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   Chapter 33 FAMILY TIES

Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C By Gustave Droz Characters: 12275

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


The exhilaration of success and the fever of life's struggle take a man away from his family, or cause him to live amid it as a stranger, and soon he no longer finds any attractions in the things which charmed him at the outset. But let ill luck come, let the cold wind blow rather strongly, and he falls back upon himself, he seeks near him something to support him in his weakness, a sentiment to replace his vanished dream, and he bends toward his child, he takes his wife's hand and presses it. He seems to invite these two to share his burden. Seeing tears in the eyes of those he loves, his own seem diminished to that extent. It would seem that moral suffering has the same effect as physical pain. The drowning wretch clutches at straws; in the same way, the man whose heart is breaking clasps his wife and children to him. He asks in turn for help, protection, and comfort, and it is a touching thing to see the strong shelter himself in the arms of the weak and recover courage in their kiss. Children have the instinct of all this; and the liveliest emotion they are capable of feeling is that which they experience on seeing their father weep.

Recall, dear reader, your most remote recollections, seek in that past which seems to you all the clearer the farther you are removed from it. Have you ever seen your father come home and sit down by the fire with a tear in his eye? Then you dared not draw near him at first, so deeply did you feel his grief. How unhappy he must be for his eyes to be wet. Then you felt that a tie attached you to this poor man, that his misfortune struck you too, that a part of it was yours, and that you were smitten because your father was. And no one understands better than the child this joint responsibility of the family to which he owes everything. You have felt all this; your heart has swollen as you stood silent in the corner, and sobs have broken forth as, without knowing why, you have held out your arms toward him. He has turned, he has understood all, he has not been able to restrain his grief any further, and you have remained clasped in one another's arms, father, mother, and child, without saying anything, but gazing at and understanding one another. Did you, however, know the cause of the poor man's grief?

Not at all.

This is why filial love and paternal love have been poetized, why the family is styled holy. It is because one finds therein the very source of that need of loving, helping and sustaining one another, which from time to time spreads over the whole of society, but in the shape of a weakened echo. It is only from time to time in history that we see a whole nation gather together, retire within itself and experience the same thrill.

A frightful convulsion is needed to make a million men hold out their hands to one another and understand one another at a glance; it needs a superhuman effort for the family to become the nation, and for the boundaries of the hearth to extend to the frontiers.

A complaint, a pang, a tear, is enough to make a man, a woman, and a child, blend their hearts together and feel that they are but one.

Laugh at marriage; the task is easy. All human contracts are tainted with error, and an error is always smiled at by those who are not the victims of it. There are husbands, it is certain; and when we see a man tumble down, even if he knocks his brains out, our first impulse it to burst out laughing. Hence the great and eternal mirth that greets Sganarelle.

But search to the bottom and behold that beneath all these trifles, beneath all this dust of little exploded vanities, ridiculous mistakes and comical passions, is hidden the very pivot of society. Verify that in this all is for the best, since this family sentiment, which is the basis of society, is also its consolation and joy.

The honor of our flag, the love of country, and all that urges a man to devote himself to something or some one not himself, are derived from this sentiment, and in it, you may assert, is to be found the source whence flow the great streams at which the human heart quenches its thirst.

Egotism for three, you say. What matter, if this egotism engenders devotion?

Will you reproach the butterfly with having been a caterpillar?

Do not accuse me in all this of exaggeration, or of poetic exaltation.

Yes, family life is very often calm and commonplace, the stock-pot that figures on its escutcheon has not been put there without reason, I admit. To the husband who should come and say to me: "Sir, for two days running I have fallen asleep by the fireside," I should reply: "You are too lazy, but after all I understand you."

I also understand that Baby's trumpet is noisy, that articles of jewellery are horribly dear, that lace flounces and sable trimmings are equally so, that balls are wearisome, that Madame has her vapors, her follies, exigencies; I understand, in short, that a man whose career is prosperous looks upon his wife and child as two stumbling blocks.

But I am waiting for the happy man, for the moment when his forehead will wrinkle, when disappointment will descend upon his head like a leaden skull-cap, and when picking up the two blocks he has cursed he will make two crutches of them.

I admit that Alexander the Great, Napoleon the First, and all the demi-gods of humanity, have only felt at rare intervals the charm of being fathers and husbands; but we other poor little men, who are less occupied, must be one or the other.

