no THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
The fatalistic form of exculpation meets us later on under the familiar form, " God made me like that/' A boy of three was blamed for leaving his crusts, and his conduct contrasted with that of his model papa. Whereupon he observed with a touch of metaphysical precocity, " Yes, but papa you see God had made you and me different."
These denials of authorship occur when a charge is brought home and no clear justification of the action is forthcoming. In many cases the shrewd intelligence of the child, which is never so acute as in this art of moral self-defense, discovers justificatory reasons. In such a case the attitude is a very different one. It is no longer the helpless hand-lifted attitude of the irresponsible one, but the bold, steady-eyed attitude of one who is prepared to defend his action.
Sometimes these justifications are pitiful examples of quib- bling. A boy has been rough with his baby brother. His mother chides him, telling him he might hurt baby. He then asks his mother, " Isn't he my own brother ?" and on his mother admitting so incontestable a proposition, exclaims triumphantly, " Well, you said I could do what I liked with 7ny own things." The idea of the precious baby being a boy's own to do what he likes with is so remote from older people's conceptions that it is hard for us to credit the boy with misunderstanding. We ought, perhaps, to set him down as a depraved little sophist, and destined But pre- dictions happily lie outside our metier.
In some cases these justifications have a dreadful look of being after-thoughts invented for the express purpose of self-protection and knowingly put forward as fibs. Yet there is need of a wise discrimination here. Take, for example, the following from the Worcester Collection : A boy of three was told by his mother to stay and mind his baby sister while she went downstairs. On going up again some time after, she met him on the stairs. Being asked why he had left the baby, he said there was a bumblebee in the room, and he was afraid he would get stung if he stayed there. His mother asked him if he wasn't afraid his little sister would get stung. He said " Yes," but added that if he stayed in the room the bee might sting them both, and then she would have two to take care of. Now, with every wish to be charitable I can not bring myself to think that this small boy had really gone through that subtle process of disinterested calculation before vacating the room in favor of the bumblebee if indeed there was a bumblebee. To be caught in the act and questioned is, I sus- pect, a situation particularly productive of such specious fibbing.
One other illustration of this keen childish dialectic when face to face with the accuser deserves to be touched on. The sharp little wits have something of a lawyer's quickness in detecting a