

While equipping himself from head to foot, he gave another series
of urgent orders to the maid:

"Run to Lieutenant Picard's and to Sub-lieutenant Pommel's and
say to them that I want them here immediately. Send Torcheboeuf
to me, too, with his drum. Quick, now! Quick!" And when Celeste
was gone, he collected his thoughts and prepared to surmount the
difficulties of the situation.

The three men arrived together. They were in their working
clothes. The Commander, who had expected to see them in uniform,
had a fit of surprise.

"You know nothing, then? The Emperor has been taken prisoner. A
Republic is proclaimed. My position is delicate, not to say

He reflected for some minutes before the astonished faces of his
subordinates and then continued:

"It is necessary to act, not to hesitate. Minutes now are worth
hours at other times. Everything depends upon promptness of
decision. You, Picard, go and find the curate and get him to ring
the bell to bring the people together, while I get ahead of them.
You, Torcheboeuf, beat the call to assemble the militia in arms,
in the square, from even as far as the hamlets of Gerisaie and
Salmare. You, Pommell put on your uniform at once, that is, the
jacket and cap. We, together, are going to take possession of the
mairie and summon M. de Varnetot to transfer his authority to me.
Do you understand?"


"Act, then, and promptly. I will accompany you to your house,
Pommel, since we are to work together."

Five minutes later, the Commander and his subaltern, armed to the
teeth, appeared in the square, just at the moment when the little
Viscount de Varnetot, with hunting gaiters on and his rifle on
his shoulder, appeared by another street, walking rapidly and
followed by three guards in green jackets, each carrying a knife
at his side and a gun over his shoulder.

While the doctor stopped, half stupefied, the four men entered
the mayor's house and the door closed behind them.

"We are forestalled," murmured the doctor; "it will be necessary
now to wait for re-enforcements; nothing can be done for a
quarter of an hour."

Here Lieutenant Picard appeared: "The curate refuses to obey,"
said he; "he has even shut himself up in the church with the
beadle and the porter."

On the other side of the square, opposite the white, closed front
of the mairie, the church, mute and black, showed its great oak
door with the wrought-iron trimmings.

Then, as the puzzled inhabitants put their noses out of the
windows, or came out upon the steps of their houses, the rolling
of a drum was heard, and Torcheboeuf suddenly appeared, beating
with fury the three quick strokes of the call to arms. He crossed
the square with disciplined step, and then disappeared on a road
leading to the country.

The Commander drew his sword, advanced alone to the middle
distance between the two buildings where the enemy was barricaded
and, waving his weapon above his head, roared at the top of his
lungs: "Long live the Republic! Death to traitors!" Then he fell
back where his officers were. The butcher, the baker, and the
apothecary, feeling a little uncertain, put up their shutters and
closed their shops. The grocery alone remained open.

Meanwhile the men of the militia were arriving, little by little,
variously clothed, but all wearing caps, the cap constituting the
whole uniform of the corps. They were armed with their old, rusty
guns, guns that had hung on chimney-pieces in kitchens for thirty
years, and looked quite like a detachment of country soldiers.

When there were about thirty around him, the Commander explained
in a few words, the state of affairs. Then, turning toward his
major, he said: "Now, we must act."

While the inhabitants collected, talked over and discussed the
matter, the doctor quickly formed his plan of campaign:

"Lieutenant Picard, you advance to the windows of the mayor's
house and order M. de Varnetot to turn over the townhall to me,
in the name of the Republic."

But the lieutenant was a master-mason and refused.

"You are a scamp, you are. Trying to make a target of me! Those
fellows in there are good shots, you know that. No, thanks!
Execute your commissions yourself!"

The Commander turned red: "I order you to go in the name of
discipline," said he.

"I am not spoiling my features without knowing why," the
lieutenant returned.

Men of influence, in a group near by, were heard laughing. One of
them called out: "You are right, Picard, it is not the proper
time." The doctor, under his breath, muttered: "Cowards!" And,
placing his sword and his revolver in the hands of a soldier, he
advanced with measured step, his eye fixed on the windows, as if
he expected to see a gun or a cannon pointed at him.

