Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version
The defendants, Cesaire-Isidore Brument and Prosper-Napoleon Cornu, appeared before
the Court of Assizes of the Seine-Inferieure, on a charge of attempted murder, by
drowning, of Mme. Brument, lawful wife of the first of the aforenamed.
The two prisoners sat side by side on the traditional bench. They were two peasants; the
first was small and stout, with short arms, short legs, and a round head with a red pimply
face, planted directly on his trunk, which was also round and short, and with apparently
no neck. He was a raiser of pigs and lived at Cacheville-la-Goupil, in the district of
Cornu (Prosper-Napoleon) was thin, of medium height, with enormously long arms. His
head was on crooked, his jaw awry, and he squinted. A blue blouse, as long as a shirt,
hung down to his knees, and his yellow hair, which was scanty and plastered down on his
head, gave his face a worn- out, dirty look, a dilapidated look that was frightful. He had
been nicknamed "the cure" because he could imitate to perfection the chanting in church,
and even the sound of the serpent. This talent attracted to his cafe--for he was a saloon
keeper at Criquetot--a great many customers who preferred the "mass at Cornu" to the
mass in church.
Mme. Brument, seated on the witness bench, was a thin peasant woman who seemed to
be always asleep. She sat there motionless, her hands crossed on her knees, gazing
fixedly before her with a stupid expression.
The judge continued his interrogation.
"Well, then, Mme. Brument, they came into your house and threw you into a barrel full
of water. Tell us the details. Stand up."
She rose. She looked as tall as a flag pole with her cap which looked like a white skull
cap. She said in a drawling tone:
"I was shelling beans. Just then they came in. I said to myself, 'What is the matter with
them? They do not seem natural, they seem up to some mischief.' They watched me
sideways, like this, especially Cornu, because he squints. I do not like to see them
together, for they are two good-for-nothings when they are in company. I said: 'What do
you want with me?' They did not answer. I had a sort of mistrust----"
The defendant Brument interrupted the witness hastily, saying:
"I was full."
Then Cornu, turning towards his accomplice said in the deep tones of an organ: