THE DOUBLE PINS
BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
"Ah, my dear fellow, what jades women are!"
"What makes you say that?"
"Because they have played me an abominable trick."
"Women, or a woman?"
"Two women at once?"
"What was the trick?"
The two young men were sitting outside a cafe
on the boulevard, and drinking liqueurs mixed
with water, those aperients which look like
infusions of all the shades in a box of
water-colors. They were nearly the same age:
twenty-five to thirty. One was dark and the
other fair, and they had the same semi-elegant
look of stock-jobbers, of men who go to the
Stock Exchange, and into drawing-rooms, who
are to be seen everywhere, who live everywhere,
and love everywhere. The dark one continued:
"I have told you of my connection with that
little woman, a tradesman's wife, whom I met
on the beach at Dieppe?"
"My dear fellow, you know what it is. I had a
mistress in Paris, whom I loved dearly; an old
friend, a good friend, who is virtually a
habit, in fact, one I value very much."
"Yes, my habit, and hers also. She is married
to an excellent man, whom I also value very
much, a very cordial fellow. A capital companion!
I may say that my life is bound up with that
"Well! They could not manage to leave Paris,
and I found myself a widower at Dieppe."
"Why did you go to Dieppe?"
"For a change of air. One cannot remain on the
Boulevards the whole time."
"Then I met the little woman I mentioned to
you on the beach there."
"The wife of that head of the public office?"
"Yes; she was dreadfully dull; her husband
only came every Sunday, and he is horrible!
I understood her perfectly, and we laughed
and danced together."
"And the rest?"
"Yes, but that came later. However, we met, and
we liked each other. I told her I liked her,
and she made me repeat it, so that she might
understand it better, and she put no obstacles
in my way."
"Did you love her?"
"Yes, a little! She is very nice."
"And what about the other?"
"The other was in Paris! Well, for six weeks
it was very pleasant, and we returned here
on the best of terms. Do you know how to break
with a woman, when that woman has not wronged
you in any way?"
"Yes, perfectly well."
"How do you manage it?"
"I give her up."
"How do you do it?"
"I do not see her any longer."
"But supposing she comes to you?"
"I am not at home."
"And if she comes again?"
"I say I am not well."
"If she looks after you?"
"I play her some dirty trick."
"And if she puts up with it?"
"I write to her husband anonymous letters,
so that he may look after her on the days
that I expect her."
"That is serious! I cannot resist, and do
not know how to bring about a rupture, and
so I have a collection of mistresses. There
are some whom I do not see more than once
a year, others every ten months, others on
those days when they want to dine at a
restaurant, those whom I have put at regular
intervals do not worry me, but I often have
great difficulty with the fresh ones, so as
to keep them at proper intervals."
"And then--then, this little woman was
all fire and flame, without any fault of
mine, as I told you! As her husband spends
all the whole day at the office, she began
to come to me unexpectedly, and twice she
nearly met my regular one on the stairs."
"Yes; so I gave each of them her days,
regular days, to avoid confusion. Saturday
and Monday for the old one, Tuesday, Friday
and Sunday for the new one."
"Why did you show her the preference?"
"Ah! My dear friend, she is younger."
"So that only gave you two days to yourself
in a week."
"That is enough for one."
"Allow me to compliment you on that."
"Well, just fancy that the most ridiculous
and most annoying thing in the world happened
to me. For four months everything had been
going on perfectly; I felt quite safe, and
I was really very happy, when suddenly, last
Monday, the crash came.
"I was expecting my regular one at the usual
time, a quarter past one, and was smoking a
good cigar, dreaming, very well satisfied with
myself, when I suddenly saw that it was past
the time. I was much surprised, for she is very
punctual, but I thought that something might
have accidentally delayed her. However,
half-an-hour passed, then an hour, an hour and
a half, and then I knew that something must
have detained her--a sick headache, perhaps,
or some annoying visitor. That sort of waiting
is very vexatious, very annoying and enervating.
At last, I made up my mind to go out, and not
knowing what to do, I went to her and found
her reading a novel."
"Well!" I said to her. And she replied quite
"My dear, I could not come; I was hindered."
"By something else."
"What was it?"
"A very annoying visit."
"I saw she would not tell me the true reason,
and as she was very calm, I did not trouble
myself any more about it, hoping to make
up for lost time with the other, the next
day. On the Tuesday, I was very excited,
and amorous in expectation of the public
official's little wife, and I was surprised
that she did not come before the appointed
time. I looked at the clock every moment,
and watched the hands impatiently, but the
quarter passed, then the half-hour, then
two o'clock. I could not sit still any longer,
and walked up and down very soon in great
strides, putting my face against the window,
and my ears to the door, to listen whether
she was not coming upstairs."
"Half-past two, three o'clock! I seized my
hat, and rushed to her house. She was reading
a novel, my dear fellow! 'Well!' I said,
anxiously, and she replied as calmly as usual:
'I was hindered, and could not come.'
"'An annoying visit.'
"Of course, I immediately thought that they
both knew everything, but she seemed so calm
and quiet, that I set aside my suspicions,
and thought it was only some strange coincidence,
as I could not believe in such dissimulation
on her part. And so, after half-an-hour's
friendly talk, which was, however, interrupted
a dozen times by her little girl coming in and
out of the room, I went away, very much annoyed.
Just imagine the next day."
"The same thing happened?"
"Yes, and the next also. And that went on for
three weeks without any explanation, without
anything explaining such strange conduct to
me, the secret of which I suspected, however."
"They knew everything?"
"I should think so, by George. But how? Ah! I
had a great deal of anxiety before I found it
"How did you manage it at last?"
"From their letters, for on the same day they
both gave me their dismissal in identical terms."
"This is how it was: You know that women
always have an array of pins about them. I
know hairpins, I doubt them, and look after
them, but the others are much more treacherous;
those confounded little black-headed pins
which look all alike to us, great fools that
we are, but which they can distinguish, just
as we can distinguish a horse from a dog.
"Well, it appears that one day my official's
little wife left one of those tell-tale
instruments pinned to the paper, close to my
looking-glass. My usual one had immediately
seen this little black speck, no bigger than
a flea, and had taken it out without saying a
word, and then had left one of her pins, which
was also black, but of a different pattern,
in the same place.
"The next day, the official's wife wished to
recover her property, and immediately recognized
the substitution. Then her suspicions were
aroused, and she put in two and crossed them.
My original one replied to this telegraphic
signal by three black pellets, one on the top
of the other, and as soon as this method had
begun, they continued to communicate with one
another, without saying a word, just to spy on
each other. Then it appears that the regular
one, being bolder, wrapped a tiny piece of
paper round the little wire point, and wrote
C. D., Poste Restante, Boulevard Malherbes.
"Then they wrote to each other. You understand
that was not everything that passed between
them. They set to work with precaution, with
a thousand stratagems, with all the prudence
that is necessary in such cases, but the regular
one made a bold stroke, and made an appointment
with the other. I do not know what they said
to each other; all that I know is, that I had
to pay the costs of their interview. There you
have it all!"
"Is that all?"
"And you do not see them any more?"
"I beg your pardon. I see them as friends, for
we have not quarreled altogether."
"And have they met again?"
"Yes, my dear fellow, they have become intimate
"And has not that given you an idea?"
"No, what idea?"
"You great booby! The idea of making them put
back the pins where they found them."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~