There is nothing that tests the natural politeness of men and women so thoroughly as traveling. We all desire as much comfort as possible and as a rule are selfish. In these days of railroad travel, when every railway is equipped with elegant coaches for the comfort, convenience and sometimes luxury of its passengers, and provided with gentlemanly conductors and servants, the longest journeys by railroad can be made alone by self-possessed ladies with perfect safety and but little annoyance. Then, too, a lady who deports herself as such may travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and meet with no affront or insult, but on the contrary receive polite attentions at every point, from men who may chance to be her fellow-travelers. This may be accounted for from the fact that, as a rule in America, all men show a deferential regard for women, and are especially desirous of showing them such attentions as will render a long and lonesome journey as pleasant as possible.
DUTIES OF AN ESCORT
However self-possessed and ladylike in all her deportment and general bearing a lady may be, and though capable of undertaking any journey, howsoever long it may be, an escort is at all times much more pleasant, and generally acceptable. When a gentleman undertakes the escort of a lady, he should proceed with her to the depot, or meet her there, a sufficient time before the departure of the train to attend to the checking of her baggage, procure her ticket, and obtain for her an eligible seat in the cars, allowing her to choose such seat as she desires. He will then dispose of her packages and hand-baggage in their proper receptacle, and make her seat and surroundings as agreeable for her as possible, taking a seat near her, or by the side of her if she requests it, and do all he can to make her journey a pleasant one.
Upon arriving at her destination, he should conduct her to the ladies’ waiting-room or to a carriage, until he has attended to her baggage, which he arranges to have delivered where the lady requests it. He should then escort her to whatever part of the city she is going and deliver her into the hands of her friends before relaxing his care. On the following day he should call upon her to inquire after her health. It is optional with the lady whether the acquaintance shall be prolonged or not after this call. If the lady does not wish to prolong the acquaintance, she can have no right, nor can her friends, to request a similar favor of him at another time.
THE DUTY OF A LADY TO HER ESCORT
The lady may supply her escort with a sum of money ample to pay all the expenses of the journey before purchasing her ticket, or furnish him the exact amount required, or, at the suggestion of her escort, she may allow him to defray the expenses from his own pocket, and settle with him at the end of the journey. The latter course, however, should only be pursued when the gentleman suggests it, and a strict account of the expenses incurred must be insisted on.
A lady should give her attendant as little trouble and annoyance as possible, and she should make no unnecessary demands upon his good nature and gentlemanly services. Her hand-baggage should be as small as circumstances will permit, and when once disposed of, it should remain undisturbed until she is about to leave the car, unless she should absolutely require it. As the the train nears the end of her journey, she will deliberately gather together her effects preparatory to departure, so that when the train stops she will be ready to leave the car at once and not wait to hurriedly grab her various parcels, or cause her escort unnecessary delay.
A LADY TRAVELING ALONE
A lady, in traveling alone, may accept services from her fellow-travelers, which she should always acknowledge graciously. Indeed, it is the business of a gentleman to see that the wants of an unescorted lady are attended to. He should offer to raise or lower her window if she seems to have any difficulty in doing it herself. He may offer his assistance in carrying her packages upon leaving the car, or in engaging a carriage or obtaining a trunk. Still, women should learn to be as self-reliant as possible; and young women particularly should accept proffered assistance from strangers, in all but the slightest offices, very rarely.
LADIES MAY ASSIST OTHER LADIES
It is not only the right, but the duty of ladies to render any assistance or be of any service to younger ladies, or those less experienced in traveling than themselves. They may show many little courtesies which will make the journey less tedious to the inexperienced traveler, and may give her important advice or assistance which may be of benefit to her. An acquaintance formed in traveling, need never be retained afterwards. It is optional whether it is or not.
THE COMFORT OF OTHERS
In seeking his own comfort, no passenger has a right to overlook or disregard that of others. If for his own comfort, he wishes to raise or lower a window he should consult the wishes of passengers immediately around him before doing so. The discomforts of traveling should be borne cheerfully, for what may enhance your own comfort may endanger the health of some fellow-traveler.
ATTENDING TO THE WANTS OF OTHERS
See everywhere and at all times that ladies and elderly people have their wants supplied before you think of your own. Nor is there need for unmanly haste or pushing in entering or leaving cars or boats. There is always time enough allowed for each passenger to enter in a gentlemanly manner and with a due regard to the rights of others.
If, in riding in the street-cars or crossing a ferry, your friend insists on paying for you, permit him to do so without serious remonstrance. You can return the favor at some other time.
READING WHEN TRAVELLING
If a gentleman in traveling, either on cars or steamboat, has provided himself with newspapers or other reading, he should offer them to his companions first. If they are refused, he may with propriety read himself, leaving the others free to do the same if they wish.
OCCUPYING TOO MANY SEATS
No lady will retain possession of more than her rightful seat in a crowded car. When others are looking for accommodations she should at once and with all cheerfulness so dispose of her baggage that the seat beside her may be occupied by anyone who desires it, no matter how agreeable it may be to retain possession of it.
It shows a great lack of proper manners to see two ladies, or a lady and gentleman turn over the seat in front of them and fill it with their wraps and bundles, retaining it in spite of the entreating or remonstrating looks of fellow-passengers. In such a case any person who desires a seat is justified in reversing the back, removing the baggage and taking possession of the unused seat.
RETAINING POSSESSION OF A SEAT
A gentleman in traveling may take possession of a seat and then go to purchase tickets or look after baggage or procure a lunch, leaving the seat in charge of a companion, or depositing traveling-bag or overcoat upon it to show that it is engaged. When a seat is thus occupied, the right of possession must be respected, and no one should presume to take a seat thus previously engaged, even though it may be wanted for a lady. A gentleman cannot, however, in justice, vacate his seat to take another in the smoking-car, and at the same time reserve his rights to the first seat. He pays for but one seat, and by taking another he forfeits the first.
It is not required of a gentleman in a railway car to relinquish his seat in favor of a lady, though a gentleman of genuine breeding will do so rather than allow the lady to stand or suffer inconvenience from poor accommodations.
In the street cars the case is different. No woman should be allowed to stand while there is a seat occupied by a man. The inconvenience to the man will be temporary and trifling at the most, and he can well afford to suffer it rather than to do an uncourteous act.
DISCRETION IN FORMING ACQUAINTANCES
While an acquaintance formed in a railway car or on a steamboat, continues only during the trip, discretion should be used in making acquaintances. Ladies may, as has been stated, accept small courtesies and favors from strangers, but must check at once any attempt at familiarity. On the other hand, no man who pretends to be a gentleman will attempt any familiarity. The practice of some young girls just entering into womanhood, of flirting with any young man they may chance to meet, either in a railway car or on a steamboat, indicates low-breeding in the extreme. If, however, the journey is long, and especially if it be on a steamboat, a certain sociability may be allowed, and a married lady or a lady of middle age may use her privileges to make the journey an enjoyable one, for fellow-passengers should always be sociable to one another.
Our Deportment, Or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society by John H. Young