A French Novel of Poignant Truth - Little Things that Matter in Home Life - The Faults on

Either Side - How to Ensure Happiness in the Home

In one of his beautiful poems Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of the " daily task of happiness " in the sense that it was wrong to fail in it, that'it is a duty to be cheerful.

A writer of a very different calibre has written a book which deals with the duty of working every day at married happiness as really as at the daily tasks necessary to keep a house in fair, sweet order. The author is Henry Bordeaux, a novelist of fame in France, and the book, "Les Yeux qui S'ouvrent," is in its forty-eighth edition. The principal characters of the story are the husband and wife. At the age of thirty-five the man is famous for his books - studies of the conditions of life among the peasantry of various districts. The wife is very pretty, considerably younger than he, amiable, and attached to him, but not in love with him, although he is devoted to her. She accepts his adoration as a matter of course, but never rises to the idea of exerting herself to retain his affection.

The Importance of Trifles

Like many young women after marriage, she grows careless in matters of personal appearance, takes little exercise, and becomes heavy in figure, -negligent about her hair and dress.

Gradually disillusioned, the husband discovers - what he might never have found out had she "worked at" her task of married happiness - that there is no spiritual or mental affinity between her and himself. He reads extracts from his books to her, and she calmly sews on without comment or appreciation. She accepts, in fact, all that he bestows in the way of enthusiastic affection, and makes little return beyond her presence in his house, her excellent housekeeping, and her devoted care of their two children. Then comes the other woman, keen of intellect, an admirer of his work, and in circumstances of poverty that appeal to his chivalry.

The relations of this husband and wife - apart from the intervening "other woman" - are exactly such as exist in thousands and thousands of homes, sometimes even in those where both partners have begun by being in love. But they have not cultivated their home happiness. They have dropped 'the many little ways in which, during the first few years of marriage, each showed the other how earnest and deep was the feeling that united them.

The Beginning: of the End

The descent is gradual. He forgets to bring home the flowers that have been his habitual offering, or she omits to thank him for them. The small niceties of politeness, that have nothing of stiffness or ceremony about them, disappear one by one; the thanks for any trifling, ordinary service, the appreciative word for any act of thought-fulness. Neither he nor she would dream of omitting these in the case of outsiders. Why, then, to each other? Why grudge the pretty phrase, the little compliment, the hearty acknowledgment that came so spontaneously is the first months of union?

Every human being is a lonely creature in the deep recesses of the soul. The only solace for that loneliness is in affection and Friendship. If a married couple cannot find this in each other, they will look el where for it, for no one is independent of appreciation.

There are many ways of working daily at happiness - rubbing it bright like one's silver, keeping it clear and shining like one's table glass, warm and glowing like the well-tended fire.

An Acid that Corrodes

Many a wife who carefully consults her husband's likings with regard to dinner forgets to give an equal attention to his needs in other ways. He is chilled to the heart the first time he comes home without receiving the happy welcome to which she had accustomed him in early days. Nor can he believe his ears when she tells him she has forgotten something he had particularly asked her to do. Man-like, he says little about it, but the grievance bites in like a strong acid. A few more incidents of the kind make a change in his feeling towards her that is out of all proportion to the apparently trifling causes. The real cause is that she could never have done or omitted to do these things had her affection for him been as it was before.

This is the acid that corrodes the once fair substance of his devotion. He, too, alters towards her, neglects the sweet amenities of everyday home life; and she, unwitting that the initiative in all this has been her own, becomes harder and colder in equal measure with himself.

Then comes, too often, the horrible, rude way in which married couples speak to each other, and the depreciating fashion in which they speak of each other It has been said that when husband and wife hate each other it is a keener hatred than can felt in any other circumstances. And it might so often be avoided by simply working day by day at home happiness.

In the book already referred to the wife's eyes are opened to her own shortcomings, her want of sympathy with her husband's interests and work, and in her remorse she works so well at happiness that reunion and passionate devotion on both sides are the result.

It is the woman especially who can cultivate domestic peace and love and harmony. Instead of being exigent, and demanding the pleasures and indulgences of life as a right when they should be regarded as gifts, to be given or withheld, she would do well to look at things from her husband's point of view.

The Husband's Part

To enable her to do so, he on his side should make her acquainted with his circumstances, the amount of his income, the conditions of his work, and to some extent the worries and troubles connected with it. He would in this way establish a mutual sympathy that would work out favourably in every way. Many marriages have proved failures owing to the lack of confidence about money matters on the husband's part.

And many, many more have turned out badly for no better reason than that of neglecting to cement, by never-failing kindly words and considerate actions, the affection on which the small trials of life, far more than the great ones, put such a heavy strain.