Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 4
It was after dinner, and we were talking about adventures and accidents which happened
while out shooting.
An old friend, known to all of us, M. Boniface, a great sportsman and a connoisseur of
wine, a man of wonderful physique, witty and gay, and endowed with an ironical and
resigned philosophy, which manifested itself in caustic humor, and never in melancholy,
"I know a story, or rather a tragedy, which is somewhat peculiar. It is not at all like those
which one hears of usually, and I have never told it, thinking that it would interest no one.
"It is not at all sympathetic. I mean by that, that it does not arouse the kind of interest
which pleases or which moves one agreeably.
"Here is the story:
"I was then about thirty-five years of age, and a most enthusiastic sportsman.
"In those days I owned a lonely bit of property in the neighborhood of Jumieges,
surrounded by forests and abounding in hares and rabbits. I was accustomed to spending
four or five days alone there each year, there not being room enough to allow of my
bringing a friend with me.
"I had placed there as gamekeeper, an old retired gendarme, a good man, hot-tempered, a
severe disciplinarian, a terror to poachers and fearing nothing. He lived all alone, far from
the village, in a little house, or rather hut, consisting of two rooms downstairs, with
kitchen and store- room, and two upstairs. One of them, a kind of box just large enough
to accommodate a bed, a cupboard and a chair, was reserved for my use.
"Old man Cavalier lived in the other one. When I said that he was alone in this place, I
was wrong. He had taken his nephew with him, a young scamp about fourteen years old,
who used to go to the village and run errands for the old man.
"This young scapegrace was long and lanky, with yellow hair, so light that it resembled
the fluff of a plucked chicken, so thin that he seemed bald. Besides this, he had enormous
feet and the hands of a giant.
"He was cross-eyed, and never looked at anyone. He struck me as being in the same
relation to the human race as ill-smelling beasts are to the animal race. He reminded me
of a polecat.
"He slept in a kind of hole at the top of the stairs which led to the two rooms.