To M. Pierre Gringoire, lyric poet in Paris.
YOU will always be the same, my poor Gringoire!
How! you have an offer for a job as a chronicler in a good newspaper in Paris, and you have the strength to refuse. But look at you, you unhappy boy! Look at this holed doublet, those ruffled breeches, that thin face that screams hunger. Yet this is where the passion of beautiful rhymes has led you! That is what you earned for ten years of loyal service in the pages of Sir Apollo … Are you not ashamed, at the end?
Make yourself a chronicler, imbecile! Be a chronicler! You will win beautiful rose crowns, you will have your cover at Brebant’s, and you will be able to show you during the premiere with a new feather to your barrette …
No? You do not want? You pretend to remain free at your leisure until the end … Well, listen to the story of Mr. Seguin’s goat. You will see what you gain by wanting to live free.
M. Seguin had never had any happiness with his goats.
He lost them all in the same way: one beautiful morning, they broke their rope, went into the mountain, and up there the wolf ate them. Neither the caresses of their master nor the fear of the wolf, nothing restrained them. They were, it seems, independent goats, desirous at all costs of open air and liberty.
The brave Mr. Seguin, who understood nothing of the character of his beasts, was dismayed. He said:
— It’s finished; the goats are bored at home, I will keep none.
However, he was not discouraged, and after having lost six goats in the same manner, he bought a seventh; Only this time he took care to take a very young, so that she got used to stay at home.
Ah! Gringoire, how pretty was Mr. Seguin’s little goat! How she was pretty with her gentle eyes, her non-commissioned officer’s beard, her black and shining hooves, her zebra horns and her long white hairs that made her a coat! It was almost as charming as the cabri of Esmeralda, you remember, Gringoire? — and then, docile, caressing, letting himself to be milked without moving, without putting his foot in the bowl. A loving little goat…
Mr. Seguin had behind his house an enclosure surrounded by hawthorns. There he put the new lodger. He tied it to a stake, in the most beautiful place in the meadow, taking care to leave him a lot of rope, and from time to time he came to see if she was well. The goat was very happy and grazed the grass with such a good heart that Mr. Seguin was delighted.
— Finally, thought the poor man, there’s one that will not be bored at home!
Mr. Seguin was mistaken, his goat bored.
One day she said to herself, looking at the mountain:
— How well one must be up there! What a pleasure to frolic in the heather, without that cursed lanyard that flattens your neck! … It’s good for the donkey or for the ox to graze in a clos! … The goats, they need wide.
From that moment on, the herb of the enclosure seemed to her bland. She began to get bored. She lost weight, her milk became scarce. It was pitiful to see her laying all day on her loin, her head turned to the side of the mountain, her nostril open, making Baa! … sadly.
Mr. Seguin noticed that his goat had something, but he did not know what it was. One morning, as he finished his milk, the goat turned round and said to him in his patois:
— Listen, Mr, Seguin, I’m languishing here, let me go to the mountains.
— Ah! My God! She too! cried Mr. Seguin stupefied, and suddenly he dropped his bowl; then, sitting down in the grass beside his goat:
— Why, Blanquette, do you want to leave me?
And Blanquette replied:
— Yes, Mr. Seguin.
— Are you missing the grass here?
— Oh! no! Mr. Seguin.
— You may be attached too short; do you want me to lengthen the rope?
— It’s not worth it, Mr. Seguin.
— So what do you need? What do you want?
— I want to go to the mountains, Mr. Seguin.
— But, unhappy, you do not know that there is a wolf in the mountains. What will you do when he comes?…
— I’ll give him horn blows, Mr. Seguin.
— The wolf scoffs at your horns. He has eaten my gobs otherwise horny than you… You know well, the poor old Renaude, who was here last year? A goat mistress, strong and wicked like a buck. She fought with the wolf all night … then, in the morning, the wolf ate her.
— Too bad! Poor Renaude!… That does not matter, Mr. Seguin, let me go to the mountains.
— Good Lord!… said M. Seguin; but what are they doing to my goats? Another one of mine that the wolf is going to eat… Well, no … I will save you in spite of you, naughty! and for fear that you break your rope, I will shut you up in the stable, and you will always remain there.
Thereupon Mr. Seguin carried the goat into a black stable, and locked the door twice. Unfortunately, he had forgotten the window, and scarcely had his back turned, that the little goat went away.
Do you laugh, Gringoire? Well! I think so; you agree with the goats, you are against that good Mr. Seguin. We will see if you will laugh further.
When the white goat arrived in the mountain, it was a general ravishment. Never had the old fir trees seen anything so pretty. She was received as a little queen. The chestnut trees stooped to the ground to stroke her with the tips of their branches. The golden broom opened in her path, and smelled as good as they could. The whole mountain made her party.
