Immediately, my creative mind wondered what happened then?
Knowing the lady was waiting in the entry hall, you might
- Tell the footman to invite her up for a nice visit, either in the sitting room (for those you were still a bit cautious about) or the withdrawing room (for those you hoped would become bosom beaus).
- Realize you were in shocking dishabille (okay, so you were wearing that hideous morning dress Aunt Elspeth insisted on embroidering with puce mangel wurzels and you simply cannot be seen in public in that) and have no time to change so you tell the footman to announce that you are not at home. Note that this isn’t a lie. As Marissa mentioned, “at home” meant you were receiving callers. Being “not at home” meant that you were not receiving callers at this time. That might be because you were out or because you simply weren’t up to company for whatever reason.
- Have heard the most torrid rumors about the lady (truly, she seemed so sweet!) since leaving the card and have decided not to pursue the acquaintance. In this case, you would have the footman return her cards to her. Note that this was an insult, and you had better mean it because this lady, and likely her family and friends, will never speak to you again.
- Have learned the lady is a vicious gossip who has been maligning you, your family, and your friends ever since you laid eyes on each other and is just coming around today for more spite. In fact, one of her cruel stories has forced your dear cousin Neville Wedepickler to flee to the Continent in shame. In such a case, you might be justified in ripping her card to shreds and sending the pieces down with the footman to show her your utter disapproval. There is likely no salvation from this insult, so use it wisely.
So, let’s say you are sitting in your library catching up on correspondence, and the footman brings in a lovely card from Lord Hugh Jackman, Earl of Wolverton, and the corner is bent! He’s absolute charmer, but you’re not entirely sure his motives are on the up and up. What do you do?