“I beg your pardon, Mme. Rosemilly, but that is just
like me. I invite ladies because I like to be with
Pierre and Jean
them, and then, as soon as I feel the water beneath
me, I think of nothing but the fish.” by
Mme. Roland was now quite awake, and gazing
Guy de Maupassant
with a softened look at the wide horizon of cliff and
sea. Translated By Clara Bell
“You have had good sport, all the same,” she
murmured. CHAPTER I
“Tschah!” exclaimed old Roland suddenly, after he But her husband shook his head in denial, though at had remained motionless for a quarter of an hour, the same time he glanced complacently at the basket his eyes fixed on the water, while now and again he where the fish caught by the three men were still very slightly lifted his line sunk in the sea. breathing spasmodically, with a low rustle of
clammy scales and struggling fins, and dull, Mme. Roland, dozing in the stern by the side of
ineffectual efforts, gasping in the fatal air. Old Mme. Rosemilly, who had been invited to join the
Roland took the basket between his knees and tilted fishing-party, woke up, and turning her head to look
it up, making the silver heap of creatures slide to the at her husband, said:
edge that he might see those lying at the bottom, and
their death-throes became more convulsive, while “Well, well! Gerome.”
the strong smell of their bodies, a wholesome reek And the old fellow replied in a fury: of brine, came up from the full depths of the creel.
The old fisherman sniffed it eagerly, as we smell at “They do not bite at all. I have taken nothing since
roses, and exclaimed: noon. Only men should ever go fishing. Women
always delay the start till it is too late.” “Cristi! But they are fresh enough!” and he went on:
“How many did you pull out, doctor?” His two sons, Pierre and Jean, who each held a line
twisted round his forefinger, one to port and one to His eldest son, Pierre, a man of thirty, with black starboard, both began to laugh, and Jean remarked: whiskers trimmed square like a lawyer‟s, his
mustache and beard shaved away, replied: “You are not very polite to our guest, father.”
“Oh, not many; three or four.” M. Roland was abashed, and apologized.
The father turned to the younger. “And you, Jean?” was enthusiastic, intelligent, fickle, but obstinate, said he. full of Utopias and philosophical notions. Jean, a tall fellow, much younger than his brother, Jean, who was as fair as his brother was dark, as
deliberate as his brother was vehement, as gentle as fair, with a full beard, smiled and murmured:
his brother was unforgiving, had quietly gone “Much the same as Pierre—four or five.” through his studies for the law and had just taken his
diploma as a licentiate, at the time when Pierre had Every time they told the same fib, which delighted
taken his in medicine. So they were now having a father Roland. He had hitched his line round a
little rest at home, and both looked forward to row-lock, and folding his arms he announced:
settling in Havre if they could find a satisfactory “I will never again try to fish after noon. After ten in opening.
the morning it is all over. The lazy brutes will not
But a vague jealousy, one of those dormant bite; they are taking their siesta in the sun.” And he
jealousies which grow up between brothers or looked round at the sea on all sides, with the
sisters and slowly ripen till they burst, on the satisfied air of a proprietor.
occasion of a marriage perhaps, or of some good He was a retired jeweller who had been led by an fortune happening to one of them, kept them on the inordinate love of seafaring and fishing to fly from alert in a sort of brotherly and non- aggressive the shop as soon as he had made enough money to animosity. They were fond of each other, it is true, live in modest comfort on the interest of his savings. but they watched each other. Pierre, five years old He retired to le Havre, bought a boat, and became when Jean was born, had looked with the eyes of a an amateur skipper. His two sons, Pierre and Jean, little petted animal at that other little animal which had remained at Paris to continue their studies, and had suddenly come to lie in his father‟s and came for the holidays from time to time to share mother‟s arms and to be loved and fondled by them. their father‟s amusements. Jean, from his birth, had always been a pattern of
sweetness, gentleness, and good temper, and Pierre On leaving school, Pierre, the elder, five years older had by degrees begun to chafe at ever-lastingly than Jean, had felt a vocation to various professions hearing the praises of this great lad, whose and had tried half a dozen in succession, but, soon sweetness in his eyes was indolence, whose disgusted with each in turn, he started afresh with gentleness was stupidity, and whose kindliness was new hopes. Medicine had been his last fancy, and he blindness. His parents, whose dream for their sons had set to work with so much ardour that he had just was some respectable and undistinguished calling, qualified after an unusually short course of study, by blamed him for so often changing his mind, for his a special remission of time from the minister. He fits of enthusiasm, his abortive beginnings, and all
his ineffectual impulses towards generous ideas and voyages, and his old-world tales, without hesitation,
like a resigned and reasonable woman who loves the liberal professions.
life and respects death.
