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About The courier. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1894-1903 | View Entire Issue (Aug. 4, 1900)
THE LAST CLASS.
I Translated from the "Contes de Lundl" of
Alphonie Daudet y Katharine Mellck. )
That morning I was vary late starting
for school, and I ha'd a mighty fear of
being scolded, especially as M. Hamel
had said that he would question us on
participles, and I did not know the first
word. Of a sudden the idea possessed
me to aroid the class and steer my
course across the meadows.
The day was so hot, so bright!
Sounds of the black birds piping in
the edga of the woods, and, in the Rip
pert pastures, behind the saw-mill, the
Prussians drilling. All these concerned
ire a deal moro than the rule for parti
ciples. But I had force to resist, and I
ran very quickly toward school.
In passing the mayor's office, 1 saw
people stop near the little grating, be
fore placards. For ten yean it was
thence that had come all ill-tidinss.
battles lost, requisitions, orders of the
commanders, and I thought without
pausing, "What k it now?"
Then, as I crossed the place at a run,
the blacksmith, Wachter, who stood
there with his apprentice, reading, cried
"Don't hurry so much, little one. Tou
will get to school fast enough!"
I thought he was mocking me, and I
rushed all breathless into the little court
of M. Hamel.
Ordinarily, at the beginning of the
class, there was a great melee of sounds,
heard far into the street; desks opened,
closed; IessonB repeated very load, all
together, with ears closed fur concen
trated effort, and the great ruler of the
master smiting the tables.
"A little more quiet!"
I was counting upon all this commo
tion to gain my bench without notice;
but precisely that day was peaceful as a
Sunday morning. Through the open
window I saw my comrades, already
ranged in their places, and M, Hamel,
passing and repassing, with the terrible
iron ruler under his arm. It was neces
sary to open the door and enter in the
midst of that great calm. Think wheth
er I reddened, and whether I was afraid.
Ah, but no. M. Hamel looks at me
without anger, and says, very gently,
"Go quickly to your place, little
Franz. We were about to commence
I strode to the bench, and seated my
Belf instantly at my desk. Then, only, a
little relieved of my terror, 1 remarked
that our master had on his beautiful
green frock coat, his fine fluted frill, and
the cap of embroidered black silk, which
he wore only on days of inspection, or
distribution of prizes. Moreover, the
whole class had an air of something un
usual and solemn. But what most sur
prised me waa to see, at the end of the
room, upon the benches ordinarily
empty, some of the villagers, seated and
silent as we: the old Houser, with his
cocked hat, the ancient mayor, the post
man and yet others. Every one seemed
sad; and Houser had fetched an old
spelling book, gnawed at the edges,
which he held wide open on his knees.
with his great glasses laid across the
While I wondered at all this, M.
Hamel bad mounted to his chair, and in
the same gentle voice in which he had
saluted me, he said to u",
"My children, this is the last time that
I ahalfhear your class. The order has
come from Berlin to teach only German
in the schools of. Alsace and of Lorraine.
The new master arrives tomorrow. To
day is jour last lesson in French. I
pray you, be very attentive."
The words overwhelmed me. Ob, the
wretches! This, they had posted in the
My Jast lesson in French!
And I, who scarcely knew bow to
write! Then I waa never to know! It
must stop here. How I 'wished for the
time lost, the classes failed, to hunt
nests or glide over the Saar! My books
which just now I was finding so weari
some, so heavy to carry, my grammar,
my sacred history, seemed now old
friends whom it gave me pain to leave.
So with M. Hamel. The idea that he
was to depart, that I should see him no
more, made me forget punishment,
blows of the ruler.
It was in honor of this last class that
he wore his beautiful Sunday clothes,
and now I undersi&sd why these old
villagers are come to sit at the end of
the room. That seems to say that they
regret not having come oftener to this
school. That is a fashion of thankincr
our master for his forty years of good
service, and of rendering their duty to
the' fatherland which is going
I was there in my reflections when I
heard my name spoken. It was my
turn to recite. What would I not have
given to be able to give that famous
rule for participles, very loud, very clear,
without a fault; but I entangled myself
with the first words, and I remained
erect, bracing myself at my bench, heart
big, head not daring to lift. I heard M.
