Dear Etiquetteer: I have a set of silverplate silverware handed down to me from my grandmother I'd love to start using more often. A story I once read stated that preparations for having dinner guests included counting the silver before and after the dinner.
Pray tell, what would I do if the silver count was less after the dinner than before the dinner?
Etiquetteer had to laugh a little to himself reading your query, since this is not the sort of situation Emily Post ever discussed in her landmark tome Etiquette. Mrs. Post was more concerned that one had the correct implements for service and that they were spotlessly polished than possible theft!
Missing silverware is more likely to be a concern someplace like the White House, where entertainments are given on a massive scale and guests are eager for a souvenir to mark what might be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. (Indeed, in the 19th century it was not unknown for rapacious citizens to make off with bits of drapery, rugs, and upholstery!)
To accuse guests of one's home of theft, however, is a colossal breach of hospitality. Should you find a teaspoon or some such missing after a dinner party, Etiquetteer would encourage you first to assume that it's been mislaid somewhere in the house. "Turn the dump upside-down" as they say in the detective movies; 99 times out of 100 you'll find it under the dining room table, behind a lamp in the living room, or stuck in the dishwasher someplace. Etiquetteer imagines it could even turn up under the sofa cushions! (There's also that old joke about the young priest who hid the vicar's sterling silver ladle in the housekeeper's bed . . . .)
But for that hundredth time, Etiquetteer encourages you to attribute the missing piece to absentmindedness rather than malice and chalk it up as a casualty to a good party.
Etiquetteer is eager to receive all your manners queries at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.