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On Children And Dogs
by [?]

There are no children, now-a-days; they are mimic men and women. They dine late, they stay up until the small hours, and are altogether as objectionable a faction as can be. They respect their father and mother not a whit. It was only two or three days ago I heard a child of five allude to her father as “the fat old governor,” and simply get laughed at for her remark, no one joining more heartily than the said parent himself. Of course, with such applause, the child repeats it again and again.

They have such dreadfully sharp eyes, too, these children. Not a defect escapes their notice. You tremble to hear what will come out next. They ask Mr. Jones what makes his nose so red. They want to know why Mrs. Smith puts flour on her face. In spite of a thick veil, they discover at once that Miss. Blank has a moustache, and inquire of her with interest if she is a man!

There are some nice children, of course–there are exceptions to every rule–and if they are pretty I cannot help admiring them. It is fortunate that I have never had anything to do with children. If I were a governess I should be so dreadfully unjust, I should always favor the pretty ones. I love beauty in any form. There are girls I could sit and look at all day, if they would let me. Only they are most of them so self-conscious; they expect to be admired, and when I see girls laying themselves out for admiration, however beautiful they may be, however strong my inclination to gaze, I will not gratify their vanity. For it is certainly true, that though we prefer the praise of men, we do not disdain any like offering from our own sex.

That is the best of very young children. They do not notice you, they are not yet awake to the power of their charms, so that you are able to look your full. I say “very” young, because it is a knowledge that comes to them only too soon, and a little of this knowledge is, at any rate, “a dangerous thing.”

Children sometimes set you thinking more than any philosopher who ever existed. Their ideas are so fresh, so unsophisticated, so original. The atmosphere of the great unknown still seems to cling to their souls. They are not yet tainted with the world’s impure air. They ask you questions impossible to answer, but which you are obliged to parry in an underhand manner, so as not to expose your ignorance. They solve problems and reach conclusions after a way of their own, which, at any rate, have plenty of reason about them. I remember being very much struck by a little boy’s idea once when his mother was remarking on the strange appearance of a man who, while his whiskers were black as ebony, possessed hair of a snowy white. “But why, mother, should it seem funny?” broke in the child. “Aren’t his whiskers twenty years younger than his hair?”

Dogs certainly cannot talk or say quaint things, but they can do nearly everything else. At any rate they can understand you and distinguish between the words, as the following instance proves.

We have family prayers at home, and have had them ever since we were quite little things. What an ordeal they used to be too! We used to be watched so strictly, and the moment our eyes wavered from our books, attention would at once be drawn to the culprits and cover them with confusion. Woe be to him, too, who forgot to turn over the leaf of his book with the rest! It is such an unkind thing to do to print all the books alike. If you forget and turn over later, you are at once detected. Being sharp children, however, we used to make this our first care, so that whatever we were doing–laughing, pinching, winking, our pages all went over together, so we sounded attentive.