Lady Darcy left the young people by themselves after luncheon, and as
was only natural, conversation at once turned on the proposed visit to
London. Peggy was too much perturbed to speak, but Mellicent put the
very inquiry which she most wished answered, being never troubled with
bashfulness in asking questions.
“Has your mother’s tooth been hurting her very much, Rosalind?”
“Tooth! what tooth? Oh, I think she did have a little twinge one night;
but it’s not the dentist whom she is really going to see. That’s only
an excuse. She really wants to go to some parties,” said Rosalind
lightly, whereat her brother scowled at her under heavy brows.
“What business have you to say that? What can you know about it, pray?
If mother says she is in pain, it is not for you to contradict, and
make up your own explanations. Leave her to manage her own affairs—-”
He spoke rapidly, but Rosalind only shrugged her shoulders, and
whispered something in Max’s ear at which he smiled and nodded his
head, evidently taking her part against her brother, to Peggy’s intense
No words were exchanged between the partners on the subject of the
calendar until they were once more at home; when Robert took advantage
of the first quiet opportunity and came up to Peggy with a face of set
“Mariquita!” he said, “_I am–not–going–to give in!_ If you stick to
me, I think we can still manage to get the calendar off in time. There
are twenty more quotations to be found. I’ll sit up to-night and fix
them off, and go on writing as long as I can keep awake, but I can’t
take a dozen books up to town with me, so I must leave it to you to
finish up. I’ll mark the passages I choose, write the full address on
a piece of paper, and leave everything ready for you to make up the
parcel. All you will have to do will be to write the remaining cards,
and to see that it is sent off on Friday. Five o’clock will be time
enough, but if you can get it off in the morning, so much the better.
You think you can manage as much as that?”
“Oh, yes! I’d do anything rather than give up now. It would be too
grudging. I am not afraid of a little more work.”
“You have done more than your share already. I am mad about it, but it
can’t be helped. I couldn’t refuse to go with the mater, and I wouldn’t
if I could. She is really not at all strong, and does not like the life
down here. It will do her good to have a few days’ change.”
Peggy looked at him steadily. She did not speak, but her eyes grew soft
and shining, and there was something at once so sweet, so kindly, and
so gentle in her expression that Rob exclaimed in surprise–
“I say, Peggy, you–you do look pretty! I never saw you look like that
before–what have you been doing to yourself?”
“Doing!” Peggy straightened herself at that, in offended dignity.
“Doing, indeed! What do you mean? Don’t you think I am pretty as a
“Never thought about it,” returned Robert carelessly. “You are
Peggy–that’s enough for me. A nice state I should be in to-day if it
were not for you! You are the jolliest little brick I ever met, and if
I get this prize it will be far more your doing than my own.”
Well, that was good hearing! Peggy held her head high for the rest
of that evening, and felt as if nothing would have power to depress
her for the future. But alas, when the pendulum is at its highest, it
begins to swing downwards. Peggy’s heart sank as she watched Robert
drive away from the door the next morning, and it went on sinking
more and more during the next twenty-four hours, as she realised the
responsibility which weighed upon her shoulders. When she came down to
breakfast on Friday morning the calendar was finished and ready to
be made up for the post, but her head was splitting with pain as the
result of the long hours’ work stolen from sleep, and a dead weight
of depression had settled on her spirits. It seemed of a sudden that
all this work and effort was waste of time; that the chances of being
successful were infinitesimally small; that even if it were gained,
the prize was of little value; that if Robert’s absence for four days
made such a difference in the life at the vicarage, it would become
altogether unbearable when he said good-bye at the beginning of the
year and went up to Oxford; that she was a desperately unfortunate
little unit, thrust into the midst of a family which was complete in
itself, and had only a kindly toleration to offer to a stranger; that,
in all probability, there would be a war in India, when her father
would be killed, her mother die of a broken heart, and Arthur be called
out to join the ranks of the recruits. She conjured up a touching
picture of herself, swathed in crape, bidding good-bye to her brother
at the railway station, and watching the scarlet coat disappear in the
distance, as the train steamed away. It was all most miserable and
picturesque, and outside the fog gathered, and the rain poured down
in a fine, persistent drizzle. It was one of those typical November
days when it seems as if the earth itself is in the blues, and that it
becomes everyone living on its surface to follow its example.
