French-to-English translation of the sixteenth 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 16th chapter, by Christopher Peck, Jr.
XVI - Candied Fruit
Sophie was coming back from a walk with her cousin Paul. In the entrance hall, a man who looked like a stagecoach driver was waiting. He had a package under his arm.
"Who are you waiting for, sir?" Paul said politely.
"I'm waiting for Mrs. de Réan, young man. I have a package to give her."
"Who's it from?" Sophie said.
"I don't know, young lady. I'm just the stagecoach driver. The package is from Paris."
"What's in the package?" Sophie said.
"I think it's some candied fruits and apricot jelly. At least, that's what my list says."
Sophie's eyes lit up. She ran her tongue over her lips.
"Come on, let's go let mother know," she said to Paul. She ran ahead. Moments later, the mother showed up, paid for the package's shipping and took it to the sitting room. Sophie and Paul followed her. They were surprised when they saw Mrs. de Réan put the package on the table and go back to her office to read and write.
Sophie and Paul looked at each other, distraught.
"Ask mother to open it," Sophie whispered to Paul.
"I don't want to. Auntie doesn't like it when we're impatient and curious," Paul whispered back.
"Ask her if she wants us to open the package for her, so she doesn't have to."
"I can hear what you're saying, Sophie," her mother said. "It's bad to be dishonest, pretending you're being helpful by doing something for me. You just want to open that package because you're curious and want to eat. I would've let you if you had just honestly told me, 'Mother, I want to see the candied fruits. Please let me open the package.' Now, you're not allowed to touch it."
Sophie, confused and grumpy, went to her room, followed by Paul.
"That's what you get for trying to trick her," Paul said. "You always do that, and you know that auntie hates dishonesty."
"So why didn't you ask her right away when I told you to?" Sophie said. "You always want to act like you're well-behaved, but you just do stupid things."
"First off, I don't do stupid things. Also, I'm not acting like I'm well-behaved. You say that because you're angry you didn't get your candied fruits."
"Not at all, cousin. I'm angry with you because you always get me in trouble."
"Even the day you scratched me?"
Sophie was ashamed. She blushed and said nothing. They didn't talk for a while. Sophie wanted to ask Paul to forgive her, but her pride prevented her from speaking first. Paul, who was kind, wasn't angry at Sophie anymore, but he didn't know how to start the conversation. Finally, he found a clever way. He rocked on his chair and tilted so far backwards, that he fell. Sophie ran to help him get up.
"Are you hurt, Paul?" she said.
"No, I just wanted to go back to when you were talking to me, so I pushed my chair backwards!"
Sophie laughed. "Oh! Back. That's kinda funny."
"Yes! Because I ended our fight by falling."
Sophie kissed him. "My kind Paul, you're so nice! So you fell on purpose? You could've hurt yourself."
"No. How do you think I could get hurt falling from such a low chair? Now that we're friends, let's go play."
They ran out of the room. Going through the sitting room, they saw the package, still tied up. Paul dragged Sophie, who wanted to stop, and they didn't think about it anymore.
After dinner, Mrs. de Réan called for the children.
"We're finally going to open up the famous package," she said, "and taste our candied fruits. Paul, go find a knife for me to cut it open." Like a bolt of lightning, Paul left and was back almost in an instant, holding a knife. He gave it to his aunt.
Mrs. de Réan cut the package open, removed the papers wrapped around the fruits and revealed twelve boxes of candied fruits and apricot jelly.
"Let's taste them to see if they're good," she said while opening a box. "Take two, Sophie. Choose the ones you like best. We have pears, plums, walnuts, apricots, citrons, angelica..."
Sophie hesitated a bit. She looked at the biggest ones. Finally, she chose a pear and an apricot. Paul chose a plum and some angelica. When everyone had taken some, the mother closed the box, still half full. She brought it to her room and put it on a shelf. Sophie followed her to the door.
Coming back, Mrs. de Réan told Sophie and Paul that she wouldn't be able to take them for a walk. She had to visit someone in the neighborhood.
"Have fun while I'm gone, children. Take a walk, or stay in front of the house. Whichever you prefer."
She kissed them then got into a carriage with Mr. and Mrs. d'Aubert and Mr. de Réan.
The children were alone. They played for a long time in front of the house. Sophie spoke often of the candied fruits.
"I'm mad," she said, "that I didn't have any angelica or a plum. They must be delicious."
"Yes, they are," Paul answered, "but you'll be able to have some tomorrow. So don't think about it anymore, trust me. Let's play."
They went back to their game, which Paul came up with. They had dug a little hole and were filling it with water. But they had to keep adding more, because the earth was drinking the water up as they poured it in. Then, Paul slipped on the muddy ground and spilled a full watering can on his legs.
