Works, by Guy de Maupassant

The Ill-Omened Groom

An impudent theft, to a very large amount, had been committed in the Capital. Jewels, a valuable watch set with diamonds, his wife’s miniature in a frame enchased with brilliants, and a considerable sum in money, the whole amounting in value to a hundred and fifteen thousand florins, had been stolen. The banker himself went to the Director of Police1 to give notice of the robberies, but at the same time he begged as a special favor that the investigation might be carried on as quietly and considerately as possible, as he declared that he had not the slightest ground for suspecting anybody in particular, and did not wish any innocent person to be accused.

1 Head of the Criminal Investigation Department. — TRANSLATOR.]

“First of all, give me the names of all the persons who regularly go into your bedroom,” the police director said.

“Nobody, except my wife, my children, and Joseph, my valet, a man for whom I would answer as I would for myself.”

“Then you think him absolutely incapable of committing such a deed?”

“Most decidedly I do,” the banker replied.

“Very well; then can you remember whether on the day on which you first missed the articles that have been stolen, or on any days immediately preceding it, anybody who was not a member of your household, happened by chance to go to your bedroom?”

The banker thought for a moment, and then said with some hesitation:

“Nobody, absolutely nobody.”

The experienced official, however, was struck by the banker’s slight embarrassment and momentary blush, so he took his hand, and looking him straight in the face, he said:

“You are not quite candid with me; somebody was with you, and you wish to conceal the fact from me. You must tell me everything.”

“No, no; indeed there was nobody here.” “Then at present, there is only one person on whom any suspicion can rest — and that is your valet.”

“I will vouch for his honesty,” the banker replied immediately.

“You may be mistaken, and I shall be obliged to question the man.”

“May I beg you to do it with every possible consideration?”

“You may rely upon me for that.”

An hour later, the banker’s valet was in the police director’s private room, who first of all looked at his man very closely, and then came to the conclusion that such an honest, unembarrassed face, and such quiet, steady eyes could not possibly belong to a criminal.

“Do you know why I have sent for you?”

“No, your Honor.”

“A large theft has been committed in your master’s house,” the police director continued, “from his bedroom. Do you suspect anybody? Who has been into the room, within the last few days?”

“Nobody but myself, except my master’s family.”

“Do you not see, my good fellow, that by saying that, you throw suspicion on yourself?”

“Surely, sir,” the valet exclaimed, “you do not believe . . . ”

“I must not believe anything; my duty is merely to investigate and to follow up any traces that I may discover,” was the reply. “If you have been the only person to go into the room within the last few days, I must hold you responsible.”

“My master knows me . . . ”

The police director shrugged his shoulders: “Your master has vouched for your honesty, but that is not enough for me. You are the only person on whom, at present, any suspicion rests, and therefore I must — sorry as I am to do so — have you arrested.”

“If that is so,” the man said, after some hesitation, “I prefer to speak the truth, for my good name is more to me than my situation. Somebody was in my master’s apartments yesterday.”

“And this somebody was . . .?”

“A lady.”

“A lady of his acquaintance?”

The valet did not reply for some time.

“It must come out,” he said at length. “My master keeps a woman — you understand, sir, a pretty, fair woman; and he has furnished a house for her and goes to see her, but secretly of course, for if my mistress were to find it out, there would be a terrible scene. This person was with him yesterday.”

“Were they alone?”

“I showed her in, and she was in his bedroom with him; but I had to call him out after a short time, as his confidential clerk wanted to speak to him, and so she was in the room alone for about a quarter of an hour.”

“What is her name?”

“Cæcelia K——; she is a Hungarian.” At the same time the valet gave him her address.

Then the director of police sent for the banker, who, on being brought face to face with his valet, was obliged to acknowledge the truth of the facts which the latter had alleged, painful as it was for him to do so; whereupon orders were given to take Cæcelia K—— into custody.

In less than half an hour, however, the police officer who had been dispatched for that purpose, returned and said that she had left her apartments, and most likely the Capital also, the previous evening. The unfortunate banker was almost in despair. Not only had he been robbed of a hundred and fifty thousand florins, but at the same time he had lost the beautiful woman, whom he loved with all the passion of which he was capable. He could not grasp the idea that a woman whom he had surrounded with Asiatic luxury, whose strangest whims he had gratified, and whose tyranny he had borne so patiently, could have deceived him so shamefully, and now he had a quarrel with his wife, and an end of all domestic peace, into the bargain.

The only thing the police could do was to raise the hue and cry after the lady, who had denounced herself by her flight, but it was all of no use. In vain did the banker, in whose heart hatred and thirst for revenge had taken the place of love, implore the Director of Police to employ every means to bring the beautiful criminal to justice, and in vain did he undertake to be responsible for all the costs of her prosecution, no matter how heavy they might be. Special police officers were told off to try and discover her, but Cæcelia K—— was so rude as not to allow herself to be caught.

