Project Gutenberg's Original Short Stories, by Maupassant, Complete #15 in our series by Guy de Maupassant. Complete Maupassant Original. Free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook. Contains the entire 13 Volumes of the complete set by Guy De Maupassant, which is comprised of short stories. A SELECTION from the WRITINGS of GUY DE MAUPASSANT. SHORT STORIES of the TRAGEDY AND COMEDY OF LIFE. WITH A CRITICAL PREFACE BY.
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Complete Original Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant by Guy de Maupassant. Book Cover. Download; Bibrec. Complete Maupassant Original Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant for free download in a number of formats - including epub, pdf, azw, mobi and more. MAUPASSANT SHORT STORIES is written by Guy de Maupassant, a French writer and one of the finest exponents of modern short stories. MAUPASSANT.
How weak our mind is; how quickly it is terrified and unbalanced as soon as we are confronted with a small, incomprehensible fact. Instead of dismissing the problem with: "We do not understand because we cannot find the cause," we immediately imagine terrible mysteries and supernatural powers. Fete of the Republic.
I walked through the streets, and the crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still, it is very foolish to make merry on a set date, by Government decree. People are like a flock of sheep, now steadily patient, now in ferocious revolt.
Say to it: "Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to it: "Go and fight with your neighbor," and it goes and fights. Say to it: "Vote for the Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor; then say to it: "Vote for the Republic," and it votes for the Republic.
Those who direct it are stupid, too; but instead of obeying men they obey principles, a course which can only be foolish, ineffective, and false, for the very reason that principles are ideas which are considered as certain and unchangeable, whereas in this world one is certain of nothing, since light is an illusion and noise is deception.
I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much. I was dining at my cousin's, Madame Sable, whose husband is colonel of the Seventy-sixth Chasseurs at Limoges.
There were two young women there, one of whom had married a medical man, Dr. Parent, who devotes himself a great deal to nervous diseases and to the extraordinary manifestations which just now experiments in hypnotism and suggestion are producing. He related to us at some length the enormous results obtained by English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at Nancy, and the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange, that I declared that I was altogether incredulous. Ever since man has thought, since he has been able to express and write down his thoughts, he has felt himself close to a mystery which is impenetrable to his coarse and imperfect senses, and he endeavors to supplement the feeble penetration of his organs by the efforts of his intellect.
As long as that intellect remained in its elementary stage, this intercourse with invisible spirits assumed forms which were commonplace though terrifying. Thence sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the legends of wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, of ghosts, I might even say the conception of God, for our ideas of the Workman-Creator, from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are certainly the most mediocre, the stupidest, and the most unacceptable inventions that ever sprang from the frightened brain of any human creature.
Nothing is truer than what Voltaire says: 'If God made man in His own image, man has certainly paid Him back again. Mesmer and some others have put us on an unexpected track, and within the last two or three years especially, we have arrived at results really surprising.
Parent said to her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep, Madame? I suddenly felt myself somewhat discomposed; my heart beat rapidly and I had a choking feeling in my throat. I saw that Madame Sable's eyes were growing heavy, her mouth twitched, and her bosom heaved, and at the end of ten minutes she was asleep. He put a visiting-card into her hands, and said to her: "This is a looking-glass; what do you see in it?
Quite, quite enough! On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious seance and I was assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and undoubted good faith, for I had known her as well as if she had been my own sister ever since she was a child, but as to a possible trick on the doctor's part.
Had not he, perhaps, kept a glass hidden in his hand, which he showed to the young woman in her sleep at the same time as he did the card? Professional conjurers do things which are just as singular. However, I went to bed, and this morning, at about half past eight, I was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame Sable has asked to see you immediately, Monsieur.
She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and without raising her veil said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going to ask a great favor of you. I am in absolute want of five thousand francs. I asked myself whether she had not really been making fun of me with Dr. Parent, if it were not merely a very well-acted farce which had been got up beforehand. On looking at her attentively, however, my doubts disappeared.
She was trembling with grief, so painful was this step to her, and I was sure that her throat was full of sobs. Has not your husband five thousand francs at his disposal? Come, think. Are you sure that he commissioned you to ask me for them? She did not know. She only knew that she was to borrow five thousand francs of me for her husband. So she told a lie. You did not mention it to me yesterday. I burned it. I beseech you, I beseech you to get them for me.
