Monday, 20 February 2017

25 June 1881 - 'Seasonable Dress and How to Make It'

This month we learn that the Little Black Dress was as integral a part of a woman's wardrobe a century ago as it was today. 

Last month we mentioned the pretty old-fashioned ginghams had returned to fashion under the name of "Zephirs," and that they fully retained their former qualities of excellent wear and washing. Since then we have seen some charming dressed of pink, both plain, striped, and checked, which we must mention in the first instance. We always think how pleasant it is to be young, and to be able to wear a pink dress; they seem so becoming and suitable to the brightness of the fresh springtime of youth, that one feels glad when they are in fashion; and we like to clothe our human flowers with some of the lovely hues that our Maker uses for His "flowers of the field." Flowers and young girls should ever resemble innocence, purity and beauty.

These pretty dresses should be simply made. Both last month and this we have given suitable sketches for them – and the gatherings at the neck, sleeves, and front form a very pretty style. Nottingham lace is a good trimming for them, or Swiss embroidery; but they are quite as often made up with plaitings of the same, or bias bands turned up as a border, and sewn down on the outside with the sewing-machine. The bodices are made full, and gathered at the waist and neck, like the small figure in the June number.

The present seems to be an excellent time for purchasing black silks at moderate prices, and as a good black silk is unquestionably one of the best and most serviceable of dresses that any woman or girl can have, much care should be exercised in its selections. As far as we can see, about 5s per yard should purchase silk of good quality and wear, and there are several of the very best London drapers who both sell and recommend black silks at this price. We advise, when it is possible, that everyone who requires one should go to some well-known shop, and be guided by the advice there given in choosing. Very thick, ribbed, heavy silks should be avoided, and one of lighter texture be selected, as bright-looking on the surface as can be found. An old lady of our acquaintance used to choose black silk by holding it up to the light. If it looked of a greenish hue the silk was a good one, and she knew it would wear well. Another friend of ours takes up a fold of the silk between her finger and thumb, and, pressing it, makes a crease. If the crease should come out easily the silk is a good one; but if it remain, or should make a whitish mark, beware of purchasing it. We have ourselves found, however, that at a good draper's they will usually recommend a good article. Of course we make up our black and other silk dresses just now under great advantages, false or foundation skirts being used, generally made of alpaca, on which the silk may be suitable mounted as trimmings, kiltings, scarves and draperies; so we save the silk to the extent of four or five yards. Ten or twelve yards are nor generally sold for an ordinary short costume, so if we manage to make it at home, it will be seen that a black silk gown is within the reach of a very modest purse.

From an American source we glean a very clever and economical idea – i.e., that of having several plastrons or fronts to our "one black silk," which completely change its appearance, and give us walking, dinner, and evening dresses in one gown. The dress must, of course, be made en princesse in front, or the plastrons cannot be buttoned on. It forms the front of the bodice, and the apron or front breadth of the skirt, and is edged with button-holes if the buttons be on the dress, or hooks and eyes if preferred. One plastron may be of black velvet, edged with lace, or plain; high in the neck, and finished by a black lace frill. Another, for evening wear, might be of red, old gold, or violet satin, covered or trimmed with black or white lace, opening square or heart-shaped at the neck. A third might be of puffings or gathers, in damasse silk, brocade, or satin, to make it into a simple yet stylish walking-dress. A cuff or trimming  for the sleeves may also be arranged to match each plastron, such as a pair of long velvet cuffs to button on over the sleeves, with the black velvet one; or a pair of puffed sleeves to be sewn in with the coloured evening dress. The buttons may be of jet, and if they to be attached to the bodice and skirt they will do for every plastron.

Amongst the great boons to our clever readers, who are able to help themselves in trimming and altering dress, the fashionable Madras muslin must be named, a material which can be made useful in so many ways and over so many styles of dresses. The last time we saw an old black silk "done up," Madras muslin was the material used, and several of the pretty self-coloured sateens f last year have been remodelled this season with the aid of a few yards of this moderately-priced stuff. For an old half-worn coloured silk it is the very thing, and with a scarf tunic and draperies, gathered and puffed sleeves, and front, it becomes quite a new dress.

The fashion of coat bodices of different materials is a very useful and convenient one. They are made of velvet, velveteen, velvet broche, striped and chessboard velvet and satin. These last are all cheap now, as they are gone out of fashion, and the present stock is all reduced. Steel or silver buttons, or jet ones, are pretty, and no other trimming is requisite with them. We have recently seen some young ladies in the park in coat-bodices of red, or dull crimson cloth, with tiny gold buttons. These are worn with black silk, satin velveteen, or well-trimmed cashmere skirts. Also with cream-coloured and any fancy sateens which have red in the pattern. Perhaps this idea may be considered a happy one for a tennis club uniform, or a dress for the frequent lawn-tennis garden meetings, which constitute the chief amusement of the summer.

The Alsatian bows seem very great favourites with young girls, as well as older ones; and we have seen several very pretty turn-down hats decorated with one of these graceful bows on the top of the crown. They also form the great ornament of the favourite "Granny" and "Under the window" bonnets, which seem to be worn everywhere excepting in London.

Our illustration gives a lively party of girls enjoying themselves in a shrubbery. The dresses are all useful and pretty summer ones, which nearly any girl could arrange for herself. The figure standing by the table, with her hand upon it, wears a gingham, or zephyr costume, of pale blue, the trimmings being of Swiss embroidery. The bodice is gathered in front at the waist and on the shoulders; the sleeves are in rows of fine puffs all the way down; the over-skirt consists of two pointed shawl-shaped corners.

The second figure is made of cashmere and satin, the polonaise being of cashmere and the skirt of the same, trimmed with longitudinal plaitings of satin. The cape is of closely gathered satin, and is edged with a beaded fringe. The hat is a very small straw one with undulating wavy edges, and a spray of fern leaves, roses, and black velvet at the back.

The third figure wears a Mother Hubbard cloak of cashmere to match her dress, while the dress of number four is a brown beige, made up with a plaided or "shepherdess checked" beige of a darker colour. The hat is of white straw, trimmed with brown velvet, and brown ostrich tips shaded to yellow.

The young lady who holds a branch, and faces the reader, is the wearer of one of the pretty old-fashioned gowns which have been revived from the fashions of our grandmothers. Any light-washing material may be chosen for it. Each of the four flounces are headed by a puffing of the same, with a very small amount of fullness. The bodice is full, and has a band on the waist, while the pretty fichu is crossed over it, which fastens at the back. The small leather satchel which hangs at the side represents one of the newest and most fashionable shapes in which they are worn.  It is made of yellow leather, and has a leathern girdle, to hang round the waist.

In the second illustration, we find an old lady and a very little girl; both are intended as suggestions; for, in spite of ours being a girls' paper, there is no doubt but that our readers include many who are no longer girls, and a considerable number of mammas who are glad of a small bit of advice. The cloak of the elderly lady is of silk or cashmere, and that of the little girl a "Mother Hubbard" of grey beige, with trimming of blue. However foolish-looking we may think them as garments, there is no doubt that little girls do wear them, and look very well in them too, but they are only suited to the promenade and the park, and for very best Sunday habiliments.

The illustration given of a cloak is one suitable to any age, and which is worn by quite young girls. They sometimes match the dress material, or are of black cashmere and satin, or of satin only. A thin material like grenadine will probably be used as the summer advances, if it should prove pleasant and warm.

The shaded or ombre satins, and aerophane crapes are much used  for the tops of toque hats, and they are very pretty indeed, as well as becoming. The gathered edges of the hats are made of black velvet.

Monday, 13 February 2017

25 June 1881 - 'The Difficulties of a Young Housekeeper and How She Overcame Them' by Dora Hope - Chapter Eight

"So your friend is to arrive to-day, is she, Madge?" said Mr Colville, one morning in June, as they sat at breakfast. "Miss – Miss Dolabella – let me see, what is her name?"

"Dorothy, papa; Dorothy Snow."

"Sweet thing in names, certainly," remarked Tom. "I say, Madge, what is she like?"

"Well, I have not seen her for more than two years, as, being my senior, she left school before I did, and we have never met since. But I used to admire her immensely; she was very tall and very dark and handsome, and I thought her very clever, but then I think schoolgirls always exaggerate the good qualities of their friends."

"H'm, glad she's nice-looking," said Tom, complacently, with a glance at the pier-glass, as he fingered his collar and tie delicately with his finger tips, to make sure they were arranged as they should be. Tom was at that age when, though exceedingly boyish in many ways, he still felt himself very much grown up and manly. He began to feel an interest in the cut of his coat, and displayed even anxiety about the shape of his hats.

"Oh, my dear boy, she will very soon crush you if you evince admiration, I'm quite sure," said Margaret, laughing. "Do is so splendidly strong and tall, she could pick you up in her finger and thumb, almost."

"May we call her Do, too, Madge?" asked Dick.

"No; of course, you must say Miss Snow, unless she tells you you need not. She used to be so teased about her name at school, they always used to call her Do Snow, but I beg you won't do that."

The meeting between the friends was hearty and warm, for though a correspondence had been kept up they had not seen one another since the old days at school, and there would be large arrears of talk to make up during Dorothy's fortnight visit.

Margaret knew quite well that her friend's home was a more luxurious one than her own. With plenty of servants, it was not likely that she would take any part in household matters herself, and Margaret could not help wondering what she would think of the innumerable duties which devolved upon the mistress of the Colville household.

The morning after Dorothy's arrival, Margaret, with some little hesitation, asked if she would excuse her for half an hour, and having no idea of attempting to hide anything of the sort, explained that she usually made the pastry herself instead of trusting it to a not very efficient maid.

To her surprise, Dorothy begged to be allowed to come and help, or at any rate look on, for her mother had lately taken up the idea of her learning all about cooking and cleaning, and so, having been "learning hard" lately, she would be delighted to continue her education.

Of course Margaret was only too pleased, and so it happened that some of their merriest times were spent by the two girls in the kitchen.

One morning, as Margaret was tying on her large apron and rolling up her sleeves preparatory to a plunge in the flour tub, Dorothy bethought her of certain items of cookery in which she considered herself proficient.

"Did you not say, Margery, the Trents are coming to supper to-night?" asked she.

"Yes, they are," replied Margaret, "I want you to see Mrs Trent, she is such a good friend to me."

