en-fr  A Dead Woman's Secret by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
La femme était morte sans douleur, comme une femme dont la vie avait été irréprochable. A présent, elle reposait dans son lit, couchée sur le dos, les yeux clos, le visage calme, ses longs cheveux blancs soigneusement arrangés, comme si elle s'était coiffée dix minutes avant de mourir. Le visage entier de la femme morte était serein, si calme, si résignée que l'on pouvait ressentir quelle âme douce avait habitée ce corps, quelle existence tranquille avait menée cette vieille âme, quelle mort simple et naturelle avait eu ce parent.
À genoux à côté du lit, son fils, un magistrat avec des principes inflexibles, et sa fille, Marguerite, connue sous le nom de Sœur Eulalie, pleuraient comme si leurs cœurs se brisaient. Elle les avait, depuis l'enfance, armés d'un code moral strict, leur enseignant la religion, sans faiblesse et devoir, sans compromis. Lui, l'homme, était devenu juge et maniait la loi comme une arme avec laquelle il frappait les plus faibles sans pitié. Elle, la fille, influencée par la vertu qui l'avait baignée dans cette famille austère, avait épousé l'Église par dégoût de l'homme.
Ils avaient à peine connu leur père, sachant seulement qu'il avait rendu leur mère très malheureuse, sans qu'on dise d'autres détails.
La religieuse embrassait frénétiquement la main de la femme morte, une main ivoire aussi blanche que le grand crucifix couché sur le lit. De l'autre côté du long corps, l'autre main semblait encore tenir le drap dans l'appréhension de la mort ; et le drap avait conservé les petites plis comme un souvenir de ces derniers mouvements qui précèdent l'immobilité éternelle.
Quelques petits coups légers sur la porte amenèrent les deux têtes sanglotantes à regarder, et le prêtre, qui venait de dîner, rentra. Il était rouge et essoufflé de sa digestion interrompue, car il s'était fait un fort mélange de café et de cognac pour lutter contre la fatigue des dernières nuits et de la veillée qui commençait.
Il semblait triste, avec cette supposée tristesse du prêtre pour qui la mort est un gagne-pain. Il se signa et approchant avec son geste professionnel : — Eh bien, mes pauvres enfants ! Je viens vous aider à passer ces dernières heures tristes. Mais Sœur Eulalie se leva soudainement. — Merci, mon père, mais mon frère et moi préférons rester seuls avec elle. C'est notre dernière chance de la voir, et nous souhaitons être ensemble, tous les trois, comme nous l'étions quand nous étions petits et notre pauvre mè... mère... le chagrin et les larmes l'arrêtèrent, elle ne put continuer.
Encore plus serein, le prêtre s'inclina, pensant à son lit. — Comme vous voudrez, mes enfants. Il s'agenouilla, se signa, pria, se leva et sortit silencieusement, murmurant : —C'était une sainte !
Ils restèrent seuls, la morte et ses enfants. flottait la douce odeur... Aucun autre bruit ne pouvait être entendu dans la campagne, sauf le croassement occasionnel de la grenouille ou le bourdonnement de certains insectes tardifs. Une paix infinie, une divine mélancolie, une sérénité silencieuse entouraient cette morte, semblait émaner d'elle et apaisait la nature elle-même.
Alors le juge, encore agenouillé, la tête enfouie dans la literie, pleurait d'une voix altérée par un chagrin et assourdie par les draps et les couvertures : — Maman, maman, maman ! Et sa sœur, frappant frénétiquement son front contre la charpente, se convulsait, s'agitait et tremblait comme dans une crise d'épilepsie, gémissait : — Jésus, Jésus, maman, Jésus ! Et tous deux, secoués par une tempête de chagrin, haletaient et suffoquaient.
Lentement, la crise s’apaisa et ils se mirent à pleurer doucement, comme en mer quand le calme suit la tempête.
