Ivanhoe (Chapter 3, page 1 of 9)


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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
extreme length and width, a long oaken table, formed of planks
rough-hewn from the forest, and which had scarcely received any polish,
stood ready prepared for the 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 and thatch; there was a huge fireplace at
either end of the hall, but as the chimneys were constructed in a very
clumsy manner, at least as much of the smoke found its way into the
apartment as escaped by the proper vent. The constant vapour which this
occasioned, had polished the rafters and beams of the low-browed hall,
by encrusting them with a black varnish of soot. On the sides of the
apartment hung implements of war and of the chase, and there were at
each corner folding doors, which gave access to other parts of the
extensive building.

The other appointments of the mansion partook of the rude simplicity
of the Saxon period, which Cedric piqued himself upon maintaining.
The floor was composed of earth mixed with lime, trodden into a hard
substance, such as is often employed in flooring our modern barns. For
about one quarter of the length of the apartment, the floor was raised
by a step, and this space, which was called the dais, was occupied only
by the principal members of the family, and visitors of distinction.
For this purpose, a table richly covered with scarlet cloth was placed
transversely across the platform, from the middle of which ran the
longer and lower board, at which the domestics and inferior persons fed,
down towards the bottom of the hall. The whole resembled the form of the
letter T, or some of those ancient dinner-tables, which, arranged on the
same principles, may be still seen in the antique Colleges of Oxford or
Cambridge. 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 of cloth, which served in some degree to protect the dignitaries
who occupied that distinguished station from the weather, and
especially from the rain, which in some places found its way through the
ill-constructed roof.

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