Story Synopses

Below are listed short synopses of Maupassant’s stories. Please be aware that they may contain plot spoilers. Some of Maupassant’s stories have a surprise ending so we would recommend that you avoid reading the synopsis if you are intending to read the story.

The stories have been listed alphabetically using the French title and where useful a single English title. For a more comprehensive list of alternate English titles see the Story Details page.

L’Abandonné (Abandoned or The Castaway)
Leaving her husband indoors Mme Cadour goes for a walk with their friend d’Apreval. It turns out that Mme Cadour had had d’Apreval’s child forty years before. The child was raised by foster parents and she has never seen her child or known anything about him. They both decide to visit their offspring together.

Adieu (Farewell!)
Two friends are talking about time and ageing. One of the men mentions a recent meeting on a train with a woman that he had loved but hadn’t seen for twelve years. He barely recognised her as she was now a stout mother of four.

Alexander has been employed by the cantankerous Captain Maramballe for thirty-five years, first as an orderly and then as a servant. Every day he takes the Captain’s invalid wife out in her wheelchair along the riverbank. When they stop to rest Mme Maramballe asks just why Alexander has stayed loyal to herself and her husband all these years.

The narrator has been travelling around Algeria. One day he gets lost but meets a Frenchman, Auballe who tells him about his life in Algeria. Auballe has lived there for nine years and admits to sometimes missing the company of women but tells of his experiences with Allouma, abeautiful Algerian woman. She lived with him for several years but periodically became homesick and had to leave. Auballe accepts this magnaminously but each time wonders if she’ll return.

L’Ami Joseph (Friend Joseph)

L’Ami Patience (Friend Patience)

Amour (Love)
Reading a newspaper article about a tragic love affair reminds the narrator of a shooting incident from his youth. He had been invited by a cousin on an early morning duck shoot. They had risen early and gone to a type of igloo which was to be their base. They started their hunt at daybreak. Near the end of the shoot the narrator shot a bird that dropped to his feet. It was a female and the narrator was informed by his cousin that the male would not desert her. They put the dead female out as bait and when the male bird came down they shot it.

L’Âne (The Donkey)
Chicot and Mailloche are fishing and shooting rabbits on the river bank. They’re unscrupulous characters. They see a woman pulling an old donkey along to be slaughtered. They tease her about her donkey but offer her some money for it. The men get pleasure by torturing the animal and then cheating an innkeeper out of some money.

Apparition (The Apparition)

Après (After)

L’Armoire (The Wardrobe)


L’Attente (Mother and Son)
M. Le Brument, a lawyer, tells of an event six months before where he was called to the bedside of a dying woman who wanted Brument to find her son after her death. She explained that she had loved a man shortly before her marriage to another. She had a child and her husband died after a few years. Her lover had since married someone else but he began to visit her and he became her lover again. Her son was fond of the woman’s lover but when he discovered, at the age of seventeen, the true nature of their relationship he left. She broke off her relationship with her lover and saw neither for the remaining twenty years of her life. Le Brument explains that he still hasn’t found the son.

L’Auberge (The Inn)

Auprès d’un Mort (Beside Schopenhauer’s Corpse)
The narrator begins to talk to a tall German over the books that they are reading. The German shows the narrator that his book is an annotated book by Schopenhauer. He recounts how he had known Schopenhauer just before his death and that he, along with several others, had kept vigil over the corpse. After a little while they sensed an unpleasant odor from the corpse and the corpse began to make small noises which unnerved the people present. Some saw something white fall from the bed to the floor which unnerved them even more. When they investigated they discovered Schopenhauer’s false teeth on the floor.

Autre Temps (Other Times)
The narrator compares contemporary morality with that of the 18th century, discusses kept women and then a case of a ‘kept man’.

L’Aventure de Walter Schnaffs (Walter Schnaffs’ Adventure)
Walter Schnaffs is a fat Prussian soldier who loves eating and drinking more than fighting and marching. During an attack by French soldiers he takes cover in a ditch. The enemy move on but he is unsure what to do as he doesn’t know where his comrades are and he is on French soil. Eventually his hunger drives him from his hiding-place and he approaches a French chateau…

Une Aventure Parisienne (A Parisian Affair)
A provincial wife becomes obsessed with the luxury and decadence of Paris. She finds a pretext to go there without her husband but she is disappointed with how ordinary it is. One day she notices a famous writer in an antique shop and buys a Buddha statue that the writer couldn’t afford. She offers it to him which he eventually accepts. She accompanies him around Paris for the day…and night.

L’aveu (Confessing)
A mother and daughter walk towards some cows in a field, milk them and begin to walk back to their farm. The daughter stops, puts the pails down and confesses to her mother that she is pregnant. Her mother is furious when she finds out that the father is Polyte, a carrier, and that the daughter had only gone with him to get out of paying his carrying charges. She calms down and then calculates how much free carrying they will be able to get away with.

L’Aveugle (The Blind Man)
The narrator pities the blind who cannot enjoy the sunshine and all the colours of the earth. He recounts the story of a blind peasant who was completely dependent on his sister. His sister’s family resented the food that he received at their expense and would frequently humiliate him. He was forced to beg in order to earn his keep but he brought home little money. One winter he was sent out to beg and forgotten about. He walked off but got lost and died in the snow. His corpse was eventually found with its eyes pecked out by some crows.

Le Baiser (The Kiss)

Un Bandit Corse (The Corsican Bandit)

Le Baptême [1] (The Christening)
At a christening the priest becomes besotted with the child, much to the amusement of the others.

Le Baptême [2] (The Christening)
While appreciating a cognac the doctor tells of the dangers of drink. When he was in Brittany he was asked to be the godfather to his gardener’s son. It was January but as was the custom the child had to brought into the church naked and to stay naked throughout the ceremony. By the end the baby was blue and the furious doctor told them to quickly get it home in the warm. Instead they went drinking and returned blind drunk with the dead baby. They then started drinking the lamp oil. The wife died as well. The doctor admires his brandy and contemplates the havoc it causes.

La Baronne (The Baroness)
While visiting an antique dealer Boisrené asks about a Renaissance statue of Christ he had once seen at the dealer’s. He explains that he had lent it to Baroness Samoris, a kept woman, to use her persuasive skills to sell the piece to clients that the dealer sent her way; she would receive a commission on the sale. However Samoris finds the statue useful in other ways.

La Bécasse (The Snipe)
The Baron des Ravots had had a lifelong passion for hunting but a stroke had prevented him from taking part in recent years. He still had guests during the hunting season and he enjoyed listening to their hunting anecdotes. But there was an old custom called the ‘Story of the Snipe’ in which everyone was obliged to take part.

Les Bécasses

Berthe (Bertha)
Upon visiting his friend Dr. Bonnet in Riom the narrator notices a house that has its windows boarded up and enquires about the house. Dr. Bonnet tells him about a simple girl that he treated called Berthe. Bonnet tried to teach her various things, such as telling the time, with a little success. Although simple, Berthe was attractive and she married a man who was a bit of a rake. But this just led to madness.

La Bête a Maît’Belhomme (Belhomme’s Beast)
Passengers get on the Havre stage-coach at Criquetot. They include a priest, a schoolmaster, a few peasants etc. including Master Belhomme who has a handkerchief applied to his ear. When the coach starts they talk uneasily for a while but their attention is soon taken up by the groaning of Belhomme. It turns out that he has earache and Belhomme complains that he has a ‘beast’ in his ear that is in danger of eating its way through into his brain. He’s going to Havre to see a healer as he doesn’t trust doctors. When his suffering gets too much they stop at a farm and try to wash his ear out with water and then brandy. They eventually wash out the ‘beast’ which is a flea, much to the amusement of the others.

Les Bijoux (The Jewels)

Blanc et Bleu

Au Bois (In the Woods)
A policeman informs the mayor that he found an elderly couple making love in the woods. They are 55-60 years old and work in a Parisian haberdashery. The woman recounts how they had recently become obsessed with re-living a carefree youth that neither really had.



Le Bonheur (Happiness)
Whilst on a boat in the Mediterranean several people are talking of love and happiness. They then notice that they can see Corsica and that prompts an old gentleman to tell his tale. Five years ago he made a trip to Corsica and ended up one day at a little house where he sought food and shelter. It was occupied by an old couple. It turns out that the woman was originally from Nancy, the traveller’s homeplace, and that she, then a wealthy young girl, had run off with a handsome soldier; this was the old, deaf man who occupied the house with the woman. They were still happy and never regretted running away together.

Au Bord du Lit (In the Bedroom)
The Comte & Comtesse de Sallure have returned from an evening out. The Comte criticises his wife about her flirting with another man. She reminds him that he had had a string of mistresses and that their marriage was for appearances only and that she was free to take a lover as well. Eventually they come to a satisfactory agreement.