I heard her voice change its tone; she wept and sobbed, harassed and dominated by the irresistible order that she had received. I beg you to - if you knew what I am suffering - I want them to-day.
How kind you are. Parent sent you to sleep? Very well then; he ordered you to come to me this morning to borrow five thousand francs, and at this moment you are obeying that suggestion. He was just going out, and he listened to me with a smile, and said: "Do you believe now?
The doctor felt her pulse, looked at her for some time with one hand raised toward her eyes, which she closed by degrees under the irresistible power of this magnetic influence. When she was asleep, he said: "Your husband does not require the five thousand francs any longer! You must, therefore, forget that you asked your cousin to lend them to you, and, if he speaks to you about it, you will not understand him.
I have just come back, and I have not been able to eat any lunch, for this experiment has altogether upset me. Many people to whom I have told the adventure have laughed at me. I no longer know what to think. The wise man says: Perhaps? I dined at Bougival, and then I spent the evening at a boatmen's ball. Decidedly everything depends on place and surroundings. It would be the height of folly to believe in the supernatural on the Ile de la Grenouilliere.
But on the top of Mont Saint-Michel or in India, we are terribly under the influence of our surroundings. I shall return home next week. I came back to my own house yesterday. Everything is going on well. August 2. Nothing fresh; it is splendid weather, and I spend my days in watching the Seine flow past. August 4. Quarrels among my servants.
They declare that the glasses are broken in the cupboards at night. The footman accuses the cook, she accuses the needlewoman, and the latter accuses the other two. Who is the culprit? It would take a clever person to tell. August 6.
This time, I am not mad. I have seen - I have seen - I have seen! I was walking at two o'clock among my rose-trees, in the full sunlight - in the walk bordered by autumn roses which are beginning to fall.
As I stopped to look at a Geant de Bataille, which had three splendid blooms, I distinctly saw the stalk of one of the roses bend close to me, as if an invisible hand had bent it, and then break, as if that hand had picked it! Then the flower raised itself, following the curve which a hand would have described in carrying it toward a mouth, and remained suspended in the transparent air, alone and motionless, a terrible red spot, three yards from my eyes.
In desperation I rushed at it to take it! I found nothing; it had disappeared. Then I was seized with furious rage against myself, for it is not wholesome for a reasonable and serious man to have such hallucinations. I turned to look for the stalk, and I found it immediately under the bush, freshly broken, between the two other roses which remained on the branch.
I returned home, then, with a much disturbed mind; for I am certain now, certain as I am of the alternation of day and night, that there exists close to me an invisible being who lives on milk and on water, who can touch objects, take them and change their places; who is, consequently, endowed with a material nature, although imperceptible to sense, and who lives as I do, under my roof - August 7.
I slept tranquilly. He drank the water out of my decanter, but did not disturb my sleep. I ask myself whether I am mad. As I was walking just now in the sun by the riverside, doubts as to my own sanity arose in me; not vague doubts such as I have had hitherto, but precise and absolute doubts. I have seen mad people, and I have known some who were quite intelligent, lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one point.
They could speak clearly, readily, profoundly on everything; till their thoughts were caught in the breakers of their delusions and went to pieces there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and terrible sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS. I certainly should think that I was mad, absolutely mad, if I were not conscious that I knew my state, if I could not fathom it and analyze it with the most complete lucidity.
I should, in fact, be a reasonable man laboring under a hallucination. Some unknown disturbance must have been excited in my brain, one of those disturbances which physiologists of the present day try to note and to fix precisely, and that disturbance must have caused a profound gulf in my mind and in the order and logic of my ideas. Similar phenomena occur in dreams, and lead us through the most unlikely phantasmagoria, without causing us any surprise, because our verifying apparatus and our sense of control have gone to sleep, while our imaginative faculty wakes and works.
Was it not possible that one of the imperceptible keys of the cerebral finger-board had been paralyzed in me? Some men lose the recollection of proper names, or of verbs, or of numbers, or merely of dates, in consequence of an accident. The localization of all the avenues of thought has been accomplished nowadays; what, then, would there be surprising in the fact that my faculty of controlling the unreality of certain hallucinations should be destroyed for the time being?
The sun was shining brightly on the river and made earth delightful, while it filled me with love for life, for the swallows, whose swift agility is always delightful in my eyes, for the plants by the riverside, whose rustling is a pleasure to my ears. By degrees, however, an inexplicable feeling of discomfort seized me. It seemed to me as if some unknown force were numbing and stopping me, were preventing me from going further and were calling me back.
