Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 5
The five friends had finished dinner, five men of the world, mature, rich, three married,
the two others bachelors. They met like this every month in memory of their youth, and
after dinner they chatted until two o'clock in the morning. Having remained intimate
friends, and enjoying each other's society, they probably considered these the pleasantest
evenings of their lives. They talked on every subject, especially of what interested and
amused Parisians. Their conversation was, as in the majority of salons elsewhere, a verbal
rehash of what they had read in the morning papers.
One of the most lively of them was Joseph de Bardon, a celibate living the Parisian life in
its fullest and most whimsical manner. He was not a debauche nor depraved, but a
singular, happy fellow, still young, for he was scarcely forty. A man of the world in its
widest and best sense, gifted with a brilliant, but not profound, mind, with much varied
knowledge, but no true erudition, ready comprehension without true understanding, he
drew from his observations, his adventures, from everything he saw, met with and found,
anecdotes at once comical and philosophical, and made humorous remarks that gave him
a great reputation for cleverness in society.
He was the after dinner speaker and had his own story each time, upon which they
counted, and he talked without having to be coaxed.
As he sat smoking, his elbows on the table, a petit verre half full beside his plate, half
torpid in an atmosphere of tobacco blended with steaming coffee, he seemed to be
perfectly at home. He said between two whiffs:
"A curious thing happened to me some time ago."
"Tell it to us," they all exclaimed at once.
"With pleasure. You know that I wander about Paris a great deal, like book collectors
who ransack book stalls. I just look at the sights, at the people, at all that is passing by
and all that is going on.
"Toward the middle of September--it was beautiful weather--I went out one afternoon,
not knowing where I was going. One always has a vague wish to call on some pretty
woman or other. One chooses among them in one's mental picture gallery, compares
them in one's mind, weighs the interest with which they inspire you, their comparative
charms and finally decides according to the influence of the day. But when the sun is
very bright and the air warm, it takes away from you all desire to make calls.
"The sun was bright, the air warm. I lighted a cigar and sauntered aimlessly along the
outer boulevard. Then, as I strolled on, it occurred to me to walk as far as Montmartre
and go into the cemetery.