Boule De Suif
Rouen has recently become occupied by Prussian troops. Some of the wealthy citizens arrange a coach to go to Le Havre which leaves early in the morning. The journey takes longer than expected as it keeps getting stuck in the snow. The travellers become hungry but it is only ‘Boule de Suif’, a prostitute, who has any food. She shares it with the others and they become friendly. They stop at an inn in Tôtes which is occupied by Prussian soldiers. A Prussian officer will not let the travellers continue until Boule de Suif sleeps with him. She refuses but before long the other travellers try to get her to change her mind so that they can continue their journey.

La Bûche (The Log)
An old couple are in a drawing-room. They are friends. When a large log falls from the fire the man says that the incident reminded him of why he never married. He used to live with a very good friend, Julien. Julien got married and the narrator ended up visiting the couple on a regular basis. One time the friend had to stay away and he was asked to keep his wife, Bertha, company. They had never been alone together before. Bertha eventually reveals that she loves the narrator. He is shocked and does not want to betray Julien, but he is tempted, then a log fell from the fire distracting the narrator and Julien enters. The log saved him.

Le Bûcher (A Cremation)
The previous week the death of an Indian prince occurred at Étretat. He had suffered from pains in his gums which had spread quickly throughout his body. His fellow Indians requested permission to cremate the body in accordance to their religion. The mayor hesitated but accepted. The cremation was performed in the early hours of the morning. Rumours spread the following day about a man being burnt alive and that the prince had had cholera. The narrator approves of cremation and prefers it to burial.
Ça Ira

En canot (On The River)

Les Caresses
Two discovered letters between lovers on love and caresses.

Un Cas de Divorce

Le Cas de Madame Luneau

Châli (Shali)
The Admiral of Vallée tells his tale of romance. At the age of 30 he went into Central India as a part of an astronomical expedition. Ganhara’s ruler, Rajah Maddan was a rich despot who lived in luxurious decadence. He took the narrator hunting and lavished all sorts of gifts on him. One day the narrator found six girls, between six and eight years old, in his room; the eldest was called Shali. He would tell them stories and play games with them. Shali became his favourite. One day the Rajah sent the narrator a box with shells on the cover which Shali loved. When the narrator left he gave the box to Shali as a gift. Two years later the narrator was once again in the region and so decided to pay a visit on the Rajah. He wonders what has become of Shali?

La Chambre 11

Le Champ d’Oliviers (The Olive Grove)

Aux Champs (In the Country)

A Cheval ( Riding Out)

La Chevelure (A Tress of Hair)


Clair de Lune [1] (Moonlight)

Clair de Lune [2] (In the Moonlight)
The Abbé Marignan was a tall, fanatical priest, who tried to understand God’s will. He hated all women and could only tolerate nuns. His niece loved life and when the Abbé discovered that she had a lover he was concerned for her. He decides to intercept the lovers at their late-night rendezvous. Outside he wonders why God made the moonlight so beautiful when everyone should be in bed, then he sees the lovers.

Clochette (Clochette)
Clochette was an old dressmaker who used to arrive at the narrator’s parents’ house every week to do the mending. She was tall, thin, bearded and limped. The narrator loved her and she used to tell him stories. One day the narrator discovered her dead and he later overheard the doctor tell of Clochette’s past. She was beautiful when young and had fallen in love with the schoolmaster. They would have been discovered in the hayloft by the headmaster but for Clochette who jumped out of the loft resulting in a broken leg. The schoolmaster did not marry her and she died a virgin.

Ce Cochon de Morin (That Pig, Morin)
When Labare is asked why he keeps on using the phrase ‘That pig, Morin’ he tells this story. Morin owned a drapery in a provincial town. He visited Paris one year and was exhilarated by all the beautiful woman there. On his train journey home he encountered a young, beautiful woman and they shared a carriage together. After working himself into a frenzy he made a clumsy grab for the woman. The woman was shocked and called for the guards. She later made a charge against him. His friends were asked to persuade the woman to drop the charge and so they visited her and her family. The narrator ended up flirting with the woman. Meanwhile it was decided to drop the charge. When Morin was informed he was pleased.


“Coco, Coco, Coco, Fresh!”

Le Colporteur

Comment on Cause

Le Condamné A Mort

La Confession de Théodule Sabot (Theodule Sabot’s Confession)
Sabot is an atheist carpenter who loves making fun of the priest and his flock. When it looks like Sabot may become mayor of the village the priest announces that the church needs to be refitted. The lure of such lucrative work makes Sabot change his attitude.

La Confession [1] (A Sister’s Confession)
Marguerite was dying. She was fifty-six but looked older. She had lived with her older sister, Suzanne, since Suzanne’s husband-to-be, Henry, died before they could get married. Suzanne had vowed she would never marry and Marguerite had promised to never leave her. The priest arrives and hears Marguerite’s confession. She confesses that she had killed Henry out of jealousy by grinding up some glass into some cakes that he liked to eat. Marguerite asks for Suzanne’s forgiveness. Which she gives.

La Confession [2] (A Father’s Confession)
M. Badon-Leremincé was an honourable man. In his will he confesses to having a child to a lower-class girl when still a bachelor and that he had developed a hatred of the child as its existence could possibly prevent him from marrying the woman he loved.

La Confession [3]
Captain Hector-Marie de Fontane and Mlle Laurine d’Estelle married although they were considered an unsuitable match. She was bubbly and charming whereas he was grave and austere but, surprisingly, they got on well together. One night Fontane got drunk with his army buddies and ended up in a woman’s bed. Remorsefully he decides to confess his wrongdoing to his wife—but how will she react?

Confessions D’une Femme (A Woman’s Confession)
An elderly woman reveals that she was often in love. She reveals that her first husband was a bit of a brute. He suspected his wife of cheating on him. One day he suggested they go duck-shooting as both enjoyed it. He, however, suspects that his wife has a rendezvous with her lover.

La Confidence (The Secret)
The normally placid Baroness is quite agitated and she asks her friend, the Marquise, if she can keep a secret. The Baroness tells how her husband is repulsive to her and that he is too demanding. He believes that she is having affairs and he is jealous. One time he jabbed her in the arm with a hat pin. In order to get her revenge on him she commits adultery and finds it amusing that it was her husband’s actions that drove her to it. She finds the sight of her husband hilarious.

Conflits Pour Rire

Conte de Noël
Dr. Bonenfant tells how he saw a miracle one Christmas. It had snowed heavily for days and the villagers were mostly housebound. One villager ventured outside and found a large egg that was still warm. His wife ate the egg but felt ill during the night. She feels she’s possessed and the local priest is called for and the woman is taken to the Christmas Eve service with the hope that it will benefit her.

Un Coq Chanta (Cockcrow)
Berthe’s husband is short, fat and boring; she calls him ‘old Pipe and Slippers’. She has an admirer in Baron de Croissard. At a boar-hunting party Berthe suggests to the Baron that she will sleep with him if he kills the boar. She teases him and initially prevents him from joining in the hunt. He eventually joins in and kills the boar. Later on in the evening she teases him further but after the exertions of the hunt the Baron is very tired.

Correspondance (The Impolite Sex)
In a letter to Mme de L Mme de X vents her disgust at the manners of modern French men. They don’t dress correctly, talk boorishly about subjects in public not fit for women and children. She threatens to pay a visit to Mme de L during the hunting season just to tease the men. Mme de L replies that whilst men can be a bit rude at times women are very often worse than men. They are often haughty, self-conceited and inconsiderate of others.

Un Coup d’État (A Coup d’état)

Cri D’Alarme

Le Crime au Père Boniface (Old Boniface’s Crime)
Boniface the postman makes his rounds. On his way to deliver a newspaper to the newly arrived, newly wed tax-collector he reads about an horrific murder case. Boniface is surprised to find the tax-collector’s house locked and no-one about. When he investigates he hears moans and screams and, believing a murder is taking place, he runs to fetch the local policeman. The policeman discovers the real reason for all the noise and ribs Old Boniface.

Décoré (The Decoration)

Découverte (Discovery)


Deux Amis (Two Friends)

Le Diable (The Devil)
Honoré’s mother is 92 years old and on her death-bed. Honoré has to harvest his crops and so gets Mother Rapet to watch over his mother. Rather than pay the going rate, Honoré suggests that he’ll pay a fixed amount of six francs suggesting that Mother Rapet will benefit if his mother does not last long. He thinks his mother could last weeks and if she does he’ll do well out of the arrangement. When the old woman takes too long to die Mother Rapet worries that she’ll be out of money on the deal and takes matters into her own hands.

Les Dimanches d’un Bourgeois de Paris (Sundays of a Bourgeois)

A young, retired lawyer visits Maître Bontran, a divorce lawyer. He tells how he replied to an advertisement in a newspaper from a lady wishing to marry; fed up with living in poverty he was especially interested in her dowry of two and a half million francs. After six months of happily married life he noticed that she regularly went out alone and so decided to follow her.