When afternoon came Peggy curled herself in an armchair in the corner
of the study, and stared gloomily at the fire. It was four o’clock.
In another hour the postman would call for the letters and she would
deliver the precious packet into his hands. She had made it up in the
dinner hour with some faint idea of carrying it to the village, but
she was tired, the rain poured, and Rob had said that the afternoon
post would do. She had given up the idea of going out, and taken a nap
instead on the top of her bed. And now it was four o’clock. Mellicent
called out that she was dying for tea-time to come; it had seemed
such a long, long day; they really ought to have tea earlier on these
dreary, murky afternoons. “_I want my tea!_” she chanted, in shrill,
penetrating tones, and instantly the refrain was taken up by the other
voices, and repeated over and over again with ever-increasing volume,
until the mistress of the house rushed in to discover the reason of the
“Bless your hearts, you shall have it at once!” she cried. “I’ll ring
and have it brought in, and ransack my cupboards to see what treats I
can give you. Poor dears, it _is_ dull for you sitting indoors all day
long. We must think of some bright, exciting games for this evening.”
No sooner said than done; she did not wait until Mary appeared, but
bustled off to meet her, to enlist the cook’s sympathy, and put out the
promised delicacies, and when the table was set she returned to the
room and seated herself, smilingly, in Esther’s place.
“I am going to stay with you this afternoon,” she said brightly. “Draw
up your chairs, dears, and let us be jovial. There is no credit in
being happy when the sun is shining, as dear old Mark Tapley would have
said; but it will really be praiseworthy if we succeed in being festive
this afternoon. Come, Peggy dearie!”
Peggy turned her dreary little face and stared at the table. From
outside came the sound of the opening and shutting of the door, of
footsteps in the hall. She glanced at the clock, wondering if it could
possibly be the postman already, found it was only ten minutes past
four, and dismissed the supposition with a sigh. “I don’t–think–I
want—-” she was beginning slowly, when, of a sudden, there came a
tremendous rat-tat-tat on the schoolroom door; the handle was not
turned, but burst open; a blast of chilly air blew into the room, and
in the doorway stood a tall, handsome youth, with square shoulders, a
gracefully poised head, and Peggy Saville’s eave-like brows above his
“Oh, what a surprise!” came the cry in loud laughing tones. “How do you
do, everybody? Just thought I would step in as I was passing, and have
a cup of tea, don’t you know.”
“My boy! My boy! Oh, how good to see you!” cried Mrs. Asplin
rapturously. Mellicent gurgled with surprise, and Peggy stood up by her
chair and stretched out both arms like a child to its mother.
“Arthur!–oh–Arthur!” she gasped, and there was a pathos, a longing,
an almost incredulous rapture in her voice which made the tears
start in Mrs. Asplin’s eyes, and brought a cloud of anxiety over the
“Why, Peg!” he cried. “My little Peg! Is something wrong, dear? You
look as melancholy as—-”
“Peggy has not been like herself for the last few weeks. I think she
has had an attack of home sickness, and longing for her own people. I’m
so glad you’ve come. You will do her more good than a dozen tonics.
Bless the boy; how big he is! And how did you manage to get away, dear,
and how long can you stay? Tell me all about it. I am consumed with
“I can stay till Monday or Tuesday, if you can put me up; and I came
away because I–I suppose I am not quite up to the mark. My head
bothers me. It aches, and I see black specks floating before my eyes.
The doctor advised me to knock off for a few days, and I thought I
would rather come here than anywhere.”
