Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Set in a little Norman village, “The Piece of String” concerns several months in the life of Maitre Hauchecorne, an old peasant. On an autumn market-day in Goderville, Hauchecorne is about to enter the square when he sees a piece of string on the ground and, being of the saving kind, retrieves it. As he does so, he becomes aware that an enemy of his, M. Malandain, the local harness maker, is watching. Ashamed to be seen picking up a remnant of string, the protagonist furtively hides it in his clothing and then pretends to be looking for something of value on the ground. With his head bent over in his intent search, he moves on toward the market.
A few hours later, Hauchecorne is having his noon meal at the local tavern, Jordain’s, which is filled with local peasants, their gossipy chatter, and the powerful odor of food cooking. Twice the meal and the chatter are interrupted: first, by the voice of the town crier, who gravely announces the loss by M. Houlbreque of a pocketbook containing five hundred francs; second, by the appearance of the chief of gendarmes, who summons Hauchecorne to see the mayor on village business.
Leaving his meal, the protagonist hurries to the mayor’s office, where he is unofficially confronted with the charge of having found Houlbreque’s pocketbook and of keeping it. The sole witness to the incident is Malandain, says the mayor. Hauchecorne sputters in rage at the accusation coming from his enemy. His...
(The entire section is 1082 words.)
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