Works, by Guy de Maupassant

Julot’s Opinion

The Duchess Huguette de Lionzac was very much infatuated with herself, but then she had a perfect right to be, and who, in her place, would not have shown a spice of conceit? There was no success which she had wished for, that she had not attained. She had received a medal for sculpture at the Salon, and at the Exhibition of Excessives she had shown a water-color which looked eccentric, even there.

She had published a collection of poems which was crowned by the French Academy, and a small volume of Rhythmic Prose of which the Revue de lemain said, “That it showed the most subtle and evanescent performance of those fugitive pieces which was sure to descend to posterity,” and when she acted in private theatricals, some exclaimed:

“It is better than the Comedié Française,” while others, who were more refined, went so far as to utter the supreme praise: “Better than the Théâtre Libre.”

At one time, there had been a report, which had been propagated by the newspapers, that she was going to come out at the Opéra Comique, in a part that had been written especially for her extraordinary voice, for it appeared that Massenet would not hear of anybody else for the part.

She was the circus-rider, Miss Edith, who, under that assumed name gave that unique and never-to-be-forgotten exhibition of horsemanship, and you remember what cheers there were, and what quantities of flowers covered the arena! And you must not forget that this was before a paying public!

Then, it was notorious that she had carried off the lovers of several celebrated courtesans, which was not one of the smallest of her triumphs, for she had chosen as her rivals some of those terrible and hitherto unconquered women, of whom it was said:

“Oh! When she has got hold of a man, she does not let him go again. She has some secrets that attach them to her.”

There was, therefore, nothing surprising in the fact that the Duchess Huguette should have been so proud of so many victories, and in such various sports; but now, for the first time, a doubt had entered her mind. In turning over the Notules Psychologiques1 of her favorite novel-writer, she had just read these two sentences which disturbed her:

1 Psychological Notes.]

“If anyone wishes to excel in an art, he must have gained a living by it.”

“What pleases us in a woman of the world who gives herself up to debauchery, is the contrast between what she is, and what she would like to be.”

And she asked herself whether she could really have lived by those arts in which she excelled, and whether the successes that she had obtained, did not chiefly depend on her charm of a woman of the world, who wished to be what she was not. The last whether, especially, made her anxious. For was not it precisely that special charm which had given her an advantage over courtesans who employed secrets?

Would she have been victorious if she had been deprived of that weapon? How could she find out?

“And yet,” she said to herself, “I must know, for everything depends on this point. If I can win the game without playing that card, I am sure of all my other triumphs; my mind will be easy then, whatever it may cost.”

She consulted her old god-father, Viscount Hugues de Pierras, on the subject, and, after a few complimentary words, as she had begged him to be sincere, he said:

“Good heavens! my dear child, I must confess that your psychologist is not altogether wrong, nor your apprehensions either. I have, before now, left many learned mistresses for women who were not in the least learned, and who pleased me all the better on that account. But that did not prevent the mistresses I had sacrificed from being women of incomprehensible talents, in spite of their defeat. But what does that matter? It ought to be enough for you, that you conquer, without troubling yourself about the means by which you obtain your victory. I do not suppose that you have any pretensions to being a virtuosa in . . . ”

“In everything, yes. Excuse me, god-father, I have such pretensions. And what I ask of you, is the means of obtaining absolute proof that my pretensions are justified.”

“Hum! Hum!” the viscount said, in some embarrassment, “I do not know of any means, my dear child, unless we get together a jury. . . . ”

“Please do not joke about it!” Huguette exclaimed. “I am perfectly serious.”

“I am very serious also, I assure you, I think that a jury . . . ”

“Composed of whom? Of men of the world, I suppose?”

“And what does this Julot do?”

“Oh! really, Duchess, you force me to speak of persons and things, which . . . ”

“Yes, yes, I force you to; we understand that. But tell me! Bluntly, without mincing matters, if necessary. You know that I have no objection to that sort of thing, so go on. Do not keep me in suspense like this. I am burning with curiosity. What does Julot do?”

“Very well, little volunteer, if you insist on knowing, I will tell you. Julot, generally called Fine–Gueule, is a trier of women.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I will explain it to you. There are a few of us old amateurs in Paris, who are too old and impatient to hunt for truffles, but who want them of such and such a flavor, exactly to our taste. Now, Julot knows our tastes, our various fancies, and he undertakes . . . ”

“Capital! Capital!”

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