Mr. Seguin's Goat
Reverse Translation from Daudet, Lettres de mon moulin
Joe Ashby Porter

To Pierre Gringoire, lyric poet at Paris

E piei lou matin lou loup la mange. You hear me very well, Gringoire. If ever you come to Provence, our old wives will tell you about Mr. Seguin's goat who fought the wolf all night, and then in the morning the wolf ate her. I didn't invent the story. Good-bye, Gringoire.

The wolf threw himself on the little goat and ate her up. " Finally," said the poor beast, who was only waiting for day, and she lay down on the ground in her beautiful white coat all spotted with blood. The hoarse cock's crow rose from one of the farms. A pale gleam appeared on the horizon. The stars went out one after another.

It lasted all night. From time to time Mr. Seguin's goat looked up at the stars dancing in the clear sky and she said, " If only I can hold out till dawn." I'm not lying, more than ten times she made the wolf retreat to catch his breath. She'd snatch a mouthful of grass during these minute-long truces and then she'd return to the combat. Brave little goat, she went at it with all her heart. Not that she hoped to kill the wolf—a goat doesn't kill wolves—but only to see if she could hold on as long as Renaude had. Once, remembering the story of old Renaude who fought all night only to be eaten in the morning, Blanquette told herself it might be better to let herself be eaten right away. Then having changed her mind she fell to guard like the brave Mr. Seguin's goat she was, head low and horns forward.

Blanquette felt herself lost. " Ha, ha! Mr. Seguin's little goat," and the wolf passed a thick red tongue over spongy pendulous lips. Since he knew he'd eat her he wasn't in any hurry. He began laughing nastily when she turned around. There he sat, huge, immobile, looking at the little white goat and tasting her in advance. It was the wolf. The goat turned around and saw two short straight ears and two eyes shining in the dusk.

Blanquette heard a rustling of leaves behind her. The horn had stopped sounding. She felt like going back but when she remembered the stake and the rope and the pasture hedge she thought she'd never get used to that life again, and that it was better to stay on the mountain. " Come home! Come home!" called the horn. The wolf howled " Oooo! Oooo!" Kind Mr. Seguin was making a last effort, his horn sounded far off in the valley. Blanquette thought of the wolf—the silly creature hadn't thought of him all day. She shivered. There was a howling on the mountain. A hawk returning to its nest touched her with its wings as it passed. She listened to the bells of a flock of sheep being taken home. Mr. Seguin's pasture disappeared in the fog and of the house only the roof and a wisp of smoke could be seen. Down there the fields were drowned in fog. It was evening, the mountain turning violet. The wind cooled suddenly.

If you want to know what the two lovers said when they lost themselves in the woods for an hour, go ask the brooks who run underneath the moss. It seems—and this between you and me, Gringiore—it seems a young wild chamois goat had the good fortune to please Blanquette. They gave her the best place at the vine and all the gentlemen were very gallant. Our little flirt in her white coat was a sensation. Toward midday as she capered hither and yon she fell in with a troop of wild chamois feeding on a wild grape vine. Poor little thing!, finding herself perched so high she thought she was as big as the world at least.

" How was I ever able to stay down there," she said. It made her laugh till tears came to her eyes. Once as she came to the edge of a plateau with a laburnum blossom in her mouth she saw Mr. Seguin's house with the pasture behind it, all the way down there in the plain. Dripping with water she'd stretch out on some flat rock and dry in the sun. In a single bound she cleared torrents that splashed her with foam and mist. Blanquette wasn't afraid of anything.

You'd have said there were ten Mr. Seguin's goats on the mountain. Hop!, with her head in the air she was gone across scrub and boxwood—up there, down there, in the bottom of a ravine, atop a peak, everywhere. She'd be on her feet in a bound. Half-drunk, the white goat wallowed in wildflowers with her legs in the air and rolled pell-mell with the chestnuts and fallen leaves down the slopes. Tall bluebells, purple foxgloves with their deep blossoms, a whole forest of wildflowers overflowing with heady nectar. And the grass! Imagine—lacy delicious herbage made of a thousand plants, very different from the familiar pasture, and growing higher than her horns. No more rope, no stake, nothing kept her from gamboling and grazing as she pleased. Think whether our goat was happy, Gringoire. The whole mountain fêted her, gold broom opened for her and smelled good as it could, chestnut trees lowered themselves to the ground to caress her with the tips of their branches. She was received like a little queen. The old pines had never seen anything so pretty. There was universal delight when the white goat arrived on the mountain.

