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CHAPTER EIGHT: ON BEING A GUEST
Every Hobbit will have occasion from time to time, to Be a Guest. Most of the time it may be a simple Social Call, to visit a friend or take Tea. Sometimes one may attend a Party, and if one travels at all, there will be times when one may spend days or even weeks as the Guest of another.
One must hope to be the sort of Guest that one’s Hosts are pleased to see, to be Welcomed with open arms, and glad Embraces. One should fervently wish Never to be the Sort of Person whom a Host dreads to see upon the Doorstep. To that end, I offer the following Advice.
AS AN INVITED GUEST
When one receives an invitation to Visit, or to a Party or other Special Occasion, one should respond as Soon as Possible to the invitation, and Accept or Decline. It is unkind to leave a Host in doubt as to how many Persons will attend, or as to who shall be there.
In Accepting, one should also indicate the time of one’s Arrival, if one is coming from a Distance and will be in need of Accommodation. And whenever possible, one should also send a Message if there are delays. This is not of course, always Possible--the Unexpected may come upon Anyone, and disrupt carefully made Plans. However, the effort should be made.
Sometimes, especially for Family, there may be Standing Invitations. Close Cousins and other Relations will have an open understanding as to Mutual Visits, for which no further Invitation is necessary. Even so, it is wiser if possible not to turn up Unannounced for any but the briefest of Stays.
If one is staying some Days or Weeks, then it is best to Accommodate oneself to the Daily Routine of one’s Host, arising at the hour when he or she arises, and offering to Assist in the Household Tasks. It is a Kind Gesture to offer to Prepare one or more Meals as well during the Visit.
It is a good Idea to have with one all that is Necessary for the Visit. While a good Host may have Items of Toiletry that one might borrow, it is far better to take one’s own. A small Token of Esteem for one’s host is also a Kind Gesture.
When one is Invited for a Special Occasion, one should be very careful not to Overstay one’s visit. If one says that one will be there for Three Days, then one should be packed and ready to Depart upon the third. Only extend a stay at one’s Host’s Urging. And one should be very Sure that the Urging is truly meant!
If one is Invited to attend a Party, one should Arrive very near to the time set for the Event. A little Early, or slightly Late, will not be taken amiss. However, if one arrives so Early that Preparations are still underway, then one should offer to Help, and not expect the Host to attend upon one’s whims at such a time.
And to arrive so Late that all eyes are focused on one’s Arrival is the worst sort of Vanity! There are some Lasses, especially, and the occasional Matron, who find this sort of Behavior “Fashionable”. However, it is in very Poor Taste, and may not be Excused on that basis!
One should always remember to Thank one’s Host or Hostess for his or her kind Regard in extending the Invitation. That he or she values one’s Company to the extent of Requesting it should be very Gratifying.
WHEN ONE HAS NO INVITATION
There are times when one may make an Informal visit to Friends or Family, without a previous Invitation.
Whilst a good Host will not indicate dismay at having an Unexpected Guest turn up, one should be alert for signs that the Visit may not be at the Best of Times. If one’s Host seems hesitant in any way, or if one sees indications that one has Interrupted Something, then one should graciously keep the Visit as short as possible, and be on the way as soon as one may.
If one should arrive while the Host is taking a Meal, and one has already had one’s own Meal, one should not decline the offer to sit at Table. One should take at the least a cup of Tea and a Biscuit or other small Nibble, in order to keep one’s Host Company. As has been previously mentioned, it is very Unmannerly to allow someone to Eat Alone in one’s Company.
Often in Travelling one may find oneself unexpectedly in need of Overnight Accommodation. Most certainly it is Preferable to stay with Family, rather than at an Inn whenever Possible. If one knows that one has Kin in a town or village, then it should not be thought Amiss to turn up at the Door. It could in fact, result in Hurt Feelings if it were discovered one chose the local Inn rather than to stay with Family.
An exception to this would be if one should be benighted very at a Very Late Hour. Most householders are not at their best, being knocked up in the Middle of the Night. Under those Circumstances, it is indeed better to seek an Inn, as Innkeepers are used to such Hours.
When one is Not Invited, it is best to keep one’s stay as Brief as one may. While a Host or Hostess may protest that one is not Imposing, simply being there uninvited is, in fact, an Imposition. It is best to be away, and to be tendered an Actual Invitation for one’s next Visit. Far better to have the Host or Hostess regretting one’s Departure, than for him or her to breath a Sigh of Relief to see the back of one!
Questions often asked about Being a Guest:
Can one Avoid making Visits or Staying With certain Persons?
Certainly all have Obligations, especially to Family. When one is invited to the Home of a Relative whom one finds Uncongenial and who lives at a convenient Distance or is on the way of one‘s travels, it is best actually to take the bitter medicine and make the Visit. One may know that one has done one’s Duty, and may take Satisfaction from that. One should Keep the Visit as brief and as Pleasant as may be, taking one’s Leave as soon as is possible. It is a sad Truth that those whom one finds Uncongenial often find one the same way, and so both Parties will be relieved to have the Duty over and done with.
When extended Invitations from those who live at a considerable Distance, and with whom one has little in common, these may be Graciously Declined.
However, one should never Decline an Invitation because the one who extends it lives in Humbler Circumstances than one’s own. This is the worst sort of Rudeness, even if one puts forth some other Excuse.
What if one’s Plans must change?
It is not unknown for Life to present one with the Unexpected. A sudden Illness or Accident, Inclement Weather, a Bereavement in the Family are only a few things that might cause one’s best laid plans to go Awry.
In those Circumstances it is as well to notify one’s prospective Host or Hostess by Post, Immediately, lest he or she worry over one’s not arriving.
What if one has Business to Conduct with one’s Host?
If one has been invited to the hole or house of another with Business in Mind that is one thing. One should conduct the Business first, getting it Out of the Way, before accepting Refreshment offered by the Host.
However, if the Host has Invited one to a Social Occasion, it is extremely Rude to attempt to Talk Business. This is not to say one can never discuss one’s Work, but one should not try to Conduct Business unless that is the clear purpose of the Meeting. Speaking in Generalities about how well (or poorly) one’s Business is doing is one thing; trying to persuade one’s Host to do Business with one is another thing altogether.
What is a Reasonable Length of Stay, when Travelling to Visit Relatives?
There are a number of Factors to Consider. If one has travelled a considerable Distance, especially to another Farthing, one can reasonably expect to stay for a number of Days or even Weeks. One should keep in mind how often one sees that Particular Person--someone that one sees only one or two times a Year would naturally expect a Longer Visit.
The Most Important thing to keep in mind is not to Impose on one’s Host. If one is staying beyond a week, one should Offer to help with household tasks as well as to Prepare a Meal. One should be willing to stay on one’s own if one’s Host or Hostess must go Out on Business or to do Errands.
Even if one’s Host has invited one for an Extended Stay, be alert for signs that one’s Presence has begun to Wear. It is best to leave Early, so that one’s absence is Regretted, than to Overstay one’s Welcome.
The best way to be a Welcome Guest is to behave as one would wish Guests to behave in one’s own Home. Strive always to be Pleasant, Congenial and Helpful, and then one’s Company will be much in Demand.
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