"Oh, then, do let me make some delicacies for supper!" cried Dorothy. "You need not look so alarmed, I can make a select few dishes beautifully. Now, if you will consent, you shall have the loveliest jelly you ever tasted, which will cost a mere nothing. Do you happen to have any very cheap claret in the house? That as 10d a bottle will do."

"No, I fear we have not, but Betsy shall go and get a bottle; or stay, perhaps, as she is a teetotaller, she might not like the errand, so we will go ourselves as my pastry will not be required."

"But we must provide something else for supper besides. One jelly is hardly enough."

"No, hardly. Let me see, there will be cold lamb and mint sauce –"

"Will you not have a salad with mayonnaise sauce also? I feel competent for that; even mamma praises my mayonnaise sauce."

"That will do very nicely, and with a dish of gooseberry fool, I think there will be enough. We do not usually make much difference  for the Trents."

After their purchases were made the girls set to work at their cooking, Dorothy having borrowed one of Margaret's aprons and pairs of sleeves.

"Now, look here, Margery, you ought to learn how to make this jelly; it is so nice and cheap withal," said Dorothy, as she uncorked the bottle of wine. "See now, I simply put into my earthenware pot 1 oz of gelatine,  a fourpenny jar of red currant jelly, the rind and juice of one lemon, 3/4 lb loaf sugar, and the claret. They are to simmer gently till the gelatine is melted, and then boil for five minutes. That is the whole process. Now I strain it into this mould, which has been standing in cold water meanwhile, and there you are."

"That is an easily made jelly, certainly," said Margaret, admiringly; "and I must say it looks nice too."

"I should think it was nice indeed!" Dorothy exclaimed. "At home, when we want it specially good, we put in a small cupful of brandy also. And when the jelly is turned out we pour round it some cream, sweetened and flavoured with almond or anything we choose. But it is quite good enough for ordinary occasions without these expensive adjuncts."

"Now,  for the mayonnaise sauce, Do. But would it not be better to leave the making of that til nearer the time?"

"Oh, no, it will not matter; of course, we will not pour it over the salad till just before supper. You have to put the yolk of an egg into a basin, so oh dear, how difficult it is to separate the yolk and white!) also a little white pepper and salt, and a quarter teaspoonful of mustard. Then you mix them well together."

"How much salad oil shall you allow?" asked Margaret, looking on with much interest.

"I believe tastes differ about that, but I have been instructed that 1/4 pint is about right. It must not be put in all at once, you observe, but just very slowly, drop by drop, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, until about half of it is used. Next, I put in the least little drop of vinegar, Tarragon and the ordinary kind mixed, and then go on very slowly adding the remainder of the oil. There, this is turning out very well, as smooth as cream, and yet not oily-looking. Now it ought to have a teaspoonful of whipped cream added, but perhaps town milk does not yield cream?"

"Yes, it does, more or less," answered Margaret, fetching a basin from the pantry. "Betsy always puts it to stand when it comes in, and though the cream is not as thick as it might be, still we should not fancy our tea and coffee without it. Why, how clever you are, Do; and you pretended to be such an ignoramus."

"So I am; I have very nearly come to the end of my cooking capabilities already, and I know simply nothing of the management of a house. Now we must put this sauce in the very coolest place you have till it is wanted, and then, please, let me watch you make the gooseberry fool."

Margaret began by putting the green gooseberries into a jar with a little water, and a good deal of sugar.

This was set in a saucepan of boiling water, which was let boil till the fruit was soft enough to mash. After being reduced to a pulp, it was worked through a colander into a basin. Next some cold milk and cream should have been added, but as the latter was not plentiful, Margaret used a little corn flour instead. Allowing a pint of milk to the same measure of pulp, she put it on to boil, then mixed the corn flour (in the proportion of one teaspoonful to each pint of milk) in a cup of cold milk, and added it to the rest in the saucepan. After boiling, it was slowly stirred into the fruit. Margaret then tasted it, and made a wry face at the sourness.

"What, sour after all that sugar?" exclaimed Dorothy.

"Yes, it does take such a quantity," Margaret replied, as she added more, "and it is simply uneatable if you stint the sugar. Now you have seen the whole mystery of a gooseberry fool, so when I have told Betsy to be sure and put plenty of sugar to the mint sauce suppose we have a run round the garden before dinner?"

Mr Colville unexpectedly joined them at that meal. AS this was a very rare occurrence, he said he would be treated as a guest, and refused to take the head of the table, which post Margaret was anxious to vacate, declaring she would be far too nervous to carve with her father looking on.

"But you carve splendidly, Madge; I have often noticed and admired your skill," said Dorothy.

"I do better than some girls, I think, because it is not usually considered necessary for them to know how. I was determined to learn, because I have to do it so often."

"And it is certainly a very useful accomplishment," said Dorothy; "one feels so utterly stupid at having to refuse if asked."

"It is still worse to make the attempt and fail," remarked Mr Colville. "You know, Miss Snow, many people, ladies particularly, think it quite enough if they are able to cut a joint to pieces, anything beyond that they consider gluttonous Epicureanism. Of course, one undoubtedly enjoys one's dinner more if it be well cut, but the chief thing is that a joint goes twice as far, so it is most economical. And, as old Dr Kitchener says, 'A dextrous carver will help half-a-dozen people in half the time one of your would-be-thought polite folks wastes in making civil faces to a guest.'"

"What delightfully plain speaking," laughed Dorothy.

"The, every carver ought to know which is considered the best part of whatever he may be serving," continued Mr Colville, "for some people would be quite offended if, when dining out, they were not helped to, for instance, some of the thin part of salmon as well as the thick, or the fins of turbot, or if they had any other part than the wing of a fowl, the back of a hare, or the breast of turkey. However, I must defer the rest of my discourse on the merits of good carving til a more favourable opportunity, for I see it is time I were off."

The next day the two girls had betaken themselves to a pretty summer-house in the garden for a chat after dinner, when Betsy brought some letters to them which the postman had just left.

The summer-house was a rustic and, it must be added, an unsteady-looking erection. It had been built, at great pains and labour, by Tom and Dick, as a pleasant surprise for their father on his return from a recent short absence from home. They intended the family to have tea in it on the evening of Mr Colville's arrival; but Margaret thought she detected a slightly slanting tendency about the walls, and trembled  for the safety of her pretty tea-set, and likewise of their own heads. So she suggested tea on the lawn, from whence they could look at the summer-house, and, as she pointed out, see it much better than if they were inside. And a happy thing it was that her idea was carried out, for during their merry meal Dick stepped into the edifice, sand, to prove its strength, rashly shook one of the uprights with both hands. The whole affair tottered for an instant, and then entirely collapsed, burying the young architect in its ruins. The hapless youth, when extricated, was found to be unhurt (save in his mind, which was considerably wounded), and with the aid of a carpenter the summer-house once more reared its head in beauty and strength, surpassing its original state.

In fact, it could now be pronounced safe, and here it was that Margaret and Dorothy sat to read their letters that fine June day.

"Do you know, I think Betsy must have had a letter from her dear baker, she looked so beaming," said Dorothy. "I have heard from home, and mamma says she hopes I shall one day blossom forth into another such model young housekeeper as you are. But she does not seem very sanguine about it, I must confess."

"Now, Do, don't you flatter me so; pray, what have you been saying to Mrs Snow about me? I must write and tell her the truth. My letter is from Joanna, and I think I will read it out lout to you, because whether you like it or not, it will be very useful for your education. I asked a number of questions the last time I wrote, and she says, in answer to one apropos of my bill file, 'By all means keep your paid and receipted bills, all of them, excepting those for very trifling sums. Put them o file till the end of the quarter, then take them off, and having labelled and stitched them together, put them away in some safe place.

"For cool summer drinks nothing is better than different sorts of 'ades'. The nicest possible lemonade is made thus: - Remove the peel and every scrap of white, and also the pips, from three lemons, Slice them and lay them, with the peel of one, in a quart jug. Add half a pound or more of loaf-sugar, and fill the jug with boiling water. When cold, this is just as good as some of the complicated lemonades. Another pleasant drink is made by substituting  for the lemon slices of apples, peeled and cored. This does not require so much sugar and a squeeze of lemon improves it. Again, raspberry vinegar and water with lemon juice is very agreeable. All these are immensely improved by the addition of a lump of ice.

"Then you asked me, I think, about preserving –"

"Yes, I did," put in Margaret, "but I changed my mind, and am now going to be content with the fruit I bottled."

"I should like to hear about it, though, please," said Dorothy. "It may come in useful some day."

"Well, here are Joanna's sentiments on the subject: - 'Let the fruit be perfectly dry when you gather it – that is to say, no rain ought to have fallen for at least twenty-four hours previously. If it should chance to be showery weather, so that you cannot keep to this rule, boil the fruit an extra long time, or it will soon be mouldy. The fruit should be preserved as soon as possible after gathering. Use good sugar; it is economy in the end, as it requires less skimming, and hence there is less waste. As a rule, allow 1lb of sugar to one quart of fruit. Very economical people do not add the sugar till the fruit has boiled some time, and all the skimming is done; but I do not think the preserve would be thoroughly sweet, nor would it, I fancy, keep equally well. If you use a brass pan, be sure it is perfectly clean and dry; the least dirt or moisture left in it after the last time of using will have a produced verdigris, which, as doubtless you know, is deadly poison.'

"If you ever have to preserve, Do, take my advice and use an earthenware pan – then there is no danger of verdigris, and it would be much easier to clean," remarked Margaret. "But Joanna mentions the brass one because she knows we have one. Let me see – where was I? Oh, here is the place:- 'Have a good red fire – not a blazing one. Let the preserve boil as fast as possible, but be careful it does not boil over. Stir all the time with a wooden spoon, removing the scum as it rises. When it thoroughly boils, do not stir violently or you will mash the fruit, and the beauty of preserve is to keep it whole and distinct. If you leave off stirring, the fruit will stick to the bottom of the pan in a mass, and the whole will be spoilt. When it has boiled fast about twenty minutes, try a little on a plate; if it sets in five minutes or so, it is done enough. Pour it into pots, and when cold, cover it down. The best and simplest way of covering is to take a piece of paper the right size, brush it well over with white of egg slightly beaten, and press it over the pot. It will adhere firmly, and is quite airtight. An improvement to strawberry jam is to add red currant juice. Stew the currants in a jar in a cool oven till the juice is thoroughly out; strain it, and pour it into the strawberries, allowing the same proportion of sugar as for other fruit.'"

