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FRENCH SCHOOL LIFE.
ASCOTT R. HOPE,
AUTHOR OF TEXTS FROM THE TIMES," A BOOK ABOUT BOYS," A BOOK ABOUT
DOMINIES," "STORIES OF SCHOOL LIFE," p STORIES ABOUT BOYS,
IY MY SCHOOLBOY FRIENDS," ETC.
"WILLIAM P. NIMMO.
TO TWO SCHOOLMASTERS,
W. M. B. AND E. A. E.,
IN REMEMBRANCE OF MANY KINDNESSES,
IS DEDICATED BY THEIR FORMER PUPIL AND
EVER ATTACHED FRIEND,
I. THE NEW MASTER 1
II. THE NEW BOY 127
III, THE NEW BOCE: 231
H HIS preface must be prefaced by an explanation
for which there is not fit place on the title
page, that the contents of this book are not wholly
original. I have availed myself in it of a license which
is more or less willingly granted to dramatists, and
in describing French school life have used the aid of
French writers, altering, expanding or curtailing the
materials I obtained from them with a freedom which
may appear bold on the part of a translator, though I
hope to show it to be justifiable under the circum-
stances. Thus, one of the tales which I now present
to English readers is almost entirely original; another
is almost wholly a translation; the third is an adapta-
tion in which most of the incidents are borrowed from
similar tales in French, and chiefly from one which is
well-known to all readers of the juvenile literature of
our neighbours across the Channel.
viii PREFA CE.
My first intention was honestly and simply to tran-
slate one or two descriptions of schoolboy life in
France as a companion volume to a certain book of
my own; but it proved difficult to find French books
of the kind which seemed suitable for translation.
In fact there are no such books in France. The only
book, so far as I know, which treats of schoolboy life
otherwise than incidentally is Eugene Nyon's 'Splen-
deur et Miseres d'un dictionnaire Grec,' and that is
almost half filled up with the hero's life after he has
left school. There is a singular coincidence between
the plan of the first part of this book and that of my
own 'Autobiography of a Latin Grammar;' so I may
be allowed to say that my book was published before
I had seen M. Eugene Nyon's way of treating the
It is not hard to guess why French literature has no
'Tom Brown' and 'Erics.' Doubtless the French in-
dulge in more sentiment about the happiness of boy-
hood and youth in the abstract, but as a matter of
fact a French schoolboy's life is much less enjoyable
than that of Master John Bull. The free air, the wise
liberty, the constitutional system of government which
PREFA CE. ix
with the happiest results become more and more char-
acteristics of our schools are little known in France,
where the rising generation is cribbed, cabined and
confined in a shameful way. School there is made
as much of a prison as possible; there boys, shut up
within dusty courts to sickening, driven in herds to
work long hours in white-washed schoolrooms, spied on,
usher-ridden, almost forced to deceit by constant re-
striction and punishment, with their spirits crushed or
soured, or unhealthily fettered by the most unnatural
system of discipline favoured under this paternal
government, are not likely to look back upon their
school days with much pride or pleasure. Hence,
though the French litterateurs may in the way of
business say occasional fine things about school and
boyhood, the feelings of reverence and gratitude which
would dictate such a book as 'Tom Brown' are al-
together unknown to them.
There is therefore, so far as I am aware, no French
book which wholly treats of school-life, and those in
which it is introduced would as a rule, if exactly
translated, be neither interesting nor edifying to an
audience of English boys. Not to speak of the
x PREFA CE.
exaggerated sentiment in which they abound, and the
difference between our ideas and those of our neigh-
bours upon certain points of reverence and propriety,
the tone and spirit of such tales would generally seem
objectionable in our eyes. We should find instead of
an honest sensible sympathy with the strength and
weakness of juvenile nature, an unnatural representa-
tion of rose-water virtues and brimstone vices ; instead
of the recommendation of a manly dutifulness, an
emotional impulsiveness would be glorified; the love
of honour and the horror of shame would be dwelt
upon more than that good old-fashioned motive the
fear of God; and the kindly feelings of the reader
would probably be appealed to in favour of some wax-
faced, curly-haired hero whose chief attraction would
be that sort of giddy generosity which 'is no more a
virtue than drunkenness,' and who is almost certain to
be engaged in struggling against the power of tyran-
nous masters, pastors, and teachers. French virtues
differ widely from our sound, solid, venerable catechism
duties, as we call them. The part of an English story
of school life which is as regularly recurring and as
certainly looked for as the altar at the end of a three
PREFA CE. xi
volumed novel, is where the naughty boy gets found
out, and is well thrashed, and stands it like a man, and
'never does it again.' In French stories of the kind
the principal feature is almost always an e'meute
among the boys against their masters, just as their
novels are generally flavoured by some act of re-
bellion against one of the commandments. Is not
this fact suggestive of the two different channels in
which the political history of the two nations flows,
unless there arise a Beales or a Bismarck powerful
enough to change its course ?
Without some such extraordinary incidents it would
be almost impossible to make an interesting tale out
of the dull round of tasks, punishments, 'recreations,'
which make up a French boy's school life, and the
miserable, dishonest, unmanly character, hating
authority and yet cringing to it, which is the result of
this system of government. I almost wish that in-
stead of writing a tale to amuse boys, I were trying to
open the eyes of the parents who believe that these
things are managed better in France, and send their
sons abroad for a cheap and 'enlightened' education.
It makes one angry to see a frank, honest, merry
xii PREFA CE.
English boy handed over to the mattres d'etude to be
made into -all persons who know what French
schools are, and what English schools are, will under-
stood what I mean; I do not speak from hearsay.
Have we not Blimber and Squeers at home, that we
should send our sons to be corrupted on the Continent?
And to think that we are called upon by certain
cosmopolitan philosophers who love every country but
their own, to change our schools after the lycee model.
There may be a great deal of intellectual business
done at these overgrown colleges, with their learned
professors, and vigilant mattres, and ingenious pun-
ishments, and clock-work arrangements, and new-
fashioned theories, but for the education, the real
training of a boy in the way he should go, give me
rather the most pig-headed old school in England,
birch, Latin verses, half-holidays and all.
We were talking of the scanty and unsatisfactory
accounts which Frenchmen, or more commonly French-
women, have given us of the joys and sorrows of boy-
hood. A single example of a story of the sort will
show why the word 'unsatisfactory' should be used.
There is a story called Le bon; etit diable, which is
PREFA CE. xiii
a great favourite among French youth. It reads to
me like a ridiculous farce suggested by the Dotheboy's
Hall scenes in Nicholas Nickleby. The scene is laid in
Scotland, probably from an idea that so far north
children are treated with even greater harshness than
in Yorkshire; the hero is Charles MacLance, an in-
interesting and very troublesome orphan, committed to
the care of Mademoiselle MacMiche, a parsimonious
and very severe aunt. The other chief characters are
Betty, a good-natured servant, who aids and abets
Charles in his tricks, and Juliette, a pious young lady
who gives him good advice when he is a boy, and of
course marries him when he becomes a man. Cela
va sans dire. The local colouring of the tale is worthy
of the author who has proclaimed the custom obtaining
among English husbands of getting rid of their wives
at Smithfield. We find Master Charles described and
delineated as attired in a singularly brief and wide kilt,
a garment which seems to be ascribed to the children
of the North on account of a custom of the country
hinted at in the sad tale of Alexander MacStinger.
Then, we have the aunt, who has all the notes of a
shrewd Free Church woman and rigid Sabbatarian, re-
xiv PREFA CE.
presented as a prey to a most superstitious dread of
fairies. And ajuge depaix or bailie of the town is in-
troduced to denounce the mysterious terrors of the
Scotch law against the wholesome terrors of the
domestic tawse. The book is full of still greater
absurdities, and has also passages which to our prudish
ideas are almost indecent. The character and con-
duct of Le bon petit diable may be inferred from his
name. A native of Gibraltar, from an imperfect
knowledge of the English language it is to be hoped,
once informed me that a lad whom I had employed
was the greatest blackguard on the rock-but a very
nice boy.' So our friend Charles has the two French
virtues of being bon and a diable, words which are by
no means equivalent to the ordinary English trans-
lations of them. The story opens with Charles coming
home late and being locked up in a cupboard. He
and his aunt's servant do their best to deceive and
worry the old lady, who in return shows herself to be
not a diable, but a very fiend. Charles gets whipped
and attempts to set the house on fire. Juliette con-
demns this extreme measure and succeeds in making
him more submissive to his aunt's disciplinary cruelties.
He discovers that this relative has not only robbed
him of the privilege of having his own sweet will but
of a fortune of many thousand francs. The bailie
appears as a deus ex machina to bring the old lady to
reason; she dies in the end, I think, and is kindly
tended by her ill-used nephew, now under the pious
influence of Juliette. An episode is the hero's career
at the school of 'Monsieur Old Nick,' where he proves
incorrigible and drives his brutal masters wild by his
audacity. Here one notices the difference between
English and French sentiment on such a subject. An
English moral writer wishing to glorify a juvenile hero
would be likely to put him in the position of suffering
with fortitude a punishment that he had not deserved;
but in a respectable French tale the sympathy of the
reader is sought by the cleverness with which a boy
escapes the consequences of wrongdoing. In the end
of course all comes right. The incorrigible Master
Charles becomes an excellent man; the bon is shown
to have grown in him and nothing is said about the
diablerie, or the bad habits which it may have fostered.
Then there is the ridiculous but inevitable termination
of the marriage with his female mentor, who, to make
the sentimentality more gracious, is represented as
blind and poor.
No one can accuse the present writer of praising
tyranny in matters educational, or being a friend to
'good-boyism;' but I think that a book of this sort
has an unhealthy effect on the minds of boys; and I
am glad that most of our writers for the young exhibit a
toneof feelingthat is more sensible and less sentimental;
more Christian, if perhaps less comic. This book is
by no means a mere burlesque. It professes to teach
a high moral lesson, and does teach it in vague words
of pious prettiness, and through unnatural pictures of
life and untruthful views of human nature.
In this attempt to excuse myself from the task of
literal translation, I have called a whole tale into the
witness box; but I could find a single word that would
say something to the purpose. Madame de Segur,
the prolific and popular authoress of the book just
mentioned, writes another story called 'Les Deux
Nigauds.' This is the story of two silly country child-
ren who pester their parents into allowing them to
visit Paris, and there behave very foolishly and get
tricked and laughed at, and made fun of for the benefit
of the readers and all the other characters. The
names of these nzgauds are Inzlocent and Simplicic.
