Works, by Guy de Maupassant

Crash

Love is stronger than death, and consequently also, than the greatest crash.

A young, and by no means bad-looking son of Palestine, and one of the barons of the Almanac of the Ghetto, who had left the field covered with wounds in the last general engagement on the Stock Exchange, used to go very frequently to the Universal Exhibition in Vienna in 1873, in order to divert his thoughts, and to console himself amidst the varied scenes, and the numerous objects of attraction there. One day he met a newly married couple in the Russian section, who had a very old coat of arms, but on the other hand, a very modest income.

This latter circumstance had frequently emboldened the stockbroker to make secret overtures to the delightful little lady; overtures which might have fascinated certain Viennese actresses, but which were sure to insult a respectable woman. The baroness, whose name appeared in the Almanack de Gotha, therefore felt something very like hatred for the man from the Ghetto, and for a long time her pretty little head had been full of various plans of revenge.

The stockbroker, who was really, and even passionately in love with her, got close to her in the Exhibition buildings, which he could do all the more easily, since the little woman’s husband had taken to flight, foreseeing mischief, as soon as she went up to the show-case of a Russian fur dealer, before which she remained standing in rapture.

“Do look at that lovely fur,” the baroness said, while her dark eyes expressed her pleasure; “I must have it.”

But she looked at the white ticket on which the price was marked.

“Four thousand roubles,” she said in despair; “that is about six thousand florins.”

“Certainly,” he replied, “but what of that? It is a sum not worth mentioning in the presence of such a charming lady.”

“But my husband is not in a position . . . ”

“Be less cruel than usual for once,” the man from the Ghetto said to the young woman in a low voice, “and allow me to lay this sable skin at your feet.”

“I presume that you are joking.”

“Not I . . . ”

“I think you must be joking, as I cannot think that you intend to insult me.”

“But, Baroness, I love you. . . . ”

“That is one reason more why you should not make me angry.”

“But . . . ”

“Oh! I am in such a rage,” the energetic little woman said; “I could flog you like Venus in the Fur1 did her slave.”

1 One of Sacher–Masoch’s novels. — TRANSLATOR.]

“Let me be your slave,” the Stock Exchange baron replied ardently, “and I will gladly put up with everything from you. Really, in this sable cloak, and with a whip in your hand, you would make a most lovely picture of the heroine of that story.”

The baroness looked at the man for a moment with a peculiar smile.

“Then if I were to listen to you favorably, you would let me flog you?” she said after a pause.

“With pleasure.”

“Very well,” she replied quickly. “You will let me give you twenty-five cuts with a whip, and I will be yours after the twenty-fifth blow.”

“Are you in earnest?”

“Fully.”

The man from the Ghetto took her hand, and pressed it ardently to his lips.

“When may I come?”

“To-morrow evening at eight o’clock.”

“And I may bring the sable cloak and the whip with me?”

“No, I will see about that myself.”

The next evening the enamored stockbroker came to the house of the charming little Baroness, and found her alone, lying on a couch, wrapped in a dark fur, while she held a dog whip in her small hand, which the man from the Ghetto kissed.

“You know our agreement,” she began.

“Of course I do,” the Stock Exchange baron replied. “I am to allow you to give me twenty-five cuts with the whip, and after the twenty-fifth you will listen to me.”

“Yes, but I am going to tie your hands first of all.”

The amorous baron quietly allowed this new Delila to tie his hands behind him, and then at her bidding, he knelt down before her, and she raised her whip and hit him hard.

“Oh! That hurts me most confoundedly,” he exclaimed.

“I mean it to hurt you,” she said with a mocking laugh, and went on thrashing him without mercy. At last the poor fool groaned with pain, but he consoled himself with the thought that each blow brought him nearer to his happiness.

At the twenty-fourth cut, she threw the whip down.

“That only makes twenty-four,” the beaten would-be, Don Juan, remarked.

“I will make you a present of the twenty-fifth,” she said with a laugh.

“And now you are mine, altogether mine,” he exclaimed ardently.

“What are you thinking of?”

“Have I not let you beat me?”

“Certainly; but I promised you to grant your wish after the twenty-fifth blow, and you have only received twenty-four,” the cruel little bit of virtue cried, “and I have witnesses to prove it.”

With these words, she drew back the curtains over the door, and her husband, followed by two other gentlemen came out of the next room, smiling. For a moment the stockbroker remained speechless on his knees before the beautiful woman; then he gave a deep sigh, and sadly uttered that one, most significant word:

“Crash!“

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