"Are you tired of this instructive letter, Do?" asked Margaret, laying down the third sheet. "Please say if you are. You see I ask so many questions, that Joanna's letters are necessarily rather long."

"No, indeed, I am not tired; pray go on if there is any more of the same nature."

"'Beans are in season now,'" continued Margaret. "'Gather them before they are quite full grown and throw them at once, after shelling, into boiling salt and water, with a bunch of summer savory, which is boiled with them, as mint is with peas. When done serve them in a vegetable-dish, with a piece of butter stirred amongst them, or else make a tureen of melted butter, in which is chopped the cooked savory.

"Arthur tells me that beans and bacon are quite an aristocratic dish now! I always considered it a very homely one. The two should be cooked separately, as the bacon spoils the colour of the beans. Put the former into cold, and the latter into *boiling water, when cooking them.

"Now I come to 'lastly', which is the rather unpleasant subject of the dust-bin. You must be most particular that no greens, cabbage leaves, and such like are thrown in, neither should there be scraps of meat or bone. In fact, try to keep it free from everything from which a disagreeable odour could arise. Then it must be cleared regularly once a week during the summer; do not on any account let it go longer, and now and then have the inside whitewashed. You might occasionally also throw in a little chloride of lime."

"There, Do, I hope you feel a great deal the better for hearing all of that?"

"Oh, Madge, I think it is well to be you to have such a sister. What would you do without her?"

"Indeed, I do not know," answered Margaret, folding up her letter. "But, you know, I feel dreadfully dependent on my friends, for in the least difficulty I always go, at least, write to Joanna. Then Mrs Melrose, the 'lady with ideas,' as you call her, is very kind in giving me hints; and then as to Mr Trent –"

"And as to Mr Trent?" interrogated Dorothy, mimicking her friend's done.

"Well," said Margaret stiffly, "I don't know that Mr Trent's acquaintance is of vital importance to my housekeeping."

"Oh, Madge, why you are ungrateful after the cunning way in which he extricated the stopper from the decanter last night."

"Did he do so?  It must have been whilst I was upstairs with Mrs Trent."

"Yes, it was most firmly fixed; we all tried in vain, when Wilfrid, with charming modesty, said he thought he could get it out. I fetched, at his direction, a basin of hot water, in which he plunged the neck of the decanter, tapping it gently on each side. Still it would not come out, so the ingenious thing asked for some oil, of which he put the last drop round the stopper, just where it enters the bottle, held it before the fire for a minute, and out it came in a twinkling!"

"Oh, it was rather sharp, perhaps," replied Margaret; "but it was a pity to spoil the sherry by mixing it with oil."

"Now, Madge, you are in a very contrary frame of mind. There was not much wine in the decanter, and it was not spoilt, because I very quickly wiped the inside of the neck with a clean serviette from the sideboard drawer. And even if it did taste oily, it could be used perfectly well for cookery. So you may just as well admit that Wilfrid Trent is a very clever, ingenious, handsome, good and altogether nice fellow; certainly he would admit the same and a good deal more of you."

"Particularly the 'fellow' part of it!" retorted Margaret. "No, Do; the first time he saw me I was most shamefully untidy and floury, being in the middle of pastry-making, and that filled him with a repulsion for me that he has never conquered."

But a merry look in the girl's eyes either belied her words, or else proved the fact in no way affected her peace of mind.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

18 June 1881 - 'How to Wash and Dress the Baby' by Ruth Lamb - Chapter Two

Perhaps someone who reads the title of this paper may be inclined to inquire, "Why do you write the baby, as if there were but one baby instead of millions in the world?"

Ah! Every mother knows why; and every loving-hearted young nurse knows why. "My baby," says the young mother, "is the baby of all the world." And "our baby" is the same to the members of the household, if they are of the right sort.

Knowing, as I do, how many mothers of all ages, as well as their daughters, come to the pages of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER, or apply to its editor, for information on all sorts of domestic subjects, I am most anxious to be of use both to them and their young folk. I feel especial sympathy for those who, until they became mothers, never had anything to do with the practical management of little children. Members of large families pick up their experience quite naturally amongst the little brothers and sisters, and the children of the elder ones furnish in turn a baby school for girl aunts. But where a girl is placed as I was (the latest-born and only survivor of a small family, whose only opportunity of nursing was with a borrowed baby, if there happened to be one in a neighbour's house) she is not likely to be very skilful in the management of a first arrival, at any rate, when she becomes a wife and mother.

Shall I ever forget my own awkwardness under such circumstances; my utter ignorance of the thousand little ways of making a baby comfortable; my yearning love towards the pink-faced girlie, and matronly pride in the possession of this living treasure, which an empire's wealth would not have sufficed to purchase?

Mingled with such thoughts was a lamentable sense of my own insufficiency and inability to discharge fitly the sacred trust which the possession of the helpless babe entailed upon me. And, as I lay in weakness, and saw skilful hands occupied about my little one and knew my deficiencies, even as regarded the care of its tender frame, other solemn thoughts crossed my mind about the living immortal soul of which that was the only covering.

"Lo! Children are an heritage of the Lord," says the inspired Psalmist, and this baby girl was, then, the first instalment which He had given to me. How comforting was the sweet thought that followed; "He who has bestowed will also teach me to treasure His gift and to nurse this child for Him!" I felt then, as I do still after many years, that if there is one human being who, more than another, needs to be instant in prayer, it is surely the mother to whom such a sacred charge is entrusted.

I smile sometimes when I look at the tall girls who call me mother, and who now, in the way of stature, look down on me, yet who run with willing feet in my service, and to save mine a needless step. I smile because I think of the time when I was their willing slave by night and by day, and far more frightened of the first, in her baby years, than all my children put together have ever been of me. But love is a good teacher – especially maternal love – and it is often said that babies bring that into the world with them, or they would never be cared for as they are.

I am not going to write directions suitable  for the first few weeks of an infant's life. During that early period it is usually under the care of an experienced or professional nurse. Even in the poorest of homes, when the parents' means are so small the mother cannot afford to pay  for the constant attendance of such a person, there is always some kindly neighbour who, without fee or reward, undertakes to wash and dress the baby.

My first advice shall be as to the preparation of the nurse for her work. Take to it in yourself a cleanly person and a good temper, which latter finds its outward reflection in a bright, cheerful countenance. Even the few weeks' old baby shows a marvellous susceptibility to externals, and it would be difficult to say how soon it begins to imitate, or to manifest pleasure at what it sees, if that be pleasant.

On the contrary, who has not noticed the shock which a baby receives from the sound of a harsh voice, or the sight of a sullen, angry face? I have seen a little creature gaze searchingly at its mother's countenance and, if there were no answering smile, the dear eyes have seemed to lose their dancing light, the sorrowful "pet lip," and perhaps a burst of crying has followed. The more intelligent the infant the more sensitive it is to what some would call trifles.

So, dear nurses, go to your care of the baby as to a real labour of love, and let the love shine in your faces, be heard in the ring of your voices, and be manifested by the absence of all impatience or hastiness of temper, even if you should have a very cross baby to deal with. Poor wee things! They cannot tell their troubles, and depend on it, if the baby is "fractious" it has some good reason for it, though you may not be able to find it out. So let your bright face, your endearing words, your cheery song, coax away the puckers from the face of your little charge if all these will do it. But in no case let its cross face be a reflection of your own.

Have nothing about you that can possibly hurt the little one. Rings, brooches, watch-chains, floating ribbons, and ornaments of all kinds are needless and out of place when you are busy with baby. Let your hair be smooth and tidy. Examine your dress to see that no stray pin has been stuck on the belt or waist, and that your sleeves are tucked up and fastened so that you neither get them wet nor have them loose and flapping about in baby's face.

Put on a wide flannel apron, of which every nurse should have two – "one to wash the other" – then you will always have a clean one for present use.

Be calm and patient about your work, neither hurrying nor occupying too much time over the washing and dressing business. Handle the little one very tenderly. Even if your work be one of necessity rather than of inclination, let the infant's helplessness pl with you; for member, a little impatience, a sudden jerk of those delicate limbs, might cause injury to your charge, and to yourself life-long repentance.

Inexperienced nurses are apt to become frightened and flurried if a baby cries, kicks, and screams. But, if the little one is in a passion, there is all the more need  for the nurse to be calm, and to oppose patience and firmness to its struggle and clamour. Keep thoroughly master of yourself, dear young nurse, and you will manage baby all the more easily.

Have every requisite ready to your hands before you begin, and let each article of clothing be so placed as to come in its proper turn; so that there may be no rummaging amongst garments, or running about to seek something that ought to be close at your side when wanted. Such neglect tries baby's patience, exposes him to the risk of cold, and you to blame for your want of system and forethought.

Mind that baby, when undressed or in the bath, is not exposed to a draught of cold air. You may guard against this by extemporising a screen in the shape of a clothes'-horse with a sheet or quilt thrown over it.

Here I would say a few words about the clothing of infants. It, as well as the bedding, should combine lightness with warmth. It is of far more importance that it should be plentiful in quantity, and good in quality, so as to secure cleanliness by frequent changes and comfort in the use, than very elaborate in workmanship, or much ornamented.

If much trimming is used, by all means let it be in the shape of soft cambric frills or narrow torchon lace.

Muslin work – especially if a laundress is so ill-advised as to stiffen it in order to make it set well – is a great cause of irritation to an infant's tender neck and arms.

A good nurse will pass her finger round the bands and along the seams of all clothing that is likely to come in contact with the child's skin. If she finds any roughness or sharp points, she rubs them before putting on the garment.

This is not the place to enumerate the articles which compose an infant's wardrobe; but I should like to mention one. The little lawn or cambric shirts worn during the first few weeks are usually made open in the front, from top to bottom. I have always used and recommended a shirt made of one width of the linen, with a single seam at the side, but open on the shoulders, on each of which it fastens with a small linen button and loop. It is slipped over the head so easily; there is no twisting of arms to get them into sleeves; it is quickly fastened, and, when on, it keeps its place and looks pretty, which is more than can be said of the old-fashioned open article, with its useless laps and generally untidy effect.

