Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6 HTML version
The drawing-room was small, full of heavy draperies and discreetly fragrant. A large fire
burned in the grate and a solitary lamp at one end of the mantelpiece threw a soft light on
the two persons who were talking.
She, the mistress of the house, was an old lady with white hair, but one of those old ladies
whose unwrinkled skin is as smooth as the finest paper, and scented, impregnated with
perfume, with the delicate essences which she had used in her bath for so many years.
He was a very old friend, who had never married, a constant friend, a companion in the
journey of life, but nothing more.
They had not spoken for about a minute, and were both looking at the fire, dreaming of
no matter what, in one of those moments of friendly silence between people who have no
need to be constantly talking in order to be happy together, when suddenly a large log, a
stump covered with burning roots, fell out. It fell over the firedogs into the drawing-room
and rolled on to the carpet, scattering great sparks around it. The old lady, with a little
scream, sprang to her feet to run away, while he kicked the log back on to the hearth and
stamped out all the burning sparks with his boots.
When the disaster was remedied, there was a strong smell of burning, and, sitting down
opposite to his friend, the man looked at her with a smile and said, as he pointed to the
"That is the reason why I never married."
She looked at him in astonishment, with the inquisitive gaze of women who wish to know
everything, that eye which women have who are no longer very young,--in which a
complex, and often roguish, curiosity is reflected, and she asked:
"Oh, it is a long story," he replied; "a rather sad and unpleasant story.
"My old friends were often surprised at the coldness which suddenly sprang up between
one of my best friends whose Christian name was Julien, and myself. They could not
understand how two such intimate and inseparable friends, as we had been, could
suddenly become almost strangers to one another, and I will tell you the reason of it.
"He and I used to live together at one time. We were never apart, and the friendship that
united us seemed so strong that nothing could break it.
"One evening when he came home, he told me that he was going to get married, and it
gave me a shock as if he had robbed me or betrayed me. When a man's friend marries, it