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Chapter 3

  • > Then (sad relief!) from the bleak coast that hears
  • >
  • > The German Ocean roar, deep-blooming, strong,
  • >
  • > And yellow hair'd, the blue-eyed Saxon came.
  • >
  • > Thomson's Liberty
  • In a hall, the height of which was greatly disproportioned to its extrem_ength and width, a long oaken table, formed of planks rough-hewn from th_orest, and which had scarcely received anu polish, stood ready prepared fo_he evening meal of Cedric the Saxon. The roof, composed of beams and rafters,
  • had nothing to divide the apartment from the sky excepting the planking an_hatch; there was a huge fireplace at either end of the hall, but as th_himneys were constructed in a very clumsy manner, at least as much of th_moke found its way into the apartment as escaped by the proper vent. Th_onstant vapour which this occasioned, had polished the rafters and beams o_he low-browed hall, by encrusting them with a black varnish of soot. On th_ides of the apartment hung implements of war and of the chase, and there wer_t each corner folding doors, which gave access to other parts of th_xtensive building.
  • The other appointments of the mansion partook of the rude simplicity of th_axon period, which Cedric piqued himself upon maintaining. The floor wa_omposed of earth mixed with lime, trodden into a hard substance, such as i_ften employed in flooring our modern barns. For about one quarter of th_ength of the apartment, the floor was raised by a step, and this space, whic_as called the dais, was occupied only by the principal members of the family,
  • and visitors of distinction. For this purpose, a table richly covered wit_carlet cloth was placed transversely across the platform, from the middle o_hich ran the longer and lower board, at which the domestics and inferio_ersons fed, down towards the bottom of the hall. The whole resembled the for_f the letter T, or some of those ancient dinner-tables, which, arranged o_he same principles, may be still seen in the antique Colleges of Oxford o_ambridge. Massive chairs and settles of carved oak were placed upon the dais,
  • and over these seats and the more elevated table was fastened a canopy o_loth, which served in some degree to protect the dignitaries who occupie_hat distinguished station from the weather, and especially from the rain,
  • which in some places found its way through the ill-constructed roof.
  • The walls of this upper end of the hall, as far as the dais extended, wer_overed with hangings or curtains, and upon the floor there was a carpet, bot_f which were adorned with some attempts at tapestry, or embroidery, execute_ith brilliant or rather gaudy colouring. Over the lower range of table, th_oof, as we have noticed, had no covering; the rough plastered walls were lef_are, and the rude earthen floor was uncarpeted; the board was uncovered by _loth, and rude massive benches supplied the place of chairs.
  • In the centre of the upper table, were placed two chairs more elevated tha_he rest, for the master and mistress of the family, who presided over th_cene of hospitality, and from doing so derived their Saxon title of honour,
  • which signifies "the Dividers of Bread."
  • To each of these chairs was added a footstool, curiously carved and inlai_ith ivory, which mark of distinction was peculiar to them. One of these seat_as at present occupied by Cedric the Saxon, who, though but in rank a thane,
  • or, as the Normans called him, a Franklin, felt, at the delay of his evenin_eal, an irritable impatience, which might have become an alderman, whether o_ncient or of modern times.
  • It appeared, indeed, from the countenance of this proprietor, that he was of _rank, but hasty and choleric temper. He was not above the middle stature, bu_road-shouldered, long-armed, and powerfully made, like one accustomed t_ndure the fatigue of war or of the chase; his face was broad, with large blu_yes, open and frank features, fine teeth, and a well formed head, altogethe_xpressive of that sort of good-humour which often lodges with a sudden an_asty temper. Pride and jealousy there was in his eye, for his life had bee_pent in asserting rights which were constantly liable to invasion; and th_rompt, fiery, and resolute disposition of the man, had been kept constantl_pon the alert by the circumstances of his situation. His long yellow hair wa_qually divided on the top of his head and upon his brow, and combed down o_ach side to the length of his shoulders; it had but little tendency to grey,
  • although Cedric was approaching to his sixtieth year.
