Graveyard Sirens (Maupassant)

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Graveyard Sirens
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man met a grieving widow in a cemetery, began a brief affair with her, and later discovered her using the same tactics to seduce another man in the same cemetery.

Five middle-aged and wealthy friends gathered once a month for dinner, reminiscing about old times and discussing various topics. One of the liveliest among them was Joseph de Bardon, a bachelor who enjoyed sharing amusing stories from his adventures and observations.

Joseph de Bardon — narrator; middle-aged bachelor, boulevardier, witty, observant, and adventurous.

One day, Joseph shared a curious story about his visit to the Montmartre cemetery. He enjoyed visiting cemeteries as they provided him with a sense of peace and allowed him to pay tribute to his deceased friends. While visiting the grave of a former lover, he noticed a young woman mourning at a nearby grave. She was grieving for her husband, an officer killed in Tonkin.

The Widow — young woman in mourning; attractive, fair-haired, lonely, and manipulative.

Joseph helped the woman when she fainted, and they eventually left the cemetery together. The widow said to Joseph, "One may love a friend just as much as a wife, for passion knows no law."

One may love a friend just as much as a wife, for passion knows no law.

The two formed a brief romantic relationship, which lasted about three weeks before Joseph ended it, citing an urgent trip. A month later, Joseph returned to the cemetery and saw the same woman with another man, also in mourning. He wondered if she was a clever courtesan who exploited the amorous regrets of grieving men or if she was unique in her approach. Joseph pondered, "Are there graveyard sirens?"

Are there graveyard sirens?

Joseph never found out the truth about the woman, but her mysterious presence in the cemetery continued to intrigue him.