Original Short Stories, Volume 4.
Guy de Maupassant
Part 2 out of 3
Abbe Maritime replied:
"Yes, we are near the month of Mary."
"Why, why," remarked Sabot and then was silent. He would have liked to
retire now without saying anything, but a glance at the chancel held him
back. He saw sixteen seats that had to be remade, six to the right and
eight to the left, the door of the sacristy occupying the place of two.
Sixteen oak seats, that would be worth at most three hundred francs, and
by figuring carefully one might certainly make two hundred francs on the
work if one were not clumsy.
Then he stammered out:
"I have come about the work."
The cure appeared surprised. He asked:
"The work to be done," murmured Sabot, in dismay.
Then the priest turned round and looking him straight in the eyes, said:
"Do you mean the repairs in the chancel of my church?"
At the tone of the abbe, Theodule Sabot felt a chill run down his back
and he once more had a longing to take to his heels. However, he replied
"Why, yes, monsieur le cure."
Then the abbe folded his arms across his large stomach and, as if filled
with amazement, said:
"Is it you--you--you, Sabot--who have come to ask me for this . . .
You--the only irreligious man in my parish! Why, it would be a scandal,
a public scandal! The archbishop would give me a reprimand, perhaps
He stopped a few seconds, for breath, and then resumed in a calmer tone:
"I can understand that it pains you to see a work of such importance
entrusted to a carpenter from a neighboring parish. But I cannot do
otherwise, unless--but no--it is impossible--you would not consent, and
unless you did, never."
Sabot now looked at the row of benches in line as far as the entrance
door. Christopher, if they were going to change all those!
And he asked:
"What would you require of me? Tell me."
The priest, in a firm tone replied:
"I must have an extraordinary token of your good intentions."
"I do not say--I do not say; perhaps we might come to an understanding,"
"You will have to take communion publicly at high mass next Sunday,"
declared the cure.
The carpenter felt he was growing pale, and without replying, he asked:
"And the benches, are they going to be renovated?"
The abbe replied with confidence:
"Yes, but later on."
"I do not say, I do not say. I am not calling it off, I am consenting to
religion, for sure. But what rubs me the wrong way is, putting it in
practice; but in this case I will not be refractory."
The attendants of the Virgin, having got off their chairs had concealed
themselves behind the altar; and they listened pale with emotion.
The cure, seeing he had gained the victory, became all at once very
friendly, quite familiar.
"That is good, that is good. That was wisely said, and not stupid, you
understand. You will see, you will see."
Sabot smiled and asked with an awkward air:
"Would it not be possible to put off this communion just a trifle?"
But the priest replied, resuming his severe expression:
"From the moment that the work is put into your hands, I want to be
assured of your conversion."
Then he continued more gently:
"You will come to confession to-morrow; for I must examine you at least
"Twice?" repeated Sabot.
The priest smiled.
"You understand perfectly that you must have a general cleaning up,
a thorough cleansing. So I will expect you to-morrow."
The carpenter, much agitated, asked:
"Where do you do that?"
"Why--in the confessional."
"In--that box, over there in the corner? The fact is--is--that it does
not suit me, your box."
"How is that?"
"Seeing that--seeing that I am not accustomed to that, and also I am
rather hard of hearing."
The cure was very affable and said:
"Well, then! you shall come to my house and into my parlor. We will
have it just the two of us, tete-a-tete. Does that suit you?"
"Yes, that is all right, that will suit me, but your box, no."
"Well, then, to-morrow after the days work, at six o'clock."
"That is understood, that is all right, that is agreed on. To-morrow,
monsieur le cure. Whoever draws back is a skunk!"
And he held out his great rough hand which the priest grasped heartily
with a clap that resounded through the church.
Theodule Sabot was not easy in his mind all the following day. He had a
feeling analogous to the apprehension one experiences when a tooth has to
be drawn. The thought recurred to him at every moment: "I must go to
confession this evening." And his troubled mind, the mind of an atheist
only half convinced, was bewildered with a confused and overwhelming
dread of the divine mystery.
As soon as he had finished his work, he betook himself to the parsonage.
The cure was waiting for him in the garden, reading his breviary as he
walked along a little path. He appeared radiant and greeted him with a
"Well, here we are! Come in, come in, Monsieur Sabot, no one will eat
And Sabot preceded him into the house. He faltered:
"If you do not mind I should like to get through with this little matter
The cure replied:
"I am at your service. I have my surplice here. One minute and I will
listen to you."
The carpenter, so disturbed that he had not two ideas in his head,
watched him as he put on the white vestment with its pleated folds.
The priest beckoned to him and said:
"Kneel down on this cushion."
Sabot remained standing, ashamed of having to kneel. He stuttered:
"Is it necessary?"
But the abbe had become dignified.
"You cannot approach the penitent bench except on your knees."
And Sabot knelt down.
"Repeat the confiteor," said the priest.
"What is that?" asked Sabot.
"The confiteor. If you do not remember it, repeat after me, one by one,
the words I am going to say." And the cure repeated the sacred prayer,
in a slow tone, emphasizing the words which the carpenter repeated after
him. Then he said:
"Now make your confession."
But Sabot was silent, not knowing where to begin. The abbe then came to
"My child, I will ask you questions, since you don't seem familiar with
these things. We will take, one by one, the commandments of God. Listen
to me and do not be disturbed. Speak very frankly and never fear that
you may say too much.
"'One God alone, thou shalt adore,
And love him perfectly.'
"Have you ever loved anything, or anybody, as well as you loved God? Have
you loved him with all your soul, all your heart, all the strength of
Sabot was perspiring with the effort of thinking. He replied:
"No. Oh, no, m'sieu le cure. I love God as much as I can. That is--
yes--I love him very much. To say that I do not love my children,
no--I cannot say that. To say that if I had to choose between them and
God, I could not be sure. To say that if I had to lose a hundred francs
for the love of God, I could not say about that. But I love him well,
for sure, I love him all the same." The priest said gravely "You must
love Him more than all besides." And Sabot, meaning well, declared "I
will do what I possibly can, m'sieu le cure." The abbe resumed:
"'God's name in vain thou shalt not take
Nor swear by any other thing.'
"Did you ever swear?"
"No-oh, that, no! I never swear, never. Sometimes, in a moment of
anger, I may say sacre nom de Dieu! But then, I never swear."
"That is swearing," cried the priest, and added seriously:
"Do not do it again.
"'Thy Sundays thou shalt keep
In serving God devoutly.'
"What do you do on Sunday?"
This time Sabot scratched his ear.
"Why, I serve God as best I can, m'sieu le cure. I serve him--at home.
I work on Sunday."
The cure interrupted him, saying magnanimously:
"I know, you will do better in future. I will pass over the following
commandments, certain that you have not transgressed the two first. We
will take from the sixth to the ninth. I will resume:
"'Others' goods thou shalt not take
Nor keep what is not thine.'
"Have you ever taken in any way what belonged to another?"
But Theodule Sabot became indignant.
"Of course not, of course not! I am an honest man, m'sieu le cure, I
swear it, for sure. To say that I have not sometimes charged for a few
more hours of work to customers who had means, I could not say that.
To say that I never add a few centimes to bills, only a few, I would not
say that. But to steal, no! Oh, not that, no!"
The priest resumed severely:
"To take one single centime constitutes a theft. Do not do it again.
'False witness thou shalt not bear,
Nor lie in any way.'
Have you ever told a lie?"
"No, as to that, no. I am not a liar. That is my quality. To say that
I have never told a big story, I would not like to say that. To say that
I have never made people believe things that were not true when it was to
my own interest, I would not like to say that. But as for lying, I am
not a liar."
The priest simply said:
"Watch yourself more closely." Then he continued:
"'The works of the flesh thou shalt not desire
Except in marriage only.'
"Did you ever desire, or live with, any other woman than your wife?"
Sabot exclaimed with sincerity:
"As to that, no; oh, as to that, no, m'sieu le Cure. My poor wife,
deceive her! No, no! Not so much as the tip of a finger, either in
thought or in act. That is the truth."
They were silent a few seconds, then, in a lower tone, as though a doubt
had arisen in his mind, he resumed:
"When I go to town, to say that I never go into a house, you know, one of
the licensed houses, just to laugh and talk and see something different,
I could not say that. But I always pay, monsieur le cure, I always pay.
From the moment you pay, without anyone seeing or knowing you, no one can
get you into trouble."
The cure did not insist, and gave him absolution.
