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Friday, July 8, 2011

Le Tour de la France (6)—A Disappointment; Perseverance

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. 
Disappointment and Perseverance 

There is scarcely an obstacle that cannot be surmounted with perseverance. 

A disappointment awaited our young friends when they arrived at the isolated home—situated at the edge of the forest—of the ranger Fritz. An old gentlemen with a gray beard and an energetic physique, Fritz was laid up in bed and had not been out for many days. The old hunter had fallen while descending the mountain and had broken his leg.

          —You see, my children, he said after having read the letter; I cannot get up out of my bed. How could I lead you to your destination? And the only person with me is my old servant, who cannot walk much better than I can.

André was worried, but he did not want to betray his concern to little Julien.

All night long he slept very little. Early in the morning, even before Julien had awakened, he got up in order to reflect upon the situation.

He made his way soundlessly to the ranger's garden, wishing to study the countryside that he had only seen in the fading evening twilight.

MAP OF ALSACE AND LORRAINE, AS WELL AS THE VOSGES RANGE. —Lorraine, separated from Alsace by the Vosges Range, is a mountainous region rich in forest, lakes, ponds, and mines producing both metal and salt. The region has beautiful farmland and pastures. In addition to vineyards and wheat, many things are cultivated there, including hemp and the hops used to make beer. Agriculture in this region is the consummate industry. A part of Lorraine and all of Alsace, with the exception of Belfort, was taken from France by Germany in 1870.
Sitting on a bench at the edge of the Saar River, which curled along the garden between two rows of birch and willows, André turned toward the south and looked out onto the horizon, obstructed by the towering Vosges mountain range.

          —It is there, he said to himself, that we will find France. There, tonight, I will lead my little brother, Julien; there I will find—without any help—a path where we are unlikely to meet anyone before we pass freely across the border to our homeland. Oh, how shall we do it?

And he continued to look out, with sadness, onto the mountains that separated them from France, and which loomed before them like a towering wall.

These discouraging thoughts coursed through his mind, but André was resilient. Instead of accepting the difficulties lying before him, he determined to combat them.

All of a sudden he remembered seeing a large map of the region hanging on the forest ranger's wall. It was one of the best maps, used by ranking officers in the French army, and there he would find the best routes—the hidden little trails—to freedom.

          —I am going to study it, André said to himself. What would be the use of thirteen years as the best student in my class in Phalsbourg if I could not find my way with the help of an excellent map? Onward, and let me be resolute! Have I not made a promise to my father? I have an obligation to cross the border into the French homeland, and I will do it.

André Makes a Map
André puts to use the things he learned in school and studies the route that he and little Julien will take on their dangerous trip to the border.

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