Part 2 out of 3
I was silent, realizing that, if Sunday were a fine day, she might feel
compelled to modify her approbation. On Saturday night the farmer asked
if we should care to accompany the family to church the next morning.
Both of us accepted the invitation.
Sunday morning, as I had foreseen, when the family assembled to take its
places in the "three-seater," the father was in "blacks," with a
"boiled" shirt; the mother, a pretty dark-eyed, dark-haired young woman,
a pleasant picture in the most every-day of garments, was a charming
sight, in a rose-tinted wash silk and a Panama hat trimmed with black
velvet. As for the boy and the girl, they were arrayed in spotless
white, from their straw hats even to their canvas shoes. The hands of
the farmer and his son were uncovered; but the mother and her little
daughter wore white lisle gloves. They also carried parasols--the
mother's of the shade of her dress, the girl's pale blue. No family in
America could possibly have looked more "blithe and bonny" than did that
one in "Sunday" clothes, ready for church.
The face of my acquaintance was a study.
In it were mingled surprise and disapproval. Both these elements became
more pronounced when we were fairly in the meeting-house. All the men,
women, and children there assembled were also in "Sunday" clothes.
My acquaintance has the instinct of the reformer. Hardly were we settled
in the "three-seater," preparatory to returning home after the service,
when she began. "Do you make your own clothes?" she inquired of the
"Yes," was the reply; "and the children's, too."
"Isn't there a great deal of work involved in the care of such garments
as you are all wearing to-day?" she further pursued.
"I suppose there is the usual amount," the other woman said, dryly.
"Then, why do you do it--living in the country, as you do?"
"There is no reason why people shouldn't dress nicely, no matter where
they happen to live," was the answer. "During the week we can't; but on
Sunday we can, and do, and ought--out of respect to the day," she
[Illustration: ARRAYED IN SPOTLESS WHITE]
The city is not a mere name to American country children. Increased
train facilities, the improvement in the character of country roads
brought about by the advent of the automobile, and the extension of the
trolley system have done much to mitigate the isolation of rural
communities. The farmer and his wife can avail themselves of the
advantages to be found in periodical trips to the nearest city. Like
other American parents, they invite their children to share their
interests. The boys and girls are included in the jauntings to the city.
I once said to a little girl whom I met on a farm in Massachusetts: "You
must come soon and stay with me in the city from Saturday until Monday.
We will go to the Art Museum and look at the pictures."
"Oh," she cried, joyously, "I'd _love_ to! Every time we go to town, and
there is a chance, mother and I go to the Museum; we both like the
pictures so much."
This little girl, when she was older, desired to become a kindergartner.
There was a training-school in the near-by city. She could not afford to
go to and fro on the train, but there was a trolley. The journey on the
trolley occupied three hours, but the girl took it twice daily for two
"Doesn't it tire you?" I asked her.
"Oh, somewhat," she admitted; "but I was already used to it. We usually
traveled to town on it when I was small."
"Countrified" is not the word to apply to American farmers and their
families. One might as aptly employ it when describing the people of
England who live on their "landed estates." Ignorance and dullness and
awkwardness we shall not often find among country children. The boys and
girls on the farms are as well informed, as mentally alert, and as
attractive as children in any other good homes in America.
We all know Mr. James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "Little Cousin Jasper." The
country boy in it, we recall, concluded his reflections upon the happier
fortune of the boy from the "city" of Rensselaer with these words:
"Wishst our town ain't like it is!--
Wishst it's ist as big as his!
Wishst 'at _his_ folks they'd move _here_,
An' _we'd_ move to Rensselaer!"
Only last summer I repeated this poem to a little girl whose home was a
farm not far from a house at which I was stopping.
"But," she said, in a puzzled tone of voice, "no place is as big as the
country! Look!" she exclaimed, pointing to the distant horizon; "it's so
big it touches the edge of the sky! No city is _that_ big, is it?"
THE CHILD IN SCHOOL
An elderly woman was talking to me not long ago about her childhood.
"No, my dear, I did not have a governess," she said, in answer to my
questionings. "Neither did I attend the public schools, though I lived
in the city. I went to a private school. The pupils in it were the girls
of the little social circle to which my parents belonged. There were
perhaps twenty of us in all. And there were three teachers; one for the
'first class,' one for the 'second class,' and a French-German-music-
and-drawing-teacher-in-one for both classes."
"And what did you study?" I asked.
"Besides French, German, music, and drawing?" my elderly friend mused.
"Well, we had the three R's; and history, English and American, and
geography, and deportment. I think that was all."
"And you liked it?" I ventured.
"Yes, my dear, I did," replied my friend, "though I used to pretend that
I didn't. I sometimes even 'played sick' in order to be allowed to stay
home from school. Children then, as now, thought they ought to 'hate to
go to school.' I believe most of them did, too. I happened to be a
'smart' child; so I liked school. I suppose 'smart' children still do."
A "smart" child! In my mind's eye I can see my elderly friend as one,
sitting at the "head" of her class, on a long, narrow bench, her eyes
shining with a pleased consciousness of "knowing" the lesson, her cheeks
rosy with expectation of the triumph sure to follow her "saying" of it,
her lips parted in an eagerness to begin. Can we not all see her, that
"smart" child of two generations ago?
As for her lesson, can we not hear it with our mind's ear? In
arithmetic, it was the multiplication table; in English history, the
names of the sovereigns and the dates of their reigns; in geography, the
capitals of the world; in deportment--ah, in deportment, a finer lesson
than any of our schools teach now! These were the lessons. Indeed, my
elderly friend has told me as much. "And not easy lessons, either, my
dear, nor easily learned, as the lessons of schoolchildren seem to be
to-day. We had no kindergartens; the idea that lessons were play had not
come in; to us lessons were work, and hard work."
My friend gave a little sigh and shook her head ever so slightly as she
concluded. It was plain that she deprecated modern educational methods.
"Schools have changed," she added.
And has not the attitude of children toward going to school changed even
more? Do many of them "hate to go"? Do any of them at all think they
"ought to hate to go"? Is a single one "smart" in the old-time sense of
A winter or two ago I was recovering from an illness in a house which,
by great good fortune, chanced to be situated on a suburban street
corner, not only near a large public school, but directly on the main
route of the children going to and from it. My chief pleasure during
that shut-in winter was watching those children. Four times a day--at
half-past eight, at half-past twelve, at half-past one, and at half-past
three--I would take the window to see them going by. They were of many
ages and sizes; from the kindergarten babies to the boys and girls of
the ninth grade. None of them could possibly have been described as
"creeping like snail unwillingly to school." As a usual thing, they came
racing pell-mell down the three streets that converged at my corner;
after school they as tumultuously went racing up, homeward. I never
needed to consult the clock in order not to miss seeing the children.
When I heard from outside distant sounds of laughing and shouting, I
knew that a school session had just ended--or was about to begin. Which,
I could only tell by noting the time. The same joyous turmoil heralded
the one as celebrated the other. Clearly, these children, at least, did
not "hate to go to school"!
One of them, a little boy of nine, a friend and near neighbor of mine,
liked it so well that enforced absence from it constituted a punishment
for a major transgression. "Isn't your boy well?" I inquired of his
mother when she came to call one evening. "A playmate of his who was
here this afternoon told me that he had not been in school to-day."
"Oh, yes, he is perfectly well!" my friend exclaimed. "But he is being
"Disciplined?" I said. "Has he been so insubordinate as that in school?"
"Not in school," the boy's mother said; "at home." Then, seeing my
bewilderment, she elucidated. "When he is _very_ naughty at home, I keep
him out of school. It punishes him more than anything else, because he
loves to go to school."
Another aspect of the subject presented itself to my mind. "I should
think he would fall behind in his studies," I commented.
"Oh, no," she replied; "he doesn't. Children don't fall behind in their
studies in these days," she added. "They don't get a chance. Every
single lesson they miss their teachers require them to 'make up.' When
my boy is absent for a day, or even for only half a day, his teacher
sees that he 'makes up' the lessons lost before the end of the week.
When I was a child, and happened to be absent, no teacher troubled about
_my_ lost lessons! _I_ did all the troubling! I laboriously 'made them
up'; the thought of examination days coming along spurred me on."
Those examination days! How amazed, almost amused, our child friends are
when we, of whose school-days they were such large and impressive
milestones, describe them! A short time ago I was visiting an old
schoolmate of mine. "Tell me what school was like when you and mother
went," her little girl of ten besought me.
So I told her. I dwelt upon those aspects of it differing most from
school as she knows it--the "Scholarship Medal," the "Prize for Bible
History," and the other awards, the bestowal of which made "Commencement
Morning" of each year a festival unequaled, to the pupils of "our"
school, by any university commencement in the land, however many and
brilliant the number of its recipients of "honorary degrees." I touched
upon the ease with which even the least remarkable pupil in that school
could repeat the Declaration of Independence and recount the "causes" of
the French Revolution. Finally, I mentioned our examination days--six in
January, six more in June.
"What did you do on them?" inquired the little girl.
"Will you listen to that?" demanded her mother. "Ten years old--and she
asks what we did on examination days! This is what it means to belong to
the rising generation--not to know, at ten, anything about examination
"What _did_ you do on them?" the little girl persisted.
"We had examinations," I explained. "All our books were taken away, and
we were given paper and pen and ink--"
"And three hours for each examination," my friend broke in. "We had one
in the morning and another in the afternoon."
"Yes," I went on. "One morning we would have a grammar examination.
Twenty questions would be written on the blackboard by our teacher, and
we would write the answers--in three hours. On another morning, or on
the afternoon of that same day, we might have an arithmetic examination.
There would be twenty questions, and three hours to answer them in, just
"Do you understand, dear?" said the little girl's mother. "Well, well,"
she went on, turning to me before the child could reply, "how this talk
brings examination days back to my remembrance! What excitement there
was! And how we worked getting ready for them! I really think it was a
matter of pride with us to be so tired after our last examination of the
week that we had to go to bed and dine on milk toast and a soft-boiled
The little girl was looking at us with round eyes.