“I should think so, indeed. Of course we can put you up–proud and
pleased to do so. Well, this is a pleasant surprise for a dull November
day! You couldn’t have had a better one if you had had a hundred
wishes, could you, Peggy? You won’t feel melancholy any longer?”
“I’m just enraptured! Saturday, Sunday, Monday–three whole days
and two halves, as good as four days–almost a week! It’s too
delicious–too utterly delicious to realise!”
Peggy drew deep sighs of happiness, and hung on to Arthur’s arm in
an abandonment of tenderness which showed her in a new light to her
companions. She would not loosen her grasp for a moment, and, even when
seated at the table, kept her fingers tightly locked round his arm, as
though afraid that he might escape.
As for Arthur himself, he was in the wildest spirits. He was as
handsome a young soldier as one could wish to see, and his likeness
to Peggy seemed only to make him more attractive in the eyes of the
“Hurrah!” he cried cheerily. “Hurrah, for a good old vicarage tea!
Scones? that’s the style! Mary made them, I hope, and put in lots of
currants. Raspberry jam! I say, mater, do you remember that solemn
waitress you had, who told you that the jam was done again, and when
you exclaimed in horror, said, ‘Yes, ’um, it’s not a bit of good buying
raspberry jam. _They like it!_’ Ha, ha, ha, I’ve often thought of
that! That looks uncommonly good cake you have over there. Thank you,
I think I will! Begin with cake, and work steadily back to bread and
butter–that’s the style, isn’t it, Peggums? Esther, I looks towards
you! Mellicent, you are as thin as ever, I see. You should really do
something for it. There are regular hollows in your cheeks.”
“Nasty, horrid thing! You are always teasing! How would you like it
if you were struck fat yourself?” cried Mellicent, aggrieved. But,
in spite of herself, her chubby cheeks dimpled with smiles as Arthur
rolled his eyes at her across the table, for there was something
irresistibly fascinating about this young fellow, and it was like old
times to see him seated at the tea-table and to listen to his merry
“The dominie must grant a general holiday to-morrow,” he declared,
“and we will do something fine to celebrate the occasion. We’ll have
out this wonderful camera in the morning and take some groups. You
and I must be taken together, Peggy, to send out to the parents. You
promised to send me copies of all the things you took, but you are as
false in that respect as the whole race of amateur photographers. They
are grand hands at promising, but they never, by any chance—- Hallo!
What’s that? My cup over? Awfully sorry, mater, really! I’ll put a
penny in the missionary-box. Was it a clean cloth?”
“Oh, my dear boy, don’t apologise! I should not have felt that it was
really you if you had not knocked your cup over! To see the table-cloth
swimming with tea all round, convinces me that it is Arthur himself,
and nobody else! Tut, tut! What does a table-cloth matter?” And Mrs.
Asplin beamed upon her favourite as if she were really rather delighted
than otherwise at his exploit.
It was a merry, not to say noisy, meal which followed. Peggy’s lost
spirits had come back with the first glimpse of Arthur’s face; and her
quips and cranks were so irresistibly droll that three separate times
over Mellicent choked over her tea and had to be relieved with vigorous
pounding on the back, while even Esther shook with laughter and the
boys became positively uproarious.
Then Mr. Asplin came in, and Arthur was carefully concealed behind the
window-curtains, while he was asked whom he would most like to see if
the choice were given him. In provoking manner he mentioned at once a
brother in Australia, and when informed that relations were not on the
list, recollected an old college chum who was out in the Mauritius.
“Oh, dear, what a stupid man!” cried his wife in despair. “We don’t
mean the friends of your youth, dear! Think of the last few years and
of your young friends! Now, if you could choose whom would you—-”
“Arthur Saville!” said the Vicar promptly, upon which Arthur made a
loophole between the curtains and thrust his mischievous face through
the gap, to the Vicar’s amazement and the uproarious delight of the
onlookers. A dozen questions had to be asked and answered about
studies, examinations, and health, while Peggy sat listening, beaming
with happiness and pride.
