martes, 14 de noviembre de 2017



Love is a bridge that links us heart to heart;
Mother and child can never live apart.
Make the home-coming sweet!
The gladness of going,
The pleasure of knowing
Will not be complete
Unless, at the ending,
The home-coming’s sweet.

Make the home-coming sweet!
No fear of the straying,
Or dread of the staying
Of dear little feet,
If always you’re making
The home-coming sweet.


THERE was once a mother, who had two little daughters; and, as her husband was gone and she was very poor, she worked diligently all the time, from dawn to dark, that they might be well fed and well clothed. She was a skilled worker, and found work to do away from home, but her two little girls were so good and so helpful that they kept her house as neat and as bright as a new pin.
One of the little girls was lame, and could not run about the house; so she sat still in her chair and sewed or read, while Minnie, the older sister, washed the dishes, swept the floor, did the laundry, and made the home beautiful.
Their home was on the edge of a great forest; and after their tasks were finished the little girls would sit at the window and watch the tall trees as they bent in the wind, until it would seem as though the trees were real persons, nodding and bending and bowing and curtsying to each other.
 In the Springtime there were the wildflowers, in the Summer the wild berries, in Autumn the bright leaves, and in Winter the great drifts of white snow; so that the whole year was a round of delight to the two happy children. But one day the dear mother came home ill; and then they were very sad. It was Winter, and there were many things to buy. Minnie and her little sister sat by the fire and talked it over, and at last Minnie said:—
"Dear sister, I must go out to find work, before the food gives out." So she kissed her mother, and, wrapping herself up, started from home. There was a narrow path leading through the forest, and she determined to follow it until she reached some place where she might find the work she wanted.
As she hurried on, the shadows grew deeper. The  long night was coming fast when she saw before her a very small house, which was a welcome sight in the middle of the woods at that time of day. She made haste to reach it, and to knock at the door.
Nobody came in answer to her knock. When she had tried again and again, she thought that nobody lived there; and she opened the door and walked in, thinking that she would stay all night.
As soon as she stepped into the house, she started back in surprise; for there before her she saw twelve little beds with the bedclothes all tumbled, twelve little dirty plates on a very dusty table, and the floor of the room so dusty that I am sure you could have drawn a picture on it.
"Dear me!" said the little girl, "this will never do!" And as soon as she had warmed her hands, she set to work to make the room tidy.
She washed the plates, she made up the beds, she swept the floor, she straightened the great rug in front of the fireplace, and set the twelve little chairs in a half circle around the fire; and, just as she finished, the door opened and in walked twelve of the queerest little people she had ever seen. They were just about as tall as a carpenter’s ruler, and all were bearded men who wore pointed floppy hats and yellow clothes; and when Minnie saw this, she knew that they must be the dwarves who kept the gold and silver in the heart of the mountains.
"Well!" said the dwarves all together, for they always spoke together and in rhyme,

"Now isn't this a sweet surprise?
We really can't believe our eyes!"

Then they spied Minnie, and cried in great astonishment:—

"Who can this be, so fair and mild?
Our helper is a stranger child."

Now when Minnie saw the dwarves, she came to meet them. "If you please," she said, "I'm little Minnie Grey; and I'm looking for work because my dear mother is ill and bedridden. I came in here when the night drew near, and—" here all the dwarvess laughed, and called out merrily:—

"You found our room a sorry sight,
But you have made it clean and bright."

They were such dear funny little dwarves! After they had thanked Minnie for her trouble, they took white bread and honey from the closet and asked her to sup with them.
While they sat at supper, they told her that their fairy housekeeper had taken a holiday, and their house was not well kept, because she was away.
They sighed when they said this; and after supper, when Minnie washed the dishes and set them carefully away, they looked at her often and talked among themselves. When the last plate was in its place they called Minnie to them and said:—

"Dear mortal maiden will you stay
All through our fairy's holiday?
And if you faithful prove, and good,
We will reward you as we should."

Now Minnie was much pleased, for she liked the kind dwarves, and wanted to help them, so she thanked them, and went to bed to dream happy dreams.
Next morning she was awake with the chickens, and cooked a nice breakfast; and after the dwarves left, she cleaned up the room and mended the dwarves' clothes.  Torn breeches over here, a floppy dwarf hat over there... and her needle fingers just danced in and out of the torn clothes all the time. In the evening when the dwarves came home from the mines, they found a bright fire and a warm supper waiting for them; and every day Minnie worked faithfully until the last day of the fairy housekeeper's holiday.
That morning, as Minnie looked out of the window to watch the dwarves go to their work as usual, she saw on one of the windowpanes the most beautiful picture she had ever seen.
A picture of fairy palaces with towers of silver and frosted pinnacles, so wonderful and beautiful that as she looked at it she forgot that there was work to be done, until the cuckoo clock on the mantelpiece struck twelve.
Then she ran in haste to make up the beds, and wash the dishes; but because she was in a hurry she could not work quickly, and when she took the broom to sweep the floor it was almost time for the dwarves to come home.
"I believe," said Minnie aloud, "that I will not sweep under the rug today. After all, it is nothing for dust to be where it can't be seen!" So she hurried to her supper and left the rug unturned.
Before long the dwarves came home. As the rooms looked just as usual, nothing was said; and Minnie thought no more of the dust until she went to bed and the stars peeped through the window.
Then she thought of it, for it seemed to her that she could hear the stars saying:—
"There is the little girl who is so faithful and good"; and Minnie turned her face to the wall, for a little voice, right in her own heart, said:—
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!"
"There is the little girl," cried the stars, "who keeps home as bright as star-shine."
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart.
"We see her! we see her!" called all the stars joyfully.
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart, and she could bear it no longer. So she sprang out of bed, and, taking her broom in her hand, she swept the dust away; and lo! under the dust lay twelve shining gold pieces, twelve doubloons as round and as bright as the harvest moon.
"Oh! oh! oh!" cried Minnie, in great surprise; and all the little dwarves came running to see what was the matter.


