Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 9 HTML version
Madame Julie Roubere was expecting her elder sister, Madame Henriette Letore, who
had just returned from a trip to Switzerland.
The Letore household had left nearly five weeks before. Madame Henriette had allowed
her husband to return alone to their estate in Calvados, where some business required his
attention, and had come to spend a few days in Paris with her sister. Night came on. In
the quiet parlor Madame Roubere was reading in the twilight in an absent-minded way,
raising her, eyes whenever she heard a sound.
At last, she heard a ring at the door, and her sister appeared, wrapped in a travelling
cloak. And without any formal greeting, they clasped each other in an affectionate
embrace, only desisting for a moment to give each other another hug. Then they talked
about their health, about their respective families, and a thousand other things, gossiping,
jerking out hurried, broken sentences as they followed each other about, while Madame
Henriette was removing her hat and veil.
It was now quite dark. Madame Roubere rang for a lamp, and as soon as it was brought
in, she scanned her sister's face, and was on the point of embracing her once more. But
she held back, scared and astonished at the other's appearance.
On her temples Madame Letore had two large locks of white hair. All the rest of her hair
was of a glossy, raven-black hue; but there alone, at each side of her head, ran, as it were,
two silvery streams which were immediately lost in the black mass surrounding them.
She was, nevertheless, only twenty-four years old, and this change had come on suddenly
since her departure for Switzerland.
Without moving, Madame Roubere gazed at her in amazement, tears rising to her eyes, as
she thought that some mysterious and terrible calamity must have befallen her sister. She
"What is the matter with you, Henriette?"
Smiling with a sad face, the smile of one who is heartsick, the other replied:
"Why, nothing, I assure you. Were you noticing my white hair?"
But Madame Roubere impetuously seized her by the shoulders, and with a searching
glance at her, repeated:
"What is the matter with you? Tell me what is the matter with you. And if you tell me a
falsehood, I'll soon find it out."