"Does it all sound very queer?" I asked.
"The going to bed does," she made reply; "and the milk toast and the egg
for dinner, and the working hard. The examinations sound something like
the tests we have, _They_ are questions to write answers to, but we
don't think much about them. I don't believe any of the girls or boys go
to bed afterwards, or have milk toast and eggs for dinner--on purpose
because they have had a test!"
She was manifestly puzzled. "Perhaps it is because we have tests about
every two weeks, and not just in January and June," she suggested.
She did not seem disposed to investigate further the subject of her
mother's and my school-days. In a few moments she ran off to her play.
When she was quite out of hearing her mother burst into a hearty laugh.
"Poor child!" she exclaimed. "She thinks we and our school were very
curious. I wonder why," she continued more seriously, "we did take
examinations, and lessons, too, so weightily. Children don't in these
days. The school-days of the week are so full of holiday spirit for them
that, actually, Saturday is not much of gala day. Think of what Saturday
was to _us_! What glorious times we had! Why, Saturday was _Saturday_,
to us! Do you remember the things we did? You wrote poems and I painted
pictures, and we read stories, and 'acted' them. Then, we had our
gardens in the spring, and our experiments in cake-baking in the winter.
My girls do none of these things on Saturday. The day is not to them
what it was to us. I wonder what makes the difference."
[Illustration: THEY PAINT PICTURES AS A REGULAR PART OF THEIR SCHOOL
I had often wondered; but these reflections of my old schoolmate gave me
an inkling of what the main difference is. To us, school had been a
place in which we learned lessons from books--books of arithmetic, books
of grammar, or other purely academic books. For five days of the week
our childish minds were held to our lessons; and our lessons, without
exception, dealt with technicalities--parts of speech, laws of
mathematics, facts of history, definitions of the terms of geography.
Small marvel that Saturday was a gala day to us. It was the one "week
day" when we might be unacademic!
But children of the present time have no such need of Saturday. They
write poems, and paint pictures, and read stories, and "act" them, and
plant gardens, and even bake cake, as regular parts of their school
routine. The schools are no longer solely, or even predominantly,
academic. As for technicalities, where are they in the schools of to-
day? As far in the background as the teachers can keep them. Children do
not study grammar now; they are given "language work." It entails none
of the memorizing of "rules," "exceptions," and "cautions" that the
former study of grammar required. History would seem to be learned
without that sometime laying hold of "dates." Geography has ceased to be
a matter of the "bounding" of states and the learning of the capitals of
the various countries; it has become the "story of the earth." And
arithmetic--it is "number work" now, and is all but taught without the
multiplication tables. How could Saturday be to the children of to-day
what it was to the children of yesterday?
My old schoolmate's little girl had spoken of "tests." In my school-days
we called such minor weekly or fortnightly matters as these, "reviews."
We regarded them quite as lightly as my small friend looked upon her
"tests." Examinations--they were different, indeed. Twice a year we were
expected to stretch our short memories until they neatly covered a
series of examination papers, each composed of twenty questions,
relating to fully sixteen weeks' accumulation of accurate data on the
several subjects--fortunately few--we had so academically been studying.
It is little wonder that children of the present day are not called upon
to "take" such examinations; not only the manner of their teaching, but
the great quantity of subjects taught, make "tests" of frequent
occurrence the only practicable examinations.
"Children of the present time learn about so many things!" sighed a
middle-aged friend of mine after a visit to the school which her small
granddaughter attended. "What an array of subjects are brought to their
notice, from love of country to domestic science! How do their young
minds hold it?"
I am rather inclined to think that their young minds hold it very much
as young minds of one, two, or three generations ago held it. After all,
what subjects are brought to the notice of present-day children that
were not called to the attention of children of former times? The
difference would seem to be, not that the children of to-day learn about
more things than did the children of yesterday, but that they learn
about more things in school. Love of country--were we not all taught
that by our fathers as early and as well as the children are taught it
to-day by their teachers? And domestic science--did not mothers teach
that, not only to their girls, but to their boys also, with a degree of
thoroughness not surpassed even by that of the best of modern domestic
science teachers? The subjects to be brought to the notice of children
appear to be so fixed; the things to be learned by them seem to be so
slightly alterable! It is only the place of instruction that has
shifted. Such a quantity of things once taught entirely at home are now
taught partly at school.
It is the fashion, I know, to deplore this. "How dreadful it is," we
hear many a person exclaim, "that things that used to be told a child
alone at its mother's knee are now told whole roomfuls of children
together in school!"
Certainly it would be "dreadful" should the fact that children are
taught anything in school become a reason to parents for ceasing to
teach them that same thing at home. So long as this does not happen,
ought we not to rejoice that children are given the opportunity of
hearing in company from their teachers what they have already heard
separately from their fathers and mothers? A boy or a girl who has heard
from a father or a mother, in intimate personal talk, of the beauty of
truth, the beauty of purity, the beauty of kindness, is fortified in an
endeavor to hold fast to these things by hearing a teacher speak of them
in a public, impersonal way.
Indeed, is not this unity between the home and the school the great and
unique fact in the education of the children of the present time? They
are taught at home, as children always have been, and doubtless always
will be, an "array of subjects"; and they are taught at school, as
children perhaps never before were, other aspects of very nearly all the
matters touched upon in that "array." My old schoolmate said that
Saturday had lost the glory it wore in her school-days and mine; but it
seems to me that what has actually occurred is that the five school-days
of the week have taken on the same glory. The joys we had only on
Saturday children have now on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
Friday, _and_ Saturday!
It is inevitable, I suppose, that they should handle our old delights
with rather a professional grasp. One day recently a little girl, a new
acquaintance, came to see me. I brought out various toys, left over from
my childhood, for her amusement--a doll, with the trunk that still
contained her wardrobe; an autograph album, with "verses" and sketches
in it; and a "joining map," such as the brother of Rosamond of the
Purple Jar owned.
[Illustration: THEY DO SO MANY THINGS!]
My small caller occupied herself with these for a flattering length of
time, then she said: "You played with these--what else did you play
"I made paper-boats," I replied; "and sailed them. I will show you how,"
She watched me with interest while I folded and refolded a sheet of
writing-paper until it became a boat.
"There!" I said, handing it to her.
"Have you any more, paper you can spare?" she questioned.
"Of course," I said. "Should you like me to make you more boats?"
"I'll make some things for _you_" she remarked, "if you will let me have
I offered her the freedom of the writing-paper drawer; and, while I
looked on, she folded and refolded with a practiced hand, until the
table beside us was covered, not only with boats compared with which
mine was as a dory to an ocean liner, but also with a score of other
pretty and somewhat intricate paper toys.
"Who taught you to make all these lovely things?" I asked.
"My teacher," answered the small girl. "We all do it, in my room at
school, every Friday."
They do so many things! Their grown-up friends are hard put to it to
find anything novel to do with, or for, them. Not long ago a little boy
friend of mine was ill with scarlet fever. His "case" was so light that
the main problem attached to it was that of providing occupation for the
child during the six weeks of quarantine in one room. Remembering the
pleasure I had taken as a child in planting seeds on cotton in a glass
of water and watching them grow at a rate almost equal to that of Jack's
beanstalk, I made a similar "little garden" and sent it to the small
"It was lots of fun, having it," he said, when, quite well, he came to
see me. "It grew so fast--faster than the others."
"What others?" I queried.
"At school," he explained. "We have them at school; and they grow fast,
but the one you gave me grew faster. Was that because it was in a little
glass instead of a big bowl?"
I could not tell him. We had not had them at school in my school-days in
a big bowl. They had been out-of-school incidents, cultivated only in
They have so many things at school, the children of to-day! If many of
these things have been taken from the home, they have only been taken
that they may, as it were, be carried back and forth between the home
and the school.
I have a friend, the mother of an only child, a boy of eight. Her
husband's work requires that the family live in a section of the city
largely populated by immigrants. The one school in the vicinity is a
large public school. When my friend's little boy reached the "school
age," he, perforce, was entered at this school.
"You are an American," his father said to him the day before school
opened; "not a foreigner, like almost every child you will find at
school. Remember that."
"He doesn't understand what you mean when you talk to him about being an
American," the boy's mother said the next morning as we all watched the
child run across the street to the school. "How could he, living among
One day, about two months later, the small boy's birthday being near at
hand, his father said to him, "If some one were planning to give you
something, what should you choose to have it?"
"A flag," the boy said instantly; "an American flag! _Our_ flag!"
"Why?" the father asked, almost involuntarily.
"To salute," the child replied. "I've learned how in school--what to say
and what to do. Americans do it when they love their country--like you
told me to," he added, eagerly. "Our teacher says so. She's taught us
all how to salute the flag. I told her I was an American, not a
foreigner like the other children. And she said they could be Americans,
too, if they wanted to learn how. So they are going to."
The small boy got his flag. The patriotism taught at home and the
patriotism taught at school, diverse at other points, met and mingled at
that one most fundamental point.
In former days children did not quote their teachers much at home, nor
their parents much at school. They do both in these days; occasionally
with comic results. A little girl of my acquaintance whose first year at
school began less than a month ago has, I observed only yesterday,
seemed to learn as her introductory lesson to pronounce the words
"either" and "neither" quite unmistakably "[=a]ther" and "n[=a]ther."
"This is an amazing innovation," I said to her mother. "How did she ever
happen to think of it?"
"Ask her," said her mother plaintively.
I did inquire of the little girl. "Whom have you heard say '[=a]ther'
"Nobody," she unexpectedly answered.
"Then how did you learn to say it?"
