Read DEAD LEAVES of Child Life In Town And Country 1909 , free online book, by Anatole France, on ReadCentral.com.

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 is work.

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 for.