My Particular Friend footnotes: The Poison Pen Affair 1

‘And then I saw that I had your card,’ Mrs Ashby said, casting her eyes downwards and dropping her hands to her lap.

Fashionable women called on other fashionable women. If no one was at home or the inmates of the house were not receiving, the visitor would leave a namecard, which was an invitation to receive a call in return. Not surprisingly, there was a complicated etiquette to paying calls.
A sob of anguish escaped the poor woman. ‘They accuse my daughter Sophia of indiscretions. They say that she is not … she is not a maid.’
not a maid: no longer a virgin
‘Yes, I brought them.’ She opened her reticule and produced the letters, much folded to fit in the bag.
reticule: a small purse

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