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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Le Tour de la France (5)—The Preparations of Etienne the Shoemaker

Translated by Robert André LaFleur
Le Tour de la France par deux enfants (A Journey Around France Undertaken by Two Children) is a little 119-chapter book about French geography and culture. Written in 1877 by Augustine Fouillée (under the pseudonym G. Bruno), it was geared toward primary school students in their fourth and fifth years (cours moyen).  It has been read by generations of French students, and has played a small but important role in the development of a French national imagination. It was the little book that launched the Tour de France.

1            2            3            4            5            6            7            8            9            10            11
Click here for the introduction to Round and Square's series on this 1877 classic. 
The Preparations of Etienne the Shoemaker;
Goodbyes; Children of the Same Country

Children of the same country should love and support each 
other just as do children of the same mother

While André and Julien were eating, Etienne came into the room. 

          —Children, said the shoemaker said, rubbing his hands, I have not wasted my time. I have worked on your behalf this morning. To start, I have found two places in the carriage of a friend who will find some straw on which to sleep near the village of Saint-Quirin, near the frontier. You will then have about a quarter of an hour to the village. This will spare Julien's little legs, as well as your own, André. Then I wrote a post—right here—to refer you to an old acquaintance of mine near Saint-Quirin, who is a former forest ranger for the village. You will be received with open arms, my children, and there you may take a good night's rest. Finally, still better, Fritz will guide you the next day in the mountains, and take you to the border by way of roads where you will not be observed.  My friend Fritz is an experienced hunter who knows all of the mountain and forest trails. Rest assured, in forty-eight hours, you will be in France.

          —Oh! Monsieur Etienne, cried André, you are good to us—like a second father!

          —My children, responded Etienne, you are the sons of my best friend, and it is right that I come to your assistance. And moreover, should not all Frenchmen be prepared to support one another? In your turn, he added in a serious tone, when you encounter a child of France in danger you will help him just as we have helped you, and you will do for your country just as we have done here these two days.

THE SHOEMAKER OF THE VOSGES. He especially makes the clogs worn by people in forested and mountainous regions, mostly using the wood of beech and walnut trees to craft them. There are many shoemakers in the Vosges, where the mountains are deeply wooded.

Having said these words, Etienne went into the neighboring workroom, where he pursued his craft of shoemaking. Wishing to make up for lost time, he set to work with diligence. Little Julien had followed him, and took great pleasure in watching him dig lightly and and shape the beech tree wood from the mountain.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, the carriage of which Père Etienne had spoken stopped on the highway. The carriage driver, as had been agreed, whistled with all his might to call the young travelers.

At that signal, André and Julien quickly grabbed their travel packets. They hugged Mère Etienne, showing all of their emotions, and straight away the shoemaker brought them to the carriage.

After another embrace and further paternal recommendations from the good man, the children seated themselves inside the carriage. The driver cracked his whip, and the horses took off in a gentle trot.

Père Etienne remained alone by the highway, following the carriage with his eyes into the distance. He felt both sad and proud to see the children part.

          —Brave and cherished youth, he murmured, go, carry your hearts over to the homeland!

And, when the carriage had disappeared, he returned home slowly, pensive, thinking of the father of these two orphans—of his old friend since childhood who slept his last slumber under the earth of Lorraine, while his two sons henceforth went off alone, at great risk to their lives. A tear slid from the old man's eyes, but he quickly wiped it away. 

          —Courage, all the same, he said to himself. Hope alone makes the future fruitful.

A Disappointment; Perseverance
All does not go exactly as planned for the little travelers, yet they are determined to persevere and complete the dangerous journey to the border.

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