It came as quite a shock to all when the Vicar announced that it was
time to dress for dinner, and Mrs. Asplin looked at Peggy with an
“We were all so charmed to see Arthur that I’m afraid we have been
selfish and engrossed too much of his attention. You two will be
longing for a cosy little chat to yourselves. If you run upstairs now,
Peggy, and hurry through your dressing, there will be a little time
before dinner, and you could have this room to yourselves.”
“Yes, run along, Peg! It won’t take me ten minutes to get into my
clothes, and I’ll be here waiting for you!” cried Arthur eagerly. And
Peggy went flying two steps at a time upstairs to her own room.
The gas was lit; the can of hot water stood in the basin, the towel
neatly folded over the top; the hands of the little red clock pointed
to six o’clock, and the faint chime met her ear as she entered.
Peggy stood still in the doorway, an icy chill crept through her veins,
her hands grasped the lintel, and her eyes grew wide and blank with
horror. There, on the writing-table lay a brown paper parcel–the
precious parcel which contained the calendar which had been the object
of such painful work and anxiety!
(_To be continued._)
TWO OF THE GREATEST AFFLICTIONS OF GIRLHOOD:
BLUSHING AND NERVOUSNESS.
BY “THE NEW DOCTOR.”
Some years ago an enterprising physician discovered that the whole
human race was insane.
This doctrine naturally drew forth from the public considerable
indignation. We do not believe that we are insane. But the answer of
the author was concise: “You cannot prove that you are sane, therefore
you are insane!”
And a large number took his word and believed it. Nay; even now people
are to be met who believe that everyone is insane. Nay–further!
There are many persons who not only believe everyone to be insane, but
believe that all physicians hold the same opinion!
And yet, if you ask one of these philanthropists if he thinks that he
himself is insane: “Oh, well–no; you see I am an exception. I do not
mean to say that I am better than anyone else, but I am different from
everybody that I know. No, I do not think that I am insane.”
Yesterday we were interviewing a gentleman “lodger” in an asylum, who
had come to the conclusion that all the inmates of the house–nurses,
patients, physicians and servants–were all insane, himself alone
excepted. This is a common creed in lunatic asylums.
No, everyone is not insane. The doctrine is fallacious. But we all pass
through phases in our lives when our minds are not capable of fully
grasping every detail of the situation. In other words, we are all
liable to nervousness.
What is nervousness? Think for yourself and try to answer the question.
It is difficult, we admit.
Is not nervousness a state in which the mind does not rise to the
situation? Is it not a condition of uncertainty? Is it not, as it were,
a feeling that you know not what step to take next or what answer to
give to a question? Is it not a conviction that you are out of place?
Indeed, it seems to us that nervousness is the expression of being
mentally ill at ease.
Few persons realise what a terrible disease nervousness really is.
It is one of the greatest annoyances of youth. It renders many girls
utterly miserable when they first “come out.” It is most fearful
suffering, and one which brings many girls to a life of misery.
There is but one other condition which troubles girls more than
nervousness, and that is excessive blushing, and blushing is but a
physical expression of nervousness.
It is commonly held that the work of physicians is confined to the
body, and that they have no knowledge of the troubles of the mind. It
follows from this that the study of the mind has been grossly neglected
by medical men, and even the simplest mental aberration will baffle
many worthy practitioners, simply because they consider that the mind
is not their province.
We can delay no further and must get on to consider the practical side
of our task, the causes and treatment of blushing and nervousness.
We suppose that we must first mention the physical causes of blushing
and nervousness. Many would consider these to be of the first
importance. They are not.
Blushing is a momentary relaxation of the minute blood-vessels of the
skin of the face, caused by an impression received by the brain. The
vessels relax, they become distended with blood, and the face becomes
red, hot and swollen.