"Uncle Billy told me to--"
This uncle is an instructor of English in one of our most famous
colleges. "My _dear_ child," I protested, "you must have misunderstood
"Oh, no," she affirmed earnestly. "You see, papa and mamma say 'eether'
and 'neether,' and my school-teacher says 'eyether' and 'nyether.' I
told papa and mamma, and they said to say them the way my teacher did;
and I told my teacher, and she said to say them the way papa and mamma
did! I couldn't say them two ways at once; and I didn't know which one
way to say them. So Uncle Billy told me, if _he_ were doing it, _he_
wouldn't worry about it; _he_ would say them '[=a]ther' and
She is a very little girl, only seven; and she has not yet rounded out
her first month of school. I suppose before she has been in school a
full term she will have discovered the impracticability of her uncle's
method of settling the vexed question as to the pronunciation of
"either" and "neither." Very likely she will decide to say them
"eyether" and "nyether," as her teacher does.
It takes the children so short a time to elevate the teacher to the rank
of final arbiter in their intellectual world. So soon, they follow her
footsteps in preference to any others along the ways of education. Not
only do they pronounce words as she pronounces them; in so far as they
are able, they define words as she defines them. In due course, they are
a bit fearful of any knowledge obtained otherwise than as she teaches
them to obtain it. Is there one of us who has attempted to help a child
with "home lessons" who has not been obliged to reckon with this fact?
Have we not worked out a problem in "bank discount," for instance, for a
perplexed youthful mathematician, only to be told, hesitatingly, "Ye-es,
you have got the right answer, but that isn't the way my teacher does
bank discount. Don't you know how to do it as she does?" Or, with a
young Latin "beginner" in the house, have we not tried to bring order
out of chaos with respect to the "Bellum Gallicum" by translating, "All
Gaul is divided into three parts," to be at once interrupted by, "Our
teacher translates that, 'Gaul is, _as a whole_, divided into three
parts.'" If we would assist the children of our immediate circles at all
with their "home lessons," we must do it exactly after the manner and
method ordained by their teachers.
This condition of things ought not to be displeasing to us, for the
reason that, in the main, we have ourselves brought it to pass. The
children, during their first days at school, are loyally ready to force
the views of their fathers and their mothers, and their uncles and
aunts, upon their teachers; and their teachers are tactfully ready to
effect a compromise with them. But, before very long, our reiterated,
"Your teacher knows; do as she says," has its effect. The teacher
becomes the child's touchstone in relation to a considerable number of
the "array of subjects" taught in a present-day school. School-teachers
in America prepare themselves so carefully for their duties, train
themselves to such a high order of skill in their performance, it is but
just that those of us who are not teachers should abdicate in their
However, since we are all very apt to be in entire accord with the
children's teachers in all really vital matters, our position of second
place in the minds of the boys and girls with regard to the ways of
doing "bank discount" or translating "_Gallia est omnes divisa in partes
tres_" is of small account. At least, we have a fuller knowledge of
their own relations with these mathematical and Latinic things than our
grandparents had of our parents' lessons. And the children's teachers
know more about our relations to the subjects taught than the teachers
of our fathers and mothers knew respecting the attitudes of our
grandfathers and grandmothers toward the curriculum of that earlier
time. For the children of to-day, unlike the children of a former time,
talk at home about school and talk at school about home. Almost
unconsciously, this effects an increasingly cooperative union between
home and school.
"We are learning 'Paul Revere's Ride,' in school," I heard a small girl
who lives in Boston say recently to her mother.
"Are you, darling?" the mother replied. "Then, shouldn't you like to go
some Saturday and see the church where the lanterns were hung?"
So much did the child think she would like to go that her mother took
her the next Saturday.
"You saw the very steeple at which Paul Revere looked that night for the
lanterns!" I said, when, somewhat later, I happened to be again at that
"Twice," she replied. "I told my teacher that mother had taken me, so
she took all of us in my room at school on the next Saturday."
Perhaps the most significant influence of the American home upon the
American school is to be found in the regular setting apart of an hour
of the school-day once, or twice, or even three times a week, as a story
hour; and the filling of that hour with the stories, read or told, that
in earlier times children never so much as heard mentioned at school by
their teachers. It is indeed a pleasant thought that in school-rooms
throughout the land boys and girls are hearing about the Argonauts, and
the Knights of the Round Table, and the Crusaders; to say nothing of
such famous personages in the story world as Cinderella, and the
Sleeping Beauty, and Hop-O'-My-Thumb. The home story hour is no less
dear because there is a school story hour too.
The other afternoon I stopped in during the story hour to visit a room
in the school of my neighborhood. The teacher told the story of Pandora
and the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. A small friend of mine is a
member of the "grade" which occupies that room. At the end of the
session she walked home with me.
"Tell me a story?" she asked, when, sitting cozily by the fire, we were
"What one should you like?" I inquired. "The story of Clytie, perhaps,
"I'd like to hear the one about Pandora--"
"But you have just heard it at school!" I exclaimed.
"I know," she said; "but I'd like to hear you tell it."
When I had told it, she begged me to tell another. Again I suggested
various tales in my repertory. But she refused them all. "Tell about the
man, and the dragon, and the ball of string, and the lady--" she began.
And once more when I interposed, reminding her that she had just heard
it, she once more said, "Yes; but I'd like to hear it again."
Some of the children whom I have in mind as I write go to private
schools and some of them go to public schools. It has not seemed to me
that the results obtained by the one type of school are discernibly
different from those produced by the other. In the private school there
are fewer pupils than in the public school; and they are more nearly
alike from the point of view of their parents' material wealth than are
the pupils in a public school. They are also "Americans," and not
"foreigners," as are so many of the children in city public schools, and
even in the public schools of many suburbs and villages. Possibly owing
to their smaller numbers, they receive more individual attention than
the pupils of the public school; but, so far as my rather extensive and
intimate acquaintance with children qualifies me to judge, they learn
the same lessons, and learn them with equal thoroughness. We hear a
great deal about the differences between public and private schools, and
certainly there are differences; but the pupils of the public and the
private schools are very much alike. It is considerably easier to
distinguish a public from a private school than it is to tell a public-
school child from a private-school child.
[Illustration: THEY HAVE SO MANY THINGS!]
There are many arraignments of our American schools, whether public or
private; and there are many persons who shake their heads over our
American school-children. "The schools are mere drilling-places," we
hear, "where the children are all put through the same steps." And the
children--what do we hear said of them? "They do not work at their
lessons as children of one, two, or three generations ago did," is the
cry; "school is made so pleasant for them!"
Unquestionably our American schools and our American school-children
have their faults. We must try to amend both. Meanwhile, shall we not be
grateful that the "steps" through which the children are put are such
excellent ones; and shall we not rejoice that school is made so
"pleasant" for the boys and girls that, unlike the children of one, two,
or three generations ago, they like to go to school?
THE CHILD IN THE LIBRARY
One day, not long ago, a neighbor of Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson,
of honored memory, was talking to me about him. Among the score of
charming anecdotes of the dear Colonel that she told me, there was one,
the most delightful of all, that related to the time-worn subject of the
child in the library. "As a family, we were readers," she said. "The
importance of reading had been impressed upon our minds from our
earliest youth. All of us liked to read, excepting one sister, younger
than I. She cared little for it; and she seldom did it. I was a mere
child, but so earnestly had I always been told that children who did not
read would grow up ignorant that I worried greatly over my sister who
would not read. At last I unburdened my troubled mind to Colonel
Higginson. 'She doesn't like to read; she doesn't read,' I confided. 'I
am afraid she will grow up ignorant; and then she will be ashamed! And
think how we shall feel!' The Colonel considered my words in silence for
a time. Then he said: 'There is a large and finely selected library in
your house; don't be disturbed regarding your sister, my dear. She will
not grow up ignorant. You see, she is exposed to books! She is certain
to get something of what is in them!'"
Colonel Higginson's neighbor went on to say that from that day she was
no longer haunted by the fear that her sister, because she did not read,
would grow up ignorant. Are many of us in that same condition of feeling
with respect to the children of our acquaintance, even after we have
provided them with as excellent a library as had that other child in
which they may be "exposed to books"? On the contrary, so solicitous are
we that, having furnished to the best of our knowledge the best books,
we do not rest until we are reasonably sure that the children are, not
simply getting something from them, but getting it at the right times
and in the right ways. And everything and every one conspires to help
us. Publishers issue volumes by the dozen with such titles as "The
Children's Reading" and "A Guide to Good Reading" and "Golden Books for
Children." The librarian of the "children's room" in many a library sets
apart a certain hour of each week or each month for the purpose of
telling the children stories from the books that we are all agreed the
children should read, hoping by this means to inspire the boys and girls
to read the particular books for themselves. No effort is regarded as
too great if, through it, the children seem likely to acquire the habit
of using books; using them for work, and using them for recreation.
Certainly our labors in this direction on behalf of the children are
amply rewarded. Not only are American children of the present time fond
of reading--most children of other times have been that; they have a
quite remarkable skill and ease in the use of books.
A short while ago, spending a spring week-end with a friend who lives in
the country, I chanced to see a brilliant scarlet bird which neither my
hostess nor I could identify. "It was a redbird, I suppose," I said, in
mentioning it later to a city acquaintance.
"What _is_ a redbird?" she asked. "Is it a cardinal, or a tanager, or
something still different?"
"I don't know," I replied. "Perhaps," I added, turning to her little
girl often who was in the room, "_you_ know; children learn so much
about birds in their 'nature study.'"
"No," the child answered; "but," she supplemented confidently, "I can
Several days afterward she came to call. "Do you remember _exactly_ the
way that red bird you saw in the country looked?" she inquired, almost
as soon as we met.
"Just red, I think," I said.
"Not with black wings?" she suggested.
"I hardly think so," I answered.
"P'aps it had a few _white_ feathers in its wings?" she hinted.
"I believe not," I said.
"Then," she observed, with an air of finality, "it was a cardinal
grosbeak; and the other name for that _is_ redbird; so you saw a
redbird. The scarlet tanager is red, too, but it has black wings, and it
isn't called a redbird; and the crossbill is red, with a few _white_
feathers, and _it_ isn't called a redbird either. Only the cardinal
grosbeak is. That was what you saw," she repeated.
