Mademoiselle Pearl by Guy de Maupassant
What a strange idea it was for me to choose Mademoiselle Pearl for queen
Every year I celebrate Twelfth Night with my old friend Chantal. My
father, who was his most intimate friend, used to take me round there
when I was a child. I continued the custom, and I doubtless shall
continue it as long as I live and as long as there is a Chantal in this
The Chantals lead a peculiar existence; they live in Paris as though they
were in Grasse, Evetot, or Pont-a-Mousson.
They have a house with a little garden near the observatory. They live
there as though they were in the country. Of Paris, the real Paris, they
know nothing at all, they suspect nothing; they are so far, so far away!
However, from time to time, they take a trip into it. Mademoiselle
Chantal goes to lay in her provisions, as it is called in the family.
This is how they go to purchase their provisions:
Mademoiselle Pearl, who has the keys to the kitchen closet (for the linen
closets are administered by the mistress herself), Mademoiselle Pearl
gives warning that the supply of sugar is low, that the preserves are
giving out, that there is not much left in the bottom of the coffee bag.
Thus warned against famine, Mademoiselle Chantal passes everything in
review, taking notes on a pad. Then she puts down a lot of figures and
goes through lengthy calculations and long discussions with Mademoiselle
Pearl. At last they manage to agree, and they decide upon the quantity
of each thing of which they will lay in a three months' provision; sugar,
rice, prunes, coffee, preserves, cans of peas, beans, lobster, salt or
smoked fish, etc., etc. After which the day for the purchasing is
determined on and they go in a cab with a railing round the top and drive
to a large grocery store on the other side of the river in the new
sections of the town.
Madame Chantal and Mademoiselle Pearl make this trip together,
mysteriously, and only return at dinner time, tired out, although still
excited, and shaken up by the cab, the roof of which is covered with
bundles and bags, like an express wagon.
For the Chantals all that part of Paris situated on the other side of the
Seine constitutes the new quarter, a section inhabited by a strange,
noisy population, which cares little for honor, spends its days in
dissipation, its nights in revelry, and which throws money out of the
windows. From time to time, however, the young girls are taken to the
Opera-Comique or the Theatre Francais, when the play is recommended by
the paper which is read by M. Chantal.
At present the young ladies are respectively nineteen and seventeen.
They are two pretty girls, tall and fresh, very well brought up, in fact,
too well brought up, so much so that they pass by unperceived like two
pretty dolls. Never would the idea come to me to pay the slightest
attention or to pay court to one of the young Chantal ladies; they are so
immaculate that one hardly dares speak to them; one almost feels indecent
when bowing to them.
As for the father, he is a charming man, well educated, frank, cordial,
but he likes calm and quiet above all else, and has thus contributed
greatly to the mummifying of his family in order to live as he pleased in
stagnant quiescence. He reads a lot, loves to talk and is readily
affected. Lack of contact and of elbowing with the world has made his
moral skin very tender and sensitive. The slightest thing moves him,
excites him, and makes him suffer.
The Chantals have limited connections carefully chosen in the
neighborhood. They also exchange two or three yearly visits with
relatives who live in the distance.
As for me, I take dinner with them on the fifteenth of August and on
Twelfth Night. That is as much one of my duties as Easter communion is
for a Catholic.
On the fifteenth of August a few friends are invited, but on Twelfth
Night I am the only stranger.
Well, this year, as every former year, I went to the Chantals' for my
According to my usual custom, I kissed M. Chantal, Madame Chantal and
Mademoiselle Pearl, and I made a deep bow to the Misses Louise and
Pauline. I was questioned about a thousand and one things, about what
had happened on the boulevards, about politics, about how matters stood
in Tong-King, and about our representatives in Parliament. Madame
Chantal, a fat lady, whose ideas always gave me the impression of being
carved out square like building stones, was accustomed to exclaiming at
the end of every political discussion: "All that is seed which does not
promise much for the future!" Why have I always imagined that Madame
Chantal's ideas are square? I don't know; but everything that she says
takes that shape in my head: a big square, with four symmetrical angles.
There are other people whose ideas always strike me as being round and
rolling like a hoop. As soon as they begin a sentence on any subject it
rolls on and on, coming out in ten, twenty, fifty round ideas, large and
small, which I see rolling along, one behind the other, to the end of the
horizon. Other people have pointed ideas--but enough of this.
We sat down as usual and finished our dinner without anything out of the
ordinary being said. At dessert the Twelfth Night cake was brought on.
