A Story of the Flag by Victor Mapes
When the Fourth of July came, we had been abroad nearly two months, and
during that time I think we had not seen a single American flag. On the
morning of the Fourth, however, we walked out on the Paris boulevards,
and a number of flags were hanging out from the different American
shops, which are quite frequent there. They looked strange to us; and
the idea occurred to Frank, for the first time, that the United States
was one of a great many nations living next to one another in this
world—that it was his own nation, a kind of big family he belonged to.
The Fourth of July was a sort of big, family birthday, and the flags
were out so as to tell the Frenchmen and everybody else not to forget
A feeling of this nature came over Frank that morning, and he called
out, "There's another!" every time a new flag came in view. He stopped
two or three times to count the number of them in sight, and showed in
various ways that he, America, and the American flag had come to a new
understanding with one another.
During the morning, Frank's cousin George, a boy two or three years
older than Frank, who had been in Paris the preceding winter, came to
our hotel; and, as I had some matters to attend to in the afternoon,
they went off together to see sights and to have a good time.
When Frank returned about dinner-time, and came up to the room where I
was writing letters, I noticed a small American-flag pin stuck in the
lapel of his coat.
"George had two," he said in answer to my question; "and he gave me this
one. He's been in Paris a year now, and he says we ought to wear them or
maybe people won't know we're Americans. But say, Uncle Jack, where do
you think I got that?" He opened a paper bundle he had under his arm and
unrolled a weather-beaten American flag.
"Where?" asked I, naturally supposing it came from George's house.
"We took it off of Lafayette's tomb."
I opened my eyes in astonishment; while he went on:
"George says the American Consul, or the American Consul-General, or
somebody, put it on the tomb last Fourth of July, for our government,
because Lafayette, don't you know, helped us in the Revolution."
"They ought to put a new flag on every year, George says," explained
Frank, seeing my amazement, "on Fourth of July morning. But the American
Consul, or whoever he is that's here now, is a new man, George thinks;
anyhow, he forgot to do it. So we bought a new flag and we did it.
"There were a lot of people at the tomb when we went there, and we
guessed they were all waiting to see the new flag put on. We waited,
too, but no soldiers or anybody came; and after a while the people all
went away. Then George said:
"'Somebody ought to put on a new flag—let's do it!'
"We went to a store on the Boulevard, and for twenty francs bought a new
flag just like this old one. George and I each paid half. There were two
women and a little girl at the tomb when we got back, and we waited
till they went away. Then we unrolled the new flag and took the old one
off the tomb.
"We thought we ought to say something when we put the new flag on, but
we didn't know what to say. George said they always made a regular
speech thanking Lafayette for helping us in the Revolution, but we
thought it didn't matter much. So we just took off our hats when we
spread out the new flag on the grave, and then we rolled up the old flag
and came away.
"We drew lots for it afterward, and I'm going to take it back home with
"Somebody ought to have done it, and as we were both American boys, it
was all right, wasn't it?"
Right or wrong, the flag that travelers see on Lafayette's tomb this
year, as a mark of the American nation's sentiment toward the great
Frenchman, is the one put there by two small, self-appointed
representatives. And the flag put there the year before, with fitting
ceremony by the authorized official, Frank preserves carefully hung up
on the wall of his little room in America.