"And who told you all this?" I queried.
"Nobody," the little girl made reply. "I looked it up in the library."
She was only ten. "How did you look it up?" I found myself asking.
"First," she explained, "I picked out the birds on the bird charts that
were red. The charts told their names. Then I got out a bird book, and
looked till I found where it told about those birds."
"Do you look up many things in the library?" I questioned.
"Oh, yes," the child replied.
"And do you always find them?" I continued.
"Not always by myself," she confessed. "Everything isn't as easy to look
up as birds. But when I can't, there is always the librarian, and she
helps; and when she is helping, 'most _anything_ gets found!"
The public library of my small friend's city, not being the library I
habitually used, was only slightly familiar to me. Not long after I had
been so earnestly assured that the scarlet bird I had seen was a
redbird, I made occasion to go to the library in which the information
had been gathered. It was such a public library as may be seen in very
nearly every small city in the United States. Built of stone; lighted
and heated according to the most approved modern methods; divided into
"stack-rooms" and "reading-rooms" and "receiving-rooms"--it was that
"typical American library" of which we are, as we should be, so proud. I
did not ask to be directed to the "children's room"; I simply followed a
group of children who had come into the building with me.
The "children's room," too, was "typical." It was a large, sunny place,
furnished with low bookcases, small tables, and chairs. Around two
walls, above the shelves, were pictures of famous authors, and
celebrated scenes likely to be known to children. At one end of the room
the bird charts of which I had so interestingly heard were posted,
together with flower charts and animal charts, of which I had not been
told. At the other end was the desk of the librarian, who so helped
young investigators that, when she helped, _anything_ got found.
I seated myself at the little table nearest her desk. She smiled, but
she said nothing. Neither did I say anything. The time of day was just
after school; the librarian was too much occupied to talk to a stray
visitor. I remained for fully an hour; and during that hour a steady
stream of children passed in and out of the room. Some of them selected
books, and, having obtained them, departed; others stayed to read, and
others walked softly about, examining the pictures and charts. All of
them, whatever their various reasons for coming to the library, began or
ended their visits in conference with the librarian. They spoke just
above a whisper, as befitted the place, but I was near enough to hear
all that was said.
"We want to give a play at school the last day before Christmas
vacation," said one small girl; "is there a good one here?"
The librarian promptly recommended and put into the child's hands a
little volume entitled "Fairy Tales a Child Can Read and Act."
A boy, entering rather hurriedly, asked, "Could I have a book that tells
how to make a wireless set--and have it quick, so I can begin to-day
It was not a moment before the librarian found for him a book called
"Wireless Telegraphy for Amateurs and Students."
Another boy, less on pleasure bent, petitioned for a "book about Abraham
Lincoln that will tell things to put in a composition on him." And a
girl, at whose school no Christmas play was apparently to be given,
asked for "a piece of poetry to say at school just before Christmas."
For these two, as for all who preceded or followed them, the librarian
"How wonderful, how unique!" exclaimed an Italian friend to whom I
related the experiences of that afternoon hour in the "children's room"
in the library of that small city.
But it seems to me that the wonderful thing about it is that it is not
unique; that in almost any "children's room" in almost any public
library in America practically the same condition prevails. Not only are
"children's rooms" of a very fine order to be found in great numbers;
but children's librarians, as sympathetic and as capable as the
librarian of my small friend's library, in as great numbers, are in
charge of those rooms. So recognized a profession has theirs come to be
that, connected with one of the most prominent libraries in the country,
there is a "School for Children's Librarians."
The "children's librarians" do not stop at assisting them in choosing
books. The story hour has come to be as important in the "children's
rooms" as it is now in the school, as it has always been in the home.
Telling stories to children has grown to be an art; there is more than
one text-book laying down its "principles and laws." Many a librarian is
also an accomplished story-teller, and in an increasing number of
libraries there is a story hour in the "children's rooms." Beyond
question, we in America have taken every care that our public libraries
shall mean something more to the boys and girls than places in which
they are merely "exposed to books."
American children read; it is doubtful whether any other children in the
world read so much or so intelligently. In our public libraries we plan
with such completeness for their reading that they can scarcely escape
becoming readers! At home we keep constantly in mind the great
importance of inculcating in them a love of books and a wontedness in
their use. To so many of their questionings we reply by advising, "Get a
book about it from the library." So many of the fundamental lessons of
life we first bring to their attention by putting into their hands books
treating of those lessons written by experts--written, moreover,
expressly for parents to give to their boys and girls to read.
A few days ago I received a letter from a mother saying: "Do you know of
a book on hygiene that I can give to my children to read--a book on that
subject _for_ children?"
Within reach of my hand I had such a book, entitled "The Child's Day," a
simply, but scientifically, written little volume, telling children what
to do from the hour of rising until the hour of retiring, in order to
keep well and strong, able to do good work at school, and to enjoy as
good play after school. It was a book that a child not only could read
with profit, but would read with pleasure.
At about the same time a father said to me: "Is there any book written
for children about good citizenship--a sort of primer of civics, I mean?
I require something of that kind for my boy."
A book to meet that particular need, too, was on my book-shelves.
"Lessons for Junior Citizens," it is called. In the clearest, and also
the most charming, form it tells the boys and girls about the
government, national and local, of their country, and teaches them their
relation to that government.
It is safe to say that there is practically no subject so mature that it
is not now the theme of a book, or a score of books, written especially
for children. Every one of the numerous publishing houses in the United
States issues yearly as many good volumes of this particular type as are
submitted. A century ago a new writer was most likely to win the
interest of a publisher by sending him a manuscript subtitled, "A
Novel." At the present time a beginner can more quickly awaken the
interest of a publisher by submitting a manuscript the title of which
contains the words, "For Children."
"Authors' editions" of books we have long had offered us by publishers;
"_editions de luxe_" too; and "limited editions of fifty copies, each
copy numbered." These are all old in the world of books. What is new,
indeed, is the "children's edition." We have it in many shapes, from
"Dickens for Children" to "The Children's Longfellow." These volumes
find their way into the "children's rooms" of all our public libraries;
and, quite as surely, they help to fill the "children's bookcases" in
the private libraries to be found in a large proportion of American
homes. For no public library can take the place in the lives of the
children of a private library made up of their "very own" books. The
public library may, however, often have a predominant share in
determining the selection of those "very own" books. The children wish
to possess such books as they have read in the "children's room."
Sometimes a child has still another similar reason for wishing to own a
certain book. Only the other day I had a letter from a boy to whom I had
sent a copy of "The Story of a Bad Boy." "I am glad to have it," he
said. "The library has it, and father has it. I like to have what the
library and father have."
Parents buy books for their children in very much the proportions that
parents bought them before the land was dotted with public libraries.
Indeed, they buy books in larger proportions, for the reason that there
are so many more books to be bought! The problem of the modern father or
mother is not, as it once was, to discover a volume likely to interest
the children; but, from among the countless volumes offered for sale,
all certain to interest the children, to choose one, two, or three that
seem most excellent where all are so good. A mother of a few generations
ago whose small boy was eager to read tales of chivalry simply gave him
"Le Morte D'Arthur"; there was no "children's edition" of it, no "Boy's
King Arthur," no "Tales of the Round Table." The father whose little
girl desired to read for herself the stories of Greece he had told her
put into her hands Bulfinch's "Age of Fable"; he could not, as can
fathers to-day, give her Kingsley's rendering, or Hawthorne's, or Miss
Josephine Preston Peabody's. Like the father of Aurora Leigh,--
"He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no."
At the present time we do not often see a child wrapped in a large man's
doublet of a book; even more seldom do we see a father careless if it
fit or no. What we plainly behold is that doublet, cut down, and most
painstakingly fitted to the child's little mind.
Unquestionably the children lose something by this. The great books of
the world do not lend themselves well to making over. "Tales from
Shakespeare" are apt to leave out Shakespeare's genius, and "Stories
from Homer" are not Homer. In cutting the doublet to fit, the most
precious part of the fabric is in danger of being sacrificed.
But whatever the children lose when they are small, they find again when
they come to a larger growth. Most significant of all, when they find
it, they recognize it. A little girl who is a friend of mine had read
Lambs' "Tales." The book had been given to her when she was eight years
old. She is nine now. One day, not long ago, she was lingering before my
bookcases, taking out and glancing through various volumes. Suddenly she
came running to me, a copy of "As You Like It" in her hand. "This story
is in one of my books!" she cried.
"Yes," I said; "your book was written from this book, and some of those
other little red books there with it in the bookcase."
The child went back to the bookcase. She took down all the other volumes
of Shakespeare, and, sitting on the rug with them, she spent an utterly
absorbed hour in turning over their leaves. Finally she scrambled to her
feet and set the books back in their places. "I've found which stories
in these books are in my book, too," she remarked. "Mine are easier to
read," she added; "but yours have lovely talk in them!"
Had she not read Lambs' "Tales" at eight I am not certain she would have
ventured into the wide realms of Shakespeare at nine, and tarried there
long enough to discover that in those realms there is "lovely talk."
Occasionally, to be sure, the children insist upon books being easy to
read, and refuse to find "lovely talk" in them if they are not. It was
only a short time ago that I read to a little boy Browning's "Pied Piper
of Hamelin." When I had finished there was a silence. "Do you like it?"
"Ye-es," replied my small friend; "it's a nice story, but it's nicer in
my book than in yours. I'll bring it next time I come, so you can read
He did. The story was told in prose. It began, "There was once a town,
named Hamelin, and there were so many rats in it that the people did not
know what to do." Certainly this is "easier to read" than the forty-two
lines which the poem uses to make an identical statement regarding the
town named Hamelin. My little friend is only six. I hope that by the
time he is twelve he will think the poem is as "nice" as, if not "nicer"
than, the story in his book. At least he may be impelled by the memory
of his pleasure in his book to turn to my book and compare the two
versions of the tale.
