This 1914 novel by Nobel laureate Anatole France offers a brilliant satire of war, government, and religion. Published on the eve of World War I, the fable voices an ever-resonant protest against violence and despotism. The author's sense of humor brings a remarkably contemporary air to the Paradise Lost scenario, and stunning black-and-white illustrations by Frank C. Papé complement the tale's fantasy elements.
What one first notes about The Queen Pedauque is the fact that in this ironic and subtle book is presented a story which, curiously enough, is remarkable for its entire innocence of subtlety and irony. Abridge the "plot" into a synopsis, and you will find your digest to be what is manifestly the outline of a straightforward, plumed romance by the elder Dumas.
Indeed, Dumas would have handled the "strange surprising adventures" of Jacques Tournebroche to a nicety, if only Dumas had ever thought to have his collaborators write this brisk tale, wherein d'Astarac and Tournebroche and Mosaide display, even now, a noticeable something in common with the Balsamo and Gilbert and Althotas of the Memoires d'un Medecin. One foresees, to be sure, that, with the twin-girthed Creole for guide, M. Jerome Coignard would have waddled into immortality not quite as we know him, but with somewhat more of a fraternal resemblance to the Dom Gorenflot of La Dame de Monsoreau; and that the blood of the abbe's death-wound could never have bedewed the book's final pages, in the teeth of Dumas' economic unwillingness ever to despatch any character who was "good for" a sequel.
And one thinks rather kindlily of The Queen Pedauque as Dumas would have equipped it... Yes, in reading here, it is the most facile and least avoidable of mental exercises to prefigure how excellently Dumas would have contrived this book,—somewhat as in the reading of Mr. Joseph Conrad's novels a many of us are haunted by the sense that the Conrad "story" is, in its essential beams and stanchions, the sort of thing which W. Clark Russell used to put together, in a rather different way, for our illicit perusal. Whereby I only mean that such seafaring was illicit in those aureate days when, Cleveland being consul for the second time, your geography figured as the screen of fictive reading-matter during school-hours.
One need not say that there is no question, in either case, of "imitation," far less of "plagiarism"; nor need one, surely, point out the impossibility of anybody's ever mistaking the present book for a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Ere Homer's eyesight began not to be what it had been, the fact was noted by the observant Chian, that very few sane architects commence an edifice by planting and rearing the oaks which are to compose its beams and stanchions. You take over all such supplies ready hewn, and choose by preference time-seasoned timber. Since Homer's prime a host of other great creative writers have recognised this axiom when they too began to build: and "originality" has by ordinary been, like chess and democracy, a Mecca for little minds.
CHAPTER I. "I NEED LOVE"
She gave a glance at the armchairs placed before the chimney, at the tea-table, which shone in the shade, and at the tall, pale stems of flowers ascending above Chinese vases. She thrust her hand among the flowery branches of the guelder roses to make their silvery balls quiver. Then she looked at herself in a mirror with serious attention. She held herself sidewise, her neck turned over her shoulder, to follow with her eyes the spring of her fine form in its sheath-like black satin gown, around which floated a light tunic studded with pearls wherein sombre lights scintillated. She went nearer, curious to know her face of that day. The mirror returned her look with tranquillity, as if this amiable woman whom she examined, and who was not unpleasing to her, lived without either acute joy or profound sadness.
On the walls of the large drawing-room, empty and silent, the figures of the tapestries, vague as shadows, showed pallid among their antique games and dying graces. Like them, the terra-cotta statuettes on slender columns, the groups of old Saxony, and the paintings of Sevres, spoke of past glories. On a pedestal ornamented with precious bronzes, the marble bust of some princess royal disguised as Diana appeared about to fly out of her turbulent drapery, while on the ceiling a figure of Night, powdered like a marquise and surrounded by cupids, sowed flowers. Everything was asleep, and only the crackling of the logs and the light rattle of Therese's pearls could be heard.
I. LIFE OF SAINT MAEL
Mael, a scion of a royal family of Cambria, was sent in his ninth year to the Abbey of Yvern so that he might there study both sacred and profane learning. At the age of fourteen he renounced his patrimony and took a vow to serve the Lord. His time was divided, according to the rule, between the singing of hymns, the study of grammar, and the meditation of eternal truths.
