In such close intercourse as that of hostess and paying guest, references should not only be interchanged, but personally verified by oneself or a friend. There are such things as bogus advertisements, and the "guest," "lodger," or "boarder," once installed in the house, cannot, in the event of the advertisement being fraudulent, depart forthwith without full payment for the time agreed upon, under penalty of retention of the luggage.
The only alternative is to compromise. An instance came to the writer's notice where misrepresentations were made which induced a lady and her daughter to engage a room for three weeks. On arrival at the house, they found to their cost how the advertisement and reference had misled them. But the occupier refused to allow them to leave without full payment for the three weeks. It might have been recovered at law, but the expense of doing so was not to be entertained.
It may be asked what is the difference between keeping a boarding house and being the hostess of paying guests ? It is that the latter do not expect the house in which they purpose residing as guests to be populated as is a boarding-house. Moreover, the relationship of hostess and guest is more intimate ; they meet on closer social equality presumably. Still, there are plenty of boarding-houses which disdain to be known as such, and pose as homes for paying guests. But alas for high-flown titles ! The latest news to hand is that in White-chapel the homely "lodger" has already yielded place to the "paying guest" - an amusing instance of the social see-saw of words and phrases.
A woman who contemplates offering people board-residence would be wiser to keep to the old-fashioned term " boarding-house," unless she intends limiting her enterprise to one, two, or three guests only, and is a bona-fide "hostess of paying guests." It has been said the intending paying guest should be careful in the matter of references ; the hostess should be no less so. Once installed, an objectionable person may work havoc in a home, and, unfortunately, there are many such who roam from guest-house to guest-house.
A friend of the writer's, who has had a good deal of experience as a paying guest, draws a picture of the difficulties which beset the hostess. She has to consult the tastes and fads of this or that guest, be up betimes in the morning to see the staff or servants is at work, preside at table as though she were actually entertaining, which becomes a strain in perpetuity, give most careful attention to economical catering, satisfy the wants of each of her guests, and keep harmony between them.
There is no blinking the fact that the picture did not portray weak human nature to advantage, what with two men-guests who had a hot argument over some educational question, and refused to sit together or speak henceforth, and the elderly women-guests who quarrelled over their pet chairs. Certainly much tact and savoir faire, understanding of people and skill in housekeeping, as well as physical energy and health, are wanted by the professional hostess ; and she must know the law concerning points that may arise in disputes.
It is, of course, nicer to obtain guests by private recommendation, otherwise it is well to select for advertisement a newspaper or ladies' periodical circulating among the class from which the guest is desired, and to advertise at intervals.
The bedrooms are priced variously, usually the best at two guineas, and, as they decrease in size and are on higher floors, 35s., 30s. 25s., or less. The charge can be based on the rental of the house. If a living is to be made, the charge can be estimated by making a rough plan of the house, and entering in the spaces representing the bedrooms the fee each guest should pay to cover the share of the rent for the house, plus the estimate for fire, lighting, servants' wages and the wear and tear of furniture, besides the cost of meals. If something of this kind is not done, it is difficult to discover whether the guest-house is paying its way, or not.
A Warning to a Hostess
One warning is perhaps necessary to the intending hostess. It is given as the result of investigation. Many hostesses, in their anxiety to make the guest at home, intrude too much. Undue curiosity is resented ; so is undue familiarity. One hostess lost a desirable guest through introducing her as " my friend," another departed because she suspected her letters were tampered with.