Dear Mr Knightley:
What is the proper distance to stalk a girl? I want to be close enough that she knows I’m there, or my effort’s wasted, but I don’t want to be so close that she feels the need to take out a restraining order. You seem like someone who has mastered the use of decorum, what would you suggest?
-Fifty Yards From Heaven
While I am certain the lady of which you speak has many admirable qualities and is most deserving of the attentions you are paying her, I must say first of all that I would not advise your current method. However, if you are completely set on stalking this young woman, then here are the rules that society dictate.
First of all, appropriate distance. You must maintain enough distance in order not to raise alarm. This can be done several ways such as asking a dance partner to dance within the same line as her. Or you may “accidentally” find your carriage broken down right up the lane from her house in the midst of a rainstorm. However, do not pretend to be sick in order to stay longer as this will not enable you to see the young lady who will be keeping her distance as to not contract whatever disease you may have.
Second, proper attire. While you may think that going about in all black is the way to go, as best to blend in with the nighttime surroundings, you must also keep in mind of the figure you’ll cut if you were to be discovered so attired. Her father or brothers may mistake you for a common thief or marauder instead of the honest gentlemanly stalker that you are. It is best to wear handsome attire instead, and merely conceal it beneath a swart cloak. This will keep you from delicate eyes while not risking your life because of needless fashion.
However, most important of all, on the topic of her knowing you are there, I advise caution, as most gentlemanly stalkers go to great lengths not to be discovered by their lady of choice. A gentlemanly stalker never wishes to inconvenience or unsettle the lady upon whom he has chosen to place his affections. It is infinitely easier not to alarm her if your presence remains undetected at her window at night, for example. However, if you are insistent that she know you are there, you may also want to consider writing her a letter explaining who you are, what your purpose will be in being there, and that she ought not be alarmed since you are no common thief or vagabond but merely a gentleman stalker come to breathe down her neck in dark alleyways. I’m sure the prior word will be much appreciated and serve to enable most amiable interactions afterward.