Minnie told them all about it; and when she had ended her story, the dwarves gathered lovingly around her and said:—

"Dear child, the gold is all for you,
For faithful you have proved and true;
But had you left the rug unturned,
A groat was all you would have earned.
Our love goes with the gold we give,
And oh! forget not while you live,
That in the smallest duty done
Lies wealth of joy for every one."

Minnie thanked the dwarves for their kindness to her; and early next morning she hastened home with her golden treasure, which bought many good things for the dear mother and little sister.
She never saw the dwarves again; but she never forgot their lesson, to do her work faithfully; and she always swept under the rug.



"All mother love attracts the child,
its world-wide tenderness he feels;
And ev’ry beast that loves her young
their mother’s love to them reveals."


MRS. Tabby Gray, with her three little kittens, lived out in the barn where the hay was stored. One of the kittens was white, one was black, and one gray, just like her mother, who was called Tabby Gray from the color of her coat.
These three little kittens opened their eyes when they grew old enough, and thought there was nothing so nice in all this wonderful world as their own dear mother, although she told them of a great many nice things, like milk and bread, and fish and chicken, which they should have when they could go up to the big house where she had her breakfast, lunch, and supper.
Every time Mother Tabby came from the big house she had something pleasant to tell. "Bones for dinner today, my dears," she would say, or "I had a fine romp with a ball and the baby," until the kittens longed for the time when they could go too.
One day, however, Mother Cat walked in with joyful news.
"I have found an elegant new home for you," she said, "in a very large trunk where some old clothes are kept; and I think I had better move at once."
Then she picked up the small black kitten, without any more words, and walked right out of the barn with him.
The black kitten was astonished, but he blinked his eyes at the bright sunshine, and tried to see everything.
Out in the barnyard there was a great noise, for the white hen had laid an egg, and wanted everybody to know it; but Mother Cat hurried on, without stopping to inquire about it, and soon dropped the kitten into the large trunk. The clothes made such a soft, comfortable bed, and the kitten was so tired after his exciting trip, that he fell asleep, and Mrs. Tabby trotted off for another baby.
While she was away, the lady who owned the trunk came out in the hall; and when she saw that the trunk was open, she shut it, locked it, and put the key in her pocket, for she did not dream that there was anything so precious as a kitten inside.
As soon as the lady had gone upstairs Mrs. Tabby Gray came back, with the little white kitten; and when she found the trunk closed, she was terribly frightened. She put the white kitten down and sprang on top of the trunk and scratched with all her might, but scratching did no good. Then she jumped down and reached up to the keyhole, but that was too small for even a mouse to pass through, and the poor mother mewed pitifully.
What was she to do? She picked up the white kitten, and ran to the barn with it. Then she made haste to the house again, and went upstairs to the lady’s room. The lady was playing with her baby and when Mother Cat saw this she rubbed against her skirts and cried: "Mee-ow, mee-ow! You have your baby, and I want mine! Mee-ow, mee-ow!"
By and by the lady said: "Poor Kitty! she must be hungry"; and she went down to the kitchen and poured sweet milk in a saucer, but the cat did not want milk. She wanted her baby kitten out of the big black trunk, and she mewed as plainly as she could: "Give me my baby—give me my baby, out of your big black trunk!"
The kind lady decided that she must be thirsty: "Poor Kitty, I will give you water"; but when she set the bowl of water down Mrs. Tabby Gray mewed more sorrowfully than before. She wanted no water,—she only wanted her dear baby kitten; and she ran to and fro, crying, until, at last, the lady followed her; and she led the way to the trunk.


"What can be the matter with this cat?" said the lady; and she took the trunk key out of her pocket, put it in the lock, unlocked the trunk, raised the top—and in jumped Mother Cat with such a bound that the little black kitten waked up with a start.
"Purr, purr, my darling child," said Mrs. Tabby Gray, in great excitement; "I have had a dreadful fright!" and before the black kitten could ask one question she picked him up and started for the barn.
The sun was bright in the barnyard and the hens were still chattering there; but the black kitten was glad to get back to the barn. His mother was glad, too; for, as she nestled down in the hay with her three little kittens, she told them that a barn was the best place after all to raise children.
And she never afterwards changed her mind.



The child must listen well if she or he would hear.

—Blow’s Commentaries.


