Title: The Donkey
Date Read: 12th January 2009
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: Two men, who perhaps could be best described as ‘river gypsies’ (Maupassant, or perhaps more accurately the interpreter, calls them ‘junk gatherers’), eke out a living fishing, hunting and dredging the river for ‘stuff’ (‘stuff being anything from the contents of the pockets of floating dead to the ‘borrowing’ of boats). Sleeping off an early morning session of rabbit-hunting in the bottom of their boat, the men are awoken by an old woman trying to pull a stubborn donkey along a bridle path. It soon becomes clear that a money-making opportunity has presented itself, and the men set about putting a plan into action.
Afterthoughts: All in all a typically humourous tale from Maupassant, which focuses on the lower dregs of society. There is a short scene of mild animal cruelty which I wasn’t too taken with, but I can see the reason why he included it i.e. to reaffirm just how despicable these characters were – although personally I think he did enough when explaining that the two men emptied the pockets of the floating dead.
Notable Quote: ‘They were a low order of sailors and they navigated regularly only in the months of famine. The rest of the time they acted as junk-gatherers. Rowing about on the river day and night, watching for any prey, dead or alive, poachers on the water and nocturnal hunters, sometimes ambushing venison in the Saint-Germain forests, sometimes looking for drowned people and searching their clothes, picking up floating rags and empty bottles; thus did Labouise and Maillochon live easily.’
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.