Side Talks with Girls/Chapter 14

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I AM sure with the pleasant summer days that many an invitation comes to my girls to go a-visiting. I hope that each one may be able to accept, and that her visit may be a succession of bright and happy days worthy to be put down on the book of life as among the golden ones. This result, of course, depends largely on the girl herself. I can see her look at me with doubt as I say this, and yet it is certainly true. People invite others to have a good time, and surely it becomes the duty of the visitor to meet this desire half way and achieve what is wished. Your invitation has come. If it does not state exactly how long your friends wish you to stay, write and ask them, or if you know them sufficiently well set an exact time yourself, so that the housekeeper will understand that you will arrive on a certain clay by the four o'clock train, and leave two weeks after on the ten o'clock train. Do not allow anything to change this plan once it is made, for, my dear girl, it is much better to go away and leave your hostess regretting you than to stay and make her wish that you had gone. To "welcome the coming and speed the parting guest" is her business, and to go away leaving a pleasant impression behind you is yours.


Now you have started to visit at the house beautiful, and as you go whirling through the country on a fast train you must think over what you are going to do. First of all, you are to be a pleasure and not a trouble to your hostess; your luggage has been checked through, and, like a wise little woman, you will have prepaid for its delivery at the house. Arriving there and being greeted by the various members of the family, you will be taken to the room that is to be yours, and, unless you have a very intimate girl friend there, you will be left alone for a little while so that you may straighten up your belongings, freshen yourself and be ready to meet all the members of the family. I am concluding that you are the girl who has no maid to arrange your affairs and put them in their proper place. Your hostess has very thoughtfully cleared out a cupboard and a chest of drawers for you, and you put away your gowns and underwear with exactly the same care that you would if you were at home. There is a dainty cover on the dressing-table, and, being a well-bred girl, you will not stain that with perfumery, nor scorch it by being careless with the lamp that heats your curling tongs. You will remember that your first duty is to be as neat as possible in the room which has been dedicated to you. If you are visiting where only one servant is kept you will be wise and kind, if, without being asked, you take care of your own room, so making yourself of as little trouble as possible. It may be that at home you are a bit lazy, but here it is your duty to be perfectly prompt, especially at the breakfast-table, but you must not appear until you know that that meal is ready. A well-bred girl never keeps a table waiting, and never, by word or manner, suggests that at her own home the hours are different, or possibly more convenient. For the time being she is a member of the house in which she is staying, and the member who takes the greatest amount of care in being courteous.


It always comes—that time when it is wise to leave one's hostess to herself. You may argue and say, "But she asked me to come and see her." So she did, but she didn't ask you to live with her and to be a burden on her hands at all times and hours. Have a bit of fancy-work or a book to which you can devote your time for a while, and disappear, either on a veranda, to the library if there is one, or, if there is no other place, to your room. This gives your hostess time to arrange her household affairs, to plan out the day, and when she is ready, be sure she will come and seek you. It is possible that you are visiting the daughter of a household, but whether it should be the mother or the daughter the time for disappearing should be observed, because, naturally, each will have duties that need attention. You may be very sure that a judicious absence will be appreciated by whomsoever you may be visiting. But then, too, you must be ready to do whatever your friends may desire, and, my dear girl, show that you are satisfied with the arrangements made for your pleasure.

SOME OF THE MISTAKES When you are a visitor yourself remember those guests who were joys to you when you were acting as hostess, and those whose visits were a continual misery. In very few households can the general arrangements be so upset that the washing of a visitor's linen can be done in the house, her clothes brushed or her shoes looked after. Now, taking my advice, you will ask your hostess to recommend you a laundress, and if someone in the house does have time enough to do you one or two little services you must surely pay for them. Remember that you are to be a pleasure and not an expense, and therefore when little jaunts are got up, or outings are arranged, you must take the trouble to find out whether each one is paying for herself, and if that is the arrangement, then insist upon your hostess letting you pay your share. A great many pleasant friends have been lost through lack of thought in regard to money matters, and many women would entertain much more if it were not that the visitors themselves were such a heavy monetary expense.

Another something about which you must not make a mistake is your morning manner; you must come to the breakfast -table neatly dressed, with your hair properly arranged, greet everybody pleasantly, and, no matter how you may feel, impress your friends with the fact that you are happy. Then, too, try not to see or hear the unpleasant words that are sometimes spoken in the family circle, and religiously close your eyes to whatever is disagreeable, forcing yourself to forget, so that it may be impossible for you ever to go away and speak of that which happened while you were under the roof of someone who had been kind to you.


