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An Old Man by Guy de Maupassant

AnOld Man

by guy de maupassant The Dispenser of Holy WaterWe lived formerly in a little house beside the high road outside thevillage. He had set up in business as a wheelwright, after marrying thedaughter of a farmer of the neighborhood, and as they were bothindustrious, they managed to save up a nice little fortune. But they hadnochildren, and this caused them great sorrow. Finally a son was born,whom they named Jean. They both loved and petted him, enfolding him withtheir affection, and were unwilling to let him be out of their sight.

When he was five years old some mountebanks passed through the countryand set up their tent in the town hall square.

Jean, who had seen them pass by, made his escape from the house, andafter his father had made a long search for him, he found him among thelearned goats and trick dogs, uttering shouts of laughter and sitting onthe knees of an old clown.

Three days later, just as they were sitting down to dinner, thewheelwright and his wife noticed that their son was not in the house.They looked for him in the garden, and as they did not find him, hisfather went out into the road and shouted at the top of his voice,"Jean!"

Night came on. A brown vapor arose making distant objects look stillfarther away and giving them a dismal, weird appearance. Three tallpines, close at hand, seemed to be weeping. Still there was no reply,but the air appeared to be full of indistinct sighing. The fatherlistened for some time, thinking he heard a sound first in one direction,then in another, and, almost beside himself, he ran, out into the night,calling incessantly "Jean! Jean!"

He ran along thus until daybreak, filling the, darkness with his shouts,terrifying stray animals, torn by a terrible anguish and fearing that hewas losing his mind. His wife, seated on the stone step of their home,sobbed until morning.

They did not find their son. They both aged rapidly in theirinconsolable sorrow. Finally they sold their house and set out to searchtogether.

They inquired of the shepherds on the hillsides, of the tradesmen passingby, of the peasants in the villages and of the authorities in the towns.But their boy had been lost a long time and no one knew anything abouthim. He had probably forgotten his own name by this time and also thename of his village, and his parents wept in silence, having lost hope.

Before long their money came to an end, and they worked out by the day inthe farms and inns, doing the most menial work, eating what was left fromthe tables, sleeping on the ground and suffering from cold. Then as theybecame enfeebled by hard work no one would employ them any longer, andthey were forced to beg along the high roads. They accosted passers-byin an entreating voice and with sad, discouraged faces; they begged amorsel of bread from the harvesters who were dining around a tree in thefields at noon, and they ate in silence seated on the edge of a ditch.An innkeeper to whom they told their story said to them one day:

"I know some one who had lost their daughter, and they found her inParis."

They at once set out for Paris.

When they entered the great city they were bewildered by its size and bythe crowds that they saw. But they knew that Jean must be in the midstof all these people, though they did not know how to set about lookingfor him. Then they feared that they might not recognize him, for he wasonly five years old when they last saw him.

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