Marcel Pagnol - Le Château de ma Mère – Summary in English and background notes

Marcel Pagnol was a very gifted all-rounder -  novelist, playwright, and film-producer.  He was born on 28 February 1895 in the town of Aubagne, about eleven miles from Marseille. His father, Joseph, was an instituteur”, the more modest rank of teacher as compared with the more qualified “professeur”, who teaches in lycées.  His mother, Augustine, was a dressmaker. Marcel was the eldest child and he had two younger brothers, Paul and René and a younger sister, Germaine.  René had not been born at the time of the action of this story

In 1900, the Pagnols moved from the country to the city of Marseille, where his father had his teaching post.  During the summer of 1904, the family rented the Bastide Neuve, – a house outside the quiet Provençal village of La Treille, close to his birthplace of Aubagne and approximately ten miles from Marseille. This was to be the first of many stays that Marcel and his family spent at this retreat in the hills of Provence, where the climate suited Mme Pagnol’s somewhat frail constitution. (Below a film shot shows Marcel with his younger brother, Paul. Augustine Pagnol is serving Aunt Rose and Uncle Jules, while Marcel's father lights the hurricane lamp.)




(The story is told by Marcel who was then nine years old. In the previous book (See poster of film version below), his father, although a novice hunter had suddenly achieved glory by shooting down a brace of rock pigeon in rapid fire. )

After the epic hunting events with the rock partridges, I was immediately admitted into the ranks of the hunters - as a beater and retriever dog -
"…….je fus d'emblée admis au rang des chasseurs, mais en qualité de rabatteur  et de chien rapporteur. "

At about four in the morning my father would whisper "Are you coming?" and his whisper awoke me even though the snores of Uncle Jules and the cries of my baby Cousin Pierre in the night - needing his 2 o'clock feed - never could.  I remember vividly those cool starlit mornings as we went out of the cottage. As night drew to a close, the cliffs of the Plan de l’Aigle were embroidered with white mists. 
Page 17 – Sur les barres du plan de l’Aigle, le bord de la nuit amincie était brodé de brumes blanches.
We walk along in file, eventually passing the ancient sheepfold on the long plain that runs up to the Taoumé peak, where our friend, François, sometimes used to sleep with his goats.  (There is a sad reminder of this at end of the book)

Then the features of the landscape around emerge with the dawn. The high prow of Taoumé Peak appears suddenly out of the mist like a ship.
Page 17 - …. Là, sur la longue plaine qui montait vers le Taoumé, les rayons rouges du soleil nouveau faisaient peu à peu surgir les pins, les cades(juniper),les messugues(rock roses) et comme un navire qui sort de la brume, la haute proue du pic solitaire se dressait soudain devant nous.  (There were five peaks that dominated the area: (1) La tête Rouge.  (2) Taoumé peak (3)  Puits du Tubé (4) Le Plan de l’Aigle. (5) Garlabin peak -pictured below)

My job on the hunt was to beat the game towards the men. With his new found confidence after the glory of the rock partridge episode – my father (Joseph)) never missed a shot.

Installé sur cette gloire, il était devenu redoutable: le succès fait souvent le talent. Persuadé que, désormais, il ne pouvait manquer le 'coup du roi', il le réussissait à toute occasion."

Uncle Jules was an expert at shooting game that was flying off – the skill described as: "tirer en cul.' Uncle Jules used to sell the game he shot and he made enough to pay the rent for the cottage. He said that I was better than a dog at finding and setting off the birds. However, Mother was anxious whether a boy with such thin legs should do so much walking.

One day, while out hunting, I saw a bird caught in a trap. I went up to it to look, when a peasant boy called to me not to touch - A trap is sacred he said:

A description of this peasant boy, Lili, the son of their friend, François, follows:-
"Il était brun, avec un fin visage provençal, des yeux noirs, de longs cils de fille. Il portait, sous un vieux gilet de laine grise, une chemise brune à manches longues qu'il avait roulées jusqu au-dessus des coudes, une culotte courte, et des espadrilles de corde comme les miennes, mais il n'avait pas de chaussettes."

Photo of Lili

We run down to where my father and uncle are looking at a dead hare. It needed both guns to stop the hare in its tracks. N.B. the unemotional approach of the hunter. Uncle Jules says:
Ces bêtes-là, ça porte facilement le coup de fusil. Il le dit comme s'il s'agissait de porter une jaquette, ou un chapeau melon.

Uncle Jules tells the peasant boy that his father, François says that Lili is a great hunter. Lili empties his immense bag of game to prove it.  When my uncle teasingly admonishes him for poaching Lili says he comes from Les Bellons - a peasant cannot be a poacher on the hills of his home.
Ça veut dire que ces collines c'est le bien des gens d'ici. Ça fait qu'on n'est pas des braconniers.

We all had a picnic together - Lili was an expert everything about all the game in the region but he would not disclose to us where the springs of water could be found. These were kept a close secret by the peasants even from their own families. Lili's grandfather had known a secret mountain spring - and had tried to pass on its whereabouts to his son on his deathbed, but he had died before he could finish the sentence - the spring was lost for ever.

In the opinion of the locals, it is the townspeople, coming as day-trippers are the main enemies. After one altercation they even relieved themselves in a drinking water spring.  Lili tells them how jealously the local people protect their domains. One of his neighbours, Chabert, had fired a gun to scare off the day trippers. When Marcel expressed surprise, Lili explained that Chabert had only fired at long range with small shot and that they were stealing cherries from the one and only cherry tree he possessed.  His father has said that Chabert should have fired buck shot. When Uncle Jules commented that this was a bit uncivilised, Lili grew very indignant.  He told how two years ago visitors had lit a fire among a plantation of new pines to cook their steaks, which he finds incredible - Page 28.

After I formed my friendship with Lili, my life changed. Every morning Lili was waiting for us. My father bought me some traps - sold hypocritically as rat traps - but he refused to let me have a bigger model to catch partridges "le piège n'est pas une arme noble" - also I could lose a finger.

We used to set the traps while doing the beating. Finding the traps was exciting - sometimes we found a large thrush but sometimes to our disappointment a rat. (A story follows about a white owl they caught, which Marcel finds funny, but which non-hunting readers should skip!)

PAGE 32  In the afternoons I would go walks with Lili. Most often we lay in wait chatting in whispers for hours. He knew everything about the countryside, he knew all the plants, where they were found, the weather, the different features of the landscape:
Lili savait tout; le temps qu’il ferait, les sources cachées, les ravins où l’on trouve des champignons, des salades sauvages, des pins-amandiers, des prunelles, des arbusiers.
He even knew where there were some vines that had escaped the phylloxera: connaissait au fond d'un hallier, quelques pieds de vigne qui avaient échappé au phylloxéra et qui mûrissaient dans la solitude des grappes aigrelettes mais délicieuses.
N.B. reference to phylloxera - the disease of the vines which had a disastrous effect on the French economy.

He showed me a pillar of rock - full of holes and channels which the wind blew through. The mood of the notes produced changed with the weather and he describes in detail these changes and the imaginings they conjure up in his mind:
Un petit mistral la faisait rire; mais s'il se mettait en colère, elle miaulait comme un chat perdu…..

I imagined so many things from the sounds of the stone. Lili had less imagination and heard only the occasional birdsong - but I did not hold it against him- P 33:
Mais ce n'était pas de sa faute si son oreille était aveugle, et je l'admirais toujours autant.

I, in return for he told me,  described the marvels of the city- the military parades and the funfair, imitating the screaming of the women on the rides:
la féerie de Magic-City où j'étais monté sur les montagnes russes: j'imitais le roulement des roues de fonte sur les rails, les cris stridents des passagères, et Lili criait avec moi...

I discovered that he thought of me as a man of learning and I did my best to show off.
"D'autre part, j'avais constaté que dans son ignorance, il me considérait comme un savant: je m'efforçai de justifier cette opinion. »

From that period, I learnt my thirteen times table, and collected long words- like anti-constitutionally. My aim was not to increase his vocabulary but his admiration:

"Mon but n'était pas d'augmenter son vocabulaire, mais son admiration, qui s'allongeait avec les mots.

Page 35 I had never been as happy in all my life, but I felt guilty at leaving my little brother Paul behind. So, one morning, I set off later in the day, taking Paul with us. however Paul was distressed to see the first dead bird in the traps. He cried, "il faut le démourir" - He tried to make it fly and then threw stones at us in a rage. I took him home to Mother. She said there was no need to worry about taking him with us as he adored his younger sister and looked after her.