As a baby should not only be washed, but have a bath every morning, the vessel used should be large enough to hold it comfortably, but rather shallow. The temperature of the water should be about 90 deg., but, as young nurses have not always a thermometer at hand, they should try it with the back of the hand, or, as I have seen some old nurses do, with the tip of the tongue. The whole hand is not a safe test, especially if it be one accustomed to work, s the skin becomes hardened and can bear much greater heat or cold than it would be safe to use for an infant's bath.

I have read some terrible cases of suffering, and even loss of life, which have been caused by the carelessness of young nurses in not ascertaining the water was of a proper temperature before putting in the child.

Soap of a non-irritating quality and a soft sponge must be used. If the infant is quite young, the left hand must be placed below its neck so as to support the head above water. The whole body, including the head, should be well soaped and then gently sponged, care being taken to rinse well all the little folds and creases, so that nothing impure or irritating be retained there. Soft, half-worn towels of nursery diaper are the best to dry with, and this should be tenderly done with due consideration  for the delicate skin. The moisture should be absorbed from all bends and creases by gentle pressure – never by rubbing; though the back had limbs will be all the better for a little friction with the hand. Baby likes this when he is first undressed and after washing, and enjoys stretching his round limbs on his nurse's knee whilst she gives them a gentle chafing within reach of the warmth of a fire.

All the creases below the arms, knees, in the dimpled neck, behind the ears, between the thighs and body should be well powdered to prevent the chafing of the skin, and this ought to be done after every change of clothing or sponging, by night or day. A very able and experienced medical man, who has written a valuable work, within a very small compass, on sick and other nursing, advises the use of powdered starch for what we call puffing the baby.

Considering how much we have heard of the introduction of deleterious ingredients into what are called "violet powders," we must recognise the wisdom of this advice. It is of no consequence whether the powder is perfumed or not, but it is of the greatest importance that it should be pure and harmless. The powdering must never be neglected if baby's skin has been damped, so whenever sponging is requisite, the puff is also absolutely necessary.

One occasionally sees the scalp of an infant covered or patched with an unsightly crust. This is usually the result of insufficient or careless washing. At the first sign of it, the spot should be anointed with a bit of pure lard or a little olive oil. This will soften the crust, and it will generally come off during washing; but great care must be taken not to use any degree of violence to remove it. The simple application named and persistent cleanliness are the proper remedies both to take it away and prevent its recurrence.

A quite young baby needs, as I have already said, the supporting hand of the nurse to keep the head above water. An older infant that can sit up strongly and has learned to kick about in and enjoy the water, equally needs the watchful eye of the nurse, and should never be left in the bath for a moment.

A very little water and a very short time have proved sufficient to drown an infant before now, during the momentary absence of the nurse.

In fastening the clothes, use as few pins as possible, and let the pins be well-made safety pins. Wherever strings, buttons, and loops, or a stitch can be used instead, by all means substitute one of these. Always have a needle and thread beside you during the dressing process.

A second bath at night is not necessary, only light sponging o nurse's knee. The head should not be wetted I' evening, and after the morning bath the hair should be gently but thoroughly dried, and brushed with a very soft brush. Warm or tepid water is necessary during the first two or three years of a child's life, perhaps even longer in the cases of delicate children.

It is astonishing how very soon infants may be taught habits of cleanliness and regularly in taking food and rest. These things depend almost wholly on the care and attention bestowed by those who have the charge of them. Remember, dear mothers and young nurses, that it is from you, who are always about it, the little one receives its first and most durable impressions, whether for good or evil, and as regards both mind and body. Can you, then, e too careful with respect to what you do for it; or too prayerful and watchful over yourself in order that from you it may receive nothing but what is good?

After the bath a baby is generally ready for its food, and the meal is pretty certain to be followed by its morning sleep. If the mother nurses her infant herself and a young helper has washed and dressed it, the latter should put away the articles that are done with, empty and dry the bath, and expose night clothes and towels, if possible, to the open air. Never be in a hurry to wrap up clothing or cover up beds. Let them have plenty of fresh air, or at least as much as you can possibly give them. I ought to have said the moment baby is taken out of his cot, the bed should be shaken up and all the bedding spread out and thus exposed. It is an excellent plan to have two sets of sheets in use, one for nights and the other for days; then this airing can be well carried out.

Often, when travelling in Switzerland, I have been struck with the carefulness of the people in airing their beds. As you pass through a village in the early morning, if you look from the windows of the diligence, you will see the beds, which are small, light and much more portable than ours, hanging from every casement. They are turned over and exposed for hours to the fresh air and light, a process which must tend greatly to their purification and to the health of those who use them.

By all means imitate as far as possible this excellent example, and though our cumbrous beds cannot be hung out in like manner, we may give them the benefit of frequent exposure to air and light.

Baby's little bed or mattress, from its small size, has a better chance than any other, so let him have the full advantage of this.

In my next chapter I shall try to give simple instructions on "How to Nurse the Baby."

Monday, 6 February 2017

11 June 1881 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

RITA – We must again request our correspondents not to ask the same questions over and over again, as we have not time or leisure to answer a question more than once, and it is wearisome to general readers. "Noblesse oblige" is a French proverb to signify that more is expected of those in high position and superior advantages than of their inferiors.

WATER WITCH – It is impossible to say whether the planets are inhabited or not, but we believe the last opinion formed by scientific men is that if they be, the people must be entirely different to ourselves.

M.F. – The "Onion Fair" at Birmingham takes place at about the end of August, or the early part of Spetember, the time probably being that when the onions ripen, and are taken from the soil. We hope you will continue all your studies, as no little girl could be sufficiently educated at fourteen.

CLARICE – Instructions can be given as to the usages of society in regard to some things, but no lessons can ensure "an attractive and pleasing manner." What is artificial and not habitual or natural cannot be attractive to those most worth pleasing. Habitual manner must be the expressions of the mind and heart. It is not usual to leave the room in parting with a visitor, except it be a friend so intimate that you chat with her to the door, or a stranger whom it would be advisable to see out.

DROFFIG – The lines are not worth printing. It is kindest to give a plain answer, as you can employ your time and good feeling in a better way.

A.B. – You are deficient in grammar, when you say that someone "wishes an introduction to my sister and I." Do not also be deficient in prudence.

A MAID IN TROUBLE – It would be well if you were as troubled about the inside of your head as the outside; spelling and writing are very poor.  For the hair any stimulating spirit may be as effective as bay rum.

Friday, 3 February 2017

11 June 1881 - 'Literary Work for Girls' by An Editor's Wife

The question of remunerative employment for women is becoming every day a more absorbing one. The time has, we believe, almost – would that we could say quite! – gone by when work of any and every sort was considered a degradation to a woman gently born and reared. Poets in all ages have sung glibly enough of the dignity of labour, but it is hard for us to realise the dignity when we find ourselves tabooed and thrust down in the social scale by virtue of our work.

Happily, this nineteenth century, which has so many evil things to answer for, has at any rate done us good service in materially altering the aspect from which women's labour is regarded. There is nothing so ennobling and invigorating to the mind as good honest work, whether undertaken of necessity or simply as a right use of the time placed at our disposal.

There is no such powerful incentive to perseverance and thoroughness as keeping before our eyes some definite object to be attained by our labour, and there are no such impartial critics of our work as those who gauge it by its market value, entirely apart from all sentiment whatsoever.

This is in itself as strong an argument as needs be why girls should, if they be disposed, turn their attention to remunerative work, even supposing other considerations to be absent.

The scriptural view of the matter the "labourer is worthy of his hire," applies indiscriminately to all sorts and grades of labourers, whether they be men or women, labourers from necessity or from a sense of responsibility; and she who labours well and thoroughly, with due qualifications for her task, deserves and is pretty sure to gain the hire which Christ Himself has declared to be her due.

"Well and thoroughly." Here is the great secret of women's work, and in no case does it apply more forcibly than with regard to the branch of work we have chosen as the subject of this paper.

"Surely literary work is the most pleasant of all ways of earning money," I have heard many a girl say. "There is no going from home among strangers, or weary plodding to and fro in all weathers, and no wear and tear of refractory children, as in the case of a governess, no terror-inspiring examinations and outlay for being taught, as with telegraph clerks, no expensive course of lessons or stern apprenticeship, as with art needlework, designing, or even such work as millinery and dressmaking. If only a girl possesses a talent for writing she can sit quietly at home and make money with comparative ease, and if she is really clever she gets known, and then see how well she is paid. How fortunate to be able to gain a livelihood with such ease!"

And then if the girl is of an energetic turn of mind she will very likely sit down and dash off a few verses or a story, and feeling quit assured that she has read many in print that were no better, she dispatches it to the editor of any magazine she happens to take in, and impatiently, yet hopefully, awaits the result. This is tolerably sure to be a refusal. The literary aspirant is cast down and somewhat indignant. She is so sure that many compositions not in any degree better than hers have been printed somewhere. She sends her manuscript off again in another direction with the same result. Then she arrives at the conclusion that editors are the most blind, unfair set of beings in existence. They might at any rate have deigned to say why they refused her composition. She throws down her pen in supreme disgust, utterly disheartened, and very probably never taken it up for literary composition again.

Now, granting that her own estimate of her work was right, which, however, it is little likely to be, any more than the estimate of admiring friends, and that her verses or story were really equal in merit to others she has seen in print, is there any reason, apart from the blindness and exclusiveness of editors, why she should have failed? This is the question that we will endeavour fully to answer in this paper.

I will quite agree with my would-be literary girl that writing is a pleasant and profitable occupation, well adapted from many points of view for supplying a means of income without the attendant disagreeables attaching to many other employments. I will add, that never at any time was there such a field open to the literary worker as at this moment when magazines are multiplied and "of making books there is no end."

But I can go with her no farther. Literary work is not easy, at any rate to a vast number of those who live by it; it cannot be entered upon without training, and it requires much more than mere talent. The thorough practical training  for the work is even more advantageous than a decided talent devoid of cultivation, although I will not be rash enough to affirm that talent is unnecessary. But that it is useless without training I am firmly persuaded. On another point, too, I must differ from my disheartened girl friend. Editors are by no means the dragons that many people paint them. What they may have been in past days, I cannot say, but my own experience is that they are as a rule most kind and courteous, and only too ready to accept a manuscript that really meets the requirements of their magazine in all their particulars; for, incredible as it sounds, the number that comes under this category is surprisingly small.

