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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6

The Cripple
The following adventure happened to me about 1882. I had just taken the train and settled
down in a corner, hoping that I should be left alone, when the door suddenly opened
again and I heard a voice say: "Take care, monsieur, we are just at a crossing; the step is
very high."
Another voice answered: "That's all right, Laurent, I have a firm hold on the handle."
Then a head appeared, and two hands seized the leather straps hanging on either side of
the door and slowly pulled up an enormous body, whose feet striking on the step,
sounded like two canes. When the man had hoisted his torso into the compartment I
noticed, at the loose edge of his trousers, the end of a wooden leg, which was soon
followed by its mate. A head appeared behind this traveller and asked; "Are you all right,
"Yes, my boy."
"Then here are your packages and crutches."
And a servant, who looked like an old soldier, climbed in, carrying in his arms a stack of
bundles wrapped in black and yellow papers and carefully tied; he placed one after the
other in the net over his master's head. Then he said: "There, monsieur, that is all. There
are five of them--the candy, the doll the drum, the gun, and the pate de foies gras."
"Very well, my boy."
"Thank you, Laurent; good health!"
The man closed the door and walked away, and I looked at my neighbor. He was about
thirty-five, although his hair was almost white; he wore the ribbon of the Legion of
Honor; he had a heavy mustache and was quite stout, with the stoutness of a strong and
active man who is kept motionless on account of some infirmity. He wiped his brow,
sighed, and, looking me full in the face, he asked: "Does smoking annoy you, monsieur?"
"No, monsieur."
Surely I knew that eye, that voice, that face. But when and where had I seen them? I had
certainly met that man, spoken to him, shaken his hand. That was a long, long time ago. It
was lost in the haze wherein the mind seems to feel around blindly for memories and
pursues them like fleeing phantoms without being able to seize them. He, too, was
observing me, staring me out of countenance, with the persistence of a man who
remembers slightly but not completely. Our eyes, embarrassed by this persistent contact,
turned away; then, after a few minutes, drawn together again by the obscure and
tenacious will of working memory, they met once more, and I said: "Monsieur, instead of