Theodule Sabot did the work on the chancel, and goes to communion every
THE WRONG HOUSE
Quartermaster Varajou had obtained a week's leave to go and visit his
sister, Madame Padoie. Varajou, who was in garrison at Rennes and was
leading a pretty gay life, finding himself high and dry, wrote to his
sister saying that he would devote a week to her. It was not that he
cared particularly for Mme. Padoie, a little moralist, a devotee, and
always cross; but he needed money, needed it very badly, and he
remembered that, of all his relations, the Padoies were the only ones
whom he had never approached on the subject.
Pere Varajou, formerly a horticulturist at Angers, but now retired from
business, had closed his purse strings to his scapegrace son and had
hardly seen him for two years. His daughter had married Padoie, a former
treasury clerk, who had just been appointed tax collector at Vannes.
Varajou, on leaving the train, had some one direct him to the house of
his brother-in-law, whom he found in his office arguing with the Breton
peasants of the neighborhood. Padoie rose from his seat, held out his
hand across the table littered with papers, murmured, "Take a chair. I
will be at liberty in a moment," sat down again and resumed his
The peasants did not understand his explanations, the collector did not
understand their line of argument. He spoke French, they spoke Breton,
and the clerk who acted as interpreter appeared not to understand either.
It lasted a long time, a very long lime. Varajou looked at his brother-
in-law and thought: "What a fool!" Padoie must have been almost fifty.
He was tall, thin, bony, slow, hairy, with heavy arched eyebrows. He
wore a velvet skull cap with a gold cord vandyke design round it. His
look was gentle, like his actions. His speech, his gestures, his
thoughts, all were soft. Varajou said to himself, "What a fool!"
He, himself, was one of those noisy roysterers for whom the greatest
pleasures in life are the cafe and abandoned women. He understood
nothing outside of these conditions of existence.
A boisterous braggart, filled with contempt for the rest of the world, he
despised the entire universe from the height of his ignorance. When he
said: "Nom d'un chien, what a spree!" he expressed the highest degree of
admiration of which his mind was capable.
Having finally got rid of his peasants, Padoie inquired:
"How are you?"
"Pretty well, as you see. And how are you?"
"Quite well, thank you. It is very kind of you to have thought of coming
to see us."
"Oh, I have been thinking of it for some time; but, you know, in the
military profession one has not much freedom."
"Oh, I know, I know. All the same, it is very kind of you."
"And Josephine, is she well?"
"Yes, yes, thank you; you will see her presently." "Where is she?"
"She is making some calls. We have a great many friends here; it is a
very nice town."
"I thought so."
The door opened and Mme. Padoie appeared. She went over to her brother
without any eagerness, held her cheek for him to kiss, and asked:
"Have you been here long?"
"No, hardly half an hour."
"Oh, I thought the train would be late. Will you come into the parlor?"
They went into the adjoining room, leaving Padoie to his accounts and his
taxpayers. As soon as they were alone, she said:
"I have heard nice things about you!"
"What have you heard?"
"It seems that you are behaving like a blackguard, getting drunk and
He appeared very much astonished.
"I! never in the world!"
"Oh, do not deny it, I know it."
He attempted to defend himself, but she gave him such a lecture that he
could say nothing more.
She then resumed:
"We dine at six o'clock, and you can amuse yourself until then. I cannot
entertain you, as I have so many things to do."
When he was alone he hesitated as to whether he should sleep or take a
walk. He looked first at the door leading to his room and then at the
hall door, and decided to go out. He sauntered slowly through the quiet
Breton town, so sleepy, so calm, so dead, on the shores of its inland bay
that is called "le Morbihan." He looked at the little gray houses, the
occasional pedestrians, the empty stores, and he murmured:
"Vannes is certainly not gay, not lively. It was a sad idea, my coming
He reached the harbor, the desolate harbor, walked back along a lonely,
deserted boulevard, and got home before five o'clock. Then he threw
himself on his bed to sleep till dinner time. The maid woke him,
knocking at the door.
"Dinner is ready, sir:"
He went downstairs. In the damp dining-room with the paper peeling from
the walls near the floor, he saw a soup tureen on a round table without
any table cloth, on which were also three melancholy soup-plates.
M. and Mme. Padoie entered the room at the same time as Varajou. They
all sat down to table, and the husband and wife crossed themselves over
the pit of their stomachs, after which Padoie helped the soup, a meat
soup. It was the day for pot-roast.
After the soup, they had the beef, which was done to rags, melted,
greasy, like pap. The officer ate slowly, with disgust, weariness and
Mme. Padoie said to her husband:
"Are you going to the judge's house this evening?"
"Do not stay late. You always get so tired when you go out. You are not
made for society, with your poor health."
She then talked about society in Vannes, of the excellent social circle
in which the Padoies moved, thanks to their religious sentiments.
A puree of potatoes and a dish of pork were next served, in honor of the
guest. Then some cheese, and that was all. No coffee.
When Varajou saw that he would have to spend the evening tete-a-tete with
his sister, endure her reproaches, listen to her sermons, without even a
glass of liqueur to help him to swallow these remonstrances, he felt that
he could not stand the torture, and declared that he was obliged to go to
the police station to have something attended to regarding his leave of
absence. And he made his escape at seven o'clock.
He had scarcely reached the street before he gave himself a shake like a
dog coming out of the water. He muttered:
"Heavens, heavens, heavens, what a galley slave's life!"
And he set out to look for a cafe, the best in the town. He found it on
a public square, behind two gas lamps. Inside the cafe, five or six men,
semi-gentlemen, and not noisy, were drinking and chatting quietly,
leaning their elbows on the small tables, while two billiard players
walked round the green baize, where the balls were hitting each other as
One heard them counting:
"Eighteen-nineteen. No luck. Oh, that's a good stroke! Well played!
Eleven. You should have played on the red. Twenty. Froze! Froze!
Twelve. Ha! Wasn't I right?"
"A demi-tasse and a small decanter of brandy, the best." Then he sat
down and waited for it.
He was accustomed to spending his evenings off duty with his companions,
amid noise and the smoke of pipes. This silence, this quiet, exasperated
him. He began to drink; first the coffee, then the brandy, and asked for
another decanter. He now wanted to laugh, to shout, to sing, to fight
some one. He said to himself:
"Gee, I am half full. I must go and have a good time."
And he thought he would go and look for some girls to amuse him. He
called the waiter:
"Tell me, where does one amuse oneself here?"
The man looked stupid, and replied:
"I do not know, sir. Here, I suppose!"
"How do you mean here? What do you call amusing oneself, yourself?"
"I do not know, sir, drinking good beer or good wine."
"Ah, go away, dummy, how about the girls?"
"The girls, ah! ah!"
"Yes, the girls, where can one find any here?"
"Why, yes, girls!"
The boy approached and lowering his voice, said: "You want to know where
"Why, yes, the devil!"
"You take the second street to the left and then the first to the right.
It is number fifteen."
"Thank you, old man. There is something for you."
"Thank you, sir."
And Varajou went out of the cafe, repeating, "Second to the left, first
to the right, number 15." But at the end of a few seconds he thought,
"second to the left yes. But on leaving the cafe must I walk to the
right or the left? Bah, it cannot be helped, we shall see."
And he walked on, turned down the second street to the left, then the
first to the right and looked for number 15. It was a nice looking
house, and one could see behind the closed blinds that the windows were
lighted up on the first floor. The hall door was left partly open, and a
lamp was burning in the vestibule. The non-commissioned officer thought
"This looks all right."
He went in and, as no one appeared, he called out:
"Hallo there, hallo!"
A little maid appeared and looked astonished at seeing a soldier. He
"Good-morning, my child. Are the ladies upstairs?"
"In the parlor?"
"May I go up?"
"The door opposite the stairs?"
He ascended the stairs, opened a door and saw sitting in a room well
lighted up by two lamps, a chandelier, and two candelabras with candles
in them, four ladies in evening dress, apparently expecting some one.
Three of them, the younger ones, remained seated, with rather a formal
air, on some crimson velvet chairs; while the fourth, who was about
forty-five, was arranging some flowers in a vase. She was very stout,
and wore a green silk dress with low neck and short sleeves, allowing her
red neck, covered with powder, to escape as a huge flower might from its
The officer saluted them, saying:
The older woman turned round, appeared surprised, but bowed.
He sat down. But seeing that they did not welcome him eagerly, he
thought that possibly only commissioned officers were admitted to the
house, and this made him uneasy. But he said:
"Bah, if one comes in, we can soon tell."
He then remarked:
"Are you all well?"
The large lady, no doubt the mistress of the house, replied:
"Very well, thank you!"
He could think of nothing else to say, and they were all silent. But at
last, being ashamed of his bashfulness, and with an awkward laugh, he
"Do not people have any amusement in this country? I will pay for a
bottle of wine."
He had not finished his sentence when the door opened, and in walked
Padoie dressed in a black suit.