A celestial perfume soon disclosed the virtues of the monk throughout the cloister, and when the blessed Gal, the Abbot of Yvern, departed from this world into the next, young Mael succeeded him in the government of the monastery. He established therein a school, an infirmary, a guest-house, a forge, work-shops of all kinds, and sheds for building ships, and he compelled the monks to till the lands in the neighbourhood. With his own hands he cultivated the garden of the Abbey, he worked in metals, he instructed the novices, and his life was gently gliding along like a stream that reflects the heaven and fertilizes the fields.
At the close of the day this servant of God was accustomed to seat himself on the cliff, in the place that is to-day still called St. Mael's chair. At his feet the rocks bristling with green seaweed and tawny wrack seemed like black dragons as they faced the foam of the waves with their monstrous breasts. He watched the sun descending into the ocean like a red Host whose glorious blood gave a purple tone to the clouds and to the summits of the waves. And the holy man saw in this the image of the mystery of the Cross, by which the divine blood has clothed the earth with a royal purple. In the offing a line of dark blue marked the shores of the island of Gad, where St. Bridget, who had been given the veil by St. Malo, ruled over a convent of women.
Now Bridget, knowing the merits of the venerable Mael, begged from him some work of his hands as a rich present. Mael cast a hand-bell of bronze for her and, when it was finished, he blessed it and threw it into the sea. And the bell went ringing towards the coast of Gad, where St. Bridget, warned by the sound of the bell upon the waves, received it piously, and carried it in solemn procession with singing of psalms into the chapel of the convent....
Jean Servien was born in a back-shop in the Rue Notre-Dame des Champs. His father was a bookbinder and worked for the Religious Houses. Jean was a little weakling child, and his mother nursed him at her breast as she sewed the books, sheet by sheet, with the curved needle of the trade. One day as she was crossing the shop, humming a song, in the words of which she found expression for the vague, splendid visions of her maternal ambition, her foot slipped on the boards, which were moist with paste.
Instinctively she threw up her arm to guard the child she held clasped to her bosom, and struck her breast, thus exposed, a severe blow against the corner of the iron press. She felt no very acute pain at the time, but later on an abscess formed, which got well, but presently reopened, and a low fever supervened that confined her to her bed.
There, in the long, long evenings, she would fold her little one in her one sound arm and croon over him in a hot, feverish whisper bits of her favourite ditty:
The fisherman, when dawn is nigh,
Peers forth to greet the kindling sky….
Above all, she loved the refrain that recurred at the end of each verse with only the change of a word. It was her little Jean's lullaby, who became, at the caprice of the words, turn and turn about, General, Lawyer, and ministrant at the altar in her fond hopes.
In his study M. Bergeret, professor of literature at the University, was preparing his lesson on the eighth book of the Æneid to the shrill mechanical accompaniment of the piano, on which, close by, his daughters were practising a difficult exercise. M. Bergeret’s room possessed only one window, but this was a large one, and filled up one whole side. It admitted, however, more draught than light, for the sashes were ill-fitting and the panes darkened by a high contiguous wall. M. Bergeret’s table, pushed close against this window, caught the dismal rays of niggard daylight that filtered through. As a matter of fact this study, where the professor polished and repolished his fine, scholarly phrases, was nothing more than a shapeless cranny, or rather a double recess, behind the framework of the main staircase which, spreading out most inconsiderately in a great curve towards the window, left only room on either side for two useless, churlish corners. Trammelled by this monstrous, green-papered paunch of masonry, M. Bergeret had with difficulty discovered in his cantankerous study—a geometrical abortion as well as an æsthetic abomination—a scanty flat surface where he could stack his books along the deal shelves, upon which yellow rows of Teubner classics were plunged in never-lifted gloom. M. Bergeret himself used to sit squeezed close up against the window, writing in a cold, chilly style that owed much to the bleakness of the atmosphere in which he worked. Whenever he found his papers neither torn nor topsy-turvy and his pens not gaping cross-nibbed, he considered himself a lucky man! For such was the usual result of a visit to the study from Madame Bergeret or her daughters, where they came to write up the laundry list or the household accounts. Here, too, stood the dressmaker’s dummy, on which Madame Bergeret used to drape the skirts she cut out at home. There, bolt upright, over against the learned editions of Catullus and Petronius, stood, like a symbol of the wedded state, this wicker-work woman.
containing in a few lines the history of a french family from 1789 to the present day
ENEATH the shadow of St. Sulpice the ancient mansion of the d'Esparvieu family rears its austere three stories between a moss-grown fore-court and a garden hemmed in, as the years have elapsed, by ever loftier and more intrusive buildings, wherein, nevertheless, two tall chestnut trees still lift their withered heads.
