Kenilworth (Chapter 6, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 6

The dews of summer night did fall,
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silver'd the walls of Cumnor Hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby.--MICKLE.

[This verse is the commencement of the ballad already quoted, as
what suggested the novel.]

Four apartments; which, occupied the western side of the old quadrangle
at Cumnor Place, had been fitted up with extraordinary splendour. This
had been the work of several days prior to that on which our story
opened. Workmen sent from London, and not permitted to leave the
premises until the work was finished, had converted the apartments in
that side of the building from the dilapidated appearance of a dissolved
monastic house into the semblance of a royal palace. A mystery was
observed in all these arrangements: the workmen came thither and
returned by night, and all measures were taken to prevent the prying
curiosity of the villagers from observing or speculating upon the
changes which were taking place in the mansion of their once indigent
but now wealthy neighbour, Anthony Foster. Accordingly, the secrecy
desired was so far preserved, that nothing got abroad but vague and
uncertain reports, which were received and repeated, but without much
credit being attached to them.

On the evening of which we treat, the new and highly-decorated suite of
rooms were, for the first time, illuminated, and that with a brilliancy
which might have been visible half-a-dozen miles off, had not oaken
shutters, carefully secured with bolt and padlock, and mantled with long
curtains of silk and of velvet, deeply fringed with gold, prevented the
slightest gleam of radiance front being seen without.

The principal apartments, as we have seen, were four in number, each
opening into the other. Access was given to them by a large scale
staircase, as they were then called, of unusual length and height, which
had its landing-place at the door of an antechamber, shaped somewhat
like a gallery. This apartment the abbot had used as an occasional
council-room, but it was now beautifully wainscoted with dark, foreign
wood of a brown colour, and bearing a high polish, said to have been
brought from the Western Indies, and to have been wrought in London with
infinite difficulty and much damage to the tools of the workmen. The
dark colour of this finishing was relieved by the number of lights
in silver sconces which hung against the walls, and by six large and
richly-framed pictures, by the first masters of the age. A massy oaken
table, placed at the lower end of the apartment, served to accommodate
such as chose to play at the then fashionable game of shovel-board;
and there was at the other end an elevated gallery for the musicians
or minstrels, who might be summoned to increase the festivity of the
evening.

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