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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Family New-Year’s
By Gustave Droz (1832–1895)
 
From ‘Monsieur, Madame, and Baby’: Translation of Jane Grosvenor Cooke

IT is barely seven o’clock. A pale ray of wan light filters through the double curtains, and some one is already at the door. In the next room I hear the stifled laughs and silvery voice of my little child, who trembles with impatience and begs to come.  1
  “But father dear,” he cries, “it’s Baby. It’s your own little boy—to wish you ‘Happy New Year.’”  2
  “Come in, darling; come quick and give me a kiss,” I cry.  3
  The door opens, and my boy, with shining eyes and his arms in the air, rushes toward the bed. Long curls, escaping from the nightcap which imprisons his blond head, fall over his forehead. His loose night-shirt, embarrassing his little feet, adds to his impatience and makes him trip at every step. He has crossed the room at last, and stretching his hands toward mine, “Baby wishes you a happy New Year,” he says earnestly.  4
  “Poor darling, with his bare feet! Come, dear! Come and get warm under the covers; come and hide in the quilt.”  5
  I draw him to me; but at this movement my wife wakes up suddenly…. “How you frightened me! I was dreaming that there was a fire, and these voices in the midst of it! You are indiscreet with your cries!”  6
  “Our cries! So you forget, dear mamma, that this is New-Year’s day. Baby is waiting for you to wake up, and so am I.”  7
  I wrap up my little man in the soft quilt, I bury him in the eiderdown, and warm his frozen feet with my hands.  8
  “Mother dear, this is New Year,” he cries. He draws our two heads together with his arms, and kisses us anywhere at random, with his fresh lips. I feel his dimpled hand wandering about my neck; his little fingers are entangled in my beard. My mustache pricks the end of his nose. He bursts out laughing, and throws his head back.  9
  His mother, who has recovered from her fright, draws him into her arms. She pulls the bell.  10
  “The year begins well, my dears,” she says, “but we need a little light.”  11
  “Tell me, mamma, do naughty children have presents at New-Year’s?” says the young dissembler, with an eye on the mountain of boxes and packages visible in the corner, in spite of the gloom.  12
  The curtains are drawn apart, the blinds are opened, there is a flood of daylight, the fire crackles gayly on the hearth, and two large packages, carefully wrapped up, are placed on the bed. One is for my wife; the other for the boy.  13
  What is it? What will it be? I have heaped up knots, and tripled the wrappings; and I watch with delight their nervous fingers, lost in the strings.  14
  My wife gets impatient, smiles, is vexed, kisses me, and asks for scissors. Baby on his side bites his lips, pulls with all his might, and at last asks me to help him. He longs to see through the paper. Desire and expectation are painted on his face. The convulsive movement of his hand in the folds of the quilt rustles the silk, and he makes a sound with his lips as though a savory fruit were approaching them.  15
  The last paper is off, finally the cover is lifted, there is an outcry of joy.  16
  “My tippet!”  17
  “My menagerie!”  18
  “Like my muff,—my dear husband!”  19
  “With a real shepherd, on wheels, dear papa, how I love you!”  20
  They hug me, four arms at once wind round and press me close. I am stirred—a tear comes to my eyes; two come to those of my wife; and Baby, who loses his head, utters a sob as he kisses my hand.  21
  How absurd! you will say. I don’t know whether it is absurd or not, but it is charming, I promise you. After all, does not sorrow wring tears enough from us to make up for the solitary one which joy may call forth? Life is less happy when one chances it alone; and when the heart is empty, the way seems long. It is so good to feel one’s self loved; to hear the regular steps of one’s fellow travelers beside one; and to think, “They are there, our three hearts beat together;” and once a year, when the great clock strikes the first of January, to sit down beside the way with hands clasped together and eyes fixed upon the dusty unknown road stretching on to the horizon, and to embrace and say:—“We will always love each other, my dear ones; you depend upon me and I on you. Let us trust and keep straight on.”  22
  And that is how I explain that we weep a little in looking at a tippet and opening a menagerie.  23
 
 
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