Le Docteur Héraclius Gloss

Le Donneur d’eau Bénite (The Dispenser of Holy Water)
Pierre and Jeanne married and when, after five years, they had a child (Jean) they were truly happy. When a circus passed through town Jean went missing. The couple aged rapidly with their sorrow. They searched all over for Jean. They ended up selling their house and became beggars while they looked for him. They went to Paris and ended up with a spot outside a church. One day they recognise Jean as he looks like Pierre when he was young. Jean had been adopted and was due to marry. The couple’s misfortune was now at an end.

La Dot (The Dowry)

Un Drame Vrai (A True-Life Drama)


Un Duel (A Duel)

Aux Eaux

Un Échec

L’Endormeuse (The Magic Couch)

L’Enfant [1] (A Wedding Gift, The Child)
Jacques Bourdillère had sworn he’d never marry, but then he met Berthe. Her parents were unsure because it was known that Jacques had an older mistress. They relent and the couple marry. However, on their wedding day Jacques receives a letter from a doctor informing him that his ex-mistress is dying, having given birth to a baby.

L’Enfant [2] (The Child)
After dinner the guests were talking about a case where a girl had killed her unwanted child in a pickling vat. The guests are horrified but the doctor tries to defend her. He says that it’s easy for those people with no passion to be moral; those with strong passions are not wholly to blame. He tells of a woman called Hélène who was sexual from an early age. She married at fifteen and her husbands died one after another. She then lived alone but was restless. She tried to tire herself out but to no avail. She became pregnant by the gardener and was advised to go away for the period of the pregnancy. She didn’t and instead she tried all sorts of things to induce an abortion. In the end she cut out the baby with a carving-knife, strangled it and died in a pool of blood.


L’Épave (The Wreck)
After breakfast the narrator watches his friend, Georges Garin, receive an interesting looking letter from abroad. Georges explains that he was once an inspector of Maritime Insurance Co. He had gone to the island of Re to investigate a vessel that had run ashore. It was possible to reach the wreck on foot when the tide was out. He was surprised to find a man there with his three daughters. They get caught by the tide and are trapped on the wreck. Georges falls in love with the eldest daughter. They are rescued before too long and aim to keep in touch. She writes every year and tells him of her husband and children. Georges is still in love with her even though he hasn’t seen her since.


L’Epingle (Fascination)

Les Épingles

L’Épreuve (The Test)


Étrennes (A New Year’s Gift)

En Famille (A Family Affair)

Une Famille (A Family)
The narrator comments on a visit to an old friend, Simon Radevin, who he hadn’t seen since he’d married fifteen years before. The narrator barely recognises him when they meet. His wife is stout and plain. They have five children. The wife’s grandfather entertains the family at the dinner table with his antics. They tease him with the food; he gets very animated when food is placed before him and can’t get enough. The narrator is disgusted with the way they treat him and horrified by provincial life.

Farce Normande (A Normandy Joke)
Jean Patu, a rich farmer who enjoys hunting, has just married Rosalie Roussel; the procession leads towards the reception. Food and drink was in great supply. As the party got more lively the guests would rib the married couple. Some joked that Jean wouldn’t be paying much attention to the poachers tonight. When the married couple are undressed Jean can hear gunshots in the distance and despite his wife’s entreaties he goes out to look for the poachers. He doesn’t return but is found in the morning tied hand and foot with three dead hares round his neck. He would joke about it later.

La Farce

La Femme de Paul (Femme Fatale)
Many couples like to spend their time at the boating lake and restaurant at La Grenouillère including Paul and Madeleine who are apparently much in love. When a boat containing four women arrive they attract attention from the restaurant’s clientele who cheer and shout ‘Aye-aye! Lesbos!’. Paul disapproves and when it’s apparent that Madeleine knows them already he makes a scene. He tries to keep Madeleine away from the women but when he later catches her making love to one of them it’s too much for him to bear.

Ma Femme (My Wife)
Some married men are re-living their bachelor days. Pierre Létoile has the perfect wife and tells how he got married. He was at a wedding in Normandy and when it ended at 11 p.m. he joined a nearby rustic ball where he danced and drank until the early hours. On returning to his room he thought he’d found the right room but when he was woken in the morning he found himself in a young girl’s bedroom, the daughter of a colonel. He was persuaded to marry her to save her honour and has never regretted it.

La Fenêtre
M. de Brives is attracted to the widow Mme de Jadelle and declares his love. She proposes that he should live with her on her estate for the summer as she will only marry a man whom she knows everything about his nature. M. de Brives is spied on by the servants in order to provide information about his habits. M. de Brives tries to find out more about the widow’s physical attributes.

Le Fermier (The Farmer’s Wife)

La Ficelle (The Piece of String)
A peasant, Hauchecorne, picks up a piece of string when going to market and is observed by his enemy, Malandain. It is announced that an aristocrat’s wallet has gone missing and Malandain, who remembers seeing Hauchecorne picking up something, accuses him of stealing the wallet. Hauchecorne protests his innocence but no-one believes him.

Un Fils (The Son)

Fini (All Over)

La Folle (The Madwoman)
When the Prussians came to town during the Franco-Prussian war the narrator lived next door to a woman who had gone mad several years ago following several deaths in her immediate family. The Prussian soldiers billeted in both houses. The officer in the woman’s house took offence at the woman for not leaving her bed to greet them. When the woman shows no signs of leaving her bed the officer takes the law into his own hands.

Un Fou (The Diary of a Madman)
When a high-court judge died he was given a splendid funeral. He had been highly honoured during his career and was widely respected. A diary was found in his desk which had entries commenting on death and killing. The entries began with the writer wondering what it’s like to kill. He described the enjoyment of his first killing, a little bird, although there wasn’t enough blood for his liking. Next he strangled a child and then put a spade through a sleeping man’s head. He exults at this newfound pleasure and is especially gleeful when others are found guilty and executed.

Fou? (Call It Madness?)

Un Fou? (Mad?)
The narrator is told that Jacques Parent is in the asylum. He remembers that Jacques did not like to show his hands. One evening Jacques displayed the hypnotic power his hands had over beings and inanimate objects.

Garçon, Un Bock!… (Waiter, A “Bock”)
One evening the narrator goes into a beer hall on a whim. As it is busy the only place he can find is near a dirty, bald-headed man, a ‘regular’. The man recognises the narrator; it turns out they were friends at college. The man is Count Jean des Barrets. Barrets is weary and tells the narrator that he drinks because he has nothing else to do, he spends all day drinking beer. When the narrator asks if something happened in his life to cause this the Count describes an event in his adolescence where he witnessed his father beating his mother whilst trying to get her to sign a form transferring her wealth to him; she refused as the money was intended for Jean. His mother died a few years later and although his father still lives he has not seen him since. Since then he has no longer had a desire for anything or anyone.

Le Garde (The Gamekeeper)
M. Boniface tells a story about his gamekeeper, a retired policeman, who was guardian to his fourteen-year-old nephew. One day when Boniface arrives for a bit of shooting his gamekeeper reveals that his nephew had been setting traps on his land. Ashamed, the gamekeeper forces his nephew to beg forgiveness but his nephew won’t let that be the end of it.

Le Gâteau

Le Gueux (The Beggar)
Nicolas Toussaint had his legs crushed when he was fifteen. He was an orphan and lived by begging. He had never been outside the village. People were getting tired of him and he found it increasingly difficult to get food. Driven to desperation he kills a hen but is then attacked by the owner. He is arrested and taken to the police station in another village. He dies in the cell.

Hautot Père et Fils (Hautot & Son)
It’s the beginning of the hunting season. A party, including Hautot Snr and his son César, go off early in the morning. Hautot Snr has an accident where he drops his gun whilst picking up a partridge and shoots himself in the stomach. Knowing that he doesn’t have long to live he reveals to his son that he has had a mistress for five years who lives in Rouen. His wife had died seven years before. He asks his son to promise to visit her and to help her out financially. César visits her and ends up making regular visits.


Histoire Corse

Histoire d’un Chien

Histoire d’une Fille de Ferme (A Farm Girl’s Story)

Histoire Vraie
A shooting party was having a riotous time in the bar when they start to talk about women. M. de Vernetot, an ex-nobleman, tells a story of a maid of his. When he was young and still lived on his estate he took a fancy for a young girl called Rose. He did a deal with her employer so that she could come to his estate. She loved him and before long she was pregnant. On advice from his uncle he decided to marry her off to a peasant. He had to include property in the deal. Rose still loved Vernetot but he wasn’t interested. Her husband beat her and she and the child died. The peasant inherited the farm and became a town councillor.

