Sunday, October 21, 2007


Ivanhoe by Walter Scott - I

by Walter Scott
Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart,
And often took leave,----but seemed loath to depart!*
* The motto alludes to the Author returning to the stage
* repeatedly after having taken leave.
The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an
unabated course of popularity, and might, in his peculiar
district of literature, have been termed "L'Enfant Gate" of
success. It was plain, however, that frequent publication must
finally wear out the public favour, unless some mode could be
devised to give an appearance of novelty to subsequent
productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, and Scottish
characters of note, being those with which the author was most
intimately, and familiarly acquainted, were the groundwork upon
which he had hitherto relied for giving effect to his narrative.
It was, however, obvious, that this kind of interest must in the
end occasion a degree of sameness and repetition, if exclusively
resorted to, and that the reader was likely at length to adopt
the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:
"'Reverse the spell,' he cries, 'And let it fairly now
suffice. The gambol has been shown.'"
Nothing can be more dangerous for the fame of a professor of the
fine arts, than to permit (if he can possibly prevent it) the
character of a mannerist to be attached to him, or that he should
be supposed capable of success only in a particular and limited
style. The public are, in general, very ready to adopt the
opinion, that he who has pleased them in one peculiar mode of
composition, is, by means of that very talent, rendered incapable
of venturing upon other subjects. The effect of this
disinclination, on the part of the public, towards the artificers
of their pleasures, when they attempt to enlarge their means of
amusing, may be seen in the censures usually passed by vulgar
criticism upon actors or artists who venture to change the
character of their efforts, that, in so doing, they may enlarge
the scale of their art.
There is some justice in this opinion, as there always is in such
as attain general currency. It may often happen on the stage,
that an actor, by possessing in a preeminent degree the external
qualities necessary to give effect to comedy, may be deprived of
the right to aspire to tragic excellence; and in painting or
literary composition, an artist or poet may be master exclusively
of modes of thought, and powers of expression, which confine him
to a single course of subjects. But much more frequently the
same capacity which carries a man to popularity in one department
will obtain for him success in another, and that must be more
particularly the case in literary composition, than either in
acting or painting, because the adventurer in that department is
not impeded in his exertions by any peculiarity of features, or
conformation of person, proper for particular parts, or, by any
peculiar mechanical habits of using the pencil, limited to a
particular class of subjects.
Whether this reasoning be correct or otherwise, the present
author felt, that, in confining himself to subjects purely
Scottish, he was not only likely to weary out the indulgence of
his readers, but also greatly to limit his own power of
affording them pleasure. In a highly polished country, where so
much genius is monthly employed in catering for public amusement,
a fresh topic, such as he had himself had the happiness to light
upon, is the untasted spring of the desert;---
"Men bless their stars and call it luxury."
But when men and horses, cattle, camels, and dromedaries, have
poached the spring into mud, it becomes loathsome to those who at
first drank of it with rapture; and he who had the merit of
discovering it, if he would preserve his reputation with the
tribe, must display his talent by a fresh discovery of untasted
If the author, who finds himself limited to a particular class of
ubjects, endeavours to sustain his reputation by striving to add
a novelty of attraction to themes of the same character which
have been formerly successful under his management, there are
manifest reasons why, after a certain point, he is likely to
fail. If the mine be not wrought out, the strength and capacity
of the miner become necessarily exhausted. If he closely
imitates the narratives which he has before rendered successful,
he is doomed to "wonder that they please no more." If he
struggles to take a different view of the same class of subjects,
he speedily discovers that what is obvious, graceful, and
natural, has been exhausted; and, in order to obtain the
indispensable charm of novelty, he is forced upon caricature,
and, to avoid being trite, must become extravagant.
It is not, perhaps, necessary to enumerate so many reasons why
the author of the Scottish Novels, as they were then exclusively
termed, should be desirous to make an experiment on a subject
purely English. It was his purpose, at the same time, to have
rendered the experiment as complete as possible, by bringing the
intended work before the public as the effort of a new candidate
for their favour, in order that no degree of prejudice, whether
favourable or the reverse, might attach to it, as a new
production of the Author of Waverley; but this intention was
afterwards departed from, for reasons to be hereafter mentioned.
The period of the narrative adopted was the reign of Richard I.,
not only as abounding with characters whose very names were sure
to attract general attention, but as affording a striking
contrast betwixt the Saxons, by whom the soil was cultivated, and
the Normans, who still reigned in it as conquerors, reluctant to
mix with the vanquished, or acknowledge themselves of the same
stock. The idea of this contrast was taken from the ingenious
and unfortunate Logan's tragedy of Runnamede, in which, about the
same period of history, the author had seen the Saxon and Norman
barons opposed to each other on different sides of the stage. He
does not recollect that there was any attempt to contrast the two
races in their habits and sentiments; and indeed it was obvious,
that history was violated by introducing the Saxons still
existing as a high-minded and martial race of nobles.
They did, however, survive as a people, and some of the ancient
Saxon families possessed wealth and power, although they were
exceptions to the humble condition of the race in general. It
seemed to the author, that the existence of the two races in the
same country, the vanquished distinguished by their plain,
homely, blunt manners, and the free spirit infused by their
ancient institutions and laws; the victors, by the high spirit of
military fame, personal adventure, and whatever could distinguish
them as the Flower of Chivalry, might, intermixed with other
characters belonging to the same time and country, interest the
reader by the contrast, if the author should not fail on his
Scotland, however, had been of late used so exclusively as the
scene of what is called Historical Romance, that the preliminary
letter of Mr Laurence Templeton became in some measure necessary.
To this, as to an Introduction, the reader is referred, as
expressing author's purpose and opinions in undertaking this
species of composition, under the necessary reservation, that he
is far from thinking he has attained the point at which he aimed.
It is scarcely necessary to add, that there was no idea or wish
to pass off the supposed Mr Templeton as a real person. But a
kind of continuation of the Tales of my Landlord had been
recently attempted by a stranger, and it was supposed this
Dedicatory Epistle might pass for some imitation of the same
kind, and thus putting enquirers upon a false scent, induce them
to believe they had before them the work of some new candidate
for their favour.
After a considerable part of the work had been finished and
printed, the Publishers, who pretended to discern in it a germ of
popularity, remonstrated strenuously against its appearing as an
absolutely anonymous production, and contended that it should
have the advantage of being announced as by the Author of
Waverley. The author did not make any obstinate opposition, for
he began to be of opinion with Dr Wheeler, in Miss Edgeworth's
excellent tale of "Maneuvering," that "Trick upon Trick" might be
too much for the patience of an indulgent public, and might be
reasonably considered as trifling with their favour.
The book, therefore, appeared as an avowed continuation of the
Waverley Novels; and it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge,
that it met with the same favourable reception as its
Such annotations as may be useful to assist the reader in
comprehending the characters of the Jew, the Templar, the Captain
of the mercenaries, or Free Companions, as they were called, and
others proper to the period, are added, but with a sparing hand,
since sufficient information on these subjects is to be found in
general history.
An incident in the tale, which had the good fortune to find
favour in the eyes of many readers, is more directly borrowed
from the stores of old romance. I mean the meeting of the King
with Friar Tuck at the cell of that buxom hermit. The general
tone of the story belongs to all ranks and all countries, which
emulate each other in describing the rambles of a disguised
sovereign, who, going in search of information or amusement, into
the lower ranks of life, meets with adventures diverting to the
reader or hearer, from the contrast betwixt the monarch's outward
appearance, and his real character. The Eastern tale-teller has
for his theme the disguised expeditions of Haroun Alraschid with
his faithful attendants, Mesrour and Giafar, through the midnight
streets of Bagdad; and Scottish tradition dwells upon the similar
exploits of James V., distinguished during such excursions by the
travelling name of the Goodman of Ballengeigh, as the Commander
of the Faithful, when he desired to be incognito, was known by
that of Il Bondocani. The French minstrels are not silent on so
popular a theme. There must have been a Norman original of the
Scottish metrical romance of Rauf Colziar, in which Charlemagne
is introduced as the unknown guest of a charcoal-man.*
* This very curious poem, long a desideratum in Scottish
* literature, and given up as irrecoverably lost, was
* lately brought to light by the researches of Dr Irvine of
* the Advocates' Library, and has been reprinted by Mr David
* Laing, Edinburgh.
It seems to have been the original of other poems of the kind.
In merry England there is no end of popular ballads on this
theme. The poem of John the Reeve, or Steward, mentioned by
Bishop Percy, in the Reliques of English Poetry,* is said to
* Vol. ii. p. 167.
have turned on such an incident; and we have besides, the King
and the Tanner of Tamworth, the King and the Miller of Mansfield,
and others on the same topic. But the peculiar tale of this
nature to which the author of Ivanhoe has to acknowledge an
obligation, is more ancient by two centuries than any of these
last mentioned.
It was first communicated to the public in that curious record of
ancient literature, which has been accumulated by the combined
exertions of Sir Egerton Brydges. and Mr Hazlewood, in the
periodical work entitled the British Bibliographer. From thence
it has been transferred by the Reverend Charles Henry Hartsborne,
M.A., editor of a very curious volume, entitled "Ancient Metrical
Tales, printed chiefly from original sources, 1829." Mr
Hartshorne gives no other authority for the present fragment,
except the article in the Bibliographer, where it is entitled the
Kyng and the Hermite. A short abstract of its contents will show
its similarity to the meeting of King Richard and Friar Tuck.
King Edward (we are not told which among the monarchs of that
name, but, from his temper and habits, we may suppose Edward IV.)
sets forth with his court to a gallant hunting-match in Sherwood
Forest, in which, as is not unusual for princes in romance, he
falls in with a deer of extraordinary size and swiftness, and
pursues it closely, till he has outstripped his whole retinue,
tired out hounds and horse, and finds himself alone under the
gloom of an extensive forest, upon which night is descending.
Under the apprehensions natural to a situation so uncomfortable,
the king recollects that he has heard how poor men, when
apprehensive of a bad nights lodging, pray to Saint Julian, who,
in the Romish calendar, stands Quarter-Master-General to all
forlorn travellers that render him due homage. Edward puts up
his orisons accordingly, and by the guidance, doubtless, of the
good Saint, reaches a small path, conducting him to a chapel in
the forest, having a hermit's cell in its close vicinity. The
King hears the reverend man, with a companion of his solitude,
telling his beads within, and meekly requests of him quarters
for the night. "I have no accommodation for such a lord as ye
be," said the Hermit. "I live here in the wilderness upon roots
and rinds, and may not receive into my dwelling even the poorest
wretch that lives, unless it were to save his life." The King
enquires the way to the next town, and, understanding it is by a
road which he cannot find without difficulty, even if he had
daylight to befriend him, he declares, that with or without the
Hermit's consent, he is determined to be his guest that night.
He is admitted accordingly, not without a hint from the Recluse,
that were he himself out of his priestly weeds, he would care
little for his threats of using violence, and that he gives way
to him not out of intimidation, but simply to avoid scandal.
The King is admitted into the cell --- two bundles of straw are
shaken down for his accommodation, and he comforts himself that
he is now under shelter, and that
"A night will soon be gone."
Other wants, however, arise. The guest becomes clamorous for
supper, observing,
"For certainly, as I you say,
I ne had never so sorry a day,
That I ne had a merry night."
But this indication of his taste for good cheer, joined to the
annunciation of his being a follower of the Court, who had lost
himself at the great hunting-match, cannot induce the niggard
Hermit to produce better fare than bread and cheese, for which
his guest showed little appetite; and "thin drink," which was
even less acceptable. At length the King presses his host on a
point to which he had more than once alluded, without obtaining a
satisfactory reply:
"Then said the King, 'by God's grace,
Thou wert in a merry place,
To shoot should thou here
When the foresters go to rest,
Sometyme thou might have of the best,
All of the wild deer;
I wold hold it for no scathe,
Though thou hadst bow and arrows baith,
Althoff thou best a Frere.'"
The Hermit, in return, expresses his apprehension that his guest
means to drag him into some confession of offence against the
forest laws, which, being betrayed to the King, might cost him
his life. Edward answers by fresh assurances of secrecy, and
again urges on him the necessity of procuring some venison. The
Hermit replies, by once more insisting on the duties incumbent
upon him as a churchman, and continues to affirm himself free
from all such breaches of order:
"Many day I have here been,
And flesh-meat I eat never,
But milk of the kye;
Warm thee well, and go to sleep,
And I will lap thee with my cope,
Softly to lye."
It would seem that the manuscript is here imperfect, for we do
not find the reasons which finally induce the curtal Friar to
amend the King's cheer. But acknowledging his guest to be such a
"good fellow" as has seldom graced his board, the holy man at
length produces the best his cell affords. Two candles are
placed on a table, white bread and baked pasties are displayed by
the light, besides choice of venison, both salt and fresh, from
which they select collops. "I might have eaten my bread dry,"
said the King, "had I not pressed thee on the score of archery,
but now have I dined like a prince---if we had but drink enow."
This too is afforded by the hospitable anchorite, who dispatches
an assistant to fetch a pot of four gallons from a secret corner
near his bed, and the whole three set in to serious drinking.
This amusement is superintended by the Friar, according to the
recurrence of certain fustian words, to be repeated by every
compotator in turn before he drank---a species of High Jinks, as
it were, by which they regulated their potations, as toasts were
given in latter times. The one toper says "fusty bandias", to
which the other is obliged to reply, "strike pantnere", and the
Friar passes many jests on the King's want of memory, who
sometimes forgets the words of action. The night is spent in
this jolly pastime. Before his departure in the morning, the
King invites his reverend host to Court, promises, at least, to
requite his hospitality, and expresses himself much pleased with
his entertainment. The jolly Hermit at length agrees to venture
thither, and to enquire for Jack Fletcher, which is the name
assumed by the King. After the Hermit has shown Edward some
feats of archery, the joyous pair separate. The King rides home,
and rejoins his retinue. As the romance is imperfect, we are not
acquainted how the discovery takes place; but it is probably much
in the same manner as in other narratives turning on the same
subject, where the host, apprehensive of death for having
trespassed on the respect due to his Sovereign, while incognito,
is agreeably surprised by receiving honours and reward.
In Mr Hartshorne's collection, there is a romance on the same
foundation, called King Edward and the Shepherd,*
* Like the Hermit, the Shepherd makes havock amongst the
* King's game; but by means of a sling, not of a bow; like
* the Hermit, too, he has his peculiar phrases of
* compotation, the sign and countersign being Passelodion
* and Berafriend. One can scarce conceive what humour our
* ancestors found in this species of gibberish; but
* "I warrant it proved an excuse for the glass."
which, considered as illustrating manners, is still more curious
than the King and the Hermit; but it is foreign to the present
purpose. The reader has here the original legend from which the
incident in the romance is derived; and the identifying the
irregular Eremite with the Friar Tuck of Robin Hood's story, was
an obvious expedient.
The name of Ivanhoe was suggested by an old rhyme. All novelists
have had occasion at some time or other to wish with Falstaff,
that they knew where a commodity of good names was to be had. On
such an occasion the author chanced to call to memory a rhyme
recording three names of the manors forfeited by the ancestor of
the celebrated Hampden, for striking the Black Prince a blow with
his racket, when they quarrelled at tennis:
"Tring, Wing, and Ivanhoe,
For striking of a blow,
Hampden did forego,
And glad he could escape so."
The word suited the author's purpose in two material respects,
---for, first, it had an ancient English sound; and secondly, it
conveyed no indication whatever of the nature of the story. He
presumes to hold this last quality to be of no small importance.
What is called a taking title, serves the direct interest of the
bookseller or publisher, who by this means sometimes sells an
edition while it is yet passing the press. But if the author
permits an over degree of attention to be drawn to his work ere
it has appeared, he places himself in the embarrassing condition
of having excited a degree of expectation which, if he proves
unable to satisfy, is an error fatal to his literary reputation.
Besides, when we meet such a title as the Gunpowder Plot, or any
other connected with general history, each reader, before he has
seen the book, has formed to himself some particular idea of the
sort of manner in which the story is to be conducted, and the
nature of the amusement which he is to derive from it. In this
he is probably disappointed, and in that case may be naturally
disposed to visit upon the author or the work, the unpleasant
feelings thus excited. In such a case the literary adventurer
is censured, not for having missed the mark at which he himself
aimed, but for not having shot off his shaft in a direction he
never thought of.
On the footing of unreserved communication which the Author has
established with the reader, he may here add the trifling
circumstance, that a roll of Norman warriors, occurring in the
Auchinleck Manuscript, gave him the formidable name of
Ivanhoe was highly successful upon its appearance, and may be
said to have procured for its author the freedom of the Rules,
since he has ever since been permitted to exercise his powers of
fictitious composition in England, as well as Scotland.
The character of the fair Jewess found so much favour in the eyes
of some fair readers, that the writer was censured, because, when
arranging the fates of the characters of the drama, he had not
assigned the hand of Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less
interesting Rowena. But, not to mention that the prejudices of
the age rendered such an union almost impossible, the author may,
in passing, observe, that he thinks a character of a highly
virtuous and lofty stamp, is degraded rather than exalted by an
attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity. Such is not
the recompense which Providence has deemed worthy of suffering
merit, and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach young
persons, the most common readers of romance, that rectitude of
conduct and of principle are either naturally allied with, or
adequately rewarded by, the gratification of our passions, or
attainment of our wishes. In a word, if a virtuous and
self-denied character is dismissed with temporal wealth,
greatness, rank, or the indulgence of such a rashly formed or ill
assorted passion as that of Rebecca for Ivanhoe, the reader will
be apt to say, verily Virtue has had its reward. But a glance on
the great picture of life will show, that the duties of
self-denial, and the sacrifice of passion to principle, are
seldom thus remunerated; and that the internal consciousness of
their high-minded discharge of duty, produces on their own
reflections a more adequate recompense, in the form of that peace
which the world cannot give or take away.
1st September, 1830.
Residing in the Castle-Gate, York.
Much esteemed and dear Sir,
It is scarcely necessary to mention the various and concurring
reasons which induce me to place your name at the head of the
following work. Yet the chief of these reasons may perhaps be
refuted by the imperfections of the performance. Could I have
hoped to render it worthy of your patronage, the public would at
once have seen the propriety of inscribing a work designed to
illustrate the domestic antiquities of England, and particularly
of our Saxon forefathers, to the learned author of the Essays
upon the Horn of King Ulphus, and on the Lands bestowed by him
upon the patrimony of St Peter. I am conscious, however, that
the slight, unsatisfactory, and trivial manner, in which the
result of my antiquarian researches has been recorded in the
following pages, takes the work from under that class which bears
the proud motto, "Detur digniori". On the contrary, I fear I
shall incur the censure of presumption in placing the venerable
name of Dr Jonas Dryasdust at the head of a publication, which
the more grave antiquary will perhaps class with the idle novels
and romances of the day. I am anxious to vindicate myself from
such a charge; for although I might trust to your friendship for
an apology in your eyes, yet I would not willingly stand
conviction in those of the public of so grave a crime, as my
fears lead me to anticipate my being charged with.
I must therefore remind you, that when we first talked over
together that class of productions, in one of which the private
and family affairs of your learned northern friend, Mr Oldbuck of
Monkbarns, were so unjustifiably exposed to the public, some
discussion occurred between us concerning the cause of the
popularity these works have attained in this idle age, which,
whatever other merit they possess, must be admitted to be hastily
written, and in violation of every rule assigned to the epopeia.
It seemed then to be your opinion, that the charm lay entirely in
the art with which the unknown author had availed himself, like a
second M'Pherson, of the antiquarian stores which lay scattered
around him, supplying his own indolence or poverty of invention,
by the incidents which had actually taken place in his country at
no distant period, by introducing real characters, and scarcely
suppressing real names. It was not above sixty or seventy years,
you observed, since the whole north of Scotland was under a state
of government nearly as simple and as patriarchal as those of our
good allies the Mohawks and Iroquois. Admitting that the author
cannot himself be supposed to have witnessed those times, he must
have lived, you observed, among persons who had acted and
suffered in them; and even within these thirty years, such an
infinite change has taken place in the manners of Scotland, that
men look back upon the habits of society proper to their
immediate ancestors, as we do on those of the reign of Queen
Anne, or even the period of the Revolution. Having thus
materials of every kind lying strewed around him, there was
little, you observed, to embarrass the author, but the difficulty
of choice. It was no wonder, therefore, that, having begun to
work a mine so plentiful, he should have derived from his works
fully more credit and profit than the facility of his labours
Admitting (as I could not deny) the general truth of these
conclusions, I cannot but think it strange that no attempt has
been made to excite an interest for the traditions and manners of
Old England, similiar to that which has been obtained in behalf
of those of our poorer and less celebrated neighbours. The
Kendal green, though its date is more ancient, ought surely to be
as dear to our feelings, as the variegated tartans of the north.
The name of Robin Hood, if duly conjured with, should raise a
spirit as soon as that of Rob Roy; and the patriots of England
deserve no less their renown in our modern circles, than the
Bruces and Wallaces of Caledonia. If the scenery of the south be
less romantic and sublime than that of the northern mountains, it
must be allowed to possess in the same proportion superior
softness and beauty; and upon the whole, we feel ourselves
entitled to exclaim with the patriotic Syrian---"Are not Pharphar
and Abana, rivers of Damascus, better than all the rivers of
Your objections to such an attempt, my dear Doctor, were, you may
remember, two-fold. You insisted upon the advantages which the
Scotsman possessed, from the very recent existence of that state
of society in which his scene was to be laid. Many now alive,
you remarked, well remembered persons who had not only seen the
celebrated Roy M'Gregor, but had feasted, and even fought with
him. All those minute circumstances belonging to private life
and domestic character, all that gives verisimilitude to a
narrative, and individuality to the persons introduced, is still
known and remembered in Scotland; whereas in England,
civilisation has been so long complete, that our ideas of our
ancestors are only to be gleaned from musty records and
chronicles, the authors of which seem perversely to have
conspired to suppress in their narratives all interesting
details, in order to find room for flowers of monkish eloquence,
or trite reflections upon morals. To match an English and a
Scottish author in the rival task of embodying and reviving the
traditions of their respective countries, would be, you alleged,
in the highest degree unequal and unjust. The Scottish magician,
you said, was, like Lucan's witch, at liberty to walk over the
recent field of battle, and to select for the subject of
resuscitation by his sorceries, a body whose limbs had recently
quivered with existence, and whose throat had but just uttered
the last note of agony. Such a subject even the powerful Erictho
was compelled to select, as alone capable of being reanimated
even by "her" potent magic---
------gelidas leto scrutata medullas,
Pulmonis rigidi stantes sine vulnere fibras
Invenit, et vocem defuncto in corpore quaerit.
