Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


"Certainly, darling."

When they were in the street she resumed, in that low and mysterious tone in which confidences are made:

"I dared not ask you this until now, but you cannot imagine how I love these escapades in places ladies do not go to.

During the carnival I will dress up as a schoolboy.

I make such a capital boy."

When they entered the ball-room she clung close to him, gazing with delighted eyes on the girls and the bullies, and from time to time, as though to reassure herself as regards any possible danger, saying, as she noticed some serious and motionless municipal guard:

"That is a strong-looking fellow."

In a quarter of an hour she had had enough of it and he escorted her home.

Then began quite a series of excursions in all the queer places where the common people amuse themselves, and Duroy discovered in his mistress quite a liking for this vagabondage of students bent on a spree.

She came to their meeting-place in a cotton frock and with a servant's cap--a theatrical servant's cap--on her head; and despite the elegant and studied simplicity of her toilet, retained her rings, her bracelets, and her diamond earrings, saying, when he begged her to remove them:

"Bah! they will think they are paste."

She thought she was admirably disguised, and although she was really only concealed after the fashion of an ostrich, she went into the most ill-famed drinking places.

She wanted Duroy to dress himself like a workman, but he resisted, and retained his correct attire, without even consenting to exchange his tall hat for one of soft felt.

She was consoled for this obstinacy on his part by the reflection that she would be taken for a chambermaid engaged in a love affair with a gentleman, and thought this delightful.

In this guise they went into popular wine-shops, and sat down on rickety chairs at old wooden tables in smoke-filled rooms.

A cloud of strong tobacco smoke, with which still blended the smell of fish fried at dinner time, filled the room; men in blouses shouted at one another as they tossed off nips of spirits; and the astonished waiter would stare at this strange couple as he placed before them two cherry brandies.

She--trembling, fearsome, yet charmed--began to sip the red liquid, looking round her with uneasy and kindling eye.

Each cherry swallowed gave her the sensation of a sin committed, each drop of burning liquor flowing down her throat gave her the pleasure of a naughty and forbidden joy.

Then she would say,

"Let us go," and they would leave.

She would pass rapidly, with bent head and the short steps of an actress leaving the stage, among the drinkers, who, with their elbows on the tables, watched her go by with suspicious and dissatisfied glances; and when she had crossed the threshold would give a deep sigh, as if she had just escaped some terrible danger.

Sometimes she asked Duroy, with a shudder:

"If I were insulted in these places, what would you do?"

He would answer, with a swaggering air:

"Take your part, by Jove!"

And she would clasp his arm with happiness, with, perhaps, a vague wish to be insulted and defended, to see men fight on her account, even such men as those, with her lover.

But these excursions taking place two or three times a week began to weary Duroy, who had great difficulty, besides, for some time past, in procuring the ten francs necessary for the cake and the drinks.

He now lived very hardly and with more difficulty than when he was a clerk in the Northern Railway; for having spent lavishly during his first month of journalism, in the constant hope of gaining large sums of money in a day or two, he had exhausted all his resources and all means of procuring money.

A very simple method, that of borrowing from the cashier, was very soon exhausted; and he already owed the paper four months' salary, besides six hundred francs advanced on his lineage account.

He owed, besides, a hundred francs to Forestier, three hundred to Jacques Rival, who was free-handed with his money; and he was also eaten up by a number of small debts of from five francs to twenty.

Saint-Potin, consulted as to the means of raising another hundred francs, had discovered no expedient, although a man of inventive mind, and Duroy was exasperated at this poverty, of which he was more sensible now than formerly, since he had more wants.

A sullen rage against everyone smouldered within him, with an ever-increasing irritation, which manifested itself at every moment on the most futile pretexts.

He sometimes asked himself how he could have spent an average of a thousand francs a month, without any excess and the gratification of any extravagant fancy, and he found that, by adding a lunch at eight francs to a dinner at twelve, partaken of in some large cafe on the boulevards, he at once came to a louis, which, added to ten francs pocket-money--that pocket-money that melts away, one does not know how--makes a total of thirty francs.

But thirty francs a day is nine hundred francs at the end of the month.

And he did not reckon in the cost of clothes, boots, linen, washing, etc.

So on the 14th December he found himself without a sou in his pocket, and without a notion in his mind how to get any money.

He went, as he had often done of old, without lunch, and passed the afternoon working at the newspaper office, angry and preoccupied.

About four o'clock he received a telegram from his mistress, running:

"Shall we dine together, and have a lark afterwards?"

He at once replied:

"Cannot dine."

Then he reflected that he would be very stupid to deprive himself of the pleasant moments she might afford him, and added:

"But will wait at nine at our place."

And having sent one of the messengers with this, to save the cost of a telegram, he began to reflect what he should do to procure himself a dinner.

At seven o'clock he had not yet hit upon anything and a terrible hunger assailed him.

Then he had recourse to the stratagem of a despairing man.

He let all his colleagues depart, one after the other, and when he was alone rang sharply.

Monsieur Walter's messenger, left in charge of the offices, came in.

Duroy was standing feeling in his pockets, and said in an abrupt voice: "Foucart, I have left my purse at home, and I have to go and dine at the Luxembourg.

Lend me fifty sous for my cab."