The children of to-day, like the children of former days, read because
they find in books such stuff as dreams are made of; and, in common with
the children of all times, they must needs make dreams. Like the boys
and girls of most eras, they desire to make also other, more temporal,
things. To aid them in this there are books in quantities and of
qualities not even imagined by the children of a few generations ago.
The book the title of which begins with the words "How to Make" is
perhaps the most distinctive product of the present-day publishing
house. No other type of book can so effectively win to a love for
reading a child who seems indifferent to books; who, as a boy friend of
mine used to say, "would rather hammer in nails than read." The "How to
Make" books tell such a boy how to hammer in nails to some purpose. I
happened to see recently a volume called "Boys' Make-at-Home Things."
With much curiosity I turned its pages,--pages illustrated with pictures
of the make-at-home things of the title,--glancing at directions for
constructing a weather-vane, a tent, a sled, and a multitude of smaller
articles. I thought of my boyfriend. "Do you think he would care to have
the book?" I inquired of his mother over the telephone.
"Well, I _wish_ he would care to have _any_ book!" she replied. "If you
want to _try_ this one--" She left the sentence unfinished, unless a
sigh may be regarded as a conclusion.
I did try the book. "This will tell you how to have fun with your
tools," I wrote, when I sent it to the boy.
Except for a laconic note of thanks, I heard nothing from my young
friend about the book. One day last week I chanced to see his mother.
"What do you think I am doing this afternoon?" she said. "I am getting a
_book_ for my son, at his own request! He is engrossed in that book you
sent him. He is making some of the things described in it. But he wants
to make something _not_ mentioned in it, and he actually asked me to see
if I could find a book that told how!"
"So he likes books better now?" I commented.
"Well--I asked him if he did," said the boy's mother; "and he said he
didn't like '_booky_' books any better, but he liked this kind, and
always would have, if he'd known about them!"
Whether my boy friend will learn early to love "booky" books is a bit
doubtful perhaps; certainly, however, he has found a companion in one
kind of book. He has made the discovery quickly, too; for he has had
"Boys' Make-at-Home Things" less than a month.
It was an easy matter for that boy's mother to get for her son the
particular book he desired. She lives in a city; at least three large
public libraries are open to her. As for book-shops, there are more
within her reach than she could possibly visit in the course of a week,
much less in an afternoon.
The mothers who live in the country cannot so conveniently secure the
books their boys and girls may wish or need. I know one woman, the
mother of two boys, living in the country, who has to exercise
considerable ingenuity to provide her sons with books of the "How to
Make" kind. There is no public library within available distance of the
farmhouse which is her home, and she and her husband cannot afford to
buy many books for their children. The boys, moreover, like so great a
variety of books that, in order to please them, it is not necessary to
select a book that is not "booky." Their parents are lovers of great
literature. "I cannot bring myself to buy a book about how to make an
aeroplane, for instance," their mother said to me one day, "when there
are so many wonderful books they have not read, and would enjoy reading!
Since I must limit my purchase of books, I really think I ought to
choose only the _real_ books for the boys; and yet they want to make
things with their hands, like other boys, and there is no way to teach
them how except through books. My husband has no time for it, and there
is no one else to show them."
The next summer I went to spend a few days with my friend in the
country. The morning after my arrival her boys proposed to take me "over
the place." At the lower edge of the garden, to which we presently came,
there was a little brook. Across it was a bridge. It was plainly to be
seen that this bridge was the work of the boys. "How very nice it is!" I
"We made it," the older of the boys instantly replied.
"Who showed you how?" I queried, wondering, as I spoke, if my friend
had, after all, changed her mind with respect to the selection of books
for her children, and chosen one "How to Make" volume.
"It told how in a book," the younger boy said; "a Latin book father
studied out of when he was a boy. There was a picture of the bridge; and
on the pages in the back of the book the way to make it was all written
out in English--father had done it when he was in school. It was a long
time before we could _quite_ see how to do it; but mother helped, and
the picture showed how, and father thought we could do it if we kept at
it. And it is really a good bridge--you can walk across on it."
When the boys and I returned to the house my friend greeted me with a
merry smile. As soon as we were alone she exclaimed, "I have _so_ wanted
to write to you about our bridge, patterned on Caesar's! But the boys
are so proud of it, they like to 'surprise' people with it--not because
it is like a bridge Caesar made, but because it is a bridge they have
[Illustration: THE CHILDREN'S EDITION]
Another friend of mine, the mother of a little girl, has had a different
problem, centring around the necessity of books for children, to solve.
She, too, lives in the country, and her little girl is a pupil at the
neighboring district school. During a visit in the city home of a cousin
the small girl had been a spectator at the city child's "school play,"
which happened to consist of scenes from "A Midsummer-Night's Dream."
When she returned home, she wished to have such an entertainment in her
school. "Dearest," her mother said, "we have no books of plays children
"Couldn't we do the one they did at Cousin Rose's school?" was the next
query. "Papa says we have _that_."
"I am afraid not," her mother demurred. "Ask your teacher."
The child approached her teacher on the subject. "No," the teacher said
decisively. "'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' is too long and too hard. Read
it, and you'll see. But," she sagely added, "if you can find anything
that is suitable, and can persuade the other children to act in it, I
will help you all I can."
That evening, at home, the little girl read "A Midsummer-Night's Dream."
"Mamma," she suddenly cried, as she neared the end, "my teacher says
this is too long and too hard for us children to do. But we _could_ do
the play that the people _in it_ do--don't you think? It is _very_
short, and all the children will like it because it is about poor
Pyramus and Thisbe, that we have all read about in school. It isn't
_just_ the same as the way it was in the story we read; but it is about
them--and the wall, and the lion, and everything! Don't you think we
could do it? They did the fairy part when I saw it at Cousin Rose's
school, and not this at all. But couldn't _we_?"
"I did not like to discourage her," my friend said when she related the
tale to me. "_All_ the other children were willing and eager to do it,
so her teacher couldn't refuse, after what she had said, to help them. I
helped with the rehearsals, too, and I doubt if the teacher or I ever
laughed so much in all our lives as we did at that time--when there were
no children about! The children were so sweet and serious over their
play! They acted it as they would have acted a play on the subject of
Pyramus and Thisbe written especially for them. _They_ weren't funny.
No; they were perfectly lovely. What was so irresistibly comic, of
course, was the difference between their performance and one's
remembrance of regular performances of it--to say nothing of one's
thoughts as to what Shakespeare would have said about it. How those
children will laugh when they are grown up! They will have something to
laugh at that will last them a lifetime. But _poor_ Shakespeare!"
I did not echo these final words of my friend. For does not Shakespeare
rather particularly like to bless us with the laugh that lasts a
lifetime, even if--perhaps especially if--it be at our own expense?
Books are such integral parts of the lives of present-day children,
especially in America. Their elders appreciate, as possibly the grown-
ups of former times did not quite so fully appreciate, the importance of
books in the education of the boys and girls. It may even be that we
over-emphasize it a bit. We send the children to the book-shelves for
help in work and for assistance in play. In effect, we say to them,
"Read, that you may be able to mark, learn, and inwardly digest." It is
only natural that the boys and girls should read for a hundred reasons,
instead of for the one reason of an older day--the pursuit of happiness
in the mere reading itself. "How can you sit idly reading a book when
there are so many useful things you might be doing?" was the question
often put to the children of yesterday by their elders. To-day we feel
that the children can hardly do anything likely to prove more useful
than reading a book. Is not this because we have taught them, not only
to read, but to read for a diversity of reasons?
American children are so familiarly at home in the world of books, it
should not surprise us to find them occasionally taking rather a
practical, everyday view of some of the things read. A little girl
friend of mine chanced to begin her reading of Shakespeare during a
winter when her grown-up relatives were spending a large portion of
their leisure going to see stage representations of Shakespeare's plays.
She therefore heard considerable conversation about the plays, and about
the persons acting the chief roles in them. It happened that "As You
Like It" was one of the comedies being acted. The little girl was
invited to go to see it. "Who is going to be Orlando?" she inquired; she
had listened to so much talk about who "was," or was "going to be," the
various persons in the several dramas!
"But," she objected, when she was informed, "I think I've heard you say
he is not very tall. Orlando was _such_ a tall man!"
"Was he?" I ventured, coming in at that moment. "I don't remember that
about him. Who told you he was tall?"
"Why, it is in the book!" she exclaimed.
Every one present besought her to mention where.
"Don't you remember?" she said incredulously. "He says Rosalind is just
as high as his heart; that wouldn't be _quite_ up to his shoulder. And
she says she is _more than common_ tall! So he must have been
_'specially_ tall. Don't you remember?" she asked again, looking
perplexedly at our blank faces.
There are so many bonds of understanding between American children of
the present time and their grown-up relatives and friends. Is not one of
the best of these that which has come out of our national impulse toward
giving the boys and girls the books we love, "cut small"; and showing
them how to read those books as we read the larger books from which they
are made? "What kinds of books do American children read?" foreigners
inquire. We are able to reply, "The same kinds that grown-up Americans
read." "And why do they read them?" may be the next question. Again we
can answer, "For much the same reasons that the grown-ups read them."
"How do they use the libraries?" might be the next query. Still we could
say, "As grown people use them." And if yet another query, "Why?" be
put, we might reply, "Because, unlike any other children in the world,
American children are almost as completely 'exposed to books' as are
THE CHILD IN CHURCH
Within the past few months, I have had the privilege of looking over the
answers sent by men and women--most of them fathers and mothers--living
in many sections of the United States, in response to an examination
paper containing among other questions this one: "Should church-going on
the part of children be compulsory or voluntary?" In almost every case
the answer was, "It should be voluntary." In practically all instances
the reason given was, "Worship, like love, is at its best only when it
is a free-will offering."