Varajou gave a shout of joy, and rising from his seat, he rushed at his
brother-in-law, put his arms round him and waltzed him round the room,
"Here is Padoie! Here is Padoie! Here is Padoie!"
Then letting go of the tax collector he exclaimed as he looked him in the
"Oh, oh, oh, you scamp, you scamp! You are out for a good time, too.
Oh, you scamp! And my sister! Are you tired of her, say?"
As he thought of all that he might gain through this unexpected
situation, the forced loan, the inevitable blackmail, he flung himself on
the lounge and laughed so heartily that the piece of furniture creaked
The three young ladies, rising simultaneously, made their escape, while
the older woman retreated to the door looking as though she were about to
And then two gentlemen appeared in evening dress, and wearing the ribbon
of an order. Padoie rushed up to them.
"Oh, judge--he is crazy, he is crazy. He was sent to us as a
convalescent. You can see that he is crazy."
Varajou was sitting up now, and not being able to understand it all, he
guessed that he had committed some monstrous folly. Then he rose, and
turning to his brother-in-law, said:
"What house is this?"
But Padoie, becoming suddenly furious, stammered out:
"What house--what--what house is this? Wretch--scoundrel--villain--what
house, indeed? The house of the judge--of the judge of the Supreme
Court-of the Supreme Court--of the Supreme Court--Oh, oh--rascal!--
THE DIAMOND NECKLACE
The girl was one of those pretty and charming young creatures who
sometimes are born, as if by a slip of fate, into a family of clerks.
She had no dowry, no expectations, no way of being known, understood,
loved, married by any rich and distinguished man; so she let herself be
married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was unhappy
as if she had really fallen from a higher station; since with women there
is neither caste nor rank, for beauty, grace and charm take the place of
family and birth. Natural ingenuity, instinct for what is elegant, a
supple mind are their sole hierarchy, and often make of women of the
people the equals of the very greatest ladies.
Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all
delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her
dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the
ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of
her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her
angry. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble
housework aroused in her despairing regrets and bewildering dreams. She
thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, illumined by
tall bronze candelabra, and of two great footmen in knee breeches who
sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the oppressive heat of the
stove. She thought of long reception halls hung with ancient silk, of
the dainty cabinets containing priceless curiosities and of the little
coquettish perfumed reception rooms made for chatting at five o'clock
with intimate friends, with men famous and sought after, whom all women
envy and whose attention they all desire.
When she sat down to dinner, before the round table covered with a
tablecloth in use three days, opposite her husband, who uncovered the
soup tureen and declared with a delighted air, "Ah, the good soup!
I don't know anything better than that," she thought of dainty dinners,
of shining silverware, of tapestry that peopled the walls with ancient
personages and with strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest;
and she thought of delicious dishes served on marvellous plates and of
the whispered gallantries to which you listen with a sphinxlike smile
while you are eating the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail.
She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that.
She felt made for that. She would have liked so much to please, to be
envied, to be charming, to be sought after.
She had a friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, who was rich, and
whom she did not like to go to see any more because she felt so sad when
she came home.
But one evening her husband reached home with a triumphant air and
holding a large envelope in his hand.
"There," said he, "there is something for you."
She tore the paper quickly and drew out a printed card which bore these
The Minister of Public Instruction and Madame Georges Ramponneau
request the honor of M. and Madame Loisel's company at the palace of
the Ministry on Monday evening, January 18th.
Instead of being delighted, as her husband had hoped, she threw the
invitation on the table crossly, muttering:
"What do you wish me to do with that?"
"Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this
is such a fine opportunity. I had great trouble to get it. Every one
wants to go; it is very select, and they are not giving many invitations
to clerks. The whole official world will be there."
She looked at him with an irritated glance and said impatiently:
"And what do you wish me to put on my back?"
He had not thought of that. He stammered:
"Why, the gown you go to the theatre in. It looks very well to me."
He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was weeping. Two great
tears ran slowly from the corners of her eyes toward the corners of her
"What's the matter? What's the matter?" he answered.
By a violent effort she conquered her grief and replied in a calm voice,
while she wiped her wet cheeks:
"Nothing. Only I have no gown, and, therefore, I can't go to this ball.
Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I
He was in despair. He resumed:
"Come, let us see, Mathilde. How much would it cost, a suitable gown,
which you could use on other occasions--something very simple?"
She reflected several seconds, making her calculations and wondering also
what sum she could ask without drawing on herself an immediate refusal
and a frightened exclamation from the economical clerk.
Finally she replied hesitating:
"I don't know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred
He grew a little pale, because he was laying aside just that amount to
buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer on the plain
of Nanterre, with several friends who went to shoot larks there of a
But he said:
"Very well. I will give you four hundred francs. And try to have a
The day of the ball drew near and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy,
anxious. Her frock was ready, however. Her husband said to her one
"What is the matter? Come, you have seemed very queer these last three
And she answered:
"It annoys me not to have a single piece of jewelry, not a single
ornament, nothing to put on. I shall look poverty-stricken. I would
almost rather not go at all."
"You might wear natural flowers," said her husband. "They're very
stylish at this time of year. For ten francs you can get two or three
She was not convinced.
"No; there's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women
who are rich."
"How stupid you are!" her husband cried. "Go look up your friend, Madame
Forestier, and ask her to lend you some jewels. You're intimate enough
with her to do that."
She uttered a cry of joy:
"True! I never thought of it."
The next day she went to her friend and told her of her distress.
Madame Forestier went to a wardrobe with a mirror, took out a large jewel
box, brought it back, opened it and said to Madame Loisel:
"Choose, my dear."
She saw first some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian gold
cross set with precious stones, of admirable workmanship. She tried on
the ornaments before the mirror, hesitated and could not make up her mind
to part with them, to give them back. She kept asking:
"Haven't you any more?"
"Why, yes. Look further; I don't know what you like."
Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace,
and her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire. Her hands trembled as
she took it. She fastened it round her throat, outside her high-necked
waist, and was lost in ecstasy at her reflection in the mirror.
Then she asked, hesitating, filled with anxious doubt:
"Will you lend me this, only this?"
"Why, yes, certainly."
She threw her arms round her friend's neck, kissed her passionately, then
fled with her treasure.
The night of the ball arrived. Madame Loisel was a great success. She
was prettier than any other woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling and
wild with joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name, sought to be
introduced. All the attaches of the Cabinet wished to waltz with her.
She was remarked by the minister himself.
She danced with rapture, with passion, intoxicated by pleasure,
forgetting all in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success,
in a sort of cloud of happiness comprised of all this homage, admiration,
these awakened desires and of that sense of triumph which is so sweet to
She left the ball about four o'clock in the morning. Her husband had
been sleeping since midnight in a little deserted anteroom with three
other gentlemen whose wives were enjoying the ball.
He threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought, the modest wraps of
common life, the poverty of which contrasted with the elegance of the
ball dress. She felt this and wished to escape so as not to be remarked
by the other women, who were enveloping themselves in costly furs.
Loisel held her back, saying: "Wait a bit. You will catch cold outside.
I will call a cab."
But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the stairs. When
they reached the street they could not find a carriage and began to look
for one, shouting after the cabmen passing at a distance.
They went toward the Seine in despair, shivering with cold. At last they
found on the quay one of those ancient night cabs which, as though they
were ashamed to show their shabbiness during the day, are never seen
round Paris until after dark.
It took them to their dwelling in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they
mounted the stairs to their flat. All was ended for her. As to him, he
reflected that he must be at the ministry at ten o'clock that morning.
She removed her wraps before the glass so as to see herself once more in
all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a cry. She no longer had the
necklace around her neck!
"What is the matter with you?" demanded her husband, already half
She turned distractedly toward him.
"I have--I have--I've lost Madame Forestier's necklace," she cried.
He stood up, bewildered.
They looked among the folds of her skirt, of her cloak, in her pockets,
everywhere, but did not find it.
"You're sure you had it on when you left the ball?" he asked.
"Yes, I felt it in the vestibule of the minister's house."
"But if you had lost it in the street we should have heard it fall. It
must be in the cab."
"Yes, probably. Did you take his number?"
"No. And you--didn't you notice it?"
They looked, thunderstruck, at each other. At last Loisel put on his
"I shall go back on foot," said he, "over the whole route, to see whether
I can find it."
He went out. She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress, without
strength to go to bed, overwhelmed, without any fire, without a thought.
Her husband returned about seven o'clock. He had found nothing.
He went to police headquarters, to the newspaper offices to offer a
reward; he went to the cab companies--everywhere, in fact, whither he was
urged by the least spark of hope.
She waited all day, in the same condition of mad fear before this
Loisel returned at night with a hollow, pale face. He had discovered
"You must write to your friend," said he, "that you have broken the clasp
of her necklace and that you are having it mended. That will give us
time to turn round."
