Guy de Maupassant


The little Marquise de Rennedon came rushing in like a ball smashing a window, and she began to laugh before she spoke, to laugh until she cried, like she had done a month previously, when she had told her friend that she had betrayed the marquis in order to have her revenge, and only once, because he was really too stupid and too jealous.
The little Baroness de Grangerie had thrown the book which she was reading on the sofa, and looked at Annette curiously. She was already laughing herself, and at last she asked:
“What have you been doing now?” “Oh!… my dear!… my dear! it is too funny… too funny… Just fancy… I am saved!… saved!… saved!”… “How do you mean, saved!” “Yes, saved!” “From what?” “From my husband, my dear, saved! Delivered! free! free! free!” “How free? in what?” “In what? Divorce! Yes, a divorce! I have my divorce!” “You are divorced?” “No, not yet; how stupid you are! One does not get divorced in three hours! But I have my proofs that he has deceived me… caught in the very act… just think!… in the very act… I have got him tight…” “Oh! do tell me all about it! So he deceived you?” “Yes, that is to say no… yes and no… I do not know. At any rate, I have proofs, and that is the chief thing.” “How did you manage it?”
“How did I manage it?… This is how! I have been energetic, very energetic. For the last three months he has been odious, altogether odious, brutal, coarse, a despot, in one word, vile. So I said to myself: This cannot last, I must have a divorce! But how? for it is not very easy? I tried to make him beat me, but he would not. He put me out from morning till night, made me go out when I did not wish to, and to remain at home when I wanted to dine out; he made my life unbearable for me from one week’s end to the other, but he never struck me.
“Then I tried to find out whether he had a mistress. Yes, he had one, but he took a thousand precautions in going to see her, and they could never be caught together. Guess what I did then?” “I cannot guess.” “Oh! you could never guess. I asked my brother to procure me a photograph of the creature.” “Of your husband’s mistress?” “Yes. It cost Jacques fifteen louis, the price of an evening, from seven o’clock until midnight, including a dinner, at three louis an hour, and he obtained the photograph into the bargain.” “It appears to me that he might have obtained it anyhow by means of some artifice and without… without… without being obliged to take the original at the same time.” “Oh! she is pretty, and Jacques did not mind the least. And then, I wanted some details about her, physical details about her figure, her breast, her complexion, a thousand things, in fact.”
“I do not understand you.” “You shall see. When I had learned all that I wanted to know, I went to a… how shall I put it… to a man of business… you know… one of those men who transact business of all sorts… agents of… of… of publicity and complicity… one of those men… well, you understand what I mean.” “Pretty nearly, I think. And what did you say to him?” “I said to him, showing the photograph of Clarisse (her name is Clarisse): ‘Monsieur, I want a lady’s maid who resembles this photograph. I require one who is pretty, elegant, neat and sharp. I will pay her whatever is necessary, and if it costs me ten thousand francs so much the worse. I shall not require her for more than three months.’
“The man looked extremely astonished, and said: ‘Do you require a maid of an irreproachable character, Madame?’ I blushed, and stammered. ‘Yes, of course, for honesty.’ He continued:… ‘And… then… as regards morals…’ I did not venture to reply, so I only made a sign with my head, which signified: no . Then suddenly, I comprehended that he had a horrible suspicion and losing my presence of mind, I exclaimed: ‘Oh, Monsieur,… it is for my husband, in order that I may surprise him…’
“Then the man began to laugh, and from his looks I gathered that I had regained his esteem. He even thought I was brave, and I would willingly have made a bet that at that moment he was longing to shake hands with me. However, he said to me: ‘In a week, Madame, I shall have what you require; I will answer for my success, and you shall not pay me until I have succeeded. So this is a photograph of your husband’s mistress?’ ‘Yes, Monsieur,’ ‘A handsome woman, and not too stout. And what scent?’
“I did not understand, and repeated: ‘What scent?’ He smiled: ‘Yes, Madame, the perfume is essential to seduce a man, for it unconsciously brings to his mind certain reminiscences which dispose him to action; the perfume creates an obscure confusion in his mind, and disturbs and enervates him by recalling his pleasures to him. You must also try to find out what your husband is in the habit of eating when he dines with his lady, and you might give him the same dishes the day you catch him. Oh! we have got him, Madame, we have got him.’
“I went away delighted, for here I had lighted on a very intelligent man.
“Three days later, I saw a tall, dark girl arrive at my house; she was very handsome and her looks were modest and bold at the same time, the peculiar look of a female rake. She behaved very properly towards me, and as I did not exactly know what she was, I called her Mademoiselle , but she said immediately: ‘Oh! pray, Madame, only call me Rose.’ And she began to talk.
