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Daudet, Alphonse / Letters from my Windmill
Produced by Mireille Harmelin and Keith Adams








LETTERS FROM MY WINDMILL

BY

ALPHONSE DAUDET


Translated for Project by Mireille Harmelin & Keith Adams
©2009




CONTENTS

1. Foreword.

2. First Impressions.

3. The Coach from Beaucaire.

4. Master-Miller Cornille's Secret.

5. Monsieur Seguin's Last Kid Goat.

6. The Stars.

7. The Arlesienne.

8. The Pope's Mule.

9. The Lighthouse on the _Sanguinaires_.

10. The Wreck of the _Sémillante_

11. The Customs' Men.

12. The Cucugnanian Priest.

13. The Old Folks.

14. Prose Ballads
I--Death of the Dauphin.
II--The Sub-Prefect Takes A Day Off.

15. Bixiou's Wallet.

16. The Man with the Golden Brain.

17. The Poet, Frédéric Mistral.

18. The Three Low Masses.

19. The Oranges.

20. The Two Inns.

21. At Milianah.

22. The Locusts.

23. Father Gaucher's Elixir.

24. In the Camargue.

25. Nostalgia for the Barracks and Paris.




FOREWORD

As witnessed by Master Honorat Grapazi, lawyer at the residence of
Pampérigouste.

"As summoned

"Mr Gaspard Mitifio, husband of Vivette Cornille, tenant at the place
called _Les Cigalières_ and resident there.

"Who herewith has sold and transferred under guarantee by law and deed
and free of all debts, privileges and mortgages,

"To Mr Alphonse Daudet, poet, living in Paris, here present and
accepting it.

"A windmill and flourmill, located in the Rhône valley, in the heart of
Provence, on a wooded hillside of pines and green oaks; being the said
windmill, abandoned for over twenty years, and not viable for grinding,
as it appears that wild vines, moss, rosemary, and other parasitic
greenery are climbing up to the sails;

"Notwithstanding the condition it is in and performs, with its grinding
wheel broken, its platform brickwork grown through with grass, this
affirms that the Mr Daudet finds the said windmill to his liking and
able to serve as a workplace for his poetry, and accepts it whatever
the risk and danger, and without any recourse to the vendor for any
repairs needing to be made thereto.

"This sale has taken place outright for the agreed price, that the Mr
Daudet, poet, has put and deposed as a type of payment, which price has
been redeemed and received by the Mr Mitifio, all the foregoing having
been seen by the lawyers and the undersigned witnesses, whose bills are
to be confirmed.

"Deed made at Pampérigouste, in Honorat's office, in the presence of
Francet Mamaï, fife player, and of Louiset, known as Quique, crucifix
carrier for the white penitents;

"Who have signed, together with the parties above and the lawyer after
reading it."




LETTERS FROM MY WINDMILL




FIRST IMPRESSIONS


I am not sure who was the more surprised when I arrived--me or the
rabbits.... The door had been bolted and barred for a long time, and
the walls and platform were overgrown with weeds; so, understandably,
the rabbits had come to the conclusion that millers were a dying breed.
They had found the place much to their liking, and felt fully entitled
to made the windmill their general and strategic headquarters. The
night I moved in, I tell you, there were over twenty of them, sprawled
around the apron, basking in the moonlight. When I opened a window, the
whole encampment scampered off, their white scuts bobbing up and down
until they had completely disappeared into the brush. I do hope they
come back, though.

Another much surprised resident was also not best comforted by my
arrival. It was the old, thoughtful, sinister-looking owl, a sitting
tenant for some twenty years. I found him stiff and motionless on his
roost of fallen plaster and tiles. He ran his large round eyes over me
briefly and then, probably much put out by the presence of a stranger,
he hooted, and painfully and carefully shook his dusty, grey
wings;--they ponder too much these owlish, thinking types and never
keep themselves clean ... it didn't matter! even with his blinking eyes
and his sullen expression, this particular occupant would suit me
better than most, and I immediately decided he was only too welcome to
stay. He stayed right there, just where he'd always been, at the very
top of the mill near his own personal roof entrance. Me--I settled down
below in a little, whitewashed, vaulted, and low-ceilinged room, much
like a nun's refectory.

* * * * *

I am writing to you from my windmill, with the door wide open to the
brilliant sunshine.

