It is sometimes said that a woman is not worth looking at after she is thirty years of age, but very often she is not worth speaking to before it.
After sympathy, the best net that a girl can use is domesticity, or ability to make home comfortable. Brutal man likes to be well fed, and when a woman can make one pound go as far as two in less competent hands, he thinks with good reason that she is a fortune in herself.
Before marriage Edwin will endure any hardship for his beloved Angelina ; but, after marriage, should the dinner be a quarter of an hour late or not properly cooked, Edwin will lay most of the blame on Angelina. Let Angelina, therefore, before marriage learn how to keep the wheels of domestic life oiled.
But a cage-making wife is much more than a good housekeeper. Indeed, it is possible for a wife to be too anxious about these things, in which case her husband wishes that his home were less perfectly kept but more peaceful.
" Bother the happiness. Have you any book that tells how to get married ? "
One way to get married is for a woman to let it be known that she is not a too expensive luxury, and that she is a cage-maker and not merely a net-maker. I knew a mother who got a family of daughters off her hands by telling prudent young men in confidence that the puddings they tasted at her house were all concocted by her daughters, and that the dear girls made their own dresses and hats.
Some men seem only to have met foolish virgins, but if they had met wise ones like many with whom I am acquainted, they would not have dreaded marriage so much. One of these good and prudent girls is engaged to a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. The other day, when my wife and I were taking tea on board his ship, he said, "Try those little cakes ; they were made by my fiancee and sent as a specimen of her skill." It would be well if it became the fashion for girls to send samples of cookery duly certified to be their own to young men of their fancy at the beginning of their acquaintance. is always attractive, but it should not by itself be relied upon to net a husband. Women who are conscious of possessing the gift are apt to be self-absorbed, and unwilling to exert themselves to please. Far more successful are plainer women who have cultivated thoughtfulness for others.
Extravagant, sensational dressing is a net that frightens men away, and does not capture them matrimonially.
Angelina : " Here he is, just where he's been for six weeks ; why doesn't he propose ? I'm sure I encourage him enough."
Edwin: "Here she is, as usual, wearing a costume which cost more than I can earn in six weeks. How can I ask her to marry me ? It would be impossible for me to support her in the extravagant style in which she now lives. Birds are plucked to get feathers for women's hats, and so are husbands."
Angelina confesses to herself that she encourages Edwin to propose ; but that is the way in many cases to prevent a man doing so. He is put off by a girl who wooes before she is wooed. A girl who courts a man may think that she is making an im- • pression, for her attentions please and flatter him ; but she does not win his love. In disgust he turns to someone else, whose womanly reserve keeps him on tenterhooks, and gives a zest and romance that are wanting in the other affair. A nice girl does not try consciously to gain admiration ; to do so would be to confess that it was undeserved. She uses no art, but remains her own natural self. Many a bachelor has been kept from marrying by girls setting their caps at him.
Good temper is a quality about which a young man does not think as much as he ought to in reference to a girl with golden hair and bewitching smile. She perhaps " makes eyes at him," especially if she has darkly, deeply beautifully blue eyes. He is bewitched, and never dreams, even when he has a nightmare, that after marriage she will speak no longer with her eyes but with a tongue that will blister and irritate. It pity that she cannot show in some unmistakable way before marriage that she possesses a good temper, for that would be a net that would capture a wise man.
A Word to Mothers
One of the best nets a girl can have for catching a husband is a good and pleasing mother. A suitor looks ahead, and sees what the girl will be in years to come when he notes that her mother is unselfish, useful, and well preserved. This is the best and most innocent way in which a mother can matchmake. She can also help her daughter to marry happily by training her to make a cage that her husband will not wish to leave as well as a net to catch him.
A mother should often be excused if she try in an even more direct way to net a husband for her daughter. She knows that marriage opens out life to a woman, and gives her the blessings of love, fidelity, and maternity. A girl in a remote country place may have few opportunities of meeting eligible young men - is it a crime if her mother bring her to where she will have more opportunities ? A manoeuvring mother is objectionable, but one who in a simple, straightforward way helps her daughter to a happy matrimonial settlement only does her duty. Great tact, however, is needed, for many a friendship that might have ended in a happy marriage has ceased because a mother asked a young man prematurely about his intentions in reference to her daughter.
Men differ, and the net that will catch one man for a husband will be no good for another. Flattery thickly put on, slangy talk, and risky manners may attract a coarse man ; but they disgust a refined one. Of course, girls should only want to marry good and refined men ; it is a sad fact, however, that some of them are not particular.
A Girl's Chances of Marrying
In the artificial, social arrangements of our time in Great Britain there is a very limited matrimonial choice for man and a still more limited one for woman. How few persons does the ordinary individual of either sex know whom he or she can marry ! Cruelly, and illogically, the woman who is anxious to net a husband, and the woman who has failed to do so are equally blamed. The first is said to be designing, the second to be unwomanly and a failure.
On this subject of nets and cages, many of my readers will think that a woman who fails to make and keep a home happy is a greater failure than one who fails to net a husband.