The works of
Guy De Maupassant



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"It is just as I tell you, my dear fellow, those two poor things whom we all of us envied, who looked like a couple of pigeons when they are billing and cooing, and were always spooning until they made themselves ridiculous, now hate each other just as much as they used to adore each other. It is a complete break, and one of those which cannot be mended like you can an old plate! And all for a bit of nonsense, for something so funny that it ought to have brought them closer together and have made them amuse themselves together until they were ill. But how can a man explain himself when he is dying of jealousy, and when he keeps repeating to his terrified mistress, 'You are lying! you are lying!' When he shakes her, interrupts her while she is speaking, and says such hard things to her that at last she flies into a rage, has enough of it, becomes hard and mad, and thinks of nothing but of giving him tit for tat and of paying him out in his own coin; does not care a straw about destroying his happiness, sends everything to the devil, and talks a lot of bosh which she certainly does not believe. And then, because there is nothing so stupid and so obstinate in the whole world as lovers, neither he nor she will take the first steps, and own to having been in the wrong, and regret having gone too far; but both wait and watch and do not even write a few lines about nothing, which would restore peace. No, they let day succeed day, and there are feverish and sleepless nights when the bed seems so hard, so cheerless and so large, and habits get weakened and the fire of love that was still smoldering at the bottom of the heart evaporates in smoke. By degrees both find some reason for what they wished to do, they think themselves idiots to lose the time which will never return in that fashion, and so good-bye, and there you are! That is how Josine Cadenette and that great idiot Servance separated."

Lalie Spring had lighted a cigarette, and the blue smoke played about her fine, fair hair, and made one think of those last rays of the setting sun which pierce through the clouds at sunset, and resting her elbows on her knees, and with her chin in her hand in a dreamy attitude, she murmured:

"Sad, isn't it?"

"Bah!" I replied, "at their age people easily console themselves, and everything begins over again, even love!"

"Well, Josine had already found somebody else...."

"And did she tell you her story?"

"Of course she did, and it is such a joke!... You must know that Servance is one of those fellows like one would wish to have when one has time to amuse oneself, and so self-possessed that he would be capable of ruining all the older ones in a girls' school, and given to trifling as much as most men, so that Josine calls him 'perpetual motion.' He would have liked to have gone on with his fun until the Day of Judgment, and seemed to fancy that beds were not made to sleep in at all, but she could not get used to being deprived of nearly all her rest, and it really made her ill. But as she wished to be as conciliatory as possible, and to love and to be loved as ardently as in the past, and also to sleep off the effects of her happiness peacefully, she rented a small room in a distant quarter, in a quiet, shady street giving out that she had just come from the country, and put hardly any furniture into it except a good bed and a dressing table. Then she invented an old aunt for the occasion, who was ill and always grumbling, and who suffered from heart disease and lived in one of the suburbs, and so several times a week Josine took refuge in her sleeping place, and used to sleep late there as if it had been some delicious abode where one forgets the whole world. Sometimes they forgot to call her at the proper time; she got back late, tired, with red and swollen eyelids, involved herself in lies, contradicted herself and looked so much as if she had just come from the confessional, feeling horribly ashamed of herself, or, as if she had hurried home from some assignation, that at last Servance worried himself about it, thought that he was being made a fool of like so many of his comrades were, got into a rage and made up his mind to set the matter straight, and so discover who this aunt of his mistress's was, who had so suddenly fallen from the skies.

"He necessarily applied to an obliging agency, where they excited his jealousy, exasperated him day after day by making him believe that Josine Cadenette was making an absolute fool of him, had no more a sick aunt than she had any virtue, but that during the day she continued the little debaucheries which she committed with him at night, and that she shamelessly frequented some discreet bachelor's lodgings, where more than probably one of his own best friends was amusing himself at his expense, and having his share of the cake. He was fool enough to believe these fellows, instead of going and watching Josine himself, putting his nose into the business and going and knocking at the door of her room. He wanted to hear no more, and would not listen to her. For a trifle, in spite of her tears, he would have turned the poor thing into the streets, as if she had been a bundle of dirty linen. You may guess how she flew out at him and told him all sorts of things to annoy him; she let him believe he was not mistaken, that she had had enough of his affection, and that she was madly in love with another man. He grew very pale when she said that, looked at her furiously, clenched his teeth and said in a hoarse voice:

"'Tell me his name, tell me his name!'

"'Oh!' she said, chaffingly, 'you know him very well!' and if I had not happened to have gone in I think there would have been a tragedy.... How stupid they are, and they were so happy and loved each other so.... And now Josine is living with fat Schweinsshon, a low scoundrel who will live upon her and Servance has taken up with Sophie Labisque, who might easily be his mother; you know her, that bundle of red and yellow, who has been at that kind of thing for eighteen years, and whom Laglandee has christened, 'Saecula saeculorum!'"

"By Jove! I should rather think I did!"