The Old Man (Maupassant)

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The Old Man
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A couple anxiously awaited the death of the wife's father, making preparations for his funeral, but he stubbornly clung to life, causing them inconvenience and frustration.

A warm autumn day on a farm, an old man lay dying in his bed, struggling to breathe. His daughter and son-in-law, both peasants, were concerned about the timing of his death, as they needed to transplant their colza crop the next day.

Maître Chicot — husband; farmer; practical, patient, and resigned.
Madame Chicot (Phémie) — wife; farmer's wife; practical, patient, and distressed.
The Old Man — Phémie's father; dying, stubborn, and unresponsive.

They decided that if the old man died that day, they would hold the funeral the following day, allowing them to continue with their work.

Seeing that he's going to die, we won't bury him before Saturday; that will leave you tomorrow for the colza.

The son-in-law went to invite guests for the funeral, while the daughter prepared food for the guests, including making four dozen dumplings. The old man continued to struggle for breath, but did not die that day. The next day, the son-in-law went to work in the fields, while the daughter continued to prepare for the funeral. The old man still did not die.

Guests began to arrive for the funeral, and the couple explained the situation. The guests were understanding, and they all decided to have the meal together anyway.

We all come to it in the end.

As they ate the dumplings and drank cider, the old man finally passed away. The guests went to see the body, and then left, discussing the events of the day.

The couple was relieved that the old man had finally died, but the wife lamented that she would have to make another four dozen dumplings for the actual funeral.

All the same, I shall have to make four dozen more dumplings. If only he could have made up his mind last night!

The husband consoled her, saying that she wouldn't have to do it every day.