Page:A short history of social life in England.djvu/56

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36
A SAXON MEAL

table; it was covered with a linen cloth, while among the nobles bowls and dishes were of brass, silver, and gold, and drinking-cups were of horn and leather. On a raised platform at the head of the table sat the mistress of the house—the lady, or dispenser of bread—serving out the warm and freshly made loaves which formed one of the chief articles of diet in Anglo-Saxon times. Huge joints of meat were freely devoured, fingers taking the place of forks, while the bones were thrown about afterwards. For this reason finger bowls and tablecloths were introduced, a very necessary addition after a meal of this description. Butter, cheese, honey, and vegetables having been duly served, the board was cleared away, and the women of the household bore drinking horns of ale and mead to their lords and masters seated on benches round the walls. This was the main feature of the feast, and lasted late into the afternoon or evening. Hard drinkers were our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and fastidious withal as to the quality of their drink. The brewers thereof were for the most part women, known as ale-wives, and punished for brewing bad ale.

While ale and mead were being consumed with