My Twenty Five Days by Guy de Maupassant
I had just taken possession of my room in the hotel, a narrow den between
two papered partitions, through which I could hear every sound made by my
neighbors; and I was beginning to arrange my clothes and linen in the
wardrobe with a long mirror, when I opened the drawer which is in this
piece of furniture. I immediately noticed a roll of paper. Having
opened it, I spread it out before me, and read this title:
My Twenty-five Days.
It was the diary of a guest at the watering place, of the last occupant
of my room, and had been forgotten at the moment of departure.
These notes may be of some interest to sensible and healthy persons who
never leave their own homes. It is for their benefit that I transcribe
them without altering a letter.
"CHATEL-GUYON, July 15th.
"At the first glance it is not lively, this country. However, I am going
to spend twenty-five days here, to have my liver and stomach treated, and
to get thin. The twenty-five days of any one taking the baths are very
like the twenty-eight days of the reserves; they are all devoted to
fatigue duty, severe fatigue duty. To-day I have done nothing as yet;
I have been getting settled. I have made the acquaintance of the
locality and of the doctor. Chatel-Guyon consists of a stream in which
flows yellow water, in the midst of several hillocks on which are a
casino, some houses, and some stone crosses. On the bank of the stream,
at the end of the valley, may be seen a square building surrounded by a
little garden; this is the bathing establishment. Sad people wander
around this building--the invalids. A great silence reigns in the walks
shaded by trees, for this is not a pleasure resort, but a true health
resort; one takes care of one's health as a business, and one gets well,
so it seems.
"Those who know affirm, even, that the mineral springs perform true
miracles here. However, no votive offering is hung around the cashier's
"From time to time a gentleman or a lady comes over to a kiosk with a
slate roof, which shelters a woman of smiling and gentle aspect, and a
spring boiling in a basin of cement: Not a word is exchanged between the
invalid and the female custodian of the healing water. She hands the
newcomer a little glass in which air bubbles sparkle in the transparent
liquid. The guest drinks and goes off with a grave step to resume his
interrupted walk beneath the trees.
"No noise in the little park, no breath of air in the leaves; no voice
passes through this silence. One ought to write at the entrance to this
district: 'No one laughs here; they take care of their health.'
"The people who chat resemble mutes who merely open their mouths to
simulate sounds, so afraid are they that their voices might escape.
"In the hotel, the same silence. It is a big hotel, where you dine
solemnly with people of good position, who have nothing to say to each
other. Their manners bespeak good breeding, and their faces reflect the
conviction of a superiority of which it might be difficult for some to
give actual proofs.
"At two o'clock I made my way up to the Casino, a little wooden but
perched on a hillock, which one reaches by a goat path. But the view
from that height is admirable. Chatel-Guyon is situated in a very narrow
valley, exactly between the, plain and the mountain. I perceive, at the
left, the first great billows of the mountains of Auvergne, covered with
woods, and here and there big gray patches, hard masses of lava, for we
are at the foot of the extinct volcanoes. At the right, through the
narrow cut of the valley, I discover a plain, infinite as the sea,
steeped in a bluish fog which lets one only dimly discern the villages,
the towns, the yellow fields of ripe grain, and the green squares of
meadowland shaded with apple trees. It is the Limagne, an immense level,
always enveloped in a light veil of vapor.
"The night has come. And now, after having dined alone, I write these
lines beside my open window. I hear, over there, in front of me, the
little orchestra of the Casino, which plays airs just as a foolish bird
might sing all alone in the desert.
"A dog barks at intervals. This great calm does one good. Goodnight.
"July 16th.--Nothing new. I have taken a bath and then a shower bath.
I have swallowed three glasses of water, and I have walked along the
paths in the park, a quarter of an hour between each glass, then half an
hour after the last. I have begun my twenty-five days.
"July 17th.--Remarked two mysterious, pretty women who are taking their
baths and their meals after every one else has finished.
"July 18th.--Nothing new.
"July 19th.--Saw the two pretty women again. They have style and a
little indescribable air which I like very much.
"July 20th.--Long walk in a charming wooded valley, as far as the
Hermitage of Sans-Souci. This country is delightful, although sad; but
so calm; so sweet, so green. One meets along the mountain roads long
wagons loaded with hay, drawn by two cows at a slow pace or held back by
them in going down the slopes with a great effort of their heads, which
are yoked together. A man with a big black hat on his head is driving
them with a slender stick, tipping them on the side or on the forehead;
and often with a simple gesture, an energetic and serious gesture, he
suddenly halts them when the excessive load precipitates their journey
down the too rugged descents.