ONCE, long, long ago, there lived in a country not far from here a king called René, who married a lovely princess whose name was Imogen.
Imogen came across the Channel to the king's beautiful country, and all his people welcomed her with great joy because the king loved her.
"What can I do to please thee today?" the king asked her every morning; and one day the queen answered that she would like to hear all the minstrels in the king's country, for they were said to be the finest in the world.
As soon as the king heard this, he called his heralds and sent them everywhere through his land to sound their trumpets and call aloud:—
"Hear, ye minstrels! King René, our gracious king, bids ye come to play at his court on May Day, for love of the Queen Imogen."
The minstrels were men who sang beautiful songs and played on harps; and long ago they went about from place to place, from castle to castle, from palace to cottage, and were always sure of a welcome wherever they roamed.
They could sing of the brave deeds that the knights had done, and of wars and battles, and could tell of the mighty huntsmen who hunted in the great forests, and of fairies and mermaids and goblins, better than a storybook; and because there were no storybooks as we know them in those days (there were hourbooks, but these were more like calendars, and so expensive that only royalty could afford them), everybody, from little children to the king, was glad to see them come.
So when the minstrels heard the king's message, they made haste to the palace on May Day; and it so happened that some of them met on the way and decided to travel together.
One of these minstrels was a young man named Harmonius; and while the others talked of the songs that they would sing, he gathered the wildflowers that grew by the roadside.
"I can sing of the drums and battles and swords," said the oldest minstrel, whose hair was white and whose step was slow, for he had been a veteran warrior.
"I can sing of ladies and their fair faces," said the youngest minstrel, an up-and-coming courtier; but Harmonius whispered: "Listen! listen!"
"Oh! we hear nothing but the wind in the treetops," said the others. "We have no time to stop and listen."
Then they hurried on and left Harmonius; and he stood under the trees and listened, for he heard something very sweet. At last he knew that it was the wind singing of its travels through the wide world; telling how it raced over the wide blue ocean, tossing the waves and rocking the white ships, and hurried on to the hills, where the trees made harps of their branches, and then how it blew down into the valleys, where all the flowers danced gayly in time to the tune.
Harmonius could understand every word:—
"Nobody follows me where I go,
Over the mountains or valleys below;
Nobody sees where the wild winds blow,
Only a higher power can know."
 That was the chorus of the wind's song. Harmonius listened until he knew the whole song from beginning to end; and then he ran on and soon reached his friends, who were still talking of the grand sights that they were to see.
"We shall see the king and speak to him," said the oldest minstrel.
"And his golden crown and the queen's jewels," added the youngest; and Harmonius had no chance to tell of the wind's song, although he thought about it time and again.
Now their path led them through the woods; and as they talked, Harmonius said:—
"Hush! listen!" But the others answered:—
"Oh! that is only the sound of the brook trickling over the stones. Let us make haste to the king's court."
But Harmonius stayed to hear the song that the brook was singing, of journeying through mosses and ferns and shady ways, and of tumbling over the rocks in shining waterfalls on its way to the ocean.
"Rippling and bubbling through shade and sun,
On to the beautiful sea I run;
Singing forever, though none be near,
For Providence can always hear,"

sang the little brook. Harmonius listened until he knew every word of the song, and then he hurried on.
When he reached the others, he found them still talking of the king and queen, so he could not tell them of the brook. As they talked, he heard something again that was wonderfully sweet, and he cried: "Listen! listen!"
"Oh! that is only a finch!" the others replied. "Let us make haste to the king's court!"
But Harmonius would not go, for the songbird chirped so joyfully that Harmonius laughed aloud when he heard the song.
It was singing a song of green trees, and in every tree a nest, and in every nest eggs! Oh! and every mother bird was so merry as she sang:—

"Merrily, merrily, listen to me,
Flitting and flying from tree to tree,
Nothing fear I, by land or sea,
For Providence is watching me."

"Thank you, little birdies," said Harmonius; "you have taught me a song." And he made haste to join his comrades, for by this time they were near the palace.
When they had gone in, they received a hearty welcome, and were feasted in the great hall before they came before the king.
The king and queen sat on their throne together. The king thought of the queen and the minstrels; but the queen thought of her old home, and of the butterflies she had chased when she was a little child.
One by one the minstrels played before them.
The oldest minstrel sang of battles and drums and swords, just as he had said he would; and the youngest minstrel sang of ladies and their fair faces, which pleased the court ladies very much.
Then came Harmonius. And when he touched his harp and sang, the song sounded like the wind blowing, the stormy sea roaring, and the trees creaking; then it grew very soft, and sounded like a trickling brook dripping on stones and running over little pebbles; and while the king and queen and all the court listened in surprise, Harmonius' song grew sweeter, sweeter, sweeter. It was as if you heard all the songbirds in Springtime. And then the song was ended.


The queen clapped her hands, and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the king came down from his throne to ask Harmonius if he came from fairyland with such a wonderful song. But Harmonius answered:—

"Three singers sang along our way,
And I learned the song from them today."