In front of me, a lovely, sparklingly lit, pine wood plunges down to
the bottom of the hill. The nearest mountains, the Alpilles, are far
away, their grand silhouettes pressing against the sky.... There was
hardly a sound to be heard; a fading fife, a curlew calling amongst the
lavender, and a tinkle of mules' bells from somewhere along the track.
The Provencal light really brings this beautiful landscape to life.

Don't you wonder, right now, if I am missing your black and bustling
Paris? Actually, I'm very contented in my windmill; it is just the sort
of warm, sweet-smelling spot I was looking for, a long, long way from
newspapers, hansom cabs, and all that fog!... Also, I am surrounded by
so many lovely things. My head is bursting with vivid memories and
wonderful impressions, after only eight days here. For instance,
yesterday evening, I saw the flocks of animals returning from the hills
to the farm (the _mas_), and I swear that I wouldn't swap this one
hillside wonder for a whole week's worth of _Premieres_ in Paris. Well,
I'll let you be the judge.

Here in Provence, it's normal practice to send the sheep into the
mountains when it's warm enough in the spring, and, for five or six
months, man and beast live together with nothing but the sky for a roof
and grass for a bed. When the first autumn chill is felt in the air,
they are brought back down to the _mas_, and they can graze comfortably
on the nearby rosemary-scented hills.... This annual delight, the
return of the flock, was accomplished last night. The double barn doors
had been left expectantly open since daybreak and the barn had already
been covered with fresh straw. There was occasional, excited
speculation about the flock's exact whereabouts; "Now they are in
Eyguières" or "They are in Paradou" was rumoured. Then suddenly,
towards evening, we heard a rousing shout of "Here they come" and we
could see the magnificent cloud of dust that heralded the approach of
the flock. As it continued along its way, it seemed to gather
everything into its path to join the great march home.... The old rams,
horns assertively pointing forward, lead the way, with the rest of the
sheep behind; the ewes looked tired out, with their new-born lambs
getting under their feet;--Mules bedecked with red pom-poms were
carrying day-old lambs in baskets and rocking them to sleep with a
gentle motion. Then came the breathless, overworked dogs, tongues
hanging out, in the company of two strapping shepherds in their red
serge, ground-hugging cloaks.

The whole parade filed merrily past before being swallowed up by the
open barn doors. They shuffled inside with a noise like a tropical
downpour.... You should have seen the turmoil inside. The huge, silken
tulle-crested, green and gold peacocks loudly trumpeted their welcome
as they recognised the new arrivals. The early-to-bed hens scattered
everywhere as they were woken up. All the pigeons, ducks, turkeys, and
guinea-fowl were running or flying wildly about. The whole poultry yard
was going absolutely mad!... You'd think that every single sheep had
brought back an intoxicating dose of wild mountain air in its fleece,
which had made all the other animals hopping mad.

In the midst of all this commotion, the flock somehow managed to settle
themselves in. You couldn't imagine anything more charming than this
homecoming. The old rams relaxed visibly at the sight of their home
farm, while the tiny lambs born during the descent looked all around in
astonished wonder.

But, it was the dogs that were the most touching, the gentle sheep
dogs, who had busily looked after their charges until they were all
safely back in the farm. The guard dog, barking from his kennel, did
his best to call them over, and the well-bucket, brimming over with
cool water, also competed to tempt them. But nothing, nothing could
distract them, at least not until the livestock were all safely inside
the pen, the small gate securely latched by its large bolt, and the
shepherds seated at the table of their low-ceilinged room. Only then
were they content to go to their dog pound, lap up their slop, and
spread the news to the other animals, of the adventures they had had in
the mountains--that mysterious world of wolves, and tall, purple
foxgloves brimming over with dew.




THE COACH FROM BEAUCAIRE


I took the coach from Beaucaire to get to my windmill. It was a good
old patache, a sort of rural coach, which, although it only made short
trips, dawdled so much that by the end of the day it had the wearied
air of having travelled a long way. There were five of us on top, plus
the driver of course.

There was a thick-set, hairy, and earthy-smelling Camargue Ranger, with
big, blood-shot eyes, and sporting silver earrings. There were two men
from Beaucaire, a baker and his dough mixer, ruddy and wheezy, as
befits their trade, but with the magnificent profiles of a roman
Emperor. Lastly there was this fellow; no, not a person, really, just a
cap. You were only aware of the cap ... an enormous rabbit-skin cap. He
said little, gazing miserably at the passing road.