  • His dress was a tunic of forest green, furred at the throat and cuffs wit_hat was called minever; a kind of fur inferior in quality to ermine, an_ormed, it is believed, of the skin of the grey squirrel. This doublet hun_nbuttoned over a close dress of scarlet which sate tight to his body; he ha_reeches of the same, but they did not reach below the lower part of th_high, leaving the knee exposed. His feet had sandals of the same fashion wit_he peasants, but of finer materials, and secured in the front with golde_lasps. He had bracelets of gold upon his arms, and a broad collar of the sam_recious metal around his neck. About his waist he wore a richly-studded belt,
  • in which was stuck a short straight two-edged sword, with a sharp point, s_isposed as to hang almost perpendicularly by his side. Behind his seat wa_ung a scarlet cloth cloak lined with fur, and a cap of the same material_ichly embroidered, which completed the dress of the opulent landholder whe_e chose to go forth. A short boar-spear, with a broad and bright steel head,
  • also reclined against the back of his chair, which served him, when he walke_broad, for the purposes of a staff or of a weapon, as chance might require.
  • Several domestics, whose dress held various proportions betwixt the richnes_f their master's, and the coarse and simple attire of Gurth the swine-herd,
  • watched the looks and waited the commands of the Saxon dignitary. Two or thre_ervants of a superior order stood behind their master upon the dais; the res_ccupied the lower part of the hall. Other attendants there were of _ifferent description; two or three large and shaggy greyhounds, such as wer_hen employed in hunting the stag and wolf; as many slow-hounds of a larg_ony breed, with thick necks, large heads, and long ears; and one or two o_he smaller dogs, now called terriers, which waited with impatience th_rrival of the supper; but, with the sagacious knowledge of physiognom_eculiar to their race, forbore to intrude upon the moody silence of thei_aster, apprehensive probably of a small white truncheon which lay by Cedric'_rencher, for the purpose of repelling the advances of his four-legge_ependants. One grisly old wolf-dog alone, with the liberty of an indulge_avourite, had planted himself close by the chair of state, and occasionall_entured to solicit notice by putting his large hairy head upon his master'_nee, or pushing his nose into his hand. Even he was repelled by the ster_ommand, "Down, Balder, down! I am not in the humour for foolery."
  • In fact, Cedric, as we have observed, was in no very placid state of mind. Th_ady Rowena, who had been absent to attend an evening mass at a distan_hurch, had but just returned, and was changing her garments, which had bee_etted by the storm. There were as yet no tidings of Gurth and his charge,
  • which should long since have been driven home from the forest and such was th_nsecurity of the period, as to render it probable that the delay might b_xplained by some depreciation of the outlaws, with whom the adjacent fores_bounded, or by the violence of some neighbouring baron, whose consciousnes_f strength made him equally negligent of the laws of property. The matter wa_f consequence, for great part of the domestic wealth of the Saxon proprietor_onsisted in numerous herds of swine, especially in forest-land, where thos_nimals easily found their food.
  • Besides these subjects of anxiety, the Saxon thane was impatient for th_resence of his favourite clown Wamba, whose jests, such as they were, serve_or a sort of seasoning to his evening meal, and to the deep draughts of al_nd wine with which he was in the habit of accompanying it. Add to all this,
  • Cedric had fasted since noon, and his usual supper hour was long past, a caus_f irritation common to country squires, both in ancient and modern times. Hi_ispleasure was expressed in broken sentences, partly muttered to himself,
  • partly addressed to the domestics who stood around; and particularly to hi_upbearer, who offered him from time to time, as a sedative, a silver goble_illed with wine —"Why tarries the Lady Rowena?"
  • "She is but changing her head-gear," replied a female attendant, with as muc_onfidence as the favourite lady's-maid usually answers the master of a moder_amily; "you would not wish her to sit down to the banquet in her hood an_irtle? and no lady within the shire can be quicker in arraying herself tha_y mistress."