Now, all the other minstrels looked up in surprise when Harmonius said this; and the oldest minstrel said to the king: "Harmonius is dreaming! We heard no music on our way today."
And the youngest minstrel said: "Harmonius is surely mad! We met nobody on our way today."
But the queen said: "That is an old, old song. As old as time itself. I heard it when I was a little child; and I can name the singers three." And so she did. Can you?



Keep thou an open door between thy child’s life and thine own.


 THERE was once a little girl (her best and sweetest name was Little Daughter), who had a dear little room, all her own, which was full of treasures, and was as lovely as love could make it.
You never could imagine, no matter how you tried, a room more beautiful than hers; for it was white and shining from the snowy floor to the ceiling, which looked as if it might have been made of a fleecy cloud. The curtains at the windows were like the petals of a lily, and the little bed was like swan's down.
There were white pansies, too, that bloomed in the windows, and a pet dove whose plumage was white as snow and whose voice was sweet as music; and among her treasures she had a string of pearls which she was to wear about her neck when the king of the country sent for her, as he had promised to do some day.
This string of pearls grew longer and more beautiful as the little girl grew older, for a new pearl was given her as soon as she waked up each morning; and every one was a gift from this king, who bade her keep them fair.
Her mother helped her to take care of them and of all the other beautiful things in her room. Every morning, after the new pearl was slipped on the string, they would set the room in order; and every evening they would look over the treasures and enjoy them together, while they carefully wiped away any specks of dust that had gotten in during the day and made the room less lovely.
There were several doors and windows, which the little girl could open and shut just as she pleased, in this room; but there was one door which was always open, and that was the one which led into her mother's room.
No matter what Little Daughter was doing she was happier if her mother was near; and although she sometimes ran away into her own room and played by herself, she always bounded out at her mother's first call, and sprang into her mother's arms, gladder than ever to be with her because she had been away.
Now one day when the little girl was playing alone, she had a visitor who came in without knocking and who seemed, at first, very much out of place in the shining white room, for he was a goblin, as dirty as a pigpen and as black as a lump of coal. He had not been there more than a very few minutes, however, before nearly everything in the room began to look more like him and less like driven snow: and although the little girl thought that he was very strange and ugly when she first saw him, she soon grew used to him, and found him an entertaining playfellow.


She wanted to call her mother to see him; but he said: "Oh! no; we are having such a nice time together, and she's busy, you know." So the little girl did not call; and the mother, who was making a dress of fine lace for her darling, did not dream that a goblin was in the little white room.
The goblin did not make any noise, you know, for he tip-toed all the time, as if he were afraid; and if he heard a sound he would jump. But he was a merry goblin, and he amused the little girl so much that she did not notice the change in her dear room.
The curtains grew dingy, the floor dusty, and the ceiling looked as if it might have been made of a rain cloud; but the child played on, and got out all her treasures to show to her visitor.
The pansies drooped and faded, the white dove hid her head beneath her wing and moaned; and the last pearl on the precious string grew dark when the goblin touched it with his smutty fingers.
"Oh, dear me," said the little girl when she saw this, "I must call my mother; for these are the pearls that I must wear to the king's court, when he sends for me."
"Never mind," said the goblin, "we can wash it, and if it isn't just as white as before, what difference does it make about one pearl?"
"But mother says that they all must be as fair as the morning," insisted the little girl, ready to cry. "And what will she say when she sees this one?"
"You shut the door, then," said the goblin, pointing to the door that had never been closed, "and I'll wash the pearl." So the little girl ran to close the door, and the goblin began to rub the pearl; but it only seemed to grow darker. Now the door had been open so long that it was hard to move, and it creaked on its hinges as the little girl tried to close it. When the mother heard this she looked up to see what was the matter. She had been thinking about the dress which she was making; but when she saw the closing door, her heart stood still with fear; for she knew that if it once closed tight she might never be able to open it again.
She dropped her fine laces and ran towards the door, calling, "Little Daughter! Little Daughter! Where are you?" and she reached out her hands to stop the door. But as soon as the little girl heard that loving voice she answered:—
"Mother, oh! Mother! I need you so! my pearl is turning black and everything is wrong!" and, flinging the door wide open, she ran into her mother's arms.
When the two went together into the little room, the goblin had gone. The pansies now bloomed again, and the white dove cooed in peace; but there was much work for the mother and daughter, and they rubbed and scrubbed and washed and swept and dusted, till the room was so beautiful that you would not have known that a goblin had been there—except for the one pearl which was a little blue always, even when the king was ready for Little Daughter to come to his court, although that was not until she was a very old woman.
As for the door, it was never closed again; for Little Daughter and her mother put two golden hearts against it and nothing in this world could have shut it then.



We can never dwell in shadows
if our souls are full of light.
Let the brightness of our being
make the whole wide world as bright.