My girl readers would not wonder that their MSS have received such summary treatment, if they could see the formidable pile of papers lying each morning on an editor's table. I should like the discontented literary aspirant to have practical experience of the work of examining, sorting, reading, and returning just for one day, and her only wonder will be the editor has not thrown her manuscript with a score or two of others at once into the waste paper basket, without even going through the brief form of rejection which has so roused her indignation. Fancy, if you can, the Editor of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER writing some twenty or thirty such letters every day as the following, besides having to wade through the twenty or thirty accompanying MSSS, in every style of undecipherable handwriting, and probably varying in length from a page to a fair sized volume:-

"DEAR MADAM, - I am extremely sorry to be obliged to return your MS. In the first place, the story is three times as long as the greatest length we allow for short stories, and only about a third of the length required for a serial. Besides this, the interest is not sufficiently maintained, the characters are too unreal, and the whole tendency of the plot so extremely romantic that I am afraid it would give our girls very false notions of life. The writing, too, bears evidence of inexperience, the composition of many sentences being even grammatically incorrect. Under these circumstances I am compelled most reluctantly to reject your story. I would willingly accept it, so far as I am concerned, for I am sure you have taken great pains, and there are many very pretty ideas in it; but I am afraid the girls would not consider it sufficiently interesting, and that their parents would not approve the tone. Unfortunately, we are obliged to consider these points, as we would rather sell THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER than give it away. If you would quite alter the plot of your story, making it more practical, and in some way connecting the incidents; if you could make the conversation less frivolous and the characters a little more sensible, and if you would alter all the sentences that are not well expressed, I should be happy then to look at it again.

"With many apologies for wounding your feelings, I remain, dear madam,

"Your humble servant,


There, girls! It looks rather weak in print, doesn’t it, but isn't that the sort of letter that you really wanted? And I can assure you that would be but a mild criticism of the inappropriateness of most amateur contributions sent to editors. Besides these, there is another class of contributions quite as useless, but far more distracting. Every editor knows them only too well. Shall I give you one brief example?

"DEAR SIR, - I send you herewith a MS., which I earnestly entreat you to accept. I am in the sorest need – an aged curate with a large family and small income. The long illness and recent death of my wife has reduced me to penury. My own health is failing, and, the new rector of this parish not requiring my services, I am thrown destitute upon the world. My only hope is that I may by happen be able to maintain my family until I obtain something else. Unless I have ten pounds by next Friday my belongings will have to be sold. Oh, sir, in the name of that religion which your paper so ably advocates, help me to avoid starvation, beggary, and disgrace. There is nothing before me but the workhouse, unless you can give me a start in your valued paper. I beseech you do not dash away my last hope…"

How do you think the editor feels over a letter like this? The article is perhaps some abstruse theological treatise, deeply learned, no doubt, but containing, maybe, extraordinary views which no one would look at, unless they emanated from some celebrated man. If the editor were to accept it no one would read his paper, and he knows very well if he gives this poor man the least encouragement he will probably be deluged with other similar compositions. He can, therefore, only return it, with the usual short form of rejection which seems so cruelly hopeless to the disappointed author. Yet if the editor were to make it his business to instruct would-be litterateurs in the art of writing, what would become of his magazine, or when, indeed, would the girls get their paper? And this is no overdrawn picture. Even more distressing circumstances than this are brought to an editor's notice, so that he is not unfrequently tempted to afford the help out of his own pocket which he dares not supply in his editorial capacity.

Therefore I say that if an editor even looks at all the MSS and letters he receives he is very good, but if he returns what is unsuitable he is a paragon of kindness. This is the honest opinion of one who has had some experience both of rejecting and being rejected. Then, what is wanted to enable a girl to use her pen profitably? First, ability; secondly, TRAINING; thirdly, powers of discrimination and observation.

I need not dwell much upon ability. Although it is the first thing, it is in some respects the least of the three essentials: that is to say, a comparatively small amount of ability combined with the other two qualifications will go further than a large amount of ability devoid of the. A vivid imagination is very necessary to the writer of fiction, but if unaccompanied by education and experience it will be of little use to her, whereas these two latter would very likely enable her to write plain, practical articles without the aid of the former, especially if she be possessed of sound common sense. Patience and perseverance, I need hardly say, are needed by authors of every class.

We see, then, that although exceptional talent is undoubtedly required to make an exceptional writer, the absence of any extraordinary intellectual ability need not be regarded as an entire disqualification.

Now, to come to the question of training; and this is indeed a wide and important side of my subject. It has indeed been the point where women's work has generally failed, though I am glad to see each day is carrying us on the right direction, and opening the eyes of women to its importance. We must always remember the fact that there are always more, far more, girls willing to work than there are openings for them. Thus the best qualified, as a matter of course, come best off. "As a rule those who can supply what is really required, meet with those who will purchase their merchandise. It is inferior workers whose labour brings no profit," says an experienced writer upon the question of women's work, and her remarks are as true of literary as of any other branch of work.

When boys set themselves to learn a business, the same writer remarks, they bend all their energies to the accomplishment of the end they have in view. All other matters are made subservient to it. But girls imagine they can take up an occupation without any sort of special training. Is it any wonder that women's work is regarded from quite a different standpoint, and depreciated often beyond its just value? Another lady of great experience says:- "Partial training has been the ruin of many attempts to gain new employment for women. It is often spoken of as desirable that they should do 'a little work,' but the 'little' which is meant to apply to the matter of quantity is transferred to that of quality, and this effectually bars the way to success.  It is very undesirable to see a lowered standard for women's work, and yet what reason is there to expect the attainment of a higher one in any way, but with the same amount of time and labour given by young men?" Another writer says:- "After an experience of life, neither very small nor very brief, I must candidly confess that my difficulty in trying to help my own sex has not been so much to find work as workers – women who can be relied upon – first to know how really to do what they profess, and next to have conscientiousness and persistency in doing it."

It is needless to multiply examples. All those who have deeply considered the subject have arrived at the same conclusion – that want of training is a principal cause of want of success to women-workers.

In the case of literary work, how is such training to be effected, supposing, for instance, the girl's education is considered finished before the idea of writing has occurred to her?

In the first place, if she is not already well qualified in that direction, she ought persistently to follow up the study of composition, which she can easily do with the aid of such books as are to be had, if she have ordinary intelligence. In the next place, she must read widely and observantly good literature in order that she may obtain command of language, that she may acquire the habit of looking at a subject from diverse points of view, and form an enlightened opinion upon men and things, for we are all of us, even the most original minds, greatly influenced and educated by the thoughts of the great men and women who have gone before us. An authoress of some reputation once said to me, "Nothing displays to you your own ignorance more vividly than writing. I was quite overwhelmed with my own ignorance when I began to write. I was continually finding myself landed, unconsciously, as it were, upon subjects of which I felt I was too ignorant to speak with authority, and in the midst of a paper upon some particular topic, I would find my thoughts had carried me along to side questions, necessary to be considered, but which I was obliged to stop and carefully study before I could write accurately."

Does not every girl reader perceive how this literary aspirant was giving herself the very training she required?

A very necessary point in magazine writing is to be able to say what you have to say in a given space. It is excellent practice to choose a subject, and allow yourself a certain number of sheets or lines in which to treat of it, rigidly adhering to the space assigned, while at the same time endeavouring to state the whole matter clearly, concisely, fully, and attractively. If the article fails in any one of these points, the author should regard it as she would an ill-worked problem in Euclid – only fit to be destroyed – and set herself to work out the problem over again. Does this seem very discouraging? Without such patient labour, no success can be hoped for.

And when our girl author has conquered the difficulties of composition, has acquired the art of expressing herself clearly and fluently, and has by a diligent course of reading acquainted herself with the views of distinguished thinkers upon all sorts of subjects, and learned moreover to think out a subject clearly and logically for herself, what more is required of her before she may attempt to send an article to an editor with a reasonable chance of success? Why, the practical application of the qualifications she already possesses to the subject she has in hand.

To explain more fully what I mean: it will be best to glance at the principal reasons why articles and stories intended for magazines meet with rejection, even when they are carefully and thoughtfully written. One great reason is inappropriateness of subject, or a treatment foreign to the expressed or understood policy and lines of the journal; and another, scarcely less important, is the matter of length, most amateur papers being written with an utter disregard to the nice balancing of articles and stories in a periodical journal which may be almost termed the alphabet of editorial work.

Here it is the powers of observation and discrimination must come in. The magazine writer must be able to observe what are the tendencies and scope of the journal she hopes to write for, and about what space is allotted to the kind of paper she proposes to write. She must then cast about for a subject, which, while being sufficiently original, will, she believes, be one likely to fall in with the editor's ideas of suitability; and everything depends upon her nice discrimination of this point. It is not so much what best pleases her as what is most likely to please that particular portion of the community for whose delectation the journal exists. This quick perception of the fitness of things is as invaluable as it is indispensible to a successful magazine writer.

So far I have confined myself to the consideration of magazine writing, because the field of literature is not only one of the widest and most diversified, but also because it yields the quickest return for a certain amount of labour. There are, I should say, few literary aspirants who would be so rash as to attempt the gigantic task of writing a book until they had gained some sort of footing by the publication of less ambitious efforts. The consideration of the best way to proceed with such an undertaken as a continued story or work of fiction is too wide to enter upon here, and must be reserved for a future article.

Monday, 30 January 2017

11 June 1881 - 'What May be Done With Simple Herbs' by Medicus

On board ship, in the merchant service at all events, the cook is usually addressed by the men as "doctor." This, however, is no reason why I, a medical man, should permit may advice to interfere with the province of cook. Nevertheless, as there are many so-called pot herbs which possess medicinal properties of no mean value, I cannot, I think, be greatly exceeding my duty if I say a word or two about gathering and storing them. The old-fashioned plan was to tie the dried leaves in bunches, and hang them on the walls, or to the roof of the kitchen. This is neither a good nor a tidy plan. From the month of May to the end of August is the best time for collecting these herbs. Most of them can be gathered in July, but at all events they must be at the time in full beauty and  luxuriance. In olden times they tell us that witches used to wander over moor and mountain, seeking herbs for love philtres, at the dead of night, and under a full moon. There is no occasion to risk catching cold by being abroad at such unwholesome hours, gathering pot herbs. You do not require the aid of the moon, but it is important that you should avoid the noonday sun; at the same time there should be no moisture on the herbs when collected. Next, you must dry them as speedily as possible. This is best done before a moderately hot fire. When they are perfectly dry you may proceed to store them. If you mean to collect, say, half a dozen different sorts, procure six nice air-tight bottles of small sizes, and label them with the names of the herbs. The dried leaves are then picked from the stems and powdered, then passed through a sieve, and then bottled. I have known a young girl-housekeeper to possess a highly useful and quite ornamental collection of powdered herbs.

