“Let each morning and evening be a new and complete day. In childlike simplicity live as if you were to have no to-morrow so far as worrying as to its possible outcome goes. Make the best of to-day's income. Not one minute of to-morrow belongs to you. It is all God's. Thank him that His hands hold it, and not your feeble, uncertain fingers.”

Marion Harland


An Open Secret,

Chapter I.

Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,

Chapter II.

The Family Purse,

Chapter III.

The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,

Chapter IV.

Little Things that are Trifles,

Chapter V.

A Mistake on John's Part,

Chapter VI.


Chapter VII.

Must-haves and May-bes,

Chapter VIII.

What Good Will It Do?

Chapter IX.

Shall I Pass It On?

Chapter X.

"Only Her Nerves,"

Chapter XI.

The Rule of Two,

Chapter XII.

The Perfect Work of Patience,

Chapter XIII.

According to His Folly,

Chapter XIV.

"Buttered Parsnips,"

Chapter XV.

Is Marriage Reformatory?

Chapter XVI.

"John's" Mother,

Chapter XVII.

And Other Relations-in-Law,

Chapter XVIII.

A Timid Word for the Step-mother,

Chapter XIX.

Children as Helpers,

Chapter XX.

Children as Burden-bearers,

Chapter XXI.

Our Young Person,

Chapter XXII.

Our Boy,

Chapter XXIII.

That Spoiled Child,

Chapter XXIV.

Getting Along in Years,

Chapter XXV.


Chapter XXVI.

The Gospel of Conventionalities,


Familiar, or Intimate?


Our Stomachs,


Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,


The Family Invalid,


A Temperance Talk,


Family Music,


Family Religion,


A Parting Word for Boy,


Homely, But Important,



The Secret of a Happy Home

Author: Marion Harland

Published: 1896



I well remember a girl's tearful appeal to me when she was stigmatized and reproved for her "giddy youth!" "It is not my fault that I was born young! And I am not responsible for the fact that I entered upon existence seventeen, instead of seventy, years ago. At all events, it was not a sin even if I was guilty of such a folly!"

Perhaps we older people are too prone to forget that youth is not a sin to be condemned, or even a folly to be sneered at. "Wad some power the giftie gie us" to remember that we were not always cool-headed, clear-seeing and middle-aged! Trouble and responsibility come so soon to all, that we err in forcing young heads to bow, and strong shoulders to bend, beneath a load which should not be laid upon them for many years. As we advance in age, our weaknesses and temptations change, and no longer take the form of heedlessness, intolerance, extravagance, and most trying of all to the critical and dignified observer,--freshness.

We may describe this last-named quality somewhat after the fashion of the little boy who defined salt as "What makes potatoes taste bad when they don't put any on 'em!"

So "freshness" is that which makes youth delightful by its absence.

Unfortunately, it is almost inseparable from this period, and while there are girls, and even boys, in whom the offending quality is nearly, if not entirely, lacking, they are almost as the red herring of the wood, and the strawberry of the sea, in nursery rhyme.

Freshness takes many and varied forms, the most common being that of self-conceit and the desire to appear original and eccentric in feelings, moods, likes and dislikes. Like the fellows of the club of which Bertie, in "The Henrietta," was an illustrious member, the average boy winks, nods, looks wise and "makes the other fellows think that he is a Harry of a fellow,--but he isn't!"

The desire to be considered worldly-wise--"tough"--is rampant in the masculine mind between the ages of fifteen and twenty. The boy who has been to a strict preparatory boarding-school and is just entering upon his college course, whose theatre-goings have been limited to the "shows" to which his father has given him tickets, or to which he has escorted his mother or sisters, and whose wildest dissipations have consisted in a surreptitious cigarette and glass of beer, neither of which he enjoyed, but both of which he pretended to revel in for the sake of being "mannish,"--will talk knowingly of "the latest soubrette," "a jolly little ballet-dancer," "the wicked ways of this world," and "the dens of iniquity in our large cities." Dickens tells us that "when Mr. Feeder spoke of the dark mysteries of London, and told Mr. Toots that he was going to observe it himself closely in all its ramifications in the approaching holidays, and for that purpose had made arrangements to board with two old maiden aunts at Peckham, Paul regarded him as if he were the hero of some book of travel or wild adventure, and was almost afraid of such a slashing person."

Why it is considered manly to be "tough" is one of the unsolved mysteries of the boyish mind. Any uneducated, weak fool can go wrong. It takes a man to be strong enough to keep himself pure and good.

Another "fresh" characteristic of this age is the pretence of doubt. A fellow under twenty-one is likely to have doubts, to find articles in the creed of his church "to which he cannot agree. That kind of thing is well enough for women and children, but for a man of the world,"--and then follows an expressive pause, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and lift of the brows.

With a girl this trying age is often given over to sentimental musings and blues. She is convinced that nobody understands her, her mother least of all, that she is too sensitive for this harsh world, that she will never receive the love and consideration due her. Cynicism becomes her main characteristic, and she bitterly sneers at friendship and gratitude, declaring that true, disinterested affection exists only in the imagination. Is it any wonder that mothers sometimes become discouraged? Poor mothers! whose combined comfort and distress is the knowledge that the time is fast approaching when their boys and girls will blush for shame at the remembrance of their "salad days, when they were green in judgment."

