Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13 HTML version
This entire stretch of country was amazing; it was characterized by a grandeur that was
almost religious, and yet it had an air of sinister desolation.
A great, wild lake, filled with stagnant, black water, in which thousands of reeds were
waving to and fro, lay in the midst of a vast circle of naked hills, where nothing grew but
broom, or here and there an oak curiously twisted by the wind.
Just one house stood on the banks of that dark lake, a small, low house inhabited by
Uncle Joseph, an old boatman, who lived on what he could make by his fishing. Once a
week he carried the fish he caught into the surrounding villages, returning with the few
provisions that he needed for his sustenance.
I went to see this old hermit, who offered to take me with him to his nets, and I accepted.
His boat was old, worm-eaten and clumsy, and the skinny old man rowed with a gentle
and monotonous stroke that was soothing to the soul, already oppressed by the sadness of
the land round about.
It seemed to me as if I were transported to olden times, in the midst of that ancient
country, in that primitive boat, which was propelled by a man of another age.
He took up his nets and threw the fish into the bottom of the boat, as the fishermen of the
Bible might have done. Then he took me down to the end of the lake, where I suddenly
perceived a ruin on the other side of the bank a dilapidated hut, with an enormous red
cross on the wall that looked as if it might have been traced with blood, as it gleamed in
the last rays of the setting sun.
"What is that?" I asked.
"That is where Judas died," the man replied, crossing himself.
I was not surprised, being almost prepared for this strange answer.
Still I asked:
"Judas? What Judas?"
"The Wandering Jew, monsieur," he added.
I asked him to tell me this legend.