The Happy Time

BY Robert Fontaine
IN RECENT years many writers have morbidly pointed to our growing pains as proof of the psychological pitfalls which supposedly lie all about us in our infancy. It is both refreshing and reassuring to have Robert Fontaine present more than a score of bright, warm stories in unpretentious support of the notion that childhood, despite its embarrassing moments, is a happy time of life. Mr. Fontaine’s teller of tales is the young son of an unwealthy but wise violinist in Ottawa, and the tales, somewhat autobiographical and laughingly jammed with French-Canadian idioms, include not only humorous accounts of early experience with love, God, broken promises, and falling breeches, but also a boy’seye view of the most charmingly crazy pack of relatives that ever shared a two-family house.
Papa, who plays duets with stray canaries and is the only member of the large household to work regularly, understands The Boy better than anyone else, even when The Boy steals his best dress suit to go dancing with the geometry teacher. Money, according to Papa, is something to get rid of quickly and with as much pleasure as possible. Banks fail, but happiness does not — at least, not the sweet, tasty, musical memory of it.
Next door to The Boy live several unusual uncles, a widow-chasing grandfather, and Princess Yvonne, all of whom are considered by the neighbors to be slightly mad, but it is Uncle Louis who gets special mention. Uncle Louis drinks white wine throughout his waking hours from a large water cooler, is perpetually dying from the bite of a butterfly, and amazes the Ottawa clergy with his glowing description of a blue angel who came to him in a vision, bearing a lame canary and a bunch of violets.
Mr. Fontaine shares with his audience the memories of a childhood spent among fabulous relatives, and the gayety of his recollections makes delightful reading.