BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
In front of the building, half farm-house,
half manor-house, one of those rural habitations
of a mixed character which were all but
seigneurial, and which are at the present
time occupied by large cultivators, the dogs
lashed beside the apple-trees in the orchard
near the house, kept barking and howling at
the sight of the shooting-bags carried by the
gamekeepers and the boys. In the spacious
dining-room kitchen, Hautot Senior and Hautot
Junior, M. Bermont, the tax-collector, and
M. Mondaru, the notary were taking a pick and
drinking a glass before going out to shoot,
for it was the opening day.
Hautot Senior, proud of all his possessions,
talked boastfully beforehand of the game which
his guests were going to find on his lands.
He was a big Norman, one of those powerful,
sanguineous, bony men, who lift wagon-loads
of apples on their shoulders. Half-peasant,
half-gentleman, rich, respected, influential,
invested with authority he made his son Cesar
go as far as the third form at school, so that
he might be an educated man, and there he had
brought his studies to a stop for fear of his
becoming a fine gentleman and paying no
attention to the land.
Cesar Hautot, almost as tall as his father,
but thinner, was a good son, docile, content
with everything, full of admiration, respect,
and deference, for the wishes and opinions of
M. Bermont, the tax-collector, a stout little
man, who showed on his red cheeks a thin network
of violet veins resembling the tributaries and
the winding courses of rivers on maps, asked:
"And hares--are there any hares on it?"
Hautot Senior answered:
"As much as you like, especially in the Puysatier
"Which direction are we to begin at?" asked
the notary, a jolly notary fat and pale, big
paunched too, and strapped up in an entirely
new hunting-costume bought at Rouen.
"Well, that way, through these grounds. We
will drive the partridges into the plain,
and we will beat there again."
And Hautot Senior rose up. They all followed
his example, took their guns out of the corners,
examined the locks, stamped with their feet
in order to feel themselves firmer in their
boots which were rather hard, not having as
yet been rendered flexible by the heat of the
blood. Then they went out; and the dogs,
standing erect at the ends of their lashes,
gave vent to piercing howls while beating the
air with their paws.
They set forth for the lands referred to.
They consisted of a little glen, or rather
a long undulating stretch of inferior soil,
which had on that account remained uncultivated,
furrowed with mountain-torrents, covered with
ferns, an excellent preserve for game.
The sportsmen took up their positions at some
distance from each other, Hautot Senior posting
himself at the right, Hautot Junior at the
left, and the two guests in the middle. The
keeper and those who carried the game-bags
followed. It was the solemn moment when the
first shot it awaited, when the heart beats
a little, while the nervous finger keeps
feeling at the gun-lock every second.
Suddenly the shot went off. Hautot Senior
had fired. They all stopped, and saw a partridge
breaking off from a covey which was rushing
along at a single flight to fall down into a
ravine under a thick growth of brushwood. The
sportsman, becoming excited, rushed forward
with rapid strides, thrusting aside the briers
which stood in his path, and he disappeared
in his turn into the thicket, in quest of his
Almost at the same instant, a second shot was
"Ha! ha! the rascal!" exclaimed M. Bermont,
"he will unearth a hare down there."
They all waited, with their eyes riveted on
the heap of branches through which their gaze
failed to penetrate.
The notary, making a speaking-trumpet of his
"Have you got them?"
Hautot Senior made no response.
Then Cesar, turning towards the keeper, said
"Just go, and assist him, Joseph. We must keep
walking in a straight line. We'll wait."
And Joseph, an old stump of a man, lean and
knotty, all whose joints formed protuberances,
proceeded at an easy pace down the ravine,
searching at every opening through which a
passage could be effected with the cautiousness
of a fox. Then, suddenly, he cried:
"Oh! come! come! an unfortunate thing has
They all hurried forward, plunging through
The elder Hautot, who had fallen on his side,
in a fainting condition, kept both his hands
over his stomach, from which flowed down upon
the grass through the linen vest torn by the
lead, long streamlets of blood. As he was
laying down his gun, in order to seize the
partridge, within reach of him, he had let
the firearm fall, and the second discharge
going off with the shock, had torn open his
entrails. They drew him out of the trench;
they removed his clothes, and they saw a
frightful wound, through which the intestines
came out. Then, after having bandaged him
the best way they could, they brought him
back to his own house, and they awaited the
doctor, who had been sent for, as well as
When the doctor arrived, he gravely shook
his head, and, turning towards young Hautot,
who was sobbing on a chair:
"My poor boy," said he, "this has not a good
But, when the dressing was finished, the
wounded man moved his fingers, opened his
mouth, then his eyes, cast around his troubled,
haggard glances, then appeared to search
about in his memory, to recollect, to understand,
and he murmured:
"Ah! good God! this has done for me!"