If this phenomenon lasts but a minute it is called a blush; if it lasts
for a longer period it is called a flush. The former is usually due to
mental causes, the latter invariably to physical conditions.
Blushing is the direct effect of a more or less powerful stimulus
passing to the brain from one of the special senses. Flushing is the
effect of a stimulus from one of the internal organs, usually the
Anæmia, indigestion, constipation, and various other ailments cause
flushing, and very rarely they produce blushing.
This is all we have to say of the physical causes of blushing and
nervousness, except that people who are ill or run down are often
irritable and nervous. But the illness is not the cause of the
nervousness, it only paves the way for it to become manifest; it only
reduces the force by which nervousness is normally overcome.
It is in the workings of the mind that we must seek the causes of
We are not all born with the same mental powers. Each inherits from
her parents certain hereditary tendencies. We all know that insanity
runs in families; so does nervousness; so does every kind of mental
inclination, but only to a certain extent. We do not inherit the
virtues, the vices, the powers or the mental shortcomings of our
parents; we inherit a tendency to them–a tendency which may develop
and reproduce in us the minds of our fathers. Or these tendencies may
be modified or suppressed by education; or they may be overwhelmed
by some individual peculiarity which we have not inherited from our
parents, but which had its beginning in our own minds.
The mind of anyone is an individual in itself. It has its own passions
and inclinations different from those of any other, but it must be
educated. Each of us must have a solid basis of general knowledge ere
she can use her mind. In other words we must all be educated.
And in education, or rather in the lack of some portion of education,
you will find the causes of blushing and nervousness.
Nervousness is more common amongst the highly educated classes than
amongst others. And yet you say that nervousness is caused by defective
education. How can this be?
You have not got a true notion of education! You say education but you
mean study; you confine the term to that part of education which is
learnt at school and from books; you have fallen into the common error
of the age by supposing that education is synonymous with schooling!
At school we learn to read, to write. We learn a little science,
perhaps a smattering of art and the elements of a language or two. Is
this all the education required by man? Is this sufficient food for the
mind of man for threescore years and ten? Do you learn nothing else in
your life than this little handful of unimportant subjects? No, you do
not! Far more than nine-tenths of your education is gained without your
knowing how: not without effort, but without your knowing that you are
Our forefathers had no books; they never went to school; they knew but
little of art or science, and their technical skill was of the rudest.
We call them barbarians, but why? They had their passions as we have
them; they had their joys and their sorrows; they had their thoughts;
they were educated. The viking of old was a man with a highly wrought
mind. Though differing in detail, his education was the same as ours.
It was the study of himself and his companions.
Let us glance a little into these defects of education which cause
From what has been said, the reader will perceive that the lack of
knowledge of herself or her companion is the commonest cause of
nervousness; this indeed is the case. The girl who leaves the nursery
for the first time is shy and retiring: she cannot speak to anyone
without confusion; she has no experience of life. A new episode has
occurred and she cannot at once rise to the situation. She is not at
home; she is nervous.
And so if you think over the position in which you have been nervous,
you will see that in the majority of cases, your trouble was due to
The girl who has never spoken to anyone except her own friends is
nervous when she first speaks to a stranger. After she has been
introduced to one or two persons her nervousness vanishes, for she has
become used to her new situation.
Who has not felt nervous when she first appeared in public? Who has not
felt most unpleasant sensations when she first sang or played before
an audience? Yet after her second or third appearance all traces of
nervousness vanish, because now she is accustomed to her surroundings.
The warrior who will face death on the field without compunction may
fly in terror if he hear the buzz of a moth. Or if he is unused to
feminine society he will be completely cowered by a single woman.
The scientist who has astonished the world with his inventions is yet
too nervous to deliver a lecture to half-a-dozen students, for he is
used to his laboratory but is a stranger to the lecturer’s chair.
These are examples of what may be called healthy nervousness. They are
transient and can be overcome by the will. We will now talk of some
more complicated causes of nervousness.
