Breakfast late again! " Benedict exclaims impatiently, as he throws down the paper and takes his chair at the table.
A maid enters hurriedly, carrying a tray; behind her comes the bride. She has a silver toast-rack of the " wedding-present " persuasion in her hand. Her pretty face is flushed, and she is obviously responsible for the toast she carries. There is a pucker between the level brows as she glances at her husband.
' But you promised to see the landlord three days ago," Mrs. Brown sighs. ' I wondered yesterday afternoon, when you were playing cricket, if you had remembered." " Ah ! " says Mr. Brown. " So you do resent cricket ? "
' Certainly, when you neglect domestic responsibilities, and then grumble when breakfast is late ! " And Mrs. Brown, with a pang at her heart, watches her lord hastily swallow his hot coffee with evident personal discomfort. She has been told it is the greatest folly to allow a man to imagine he can browbeat his wife, and so she maintains her air of caustic disapproval. He saunters with well assumed callousness into the hall ; it is very spick and span, and the hat-stand is a model of dainty elegance. Mr. Brown struggles into his coat, and he misses the gentle hands which have hitherto been so anxious to assist in this operation. He is deeply injured at the reproof about the cricket. Of course he should have remembered to tell the landlord that the range was a failure, or else he should have held his tongue with regard to the lateness of the breakfast hour, he reflects miserably. He enters the small dining-room abruptly, bends over his wife and kisses her. In a moment her eyes fill with tears. What a brute he feels.
" Sorry, dear, if I upset you ! " he mutters gruffly. There is only time for one kiss, and off he goes, leaving her standing by the table, with the long day before her. If she is wise, she will not permit herself the luxury of reverie; the secret of perpetual happiness is to be up and doing. " I wonder if he loves me as much as he used to do ? " is the most disastrous soliloquy a bride can use. , With this refrain in her ears she can easily torture herself through the greater part of the day, and when her husband returns to what should be a harbour of repose, instead of being greeted by a contented woman, he finds one made miserable by imaginary troubles.
After the honeymoon it would be quite a good plan for the bride to give her husband a circlet of pure gold, on which is inscribed the word " Crede," meaning belief or trust. If only a woman once makes a man believe and feel that she trusts him, and believes in him, it is the very highest incentive she can offer him to live up to that ideal. Of necessity, the early days of married life must be trying. First of all, for a fortnight or month, she has had the constant companionship of her husband. They have been together day after day in some ideal spot, which for months, perhaps years, they have talked of. Life has been very perfect.
At last the end of the honeymoon comes, and the morning when the woman must open her eyes to the new life in her own home. The petty details and cares of domestic life are suddenly hers - the worry with the cook or parlourmaid, or the one factotum of her small abode. She is suddenly plunged out of a glorious page of fairy lore into a prosaic, everyday existence. If only she would cherish the " fairy tale " business, then she would hardly feel the monotony of the commonplace which so soon seems to envelop her. There is a horrible corner to pass in the early days of matrimony if the girl has been one of a large family, and that is the loneliness she may feel between her husband's going out in the morning and his return in the evening. The man does not suffer from this, for he takes up the reins of his business again, and mixes with his fellow-workers, and how true are Byron's words :
Love is to a man a thing apart, 'tis woman's whole existence.
In nine cases out of ten, a man is able to separate his love and his business with the greatest ease. He throws himself with increased ardour into his work, for now he has the beloved dependent upon his exertions. But very often the woman spends half her time in watching the clock round until it is time for him to return. This does not mean that because he is able to take up his work with comparative ease, the man loves the woman less than she loves him. But it must be confessed that a man has a more accurate sense of proportion than a woman.
A Martyr to Her House
Many people will say that a woman's true place is within the four walls of her own home, and this is true ; but she is a more interesting companion to a man if she also takes an intelligent interest in the world outside, and still cultivates her pet hobbies. A woman deteriorates after the honeymoon if she becomes absolutely self-centred. When her household duties are finished, she should seek to enlarge her mental outlook. There is a type of woman who glories in her martyrdom of household cares. She delights in wearying herself to death and eagerly awaits her lord's return to regale him with long strings of domestic worries.
Then there is the pretty, frivolous, exacting type. " I hate going out by myself, and I prefer to wait for Jack," she will tell you sweetly. " He has promised to come home early, and we are going out together." Could anything be more delightful - in theory ? The bride puts on a pretty frock and a becoming hat quite half an hour before it is even possible for the adored one to arrive.
Meanwhile, Jack has had an unusually busy day. Times have not been any too good lately, but this day has been like the good old days he has dreamt of. There are several letters to write - he has just time to polish them off before he catches his train. He writes hurriedly, seizes his coat and hat. The door opens and a client enters.
" I am sorry to trouble you at this hour, but it is rather an important matter." And he glances at the coat and hat. " I hope I shall not interfere with an engagement." It means business. For a moment Jack hesitates ; he sees a vision of the waiting woman. But isn't he playing the game for her, as well as for himself ? Of course he is. " Pray take a seat," and he hands a chair to the other man, takes off his coat, and gives his whole attention to the business in hand.
But the woman ! She has glanced at the clock a hundred times ; twice she has rushed to the door at the sound of an imaginary footstep. The maid has offered to bring in tea, but her mistress has answered some • what sharply: " No, thank you, Jane. The master will be home any moment, and we are going out for the evening."
It is hopelessly late when he eventually arrives. " I hated to disappoint you, little one . . . but at the last moment------"
He is interrupted by a laugh which is almost a sob. " Oh, of course ! I don't count, now that you are sure of me." The bitter words have passed the woman's lips almost before she is conscious of having uttered them. " I suppose it is the club, or one of your old friends."
The man looks dead tired, but she is too angry and disappointed to notice this, and the unfairness of it all strikes him keenly, for she, too, will benefit by the very business which has kept him away from her. He tries to soothe her. If he is a good man, he will realise the lonely hours which have passed since he left her in the morning. He will notice the pretty hat and gown put out for him, and the flushed face, and the hands which tremble pitifully, and his great heart will go out in sympathy to the woman - to ." the weaker vessel."
" Poor little girl! I must make up for it some other time. But now come to me and I will tell you what delayed me." And as she nestles in his arms, Whittier's lines would flash through the mind of the onlooker:
And if the husband or the wife In home's strong light discovers
For still in mutual sufferance lies
The secret of true living; Love scarce is love that never knows
The sweetness of forgiving.