Maupassant’s Short Stories
Mme. Oreille was a very economical woman; she knew the value of a centime, and possessed a whole storehouse of strict principles with regard to the multiplication of money, so that her cook found the greatest difficulty in making what the servants call their market-penny, and her husband was hardly allowed any pocket money at all. They were, however, very comfortably off, and had no children; but it really pained Mme.
Oreille to see any money spent; it was like tearing at her heartstrings when she had to take any of those nice crown-pieces out of her pocket; and whenever she had to spend anything, no matter how necessary it might be, she slept badly the next night.
Oreille was continually saying to his wife:
“You really might be more liberal, as we have no children, and never spend our income.”
“You don’t know what may happen,” she used to reply. “It is better to have too much than too little.”
She was a little woman of about forty, very active, rather hasty, wrinkled, very neat and tidy, and with a very short temper.
Her husband frequently complained of all the privations she made him endure; some of them were particularly painful to him, as they touched his vanity.
He was one of the head clerks in the War Office, and only stayed on there in obedience to his wife’s wish, to increase their income which they did not nearly spend.
For two years he had always come to the office with the same old patched umbrella, to the great amusement of his fellow clerks. At last he got tired of their jokes, and insisted upon his wife buying him a new one. She bought one for eight francs and a half, one of those cheap articles which large houses sell as an advertisement. When the men in the office saw the article, which was being sold in Paris by the thousand, they began their
jokes again, and Oreille had a dreadful time of it. They even made a song about it, which he heard from morning till night all over the immense building.
Oreille was very angry, and peremptorily told his wife to get him a new one, a good silk one, for twenty francs, and to bring him the bill, so that he might see that it was all right.
She bought him one for eighteen francs, and said, getting red with anger as she gave it to her husband:
“This will last you for five years at least.”
Oreille felt quite triumphant, and received a small ovation at the office with his new acquisition.
When he went home in the evening his wife said to him, looking at the umbrella uneasily:
“You should not leave it fastened up with the elastic; it will very likely cut the silk. You must take care of it, for I shall not buy you a new one in a hurry.”
She took it, unfastened it, and remained dumfounded with astonishment and rage; in the middle of the silk there was a hole as big as a six-penny- piece; it had been made with the end of a cigar.
“What is that?” she screamed.
Her husband replied quietly, without looking at it:
“What is it? What do you mean?”
She was choking with rage, and could hardly get out a word.
“You–you–have–burned–your umbrella! Why–you must be–mad! Do you wish to ruin us outright?”
He turned round, and felt that he was growing pale.
“What are you talking about?”
“I say that you have burned your umbrella. Just look here.”
And rushing at him, as if she were going to beat him, she violently thrust the little circular burned hole under his nose.
He was so utterly struck dumb at the sight of it that he could only stammer out:
“What-what is it? How should I know? I have done nothing, I will swear. I don’t know what is the matter with the umbrella.”
“You have been playing tricks with it at the office; you have been playing the fool and opening it, to show it off!” she screamed.
“I only opened it once, to let them see what a nice one it was, that is all, I swear.”
But she shook with rage, and got up one of those conjugal scenes which make a
peaceable man dread the domestic hearth more than a battlefield where bullets are
She mended it with a piece of silk cut out of the old umbrella, which was of a different
color, and the next day Oreille went off very humbly with the mended article in his hand.
He put it into a cupboard, and thought no more of it than of some unpleasant recollection.
But he had scarcely got home that evening when his wife took the umbrella from him,
opened it, and nearly had a fit when she saw what had befallen it, for the disaster was
irreparable. It was covered with small holes, which evidently proceeded from burns, just
as if some one had emptied the ashes from a lighted pipe on to it. It was done for utterly,
She looked at it without a word, in too great a passion to be able to say anything. He,
also, when he saw the damage, remained almost dumfounded, in a state of frightened
They looked at each other, then he looked at the floor; and the next moment she threw the
useless article at his head, screaming out in a transport of the most violent rage, for she
had recovered her voice by that time:
“Oh! you brute! you brute! You did it on purpose, but I will pay you out for it. You shall
not have another.”
