Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 5
What a strange idea it was for me to choose Mademoiselle Pearl for queen that evening!
Every year I celebrate Twelfth Night with my old friend Chantal. My father, who was his
most intimate friend, used to take me round there when I was a child. I continued the
custom, and I doubtless shall continue it as long as I live and as long as there is a Chantal
in this world.
The Chantals lead a peculiar existence; they live in Paris as though they were in Grasse,
Evetot, or Pont-a-Mousson.
They have a house with a little garden near the observatory. They live there as though
they were in the country. Of Paris, the real Paris, they know nothing at all, they suspect
nothing; they are so far, so far away! However, from time to time, they take a trip into it.
Mademoiselle Chantal goes to lay in her provisions, as it is called in the family. This is
how they go to purchase their provisions:
Mademoiselle Pearl, who has the keys to the kitchen closet (for the linen closets are
administered by the mistress herself), Mademoiselle Pearl gives warning that the supply
of sugar is low, that the preserves are giving out, that there is not much left in the bottom
of the coffee bag. Thus warned against famine, Mademoiselle Chantal passes everything
in review, taking notes on a pad. Then she puts down a lot of figures and goes through
lengthy calculations and long discussions with Mademoiselle Pearl. At last they manage
to agree, and they decide upon the quantity of each thing of which they will lay in a three
months' provision; sugar, rice, prunes, coffee, preserves, cans of peas, beans, lobster, salt
or smoked fish, etc., etc. After which the day for the purchasing is determined on and
they go in a cab with a railing round the top and drive to a large grocery store on the other
side of the river in the new sections of the town.
Madame Chantal and Mademoiselle Pearl make this trip together, mysteriously, and only
return at dinner time, tired out, although still excited, and shaken up by the cab, the roof
of which is covered with bundles and bags, like an express wagon.
For the Chantals all that part of Paris situated on the other side of the Seine constitutes
the new quarter, a section inhabited by a strange, noisy population, which cares little for
honor, spends its days in dissipation, its nights in revelry, and which throws money out of
the windows. From time to time, however, the young girls are taken to the Opera-
Comique or the Theatre Francais, when the play is recommended by the paper which is
read by M. Chantal.
At present the young ladies are respectively nineteen and seventeen. They are two pretty
girls, tall and fresh, very well brought up, in fact, too well brought up, so much so that