BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
Anyone who said, or even insinuated, that the
Reverend William Greenfield, Vicar of St. Sampson's,
Tottenham, did not make his wife Anna perfectly
happy, would certainly have been very malicious.
In their twelve years of married life, he had
honored her with twelve children, and could
anybody ask more of a saintly man?
Saintly even to heroism, in truth! For his
wife Anna, who was endowed with invaluable
virtues, which made her a model among wives
and a paragon among mothers, had not been
equally endowed physically. In one word,
she was hideous. Her hair, which though
thin, was coarse, was the color of the
national half-and-half, but of thick half-and-half
which looked as if it had been already
swallowed several times. Her complexion,
which was muddy and pimply, looked as if it
were covered with sand mixed with brick dust.
Her teeth, which were long and protruding,
seemed to start out of their sockets in order
to escape from that almost lipless mouth,
whose sulphurous breath had turned them
yellow. Evidently Anna suffered from bile.
Her china-blue eyes looked different ways,
one very much to the right and the other very
much to the left, with a frightened squint;
no doubt in order that they might not see her
nose, of which they felt ashamed. They were
quite right! Thin, soft, long, pendant, sallow,
and ending in a violent knob, it irresistibly
reminded those who saw it of something both
ludicrous and indescribable. Her body, through
the inconceivable irony of nature, was at the
same time thin and flabby, wooden and chubby,
without either the elegance of slimness or the
rounded curves of stoutness. It might have
been taken for a body which had formerly been
fat, but which had now grown thin, while the
covering had remained floating on the framework.
She was evidently nothing but skin and bone,
but had too much bone and too little skin.
It will be seen that the reverend gentleman
had done his duty, his whole duty, in fact,
more than his duty, in sacrificing a dozen
times on this altar. Yes, a dozen times bravely
and loyally! His wife could not deny it or
dispute the number, because the children were
there to prove it. A dozen times, and not one
And alas! Not once more. This was the reason
why, in spite of appearances, Mrs. Anna Greenfield
ventured to think, in the depths of her heart,
that the Reverend William Greenfield, Vicar of
St. Sampson's, Tottenham, had not made her perfectly
happy. She thought so all the more as, for four
years now, she had been obliged to renounce all
hope of that annual sacrifice, which had been so
easy and so regular formerly, but which had now
fallen into disuse. In fact, at the birth of her
twelfth child, the reverend gentleman had expressly
said to her:
"God has greatly blessed our union, my dear Anna.
We have reached the sacred number of the Twelve
Tribes of Israel. Were we now to persevere in
the works of the flesh, it would be mere
debauchery, and I cannot suppose that you would
wish me to end my exemplary life in lustful
His wife blushed and looked down, and the holy
man, with the legitimate pride of virtue which
is its own reward, audibly thanked Heaven that
he was "not as other men are."
A model among wives and a paragon of mothers,
Anna lived with him for four years on those
terms without complaining to anyone. She
contented herself by praying fervently to God
that He would inspire her husband with the
desire to begin a second series of the Twelve
Tribes. At times even, in order to make her
prayers more efficacious, she tried to compass
that end by culinary means. She spared no
pains, and gorged the reverend gentleman with
highly-seasoned dishes--hare soup, ox-tails
stewed in sherry, the green fat in turtle
soup, stewed mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes,
celery, and horse-radish; hot sauces, truffles,
hashes with wine and cayenne pepper in them,
curried lobsters, pies made of cocks' combs,
oysters, and the soft roe of fish. These
dishes were washed down by strong beer and
generous wines, Scotch ale, Burgundy, dry
champagne, brandy, whiskey and gin--in a
word, by that numberless array of alcoholic
drinks with which the English people love to
heat their blood.
As a matter of fact, the reverend gentleman's
blood became very heated, as was shown by his
nose and cheeks. But in spite of this, the
powers above were inexorable, and he remained
quite indifferent as regards his wife, who was
unhappy and thoughtful at the sight of that
protruding nasal appendage, which, alas, was
alone in its glory.
She became thinner, and at the same time, flabbier
than ever. She almost began to lose her trust
in God, when suddenly she had an inspiration:
Was it not, perhaps, the work of devil?