“‘Well, Rose, you know why you have come here?’ ‘I can guess it, Madame.’ ‘Very good, my girl… and that will not… be too much bother for you?’ ‘Oh! madame, this will be the eighth divorce that I shall have caused; I am used to it.’ ‘Why, that is capital. Will it take you long to succeed?’ ‘Oh! Madame, that depends entirely on Monsieur’s temperament. When I have seen Monsieur for five minutes alone I shall be able to tell you exactly.’ ‘You will see him soon, my child, but I must tell you that he is not handsome.’ ‘That does not matter to me, Madame. I have already separated some very ugly ones. But I must ask you, Madame, whether you have discovered his favorite perfume?’ ‘Yes, Rose,—verbena.’ ‘So much the better, Madame, for I am also very fond of that scent! Can you also tell me, Madame, whether Monsieur’s mistress wears silk underclothing and nightdresses?’ ‘No, my child, cambric and lace.’ ‘Oh! then she is altogether of superior station, for silk underclothing is getting quite common.’ ‘What you say is quite true!’ ‘Well, Madame, I will enter your service.’ And so, as a matter of fact, she did immediately, and as if she had done nothing else all her life.
“An hour later my husband came home. Rose did not even raise her eyes to him, but he raised his eyes to her. She already smelt strongly of verbena, and in five minutes she left the room, and he immediately asked me: ‘Who is that girl?’ ‘Why… my new lady’s maid.’ ‘Where did you pick her up?’ ‘Baroness de Grangerie got her for me with the best references.’ ‘Ah! she is rather pretty!’ ‘Do you think so?’ ‘Why, yes… for a lady’s maid.’
“I was delighted, for I felt that he was already biting, and that same evening Rose said to me: ‘I can now promise you that it will not take more than a fortnight. Monsieur is very easily caught!’ ‘Ah! you have tried already?’ ‘No, Madame, he only asked what my name was… so that he might hear what my voice was like.’ ‘Very well, my dear Rose. Get on as quick as you can.’ ‘Do not be alarmed, Madame; I shall only resist long enough not to make myself depreciated.’
“At the end of a week my husband scarcely ever went out; I saw him roaming about the house the whole afternoon, and what was most significant in the matter was, that he no longer prevented me from going out. And I, I was out of doors nearly the whole day long,… in order… in order to leave him at liberty.
“On the ninth day, while Rose was undressing me, she said to me with a timid air: ‘It happened this morning, Madame.’ I was rather surprised, or rather overcome even, not at the part itself, but at the way in which she told me, and I stammered out: ‘And… and… it went off well?’ ‘Oh! yes, very well, Madame. For the last three days he has been pressing me, but I did not wish matters to proceed too quickly. You will tell me when you want us to be caught, Madame.’ ‘Yes, certainly. Here!… let us say Thursday.’ ‘Very well, Madame, I shall grant nothing more until then, so as to keep Monsieur on the alert.’ ‘You are sure not to fail?’ ‘Oh! quite sure, Madame. I will excite him, so as to make him be there at the very moment which you may appoint.’ ‘Let us say five o’clock, then.’ ‘Very well, Madame, and where?’ ‘Well… in my bedroom.’ ‘Very good, Madame, in your bedroom.’
“You will understand what I did then, my dear. I went and fetched Mamma and Papa first of all, and then my uncle d’Orvelin, the President, and Monsieur Raplet, the Judge, my husband’s friend. I had not told them what I was going to show them, but I made them all go on tiptoe as far as the door of my room. I waited until five o’clock exactly, and oh! how my heart beat! I had made the porter come upstairs as well, so as to have an additional witness! And then… and then at the moment when the clock began to strike, I opened the door wide… Ah! ah! ah! Here he was evidently,… it was quite evident, my dear… Oh! what a face!… if you had only seen his face!…. And he turned round, the idiot! Oh! how funny he looked… I laughed, I laughed…. And papa was angry and wanted to give my husband a beating…. And the porter, a good servant, helped him to dress himself… before us… before us… He buttoned his braces for him… what a joke it was!… As for Rose, she was perfect, absolutely perfect… She cried… oh! she cried very well. She is an invaluable girl… If you ever want her, don’t forget!
“And here I am… I came immediately to tell you of the affair… directly. I am free. Long live divorce!”
And she began to dance in the middle of the drawing-room, while the little baroness, who was thoughtful and vexed, said:
“Why did you not invite me to see it?”