In Port (Maupassant)

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In Port
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A sailor unknowingly slept with his long-lost sister in a brothel, only to discover their relationship afterwards, leading to an emotional breakdown and a tragic reunion.

A three-masted sailing ship named Notre-Dame-des-Vents returned to Marseilles harbor after a four-year voyage. The ship had been through various adventures and misadventures, and the crew had changed significantly during the journey. The captain gave two-thirds of his crew shore leave for the evening, and they set out to explore the city.

Led by Célestin Duclos, the sailors wandered through the streets, eventually finding themselves in a winding passage filled with women offering their services. After some hesitation, Duclos chose a house for the men to spend the evening.

Célestin Duclos — sailor; tall, shrewd, sturdy; cautious but fearless in brawls; leader among his crewmates.

Inside, they drank and sang, each man choosing a companion for the night. Duclos found himself drawn to a woman who asked him about a ship called Notre-Dame-des-Vents and a man named Célestin Duclos. He admitted to knowing the man and the ship, and she revealed that she was his sister, Françoise.

Françoise — Célestin's sister; a prostitute; experienced hardships and loss; resigned to her fate.

She told him that their father, mother, and brother had all died of typhoid fever three and a half years ago, leaving her alone and destitute. She had been forced into a life of prostitution to survive.

I thought you were dead too, my poor Célestin.

Overcome with emotion, Duclos embraced his sister and began to sob uncontrollably. The other sailors, thinking he was simply drunk, carried him upstairs to a bedroom and left him there. Françoise stayed with him, weeping over him until morning.