The doctor held his hand.
"Why no, why no, some days of rest merely--it
will be nothing."
"It has done for me! My stomach is split!
I know it well."
Then, all of a sudden:
"I want to talk to the son, if I have the
Hautot Junior, in spite of himself, shed
tears, and kept repeating like a little boy.
"P'pa, p'pa, poor p'ps!"
But the father, in a firmer tone:
"Come! stop crying--this is not the time for
it. I have to talk to you. Sit down there
quite close to me. It will be quickly done,
and I will be more calm. As for the rest of
you, kindly give me one minute."
They all went out, leaving the father and
son face to face.
As soon as they were alone:
"Listen, son! you are twenty-four years;
one can say things like this to you. And
then there is not such mystery about these
matters as we import into them. You know
well that your mother is seven years dead,
isn't that so? and that I am not more than
forty-five years myself, seeing that I got
married at nineteen. Is not that true?"
The son faltered:
"Yes, it is true."
"So then your mother is seven years dead,
and I have remained a widower. Well! a man
like me cannot remain without a wife at
thirty-seven isn't that true?"
The son replied:
"Yes, it is true."
The father, out of breath, quite pale, and
his face contracted with suffering, went on:
"God! what pain I feel! Well, you understand.
Man is not made to live alone, but I did not
want to take a successor to your mother,
since I promised her not to do so. Then--you
"So, I kept a young girl at Rouen, Reu de
l'Eperlan 18, in the third story, the second
door--I tell you all this, don't forget--but
a young girl, who has been very nice to me,
loving, devoted, a true woman, eh? You
comprehend, my lad?"
"So then, if I am carried off, I owe
something to her, but something substantial,
that will place her in a safe position. You
"I tell you that she is an honest girl, and
that, but for you, and the remembrance of
your mother, and again but for the house in
which we three lived, I would have brought
her here, and then married her, for
certain--listen--listen, my lad. I might have
made a will--I haven't done so. I did not
wish to do so--for it is not necessary to
write down things--things of this sort--it
is too hurtful to the legitimate children--and
then it embroils everything--it ruins everyone!
Look you, the stamped paper, there's no need
of it--never make use of it. If I am rich, it
is because I have not made use of what I have
during my own life. You understand, my son?"
"Listen again--listen well to me! So then,
I have made no will--I did not desire to do
so--and then I knew what you were; you have
a good heart; you are not niggardly, not too
near, in any way, I said to myself that when
my end approached I would tell you all about
it, and that I would beg of you not to forget
the girl. And then listen again! When I am
gone, make your way to the place at once--and
make such arrangements that she may not blame
my memory. You have plenty of means. I leave
it to you--I leave you enough. Listen! You
won't find her at home every day in the week.
She works at Madame Moreau's in the Rue
Beauvoisine. Go there on a Thursday. That is
the day she expects me. It has been my day
for the past six years. Poor little thing!
she will weep!--I say all this to you, because
I have known you so well, my son. One does
not tell these things in public either to
the notary or to the priest. They happen--everyone
knows that--but they are not talked about,
save in case of necessity. Then there is
no outsider in the secret, nobody except
the family, because the family consists
of one person alone. You understand?"
"Do you promise?"
"Do you swear it?"
"I beg of you, I implore of you, son do
not forget. I bind you to it."
"You will go yourself. I want you to make
sure of everything."
"And, then, you will see--you will see
what she will explain to you. As for me,
I can say no more to you. You have vowed
to do it."
"That's good, my son. Embrace me. Farewell.
I am going to break up, I'm sure. Tell them
they may come in."
Young Hautot embraced his father, groaning
while he did so; then, always docile, he
opened the door, and the priest appeared
in a white surplice, carrying the holy oils.
But the dying man had closed his eyes, and
he refused to open them again, he refused
to answer, he refused to show, even by a
sign, that he understood.
He had spoken enough, this man; he could
speak no more. Besides he now felt his heart
calm; he wanted to die in peace. What need
had he to make a confession to the deputy
of God, since he had just done so to his
son, who constituted his own family?
He received the last rites, was purified
and absolved, in the midst of his friends
and his servants on their bended knees,
without any movement of his face indicating
that he still lived.
He expired about midnight, after four hours'
convulsive movements, which showed that he
must have suffered dreadfully in his last
It was on the following Tuesday that they
buried him, the shooting opened on Sunday.