He did look after her in fact. He put insects in her hair. He put her up in the tree where she was unable to get down.  My mother was horrified to see her little face up in the foliage –
ma mére épouvantée vit de loin ce petit visage au-dessus du feuillage d'argent.

Mother believed she had climbed up herself.  Paul was not blamed and my sister got a reputation as a monkey.

He put prickles down her back - so that she was blamed for whining for nothing. He gave her rabbit droppings to eat, and he was worried about this afterwards, but I consoled him by saying that I had given her goat droppings and she had been all right.

But one day Paul was caught out. One trick he had was to nip her with his nails and say a wasp had stung her. At that, mother would hurt her even more by trying to pull out the imaginary sting.  He was caught in the act and was given the strap which did not upset him at all but the lecture that followed did inconsolably:-
"…..  la remontrance pathétique qui suivit lui brisa le cœur et à sept heures du soir il en était encore inconsolable.".  My little sister tried to give him her dessert to cheer him up,

Now that I knew that he was not bored, I no longer worried about leaving him at home to his criminal acts..

Page 38  One morning we set off under threatening skies - but my uncle was certain it would not rain. Lili winked and make a rude remark he had got from his big brother:
"S'il fallait qu'il boive tout ce qui va tomber, il pisserait jusqu’à la Noel. »

 There was only one shower in the morning. It seemed the storm had passed and we had lunch - but Lili knew better. Lili surprised me by a announcing that it was Autumn. In Provence there are no signs of autumn. The evergreen trees stay the same. Time did not seem to pass. Lili reminded me that next week was October and with a shock I realised that meant "La rentrée des classes!" I tried to put this reality out of my mind - and a roll of thunder provided a distraction. Lili led me off hurriedly.

Page 41 Lili took me up three chimneys in the rock almost to the top of the cliff. Here was a cave where we could shelter.
I saw, stretched out below, the countryside that I had only seen in the sunlight before, but which was now beneath an angry sky. I wasn’t frightened but I was gripped by a strange, animal anxiety.
Je n'avais pas peur, mais je sentais une inquiétude étrange, une angoisse profonde, animale.

There was heavy thunder. Lili told me he would show me a secret if I promised with a solemn oath not to tell any-one. The cave led under the plateau from one side of the hill to the other – It was a secret used by his family when poaching. I asked if I could just tell my father, but Lili replied that he had a hunter’s licence and did not need to know.
Pas même â mon père?
Il a son permis, il n'a pas besoin de savoir ça.

We had to squeeze through a narrow passage, and then go along a corridor until we saw light and we were on the other side of the hill. It was covered in cloud. It was raining heavily. The thunder brought down a piece of the cliff-face. We were afraid.

Suddenly Lili told me to bend down slowly and pick up some rocks. Looking round I saw two luminous eyes. I thought it was a vampire but Lili said it was an eagle owl which could go for our eyes. Preferring to be soaked rather than blinded we ran out of our shelter.

Page 46 - It was hard to find our way in the mist. Lili led the way, making out the path and the noises. He rushed ahead and I ran after him afraid to lose him. Finally, we both knew we were lost and I had an idea.  I shouted and from the echoes of each hill, we could tell our position So then it was my turn to lead the way until we re-found the path.  We were proud of our adventure. Yet overhead the migrating birds reminded me of autumn as they went off to more holidays - Ils partaient vers d'autres vacances.

Page 49 We found father and uncle already at home, wearing dressing gowns while their clothes dried. We were undressed and rubbed down to Lili's embarrassment.
Avec la pudeur des petits paysans it se cachait de son mieux derrière les vestes de chasse.

We told our story with no little exaggeration - to the great consternation of the women. Uncle Jules told their story but it was a little flat after ours.
Page 50 Son histoire ne fit pas grand effet; on ne tremble pas pour des chasseurs à moustaches.  

Lili's father came to pick him up and said he would see us on Sunday. When Uncle Jules talked of putting our luggage on Francois's cart, Paul's lip started to tremble and then he began to sob. I too realised that today was Friday and we were to leave that Sunday. There had been talk of it for the last week but I hadn't heeded it.

My father reasoned with us that we had had two months holiday and next year I had to work for my scholarship exams in order to enter the lycée.
Tu as devant toi, reprit mon père, une année qui comptera dans ta vie : n’oublie pas qu’en juillet prochain, tu vas te présenter à l’examen des Bourses pour entrer au lycée au mois d’octobre suivant !Page 52
My mother tells me that I will never achieve my ambition of becoming a millionaire, if I don't take my school exams. Marcel comments that his mother had the firm opinion that wealth was a kind of school prize which infallibly rewarded hard work and education.

My uncle however intervened to recommend the pleasure to be gained from reading the classics.

I sought excuses for staying on at the Bastide neuve - (but all my objections were answered).-  I did not want Mother to have to go on foot as far as the tramstop at La Barasse on the outskirts of Marseille.  Father replied there was no need to worry.  The two women would have a lift to La Treille on Francois’s cart, and there we could catch a bus, which ran on Sundays, that would take us to the tram.

I argued that for the sake of Mother's health we should stay on the mountain.  I could cycle back to the villa from school each day. Father said he'd think about it.

However, at that, Mother broke in to say that she would be afraid to be left alone all day at La Bastide.  I told her that Lili would look after her.

PAGE 59  Lili had come back to say that we should go and clear the traps, even though it was still raining.  Mother was afraid I'd catch pneumonia,
C'était alors la maladie redoutable entre toutes.  (The epidemics that killed young and old in the first decades of the 20th century, when modern medicines and treatments were not available)

But father said that we could wrap ourselves up. Mother put sheets of newspaper between my coats and Aunt Rose did the same for Lili. –
We found the first fieldfare (Alpine thrushes) were arriving and this made the imminent departure more cruel.  PAGE 61- I was overcome by despair-
je fus pris d'un accès de rage et de désespoir

I shouted and cried and rolled on the floor. I made the decision to stay behind.  I would live off supplies that I would bring with me and off the foods to be found on the hills. –

Lili was doubtful about my plan - but I impatiently told him he thought like that because he hadn't read enough books. Lili found one detail in what I said that he could not accept - that Robinson Crusoe could run faster than a goat.  The proof that I gave was incontrovertible :
"Puisque je te dis que c'est imprimé  dans un livre qu'on donne pour les prix",

Lili gave in but was sure the goats Crusoe had caught must have been in foal.

Lili was willing to help me survive in the hills all winter. We saw some starlings. Lili said his brother had taught one to talk but only the local dialect. I said I would teach mine properFrench, Lili was doubtful:- "ce n'est pas sûr, parce que c'est des oiseaux de la campagne".

PAGE 66 Over dinner I looked at Mother with affection but I was determined to leave her.
Je la regardais avec tendresse, mais j'étais parfaitement décidé à, la quitter la nuit suivante.

How could I do this? A child lives in the world of his dreams throughout his everyday life
Just where I was living, at that moment, while in this dining room, where the portrait of the President , M. Fallières , looked down on us with a faint smile – (M. Fallières was President of France 1906 - 1913)   So I was very accustomed to being away from them.
Ainsi j'avais l'habitude de quitter ma chère famille, car je vivais le plus souvent sans elle, et loin d'elle'.'

I was not concerned for them as I believed their life was suspended in my absence and I would give them a marvellous surprise by coming back one day.
I went upstairs and wrote my letter of farewell - telling them not to look for me as I was "introuvable" - I asked father to keep an eye on mama's health. Then I went down to help Mother prepare the evening meal.

PAGE 70  At Lili's signal in the night I pinned my farewell note to my pillow, threw my mother a farewell kiss through the bedroom wall and slid down from the bedroom window with my bundle. Lili confessed that he had thought I wouldn't go through with it. I was indignant. Lili was full of admiration.
Tu es formidable ... Il n'y en a pas deux comme toi.

I was a little uncomfortable at the idea of having to live up to this reputation. We heard the strange sounds of the night - little stones cascading - the bark of a fox. Then I saw a shadow go by - like a man's.

Lili could only suggest it was le grand Félix, who had died 50 years ago. I told Lili that, in my family, we didn't believe in ghosts.
" Je t'apprendrai que mon père qui est un savant et mon oncle, qui est de la Préfecture, ils disent que c'est de la blague.

Page 73 - But Lili believes it is true, because his father has seen it four times. I told Lili, his father was a good man but could not read.  Lili said it was nothing to do with reading he had seen the ghost.

