Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version

A Wedding Gift
For a long time Jacques Bourdillere had sworn that he would never marry, but he
suddenly changed his mind. It happened suddenly, one summer, at the seashore.
One morning as he lay stretched out on the sand, watching the women coming out of the
water, a little foot had struck him by its neatness and daintiness. He raised his eyes and
was delighted with the whole person, although in fact he could see nothing but the ankles
and the head emerging from a flannel bathrobe carefully held closed. He was supposed to
be sensual and a fast liver. It was therefore by the mere grace of the form that he was at
first captured. Then he was held by the charm of the young girl's sweet mind, so simple
and good, as fresh as her cheeks and lips.
He was presented to the family and pleased them. He immediately fell madly in love.
When he saw Berthe Lannis in the distance, on the long yellow stretch of sand, he would
tingle to the roots of his hair. When he was near her he would become silent, unable to
speak or even to think, with a kind of throbbing at his heart, and a buzzing in his ears, and
a bewilderment in his mind. Was that love?
He did not know or understand, but he had fully decided to have this child for his wife.
Her parents hesitated for a long time, restrained by the young man's bad reputation. It was
said that he had an old sweetheart, one of these binding attachments which one always
believes to be broken off and yet which always hold.
Besides, for a shorter or longer period, he loved every woman who came within reach of
his lips.
Then he settled down and refused, even once, to see the one with whom he had lived for
so long. A friend took care of this woman's pension and assured her an income. Jacques
paid, but he did not even wish to hear of her, pretending even to ignore her name. She
wrote him letters which he never opened. Every week he would recognize the clumsy
writing of the abandoned woman, and every week a greater anger surged within him
against her, and he would quickly tear the envelope and the paper, without opening it,
without reading one single line, knowing in advance the reproaches and complaints
which it contained.
As no one had much faith in his constancy, the test was prolonged through the winter,
and Berthe's hand was not granted him until the spring. The wedding took place in Paris
at the beginning of May.
The young couple had decided not to take the conventional wedding trip, but after a little
dance for the younger cousins, which would not be prolonged after eleven o'clock, in
order that this day of lengthy ceremonies might not be too tiresome, the young pair were