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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/475

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ery; but freedom from restraint is a still more essential element of mirth. Even in the despotic countries of the Old World the representative of the Government attends the public fêtes in disguise, and, if the schoolmaster wants to watch the recess-sports of his pupils, let him do so unobserved; if you can trust your children at all, trust them not to abuse the freedom of their recreations, or else conduct your surveillance as unobtrusively as possible. Children detest ceremonies; in our etiquette-ridden towns too many boys are aliens under their fathers' roof; give them one hour in the day and one corner in the house where they are really at home, where they can feel that the permission to enjoy themselves is granted as a right rather than as a concession to the foibles of youth. If I had to board my children in an old hull, like Anderson's sea-shell peddler, I would let them store their toy-shells in the caboose, and keep it sacred from the intrusion of the forecastle folk, to let my little ones know that the believers in the divinity of joy, though in a sad minority in this pessimistic world, have rights and perquisites which I mean to maintain against all comers.

It does not cost much to make the little folks happy; time, and permission to use it, is all the most of them ask; but make them sure that the pursuit of happiness is not a contraband affair, but a legitimate and praiseworthy business. Nor can it do any harm to let* them accumulate a little stock in trade—marbles, tops, dolls, and magic lanterns, and, if possible, a few pets; in winter-time, and for the bigger boys, a private menagerie of squirrels and gophers is a better aid to domestic habits than a hundred interviews with the home-missionary. Connive at a snowball-fight or a torn hat; and be sure that a pair of skates, fishing-tackle, and a base-ball outfit are a better investment than a medicine-chest. Make your children happy; all Nature proclaims the plan of a benevolent Creator; let them feel that their life is in harmony with that plan—that existence has a positive value, an attraction that would remain, though the fear of death were removed.

And, above all, let no cloud of superstition darken the sunshine of your Sundays; and, in countries where the knell of the church-bells drives your children from the play-grounds of the city, take them out to the woods and mountains, and let them worship the Creator in his grandest temple; teach them to love his day by making it the happiest day in the week. Or, disregard the bells and brave the consequences: till we can repeal the sabbath laws, let us defy them in every way and at any risk; in dealing with the despotism of the mythology-mongers, legal obligations are out of the question; the right of Nature enters the lists against the right of brutal force leagued with imposture.