Whether there are two at table or two hundred, plates are changed and courses presented in precisely the same manner.
For faultless service, if there are many “accompanied” dishes, two servants are necessary to wait on as few as two persons. But two can also efficiently serve eight; or with unaccompanied dishes an expert servant can manage eight alone, and with one assistant, he can perfectly manage twelve.
In old-fashioned times people apparently did not mind waiting tranquilly through courses and between courses, even though meat grew cold long before the last of many vegetables was passed, and they waited endlessly while a slow talker and eater finished his topic and his food. But people of to-day do not like to wait an unnecessary second. The moment fish is passed them, they expect the cucumbers or sauce, or whatever should go with the fish, to follow immediately. And when the first servant hands the meat course, they consider that they should not be expected to wait a moment for a second servant to hand the gravy or jelly or whatever goes with the meat. No service is good in this day unless swift—and, of course, soundless.
A late leader of Newport society who had a world-wide reputation for the brilliancy of her entertainments, had an equally well-known reputation for rapidly served dinners. “Twenty minutes is quite long enough to sit at table—ever!” is what she used to say, and what her household had to live up to. She had a footman to about every two guests and any one dining with her had to cling to the edge of his plate or it would be whisked away! One who looked aside or “let go” for a second found his plate gone! That was extreme; but, even so, better than a snail-paced dinner!