Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version
"Bah!" exclaimed Karl Massouligny, "the question of complaisant husbands is a difficult
one. I have seen many kinds, and yet I am unable to give an opinion about any of them. I
have often tried to determine whether they are blind, weak or clairvoyant. I believe that
there are some which belong to each of these categories.
"Let us quickly pass over the blind ones. They cannot rightly be called complaisant, since
they do not know, but they are good creatures who cannot see farther than their nose. It is
a curious and interesting thing to notice the ease with which men and women can, be
deceived. We are taken in by the slightest trick of those who surround us, by our children,
our friends, our servants, our tradespeople. Humanity is credulous, and in order to
discover deceit in others, we do not display one-tenth the shrewdness which we use when
we, in turn, wish to deceive some one else.
"Clairvoyant husbands may be divided into three classes: Those who have some interest,
pecuniary, ambitious or otherwise, in their wife's having love affairs. These ask only to
safeguard appearances as much as possible, and they are satisfied.
"Next come those who get angry. What a beautiful novel one could write about them!
"Finally the weak ones! Those who are afraid of scandal.
"There are also those who are powerless, or, rather, tired, who flee from the duties of
matrimony through fear of ataxia or apoplexy, who are satisfied to see a friend run these
"But I once met a husband of a rare species, who guarded against the common accident in
a strange and witty manner.
"In Paris I had made the acquaintance of an elegant, fashionable couple. The woman,
nervous, tall, slender, courted, was supposed to have had many love adventures. She
pleased me with her wit, and I believe that I pleased her also. I courted her, a trial
courting to which she answered with evident provocations. Soon we got to tender
glances, hand pressures, all the little gallantries which precede the final attack.
"Nevertheless, I hesitated. I consider that, as a rule, the majority of society intrigues,
however short they may be, are not worth the trouble which they give us and the
difficulties which may arise. I therefore mentally compared the advantages and
disadvantages which I might expect, and I thought I noticed that the husband suspected
"One evening, at a ball, as I was saying tender things to the young woman in a little
parlor leading from the big hall where the dancing was going on, I noticed in a mirror the