Good words are apt to run a race to bad meanings;
but these words in our language seem to lag behind
their French equivalents.
I began this book before the late war was dreamt
of in even Mr. Zadkiel's philosophy, so it is in no
pharisaic or unkindly spirit towards our neighbours
that I would suggest our duty of thankfulness that-
as yet-cleverness is not glorified among us as the
one thing needful, and opposition to lawful authority
divine or human is not the favourite spice of romance,
and the passing glow of mere sentiment does not
stand above the religion of duty, and the names of the
powers of good and evil are not hourly jests upon our
In writing thus I feel as if the spirit of a Manners or
a Denison had passed into me; and yet I, too, name
myself a liberal, and have called out for educational-
yea, and parliamentary reform, as loudly as most
people. But I would fain join hands with a sort of
liberals who hate Le Bonnet Rouge, and tihe Nezu York
Slanderer, and Reynolds' Newspaper even more than
xviii PREFA CE.
tyranny. We know that educational reform is the
root of all reform, but we hope that no reformation
will affect our schools unless it be to make them more
characteristically national nurseries of reverence and
honour and manliness, and of true freedom that has
its strength in law, and sound knowledge the aim of
which is faith.
So much to explain why I neither claim the entire
laurels, such as they are, of an original author in this
sort, nor the inglorious immunity of a translator; and
furthermore to lift up my testimony against an educa-
tional superstition that I might otherwise be considered
to favour. My chief aim in the following pages has
been to amuse English boys by some account of their
Gallic brethren in misfortune.
A. R. H
THE NEW MASTER.
i- (-HERE is no need of going to Charing Cross
or Cannon Street, and there is nothing to
pay beyond the price of these pages, which will serve
as ticket for the whole journey. Come! I offer you
a ride on the magic broomstick which used to be the
chariot of witches, and now belongs only to writers of
stories. It is a far safer and speedier means of con-
veyance than any of your balloons. Don't be alarmed,
we shall be there in five minutes, and back by dinner-
time. I only ask you one thing-Have you a holiday
to-day ? If not, get along to your lessons, and we
will set out on our little trip another time. Off we
go! Over the smoky streets of London, over the
pleasant suburbs, over the green meadows and hop-
fields of Kent. In half a minute we have come
4 OLD CLO'.
within sight of the white cliffs of Dover, and now we
are crossing the Channel, and looking down on the
steamboats which are tumbling about in its white
waves. We can see the faces of the passengers, some
of them very pale and unhappy. But we are not in
the least sea-sick, and arrive quite fresh and gay on
the other side, and are once more flying over fields
and villages, now and then diversified by a dark
forest, or a shining river, or a grey town. Let us go
nearer the earth and look at these people who seem
like insects crawling over its surface. Ha! we are
surely not at home. The men wear blue blouses and
the women high caps, and look funny to our English
eyes. Who is that ferocious looking person with a
sword and a large cocked hat? Only a policeman,
my boys; and those little men in the less imposing
blue uniforms are soldiers, though they don't wear
the red coat familiar to your eyes. For we are in
France, as you may see by the red, white, and blue
tricolour flying on the walls of that castle, and may
hear by the acclamations of that crowd down there who
are shouting Vive la ripublique! or Vive le roi! is it ?
We are in France, and flying southward almost as
fast as the telegraph messages on the wires beneath
our feet. Shall we stop on the top of that mountain
OLD CL'. 5
for a little refreshment ? Scarcely necessary, for here
we are already at Lesmoulins, the provincial town to
which I have promised to conduct you. You have
just one moment to observe how it is situated in a
picturesque and fertile valley, between hills covered
with olive groves and vineyards, and at the spot where
two mountain streams join together and assume the dig-
nity and composure of a river,-one moment to take
in the blue outline of the mountains in the background,
-one moment to admire the clear cloudless sky,
which we do not so often see at home; and lo and
behold! here we are standing in the dusty market-
place, shaded on three sides by rows of tall poplar
Do you feel at all giddy and confused after your
rapid journey ? Everything around you looks strange
-the houses, the faces, the dresses of the people-
why! the smallest children are jabbering French a
great deal better than the cleverest boy in your school
could do. Never mind, your eyes and ears will soon
get accustomed to the change. It is only on the out-
side that things are different in one country and
another. All the nice things that you are so fond of
are to be found here, though they are called by strange
names,-balls and tarts, and apples and lesson-books
6 OLD CLO'.
and schools. Which would you rather be without?
Apples, of course!
It is not the season for apples just now, but depend
upon it that there are schoolmasters at Lesmoulins
almost all the year round. Do you see that tall
white barrack-looking building, surrounded by high
walls and spacious gravelled courts? These courts
are quiet enough just now, but in half an hour they
will be as full of noise and mirth as your own play-
ground at home. That building is what in England
would be called the Grammar-School of Lesmoulins;
but in France they are fonder of fine names than we
are, so they call it the College.
We will enter, if you please, and make our way
into one of the sales d'itude or schoolrooms, without
causing any commotion, for we are invisible, and
can see and hear everything without being heard'
or seen ourselves. It is very much like an English
schoolroom, you perceive, a dusty high room with
wire-grated windows. All round are desks at which
sit some twenty or thirty boys, every one dressed
in a uniform something like that of the new tele-
graph boys, only darker in colour, and ornamented
with red braid and bright buttons. At one end is
the higher desk of the master, who is charged with
OLD CLO'. 7
keeping order while the boys are preparing their
lessons. He is young, and seems unaccustomed to the
task, for he fidgets nervously about, and every now
and then calls out 'Silence! silence!' in a tone which
is half authoritative and half appealing. M. Habille
has indeed only entered upon his duties that day, and
already finds them very hard, though he has the best
intentions of fulfilling them patiently and faithfully.
By rights no word ought to bespoken during this hour;
but you see that mischievous looking boy, Gregoire
Mouge, leaning over to his neighbour and whispering-
I ne faut pas pioc/er'
But, I forgot, you cannot speak French yet, so I
will translate the French boys' talk into the pure
English in use among British schoolboys.
'There's no need to swot at your lessons, Raoul,'
was what Gregoire said. 'This new master seems a
regular muff. He wont bother us much.'
'If he is half as easy going as old Clermont was,
we shall have a fine time of it,' answered Raoul
Cousin, rolling up a piece of paper and shying it
across the room at his elder brother, Adolphe.
'Silence !' repeated M. Habille, looking suspiciously
towards him. 'If there is any more talking I must
really give you a pcnsum.'
8 OLD CLO'.
A pensum, be it known, is the French term for an
imposition, and at this threat our friends Raoul and
Gregoire looked very hard into their dictionaries, and
put on an air of great diligence. M. Habille was
hesitating whether he ought not to do more than
threaten them, when his attention was distracted to
A stout, good-natured looking boy was stealthily
drawing from his pocket a paper of sweets, and
nudging his next neighbour to get him to pass them
on to some one. But seeing M. Habille's eye fixed
upon him, he hastily put them back, and tried to
look innocent. It was too late.
'Bring me that,' said the master, rising from his
desk and coming towards him.
'Me, sir ?' said the boy in a tone of surprise.
"Yes. What is your name ?'
'Larousse,' said the purveyor of contraband wares,
very unwillingly handing over the packet.
'Do you not know, Larousse, that it is against rules
to bring bonbons into schools ? I must really punish
'It wasn't his fault,' cried another boy. 'I asked
him to bring them for me.'
OLD CLO'. 9
'My name is Deslandres,' observed the boy, saunter-
ing up to the master, and looking round, as if to say
to his schoolfellows,' See how I shall shut him up.'
Larousse, it must be explained, was a day-boarder
or demzi fensionznaire, who had, of course, an oppor-
tunity of acting as jackal or lion's provider to the
pensionnaizres closely confined to the college walls,
except for one day in the week. And Deslandres
was a sort of lion among the others-tall, good-look-
ing, brave, just the fellow whom boys look upon as a
hero. He was the leader of his class in play and
lessons and mischief, and it seemed a bold thing of
the new master to offend kim. So he thought at
least, and so thought his particular friend, Raoul
Cousin, who cast a glance of admiration on him, as
he stood in a careless attitude before the master, and
'My name is Deslandres. I asked Larousse to buy
me some bonbons. I often do.'
'It is against rule,' said M. Habille, putting the
captured goods into his desk, and trying to overawe
Deslandres by a look of sternness. 'You must be
Indeed !' said Deslandres.
'Write one hundred lines of Virgil, if you please.'
IO OLD CLO'.
'Is that all, monsieur?' asked Deslandres, deter-
mined to show the new master that he was a person
not to be intimidated.
'Write two hundred,' cried M. Habille, provoked
by his impertinence. 'Go to your seat.'
With the same air of indifference the boy walked
leisurely back to his desk, stopping on the way to
give Raoul a friendly pinch. All the class looked at
him with as much admiration as he could desire.
The question was peace or war with the new master,
and their champion had hurled down the gauntlet.
So poor M. Habille would have found it doubly
difficult to preserve order. Encouraged by the ex-
ample of Deslandres, his subjects began to show
signs of rebellion, and his heart sunk within him.
But luckily for him the hour of study was just at an
end, and the only disagreeable incident which had
time to happen before its close was the discovery
that Gregoire Mouge was reading the Petit Yourzna
pour rire, hid in the middle of his dictionary, for
which crime the master awarded him also a pensuz.
Immediately afterwards the bell rang, and the boys
rushed out into the playground, slamming their desks,
stamping, howling, and otherwise making as much
noise as they could.
OLD CLO'. II
Arrived in the playground, they gathered round
Deslandres, who, leaning against a tree, and with his
cap stuck on the back of his head, looked oracular,
and delivered his opinion thus-
He won't do.'
'The new pion!' said Gregoire. 'He is a beast.
He begins to punish the first day.'
'And when we were so good and well-behaved!'
cries Gerard Fabre, the wit of the class.
'He tries to be too strict,' was the opinion of
He must be taught better manners,' said Des-
Hush! speak of the wolf, and you'll see his tail,'
whispered Fabre, quoting a proverb familiar in Eng-
land under a slightly different form.
M. Habille was passing within three paces of the
group that was discussing him.
