Gustave Droz.

Monsieur, madame, and bébé online

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by the mind, you will live more and more by the heart.
The affection of others which was only a pleasant whet
will become a necessary food, and whatever you may
have been, statesmen or artists, soldiers or bankers,
when your heads are white, you will no longer be any-
thing but fathers.

But filial love is not born all at once, nor is it neces-
sary it should be. The voice of nature is a voice rather
poetical than truthful. The affection of children is
earned and deserved; it is a consequence, not a cause,
and gratitude is its commencement. At any cost, there-
fore, your baby must be made grateful. Do not
reckon that he will be grateful to you for your solici-
tude, your dreams for his future, the cost of his nursing,
and the splendid dowry that you are amassing for him;
such gratitude would require from his little brain too
complicated a calculation, besides social ideas as yet
unknown to him. He will not be thankful to you for
the extreme fondness you have for him; do not be as-
tonished at it, and do not cry out at his ingratitude.
You must first make him understand your affection;
he must appreciate and judge it before responding to
it; he must know his notes before he can play tunes.

The little man's gratitude will at first be nothing but
a simple, egotistical and natural calculation. If you
have made him laugh, if you have amused him, he will
want you to begin again, he will hold out his little arms
to you, crying: "Do it again." And the recollection

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of the pleasure you have given him becoming impressed
upon his mind, he will soon say to himself: "No one
amuses me so well as papa; it is he who tosses me
into the air, plays at hide-and-seek with me and tells
me tales." So, by degrees, gratitude will be born in
him, as thanks spring to the lips of him who is made
happy.

Therefore, learn the art of amusing your child, imi-
tate the crowing of the cock, and gambol on the carpet,
answer his thousand impossible questions, which are
the echo of his endless dreams, and let yourself be
pulled by the beard to imitate a horse. All this is kind-
ness, but also cleverness, and good King Henry IV did
not belie his skilful policy by walking on all fours on
his carpet with his children on his back.

In this way, no doubt, your paternal authority will
lose something of its austere prestige, but will gain the
deep and lasting influence that affection gives. Your
baby will fear you less but will love you more. Where
is the harm.

Do not be afraid of anything; become his comrade,
in order to have the right of remaining his friend. Hide
your paternal superiority as the commissary of police
does his sash. Ask with kindness for that which you
might rightly insist upon having, and await everything
from his heart if you have known how to touch it. Care-
fully avoid such ugly words as discipline, passive obe-
dience and command; let his submission be gentle to
him, and his obedience resemble kindness. Renounce
the stupid pleasure of imposing your fancies upon him,
and of giving orders to prove your infallibility.

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

Children have a keenness of judgment, and a deli-
cacy of impression which would not be imagined, unless
one has studied them. Justice and equity are easily
born in their minds, for they possess, above all things,
positive logic. Profit by all this. There are unjust and
harsh words which remain graven on a child's heart,
and which he remembers all his life. Reflect that, in
your baby, there is a man whose affection will cheer
your old age ; therefore respect him so that he may re-
spect you; and be sure that there is not a single seed
sown in this little heart which will not sooner or later
bear fruit.

But there are, you will say, unmanageable children,
rebels from the cradle. Are you sure that the first word
they heard in their lives has not been the cause of their
evil propensities? Where there has been rebellion,
there has been clumsy pressure; for I will not believe
in natural vice. Among evil instincts there is always a
good one, of which an arm can be made to combat the
others. This requires, I know, extreme kindness, per-
fect tact, and unlimited confidence, but the reward is
sweet. I think, therefore, in conclusion, that a father's
first kiss, his first look, his first caresses, have an im-
mense influence on a child's life. To love is a great
deal. To know how to love is everything.

Even were one not a father, it is impossible to pass
by the dear little ones without feeling touched, and
without loving them. Muddy and ragged, or carefully
decked out; running in the roadway and rolling in the
dust, or playing at skipping rope in the gardens of the
Tuileries; dabbling among the ducklings, or building
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hills of sand beside well-dressed mammas babies are
charming. In both classes there is the same grace, the
same unembarrassed movements, the same comical seri-
ousness, the same carelessness as to the effect created,
in short, the same charm; the charm that is called child-
hood, which one can not understand without loving
which one finds just the same throughout nature, from
the opening flower and the dawning day to the child
entering upon life.