Now, M. Chantal had been king every year. I don't know whether this was
the result of continued chance or a family convention, but he unfailingly
found the bean in his piece of cake, and he would proclaim Madame Chantal
to be queen. Therefore, I was greatly surprised to find something very
hard, which almost made me break a tooth, in a mouthful of cake. Gently
I took this thing from my mouth and I saw that it was a little porcelain
doll, no bigger than a bean. Surprise caused me to exclaim:
"Ah!" All looked at me, and Chantal clapped his hands and cried: "It's
Gaston! It's Gaston! Long live the king! Long live the king!"
All took up the chorus: "Long live the king!" And I blushed to the tip of
my ears, as one often does, without any reason at all, in situations
which are a little foolish. I sat there looking at my plate, with this
absurd little bit of pottery in my fingers, forcing myself to laugh and
not knowing what to do or say, when Chantal once more cried out: "Now,
you must choose a queen!"
Then I was thunderstruck. In a second a thousand thoughts and
suppositions flashed through my mind. Did they expect me to pick out one
of the young Chantal ladies? Was that a trick to make me say which one I
prefer? Was it a gentle, light, direct hint of the parents toward a
possible marriage? The idea of marriage roams continually in houses with
grown-up girls, and takes every shape and disguise, and employs every
subterfuge. A dread of compromising myself took hold of me as well as an
extreme timidity before the obstinately correct and reserved attitude of
the Misses Louise and Pauline. To choose one of them in preference to
the other seemed to me as difficult as choosing between two drops of
water; and then the fear of launching myself into an affair which might,
in spite of me, lead me gently into matrimonial ties, by means as wary
and imperceptible and as calm as this insignificant royalty--the fear of
all this haunted me.
Suddenly I had an inspiration, and I held out to Mademoiselle Pearl the
symbolical emblem. At first every one was surprised, then they doubtless
appreciated my delicacy and discretion, for they applauded furiously.
Everybody was crying: "Long live the queen! Long live the queen!"
As for herself, poor old maid, she was so amazed that she completely lost
control of herself; she was trembling and stammering: "No--no--oh! no--
not me--please--not me--I beg of you----"
Then for the first time in my life I looked at Mademoiselle Pearl and
wondered what she was.
I was accustomed to seeing her in this house, just as one sees old
upholstered armchairs on which one has been sitting since childhood
without ever noticing them. One day, with no reason at all, because a
ray of sunshine happens to strike the seat, you suddenly think: "Why,
that chair is very curious"; and then you discover that the wood has been
worked by a real artist and that the material is remarkable. I had never
taken any notice of Mademoiselle Pearl.
She was a part of the Chantal family, that was all. But how? By what
right? She was a tall, thin person who tried to remain in the
background, but who was by no means insignificant. She was treated in a
friendly manner, better than a housekeeper, not so well as a relative.
I suddenly observed several shades of distinction which I had never
noticed before. Madame Chantal said: "Pearl." The young ladies:
"Mademoiselle Pearl," and Chantal only addressed her as "Mademoiselle,"
with an air of greater respect, perhaps.
I began to observe her. How old could she be? Forty? Yes, forty. She
was not old, she made herself old. I was suddenly struck by this fact.
She fixed her hair and dressed in a ridiculous manner, and,
notwithstanding all that, she was not in the least ridiculous, she had
such simple, natural gracefulness, veiled and hidden. Truly, what a
strange creature! How was it I had never observed her before? She
dressed her hair in a grotesque manner with little old maid curls, most
absurd; but beneath this one could see a large, calm brow, cut by two
deep lines, two wrinkles of long sadness, then two blue eyes, large and
tender, so timid, so bashful, so humble, two beautiful eyes which had
kept the expression of naive wonder of a young girl, of youthful
sensations, and also of sorrow, which had softened without spoiling them.
Her whole face was refined and discreet, a face the expression of which
seemed to have gone out without being used up or faded by the fatigues
and great emotions of life.
What a dainty mouth! and such pretty teeth! But one would have thought
that she did not dare smile.
Suddenly I compared her to Madame Chantal! Undoubtedly Mademoiselle
Pearl was the better of the two, a hundred times better, daintier,
prouder, more noble. I was surprised at my observation. They were
pouring out champagne. I held my glass up to the queen and, with a well-
turned compliment, I drank to her health. I could see that she felt
inclined to hide her head in her napkin. Then, as she was dipping her
lips in the clear wine, everybody cried: "The queen drinks! the queen
drinks!" She almost turned purple and choked. Everybody was laughing;
but I could see that all loved her.