On his return home, after having accompanied
his father to the cemetery, Cesar Hautot
spent the rest of the day weeping. He
scarcely slept at all on the following
night, and he felt so sad on awakening
that he asked himself how he could go on
However, he kept thinking until evening
that, in order to obey the last wish of
his father, he ought to repair to Rouen
next day, and see this girl Catholine
Donet, who resided in the Rue d'Eperlan
in the third story, second door. He had
repeated to himself in a whisper, just as
a little boy repeats a prayer, this name
and address, a countless number of times,
so that he might not forget them, and he
ended by lisping them continually, without
being able to stop or to think of what it
was, so much were his tongue and his mind
possessed by the appellation.
According, on the following day, about
eight o'clock, he ordered Graindorge to
be yoked to the tilbury, and set forth,
at the quick trotting pace of the heavy
Norman horse, along the high road from the
Ainville to Rouen. He wore his black frock
coat drawn over his shoulders, a tall silk
hat on his head, and on his legs his breeches
with straps; and he did not wish, on account
of the occasion, to dispense with the
handsome costume, the blue overall which
swelled in the wind, protected the cloth
from dust and from stains, and which was
to be removed quickly on reaching his
destination the moment he had jumped out
of the coach.
He entered Rouen accordingly just as it
was striking ten o'clock, drew up, as he
had usually done at the Hotel des Bon-Enfants,
in the Rue des Trois-Mares, submitted to
the hugs of the landlord and his wife and
their five children, for they had heard
the melancholy news; after that, he had
to tell them all the particulars about
the accident, which caused him to shed
tears, to repel all the proffered attentions
which they sought to thrust upon him
merely because he was wealthy, and to
decline even the breakfast they wanted
him to partake of, thus wounding their
Then, having wiped the dust off his hat,
brushed his coat and removed the mud stains
from his boots, he set forth in search of
the Rue de l'Eperlan, without venturing
to make inquiries from anyone, for fear
of being recognized and arousing suspicions.
At length, being unable to find the place,
he saw a priest passing by, and, trusting
to the professional discretion which
churchmen possess, he questioned the
He had only a hundred steps farther to go;
it was exactly the second street to the
Then he hesitated. Up to that moment, he
had obeyed, like a mere animal, the expressed
wish of the deceased. Now he felt quite
agitated, confused, humiliated, at the idea
of finding himself--the son--in the presence
of this woman who had been his father's
mistress. All the morality which lies buried
in our breasts, heaped up at the bottom of
our sensuous emotions by centuries of
hereditary instruction, all that he had
been taught since he had learned his
catechism about creatures of evil life, to
instinctive contempt which every man entertains
towards them, even though he may marry one
of them, all the narrow honesty of the
peasant in his character, was stirred up
within him, and held him back, making him
grow red with shame.
But he said to himself:
"I promised the father, I must not break my
Then he gave a push to the door of the house
bearing the number 18, which stood ajar,
discovered a gloomy-looking staircase,
ascended three flights, perceived a door,
then a second door, came upon the string
of a bell, and pulled it. The ringing,
which resounded in the apartment before
which he stood, sent a shiver through his
frame. The door was opened, and he found
himself facing a young lady very well
dressed, a brunette with a fresh complexion
who gazed at him with eyes of astonishment.
He did not know what to say to her, and
she who suspected nothing, and who was
waiting for the other, did not invite him
to come in. They stood looking thus at one
another for nearly half-a-minute, at the
end of which she said in a questioning
"You have something to tell me Monsieur?" He
"I am M. Hautot's
She gave a start, turned pale, and stammered
out as if she had known him for a long time:
"And what next?"
"I have come to speak to you on the part
of my father."
"Oh my God!"
She then drew back so that he might enter.
He shut the door and followed her into the
interior. Then he saw a little boy of four
or five years playing with a cat, seated on
a floor in front of a stove, from which
rose the steam of dishes which were being
"Take a seat," she said.
He sat down.
He no longer ventured to speak, keeping his
eyes fixed on the table which stood in the
center of the room, with three covers laid
on it, one of which was for a child. He
glanced at the chair which had its back
turned to the fire. They had been expecting
him. That was his bread which he saw, and
which he recognized near the fork, for the
crust had been removed on account of Hautot's
bad teeth. Then, raising his eyes, he noticed
on the wall his father's portrait, the large
photograph taken at Paris the year of the
exhibition, the same as that which hung above
the bed in the sleeping apartment at Ainville.
The young woman again asked:
"Well, Monsieur Cesar?"
He kept staring at her. Her face was livid
with anguish; and she waited, her hands
trembling with fear.
Then he took courage.
"Well, Mam'zelle, papa died on Sunday last
just after he had opened the shooting."
