Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


He was silent for a few moments, and then continued: "All that I see reminds me that in a few days I shall see it no more. It is horrible. I shall see nothing--nothing of all that exists; not the smallest things one makes use of--the plates, the glasses, the beds in which one rests so comfortably, the carriages.

How nice it is to drive out of an evening! How fond I was of all those things!"

He nervously moved the fingers of both hands, as though playing the piano on the arms of his chair.

Each of his silences was more painful than his words, so evident was it that his thoughts must be fearful.

Duroy suddenly recalled what Norbert de Varenne had said to him some weeks before,

"I now see death so near that I often want to stretch out my arms to put it back.

I see it everywhere.

The insects crushed on the path, the falling leaves, the white hair in a friend's beard, rend my heart and cry to me,


He had not understood all this on that occasion; now, seeing Forestier, he did.

An unknown pain assailed him, as if he himself was sensible of the presence of death, hideous death, hard by, within reach of his hand, on the chair in which his friend lay gasping.

He longed to get up, to go away, to fly, to return to Paris at once.

Oh! if he had known he would not have come.

Darkness had now spread over the room, like premature mourning for the dying man.

The window alone remained still visible, showing, within the lighter square formed by it, the motionless outline of the young wife.

Forestier remarked, with irritation, "Well, are they going to bring in the lamp to-night?

This is what they call looking after an invalid."

The shadow outlined against the window panes disappeared, and the sound of an electric bell rang through the house.

A servant shortly entered and placed a lamp on the mantelpiece.

Madame Forestier said to her husband, "Will you go to bed, or would you rather come down to dinner?"

He murmured: "I will come down."

Waiting for this meal kept them all three sitting still for nearly an hour, only uttering from time to time some needless commonplace remark, as if there had been some danger, some mysterious danger in letting silence endure too long, in letting the air congeal in this room where death was prowling.

At length dinner was announced.

The meal seemed interminable to Duroy.

They did not speak, but ate noiselessly, and then crumbled their bread with their fingers.

The man servant who waited upon them went to and fro without the sound of his footsteps being heard, for as the creak of a boot-sole irritated Charles, he wore list slippers.

The harsh tick of a wooden clock alone disturbed the calm with its mechanical and regular sound.

As soon as dinner was over Duroy, on the plea of fatigue, retired to his room, and leaning on the window-sill watched the full moon, in the midst of the sky like an immense lamp, casting its cold gleam upon the white walls of the villas, and scattering over the sea a soft and moving dappled light.

He strove to find some reason to justify a swift departure, inventing plans, telegrams he was to receive, a recall from Monsieur Walter.

But his resolves to fly appeared more difficult to realize on awakening the next morning.

Madame Forestier would not be taken in by his devices, and he would lose by his cowardice all the benefit of his self-devotion.

He said to himself: "Bah! it is awkward; well so much the worse, there must be unpleasant situations in life, and, besides, it will perhaps be soon over."

It was a bright day, one of those bright Southern days that make the heart feel light, and Duroy walked down to the sea, thinking that it would be soon enough to see Forestier some time in course of the afternoon.

When he returned to lunch, the servant remarked,

"Master has already asked for you two or three times, sir.

Will you please step up to his room, sir?"

He went upstairs.

Forestier appeared to be dozing in his armchair.

His wife was reading, stretched out on the sofa.

The invalid raised his head, and Duroy said,

"Well, how do you feel?

You seem quite fresh this morning."

"Yes, I am better, I have recovered some of my strength.

Get through your lunch with Madeleine as soon as you can, for we are going out for a drive."

As soon as she was alone with Duroy, the young wife said to him, "There, to-day he thinks he is all right again.

He has been making plans all the morning.

We are going to the Golfe Juan now to buy some pottery for our rooms in Paris.

He is determined to go out, but I am horribly afraid of some mishap.

He cannot bear the shaking of the drive."

When the landau arrived, Forestier came down stairs a step at a time, supported by his servant.