Ivanhoe (Chapter 1, page 3 of 7)


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Chapter 1

The sun was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of that forest,
which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. Hundreds of
broad-headed, short-stemmed, wide-branched oaks, which had witnessed
perhaps the stately march of the Roman soldiery, flung their gnarled
arms over a thick carpet of the most delicious green sward; in some
places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies, and copsewood of
various descriptions, so closely as totally to intercept the level beams
of the sinking sun; in others they receded from each other, forming
those long sweeping vistas, in the intricacy of which the eye delights
to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet
wilder scenes of silvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun shot a
broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the shattered
boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they illuminated in
brilliant patches the portions of turf to which they made their way. A
considerable open space, in the midst of this glade, seemed formerly to
have been dedicated to the rites of Druidical superstition; for, on
the summit of a hillock, so regular as to seem artificial, there still
remained part of a circle of rough unhewn stones, of large dimensions.

Seven stood upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places,
probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some
prostrate near their former site, and others on the side of the hill.
One large stone only had found its way to the bottom, and in stopping
the course of a small brook, which glided smoothly round the foot of
the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble voice of murmur to the
placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.

The human figures which completed this landscape, were in number two,
partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic
character, which belonged to the woodlands of the West-Riding of
Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of these men had a
stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form
imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned
skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but
which had been worn off in so many places, that it would have been
difficult to distinguish from the patches that remained, to what
creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from
the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes
of body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar, than
was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be
inferred, that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders,
in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound
with thongs made of boars' hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin
leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the
calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make
the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle
by a broad leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of
which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn,
accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same
belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged
knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were fabricated in the
neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a
Sheffield whittle.

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