Après un long moment, ils se levèrent et regardèrent la défunte. Et les souvenirs, ces souvenirs lointains, hier si tendres, aujourd'hui si douloureux, leur revinrent à l'esprit avec tous les petits détails, ces petits détails familiers et intimes qui firent revivre celle qui était partie. Ils se rappelaient mutuellement les circonstances, les mots, les sourires, les intonations de la mère qui ne leur parlerait plus. Ils la revoyaient heureuse et calme. Ils se souvenaient des choses qu'elle disait, et un petit mouvement de la main, comme battant le temps, ce qu'elle utilisait souvent pour souligner quelque chose d'important.
Et ils l'aimaient comme ils ne l'avaient jamais aimée avant. Ils mesuraient la profondeur de leur peine, et ils découvraient ainsi combien ils allaient se sentir seuls.
C'était leur soutien, leur guide, toute leur jeunesse, toute la plus belle part de leur vie qui disparaissait. C'était leur lien avec la vie, leur mère, leur maman, le lien qui les reliait à leurs aïeux qui allait désormais leur manquer. Ils deviendraient maintenant solitaires, seraient seuls, ils ne pourraient plus revenir en arrière.
La none dit à son frère: – Tu te souviens comme maman avait toujours coutume de lire ses vieilles lettres; elle sont toutes là dans ce tiroir A notre tour, lisons les; revivons toute sa vie auprès d'elle cette nuit ! Ce serait comme une croisée des chemins, comme faire connaissance de sa mère, de nos grands-parents, dont nous ne savons rien, mais dont les lettres sont iciet dont elle nous a souvent parlé, tu te souviens ?
Du tiroir ils tirèrent environ dix petits paquets de papier jaune, soigneusement reliés et rangés les uns à côté des autres. Ils jetèrent ces reliques sur le lit et choisirent l'une d'entre elles sur laquelle le mot " Père " était écrit Ils ouvrirent et la lirent.
C'était une de ces lettre démodées que l'on trouve dans les vieux tiroirs de bureau de famille, ces épitres qui sentent un autre siècle. La première commençait par: " Ma chère ", un autre: " Ma jolie petite fille ", les autres: " "Ma chère enfant ", ou " Ma chère fille. " Et soudain la nonne se mit à lire à haute voix, à relire à la défunte toute son histoire, tous ses tendres souvenirs. Le juge, accoudé au lit, écoutait, le regard fixé sur sa mère. Le corps inerte semblait heureux.
Tout à coup, sœur Eulalie s'interrompit et dit : — Ces lettres devraient être placées dans la tombe avec elle, elles devraient être utilisées comme linceul et elle devrait être enterrée dedans. Elle prit un autre paquet sur lequel ne figurait aucun nom. Elle commença à lire d'une voix ferme : — Mon adorée, je t'aime à la folie. Depuis hier, je souffre comme un damné, hanté par nos souvenirs. Je sens tes lèvres sur les miennes, ton regard dans mon regard, ta poitrine contre la mienne. Je t'aime, je t'adore. Tu m'as rendu fou. Les bras ouverts, je suffoque du désir sauvage de t'enlacer à nouveau. De toute mon âme, de tout mon corps, je t'appelle et te désire. J'ai gardé sur mes lèvres le goût de tes baisers... Le juge s'était raidi. La nonne cessa de lire. Il arracha la lettre des mains de sa sœur et chercha la signature. Il n'y en avait aucune, mais seulement, au bas de la lettre : « L'homme qui t'adore » et le prénom « Henri ». Leur père s’appelait René. Donc, elle n'était pas de lui. Alors, le fils fouilla vivement dans le paquet de lettres, en prit une et lut : « Je ne peux plus vivre sans tes caresses. » Debout, grave comme lorsqu'il était assis sur le banc, il regardait la défunte, insensible. La none, droite comme une statue, tremblant les larmes au coin des yeux, regardait son frère, attendant. Il traversa alors lentement la chambre , alla à la fenêtre et se tint là, fixant la nuit obscure.