I do not believe in the happy old bachelor; I do not believe in the happiness of all those who, from stupidity or calculation, have withdrawn themselves from the best of social laws. A great deal has been said on this subject, and I do not wish to add to the voluminous documents in this lawsuit. Acknowledge frankly all you who have heard the cry of your new-born child and felt your heart tingle like a glass on the point of breaking, unless you are idiots, acknowledge that you said to yourselves: "I am in the right. Here, and here alone, lies man's part. I am entering on a path, beaten and worn, but straight; I shall cros

s the weary downs, but each step will bring me nearer the village spire. I am not wandering through life, I am marching on, I stir with my feet the dust in which my father has planted his. My child, on the same road, will find the traces of my footsteps, and, perhaps, on seeing that I have not faltered, will say: 'Let me act like my old father and not lose myself in the ploughed land.'"

If the word holy has still a meaning, despite the uses it has been put to, I do not see that a better use can be made of it than by placing it beside the word family.

They speak of progress, justice, general well-being, infallible policies, patriotism, devotion. I am for all these good things, but this bright horizon is summed up in these three words: "Love your neighbor," and this is precisely, in my opinion, the thing they forget to teach.

To love your neighbor is as simple as possible, but the mischief is that you do not meet with this very natural feeling. There are people who will show you the seed in the hollow of their hand, but even those who deal in this precious grain are the last to show you it in leaf.

Well, my dear reader, this little plant which should spring up like the poppies in the wheat, this plant which has never been seen growing higher than watercress, but which should overtop the oaks, this undiscoverable plant, I know where it grows.

It grows beside the domestic hearth, between the shovel and tongs; it is there that it perpetuates itself, and if it still exists, it is to the family that we owe it. I love pretty nearly all the philanthropists and saviours of mankind; but I only believe in those who have learned to love others by embracing their own children.

Mankind can not be remodelled to satisfy the wants of humanitarian theories; man is egotistical, and he loves, above all, those who are about him. This is the natural human sentiment, and it is this which must be enlarged, extended and cultivated. In a word, it is in family love that is comprised love of country and consequently of humanity. It is from fathers that citizens are made.

Man has not twenty prime movers, but only one in his heart; do not argue but profit by it.

Affection is catching. Love between three-father, mother, and child-when it is strong, soon requires space; it pushes back the walls of the house, and by degrees invites the neighbors. The important thing, then, is to give birth to this love between three; for it is madness, I am afraid, to thrust the whole human species all at once on a man's heart. Such large mouthfuls are not to be swallowed at a gulp, nor without preparation.

This is why I have always thought that with the numerous sous given for the redemption of the little Chinese, we might in France cause the fire to sparkle on hearths where it sparkles no longer, make many eyes grow brighter round a tureen of smoking soup, warm chilled mothers, bring smiles to the pinched faces of children, and give pleasure and happiness to poor discouraged ones on their return home.

What a number of hearty kisses you might have brought about with all these sous, and, in consequence, what a sprinkling with the watering-pot for the little plant you wot of.

"But then what is to become of the redemption of the little Chinese?"

We will think of this later; we must first know how to love our own before we are able to love those of others.

No doubt, this is brutal and egotistical, but you can not alter it; it is out of small faults that you build up great virtues. And, after all, do not grumble, this very vanity is the foundation stone of that great monument-at present still propped up by scaffolding-which is called Society.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

A ripe husband, ready to fall from the tree

Affection is catching

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

And I shall say 'damn it,' for I shall then be grown up

Answer "No," but with a little kiss which means "Yes"

As regards love, intention and deed are the same

But she thinks she is affording you pleasure

Clumsily, blew his nose, to the great relief of his two arms

Do not seek too much

Emotion when one does not share it

First impression is based upon a number of trifles

He Would Have Been Forty Now

Hearty laughter which men affect to assist digestion

How many things have not people been proud of

How rich we find ourselves when we rummage in old drawers

Husband who loves you and eats off the same plate is better

I would give two summers for a single autumn

I do not accept the hypothesis of a world made for us

I came here for that express purpose

I am not wandering through life, I am marching on

Ignorant of everything, undesirous of learning anything

In his future arrange laurels for a little crown for your own

It (science) dreams, too; it supposes

It is silly to blush under certain circumstances

Learned to love others by embracing their own children

Life is not so sweet for us to risk ourselves in it singlehanded

Love in marriage is, as a rule, too much at his ease

Man is but one of the links of an immense chain

Rather do not give-make yourself sought after

Reckon yourself happy if in your husband you find a lover

Recollection of past dangers to increase the present joy

Respect him so that he may respect you

Shelter himself in the arms of the weak and recover courage

Sometimes like to deck the future in the garments of the past

The heart requires gradual changes

The future that is rent away

The recollection of that moment lasts for a lifetime

The future promises, it is the present that pays

Their love requires a return

There are pious falsehoods which the Church excuses

Ties that unite children to parents are unloosed

Ties which unite parents to children are broken

To be able to smoke a cigar without being sick

To love is a great deal-To know how to love is everything

We are simple to this degree, that we do not think we are

When time has softened your grief

Why mankind has chosen to call marriage a man-trap

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