She was so much overwhelmed that she did not
move. After a silence of a few seconds, she
faltered in an almost inaudible tone:
"Oh! it is not possible!"
Then, on a sudden, tears showed themselves
in her eyes, and covering her face with her
hands, she burst out sobbing.
At that point the little boy turned round,
and, seeing his mother weeping, began to
howl. Then, realizing that this sudden
trouble was brought about by the stranger,
he rushed at Cesar, caught hold of his
breeches with one hand, and with the other
hit him with all his strength on the thigh.
And Cesar remained agitated, deeply affected,
with this woman mourning for his father at
one side of him, and the little boy defending
his mother at the other. He felt their
emotion taking possession of himself, and
his eyes were beginning to brim over with
the same sorrow; so, to recover her self-command,
he began to talk:
"Yes," he said, "the accident occurred on
Sunday, at eight o'clock--."
And he told, as if she were listening to him,
all the facts without forgetting a single
detail, mentioning the most trivial matters
with the minuteness of a countryman. And the
child still kept assailing him, making kicks
at his ankles.
When he came to the time at which his father
had spoken about her, her attention was
caught by hearing her own name, and,
uncovering her face she said:
"Pardon me! I was not following you; I would
like to know--If you did not mind beginning
He related everything at great length, with
stoppages, breaks and reflections of his own
from time to time. She listened to him eagerly
now perceiving with a woman's keen sensibility
all the sudden changes of fortune which his
narrative indicated, and trembling with horror,
every now and then, exclaiming:
"Oh, my God!"
The little fellow, believing that she had
calmed down, ceased beating Cesar, in order
to catch his mother's hand, and he listened,
too, as if he understood.
When the narrative was finished, young Hautot
"Now we will settle matters together in
accordance with his wishes."
"Listen: I am well off he has left me plenty
of means. I don't want you to have anything
to complain about--"
But she quickly interrupted him.
"Oh, Monsieur Cesar, Monsieur Cesar, not to-day.
I am cut to the heart--another time--another
day. No, not to-day. If I accept, listen! 'Tis
not for myself--no, no, no, I swear to you.
'Tis for the child. Besides this provision
will be put to his account."
Thereupon, Cesar scared, divined the truth,
"So then--'tis his--the child?"
"Why, yes," she said.
And Hautot, Junior, gazed at his brother
with a confused emotion, intense and painful.
After a lengthened silence, for she had
begun to weep afresh, Cesar, quite embarrassed,
"Well, then, Mam'zelle Donet I am going.
When would you wish to talk this over with
"Oh! no, don't go! don't go. Don't leave me
all alone with Emile. I would die of grief.
I have no longer anyone, anyone but my child.
Oh! what wretchedness, what wretchedness.
Mousieur Cesar! Stop! Sit down again. You
will say something more to me. You will tell
me what he was doing over there all the week."
And Cesar resumed his seat, accustomed to
She drew over another chair for herself in
front of the stove, where the dishes had
all this time been simmering, took Emile
upon her knees, and asked Cesar a thousand
questions about his father with reference
to matters of an intimate nature, which
made him feel without reasoning on the
subject, that she had loved Hautot with
all the strength of her frail woman's
And, by the natural concatenation of his
ideas--which were rather limited in
number--he recurred once more to the
accident, and set about telling the story
over again with all the same details.
When he said:
"He had a hole in his stomach--you could
put your two fists into it."
She gave vent to a sort of shriek, and
the tears gushed forth again from her eyes.
Then seized by the contagion of her grief,
Cesar began to weep, too, and as tears
always soften the fibers of the heart, he
bent over Emile whose forehead was close
to his own mouth, and kissed him.
The mother, recovering her breath, murmured:
"Poor lad, he is an orphan now!"
"And so am I," said Cesar.
And they ceased to talk.
But suddenly the practical instinct of the
housewife, accustomed to be thoughtful
about many things, revived in the young
"You have perhaps taken nothing all the
morning, Monsieur Cesar."
"Oh! you must be hungry. You will eat a
"Thanks," he said, "I am not hungry; I
have had too much trouble."
"In spite of sorrow, we must live. You
will not refuse to let me get something
for you! And then you will remain a little
longer. When you are gone, I don't know
what will become of me."
He yielded after some further resistance,
and, sitting down with his back to the
fire, facing her, he ate a plateful of
tripe, which had been bubbling in the
stove, and drank a glass of red wine.
But he would not allow her to uncork the
bottle of white wine. He several times
wiped the mouth of the little boy, who
had smeared all his chin with sauce.