Since he had grown to manhood they no longer said
in so many words: “Look at Jean and follow his The two sons on their return, finding the pretty example,” but every time he heard them say “Jean widow quite at home in the house, forthwith began did this—Jean does that,” he understood their to court her, less from any wish to charm her than
from the desire to cut each other out. meaning and the hint the words conveyed.
Their mother, an orderly person, a thrifty and rather Their mother, being practical and prudent, sincerely sentimental woman of the middle class, with the hoped that one of them might win the young widow, soul of a soft-hearted book- keeper, was constantly for she was rich; but then she would have liked that quenching the little rivalries between her two big the other should not be grieved.
sons to which the petty events of their life
Mme. Rosemilly was fair, with blue eyes, a mass of constantly gave rise. Another little circumstance,
light waving hair, fluttering at the least breath of too, just now disturbed her peace of mind, and she
wind, and an alert, daring, pugnacious little way was in fear of some complications; for in the course
with her, which did not in the least answer to the of the winter, while her boys were finishing their
sober method of her mind. studies, each in his own line, she had made the
acquaintance of a neighbour, Mme. Rosemilly, the She already seemed to like Jean best, attracted, no widow of a captain of a merchantman who had died doubt, by an affinity of nature. This preference, at sea two years before. The young widow—quite however, she betrayed only by an almost young, only three-and-twenty —a woman of strong imperceptible difference of voice and look and also intellect who knew life by instinct as the free by occasionally asking his opinion. She seemed to animals do, as though she had seen, gone through, guess that Jean‟s views would support her own, understood, and weighted every conceivable while those of Pierre must inevitably be different. contingency, and judged them with a wholesome, When she spoke of the doctor‟s ideas on politics, art, strict, and benevolent mind, had fallen into the habit philosophy, or morals, she would sometimes say: of calling to work or chat for an hour in the evening “Your crotchets.” Then he would look at her with with these friendly neighbours, who would give her the cold gleam of an accuser drawing up an a cup of tea. indictment against women—all women, poor weak
things. Father Roland, always goaded on by his seafaring
craze, would question their new friend about the Never till his sons came home had M. Roland departed captain; and she would talk of him, and his invited her to join his fishing expeditions, nor had
he ever taken his wife; for he liked to put off before The old fellow hesitated; he certainly would catch daybreak, with his ally, Captain Beausire, a master nothing, for when the sun has warmed the sea the mariner retired, whom he had first met on the quay fish bite no more; but the two brothers had eagerly at high tides and with whom he had struck up an pressed the scheme, and organized and arranged intimacy, and the old sailor Papagris, known as Jean everything there and then.
Bart, in whose charge the boat was left.
So on the following Tuesday the Pearl had dropped But one evening of the week before, Mme. anchor under the white rocks of Cape la Heve; they Rosemilly, who had been dining with them, had fished till midday, then they had slept awhile, remarked, “It must be great fun to go out fishing.” and then fished again without catching anything; The jeweller, flattered by her interest and suddenly and then it was that father Roland, perceiving, rather fired with the wish to share his favourite sport with late, that all that Mme. Rosemilly really enjoyed and her, and to make a convert after the manner of cared for was the sail on the sea, and seeing that his
lines hung motionless, had uttered in a spirit of priests, exclaimed: “Would you like to come?”
unreasonable annoyance, that vehement “Tschah!” “To be sure I should.” which applied as much to the pathetic widow as to
the creatures he could not catch. “Next Tuesday?”
Now he contemplated the spoil—his fish—with the “Yes, next Tuesday.”
joyful thrill of a miser; seeing as he looked up at the “Are you the woman to be ready to start at five in sky that the sun was getting low: “Well, boys,” said the morning?” he, “suppose we turn homeward.”
She exclaimed in horror: The young men hauled in their lines, coiled them up,
cleaned the hooks and stuck them into corks, and sat “No, indeed: that is too much.” waiting.
He was disappointed and chilled, suddenly doubting Roland stood up to look out like a captain. her true vocation. However, he said:
“No wind,” said he. “You will have to pull, young “At what hour can you be ready?” „uns.”
“Well—at nine?” And suddenly extending one arm to the northward,
he exclaimed: “Not before?”
“Here comes the packet from Southampton.” “No, not before. Even that is very early.”