She wrote at his dictation.
At the end of a week they had lost all hope. Loisel, who had aged five
"We must consider how to replace that ornament."
The next day they took the box that had contained it and went to the
jeweler whose name was found within. He consulted his books.
"It was not I, madame, who sold that necklace; I must simply have
furnished the case."
Then they went from jeweler to jeweler, searching for a necklace like the
other, trying to recall it, both sick with chagrin and grief.
They found, in a shop at the Palais Royal, a string of diamonds that
seemed to them exactly like the one they had lost. It was worth forty
thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six.
So they begged the jeweler not to sell it for three days yet. And they
made a bargain that he should buy it back for thirty-four thousand
francs, in case they should find the lost necklace before the end of
Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs which his father had left him.
He would borrow the rest.
He did borrow, asking a thousand francs of one, five hundred of another,
five louis here, three louis there. He gave notes, took up ruinous
obligations, dealt with usurers and all the race of lenders. He
compromised all the rest of his life, risked signing a note without even
knowing whether he could meet it; and, frightened by the trouble yet to
come, by the black misery that was about to fall upon him, by the
prospect of all the physical privations and moral tortures that he was to
suffer, he went to get the new necklace, laying upon the jeweler's
counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Madame Loisel took back the necklace Madame Forestier said to her
with a chilly manner:
"You should have returned it sooner; I might have needed it."
She did not open the case, as her friend had so much feared. If she had
detected the substitution, what would she have thought, what would she
have said? Would she not have taken Madame Loisel for a thief?
Thereafter Madame Loisel knew the horrible existence of the needy. She
bore her part, however, with sudden heroism. That dreadful debt must be
paid. She would pay it. They dismissed their servant; they changed
their lodgings; they rented a garret under the roof.
She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the
kitchen. She washed the dishes, using her dainty fingers and rosy nails
on greasy pots and pans. She washed the soiled linen, the shirts and the
dishcloths, which she dried upon a line; she carried the slops down to
the street every morning and carried up the water, stopping for breath at
every landing. And dressed like a woman of the people, she went to the
fruiterer, the grocer, the butcher, a basket on her arm, bargaining,
meeting with impertinence, defending her miserable money, sou by sou.
Every month they had to meet some notes, renew others, obtain more time.
Her husband worked evenings, making up a tradesman's accounts, and late
at night he often copied manuscript for five sous a page.
This life lasted ten years.
At the end of ten years they had paid everything, everything, with the
rates of usury and the accumulations of the compound interest.
Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become the woman of impoverished
households--strong and hard and rough. With frowsy hair, skirts askew
and red hands, she talked loud while washing the floor with great swishes
of water. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat
down near the window and she thought of that gay evening of long ago, of
that ball where she had been so beautiful and so admired.
What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows?
who knows? How strange and changeful is life! How small a thing is
needed to make or ruin us!
But one Sunday, having gone to take a walk in the Champs Elysees to
refresh herself after the labors of the week, she suddenly perceived a
woman who was leading a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young,
still beautiful, still charming.
Madame Loisel felt moved. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And
now that she had paid, she would tell her all about it. Why not?
She went up.
The other, astonished to be familiarly addressed by this plain good-wife,
did not recognize her at all and stammered:
"But--madame!--I do not know--You must have mistaken."
"No. I am Mathilde Loisel."
Her friend uttered a cry.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you are changed!"
"Yes, I have had a pretty hard life, since I last saw you, and great
poverty--and that because of you!"
"Of me! How so?"
"Do you remember that diamond necklace you lent me to wear at the
"Well, I lost it."
"What do you mean? You brought it back."
"I brought you back another exactly like it. And it has taken us ten
years to pay for it. You can understand that it was not easy for us, for
us who had nothing. At last it is ended, and I am very glad."
Madame Forestier had stopped.
"You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?"
"Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very similar."
And she smiled with a joy that was at once proud and ingenuous.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most
only five hundred francs!"
THE MARQUIS DE FUMEROL
Roger de Tourneville was whiffing a cigar and blowing out small clouds of
smoke every now and then, as he sat astride a chair amid a party of
friends. He was talking.
"We were at dinner when a letter was brought in which my father opened.
You know my father, who thinks that he is king of France ad interim.
I call him Don Quixote, because for twelve years he has been running a
tilt against the windmill of the Republic, without quite knowing whether
it was in the cause of the Bourbons or the Orleanists. At present he is
bearing the lance in the cause of the Orleanists alone, because there is
no one else left. In any case, he thinks himself the first gentleman of
France, the best known, the most influential, the head of the party; and
as he is an irremovable senator, he thinks that the thrones of the
neighboring kings are very insecure.
"As for my mother, she is my father's soul, she is the soul of the
kingdom and of religion, and the scourge of all evil-thinkers.
"Well, a letter was brought in while we were at dinner, and my father
opened and read it, and then he said to mother: 'Your brother is dying.'
She grew very pale. My uncle was scarcely ever mentioned in the house,
and I did not know him at all; all I knew from public talk was, that he
had led, and was still leading, a gay life. After having spent his
fortune in fast living, he was now in small apartments in the Rue des
"An ancient peer of France and former colonel of cavalry, it was said
that he believed in neither God nor devil. Not believing, therefore, in
a future life he had abused the present life in every way, and had become
a live wound in my mother's heart.
"'Give me that letter, Paul,' she said, and when she read it, I asked for
it in my turn. Here it is:
'Monsieur le Comte, I think I ought to let you know that your
brother-in-law, the Comte Fumerol, is going to die. Perhaps you
would like to make some arrangements, and do not forget I told you.
"'We must take counsel,' papa murmured. 'In my position, I ought to
watch over your brother's last moments.'
"Mamma continued: 'I will send for Abbe Poivron and ask his advice, and
then I will go to my brother with the abbe and Roger. Remain here, Paul,
for you must not compromise yourself; but a woman can, and ought to do
these things. For a politician in your position, it is another matter.
It would be a fine thing for one of your opponents to be able to bring
one of your most laudable actions up against you.' 'You are right,' my
father said. 'Do as you think best, my dear wife.'
"A quarter of an hour, later, the Abbe Poivron came into the drawing-
room, and the situation was explained to him, analyzed and discussed in
all its bearings. If the Marquis de Fumerol, one of the greatest names
in France, were to die without the ministrations of religion, it would
assuredly be a terrible blow to the nobility in general, and to the Count
de Tourneville in particular, and the freethinkers would be triumphant.
The liberal newspapers would sing songs of victory for six months; my
mother's name would be dragged through the mire and brought into the
prose of Socialistic journals, and my father's name would be smirched.
It was impossible that such a thing should be.
"A crusade was therefore immediately decided upon, which was to be led by
the Abbe Poivron, a little, fat, clean, priest with a faint perfume about
him, a true vicar of a large church in a noble and rich quarter.
"The landau was ordered and we all three set out, my mother, the cure and
I, to administer the last sacraments to my uncle.
"It had been decided first of all we should see Madame Melanie who had
written the letter, and who was most likely the porter's wife, or my
uncle's servant, and I dismounted, as an advance guard, in front of a
seven-story house and went into a dark passage, where I had great
difficulty in finding the porter's den. He looked at me distrustfully,
and I said:
"'Madame Melanie, if you please.' 'Don't know her!' 'But I have received
a letter from her.' 'That may be, but I don't know her. Are you asking
for a lodger?' 'No, a servant probably. She wrote me about a place.'
'A servant?--a servant? Perhaps it is the marquis'. Go and see, the
fifth story on the left.'
"As soon as he found I was not asking for a doubtful character he became
more friendly and came as far as the corridor with me. He was a tall,
thin man with white whiskers, the manners of a beadle and majestic
"I climbed up a long spiral staircase, the railing of which I did not
venture to touch, and I gave three discreet knocks at the left-hand door
on the fifth story. It opened immediately, and an enormous dirty woman
appeared before me. She barred the entrance with her extended arms which
she placed against the two doorposts, and growled:
"'What do you want?' 'Are you Madame Melanie?' 'Yes.' 'I am the
Visconte de Tourneville.' 'Ah! All right! Come in.' 'Well, the fact
is, my mother is downstairs with a priest.' 'Oh! All right; go and
bring them up; but be careful of the porter.'
"I went downstairs and came up again with my mother, who was followed by
the abbe, and I fancied that I heard other footsteps behind us. As soon
as we were in the kitchen, Melanie offered us chairs, and we all four sat
down to deliberate.
"'Is he very ill?' my mother asked. 'Oh! yes, madame; he will not be
here long.' 'Does he seem disposed to receive a visit from a priest?'