Lili tells the story of Felix – a rich shepherd murdered by bandits for his money, who returns to look for his treasure.  His father had told the ghost on the fourth visit that he hadn't got his money, and that if he didn't clear off he'd give him the signs of the cross and six kicks up the backside
"Moi, je respecte les morts, mais si tu continues comme ça moi je sors, et je te fous quatre signes de croix et six coups de pied au derrière".

Page 75  I replied with the sayings of my father:
Le fantôme, c'est l'imagination du peuple. Et les signes de croix c'est l'obscurantisme.  
But using some deviousness, I got Lili to show me how to cross myself.

We were getting near to the Taoumé and I could see the outline of the cliff which overhung the cave where I had planned to live out my adventure. Suddenly Lili became very theatrically alarmed.  He finally said the word: th’owl - the big owl who had terrified us on that stormy day.  He sat down in despair. There would be a pair of owls, because it certainly had a female! He painted a vivid picture of what their attack would be like, but I hid my fears - I had already decided to beat the retreat when I found the right time.

I thought that if I suggested an excessively courageous plan Lili would refuse to go along with me and I would have a good excuse for giving up.  I told Lili that the two of us would attack and kill the two birds with knives fastened onto sticks. Instead, he was enthusiastic and started to look for suitable sticks to sharpen as spears.  I am humbled instead.
"C'est lui qui était formidable, et j'eus honte de ma lâcheté."

Even though the owls had become less fearsome by Lili changing the name he called them- no longer grands-ducs they were now 'grosibus',  the threat of the ghost remained!

As dawn broke and I was falling asleep, I saw a figure in a long cloak with a knife in his back. I crossed myself five times but the figure crossed himself as well, came towards us with a sniggering laugh. Someone grabbed me but it was Lili telling me that I had been falling asleep. He had not seen the ghost - but he had heard something and thought it must just be Mond de Parpaillouns -Edmond the poacher- going past. Lili had made his stick as sharp as a knife.

Page 80 We came to the Brégette Fountain - a hollow dug out in the rock for fresh water to collect. When Lili said there was 10 litres of water a day there, I had finally my excuse for giving up: There was not enough for washing and I had to soap myself over once a day. I told Lili –
"….il faut comprendre que je suis de la ville, ça fait que je suis tout plein de microbes"
If I didn't wash the microbes would nibble me away bit by bit. Lili said he only washed on Sundays like everyone else. Mond de Parpaillouns has never had a wash in his life and he has turned seventy and look how fit he looks.

It was all over, I said, but it was not his fault
"C'est une catastrophe, mais enfin, tu ne l'as pas fait exprès."   I put on a dramatic display of tragic disappointment and Lili hung back.  While he caught up, I stopped struck a pose with head bowed over my spear. Lili immediately ran up and, to my indignation, told me not to cry.

Lili was apologetic and asked to carry my parcels as it was his fault. I was in a hurry to get back before my letter was found.  Lili ran ahead and I followed saying not a word, but uttering a great sigh of despair at intervals

When I got close to the house, was alarmed that my father was up. With Lili’s help, I climbed back up the rope to my bedroom window - my letter was still untouched on my pillow. I heard my father talking and laughing.  I went to sleep frozen and ashamed:‑
"Je me couchai, honteux et glacé. J'avais eu peur, je n'étais qu'un lâche, un cœur de squaw. J'avais menti â mes parents, j'avais menti à mon ami, je m'étais menti à moi-même. Page 82.

Page 83 - When I woke up, I saw Aunt Rose going off in François’s mule cart under an umbrella to protect her from the silent, persistent rain. Uncle Jules was pushing his bicycle along behind the cart.

My family was all at breakfast with Lili. My father had an odd expression on his face when he greeted me, and made an allusion to me having overslept because I was so tired.  
I felt ashamed with Lili and could not look him full in the face

After breakfast we set off to the village with rain still falling.  There the Sunday bus was waiting: pulled by two horses.  A description of the scene P 84:
C’était une longue voiture verte, et de son toit pendaient des courts rideaux de toile, ornés d’une frange de ficelle.  Les deux chevaux piaffaient (stamping their hoofs) , et le cocher , sous une pèlerine grise et un chapeau de toile cirée, sonnaient de l’oliphant(post-horn) pour appeler les retardataires.

 We said goodbye to Lili. We both felt like crying.   
My father said we had to leave then - and by some chance included some words I knew I had used in my previous farewell letter: living in a cave like a hermit - but I was still convinced that he hadn't read it.
— Il faut bien comprendre, dit mon père, que dans la vie, il n'y a pas que des amusements. Moi aussi, je voudrais bien rester ici, et vivre dans la colline ! Même dans une grotte! Même tout seul, comme un ermite! Mais on ne peut pas toujours faire ce qui vous plaît !

My father was preaching to Lili the importance for a peasant boy to be educated:
"N'oublie pas que tu t'approches peu à peu de ton certificat d'études, et qu'un paysan instruit en vaut deux ou trois!

But the coach-driver blew on his horn and we had to get on.  As the others did not want to sit on the empty rear-facing back seat, they sat in the middle among the peasants. (Note the class consciousness)
La dernière banquette, qui tourne le dos aux chevaux, était vide: comme ma mère et Paul avaient des nausées quand on les transportait à reculons, la famille s’installa au milieu des paysans, tandis que j’allais m’asseoir à l’arrière tout seul.
From the back seat I saw my beloved Lili as we moved away. I was being dragged cruelly from my homeland like Queen Brunehilda
 "je m'enfonçais dans l'avenir à reculons, comme la reine Brunehaut, traînée longuement sur les pierres, ses cheveux blonds tressés à la queue d'un cheval.

Page 87- The school seemed gloomy at the start of term – the view through the window was a row of lavatory doors instead of pine trees.
My teacher, M. Besson, told me that I was his choice of candidate for the scholarship to the lycée. This involved the honour of all the school. A squad of teachers set about training me and I had to attend school on Thursdays. Among my tasks was to learn off by heart the names of all the sub prefectures of France.

I worked hard but sometimes my mind was on my hills and my friend Lili not on my lessons.
My mother was worried in case they were working me too hard, but my father seemed pleased and this encouraged me to work for his sake.

Page 90-  One day I found a letter from Lili.
In big handwriting on three sheets of exercise paper - written around the blots of ink- Lili was complaining because of the shortage of game. The thrushes hadn't come. It was cold. Batistin (His brother Baptistin) nevertheless catches thirty thrushes a day - the stone now instead of singing only seems to be crying. (Note the consideration of Lili, who is trying to tell Marcel that he is not missing anything)

Page 91 Lili signed off by telling me the names of his postman  - to help me in sending my reply. There were many mistakes and my father had to decipher it - but he recognised Lili's quality of character:.
- "Garde cette lettre. Tu la comprendras plus tard."
I put the letter carefully away –
…… j'avais compris bien avant lui.

Page 92 The next day I bought some expensive writing paper. Then I composed a rough draft of my reply:
I commiserated with him that the thrushes had not come and congratulated his brother, Baptistin, for catching the thrushes that were not there.

I checked it for mistakes and then copied it out with great care. My father checked it and said it was a fine letter.

When I re-read Lili's letter his spelling seemed so funny that I couldn't help laughing. But suddenly I realised how hard he had worked to send the letter and his real friendship
"Mais je compris tout â coup que tant d'erreurs et de maladresses étaient le résultat de longues heures d'application, et d'un tres grand effort d'amitié"
So I got up out of bed and recopied my letter on two pieces of paper from an exercise book. I missed out the clever remark- made spelling mistakes and finished with a big blot.

Page 94- Time dragged interminably, but on one December day I found my mother packing and parts of my father’s hunting rifle were laid out around a saucer of oil.  Marcel had known that they were to leave for Christmas at the cottage in a week’s time but this sight made him run to the lavatory to cry. My father said that only the heavy rain could delay our departure.

On Thursday afternoon we went to see Aunt Rose but she said she could not go because of the baby, and we could not persuade her.  Page 94- Yet there were still some traces of the hunter in her husband. Uncle Jules said he was going to come up to the cottage by bicycle each morning and leave each evening. I saw that he would dearly like to be with us.
"Alors, pour la première fois, je compris que les grandes personnes ne font jamais ce qui leur plaît, et qu’elles sont bêtes.
Paul had drawn his own conclusions:-
"Moi, quand j'aurai des enfants, je les donnerai à quelqu'un."

