THE CONSOLATIONS OF CHILDREN.
WHEN her Majesty entertained the soldiers' children at Windsor, there were doubters who hinted that even a party given by a Queen could hardly console them when their brave fathers were gone to the wars. But her Majesty knows her people, from the oldest to the youngest, better than any one. She knew children and their con- solations, and that no child refuses to be made rationally happy, even when " grown-ups " will not be comforted. The result justified this happy conviction, and when the treat ended with presents of toy trumpets from the Christmas Tree there were none so sad as not to blow them, and frankly to pay a tribute to the consolations provided for the sons of the soldiers of the Queen.
Children who show the quickest and brightest sympathy with the sorrows of other children often behave like little stoics when they have disappointments of their own to contend with, not because they are without sensibility, but because they have heaven's own good sense, and do not make matters worse when they can help it. They can console themselves without help, and give their reasons for what they do with simplicity beyond any self-conscious philosopher. One nice little girl, whose father was ill and her mother away in attendance, spent much o: her time sitting in a swing. She did not swing mach, because there were not many people to swing her. Bat she said that it "made her feel more joyful" to be there. And thus, the mar- ginal note will add, she made use of the consolation of association. When children are ill themselves, unless they are really and painfully ill, they have various standard resources. Sometimes a not bad illness is looked back upon as an agree- able and exciting reminiscence, and they associate with these abnormal conditions certain practical alleviations, which are expected to form part of the treatment of any subsequent indisposition. When they have colds they demand "high baths," in which the water is delightfully warm and deep. Only they never call them "deep," but always "high baths," because "deep" water is associated with danger, and " high " water only with luxury, unlimited time in the bath, and a sense of importance and consideration. Being ill also means a complete set of new toys, and the purchase of particular toys which they had always wished for but never possessed. and long days in which to play with them. There are children to whom even scarlatina of a mild type has almost taken the form of a visit to another and not undesirable world. While isolated from the life of every day, they have become for a brief time possessors of untold wealth of playthings, all of which vanished on the day they were reported "safe," because when the children got well all the toys were pronounced infected and were burnt,—a sacrifice to Esculapius.
The list of specific ilk which children are nominally called upon to confront, and to meet which they summon the aid of their innate philosophy, are wet days, going to the dentist's, not going to parties to meet their friends—among the bumbler children this is known as "missing treats "—the deaths of pets, broken toys, journeya, and being photographed. In all these little girls are usually more resourceful than boys, but the resources are in nearly all cases their own, or of their own suggestion. Wet days, pure and simple, which do not interfere with plans, are generally made bearable by discovering " work " to do. Of the many useful occupations whieh they prefer, perhaps the most appreciated is that of "tidying drawers." In most large households there are chests of drawers in which at least one compartment contains things which are "put away," either because they will be useful some day—such as bits of silk or cord or lace, or pin-cushions, or gift- books.or photographs-- or because they are too pretty to be left about, or because they are valuable. To take all these out, to inspect them, to ask for the bits sl silk, the gold braid, and all the textile treasures for their dolls, ana to hear the history
of the "articles of vertu," is a highly valued teathetio treat. We have known little boys who found a counterpart to this in being allowed to inspect the contents of the plate chest, and to take out the silver epergnes and lamps and decanter stands from their tissue paper and their delightful beds in the green cloth trays. Making toffy, which is an art only under- stood in the nursery, is perhaps only for older children. But "making" anything is always a consolation. It offers a contrast to "breaking," which is not a real consolation, because it is a self-indulgence and brings remorse behind it. Perhaps the oldest, most satisfying, and completely consoling form of making things is making ornaments of beautiful beads. They are lovely, various, and easy to thread. At the present time it is also patriotic and helps the soldiers of the Queen, for the following reasons which have already been ascertained by numbers of children. Some one who knew the country suggested in the papers that at the front dust storms are frequent, and flies far too numerous, and that these get into all the glasses as soon as they are filled. To cope with this it was recommended that small muslin covers should be made, fringed with heavy beads, so that they would keep their places on the glass, and keep the dust out of Tommy's drinks. Nothing could be more delightful to manufacture, and this has already become one of the valued resources of the nursery on wet days.
For going to the dentist's the standing consolation is to be taken to the "Zoo"; children's dentists might take the hint, and establish themselves near to the Gardens. For the ennui of journeys there are few remedies indeed, though the penny-in-the-slot machines, carefully husbanded, so that they can get weighed at one station, buy chocolate at another, and a "various sweet" at a third, have mitigated to some extent their reluctance to accept any consolation against what Sir John Oglander calls the " trooblee of traveyle."
As against broken toys and parties to which they cannot go, when the first pang is over they can always suggest a compensation themselves. For the toy a new one of quite a different kind ; and instead of the party they were to have gone to, to be allowed to give one themselves ! They are deep in plans at once as to how this shall be made a success. Poor children, who "miss a treat," cannot give parties. So the usual form of condolence for the little ones is a penny "to spend." They go off at once, and buy a farthing's- worth of sweets, keeping the three farthings for gradual dis- bursements, and the temporary enjoyment of a sense of property. For going to be photographed in cold blood no adequate consolation has yet been discovered.
Kind people often pity the lot of the children of the street, the diminutive and patient population which spends its days outside the houses of the poor. The streets are not, strictly speaking, the home of their leisure hours, but the alleys fringed with poor tenements, short cuts through which well- dressed men of business hurry to their offices. When their homes are near good old squares and streets, little family parties wander roand to play quietly upon the steps and under the porticos of the unoccupied houses. They have won for themselves the name of "step children," and are regarded with a kindly eye. These street children and "step children" have no toys, except such chance finds as they can convert into playthings. No toys, no dolls, no rocking- horses, often no furniture to play with indoors, and to make into forts or houses or ships. They have no paint-boxes, no picture-books, no pretty clothes, no consolations of the material kind. They would like all these things, and know that they have not got them ; yet they are serenely and wonderfully happy, infinitely gentle and patient, and not only amuse themselves, but all the smaller fry, through the long hours of the day. Their consolations are largely those of society and the contemplation of events, which they perfectly understand. They never want for playmates ; all the elder ones have authority and responsibility, that of ordering about and looking after the younger children. They some- times exchange families, or babies, for the day, and compare their experiences. Above all, they know how everything that goes on in the street ought to be done, and though mere spectators, share the triumphs of success and criticise failure. Let a big waggon stick in the slippery road at the base of a bill, and the children will gather and watch the striving horses, the sparks which flash from steel and stone beneath their feet, and the straw flung down on the granite to "give a hold." Then the wheels move, the horses strain and bound forward, the waggon rolls on, the street-organ strikes up a solemn march, and the children clasp each other and turn round in a solemn dance and celebration. These children of the city share some of the consolations of the aged. They are curiously detached, and rely little on the good offices of others, though grateful for the kindness which they do not expect. They know the world by instinct, without being cynics, and find consolation in any evidence that their own world is not unkind.