copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             

Click Here to return to
Our Little French Cousin
Content Page

Click Here to return to
the previous section





     ALL artists are fond of painting French country life, and there is no part that they like better than the picturesque old villages, farms, and apple-orchards of Normandy, while perhaps Les Andelys is one of their favourite stopping-places.

      Germaine had made many friends among them, for they often came to draw or paint the quaint jumble of old buildings at La Chaumière.

      Germaine and the English artist who was staying at the Belle Etoile were great friends. He was painting near the farm, and he often dropped in to sit in their garden and drink a glass of cider.

      This warm bright morning Germaine could see his white umbrella under the apple-trees, whereupon she ran into the laiterie where her mamma was putting away butter in stone jars for winter use.

      “Mamma, I see that Mr. Thomson is painting again in the field. It is so hot. May I not take him a glass of cider?”

      “Yes, truly, my little one, but do not stay too long, for I shall need you later to help me.” Madame Lafond knew that when her little daughter was watching the painting of a picture, she would forget all about how time flies.

      Germaine went into the dark cellar where the large casks of cider were kept cool, and drawing off a jug full, took a glass, and holding an umbrella over her, carefully carried it down the hillside to Mr. Thomson, who was lying full length on the grass, smoking vigorously and scowling at his picture.

      “Oh, Germaine,” he called out, when he caught sight of her, “you are a jewel, a good little girl to bring me a cold drink. It was just what I wanted, and I was too lazy to walk up to the farm and ask for it. I am stuck and can’t do a bit of work. I don’t believe this picture is good for anything, after all.”

      Germaine could not believe this, for had she not heard Mr. Carter tell of pictures that Mr. Thomson had sold for so many thousands of francs that it took away her breath. Besides, did it not look just like her papa’s wheat-field, with a bit of the river showing between the trees?

      She shook her head. “I think it is a most beautiful picture,” she said as she looked at it admiringly.

      “Oh! if all the folk who buy pictures had your good taste, Germaine, how lucky we artist chaps would be,” he said, draining the cider jug. “I feel much refreshed and must get to work again, for the light is changing fast. Sit there in the shade, child, and tell me what you are going to do at the fête of St. Sauveur next week.”

     There was nothing Germaine liked better than to watch the picture grow under the quickly moving brushes; and Mr. Thomson talked to her so pleasantly in his queer French that it amused her. Germaine never smiled, even when he made mistakes in grammar that a French child of eight would not have made. 

     The French are a proverbially polite people, and at no time is their politeness so apparent as when a foreigner is speaking their language. They never laugh nor take the slightest notice of the worst blunders, but with the greatest pains try to understand them, and even go out of their way to set them right.

      But to-day it was not the fête that Germaine wanted to talk about. “Tell me more about Paris,” she said, shyly.

      “Oh, Germaine, you are just like all the world — wild about Paris,” laughed Mr. Thomson. He lived in Paris during the winter, and his big studio looked out on the fine old gardens of the Luxembourg, and from the windows could be seen the gilded dome of the Hotel des Invalides, under which is the tomb of the great Napoleon.

      It was the dream of Germaine’s life to see this wonderful city of Paris that she had heard so much about. So she listened eagerly when Mr. Thomson told her of the broad boulevards shaded by chestnut-trees, with fine shops on either side, and the great avenue of the Champs Elysées, at the end of which stands the Arch of Triumph, erected by Napoleon in memory of his victories.

      Along this avenue passes the gay world of Paris in carriages, automobiles, and on foot, bound for the Bois de Boulogne. A part of this great park is set aside for the special use of the children. No noisy automobile is allowed in this special enclosure, and carriages can only drive at a moderate pace. Here the Parisian mothers bring their children for a good time. They can romp over the grass and play among the pretty flower-beds; have games of tennis, croquet, or battledore and shuttlecock (which is a favourite game with them), while their older relatives sit around on little camp-stools, which every one carries with them to the parks, and talk or do fancy work.

      There are ornamental refreshment houses where cakes and milk and sweet drinks can be had: thus it is a veritable children’s paradise!

      “But there is even more fun to be had in the gardens of the Tuileries; there is where I would like to take you, Germaine,” said Mr. Thomson.

      “There among bright flower-beds and shady alleys the little children play games around the feet of the marble statues; roll their hoops; run after their toy balloons; and trundle their dolls about, or sail toy boats with red, blue, or white sails, on the little pond, while their bonnes, or nurses we would call them, in their long cloaks and big caps with streamers of bright ribbons, sit gossiping on the benches.

      “We would walk along until we found Guignol, which English and American girls and boys call ‘Punch and Judy;’ but they would enjoy it just as much as do the French children, for even though Mr. Punch and Mrs. Judy speak French, the show is just the same.

      “And then we would go on a little farther and join the crowd standing around a man with birds flying all about him. He is the ‘bird charmer,’ who seems to draw the birds to him by some magic. He whistles, and they perch on his head, shoulders, and hands, eat out of his mouth, and perform tricks on the stick he holds in his hand. This greatly amuses the children, and they are always ready to give the man a few sous, so it is a profit to him as well as an amusement.”

      Then there is the great Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is probably the best known church in all the world. It stands on the river bank, for Paris is built on either side of that same Seine that Germaine sees through the trees in the distance as she sits under the apple-trees on her father’s farm.

      Mr. Thomson tells her also of the new Palace of Art, where, among many thousands of others, he hopes to exhibit this picture he is now painting; and of the beautiful Alexander III. bridge near it, with its lofty white columns crowned by the great golden-winged horses, named after a Czar of Russia, for the French and Russian people are very friendly. 

     “Ah, yes! Paris is a great city,” Mr. Thomson would always say when he had finished.

      “Papa said when I was older perhaps he would take Marie and me there,” said Germaine. “But now I must go,” she added, jumping up; “mamma will be waiting for me to help her with the chickens,” and saying good-bye to her friend, Germaine ran toward the farmyard gate.

Click here to continue to the next chapter of Our Little French Cousin