  • This undeniable argument produced a sort of acquiescent umph! on the part o_he Saxon, with the addition, "I wish her devotion may choose fair weather fo_he next visit to St John's Kirk; —but what, in the name of ten devils,"
  • continued he, turning to the cupbearer, and raising his voice as if happy t_ave found a channel into which he might divert his indignation without fea_r control—"what, in the name of ten devils, keeps Gurth so long afield? _uppose we shall have an evil account of the herd; he was wont to be _aithful and cautious drudge, and I had destined him for something better;
  • perchance I might even have made him one of m_arders."[[6]](footnotes.xml#footnote_6) Oswald the cupbearer modestl_uggested, "that it was scarce an hour since the tolling of the curfew;" a_ll-chosen apology, since it turned upon a topic so harsh to Saxon ears. "Th_oul fiend," exclaimed Cedric, "take the curfew-bell, and the tyrannica_astard by whom it was devised, and the heartless slave who names it with _axon tongue to a Saxon ear! The curfew!" he added, pausing, "ay, the curfew;
  • which compels true men to extinguish their lights, that thieves and robber_ay work their deeds in darkness!— Ay, the curfew;—Reginald Front-de-Boeuf an_hilip de Malvoisin know the use of the curfew as well as William the Bastar_imself, or e'er a Norman adventurer that fought at Hastings. I shall hear, _uess, that my property has been swept off to save from starving the hungr_anditti, whom they cannot support but by theft and robbery. My faithful slav_s murdered, and my goods are taken for a prey —and Wamba—where is Wamba? Sai_ot some one he had gone forth with Gurth?" Oswald replied in the affirmative.
  • "Ay? why this is better and better! he is carried off too, the Saxon fool, t_erve the Norman lord. Fools are we all indeed that serve them, and fitte_ubjects for their scorn and laughter, than if we were born with but half ou_its. But I will be avenged," he added, starting from his chair in impatienc_t the supposed injury, and catching hold of his boar-spear; "I will go wit_y complaint to the great council; I have friends, I have followers—man to ma_ill I appeal the Norman to the lists; let him come in his plate and his mail,
  • and all that can render cowardice bold; I have sent such a javelin as thi_hrough a stronger fence than three of their war shields!—Haply they think m_ld; but they shall find, alone and childless as I am, the blood of Herewar_s in the veins of Cedric.—Ah, Wilfred, Wilfred!" he exclaimed in a lowe_one, "couldst thou have ruled thine unreasonable passion, thy father had no_een left in his age like the solitary oak that throws out its shattered an_nprotected branches against the full sweep of the tempest!" The reflectio_eemed to conjure into sadness his irritated feelings. Replacing his javelin,
  • he resumed his seat, bent his looks downward, and appeared to be absorbed i_elancholy reflection. >From his musing, Cedric was suddenly awakened by th_last of a horn, which was replied to by the clamorous yells and barking o_ll the dogs in the hall, and some twenty or thirty which were quartered i_ther parts of the building. It cost some exercise of the white truncheon,
  • well seconded by the exertions of the domestics, to silence this canin_lamour. "To the gate, knaves!" said the Saxon, hastily, as soon as the tumul_as so much appeased that the dependants could hear his voice. "See wha_idings that horn tells us of—to announce, I ween, som_ership[[7]](footnotes.xml#footnote_7) and robbery which has been done upon m_ands." Returning in less than three minutes, a warder announced "that th_rior Aymer of Jorvaulx, and the good knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert, commande_f the valiant and venerable order of Knights Templars, with a small retinue,
  • requested hospitality and lodging for the night, being on their way to _ournament which was to be held not far from Ashby-de-la-Zouche, on the secon_ay from the present." "Aymer, the Prior Aymer? Brian de Bois-
  • Guilbert?"—muttered Cedric; "Normans both;—but Norman or Saxon, th_ospitality of Rotherwood must not be impeached; they are welcome, since the_ave chosen to halt—more welcome would they have been to have ridden furthe_n their way—But it were unworthy to murmur for a night's lodging and _ight's food; in the quality of guests, at least, even Normans must suppres_heir insolence.—Go, Hundebert," he added, to a sort of major-domo who stoo_ehind him with a white wand; "take six of the attendants, and introduce th_trangers to the guests' lodging. Look after their horses and mules, and se_heir train lack nothing. Let them have change of vestments if they requir_t, and fire, and water to wash, and wine and ale; and bid the cooks add wha_hey hastily can to our evening meal; and let it be put on the board whe_hose strangers are ready to share it. Say to them, Hundebert, that Cedri_ould himself bid them welcome, but he is under a vow never to step more tha_hree steps from the dais of his own hall to meet any who shares not the bloo_f Saxon royalty. Begone! see them carefully tended; let them not say in thei_ride, the Saxon churl has shown at once his poverty and his avarice." Th_ajor-domo departed with several attendants, to execute his master's commands.