A baby is not an imperfect being, an unfinished
sketch he is a man. Watch him closely, follow every
one of his movements; they will reveal to you a logical
sequence of ideas, a marvellous power of imagination,
such as will not again be found at any period of life.
There is more real poetry in the brain of these dear
loves than in twenty epics. They are surprised and
unskilled, no doubt; but nothing equals the vigor of
these minds, unexperienced, fresh, simple, sensible of
the slightest impressions, which make their way through
the midst of the unknown.

What immense labor is gone through by them in a
few months! To notice noises, classify them, under-
stand that some of these sounds are words, and that
these words are thoughts; to find out of themselves
alone the meaning of everything, and distinguish the
true from the false, the real from the imaginary; to
correct, by observation, the errors of their too ardent
imagination; to unravel a chaos, and during this gi-
gantic task to render the tongue supple and strengthen
the staggering little legs, in short, to become a man.
If ever there was a curious and touching sight it is that

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

of this little creature setting out upon the conquest of
the world. As yet he knows neither doubt nor fear, and
opens his heart fully. There is something of Don
Quixote about a baby. He is as comic as the Knight,
but he has also a sublime side.

Do not laugh too much at the hesitations, the count-
less gropings, the preposterous follies of this virgin
mind, which a butterfly lifts to the clouds, to which
grains of sand are mountains, which understands the
twittering of birds, ascribes thoughts to flowers, and
souls to dolls, which believes in far-off realms, where
the trees are sugar, the fields chocolate, and the rivers
syrup, for which Punch and Mother Hubbard are real
and powerful individuals, a mind which peoples silence
and vivifies night. Do not laugh at his love; his life
is a dream, and his mistakes poetry.

This touching poetry which you find in the infancy of
man you also find in the infancy of nations. It is the
same. In both cases there is the same necessity of
idealization, the same tendency to personify the un-
known. And it may be said that between Punch and
Jupiter, Mother Hubbard and Venus, there is only a
hair's breadth.



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CHAPTER XXIX

HIS FIRST BREECHES

HE great desire in a child is to become
a man. But the first symptom of vir-
ility, the first serious step taken in
life, is marked by the assumption of
breeches.

This first breeching is an event that
papa desires and mamma dreads. It
seems to the mother that it is the be-
ginning of her being forsaken. She looks with tearful
eyes at the petticoat laid aside for ever, and murmurs
to herself, "Infancy is over then? My part will soon
become a small one. He will have fresh tastes, new
wishes; he is no longer only myself, his personality is
asserting itself; he is some one a boy."

The father, on the contrary, is delighted. He laughs
in his moustache to see the little arching calves peep-
ing out beneath the trousers; he feels the little body,
the outline of which can be clearly made out under the
new garment, and says to himself; "How well he is
put together, the rascal. He will have broad shoulders
and strong loins like myself. How firmly his little feet
tread the ground." Papa would like to see him in jack-
boots; for a trifle he would buy him spurs. He begins
to see himself in this little one sprung from him; he

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

looks at him in a fresh light, and, for the first time, he
finds a great charm in calling him "my boy."

As to the baby, he is intoxicated, proud, triumphant,
although somewhat embarrassed as to his arms and
legs, and, be it said, without any wish to offend him,
greatly resembling those little poodles we see freshly
shaven on the approach of summer. What greatly dis-
turbed the poor little fellow is past. How many men of
position are there who do not experience similar incon-
venience. He knows very well that breeches, like nobil-
ity, render certain things incumbent on their possessor,
that he must now assume new ways, new gestures, a
new tone of voice; he begins to scan out of the corner
of his eye the movements of his papa, who is by no
means ill pleased at this: he clumsily essays a mascu-
line gesture or two; and this struggle between his past
and his present gives him for some time the most comi-
cal air in the world. His petticoats haunt him, and
really he is angry that it is so.

