Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6
That Costly Ride
The household lived frugally on the meager income derived from the husband's
insignificant appointments. Two children had been born of the marriage, and the earlier
condition of the strictest economy had become one of quiet, concealed, shamefaced
misery, the poverty of a noble family--which in spite of misfortune never forgets its rank.
Hector de Gribelin had been educated in the provinces, under the paternal roof, by an
aged priest. His people were not rich, but they managed to live and to keep up
At twenty years of age they tried to find him a position, and he entered the Ministry of
Marine as a clerk at sixty pounds a year. He foundered on the rock of life like all those
who have not been early prepared for its rude struggles, who look at life through a mist,
who do not know how to protect themselves, whose special aptitudes and faculties have
not been developed from childhood, whose early training has not developed the rough
energy needed for the battle of life or furnished them with tool or weapon.
His first three years of office work were a martyrdom.
He had, however, renewed the acquaintance of a few friends of his family --elderly
people, far behind the times, and poor like himself, who lived in aristocratic streets, the
gloomy thoroughfares of the Faubourg Saint- Germain ; and he had created a social circle
Strangers to modern life, humble yet proud, these needy aristocrats lived in the upper
stories of sleepy, old-world houses. From top to bottom of their dwellings the tenants
were titled, but money seemed just as scarce on the ground floor as in the attics.
Their eternal prejudices, absorption in their rank, anxiety lest they should lose caste,
filled the minds and thoughts of these families once so brilliant, now ruined by the
idleness of the men of the family. Hector de Gribelin met in this circle a young girl as
well born and as poor as himself and married her.
They had two children in four years.
For four years more the husband and wife, harassed by poverty, knew no other distraction
than the Sunday walk in the Champs-Elysees and a few evenings at the theatre
(amounting in all to one or two in the course of the winter) which they owed to free
passes presented by some comrade or other.
But in the spring of the following year some overtime work was entrusted to Hector de
Gribelin by his chief, for which he received the large sum of three hundred francs.