The English author, on the other hand, without supposing him less
of a conjuror than the Northern Warlock, can, you observed, only
have the liberty of selecting his subject amidst the dust of
antiquity, where nothing was to be found but dry, sapless,
mouldering, and disjointed bones, such as those which filled the
valley of Jehoshaphat. You expressed, besides, your
apprehension, that the unpatriotic prejudices of my countrymen
would not allow fair play to such a work as that of which I
endeavoured to demonstrate the probable success. And this, you
said, was not entirely owing to the more general prejudice in
favour of that which is foreign, but that it rested partly upon
improbabilities, arising out of the circumstances in which the
English reader is placed. If you describe to him a set of wild
manners, and a state of primitive society existing in the
Highlands of Scotland, he is much disposed to acquiesce in the
truth of what is asserted. And reason good. If he be of the
ordinary class of readers, he has either never seen those remote
districts at all, or he has wandered through those desolate
regions in the course of a summer tour, eating bad dinners,
sleeping on truckle beds, stalking from desolation to desolation,
and fully prepared to believe the strangest things that could be
told him of a people, wild and extravagant enough to be attached
to scenery so extraordinary. But the same worthy person, when
placed in his own snug parlour, and surrounded by all the
comforts of an Englishman's fireside, is not half so much
disposed to believe that his own ancestors led a very different
life from himself; that the shattered tower, which now forms a
vista from his window, once held a baron who would have hung him
up at his own door without any form of trial; that the hinds, by
whom his little pet-farm is managed, a few centuries ago would
have been his slaves; and that the complete influence of feudal
tyranny once extended over the neighbouring village, where the
attorney is now a man of more importance than the lord of the
While I own the force of these objections, I must confess, at the
same time, that they do not appear to me to be altogether
insurmountable. The scantiness of materials is indeed a
formidable difficulty; but no one knows better than Dr Dryasdust,
that to those deeply read in antiquity, hints concerning the
private life of our ancestors lie scattered through the pages of
our various historians, bearing, indeed, a slender proportion to
the other matters of which they treat, but still, when collected
together, sufficient to throw considerable light upon the "vie
prive" of our forefathers; indeed, I am convinced, that however I
myself may fail in the ensuing attempt, yet, with more labour in
collecting, or more skill in using, the materials within his
reach, illustrated as they have been by the labours of Dr Henry,
of the late Mr Strutt, and, above all, of Mr Sharon Turner, an
abler hand would have been successful; and therefore I protest,
beforehand, against any argument which may be founded on the
failure of the present experiment.
On the other hand, I have already said, that if any thing like a
true picture of old English manners could be drawn, I would trust
to the good-nature and good sense of my countrymen for insuring
its favourable reception.
Having thus replied, to the best of my power, to the first class
of your objections, or at least having shown my resolution to
overleap the barriers which your prudence has raised, I will be
brief in noticing that which is more peculiar to myself. It
seems to be your opinion, that the very office of an antiquary,
employed in grave, and, as the vulgar will sometimes allege, in
toilsome and minute research, must be considered as
incapacitating him from successfully compounding a tale of this
sort. But permit me to say, my dear Doctor, that this objection
is rather formal than substantial. It is true, that such slight
compositions might not suit the severer genius of our friend Mr
Oldbuck. Yet Horace Walpole wrote a goblin tale which has
thrilled through many a bosom; and George Ellis could transfer
all the playful fascination of a humour, as delightful as it was
uncommon, into his Abridgement of the Ancient Metrical Romances.
So that, however I may have occasion to rue my present audacity,
I have at least the most respectable precedents in my favour.
Still the severer antiquary may think, that, by thus
intermingling fiction with truth, I am polluting the well of
history with modern inventions, and impressing upon the rising
generation false ideas of the age which I describe. I cannot but
in some sense admit the force of this reasoning, which I yet hope
to traverse by the following considerations.
It is true, that I neither can, nor do pretend, to the
observation of complete accuracy, even in matters of outward
costume, much less in the more important points of language and
manners. But the same motive which prevents my writing the
dialogue of the piece in Anglo-Saxon or in Norman-French, and
which prohibits my sending forth to the public this essay printed
with the types of Caxton or Wynken de Worde, prevents my
attempting to confine myself within the limits of the period in
which my story is laid. It is necessary, for exciting interest
of any kind, that the subject assumed should be, as it were,
translated into the manners, as well as the language, of the age
we live in. No fascination has ever been attached to Oriental
literature, equal to that produced by Mr Galland's first
translation of the Arabian Tales; in which, retaining on the one
hand the splendour of Eastern costume, and on the other the
wildness of Eastern fiction, he mixed these with just so much
ordinary feeling and expression, as rendered them interesting and
intelligible, while he abridged the long-winded narratives,
curtailed the monotonous reflections, and rejected the endless
repetitions of the Arabian original. The tales, therefore,
though less purely Oriental than in their first concoction, were
eminently better fitted for the European market, and obtained an
unrivalled degree of public favour, which they certainly would
never have gained had not the manners and style been in some
degree familiarized to the feelings and habits of the western
In point of justice, therefore, to the multitudes who will, I
trust, devour this book with avidity, I have so far explained our
ancient manners in modern language, and so far detailed the
characters and sentiments of my persons, that the modern reader
will not find himself, I should hope, much trammelled by the
repulsive dryness of mere antiquity. In this, I respectfully
contend, I have in no respect exceeded the fair license due to
the author of a fictitious composition. The late ingenious Mr
Strutt, in his romance of Queen-Hoo-Hall,*
* The author had revised this posthumous work of Mr Strutt.
* See General Preface to the present edition, Vol I. p. 65.
acted upon another principle; and in distinguishing between what
was ancient and modern, forgot, as it appears to me, that
extensive neutral ground, the large proportion, that is, of
manners and sentiments which are common to us and to our
ancestors, having been handed down unaltered from them to us, or
which, arising out of the principles of our common nature, must
have existed alike in either state of society. In this manner, a
man of talent, and of great antiquarian erudition, limited the
popularity of his work, by excluding from it every thing which
was not sufficiently obsolete to be altogether forgotten and
The license which I would here vindicate, is so necessary to the
execution of my plan, that I will crave your patience while I
illustrate my argument a little farther.
He who first opens Chaucer, or any other ancient poet, is so much
struck with the obsolete spelling, multiplied consonants, and
antiquated appearance of the language, that he is apt to lay the
work down in despair, as encrusted too deep with the rust of
antiquity, to permit his judging of its merits or tasting its
beauties. But if some intelligent and accomplished friend points
out to him, that the difficulties by which he is startled are
more in appearance than reality, if, by reading aloud to him, or
by reducing the ordinary words to the modern orthography, he
satisfies his proselyte that only about one-tenth part of the
words employed are in fact obsolete, the novice may be easily
persuaded to approach the "well of English undefiled," with the
certainty that a slender degree of patience will enable him to
to enjoy both the humour and the pathos with which old Geoffrey
delighted the age of Cressy and of Poictiers.
To pursue this a little farther. If our neophyte, strong in the
new-born love of antiquity, were to undertake to imitate what he
had learnt to admire, it must be allowed he would act very
injudiciously, if he were to select from the Glossary the
obsolete words which it contains, and employ those exclusively of
all phrases and vocables retained in modern days. This was the
error of the unfortunate Chatterton. In order to give his
language the appearance of antiquity, he rejected every word that
was modern, and produced a dialect entirely different from any
that had ever been spoken in Great Britain. He who would imitate
an ancient language with success, must attend rather to its
grammatical character, turn of expression, and mode of
arrangement, than labour to collect extraordinary and antiquated
terms, which, as I have already averred, do not in ancient
authors approach the number of words still in use, though perhaps
somewhat altered in sense and spelling, in the proportion of one
to ten.
What I have applied to language, is still more justly applicable
to sentiments and manners. The passions, the sources from which
these must spring in all their modifications, are generally the
same in all ranks and conditions, all countries and ages; and it
follows, as a matter of course, that the opinions, habits of
thinking, and actions, however influenced by the peculiar state
of society, must still, upon the whole, bear a strong resemblance
to each other. Our ancestors were not more distinct from us,
surely, than Jews are from Christians; they had "eyes, hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions;" were "fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same
diseases, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer," as
ourselves. The tenor, therefore, of their affections and
feelings, must have borne the same general proportion to our own.
It follows, therefore, that of the materials which an author has
to use in a romance, or fictitious composition, such as I have
ventured to attempt, he will find that a great proportion, both
of language and manners, is as proper to the present time as to
those in which he has laid his time of action. The freedom of
choice which this allows him, is therefore much greater, and the
difficulty of his task much more diminished, than at first
appears. To take an illustration from a sister art, the
antiquarian details may be said to represent the peculiar
features of a landscape under delineation of the pencil. His
feudal tower must arise in due majesty; the figures which he
introduces must have the costume and character of their age; the
piece must represent the peculiar features of the scene which he
has chosen for his subject, with all its appropriate elevation of
rock, or precipitate descent of cataract. His general colouring,
too, must be copied from Nature: The sky must be clouded or
serene, according to the climate, and the general tints must be
those which prevail in a natural landscape. So far the painter
is bound down by the rules of his art, to a precise imitation of
the features of Nature; but it is not required that he should
descend to copy all her more minute features, or represent with
absolute exactness the very herbs, flowers, and trees, with which
the spot is decorated. These, as well as all the more minute
points of light and shadow, are attributes proper to scenery in
general, natural to each situation, and subject to the artist's
disposal, as his taste or pleasure may dictate.
It is true, that this license is confined in either case within
legitimate bounds. The painter must introduce no ornament
inconsistent with the climate or country of his landscape; he
must not plant cypress trees upon Inch-Merrin, or Scottish firs
among the ruins of Persepolis; and the author lies under a
corresponding restraint. However far he may venture in a more
full detail of passions and feelings, than is to be found in the
ancient compositions which he imitates, he must introduce nothing
inconsistent with the manners of the age; his knights, squires,
grooms, and yeomen, may be more fully drawn than in the hard, dry
delineations of an ancient illuminated manuscript, but the
character and costume of the age must remain inviolate; they must
be the same figures, drawn by a better pencil, or, to speak more
modestly, executed in an age when the principles of art were
better understood. His language must not be exclusively obsolete
and unintelligible; but he should admit, if possible, no word or
turn of phraseology betraying an origin directly modern. It is
one thing to make use of the language and sentiments which are
common to ourselves and our forefathers, and it is another to
invest them with the sentiments and dialect exclusively proper
to their descendants.
This, my dear friend, I have found the most difficult part of my
task; and, to speak frankly, I hardly expect to satisfy your less
partial judgment, and more extensive knowledge of such subjects,
since I have hardly been able to please my own.
I am conscious that I shall be found still more faulty in the
tone of keeping and costume, by those who may be disposed rigidly
to examine my Tale, with reference to the manners of the exact
period in which my actors flourished: It may be, that I have
introduced little which can positively be termed modern; but, on
the other hand, it is extremely probable that I may have confused
the manners of two or three centuries, and introduced, during the
reign of Richard the First, circumstances appropriated to a
period either considerably earlier, or a good deal later than
that era. It is my comfort, that errors of this kind will escape
the general class of readers, and that I may share in the
ill-deserved applause of those architects, who, in their modern
Gothic, do not hesitate to introduce, without rule or method,
ornaments proper to different styles and to different periods of
the art. Those whose extensive researches have given them the
means of judging my backslidings with more severity, will
probably be lenient in proportion to their knowledge of the
difficulty of my task. My honest and neglected friend,
Ingulphus, has furnished me with many a valuable hint; but the
light afforded by the Monk of Croydon, and Geoffrey de Vinsauff,
is dimmed by such a conglomeration of uninteresting and
unintelligible matter, that we gladly fly for relief to the
delightful pages of the gallant Froissart, although he flourished
at a period so much more remote from the date of my history. If,
therefore, my dear friend, you have generosity enough to pardon
the presumptuous attempt, to frame for myself a minstrel coronet,
partly out of the pearls of pure antiquity, and partly from the
Bristol stones and paste, with which I have endeavoured to
imitate them, I am convinced your opinion of the difficulty of
the task will reconcile you to the imperfect manner of its
Of my materials I have but little to say. They may be chiefly
found in the singular Anglo-Norman MS., which Sir Arthur Wardour
preserves with such jealous care in the third drawer of his oaken
cabinet, scarcely allowing any one to touch it, and being himself
not able to read one syllable of its contents. I should never
have got his consent, on my visit to Scotland, to read in those
precious pages for so many hours, had I not promised to designate
it by some emphatic mode of printing, as {The Wardour
Manuscript}; giving it, thereby, an individuality as important as
the Bannatyne MS., the Auchinleck MS., and any other monument of
the patience of a Gothic scrivener. I have sent, for your
private consideration, a list of the contents of this curious
piece, which I shall perhaps subjoin, with your approbation, to
the third volume of my Tale, in case the printer's devil should
continue impatient for copy, when the whole of my narrative has
been imposed.
Adieu, my dear friend; I have said enough to explain, if not to
vindicate, the attempt which I have made, and which, in spite of
your doubts, and my own incapacity, I am still willing to believe
has not been altogether made in vain.
I hope you are now well recovered from your spring fit of the
gout, and shall be happy if the advice of your learned
physician should recommend a tour to these parts. Several
curiosities have been lately dug up near the wall, as well as at
the ancient station of Habitancum. Talking of the latter, I
suppose you have long since heard the news, that a sulky churlish
boor has destroyed the ancient statue, or rather bas-relief,
popularly called Robin of Redesdale. It seems Robin's fame
attracted more visitants than was consistent with the growth of
the heather, upon a moor worth a shilling an acre. Reverend as
you write yourself, be revengeful for once, and pray with me that
he may be visited with such a fit of the stone, as if he had all
the fragments of poor Robin in that region of his viscera where
the disease holds its seat. Tell this not in Gath, lest the
Scots rejoice that they have at length found a parallel instance
among their neighbours, to that barbarous deed which demolished
Arthur's Oven. But there is no end to lamentation, when we
betake ourselves to such subjects. My respectful compliments
attend Miss Dryasdust; I endeavoured to match the spectacles
agreeable to her commission, during my late journey to London,
and hope she has received them safe, and found them satisfactory.
I send this by the blind carrier, so that probably it may be some
time upon its journey.*
* This anticipation proved but too true, as my learned
* correspondent did not receive my letter until a
* twelvemonth after it was written. I mention this
* circumstance, that a gentleman attached to the cause of
* learning, who now holds the principal control of the
* post-office, may consider whether by some mitigation of
* the present enormous rates, some favour might not be shown
* to the correspondents of the principal Literary and
* Antiquarian Societies. I understand, indeed, that this
* experiment was once tried, but that the mail-coach having
* broke down under the weight of packages addressed to
* members of the Society of Antiquaries, it was relinquished
* as a hazardous experiment. Surely, however it would be
* possible to build these vehicles in a form more
* substantial, stronger in the perch, and broader in the
* wheels, so as to support the weight of Antiquarian
* learning; when, if they should be found to travel more
* slowly, they would be not the less agreeable to quiet
* travellers like myself.---L. T.
The last news which I hear from Edinburgh is, that the gentleman
who fills the situation of Secretary to the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland,*
* Mr Skene of Rubislaw is here intimated, to whose taste and
* skill the author is indebted for a series of etchings,
* exhibiting the various localities alluded to in these
* novels.
is the best amateur draftsman in that kingdom, and that much is
expected from his skill and zeal in delineating those specimens
of national antiquity, which are either mouldering under the slow
touch of time, or swept away by modern taste, with the same besom
of destruction which John Knox used at the Reformation. Once
more adieu; "vale tandem, non immemor mei". Believe me to be,
Reverend, and very dear Sir,
Your most faithful humble Servant.
Laurence Templeton.
Toppingwold, near Egremont,
Cumberland, Nov. 17, 1817.
Thus communed these; while to their lowly dome,
The full-fed swine return'd with evening home;
Compell'd, reluctant, to the several sties,
With din obstreperous, and ungrateful cries.
Pope's Odyssey
In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by
the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest,
covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys
which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.
The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the
noble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and around
Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley;
here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the
Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient
times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been
rendered so popular in English song.
Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a
period towards the end of the reign of Richard I., when his
return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished
than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the
meantime subjected to every species of subordinate oppression.
The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant during the reign of
Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second had scarce
reduced to some degree of subjection to the crown, had now
resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the
feeble interference of the English Council of State, fortifying
their castles, increasing the number of their dependants, reducing
all around them to a state of vassalage, and striving by every
means in their power, to place themselves each at the head of such
forces as might enable him to make a figure in the national
convulsions which appeared to be impending.
The situation of the inferior gentry, or Franklins, as they were
called, who, by the law and spirit of the English constitution,
were entitled to hold themselves independent of feudal tyranny,
became now unusually precarious. If, as was most generally the
case, they placed themselves under the protection of any of the
petty kings in their vicinity, accepted of feudal offices in
his household, or bound themselves by mutual treaties of alliance
and protection, to support him in his enterprises, they might
indeed purchase temporary repose; but it must be with the
sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every English
bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in
whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might
lead him to undertake. On the other hand, such and so multiplied
were the means of vexation and oppression possessed by the great
Barons, that they never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will,
to harass and pursue, even to the very edge of destruction, any
of their less powerful neighbours, who attempted to separate
themselves from their authority, and to trust for their
protection, during the dangers of the times, to their own
inoffensive conduct, and to the laws of the land.
A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the
nobility, and the sufferings of the inferior classes, arose from
the consequences of the Conquest by Duke William of Normandy.
Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of
the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and
mutual interests, two hostile races, one of which still felt the
elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the
consequences of defeat. The power had been completely placed in
the hands of the Norman nobility, by the event of the battle of
Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure us, with
no moderate hand. The whole race of Saxon princes and nobles had
been extirpated or disinherited, with few or no exceptions; nor
were the numbers great who possessed land in the country of their
fathers, even as proprietors of the second, or of yet inferior
classes. The royal policy had long been to weaken, by every
means, legal or illegal, the strength of a part of the population
which was justly considered as nourishing the most inveterate
antipathy to their victor. All the monarchs of the Norman race
had shown the most marked predilection for their Norman subjects;
the laws of the chase, and many others equally unknown to the
milder and more free spirit of the Saxon constitution, had been
fixed upon the necks of the subjugated inhabitants, to add
weight, as it were, to the feudal chains with which they were
loaded. At court, and in the castles of the great nobles, where
the pomp and state of a court was emulated, Norman-French was the
only language employed; in courts of law, the pleadings and
judgments were delivered in the same tongue. In short, French
was the language of honour, of chivalry, and even of justice,
while the far more manly and expressive Anglo-Saxon was abandoned
to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other. Still,
however, the necessary intercourse between the lords of the soil,
and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was
cultivated, occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect,
compounded betwixt the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they
could render themselves mutually intelligible to each other; and
from this necessity arose by degrees the structure of our present
English language, in which the speech of the victors and the
vanquished have been so happily blended together; and which has
since been so richly improved by importations from the classical
languages, and from those spoken by the southern nations of
This state of things I have thought it necessary to premise for
the information of the general reader, who might be apt to
forget, that, although no great historical events, such as war or
insurrection, mark the existence of the Anglo-Saxons as a
separate people subsequent to the reign of William the Second;
yet the great national distinctions betwixt them and their
conquerors, the recollection of what they had formerly been, and
to what they were now reduced, continued down to the reign of
Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had
inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the
descendants of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.
The sun was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of that
forest, which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter.
Hundreds of broad-headed, short-stemmed, wide-branched oaks,
which had witnessed perhaps the stately march of the Roman
soldiery, flung their gnarled arms over a thick carpet of the
most delicious green sward; in some places they were intermingled
with beeches, hollies, and copsewood of various descriptions, so
closely as totally to intercept the level beams of the sinking
sun; in others they receded from each other, forming those long
sweeping vistas, in the intricacy of which the eye delights to
lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet
wilder scenes of silvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun
shot a broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the
shattered boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they
illuminated in brilliant patches the portions of turf to which
they made their way. A considerable open space, in the midst of
this glade, seemed formerly to have been dedicated to the rites
of Druidical superstition; for, on the summit of a hillock, so
regular as to seem artificial, there still remained part of a
circle of rough unhewn stones, of large dimensions. Seven stood
upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places, probably
by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some
prostrate near their former site, and others on the side of the
hill. One large stone only had found its way to the bottom, and
in stopping the course of a small brook, which glided smoothly
round the foot of the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble
voice of murmur to the placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.
The human figures which completed this landscape, were in number
two, partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and
rustic character, which belonged to the woodlands of the
West-Riding of Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of
these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was
of the simplest form imaginable, being a close jacket with
sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the
hair had been originally left, but which had been worn of in so
many places, that it would have been difficult to distinguish
from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had
belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the
knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of
body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar, than was
necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be
inferred, that it was put on by slipping it over the head and
shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk.
Sandals, bound with thongs made of boars' hide, protected the
feet, and a roll of thin leather was twined artificially round
the legs, and, ascending above the calf, left the knees bare,
like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet
more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad
leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of which
was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn,
accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the
same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and
two-edged knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were
fabricated in the neighbourhood, and bore even at this early
period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering
upon his head, which was only defended by his own thick hair,
matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the
sun into a rusty dark-red colour, forming a contrast with the
overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or
amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too
remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a
dog's collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round
his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet
so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the
use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved, in Saxon
characters, an inscription of the following purport:---"Gurth,
the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood."
