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Ivanhoe

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.
The walls of this upper end of the hall, as far as the dais extended, were covered with
hangings or curtains, and upon the floor there was a carpet, both of which were adorned
with some attempts at tapestry, or embroidery, executed with brilliant or rather gaudy
colouring. Over the lower range of table, the roof, as we have noticed, had no covering;
the rough plastered walls were left bare, and the rude earthen floor was uncarpeted; the
board was uncovered by a cloth, and rude massive benches supplied the place of
chairs.
 
 
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