"The air is good to inhale in these valleys. And, if it is very warm,
the dust bears with it a light odor of vanilla and of the stable, for so
many cows pass over these routes that they leave reminders everywhere.
And this odor is a perfume, when it would be a stench if it came from
"July 21st.--Excursion to the valley of the Enval. It is a narrow gorge
inclosed by superb rocks at the very foot of the mountain. A stream
flows amid the heaped-up boulders.
"As I reached the bottom of this ravine I heard women's voices, and I
soon perceived the two mysterious ladies of my hotel, who were chatting,
seated on a stone.
"The occasion appeared to me a good one, and I introduced myself without
hesitation. My overtures were received without embarrassment. We walked
back together to the hotel. And we talked about Paris. They knew, it
seemed, many people whom I knew, too. Who can they be?
"I shall see them to-morrow. There is nothing more amusing than such
meetings as this.
"July 22d.--Day passed almost entirely with the two unknown ladies. They
are very pretty, by Jove!--one a brunette and the other a blonde. They
say they are widows. H'm?
"I offered to accompany them to Royat tomorrow, and they accepted my
"Chatel-Guyon is less sad than I thought on my arrival.
"July 23d.--Day spent at Royat. Royat is a little patch of hotels at the
bottom of a valley, at the gate of Clermont-Ferrand. A great many people
there. A large park full of life. Superb view of the Puyde-Dome, seen
at the end of a perspective of valleys.
"My fair companions are very popular, which is flattering to me. The man
who escorts a pretty woman always believes himself crowned with an
aureole; with much more reason, the man who is accompanied by one on each
side of him. Nothing is so pleasant as to dine in a fashionable
restaurant with a female companion at whom everybody stares, and there is
nothing better calculated to exalt a man in the estimation of his
"To go to the Bois, in a trap drawn by a sorry nag, or to go out into the
boulevard escorted by a plain woman, are the two most humiliating things
that could happen to a sensitive heart that values the opinion of others.
Of all luxuries, woman is the rarest and the most distinguished; she is
the one that costs most and which we desire most; she is, therefore the
one that we should seek by preference to exhibit to the jealous eyes of
"To exhibit to the world a pretty woman leaning on your arm is to excite,
all at once, every kind of jealousy. It is as much as to say: 'Look
here! I am rich, since I possess this rare and costly object; I have
taste, since I have known how to discover this pearl; perhaps, even, I am
loved by her, unless I am deceived by her, which would still prove that
others also consider her charming.
"But, what a disgrace it is to walk about town with an ugly woman!
"And how many humiliating things this gives people to understand!
"In the first place, they assume she must be your wife, for how could it
be supposed that you would have an unattractive sweetheart? A true woman
may be ungraceful; but then, her ugliness implies a thousand disagreeable
things for you. One supposes you must be a notary or a magistrate, as
these two professions have a monopoly of grotesque and well-dowered
spouses. Now, is this not distressing to a man? And then, it seems to
proclaim to the public that you have the odious courage, and are even
under a legal obligation, to caress that ridiculous face and that ill-
shaped body, and that you will, without doubt, be shameless enough to
make a mother of this by no means desirable being--which is the very
height of the ridiculous.
"July 24th.--I never leave the side of the two unknown widows, whom I am
beginning to know quite well. This country is delightful and our hotel
is excellent. Good season. The treatment is doing me an immense amount
"July 25th.--Drive in a landau to the lake of Tazenat. An exquisite and
unexpected jaunt decided on at luncheon. We started immediately on
rising from table. After a long journey through the mountains we
suddenly perceived an admirable little lake, quite round, very blue,
clear as glass, and situated at the bottom of an extinct crater. One
side of this immense basin is barren, the other is wooded. In the midst
of the trees is a small house where sleeps a good-natured, intellectual
man, a sage who passes his days in this Virgilian region. He opens his
dwelling for us. An idea comes into my head. I exclaim:
"'Supposing we bathe?'
"'Yes,' they said, 'but costumes.'
"'Bah! we are in the wilderness.'
"And we did bathe! "If I were a poet, how I would describe this
unforgettable vision of those lissome young forms in the transparency of
the water! The high, sloping sides shut in the lake, motionless,
gleaming and round, as a silver coin; the sun pours into it a flood of
warm light; and along the rocks the fair forms move in the almost
invisible water in which the swimmers seemed suspended. On the sand at
the bottom of the lake one could see their shadows as they moved along.