Dear first pair of breeches! I love you, because you
are a faithful friend, and I encounter at every step in
life you and your tram of sweet sensations. Are you not
the living image of the latest illusion caressed by our
vanity? You, young officer, who still measure your
moustaches in the glass, and who have just assumed for
the first time the epaulette and the gold belt, how did
you feel when you went downstairs and heard the scab-
bard of your sabre go clink-clank on the steps, when
with your cap on one side and your arm akimbo you
found yourself in the street, and, an irresistible impulse
urging you on, you gazed at your figure reflected in

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GUSTAVE DROZ

the chemist's bottles? Will you dare to say that you
did not halt before those bottles ? First pair of breeches,
lieutenant.

You will find them again, these breeches, when you
are promoted to be Captain and are decorated. And
later on, when, an old veteran with a gray moustache,
you take a fair companion to rejuvenate you, you will
again put them on; but this time the dear creature will
help you to wear them.

And the day when you will no longer have anything
more to do with them, alas! that day you will be very
low, for one's whole life is wrapped up in this precious
garment. Existence is nothing more than putting on
our first pair of breeches, taking them off, putting them
on again, and dying with eyes fixed on them.

Is it the truth that most of our joys have no more
serious origin than those of children? Are we then so
simple? Ah! yes, my dear sir, we are simple to this
degree, that we do not think we are. We never quite
get rid of our swaddling clothes; do you see, there is
always a little bit sticking out? There is a baby in
every one of us, or, rather, we are only babies grown
big.

See the young barrister walking up and down the
lobby of the courts. He is freshly shaven : in the folds
of his new gown he hides a pile of documents, and on
his head, in which a world of thought is stirring, is a
fine advocate's coif, which he bought yesterday, and
which this morning he coquettishly crushed in with a
blow from his fist before putting it on. This young
fellow is happy; amid the general din he can distin-

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

guish the echo of his own footsteps, and the ring of his
boot-heels sounds to him like the great bell of Notre
Dame. In a few minutes he will find an excuse for de-
scending the great staircase, and crossing the courtyard
in costume. You may be sure that he will not disrobe
except to go to dinner. What joy hi these five yards of
black stuff; what happiness in this ugly bit of cloth
stretched over stiff cardboard !

First pair of breeches I think I recognize you.

And you, Madame, with what happiness do you re-
new each season the enjoyment caused by new clothes ?
Do not say, I beg of you, that such enjoyments are
secondary ones, for their influence is positive upon
your nature and your character. Why, I ask you, did
you find so much captivating logic, so much persua-
sive eloquence, in the sermon of Father Paul? Why
did you weep on quitting the church, and embrace your
husband as soon as you got home? You know better
than I do, Madame, that it was because on that day you
had put on for the first time that little yellow bonnet,
which is a gem, I acknowledge, and which makes you
look twice as pretty. These impressions can scarcely
be explained, but they are invincible. There may be
a trifle of childishness in it all, you will admit, but
it is a childishness that can not be got rid of.

As a proof of it, the other day, going to St. Thomas's
to hear Father Nicholas, who is one of our shining
lights, you experienced totally different sentiments; a
general feeling of discontent and doubt and nervous
irritability at every sentence of the preacher. Your
soul did not soar heavenward with the same unre-

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GUSTAVE DROZ

served confidence; you left St. Thomas's with your
head hot and your feet cold; and you so far forgot
yourself as to say, as you got into your carriage, that
Father Nicholas was a Gallican devoid of eloquence.
Your coachman heard it. And, finally, on reaching
home you thought your drawing-room too small and
your husband growing too fat. Why, I again ask you,
this string of vexatious impressions ? If you remember
rightly, dear Madame, you wore for the first time the
day before yesterday that horrible little violet bonnet,
which is such a disgusting failure. First pair of
breeches, dear Madame.

