Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
PIERRE AND A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE
THE FRENCH LOVER OF THE BEAUTIFUL
IERRE'S mother, the Countess Clothilde, was very gay
and very pretty and very charming. That was
to be expected, for she was a lady-in-waiting
to a princess at the court of King Louis.
There everyone, it seemed, was charming and
light-hearted and merry. The great palace of
Versailles where they lived was gorgeous with
paintings and gilded panels on its walls and
with gilded chairs and tables about the rooms.
And around the place were terraces crowned with
statues and groves of oranges and chestnuts,
and gardens where the play of fountains filled
the air with music. It was a world of poetry
and delight that would satisfy any lover of
the beautiful. The painters painted it over
and over again, and if they did make pictures
of others than the elegant gentlemen and
ladies of the court, they dressed them up
too,—in pretty clothes and in all the
colors of their own fancy until them made work
seem like fun and to be poor like a play.
So for the court the care and hard work of
the world were all hidden behind laughter
and veiled with beauty.
THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES AND THE GARDENS
 Yet underneath all her gayety an occasional
care did come to trouble the Countess of
Clothilde. There was her need of money; for
if one lives at the court of a king where
all is gold and glitter, one must have fine
clothes and glitter too. She had to keep
sending word to her place in the country,
which she never even visited herself, to
tell her peasants that they must work
harder and send her more money. And, too
she had Pierre to bring up without help
from his father, since his father had died
when the baby was a few days old. Of
course she had an old nurse who really
took all the care of him, and now that he
was no longer a baby, she had had him
brought from the château in the country
to the palace, and with other children of
 the court he had lessons under an old tutor.
He was a dear though mischievous little
fellow who did not always do what was
expected of him.
One afternoon the Countess Clothilde was
called from her merrymaking in the garden
with the other lords and ladies by the old
nurse, who was wringing her hands and
sobbing. Pierre was lost. All day old
Nanna and the grooms had been searching
for him, but he was nowhere to be found.
That was bad news. The Countess Clothilde
was alarmed. Yet she could do little to
help, for she had to go to be dressed in
her brocade and jewels ready for the
court ball that night. The king was just
back from his hunting and everyone was
summoned. She went to the ball and to
hide her trouble put on her best mask
of gayety, but soon she did not need to
pretend. Her little Pierre was the talk
of the evening. Monsieur le Marquis
de Vernous, who had been with the king
on his hunt, came up to her, a fine figure
with his powdered hair and satin clothes.
"Look out, Madame la Comtesse," he said,
"that baby of yours, gare, but
he has spirit! He is an enfant terrible.
Some day you will really lose him."
"My boy! Pierre? You've seen him!
Tell me, is he safe?"
"Safe and deserves a medal for gallantry,
Madame. Seldom in battle have I seen more
fearless conduct." He went on to tell her
that when they were riding home from the
hunt, in a field far from the palace he
saw something moving and supposed it to
be a fawn. The
 hunting had been poor, and on the chance
he let loose his dogs, but happily spurred
on his horse after them. "And there,
Madame, if you please," he said, "there
in the midst of the pack, jumping and
barking around him, I found your Pierre.
He was holding them off, a dauntless
chevalier indeed, but I, I confess it,
Madame, I was frightened. Yet he is safe,
without harm. I brought him back myself
in front of me on my horse."
THE HUNTS OF LOUIS XV
This is one of a series of tapestries of the Hunts of the King
When the Countess herself took the time
to question and scold her small son, she
found him happy and unrepentant. "I had
to go to see the pretty horses all
together," he cried. "In the stables they
stand too still, but out there, oh, how
they danced and pranced! It was so
pretty, mother. I want to go to hunt."
After that, Pierre was a great favorite.
The gentlemen talked of his courage, and
the ladies all spoiled him; so that
whenever he dared he ran away from nurse
and lessons into the gardens where the
lovely ladies were. He was a real child
of the court, in love with every gay and
pretty thing. At last, though he was
barely ten years old, the Countess Clothilde
had to send him away to school. He went
up to Paris to the very school which the
young Marquis de Lafayette had just left.
