Best Short Stories
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Best Short Stories

A Dual-Language Book

Guy de Maupassant

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eBook - ePub

Best Short Stories

A Dual-Language Book

Guy de Maupassant

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About This Book

In his stories Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) blended brilliantly realistic depictions of characters moving against carefully described backgrounds with an objectivity and universality that has earned him a place among the finest of all short-story writers. In this collection of seven of his most popular stories, each tale reflects both the author's intimate familiarity with Paris and the provinces in the Belle Epoque, as well as a nonjudgmental humanism that is one of Maupassant's most attractive qualities.
Included in this volume are his celebrated masterpiece `Boule de Suif,` along with six other finely crafted selections: `La Parure,` `Mademoiselle Fifi,` `La Maison Tellier,` `La Ficelle,` `Miss Harriet,` and `Le Horla.` The stories are printed in French with excellent new word-for-word English translations on the facing pages.
Students of both French and English will find here an excellent resource for upgrading their language skills. Admirers of fine literature will enjoy the conciseness, strength, and rigorous economy that characterize Maupassant's art.

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BOULE DE SUIF
PENDANT PLUSIEURS JOURS de suite des lambeaux d’armĂ©e en dĂ©route avaient traversĂ© la ville. Ce n’était point de la troupe, mais des hordes dĂ©bandĂ©es. Les hommes avaient la barbe longue et sale, des uniformes en guenilles, et ils avançaient d’une allure molle, sans drapeau, sans rĂ©giment. Tous semblaient accablĂ©s, Ă©reintĂ©s, incapables d’une pensĂ©e ou d’une rĂ©solution, marchant seulement par habitude, et tombant de fatigue sitĂŽt qu’ils s’arrĂȘtaient. On voyait surtout des mobilisĂ©s, gens pacifiques, rentiers tranquilles, pliant sous le poids du fusil; des petits moblots alertes, faciles Ă  l’épouvante et prompts Ă  l’enthousiasme, prĂȘts Ă  l’attaque comme Ă  la fuite; puis, au milieu d’eux, quelques culottes rouges, dĂ©bris d’une division moulue dans une grande bataille; des artilleurs sombres alignĂ©s avec ces fantassins divers; et, parfois, le casque brillant d’un dragon au pied pesant qui suivait avec peine la marche plus lĂ©gĂšre des lignards.
Des lĂ©gions de francs-tireurs aux appellations hĂ©roĂŻques: «les Vengeurs de la DĂ©faite—les Citoyens de la Tombe—les Partageurs de la Mort»—passaient Ă  leur tour, avec des airs de bandits.
Leurs chefs, anciens commerçants en draps ou en graines, exmarchands de suif ou de savon, guerriers de circonstance, nommĂ©s officiers pour leurs Ă©cus ou la longueur de leurs moustaches, couverts d’armes, de flanelle et de galons, parlaient d’une voix retentissante, discutaient plans de campagne, et prĂ©tendaient soutenir seuls la France agonisante sur leurs Ă©paules de fanfarons: mais ils redoutaient parfois leurs propres soldats, gens de sac et de corde, souvent braves Ă  outrance, pillards et dĂ©bauchĂ©s.
Les Prussiens allaient entrer dans Rouen, disait-on.
La Garde nationale qui, depuis deux mois, faisait des reconnaissances trÚs prudentes dans les bois voisins, fusillant parfois ses propres sentinelles, et se préparant au combat quand un petit lapin remuait sous des broussailles, était rentrée dans ses foyers. Ses armes, ses uniformes, tout son attirail meurtrier dont elle épouvantait naguÚre les
BOULE DE SUIF