Would you like a final example? Observe your
husband. Yesterday he went out in a bad temper he
had breakfasted badly and lo! in the evening, at a
quarter to seven, he came home from the Chamber joy-
ful and well-pleased, a smile on his lips, and good-
humor in his eye. He kissed you on the forehead with
a certain unconstraint, threw a number of pamphlets
and papers with an easy gesture on the side-table, sat
down to table, found the soup delicious, and ate joy-
ously. "What is the matter with my husband?" you
asked yourself. ... I will explain. Your husband
spoke yesterday for the first time in the building, you
know. He said the sitting was a noisy one, the Left
were threshing out some infernal questions he said,
during the height of the uproar, and rapping with his
paper-knife on his desk: "But we can not hear!" And
as these words were received on all sides with universal
approbation and cries of "Hear, hear!" he gave his
thoughts a more parliamentary expression by adding:

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

"The voice of the honorable gentleman who is speaking
does not reach us." It was not much certainly, and the
amendment may have been carried all the same, but
after all it was a step; a triumph, to tell the truth,
since your husband has from day to day put off the de-
livery of his maiden speech. Behold a happy deputy,
a deputy who has just put on his first pair of breeches.

What matter whether the reason be a serious or a
futile one, if your blood flows faster, if you feel happier,
if you are proud of yourself? To win a great victory
or put on a new bonnet, what matters it if this new
bonnet gives you the same joy as a laurel crown ?

Therefore do not laugh too much at baby if his first
pair of breeches intoxicates him, if, when he wears
them, he thinks his shadow longer and the trees less
high. He is beginning his career as a man, dear child,
nothing more.

How many things have not people been proud of
since the beginning of the world? They were proud
of their noses under Francis the First, of their perukes
under Louis XIV, and later on of their appetites and
stoutness. A man is proud of his wife, his idleness, his
wit, his stupidity, the beard on his chin, the cravat
round his neck, the hump on his back.



[ 2 49]



CHAPTER XXX




COUNTRY CHILDREN

LOVE the baby that runs about under
the trees of the Tuileries; I love the
pretty little fair-haired girls with nice
white stockings and unmanageable
crinolines. I like to watch the tiny
damsels decked out like reliquaries,
and already affecting coquettish and
lackadaisical ways. It seems to me
that in each of them I can see thousands of charming
faults already peeping forth. But all these miniature
men and women, exchanging postage stamps and chat-
tering of dress, have something of the effect of adorable
monstrosities on me.

I like them as I like a bunch of grapes in February,
or a dish of green peas in December.

In the babies' kingdom, my friend, my favorite is
the country baby, running about in the dust on the
highway barefoot and ragged, and searching for black-
birds' and chaffinches' nests on the outskirts of the
woods. I love his great black wondering eye, which
watches you fixedly from between two locks of un-
combed hair, his firm flesh bronzed by the sun, his
swarthy forehead, hidden by his hair, his smudged face
and his picturesque breeches kept from falling off by

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

the paternal braces fastened to a metal button, the gift
of a gendarme.

Ah! what fine breeches; not very long in the legs,
but, then, what room everywhere else! He could hide
away entirely in this immense space which allows a
shirt-tail, escaping through a slit, to wave like a flag.
These breeches preserve a remembrance of all the gar-
ments of the family; here is a piece of maternal petti-
coat, here a fragment of yellow waistcoat, here a scrap
of blue handkerchief; the whole sewn with a thread
that presents the twofold advantage of being seen from
a distance, and of not breaking.

But under these patched clothes you can make out a
sturdy little figure; and, besides, what matters the
clothes? Country babies are not coquettish; and when
the coach comes down the hill with jingling bells and they
rush after it, stumbling over their neighbors, tumbling
with them in the dust, and rolling into the ditches, what
would all these dear little gamins do in silk stockings ?

I love them thus because they are wild, taking alarm,
and fleeing away at your approach like the young rab-
bits you surprise in the morning playing among the
wild thyme. You must have recourse to a thousand
subterfuges in order to triumph over their alarm and
gain their confidence. But if at length, thanks to your
prudence, you find yourself in their company, at the
outset play ceases, shouts and noise die away ; the little
group remain motionless, scratching their heads, and
all their uneasy eyes look fixedly at you. This is the
difficult moment.

A sharp word, a stern gesture, may cause an eternal
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GUSTAVE DROZ

misunderstanding with them, just as a kind remark, a
smile, a caress will soon accomplish their conquest.
And this conquest is worth the trouble, believe me.