There he lived in a dreary little room
not much better than a cell, with no
window and only an opening in the door
to let in the air. He learned some Latin
and mathematics, but the things he really
liked were the lessons in fencing and
horsemanship, in manners and all the
etiquette of the court,—how
 to make his bow, how to pick up a lady's
fan, how to be a perfect courtier. As the
years went by and a new Louis and his
queen, Marie Antoinette, came to reign
at Versailles, he had mastered these
things so well that all the ladies
declared he would be a great favorite
with her majesty, who more than ever
loved everything elegant and pretty.
So when the boys at school talked together
of what they would do when they were men,
Pierre naturally said, "I shall be a
gentleman-in-waiting at the court." But
Guillaume, one of the older boys, shook
his head. "When we are men, it well may
be that there will be neither court nor
king." Neither court nor king! The
boys howled him down and threatened to
mob him. But Guillaume went on, "Can't
any of you, even you spoiled darlings
here, feel what is in the air? Did you
suppose all the world was a picnic like
Versailles? Have you never heard of the
peasants who slave and starve in the
country while the court blows
soap-bubbles? How long do you think
they'll keep it up? A month's work
and it buys my lady a pretty fan!
A fan for her and no food for them!"
"What nonsense you talk, Guillaume,"
said Pierre, "I haven't been in the
country, to be sure, since I was a
baby, but I've seen Boucher's pictures,
and the peasants are as jolly as
"Pictures! He's seen Boucher's
pictures!" jeered Guillaume. "And he
thinks they're the real thing! Get
along down to the country, you fellows;
 you did, though your dainty souls will
have a shock. Magic words are
running around here—liberté
"Liberty and equality! And what might
they mean?" Pierre and the other boys
asked in chorus as they shrugged their
"Mean? They mean fewer joujous
for my lady and more bread for the farmer.
We'll all be saying them soon, unless
we want to hang for it."
"Not I," sang out Pierre. "No ugly old
world like that for me! Coarse black
bread instead of my lady's pretty little
"Look out, then!" Guillaume retorted.
"Liberté et egalité! You're
likely to hear them any minute."
"Liberty and equality!" The very next day
Pierre heard them. He had stolen away
from school to buy oranges of his
favorite vender on the street. She kept
her golden fruit well piled and wore
bright colors herself and her voice rang
out in jolly fashion as she cried her
wares: "Oranges, oranges! Come buy!"
So Pierre always went to her, and she
like everyone else was usually ready to
pet him. But today she was full of
new talk. The king was making one of
his rare visits to Paris and the streets
were decorated with fine lords on
horseback and bright ladies peering out
daintily from their sedan chairs, as
strong porters carried them clear of
the dirt and tumult.
GOING TO MARKET, BY BOUCHER
Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
"Aye," said the orange-woman, with a toss
of her head, "my lady rides today. But
tomorrow,—  liberté et egalité. Do
you hear that, my boy? Learn quickly
to say it, too,—for soon things will
change. For by what right has she her
fine clothes and jeweled chains, and
I—nothing? Tell me, then," she
It was Guillaume's talk over again, and
Pierre though only fourteen was angry.
A boy brought up at court could not put
up with such talk. "By what right?"
he cried. "Because they belong to her,
of course,—like sunshine to a flower,
like their gold skins to these oranges
of yours. She is herself sweet and
pretty! Eh bien, she shall have
sweet and pretty things."
"Ah, shall she?" scoffed the orange-vender,
and Pierre lost his temper. "Would you,
then," he cried "have all the world ugly
Then something happened. Whether it was
accident or whether the orange-woman did
it, Pierre never knew. A sedan chair
came close beside them, and at the moment
a pretty lady in her high-feathered
headdress and gleaming jewels leaned out
of her window to wave her fan toward
a gentleman behind her. Suddenly her
fan fell into the street. Quick as a
thought Pierre darted out to pick it up.
But a workman standing by was in his way
and in his hurry Pierre ran head on
into him. It made the man angry, and
he gave Pierre a fierce blow on the head,
but Pierre somehow rallied, flung himself
upon the fan, picked it up and handed it
to the lady with his most courtly bow.
A brillian smile rewarded him, and he
was well content.
 But the blow on his head had been a hard
one, and Pierre fell ill with fever and
delirium. He knew nothing until weeks
later he opened his eyes in a strange room,
once fine but now faded and dull compared
with the bright rooms of Versailles.
