Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13 HTML version

A Portrait
Hello! there's Milial!" said somebody near me. I looked at the man who had been pointed
out as I had been wishing for a long time to meet this Don Juan.
He was no longer young. His gray hair looked a little like those fur bonnets worn by
certain Northern peoples, and his long beard, which fell down over his chest, had also
somewhat the appearance of fur. He was talking to a lady, leaning toward her, speaking
in a low voice and looking at her with an expression full of respect and tenderness.
I knew his life, or at least as much as was known of it. He had loved madly several times,
and there had been certain tragedies with which his name had been connected. When I
spoke to women who were the loudest in his praise, and asked them whence came this
power, they always answered, after thinking for a while: "I don't know--he has a certain
charm about him."
He was certainly not handsome. He had none of the elegance that we ascribe to
conquerors of feminine hearts. I wondered what might be his hid den charm. Was it
mental? I never had heard of a clever saying of his. In his glance? Perhaps. Or in his
voice? The voices of some beings have a certain irresistible attraction, almost suggesting
the flavor of things good to eat. One is hungry for them, and the sound of their words
penetrates us like a dainty morsel. A friend was passing. I asked him: "Do you know
Monsieur Milial?"
"Introduce us."
A minute later we were shaking hands and talking in the doorway. What he said was
correct, agreeable to hear; it contained no irritable thought. The voice was sweet, soft,
caressing, musical; but I had heard others much more attractive, much more moving. One
listened to him with pleasure, just as one would look at a pretty little brook. No tension of
the mind was necessary in order to follow him, no hidden meaning aroused curiosity, no
expectation awoke interest. His conversation was rather restful, but it did not awaken in
one either a desire to answer, to contradict or to approve, and it was as easy to answer
him as it was to listen to him. The response came to the lips of its own accord, as soon as
he had finished talking, and phrases turned toward him as if he had naturally aroused
One thought soon struck me. I had known him for a quarter of an hour, and it seemed as
if he were already one of my old friends, that I had known all about him for a long time;
his face, his gestures, his voice, his ideas. Suddenly, after a few minutes of conversation,
he seemed already to be installed in my intimacy. All constraint disappeared between us,
and, had he so desired, I might have confided in him as one confides only in old friends.