Charm of manner is a valuable possession. Someone has said that it is worth more than a fortune.
The girl with a genial, bright, engaging manner is almost sure to escape many of those incidental disagreeables of existence that lie in wait for all of us in society. On the other hand, she who is entirely stoical, cold, and ungenial will find it difficult to make many friends, though she may be well worth knowing.
Some twenty years ago, before the opening of so many gates and doors to women, when they were brought up in the seclusion of the home, with just a few parties and dinners and dances, with infrequent intercourse with men and women outside their immediate circle, the manner of the average girl was apt to be shy and brusque. Shyness is not at all an unlovable characteristic, but it is a hindrance to the shy girl herself in social matters.
Now, on the other hand, one finds the majority of young women rather inclined to the opposite extreme - forward, bold, and assured. There is a frank ease about some of them which disarms criticism, but others, loud of voice and laugh, free of gesture, blunt in manner, apparently make no bid for affection and respect. They delight in their own independence, and have evidently set out to make the most of the world and its opportunities, regardless of the feelings of others.
Perhaps the most charming manner is that of the girl who feels an emotion of shyness, and does her best to overcome it. She is well aware that shyness is only a form of self-consciousness, and also proceeds from a lack of the habit of mingling with others. Her successful effort to subdue this lends a certain charm to her conversation and behaviour that is very telling. But, on the other hand, it must not be thought that even a modicum of shyness is necessary to charm of manner. The ml stiffness that this quality usually engenders is a foe to ease, and is often misunderstood for pride or arrogance.
At the other extreme is the fault of having too much manner-. One phase of this is the indulgence of nods and becks and head-shakings. Sometimes this is acquired in early life by imitation, unconscious or otherwise, or someone who inclines to overemphasise every remark, and to accompany her conversation with a lavish allowance of smiles. There are women who cannot pay their penny fare in an omnibus without bestowing a smile upon the man who collects it. This may intimate amiability, but it is certainly waste. No one need glower nor frown when performing this small duty, but it is quite unnecessary to overwhelm with tokens of geniality the official with whom the transaction is made.
' That lady's eyelids must be very tired ! " said a small girl, who, during a visit, had sat watching her with all the rapt intentness of the very young. If they were not tired, their immunity must have been due to constant practice. Never for one instant were they at rest. They flickered and fluttered, were raised or lowered, without ceasing during the whole three-quarters of an hour that her call lasted.
She had evidently inherited some of this restlessness from her mother, who, on the same occasion, managed to weary and vex her hostess by turning her head sideways and back again, looking up, and casting her eyes down, gesticulating with both hands, dramatically suiting her tone of voice to the subject of her remarks, and as she left the room, almost curvetting in her progress towards the door. No doubt she and her like continue this over-elaboration of manner from morning to night, and possibly the members of their family become accustomed to it by degrees, but it is most tiring for the uninitiated to watch such a display of unnecessary energy.
There is an old saying that one man may steal a horse, while another dares not look over the stable door. Something of the kind is equally true with regard to manner.
Those who possess its charm can with impunity do and say things which would be strongly resented in others less fortunate. Even an interruption of a private conversation, contrary as it is to all the laws of good behaviour, can be condoned if the interrupter asks in a pretty voice, and with a charming smile, to be excused, and perhaps with a manner so sweet and caressing, that the person who might have been offended is actually flattered and delighted.
Again, in the street, when one has been accidentally pushed or trodden on, one feels indignant until an apology is made. The aggressor, if possessed of a good manner, can make her excuses so agreeably as to lessen considerably the annoyance.
In this connection it may be well to remark that the mere utterance of the word "Sorry," a word that has now to some extent taken the place of "pardon," is not sufficient in cases where injury, even of a small description, has been inflicted on another. In the motor-'bus of to-day we are often hurled against our fellow passengers, and sometimes made to tread on their toes or disarrange the angle of their hats. Who in these circumstances would consider "Sorry," uttered in a curt manner, sufficient apology ? But if pardon is begged in a voice full of regret, and an earnest hope expressed that one is not very much hurt, the grievance disappears as if by magic, and even the inconvenience itself seems palpably smaller. The person apologising may be at heart absolutely careless about the results of her awkwardness, but that is exactly where the charm of manner steps in, making all the difference in the world to the person addressed.
Some girls wear a chronic smile, which, after a while, becomes absolutely exasperating, and may be classed with the mechanical laugh beginning on exactly the same note and lasting precisely the same period. These are little mannerisms which are annoying in over-proportion to the fault. The regulation smile frequently accompanies the gushing manner to which many girls are prone. Such girls are fond of embracing and kissing the woman they know fairly intimately. Is it too much to suggest that permission should be asked of an elder woman by the young friend who dashes at her the moment the door is opened, and assaults her with a loud and hearty kiss ? This may be a demonstration of true affection but it is certainly a fault in manner.
Perhaps the highest type of agreeable manner is that which has a delightful repose about it, the quietness of true gentleness. The good listener invariably has this charm. Her intent and kindly look, though it may cover absolute indifference, is very agreeable and refreshing to her interlocutor.
To Bring The Roses Back
From the painting by John A. Lomax By permission of the Berlin Photographic Co.