MoboReader > Literature > Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C

   Chapter 26 OLD RECOLLECTIONS

Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C By Gustave Droz Characters: 9014

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


Cover yourselves with fine green leaves, tall trees casting your peaceful shade. Steal through the branches, bright sunlight, and you, studious promenaders, contemplative idlers, mammas in bright toilettes, gossiping nurses, noisy children, and hungry babies, take possession of your kingdom; these long walks belong to you.

It is Sunday. Joy and festivity. The gaufre seller decks his shop and lights his stove. The white cloth is spread on the table and piles of golden cakes attract the customer.

The woman who lets out chairs has put on her apron with its big pockets for sous. The park keeper, my dear little children, has curled his moustache, polished up his harmless sword and put on his best uniform. See how bright and attractive the marionette theatre looks in the sunshine, under its striped covering.

Sunday requires all this in its honor.

Unhappy are those to whom the tall trees of Luxembourg gardens do not recall one of those recollections which cling to the heart like its first perfume to a vase.

I was a General, under those trees, a General with a plume like a mourning coach-horse, and armed to the teeth. I held command from the hut of the newspaper vendor to the kiosk of the gaufre seller. No false modesty, my authority extended to the basin of the fountain, although the great white swans rather alarmed me. Ambushes behind the tree trunks, advanced posts behind the nursemaids, surprises, fights with cold steel; attacks by skirmishers, dust, encounters, carnage and no bloodshed. After which our mammas wiped our foreheads, rearranged our dishevelled hair, and tore us away from the battle, of which we dreamed all night.

Now, as I pass through the garden with its army of children and nurses, leaning on my stick with halting step, how I regret my General's cocked hat, my paper plume, my wooden sword and my pistol. My pistol that would snap caps and was the cause of my rapid promotion.

Disport yourselves, little folks; gossip, plump nurses, as you scold your soldiers. Embroider peaceably, young mothers, making from time to time a little game of your neighbors among yourselves; and you, reflective idlers, look at that charming picture-babies making a garden.

Playing in the sand, a game as old as the world and always amusing. Hillocks built up in a line with little bits of wood stuck into them, represent gardens in the walks of which baby gravely places his little uncertain feet. What would he not give, dear little man, to be able to complete his work by creating a pond in his park, a pond, a gutter, three drops of water?

Further on the sand is damper, and in the mountain the little fingers pierce a tunnel. A gigantic work which the boot of a passer-by will soon destroy. What passer-by respects a baby's mountain? Hence the young rascal avenges himself. See that gentleman in the brown frockcoat, who is reading the 'Revue des Deux Mondes' on the bench; our workers have piled up hillocks of sand and dust around him, the skirts of his coat have already lost their color.

But let this equipage noisily dashing along go by. Four horses, two bits of string, and a fifth horse who is the driver. That is all, and yet one fancies one's self in a postchaise. How many places has one not visited by nightfall?

There are drivers who prefer to be horses, there are horses who would rather be drivers; first symptoms of ambition.

And the solitary baby who slowly draws his omnibus round the gaufre seller, eyeing his shop! An indefatigable consumer, but a poor paymaster.

Do you see down there under the plane-trees that group of nurses, a herd of Burgundian milch kine, and at their feet, rolling on a carpet, all those little rosy cheeked philosophers who only ask God for a little sunshine, pure milk, and quiet, in order to be happy. Frequently an accident disturbs the delightful calm. The Burgundian who mistrusted matters darts forward. It is too late.

"The course of a river is not to be checked," says Giboyer.

Sometimes the disaster is still more serious, and one repairs it as one can; but the philosopher who loves these disasters is indignant and squalls, swearing to himself to begin again.

Those little folk are delightful; we love children, but this affection for the species in general becomes yet more sweet when it is no longer a question of a baby, but of one's own baby.

Bachelors must not read what follows; I wish to speak to the family circle. Between those of a trade there is a better underst

anding.

I am a father, my dear madame, and have been of course the rejoicing papa of a matchless child. From beneath his cap there escaped a fair and curly tress that was our delight, and when I touched his white neck with my finger he broke into a laugh and showed me his little white pearls, as he clasped my head in his two chubby arms.

His first tooth was an event. We went into the light the better to see. The grandparents looked through their glasses at the little white spot, and I, with outstretched neck, demonstrated, explained and proved. And all at once I ran off to the cellar to seek out in the right corner a bottle of the best.

My son's first tooth. We spoke of his career during dinner, and at dessert grand-mamma gave us a song.

After this tooth came others, and with them tears and pain, but then when they were all there how proudly he bit into his slice of bread, how vigorously he attacked his chop in order to eat "like papa."

"Like papa," do you remember how these two words warm the heart, and how many transgressions they cause to be forgiven.

My great happiness,-is it yours too?-was to be present at my darling's awakening. I knew the time. I would gently draw aside the curtains of his cradle and watch him as I waited.

I usually found him stretched diagonally, lost in the chaos of sheets and blankets, his legs in the air, his arms crossed above his head. Often his plump little hand still clutched the toy that had helped to send him off to sleep, and through his parted lips came the regular murmur of his soft breathing. The warmth of his sleep had given his cheeks the tint of a well-ripened peach. His skin was warm, and the perspiration of the night glittered on his forehead in little imperceptible pearls.

Soon his hand would make a movement; his foot pushed away the blanket, his whole body stirred, he rubbed an eye, stretched out his arms, and then his look from under his scarcely raised eyelids would rest on me.

He would smile at me, murmuring softly, so softly that I would hold my breath to seize all the shades of his music.

"Dood mornin', papa."

"Good morning, my little man; have you slept well?"

We held out our arms to each other and embraced like old friends.

Then the talking would begin. He chatted as the lark would sing to the rising sun. Endless stories.

He would tell me his dreams, asking after each sentence for "his nice, warm bread and milk, with plenty of sugar." And when his breakfast came up, what an outburst of laughter, what joy as he drew himself up to reach it; then his eye would glitter with a tear in the corner, and the chatter begin again.

At other times he would come and surprise me in bed. I would pretend to be asleep, and he would pull my beard and shout in my ear. I feigned great alarm and threatened to be avenged. From this arose fights among the counterpanes, entrenchments behind the pillows. In sign of victory I would tickle him, and then he shuddered, giving vent to the frank and involuntary outburst of laughter of happy childhood. He buried his head between his two shoulders like a tortoise withdrawing into his shell, and threatened me with his plump rosy foot. The skin of his heel was so delicate that a young girl's cheek would have been proud of it. How many kisses I would cover those dear little feet with when I warmed his long nightdress before the fire.

I had been forbidden to undress him, because it had been found that I entangled the knots instead of undoing them.

All this was charming, but when it was necessary to act rigorously and check the romping that was going too far, he would slowly drop his eyelids, while with dilated nostrils and trembling lips he tried to keep back the big tear glittering beneath his eyelid.

What courage was not necessary in order to refrain from calming with a kiss the storm on the point of bursting, from consoling the little swollen heart, from drying the tear that was overflowing and about to become a flood.

A child's expression is then so touching, there is so much grief in a warm tear slowly falling, in a little contracted face, a little heaving breast.

All this is long past. Yet years have gone by without effacing these loved recollections; and now that my baby is thirty years old and has a heavy moustache, when he holds out his large hand and says in his bass voice, "Good morning, father," it still seems to me that an echo repeats afar off the dear words of old, "Dood mornin', papa."

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