“Let each morning and evening be a new and complete day. In childlike simplicity live as if you were to have no to-morrow so far as worrying as to its possible outcome goes. Make the best of to-day's income. Not one minute of to-morrow belongs to you. It is all God's. Thank him that His hands hold it, and not your feeble, uncertain fingers.”

Marion Harland


An Open Secret,

Chapter I.

Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,

Chapter II.

The Family Purse,

Chapter III.

The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,

Chapter IV.

Little Things that are Trifles,

Chapter V.

A Mistake on John's Part,

Chapter VI.


Chapter VII.

Must-haves and May-bes,

Chapter VIII.

What Good Will It Do?

Chapter IX.

Shall I Pass It On?

Chapter X.

"Only Her Nerves,"

Chapter XI.

The Rule of Two,

Chapter XII.

The Perfect Work of Patience,

Chapter XIII.

According to His Folly,

Chapter XIV.

"Buttered Parsnips,"

Chapter XV.

Is Marriage Reformatory?

Chapter XVI.

"John's" Mother,

Chapter XVII.

And Other Relations-in-Law,

Chapter XVIII.

A Timid Word for the Step-mother,

Chapter XIX.

Children as Helpers,

Chapter XX.

Children as Burden-bearers,

Chapter XXI.

Our Young Person,

Chapter XXII.

Our Boy,

Chapter XXIII.

That Spoiled Child,

Chapter XXIV.

Getting Along in Years,

Chapter XXV.


Chapter XXVI.

The Gospel of Conventionalities,


Familiar, or Intimate?


Our Stomachs,


Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,


The Family Invalid,


A Temperance Talk,


Family Music,


Family Religion,


A Parting Word for Boy,


Homely, But Important,



The Secret of a Happy Home

Author: Marion Harland

Published: 1896



To no other estate are there so many varieties of phases as to that of matrimony. Like the music of Saint Cæcilia and old Timotheus combined, it is capable of raising "a mortal to the skies," or of bringing "an angel down" to the lowest depths of misery. At the best the betrothed couple can never say with absolute certainty--"After marriage we shall be happy." The experience of wedded life is alarmingly like that of dying--each man and woman must know it for himself and herself, and no other human being can share its trials or its joys.

The mistake the prospective wife makes is in obstinately closing her eyes to the fact that married life has any trials which are not far outbalanced by its pleasures. Marriage does not change man or woman. The impressive ceremony over, the bridal finery laid aside, the last strain of the wedding-march wafted into space, and the orange-flowers dead and scentless,--John becomes once more plain, everyday John, with the same good traits which first won his Mary's heart, and the many disagreeable characteristics that exasperated his mother and sisters. And Mary, being a woman, and no more of a saint than is her life-partner, will also be exasperated. If John is an honest gentleman who loves Mary, the chances for her happiness depend upon her common-sense and her love for John. It is utterly impossible to have too much of the last-named commodity. It will be all needed, well-blended with the divine attribute of patience, and judiciously seasoned with woman's especial gift--tact, to enable man and wife to live together peaceably for one year.

Moreover, Mary must understand that John the lover and John the husband have very different ways of showing affection. The lover would loiter evening after evening waiting for other guests to go home that he might have time for a few tender words with his sweetheart. Woman's logic reasons,--"what more natural when he has hours of time than for him to keep on saying those same tender words, only very many more of them?" The fact remains that he does not. After the kiss of welcome on his arrival home at the close of day, he is unsentimental enough to want his dinner, and, that disposed of, he buries himself behind his newspaper, from which perhaps he does not emerge before nine o'clock when he is ready to talk to Mary and to be entertained by her.

And yet this John of whom I am talking is as good morally, as faithful and conscientious in his manly way as Mary in her womanly.

But--suppose he were not a good man, what then? Could the mere fact of his union with her change his entire nature?

A good man may be made better by association with a good woman; a man with repressed evil tendencies may have them held more firmly in check by his wife's restraining influence, but no woman should undertake to "make over" a man who has given way to the wicked passions of his being until they are beyond his control. He will not be made a reputable member of society and a bright and shining light to the community in which he dwells, by marrying. He does not go into the new life as a sort of Keeley cure,--a reformatory institution. A woman's strongest and weakest point is her power of idealizing every cold fact with which she comes in contact. She loves a handsome roué. He tells her that if she will but take him in training she can make a new man of him; that her fair hand can wipe all the dark spots from his past life, smooth the rough places and elevate the depressions in his character until it will be once more goodly to contemplate. And over the stereopticon view of the man his fiancée throws the rosecolored light of her idealistic lantern, and believes all he says. Of course during their engagement he frequently slips back into the old path, sometimes has a downfall that shocks and horrifies her who would reform him, but, once more trimming and turning up the wick, she bathes him in the pink light and remembers that he is not yet as entirely under her influence as he will be some day. She would think it cruel injustice were some unprejudiced observer to suggest that if he cannot change his life when the possibilities of winning her are at stake, he will hardly do so when the prize is his own.