When he was within a few steps of the building the doors at the
two extremities, affording an entrance to two schools, opened,
and a flood of little creatures, boys on one side, girls on the
other, poured out and began playing in the open space, chattering
around the doctor like a flock of birds. He scarcely knew what to
make of it.

As soon as the last were out, the doors closed. The greater part
of the little monkeys finally scattered and then the Commander
called out in a loud voice

"Monsieur de Varnetot?" A window in the first story opened and M.
de Varnetot appeared.

The Commander began: "Monsieur, you are aware of the great events
which have changed the system of Government. The party you
represent no longer exists. The side I represent now comes into
power. Under these sad, but decisive circumstances, I come to
demand you, in the name of the Republic, to put in my hand the
authority vested in you by the outgoing power."

M. de Varnetot replied: "Doctor Massarel, I am mayor of
Canneville, so placed by the proper authorities, and mayor of
Canneville I shall remain until the title is revoked and replaced
by an order from my superiors. As mayor, I am at home in the
mairie, and there I shall stay. Furthermore, just try to put me
out." And he closed the window.

The Commander returned to his troops. But, before explaining
anything, measuring Lieutenant Picard from head to foot, he said:

"You are a numskull, you are,--a goose, the disgrace of the army.
I shall degrade you."

The Lieutenant replied: "I'll attend to that myself." And he went
over to a group of muttering civilians.

Then the doctor hesitated. What should he do? Make an assault?
Would his men obey him? And then, was he surely in the right? An
idea burst upon him. He ran to the telegraph office, on the other
side of the square, and hurriedly sent three dispatches: "To the
Members of the Republican Government, at Paris"; "To the New
Republican Prefect of the Lower Seine, at Rouen"; "To the New
Republican Sub-Prefect of Dieppe."

He exposed the situation fully; told of the danger run by the
commonwealth from remaining in the hands of the monarchistic
mayor, offered his devout services, asked for orders and signed
his name, following it up with all his titles. Then he returned
to his army corps and, drawing ten francs out of his pocket,

"Now, my friends, go and eat and drink a little something. Only
leave here a detachment of ten men, so that no one leaves the
mayor's house."

Ex-Lieutenant Picard chatting with the watch-maker, overheard
this. With a sneer he remarked:

"Pardon me, but if they go out, there will be an opportunity for
you to go in. Otherwise, I can't see how you are to get in

The doctor made no reply, but went away to luncheon. In the
afternoon, he disposed of offices all about town, having the air
of knowing of an impending surprise. Many times he passed before
the doors of the mairie and of the church, without noticing
anything suspicious; one could have believed the two buildings

The butcher, the baker, and the apothecary re-opened their shops,
and stood gossiping on the steps. If the Emperor had been taken
prisoner, there must be a traitor somewhere. They did not feel
sure of the revenue of a new Republic.

Night came on. Toward nine o'clock, the doctor returned quietly
and alone to the mayor's residence, persuaded that his adversary
had retired. And, as he was trying to force an entrance with a
few blows of a pickaxe, the loud voice of a guard demanded
suddenly: "Who goes there?" Monsieur Massarel beat a retreat at
the top of his speed.

Another day dawned without any change in the situation. The
militia in arms occupied the square. The inhabitants stood around
awaiting the solution. People from neighboring villages came to
look on. Finally, the doctor, realizing that his reputation was
at stake, resolved to settle the thing in one way or another. He
had just decided that it must be something energetic, when the
door of the telegraph office opened and the little servant of the
directress appeared, holding in her hand two papers.

She went directly to the Commander and gave him one of the
dispatches; then, crossing the square, intimidated by so many
eyes fixed upon her, with lowered head and mincing steps, she
rapped gently at the door of the barricaded house, as if ignorant
that a part of the army was concealed there.

The door opened slightly; the hand of a man received the message,
and the girl returned, blushing and ready to weep, from being
stared at.