"Ooh, ooh!" he cried out. "It's cold! I'm soaked. I have to go change my shoes, stockings and pants. Wait for me. I'll be back in fifteen minutes."
Sophie stayed close to the hole, tapping the water with her little shovel. But she wasn't thinking about the water, the shovel or Paul. What was she thinking about, then? She was thinking about the candied fruits, the angelica, the plums. She regretted that she couldn't have eaten more, couldn't have tasted everything.
"Tomorrow," she thought, "mother will give me more. But I won't have time to choose correctly. If I could look at them ahead of time, I'll figure out which ones I'll have tomorrow... And why can't I look at them? I just have to open the box."
Sophie was pleased with her idea. She ran to her mother's room and tried to reach the box. She tried to jump and stretch her arm, but she couldn't get it. She couldn't figure out it out. She was looking for a stick, some tongs, anything. Then she hit her forehead and said:
"What an idiot I am! I'm going to bring a chair over and climb up!"
Sophie pulled and pushed a heavy chair close to the shelf. She climbed up, grabbed the box, opened it and looked longingly at the beautiful candied fruits. "What will I have tomorrow?" she said. She couldn't decide. Sometimes this one, sometimes that one. Time was passing by, however. Paul would be back soon.
"What will he say if he sees me like this?" she thought. "He would think I was stealing the candied fruits, even though I'm just looking... I have a great idea. If I nibble just a tiny, little bit from each fruit, I'll figure out how each one tastes. I'll know which one is best. No one will see anything because I'll chew off so little, they won't see it."
Sophie nibbled a piece of angelica, then an apricot, then a plum, then a walnut, then a pear, then a citron. But she was as indecisive as before.
"I have to start over," she said.
She nibbled the fruit again and again, so many times that the box was almost empty. Finally, she noticed and got scared.
"My god, my god! What have I done?" she said. "I just wanted to taste it, and I almost ate everything. Mother is going to notice as soon as she opens the box. She'll figure out that it was me. What do I do, what do I do? I could tell her it wasn't me, but she isn't going to believe me…
"What if I said it was mice? Exactly! I saw one running in the hallway this morning. I'll tell mother that. Actually, I'll tell her it was a rat because rats are bigger than mice, and they eat more. Since I ate almost everything, I'll be better off saying it was a rat rather than a mouse."
Sophie was pleased with her cleverness. She closed the box, put it back in its place and got down from the chair. She ran back to the garden. She barely had had time to grab her shovel when Paul came back.
"I was gone a long time, wasn't I?" he said. "I couldn't find my shoes. They took them to polish them, and I looked everywhere before asking Baptiste. What did you do while I was gone?"
"Nothing. I was waiting for you," she said. "I was playing with the water."
"But you let the hole get empty. There's nothing left in it. Give me the shovel, so I can pat the bottom a bit to make it more solid. While I'm doing that, you go draw some water."
Sophie went to look for water while Paul was working in the hole. When she came back, Paul gave the shovel back to her and said:
"Your shovel is all sticky. It's sticking to my fingers. What did you get on it?"
"Nothing," Sophie answered. "Nothing. I don't know why it's sticking."
Sophie quickly plunged her hands into the watering can full of water. She just noticed that they were sticky.
"Why are you putting your hands in the watering can?" Paul asked.
Sophie was embarrassed. "To see if it's cold."
Paul laughed. "You've been so weird since I came back! It's almost like you've done something bad."
Sophie was bothered by this. "What do you mean I've done something bad!? You just have to look. You won't find anything wrong. I don't know why you're saying I did something bad. You always have these ridiculous ideas."
"You're so angry! I was just joking. I promise you I don't think you did anything bad, and you don't need to look at me like that."
Sophie raised her shoulders. She grabbed her watering can and poured it into the hole, onto sand. The children played like this until eight o'clock. The maids came looking for them and led them away. It was time for bed.
Sophie had a somewhat restless night. She dreamed about a garden on the other side of a gate. This garden was full of flowers and delicious-looking fruit. She looked for a way in.
Her guardian angel pulled her away and warned her: "Do not go there, Sophie. Do not taste that fruit that looks so delicious. They are bitter and poisoned. Do not smell those flowers that look so beautiful. They have a foul and poisonous odor. That garden is the garden of evil. Let me lead you to the garden of goodness."
"But," Sophie said, "the road to go there is bumpy and full of stones. The other one is covered in fine sand and will feel good on my feet."
