« EelmineJätka »
with a heap of stones. The baby died two days after, which was a relief; but it seemed too awful lonesome to leave it by itself in the midst of the desert, so they carried it back and laid it with its mother. This was a mighty satisfaction, but it was heavy loss of time, and provisions were getting down near to starvation point. The man and his three boys still trudged on, by turns giving the little sister a lift over the rough places, and always reserving her the biggest share of the provisions. But, in spite of their pluck, the boys dropped one after another, 'and only she and I have stuck it out.' So saying, the stranger wiped his moistening eyes with his coat sleeve, composed his troubled countenance, and took the proffered seat beside his little girl at the supper table.
"A sudden and curious change appeared in the manners and temper of our party. From the hour that our new guests were established among us, gold ceased to be the leading topic of conversation, and its value depreciated to an extent that might have puzzled and alarmed the most able financier in Wall Street. The men worked languidly, gave up prospecting, hurried home earlier to their meals, and lingered longer about the camp, apparently for the sole purpose of being near the little girl, holding her on their knees, caressing and talking to her—a privilege which was as eagerly claimed and jealously divided as had been heretoi the glittering dust of the Cards were forgotten, ) were suppressed, and we talked pleasantly and dreamily together of our distant homes, mothers, wives, sweethearts, and friends in the old States. Wild Indian whoops and ribald songs no longer roused the harsh echoes of the rocky canon, and we searched our memories for all the scraps of sacred or sentimental music that might have survived our long exile from the land of church bells and Sunday-schools. It was even suggested that we might have better luck in our diggings if we should resolve hereafter to abstain from work and give some recognition to the Sabbath; but it appeared we had lost the run of the calendar so completely that not a man of us could have guessed within four days of Sunday. The idea was abandoned reluctantly. So, during the week
this poor little sunburnt skinny suggestion of womanhood remained with us, it seemed as if an angel sojourned in our camp, rebuking our wild greediness and brutality, and filling our hearts with humanizing hopes and memories.
"At length,rested,strengthened,and comforted, the stranger prepared to resume his joumey,and although it appeared the result of that week's labor had fallen at least thirty per cent, below the usual average, we all with one voice entreated our guests to remain. But the poor man was unwilling to trespass longer on our hospitality, and bis
TUE MINSK'S PIOOIOLA.
vague hopes and plans still beckoned him onward. Then came the leave-taking, with a cheery grip for his hand, a regretful kiss for the child's cheek, and a more substantial remembrance from each rugged heart in the shape of a plump nugget or a purse of shining dust, until the joint contributions made quite a load to carry, amounting to several hundred dollars in value, without reckoning in the count the shamefaced tears that trickled down the bronzed cheeks and hid in the shaggy beards of some of our company.
"After they were gone, our commnnity sonn relapsed into its old ways, to all outward appearance; but I have reason to know that for some of the inmates of that dreary prison ' Picciola' had not bloomed in vain."
Turning from these pictures, we will now proceed to illustrate the peculiar influences (if the bifurcate garment on the soul and standing of the boy, who is father to the coming man. The trembling mother has resisted aud postponed the great event until the last possible moment, then yielding to urgencies that will no longer be denied, she submissively buttons on the little breeches, with a tear for the baby she has lost, and a prayer for the son she has gained. Now off with the golden ringlets, lest peradventure he may be mistaken for a girl in disguise. So the burly little head is clipped fighting-fashion, the metamorphose is complete, and he struts forth a man all-over—prouder than a bautain cock, pouching his cherry mouth, and striving to hide the innocence of his baby eyes under corrugated brows; scornful of dolls, sucking bottles, and all effeminate delights; spurning with his booted foot the rejected and despised petticoat: simple little soul, all unaware that what he now kicks will one day be the cynosure of all his hopes and arbiter of all his happiness. But
his thoughts don't lead in that direction now; he feels that his newly acquired dignity must hereafter be maintained by hard knocks; he is ready for the combat, and only wants a penny trumpet to blow his challenge to fate.
