Quizzle broke in at the first opportunity and said, “No doubt, governor, it is easy for you to be placid, for everything has gone well with you since you started life, whereas my mother died when I was little, and I was kicked and cuffed about by a step-mother whose name I cannot bear to hear.”
Ha! ha! said Governor Wiseman. It is the old story of step-mothers. I don’t believe they are any worse than other people, taking the average. I have often wondered why it is that the novels and romances always make the step-mother turn out so very badly. She always dresses too much and bangs the children. The authors, if writing out of their own experience, must have had a very hard time.
In society it has become a proverb: “Cruel as a step-mother.” I am disposed, however, to think that, while there may be marked exceptions, step-mothers are the most self-sacrificing beings in all the world. They come into the family scrutinized by the household and the relatives of the one who used to occupy the motherly position. Neighborly busybodies meet the children on the street and sigh over them and ask them how their new mother treats them. The wardrobe of the youngsters comes under the severe inspection of outsiders.
The child, haying been taught that the lady of the household is “nothing but a step-mother,” screams at the least chastisement, knowing that the neighbors’ window is up and this will be a good way of making publication. That is called cruelty which is only a most reasonable, moderate and Christian spanking. What a job she has in navigating a whole nursery of somebody else’s children through mumps, measles, whooping-cough and chicken-pox! One of the things that I rejoice over in life is that it is impossible that I ever become a step-mother. In many cases she has the largest possible toil for the least reward.
Blessed be the Lord who setteth the solitary in families that there are glorious exceptions! The new mother comes to the new home, and the children gather the first day around her as the natural protector. They never know the difference between the first and second mother. They seem like two verses of the same hymn, two days of the summer, two strokes of the same bell, two blessings from the same God.
She is watchful all night long over the sick little one, bathing the brow and banishing the scare of the feverish dream. After a while those children will rise up to do her honor; and when her work is done, she will go up to get the large reward that awaits a faithful, great-hearted Christian step-mother in the land where the neighbors all mind their own business.
A layer of waffles.
Several months had passed along since we had enjoyed the society of Governor Wiseman, Doctor Heavyasbricks and Fred Quizzle. At our especial call they had come again.