French-to-English translation of the third chapter of Les Malheurs de Sophie
| Les Malheurs de Sophie(in English, Sophie's Misfortunes) is a children's book, written in 1858 by the Countess of Ségur. The original, in French, can be read here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15058
The following is an English translation of the 3rd chapter, by Christopher Peck, Jr.
III - Limewash
Little Sophie was not an obedient girl. Her mother forbade her from going to the courtyard alone where masons were building a house for chickens, peacocks and guinea fowl. Sophie loved to watch the masons work. When her mother went there, she always brought her along but ordered her to stay close to her. Sophie, who would’ve liked to run all over the place, asked her one day:
“Mother, why do you not want me to see the masons without you? And, when you go there, why do you always want me to stay close to you?”
Her mother said, “Because the masons are throwing rocks and bricks which could hit you. Also, there’s sand and limewash which could make you slip and get hurt.”
“Oh, mother! First off, I’ll be careful. Also, sand and limewash can’t hurt me.”
“You think that because you’re a little girl, but because I’m a grown-up, I know that limewash burns.”
“Shush! Don’t argue so much and be quiet. I know better than you what can hurt you and what can’t. I don’t want you going into the courtyard without me.”
Sophie lowered her head and said nothing. She became sullen and said to herself:
“I’ll go anyways. It’s fun, so I’ll go.”
She didn’t wait long for the chance to disobey. One hour later, the gardener came looking for Mrs. de Réan to choose from some geraniums that someone was selling. Sophie was by herself. She looked all around to see if the maids could see her. Sensing she was alone, she ran for the door, opened it, and went into the courtyard. The masons were working. They didn’t think about Sophie, who was having fun watching them and looking at everything. She found herself close to a big basin full of limewash, white and smooth like cream.
“How white and lovely this limewash is!” she said to herself. “I never got such a good look at it. Mother never lets me approach it. How smooth it is! It must feel nice and pleasant under your feet. I’m going to slide across the basin as if it was ice.”
Sophie put her foot on the limewash, thinking it was solid like the ground. But her foot sank. In order to not fall, she put her other foot down and she sank up to her knees. She cried. A mason ran to her, pulled her out, put her on the ground and told her:
“Take your shoes and stockings off quick, miss. They’re already burnt. If you keep ’em on, the limewash is gonna burn your legs.”
Sophie looked at her legs. Despite the limewash that was still on, she saw that her shoes and stockings were black as if they came out of a fire. She cried more loudly. Even more so since she started to feel the tingling from the limewash burning her legs. Her maid wasn’t far, fortunately. She came running and saw right away what happened. She pulled Sophie’s shoes and stockings off and wiped her feet and legs with her apron. She took Sophie in her arms and brought her to the house. When Sophie was back in her room, Mrs. de Réan was coming back to pay the florist.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. de Réan asked, concerned. “Did you hurt yourself? Why are you barefoot?”
Sophie, ashamed, didn’t answer. The maid told the mother what had happened. How Sophie almost got her legs burned by limewash.
“If I hadn’t been close to the courtyard and didn’t show up just in time, her legs would be in the same state as my apron. Madame can see how it’s been burnt by the limewash. It’s full of holes.”
Mrs. de Réan indeed saw that the maid’s apron was ruined. Turning towards Sophie, she said:
“Young lady, I should whip you for your disobedience. But God has already punished you with the fright you’ve had. So you’ll have no other punishment aside from giving me the five francs coin that you were saving for the village festival to replace your maid’s apron.”
As much as Sophie cried and asked for mercy for her five francs coin, her mother took it. Sophie cried and told herself that next time, she would listen to her mother and she would no longer go where she wasn’t supposed to go.