A Child's Puzzle by Unknown

[Illustration]

Meg had been playing in the garden all the morning, and when mama called her in she had earth on her hands, and smuts on her face, and she looked such a grubby little thing.

Mama smiled. "You have been having a good time, Meg," she said.

And she put a tin bason with some soap and warm water in it on a chair where Meg could reach.

"Now, then, wash your hands and face, dear. Dada will soon be in for dinner."

But Meg pouted. "I don't want to wash," she said. "I am not dirty."

Mama waited a little, but when she saw that Meg did not begin to wash, she said, quite gravely:

"You cannot sit at the table, as you are, dear. If you do not wash, then you must go without your dinner."

Meg stood a minute, then, as she saw that mama was quite firm, she put her hands into the water and began to wash and scrub them.

Lucy is older than Meg, and she had looked on all the time to see what Meg would do. When Lucy saw her begin to wash and be good, she said:—

"Why is it, mama, that you and dada can do just as you like about everything, but we children have to do as you tell us all the time? I don't think it is fair. I wish we could do as we like, too."

Mania did not speak for a moment. In her heart she said, "Lord help me to make this plain to my little girls."

"Did Meg have to wash?" she asked them.

"Yes," said Lucy. "If not, she would have to—"

"Bear the punishment," said mama. "You say, Lucy, that dada and I do just what we choose, and that is quite true. But if we choose to do wrong, then we have to be punished too, and the punishment is far worse than any that dada or I can give you, for it comes from God.

"Little children do not always know right from wrong, so in order to help them and make right easy, God gives them parents and teachers to praise them when they are good"—and here mama laid her hand on Meg's head—"or else to punish them when they are naughty.

"My two little girls may do just as they choose, as long as they choose to do what is right, and then when they are big and there is no mama to tell them all the time what to do, I hope they will do right of themselves."