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Friday, July 15, 2011

Le Tour de la France (9)—Clouds on the Mountain

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. 
Clouds on the Mountain;
Disquiet Among the Children
Courage lies not in remaining unmoved in the face of danger, but rather in overcoming one's emotions; it is because of this that a child can be as brave as a man.

After a brief rest, they resumed their journey. But suddenly the darkness increased. Frightened, Julien clung closely to his older brother.
LE NUAGE SUR LA MONTAGNE —The clouds consist of water vapor that escapes from the sea, rivers, and the earth. They are not always high in the air, and often hang over the mountains—sometimes seen floating on their sides. Travelers who climb a mountain often come into the cloud and are then surrounded by a thick fog, creating a serious danger of being lost.
Soon the stars that had previously guided them had disappeared. A thick cloud had formed on top of the mountain, and, swelling rapidly, had swallowed it up in mist. The children found themselves in the midst of the cloud. Surrounded on all sides by thick fog, they could no longer see even the ground in front of them.

They stopped. Both boys were worried, although neither dared speak of it, hoping not to concern the other.

Give me your travel packet, André said to Julien. I will attach it to mine, and your staff will be free to gain a feel for the road, as do the blind, so that we do not run up against roots or stones. I will lead, and you will hold onto my shirt, since both of my hands will be occupied. I assure you that I will do my best to guide you. Fear not, my Julien. You will have nothing to carry, and you can walk easily.

Yes, responded the child in a trembling voice that he struggled to keep calm.

They resumed their journey—slowly, carefully. Despite this, André ran into a large rock alongside the mountain path. He fell and nearly rolled down over more rocks, carrying little Julien down with him.

The two children then realized the danger before them.

          —Let's sit down, said André, overcome with emotion and drawing Julien close to him.

          —André, cried Julien, we have some matches and a piece of candle. The ranger told us only to light it in a time of great need; do you think it would be dangerous to do so now? 

          —No, Julien. The fog is so thick that our light is unlikely to be seen, or to attract of the German soldiers guarding the border.

With these words, André lit the small candle, and Julien was astonished to see how weak and trembling the glow cast itself through the middle of the thick fog. Yet they started again, since they had to make it to France before sunrise. Julien, who no longer carried his travel packet, held the candle in his hand and protected it against the wind. He walked, but not without stumbling often on the stony path. 

What worried André most of all was getting lost in the middle of the mist. After a few moments he took the paper on which he had traced the map of their route. Following the line he had created to show him the way, he asked himself "Are we going the right way?"

He said to Julien: If we were walking the right way, we would be close to an old, ruined tower right now...but I do not see it. You have excellent eyes, Julien. Look for yourself. 

Julien looked closely, but he could not see any sign of it. 

They took up their hike again, searching anxiously and hoping to pierce the darkness with their gaze. They could not find the old tower anywhere. At the same time, the candle was burning down, and before long was extinguished. The children could do nothing but stop...and wait.

Stopping Beneath a Fir Tree
The children wait it out. Anxiety and obscurity is in the air, with the homeland still far in the distance.

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