And then the scene began again, and after the storm had raged for an hour, he at last was
able to explain himself. He declared that he could not understand it at all, and that it
could only proceed from malice or from vengeance.
A ring at the bell saved him; it was a friend whom they were expecting to dinner.
Mme. Oreille submitted the case to him. As for buying a new umbrella, that was out of
the question; her husband should not have another. The friend very sensibly said that in
that case his clothes would be spoiled, and they were certainly worth more than the
umbrella. But the little woman, who was still in a rage, replied:
“Very well, then, when it rains he may have the kitchen umbrella, for I will not give him
a new silk one.”
Oreille utterly rebelled at such an idea.
“All right,” he said; “then I shall resign my post. I am not going to the office with the
The friend interposed.
“Have this one re-covered; it will not cost much.”
But Mme. Oreille, being in the temper that she was, said:
“It will cost at least eight francs to re-cover it. Eight and eighteen are twenty-six. Just
fancy, twenty-six francs for an umbrella! It is utter madness!”
The friend, who was only a poor man of the middle classes, had an inspiration:
“Make your fire assurance pay for it. The companies pay for all articles that are burned,
as long as the damage has been done in your own house.”
On hearing this advice the little woman calmed down immediately, and then, after a
moment’s reflection, she said to her husband:
“To-morrow, before going to your office, you will go to the Maternelle Assurance
Company, show them the state your umbrella is in, and make them pay for the damage.”
M. Oreille fairly jumped, he was so startled at the proposal.
“I would not do it for my life! It is eighteen francs lost, that is all. It will not ruin us.”
The next morning he took a walking-stick when he went out, and, luckily, it was a fine
Left at home alone, Mme. Oreille could not get over the loss of her eighteen francs by
any means. She had put the umbrella on the dining- room table, and she looked at it
without being able to come to any determination.
Every moment she thought of the assurance company, but she did not dare to encounter
the quizzical looks of the gentlemen who might receive her, for she was very timid before
people, and blushed at a mere nothing, and was embarrassed when she had to speak to
But the regret at the loss of the eighteen francs pained her as if she had been wounded.
She tried not to think of it any more, and yet every moment the recollection of the loss
struck her painfully. What was she to do, however? Time went on, and she could not
decide; but suddenly, like all cowards, on making a resolve, she became determined.
“I will go, and we will see what will happen.”
But first of all she was obliged to prepare the umbrella so that the disaster might be
complete, and the reason of it quite evident. She took a match from the mantelpiece, and
between the ribs she burned a hole as big as the palm of her hand; then she delicately
rolled it up, fastened it with the elastic band, put on her bonnet and shawl, and went
quickly toward the Rue de Rivoli, where the assurance office was.
But the nearer she got, the slower she walked. What was she going to say, and what reply
would she get?
She looked at the numbers of the houses; there were still twenty-eight. That was all right,
so she had time to consider, and she walked slower and slower. Suddenly she saw a door
on which was a large brass plate with “La Maternelle Fire Assurance Office” engraved on
it. Already! She waited a moment, for she felt nervous and almost ashamed; then she
walked past, came back, walked past again, and came back again.
At last she said to herself:
“I must go in, however, so I may as well do it sooner as later.”
She could not help noticing, however, how her heart beat as she entered. She went into an
enormous room with grated doors all round it, and above them little openings at which a
man’s head appeared, and as a gentleman carrying a number of papers passed her, she
stopped him and said timidly: “I beg your pardon, monsieur, but can you tell me where I
must apply for payment for anything that has been accidentally burned?”
He replied in a sonorous voice:
“The first door on the left; that is the department you want.”
This frightened her still more, and she felt inclined to run away, to put in no claim, to
sacrifice her eighteen francs. But the idea of that sum revived her courage, and she went
upstairs, out of breath, stopping at almost every other step.
She knocked at a door which she saw on the first landing, and a clear voice said, in
She obeyed mechanically, and found herself in a large room where three solemn
gentlemen, all with a decoration in their buttonholes, were standing talking.
