This is quite an informal meal, with very little, if any, waiting. Elaborate table-centres and abundance of flowers are out of keeping; only a plant and one or two vases of flowers are customary. The bread should be cut in thick pieces. A chair should be placed for each person.


The table should be of a suitable height, shape, and size. Avoid one that is too narrow, as in that case there is very little available space for decoration; round or oval tables are more sociable and accommodate more diners. After seeing that every necessary article is in readiness, proceed as follows:-

1. LAY THE SILENCE CLOTH. For this purpose an old table-cloth or a piece of serge or felt is needed; preferably un-dyed felt, the use of which avoids a stain if water is upset. This helps to deaden the sound, protects the table from being marked with hot plates and dishes, and causes the linen cloth to lie more smoothly.

2. LAY THE LINEN CLOTH. The centre fold should be placed on the centre of the table, and the hand put underneath to draw out the cloth, first one side of the table and then the other. If a cloth be roughly "flapped" on the table, it will become creased, and will not lie flat. See that it hangs evenly, and that the three central creases are straight. If objected to, these creases may be removed by the use of a cool iron.

3. IN ARRANGING THE TABLE-CENTRE AND FLORAL DECORATIONS remember that a substantial centre-piece often interferes with the conversation and view of the guests, and that a light feathery effect is more pleasing. It is wise to avoid flowers of a strong scent, as many people become faint if compelled to inhale such scents for any length of time.

4. If the dinner is not d la Russe, arrange the cruets, mats, and knife-rests.

5. Place two tablespoons at each corner, and the carving knife and fork in front of the carver's seat; the soup-ladle in front of the hostess.

6. Put on the water-jugs. Either white-frosted, crystal glass, or ruby-red glass has a pretty effect.

7. Arrange the various knives and forks required for each diner in the order of use. At the extreme right hand, next to where the glasses will be placed, put a soup-spoon, a fish-knife, and two table-knives; the second knife reaching the space where the plate will be. On the left hand, place two table-forks so that they come next to the space for the plate, then a fish-fork. Above the space for the plate put a dessert-spoon and a cheese-knife, with the handles towards the right hand; below them a dessert-fork, with its handle towards the left hand.

8. The serviettes may be folded in various designs, and should be placed in the plate space, with a roll of bread in their folds.

Until quite recently it was usual to place the cheese-knife to the left of the large knives; this arrangement is still often to be seen, and is quite correct. In order to break the line, the knife and fork which come next to those used for fish are sometimes placed rather higher.

Dinner 15Dinner 16Serviette


9. The glasses should be at the right hand, next to the soupspoon; they should be placed close together, with the highest glass farthest away from the diner, to avoid being easily knocked over. Three wine-glasses are usually provided, sherry, claret, and champagne; nowadays it is becoming customary to place a tumbler for either plain or aerated water. A final polish with a leather is usually necessary.

10. A chair must be placed for each guest. In winter the fire should be well attended to, and the room comfortably warmed beforehand.

When all is ready, the waitress should open the drawing-room door and say, "Dinner is on the table, madam," or "Dinner is served, madam." She should at once return to the dining-room, leaving the drawing-room door open. In many households the readiness of the meal is indicated by the sounding of a gong.

The sideboard should have a clean, white cloth, and on it the decanters and extra silver should be placed, also the bread board and knife. If no rolls are provided, the bread should be cut thick and square.

If there be also a dinner waggon, it should be reserved for the dessert wines, fruit, and the dessert plates. These latter should be in readiness, with a dessert d'oyley, a finger-bowl, filled 1/3 full with tepid water (to which has been added a drop of perfume or a single floating flower), and a dessert knife and fork.