Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 5
Waiter, A "Bock"
Why did I go into that beer hall on that particular evening? I do not know. It was cold; a
fine rain, a flying mist, veiled the gas lamps with a transparent fog, made the side walks
reflect the light that streamed from the shop windows--lighting up the soft slush and the
muddy feet of the passers-by.
I was going nowhere in particular; was simply having a short walk after dinner. I had
passed the Credit Lyonnais, the Rue Vivienne, and several other streets. I suddenly
descried a large beer hall which was more than half full. I walked inside, with no object
in view. I was not the least thirsty.
I glanced round to find a place that was not too crowded, and went and sat down by the
side of a man who seemed to me to be old, and who was smoking a two-sous clay pipe,
which was as black as coal. From six to eight glasses piled up on the table in front of him
indicated the number of "bocks" he had already absorbed. At a glance I recognized a
"regular," one of those frequenters of beer houses who come in the morning when the
place opens, and do not leave till evening when it is about to close. He was dirty, bald on
top of his head, with a fringe of iron-gray hair falling on the collar of his frock coat. His
clothes, much too large for him, appeared to have been made for him at a time when he
was corpulent. One could guess that he did not wear suspenders, for he could not take ten
steps without having to stop to pull up his trousers. Did he wear a vest? The mere thought
of his boots and of that which they covered filled me with horror. The frayed cuffs were
perfectly black at the edges, as were his nails.
As soon as I had seated myself beside him, this individual said to me in a quiet tone of
"How goes it?"
I turned sharply round and closely scanned his features, whereupon he continued:
"I see you do not recognize me."
"No, I do not."
I was stupefied. It was Count Jean des Barrets, my old college chum.
I seized him by the hand, and was so dumbfounded that I could find nothing to say. At
length I managed to stammer out:
"And you, how goes it with you?"