Works, by Guy de Maupassant

A Good Match

Strauss’ band was playing in the saloons of the Horticultural Society, which was so full that the young cadet Hussar-sergeant Max B., who had nothing better to do on an afternoon when he was off duty than to drink a glass of good beer and to listen to a new waltz tune, had already been looking about for a seat for some time, when the head waiter, who knew him, quickly took him to an unoccupied place, and without waiting for his orders, brought him a glass of beer. A very gentlemanly-looking man, and three elegantly dressed ladies were sitting at the table.

The cadet saluted them with military politeness, and sat down, but almost before he could put the glass to his lips, he noticed that the two elder ladies, who appeared to be married, turned up their noses very much at his taking a seat at their table, and even said a few words which he could not catch, but which no doubt referred unpleasantly to him. “I am afraid I am in the way here,” the cadet said; and he got up to leave, when he felt a pull at his sabre-tasch beneath the table, and at the same time the gentleman felt bound to say with some embarrassment: “Oh! not at all; on the contrary, we are very pleased that you have chosen this table.”

Thereupon the cadet resumed his seat, not so much because he took the gentleman’s invitation as sincere, but because the silent request to remain, which he had received under the table, and which was much more sincerely meant, had raised in him one of those charming illusions, which are so frequent in our youth, and which promised so much happiness, with electrical rapidity. He could not doubt for a moment, that the daring invitation came from the third, the youngest and prettiest of the ladies, into whose company a fortunate accident had thrown him.

From the moment that he had sat down by her, however, she did not deign to bestow even another look on him, much less a word, and to the young hussar, who was still rather inexperienced in such matters, this seemed rather strange; but he possessed enough natural tact not to expose himself to a rebuff by any hasty advances, but quietly to wait further developments of the adventure on the part of the heroine of it. This gave him the opportunity of looking at her more closely, and for this he employed the moments when their attention was diverted from him, and was taken up by conversation among themselves.

The girl, whom the others called Angelica, was a thorough Viennese beauty, not exactly regularly beautiful, for her features were not Roman or Greek, and not even strictly German, and yet they possessed every female charm, and were seductive, in the fullest sense of the word. Her strikingly small nose, which in a lady’s-maid might have been called impudent, and her little mouth with its voluptuously full lips, which would have been called lustful in a street-walker, imparted an indescribable piquant charm to her small head, which was surmounted by an imposing tower of that soft brown hair which is so characteristic of Viennese women. Her bright eyes were full of good sense, and a merry smile lurked continually in the most charming little dimples near her mouth and on her chin.

In less than a quarter of an hour, our cadet was fettered, with no more will of his own than a slave has, to the triumphal chariot of this delightful little creature, and as he hoped and believed — for ever. And he was a man worth capturing. He was tall and slim, but muscular, and looked like an athlete, and at the time he had one of those handsome, open faces which women like so much. His honest, dark eyes showed strength of will, courage and strong passions, and that, women also like.

During an interval in the music, an elderly gentleman, with the ribbon of an order in his button-hole, came up to the table, and from the manner in which he greeted them, it was evident that he was an old friend. From their conversation, which was carried on in a very loud tone of voice, and with much animation, in the bad, Viennese fashion, the cadet gathered that the gentleman who was with the ladies, was a Councilor of Legation, and that the eldest lady was his wife, while the second lady was his married, and the youngest his unmarried, sister-inlaw. When they at last rose to go, the pretty girl, evidently intentionally, put her velvet jacket, trimmed with valuable sable, very loosely over her shoulders; then she remained standing at the exit, and slowly put it on, so that the cadet had an opportunity to get close to her. “Follow us,” she whispered to him, and then ran after the others.

The cadet was only too glad to obey her directions, and followed them at a distance, without being observed, to the house where they lived. A week passed without his seeing the pretty Angelica again, or without her giving him any sign of life. The waiter in the Horticultural Society’s grounds, whom he asked about them, could tell him nothing more than that they were people of position, and a few days later the cadet saw them all again at a concert, but he was satisfied with looking at his ideal from a distance. She, however, when she could do so without danger, gave him one of those coquettish looks which inexperienced young men imagine express the innermost feelings of a pure, virgin heart. On that occasion she left the grounds with her sisters, much earlier, and as she passed the handsome cadet, she let a small piece of rolled-up paper fall, which only contained the words: “Come at ten o’clock to-night, and ring the bell.”

