A well-cut nostril might appear to be, in itself, but a poor equipment for a wife, but at least the charm of it would always be in evidence, and thousands of wives have been chosen for no better reason. Even more have been married for their figure. The number possibly runs into millions.
There is more of sweet reasonableness in this than in the eyebrow or instep motive. In both man and woman a fine figure, with broad shoulders, erect carriage, and head well set upon the shoulders are accepted, though unconsciously, as indications of a fine character, with will and energy, integrity and sincerity, just as a good complexion appears to indicate purity and simplicity.
It does not happen invariably that the indications are correct, but the fact that a good figure suggests these ideas of uprightness and fair dealing accounts for its attractiveness beyond that of the mere pleasure felt in looking at a finely formed shape.
The man who married his cook because of her perfect cooking cannot be wholly condemned. Good cooking goes very far to create an atmosphere of harmony and good humour in the home. Not only so, but the result of well-prepared dishes upon the digestion is largely contributory to sound health and to good work. The organs are at peace with one another, and the feeling of well-being spreads to the brain and the creative powers. Men have done worse, in the choosing of a wife, than marry their cook. But the ill-chance of one such must be borne in mind. No sooner had he taken to wife the cordon bleu who had made the happiness of his meal-times than she refused to demean herself to a task she regarded as beneath the dignity of her new position.
There is nothing unworthy or derogatory in this. It is not vanity, but merely the following of a natural law. The girl who is destitute of this desire to please-if such a phenomenon exists-would make a very unsatisfactory wife.
But though pretty girls receive many attentions and much homage at dances and other social recreations, it has often been remarked by keen observers of the world and its ways that plain girls make good marriages while pretty ones are left unappropriated. It may be that the latter, knowing themselves to be attractive, consider that sufficient, and do not try to be pleasant in other ways. Spoiled by the homage that their beauty wins for them, they may become disdainful, while the plain girl is pleasant, unaffected, considerate, inexigent. Unselfishness is better developed in the plain than in the pretty girl. Too much flattery often renders the latter egoistic and self-centred.
"Do not marry for money, but go where money is," says a twentieth century Solomon. An heiress is heavily handicapped for the stakes of married happiness. She can never be quite sure that it is not her money that attracts. To marry for money without being in love is a fatal thing, for either husband or wife. If the shekels are his, she sells herself ignominiously. If the pennies are hers, it is even more difficult than in the first case for peace and true affection to settle in the home. The man feels himself in a false position, is easily annoyed, finds poisoned darts in sayings and doings most innocently meant, and acquires an abnormal sensitiveness which makes for discord. That each should have some money is a happy circumstance. In the days before the Married Woman's Property Act the man took possession of his wife's money and estates on marrying her. This was very bad for him, leading him to become autocratic and sometimes tyrannical. It was also bad for the wife. She degenerated into a condition of helpless submission that led to hypocrisy and often to a lively, though carefully concealed, hatred of her domineering husband. For he who rules the exchequer is he who holds the power.
Now, however, wives possess their own property, and no act of legislature has better promoted the cause of married happiness than the above.
Men sometimes marry for position, either social or in the great world of action. A girl of good family must remember that there are men to whose advantage it would be to have a titled wife. It does not occur to her that it might be so. Having enjoyed a high position since her birth, she takes it as a matter of course, and does not connect any idea of benefit or profit to be derived from it. Worldly wisdom is not strongly developed in girlhood, and this is more particularly true of the sheltered girls of the higher classes.