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A Mother Of Monsters
by [?]

I recalled this horrible story, the events of which occurred long ago, and this horrible woman, the other day at a fashionable seaside resort, where I saw on the beach a well-known young, elegant and charming Parisienne, adored and respected by everyone.

I had been invited by a friend to pay him a visit in a little provincial town. He took me about in all directions to do the honors of the place, showed me noted scenes, chateaux, industries, ruins. He pointed out monuments, churches, old carved doorways, enormous or distorted trees, the oak of St. Andrew, and the yew tree of Roqueboise.

When I had exhausted my admiration and enthusiasm over all the sights, my friend said with a distressed expression on his face, that there was nothing left to look at. I breathed freely. I would now be able to rest under the shade of the trees. But, all at once, he uttered an exclamation:

“Oh, yes! We have the ‘Mother of Monsters’; I must take you to see her.”

“Who is that, the ‘Mother of Monsters’?” I asked.

“She is an abominable woman,” he replied, “a regular demon, a being who voluntarily brings into the world deformed, hideous, frightful children, monstrosities, in fact, and then sells them to showmen who exhibit such things.

“These exploiters of freaks come from time to time to find out if she has any fresh monstrosity, and if it meets with their approval they carry it away with them, paying the mother a compensation.

“She has eleven of this description. She is rich.

“You think I am joking, romancing, exaggerating. No, my friend; I am telling you the truth, the exact truth.

“Let us go and see this woman. Then I will tell you her history.”

He took me into one of the suburbs. The woman lived in a pretty little house by the side of the road. It was attractive and well kept. The garden was filled with fragrant flowers. One might have supposed it to be the residence of a retired lawyer.

A maid ushered us into a sort of little country parlor, and the wretch appeared. She was about forty. She was a tall, big woman with hard features, but well formed, vigorous and healthy, the true type of a robust peasant woman, half animal, and half woman.

She was aware of her reputation and received everyone with a humility that smacked of hatred.

“What do the gentlemen wish?” she asked.

“They tell me that your last child is just like an ordinary child, that he does not resemble his brothers at all,” replied my friend. “I wanted to be sure of that. Is it true?”

She cast on us a malicious and furious look as she said:

“Oh, no, oh, no, my poor sir! He is perhaps even uglier than the rest. I have no luck, no luck!

“They are all like that, it is heartbreaking! How can the good God be so hard on a poor woman who is all alone in the world, how can He?” She spoke hurriedly, her eyes cast down, with a deprecating air as of a wild beast who is afraid. Her harsh voice became soft, and it seemed strange to hear those tearful falsetto tones issuing from that big, bony frame, of unusual strength and with coarse outlines, which seemed fitted for violent action, and made to utter howls like a wolf.

“We should like to see your little one,” said my friend.

I fancied she colored up. I may have been deceived. After a few moments of silence, she said in a louder tone:

“What good will that do you?”

“Why do you not wish to show it to us?” replied my friend. “There are many people to whom you will show it; you know whom I mean.”