FOR SEVERAL DAYS in a row, remains of the routed army had been crossing through the town. They weren’t in troops, but in disbanded hordes. The men had long and dirty beards, ragged uniforms, and they moved ahead with a lifeless look about them, with no flag, with no regiment. They all seemed spent, worn out, incapable of a thought or a resolution, marching only out of habit, and collapsing from exhaustion as soon as they stopped. More than anything, one saw reservists, peaceful folk who’d been living quietly on their private income, bent double under the weight of their rifles; alert little militiamen, easily frightened and open to enthusiasm, as ready to attack as to run away; then, in their midst, some regulars in red breeches, leftovers from a division pulverized in a great battle; grim artillerymen were mixed in with these diverse footsoldiers; and, sometimes, the shiny helmet of a lumbering dragoon who could barely keep up with the easier progress of the rank and file.
Legions of volunteers with heroic titles—“Avengers of Defeat,” “Citizens of the Tomb,” “Partners in Death”—also passed by in turn, looking like bandits.
Their leaders, former tradesmen in cloth or in grain, erstwhile merchants of tallow or of soap, improvised warriors, who had been appointed officers by dint of their money or the length of their mustaches, laden with weapons, flannel and gold braid, would speak in a resounding voice, discuss battle plans and claim that they alone supported their suffering France on their braggarts’ shoulders; but they sometimes feared their own soldiers, gallows birds who were often brave to the death, who pillaged and debauched.
The Prussians were going to enter Rouen, people said.
The National Guard, who for two months now had been doing very cautious reconnaissance work in the neighboring woods, sometimes shooting their own sentinels, and preparing themselves for combat whenever a little rabbit stirred in the underbrush, had returned home. Their weapons, their uniforms, all their murderous trappings, which
bornes des routes nationales Ă  trois lieues Ă  la ronde avaient subitement disparu.
Les derniers soldats français venaient enfin de traverser la Seine pour gagner Pont-Audemer par Saint-Sever et Bourg-Achard; et, marchant aprĂšs tous, le gĂ©nĂ©ral, dĂ©sespĂ©rĂ©, ne pouvant rien tenter avec ces loques disparates, Ă©perdu lui-mĂȘme dans la grande dĂ©bĂącle d’un peuple habituĂ© Ă  vaincre et dĂ©sastreusement battu malgrĂ© sa bravoure lĂ©gendaire, s’en allait Ă  pied, entre deux officiers d’ordonnance.
Puis un calme profond, une attente Ă©pouvantĂ©e et silencieuse avaient planĂ© sur la citĂ©. Beaucoup de bourgeois bedonnants, Ă©masculĂ©s par le commerce, attendaient anxieusement les vainqueurs, tremblant qu’on ne considĂ©rĂąt comme une arme leurs broches Ă  rĂŽtir ou leurs grands couteaux de cuisine.
La vie semblait arrĂȘtĂ©e; les boutiques Ă©taient closes, la rue muette. Quelquefois un habitant, intimidĂ© par ce silence, filait rapidement le long des murs.
L’angoisse de l’attente faisait dĂ©sirer la venue de l’ennemi.
Dans l’aprĂšs-midi du jour qui suivit le dĂ©part des troupes françaises, quelques uhlans, sortis on ne sait d’oĂč, traversĂšrent la ville avec cĂ©lĂ©ritĂ©. Puis, un peu plus tard, une masse noire descendit de la cĂŽte Sainte-Catherine, tandis que deux autres flots envahisseurs apparaissaient par les routes de DarnĂ©tal et de Bois-Guillaume. Les avant-gardes des trois corps, juste au mĂȘme moment, se joignirent sur la place de l’HĂŽtel-de-Ville; et, par toutes les rues voisines, l’armĂ©e allemande arrivait, dĂ©roulant ses bataillons qui faisaient sonner les pavĂ©s sous leur pas dur et rythmĂ©.