Now I do not wish my readers to constitute themselves doctors in embryo, amateur pharmaceutists; no, nor little skilled old wives either; but there are very many things about some of the commonest herbs, which it will do every girl who means to make herself a useful member of society good to know.

I'll take them as they come to my memory. The name *chervil brings back to my mind the days of my youth,

"When I roved a young Highlander o'er the dark heath,"

And used to gather and chew, for sake of its aromatic flavour, a pretty little green plant that grew under hedges and by the waysides. It was called myrrh, however, in my country. It smells exactly like paregoric, and if you do not know it in any other way you may not it by that. But be sure of it, because it grows where the deadly hemlock thrives, *and the leaves of the two are very much alike. Chervil makes a nice addition to a salad, and although not to my knowledge used in medicine, possesses, nevertheless, aromatic qualities, and would therefore tend to strengthen the digestion. There is also a kitchen garden chervil, and it makes a pretty border for a walk. It should be gathered in June for powdering.

The flowery tufted *thyme brings to my recollection the words of Virgil, as translated by Dryden:-

"No more, my goats, shall I behold you climb
The steepy cliffs to crop the flowery thyme."

That would, of course, be the wild thyme. Let us go to the garden to gather ours. It is aromatic in a high degree, the lemon-scented variety being probably the choicest. It is used in making perfumes, its essential oil being called marjoram oil. Gather it in July.

*Sweet basil is worthy of cultivation in gardens. A nice aromatic sauce for table use is made by gathering the fresh leaves in August, putting them in a bottle, covering them with vinegar, and steeping for ten days. This also possesses aromatic qualities.

*Fennel is a well-known plant, and its leaves are gathered about June for drying. Independent of its table use, an infusion or tea may be made of its leaves, a teaspoonful now and then of this being useful in many forms of indigestion.

*Tarragon is easy of cultivation, and if grown on a dry soil is quite hardy. It may be dried as other herbs, or a deliciously flavoured vinegar may be made from the leaves. If the latter is wished, they must be gathered before coming into bloom, and steeped in vinegar for a fortnight in a jug. Fermentation takes place, and it is then strained through flannel, a little isinglass added, and bottled.

The well-known *elder tree is a shrub which is to be found in hedges, and from its flowers or berries many useful articles are made. I may mention one or two. *Elder flower ointment, for instance, is a very nice cooling application  for the skin when red and irritated. The fresh flowers of the elder are simply boiled in the purest lard until crisp, the whole is then strained through a linen cloth, and the ointment thus obtained is poured into stone jars. It has to be kept in a cool place. *Elder flower vinegar is a nice cooling adjunct to the toilet, but of this and of *elder flower water I hope to have the opportunity of writing another day, as well as about other harmless luxuries  for the dressing-room. I might tell you how to make elder-berry wine, but would sooner you should apply to the other "doctor" – the cook.

*Parsley cannot always be got fresh. It possesses medicinal qualities of great value, for it not only stimulates digestion but cools and purifies the blood. It is best gathered in July for powdering.

*Sage – This is a well-known garden herb, and one of great utility. Like the domestic cat, it is too well-known to need description. Again I refer you to the other "doctor" to describe its table use; be it mine to inform you of its curative properties. The tea is made as ordinary tea from the dried leaves, and is useful as a stomachic or aid to digestion, and also as an astringent tonic. The smaller leaves only should be used. A large handful of sage leaves may be boiled in a pint of water until it is reduced to half-a-pint. This makes a nice cooling gargle in sore throats, and surely so simple a remedy should be more often used, for, you see, it is always at hand, which a physician is not.

*Peppermint – Three kinds are usually employed. The vinegar of mint is thus made:- Any large open-mouthed bottle is filled with leaves, covered up with vinegar, and left for three weeks ere it is strained off.  Peppermint is a valuable stimulating stomachic. Chewing the young green leaves, while in the kitchen garden, is often sufficient in itself to restore an absent appetite.

The herb called wormwood is a much more valuable tonic and appetiser, in my opinion, than many imagine. I will tell you how to make a tincture of it. Weigh half an ounce of the dried herbs – get it from a chemist's – and cut it fine. This is kept for a week in a bottle containing six ounces of what druggists call proof spirit; it is then squeezed through muslin or fine linen, and afterwards filtered. It is a good thing to know how to filter such preparations as these. The plan is very simple. A common funnel used in filling bottles is placed in a wide-mouthed glass vessel, say a pickle bottle. You must next prepare a piece of blotting paper, so that it will just fit the inside of the top part of the funnel. Fold the paper in the centre twice on its own length, you can then easily form a filter to fit the funnel, which will have three thicknesses of paper at one side and one on the other. You do not tear a hole in the bottom, the liquor makes its way through the blotting paper and drops slowly into the receiver. The dose of the tincture of wormwood is a small teaspoonful or less in a little water twice or thrice daily.

*Dandelion is usually looked upon as a mere weed, but it is a very valuable one indeed, for not only are the young and tender leaves delicious and wholesome when used in a salad, or even as a salad with cheese, but it has a mild yet efficient action on the liver; and even young people's livers are apt to be out of order at times The roots are used medicinally. You may prepare the juice, or wine, I' following way: - First dig your roots clean, and well wash them, cut them in pieces, and put them in a mortar, then well bruise them to extract the juice, and having strained it off, and having measured it, add a third of its bulk of rectified spirits of wine. (Do not make a mistake and put methylated spirits.) It must stand for a week before it is filtered. The dose is about thirty drops three times a day. The decoction of dandelion ma thus be prepared: - Boil an ounce of fresh sliced dandelion root in a pint of water until it is reduced to half a pint; having strained it, add thereto an ounce of the compound tincture of horseradish, and the same quantity of the compound tincture of oranges, and your decoction is complete. The dose is two or three tablespoonfuls thrice a day. *Memo – I only order safe doses, and rather under than over the quantity needed for a girl from twelve to fifteen. Girls under this age should not physic themselves, nor anyone else. A good remedy for anyone who is troubled with biliousness is dandelion tea. You make it thus:- Take of dandelion root, bruised, one ounce. This is to be boiled for ten minutes in a pint of water; pour it off, and add boiling water to make up to a pint. A small wineglassful may be taken three times a day.

*Chamomile – This is one of the most useful herbs that ever grew. I have hardly space to tell of all its virtues, whether it be applied externally as in a poultice, or decoction, or taken internally. It is best used internally in the form of tea. I give its recipe as under:- Take of the flowers one ounce, of bruised ginger one ounce, of boiling water one pint, and a few cloves. Infuse this in an earthenware teapot for half an hour, and when cold your tea is ready. The dose is one or two tablespoonfuls three times a day. If a decoction is wanted for an inflamed surface omit the ginger and cloves, and boil for an hour. I can earnestly recommend chamomile tea to young weakly girls with little appetite, and if they take from five to fifteen drops of tincture of iron three times a day at the same time, much good is sure to accrue.

Friday, 27 January 2017

4 June 1881 - Useful Hints


1. Heat a breakfast saucer to insure dryness; pour into it a wineglassful of pale brandy. Set the spirit on fire with a strip of clean lighted writing-paper, and let it burn until the quantity is reduced one third. Pour this into half a point of boiling milk; drink it when moderately warm; repeat, if necessary, but take only half the quantity at once after the first dose. Arrowroot may be substituted for milk, but whether made with water or milk, should be boiled, not merely mixed with boiling liquid.

2. Take twenty to thirty drops of elixir of vitriol, or, as it is often called, diluted sulphuric acid, in a wineglassful of cold water; three to five drops of laudanum may be added to the dose when there is great internal pain. Repeat, if needful, either with or without the laudanum, according to circumstance. The dose is a medium one for an adult. A very eminent physician, who was peculiarly successful during a terrible outbreak of cholera, told the writer that he had found this most valuable in the early stages of that terrible disease and in diarrhoea.


1. One of the best possible remedies for rheumatism is a soda bath. Dissolve 2 oz sesqui carbonate of soda, or a 1/4 lb of common washing soda, in an ordinary warm bath. Remain in it fifteen to twenty minutes, adding hot water from time to time, so as to keep up the temperature to the last. The bath may be repeated after an interval of three days, or a single affected limb may be bathed daily.

2. Rheumatic pains in a joint may often be much relieved, or even cured, by the application at the outset of spirits of camphor. Pour a little into the hand, and rub the part night and morning; the spirit dries almost instantly. In applying a mustard poultice, always interpose a bit of old transparent muslin between it and the skin. After removing the poultice cover the place inflamed by the mustard with a piece of cotton wadding. It gives great comfort.


Amongst the simple domestic remedies which should always be kept within reach may be classed dried camomile flowers. A strong decoction of these, used as a hot fomentation, is extremely soothing. The following are instances of  the value of camomile. A dear little boy had a gathering under the nail of the great toe. His mother stewed camomile flowers, put them in a bowl, and immersed the child's foot in the decoction. She packed the flowers above and around the ailing toe, and as they cooled changed them for hot ones. So long as the child's foot was in the water he suffered little pain; so at bed-time it was packed in a mass of the stewed flowers in a flannel bag. He fell asleep, and in the morning it was found the gathering had broken and the toe was comparatively well. A boil on the cheek and a large gathering inside the mouth and neuralgic pains in the face have been similarly relieved by fomenting with a strong decoction of camomile flowers. The following is an excellent way of applying this simple remedy. Make two flannel bags and fill them; but not so tightly as to make them hard, with boiled flowers. Squeeze one bag and apply it, as hot as can be borne, to the painful part, and cover with two or three thicknesses of warm dry flannel to keep in the  heat. When getting cool, change with the second bag, which should be kept steaming hot between two plates in an oven. Being freshly wrung through the strong decoction after use, and again to put steam in the oven, a supply of hot bags will be kept up. The heat is retained much longer than in the case of fomentations with flannels merely wrung out of the hot decoction and applied. The writer has so often experienced relief and been soothed from pain to rest by the above method of using camomile that she cannot speak too highly of its value as a domestic remedy.


