The Accursed Bread by Guy de Maupassant
Daddy Taille had three daughters: Anna, the eldest, who was scarcely ever
mentioned in the family; Rose, the second girl, who was eighteen, and
Clara, the youngest, who was a girl of fifteen.
Old Taille was a widower and a foreman in M. Lebrument's button
manufactory. He was a very upright man, very well thought of, abstemious;
in fact, a sort of model workman. He lived at Havre, in the Rue
When Anna ran away from home the old man flew into a fearful rage. He
threatened to kill the head clerk in a large draper's establishment in
that town, whom he suspected. After a time, when he was told by various
people that she was very steady and investing money in government
securities, that she was no gadabout, but was a great friend of Monsieur
Dubois, who was a judge of the Tribunal of Commerce, the father was
He even showed some anxiety as to how she was getting on, and asked some
of her old friends who had been to see her, and when told that she had
her own furniture, and that her mantelpiece was covered with vases and
the walls with pictures, that there were clocks and carpets everywhere,
he gave a broad contented smile. He had been working for thirty years to
get together a wretched five or six thousand francs. This girl was
evidently no fool.
One fine morning the son of Touchard, the cooper, at the other end of the
street, came and asked him for the hand of Rose, the second girl. The old
man's heart began to beat, for the Touchards were rich and in a good
position. He was decidedly lucky with his girls.
The marriage was agreed upon, and it was settled that it should be a
grand affair, and the wedding dinner was to be held at Sainte-Adresse, at
Mother Jusa's restaurant. It would cost a lot certainly, but never mind,
it did not matter just for once in a way.
But one morning, just as the old man was going home to luncheon with his
two daughters, the door opened suddenly, and Anna appeared. She was well
dressed and looked undeniably pretty and nice. She threw her arms round
her father's neck before he could say a word, then fell into her sisters'
arms with many tears and then asked for a plate, so that she might share
the family soup. Taille was moved to tears in his turn and said several
"That is right, dear, that is right."
Then she told them about herself. She did not wish Rose's wedding to take
place at Sainte-Adresse—certainly not. It should take place at her
house and would cost her father nothing. She had settled everything and
arranged everything, so it was "no good to say any more about
"Very well, my dear! very well!" the old man said; "we will leave it so."
But then he felt some doubt. Would the Touchards consent? But Rose, the
bride-elect, was surprised and asked: "Why should they object, I should
like to know? Just leave that to me; I will talk to Philip about it."
She mentioned it to her lover the very same day, and he declared it would
suit him exactly. Father and Mother Touchard were naturally delighted at
the idea of a good dinner which would cost them nothing and said:
"You may be quite sure that everything will be in first-rate style."
They asked to be allowed to bring a friend, Madame Florence, the cook on
the first floor, and Anna agreed to everything.
The wedding was fixed for the last Tuesday of the month.
After the civil formalities and the religious ceremony the wedding party
went to Anna's house. Among those whom the Tailles had brought was a
cousin of a certain age, a Monsieur Sauvetanin, a man given to
philosophical reflections, serious, and always very self-possessed, and
Madame Lamondois, an old aunt.
Monsieur Sautevanin had been told off to give Anna his arm, as they were
looked upon as the two most important persons in the company.
As soon as they had arrived at the door of Anna's house she let go her
companion's arm, and ran on ahead, saying: "I will show you the way," and
ran upstairs while the invited guests followed more slowly; and, when
they got upstairs, she stood on one side to let them pass, and they
rolled their eyes and turned their heads in all directions to admire this
mysterious and luxurious dwelling.
The table was laid in the drawing-room, as the dining-room had been
thought too small. Extra knives, forks and spoons had been hired from a
neighboring restaurant, and decanters stood full of wine under the rays
of the sun which shone in through the window.
