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.
The Departure of André and Julien
When they had gone a little distance from the city, the older brother spoke to the younger and, in a low and guarded voice—as though he feared that the trees themselves along the road were listening—said:
—Do not be afraid, my little Julien, he said; no one saw us leave.
—Oh, I am not afraid, André, said Julien; we are doing our duty.
—I find you courageous, my Julien, but, before we have arrived, we will walk many nights; when you are too tired, I must say: I will carry you.
—No!, no, replied the child; I have good legs and am too big to be carried.
The two continued to walk resolutely beneath a cold rain that had begun to fall. Twilight passed into nightfall, and it became darker and darker. Not a star showed itself in the sky to smile upon them; the wind cracked the great trees with a dark hissing and sent gusts of rain into the boys' faces. No matter. They proceeded without hesitation, hand in hand.
At a fork in the road, they heard footsteps. Suddenly, soundlessly, the boys slid into the ditch and hid themselves under some bushes. Making no movement, they let the travelers pass by. Slowly, the sounds vanished into the distance along the great road. André and Julien got up and returned again to their journey with a strengthened ardor.
After several hours of fatigue and anxiety, they came at last, having traversed the forest, to a distant light—faint and shaky—like a star in a stormy sky. Taking the road ahead of them, they walked toward the lighted cottage.
Arriving at the door, they were silent, not daring to knock. They still retained a natural timidity and well-meaning hesitation. It was easy to see that they were not in the habit of going to doors and asking for things. Trembling, with heavy hearts, they hesitated.
André regained his courage.
—Julien, he said, this is the home of Etienne the shoemaker, an old friend of our father's; we should not be afraid to ask him for help.
And the two children knocked timidly at the door.
Supper at the Home of Etienne the Shoemaker—
And His Hospitality
The young travelers are given shelter and sustenance as their journey is about to begin in earnest.