A WIFE'S CONFESSION
BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
My friend, you have asked me to relate to
you the liveliest recollections of my life.
I am very old, without relatives, without
children, so I am free to make a confession
to you. Promise me one thing--never to reveal
I have been much loved, as you know; I have
often myself loved. I was very beautiful; I
may say this today, when my beauty is gone.
Love was for me the life of the soul, just
as the air is the life of the body. I would
have preferred to die rather than exist without
affection, without having somebody always to
care for me. Women often pretend to love only
once with all the strength of their hearts;
it has often happened to be so violent in one
of my attachments that I thought it would be
impossible for my transports ever to end.
However, they always died out in a natural
fashion, like a fire when it has no more fuel.
I will tell you today the first of my
adventures, in which I was very innocent,
but which led to the others. The horrible
vengeance of that dreadful chemist of Pecq
recalls to me the shocking drama of which I
was, in spite of myself, a spectator.
I had been a year married to a rich man,
Comte Herve de Ker---- a Breton of ancient
family, whom I did not love, you understand.
True love needs, I believe, at any rate,
freedom and impediments at the same time.
The love which is imposed, sanctioned by law,
and blessed by the priest--can we really call
that love? A legal kiss is never as good
as a stolen kiss. My husband was tall in
stature, elegant, and a really fine gentleman
in his manners. But he lacked intelligence.
He spoke in a downright fashion, and uttered
opinions that cut like the blade of a knife.
He created the impression that his mind was
full of ready-made views instilled into him
by his father and mother, who had themselves
got them from their ancestors. He never
hesitated, but on every subject immediately
made narrow-minded suggestions without
showing any embarrassment and without
realizing that there might be other ways
of looking at things. One felt that his
head was closed up, that no ideas circulated
in it, none of those ideas which renew a
man's mind and make it sound, like a breath
of fresh air passing through an open window
into a house.
The chateau in which we lived was situated
in the midst of a desolate tract of country.
It was a large, melancholy structure,
surrounded by enormous trees, with tufts
of moss on it, resembling old men's white
beards. The park, a real forest, was enclosed
in a deep trench called the ha-ha; and at
its extremity, near the moorland, we had
big ponds full of reeds and floating grass.
Between the two, at the edge of a stream
which connected them, my husband had got
a little hut built for shooting wild ducks.
We had, in addition to our ordinary servants,
a keeper, a sort of brute, devoted to my
husband to the death, and a chambermaid,
almost a friend, passionately attached to
me. I had brought her back from Spain with
me five years before. She was a deserted
child. She might have been taken for a gypsy
with her dusky skin, her dark eyes, her hair
thick as a wood and always clustering around
her forehead. She was at the time sixteen
years old, but she looked twenty.
The autumn was beginning. We hunted much,
sometimes on neighboring estates, sometimes
on our own, and I noticed a young man, the
Baron de C----, whose visits at the chateau
became singularly frequent. Then he ceased
to come; I thought no more about it, but I
perceived that my husband changed in his
demeanor towards me.
He seemed taciturn and preoccupied; he did
not kiss me, and in spite of the fact that
he did not come into my room, as I insisted
on separate apartments in order to live a
little alone, I often at night heard a
furtive step drawing near my door and
withdrawing a few minutes after.
As my window was on the ground-floor, I thought
I had also often heard someone prowling in
the shadow around the chateau. I told my
husband about it, and, having looked at me
intensely for some seconds, he answered:
"It is nothing--it is the keeper."
* * * * * *
Now one evening, just after dinner, Herve,
who appeared to be extraordinarily gay, with
a sly sort of gaiety, said to me:
"Would you like to spend three hours out with
the guns, in order to shoot a fox who comes
every evening to eat my hens?"
I was surprised. I hesitated, but as he kept
staring at me with singular persistency, I
ended by replying:
"Why, certainly, my friend." I must tell you
that I hunted like a man the wolf and the
wild boar. So it was quite natural that he
should suggest this shooting expedition to me.
But my husband, all of a sudden, had a
curiously nervous look, and all the evening
he seemed agitated, rising up and sitting
About ten o'clock, he suddenly said to me:
"Are you ready?"
