Generalitat de Catalunya. Departament d'Educaciķ


By Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
The woman had died without pain, quietly. Now she was resting in her mother's bed, her features calm. One could feel what a sweet soul had lived in that body.
Beside the bed, her son, a magistrate with inflexible principles, and her daughter, Marguerite, known as Sister Eulalie, were weeping as though their hearts would break. She had, from childhood up, armed them with a strict moral code, teaching them religion and duty. He, the man, had become a judge and she, the girl, had become the bride of the Church.

They had hardly known their father, knowing only that he had made their mother most unhappy.

The nun was wildly-kissing the dead woman's hand. On the other side of the long body the other hand seemed still to be holding the sheet in the death grasp. No other noise could be heard over the land except the occasional croaking of the frog. An infinite peace surrounded this dead woman.

Then the judge cried in a voice altered by grief: "Mamma, mamma, mamma!" And his sister, frantically striking her forehead against the woodwork, moaned: "Jesus, Jesus, mamma, Jesus!". The crisis slowly calmed down and they began to weep quietly. A rather long time passed and they arose and looked at their dead. And the memories came to their minds with all the little forgotten details. They recalled to each other words, smiles, intonations of the mother who was no longer to speak to them. They saw her again happy and calm. They remembered things which she had said, and a little motion of the hand, like beating time, which she often used when emphasizing something important. And they loved her as they never had loved her before. It was their guide, their whole youth, all the best part of their lives which was disappearing. They now became solitary, lonely beings.

The nun said to her brother: "You remember how mamma used always to read her old letters; they are all there in that drawer. Let us, in turn, read them; let us live her whole life through tonight beside her!" Out of the drawer they took about ten little packages of yellow paper. They chose one of them on which the word "Father" was written. They opened and read it.

It was one of those old-fashioned letters which one finds in old family desk drawers. The first one started: "My dear," another one: "My beautiful little girl," others: "My dear child," or: "My dear daughter." And suddenly the nun began to read aloud all her dead mother’s tender memories. The judge was listening with his eyes fastened on his mother. The motionless body seemed happy.

Sister Eulalie, interrupting herself, said suddenly:

"These ought to be put in the grave with her" She took another package, on which no name was written. She began to read in a firm voice: "My adored one, I love you wildly. I feel your lips against mine, your eyes in mine, your breast against mine. I love you, I love you! You have driven me mad. My arms open, I gasp, moved by a wild desire to hold you again. I have kept in my mouth the taste of your kisses--"

The judge had straightened himself up. The nun stopped reading. He snatched the letter from her and looked for the signature. There was none, but only under the words, "The man who adores you," the name "Henry." Their father's name was Rene. The son then quickly rummaged through the package of letters, took one out and read: "I can no longer live without your caresses." The judge looked unmoved at the dead woman. The nun, straight as a statue, was watching her brother, waiting.
He stepped forward, quickly picked up the letters and threw them back into the drawer. Then he closed the curtains of the bed.
When daylight came, the son slowly left his armchair, and without looking again at the mother, severing the tie that united her to son and daughter, he said slowly: "Let us now retire, sister."
SOURCE: Adapted from ->