“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



One of the most anomalous of the inconsistencies peculiar to human nature is that we who are flesh, and consequently liable to all the ills to which flesh is heir, should know so little about the manner in which to check or, at least, alleviate these miseries. In the average household the proper care of the sick is an unknown art, or one so little understood that illness would seem to be an impossible contingency.

The chamber of illness is at best a sadly uncomfortable place, and it is the duty of the nurse, be she a hireling or the nearest and dearest of kin to the prostrate inhabitant thereof, to be cognizant of the methods of tending and easing the unfortunate being during the trying period of his enforced idleness. Only those who have been confined to a sick couch can appreciate its many trying features. The looker-on sees a man or woman uncomfortable or in pain, lying in an easy bed, "the best place for sick folk," with nothing to trouble him beyond the bodily malease which holds him there. He is merely laid aside for repairs, and, if the observer be somewhat wearied and overworked, he is conscious of a pang of envy. But he does not think of the sleepless nights through which the monotonous ticking of the clock is varied only by the striking of the hours, each one of them seeming double its actual length; or of the aching head and limbs; the feverish restlessness which makes repose an impossibility; or--most trying of all--the dumb nausea and loathing of the food, which, as one poor woman complained of meals partaken in bed, "tastes of the mattress and covers!"

The member of the family who is laid low by illness should receive the first consideration of the entire household. Intelligent care and nursing will be of more benefit than medicines. An old poem, written over two hundred and fifty years ago, struck the right chord when it advised:

"Use three physicians: First, Dr. Quiet, Then Dr. Merryman, and Dr. Diet."

Noise and disturbance of whatever description must be an unknown quantity in a sick room. There "Dr. Quiet" should hold undisputed and peaceful sway. Felt or soft kid slippers, devoid of any offensive squeak, should be worn, and loud tones and exclamations prohibited. On the other hand, do not whisper to any person who chances to be in the room. Whispering arouses the patient's curiosity and suspicions, and, if he be asleep, the sibilant sound will pierce his slumbers and awaken him. Let all remarks be made in a low-pitched undertone. Never, even at the risk of causing offence, allow discussion of any subject to occur in the presence of the invalid. You may imagine that he does not mind it, that his mind will be diverted; but the argument ended, there may be noticed a flush on the cheek and a rapidity of breathing that bodes ill. One admirable physician makes it a rule never to permit political or religious topics to be canvassed in the hearing of one of his "cases," as a wide experience has taught him that such matters cannot be talked of without causing some degree of excitement, and thus retarding the patient's progress on the road toward health. For the same reason, try, by every effort, to keep your charge from thinking of work which should be done, and of any possible inconvenience he may be causing. There never was, and never will be, a convenient time for a person to be ill, so, whenever it comes, resolve to make the best of it. There is no greater cruelty than that of allowing a sick person to imagine that, but for his ill-timed indisposition, you might be able to go here or there, or to do this or that. Under such an idea the couch becomes a bed of clipped horse-hairs to the helpless sufferer, and he feels himself to be a useless hulk. This unkindness is oftentimes unintentional, and due more to thoughtlessness than to deliberate hard-heartedness. To avoid causing such discomfort do not look worried or distracted while ministering to your patient's wants, and do not fussily "fly around" in straightening and setting the room to rights. Let everything be done decently and in order, rapidly and quietly.

Another desideratum of the chamber of illness is cleanliness in the minutest particular. When the disease permits it, the sick person should be sponged all over daily, the teeth cleansed and the hair brushed. Wash the face and hands often during the day, as this process rests and refreshes.

The same gown should not be worn day and night, and the sheets must be changed frequently. If practicable, place a lounge at the side of the bed and lift or roll the patient off upon that, and turn mattresses and beat up pillows before re-making the bed. If this cannot be done with safety, the sheets may be removed, and others adjusted, simply by moving the invalid from one side to the other of the bed, rolling up the soiled sheet closely to the body, and spreading on the clean one in its place. Then the patient may be moved back to his original place, and the fresh sheet spread on the other side of the couch.