One of them asked her: “What do you want, madame?”
She could hardly get out her words, but stammered: “I have come–I have come on
account of an accident, something–“.
He very politely pointed out a seat to her,
“If you will kindly sit down I will attend to you in a moment.”
And, returning to the other two, he went on with the conversation.
“The company, gentlemen, does not consider that it is under any obligation to you for
more than four hundred thousand francs, and we can pay no attention to your claim to the
further sum of a hundred thousand, which you wish to make us pay. Besides that, the
One of the others interrupted him:
“That is quite enough, monsieur; the law courts will decide between us, and we have
nothing further to do than to take our leave.” And they went out after mutual ceremonious
Oh! if she could only have gone away with them, how gladly she would have done it; she
would have run away and given up everything. But it was too late, for the gentleman
came back, and said, bowing:
“What can I do for you, madame?”
She could scarcely speak, but at last she managed to say:
“I have come-for this.”
The manager looked at the object which she held out to him in mute astonishment.
With trembling fingers she tried to undo the elastic, and succeeding, after several
attempts, she hastily opened the damaged remains of the umbrella.
“It looks to me to be in a very bad state of health,” he said compassionately.
“It cost me twenty francs,” she said, with some hesitation.
He seemed astonished. “Really! As much as that?”
“Yes, it was a capital article, and I wanted you to see the condition it is in.”
“Yes, yes, I see; very well. But I really do not understand what it can have to do with
She began to feel uncomfortable; perhaps this company did not pay for such small
articles, and she said:
“But–it is burned.”
He could not deny it.
“I see that very well,” he replied.
She remained open-mouthed, not knowing what to say next; then, suddenly recollecting
that she had left out the main thing, she said hastily:
“I am Mme. Oreille; we are assured in La Maternelle, and I have come to claim the value
of this damage.”
“I only want you to have it re-covered,” she added quickly, fearing a positive refusal.
The manager was rather embarrassed, and said: “But, really, madame, we do not sell
umbrellas; we cannot undertake such kinds of repairs.”
The little woman felt her courage reviving; she was not going to give up without a
struggle; she was not even afraid any more, and said:
“I only want you to pay me the cost of repairing it; I can quite well get it done myself.”
The gentleman seemed rather confused.
“Really, madame, it is such a very small matter! We are never asked to give
compensation for such trivial losses. You must allow that we cannot make good pockethandkerchiefs,
gloves, brooms, slippers, all the small articles which are every day
exposed to the chances of being burned.”
She got red in the face, and felt inclined to fly into a rage.
“But, monsieur, last December one of our chimneys caught fire, and caused at least five
hundred francs’ damage; M. Oreille made no claim on the company, and so it is only just
that it should pay for my umbrella now.”
The manager, guessing that she was telling a lie, said, with a smile:
“You must acknowledge, madame, that it is very surprising that M. Oreille should have
asked no compensation for damages amounting to five hundred francs, and should now
claim five or six francs for mending an umbrella.”
She was not the least put out, and replied:
“I beg your pardon, monsieur, the five hundred francs affected M. Oreille’s pocket,
whereas this damage, amounting to eighteen francs, concerns Mme. Oreille’s pocket only,
which is a totally different matter.”
As he saw that he had no chance of getting rid of her, and that he would only be wasting
his time, he said resignedly:
“Will you kindly tell me how the damage was done?”
She felt that she had won the victory, and said:
“This is how it happened, monsieur: In our hall there is a bronze stick and umbrella stand,
and the other day, when I came in, I put my umbrella into it. I must tell you that just
above there is a shelf for the candlesticks and matches. I put out my hand, took three or
four matches, and struck one, but it missed fire, so I struck another, which ignited, but
went out immediately, and a third did the same.”
The manager interrupted her to make a joke.
“I suppose they were government matches, then?”