"July 26th.--Some persons seem to look with shocked and disapproving eyes
at my rapid intimacy with the two fair widows. There are some people,
then, who imagine that life consists in being bored. Everything that
appears to be amusing becomes immediately a breach of good breeding or
morality. For them duty has inflexible and mortally tedious rules.
"I would draw their attention, with all respect, to the fact that duty is
not the same for Mormons, Arabs Zulus, Turks, Englishmen, and Frenchmen,
and that there are very virtuous people among all these nations.
"I will cite a single example. As regards women, duty begins in England
at nine years of age; in France at fifteen. As for me, I take a little
of each people's notion of duty, and of the whole I make a result
comparable to the morality of good King Solomon.
"July 27th.--Good news. I have lost 620 grams in weight. Excellent,
this water of Chatel-Guyon! I am taking the widows to dine at Riom. A
sad town whose anagram constitutes it an objectionable neighbor to
healing springs: Riom, Mori.
"July 28th.--Hello, how's this! My two widows have been visited by two
gentlemen who came to look for them. Two widowers, without doubt. They
are leaving this evening. They have written to me on fancy notepaper.
"July 29th.--Alone! Long excursion on foot to the extinct crater of
Nachere. Splendid view.
"July 30th.--Nothing. I am taking the treatment.
"July 31st.--Ditto. Ditto. This pretty country is full of polluted
streams. I am drawing the notice of the municipality to the abominable
sewer which poisons the road in front of the hotel. All the kitchen
refuse of the establishment is thrown into it. This is a good way to
"August 1st.--Nothing. The treatment.
"August 2d.--Admirable walk to Chateauneuf, a place of sojourn for
rheumatic patients, where everybody is lame. Nothing can be queerer than
this population of cripples!
"August 3d.--Nothing. The treatment.
"August 4th.--Ditto. Ditto.
"August 5th.--Ditto. Ditto.
"August 6th.--Despair! I have just weighed myself. I have gained 310
grams. But then?
"August 7th.--Drove sixty-six kilometres in a carriage on the mountain.
I will not mention the name of the country through respect for its women.
"This excursion had been pointed out to me as a beautiful one, and one
that was rarely made. After four hours on the road, I arrived at a
rather pretty village on the banks of a river in the midst of an
admirable wood of walnut trees. I had not yet seen a forest of walnut
trees of such dimensions in Auvergne. It constitutes, moreover, all the
wealth of the district, for it is planted on the village common. This
common was formerly only a hillside covered with brushwood. The
authorities had tried in vain to get it cultivated. There was scarcely
enough pasture on it to feed a few sheep.
"To-day it is a superb wood, thanks to the women, and it has a curious
name: it is called the Sins of the Cure.
"Now I must say that the women of the mountain districts have the
reputation of being light, lighter than in the plain. A bachelor who
meets them owes them at least a kiss; and if he does not take more he is
only a blockhead. If we consider this fairly, this way of looking at the
matter is the only one that is logical and reasonable. As woman, whether
she be of the town or the country, has her natural mission to please man,
man should always show her that she pleases him. If he abstains from
every sort of demonstration, this means that he considers her ugly; it is
almost an insult to her. If I were a woman, I would not receive, a
second time, a man who failed to show me respect at our first meeting,
for I would consider that he had failed in appreciation of my beauty, my
charm, and my feminine qualities.
"So the bachelors of the village X often proved to the women of the
district that they found them to their taste, and, as the cure was unable
to prevent these demonstrations, as gallant as they were natural, he
resolved to utilize them for the benefit of the general prosperity. So
he imposed as a penance on every woman who had gone wrong that she should
plant a walnut tree on the common. And every night lanterns were seen
moving about like will-o'-the-wisps on the hillock, for the erring ones
scarcely like to perform their penance in broad daylight.
"In two years there was no longer any room on the lands belonging to the
village, and to-day they calculate that there are more than three
thousand trees around the belfry which rings out the services amid their
foliage. These are the Sins of the Cure.
"Since we have been seeking for so many ways of rewooding France, the
Administration of Forests might surely enter into some arrangement with
the clergy to employ a method so simple as that employed by this humble
"August 8th.--I am packing up my trunks and saying good-by to the
charming little district so calm and silent, to the green mountain, to
the quiet valleys, to the deserted Casino, from which you can see, almost
veiled by its light, bluish mist, the immense plain of the Limagne.
"I shall leave to-morrow."
Here the manuscript stopped. I will add nothing to it, my impressions of
the country not having been exactly the same as those of my predecessor.
For I did not find the two widows!