These characters, well known to each other, were speaking very loudly,
and even more freely, about their personal business. The Ranger
announced that he was making for Nîmes in response to a Magistrate's
summons for pitch-forking a shepherd. They're hot-blooded, these
Camargue folk. As for the men from Beaucaire; they were at each others
throats about the Virgin Mary. It appears that the baker was from a
parish dedicated to the Madonna, known in Provence as the Holy Mother,
and always pictured carrying the baby Jesus in her arms. His
dough-mixer, on the other hand, was a lay-reader at a new church
dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, whose icon showed her with open
arms and illuminated hands. The way they treated each other and their
respective Madonnas, had to be seen to be believed:

--She's no more than a pretty girl, your "immaculate" lady!

--Well, you know what you can do with your Holy Mother!

--She was no better around Palestine than she should have been, yours!

--What about yours, the little minx! Who knows what she got up to. Only
St. Joseph can answer that.

You'd have thought we were on the docks in Naples. In truth, it only
needed the glint of a knife blade, I'm sure, to settle this fine
theological point once and for all; that is if the driver hadn't
intervened.

--Give us some peace. You and your Madonnas! he said laughingly, trying
to make light of the Beaucairian dispute: it's women's stuff, this, men
shouldn't get involved.

He cracked his whip, from his high perch, as if to emphasise to his
lack of religious conviction and to bring the others into line.

* * * * *

End of discussion. But the baker, having been stopped in full flow,
wanted to continue in the same vein, and turned his attention towards
the miserable cap, still morosely huddled in its corner, and quietly
sneered:

--You there, grinder, what about your wife? What side of the parish
border does she stand on?

It was as though it was meant to be a joke; the whole cart-load of them
erupted into uproarious laughter ... except the grinder himself, who
didn't react to the remark. This prompted the baker to turn towards me:

--You don't happen to know his wife do you, monsieur? Just as well;
she's a real queer fish; there can't be another one like her in
Beaucaire.

The increasing laughter left the grinder unmoved except for a whisper,
his eyes still downcast:

--Hush, baker.

But there was no stopping this interfering baker, and he warmed to his
theme:

--He's an idiot! No man of the world would complain about having wife
like that. There's never a dull moment when she's around! Think about
it! A really gorgeous girl, who every six months or so, ups sticks and
runs away, and, believe me, always has a pretty tale to tell when she
gets back ... that's the way it is ... a funny old menagerie, that one.
Work it out, monsieur, they hadn't even been hitched a year when she
breezed off to Spain with a chocolate merchant.

--The husband was inconsolable after that, sitting alone and drinking
and crying all the time like a man possessed. After a while, she
drifted back into the area, dressed like a Spaniard, complete with
tambourine. We all warned her:

--You'd better get lost, he'll kill you.

--Kill her indeed ... Oh yes, I should say so, they made it up
beautifully, she even taught him how to play the tambourine like a
Basque!

Once again the coach rocked with laughter. Once again, the grinder
still didn't budge, just murmured again:

--Hush, baker.

The baker ignored this plea and went on:

--You might think, after her return from Spain, monsieur, the little
beauty would keep herself to herself?. But oh no!... Her husband
accepted the situation again, so easily, it has to be said, that she
was at it again. After Spain, there was an army officer, then a sailor
from the Rhone, then a musician, then ... who knows?... What is
certain, is that, every time, it's the same French farce ... She
leaves, he cries; she comes back, he gets over it. You'd better believe
it, he's a long suffering cuckold that one. But you've got to admit,
she is a real good-looker, the little she-grinder; a piece fit for a
king, full of life, sweet as could be, and a lovely bit of stuff. To
top it all, she has a skin like alabaster and hazel eyes that always
seem to be smiling at men. My word, Paris, if you ever pass through
Beaucaire again....

--Oh do be quiet baker, I beg you..., the poor grinder went once again,
his voice beginning to break up.

Just then the diligence stopped at the Anglores farm. Here it was that
the two Beaucaire men got off, and believe me, I didn't try to stop
them. What a trouble-maker sort of baker he was; even when he was in
the farmyard, we could still hear him laughing.

* * * * *

With those two characters gone, the coach seemed empty. We'd dropped
the Camargue Ranger in Arles and the driver led the horses on foot from
there. Just the grinder and myself were left on top, each silent and
alone. It was very warm; the coach's leather hood was too hot to touch.
At times I could feel my head and eyelids getting heavy and tired, but
the unsettling yet placid plea of "Be quiet, I beg you." kept echoing
in my mind and wouldn't let me nod off. No rest for that poor soul
either. I could see, from behind, that his broad shoulders were
shaking, and his course, pale hand trembled on the back of the seat
like an old man's. He was crying....

