In a Railway Carriage (Maupassant)

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In a Railway Carriage
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A priest was entrusted with bringing three boys home from school, but an unexpected event occurred when a woman in their train compartment gave birth, leaving the priest to assist her.

Three ladies were discussing the problem of bringing their sons home from their respective colleges for the holidays. They were concerned about the possibility of their children encountering disreputable women on the train journey. Unable to find a suitable chaperone, they were relieved when a friend offered to lend them her son's tutor, Father Lecuir, a young and cultured priest.

Father Lecuir — young, cultured priest; tutor of Rodolphe de Martinsec; upright, simple-minded, and somewhat sententious.

Father Lecuir set out to fetch the boys and found a compartment on the train occupied by an old couple and a young woman. The old couple left, and the young woman remained in the compartment with the priest and the boys. As the journey progressed, the young woman began to show signs of distress and eventually revealed that she was about to give birth.

I will help you, Madame. I don’t know what to do or what to say or what effort to make; I will help you as best I can.

The priest, although inexperienced in such matters, decided to help the woman. He instructed the boys to look out of the window and not to turn around.

As for you, you are going to put your heads out of the windows, and if one of you turns round, he will copy out for me a thousand lines of Virgil.

Despite their curiosity, the boys obeyed the priest's orders. The young woman gave birth to a baby boy, and the priest quickly baptized him.

It’s a boy. I baptise thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

When the train arrived at its destination, the priest presented the baby to the boys' mothers, who were shocked and speechless. That evening, the families had dinner together, and the boys were full of questions about the baby's origin. The mothers tried to evade their questions, but the boys persisted. Finally, one of the boys suggested that the priest must be a conjurer like Robert Houdin, who could make things appear out of nowhere. The mother replied that it was God who had sent the baby, and that he had come from under a cabbage, like all babies. The boys were left puzzled but intrigued by the mysterious events of their train journey.