She did not understand him, and went on:
“Very likely. At any rate, the fourth caught fire, and I lit my candle, and went into my
room to go to bed; but in a quarter of an hour I fancied that I smelt something burning,
and I have always been terribly afraid of fire. If ever we have an accident it will not be
my fault, I assure you. I am terribly nervous since our chimney was on fire, as I told you;
so I got up, and hunted about everywhere, sniffing like a dog after game, and at last I
noticed that my umbrella was burning. Most likely a match had fallen between the folds
and burned it. You can see how it has damaged it.”
The manager had taken his cue, and asked her: “What do you estimate the damage at?”
She did not know what to say, as she was not certain what value to put on it, but at last
“Perhaps you had better get it done yourself. I will leave it to you.”
He, however, naturally refused.
“No, madame, I cannot do that. Tell me the amount of your claim, that is all I want to
“Well, I think that– Look here, monsieur, I do not want to make any money out of you,
so I will tell you what we will do. I will take my umbrella to the maker, who will re-cover
it in good, durable silk, and I will bring the bill to you. Will that suit you, monsieur?”
“Perfectly, madame; we will settle it so. Here is a note for the cashier, who will repay you
whatever it costs you.”
He gave Mme. Oreille a slip of paper, who took it, got up and went out, thanking him, for
she was in a hurry to escape lest he should change his mind.
She went briskly through the streets, looking out for a really good umbrella maker, and
when she found a shop which appeared to be a first- class one, she went in, and said,
“I want this umbrella re-covered in silk, good silk. Use the very best and strongest you
have; I don’t mind what it costs.”
Noon had just struck. The school door opened and the youngsters darted out, jostling
each other in their haste to get out quickly. But instead of promptly dispersing and going
home to dinner as usual, they stopped a few paces off, broke up into knots, and began
The fact was that, that morning, Simon, the son of La Blanchotte, had, for the first time,
They had all of them in their families heard talk of La Blanchotte; and, although in public
she was welcome enough, the mothers among themselves treated her with a somewhat
disdainful compassion, which the children had imitated without in the least knowing why.
As for Simon himself, they did not know him, for he never went out, and did not run
about with them in the streets of the village, or along the banks of the river. And they did
not care for him; so it was with a certain delight, mingled with considerable
astonishment, that they met and repeated to each other what had been said by a lad of
fourteen or fifteen who appeared to know all about it, so sagaciously did he wink. “You
know–Simon–well, he has no papa.”
Just then La Blanchotte’s son appeared in the doorway of the school.
He was seven or eight years old, rather pale, very neat, with a timid and almost awkward
He was starting home to his mother’s house when the groups of his schoolmates,
whispering and watching him with the mischievous and heartless eyes of children bent
upon playing a nasty trick, gradually closed in around him and ended by surrounding him
altogether. There he stood in their midst, surprised and embarrassed, not understanding
what they were going to do with him. But the lad who had brought the news, puffed up
with the success he had met with already, demanded:
“What is your name, you?”
He answered: “Simon.”
“Simon what?” retorted the other.
The child, altogether bewildered, repeated: “Simon.”
The lad shouted at him: “One is named Simon something–that is not a name–Simon
The child, on the brink of tears, replied for the third time:
“My name is Simon.”
The urchins began to laugh. The triumphant tormentor cried: “You can see plainly that he
has no papa.”
A deep silence ensued. The children were dumfounded by this extraordinary, impossible,
monstrous thing–a boy who had not a papa; they looked upon him as a phenomenon, an
unnatural being, and they felt that hitherto inexplicable contempt of their mothers for La
Blanchotte growing upon them. As for Simon, he had leaned against a tree to avoid
falling, and he remained as if prostrated by an irreparable disaster. He sought to explain,
but could think of nothing-to say to refute this horrible charge that he had no papa. At last
he shouted at them quite recklessly: “Yes, I have one.”
“Where is he?” demanded the boy.
Simon was silent, he did not know. The children roared, tremendously excited; and those
country boys, little more than animals, experienced that cruel craving which prompts the
fowls of a farmyard to destroy one of their number as soon as it is wounded. Simon
suddenly espied a little neighbor, the son of a widow, whom he had seen, as he himself
was to be seen, always alone with his mother.
“And no more have you,” he said; “no more have you a papa.”
