Some weeks afterward she was spending an afternoon with Mrs. Noland. Her favourite topic was the management of children, and she introduced it as usual, inveighing as was her wont against the cruelty of punishing children–especially in cold blood, as she called it. For her part, she never punished except in extreme cases, and not then, unless provoked to do so. Unless she felt angry, and punished on the spur of the moment, she could not do it at all. During the conversation, which was led pretty much by Mrs. Stanley, a child, about the age of Charley, came into the parlour. He walked up to his mother and whispered some request in her ear.
“Oh no, Master Harry!” was the smiling, but decided reply.
The child lingered with a look of disappointment. At length he came up, and kissing his mother, asked again, in a sweet, earnest way, for what he had been at first denied.
“After I said no!” And Mrs. Noland looked gravely into his face.
Tears came into Henry’s eyes. But he said no more. In a moment or two he silently left the room.
“Mrs. Noland! How could you resist that dear little fellow? I declare it was right down cruel in you.”
The eyes of Mrs. Stanley glistened as she spoke.
“It would have been far more cruel to him if I had yielded, after once having said ‘no’–far more cruel had I given him what I knew would have injured him.”
“But, I don’t see how you could refuse so dear a child, when he asked you in such a sweet, affectionate manner. I should have given him any thing in the world he had asked for.”
“That’s not my way. I say ‘no’ only when I have good reason, and then I never change.”
Henry appeared at the parlour door again.
“Come in, dear,” said Mrs. Noland.
The child came quickly forward, put up his mouth to kiss her, and then nestled closely by his mother’s side. The conversation continued, without the slightest interruption from him.
“Dear little fellow,” said Mrs. Stanley, once or twice, looking into the child’s face, and smoothing his hair with her hand.
When the tea bell rung, the family assembled in the dining-room. A visiter made it necessary that one of the children should wait. Henry was by the table as usual.
“Harry, dear,” said his mother, “you will have to wait and come with Ellen.”
The child felt very much disappointed. He looked up into his mother’s face for a moment, and then, without a word, went out of the room.
“Poor little fellow! It is really a pity to make him wait; and he is so good,” said Mrs. Stanley. “I am sure we can make room for him. Do call him back, and let him sit by me.”
And she moved close to one of the older children as she spoke. “Here is plenty of room.”
Mrs. Noland thought for a moment, and then told the waiter to call Henry back. The child came in as quietly as he had gone out, and came up to his mother’s side.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Noland, “this good lady here has made room for you by her side. You can go and sit by her.”
The child’s face brightened. He went quickly and took the offered seat. By the time tea was over, Henry had fallen asleep in his chair. Mrs. Noland, when all arose from the table, took Henry in her arms, and went with him, accompanied by Mrs. Stanley, to her chamber, where she undressed him, and kissing fondly his bright young cheek, laid him in his little bed.
Mrs. Stanley stood for some moments over the sleeping child, and looked down upon his calm face. As she did so, she remembered her own little Charley, and under what different circumstances and feelings he had been put to bed on the evening of Mrs. Noland’s visit to her.
Whether the contrast did her any good, we have no means of knowing. We trust the lesson was not without its good effect upon her.