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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

100              THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

hoar-frost of the night as they would a serpent hidden in the vege-
tation. They fear rain as much as a conflagration. If nowadays,
urged on by the talk about hygiene, civilized man—that complacent
prisoner—makes a move to free himself in Nature, he does it
timidly, with the most meticulous precautions.

Sleeping in the open air exposing himself to wind and rain,
defying the sun, plunging into water, are all things about which we
may talk at length but which we do not always practise.   Who
is there who does not make haste to close a door for fear of
a draught? And how many do not close the windows before
going to sleep, especially if it is winter and it is raining? Almost
everybody believes that to take very long walks in the open country,
whether it is sun or rain, taking advantage of all natural shelter,
is a heroic effort, a hazard.   One must grow accustomed to these
things, they say; but they make no move.   How is one to get
accustomed, then? Perhaps the little children ought to get accus-
tomed; but no! They are even more sheltered than the adults.
Even the English, with their sporting bent, do not subject their
little ones to the tests given by Nature and hard work.   Even,
there, the good nurse draws them, when they are already well
grown, in their little carriages, into the shade when the weather
is good, and does not allow them to run about and do as they
choose.   No! Sport, where it is born, is born as a veritable battle
between the most robust and the boldest youths, those very indi-
viduals who are called to arms to fight the enemy.

It would be premature to say: " Set the children free, let them
have fair play, let them run out when it is raining, take off their
shoes when they find pools of water, and when the grass of the
meadows is damp with dew let them run about with bare feet and
trample on it; let them rest quietly when the tree invites them to
sleep in its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes,
them up in the morning, as it wakes up every other living, creatures-
which divides its day between waking and sleeping/' Instead of
that, we ask ourselves anxiously how we can make the children
sleep after daybreak, and how we can train them not to take off