The Substitute (Maupassant)

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The Substitute
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An elderly woman secretly paid a young soldier for intimate encounters, but when he fell ill, he sent a fellow soldier as a substitute, leading to an unexpected arrangement.

A respectable middle-class woman named Madame Bonderoi was known for her devout and honorable nature. However, she had a secret vice: she enjoyed the company of good-looking young men.

Madame Bonderoi — elderly woman with false curls; devout, secretive, and fond of good-looking young men.

After her husband's death, she lived a peaceful and irreproachable life, attending church regularly and speaking disdainfully of her neighbors.

One day, a soldier named Siballe was approached by Madame Bonderoi, who offered him ten francs a week for his services.

Trooper Siballe — young dragoon; loyal to his family; practical, straightforward.

Soldier, would you like to earn ten francs a week, honestly?

Curious, he agreed and visited her the next day. Madame Bonderoi made her intentions clear through her actions, and Siballe agreed to keep their arrangement a secret.

If you mention this to anyone, I will have you put in prison, so swear that you will never open your lips about it.

For a year and a half, Siballe visited Madame Bonderoi every Tuesday evening, receiving ten francs each time.

However, one week Siballe fell ill and could not visit Madame Bonderoi. Fearing that she would find a replacement, he sent his fellow soldier Paumelle in his stead.

Trooper Paumelle — young dragoon; opportunistic, from the same region as Siballe.

Paumelle agreed to the arrangement, but when he returned, he refused to give Siballe his share of the money. The two soldiers argued, and their quarrel escalated to a duel.

After the duel, the soldiers reconciled and revealed the cause of their dispute to their officer, Captain d'Anglemare. Amused by the story, the captain made them promise to keep the matter a secret. In the end, Madame Bonderoi decided to keep both dragoons, reserving a specific day for each of them.

Mother Bonderoi keeps her two dragoons, and reserves his own particular day for each of them, and in that way, everybody is satisfied.

This arrangement satisfied everyone involved, and the aged parents of the soldiers received their share of the money, ensuring that morality was upheld.