Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6 HTML version
When Old Man Leras, bookkeeper for Messieurs Labuze and Company, left the store, he
stood for a minute bewildered at the glory of the setting sun. He had worked all day in the
yellow light of a small jet of gas, far in the back of the store, on a narrow court, as deep
as a well. The little room where he had been spending his days for forty years was so
dark that even in the middle of summer one could hardly see without gaslight from
eleven until three.
It was always damp and cold, and from this hole on which his window opened came the
musty odor of a sewer.
For forty years Monsieur Leras had been arriving every morning in this prison at eight
o'clock, and he would remain there until seven at night, bending over his books, writing
with the industry of a good clerk.
He was now making three thousand francs a year, having started at fifteen hundred. He
had remained a bachelor, as his means did not allow him the luxury of a wife, and as he
had never enjoyed anything, he desired nothing. From time to time, however, tired of this
continuous and monotonous work, he formed a platonic wish: "Gad! If I only had an
income of fifteen thousand francs, I would take life easy."
He had never taken life easy, as he had never had anything but his monthly salary. His
life had been uneventful, without emotions, without hopes. The faculty of dreaming with
which every one is blessed had never developed in the mediocrity of his ambitions.
When he was twenty-one he entered the employ of Messieurs Labuze and Company. And
he had never left them.
In 1856 he had lost his father and then his mother in 1859. Since then the only incident in
his life was when he moved, in 1868, because his landlord had tried to raise his rent.
Every day his alarm clock, with a frightful noise of rattling chains, made him spring out
of bed at 6 o'clock precisely.
Twice, however, this piece of mechanism had been out of order--once in 1866 and again
in 1874; he had never been able to find out the reason why. He would dress, make his
bed, sweep his room, dust his chair and the top of his bureau. All this took him an hour
and a half.
Then he would go out, buy a roll at the Lahure Bakery, in which he had seen eleven
different owners without the name ever changing, and he would eat this roll on the way to