Here from 1825 to 1857 dwelt the great man of the family, Alexandre Bussart d'Esparvieu, Vice-President of the Council of State under the Government of July, Member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, and author of an Essay on the Civil and Religious Institutions of Nations, in three octavo volumes, a work unfortunately left incomplete.
This eminent theorist of a Liberal monarchy left as heir to his name his fortune and his fame, Fulgence-Adolphe Bussart d'Esparvieu, senator under the Second Empire, who added largely to his patrimony by buying land over which the Avenue de l'Impératice was destined ultimately to pass, and who made a remarkable speech in favour of the temporal power of the popes.
Fulgence had three sons. The eldest, Marc-Alexandre, entering the army, made a splendid career for himself: he was a good speaker. The second, Gaétan, showing no particular aptitude for anything, lived mostly in the country, where he hunted, bred horses, and devoted himself to music and painting. The third son, René, destined from his childhood for the law, resigned his deputyship to avoid complicity in the Ferry decrees against the religious orders; and later, perceiving the revival under the presidency of Monsieur Fallières of the days of Decius and Diocletian, put his knowledge and zeal at the service of the persecuted Church....
True to her word, Madame Bergeret quitted the conjugal roof and betook herself to the house of her mother, the widow Pouilly.
As the time for her departure drew near, she had half a mind not to go, and with a little coaxing would have consented to forget the past and resume the old life with her husband, at the same time vaguely despising M. Bergeret as the injured party.
She was quite ready to forgive and forget, but the unbending esteem in which she was held by the circle in which she moved did not allow of such a course. Madame Dellion had made it clear to her that any such weakness on her part would be judged unfavourably; all the drawing-rooms in the place were unanimous upon that score. There was but one opinion among the tradespeople: Madame Bergeret must return to her mother. In this way did they uphold the proprieties and, at the same time, rid themselves of a thoughtless, common, compromising person, whose vulgarity was apparent even to the vulgar, and who was a burden on everybody about her. They made her believe there was something heroic in her conduct.
“I have the greatest admiration for you, my child,” said old Madame Dutilleul from the depths of her easy chair, she who had survived four husbands, and was a truly terrible woman. People suspected her of everything, except of ever having loved, and in her old age she was honoured and respected by all.
Madame Bergeret was delighted at having inspired sympathy in Madame Dellion and admiration in Madame Dutilleul, and still she could not finally make up her mind to go, for she was of a homely disposition and accustomed to regular habits and quite content to live on in idleness and deceit. Having grasped this fact, M. Bergeret redoubled his efforts to ensure his deliverance. He stoutly upheld Marie, the servant, who kept every one in the house in a state of wretchedness and trepidation, was suspected of harbouring thieves and cut-throats in her kitchen, and only brought herself into prominence by the catastrophes she caused....
December 24, 1849.
I had put on my slippers and my dressing-gown. I wiped away a tear with which the north wind blowing over the quay had obscured my vision. A bright fire was leaping in the chimney of my study. Ice-crystals, shaped like fern-leaves, were sprouting over the windowpanes and concealed from me the Seine with its bridges and the Louvre of the Valois.
I drew up my easy-chair to the hearth, and my table-volante, and took up so much of my place by the fire as Hamilcar deigned to allow me. Hamilcar was lying in front of the andirons, curled up on a cushion, with his nose between his paws. His think find fur rose and fell with his regular breathing. At my coming, he slowly slipped a glance of his agate eyes at me from between his half-opened lids, which he closed again almost at once, thinking to himself, "It is nothing; it is only my friend."