I felt that painful wish to return which comes on you when you have left a beloved invalid at home, and are seized by a presentiment that he is worse. I, therefore, returned despite of myself, feeling certain that I should find some bad news awaiting me, a letter or a telegram. There was nothing, however, and I was surprised and uneasy, more so than if I had had another fantastic vision.
August 8. I spent a terrible evening, yesterday. He does not show himself any more, but I feel that He is near me, watching me, looking at me, penetrating me, dominating me, and more terrible to me when He hides himself thus than if He were to manifest his constant and invisible presence by supernatural phenomena.
However, I slept. August 9. Nothing, but I am afraid. August Nothing; but what will happen to-morrow? Still nothing. I cannot stop at home with this fear hanging over me and these thoughts in my mind; I shall go away. Ten o'clock at night. All day long I have been trying to get away, and have not been able. I contemplated a simple and easy act of liberty, a carriage ride to Rouen - and I have not been able to do it.
What is the reason? When one is attacked by certain maladies, the springs of our physical being seem broken, our energies destroyed, our muscles relaxed, our bones to be as soft as our flesh, and our blood as liquid as water. I am experiencing the same in my moral being, in a strange and distressing manner. I have no longer any strength, any courage, any self-control, nor even any power to set my own will in motion.
I am lost! Somebody possesses my soul and governs it! Somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts. I am no longer master of myself, nothing except an enslaved and terrified spectator of the things which I do.
I wish to go out; I cannot. HE does not wish to; and so I remain, trembling and distracted in the armchair in which he keeps me sitting. I merely wish to get up and to rouse myself, so as to think that I am still master of myself: I cannot! I am riveted to my chair, and my chair adheres to the floor in such a manner that no force of mine can move us. I pick the strawberries and I eat them! Is there a God?
If there be one, deliver me! Save me! Certainly this is the way in which my poor cousin was possessed and swayed, when she came to borrow five thousand francs of me. She was under the power of a strange will which had entered into her, like another soul, a parasitic and ruling soul. Is the world coming to an end?
But who is he, this invisible being that rules me, this unknowable being, this rover of a supernatural race? Invisible beings exist, then!
I have never read anything that resembles what goes on in my house. If I could only leave it, if I could only go away and flee, and never return, I should be saved; but I cannot. I managed to escape to-day for two hours, like a prisoner who finds the door of his dungeon accidentally open. I suddenly felt that I was free and that He was far away, and so I gave orders to put the horses in as quickly as possible, and I drove to Rouen.
Herrmann Herestauss's treatise on the unknown inhabitants of the ancient and modern world. Then, as I was getting into my carriage, I intended to say: "To the railway station!
He had found me out and regained possession of me. What a night! And yet it seems to me that I ought to rejoice. I read until one o'clock in the morning! Herestauss, Doctor of Philosophy and Theogony, wrote the history and the manifestation of all those invisible beings which hover around man, or of whom he dreams.
He describes their origin, their domains, their power; but none of them resembles the one which haunts me. One might say that man, ever since he has thought, has had a foreboding and a fear of a new being, stronger than himself, his successor in this world, and that, feeling him near, and not being able to foretell the nature of the unseen one, he has, in his terror, created the whole race of hidden beings, vague phantoms born of fear.
Having, therefore, read until one o'clock in the morning, I went and sat down at the open window, in order to cool my forehead and my thoughts in the calm night air. It was very pleasant and warm! How I should have enjoyed such a night formerly! There was no moon, but the stars darted out their rays in the dark heavens.
Who inhabits those worlds? What forms, what living beings, what animals are there yonder? Do those who are thinkers in those distant worlds know more than we do? What can they do more than we? What do they see which we do not? Will not one of them, some day or other, traversing space, appear on our earth to conquer it, just as formerly the Norsemen crossed the sea in order to subjugate nations feebler than themselves?
I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then, having slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my eyes without moving, awakened by an indescribably confused and strange sensation. At first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it appeared to me as if a page of the book, which had remained open on my table, turned over of its own accord.
Not a breath of air had come in at my window, and I was surprised and waited. In about four minutes, I saw, I saw - yes I saw with my own eyes - another page lift itself up and fall down on the others, as if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty, appeared empty, but I knew that He was there, He, and sitting in my place, and that He was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed my room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him!
