A Sale (Maupassant)

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A Sale
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two drunk men attempted to sell a woman by measuring her in a barrel of water, but were caught and acquitted with a warning about the sanctity of marriage and limits of commerce.

Two peasants, Brument and Cornu, were charged with attempting to murder Brument's wife by drowning her in a barrel full of water. Brument was a pig breeder, while Cornu was a thin, squinting man who owned a public house.

Brument (Césaire-Isidore) — short, stout pig breeder; red-faced with pimples; round head and body.
Cornu (Prosper-Napoléon) — thin, medium height public-house owner; crooked jaw, squinting, yellow hair; nicknamed 'the priest' for his talent in imitating church hymns.

Brument's wife was a skinny, placid woman who seemed unfazed by the events.

Mme. Brument — skinny peasant woman; drowsy, placid, and seemingly unintelligent.

Brument and Cornu claimed they were drunk when they decided to sell Brument's wife to Cornu by the cubic meter. They filled a barrel with water and submerged the woman in it to measure her volume. After the ordeal, the woman ran to the priest's house for help, and the police were called.

In court, the two men admitted to their actions but insisted they were too drunk to know what they were doing. Cornu reflects on his decision to buy Brument's wife, despite her unattractive appearance, during his testimony in court.

I says to myself: 'I've been done; never mind, it's all one: pretty or ugly, a woman's just as much use, isn't she now, Mr. President?'

The jury acquitted them but issued a stern warning about the sanctity of marriage and the limits of commercial transactions.

They returned an hour later and acquitted the accused with severe strictures bearing on the sanctity of marriage, and setting forth in precise terms the limits set to commercial transactions.

After the trial, Brument and his wife returned to their home, while Cornu went back to his business.