It was not a surprise to read again and again, in longer or in shorter
form, such an answer, based upon such a reason. The religious liberty of
American children of the present day is perhaps the most salient fact of
their lives. Without doubt, the giving to them of this liberty is the
most remarkable fact in the lives of their elders. No grown people were
ever at any time willingly allowed to exercise such freedom in matters
pertaining to religion as are the children of our nation at the present
time. Not only is churchgoing not compulsory; religion itself is
A short while ago a little girl friend of mine was showing me her
birthday gifts. Among them was a Bible. It was a beautiful book, bound
in soft crimson leather, the child's name stamped on it in gold.
"And who gave you this?" I asked.
"Father," the little girl replied. "See what he has written in it," she
added, when the shining letters on the cover had been duly appreciated.
I turned to the fly-leaf and read this:
"To my daughter on her eighth birthday from her father.
"'I give you the end of a golden string:
Only wind it into a ball,--
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall.'"
"Isn't it lovely?" questioned the child, who had stood by, waiting,
while I read.
"Yes," I agreed, "very lovely, and very new."
Her mother, who was listening, smiled slowly. "My father gave me a Bible
on my birthday, when I was seven"--she began.
"O mother," interrupted her little girl, "what did grandfather write in
"Go and look," her mother said. "You will find it on the table by my
The child eagerly ran out of the room. In a few moments she returned,
the Bible of her mother's childhood in her hands. It also was a
beautiful book; bound, too, in crimson leather, and with the name of its
owner stamped on it in gold. And on the fly-leaf was written,--
"To my daughter, on her seventh birthday, from her father."
Beneath this, however, was inscribed no modern poetry, but
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days
come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no
pleasure in them."
[Illustration: IN THE INFANT CLASS]
The little girl read it aloud. "It sounds as though you wouldn't be
happy if you _didn't_ remember, mother," she said, dubiously.
"Well, darling," her mother replied, "and so you wouldn't."
The child took her own Bible and read aloud the verse her father had
written. "But, mother, this sounds as though you _would_ be happy if you
"And so you will, dear," her mother made reply. "It is the same thing,"
"Is it?" the little girl exclaimed in some surprise. "It doesn't _seem_
quite the same."
The child did not press the question. She left us, to return her
mother's Bible to its wonted place. When she came back, she resumed the
exhibiting of her birthday gifts where it had been interrupted. But
after she had gone out to play I said to her mother, "Are they _quite_
the same--the text in your Bible and the lines in hers?"
"It _is_ rather a long way from Solomon to William Blake, isn't it?" she
"But I really don't see much difference. The same thing is said, only in
the one case it is a command and in the other it is an impelling
"Isn't that rather a great deal of difference?" I ventured.
"No, I think not," she said, meditatively. "Of course, I admit," she
supplemented, "that the idea of an impelling suggestion appeals to the
imagination more than the idea of a command. But that's the _only_
It seems to me that this "only" difference is at the very foundation of
the religious training of the children of the present day in our
country. We do our best to awaken their imaginations, to put to them
suggestions that will impel, to say to them the "same thing" that was
said to the children of more austere times about remembering their
Creator; but so to say it that they feel, not that they will be unhappy
if they do not remember, but that they will be happy if they do. It is
the love of God rather than the fear of God that we would have them
Is it not, indeed, just because we do so earnestly desire that they
should learn this that we leave them so free with regard to what we call
their spiritual life? "Read a chapter in your Bible every day, darling,"
I recently heard a mother say to her little girl on the eve of her first
visit away from home without her parents. "In Auntie's house they don't
have family prayers, as we do, so you won't hear a chapter read every
day as you do at home."
"What chapters shall I read, mamma?" the child asked.
"Any you choose, dear," the mother replied.
"And when in the day?" was the next question. "Morning or night?"
"Just as you like, dearest," the mother answered.
But there is a religious liberty beyond this. To no one in America is it
so readily, so sympathetically, given as to a child. We are all familiar
with the difficulties which attend a grown person, even in America,
whose convictions necessitate a change of religious denomination. Such a
situation almost invariably means distress to the family, and to the
relinquished church of the person the form of whose faith has altered.
In few other matters is so small a measure of liberty understandingly
granted a grown person, even in America. But when a child would turn
from one form of belief to another, how differently the circumstance is
One Sunday, not long ago, visiting an Episcopal Sunday-school, I saw in
one of the primary classes a little girl whose parents, as I was aware,
were members of the Baptist Church.
"Is she a guest?" I asked her teacher.
"Oh, no," she replied; "she is a regular member of the Sunday-school;
she comes every Sunday. She was christened at Easter; I am her
"But don't her father and mother belong to the Baptist Church?" I
"Yes," said the child's Sunday-school teacher. "But she came to church
one Sunday with some new playmates of hers, whose parents are
Episcopalians, to see a baby christened. Then her little friends told
her how they had all been christened, as babies; and when she found that
she hadn't been, she wanted to be. So her father and mother let her, and
she comes to Sunday-school here."
"Where does she go to church?" I found myself inquiring.
"To the Baptist Church, with her father and mother," was the reply. "She
asked them to let her come to Sunday-school here; but it never occurred
to her to think of going to church excepting with them."
Somewhat later I chanced to meet the child's mother. It was not long
before she spoke to me concerning her little girl's membership in the
Episcopal Sunday-school. "What were her father and I to do?" the mother
said. "We didn't feel justified in standing in her way. She wanted to be
christened; it seemed to mean something real to her--" she broke off.
"What _were_ we to do?" she repeated. "It would be a dreadful thing to
check a child's aspiration toward God! Of course she is only a little
girl, and she wanted to be like the others. Her father and I thought of
that, naturally. But--" Again she stopped. "One can never tell," she
went on, "what is in the mind of a child, nor what may be happening to
its spirit. Samuel was a very little child when God spoke to him," she
Quite as far as that mother, has another mother of my acquaintance let
her little girl go along the way of religious freedom. One day I went
with her and the child to an Italian jewelry shop. Among the things
there was a rosary of coral and silver. The little girl, attracted by
its glitter and color, seized it and slipped it over her head. "Look,
mother," she said, "see this lovely necklace!"
Her mother gently took it from her. "It isn't a necklace," she
explained; "it is called a rosary. You mustn't play with it; because it
is something some people use to say their prayers with."
The child's mother is of Scotch birth and New England upbringing. The
little girl has been accustomed to a form of religion and to an attitude
toward the things of religion that are beautiful, but austerely
beautiful. She is an imaginative child; and she caught eagerly at the
poetical element thus, for the first time, associated with prayer. "Tell
me how!" she begged.
When next I was in the little girl's bedroom, I saw the coral and silver
rosary hanging on one of the head-posts of her bed. "Yes, my dear," her
mother explained to me, "I got the rosary for her. She wanted it--'to
say my prayers with,' she said; so I got it. After all, the important
thing is that she says her prayers."
Among my treasures I have a rosary, brought to me from the Holy Land. I
have had it for a long time, and it has hung on the frame of a
photograph of Bellini's lovely Madonna. This little girl has always
liked that picture, and she has often spoken to me about it. But she had
never mentioned the rosary, which not only is made of dark wood, but is
darker still with its centuries of age. One day after the rosary of pink
coral and bright silver had been given her she came to see me. Passing
through the room where the Madonna is, she stopped to look at it. At
once she exclaimed, "_You_ have a rosary!"
"Yes," I said; "it came from the Holy Land." I took it down, and put it
into her hands. "It has been in Bethlehem," I went on, "and in
Jerusalem. It is very old; it belonged to a saint--like St. Francis, who
was such friends with the birds, you remember."
"I suppose the saint used it to say his prayers with?" the little girl
observed. Then, the question evidently occurring to her for the first
time, she asked, eagerly, "What prayers did he say, do you think?"
When I had in some part replied, I said, this question indeed occurring
to me for the first time, "What prayers do you say?"
"Oh," she replied, instantly, "I say, 'Our Father,' and 'Now I lay me,'
and 'God bless' all the different ones at home, and in other places,
that I know. I say all that; and it takes all the beads. So I say, 'The
Lord is my Shepherd' last, for the cross." She was silent for a moment,
but I said nothing, and she went on. "I know 'In my Father's house are
many mansions,' and 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels.'
I might say them sometimes instead, mightn't I?"
I told this to one of my friends who is a devout Roman Catholic. "It
shows," she said, "what the rosary can do for religion!"
But it seemed to me that it showed rather what religion could do for the
rosary. Had the child's mother, Scotch by birth, New England by
breeding, not been a truly religious woman she would not have bade her
little girl handle with reverence the emblem of a faith so unlike her
own; she would not have said, "Don't play with it." As for the small
girl, had she never learned to "say prayers," she would not have desired
the rosary to say them "with." And it was not the silver cross hanging
on her rosary that influenced her to "say last," for it, the best psalm
and "spiritual song" she knew; it was the understanding she had been
given by careful teaching of the meaning of that symbol. Above all, had
the little girl, after being taught to pray, not been left free to pray
as her childish heart inclined, that rosary would scarcely have found a
place on the head-post of her small bed.
It may be for the very reason that the children are not compelled to
think and to feel in the things of religion as their parents do that
fathers and mothers in America so frankly tell their boys and girls
exactly what they do think and just how they do feel. The children may
not ever understand the religious experiences through which their
parents are passing, but they often know what those experiences are.
Moreover, they sometimes partake of them.
Among my child friends there is a little girl, an only child, whose
father died not a great while ago. The little girl had always had a
share in the joys of her parents. It surprised no one who knew the
family that the mother in her grief turned to the child for comfort; and
that together they bore their great bereavement. Indeed, so completely
did this occur that the little girl for a time hardly saw any one
excepting her mother and her governess. After a suitable interval, an
old friend of the family approached the mother on the subject. "Your
little girl is only eight years old," she said, gently. "Oughtn't she
perhaps to go to see her playmates, and have them come to see her,
The mother saw the wisdom of the suggestion. The child continued to
spend much of her time with her mother, but she gradually resumed her
former childish occupations. She had always been a gregarious little
girl; once more her nursery was a merry, even an hilarious, place.