“Yes,” replied the other, “I have one.”
“Where is he?” rejoined Simon.
“He is dead,” declared the brat, with superb dignity; “he is in the cemetery, is my papa.”
A murmur of approval rose among the little wretches as if this fact of possessing a papa
dead in a cemetery had caused their comrade to grow big enough to crush the other one
who had no papa at all. And these boys, whose fathers were for the most part bad men,
drunkards, thieves, and who beat their wives, jostled each other to press closer and closer,
as though they, the legitimate ones, would smother by their pressure one who was
The boy who chanced to be next Simon suddenly put his tongue out at him with a
mocking air and shouted at him:
“No papa! No papa!”
Simon seized him by the hair with both hands and set to work to disable his legs with
kicks, while he bit his cheek ferociously. A tremendous struggle ensued between the two
combatants, and Simon found himself beaten, torn, bruised, rolled on the ground in the
midst of the ring of applauding schoolboys. As he arose, mechanically brushing with his
hand his little blouse all covered with dust, some one shouted at him:
“Go and tell your papa.”
Then he felt a great sinking at his heart. They were stronger than he was, they had beaten
him, and he had no answer to give them, for he knew well that it was true that he had no
papa. Full of pride, he attempted for some moments to struggle against the tears which
were choking him. He had a feeling of suffocation, and then without any sound he
commenced to weep, with great shaking sobs. A ferocious joy broke out among his
enemies, and, with one accord, just like savages in their fearful festivals, they took each
other by the hand and danced round him in a circle, repeating as a refrain:
“No papa! No papa!”
But suddenly Simon ceased sobbing. He became ferocious. There were stones under his
feet; he picked them up and with all his strength hurled them at his tormentors. Two or
three were struck and rushed off yelling, and so formidable did he appear that the rest
became panic-stricken. Cowards, as the mob always is in presence of an exasperated
man, they broke up and fled. Left alone, the little fellow without a father set off running
toward the fields, for a recollection had been awakened in him which determined his soul
to a great resolve. He made up his mind to drown himself in the river.
He remembered, in fact, that eight days before, a poor devil who begged for his
livelihood had thrown himself into the water because he had no more money. Simon had
been there when they fished him out again; and the wretched man, who usually seemed to
him so miserable, and ugly, had then struck him as being so peaceful with his pale
cheeks, his long drenched beard, and his open eyes full of calm. The bystanders had said:
“He is dead.”
And some one had said:
“He is quite happy now.”
And Simon wished to drown himself also, because he had no father, just like the
wretched being who had no money.
He reached the water and watched it flowing. Some fish were sporting briskly in the clear
stream and occasionally made a little bound and caught the flies flying on the surface. He
stopped crying in order to watch them, for their maneuvers interested him greatly. But, at
intervals, as in a tempest intervals of calm alternate suddenly with tremendous gusts of
wind, which snap off the trees and then lose themselves in the horizon, this thought
would return to him with intense pain:
“I am going to drown myself because I have no papa.”
It was very warm, fine weather. The pleasant sunshine warmed the grass. The water
shone like a mirror. And Simon enjoyed some minutes of happiness, of that languor
which follows weeping, and felt inclined to fall asleep there upon the grass in the warm
A little green frog leaped from under his feet. He endeavored to catch it. It escaped him.
He followed it and lost it three times in succession. At last he caught it by one of its hind
legs and began to laugh as he saw the efforts the creature made to escape. It gathered
itself up on its hind legs and then with a violent spring suddenly stretched them out as
stiff as two bars; while it beat the air with its front legs as though they were hands, its
round eyes staring in their circle of yellow. It reminded him of a toy made of straight
slips of wood nailed zigzag one on the other; which by a similar movement regulated the
movements of the little soldiers fastened thereon. Then he thought of his home, and then
of his mother, and, overcome by sorrow, he again began to weep. A shiver passed over
him. He knelt down and said his prayers as before going to bed. But he was unable to
finish them, for tumultuous, violent sobs shook his whole frame. He no longer thought,
he no longer saw anything around him, and was wholly absorbed in crying.
