"Like dew on the gowans lying
Is the fa' o' her faity feet,
And like winds in summer sighing
Her voice is low and sweet."
The poet evidently sings of his lady-love; that a child might understand, and the simile expressed in the first two lines could not well be sweeter. "Gowans," I should tell my English readers, is a word signifying mountain daisies - the wee, modest, crimson-tipped flowers mentioned in the verses of the rustic bard. It is very natural for a young girl to wish to have pretty hands and I would have them lissom as well as pretty. A shapely hand is one that is moderately small and plump, the fingers beautifully tapered, the joints supple, and the nails delicate and well formed. it is in youth the hands should be take especial care of. I do not advocate too hard work for any girl, but I do aver that the hands, if they are to be shapely, are not to be idle. If they are, I'll tell you what will happen they will grow long and lank, and bony; and if there is any tendency to indigestion or to rheumatism, it is just possible that the joints may get thicker than they ought. Even such simple work as sewing, knitting, embroidering, painting, or playing gives just that amount of exercise to the hands and fingers which is necessary to keep them in a healthy shape.
The nails require care to keep them nice. They should be seen to every day at toilet. What are called hang-nails, or, by some, rag-nails, is a very painful affection, which can very easily be prevented. In this way - three times a week the skin that overlaps the lower end of the nail should be well pushed downwards, because if it is allowed to attach itself to the nail the skin gets stretched and torn. It should always be pushed back but never cut. The free end of the nail should be pared with a knife or cut with a scissors into the shape required. The inner part of the free edge of the nails should be kept perfectly clean with a crush and soap and water, but not interfered with by knife or scissors. The surface of the nail should never be scraped. The white spots which appear on the nails of the young at times are not dangerous, although they don't look pretty. They are caused by hurts or blows.
When the hands are well taken care of and moderately exercised, they should be of a beautiful delicate pinkish white colour, and as soft as the finest satin. Exposure to any amount of daylight does them good, exposure to the sun turns them brown or yellow, exposure to cold and wet hardens and kills the skin, and produces roughness and chaps. Gloves, then, are worn in summer to protect the hands from the sun, and in winter from the cold. The wrists at both seasons should be protected - by kid in summer, by fur in winter. When at any time the hands feel uncomfortably hot the gloves ought to be taken off; by retaining them at such a time you are only spoiling the life and beauty of your hands. Some girls, especially those with a somewhat delicate constitution and tender skin, suffer much from chapped hands after exposure to cold or to wet. At times this is so painful and persistent an affection that the doctor should be called in. But if this should not be deemed necessary, so long as the hands are bad kid gloves should be worn not only by day, but by night as well. If it is persistent, the hands had better be damped with a solution of potash and water - half a dram of the solution to one ounce of water, and then afterwards dressed with the benzoated oxide of zinc ointment, to which a drop or two of otto of roses has been added.
But any one suffering from chapped hands should take a little medicine to cool the blood about twice a week, and if at all weak, either the quinine wine already recommended or the tincture of iron, or a little of both. If the stomach is weak, much advantage will be obtained by using a teaspoonful of gentian bitter in half a wineglassful of water before breakfast and dinner. As a mild application to the hands if rough or inclined to chap, I recommend camphor ointment, or, perhaps better than anything else, the preparation called rose glycerine. After exposure of the hands and before their exposure to cold or the sun, this rose glycerine is invaluable.
Now, here is a little bath for the hands, for which I am sure you will feel grateful. It is easily prepared, and if the hands are soaked in it for about ten minutes morning and evening in summer, it tends to keep them nice and white and free from roughness. You put a pinch or two of powdered alum and a teaspoonful of powdered sal ammoniac in about a pint and a half of warm salt and water, and dissolve; then, when you have added a little toilet vinegar, this elegant hand bath is ready for use.
The same may be used for clamminess of the hands; but as this latter is generally a symptom of a low state of health, I would also advise the use of light-brown cod liver oil - about a dessert spoonful or more three times a day. "Nasty," did you say? Well, there you have me in a corner. But you soon get over the feeling of loathing which it at first excites, and, oh, dear me! There is really no end to all the good that cod liver oil is capable of doing. By the way, chewing a bit of orange peel before and after taking the little dose helps to disguise the taste of the oil.
Glycerine and water - rain-water, mind, always use rain-water for face and hands, at least - is a good application for damping the hands with. And a mixture of pure lime-juice, or lemon-juice, and lavender-water, equal parts, is another nice preparation for whiting the hands. The hands should never be rubbed with a coarse towel, but with a very fine one, and afterward with a piece of soft flannel. The soap you use should be very mild and transparent. Carbolic soap is, in cases of chapped hands, useful, and so is tar soap, but neither are very elegantly perfumed.
I hope I am not writing for any girl who bites her nails. It is a disfiguring habit, and any of my readers guilty of such a thing should be tried by court-martial by her brothers and sisters, and condemned to wear gloves day and night for a month, for beautiful nails are a very great adornment.
Both feet and hands, if at all tender - or I might almost say whether or not - should be washed every night before lying down, and every morning. If this is done, and sometimes a little alum added to the water, you will have very little trouble with corns or any other painful disfigurement. The feet should be wiped thoroughly dry, and the toes seen to. The nails should never be cut short; they should be a medium length, and, mark this, they should be cut straight across, and not from the sides like the fingernails. They ought to be well cleaned and brushed, but never scraped, and the scarf-skin should be gently pressed back.
There are few things more painful than an in-growing nail. It ought to be seen to at once, or the nail may have to be removed. It is generally caused by wearing too short shoes, which presses the nail back and causes it to thicken and grow downwards instead of forwards.
The feet should never be cramped up in a tight boot, while, on the other hand, a too loose boot or shoe is often the cause of corns. The stocking ought to be very soft, but not too thick, as thick stockings make the feet excessively tender.
When hands or feet are cold, warm them by exercise or friction; but never hold them to the fire, else chilblains may be the painful result.
Everyone knows what a common chilblain is, so I need not take up space by describing it, but content myself by giving a prescription for its cure. It is as follows - Soap liniment, one ounce; tincture of lytta, two drams; laudanum, two drams. Mix and apply three or four times a day.