Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version

The Donkey
There was not a breath of air stirring; a heavy mist was lying over the river. It was like a
layer of cotton placed on the water. The banks themselves were indistinct, hidden behind
strange fogs. But day was breaking and the hill was becoming visible. In the dawning
light of day the plaster houses began to appear like white spots. Cocks were crowing in
the barnyard.
On the other side of the river, hidden behind the fogs, just opposite Frette, a slight noise
from time to time broke the dead silence of the quiet morning. At times it was an
indistinct plashing, like the cautious advance of a boat, then again a sharp noise like the
rattle of an oar and then the sound of something dropping in the water. Then silence.
Sometimes whispered words, coming perhaps from a distance, perhaps from quite near,
pierced through these opaque mists. They passed by like wild birds which have slept in
the rushes and which fly away at the first light of day, crossing the mist and uttering a
low and timid sound which wakes their brothers along the shores.
Suddenly along the bank, near the village, a barely perceptible shadow appeared on the
water. Then it grew, became more distinct and, coming out of the foggy curtain which
hung over the river, a flatboat, manned by two men, pushed up on the grass.
The one who was rowing rose and took a pailful of fish from the bottom of the boat, then
he threw the dripping net over his shoulder. His companion, who had not made a motion,
exclaimed: "Say, Mailloche, get your gun and see if we can't land some rabbit along the
The other one answered: "All right. I'll be with you in a minute." Then he disappeared, in
order to hide their catch.
The man who had stayed in the boat slowly filled his pipe and lighted it. His name was
Labouise, but he was called Chicot, and was in partnership with Maillochon, commonly
called Mailloche, to practice the doubtful and undefined profession of junk-gatherers
along the shore.
They were a low order of sailors and they navigated regularly only in the months of
famine. The rest of the time they acted as junk-gatherers. Rowing about on the river day
and night, watching for any prey, dead or alive, poachers on the water and nocturnal
hunters, sometimes ambushing venison in the Saint-Germain forests, sometimes looking
for drowned people and searching their clothes, picking up floating rags and empty
bottles; thus did Labouise and Maillochon live easily.
At times they would set out on foot about noon and stroll along straight ahead. They
would dine in some inn on the shore and leave again side by side. They would remain