But have we seriously thought of the number of homes made dark and cheerless and desolate and hateful to the husband, the brother, the son, and the daughter too, by the absence of that bright spirit of love, which works at home from dawn till sunset, to have every thing warm and pleasant and restful for the weary ones coming back after their eight and ten hours of labor?
If the devoted, God-fearing, sweet-tempered woman is rewarded by seeing her dear ones unhappy when kept away from the bright home she makes for them, and most happy when seated near the warm hearth and charmed with her smile and her voice, it is no less certain that the selfish, untidy, ill-tempered, and bitter-tongued woman succeeds in making home unbearable for every one who is dependent on her.
Why is it that so many men,—thrifty, hard-working, made-to be and disposed to be devoted husbands and most exemplary fathers,—are driven, at the end of their day of toil, to end—not rest, indeed, nor recreation—in the neighbor’s house,—but some distraction from the thought of their own comfortless home, some rest from the din and lash of the ceaseless tongue which is their torment? Why are so many, at length, driven to the tavern to seek forgetfulness in intoxication? Is it not because woman forgets to be loving and devoted and ingenious in the sweet arte of making her fire burn brighter on the hearth, and her own person more attractive to her dear ones by some little ornament put on to welcome the laborers at evening, and her humble meal made more appetizing by some of the many cheap seasonings that the poorest can buy, and her whole house shining with cleanliness and filled with the sweet music of her own delighted tones? Ah! love has stores from which can be borrowed without stint and at little cost kind words and warm smiles and a thousand other things which go straight to the heart thirsting for the endearments, the joys, and the repose of home. Why will you not be a queen in your own little kingdom, Oh wife, Oh mother, Oh sister, and make all hearts subject to you by this ascendency of your goodness and devotion?
There are worse consequences still, — especially in cities and manufacturing towns, — which are caused by the want of the wifely and motherly qualities described above.
Young people of both sexes who are forced, — perhaps from early boyhood and girlhood, — to seek for employment outside of their home, feel an imperative need of the rest and comfort and love of their own fireside, when the end of their long day of toil has come. Blessed is the mother who knows how to make their home bright and warm for them! But what shall we say of her who cares not to do so? or who makes her home intolerable to her dear ones?
This much is certain, that in our over-crowded cities, if not elsewhere, thousands upon thousands of hard-working young people are driven into dangerous company and corrupting amusements because they have no home to love, tobe proud of, in which to find the repose of heart and body so needful for their age especially. There is in this a mine of suggestion for parents, for pastors, as well as for all persons to whom Providence has given the means and the will to prevent the ruin of our youth.
But far better than all explanations or dissertations may be the bright examples quoted in the next chapter. Before we come to these, however, let us complete the present subject-matter by showing
HOW THE SELFISHNESS AND FOLLY OF A FASHIONABLE WOMAN
CAN MAKE THE MOST MAGNIFICENT HOME INTOLERABLE.
We wish the reader to understand the term “fashionable woman “in the odious or objectionable sense in which it is taken by the sound judgment of people of the world. With “fashions” in so far as they are unobjectionable and mark the changes in dress to which even the best and least worldly persons in society — men as well as women — have to conform, we do not mean to find fault; this would be foreign to our present purpose and serve only to distract the reader unprofitably. It will be seen by a glance at what we have to say, that our censure addresses itself to an exceptional class of wealthy women, whose number, unhappily, is increasing daily.
The home of the wealthiest, we take it, no matter how splendid outwardly or how magnificent and luxurious within, can be at best but splendid misery, where unselfish and devoted love does not preside over the household, provide for the comfort of every person there, and minister to their happiness by the bright cheerfulness without which the most gorgeous furniture has no luster, and the electric warmth of affection, without which courtly manners are but a lifeless show.
Here is a man who has fought a hard battle with fortune, but has won it at last. Like true soldiers on every field, he has not cared during his long struggle for many comforts, — luxury was beyond his reach. But now that fortune lavishes her favors on him, he wishes to enjoy life in a home that shall be, he hopes, a paradise. Would that many of our most thrifty and fortunate men, though never so upright and honorable, would remember the old pagan superstition about exposing one’s bliss to the eyes of the gods or flaunting one’s prosperity in the sunlight! The “loudest” wealth is never likely to yield unmixed or lasting felicity; this is better secured by quiet tastes, and the repose enjoyed in the shade and with the select few.
