The Log (Maupassant)

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The Log
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man recounted how a falling log saved him from being caught in an affair with his best friend's wife, leading to the end of their friendship and his decision to never marry.

An old lady and her longtime friend, who had never married, were sitting in her drawing room, enjoying the warmth of the fire. They had been friends for many years and were comfortable in each other's company, even during moments of silence. Suddenly, a burning log fell out of the fireplace, causing the old lady to scream. Her friend quickly put the log back and stamped out the sparks. He then told her that this incident reminded him of the reason he never married.

He explained that he and his best friend, Julien, used to live together and were inseparable. However, when Julien got married, their friendship changed.

The Narrator — narrator; old friend of Julien; never married; loyal, cautious.
Julien — The Narrator's best friend; married to Bertha; eventually distances himself from the narrator.

When a man’s friend marries, all is over between them. The jealous affection of a woman, a suspicious, uneasy, and carnal affection, will not tolerate that sturdy and frank attachment.

Julien's wife, Bertha, was a pretty and charming woman, and the three of them spent a lot of time together.

Bertha — Julien's wife; charming, pretty, and cunning; attempts to seduce the narrator.

One evening, Julien had to go out for a few hours and asked his friend to keep Bertha company.

As soon as Julien left, an awkward silence fell between Bertha and the friend. She eventually asked him what he would do if a woman told him she was in love with him. He replied that it would depend on the woman. Bertha then confessed her love for him and kissed him passionately.

It seems to me that real love must unsettle the mind, upset the nerves, and distract the head; that it must be a kind of treason.

Just as they were about to take their relationship further, the log in the fireplace fell out again, causing a commotion.

At that moment, Julien returned home, having finished his business earlier than expected. The friend realized that if it weren't for the fallen log, he would have been caught betraying his best friend. From that day on, he decided never to put himself in such a situation again and never got married.

Yes, my dear friend, without that log, I should have been caught in the very act, and you know what the consequences would have been!

Eventually, Julien and his wife drifted apart from the friend, and their once strong friendship came to an end.