Maître Hauchecome of Breaute had just arrived at Goderville, and he was directing his steps toward the public square
when he perceived upon the ground a little piece of string. Maître Hauchecome, economical like a true Norman, thought that
everything useful ought to be picked up, and he bent painfully, for he suffered from rheumatism. He took the bit of thin cord
from the ground and began to roll it carefully when he noticed Maître Malandain, the harness maker, on the threshold of his
door, looking at him.
Commentary that explains why the text you have pasted into
your page is the inciting incident:
Hauchcome picks the string off the ground, he commits the act that sets the story in motion. The simple act of picking up
the piece of string will lead Malandain to accuse him of stealing the wallet and ultimately, to Hauchcome's death.
It was market-day, and from all the
country round Goderville the peasants and their wives were coming toward the town. The men walked slowly, throwing the whole
body forward at every step of their long, crooked legs. They were deformed from pushing the plough which makes the left- shoulder
higher, and bends their figures side-ways; from reaping the grain, when they have to spread their legs so as to keep on their
feet. Their starched blue blouses, glossy as though varnished, ornamented at collar and cuffs with a little embroidered design
and blown out around their bony bodies, looked very much like balloons about to soar, whence issued two arms and two feet.
I think that
this is the exposition becauase it has all of the information up til the point when he picks up the piece of string. Also
right after you finish finish reading it the story really picks up
At Jourdain's the great room was filled with eaters,
just as the vast court was filled with vehicles of every sort--wagons, gigs, chars-a- bancs, tilburies, innumerable vehicles
which have no name, yellow with mud, misshapen, pieced together, raising their shafts to heaven like two arms, or it may be
with their nose on the ground and their rear in the air.
Just opposite to where the diners were at table the
huge fireplace, with its bright flame, gave out a burning heat on the backs of those who sat at the right. Three spits were
turning, loaded with chickens, with pigeons and with joints of mutton, and a delectable odor of roast meat and of gravy flowing
over crisp brown skin arose from the hearth, kindled merriment, caused mouths to water.
All the aristocracy of the plough were eating there
at Mait' Jourdain's, the innkeeper's, a dealer in horses also and a sharp fellow who had made a great deal of money in his
The dishes were passed round, were emptied, as were
the jugs of yellow cider. Every one told of his affairs, of his purchases and his sales. They exchanged news about the crops.
The weather was good for greens, but too wet for grain.
Suddenly the drum began to beat in the courtyard before
the house. Every one, except some of the most indifferent, was on their feet at once and ran to the door, to the windows,
their mouths full and napkins in their hand.
When the public crier had finished his tattoo he called
forth in a jerky voice, pausing in the wrong places:
"Be it known to the inhabitants of Goderville and
in general to all persons present at the market that there has been lost this morning on the Beuzeville road, between nine
and ten o'clock, a black leather pocketbook containing five hundred francs and business papers. You are requested to return
it to the mayor's office at once or to Maitre Fortune Houlbreque, of Manneville. There will be twenty francs reward."
Then the man went away. They heard once more at a
distance the dull beating of the drum and the faint voice of the crier. Then they all began to talk of this incident, reckoning
up the chances which Maitre Houlbreque had of finding or of not finding his pocketbook again.
The meal went on. They were finishing their coffee
when the corporal of gendarmes appeared on the threshold.
"Is Maitre Hauchecorne, of Breaute, here?"
Maitre Hauchecorne, seated at the other end of the table
"Here I am, here I am."
And he followed the corporal.
The mayor was waiting for him, seated in an armchair.
He was the notary of the place, a tall, grave man of pompous speech.
"Maitre Hauchecorne," said he, "this morning on the Beuzeville
road, you were seen to pick up the pocketbook lost by Maitre Houlbreque, of Manneville."
The countryman looked at the mayor in amazement frightened
already at this suspicion which rested on him, he knew not why.
"I--I picked up that pocketbook?"
"I swear I don't even know anything about it."
"You were seen."
"I was seen--I? Who saw me?"
"M. Malandain, the harness-maker."
Then the old man remembered, understood, and, reddening
with anger, said:
"Ah! he saw me, did he, the rascal? He saw me picking
up this string here, M'sieu le Maire."
And fumbling at the bottom of his pocket, he pulled
out of it the little end of string.
But the mayor incredulously shook his head:
"You will not make me believe, Maitre Hauchecorne,
that M. Malandain, who is a man whose word can be relied on, has mistaken this string for a pocketbook."
The peasant, furious, raised his hand and spat on
the ground beside him as if to attest his good faith, repeating:
"For all that, it is God's truth, M'sieu le Maire.