"Hamilcar," I said to him, as I stretched my legs—"Hamilcar, somnolent Prince of the City of Books—thou guardian nocturnal! Like that Divine Cat who combated the impious in Heliopolis—in the night of the great combat—thou dost defend from vile nibblers those books which the old savant acquired at the cost of his slender savings and indefatigable zeal. Sleep, Hamilcar, softly as a sultana, in this library, that shelters thy military virtues; for verily in thy person are united the formidable aspect of a Tatar warrior and the slumbrous grace of a woman of the Orient. Sleep, thou heroic and voluptuous Hamilcar, while awaiting the moonlight hour in which the mice will come forth to dance before the Acta Sanctorum of the learned Bolandists!"
The beginning of this discourse pleased Hamilcar, who accompanied it with a throat-sound like the song of a kettle on the fire. But as my voice waxed louder, Hamilcar notified me by lowering his ears and by wrinkling the striped skin of his brow that it was bad taste on my part so to declaim.
"This old-book man," evidently thought Hamilcar, "talks to no purpose at all while our housekeeper never utters a word which is not full of good sense, full of significance—containing either the announcement of a meal or the promise of a whipping. One knows what she says. But this old man puts together a lot of sounds signifying nothing."
variste Gamelin, painter, pupil of David, member of the Section du Pont-Neuf, formerly Section Henri IV, had betaken himself at an early hour in the morning to the old church of the Barnabites, which for three years, since 21st May 1790, had served as meeting-place for the General Assembly of the Section. The church stood in a narrow, gloomy square, not far from the gates of the Palais de Justice. On the façade, which consisted of two of the Classical orders superimposed and was decorated with inverted brackets and flaming urns, blackened by the weather and disfigured by the hand of man, the religious emblems had been battered to pieces, while above the doorway had been inscribed in black letters the Republican catchword of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death." Évariste Gamelin made his way into the nave; the same vaults which had heard the surpliced clerks of the Congregation of St. Paul sing the divine offices, now looked down on red-capped patriots assembled to elect the Municipal magistrates and deliberate on the affairs of the Section. The Saints had been dragged from their niches and replaced by the busts of Brutus, Jean-Jacques and Le Peltier. The altar had been stripped bare and was surmounted by the Table of the Rights of Man.
It was here in the nave that twice a week, from five in the evening to eleven, were held the public assemblies. The pulpit, decorated with the colours of the Nation, served as tribune for the speakers who harangued the meeting. Opposite, on the Epistle side, rose a platform of rough planks, for the accommodation of the women and children, who attended these gatherings in considerable numbers.
On this particular morning, facing a desk planted underneath the pulpit, sat in red cap andcarmagnole complete the joiner from the Place Thionville, the citoyen Dupont senior, one of the twelve forming the Committee of Surveillance. On the desk stood a bottle and glasses, an ink-horn, and a folio containing the text of the petition urging the Convention to expel from its bosom the twenty-two members deemed unworthy.
A few Frenchmen, united in friendship, who were spending the spring in Rome, were wont to meet amid the ruins of the disinterred Forum. They were Joséphin Leclerc, an Embassy Attaché on leave; M. Goubin, licencié ès lettres, an annotator; Nicole Langelier, of the old Parisian family of the Langeliers, printers and classical scholars; Jean Boilly, a civil engineer, and Hippolyte Dufresne, a man of leisure, and a lover of the fine arts.
Towards five o’clock of the afternoon of the first day of May, they wended their way, as was their custom, through the northern door, closed to the public, where Commendatore Boni, who superintended the excavations, welcomed them with quiet amenity, and led them to the threshold of his house of wood nestling in the shadow of laurel bushes, privet hedges and cytisus, and rising above the vast trench, dug down to the depth of the ancient Forum, in the cattle market of pontifical Rome.
Here, they pause awhile, and look about them.