So bravely does the young knight bear himself that mamma begins to forget her fears, realizing the full meaning of the antique matron's boast, that she " is the mother of a man"—one who will have courage to battle for the right, strength to overcome enemies, genius to win honors, goodness to wear them nobly — the sustenance, stay, and crowning glory of her life.
Practically, young master commences his career on a somewhat lower key. The boy's regime of cold rolls, drumsticks, and gizzards ho accepts with Spartan resignation, but growls a little when told to wait for the second table on feast-days. He will sleep three in a bed, or any where he may happen to drop, and never complains unless you attempt to wake him up. He bears bumps, cut fingers, and stumped toes with more fortitude than he exhibits under tansy bitters and having his face washed on cold mornings, perhaps because he
can comprehend the necessity of the first, bnt not of the last named inflictions. With a little training, however, he learns to regard the hardships incident to his position with stoical indifference, especially after he has mixed freely with bis equals, and becomes interested in their competition for the prizes of life — cakes, apples, marbles, school medals, tournament wreaths, etc. In this part of his career he acquires the rudiments of free citizenship, learns something of war and strategy, of the value of pluck, and the occasional necessity of diplomacy in the affairs of boys as well as those of the nation. This life of novelty and adventure, of alternating successes
and defeats, soon develops another nccessity in our boy's rapidly progressing career—the necessity of sympathy.
Mammas don't usually sympathize very cordially with torn clothes, scratched and dirty faces, and marbles won at forbidden games. She don't care for the tournament wreath, and is not prepared to munch cakes and apples at all hours for simple sociability.
Johnny wants a sweetheart. Iu his first passion the boy will invariably select a valentine considerably older and taller than himself, showing thereby his boyish estimate of the value of ago and inches, with some vague notion, perhaps, that Bo mature and tall a love will help to expedite his attainment of the goal of all his present ambition—manhood. His chivalric senti
incuts are stimulated and flattered by the greatness of bis undertaking, as the sportsman rejoices in the spoils of bis guns and hooks in proportion to their weight and measurement.
The chosen one, generally verging on womanhood, and far less precocious in her fancies than her little knight, readily accepts his proffered homage — an innocent plaything, half lover and half baby, with whom she may flirt and fondle alternately—a rehearsal of the leading parts she is expected to play in the comedyof life. These early romances can not last long in the nature of things, and some morning poor Johnny is rudely awakened from his ambitious love dreams by a heavy chunk—of wedding cake,
offered as an atonement for her broken faith and a poultice for his wounded affections. He is at first incredulous, then, enraged, seizes his wooden sword and glares fiercely on the bearded rival who has stolen his love.
At length, convinced of the futility of opposition, he retires, humiliated and bewildered, eats his cake salted with tears, but never forgets the lesson; and we need not wonder when he comes of age to find him ever so shy aud mistrustful of the girls.
In a fertile soil the crops spring in uninterrupted succession; as the flowers perish, weeds occupy their places; so, in the warm succulent nature of boyhood, disappointed love is speedily sneceeded by hatred—not a mean personal Bpito, a tmculence despicably
limited, but a sentiment dignified by its depth and universality, sublimated by its controlling influence over human society. The objects of his animosity are giants, dragons, magicians, ogres, and all those mighty monstrosities that insult, oppress, and devour little folks. Jack the Giant-killer becomes his favorite hero, and his heart thrills joyfully in unison with all humanity at the triumph of littleness, feebleness, aud simplicity over tyrannical strength and subtlety. With what breathless interest he hangs upon the narrative of his young hero's valor, wit, and hair-breadth 'scapes! with what uncontrollable delight he hails the final victory, encoring the piece again and again and again, and gloating over the carcass of the fallen monster with a vindictiveness sharpened, perhaps, by a sense of personal wrong, as he remembers the burly fellow who lately robbed him of his lady-love.