There! On my soul's salvation, I repeat it."
The mayor continued:
"After you picked up the object in question, you even
looked about for some time in the mud to see if a piece of money had not dropped out of it."
The good man was choking with indignation and fear.
"How can they tell--how can they tell such lies as
that to slander an honest man! How can they?"
His protestations were in vain; he was not believed.
He was confronted with M. Malandain, who repeated
and sustained his testimony. They railed at one another for an hour. At his own request Maitre Hauchecorne was searched. Nothing
was found on him.
At last the mayor, much perplexed, sent him away,
warning him that he would inform the public prosecutor and ask for orders.
The news had spread. When he left the mayor's office
the old man was surrounded, interrogated with a curiosity which was serious or mocking, as the case might be, but into which
no indignation entered. And he began to tell the story of the string. They did not believe him. They laughed.
He passed on, buttonholed by every one, himself
buttonholing his acquaintances, beginning over and over again his tale and his protestations, showing his pockets turned inside
out to prove that he had nothing in them.
They said to him:
"You old rogue!"
He grew more and more angry, feverish, in despair
at not being believed, and kept on telling his story.
The night came. It was time to go home. He left with
three of his neighbors, to whom he pointed out the place where he had picked up the string, and all the way he talked of his
That evening he made the round of the village of Breaute
for the purpose of telling every one. He met only unbelievers.
He brooded over it all night long.
The next day, about one in the afternoon, Marius
Paumelle, a farm hand of Maitre Breton, the market gardener at Ymauville, returned the pocketbook and its contents to Maitre
Holbreque, of Manneville.
This man said, indeed, that he had found it on the
road, but not knowing how to read, he had carried it home and given it to his master.
The news spread to the environs. Maitre Hauchecorne
was informed. He started off at once and began to relate his story with the denoument. He was triumphant.
"What grieved me," said he, "was not the thing itself,
do you understand, but it was being accused of lying. Nothing does you so much harm as being in disgrace for lying."
All day he talked of his adventure. He told it on
the roads to the people who passed, at the cabaret to the people who drank and next Sunday when they came out of church. He
even stopped strangers to tell them about it. He was easy now, and yet something worried him without his knowing exactly what
it was. People had a joking manner while they listened. They did not seem convinced. He seemed to feel their remarks behind
On Tuesday of the following week he went to market
at Goderville, prompted solely by the need of telling his story.
Malandain, standing on his doorstep, began to laugh as he
saw him pass. Why?
He accosted a farmer of Criquetot, who did not let
hire finish, and giving him a punch in the pit of the stomach cried in his face: "Oh, you great rogue!" Then he turned his
heel upon him.
Maitre Hauchecorne remained speechless and grew more
and more uneasy. Why had they called him "great rogue"?
When seated at table in Jourdain's tavern he began
again to explain the whole affair.
A horse dealer of Montivilliers shouted at him:
"Get out, get out, you old scamp! I know all about
your old string."
"But since they found it again, the pocketbook!"
But the other continued:
"Hold your tongue, daddy; there's one who finds it
and there's another who returns it. And no one the wiser."
when the corporal asked for Maitre Hauchecoren, there is a reason
why he was called for.
He tried to protest. The whole table began to laugh.
He could not finish his dinner, and went away amid
a chorus of jeers.
He went home indignant, choking with rage, with
confusion, the more cast down since with his Norman craftiness he was, perhaps, capable of having done what they accused him
of and even of boasting of it as a good trick. He was dimly conscious that it was impossible to prove his innocence, his craftiness
being so well known. He felt himself struck to the heart by the injustice of the suspicion.
He began anew to tell his tale, lengthening his
recital every day, each day adding new proofs, more energetic declarations and more sacred oaths, which he thought of, which
he prepared in his hours of solitude, for his mind was entirely occupied with the story of the string. The more he denied
it, the more artful his arguments, the less he was believed.
"Those are liars proofs," they said behind his back.
He felt this. It preyed upon him and he exhausted
himself in useless efforts.
He was visibly wasting away.
Jokers would make him tell the story of "the piece of
string" to amuse them, just as you make a soldier who has been on a campaign tell his story of the battle. His mind kept growing
weaker and about the end of December he took to his bed.
maitre Hauchecorne tries hard to tell everyone that he’s telling
the truth but they dont believe him.
He passed away early in January, and, in the ravings
of death agony, he protested his innocence, repeating:
"A little bit of string--a little bit of string.
See, here it is, M'sieu le Maire."
Maitre Hauchecorne swares he
did not pick up the pocketbook but the more he denied it, the less he was believed.