Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6
The Rondoli Sisters
I set out to see Italy thoroughly on two occasions, and each time I was stopped at the
frontier and could not get any further. So I do not know Italy, said my friend, Charles
Jouvent. And yet my two attempts gave me a charming idea of the manners of that
beautiful country. Some time, however, I must visit its cities, as well as the museums and
works of art with which it abounds. I will make another attempt to penetrate into the
interior, which I have not yet succeeded in doing.
You don't understand me, so I will explain: In the spring of 1874 I was seized with an
irresistible desire to see Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. I am, as you know, not a
great traveller; it appears to me a useless and fatiguing business. Nights spent in a train,
the disturbed slumbers of the railway carriage, with the attendant headache, and stiffness
in every limb, the sudden waking in that rolling box, the unwashed feeling, with your
eyes and hair full of dust, the smell of the coal on which one's lungs feed, those bad
dinners in the draughty refreshment rooms are, according to my ideas, a horrible way of
beginning a pleasure trip.
After this introduction, we have the miseries of the hotel; of some great hotel full of
people, and yet so empty; the strange room and the doubtful bed!
I am most particular about my bed; it is the sanctuary of life. We entrust our almost naked
and fatigued bodies to it so that they may be reanimated by reposing between soft sheets
There we find the most delightful hours of our existence, the hours of love and of sleep.
The bed is sacred, and should be respected, venerated and loved by us as the best and
most delightful of our earthly possessions.
I cannot lift up the sheets of a hotel bed without a shudder of disgust. Who has occupied
it the night before? Perhaps dirty, revolting people have slept in it. I begin, then, to think
of all the horrible people with whom one rubs shoulders every day, people with
suspicious-looking skin which makes one think of the feet and all the rest! I call to mind
those who carry about with them the sickening smell of garlic or of humanity. I think of
those who are deformed and unhealthy, of the perspiration emanating from the sick, of
everything that is ugly and filthy in man.
And all this, perhaps, in the bed in which I am about to sleep! The mere idea of it makes
me feel ill as I get into it.
And then the hotel dinners--those dreary table d'hote dinners in the midst of all sorts of
extraordinary people, or else those terrible solitary dinners at a small table in a restaurant,
feebly lighted by a wretched composite candle under a shade.