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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13

The Mountain Pool
Saint Agnes, May 6.
You asked me to write to you often and to tell you in particular about the things I might
see. You also begged me to rummage among my recollections of travels for some of
those little anecdotes gathered from a chance peasant, from an innkeeper, from some
strange traveling acquaintance, which remain as landmarks in the memory. With a
landscape depicted in a few lines, and a little story told in a few sentences you think one
can give the true characteristics of a country, make it living, visible, dramatic. I will try to
do as you wish. I will, therefore, send you from time to time letters in which I will
mention neither you nor myself, but only the landscape and the people who move about
in it. And now I will begin.
Spring is a season in which one ought, it seems to me, to drink and eat the landscape. It is
the season of chills, just as autumn is the season of reflection. In spring the country
rouses the physical senses, in autumn it enters into the soul.
I desired this year to breathe the odor of orange blossoms and I set out for the South of
France just at the time that every one else was returning home. I visited Monaco, the
shrine of pilgrims, rival of Mecca and Jerusalem, without leaving any gold in any one
else's pockets, and I climbed the high mountain beneath a covering of lemon, orange and
olive branches.
Have you ever slept, my friend, in a grove of orange trees in flower? The air that one
inhales with delight is a quintessence of perfumes. The strong yet sweet odor, delicious as
some dainty, seems to blend with our being, to saturate us, to intoxicate us, to enervate
us, to plunge us into a sleepy, dreamy torpor. As though it were an opium prepared by the
hands of fairies and not by those of druggists.
This is a country of ravines. The surface of the mountains is cleft, hollowed out in all
directions, and in these sinuous crevices grow veritable forests of lemon trees. Here and
there where the steep gorge is interrupted by a sort of step, a kind of reservoir has been
built which holds the water of the rain storms.
They are large holes with slippery walls with nothing for any one to grasp hold of should
they fall in.
I was walking slowly in one of these ascending valleys or gorges, glancing through the
foliage at the vivid-hued fruit that remained on the branches. The narrow gorge made the
heavy odor of the flowers still more penetrating; the air seemed to be dense with it. A
feeling of lassitude came over me and I looked for a place to sit down. A few drops of
water glistened in the grass. I thought that there was a spring near by and I climbed a