Rose by Guy de Maupassant
The two young women appear to be buried under a blanket of flowers. They
are alone in the immense landau, which is filled with flowers like a
giant basket. On the front seat are two small hampers of white satin
filled with violets, and on the bearskin by which their knees are covered
there is a mass of roses, mimosas, pinks, daisies, tuberoses and orange
blossoms, interwoven with silk ribbons; the two frail bodies seem buried
under this beautiful perfumed bed, which hides everything but the
shoulders and arms and a little of the dainty waists.
The coachman's whip is wound with a garland of anemones, the horses'
traces are dotted with carnations, the spokes of the wheels are clothed
in mignonette, and where the lanterns ought to be are two enormous round
bouquets which look as though they were the eyes of this strange,
rolling, flower-bedecked creature.
The landau drives rapidly along the road, through the Rue d'Antibes,
preceded, followed, accompanied, by a crowd of other carriages covered
with flowers, full of women almost hidden by a sea of violets. It is the
flower carnival at Cannes.
The carriage reaches the Boulevard de la Fonciere, where the battle is
waged. All along the immense avenue a double row of flower-bedecked
vehicles are going and coming like an endless ribbon. Flowers are thrown
from one to the other. They pass through the air like balls, striking
fresh faces, bouncing and falling into the dust, where an army of
youngsters pick them up.
A thick crowd is standing on the sidewalks looking on and held in check
by the mounted police, who pass brutally along pushing back the curious
pedestrians as though to prevent the common people from mingling with the
In the carriages, people call to each other, recognize each other and
bombard each other with roses. A chariot full of pretty women, dressed
in red, like devils, attracts the eyes of all. A gentleman, who looks
like the portraits of Henry IV., is throwing an immense bouquet which is
held back by an elastic. Fearing the shock, the women hide their eyes
and the men lower their heads, but the graceful, rapid and obedient
missile describes a curve and returns to its master, who immediately
throws it at some new face.
The two young women begin to throw their stock of flowers by handfuls,
and receive a perfect hail of bouquets; then, after an hour of warfare,
a little tired, they tell the coachman to drive along the road which
follows the seashore.
The sun disappears behind Esterel, outlining the dark, rugged mountain
against the sunset sky. The clear blue sea, as calm as a mill-pond,
stretches out as far as the horizon, where it blends with the sky; and
the fleet, anchored in the middle of the bay, looks like a herd of
enormous beasts, motionless on the water, apocalyptic animals, armored
and hump-backed, their frail masts looking like feathers, and with eyes
which light up when evening approaches.
The two young women, leaning back under the heavy robes, look out lazily
over the blue expanse of water. At last one of them says:
"How delightful the evenings are! How good everything seems! Don't you
think so, Margot?"
"Yes, it is good. But there is always something lacking."
"What is lacking? I feel perfectly happy. I don't need anything else."
"Yes, you do. You are not thinking of it. No matter how contented we
may be, physically, we always long for something more--for the heart."
The other asked with a smile:
"A little love?"
They stopped talking, their eyes fastened on the distant horizon, then
the one called Marguerite murmured: "Life without that seems to me
unbearable. I need to be loved, if only by a dog. But we are all alike,
no matter what you may say, Simone."
"Not at all, my dear. I had rather not be loved at all than to be loved
by the first comer. Do you think, for instance, that it would be
pleasant to be loved by--by--"
She was thinking by whom she might possibly be loved, glancing across the
wide landscape. Her eyes, after traveling around the horizon, fell on
the two bright buttons which were shining on the back of the coachman's
livery, and she continued, laughing: "by my coachman?"
Madame Margot barely smiled, and said in a low tone of voice:
"I assure you that it is very amusing to be loved by a servant. It has
happened to me two or three times. They roll their eyes in such a funny
manner--it's enough to make you die laughing! Naturally, the more in
love they are, the more severe one must be with them, and then, some day,
for some reason, you dismiss them, because, if anyone should notice it,
you would appear so ridiculous."
Madame Simone was listening, staring straight ahead of her, then she
"No, I'm afraid that my footman's heart would not satisfy me. Tell me
how you noticed that they loved you."
"I noticed it the same way that I do with other men--when they get
"The others don't seem stupid to me, when they love me."
"They are idiots, my dear, unable to talk, to answer, to understand
"But how did you feel when you were loved by a servant? Were you--moved
"Moved? no, flattered--yes a little. One is always flattered to be
loved by a man, no matter who he may be."
"Yes, indeed, my dear! For instance, I will tell you of a peculiar
incident which happened to me. You will see how curious and complex our
emotions are, in such cases.