Beside the swine-herd, for such was Gurth's occupation, was
seated, upon one of the fallen Druidical monuments, a person
about ten years younger in appearance, and whose dress, though
resembling his companion's in form, was of better materials, and
of a more fantastic appearance. His jacket had been stained of a
bright purple hue, upon which there had been some attempt to
paint grotesque ornaments in different colours. To the jacket he
added a short cloak, which scarcely reached half way down his
thigh; it was of crimson cloth, though a good deal soiled, lined
with bright yellow; and as he could transfer it from one shoulder
to the other, or at his pleasure draw it all around him, its
width, contrasted with its want of longitude, formed a fantastic
piece of drapery. He had thin silver bracelets upon his arms,
and on his neck a collar of the same metal bearing the
inscription, "Wamba, the son of Witless, is the thrall of Cedric
of Rotherwood." This personage had the same sort of sandals with
his companion, but instead of the roll of leather thong, his legs
were cased in a sort of gaiters, of which one was red and the
other yellow. He was provided also with a cap, having around it
more than one bell, about the size of those attached to hawks,
which jingled as he turned his head to one side or other; and as
he seldom remained a minute in the same posture, the sound might
be considered as incessant. Around the edge of this cap was a
stiff bandeau of leather, cut at the top into open work,
resembling a coronet, while a prolonged bag arose from within it,
and fell down on one shoulder like an old-fashioned nightcap, or
a jelly-bag, or the head-gear of a modern hussar. It was to this
part of the cap that the bells were attached; which circumstance,
as well as the shape of his head-dress, and his own half-crazed,
half-cunning expression of countenance, sufficiently pointed him
out as belonging to the race of domestic clowns or jesters,
maintained in the houses of the wealthy, to help away the tedium
of those lingering hours which they were obliged to spend within
doors. He bore, like his companion, a scrip, attached to his
belt, but had neither horn nor knife, being probably considered
as belonging to a class whom it is esteemed dangerous to intrust
with edge-tools. In place of these, he was equipped with a sword
of lath, resembling that with which Harlequin operates his
wonders upon the modern stage.
The outward appearance of these two men formed scarce a stronger
contrast than their look and demeanour. That of the serf, or
bondsman, was sad and sullen; his aspect was bent on the ground
with an appearance of deep dejection, which might be almost
construed into apathy, had not the fire which occasionally
sparkled in his red eye manifested that there slumbered, under
the appearance of sullen despondency, a sense of oppression, and
a disposition to resistance. The looks of Wamba, on the other
hand, indicated, as usual with his class, a sort of vacant
curiosity, and fidgetty impatience of any posture of repose,
together with the utmost self-satisfaction respecting his own
situation, and the appearance which he made. The dialogue which
they maintained between them, was carried on in Anglo-Saxon,
which, as we said before, was universally spoken by the inferior
classes, excepting the Norman soldiers, and the immediate
personal dependants of the great feudal nobles. But to give
their conversation in the original would convey but little
information to the modern reader, for whose benefit we beg to
offer the following translation:
"The curse of St Withold upon these infernal porkers!" said the
swine-herd, after blowing his horn obstreperously, to collect
together the scattered herd of swine, which, answering his call
with notes equally melodious, made, however, no haste to remove
themselves from the luxurious banquet of beech-mast and acorns on
which they had fattened, or to forsake the marshy banks of the
rivulet, where several of them, half plunged in mud, lay
stretched at their ease, altogether regardless of the voice of
their keeper. "The curse of St Withold upon them and upon me!"
said Gurth; "if the two-legged wolf snap not up some of them ere
nightfall, I am no true man. Here, Fangs! Fangs!" he ejaculated
at the top of his voice to a ragged wolfish-looking dog, a sort
of lurcher, half mastiff, half greyhound, which ran limping about
as if with the purpose of seconding his master in collecting the
refractory grunters; but which, in fact, from misapprehension of
the swine-herd's signals, ignorance of his own duty, or malice
prepense, only drove them hither and thither, and increased the
evil which he seemed to design to remedy. "A devil draw the
teeth of him," said Gurth, "and the mother of mischief confound
the Ranger of the forest, that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs,
and makes them unfit for their trade!*
* Note A. The Ranger of the Forest, that cuts the
* fore-claws off our dogs.
Wamba, up and help me an thou beest a man; take a turn round the
back o' the hill to gain the wind on them; and when thous't got
the weather-gage, thou mayst drive them before thee as gently as
so many innocent lambs."
"Truly," said Wamba, without stirring from the spot, "I have
consulted my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of
opinion, that to carry my gay garments through these sloughs,
would be an act of unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal
wardrobe; wherefore, Gurth, I advise thee to call off Fangs, and
leave the herd to their destiny, which, whether they meet with
bands of travelling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering
pilgrims, can be little else than to be converted into Normans
before morning, to thy no small ease and comfort."
"The swine turned Normans to my comfort!" quoth Gurth; "expound
that to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull, and my mind too
vexed, to read riddles."
"Why, how call you those grunting brutes running about on their
four legs?" demanded Wamba.
"Swine, fool, swine," said the herd, "every fool knows that."
"And swine is good Saxon," said the Jester; "but how call you the
sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by
the heels, like a traitor?"
"Pork," answered the swine-herd.
"I am very glad every fool knows that too," said Wamba, "and
pork, I think, is good Norman-French; and so when the brute
lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her
Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is
carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles; what dost
thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?"
"It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into
thy fool's pate."
"Nay, I can tell you more," said Wamba, in the same tone; there
is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he
is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but
becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the
worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calf,
too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner; he is Saxon
when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he
becomes matter of enjoyment."
"By St Dunstan," answered Gurth, "thou speakest but sad truths;
little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to
have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose
of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders.
The finest and the fattest is for their board; the loveliest is
for their couch; the best and bravest supply their foreign
masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones,
leaving few here who have either will or the power to protect the
unfortunate Saxon. God's blessing on our master Cedric, he hath
done the work of a man in standing in the gap; but Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf is coming down to this country in person, and we
shall soon see how little Cedric's trouble will avail him.
---Here, here," he exclaimed again, raising his voice, "So ho! so
ho! well done, Fangs! thou hast them all before thee now, and
bring'st them on bravely, lad."
"Gurth," said the Jester, "I know thou thinkest me a fool, or
thou wouldst not be so rash in putting thy head into my mouth.
One word to Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, or Philip de Malvoisin, that
thou hast spoken treason against the Norman, ---and thou art but
a cast-away swineherd,---thou wouldst waver on one of these trees
as a terror to all evil speakers against dignities."
"Dog, thou wouldst not betray me," said Gurth, "after having led
me on to speak so much at disadvantage?"
"Betray thee!" answered the Jester; "no, that were the trick of a
wise man; a fool cannot half so well help himself---but soft,
whom have we here?" he said, listening to the trampling of
several horses which became then audible.
"Never mind whom," answered Gurth, who had now got his herd
before him, and, with the aid of Fangs, was driving them down one
of the long dim vistas which we have endeavoured to describe.
"Nay, but I must see the riders," answered Wamba; "perhaps they
are come from Fairy-land with a message from King Oberon."
"A murrain take thee," rejoined the swine-herd; "wilt thou talk
of such things, while a terrible storm of thunder and lightning
is raging within a few miles of us? Hark, how the thunder
rumbles! and for summer rain, I never saw such broad downright
flat drops fall out of the clouds; the oaks, too, notwithstanding
the calm weather, sob and creak with their great boughs as if
announcing a tempest. Thou canst play the rational if thou wilt;
credit me for once, and let us home ere the storm begins to rage,
for the night will be fearful."
Wamba seemed to feel the force of this appeal, and accompanied
his companion, who began his journey after catching up a long
quarter-staff which lay upon the grass beside him. This second
Eumaeus strode hastily down the forest glade, driving before him,
with the assistance of Fangs, the whole herd of his inharmonious
A Monk there was, a fayre for the maistrie,
An outrider that loved venerie;
A manly man, to be an Abbot able,
Full many a daintie horse had he in stable:
And whan he rode, men might his bridle hear
Gingeling in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapell bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
Notwithstanding the occasional exhortation and chiding of his
companion, the noise of the horsemen's feet continuing to
approach, Wamba could not be prevented from lingering
occasionally on the road, upon every pretence which occurred; now
catching from the hazel a cluster of half-ripe nuts, and now
turning his head to leer after a cottage maiden who crossed their
path. The horsemen, therefore, soon overtook them on the road.
Their numbers amounted to ten men, of whom the two who rode
foremost seemed to be persons of considerable importance, and the
others their attendants. It was not difficult to ascertain the
condition and character of one of these personages. He was
obviously an ecclesiastic of high rank; his dress was that of a
Cistercian Monk, but composed of materials much finer than those
which the rule of that order admitted. His mantle and hood were
of the best Flanders cloth, and fell in ample, and not ungraceful
folds, around a handsome, though somewhat corpulent person. His
countenance bore as little the marks of self-denial, as his habit
indicated contempt of worldly splendour. His features might have
been called good, had there not lurked under the pent-house of
his eye, that sly epicurean twinkle which indicates the cautious
voluptuary. In other respects, his profession and situation had
taught him a ready command over his countenance, which he could
contract at pleasure into solemnity, although its natural
expression was that of good-humoured social indulgence. In
defiance of conventual rules, and the edicts of popes and
councils, the sleeves of this dignitary were lined and turned up
with rich furs, his mantle secured at the throat with a golden
clasp, and the whole dress proper to his order as much refined
upon and ornamented, as that of a quaker beauty of the present
day, who, while she retains the garb and costume of her sect
continues to give to its simplicity, by the choice of materials
and the mode of disposing them, a certain air of coquettish
attraction, savouring but too much of the vanities of the world.
This worthy churchman rode upon a well-fed ambling mule, whose
furniture was highly decorated, and whose bridle, according to
the fashion of the day, was ornamented with silver bells. In his
seat he had nothing of the awkwardness of the convent, but
displayed the easy and habitual grace of a well-trained horseman.
Indeed, it seemed that so humble a conveyance as a mule, in
however good case, and however well broken to a pleasant and
accommodating amble, was only used by the gallant monk for
travelling on the road. A lay brother, one of those who followed
in the train, had, for his use on other occasions, one of the
most handsome Spanish jennets ever bred at Andalusia, which
merchants used at that time to import, with great trouble and
risk, for the use of persons of wealth and distinction. The
saddle and housings of this superb palfrey were covered by a long
foot-cloth, which reached nearly to the ground, and on which were
richly embroidered, mitres, crosses, and other ecclesiastical
emblems. Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded probably
with his superior's baggage; and two monks of his own order, of
inferior station, rode together in the rear, laughing and
conversing with each other, without taking much notice of the
other members of the cavalcade.
The companion of the church dignitary was a man past forty, thin,
strong, tall, and muscular; an athletic figure, which long
fatigue and constant exercise seemed to have left none of the
softer part of the human form, having reduced the whole to brawn,
bones, and sinews, which had sustained a thousand toils, and were
ready to dare a thousand more. His head was covered with a
scarlet cap, faced with fur---of that kind which the French call
"mortier", from its resemblance to the shape of an inverted
mortar. His countenance was therefore fully displayed, and its
expression was calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of
fear, upon strangers. High features, naturally strong and
powerfully expressive, had been burnt almost into Negro blackness
by constant exposure to the tropical sun, and might, in their
ordinary state, be said to slumber after the storm of passion had
passed away; but the projection of the veins of the forehead, the
readiness with which the upper lip and its thick black moustaches
quivered upon the slightest emotion, plainly intimated that the
tempest might be again and easily awakened. His keen, piercing,
dark eyes, told in every glance a history of difficulties
subdued, and dangers dared, and seemed to challenge opposition to
his wishes, for the pleasure of sweeping it from his road by a
determined exertion of courage and of will; a deep scar on his
brow gave additional sternness to his countenance, and a sinister
expression to one of his eyes, which had been slightly injured on
the same occasion, and of which the vision, though perfect, was
in a slight and partial degree distorted.
The upper dress of this personage resembled that of his companion
in shape, being a long monastic mantle; but the colour, being
scarlet, showed that he did not belong to any of the four regular
orders of monks. On the right shoulder of the mantle there was
cut, in white cloth, a cross of a peculiar form. This upper robe
concealed what at first view seemed rather inconsistent with its
form, a shirt, namely, of linked mail, with sleeves and gloves of
the same, curiously plaited and interwoven, as flexible to the
body as those which are now wrought in the stocking-loom, out of
less obdurate materials. The fore-part of his thighs, where the
folds of his mantle permitted them to be seen, were also covered
with linked mail; the knees and feet were defended by splints, or
thin plates of steel, ingeniously jointed upon each other; and
mail hose, reaching from the ankle to the knee, effectually
protected the legs, and completed the rider's defensive armour.
In his girdle he wore a long and double-edged dagger, which was
the only offensive weapon about his person.
He rode, not a mule, like his companion, but a strong hackney for
the road, to save his gallant war-horse, which a squire led
behind, fully accoutred for battle, with a chamfron or plaited
head-piece upon his bead, having a short spike projecting from
the front. On one side of the saddle hung a short battle-axe,
richly inlaid with Damascene carving; on the other the rider's
plumed head-piece and hood of mail, with a long two-handed sword,
used by the chivalry of the period. A second squire held aloft
his master's lance, from the extremity of which fluttered a small
banderole, or streamer, bearing a cross of the same form with
that embroidered upon his cloak. He also carried his small
triangular shield, broad enough at the top to protect the breast,
and from thence diminishing to a point. It was covered with a
scarlet cloth, which prevented the device from being seen.
These two squires were followed by two attendants, whose dark
visages, white turbans, and the Oriental form of their garments,
showed them to be natives of some distant Eastern country.*
* Note B. Negro Slaves.
The whole appearance of this warrior and his retinue was wild and
outlandish; the dress of his squires was gorgeous, and his
Eastern attendants wore silver collars round their throats, and
bracelets of the same metal upon their swarthy arms and legs, of
which the former were naked from the elbow, and the latter from
mid-leg to ankle. Silk and embroidery distinguished their
dresses, and marked the wealth and importance of their master;
forming, at the same time, a striking contrast with the martial
simplicity of his own attire. They were armed with crooked
sabres, having the hilt and baldric inlaid with gold, and matched
with Turkish daggers of yet more costly workmanship. Each of
them bore at his saddle-bow a bundle of darts or javelins, about
four feet in length, having sharp steel heads, a weapon much in
use among the Saracens, and of which the memory is yet preserved
in the martial exercise called "El Jerrid", still practised in
the Eastern countries.
The steeds of these attendants were in appearance as foreign as
their riders. They were of Saracen origin, and consequently of
Arabian descent; and their fine slender limbs, small fetlocks,
thin manes, and easy springy motion, formed a marked contrast
with the large-jointed heavy horsastic vows.
Yet so loose were the ideas of the times respecting the conduct
of the clergy, whether secular or regular, that the Prior Aymer
maintained a fair character in the neighbourhood of his abbey.
His free and jovial temper, and the readiness with which he
granted absolution from all ordinary delinquencies, rendered him
a favourite among the nobility and principal gentry, to several
of whom he was allied by birth, being of a distinguished Norman
family. The ladies, in particular, were not disposed to scan too
nicely the morals of a man who was a professed admirer of their
sex, and who possessed many means of dispelling the ennui which
was too apt to intrude upon the halls and bowers of an ancient
feudal castle. The Prior mingled in the sports of the field with
more than due eagerness, and was allowed to possess the
best-trained hawks, and the fleetest greyhounds in the North
Riding; circumstances which strongly recommended him to the
youthful gentry. With the old, be had another part to play,
which, when needful, he could sustain with great decorum. His
knowledge of books, however superficial, was sufficient to
impress upon their ignorance respect for his supposed learning;
and the gravity of his deportment and language, with the high
tone which he exerted in setting forth the authority of the
church and of the priesthood, impressed them no less with an
opinion of his sanctity. Even the common people, the severest
critics of the conduct of their betters, had commiseration with
the follies of Prior Aymer. He was generous; and charity, as it
is well known, covereth a multitude of sins, in another sense
than that in which it is said to do so in Scripture. The
revenues of the monastery, of which a large part was at his
disposal, while they gave him the means of supplying his own very
considerable expenses, afforded also those largesses which he
bestowed among the peasantry, and with which he frequently
relieved the distresses of the oppressed. If Prior Aymer rode
hard in the chase, or remained long at the banquet,---if Prior
Aymer was seen, at the early peep of dawn, to enter the postern
of the abbey, as he glided home from some rendezvous which had
occupied the hours of darkness, men only shrugged up their
shoulders, and reconciled themselves to his irregularities, by
recollecting that the same were practised by many of his brethren
who had no redeeming qualities whatsoever to atone for them.
Prior Aymer, therefore, and his character, were well known to our
Saxon serfs, who made their rude obeisance, and received his
"benedicite, mes filz_," in return.
But the singular appearance of his companion and his attendants,
arrested their attention and excited their wonder, and they could
scarcely attend to the Prior of Jorvaulx' question, when he
demanded if they knew of any place of harbourage in the vicinity;
so much were they surprised at the half monastic, half military
appearance of the swarthy stranger, and at the uncouth dress and
arms of his Eastern attendants. It is probable, too, that the
language in which the benediction was conferred, and the
information asked, sounded ungracious, though not probably
unintelligible, in the ears of the Saxon peasants.
"I asked you, my children," said the Prior, raising his voice,
and using the lingua Franca, or mixed language, in which the
Norman and Saxon races conversed with each other, "if there be in
this neighbourhood any good man, who, for the love of God, and
devotion to Mother Church, will give two of her humblest
servants, with their train, a night's hospitality and
This he spoke with a tone of conscious importance, which formed a
strong contrast to the modest terms which he thought it proper to
"Two of the humblest servants of Mother Church!" repeated Wamba
to himself,---but, fool as he was, taking care not to make his
observation audible; "I should like to see her seneschals, her
chief butlers, and other principal domestics!"
After this internal commentary on the Prior's speech, he raised
his eyes, and replied to the question which had been put.
"If the reverend fathers," he said, "loved good cheer and soft
lodging, few miles of riding would carry them to the Priory of
Brinxworth, where their quality could not but secure them the
most honourable reception; or if they preferred spending a
penitential evening, they might turn down yonder wild glade,
which would bring them to the hermitage of Copmanhurst, where a
pious anchoret would make them sharers for the night of the
shelter of his roof and the benefit of his prayers."
The Prior shook his head at both proposals.
"Mine honest friend," said he, "if the jangling of thy bells bad
not dizzied thine understanding, thou mightst know "Clericus
clericum non decimat"; that is to say, we churchmen do not
exhaust each other's hospitality, but rather require that of the
laity, giving them thus an opportunity to serve God in honouring
and relieving his appointed servants."
"It is true," replied Wamba, "that I, being but an ass, am,
nevertheless, honoured to hear the bells as well as your
reverence's mule; notwithstanding, I did conceive that the
charity of Mother Church and her servants might be said, with
other charity, to begin at home."
"A truce to thine insolence, fellow," said the armed rider,
breaking in on his prattle with a high and stern voice, "and tell
us, if thou canst, the road to---How call'd you your Franklin,
Prior Aymer?"
"Cedric," answered the Prior; "Cedric the Saxon.---Tell me, good
fellow, are we near his dwelling, and can you show us the road?"
"The road will be uneasy to find," answered Gurth, who broke
silence for the first time, "and the family of Cedric retire
early to rest."
"Tush, tell not me, fellow," said the military rider; "'tis easy
for them to arise and supply the wants of travellers such as we
are, who will not stoop to beg the hospitality which we have a
right to command."
"I know not," said Gurth, sullenly, "if I should show the way to
my master's house, to those who demand as a right, the shelter
which most are fain to ask as a favour."
"Do you dispute with me, slave! said the soldier; and, setting
spurs to his horse, he caused him make a demivolte across the
path, raising at the same time the riding rod which he held in
his hand, with a purpose of chastising what he considered as the
insolence of the peasant.
Gurth darted at him a savage and revengeful scowl, and with a
fierce, yet hesitating motion, laid his hand on the haft of his
knife; but the interference of Prior Aymer, who pushed his mule
betwixt his companion and the swineherd, prevented the meditated
"Nay, by St Mary, brother Brian, you must not think you are now
in Palestine, predominating over heathen Turks and infidel
Saracens; we islanders love not blows, save those of holy Church,
who chasteneth whom she loveth.---Tell me, good fellow," said he
to Wamba, and seconded his speech by a small piece of silver
coin, "the way to Cedric the Saxon's; you cannot be ignorant of
it, and it is your duty to direct the wanderer even when his
character is less sanctified than ours."
"In truth, venerable father," answered the Jester, "the Saracen
head of your right reverend companion has frightened out of mine
the way home---I am not sure I shall get there to-night myself."
"Tush," said the Abbot, "thou canst tell us if thou wilt. This
reverend brother has been all his life engaged in fighting among
the Saracens for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre; he is of the
order of Knights Templars, whom you may have heard of; he is half
a monk, half a soldier."
"If he is but half a monk," said the Jester, "he should not be
wholly unreasonable with those whom he meets upon the road, even
if they should be in no hurry to answer questions that no way
concern them."
"I forgive thy wit," replied the Abbot, "on condition thou wilt
show me the way to Cedric's mansion."
"Well, then," answered Wamba, "your reverences must hold on this
path till you come to a sunken cross, of which scarce a cubit's
length remains above ground; then take the path to the left, for
there are four which meet at Sunken Cross, and I trust your
reverences will obtain shelter before the storm comes on."
The Abbot thanked his sage adviser; and the cavalcade, setting
spurs to their horses, rode on as men do who wish to reach their
inn before the bursting of a night-storm. As their horses' hoofs
died away, Gurth said to his companion, "If they follow thy wise
direction, the reverend fathers will hardly reach Rotherwood this
"No," said the Jester, grinning, "but they may reach Sheffield if
they have good luck, and that is as fit a place for them. I am
not so bad a woodsman as to show the dog where the deer lies, if
I have no mind he should chase him."
"Thou art right," said Gurth; "it were ill that Aymer saw the
Lady Rowena; and it were worse, it may be, for Cedric to quarrel,
as is most likely he would, with this military monk. But, like
good servants let us hear and see, and say nothing."
We return to the riders, who had soon left the bondsmen far
behind them, and who maintained the following conversation in the
Norman-French language, usually employed by the superior classes,
with the exception of the few who were still inclined to boast
their Saxon descent.
"What mean these fellows by their capricious insolence?" said the
Templar to the Benedictine, "and why did you prevent me from
chastising it?"
"Marry, brother Brian," replied the Prior, "touching the one of
them, it were hard for me to render a reason for a fool speaking
according to his folly; and the other churl is of that savage,
fierce, intractable race, some of whom, as I have often told you,
are still to be found among the descendants of the conquered
Saxons, and whose supreme pleasure it is to testify, by all means
in their power, their aversion to their conquerors."
