A Million (Maupassant)

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A Million
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A childless couple struggled to conceive a child within three years to inherit a fortune left by a wealthy aunt, eventually succeeding and securing their wealth.

Léopold Bonnin was a modest, honest, and conventional clerk who worked in a government office. He married the daughter of one of his colleagues, and they lived a simple, childless life. However, their lives were constantly overshadowed by the prospect of a large inheritance from the wife's wealthy aunt, who had no children of her own.

Léopold Bonnin — government office clerk; honest, conventional, and mediocre; desperate to conceive a child.
Madame Bonnin — Léopold's wife; frustrated and bitter about their childlessness; taunts her husband.

At his office, Léopold expressed his religious beliefs and his opinion on the separation of Church and State.

I am a believer, a true believer, but I believe in God, not in the clergy.

When the aunt passed away, she left her fortune to the couple's firstborn child, with the provision that the income was to be used by the parents until their death. If the couple did not have a child within three years, the money would go to the poor and needy. Desperate to secure the inheritance, Léopold tried various methods to conceive a child, but to no avail.

As the deadline approached, tensions between the couple grew, and they began to blame each other for their inability to have a child. Madame Bonnin taunted her husband, blaming him for their situation.

Isn't it dreadful to lose a fortune because one happens to have married a fool!

In an attempt to ease the tension, Léopold invited his friend Frédéric Morel, a notorious womanizer, to their home. Frédéric soon became a close friend and confidant to both Léopold and his wife.

Frédéric Morel — Léopold's friend and former adversary; known for his many affairs; becomes a close friend of the couple.

With only six months left before the inheritance would be lost, Léopold's wife suddenly announced that she was pregnant. Overjoyed, the couple obtained a certificate from a physician and presented it to the executor of the will, who agreed to postpone the execution until the birth of the child.

When the child, a boy named Dieudonné, was born, the couple finally secured their inheritance. Shortly after, Léopold's wife informed him that she had asked Frédéric never to enter their home again, as he had insulted her. The couple embraced, grateful for their newfound wealth and the end of their troubles.