A New Year’s Gift (Maupassant)

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A New Year’s Gift
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A woman tested her lover's devotion by pretending her husband had discovered their affair and struck her, leading to a tense conversation about their future together.

Jacques de Rayndal spent New Year's Eve alone at home, writing letters to his friends and reminiscing about the past year. He had been in a relationship with a woman named Irène for the past ten months, and as he wrote a letter to her, he contemplated the future of their relationship.

Jacques de Rayndal — narrator; practical, reasonable, and deeply in love with Irène.
Irène — Jacques' lover; married, determined, and seeking reassurance of Jacques' love.

Unexpectedly, Irène arrived at Jacques' home, distraught and claiming that her husband had struck her.

I can't go on living like this—at home—you don't know—I never told you—it's terrible—I can't go on—I suffer too much—he struck me a short time ago.

She refused to return home and asked Jacques to take her away with him. Jacques, concerned for her reputation and well-being, advised her to return home and seek a legal separation or divorce before making any rash decisions.

Irène was insistent, however, and demanded that Jacques either take her away or let her go forever.

I did not ask you to keep me here, Jacques, but to take me away, anywhere. I thought you loved me well enough to do that. I was mistaken. Goodbye.

Jacques eventually relented, telling her that he believed their love was more important than any legal or social obligations. He agreed to take her away and face any consequences that may arise from their actions.

To Jacques' surprise, Irène revealed that she had made up the story about her husband's violence. She had wanted to test Jacques' love for her and see if he would be willing to stand by her in difficult times.

Darling, it was not true, nothing has happened, my husband does not suspect anything. But I wanted to see, I wanted to know what you would do—I wanted a New Year’s gift—the gift of your love.

Overjoyed by his commitment, Irène thanked Jacques for his love and devotion, and the two celebrated their newfound happiness together.