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The Christmas Night

Once upon a time, up there on the hill, there was an old hovel, with a roof with holes revealing the sky,
Serving on one side as a stable and on the other as a shepherd's accommodation, her name was Berbéziel,
It was once a mansion that dominated the village and the valley in the background,
But since the owner's death everything had been neglected and almost abandoned.

This M. Escanat was a wicked man of unparalleled avarice,
No one could live by his side, they said he only loved gold and sorrel,
And that he had hidden many, who knows how many and who knows where!
There were sheep and a penniless shepherd in that building today.

In this old house lived Batistou, a brave man of a shepherd in his fold,
Who wasted away studying the variations of weather while grazing his cattle,
When on Christmas Eve, Batistou keeping his animals on this peeled plane which leans towards the valley,
He saw a gentleman arrive, in a jiffy, dressed in furs, stopping in front of his nose.

Hello Sir, do you know Batistou Mièjovillo? said the messenger,
It's me, sir, what do you want from me, replied the shepherd,
Here, Mr. Escanat son sends you this, said the man dressed in "fluff",
Putting a few sheets of blue paper in her hand, he spoke to her.

If next month you have not paid him the five years of unpaid rent,
He will sell your flock; I am Maître Delmas judicial officer responsible for informing you!
And here is our man who runs his machine for a while, jumps on horseback in the saddle, and goes,
Leaving poor Batistou, as if he had become an idiot, turning and turning his blue paper in his fingers, blissful.

He thought that this damned life, so thorny, so wicked, so hard, did not promise him flowers,
Misery of fate! He who had a poor wife and three little children to grow, to eat without tears,
With the meager income of a flock, which the bad luck had overwhelmed throughout the year without respite,
Sick lambs, cheap manure, don't talk about wool! Misery he told himself!

He who in the colonial era had just lived through a terrible war lasting more than five years,
Five years, up there in that hell of the Verdun trenches where you had to have a strong heart.
Before this atrocious war, he only knew one Verdun, the one near Luzenac on a spree,
There where he had met, at the ball of July 14, the one who will become his wife, the pretty Mariette.

And now after all this hassle, not being able to just live in peace while working,
"Ah curse" burst Firmin, raising an angry fist crumpling the blue paper of the malicious usher.
The hazy December sun leaned towards the peaks of the Pyrenees passes on the horizon,
Night was approaching, Batistou hissed his dog and, followed by his sheep, made his way home.

He was all alone in his Batistou home for this Christmas evening, heartless,
Mariette and the children had gone down to the village invited to her sister-in-law,
He had stayed in Berbéziel to take care of the sheep, but what a sad vigil, Batistou thought,
In himself he cursed this Escanate which, without pity, was preparing to strangle him everywhere.

He remembered that in the days of the ancestors, a big fire was made in the fireplace that evening,
He also wanted to make a big fire, there was no lack of wood behind the barn, piled up,
After carrying a big oak trunk and an armful of twigs, here is the big Christmas fire lit,
For a fire, it was a beautiful one! He climbed high, high up in the chimney hood.

Batistou, sitting in front of his big fire, dreamed and, soothed by the gentle heat, he was snoring loudly the old mutt,
The shepherd saw these Christmas evenings pass before his eyes, where, under the andirons, he pushed his little hooves,
He waited with such sweet emotion that old Santa Claus sitting on his reindeer sleigh,
Come and put the toy that you have been waiting for all year round as New Year's gifts by the fireplace.

The ever-hot fire rose high, high, so high that it looked like it reached the beams, millediou,
Suddenly he heard a long shudder, a melancholy whistle, chuou… chuou… chuou!
The rustling descended and in the flame, a deluge of soot, of stones as if the old house was demolishing,
The fire was almost extinguished and a large owl, half-dead, rolled in the middle of the room, its wings scorched.

Frightened Batistou had jumped back to grab his abalone shepherd's staff,
But Balentou the dog stood up and with a bite of his teeth broke the wings of the big bird,
The beautiful Christmas fire had suffered from this turmoil and when the emotion passed,
What did Batistou see as he approached to put the scattered embers back in order?

Amidst the ashes and soot, a pretty metal casket that the fall had opened,
Filled with ecus, pistoles and louis d'or, the shepherd was shocked to his heart by this discovery,
Oh that ! would old Santa Claus have thought about his sadness and his poverty this evening,
He who, in the tender years of his childhood, had never forgotten it!

On their return, Mariette and the children found Batistou dancing happily around the table,
Faced with a sparkling pile, a crumpled paper hidden in the treasure, the stable shepherd had taught,
That this fortune had been amassed for a hundred years by the Escanates father and grandfather,
Stealing from his ancestors, the sheep, the calves, the sacks of wheat, the wooden canes and the sacks of potatoes.

This chest, the old miser of Escanat had hidden in the fireplace, in a hole in the wall near the roof,
The bad weather, the dilapidated stones, the broods of owls, had demolished the hiding place, leaving him speechless,
And miracle on this Christmas night, the fear of a big owl burnt by the blaze,
Had made his ancestors' stolen fortune fall into the shepherd's hoof.

Since then, everything has gone well, a big-hearted Batistou bought the farm from his wicked master,
After having renovated it, every year for Christmas night he goes with his family to the priest's church,
To thank Providence as well as Santa Claus and on returning to the fireplace,
With Mariette and the children, they sing the traditional “Little Papa Noël” in all happiness.

Adapted in quatrains rhymed by Guy l'Arié… Joie on a story broadcast by Jean-Jacques Billeau
In "He was a" Foix "in Ariège": On the ruins of the hermitage of Saint-Sauveur.
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