--This is your place, Paris! the driver said pointing out my green
hillock with the tip of his whip, and there, like a huge butterfly on a
hump, was my windmill.

I hurried to dismount ... but as I passed by the grinder, I wanted to
get look at him under his cap before leaving. The unfortunate man
jerked his head back as if reading my mind, and fixed me with his eyes:

--Mark me well, friend, he mumbled, and if one day, you hear of a
tragedy in Beaucaire, you can say you know who did it.

He was a beaten, sad man with small, deep-set eyes; eyes that were
filled with tears. But the voice; the voice was full of hatred. Hatred
is the weak man's anger. If I were the she-grinder, I'd be very careful.




MASTER-MILLER CORNILLE'S SECRET


Francet Mamaï, an aging fife player, who occasionally passes the
evening hours drinking sweet wine with me, recently told me about a
little drama which unfolded in the village near my windmill some twenty
years ago. The fellow's tale was quite touching and I'll try to tell it
to you as I heard it.

For a moment, think of yourself sitting next to a flagon of
sweet-smelling wine, listening to the old fife player giving forth.

"Our land, my dear monsieur, hasn't always been the dead and alive
place it is today. In the old days, it was a great milling centre,
serving the farmers from many kilometres around, who brought their
wheat here to be ground into flour. The village was surrounded by hills
covered in windmills. On every side, above the pine trees, sails,
turning in the mistral, filled the landscape, and an assortment of
small, sack-laden donkeys trudged up and down the paths. Day after day
it was really good to hear the crack of the whips, the snap of the
sails, and the miller's men's prodding, "Gee-up".... On Sundays, we
used to go up to the windmills in droves, and the millers thanked us
with Muscat wine. The miller's wives looked as pretty as pictures with
their lace shawls and gold crosses. I took my fife, of course, and we
farandoled the night away. Those windmills, mark me, were the heart and
soul of our world.

"Then, some Parisians came up with the unfortunate idea of establishing
a new steam flour mill on the Tarascon Road. People soon began sending
their wheat to the factory and the poor wind-millers started to lose
their living. For a while they tried to fight back, but steam was the
coming thing, and it eventually finished them off. One by one, they had
to close down.... No more dear little donkeys; no more Muscat! and no
more farandoling!... The millers' wives were selling their gold crosses
to help make ends meet.... The mistral might just as well not have
bothered for all the turning the windmills did.... Then, one day, the
commune ordered the destruction of all the run-down windmills and the
land was used to plant vines and olive trees.

"Even during of all this demolition, one windmill had prevailed and
managed to keep going, and was still bravely turning on, right under
the mill factors' noses. It was Master-Miller Cornille's mill; yes,
this actual one we're chewing the fat in right now."

* * * * *

"Cornille was an old miller, who had lived and breathed flour for sixty
years, and loved his milling above all other things. The opening of the
factories had enraged him to distraction. For a whole week, he was
stirring up the locals in the village, and screaming that the mill
factories would poison the whole of Provence with their flour. "Don't
have anything to do with them," he said, "Those thieves use steam, the
devil's own wind, while I work with the very breath of God, the
tramontana and the mistral." He was using all manner of fine words in
praise of windmills. But nobody was listening.

"From then on, the raving old man just shut himself away in his
windmill and lived alone like a caged animal. He didn't even want
Vivette, his fifteen year old grand daughter, around. She only had her
grandfather to depend on since the death of her parents, so the poor
little thing had to earn her living from any farm needing help with the
harvest, the silk-worms, or the olive picking. And yet, her grandfather
still displayed all the signs of loving Vivette, and he would often
walk in the midday sun to see her in the farm where she was working,
and he would spend many hours watching her, and breaking his heart....

"People thought that the old miller was simply being miserly in sending
Vivette away. In their opinion, it was utterly shameful to let his
grand-daughter trail from farm to farm, running the risk that the
supervisors would bully and abuse her and that she would suffer all the
usual horrors of child labour. Cornille, who had once been respected,
now roamed the streets like a gypsy; bare-footed, with a hole in his
hat, and his breeches in shreds.... In fact, when he went to mass on
Sundays, we, his own generation, were ashamed of him, and he sensed
this to the point that he wouldn't come and sit in the front pews with
us. He always sat by the font at the back of the church with the parish
poor."

