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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 9

The First Snowfall
The long promenade of La Croisette winds in a curve along the edge of the blue water.
Yonder, to the right, Esterel juts out into the sea in the distance, obstructing the view and
shutting out the horizon with its pretty southern outline of pointed summits, numerous
and fantastic.
To the left, the isles of Sainte Marguerite and Saint Honorat, almost level with the water,
display their surface, covered with pine trees.
And all along the great gulf, all along the tall mountains that encircle Cannes, the white
villa residences seem to be sleeping in the sunlight. You can see them from a distance,
the white houses, scattered from the top to the bottom of the mountains, dotting the dark
greenery with specks like snow.
Those near the water have gates opening on the wide promenade which is washed by the
quiet waves. The air is soft and balmy. It is one of those warm winter days when there is
scarcely a breath of cool air. Above the walls of the gardens may be seen orange trees and
lemon trees full of golden fruit. Ladies are walking slowly across the sand of the avenue,
followed by children rolling hoops, or chatting with gentlemen.
A young woman has just passed out through the door of her coquettish little house facing
La Croisette. She stops for a moment to gaze at the promenaders, smiles, and with an
exhausted air makes her way toward an empty bench facing the sea. Fatigued after having
gone twenty paces, she sits down out of breath. Her pale face seems that of a dead
woman. She coughs, and raises to her lips her transparent fingers as if to stop those
paroxysms that exhaust her.
She gazes at the sky full of sunshine and swallows, at the zigzag summits of the Esterel
over yonder, and at the sea, the blue, calm, beautiful sea, close beside her.
She smiles again, and murmurs:
"Oh! how happy I am!"
She knows, however, that she is going to die, that she will never see the springtime, that
in a year, along the same promenade, these same people who pass before her now will
come again to breathe the warm air of this charming spot, with their children a little
bigger, with their hearts all filled with hopes, with tenderness, with happiness, while at
the bottom of an oak coffin, the poor flesh which is still left to her to-day will have
decomposed, leaving only her bones lying in the silk robe which she has selected for a
shroud.
 
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