Everything was still. There were no
rumblings of carts and no shrill street
cries as in Paris. He was in the country
at the old family château, where with
old Nanna his mother had sent him to get
well. He got well slowly, and it was
the dreariest life he had ever known.
There was nothing to do; he was not
allowed to hunt; there was no good horse
to ride, and there were no people
to talk to. On all sides of the château
stretched fields and woods and pastures
with only the peasants at work in them.
Such people he had never seen. They
certainly were not like Boucher's pictures.
They were coarse, clumsy, stupid creatures,
bent over as they walked, dressed almost
in rags, with legs and feet bare, and
their faces were heavy, without expression.
"Who are these?" he asked old Nanna.
"Your people," she answered. "It is they
who work the ground for Madame la Comtesse
and for you. They are made to do your will."
"But why are they like this?" Pierre cried.
"Ah, they know nothing. They are but
beasts," old Nanna said, with the contempt
of a city woman for the country, and for the
moment Pierre let it go at that.
When he was well enough he walked about in
the fields for the sake of having something
to do. Close at
 hand the people disgusted him even more, for
they were so dirty and rough, and they seemed
to like him as little as he them. It was a
rude contrast to his dainty past. Yet to
roam the country was all he had to do. He
could not appreciate its beauty, for a boy
brought up in the artificial splendor of
Versailles had not eyes to see the loveliness
of this smiling land of Touraine, with its
gleaming rivers and green fields, its wooded
hills and little hamlets nestled into the
He was dreadfully bored and longing for any
kind of change, when one day he crossed a
narrow footbridge, so narrow that two
could hardly pass, and coming toward him
he saw a little boy, hair matted like
thatch on a cottage roof, hands and feet
caked with dirt, clothes few and foul.
Must he, Pierre, rub against such a creature?
All the dreariness of the past days seemed
to turn into disgust. Before he knew what
he was doing, he shouted, "Get out of the
way!" and started to kick the boy. But he
felt a hand pull him and before he turned
to look he somehow guessed whose it was.
There stood a girl whom he had often seen
and wondered about, though he had never
spoken to her. She was older than himself,
a peasant, like the others, yet different.
For she held her head high, and there was
a light in her eyes. Though she had a
short skirt and bare feet, she walked with
a natural grace, and as she walked she
often sang a little tune. She always
courtesied to him respectfully, not
avoiding him as the others did. Now it
was she who challenged him.
SHEPHERDESS KNITTING, BY MILLET
Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 "What—what,—by what right?" Pierre
stammered, though in spite of himself he
was admiring her courage.
"By what right?" she echoed in low, sweet
tones. "Liberté et
egalité! Is he not, like you, a son
Liberty and equality,—there was the watchword
turning up again! Pierre, surprised, stepped
aside and the girl and the little boy passed
on. He went home, and as he thought it over,
he became less surprised at what she had done
than at his own feeling toward her. She
interested him. There was something of
authority about her as well as charm, and
he wanted to see more of her. Her name was
Michelle, he learned; her father was an old
tenant on the place, and—what was
strange—people said she knew how to read,
a thing almost unheard of among the peasants.
He fell into the habit of passing near where
she tended the sheep. Always she bowed
politely, without a word.
One day she had a book in her hand, and Pierre
went up to her. "What do you read?" he
"The story of France," she answered quietly.
"Always I read of France, poor France, which
is always on my heart."
"Poor? Why call France poor?"
She looked at him for a moment with wide eyes,
then answered simply, "Because the people have
not enough to eat. They work and suffer, and
the queen spends all they have. It is not
just. She must stop."
 "But would you have all the world like them?"
asked Pierre with a shrug, waving his hand
toward the reapers in a neighboring field.
"No, not like us," Michelle corrected him,
"for we are dull through working all the time
to give the queen her pretty chains and toys.
That is why I say it is not just. And it
"But," said Pierre, "you do not understand.
If you had ever seen! If you could know
something about the beautiful world, as
well as about just bread!"
"The beautiful world!" she caught her breath.
"Do I tend my sheep here all day and not know
what beauty is! The lovely earth, our river
in the sun, the great white clouds like
flocks of my own sheep, the sower as he
swings across the fields! Ah, monsieur,
are not these beautiful, too? Do I not
know? It may be there are many kinds of
Pierre looked at her surprised. Then for
the first time he opened his eyes to look
about him and really see the lovely
landscape. A peasant with a bundle of
fagots strapped on his back moved somberly
across the fields, almost picturesque in
the distance. Michelle pointed to him.
