Madame Luneau's Case (Maupassant)

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Madame Luneau's Case
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A woman promised a man money to father her child, but after involving multiple men, she refused to pay. The court ruled in favor of the man, awarding him a reduced sum.

A Justice of the Peace was listening to a case between Hippolyte Lacour, a vestryman and ironmonger, and Madame Céleste Césarine Luneau, the widow of Anthime Isidore Luneau.

Hippolyte Lacour — plaintiff; 45 years old; tall and gaunt; clean-shaven face; long hair; slow, singsong voice; ironmonger and vestryman.
Madame Céleste Césarine Luneau — defendant; around 40 years old; built like a prizefighter; strong voice; widow of Anthime Isidore Luneau; expecting a child.

Hippolyte claimed that Madame Luneau had promised him one hundred francs if he helped her conceive a child, as she wanted to secure her late husband's inheritance. He said that he had fulfilled his part of the agreement, but Madame Luneau refused to pay him.

Your Honour, it will be nine months on Saint-Michael’s day since the defendant came to me one evening, after I had rung the Angelus, and began an explanation relating to her barrenness.

Madame Luneau argued that Hippolyte was not the father of her unborn child and that she had enlisted the help of several other men to ensure her pregnancy. She called six witnesses, all of whom claimed to have reason to believe they were the father of her child.

I could have had more than a hundred, your Honour, if I had wanted them. That tall one over there, Lucas Chandelier, swore at the time that I oughn’t to give Hippolyte Lacour a cent.

The Justice of the Peace questioned each witness and considered the case.

The Justice of the Peace — judge; fat; one eye closed and the other half-open; thin voice.

After deliberation, the Justice of the Peace ruled that while Hippolyte had reason to believe he was the father of the child, so did the other witnesses. However, since Madame Luneau had initially sought Hippolyte's help for a fee, the court ordered her to pay him an indemnity of twenty-five francs for his time and effort.