Air the room often, covering the patient warmly for a moment while you let in a sluice of ozone. Do not allow the chamber to become overheated, or to grow so cold as to chill the hands and face. The sick person may wear over the shoulders a flannel "nightingale" or jacket, to leave the arms at liberty.

In preparing the tray of food, let everything be as dainty as possible. Use for this purpose your choicest china and whitest linen. One important rule with regard to food is, Give a very little at a time, and avoid vulgar abundance. The sight of the loaded plate will discourage a weak appetite, and the delicate stomach will revolt at the suggestion of accepting such a mass. A small bird, a neatly trimmed French chop, a bit of tenderloin steak, or tender broiled chicken, will be eaten, when, if two chops or half a steak were offered, not a mouthful would be swallowed. To the well and strong this may seem like folly, but let us, in our strength, pity and humor the weaknesses of those upon whom God has laid suffering. It takes all the ingenuity and tact which love can muster to make a sick-room tolerable, and food anything but distasteful.

A poor consumptive girl had fancied that she could eat a few raw oysters, and the physician cheerfully prescribed them. At his next visit he was met by the mother, who informed him with dismay that her daughter would not touch the delicacy--"her stomach turned against it the instant the dish was brought in."

"How many did you let her see?" he asked.

"Two dozen!"

"Which would have daunted a well man, madam!" said the wise man. "Give her one at a time--cold and crisp, upon your best china plate, and tell her that is all she can have for at least an hour. Make her think that her appetite is under restraint. This is in itself a stimulant."

The hint is valuable.

In administering medicine, be careful to follow the physician's directions as to quantity and time of taking. Do not prepare the dose in the presence of the patient, as it may make him exceedingly nervous to watch the dropping or pouring of the drug; and after it has been swallowed, put bottle and spoon out of sight.

In too many families there exists sinful ignorance as to what should be done in case of illness before the doctor arrives. If a child comes in from play, hoarse and feverish, with nausea and pain in the head, he is often allowed to sit or lie about the house until the disagreeable symptoms become so pronounced as to cause alarm, and the physician is summoned. The sufferer should have his feet soaked in hot water, be put to bed, and some anti-febrine like aconite administered until a slight perspiration is induced. Aconite is such deadly poison that the mother must be sure she knows just in what quantity to give it. The dose for a child from three to six years of age is half a drop in a teaspoonful of water, every hour until the feverishness disappears. Unless serious illness is beginning, the chances are that, under this treatment, the little one will be almost well by the next day.

Mothers would do well to make a study of children's ailments and their proper treatment. Above all, the matter of diet should be comprehended. It is appalling to see the conglomeration of indigestible substances which a sick person is allowed to eat. All children should be trained to take medicine, and to submit to any prescribed dietary without resistance.

To keep up your patient's courage be, or at all events seem, cheerful. Wise old Solomon, in his day, knew that a merry heart did good like a medicine, and the morsel of wisdom is no less true now than then. Such being the case, bring into the presence of the sufferer a bright face and undisturbed demeanor.

Much may be said on the other side of the question, i.e., from the nurse's standpoint. There are patients and patients, and some of them are impatients. It is a pity for a sick person to allow himself to so far lose control over his temper and manners as to be disagreeable when all that tender care and nursing can do is his. But really ill people are seldom cross, and the tried nurse may take to heart the comforting thought that one rarely hears of a man dying in a bad humor. It is undoubtedly discouraging to have a patient turn away from a carefully prepared dainty with a shudder of disgust and revulsion. It may sound harsh to say it, but nobody, sick or well, has the right to do such an unkind and rude thing. Any one in extreme bodily discomfort cannot be always smiling and uttering thanks, but he can be gentle and appreciative of the efforts that are made toward mitigating his distress. On his own account, as well as for the sake of his attendant, he should keep up a semblance of cheerfulness, the moral force of which is great. On the part of patient and nurse there must be self control and forbearance, which if closely practiced may bring sunshine into the most darkly shaded chamber of suffering.

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