More Edens are destroyed by mosquitoes than by serpents. Since satan gained such notoriety by assuming the form of a serpent ever so long ago, and entered the garden of Eden, he has become even more wily and cautious, and assumed all sorts of shapes to deceive mankind.
Almost every day we can see by looking about us that he infests nine Edens in every ten in some lesser guise. The buzzing, tormenting insects of ill temper, and misdirected, uncontrolled dispositions, are his most frequent "make-ups."
He is always lurking around the gates of the new Edens, where brides and grooms enter, and one of his favorite occupations is assuming an invisible form and whispering in the ear of a bride that she must be exacting in her demands, and act as her husband's keeper, and insist on his giving up all his old freedom and all his old pleasures. Then he goes to the husband and whispers in his ear that the wife is the husband's property, the same as horse, gun, or dog, and that he must so regard her. That he must hold the pursestrings and compel her to ask for every cent she uses, and that he must laugh or sneer down all her little efforts at culture and progress, and that he must always make her feel that her duties are mere child's play compared to his labors, and that she has no right to be tired with so little to do.
In a very little while the air of that Eden is buzzing with the insects of discord. The husband is restive under the irritating needle-thrusts of their sharpened bills, and the wife's veins are swollen with the poison they have injected. The wife keeps such constant surveillance over her husband's actions and tries to turn him from partaking in any pleasures without her, that he becomes rebellious and often deceitful. She finds herself restricted in the use of money, and unsympathized with in her hopes, aims and trials. There is no third party who interferes with their happiness, no serpent tempting them to do wrong, but the atmosphere of their Eden seems to be thick with mosquitoes which destroy all comfort.
The husband and wife both know that their troubles are "small ones" compared with those of many of their friends, yet they find it impossible to be happy. She knows that the man across the street is intemperate, and she is thankful that her husband does not drink. Yet when she thinks how unsympathetic he is, how close he holds the pursestrings, how he laughs at her ambition to study or paint, she weeps hot tears of discontent. The husband sees his neighbor's wife indulging in a foolish, compromising flirtation, or sending her husband into bankruptcy, and he realizes that he is very fortunate in having a wife who does not mortify his pride and self-respect, yet--for all that he is not happy. She nags him so unmercifully about small matters; she gives him no freedom; she puts on such an air of martyrdom if he goes out for an hour without her, or comes home half an hour late. She talks about his shortcomings before his friends and mortifies him. He is in a constant state of irritation.
His Eden is destroyed. Not by serpents, but by buzzing, biting mosquitoes. A tincture of liberality on the part of the wife, and a mixture of sympathy and appreciation on the part of the husband will form a lotion which, if sprinkled about the garden, would forever drive away these pests. It is the little foxes that spoil the vines, and the little insects that spoil the Edens.
Irritable tempers ruin many a Paradise. Not the tempers that are like great cyclones, hurling devastation all about and then dying out as suddenly as they were aroused, to be followed by great calm and amiability. Such tempers are the result of a lack of proper training and control, and if allowed to rule the brain, lead to insanity.
Bad as they are, they are not so bad to live with as the disagreeable temper, which never gets beyond petulance and irritability, and which never subsides so completely that it may not be aroused by the mislaying of a book, or the accidental slamming of a door.
