Important a Meal as Dinner - The Science of Giving Presents
There is a factor in home happiness which is not always realised at its full value. After the first year or so of married life, both husband and wife sometimes begin to neglect those small attentions which hitherto had endeared each to the other.
This is the greatest mistake possible. It is not difficult to keep up the habit of small attentions. The wife need not adhere to the antiquated and unnecessary custom of fetching her husband's slippers for him when he comes home in the evening. Nor need she contract the habit referred to by an American lecturer on domestic bliss, when he described the weary husband just arrived from business allowing his wife to unlace his boots, and then depositing his feet on her lap. These marital manners would never find congenial soil in England. But there are many other ways of paying small attentions, and their cumulative power is enormous.
It is very bad for any husband when his wife fetches and carries for him in a servile sort of way. But she can at least think out those things that conduce to his comfort and the enjoyment of his home. She can see that on his writing-table everything is fresh, and that there is abundance of ink, pens, blotting-paper, and the usual necessaries for the conduct of correspondence. She can personally supervise the appointments of his dressing-room, and not leave all the details to more or less careless and indifferent maids. There would be less occasion for this if he were in a position to employ a valet. Unfortunately, we must admit that men servants are much more accurate and careful in detail than women. But even a valet's thoughtfulness can be supplemented on occasion.
Men are extremely careless, as a rule, about their own clothes, and many a wife has to examine periodically the condition of her husband's boots, to see if they need repair, and to see if the buttons are marshalled in due order. She has to cast a glance at his coats, and particularly the pockets. A man does not seem to notice that there is a hole in his pocket until he has lost a sovereign or a pet cigarette-case through the aperture. It is then brought home to him with full force, and he may possibly blame his wife, as the handiest object for wrath, for his misfortune. Then, again, his gloves would often be buttonless if it Were left to him to indicate that they needed attention. He never seems to know when his hair-brushes want washing, nor when he is in need of a new tooth-brush.
It is the province of the gentle consort to look to all these things. In fact, even in other matters, it is kind of her to exercise her thoughtfulness on his behalf. Take the tobacco supply. How many wives all over England have to think for their husbands even on this most important subject ! "Have you plenty of tobacco ? " is the question often asked on the eve of a start for even a short walk. And the answer is often : " No, by Jove ! I forgot about it ! " Attention to the details of the family meals is perhaps the most ordinary mode in which a wife expresses her care for her husband's comfort. May it be suggested that she too often concentrates this care upon dinner, neglecting the almost more important meal of breakfast ? Monotony is the great fault of the British breakfast-table, and there are so many varieties of suitable food for the first meal of the day that this is scarcely pardonable.
Even the most "crabbed" husband feels grateful, and perhaps condescends to express gratitude, for any succulent and nourishing and tempting dish which may be placed before him at that trying hour of the day, when temper often rules its victims with greatest tyranny. And, after all, it is by the character of his breakfast that a man's work throughout the day will be influenced.
Some husbands might be quite indifferent to such a delicate attention as placing a rose in a vase in front of his plate. This is according to temperament. Another man might be charmed by the little offering, reading into it the affectionate desire to please that had prompted it.
These are trifles in a way, and yet the sum of human happiness is made up of trivial things, and they, in their way, lead up to great things. Married couples who study each other's likes and dislikes, and practically acknowledge them, are evolving a spirit of unselfishness and generosity that goes far to increase their affection for each other.
There is nothing more conducive to the continuance of domestic happiness than presents. They need not be valuable, but they should be appropriate. And though the great joy of giving that is felt during the early months of marriage may possibly become attenuated in succeeding years, yet there is always a pleasure in making a gift to some appreciative person. If this individual be wife or husband, so much the better. There are some delightfully thoughtful persons whose affection leads them to discover what would be acceptable, and whose generosity directs them to provide it. There is no home more harmonious than that in which this practical consideration for each other prevails. A little unexpected present arouses a feeling of gratitude that increases the liking that presumably exists between the two.
But the present must be suitable. To bring home to an already crowded household a pair of vases, which are merely "two things more to dust," is not the way to arouse any rapturous sentiment in the bosom of one's wife. To buy cigars, waistcoats, ties, or even socks for one's husband puts him under a feeling of obligation, while, very often, he execrates the." vile taste," as he considers it, of the wife who has, with the best intentions, trodden on his tenderest sartorial feelings.