The String (Maupassant)

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The String
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A peasant found a piece of string and was falsely accused of stealing a lost pocketbook. Despite the pocketbook being returned by someone else, the peasant's reputation was tarnished and he eventually died.

In a small town, an old man named Maître Hauchecorne was on his way to the market when he found a piece of string on the ground. As he picked it up, he noticed his enemy, Maître Malandain, watching him.

Maître Hauchecorne — old peasant; suffers from rheumatism; economical, cunning, and insistent on his innocence.
Maître Malandain — harness-maker; enemy of Maître Hauchecorne; accuses Hauchecorne of stealing the pocketbook.

Ashamed of being seen picking up something so insignificant, Hauchecorne hid the string in his pocket and continued on his way. Later that day, it was announced that a black leather pocketbook containing a significant amount of money had been lost. Malandain accused Hauchecorne of picking it up, claiming he had seen him do so. Despite Hauchecorne's insistence that he had only picked up the piece of string, no one believed him.

It is nevertheless the truth of the good God, the sacred truth, Mr. Mayor. I repeat it on my soul and my salvation.

Even when the pocketbook was eventually found and returned by someone else, the townspeople continued to doubt Hauchecorne's innocence. Hauchecorne became obsessed with proving his innocence, constantly retelling the story of the string and adding more details each time. However, his efforts only made people more suspicious, as they believed his elaborate explanations were a cover-up for his guilt. As a result, Hauchecorne's reputation suffered, and he became the subject of ridicule.

Over time, the stress of the situation took a toll on Hauchecorne's health. He became visibly weaker and eventually fell ill. In his final days, he continued to insist on his innocence, even in the midst of his delirium.

A piece of string, a piece of string—look—here it is, Mr. Mayor.

Despite his efforts, Hauchecorne's name was never cleared, and he died with the townspeople still believing him to be a liar and a thief.