ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES - VOL. 2.
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES - VOL. 2.
GUY DE MAUPASSANT
THE COLONEL'S IDEAS
THE QUESTION OF LATIN
THE BLIND MAN
A FAMILY AFFAIR
BESIDE SCHOPENHAUER'S CORPSE
THE COLONEL'S IDEAS
"Upon my word" said Colonel Laporte "although I am old and gouty my
legs as stiff as two pieces of wood yet if a pretty woman were to tell
me to go through the eye of a needle I believe I should take a jump at
it like a clown through a hoop. I shall die like that; it is in the
blood. I am an old beau one of the old school and the sight of a
woman a pretty woman stirs me to the tips of my toes. There!
"We are all very much alike in France in this respect; we still remain
knights knights of love and fortune since God has been abolished whose
bodyguard we really were. But nobody can ever get woman out of our
hearts; there she is and there she will remain and we love her and
shall continue to love her and go on committing all kinds of follies on
her account as long as there is a France on the map of Europe; and even
if France were to be wiped off the map there would always be Frenchmen
"When I am in the presence of a woman of a pretty woman I feel capable
of anything. By Jove! when I feel her looks penetrating me her
confounded looks which set your blood on fire I should like to do I
don't know what; to fight a duel to have a row to smash the furniture
in order to show that I am the strongest the bravest the most daring
and the most devoted of men.
"But I am not the only one certainly not; the whole French army is like
me I swear to you. From the common soldier to the general we all start
out from the van to the rear guard when there is a woman in the case a
pretty woman. Do you remember what Joan of Arc made us do formerly?
Come. I will make a bet that if a pretty woman had taken command of the
army on the eve of Sedan when Marshal MacMahon was wounded we should
have broken through the Prussian lines by Jove! and had a drink out of
"It was not a Trochu but a Sainte-Genevieve who was needed in Paris;
and I remember a little anecdote of the war which proves that we are
capable of everything in presence of a woman.
"I was a captain a simple captain at the time and I was in command of
a detachment of scouts who were retreating through a district which
swarmed with Prussians. We were surrounded pursued tired out and half
dead with fatigue and hunger but we were bound to reach Bar-sur-Tain
before the morrow otherwise we should be shot cut down massacred. I
do not know how we managed to escape so far. However we had ten leagues
to go during the night ten leagues through the night ten leagues
through the snow and with empty stomachs and I thought to myself:
"'It is all over; my poor devils of fellows will never be able to do it.'
"We had eaten nothing since the day before and the whole day long we
remained hidden in a barn huddled close together so as not to feel the
cold so much unable to speak or even move and sleeping by fits and
starts as one does when worn out with fatigue.
"It was dark by five o'clock that wan darkness of the snow and I shook
my men. Some of them would not get up; they were almost incapable of
moving or of standing upright; their joints were stiff from cold and
"Before us there was a large expanse of flat bare country; the snow was
still falling like a curtain in large white flakes which concealed
everything under a thick frozen coverlet a coverlet of frozen wool One
might have thought that it was the end of the world.
"'Come my lads let us start.'
"They looked at the thick white flakes that were coming down and they
seemed to think: 'We have had enough of this; we may just as well die
here!' Then I took out my revolver and said:
"'I will shoot the first man who flinches.' And so they set off but very
slowly like men whose legs were of very little use to them and I sent
four of them three hundred yards ahead to scout and the others followed
pell-mell walking at random and without any order. I put the strongest
in the rear with orders to quicken the pace of the sluggards with the
points of their bayonets in the back.
"The snow seemed as if it were going to bury us alive; it powdered our
kepis and cloaks without melting and made phantoms of us a kind of
spectres of dead weary soldiers. I said to myself: 'We shall never get
out of this except by a miracle.'
"Sometimes we had to stop for a few minutes on account of those who
could not follow us and then we heard nothing except the falling snow
that vague almost undiscernible sound made by the falling flakes. Some
of the men shook themselves others did not move and so I gave the order
to set off again. They shouldered their rifles and with weary feet we
resumed our march when suddenly the scouts fell back. Something had
alarmed them; they had heard voices in front of them. I sent forward six
men and a sergeant and waited.
"All at once a shrill cry a woman's cry pierced through the heavy
silence of the snow and in a few minutes they brought back two
prisoners an old man and a girl whom I questioned in a low voice. They
were escaping from the Prussians who had occupied their house during the
evening and had got drunk. The father was alarmed on his daughter's
account and without even telling their servants they had made their
escape in the darkness. I saw immediately that they belonged to the
better class. I invited them to accompany us and we started off again
the old man who knew the road acting as our guide.
"It had ceased snowing the stars appeared and the cold became intense.
The girl who was leaning on her father's arm walked unsteadily as
though in pain and several times she murmured:
"'I have no feeling at all in my feet'; and I suffered more than she did
to see that poor little woman dragging herself like that through the
snow. But suddenly she stopped and said:
"'Father I am so tired that I cannot go any further.'
"The old man wanted to carry her but he could not even lift her up and
she sank to the ground with a deep sigh. We all gathered round her and
as for me I stamped my foot in perplexity not knowing what to do and
being unwilling to abandon that man and girl like that when suddenly one
of the soldiers a Parisian whom they had nicknamed Pratique said:
"'Come comrades we must carry the young lady otherwise we shall not
show ourselves Frenchmen confound it!'
"I really believe that I swore with pleasure. 'That is very good of you
my children' I said; 'and I will take my share of the burden.'
"We could indistinctly see through the darkness the trees of a little
wood on the left. Several of the men went into it and soon came back
with a bundle of branches made into a litter.
"'Who will lend his cape? It is for a pretty girl comrades' Pratique
said and ten cloaks were thrown to him. In a moment the girl was lying
warm and comfortable among them and was raised upon six shoulders. I
placed myself at their head on the right well pleased with my position.
"We started off much more briskly as if we had had a drink of wine and
I even heard some jokes. A woman is quite enough to electrify Frenchmen
you see. The soldiers who had become cheerful and warm had almost
reformed their ranks and an old 'franc-tireur' who was following the
litter waiting for his turn to replace the first of his comrades who