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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13

A Widow
This story was told during the hunting season at the Chateau Baneville. The autumn had
been rainy and sad. The red leaves, instead of rustling under the feet, were rotting under
the heavy downfalls.
The forest was as damp as it could be. From it came an odor of must, of rain, of soaked
grass and wet earth; and the sportsmen, their backs hunched under the downpour,
mournful dogs, with tails between their legs and hairs sticking to their sides, and the
young women, with their clothes drenched, returned every evening, tired in body and in
mind.
After dinner, in the large drawing-room, everybody played lotto, without enjoyment,
while the wind whistled madly around the house. Then they tried telling stories like those
they read in books, but no one was able to invent anything amusing. The hunters told
tales of wonderful shots and of the butchery of rabbits; and the women racked their brains
for ideas without revealing the imagination of Scheherezade. They were about to give up
this diversion when a young woman, who was idly caressing the hand of an old maiden
aunt, noticed a little ring made of blond hair, which she had often seen, without paying
any attention to it.
She fingered it gently and asked, "Auntie, what is this ring? It looks as if it were made
from the hair of a child."
The old lady blushed, grew pale, then answered in a trembling voice: "It is sad, so sad
that I never wish to speak of it. All the unhappiness of my life comes from that. I was
very young then, and the memory has remained so painful that I weep every time I think
of it."
Immediately everybody wished to know the story, but the old lady refused to tell it.
Finally, after they had coaxed her for a long time, she yielded. Here is the story:
"You have often heard me speak of the Santeze family, now extinct. I knew the last three
male members of this family. They all died in the same manner; this hair belongs to the
last one. He was thirteen when he killed himself for me. That seems strange to you,
doesn't it?
"Oh! it was a strange family--mad, if you will, but a charming madness, the madness of
love. From father to son, all had violent passions which filled their whole being, which
impelled them to do wild things, drove them to frantic enthusiasm, even to crime. This
was born in them, just as burning devotion is in certain souls. Trappers have not the same
nature as minions of the drawing-room. There was a saying: 'As passionate as a Santeze.'
This could be noticed by looking at them. They all had wavy hair, falling over their
brows, curly beards and large eyes whose glance pierced and moved one, though one
could not say why.
 
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