The Short Stories

Guy de Maupassant

Words of Love

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Words of Love

Sunday. —

You do not write to me, I never see you, you never come, so I must suppose that you have ceased to love me. But why? What have I done? Pray tell me, my own dear love. I love you so much, so dearly! I should like always to have you near me, to kiss you all day while I called you every tender name that I could think of. I adore you, I adore you, I adore you, my beautiful cock. — Your affectionate hen,



Monday. —

My dear friend,

You will absolutely understand nothing of what I am going to say to you, but that does not matter, and if my letter happens to be read by another woman, it may be profitable to her.

Had you been deaf and dumb, I should no doubt have loved you for a very long time, and the cause of what has happened is, that you can talk; that is all.

In love, you see, dreams are always made to sing, but in order that they might do so, they must not be interrupted, and when one talks between two kisses, one always interrupts that frenzied dream which our souls indulge in, unless they utter sublime words; and sublime words do not come out of the little mouths of pretty girls.

You do not understand me at all, do you? So much the better, and I will go on. You are certainly one of the most charming and adorable women whom I have ever seen.

Are there any eyes on earth that contain more dreams than yours, more unknown promises, greater depths of love? I do not think so. And when that mouth of yours, with its two round lips, smiles, and shows the glistening white teeth, one is tempted to say that there issues from this ravishing mouth ineffable music, something inexpressibly delicate, a sweetness which extorts sighs.

It is then that you quietly call out to me, my great and renowned “lady-killer,” and it then seems to me as though I had suddenly found an entrance into your thoughts, which I can see is ministering to your soul — that little soul of a pretty, little creature, yes, pretty, but — and that is what troubles me, don’t you see, troubles me more than tongue can tell. I would much prefer never to see you at all.

You go on pretending not to understand anything, do you not? I calculate on that.

Do you remember the first time you came to see me at my residence? How gaily you stepped inside, an odor of violets, which clung to your skirts, heralding your entrance; how we regarded each other, for ever so long, without uttering a word, after which we embraced like two fools. . . . Then . . . then from that time to this, we have never exchanged a word.

But when we separated, did not our trembling hands and our eyes say many things, things . . . which cannot be expressed in any language. At least, I thought so; and when you went away, you murmured:

“We shall meet again soon!”

That was all you said, and you will never guess what delightful dreams you left me, all that I, as it were, caught a glimpse of, all that I fancied I could guess in your thoughts.

You see, my poor child, for men who are not stupid, who are rather refined and somewhat superior, love is such a complicated instrument, that the merest trifle puts it out of order. You women never perceive the ridiculous side of certain things when you love, and you fail to see the grotesqueness of some expressions.

Why does a word which sounds quite right in the mouth of a small, dark woman, seem quite wrong and funny in the mouth of a fat, light-haired woman? Why are the wheedling ways of the one, altogether out of place in the other?

Why is it that certain caresses which are delightful from the one, should be wearisome from the other? Why? Because in everything, and especially in love, perfect harmony, absolute agreement in motion, voice, words, and in demonstrations of tenderness, are necessary, with the person who moves, speaks and manifests affection; it is necessary in age, in height, in the color of the hair, and in the style of beauty.

If a woman of thirty-five, who has arrived at the age of violent, tempestuous passion, were to preserve the slightest traces of the caressing archness of her love affairs at twenty, were not to understand that she ought to express herself differently, look at her lover differently, and kiss him differently were not to see that she ought to be Dido and not a Juliette, she would infallibly disgust nine lovers out of ten, even if they could not account to themselves for their estrangement. Do you understand me? No. I hoped so.

From the time that you turned on your tap of tenderness, it was all over for me, my dear friend. Sometimes we would embrace for five minutes, in one interminable kiss, one of those kisses which make lovers close their eyes, as if part of it would escape through their looks, as if to preserve it entire in that clouded soul which it is ravaging. And then, when our lips separated, you would say to me:

“That was nice, you fat old dog.”

At such moments, I could have beaten you; for you gave me successively all the names of animals and vegetables which you doubtless found in some cookery book, or Gardener’s Manual. But that is nothing.

The caresses of love are brutal, bestial, and if one comes to think of it, grotesque! . . . Oh! My poor child, what joking elf, what perverse sprite could have prompted the concluding words of your letter to me? I have made a collection of them, but out of love for you, I will not show them to you.

And you really sometimes said things which were quite inopportune, and you managed now and then to let out an exalted: I love you! on such singular occasions, that I was obliged to restrain a strong desire to laugh. There are times when the words: I love you! are so out of place, that they become indecorous; let me tell you that.

But you do not understand me, and many other women will also not understand me, and think me stupid, though that matters very little to me. Hungry men eat like gluttons, but people of refinement are disgusted at it, and they often feel an invincible dislike for a dish, on account of a mere trifle. It is the same with love, as it is with cookery.

What I cannot comprehend, for example, is, that certain women who fully understand the irresistible attraction of fine, embroidered stockings, the exquisite charm of shades, the witchery of valuable lace concealed in the depths of their underclothing, the exciting jest of hidden luxury, and all the subtle delicacies of female elegance, never understand the invincible disgust with which words that are out of place, or foolishly tender, inspire us.

At times coarse and brutal expressions work wonders, as they excite the senses, and make the heart beat, and they are allowable at the hours of combat. Is not that sentence of Cambronne’s sublime? 1

1 At Waterloo, General Cambronne is reported to have said, when called on to surrender:— The Guard dies, but does not surrender. But according to Victor Hugo, in Les Miserables, he used the expression Merde! which cannot be put into English fit for ears polite. — TRANSLATOR.]

Nothing shocks us that comes at the right time; but then, we must also know when to hold our tongue, and to avoid phrases à la Paul de Kock, at certain moments.

And I embrace you passionately, on the condition that you say nothing,


This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005