He was outside the house at the stroke of ten and rang, but his astonishment knew no bounds when, instead of Angelica or her confidential maid, the housekeeper opened the door. She saw his confusion, and quickly put an end to it by taking his hand, and pulling him into the house. “Come with me,” she whispered; “I know all about it. The young lady will be here directly, so come along.” Then she lead him through the kitchen into a room which was shut off from the rest of the house, and which she had apparently furnished for similar meetings, on her own account, and left him there by himself, and the cadet was rather surprised to see the elegant furniture, a wide, soft couch, and some rather obscene pictures in broad, gilt frames. In a few minutes, the beautiful girl came, in, and without any further ceremony, threw her arms round the young soldier’s neck. In her negligée, she appeared to him much more beautiful than in her elegant outdoor dress, but the virginal fragrance which then pervaded her, had given way to that voluptuous atmosphere which surrounds a young newly-married woman.

Angelica, whose little feet were encased in blue velvet slippers lined with ermine, and who was wrapped in a richly embroidered, white dressing-gown, that was trimmed with lace, drew the handsome cadet down on to the couch with graceful energy, and almost before he exactly knew what he had come for, she was his, and the young soldier, who was half dazed at his unexpected victory and good fortune, did not leave her until after twelve o’clock. He returned every night at ten, rang the bell, and was admitted by the girl’s slyly-smiling confidante, and a few moments later was clasping his little goddess, who used to wrap her delicate, white limbs sometimes in dark sable, and at others in princely ermine, in his arms. Every time they partook of a delicious supper, laughed and joked and loved each other like only young, good-looking people do love, and frequently they entertained one another until morning.

Once the cadet attempted diffidently to pay the housekeeper for her services, and also for the supper, but she refused his money with a laugh, and said that everything was already settled; and the young soldier had reveled in this manner in boundless bliss for four months, when, by an unfortunate accident, he met his mistress in the street one day. She was alone, but in spite of this she contracted her delicate, finely-arched eyebrows angrily, when he was about to speak to her, and turned her head away. This hurt the honest young fellow’s feelings, and when that evening she drew him to her bosom, that was rising and falling tempestuously under the black velvet that covered it, he remonstrated with her quietly, but emphatically. — She made a little grimace, and looking at him coldly and angrily, she at last said, shortly: “I forbid you to take any notice of me out of doors. I do not choose to recognize you; do you understand?”

The cadet was surprised and did not reply, but the harmony of his pleasures was destroyed by a harsh discord. For some time he bore his misery in silence and with resignation, but at last the situation became unendurable; his mistress’s fiery kisses seemed to mock him, and the pleasure which she gave him to degrade him, so at last he summoned up courage, and in his open way, he came straight to the point.

“What do you think of our future, Angelica?” She wrinkled her brows a little. “Do not let us talk about it; at any rate not today.” “Why not? We must talk about it sooner or later,” he replied, “and I think it is high time for me to explain my intentions to you, if I do not wish to appear as a dishonorable scoundrel in your eyes.” She looked at him in surprise. “I look upon you as one of the best and most honorable of men, Max,” she said, soothingly, after a pause. “And do you trust me also?” “Of course I do.” “Are you convinced that I love you honestly?” “Quite.” “Then do not hesitate any longer to bestow your hand upon me,” her lover said, in conclusion. “What are you thinking about?” she cried, quickly, in a tone of refusal. “What is to be the end of our connection? What is at any rate not permissible with a woman, is wrong and dishonorable with a girl. You yourself must feel lowered if you do not become my wife as soon as possible.” “What a narrow-minded view,” Angelica replied, angrily, “but as you wish it, I will give you my opinion on the subject, but . . . by letter.” “No, no; now, directly.”

The pretty girl did not speak for some time, and looked down, but suddenly she looked at her lover, and a malicious, mocking smile lurked in the corners of her mouth. “Well, I love you, Max, I love you really and ardently,” she said, carelessly; “but I can never be your wife. If you were an officer I might perhaps marry you; yes, I certainly would, but as it is, it is impossible.” “Is that your last word?” the cadet said, in great excitement. She only nodded, and then put her full, white arms round his neck, with all the security of a mistress who is granting some favor to her slave; but on that occasion she was mistaken. He sprang up, seized his sword and hurried out of the room, and she let him go, for she felt certain that he would come back again, but he did not do so, and when she wrote to him, he did not answer her letters, and still did not come; so at last she gave him up.

It was a bad, a very bad, experience for the honorable young fellow; the highborn, frivolous girl had trampled on all the ideals and illusions of his life with her small feet, for he then saw only too clearly, that she had not loved him, but that he had only served her pleasures and her lusts, while he, he had loved her so truly!

About a year after the catastrophe with charming Angelica, the handsome cadet happened to be in his captain’s quarters, and accidentally saw a large photograph of a lady on his writing table, and on going up and looking at it, he recognized — Angelica.

“What a beautiful girl,” he said, wishing to find out how the land lay. “That is the lady I am going to marry,” the captain, whose vanity was flattered, said, “and she is as pure and as good as an angel, just as she is as beautiful as one, and into the bargain she comes of a very good and very rich family; in short, in the fullest sense of the word, she is ‘a good match.’”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/maupassant/guy/works/chapter122.html

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