Sunday, January 31, 2016

Edwardian Etiquette Wisdom

"Yes, I toy with men's affections. I don't see how it is any of your concern!"

From "The Morning Chit-Chat"


The Very Pretty Girl, being in a bad mood, had been treating the Very Devoted Young Man with the most studied arrogance during the whole evening. She had ordered him hither and yon with almost insulting tyranny. She had refused an invitation of his with a shortness that was decidedly rude.

She had contradicted him flatly several times and laughed at him again and again with the unpleasant laughter that savors of mockery rather than friendly fun.

When he had finally taken his leave, the sandy haired, plain little girl who shared the Very Pretty Girl's apartment with her, cried reproachfully: "How could you treat him so? I think you were perfectly horrid to him."

The Very Pretty Girl sank down in the most comfortable chair—which she habitually arrogated to herself—and laughed with evident delight. "He seems to like it pretty well, doesn't he?" she responded. "While you were out in the kitchen he just begged to come again day after tomorrow, and I told him I thought that he was simply ridiculous, and that if he thought I had nothing else to do than sit around with him every evening, he was very much mistaken."

The sandy haired little girl looked at the Very Pretty Girl a moment, just about the way any one who knew the value of jewels would look if he saw a child throwing a very wonderful pearl or diamond into the water—only much more so—opened her mouth as if to say something and then shut it again and walked out into the kitchen and started to wash the chafing dish— a part of apartment bliss which the Very Pretty Girl most decidedly did not arrogate to herself.

Whereupon the Very Pretty Girl sat back in the most comfy chair and laughed aloud to herself, enjoying at the same time the silveriness of the laugh and the recollection of the Very Devoted Man's discomfiture.

Altogether, she felt that she had been most clever and brilliant in walking over a human being just because he was chained down by an infatuation into a position where she could walk upon him. You see she was forgetting several little facts. She was forgetting that no matter how willing the victim, walking on people is not good form.

She was forgetting that no matter how willing to endure rudeness and arrogance a foolish man may be, rudeness is just as much rudeness and just as ugly and undesirable a quality. She was forgetting that even if a man is willing to stand for being contradicted and laughed at, that does not make contradiction and mockery pretty things.

She was forgetting that no matter how generous and ready to give everything and receive almost nothing in return a man in love may be, it is just as selfish and soul killing for a woman to get in the habit of taking everything and making no proper return.

The Very Pretty Girl—and her hundreds and thousands of sisters, incidentally—who forget all these things, always think that their attitude is fascinating and attractive. Some day, perhaps, they will find out the contrary. And then for a time they will be very unhappy. But it will be a blessed unhappiness, for it will bring vastly greater and truer happiness in its train.
 — By Ruth Cameron, 1911




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