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