"I would soon have beat him into courtesy," observed Brian; "I am
accustomed to deal with such spirits: Our Turkish captives are as
fierce and intractable as Odin himself could have been; yet two
months in my household, under the management of my master of the
slaves, has made them humble, submissive, serviceable, and
observant of your will. Marry, sir, you must be aware of the
poison and the dagger; for they use either with free will when
you give them the slightest opportunity."
"Ay, but," answered Prior Aymer, "every land has its own manners
and fashions; and, besides that beating this fellow could procure
us no information respecting the road to Cedric's house, it would
have been sure to have established a quarrel betwixt you and him
had we found our way thither. Remember what I told you: this
wealthy franklin is proud, fierce, jealous, and irritable, a
withstander of the nobility, and even of his neighbors, Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf and Philip Malvoisin, who are no babies to strive
with. He stands up sternly for the privileges of his race, and
is so proud of his uninterrupted descend from Hereward, a
renowned champion of the Heptarchy, that he is universally called
Cedric the Saxon; and makes a boast of his belonging to a people
from whom many others endeaver to hide their descent, lest they
should encounter a share of the 'vae victis,' or severities
imposed upon the vanquished."
"Prior Aymer," said the Templar, "you are a man of gallantry,
learned in the study of beauty, and as expert as a troubadour in
all matters concerning the 'arrets' of love; but I shall expect
much beauty in this celebrated Rowena to counterbalance the
self-denial and forbearance which I must exert if I am to court
the favor of such a seditious churl as you have described her
father Cedric."
"Cedric is not her father," replied the Prior, "and is but of
remote relation: she is descended from higher blood than even he
pretends to, and is but distantly connected with him by birth.
Her guardian, however, he is, self-constituted as I believe; but
his ward is as dear to him as if she were his own child. Of her
beauty you shall soon be judge; and if the purity of her
complexion, and the majestic, yet soft expression of a mild blue
eye, do not chase from your memory the black-tressed girls of
Palestine, ay, or the houris of old Mahound's paradise, I am an
infidel, and no true son of the church."
"Should your boasted beauty," said the Templar, "be weighed in
the balance and found wanting, you know our wager?"
"My gold collar," answered the Prior, "against ten buts of Chian
wine;---they are mine as securely as if they were already in the
convent vaults, under the key of old Dennis the cellarer."
"And I am myself to be judge," said the Templar, "and am only to
be convicted on my own admission, that I have seen no maiden so
beautiful since Pentecost was a twelvemonth. Ran it not so?
---Prior, your collar is in danger; I will wear it over my gorget
in the lists of Ashby-de-la-Zouche."
"Win it fairly," said the Prior, "and wear it as ye will; I will
trust your giving true response, on your word as a knight and as
a churchman. Yet, brother, take my advice, and file your tongue
to a little more courtesy than your habits of predominating over
infidel captives and Eastern bondsmen have accustomed you.
Cedric the Saxon, if offended,---and he is noway slack in taking
offence,---is a man who, without respect to your knighthood, my
high office, or the sanctity of either, would clear his house of
us, and send us to lodge with the larks, though the hour were
midnight. And be careful how you look on Rowena, whom he
cherishes with the most jealous care; an he take the least alarm
in that quarter we are but lost men. It is said he banished his
only son from his family for lifting his eyes in the way of
affection towards this beauty, who may be worshipped, it seems,
at a distance, but is not to be approached with other thoughts
than such as we bring to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin."
"Well, you have said enough," answered the Templar; "I will for a
night put on the needful restraint, and deport me as meekly as a
maiden; but as for the fear of his expelling us by violence,
myself and squires, with Hamet and Abdalla, will warrant you
against that disgrace. Doubt not that we shall be strong enough
to make good our quarters."
"We must not let it come so far," answered the Prior; "but here
is the clown's sunken cross, and the night is so dark that we can
hardly see which of the roads we are to follow. He bid us turn,
I think to the left."
"To the right," said Brian, "to the best of my remembrance."
"To the left, certainly, the left; I remember his pointing with
his wooden sword."
"Ay, but he held his sword in his left hand, and so pointed
across his body with it," said the Templar.
Each maintained his opinion with sufficient obstinacy, as is
usual in all such cases; the attendants were appealed to, but
they had not been near enough to hear Wamba's directions. At
length Brian remarked, what had at first escaped him in the
twilight; "Here is some one either asleep, or lying dead at the
foot of this cross---Hugo, stir him with the but-end of thy
This was no sooner done than the figure arose, exclaiming in good
French, "Whosoever thou art, it is discourteous in you to disturb
my thoughts."
"We did but wish to ask you," said the Prior, "the road to
Rotherwood, the abode of Cedric the Saxon."
"I myself am bound thither," replied the stranger; "and if I had
a horse, I would be your guide, for the way is somewhat
intricate, though perfectly well known to me."
"Thou shalt have both thanks and reward, my friend," said the
Prior, "if thou wilt bring us to Cedric's in safety."
And he caused one of his attendants to mount his own led horse,
and give that upon which he had hitherto ridden to the stranger,
who was to serve for a guide.
Their conductor pursued an opposite road from that which Wamba
had recommended, for the purpose of misleading them. The path
soon led deeper into the woodland, and crossed more than one
brook, the approach to which was rendered perilous by the marshes
through which it flowed; but the stranger seemed to know, as if
by instinct, the soundest ground and the safest points of
passage; and by dint of caution and attention, brought the party
safely into a wilder avenue than any they had yet seen; and,
pointing to a large low irregular building at the upper
extremity, he said to the Prior, "Yonder is Rotherwood, the
dwelling of Cedric the Saxon."
This was a joyful intimation to Aymer, whose nerves were none of
the strongest, and who had suffered such agitation and alarm in
the course of passing through the dangerous bogs, that he had not
yet had the curiosity to ask his guide a single question.
Finding himself now at his ease and near shelter, his curiosity
began to awake, and he demanded of the guide who and what he was.
"A Palmer, just returned from the Holy Land," was the answer.
"You had better have tarried there to fight for the recovery of
the Holy Sepulchre," said the Templar.
"True, Reverend Sir Knight," answered the Palmer, to whom the
appearance of the Templar seemed perfectly familiar; "but when
those who are under oath to recover the holy city, are found
travelling at such a distance from the scene of their duties, can
you wonder that a peaceful peasant like me should decline the
task which they have abandoned?"
The Templar would have made an angry reply, but was interrupted
by the Prior, who again expressed his astonishment, that their
guide, after such long absence, should be so perfectly acquainted
with the passes of the forest.
"I was born a native of these parts," answered their guide, and
as he made the reply they stood before the mansion of Cedric;---a
low irregular building, containing several court-yards or
enclosures, extending over a considerable space of ground, and
which, though its size argued the inhabitant to be a person of
wealth, differed entirely from the tall, turretted, and
castellated buildings in which the Norman nobility resided, and
which had become the universal style of architecture throughout
Rotherwood was not, however, without defences; no habitation, in
that disturbed period, could have been so, without the risk of
being plundered and burnt before the next morning. A deep fosse,
or ditch, was drawn round the whole building, and filled with
water from a neighbouring stream. A double stockade, or
palisade, composed of pointed beams, which the adjacent forest
supplied, defended the outer and inner bank of the trench. There
was an entrance from the west through the outer stockade, which
communicated by a drawbridge, with a similar opening in the
interior defences. Some precautions had been taken to place
those entrances under the protection of projecting angles, by
which they might be flanked in case of need by archers or
Before this entrance the Templar wound his horn loudly; for the
rain, which had long threatened, began now to descend with great
Then (sad relief!) from the bleak coast that hears
The German Ocean roar, deep-blooming, strong,
And yellow hair'd, the blue-eyed Saxon came.
Thomson's Liberty
In a hall, the height of which was greatly disproportioned to its
extreme length and width, a long oaken table, formed of planks
rough-hewn from the forest, and which had scarcely received anu
polish, stood ready prepared for the evening meal of Cedric the
Saxon. The roof, composed of beams and rafters, had nothing to
divide the apartment from the sky excepting the planking and
thatch; there was a huge fireplace at either end of the hall, but
as the chimneys were constructed in a very clumsy manner, at
least as much of the smoke found its way into the apartment as
escaped by the proper vent. The constant vapour which this
occasioned, had polished the rafters and beams of the low-browed
hall, by encrusting them with a black varnish of soot. On the
sides of the apartment hung implements of war and of the chase,
and there were at each corner folding doors, which gave access to
other parts of the extensive building.
The other appointments of the mansion partook of the rude
simplicity of the Saxon period, which Cedric piqued himself upon
maintaining. The floor was composed of earth mixed with lime,
trodden into a hard substance, such as is often employed in
flooring our modern barns. For about one quarter of the length
of the apartment, the floor was raised by a step, and this space,
which was called the dais, was occupied only by the principal
members of the family, and visitors of distinction. For this
purpose, a table richly covered with scarlet cloth was placed
transversely across the platform, from the middle of which ran
the longer and lower board, at which the domestics and inferior
persons fed, down towards the bottom of the hall. The whole
resembled the form of the letter T, or some of those ancient
dinner-tables, which, arranged on the same principles, may be
still seen in the antique Colleges of Oxford or Cambridge.
Massive chairs and settles of carved oak were placed upon the
dais, and over these seats and the more elevated table was
fastened a canopy of cloth, which served in some degree to
protect the dignitaries who occupied that distinguished station
from the weather, and especially from the rain, which in some
places found its way through the ill-constructed roof.
The walls of this upper end of the hall, as far as the dais
extended, were covered with hangings or curtains, and upon the
floor there was a carpet, both of which were adorned with some
attempts at tapestry, or embroidery, executed with brilliant or
rather gaudy colouring. Over the lower range of table, the roof,
as we have noticed, had no covering; the rough plastered walls
were left bare, and the rude earthen floor was uncarpeted; the
board was uncovered by a cloth, and rude massive benches supplied
the place of chairs.
In the centre of the upper table, were placed two chairs more
elevated than the rest, for the master and mistress of the
family, who presided over the scene of hospitality, and from
doing so derived their Saxon title of honour, which signifies
"the Dividers of Bread."
To each of these chairs was added a footstool, curiously carved
and inlaid with ivory, which mark of distinction was peculiar to
them. One of these seats was at present occupied by Cedric the
Saxon, who, though but in rank a thane, or, as the Normans called
him, a Franklin, felt, at the delay of his evening meal, an
irritable impatience, which might have become an alderman,
whether of ancient or of modern times.
It appeared, indeed, from the countenance of this proprietor,
that he was of a frank, but hasty and choleric temper. He was
not above the middle stature, but broad-shouldered, long-armed,
and powerfully made, like one accustomed to endure the fatigue of
war or of the chase; his face was broad, with large blue eyes,
open and frank features, fine teeth, and a well formed head,
altogether expressive of that sort of good-humour which often
lodges with a sudden and hasty temper. Pride and jealousy there
was in his eye, for his life had been spent in asserting rights
which were constantly liable to invasion; and the prompt, fiery,
and resolute disposition of the man, had been kept constantly
upon the alert by the circumstances of his situation. His long
yellow hair was equally divided on the top of his head and upon
his brow, and combed down on each side to the length of his
shoulders; it had but little tendency to grey, although Cedric
was approaching to his sixtieth year.
His dress was a tunic of forest green, furred at the throat and
cuffs with what was called minever; a kind of fur inferior in
quality to ermine, and formed, it is believed, of the skin of the
grey squirrel. This doublet hung unbuttoned over a close dress
of scarlet which sate tight to his body; he had breeches of the
same, but they did not reach below the lower part of the thigh,
leaving the knee exposed. His feet had sandals of the same
fashion with the peasants, but of finer materials, and secured in
the front with golden clasps. He had bracelets of gold upon his
arms, and a broad collar of the same precious metal around his
neck. About his waist he wore a richly-studded belt, in which
was stuck a short straight two-edged sword, with a sharp point,
so disposed as to hang almost perpendicularly by his side.
Behind his seat was hung a scarlet cloth cloak lined with fur,
and a cap of the same materials richly embroidered, which
completed the dress of the opulent landholder when he chose to go
forth. A short boar-spear, with a broad and bright steel head,
also reclined against the back of his chair, which served him,
when he walked abroad, for the purposes of a staff or of a
weapon, as chance might require.
Several domestics, whose dress held various proportions betwixt
the richness of their master's, and the coarse and simple attire
of Gurth the swine-herd, watched the looks and waited the
commands of the Saxon dignitary. Two or three servants of a
superior order stood behind their master upon the dais; the rest
occupied the lower part of the hall. Other attendants there were
of a different description; two or three large and shaggy
greyhounds, such as were then employed in hunting the stag and
wolf; as many slow-hounds of a large bony breed, with thick
necks, large heads, and long ears; and one or two of the smaller
dogs, now called terriers, which waited with impatience the
arrival of the supper; but, with the sagacious knowledge of
physiognomy peculiar to their race, forbore to intrude upon the
moody silence of their master, apprehensive probably of a small
white truncheon which lay by Cedric's trencher, for the purpose
of repelling the advances of his four-legged dependants. One
grisly old wolf-dog alone, with the liberty of an indulged
favourite, had planted himself close by the chair of state, and
occasionally ventured to solicit notice by putting his large
hairy head upon his master's knee, or pushing his nose into his
hand. Even he was repelled by the stern command, "Down, Balder,
down! I am not in the humour for foolery."
In fact, Cedric, as we have observed, was in no very placid state
of mind. The Lady Rowena, who had been absent to attend an
evening mass at a distant church, had but just returned, and was
changing her garments, which had been wetted by the storm. There
were as yet no tidings of Gurth and his charge, which should long
since have been driven home from the forest and such was the
insecurity of the period, as to render it probable that the delay
might be explained by some depreciation of the outlaws, with whom
the adjacent forest abounded, or by the violence of some
neighbouring baron, whose consciousness of strength made him
equally negligent of the laws of property. The matter was of
consequence, for great part of the domestic wealth of the Saxon
proprietors consisted in numerous herds of swine, especially in
forest-land, where those animals easily found their food.
Besides these subjects of anxiety, the Saxon thane was impatient
for the presence of his favourite clown Wamba, whose jests, such
as they were, served for a sort of seasoning to his evening meal,
and to the deep draughts of ale and wine with which he was in the
habit of accompanying it. Add to all this, Cedric had fasted
since noon, and his usual supper hour was long past, a cause of
irritation common to country squires, both in ancient and modern
times. His displeasure was expressed in broken sentences, partly
muttered to himself, partly addressed to the domestics who stood
around; and particularly to his cupbearer, who offered him from
time to time, as a sedative, a silver goblet filled with wine
---"Why tarries the Lady Rowena?"
"She is but changing her head-gear," replied a female attendant,
with as much confidence as the favourite lady's-maid usually
answers the master of a modern family; "you would not wish her to
sit down to the banquet in her hood and kirtle? and no lady
within the shire can be quicker in arraying herself than my
This undeniable argument produced a sort of acquiescent umph! on
the part of the Saxon, with the addition, "I wish her devotion
may choose fair weather for the next visit to St John's Kirk;
---but what, in the name of ten devils," continued he, turning to
the cupbearer, and raising his voice as if happy to have found a
channel into which he might divert his indignation without fear
or control---"what, in the name of ten devils, keeps Gurth so
long afield? I suppose we shall have an evil account of the herd;
he was wont to be a faithful and cautious drudge, and I had
destined him for something better; perchance I might even have
made him one of my warders."*
* The original has "Cnichts", by which the Saxons seem to
* have designated a class of military attendants, sometimes
* free, sometimes bondsmen, but always ranking above an
* ordinary domestic, whether in the royal household or in
* those of the aldermen and thanes. But the term cnicht,
* now spelt knight, having been received into the English
* language as equivalent to the Norman word chevalier, I
* have avoided using it in its more ancient sense, to
* prevent confusion. L. T.
Oswald the cupbearer modestly suggested, "that it was scarce an
hour since the tolling of the curfew;" an ill-chosen apology,
since it turned upon a topic so harsh to Saxon ears.
"The foul fiend," exclaimed Cedric, "take the curfew-bell, and
the tyrannical bastard by whom it was devised, and the heartless
slave who names it with a Saxon tongue to a Saxon ear! The
curfew!" he added, pausing, "ay, the curfew; which compels true
men to extinguish their lights, that thieves and robbers may work
their deeds in darkness!--- Ay, the curfew;---Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf and Philip de Malvoisin know the use of the curfew
as well as William the Bastard himself, or e'er a Norman
adventurer that fought at Hastings. I shall hear, I guess, that
my property has been swept off to save from starving the hungry
banditti, whom they cannot support but by theft and robbery. My
faithful slave is murdered, and my goods are taken for a prey
--and Wamba---where is Wamba? Said not some one he had gone forth
with Gurth?"
Oswald replied in the affirmative.
"Ay? why this is better and better! he is carried off too, the
Saxon fool, to serve the Norman lord. Fools are we all indeed
that serve them, and fitter subjects for their scorn and
laughter, than if we were born with but half our wits. But I
will be avenged," he added, starting from his chair in impatience
at the supposed injury, and catching hold of his boar-spear; "I
will go with my complaint to the great council; I have friends,
I have followers---man to man will I appeal the Norman to the
lists; let him come in his plate and his mail, and all that can
render cowardice bold; I have sent such a javelin as this through
a stronger fence than three of their war shields!---Haply they
think me old; but they shall find, alone and childless as I am,
the blood of Hereward is in the veins of Cedric.---Ah, Wilfred,
Wilfred!" he exclaimed in a lower tone, "couldst thou have ruled
thine unreasonable passion, thy father had not been left in his
age like the solitary oak that throws out its shattered and
unprotected branches against the full sweep of the tempest!" The
reflection seemed to conjure into sadness his irritated feelings.
Replacing his javelin, he resumed his seat, bent his looks
downward, and appeared to be absorbed in melancholy reflection.
>From his musing, Cedric was suddenly awakened by the blast of a
horn, which was replied to by the clamorous yells and barking of
all the dogs in the hall, and some twenty or thirty which were
quartered in other parts of the building. It cost some exercise
of the white truncheon, well seconded by the exertions of the
domestics, to silence this canine clamour.
"To the gate, knaves!" said the Saxon, hastily, as soon as the
tumult was so much appeased that the dependants could hear his
voice. "See what tidings that horn tells us of---to announce, I
ween, some hership*
* Pillage.
and robbery which has been done upon my lands."
Returning in less than three minutes, a warder announced "that
the Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx, and the good knight Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, commander of the valiant and venerable order of
Knights Templars, with a small retinue, requested hospitality and
lodging for the night, being on their way to a tournament which
was to be held not far from Ashby-de-la-Zouche, on the second day
from the present."
"Aymer, the Prior Aymer? Brian de Bois-Guilbert?"---muttered
Cedric; "Normans both;---but Norman or Saxon, the hospitality of
Rotherwood must not be impeached; they are welcome, since they
have chosen to halt---more welcome would they have been to have
ridden further on their way---But it were unworthy to murmur for
a night's lodging and a night's food; in the quality of guests,
at least, even Normans must suppress their insolence.---Go,
Hundebert," he added, to a sort of major-domo who stood behind
him with a white wand; "take six of the attendants, and introduce
the strangers to the guests' lodging. Look after their horses
and mules, and see their train lack nothing. Let them have
change of vestments if they require it, and fire, and water to
wash, and wine and ale; and bid the cooks add what they hastily
can to our evening meal; and let it be put on the board when
those strangers are ready to share it. Say to them, Hundebert,
that Cedric would himself bid them welcome, but he is under a vow
never to step more than three steps from the dais of his own hall
to meet any who shares not the blood of Saxon royalty. Begone!
see them carefully tended; let them not say in their pride, the
Saxon churl has shown at once his poverty and his avarice."
The major-domo departed with several attendants, to execute his
master's commands.
"The Prior Aymer!" repeated Cedric, looking to Oswald, "the
brother, if I mistake not, of Giles de Mauleverer, now lord of
Oswald made a respectful sign of assent. "His brother sits in
the seat, and usurps the patrimony, of a better race, the race of
Ulfgar of Middleham; but what Norman lord doth not the same? This
Prior is, they say, a free and jovial priest, who loves the
wine-cup and the bugle-horn better than bell and book: Good; let
him come, he shall be welcome. How named ye the Templar?"
"Brian de Bois-Guilbert."
"Bois-Guilbert," said Cedric, still in the musing, half-arguing
tone, which the habit of living among dependants had accustomed
him to employ, and which resembled a man who talks to himself
rather than to those around him---"Bois-Guilbert? that name has
been spread wide both for good and evil. They say he is valiant
as the bravest of his order; but stained with their usual vices,
pride, arrogance, cruelty, and voluptuousness; a hard-hearted
man, who knows neither fear of earth, nor awe of heaven. So say
the few warriors who have returned from Palestine.---Well; it is
but for one night; he shall be welcome too.---Oswald, broach the
oldest wine-cask; place the best mead, the mightiest ale, the
richest morat, the most sparkling cider, the most odoriferous
pigments, upon the board; fill the largest horns*
* These were drinks used by the Saxons, as we are informed
* by Mr Turner: Morat was made of honey flavoured with the
* juice of mulberries; Pigment was a sweet and rich liquor,
* composed of wine highly spiced, and sweetened also with
* honey; the other liquors need no explanation. L. T.
---Templars and Abbots love good wines and good measure.
---Elgitha, let thy Lady Rowena, know we shall not this night
expect her in the hall, unless such be her especial pleasure."
"But it will be her especial pleasure," answered Elgitha, with
great readiness, "for she is ever desirous to hear the latest
news from Palestine."
Cedric darted at the forward damsel a glance of hasty resentment;
but Rowena, and whatever belonged to her, were privileged and
secure from his anger. He only replied, "Silence, maiden; thy
tongue outruns thy discretion. Say my message to thy mistress,
and let her do her pleasure. Here, at least, the descendant of
Alfred still reigns a princess." Elgitha left the apartment.
"Palestine!" repeated the Saxon; "Palestine! how many ears are
turned to the tales which dissolute crusaders, or hypocritical
pilgrims, bring from that fatal land! I too might ask---I too
might enquire---I too might listen with a beating heart to fables
which the wily strollers devise to cheat us into hospitality
---but no---The son who has disobeyed me is no longer mine; nor
will I concern myself more for his fate than for that of the most
worthless among the millions that ever shaped the cross on their
shoulder, rushed into excess and blood-guiltiness, and called it
an accomplishment of the will of God."
He knit his brows, and fixed his eyes for an instant on the
ground; as he raised them, the folding doors at the bottom of the
hall were cast wide, and, preceded by the major-domo with his
wand, and four domestics bearing blazing torches, the guests of
the evening entered the apartment.
