Read THE SCHOOL of Child Life In Town And Country 1909 , free online book, by Anatole France, on

I proclaim Mademoiselle Genseigne’s school the best girls’ school in the world.  I declare miscreants and slanderers any who shall think or say the contrary.  Mademoiselle Genseigne’s pupils are all well-behaved and industrious, and there is no pleasanter sight to see than all their small figures sitting so still, and all the heads in a straight row.  They look like so many little bottles into which Mademoiselle Gen-seigne is busy pouring useful knowledge.

Mademoiselle Genseigne sits very upright at her high desk.  She has a gentle, serious face; her neatly braided hair and her black tippet inspire respect and sympathy.

Mademoiselle Genseigne, who is very clever, is teaching her little pupils cyphering.

She says to Rose Benoit: 

“Rose Benoit, if I take four from twelve, what have I left?”

“Four?” answers Rose Benoit.

Mademoiselle Genseigne is not satisfied with the answer.

“And you, Emmeline Capel, if I take four from twelve, how much have I left?”

“Eight,” Emmeline Capel answers.

“You hear, Rose Benoit, I have eight left,” insists Mademoiselle Genseigne.

Rose Benoit falls into a brown study.  Mademoiselle Genseigne has eight left, she is told, but she has no notion if it is eight hats or eight handkerchiefs, or possibly eight apples or eight feathers.  The doubt has long tormented her.  She can make nothing of arithmetic.

On the other hand, she is very wise in Scripture History.  Mademoiselle Genseigne has not another pupil who can describe the Garden of Eden or Noah’s Ark as Rose Benoit can.  Rose Benoit knows every flower in the Garden and all the animals in the Ark.  She knows as many fairy tales as Mademoiselle Genseigne herself.  She knows all the fables of the Fox and the Crow, the Donkey and the Little Dog, the Cock and the Hen, and what they said to each other.  She is not at all surprised to hear that the animals used once to talk.  The wonder would be if some one told her they don’t talk now.  She is quite sure she understands what her big dog Tom says and her little canary Chirp.  She is quite right; animals have always talked, and they talk still; but they only talk to their friends.  Rose Benoit loves them and they love her, and that is why she understands what they say.  To understand each other there is nothing like loving one another.

To-day Rose Benoit has said her lessons without a mistake.  She has won a good mark.  Emmeline Capel has a good mark, too, for knowing her arithmetic lesson so well.

On coming out of school, she told her mother she had a good mark.  Then she asked her: 

“A good mark, mother, what’s the use of it?”

“A good mark is of no use,” Emmeline’s mother answered; “that is the very reason why we should be proud to get one.  You will find out one day, my child, that the rewards most highly esteemed are just those that bring honour without profit.”