Hamel say to me:
"I shall not scold you, my little Franz.
You must be punished enough. See
what it is! Every day it is said, 'Bah, I
have time enongh. Tomorrow I shall
learn.' And then you bbc what comes.
Ah, that is the great unhappiness of our
Alsace, always to leave its learning till
tomorrow. Now those people are right
who say, 'How? You pretend to be
French, and you know not how to read
nor write your language!' In all this.
my poor Franz, it is not you who is most
to blame. We all have our due part of
reproach to make ourselves.
"Your parents have not cared too
much to see you instructed. They
loved better to see you work in the field
or the factory, to have a few boub the
more. L have I nothing to reproach
myself? Have I not often made you
water my garden, in place of working?
And when I wished to angle for trout,
have I hindered myself from dismissing
Then, from one thing to another M.
Hamel set himself to speak of the
French language, saying that it was the
most beautiful language in the world,
dearest, most compact; that it remained
to guard it among us, never to forget it,
because when a people falls into slavery,
so long as it keeps well its language, it
holds the key of its prison." Then he
took a grammar and read us our leEson.
1 waa astonished to see how I under
stood it All that he said seemed easy
easy. I believe that not onlv had I
never listened so well, but he had never
put B much of patience with his expla
nations. One would have Baid that be
fore going away, the poor man wished to
give us all his knowledge, to thrust it
all into our heads at a stroke.
The lesson ended, th writing was
reached. For this day M." Hamel had
prepared new copies after those he had
written, in beautiful, round hand:
France, Altace, France, Alsace. This
was like the little HagR which fluttered
all around .the class, hsnging from the
curtain rod of our desks. How everyone
wrote, and what silence! There was
heard only the grating of pens over the
paper. One moment, some May beetles
flew in; but no one noticed, not even the
very little ones, who set themselves to
trace their lines, with heart, a con
science, as if that were still French.
Over the roof of the school, the pigeons
cooed, very low, and I said to myself,
"Will they make those sing in Ger
man, those also?"
From time to time, when I lifted my
eyes from the page, I saw M. Hamel,
motionless in his chair, gazing at the'
objects about him as if he would carry
away in his look all the little school
room. Think! Forty years he hud been
there in the same place, his court yard
before him, and his class. Only the
benches, the desks, were shining and'
polished with use; the walnut trees of
the court had heightened; the hops
which he himself had planted, engar-"
landed tha windows now, even to the'
roof. What a heart-break that must be
for this poor man, to leave all these, and
to hear his sister, who came and went in
the chamber above, prepare to close
their trunks; for they were to leave to
morrow, to depart from the piovince for
ever. Nevertheless, he had courage to carry
the class to the end. After the writing,
we had the lesson in history; then the
little ones chanted together the "ba, be,'
bi,be,bu." Below, at the end of the
room, the old Houser had taken his
spectacles, and, holding his spelling
book in his two , hands,-he spelled the
words with them. One could see that
he also applied himself; hia voice trem--bled
with emotion, and it was so strange
to hea'r him, that we all longed to smile
and to sob. Ah! I remember that last
All at once the clock from the church
Bounded noon, then the Angelus. At -the
same instant the trumpets of the
Prussians, who were returning from ex
ercise, broke forth "under our windows.
M. Hamel arose, all pale, from his chair.
He had never seemed so grand.
"My friendB," he said; "my friends,
But something stifled him. He could :
not end the phrase. .
Then he turned to the table, took a
piece of crayon, and, summoning all his
force, wrote as large as he could,
"Vive la France!"
Then he remained there, his head lean
IN SUMMER DAYS.
If gcttin' mighty lonesome
Readin' these papers.
Wonder what Maryd say
To see 'em scattered
on the floor this way.
