Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/511

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meat were left upon it between meals for those who wished to help themselves.

When meal time came, the servants entered and set up the table. It was then covered with a carpet. Occasionally we find a carpet used on the floor as a sort of rug; but in most instances where the word is used in Elizabethan literature the reference is to a covering for the table. Napkins were also used. Most of the table linen was perfumed. Plate was indulged in to a great extent by those who could afford the gratification. The bulk of a family's wealth was often in the plate. China and porcelain were coming into use, but when the plate ran short, pewter was more likely to be the material of the other dishes. Pewter was not then cheap, and in no wise looked down upon. The common folk used wooden dishes in place of plate. Mottos were often carved about the edge of the wooden trenchers.

Perhaps the main reason why we do not to-day eat with our knives is because we are conservatively subject to the instinct that was bred into our nature when every person at the board used the weapon at his side to assist him at dinner. Whatever duty the dagger may have performed between meals is irrelevant; but once arrived at table the knife that went into the common dish could not with propriety go into the individual