Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


"A jugful,"

"Two brandies,"

"A raspail," and began to play at dominoes, noisily rattling the little bits of black and white bone.

Mother Duroy kept passing to and fro, serving the customers, with her melancholy air, taking money, and wiping the tables with the corner of her blue apron.

The smoke of clay pipes and sou cigars filled the room.

Madeleine began to cough, and said:

"Suppose we go out; I cannot stand it."

They had not quite finished, and old Duroy was annoyed at this.

Then she got up and went and sat on a chair outside the door, while her father-in-law and her husband were finishing their coffee and their nip of brandy.

George soon rejoined her.

"Shall we stroll down as far as the Seine?" said he.

She consented with pleasure, saying: "Oh, yes; let us go."

They descended the slope, hired a boat at Croisset, and passed the rest of the afternoon drowsily moored under the willows alongside an island, soothed to slumber by the soft spring weather, and rocked by the wavelets of the river.

Then they went back at nightfall.

The evening's repast, eaten by the light of a tallow candle, was still more painful for Madeleine than that of the morning.

Father Duroy, who was half drunk, no longer spoke.

The mother maintained her dogged manner.

The wretched light cast upon the gray walls the shadows of heads with enormous noses and exaggerated movements.

A great hand was seen to raise a pitchfork to a mouth opening like a dragon's maw whenever any one of them, turning a little, presented a profile to the yellow, flickering flame.

As soon as dinner was over, Madeleine drew her husband out of the house, in order not to stay in this gloomy room, always reeking with an acrid smell of old pipes and spilt liquor.

As soon as they were outside, he said: "You are tired of it already."

She began to protest, but he stopped her, saying:

"No, I saw it very plainly.

If you like, we will leave to-morrow."

"Very well," she murmured.

They strolled gently onward.

It was a mild night, the deep, all-embracing shadow of which seemed filled with faint murmurings, rustlings, and breathings.

They had entered a narrow path, overshadowed by tall trees, and running between two belts of underwood of impenetrable blackness.

"Where are we?" asked she.

"In the forest," he replied.

"Is it a large one?"

"Very large; one of the largest in France."

An odor of earth, trees, and moss--that fresh yet old scent of the woods, made up of the sap of bursting buds and the dead and moldering foliage of the thickets, seemed to linger in the path.

Raising her head, Madeleine could see the stars through the tree-tops; and although no breeze stirred the boughs, she could yet feel around her the vague quivering of this ocean of leaves.

A strange thrill shot through her soul and fleeted across her skin--a strange pain gripped her at the heart.

Why, she did not understand.

But it seemed to her that she was lost, engulfed, surrounded by perils, abandoned by everyone; alone, alone in the world beneath this living vault quivering there above her.

She murmured: "I am rather frightened. I should like to go back."

"Well, let us do so."

"And--we will leave for Paris to-morrow?"

"Yes, to-morrow."

"To-morrow morning?"

"To-morrow morning, if you like."

They returned home.

The old folks had gone to bed.

She slept badly, continually aroused by all the country sounds so new to her--the cry of the screech owl, the grunting of a pig in a sty adjoining the house, and the noise of a cock who kept on crowing from midnight.

She was up and ready to start at daybreak.

When George announced to his parents that he was going back they were both astonished; then they understood the origin of his wish.

The father merely said:

"Shall I see you again soon?"