When you are packing your trunk try and put in it everything that you will need, so that you will not have to borrow from your hostess. You will require the silk or cotton matching your gowns, your needles, scissors, and thimble, and if you are an adept at artistic needlework I would suggest your doing a pretty piece while you are visiting—one that may be left as a souvenir of your visit with your hostess. You must have with you your own brushes, your letter-paper and pens, and when you open your trunk you must put your things in their proper places, giving them the same care which you would if you were going to be in the house a year instead of a week. Besides your clothes there must be some virtues packed in your trunk, virtues that you will take out and use all the time. One is consideration. You will find that a visitor well equipped with this will be much liked. Another is punctuality, that virtue of kings. And still another is neatness, a dainty little virtue specially adapted to young women. Then, too, there is another little virtue which doesn't always have that name given it, but it certainly is one, and that is pleasant small talk. You want to be able among your friends, when you are out, and most especially at the table, to talk pleasantly on subjects that are not personal, and by making yourself mistress of the art of small talk you will be surprised to find how agreeable you will be considered, and as you do not discuss the affairs of the last establishment where you visited you will make your hostess glad, for she will know that her surroundings and whatever happens in her house will be shown the same respect.


Naturally, when it has been decided that you are coming, your friend lets her friends and acquaintances know that she expects you, and she informs them that she will be glad to have them all call on you. Now, it is possible that you may meet one who is particularly attractive to you, whose manner charms you and whose intelligence is a delight to you. The attraction is mutual, but, my dear girl, don't make the mistake of letting this new friend become more to you than the one with whom you are staying. Accept from her only the invitations that include your hostess, and if your new acquaintance should invite you to come and visit her, do not be rude enough to give her part of the time that was intended for your old friend, but if you wish to go to her, and your mother does not object, make your arrangements for the time to be after your first visit is finished. I do not approve of staying at the houses of people whom you have just met. Such quick friendships are not likely to last.


You know her. She appears late and untidy at breakfast, and shows by her listlessness that she is dissatisfied with the food that is set before her. Her room is very untidy, and she annoys the servants by asking favors of them when they are busiest. The children in the house worry her, and she invites people who are strangers to you to pay visits at times that are most inconvenient. When you are going to take her for an outing she is late and appears overdressed. Then she makes one of the girls of the family unhappy by attempting to attract her sweetheart from her and prove how fickle he is. She is never satisfied, and she is always telling you about the place where she stayed last and how differently everything was done. She is surprised that you have your dinner at the hour that you do, and doesn't hesitate to say she isn't hungry at that time. When you have taken a deal of trouble to make the parlor dainty and sweet, and shut out the glaring sun, she elects to write her letters there, and fails to see why you shouldn't prefer the brilliant daylight to stream in at all hours. She is the guest you certainly are willing to speed. And she is the guest that I do not wish my girls to be like. She doesn't hesitate to borrow your belongings, she uses your letter-paper, and she never has any stamps, but counts on the men of the family buying them for her. Without speaking to you she invites people to visit her whom you do not wish to know, and she places you in such uncomfortable positions in regard to these people that you wish you had never met her. She tells you that she knows you wish her to feel as if she were at home, and all you can do is to smile very weakly. Nobody wants a visitor to feel that. A visitor should remember that she is not in her own home, and that, while everybody wishes her to enjoy herself, still she has no rights in the household—only those privileges which her hostess grants her, and these she must respect.

This inconsiderate girl is the girl you are not to be.


While you are having a pleasant time with your friend you must remember that you are at all times under the rose and that on your lips must be set the seal of silence. When you leave you only remember all the pleasant things, and, being a high-minded girl, you criticise nothing. If, by accident, you have heard a family secret, make yourself forget it, and if you have been present at that most unpleasant of all things, a family quarrel, convince yourself that you are mistaken, if you remember it. Let all the pleasures and all the lovingkindness stand out before you as boldly as possible, and let everything else be blurred out with the sponge of forgetfulness. I spoke of the family quarrel. If, unfortunately, you should be in the room when such a thing occurs, leave at once if you possibly can, but if not, refuse to give any opinion whatever, and after it is all over do not discuss it with anybody. You must also forget any reference to money matters you may hear, and surely you are too kind-hearted, if you have visited among people who are not wealthy, ever to speak of the economies that you have noticed and which were necessary.


That was what we all said about a girl who had been visiting us. She was always there when we wanted her, and when, for domestic reasons, we desired to be alone, she had either gone out for a walk or was in her own room amusing herself. She found everything that was done for her very pleasant, and when the time came for her to go, from the mother of the household down to the servants, there was regret. She departed carrying with her a loving invitation to come soon again—an invitation that was direct from the hearts of those who gave it. That is the sort of visitor I want every one of my girls to be: the one whose coming is a delight, and whose going is a sorrow; the one who, while she is with us, is a pleasure in the household, and who is spoken of after she has gone as being the very nicest of girls.

Now, won't you try to be the right kind of a visitor? Won't you think over what I have said and make yourself a joy to your hostess? Won't you be careful not to talk about disagreeable things, and won't you be more than careful not to criticise anything or anybody? For being among strangers, you do not know whom you may hurt. Think and act always with the greatest consideration; be sure then you will have a good time, and when they all say good-by to you it will be with regret, and, of course, that is how you want them to feel.

This little bit of a sermon is given to my girls, not because I believe they would do anything that was wrong wilfully, but because they sometimes forget. I want them to remember, and with the remembrance will come the right action.