Farewell (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man unexpectedly encountered his former lover, now a mother, on a train, and was shocked by her transformation, leading him to reflect on the passage of time and his own aging.

Two friends were having dinner at a café in Paris on a warm summer night. One of them, Henri Simon, lamented about getting old and how life goes by so fast.

Ah! I'm getting old. It's sad. Once, on nights like this, I felt the devil in my bones. Today I feel nothing but regrets. Life goes so fast!

The other friend, Pierre Carnier, shared his experience of growing old without realizing it.

Pierre Carnier — narrator; around fifty years old; slim, lively, and aging gracefully.

He recalled a time when he fell deeply in love with a woman named Julie Lefèvre while vacationing at the beach in Étretat. Pierre was captivated by her beauty and elegance, and their love affair lasted three months before he left for America.

Madame Julie Lefèvre — Pierre's former lover; now a mother of four; aged significantly, becoming a stout, ordinary woman.

Years passed, and Pierre never forgot Julie. He cherished the memories of their time together and believed that she remained as beautiful as ever. One day, while on a train to Maisons-Laffitte, Pierre encountered a stout woman with four little girls. The woman recognized him and revealed herself to be Julie Lefèvre. Pierre was shocked and saddened to see how much she had changed, now a mother and no longer the enchanting woman he once knew.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Pierre struggled to find words to say to Julie.

I looked at her in awe. Then I took her hand, and tears came into my eyes. I wept for her youth, I wept for her death.

She acknowledged how much they both had changed over the past twelve years and how she had become a devoted mother. Upon arriving at their destination, Pierre kissed Julie's hand and bid her farewell. That evening, he looked at himself in the mirror and realized that he, too, had aged significantly. With a heavy heart, he accepted the passage of time and the inevitable changes it brings.