Ivanhoe (Chapter 4, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 4

Cedric rose to receive his guests with an air of dignified hospitality,
and, descending from the dais, or elevated part of his hall, made three
steps towards them, and then awaited their approach.

"I grieve," he said, "reverend Prior, that my vow binds me to advance
no farther upon this floor of my fathers, even to receive such guests
as you, and this valiant Knight of the Holy Temple. But my steward has
expounded to you the cause of my seeming discourtesy. Let me also pray,
that you will excuse my speaking to you in my native language, and that
you will reply in the same if your knowledge of it permits; if not, I
sufficiently understand Norman to follow your meaning."

"Vows," said the Abbot, "must be unloosed, worthy Franklin, or permit
me rather to say, worthy Thane, though the title is antiquated. Vows
are the knots which tie us to Heaven--they are the cords which bind
the sacrifice to the horns of the altar,--and are therefore,--as I said
before,--to be unloosened and discharged, unless our holy Mother Church
shall pronounce the contrary. And respecting language, I willingly
hold communication in that spoken by my respected grandmother, Hilda
of Middleham, who died in odour of sanctity, little short, if we may
presume to say so, of her glorious namesake, the blessed Saint Hilda of
Whitby, God be gracious to her soul!"

When the Prior had ceased what he meant as a conciliatory harangue,
his companion said briefly and emphatically, "I speak ever French,
the language of King Richard and his nobles; but I understand English
sufficiently to communicate with the natives of the country."

Cedric darted at the speaker one of those hasty and impatient glances,
which comparisons between the two rival nations seldom failed to call
forth; but, recollecting the duties of hospitality, he suppressed
further show of resentment, and, motioning with his hand, caused his
guests to assume two seats a little lower than his own, but placed close
beside him, and gave a signal that the evening meal should be placed
upon the board.

While the attendants hastened to obey Cedric's commands, his eye
distinguished Gurth the swineherd, who, with his companion Wamba, had
just entered the hall. "Send these loitering knaves up hither," said the
Saxon, impatiently. And when the culprits came before the dais,--"How
comes it, villains! that you have loitered abroad so late as this? Hast
thou brought home thy charge, sirrah Gurth, or hast thou left them to
robbers and marauders?"

"The herd is safe, so please ye," said Gurth.

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