* * * * *

"There was something mysterious about Cornille's life. For some time,
nobody in the village had brought him any wheat, and yet his windmill's
sails kept on turning. In the evenings, the old miller could be seen on
the pathways, driving his flour-sack laden mule along.

--Good evening, Master-Miller Cornille! the peasants called over to
him; Everything alright, then?

--Oh yes, lads, the old fellow replied cheerily. Thank God, there's no
shortage of work for me."

"If you asked him where the work was coming from, he would put a finger
to his mouth and reply with great seriousness: "Keep it under your hat!
It's for export." You could never get anything more than that out of
him.

"You daren't even think about poking your nose inside the windmill.
Even little Vivette wouldn't go in there.

"The door was always shut when you passed by, the huge sails were
always turning, the old donkey was grazing on the mill's apron, and a
starved-looking cat was sunning itself on the windowsill, and eying you
viciously.

"All this gave it an air of mystery causing much gossip. Each person
had his own version of Cornille's secret, but the general view was that
there were more sacks of money than sacks of flour in the windmill.

"Eventually, though, everything was revealed. Listen to this:

"One day, playing my fife at the youngsters dance, I noticed that the
eldest of my boys and little Vivette had fallen in love. Deep down, I
was not sorry; after all, Cornille was a respected name in our village,
and then again, it had pleased me to see this pretty little bundle of
fluff, Vivette, skipping around the house. But, as our lovers had lots
of opportunities to be alone together, I wanted to put the affair on a
proper footing at once, for fear of accidents, so I went up to the
windmill to have a few words with her grandfather.... But, oh, the old
devil! You wouldn't credit the manner of his welcome! I couldn't get
him to open the door. I told him through the keyhole that my intentions
were good, and meanwhile, that damned starved-looking cat was spitting
like anything above my head.

"The old man cut me short and told me, unfairly, to get back to my
flute playing, and that if I was in such a hurry to marry off my boy,
I'd be better going to look for one of the factory girls. You can
imagine how much these words made my blood boil, but, wisely, I was
able to control myself, and left the old fool to his grinding. I went
back to tell the children of my disappointment. The poor lambs couldn't
believe it; and they asked me if they could go to speak to him. I
couldn't refuse, and in a flash, the lovers went. When they arrived,
Cornille had just left. The door was double locked, but he had left his
ladder outside. The children immediately went in through the window to
see what was inside this famous windmill....

"Amazingly, the milling room was empty. Not a single sack; not one
grain of wheat. Not the least trace of flour on the walls or in the
cobwebs. There wasn't even the good warm scent of crushed wheat which
permeates windmills. The grinding machinery was covered in dust, and
the starving cat was asleep on it.

"The room below had just the same air of misery and neglect: a pitiful
bed, a few rags, a piece of bread on a step of the stairs, and notably,
in one corner, three or four burst sacks with rubble and chalk spilling
out.

"So--that was Cornille's secret! It was this plaster that was being
moved by road in the evenings. All this, just to save the reputation of
the windmill, to make people believe that flour was still being milled
there. Poor windmill. Poor Cornille! The millers had finished the last
real work a long time ago. The sails turned on, but the millstone
didn't.

"The children returned tearfully and told me what they had seen. It
broke my heart to hear them. I ran round to the neighbours straight
away, explaining things very briefly, and we all agreed at once on what
to do, which was to carry all the wheat we could lay our hands on up to
Cornille's windmill. No sooner said than done. The whole village met up
on the way and we arrived with a procession of donkeys loaded up with
wheat, but this time the real thing.

"The windmill was open to the world.... In front of the door, crying,
head in hands, sat Cornille on a sack of plaster. He had only just come
back and noticed, that while he was away, his home had been invaded and
his pathetic secret exposed.

--Poor, poor me, he said. I might as well be dead ... the windmill has
been shamed.

"Then sobbing bitter tears, he tried to say all sorts of consoling
words to his windmill, as if it could hear him. Just then, the mules
arrived on the apron and we all began to shout loudly as in the good
old days of the millers:

--What ho there, in the windmill! What ho there, Monsieur Cornille!!

"And there they were, stacked together, sack upon sack of lovely golden
grain, some spilling over onto the ground all around....

"Cornille, his eyes wide open, took some of the wheat into the palms of
his old hands, crying and laughing at the same time:

--It's wheat! Dear Lord. Real wheat. Leave me to feast my eyes.