One Saturday a short time ago she was among the six small guests invited
to the birthday luncheon of another little girl friend of mine. Along
with several other grown-ups I had been invited to come and lend a hand
at this festivity. I arrived just as the children were going into the
dining-room, where the table set forth for their especial use, and
bright with the light of the seven candles on the cake, safely placed in
the centre, awaited them. They climbed into their chairs, and then all
seven of them paused. "Mother," said the little girl of the house, "who
shall say grace?"
"I _always_ do at home!"
These and other exclamations were made before the mother could reply.
When she was able to get a hearing, she suggested, "I think each one of
you might, since you all can and would like to."
"You say it first," said one of the children to her little hostess,
"because it is your birthday."
At a nod from her mother, the little girl said the Selkirk grace:--
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit."
Then another small girl said her grace, which was Herrick's:--
"Here a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand;
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat and on us all
The next little girl said Stevenson's:--
"It is very nice to think
The world is full of meat and drink,
And little children saying grace
In every Christian kind of place."
The succeeding little guests said the dear and familiar "blessing" of so
"For what we are about to receive, O Lord, make us truly thankful."
My little friend into whose life so grievous a sorrow had come was the
last to say her grace. It was the poem of Miss Josephine Preston Peabody
entitled "Before Meat:--
"Hunger of the world.
When we ask a grace
Be remembered here with us,
By the vacant place.
"Thirst with nought to drink,
Sorrow more than mine,
May God some day make you laugh,
With water turned to wine!"
There was a silence when she finished, among the children as well as
among the grown persons present. "I don't _quite_ understand what your
grace means," the little girl of the house said at last to her small
"It means that I still have my mamma, and she still has me," replied the
child. "Some people haven't anybody. It means that; and it means we ask
God to let them have Him. My mamma told me, when she taught it to me to
say instead of the grace I used to say when we had my papa."
The little girl explained with the simple seriousness and sweetness so
characteristic of the answers children make to questions asked them
regarding things in any degree mystical. The other small girls listened
as sweetly and as seriously. Then, with one accord, they returned to the
gay delights of the occasion. They were a laughing, prattling, eagerly
happy little party, and of them all not one was more blithe than the
little girl who had said grace last.
The child's intimate companionship with her mother in the sorrow which
was her sorrow too had not taken from her the ability for participation
in childish happiness, also hers by right. Was not this because the
companionship was of so deep a nature? The mother, in letting her little
girl share her grief, let her share too the knowledge of the source to
which she looked for consolation. Above all, she not only told her of
heavier sorrows; she told her how those greater griefs might be
lightened. Children in America enter into so many of the things of their
parents' lives, is it not good that they are given their parts even in
those spiritual things that are most near and sacred?
I have among my friends a little boy whose father finds God most surely
in the operation of natural law. Indeed, he has often both shocked and
distressed certain of his neighbors by declaring it to be his belief
that nowhere else could God be found. "His poor wife!" they were wont to
exclaim; "what must she think of such opinions?" And later, when the
little boy was born, "That unfortunate baby!" they sighed; "how will his
mother teach him religion when his father has these strange ideas?" That
the wife seemed untroubled by the views of her husband, and that the
baby, as he grew into little-boyhood, appeared very similar to other
children as far as prayers and Bible stories and even attendance at
church were concerned, did not reassure the disturbed neighbors. For the
child's father continued to express--if possible, more decidedly--his
disquieting convictions. "Evidently, though," said one neighbor, "he
doesn't put such thoughts into the head of his child."
Apparently he did not. I knew the small boy rather intimately, and I was
aware that his father, after the custom of most American parents, took
the child into his confidence with regard to many other matters. The
little boy was well acquainted with his father's political belief, for
example. I had had early evidence of this. But it was not until a much
later time, and then indirectly, that I saw that the little boy was
possessed too of a knowledge of his father's religious faith.
[Illustration: "DO YOU LIKE MY NEW HYMN?"]
I was ill in a hospital a year or two ago, and the little boy came with
his mother to see me. A clergyman happened to call at the same time. It
was Sunday, and the clergyman suggested to my small friend that he say a
psalm or a hymn for me.
"My new one, that daddy has just taught me?" the child inquired, turning
to his mother.
She smiled at him. "Yes, dearest," she said gently.
The little boy came and stood beside my bed, and, in a voice that
betokened a love and understanding of every line, repeated Mrs.
Browning's lovely poem:--
"They say that God lives very high!
But if you look above the pines,
You cannot see our God. And why?
"And if you dig down in the mines,
You never see Him in the gold,
Though from Him all that's glory shines.
"God is so good, He wears a fold
Of heaven and earth across His face--
Like secrets kept, for love, untold.
"But still I feel that His embrace
Slides down, by thrills, through all things made,
Through sight and sound of every place:
"As if my tender mother laid
On my shut lids, her kisses' pressure,
Half-waking me at night; and said,
'Who kissed you through the dark, dear guesser?'"
Beyond question the clergyman had expected a less unusual selection than
this; but he smiled very kindly at the little boy as he said the
beautiful words. At the conclusion he merely said, "You have a good
father, my boy."
"Do you like my new hymn?" the child asked me.
"Yes," I replied. "Did your father tell you what it means?" I added,
"No," said my small friend; "I didn't ask him. You see," he
supplemented, "it tells _itself_ what it means!"
The things of religion so often to the children tell themselves what
they mean! Only the other day I heard a little girl recounting to her
young uncle, learned in the higher criticism, the story of the Creation.
"Just only _six days_ it took God to make _everything_" she said; "think
"My dear child," remonstrated her uncle, "_that_ isn't the point at all
--the _amount_ of time it required! As a matter of fact, it took
thousands of years to make the world. The word 'day' in that connection
means a certain period of time, not twenty-four hours."
"Oh!" cried the little girl, in disappointment; "that takes the
wonderfulness out of it!"
"Not at all," protested her young uncle. "And, supposing it did, can you
not see that the world could not have been made in six of _our_ days?"
"Why," said the child, in surprise, "I should think it could have been!"
"For what reason?" her uncle asked, in equal amazement.
"Because God was doing it!" the child exclaimed.
Her uncle did not at once reply. When he did, it was to say, "You are
right about _that_, my dear."
Sometimes it happens that a child finds in our careful explanation of
the meaning of a religious belief or practice a different or a further
significance than we have indicated. I once had an especially striking
experience of this kind.
I was visiting a family in which there were several children, cared for
by a nurse of the old-fashioned, old-world type. She was a woman well
beyond middle age, and of a frank and simple piety. There was hardly a
circumstance of daily life for which she was not ready with an
accustomed ejaculatory prayer or thanksgiving. One day I chanced to
speak to her of a mutual friend, long dead. "God rest her soul!" said
the old nurse, in a low tone.
"Why did she say that?" the little four-year-old girl of the house asked
me. "I never heard her say that before!"
"It is a prayer that some persons always say when speaking of any one
who is dead; especially any one they knew and loved," I explained.
Later in the day, turning over a portfolio of photographs with the
little girl, I took up a picture of a fine, faithful-eyed dog. "Whose
dog is this?" I asked. "What a good one he is!"
"He was ours," replied the child, "and he was very good; we liked him.
But he is dead now--" She paused as if struck by a sudden remembrance.
Then, "God rest his soul!" she sighed, softly.
Most of the answers I read in response to the question, "Should
churchgoing on the part of children be compulsory or voluntary?" did not
end with the brief statement that it should be voluntary, and the reason
why; a considerable number of them went on to say: "The children should
of course be inspired and encouraged to go. They should be taught that
it is a privilege. Their Sunday-school teachers and their minister, as
well as their parents, can help to make them wish to go."
Certainly their Sunday-school teachers and ministers can, and do. The
answers I have quoted took for granted the attendance of children at
Sunday-school. Not one of them suggested that this was a matter
admitting of free choice on the part of the children. "But it isn't,"
declared an experienced Sunday-school teacher who is a friend of mine
when I said this to her. "Going to Sunday-school isn't worship; it is
learning whom to worship and how. Naturally, children go, just as they
go to week-day school, whether they like to or not; I must grant," she
added by way of amendment, "that they usually do like to go!"
Our Sunday-schools have become more and more like our week-day schools.
The boys and girls are taught in them whom to worship and how, but they
are taught very much after the manner that, in the week-day schools,
they are instructed concerning secular things. That custom, belonging to
a time not so far in the past but that many of us remember it, of
consigning the "infant class" of the Sunday-school to any amiable young
girl in the parish who could promise to be reasonably regular in meeting
it does not obtain at the present day. Sunday-school teachers are
trained, and trained with increasing care and thoroughness, for their
[Illustration: CHILDREN GO TO CHURCH]
Readiness to teach is no longer a sufficient credential. The amiable
young girl must now not only be willing to teach, she must also be
willing to learn how to teach. In the earlier time practically any well-
disposed young man of the congregation who would consent to take charge
of a class of boys was eagerly allotted that class without further
parley. This, too, is not now the case. The young man, before beginning
to teach the boys, is obliged to prepare himself somewhat specifically
for such work. In my own parish the boys' classes of the Sunday-school
are taught by young men who are students in the Theological School of
which my parish church is the chapel. In an adjacent parish the "infant
class" is in charge of an accomplished kindergartner. Surely such
persons are well qualified to help to inspire and to encourage the
children to regard churchgoing as a privilege, and to make them wish to
And the minister! I am inclined to think that the minister helps more
than any one else, except the father and mother, to give the children
this inspiration, this encouragement. Children go to church now, when
churchgoing is voluntary, quite as much as they went when it was
compulsory. They learn very early to wish to go; they see with small
difficulty that it is a privilege. Their Sunday-school teachers might
help them, even their parents might help them, but, unless the minister
helped them, would this be so?
There are so many ways in which the minister does his part in this
matter of the child's relation to the church, and to those things for
which the church stands. They are happily familiar to us through our
child friends: the "children's service" at Christmas and at Easter; the
"talks to children" on certain Sundays of the year. These are some of
them. And there are other, more individual, more intimate ways.