As soon as dinner was over Chantal took me by the arm. It was time for
his cigar, a sacred hour. When alone he would smoke it out in the
street; when guests came to dinner he would take them to the billiard
room and smoke while playing. That evening they had built a fire to
celebrate Twelfth Night; my old friend took his cue, a very fine one, and
chalked it with great care; then he said:
"You break, my boy!"
He called me "my boy," although I was twenty-five, but he had known me as
a young child.
I started the game and made a few carroms. I missed some others, but as
the thought of Mademoiselle Pearl kept returning to my mind, I suddenly
"By the way, Monsieur Chantal, is Mademoiselle Pearl a relative of
Greatly surprised, he stopped playing and looked at me:
"What! Don't you know? Haven't you heard about Mademoiselle Pearl?"
"Didn't your father ever tell you?"
"Well, well, that's funny! That certainly is funny! Why, it's a regular
He paused, and then continued:
"And if you only knew how peculiar it is that you should ask me that to-
day, on Twelfth Night!"
"Why? Well, listen. Forty-one years ago to day, the day of the
Epiphany, the following events occurred: We were then living at Roiiy-le-
Tors, on the ramparts; but in order that you may understand, I must first
explain the house. Roily is built on a hill, or, rather, on a mound
which overlooks a great stretch of prairie. We had a house there with a
beautiful hanging garden supported by the old battlemented wall; so that
the house was in the town on the streets, while the garden overlooked the
plain. There was a door leading from the garden to the open country, at
the bottom of a secret stairway in the thick wall--the kind you read
about in novels. A road passed in front of this door, which was provided
with a big bell; for the peasants, in order to avoid the roundabout way,
would bring their provisions up this way.
"You now understand the place, don't you? Well, this year, at Epiphany,
it had been snowing for a week. One might have thought that the world
was coming to an end. When we went to the ramparts to look over the
plain, this immense white, frozen country, which shone like varnish,
would chill our very souls. One might have thought that the Lord had
packed the world in cotton to put it away in the storeroom for old
worlds. I can assure you that it was dreary looking.
"We were a very numerous family at that time my father, my mother, my
uncle and aunt, my two brothers and four cousins; they were pretty little
girls; I married the youngest. Of all that crowd, there are only three
of us left: my wife, I, and my sister-in-law, who lives in Marseilles.
Zounds! how quickly a family like that dwindles away! I tremble when I
think of it! I was fifteen years old then, since I am fifty-six now.
"We were going to celebrate the Epiphany, and we were all happy, very
happy! Everybody was in the parlor, awaiting dinner, and my oldest
brother, Jacques, said: 'There has been a dog howling out in the plain
for about ten minutes; the poor beast must be lost.'
"He had hardly stopped talking when the garden bell began to ring. It
had the deep sound of a church bell, which made one think of death. A
shiver ran through everybody. My father called the servant and told him
to go outside and look. We waited in complete silence; we were thinking
of the snow which covered the ground. When the man returned he declared
that he had seen nothing. The dog kept up its ceaseless howling, and
always from the same spot.
"We sat down to dinner; but we were all uneasy, especially the young
people. Everything went well up to the roast, then the bell began to
ring again, three times in succession, three heavy, long strokes which
vibrated to the tips of our fingers and which stopped our conversation
short. We sat there looking at each other, fork in the air, still
listening, and shaken by a kind of supernatural fear.
"At last my mother spoke: 'It's surprising that they should have waited
so long to come back. Do not go alone, Baptiste; one of these gentlemen
will accompany you.'
"My Uncle Francois arose. He was a kind of Hercules, very proud of his
strength, and feared nothing in the world. My father said to him: 'Take
a gun. There is no telling what it might be.'
"But my uncle only took a cane and went out with the servant.
"We others remained there trembling with fear and apprehension, without
eating or speaking. My father tried to reassure us: 'Just wait and see,'
he said; 'it will be some beggar or some traveller lost in the snow.
After ringing once, seeing that the door was not immediately opened, he
attempted again to find his way, and being unable to, he has returned to
"Our uncle seemed to stay away an hour. At last he came back, furious,
swearing: 'Nothing at all; it's some practical joker! There is nothing
but that damned dog howling away at about a hundred yards from the walls.
If I had taken a gun I would have killed him to make him keep quiet.'