You think, Gringoire, if our goat was happy! There was no more rope, no stake… nothing to stop her frolicking, to graze as he pleased… That’s where there was grass! up to the horns, my dear!… And what a grass! Tasty, fine, jagged, made of a thousand plants… It was much different than the grass of the enlosure. And the flowers! … Large blue bellflowers, purple foxgloves with long chalices, a whole forest of wild flowers overflowing with heady juices!…
The white goat, half drunk, wallowed in there with its legs in the air and rolled along the slopes, pell-mell with the fallen leaves and the chestnuts. Then suddenly she straightened up of a leap on his paws. Hop! she is gone, head forward, through the maquis and buises, sometimes on a peak, sometimes at the bottom of a ravine, up there, down, everywhere … It seemed that there were ten goats of Mr. Seguin in the mountains.
She was not afraid of anything, Blanquette.
She crossed in a jump great torrents which splashed her in the passage of damp dust and foam. Then, all dripping, she was going to stretch out on some flat rock and was dried by the sun… Once, advancing to the edge of a plateau, with a flower of shrub in her mouth, she saw down, at the bottom of the plain, Mr. Seguin’s house with the enclosure behind. It made her laugh to tears.
— How small it is! she says; how could I be hold there?
Poor little wretch! seeing herself so high, she thought herself at least as great as the world…
In short, it was a good day for Mr. Seguin’s goat. Towards the middle of the day, running from right to left, she fell into a troop of chamois just starting to chew a beautifully-colored wild vine. Our little runner in a white dress made sensation. He was given the best place at the wild vine, and all these gentlemen were very gallant. It seems, indeed, that it must remain between us, Gringoire, that a young chamois with a black coat had the good fortune to please Blanquette. The two lovers strayed among the woods for an hour or two, and if you want to know what they are saying, go ask to the chattering springs that run invisible in the moss.
Suddenly the wind faded. The mountain became violet; it was the evening…
— Already! said the little goat; and she stopped very much surprised.
Down below, the fields were drowned with mist. Mr. Seguin’s enclosure disappeared in the fog, and of the little house nothing could be seen but the roof with a little smoke. She listened to the bells of a herd which was being brought back, and felt her heart sad. A gyrfalcon, returning, grazed her wings as he passed. She shuddered … then it was a howl in the mountain:
— Owoo! Owoo!
She thought of the wolf; all day long the crazy goat had not thought of it … At the same moment a horn sounded far away in the valley. It was the good Mr. Seguin who tried a last effort.
— Owoo! Owoo! made the wolf.
— Come back! Come back! cried the horn.
Blanquette wanted to come back; but remembering the stake, the rope, the hedge of the enclosure, she thought that now she could no longer make herself to this life, and that it was better to remain.
The horn no longer sounded …
The goat heard a sound of leaves behind her. She turned and saw in the shade two short ears, all straight, with two eyes that shone … It was the wolf.
Huge, motionless, sitting on his back train, he was there looking at the little white goat and tasting it in advance. As he knew he would eat her, the wolf was not in a hurry; only, when she turned round, he began to laugh wickedly.
— Ha! Ha! the little goat of Mr. Seguin; and he passed his big red tongue over his chops of tinder.
Blanquette felt lost. One moment, remembering the story of old Renaude, who had fought all night to be eaten in the morning, she said to herself that it might be better to let herself be eaten right now; then, having changed her mind, she fell on guard, with her head down and her horn in front, like a brave goat of Mr. Seguin that she was. Not that she had the hope of killing the wolf, – the goats do not kill the wolf, – but only to see if she could resist as long as the Renaude …
Then the monster advanced, and the little horns started to dance.
Ah! the brave young goat, how she went with a good heart! More than ten times, I do not lie, Gringoire, she forced the wolf back to take breath. During these one-minute truces, the greedy was still hastily gathering a bit of her dear herb; then she went back to the battle, her mouth full … This lasted all night. From time to time Mr. Seguin’s goat watched the stars dance in the clear sky, and she said to herself:
— Oh! provided I resisted until dawn …
One after the other, the stars were extinguished. Blanquette redoubled the strokes of horns, the wolf the strokes of his teeth… A pale gleam appeared in the horizon… The song of a hoarse cock rose from a small farm.
— Finally! said the poor beast, who was only waiting for the day to die; and she lay down on the ground in her beautiful white fur all stained with blood …
Then the wolf threw himself on the little goat and ate her.
Good bye, Gringoire!
The story you heard is not a tale of my invention. If you ever come to Provence, our households will often talk to you about the cabro de moussu Seguin, que se battégue touto la neui emé lou loup, e piei lou matin lou loup la mangé (the goat of Mr. Seguin, who fought all night with the wolf, and then, in the morning, the wolf ate her).
You hear me well, Gringoire:
E piei lou matin lou loup la mangé.