Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bits of feet are

clamorous recriminations in shrill, little voices, by angry denunciations of Tommy, who took away Polly's doll, by dolorous complaints of Toddlekins having swallowed the cameleopard in Freddy's Noah's ark. stamped, and pudgy cheeks distended and inflamed by rage. Little hands are ready to tear out little eyes. There has been a battle royal for the sofa pillows; mamma's ink has been spilt on the carpet; Master Freddy has involuntarily lanced his gum (which is bleeding freely) with a Mordan's gold pen; Toddlekins has fallen down, and got a bump on her flaxen head as big as an egg; and the new lace curtains have been pulled off the pole. Happy is it if one of the windows hasn't been broken, and the canary bird drowned in his own watercruet. Now, pray, whose fault is all this? If mamma has no time to attend to her children, you may say, she can surely employ trustworthy servants, and discipline may be preserved in a well-regulated nursery. Apart from the folly, wickedness, and injustice of delegating to inferiors those duties which properly belong to the head of a family, there is this fact to be borne in mind, that, save in very rare cases, and when the head domestic is a poor friend or relative, servants can never manage children whose mother is incapable, or who neglects to direct their management herself. I don't care for you," is the one persistent answer of the child who knows that the servant who endeavours to control him is not supported by the chief domestic authority. Toddlekins will fight, and scratch, and kick; and Freddy, who can't speak plain yet, will lisp out the most virulent abuse to Nurse Martha, or Nursemaid Jane, who

66

now tries to coerce him into being good.

now entreats, and

Give your servants authority to correct such children? Yes, certainly, if you wish to rear up as undesirable a brood of young serpents as ever were seen out of a Cingalese jungle—

filial rattlesnakes, torpedos, and cobra di capellas-you will allow a servant to punish a child—at least one who has passed the age of infancy. The thief in the fable bit off his mother's ear at the gallows' foot, because she had not properly corrected him when young. I think he would have been justified in biting off both her ears if, in accordance with the culpable practice of some mothers, she had caused him when young to be caned by the footman. Moreover, servants, when they see their mistress pre-occupied with useless avocations, or, through laziness, wholly inattentive, are very apt to mind their own business such is life-and utterly to neglect that for which they were engaged. Whilst Madam is silurianising in the drawing-room, Nurse Martha and Nursemaid Jane are comfortably drinking tea, embroidering their own fancy collars, reading their own literature (Muck's Miscellany, The Mysteries of the Milliner's Back Shop, and the like), or receiving select parties of their own friends in the kitchen or at the area railings. The children don't care for the nursery; there is not enough to pry into or to destroy there. They have drummed on that deal table, sawed at the legs of those Windsor chairs, torn those natural history pictures from the wall, scalded themselves with that tea-kettle, licked the paint off that wooden dessert service, cut their fingers with the tools in that chest, and run splinters into the quick of their nails often enough. They want something else. They would rather be with mamma and worry her life out. The nursemaid either cajoles them with a thick piece of bread and butter, or terrifies them with a brutal slap. Mamma they can cajole and terrify themselves, and get almost everything out of-for the poor woman, in her shiftless way, really loves her children. They can extract sweetmeats, table ornaments, money, pictures to lick and tear-anything, so that they will only be quiet, and let Mamma do her reading and writing. But they won't be quiet,

and Mamma can't get on, so she loses her temper, and there is a general rebellion and—well it is an Irish word, and Lady Morgan uses it in her works—an awful shindy.

Enter Papa. Enter Mr. Petworth from the city, with his head full of bulling and bearing, scrip and agio, cent. per cent., and settling day. He knows nothing of the causes of the disturbance, he only sees it at the height of its raging fury. But he is vehemently called upon to put an end to the revolt forthwith. What a duty for the poor man! To be summoned to officiate as executioner without knowing anything of the merits of the case, or who are the real culprits. The S. P. Q. R. are at variance, so the Lictor and his fasces are called in, and the forner has to perform his functions, quite ignorant of the demerits of the culprits who yell beneath his strokes. Is it to be wondered at that in the end the Mr. P.'s of this world grow weary of these hangman's offices, that they become disgusted and ashamed of appearing to their children only in the guise of taskmasters and slave-drivers-and the surest way to alienate a child's affections from his father is to teach him to regard the parent that should be loved as well as feared as a stern Being, the incarnation of the Bogey his stupid nurse has told him of-that in the end they, too, let their children go their own way, and neglect and avoid them? I know nothing more dreadful than this awful breach in many families, that without any visible efforts on either side yawns wider and deeper every day, and ends at last in an unfathomable abyss, in which all that is beautiful and loving, and tender and sacred, is swallowed up for ever; leaving nothing but a cold, black, solitary hearth, and a child's broken toy among the dust and ashes.

There are extremes, you know, in everything. The opposite pole to culpable neglect and indifference is harassing and

irritating vigilance over children. In another letter, not the next, but when you have laid this one well to heart, I shall have something to tell you about a Mrs. Hugh Hornyhand, a lady who has a very large family here in Pumpwell, and pursues quite another method of teaching the young idea how to shoot.

CONSTANTIA CHESTERFIELD.

LETTER THE TWELFTH.

MISS CHESTERFIELD HAS WITNESSED TWO GRAND AND

INTERESTING CEREMONIALS.

MR. NEDWARDS, the variety of whose information is only equalled by its extent, tells me that, in the remarkable epoch in which we live, there positively exist and flourish many newspapers which are sold for the ridiculously small sum of a penny a piece. It is as though Shanko Fanko, my page, were to tell me that the chemists and druggists were selling sarsaparilla at a penny the bottle. Penny newspapers! Wonders will never cease. The world must be coming to an end; and I am not astonished that the estimable Doctor Cumming-a most learned divine, I have heard, but with a voice resembling the sound of a coffeemill grinding Scotch oatmeal-should be in such great tribulation about it. Of course these penny newspapers are very revolutionary in their politics, and recommend the immediate deposition of the Sovereign, and establishment of the guillotine. But what should my Louisa know about such matters? Mr. Nedwards says no; that the penny press is vigorous, yet decorous; patriotic, yet firm in the defence of law and order. He says that these penny journals circulate in immense numbers, and to the remotest corners of the empire, and that nearly all the newspapers will have to come down to a penny, soon. Qu'en sais-je? What

.

« PreviousContinue »