Facing them rise the truncated shafts of the Columnæ Honorariæ, and where stood the Basilica of Julia, the eye rested on what bore the semblance of a huge draughts-board and its draughts. Further south, the three columns of the Temple of the Dioscuri cleave the azure of the skies with their blue-tinted volutes. On their right, surmounting the dilapidated Arch of Septimus Severus, the tall columns of the Temple of Saturn, the dwellings of Christian Rome, and the Women’s Hospital display in tiers, their facings yellower and muddier than the waters of the Tiber. To their left stands the Palatine flanked by huge red arches and crowned with evergreen oaks. At their feet, from hill to hill, among the flagstones of the Via Sacra, narrow as a village street, spring from the earth an agglomeration of brick walls and marble foundations, the remains of buildings which dotted the Forum in the days of Rome’s strength. Trefoil, oats, and the grasses of the field which the wind has sown on their lowered tops, have covered them with a rustic roof illumined by the crimson poppies. A mass of débris, of crumbling entablatures, a multitude of pillars and altars, an entanglement of steps and enclosing walls: all this indeed not stunted but of a serried vastness and within limits.
THE BARD OF KYME
Along the hill-side he came, following a path which skirted the sea. His forehead was bare, deeply furrowed and bound by a fillet of red wool. The sea-breeze blew his white locks over his temples and pressed the fleece of a snow-white beard against his chin. His tunic and his feet were the colour of the roads which he had trodden for so many years. A roughly made lyre hung at his side. He was known as the Aged One, and also as the Bard. Yet another name was given him by the children to whom he taught poetry and music, and many called him the Blind One, because his eyes, dim with age, were overhung by swollen lids, reddened by the smoke of the hearths beside which he was wont to sit when he sang. But his was no eternal night, and he was said to see things invisible to other men. For three generations he had been wandering ceaselessly to and fro. And now, having sung all day to a King of Ægea, he was returning to his home, the roof of which he could already see smoking in the distance; for now, after walking all night without a halt for fear of being overtaken by the heat of the day, in the clear light of the dawn he could see the white Kyme, his birthplace. With his dog at his side, leaning on his crooked staff, he walked with slow steps, his body upright, his head held high because of the steepness of the way leading down into the narrow valley and because he was still vigorous in his age. The sun, rising over the mountains of Asia, shed a rosy light over the fleecy clouds and the hill-sides of the islands that studded the sea. The coast-line glistened. But the hills that stretched away eastward, crowned with mastic and terebinth, lay still in the freshness and the shadow of night.
The Aged One measured along the incline the length of twelve times twelve lances and found, on the left, between the flanks of twin rocks, the narrow entrance to a sacred wood. There, on the brink of a spring, rose an altar of unhewn stones....
J'ai recueilli avec z�le les propos de mon bon ma”tre, M. l'abbŽ JŽr™me Coignard, qui pŽrit comme je viens de le dire. C'Žtait un homme plein de science et de piŽtŽ. S'il avait eu l'‰me moins inqui�te, il aurait ŽgalŽ en vertu M. l'abbŽ Rollin, qu'il surpassait de beaucoup par l'Žtendue du savoir et la profondeur de l'intelligence. Il eut du moins, dans les agitations d'une vie troublŽe, l'avantage sur M. Rollin de ne point tomber dans le jansŽnisme. Car la soliditŽ de son esprit ne se laissait point Žbranler par la violence des doctrines tŽmŽraires, et je puis attester devant Dieu la puretŽ de sa foi. Il avait une grande connaissance du monde, acquise dans la frŽquentation de toutes sortes de compagnies. Cette expŽrience l'aurait beaucoup servi dans les histoires romaines qu'il aurait sans doute composŽes, ˆ l'exemple de M. Rollin, si le loisir et le temps ne lui eussent fait dŽfaut, et si sa vie ežt ŽtŽ mieux assortie ˆ son gŽnie. Ce que je rapporterai d'un si excellent homme fera l'ornement de ces mŽmoires. Et comme Aulu-Gelle, qui confŽra les plus beaux endroits des philosophes en ses Nuits attiques, comme ApulŽe, qui mit dans sa MŽtamorphose les meilleures fables des Grecs, je me donne un travail d'abeille et je veux recueillir un miel exquis. Je ne saurais nŽanmoins me flatter au point de me croire l'Žmule de ces deux grands auteurs, puisque c'est uniquement dans les propres souvenirs de ma vie et non dans d'abondantes lectures, que je puise toutes mes richesses. Ce que je fournis de mon propre fonds c'est la bonne foi. Si jamais quelque curieux lit mes mŽmoires, il reconna”tra qu'une ‰me candide pouvait seule s'exprimer dans un langage si simple et si uni. J'ai toujours passŽ pour tr�s na•f dans les compagnies o� j'ai vŽcu. Cet Žcrit ne peut que continuer cette opinion apr�s ma mort.