The doctor demanded, with stirring voice: "A little silence, if
you please." And, after the populace became quiet, he continued

"Here is a communication which I have received from the
Government." And raising the dispatch, he read:

"Old mayor deposed. Advise us of what is most necessary,
Instructions later.
"For the Sub-Prefect,
"SAPIN, Counselor."

He had triumphed. His heart was beating with joy. His hand
trembled, when Picard, his old subaltern, cried out to him from a
neighboring group: "That's all right; but if the others in there
won't go out, your paper hasn't a leg to stand on." The doctor
grew a little pale. If they would not go out --in fact, he must
go ahead now. It was not only his right, but his duty. And he
looked anxiously at the house of the mayoralty, hoping that he
might see the door open and his adversary show himself. But the
door remained closed. What was to be done? The crowd was
increasing, surrounding the militia. Some laughed.

One thought, especially, tortured the doctor. If he should make
an assault, he must march at the head of his men; and as, with
him dead, all contest would cease, it would be at him, and at him
alone that M. de Varnetot and the three guards would aim. And
their aim was good, very good! Picard had reminded him of that.

But an idea shone in upon him, and turning to Pommel, he said:
"Go, quickly, and ask the apothecary to send me a napkin and a

The Lieutenant hurried off. The doctor was going to make a
political banner, a white one, that would perhaps, rejoice the
heart of that old legitimist, the mayor.

Pommel returned with the required linen and a broom handle. With
some pieces of string, they improvised a standard, which Massarel
seized in both hands. Again, he advanced toward the house of
mayoralty, bearing the standard before him. When in front of the
door, he called out: "Monsieur de Varnetot!"

The door opened suddenly, and M. de Varnetot and the three guards
appeared on the threshold. The doctor recoiled, instinctively.
Then, he saluted his enemy courteously, and announced, almost
strangled by emotion: "I have come, sir, to communicate to you
the instructions I have just received."

That gentleman, without any salutation whatever, replied: "I am
going to withdraw, sir, but you must understand that it is not
because of fear, or in obedience to an odious government that has
usurped the power." And, biting off each word, he declared: "I do
not wish to have the appearance of serving the Republic for a
single day. That is all."

Massarel, amazed, made no reply; and M, de Varnetot, walking off
at a rapid pace, disappeared around the corner, followed closely
by his escort. Then the doctors slightly dismayed, returned to
the crowd. When he was near enough to be heard, he cried:
"Hurrah! Hurrah! The Republic triumphs all along the line!"

But no emotion was manifested. The doctor tried again. "The
people are free! You are free and independent! Do you understand?
Be proud of it!"

The listless villagers looked at him with eyes unlit by glory. In
his turn, he looked at them, indignant at their indifference,
seeking for some word that could make a grand impression,
electrify this placid country and make good his mission. The
inspiration come, and turning to Pommel, he said: "Lieutenant, go
and get the bust of the ex-Emperor, which is in the Council Hall,
and bring it to me with a chair."

And soon the man reappears, carrying on his right shoulder,
Napoleon III. in plaster, and holding in his left hand a
straw-bottomed chair.

Massarel met him, took the chair, placed it on the ground, put
the white image upon it, fell back a few steps and called out, in
sonorous voice:

"Tyrant! Tyrant! Here do you fall! Fall in the dust and in the
mire. An expiring country groans under your feet. Destiny has
called you the Avenger. Defeat and shame cling to you. You fall
conquered, a prisoner to the Prussians, and upon the ruins of the
crumbling Empire the young and radiant Republic arises, picking
up your broken sword."

He awaited applause. But there was no voice, no sound. The
bewildered peasants remained silent. And the bust, with its
pointed mustaches extending beyond the cheeks on each side, the
bust, so motionless and well groomed as to be fit for a
hairdressers sign, seemed to be looking at M. Massarel with a
plaster smile, a smile ineffaceable and mocking.

