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Children's Story Garden  >  The Four Sous

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

The Four Sous


LITTLE Marie lived in a tiny village in northern France. They were a very happy family, little Marie, her father and mother, grandmother and dear little baby brother. But one day war came to France and the father had to go to the front, for nearly every French father was a soldier. It was very lonely at home without the dear, kind father. Mother and grandmother, and even little Marie, had to work very hard tending the garden, and harvesting the crops on their strip of land. Like almost every family in the villages of France, they owned their house, their pretty garden and their bit of land in the near-by country-side.

Then one sad day the war came to their own village and their red-roofed cottage was burned. After that little Marie and her mother and baby brother and poor grandmother had only the cellar to live in, with a pile of rags and straw in one corner for a bed. Those were sad days for little Marie. The weather grew very cold, baby brother cried and grandmother coughed all night. Something must be done. So one day, with six sous in her pocket (six pennies in our money), she slipped out of the cellar and walked down the long-deserted street.

Suddenly she came upon a tall man in a gray suit with a black-and-red star on his sleeve. She had heard of the Friends who built homes for the French peasants, and besides, she was feeling very rich with the six sous in her pocket. Going up to the man in gray, she said, "Will you build a house for mother and grandmother and baby brother and me? I'm tired of living in the cellar, where brother cries all day, and grandmother coughs all night. Could you make me a house with a bedroom, a living-room and a nice warm kitchen? See, I have six sous! Do you think you could do it for that?"

The tall man in gray did not smile, but looking down kindly at the tiny girl, said: "Let me see. Yes, I think we can build you a house. Indeed, I'm sure we can do it for four sous." So the little house was built and into it were put a stove, a table, some chairs, and the necessary articles for housekeeping. When all was finished and the family had moved in, the tall man in gray collected the four sous, and little Marie was happy to think that she had paid with her own four sous for the cosy house, which would keep them warm and comfortable, until Father should come back from the war.

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Notes and links

The Four Sous
A true story told by members of the Friends' Reconstruction Unit in France. (Historical Notes.)
"A black-and-red star on his sleeve"
smaller 4-pointed black star superimposed at 45 degrees rotation over a slightly larger 4-pointed red star, for a total of eight pointsBecame the logo of the AFSC.
Friends' Reconstruction Unit
The (American) Friends' Reconstruction Unit operated in Europe at the end of the First World War. See, for instance, Paul Lacey's comments on the Quiet Helpers Exhibit, about the early years of the AFSC.
Also: "Rufus Jones was instrumental in the establishment of the Haverford Emergency Unit (a pre-cursor to the American Friends Service Committee) at the college that prepared members for relief and reconstruction work in Europe after World War I" - a biographical blurb.
The American Friends Service Committee apparently dates its formation to include these experiences. "During AFSC's first year, it sent young men and women to France, where they worked in cooperation with British Friends to feed and care for refugee children, found a maternity hospital, repair and rebuild homes, and provide returning refugees with the necessities to restart their lives" - AFSC official history.