The Devil (Maupassant)

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The Devil
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A miserly peasant hired a nurse to care for his dying mother, but they agreed on a fixed price, leading the nurse to hasten the old woman's death to save money.

A peasant named Honoré faced a difficult decision when his elderly mother fell gravely ill. The doctor insisted that she would die soon and that Honoré should not leave her alone.

Honoré, you can't leave your mother all alone in this state. She will die any moment.

Honoré needed to harvest his corn, so he reluctantly agreed to hire an old washerwoman named Mother Rapet to look after his dying mother.

Honoré Bontemps — peasant; tall, lean, indecisive, and miserly.
Mother Bontemps — Honoré's mother; dying, 92 years old, tenacious, and hardworking.
Mother Rapet — nurse; old, wrinkled, malicious, greedy, and cunning.

Mother Rapet was known for looking after the dying and dead in the village. She was a greedy and malicious woman who enjoyed talking about the deaths she had witnessed. Honoré and Mother Rapet agreed on a fixed sum for her services, with the understanding that if his mother died quickly, Mother Rapet would profit, but if she lived longer, Honoré would save money.

I've two charges, forty sous a day and three francs a night to the rich; twenty sous a day and forty a night to t'others. You can give me twenty and forty.

As the days passed, Honoré's mother clung to life, and Mother Rapet grew increasingly frustrated. She decided to scare the old woman to death by dressing up as the devil and making terrifying noises. The plan worked, and Honoré's mother died of fright.

When Honoré returned home, he found Mother Rapet praying over his mother's body. He was upset that he had to pay her the full amount they had agreed upon, as his mother had only lived for three days and one night.