There are many girls who have the misfortune of having been spoilt
during their childhood, and who as girls have had every wish gratified.
When these girls go into the world they often become irritable and
impertinent, or shy and retiring, or excessively nervous and bashful.
There are girls (and we are sorry to say there are a great many of
them) who between the ages of fifteen and twenty do nothing but loll
on a sofa and read cheap novelettes and other wretched and unwholesome
literature. These persons usually blush like beetroots when spoken to.
They are always nervous and usually silly and rude.
Self-consciousness is one of the greatest and most important causes of
nervousness. The fear of “giving oneself away” is a very potent factor
in the causation of nervousness.
Some people confuse self-consciousness with self-conceit. But they are
diametrically opposite conditions. The self-conceited girl believes
herself perfect. She cannot make a mistake. What she says must be
right. She has no fear of committing herself. Why should she ever be
nervous? And she never is nervous.
The self-conscious girl is the reverse of this. Not only does she
know her shortcomings, but she takes an exceedingly gloomy view of
everything. Truly she is always thinking about herself, but her
thoughts are not flattering. She puts herself in the worst light and
imagines that everyone else sees her in the same way. She imagines
everyone is laughing at her. She is confused. She is nervous.
Not all girls are nervous or blush from the same cause, nor are they
nervous in the same way nor in the same situations. Some girls blush
only when in the company of strangers, others even when speaking to
their greatest friends. Some blush or are nervous only when talking to
persons of the opposite sex, others when talking to anybody.
We can divide the various kinds of nervous girls into the following
1. Girls who blush or are nervous when talking to strangers, but
are not nervous among their friends.
2. Girls who are nervous when talking to friends or strangers.
3. Girls who are more nervous with their friends than with
4. Girls who are only nervous when talking to one person, but who
are quite at home in a crowded room.
5. Girls who are nervous in a crowded place even when they are
talking to nobody, or when they neither know nor are known to
6. Girls who are only nervous when talking to persons of the
7. Girls who are nervous at all times and everywhere.
8. Girls who are only nervous when they are run down in health.
There are many other kinds of nervousness, but we cannot enter into the
discussion of them here.
To everyone who glances down this table it will be apparent that
the same explanation will not accord for all these conditions. Such
diametrically opposite states as that of Nos. 4 and 5 cannot be due to
the same cause. We must therefore briefly describe the various mental
states on which each form of nervousness depends.
The first case, girls who blush or are nervous when talking to
strangers but are perfectly at home when talking with their friends,
is one of the commonest of the eight types of nervousness. This is the
purely natural result of inexperience.
The very many girls who are exceedingly annoyed to find that they
cannot be introduced to anybody without blushing or stammering or
vainly trying to break a distressing silence, may be comforted by the
assurance that ere many months are passed they will have become more
accustomed to the very strange conditions imposed upon us by social
usage and to abruptly starting a conversation with a person whom they
have never seen before.
To some girls it may be a relief to know that young men are very much
more bashful, more inclined to blush, and find much greater difficulty
in starting a conversation to the first person to whom they are
introduced than girls do. The news will certainly be well received by
all girls suffering from this form of nervousness that a very short
space of time will see the end of their annoyance.
The sixth division of nervousness, that condition in which girls are
only nervous when talking to persons of the opposite sex, is only a
mild form of the first and, like it, it is a very transitory state.
The second class of nervous girls is that in which the members are
nervous when talking to friends as well as to strangers. This is the
most numerous class of all. This form of nervousness is sometimes due
to indigestion or other derangements of health. It is to this class
that we shall more especially refer when considering the treatment of
That form of nervousness in which the sufferer is perfectly at ease in
the excitement of a crowded room but who cannot endure to talk with one
person alone is a comparatively rare condition. It is typically met
with in cases of nervous exhaustion. It is tolerably common in persons
who have just recovered from some forms of depressing diseases.