They remained thus face to face, Napoleon on the chair, the
doctor in front of him about three steps away. Suddenly the
Commander grew angry. What was to be done? What was there that
would move this people, and bring about a definite victory in
opinion? His hand happened to rest on his hip and to come in
contact there with the butt end of his revolver, under his red
sash. No inspiration, no further word would come. But he drew his
pistol, advanced two steps, and, taking aim, fired at the late
monarch. The ball entered the forehead, leaving a little, black
hole, like a spot, nothing more. There was no effect. Then he
fired a second shot, which made a second hole, then, a third; and
then, without stopping, he emptied his revolver. The brow of
Napoleon disappeared in white powder, but the eyes, the nose, and
the fine points of the mustaches remained intact. Then,
exasperated, the doctor overturned the chair with a blow of his
fist and, resting a foot on the remainder of the bust in a
position of triumph, he shouted: "So let all tyrants perish!"

Still no enthusiasm was manifest, and as the spectators seemed to
be in a kind of stupor from astonishment, the Commander called to
the militiamen: "You may now go to your homes." And he went
toward his own house with great strides, as if he were pursued.

His maid, when he appeared, told him that some patients had been
waiting in his office for three hours. He hastened in. There were
the two varicose-vein patients, who had returned at daybreak,
obstinate but patient.

The old man immediately began his explanation: "This began by a
feeling like ants running up and down the legs."


"Bah! Monsieur," the old mountebank said to me; "it is a matter
of exercise and habit, that is all! Of course, one requires to be
a little gifted that way and not to be butter-fingered, but what
is chiefly necessary is patience and daily practice for long,
long years."

His modesty surprised me all the more, because of all performers
who are generally infatuated with their own skill, he was the
most wonderfully clever one I had met. Certainly I had frequently
seen him, for everybody had seen him in some circus or other, or
even in traveling shows, performing the trick that consists of
putting a man or woman with extended arms against a wooden
target, and in throwing knives between their fingers and round
their heads, from a distance. There is nothing very extraordinary
in it, after all, when one knows THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE, and
that the knives are not the least sharp, and stick into the wood
at some distance from the flesh. It is the rapidity of the
throws, the glitter of the blades, and the curve which the
handles make toward their living object, which give an air of
danger to an exhibition that has become commonplace, and only
requires very middling skill.

But here there was no trick and no deception, and no dust thrown
into the eyes. It was done in good earnest and in all sincerity.
The knives were as sharp as razors, and the old mountebank
planted them close to the flesh, exactly in the angle between the
fingers. He surrounded the head with a perfect halo of knives,
and the neck with a collar from which nobody could have
extricated himself without cutting his carotid artery, while, to
increase the difficulty, the old fellow went through the
performance without seeing, his whole face being covered with a
close mask of thick oilcloth.

Naturally, like other great artists, he was not understood by the
crowd, who confounded him with vulgar tricksters, and his mask
only appeared to them a trick the more, and a very common trick
into the bargain.

"He must think us very stupid," they said. "How could he possibly
aim without having his eyes open?"

And they thought there must be imperceptible holes in the
oilcloth, a sort of latticework concealed in the material. It was
useless for him to allow the public to examine the mask for
themselves before the exhibition began. It was all very well that
they could not discover any trick, but they were only all the
more convinced that they were being tricked. Did not the people
know that they ought to be tricked?

I had recognized a great artist in the old mountebank, and I was
quite sure that he was altogether incapable of any trickery. I
told him so, while expressing my admiration to him; and he had
been touched by my open admiration and above all by the justice I
had done him. Thus we became good friends, and he explained to
me, very modestly, the real trick which the crowd do not
understand, the eternal trick contained in these simple words:
"To be gifted by nature and to practice every day for long, long

He had been especially struck by the certainty which I expressed
that any trickery must become impossible to him. "Yes," he said
to me; "quite impossible! Impossible to a degree which you cannot
imagine. If I were to tell you! But where would be the use?"

His face clouded over, and his eyes filled with tears. I did not
venture to force myself into his confidence. My looks, however,
were not so discreet as my silence, and begged him to speak; so
he responded to their mute appeal.

"After all," he said; "why should I not tell you about it? You
will understand me." And he added, with a look of sudden
ferocity: "She understood it, at any rate!"

"Who?" I asked.