"Never mind. Who cares for him!' said Des-
landres, loud enough to be heard by the master, who
hurried on without taking any notice. 'Doesn't he
look like a cad? What an old coat he wears! I
wonder what gutter they picked him out of.'
M. Habille's coat was rather old, and Gerard Fabre was
struck with a bright idea. 'Let us call him Old Clo'.'
I2 OLD CLO'.
'Capital! That's the name for him,' cried the
rest, and so it was at once resolved that the newv
master was a despicable and unamiable character,
who was to be called Old Clo', and made as uncom-
fortable as possible.
Then M. Deslandres condescended to think of his
imposition. Writing out lines was the common punish-
ment at the college. For greater offences boys were
sent to the cac6iot or prison. Nothing so cruel as the
cane would be tolerated in such an establishment.
Boys are treated kin7,ly in France; but I am sure that
very few English boys, after one week's experience of
a French school, would not be glad to get back again
to an English one. Writing lines seems to be one of
the most silly and worrying and useless punishments
that was ever invented.
So thought the college boys of Lesmoulins, and
did all they could, not to keep out of scrapes, I fear,
but to make the consequences of being found out less
unpleasant. Naughty boys accustomed themselves to
scribble fast, often spoiling their handwriting for life,
had tricks, such as tying two or more pens together,
or were not above little dishonest dodges to shorten
these tasks. Good boys, who said their lessons well,
and pleased the masters, were able thus to gain
OLD CLO'. 13
'exemptions,' which were considered a legal tender
for impositions of such and such a length. There
were other ways of getting over the disagreeabilities
of this punishment. Larousse, for instance, the most
good-humoured and the most unlucky boy in the col-
lege, was almost always getting impositions, and was
almost never possessed of an exemption. But La-
rousse being a home boarder, could bring his pockets
full of cakes and apples, and other eatables, with which
he had no difficulty in hiring the services of skilful
scribes. For nothing more than a piece of bread and
butter he could generally have his impositions done;
and if not always, why there were such things as wet
holiday afternoons, when he and his brother could
make provision for a rainy day in another sense. Des-
landres had a simpler way of managing the matter.
He nearly always had one or more boys attached to
his royal person, whose duty was to write any lines
which it might graciously please his majesty to have
imposed on him. In like manner had the young
James VI. of Scotland a whipping boy, who, at the
hands of a relentless instructor, paid the daily penal-
ties of royal idleness. And in the fourth class of Les-
moulins college, Deslandres had more power than
ever any James had in Scotland.
I4 OLD CLO'.
When Raoul first came to school, this post of
favourite friend, scapegoat, jackal-whatever you
choose to call it-was filled by a boy called Bremier.
Raoul envied him. Deslandres was such a fine fellow,
-so daring, so haughty, so noble, so clever, and so
forth, that it seemed a pleasure and an honour even
to have a kick from him. But there was a great gulf
between the undistinguished new boy and the cock of
the class. For a time Raoul looked up to his hero
from a distance. His respectful admiration was no-
ticed and approved of, but it was long before Deslan-
dres gave any encouragement to the notion that they
might be friends. He was accustomed to being ad-
Chance threw them together one day. Deslandres
must needs shy stones at the sparrows on the roof pf
the bath-rooms, which was a high crime and misde-
meanour, according to the laws of the college. Be-
cause Deslandres did so, Raoul waxed bold and threw
a couple of stones on his own account. The small
court in which was committed this wicked action was
under the charge of an old cobbler, who, sitting in one
of the passages of the college, worked at his trade, and,
by means of a hole in the wall, kept an eye upon the
doings of the boys. There was no spot in the college
OLD CLO'. 15
where they could go without being commanded by
windows or peep-holes. When Deslandres broke the
rule about throwing stones, he was under the impres-
sion that the functionary just mentioned was not on
duty for the moment, but he found this to be a
mistake. The cobbler was at his post of observation,
and duly reported Deslandres and Raoul to the prin-
cipal. They were condemned to the table depenitence.
There were a table d'honzeur and a table depenitence
in the college dining-room. At the former, quiet,
industrious boys who had gained a certain number of
good marks sat in state, and had larger rations than
their less fortunate companions, and were treated
to an allowance of wine instead of the diluted liquor
known under the name of abundance. But at the
other table malefactors were regaled on dry bread
and water, and took it in turns to read aloud from
some instructive book, while the others eat their dinner
This was Raoul's first appearance at the table de
Penitence, and he felt somewhat shame-faced. But Des-
landres did not seem a bit disconcerted, and by way
of proving himself at his ease, he took to shying
pellets of bread at the boy who was reading for the
public benefit, thereby much embarrassing that func-
16 OLD CLO'.
tionary in the middle of a long paragraph full of hard
names from Greek history. In this amusement Des-
landres was detected by one of the masters, and the
usual sentence of a hundred lines was pronounced.
No shade of annoyance or confusion disturbed the
serenity of the culprit's face. He simply smiled and
shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, Do they think
to terrify me ?
And then Raoul broke out in an enthusiasm of
Oh, Deslandres, let me do the lines for you ?
At first Deslandres declined this offer. But he was
not very firm in his refusal-his friend Bremier was
laid up in the infirmary at that time-a hundred lines
would consume great part of a play-hour-it would
only be right to patronize a little this youngster whom
he had been the means of getting into a scrape-in
fine, when Raoul repeated his request, he was not
again repulsed, but was graciously permitted to write
for Deslandres that imposition, and many other im-
positions, and in the course of time became prime
favourite and chief lord-in-waiting, vice Bremier, found
guilty of lukewarmness in the service of his majesty.
Raoul was now happy. He had gained the object
of his dearest wishes, the privilege, not only of writing
OLD CLO'. 17
impositions for Deslandres, but of following him about
everywhere, and playing in the same games with him,
and sometimes being teased and cuffed a little by him
-for his highness, though not cruel, was rather im-
perious; and helping him to eat his tarts and bonbons
-for his worst enemies could not deny that he was
generous-and, moreover, of often getting into scrapes
with him, for M. Deslandres was idle and disobedient
and reckless. Hitherto Raoul had been quiet and
industrious, but now he changed for the worse, and
this was the sort of monthly report that began to be
sent home to his parents :-
BULLETIN DE COUSIN (2).
Appetit tres bon.
But Raoul didn't mind this so long as he was able
to call himself the friend of Deslandres.
We have wandered from the point. We had heard
how Deslandres had two hundred lines-wasn't it ?-
to write for M. Habille, and when I was led astray
into this long digression, I was just going to tell you
that Raoul offered to write them for him. But Des-
landres the Great, flushed with admiration for his own
18 OLD CLO'.
conduct in resisting the new master, was in a magna-
'No, thank you,' he replied to this proposal. 'But,
see here,' he added, 'we'll write them together. You
will do half and I will do half, and we shall soon have
it over. We can miss out every second line or so.
What's-his-name will never find out.'
Raoul thought this was most generous on the part
of his friend, and wrote half the lines with almost as
much pleasure as if they were a love-letter.
S we have seen, M. Habille's first day at the
college did not pass very pleasantly, and at
night he slept uncomfortably enough in his curtained
bed at the end of the large dortoir, which gave accom-
modation to thirty boys. He was afraid that they
would try to play tricks, and indeed there was a great
deal of tittering and whispering, which were offences
according to the rules of the school, but which he
found himself unable to prevent. Nothing more
serious called for his interference, however, and before
long his troublesome charges showed they were not
insensible to the blessings of sleep.
Next morning, at half-past five o'clock, a great bell
aroused the inhabitants of the college, and M. Habille
saw the boys dress and wash themselves by lamplight,
and then went out to spend the few minutes that re-
mained before the hour of study in walking about the
dark playground, and giving himself up to reflections
which were by no means cheerful ones. We have all
heard of the troubles of a new boy, thrown for the first
time among the rough customs and manners of a great
school; but there are certain circumstances in which
a new master is almost as much to be pitied.
Of course we know how respectful and obedient
and attentive all English schoolboys always are to all
their masters. Of course I do not for a moment cast
any doubt upon that; but if it be asked whether French
boys are so faultless in this respect, the answer must
be 'no.' There are two kinds of masters in a French
public school. The professeurs, or regents as they are
sometimes called in smaller schools, who teach the
boys in class, are generally men of ability and posi-
tion; and they, along with the proviseur or principal,
as the head-master is called, have every chance of
being respected. But besides, there are employed a
number of mattress d'e'tude-or, as the boys contemp-
tuously terms them, pions-who do not teach, but are
expected to be with the boys at all times, to watch
them while preparing their lessons, to eat with them,
sleep with them, and walk with them, in fact, scarcely
ever to let them out of their sight. Naturally, a strong
antipathy is often found to exist between the boys
and these guardians, who sometimes lead a very miser-
able life of it. To tell the truth, such unpleasant and
badly paid duties are not likely to be often under-
taken by men of a character to inspire esteem and
respect. So there is war between the schoolboy and
To this class did M. Habille belong. He was cer-
tainly poor and wore an old coat. Never having been
at a large school himself, he was ignorant of the ways
of schoolboys, and he was obliged to confess to him-
self that he lacked, the firmness and strength of will
which are necessary for a ruler of boys or men. Un-
fortunately for him, also, his predecessor had been a
weak and dishonest man, who tried to keep on good
terms with the boys by indulging them and winking
at their faults. But, for all this M. Habille was not
to blame; so we may pity him thus cast into a den of
lions, whose mouths he already found it so hard to
While the new master is walking up and down in
the playground, his class have assembled in the
schoolroom, and are crowding round the stove. They
are waiting for his appearance with chuckles of de-
light, for over the door, left slightly ajar, has been
arranged a row of heavy books in such a way that they
are sure to come down upon the head of the first per-
son who pushes it open.
'Remember, I didn't do it!' cried Gregoire Mouge.
'I only put one book.'
'And I only put one,' said Gerard Fabre, capering
about and standing on his head to warm himself.
'We can all say that we didn't do it. But why
doesn't he come ? The bell has rung two minutes
'I must speak to M. Habille about this,' said Des-
landres. 'Unpunctuality can't be allowed.'
'Here he comes!' called out Raoul Cousin.
There was a sound of footsteps in the stone pas-
sage, but M. Habille was not alone. In conversation
with him was heard another voice, at the sound of
which the boys pricked up their ears, and ran off to
their desks in some alarm. Then the door was thrown
open, and down came three dictionaries and half-a-
dozen smaller books upon the bald and dignified head
of the principal, M. Montaliver.
