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BLOSS C.A. Heroines of the Crusades

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BLOSS C.A.
Heroines of the Crusades
page 157



ceived her with a smile of unfeigned satisfaction. The state rooms were thrown open and hastily fitted up for the reception of the royal inmates, and the servants, wearied with the listless inactivity of a life without motive or ex-citement, bustled about the castle and executed the com-mands of their mistress, with the most joyful alacrity. Under pretence of superintending additions and repairs, Queen Eleanor ordered carpenters and masons, who under her eye, visited every apartment, sounded every wall, and tore off every panel, where by any possibility an indi-vidual might be concealed. She did not hesitate even to penetrate the dungeons under the castle ; and whenever the superstition of the domestics made them hesitate in mortal terror, she would seize a torch and unattended thread her way through the darkest and dampest subterranean passa-ges of the gloomy vaults. All these investigations led to no discovery. The pleasance offered little to invite her search. It had been originally laid out in the stiff and tasteless manner of the age, with straight walks and close clipped shrubbery, but so long neglected it was a tangled maze, to which her eye could detect no entrance. Below the pleasance the postern by a wicket gate communicated with a park, which was separated only by a stile from the great forest of Oxfordshire. Mounted on her Spanish jen-net, Eleanor galloped through this park and sometimes ventured into the forest beyond, and she soon discovered that the attendants avoided a thicket which skirted the park wall. Commanding the grooms to lead in that direction, she was informed that it was the ruins of the old menagerie, located there by Henry I., overgrown by thorns and ivy and trees, that shut out the light of the sun. The aged porter assured her that no one had entered it in his day, that wild, beasts still howled therein, and that the com-mon people deemed it dangerous to visit its vicinity. He added, that one youth who had charge of the wicket, had been carried off and never again seen ; and that all the exorcisms of the priests could never lay the ghost. The old man crossed himself in devout horror and turned 166 HEROINES OF THE CRUSADES.


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