Away over the level sea, spread out like a blue sheet, “I never could see with that thing. It used to put my vast and sheeny and shot with flame and gold, an husband in quite a rage; he would stand for hours at inky cloud was visible against the rosy sky in the the windows watching the ships pass.”
quarter to which he pointed, and below it they could
Old Roland, much put out, retorted: make out the hull of the steamer, which looked tiny
at such a distance. And to southward other wreaths “Then it must be some defect in your eye, for my of smoke, numbers of them, could be seen, all glass is a very good one.”
converging towards the Havre pier, now scarcely
Then he offered it to his wife. visible as a white streak with the lighthouse, upright,
like a horn, at the end of it.
“Would you like to look?”
Roland asked: “Is not the Normandie due to-day?”
“No, thank you. I know before hand that I could not And Jean replied:
see through it.”
Mme. Roland, a woman of eight-and-forty but who
did not look it, seemed to be enjoying this excursion “Give me my glass. I fancy I see her out there.”
and this waning day more than any of the party. The father pulled out the copper tube, adjusted it to
Her chestnut hair was only just beginning to show his eye, sought the speck, and then, delighted to
streaks of white. She had a calm, reasonable face, a have seen it, exclaimed:
kind and happy way with her which it was a “Yes, yes, there she is. I know her two funnels. pleasure to see. Her son Pierre was wont to say that Would you like to look, Mme. Rosemilly?” she knew the value of money, but this did not hinder
her from enjoying the delights of dreaming. She was She took the telescope and directed it towards the
fond of reading, of novels, and poetry, not for their Atlantic horizon, without being able, however, to
value as works of art, but for the sake of the tender find the vessel, for she could distinguish
melancholy mood they would induce in her. A line nothing—nothing but blue, with a coloured halo
of poetry, often but a poor one, often a bad one, round it, a circular rainbow—and then all manner of
would touch the little chord, as she expressed it, and queer things, winking eclipses which made her feel
give her the sense of some mysterious desire almost sick.
realized. And she delighted in these faint emotions
which brought a little flutter to her soul, otherwise She said as she returned the glass:
as strictly kept as a ledger.
Since settling at Havre she had become perceptibly the skipper should say: “Give way!” For he insisted stouter, and her figure, which had been very supple on everything being done according to strict rule. and slight, had grown heavier.
Simultaneously, as if by a single effort, they dipped This day on the sea had been delightful to her. Her the oars, and lying back, pulling with all their might, husband, without being brutal, was rough with her, began a struggle to display their strength. They had as a man who is the despot of his shop is apt to be come out easily, under sail, but the breeze had died rough, without anger or hatred; to such men to give away, and the masculine pride of the two brothers an order is to swear. He controlled himself in the was suddenly aroused by the prospect of measuring presence of strangers, but in private he let loose and their powers. When they went out alone with their gave himself terrible vent, though he was himself father they plied the oars without any steering, for afraid of every one. She, in sheer horror of the Roland would be busy getting the lines ready, while turmoil, of scenes, of useless explanations, always he kept a lookout in the boat‟s course, guiding it by gave way and never asked for anything; for a very a sign or a word: “Easy, Jean, and you, Pierre, put long time she had not ventured to ask Roland to take your back into it.” Or he would say, “Now, then, her out in the boat. So she had joyfully hailed this number one; come, number two—a little elbow
opportunity, and was keenly enjoying the rare and grease.” Then the one who had been dreaming
pulled harder, the one who had got excited eased new pleasure.
down, and the boat‟s head came round.
From the moment when they started she surrendered
herself completely, body and soul, to the soft, But to-day they meant to display their biceps. gliding motion over the waves. She was not thinking; Pierre‟s arms were hairy, somewhat lean but sinewy; her mind was not wandering through either Jean‟s were round and white and rosy, and the knot memories or hopes; it seemed to her as though her of muscles moved under the skin.
heart, like her body, was floating on something soft
At first Pierre had the advantage. With his teeth set, and liquid and delicious which rocked and lulled it.
his brow knit, his legs rigid, his hands clinched on When their father gave the word to return, “Come, the oar, he made it bend from end to end at every take your places at the oars!” she smiled to see her stroke, and the Pearl was veering landward. Father sons, her two great boys, take off their jackets and Roland, sitting in the bows, so as to leave the stern
seat to the two women, wasted his breath shouting, roll up their shirt-sleeves on their bare arms.
“Easy, number one; pull harder, number two!” Pierre, who was nearest to the two women, took the Pierre pulled harder in his frenzy, and “number two” stroke oar, Jean the other, and they sat waiting till could not keep time with his wild stroke.