The fifth class contains two very distinct groups of cases. There are
many people who are distressed in a crowded place. Many persons who are
not feeling up to the mark are often depressed and get a headache in a
crowded place, even where there is no noise or conversation going on.
This is a form of nervousness that is almost exclusively met with in
elderly or middle-aged persons.
It is in the second of the groups of people who are nervous in large
assemblings that we see the most advanced grades of self-consciousness.
We have seen girls in drawing-rooms, at concerts, and even in church,
suffering from this malady (for though it appears as vanity or
self-conceit, it is neither one nor the other, but a true disease).
They shift about, looking from one person to another, wondering what
the various members of the assembly are thinking about them. If anyone
happens to turn his glance in the direction of a girl with this form
of nervousness, a regular outburst occurs; she blushes and perspires
profusely, putting her hand up to her hat or fringe or rearranging some
part of her dress, wondering what can be a amiss, or she wipes her
nose with her handkerchief, thinking that there must be a smut there
to cause the unknowing agitator to turn round and look at her. It will
never strike her that the unwelcome gaze of the stranger is purely
accidental, or may be excited by the elegance of her dress or person.
No, there must be something “funny” for anybody to turn round and stare
at her like that!
The two last divisions of nervousness need but little comment. They are
due to bodily ill-health and are part and parcel of physical weakness.
We must now turn to the most important and most difficult part of our
task–the description of the means by which these various forms of
nervousness may be overcome. We have several times mentioned that many
forms of nervousness are commonly caused by ill-health, and we may now
state that all forms are rendered worse by any departure from physical
health. It is therefore obvious that if the sufferer is anæmic or has
indigestion, or any of the other ten thousand diseases to which we
poor humans are subject, it is essential that the unhealthy state of
her body should be cured ere she should try the special methods of
treatment to cure herself of nervousness.
As nervousness is so frequently the result of a one-sided education
and lack of experience, we would expect that persons who have secured
a varied tuition would be less subject to nervousness than their less
widely but perhaps more deeply educated sisters. And this we find to be
the case. It is a knowledge of a wide scope of learning, of the little
ins and outs of our very elaborate social customs, of a more or less
superficial knowledge of current views and events, which will help a
girl to be at home in society, rather than a deep knowledge of any one
subject. This is the proper place to point out that the popular idea
that nervousness is due to a feeble intelligence is totally untrue.
It requires a considerable amount of mental power to be able to be
nervous. Some of the greatest men in history have been conspicuously
The girl who rapidly falls in with social customs, who can join in
conversations on the ordinary subjects of talk, and who can grasp and
retain the little ways of society which she cannot fail to observe,
need never fear of retaining any temporary nervousness she may have
experienced when she first “came out.”
Since experience is so antagonistic to nervousness, it follows that
the pursuit of experience is a very necessary point in the treatment
of nervousness. Of all ways of acquiring experience none can equal
travelling; for the experience gained by moving from place to place is
exceedingly varied, and it is this varied experience that is needed to
Often when nervousness is so intractable that it cannot be cured by
other means, we advise the subjects to leave society for a year or two,
to travel, if possible, or else to gain an insight into the ways and
working of the world before again attempting to face the terrors of
In many parts of this article we have maintained that
self-consciousness was an exceedingly common and important factor of
nervousness and blushing. If we could remove self-consciousness we
could cure most, if not all, forms of nervousness.
Suppose that a girl is self-conscious and she enters into conversation
with another girl who is not self-conscious. The question is broached
by the healthy-minded girl. She asks–
“Do you think that Mr. Jones’s French poodle would look better if he
The nervous girl will undergo severe agitation as to what she ought
to answer. “You see, if I say ‘no,’ it may show that I do not know
anything about dogs. In fact, I must be very careful not to give myself
away as an ignoramus.”
