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The Children’s Joke
by [?]

‘”You can’t do this” and “you mustn’t do that,” from morning to night. Try it yourself and see how you’d like it,’ muttered Harry, as he flung down his hat in sulky obedience to his father’s command to give up a swim in the river and keep himself cool with a book that warm summer evening.

‘Of course I should like to mind my parents. Good children always do,’ began Mr. Fairbairn, entirely forgetting the pranks of his boyhood, as people are apt to.

‘Glad I didn’t know you then. Must have been a regular prig,’ growled Harry under his breath.

‘Silence, sir! go to your room, and don’t let me see you till tea-time. You must be taught respect as well as obedience,’ and Mr. Fairbairn gave the table a rap that caused his son to retire precipitately.

On the stairs he met his sister Kitty looking as cross as himself.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ he asked, pausing a minute, for misery loves company.

‘Mamma will make me dress up in a stiff clean frock, and have my hair curled over again just because some one may come. I want to play in the garden, and I can’t all fussed up this way. I do hate company and clothes and manners, don’t you?’ answered Kitty, with a spiteful pull at her sash.

‘I hate being ordered round everlastingly, and badgered from morning till night. I’d just like to be let alone,’ and Harry went on his way to captivity with a grim shake of the head and a very strong desire to run away from home altogether.

‘So would I, mamma is so fussy. I never have any peace of my life,’ sighed Kitty, feeling that her lot was a hard one.

The martyr in brown linen went up, and the other martyr in white cambric went down, both looking as they felt, rebellious and unhappy. Yet a stranger seeing them and their home would have thought they had everything heart could desire. All the comforts that money could buy, and all the beauty that taste could give seemed gathered round them. Papa and mamma loved the two little people dearly, and no real care or sorrow came to trouble the lives that would have been all sunshine but for one thing. With the best intentions in the world, Mr. and Mrs. Fairbairn were spoiling their children by constant fault-finding, too many rules and too little sympathy with the active young souls and bodies under their care. As Harry said, they were ordered about, corrected and fussed over from morning till night, and were getting so tired of it that the most desperate ideas began to enter their heads.

Now, in the house was a quiet old maiden aunt, who saw the mischief brewing, and tried to cure it by suggesting more liberty and less ‘nagging,’ as the boys call it. But Mr. and Mrs. F. always silenced her by saying,–

‘My dear Betsey, you never had a family, so how can you know anything about the proper management of children?’

They quite forgot that sister Betsey had brought up a flock of motherless brothers and sisters, and done it wisely and well, though she never got any thanks or praise for it, and never expected any for doing her duty faithfully. If it had not been for aunty, Harry and Kitty would have long ago carried out their favorite plan, and have run away together, like Roland and Maybird. She kept them from this foolish prank by all sorts of unsuspected means, and was their refuge in troublous times. For all her quiet ways, aunty was full of fun as well as sympathy and patience, and she smoothed the thorny road to virtue with the innocent and kindly little arts that make some people as useful and beloved as good fairy godmothers were once upon a time.

As they sat at tea that evening papa and mamma were most affable and lively; but the children’s spirits were depressed by a long day of restraint, and they sat like well-bred mutes, languidly eating their supper.