"Yes," the angel said, "but the bumpy road will lead you to a garden of joy. The other road will lead you to a place of suffering and sadness. Everything there is bad. The beings that live there are mean and cruel. Instead of consoling you, they will laugh at your suffering. They will make it worse by tormenting you themselves."
Sophie hesitated. She looked at the beautiful garden full of flowers, fruit and sandy, shady paths. Then, taking a look at the bumpy, dry road which seemed to go on forever, she turned back to the gate. It opened up before her.
Freeing herself from her angel's hands, she ran into the garden. The angel called to her: "Come back, Sophie! I'll wait for you at the gate. I'll wait until you die. If you ever come back to me, I will lead you along the bumpy road to the garden of joy. The bumpy road will become softer and more beautiful as you walk along it."
Sophie didn't listen to her angel's voice. Children were waving to her to come. She ran to them. They circled around her and laughed. Some began to pinch her. Others to pull at her and throw sand in her eyes.
Sophie had trouble getting rid of them. Getting away, she picked a flower that looked charming. She smelled it and threw it. The smell was dreadful.
She continued on. Seeing trees full of the most beautiful fruit, she took one and tasted it. But she threw it with even more horror than with the flower. The taste was bitter and disgusting.
Sophie was a little saddened and continued her walk. Everywhere, she was tricked like with the flowers and the fruit. When she had spent some time in this garden where everything was bad, she thought about her guardian angel. Despite the garden's mean children calling to her and making promises to her, she ran to the gate. She saw her angel, who was reaching out for her.
Pushing away the mean children, she threw herself into the angel's arms, who took her along the bumpy road. The first steps seemed difficult. But the more she progressed, the softer the road became, the sweeter and more pleasant the scenery seemed.
She was about to enter the garden of goodness, when she woke up, troubled and covered in sweat. She thought long about this dream. "I have to ask mother," she said, "to explain it to me." She fell back to sleep until the next day.
When she went to her mother, her mother's face looked a little strict. But the dream made her forget about the candied fruits. She started right away to tell her about it.
"Do you know what it might mean, Sophie?" her mother said. "It is that God, who sees that you are not behaving yourself, is warning you through this dream that if you continue to do bad things, you will have regrets instead of pleasure. That deceptive garden is Hell. The garden of goodness is Heaven. You walk there along a bumpy road, that is to say by giving up pleasant but forbidden things. The road becomes softer as you walk along it. That is, by being obedient, gentle and kind, you get so used to it that being obedient and kind becomes easier, and it no longer hurts to keep oneself from giving in to every desire."
Sophie was restless in her chair. She blushed and looked at her mother. She wanted to speak. But she couldn't make her mind up. Finally, Mrs. de Réan, seeing how restless she was, came to her aid and said:
"You have something to confess, Sophie. You don't dare to, because it's always difficult to admit your mistake. That is precisely the bumpy road that your guardian angel is calling you to, that scares you. Go on, Sophie. Listen to your guardian angel, and bravely jump onto the stones of that bumpy road."
Sophie blushed even more. She hid her face in her hands and, her voice trembling, confessed to her mother that she had eaten almost the entire box of candied fruits the day before.
"And how did you hope to hide that from me?" her mother said.
"I wanted to tell you, mother, that rats ate it."
"And I would never have believed that. Rats can't lift the box's cover and close it afterwards. Rats would've started by eating and ripping the box open to get to the candied fruits. Also, rats don't need to move a chair to get up to the shelf."
Sophie was surprised. "What? You saw that I moved the chair?"
"Just like you forgot to move it back. That's the first thing I saw yesterday when I came back. I understood it was you, especially after looking at the box and seeing it almost empty.
"You have done well to admit your mistake to me, you see. Your lies would've only made your mistake worse and would've made your punishment more severe. To reward the effort you put into confessing everything, you'll have no other punishment aside from not eating the candied fruits for as long as they last."
Sophie kissed her mother's hand, who kissed her back. She then went back to her room, where Paul was waiting for her for lunch.
"What's wrong, Sophie? Your eyes are red."
"I was crying."
"Why? Did auntie scold you?"
"No, I'm ashamed because I told her about something bad I did yesterday."
"Something bad? I didn't see anything."
"Because I hid it from you."
Sophie told Paul about how she had eaten the box of candied fruits after trying to just look at them and pick the best ones for the next day.
Paul praised Sophie for telling her mother everything.
"How did you find the courage?" he said.
Sophie told him about her dream and about how her mother explained it to her. Since that day, Paul and Sophie often spoke of that dream, which helped them be obedient and good.
Stagecoaches were horse-drawn vehicles used to transport people and goods.
Garden angelica, or wild celery, is a type of herb. It is related to celery.