The Last Lesson Summary In English
Franz started school very late that morning. He was afraid of being scolded because M. Hamel was to question them on participles, and he did not know the first word about them. He thought of running away and spending the day out of doors. The warm bright day, the chirping birds, and the Prussian soldiers drilling in the open field back of the sawmill were tempting. But he resisted the temptation and hurried off to school.
There was a crowd in front of the bulletin-board near the town-hall. Wachter, the blacksmith asked Franz not to go so fast. He assured the boy that he would get to his school in plenty of time. Usually, there was a great bustle when the school began but that day everything was as quiet as Sunday morning.
Through the window, Franz saw his classmates, already in their places and M. Hamel walking up and down with his terrible iron ruler under his arm. Franz opened the door and went in. He blushed and was frightened. M. Hamel very kindly asked him to go to his place.
Franz noticed that their teacher had put on his beautiful green coat, his frilled shirt, and the little black silk cap, all embroidered. He wore these only on inspection and prize days. The village people were sitting quietly on the usually empty backbenches. Everybody looked sad, and Hauser had brought an old primer.
M. Hamel said that it was the last lesson he would give them. Henceforth, only German was to be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The new master would come the next day. This was their last lesson of French. He wanted them to be very attentive.
Franz felt sorry that he had not learnt his lessons properly. The idea that M. Hamel was going away made the narrator forget all about his ruler and how cranky he was. Now Franz understood why M. Hamel had put on his fine Sunday clothes and why the old men of the village were sitting there. They had come to thank the master for his forty years’ faithful service and to show their respect for the country that was theirs no more.
M. Hamel asked Franz to recite, but he stood there silent. The teacher did not scold him. He confessed that his parents and he (the teacher) were at fault. Then he talked of the French language-the most beautiful language in the world—the clearest, the most logical. He asked them to guard it among them and never forget it. Their language was the key to their prison.
Then they had a lesson in grammar and writing. The pigeons cooed very low on the roof. Franz thought if they would make even the pigeons sing in German. All the while M. Hamel was sitting motionless in his chair and gazing at one thing or the other. His sister was packing their trunks in the room above as they had to leave the country the next day.
After writing, they had a lesson in history, and then the babies chanted their ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Even old Hauser was crying. All at once the church-clock struck twelve and then the midday prayers. At the same moment the trumpets of the Prussians, returning from the drill, sounded under the windows. M. Hamel stood up. He wanted to speak but something choked him.
Then he took a piece of chalk and wrote on the blackboard as large as he could “Vive La France!” After this, he stopped and leaned his head against the wall. Without a word, he made a gesture with his hand to indicate that the school was dismissed and they might go.
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