(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

At the story’s opening and ending Dédé’s nephew Pascal is fourteen years old, but the main part of the story takes place one Sunday afternoon when Pascal is nine years old. Dédé is living with the Brouets, supposedly studying for a civil service examination to qualify him for employment with the railroad. Dédé’s exact age is never given, but he is most likely twenty or so. It is revealed that Dédé had caused various kinds of trouble at home in Colmar and his mother no longer knew how to handle him, so she sent him to Paris to live with his doting sister.

On that memorable Sunday afternoon in the early fall, the Brouets had invited the Turbins and the Chevallier-Crochets for lunch in their garden. Pascal and Dédé were also present. The reason behind the gathering was to introduce Dédé to the Turbin’s daughter Brigitte, for Mme. Brouet had decided that her wayward brother needed a woman friend. Her plans were foiled when Brigitte was called away on an emergency and could not attend the luncheon. The day had not started well; a fire of undetermined origin had broken out in Dédé’s room that morning. It is revealed that when Dédé was living with his mother in Colmar, he caused two other fires, although they were believed to have been accidental.

The luncheon, in a typical French manner, lasts all afternoon, and the spirited account of its near catastrophes evolves into gentle social satire. First hornets attack the melon,...

(The entire section is 537 words.)