Lorsqu'il se retourna, sœur Eulalie, les yeux secs maintenant, se tenait encore debout près du lit, tête baissée.
Il bondit, attrapa les lettres et les jeta prèle-mêle dans le tiroir. Puis il referma les rideaux du lit.
Lorsque la lumière du jour fit pâlir les bougies sur la table, le fils quitta lentement son fauteuil, et sans d'autre regard pour sa mère pour laquelle il avait désormais rendu sa sentence, coupant le lien qui l'avait unie à son fils et à sa fille: – Retirons nous maintenant, ma sœur.
unit 1
The woman had died without pain, quietly, as a woman should whose life had been blameless.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 13
He looked sad, with that assumed sadness of the priest for whom death is a bread winner.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 3 weeks ago
unit 14
He crossed himself and approaching with his professional gesture: "Well, my poor children!
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 3 weeks ago
unit 15
I have come to help you pass these last sad hours."
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 3 weeks ago
unit 16
But Sister Eulalie suddenly arose.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 4 months, 3 weeks ago
unit 17
"Thank you, "father, but my brother and I prefer to remain alone with her.
3 Translations, 5 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 19
Once more serene, the priest bowed, thinking of his bed.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 20
"As you wish, my children."
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 21
He kneeled, crossed himself, prayed, arose and went out quietly, murmuring: "She was a saint!"
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 22
They remained alone, the dead woman and her children.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 28
And both of them, shaken by a storm of grief, gasped and choked.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 30
A rather long time passed and they arose and looked at their dead.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 33
They saw her again happy and calm.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 35
And they loved her as they never had loved her before.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 36
unit 39
They now became solitary, lonely beings; they could no longer look back.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 41
Let us, in turn, read them; let us live her whole life through tonight beside her!
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 44
They threw these relics on the bed and chose one of them on which the word "Father" was written.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 45
They opened and read it.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 49
The judge, resting his elbow on the bed, was listening with his eyes fastened on his mother.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 50
The motionless body seemed happy.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 52
She took another package, on which no name was written.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 53
She began to read in a firm voice: "My adored one, I love you wildly.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 54
Since yesterday I have been suffering the tortures of the damned, haunted by our memory.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 55
I feel your lips against mine, your eyes in mine, your breast against mine.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 56
I love you, I love you!
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 57
You have driven me mad.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 58
My arms open, I gasp, moved by a wild desire to hold you again.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 59
My whole soul and body cries out for you, wants you.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 60
I have kept in my mouth the taste of your kisses--" The judge had straightened himself up.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 61
The nun stopped reading.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 62
He snatched the letter from her and looked for the signature.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 63
There was none, but only under the words, "The man who adores you," the name "Henry."
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 64
Their father's name was Rene.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 65
Therefore this was not from him.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 67
Standing erect, severe as when sitting on the bench, he looked unmoved at the dead woman.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 69
unit 71
He stepped forward, quickly picked up the letters and threw them pell-mell back into the drawer.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago
unit 72
Then he closed the curtains of the bed.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 6 months ago

The woman had died without pain, quietly, as a woman should whose life had been blameless. Now she was resting in her bed, lying on her back, her eyes closed, her features calm, her long white hair carefully arranged as though she had done it up ten minutes before dying. The whole pale countenance of the dead woman was so collected, so calm, so resigned that one could feel what a sweet soul had lived in that body, what a quiet existence this old soul had led, how easy and pure the death of this parent had been.
Kneeling 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, without weakness, and duty, without compromise. He, the man, had become a judge and handled the law as a weapon with which he smote the weak ones without pity. She, the girl, influenced by the virtue which had bathed her in this austere family, had become the bride of the Church through her loathing for man.
They had hardly known their father, knowing only that he had made their mother most unhappy, without being told any other details.