PAGE 96   On the Friday morning my father had his last supervisory duty of the autumn term and we were to leave that very day. It had become bitterly cold now. - The olive oil bottle looked it was full of cotton - with my usual love of impressive facts I told Paul it was like that every morning at the North Pole.

To beat the cold Mother wrapped us up in a vast assortment of clothes - Humorous description) :
….. nous avons l'air de chasseurs de phoque, …….le grand problème, c'était de faire pipi proprement.  Paul n’y réussit jamais.
A la place de la petite soeur, on ne voyait qu'un petit nez rouge qui sortait d'une espèce d'édredon ambulant.

My mother’s pale complexion was given colour by the cold and she looked prettier than ever. Her coat with rabbit fur cuffs and collar and her fur bonnet made her look like the beautiful Canadian skaters on post-office calendars. (The beauty of Augustine Pagnol)

Joseph came back home at 11 o’clock on that last Friday. After a quick lunch we set off. As the shop in La Treille would not have the same variety of stocks in the winter we carried large amounts of provisions. Also as the family was not rich enough to have a second supply of pots and pans at la Bastide Neuve - we had to carry all these with us.  They were in a huge rucksack carried by father - packed with chestnuts to fill up the spaces and stop them rattling.

We caught the tram at the Gare de l'Est. This station is at the entrance to a tunnel. The last word in progress had once been the steam tram whose smoke had blackened the walls of the tunnel, but things move on:
….. un train de vapeur, qui, sous une cheminée en entonnoir, avait été, comme toute chose, le dernier mot du progrès.  Mais le Progrès ne cesse jamais de parler  et il avait dit un autre dernier mot, qui était : "le tram électrique".

The queue didn't grow any longer as more and more people came - only more compressed.
"une longue file que les nouveaux arrivants n'allongeaient pas, mais comprimaient".

When the tram arrived my mother found herself swept in the rush into a good seat by two stout ladies. M. Pagnol and the boys had to stand on the rear platform with their luggage.
Un employé à casquette ouvrit le portillon, et la ruée nous emporta.
Ma mère, mue par deux magnifiques commères, se trouva assise en bonne place sans avoir rien fait pour le mériter.
Note the warm, gentle humour that is an outstanding feature of Pagnol’s works

There were many twists and turns in the tunnel and it seemed a long journey even though the hill it cut through was only 300 yards across.
 Page 98- Mon père nous expliqua que cet ouvrage singulier avait été commencé par les deux bouts, mais que les équipes terrassières, après une longue et sinueuse flânerie souterraine, ne s'étaient rencontrées que par hasard" (N.B. again the gentle affectionate humour of the book)

Having arrived at La Barasse, where our tram journey ends we see winter more dramatically than it was to be seen in the centre of Marseille. The route seems very different from the one we had known in the summer, but we walked at a good pace, sustained by plentiful snacks.

Then I begin to make out high above us the cone of one of the big peaks: Tête Rouge before it disappears into a grey winter dusk,  so unlike the purple and scarlet glory of summer twilights:
Page 99: ….. je commençais à distinguer  là-haut, le cône de la grande Tête Rouge le soleil disparut tout à coup.  Non pas dans un couchant de gloire triomphale, sur des strates (strata)de pourpre et d’écarlate, mais par une sorte de glissade furtive et peut-être involontaire, sous des nuages gris sans forme et sans relief.

As we walk towards the hills I think of Lili. On approaching the village, I see a little figure in the shadows. We run to meet each other, then restrain our excitement and shake hands like grown-ups. Lili makes a excuse for being there - he had come to get some aludes- (insects to act as bait in catching birds) from Durbec’s garden but he wasn’t in.   Lili is then made to blush when Durbec’s gate opens and he drives out in his mule-drawn cart, lighted by lanterns.  Lili covers his embarrassment by running to my mother to take her luggage from her.

I am happy that Lili had lied and had come just to see me.
"Il était là depuis des heures,  il y serait resté jusqu'à l'épaisseur de la nuit, avec l'espoir de voir paraître, au tournant de la route luisante, le capuchon pointu de son ami. »

The first day was spent collecting wood and putting draught stoppers on windows. However, we did catch some thrushes thanks to a few aludes that Lili had kept.

With a pun (that perhaps makes some English readers uneasy), Marcel tells us that these thrushes fell from “branche en broche” over the crackling brazier, lit for the big Christmas meal traditional in Provence, "le grand souper des treize desserts", which we had that very evening.  According to the local custom, thirteen varieties of dessert were eaten: oranges, dates, nuts, raisins etc.

Lili, our guest, the peasant boy copied all my movements.
Lili, notre invité d'honneur - observa tous mes gestes et s'efforça d'imiter le gentleman qu'il croyait que j’étais.

He was hypnotised by the wealth of all our presents hanging on the Christmas tree. A memorable evening - although tired we managed to continue eating the goodies until one o’clock in the morning.  At that point, to our surprise, Uncle Jules arrived on his bicycle, bringing presents.

My father is anxious because Jules has brought a bottle of liqueur .  (Note the sober, serious principle of the modern French Republican) -. Jules reassures him that it is non-alcoholic.

Then Uncle explains that he had gone to the midnight mass alone - because of the baby - and had set off to see them immediately afterwards. Jules talks of the beauty of the decoration of the church and of the carols. He announces he prayed for my family at Church, that we might be granted faith.

My father gulps, he doesn't believe in the beneficent, personal Christian God but thanks Jules for the sentiment:‑
"Je ne crois pas, vous le savez, que le Créateur de l'Univers daigne s'occuper des microbes que nous sommes, mais votre prière est une belle et bonne preuve de l'amitié que vous nous portez et je vous en remercie".
The two men embrace each other. I realise for the first time what true friendship is.

In bed that night, I think over the evening and I become uneasy when I recall a story told by my father once over dinner about a man called Édouard Trinquet. While the latter was doing his military service, his father wrote to his C.O. who happened to be an old childhood friend recommending his only son to his attention.  As a loyal friend, the colonel immediately sent his adjutant to bring Trinquet to see him.  The adjutant returned to report that the conscript was absent on a week’s special leave to go to his father’s funeral and to deal with the probate. The colonel was incandescent with fury when Édouard Trinquet was found at a local grand hotel, living secretly in the bedroom of a red-headed waitress. The result was that Édouard Trinquet was thrown into rat infested dungeon for three weeks. I was afraid that Uncle Jules, by drawing the attention of God to us might bring down on us the retribution of a superior authority that we had not catered for – and in our case did not believe in.
Page 104 Certes, je savais bien que Dieu n'existait pas, mais je n'en étais pas tout à fait sûr. Il y avait des tas de gens qui allaient â la messe, et même des gens tris sérieux. L’oncle lui-même lui parlait souvent, et pourtant l’oncle n’était pas fou.

I came to the conclusion that God, who didn’t exist for us, certainly existed for other people, whom we regarded highly and it was like the King of England, who only existed for the English.

We two boys overslept the next day and missed the hunt but, after a good night’s sleep we were up to join the men on the second morning to begin hunting in earnest.

 Page 105 This Christmas week was like a dream - though not comparable with last summer. I remember the cold dark mornings - the arrival of Uncle Jules on his bicycle and Lili. We hunters left the cottage before dawn and returned at nightfall usually with a good bag.

At the end of this Christmas break, when our parents were packing their bags, my mother suggested that we should come up every Saturday in future - for the children's health.

My father said that would only be possible if the tramline was extended, as otherwise they would spend too much of the two days travelling.

Mother hinted that she had some plan for her husband to get Monday mornings off but she was keeping the details secret.

Page 108-  It transpired that my mother's plan was to get to know the headmaster's wife, whom she often saw at the market and to work on her. For her children’s sake she was capable of anything:
Ma mère, timide et menue, la saluait discrètement de loin. Mais comme pour ses enfants elle était capable de tout, elle commença par accentuer son salut, se rapprocha peu à peu, et finit par frôler la main de Mme la Directrice dans un panier de pommes de terre.

After just a few days later the two of them were shopping together, and Mother went to her house for a cup of tea.