L’Homme de Mars

L’Homme-Fille (The Effeminates)

Le Horla (The Horla)
The story is told through diary entries. The diarist initially describes how he enjoys living by the Seine as he loves watching boats go by. He starts to feel ill and feels that he is being followed. He goes on holiday and is temporarily cured but the same maladies return when he is back home. He notices that his water is drunk during the night, he notices a flower picked by an invisible hand and pages of a book turning over. When in Paris he witnesses a hypnotist controlling a hypnotised woman and feels that he is similarly being controlled by a superior being, called ‘The Horla’. But has he the strength to free himself from this control?

Le Horla [Première version] (The Horla (1st version) )

L’Horrible (The Horrible)
A group of men and women are discussing an accidental drowning of several guests the night before. A general says that all though the events were terrible they were not horrible and uses a couple of examples to make the distinction clear. The first is of a prisoner who was hurriedly shot during the French-Prussian war. The prisoner was in fact a woman presumably trying to find a loved one during the war. The other story is of a group of people trekking through a desert who have to resort to cannibalism.

Humble Drame (A Humble Drama)
The narrator comments on the joys of travelling, especially meeting people who one will never meet again. One time he came across a tall, thin lady of about seventy whom he met a couple of times whilst walking around Auvergne. He saw her crying amongst some ruins and she told him of the heartbreak over missing out on her son’s childhood, as he went to boarding school, and how they hardly ever meet now that he is married and living in England. Her parents, her husband and her sisters have all died, leaving her to mourn them.

Les Idées du Colonel (The Colonel’s Ideas)
Colonel Laporte suggests that Frenchmen would do anything for a pretty woman and that French soldiers should be led by women. He tells a story of how his troops were virtually defeated during the Franco-Prussian war and how they rallied around helping a young girl who had been caught up in the fighting and how she helped inspire them to resist the Prussians.

Idylle (Idyll)

Imprudence (Indiscretion)
Paul and Henrietta had met and fallen in love at a seaside resort. They married but the ecstasy had begun to fade a little so they tried to re-awaken their ardour. One day Henrietta coyly asked Paul to take her to one of his restaurants and to treat her as if she were his mistress. After the meal she asked Paul questions about his mistresses before their marriage and what it was like to make love with so many different women. Satisfied with his answers she declared her love for him.

L’Inconnue (The Unknown)
A group of men are talking about lucky adventures with women. Roger des Annettes tells how he met a woman five years ago, a plump brunette, possibly a Jewess, who captivated him. He followed her, saw her a couple of times and dreamt of her. When he literally bumped into her he arranged a meeting on Sunday morning. When he began to undress her he made a hash of it. When he sees a black stain between her shoulders he can’t go through with it and she leaves. She snubs him when they meet again. He still thinks of her.

L’Infirme (The Cripple)

L’Inutile Beauté (Useless Beauty)

L’Ivrogne (The Drunkard)
There’s a storm in the port of Yport. Mathurin convinces Jérémie to go to a bar with him to play dominoes and drink brandy. Jérémie wonders why Mathurin is willing to pay for his drinks, but he goes anyway. The barman winks to Mathurin and lets them stay on after the bar has closed. Eventually the men leave and Jérémie stumbles home. On opening the door and falling down he notices someone leaving in the darkness. He realises that whilst he was being plied with drinks someone had visited his wife. He gets angry and beats his wife furiously.

Jadis (The Love of Long Ago)
A very old woman is sitting in a Louis XV drawing-room with a young child. She asks the child to read the news to her but to skip the politics, she’s after gossip and stories of love. All the stories end in revenge and court cases. Horrified, the old woman declares that marriage is good for families and is man’s law but we should also love freely, which is nature’s law.

The Baroness and Comtesse have dined alone and are now drunk and smoking cigarettes. Their husbands have returned to Paris for a few days while their wives stay at their holiday home. The two women talk about lovers and how indispensible they are. They compare types and the Baroness describes how she inflamed the passions of a devoted servant called Joseph who is still employed by her.

Jour de Fête

Julie Romain
Whilst walking in Italy the narrator comes across a charming house covered in flowers. He discovers it belongs to Julie Romain, an elderly woman who used to be a famous actress; she had fled France with her lover, a poet, when she was young. He meets and talks with the ex-actress about her past. She confides in him of a secret indulgence. She arranges for her two servants to act as lovers in the moonlight dressed in clothes from her past.

Un Lâche (Coward)
‘Handsome Signoles’ was a dashing young man. One evening a female guest is being stared at by another man. When Signoles asks him to stop staring the man erupts and a duel is arranged. Signoles starts to make arrangements but he thinks about the outcome of the duel, his possible death and how he will comport himself. He becomes distraught and shoots himself with his will unwritten.

Le Lapin (The Rabbit)

La Légende du Mont-St-Michel (Legend of Mont St. Michel)
Whilst looking around a castle the narrator meets a peasant who tells him the story of a great quarrel between Saint Michel and the Devil and how the Devil was banished from the region.

Le Legs (The Bequest)

Lettre D’Un Fou (Letter from a Madman)
The letter is addressed to the man’s doctor. He says that he noticed one day that everything was false and that our senses can’t be trusted. If only we had more senses. He feels that an Invisible Being visits him. One day the being blocks out the man’s image in his mirror. He begins to see other things in the mirror as well.

Lettre Trouvée sur un Noyé (Found on a Drowned Man)

Une Lettre

Le Lit
On buying an 18th century chasuble at an auction the narrator finds some letters in a pocket. One of the letters is addressed to the abbé from someone ill in his old bed. The writer wonders about all the people who have used his bed in the past: new mothers, young couples, dying men etc.

Le Lit 29 (Bed 29)
Captain Epivent was a handsome officer of hussars and was aware of the effect he had on women. In 1868 he was posted in Rouen where he regularly went for walks along the promenade to show himself off. Epivent became lovers with the beautiful Irma and for over a year they went everywhere together, until Epivent was called to war. He received a military cross and returned to Rouen but Irma could not be found. There were rumours that she had had a wild time with the Prussian officers. One morning Epivent receives a message from Irma, who is in hospital. Epivent pays her a visit and finds her in bed 29 and learns the truth of what hapened while he was at war.

Le Loup (The Wolf)
M. d’Arville tells of his great-great-grandfather, Jean, who lived with his brother Francois. They both loved hunting above anything else. During the very cold winter of 1764 they were plagued by wolves and it was rumoured that there was a colossal wolf that was attacking livestock and even people. The brothers resolve to slay him.

Lui? (The Terror)

M. Jocaste
A sixteen year old girl had married an older business man. She was unhappy and childless. She fell in love with a young man called Pierre Martel. She became pregnant but was unsure if her husband’s or Pierre was the father. She died in childbirth and the child was brought up elsewhere. Before her death the girl had asked Pierre to look after the child. Pierre however forgot about the child until he received a letter informing him of the death of his ex-lover’s husband. He tracked the child down and became besotted with her as she reminded him of her mother. She loved him; he loved her; nobody else knew that he might be her father; he wasn’t totally sure that she was his daughter; he had promised to look after her and feared that breaking off with her might destroy her; but it was a sin. The narrator suggests that he would do the same as Pierre.

Madame Baptiste
Whilst waiting at a train station the narrator has a couple of hours to kill before his train arrives. He sees a funeral procession with no priest in attendance and is intrigued. It is for a female suicide, Mme Paul Hamot. She had been repeatedly raped when she was eleven years and then shunned by the vilage as if any contact with her was poisonous. She had no friends and grew up alone. She was nicknamed ‘Madame Baptiste’ after the man who had raped her. She was attractive and a visitor to the town married her. When she became pregnant she was almost accepted by the community but at at public event her husband is ridiculed as well as her. On the way home she jumped off a bridge.

Madame Hermet

Madame Parisse
Two men are enjoying the view in Antibes when the attractive Mme Parisse walks past. She married M. Parisse in 1869; he was short and fat. After the 1870 war she fell in love with the attractive officer Jean Carmelin. When her husband was away on business for four days the lovers agreed to meet at Parisse’s house. When it was discovered that her husband would return before their assignation Jean ordered the city gates to be locked that evening. M. Parisee had to spend the night in the railway waiting room. Jean was later punished. The two men wonder about that night of love.

Mademoiselle Cocotte
Upon seeing a man in an asylum going though the motions of calling for a dog called Cocotte the narrator asks for his story to be told. Francois was a coachman. One day a stray bitch followed him home. Reluctant at first he took the dog in, cared for her and named her Cocotte. Unfortunately she was constantly in heat and had endless dogs chasing after her. The master told Francois to get rid of Cocotte but she always seemed to return. In the end he is ordered to drown Cocotte.

Mademoiselle Fifi

Mademoiselle Perle (Mademoiselle Pearl)

Magnétisme (Magnetism)

La Main D’Écorché
A group of young men are drinking and talking when another friend of theirs (Louis) enters. He has a mummified hand that he bought from a sale in his home town. It is said to be that of a criminal from the 18th century. He takes it home and as a joke he hangs it on his bell pull. The narrator is woken by Louis’s servant who tells him that Louis had been attacked and strangled. No perpetrator is discovered. Louis survives for seven months in an asylum. When he is buried another coffin is opened with a skeleton that has a missing hand. The mummified hand is found close by and put in the coffin.