At last the skipper cried: “Stop her!” The two oars “Look, the Prince Albert is catching us up!”
were lifted simultaneously, and then by his father‟s
They all looked round. Long and low in the water, orders Jean pulled alone for a few minutes. But
with her two raking funnels and two yellow from that moment he had it all his own way; he
paddle-boxes like two round cheeks, the grew eager and warmed to his work, while Pierre,
Southampton packet came ploughing on at full out of breath and exhausted by his first vigorous
steam, crowded with passengers under open spurt, was lax and panting. Four times running
parasols. Its hurrying, noisy paddle-wheels beating father Roland made them stop while the elder took
up the water which fell again in foam, gave it an breath, so as to get the boat into her right course
appearance of haste as of a courier pressed for time, again. Then the doctor, humiliated and fuming, his
and the upright stem cut through the water, throwing forehead dropping with sweat, his cheeks white,
up two thin translucent waves which glided off stammered out:
along the hull.
“I cannot think what has come over me; I have a
When it had come quite near the Pearl, father stitch in my side. I started very well, but it has
Roland lifted his hat, the ladies shook their pulled me up.”
handkerchiefs, and half a dozen parasols eagerly Jean asked: “Shall I pull alone with both oars for a waved on board the steamboat responded to this
salute as she went on her way, leaving behind her a time?”
few broad undulations on the still and glassy surface “No, thanks, it will go off.” of the sea.
And their mother, somewhat vexed, said: There were other vessels, each with its smoky cap,
coming in from every part of the horizon towards “Why, Pierre, what rhyme or reason is there in
the short white jetty, which swallowed them up, one getting into such a state. You are not a child.”
after another, like a mouth. And the fishing barks And he shrugged his shoulders and set to once and lighter craft with broad sails and slender masts, more. stealing across the sky in tow of inconspicuous tugs,
were coming in, faster and slower, towards the Mme. Rosemilly pretended not to see, not to devouring ogre, who from time to time seemed to understand, not to hear. Her fair head went back have had a surfeit, and spewed out to the open sea with an engaging little jerk every time the boat another fleet of steamers, brigs, schooners, and moved forward, making the fine wayward hairs three-masted vessels with their tangled mass of flutter about her temples. rigging. The hurrying steamships flew off to the
right and left over the smooth bosom of the ocean, But father Roland presently called out:
while sailing vessels, cast off by the pilot-tugs port lay hidden: Etretat, Fecamp, Saint-Valery, which had hauled them out, lay motionless, dressing Treport, Dieppe, and the rest.
themselves from the main-mast to the fore-tops in
The two women did not listen. Torpid with comfort canvas, white or brown, and ruddy in the setting
and impressed by the sight of the ocean covered sun.
with vessels rushing to and fro like wild beasts Mme. Roland, with her eyes half-shut, murmured: about their den, they sat speechless, somewhat awed
by the soothing and gorgeous sunset. Roland alone “Good heavens, how beautiful the sea is!”
talked on without end; he was one of those whom And Mme. Rosemilly replied with a long sigh, nothing can disturb. Women, whose nerves are more which, however, had no sadness in it: sensitive, sometimes feel, without knowing why,
that the sound of useless speech is as irritating as an “Yes, but it is sometimes very cruel, all the same.”
Pierre and Jean, who had calmed down, were “Look, there is the Normandie just going in. A big rowing slowly, and the Pearl was making for the ship, isn‟t she?” harbour, a tiny thing among those huge vessels. Then he described the coast opposite, far, far away, When they came alongside of the quay, Papagris, on the other side of the mouth of the Seine—that who was waiting there, gave his hand to the ladies mouth extended over twenty kilometres, said he. He to help them out, and they took the way into the pointed out Villerville, Trouville, Houlgate, Luc, town. A large crowd, the crowd which haunts the Arromanches, the little river of Caen, and the rocks pier every day at high tide—was also drifting
of Calvados which make the coast unsafe as far as homeward. Mme. Roland and Mme. Rosemilly led Cherbourg. Then he enlarged on the question of the the way, followed by the three men. As they went sand-banks in the Seine, which shift at every tide so up the Rue de Paris they stopped now and then in that even the pilots of Quilleboeuf are at fault if they front of a milliner‟s or a jeweller‟s shop, to look at a do not survey the channel every day. He bid them bonnet or an ornament; then after making their notice how the town of Havre divided Upper from comments they went on again. In front of the Place Lower Normandy. In Lower Normandy the shore de la Bourse Roland paused, as he did every day, to sloped down to the sea in pasture-lands, fields, and gaze at the docks full of vessels—the Bassin du
meadows. The coast of Upper Normandy, on the Commerce, with other docks beyond, where the contrary, was steep, a high cliff, ravined, cleft and huge hulls lay side by side, closely packed in rows, towering, forming an immense white rampart all the four or five deep. And masts innumerable; along way to Dunkirk, while in each hollow a village or a several kilometres of quays the endless masts, with
their yards, poles, and rigging, gave this great gap in Old Roland, who never spoke to her without the heart of the town the look of a dead forest. shouting and swearing, cried out:
Above this leafless forest the gulls were wheeling,
“Who do you say called, in the devil‟s name?” and watching to pounce, like a falling stone, on any
scraps flung overboard; a sailor boy, fixing a pulley She never winced at her master‟s roaring voice, and to a cross-beam, looked as if he had gone up there replied:
“A gentleman from the lawyer‟s.”
