Man as a Domesticated Animal - A Wise Angelina and a Helpful Edwin - The Simple Life as a
Guile - The French and the English Husband - A Masculine Way of Dusting a Piano an is a much more easily domesticated animal than the majority of wives suppose. In almost every member of the masculine sex there dwells, sometimes carefully hidden away, an innate capacity for the practical domestic virtues, in fact, a love of housewifery. Men are usually unconscious of this until circumstances bring it out. Let the wife in her own interests take means to educe it from those inner depths that, in every one of us, hold so much concerning which, as we go on in life, we make fresh and surprising discoveries.
One morning at breakfast Angelina finds one of her beautiful wedding-present cups badly cracked. In a voice of lamentation she points it out to Edwin, and he sympathises in that perfunctory way with which a man regards such incidents as this. "I must wash them up myself," says Angelina ; and she desires her parlourmaid to bring a basin of tepid water, a clean glasscloth, and a small stick of firewood, on one end of which she ties a dainty little sponge.
She then sets to work, going into every little crevice of the cup handle with the useful little mop ; and afterwards turning the cup upside down on the tray to let it drain. With fascinated eyes the husband watches this performance, and Angelina, seeing how attractive it appears to him, allows him to dry the cups when they have become well drained. This is the first step to a long course of active persistence in household matters by that member of the married concern who is least expected to perform the duties of a house or parlour maid.
An excellent way to domesticate a husband is to take a country cottage and have in a daily help, who comes at seven in the morning and leaves at perhaps seven in the evening. The couple have to get their own supper, and Edwin soon becomes an adept in garnishing dishes, shredding lettuce for salad, and even in cookery itself. He washes his potatoes cleaner than any hired cook has ever been known to do, and cooks them to a turn, but the worst of his accomplishments is that he requires those at table audibly to appreciate his achievements almost without intermission. He thoroughly enjoys the products" of his own skill, and seems resolved that no one else should miss doing so from want of attention being drawn to them.
Things in which a man especially excels when he delivers himself over to the fascination of housewifery are salad dressings, black coffee (for which, however, he requires a rather expensive cafetiere), toast, potato salad, and beefsteak. Intimate to him that you do not like to see a single red bit in the whole of the steak, and he will present it at table of a uniform brown-greyness which is most appetising.
Another excellent achievement is the gravy made by these amateur cooks, guiltless of a single atom of grease, but sparkling with goodness, and just the right tint of brown. Any woman who has not tried to initiate her husband into the finer arts of the cuisine is hereby advised to try him with a simple meal, and, above all things, to leave him to himself in the kitchen while he works out his own plans. A man is often "snubby" when he is busy on a job, and this for a very excellent reason, one which makes his ill-humour pardonable. It is this: he concentrates the whole of his mental powers and several of his muscles upon the task in hand. Any interruption is consequently a grievance, and should anything go wrong with the food, it is always explained by the remark, "Oh, well, you would talk!"
One day a clergyman, watching his wife at work with the sewing machine, making suits for their little boys, administered such quantities of excellent advice that at last she jumped up and said laughingly, "I am sure you are longing to do it yourself ! "
He was. He sat down before the machine with boyish eagerness, and a zest for the work, which suffered some small diminution for an hour, and then renewed itself with remarkable power. For many years after this incident he did the cutting out and sewing, and his wife wrote the sermons. He displayed uncommon skill with the needle, though he could never be induced to wear a thimble. Her sermons were excellent. Needless to say, they were preached by him.
Many men are born with a curious spirit of opposition which leads them to carp and criticise any new idea put forth by their wives, especially in matters of domestic science. It does not need many years to elapse for a wife to learn how to evade this incessant criticism. Women are often called hypocrites, but in many instances their hypocrisy is but a form of peace-making.
For instance, should a wife have a brilliant idea about some department in the home, she finds that it is very foolish to thrust this information upon her husband when he is extremely busy, either over a meal, or enjoying a smoke, or reading the newest novel. On the contrary, her plan is to wait until he is in a suave mood, and doing nothing in particular, and then to present to him the facts which led her to evolve the idea, and allow him to approach it by the same means, as nearly as possible, as she did herself. He will then love and cherish it as a child of his own brain, and will exercise much ardour, and experience the greatest pleasure in carrying it out. This is really a piece of excellent advice. Hypocrisy is an evil quality, but the subtler shade of it employed in transactions of this kind is surely pardonable. In fact, we may conclude that it is one of those faults which lean to virtue's side.