Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


His father and mother died when he was quite young."

They both watched a butterfly sipping existence from the pinks, passing from one to another with a soft flutter of his wings, which continued to flap slowly when he alighted on a flower.

They remained silent for a considerable time.

The servant came to inform them that "the priest had finished," and they went upstairs together.

Forestier seemed to have grown still thinner since the day before.

The priest held out his hand to him, saying,

"Good-day, my son, I shall call in again to-morrow morning," and took his departure.

As soon as he had left the room the dying man, who was panting for breath, strove to hold out his two hands to his wife, and gasped,

"Save me--save me, darling, I don't want to die--I don't want to die.

Oh! save me--tell me what I had better do; send for the doctor. I will take whatever you like. I won't die--I won't die."

He wept.

Big tears streamed from his eyes down his fleshless cheeks, and the corners of his mouth contracted like those of a vexed child.

Then his hands, falling back on the bed clothes, began a slow, regular, and continuous movement, as though trying to pick something off the sheet.

His wife, who began to cry too, said:

"No, no, it is nothing.

It is only a passing attack, you will be better to-morrow, you tired yourself too much going out yesterday."

Forestier's breathing was shorter than that of a dog who has been running, so quick that it could not be counted, so faint that it could scarcely be heard.

He kept repeating:

"I don't want to die.

Oh! God--God--God; what is to become of me?

I shall no longer see anything--anything any more. Oh! God."

He saw before him some hideous thing invisible to the others, and his staring eyes reflected the terror it inspired.

His two hands continued their horrible and wearisome action.

All at once he started with a sharp shudder that could be seen to thrill the whole of his body, and jerked out the words,

"The graveyard--I--Oh! God."

He said no more, but lay motionless, haggard and panting.

Time sped on, noon struck by the clock of a neighboring convent.

Duroy left the room to eat a mouthful or two.

He came back an hour later.

Madame Forestier refused to take anything.

The invalid had not stirred.

He still continued to draw his thin fingers along the sheet as though to pull it up over his face.

His wife was seated in an armchair at the foot of the bed.

Duroy took another beside her, and they waited in silence.

A nurse had come, sent in by the doctor, and was dozing near the window.

Duroy himself was beginning to doze off when he felt that something was happening.

He opened his eyes just in time to see Forestier close his, like two lights dying out.

A faint rattle stirred in the throat of the dying man, and two streaks of blood appeared at the corners of his mouth, and then flowed down into his shirt.

His hands ceased their hideous motion.

He had ceased to breathe.

His wife understood this, and uttering a kind of shriek, she fell on her knees sobbing, with her face buried in the bed-clothes.

George, surprised and scared, mechanically made the sign of the cross.

The nurse awakened, drew near the bed.

"It is all over," said she.

Duroy, who was recovering his self-possession, murmured, with a sigh of relief:

"It was sooner over than I thought for."

When the first shock was over and the first tears shed, they had to busy themselves with all the cares and all the necessary steps a dead man exacts.

Duroy was running about till nightfall.

He was very hungry when he got back.

Madame Forestier ate a little, and then they both installed themselves in the chamber of death to watch the body.