La Main (The Hand)

La Maison Tellier (The Maison Tellier)

Le Mal d’André (The Matter with André)
Whilst Mathilde’s husband is away in Paris Mathilde sees her lover, Captain Étienne Sommerive. When getting undressed Étienne’s sword makes a noise on the floor and wakes André, Mathilde’s 15 month son. He cries and only becomes quiet when in his parents’ bed. Étienne returns the next night but when André awakes and cries this time Étienne pinches the child several times when he’s in bed. This happens over several nights so that André is terrified of his parents’ bed but is now calm when in his cot. Eventually Étienne spends the night with Mathilde. When her husband returns he notices the difference in André’s behaviour and the nurse gets the blame for the bruises on André’s body.

Malades et Médecins (Doctors and Patients)

Le Mariage du Lieutenant Laré (Lieutenant Lare’s Marriage)
It is snowing and Laré is leading his troops to Blainville. They come across an old man and his daughter. The man claims to be the Comte de Ronfi’s butler. They travel with the army. The daughter is cold so the men wrap her in their coats and carry her on a stretcher. When they reach safety it is revealed that the old man is the comte and his daughter’s hand in marriage is offered to Laré.

Le Marquis de Fumerol (The Marquis De Fumerol)
Roger de Tournville tells how a letter arrived for his father that informed him that Roger’s uncle (his mother’s brother) was close to death. Roger’s father was a respectable Royalist whereas his uncle, the Marquis of Fumerol, had lived a wild irreligious life and now lives with his two mistresses. Roger and his mother go to visit the uncle together with a priest; they hope to get Fumerol to see the priest before he dies. They manage to trick him into seeing the priest as he’s dying and give him a magnificent funeral attended by Royalists and Catholics.

The narrator is asked about his amorous adventures in Africa. When he was living in Bougie he met the beautiful Marocca whilst she was bathing in the sea. They soon became lovers even though she was married to a Frenchman. They regularly made love in the afternoon at the narrator’s house but Marocca insists on them making love at her house.

La Martine (Martin’s Girl)
Benoist, a young farmer, becomes besotted with Jean Martin’s girl. They go out together and people believe that they are betrothed until she suddenly stops seeing him. It turns out that she has married Vallin, a rich farmer and old friend of Benoist. He later hears that she is pregnant and he is distraught. However, there is eventually a reconciliation of sorts between the three people.

Le Masque (The Mask)

Menuet (Minuet)
Jean Bridelle is a fifty-year-old bachelor. He recounts an episode when he was a young, sad, pessimistic dreamer. He used to rise early and visit the nursery garden of the Luxembourg to read and listen to Parisian life going on around him. He noticed, on most days, a strange little old man dressed in a frock-coat and shoe buckles and with a cane. When he thought he was alone this man would perform a strange dance as if he was on stage. One day Jean spoke to him and discovered he had been a dancing master and had married La Castris, a dancer from a bygone age. Jean was introduced to La Castris and, for Jean, they performed a dance, a minuet, which he would never forget, his ‘soul touched with an indescribable melancholy’.

En Mer (At Sea)
After the narrator reads an article in a newspaper describing a fishing accident involving a Captain Javel, he asks himself, Could this be the brother of the Javel with one arm? The narrator then recounts how this fisherman named Javel lost his arm at sea.

La Mère Aux Monstres (The Mother of Monsters)
A tale of a woman who deliberately bound her body when pregnant in order to give birth to deformed, hideous children so that she could sell them to circus proprieters.

La Mère Sauvage (Mother Sauvage)

Un Million (A Million)
Léopold Bonnin worked at the ministry and was a man of honour. His wife was due to inherit a million on her aunt’s death. The aunt was dismayed by their lack of a child and on her death she stipulated that her money would go to charity if the Bonnins did not have a child within three years. They start blaming each other of their lack of success and it looks like the fortune might slip through their fingers.

Misère Humaine

Miss Harriet

The narrator is a bachelor and will only have mistresses who are married. His current mistress has a cat called Misti, which she adores. They like to go out to low taverns and one day they encounter a woman who tells fortunes. She foretells a death but can’t say any more and so the couple go to the woman’s flat for further fortune-telling. They notice a stuffed cat just like Misti and the old lady tells them the shocking story of her cat.

Le Modèle (The Model)

The narrator is visiting Captain Marret in Algiers. After their meal Marret tells a story about Arab women. Following the murder of an English traveller by an Arab tribe Mohammed-Fripouille, a Turk, volunteers to avenge the murder. A group of men, including Marret, leave the garrison, taking with them much rope. When they find the tribe Mohammed-Fripouille exacts revenge ruthlessly but effectively.

Moiron was a schoolmaster in the north of France. He had had three children who had all died and he subsequently lavished all his attention on the schoolchildren. Some of the scholchildren died of a mysterious illness and a couple more a year later. Sweets were found in a school closet which had ground glass contained within them. Moiron was arrested but he continually protests his innocence. He is sentenced to death but after the intervention of a priest this is changed to imprisonment. The truth is revealed many years later.

Monsieur Parent

La Morte

Mots d’Amour
The first letter is from Sophie declaring simply her love for her ‘dear, big darling’. The second letter, from René is a long, convoluted, piece about love in general.

The elderly narrator reminisces about a time in his youth when he was a penniless clerk in Paris. A group of five friends used to go boating regularly but found it difficult to get women to join them. One day one of the friends brought along a skinny, talkative, unpredictable girl who soon got the nickname ‘Mouche’. She slept with all five men but the group stay together in an unconventional arrangement.

La Moustache (The Mustache)
In a letter to her friend Lucy Jeanne expresses her admiration of men with moustaches. Men with beards appear untidy and kisses received from clean-shaven men have no flavour. She recalls seeing a line of dead French soldiers all with beautiful moustaches which made her love them them even more.

Le Moyen de Roger (Roger’s Method)
Roger’s friend asks him what it means when Roger’s wife suggests to others that they should use Roger’s method. Roger reveals that it’s his wife’s mistaken belief that when he has difficulty performing in bed he has some scientific method to resolve the problem. The truth is quite different.

Un Normand (Father Matthew)
Upon leaving Rouen for the country a man’s travelling companion mentions that they’re approaching Father Matthew’s chapel and suggests that they pay him a visit. He is a handsome ex-sergeant-major and he is nicknamed Father Booze. Matthew believes that he has invented a boozometer which can tell you the exactly how drunk you are. He invites the travellers in and they start to drink.

Nos Anglais (Our Friends the English)
An account of a man’s stay in a hotel in which a number of religious English guests are also staying. They annoy the narrator with their sermonising and hymn-singing.

Nos Lettres (Our Letters)

Notes D’un Voyageur
The narrator describes and comments on his five travelling companions as he embarks on a train journey. They include an old, stout couple, a young couple (possibly married) and a hunchback. He visits an exhibition. On a later train to Cannes he overhears a gruesome tale.

Le Noyé (Lost at Sea)

Nuit de Noël
Henri Templer doesn’t celebrate Xmas Eve any more. Two years ago on Xmas Eve he had been working but because of all the revelry he decided to abandon work. He asked his servant to prepare a meal and then he went out to find a plump woman to share it with. He returned with a fine girl and they polished off the meal. When it was time for bed the girl began to get pains in her stomach. She was in labour and Henri asked the neighbours for help. He was stuck with mother and child for months.

La Nuit

L’Odyssée D’une Fille
The narrator helps rescue a young street prostitute from the police during a raid. She then tells him her story, explaining how she became a prostitute.

Mon Oncle Jules (My Uncle Jules)

Mon Oncle Sosthène (My Uncle Sosthenes)
Some people are Freethinkers from sheer stupidity. My Uncle Sosthenes was one of these. Some people are often religious for the same reason.
The narrator’s uncle Sosthène is a freethinker and Freemason who detests religion. The narrator is critical of his uncle’s reasoning but is not religious himself. In the town there was an old Jesuit whom Sosthène detested and whom Sosthène was convinced would play a trick on him one day. One Good Friday Sosthène arranged a luxurious meal for his friends. Everyone got drunk and Sosthène retuned home with bad indigestion. On his way home, for a joke, the drunken narrator awoke the Jesuit and told him that his uncle had been taken seriously ill and needed his spiritual help. The narrator waited outside his uncle’s house laughing at the possible outcomes. But the Jesuit didn’t leave until early the next day. When the narrator spoke to his uncle he showed signs of being converted much to the embarrasment of the narrator.

Opinion Publique (Public Opinion)
While the boss is absent several clerks discuss current events.