"We sat down to dinner again, but every one was excited; we felt that all
was not over, that something was going to happen, that the bell would
soon ring again.
"It rang just as the Twelfth Night cake was being cut. All the men
jumped up together. My Uncle, Francois, who had been drinking champagne,
swore so furiously that he would murder it, whatever it might be, that my
mother and my aunt threw themselves on him to prevent his going. My
father, although very calm and a little helpless (he limped ever since he
had broken his leg when thrown by a horse), declared, in turn, that he
wished to find out what was the matter and that he was going. My
brothers, aged eighteen and twenty, ran to get their guns; and as no one
was paying any attention to me I snatched up a little rifle that was used
in the garden and got ready to accompany the expedition.
"It started out immediately. My father and uncle were walking ahead with
Baptiste, who was carrying a lantern. My brothers, Jacques and Paul,
followed, and I trailed on behind in spite of the prayers of my mother,
who stood in front of the house with her sister and my cousins.
"It had been snowing again for the last hour, and the trees were weighted
down. The pines were bending under this heavy, white garment, and looked
like white pyramids or enormous sugar cones, and through the gray
curtains of small hurrying flakes could be seen the lighter bushes which
stood out pale in the shadow. The snow was falling so thick that we
could hardly see ten feet ahead of us. But the lantern threw a bright
light around us. When we began to go down the winding stairway in the
wall I really grew frightened. I felt as though some one were walking
behind me, were going to grab me by the shoulders and carry me away, and
I felt a strong desire to return; but, as I would have had to cross the
garden all alone, I did not dare. I heard some one opening the door
leading to the plain; my uncle began to swear again, exclaiming: 'By ---!
He has gone again! If I can catch sight of even his shadow, I'll take
care not to miss him, the swine!'
"It was a discouraging thing to see this great expanse of plain, or,
rather, to feel it before us, for we could not see it; we could only see
a thick, endless veil of snow, above, below, opposite us, to the right,
to the left, everywhere. My uncle continued:
'Listen! There is the dog howling again; I will teach him how I shoot.
That will be something gained, anyhow.'
"But my father, who was kind-hearted, went on:
'It will be much better to go on and get the poor animal, who is crying
for hunger. The poor fellow is barking for help; he is calling like a
man in distress. Let us go to him.'
"So we started out through this mist, through this thick continuous fall
of snow, which filled the air, which moved, floated, fell, and chilled
the skin with a burning sensation like a sharp, rapid pain as each flake
melted. We were sinking in up to our knees in this soft, cold mass, and
we had to lift our feet very high in order to walk. As we advanced the
dog's voice became clearer and stronger. My uncle cried: 'Here he is!'
We stopped to observe him as one does when he meets an enemy at night.
"I could see nothing, so I ran up to the others, and I caught sight of
him; he was frightful and weird-looking; he was a big black shepherd's
dog with long hair and a wolf's head, standing just within the gleam of
light cast by our lantern on the snow. He did not move; he was silently
"My uncle said: 'That's peculiar, he is neither advancing nor retreating.
I feel like taking a shot at him.'
"My father answered in a firm voice: 'No, we must capture him.'
"Then my brother Jacques added: 'But he is not alone. There is something
"There was indeed something behind him, something gray, impossible to
distinguish. We started out again cautiously. When he saw us
approaching the dog sat down. He did not look wicked. Instead, he
seemed pleased at having been able to attract the attention of some one.
"My father went straight to him and petted him. The dog licked his
hands. We saw that he was tied to the wheel of a little carriage, a sort
of toy carriage entirely wrapped up in three or four woolen blankets.
We carefully took off these coverings, and as Baptiste approached his
lantern to the front of this little vehicle, which looked like a rolling
kennel, we saw in it a little baby sleeping peacefully.
"We were so astonished that we couldn't speak.
My father was the first to collect his wits, and as he had a warm heart
and a broad mind, he stretched his hand over the roof of the carriage and
said: 'Poor little waif, you shall be one of us!' And he ordered my
brother Jacques to roll the foundling ahead of us. Thinking out loud, my
"'Some child of love whose poor mother rang at my door on this night of
Epiphany in memory of the Child of God.'
"He once more stopped and called at the top of his lungs through the
night to the four corners of the heavens: 'We have found it!' Then,
putting his hand on his brother's shoulder, he murmured: 'What if you had
shot the dog, Francois?'
"My uncle did not answer, but in the darkness he crossed himself, for,
notwithstanding his blustering manner, he was very religious.
