In this article I propose to survey the con-ditions of a union between widower and widow.
Too much experience can scarcely be regarded as a disqualification in such matters as housekeeping and the general affairs of life, but the marriage of two experts in the conduct of marital matters may be productive of disagreeable results. Each sets out with a separate theory, which, in combination, may eventuate in something the reverse of harmony. A certain measure of experience, however, must be conducive to home happiness, and especially if the previous partner of either has been of the dictatorial, tyrannical genus.
A widow understands better than the average spinster how very important meals are, and how far good cookery goes in rendering the home atmosphere pleasant. Even the least gourmet of us all must acknowledge that a well-cooked meal does wonders for the temper of even a moody individual, whether male or female, though there may be no acknowledgment on the part of this disagreeable person. How many a wife has watched with solicitude the gradual softening of the well-known rugged expression of the face opposite her at table under the influence of a series of carefully chosen and perfectly cooked dishes. She may long have given up the expectation of hearing a single word of appreciation, and has consequently studied the art of reading the physiognomy of the individual on whom her home happiness depends.
Perhaps the very happiest marriages of widow and widower are those of two who have known each other, and each other's previous partners, for some years. Reticent though some women may be to their acquaintances about the qualities of their husbands, it is impossible for two families to associate, even occasionally, without gaining some knowledge of the dispositions of each couple. one has frequently heard of a match between widow and widower in cases like this.
The man, without any disloyalty to his wife, has observed what a comfortable, pleasant menage was that of his late friend.
In the same way a woman has learnt to appreciate the gentleness and good humour of a man whose domestic trials she may have had occasion to compassionate.
She may often have thought, if not said,
'so-and-so is such a good fellow, and his wife seems to take every opportunity of snubbing him before their friends." It is her pleasant task, then, to endeavour to recompense him in a second marriage for the hard measure dealt out to him in the first.
There is nothing on earth that makes a woman so happy as making the happiness of a fine-natured, generous-minded husband. I think it was Ruskin who said that it was woman's great task to make the happiness of others. Task it may be in some instances, but, as a rule, it would be more accurately described as a pleasure. To this instinct we owe the thousands and thousands of happy homes in which the wife and mother rejoices in pleasing, and sometimes rather spoiling, the husband and the children.
Children by a previous marriage are often a great handicap to happiness in second marriages, especially if there are two sets to start with, one of the husband's, one of the wife's.
Sometimes, however, the presence of quite small children in a house brings about an agreeable harmony. A forgotten poet has said that "A babe in the house is a well-spring of pleasure." If it is a healthy, happy child it is often a well-spring of peace and good humour. Even unsatisfactory servants have been known to mend their ways and do their duties competently for fear of being dismissed and having to leave "that precious baby."
It has been said that home happiness depends more upon the wife than on the husband. His happiness may do so, but hers is really more influenced by children and servants than his can possibly be. If he should be of a disagreeable, grumbling disposition, she is less weighed down by his moods when she can turn to the nursery for distraction, and when she has comfortable servants - that is, supposing that he is absent from home during some hours of the day.
When Miss Charlotte M. Yonge wrote her famous novel "The Young Stepmother," she shed a new light upon the trials and successes of step-motherhood. She was the first writer to depict the stepmother as the person to be pitied. Until then " Punch ' and other comic journals had made the second wife a tyrant, overbearing to the children, and even cruel to them when any of her own arrived. Albinia, in this book, is one of the most delightful characters in fiction, and young stepmothers could scarcely more profitably employ a few hours than in reading about her initial difficulties and the manner in which her sweetness of disposition and cleverness overcame them all. She, however, was an unmarried woman when she became the wife of the father of this unruly little family.