Parents have need of vast patience, and let them, before uttering condemnation, carefully consider if they themselves are not a little to blame for the state of their children's minds; if over-indulgence and unwise consideration have not had much to do with the trouble. One excellent woman has made of her son an insufferable boor by constantly deferring to him, no matter in what company, and by allowing him to see that she considers his very ordinary intellect far above the average. In a parlor full of educated men and women she went out of her way to tell what remarkable views "Charlie" had upon certain religious subjects, and, after attracting the attention of the assembled company, called upon "Charlie" to give vent to his sentiments that all present might observe how original they were. Whereupon the hulk of a son, consequential and patronizing, discoursed bunglingly, and at length, on his opinions and beliefs, until he was inflated to speechlessness by conceit, and his hearers disgusted into responsive silence.

If your girl is clever, do not tell her so, or repeat to others in her presence her bright observations. But, on the other hand, do not snub her, or allow her to feel that her intellect is of an inferior order. The best way to make a fool of the Young Person is to tell him that he is a fool. Stimulate your child by all the love and appreciation at your command, but let it be intelligent appreciation, not blind admiration or prejudiced disapproval. Do you recollect how you felt and dreamed and gushed when you were a girl, the pages of sentimental twaddle (as you now call it) which you confided to the diary which you burned in disgust at twenty-one? Do you remember how genuine your distresses then seemed? You can smile at the girl you once were, but still you find it in your heart to pity her, poor, silly child, foolishly sobbing late into the night over some broken friendship or imaginary heart-trouble. Perhaps she had no mother to whom to go, or perhaps her mother "did not understand." See that you do not make the same mistake, but, while you recognize the folly of the trouble, think of the heartache back of it all. When your girl was a tiny child, you petted and comforted her as she wailed over her broken dolly. Was that grief so much more sensible than this, or do you love her less now? When your four-year-old boy came to you with his stories of what he would do when he was "a great big man," you drew him close to you and encouraged him to "talk it all out." Now, when he is a head taller than you, and tells you of his hopes and aspirations, you sigh that "boys are so fresh and visionary!"

It is not necessary to condone or to condemn all. What would you say to the gardener who let your choice young vines run in straggling lines all over the ground and in all directions,--or who ruthlessly cut off all the stalks within an inch of the roots? Young people need training, encouragement and urging in some directions, repression and pruning in others. Above all, they need tender forbearance.

Another trying feature of the Young Person is his wholesale intolerance of everything and everybody. Only himself and perhaps one or two of his own friends escape his censure. These being covered with the mantle of his approbation, are beyond criticism. This habit of uncharitableness is such an odious one that our boy or girl should avoid it carefully.

If you would acquire the custom of saying no evil, it is advisable to guard against thinking it. Difficult as it may seem, it is quite possible to put such a guard upon the mind as to accustom it to look on the best side of persons and things. Nobody is wholly bad, or, at least, few people are so entirely given over to disagreeable traits as the Young Person would lead us to think. Only a few days ago a young man was speaking in my presence of another fellow, who was, as far as I know, a respectable, well-bred boy.

"Oh!" said the Young Person, when his name was mentioned, "he is no good."

"Why not?" queried I. "Is he bad?"

"He is too much of a fool to be bad."

"Is he such a fool? I thought he was considered rather bright?"

"Well, he thinks himself awfully bright. He is a regular donkey."

"Are his manners disagreeable?"

"No-o-o, I don't know that they are. In fact, I believe he prides himself on the reputation he has acquired for gentlemanliness."

"Then, what is so disagreeable about him?"

"Perhaps," dryly suggested the father of the Young Person, "he is not particularly fond of you, and that it why you disapprove of him."

"No, sir!" was the indignant rejoinder, "that is not it. To be sure, he never troubles himself to pay me any marked attention. Nor do I care to have him do so. He is a low fellow."

Deny it as he might, the reason my young friend disliked the "low fellow" was because the tiny thorn of neglect had wounded his vanity and pricked and rankled into a fester. This is human nature, but as we advance in years, we appreciate that people may be really excellent in many respects, and yet have no great fondness for us. Youth still has much to learn.

Ten girls whom I know formed a society for the repression of unkind criticism. The members pledged themselves to try, as far as in them lay, to speak kindly of people when it was possible for them to do so, and when impossible to say nothing. At first it was hard, for self-conceit would intrude, and it is hard for one girl to praise another who dislikes her. Little by little the tiny seed of effort grew into a habit of kindly speech.

What volumes it argues for a woman's gentle ladyhood and Christianity when it can truthfully be said of her, "She never speaks uncharitably of anybody!"

Let us older people set an example of tolerance and charitable speech. Too often our children are but reproductions, perhaps somewhat highly colored, of ourselves, our virtues, and our faults. And this is especially true of the mothers. John Jarndyce gives us a word of encouragement when he says--

"I think it must somewhere be written that the virtues of the mothers shall occasionally be visited upon the children, as well as the sins of the father."

Such being the case, let us children of a larger growth show such tact, unselfishness and tender charity, that our children, seeing these virtues, may copy them, and thereby aid in removing the disagreeable traits of, at least, our Young Persons.

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