"The dog, which had been untied, was following us.
"Ah! But you should have seen us when we got to the house! At first we
had a lot of trouble in getting the carriage up through the winding
stairway; but we succeeded and even rolled it into the vestibule.
"How funny mamma was! How happy and astonished! And my four little
cousins (the youngest was only six), they looked like four chickens
around a nest. At last we took the child from the carriage. It was
still sleeping. It was a girl about six weeks old. In its clothes we
found ten thousand francs in gold, yes, my boy, ten thousand francs!--
which papa saved for her dowry. Therefore, it was not a child of poor
people, but, perhaps, the child of some nobleman and a little bourgeoise
of the town--or again--we made a thousand suppositions, but we never
found out anything-never the slightest clue. The dog himself was
recognized by no one. He was a stranger in the country. At any rate,
the person who rang three times at our door must have known my parents
well, to have chosen them thus.
"That is how, at the age of six weeks, Mademoiselle Pearl entered the
"It was not until later that she was called Mademoiselle Pearl. She was
at first baptized 'Marie Simonne Claire,' Claire being intended, for her
"I can assure you that our return to the diningroom was amusing, with
this baby now awake and looking round her at these people and these
lights with her vague blue questioning eyes.
"We sat down to dinner again and the cake was cut. I was king, and for
queen I took Mademoiselle Pearl, just as you did to-day. On that day she
did not appreciate the honor that was being shown her.
"Well, the child was adopted and brought up in the family. She grew, and
the years flew by. She was so gentle and loving and minded so well that
every one would have spoiled her abominably had not my mother prevented
"My mother was an orderly woman with a great respect for class
distinctions. She consented to treat little Claire as she did her own
sons, but, nevertheless, she wished the distance which separated us to be
well marked, and our positions well established. Therefore, as soon as
the child could understand, she acquainted her with her story and gently,
even tenderly, impressed on the little one's mind that, for the Chantals,
she was an adopted daughter, taken in, but, nevertheless, a stranger.
Claire understood the situation with peculiar intelligence and with
surprising instinct; she knew how to take the place which was allotted
her, and to keep it with so much tact, gracefulness and gentleness that
she often brought tears to my father's eyes. My mother herself was often
moved by the passionate gratitude and timid devotion of this dainty and
loving little creature that she began calling her: 'My daughter.' At
times, when the little one had done something kind and good, my mother
would raise her spectacles on her forehead, a thing which always
indicated emotion with her, and she would repeat: 'This child is a pearl,
a perfect pearl!' This name stuck to the little Claire, who became and
remained for us Mademoiselle Pearl."
M. Chantal stopped. He was sitting on the edge of the billiard table,
his feet hanging, and was playing with a ball with his left hand, while
with his right he crumpled a rag which served to rub the chalk marks from
the slate. A little red in the face, his voice thick, he was talking
away to himself now, lost in his memories, gently drifting through the
old scenes and events which awoke in his mind, just as we walk through
old family gardens where we were brought up and where each tree, each
walk, each hedge reminds us of some occurrence.
I stood opposite him leaning against the wall, my hands resting on my
After a slight pause he continued:
"By Jove! She was pretty at eighteen--and graceful--and perfect. Ah!
She was so sweet--and good and true--and charming! She had such eyes-
blue-transparent--clear--such eyes as I have never seen since!"
He was once more silent. I asked: "Why did she never marry?"
He answered, not to me, but to the word "marry" which had caught his ear:
"Why? why? She never would--she never would! She had a dowry of thirty
thousand francs, and she received several offers--but she never would!
She seemed sad at that time. That was when I married my cousin, little
Charlotte, my wife, to whom I had been engaged for six years."
I looked at M. Chantal, and it seemed to me that I was looking into his
very soul, and I was suddenly witnessing one of those humble and cruel
tragedies of honest, straightforward, blameless hearts, one of those
secret tragedies known to no one, not even the silent and resigned
victims. A rash curiosity suddenly impelled me to exclaim:
"You should have married her, Monsieur Chantal!"
He started, looked at me, and said:
"I? Marry whom?"
"Because you loved her more than your cousin."
He stared at me with strange, round, bewildered eyes and stammered:
"I loved her--I? How? Who told you that?"
"Why, anyone can see that--and it's even on account of her that you
delayed for so long your marriage to your cousin who had been waiting for
you for six years."
He dropped the ball which he was holding in his left hand, and, seizing
the chalk rag in both hands, he buried his face in it and began to sob.
