The Best Mystery and Detective Stories
HENRI RENÉ ALBERT GUY DE MAUPASSANT (1850-93)
She was one of those pretty and charming girls who are sometimes, as if by a mistake of
destiny, born in a family of clerks. She had no dowry, no expectations, no means of being
known, understood, loved, wedded, by any rich and distinguished man; and she let
herself be married to a little clerk at the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was as unhappy as though
she had really fallen from her proper station; since with women there is neither caste nor
rank; and beauty, grace, and charm act instead of family and birth. Natural fineness,
instinct for what is elegant, suppleness of wit, are the sole hierarchy, and make from
women of the people the equals of the very greatest ladies.
She suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries.
She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling, from the wretched look of the walls, from
the worn-out chairs, from the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another
woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her
angry. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework aroused in
her regrets which were despairing, and distracted dreams. She thought of the silent
antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, lit by tall bronze candelabra, and of the two
great footmen in knee breeches who sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the
heavy warmth of the hot-air stove. She thought of the long salons fatted up with ancient
silk, of the delicate furniture carrying priceless curiosities, and of the coquettish perfumed
boudoirs made for talks at five o'clock with intimate friends, with men famous and sought
after, whom all women envy and whose attention they all desire.
When she sat down to dinner, before the round table covered with a tablecloth three days
old, opposite her husband, who uncovered the soup tureen and declared with an
enchanted air, "Ah, the good pot-au-feu! I don't know anything better than that," she
thought of dainty dinners, of shining silverware, of tapestry which peopled the walls with
ancient personages and with strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest; and she
thought of delicious dishes served on marvelous plates, and of the whispered gallantries
which you listen to with a sphinx-like smile, while you are eating the pink flesh of a trout
or the wings of a quail.
She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for
that. She would so have liked to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after.