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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/45

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23
THE MISTRESS

perhaps, as a general rule, sufficient for enjoyment. Gloves are worn by ladies at dinner-parties, but should be taken off before the actual meal begins.

Going to Dinner.—Dinner having been announced, the host offers his arm to, and places on his right hand at the dinner-table, the lady to whom he desires to pay most respect, either on account of her age, position, or because she is the greatest stranger in the party. If this lady be married and her husband present, the latter takes the hostess—who always enters the dining-room last—to her place at table, and seats himself at her right hand. The rest of the company follow the host in couples, as specified by the master or mistress of the house, the whole party being arranged according to their rank and other circumstances which may be known to the host and hostess.

Guest Cards.—It will be found of great assistance to the placing of a party at the dinner-table, to have the names of the guests neatly written on small cards called "Guest cards" and placed at that part of the table where it is desired the several guests should sit. It is a matter of taste what cards should be used for this purpose; small plain ones are perfectly admissible, but those with gold, silver or coloured borders are more effective and show more distinctly, laid as they are upon either white table cloths or serviettes. Some with floral ornamentation are frequently used. Sometimes the menu card is a double one, which folds like a ball programme, and upon the outside of this the guest's name is written.

The Dinner à la Russe, introduced into England about the middle of the nineteenth century, has now largely taken the place of the old custom of having all the dishes served from the table. The service of dinner is fully dealt with in subsequent pages.

Dessert.—When dinner is finished, the dessert is placed on the table, accompanied by finger-glasses, in which the tips of the fingers are dipped after the fruit or sweetmeats of this course have been taken.

Leaving the Dinner Table.—When fruit has been taken, and a glass or two of wine passed round, the time will have arrived when the hostess, after catching the eye of the lady first in precedence, rises, and gives her guests the signal to retire to the drawing-room. The gentlemen will rise at the same time, and the one nearest the door open it for the ladies, all courteously standing until the last lady has withdrawn.

In former times, when the bottle circulated freely amongst the guests, the ladies retired earlier than they do at present. Thanks, however, to the changes time has wrought, strict moderation is now invariable amongst gentlemen, and they now take but a brief interval for tobacco, talk, and coffee, before they rejoin the ladies.

After-dinner Invitations, by which we mean invitations for the evening, may be given. The time of arrival of these visitors will vary according to their engagements, or sometimes will be varied in obedience to the caprices of fashion. Guests invited for the evening are, however, gener-