Three years had passed, and the unpleasant story appeared to have been forgotten. The banker had obtained his wife’s pardon and — what he cared about a good deal more — he had found another charming mistress, and the police did not appear to trouble themselves about the beautiful Hungarian any more.

We must now change the scene to London. A wealthy lady who created much sensation in society, and who made many conquests both by her beauty and her free behavior, was in want of a groom. Among the many applicants for the situation, there was a young man, whose good looks and manners gave people the impression that he must have been very well educated. This was a recommendation in the eyes of the lady’s maid, and she took him immediately to her mistress’s boudoir. When he entered, he saw a beautiful, voluptuous looking woman, at most, twenty-five years of age, with large, bright eyes and blue-black hair, which seemed to increase the brilliancy of her fair complexion, lying on a sofa. She looked at the young man, who also had thick black hair, and who turned his glowing black eyes to the ground, beneath her searching gaze, with evident satisfaction, and she seemed particularly taken with his slender, athletic build, and then she said half lazily and half proudly:

“What is your name?”

“Lajos Mariassi.”

“A Hungarian?”

And there was a strange look in her eyes.

“Yes.”

“How did you come here?”

“I am one of the many emigrants who have forfeited their country and their life; and I, who come of a good family, and who was an officer of the Honveds, must now . . . go into service, and thank God if I find a mistress who is at the same time beautiful and an aristocrat, as you are.”

Miss Zoë — that was the lovely woman’s name — smiled, and at the same time showed two rows of pearly teeth.

“I like your looks,” she said, “and I feel inclined to take you into my service, if you are satisfied with my terms.”

“A lady’s whim,” her maid said to herself, when she noticed the ardent looks which Miss Zoë gave her manservant, “which will soon pass away.” But that experienced female was mistaken that time.

Zoë was really in love, and the respect with which Lajos treated her, put her into a very bad temper. One evening, when she intended to go to the Italian Opera, she countermanded her carriage, and refused to see her noble adorer, who wished to throw himself at her feet, and ordered her groom to be sent up to her boudoir.

“Lajos,” she began, “I am not at all satisfied with you.”

“Why, Madame?”

“I do not wish to have you about me any longer; here are your wages for three months. Leave the house immediately.” And she began to walk up and down the room, impatiently.

“I will obey you, Madame,” the groom replied, “but I shall not take my wages.”

“Why not?” she asked hastily.

“Because then I should be under your authority for three months,” Lajos said, “and I intend to be free, this very moment, so that I may be able to tell you that I entered your service, not for the sake of your money, but because I love and adore a beautiful woman in you.”

“You love me!” Zoë exclaimed. “Why did you not tell me sooner? I merely wished to banish you from my presence, because I love you, and did not think that you loved me. But you shall smart for having tormented me so. Come to my feet immediately.”

The groom knelt before the lovely girl, whose moist lips sought his at the same instant.

From that moment Lajos became her favorite. Of course he was not allowed to be jealous, as the young lord was still her official lover, who had the pleasure of paying everything for that licentious beauty, and besides him, there was a whole army of so-called “good friends,” who were fortunate enough to obtain a smile now and then, and occasionally, something more, and who, in return, had permission to present her with rare flowers, a parrot or diamonds.

The more intimate Zoë became with Lajos, the more uncomfortable she felt when he looked at her, as he frequently did, with undisguised contempt. She was wholly under his influence and was afraid of him, and one day, while he was playing with her dark curls, he said jeeringly:

“It is usually said that contrasts usually attract each other, and yet you are as dark as I am.”

She smiled, and then tore off her black curls, and immediately the most charming, fair-haired woman was sitting by the side of Lajos, who looked at her attentively, but without any surprise.

He left his mistress at about midnight, in order to look after the horses, as he said, and she put on a very pretty nightdress and went to bed. She remained awake for fully an hour, expecting her lover, and then she went to sleep, but in two hours’ time she was roused from her slumbers, and saw a police inspector and two constables by the side of her magnificent bed.

“Whom do you want?” she cried.

“Cæcelia K—— .”

“I am Miss Zoë.”

“Oh! I know you,” the Inspector said with a smile; “be kind enough to take off your dark locks, and you will be Cæcelia K—— . I arrest you in the name of the law.”

“Good heavens!” she stammered, “Lajos has betrayed me.”

“You are mistaken, Madame,” the Inspector replied; “he has merely done his duty.”

“What? Lajos . . . my lover?”

“No, Lajos, the detective.”

Cæcelia got out of bed, and the next moment she sank fainting onto the floor.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/maupassant/guy/works/chapter71.html

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