Guests are expected at the hour mentioned in the invitation, and should be as near that time as possible. In large cities, where distances are great and exact time difficult to calculate, a little grace is allowed, but the hostess is not expected to wait longer than fifteen minutes for a tardy guest. It is considered a breach of etiquette to be late, and the assumption is, when this occurs, that the delay is unavoidable and will be indefinite, and so the other guests should not be inconvenienced.
At large dinners a gentleman finds in the dressing-room, or a servant passes to him before he enters the drawing-room, a tray holding small addressed envelops. He selects the one bearing his own name, and finds on an inclosed card the name of the lady he is to take to the table. The letter R or L in the corner of the card denotes whether he will find his place on the right or left of the table from the entrance. If he does not know the lady, he should tell the hostess, so that he may be presented to her. The hostess stands near the door to receive her guests, and such introductions follow as can conveniently be made. If general introductions are omitted, guests are expected to act as though acquainted, and speak to whomever they may be near. This rule holds good for all entertainments in some countries, but Americans continue a reserve except at dinners, where barriers to ease and pleasure must not exist. The hostess does not knowingly bring together people who object to meet one another, but in such an event the acquaintanceship need not extend beyond the evening, and good breeding requires a courteous recognition of the friends of the hostess while under her roof.
The butler keeps count of the arrival of expected guests, and announces dinner shortly after all are in the drawing-room. In case of a tardy guest he waits for the hostess to order the dinner served. He then enters the room, and, looking at the host or hostess, says, "Dinner is served," or "Madam is served," or simply bows to the hostess.