Jean de Florette

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First part of "L'EAU DES COLLINES" ("THE WATER OF THE HILLS").

First Edition

Paris, Éditions de Provence, 1963

Summary

Ugolin, back from military service, lusts for his neighbor's field on which he would like to grow carnations. Le Papet, his grandfather, accidentally kills the neighbor following an argument. Consequently, Le Papet and Ugolin block the spring that brings water to the property in the hope of purchasing it at a low price. But Jean de Florette, the dead man's nephew from town, inherits the farm and decides to move there with his wife and his daughter Manon. He engages in breeding rabbits; but he is desperately short of water and, despite his smart calculations and his courage, Jean ends up working himself to death. Ugolin buys the farm out from the ruined widow and unblocks the spring, in front of Manon who had been hiding in a bush.

Le Papet lit up his pipe and asked: "Anything new?"
- Yes, and this is both good and bad news. First, his great project is a large rabbit breeding stock, outdoors, within a wire fence.
- Fine. Does he have a book?
- Yes, he showed me. It's full of figures. They prove that if you start with two rabbits, you will have more than a thousand six months later. And if you let it go on, it's the road to perdition: that's how they ate Australia.
- I've heard it all before, said Le Papet. (...) With a penholder, it's easy to multiply numbers and rabbits. (...)
- He says he wants to restrict his breeding: no more than 150 a month."
Le Papet sniggered:
"Well done, well done!
- And he is going to feed them with hard skin Chinese pumpkins. He says they grow as quickly as a snake comes out of its hole, and each plant can produce at least a hundred kilos of pumpkins, but he says fifty should be enough.
- Galinette, are you sure you're not playing this up a little?
- Oh! Absolutely not. I am just repeating what he told me.
- Maybe he took the mickey out of you?
- Sometimes, I wondered. But no, this is serious: he believes in it. This morning he had another big load of fencing, stakes and cement delivered.
(...)
- Well, I like this very much, for that man was tailor-made for us by God. In six months time, he will be gone.