'Oh! I do not think so.' 'Can I see him?' 'Well--yes madame--only--
only--those young ladies are with him.' 'What young ladies?' 'Why--why
--his lady friends, of course.' 'Oh!' Mamma had grown scarlet, and the
Abbe Poivron had lowered his eyes.
"The affair began to amuse me, and I said: 'Suppose I go in first? I
shall see how he receives me, and perhaps I shall be able to prepare him
to receive you.'
"My mother, who did not suspect any trick, replied: 'Yes, go, my dear.'
But a woman's voice cried out: 'Melanie!'
"The servant ran out and said: 'What do you want, Mademoiselle Claire?'
'The omelette; quickly.' 'In a minute, mademoiselle.' And coming back
to us, she explained this summons.
"They had ordered a cheese omelette at two o'clock as a slight collation.
And she at once began to break the eggs into a salad bowl, and to whip
them vigorously, while I went out on the landing and pulled the bell, so
as to formally announce my arrival. Melanie opened the door to me, and
made me sit down in an ante-room, while she went to tell my uncle that I
had come; then she came back and asked me to go in, while the abbe hid
behind the door, so that he might appear at the first signal.
"I was certainly very much surprised at the sight of my uncle, for he was
very handsome, very solemn and very elegant, the old rake.
"Sitting, almost lying, in a large armchair, his legs wrapped in
blankets, his hands, his long, white hands, over the arms of the chair,
he was waiting for death with the dignity of a patriarch. His white
beard fell on his chest, and his hair, which was also white, mingled with
it on his cheeks.
"Standing behind his armchair, as if to defend him against me, were two
young women, who looked at me with bold eyes. In their petticoats and
morning wrappers, with bare arms, with coal black hair twisted in a knot
on the nape of their neck, with embroidered, Oriental slippers, which
showed their ankles and silk stockings, they looked like the figures in
some symbolical painting, by the side of the dying man. Between the
easy-chair and the bed, there was a table covered with a white cloth, on
which two plates, two glasses, two forks and two knives, were waiting for
the cheese omelette which had been ordered some time before of Melanie.
"My uncle said in a weak, almost breathless, but clear voice:
"'Good-morning, my child; it is rather late in the day to come and see me;
our acquaintanceship will not last long.' I stammered out, 'It was not
my fault, uncle:' 'No; I know that,' he replied. 'It is your father and
mother's fault more than yours. How are they?' 'Pretty well, thank you.
When they heard that you were ill, they sent me to ask after you.'
'Ah! Why did they not come themselves?'
"I looked up at the two girls and said gently: 'It is not their fault if
they could not come, uncle. But it would be difficult for my father, and
impossible for my mother to come in here.' The old man did not reply,
but raised his hand toward mine, and I took the pale, cold hand and held
it in my own.
"The door opened, Melanie came in with the omelette and put it on the
table, and the two girls immediately sat down at the table, and began to
eat without taking their eyes off me. Then I said: 'Uncle, it would give
great pleasure to my mother to embrace you.' 'I also,' he murmured,
'should like----' He said no more, and I could think of nothing to
propose to him, and there was silence except for the noise of the plates
and that vague sound of eating.
"Now, the abbe, who was listening behind the door, seeing our
embarrassment, and thinking we had won the game, thought the time had
come to interpose, and showed himself. My uncle was so stupefied at
sight of him that at first he remained motionless; and then he opened his
mouth as if he meant to swallow up the priest, and shouted to him in a
strong, deep, furious voice: 'What are you doing here?'
"The abbe, who was used to difficult situations, came forward into the
room, murmuring: 'I have come in your sister's name, Monsieur le Marquis;
she has sent me. She would be happy, monsieur--'
"But the marquis was not listening. Raising one hand, he pointed to the
door with a proud, tragic gesture, and said angrily and breathing hard:
'Leave this room--go out--robber of souls. Go out from here, you
violator of consciences. Go out from here, you pick-lock of dying men's
"The abbe retreated, and I also went to the door, beating a retreat with
the priest; the two young women, who had the best of it, got up, leaving
their omelette only half eaten, and went and stood on either side of my
uncle's easy-chair, putting their hands on his arms to calm him, and to
protect him against the criminal enterprises of the Family, and of
"The abbe and I rejoined my mother in the kitchen, and Melanie again
offered us chairs. 'I knew quite well that this method would not work;
we must try some other means, otherwise he will escape us.' And they
began deliberating afresh, my mother being of one opinion and the abbe of
another, while I held a third.
"We had been discussing the matter in a low voice for half an hour,
perhaps, when a great noise of furniture being moved and of cries uttered
by my uncle, more vehement and terrible even than the former had been,
made us all four jump up.
"Through the doors and walls we could hear him shouting: 'Go out--out--
rascals--humbugs, get out, scoundrels--get out--get out!'
"Melanie rushed in, but came back immediately to call me to help her, and
I hastened in. Opposite to my uncle, who was terribly excited by anger,
almost standing up and vociferating, stood two men, one behind the other,
who seemed to be waiting till he should be dead with rage.
"By his ridiculous long coat, his long English shoes, his manners of a
tutor out of a position, his high collar, white necktie and straight
hair, his humble face of a false priest of a bastard religion, I
immediately recognized the first as a Protestant minister.
"The second was the porter of the house, who belonged to the reformed
religion and had followed us, and having seen our defeat, had gone to
fetch his own pastor, in hopes that he might meet a better reception.
My uncle seemed mad with rage! If the sight of the Catholic priest, of
the priest of his ancestors, had irritated the Marquis de Fumerol, who
had become a freethinker, the sight of his porter's minister made him
altogether beside himself. I therefore took the two men by the arm and
threw them out of the room so roughly that they bumped against each other
twice, between the two doors which led to the staircase; and then I
disappeared in my turn and returned to the kitchen, which was our
headquarters in order to take counsel with my mother and the abbe.
"But Melanie came back in terror, sobbing out:
"'He is dying--he is dying--come immediately--he is dying.'
"My mother rushed out. My uncle had fallen to the ground, and lay full
length along the floor, without moving. I fancy he was already dead.
My mother was superb at that moment! She went straight up to the two
girls who were kneeling by the body and trying to raise it up, and
pointing to the door with irresistible authority, dignity and majesty,
she said: 'Now it is time for you to leave the room.'
"And they went out without a word of protest. I must add, that I was
getting ready to turn them out as unceremoniously as I had done the
parson and the porter.
"Then the Abbe Poivron administered the last sacraments to my uncle with
all the customary prayers, and remitted all his sins, while my mother
sobbed as she knelt near her brother. Suddenly, however, she exclaimed:
'He recognized me; he pressed my hand; I am sure he recognized me!!!--and
that he thanked me! Oh, God, what happiness!'
"Poor mamma! If she had known or guessed for whom those thanks were
"They laid my uncle on his bed; he was certainly dead this time.
"'Madame,' Melanie said, 'we have no sheets to bury him in; all the linen
belongs to these two young ladies,' and when I looked at the omelette
which they had not finished, I felt inclined to laugh and to cry at the
same time. There are some humorous moments and some humorous situations
in life, occasionally!
"We gave my uncle a magnificent fungal, with five speeches at the grave.
Baron de Croiselles, the senator, showed in admirable terms that God
always returns victorious into well-born souls which have temporarily
been led into error. All the members of the Royalist and Catholic party
followed the funeral procession with the enthusiasm of victors, as they
spoke of that beautiful death after a somewhat troublous life."
Viscount Roger ceased speaking; his audience was laughing. Then somebody
said: "Bah! That is the story of all conversions in extremis."
THE TRIP OF LE HORLA
On the morning of July 8th I received the following telegram: "Fine day.
Always my predictions. Belgian frontier. Baggage and servants left at
noon at the social session. Beginning of manoeuvres at three. So I will
wait for you at the works from five o'clock on. Jovis."
At five o'clock sharp I entered the gas works of La Villette. It might
have been mistaken for the colossal ruins of an old town inhabited by
Cyclops. There were immense dark avenues separating heavy gasometers
standing one behind another, like monstrous columns, unequally high and,
undoubtedly, in the past the supports of some tremendous, some fearful
The balloon was lying in the courtyard and had the appearance of a cake
made of yellow cloth, flattened on the ground under a rope. That is
called placing a balloon in a sweep-net, and, in fact, it appeared like
an enormous fish.
Two or three hundred people were looking at it, sitting or standing, and
some were examining the basket, a nice little square basket for a human
cargo, bearing on its side in gold letters on a mahogany plate the words:
Suddenly the people began to stand back, for the gas was beginning to
enter into the balloon through a long tube of yellow cloth, which lay on
the soil, swelling and undulating like an enormous worm. But another
thought, another picture occurs to every mind. It is thus that nature
itself nourishes beings until their birth. The creature that will rise
soon begins to move, and the attendants of Captain Jovis, as Le Horla
grew larger, spread and put in place the net which covers it, so that the
pressure will be regular and equally distributed at every point.
