Autumn is here. The wind
blowing through the woods whirls about the dead leaves.
The chestnuts are stripped bare already and lift their
black skeleton arms in the air. And now the beeches
and hornbeams are shedding their leaves.
The birches and aspens are turned to trees of gold,
and only the great oak keeps his coronal of green.
The morning is fresh; a keen wind
is chasing the clouds across a grey sky and reddening
the youngsters’ fingers. Pierre, Babet,
and Jeannot are off to collect the dead leaves, the
leaves that once, when they were still alive, were
full of dew and songs of birds, and which now strew
the ground in thousands and thousands with their little
shrivelled corpses. They are dead, but they smell
good. They will make a fine litter for Riquette,
the goat, and Roussette, the cow. Pierre
has taken his big basket; he is quite a little man.
Babet has her sack; she is quite a little woman.
Jeannot comes last trundling the wheelbarrow.
Down the hill they go at a run.
At the edge of the wood they find the other village
children, who are come too to lay in a store of dead
leaves for the winter. It is not play, this; it
But never think the children are sad,
because they are at work. Work is serious, yes;
it is not sad. Very often the little ones mimic
it in fun, and children’s games, most times,
are copies of their elders’ workaday doings.
Now they are hard at it. The
boys do their part in silence. They are peasant
lads, and will soon be men, and peasants do not talk
much. But it is different with the little peasant
girls; their tongues go at a fine pace, as
they fill the baskets and bags.
But now the sun is climbing higher
and warming the country pleasantly. From the
cottage roofs rise light puffs of smoke. The children
know what that means. The smoke tells them the
pease-soup is cooking in the pot. One more armful
of dead leaves, and the little workers will take the
road home. It is a stiff climb. Bending under
sacks or toiling behind barrows, they soon get hot,
and the sweat comes out in beads. Pierre, Babet
and Jeannot stop to take breath.
But the thought of the pease-soup
keeps up their courage. Puffing and blowing,
they reach home at last. Their mother is waiting
for them on the door-step and calls out: “Come
along, children, the soup is ready.”
Our little friends find this capital.
There’s no soup so good as what you have worked