Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/507

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383
DOMESTIC LIFE

niture was strongly made, for use rather than for show. The material used was generally oak.

In the damp climate of England the people were hard-pressed to discover a means of decorating the stone walls of their buildings. The problem was solved by the use of arras and tapestry. These hangings were of costly material, bearing pictures that were sometimes painted, sometimes worked with the needle. The arras was hung upon frames that supported it about a foot from the wall. This frame device was to protect the expensive hangings from the mildew of the damp walls. The space behind the arras was a characteristic feature of Elizabethan domestic life. In the first place, it enabled the arras to move with the least breath of air, a fact that doubtless went far to convince many a person of the truth of those numberless stories so often told of household ghosts. Behind the arras was also a convenient place for hiding. Polonius was eavesdropping behind the arras when he met his death. It was a Mecca for assassins. One needed to examine the arras in those days as the more timorous of to-day look under the bed. There are contemporary references to "behind the arras" being a convenient place for courtship.

In the humbler ranks of life, painted cloth took the place of the more expensive tapestry of the