L’Orphelin (The Orphan)

Une Page D’Histoire Inédite (A Page of Unpublished History)
A story about how a young Napoleon narrowly escaped death at the hands of Corsican monarchists and left money to those that saved him.

Le Pain Maudit (The Accursed Bread)

Le Papa de Simon (Simon’s Dad)

Par un Soir de Printemps

Le Parapluie (The Umbrella)

Le Pardon (Forgiveness)
Berthe had lived a sheltered life; she married an affluent stock broker, Georges Baron, when she was eighteen. Georges carried on living a wild life and one day Berthe receives a letter which informs her that George has a mistress, Mme Rosset. When she confronts him with this fact he convinces her that they are just good friends. Eventually all three are inseparable but can this arrangement continue?

De Paris à Heyst, a.k.a. Le Voyage du Horla) (From Paris to Heyst, a.k.a. The Trip of Le Horla)

Un Parricide (A Parricide)
Two bodies, a man and wife, were found in the river. George Louis confesses to the murder. He had been abandoned when a child. He had been an intelligent boy and had trained as a joiner. A couple visit him at work and offer jobs to him. The woman had married her ex-lover recently and Georges was their child. Georges realises this, confronts them, and when he feels abandoned once again he kills them in a fit of rage.

Une Partie de Campagne (A Country Excursion)

La Parure (The Necklace)

Une Passion

La Patronne

Le Père Amable (Old Amable)
Césaire Houlbrèque wants to marry Céleste Lévesque, who has a child from Victor Lecoq, but Césaire’s father, Old Amable, won’t allow it. Césaire asks for the priest’s help who somehow gets the old man’s consent. The old man doesn’t attend the wedding due to his rheumatism but he turns up for the meal and watches Céleste’s child. He can’t stand the thought of the child of another man eating his food. The following spring Césaire falls ill and dies and the others continue to live together. Céleste needs help with the farmwork and asks Victor. On returning from a fair one day old Amable finds Victor living there. After supper he leaves the house and is found later hanging from a tree.

Le Père Judas (Old Judas)
An old hovel has a huge red cross on its walls. We are informed that this is where Judas died. Judas was the name given to the old vagabond who turned up at the house and lived there with an old woman. Both regularly begged for food and neither attended church.

Le Père Milon (Father Milon)

Le Père Mongilet (Old Mongilet)

Le Père [1] (The Father)
François Tessier meets a girl each day on the omnibus. They begin to talk and agree to meet for lunch one Sunday. Louise asks him not to do anything that isn’t nice. François agrees. After lunch they go for a walk, they kiss and get carried away. She runs off saying ‘My God!’ The next day she says that they must never see each other again. They don’t see each other for days but when they eventually meet up they have a passionate affair. When Louise reveals she’s pregnant François disappears. Ten years later he comes across Louise in a park with her son and daughter. François approaches her one day and she flees. He eventually arranges to meet his son after writing to Louise’s husband. He lavishes kisses on his son then flees ‘like a thief’.

Le Père [2]

Le Petit Fût (The Little Cask)
M. Chicot owns a tavern next to Mme Magloire’s farm. He is 40 and covets her property. She is a spritely 72 years old but has no relatives. Chicot offers to pay Mme Magloire 150 francs a month on the condition that the property is his when she dies. She takes him up on the offer but Chicot becomes concerned that she will outlive him.

Petit Soldat (Two Little Soldiers)
Two soldiers, Jean and Luc, originally from the country go for a walk in the suburbs of Paris every Sunday as it reminds them of home. Although shy they befriend a milk-maid. One time during the week Luc asks for leave. The following Sunday Luc and the milk-maid kiss, hold hands and ignore Jean. On their way back to barracks they stop on a bridge over the Seine and Jean leans over to look at the river. He leans further and further until he drops into the water. The body is found the same day.

Le Petit (The Child)
M. Lemonnier was a draper and had married a poor neighbour, Jeanne. He was honest and simple. His friend, M. Duretour dined with the Lemonniers often. After five years Jeanne became pregnant. She died in childbirth. Lemonnier saw his wife in his son and he doted on him allowing him to do anything he wanted. The child, Jean, was weak and anaemic and preferred cakes over soup. One day the nurse tried to force Jean to eat something healthy but Lemonnier came to his son’s defence. Lemonnier and the nurse argued and she revealed that Jean was Duretour’s son and that everyone but Lemonnier knew this. Lemonnier hanged himself in grief.

La Petite Roque (Little Louise Roque)

Pétition D’un Viveur Malgrué Lui

La Peur [1] (Fear)
On a boat in the Mediterranean the captain is talking about fear. The narrator interrupts and says that brave men do not experience fear when faced with danger. Fear either comes from remembering past terrors or by experiencing events in which one is powerless. He recounts two events: one of a ‘sound mirage’ in the desert and the other when he encountered a family in fear of a ghost exacting revenge on them.

La Peur [2] (Fear)
The narrator and an older gentleman are travelling on a train, it’s midnight and they see two men standing next to a bonfire on the edge of the wood. They talk of fear and how it is the unexplained that scares us. The narrator tells a story of Turgenev where he went swimming one day and was confronted by a wild woman and mistook her for a strange creature. The old man tells of how he saw a wheelbarrow moving along a flat road under its own power.

Mme Lefèvre was a country dame. She had a servant Rose. One day she had twelve onions stolen from her garden. She was shocked by his. A farmer suggested she get a dog. Mme Lefèvre thought a small dog would be better as it would cost less to feed. They looked for one but reented paying for a dog. Eventually the baker gave them one called Pierrot. They both grew fond of him but when they found out they had to pay eight francs dog tax they decided to get rid of him. They intended to throw him down the chalk quarry pit where people used to throw unwanted dogs. Mme Lefèvre resented paying someone to dispose of him so they did it themselves. Afterwards, they were filled with remorse and had bad dreams. They decided to rescue him from the pit but resented paying someone to retrieve him. They fed him for a while from the pit opening until a larger dog appeared in the pit which grabbed all the food. Mme Lefèvre stopped feeding him as she resented paying for food for all these other dogs.

Le Port

La Porte (The Door)

Un Portrait (A Portrait)

Première Neige (The First Snowfall)

Au Printemps (In the Spring)
A clerk gets out of work on a spring day by claiming he’s ill and goes on a boat on the Seine. He makes eye contact with an attractive girl and is about to speak to her when he is interrupted by a man who wants to speak to him as a matter of importance. He tells the narrator to beware of love and recounts his own tale of getting ‘caught’ in the spring as well as his current marriage woes. When the girl gets up to leave the boat the narrator gets up to follow but the other man grabs his coat-tails and makes a scene. The girl leaves.

Les Prisonniers (The Prisoners)
A young woman called Berthine lives with her elderly parents on the edge of Rethel, a fortified town, during wartime. Whilst Berthine’s father was away some Prussian soldiers appear seeking food and shelter as they are lost. After feeding them Berthine tricks them into going into the cellar to be safe. She locks the cellar and waits for her father to return. After his return her father goes to Rethel to bring some soldiers to take the Prussians prisoner. After the Prussians put up a bit of resistance they are released from the cellar and taken prisoner. They receive medals for their heroic acts.

Promenade (A Stroll)
Old Levas has worked for years as a book-keeper. The same routine day-in, day-out. There have only been a few memorable events in his life, such as the death of his parents. One evening he takes a walk home. He has a splendid meal and walks homeward. He encounters many lovers and when he sits down he is approached by some prostitutes, whom he rebuffs. He thinks about his life and how it could have been different.

Le Protecteur (The Patron)

La Question du Latin (The Question of Latin)

Qui Sait? (Who Knows?)
The narrator is writing from inside an asylum. He admits that he had always been a recluse and shunned human contact as much as possible. His house had been built in a secluded spot and even the servants’ quarters were in a separate building. One day when he returned from seeing a play he experienced uneasiness when going into his house only to find that all his furniture was in turmoil; the furniture eventually left through the front door. The narrator is advised by his doctor to travel to Italy. When he returns he decides to live in Paris. One day he finds a furniture shop that contains all of his old furniture in it. He goes to the police but events take an even stranger turn.

La Rampeuilleuse

Regret (Regret)

La Reine Hortense (Queen Hortense)
She was an old maid who owned many animals and was known as Queen Hortense, though no-one knew why. She lived alone and changed her maids when they became twenty-one years old. One day she became ill and the maid called for the doctor, who subsequently summoned her relatives. Hortense deteriorates and seems to be hallucinating; meanwhile her family eat heartily in the next room.

La Relique (The Relic)
Henri Fontal is writing to an abbé. He mentions that he married Gilberte. When he had to leave for Cologne she asked him to bring back an inexpensive souvenir to show his love. He bought a relic, a bone of a saint, from a street seller but lost it. He replaced it with a bone from a carcass and told her he had stolen it. She got so excited over this that she visited the church that he had supposedly stolen it from and discovered his lie. He now has to get an authentic relic which is why he is writing to the abbé.