THERE once lived a little maiden to whom was given a wonderful light, which made her whole life bright.
When she was a wee baby it shone on her face in a beautiful smile, and her mother cried:—
"See! the angels have been kissing her!" And when she grew older it lighted up her eyes like sunshine, and gleamed on her forehead like a star.
All lovely things that loved light, loved her. The soft-cooing pigeons came at her call. The roses climbed up to her windows to peep at her, and the bluebirds and finches, and the butterflies, that looked like enchanted sunbeams, would circle about her head.
Her father was king of a country, and her mother was queen; and though she was not so tall as the tall white lily in the garden, or the weeds that grew outside, she had servants to wait on her, and grant her every wish, as if she were queen already.
She was dearer to her father and mother than all else that they possessed; and there was no happier king or queen or little maiden in any kingdom of the world, till one day when the king’s enemies came upon them like a whirlwind, and changed their joy to sorrow.
Their palace was seized, the servants were scattered, and the king and queen were carried away to a dark prison fortress in enemy country, where they sat and wept for their little daughter, for they knew not where she was.
No one knew but the old nursemaid, who had nursed the king himself. She had carried the child away, unnoticed amid the noise and strife, and set her in safety outside the palace walls.
 "Flee, precious one!" she cried, as she left her there. "Flee! for the enemy is upon us!" And the little maiden started out in the world alone.
She knew not where to go; so she wandered away through the fields and waste places, where nobody lived and only the grasshoppers seemed glad. But she was not afraid,—no! not even when she came to a great forest, at evening;—for she carried her light with her.
'Tis true that once she thought she saw a threatening ogre or troll waiting by the dusky path; but, when her light shone on it, it was only a pine tree, stretching out its friendly arms; and she laughed so merrily that all the woods laughed too.
"Who are you? Who are you?" asked an owl, blinking his eyes at the brightness of her face; and a little rabbit, startled by the sound, sprang from its hiding place in the bushes and fell trembling at her feet.
"Alas!" it panted as she bent in pity to offer help, "Alas! the hunters with their dogs and guns pursue me! But you flee, too! How can you help me?" But the child took the tiny creature in her arms and held it close; and when the huntsmen and hounds rushed through the tanglewood, they saw the light that lighted up her eyes like sunshine and gleamed on her forehead like a star, and came no further.


Then deeper into the great forest she went, bearing the rabbit still; and the wild beasts of prey heard her footsteps, and waited for her coming.
"Hush!" said the fox, "she is mine; for I will lead her from the path into the tanglewood!"
"Nay, she is mine!" howled the wolf; "for I will follow on her footsteps!"
"Mine! mine!" screamed the bear as well; "for I will spring upon her in the darkness, and she cannot escape me!"
So they quarreled among themselves, for they were wild beasts and knew no better; and as they snarled and growled and howled, the maiden walked in among them; and when the light which made her lovely fell upon them, they ran and hid themselves in the depths of the forest, and the child passed on in safety.
The rabbit still slept peacefully on her breast. At last she, too, grew weary, and lay down to sleep on the leaves and moss; and the birds of the forest watched her and sang to her, and nothing harmed her all the night.
In the morning a party of horsemen rode through the forest, looking behind each bush and tree as if they sought something very precious.
The forest glowed with splendor then, for the sun had come in all its glory to scatter darkness and wake up the world. The darkest dells and caves and lonely paths lost their horror in the morning light, and there were violets blooming in the shadows of the pines.
The leaves glistened, the flowers lifted their heads, and everything was glad but the horsemen, whose faces were full of gloom because their hearts were sad.
They did not speak or smile as they rode on their search; and their leader was the saddest of them all, though he wore a golden crown that sparkled with many jewels.
They followed each winding path through the forest, till at last they reached the spot where the little maiden lay.
The rabbit waked up at the sound of their coming, but the child slept till a loud cry of gladness awakened her and she found herself in her father’s arms.
In the night-time the king’s brave soldiers had driven the enemies from his land, and opened the doors of the prison in which he and the queen lay, and the king had ridden with them in haste to find his darling child, who was worth his crown and his kingdom.
The sight of her face was the sunshine to lighten their hearts, and they sent the glad news far and near, with blast of trumpet and shouts of joy.
But in all their great happiness the child did not forget the rabbit, and she said to it, "Come with me and I will take care of you, for my father the king is here." But  the rabbit thanked her and wanted to go home.
"My babies are waiting," it said, "and I have my work to do in the world. I pray you let me go."
So the child kissed it and bade it go; and she, too, went to her own dear home. There she grew lovelier every day, for the light grew with her; and when, long years afterward, she was queen of the country, the foxes and wolves and bears dared not harm her people, for her good knights drove evil from her land; but to loving gentle creatures, both humans and animals, she gave love and protection and she lived happily all the days of her life.


