A Widow (Maupassant)

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A Widow
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A woman unknowingly encouraged a young boy's passionate love for her, leading to his tragic suicide when she became engaged to another man, leaving her forever mourning his loss.

During the hunting season at the de Banville country estate, a group of friends gathered to spend their evenings playing games and telling stories. One evening, a young lady noticed a ring made of blond hair on her old, unmarried aunt's finger and asked her to tell the story behind it. The aunt hesitated but eventually agreed to share the tragic tale.

The hair belonged to the last member of the Santèze family, a 13-year-old boy who killed himself for the aunt when she was a young woman. The Santèze family was known for their passionate and amorous nature, often leading them to extreme acts of devotion and even crime. The boy's grandfather and father had both died in similar circumstances, driven to suicide by their unrequited love.

The boy, who was the cousin of the aunt, had fallen deeply in love with her when they were both young.

The Aunt — narrator; older woman; sentimental, regretful, and mournful.
Gontran de Santèze — young boy from a passionate family; deeply in love with his cousin; sensitive, romantic, and tragic.

He would often walk alone in the park, dreaming of their love, and would write her passionate love letters. The aunt, amused by his devotion, encouraged his affections and even wrote love letters back to him. However, she did not take his love seriously, as he was only 12 years old at the time.

I love you! I love you! I love you! I am dying of love for you. If you ever deceive me, understand, if you ever leave me for another, I shall do as my father did.

When the boy was sent away to school, the aunt became engaged to another man. Upon his return, the boy realized what had happened and became distraught. He left a note for the aunt, telling her that he would kill himself because she had abandoned him.

You have abandoned me, and you know what I said. You have ordered my death. As I do not wish to be found by anyone but you, come into the park, to the place where last year I said that I loved you, and look up.

In a panic, the aunt rushed to the spot in the park where they had once declared their love and found the boy's lifeless body hanging from a tree.

The aunt broke off her engagement and remained unmarried for the rest of her life, considering herself the widow of the 13-year-old boy. The story deeply affected the listeners, and as they dispersed for the night, one of the huntsmen remarked on the misfortune of being so sentimental.