It was some time after this that my father read on the duty roster that he was to work Thursday mornings instead of Monday mornings. He only discovered his wife's maneuverings second­hand. He was then faced by the problem of how to thank the headmaster - but mother had already done it - sending roses to his wife. Joseph was astonished at his wife's genius for intrigue.  He asked for all the minute detail of how she had done it and in the end he was scandalised – but full of admiration:-
Alors mon père ôta ses lunettes, les frotta vivement avec le bord de la nappe, et les remit sur son nez pour la regarder avec stupeur,…….Il fallut tout lui raconter par le menu….À la fin, il secoua la tête en silence plusieurs fois.  Puis, devant toute la famille, il dit, avec une admiration scandalisée :

As a result, the family could go to the hills every Saturday, commencing from Shrove Tuesday.

Unfortunately with the heavy load that we had to carry, this proved to be an exhausting journey. Mother seemed ready to drop some­times and in order to spare her, I occasionally found excuses for us not to go on our precious weekend at the cottage.

On one Saturday in April at about five o’clock in the evening,  having got off the tram at La Barasse,  our little caravan, tired but happy, was making the journey along the road to La Treille.  Thirty yards ahead of us, we saw a gate open in the stone wall. A man came through and locked it behind him.  He   recognised my father who greeted him as Bouzigue. He told my father he was the canal overseer and that was thanks to my father who had put himself out to get him through his exams.
Je suis piqueur au canal, et c'est grâce à vous, je peux le dire: Vous vous en êtes donné du mal, pour mon certificat d'études.

Bouzigue helped us to carry our load but was amazed how far we were going- more than 8 kilometers on foot.  He offered to take us along the canal bank instead. Going in a straight line the canal path would take them to the approaches of La Treille in half an hour.

My father was doubtful whether it was proper for us to trespass on canal property:
"C'est à cause de tes fonctions officielles que tu détiens cette clef, et que tu as le droit de passer sur le terrain d'autrui. Mais crois-tu qu'il nous soit permis de te suivre?"

Bouzigue has no worries because if anything goes wrong he has a sister who is living in sin with a town councilor.  Also it was she who had got the deputy director of the canal his job and so he can't get at him.  (Perhaps a glimpse of public corruption).

Perhaps it was with the awareness of this protection that Joseph followed Bouzigue taking his family on this trespass.

PAGE 114- The canal had embankments on both sides, bordered by hedges which shored up  them up.  These hedges were formed by little trees, bushes and shrubs of fennel, clematis and wild roses. We had to go in single file along the narrow path between the canal and this flower-covered hedge
Bouzigue says the canal is in a poor state of repair and, in places, it’s a sieve.  The idea impressive Paul who makes this his refrain

My father - whose father was a builder-  tells Bouzigue that the cement used recently to repair one stretch of canal they pass is faulty and points out a crack. Bouzigue is delighted with this information, which he will include in his report.

Little Paul chimed in to say the canal was a sieve.
“C’est une passoire! cria Paul.

The walk along the canal takes us through four big private estates surrounding country mansions:‑
N.B. The word “château”. It is not always used in the same way as "castle" in English and most French châteaux would be described in English as "palaces" or "country houses" rather than "castles". For example, the Château de Versailles does not bear any resemblance to the English idea of castle with fortifications and so it is usually known in English as the Palace of Versailles. If Marlborough Palace was situated in France it would be Château de Marlborough. When the structure is a fortified building, the word “château” is often followed by the word “fort” for clarification.

Readers will have noted that the title of the book is “Le Château de ma Mère” and will be intrigued by the idea of “My Mother’s Country Mansion”.

Having made the distinction between the French usages of the word “château”, we find that the first country house was built with some kind of turrets as its architectural features. It is surrounded by flowerbeds, vineyards and orchards. The estate belongs to a nobleman who must be ill according to Bouzigue, who has never ever seen him.

My father is a strong supporter of the French Republican constitution and dislikes the nobility,  who by tradition are right-wing and hostile to popular democracy.  He says :
"Moi je n'aime pas beaucoup les nobles" - Les leçons de l'école normale restaient ineffaçables". ‘École Normales » were state teacher training colleges, which had sometimes a reputation for political radicalism. As a result Joseph had the conviction that in general the nobility was insolent and cruel and the fact that they had cut their heads off during the Great Revolution of 1789 only served to prove it-Page 115:
…d’une façon générale, il considérait “les nobles” comme des gens insolents et cruels, ce qui était prouvé par le fait qu’on leur avait coupe le tête.  Les malheurs n’inspirent jamais confiance , et l’horreur des grands massacres enlaidit jusqu’aux victimes.

Bouzigue says the nobleman, who owns the first estate is a Comte and no-one has a bad word to say about him.  There is an old farmer and a gamekeeper, who is also old - a giant of a man, who has never got into conversation.

The second château is surrounded by virgin forest and Bouzigue describes it as Sleeping Beauty's palace - le château de la Belle au bois dormant.  This is always closed up. - the fields are  abandoned, the building in a bad state of repair.           

The third château they pass belongs to a lawyer, who only occupies it in August.  Bouzigue tells them that a family of peasants looks after the house. The deaf grandfather is always talking of the war of 1870. –
Il me parle toujours de la guerre de septante, et il veut reprendre l'Alsace-Lorraine.
"C'est un bon Français", dit mon père.
N.B. The French anger at their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870

They come to the gate of the fourth château.  The wall to is 4 metres high and is topped with broken bottles. This is the biggest and the finest of the four houses. The owner lives in Paris and you only see the keeper.

The château is ten storeys high. All windows are closed except those of the keeper’s rooms in the attics. He's an old army adjutant - usually drunk - but he's got a stiff leg and couldn't catch them if they ran, says Bouzigue.- The keeper has an enormous dog but it has only one eye and is 20 years old.

We were all frightened by this account and take cover behind the canal hedge as we move past. At each break in the cover, we crouch down to avoid being seen,  Bouzigue looks up to the attic room and when he says the coast  is clear, we each scamper in turn across. Mother was not fit and found it hard.  Three times in all we made this manoeuvre. 

When we opened the gate to leave the estates, we were surprised to find ourselves at  the café des Quatre Saisons.  Page 119-  We had done in 24 minutes a stage of the journey normally taking 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Mon père avait tiré de son gousset sa montre d'argent.
— Nous venons de faire en vingt-quatre minutes, un parcours qui nous prend d'habitude deux heures quarante-cinq.

In proud delight, Bouzigue says his key goes quicker than a car. I doubted this having seen this prodigious advertisement for a Panhard car:
La voiture qui a fait le kilomètre en une minute.  (Note the start of the age of technological revolution)

Invited for a drink at the café, my teetotal father accepts a glass of wine but insists on mixing in some Vichy water.

Bouzigue offers my father a spare key so that he can always take this route. My father, always absolutely correct in what he does, refuses.
Parce que je suis un fonctionnaire , moi aussi. Je vois d'ici la tête de Monsieur l'Inspecteur d'Académie si on venait lui dire que l'un de ses instituteurs, muni d'une fausse clef, se promène en fraude sur le terrain d'autrui.

Bouzigue offers his official peaked cap as well and also his sister would make sure that any official complaint made to the canal company went no further.

Finally Bouzigue convinces my father that he can be of service to the canal company by making an examination of the condition of the cement each time he passes:.
Il est évident dit enfin mon pire, que, si je puis rendre service à la communauté, même d'une façon un peu irrégulière …… et d’autre part si je puis t’aider.    

M. Pagnol, for the time being, takes the key, but says he is not certain he will use it.  He has to think about it

Page 124  We didn't take the short-cut on the return journey the following Monday morning, but that very evening my father brought out 3 or 4 old books on canals – cement  and irrigation and began to study them.

Page 124 -  The next Saturday father led us through the gate at peace with his con­science. He wrote, as we walked, notes on the state of the canal in order to mitigate our trespass. Nonetheless, the rest of us crept anxiously along, with me going on ahead as scout. Paul, we found out on the way, had hidden a kitchen knife under his coat as protection against that final, menacing keeper. When mother realized, she asked him to hand it over as he was only a little boy.  He replied to his mother to stab him in the eye he had left, because she was taller than he was:
Toi, tu es grande, pique-le dans l’oeil.

We were terrified of this keeper of the 4th chateau. But he did not appear and we got through the last estate trium­phant.

At the villa Paul and I dreamt up different fantastic and horrendous ways of killing the keeper.

Page 127-   As it was now possible to go to the country without fatigue, our life was transformed. Mother looked better and we boys grew stronger:-
Ma mère reprenait des couleurs: Paul grandit d'un seul coup, comme un diable qui sort de sa boîte; quant à moi, je bombais un torse aux côtes visibles, mais à la poitrine élargie.

