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The Comtesse de Segur Translation: Sophie's Misfortunes (2)

Updated on March 16, 2015

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What You Missed in 'Sophie's Misfortunes: The Wax Doll'

  • In the first chapter of Sophie's Misfortunes, we met Sophie de Rean, who lives in a French Chateau, or large country house, with her mother. Her father Paul is away in Paris and sends her a doll. Her friend Paul is visiting.
  • Sophie receives a wax doll from her father. She thinks it looks pale, so she puts it in the sun and it melts.
  • A number of accidents happen to the doll and eventually it's beyond repair. Sophie invites her two best friends, Camille and Madeleine, as well as houseguest Paul, to her doll's funeral.

Sophie's Misfortunes
Sophie's Misfortunes

Sophie's Misfortunes: The Funeral

One morning, Camille and Madeleine arrived for the doll's funeral; they were delighted; Sophie and Paul weren't any less happy.

"Come, girls," said Sophie, "we're waiting for you to make the doll's coffin."

"But in what will we put her?" asked Camille.

"In an old toy box; my nanny covered it in pink cotton; it's very pretty; come see."

The girls ran to Mrs. de Rean, where the nanny was finishing the pillow and the mattras that we would put in the box; the children admired the pretty coffin. They put the doll inside and so that her shattered head, melted feet, and broken arm would not be seen, they covered her with a little pink taffeta coverlet.

They placed the box on a stretcher that Sophie's mother had had made for them. They all wanted to carry it, but it was impossible as there was only room for two. After they had pushed each other a bit and argued with one another, it was decided that Sophie and Paul, being the younger ones, would carry the stretcher. Meanwhile, Camille and Madeleine would walk, one behind them, the other in front, carrying a basket of flowers and leaves that they would throw onto the grave.

After the procession had arrived in Sophie's little garden, they placed the stretcher onto the ground with the box that contained the remnants of the poor doll. The children began to dig the grave; then they lowered the box, threw flowers and leaves upon it, and then the dirt that they had removed from the site. They promptly raked up the surrounding area and planted two lilies.

To finish the celebration, they ran to the kitchen garden basin and filled up their little watering-cans in order to water the lilies; new games and laughter ensued because the children watered their legs, and chased after one another, and ran away, laughing and shouting. A more joyful funeral had never been seen. It's true that the deceased was an old doll, without color, without hair, without legs, and without a head, and that no one loved her or regretted her.

The day finished happily; and, when Camille and Madeleine left, they asked Paul and Sophie to break another doll so that they might have another enjoyable funeral.

Watch Sophie's Misfortunes

Sophie's Misfortune's Quicklime
Sophie's Misfortune's Quicklime

Sophie's Misfortunes: The Quicklime

Little Sophie was not obedient. Her mother had told her not to go alone in the courtyard, where the bricklayers were building a house for the chickens, the peacocks, and the guinea fowls. Sophie liked to see the bricklayers work; when her mother went, she always brought her, but ordered to stay next to her. Sophie, who would have liked to run all around, asked her one day:

"Mother, why do you never want me to go see the bricklayers without you? And, when you go, why must I always stay beside you?"

"Because the bricklayers throw stones, bricks that could hurt you," answered her mother, "and because there's sand and quicklime that could make you slip or harm you."

"Oh! mother, first I would be very careful, and anyway, the sand and quicklime can't hurt."

"You think so, because you're a little girl; but I am big, and know that quicklime burns."

"But, mother..." began Sophie.

Her mother interrupted her. "Come on, don't reason so much, and be quiet. I know better than you what can hurt you and what can't. I don't want you to go in the courtyard without me."

Sophie hung her head and didn't say another word; she looked moody and murmured to herself, "I'll go anyway; it sounds like fun, and I'll go."

She didn't wait long for the opportunity to disobey. An hour later, the gardener came to fetch Mrs. de Rean to choose the geraniums that were being sent from the market. Sophie remained by herself; she looked around to see if her nanny or the maid could see her, and then, believing she really was alone, she ran to the door, opened it, and went into the courtyard. The bricklayers were working and did not think about Sophie, who was having a good time looking at them and watching everything, examining everything.

She found herself near a big basin full of quicklime, white and smooth like cream.

"How this quicklime is white and pretty!" she thought, "I'd never looked at it so closely before; mother never lets me come near. How smooth it is! It must be soft and pleasant under the feet. I will walk across the basin and slip across it like ice."

Sophie put one foot on the quicklime, believing it to be solid like the earth. But her foot went through; so she wouldn't fall, she put another foot in, and found herself in the quicklime up to her calves.

The Quicklime: What Happened Next

She shouted; a bricklayer ran up, lifted her out, and put her onto the ground, saying:

"Take off your shoes and your tights, miss; they're already all burnt; if you keep them on, the quicklime will burn your legs."

Sophie looked at her legs; despite the white quicklime that still coated them, she saw that her shoes and her tights were as black as though they had just been removed from the fire. She began to cry louder, especially as she felt the quicklime stinging her legs. Luckily, her nanny was not far away; she ran up, saw what had happened, ripped off Sophie's shoes and tights, and wiped off her feet and legs with her apron. Then she took her in her arms and brought her into the house.

At the moment where Sophie was being brought into her room, Mrs. of Rean came back to pay the flower merchant.

"What's wrong?" asked Mrs. de Rean worriedly. "Did you hurt yourself? Why are you barefoot?"

Ashamed, Sophie did not answer. So her nanny told her mother what had happened, and how Sophie had almost burned her legs with quicklime.

"If I hadn't been near the courtyard and hadn't arrived just in time, she would have had her legs in the same state as my apron. See, ma'am, how burnt it is from the quicklime; it's full of holes."

Mrs. de Rean saw indeed that the nanny's apron was lost. Turning toward Sophie, she said, "I should whip you for your disobedience; but the good Lord has already punished you by the fright that you've had. You won't have any other punishment than to give me the five dollars you had in your purse, which you were keeping to amuse yourself at the village fair. It will be given to your nanny so she can buy a new apron."

Sophie cried and begged forgiveness, but it was useless. Her mother took her five dollars. Sophie told herself, as she cried, that another time she would listen to her mother, and wouldn't go where she wasn't supposed to.

Comtesse de Segur
Comtesse de Segur


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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Bessie, glad I cod help.

    • BessieBooks profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Thank you Jodah! You're right, I was going back and forth with the 'de Rean', this being the first translation I did where I came upon aristocratic names. Since you suggest keeping the same name I'll go back and change it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I found this a delightful read BessieBooks. It seems "Sophie's Misfortunes" would be a wonderful children's book. The only problem with the translation appears to be "Mrs de Rean' translated to "Mrs of Rean". Names should stay the same, the "de" should not be changed to "of". Thanks for sharing this. Voted up.


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