The operation is very delicate and very important, for the resistance of
the cotton cloth of which the balloon is made is figured not in
proportion to the contact surface of this cloth with the net, but in
proportion to the links of the basket.
Le Horla, moreover, has been designed by M. Mallet, constructed under his
own eyes and made by himself. Everything had been made in the shops of
M. Jovis by his own working staff and nothing was made outside.
We must add that everything was new in this balloon, from the varnish to
the valve, those two essential parts of a balloon. Both must render the
cloth gas-proof, as the sides of a ship are waterproof. The old
varnishes, made with a base of linseed oil, sometimes fermented and thus
burned the cloth, which in a short time would tear like a piece of paper.
The valves were apt to close imperfectly after being opened and when the
covering called "cataplasme" was injured. The fall of M. L'Hoste in the
open sea during the night proved the imperfection of the old system.
The two discoveries of Captain Jovis, the varnish principally, are of
inestimable value in the art of ballooning.
The crowd has begun to talk, and some men, who appear to be specialists,
affirm with authority that we shall come down before reaching the
fortifications. Several other things have been criticized in this novel
type of balloon with which we are about to experiment with so much
pleasure and success.
It is growing slowly but surely. Some small holes and scratches made in
transit have been discovered, and we cover them and plug them with a
little piece of paper applied on the cloth while wet. This method of
repairing alarms and mystifies the public.
While Captain Jovis and his assistants are busy with the last details,
the travellers go to dine in the canteen of the gas-works, according to
the established custom.
When we come out again the balloon is swaying, enormous and transparent,
a prodigious golden fruit, a fantastic pear which is still ripening,
covered by the last rays of the setting sun. Now the basket is attached,
the barometers are brought, the siren, which we will blow to our hearts'
content, is also brought, also the two trumpets, the eatables, the
overcoats and raincoats, all the small articles that can go with the men
in that flying basket.
As the wind pushes the balloon against the gasometers, it is necessary to
steady it now and then, to avoid an accident at the start.
Captain Jovis is now ready and calls all the passengers.
Lieutenant Mallet jumps aboard, climbing first on the aerial net between
the basket and the balloon, from which he will watch during the night the
movements of Le Horla across the skies, as the officer on watch, standing
on starboard, watches the course of a ship.
M. Etierine Beer gets in after him, then comes M. Paul Bessand, then M.
Patrice Eyries and I get in last.
But the basket is too heavy for the balloon, considering the long trip to
be taken, and M. Eyries has to get out, not without great regret.
M. Joliet, standing erect on the edge of the basket, begs the ladies, in
very gallant terms, to stand aside a little, for he is afraid he might
throw sand on their hats in rising. Then he commands:
"Let it loose," and, cutting with one stroke of his knife the ropes that
hold the balloon to the ground, he gives Le Horla its liberty.
In one second we fly skyward. Nothing can be heard; we float, we rise,
we fly, we glide. Our friends shout with glee and applaud, but we hardly
hear them, we hardly see them. We are already so far, so high! What?
Are we really leaving these people down there? Is it possible? Paris
spreads out beneath us, a dark bluish patch, cut by its streets, from
which rise, here and there, domes, towers, steeples, then around it the
plain, the country, traversed by long roads, thin and white, amidst green
fields of a tender or dark green, and woods almost black.
The Seine appears like a coiled snake, asleep, of which we see neither
head nor tail; it crosses Paris, and the entire field resembles an
immense basin of prairies and forests dotted here and there by mountains,
hardly visible in the horizon.
The sun, which we could no longer see down below, now reappears as though
it were about to rise again, and our balloon seems to be lighted; it must
appear like a star to the people who are looking up. M. Mallet every few
seconds throws a cigarette paper into-space and says quietly: "We are
rising, always rising," while Captain Jovis, radiant with joy, rubs his
hands together and repeats: "Eh? this varnish? Isn't it good?"
In fact, we can see whether we are rising or sinking only by throwing a
cigarette paper out of the basket now and then. If this paper appears to
fall down like a stone, it means that the balloon is rising; if it
appears to shoot skyward the balloon is descending.
The two barometers mark about five hundred meters, and we gaze with
enthusiastic admiration at the earth we are leaving and to which we are
not attached in any way; it looks like a colored map, an immense plan of
the country. All its noises, however, rise to our ears very distinctly,
easily recognizable. We hear the sound of the wheels rolling in the
streets, the snap of a whip, the cries of drivers, the rolling and
whistling of trains and the laughter of small boys running after one
another. Every time we pass over a village the noise of children's
voices is heard above the rest and with the greatest distinctness. Some
men are calling us; the locomotives whistle; we answer with the siren,
which emits plaintive, fearfully shrill wails like the voice of a weird
being wandering through the world.
We perceive lights here and there, some isolated fire in the farms, and
lines of gas in the towns. We are going toward the northwest, after
roaming for some time over the little lake of Enghien. Now we see a
river; it is the Oise, and we begin to argue about the exact spot we are
passing. Is that town Creil or Pontoise--the one with so many lights?
But if we were over Pontoise we could see the junction of the Seine and
the Oise; and that enormous fire to the left, isn't it the blast furnaces
of Montataire? So then we are above Creil. The view is superb; it is
dark on the earth, but we are still in the light, and it is now past ten
o'clock. Now we begin to hear slight country noises, the double cry of
the quail in particular, then the mewing of cats and the barking of dogs.
Surely the dogs have scented the balloon; they have seen it and have
given the alarm. We can hear them barking all over the plain and making
the identical noise they make when baying at the moon. The cows also
seem to wake up in the barns, for we can hear them lowing; all the beasts
are scared and moved before the aerial monster that is passing.
The delicious odors of the soil rise toward us, the smell of hay, of
flowers, of the moist, verdant earth, perfuming the air-a light air, in
fact, so light, so sweet, so delightful that I realize I never was so
fortunate as to breathe before. A profound sense of well-being, unknown
to me heretofore, pervades me, a well-being of body and spirit, composed
of supineness, of infinite rest, of forgetfulness, of indifference to
everything and of this novel sensation of traversing space without any of
the sensations that make motion unbearable, without noise, without shocks
and without fear.
At times we rise and then descend. Every few minutes Lieutenant Mallet,
suspended in his cobweb of netting, says to Captain Jovis: "We are
descending; throw down half a handful." And the captain, who is talking
and laughing with us, with a bag of ballast between his legs, takes a
handful of sand out of the bag and throws it overboard.
Nothing is more amusing, more delicate, more interesting than the
manoeuvring of a balloon. It is an enormous toy, free and docile, which
obeys with surprising sensitiveness, but it is also, and before all, the
slave of the wind, which we cannot control. A pinch of sand, half a
sheet of paper, one or two drops of water, the bones of a chicken which
we had just eaten, thrown overboard, makes it go up quickly.
A breath of cool, damp air rising from the river or the wood we are
traversing makes the balloon descend two hundred metres. It does not
vary when passing over fields of ripe grain, and it rises when it passes
The earth sleeps now, or, rather, men sleep on the earth, for the beasts
awakened by the sight of our balloon announce our approach everywhere.
Now and then the rolling of a train or the whistling of a locomotive is
plainly distinguishable. We sound our siren as we pass over inhabited
places; and the peasants, terrified in their beds, must surely tremble
and ask themselves if the Angel Gabriel is not passing by.
A strong and continuous odor of gas can be plainly observed. We must
have encountered a current of warm air, and the balloon expands, losing
its invisible blood by the escape-valve, which is called the appendix,
and which closes of itself as soon as the expansion ceases.
We are rising. The earth no longer gives back the echo of our trumpets;
we have risen almost two thousand feet. It is not light enough for us to
consult the instruments; we only know that the rice paper falls from us
like dead butterflies, that we are rising, always rising. We can no
longer see the earth; a light mist separates us from it; and above our
head twinkles a world of stars.
A silvery light appears before us and makes the sky turn pale, and
suddenly, as if it were rising from unknown depths behind the horizon
below us rises the moon on the edge of a cloud. It seems to be coming
from below, while we are looking down upon it from a great height,
leaning on the edge of our basket like an audience on a balcony. Clear
and round, it emerges from the clouds and slowly rises in the sky.
