AS explained in the foregoing chapter, the correct formal greeting is: How do you do? If Mrs. Younger is presented to Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Worldly says How do you do? If the Ambassador of France is presented to her, she says How do you do? Mrs. Younger and the Ambassador likewise say How do you do? or merely bow.
There are a few expressions possible under other circumstances and upon other occasions. If you have, through friends in common, long heard of a certain lady, or gentleman, and you know that she, or he, also has heard much of you, you may say when you are introduced to her: I am very glad to meet you, or I am delighted to meet you at last! Do not use the expression pleased to meet you then or on any occasion. And you must not say you are delighted unless you have reason to be sure that she also is delighted to meet you.
On very informal occasions, it is the present fashion to greet an intimate friend with Hello! This seemingly vulgar salutation is made acceptable by the tone in which it is said. To shout Hullow! is vulgar, but Hello, Mary or How do John, each spoken in an ordinary tone of voice, sound much the same. But remember that the Hello is spoken, not called out, and never used except between intimate friends who call each other by the first name.
There are only two forms of farewell: Good-by and Good night. Never say Au revoir unless you have been talking French, or are speaking to a French person. Never interlard your conversation with foreign words or phrases when you can possibly translate them into English; and the occasions when our mother tongue will not serve are extremely rare.
Very often in place of the over-worn How do you do, perhaps more often than not, people skip the words of actual greeting and plunge instead into conversation: Why, Mary! When did you get back? or What is the news with you? or What have you been doing lately? The weather, too, fills in with equal faithfulness. Isnt it a heavenly day! or Horrid weather, isnt it? It would seem that the variability of the weather was purposely devised to furnish mankind with unfailing material for conversation.
In bidding good-by to a new acquaintance with whom you have been talking, you shake hands and say, Good-by. I am very glad to have met you. To one who has been especially interesting, or who is somewhat of a personage you say: It has been a great pleasure to meet you. The other answers: Thank you.
People do not greet each other in church, except at a wedding. At weddings people do speak to friends sitting near them, but in a low tone of voice. It would be shocking to enter a church and hear a babel of voices!
Ordinarily in church if a friend happens to catch your eye, you smile, but never actually bow. If you go to a church not your own and a stranger offers you a seat in her pew, you should, on leaving, turn to her and say: Thank you. But you do not greet anyone until you are out on the church steps, when you naturally speak to your friends. Hello should not be said on this occasion because it is too familiar for the solemnity of church surroundings.
Gentlemen always shake hands when they are introduced to each other. Ladies rarely do so with gentlemen who are introduced to them; but they usually shake hands with other ladies, if they are standing near together. All people who know each other, unless merely passing by, shake hands when they meet.
A handshake often creates a feeling of liking or of irritation between two strangers. Who does not dislike a boneless hand extended as though it were a spray of sea-weed, or a miniature boiled pudding? It is equally annoying to have ones hand clutched aloft in grotesque affectation and shaken violently sideways, as though it were being used to clean a spot out of the atmosphere. What woman does not wince at the viselike grasp that cuts her rings into her flesh and temporarily paralyzes every finger?
The proper handshake is made briefly; but there should be a feeling of strength and warmth in the clasp, and, as in bowing, one should at the same time look into the countenance of the person whose hand one takes. In giving her hand to a foreigner, a married woman always relaxes her arm and fingers, as it is customary for him to lift her hand to his lips. But by a relaxed hand is not meant a wet rag; a hand should have life even though it be passive. A woman should always allow a man who is only an acquaintance to shake her hand; she should never shake his. To a very old friend she gives a much firmer clasp, but he shakes her hand more than she shakes his. Younger women usually shake the hand of the older; or they both merely clasp hands, give them a dropping movement rather than a shake, and let go.
It is the height of rudeness for young people not to go and shake hands with an older lady of their acquaintance when they meet her away from home, if she is a hostess to whose house they have often gone. It is not at all necessary for either young women or young men to linger and enter into a conversation, unless the older lady detains them, which she should not do beyond the briefest minute.
Older ladies who are always dragging young men up to unprepossessing partners, are studiously avoided and with reason; but otherwise it is inexcusable for any youth to fail in this small exaction of polite behavior. If a young man is talking with some one when an older lady enters the room, he bows formally from where he is, as it would be rude to leave a young girl standing alone while he went up to speak to Mrs. Worldly or Mrs. Toplofty. But a young girl passing near an older lady can easily stop for a moment, say How do you do, Mrs. Jones! and pass on.
People do not cross a room to speak to any one unlessto show politeness to an acquaintance who is a stranger there; to speak to an intimate friend; or to talk to some one about something in particular.