Des commandements criĂ©s d’une voix inconnue et gutturale montaient le long des maisons qui semblaient mortes et dĂ©sertes, tandis que, derriĂšre les volets fermĂ©s, des yeux guettaient ces hommes victorieux, maĂźtres de la citĂ©, des fortunes et des vies de par le «droit de guerre». Les habitants, dans leurs chambres assombries, avaient l’affolement que donnent les cataclysmes, les grands bouleversements meurtriers de la terre, contre lesquels toute sagesse et toute force sont inutiles. Car la mĂȘme sensation reparaĂźt chaque fois que l’ordre Ă©tabli des choses est renversĂ©, que la sĂ©curitĂ© n’existe plus, que tout ce que protĂ©geaient les lois des hommes ou celles de la nature, se trouve Ă  la merci d’une brutalitĂ© inconsciente et fĂ©roce. Le tremblement de terre Ă©crasant sous les maisons croulantes un peuple entier; le fleuve dĂ©bordĂ© qui roule les paysans noyĂ©s avec les cadavres des bƓufs et les poutres arrachĂ©es aux toits, ou l’armĂ©e glorieuse massacrant ceux qui se dĂ©fen-
had recently been terrorizing the milestones of the national highways for three leagues in every direction, had suddenly disappeared.
The last French soldiers had finally just crossed the Seine to reach Pont-Audemer by way of Saint-Sever and Bourg-Achard; and, marching behind everyone, the general—desperate, unable to attempt anything with that motley rag-tag bunch, himself bewildered by this great debacle that had befallen a people accustomed to winning and, despite their legendary bravery, disastrously beaten—was going along on foot, between two aides-de-camp.
Then a profound calm, a fearful and silent period of waiting had settled on the city. Many well-fed members of the bourgeoisie, emasculated by the commercial life, awaited the conquerors anxiously, trembling with the fear that their roasting spits or their big kitchen knives might be perceived as weapons.
Life seemed to come to a halt; the shops were closed, the streets soundless. Sometimes an inhabitant, intimidated by this silence, scampered quickly along the walls.
The anguish of waiting created a longing for the arrival of the enemy.
In the afternoon of the day following the departure of the French troops, a few Uhlans, coming from who knows where, crossed the city quickly. Then, a little later, a black mass descended from Saint Catherine’s Hill, while two other waves of invaders appeared via the roads from DarnĂ©tal and Bois-Guillaume. The front lines of the three corps, at exactly the same moment, came together in the Place de l’HĂŽtel-de-Ville; and, from all the neighboring streets, the German army was arriving, unleashing its battalions that made the pavement ring under their hard and rhythmic steps.
Commands shouted in an unfamiliar, guttural tongue rose up along the houses, which seemed dead and deserted, while, behind the closed shutters, eyes were watching these victorious men who were masters of the city, of fortunes and of lives by the “right of war.” The inhabitants, in their darkened rooms, suffered that panic brought on by cataclysms, by the great murderous tremblings of the earth, against which all wisdom and all strength are useless. For the same sensation occurs each time the established order of things is overturned, when security no longer exists, when all that was protected by the laws of man or of nature finds itself at the mercy of a mindless and violent brutality. The earthquake that crushes an entire populace beneath their crumbling houses; the overflowing river that carries away the drowned country-folk with the carcasses of steer and beams ripped from roofs, or the victorious army massacring those who defend themselves, leading away
dent, emmenant les autres prisonniers, pillant au nom du Sabre et remerciant un Dieu au son du canon, sont autant de flĂ©aux effrayants qui dĂ©concertent toute croyance Ă  la justice Ă©ternelle, toute la confiance qu’on nous enseigne en la protection du ciel et la raison de l’homme.
Mais Ă  chaque porte des petits dĂ©tachements frappaient, puis disparaissaient dans les maisons. C’était l’occupation aprĂšs l’invasion. Le devoir commençait pour les vaincus de se montrer gracieux envers les vainqueurs.