With sheep and shaggy goats the porkers bled,
And the proud steer was on the marble spread;
With fire prepared, they deal the morsels round,
Wine rosy bright the brimming goblets crown'd.
* * * * *
Disposed apart, Ulysses shares the treat;
A trivet table and ignobler seat,
The Prince assigns---
Odyssey, Book XXI
The Prior Aymer had taken the opportunity afforded him, of
changing his riding robe for one of yet more costly materials,
over which he wore a cope curiously embroidered. Besides the
massive golden signet ring, which marked his ecclesiastical
dignity, his fingers, though contrary to the canon, were loaded
with precious gems; his sandals were of the finest leather which
was imported from Spain; his beard trimmed to as small dimensions
as his order would possibly permit, and his shaven crown
concealed by a scarlet cap richly embroidered.
The appearance of the Knight Templar was also changed; and,
though less studiously bedecked with ornament, his dress was as
rich, and his appearance far more commanding, than that of his
companion. He had exchanged his shirt of mail for an under tunic
of dark purple silk, garnished with furs, over which flowed his
long robe of spotless white, in ample folds. The eight-pointed
cross of his order was cut on the shoulder of his mantle in black
velvet. The high cap no longer invested his brows, which were
only shaded by short and thick curled hair of a raven blackness,
corresponding to his unusually swart complexion. Nothing could
be more gracefully majestic than his step and manner, had they
not been marked by a predominant air of haughtiness, easily
acquired by the exercise of unresisted authority.
These two dignified persons were followed by their respective
attendants, and at a more humble distance by their guide, whose
figure had nothing more remarkable than it derived from the usual
weeds of a pilgrim. A cloak or mantle of coarse black serge,
enveloped his whole body. It was in shape something like the
cloak of a modern hussar, having similar flaps for covering the
arms, and was called a "Sclaveyn", or "Sclavonian". Coarse
sandals, bound with thongs, on his bare feet; a broad and shadowy
hat, with cockle-shells stitched on its brim, and a long staff
shod with iron, to the upper end of which was attached a branch
of palm, completed the palmer's attire. He followed modestly the
last of the train which entered the hall, and, observing that the
lower table scarce afforded room sufficient for the domestics of
Cedric and the retinue of his guests, he withdrew to a settle
placed beside and almost under one of the large chimneys, and
seemed to employ himself in drying his garments, until the
retreat of some one should make room at the board, or the
hospitality of the steward should supply him with refreshments in
the place he had chosen apart.
Cedric rose to receive his guests with an air of dignified
hospitality, and, descending from the dais, or elevated part of
his hall, made three steps towards them, and then awaited their
"I grieve," he said, "reverend Prior, that my vow binds me to
advance no farther upon this floor of my fathers, even to receive
such guests as you, and this valiant Knight of the Holy Temple.
But my steward has expounded to you the cause of my seeming
discourtesy. Let me also pray, that you will excuse my speaking
to you in my native language, and that you will reply in the same
if your knowledge of it permits; if not, I sufficiently
understand Norman to follow your meaning."
"Vows," said the Abbot, "must be unloosed, worthy Franklin, or
permit me rather to say, worthy Thane, though the title is
antiquated. Vows are the knots which tie us to Heaven---they are
the cords which bind the sacrifice to the horns of the altar,
---and are therefore,---as I said before,---to be unloosened and
discharged, unless our holy Mother Church shall pronounce the
contrary. And respecting language, I willingly hold
communication in that spoken by my respected grandmother, Hilda
of Middleham, who died in odour of sanctity, little short, if we
may presume to say so, of her glorious namesake, the blessed
Saint Hilda of Whitby, God be gracious to her soul!"
When the Prior had ceased what he meant as a conciliatory
harangue, his companion said briefly and emphatically, "I speak
ever French, the language of King Richard and his nobles; but I
understand English sufficiently to communicate with the natives
of the country."
Cedric darted at the speaker one of those hasty and impatient
glances, which comparisons between the two rival nations seldom
failed to call forth; but, recollecting the duties of
hospitality, he suppressed further show of resentment, and,
motioning with his hand, caused his guests to assume two seats a
little lower than his own, but placed close beside him, and gave
a signal that the evening meal should be placed upon the board.
While the attendants hastened to obey Cedric's commands, his eye
distinguished Gurth the swineherd, who, with his companion Wamba,
had just entered the hall. "Send these loitering knaves up
hither," said the Saxon, impatiently. And when the culprits came
before the dais,---"How comes it, villains! that you have
loitered abroad so late as this? Hast thou brought home thy
charge, sirrah Gurth, or hast thou left them to robbers and
"The herd is safe, so please ye," said Gurth.
"But it does not please me, thou knave," said Cedric, "that I
should be made to suppose otherwise for two hours, and sit here
devising vengeance against my neighbours for wrongs they have not
done me. I tell thee, shackles and the prison-house shall punish
the next offence of this kind."
Gurth, knowing his master's irritable temper, attempted no
exculpation; but the Jester, who could presume upon Cedric's
tolerance, by virtue of his privileges as a fool, replied for
them both; "In troth, uncle Cedric, you are neither wise nor
reasonable to-night."
"'How, sir?" said his master; "you shall to the porter's lodge,
and taste of the discipline there, if you give your foolery such
"First let your wisdom tell me," said Wamba, "is it just and
reasonable to punish one person for the fault of another?"
"Certainly not, fool," answered Cedric.
"Then why should you shackle poor Gurth, uncle, for the fault of
his dog Fangs? for I dare be sworn we lost not a minute by the
way, when we had got our herd together, which Fangs did not
manage until we heard the vesper-bell."
"Then hang up Fangs," said Cedric, turning hastily towards the
swineherd, "if the fault is his, and get thee another dog."
"Under favour, uncle," said the Jester, "that were still somewhat
on the bow-hand of fair justice; for it was no fault of Fangs
that he was lame and could not gather the herd, but the fault of
those that struck off two of his fore-claws, an operation for
which, if the poor fellow had been consulted, he would scarce
have given his voice."
"And who dared to lame an animal which belonged to my bondsman?"
said the Saxon, kindling in wrath.
"Marry, that did old Hubert," said Wamba, "Sir Philip de
Malvoisin's keeper of the chase. He caught Fangs strolling in
the forest, and said he chased the deer contrary to his master's
right, as warden of the walk."
"The foul fiend take Malvoisin," answered the Saxon, "and his
keeper both! I will teach them that the wood was disforested in
terms of the great Forest Charter. But enough of this. Go to,
knave, go to thy place---and thou, Gurth, get thee another dog,
and should the keeper dare to touch it, I will mar his archery;
the curse of a coward on my head, if I strike not off the
forefinger of his right hand!---he shall draw bowstring no more.
---I crave your pardon, my worthy guests. I am beset here with
neighbours that match your infidels, Sir Knight, in Holy Land.
But your homely fare is before you; feed, and let welcome make
amends for hard fare."
The feast, however, which was spread upon the board, needed no
apologies from the lord of the mansion. Swine's flesh, dressed
in several modes, appeared on the lower part of the board, as
also that of fowls, deer, goats, and hares, and various kinds of
fish, together with huge loaves and cakes of bread, and sundry
confections made of fruits and honey. The smaller sorts of
wild-fowl, of which there was abundance, were not served up in
platters, but brought in upon small wooden spits or broaches, and
offered by the pages and domestics who bore them, to each guest
in succession, who cut from them such a portion as he pleased.
Beside each person of rank was placed a goblet of silver; the
lower board was accommodated with large drinking horns.
When the repast was about to commence, the major-domo, or
steward, suddenly raising his wand, said aloud,---"Forbear!
---Place for the Lady Rowena."
A side-door at the upper end of the hall now opened behind the
banquet table, and Rowena, followed by four female attendants,
entered the apartment. Cedric, though surprised, and perhaps not
altogether agreeably so, at his ward appearing in public on this
occasion, hastened to meet her, and to conduct her, with
respectful ceremony, to the elevated seat at his own right hand,
appropriated to the lady of the mansion. All stood up to receive
her; and, replying to their courtesy by a mute gesture of
salutation, she moved gracefully forward to assume her place at
the board. Ere she had time to do so, the Templar whispered to
the Prior, "I shall wear no collar of gold of yours at the
tournament. The Chian wine is your own."
"Said I not so?" answered the Prior; "but check your raptures,
the Franklin observes you."
Unheeding this remonstrance, and accustomed only to act upon the
immediate impulse of his own wishes, Brian de Bois-Guilbert kept
his eyes riveted on the Saxon beauty, more striking perhaps to
his imagination, because differing widely from those of the
Eastern sultanas.
Formed in the best proportions of her sex, Rowena was tall in
stature, yet not so much so as to attract observation on account
of superior height. Her complexion was exquisitely fair, but the
noble cast of her head and features prevented the insipidity
which sometimes attaches to fair beauties. Her clear blue eye,
which sate enshrined beneath a graceful eyebrow of brown
sufficiently marked to give expression to the forehead, seemed
capable to kindle as well as melt, to command as well as to
beseech. If mildness were the more natural expression of such a
combination of features, it was plain, that in the present
instance, the exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception
of general homage, had given to the Saxon lady a loftier
character, which mingled with and qualified that bestowed by
nature. Her profuse hair, of a colour betwixt brown and flaxen,
was arranged in a fanciful and graceful manner in numerous
ringlets, to form which art had probably aided nature. These
locks were braided with gems, and, being worn at full length,
intimated the noble birth and free-born condition of the maiden.
A golden chain, to which was attached a small reliquary of the
same metal, hung round her neck. She wore bracelets on her arms,
which were bare. Her dress was an under-gown and kirtle of pale
sea-green silk, over which hung a long loose robe, which reached
to the ground, having very wide sleeves, which came down,
however, very little below the elbow. This robe was crimson, and
manufactured out of the very finest wool. A veil of silk,
interwoven with gold, was attached to the upper part of it, which
could be, at the wearer's pleasure, either drawn over the face
and bosom after the Spanish fashion, or disposed as a sort of
drapery round the shoulders.
When Rowena perceived the Knight Templar's eyes bent on her with
an ardour, that, compared with the dark caverns under which they
moved, gave them the effect of lighted charcoal, she drew with
dignity the veil around her face, as an intimation that the
determined freedom of his glance was disagreeable. Cedric saw
the motion and its cause. "Sir Templar," said he, "the cheeks of
our Saxon maidens have seen too little of the sun to enable them
to bear the fixed glance of a crusader."
"If I have offended," replied Sir Brian, "I crave your pardon,
--that is, I crave the Lady Rowena's pardon,---for my humility
will carry me no lower."
"The Lady Rowena," said the Prior, "has punished us all, in
chastising the boldness of my friend. Let me hope she will be
less cruel to the splendid train which are to meet at the
"Our going thither," said Cedric, "is uncertain. I love not
these vanities, which were unknown to my fathers when England was
"Let us hope, nevertheless," said the Prior, "our company may
determine you to travel thitherward; when the roads are so
unsafe, the escort of Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is not to be
"Sir Prior," answered the Saxon, "wheresoever I have travelled in
this land, I have hitherto found myself, with the assistance of
my good sword and faithful followers, in no respect needful of
other aid. At present, if we indeed journey to
Ashby-de-la-Zouche, we do so with my noble neighbour and
countryman Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and with such a train as
would set outlaws and feudal enemies at defiance.---I drink to
you, Sir Prior, in this cup of wine, which I trust your taste
will approve, and I thank you for your courtesy. Should you be
so rigid in adhering to monastic rule," he added, "as to prefer
your acid preparation of milk, I hope you will not strain
courtesy to do me reason."
"Nay," said the Priest, laughing, "it is only in our abbey that
we confine ourselves to the 'lac dulce' or the 'lac acidum'
either. Conversing with, the world, we use the world's fashions,
and therefore I answer your pledge in this honest wine, and leave
the weaker liquor to my lay-brother."
"And I," said the Templar, filling his goblet, "drink wassail to
the fair Rowena; for since her namesake introduced the word into
England, has never been one more worthy of such a tribute. By
my faith, I could pardon the unhappy Vortigern, had he half the
cause that we now witness, for making shipwreck of his honour and
his kingdom."
"I will spare your courtesy, Sir Knight," said Rowena with
dignity, and without unveiling herself; "or rather I will tax it
so far as to require of you the latest news from Palestine, a
theme more agreeable to our English ears than the compliments
which your French breeding teaches."
"I have little of importance to say, lady, answered Sir Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, "excepting the confirmed tidings of a truce with
He was interrupted by Wamba, who had taken his appropriated seat
upon a chair, the back of which was decorated with two ass's
ears, and which was placed about two steps behind that of his
master, who, from time to time, supplied him with victuals from
his own trencher; a favour, however, which the Jester shared with
the favourite dogs, of whom, as we have already noticed, there
were several in attendance. Here sat Wamba, with a small table
before him, his heels tucked up against the bar of the chair, his
cheeks sucked up so as to make his jaws resemble a pair of
nut-crackers, and his eyes half-shut, yet watching with alertness
every opportunity to exercise his licensed foolery.
"These truces with the infidels," he exclaimed, without caring
how suddenly he interrupted the stately Templar, "make an old man
of me!"
"Go to, knave, how so?" said Cedric, his features prepared to
receive favourably the expected jest.
"Because," answered Wamba, "I remember three of them in my day,
each of which was to endure for the course of fifty years; so
that, by computation, I must be at least a hundred and fifty
years old."
"I will warrant you against dying of old age, however," said the
Templar, who now recognised his friend of the forest; "I will
assure you from all deaths but a violent one, if you give such
directions to wayfarers, as you did this night to the Prior and
"How, sirrah!" said Cedric, "misdirect travellers? We must have
you whipt; you are at least as much rogue as fool."
"I pray thee, uncle," answered the Jester, "let my folly, for
once, protect my roguery. I did but make a mistake between my
right hand and my left; and he might have pardoned a greater, who
took a fool for his counsellor and guide."
Conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the porter's
page, who announced that there was a stranger at the gate,
imploring admittance and hospitality,
"Admit him," said Cedric, "be he who or what he may;---a night
like that which roars without, compels even wild animals to herd
with tame, and to seek the protection of man, their mortal foe,
rather than perish by the elements. Let his wants be ministered
to with all care---look to it, Oswald."
And the steward left the banqueting hall to see the commands of
his patron obeyed.
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with
the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the
same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is?
Merchant of Venice
Oswald, returning, whispered into the ear of his master, "It is a
Jew, who calls himself Isaac of York; is it fit I should marshall
him into the hall?"
"Let Gurth do thine office, Oswald," said Wamba with his usual
effrontery; "the swineherd will be a fit usher to the Jew."
"St Mary," said the Abbot, crossing himself, "an unbelieving Jew,
and admitted into this presence!"
"A dog Jew," echoed the Templar, "to approach a defender of the
Holy Sepulchre?"
"By my faith," said Wamba, "it would seem the Templars love the
Jews' inheritance better than they do their company."
"Peace, my worthy guests," said Cedric; "my hospitality must not
be bounded by your dislikes. If Heaven bore with the whole
nation of stiff-necked unbelievers for more years than a layman
can number, we may endure the presence of one Jew for a few
hours. But I constrain no man to converse or to feed with him.
---Let him have a board and a morsel apart,---unless," he said
smiling, "these turban'd strangers will admit his society."
"Sir Franklin," answered the Templar, "my Saracen slaves are true
Moslems, and scorn as much as any Christian to hold intercourse
with a Jew."
"Now, in faith," said Wamba, "I cannot see that the worshippers
of Mahound and Termagaunt have so greatly the advantage over the
people once chosen of Heaven."
"He shall sit with thee, Wamba," said Cedric; "the fool and the
knave will be well met."
"The fool," answered Wamba, raising the relics of a gammon of
bacon, "will take care to erect a bulwark against the knave."
"Hush," said Cedric, "for here he comes."
Introduced with little ceremony, and advancing with fear and
hesitation, and many a bow of deep humility, a tall thin old man,
who, however, had lost by the habit of stooping much of his
actual height, approached the lower end of the board. His
features, keen and regular, with an aquiline nose, and piercing
black eyes; his high and wrinkled forehead, and long grey hair
and beard, would have been considered as handsome, had they not
been the marks of a physiognomy peculiar to a race, which, during
those dark ages, was alike detested by the credulous and
prejudiced vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious
nobility, and who, perhaps, owing to that very hatred and
persecution, had adopted a national character, in which there was
much, to say the least, mean and unamiable.
The Jew's dress, which appeared to have suffered considerably
from the storm, was a plain russet cloak of many folds, covering
a dark purple tunic. He had large boots lined with fur, and a
belt around his waist, which sustained a small knife, together
with a case for writing materials, but no weapon. He wore a high
square yellow cap of a peculiar fashion, assigned to his nation
to distinguish them from Christians, and which he doffed with
great humility at the door of the hall.
The reception of this person in the ball of Cedric the Saxon, was
such as might have satisfied the most prejudiced enemy of the
tribes of Israel. Cedric himself coldly nodded in answer to the
Jew's repeated salutations, and signed to him to take place at
the lower end of the table, where, however, no one offered to
make room for him. On the contrary, as he passed along the file,
casting a timid supplicating glance, and turning towards each of
those who occupied the lower end of the board, the Saxon
domestics squared their shoulders, and continued to devour their
supper with great perseverance, paying not the least attention to
the wants of the new guest. The attendants of the Abbot crossed
themselves, with looks of pious horror, and the very heathen
Saracens, as Isaac drew near them, curled up their whiskers with
indignation, and laid their hands on their poniards, as if ready
to rid themselves by the most desperate means from the
apprehended contamination of his nearer approach.
Probably the same motives which induced Cedric to open his hall
to this son of a rejected people, would have made him insist on
his attendants receiving Isaac with more courtesy. But the Abbot
had, at this moment, engaged him in a most interesting discussion
on the breed and character of his favourite hounds, which he
would not have interrupted for matters of much greater importance
than that of a Jew going to bed supperless. While Isaac thus
stood an outcast in the present society, like his people among
the nations, looking in vain for welcome or resting place, the
pilgrim who sat by the chimney took compassion upon him, and
resigned his seat, saying briefly, "Old man, my garments are
dried, my hunger is appeased, thou art both wet and fasting."
So saying, he gathered together, and brought to a flame, the
decaying brands which lay scattered on the ample hearth; took
from the larger board a mess of pottage and seethed kid, placed
it upon the small table at which he had himself supped, and,
without waiting the Jew's thanks, went to the other side of the
hall;---whether from unwillingness to hold more close
communication with the object of his benevolence, or from a wish
to draw near to the upper end of the table, seemed uncertain.
Had there been painters in those days capable to execute such a
subject, the Jew, as he bent his withered form, and expanded his
chilled and trembling hands over the fire, would have formed no
bad emblematical personification of the Winter season. Having
dispelled the cold, he turned eagerly to the smoking mess which
was placed before him, and ate with a haste and an apparent
relish, that seemed to betoken long abstinence from food.
Meanwhile the Abbot and Cedric continued their discourse upon
hunting; the Lady Rowena seemed engaged in conversation with one
of her attendant females; and the haughty Templar, whose eye
wandered from the Jew to the Saxon beauty, revolved in his mind
thoughts which appeared deeply to interest him.
"I marvel, worthy Cedric," said the Abbot, as their discourse
proceeded, "that, great as your predilection is for your own
manly language, you do not receive the Norman-French into your
favour, so far at least as the mystery of wood-craft and hunting
is concerned. Surely no tongue is so rich in the various phrases
which the field-sports demand, or furnishes means to the
experienced woodman so well to express his jovial art."
"Good Father Aymer," said the Saxon, "be it known to you, I care
not for those over-sea refinements, without which I can well
enough take my pleasure in the woods. I can wind my horn, though
I call not the blast either a 'recheate' or a 'morte'---I can
cheer my dogs on the prey, and I can flay and quarter the animal
when it is brought down, without using the newfangled jargon of
'curee, arbor, nombles', and all the babble of the fabulous Sir
* There was no language which the Normans more formally
* separated from that of common life than the terms of the
* chase. The objects of their pursuit, whether bird or
* animal, changed their name each year, and there were a
* hundred conventional terms, to be ignorant of which was to
* be without one of the distinguishing marks of a gentleman.
* The reader may consult Dame Juliana Berners' book on the
* subject. The origin of this science was imputed to the
* celebrated Sir Tristrem, famous for his tragic intrigue
* with the beautiful Ysolte. As the Normans reserved the
* amusement of hunting strictly to themselves, the terms of
* this formal jargon were all taken from the French language.
"The French," said the Templar, raising his voice with the
presumptuous and authoritative tone which he used upon all
occasions, "is not only the natural language of the chase, but
that of love and of war, in which ladies should be won and
enemies defied.:
"Pledge me in a cup of wine, Sir Templar," said Cedric, "and fill
another to the Abbot, while I look back some thirty years to tell
you another tale. As Cedric the Saxon then was, his plain
English tale needed no garnish from French troubadours, when it
was told in the ear of beauty; and the field of Northallerton,
upon the day of the Holy Standard, could tell whether the Saxon
war-cry was not heard as far within the ranks of the Scottish
host as the 'cri de guerre' of the boldest Norman baron. To the
memory of the brave who fought there!---Pledge me, my guests."
He drank deep, and went on with increasing warmth. "Ay, that was
a day of cleaving of shields, when a hundred banners were bent
forwards over the heads of the valiant, and blood flowed round
like water, and death was held better than flight. A Saxon bard
had called it a feast of the swords---a gathering of the eagles
to the prey---the clashing of bills upon shield and helmet, the
shouting of battle more joyful than the clamour of a bridal. But
our bards are no more," he said; "our deeds are lost in those of
another race---our language---our very name---is hastening to
decay, and none mourns for it save one solitary old man
---Cupbearer! knave, fill the goblets---To the strong in arms,
Sir Templar, be their race or language what it will, who now bear
them best in Palestine among the champions of the Cross!"
"It becomes not one wearing this badge to answer," said Sir Brian
de Bois-Guilbert; "yet to whom, besides the sworn Champions of
the Holy Sepulchre, can the palm be assigned among the champions
of the Cross?"
"To the Knights Hospitallers," said the Abbot; "I have a brother
of their order."