It is doubtful if a man whose whole nature has become stunted, warped and foul by sin, has in him the ability to love a true woman as she deserves to be loved. I do not mean to intimate that his devotion to her is feigned, but it is only such attachment as he is capable of, and is no more to be compared with the unselfish love that she freely lavishes upon him, than the mud-begrimed slush which settles in city gutters to the snowy blanket covering country fields.

Beauty and the Beast may be a pretty fairy-tale, but in the realism of practical life it assumes the guise of a tragedy that makes the looker-on shudder with disgustful pity. My heart aches when I think of the women who began the work of reformation with hope and laid it down with despair at the end of a life that made them "turn weary arms to death" with a sigh of welcome. On the table before me stands the portrait of one such woman. When she was a merry-hearted girl, she fell in love with a handsome, brilliant young fellow, whose only failing was a dangerous fondness for liquor. He loved her deeply--better than anything else in the world--except drink. Nevertheless, he promised to overcome even this passion for her sake. During the month immediately preceding their marriage, he came twice into her presence intoxicated. In vain did her family plead and protest. Her only answer was:

"Harry cannot keep straight without some one to help him. I must marry him now. He needs me!"

Two years after her marriage she died of a broken heart, whispering at the last to a dear friend that she "was not sorry to go, but would be thankful life was over if she were only sure that her year-old baby would not be left to Harry's care."

Yet he was in most respects tender and considerate. The trouble was that his devotion to her remained at the point at which it stood when he became her husband. The habit of intemperance grew.

Suppose that, added to this great fault, had been others still more vicious. Had his been a coarse brutal nature, would not the idea of reformation have been still more hopeless?

A woman, in tying herself for life to an unprincipled man who has yielded to the dictates of sin year after year, forgets that he has lost to a great extent his better nature and is now hardly responsible for his actions. The spirit may indeed be willing, but the flesh is lamentably weak. The appetites that have been long indulged do not relinquish their claims after only a few months' restraint, and when the girl for whose sake they have been repressed is won, they will return to the swept and garnished room, and the last end of their victim will be worse than the first.

I often wonder what a good, pure woman promises herself when she proposes to entwine her clean life with one that is scarred, seamed and blackened. Evade the truth as she may, there are but two courses for her to pursue. She must either live a lonely life apart from her husband's, frowning down, or silently showing disapproval of his habits, or she must, to preserve peace and the semblance of happiness, bring herself down to his level and become even less delicate and more degraded than he. For is not a coarse woman always more abhorrent than a coarse man? There are the instincts of her entire moral and physical nature to be cast aside before she can descend to vulgarity. In the one case her husband will hate her, while in the other she will lose his respect and will despise herself.

An evil life so blunts the conscience that the wife of an unreformed man need hardly expect him to be faithful to her. If a man will sin against common decency, morality and social codes, he will sin against his wife.

There is another aspect of the case to be considered. The American girl of to-day seldom takes the possibility of offspring into her matrimonial plans. They are not only a possibility, but a probability, and it behooves every woman to cast aside false modesty, and with a pure heart and honest soul seriously consider if she is not doing irreparable wrong to unborn children in giving them an unprincipled father. Is she willing to see her children's blood tainted by his vices, their lives wrecked by evil temptations inherited from him? She must, indeed, be a reckless woman and a soulless, who, with this thought uppermost can still say, "I will marry this man--let the consequences be what they may!"

That a man has some redeeming qualities does not make him a life-companion to be desired above all others. Said a poor Irish woman:

"Pat is always a good husband, savin' the toimes he's in liquor!"

"When is he sober?" asked a bystander.

"Sure an' his money gin'rally gives out by Friday mornin', and from that on to Saturday night, he can't git a dhrop. Faith, but he's koind and consid'rate at sich a time!"

Did the loyal soul find that marriage paid?

One great mistake that many silly women make is to think that a dash of wickedness makes a man more attractive. Years ago I heard a girl say:

"I want to know Jack S. He has been very wild, and a man is so much more interesting for being a little naughty, you know."

I did not "know," nor do I now understand why pearls should plead to be thrown before swine, or fresh-blown roses upon the dung-hill.

2011 © Church Growth Associates, Inc.