"Then, turning towards us, he said:

--I know why you've come back to me.... The mill factory owners are all
thieves.

"We wanted to lift him shoulder high and take him triumphantly to the
village:

--No, no my children, I must give my windmill something to go at first.
Think about it, for so long, it's had nothing to grind!

"We all had tears in our eyes as we saw the old man scampering from
sack to sack, and emptying them into the millstone and watching as the
fine flour was ground out onto the floor.

"It's fair to say that from then on, we never let the old miller run
short of work. Then, one morning Master-Miller Cornille died, and the
sails of our last working windmill turned for the very last time. Once
he had gone, no one took his place. What could we do, monsieur?
Everything comes to an end in this world, and we have to accept that
the time for windmills has gone, along with the days of the horse-drawn
barges on the Rhone, local parliaments, and floral jackets."




MONSIEUR SEGUIN'S LAST KID GOAT


_To Pierre Gringoire, lyrical poet, Paris._


You'll never get anywhere, Gringoire!

I can't believe it! A good newspaper in Paris offers you a job as a
critic and you have the brass neck to turn it down. Look at yourself,
old friend. Look at the holes in your doublet, your worn-out stockings,
and your pinched face which betrays your hunger. Look where your
passion for poetry has got you! See how much you have been valued for
your ten years writing for the gods. What price pride, after all?

Take the job, you idiot, become a critic! You'll get good money, you'll
have your reserved table in Brébant's, you will be seen at premieres,
and it will secure your reputation....

No? You don't want to? You prefer to stay as free as the air to the end
of your days. Very well then, listen to the story of _Monsieur Seguin's
last kid goat_. You'll see where hankering after your freedom gets you.

* * * * *

Monsieur Seguin never had much luck with his goats.

He lost them all, one after another, in the same way. One fine morning
they would break free from their tethers and scamper off up into the
mountain, where they were gobbled up by the big bad wolf. Neither their
master's care, nor the fear of the wolf, nor anything else could hold
them back. They were, or so it seemed, goats who wanted freedom and
open spaces whatever the cost.

Monsieur Seguin, who didn't understand his animals' ways, was dismayed.
He said:

--It's all over. Goats get fed up here; I haven't managed to keep a
single one of them.

But he hadn't totally lost heart, for even after losing six goats, he
still bought a seventh. This time he made sure to get it very young, so
she would settle down better.

Oh! Gringoire, she was really lovely, Monsieur Seguin's little kid
goat; with her gentle eyes, her goatee beard, her black shiny hooves,
her striped horns, and her long white fur, which made a fine greatcoat
for her! It was nearly as delightful as Esmeralda's kid goat. Do you
remember her, Gringoire? And then again, she was affectionate and
docile, holding still while she was milked, never putting her foot in
the bowl. A lovely, a dear little goat....

There was a hawthorn enclosure behind Monsieur Seguin's house where he
placed his new boarder. He tied her to a stake in the finest part of
the field, taking care that she had plenty of rope, and often went out
to see how she was faring. The goat appeared to be very happy and was
grazing heartily on the grass, which delighted Monsieur Seguin.

--At last, triumphed the poor man, this one isn't getting bored here!

Monsieur Seguin was wrong; his goat was becoming very bored.

* * * * *

One day, looking over towards the mountain, she remarked:

--How great it must be up there! How lovely to gambol on the heath
without this rope tether that chafes my neck. It's alright for an ox or
a donkey to graze all cooped up, but we goats should be able to roam
free.

From then on, she found the grass in the enclosure bland. Boredom
overcame her. She lost weight and her milk all but dried up. It was
pitiful to see her pulling at her tether all day, with her head turned
towards the mountain, nostrils flared, and bleating sadly.

Monsieur Seguin noticed that there was something wrong with her, but he
couldn't work out what it was. One morning, as he finished milking her,
she turned towards him and said to him, in her own way:

--Listen Monsieur Seguin. I am pining away here, let me go into the
mountain.

--Oh my God. Not you as well! screamed Monsieur Seguin, dropping his
bowl, stupefied. Then, sitting down in the grass beside his goat he
added:

--So, my Blanquette, you want to leave me!

Blanquette replied:

--Yes, Monsieur Seguin.

--Are you short of grass here?

--Oh, no, Monsieur Seguin.

--Perhaps your tether is too short, shall I lengthen it?

--It-s not worth your while, Monsieur Seguin.

