We were in class when the head-master came in, followed by a "new fellow," not
wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those
who had been asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his
The head-master made a sign to us to sit down. Then, turning to the class-
master, he said to him in a low voice—
"Monsieur Roger, here is a pupil whom I recommend to your care; he'll be in the
second. If his work and conduct are satisfactory, he will go into one of the upper
classes, as becomes his age."
The "new fellow," standing in the corner behind the door so that he could hardly
be seen, was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair
was cut square on his forehead like a village chorister's; he looked reliable, but
very ill at ease. Although he was not broad-shouldered, his short school jacket of
green cloth with black buttons must have been tight about the arm-holes, and
showed at the opening of the cuffs red wrists accustomed to being bare. His legs,
in blue stockings, looked out from beneath yellow trousers, drawn tight by
braces, He wore stout, ill-cleaned, hob-nailed boots.
We began repeating the lesson. He listened with all his ears, as attentive as if at
a sermon, not daring even to cross his legs or lean on his elbow; and when at
two o'clock the bell rang, the master was obliged to tell him to fall into line with
the rest of us.
When we came back to work, we were in the habit of throwing our caps on the
ground so as to have our hands more free; we used from the door to toss them
under the form, so that they hit against the wall and made a lot of dust: it was
But, whether he had not noticed the trick, or did not dare to attempt it, the "new
fellow," was still holding his cap on his knees even after prayers were over. It was
one of those head-gears of composite order, in which we can find traces of the
bearskin, shako, billycock hat, sealskin cap, and cotton night-cap; one of those
poor things, in fine, whose dumb ugliness has depths of expression, like an
imbecile's face. Oval, stiffened with whalebone, it began with three round knobs;
then came in succession lozenges of velvet and rabbit-skin separated by a red
band; after that a sort of bag that ended in a cardboard polygon covered with
complicated braiding, from which hung, at the end of a long thin cord, small
twisted gold threads in the manner of a tassel. The cap was new; its peak shone.
"Rise," said the master.
He stood up; his cap fell. The whole class began to laugh. He stooped to pick it
up. A neighbor knocked it down again with his elbow; he picked it up once more.
"Get rid of your helmet," said the master, who was a bit of a wag.