"My strumpet of a wife," he replied. "Ah! Monsieur, what an
abominable creature she was--if you only knew! Yes, she
understood it too well, too well, and that is why I hate her so;
even more on that account, than for having deceived me. For that
is a natural fault, is it not, and may be pardoned? But the other
thing was a crime, a horrible crime."

The woman, who stood against the wooden target every night with
her arms stretched out and her finger extended, and whom the old
mountebank fitted with gloves and with a halo formed of his
knives, which were as sharp as razors and which he planted close
to her, was his wife. She might have been a woman of forty, and
must have been fairly pretty, but with a perverse prettiness; she
had an impudent mouth, a mouth that was at the same time sensual
and bad, with the lower lip too thick for the thin, dry upper

I had several times noticed that every time he planted a knife in
the board, she uttered a laugh, so low as scarcely to be heard,
but which was very significant when one heard it, for it was a
hard and very mocking laugh. I had always attributed that sort of
reply to an artifice which the occasion required. It was
intended, I thought, to accentuate the danger she incurred and
the contempt that she felt for it, thanks to the sureness of the
thrower's hands, and so I was very much surprised when the
mountebank said to me:

"Have you observed her laugh, I say? Her evil laugh which makes
fun of me, and her cowardly laugh which defies me? Yes, cowardly,
because she knows that nothing can happen to her, nothing, in
spite of all she deserves, in spite of all that I ought to do to
her, in spite of all that I WANT to do to her."

"What do you want to do?"

"Confound it! Cannot you guess? I want to kill her."

"To kill her, because she has--"

"Because she has deceived me? No, no, not that, I tell you again.
I have forgiven her for that a long time ago, and I am too much
accustomed to it! But the worst of it is that the first time I
forgave her, when I told her that all the same I might some day
have my revenge by cutting her throat, if I chose, without
seeming to do it on purpose, as if it were an accident, mere

"Oh! So you said that to her?"

"Of course I did, and I meant it. I thought I might be able to do
it, for you see I had the perfect right to do so. It was so
simple, so easy, so tempting! Just think! A mistake of less than
half an inch, and her skin would be cut at the neck where the
jugular vein is, and the jugular would be severed. My knives cut
very well! And when once the jugular is cut--good-bye. The blood
would spurt out, and one, two, three red jets, and all would be
over; she would be dead, and I should have had my revenge!"

"That is true, certainly, horribly true!"

"And without any risk to me, eh? An accident, that is all; bad
luck, one of those mistakes which happen every day in our
business. What could they accuse me of? Whoever would think of
accusing me, even? Homicide through imprudence, that would be
all! They would even pity me, rather than accuse me. 'My wife! My
poor wife!' I should say, sobbing. 'My wife, who is so necessary
to me, who is half the breadwinner, who takes part in my
performance!' You must acknowledge that I should be pitied!"

"Certainly; there is not the least doubt about that."

"And you must allow that such a revenge would he a very nice
revenge, the best possible revenge which I could have with
assured impunity."

"Evidently that is so."

"Very well! But when I told her so, as I have told you, and more
forcibly still; threatening her as I was mad with rage and ready
to do the deed that I had dreamed of on the spot, what do you
think she said?"

"That you were a good fellow, and would certainly not have the
atrocious courage to--"

"Tut! tut! tut! I am not such a good fellow as you think. I am
not frightened of blood, and that I have proved already, though
it would be useless to tell you how and where. But I had no
necessity to prove it to her, for she knows that I am capable of
a good many things; even of crime; especially of one crime."

"And she was not frightened?"

"No. She merely replied that I could not do what I said; you
understand. That I could not do it!"

"Why not?"

"Ah! Monsieur, so you do not understand? Why do you not? I have I
not explained to you by what constant, long, daily practice I
have learned to plant my knives without seeing what I am doing?"

"Yes, well, what then?"

"Well! Cannot you understand what she has understood with such
terrible results, that now my hand would no longer obey me if I
wished to make a mistake as I threw?"

"Is it possible?"