Monsieur Bergeret was seated at table taking his frugal evening meal. Riquet lay at his feet on a tapestry cushion. Riquet had a religious soul; he rendered divine honours to mankind. He regarded his master as very good and very great. But it was chiefly when he saw him at table that he realized the sovereign greatness and goodness of Monsieur Bergeret.
If, to Riquet, all things pertaining to food were precious and impressive, those pertaining to the food of man were sacred. He venerated the dining-room as a temple, the table as an altar. During meals he kept his place at his master’s feet, in silence and immobility.
“It’s a spring chicken,” said old Angélique as she placed the dish upon the table.
“Good. Be kind enough to carve it, then,” said Monsieur Bergeret, who was a poor hand with weapons and quite hopeless as a carver.
“Willingly,” said Angélique, “but carving isn’t woman’s work, it’s the gentlemen who ought to carve poultry.”
“I don’t know how to carve.”
“Monsieur ought to know.”
This dialogue was by no means new. Angélique and her master exchanged similar remarks every time that game or poultry came to the table. It was not flippantly, it was certainly not to save herself trouble, that the old servant persisted in offering her master the carving-knife as a token of the respect which was due to him. In the peasant class from which she had sprung and also in the little middle-class households where she had been in service, it was a tradition that it was the master’s duty to carve. The faithful old soul’s respect for tradition was profound. She did not think it right that Monsieur Bergeret should fall short of it, that he should delegate to her the performance of so authoritative a function, that he should fail to carve at his own table, since he was not grand enough to employ a butler to do it for him, like the Brécés, the Bonmonts and other such folk in town or country. She knew the obligations which honour imposes on a citizen who dines at home, and she never failed to impress them upon Monsieur Bergeret.
* Beautifully illustrated with images relating to France’s life and works
* Concise introductions to the novels and other texts
* ALL 16 novels, with individual contents tables
* Images of how the books were first published, giving your eReader a taste of the original texts
* All the novels, including all four volumes of A CHRONICLE OF OUR OWN TIMES, available in no other collection
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* All the shorter fiction, with rare tales appearing here for the first time in digital print
* Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the poetry and the short stories
* Easily locate the poems or short stories you want to read
* Includes France’s seminal historical study of Joan of Arc
* Special criticism section, with 8 essays and articles evaluating France’s contribution to literature
* Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genres
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THE CRIME OF SYLVESTRE BONNARD
THE ASPIRATIONS OF JEAN SERVIEN
AT THE SIGN OF THE REINE PÉDAUQUE
THE OPINIONS OF JEROME COIGNARD
THE RED LILY
A CHRONICLE OF OUR OWN TIMES I: THE ELM-TREE ON THE MALL
A CHRONICLE OF OUR OWN TIMES II: THE WICKER-WORK WOMAN
A CHRONICLE OF OUR OWN TIMES III: THE AMETHYST RING
A CHRONICLE OF OUR OWN TIMES IV: MONSIEUR BERGERET IN PARIS
A MUMMER’S TALE
THE WHITE STONE
THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS
The Shorter Fiction
JOCASTA AND THE FAMISHED CAT
BALTHASAR AND OTHER WORKS
MOTHER OF PEARL
THE WELL OF SAINT CLARE
CRAINQUEBILLE, PUTOIS, RIQUET AND OTHER PROFITABLE TALES
THE MERRIE TALES OF JACQUES TOURNEBROCHE
THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD AND OTHER MARVELLOUS TALES
CHILD LIFE IN TOWN AND COUNTRY
The Short Stories
LIST OF SHORT STORIES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
LIST OF SHORT STORIES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
THE COMEDY OF A MAN WHO MARRIED A DUMB WIFE
COME WHAT MAY
LIST OF POETICAL WORKS
THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
ANATOLE FRANCE — 1904 by Joseph Conrad
ANATOLE FRANCE by Arnold Bennett
HOMAGE TO ANATOLE FRANCE by John Galsworthy
ANATOLE FRANCE by John Cowper Powys
ANATOLE FRANCE by Robert Lynd
THE WISDOM OF ANATOLE FRANCE by John Middleton Murry
ANATOLE FRANCE by George Brandes
ANATOLE FRANCE by Winifred Stephens
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This valley, two or three miles broad, stretches unbroken between low hills, softly undulating, crowned with oaks, maples, and birches. Although strewn with wild-flowers in the spring, it looks severe, grave, and sometimes even sad. The green grass imparts to it a monotony like that of stagnant water. Even on fine days one is conscious of a hard, cold climate. The sky seems more genial than the earth. It beams upon it with a tearful smile; it constitutes all the movement, the grace, the exquisite charm of this delicate tranquil landscape. Then when winter comes the sky merges with the earth in a kind of chaos. Fogs come down thick and clinging. The white light mists, which in summer veil the bottom of the valley, give place to thick clouds and dark moving mountains, but slowly scattered by a red, cold sun. Wanderers ranging the uplands in the early morning might dream with the mystics in their ecstasy that they are walking on clouds.