'A very nice set of boys you will find that you
have to look after. The fourth class is one of the
best--' M. Montaliver was saying to his subordinate,
when he was interrupted by this unexpected occur-
rence, and putting his hands to his head, bounced for-
ward, looking very red and angry.
'How dare you?' he exclaimed, addressing La-
rousse, who alone had not succeeded in reaching his
seat. How dare you play such a trick upon me ?'
'It was not me, sir,' said Larousse, looking very
much alarmed, as he found himself seized in M.
Montaliver's grasp, and shaken violently.
'Who did it, then? I ask, who did it? If the boy
does not confess, I shall punish you all. No doubt,
you are all equally to blame. This is an unpre-
cedented outrage. I never heard of such a thing
before, and,' said the principal, striking his hand on
a desk, 'I shall take care that it never happens again.
What! No one confesses. Then you must all write
five hundred lines of Virgil. M. Habille, will you
please see to that.'
Oh! monsieur,' said M. Habille, appalled by what
seemed to him the severity of this punishment, 'let
me intercede with you for them. This trick was in-
tended to be played on me, and they meant no great
harm. If you will excuse them this once, I have no
doubt they will not repeat it.'
'No, no,' said the principal. We must be firm, vM.
Habille. We must show these young gentlemen that
they cannot insult their master with impunity. There
is no saying what might have been the consequences
of this mischievous trick. As it is, my head has re-
ceived a severe contusion. Pick up these books now,
and get to work, and take care that I receive no bad
accounts of this class.'
So saying, the principal looked sternly round the
room, and marched off; and his wrath had produced
such an impression on the minds of the boys, that
till breakfast time they were decently quiet over their
books, much to the relief of their master. But in his
good nature he was very much troubled about the
punishment which had been imposed upon them.
Unacquainted with the rapidity with which the art of
scribbling is practised among schoolboys, and of their
cunning devices to shorten such irksome labours, he
supposed that to write five hundred lines would take
the whole of a boy's playtime for a week, and felt
more sorry that his pupils should be so afflicted than
that they should have tried to play an impudent trick
So he was very much astonished when, at eleven
o'clock that forenoon, on the return of his class from
the regent's lesson, each boy brought up a paper
covered with writing, and laid it on his desk. They
had only had an hour's recreation, besides the time
that had been occupied in breakfasting; it was surely
impossible that they should have finished their im-
positions in such a short time.
'Have you written five hundred lines ?' he asked of
'Yes, sir,' said he quite boldly, but M. Habille was
still doubtful, and calling for a Virgil, proceeded to
count the lines on one of the papers. At this the boys
began to look disgusted, and Deslandres, whose im-
position it was that had happened to fall into the
master's hands, ventured to remark-
'You have no right to do that, M. Habille. You
must trust to our honour. The last master never
counted the lines which we gave up to him.'
Without taking any notice of this speech, M.
Habille went on counting the lines that Deslandres
had written, or rather scribbled, and a flush of indig-
nation rose to his cheek, as he found that they
scarcely amounted to two hundred ?'
'Is this your honour?' he cried, and even Des-
landres quailed before his eye this time. 'Are you
not ashamed of being so deceitful ?'
'I am not deceitful,' said Deslandres, reddening.
'You have tried to deceive me. This is falsehood
-this is unworthy of an honourable French boy. I
am glad to see that you blush. Go to your seat.'
M. Habille was now speaking in a tone which for-
bade disobedience, and Deslandres went to his desk,
muttering to himself, and very angry at having been
thus addressed before the other boys.
The master hurriedly looked over the rest of the
impositions. Every one of them was too short; some
only consisted of about a hundred lines. It was
evident that the boys had been presuming upon his
good nature and inexperience. He was thoroughly
disgusted. For some time while the boys were learn-
ing, or pretending to learn their lessons, he sat at his
desk, and considered what he should do. He felt
that, even if it should bring upon him the ill-will of
his pupils, he must be firm and severe if he wished to
establish his authority over them. But it was very
hard for M. Habille to be severe, and perhaps the
boys did not know what an effort it cost him to sum-
mon up courage to say at length-
I am very much-very much disgusted. I cannot
excuse such deceit. I shall show these impositions to
At this they looked rather blank, and still more so
when at the dinner hour a notice was found posted
up to this effect-
'The fourth class will be detained from the pro-
menade of this afternoon, and will write neatly and
correctly five hundred lines of Virgil.
'Oh! good gracious!' exclaimed Adolphe Cousin,
when he had read this document.
It's a shame!' burst out Raoul, thinking less of his
own disappointment than of Deslandres, who only
tossed his head, as if the matter scarcely affected him.
'Here's what you have got us into with your fine
tricks!' moaned Gregoire Mouge, with the air of an
""The Sausage" ought to be hung,' cried Fabre.
'He's a beast,' was the general opinion, but that
didn't mend matters much.
The Sausage,' I grieve to say, was the nickname
by which these irreverent boys spoke of the principal
-a name which had, no doubt, had its origin in the
fat figure and mottled complexion of that functionary.
"OYS who are boarders at French public schools
are much more confined than their English
brethren in misfortune, being never allowed to go out
of the school premises alone, and only once a week,
accompanied by a master. So the greatest treat of
French boys, with the exception of occasional visits to
their friends on Sundays, is the walk which they take
on Thursday afternoon, their one half-holiday during
the week. It was this treat which our young friends
found themselves deprived of, and the disappointment
was all the greater, as they had been looking forward
to 'assisting' at some velocipede races which were to
take place near the town that afternoon. But now, in-
stead of accompanying the other classes, and escaping
from the everlasting white-washed walls and dusty
A CONSPIRA CY. 29
courts of the college, and beholding the feats of the
velocipede riders, here they were shut tip in their
salle d'itude, with pen, paper, and Virgil, and we may
suppose that they were very much disgusted and
indignant against the new master, who seemed to be
the cause of this misfortune. Of course, they never
thought of casting the blame on themselves.
M. Habille was a prisoner as well, for it was a rule
in the college that any master who kept boys in, or
was the means of having them kept in, should share
their confinement and superintend their tasks. This
rule, if the boys had only known it, was an excellent
safeguard against oppression, for hard-worked masters
don't like to be kept in any more than boys. But I
believe they thought that the master had a sort of
gratification in witnessing their punishment, and felt
all the more bitter against him.
M. Habille, however, found his task of keeping
order an easy one that afternoon. The boys knew
that they must write their impositions carefully this
time, and we know that it is only idle hands for which
mischief is found to do. Besides, they were all so
sulky that they had little spirit left to play tricks.
So no sound was heard in the room but the hasty
scratching of pens, or the restless fidgeting and yawn-
30 A CONSPIRACY Y.
ing of some fellow who was mourning hopelessly over
the length of his task, and devoutly wishing that the
art of writing had never been invented by these silly
Larousse, who was always getting into scrapes, and
from familiarity with punishment had come to look
upon it with a philosophic contempt-Larousse only
preserved his equanimity of mind, and strove to con-
sole himself by roasting chestnuts on the stove which
stood in front of the master's desk. He had slyly
placed them there before sitting down, and he cal-
culated that when they were ready for eating, he
should be able to get possession of them by walking
up to M. Habille and asking for a new pen.
But oh, unlucky Larousse! so forgetful of the habits
and properties of chestnuts when exposed to the-
action of fire, fortune had again declared against
you! For who should come into the schoolroom but
the principal and M. Fabre, the doctor of the college,
and uncle to one of the boys whose acquaintance
we have already made. A jolly fat old gentleman
this doctor was, much liked by the boys for his
good-humour, as well as for his kindness to them
when ill. M. Montaliver had brought him to point
out some defect in the ventilation of the room. At
A CONSPIRACY. 31
their entrance, all the boys, as in duty bound,
'Why! I thought this was a holiday?' cried the
doctor, holding up his hands and looking round with
astonishment at the desks which he had expected to
'I regret to say, monsieur, and you will be sorry to
hear, that these boys have been behaving badly, and
that I have been obliged to deprive them of their
holiday,' said the principal.
'Oh no! surely not! I can't believe that these
boys ever behave so badly as to deserve such a punish-
ment. They must be unwell. Shall I send over a
few pills and powders to-night ?'
'I am glad to say that such conduct is unusual in
this establishment,' answered M. Montaliver with much
dignity, 'and I trust that the severe lesson of this
afternoon will not be without an effect which-ha!
what's that ?'
It was one of poor Larousse's chestnuts which had
cracked and flown off the stove. The principal
jumped back. M. Habille started and looked alarmed.
He was very short-sighted, and could not see what
Bang went another chestnut.
32 A CONSPIRACY.
'How can you allow this in school-hours, M. Ha-
bille ?' cried the principal, and just then a third chest-
nut exploded and flew off, hitting the doctor full in
the waistcoat. At this ludicrous mishap, several of
the boys forgot that they were playing the part of
sulky, and tittered outright, while Larousse's face
showed such signs of alarm and confusion that the
principal at once pounced upon him as the culprit.
'This is your doing-is it not? Tell me the truth
'Please, sir, I didn't think that they would go off
with such a noise,' stammered Larousse, by way of
excuse, and M. Montaliver caught hold of him by the
ears, crying-' You bad boy! you shall have two hours'
detention. I have a good mind to send you to prison.'
'I wish you would allow me to give him a few pills,'
said M. Fabre, who had been laughing till the tears
ran down his face. 'I am sure he must need them if
he has been eating these things.'
'I can deal with a patient of this sort myself,' said
the principal, who didn't approve of jesting upon
questions of discipline. 'M. Habille, you will please
to be doubly strict with this class; and let me warn
you, boys, to be very careful not to incur my dis-
A CONSPIRA CY. 33
'Or mine,' said the doctor. If any of these boys
has the misfortune to come under my hands for the
next two months, I declare I shall pull out two of his
double teeth, unless I hear from his master that his
conduct has been irreproachable.'
Shaking his fist, and looking round all the desks
with a terrible frown on his face, and a merry twinkle
in his eye, the doctor followed M. Montaliver out of
the room, and the boys were left once more to their
weary work. Poor Larousse looked very mournful
for about ten minutes, and applied himself desperately
to his imposition. Then he brightened up, and par-
took with relish of some chocolate, which Adolphe
Cousin slipped into his hand as a mark of sympathy.