--Well then, what do you need, what do you want?

-I want to go up into the mountain, Monsieur Seguin.

--But, my poor dear, don't you realise that there is a big bad wolf on
the mountain? What will you do when he turns up.

--I will butt him, Monsieur Seguin.

--The big bad wolf doesn't give a fig for your horns. He's eaten many a
kid goat with bigger horns than yours. Have you thought about poor old
Renaude who was here only last year? She was really strong and wilful,
she was; more like a billy-goat. She fought off the wolf all night. In
the morning the wolf still ate her, though.

--Poor, poor Renaude! But that doesn't alter anything, Monsieur Seguin,
let me go into the mountain.

--Goodness!..., he said; What am I to do with these goats of mine? Yet
another one for the wolf's belly. Well, I'm not going to have it, I
will save you despite yourself, you rascal, and to avoid the risk of
your breaking loose, I am going to lock you in the cowshed and you will
stay there.

Without further ado, Monsieur Seguin carried the goat into the pitch
blackness of the cowshed and locked and bolted the door. Unfortunately,
he had forgotten to shut the window, and he had hardly turned his back
when she got free.

Are you laughing, Gringoire? Heavens! I'm quite sure you are on the
goats' side, and not Monsieur Seguin's. We'll see if you manage to keep
laughing.

There was general delight when the white goat arrived on the mountain.
The old fir trees had never seen anything nearly so lovely. She was
received like a queen. The chestnut trees bowed down to the ground to
stroke her with the tips of their leaves. The brooms opened up the way
for her and brushed against her as best they could. The whole
mountainside celebrated her arrival.

So, Gringoire, imagine how happy our goat was! No more tether ... no
more stake ... nothing to prevent her from going where she wanted and
nibbling at anything she liked. Hereabouts, there was lots of grass;
she was up to her horns in it, my friend. And what grass! Delicious,
fine, feathery, and dense, so much better than that in the enclosure.
And then there were the flowers!... Huge bluebells; purple,
long-stemmed foxgloves; a whole forest full of wild blooms brimming
over with heady sap.

The white goat, half-drunk, wallowed in it, and with her legs flailing
in the air, rolled along the bank all over the place on the fallen
leaves in amongst the chestnut trees. Then, quite suddenly, she jumped
confidently onto her feet. Off she went, heedlessly going forward
through the clumps of boxwood and brooms; she went everywhere; up hill,
and down dale. You would have thought that there were loads of Monsieur
Seguin's goats on the mountain.

Clearly, Blanquette was not frightened of anything. In one leap, she
covered some large torrential streams, which burst over her in a
soaking mist. Then, dripping wet, she stretched herself out on a flat
rock and dried herself in the sun. Once, approaching the edge of a
drop, a laburnum flower in her mouth, she noticed Monsieur Seguin's
house and the enclosure far down on the plain. It made her laugh till
the tears came.

--How small it all is! she said; how did I manage to put up with it?

Poor little thing, finding herself so high up, she believed herself to
be on top of the world.

Overall, it was a jolly good day for Monsieur Seguin's kid goat. About
midday, scampering all over the place, she chanced upon a herd of
chamois munching on wild vines with some relish. Our little minx in a
white dress was an absolute sensation. All these gentlemanly bucks made
way for her so she could have the very best of the vines.... It even
seemed--and this is for your ears only Gringoire--that one of the black
coated young chamois caught Blanquette's eye. The two lovers got lost
in the trees for an hour or two, and if you want to know what they said
to one another, go and ask the babbling brooks who meander unseen in
the moss.

* * * * *

Suddenly, the wind freshened; the mountain turned violet; and evening
fell....

--Already!, said the little kid goat, and stopped in astonishment.

In the valley, the fields were shrouded in mist. Monsieur Seguin's
enclosure was hidden in the fog, and nothing could be seen of the house
except the roof and a faint trace of smoke. She heard the bells of a
flock of sheep returning home and began to feel very melancholy. A
returning falcon just missed her with his wings as he passed over. She
winced.... Then there was a howl on the mountain.

Now, the silly nanny thought about the big bad wolf; having not once
done it all day. At the same time, a horn sounded far away in the
valley. It was Monsieur Seguin making one last effort.

The wolf howled again.

--Come home! Come home! cried the horn.

Blanquette wanted to; but then, she remembered the stake, and the rope,
and the hedged enclosure; and she thought that now she couldn't
possibly get used to all that lot again, and it was better to stay put.

