Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/602

This page has been validated.
584
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

books, flowers, and music, combined with pleasant conversation and a cheerful fire, would neutralize the attractions of the average "saloon." Playthings and social games, too, would help to compensate the youngsters for the want of out-of-door sports, and where they have a room to themselves I would suggest the introduction of some entertaining pet, a raccoon or a tame squirrel-monkey. Let the boys have some fun—provide pastimes; it is ennui rather than natural perversity that leads our young men to the rum-shop.

The end of the day is the best time for a sponge-bath; a sponge and a coarse towel have often cured insomnia where diacodium failed. A bucketful of tepid water will do for ordinary purposes; daily cold shower-baths in winter-time are as preposterous as hot drinks in the dog-days. Russian baths and ice-water cures owe their repute to the same popular delusion that ascribes miraculous virtues to nauseating drugs—the mistrust of our natural instincts, culminating in the idea that all natural things must be injurious to man, and that the efficacy of a remedy depends on the degree of its repulsiveness. Ninety-nine boys in a hundred would rather take the bitterest medicine than a cold bath in mid-winter. If we leave children and animals to the guidance of their instincts they will become amphibious in the dog-days, and quench their thirst at the coldest spring without fear of injurious consequences; but in winter-time even wild beasts avoid immersion with an instinctive dread. A Canadian bear will make a wide circuit, or pick his way over the floes rather than swim a lake in cold weather. Baptist missionaries do not report many revivals before June. Warm springs, on the other hand, attract all the birds and beasts that stay with us in winter-time; the hot spas of Rockport, Arkansas, are visited nightly by raccoons and foxes in spite of all torchlight hunts; and Haxthausen tells us that in hard winters the thermæ of Paetigorsk, in the eastern Caucasus, attract deer and wild-hogs from the distant Terek Valley. I know the claims of the hydropathic school, and the arguments pro and con, but the main points of the controversy still hinge upon the issue between Nature's testimony and Dr. Priessnitz's.

Our beds are our night-clothes, and ought to be kept as clean as our shirts and coats. Woolen blankets are healthier than quilts; put a heavy United States army blanket over a kettle full of hot water and see how fast the steam makes its way through the weft; a quilt would stop it like an iron lid, and thus tends to check the exhalation of the human body. In order to disinfect a quilt you have first to loosen the pressed cotton; a woolen blanket can be steamed and dried in a couple of hours. For similar reasons a straw tick is better than a horsehair mattress, though a woven-wire mattress is perhaps preferable to both. Feather-beds are a recognized nuisance. Children over ten years should sleep alone, or at least under separate blankets, if the bedsteads do not reach around.