"About four years ago I happened to be without a maid. I had tried five
or six, one right after the other, and I was about ready to give up in
despair, when I saw an advertisement in a newspaper of a young girl
knowing how to cook, embroider, dress hair, who was looking for a
position and who could furnish the best of references. Besides all these
accomplishments, she could speak English.
"I wrote to the given address, and the next day the person in question
presented herself. She was tall, slender, pale, shy-looking. She had
beautiful black eyes and a charming complexion; she pleased me
immediately. I asked for her certificates; she gave me one in English,
for she came, as she said, from Lady Rymwell's, where she had been for
"The certificate showed that the young girl had left of her own free
will, in order to return to France, and the only thing which they had had
to find fault in her during her long period of service was a little
"This prudish English phrase even made me smile, and I immediately
engaged this maid.
"She came to me the same day. Her name was Rose.
"At the end of a month I would have been helpless without her. She was a
treasure, a pearl, a phenomenon.
"She could dress my hair with infinite taste; she could trim a hat better
than most milliners, and she could even make my dresses.
"I was astonished at her accomplishments. I had never before been waited
on in such a manner.
"She dressed me rapidly and with a surprisingly light touch. I never
felt her fingers on my skin, and nothing is so disagreeable to me as
contact with a servant's hand. I soon became excessively lazy; it was so
pleasant to be dressed from head to foot, and from lingerie to gloves, by
this tall, timid girl, always blushing a little, and never saying a word.
After my bath she would rub and massage me while I dozed a little on my
couch; I almost considered her more of a friend than a servant.
"One morning the janitor asked, mysteriously, to speak to me. I was
surprised, and told him to come in. He was a good, faithful man, an old
soldier, one of my husband's former orderlies.
"He seemed to be embarrassed by what he had to say to me. At last he
managed to mumble:
"'Madame, the superintendent of police is downstairs.'
"I asked quickly:
"'What does he wish?'
"'He wishes to search the house.'
"Of course the police are useful, but I hate them. I do not think that
it is a noble profession. I answered, angered and hurt:
"'Why this search? For what reason? He shall not come in.'
"The janitor continued:
"'He says that there is a criminal hidden in the house.'
"This time I was frightened and I told him to bring the inspector to me,
so that I might get some explanation. He was a man with good manners and
decorated with the Legion of Honor. He begged my pardon for disturbing
me, and then informed me that I had, among my domestics, a convict.
"I was shocked; and I answered that I could guarantee every servant in
the house, and I began to enumerate them.
"'The janitor, Pierre Courtin, an old soldier.'
"'It's not he.'
"'A stable-boy, son of farmers whom I know, and a groom whom you have
"'It's not he.'
"'Then, monsieur, you see that you must be mistaken.'
"'Excuse me, madame, but I am positive that I am not making a mistake.
As the conviction of a notable criminal is at stake, would you be so kind
as to send for all your servants?"
"At first I refused, but I finally gave in, and sent downstairs for
everybody, men and women.
"The inspector glanced at them and then declared:
"'This isn't all.'
"'Excuse me, monsieur, there is no one left but my maid, a young girl
whom you could not possibly mistake for a convict.'
"'May I also see her?'
"I rang for Rose, who immediately appeared. She had hardly entered the
room, when the inspector made a motion, and two men whom I had not seen,
hidden behind the door, sprang forward, seized her and tied her hands
behind her back.
"I cried out in anger and tried to rush forward to defend her. The
inspector stopped me:
"'This girl, madame, is a man whose name is Jean Nicolas Lecapet,
condemned to death in 1879 for assaulting a woman and injuring her so
that death resulted. His sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life.
He escaped four months ago. We have been looking for him ever since.'
"I was terrified, bewildered. I did not believe him. The commissioner
"'I can prove it to you. His right arm is tattooed.'
"'The sleeve was rolled up. It was true. The inspector added, with bad
"'You can trust us for the other proofs.'
"And they led my maid away!
"Well, would you believe me, the thing that moved me most was not anger
at having thus been played upon, deceived and made ridiculous, it was not
the shame of having thus been dressed and undressed, handled and touched
by this man--but a deep humiliation--a woman's humiliation. Do you
"I am afraid I don't."
"Just think--this man had been condemned for--for assaulting a woman.
Well! I thought of the one whom he had assaulted--and--and I felt
humiliated--There! Do you understand now?"
Madame Margot did not answer. She was looking straight ahead, her eyes
fastened on the two shining buttons of the livery, with that sphinx-like
smile which women sometimes have.