M OTHER AMBROISINE called Claire. A friend had just come to see her to learn about an embroidery stitch that troubled her. At the request of Jules and Emile, however, Uncle Paul continued. He knew Jules would take pleasure in repeating the conversation to his sister.
"Flax, linen, and cotton, especially the
"Paper!" exclaimed Emile.
"Paper, real paper, that on which we write, of which we make
books. The beautiful white sheets of your copybooks, the
leaves of a book, even the costliest,
"Despicable tatters are collected: some of them are picked
up from the filth of the street, some are unspeakably
filthy. They are sorted over, these for fine paper, those
for coarse. They are thoroughly washed, for they need it.
Now machines take them in hand. Scissors cut them, steel
claws tear them, wheels make pulp of them and reduce them to
"Before it became paper, the first material was rags, or cloth too tattered to use. How many uses has not this cloth served, and what energetic treatments has it not undergone before being cast out as rubbish! Washing with corrosive ashes, contact with acrid soup, pounding with a beetle, exposure to the sun, air, and rain. What is then this material which, in spite of its delicacy, resists the brutalities of washing, soap, sun, and air; which remains intact in the bosom of rottenness; which braves the machines and drugs of paper-making, and always comes out of these ordeals more supple and whiter, to become at last a sheet of paper, beautiful satiny paper, the confidant of our thoughts? You know now, my little friends, this admirable material, source of so much intellectual progress, comes to us from the flock of the cotton plant and the bark of hemp and flax."
"I am certainly going to surprise Claire," said Jules, "when
I tell her that her beautiful
"Claire will be interested to learn the nature of paper;
but, I am sure, the lowly origin of her