My father sang happily all week, until Saturday when he had to summon up his courage.

Two very important events marked this period

The first occurred one Saturday in May we were walking through the first château - that of the old Count.   We had reached the middle of the estate when, 20 yards ahead of us,  a tall figure came through the canal hedge. He was very tall with a white beard and wore a felt hat and a long grey velvet coat. My father told us hot to be afraid and to carry on walking. As we neared, we saw that the man had a huge scar on his face stretching to one eye socket from which the eye was missing.

The old man says he has been waiting for us. We notice that his gamekeeper is there as well hidden by the bushes.  The old man goes on to say he has watched us for several weeks - but had not interr­upted us because he suffers from gout.  He had given the order to tie up the dogs on Saturday evenings and Monday mornings at the time we pass.

In fact, the old Count has already spoken to Bouzigue who told him the whole story. He turns to my Mother who, he says, seems overloaded and with a courteous bow, he takes her heavy parcels from her:‑
Il s'inclina devant elle, comme un cavalier qui sollicite l'honneur d'une danse et ajouta:
Voulez-vous me permettre.

The Count’s gamekeeper, Wladimir, who is a giant of a man, then takes hold of our parcels and kneels for Paul to climb on his back.

The old nobleman then turns to my little sister and mother tells her to smile nicely at the gentleman.  The little girl is frightened by the scar and says he is too ugly.  The old man explains to mother it had been caused by a German lance in a hop-field in Alsace 35 years ago (ie the war of 1870).  He suggests she should tell the little girl a cat did it, so she never takes risks with them.
….j’oublie facilement ce cette balafre: ce fut le dernier coup de lance d’un uhlan, dans une houblonnière en Alsace, il y a près de trente-cinq ans. Page 130

On leaving us, the Count gives us his card and tells us to join the canal path using his front driveway as it is a shorter route.

(Above - Mme Pagnol as portrayed in the film of 1990)

As the Count bids them goodbye, he stops to make the elegant bow of a man of noble birth to my mother and kisses her hand.  She blushes, makes a little girl curtsey and runs to my father, at which little Paul rushes forward and kisses the Count’s hand.
Puis, à ma grande surprise, il s'arrêta à deux pas de ma mère et la salua comme il eût fait pour une reine. Enfin il s'approcha d'elle et s'inclinant avec beaucoup de grâce et de dignité, il lui baisa la main. Elle lui répondit en esquissant une révérence de petite fille et elle courait, rougissante, se réfugier auprès de mon père.

That evening my parents read his card and see that he had been Colonel of the First Cuirassier.  This realization made Mother hesitate, as if she was troubled and she said “So then….”  But her husband interrupted to finish her sentence.  He confirmed that it was the First Cuirassier that had been at the famous battle of Reichshoffen.

At the battle of Reichshoffen in August 1870, Le Premier Cuirassier, an elite cavalry brigade, had made heroic but futile cavalry charges against a Prussian army that outnumbered them three to one and had superior fire-power.  They had become legendary for their bravery and sacrifice.

After the memorable meeting with the Count, our walk across the first estate became the great Saturday festivity. The Gateman used to open the front portal and Wladimir would appear to help us to carry our burdens.

We used to go to greet the Colonel.  One day my father showed him an old book he had unearthed, in which there was an account of the battle of Reichshoffen with the Colonel's name very prominent. My father had meticulously drawn the French tricolour around the  pages recounting valour of the cavalrymen, even though he thought himself anti-militarist –
….  mon père qui se croyait antimilitariste, avait longuement taillé trois crayons, pour entourer d'un cadre tricolore les pages où l'auteur célébrait la vaillance du "Premier Cuirassier" P 132.

The Colonel did not accept this as a true account and at once set about writing his own version.

Every Saturday the Colonel gave Mother some “royal” roses - "Les Roses du Roy", which Mother kept all week:
…. notre maison républicaine était comme anoblie par les Roses du Roy.

The second château of the sleeping beauty gave us anxiety only because Mother
thought it was haunted.

The third château - of the lawyer - had a shock for us when a 40 year old peasant came rushing at us brandishing his gardening fork - Mother's hand was trembling in mine - but the man was saying nice words to us at the same time as he pretended to be fiercely angry: telling us not to get worked up, because he had to put on this show with his master watching from the window. He added that he hoped his cantankerous master would soon kick the bucket. He advised us that if we saw the windows open, we should not go along the canal bank but always take the lower path next to the tomato plants, where we would be out of sight from the house.

Carrying on the pretence for the sake of the man watching from the window, he proceeded to take our names, which he invented himself:-
"Vous vous appelez Esmérard Victor, 82 rue de la République.

Then, at his suggestion, we all ran off for effect :
Maintenant, vous allez partir en courant, pour que ça fasse bon effet".

Having got to the other side of the estate wall, we paused and laughed heartily about it, while my father started to moralise about the basic goodness of the common man and his faith in human progress through education.
" Tel est le peuple : ses défauts ne viennent que de son ignorance. Mais son
cœur est bon comme le bon pain »
N.B. the faith of a French Republican in education.

We boys were delighted with the news that the old lawyer was about to kick the
bucket –Crever  can mean «to  die » but is only used of animals in polite usage. –
nous chantions avec une joie satanique “Il va crever!  Il va crever!”.

Every week we took the concealed way and met Dominique, the peasant. My father would
wink and say:
Voilà la famille Esménard qui passe. And this weekly joke caused both parties great amusement.

Every week Dominique gave us fruit and vegetables, and Mother gave him a packet of pipe tobacco.

Things did not go better with the last château, which frightened us each week.  Mother used to get in a particularly bad state, thinking about the drunkard gamekeeper and his sick guard dog.
-'Ma mère, par instants, s'arrêtait toute pale, le nez pincé, la main sur son cœur."

Page 136 -, Our fears were not helped by what the old colonel had told us the man - "un vieil abruti (brute),” but my father discounted this. He said that it was only because the man had taken to drink, an old drunk was rarely aggressive.
(Note the general awareness of the evil of alcohol abuse

However Mother was terrified, crouching terrified in the rose bushes of the canal hedge, unaware of the thorns. Still she always made a supreme effort so that we could get across the last estate.

Page 137 There were no Sunday outings in June, the month of my scholarship exams. I enjoyed the glory of being the champion that the school had entered for these exams and played it out to the full.
'Grave, le regard perdu, la lèvre marmonnante, je "révisais", sous les yeux de mes camarades, qui n'osaient pas s'approcher du Penseur."         

I did well in the exam - but got one problem wrong concerning alloys. Only one candidate got it right and he came  first - I came second.

The headmaster himself thought the question unfair - I felt some bitterness but forgot all with the awareness that the end of term and our holiday was near.

Unfortunately, Aunt Rose and Uncle Jules were not coming with us but going to Perpignan. I warned her about taking the baby to this place when he was just learning to talk, where might pick up the Perpignan 'r' –
"je fis remarquer a la tante Rose qu'il était bien dangereux de l'emmener chez des étrangers, qui lui imposeraient  par surprise le terrible accent de Perpignan."
She reassured me that they would join us by the 1st August.

Page 140 - The 30th July was the solemn eve of the event – the start of the Summer holidays at La Bastide. I couldn’t sleep, sure that they would surpass even the previous year. I was happy to be seeing Lili again

We would be even more loaded.  Mother said it would be necessary to use the mule of Francois, but my father had to reveal that he had spent every penny stocking up for the stay.

I had two haversacks and had packets under both arms. Paul, bigger now, had a rucksack so full, you could not see his head from the back. In his left hand he carried a loaded string bag and in his right hand held the hand of his little sister, who clutched her doll tightly.

My father a huge pack and two cases and also had things to be carried wedged under each arm. Mother intended to carry two cases but I spared her by taking things from her load secretly and dividing them between Paul and me. We were so encumbered that it was very hard for us to get on and off the bus.

We were in a happy mood but other people were sorry for us and offered help..
" vu de loin, notre cortège était si pathétique que des passants offrirent de nous aider." which my father declined .   On the stretch from La Barasse, however, a passing carter (roulier), transporting a furniture removal, stopped and took Mother's bags without a word hanging them them under his loaded cart until we reached the gate of the Colonel’s château.
Cependant, un roulier jovial, qui transportait un déménagement, vint prendre sans mot dire les deux valises de ma mère et les accrocha sous sa charrette, où elles se balancèrent en cadence jusqu’à la grille du colonel.