The chestnuts he had been ordered to gather up and
lay upon M. Habille's desk, whence Gregoire Mouge
presently took an opportunity of abstracting them,
and appropriating them to his own use, without say-
ing anything to anybody.
The time dragged on slowly till five o'clock, and
then the boys were set free. Their schoolfellows had
not yet returned, and it now behoved them to repair
to the refectory and receive their golzter, that is a roll
of bread, which was their only meal between dinner
and supper. But without allowing them time to eat
34 A CONSPIRACY.
this in peace, Deslandres, after a whispered consulta-
tion with Adolphe Cousin, and one or two of the
biggest boys, peremptorily ordered the whole class to
follow him, and led the way to a low cloister, which
was used as a playground in wet weather. The first
thing was to post a sentinel to observe the movements
of a maztIre d'etude, who was walking about and smok-
ing a cigar on the other side of the court, and then-
Are we all here ?' said Deslandres, looking round.
'Every one, most noble captain,' replied Fabre,
munching his roll. 'What is the matter? Is there
to be a subscription for anything ? If so, I haven't
got any money.'
'None of your nonsense, Scaramouche,' said Des-
landres. 'We are going to talk about serious
matters. You all know what I mean ?'
'Of course we do,' cried Adolphe. Gentlemen, I
denounce the new master!'
'So do I,' declared Fabre, throwing himself into an
attitude. 'I denounce all the masters. I accuse
them of injustice, and tyranny, and foolishness. I
vote for sending the whole lot of them to the guillo-
'This Habille or Old Clo', or whatever he calls
himself, is a nuisance.'
A CONSPIRACY. 35
'We don't need you to tell us that, Monsieur Des-
landres. I wish we had that snuffy old Clermont
'Oh yes! He was a master of the right sort. We
could do what we liked with him.'
'If this fellow is going to go on as he has been
doing, we shall be always getting into scrapes.'
"Well, it will be our own fault if he doesn't draw
in his horns. We must teach him not to meddle so
much, or else drive him out of the college.'
'I approve of this proposal,' cried Fabre; 'and I
vote that the citizen Deslandres be charged with the
execution of it.'
'We must worry him out of his life,' said Gregoire
That's all very fine,' said Larousse, 'but perhaps
he'll worry us.
Then we must go on worrying him, and see who
gets tired first.'
Then he'll tell Montaliver, and we shall catch it
'Lions'skins were never to be had cheap,'said Fabre.
'No, he won't,' said cunning Gregoire. 'He won't
like to tell too often for fear the Sausage should think
he can't manage us.'
36 A CONSPIRACY.
'Listen to me,' mumbled Adolphe Cousin, with his
mouth full of bread, getting up on a form to address
the meeting. But the impatient Deslandres took the
words out of his mouth.
Cowards! If we wish to get rid of this fellow,
we must agree to unite, and to stand by each other
whatever happens. We shall run some risk, but if
you are afraid of being punished, you are a set of
'We are not afraid !' cried Raoul enthusiastically.
'Tell us what to do, Deslandres.'
'This is what I propose,' said Adolphe. Let us
form a secret society, and elect a president, whose
orders we must bind ourselves to obey. The object
of this society will be to make M. Old Clo's life as
uncomfortable as possible, and in other ways to pro-
mote the sacred cause of liberty, a cause so dear to
every French heart. Gentlemen, do you agree ?'
'And do you vote that Deslandres shall be presi-
Yes. Deslandres for ever!'
'Well, if I am to be president, you must all promise
to obey me faithfully. And if any one shows himself
a traitor or a coward, I'll-'
A CONSPIRA C Y. 37
The newly elected president did not conclude the
sentence, but an expressive gesture left his meaning
beyond doubt, and the other boys entering into the
spirit of the scene, crowded round him, waving their
caps, and crying-
'We promise. Long live the president !'
This excitement was half made up of the love of
fun which is natural to schoolboys, and half of the
love of dramatic effect which is characteristic of
Frenchmen. But Deslandres was quite in earnest.
When any one offended him, his resentment was far
more strong and lasting than that of most schoolboys,
and he was so accustomed to having his own way,
that he was very easily offended. In spite of this
fault, his courage and generosity had made him
almost a universal favourite among his companions,
and there was this very good point in Deslandres'
character, that he never exercised his strength for the
mere pleasure of giving pain, and was the champion
of all the weak and oppressed who appealed to him
for succour. He might have made a good king, but
M. Habille had already found that he was a bad
'IM. le President,' Adolphe went on spouting, 'the
society having been constituted, the next thing to be
38 A CONSPIRACY.
done is to elect me vice-president.-No opposition ?
-Then I am unanimously elected. Now, what are
we to call ourselves ?'
'The Society of allied young Brutuses,' cried
Fabre, brandishing an imaginary dagger in the face
of an invisible Tarquin.
'The Committee of National Safety,' Adolphe
'The Brotherhood of the bonnet rouge.'
No-the Anti-Old' Clo' Society,' proposed another
wit, and this was received with a shout of acclamation.
'The Anti-Old Clo' Society shall be memorable in
history,' cried Adolphe. 'And let its watchword be
-Down with the tyrant '
'Down with the tyrant!' bellowed Fabre, standing
on his head.
'Down with the tyrant!' exclaimed Larousse, swal-
lowing the last morsel of his roll.
'Down with the tyrant!' echoed all the rest, as
loudly as they dared. Just then the alarm was given
that the master on duty was coming to see what was
the matter, and the conspirators hastened to disperse.
But most of them soon re-assembled in another corner
of the playground, and there held a council upon the
best means of annoying M. Habille, a council at which
A CONSPIRA CY. 39
M. Gregoire Mouge's malicious ingenuity was found
of the greatest service. The proceedings ended by
the society's being treated to maccaroons at the ex-
pense of the president.
In the meanwhile, the tyrant was still sitting at
his desk in the empty schoolroom, with his head rest-
ing wearily on his arm, The countenance of this
cruel oppressor bore marks of the utmost dejection,
and perhaps he was sighing or praying for strength to
persecute the injured innocents of the fourth class.
^^ -^y /^ ^,Irv)
THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT.
HE council of war held by the conspirators
did not end, as many councils do, in mere talk.
Within twelve hours they fired their first shot. When
M. Habille got up next morning he found that his
boots had been filled with water.
Of course this was a trick of the boys, and at first
he thought of charging them with it and trying to
find out the offender. But he reflected that he pro-
bably would not be able to do so without another
complaint to the principal, and he wished not to make
complaints if possible; so he resolved to take no
notice of this insult.
His temper was again tried before long. The
master was wash his hans in i at a row of iron basins
which served for that purpose to the whole dormitory,
THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT. 41
when the boy next him made a great splashing, so as
to throw the water over M. Habille's trousers and
'Oh I beg your pardon, monsieur,' cried Gr6goire
Mouge, for it was he, pretending to be much sur-
prised, but several of the other boys laughed out-
right, and M. Habille felt sure that it had been done
Still, however, he was unwilling to be severe, and
pretending to look on the matter as an accident, he
took refuge in his little curtained retreat at the end
of the room, and hurriedly finished his toilette.
'Adolphe,' said Deslandres, loud enough to be
heard all over the room,' have you got any old clothes
'Me!' said Adolphe Cousin.
'No, I haven't. Perhaps '
M. Habille could not see the gesture which accom-
panied these words, but he heard the laugh which
followed them, and he suspected that somehow or
other he was the object of the joke, Still he said
nothing, but seeing the boys file off downstairs, he
made use of the few minutes of liberty which re-
mained to him to consider how he should behave to
the boys that day, and in what way he could best
42 THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT.
check their insubordination and win their esteem.
You see the tyrant did not wish to be cruel; he was
only desirous of doing his duty, and painfully con-
scious of his inexperience and want of authority.
If he had hoped to find his boys overawed by the
lesson they had received the day before, and more
manageable in the schoolroom, he was disappointed.
They seemed determined to annoy him, and that by
tricks which he was puzzled how to find fault with.
First, he observed that all the class, instead of attend-
ing to their books, were twiddling their thumbs and
looking up to the ceiling with an air of gravity and
When he ventured to remonstrate mildly upon this
form of idleness, Fabre, with a very serious face,
assured him that they were all meditating on some
profound remarks upon the roots of Greek verbs
which had fallen from their regent the day before.
'Go on with your lessons,' said the master, without
taking any notice of this statement.
Immediately every boy plunged his nose into his
dictionary, and began turning over the leaves with as
much rustling as possible, and shutting and opening
his book with loud bangs and thumps on the desk.
'Less noise!' the master ventured to remark.
THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT. 43
Did you speak, monsieur ?' asked Gr6goire Mouge
in a very deferential tone.
Less noise!' said M. Habille, in a louder voice, and
what was, for him, a fierce one.
The noise ceased, but the master was extremely
disconcerted to find thirty pairs of eyes fixed upon
him from all sides of the room. Unable to face this
general stare, he fixed his eyes on a book, and pre-
tended to be reading, till he was obliged to look up
by a tremendous fit of coughing, with which, first
Deslandres, and then all the class seemed to be
'What is the matter?' he asked in alarm, but a
broad grin on the faces of two or three of the sufferers
soon showed him the true state of the case, and he
was in despair.
Then Deslandres dropped his book, and the rest of
the conspirators dropped their books, and a great con-
fusion was caused by all the boys getting up from the
desks, and bustling about under the excuse of picking
up these books, at the same time taking the oppor-
tunity to shove one another over and upset a form or
two. This was more than M. Habille, with all his
desire to get on peacefully, could bear.
'Sit down,' he cried with a sudden burst of energy.
44 THIIE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT.
'The first boy who leaves his seat or lets a book fall
shall have two hundred lines.'
This threat was not without effect. Besides, the
boys had had enough of mischief for the morning,
and those of them who were pocl/eurs, or what English
boys would call swots or crammers, began to think
about learning their lessons and to telegraph to the
others to be quiet. As the great Deslandres was at
that time condescending to try for a prize, he was
graciously pleased to accede to their wishes, and
passed the word to cease hostilities for the present: so
the rest of the morning passed tolerably quietly.