La Rempailleuse (Lasting Love)
It was the end of dinner at the house of Marquis de Bertrans and the guests were talking of love: some people had only one true love whilst others loved freely. A doctor tells of a love that lasted for fifty-five years. He had been called to the bedside of the old chair mender who had told the doctor her story. She didn’t have any friends as a child. One day she met little Chouquet, the chemist’s son, who was crying because he had some money stolen from him. The girl gave him money and kissed him. Throughout their childhood she would do the same and in their adult lives she would think of him even though he was married. She had saved several thousand francs and bequeathed the money to him. When Chouquet and his wife were told that the chair mender had loved him they were indignant but they accepted the money all the same.

Le Remplaçant
Siballe tells of his meetings with Madame Bonderoi. He was approached by Mme Bonderoi in the street offering him work at ten francs a week. He visited the following day and discovered that she was willing to pay for sex. This became a regular occurrence and Siballe came to depend on the money. One week he was ill and was unable to attend. Frightened that someone else would step in he asked a fellow soldier, Paumelle, to stand in for him and they would split the money. But afterwards Paumelle refused to give Siballe the money and they fought a duel. They made up afterwards.

Rencontre [1]

Rencontre [2] (An Encounter)

Le Rendez-Vous

Le Retour
A woman’s first husband returns after many years away; he had been missing at sea. But the woman has since married again and had more children. How will they live?

La Revanche
M. de Garelle meets his ex-wife in a hotel lobby in Cannes. He was cuckolded by his wife and she has since married her lover, M. Chantever. M. de Garelle tries to convince her to become his lover and to cuckold her new husband.

Réveil (Awakening)
Jeanne was married to M. Vasseur, who was much older than her. She disliked the physical aspects of love. For health reasons she went to Paris in the autumn. She found all the attention from men amusing. Two men in particular were in love with her, Paul Péronel and M. d’Avancelle. Jeanne finds herself dreaming of d’Avancelle. One time she awoke from such a daydream and saw Paul before her; she is disgusted and moves back home.

Un Réveillon
The narrator had been hunting in Normandy with a friend, Jules, at a dilapidated castle. It is Xmas Eve and the bells are ringing. They are informed that the bells are also for old Fournel who has recently died at ninety-six. They go to mass then go to see Fournel’s relatives. When they ask to see the body they are surprised to see that it has been put in a storage bin. The embarrased peasants explain they only had one bed, which they all shared, and had nowhere else to put him.

Rêves (Dreams)

La Roche aux Guillemots (Guillemot Rock)
Every April Guillemot hunters arrive at Étretat. There are fewer each year. M. d’Arnelles arrives late in a frock coat. They have a good day’s hunting but M. d’Arnelles apppears distracted and he makes plans to leave. When the others enquire he reveals that he has his dead son-in-law in the barn and that he had been on his way home to bury him but he had wanted to keep his appointment with the hunters. The others convince him to stay a few more days as it won’t harm the corpse.

Les Rois (Epiphany)
Capt. Garens recounts an episode during the 1870 war. Garens takes ten men to occupy the village Porterin. They make themselves at home in a plush villa, find the food and wine and make themselves comfortable. It’s Twelfth Night and Marchas suggests, for some fun, that Garens should try to get some women to join their party. Garens invites the priest and asks him to bring some women. The priest turns up with a nun and three of her patients. Marchas is annoyed and feels cheated. They eat and drink and force more and more food and drink on their guests. They hear a rifleshot and a wounded elderly deaf man is brought in. He dies and the women leave in fright.

Rosalie Prudent (Rosalie Prudent)

Two young woman, Margot and Margueritte are travelling in a flower-strewn carriage to the battle of flowers at Cannes. On their return they talk about love and even being loved by servants. Margot tells of how she took on a maid called Rose. Rose was shy, knew English, and had many other abilities. Margot loved to be dressed by Rose as well as being bathed by her. One day the police arrive seeking a murderer and rapist.

Le Rosier de Mme Husson (Madame Husson’s Rose-King)


La Rouille (Rust)
The Baron de Coutelier has a single passion – hunting. When he visits his friends, the Courvilles, he amuses them with hunting stories and is bored when the subject changes to something else. One time he is sick for weeks and has to stay in bed. When he recovers he is tormented with the thought of falling ill again. The Courvilles decide to find him a wife. The Baron finds Mme Vilers delightful and is on the point of proposing marriage when he disappears to Paris. He returns weeks later and says that he cannot marry Mme Vilers. He finally reveals that he feels he would be unable to carry out his conjugal duties.

Une Ruse (A Ruse)

Les Sabots
The old priest was finishing his sermon where he also mentioned that M. Omont was looking for a respectable girl as a servant. The Malandains decide to put forward their daughter Adélaïde for the position. She is accepted and starts the following day. When she starts she is reminded by Omont that she is his servant and nothing else: ‘We shall keep our shoes apart’ he says. But Omont can’t eat alone, can’t drink his coffee or brandy alone and can’t sleep alone. She becomes pregnant and they marry.

Un Sage

Saint-Antoine (Saint Anthony)

Le Saut Du Berger (Shepherd’s Leap)
A deep, narrow cleft in the Normandy cliff is known as ‘Shepherd’s Leap’. The narrator explains how it got its name. The story involves a young priest who is intolerant of all manifestations of love and sex.


La Serre (The Conservatory)
Gustave Lerebour is short, round & jovial. Palmyre Lerebour is thin & discontented. Over the years she has become increasingly aggressive towards Gustave, finding fault with everything he does. One night Palmyre thinks she hears footsteps in the house. The same happens the next night. When they look out the window they see a figure moving towards the conservatory. Gustave takes his revolver and follows the intruder. What happens next changes their lives.

Le Signe (The Signal)
The Baronne de Grangerie enters the Marquise de Rennedon’s bedroom. The Baronne is distraught and tells her tale. The previous day whilst sitting at her window she noticed a woman at a window on the opposite side of the street. This woman would send a subtle signal to the passing men inviting them up – she occasionally hooked one. The Baronne studied the woman to try to determine her method and wondered if she could imitate it. She could.

Les Soeurs Rondoli (The Rondoli Sisters)
Pierre, a reluctant traveller, recounts his visit to Italy, with his friend Paul, in 1874. Paul is obsesed with women and when a young woman of twenty enters the train carriage he tries to get her to talk. She is sullen and taciturn. When it’s discovered that she’s Italian Paul gets Pierre to try to get her to talk. They have little luck but when they reach Genoa she asks them if they want her to go with them. Much to Paul’s annoyance she chooses Pierre. They spend three weeks together going on trips though Paul keeps threatening to leave as he feels left out. When their holiday is nearly over the girl, Francesca Rondoli, says that she has to leave to visit her relatives but if she doesn’t return then Pierre should seek her out. She doesn’t return and the following day Pierre and Paul return home. When Pierre visits Genoa a year later he seeks out the Rondoli household and uncovers Francesca’s story and more.

Un Soir

Une Soirée [1] (A Queer Night in Paris)
Mattre Saval, a notary from Vernon, was very fond of music and could even sing well himself. He would visit Paris when a new work was being performed. Saval visits Paris for a concert, he’s fully dressed and intends to return in the evening. He visits a café and makes the acquaintance of a young artist, Romantin, whom he recognises and who invites Saval to a party. Saval is roped into cleaning and setting up everything for the party. In his concert attire he is taken for a butler by the arriving guests. Saval ends up getting drunk. He misses the concert and is woken up in the morning by an old woman telling him to clear out. But his clothes are missing. He eventually returns to Vernon the next evening.

Une Soirée [2] (The Wrong House)
Sergeant-Major Varajou like wine, women and gambling. He visits his sententious sister, Mme Padoie, and her prim husband in order to get some money. M. Padoie goes out in the evening to a civic function. Varajou, unable to bear the tedium of a night alone with his sister escapes to find some night-life and gets into trouble.


Souvenir [1] (A Recollection)
Twelve years ago when the narrator was twenty-five he worked as a clerk. He really enjoyed his Sundays off work though he can barely remember what he did on these days. One hot Sunday he decided to spend the day in the woods and then head for Versailles for dinner. He caught a boat on the Seine to Saint-Cloud.He came across a young couple who were lost and arguing; the woman blaming the man for everything. They have also lost their dog. The woman, fed up with her husband, heads off with the narrator. They spend an enjoyable evening at a restaurant and the narrator commits adultery for the first time.

Souvenir [2] (Recollection)
A troop of French soldiers halt at a wood. They hear a female cry. Two prisoners are taken, an old man and a young girl. The man claims to be the butler to Count Roufé and the girl is his daughter. After marching, the girl collapses and the soldiers make a stretcher to carry her in. Years later he sees a woman in a theatre and recognises her as the girl. She was in fact the Count de Roufé’s daughter.