“Will you dine with us without any sort of
“What lawyer?” ceremony, just that we may end the day together?”
said Mme. Roland to her friend.
“Why, M‟sieu „Canu—who else?”
“To be sure I will, with pleasure; I accept equally
“And what did this gentleman say?” without ceremony. It would be dismal to go home
and be alone this evening.” “That M‟sieu „Canu will call in himself in the
course of the evening.” Pierre, who had heard, and who was beginning to be
restless under the young woman‟s indifference, Maitre Lecanu was M. Roland‟s lawyer, and in a muttered to himself: “Well, the widow is taking root way his friend, managing his business for him. For now, it would seem.” For some days past he had him to send word that he would call in the evening, spoken of her as “the widow.” The word, harmless something urgent and important must be in the wind; in itself, irritated Jean merely by the tone given to it, and the four Rolands looked at each other, disturbed which to him seemed spiteful and offensive. by the announcement as folks of small fortune are
wont to be at any intervention of a lawyer, with its The three men spoke not another word till they
suggestions of contracts, inheritance, lawsuits—all reached the threshold of their own house. It was a
sorts of desirable or formidable contingencies. The narrow one, consisting of a ground-floor and two
father, after a few moments of silence, muttered: floors above, in the Rue Belle-Normande. The maid,
Josephine, a girl of nineteen, a rustic “What on earth can it mean?”
servant-of-all-work at low wages, gifted to excess
Mme. Rosemilly began to laugh. with the startled animal expression of a peasant,
opened the door, went up stairs at her master‟s heels
“Why, a legacy, of course. I am sure of it. I bring to the drawing-room, which was on the first floor,
and then said:
“A gentleman called—three times.”
But they did not expect the death of any one who Every one was surprised at the suggestion, and Jean
was a little ruffled by his brother‟s having spoken of might leave them anything.
it before Mme. Rosemilly.
Mme. Roland, who had a good memory for
relationships, began to think over all their “And why for me rather than for you? The connections on her husband‟s side and on her own, hypothesis is very disputable. You are the elder; you, to trace up pedigrees and the ramifications of therefore, would be the first to be thought of.
Besides, I do not wish to marry.” cousin-ship.
Before even taking off her bonnet she said: Pierre smiled sneeringly:
“I say, father” (she called her husband “father” at “Are you in love, then?”
home, and sometimes “Monsieur Roland” before
And the other, much put out, retorted: “Is it strangers), “tell me, do you remember who it was
necessary that a man should be in love because he that Joseph Lebru married for the second time?”
does not care to marry yet?”
a little girl named Dumenil, a stationer‟s “Yes—
“Ah, there you are! That „yet‟ sets it right; you are daughter.”
“Had they any children?”
“Granted that I am waiting, if you will have it so.”
“I should think so! four or five at least.”
But old Roland, who had been listening and
cogitating, suddenly hit upon the most probable “Not from that quarter, then.”
She was quite eager already in her search; she
caught at the hope of some added ease dropping “Bless me! what fools we are to be racking our from the sky. But Pierre, who was very fond of his brains. Maitre Lecanu is our very good friend; he mother, who knew her to be somewhat visionary knows that Pierre is looking out for a medical and feared she might be disappointed, a little partnership and Jean for a lawyer‟s office, and he grieved, a little saddened if the news were bad has found something to suit one of you.”
instead of good, checked her:
This was so obvious and likely that every one “Do not get excited, mother; there is no rich accepted it.
American uncle. For my part, I should sooner fancy
“Dinner is ready,” said the maid. And they all that it is about a marriage for Jean.”
hurried off to their rooms to wash their hands before
sitting down to table.