VISIT TO A NURSERY.
[The following article by Hahnemann gives an insight into the life and learning of this great and good man that may be read with interest and profit] :
I lately paid a visit to one of my relatives. Our conversation soon turned upon my favorite subject, children. My fair cousin (her husband very properly left her to speak) talked like a book about physical education, and made me very desirous to see her young family.
She led me to the corridor at the back of the house that abutted on the courtyard, and opened the door of a dark, low receptacle full of disgusting smells, which she informed me was her nursery. A steaming tub, in which dirty linen was soaking, stool in the front of the room surrounded by some low washerwomen, whose unmannerly chattering polluted the ear as the vapor from the dirty hot water did the lungs. The steam, condensed into drops, ran down the window panes.
I expressed to my fair cousin my incredulity as to the utility of this arrangement, and hinted how much the emanations from the clothes that were being washed must deteriorate the air the little ones had to breathe, how the excessive humidity thereby engendered relaxed all the fibres of our bodies and must consequently be doubly injurious to children of a tender age.
“Do you really mean to say,” cried she, “that washing causes any pollution? I’m sure I see no dirt made by it, and a little moisture can’t do much harm.”
“I allude to the invisible, but very injurious deterioration of the air, the bad effects of which on such delicate creatures as children are you must have heard of.”
“Oh!” she replied, “I fumigate occasionally with juniper berries, and they soon remove all impurities.”
I now perceived that a learned demonstration of the difference betwixt the properties of azotic gas and pure oxygen, although they differ but slightly in odor and not at all in appearance, would have been quite incomprehensible to my dear cousin, nor could I hope to make her understand how a prolonged sojourn in impure air acted as a slow poison on animal life, especially at a tender age, and how impossible it was that children could enjoy even tolerable health in such an atmosphere and so forth. Neither did I venture to speak of the quality of humidity that was imperceptibly taken up by the warm air of the room from the scalding water, and equally imperceptibly absorbed by the open mouths of the absorbent vessels in the child’s soft body, whereby the natural exhalations were obstructed. Nor did I attempt to prove to her by the syllogyism in Barbara, though I had it on my scholastic tongue, that fumigation with juniper berries and such like things would rather tend to phlogisticate and deteriorate the air, but could never transform the impure air into vital gas. However, as I have said, I luckily suppressed my logical refutation that was about to burst forth, and endeavored to bring forward some argumentum and hominem.
“It is possible,” I said, “that I may be mistaken, and that you, my esteemed cousin, contrary to all expectations, are in the right in supposing that the frequent repetition of a washing festival in a nursery, together with the exhalations that arise from the blankets hung to dry near the stove there, may be without any unfavorable influence on the health of children, and I shall give up my point at once when you produce me your dear little children, who doubtless are very lively and stout.” “Produce them,” she replied, “I cannot, but you may see them yourself back there. I don’t know what ails my poor Freddy yonder; he is nine years old, but cannot walk well without his crutches.”
At these words a little miserable looking figure crawled towards us with difficulty. His knees were bent inwards and his legs completely destitute of muscle. His head, drawn backwards, stuck betwixt his shoulders; his face was pale and withered; his eyes dull, but projecting beyond the prominent forehead. His large ears stuck out; his nostrils were expanded; his broad tongue always hung partially out of his half-open mouth. His emaciated arms could scarcely support him on his crutches. He soon returned panting to his little armchair to rest himself after this slight exertion. I involuntarily shrugged my shoulders and heard a deep sigh.
A mixed feeling of gratitude to God and profound pity took possession of me as I called my own rosy-cheeked Fritz to my side and bade him shake hands with this innocent victim if a false and injurious method of bringing up children. My little urchin kissed this poor object affectionately, and asked him what it was he drank out of the large jug beside him. “My afternoon coffee,” was his reply, and at the same time he poured out a cup for my boy, who, however, refused it, as he was not in the habit of drinking things he was not acquainted with.