"Now we may seem ugly to you, for we are
sad and tired. But when we are free,
when liberty comes, even the common man will
have some time for what is pleasant and
lovely. Ah, why is that day so long
in coming?" she cried. "If Jeanne d'Arc
would but come again and help us!" Her
eyes traveled out along a brown thread of
road in the distance.
 "Patience, I know! Patienve, I tell myself.
I tend my sheep and read her story," she went
on quietly, "and then I go far along on the
road to Chinon, where the stone Madonna is.
She is very, very old and even in Jeanne's
time they say she stood there,—perhaps
Jeanne prayed to her herself when she rode
to the king—and I go to her and pray
that soon, soon she will send someone to
"Jeanne d'Arc? Who was she?" Pierre asked.
"I know I've heard her name. Was she a queen
JEANNE D'ARC, BY CHAPU
"She was only a peasant girl like me. She
worked hard as we all must, but she prayed
often too, and one day when she was in the
field with her sheep there came a light.
Ah, sometimes when I am here alone with
my sheep, I can see just how it looked to
her. And there was a voice too which often
spoke to her: 'Be good and wise and go often
to church.' Jeanne heeded it, and after
that, when the other children went to dance
at Lady Tree or took their suppers to the
fountain where the fairies were, she was
thinking of the voices. Three times the
light came, and then St. Michael himself
stood before her. 'I come to tell you of
the great pity of France,' he said to her.
For you know, monsieur," Michelle
interrupted her story, "that was in the days
when France suffered worse than now. An
enemy king had conquered all the north of
France, almost down to our great river
Loire, and Paris was gone, and the young
Dauphin was not even crowned true
 king, and he did nothing to save his people,
but idled (close by us here) in his castle
"And so St. Michael came to Jeanne and said,
'It is thou, daughter of God; thou must go
to save France.' Think of it, monsieur.
She was ignorant, even more ignorant than
I, for, as she told the angel, she did not
know her A or B, she could not ride a horse
or fight, and how could she save France?
But St. Michael sent her St. Margaret
and St. Catherine to teach her. Often they
came and talked with her and directed her
in all things. She had two lives then,—one
when she worked for her mother, one when she
saw her visions and heard her voices. And
she believed all that the voices taught her;
though it was so hard, she believed. That
is the great thing, monsieur, to believe;
then one must do. And so Jeanne made her
uncle believe in her visions, too, until at
last he was ready to take her to the king's
officer, Robert de Baudricourt. Robert of
course did not understand, and he said to
Jeanne, 'I will send you back to your father
with your ears well beaten.' But Jeanne
only answered him, 'By mid-Lent I must be
with the king even if I have to walk my
legs off to the knees.'
"And she meant it, monsieur, she would have
done it, and so the king's officer had to
believe in her, too, and he gave her a sword
and a few men to guide her to the king. All
the long, hard journey through the wild lands
where the enemy lay, she rode with only
those few men, until at last they came to
Chinon, where the
 king was. He did not believe in her, and he
thought to trick her by hiding himself among
his nobles and putting another man on his
throne. But Jeanne went straight to the
real king. She knew him, for her voices
told her. Then the king had to listen to
her. He gave her armor and let her go to
join the army, and she went riding on
her white horse to Orléans, where the
enemy was camped against us. And because
she was so pure and wise and good, even the
soldiers believed her, and they did what
she said, and she saved the city. Then she
made the Dauphin go with her to Reims, to
the cathedral where the sacred oil is kept
for crowning our kings. There at last he
was made true king over all France, and
the people turned to him and did their best
to serve him and serve France.
"Jeanne died, monsieur, a dreadful death,
but not until she had given us our country,
our lovely France to love and care for."
Michelle stopped, and her eyes traveled far
away across the beautiful fields.
Pierre got up and stretched himself, as if
waking from a dream. "I've heard some of
that story," he said, "but I supposed it was
a fairy tale. How could a girl do such
things? Lead an army! It isn't possible!"
"Impossible? Yes, impossible, yet true."
Michelle answered quietly. "It was because
she loved France so much, and because she
believed. So it must be again today.
There must be someone to save France,
someone to believe and love enough. Why
will you not be the one, monsieur?"