"I impeach not their fame," said the Templar; "nevertheless-----"
"I think, friend Cedric," said Wamba, interfering, "that had
Richard of the Lion's Heart been wise enough to have taken a
fool's advice, he might have staid at home with his merry
Englishmen, and left the recovery of Jerusalem to those same
Knights who had most to do with the loss of it."
"Were there, then, none in the English army," said the Lady
Rowena, "whose names are worthy to be mentioned with the Knights
of the Temple, and of St John?"
"Forgive me, lady," replied De Bois-Guilbert; "the English
monarch did, indeed, bring to Palestine a host of gallant
warriors, second only to those whose breasts have been the
unceasing bulwark of that blessed land."
"Second to NONE," said the Pilgrim, who had stood near enough to
hear, and had listened to this conversation with marked
impatience. All turned toward the spot from whence this
unexpected asseveration was heard.
"I say," repeated the Pilgrim in a firm and strong voice, "that
the English chivalry were second to NONE who ever drew sword in
defence of the Holy Land. I say besides, for I saw it, that King
Richard himself, and five of his knights, held a tournament after
the taking of St John-de-Acre, as challengers against all comers.
I say that, on that day, each knight ran three courses, and cast
to the ground three antagonists. I add, that seven of these
assailants were Knights of the Temple---and Sir Brian de
Bois-Guilbert well knows the truth of what I tell you."
It is impossible for language to describe the bitter scowl of
rage which rendered yet darker the swarthy countenance of the
Templar. In the extremity of his resentment and confusion, his
quivering fingers griped towards the handle of his sword, and
perhaps only withdrew, from the consciousness that no act of
violence could be safely executed in that place and presence.
Cedric, whose feelings were all of a right onward and simple
kind, and were seldom occupied by more than one object at once,
omitted, in the joyous glee with which be heard of the glory of
his countrymen, to remark the angry confusion of his guest; "I
would give thee this golden bracelet, Pilgrim," he said, "couldst
thou tell me the names of those knights who upheld so gallantly
the renown of merry England."
"That will I do blithely," replied the Pilgrim, "and without
guerdon; my oath, for a time, prohibits me from touching gold."
"I will wear the bracelet for you, if you will, friend Palmer,"
said Wamba.
"The first in honour as in arms, in renown as in place," said the
Pilgrim, "was the brave Richard, King of England."
"I forgive him," said Cedric; "I forgive him his descent from the
tyrant Duke William."
"The Earl of Leicester was the second," continued the Pilgrim;
"Sir Thomas Multon of Gilsland was the third."
"Of Saxon descent, he at least," said Cedric, with exultation.
"Sir Foulk Doilly the fourth," proceeded the Pilgrim.
"Saxon also, at least by the mother's side," continued Cedric,
who listened with the utmost eagerness, and forgot, in part at
least, his hatred to the Normans, in the common triumph of the
King of England and his islanders. "And who was the fifth?" he
"The fifth was Sir Edwin Turneham."
"Genuine Saxon, by the soul of Hengist!" shouted Cedric---"And
the sixth?" he continued with eagerness---"how name you the
"The sixth," said the Palmer, after a pause, in which he seemed
to recollect himself, "was a young knight of lesser renown and
lower rank, assumed into that honourable company, less to aid
their enterprise than to make up their number---his name dwells
not in my memory."
"Sir Palmer," said Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert scornfully, "this
assumed forgetfulness, after so much has been remembered, comes
too late to serve your purpose. I will myself tell the name of
the knight before whose lance fortune and my horse's fault
occasioned my falling---it was the Knight of Ivanhoe; nor was
there one of the six that, for his years, had more renown in
arms.---Yet this will I say, and loudly---that were he in
England, and durst repeat, in this week's tournament, the
challenge of St John-de-Acre, I, mounted and armed as I now am,
would give him every advantage of weapons, and abide the result."
"Your challenge would soon be answered," replied the Palmer,
"were your antagonist near you. As the matter is, disturb not
the peaceful hall with vaunts of the issue of the conflict, which
you well know cannot take place. If Ivanhoe ever returns from
Palestine, I will be his surety that he meets you."
"A goodly security!" said the Knight Templar; "and what do you
proffer as a pledge?"
"This reliquary," said the Palmer, taking a small ivory box from
his bosom, and crossing himself, "containing a portion of the
true cross, brought from the Monastery of Mount Carmel."
The Prior of Jorvaulx crossed himself and repeated a pater
noster, in which all devoutly joined, excepting the Jew, the
Mahomedans, and the Templar; the latter of whom, without vailing
his bonnet, or testifying any reverence for the alleged sanctity
of the relic, took from his neck a gold chain, which he flung on
the board, saying---"Let Prior Aymer hold my pledge and that of
this nameless vagrant, in token that when the Knight of Ivanhoe
comes within the four seas of Britain, he underlies the challenge
of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, which, if he answer not, I will
proclaim him as a coward on the walls of every Temple Court in
"It will not need," said the Lady Rowena, breaking silence; "My
voice shall be heard, if no other in this hall is raised in
behalf of the absent Ivanhoe. I affirm he will meet fairly every
honourable challenge. Could my weak warrant add security to the
inestimable pledge of this holy pilgrim, I would pledge name and
fame that Ivanhoe gives this proud knight the meeting he
A crowd of conflicting emotions seemed to have occupied Cedric,
and kept him silent during this discussion. Gratified pride,
resentment, embarrassment, chased each other over his broad and
open brow, like the shadow of clouds drifting over a
harvest-field; while his attendants, on whom the name of the
sixth knight seemed to produce an effect almost electrical, hung
in suspense upon their master's looks. But when Rowena spoke,
the sound of her voice seemed to startle him from his silence.
"Lady," said Cedric, "this beseems not; were further pledge
necessary, I myself, offended, and justly offended, as I am,
would yet gage my honour for the honour of Ivanhoe. But the
wager of battle is complete, even according to the fantastic
fashions of Norman chivalry---Is it not, Father Aymer?"
"It is," replied the Prior; "and the blessed relic and rich chain
will I bestow safely in the treasury of our convent, until the
decision of this, warlike challenge."
Having thus spoken, he crossed himself again and again, and after
many genuflections and muttered prayers, he delivered the
reliquary to Brother Ambrose, his attendant monk, while he
himself swept up with less ceremony, but perhaps with no less
internal satisfaction, the golden chain, and bestowed it in a
pouch lined with perfumed leather, which opened under his arm.
"And now, Sir Cedric," he said, "my ears are chiming vespers with
the strength of your good wine---permit us another pledge to the
welfare of the Lady Rowena, and indulge us with liberty to pass
to our repose."
"By the rood of Bromholme," said the Saxon, "you do but small
credit to your fame, Sir Prior! Report speaks you a bonny monk,
that would hear the matin chime ere he quitted his bowl; and, old
as I am, I feared to have shame in encountering you. But, by my
faith, a Saxon boy of twelve, in my time, would not so soon have
relinquished his goblet."
The Prior had his own reasons, however, for persevering in the
course of temperance which he had adopted. He was not only a
professional peacemaker, but from practice a hater of all feuds
and brawls. It was not altogether from a love to his neighbour,
or to himself, or from a mixture of both. On the present
occasion, he had an instinctive apprehension of the fiery temper
of the Saxon, and saw the danger that the reckless and
presumptuous spirit, of which his companion had already given so
many proofs, might at length produce some disagreeable explosion.
He therefore gently insinuated the incapacity of the native of
any other country to engage in the genial conflict of the bowl
with the hardy and strong-headed Saxons; something he mentioned,
but slightly, about his own holy character, and ended by pressing
his proposal to depart to repose.
The grace-cup was accordingly served round, and the guests, after
making deep obeisance to their landlord and to the Lady Rowena,
arose and mingled in the hall, while the heads of the family, by
separate doors, retired with their attendants.
"Unbelieving dog," said the Templar to Isaac the Jew, as he
passed him in the throng, "dost thou bend thy course to the
"I do so propose," replied Isaac, bowing in all humility, "if it
please your reverend valour."
"Ay," said the Knight, "to gnaw the bowels of our nobles with
usury, and to gull women and boys with gauds and toys---I warrant
thee store of shekels in thy Jewish scrip."
"Not a shekel, not a silver penny, not a halfling---so help me
the God of Abraham!" said the Jew, clasping his hands; "I go but
to seek the assistance of some brethren of my tribe to aid me to
pay the fine which the Exchequer of the Jews*
* In those days the Jews were subjected to an Exchequer,
* specially dedicated to that purpose, and which laid them
* under the most exorbitant impositions.---L. T.
have imposed upon me---Father Jacob be my speed! I am an
impoverished wretch---the very gaberdine I wear is borrowed from
Reuben of Tadcaster."
The Templar smiled sourly as he replied, "Beshrew thee for a
false-hearted liar!" and passing onward, as if disdaining farther
conference, he communed with his Moslem slaves in a language
unknown to the bystanders. The poor Israelite seemed so
staggered by the address of the military monk, that the Templar
had passed on to the extremity of the hall ere he raised his
head from the humble posture which he had assumed, so far as to
be sensible of his departure. And when he did look around, it
was with the astonished air of one at whose feet a thunderbolt
has just burst, and who hears still the astounding report ringing
in his ears.
The Templar and Prior were shortly after marshalled to their
sleeping apartments by the steward and the cupbearer, each
attended by two torchbearers and two servants carrying
refreshments, while servants of inferior condition indicated to
their retinue and to the other guests their respective places of
To buy his favour I extend this friendship:
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.
Merchant of Venice
As the Palmer, lighted by a domestic with a torch, past through
the intricate combination of apartments of this large and
irregular mansion, the cupbearer coming behind him whispered in
his ear, that if he had no objection to a cup of good mead in his
apartment, there were many domestics in that family who would
gladly hear the news he had brought from the Holy Land, and
particularly that which concerned the Knight of Ivanhoe. Wamba
presently appeared to urge the same request, observing that a cup
after midnight was worth three after curfew. Without disputing a
maxim urged by such grave authority, the Palmer thanked them for
their courtesy, but observed that he had included in his
religious vow, an obligation never to speak in the kitchen on
matters which were prohibited in the hall. "That vow," said
Wamba to the cupbearer, "would scarce suit a serving-man."
The cupbearer shrugged up his shoulders in displeasure. "I
thought to have lodged him in the solere chamber," said he; "but
since he is so unsocial to Christians, e'en let him take the next
stall to Isaac the Jew's.---Anwold," said he to the torchbearer,
"carry the Pilgrim to the southern cell.---I give you
good-night," he added, "Sir Palmer, with small thanks for short
"Good-night, and Our Lady's benison," said the Palmer, with
composure; and his guide moved forward.
In a small antechamber, into which several doors opened, and
which was lighted by a small iron lamp, they met a second
interruption from the waiting-maid of Rowena, who, saying in a
tone of authority, that her mistress desired to speak with the
Palmer, took the torch from the hand of Anwold, and, bidding him
await her return, made a sign to the Palmer to follow.
Apparently he did not think it proper to decline this invitation
as he had done the former; for, though his gesture indicated some
surprise at the summons, he obeyed it without answer or
A short passage, and an ascent of seven steps, each of which was
composed of a solid beam of oak, led him to the apartment of the
Lady Rowena, the rude magnificence of which corresponded to the
respect which was paid to her by the lord of the mansion. The
walls were covered with embroidered hangings, on which
different-coloured silks, interwoven with gold and silver
threads, had been employed with all the art of which the age was
capable, to represent the sports of hunting and hawking. The bed
was adorned with the same rich tapestry, and surrounded with
curtains dyed with purple. The seats had also their stained
coverings, and one, which was higher than the rest, was
accommodated with a footstool of ivory, curiously carved.
No fewer than four silver candelabras, holding great waxen
torches, served to illuminate this apartment. Yet let not
modern beauty envy the magnificence of a Saxon princess. The
walls of the apartment were so ill finished and so full of
crevices, that the rich hangings shook in the night blast, and,
in despite of a sort of screen intended to protect them from the
wind, the flame of the torches streamed sideways into the air,
like the unfurled pennon of a chieftain. Magnificence there was,
with some rude attempt at taste; but of comfort there was little,
and, being unknown, it was unmissed.
The Lady Rowena, with three of her attendants standing at her
back, and arranging her hair ere she lay down to rest, was seated
in the sort of throne already mentioned, and looked as if born to
exact general homage. The Pilgrim acknowledged her claim to it
by a low genuflection.
"Rise, Palmer," said she graciously. "The defender of the absent
has a right to favourable reception from all who value truth, and
honour manhood." She then said to her train, "Retire, excepting
only Elgitha; I would speak with this holy Pilgrim."
The maidens, without leaving the apartment, retired to its
further extremity, and sat down on a small bench against the
wall, where they remained mute as statues, though at such a
distance that their whispers could not have interrupted the
conversation of their mistress.
"Pilgrim," said the lady, after a moment's pause, during which
she seemed uncertain how to address him, "you this night
mentioned a name---I mean," she said, with a degree of effort,
"the name of Ivanhoe, in the halls where by nature and kindred
it should have sounded most acceptably; and yet, such is the
perverse course of fate, that of many whose hearts must have
throbbed at the sound, I, only, dare ask you where, and in what
condition, you left him of whom you spoke?---We heard, that,
having remained in Palestine, on account of his impaired health,
after the departure of the English army, he had experienced the
persecution of the French faction, to whom the Templars are known
to be attached."
"I know little of the Knight of Ivanhoe," answered the Palmer,
with a troubled voice. "I would I knew him better, since you,
lady, are interested in his fate. He hath, I believe,
surmounted the persecution of his enemies in Palestine, and is
on the eve of returning to England, where you, lady, must know
better than I, what is his chance of happiness."
The Lady Rowena sighed deeply, and asked more particularly when
the Knight of Ivanhoe might be expected in his native country,
and whether he would not be exposed to great dangers by the road.
On the first point, the Palmer professed ignorance; on the
second, he said that the voyage might be safely made by the way
of Venice and Genoa, and from thence through France to England.
"Ivanhoe," he said, "was so well acquainted with the language and
manners of the French, that there was no fear of his incurring
any hazard during that part of his travels."
"Would to God," said the Lady Rowena, "he were here safely
arrived, and able to bear arms in the approaching tourney, in
which the chivalry of this land are expected to display their
address and valour. Should Athelstane of Coningsburgh obtain
the prize, Ivanhoe is like to hear evil tidings when he reaches
England.---How looked he, stranger, when you last saw him? Had
disease laid her hand heavy upon his strength and comeliness?"
"He was darker," said the Palmer, "and thinner, than when he came
from Cyprus in the train of Coeur-de-Lion, and care seemed to sit
heavy on his brow; but I approached not his presence, because he
is unknown to me."
"He will," said the lady, "I fear, find little in his native land
to clear those clouds from his countenance. Thanks, good
Pilgrim, for your information concerning the companion of my
childhood.---Maidens," she said, "draw near---offer the sleeping
cup to this holy man, whom I will no longer detain from repose."
One of the maidens presented a silver cup, containing a rich
mixture of wine and spice, which Rowena barely put to her lips.
It was then offered to the Palmer, who, after a low obeisance,
tasted a few drops.
"Accept this alms, friend," continued the lady, offering a piece
of gold, "in acknowledgment of thy painful travail, and of the
shrines thou hast visited."
The Palmer received the boon with another low reverence, and
followed Edwina out of the apartment.
In the anteroom he found his attendant Anwold, who, taking the
torch from the hand of the waiting-maid, conducted him with more
haste than ceremony to an exterior and ignoble part of the
building, where a number of small apartments, or rather cells,
served for sleeping places to the lower order of domestics, and
to strangers of mean degree.
"In which of these sleeps the Jew?" said the Pilgrim.
"The unbelieving dog," answered Anwold, kennels in the cell next
your holiness.---St Dunstan, how it must be scraped and cleansed
ere it be again fit for a Christian!"
"And where sleeps Gurth the swineherd?" said the stranger.
"Gurth," replied the bondsman, "sleeps in the cell on your right,
as the Jew on that to your left; you serve to keep the child of
circumcision separate from the abomination of his tribe. You
might have occupied a more honourable place had you accepted of
Oswald's invitation."
"It is as well as it is," said the Palmer; "the company, even of
a Jew, can hardly spread contamination through an oaken
So saying, he entered the cabin allotted to him, and taking the
torch from the domestic's hand, thanked him, and wished him
good-night. Having shut the door of his cell, he placed the
torch in a candlestick made of wood, and looked around his
sleeping apartment, the furniture of which was of the most simple
kind. It consisted of a rude wooden stool, and still ruder hutch
or bed-frame, stuffed with clean straw, and accommodated with two
or three sheepskins by way of bed-clothes.
The Palmer, having extinguished his torch, threw himself, without
taking off any part of his clothes, on this rude couch, and
slept, or at least retained his recumbent posture, till the
earliest sunbeams found their way through the little grated
window, which served at once to admit both air and light to his
uncomfortable cell. He then started up, and after repeating his
matins, and adjusting his dress, he left it, and entered that of
Isaac the Jew, lifting the latch as gently as he could.
The inmate was lying in troubled slumber upon a couch similar to
that on which the Palmer himself had passed the night. Such
parts of his dress as the Jew had laid aside on the preceding
evening, were disposed carefully around his person, as if to
prevent the hazard of their being carried off during his
slumbers. There was a trouble on his brow amounting almost to
agony. His hands and arms moved convulsively, as if struggling
with the nightmare; and besides several ejaculations in Hebrew,
the following were distinctly heard in the Norman-English, or
mixed language of the country: "For the sake of the God of
Abraham, spare an unhappy old man! I am poor, I am penniless
---should your irons wrench my limbs asunder, I could not gratify
The Palmer awaited not the end of the Jew's vision, but stirred
him with his pilgrim's staff. The touch probably associated, as
is usual, with some of the apprehensions excited by his dream;
for the old man started up, his grey hair standing almost erect
upon his head, and huddling some part of his garments about him,
while he held the detached pieces with the tenacious grasp of a
falcon, he fixed upon the Palmer his keen black eyes, expressive
of wild surprise and of bodily apprehension.
"Fear nothing from me, Isaac," said the Palmer, "I come as your
"The God of Israel requite you," said the Jew, greatly relieved;
"I dreamed---But Father Abraham be praised, it was but a dream."
Then, collecting himself, he added in his usual tone, "And what
may it be your pleasure to want at so early an hour with the poor
"It is to tell you," said the Palmer, "that if you leave not this
mansion instantly, and travel not with some haste, your journey
may prove a dangerous one."
"Holy father!" said the Jew, "whom could it interest to endanger
so poor a wretch as I am?"
"The purpose you can best guess," said the Pilgrim; "but rely on
this, that when the Templar crossed the hall yesternight, he
spoke to his Mussulman slaves in the Saracen language, which I
well understand, and charged them this morning to watch the
journey of the Jew, to seize upon him when at a convenient
distance from the mansion, and to conduct him to the castle of
Philip de Malvoisin, or to that of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf."
It is impossible to describe the extremity of terror which seized
upon the Jew at this information, and seemed at once to overpower
his whole faculties. His arms fell down to his sides, and his
head drooped on his breast, his knees bent under his weight,
every nerve and muscle of his frame seemed to collapse and lose
its energy, and he sunk at the foot of the Palmer, not in the
fashion of one who intentionally stoops, kneels, or prostrates
himself to excite compassion, but like a man borne down on all
sides by the pressure of some invisible force, which crushes him
to the earth without the power of resistance.
"Holy God of Abraham!" was his first exclamation, folding and
elevating his wrinkled hands, but without raising his grey head
from the pavement; "Oh, holy Moses! O, blessed Aaron! the dream
is not dreamed for nought, and the vision cometh not in vain! I
feel their irons already tear my sinews! I feel the rack pass
over my body like the saws, and harrows, and axes of iron over
the men of Rabbah, and of the cities of the children of Ammon!"
"Stand up, Isaac, and hearken to me," said the Palmer, who viewed
the extremity of his distress with a compassion in which contempt
was largely mingled; "you have cause for your terror, considering
how your brethren have been used, in order to extort from them
their hoards, both by princes and nobles; but stand up, I say,
and I will point out to you the means of escape. Leave this
mansion instantly, while its inmates sleep sound after the last
night's revel. I will guide you by the secret paths of the
forest, known as well to me as to any forester that ranges it,
and I will not leave you till you are under safe conduct of some
chief or baron going to the tournament, whose good-will you have
probably the means of securing."
As the ears of Isaac received the hopes of escape which this
speech intimated, he began gradually, and inch by inch, as it
were, to raise himself up from the ground, until he fairly rested
upon his knees, throwing back his long grey hair and beard, and
fixing his keen black eyes upon the Palmer's face, with a look
expressive at once of hope and fear, not unmingled with
suspicion. But when he heard the concluding part of the
sentence, his original terror appeared to revive in full force,
and he dropt once more on his face, exclaiming, "'I' possess the
means of securing good-will! alas! there is but one road to the
favour of a Christian, and how can the poor Jew find it, whom
extortions have already reduced to the misery of Lazarus?" Then,
as if suspicion had overpowered his other feelings, he suddenly
exclaimed, "For the love of God, young man, betray me not---for
the sake of the Great Father who made us all, Jew as well as
Gentile, Israelite and Ishmaelite---do me no treason! I have not
means to secure the good-will of a Christian beggar, were he
rating it at a single penny." As he spoke these last words, he
raised himself, and grasped the Palmer's mantle with a look of
the most earnest entreaty. The pilgrim extricated himself, as
if there were contamination in the touch.
"Wert thou loaded with all the wealth of thy tribe," he said,
"what interest have I to injure thee?---In this dress I am vowed
to poverty, nor do I change it for aught save a horse and a coat
of mail. Yet think not that I care for thy company, or propose
myself advantage by it; remain here if thou wilt---Cedric the
Saxon may protect thee."
"Alas!" said the Jew, "he will not let me travel in his train
---Saxon or Norman will be equally ashamed of the poor Israelite;
and to travel by myself through the domains of Philip de
Malvoisin and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf---Good youth, I will go
with you!---Let us haste---let us gird up our loins---let us
flee!---Here is thy staff, why wilt thou tarry?"
"I tarry not," said the Pilgrim, giving way to the urgency of his
companion; "but I must secure the means of leaving this place
--follow me."
He led the way to the adjoining cell, which, as the reader is
apprised, was occupied by Gurth the swineherd.---"Arise, Gurth,"
said the Pilgrim, "arise quickly. Undo the postern gate, and let
out the Jew and me."
