On Horseback (Maupassant)

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On Horseback
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man's attempt to impress his family by riding a horse led to an accident with an old woman, who then feigned injury and forced the family into financial hardship.

Hector de Gribelin, a humble clerk, received a small bonus from his job and decided to use the money to take his family on a picnic in the countryside. He hired a carriage for his wife and children, and a horse for himself, as he had fond memories of riding horses in his youth. The family enjoyed their day out, but on their way back, Hector's horse became uncontrollable and knocked down an old woman named Mme. Simon.

Hector de Gribelin — husband and father; works at the ministry of marine; inexperienced horse rider; proud, naive.
Mme. Simon — elderly charwoman; injured in the accident; sly, opportunistic.

Make the children stop screaming, will you? They will make the horse run away.

Hector was taken to the police station, but was released when he agreed to pay for Mme. Simon's medical expenses. The old woman was taken to a convalescent home, where she claimed to be in constant pain and unable to walk. Hector visited her regularly, but her condition did not improve. The financial strain of paying for Mme. Simon's care forced Hector and his wife to dismiss their servant and cut back on their expenses.

I can't move any more; I'll be like this for the rest of my days!

After a month, Hector called in four doctors to examine Mme. Simon. They were unable to determine the cause of her pain and suggested that she should try to walk. Despite their efforts, Mme. Simon continued to insist that she was unable to move. The doctors concluded that she was incapacitated for work, leaving Hector and his wife with the responsibility of continuing to pay for her care.

In desperation, Hector's wife, Henriette, suggested that they bring Mme. Simon into their own home to reduce the cost of her care.

Henriette de Gribelin — Hector's wife; mother of two children; concerned, supportive.

We had much better take her here, it would cost us less.

Hector was initially opposed to the idea, but eventually realized that they had no other choice.