The Chair Mender (Maupassant)

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The Chair Mender
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A doctor shared a story of a chair mender who secretly loved a chemist for over fifty years, sacrificing her life and savings for him, only to be met with disdain upon her death.

A group of friends gathered for dinner at the house of Marquis de Bertrans to celebrate the opening of the hunting season. During the dinner, a discussion arose about whether one could truly love only once or many times. The men argued that passion could strike the same person many times, while the women believed that true love could only come once in a lifetime.

The doctor, an old Paris physician who had retired to the countryside, was chosen as the arbitrator. He shared a story of a passion that lasted for fifty-five years without a day of respite, only ending with death.

I have never heard anything more singular or more affecting.

The Doctor — narrator; old Paris physician retired to the country; observant, wise.

The loved one was a man named Mr. Chouquet, the village chemist, and the woman was an old chair mender who traveled from place to place fixing chairs.

Mr. Chouquet — village chemist; object of the chair mender's love; indifferent, self-centered, ungrateful.
The Chair Mender — poor, devoted woman who loved the chemist for fifty-five years; hardworking, passionate, self-sacrificing.

The chair mender had fallen in love with Chouquet when they were children, and her love for him only grew stronger as they grew older. She would save money to give to him, and he would accept it without question. When Chouquet married another woman, the chair mender was heartbroken but continued to love him from afar.

When the chair mender passed away, she left all her savings to Chouquet, as she had worked and saved only for him. The doctor was tasked with delivering the money to Chouquet and his wife. Upon hearing the story, Chouquet was indignant and felt as if his reputation had been tarnished. However, he and his wife eventually accepted the money, using it to buy something for their children.

The doctor concluded his story, and the Marquise, with tears in her eyes, sighed that it was only women who knew how to truly love.