Plunge the upper part of the face in a bowl of clean, cold water, opening and shutting the eyes two or three times in the water, so that they have a cold bath every morning. The sensation is neither painful nor unpleasant, but the effect is very beneficial.


Seared milk, prepared as follows:- Stir a cup of new milk with a red hot poker till nearly boiling; let the milk settle, then strain it through muslin, leaving all bits of dust behind, and, when lukewarm, apply with a bit of soft linen to the inflamed eyes. In using eye lotions take a separate rag for each eye, and only pour out as much of the lotion as you are likely to require at one time. Wash and rinse the rags or lint each time after using, so that you may always begin with a perfectly clean piece. The seared milk may be used very often, and is an excellent application, especially  for the tender eyes of infants.


The simple distilled water without any mixture – is an admirable cosmetic. After exposure to a burning sun, wet the corner of a towel with elder flower water, and dab it lightly over the face. The heat and smarting will be immediately allayed, and freckles prevented. A rag wetted with it will remove the smarting caused by nettle stings, and is also a very cooling and pleasant application to a tender skin after washing. It may be used twice daily.


At the end of a meal a good deal is tea is often left in the pot. Perhaps the readers of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER may care to know what we do with such "leavings." We pour it into a large bottle and give it to a poor old woman, who is thankful to be thus saved the expense of providing herself with her favourite beverage. If the cork is left out the tea will keep perfectly through the day, and the old woman sends for it in the afternoon. It is easily warmed up, and she finds it has a far better flavour than what she used to buy for herself.

Monday, 23 January 2017

28 May 1881 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

MAUD LEWIS wishes to know the names of "Female Hospitals' for Incurables. Without commenting this novel idea, we may suggest a few designed for incurables amongst others, perhaps, equally good, where women may be received when there are vacancies. The "Home for Confirmed Invalids," South House, Highbury Park South N.; weekly charge 10s; superintendent, Miss Warren. "Home for Incurable and Infirm Women" (over fifty years of age), 21 New Ormond-street, £25 per annum; Miss Twining. "St Elizabeth's Home for Incurables," 68 Mortimer –street; from £16 per annum and upwards.

LILY – Good riders ride safely and with greater convenience at the near side of their companion, but little girls, such as many of our correspondents, not trained as you appear to have been, can be the better taken care of if on the gentleman's off side, as his right hand is free for seizing her rein if necessary.

KANGAROO – To say "spoonful" is correct. You write very well.

AN ANXIOUS ONE – You ask a question often put and hard to answer. If not strong enough for service, there are few employments open for you. Being quick and accurate at accounts might be a recommendation. Look out for advertisements where bookkeepers in shops are wanted, or advertise for such a situation. Many girls are thus employed in bootmaker's, a butcher's, and other tradesmen's shops, besides libraries and fancy work stores.

HONEYSUCKLE – If she cannot get a change of scene, try to engage her in some active occupation. Has she no taste for needlework, if not for some out-of-door employment?

TOPSY – The face powder must have had white lead or other vile poison mixed with it. The powder used for babies is purest starch. Fuller's earth is also pure. But all powder interferes with the healthy action of the skin.

FACTORY GIRL – We are truly pleased to learn that our directions on many points have been found so useful to you and other factory girls in Scotland. The cookery hints, you remark, are more suited to England than to your country, where the diet of working people is plainer. There is the less need for lessons in cookery. Do not be offended when we advise you to spell more after the way in THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER.

BHAER – Exercise with dumb-bells or clubs may counteract the tendency to stooping, and plenty of exercise in the open air with cheerful companions will be useful for general improvement.

MAGGIE M – You had better consult a friend if you have no mother. The shoulder-blade can hardly be out-of-place without pain, but if the difference is so marked, something may be wrong.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

28 May 1881 - 'The Difficulties of a Young Housekeeper and How She Overcame Them' by Dora Hope - Chapter 7

This month, quietly putting up with it when other people ruin your mantelpiece, preserving gooseberries, and when the help want to have their boyfriend over for tea. 

"Oh dear me, what a heap of mending!" sighed Margaret, one Monday morning, as she raised the already partially open lid of her stocking basket. "The basket actually will not shut – it's so full! And what big holes! However is it that boys' socks always wear so much worse than anyone else's?"

Taking out the top pair, and unrolling them, Margaret held them at arm's length in dismay. Such yawning chasms of holes, and so many of them, it would be but labour lost to attempt to mend. She remembered that very pair of socks, a week or two previously, as having looked decidedly thin in several places, but having no actual holes in them they had been rolled up and put in Tom's drawer, ready for wear. And this was the result; and as she reluctantly put the mutilated socks aside for kitchen use, remembering experiences, she learned anew the old but invaluable lesson about "a stitch in time." Never again would she leave thin places to come into these awkward, even unmendable holes, but, by taking them betimes, save herself endless labour, expense and time.

The stocking basket, well stocked with needles, yarn, scissors and socks was kept handily in a work cupboard, whence it could be lifted out whenever there was a little time to spare.

Margaret found she could not afford to waste even the odd five minutes which come to the busiest people sometimes. The two brothers would rush home from school, perhaps with some long tale of the morning's exploits to narrate, or Mr Colville, before starting in the morning, liked to read extracts from the paper, commenting thereon; and Margaret, not from want of interest in either, could not help but feeling fidgety at letting the precious moments slip away when there was so much waiting to be done. So she would quietly take some piece of mending from the cupboard and go on with it the while, or, failing mending, she kept always a piece of knitting in hand – a sock for her father, or stocking for herself – which c be readily taken up and laid down again.

Thus she soon got into the way of almost mechanically taking up her work in these odd minutes. But when she felt she could spare time for a real rest, she did rest – no work then, but snugly nestled in the recess of the largest and easiest of easy chairs, she would give herself up to the enjoyment of a favourite author or poet.

For it must be confessed that this young damsel was not by nature fond of work. It is probable that, had her lines fallen in different circumstances, her time and energies would have been chiefly devoted to music, reading, and so on, without a thought anent household affairs or the conservation of leisure moments. So she may be excused for banishing even her knitting, when, on very rare occasions, she gave herself to "luxuriating."

But to return to Margaret as she sits examining her pile of mending. Her thoughts are not solely fixed on the task, for they will wander prosaically to the larder which is at present bare, and, moreover, must speedily be filled, or else dinner will be late. The problem still often proved a puzzling one, particularly on Monday, when it was advisable to have a joint that could be eaten cold next day, because Tuesday was washing day.

Washing day was not a very imposing matter in the Colville household, because nothing was washed at home save the kitchen cloths, dusters, and so on, and Betsy's clothes, excepting her cotton dresses. Monday was sometimes a cold-meat day, and then a nice savoury hash or stew formed the Tuesday's dinner, as it could be gently simmering by the fire whilst the washing was going on. But Betsy would have felt aggrieved at being expected to cook anything more elaborate than a stew on this great day, and hence the problem.

"Let me see! Last time we had hot meat on Monday – it was roast beef; and the time before I think it was roast mutton, and before that I've no doubt beef again. Oh, I have it! We will dine off boiled mutton with the usual trimmings, a la Mr Weller, and that will give an opportunity for telling Betsy the rules for boiling meat, which I've long suspected she is slightly 'mixed' about."

The next few minutes were spent in instilling into the mind of the domestic the fact that if you want to extract the goodness of the meat – for beef-tea, for instance – put it on the fire in cold water, because the act of boiling draws out the juices of the meat. But if it is desired to keep the strength and grave in the meat, let the water boil first and then put it in, as otherwise it cannot but be tasteless and poor, because all the goodness has been drawn out into the water.

"And you must, of course, keep the liquor the mutton was boiled in, Betsy," went on Margaret, "and on Wednesday we will use it for oyster soup. You have the recipe?"

"Yes, miss, but will you be so kind as to read it out to me, I can seem to take in the meaning better when you read it up."

"But you will have forgotten it all by Wednesday. However, if so, you must ask for it again. You require a tin of oysters, the tinned ones will do as well as the fresh for this occasion. Three pints of white stock, not quite half a pint of milk, one and a half ounces of butter, one ounce or rather more of flour, and salt, mace and pepper. First, take the oysters from the tin and put them in your soup tureen; then take a pint of stock and simmer it with the liquor from the oysters for half-an-hour; strain it and add the rest of the stock, with the seasoning. Boil it, add the butter and flour for thickening, let it simmer for a minute or two, stir in the boiling milk, and pour all over the oysters. There, that is very simple, and now I must go out and order the leg of mutton."

" But please, miss, about the upstairs fires, as it's come so warm lately and you generally lets the fires out in the morning, I was thinking whether I need light them any more  for the present."

"Well, you need not do so to-morrow, and we will see whether anyone feels chilly. If we decide to leave them off altogether in the drawing-room you must thoroughly clean and blacken the grate, take away those bars and put in the bright ones."

"Yes, miss, and beautifully bright they are; I just give them a bit of a rub with a cloth, and they look just like new, through being put away covered with a thick paste of sweet oil and unslaked lime: there's nothing like it for keeping off rust on brights."

"That is all right. Do not forget to fasten down the register. The dining-room grate can be left as it is, because you know we like a fire occasionally even on a summer's evening, but that register must of course be closed too. Only I hope you will not forget to raise it when we have an occasional fire again."

This idea of keeping the fire laid all the summer through was Mr Colville's, who failed to see why one should sit chilly and comfortless on a cold evening simply because it was the month of July and August.

"Of course, it ought to be warm, I grant you," he would argue, "but it is cold, so by all means let us have a fire."

There was no difficulty about this, as Margaret had worked a pretty pair of curtains in crewels for the fireplace, which effectually concealed all traces of coal and stick. When the fire was to be lighted the curtains were simply looped back by their bands, the register raised, and the grate was ready  for the application of the match.

Apropos of grates, Margaret's calmness had been put to a severe test on the night of Dick's birthday party. Wilfrid Trent came to preside in Mr Colville's absence and Margaret retreated from the noisy scene after tea, but returned to be present at the promised conjuring tricks. The room after a time becoming warm, a window was slightly opened, and the draught blew directly on to the mantelpiece, causing the candles to flicker, and presently to begin to drip grease down upon the marble.

