Title: The Devil.
Date Read: 05th July 2010
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: It’s a sad time in the ramshackle peasant home of Honore Bontemps, as his mother wheezes out her last few hours on the planet. But the wheat harvest stops for no man (or 92-year-old woman) and desperate to gather in the crop before it’s ruined, Honore pleads with the doctor to let him go out to the fields. Horrified that the poor old woman should die alone, the doctor implores Honore to temporarily employ old washerwoman, La Rapet – a woman experienced in the task of watching over the dead – to sit with the dying woman. Fearful that the old woman may last longer than expected, Honore strikes up a deal with the washerwoman.
Afterthoughts: This is an absolutely wonderful tale from Maupassant that will entertain and shock at the same time. Maupassant’s wry humour is clearly evident in this tale, and although the ending may be easily guessed at around halfway through, it certainly doesn’t leave the reader feeling in anyway short changed (unlike one of the characters in the story :)). As is often the case Maupassant thrilled me with his scene description. So much so that I’ve chosen it for my notable quote – read it and tell me that a warm glow doesn’t encircle your heart.
Notable Quote: The July sun streamed in at the window and through the open door and cast its hot flames on to the uneven brown clay floor, which had been stamped down by four generations of clodhoppers. The smell of the fields came in also, driven by the brisk wind, and parched by the noontide heat. The grasshoppers chirped themselves hoarse, filling the air with their shrill noise, like that of the wooden crickets which are sold to children at fair time.
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.