A Christmas Eve Festival (Maupassant)

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A Christmas Eve Festival
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two men visited a village on Christmas Eve, attended midnight mass, and discovered an old man's corpse stored in a bread bin by his family to reclaim their bed for the cold night.

Two friends were hunting in Normandy and staying at a manorial château. One evening, they decided to attend a midnight Christmas Eve service at a nearby village. On their way, they stopped at the house of a recently deceased old shepherd named Fournel, intending to pay their respects to his family. However, they found the house empty, as the family had gone to the church service.

After attending the service themselves, the friends returned to the Fournel's house and found the old man's grandson and his wife eating a somber Christmas Eve dinner.

Jules de Banneville — narrator's cousin; hospitable, compassionate, and indignant at the treatment of the old man.
The Narrator — narrator; passionate about hunting, initially indifferent to the old man's death, but later amused by the situation.
Anthime — old man's grandson; sullen, practical, and unemotional.
Anthime's Wife — old man's granddaughter-in-law; tearful, practical, and unemotional.

The friends asked to see the deceased shepherd, but the couple hesitated. Eventually, they revealed that they had placed the old man's body in a bread bin under the table, as they had no other place to put him and wanted to use their only bed.

We can’t sleep with a dead man, my good gentlemen!—now can we?

The friends were shocked and appalled by this revelation. One of them angrily questioned the couple's actions, but the wife tearfully explained that they had been sleeping on the cold floor since the old man had fallen ill, and they couldn't bear to do so any longer. They reasoned that since the old man was dead, he wouldn't feel anything, and they could use the bed for themselves. The friends left the house, one of them furious and the other laughing at the absurdity of the situation.