Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


But as soon as he caught sight of the carriage, he ordered the hood to be taken off.

His wife opposed this, saying,

"You will catch cold.

It is madness."

He persisted, repeating,

"Oh, I am much better.

I feel it."

They passed at first along some of those shady roads, bordered by gardens, which cause Cannes to resemble a kind of English Park, and then reached the highway to Antibes, running along the seashore.

Forestier acted as guide.

He had already pointed out the villa of the Court de Paris, and now indicated others.

He was lively, with the forced and feeble gayety of a doomed man.

He lifted his finger, no longer having strength to stretch out his arm, and said,

"There is the Ile Sainte Marguerite, and the chateau from which Bazaine escaped.

How they did humbug us over that matter!"

Then regimental recollections recurred to him, and he mentioned various officers whose names recalled incidents to them.

But all at once, the road making a turn, they caught sight of the whole of the Golfe Juan, with the white village in the curve of the bay, and the point of Antibes at the further side of it.

Forestier, suddenly seized upon by childish glee, exclaimed, "Ah! the squadron, you will see the squadron."

Indeed they could perceive, in the middle of the broad bay, half-a-dozen large ships resembling rocks covered with leafless trees.

They were huge, strange, mis-shapen, with excrescences, turrets, rams, burying themselves in the water as though to take root beneath the waves.

One could scarcely imagine how they could stir or move about, they seemed so heavy and so firmly fixed to the bottom.

A floating battery, circular and high out of water, resembling the light-houses that are built on shoals.

A tall three-master passed near them, with all its white sails set.

It looked graceful and pretty beside these iron war monsters squatted on the water.

Forestier tried to make them out.

He pointed out the Colbert, the Suffren, the Admiral Duperre, the Redoubtable, the Devastation, and then checking himself, added, "No I made a mistake; that one is the Devastation."

They arrived opposite a species of large pavilion, on the front of which was the inscription,

"Art Pottery of the Golfe Juan," and the carriage, driving up the sweep, stopped before the door.

Forestier wanted to buy a couple of vases for his study.

As he felt unequal to getting out of the carriage, specimens were brought out to him one after the other.

He was a long time in making a choice, and consulted his wife and Duroy.

"You know," he said, "it is for the cabinet at the end of the study.

Sitting in my chair, I have it before my eyes all the time.

I want an antique form, a Greek outline."

He examined the specimens, had others brought, and then turned again to the first ones.

At length he made up his mind, and having paid, insisted upon the articles being sent on at once.

"I shall be going back to Paris in a few days," he said.

They drove home, but as they skirted the bay a rush of cold air from one of the valleys suddenly met them, and the invalid began to cough.

It was nothing at first, but it augmented and became an unbroken fit of coughing, and then a kind of gasping hiccough.

Forestier was choking, and every time he tried to draw breath the cough seemed to rend his chest.

Nothing would soothe or check it.

He had to be borne from the carriage to his room, and Duroy, who supported his legs, felt the jerking of his feet at each convulsion of his lungs.

The warmth of the bed did not check the attack, which lasted till midnight, when, at length, narcotics lulled its deadly spasm.

The sick man remained till morning sitting up in his bed, with his eyes open.

The first words he uttered were to ask for the barber, for he insisted on being shaved every morning.

He got up for this operation, but had to be helped back into bed at once, and his breathing grew so short, so hard, and so difficult, that Madame Forestier, in alarm, had Duroy, who had just turned in, roused up again in order to beg him to go for the doctor.

He came back almost immediately with Dr. Gavaut, who prescribed a soothing drink and gave some advice; but when the journalist saw him to the door, in order to ask his real opinion, he said,

"It is the end.

He will be dead to-morrow morning.

Break it to his poor wife, and send for a priest.

I, for my part, can do nothing more.