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“any quantity" of little ones; and then they come, not with a " Make your bow,” or “Courtesy to the lady”—that is not republican fashion; but, with a becoming courage, looking straight into your eyes, and extending the right hand for a cordial shake. Frank to answer and ready to ask a question, you soon find you have not got a timid creature who needs your encouraging patronage, but a companion who will do you a service, get you information, or ask it from you, as the case may be.
The first impression produced by their manner is, that they are brave, bright, pleasant, little “impudent things.” But this, like many first impressions, turns out to be erroneous. The “impudent thing” is gradually dropt, and instead of the bad word, you adopt “intelligent,” or “independent.” I have smiled to see a little fellow, who had certainly not been quite seven years a traveller in this world, lead the way in stepping into an omnibus, and walk up to a convenient position for reading the regulations. Then placing his hands behind him-I daresay in the very attitude of papa, if one saw him—read, turning to the two younger brothers, who seem to listen with understanding, “Constructed to carry twelve inside. Children who take seats pay half price;" upon which information, the small ones scramble on the laps of the ladies who accompany them, and the leading youth adjusts himself to stand at a window, without visible direction from the ladies. I have also seen a child, a year older at
most, according to the rule of politeness and consideration for females which pervades all ranks in such of the States as I have visited, calculate how many sixpences he wanted from his ladies, and how many cents for himself, collect them, reach up with some help to pull the driver's string, and then, on tiptoe, give the money to the driver through the little hole in the roof. With us, such children would have been guided and paid for. There is no air of assumption in the doing of such small services. It seems natural, and expected by the seniors. A bright little fellow, it may be about nine years old, was asked in my hearing if he had been to Mr this morning. He said, “ No, he thought it better not to go until his return from school.” I was a good deal surprised to learn that this visit, so easily and pleasantly planned, was to a dentist, for the purpose of having a tooth extracted; having seen a good deal of fuss, and much unnecessary fear excited on such occasions among children of that age at home.
But much earlier than this, even in early infancy, does this precocity shew itself. At six weeks old, a babe will cock up his small capless and nearly hairless head, and observe the new-comer into the nursery, and smile if pleased, or scream if the “ countenance likes him not ;” and you will see a little being that has not seen the sun make one circle of seasons, lay hold on a toy, not to cram it in his mouth and look stupidly at it, but to turn it curiously over, open it if he can, and peep in with a
look as wise as that of a raven peeping into a marrow-bone. One mark of early observation and comprehension never failed to excite my wonder. Little creatures feed themselves very neatly, and are trusted with cups of glass and china, which they grasp firmly, carry about the rooms carefully, and deposit unbroken, at an age when in our country mamma or nurse would be rushing after them to save the vessel from destruction. My surprise has also been excited by the lengths they are permitted to go in mischief, without punishment, or scarcely admonition. I heard a grandmamma relate with complacency, how her boy had locked himself in the drawing-room, and deliberately thrown a large set of china, piece by piece, over the window. His “reason ” was, because he liked to hear the “crash.” as it fell. I inquired what she said to him. The indulgent parent had explained to the small man that “she did not choose to have her pretty china broken, as that rendered it useless ;”—a very reasonable advice to an unreasonable performer. It reminded me of an incident in the early days of Charles James Fox, whose father had given him a gold repeater. The boy said he must throw the watch against the wall. “Why must you ?” inquired Lord Holland. “Oh, just that I may see what will happen.” “Why, it will break !" “Well, papa, I just want to see how it goes when it breaks.” “Well, Charles, if you must, you must, I suppose.” The watch was thrown, and, as was
expected, flew into many pieces. Whether destructiveness was very large in the boy, or correctiveness very small in the parent, we leave each one to settle according to their fancy.
The more rapid the children are in the early unfoldings of the powers both of mind and body, the more do they require wise guidance and wholesome restraint. And here arises the parental difficulty. It seems to require as much self-denial in the father to refuse his boy anything, as it can require in the boy to be refused. And thus, as each
child obtains a seat at the family table at meals as - early as they can be trusted in an elevated chair, they are used to ask for and to receive all manner of varieties of food. Breakfasts, like all other meals in a country richly prolific in luxuries, are made of many dishes, and many kinds of cakes, and it is common to feed the little ones on fish, flesh, and game; fruits, salads, and hominy; Johnny-cakes, corn cakes, buckwheat cakes, all hot, with molasses; toast swimming in butter, and mayhap a little plain bread and milk; tea or coffee, if it is acceptable. It may be but a taste of many of these things, but thus is the foundation laid, I doubt not, of many a poor dyspeptic's pining life. How often have I run over in my mind the many brave and wise men of my own country, who grew to health and strength on simple fare, and remembered Sir Walter Scott's list of "lads” who, like himself, had breakfasted till they were fifteen on porridge and milk.
The same danger meets them at all meals, and especially when they are allowed to sit up, as they commonly are, to see the guests at evening parties, and share oysters, jellies, and ices, fruits, and preserves, not in the moderate way that contents grown-up persons, but with all the heartiness and excess of “frugivorous children.”
In spite of melting summer suns, and the keen pursuit of objects, to which it is common to impute the exceeding lack of flesh, which renders many a fine profile no better than the edge of a knife when the face is turned to you, might it not be that a more abstemious and simple diet in early years might be the means of adding to both the strength and beauty of the full-grown man?
Children's diseases are hasty, and come with a fell swoop, desolating cities and hearts—0 how desolating! Who can compute the pungency of the parents' grief when the nursery is the scene of such visitations? Many a young heart that in its first love and early marriage and early maternity scarcely knew any throb but that of joy, by a visit of death to her nursery, has suddenly been taught the solemn truth, that the world is a blighted place, and that the passage is through a wilderness—and also the deeper lesson, that there is a world of spirits, a treasure-house for those who are gone. Our departed friend Hewitson beautifully wrote on that subject : “God has taken from you, as it were, a pledge that you will live for eternity. The bereaved