As he was rising up to go, he asked:
"When would you like me to come back to
speak about this business to you,
"If it is all the same to you, say next
Thursday, Monsieur Cesar. In that way, I
would lose none of my time, as I always
have my Thursdays free."
"That will suit me--next Thursday."
"You will come to lunch. Won't you?"
"Oh! On that point I can't give you a
"The reason I suggested is that people can
chat better when they are eating. One has
more time too."
"Well, be it so. About twelve o'clock,
And he took his departure, after he had
again kissed little Emile, and pressed
Mademoiselle Donet's hand.
The week appeared long to Cesar Hautot.
He had never before found himself alone,
and the isolation seemed to him insupportable.
Till now, he had lived at his father's
side, just like his shadow, followed him
into the fields, superintended the execution
of his orders, and, when they had been a
short time separated, again met him at
dinner. They had spent the evenings smoking
their pipes, face to face with one another,
chatting about horses, cows or sheep, and
the grip of their hands when they rose up
in the morning might have been regarded as
a manifestation of deep family affection
on both sides.
Now Cesar was alone, he went vacantly through
the process of dressing the soil of autumn,
every moment expecting to see the tall
gesticulating silhouette of his father
rising up at the end of a plain. To kill
time, he entered the houses of his neighbors,
told about the accident to all who had not
heard of it, and sometimes repeated it to
the others. Then, after he had finished his
occupations and his reflections, he would sit
down at the side of a road, asking himself
whether this kind of life was going to last
He frequently thought of Mademoiselle Donet.
He liked her. He considered her thoroughly
respectable, a gentle and honest young woman,
as his father had said. Yes, undoubtedly she
was an honest girl. He resolved to act
handsomely towards her, and to give her two
thousand francs a year, settling the capital
on the child. He even experienced a certain
pleasure in thinking that he was going to
see her on the following Thursday and arrange
this matter with her. And then the notion
of this brother, this little chap of five,
who was his father's son, plagued him,
annoyed him a little, and, at the same time,
exhibited him. He had, as it were, a family
in this brat, sprung from a clandestine
alliance, who would never bear the name of
Hautot, a family which he might take or
leave, just as he pleased, but which would
recall his father.
And so, when he saw himself on the road to
Rouen on Thursday morning, carried along by
Graindorge trotting with clattering foot-beats,
he felt his heart lighter, more at peace
than he had hitherto felt it since his
On entering Mademoiselle Donet's apartment,
he saw the table laid as on the previous
Thursday with the sole difference that the
crust had not been removed from the bread.
He pressed the young woman's hand, kissed
Emile on the cheeks, and sat down, more at
ease than if he were in his own house, his
heart swelling in the same way. Mademoiselle
Donet seemed to him a little thinner and
paler. She must have grieved sorely. She
wore now an air of constraint in his
presence, as if she understood what she
had not felt the week before under the
first blow of her misfortune, and she
exhibited an excessive deference towards
him, a mournful humility, and made touching
efforts to please him, as if to pay him
back by her attentions for the kindness
he had manifested towards her. They were
a long time at lunch talking over the
business, which had brought him there. She
did not want so much money. It was too
much. She earned enough to live on herself,
but she only wished that Emile might find
a few sous awaiting him when he grew big.
Cesar held out, however, and even added a
gift of a thousand francs for herself for
the expense of mourning.
When he had taken his coffee, she asked:
"Do you smoke?"
"Yes--I have my pipe."
He felt in his pocket. Good God! He had
forgotten it! He was becoming quite
woebegone about it when she offered him
a pipe of his father that had been shut
up in a cupboard. He accepted it, took it
up in his hand, recognized it, smelled it,
spoke of its quality in a tone of emotion,
filled it with tobacco, and lighted it.
Then, he set Emile astride on his knee,
and made him play the cavalier, while she
removed the tablecloth, and put the soiled
plates at one end of the sideboard in
order to wash them as soon as he was gone.
About three o'clock, he rose up with
regret, quite annoyed at the thought of
having to go.
"Well! Mademoiselle Donet," he said, "I
wish you good evening, and am delighted
to have found you like this."
She remained standing before him, blushing,
much affected, and gazed at him while
she thought of the other.
"Shall we not see one another again?"
He replied simply:
"Why, yes, mam'zelle, if it gives you
"Certainly, Monsieur Cesar. Will next
Thursday suit you then?"
"Yes, Mademoiselle Donet."
"You will come to lunch, of course?"
"Well--if you are so kind as to invite
me, I can't refuse."
"It is understood, then, Monsieur
Cesar--next Thursday at twelve, the same
"Thursday at twelve, Mam'zelle Donet!"
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~