Ce matin-là, j’étais très en retard pour aller à l’école, et j’avais grand-peur d’être grondé, d’autant que M. Hamel nous avait dit qu’il nous interrogerait sur les participes, et je n’en savais pas le premier mot. Un moment l’idée me vint de manquer la classe et de prendre ma course à travers champs.
Le temps était si chaud, si clair !
On entendait les merles siffler à la lisière du bois, et dans le pré Rippert, derrière la scierie, les Prussiens qui faisaient l’exercice. Tout cela me tentait bien plus que la règle des participes ; mais j’eus la force de résister, et je courus bien vite vers l’école.
En passant devant la mairie, je vis qu’il y avait du monde arrêté près du petit grillage aux affiches. Depuis deux ans, c’est de là que nous sont venues toutes les mauvaises nouvelles, les batailles perdues, les réquisitions, les ordres de la commandature ; et je pensai sans m’arrêter :
« Qu’est-ce qu’il y a encore ? »
Alors, comme je traversais la place en courant, le forgeron Wachter, qui était là avec son apprenti en train de lire l’affiche, me cria :
« Ne te dépêche pas tant, petit ; tu y arriveras toujours assez tôt à ton école ! »
Je crus qu’il se moquait de moi, et j’entrai tout essoufflé dans la petite cour de M. Hamel.
D’ordinaire, au commencement de la classe, il se faisait un grand tapage qu’on entendait jusque dans la rue : les pupitres ouverts, fermés, les leçons qu’on répétait très haut tous ensemble en se bouchant les oreilles pour mieux apprendre, et la grosse règle du maître qui tapait sur les tables :
« Un peu de silence ! »
Je comptais sur tout ce train pour gagner mon banc sans être vu ; mais, justement, ce jour-là, tout était tranquille, comme un matin de dimanche. Par la fenêtre ouverte, je voyais mes camarades déjà rangés à leurs places, et M. Hamel, qui passait et repassait avec la terrible règle en fer sous le bras. Il fallut ouvrir la porte et entrer au milieu de ce grand calme. Vous pensez, si j’étais rouge et si j’avais peur !
Eh bien ! non. M Hamel me regarda sans colère et me dit très doucement :
« Va vite à ta place, mon petit Franz ; nous allions commencer sans toi. »
J’enjambai le banc et je m’assis tout de suite à mon pupitre. Alors seulement, un peu remis de ma frayeur, je remarquai que notre maître avait sa belle redingote verte, son jabot plissé fin et la calotte de soie noire brodée qu’il ne mettait que les jours d’inspection ou de distribution de prix. Du reste, toute la classe avait quelque chose d’extraordinaire et de solennel. Mais ce qui me surprit le plus, ce fut de voir au fond de la salle, sur les bancs qui restaient vides d’habitude, des gens du village assis et silencieux comme nous : le vieux Hauser avec son tricorne, l’ancien maire, l’ancien facteur, et puis d’autres personnes encore. Tout ce monde-là paraissait triste ; et Hauser avait apporté un vieil abécédaire mangé aux bords qu’il tenait grand ouvert sur ses genoux, avec ses grosses lunettes posées en travers des pages.
Pendant que je m’étonnais de tout cela, M. Hamel était monté dans sa chaire, et de la même voix douce et grave dont il m’avait reçu, il nous dit :
« Mes enfants, c’est la dernière fois que je vous fais la classe. L’ordre est venu de Berlin de ne plus enseigner que l’allemand dans les écoles de l’Alsace et de la Lorraine… Le nouveau maître arrive demain. Aujourd’hui, c’est votre dernière leçon de français. Je vous prie d’être bien attentifs. »
Ces quelques paroles me bouleversèrent. Ah ! les misérables, voilà ce qu’ils avaient affiché à la mairie.
Ma dernière leçon de français !…
Et moi qui savais à peine écrire ! Je n’apprendrais donc jamais ! Il faudrait donc en rester là !… Comme je m’en voulais maintenant du temps perdu, des classes manquées à courir les nids ou à faire des glissades sur la Saar ! Mes livres que tout à l’heure encore je trouvais si ennuyeux, si lourds à porter, ma grammaire, mon histoire sainte me semblaient à présent de vieux amis qui me feraient beaucoup de peine à quitter. C’est comme M. Hamel. L’idée qu’il allait partir, que je ne le verrais plus, me faisait oublier les punitions, les coups de règle.
Pauvre homme !
C’est en l’honneur de cette dernière classe qu’il avait mis ses beaux habits du dimanche, et maintenant je comprenais pourquoi ces vieux du village étaient venus s’asseoir au bout de la salle. Cela semblait dire qu’ils regrettaient de ne pas y être venus plus souvent, à cette école. C’était aussi comme une façon de remercier notre maître de ses quarante ans de bons services, et de rendre leurs devoirs à la patrie qui s’en allait…
