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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1967

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It is the footman's duty to carry messages or letters for his master or mistress to their friends, to the post, or to the tradespeople; and nothing is more important than despatch and exactness in doing so.

Politeness and civility to visitors is one of the things masters and mistresses should exact rigorously. When visitors present themselves, the servant charged with the duty of opening the door will open it promptly, and answer, without hesitation, if the family are "not at home," or "engaged." On the contrary, if he has no such orders, he will answer affirmatively, open the door wide to admit them, and precede them to open the door of the drawing-room. If the family are not there, he will place chairs for them, and intimate civilly that he goes to inform his mistress. If the lady is in her drawing-room, he announces the name of the visitors, having previously acquainted himself with it. In this part of his duty it is necessary to be very careful to repeat the names correctly; mispronouncing names is very apt to give offence.

When the visitor is departing, the servant should be at hand, ready, when rung for, to open the door; he should open it with a respectful manner, and close it gently when the visitors are fairly beyond the threshold.

Afternoon tea is brought in by the single footman. In many houses a small table is first brought in by him for this purpose (the butler would follow with the tray where the former is kept), then after seeing that there are sufficient cups and hot water ready at hand for his mistress, quits the room, holding himself in readiness to answer the drawing-room bell for change of cups or anything that may be required.

Evening duties. For dinner, the footman lays the cloth, arranges knives, forks, and glasses, etc. (see How to lay the table, pp. 1690-1 )and places chairs enough for the party, distributing them equally on each side of the table.

About half an hour before dinner, he rings the dinner-bell or gong, where that is the practice, and occupies himself with carrying up everything he is likely to require. At the expiration of the time, having communicated with the cook, he rings the dinner bell, and proceeds to take it up, with such assistance as he can obtain. Having ascertained that all is in order, that his own dress is clean and presentable and his gloves are without a stain, he announces in the drawing-room that dinner is served, and stands respectfully by the door until the company are seated: he places himself on the left, behind his master, who is to distribute the soup; where soup and fish are served together, his place will be at his mistress's left hand; but he must be on the alert to see that whoever is assisting him, whether male or female, are at their posts. If any of the guests has brought his own servant with him, his place is behind his master's chair, rendering such assistance to others as he can, while attending to his master's wants throughout the dinner.

While attentive to all, the footman should be obtrusive to none; he should give nothing but on a waiter, and always hand it with the