Jasmin at School

Sister Boe-- Jasmin enters the Seminary-- His Progress-- His Naughty Trick-- Tumbles from a Ladder-- His Punishment-- Imprisoned-- The Preserves-- Expelled from the Seminary-- His Mother sells her Wedding-ring for Bread-- The Abbe Miraben-- Jasmin a Helpful Boy

One joyful day Jasmin's mother came home in an ecstasy of delight, and cried, "To school, my child, to school!" "To school?" said Jasmin, greatly amazed. "How is this? Have we grown rich?" "No, my poor boy, but you will get your schooling for nothing. Your cousin has promised to educate you; come, come, I am so happy!" It was Sister Boé, the schoolmistress of Agen, who had offered to teach the boy gratuitously the elements of reading and writing.

The news of Jacques' proposed scholarship caused no small stir at home. The mother was almost beside herself with joy. The father too was equally moved, and shed tears of gratitude. He believed that the boy might yet be able to help him in writing out, under his dictation, the Charivari impromptus which, he supposed, were his chief forte. Indeed, the whole family regarded this great stroke of luck for Jacques in the light of a special providence, and as the beginning of a brilliant destiny. The mother, in order to dress him properly, rummaged the house, and picked out the least mended suit of clothes, in which to array the young scholar.

When properly clothed, the boy, not without fear on his own part, was taken by his mother to school.

Behold him, then, placed under the tuition of Sister Boé! There were some fifty other children at school, mumbling at the letters of the alphabet, and trying to read their first easy sentences. Jasmin had a good memory, and soon mastered the difficulties of the A B C. "'Twixt smiles and tears," he says, "I soon learnt to read, by the help of the pious Sister."

In six months he was able to enter the Seminary in the Rue Montesquieu as a free scholar. He now served at Mass. Having a good ear for music ,he became a chorister, and sang the Tantum ergo. He was a diligent boy, and so far everything prospered well with him. He even received a prize. True, it was only an old cassock, dry as autumn heather. But, being trimmed up by his father, it served to hide his ragged clothes beneath.

His mother was very proud of the cassock. "Thank God," she said, "thou learnest well; and this is the reason why, each Tuesday, a white loaf comes from the Seminary. It is always welcome, for the sake of the hungry little ones." "Yes," he replied, "I will try my best to be learned for your sake." But Jasmin did not long wear the cassock. He was shortly after turned out of the Seminary, in consequence of a naughty trick which he played upon a girl of the household.

Jasmin tells the story of his expulsion with great frankness, though evidently ashamed of the transaction. He was passing through the inner court one day, during the Shrove Carnival, when, looking up, he caught sight of a petticoat. He stopped and gazed. A strange tremor crept through his nerves. What evil spirit possessed him to approach the owner of the petticoat? He looked up again, and recognised the sweet and rosy-cheeked Catherine--the housemaid of the Seminary. She was perched near the top of a slim ladder leaning against the wall, standing upright, and feeding the feathery-footed pigeons.

A vision flashed through Jasmin's mind--"a life all velvet," as he expressed it,--and he approached the ladder. He climbed up a few steps, and what did he see? Two comely ankles and two pretty little feet. His heart burned within him, and he breathed a loud sigh. The girl heard the sigh, looked down, and huddled up the ladder, crying piteously. The ladder was too slim to bear two. It snapped and fell, and they tumbled down, she above and he below!

The loud screams of the girl brought all the household to the spot --the Canons, the little Abbé, the cook, the scullion--indeed all the inmates of the Seminary. Jasmin quaintly remarks, "A girl always likes to have the sins known that she has caused others to commit." But in this case, according to Jasmin's own showing, the girl was not to blame. The trick which he played might be very innocent, but to the assembled household it seemed very wicked. He must be punished.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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