The other day a little girl who is a friend of mine asked me to make out
a list of books likely to be found in the "children's room" of the near-
by public library that I thought she would enjoy reading. On the list I
put "The Little Lame Prince," the charming story by Dinah Mulock. Having
completed the list, I read it aloud to the little girl. When I reached
Miss Mulock's book, she interrupted me.
"'The Little Lame Prince,' did you say? Is that in the library? I
thought it was in the Bible."
"The Bible!" I exclaimed.
"Yes," the child said, in some surprise; "don't you remember? He was
Jonathan's little boy--Jonathan, that was David's friend--David, that
killed the giant, you know."
I at once investigated. The little girl was quite correct. "Who told you
about him?" I inquired.
"Our minister," she replied. "He read it to me and some of the other
This, too, a bit later, I investigated. I found that the minister had
not read the story as it is written in the Bible, but a version of it
written by himself especially for this purpose and entitled "The Little
At church, as elsewhere, the children of our nation are quick to
observe, and to make their own, opportunities for doing as the grown-ups
do. When occasion arises, they slip with cheerful and confiding ease
into the places of their elders.
One Sunday, last summer, I chanced to attend a church in a little
seaside village. When the moment arrived for taking up the collection,
no one went forward to attend to that duty. I was told afterward that
the man who always did it was most unprecedentedly absent. There were a
number of other men in the rather large congregation, but none of them
stirred as the clergyman stood waiting after having read several
offertory sentences. I understood afterward that they "felt bashful,"
not being used to taking up the collection. The clergyman hesitated for
a moment, and then read another offertory sentence. As he finished, a
little boy not more than nine years old stepped out of a back pew, where
he was sitting with his mother, and, going up to the clergyman, held out
his hand for the plate. The clergyman gravely gave it to him, and the
child, without the slightest sign of shyness, went about the church
collecting the offerings of the congregation. This being done, he, with
equal un-self-consciousness, gave the plate again to the clergyman and
returned to his seat beside his mother.
"Did you tell him to do it?" I inquired of the mother, later.
"Oh, no," she answered; "he asked me if he might. He said he knew how,
he saw it done every Sunday, and he was sure the minister would let
American children of the present day are surer than the children of any
other nation have ever been that their fathers and their mothers and
their ministers will allow them liberty to do in church, as well as with
respect to going to church, such things as they know how to do, and
eagerly wish to do. In our national love and reverence for childhood we
willingly give the children the great gift that we give reluctantly, or
not at all, to grown people--the liberty to worship God as they choose.
We are a child-loving nation; and our love for the children is, for the
most part, of the kind which Dr. Henry van Dyke describes as "true love,
the love that desires to bestow and to bless." The best things that we
can obtain, we bestow upon the children; with the goodliest blessings
within our power, we bless them. This we do for them. And they,--is
there not something that they do for us? It seems to me that there is;
and that it is something incalculably greater than anything we do, or
could possibly do, for them. More than any other force in our national
life, the children help us to work together toward a common end. A child
can unite us into a mutually trustful, mutually cordial, mutually active
group when no one else conceivably could.
A few years ago, I was witness to a most striking example of this. I
went to a "ladies' day" meeting of a large and important men's club that
has for its object the study and the improvement of municipal
conditions. The city of the club has a nourishing liquor trade. The club
not infrequently gives over its meetings to discussions of the "liquor
problem";--discussions which, I have been told, had, as a rule, resolved
themselves into mere argumentations as to license and no-license,
resulting in nothing. By some accident this "ladies' day" meeting had
for its chief speaker a man who is an ardent believer in and supporter
of no-license. For an hour he spoke on this subject, and spoke
exceedingly well. When he had finished, there ensued that random play of
question and answer that usually follows the presiding officer's, "We
are now open to discussion." The chief speaker had devoted the best
efforts of his mature life to bringing about no-license in his home
city; the subject was to him something more than a topic for a
discussion that should lead to no practical work in the direction of
solving the "liquor problem" in other cities. He tried to make that club
meeting something more vital than an exchange of views on license and
no-license. With the utmost earnestness, he attempted to arouse a living
interest in the "problem," and, of course, to make converts to his own
belief as to the most effective solution of it.
Finally, some one said, "Isn't _any_ liquor sold in your city? Your law
keeps it from being sold publicly, but privately,--how about that?"
"I cannot say," the chief speaker replied. "The law may occasionally be
broken,--I suppose it is. But," he added, "I can tell you this,--we have
no drunkards on our streets. I have a boy,--he is ten years old, and he
has never seen a drunken man in his life. How about the boys of the
people of this city, of this audience?"
The persons in that audience looked at the chief speaker; they looked at
each other. There followed such a serious, earnest, frank discussion of
the "liquor problem" as had never before been held either in that club,
or, indeed, in any assembly in that city. Since that day, that club has
not only held debates on the "liquor problem" of its city; it has tried
to bring about no-license. The chief speaker of that meeting was far
from being the first person who had addressed the organization on that
subject; neither was he the first to mention its relation to childhood
and youth; but he was the very first to bring his own child, and to
bring the children of each and every member of the association who had a
child into his argument. With the help of the children, he prevailed.
One of my friends who is a member of that club said to me recently, "It
was the sincerity of the speaker of that 'ladies' day' meeting that won
the audience. I really must protest against your thinking it was his
chance reference to his boy!"
"But," I reminded him, "it was not until he made that 'chance reference'
to his boy that any one was in the least moved. How do you explain
"Oh," said my friend, "we were not sure until then that he was in dead
"And then you were?" I queried.
"Why, yes," my friend replied. "A man doesn't make use of his child to
give weight to what he is advocating unless he really does believe it is
just as good as he is arguing that it is."
"So," I persisted, "it _was_, after all, his 'chance reference' to his
"If you mean that nothing practical would have come of his speech,
otherwise,--yes, it was!" my friend allowed himself to admit.
Another friend who happened to be present came into the conversation at
this point. "Suppose he had had no child!" she suggested. "Any number of
perfectly sincere persons, who really believe that what they are
advocating is just as good as they argue it is, have no children," she
went on whimsically; "what about them? Haven't they any chance of
winning their audiences when they speak on no-license,--or what not?"
Those of us who are in the habit of attending "welfare" meetings of one
kind or another, from the occasional "hearings" before various
committees of the legislature, to the periodic gatherings of the
National Education Association, and the National Conference of Charities
and Correction, know well that, when advocating solutions of social
problems as grave as and even graver than the "liquor problem," the most
potent plea employed by those speakers who are not fathers or mothers
begins with the words, "You, who have children." My friend who had said
that a man did not make use of his child to give weight to his arguments
unless he had a genuine belief in that for which he was pleading might
have gone further; he might have added that neither do men and women
make such a use of other people's children excepting they be as
completely sincere,--provided that those men and women love children.
And we are a nation of child-lovers.
It is because we love the children that they do for us so great a good
thing. It is for the reason that we know them and that they know us that
we love them. We know them so intimately; and they know us so
intimately; and we and they are such familiar friends! The grown people
of other nations have sometimes, to quote the old phrase, "entered into
the lives" of the children of the land; we in America have gone
further;--we have permitted the children of our nation to enter into our
lives. Indeed, we have invited them; and, once in, we have not deterred
them from straying about as they would. The presence of the children in
our lives,--so closely near, so intimately dear!--unites us in grave and
serious concerns,--unites us to great and significant endeavors; and
unites us even in smaller and lighter matters,--to a pleasant
neighborliness one with another. However we may differ in other
particulars, we are all alike in that we are tacitly pledged to the
"cause" of children; it is the desire of all of us that the world be
made a more fit place for them. And, as we labor toward the fulfillment
of this desire, they are our most effectual helpers.
In our wider efforts after social betterment, they help us. Because of
them, we organize ourselves into national, and state, and municipal
associations for the furtherance of better living,--physical, mental,
and moral. Through them, we test each other's sincerity, and measure
each other's strength, as social servants. In our wider efforts this is
true. Is it not the case also when the field of our endeavors is
Several years ago, I chanced to spend a week-end in a suburban town, the
population of which is composed about equally of "old families," and of
foreigners employed in the factory situated on the edge of the town. I
was a guest in the home of a minister of the place. Both he and his wife
believed that the most important work a church could do in that
community was "settlement" work. "Home-making classes for the girls,"
the minister's wife reiterated again and again; and, "Classes in
citizenship for the boys," her husband made frequent repetition, as we
discussed the matter on the Saturday evening of my visit.
"Why don't you have them?" I inquired.
"We have no place to have them in," the minister replied. "Our parish
has no parish-house, and cannot afford to build one."
"Then, why not use the church?" I ventured.
"If you knew the leading spirits in my congregation, you would not ask
that!" the minister exclaimed.
"Have you suggested it to them?" I asked.
"Suggested!" the minister and his wife cried in chorus. "_Suggested_!"
"I have besought them, I have begged them, I have implored them!" the
minister continued. "It was no use. They are conservatives of the
strictest type; and they cannot bring themselves even to consider
seriously a plan that would necessitate using the church for the meeting
of a boys' political debating club, or a girls' class in marketing."
"Churches are so used, in these days!" I remarked.
"Yes," the minister agreed; "but not without the sympathy and
cooeperation of the leading members of the congregation!"
That suburban town is not one to which I am a frequent visitor. More
than a year passed before I found myself again in the pleasant home of
the minister. "I must go to my Three-Meals-a-Day Club," my hostess said
shortly after my arrival on Saturday afternoon. "Wouldn't you like to go
"What is it, and where does it meet?" I asked.
"It is a girls' housekeeping class," answered the minister's wife; "and
it meets in the church."
"The church?" I exclaimed. "So the 'leading spirits' have agreed to
having it used for 'settlement' work! How did you win them over?"
"We didn't," she replied; "they won themselves over,--or rather the