The horn went silent....

She heard a noise in the leaves behind her. She turned round and there
in the shade she saw two short, pricked-up ears and two shining
eyes.... It was the big, bad wolf.

* * * * *

Huge and motionless, there he was, sitting on his hindquarters, looking
at the little white goat and licking his chops. He knew full well that
he would eventually eat her, so he was in no hurry, and as she turned
away, he laughed maliciously:

--Ha! Ha! It's Monsieur Seguin's little kid goat! and he licked his
chops once again with his red tongue.

Blanquette felt all was lost. It only took a moment's thought about the
story of old Renaude, who became the wolf's meal after bravely fighting
all night, to convince her that perhaps it would have been better to
get it over with, and to let herself be eaten there and then.
Afterwards, thinking better of it, she squared up to the big bad wolf,
head down, horns ready, like the brave little kid goat of Monsieur
Seguin that she was ... not that she expected to kill him--goats don't
kill wolves--but just to see if she could last out as long as
Renaude....

As the big bad wolf drew near, she with her little horns set to into
the fray.

Oh! the brave little kid goat; how she went at it with such a great
heart. A dozen times, I'll swear, Gringoire, she forced the wolf back
to catch his breath. During these brief respites, she grabbed a blade
or two of the grass that she loved so much; then, still munching,
joined the battle again.... The whole night passed like this.
Occasionally, Monsieur Seguin's kid goat looked up at the twinkling
stars in the clear sky and said to herself:

--Oh dear, I hope I can last out till the morning....

One by one the stars faded away. Blanquette intensified her charges,
while the wolf replied with his teeth. The pale daylight appeared
gradually over the horizon. A cockerel crowed hoarsely from a farm
below.

--At last! said the poor animal, who was only waiting for the morning
to come so that she could die bravely, and she laid herself down on the
ground, her beautiful white fur stained with blood.

It was then, at last, that the wolf fell on the little goat and
devoured her.

* * * * *

Goodbye, Gringoire!

The story you have heard is not of my making. If you ever come to
Provence, our tenant farmers often tell you, of _M. Seguin's kid goat_,
who fought the big bad wolf all night before he ate her in the morning.

Think about it, Gringoire, _the big bad wolf ate her in the morning._




THE STARS

_A tale from a Provencal shepherd._


When I used to be in charge of the animals on the Luberon, I was in the
pasture for many weeks with my dog Labri and the flock without seeing
another living soul. Occasionally the hermit from Mont-de-l'Ure would
pass by looking for medicinal herbs, or I might see the blackened face
of a chimney sweep from Piémont. But these were simple folk, silenced
by the solitude, having lost the taste for chit-chat, and knowing
nothing of what was going on down in the villages and towns. So, I was
truly happy, when every fortnight I heard the bells on our farm's mule
which brought my provisions, and I saw the bright little face of the
farm boy, or the red hat of old aunty Norade appear over the hill. I
asked them for news from the village, the baptisms, marriages, and so
on. But what particularly interested me, was to know what was happening
to my master's daughter, Mademoiselle Stephanette, the loveliest thing
for fifty kilometres around. Without wishing to seem over-curious, I
managed to find out if she was going to village fetes and evening farm
gatherings, and if she still turned up with a new admirer every time.
If someone asked me how that concerned a poor mountain shepherd, I
would say that I was twenty years old and that Stephanette was the
loveliest thing I had seen in my whole life.

One Sunday, however, the fortnight's supplies were very late arriving.
In the morning, I had thought, "It's because of High Mass." Then about
midday, a big storm got up, which made me think that bad road
conditions had kept the mule from setting out. Then, just after three
o'clock, as the sky cleared and the wet mountain glistened in the
sunshine, I could hear the mule's bells above the sound of the dripping
leaves and the raging streams. To me they were as welcome, happy, and
lively as a peal of bells on Easter Day. But there was no little farm
boy or old aunty Norade at the head. It was ... you'll never guess ...
my heart's very own desire, friends! Stephanette in person, sitting
comfortably between the wicker baskets, her lovely face flushed by the
mountain air and the bracing storm.

Apparently, the young lad was ill and aunty Norade was on holiday at
her childrens' place. Stephanette told me all this as she got off the
mule, and explained that she was late because she had lost her way. But
to see her there in her Sunday best, with her ribbon of flowers, her
silk skirt and lace bodice; it looked more like she had just come from
a dance, rather than trying to find her way through the bushes.



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