J’en étais là de mes réflexions, quand j’entendis appeler mon nom. C’était mon tour de réciter. Que n’aurais-je pas donné pour pouvoir dire tout au long cette fameuse règle des participes, bien haut, bien clair, sans une faute ; mais je m’embrouillai aux premiers mots, et je restai debout à me balancer dans mon banc, le cœur gros, sans oser lever la tête. J’entendais M. Hamel qui me parlait :
« Je ne te gronderai pas, mon petit Franz, tu dois être assez puni… Voilà ce que c’est. Tous les jours on se dit : Bah ! j’ai bien le temps. J’apprendrai demain. Et puis tu vois ce qui arrive… Ah ! ça été le grand malheur de notre Alsace de toujours remettre son instruction à demain. Maintenant ces gens-là sont en droit de nous dire : Comment ! Vous prétendiez être français, et vous ne savez ni lire ni écrire votre langue !… Dans tout ça, mon pauvre Franz, ce n’est pas encore toi le plus coupable. Nous avons tous notre bonne part de reproches à nous faire.
« Vos parents n’ont pas assez tenu à vous voir instruits. Ils aimaient mieux vous envoyer travailler à la terre ou aux filatures pour avoir quelques sous de plus. Moi-même, n’ai-je rien à me reprocher ? Est-ce que je ne vous ai pas souvent fait arroser mon jardin au lieu de travailler ? Et quand je voulais aller pêcher des truites, est-ce que je me gênais pour vous donner congé ?… »
Alors, d’une chose à l’autre, M. Hamel se mit à nous parler de la langue française, disant que c’était la plus belle langue du monde, la plus claire, la plus solide : qu’il fallait la garder entre nous et ne jamais l’oublier, parce que, quand un peuple tombe esclave, tant qu’il tient bien sa langue, c’est comme s’il tenait la clef de sa prison… Puis il prit une grammaire et nous lut notre leçon. J’étais étonné de voir comme je comprenais. Tout ce qu’il disait me semblait facile, facile. Je crois aussi que je n’avais jamais si bien écouté et que lui non plus n’avait jamais mis autant de patience à ses explications. On aurait dit qu’avant de s’en aller le pauvre homme voulait nous donner tout son savoir, nous le faire entrer dans la tête d’un seul coup.
La leçon finie, on passa à l’écriture. Pour ce jour-là, M. Hamel nous avait préparé des exemples tout neufs, sur lesquels était écrit en belle ronde : France, Alsace, France, Alsace. Cela faisait comme des petits drapeaux qui flottaient tout autour de la classe, pendus à la tringle de nos pupitres. Il fallait voir comme chacun s’appliquait, et quel silence ! On n’entendait rien que le grincement des plumes sur le papier. Un moment des hannetons entrèrent ; mais personne n’y fit attention, pas même les tout petits qui s’appliquaient à tracer leurs bâtons, avec un cœur, une conscience, comme si cela encore était du français… Sur la toiture de l’école, des pigeons roucoulaient tout bas, et je me disais en les écoutant :
« Est-ce qu’on ne va pas les obliger à chanter en allemand, eux aussi ? »
De temps en temps, quand je levais les yeux de dessus ma page, je voyais M. Hamel immobile dans sa chaire et fixant les objets autour de lui, comme s’il avait voulu emporter dans son regard toute sa petite maison d’école… Pensez ! depuis quarante ans, il était là à la même place, avec sa cour en face de lui et sa classe toute pareille. Seulement les bancs, les pupitres s’étaient polis, frottés par l’usage ; les noyers de la cour avaient grandi, et le houblon qu’il avait planté lui-même enguirlandait maintenant les fenêtres jusqu’au toit. Quel crève-cœur ça devait être pour ce pauvre homme de quitter toutes ces choses, et d’entendre sa sœur qui allait, venait, dans la chambre au-dessus, en train de fermer leurs malles ! car ils devaient partir le lendemain, s’en aller du pays pour toujours.
Tout de même, il eut le courage de nous faire la classe jusqu’au bout. Après l’écriture, nous eûmes la leçon d’histoire ; ensuite les petits chantèrent tous ensemble le ba be bi bo bu. Là-bas au fond de la salle, le vieux Hauser avait mis ses lunettes, et, tenant son abécédaire à deux mains, il épelait les lettres avec eux. On voyait qu’il s’appliquait lui aussi ; sa voix tremblait d’émotion, et c’était si drôle de l’entendre, que nous avions tous envie de rire et de pleurer. Ah ! je m’en souviendrai de cette dernière classe…
Tout à coup l’horloge de l’église sonna midi, puis l’Angélus. Au même moment, les trompettes des Prussiens qui revenaient de l’exercice éclatèrent sous nos fenêtres… M. Hamel se leva, tout pâle, dans sa chaire. Jamais il ne m’avait paru si grand. « Mes amis, dit-il, mes amis, je… je… »
Mais quelque chose l’étouffait. Il ne pouvait pas achever sa phrase.
Alors il se tourna vers le tableau, prit un morceau de craie et, en appuyant de toutes ses forces, il écrivit aussi gros qu’il put :


