What happens after the pocketbook is returned by someone else in "The Piece of String"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When a farmhand finds the pocketbook on the main road and returns it, the news of this incident spreads. Maître Hauchecorne is told that the item has been recovered, and he jubilantly goes all around, repeating his story, but now he includes the ending.

Furthermore, Maître Hauchecorne continues to talk about the entire incident, even stopping strangers. Yet, he is troubled as he notices the reactions to his words on people's faces. Some people seem amused while others appear to be dubious. When Hauchecorne tells a particular farmer all that has transpired, the man punches him in the stomach and shouts, "Knock it off, you old rascal!"

Maître Hauchecorne is startled by this remark and the farmer's reaction. Then, he realizes that people are accusing him of having someone pretend to have found the money and bring it to the authorities. He now feels

...humiliated, indignant, strangled with anger and mental confusion, especially crushed because, as a shrewd Norman, he knew himself capable of doing what he was accused of, and even boasting about it as a trick.

Crushed by the ridicule, Maître Hauchecorne becomes "heartsick over the injustice of being suspected." Repeatedly, he retells his experience, hoping to convince people of his innocence. But, instead, people believe that he is lying. Some jokingly request that he tell his story so that they can laugh at him. Finally, Hauchecorne is defeated, and he becomes so overwrought that his mind weakens. He is heard repeating, "Just a bit of yarn...a little bit of yarn...."

In Maître Hauchecorne, Guy de Maupassant depicts what he despised in the Norman peasants. He found them petty and untrustworthy. In their natural suspicion, the peasants have labeled Hauchecorne as a thief despite what he says or whatever proof contradicts their judgment.

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Although Maitre Hauchecorne is legally cleared of stealing the lost pockebook in "The Piece of String," his troubles don't end there. Because he continues to expound his innocence to anyone who will listen (and to those who don't want to hear it), even stopping strangers to tell them his story, the citizens of the town begin to believe that he "doth protest too much." Had Maitre Hauchecorne allowed the situation to die down on its own, the whole matter may have been forgotten. Calling him a "rogue" and a "scamp," the townspeople begin to believe that Hauchecorne must have had an accomplice--"one who finds it and there's another one who returns it." So, he begins to explain his innocence again, this time in more depth and with new variations of his tale. They called him a "liar," and the old peasant, who had never been particularly truthful but who valued his reputation, "was visibly wasting away." Eventually, the townspeople called him over to retell his story, laughing at his expense as they heard it. Soon, he "took to his bed," and he died a month later, protesting his innocence in his dying words.