(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The opening dialogue of “The Tender Shoot” introduces the reader to an unidentified woman and an old friend of hers to whom she gives the name Albin Chaveriat. Evidently this name is chosen to hide the real identity of the storyteller. The setting is Paris, in May of 1940. Over dinner, the woman persuades her seventy-year-old bachelor friend to tell her a story of his love life, a secret life that limited, for the woman at least, a deeper sense of their friendship.

The woman has just encouraged Chaveriat to spend his time in the country, while the war lasts, at the Hersent home, a home filled with young daughters and nieces. Chaveriat refuses to go there for that very reason. He has renounced the two great passions of his life, young girls and shooting. Chaveriat begins his story by telling the woman that it was because of the dissolution of a masculine friendship that he acquired his taste for young girls. Chaveriat considered his friend Eyrand’s marriage a betrayal of their mutual affection, refused to forgive him, and the friendship ended. It was with this estrangement that he became unsociable with everyone but very young girls.

Chaveriat proceeds with his story by telling of a late summer in 1923 spent at the estate of a wealthy chemist friend in the region of Doubs. Though he no longer hunted, he still accepted his friends’ hunting invitations. He is especially bored with the others present, their constant eating and drinking, and so he keeps to himself. Being an ardent walker, one day Chaveriat wanders outside the domain and finds himself at the top of a hill where a stream flows by. From the other side of a crumbling wall, the horned forehead of a she-goat nudges his hand. As he is...

(The entire section is 704 words.)