Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Paul Guéret is an incompetent, prematurely aged tutor hired to instruct the sickly, unintelligent son of a prosperous provincial family named Grosgeorge. Knowing himself to be a failure and tired of his wife, whom he no longer loves, Guéret had hoped that life would be better in Chanteilles; within a month, however, he is just as wretched there as he had been in Paris, where his feelings of self-pity and frustration had often driven him into sordid love affairs. In Chanteilles, bored by his dreary surroundings, he soon finds himself infatuated with Angèle, a young woman who works in a laundry. Hoping to become her lover, he begins to write her letters asking her to meet him. Sometimes he follows her at a distance when she delivers clean laundry to her customers.
One night, Guéret accosts Angèle at a footbridge on the outskirts of the town. Hating himself for his shabby clothes and stammering speech, he offers her a cheap ring stolen from his wife. Although she accepts the ring, Angèle does not encourage his attentions. His abrupt yet furtive ardor both attracts and repels her.
That same night, Guéret goes by chance to the Restaurant Londe in nearby Lorges. There Madame Londe, the proprietor, presides majestically behind her cashier’s desk. A sly woman whose days are given over to spying and gossip, she delights in alternately cajoling and bullying her patrons, who seem to hold her resentfully in awe. When Guéret enters, she is...
(The entire section is 1294 words.)
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