"Nothing is truer, I am sorry to say. For I really have wished to
have the revenge which I have dreamed of, and which I thought so
easy. Exasperated by that bad woman's insolence and confidence in
her own safety, I have several times made up my mind to kill her,
and have exerted all my energy and all my skill to make my knives
fly aside when I threw them to make a border round her neck. I
have tried with all my might to make them deviate half an inch,
just enough to cut her throat. I wanted to, and I have never
succeeded, never. And always the slut's horrible laugh makes fun
of me, always, always."

And with a deluge of tears, with something like a roar of
unsatiated and muzzled rage, he ground his teeth as he wound up:
"She knows me, the jade; she is in the secret of my work, of my
patience, of my trick, routine, whatever you may call it! She
lives in my innermost being, and sees into it more closely than
you do, or than I do myself. She knows what a faultless machine I
have become, the machine of which she makes fun, the machine
which is too well wound up, the machine which cannot get out of
order--and she knows that I CANNOT make a mistake."


MAY 8. What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying on
the grass in front of my house, under the enormous plantain tree
which covers and shades and shelters the whole of it. I like this
part of the country; I am fond of living here because I am
attached to it by deep roots, the profound and delicate roots
which attach a man to the soil on which his ancestors were born
and died, to their traditions, their usages, their food, the
local expressions, the peculiar language of the peasants, the
smell of the soil, the hamlets, and to the atmosphere itself.

I love the house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see
the Seine, which flows by the side of my garden, on the other
side of the road, almost through my grounds, the great and wide
Seine, which goes to Rouen and Havre, and which is covered with
boats passing to and fro.

On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, populous Rouen with its
blue roofs massing under pointed, Gothic towers. Innumerable are
they, delicate or broad, dominated by the spire of the cathedral,
full of bells which sound through the blue air on fine mornings,
sending their sweet and distant iron clang to me, their metallic
sounds, now stronger and now weaker, according as the wind is
strong or light.

What a delicious morning it was! About eleven o'clock, a long
line of boats drawn by a steam-tug, as big a fly, and which
scarcely puffed while emitting its thick smoke, passed my gate.

After two English schooners, whose red flags fluttered toward the
sky, there came a magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was
perfectly white and wonderfully clean and shining. I saluted it,
I hardly know why, except that the sight of the vessel gave me
great pleasure.

May 12. I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few
days, and I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited.

Whence come those mysterious influences which change our
happiness into discouragement, and our self-confidence into
diffidence? One might almost say that the air, the invisible air,
is full of unknowable Forces, whose mysterious presence we have
to endure. I wake up in the best of spirits, with an inclination
to sing in my heart. Why? I go down by the side of the water, and
suddenly, after walking a short distance, I return home wretched,
as if some misfortune were awaiting me there. Why? Is it a cold
shiver which, passing over my skin, has upset my nerves and given
me a fit of low spirits? Is it the form of the clouds, or the
tints of the sky, or the colors of the surrounding objects which
are so change-able, which have troubled my thoughts as they
passed before my eyes? Who can tell? Everything that surrounds
us, everything that we see without looking at it, everything that
we touch without knowing it, everything that we handle without
feeling it, everything that we meet without clearly
distinguishing it, has a rapid, surprising, and inexplicable
effect upon us and upon our organs, and through them on our ideas
and on our being itself.

How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom
it with our miserable senses: our eyes are unable to perceive
what is either too small or too great, too near to or too far
from us; we can see neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a
drop of water; our ears deceive us, for they transmit to us the
vibrations of the air in sonorous notes. Our senses are fairies
who work the miracle of changing that movement into noise, and by
that metamorphosis give birth to music, which makes the mute
agitation of nature a harmony. So with our sense of smell, which
is weaker than that of a dog, and so with our sense of taste,
which can scarcely distinguish the age of a wine!

Oh! If we only had other organs which could work other miracles
in our favor, what a number of fresh things we might discover
around us!

May 16. I am ill, decidedly! I was so well last month! I am
feverish, horribly feverish, or rather I am in a state of
feverish enervation, which makes my mind suffer as much as my
body. I have without ceasing the horrible sensation of some
danger threatening me, the apprehension of some coming misfortune
or of approaching death, a presentiment which is no doubt, an
attack of some illness still unnamed, which germinates in the
flesh and in the blood.