As a matter of fact neither of these girls knows much about dogs,
perhaps neither would recognise a French poodle if she saw one. The
questioner, still waiting for the simple reply which her question
needs, looks into the face of her nervous companion, and at once the
latter’s wits desert her altogether. “Why did she look into my face? I
must be looking very ugly to-day? I know my dress is old-fashioned, but
it is very rude of her to notice it!” etc., etc. This poor girl cannot
bring her mind to bear on the subject of the conversation; she is
eternally thinking of herself. If she would only think about what her
questioner is talking of, instead of thinking about what her companion
is thinking about her, she would no longer be self-conscious, no longer
The conversation concerning the French poodle has upset her altogether;
she leaves her first companion and seeks another. But here she can
boast no greater success. Perhaps she will brave a third effort at
conversation, but it is all to no purpose; she is either too fearful
of committing herself or saying something unseemly, or else she knows
that her companion is secretly laughing at her. Utterly downhearted she
eventually sits down in a corner and remains silently agitated for the
rest of the evening.
What a terrible state is that of self-consciousness, and yet how
common! And yet of the large number of persons who suffer from it how
many try to overcome it? Because it is far easier to foster than to
subdue these feelings is no reason for not making any attempt to quell
A very important piece of advice to give to all nervous girls is to
avoid all trivial conversations, especially talking scandal. It is
unfortunately a fact that nervous girls are often quite themselves
when discussing the weaknesses of their friends and neighbours, but
such conversation begets a distrust of their friends, and we have no
doubt that the habit of talking against one’s neighbours is sometimes
a direct cause of that form of nervousness in which girls cannot talk
to their own friends without blushing. They know what their friends
say about others behind their backs, and they fear that they too will
be discussed in their absence. To such girls as these we may say,
give over such worthless friends and try to know others who use their
tongues to a more proper purpose, and never, under any circumstances,
talk scandal yourselves.
Self-conscious girls must get out of the habit of revolving in their
minds what answer to give to a simple question. When you are talking
socially, it is really of very little consequence whether your answer
is correct or not. You should indulge in conversation with everybody
whom you wish to know, and with whom your parents or guardians wish
you to be intimate. You must not sit in a corner and mope because
you thought that Miss Smith was criticising your dress when you were
trying to converse with her. Be a woman and bravely attempt to join
in conversation. It does not matter if you make mistakes. We are all
human. We all make mistakes. But it would indeed be a funny world
if we never attempted to open our mouths lest we should say what is
indiscreet or fallacious. Remember that when you have once braved your
inclination to sit down and be silent, half the battle is over and you
will soon grow to look with astonishment at your foolish behaviour of
some weeks back. Since experience is the great cure for nervousness,
gain all experience you can both by reading, by the study of the arts
and sciences and by observation of the doings of others and the working
of this great world. Keep your eyes open and look around you. However
limited your own circle may be, it still contains more to be studied
than you can learn in your lifetime. Trivial literature, and especially
cheap novelettes, should be avoided, for they give you a false notion
of life and deal with silly and impossible predicaments.
There are doubtless many people who think that nervousness can be cured
by diet, exercise and drugs. To such as hold this view we readily
admit that when nervousness is caused by bodily ill-health, or by lack
of precautions to the laws of well-being, such is the case. But the
true nervousness, seen so commonly in perfectly healthy persons, who
rigorously follow all the laws laid down by physicians and general
experience, is totally uninfluenced by physical treatment of any kind.
Blushing, which is one of the forms of nervousness most frequently due
to physical causes, is often to be cured by careful diet and other
therapeutical measures. There is one drug which is often of use in
this condition. Ichthiol taken in 2½-grain doses will often help to
cure blushing due to physical causes. No drug whatever is of use in
We have now finished our account of nervousness. If it has been
somewhat lengthy, it is nevertheless extremely brief when the gravity
and complexity of the subject is considered. We have not described all
forms of nervousness, nor do we expect to cure all persons suffering
from those varieties that we have described. But we hope and trust that
those who suffer from these most distressing ailments will derive some
benefit from our task.