“I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.” (Proverbs 4:11)
I had gone out with Betty and Jean, two very dear young friends of mine, and we were comfortably settled in our places in the streetcar when an exclamation from Betty made me look up. Coming into the car was a group of girls led by a pretty young creature yet in her teens. It was she who had called out the exclamation of my little friends. She greeted them cordially, and they introduced her to me as a schoolmate whom they had not met for nearly a year. While the girls talked I could observe the new girl and her comrades. All of them had their cheeks painted red and their lips a deeper crimson than nature ever intended. Their dresses were cut in the latest fad and were startling in appearance, while extravagance in their general manners was very noticeable. They were giggling and simpering, purposely calling attention to themselves and enjoying that attention, in every way showing themselves to be silly, vain creatures. As well as I knew Betty and Jean, I found myself wondering if I had been mistaken in them, and if this was the type of girls they chose as friends, if in their hearts they were like this. The conversation lagged, and I caught my girls watching me with furtive glances as if trying to fathom my thoughts.
When we stood again on the street the girls turned to me with flashing eyes and flushed cheeks and said almost in one breath, “I hope you do not think for one minute that we approve of those girls. We were glad to see Belle after such a long time, but she used to be just like we are. What has changed her so? Why, she looks and acts like a bad girl.”
My mind was relieved as to Betty and Jean’s ideals, but I could not refrain from pitying the girl who had brought upon herself their disapproval, and not only theirs, but that of every right-thinking person. No girl need to be classed among the purest and truest of women, who appears on the street as Belle and her companions had appeared. A girl is generally taken at her face value; that is, she is thought to be just what she appears to be. Some people will take time to know her as she is; but the great majority pass judgment on appearances only. Nor are they far wrong in doing so. There are not many of us who can for any long time keep up a false appearance. Our real selves will show through.
The time was when girls did not go out on the street and in public places as they do now. Even today in some Oriental countries the women are kept secluded, and shut away from the eyes of all but their own family. When the Western nations broke away from these old customs of seclusion, they still kept their wives and daughters away from public life. But all that is changed now, and women and girls go upon the street and in public places as freely as do the men. This change in customs gives the girls many outlets for their energies and efforts that formerly were closed to them; but it also gives them many more temptations. You who are living through a beautiful girlhood want to know how to use these new opportunities and yet escape the temptations that they bring.
When a girl dresses to go on the street she should prepare herself in becoming dress, being neither untidy nor conspicuous for the brightness and gaudiness of her clothes. She should remember that upon the street she meets all kinds of people, and among them will be some who would put an evil construction upon any carelessness in this respect. It is for her protection and good name that we would insist upon a street dress that is modest and unassuming. The more simple the street dress the better it is. Also, her hair should be done in a simple manner and such as is becoming to her face and years. She should strive to look just what she is, a quiet, unassuming girl going about her own affairs.
The cheeks and lips painted a scarlet beyond anything nature would ever give is bad taste at any time, and is an index to a vain and foolish heart, and will not be found in beautiful girlhood. Good health and perfect cleanliness will bring a rosiness and flush to both cheek and lip that is far more beautiful than anything that can be rubbed on.
When the girl is on the street or in public places she should never laugh nor talk loudly. To do so will only call upon her undesirable attention and criticism, and it is a sign of vulgarity. A real lady will not do so. Neither will she be giggling and simpering, nor in any of her conduct will she seek to draw attention to herself. She will not act boisterous nor rowdy, nor keep the company of those who so act. There will be something about her which is a reproof to those who would be boisterous.
A girl should never loiter about public places when she has no business calling her there. If she does so, she is forced into temptation and made an object of criticism, which will in time bring her into very undesirable situations. One girl, a very young girl, who had formed the habit of loitering about a depot at train time, picking up a conversation with some of the men she met there (thinking only of the fun there was in it), had the following experience:
One day a gentleman alighted from a train which was to wait for the passengers to eat. He began walking up and down the platform. He was fine looking and soon attracted the attention of this girl. She watched him furtively out of the corner of her eye, coughed a little, and laughed merrily and a trifle loudly with a group of her acquaintances; but at first he paid no attention. This piqued her, and she made more ardent efforts to attract his attention; for her companions were teasing her about her failure to “land her catch.” Her power of attraction was being tested.
At last he noticed, turned, and sought her out and came directly to her, her foolish little heart was all in a flutter at her success. She meant to do no more than to chat with him a few moments, and by so doing satisfy her vanity as to her attractiveness, and clear herself of the charge of weakness the girls had teasingly made.
“My dear girl,” he said, tipping his hat, “have you a mother at home?”
“Why, yes,” the girl stammered.
“Then go to her and tell her to keep you with her until you learn how you ought to behave in a public place,” and saying this he turned and left her in confusion and shame. It was a hard rebuke; but this man had told her only what every pure-minded man and woman was thinking. Girls can hardly afford to call down upon themselves such severe criticism.
A young man was walking down the street of a small city intent only upon his own affairs; but he happened to be good-looking, and a group of schoolgirls spied him. One of them expressed her decision to make his acquaintance and find out who he was. She and her companions walked rapidly and overtook him, and passed him, laughing merrily and managing to catch his eye as they passed. Then they loitered till he had to pass them in getting to the corner, when he turned off on purpose to avoid them. They followed him and passed him again, and this time the girl who was leading the attack was more bold in catching his eye, and with a glance challenged him to speak.
He saw the challenge and flushed. He had sisters at home, and had been taught by a good mother the proper respect for women. Stopping, he addressed her with a smile that was not merry, and she, thinking she was about to accomplish her foolish design, waited for him to speak. He said, “My young friend, you are not a bad girl, but you are acting like one. It is only a little way on the path you are going to where you will be what you pretend to be now. Promise me that you will never, as long as you live, do as you have done this evening, but that you will be a true woman.” He waited a little for her to answer, turning his head so as not to see the painful flush on her face, for he was right, she was not a bad girl, just a silly one.
“I promise you,” she said faintly, and he turned and passed on, and the group of humbled girls hurried home.
If all men were as these two gentlemen, girls would not be in the danger that they are in from an unguarded act; but these were exceptions. While they set the girls back to right paths, too many would have led them on to lower depths.
There is no more beautiful adornment to womanly character than purity, and the girl does well to see that everything that concerns her dress and behavior when away from her home on the street or otherwise in the eyes of the public, is pure, clean, modest, and quiet. Though she should have to pass by many things that other girls count good times, she will in the end be far happier.
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