I rose, and as he was bringing me my gun
himself, I asked:
"Are we to load with bullets or with deer shot?"
He showed some astonishment; then he rejoined:
"Oh, only with deer shot; make your mind easy!
That will be enough."
Then, after some seconds, he added in a peculiar
"You may boast of having splendid coolness."
I burst out laughing.
"I? Why, pray? Coolness because I go to kill
a fox? What are you thinking of, my friend?"
And we quietly made our way across the park.
All the household slept. The full moon seemed
to give a yellow tint to the old gloomy building,
whose slate roof glittered brightly. The two
turrets that flanked it had two plates of light
on their summits, and no noise disturbed the
silence of this clear, sad night, sweet and
still, which seemed in a death-trance. Not a
breath of air, not a shriek from a toad, not
a hoot from an owl; a melancholy numbness lay
heavy on everything. When we were under the
trees in the park, a sense of freshness stole
over me, together with the odor of fallen leaves.
My husband said nothing, but he was listening;
he was watching; he seemed to be smelling about
in the shadows, possessed from head to foot by
the passion for the chase.
We soon reached the edges of the ponds.
Their tufts of rushes remained motionless; not
a breath of air caressed them, but movements
which were scarcely perceptible ran through
the water. Sometimes the surface was stirred
by something, and light circles gathered
around, like luminous wrinkles enlarging
When we reached the hut, where we were to lie
in wait, my husband made me go in first; then
he slowly loaded his gun, and the dry crackling
of the powder produced a strange effect on me.
He saw that I was shuddering, and asked:
"Does this trial happen to be quite enough for
you? If so, go back."
I was much surprised, and I replied:
"Not at all. I did not come to go back without
doing anything. You seem queer this evening."
"As you wish." And we remained there without
At the end of about half-an-hour, as nothing
broke the oppressive stillness of this bright
autumn night, I said in a low tone:
"Are you quite sure he is passing this way?"
Herve winced as if I had bitten him, and with
his mouth close to my ear, he said:
"Make no mistake about it! I am quite sure."
And once more there was silence.
I believe I was beginning to get drowsy when
my husband pressed my arm, and his voice,
changed to a hiss, said:
"Do you see him there under the trees?"
I looked in vain; I could distinguish nothing.
And slowly Herve now cocked his gun, all the
time fixing his eyes on my face.
I was myself making ready to fire, and suddenly,
thirty paces in front of us, appeared in the
full light of the moon a man who was hurrying
forward with rapid movements, his body bent,
as if he were trying to escape.
I was so stupefied that I uttered a loud cry;
but before I could turn round, there was a
flash before my eyes; I heard a deafening
report, and I saw the man rolling on the
ground, like a wolf hit by a bullet.
I burst into dreadful shrieks, terrified,
almost going mad; then a furious hand--it
was Herve's--seized me by the throat. I was
flung down on the ground, then carried off
by his strong arms. He ran, holding me up,
till he reached the body lying on the grass,
and he threw me on top of it violently, as
if he wanted to break my head.
I thought I was lost; he was going to kill
me, and he had just raised his heel up to
my forehead when, in his turn, he was gripped,
knocked down before I could yet realize what
I rose up abruptly and I saw kneeling on top
of him Porquita, my maid, clinging like a
wildcat to him with desperate energy, tearing
off his beard, his moustache, and the skin
of his face.
Then, as if another idea had suddenly taken
hold of her mind, she rose up and, flinging
herself on the corpse, she threw her arms
around the dead man, kissing his eyes and his
mouth, opening the dead lips with her own
lips, trying to find in them a breath and the
long, long kiss of lovers.
My husband, picking himself up, gazed at me.
He understood, and falling at my feet, said:
"Oh, forgive me, my darling. I suspected you,
and I killed this girl's lover. It was my
keeper that deceived me."
But I was watching the strange kisses of
that dead man and that living woman, and
her sobs and her writhings of sorrowing love,
and at that moment I understood that I might
be unfaithful to my husband.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~