Near the end of Maupassant's story, Maître Hauchecome stands accused a second time. At first, in the real climax, he is questioned by the mayor because Monsieur Malandain, a rival, has attested that he was witness to Hauchecome's bending down and picking up the lost pocketbook of Maître Houlbreque. Hauchecome protests this accusation, but stands accused in the minds of the other Normans until the pocketbook is returned.
Moreover, because Maître Hauchecome has protested so much, and declared his innocence repeatedly, even after the money has been returned, the peasants begin again to doubt him; this time they laugh at him and call him "rascal" after he tells his story. One day, when Hauchecome is seated at a tavern, he again explains. But a man scolds,
"Come, come, old sharper, that's an old trick; I know all about your piece of string!"
The peasant stood choking. He understood. They accused him of having had the pocketbook returned by a confederate, by an accomplice.
This second time, Hauchecome is accused in the hearts of men, not just in their minds. This condemnation is more than Maître Hauchecome can bear, for it tears at the fiber of his being since he has always desired respect. In a short time, his mind weakens and he dies, protesting his innocence in his last words, "A piece of string."