Puis il resta là, la tête appuyée au mur, et, sans parler, avec sa main, il nous faisait signe :
« C’est fini… allez-vous-en. »
  1. Aller « S’il tient sa langue, – il tient la clé qui de ses chaînes le délivre. » F. Mistral.

[1]Adapted from the French of Alphonse Daudet.

Little Franz didn't want to go to school, that morning. He would much rather have played truant. The air was so warm and still,—you could hear the blackbird singing at the edge of the woods, and the sound of the Prussians drilling, down in the meadow behind the old sawmill. He would so much rather have played truant! Besides, this was the day for the lesson in the rule of participles; and the rule of participles in French is very, very long, and very hard, and it has more exceptions than rule. Little Franz did not know it at all. He did not want to go to school.
But, somehow, he went. His legs carried him reluctantly into the village and along the street. As he passed the official bulletin-board before the village hall, he noticed a little crowd round it, looking at it. That was the place where the news of lost battles, the requisition for more troops, the demands for new taxes were posted. Small as he was, little Franz had seen enough to make him think, "What now, I wonder?" But he could not stop to see; he was afraid of being late.
When he came to the schoolyard his heart beat very fast; he was afraid he was late, after all, for the windows were all open, and yet he heard no noise,—the schoolroom was perfectly quiet. He had been counting on the noise and confusion before school,—the slamming of desk covers, the banging of books, the tapping of the master's ruler-cane and his "A little less noise, please,"—to let him slip quietly into his seat unnoticed. But no; he had to open the door and walk up the long aisle, in the midst of a silent room, with the teacher looking straight at him. Oh, how hot his cheeks felt, and how hard his heart beat! But to his great surprise, Monsieur Hamel didn't scold at all. All he said was, "Come quickly to your place, my little Franz; we were just going to begin without you!"
Little Franz could hardly believe his ears; that wasn't at all the way the master was accustomed to speak. It was very strange! Somehow—everything was very strange. The room looked queer. Everybody was sitting so still, so straight—as if it were an exhibition day, or something very particular. And M. Hamel—he looked strange, too; why, he had on his fine lace jabot and his best coat, that he wore only on holidays, and his gold snuff-box in his hand. Certainly it was very odd. Little Franz looked all round, wondering. And there in the back of the room was the oddest thing of all. There, on a bench, sat visitors. Visitors! He could not make it out; people never came except on great occasions,—examination days and such. And it was not a holiday. Yet there were old Monsieur Hauser in his tricorn hat, the postman, the burgomaster, the old blacksmith, the farmer, sitting quiet and still. It was very, very strange to see all these grown-ups at class.
Just then, the teacher stood up and opened school. He said, "My children, this is the last time I shall ever teach you. The order has come from Berlin that henceforth nothing but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. This is your last lesson in French. I beg you, be very attentive."
His last lesson in French! Little Franz could not believe his ears; his last lesson—ah, that was what was on the bulletin-board! It flashed across him in an instant. That was it! His last lesson in French—and he scarcely knew how to read and write—why, then, he should never know how! He looked down at his books, all battered and torn at the corners; and suddenly his books seemed quite different to him, they seemed—somehow—like friends. He looked at the master, and he seemed different, too,—like a very good friend. Little Franz began to feel strange himself. Just as he was thinking about it, he heard his name called, and he stood up to recite.
It was the rule of participles.
Oh, what wouldn't he have given to be able to say it off from beginning to end, exceptions and all, without a blunder! But he could only stand and hang his head; he did not know a word of it. Then through the hot pounding in his ears he heard M. Hamel's voice; it was quite gentle; not at all the scolding voice he expected. And it said, "I'm not going to punish you, little Franz. Perhaps you are punished enough. And you are not alone in your fault. We all do the same thing,—we all put off our tasks till tomorrow. And—sometimes—tomorrow never comes. That is what it has been with us. We Alsatians have been always putting off our education till tomorrow; and now they have a right, those people down there, to say to us, 'What! You call yourselves French, and cannot even read and write the French language? Learn German, then!'"
And then the teacher spoke to them of the French language. He told them how beautiful it was, how clear and musical and reasonable, and he said that no people could be hopelessly conquered so long as it kept its language, for the language was the key to its prison-house. And then he said he was going to tell them a little about that beautiful language, and he explained the rule of participles.
And do you know, it was just as simple as ABC! Little Franz understood every word. It was just the same with the rest of the grammar lesson. I don't know whether little Franz listened harder, or whether M. Hamel explained better; but it was all quite clear, and simple.
But as they went on with it, and little Franz listened and looked, it seemed to him that the master was trying to put the whole French language into their heads in that one hour. It seemed as if he wanted to teach them all he knew, before he went,—to give them all he had,—in this last lesson.
From the grammar he went on to the writing lesson. And for this, quite new copies had been prepared. They were written on clean, new slips of paper, and they were:—
  France: Alsace.
  France: Alsace.
All up and down the aisles they hung out from the desks like little banners, waving:—
  France: Alsace.
  France: Alsace.
And everybody worked with all his might,—not a sound could you hear but the scratching of pens on the "France: Alsace."
Even the little ones bent over their up and down strokes with their tongues stuck out to help them work.
After the writing came the reading lesson, and the little ones sang their babebibobu.
Right in the midst of it, Franz heard a curious sound, a big deep voice mingling with the children's voices. He turned round, and there, on the bench in the back of the room, the old blacksmith Wächter sat with a big ABC book open on his knees. It was his voice Franz had heard. He was saying the sounds with the little children,—babebibobu. His deep voice sounded so odd, with the little voices,—so very odd,—it made little Franz feel queer. It seemed so funny that he thought he would laugh; then he thought he wouldn't laugh, he felt—he felt very queer.
So it went on with the lessons; they had them all. And then, suddenly, the church clock struck noon. And at the same time they heard the tramp of the Prussians' feet, coming back from drill.
It was time to close school.
The master stood up. He was very pale. Little Franz had never seen him look so tall. He said:—
"My children—my children"—but something choked him; he could not go on. Instead he turned and went to the blackboard and took up a piece of chalk. And then he wrote, high up, in big white letters, "Vive la France!"
And he made a little sign to them with his head, "That is all; go away."