The Blind Man by Guy De Maupassant
How is it that the sunlight gives us such joy? Why does this
radiance when it falls on the earth fill us so much with the delight of
living? The sky is all blue, the fields are all green, the houses all
white; and our ravished eyes drink in those bright colors which bring
mirthfulness to our souls. And then there springs up in our hearts a
desire to dance, a desire to run, a desire to sing, a happy lightness
of thought, a sort of enlarged tenderness; we feel a longing to embrace
The blind, as they sit in the doorways, impassive in their eternal
darkness, remain as calm as ever in the midst of this fresh gaiety,
and, not comprehending what is taking place around them, they continue
every moment to stop their dogs from gamboling.
When, at the close of the day, they are returning home on the arm of
a young brother or a little sister, if the child says: “It was a very
fine day!” the other answers: “I could notice that 'twas fine. Lulu
wouldn't keep quiet.”
I have known one of these men whose life was one of the most cruel
martyrdoms that could possibly be conceived.
He was a peasant, the son of a Norman farmer. As long as his father
and mother lived, he was more or less taken care of; he suffered little
save from his horrible infirmity; but as soon as the old people were
gone, a life of atrocious misery commenced for him. A dependent on a
sister of his, everybody in the farmhouse treated him as a beggar who
is eating the bread of others. At every meal the very food he swallowed
was made a subject of reproach against him; he was called a drone, a
clown; and although his brother-in-law had taken possession of his
portion of the inheritance, the soup was given to him grudgingly—just
enough to save him from dying.
His face was very pale and his two big white eyes were like wafers.
He remained unmoved in spite of the insults inflicted upon him, so shut
up in himself that one could not tell whether he felt them at all.
Moreover, he had never known any tenderness; his mother had always
treated him very unkindly, caring scarcely at all for him; for in
country places the useless are obnoxious, and the peasants would be
glad, like hens, to kill the infirm of their species.
As soon as the soup had been gulped down, he went to the door in
summer time and sat down, to the chimney-corner in winter time, and,
after that, never stirred till night. He made no gesture, no movement;
only his eyelids, quivering from some nervous affection, fell down
sometimes over his white sightless orbs. Had he any intellect, any
thinking faculty, any consciousness of his own existence? Nobody cared
to inquire as to whether he had or no.
For some years things went on in this fashion But his incapacity for
doing anything as well as his impassiveness eventually exasperated his
relatives, and he became a laughing-stock, a sort of martyred buffoon,
a prey given over to native ferocity, to the savage gaiety of the
brutes who surrounded him.
It is easy to imagine all the cruel practical jokes inspired by his
blindness. And, in order to have some fun in return for feeding him,
they now converted his meals into hours of pleasure for the neighbors
and of punishment for the helpless creature himself.
The peasants from the nearest houses came to this entertainment; it
was talked about from door to door, and every day the kitchen of the
farmhouse was full of people. For instance, they put on the table in
front of his plate, when he was beginning to take the soup, a cat or a
dog. The animal instinctively scented out the man's infirmity, and,
softly approaching, commenced eating noiselessly, lapping up the soup
daintily; and, when a rather loud licking of the tongue awakened the
poor fellow's attention, it would prudently scamper away to avoid the
blow of the spoon directed at it by the blind man at random!
Then the spectators, huddled against the walls, burst out laughing,
nudged each other, and stamped their feet on the floor. And he, without
ever uttering a word, would continue eating with the aid of his right
hand, while stretching out his left to protect and defend his plate.
At another time they made him chew corks, bits of wood, leaves, or
even filth, which he was unable to distinguish.
After this, they got tired even of these practical jokes; and the
brother-in-law, mad at having to support him always, struck him, cuffed
him incessantly, laughing at the useless efforts of the other to ward
off or return the blows. Then came a new pleasure—the pleasure of
smacking his face. And the plowmen, the servant-girls, and even every
passing vagabond were every moment giving him cuffs, which caused his
eyelashes to twitch spasmodically. He did not know where to hide
himself and remained with his arms always held out to guard against
people coming too close to him.
At last he was forced to beg.
He was placed somewhere on the highroad on market-days, and, as soon
as he heard the sound of footsteps or the rolling of a vehicle, he
reached out his hat, stammering:
“Charity, if you please!”
But the peasant is not lavish, and, for whole weeks, he did not
bring back a sou.
Then he became the victim of furious, pitiless hatred. And this is
how he died.
One winter, the ground was covered with snow, and it froze horribly.
Now his brother-in-law led him one morning at this season a great
distance along the highroad in order that he might solicit alms. The
blind man was left there all day, and, when night came on, the
brother-in-law told the people of his house that he could find no trace
of the mendicant. Then he added:
“Pooh! best not bother about him! He was cold, and got some one to
take him away. Never fear! he's not lost. He'll turn up soon enough
to-morrow to eat the soup.”
Next day he did not come back.
After long hours of waiting, stiffened with the cold, feeling that
he was dying, the blind man began to walk. Being unable to find his way
along the road, owing to its thick coating of ice, he went on at
random, falling into dikes, getting up again, without uttering a sound,
his sole object being to find some house where he could take shelter.
But by degrees the descending snow made a numbness steal over him,
and his feeble limbs being incapable of carrying him farther, he had to
sit down in the middle of an open field. He did not get up again.
The white flakes which kept continually falling buried him, so that
his body, quite stiff and stark, disappeared under the incessant
accumulation of their rapidly thickening mass; and nothing any longer
indicated the place where the corpse was lying.
His relatives made pretense of inquiring about him and searching for
him for about a week. They even made a show of weeping.
The winter was severe, and the thaw did not set in quickly. Now, one
Sunday, on their way to mass, the farmers noticed a great flight of
crows, who were whirling endlessly above the open field, and then, like
a shower of black rain, descended in a heap at the same spot, ever
going and coming.
The following week these gloomy birds were still there. There was a
crowd of them up in the air, as if they had gathered from all corners
of the horizon; and they swooped down with a great cawing into the
shining snow, which they filled curiously with patches of black, and in
which they kept rummaging obstinately. A young fellow went to see what
they were doing, and discovered the body of the blind man, already half
devoured, mangled. His wan eyes had disappeared, pecked out by the long
And I can never feel the glad radiance of sunlit days without sadly
remembering and gloomily pondering over the fate of the beggar so
deprived of joy in life that his horrible death was a relief for all
those who had known him.