There it seemed that Wladimir had come out specially to wait for us.  He had the customary gift of roses for mother but he was alone, as his master was ill with gout.  He took hold of all the hand baggage we were carrying, and went with us not only across his estate but through the second estate as well– the château of the sleeping beauty – as far as the door of the lawyer’s estate, where Dominique would normally be waiting.

When we had got through the door, however, we found that Dominique was not there and the windows of the third house were closed. The walk across this estate seemed long and we needed a rest under a fig tree half way.  We made another stop before we opened the door to the fourth house.  The one that caused us the greatest anxiety.

Mother had a sense of foreboding that things were not going right, but Joseph dismissed them as no-one had said anything to stop them for six months. To calm her fears my father took extra precautions, creeping along behind the canal hedge, he said, like Comanche Indians. He was sweating dreadfully with the weight he was carrying, the string of the bag Paul was carrying was cutting his fingers and our little sister was speechless with fright.

I was very upset to see my mother so very pale but the beloved hills drew me on
"La pâleur muette de ma mere me serrait le coeur mais je voyais au loin, par-dessus les arbres, au-delà des murs, le sommet bleu de la Tête-Rouge."

We eventually completed the long crossing of this estate  and thought we were safe when we reached the final gate. My father used his key and unlocked it, but the door would not open.  To our horror, we realized that it was closed with a new padlock.

Mother and I thought of breaking the new lock but my father said the action would amount to "une effraction" i.e. house breaking.

At that point, a man of medium height, but immensely fat stepped out from behind a bush. He had a revolver  in a black leather holster  and had a terrible dog on a lease- the monstruous animal we had lived in fear of for so long.
"Sa patte gauche arrière restait en l'air, agitée de saccades convulsives; ses épaisses babines pendaient longuement, prolongés par des fils de bave, et de part et d'autre de l'horrible gueule, deux canines se dressaient, pour le meurtre des innocents. Enfin, le monstre avait un oeil laiteux; mais l'autre énormément ouvert, brillait d'une menace jaune. »

The pockmarked face of the fat man was just as terrible.

My father did not move; Paul hid behind him; our little sister started crying and mother was moaning in her state of extreme anxiety.

The gamekeeper demanded to know what we were doing on the Baron’s lands and asked our names.  I said “Esménard Victor”, but my father told me it was no time for jokes.

Joseph pulled out his card and gave it to the Keeper - The man looked at it and was full of scorn to read he was a schoolteacher who was trespassing
Instituteur public: ça c'est le comble: Un instituteur qui pénètre en cachette dans la propriété d'autres. -And  in addition, he had children that gave false names.

My father found his tongue and pleaded to him - about the long walk to the villa. To me he was pitiful and i was burning with anger.
PAGE 147 Il fut sincère et pathétique, mais piteux. J'avais le sang aux joues, et je brûlais de rage.

The keeper accused father of stealing the key. Father refused to say how he had got it. The keeper guessed the culprit was from the canal official who used to steal his figs.

My father told the story of his checking the canal. The man sneeringly asked if all the lot of us were experts as well and requisitioned the book - which gave him proof that we had been going through for six months.

Then he demanded to search our luggage. He checked all our belongings, scattering them around. He checked that my father’s gun hadn't been fired - suggesting that the gun’s use could also be to target game‑keepers.

Finally, he looked at all our belongings scattered around and said he had never known that teachers were so well paid.

My father- who earned only a meagre salary- said that it was for that reason that he wanted to keep his job.  At which, the gamekeeper said if father got sacked as a teacher it was his own fault :
Si on vous revoque, dit le garde, ce sera de votre faute. Moi je n'y puis rien.

He told us to turn around and go back the way we had come.

Suddenly our alarm clock went off and mother fainted.  The guard treated it as a play-acting to get sympathy:
 "Bien joué, ça ne prend pas ! »

We brought Mother round with tears and kisses.  Then we found our little sister had gone missing. She had run and hidden in a bramble bush like a mouse.

We got together our things, my father desperately worried about the idea of being sacked.
- Tant que je suis instituteur, nous sommes en vacances. Mais si dans huit jours, je ne le suis plus, je serai en chômage.

PAGE 151 We made our miserable way back, dropping objects from the bundles we had
hurriedly re-packed. My mother insisted that she had had presentiment but my father would admit no mysticism.
-Il n'y a là ni mystére ni pressentiment, mais simplement bêtise de ma part, et cruauté de la part de cet imbécile.

His father kept repeating how weak one is, when one is in the wrong, but the writer of the book disagrees with him – you are feeble when you are good-natured.
« Et il répétait "Comme on est faible quand on a tort.
La vie m’a appris qu'il se trompait, et qu'on est faible quand on est pur".

As the guard had taken the key my father had to pick the lock of the next gate with a piece of wire. Marcel comments ironically that it was the first time in his life he had seen a criminal at work and the burglar was his father!

When we got to the Colonel's estate we found Wladimir and told him what had happened. He said he wasn’t the man to deal the brutish gamekeeper, because every time he had had anything to do with him, he had finished up hitting him.  He said the Colonel was the right person to sort things out.   However he admitted that he had concealed that afternoon, that the Colonel was in hospital and had had an operation. He went on to tell how the Colonel had previously had a public quarrel with the so-called “Baron”, who owned the fourth château. The Count regarded him as vulgar nouveau-riche.

Joseph recognizes that he can’t turn to the Colonel for help. We have a drink with Wladimir and set out on the journey to La Treille the long way, walking in silence.

Lili had walked down to La Treille tomeet us and he took Mother's parcels. He was upset to hear our story and especiallythat the guard had written a summons in his book:
Le procès-verbal, pour les gens de mon village, c'était le déshonneur et la ruine. Un gendarme d'Aubagne avait été tué dans la colline, par un brave homme de paysan, parce qu'il allait lui faire un procès-verbal.

So Lili too was heartbroken for us. He hoped he could persuade the postman to intervene as he wore an official kepi like the gamekeeper. –
Dans son esprit c'était le signe de la puissance, et il pensait qu'entre képis, les choses pouvaient peut-être s'arranger.

When we finally arrived at La Bastide, we unpacked but father’s mood was sombre and my mother performed her tasks in silence.  At first my father merely stared absent mindedly at the flames of the fire in the villa. Over dinner he tried to laugh at the dreadful events of the day, giving a comic picture of the gamekeeper, all their belongings strewn on the grass but he was forcing himself for their sakes:
…….  je vis bien que mon père se forçait pour nous et j'avais envie de pleurer.

My Mother believed that he was exaggerating the threat to his career.  However, my father felt he would have to resign his post in view of the disgrace :- He could receive "un blâme" a reprimand from the Inspecteur d'Académie – the Chief Education Officer.
il y a certainement de quoi infliger un blâme à un instituteur, Et pour moi, un blâme équivaut à la révocation, car je démissionerai

My mother was shocked that he would turn his back on his pension which was, in those days, regarded as a brilliant prospect for the future – to be able one day to live off a private income in retirement.

PAGE 156 -  In bed that night, I could hear my parents talking downstairs. I went to listen. My father was despairing that he could not even be a tutor in the private sector with a "blâme" His only hope was that an old friend, who ran a big potato business would employ him to do his accounts.

Father and Mother both go on to confess that each has been saving a little money secretly in case of need. I reckoned it up 990 Francs and I had 7 francs in my money box - dans ma tirelire- and Paul secretly had at least four. This seemed enough to live off and I was reassured as I went to sleep.

PAGE 158 The next morning Father had gone to town - perhaps to see the potato man about a new job.  Lili arrived very late at 9a.m. He had been talking to his father who told him the gamekeeper was known to them.  He had already got a local peasant fined for poaching and would be shot dead if he came into the mountains.

Lili's other news was disturbing. The postman had seen the keeper writing out our summons.

Lili had brought some poisoned sausages which his father prepared for the foxes, with which they could poison the gamekeeper’s dog -and him as well, if we were lucky.

First we looked at our traps. The catch was good and convinced me that a poor family could survive in the mountains. Mother gave me a kiss and said we weren’t at that point yet.

To encourage this idea, Lili at dinner sang the praises of the chick-pea and the haricot so quick-growing that you put the seed in the ground and ran away. Then, looking at mother, he said:
- Naturellement, c'est un peu exagéré: mais c'est pour dire qu'il pousse vite.

