Golden Silence

“What did the Colonel’s lady think?
Nobody never knew.
Somebody asked the Sergeant’s wife,
An’ she told ’em true!
When you get to a man in the case,
They’re like as a row of pins,
For the Colonel’s lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins!”
—Rudyard Kipling.

The reticence of the Colonel’s lady.

A delightful social quality.

Unintentional slights.

“Under their skins.” Perhaps. But note the reticence of the Colonel’s lady. “Nobody never knew” what she thought about it all, and what would the world be if the typical gentlewoman did not exercise self- control? If every woman were to be as outspoken as Judy O’Grady, society would rapidly fall to pieces. The lesson of quiet composure has to be learned soon or late, and it is generally soon in the higher classes of society. In fact the quality of reticence, and even stoicism, is so early implanted in the daughters of the cultivated classes that a rather trying monotony is sometimes the result. After a while the girls outgrow it, learning how to exercise the acquired habit of self-control without losing the charm of individuality. When maturity is reached, one of the most useful and delightful of social qualities is sometimes attained—not always—that of silently passing over much that, if noticed, would make for discord. Truth to tell, there is often far too much talking going on. A little incident occurs over which some one feels slighted or offended. Perhaps the slight or offence was most unintentional, but as we all know, there are many “sensitive” women who are ever ready to make a molehill into a mountain. This is the moment for a judicious and golden silence. The wise woman will not imitate Judy O’Grady and make her moan to every one she meets about the rudeness of that ill-bred Mrs. So-and-so. This is the very best means of magnifying the affair. Let it rest. An explanation is sure, or almost sure, to be given, but if, in the meanwhile, any quantity of talk has been going on, the explanation which was perfectly adequate to the original occasion, seems remarkably incomplete and lacking in spontaneity.

How the “Colonel’s lady” would treat the matter.

Suppose that an omission has been made of some particular acquaintance in sending out invitations to a ball. The lady who is left out in the cold, unless she happens to be one of the “sensitive” contingent, immediately comes to the conclusion that there is a mistake somewhere, that a note has been lost in the post, or delivered at the wrong address, or something of that kind. She keeps quiet about it, saying no unnecessary word on the subject, except, perhaps, to a very intimate friend of her own, who also knows the giver of the ball well, and who may be able to throw some light on the matter. The chances are that the mistake will be cleared up. But the “sensitive” beings whose feelings are always “trailing their coats,” like the stage Irishman, make such a hubbub and to-do that they render it difficult for the hostess of the occasion to remedy any oversight that may have been made, without the appearance of having been forced into it.

“The Sergeant’s wife.”

Sometimes a whole “snowball” of scandal is collected by some one starting the merest flake, so to speak. “I wonder if Mrs. Such-an-one is all right,” is quite enough to set the matter going. The person to whom this remark has been made says to some one else, “Lady Blank thinks Mrs. Such-an-one is a bad lot,” and still more colour is given to the next remark, so that the simile of the snowball justifies itself. Is not this a case when silence proves itself to be golden indeed? And not only in the interests of charity is this so, but sometimes for reasons of pure policy as well. A lady who had permitted her expressions about a certain person of her acquaintance to pass the bounds of discretion was, a few seasons since, called to account by the husband of the libelled individual, and a most unpleasant scene ensued. It was quite right that she should have had to undergo some unpleasantness, for she had made at least one woman most undeservedly miserable, and had almost caused a separation between her and her husband. Had this really resulted no one would have believed in the innocence of the unfortunate wife.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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