Rust (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A passionate sportsman, fearing he was no longer capable of love, tested himself in Paris before proposing to a widow, only to find himself unable to perform and ultimately withdrawing his proposal.

Baron Hector Gontran de Coutelier was a passionate sportsman who spent his days hunting and shooting. He was a regular visitor to the Courville family, who were his close friends and neighbors.

Baron Hector Gontran de Coutelier — passionate sportsman; robust, stout, and bald; short moustache; friendly and humorous.

One day, Monsieur de Courville suggested that the Baron should marry Madame Berthe Vilers, a widow who was staying with them.

Madame Berthe Vilers — widow; around 40 years old; pretty, wealthy, good-tempered, and healthy; enjoys sports.

The Baron agreed and went to Paris to prepare for the wedding. However, he returned after three weeks without proposing to Madame Vilers, saying that he had no right to marry her.

I cannot … I have no right … no right, you understand, to marry this lady.

The Courvilles were puzzled by his behavior and assumed that he had some secret in his past. They tactfully informed Madame Vilers of the situation, and she returned home still a widow.

Later, the Baron confided in Monsieur de Courville that he had gone to Paris to test his ability to perform his marital duties, as it had been sixteen years since he had last been intimate with a woman. Despite his best efforts, he had been unable to perform and felt that he could not marry Madame Vilers under such circumstances.

Monsieur de Courville shared this information with his wife, who believed that the Baron's problem was simply due to nerves. She invited Madame Vilers back to their home, confident that love would eventually overcome the Baron's difficulties.