The Blind Man by Guy de Maupassant
How is it that the sunlight gives us such joy? Why does this radiance
when it falls on the earth fill us with the joy of living? The whole sky
is blue, the fields are green, the houses all white, and our enchanted
eyes drink in those bright colors which bring delight to our souls. And
then there springs up in our hearts a desire to dance, to run, to sing, a
happy lightness of thought, a sort of enlarged tenderness; we feel a
longing to embrace the sun.
The blind, as they sit in the doorways, impassive in their eternal
darkness, remain as calm as ever in the midst of this fresh gaiety, and,
not understanding what is taking place around them, they continually
check their dogs as they attempt to play.
When, at the close of the day, they are returning home on the arm of a
young brother or a little sister, if the child says: "It was a very fine
day!" the other answers: "I could notice that it was fine. Loulou
wouldn't keep quiet."
I knew one of these men whose life was one of the most cruel martyrdoms
that could possibly be conceived.
He was a peasant, the son of a Norman farmer. As long as his father and
mother lived, he was more or less taken care of; he suffered little save
from his horrible infirmity; but as soon as the old people were gone, an
atrocious life of misery commenced for him. Dependent on a sister of his,
everybody in the farmhouse treated him as a beggar who is eating the
bread of strangers. At every meal the very food he swallowed was made a
subject of reproach against him; he was called a drone, a clown, and
although his brother-in-law had taken possession of his portion of the
inheritance, he was helped grudgingly to soup, getting just enough to
save him from starving.
His face was very pale and his two big white eyes looked like wafers. He
remained unmoved at all the insults hurled at him, so reserved that one
could not tell whether he felt them.
Moreover, he had never known any tenderness, his mother having always
treated him unkindly and caring very little for him; for in country
places useless persons are considered a nuisance, and the peasants would
be glad to kill the infirm of their species, as poultry do.
As soon as he finished his soup he went and sat outside the door in
summer and in winter beside the fireside, and did not stir again all the
evening. He made no gesture, no movement; only his eyelids, quivering
from some nervous affection, fell down sometimes over his white,
sightless orbs. Had he any intellect, any thinking faculty, any
consciousness of his own existence? Nobody cared to inquire.
For some years things went on in this fashion. But his incapacity for
work as well as his impassiveness eventually exasperated his relatives,
and he became a laughingstock, a sort of butt for merriment, a prey to
the inborn ferocity, to the savage gaiety of the brutes who surrounded
It is easy to imagine all the cruel practical jokes inspired by his
blindness. And, in order to have some fun in return for feeding him, they
now converted his meals into hours of pleasure for the neighbors and of
punishment for the helpless creature himself.
The peasants from the nearest houses came to this entertainment; it was
talked about from door to door, and every day the kitchen of the
farmhouse was full of people. Sometimes they placed before his plate,
when he was beginning to eat his soup, some cat or dog. The animal
instinctively perceived the man's infirmity, and, softly approaching,
commenced eating noiselessly, lapping up the soup daintily; and, when
they lapped the food rather noisily, rousing the poor fellow's attention,
they would prudently scamper away to avoid the blow of the spoon directed
at random by the blind man!
Then the spectators ranged along the wall would burst out laughing, nudge
each other and stamp their feet on the floor. And he, without ever
uttering a word, would continue eating with his right hand, while
stretching out his left to protect his plate.
Another time they made him chew corks, bits of wood, leaves or even
filth, which he was unable to distinguish.
After this they got tired even of these practical jokes, and the
brother-in-law, angry at having to support him always, struck him, cuffed
him incessantly, laughing at his futile efforts to ward off or return the
blows. Then came a new pleasure—the pleasure of smacking his face.
And the plough-men, the servant girls and even every passing vagabond
were every moment giving him cuffs, which caused his eyelashes to twitch
spasmodically. He did not know where to hide himself and remained with
his arms always held out to guard against people coming too close to him.
At last he was forced to beg.
He was placed somewhere on the high-road on market-days, and as soon as
he heard the sound of footsteps or the rolling of a vehicle, he reached
out his hat, stammering:
"Charity, if you please!"
But the peasant is not lavish, and for whole weeks he did not bring back
Then he became the victim of furious, pitiless hatred. And this is how he
One winter the ground was covered with snow, and it was freezing hard.
His brother-in-law led him one morning a great distance along the high
road in order that he might solicit alms. The blind man was left there
all day; and when night came on, the brother-in-law told the people of
his house that he could find no trace of the mendicant. Then he added:
"Pooh! best not bother about him! He was cold and got someone to take him
away. Never fear! he's not lost. He'll turn up soon enough tomorrow to
eat the soup."
Next day he did not come back.
After long hours of waiting, stiffened with the cold, feeling that he was
dying, the blind man began to walk. Being unable to find his way along
the road, owing to its thick coating of ice, he went on at random,
falling into ditches, getting up again, without uttering a sound, his
sole object being to find some house where he could take shelter.
But, by degrees, the descending snow made a numbness steal over him, and
his feeble limbs being incapable of carrying him farther, he sat down in
the middle of an open field. He did not get up again.
The white flakes which fell continuously buried him, so that his body,
quite stiff and stark, disappeared under the incessant accumulation of
their rapidly thickening mass, and nothing was left to indicate the place
where he lay.
His relatives made a pretence of inquiring about him and searching for
him for about a week. They even made a show of weeping.
The winter was severe, and the thaw did not set in quickly. Now, one
Sunday, on their way to mass, the farmers noticed a great flight of
crows, who were whirling incessantly above the open field, and then
descending like a shower of black rain at the same spot, ever going and
The following week these gloomy birds were still there. There was a crowd
of them up in the air, as if they had gathered from all corners of the
horizon, and they swooped down with a great cawing into the shining snow,
which they covered like black patches, and in which they kept pecking
obstinately. A young fellow went to see what they were doing and
discovered the body of the blind man, already half devoured, mangled. His
wan eyes had disappeared, pecked out by the long, voracious beaks.
And I can never feel the glad radiance of sunlit days without sadly
remembering and pondering over the fate of the beggar who was such an
outcast in life that his horrible death was a relief to all who had known