She did not care to inquire too closely into
the matter, as she thought it a very good idea.
It was this:
Go to the Universal Exhibition in Paris, and
there, perhaps, you will discover how to make
Decidedly luck favored her, for her husband
immediately gave her permission to go. As soon
as she got into the Esplanade des Invalides, she
saw the Algerian dancers, and she said to
"Surely this would inspire William with the
desire to be the father of the thirteenth tribe!"
But how could she manage to get him to be present
at such abominable orgies? For she could not
hide from herself that it was an abominable
exhibition, and she knew how scandalized he
would be at their voluptuous movements. She had
no doubt that the devil had led her there, but
she could not take her eyes off the scene, and
it gave her an idea. So for nearly a fortnight
you might have seen the poor, unattractive
woman sitting, and attentively and curiously
watching the swaying hips of the Algerian
women. She was learning.
The evening of her return to London, she rushed
into her husband's bedroom, disrobed herself
in an instant, retaining only a thin gauze
covering, and for the first time in her life
appeared before him in all the ugliness of
"Come, come," the saintly man stammered out,
"are you--are you mad, Anna? What demon
possesses you? Why inflict the disgrace of
such a spectacle on me?"
But she did not listen to him, did not reply,
and suddenly began to sway her hips about
like an almah*. The reverend gentleman could
not believe his eyes; in his stupefaction, he
did not think of covering them with his hands
or even of shutting them. He looked at her,
stupefied and dumbfounded, a prey to the
hypnotism of ugliness. He watched her as she
advanced and retired, as she swayed and skipped
and wriggled, and postured in extraordinary
attitudes. For a long time he sat motionless
and almost unable to speak. He only said in
a low voice:
"Oh, Lord! To think that twelve times--twelve
times--a whole dozen!"
Then she fell into a chair, panting and worn
out, and saying to herself:
"Thank Heaven! William looks as he used to do
formerly on the days that he honored me. Thank
Heaven! There will be a thirteenth tribe, and
then a fresh series of tribes, for William is
very methodical in all that he does!"
But William merely took a blanket off the bed
and threw it over her, saying in a voice of
"Your name is no longer Anna, Mrs. Greenfield;
for the future you shall be called Jezebel.
I only regret that I have twelve times mingled
my blood with your impure blood." And then,
seized by pity, he added: "If you were only
in a state of inebriety, of intoxication, I
could excuse you."
"Oh, William!" she exclaimed, repentantly,
"I am in that state. Forgive me, William--forgive
a poor drunken woman!"
"I will forgive you, Anna," he replied, and
he pointed to a wash-basin, saying: "Cold water
will do you good, and when your head is clear,
remember the lesson which you must learn from
"What lesson?" she asked, humbly.
"That people ought never to depart from their
"But why then, William," she asked timidly,
"have you changed your habits?"
"Hold your tongue!" he cried. "Hold your tongue,
Jezebel! Have you not got over your intoxication
yet? For twelve years I certainly followed the
divine precept: 'increase and multiply,' once a
year. But since then, I have grown accustomed to
something else, and I do not wish to alter my
And the Reverend William Greenfield, Vicar of
St. Sampson's, Tottenham, the saintly man whose
blood was inflamed by heating food and liquor,
whose ears were like full-blown poppies and who
had a nose like a tomato, left his wife and, as
had been his habit for four years, went to make
love to Polly, the servant.
"Now, Polly," he said, "you are a clever girl,
and I mean through you, to teach Mrs. Greenfield
a lesson she will never forget. I will try and
see what I can do for you."
And to accomplish this he took her to Mrs. Greenfield,
called the latter his little Jezebel, and said
to her, with an unctuous smile:
"Call me Jeroboam! You don't understand why?
Neither do I, but that does not matter. Take off
all your things, Polly, and show yourself to Mrs.
The servant did as she was bidden, and the result
was that Mrs. Greenfield never again hinted to her
husband the desirability of laying the foundations
of a thirteenth tribe.
* An Egyptian dancing girl.--[TRANSLATOR.]
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