We'll soon see if you're laughing, Gringoire. You side with the goats, against good Mr. Seguin. I do believe you're laughing.

Mr. Seguin put the goat in a completely dark stable and doubly locked the door. Unfortunately he'd forgotten the window and hardly had he turned his back when she was gone.

" I'll save you in spite of yourself: for fear you'll break your rope I'm going to shut you up in the stable and you'll stay there all your life. Another one the wolf's going to eat? What are they doing to my goats?" says Mr. Seguin. " Good heavens!"

" Poor Renaude! But it doesn't matter, Mr. Seguin. Let me go up into the mountains."

" Renaude fought the wolf all night. Then in the morning the wolf ate her. A superb goat, strong and bad-tempered as a billy, poor Renaude who was here last year. The wolf's eaten nannies of mine with better horns than yours, he'll laugh at your little horns."

" I'll butt him, Mr. Seguin."

" My unfortunate creature, don't you know there's a wolf up in those mountains?"

" I want to go up there, Mr. Seguin."

" But what do you need? What do you want?"

" It's not worth it, Mr. Seguin."

" Maybe your leash is too short. Do you want me to let it out some?"

" Oh, no, Mr. Seguin."

" Is it grass you lack? Blanquette, what is it, do you want to leave me?"

And Blanquette replied, " Yes, Mr. Seguin."

" My god, she too." Stupefied, Mr. Seguin let fall his pail and sat down on the grass beside his goat.

" Listen, Mr. Seguin, I'm languishing here, let me go up into the mountains." She said it in her own dialect, turned to him and said it one morning as he finished milking her. He'd noticed something was bothering her but he didn't know what it was.

It was a pity to see her pulling at the tether all day, her head turned toward the mountain, nostrils open, bleating, " Meh, meh . . . ." The farm grass tasted flat from that moment. " Goats need space. It's all very well for an ox or an ass to graze in a pasture. What a pleasure it would be to gambol on the heath without this cursed tether chafing your neck! How nice it must be up there!" she said, looking up at the mountains. Poor Mr. Seguin thought, " At last I've found one who's not bored with me." He was mistaken.

Blanquette grazed so heartily that Mr. Seguin was delighted. He attached her to a stake in the most beautiful part of the meadow, taking care to leave her lots of rope, and from time to time he came to see if she was happy. He has a meadow surrounded with hawthorns behind his house and that's where he put the new boarder. A love of a little goat who never put her foot in the pail and who let herself be milked without moving. Affectionate too, and docile, almost as charming as Esmerelda's kid—remember, Gringoire? With her gentle eyes and her non-commissioned officer's beard, zebra-striped horns, glossy black boots, fleece like a long white overcoat, ah, Gringoire, Mr. Seguin's little goat was pretty. He'd bought her very young so she'd accustom herself better to living with him this time. He'd lost six goats the same way. " That's it, I won't lose a single goat. They get bored staying with me." Yet he didn't lose heart, and Blanquette was his seventh.

Good Mr. Seguin understood nothing of his animals' character. He was amazed. It seemed they were independent goats who wanted open air and freedom at any price. Not their master's caresses nor fear of the wolf, nothing would hold them back. He lost them all the same way: one fine morning they broke their rope, went up onto the mountain and the wolf ate them. Mr. Seguin had not luck with his goats.

Listen a little to the story of Mr. Seguin's goat. You claim you want to stay free all the way to the end? Become a journalist, you idiot! You'll have your own table at Brebant's and on first nights you'll be able to show yourself with a new plume in your hat. Aren't you ashamed of yourself finally? Look what ten years' service to Apollo has brought you, look where a passion for beautiful rhymes has got you! Look at that doublet full of holes, those tattered hose, that thin countenance that cries out hunger—look at yourself, you unhappy boy. They offer you a job at a good Paris newspaper and you have the aplomb to refuse. My poor Gringoire, you'll never change!