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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13

A Father's Confession
All Veziers-le-Rethel had followed the funeral procession of M. Badon- Leremince to the
grave, and the last words of the funeral oration pronounced by the delegate of the district
remained in the minds of all: "He was an honest man, at least!"
An honest man he had been in all the known acts of his life, in his words, in his
examples, his attitude, his behavior, his enterprises, in the cut of his beard and the shape
of his hats. He never had said a word that did not set an example, never had given an
alms without adding a word of advice, never had extended his hand without appearing to
bestow a benediction.
He left two children, a boy and a girl. His son was counselor general, and his daughter,
having married a lawyer, M. Poirel de la Voulte, moved in the best society of Veziers.
They were inconsolable at the death of their father, for they loved him sincerely.
As soon as the ceremony was over, the son, daughter and son-in-law returned to the
house of mourning, and, shutting themselves in the library, they opened the will, the seals
of which were to be broken by them alone and only after the coffin had been placed in the
ground. This wish was expressed by a notice on the envelope.
M. Poirel de la Voulte tore open the envelope, in his character of a lawyer used to such
operations, and having adjusted his spectacles, he read in a monotonous voice, made for
reading the details of contracts:
My children, my dear children, I could not sleep the eternal sleep in peace if I did not
make to you from the tomb a confession, the confession of a crime, remorse for which
has ruined my life. Yes, I committed a crime, a frightful, abominable crime.
I was twenty-six years old, and I had just been called to the bar in Paris, and was living
the life off young men from the provinces who are stranded in this town without
acquaintances, relatives, or friends.
I took a sweetheart. There are beings who cannot live alone. I was one of those. Solitude
fills me with horrible anguish, the solitude of my room beside my fire in the evening. I
feel then as if I were alone on earth, alone, but surrounded by vague dangers, unknown
and terrible things; and the partition that separates me from my neighbor, my neighbor
whom I do not know, keeps me at as great a distance from him as the stars that I see
through my window. A sort of fever pervades me, a fever of impatience and of fear, and
the silence of the walls terrifies me. The silence of a room where one lives alone is so
intense and so melancholy It is not only a silence of the mind; when a piece of furniture
cracks a shudder goes through you for you expect no noise in this melancholy abode.
 
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