Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


He began to feel very nervous.

He drank a glass of water and went to bed.

As soon as he was in bed he blew out his candle and closed his eyes.

He was warm between the sheets, though it was very cold in his room, but he could not manage to doze off.

He turned over and over, remained five minutes on his back, then lay on his left side, then rolled on the right.

He was still thirsty, and got up to drink.

Then a sense of uneasiness assailed him.

Was he going to be afraid?

Why did his heart beat wildly at each well-known sound in the room?

When his clock was going to strike, the faint squeak of the lever made him jump, and he had to open his mouth for some moments in order to breathe, so oppressed did he feel.

He began to reason philosophically on the possibility of his being afraid.

No, certainly he would not be afraid, now he had made up his mind to go through with it to the end, since he was firmly decided to fight and not to tremble.

But he felt so deeply moved that he asked himself:

"Can one be afraid in spite of one's self?"

This doubt assailed him.

If some power stronger than his will overcame it, what would happen?

Yes, what would happen?

Certainly he would go on the ground, since he meant to.

But suppose he shook? suppose he fainted?

And he thought of his position, his reputation, his future.

A strange need of getting up to look at himself in the glass suddenly seized him.

He relit the candle.

When he saw his face so reflected, he scarcely recognized himself, and it seemed to him that he had never seen himself before.

His eyes appeared enormous, and he was pale; yes, he was certainly pale, very pale.

Suddenly the thought shot through his mind:

"By this time to-morrow I may be dead."

And his heart began to beat again furiously.

He turned towards his bed, and distinctly saw himself stretched on his back between the same sheets as he had just left.

He had the hollow cheeks of the dead, and the whiteness of those hands that no longer move.

Then he grew afraid of his bed, and in order to see it no longer he opened the window to look out.

An icy coldness assailed him from head to foot, and he drew back breathless.

The thought occurred to him to make a fire.

He built it up slowly, without looking around.

His hands shook slightly with a kind of nervous tremor when he touched anything.

His head wandered, his disjointed, drifting thoughts became fleeting and painful, an intoxication invaded his mind as though he had been drinking.

And he kept asking himself:

"What shall I do?

What will become of me?"

He began to walk up and down, repeating mechanically:

"I must pull myself together. I must pull myself together."

Then he added:

"I will write to my parents, in case of accident."

He sat down again, took some notepaper, and wrote:

"Dear papa, dear mamma."

Then, thinking these words rather too familiar under such tragic circumstances, he tore up the first sheet, and began anew,

"My dear father, my dear mother, I am to fight a duel at daybreak, and as it might happen that--" He did not dare write the rest, and sprang up with a jump.

He was now crushed by one besetting idea.

He was going to fight a duel.

He could no longer avoid it.

What was the matter with him, then?