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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 9

The Adopted Son
The two cottages stood beside each other at the foot of a hill near a little seashore resort.
The two peasants labored hard on the unproductive soil to rear their little ones, and each
family had four.
Before the adjoining doors a whole troop of urchins played and tumbled about from
morning till night. The two eldest were six years old, and the youngest were about fifteen
months; the marriages, and afterward the births, having taken place nearly simultaneously
in both families.
The two mothers could hardly distinguish their own offspring among the lot, and as for
the fathers, they were altogether at sea. The eight names danced in their heads; they were
always getting them mixed up; and when they wished to call one child, the men often
called three names before getting the right one.
The first of the two cottages, as you came up from the bathing beach, Rolleport, was
occupied by the Tuvaches, who had three girls and one boy; the other house sheltered the
Vallins, who had one girl and three boys.
They all subsisted frugally on soup, potatoes and fresh air. At seven o'clock in the
morning, then at noon, then at six o'clock in the evening, the housewives got their broods
together to give them their food, as the gooseherds collect their charges. The children
were seated, according to age, before the wooden table, varnished by fifty years of use;
the mouths of the youngest hardly reaching the level of the table. Before them was placed
a bowl filled with bread, soaked in the water in which the potatoes had been boiled, half a
cabbage and three onions; and the whole line ate until their hunger was appeased. The
mother herself fed the smallest.
A small pot roast on Sunday was a feast for all; and the father on this day sat longer over
the meal, repeating: "I wish we could have this every day."
One afternoon, in the month of August, a phaeton stopped suddenly in front of the
cottages, and a young woman, who was driving the horses, said to the gentleman sitting
at her side:
"Oh, look at all those children, Henri! How pretty they are, tumbling about in the dust,
like that!"
The man did not answer, accustomed to these outbursts of admiration, which were a pain
and almost a reproach to him. The young woman continued:
"I must hug them! Oh, how I should like to have one of them--that one there--the little
tiny one!"
 
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