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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/46

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ally considered at liberty to arrive whenever it will best suit themselves—usually between nine and twelve, unless earlier hours are specifically named. By this arrangement, those who have numerous engagements to fulfil, can contrive to make their appearance at two or three parties in the course of one evening.

Ball or Evening Party Etiquette.—The etiquette of the dinner-party table being disposed of, let us now enter into that of an evening party or ball. The invitations for these are usually on "At Home" cards, filled in with the name and address of the sender and the date of the invitation, with the word "Dancing" or "Music," as the case may be, in one corner. They should be sent out about three weeks before the day fixed for the event, and should be replied to within a week of their receipt. By attention to these courtesies, the guests will have time to consider their engagements, and prepare their dresses, and the hostess will learn in good time the number of guests likely to be present.

Short or verbal invitations, except to relatives or close friends, are not, formally speaking, correct, but, of course, very much depends on the circumstances under which the invitation is given. Social forms, while never allowed to become a fetish, should not be altogether neglected even among close friends and relatives, for unintentional neglect of a customary formality may be misunderstood and strain a valued friendship.

Arrival of Guests.—Visitors on arrival should be shown to a room exclusively provided for their reception; and in that set apart for the ladies, attendants should be in waiting to assist those ladies who may require help. It will be found convenient, where the number of guests is large, to provide numbered tickets, so that they can be attached to the cloaks and wraps of each visitor; a duplicate of the ticket should be handed to the guest. Tea and coffee is provided in an ante-room, for those who would like to partake of it.

Introductions.—The lady of the house usually stands at the door of the drawing-room to receive her guests. She may introduce some of them to others, where she may imagine mutual acquaintance will be suitable and agreeable. It is very often the practice of the master of the house to introduce one gentleman to another, but occasionally the lady performs this office.

The custom of non-introduction is very much in vogue in many houses, and guests are thus left to discover for themselves the position and qualities of the people around them. The servant, indeed, calls out the names of all the visitors as they arrive, but, in many instances, mispronounces them; so that it will not be well to follow this information, as if it were an unerring guide. But the gentleman is, of course, introduced by either host or hostess to the lady whom he is to take in to dinner.

Refreshments.—A separate room or buffet should be set apart for