Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


"Dang it!" so overcome was he by the mention of the sum.

Then he added, in a tone of serious conviction:

"Dang it all, she's a fine woman!"

For he found her to his taste, and he had passed for a good judge in his day.

Madeleine and her mother-in-law were walking side by side without exchanging a word.

The two men rejoined them.

They reached the village, a little roadside village formed of half-a-score houses on each side of the highway, cottages and farm buildings, the former of brick and the latter of clay, these covered with thatch and those with slates.

Father Duroy's tavern, "The Bellevue," a bit of a house consisting of a ground floor and a garret, stood at the beginning of the village to the left.

A pine branch above the door indicated, in ancient fashion, that thirsty folk could enter.

The things were laid for lunch, in the common room of the tavern, on two tables placed together and covered with two napkins.

A neighbor, come in to help to serve the lunch, bowed low on seeing such a fine lady appear; and then, recognizing George, exclaimed:

"Good Lord! is that the youngster?"

He replied gayly: "Yes, it is I, Mother Brulin," and kissed her as he had kissed his father and mother.

Then turning to his wife, he said:

"Come into our room and take your hat off."

He ushered her through a door to the right into a cold-looking room with tiled floor, white-washed walls, and a bed with white cotton curtains.

A crucifix above a holy-water stoup, and two colored pictures, one representing Paul and Virginia under a blue palm tree, and the other Napoleon the First on a yellow horse, were the only ornaments of this clean and dispiriting apartment.

As soon as they were alone he kissed Madeleine, saying:

"Thanks, Made.

I am glad to see the old folks again.

When one is in Paris one does not think about it; but when one meets again, it gives one pleasure all the same."

But his father, thumbing the partition with his fist, cried out:

"Come along, come along, the soup is ready," and they had to sit down to table.

It was a long, countrified repast, with a succession of ill-assorted dishes, a sausage after a leg of mutton, and an omelette after a sausage.

Father Duroy, excited by cider and some glasses of wine, turned on the tap of his choicest jokes--those he reserved for great occasions of festivity, smutty adventures that had happened, as he maintained, to friends of his.

George, who knew all these stories, laughed, nevertheless, intoxicated by his native air, seized on by the innate love of one's birthplace and of spots familiar from childhood, by all the sensations and recollections once more renewed, by all the objects of yore seen again once more; by trifles, such as the mark of a knife on a door, a broken chair recalling some pretty event, the smell of the soil, the breath of the neighboring forest, the odors of the dwelling, the gutter, the dunghill.

Mother Duroy did not speak, but remained sad and grim, watching her daughter-in-law out of the corner of her eye, with hatred awakened in her heart--the hatred of an old toiler, an old rustic with fingers worn and limbs bent by hard work--for the city madame, who inspired her with the repulsion of an accursed creature, an impure being, created for idleness and sin.

She kept getting up every moment to fetch the dishes or fill the glasses with cider, sharp and yellow from the decanter, or sweet, red, and frothing from the bottles, the corks of which popped like those of ginger beer.

Madeleine scarcely ate or spoke. She wore her wonted smile upon her lips, but it was a sad and resigned one.

She was downcast.


She had wanted to come.

She had not been unaware that she was going among country folk--poor country folk.

What had she fancied them to be--she, who did not usually dream?

Did she know herself?

Do not women always hope for something that is not?

Had she fancied them more poetical?

No; but perhaps better informed, more noble, more affectionate, more ornamental.

Yet she did not want them high-bred, like those in novels.

Whence came it, then, that they shocked her by a thousand trifling, imperceptible details, by a thousand indefinable coarsenesses, by their very nature as rustics, by their words, their gestures, and their mirth?

She recalled her own mother, of whom she never spoke to anyone--a governess, brought up at Saint Denis--seduced, and died from poverty and grief when she, Madeleine, was twelve years old.

An unknown hand had had her brought up.

Her father, no doubt.

Who was he?

She did not exactly know, although she had vague suspicions.

The lunch still dragged on.

Customers were now coming in and shaking hands with the father, uttering exclamations of wonderment on seeing his son, and slyly winking as they scanned the young wife out of the corner of their eye, which was as much as to say:

"Hang it all, she's not a duffer, George Duroy's wife."

Others, less intimate, sat down at the wooden tables, calling for

"A pot,"