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Guy De Maupassant | English Short Story | Part -21

The count, astonished at what he saw, questioned the beadle who was coming out of the presbytery. The old man answered: 

“Oh, those men are not at all a bad sort; they are not Prussians, I am told; they come from somewhere farther off, I don't exactly know where. And they have all left wives and children behind them; they are not fond of war either, you may be sure!

I am sure they are mourning for the men where they come from, just as we do here; and the war causes them just as much unhappiness as it does us. As a matter of fact, things are not so very bad here just now, because the soldiers do no harm, and work just as if they were in their own homes. You see, sir, poor folk always help one another; it is the great ones of this world who make war.” 

Cornudet indignant at the friendly understanding established between conquerors and conquered, withdrew, preferring to shut himself up in the inn. “They are repeopling the country,” jested Loiseau. 

“They are undoing the harm they have done,” said Monsieur Carre-Lamadon gravely. 

But they could not find the coach driver. At last he was discovered in the village cafe, fraternizing cordially with the officer's orderly. 

“Were you not told to harness the horses at eight o'clock?” demanded the count. 

“Oh, yes; but I've had different orders since.” 

“What orders?” 

“Not to harness at all.” 

“Who gave you such orders?” 

“Why, the Prussian officer.” 

“But why?” 

“I don't know. Go and ask him. I am forbidden to harness the horses, so I don't harness them—that's all.” 

“Did he tell you so himself?” 

“No, sir; the innkeeper gave me the order from him.” 

“When?” 

“Last evening, just as I was going to bed.” 

The three men returned in a very uneasy frame of mind. 

They asked for Monsieur Follenvie, but the servant replied that on account of his asthma he never got up before ten o'clock. They were strictly forbidden to rouse him earlier, except in case of fire. 

They wished to see the officer, but that also was impossible, although he lodged in the inn. Monsieur Follenvie alone was authorized to interview him on civil matters. So they waited. The women returned to their rooms, and occupied themselves with trivial matters. 


Cornudet settled down beside the tall kitchen fireplace, before a blazing fire. He had a small table and a jug of beer placed beside him, and he smoked his pipe —a pipe which enjoyed among democrats a consideration almost equal to his own, as though it had served its country in serving Cornudet.


It was a fine meerschaum, admirably colored to a black the shade of its owner's teeth, but sweet-smelling, gracefully curved, at home in its master's hand, and completing his physiognomy. And Cornudet sat motionless, his eyes fixed now on the dancing flames, now on the froth which crowned his beer; and after each draught he passed his long, thin fingers with an air of satisfaction through his long, greasy hair, as he sucked the foam from his mustache.


To be continue...

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