Minuet (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A young man befriended an elderly couple, former dancers from the time of Louis XV, who performed a minuet in a secluded garden, evoking a sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

Jean Bridelle, an old bachelor and a skeptic, often found himself unaffected by great misfortunes. He recalled certain small, heartrending episodes that left a lasting impact on him. One such memory was from his youth when he was studying law. He enjoyed taking morning walks in the nursery garden of the Luxembourg, a peaceful and charming spot.

During his walks, he noticed a peculiar old man who wore outdated clothing and carried a gold-knobbed cane. One day, he saw the old man performing strange and comical dance moves, which intrigued him. Eventually, they became friends, and Jean learned that the old man was a former dancing master at the opera during the time of Louis XV. He had married La Castris, a famous dancer of that time.

Jean Bridelle — narrator; young law student; dreamer, introspective, and observant.
The Old Man — elderly former dancing master; thin, angular, and smiling; wore old-fashioned clothes.
La Castris (Élise) — elderly former dancer; the old man's wife; dressed in black.

One day, Jean asked the old man about the minuet, a dance he was unfamiliar with. The old man struggled to explain it, so he asked his wife, La Castris, to demonstrate it with him. They performed the dance gracefully, like two dolls from a bygone era. After finishing the dance, they embraced each other and sobbed.

The minuet, monsieur, is the queen of dances, and the dance of queens, do you understand? Since there is no longer any royalty, there is no longer any minuet.

Jean left for the provinces shortly after and never saw the couple again. When he returned to Paris two years later, the nursery garden had been destroyed. He wondered what had become of the old couple, whether they were dead or wandering the modern streets like exiles. The memory of their dance haunted him, remaining with him like a wound.