Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13 HTML version

The Magic Couch
The Seine flowed past my house, without a ripple on its surface, and gleaming in the
bright morning sunlight. It was a beautiful, broad, indolent silver stream, with crimson
lights here and there; and on the opposite side of the river were rows of tall trees that
covered all the bank with an immense wall of verdure.
The sensation of life which is renewed each day, of fresh, happy, loving life trembled in
the leaves, palpitated in the air, was mirrored in the water.
The postman had just brought my papers, which were handed to me, and I walked slowly
to the river bank in order to read them.
In the first paper I opened I noticed this headline, "Statistics of Suicides," and I read that
more than 8,500 persons had killed themselves in that year.
In a moment I seemed to see them! I saw this voluntary and hideous massacre of the
despairing who were weary of life. I saw men bleeding, their jaws fractured, their skulls
cloven, their breasts pierced by a bullet, slowly dying, alone in a little room in a hotel,
giving no thought to their wound, but thinking only of their misfortunes.
I saw others seated before a tumbler in which some matches were soaking, or before a
little bottle with a red label.
They would look at it fixedly without moving; then they would drink and await the result;
then a spasm would convulse their cheeks and draw their lips together; their eyes would
grow wild with terror, for they did not know that the end would be preceded by so much
They rose to their feet, paused, fell over and with their hands pressed to their stomachs
they felt their internal organs on fire, their entrails devoured by the fiery liquid, before
their minds began to grow dim.
I saw others hanging from a nail in the wall, from the fastening of the window, from a
hook in the ceiling, from a beam in the garret, from a branch of a tree amid the evening
rain. And I surmised all that had happened before they hung there motionless, their
tongues hanging out of their mouths. I imagined the anguish of their heart, their final
hesitation, their attempts to fasten the rope, to determine that it was secure, then to pass
the noose round their neck and to let themselves fall.
I saw others lying on wretched beds, mothers with their little children, old men dying of
hunger, young girls dying for love, all rigid, suffocated, asphyxiated, while in the center
of the room the brasier still gave forth the fumes of charcoal.