Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


They went up the stairs without troubling themselves about the doorkeeper, who, indeed, did not notice them.

One of the officers remained in the street to keep watch on the front door.

The four men stopped at the second floor, and George put his ear to the door and then looked through the keyhole.

He neither heard nor saw anything.

He rang the bell.

The commissary said to the officers: "You will remain in readiness till called on." And they waited.

At the end of two or three minutes George again pulled the bell several times in succession.

They noted a noise from the further end of the rooms, and then a slight step approached.

Someone was coming to spy who was there.

The journalist then rapped smartly on the panel of the door.

A voice, a woman's voice, that an attempt was evidently being made to disguise asked: "Who is there?"

The commissary replied: "Open, in the name of the law."

The voice repeated: "Who are you?"

"I am the commissary of police.

Open the door, or I will have it broken in."

The voice went on: "What do you want?"

Du Roy said: "It is I.

It is useless to seek to escape."

The light steps, the tread of bare feet, was heard to withdraw, and then in a few seconds to return.

George said: "If you won't open, we will break in the door."

He grasped the handle, and pushed slowly with his shoulder.

As there was no longer any reply, he suddenly gave such a violent and vigorous shock that the old lock gave way.

The screws were torn out of the wood, and he almost fell over Madeleine, who was standing in the ante-room, clad in a chemise and petticoat, her hair down, her legs bare, and a candle in her hand.

He exclaimed: "It is she, we have them," and darted forward into the rooms.

The commissary, having taken off his hat, followed him, and the startled woman came after, lighting the way.

They crossed a drawing-room, the uncleaned table of which displayed the remnants of a repast--empty champagne bottles, an open pot of fatted goose liver, the body of a fowl, and some half-eaten bits of bread.

Two plates piled on the sideboard were piled with oyster shells.

The bedroom seemed disordered, as though by a struggle.

A dress was thrown over a chair, a pair of trousers hung astride the arm of another.

Four boots, two large and two small, lay on their sides at the foot of the bed.

It was the room of a house let out in furnished lodgings, with commonplace furniture, filled with that hateful and sickening smell of all such places, the odor of all the people who had slept or lived there a day or six months.

A plate of cakes, a bottle of chartreuse, and two liqueur glasses, still half full, encumbered the mantel-shelf.

The upper part of the bronze clock was hidden by a man's hat.

The commissary turned round sharply, and looking Madeleine straight in the face, said:

"You are Madame Claire Madeleine Du Roy, wife of Monsieur Prosper George Du Roy, journalist, here present?"

She uttered in a choking voice: "Yes, sir."

"What are you doing here?"

She did not answer.

The commissary went on: "What are you doing here?

I find you away from home, almost undressed, in furnished apartments.

What did you come here for?"

He waited for a few moments.

Then, as she still remained silent, he continued:

"Since you will not confess, madame, I shall be obliged to verify the state of things."

In the bed could be seen the outline of a form hidden beneath the clothes.

The commissary approached and said: "Sir."

The man in bed did not stir.

He seemed to have his back turned, and his head buried under a pillow.

The commissary touched what seemed to be his shoulder, and said:

"Sir, do not, I beg of you, force me to take action."