  • "The Prior Aymer!" repeated Cedric, looking to Oswald, "the brother, if _istake not, of Giles de Mauleverer, now lord of Middleham?" Oswald made _espectful sign of assent. "His brother sits in the seat, and usurps th_atrimony, of a better race, the race of Ulfgar of Middleham; but what Norma_ord doth not the same? This Prior is, they say, a free and jovial priest, wh_oves the wine-cup and the bugle-horn better than bell and book: Good; let hi_ome, he shall be welcome. How named ye the Templar?" "Brian de Bois-
  • Guilbert." "Bois-Guilbert," said Cedric, still in the musing, half-arguin_one, which the habit of living among dependants had accustomed him to employ,
  • and which resembled a man who talks to himself rather than to those around him
  • —"Bois-Guilbert? that name has been spread wide both for good and evil. The_ay he is valiant as the bravest of his order; but stained with their usua_ices, pride, arrogance, cruelty, and voluptuousness; a hard-hearted man, wh_nows neither fear of earth, nor awe of heaven. So say the few warriors wh_ave returned from Palestine.—Well; it is but for one night; he shall b_elcome too.—Oswald, broach the oldest wine-cask; place the best mead, th_ightiest ale, the richest morat, the most sparkling cider, the mos_doriferous pigments, upon the board; fill the larges_orns[[8]](footnotes.xml#footnote_8) —Templars and Abbots love good wines an_ood measure. —Elgitha, let thy Lady Rowena, know we shall not this nigh_xpect her in the hall, unless such be her especial pleasure." "But it will b_er especial pleasure," answered Elgitha, with great readiness, "for she i_ver desirous to hear the latest news from Palestine." Cedric darted at th_orward damsel a glance of hasty resentment; but Rowena, and whatever belonge_o her, were privileged and secure from his anger. He only replied, "Silence,
  • maiden; thy tongue outruns thy discretion. Say my message to thy mistress, an_et her do her pleasure. Here, at least, the descendant of Alfred still reign_ princess." Elgitha left the apartment. "Palestine!" repeated the Saxon;
  • "Palestine! how many ears are turned to the tales which dissolute crusaders,
  • or hypocritical pilgrims, bring from that fatal land! I too might ask—I to_ight enquire—I too might listen with a beating heart to fables which the wil_trollers devise to cheat us into hospitality —but no—The son who ha_isobeyed me is no longer mine; nor will I concern myself more for his fat_han for that of the most worthless among the millions that ever shaped th_ross on their shoulder, rushed into excess and blood-guiltiness, and calle_t an accomplishment of the will of God." He knit his brows, and fixed hi_yes for an instant on the ground; as he raised them, the folding doors at th_ottom of the hall were cast wide, and, preceded by the major-domo with hi_and, and four domestics bearing blazing torches, the guests of the evenin_ntered the apartment.