But in the afternoon, the troubles of the maztyre
d''tiude began again. The tyrant was not allowed to
delude himself by the idea that his enemies had been
overawed. On the contrary, they returned to the
attack with all the fresh vigour and zest for mischief
which several hours of hard work under the sharp eye
and firm hand of their regent had given them. So the
performances of the morning were renewed with some
slight variation. All the boys seemed possessed by a
demon which urged them to be perpetually scraping
their feet and slamming the lids of their desks, and
again the master found expostulation of no use, and
did not like to resort to severity. This tyrant, you
THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT. 45
see, had a certain sense of justice, and was anxiously
afraid of punishing the innocent by mistake. But the
resolution which he had made of keeping his temper,
and overcoming evil with good, was hard to act up
to. He felt himself growing cross, and when the boys
kept coming up to him and asking evidently silly and
useless questions, he was almost driven wild. At
length his rising anger boiled over.
Larousse came up to his desk and asked leave to
go and get some water. Immediately a dozen other
boys started up and proffered the same request.
'You must wait,' said M. Habille, seeing that he
was being imposed upon.
'It is very hot, sir,' said Larousse, disobeying the
order to go back to his seat.
Upon the master's desk was lying a double eye-
glass, which he had bought to assist his short-sighted
organs of vision in looking after these troublesome
imps. What must Larousse do but contrive, ap-
parently by accident, to knock the eye-glass off the
desk with his elbow. It fell to the floor and was
broken. Then M. Habille jumped up and gave
Larousse a cuff which sent him spinning against the
wall, and made him look very foolish.
Shamee' exclaimed Deslandres loud enough to be
46 THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT.
heard all over the room, but no one ventured to back
The boys were quiet at once. M. Habille stood
before them, quivering with indignation. He could
not trust himself to speak, and perhaps it was as well
that he did not. The tyrant had produced an im-
pression which lasted all the afternoon. But in five
minutes, when his sudden passion had cooled down,
he felt thoroughly annoyed with himself, and would
have given a great deal if he could have recalled the
blow. In French schools these things are looked
upon more seriously than in England. So M. Ha-
bille's mind was filled with shame and regret, which
you would not have expected in a tyrant. He had
broken his own resolution as well as the rules of the
school, and had given the boys real cause to dislike
him. This seemed to him a far greater trouble
than all the annoyances to which they had subjected
M. Larousse of course played the injured innocent
for a little, and made ferocious gestures to indicate
that he intended to avenge this insult. But he, too,
cooled down before long, and thought better of it.
When at the hour of dismissal the other boys crowded
round him in the playground, and urged him to corn-
THE TROUBLES OF A 2 YRANT. 47
plain to the principal, Larousse didn't seem sure
'I wouldn't stand it, if I were you,' declared Des-
landres. 'I should like to see him dare to lay a
finger on me. We are not Cossacks, I hope.'
'Do tell the Sausage,' urged Gregoire Mouge. 'It
will be such fun to get Old Clo' into a scrape. That
will teach him to make complaints about us.'
'Bother! he didn't hurt me, and I don't want to
say anything more about it,'
I will leave it to the intelligent reader to settle how
much of M. Larousse's unwillingness to make a com-
plaint was the result of good-nature, and how much of
prudence. He himself rather wanted to make out that
it was a matter of high principle and schoolboy virtue.
I hate telling,' he said.
'And there is such a thing as putting your head into
the lion's mouth,' observed Fabre. 'A scalded cat
fears water. Larousse has had enough sausage.'
'There he goes! There he goes!' cried Gregoire
Mouge. 'Old Clo'!'
M. Habille, who was crossing the playground just
then, turned quickly round, and the boys bolted into
the cloister which has before been mentioned. He
48 THE TROUBLES OF A TYRA NT.
'Old Clo'! Old Clo'!' repeated Grngoire, taking
good care that he was hid behind a pillar.
M. Habille did not turn round this time, but he hur-
ried on at a quicker pace, with sparkling eyes and
flushed cheeks. This was the second or third time
that he had heard this epithet repeated among the boys,
and he felt sure that it was a nickname for himself.
His coat certainly was very old, but there was a reason
for that. He hung his head, even when he was outside
of the walls of the college, and chose the meanest and
least-frequented streets. It is not every mind which
is strong enough to rise above the shame of being poor.
M. Habille had leave to be absent for a few hours.
Where was he going ? He hurried on, past the market-
place, past the quaint old houses built in narrow irre-
gular streets, past the crumbling walls that had once
stood the town in good stead. Outside of these walls
was a piece of waste ground by the river, where the
boys of Lesmoulins played and bathed in summer, and
the National Guard on great occasions made displays
of military prowess. Across this common, as it would
be called in England, M. Habille made his way to a
little cottage, half-hidden in the olive-groves which
form such a large and picturesque feature in the
scenery of the valley of Lesmoulins.
THE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT. 49
Tapping at the window, M. Habille entered the
cottage, which consisted only of one room, poorly fur-
nished, but with an air of neatness and cleanliness not
often to be found in such humble abodes. An old
woman was lying in bed. Her face lit up with plea-
sure when she saw who her visitor was, and stooping
down, he tenderly embraced her.
'Dear Francois! How are you? You don't look
'I have a slight headache, mother,' he said, taking
a seat by her side.
'Tell me, do you find your work hard?'
'A little. But I shall soon get used to it. Where
She has gone to the town. A lady has employed
her to wash some lace handkerchiefs. It will be
another two francs a week.'
'Dear mother! you know I took this place because
I thought my earnings would be sufficient to support
you both. She ought to be constantly with you.'
But Marie can't bear to be idle, and I assure you
I need very little waiting on. The good doctor
Fabre! He has been here again to-day, and he
thinks I am better. Don't trouble about me. Do
think more of yourself, my son. I am afraid the work
50 THfE TROUBLES OF A TYRANT.
at the college is too hard for you. You look weary.
Arc the boys pleasant and easy to manage.'
'A little troublesome at first,' said the tyrant of the
fourth class. 'But I shall get on splendidly with
them, I hope. Don't let us talk of troubles, mother.
Let us be hopeful. I am studying hard when I have
leisure, and some day I shall be a professor, and we
shall live together, and you shall have all kinds of
luxuries, and get better, and pass your old age in
peace and comfort. There are better days to come
Please God, my dear.'
P' Ilase God, mother.
C 4in N^I^
t^.', ^'3 ^^~
*^ ** *g ,** .*~:-,i,^;' \ t&
S1"IELL, the new ion has been behaving himself
better,' said Gregoire Mouge.
That morning the boys had again been as rude and
troublesome as they could, and M. Habille had again
tried to take no notice of their conduct, trusting to
overcome them by kindness and patience. He did
feel that he ought to show a little more firmness;
then he remembered how he had lost his temper and
struck Larousse, and was afraid to be severe. Cer-
tainly he had too little decision to make a good
schoolmaster. A tyrant must show himself strong.
So thought the boys, supposing that M. Habille was
afraid of them, and despised and disliked him all the
52 AMIS CHIEF F.
'The new pion has been behaving himself better.'
'We have certainly given him some lessons in
politeness,' said Fabre.
'Bah! All that was mere skirmishing,' declared
Deslandres. 'I have a plan for a splendid trick, and
as it is a dangerous service, I am going to undertake
it myself. Next time, some one else must volunteer
to go on the forlorn hope.'
'Let me help you, Deslandres,' cried Raoul. 'I'm
'Very good. Come along! Now,' said Deslandres,
turning round as he walked off, 'when you come into
the schoolroom, you are not to be surprised at any-
thing you see, and if any one dares to tell, I'll thrash
him within an inch of his life.'
Deslandres strutted off with an air of great re-
solution, and Raoul followed, feeling courageous
enough to run any risk, if it were only in the company
of his friend. What was this daring exploit which
they were about to commit ? Deslandres looked as if
he were going to assassinate the tyrant, at least, and
Fabre at once nicknamed them Harmodius and Aris-
When M. Habille entered the schoolroom, he found
that his desk had been broken open and made a sad
MIS CHIEF. 53
mess of. Books were jumbled up together, papers
were torn and scattered about, a bottle of red ink had
been upset in one corner, and some pieces of chalk
had been thrown over handsomely bound books in
another. On the inside of the lid was roughly traced
in ink, so recently that it was not yet dry, this inscrip-
tion-' A bas le tyran !'-Down with the tyrant.
M. Habille was more than disgusted. He had had
no idea that the mischief or malice of the boys would
proceed so far. What had he done to deserve this?
His first impulse was one of anger, but he strove to
check it, while at the same time he felt that the
author of this trick must be discovered and punished.
He glanced all round, but nothing could appear
more innocent than the faces of the boys as they took
their seats at the desks, and with unusual promptness
and silence, brought out their books and pretended to
set to work.
'Who has done this?' said M. Habille, pointing to
his desk, and trying to speak in a tone of authority.
The boys jumped up and looked astonished.
'Heavens !' exclaimed Fabre, peering forwards.
'What a state your books and papers are in, monsieur!'
'I wish to know who has done this. Do you know,
Perhaps it was the porter's cat,' said Fabre. 'I saw
it prowling about half an hour ago. I have heard
that it is very fond of going into desks, and turning
everything in them topsy-turvy. Don't you think a
cat of that sort ought to be hung, monsieur?'
M. Habille gave him a look, which was intended
to overawe him into seriousness, but the boy returned
it by a steady gaze of assumed candour and a friendly
smile. The master was in despair. Again he sought
for signs of guilt in the faces of those present, but in
vain. No one met his eye more boldly and care-
lessly than Deslandres. For once, however, M.
Habille's eyes or eye-glasses were sharp. Deslandres'
countenance certainly did not betray him, but--
Oh too confident Deslandres! cunning as well as
boldness is necessary for the work of a conspirator.
Why did you lean your head upon your hands in that
easy and indifferent attitude. You surely would have
put these fingers of yours under the desk if you had
taken the trouble to remember that they were freshly
stained with red ink. M. Habille noticed this, and a
suspicion that Deslandres was at the bottom of all
the annoyances which he had undergone gave him
energy to act with boldness.
Deslandres, this is your work ?' he said quietly.
In spite of his self-possession, Deslandres started
and looked round, as if to say, Who has told him?'
'Deslandres, did you do this mischief?' repeated
Deslandres was above telling a downright lie.
'Perhaps I did,' he replied haughtily.
'Why did you do it, may I ask ?'
