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Mitchell on Women
by [?]

“All the same,” said Mitchell’s mate, continuing an argument by the camp-fire; “all the same, I think that a woman can stand cold water better than a man. Why, when I was staying in a boarding-house in Dunedin, one very cold winter, there was a lady lodger who went down to the shower-bath first thing every morning; never missed one; sometimes went in freezing weather when I wouldn’t go into a cold bath for a fiver; and sometimes she’d stay under the shower for ten minutes at a time.”

“How’d you know?”

“Why, my room was near the bath-room, and I could hear the shower and tap going, and her floundering about.”

“Hear your grandmother!” exclaimed Mitchell, contemptuously. “You don’t know women yet. Was this woman married? Did she have a husband there?”

“No; she was a young widow.”

“Ah! well, it would have been the same if she was a young girl–or an old one. Were there some passable men-boarders there?”

I was there.”

“Oh, yes! But I mean, were there any there beside you?”

“Oh, yes, there were three or four; there was–a clerk and a—-“

“Never mind, as long as there was something with trousers on. Did it ever strike you that she never got into the bath at all?”

“Why, no! What would she want to go there at all for, in that case?”

“To make an impression on the men,” replied Mitchell promptly. “She wanted to make out she was nice, and wholesome, and well-washed, and particular. Made an impression on YOU, it seems, or you wouldn’t remember it.”

“Well, yes, I suppose so; and, now I come to think of it, the bath didn’t seem to injure her make-up or wet her hair; but I supposed she held her head from under the shower somehow.”

“Did she make-up so early in the morning?” asked Mitchell.

“Yes–I’m sure.”

“That’s unusual; but it might have been so where there was a lot of boarders. And about the hair–that didn’t count for anything, because washing-the-head ain’t supposed to be always included in a lady’s bath; it’s only supposed to be washed once a fortnight, and some don’t do it once a month. The hair takes so long to dry; it don’t matter so much if the woman’s got short, scraggy hair; but if a girl’s hair was down to her waist it would take hours to dry.”

“Well, how do they manage it without wetting their heads?”

“Oh, that’s easy enough. They have a little oilskin cap that fits tight over the forehead, and they put it on, and bunch their hair up in it when they go under the shower. Did you ever see a woman sit in a sunny place with her hair down after having a wash?”

“Yes, I used to see one do that regular where I was staying; but I thought she only did it to show off.”

“Not at all–she was drying her hair; though perhaps she was showing off at the same time, for she wouldn’t sit where you–or even a Chinaman–could see her, if she didn’t think she had a good head of hair. Now, I’LL tell you a yarn about a woman’s bath. I was stopping at a shabby-genteel boarding-house in Melbourne once, and one very cold winter, too; and there was a rather good-looking woman there, looking for a husband. She used to go down to the bath every morning, no matter how cold it was, and flounder and splash about as if she enjoyed it, till you’d feel as though you’d like to go and catch hold of her and wrap her in a rug and carry her in to the fire and nurse her till she was warm again.”

Mitchell’s mate moved uneasily, and crossed the other leg; he seemed greatly interested.

“But she never went into the water at all!” continued Mitchell. “As soon as one or two of the men was up in the morning she’d come down from her room in a dressing-gown. It was a toney dressing-gown, too, and set her off properly. She knew how to dress, anyway; most of that sort of women do. The gown was a kind of green colour, with pink and white flowers all over it, and red lining, and a lot of coffee-coloured lace round the neck and down the front. Well, she’d come tripping downstairs and along the passage, holding up one side of the gown to show her little bare white foot in a slipper; and in the other hand she carried her tooth-brush and bath-brush, and soap–like this–so’s we all could see ’em; trying to make out she was too particular to use soap after anyone else. She could afford to buy her own soap, anyhow; it was hardly ever wet.