In this age of science and six-shooters, when any fivepenny boot-black or saucy girl may emulate the prowess of these traditional heroes, when magicians and giants are exhibited at country fairs with the learned pigs and prize oxen, ten cents admittance, the hoy soon learns to laugh at the subjects of his childish dread or admiration; but the ineradicable sentiment directed against auother class of monsters which insult and oppress modern society continues to grow with his growth and strengthen with his strength, and at no period has the great multitude of breeches-clad Jacks waged more vindictive war against every thing that towers above the average littleness. Bloated bond-holders, giant corporations, tyrannical monopolies, gas companies, oppressive reputations, eminent rascality, and monsters of virtue, all fare alike, being weighed in the balance and found superfluous.
As a counter to this rather nnamiable propensity of human nature, we may observe that it is always accompanied and complemented by as deep-rooted and ardent a sentiment of pity for the poor, hnmble, unfortunate, and unworthy. The most savage giant-killer of boyhood will wade middle deep into a horse-pond to rescue a soreeyed kitten from drowning, and cherish the most greedy, ungrateful, flea-infested puppy in his heart of hearts. So the innate nobility of the popular heart is verified by their persistence in elevating weaklings to places of honor, and investing rogues and incompetents with the most important trusts.
Of all the attributes of childhood, the imagination is the most admirable and enviable. Potent as the wand of a fairy 01 the muttered spells of the enchanter, it can transmute the veriest dirt and dross into fairest flowers and brightest jewels with a simple effort of the will. No wealthy and cultured dame, parading her costly wares of Sevres or Dresden on high days and holidays, appreciates their artistic splendor or receives such unalloyed pleasure as does our little rustic maiden arranging her store of potsherds and broken " chanies" on a buffet of dirty boards and brickbats. No famous horse-fancier ever galloped into bankruptcy on a nobler strain of steeds than Johnny can show you in that stud of canes, broomsticks, and bean-poles which he keeps stabled in the corner of the porch, and maintains so economically on a few handfuls of grass. Indeed, it would seem that children preferred these rude and readily improvised playthings, metamorphosed at will by their uncontrolled imaginations, to the more artistic and skillfully made toys, whose nearer approach to reality limits the exercise of this ever-charming faculty.
We know of no phase in adult life where this happy faculty is so innocently exhibited as in the critical domain of high art, where profound connoisseurship affects disdain for the varied and brilliant achievements of modern skill, and turns with childish conceit to the corn-cobs, sticks, and potsherds of the prerapha'elistic schools.
A sad cynic must he be who does not feel rather disposed to envy than to sneer at the simple enjoyments of our boys or bearded dilettanti — pleasures, alas! evanescent as they are innocent. All too soon little mamma wearies of her cracked crockery, cherry lx>bs, and sham babies, and demands realities, while Johnny becomes precociously ambitious to risk his neck on a horse that grows his own mane and tail, and asks our butter-man to give him the bay colt that trots so gayly after his sober-faced "mb-e."
The cautious peddler replies, " Why, sonny, I'm afraid you're not quite big enough to break that colt if you owned him." Johnny retorts with assurance, proudly indicating the disjointed proofs of his prowess: "Don't you see I've broken two hobby-horses already, and I don't think it would take me very long to break a colt like that."
It requires a deal of faith to sustain a lively imagination in its flights, but our little people are rarely lacking in that regard. They believe in Santa Clans, and hang up their stockings on Christmas - eve, never
doubting that they will find them filled in the morning according to their wishes. But it occasionally happens that fancy has been exorbitant in its demands, and the long-expected morning brings disappointment in the quantity and character of the presents. Then we have heard Johnny pitch into Santa Clans as savagely as some grown people feel toward Providence when their prayers are not answered to their liking.
Last Christmas-eve Johnny desired a sword, a suit of armor, and a Shetland pony,