Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6 HTML version
At four o'clock that day, as on every other day, Alexandre rolled the three-wheeled chair
for cripples up to the door of the little house; then, in obedience to the doctor's orders, he
would push his old and infirm mistress about until six o'clock.
When he had placed the light vehicle against the step, just at the place where the old lady
could most easily enter it, he went into the house; and soon a furious, hoarse old soldier's
voice was heard cursing inside the house: it issued from the master, the retired ex-captain
of infantry, Joseph Maramballe.
Then could be heard the noise of doors being slammed, chairs being pushed about, and
hasty footsteps; then nothing more. After a few seconds, Alexandre reappeared on the
threshold, supporting with all his strength Madame Maramballe, who was exhausted from
the exertion of descending the stairs. When she was at last settled in the rolling chair,
Alexandre passed behind it, grasped the handle, and set out toward the river.
Thus they crossed the little town every day amid the respectful greeting, of all. These
bows were perhaps meant as much for the servant as for the mistress, for if she was loved
and esteemed by all, this old trooper, with his long, white, patriarchal beard, was
considered a model domestic.
The July sun was beating down unmercifully on the street, bathing the low houses in its
crude and burning light. Dogs were sleeping on the sidewalk in the shade of the houses,
and Alexandre, a little out of breath, hastened his footsteps in order sooner to arrive at the
avenue which leads to the water.
Madame Maramballe was already slumbering under her white parasol, the point of which
sometimes grazed along the man's impassive face. As soon as they had reached the Allee
des Tilleuls, she awoke in the shade of the trees, and she said in a kindly voice: "Go more
slowly, my poor boy; you will kill yourself in this heat."
Along this path, completely covered by arched linden trees, the Mavettek flowed in its
winding bed bordered by willows.
The gurgling of the eddies and the splashing of the little waves against the rocks lent to
the walk the charming music of babbling water and the freshness of damp air. Madame
Maramballe inhaled with deep delight the humid charm of this spot and then murmured:
"Ah! I feel better now! But he wasn't in a good humor to-day."
Alexandre answered: "No, madame."
For thirty-five years he had been in the service of this couple, first as officer's orderly,
then as simple valet who did not wish to leave his masters; and for the last six years,