history, adventure, fiction, novel, Foundling, Thief, French Revolution
Of how François the foundling was cared for by the good fathers of the Benedictine Asylum for Orphans, and of what manner of lad he was.
In the summer of the year 1777 a lad of about ten years, clad in a suit of gray, was playing in the high-walled garden of the Benedictine Asylum for Orphans in Paris. The sun was pleasant, the birds sang overhead, the roses were many, for the month was June. A hundred lads were noisily running about. They had the look of being well fed, decently clothed, and kindly cared for. An old priest walked to and fro, at times looking up from his breviary to say a pleasant word or to check some threatening quarrel.
Presently he paused beside the boy who was at the moment intently watching a bird on a branch overhead. As the priest turned, the boy had thrown himself on the grass and was laughing heartily.
"What amuses thee, my son?" said the father. "I am laughing at the birds."
"And why do they make thee laugh, François!" "I do not know."
"And I," said the priest, "do not know why the birds sing, nor why thou dost laugh. Thou hast a talent that way. The good God grant thee always cause"; and with his eyes on his breviary, and his lips moving in prayer, he walked away.
The lad fell back again on the grass, and laughed anew, as if overcome with some jest he shared with no one but the birds overhead. This was a kindly little waif brought hither from the Enfants Trouvés, nameless except for the card pinned on the basket in which he lay when the unknown mother left him, a red-faced baby, to the charity of asylum life.
His constant mirthfulness was a sad cross to some of the good fathers, for neither punishment, fast, nor penance got the better of this gaiety, nor served to repress its instinctive expression. He had, too, -- what is rare in childhood, -- quick powers of observation, and a certain joy in the world of nature, liking to lie on his back and watch the birds at work, or pleased to note the daily changes of flowers or the puzzling journeys of the ants which had their crowded homes beneath the lilacs in undisturbed corners of the garden. His nearest mother, Nature, meant the boy to be one of those rare beings who find happiness in the use of keen senses and in a wakeful mind, which might have been trained to employ its powers for the partial conquest of some of her many kingdoms. But no friendly hand was here to guide, no example present to incite or lift him. The simple diet provided for the intellect of these little ones was like the diet of their table -- the same for one and for all.
His head was high, his face long; all his features were of unusual size, the mouth and ears of disproportionate magnitude; altogether, a quaint face, not quite of to-day, a something Gothic and medieval in its general expression.
I. Of how François the foundling was cared for by the good fathers of the Benedictine Asylum for Orphans, and of what manner of lad he was
II. In which François becomes a choir-boy, and serves two masters, to the impairment of his moral sense
III. Of the misfortunes caused by loss of a voice, and of how a cat and a damsel got François into trouble -- whereupon, preferring the world to a monastery, he ran away from the choristers of Notre Dame
IV. Of how the world used François, and of the reward of virtue. He makes his first friend
V. Of the immorality which may come of an empty stomach, and of how François became acquainted with a human crab
VI. Of how François regained a lost friend, and of his adventure with the poet Horace and another gentleman
VII. Wherein is told how François saved a man's neck and learned to juggle
VIII. In which François discovers the mercantile value of laughter, and the Crab takes toll of the jugglers -- with the sad history of Despard, the partner
IX. In which François tells the fortune of the Marquis de Ste. Luce and of Robespierre, and has his own fortune told, and of how Despard saw a man of

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  • We started tracking this book on February 19, 2019.
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