Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 5 HTML version
The boulevard, that river of humanity, was alive with people in the golden light of the
setting sun. The whole sky was red, blinding, and behind the Madeleine an immense bank
of flaming clouds cast a shower of light the whole length of tile boulevard, vibrant as the
heat from a brazier.
The gay, animated crowd went by in this golden mist and seemed to be glorified. Their
faces were gilded, their black hats and clothes took on purple tints, the patent leather of
their shoes cast bright reflections on the asphalt of the sidewalk.
Before the cafes a mass of men were drinking opalescent liquids that looked like precious
stones dissolved in the glasses.
In the midst of the drinkers two officers in full uniform dazzled all eyes with their
glittering gold lace. They chatted, happy without asking why, in this glory of life, in this
radiant light of sunset, and they looked at the crowd, the leisurely men and the hurrying
women who left a bewildering odor of perfume as they passed by.
All at once an enormous negro, dressed in black, with a paunch beneath his jean
waistcoat, which was covered with charms, his face shining as if it had been polished,
passed before them with a triumphant air. He laughed at the passers-by, at the news
venders, at the dazzling sky, at the whole of Paris. He was so tall that he overtopped
everyone else, and when he passed all the loungers turned round to look at his back.
But he suddenly perceived the officers and darted towards them, jostling the drinkers in
his path. As soon as he reached their table he fixed his gleaming and delighted eyes upon
them and the corners of his mouth expanded to his ears, showing his dazzling white teeth
like a crescent moon in a black sky. The two men looked in astonishment at this ebony
giant, unable to understand his delight.
With a voice that made all the guests laugh, he said:
"Good-day, my lieutenant."
One of the officers was commander of a battalion, the other was a colonel. The former
"I do not know you, sir. I am at a loss to know what you want of me."
"Me like you much, Lieutenant Vedie, siege of Bezi, much grapes, find me."
The officer, utterly bewildered, looked at the man intently, trying to refresh his memory.
Then he cried abruptly: