Works, by Guy de Maupassant

The Double Pins

“Ah; my-dear fellow, what jades women are!”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because they have played me an abominable trick.”

“You?”

“Yes, me.”

“Women, or a woman?”

“Two women.”

“Two women at once?”

“Yes.”

“What was the trick?”

The two young men were sitting outside a café on the Boulevards, and drinking liquors 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?”

“Yes.”

“My dear fellow, you know what it is. I had a mistress in Paris, whom I loved dearly; an old friend, a good friend, and it has grown into a habit, in fact, and I value it very much.”

“Your habit.”

“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, I think that my life is bound up with that house.”

“Well?”

“Well! they could not manage to leave Paris, and I found myself a widower at Dieppe.”

“Why did you go to Dieppe?”

“For change of air. One cannot remain on the Boulevards the whole time.”

“And then?”

“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 understand her perfectly, and we laughed and danced together.”

“And the rest?”

“Yes, but that came later. However, we met, 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 wre 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. . . . ”

“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 his office, she began to come to me unexpectedly, and twice she nearly met my regular one on, the stairs.”

“The devil!”

“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.”

“The devil!”

“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 perfectly 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, and dreaming, very well satisfied with myself, when I suddenly saw that it was past the time, at which 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, that . . . useless waiting . . . 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 calmly:

“My dear I could not come; I was hindered.”

“How?”

“My . . . something else.”

“What was it?

“A very annoying visit.”

“I saw that she would not tell me the true reason, and as she was very calm, I did not trouble myself any more about it, and hoped to make up for lost time with the other, the next day, and on the Tuesday, I was very . . . very excited, and amorous in expectation of the public official’s little wife, and I was surprised that she had not come before the appointed time, and I looked at the clock every moment, and watched the hands impatiently, but the quarter past, 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.’

“‘By what?’

“‘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 that 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 out.”

“How did you manage it at last?”

“From their letters, for on the same day they both gave me their dismissal in identical terms.”

“Well?”

“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 minister’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 minister’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, and 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, only 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 upon it: C. D., Poste Restante, Boulevards, 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 did 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?”

“Yes.”

“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 friends.”

“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.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/maupassant/guy/works/chapter101.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09