He was weeping with his eyes, nose and mouth in a heartbreaking yet
ridiculous manner, like a sponge which one squeezes. He was coughing,
spitting and blowing his nose in the chalk rag, wiping his eyes and
sneezing; then the tears would again begin to flow down the wrinkles on
his face and he would make a strange gurgling noise in his throat.
I felt bewildered, ashamed; I wanted to run away, and I no longer knew
what to say, do, or attempt.
Suddenly Madame Chantal's voice sounded on the stairs. "Haven't you men
almost finished smoking your cigars?"
I opened the door and cried: "Yes, madame, we are coming right down."
Then I rushed to her husband, and, seizing him by the shoulders, I cried:
"Monsieur Chantal, my friend Chantal, listen to me; your wife is calling;
pull yourself together, we must go downstairs."
He stammered: "Yes--yes--I am coming--poor girl! I am coming--tell her
that I am coming."
He began conscientiously to wipe his face on the cloth which, for the
last two or three years, had been used for marking off the chalk from the
slate; then he appeared, half white and half red, his forehead, nose,
cheeks and chin covered with chalk, and his eyes swollen, still full of
I caught him by the hands and dragged him into his bedroom, muttering: "I
beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, Monsieur Chantal, for having caused
you such sorrow--but--I did not know--you--you understand."
He squeezed my hand, saying: "Yes--yes--there are difficult moments."
Then he plunged his face into a bowl of water. When he emerged from it
he did not yet seem to me to be presentable; but I thought of a little
stratagem. As he was growing worried, looking at himself in the mirror,
I said to him: "All you have to do is to say that a little dust flew into
your eye and you can cry before everybody to your heart's content."
He went downstairs rubbing his eyes with his handkerchief. All were
worried; each one wished to look for the speck, which could not be found;
and stories were told of similar cases where it had been necessary to
call in a physician.
I went over to Mademoiselle Pearl and watched her, tormented by an ardent
curiosity, which was turning to positive suffering. She must indeed have
been pretty, with her gentle, calm eyes, so large that it looked as
though she never closed them like other mortals. Her gown was a little
ridiculous, a real old maid's gown, which was unbecoming without
It seemed to me as though I were looking into her soul, just as I had
into Monsieur Chantal's; that I was looking right from one end to the
other of this humble life, so simple and devoted. I felt an irresistible
longing to question her, to find out whether she, too, had loved him;
whether she also had suffered, as he had, from this long, secret,
poignant grief, which one cannot see, know, or guess, but which breaks
forth at night in the loneliness of the dark room. I was watching her,
and I could observe her heart beating under her waist, and I wondered
whether this sweet, candid face had wept on the soft pillow and she had
sobbed, her whole body shaken by the violence of her anguish.
I said to her in a low voice, like a child who is breaking a toy to see
what is inside: "If you could have seen Monsieur Chantal crying a while
ago it would have moved you."
She started, asking: "What? He was weeping?"
"Ah, yes, he was indeed weeping!"
She seemed deeply moved. I answered:
"On your account."
"On my account?"
"Yes. He was telling me how much he had loved you in the days gone by;
and what a pang it had given him to marry his cousin instead of you."
Her pale face seemed to grow a little longer; her calm eyes, which always
remained open, suddenly closed so quickly that they seemed shut forever.
She slipped from her chair to the floor, and slowly, gently sank down as
would a fallen garment.
I cried: "Help! help! Mademoiselle Pearl is ill."
Madame Chantal and her daughters rushed forward, and while they were
looking for towels, water and vinegar, I grabbed my hat and ran away.
I walked away with rapid strides, my heart heavy, my mind full of remorse
and regret. And yet sometimes I felt pleased; I felt as though I had
done a praiseworthy and necessary act. I was asking myself: "Did I do
wrong or right?" They had that shut up in their hearts, just as some
people carry a bullet in a closed wound. Will they not be happier now?
It was too late for their torture to begin over again and early enough
for them to remember it with tenderness.
And perhaps some evening next spring, moved by a beam of moonlight
falling through the branches on the grass at their feet, they will join
and press their hands in memory of all this cruel and suppressed
suffering; and, perhaps, also this short embrace may infuse in their
veins a little of this thrill which they would not have known without it,
and will give to those two dead souls, brought to life in a second, the
rapid and divine sensation of this intoxication, of this madness which
gives to lovers more happiness in an instant than other men can gather
during a whole lifetime!