She used to get sarcastic,
- 'the first year
That we vac married; . .
said that 'men .
Could never figure out
to keep things clean,
And pestered women so;
She'd pick them up.
It made me feel real mean,
But, welL I never could
keep things just straight,
And here Pm goin'
at the same old gait
Wonder how the boys are,
and if Pet
Is over bein' freightened
at the "gweat bwon cow,"
Or if she tries to
catch the piggies yet,
And stuff 'em in a bird-cage.
FU go right now
-And feed that kitten:
ugly little beast
But she loves it
- -more'n she does me.
Wish "Gwand pop's" farm was nearer,
Pd get a. day off
and go down to see.
Awful still and lonesome
when all your folks are gone.
If it only wasn't Sunday
Pd get out and mow the lawn.
Blessed is the man wno has friends or
relatives of hospitable disposiion liv
ing in the country. Or perhaps I
DQouia say, messed are the man's chil-
lUBu neremainea mere, nisneaa lean '. ... ! maun can
ing against the wall, and without speak- dreD for it.iB they who reP the bene
ing, he made tnis sign with his hand: " Even if the man can visit for a
"It is ended. Go!" day or twi he gets nervous by the
third day and muBt get back to buai-
ness again, for "the country" is no
wonderland to him as it is to the chil
dren. His wife may haul him off to
camp somewhere in the mountains or
among the lakes, leaving the children
safeathome.andhe can enjoy himsalf
well enoughVif fishing is good. But a
simple outing in the country, on a real
farm where corn grows and cows are to
be driven home from pasture does not
mean much to grown-up boys. After a
man has exhausted talk of "prospec's"
with the man who follows the plow, and
has initiated the children into a few of
the mysteries of a new world, tryirg
with more or less success to be yourg
again, he feels impelled by some ob
scure reason to rush back to town
open up the house a trifle and mope
around, getting papers scattered in
every room in the house, oh, this is no
fairy-tale, eating miBcellaneouo mu.
at hotels, looking and feeling as forlorn
as an old bachelor, ne knows as no
one else that it verily is not good for
man to be alone.
At last they come home, the wife
halfreeted. half-tired. but willing to
pick up papers; the children brown as
berries and mottled with freckles, eager
to tell great stories of what they saw
, and what they know. There are chil
dren who early get the habit of takinir
things nonchalantly. They "Jiked it
purty well." But the typical town-bred
youngster, if he is given half a chance
wants to be on the farm in summer'
time, it is tne place or all
Hovey to Kipling.
Only a little while befpre his death,
Richard Hovey wrote for the Saturday
Evening Post the following lines ad
di eased to Mr. Kipling. They are now
printed for the first time:
TO BUD YARD KIPLING.
What need have you of praising? Could
Some lonely poet no one praises yet,
I would rather choose him,
that he might know
A fellow-craftsman knew
him, marked him, loved.
But you the whole world
praises you. What need
Have you of any speech I have to give ?
Yet for the craft s sake I must not be dumb ;
And for the crafts sake you will pardon me.
But I had rather meet you face to face,
And talk of other and indifferent thines.
And say no word of all that I would say
(Praise and thanksgiving
for your splendid song,
Praise and the pride of the
Empires of the Blood),
But leave you, silent, as we English do
And you would know, and
you would understand.
Mr. Brown Do you see that young
couple on the steps? They're engaged.
A fine pair!
at Vassar, and he took honors at Yale.
Sh$won the geology prize ". -""" i an places for
..... BUUU.V UD tuuwB mat better
.than his elders. I have seen children
wase ana lease to "no to rrron.
-Til tient sa langue.il Hint la cle
qui de set chainea le delivre."
YaJe Man And would'ybu really leave And th farm vnM k n.. . , pa ""
your happy home for me, lovey? ' when atlaet they reached it perh
Vassar Girl-Yes; for I love.youfrom many of us remember that stranee f!?
your head down to your shoea. Town ingot freedom and looseness from
Topics- ttfWe bonds which made us Bhou't
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