In order to make clear the practicality of living in the mountains, we went off at two o’clock, taking Paul, collecting food from the hills. When we returned home, father was back. He had been to see Bouzigue who was not in. The Colonel had been too ill see visitors for the last four to five days.-

M. Pagnol had been to see the Inspecteur d’Académie. He had found out that he had just been awarded a promotion. As a result, he no longer feared dismissal but feared they would rule out his promotion, meaning the loss of the salary increase this would bring. He was distressed :
Il poussa un profond soupir, puis il alla s'asseoir sur une chaise, les mains sur les genoux et la tête basse.  Paul began to weep.

Then we saw Bouzigue approaching the cottage and Lili and I ran to meet him. My mother and father were right behind.

With a smile, Bouzigue produced my father’s canal note book,  which the keeper had confiscated and gave it him back.  He told us the procès-verbal Bouzigue had made against him was torn up and floating on the canal. He winked and burst out laughing.

The silence of these holidays was suddenly over. "Alors j'entendis deux mille cigales."

As he drinks generously from the Pernod we kept for visitors, Bouzigue tells us how he went to see the guard with two colleagues after getting my father's note. The three men in casquettes demanded to take away "les pièces à conviction" - the padlock and chain that the guard had put on the gate in contra­vention of the agreement made with the Canal Company. They were going to take out a procès-verbal against the keeper.  As a result of this, his master would be taken to court and no doubt he would sack his gamekeeper.

The worried gamekeeper tells about the trespassers and shows them his report and the notebook. Bouzigue sees the mention of the 'cadenas' as a confession that he was guilty of fitting the illegal lock. The guard is now in a pathetic state of distress and is relieved when they offer him clemency for a first offence and accepts that the matter is forgotten.   On that, the keeper’s summons against the Pagnol family was torn up and Bouzigue pocketed the padlock and chain as a present for Joseph..

However, Bouzigue has to advise them not to use the path again though. My mother says that they would never dare.
 "Même si on nous donnait la permission, je n'aurais jamais le courage de revoir cet endroit. Je crois que je m' évanouirais"

Page 166 As more drinks are poured, my father becomes anxious in case all the Pernod Bouzigue was consuming was bad for his health
Mon père hasarda, un peu timidement
- Je ne voudrais p[as que tu croies que je regrette cet alcool que tu vas boire.  Mais je ne sais pas si , pour ta santé…

Bouzique replied that our fresh water tank was sure to contain dead spiders, lizards and toads and the Pernod would counteract this –
 "L'eau citerne, c'est de l'essence de pipi de crapaud ! Tandis que le pernod, ça neutralise tout!"

During the meal father and Bouzigue each told his story four times, each time more embellished until
"…. mon père nous révéla que le garde avait failli nous abattre sur place, et Bouzigue nous peignit le monstre se traînant â genoux, le visage couvert de larmes, et demandant 'pardon' d'une voix d'enfant."

In the fluent conversation, Bouzigue returned to the colourful history of his sister. Life, he said, was like cross­ing a torrent jumping from one rock to another. His sister had been married to a man who was away a lot of the time.  At this moment I first met the word 'cocu'. (The word for a husband who has an unfaithful wife).

His sister had jumped from rock to rock starting with a tram depot manager, until she now was landed on the rock of a town councillor and was thinking of jumping over to the Prefect himself..

 When my mother said disapprovingly that men must be stupid, Bouzigue said his sister knew how to go about it: "L'intelligence, ce n'était pas tout" and that she "avait un drôle de balcon".

When Paul and I tried to peep at the photo Bouzigue produced of this fantastic figure that was her major asset, Mother sent us to bed.

I awoke from an incoherent dream of all this to hear my father complaining "Tu me permettras de regretter qu'en ce monde, le vice soit trop souvent récompensé":

Bouzigue’s voice now strangely nasal told Joseph that he flabbergasted him"


Page 168  Now the book makes a brutal jump from this happy family scene to a sombre, sad scene, five years later

Five years had passed and I was walking behind a tall, black coach. I was dressed in black and Paul was squeezing my hand with all his might – They were carrying my mother off for ever.
"J'étais vêtu de noir, et la main du petit Paul serrait la mienne de toutes ses forces. On emportait notre mère pour toujours ».  Marcel’s mother died of a chest infection on 16 June 1910, at the age of 36.

It is as if as a boy of fifteen I had refused to allow in the strength of a sorrow so strong that it could have killed me. For years until we became adults, we did not have the courage to talk about it.

Then Paul grew up and became a head taller than me. Still loving his hills, he went back to nature, living as a goatherd there. But, at the age of 30, he died in hospital with his harmonica on the table by his bed.
Page 168- …. … menait son troupeau de chèvres ; le soir, il faisait des fromages dans des tamis de joncs tressés, puis sur le gravier des garrigues, il dormait, roulé dans son grand manteau : Il fut le dernier chevrier de Virgile.  Mais à trente ans, dans une clinique, il mourut.  Sur la table de nuit, il y avait son harmonica.
Paul, who suffered from epilepsy, died in a specialist hospital in Belgium in July 1932.  Marcel had continued to visit him in the hills of their childhood holidays. He had used his newly acquired wealth to pay for the most advanced treatment for his brother.

Lili was not at Paul's funeral. His death had occurred some years earlier. He was shot in 1917 in the cold foreign climates of northern France, fallen among plants whose name he did not know.
Page 168- ….. en 1917, dans une noire forêt du Nord, une balle en en plein front avait tranché sa jeune vie, et il était tombé sous la pluie , sur des touffes de plantes froides dont il ne savait pas les noms…
The real name of Marcel’s boyhood friend, nicknamed Lili, was David Magnan.  Some histories say he was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918.  He is buried near to the tomb of Marcel Pagnol and other members of the Pagnol family in the cemetery at La Treille.

Pagnol sums up the moral of this bitter sequel to the idyll of his childhood years with his mother:- page 168:
Telle est la vie des homes.  Quelques joies, très vite effacées par des inoubliables chagrins. 

Il n’est pas nécessaire de le dire aux enfants.

The final chapter of the book brings the story of a remarkable coincidence that occurred in his life in 1942, which vividly revived these memories of childhood..  Pagnol was then the head of a film company and a successful film producer.

Page 169 - 10 years after the death of my brother, I set up a film company, which was very successful. Needing to expand we looked for an estate, big enough for our needs in Provence, where the sunny weather was favourable to filming.

An estate agent found a suitable place. He was enthusiastic about it, but I was forced to agree to the purchase without seeing the property, to forestall alternative bids.

A week later, the company moved from Paris to Provence. On our arrival the procession of cars stopped in front of the château that we had just bought.  It was a big country mansion (see photo above) that had been built during the Second Empire ( Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte Emperor of France 1852 – 1870)

I went from the house to look at the land at the rear, where we wished to build the studios.

Suddenly a sight took my breath away.  In the distance, at the top of a mound, I saw  a hedge of shrubs.  I rushed madly towards it - across the meadow and across time. There it was the canal of my childhood and its hedge with its hawthorns, clematis, and wild rose bushes loaded with flowers.  Slowly I walked again along the holiday path and shadows dear to me walked with me.
"Je refis lentement le chemin des vacances, et de chères ombres marchaient près de moi."

It was when I looked back through the hedge that I recognised the grand house that I had bought was the house that had filled my mother with fear.

For a couple of seconds, I hoped to meet the gamekeeper and his dog to wreak my revenge but twenty years had gone by and the wicked also die.

I walked along the bank of the canal and it was still a sieve, ("une passoire" the phrase which amused Paul) though Paul wasn’t here to laugh about it. 

I moved forward cautiously behind the hedge, as we had done in days gone by. Then, I saw the boundary wall and then the horrible black door of a humiliated dad.

" …..  au pied du mur, tout près du canal, il y avait l'horrible porte noire, celle qui n'avait pas voulu s’ouvrir sur les vacances, la porte du Père Humilié."

In blind rage I hurled a very big stone at the rotted gate - and afterwards breathed more easily as if I had exorcised something.

But in the wild roses, under clusters of white roses, at the other end of time, there had been there for years, a very young woman, clasping the Colonel’s roses on her frail heart.   She could hear the shouting of the gamekeeper and the hoarse breathing of the dog. Pale, trembling and forever inconsolable, she did not know that she was at home in her son’s house:-
"…. Il y avait depuis des années une très jeune femme brune qui serrait toujours sur son cœur fragile les roses rouges du colonel. Elle entendait les cris du garde, et le souffle rauque du chien. Blême, tremblante, et pour jamais inconsolable, elle ne savait pas qu’elle était chez son fils.