Works, by Guy de Maupassant

The Venus of Braniza

Some years ago there lived in Braniza, a celebrated Talmadist, who was renowned no less on account of his beautiful wife, than of his wisdom, his learning, and his fear of God. The Venus of Braniza deserved that name thoroughly, for she deserved it for herself, on account of her singular beauty, and even more as the wife of a man who was deeply versed in the Talmud; for the wives of the Jewish philosophers are, as a rule, ugly, or even possess some bodily defect.

The Talmud explains this, in the following manner. It is well known that marriages are made in heaven, and at the birth of a boy a divine voice calls out the name of his future wife, and vice versâ. But just as a good father tries to get rid of his good wares out of doors, and only uses the damaged stuff at home for his children, so God bestows those women whom other men would not care to have, on the Talmudists.

Well, God made an exception in the case of our Talmudist, and had bestowed a Venus on him, perhaps only in order to confirm the rule by means of this exception, and to make it appear less hard. His wife was a woman who would have done honor to any king’s throne, or to the pedestal in any sculpture gallery. Tall, and with a wonderful, voluptuous figure, she carried a strikingly beautiful head, surmounted by thick, black plaits, on her proud shoulders, while two large, dark eyes languished and glowed beneath her long lashes, and her beautiful hands looked as if they were carved out of ivory.

This beautiful woman, who seemed to have been designed by nature to rule, to see slaves at her feet, to provide occupation for the painter’s brush, the sculptor’s chisel and the poet’s pen, lived the life of a rare and beautiful flower, which is shut up in a hot house, for she sat the whole day long wrapped up in her costly fur jacket and looked down dreamily into the street.

She had no children; her husband, the philosopher, studied, and prayed, and studied again from early morning until late at night; his mistress was the Veiled Beauty, as the Talmudists call the Kabbalah. She paid no attention to her house, for she was rich and everything went of its own accord, just like a clock, which has only to be wound up once a week; nobody came to see her, and she never went out of the house; she sat and dreamed and brooded and — yawned.

One day when a terrible storm of thunder and lightning had spent all its fury over the town, and all windows had been opened in order to let the Messiah in, the Jewish Venus was sitting as usual in her comfortable easy chair, shivering in spite of her fur jacket, and was thinking, when suddenly she fixed her glowing eyes on the man who was sitting before the Talmud, swaying his body backwards and forwards, and said suddenly:

“Just tell me, when will Messias, the Son of David, come?”

“He will come,” the philosopher replied, “when all the Jews have become either altogether virtuous or altogether vicious, says the Talmud.”

“Do you believe that all the Jews will ever become virtuous,” the Venus continued.

“How am I to believe that!”

“So Messias will come, when all the Jews have become vicious?”

The philosopher shrugged his shoulders and lost himself again in the labyrinth of the Talmud, out of which, so it is said, only one man returned unscathed, and the beautiful woman at the window again looked dreamily out onto the heavy rain, while her white fingers played unconsciously with the dark fur of her splendid jacket.

One day the Jewish philosopher had gone to a neighboring town, where an important question of ritual was to be decided. Thanks to his learning, the question was settled sooner than he had expected, and instead of returning the next morning, as he had intended, he came back the same evening with a friend, who was no less learned than himself. He got out of the carriage at his friend’s house, and went home on foot, and was not a little surprised when he saw his windows brilliantly illuminated, and found an officer’s servant comfortably smoking his pipe in front of his house.

“What are you doing here?” he asked in a friendly manner, but with some curiosity, nevertheless.

“I am looking out, in case the husband of the beautiful Jewess should come home unexpectedly.”

“Indeed? Well, mind and keep a good look out.”

Saying this, the philosopher pretended to go away, but went into the house through the garden entrance at the back. When he got into the first room, he found a table laid for two, which had evidently only been left a short time previously. His wife was sitting as usual at her bed room window wrapped in her fur jacket, but her cheeks were suspiciously red, and her dark eyes had not got their usual languishing look, but now rested on her husband with a gaze which expressed at the same time satisfaction and mockery. At that moment he kicked against an object on the floor, which emitted a strange sound, which he picked up and examined in the light. It was a pair of spurs.

“Who has been here with you?” the Talmudist said.

The Jewish Venus shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, but did not reply.

“Shall I tell you? The Captain of Hussars has been with you.”

“And why should he not have been here with me?” she said, smoothing the fur on her jacket with her white hand.

“Woman! are you out of your mind?”

“I am in full possession of my senses,” she replied, and a knowing smile hovered round her red voluptuous lips. “But must I not also do my part, in order that Messias may come and redeem us poor Jews?”

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