Gurth, whose occupation, though now held so mean, gave him as
much consequence in Saxon England as that of Eumaeus in Ithaca,
was offended at the familiar and commanding tone assumed by the
Palmer. "The Jew leaving Rotherwood," said he, raising himself
on his elbow, and looking superciliously at him without quitting
his pallet, "and travelling in company with the Palmer to
"I should as soon have dreamt," said Wamba, who entered the
apartment at the instant, "of his stealing away with a gammon of
"Nevertheless," said Gurth, again laying down his head on the
wooden log which served him for a pillow, "both Jew and Gentile
must be content to abide the opening of the great gate---we
suffer no visitors to depart by stealth at these unseasonable
"Nevertheless," said the Pilgrim, in a commanding tone, "you will
not, I think, refuse me that favour."
So saying, he stooped over the bed of the recumbent swineherd,
and whispered something in his ear in Saxon. Gurth started up
as if electrified. The Pilgrim, raising his finger in an
attitude as if to express caution, added, "Gurth, beware---thou
are wont to be prudent. I say, undo the postern---thou shalt
know more anon."
With hasty alacrity Gurth obeyed him, while and the Jew followed,
both wondering at the sudden change in the swineherd's demeanour.
"My mule, my mule!" said the Jew, as soon as they stood without
the postern.
"Fetch him his mule," said the Pilgrim; "and, hearest thou,
---let me have another, that I may bear him company till he is
beyond these parts---I will return it safely to some of Cedric's
train at Ashby. And do thou"---he whispered the rest in Gurth's
"Willingly, most willingly shall it be done," said Gurth, and
instantly departed to execute the commission.
"I wish I knew," said Wamba, when his comrade's back was turned,
"what you Palmers learn in the Holy Land."
"To say our orisons, fool," answered the Pilgrim, "to repent our
sins, and to mortify ourselves with fastings, vigils, and long
"Something more potent than that," answered the Jester; "for when
would repentance or prayer make Gurth do a courtesy, or fasting
or vigil persuade him to lend you a mule?---l trow you might as
well have told his favourite black boar of thy vigils and
penance, and wouldst have gotten as civil an answer."
"Go to," said the Pilgrim, "thou art but a Saxon fool."
"Thou sayst well." said the Jester; "had I been born a Norman, as
I think thou art, I would have had luck on my side, and been next
door to a wise man."
At this moment Gurth appeared on the opposite side of the moat
with the mules. The travellers crossed the ditch upon a
drawbridge of only two planks breadth, the narrowness of which
was matched with the straitness of the postern, and with a little
wicket in the exterior palisade, which gave access to the forest.
No sooner had they reached the mules, than the Jew, with hasty
and trembling hands, secured behind the saddle a small bag of
blue buckram, which he took from under his cloak, containing, as
be muttered, "a change of raiment---only a change of raiment."
Then getting upon the animal with more alacrity and haste than
could have been anticipated from his years, he lost no time in so
disposing of the skirts of his gabardine as to conceal completely
from observation the burden which he had thus deposited "en
The Pilgrim mounted with more deliberation, reaching, as he
departed, his hand to Gurth, who kissed it with the utmost
possible veneration. The swineherd stood gazing after the
travellers until they were lost under the boughs of the forest
path, when he was disturbed from his reverie by the voice of
"Knowest thou," said the Jester, "my good friend Gurth, that thou
art strangely courteous and most unwontedly pious on this summer
morning? I would I were a black Prior or a barefoot Palmer, to
avail myself of thy unwonted zeal and courtesy ---certes, I would
make more out of it than a kiss of the hand."
"Thou art no fool thus far, Wamba," answered Gurth, "though thou
arguest from appearances, and the wisest of us can do no more
---But it is time to look after my charge."
So saying, he turned back to the mansion, attended by the Jester.
Meanwhile the travellers continued to press on their journey with
a dispatch which argued the extremity of the Jew's fears, since
persons at his age are seldom fond of rapid motion, The Palmer,
to whom every path and outlet in the wood appeared to be
familiar, led the way through the most devious paths, and more
than once excited anew the suspicion of the Israelite, that he
intended to betray him into some ambuscade of his enemies.
His doubts might have been indeed pardoned; for, except perhaps
the flying fish, there was no race existing on the earth, in the
air, or the waters, who were the object of such an
unintermitting, general, and relentless persecution as the Jews
of this period. Upon the slightest and most unreasonable
pretences, as well as upon accusations the most absurd and
groundless, their persons and property were exposed to every turn
of popular fury; for Norman, Saxon, Dane, and Briton, however
adverse these races were to each other, contended which should
look with greatest detestation upon a people, whom it was
accounted a point of religion to hate, to revile, to despise, to
plunder, and to persecute. The kings of the Norman race, and the
independent nobles, who followed their example in all acts of
tyranny, maintained against this devoted people a persecution of
a more regular, calculated, and self-interested kind. It is a
well-known story of King John, that he confined a wealthy Jew in
one of the royal castles, and daily caused one of his teeth to be
torn out, until, when the jaw of the unhappy Israelite was half
disfurnished, he consented to pay a large sum, which it was the
tyrant's object to extort from him. The little ready money which
was in the country was chiefly in possession of this persecuted
people, and the nobility hesitated not to follow the example of
their sovereign, in wringing it from them by every species of
oppression, and even personal torture. Yet the passive courage
inspired by the love of gain, induced the Jews to dare the
various evils to which they were subjected, in consideration of
the immense profits which they were enabled to realize in a
country naturally so wealthy as England. In spite of every kind
of discouragement, and even of the special court of taxations
already mentioned, called the Jews' Exchequer, erected for the
very purpose of despoiling and distressing them, the Jews
increased, multiplied, and accumulated huge sums, which they
transferred from one hand to another by means of bills of
exchange---an invention for which commerce is said to be indebted
to them, and which enabled them to transfer their wealth from
land to land, that when threatened with oppression in one
country, their treasure might be secured in another.
The obstinacy and avarice of the Jews being thus in a measure
placed in opposition to the fanaticism that tyranny of those
under whom they lived, seemed to increase in proportion to the
persecution with which they were visited; and the immense wealth
they usually acquired in commerce, while it frequently placed
them in danger, was at other times used to extend their
influence, and to secure to them a certain degree of protection.
On these terms they lived; and their character, influenced
accordingly, was watchful, suspicious, and timid---yet obstinate,
uncomplying, and skilful in evading the dangers to which they
were exposed.
When the travellers had pushed on at a rapid rate through many
devious paths, the Palmer at length broke silence.
"That large decayed oak," he said, "marks the boundaries over
which Front-de-Boeuf claims authority---we are long since far
from those of Malvoisin. There is now no fear of pursuit."
"May the wheels of their chariots be taken off," said the Jew,
"like those of the host of Pharaoh, that they may drive heavily!
---But leave me not, good Pilgrim---Think but of that fierce and
savage Templar, with his Saracen slaves---they will regard
neither territory, nor manor, nor lordship."
"Our road," said the Palmer, "should here separate; for it
beseems not men of my character and thine to travel together
longer than needs must be. Besides, what succour couldst thou
have from me, a peaceful Pilgrim, against two armed heathens?"
"O good youth," answered the Jew, "thou canst defend me, and I
know thou wouldst. Poor as I am, I will requite it---not with
money, for money, so help me my Father Abraham, I have none---but
"Money and recompense," said the Palmer, interrupting him, "I
have already said I require not of thee. Guide thee I can; and,
it may be, even in some sort defend thee; since to protect a Jew
against a Saracen, can scarce be accounted unworthy of a
Christian. Therefore, Jew, I will see thee safe under some
fitting escort. We are now not far from the town of Sheffield,
where thou mayest easily find many of thy tribe with whom to take
"The blessing of Jacob be upon thee, good youth!" said the Jew;
"in Sheffield I can harbour with my kinsman Zareth, and find some
means of travelling forth with safety."
"Be it so," said the Palmer; "at Sheffield then we part, and
half-an-hour's riding will bring us in sight of that town."
The half hour was spent in perfect silence on both parts; the
Pilgrim perhaps disdaining to address the Jew, except in case of
absolute necessity, and the Jew not presuming to force a
conversation with a person whose journey to the Holy Sepulchre
gave a sort of sanctity to his character. They paused on the top
of a gently rising bank, and the Pilgrim, pointing to the town of
Sheffield, which lay beneath them, repeated the words, "Here,
then, we part."
"Not till you have had the poor Jew's thanks," said Isaac; "for
I presume not to ask you to go with me to my kinsman Zareth's,
who might aid me with some means of repaying your good offices."
"I have already said," answered the Pilgrim, "that I desire no
recompense. If among the huge list of thy debtors, thou wilt, for
my sake, spare the gyves and the dungeon to some unhappy
Christian who stands in thy danger, I shall hold this morning's
service to thee well bestowed."
"Stay, stay," said the Jew, laying hold of his garment;
"something would I do more than this, something for thyself.
---God knows the Jew is poor---yes, Isaac is the beggar of his
tribe---but forgive me should I guess what thou most lackest at
this moment."
"If thou wert to guess truly," said the Palmer, "it is what thou
canst not supply, wert thou as wealthy as thou sayst thou art
"As I say?" echoed the Jew; "O! believe it, I say but the truth;
I am a plundered, indebted, distressed man. Hard hands have
wrung from me my goods, my money, my ships, and all that I
possessed---Yet I can tell thee what thou lackest, and, it may
be, supply it too. Thy wish even now is for a horse and armour."
The Palmer started, and turned suddenly towards the Jew:---"What
fiend prompted that guess?" said he, hastily.
"No matter," said the Jew, smiling, "so that it be a true one
---and, as I can guess thy want, so I can supply it."
"But consider," said the Palmer, "my character, my dress, my
"I know you Christians," replied the Jew, "and that the noblest
of you will take the staff and sandal in superstitious penance,
and walk afoot to visit the graves of dead men."
"Blaspheme not, Jew," said the Pilgrim, sternly.
"Forgive me," said the Jew; "I spoke rashly. But there dropt
words from you last night and this morning, that, like sparks
from flint, showed the metal within; and in the bosom of that
Palmer's gown, is hidden a knight's chain and spurs of gold.
They glanced as you stooped over my bed in the morning."
The Pilgrim could not forbear smiling. "Were thy garments
searched by as curious an eye, Isaac," said he, "what discoveries
might not be made?"
"No more of that," said the Jew, changing colour; and drawing
forth his writing materials in haste, as if to stop the
conversation, he began to write upon a piece of paper which he
supported on the top of his yellow cap, without dismounting from
his mule. When he had finished, he delivered the scroll, which
was in the Hebrew character, to the Pilgrim, saying, "In the town
of Leicester all men know the rich Jew, Kirjath Jairam of
Lombardy; give him this scroll---he hath on sale six Milan
harnesses, the worst would suit a crowned head---ten goodly
steeds, the worst might mount a king, were he to do battle for
his throne. Of these he will give thee thy choice, with every
thing else that can furnish thee forth for the tournament: when
it is over, thou wilt return them safely---unless thou shouldst
have wherewith to pay their value to the owner."
"But, Isaac," said the Pilgrim, smiling, "dost thou know that in
these sports, the arms and steed of the knight who is unhorsed
are forfeit to his victor? Now I may be unfortunate, and so lose
what I cannot replace or repay."
The Jew looked somewhat astounded at this possibility; but
collecting his courage, he replied hastily. "No---no---no---It
is impossible---I will not think so. The blessing of Our Father
will be upon thee. Thy lance will be powerful as the rod of
So saying, he was turning his mule's head away, when the Palmer,
in his turn, took hold of his gaberdine. "Nay, but Isaac, thou
knowest not all the risk. The steed may be slain, the armour
injured---for I will spare neither horse nor man. Besides, those
of thy tribe give nothing for nothing; something there must be
paid for their use."
The Jew twisted himself in the saddle, like a man in a fit of the
colic; but his better feelings predominated over those which were
most familiar to him. "I care not," he said, "I care not---let
me go. If there is damage, it will cost you nothing---if there
is usage money, Kirjath Jairam will forgive it for the sake of
his kinsman Isaac. Fare thee well!---Yet hark thee, good youth,"
said he, turning about, "thrust thyself not too forward into this
vain hurly-burly---I speak not for endangering the steed, and
coat of armour, but for the sake of thine own life and limbs."
"Gramercy for thy caution," said the Palmer, again smiling; "I
will use thy courtesy frankly, and it will go hard with me but
I will requite it."
They parted, and took different roads for the town of Sheffield.
Knights, with a long retinue of their squires,
In gaudy liveries march and quaint attires;
One laced the helm, another held the lance,
A third the shining buckler did advance.
The courser paw'd the ground with restless feet,
And snorting foam'd and champ'd the golden bit.
The smiths and armourers on palfreys ride,
Files in their hands, and hammers at their side;
And nails for loosen'd spears, and thongs for shields provide.
The yeomen guard the streets in seemly bands;
And clowns come crowding on, with cudgels in their hands.
Palamon and Arcite
The condition of the English nation was at this time sufficiently
miserable. King Richard was absent a prisoner, and in the power
of the perfidious and cruel Duke of Austria. Even the very place
of his captivity was uncertain, and his fate but very imperfectly
known to the generality of his subjects, who were, in the
meantime, a prey to every species of subaltern oppression.
Prince John, in league with Philip of France, Coeur-de-Lion's
mortal enemy, was using every species of influence with the Duke
of Austria, to prolong the captivity of his brother Richard, to
whom he stood indebted for so many favours. In the meantime, he
was strengthening his own faction in the kingdom, of which he
proposed to dispute the succession, in case of the King's death,
with the legitimate heir, Arthur Duke of Brittany, son of
Geoffrey Plantagenet, the elder brother of John. This
usurpation, it is well known, he afterwards effected. His own
character being light, profligate, and perfidious, John easily
attached to his person and faction, not only all who had reason
to dread the resentment of Richard for criminal proceedings
during his absence, but also the numerous class of "lawless
resolutes," whom the crusades had turned back on their country,
accomplished in the vices of the East, impoverished in substance,
and hardened in character, and who placed their hopes of harvest
in civil commotion. To these causes of public distress and
apprehension, must be added, the multitude of outlaws, who,
driven to despair by the oppression of the feudal nobility, and
the severe exercise of the forest laws, banded together in large
gangs, and, keeping possession of the forests and the wastes, set
at defiance the justice and magistracy of the country. The
nobles themselves, each fortified within his own castle, and
playing the petty sovereign over his own dominions, were the
leaders of bands scarce less lawless and oppressive than those of
the avowed depredators. To maintain these retainers, and to
support the extravagance and magnificence which their pride
induced them to affect, the nobility borrowed sums of money from
the Jews at the most usurious interest, which gnawed into their
estates like consuming cankers, scarce to be cured unless when
circumstances gave them an opportunity of getting free, by
exercising upon their creditors some act of unprincipled
Under the various burdens imposed by this unhappy state of
affairs, the people of England suffered deeply for the present,
and had yet more dreadful cause to fear for the future. To
augment their misery, a contagious disorder of a dangerous nature
spread through the land; and, rendered more virulent by the
uncleanness, the indifferent food, and the wretched lodging of
the lower classes, swept off many whose fate the survivors were
tempted to envy, as exempting them from the evils which were to
Yet amid these accumulated distresses, the poor as well as the
rich, the vulgar as well as the noble, in the event of a
tournament, which was the grand spectacle of that age, felt as
much interested as the half-starved citizen of Madrid, who has
not a real left to buy provisions for his family, feels in the
issue of a bull-feast. Neither duty nor infirmity could keep
youth or age from such exhibitions. The Passage of Arms, as it
was called, which was to take place at Ashby, in the county of
Leicester, as champions of the first renown were to take the
field in the presence of Prince John himself, who was expected to
grace the lists, had attracted universal attention, and an
immense confluence of persons of all ranks hastened upon the
appointed morning to the place of combat.
The scene was singularly romantic. On the verge of a wood, which
approached to within a mile of the town of Ashby, was an
extensive meadow, of the finest and most beautiful green turf,
surrounded on one side by the forest, and fringed on the other by
straggling oak-trees, some of which had grown to an immense size.
The ground, as if fashioned on purpose for the martial display
which was intended, sloped gradually down on all sides to a level
bottom, which was enclosed for the lists with strong palisades,
forming a space of a quarter of a mile in length, and about half
as broad. The form of the enclosure was an oblong square, save
that the corners were considerably rounded off, in order to
afford more convenience for the spectators. The openings for the
entry of the combatants were at the northern and southern
extremities of the lists, accessible by strong wooden gates, each
wide enough to admit two horsemen riding abreast. At each of
these portals were stationed two heralds, attended by six
trumpets, as many pursuivants, and a strong body of men-at-arms
for maintaining order, and ascertaining the quality of the
knights who proposed to engage in this martial game.
On a platform beyond the southern entrance, formed by a natural
elevation of the ground, were pitched five magnificent pavilions,
adorned with pennons of russet and black, the chosen colours of
the five knights challengers. The cords of the tents were of the
same colour. Before each pavilion was suspended the shield of
the knight by whom it was occupied, and beside it stood his
squire, quaintly disguised as a salvage or silvan man, or in some
other fantastic dress, according to the taste of his master, and
the character he was pleased to assume during the game.*
* This sort of masquerade is supposed to have occasioned the
* introduction of supporters into the science of heraldry.
The central pavilion, as the place of honour, had been assigned
to Brian be Bois-Guilbert, whose renown in all games of chivalry,
no less than his connexions with the knights who had undertaken
this Passage of Arms, had occasioned him to be eagerly received
into the company of the challengers, and even adopted as their
chief and leader, though he had so recently joined them. On one
side of his tent were pitched those of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf
and Richard de Malvoisin, and on the other was the pavilion of
Hugh de Grantmesnil, a noble baron in the vicinity, whose
ancestor had been Lord High Steward of England in the time of the
Conqueror, and his son William Rufus. Ralph de Vipont, a knight
of St John of Jerusalem, who had some ancient possessions at a
place called Heather, near Ashby-de-la-Zouche, occupied the fifth
pavilion. From the entrance into the lists, a gently sloping
passage, ten yards in breadth, led up to the platform on which
the tents were pitched. It was strongly secured by a palisade on
each side, as was the esplanade in front of the pavilions, and
the whole was guarded by men-at-arms.
The northern access to the lists terminated in a similar entrance
of thirty feet in breadth, at the extremity of which was a large
enclosed space for such knights as might be disposed to enter the
lists with the challengers, behind which were placed tents
containing refreshments of every kind for their accommodation,
with armourers, tarriers, and other attendants, in readiness to
give their services wherever they might be necessary.
The exterior of the lists was in part occupied by temporary
galleries, spread with tapestry and carpets, and accommodated
with cushions for the convenience of those ladies and nobles who
were expected to attend the tournament. A narrow space, betwixt
these galleries and the lists, gave accommodation for yeomanry
and spectators of a better degree than the mere vulgar, and might
be compared to the pit of a theatre. The promiscuous multitude
arranged themselves upon large banks of turf prepared for the
purpose, which, aided by the natural elevation of the ground,
enabled them to overlook the galleries, and obtain a fair view
into the lists. Besides the accommodation which these stations
afforded, many hundreds had perched themselves on the branches of
the trees which surrounded the meadow; and even the steeple of a
country church, at some distance, was crowded with spectators.
It only remains to notice respecting the general arrangement,
that one gallery in the very centre of the eastern side of the
lists, and consequently exactly opposite to the spot where the
shock of the combat was to take place, was raised higher than the
others, more richly decorated, and graced by a sort of throne and
canopy, on which the royal arms were emblazoned. Squires, pages,
and yeomen in rich liveries, waited around this place of honour,
which was designed for Prince John and his attendants. Opposite
to this royal gallery was another, elevated to the same height,
on the western side of the lists; and more gaily, if less
sumptuously decorated, than that destined for the Prince himself.
A train of pages and of young maidens, the most beautiful who
could be selected, gaily dressed in fancy habits of green and
pink, surrounded a throne decorated in the same colours. Among
pennons and flags bearing wounded hearts, burning hearts,
bleeding hearts, bows and quivers, and all the commonplace
emblems of the triumphs of Cupid, a blazoned inscription informed
the spectators, that this seat of honour was designed for "La
Royne de las Beaulte et des Amours". But who was to represent
the Queen of Beauty and of Love on the present occasion no one
was prepared to guess.
Meanwhile, spectators of every description thronged forward to
occupy their respective stations, and not without many quarrels
concerning those which they were entitled to hold. Some of these
were settled by the men-at-arms with brief ceremony; the shafts
of their battle-axes, and pummels of their swords, being readily
employed as arguments to convince the more refractory. Others,
which involved the rival claims of more elevated persons, were
determined by the heralds, or by the two marshals of the field,
William de Wyvil, and Stephen de Martival, who, armed at all
points, rode up and down the lists to enforce and preserve good
order among the spectators.
Gradually the galleries became filled with knights and nobles, in
their robes of peace, whose long and rich-tinted mantles were
contrasted with the gayer and more splendid habits of the ladies,
who, in a greater proportion than even the men themselves,
thronged to witness a sport, which one would have thought too
bloody and dangerous to afford their sex much pleasure. The
lower and interior space was soon filled by substantial yeomen
and burghers, and such of the lesser gentry, as, from modesty,
poverty, or dubious title, durst not assume any higher place. It
was of course amongst these that the most frequent disputes for
precedence occurred.
"Dog of an unbeliever," said an old man, whose threadbare tunic
bore witness to his poverty, as his sword, and dagger, and golden
chain intimated his pretensions to rank,---"whelp of a she-wolf!
darest thou press upon a Christian, and a Norman gentleman of the
blood of Montdidier?"
This rough expostulation was addressed to no other than our
acquaintance Isaac, who, richly and even magnificently dressed
in a gaberdine ornamented with lace and lined with fur, was
endeavouring to make place in the foremost row beneath the
gallery for his daughter, the beautiful Rebecca, who had joined
him at Ashby, and who was now hanging on her father's arm, not a
little terrified by the popular displeasure which seemed
generally excited by her parent's presumption. But Isaac, though
we have seen him sufficiently timid on other occasions, knew well
that at present he had nothing to fear. It was not in places of
general resort, or where their equals were assembled, that any
avaricious or malevolent noble durst offer him injury. At such
meetings the Jews were under the protection of the general law;
and if that proved a weak assurance, it usually happened that
there were among the persons assembled some barons, who, for
their own interested motives, were ready to act as their
protectors. On the present occasion, Isaac felt more than
usually confident, being aware that Prince John was even then in
the very act of negotiating a large loan from the Jews of York,
to be secured upon certain jewels and lands. Isaac's own share
in this transaction was considerable, and he well knew that the
Prince's eager desire to bring it to a conclusion would ensure
him his protection in the dilemma in which he stood.
