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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/41

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THE MISTRESS

occasion, and a promise can be made to call again, if the lady you have called on appear really sorry that circumstances have caused you to shorten your visit.

Visits of Friendship need not be so formal as those of ceremony. It is, however, advisable to call at suitable times, and to avoid staying too long if your friend is engaged. Courtesy and consideration for others are safe rules in these every-day matters. During visits manners should be easy and unstrained, and conversation natural and unforced.

It is not advisable to take pet dogs into another lady's house, for there are people who have an absolute dislike to animals; besides this, there is always a chance of the animal breaking something, to the annoyance of the hostess. Except in the case of close friends or special invitation, little children should not accompany a lady in making morning calls. Where a lady, however, pays her visits in a carriage, the children can be taken, remaining in the carriage when the caller enters her friend's house.

It has now become general for the mistress of a house to set aside one day in every week, fortnight or month, as the case may be, on which she is at home to receive callers. Wherever this is known to be the case, casual visitors should make it a rule to call on that day. It is hardly necessary to add that a lady should always be prepared for guests on "at home" days. If any circumstance obliges her to be from home on such a day, she must carefully inform all her acquaintances in good time, that they may be spared a fruitless journey.

When a lady has fixed her "At Home" day and cards have been issued as, for example, "Mrs. A— At Home on Wednesdays from 4 to 7," afternoon tea should be provided by the hostess, fresh supplies of it, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy sandwiches, sweets, cakes, etc., being forthcoming as fresh guests arrive.

Morning Calls demand good but neat attire; a costume much more elaborate than that which you generally wear will be out of place. As a general rule, it may be said, both in reference to this and all other occasions, it is better to be under than overdressed.

A strict account should be kept of ceremonial visits, and notice be taken how soon your visits have been returned. An opinion may thus be formed as to whether your frequent visits are, or are not, desirable. There are, naturally, instances in which the circumstances of old age or ill-health will preclude any return of a call; but when this is the case, it must not interrupt the discharge of the duty by those who have no such excuses to make.

In all visits, if your acquaintance or friend be not at home, a card should be left. If you are in a carriage, the servant will answer your inquiry and receive your card without waiting for you to alight; if paying your visits on foot, give your card to the servant who answers the door. The form of words, "Not at home," may be understood in different senses; but the only courteous way is to receive them as