Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version
The Dispenser Of Holy Water
We lived formerly in a little house beside the high road outside the village. He had set up
in business as a wheelwright, after marrying the daughter of a farmer of the
neighborhood, and as they were both industrious, they managed to save up a nice little
fortune. But they had no children, and this caused them great sorrow. Finally a son was
born, whom they named Jean. They both loved and petted him, enfolding him with their
affection, and were unwilling to let him be out of their sight.
When he was five years old some mountebanks passed through the country and set up
their tent in the town hall square.
Jean, who had seen them pass by, made his escape from the house, and after his father
had made a long search for him, he found him among the learned goats and trick dogs,
uttering shouts of laughter and sitting on the knees of an old clown.
Three days later, just as they were sitting down to dinner, the wheelwright and his wife
noticed that their son was not in the house. They looked for him in the garden, and as
they did not find him, his father went out into the road and shouted at the top of his voice,
Night came on. A brown vapor arose making distant objects look still farther away and
giving them a dismal, weird appearance. Three tall pines, close at hand, seemed to be
weeping. Still there was no reply, but the air appeared to be full of indistinct sighing. The
father listened for some time, thinking he heard a sound first in one direction, then in
another, and, almost beside himself, he ran, out into the night, calling incessantly "Jean!
He ran along thus until daybreak, filling the, darkness with his shouts, terrifying stray
animals, torn by a terrible anguish and fearing that he was losing his mind. His wife,
seated on the stone step of their home, sobbed until morning.
They did not find their son. They both aged rapidly in their inconsolable sorrow. Finally
they sold their house and set out to search together.
They inquired of the shepherds on the hillsides, of the tradesmen passing by, of the
peasants in the villages and of the authorities in the towns. But their boy had been lost a
long time and no one knew anything about him. He had probably forgotten his own name
by this time and also the name of his village, and his parents wept in silence, having lost
Before long their money came to an end, and they worked out by the day in the farms and
inns, doing the most menial work, eating what was left from the tables, sleeping on the
ground and suffering from cold. Then as they became enfeebled by hard work no one
would employ them any longer, and they were forced to beg along the high roads. They