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