'You may ask?' said Deslandres, rudely. This
unexpected discovery had rather taken him aback for
a moment, but he was going to make the best of it,
and play the undaunted hero for the benefit of his
Of course you know that you have incurred a
severe punishment ?'
Deslandres yawned and put his hands in his pocket,
and had his reward in seeing how admiringly all eyes
were fixed upon him, none more admiringly than
Raoul's. Hercules strangling the Nemean lion, Leoni-
das at Thermopyle, Horatius defending the bridge,
Mucius Scevola in the presence of Porsena, David
facing Goliath-to Raoul, who was in the first fever
of schoolboy friendship, none of these historic scenes
seemed half so grand as that of Deslandres defying
'You gain nothing by being impertinent,' said M.
56 MIS CHIEF F.
Habille, gently. 'And what did you hope to gain by
playing this trick upon me. How-what reason of
offence have I given you, that you should try to
annoy me in this way ? No other boy in the school
would have done such a thing.'
'Every one of them would,' muttered Deslandres,
loud enough to be heard all over the room.
'I hope you are mistaken. I hope also that you alone
are to blame for this malicious and wanton mischief.'
Up started Raoul with sparkling eyes and glowing
I helped Deslandres to do it,' he said. 'I am to
blame as much as he.'
M. Habille heard with astonishment. Was it pos-
sible that this bright-eyed boy, whose countenance so
expressive of candour and generosity had already
won his affection, was it possible that Raoul could be
among his bitterest enemies! He could not under-
stand it. He forgot what he had intended to say,
and for a minute stood silent, looking from one cul-
prit to the other.
'Go on with your lessons,' he said abruptly, at
length. 'I shall speak to the principal.'
Deslandres shrugged his shoulders and lifted his
eyebrows, looking towards Raoul with a slight smile.
MIS CHIEF. 57
He certainly played the part of 'don't care' wonder-
fully well, in the opinion of the other boys.
In due time came the hour of release, and then as
usual public opinion expressed itself.
'Good gracious! Raoul, what possessed you to tell
him that you had anything to do with the affair?'
said Fabre. 'No body was accusing you. Don't
you know the proverb ?-let everybody mind his own
business, and the cows will be well looked after.'
'I couldn't help it,' said Raoul, taking Deslandres'
arm. I wasn't going to leave the president alone in
You dragged him deeper into the scrape when you
jumped in, you stupid.'
'Of course,' said Gregoire Mouge. 'Deslandres
might have denied, after all, that he knew anything
about it. Old Clo' was only speaking on suspicion.'
But you let the entire cat out of the bag. You
"were a fool. Make yourself a sheep, and the wolf
will eat you. Bah !'
'Never mind,' said Deslandres. 'I am glad that
there is one fellow who is not afraid of a punishment,'
and for these words Raoul would have suffered the
loss of both his ears, much less a score of impositions
58 MIS CHIEF.
'What will be done to them ?'
'A thousand lines,' prophesied Fabre. 'Rank has
its inconveniences as well as its privileges, M. le Prd-
sident. The horse that draws best gets most whipped.'
'I suffer in a good cause,' said Deslandres. 'If
that is what they give me, I shall amuse myself by
writing, Down with the tyrant" a thousand times.'
'I think it is down with Deslandres this time.
The tyrant has rather got the best of it to-day,
hasn't he ?'
'Hold your silly tongue, Scaramouche.'
Scratch people where they itch,' said the irrepres-
'I believe they will be expelled,' declared Fourjon,
a boy who was of a gloomy turn of mind, and al-
ways looked on the blackest side of things.
'I don't care,' said Deslandres. Let them expel
me. I am tired of this school. The way we are
treated is really disgusting. I should like to go to a
private school, where one could have more of one's
own way. My cousin is at a school of that sort.
They may go out when they like, and they needn't
learn any lessons unless they please, and they don't
care a sou for what the masters say to them. That is
the school for a gentleman.'
MIS CHIEF. 59
'But look here, Deslandres, what will monsieur
your papa say if you are expelled.'
'He will say that you are a fool,' said Deslandres,
sharply, and walked away. Gerard Fabre had touched
a sore point.
Though our friend pretended to be so indifferent,
he was not without anxiety as to what was to happen
to him, and this increased as the whole afternoon
passed away without his being summoned to account
for his escapade. He found this suspense by no
means pleasant, for he had every reason to believe
that he would be severely dealt with, and even the
high-souled Deslandres was not without a certain fear
of punishment, which he would have died rather than
show any signs of in public. As for Raoul, I don't
believe he minded so much. Nothing that could be
done to him seemed dreadful, if he was to suffer
along with his hero, his friend, whose approval weighed
more with him than the wrath and vengeance of all
the masters in the world.
T was not till the evening that Raoul and Des-
landres were summoned by old Philippe, the
porter of the college, into the formidable apartment,
where, surrounded by large books and piles of papers,
the principal sat in state to pass sentence on offenders.
Bureau de princzial was painted over the door of
this chamber, but the inscription should have been
'Abandon hope all ye who enter here.' So thought
naughty boys at least.
M. Montaliver made them a stereotyped oration,
which he generally used on such occasions. They
were not to set at nought the discipline of the school
with impunity, he said. He was disgusted to find that
the pupils of the college did not know how to behave
THE CACHOT. 61
with propriety, but whatever happened he would not
fail in his duty. He hoped that the punishment
which he was about to inflict would be a salutary
warning. It pained him to be obliged to punish
them, but he sacrificed his own feelings to the cause
of order and obedience.
Cap in hand, the two boys stood before him, and
listened with much respect to this oration, which they
now heard not for the first time. It was easy enough,
you know, to be rude and defiant towards M. Habille,
the mrattre d'tude, but to defy M. Montaliver, the
principal, was quite another thing. So our young
friends pretended to receive this rebuke with much
humility, though the only part of it to which they
paid much attention was the sting at the end.
Well-it wasn't so bad after all. They were to pay
out of their pocket-money for the damage done to M.
Habille's desk, and they were to spend the whole of
next day in prison. Then they were of course to
take care how they behaved for the future.
As soon as he stood outside of the door, Des-
landres indulged in a gesture of disdain.
'Come! I didn't expect to get off so well. To-
morrow will be a wet day, I think. Only I wish it
62 THE CACHO T.
And as Deslandres professed himself satisfied, of
course Raoul was so also.
Next morning, after the boys had been to early
service in the chapel, old Philippe, the porter of the
college, appeared to lead off Deslandres and Raoul
to their doom. The rest of the class surrounded them,
shaking their hands and uttering loud expressions of
sympathy, all for the benefit of M. Habille, who was
within hearing. As for Fabre, he insisted on follow-
ing them to the very door of the prison, embracing
them alternately, and pretending to weep bitterly,
somewhat to the disgust of Deslandres, who wished
to appear in a dignified light as a veritable martyr,
and did not approve of the matter being turned into
The prison of the college cf Lesmoulins consisted
of two cells, in which Raoul and Deslandres were
shut up separately. They begged Philippe to let
them be together, if only for an hour, but he, though
good-natured enough, dared not disobey the princi-
pal's orders. So Raoul heard the key turn in the lock,
and was left to spend the day alone.
The cell in which he found himself was a small
square room, with bare walls, no other furniture than
a chair and a table, and one narrow grated window
THE CACHOT. 63
looking out into the courtyard. There was no fire-
place or stove, but since the day instead of being
wet, as Deslandres predicted, had turned out singularly
fine and warm for that time of year, this conveni-
ence was not missed by Raoul, as it might have been
had the weather been colder.
Philippe had left on the table a jug of water and a
small loaf of bread, which were to serve the prisoner
for breakfast and dinner. So Raoul first proceeded
to satisfy his hunger, and being blessed with a pretty
good appetite, did not disdain this humble fare, as
some boys would do, if they could get anything
better, which Raoul couldn't. Stop! In considera-
tion of their misfortue, Larousse had presented both
Deslandres and him with a lump of szicre de pommes
to take into prison with them. So Raoul now eat
this, and sucked out much comfort therefrom. Then
he began to consider how he should dispose of the
rest of the day till evening chapel, when they were to
If he could only communicate with Deslandres!
But the prison was at a corner of the building, and its
two cells looked into different courts, so Raoul could
not make his friend hear by talking at the window.
He tried the walls. One, two, three thumps. Hurrah!
64 THE CACHO T.
Deslandres could hear him. A dull sound of knock-
ing came back in reply.
Oh! if we had only arranged upon some way of
making signals,' said Raoul to himself. 'I have heard
of prisoners who made a certain number of knocks
stand for certain letters in the alphabet, and thus kept
up a conversation with one another whenever they
pleased. How stupid we were not to think of it!'
They knocked away for some time to each other,
but as under the circumstances it was impossible to
express any sentiment, except that of general friend-
liness, the captives soon grew tired of this kind of
communication. There were others reasons why they
should stop it. One was that Raoul's knuckles found
the work of rapping against a plastered wall rather
disagreeable, though his companion in misfortune
had obviated this difficulty by making use of the legt
of his chair. Another was that Philippe appeared in
the passage bearing a message from the steward of
the college, who lived just below, to the effect that if
they didn't stop making such a noise, they should
probably pass the next day in prison also.
Deprived of this means of amusement, Raoul took
to inspecting the walls of his cell, and seeking instruc-
tion and entertainment from the drawings and inscrip-
THE CACHOT. 65
tions with which, as might be expected, they were
covered. He knew most of them well-the unflatter-
ing portrait of M. Montaliver in the corner; the
apparently innocent question scrawled below, 'What's
the price of sausages?' the column of conundrums
by Fabre; the grand historical picture drawn by his
own brother Adolphe with a piece of coal, and repre-
senting the English army with King Charles I. at
their head in full flight before the French, under
Napoleon Buonaparte, at the battle of Fontenoy;
the mournful poem in which Fourjon had narrated
the sufferings of a long confinement that he had
undergone for the crime of throwing darts at the
principal's parrot; countless jokes, names and initials
of former inhabitants of the place, carved or scratched
upon the walls. There was only one design which
Raoul recognized as new. It was a caricature repre-
senting a very ill-favoured gentleman swinging from
a gallows. The words 'Old Clo" written beneath
permitted no doubt as to the identity of the portrait.
This work of art was only in pencil, and would be
washed off by Philippe's wife at her next soap and
water field-day, but Raoul was minded to leave a
more imperishable monument of his confinement.
