Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 4 HTML version
The two friends were getting near the end of their dinner. Through the cafe windows they
could see the Boulevard, crowded with people. They could feel the gentle breezes which
are wafted over Paris on warm summer evenings and make you feel like going out
somewhere, you care not where, under the trees, and make you dream of moonlit rivers,
of fireflies and of larks.
One of the two, Henri Simon, heaved a deep sigh and said:
"Ah! I am growing old. It's sad. Formerly, on evenings like this, I felt full of life. Now, I
only feel regrets. Life is short!"
He was perhaps forty-five years old, very bald and already growing stout.
The other, Pierre Carnier, a trifle older, but thin and lively, answered:
"Well, my boy, I have grown old without noticing it in the least. I have always been
merry, healthy, vigorous and all the rest. As one sees oneself in the mirror every day, one
does not realize the work of age, for it is slow, regular, and it modifies the countenance so
gently that the changes are unnoticeable. It is for this reason alone that we do not die of
sorrow after two or three years of excitement. For we cannot understand the alterations
which time produces. In order to appreciate them one would have to remain six months
without seeing one's own face-- then, oh, what a shock!
"And the women, my friend, how I pity the poor beings! All their joy, all their power, all
their life, lies in their beauty, which lasts ten years.
"As I said, I aged without noticing it; I thought myself practically a youth, when I was
almost fifty years old. Not feeling the slightest infirmity, I went about, happy and
"The revelation of my decline came to me in a simple and terrible manner, which
overwhelmed me for almost six months--then I became resigned.
"Like all men, I have often been in love, but most especially once.
"I met her at the seashore, at Etretat, about twelve years ago, shortly after the war. There
is nothing prettier than this beach during the morning bathing hour. It is small, shaped
like a horseshoe, framed by high while cliffs, which are pierced by strange holes called
the 'Portes,' one stretching out into the ocean like the leg of a giant, the other short and
dumpy. The women gather on the narrow strip of sand in this frame of high rocks, which
they make into a gorgeous garden of beautiful gowns. The sun beats down on the shores,
on the multicolored parasols, on the blue-green sea; and all is gay, delightful, smiling.