Side Talks with Girls/Chapter 15

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FROM all over the country letters come to me from girls who are going to have an outing: and as almost everyone of them has saved the money for her trip by many sacrifices she wants to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure from the expenditure of it. Now, she cannot do this unless she knows how to travel, which, by-the-bye, doesn't mean just the buying of a ticket and the going from one place to another, but also means doing it in the most comfortable manner, and the most comfortable manner, curiously enough, is always the easiest. To spend money so that the greatest amount of pleasure and comfort may be got from it is an art, and, oddly enough, an art that is usually well understood by girls who have plenty of money, and not very well understood by those who have not. Personally, I think there is economy in securing a seat in a parlor-car, for then one is comfortably placed, one is sure of not being near objectionable people, and travel is made so much easier and pleasanter, and, I might add, safer.


Of course, it goes without saying that my girl is going to be as neat as a Quakeress when she travels; that her frock will fit her well and easily; that her hat, while it is pretty and becoming, may be brushed, and that it shows neither feathers nor flowers upon it, and that her gloves, the loose, heavy kid ones, have each button firmly buttoned. Her shoes are very tidy, and if they are buttoned ones the row of buttons is unbroken, but if by chance she happens to like for summer-time low tan shoes, her stockings match them, and the strings are tied and warranted not to come undone. A very simple coat, tailor-made, is the wrap which she carries, and which is assumed when there is any draught. A coat is to be preferred to a short cape, for the reason that it covers the arms, and really doesn't give a breath of cold air an opportunity to get close to one.

My girl enters the car with her parlor-car check in her hand, and is very quickly ensconced where she should be; her bag, her shawl-strap, and two or three small packages have all been put about her by whoever has come to bid her good-by, and she goes off amid good wishes to that city where she knows she will receive a welcome. As soon as the train has got well out she will, being wise, take off her coat, hang it up, remove her hat and put it in the rack, take off her gloves, put them in her coat pocket, and then settle herself comfortably to enjoy the passing panorama, or the book which she has brought with her. She need never have any hesitancy in touching the electric bell and asking the porter where the ladies' toilet-room is, for this is something that the good traveller always finds out. The hours fly by, and being a healthy girl she finds to her astonishment that she is hungry; she looks at her watch and discovers to her surprise that it is exactly her luncheon hour. It is only a minute's work to put the books aside, and to pick up the small square package done up in white paper and marked "L" in blue pencil. Somebody who was wise, very wise, knew that the average lunch on the train was not only extremely poor, but, for what was given, extremely expensive, and so, for the girl who is going to have a good time, there was a luncheon prepared.


Just here I want to say a word or two to some girls who have rather silly ideas about one's right to economize. These girls smile at the idea of taking a luncheon, and would rather foolishly spend their money in getting a meal, because they thought it looked the right thing, than in taking a lunch with them. Of course, it may not be possible for you to carry all your meals with you, but this first one you certainly can. To the silly girl I would like to say as an encouragement that the people whom she envies and whom she calls "the best," are always those who look out for their own comfort, provided it does not interfere with that of any one else. That eating one's luncheon from a box should to her suggest poverty is ridiculous; it suggests, instead, that one is fortunate enough to have home people who look after one's comfort. And it may be added that no people so consistently carry their luncheons with them as do the members of the English aristocracy, whom she so much admires.


In the lunch-box, which, by-the-by, is a nice clean white one, there is laid a dainty paper, the kind that confectioners use, in which are four or five delicate sandwiches made of thin bread with the crust cut off, and having spread between them, over the thin scraping of butter, a layer of canned meat, or thin slices of chicken, tongue, or ham, finely minced. Then, wrapped up in another piece of paper are some olives that have been carefully dried before they were put in the box, and for a dessert there is an apple or a pear, and for a surprise there is a most delightful piece of poundcake. No matter how fond of them you are, do not have an orange put in your box; they are troublesome to eat and are apt to soil your hands. Your lunch over, and you have eaten it very slowly, you open your travelling bag, take out your own towel, go down to the toilet-room and give a little bath to your face and to your hands. Ask the porter to throw away for you the box in which your lunch was, or, indeed, if you have some still remaining put it and the box back among your belongings, for you don't know what your supper is going to be like. By-the-by, speaking of the porter, I may mention that another economy is to fee him; I do not mean extravagantly, but moderately, and the fifty cents which you give him, as well as your polite manner, will tend to make him courteous and obliging during the trip.


In your travelling bag are not only the little things that you will need on your journey, but a sufficient number of your belongings for use, in case your baggage should not arrive in time. There is your brush and comb, your whisk, and then you may have two towels, your own soap in its box and your sponge in its rubber bag. Your toothbrush is carefully wrapped up, and if you wear buttoned shoes your buttoner is in, but if you wear laced ones you have an extra pair of laces in case something should happen to those with which you start out. If you are delicate and in the habit of taking any medicine you will have your medicine bottle with its glass fitted over paper tight over the cork; then there will be your hand-glass, which to save space and to keep from breaking, may be wrapped in one of your towels, and there will also be whatever jewelry you may possess put in a case and very carefully wrapped up; however, if it is very valuable you had better have a chatelaine bag and carry it about your person. And then you have the slippers, either knitted or very soft kid ones, which you will require for night wear.