One of my chief methods of winning them was as fol-
lows: I used to take my watch out of my pocket and
look at it attentively. Then I would see my little people
stretch their necks, open their eyes, and come a step
nearer; and it would often happen that the chickens,
ducklings, and geese, which were loitering close by in
the grass, imitated their comrades and drew near
too. I then would put my watch to my ear and smile
like a man having a secret whispered to him. In pres-
ence of this prodigy my youngsters could no longer
restrain themselves, and would exchange among them-
selves those keen, simple, timid, mocking looks, which
must have been seen to be understood. They advanced
this time in earnest, and if I offered to let the boldest
listen, by holding out my watch to him, he would draw
back alarmed, although smiling, while the band would
break into an outburst of joy; the ducklings flapping
their wings, the white geese cackling, and the chickens
going chk, chk. The game was won.

How many times have I not played this little farce,
seated under a willow on the banks of my little stream,
which ripples over the white stones, while the reeds
bend tremblingly. The children would crowd round
me to hear the watch, and soon questions broke forth in
chorus to an accompaniment of laughter. They in-
spected my gaiters, rummaged in my pockets and leant
against my knees, the ducklings glided under my feet,
and the big geese tickled my back.

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

How enjoyable it is not to alarm creatures that
tremble at everything. I would not move for fear of
interrupting their joy, and was like a child who is build-
ing a house of cards and who has got to the third story.
But I marked all these happy little faces standing out
against the blue sky; I watched the rays of the sun
stealing into the tangles of their fair hair, or spreading
in a patch of gold on their little brown necks; I fol-
lowed their gestures full of awkwardness and grace; I
sat down on the grass to be the nearer to them; and
if an unfortunate chicken came to grief, between two
daisies, I quickly stretched out my arm and replaced it
on its legs.

I assure you that they were all grateful. If one loves
these little people at all, there is one thing that strikes
you when you watch them closely. Ducklings dabbling
along the edge of the water or turning head over heels
in their feeding trough, young shoots thrusting forth
their tender little leaves above ground, little chickens
running along before their mother hen, or little men
staggering among the grass all these little creatures
resemble one another. They are the babies of the great
mother Nature; they have common laws, a common
physiognomy; they have something inexplicable about
them which is at once comic and graceful, awkward
and tender, and which makes them loved at once;
they are relations, friends, comrades, under the same
flag. This pink and white flag, let us salute it as it
passes, old graybeards that we are. It is blessed, and
is called childhood.

All babies are round, yielding, weak, timid, and soft
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GUSTAVE DROZ

to the touch as a handful of wadding. Protected by
cushions of good rosy flesh or by a coating of soft down,
they go rolling, staggering, dragging along their little
unaccustomed feet, shaking in the air their plump
hands or featherless wing. See them stretched hap-
hazard in the sun without distinction of species, swell-
ing themselves with milk or meal, and dare to say that
they are not alike. Who knows whether all these chil-
dren of nature have not a common point of departure,
if they are not brothers of the same origin ?

Since men with green spectacles have existed, they
have amused themselves with ticketing the creatures of
this world. These latter are arranged, divided into
categories and classified, as though by a careful apothe-
cary who wants everything about him hi order. It is
no slight matter to stow away each one in the drawer
that suits him, and I have heard that certain subjects
still remain on the counter owing to their belonging to
two show-cases at once.

And what proves to me, indeed, that these cases
exist? What is there to assure me that the whole
world is not one family, the members of which only
differ by trifles which we are pleased to regard as every-
thing?

Have you fully established the fact of these drawers
and compartments? Have you seen the bars of these
imaginary cages in which you imprison kingdoms and
species? Are there not infinite varieties which escape
your analysis, and are, as it were, the unknown links,
uniting all the particles of the animated world ? Why
say, "For these eternity, for those annihilation?"

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MONSIEUR, MADAME AND

Why say, "This is the slave, that is the sovereign?"
Strange boldness for men who are ignorant of almost
everything !

Man, animal or plant, the creature vibrates, suffers or
enjoys exists and encloses in itself the trace of the
same mystery. What assures me that this mystery,
which is everywhere the same, is not the sign of a simi-


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