The Letter-Box (La boîte aux lettres) by René Bazin

While reading a beautiful post by Gowri Subramanya about birds, I remembered a story from one of our school textbooks, about a priest and his letter-box. Searching for relevant keywords found what appears to be the same story in a newer edition of the textbook on Google Books (or see as PDF here). (I vaguely remembered an English priest and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but that may have just been my memory confabulating. But I’d probably remember a village named just “Santa”(!), so this is probably not the exact version my textbook had.) There’s an even newer edition/variant of the textbook, with the story and language simplified even further, here (PDF).

The Google search results also revealed that the story (somewhat longer than what you’d find in a textbook for very small children) is originally by René Bazin, and an English translation is available online. I was able to find a couple of other translations and (with a lot of effort) eventually the French original; I’ve put them together side-by-side here:

It uses code from side-by-side by Vít Brunner, that I had first seen on his site here (The Enchiridion by Epictetus). I had been planning to use it (have a few such projects in mind, e.g. comparing translations of Bhartṛhari), but some sort of procrastination/perfectionism always held me back. This time, with the goal being something so silly and useless, I was able to just go ahead and use the code as-is, without any care for looking into how it works, or desire to tweak the output, or anything like that. The software too pleasantly just worked, with no setup or install required: just clone the sample app, change the filenames and <base href="..."> in index.html as it mentions. It’s a joy when that happens.

Edit (2020-04-11): See also a real-world photograph from here: