The Simpleton (Bunin)

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The Simpleton
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A seminarist fathered a child with a simpleton cook, causing her to be dismissed and forced to beg for alimony. The child's unexpected appearance at a gathering caused embarrassment.

A deacon's son, who was studying to become a priest, came home for the holidays.

The Seminarist — deacon's son; young, educated, and ashamed of his past actions; has red hair.

One hot night, he was aroused by his own imagination, recalling the sight of village girls bathing in the river. Unable to control himself, he snuck into the kitchen and slept with the cook, a simple-minded girl with no family.

The Cook — a simpleton; meek, obedient, and mother to the seminarist's child; has no family.

After that he slept with her the whole summer and fathered a boy, who duly began growing up with his mother in the kitchen.

She became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, who grew up in the kitchen.

The Boy — son of the seminarist and the cook; young, innocent, and has red hair like his father.

Everyone in the village knew the boy was the deacon's son's child, but the son, filled with shame, avoided the boy.

After graduating with high honors, the son returned home before starting his studies at the academy. During a celebration, the cook's boy, encouraged by his mother, began to dance.

The deacon’s son, turning crimson, threw himself upon him like a tiger and flung him out of the room with such force that the boy rolled into the entrance hall like a peg top.

The son, embarrassed, violently threw the boy out of the room. The next day, he demanded his parents fire the cook. Despite their affection for her, they complied.

The cook and her son spent the summer begging in nearby villages.

All summer after that she went around the villages and hamlets with him, begging for alms.

They became ragged and thin, but remained tireless. The boy, though ugly, had a sweet smile.