But before I could reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away from me. My table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my window closed as if some thief had been surprised and had fled out into the night, shutting it behind him.
So He had run away; He had been afraid; He, afraid of me! So to-morrow, or later - some day or other, I should be able to hold him in my clutches and crush him against the ground! Do not dogs occasionally bite and strangle their masters? I have been thinking the whole day long. He is the stronger; but an hour will come.
I know, I know, I know all! I have just read the following in the "Revue du Monde Scientifique": "A curious piece of news comes to us from Rio de Janeiro.
Madness, an epidemic of madness, which may be compared to that contagious madness which attacked the people of Europe in the Middle Ages, is at this moment raging in the Province of San-Paulo. The frightened inhabitants are leaving their houses, deserting their villages, abandoning their land, saying that they are pursued, possessed, governed like human cattle by invisible, though tangible beings, by a species of vampire, which feeds on their life while they are asleep, and which, besides, drinks water and milk without appearing to touch any other nourishment.
I remember now that fine Brazilian three-master which passed in front of my windows as it was going up the Seine, on the eighth of last May! I thought it looked so pretty, so white and bright! That Being was on board of her, coming from there, where its race sprang from.
And it saw me!
It saw my house, which was also white, and He sprang from the ship on to the land. Good heavens! Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has come. He whom disquieted priests exorcised, whom sorcerers evoked on dark nights, without seeing him appear, He to whom the imaginations of the transient masters of the world lent all the monstrous or graceful forms of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies, and familiar spirits.
After the coarse conceptions of primitive fear, men more enlightened gave him a truer form. Mesmer divined him, and ten years ago physicians accurately discovered the nature of his power, even before He exercised it himself. They played with that weapon of their new Lord, the sway of a mysterious will over the human soul, which had become enslaved. They called it mesmerism, hypnotism, suggestion, I know not what?
I have seen them diverting themselves like rash children with this horrible power! Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come, the - the - what does He call himself - the - I fancy that he is shouting out his name to me and I do not hear him - the - yes - He is shouting it out - I am listening - I cannot - repeat - it - Horla - I have heard - the Horla - it is He - the Horla - He has come! Learned men say that eyes of animals, as they differ from ours, do not distinguish as ours do.
And my eye cannot distinguish this newcomer who is oppressing me. Now I remember the words of the monk at Mont Saint-Michel: "Can we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists?
Listen; there is the wind which is the strongest force in nature; it knocks men down, blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs, and casts great ships on to the breakers; it kills, it whistles, it sighs, it roars, - have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all that, however! If a glass without quicksilver behind it were to bar my way, I should run into it, just like a bird which has flown into a room breaks its head against the windowpanes.
A thousand things, moreover, deceive a man and lead him astray. How then is it surprising that he cannot perceive a new body which is penetrated and pervaded by the light?
A new being! Why not? It was assuredly bound to come! Why should we be the last? We do not distinguish it, like all the others created before us?
The reason is, that its nature is more delicate, its body finer and more finished than ours. Our makeup is so weak, so awkwardly conceived; our body is encumbered with organs that are always tired, always being strained like locks that are too complicated; it lives like a plant and like an animal nourishing itself with difficulty on air, herbs, and flesh; it is a brute machine which is a prey to maladies, to malformations, to decay; it is broken-winded, badly regulated, simple and eccentric, ingeniously yet badly made, a coarse and yet a delicate mechanism, in brief, the outline of a being which might become intelligent and great.
Why should there not be one more, when once that period is accomplished which separates the successive products one from the other? Why not one more? Why not, also, other trees with immense, splendid flowers, perfuming whole regions? Why not other elements beside fire, air, earth, and water? There are four, only four, nursing fathers of various beings!
What a pity! Why should not there be forty, four hundred, four thousand! How poor everything is, how mean and wretched - grudgingly given, poorly invented, clumsily made! And the camel, what suppleness! But the butterfly, you will say, a flying flower!
I dream of one that should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose shape, beauty, colors, and motion I cannot even express. But I see it - it flutters from star to star, refreshing them and perfuming them with the light and harmonious breath of its flight!
And the people up there gaze at it as it passes in an ecstasy of delight! It is He, the Horla who haunts me, and who makes me think of these foolish things! He is within me, He is becoming my soul; I shall kill him! I shall kill Him. I have seen Him! It was about eleven o'clock.