It is like living in a den of snarling animals to live with a person who has this sort of temper. Many an Eden is destroyed by it, while the possessor prides himself upon being a good Christian, and doing his whole duty by his family. Yet if the soup lacks a little salt, or contains a little too much pepper, if a meal is a moment delayed, if a child is noisy in its mirth, if a drawer sticks, or a door slams, or a chair creaks, each trifle calls forth an exhibition of disagreeable temper which ruins the comfort and peace of the household for an hour. Many a woman is addicted to this sort of temper and calls it "her nerves," and considers herself the most devoted wife and mother in the world. Yet if she is obliged to delay her dinner for any member of the family, if she is called from one task to perform another, if the children scatter their playthings, or leave their schoolbooks in the parlor, she indulges in such petulant scolding that a gloom settles over the whole household. She would consider it no difficult thing to die for that household if it were demanded of her. But to control her irritable temper is a task too great to demand of her. And so the Eden is destroyed and the children grow up eager to get out of the home where everything is uncomfortable, and the parents wonder why all their sacrifices are so poorly appreciated, why their children, for whom they have toiled and saved, seem to care so little about their home, and why they seem so anxious to seek pleasures elsewhere. Who does not know of the household where children hush their play and mirth, and the wife becomes nervous and anxious at the sound of the husband and father's footstep? They all fear him, rather than love him, for he is sure to notice their faults and shortcomings rather than their virtues and achievements, when he comes in. He is tired and worried with business, and he makes his home a place wherein to vent all his spleen. His wife may have worked and is sure to notice the small thing that is left undone, and to ignore all that has been done. The children think of him as a master and tyrant rather than as a parent. They shout with delight the moment the door closes behind him, and are cowed with fear when it opens to admit him. Yet he is an excellent provider and proud of his family. But he destroys his Eden by his selfishly disagreeable temper. He prides himself on having no vices, yet his faults of temper are the little foxes that ruin the vines of affection and love in his Paradise.
The mother who is always complaining of the hardships of housekeeping is another good-intentioned and kind-hearted person, who thoroughly destroys her Eden. We have all known her, heard her, suffered in her cause. She sets her house in order with the most scrupulous care; she takes pride in having everything as neat as wax; she is an expert cook and her husband and children gather about the table with hearty appetites and keen appreciation of the dishes she has prepared. But the groan with which she seats herself, the weary expression she assumes takes the edge off their appetites.
"I am too tired to eat," she says, and if a dish is praised she replies, "Well, it ought to be good--it was hard enough to prepare it."
The husband feels like a brute for having enjoyed his dinner at such a cost to her, and the children feel ashamed to be happy at the table when "mother is tired." They grow to feel a hatred for the neat parlor and orderly rooms when they hear her say, "Now, don't litter up the house, for I have half killed myself to-day setting it in order."
Alas, for the homes so often made unhappy by this manner of woman. Far better had she been idle and amiable, and given her husband and children the memory of a less orderly, but more cheerful home. I would rather beg my bread from door to door, or eat crusts sitting in a dark corner surrounded by amiable and cheerful souls, than to dine off dishes of gold and feast on sumptuous fare, and hear the sighs and groans of those who prepared it.
Many a wife and mother, however, is driven into this habit of complaint by the thoughtlessness of her husband and children. Housework, with its ever-recurring duties, is the most exasperating toil on earth if not lightened by the appreciation of those for whom it is done. Many a husband might rebuild his Eden, destroyed by a complaining wife if he would say to her once in a while, "Dear, you are very tired, are you not? Your work is very irritating, but you give me so much comfort that I hope you feel repaid for it. I appreciate all that you do;" and if the children would say "All our lives we shall remember with gratitude the happy, orderly home you have made for us," the mother's sighs and groans would turn into happy smiles, and her work would no longer seem hard. But husband and children too often take all these things as a matter of course, and the wife and mother feels forced to groan and sigh to make them realize her value. But she always misses her aim.
Jealousy and selfish feelings among the children in a family are great destroyers of Edens. Even if the feelings are hidden and not expressed in words, they fill the atmosphere with a sort of mental miasma, and bring spiritual maladies and discontent.
Thoughts do not need the wings of wordsAnd whatever your hidden thought, toward any one, it is sure to reach that person as if you sent a telegram. You can ruin an Eden by merely thinking jealous, and selfish, and mean thoughts of those about you, and you can create a Paradise of your own by constantly thinking sweet and helpful thoughts of everyone near you.
To fly to any goal;
Like subtle lightnings, not like birds,
They speed from soul to soul.