The Orphan (Maupassant)

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The Orphan
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A deformed woman adopted an orphan boy, but as he grew older, his behavior changed, causing her fear and anxiety. After her mysterious murder, he inherited her property and eventually gained the community's acceptance.

Mademoiselle Source, a 36-year-old woman with a disfigured face, adopted a young orphan boy after her neighbor died during childbirth. She lived in a small country estate near Rennes and decided to raise the boy without any help, as her income was not enough to support a servant.

Mademoiselle Source — deformed, unmarried woman; kind, loving, and fearful; the boy's adoptive mother.

The boy was gentle, shy, and affectionate, and Mademoiselle Source felt a deep joy when he showed her love and affection.

The Orphan — young man; quiet, affectionate, and mysterious; Mademoiselle Source's adopted son.

As the boy grew older, he became an avid reader and spent most of his time absorbed in books. Mademoiselle Source noticed a change in his character and became increasingly worried about his behavior. "You will overtire yourself, my treasure!" she said to him, hoping he would look up and show her some affection.

You will overtire yourself, my treasure!

He began to ask her for money, which she initially gave him, but eventually refused when his demands grew too much. The boy seemed to accept this and returned to his former quiet ways, but Mademoiselle Source could not shake the feeling that something was wrong.

One day, she noticed another change in the boy's demeanor and felt that he was now resolute in whatever he was planning. He began to watch her constantly, making her feel frightened and paranoid. "But I assure you nothing's wrong with me," he told her when she asked him about his changed behavior and constant staring at her.

But I assure you nothing's wrong with me.

She confided in her distant cousins, who advised her to move to town and sell her house. "If you only knew how he looks at me from morning till night! He never takes his eyes off me!" she told them, highlighting her growing anxiety and the need to move away from him. Mademoiselle Source agreed and secretly bought a house in town.

However, before she could move, she was found dead in a ditch with her throat cut. The orphan boy was arrested, but was acquitted due to a solid alibi. He inherited all of Mademoiselle Source's property and, after some time, the suspicions surrounding him faded. He became a well-liked member of the community and eventually became the mayor of his commune.