That this is against the wishes and the theories of many excellent people has nothing to do with its truth. If all children were the bluff, hearty, charmingly naughty, enviably happy, utterly simple and unsentimental beings that some of us wish, and so assert them to be, it might be better for them, or it might not—who can say? That the healthy, careless, rough and ready type is the one to encourage, many will agree, who cannot agree that it is universal, or even much the most common. It is probably from an imperfect remembrance of their nursery lives that some people believe that the griefs of one’s childhood are light, its joys uncomplicated, and its tastes simple. A clearer recollection of the favorite poetry and the most cherished day-dreams of very early years would probably convince them that the strongest taste for tragedy comes before one’s teens, and inclines to the melodramatic; that sentimentality (of some kind) is grateful to the verge of mawkishness; and that simple tastes are rather a result of culture and experience than natural gifts of infancy.
But in this rummaging up of the crude tastes, the hot little opinions, the romance, the countless visions, the many affectations of nursery days, there will be recalled also a very real love of nature; varying, of course, in its intensity from a mere love of fresh air and free romping, and a destructive taste for nosegays, to a living romance about the daily walks of the imaginative child,—a world apart, peopled with invisible company, such as fairies, and those fancy friends which some children devise for themselves, or with the beasts and flowers, to which love has given a personality.
To the romance child-fancy weaves for itself about the meadows where the milkmaids stand thick and pale, and those green courts where lords and ladies live, Jan added that world of pleasure open to those gifted with a keen sense of form and color. Strange gleams under a stormy sky, sunshine on some kingfisher’s plumage rising from the river, and all the ever-changing beauties about him, stirred his heart with emotions that he could not have defined.
There was much to see even from Dame Datchett’s open door, but there was more to be imagined. Jan’s envy of the pig-minder had reached a great height when the last school-day came.
He wanted to be free by the time that the pig-herd brought his pigs to water, and his wishes were fulfilled. The Dame’s flock and the flock of the swineherd burst at one and the same moment into the water-meadows, and Jan was soon in conversation with the latter.
“Thee likes pig-minding, I reckon?” said Jan, stripping the leaves from a sallywithy wand, which he had picked to imitate that of the swineherd.
“Do I?” said the large-coated urchin, wiping his face with the big sleeve of his blue coat. “That’s aal thee knows about un. I be going to leave to-morrow, I be. And if so be Master Salter’s got another bwoy, or if so be he’s not, I dunno, it ain’t nothin’ to I.”