The nun was wildly-kissing the dead woman's hand, an ivory hand as white as the large crucifix lying across the bed. On the other side of the long body the other hand seemed still to be holding the sheet in the death grasp; and the sheet had preserved the little creases as a memory of those last movements which precede eternal immobility.
A few light taps on the door caused the two sobbing heads to look up, and the priest, who had just come from dinner, returned. He was red and out of breath from his interrupted digestion, for he had made himself a strong mixture of coffee and brandy in order to combat the fatigue of the last few nights and of the wake which was beginning.
He looked sad, with that assumed sadness of the priest for whom death is a bread winner. He crossed himself and approaching with his professional gesture: "Well, my poor children! I have come to help you pass these last sad hours." But Sister Eulalie suddenly arose. "Thank you, "father, but my brother and I prefer to remain alone with her. This is our last chance to see her, and we wish to be together, all three of us, as we--we--used to be when we were small and our poor mo--mother----"
Grief and tears stopped her; she could not continue.
Once more serene, the priest bowed, thinking of his bed. "As you wish, my children." He kneeled, crossed himself, prayed, arose and went out quietly, murmuring: "She was a saint!"
They remained alone, the dead woman and her children. The ticking of the clock, hidden in the shadow, could be heard distinctly, and through the open window drifted in the sweet smell of hay and of woods, together with the soft moonlight. No other noise could be heard over the land except the occasional croaking of the frog or the chirping of some belated insect. An infinite peace, a divine melancholy, a silent serenity surrounded this dead woman, seemed to be breathed out from her and to appease nature itself.
Then the judge, still kneeling, his head buried in the bed clothes, cried in a voice altered by grief and deadened by the sheets and blankets: "Mamma, mamma, mamma!" And his sister, frantically striking her forehead against the woodwork, convulsed, twitching and trembling as in an epileptic fit, moaned: "Jesus, Jesus, mamma, Jesus!" And both of them, shaken by a storm of grief, gasped and choked.
The crisis slowly calmed down and they began to weep quietly, just as on the sea when a calm follows a squall.
A rather long time passed and they arose and looked at their dead. And the memories, those distant memories, yesterday so dear, to-day so torturing, came to their minds with all the little forgotten details, those little intimate familiar details which bring back to life the one who has left. They recalled to each other circumstances, 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. They measured the depth of their grief, and thus they discovered how lonely they would find themselves.
It was their prop, their guide, their whole youth, all the best part of their lives which was disappearing. It was their bond with life, their mother, their mamma, the connecting link with their forefathers which they would thenceforth miss. They now became solitary, lonely beings; they could no longer look back.
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! It would be like a road to the cross, like making the acquaintance of her mother, of our grandparents, whom we never knew, but whose letters are there and of whom she so often spoke, do you remember?"
Out of the drawer they took about ten little packages of yellow paper, tied with care and arranged one beside the other. They threw these relics on the bed and 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, those epistles which smell of another century. 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, to read over to the dead woman her whole history, all her tender memories. The judge, resting his elbow on the bed, 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; they ought to be used as a shroud and she ought to be buried in it." 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. Since yesterday I have been suffering the tortures of the damned, haunted by our memory. 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. My whole soul and body cries out for you, wants you. 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. Therefore this was not from him. The son then quickly rummaged through the package of letters, took one out and read: "I can no longer live without your caresses." Standing erect, severe as when sitting on the bench, he looked unmoved at the dead woman. The nun, straight as a statue, tears trembling in the corners of her eyes, was watching her brother, waiting. Then he crossed the room slowly, went to the window and stood there, gazing out into the dark night.
When he turned around again Sister Eulalie, her eyes dry now, was still standing near the bed, her head bent down.
He stepped forward, quickly picked up the letters and threw them pell-mell back into the drawer. Then he closed the curtains of the bed.
When daylight made the candles on the table turn pale the son slowly left his armchair, and without looking again at the mother upon whom he had passed sentence, severing the tie that united her to son and daughter, he said slowly: "Let us now retire, sister."