Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 4
The Wrong House
Quartermaster Varajou had obtained a week's leave to go and visit his sister, Madame
Padoie. Varajou, who was in garrison at Rennes and was leading a pretty gay life, finding
himself high and dry, wrote to his sister saying that he would devote a week to her. It was
not that he cared particularly for Mme. Padoie, a little moralist, a devotee, and always
cross; but he needed money, needed it very badly, and he remembered that, of all his
relations, the Padoies were the only ones whom he had never approached on the subject.
Pere Varajou, formerly a horticulturist at Angers, but now retired from business, had
closed his purse strings to his scapegrace son and had hardly seen him for two years. His
daughter had married Padoie, a former treasury clerk, who had just been appointed tax
collector at Vannes.
Varajou, on leaving the train, had some one direct him to the house of his brother-in-law,
whom he found in his office arguing with the Breton peasants of the neighborhood.
Padoie rose from his seat, held out his hand across the table littered with papers,
murmured, "Take a chair. I will be at liberty in a moment," sat down again and resumed
The peasants did not understand his explanations, the collector did not understand their
line of argument. He spoke French, they spoke Breton, and the clerk who acted as
interpreter appeared not to understand either.
It lasted a long time, a very long lime. Varajou looked at his brother- in-law and thought:
"What a fool!" Padoie must have been almost fifty. He was tall, thin, bony, slow, hairy,
with heavy arched eyebrows. He wore a velvet skull cap with a gold cord vandyke design
round it. His look was gentle, like his actions. His speech, his gestures, his thoughts, all
were soft. Varajou said to himself, "What a fool!"
He, himself, was one of those noisy roysterers for whom the greatest pleasures in life are
the cafe and abandoned women. He understood nothing outside of these conditions of
A boisterous braggart, filled with contempt for the rest of the world, he despised the
entire universe from the height of his ignorance. When he said: "Nom d'un chien, what a
spree!" he expressed the highest degree of admiration of which his mind was capable.
Having finally got rid of his peasants, Padoie inquired:
"How are you?"
"Pretty well, as you see. And how are you?"
"Quite well, thank you. It is very kind of you to have thought of coming to see us."