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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6

The Father
I
He was a clerk in the Bureau of Public Education and lived at Batignolles. He took the
omnibus to Paris every morning and always sat opposite a girl, with whom he fell in love.
She was employed in a shop and went in at the same time every day. She was a little
brunette, one of those girls whose eyes are so dark that they look like black spots, on a
complexion like ivory. He always saw her coming at the corner of the same street, and
she generally had to run to catch the heavy vehicle, and sprang upon the steps before the
horses had quite stopped. Then she got inside, out of breath, and, sitting down, looked
round her.
The first time that he saw her, Francois Tessier liked the face. One sometimes meets a
woman whom one longs to clasp in one's arms without even knowing her. That girl
seemed to respond to some chord in his being, to that sort of ideal of love which one
cherishes in the depths of the heart, without knowing it.
He looked at her intently, not meaning to be rude, and she became embarrassed and
blushed. He noticed it, and tried to turn away his eyes; but he involuntarily fixed them
upon her again every moment, although he tried to look in another direction; and, in a
few days, they seemed to know each other without having spoken. He gave up his place
to her when the omnibus was full, and got outside, though he was very sorry to do it. By
this time she had got so far as to greet him with a little smile; and, although she always
dropped her eyes under his looks, which she felt were too ardent, yet she did not appear
offended at being looked at in such a manner.
They ended by speaking. A kind of rapid friendship had become established between
them, a daily freemasonry of half an hour, and that was certainly one of the most
charming half hours in his life to him. He thought of her all the rest of the day, saw her
image continually during the long office hours. He was haunted and bewitched by that
floating and yet tenacious recollection which the form of a beloved woman leaves in us,
and it seemed to him that if he could win that little person it would be maddening
happiness to him, almost above human realization.
Every morning she now shook hands with him, and he preserved the sense of that touch
and the recollection of the gentle pressure of her little fingers until the next day, and he
almost fancied that he preserved the imprint on his palm. He anxiously waited for this
short omnibus ride, while Sundays seemed to him heartbreaking days. However, there
was no doubt that she loved him, for one Saturday, in spring, she promised to go and
lunch with him at Maisons-Laffitte the next day.
II
 
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