The Adopted Son
(Guy de Maupassant)
Biography of the Author
Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), French author of the naturalistic school who is generally considered the greatest French short story writer. Guy de Maupassant was probably born at the Château de Miromesniel, Dieppe on August 5, 1850. In 1869 Maupassant started to study law in Paris, but soon, at the age of 20, he volunteered to serve in the army during the Franco-Prussian War. Between the years 1872 and 1880 Maupassant was a civil servant, first at the ministry of maritime affairs, then at the ministry of education. As a poet Maupassant made his debut with Des Vers (1880). In the same year he published in the anthology Soirées de Medan (1880), edited by E. Zola, his masterpiece, Boule De Suif (Ball of Fat, 1880). During the 1880s Maupassant created some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. In tone, his tales were marked by objectivity, highly controlled style, and sometimes by sheer comedy. Usually they were built around simple episodes from everyday life, which revealed the hidden sides of people. Among Maupassant's best-known books are Une Vie (A Woman's Life, 1883), about the frustrating existence of a Norman wife and Bel-Ami (1885), which depicts an unscrupulous journalist. Pierre Et Jean (1888) was a psychological study of two brothers. Maupassant's most upsetting horror story, Le Horla (1887), was about madness and suicide.
Summary of the Book
The two cottages stood beside each other at the foot of a hill near a little seashore resort. The two peasants labored hard on the unproductive soil to rear their little ones, and each family had four. Before the adjoining doors a whole troop of urchins played and tumbled
about from morning till night. The two eldest were six years old, and the youngest were about fifteen months; the marriages, and afterward the births, having taken place nearly simultaneously in both families. The two mothers could hardly distinguish their own offspring among the lot, and as for the fathers, they were altogether at sea. The eight
names danced in their heads; they were always getting them mixed up; and
when they wished to call one child, the men often called three names
before getting the right one. The first of the two cottages, as you came up from the bathing beach, Rolleport, was occupied by the Tuvaches, who had three girls and one boy; the other house sheltered the Vallins, who had one girl and three boys. They all subsisted frugally on soup, potatoes and fresh air. At seven o'clock in the morning, then at noon, then at six o'clock in the evening, the housewives got their broods together to give them their food, as the gooseherds collect their charges. The children were seated, according to age, before the wooden table, varnished by fifty years of use; the mouths
of the youngest hardly reaching the level of the table. Before them was placed a bowl filled with bread, soaked in the water in which the potatoes had been boiled, half a cabbage and three onions; and the whole line ate until their hunger was appeased. The mother herself fed the smallest.
A small pot roast on Sunday was a feast for all; and the father on this day sat longer over the meal, repeating: I wish we could have this everyday. One afternoon, in the month of August, a phaeton stopped suddenly in front of the cottages, and a young woman, who was driving the horses, said to the gentleman sitting at her side: Oh, look at all those children, Henri! How pretty they are, tumbling about in the dust, like that! The man did not answer, accustomed to these outbursts of admiration, which were a pain and almost a reproach to him. The young woman continued: I must hug them! Oh, how I should like to have one of them--that one there--the little tiny one! Springing down from the carriage, she ran toward the children, took one of the two youngest--a Tuvache child--and lifting it up in her arms, she kissed him passionately ondirty cheeks, on his tousled hair daubed with earth, and on his little hands, with which he fought vigorously, to
get away from the caresses which displeased him. Then she got into the carriage again, and drove off at a lively trot. But she returned the following week, and seating herself on the ground, took the youngster in her arms, stuffed him with cakes; gave candies to
all the others, and played with them like a young girl, while the husband
waited patiently in the carriage. She returned again; made the acquaintance of the parents, and reappeared every day with her pockets full of dainties and pennies. Her name was Madame Henri d'Hubieres. One morning, on arriving, her husband alighted with her, and without stopping to talk to the children, who now knew her well, she entered the
farmer's cottage. They were busy chopping wood for the fire. They rose to their feet in
surprise, brought forward chairs, and waited expectantly. Then the woman, in a broken, trembling voice, began: My good people, I have come to see you, because I should like--I should like to take--your little boy with me-- The country people, too bewildered to think, did not answer. She recovered her breath, and continued: We are alone, my husband and I. We would keep it. Are you willing? The peasant woman began to understand.