Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version
Dr. Bonnet, my old friend--one sometimes has friends older than one's self--had often
invited me to spend some time with him at Riom, and, as I did not know Auvergne, I
made up my mind to visit him in the summer of 1876.
I arrived by the morning train, and the first person I saw on the platform was the doctor.
He was dressed in a gray suit, and wore a soft, black, wide-brimmed, high-crowned felt
hat, narrow at the top like a chimney pot, a hat which hardly any one except an
Auvergnat would wear, and which reminded one of a charcoal burner. Dressed like that,
the doctor had the appearance of an old young man, with his spare body under his thin
coat, and his large head covered with white hair.
He embraced me with that evident pleasure which country people feel when they meet
long-expected friends, and, stretching out his arm, he said proudly:
"This is Auvergne!" I saw nothing before me except a range of mountains, whose
summits, which resembled truncated cones, must have been extinct volcanoes.
Then, pointing to the name of the station, he said:
"Riom, the fatherland of magistrates, the pride of the magistracy, and which ought rather
to be the fatherland of doctors."
"Why?" I, asked.
"Why?" he replied with a laugh. "If you transpose the letters, you have the Latin word
'mori', to die. That is the reason why I settled here, my young friend."
And, delighted at his own joke, he carried me off, rubbing his hands.
As soon as I had swallowed a cup of coffee, he made me go and see the town. I admired
the druggist's house, and the other noted houses, which were all black, but as pretty as
bric-a-brac, with their facades of sculptured stone. I admired the statue of the Virgin, the
patroness of butchers, and he told me an amusing story about this, which I will relate
some other time, and then Dr. Bonnet said to me:
"I must beg you to excuse me for a few minutes while I go and see a patient, and then I
will take you to Chatel-Guyon, so as to show you the general aspect of the town, and all
the mountain chain of the Puy-de-Dome before lunch. You can wait for me outside; I
shall only go upstairs and come down immediately."
He left me outside one of those old, gloomy, silent, melancholy houses, which one sees in
the provinces, and this one appeared to look particularly sinister, and I soon discovered
the reason. All the large windows on the first floor were boarded half way up. The upper