Before them lay the village of Argenteuil, apparently lifeless. The heights of Orgement and Sannois dominated the landscape. The great plain, extending as far as Nanterre, was empty, quite empty-a waste of dun-colored soil and bare cherry trees. Monsieur Sauvage, pointing to the heights, murmured: "The Prussians are up yonder! The Prussians! They had never seen them as yet, but they had felt their presence in the neighborhood of Paris for months past--ruining France, pillaging, massacring, starving them.
And a kind of superstitious terror mingled with the hatred they already felt toward this unknown, victorious nation. Still, they hesitated to show themselves in the open country, overawed by the utter silence which reigned around them. At last Monsieur Sauvage said boldly: "Come, we'll make a start; only let us be careful! A strip of bare ground remained to be crossed before they could gain the river bank.
They ran across this, and, as soon as they were at the water's edge, concealed themselves among the dry reeds. Morissot placed his ear to the ground, to ascertain, if possible, whether footsteps were coming their way.
He heard nothing. They seemed to be utterly alone. Their confidence was restored, and they began to fish. Before them the deserted Ile Marante hid them from the farther shore.
The little restaurant was closed, and looked as if it had been deserted for years. Monsieur Sauvage caught the first gudgeon, Monsieur Morissot the second, and almost every moment one or other raised his line with a little, glittering, silvery fish wriggling at the end; they were having excellent sport. They slipped their catch gently into a close-meshed bag lying at their feet; they were filled with joy--the joy of once more indulging in a pastime of which they had long been deprived.
The sun poured its rays on their backs; they no longer heard anything or thought of anything. They ignored the rest of the world; they were fishing.
But suddenly a rumbling sound, which seemed to come from the bowels of the earth, shook the ground beneath them: the cannon were resuming their thunder. Morissot turned his head and could see toward the left, beyond the banks of the river, the formidable outline of Mont-Valerien, from whose summit arose a white puff of smoke.
The next instant a second puff followed the first, and in a few moments a fresh detonation made the earth tremble. Others followed, and minute by minute the mountain gave forth its deadly breath and a white puff of smoke, which rose slowly into the peaceful heaven and floated above the summit of the cliff. Monsieur Sauvage shrugged his shoulders. Morissot, who was anxiously watching his float bobbing up and down, was suddenly seized with the angry impatience of a peaceful man toward the madmen who were firing thus, and remarked indignantly: "What fools they are to kill one another like that!
And Morissot, who had just caught a bleak, declared: "And to think that it will be just the same so long as there are governments! Morissot interrupted him: "Under a king we have foreign wars; under a republic we have civil war. And Mont-Valerien thundered ceaselessly, demolishing the houses of the French with its cannon balls, grinding lives of men to powder, destroying many a dream, many a cherished hope, many a prospective happiness; ruthlessly causing endless woe and suffering in the hearts of wives, of daughters, of mothers, in other lands.
But they suddenly trembled with alarm at the sound of footsteps behind them, and, turning round, they perceived close at hand four tall, bearded men, dressed after the manner of livery servants and wearing flat caps on their heads. They were covering the two anglers with their rifles. The rods slipped from their owners' grasp and floated away down the river. In the space of a few seconds they were seized, bound, thrown into a boat, and taken across to the Ile Marante.
And behind the house they had thought deserted were about a score of German soldiers. A shaggy-looking giant, who was bestriding a chair and smoking a long clay pipe, addressed them in excellent French with the words: "Well, gentlemen, have you had good luck with your fishing?
The Prussian smiled. But we have something else to talk about. Listen to me, and don't be alarmed: "You must know that, in my eyes, you are two spies sent to reconnoitre me and my movements. Naturally, I capture you and I shoot you.
You pretended to be fishing, the better to disguise your real errand. You have fallen into my hands, and must take the consequences. Such is war. Tell me that password and I will let you go. If you refuse, it means death-instant death. The Prussian, perfectly calm, went on, with hand outstretched toward the river: "Just think that in five minutes you will be at the bottom of that water. In five minutes!
You have relations, I presume? The two fishermen remained silent. The German turned and gave an order in his own language. Then he moved his chair a little way off, that he might not be so near the prisoners, and a dozen men stepped forward, rifle in hand, and took up a position, twenty paces off.
Your friend will know nothing.