Vassar Visiting in 1899
by Lillian Bowen, class of 1902 (left Vassar after one year)
Main was a fine large building of five stories. It had long wide corridors, three lofty reception rooms, a huge dining room, above which was the Chapel with a splendid organ, and a gallery where the poor little Freshmen had to sit! There were wide flights of stone stairs with iron banisters and a lift, large enough to take twenty five of us at once. This lift was most welcome and most used by those of us who lived aloft.
The large reception rooms on the ground floor were allotted to their special uses. From time immemorial, goodness knows how it started, tradition and custom allocated the first of these rooms, the one nearest the entrance, for business purposes, such as girls applying for entrance, visiting parents, etc. The second room was for more intimate visits: appointments or pleasant little rendezvous perhaps. The third was, exclusively, for engaged couples! All three rooms had large unglazed windows looking out onto the corridor, along which, of course, girls were constantly passing, and as they passed could look in. There were some seats, however, especially in the third room, where one could be a little more sheltered, but, even in those, one felt very public. This tradition, had of course, been handed down to me, as to all the Freshmen, but I had only given it slight attention as it was far from my intention to ever patronise the third room.
Now, it transpired one day, a visiting card was brought up to me—the card of a young Columbia University man whom I had met in New York. He was a good looking lad and I had visited him with Agnes at his mother’s flat in Hoboken. He had always threatened to call on me at college, so I was delighted that he had come. I hurried down to the reception rooms. He was not in the first; somewhat perturbed, I looked for him in the second, he was not there! Aghast, I entered the third room. There he was, as large as life, sitting in the very place where he could be seen from all points!! My heart missed a beat—of course we should be seen and then the fat would be in the fire! I could not, of course, tell the man what the trouble was. Sitting on pins and needles, I cast about for some means of getting him into the proper room, while out of the corner of my eye, I saw some of the girls passing outside, stop and look, then with eyes, at first popping out of their heads with astonishment, then dancing with glee and mischief, hurry on to spread the news! There was no escape, so I just brazenly faced the music and went on chatting while my cheeks burned! When I said good-bye to my visitor, I turned from the door to face a row of naughty, mischievous and inquisitive girls to whom there was no use trying to explain the affair. I never heard the end of it and was often asked tenderly how my fiancé was.
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