With the point of a steel pen which he happened to
66 THE CACHOT.
have in his pocket, he scratched his initials in highly
ornamented capitals, and surveyed his handiwork,
when finished, with much complacency. In this way
he got over a good part of the morning.
But you don't care to occupy yourself for ever
in scratching on a plaster wall, and Raoul got tired
of this amusement, and set himself to wonder what
he should do next.
It was unpleasantly warm he began to feel. The
air of the dusty courts seemed delicious compared
with this stifling den. How stupid these four bare
walls were. Raoul was not so cheerful as when he
entered the prison.
It appeared then a very fine thing to be punished
from devotion to his friend, Deslandres. But after
all, it didn't do Deslandres any good. If they could
only have been confined together now He might as
well have been at liberty, and then he might have
stolen up, at the risk of being caught by Philippe,
and whispered to Deslandres through the keyhole.
That would have been a more satisfactory way of
showing sympathy. Oh dear! what a wretched
place this was! What o'clock would it be?
The gong was sounding for dinner. He had some
bread left, but he had drunk all the water, and was
THE CACHOT. 67
still thirsty. He didn't care to eat. How many weary
hours were still to be passed ? Masters were tyrants.
How would Montaliver like to be shut up here him-
self on a fine day ? It was warmer than ever. Raoul
was getting cross.
The band of the college struck up in the courtyard
below. They were playing that pretty air from the
opera of Lavinia, and Raoul wasn't among them
playing the flute as usual. Standing on his table, he
raised himself to the grating, and holding on to the
bars, looked out. There they were. Adolphe was
blowing away at the cornet-a-piston; and Larousse,
his mouth and eyes wide open, was thumping the
drum with the greatest zeal and energy. Gregoire
Mouge was playing the flute instead of him-his flute!
Why had Adolphe allowed him to have it ? He was
a nasty sneak was Gr6goire, and Raoul couldn't bear
to see him filling his place. He got down from the
window, and wished that the walls were only a little
softer. He should like to have knocked his head
against them for a few minutes. He felt as if that
would have done him good.
After a time he got up to the window again. The
band was finishing its performance by playing Partant
pour la Syrie. The boys, scattered in groups about
68 THE CACHOT.
the playground, were talking and laughing, or listening
to the music. They wouldn't look so happy if they
were shut up here. How was Deslandres feeling?
Perhaps he didn't mind so much. He took a book in
his pocket. Raoul wished he had brought a book
with him, though he was not fond of books as a rule.
Generally, boys sent to prison had a task set them;
but on Sundays they were more commonly left idle.
Anything-even writing an imposition-would be
better than having nothing to do but fidget and yawn
and feel half-suffocated by the heat.
Catch me coming here again, if I can help it,' said
Raoul to himself. 'But it was for Deslandres' sake,
and he knows what a generous fellow I am,' he thought.
A gentleman was crossing the court. It was M. De-
laval, a friend of the Cousins' father. No doubt he had
come to ask his friend's sons to spend the day at his
house, as he had often done before. This was dread-
ful. Adolphe would go, of course, but the principal
would never think of giving leave out to a boy who
was in prison. And it was such a treat to go to M.
Delaval's house. There were ponies there, and a
pond full of carp, and peacocks, not to mention a
boat which Adolphe and Raoul had once upset, and
had thus enjoyed all the notoriety and excitement of
i ^ 'MI111 Y llr ii1i1" il
"Cousin," said the master, "I am very sorry to have been the means of bringing
this punishment on you."-Stories of French School Life, p. 69.
THE CACHO T. 69
being nearly drowned. It was a terrible disappoint-
ment to miss going to M. Delaval's.
Raoul got down from the window, and lay full
length on the uncarpeted floor, looking very disconso-
late. If he had been left to himself, I am not sure that
he would not have had a bit of a cry. But he heard
some one turning the key in the lock, and started up.
Perhaps it was Philippe come to say that the prin-
cipal had consented to let him go.
But no, it was M. Habille who entered. What in
the world could he be come for ?
Raoul wasn't pleased to see M. Habille, and his face
showed it as much as its merry and kindly expression
would allow. Not that Raoul hated him-he hated
nobody-but he disapproved of masters in general,
and Deslandres highly disapproved of this one in
particular. Besides it was through M. Habille that
he had got into this disagreeable scrape. So that,
overcoming his first impulse to rise and be civil, he
only sat up and looked at the wall.
'Cousin,' said the master, 'I am very sorry to have
been the means of bringing this punishment on you.'
Raoul made no answer.
'I should like to have a little talk with you about
it, if you will let me.'
70 THE CACHOT.
Raoul stood up. Now this man was going to
lecture him, and, like most boys, he hated being
'You are angry with me, is it not?'
'Well! at least you are displeased at being
This question did not seem to require any answer.
'Tell me, do you not think that you deserved to be
'I don't know.'
'Do you suppose boys can do such a mischievous
trick as you did and not expect to be punished ?'
Raoul twiddled his thumbs.
'Do you think that it gives me pleasure to have
'Do you think that I have been unjust, over-strict?'
'My dear boy, why do you try to keep up this
sullenness?' cried M. Habille. 'Throw it off, and speak
frankly to me, I beg you. Believe me, I wish to be
your friend. Believe that I wish to get on pleasantly
with you, and so avoid all these quarrels and punish-
THE CACHOT. 7r
Raoul was not unmoved by this appeal, but he
wasn't going to show it.
'Shall I tell you why I confide in you thus?' said
M. Habille, laying his hand on the boy's shoulder.
'You are not selfish-you are not a coward.'
Raoul thought that M. Habille was talking very
'Yesterday you confessed openly, you did not leave
your friend to bear the punishment alone. I could not
help admiring your courage. So I said to myself-
This is a generous nature: if he has annoyed me, it
has been from thoughtlessness rather than malice, he
will at least listen to reason. I can rely on his telling
me the truth frankly and boldly.'
M. Habille was no deep student of human nature,
but unconsciously he had touched the spring that had
opened Raoul's heart.
'If I only knew,' continued the master, 'if I only
knew why you treat me thus? I don't think you
behave so badly to all your masters. I have tried to
be kind to you. I have tried to do my duty as well as
I can. Perhaps my inexperience has made me fall into
mistakes, but I do not know how I have given cause
for so much ill-feeling. You all seem to have conspired
to annoy me, to persecute me, to make me miserable.'
72 THE CACHOT.
This was true, thought Raoul.
'Why do you dislike me?'
'I don't dislike you monsieur,' said Raoul sincerely
enough, for he had now forgotten all about Deslandres
and the conspiracy. The new master had been rather
badly treated after all.
'Then why do you ?-you must dislike me-you
must have some reason for your conduct. I would
give anything to be able to show you, my boy-I can
scarcely tell you what I mean.'
'I didn't think-I am sorry, monsieur, that I helped
to break open your desk. I won't do it again,' said
'Thanks,' said the tyrant, seizing his hands. 'I
knew you had not a bad heart. I knew it was from
thoughtlessness that you acted. Indeed, if you only
understood how hard I find it to do my duty, you
would not add to my difficulties. I am opening all
my heart to thee, Raoul. I can trust thee, can I not?
But will not you return my confidence, and tell me
why your companions should be so anxious to annoy
I don't know,' said Raoul. 'They always do
bother new masters. I think they will leave off after
THE CACHLOT. 73
'I hope so, for I cannot bear this much longer. I
am ill-positively ill-from worry and fatigue.'
'What would he say if I told him about the con-
spiracy?' thought Raoul.
'At all events we shall be friends, shall we not?'
'And thou wilt not be angry with me, because I
have been the means of getting thee into prison. It
will soon be over, now.
'Oh, I don't mind,' said Raoul, smiling.
'That's a brave boy. See here. I have brought
something to comfort thee in thy solitude,' and M.
Habille produced from his pocket a small box of
plums, which he laid on the table, and disappeared
without waiting to listen to Raoul's thanks.
Raoul didn't quite know what to make of all this.
Old Clo' couldn't be such a bad fellow, and it cer-
tainly was rather a shame to worry him so. He
was too strict about rules, and at the same time he
didn't know how to manage the boys, but that wasn't
his fault. He meant well, and perhaps he would
turn out to be a very good fellow when he got used
to the college. No doubt the boys would tire of per-
secuting him. Deslandres would be persuaded that
he was not a tyrant, and the conspiracy would be
74 THE CACH-O T.
broken up. He certainly wasn't much of a tyrant
after all. At all events there were the plums, and
they would eat very nice with the dry bread. It was
several hours since he had breakfasted, and another
meal would help to pass away the time pleasantly.
The plums did taste very good, and as one by one
they disappeared down Raoul's throat, he kept coming
moreandmore positivelyto the conclusion that it would
be a shame to play any more tricks on the new master.
As M. Habille left Raoul's cell, he felt happier than
he had done for some days. He had won a victory.
And without his knowing it, a blow had been struck
for him in another quarter.
That morning he felt so ill that he had consulted
M. Fabre. The worthy doctor had noticed his jaded
appearance, and more than suspected the cause of
this indisposition. No one was more sharp at observ-
ing things and putting this and that together than M.
Fabre, and he knew more of the nature of boys than
most schoolmasters do.
Master Gerard Fabre spent that Sunday afternoon
at his uncle's, as he often did. After dinner, as the
hour drew on, when it behoved the young gentleman
to present himself within the walls of the college, the
doctor asked in a careless manner-
THE CACHOT. 75
'How does M. Habille get on with you young
'M. Habille. Oh!' said Gerard, laughing.
'What does "oh!" mean, may I ask ?'
'Oh! he's a queer fellow.'
Indeed! Will you expound accurately and partic-
ularly what you mean by a queer fellow.'
'He's not up to much. We all laugh at him,' said
Gerard confidentially. 'And you should see what a
wretched old coat he wears!'
"He must be an abandoned villain. And this
depraved person, who wears an old coat, I suppose
you give him a good deal of trouble?'
He has fine times of it. has Old Clo'-that's what
we call him.'
'Oh, what a shame!' cried Henriette, his eldest
Well-he is such a fool.'
'Is he unjust to you ?' asked the doctor.
'Not exactly. I don't think he could be if he tried.'
'Is he ill-tempered ?'
'Oh, uncle, he hasn't spirit enough for that. We
make such fun of him. I'll tell you a trick that