The wise girl knows that nothing is quite so desirable for wear in the sleeping-car as a wrapper of dark-colored flannel. It may be stated as a positive fact that women who try to make themselver look coquettish in a sleeping-car, and wear elaborate négligés or lace-trimmed wrappers, show extremely bad taste. Experience has taught my girl that a wrapper of soft flannel in stripes of black and blue, made in the simplest fashion, is most useful. When she is ready to go to bed, the porter arranges her berth for her and she goes to the toilet-room, taking with her her shawl-strapped package. She removes her shoes and stockings, puts on the knitted slippers that she has taken out of her bag, removes any garments which she pleases, and assuming her wrapper, which has been folded in her shawl-strap, repairs to her berth. After fastening the buttons of the curtains, she disposes of her clothing as best she can, folding each article smoothly and carefully, and placing her money, watch, and tickets in her wrapper pocket. And then she should try to rest—the porter will call her in good season, and her ticket will not be asked for during the night. In her strap, which shows as its outer wrapping a shawl or travelling rug, she may have her own pillow if she desires it. But this is not a necessity, as the cars are supplied with linen that is usually fresh and clean. In the morning the wise girl will put on her stockings and shoes in bed, leaving the lacing or buttoning of them until later. Then she will assume her other garments and repair to the toilet-room, where she should as expeditiously as possible make herself neat, trim, and fresh, that her friends who are to meet her may not find her dusty, nor travel-stained. This must be done quickly, that she may not be classed among the women who are the dread of all considerate women on parlor-cars—the women who take and hold possession of the toilet-room as if it were a fort.


If friends are to meet you and entertain you there is nothing for you to trouble about except the finding of them in the great crowd which is likely to be assembled at the station. But if you are going to a hotel it is a little different, and now I want you to take my advice about this. Do not take a strange cab, but the carriage or omnibus that bears the name of the hotel. When you reach the hotel you will be shown to the reception-room; then send word by the servant that you wish to speak to the clerk, giving the servant your card. When the clerk comes tell him, if such is the case, that your rooms were engaged by letter or wire, if not, tell him exactly what you want, and what you wish to pay. Make the matter perfectly business-like. Sometimes it is wise to mention the name of whoever recommended you to the hotel, especially if you are entirely alone. If your trunk has not come up with you give the check for it to the clerk, who will attend to it for you, and I do not think you will have any trouble. In this country women who are alone are respected, and if you are quietly dressed and ladylike in your appearance men in all stations of life will respect you and show you the deference due your sex.


The girl who is stopping at a hotel, whether she is alone or in a party, must understand that conspicuous gowning in the dining-room or about the hotel is in extremely bad taste. At a famous hotel in Washington they always conclude that the woman who wears a tea-gown in the dining-room knows nothing about hotel life, and in this they are correct. Your gowns want to fit you well; they may be as smart as you desire, but they must be quiet, and they must not expose your neck or arms. If you are going out with friends after dinner and wish to wear an elaborate toilette then assume it after dinner. But do not go into the public room dressed in your party frock. Then about service. It is quite true that you are paying for service, but that service has its limits and it does not mean the running of your errands, the attending to your personal affairs, unless you pay extra for it. If you wish a carriage find out directly from the office exactly how much it will cost you, and do not put yourself in the position of having to wrangle over the price. There is probably no better test of a well-bred woman than her appearance and manner in the cars or in a hotel. She may never have been in such places before, but instinct teaches her that the more quietly she is dressed and the more quiet is her behavior the more certain is she to impress strangers with the fact that she bears the hall mark of gentility.


I mean the acquaintances who, like weeds, spring up by the wayside. Some of my girls tell me about meeting pleasant men in cars, and ask if there is any reason why the acquaintance should not be kept up. Perhaps I am a little positive, but I do not think such acquaintance ought ever to begin. I know that very often courtesies are shown to young women who are travelling alone, courtesies that it is difficult to refuse, but it is usually well to refuse them, inasmuch as all the service required can be gotten from the porter, or is furnished by the car itself. I would suggest most positively that to a service offered, a girl should say a "thank you" that carries in its intonation a quiet hint that no further acquaintance is desired. I do not deny that many times men of good breeding and of honor are desirous of being kind to women who are strangers and alone. But the wolf in sheep's clothing is equally gentle in his manner, and few young women can distinguish the real from the imitation. Therefore, my dear girl, be satisfied with the friends you have.

Start out determined to have a good time. Put in your travelling bag a great lump of hope; make as little as possible of the troubles and as much as possible of the pleasures, and when you are talking it all over you will say: "I never had such a good time in my life." And maybe somebody who is a bit like me will whisper to you: "It was because you started out with that intention. My girl, one makes or mars most of the pleasures of life oneself. If you are only determined to see nothing but the silver lining it will always appear." God bless every one of you and make you have a happy time wherever you may be.