Captain Épivent was a handsome hussar officer who was admired by many women. He had a reputation for being a ladies' man and was envied by his fellow officers. One day, he met a beautiful woman named Irma, who was the mistress of a rich manufacturer.
They quickly became lovers and were inseparable for a year until war broke out and Captain Épivent's regiment was sent to the front.
During the war, Captain Épivent fought bravely and was awarded a medal for his heroism. When he returned to Rouen, he sought out Irma but could not find her. Eventually, he received a letter from her saying that she was in the hospital and very ill. He visited her and found her in the syphilis ward, looking thin and pale. She told him that she had contracted the disease from the Prussian soldiers who had occupied Rouen during the war.
It was those beasts of Prussians. They took me almost by force and then poisoned me.
Captain Épivent was disgusted and ashamed, but he promised to visit her again. However, when he returned to his regiment, his fellow officers mocked him for his relationship with Irma. He received another letter from her, but he ignored it. Finally, he received a letter from a chaplain at the hospital, saying that Irma was on her deathbed and begging him to come.
He reluctantly went to the hospital and found Irma still alive but very weak. She told him that she had purposely infected the Prussian soldiers with syphilis as a form of revenge.
Ah! yes, you are a pretty poser! I know you well. I know you. And I tell you that I have done them more harm than you, I, yes, more harm to them than you, and I am going to die for it, while you are singing songs and making yourself fine to inveigle women.
Captain Épivent was horrified and left the hospital, never to see Irma again. The next day, he learned that she had died.