(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Colette’s good friend Paul Masson senses her loneliness and visits her frequently to cheer her up with his “lies.” One day he tells her about the lady of the library, who has never had a lover. Once she had a husband, but he mistreated her and she left him; nowadays she makes a living ghostwriting cheap novels for a sou a line. This, however, is not another of Masson’s lies—Marco really exists.

Colette is intrigued by the tale of the struggling, middle-aged writer and accompanies Masson to Marco’s dilapidated apartment. There she finds a thin, graceful woman with beautiful eyes and elegant manners. Marco’s clothing is threadbare, yet she entertains her guests with dignity and tact.

The two women become good friends. Although their friendship is not one of great intimacy, Marco makes a rare confession one day.To be perfectly frank with you, I’m convinced that fate has spared me one great trouble, the tiresome thing that’s called a temperament. No, no, all that business of blood rushing into the cheeks, upturned eyeballs, palpating nostrils, I admit I’ve never experienced it and never regretted it.

On her part, the twenty-two-year-old Colette plays the role of fashion mentor, giving her friend hair and makeup tips. Because of Marco’s poverty, she cannot afford new clothing and toiletries, yet she suddenly receives a minor windfall: Her husband, apparently prospering in America, sends her fifteen thousand francs....

(The entire section is 602 words.)