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The Norman kings and nobles displayed their taste for magnificence in the most remarkable manner at their coronations, tournaments, and their celebrations of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. The great councils of the Norman reigns which assembled at Christmas and the other great festivals, were in appearance a continuation of the Witenagemots, but the power of the barons became very formal in the presence of such despotic monarchs as William the Conqueror and his sons. At the Christmas festival all the prelates and nobles of the kingdom were, by their tenures, obliged to attend their sovereign to assist in the administration of justice and in deliberation on the great affairs of the kingdom. On these occasions the King wore his crown, and feasted his nobles in the great hall of his palace, and made them presents as marks of his royal favour, after which they proceeded to the consideration of State affairs. Wherever the Court happened to be, there was usually a large assemblage of gleemen, who were jugglers and pantomimists as well as minstrels, and were accustomed to associate themselves in companies, and amuse the spectators with feats of strength and agility, dancing, tumbling, and sleight-of-hand tricks, as well as musical performances. Among the minstrels who came into England with William the Conqueror was one named Taillefer, who was present at the battle of Hastings, and rode in front of the Norman army, inspiriting the soldiers by his songs. He sang of Roland, the heroic captain of Charlemagne, tossing his sword in the air and catching it again as he approached the English line. He was the first to strike a blow at the English, but after mortally wounding one or two of King Harold's warriors, he was himself struck down.

The fresh-water mussels and snails and the crayfish burrow deep into the mud and silt at the bottom of ponds and streams where they lie motionless during the winter. The land snails, in late autumn, crawl beneath logs, and, burrowing deep into the soft mould, they withdraw far into their shells. Then each one forms with a mucous secretion two thin transparent membranes, one across the opening of the shell and one a little farther within, thus making the interior of the shell perfectly air-tight. There for five or six months he sleeps, free from the pangs of hunger and the blasts of winter, and when the balmy breezes of spring blow up from the south he breaks down and devours the protecting membrane and goes forth with his home on his back to seek fresh leaves for food and to find for himself a mate.

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