Thus, after having passed on the left the wooded plateau, from the height of which the ch‰teau of BourlŽmont dominates the valley of the Saonelle, and on the right Coussey with its old church, the winding river flows between le Bois Chesnu on the west and the hill of Julien on the east. Then on it goes, passing the adjacent villages of Domremy and Greux on the west bank and separating Greux from Maxey-sur-Meuse. Among other hamlets nestling in the hollows of the hills or rising on the high ground, it passes Burey-la-C™te, Maxey-sur-Vaise, and Burey-en-Vaux, and flows on to water the beautiful meadows of Vaucouleurs.
In this little village of Domremy, situated at least seven and a half miles further down the river than Neufch‰teau and twelve and a half above Vaucouleurs, there was born, about the year 1410 or 1412, a girl who was destined to live a remarkable life. She was born poor. Her father, Jacques or Jacquot d'Arc, a native of the village of Ceffonds in Champagne, was a small farmer and himself drove his horses at the plough. His neighbours, men and women alike, held him to be a good Christian and an industrious workman. His wife came from Vouthon, a village nearly four miles northwest of Domremy, beyond the woods of Greux. Her name being Isabelle or Zabillet, she received at some time, exactly when is uncertain, the surname of RomŽe. That name was given to those who had been to Rome or on some other important pilgrimage; and it is possible that Isabelle may have acquired her name of RomŽe by assuming the pilgrim's shell and staff. One of her brothers was a parish priest, another a tiler; she had a nephew who was a carpenter. She had already borne her husband three children: Jacques or Jacquemin, Catherine, and Jean.
M. Bergeret was preparing his lesson on the eighth book of the ®neid, and he ought to have been devoting himself exclusively to the fascinating details of metre and language. In this task he would have found, if not joy, at any rate mental peace and the priceless balm of spiritual tranquillity. Instead, he had turned his thoughts in another direction: he was musing on the soul, the genius, the outward features of that classic world whose books he spent his life in studying. He had given himself up to the longing to behold with his own eyes those golden shores, that azure sea, those rose-hued mountains, those lovely meadows through which the poet leads his heroes. He was bemoaning himself bitterly that it had never been his lot to visit the shores where once Troy stood, to gaze on the landscape of Virgil, to breathe the air of Italy, of Greece and holy Asia, as Gaston Boissier and Gaston Deschamps had done. The melancholy aspect of his study overwhelmed him and great waves of misery submerged his mind. His sadness was, of course, the fruit of his own folly, for all our real sorrows come from within and are self-caused. We mistakenly believe that they come from outside, but we create them within ourselves from our own personality.
From the moment they met as young children, Bee and George have been bound together by a deep love. But when George goes off on a quest to a forbidden lake, home to dangerous water nymphs, it is up to Bee to rescue him. On her adventure she meets Loc, the king of the dwarfs, who proves to be more kind and generous than the humans she knows. Even as he showers her with riches in an attempt to make her stay, Bee never loses sight of her purpose: finding George. She will do anything to get him back.
A fairy tale for all ages, Bee: The Princess of the Dwarfs is a classic that has delighted children and adults alike for more than a century with its ebullient characters and wondrous worlds.
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