MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
"The Comtesse Samoris."
"That lady in black over there?"
"The very one. She's wearing mourning for her
daughter, whom she
"Come now! You don't mean that seriously?"
"Oh! it is a very simple story, without any
crime in it, any violence."
"Then what really happened?"
"Almost nothing. Many courtesans were born to
be virtuous women, they say; and many women
called virtuous were born to be courtesans --
is that not so? Now, Madame Samoris, who was
born a courtesan, had a daughter born a virtuous
woman, that's all."
"I don't quite understand you."
"I'll explain what I mean. The Comtesse Samoris
is one of those tinsel foreign women hundreds
of whom are rained down every year on Paris. A
Hungarian or Wallachian countess, or I know not
what, she appeared one winter in apartments she
had taken in the Champs Elysees, that quarter
for adventurers and adventuresses, and opened
her drawing-room to the first comer or to anyone
that turned up.
"I went there. Why? you will say. I really
can't tell you. I went there, as everyone
goes to such places because the women are
facile and the men are dishonest. You know
that set composed of filibusters with varied
decorations, all noble, all titled, all unknown
at the embassies, with the exception of those
who are spies. All talk of their honor without
the slightest occasion for doing so, boast of
their ancestors, tell you about their lives,
braggarts, liars, sharpers, as dangerous as
the false cards they have up their sleeves,
as delusive as their name -- in short, the
aristocracy of the bagnio.
"I adore these people. They are interesting
to study, interesting to know, amusing to
understand, often clever, never commonplace
like public functionaries. Their wives are
always pretty, with a slight flavor of
foreign roguery, with the mystery of their
existence, half of it perhaps spent in a
house of correction. They have, as a rule,
magnificent eyes and incredible hair. I
adore them also.
"Madame Samoris is the type of these
adventuresses, elegant, mature, and still
beautiful. Charming feline creatures, you
feel that they are vicious to the marrow
of their bones. You find them very amusing
when you visit them; they give card-parties;
they have dances and suppers; in short,
they offer you all the pleasures of social
"And she had a daughter -- a tall, fine-looking
girl, always ready for entertainments, always
full of laughter and reckless gayety -- a
true adventuress's daughter -- but, at the
same time, an innocent, unsophisticated,
artless girl, who saw nothing, knew nothing,
understood nothing of all the things that
happened in her father's house."
"How do you know about him?"
"How do I know? That's the funniest part of
the business! One morning, there was a ring
at my door, and my valet came up to tell me
that M. Joseph Bonenthal wanted to speak to
me. I said directly: 'And who is this
gentleman?' My valet replied: 'I don't know,
monsieur; perhaps 'tis someone that wants
employment.' And so it was. The man wanted
me to take him as a servant. I asked him
where he had been last. He answered: 'With
the Comtesse Samoris.' 'Ah!' said I, 'but my
house is not a bit like hers.' 'I know that
well, monsieur,' he said, 'and that's the
very reason I want to take service with
monsieur. I've had enough of these people:
a man may stay a little while with them, but
he won't remain long with them.' I required
an additional man servant at the time, and
so I took him.
"A month later, Mademoiselle Yveline Samoris
died mysteriously, and here are all the
details of her death I could gather from
Joseph, who got them from his sweetheart, the
"It was a ball-night, and two newly-arrived
guests were chatting behind a door. Mademoiselle
Yveline, who had just been dancing, leaned
against this door to get a little air.
"They did not see her approaching; but she
heard what they were saying. And this was
what they said:
"'But who is the father of the girl?'
"'A Russian, it appears, Count Rouvaloff. He
never comes near the mother now.'
"'And who is the reigning prince to-day?'
"'That English prince standing near the window;
Madame Samoris adores him. But her adoration
of anyone never lasts longer than a month or
six weeks. Nevertheless, as you see, she has
a large circle of admirers. All are called --
and nearly all are chosen. That kind of thing
costs a good deal, but -- hang it, what can
"'And where did she get this name of Samoris?'
"'From the only man perhaps that she ever
loved -- a Jewish banker from Berlin who goes
by the name of Samuel Morris.'
"'Good. Thanks. Now that I know all about her,
and see her sort, I'm off!'
"What a start there was in the brain of the
young girl endowed with all the instincts of
a virtuous woman! What despair overwhelmed
that simple soul! What mental tortures quenched
her endless gayety, her delightful laughter,
her exulting satisfaction with life! What a
conflict took place in that youthful heart up
to the moment when the last guest had left!
Those were things that Joseph could not tell
me. But, the same night, Yveline abruptly
entered her mother's room just as the Comtesse
was getting into bed, sent out the waiting-maid,
who was close to the door, and, standing erect
and pale, and with great staring eyes, she
"'Mamma, listen to what I heard a little while
ago during the ball.'
"And she repeated word for word the conversation
just as I told it to you.
"The Comtesse was so stupefied that she did
not know what to say in reply, at first. When
she recovered her self-possession, she denied
everything, and called God to witness that there
was no truth in the story.
"The young girl went away, distracted but not
convinced. And she watched her mother.
"I remember distinctly the strange alteration
that then took place in her. She was always
grave and melancholy. She used to fix on us
her great earnest eyes as if she wanted to
read what was at the bottom of our hearts.
We did not know what to think of her, and we
used to maintain that she was looking out for
"One evening her doubts were dispelled. She
caught her mother with a lover. Thereupon she
said coldly, like a man of business laying down
the terms of an agreement:
"'Here is what I have determined to do, mamma:
We will both go away to some little town --
or rather into the country. We will live there
quietly as well as we can. Your jewelry alone
may be called a fortune. If you wish to marry
some honest man, so much the better; still
better will it be if I can find one. If you
don't consent to do this, I will kill myself.'
"This time, the Comtesse ordered her daughter
to go to bed, and never to administer again
this lecture so unbecoming in the mouth of a
child towards her mother.
"Yveline's answer to this was: 'I give you a
month to reflect. If, at the end of that month,
we have not changed our way of living, I will
kill myself, since there is no other honorable
issue left to my life.'
"Then she took herself off.
"At the end of a month, the Comtesse Samoris
was giving balls and suppers just the same as
ever. Yveline then, under the pretext that she
had a bad toothache purchased a few drops of
chloroform from a neighboring chemist. The
next day she purchased more; and, every time
she went out, she managed to procure small
doses of the narcotic. She filled a bottle
"One morning she was found in bed, lifeless,
and already quite cold, with a cotton mask
over her face.
"Her coffin was covered with flowers, the
church was hung in white. There was a large
crowd at the funeral ceremony.
"Ah! well, if I had known -- but you never
can know -- I would have married that girl,
for she was infernally pretty."
"And what became of the mother?"
"Oh! she shed a lot of tears over it. She
has only begun to receive visits again for
the past week."
"And what explanation is given of the girl's
"Oh! 'tis pretended that it was an accident
caused by a new stove, the mechanism of
which got out of order. As a good many such
accidents have happened, the thing looks
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~