Joseph (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two tipsy women discussed their experiences with lovers, with one revealing her seduction of a servant named Joseph, whom she manipulated into a passionate encounter during a countryside outing.

Two young women, Baroness Andrée de Fraisières and Comtesse Noëmi de Gardens, were left alone at a seaside house by their husbands, who had returned to Paris. They decided to have a special dinner with champagne and ended up getting quite tipsy. As they lounged in their chairs, they began to share intimate confidences with each other.

Baroness Andrée de Fraisières — narrator; married woman; cunning, manipulative, and adventurous.
Comtesse Noëmi de Gardens — married woman; curious, tipsy, and intrigued by her friend's story.

The conversation turned to the topic of lovers, and the Baroness revealed that she could find lovers anywhere, even in the most remote places. She explained her method of choosing a man, which involved taking notes on his character and then angling for him, much like fishing. The Baroness admitted that there were some men who resisted her advances, but she always managed to find someone eventually.

I must feel that someone is thinking of me, always, everywhere. When I am going to sleep, or waking up, I must know that someone somewhere is in love with me, dreaming of me, desiring me.

The Comtesse asked what the Baroness did when there were no men around, and the Baroness shared a story from two years prior. She had been sent to spend the summer at her husband's estate in Bougrolles, where there were no suitable men. Inspired by novels and plays she had read, the Baroness decided to engage a good-looking young farmer's son as a servant and proceeded to seduce him.

Joseph — footman; former seminary student; passionate, obedient, and infatuated with the Baroness.

The Baroness treated the young man, whom she named Joseph, with a mix of familiarity and haughtiness, showing him glimpses of her body and talking about personal hygiene. She also lent him books that would stir his emotions.

I did not angle for the country lad; I just inflamed him!

Eventually, the Baroness feigned illness during a carriage ride and had Joseph carry her to the grass, where she pretended to faint. The young man was unable to resist her, and they became lovers.

I was patient, and I never opened my eyes again until after his fall.

The Baroness kept Joseph as her servant, and he continued to love her. When the Comtesse asked where he was, the Baroness rang for him, and he entered the room, still smelling strongly of eau de cologne. The Baroness dismissed him, saying she was feeling unwell and needed her maid. The two women continued to drink and laugh, feeling quite intoxicated.