The ladies went into the bedroom to take off their shawls and bonnets,
and Father Touchard, who was standing at the door, made funny and
suggestive signs to the men, with many a wink and nod. Daddy Taille, who
thought a great deal of himself, looked with fatherly pride at his
child's well-furnished rooms and went from one to the other, holding his
hat in his hand, making a mental inventory of everything, and walking
like a verger in a church.
Anna went backward and forward, ran about giving orders and hurrying on
the wedding feast. Soon she appeared at the door of the dining-room and
cried: "Come here, all of you, for a moment," and as the twelve guests
entered the room they saw twelve glasses of Madeira on a small table.
Rose and her husband had their arms round each other's waists and were
kissing each other in every corner. Monsieur Sauvetanin never took his
eyes off Anna.
They sat down, and the wedding breakfast began, the relations sitting at
one end of the table and the young people at the other. Madame Touchard,
the mother, presided on the right and the bride on the left. Anna looked
after everybody, saw that the glasses were kept filled and the plates
well supplied. The guests evidently felt a certain respectful
embarrassment at the sight of all the sumptuousness of the rooms and at
the lavish manner in which they were treated. They all ate heartily of
the good things provided, but there were no jokes such as are prevalent.
at weddings of that sort; it was all too grand, and it made them feel
uncomfortable. Old Madame Touchard, who was fond of a bit of fun, tried
to enliven matters a little, and at the beginning of the dessert she
exclaimed: "I say, Philip, do sing us something." The neighbors in their
street considered that he had the finest voice in all Havre.
The bridegroom got up, smiled, and, turning to his sister-in-law, from
politeness and gallantry, tried to think of something suitable for the
occasion, something serious and correct, to harmonize with the
seriousness of the repast.
Anna had a satisfied look on her face, and leaned back in her chair to
listen, and all assumed looks of attention, though prepared to smile
should smiles he called for.
The singer announced "The Accursed Bread," and, extending his right arm,
which made his coat ruck up into his neck, he began.
It was decidedly long, three verses of eight lines each, with the last
line and the last but one repeated twice.
All went well for the first two verses; they were the usual commonplaces
about bread gained by honest labor and by dishonesty. The aunt and the
bride wept outright. The cook, who was present, at the end of the first
verse looked at a roll which she held in her hand, with streaming eyes,
as if it applied to her, while all applauded vigorously. At the end of
the second verse the two servants, who were standing with their backs to
the wall, joined loudly in the chorus, and the aunt and the bride wept
Daddy Taille blew his nose with the noise of a trombone, and old Touchard
brandished a whole loaf half over the table, and the cook shed silent
tears on the crust which she was still holding.
Amid the general emotion Monsieur Sauvetanin said:
"That is the right sort of song; very different from the nasty, risky
things one generally hears at weddings."
Anna, who was visibly affected, kissed her hand to her sister and pointed
to her husband with an affectionate nod, as if to congratulate her.
Intoxicated by his success, the young man continued, and unfortunately
the last verse contained words about the "bread of dishonor" gained by
young girls who had been led astray. No one took up the refrain about
this bread, supposed to be eaten with tears, except old Touchard and the
two servants. Anna had grown deadly pale and cast down her eyes, while
the bridegroom looked from one to the other without understanding the
reason for this sudden coldness, and the cook hastily dropped the crust
as if it were poisoned.
Monsieur Sauvetanin said solemnly, in order to save the situation: "That
last couplet is not at all necessary"; and Daddy Taille, who had got red
up to his ears, looked round the table fiercely.
Then Anna, her eyes swimming in tears, told the servants in the faltering
voice of a woman trying to stifle her sobs, to bring the champagne.
All the guests were suddenly seized with exuberant joy, and all their
faces became radiant again. And when old Touchard, who had seen, felt and
understood nothing of what was going on, and pointing to the guests so as
to emphasize his words, sang the last words of the refrain:
"Children, I warn you all to eat not of that bread," the whole company,
when they saw the champagne bottles, with their necks covered with gold
foil, appear, burst out singing, as if electrified by the sight:
"Children, I warn you all to eat not of that bread."