Sur l’eau (On the Water)
The previous summer the narrator rented a cottage on the outskirts of Paris and made the acquaintance of a boating-man. He told the narrator a tale of when he went up the river, dropped anchor lay down in the boat and enjoyed the calm. When he tried to pull the anchor up he found it was stuck. The river became covered in a low-lying thick mist that was very eerie. He became full of dread and lay down in the boat. In the morning the mist was free of the river but was now on both banks. A fisherman came by but the anchor could only be pulled up when another man assisted. The anchor came up with the corpse of an old woman with a stone tied round her neck.

Sur le Chats

Une Surprise

Le Testament (The Will)
René de Bourneval had two older brothers with the surname Courcils. When asked about this he recounts that his father and brothers used to be brutish towards his mother, Mme de Courcils. Her husband had married her for her fortune. Mme de Courcils loved M. de Bourneval, a friend of the family and René’s biological father. When René’s mother died she tried to correct the wrongs of her life through her will much to the disgust of her husband and eldest sons.

Le Tic (The Spasm)

Toine (Toine)

Les Tombales (Graveyard Sirens)
Joseph de Bardon, a bachelor, recounts how he used to like to wander the city and frequent cemeteries. Once, whilst visiting the grave of an old friend, he noticed a young woman at a grave deep in sorrow. When he notices her faint on the grave he goes to help. She’s at the grave of her recently deceased husband. He helps her home. A relationship develops and they see each other for a few months. He loses touch with her but sees her again at the cemetery with another man and wonders if she were unique in using the cemetery to pick up men.

La Tombe (The Grave)
The caretaker of Béziers cemetery comes across a young man who has disinterred the corpse of a young woman, buried the day before. He is taken to the police and it is revealed that he’s a lawyer. In court he tells his story of his love for the woman and why he resorted to such desperate measures.

Tombouctou (Timbuctoo)
Lt.-Col Védié meets a large negro on the boulevard and remembers him as Timbuctoo. Védié met Timbuctoo during the 1870 war when Timbuctoo was the head of a band of drunken, undisciplined soldiers. They had no money but they were always drunk. They used to eat grapes straight from the vines. Timbuctoo acquired a lot of booty during the war. At the end of the war Timbuctoo started a restaurant which he still runs when he meets Védié.

La Toux (The Cough)
A tale about the problems that ‘coughing’ in bed causes.

Tribunaux Rustiques

Le Trou (The Fishing Hole)
Renard, an upholsterer, is in court for ‘inflicting blows and wounds sufficient to cause death’. He explains that he and his wife had gone fishing every Sunday for the last five years at Poissy. Three years previously they had found an excellent spot that they considered theirs. On the day in question another couple had taken their spot and they caught fish after fish. The man’s wife suggested that they’d come back here every Sunday which enraged Renard’s wife who began to argue with the other man’s wife and then they started to fight. The men fought and Renard punched the man who fell into the water. After Renard separated the women he discovered the other man had drowned.

Le Vagabond (A Vagabond)
Jacques Raudel is 27 y.o. and looking for work. A carpenter by trade he would now do any odd jobs for a few francs. This autumn evening he is cold and hungry and angry that he’s treated so inhumanely by others. He’s decided to return home. He drinks straight from a cow in a field and sleeps against the cow for warmth. The following day he asks passers-by for work but is arrested for begging. Raudel hoped he’d get some food but he is released. On the road he comes across a house and steals some food and brandy. He gets drunk and rapes a peasant girl. He runs off but is re-arrested. He’s likely to get twenty years in prison.

Vains Conseils (Advice Given in Vain)

La Veillée (Dead Woman’s Secret)

Vendetta (A Vendetta)
Paolo Saverini’s widow lives with her son, Antoine, in a house on the edge of a cliff of a seaside town. One night Antoine is stabbed in a quarrel by Nicolas Ravolati, who escapes to Sardinia. On seeing his dead body Antoine’s mother promises a vendetta. But how can an elderly widow get revenge? She trained her dog by depriving it of food to attack and then went after Ravolati.

À Vendre (For Sale)
The narrator loves walking as it makes him feel alive and young again. While walking he comes across a charming little house and is possessed with a love for it. He notices a ‘For Sale’ sign and looks around the garden and house. In the house the narrator comes across a photograph of a woman that he somehow feels he recognises. The servant tells him that the photograph was the mistress of the owner of the house but she left him and he is selling the house. The narrator is overjoyed that she left him; he gives the servant ten francs, takes the photo and continues his walk certain that he will find ‘her’.

Le Vengeur (His Avenger)

Une Vente (A Sale)
The two peasants, Brument and Cornu, are in court and have been charged with the attempted murder of Brument’s wife by drowning. Mme Brument explains how the two men came home drunk one day and asked her if she wanted to earn five francs. After she had accepted, the two men told her to fill up a barrel with water and then to strip. They then picked her up and put her in the barrel, pushing her head down so it was below the surface. Mme escaped and when she returned with the gendarmes Brument and Cornu were busy arguing. Cornu then explains the events of that day from his point of view.

Le Verrou

Une Veuve (A Widow)
After dinner a young girl notices her aunt has a ring containing some blond hair. The aunt tells how she became involved with the Santèze family. The Santèze men were very passionate and she, a seventeen year old, became attached to the thirteen year old boy. When she ends it the boy is overwhelmed.

Vieux Objets

Le Vieux (The Moribund)
A farming couple discuss the state of the woman’s father; he is near death and they don’t believe he will last the night. If he dies the following day they won’t have time to plant their crops and invite everyone to the funeral. The man decides to invite everyone that evening. But the old man doesn’t die. Even when the guests turn up he is still alive to the embarrasment of the couple. Eventually he dies but they will have to invite the guests the following day.

Un Vieux (An Old Man)
M. Daron, 89 years old, attends a spa. It is claimed that the spa’s qualities help prolong life. Daron asks the doctors to supply him with information on the other elderly patients and is particularly interested in those that die.

Les Vingt-Cinq Francs de la Supérieure

Mes Vingt-Cinq Jours (My Twenty-Five Days)

Le Voleur (The Burglar)
The narrator tells of a prank they played when they were students. There were three students in their flat and they were drunk. They discussed war and decided to dress up in military costumes. They carried on drinking and singing military songs when they heard a noise in the next room; they believe it’s a burglar. They eventually find the burglar, hold a mock trial and find him guilty. They take him to the police but they’re not interested. Eventually they untie him and let him join in with their drinking. He leaves in the morning as drunk as them.

Voyage de Noce

Voyage de Santé

En Voyage [1] (The Mountain Pool)

En Voyage [2] (A Railway Story)

En Wagon

Yveline Samoris

Two friends, Jean de Servigny and Léon Saval, are discussing Madame Obardi and her popular, but disreputable, soirees. Jean reveals that he loves her daughter, Yvette. Yvette has many admirers. Mme Obardi is attracted to Léon and both Jean and Léon are invited to her villa. Jean is increasingly confused by Yvette as he supposed she was a courtesan like her mother but it turns out that she doesn’t know about her mother’s past. Yvette tells her mother that Jean has asked to marry her but her mother doesn’t believe her and is concerned over Yvette’s innocence. Yvette, meanwhile, tries to make sense of it all. She sees her mother with Léon and confronts her mother the following day and suggests they both run away to escape this sordid existence. Mme Obardi eventually has enough of her daughter and tells her that she (Obardi) is a harlot and proud of it as it has enabled them to have a wealthy lifestyle. Yvette decides to commit suicide with some chloroform that she’s acquired but beforehand she acts wantonly when they visit a fair in town. That night she takes the chloroform and writes a short note: ‘I die that I may not become a kept woman’. But how does it end?

The Englishman of Etretat

The Lancer’s Wife (FAKE MAUPASSANT)
A defeated French army takes refuge from the Prussian forces in Switzerland. A frustrated captain decides to go back and kill some Prussians. Some of his soldiers, including Piedelot, join him. Piedolot is captured by the Prussians and tortured by a woman dressed as a lancer. He is rescued as he is being burnt alive but it is too late. His comrades vow to revenge Piedelot. They capture the woman but the captain’s wife asks them to show clemency. The lancer’s wife attacks and kills the captain. The captain’s wife asks that the others leave the woman for her to deal with. She shows clemency to the woman and when the others arrive they find that the captain’s wife is dead beside her husband and that the lancer’s wife weeps beside them.

Dr. Sorbier had been listening to others’ stories about burglaries before telling his own. He tells of this student who was a fun-loving chap, who was impetuous and care-free. He fell in love with a girl who loved him just as much. He would sneak into the girl’s house at night to be with her. One night he accidentally bumped into some furniture which the girl’s mother heard; she then woke her husband and the servants thinking that there was a thief in the house. The man pretended to be a thief rather than dishonour his girl’s name. He was sent to prison where he died.

An Uncomfortable Bed