Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6
Mother And Son
A party of men were chatting in the smoking room after dinner. We were talking of
unexpected legacies, strange inheritances. Then M. le Brument, who was sometimes
called "the illustrious judge" and at other times "the illustrious lawyer," went and stood
with his back to the fire.
"I have," said he, "to search for an heir who disappeared under peculiarly distressing
circumstances. It is one of those simple and terrible dramas of ordinary life, a thing which
possibly happens every day, and which is nevertheless one of the most dreadful things I
know. Here are the facts:
"Nearly six months ago I was called to the bedside of a dying woman. She said to me:
"'Monsieur, I want to intrust to you the most delicate, the most difficult, and the most
wearisome mission that can be conceived. Be good enough to notice my will, which is
there on the table. A sum of five thousand francs is left to you as a fee if you do not
succeed, and of a hundred thousand francs if you do succeed. I want you to find my son
after my death.'
"She asked me to assist her to sit up in bed, in order that she might talk with greater ease,
for her voice, broken and gasping, was whistling in her throat.
"It was a very wealthy establishment. The luxurious apartment, of an elegant simplicity,
was upholstered with materials as thick as walls, with a soft inviting surface.
"The dying woman continued:
"'You are the first to hear my horrible story. I will try to have strength ,enough to finish it.
You must know all, in order that you, whom I know to be a kind-hearted man as well as a
man of the world, may have a sincere desire to aid me with all your power.
"'Listen to me:
"'Before my marriage, I loved a young man, whose suit was rejected by my family
because he was not rich enough. Not long afterward, I married a man of great wealth. I
married him through ignorance, through obedience, through indifference, as young girls
"'I had a child, a boy. My husband died in the course of a few years.
"'He whom I had loved had married, in his turn. When he saw that I was a widow, he was
crushed by grief at knowing he was not free. He came to see me; he wept and sobbed so
bitterly, that it was enough to break my heart. He came to see me at first as a friend.
Perhaps I ought not to have received him. What could I do? I was alone, so sad, so