Au bout de quelque temps, une fois la premiĂšre terreur disparue, un calme nouveau s’établit. Dans beaucoup de familles, l’officier prussien mangeait Ă  table. Il Ă©tait parfois bien Ă©levĂ©, et, par politesse, plaignait la France, disait sa rĂ©pugnance en prenant part Ă  cette guerre. On lui Ă©tait reconnaissant de ce sentiment; puis on pouvait, un jour ou l’autre, avoir besoin de sa protection. En le mĂ©nageant on obtiendrait peut-ĂȘtre quelques hommes de moins Ă  nourrir. Et pourquoi blesser quelqu’un dont on dĂ©pendait tout Ă  fait? Agir ainsi serait moins de la bravoure que de la tĂ©mĂ©ritĂ©.—Et la tĂ©mĂ©ritĂ© n’est plus un dĂ©faut des bourgeois de Rouen, comme au temps des dĂ©fenses hĂ©roĂŻques oĂč s’illustra leur citĂ©.—On se disait enfin, raison suprĂȘme tirĂ©e de l’urbanitĂ© française, qu’il demeurait bien permis d’ĂȘtre poli dans son intĂ©rieur pourvu qu’on ne se montrĂąt pas familier, en public, avec le soldat Ă©tranger. Au dehors on ne se connaissait plus, mais dans la maison on causait volontiers, et l’Allemand demeurait plus longtemps, chaque soir, Ă  se chauffer au foyer commun.
La ville mĂȘme reprenait peu Ă  peu de son aspect ordinaire. Les Français ne sortaient guĂšre encore, mais les soldats prussiens grouillaient dans les rues. Du reste, les officiers de hussards bleus, qui traĂźnaient avec arrogance leurs grands outils de mort sur le pavĂ©, ne semblaient pas avoir pour les simples citoyens Ă©normĂ©ment plus de mĂ©pris que les officiers de chasseurs, qui, l’annĂ©e d’avant, buvaient aux mĂȘmes cafĂ©s.
Il y avait cependant quelque chose dans l’air, quelque chose de subtil et d’inconnu, une atmosphĂšre Ă©trangĂšre intolĂ©rable, comme une odeur rĂ©pandue, l’odeur de l’invasion. Elle emplissait les demeures et les places publiques, changeait le goĂ»t des aliments, donnait l’impression d’ĂȘtre en voyage, trĂšs loin, chez des tribus barbares et dangereuses.
Les vainqueurs exigeaient de l’argent, beaucoup d’argent. Les habitants payaient toujours; ils Ă©taient riches d’ailleurs. Mais plus un nĂ©gociant normand devient opulent et plus il souffre de tout sacrifice, de toute parcelle de sa fortune qu’il voit passer aux mains d’un autre.
Cependant, Ă  deux ou trois lieues sous la ville, en suivant le cours
the others as prisoners, looting in the name of the Sword and thanking a God to the sound of a cannon, these are all horrible scourges that unsettle all belief in eternal justice and all the faith that we are taught to have in the protection of heaven and in the reason of man.
But little detachments were knocking at every door, then disappearing inside the houses. It was the occupation after the invasion. The obligation had begun for the conquered to show themselves hospitable towards the conquerors.
After some time, once the first terror had disappeared, a new calm was established. In many families, the Prussian officer would eat at the table. He would sometimes be well-bred and, out of politeness, would pity France, would tell of his repugnance in taking part in this war. The family was grateful to him for this sentiment; besides, one day or another, they might have need of his protection. By humoring him they might perhaps obtain a few less men to feed. And why offend someone on whom you totally depend? To act thus would be less a matter of bravery than of recklessness.—And recklessness is no longer a fault of the citizenry of Rouen, as it was in the times of the heroic defenses that won renown for their city.—Finally, they told themselves, as a supreme rationalization drawn from notions of French civility, that it was all right to be polite indoors as long as one didn’t show oneself on familiar terms with the foreign soldier in public. Outside they no longer knew each other, but in the house they would chat willingly, and the German would spend more time each evening warming himself at the hearth.
The town itself reclaimed its usual appearance little by little. The French still hardly...

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