The conjuror stood immediately in front of the fireplace, and Margaret did not like to interrupt the performance by getting up to remove the candles, so she had to just sit and watch, with growing anxiety, the likewise growing heaps of wax.

Her precious marble mantel! It was very handsome, fine, and white; the one thing in the house in which she felt a pride. Every day, with her own hands, she rubbed it tenderly, using a soft cloth only, rightly judging the application of soap and water would be prejudicial. And now to have to sit and calmly watch the slow, steady trickle of grease was indeed anguish.

"Never mind," she said to herself, "I must smother my feelings till this is over, then I will rush for Joanna's book and seek a remedy whilst the company is having its lemonade and cake in the dining-room before going home."

This she did, and luckily found there an excellent and simple way of removing grease spots from marble. Carefully detaching with a knife as much as she could without scratching the surface of the mantel, she applied some finely-powdered magnesia, to be left all night, and then, with an easier mind, rejoined the merry party in the next room.

The following morning, on wiping off the magnesia, the grease marks had disappeared, and a 2d application was not necessary.

The Colvilles' house was an old one, and though it consequently could not boast of modern improvements, such as heated linen rooms, yet it possessed one advantage rarely met with in a new house ,namely, a fairly large garden.

It was not a remarkably productive garden, but that was, perhaps, because there was so little attention given to its culture. The lawns were kept closely shaven and the paths neat and trim, but beyond that the old-fashioned rose-bushes still blossomed on (or not, as the case might be), free from the rivalry of standards; the lilacs, all untrimmed, grew into perfect bowers, whilst honeysuckles and clematis climbed and wandered about in a delicious tangle, just as their own sweet wills led them.

One corner of the garden was dignified by the name of orchard, though all that remained to merit the title was one gnarled old apple-tree, hoary with age and long past bearing. But here were a number of fine hardy gooseberry and currant bushes, which some enterprising tenant had planted, and in spite of the neglect of the present very unagricultural family, the bushes were laden with fruit, year after year, with unabating plenty.

Tom and Dick would commence their onslaught on the crop whilst the fruit was still in the condition of small green bullets, and indigestible beyond words to describe, and continued it as long as there was a berry left, but still there was abundance left for pies and puddings and preserving.

This year Margaret resolved to be content with bottling a quantity for winter use, instead of preserving any, for it must be confessed that she felt a little timid of trying her 'prentice hand on preserves. Following what she took to be the traditional family recipe for gooseberries in the miscellany book, she selected the fruit when fully grown but before it was ripe. They were gathered on a dry sunny day, and with the "heads and tails" cut off, they were placed in wide-mouthed bottles, which had to be perfectly dry inside. These, well corked, were put to stand up to the neck in a pan of cold water on the fire, which was allowed to come to a boil very gradually till the fruit looked scalded or "coddled," to use an old-fashioned phrase. The bottles were then taken out and the necks dipped into the following cement for keeping out all air: - Put two pounds of resin, with two ounces of tallow (that from a dip candle will do) into an earthen vessel; melt over a slow fire till well mixed, colour with a little stone blue or yellow ochre, and let it cool till it is only just liquid.

"The currants require rather more care in gathering, so as not to bruise the fruit, and their treatment afterwards is somewhat different. To every pound of fruit, half a pound of sugar is allowed, pulverised and dried by the fire. They are boiled with the sugar for a minute, then when cold put into bottles with a little sweet oil on the top. A piece of bladder and a little sheet lead are good coverings for excluding air, and finally, the bottles are put away in a cool, dry cupboard, and their contents subsequently testify to the excellence of the way of preserving, for they taste like fresh fruit.

It was during the gathering of this fruit that Betsy confided to her mistress a very agitating and interesting piece of news. It seemed that during her sojourn "down home," Betsy's pleasant face and manner, and her devoted attention to her sick mother, had quite won the heart of a rising young baker, in fact, so devoted was he that, not being actually discouraged in his suit, he had left his native village and taken a situation as foreman in a thriving establishment not far off, ostensibly to better himself, but also, as Betsy could not but surmise, with the idea of renewing his proposals.

"And now," continued the damsel, hiding as best she could amongst the friendly gooseberry bushes, her face always rosey, at this agitating moment absolutely carmine, "now the young man was pressing for a decided answer, and a letter had come that very morning urging for it in eloquent terms."

"But you don't mean that – he doesn't want you to marry him directly, surely?" asked Margaret, lost in amazement and perplexity.

"Oh, dear heart, no, miss," replied the damsel, unable to refrain from a smile at her mistress's simplicity, "'tis only to keep company, as the saying is; and I thought as father hasn't no objections, and if you hadn't no objections, and he's a very steady young man and getting on well in his trade too –"

"Your father knows him, then?"

"Oh, yes, miss, from a child, I might say, and me too. We was at school together, and was always friendly like."

"Well,  Betsy, it would not be right for me to hinder you in a matter like this, so long as your father is content, and I feel sure he would not allow you to have anything to do with one who was not very steady and good and nice."

"No, miss, certainly not, nor I wouldn't wish to. Should you have any objections to me seeing him now and then, miss?"

It was Margaret's turn to smile now,  for the idea of not being allowed to see one's betrothed even now and again struck her as droll. She was on the point of saying he could come as often as he liked, but, on second thoughts, prudently replied, "Of course I wish to do what is best for you, so I will think it over, and let you know what can be arranged."

Margaret's "thinking about it" meant, as usual, "ask Mrs Trent or Joanna about it," for this was indeed a new experience for her. She knew, poor child, that a whole day's thought would bring her no light on such a subject, and though she felt much interested in the affair (as what girl of eighteen would not?) she wished she had not to give an opinion on it.

As soon as possible she set out for Mrs Trent's, timing her visit so that Wilfrid would be certainly safe at his business.

After hearing the state of the case, Mrs Trent congratulated Margaret on Betsy's having made so good a choice, for she had heard the young man spoken of in high terms by his employer.

"As to his coming to see Betsy, it has always seemed hard to me that while Miss Belinda in the parlour may have her beaux, Betsy Jane in the kitchen is not permitted to have a 'follower!' One wishes to be kind and considerate in such cases, but too frequent visits are not satisfactory; it unsettles the girl, as she is in a constant state of expecting him to come, and it may tempt the young man to waste the time when he ought to be at work. Now, I advise you to give him permission to come every other Sunday afternoon, have tea with Betsy, and go to church with her in the evening. On the intervening Sunday she will see him no doubt at church, but he should not come into the house on any other occasion, save by very special permission."

"Oh, Mrs Trent, only once a fortnight! Why, if she is very, very fond of him, she will want to see him every single day! I'm certain I should," Margaret exclaimed, blushing and laughing.

"Ah1 Well, we cannot have everything we want, love; supposing he lived very far away, once a fortnight would seem delightfully often. But you had better propose that to Betsy, and I feel sure she will be well content, and he too. Now, dear, I will give you that recipe for the marking ink with which my linen was marked when I was married thirty years ago, and, see, it is as black and clear as if it were freshly written. Here it is. Take two drachms of powdered gum arabic, one scruple of sap green, and one drachm two scruples of nitrate of silver; dissolve these in an ounce of distilled water. That is the ink; but before using it, it is necessary to prepare the linen with a mordaunt, made by dissolving one ounce of carbonate of soda in half a pint of water. Moisten the place to be marked with this mordaunt, and when dry proceed as with ordinary marking ink, finally holding the newly written letters to the fire for a minute."

"Many thanks, Mrs Trent, dear, I have been so troubled with bad marking inks: some of them wash out directly, and others, still worse, eat away the linen into large holes. If this is a little more trouble to use I'm sure it will be well worth it,  for the names on your linen, done so long ago, are far clearer and better coloured than any I can get now."

"Yes, I think you will be pleased. In looking over my old papers, searching for that recipe, I came across this one – it is a delicious conserve, made of rose-leaves – which I have never seen or heard mentioned since I was a child, and used to have a spoonful for dessert on Sundays as a great treat. Yes, you may well open your eyes, but after all it is not a very different thing from drinking the infusion of tea-leaves. This is the recipe:- Take red-rose petals, remove the white part at the bottom of each, sift them through a sieve, to remove seeds and other particles. Weigh them, and allow three times their weight of the best loaf-sugar. Boil the leaves till they are tender, reckoning about a pint of water to the same measure of petals. Then add the sugar and boil, stirring all the time till the syrup is nearly all taken up. Then put away in little jars, covering as for preserves."

"I shall like to try that as soon as our roses are in perfection; it is such a pretty recipe, and it is so poetic actually to eat a conserve of rose-leaves.

"Then I saved two simple custard recipes for you. They are such an improvement with rather sour early fruit, which will be soon coming on now. Here is one of them: - Take a pint of milk, add two large eggs, both whites and yolks, and a little nutmeg. Beat these together for five minutes, and pour into a saucepan. Stir over a clear fire till the mixture thickens. Put into a jug a little drop of almond flavouring, or vanilla (half a teaspoonful is ample), strain the custard into the jug, strain it once more, and serve cold. The other recipe is equally simple and economical. For it you must boil a pint of new milk, with a little lemon-peel, two bay-leaves, and sugar to taste. Meanwhile, rub down smooth a dessert-spoonful of rice-flour into a cup of cold milk, and mix with it the well-beaten yolks of two eggs. Take a basin of the hot milk and mix with the cold, then pour that into the saucepan of boiling milk again, stirring it one way till it thickens and is on the point of boiling. Next pour it out into a jug or other vessel, stir it for some time, adding a tablespoonful of peach-water, and any flavouring you please."

"Those certainly sound very simple. I have never been very successful with custards when I have tried the more complicated recipes, but surely I cannot go wrong with such clear and easy directions as these. How lovely that bouquet of lilac is! Surely they are not the same clusters that I saw here more than a week ago?"

"Yes, indeed, they are the same, and they are as sweet as ever, are they not? It is because there was a little charcoal put in the water in which they stand. There is nothing like it for keeping flowers fresh."

"Well, I hope Betsy will not think me very hard-hearted about her interviews with the young man," said Margaret, as she rose to take leave.

"She will be unreasonable if she does; but you need not fear it. I hope you will meet with no worse treatment from the powers that be when your own time comes."