Suddenly a heavy hand was placed upon his shoulder, and a rough voice asked him:
“What is it that causes you so much grief, my little man?”
Simon turned round. A tall workman with a beard and black curly hair was staring at him
good-naturedly. He answered with his eyes and throat full of tears:
“They beat me–because–I–I have no–papa–no papa.”
“What!” said the man, smiling; “why, everybody has one.”
The child answered painfully amid his spasms of grief:
“But I–I–I have none.”
Then the workman became serious. He had recognized La Blanchotte’s son, and, although
himself a new arrival in the neighborhood, he had a vague idea of her history.
“Well,” said he, “console yourself, my boy, and come with me home to your mother.
They will give you–a papa.”
And so they started on the way, the big fellow holding the little fellow by the hand, and
the man smiled, for he was not sorry to see this Blanchotte, who was, it was said, one of
the prettiest girls of the countryside, and, perhaps, he was saying to himself, at the bottom
of his heart, that a lass who had erred might very well err again.
They arrived in front of a very neat little white house.
“There it is,” exclaimed the child, and he cried, “Mamma!”
A woman appeared, and the workman instantly left off smiling, for he saw at once that
there was no fooling to be done with the tall pale girl who stood austerely at her door as
though to defend from one man the threshold of that house where she had already been
betrayed by another. Intimidated, his cap in his hand, he stammered out:
“See, madame, I have brought you back your little boy who had lost himself near the
But Simon flung his arms about his mother’s neck and told her, as he again began to cry:
“No, mamma, I wished to drown myself, because the others had beaten me– had beaten
me–because I have no papa.”
A burning redness covered the young woman’s cheeks; and, hurt to the quick, she
embraced her child passionately, while the tears coursed down her face. The man, much
moved, stood there, not knowing how to get away.
But Simon suddenly ran to him and said:
“Will you be my papa?”
A deep silence ensued. La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame, leaned herself
against the wall, both her hands upon her heart. The child, seeing that no answer was
made him, replied:
“If you will not, I shall go back and drown myself.”
The workman took the matter as a jest and answered, laughing:
“Why, yes, certainly I will.”
“What is your name,” went on the child, “so that I may tell the others when they wish to
know your name?”
“Philip,” answered the man:
Simon was silent a moment so that he might get the name well into his head; then he
stretched out his arms, quite consoled, as he said:
“Well, then, Philip, you are my papa.”
The workman, lifting him from the ground, kissed him hastily on both cheeks, and then
walked away very quickly with great strides. When the child returned to school next day
he was received with a spiteful laugh, and at the end of school, when the lads were on the
point of recommencing, Simon threw these words at their heads as he would have done a
stone: “He is named Philip, my papa.”
Yells of delight burst out from all sides.
“Philip who? Philip what? What on earth is Philip? Where did you pick up your Philip?”
Simon answered nothing; and, immovable in his faith, he defied them with his eye, ready
to be martyred rather than fly before them. The school master came to his rescue and he
returned home to his mother.
During three months, the tall workman, Philip, frequently passed by La Blanchotte’s
house, and sometimes he made bold to speak to her when he saw her sewing near the
window. She answered him civilly, always sedately, never joking with him, nor
permitting him to enter her house. Notwithstanding, being, like all men, a bit of a
coxcomb, he imagined that she was often rosier than usual when she chatted with him.
But a lost reputation is so difficult to regain and always remains so fragile that, in spite of
the shy reserve of La Blanchotte, they already gossiped in the neighborhood.
As for Simon he loved his new papa very much, and walked with him nearly every
evening when the day’s work was done. He went regularly to school, and mixed with
great dignity with his schoolfellows without ever answering them back.
One day, however, the lad who had first attacked him said to him:
“You have lied. You have not a papa named Philip.”
“Why do you say that?” demanded Simon, much disturbed.
The youth rubbed his hands. He replied:
“Because if you had one he would be your mamma’s husband.”
Simon was confused by the truth of this reasoning; nevertheless, he retorted:
“He is my papa, all the same.”