 She spoke always quietly, but Pierre noticed the
glow in her face, the light in her eyes,
the strength of her feeling, which shook her
body as the wind sways a lily on its stalk.
She was not pretty like the exquisite ladies
of the court, but she had a power unknown
to them. Pierre, scarcely realizing what he
did, turned to her and said, "What would you
have me do?"
STATUE OF THE MADONNA
This statue was made in France before the days of Joan of Arc. (Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
After that they were continually together.
She had lighted a little spark in his spirit,
and day by day she fanned it, to kindle it
into a real fire. He was only a boy, only
fourteen he told her, and what could he do?
But she told him he must learn, and he must
love. He must learn to love the real France,
not the little world of the court. She
talked to him about his peasants, and made
him know them, until Martin was no longer
like a clod of the earth to him, but a
 day and night to save his sick baby, and old
André became a sort of hero, because
through giving his daughter a real marriage
feast he had robbed himself of any hope of
meat to eat, for the tax collector had
seen the feathers of the chicken he had
killed and told him that a man so rich must
pay bigger taxes, and now as the result
André was very poor. So, under
Michelle's teaching, Pierre grew interested
in the people and began to understand
them and to find them less dull and to want
to help them. She took him on a pilgrimage
to Chinon, where Jeanne d'Arc had gone to
find the king, and on the way back, at the
shrine of her stone Madonna, she stopped
to pray for him. No longer did he find the
days dreary, for he had so much to learn.
But he was well again now, and his mother
sent for him. He must go back to school.
For farewell, Michelle climbed with him to
some uplands above the river, covered with
purple heather and yellow gorse. She picked
a flower of each and gave them to him. "That
you may not forget!" she said. "The wild
heather, that's for liberty, and the golden
gorse, for equality! See the two together;
are they not beautiful? They are the fair
France that is to be. You will not forget?"
she begged, looking at him eagerly.
Pierre took the flowers. "I shall not
forget," he promised.
He went back to school, this time to the
Military School at Versailles. He was glad
to be back, but
 somehow it was all changed. Was it really
the same place? Had the pretty ladies
always been like dolls, each one like the
other one? Had it always been such a
made-up sort of world?
Yet even here he found a new stir in the
air. Even here the magic words had crept
into the talk,—liberté et egalité.
For far across the seas in America some
peasants or farmers, as the nobles called
them, had risen up against their king and
had declared that all men alike had a right
to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness, and they were even then fighting
to get what they believed in. The Marquis
de Lafayette, who might have been the
darling of the court, had braved the king's
anger and was fitting up a ship at his own
expense to go over and help them in their
fight. "For," he said, "I believe that the
liberties of the whole world are bound up
in this fight in America." Pierre longed to
go, too, and wished that he were old enough.
But he did the next best thing; he worked
hard at his business of learning to be a
good soldier, and talked with Madame de
Lafayette whenever he could about all that
was happening in America. Then three years
later, when Lafayette came home and persuaded
King Louis at last to send troops and money
to help the great American, General
Washington, Pierre was fitted and ready to
go, too. Just before sailing, he wrote to
Michelle. "Tomorrow I start for America,
following Monsieur de Lafayette. Liberté
 et egalité! I say the words
after you who first taught me to think about
them. You gave me the flowers, the purple
heather and the yellow gorse, to make me
remember them, and now to show you how I have
 remembered I go to fight to make them come
true. It is not yet for France. But after
America is saved, it will be the turn of France.
We shall come back and win them too for
France—liberty and equality! And then we
will make her the fair and beautiful land
you dream of. Till then, farewell."
LAFAYETTE, BY LA PERCHE
Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Pierre made good his word. With Lafayette he
fought for freedom in both worlds. After
liberty was won for America, he came home to
find France in tumult. The court was rocking,
and the people clamoring for the right to
work for themselves and live as men, not as
slaves of the king. Dreadful years of
revolution followed, when, seeing all in the
light of Michelle's words, Pierre, like
Lafayette, took his stand with the people
and fought for their freedom. Though it took
long, dark years, France at last, like
America, became a land of liberty. And Pierre,
through fighting to save it, learned more
than ever how dear to him were its beautiful
fields, farms and rivers, just as Michelle
had seen that it would be. Patriot or lover
of the beautiful,—either way,—France
filled his heart.