Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 13 HTML version

Father Boitelle (Antoine) made a specialty of undertaking dirty jobs all through the
countryside. Whenever there was a ditch or a cesspool to be cleaned out, a dunghill
removed, a sewer cleansed, or any dirt hole whatever, he way always employed to do it.
He would come with the instruments of his trade, his sabots covered with dirt, and set to
work, complaining incessantly about his occupation. When people asked him then why
he did this loathsome work, he would reply resignedly:
"Faith, 'tis for my children, whom I must support. This brings me in more than anything
He had, indeed, fourteen children. If any one asked him what had become of them, he
would say with an air of indifference:
"There are only eight of them left in the house. One is out at service and five are
When the questioner wanted to know whether they were well married, he replied
"I did not oppose them. I opposed them in nothing. They married just as they pleased. We
shouldn't go against people's likings, it turns out badly. I am a night scavenger because
my parents went against my likings. But for that I would have become a workman like
the others."
Here is the way his parents had thwarted him in his likings:
He was at the time a soldier stationed at Havre, not more stupid than another, or sharper
either, a rather simple fellow, however. When he was not on duty, his greatest pleasure
was to walk along the quay, where the bird dealers congregate. Sometimes alone,
sometimes with a soldier from his own part of the country, he would slowly saunter along
by cages containing parrots with green backs and yellow heads from the banks of the
Amazon, or parrots with gray backs and red heads from Senegal, or enormous macaws,
which look like birds reared in hot-houses, with their flower-like feathers, their plumes
and their tufts. Parrots of every size, who seem painted with minute care by the
miniaturist, God Almighty, and the little birds, all the smaller birds hopped about, yellow,
blue and variegated, mingling their cries with the noise of the quay; and adding to the din
caused by unloading the vessels, as well as by passengers and vehicles, a violent clamor,
loud, shrill and deafening, as if from some distant forest of monsters.
Boitelle would pause, with wondering eyes, wide-open mouth, laughing and enraptured,
showing his teeth to the captive cockatoos, who kept nodding their white or yellow
topknots toward the glaring red of his breeches and the copper buckle of his belt. When