But our fortunate man has built and furnished a home so comfortable that only a companion who can be devoted to him is wanting to complete it. He has been attracted by a handsome face and a name without reproach. Perhaps, on his part, there has been none of that romantic feeling to which the superficial world gives the name of love; but there is in his choice the hearty purpose of finding one who will love him truly, and to whose happiness he wishes to devote his fortune and himself.
She is a woman, young, indeed, and stainless, but selfish and vain; fond of dress, of admiration, of display, and who is anxious to wed a fortune large enough to permit her to gratify all her frivolous tastes. Her husband had the ambition to succeed in business, — that ambition is now gratified; but he had other and nobler aims which he had to forego in the hard striving after wealth, and which now possess his soul. He would fain cultivate his mind, he would indulge his taste for such of the fine arts as make home beautiful and home enjoyments more delightful. In the wife’s family were several persons noted for their culture and scientific attainments; indeed, an accidental acquaintance with one of these had led to a first introduction to the woman whom he had made his bride, and in whom he hoped to find a perfect sympathy for the intellectual aspirations which served to brighten the future before him.
But the literary tastes and scientific pursuits of her relatives had been this woman’s aversion from girlhood; and her husband was not slow in discovering that there was not one particle of intellectuality in her composition. Her honeymoon, instead of being spent in traveling, was taken up with an unbroken round of receptions and parties. Her powers of endurance, when the ball-room or the theater were concerned, seemed to be unlimited; but, once in her privacy, she seemed never to think that her husband wished to enjoy her companionship, or that she was expected to converse with him, to play or sing for him, or to make a single effort at being his companion for a single hour. The afternoons were spent in the park, when her equipage had to outshine the richest, and her toilet was made to eclipse the most fashionable. The evenings, for the most part, were consumed in interminable sittings with her French maid, who decked her mistress out with incomparable art for the ball or the theater. The bridegroom had hoped that this thirst for display and dissipation would be quenched by the unlimited indulgence of the first year of married life, and that after this necessary infliction he should have the quiet of his home and the sweet company of his young wife. Besides, his health could not stand the serious disturbance caused in his regular habits by late hours and this unnatural changing of day into night and night into day.
The second and third years of his matrimonial life found him disappointed, dispirited, and utterly miserable, with the certainty, moreover, of having bound himself for life to a woman who never could be a companion to him, who had neither head nor heart, nothing, in fine, to recommend her but a pretty face, like a painted mask covering an empty skull.
His beautiful home became intolerable to him; and there is no knowing what desperate or downward course the heart-broken man might have pursued, if he had not been asked by one of his wife’s relatives to accompany him on a scientific expedition to our Western territories. This offer kindled once more his purest ambition; and, after limiting to a very generous amount the monthly expenditure of his young wife, he was glad to escape from his home and to seek knowledge and fame in the field of science.
She, meanwhile, had but one purpose in life, to dress. At the death of a distinguished fellow-citizen she literally spent three whole days and nights visiting the most fashionable warehouses and closeted with the most reputed milliners, to find out what style of hat and what dress she might wear at the funeral, so as to throw the whole of “Vanity Fair “into the shade.
When the springtide of that heartless beauty had passed away, it was already autumn for her. The complexion which was her only charm had been early ruined by the reckless and needless use of cosmetics, much more even than by her feverish life of enjoyment. No splendor of dress could conceal the fatal decay, and no depth of paint could mask it. And with the consciousness of this premature decline, her fretfulness and peevishness made her intercourse intolerable, unrelieved as its dullness was by a single mental accomplishment, or a solitary conversational grace.
There are showy trees in our forests whose brilliant flowers attract the eye in spring; but the flowers themselves are of an offensive odor, and they bear no wholesome fruit, while the wood itself is unfit for any useful purpose.
The husband, on his return from the West, sought relief from the dreariness of his home-life in the speculations of the stock-exchange, heeding little, if at all, the remontrances of a wife he heartily despised. When last heard of, his name was mentioned as one of many ruined by some sudden fall in railroad stocks. His house and furniture passed out of his possession, and he was left alone with poverty, obscurity, and a wife without head or heart or even beauty.