May 18. I have just come from consulting my medical man, for I
can no longer get any sleep. He found that my pulse was high, my
eyes dilated, my nerves highly strung, but no alarming symptoms.
I must have a course of shower baths and of bromide of potassium.

May 25. No change! My state is really very peculiar. As the
evening comes on, an incomprehensible feeling of disquietude
seizes me, just as if night concealed some terrible menace toward
me. I dine quickly, and then try to read, but I do not understand
the words, and can scarcely distinguish the letters. Then I walk
up and down my drawing-room, oppressed by a feeling of confused
and irresistible fear, a fear of sleep and a fear of my bed.

About ten o'clock I go up to my room. As soon as I have entered I
lock and bolt the door. I am frightened--of what? Up till the
present time I have been frightened of nothing. I open my
cupboards, and look under my bed; I listen--I listen--to what?
How strange it is that a simple feeling of discomfort, of impeded
or heightened circulation, perhaps the irritation of a nervous
center, a slight congestion, a small disturbance in the imperfect
and delicate functions of our living machinery, can turn the most
light-hearted of men into a melancholy one, and make a coward of
the bravest? Then, I go to bed, and I wait for sleep as a man
might wait for the executioner. I wait for its coming with dread,
and my heart beats and my legs tremble, while my whole body
shivers beneath the warmth of the bedclothes, until the moment
when I suddenly fall asleep, as a man throws himself into a pool
of stagnant water in order to drown. I do not feel this
perfidious sleep coming over me as I used to, but a sleep which
is close to me and watching me, which is going to seize me by the
head, to close my eyes and annihilate me.

I sleep--a long time--two or three hours perhaps--then a
dream--no--a nightmare lays hold on me. I feel that I am in bed
and asleep--I feel it and I know it--and I feel also that
somebody is coming close to me, is looking at me, touching me, is
getting on to my bed, is kneeling on my chest, is taking my neck
between his hands and squeezing it--squeezing it with all his
might in order to strangle me.

I struggle, bound by that terrible powerlessness which paralyzes
us in our dreams; I try to cry out--but I cannot; I want to
move--I cannot; I try, with the most violent efforts and out of
breath, to turn over and throw off this being which is crushing
and suffocating me--I cannot!

And then suddenly I wake up, shaken and bathed in perspiration; I
light a candle and find that I am alone, and after that crisis,
which occurs every night, I at length fall asleep and slumber
tranquilly till morning.

June 2. My state has grown worse. What is the matter with me? The
bromide does me no good, and the shower-baths have no effect
whatever. Sometimes, in order to tire myself out, though I am
fatigued enough already, I go for a walk in the forest of
Roumare. I used to think at first that the fresh light and soft
air, impregnated with the odor of herbs and leaves, would instill
new life into my veins and impart fresh energy to my heart. One
day I turned into a broad ride in the wood, and then I diverged
toward La Bouille, through a narrow path, between two rows of
exceedingly tall trees, which placed a thick, green, almost black
roof between the sky and me.

A sudden shiver ran through me, not a cold shiver, but a shiver
of agony, and so I hastened my steps, uneasy at being alone in
the wood, frightened stupidly and without reason, at the profound
solitude. Suddenly it seemed as if I were being followed, that
somebody was walking at my heels, close, quite close to me, near
enough to touch me.

I turned round suddenly, but I was alone. I saw nothing behind me
except the straight, broad ride, empty and bordered by high
trees, horribly empty; on the other side also it extended until
it was lost in the distance, and looked just the same--terrible.

I closed my eyes. Why? And then I began to turn round on one heel
very quickly, just like a top. I nearly fell down, and opened my
eyes; the trees were dancing round me and the earth heaved; I was
obliged to sit down. Then, ah! I no longer remembered how I had
come! What a strange idea! What a strange, strange idea! I did
not the least know. I started off to the right, and got back into
the avenue which had led me into the middle of the forest.

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