The earth no longer seems to exist, it is buried in milky vapors that
resemble a sea. We are now alone in space with the moon, which looks
like another balloon travelling opposite us; and our balloon, which
shines in the air, appears like another, larger moon, a world wandering
in the sky amid the stars, through infinity. We no longer speak, think
nor live; we float along through space in delicious inertia. The air
which is bearing us up has made of us all beings which resemble itself,
silent, joyous, irresponsible beings, intoxicated by this stupendous
flight, peculiarly alert, although motionless. One is no longer
conscious of one's flesh or one's bones; one's heart seems to have ceased
beating; we have become something indescribable, birds who do not even
have to flap their wings.
All memory has disappeared from our minds, all trouble from our thoughts;
we have no more regrets, plans nor hopes. We look, we feel, we wildly
enjoy this fantastic journey; nothing in the sky but the moon and
ourselves! We are a wandering, travelling world, like our sisters, the
planets; and this little world carries five men who have left the earth
and who have almost forgotten it. We can now see as plainly as in
daylight; we look at each other, surprised at this brightness, for we
have nothing to look at but ourselves and a few silvery clouds floating
below us. The barometers mark twelve hundred metres, then thirteen,
fourteen, fifteen hundred; and the little rice papers still fall about
Captain Jovis claims that the moon has often made balloons act thus, and
that the upward journey will continue.
We are now at two thousand metres; we go up to two thousand three hundred
and fifty; then the balloon stops: We blow the siren and are surprised
that no one answers us from the stars.
We are now going down rapidly. M. Mallet keeps crying: "Throw out more
ballast! throw out more ballast!" And the sand and stones that we throw
over come back into our faces, as if they were going up, thrown from
below toward the stars, so rapid is our descent.
Here is the earth! Where are we? It is now past midnight, and we are
crossing a broad, dry, well-cultivated country, with many roads and well
To the right is a large city and farther away to the left is another.
But suddenly from the earth appears a bright fairy light; it disappears,
reappears and once more disappears. Jovis, intoxicated by space,
exclaims: "Look, look at this phenomenon of the moon in the water. One
can see nothing more beautiful at night!"
Nothing indeed can give one an idea of the wonderful brightness of these
spots of light which are not fire, which do not look like reflections,
which appear quickly here or there and immediately go out again. These
shining lights appear on the winding rivers at every turn, but one hardly
has time to see them as the balloon passes as quickly as the wind.
We are now quite near the earth, and Beer exclaims:--"Look at that!
What is that running over there in the fields? Isn't it a dog?" Indeed,
something is running along the ground with great speed, and this
something seems to jump over ditches, roads, trees with such ease that we
could not understand what it might be. The captain laughed: "It is the
shadow of our balloon. It will grow as we descend."
I distinctly hear a great noise of foundries in the distance. And,
according to the polar star, which we have been observing all night, 'and
which I have so often watched and consulted from the bridge of my little
yacht on the Mediterranean, we are heading straight for Belgium.
Our siren and our two horns are continually calling. A few cries from
some truck driver or belated reveler answer us. We bellow: "Where are
we?" But the balloon is going so rapidly that the bewildered man has not
even time to answer us. The growing shadow of Le Horla, as large as a
child's ball, is fleeing before us over the fields, roads and woods. It
goes along steadily, preceding us by about a quarter of a mile; and now I
am leaning out of the basket, listening to the roaring of the wind in the
trees and across the harvest fields. I say to Captain Jovis: "How the
He answers: "No, those are probably waterfalls." I insist, sure of my
ear that knows the sound of the wind, from hearing it so often whistle
through the rigging. Then Jovis nudges me; he fears to frighten his
happy, quiet passengers, for he knows full well that a storm is pursuing
At last a man manages to understand us; he answers: "Nord!" We get the
same reply from another.
Suddenly the lights of a town, which seems to be of considerable size,
appear before us. Perhaps it is Lille. As we approach it, such a
wonderful flow of fire appears below us that I think myself transported
into some fairyland where precious stones are manufactured for giants.
It seems that it is a brick factory. Here are others, two, three. The
fusing material bubbles, sparkles, throws out blue, red, yellow, green
sparks, reflections from giant diamonds, rubies, emeralds, turquoises,
sapphires, topazes. And near by are great foundries roaring like
apocalyptic lions; high chimneys belch forth their clouds of smoke and
flame, and we can hear the noise of metal striking against metal.
"Where are we?"
The voice of some joker or of a crazy person answers: "In a balloon!"
"Where are we?"
We were not mistaken. We are already out of sight of the town, and we
see Roubaix to the right, then some well-cultivated, rectangular fields,
of different colors according to the crops, some yellow, some gray or
brown. But the clouds are gathering behind us, hiding the moon, whereas
toward the east the sky is growing lighter, becoming a clear blue tinged
with red. It is dawn. It grows rapidly, now showing us all the little
details of the earth, the trains, the brooks, the cows, the goats. And
all this passes beneath us with surprising speed. One hardly has time to
notice that other fields, other meadows, other houses have already
disappeared. Cocks are crowing, but the voice of ducks drowns
everything. One might think the world to be peopled, covered with them,
they make so much noise.
The early rising peasants are waving their arms and crying to us: "Let
yourselves drop!" But we go along steadily, neither rising nor falling,
leaning over the edge of the basket and watching the world fleeing under
Jovis sights another city far off in the distance. It approaches;
everywhere are old church spires. They are delightful, seen thus from
above. Where are we? Is this Courtrai? Is it Ghent?
We are already very near it, and we see that it is surrounded by water
and crossed in every direction by canals. One might think it a Venice of
the north. Just as we are passing so near to a church tower that our
long guy-rope almost touches it, the chimes begin to ring three o'clock.
The sweet, clear sounds rise to us from this frail roof which we have
almost touched in our wandering course. It is a charming greeting, a
friendly welcome from Holland. We answer with our siren, whose raucous
voice echoes throughout the streets.
It was Bruges. But eve have hardly lost sight of it when my neighbor,
Paul Bessand, asks me: "Don't you see something over there, to the right,
in front of us? It looks like a river."
And, indeed, far ahead of us stretches a bright highway, in the light of
the dawning day. Yes, it looks like a river, an immense river full of
"Get ready for the descent," cried the captain. He makes M. Mallet leave
his net and return to the basket; then we pack the barometers and
everything that could be injured by possible shocks. M. Bessand
exclaims: "Look at the masts over there to the left! We are at the sea!"
Fogs had hidden it from us until then. The sea was everywhere, to the
left and opposite us, while to our right the Scheldt, which had joined
the Moselle, extended as far as the sea, its mouths vaster than a lake.
It was necessary to descend within a minute or two. The rope to the
escape-valve, which had been religiously enclosed in a little white bag
and placed in sight of all so that no one would touch it, is unrolled,
and M. Mallet holds it in his hand while Captain Jovis looks for a
Behind us the thunder was rumbling and not a single bird followed our mad
"Pull!" cried Jovis.
We were passing over a canal. The basket trembled and tipped over
slightly. The guy-rope touched the tall trees on both banks. But our
speed is so great that the long rope now trailing does not seem to slow
down, and we pass with frightful rapidity over a large farm, from which
the bewildered chickens, pigeons and ducks fly away, while the cows, cats
and dogs run, terrified, toward the house.
Just one-half bag of ballast is left. Jovis throws it overboard, and Le
Horla flies lightly across the roof.
The captain once more cries: "The escape-valve!"
M. Mallet reaches for the rope and hangs to it, and we drop like an
arrow. With a slash of a knife the cord which retains the anchor is cut,
and we drag this grapple behind us, through a field of beets. Here are
"Take care! Hold fast! Look out for your heads!"
We pass over them. Then a strong shock shakes us. The anchor has taken
"Look out! Take a good hold! Raise yourselves by your wrists. We are
going to touch ground."
The basket does indeed strike the earth. Then it flies up again. Once
more it falls and bounds upward again, and at last it settles on the
ground, while the balloon struggles madly, like a wounded beast.
Peasants run toward us, but they do not dare approach. They were a long
time before they decided to come and deliver us, for one cannot set foot
on the ground until the bag is almost completely deflated.
Then, almost at the same time as the bewildered men, some of whom showed
their astonishment by jumping, with the wild gestures of savages, all the
cows that were grazing along the coast came toward us, surrounding our
balloon with a strange and comical circle of horns, big eyes and blowing
With the help of the accommodating and hospitable Belgian peasants, we
were able in a short time to pack up all our material and carry it to the
station at Heyst, where at twenty minutes past eight we took the train
The descent occurred at three-fifteen in the morning, preceding by only a
few seconds the torrent of rain and the blinding lightning of the storm
which had been chasing us before it.
Thanks to Captain Jovis, of whom I had heard much from my colleague, Paul
Ginisty--for both of them had fallen together and voluntarily into the
sea opposite Mentone--thanks to this brave man, we were able to see, in a
single night, from far up in the sky, the setting of the sun, the rising
of the moon and the dawn of day and to go from Paris to the mouth of the
Scheldt through the skies.
