The Castaway (Maupassant)

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The Castaway
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An elderly woman and her former lover visited her long-lost son, whom she had abandoned at birth, only to find him living as a peasant farmer, causing her immense grief and regret.

An old woman, Madame de Cadour, and her old friend, Monsieur d'Apreval, went for a walk in the countryside on a hot day. They had been lovers in the past, and Madame de Cadour had given birth to a son as a result of their affair.

Madame de Cadour — elderly woman; mother of the son she abandoned; emotional, regretful.
Monsieur d'Apreval — Madame de Cadour's former lover and father of her son; supportive, cautious.

The child had been taken away and raised by Norman peasants, and neither of them had seen him since. As they walked, Madame de Cadour expressed her guilt and longing to see her son again.

How is he? Oh, how guilty I feel before him! Ought one to fear the world in such a case?

They eventually arrived at a farm, where they met a peasant woman and her daughter. The woman was suspicious of the strangers, but agreed to sell them some milk. As they were talking, a man leading a cow entered the yard. The old woman and her friend realized that this was her long-lost son, now a farmer.

Pierre Bénédict — Madame de Cadour's long-lost son; peasant farmer; hardworking, unaware of his true parentage.

They were both shocked and saddened by his appearance and the life he was leading.

Oh! Oh! Is this what you've made of him?

Unable to reveal their true identities, they left the farm and returned to their hotel, where Madame de Cadour's husband was waiting for them. He joked about his wife's emotional state, unaware of the true reason for her tears. The old woman and her friend kept their secret, knowing that they could never reveal the truth about their past and the son they had abandoned.