“That can very well be,” exclaimed the urchin with a sneer, “but that is not being your
La Blanchotte’s little one bowed his head and went off dreaming in the direction of the
forge belonging to old Loizon, where Philip worked. This forge was as though buried
beneath trees. It was very dark there; the red glare of a formidable furnace alone lit up
with great flashes five blacksmiths; who hammered upon their anvils with a terrible din.
They were standing enveloped in flame, like demons, their eyes fixed on the red-hot iron
they were pounding; and their dull ideas rose and fell with their hammers.
Simon entered without being noticed, and went quietly to pluck his friend by the sleeve.
The latter turned round. All at once the work came to a standstill, and all the men looked
on, very attentive. Then, in the midst of this unaccustomed silence, rose the slender pipe
“Say, Philip, the Michaude boy told me just now that you were not altogether my papa.”
“Why not?” asked the blacksmith,
The child replied with all innocence:
“Because you are not my mamma’s husband.”
No one laughed. Philip remained standing, leaning his forehead upon the back of his
great hands, which supported the handle of his hammer standing upright upon the anvil.
He mused. His four companions watched him, and Simon, a tiny mite among these
giants, anxiously waited. Suddenly, one of the smiths, answering to the sentiment of all,
said to Philip:
“La Blanchotte is a good, honest girl, and upright and steady in spite of her misfortune,
and would make a worthy wife for an honest man.”
“That is true,” remarked the three others.
The smith continued:
“Is it the girl’s fault if she went wrong? She had been promised marriage; and I know
more than one who is much respected to-day, and who sinned every bit as much.”
“That is true,” responded the three men in chorus.
“How hard she has toiled, poor thing, to bring up her child all alone, and how she has
wept all these years she has never gone out except to church, God only knows.”
“This is also true,” said the others.
Then nothing was heard but the bellows which fanned the fire of the furnace. Philip
hastily bent himself down to Simon:
“Go and tell your mother that I am coming to speak to her this evening.” Then he pushed
the child out by the shoulders. He returned to his work, and with a single blow the five
hammers again fell upon their anvils. Thus they wrought the iron until nightfall, strong,
powerful, happy, like contented hammers. But just as the great bell of a cathedral
resounds upon feast days above the jingling of the other bells, so Philip’s hammer,
sounding above the rest, clanged second after second with a deafening uproar. And he
stood amid the flying sparks plying his trade vigorously.
The sky was full of stars as he knocked at La Blanchotte’s door. He had on his Sunday
blouse, a clean shirt, and his beard was trimmed. The young woman showed herself upon
the threshold, and said in a grieved tone:
“It is ill to come thus when night has fallen, Mr. Philip.”
He wished to answer, but stammered and stood confused before her.
“You understand, do you not, that it will not do for me to be talked about again.”
“What does that matter to me, if you will be my wife!”
No voice replied to him, but he believed that he heard in the shadow of the room the
sound of a falling body. He entered quickly; and Simon, who had gone to bed,
distinguished the sound of a kiss and some words that his mother murmured softly. Then,
all at once, he found himself lifted up by the hands of his friend, who, holding him at the
length of his herculean arms, exclaimed:
“You will tell them, your schoolmates, that your papa is Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and
that he will pull the ears of all who do you any harm.”
On the morrow, when the school was full and lessons were about to begin, little Simon
stood up, quite pale with trembling lips:
“My papa,” said he in a clear voice, “is Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and he has promised
to pull the ears of all who does me any harm.”
This time no one laughed, for he was very well known, was Philip Remy, the blacksmith,
and was a papa of whom any one in the world would have been proud.
Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant (5 August 1850 – 6 July 1893) was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms.
Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert and his stories are characterized by economy of style and efficient, effortless dénouements (outcomes). Many are set during the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s, describing the futility of war and the innocent civilians who, caught up in events beyond their control, are permanently changed by their experiences. He wrote some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. His first published story, “Boule de Suif” (“Ball of Fat”, 1880), is often considered his masterpiece.
[Author image courtesy: By User Den fjättrade ankan on sv.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1250918]