BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
Certainly, at this blessed epoch of equality
of mediocrity, of rectangular abomination,
as Edgar Allan Poe says--at this delightful
period, when everybody dreams of resembling
everybody else, so that it has become impossible
to tell the President of the Republic from
a waiter--in these days, which are the
forerunners of that promising, blissful day,
when everything in this world will be of a
dull, neutral uniformity, certainly at such
an epoch, one has the right, or rather it is
one's duty, to be ugly.
Lebeau, however, assuredly exercised that right
with the most cruel vigor. He fulfilled that
duty with the fiercest heroism, and to make
matters worse, the mysterious irony of fate
had caused him to be born with the name of
Lebeau, while an ingenious godfather, the
unconscious accomplice of the pranks of destiny,
had given him the Christian name of Antinous.
Even among our contemporaries, who were already
on the highroad to the coming ideal of universal
hideousness, Antinous Lebeau was remarkable for
his ugliness; and one might have said that he
positively threw zeal, too much zeal, into the
matter, though he was not hideous like Mirabeau,
who made the people exclaim: "Oh! the beautiful
Alas! No. He was without any beauty of
ugliness. He was ugly, that was all; nothing
more nor less; in short, he was uglily ugly.
He was not humpbacked, nor knock-kneed, nor
pot-bellied; his legs were not like a pair
of tongs, and his arms were neither too long
nor too short, and yet, there was an utter
lack of uniformity about him, not only in
painters' eyes, but also in everybody's,
for nobody could meet him in the street
without turning to look after him, and
thinking: "Good heavens! What an object."
His hair was of no particular color; a light
chestnut, mixed with yellow. There was not
much of it; but still, he was not absolutely
bald, but just bald enough to allow his
butter-colored pate to show. Butter-colored?
Hardly! The color of margarine would be more
applicable, and such pale margarine!
His face was also like margarine, but of
adulterated margarine, certainly. His cranium,
the color of unadulterated margarine, looked
almost like butter in comparison.
There was very little to say about his mouth!
Less than little; the sum total was--nothing.
It was a chimerical mouth.
But take it that I have said nothing about
him, and let us replace this vain description
by the useful formula: "Impossible to describe."
But you must not forget that Antinous Lebeau
was ugly, that the fact impressed everybody
as soon as they saw him, and that nobody
remembered ever having seen an uglier person;
and let us add, as the climax of his misfortune,
that he thought so himself.
From this you will see that he was not a fool,
and not ill-natured, either; but, of course,
he was unhappy. An unhappy man thinks only of
his wretchedness, and people take his nightcap
for a fool's cap; while, on the other hand,
goodness is only esteemed when it is cheerful.
Consequently, Antinous Lebeau passed for a
fool, and an ill-tempered fool; he was not
even pitied because he was so ugly!
He had only one pleasure in life, and that was
to go and roam about the darkest streets on dark
nights, and to hear the street-walkers say:
"Come home with me, you handsome, dark man!"
It was, alas! a furtive pleasure, and he knew
that it was not true. For, occasionally, when
the woman was old or drunk and he profited by
the invitation, as soon as the candle was lighted
in the garret, they no longer murmured the
fallacious "handsome, dark man." When they saw
him, the old women grew still older, and the
drunken women got sober. And more than one,
although hardened against disgust, and ready
for all risks, said to him, and in spite of
his liberal payment:
"My little man, I must say you are most
At last, however, he renounced even that
lamentable pleasure, when he heard the
still more lamentable words which a wretched
woman could not help uttering when he went
home with her:
"Well, I must have been very hungry!"
Alas! It was he who was a hungry, unhappy
man; hungry for something that should resemble
love, were it ever so little; he longed not
to live like a pariah any more, not to be
exiled and proscribed by his ugliness. And
the ugliest, the most repugnant woman would
have appeared beautiful to him, if she would
only not think him ugly, or, at any rate,
not tell him so, and not let him see that
she felt horror at him on that account.
The consequence was, that, when he one day
met a poor, blear-eyed creature, with her
face covered with scabs, and bearing evident
signs of alcoholism, with a driveling mouth,
and ragged and filthy petticoats, to whom
he gave liberal alms, for which she kissed
his hand, he took her home with him, had
her cleansed, dressed and taken care of, made
her his servant, and then his housekeeper.
Next he raised her to the rank of his
mistress, and, finally, of course, he
She was almost as ugly as he was! Almost,
but certainly not quite; for she was hideous,
and her hideousness had its charm and its
beauty, no doubt; that something by which
a woman can attract a man. And she had proved
that by deceiving him, and she let him see
it better still, by seducing another man.
That other man was actually uglier than he was.
He was certainly uglier, a collection of
every physical and moral ugliness, a companion
of beggars whom she had picked up among her
former vagrant associates, a jailbird, a
dealer in little girls, a vagabond covered
with filth, with legs like a toad's, with
a mouth like a lamprey's, and a death's-head,
in which the nose had been replaced by two
"And you have wronged me with a wretch like
that," the poor cuckold said. "And in my own
house! And in such a manner that I might
catch you in the very act! And why, why,
you wretch? Why, seeing that he is uglier
than I am?"
"Oh no!" she exclaimed. "You may say what
you like, that I am a dirty slut and a
strumpet, but do not say that he is uglier
than you are."
And the unhappy man stood there, vanquished
and overcome by her last words, which she
uttered without understanding all the horror
which he would feel at them.
"Because, you see, he has his own particular
ugliness, while you are merely ugly like
everybody else is."
 A youth of extraordinary beauty, page
to the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138), and
the object of his extravagant affection. He
was drowned in the Nile, whether by accident,
or in order to escape from the life he was
leading, is uncertain.--TRANSLATOR.
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