[This story appeared in "Figaro" on July 16, 1887, under the title:
"From Paris to Heyst."]
The two friends were getting near the end of their dinner. Through the
cafe windows they could see the Boulevard, crowded with people. They
could feel the gentle breezes which are wafted over Paris on warm summer
evenings and make you feel like going out somewhere, you care not where,
under the trees, and make you dream of moonlit rivers, of fireflies and
One of the two, Henri Simon, heaved a deep sigh and said:
"Ah! I am growing old. It's sad. Formerly, on evenings like this, I
felt full of life. Now, I only feel regrets. Life is short!"
He was perhaps forty-five years old, very bald and already growing stout.
The other, Pierre Carnier, a trifle older, but thin and lively, answered:
"Well, my boy, I have grown old without noticing it in the least. I have
always been merry, healthy, vigorous and all the rest. As one sees
oneself in the mirror every day, one does not realize the work of age,
for it is slow, regular, and it modifies the countenance so gently that
the changes are unnoticeable. It is for this reason alone that we do not
die of sorrow after two or three years of excitement. For we cannot
understand the alterations which time produces. In order to appreciate
them one would have to remain six months without seeing one's own face--
then, oh, what a shock!
"And the women, my friend, how I pity the poor beings! All their joy,
all their power, all their life, lies in their beauty, which lasts ten
"As I said, I aged without noticing it; I thought myself practically a
youth, when I was almost fifty years old. Not feeling the slightest
infirmity, I went about, happy and peaceful.
"The revelation of my decline came to me in a simple and terrible manner,
which overwhelmed me for almost six months--then I became resigned.
"Like all men, I have often been in love, but most especially once.
"I met her at the seashore, at Etretat, about twelve years ago, shortly
after the war. There is nothing prettier than this beach during the
morning bathing hour. It is small, shaped like a horseshoe, framed by
high while cliffs, which are pierced by strange holes called the
'Portes,' one stretching out into the ocean like the leg of a giant, the
other short and dumpy. The women gather on the narrow strip of sand in
this frame of high rocks, which they make into a gorgeous garden of
beautiful gowns. The sun beats down on the shores, on the multicolored
parasols, on the blue-green sea; and all is gay, delightful, smiling.
You sit down at the edge of the water and you watch the bathers. The
women come down, wrapped in long bath robes, which they throw off
daintily when they reach the foamy edge of the rippling waves; and they
run into the water with a rapid little step, stopping from time to time
for a delightful little thrill from the cold water, a short gasp.
"Very few stand the test of the bath. It is there that they can be
judged, from the ankle to the throat. Especially on leaving the water
are the defects revealed, although water is a powerful aid to flabby
"The first time that I saw this young woman in the water, I was
delighted, entranced. She stood the test well. There are faces whose
charms appeal to you at first glance and delight you instantly. You seem
to have found the woman whom you were born to love. I had that feeling
and that shock.
"I was introduced, and was soon smitten worse than I had ever been
before. My heart longed for her. It is a terrible yet delightful thing
thus to be dominated by a young woman. It is almost torture, and yet
infinite delight. Her look, her smile, her hair fluttering in the wind,
the little lines of her face, the slightest movement of her features,
delighted me, upset me, entranced me. She had captured me, body and
soul, by her gestures, her manners, even by her clothes, which seemed to
take on a peculiar charm as soon as she wore them. I grew tender at the
sight of her veil on some piece of furniture, her gloves thrown on a
chair. Her gowns seemed to me inimitable. Nobody had hats like hers.
"She was married, but her husband came only on Saturday, and left on
Monday. I didn't cencern myself about him, anyhow. I wasn't jealous of
him, I don't know why; never did a creature seem to me to be of less
importance in life, to attract my attention less than this man.
"But she! how I loved her! How beautiful, graceful and young she was!
She was youth, elegance, freshness itself! Never before had I felt so
strongly what a pretty, distinguished, delicate, charming, graceful being
woman is. Never before had I appreciated the seductive beauty to be
found in the curve of a cheek, the movement of a lip, the pinkness of an
ear, the shape of that foolish organ called the nose.
"This lasted three months; then I left for America, overwhelmed with
sadness. But her memory remained in me, persistent, triumphant. From
far away I was as much hers as I had been when she was near me. Years
passed by, and I did not forget her. The charming image of her person
was ever before my eyes and in my heart. And my love remained true to
her, a quiet tenderness now, something like the beloved memory of the
most beautiful and the most enchanting thing I had ever met in my life.
"Twelve years are not much in a lifetime! One does not feel them slip
by. The years follow each other gently and quickly, slowly yet rapidly,
each one is long and yet so soon over! They add up so rapidly, they
leave so few traces behind them, they disappear so completely, that, when
one turns round to look back over bygone years, one sees nothing and yet
one does not understand how one happens to be so old. It seemed to me,
really, that hardly a few months separated me from that charming season
on the sands of Etretat.
"Last spring I went to dine with some friends at Maisons-Laffitte.
"Just as the train was leaving, a big, fat lady, escorted by four little
girls, got into my car. I hardly looked at this mother hen, very big,
very round, with a face as full as the moon framed in an enormous,
"She was puffing, out of breath from having been forced to walk quickly.
The children began to chatter. I unfolded my paper and began to read.
"We had just passed Asnieres, when my neighbor suddenly turned to me and
"'Excuse me, sir, but are you not Monsieur Garnier?'
"Then she began to laugh, the pleased laugh of a good woman; and yet it
"'You do not seem to recognize me.'
"I hesitated. It seemed to me that I had seen that face somewhere; but
where? when? I answered:
"'Yes--and no. I certainly know you, and yet I cannot recall your name.'
"She blushed a little:
"'Madame Julie Lefevre.'
"Never had I received such a shock. In a second it seemed to me as
though it were all over with me! I felt that a veil had been torn from
my eyes and that I was going to make a horrible and heartrending
"So that was she! That big, fat, common woman, she! She had become the
mother of these four girls since I had last her. And these little beings
surprised me as much as their mother. They were part of her; they were
big girls, and already had a place in life. Whereas she no longer
counted, she, that marvel of dainty and charming gracefulness. It seemed
to me that I had seen her but yesterday, and this is how I found her
again! Was it possible? A poignant grief seized my heart; and also a
revolt against nature herself, an unreasoning indignation against this
brutal, infarious act of destruction.
"I looked at her, bewildered. Then I took her hand in mine, and tears
came to my eyes. I wept for her lost youth. For I did not know this fat
"She was also excited, and stammered:
"'I am greatly changed, am I not? What can you expect--everything has
its time! You see, I have become a mother, nothing but a good mother.
Farewell to the rest, that is over. Oh! I never expected you to
recognize me if we met. You, too, have changed. It took me quite a
while to be sure that I was not mistaken. Your hair is all white. Just
think! Twelve years ago! Twelve years! My oldest girl is already ten.'
"I looked at the child. And I recognized in her something of her
mother's old charm, but something as yet unformed, something which
promised for the future. And life seemed to me as swift as a passing
"We had reached. Maisons-Laffitte. I kissed my old friend's hand. I
had found nothing utter but the most commonplace remarks. I was too much
upset to talk.
"At night, alone, at home, I stood in front of the mirror for a long
time, a very long time. And I finally remembered what I had been,
finally saw in my mind's eye my brown mustache, my black hair and the
youthful expression of my face. Now I was old. Farewell!"
This is what the old Marquis d'Arville told us after St. Hubert's dinner
at the house of the Baron des Ravels.
We had killed a stag that day. The marquis was the only one of the
guests who had not taken part in this chase. He never hunted.
During that long repast we had talked about hardly anything but the
slaughter of animals. The ladies themselves were interested in bloody
and exaggerated tales, and the orators imitated the attacks and the
combats of men against beasts, raised their arms, romanced in a
M. d Arville talked well, in a certain flowery, high-sounding, but
effective style. He must have told this story frequently, for he told it
fluently, never hesitating for words, choosing them with skill to make
his description vivid.
Gentlemen, I have never hunted, neither did my father, nor my
grandfather, nor my great-grandfather. This last was the son of a man
who hunted more than all of you put together. He died in 1764. I will
tell you the story of his death.
His name was Jean. He was married, father of that child who became my
great-grandfather, and he lived with his younger brother, Francois
d'Arville, in our castle in Lorraine, in the midst of the forest.
Francois d'Arville had remained a bachelor for love of the chase.
They both hunted from one end of the year to the other, without stopping
and seemingly without fatigue. They loved only hunting, understood
nothing else, talked only of that, lived only for that.
They had at heart that one passion, which was terrible and inexorable.
It consumed them, had completely absorbed them, leaving room for no other
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