They now rode slowly down the slope, and in a few minutes reached the barrier or gateway in the outer stockade. They had been observed, and the guard called by the warden, but as they approached were recognised, and the gate swang open before them. Walking their horses they crossed to the hill, and were as easily admitted to the second enclosure. At the gate of the wall they dismounted, and waited while the warden carried the intelligence of their arrival to the family. A moment later, and the Baron’s son advanced from the porch, and from the open window the Baroness and Aurora beckoned to them.
Soon afterwards the hollow sound of the warden’s horn, from the watch over the gate of the wall, proclaimed the hour of noon, and they all assembled for dinner in the banqueting chamber. The apartment was on the ground floor, and separated from the larger hall only by an internal wall. The house, erected in the time of the ancients, was not designed for our present style of life; it possessed, indeed, many comforts and conveniences which are scarcely now to be found in the finest palaces, but it lacked the breadth of construction which our architects have now in view.
In the front there were originally only two rooms, extensive for those old days, but not sufficiently so for ours. One of these had therefore been enlarged, by throwing into it a back room and part of the entrance, and even then it was not long enough for the Baron’s retainers, and at feast-time a wooden shed was built opposite, and up to the window, to continue, as it were, the apartment out of doors. Workmen were busy putting up this shed when they arrived.
The second apartment retained its ancient form, and was used as the dining-room on ordinary days. It was lighted by a large window, now thrown wide open that the sweet spring air might enter, which window was the pride of the Baroness, for it contained more true glass than any window in the palace of the Prince. The glass made now is not transparent, but merely translucent; it indeed admits light after a fashion, but it is thick and cannot be seen through. These panes were almost all (the central casement wholly) of ancient glass, preserved with the greatest care through the long years past.
Three tables were arranged in an open square; the Baron and Baroness’s chairs of oak faced the window, the guests sat at the other tables sideways to them, the servants moved on the outer side, and thus placed the food before them without pushing against or incommoding them. A fourth table was placed in a corner between the fireplace and the window. At it sat the old nurse, the housekeeper (frequently arising to order the servants), and the Baron’s henchman, who had taught him to ride, but now, grey and aged, could not mount himself without assistance, and had long ceased from active service.