Emboldened by these considerations, the Jew pursued his point,
and jostled the Norman Christian, without respect either to his
descent, quality, or religion. The complaints of the old man,
however, excited the indignation of the bystanders. One of
these, a stout well-set yeoman, arrayed in Lincoln green, having
twelve arrows stuck in his belt, with a baldric and badge of
silver, and a bow of six feet length in his hand, turned short
round, and while his countenance, which his constant exposure to
weather had rendered brown as a hazel nut, grew darker with
anger, he advised the Jew to remember that all the wealth he had
acquired by sucking the blood of his miserable victims had but
swelled him like a bloated spider, which might be overlooked
while he kept in a comer, but would be crushed if it ventured
into the light. This intimation, delivered in Norman-English
with a firm voice and a stern aspect, made the Jew shrink back;
and he would have probably withdrawn himself altogether from a
vicinity so dangerous, had not the attention of every one been
called to the sudden entrance of Prince John, who at that moment
entered the lists, attended by a numerous and gay train,
consisting partly of laymen, partly of churchmen, as light in
their dress, and as gay in their demeanour, as their companions.
Among the latter was the Prior of Jorvaulx, in the most gallant
trim which a dignitary of the church could venture to exhibit.
Fur and gold were not spared in his garments; and the points of
his boots, out-heroding the preposterous fashion of the time,
turned up so very far, as to be attached, not to his knees
merely, but to his very girdle, and effectually prevented him
from putting his foot into the stirrup. This, however, was a
slight inconvenience to the gallant Abbot, who, perhaps, even
rejoicing in the opportunity to display his accomplished
horsemanship before so many spectators, especially of the fair
sex, dispensed with the use of these supports to a timid rider.
The rest of Prince John's retinue consisted of the favourite
leaders of his mercenary troops, some marauding barons and
profligate attendants upon the court, with several Knights
Templars and Knights of St John.
It may be here remarked, that the knights of these two orders
were accounted hostile to King Richard, having adopted the side
of Philip of France in the long train of disputes which took
place in Palestine betwixt that monarch and the lion-hearted
King of England. It was the well-known consequence of this
discord that Richard's repeated victories had been rendered
fruitless, his romantic attempts to besiege Jerusalem
disappointed, and the fruit of all the glory which he had
acquired had dwindled into an uncertain truce with the Sultan
Saladin. With the same policy which had dictated the conduct of
their brethren in the Holy Land, the Templars and Hospitallers in
England and Normandy attached themselves to the faction of Prince
John, having little reason to desire the return of Richard to
England, or the succession of Arthur, his legitimate heir. For
the opposite reason, Prince John hated and contemned the few
Saxon families of consequence which subsisted in England, and
omitted no opportunity of mortifying and affronting them; being
conscious that his person and pretensions were disliked by them,
as well as by the greater part of the English commons, who feared
farther innovation upon their rights and liberties, from a
sovereign of John's licentious and tyrannical disposition.
Attended by this gallant equipage, himself well mounted, and
splendidly dressed in crimson and in gold, bearing upon his hand
a falcon, and having his head covered by a rich fur bonnet,
adorned with a circle of precious stones, from which his long
curled hair escaped and overspread his shoulders, Prince John,
upon a grey and high-mettled palfrey, caracoled within the lists
at the head of his jovial party, laughing loud with his train,
and eyeing with all the boldness of royal criticism the beauties
who adorned the lofty galleries.
Those who remarked in the physiognomy of the Prince a dissolute
audacity, mingled with extreme haughtiness and indifference to,
the feelings of others could not yet deny to his countenance that
sort of comeliness which belongs to an open set of features, well
formed by nature, modelled by art to the usual rules of courtesy,
yet so far frank and honest, that they seemed as if they
disclaimed to conceal the natural workings of the soul. Such an
expression is often mistaken for manly frankness, when in truth
it arises from the reckless indifference of a libertine
disposition, conscious of superiority of birth, of wealth, or of
some other adventitious advantage, totally unconnected with
personal merit. To those who did not think so deeply, and they
were the greater number by a hundred to one, the splendour of
Prince John's "rheno", (i.e. fur tippet,) the richness of his
cloak, lined with the most costly sables, his maroquin boots and
golden spurs, together with the grace with which he managed his
palfrey, were sufficient to merit clamorous applause.
In his joyous caracole round the lists, the attention of the
Prince was called by the commotion, not yet subsided, which had
attended the ambitious movement of Isaac towards the higher
places of the assembly. The quick eye of Prince John instantly
recognised the Jew, but was much more agreeably attracted by the
beautiful daughter of Zion, who, terrified by the tumult, clung
close to the arm of her aged father.
The figure of Rebecca might indeed have compared with the
proudest beauties of England, even though it had been judged by
as shrewd a connoisseur as Prince John. Her form was exquisitely
symmetrical, and was shown to advantage by a sort of Eastern
dress, which she wore according to the fashion of the females of
her nation. Her turban of yellow silk suited well with the
darkness of her complexion. The brilliancy of her eyes, the
superb arch of her eyebrows, her well-formed aquiline nose, her
teeth as white as pearl, and the profusion of her sable tresses,
which, each arranged in its own little spiral of twisted curls,
fell down upon as much of a lovely neck and bosom as a simarre of
the richest Persian silk, exhibiting flowers in their natural
colours embossed upon a purple ground, permitted to be visible
---all these constituted a combination of loveliness, which
yielded not to the most beautiful of the maidens who surrounded
her. It is true, that of the golden and pearl-studded clasps,
which closed her vest from the throat to the waist, the three
uppermost were left unfastened on account of the heat, which
something enlarged the prospect to which we allude. A diamond
necklace, with pendants of inestimable value, were by this means
also made more conspicuous. The feather of an ostrich, fastened
in her turban by an agraffe set with brilliants, was another
distinction of the beautiful Jewess, scoffed and sneered at by
the proud dames who sat above her, but secretly envied by those
who affected to deride them.
"By the bald scalp of Abraham," said Prince John, "yonder Jewess
must be the very model of that perfection, whose charms drove
frantic the wisest king that ever lived! What sayest thou, Prior
Aymer?---By the Temple of that wise king, which our wiser brother
Richard proved unable to recover, she is the very Bride of the
"The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley,"---answered the
Prior, in a sort of snuffling tone; "but your Grace must remember
she is still but a Jewess."
"Ay!" added Prince John, without heeding him, "and there is my
Mammon of unrighteousness too---the Marquis of Marks, the Baron
of Byzants, contesting for place with penniless dogs, whose
threadbare cloaks have not a single cross in their pouches to
keep the devil from dancing there. By the body of St Mark, my
prince of supplies, with his lovely Jewess, shall have a place in
the gallery!---What is she, Isaac? Thy wife or thy daughter, that
Eastern houri that thou lockest under thy arm as thou wouldst thy
"My daughter Rebecca, so please your Grace," answered Isaac, with
a low congee, nothing embarrassed by the Prince's salutation, in
which, however, there was at least as much mockery as courtesy.
"The wiser man thou," said John, with a peal of laughter, in
which his gay followers obsequiously joined. "But, daughter or
wife, she should be preferred according to her beauty and thy
merits.---Who sits above there?" he continued, bending his eye on
the gallery. "Saxon churls, lolling at their lazy length!---out
upon them!---let them sit close, and make room for my prince of
usurers and his lovely daughter. I'll make the hinds know they
must share the high places of the synagogue with those whom the
synagogue properly belongs to."
Those who occupied the gallery to whom this injurious and
unpolite speech was addressed, were the family of Cedric the
Saxon, with that of his ally and kinsman, Athelstane of
Coningsburgh, a personage, who, on account of his descent from
the last Saxon monarchs of England, was held in the highest
respect by all the Saxon natives of the north of England. But
with the blood of this ancient royal race, many of their
infirmities had descended to Athelstane. He was comely in
countenance, bulky and strong in person, and in the flower of his
age---yet inanimate in expression, dull-eyed, heavy-browed,
inactive and sluggish in all his motions, and so slow in
resolution, that the soubriquet of one of his ancestors was
conferred upon him, and he was very generally called Athelstane
the Unready. His friends, and he had many, who, as well as
Cedric, were passionately attached to him, contended that this
sluggish temper arose not from want of courage, but from mere
want of decision; others alleged that his hereditary vice of
drunkenness had obscured his faculties, never of a very acute
order, and that the passive courage and meek good-nature which
remained behind, were merely the dregs of a character that might
have been deserving of praise, but of which all the valuable
parts had flown off in the progress of a long course of brutal
It was to this person, such as we have described him, that the
Prince addressed his imperious command to make place for Isaac
and Rebecca. Athelstane, utterly confounded at an order which
the manners and feelings of the times rendered so injuriously
insulting, unwilling to obey, yet undetermined how to resist,
opposed only the "vis inertiae" to the will of John; and, without
stirring or making any motion whatever of obedience, opened his
large grey eyes, and stared at the Prince with an astonishment
which had in it something extremely ludicrous. But the impatient
John regarded it in no such light.
"The Saxon porker," he said, "is either asleep or minds me not
---Prick him with your lance, De Bracy," speaking to a knight
who rode near him, the leader of a band of Free Companions, or
Condottieri; that is, of mercenaries belonging to no particular
nation, but attached for the time to any prince by whom they were
paid. There was a murmur even among the attendants of Prince
John; but De Bracy, whose profession freed him from all scruples,
extended his long lance over the space which separated the
gallery from the lists, and would have executed the commands of
the Prince before Athelstane the Unready had recovered presence
of mind sufficient even to draw back his person from the weapon,
had not Cedric, as prompt as his companion was tardy, unsheathed,
with the speed of lightning, the short sword which he wore, and
at a single blow severed the point of the lance from the handle.
The blood rushed into the countenance of Prince John. He swore
one of his deepest oaths, and was about to utter some threat
corresponding in violence, when he was diverted from his purpose,
partly by his own attendants, who gathered around him conjuring
him to be patient, partly by a general exclamation of the crowd,
uttered in loud applause of the spirited conduct of Cedric. The
Prince rolled his eyes in indignation, as if to collect some safe
and easy victim; and chancing to encounter the firm glance of the
same archer whom we have already noticed, and who seemed to
persist in his gesture of applause, in spite of the frowning
aspect which the Prince bent upon him, he demanded his reason for
clamouring thus.
"I always add my hollo," said the yeoman, "when I see a good
shot, or a gallant blow."
"Sayst thou?" answered the Prince; "then thou canst hit the white
thyself, I'll warrant."
"A woodsman's mark, and at woodsman's distance, I can hit,"
answered the yeoman.
"And Wat Tyrrel's mark, at a hundred yards," said a voice from
behind, but by whom uttered could not be discerned.
This allusion to the fate of William Rufus, his Relative, at once
incensed and alarmed Prince John. He satisfied himself, however,
with commanding the men-at-arms, who surrounded the lists, to
keep an eye on the braggart, pointing to the yeoman.
"By St Grizzel," he added, "we will try his own skill, who is so
ready to give his voice to the feats of others!"
"I shall not fly the trial," said the yeoman, with the composure
which marked his whole deportment.
"Meanwhile, stand up, ye Saxon churls," said the fiery Prince;
"for, by the light of Heaven, since I have said it, the Jew shall
have his seat amongst ye!"
"By no means, an it please your Grace!---it is not fit for such
as we to sit with the rulers of the land," said the Jew; whose
ambition for precedence though it had led him to dispute Place
with the extenuated and impoverished descendant of the line of
Montdidier, by no means stimulated him to an intrusion upon the
privileges of the wealthy Saxons.
"Up, infidel dog when I command you," said Prince John, "or I
will have thy swarthy hide stript off, and tanned for
Thus urged, the Jew began to ascend the steep and narrow steps
which led up to the gallery.
"Let me see," said the Prince, "who dare stop him," fixing his
eye on Cedric, whose attitude intimated his intention to hurl the
Jew down headlong.
The catastrophe was prevented by the clown Wamba, who, springing
betwixt his master and Isaac, and exclaiming, in answer to the
Prince's defiance, "Marry, that will I!" opposed to the beard of
the Jew a shield of brawn, which he plucked from beneath his
cloak, and with which, doubtless, he had furnished himself, lest
the tournament should have proved longer than his appetite could
endure abstinence. Finding the abomination of his tribe opposed
to his very nose, while the Jester, at the same time, flourished
his wooden sword above his head, the Jew recoiled, missed his
footing, and rolled down the steps,---an excellent jest to the
spectators, who set up a loud laughter, in which Prince John and
his attendants heartily joined.
"Deal me the prize, cousin Prince," said Wamba; "I have
vanquished my foe in fair fight with sword and shield," he added,
brandishing the brawn in one hand and the wooden sword in the
"Who, and what art thou, noble champion?" said Prince John, still
"A fool by right of descent," answered the Jester; "I am Wamba,
the son of Witless, who was the son of Weatherbrain, who was the
son of an Alderman."
"Make room for the Jew in front of the lower ring," said Prince
John, not unwilling perhaps to, seize an apology to desist from
his original purpose; "to place the vanquished beside the victor
were false heraldry."
"Knave upon fool were worse," answered the Jester, "and Jew upon
bacon worst of all."
"Gramercy! good fellow," cried Prince John, "thou pleasest me
---Here, Isaac, lend me a handful of byzants."
As the Jew, stunned by the request, afraid to refuse, and
unwilling to comply, fumbled in the furred bag which hung by his
girdle, and was perhaps endeavouring to ascertain how few coins
might pass for a handful, the Prince stooped from his jennet and
settled Isaac's doubts by snatching the pouch itself from his
side; and flinging to Wamba a couple of the gold pieces which it
contained, he pursued his career round the lists, leaving the Jew
to the derision of those around him, and himself receiving as
much applause from the spectators as if he had done some honest
and honourable action.
At this the challenger with fierce defy
His trumpet sounds; the challenged makes reply:
With clangour rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
Their visors closed, their lances in the rest,
Or at the helmet pointed or the crest,
They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
And spurring see decrease the middle space.
Palamon and Arcite
In the midst of Prince John's cavalcade, he suddenly stopt, and
appealing to the Prior of Jorvaulx, declared the principal
business of the day had been forgotten.
"By my halidom," said he, "we have forgotten, Sir Prior, to name
the fair Sovereign of Love and of Beauty, by whose white hand the
palm is to be distributed. For my part, I am liberal in my
ideas, and I care not if I give my vote for the black-eyed
"Holy Virgin," answered the Prior, turning up his eyes in horror,
"a Jewess!---We should deserve to be stoned out of the lists; and
I am not yet old enough to be a martyr. Besides, I swear by my
patron saint, that she is far inferior to the lovely Saxon,
"Saxon or Jew," answered the Prince, "Saxon or Jew, dog or hog,
what matters it? I say, name Rebecca, were it only to mortify the
Saxon churls."
A murmur arose even among his own immediate attendants.
"This passes a jest, my lord," said De Bracy; "no knight here
will lay lance in rest if such an insult is attempted."
"It is the mere wantonness of insult," said one of the oldest and
most important of Prince John's followers, Waldemar Fitzurse,
"and if your Grace attempt it, cannot but prove ruinous to your
"I entertained you, sir," said John, reining up his palfrey
haughtily, "for my follower, but not for my counsellor."
"Those who follow your Grace in the paths which you tread," said
Waldemar, but speaking in a low voice, "acquire the right of
counsellors; for your interest and safety are not more deeply
gaged than their own."
>From the tone in which this was spoken, John saw the necessity of
acquiescence "I did but jest," he said; "and you turn upon me
like so many adders! Name whom you will, in the fiend's name,
and please yourselves."
"Nay, nay," said De Bracy, "let the fair sovereign's throne
remain unoccupied, until the conqueror shall be named, and then
let him choose the lady by whom it shall be filled. It will add
another grace to his triumph, and teach fair ladies to prize the
love of valiant knights, who can exalt them to such distinction."
"If Brian de Bois-Guilbert gain the prize," said the Prior, "I
will gage my rosary that I name the Sovereign of Love and
"Bois-Guilbert," answered De Bracy, "is a good lance; but there
are others around these lists, Sir Prior, who will not fear to
encounter him."
"Silence, sirs," said Waldemar, "and let the Prince assume his
seat. The knights and spectators are alike impatient, the time
advances, and highly fit it is that the sports should commence."
Prince John, though not yet a monarch, had in Waldemar Fitzurse
all the inconveniences of a favourite minister, who, in serving
his sovereign, must always do so in his own way. The Prince
acquiesced, however, although his disposition was precisely of
that kind which is apt to be obstinate upon trifles, and,
assuming his throne, and being surrounded by his followers, gave
signal to the heralds to proclaim the laws of the tournament,
which were briefly as follows:
First, the five challengers were to undertake all comers.
Secondly, any knight proposing to combat, might, if he pleased,
select a special antagonist from among the challengers, by
touching his shield. If he did so with the reverse of his lance,
the trial of skill was made with what were called the arms of
courtesy, that is, with lances at whose extremity a piece of
round flat board was fixed, so that no danger was encountered,
save from the shock of the horses and riders. But if the shield
was touched with the sharp end of the lance, the combat was
understood to be at "outrance", that is, the knights were to
fight with sharp weapons, as in actual battle.
Thirdly, when the knights present had accomplished their vow, by
each of them breaking five lances, the Prince was to declare the
victor in the first day's tourney, who should receive as prize a
warhorse of exquisite beauty and matchless strength; and in
addition to this reward of valour, it was now declared, he should
have the peculiar honour of naming the Queen of Love and Beauty,
by whom the prize should be given on the ensuing day.
Fourthly, it was announced, that, on the second day, there should
be a general tournament, in which all the knights present, who
were desirous to win praise, might take part; and being divided
into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully,
until the signal was given by Prince John to cease the combat.
The elected Queen of Love and Beauty was then to crown the knight
whom the Prince should adjudge to have borne himself best in this
second day, with a coronet composed of thin gold plate, cut into
the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day the knightly
games ceased. But on that which was to follow, feats of archery,
of bull-baiting, and other popular amusements, were to be
practised, for the more immediate amusement of the populace. In
this manner did Prince John endeavour to lay the foundation of a
popularity, which he was perpetually throwing down by some
inconsiderate act of wanton aggression upon the feelings and
prejudices of the people.
The lists now presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping
galleries were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy,
and beautiful in the northern and midland parts of England; and
the contrast of the various dresses of these dignified
spectators, rendered the view as gay as it was rich, while the
interior and lower space, filled with the substantial burgesses
and yeomen of merry England, formed, in their more plain attire,
a dark fringe, or border, around this circle of brilliant
embroidery, relieving, and, at the same time, setting off its
The heralds finished their proclamation with their usual cry of
"Largesse, largesse, gallant knights!" and gold and silver pieces
were showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point
of chivalry to exhibit liberality towards those whom the age
accounted at once the secretaries and the historians of honour.
The bounty of the spectators was acknowledged by the customary
shouts of "Love of Ladies---Death of Champions---Honour to the
Generous---Glory to the Brave!" To which the more humble
spectators added their acclamations, and a numerous band of
trumpeters the flourish of their martial instruments. When these
sounds had ceased, the heralds withdrew from the lists in gay and
glittering procession, and none remained within them save the
marshals of the field, who, armed cap-a-pie, sat on horseback,
motionless as statues, at the opposite ends of the lists.
Meantime, the enclosed space at the northern extremity of the
lists, large as it was, was now completely crowded with knights
desirous to prove their skill against the challengers, and, when
viewed from the galleries, presented the appearance of a sea of
waving plumage, intermixed with glistening helmets, and tall
lances, to the extremities of which were, in many cases, attached
small pennons of about a span's breadth, which, fluttering in the
air as the breeze caught them, joined with the restless motion of
the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
At length the barriers were opened, and five knights, chosen by
lot, advanced slowly into the area; a single champion riding in
front, and the other four following in pairs. All were
splendidly armed, and my Saxon authority (in the Wardour
Manuscript) records at great length their devices, their colours,
and the embroidery of their horse trappings. It is unnecessary
to be particular on these subjects. To borrow lines from a
contemporary poet, who has written but too little:
"The knights are dust,
And their good swords are rust,
Their souls are with the saints, we trust."*
* These lines are part of an unpublished poem, by Coleridge,
* whose Muse so often tantalizes with fragments which
* indicate her powers, while the manner in which she flings
* them from her betrays her caprice, yet whose unfinished
* sketches display more talent than the laboured
* masterpieces of others.
Their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their
castles. Their castles themselves are but green mounds and
shattered ruins---the place that once knew them, knows them no
more---nay, many a race since theirs has died out and been
forgotten in the very land which they occupied, with all the
authority of feudal proprietors and feudal lords. What, then,
would it avail the reader to know their names, or the evanescent
symbols of their martial rank!
Now, however, no whit anticipating the oblivion which awaited
their names and feats, the champions advanced through the lists,
restraining their fiery steeds, and compelling them to move
slowly, while, at the same time, they exhibited their paces,
together with the grace and dexterity of the riders. As the
procession entered the lists, the sound of a wild Barbaric music
was heard from behind the tents of the challengers, where the
performers were concealed. It was of Eastern origin, having been
brought from the Holy Land; and the mixture of the cymbals and
bells seemed to bid welcome at once, and defiance, to the knights
as they advanced. With the eyes of an immense concourse of
spectators fixed upon them, the five knights advanced up the
platform upon which the tents of the challengers stood, and there
separating themselves, each touched slightly, and with the
reverse of his lance, the shield of the antagonist to whom he
wished to oppose himself. The lower orders of spectators in
general---nay, many of the higher class, and it is even said
several of the ladies, were rather disappointed at the champions
choosing the arms of courtesy. For the same sort of persons,
who, in the present day, applaud most highly the deepest
tragedies, were then interested in a tournament exactly in
proportion to the danger incurred by the champions engaged.
Having intimated their more pacific purpose, the champions
retreated to the extremity of the lists, where they remained
drawn up in a line; while the challengers, sallying each from
his pavilion, mounted their horses, and, headed by Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, descended from the platform, and opposed
themselves individually to the knights who had touched their
respective shields.
At the flourish of clarions and trumpets, they started out
against each other at full gallop; and such was the superior
dexterity or good fortune of the challengers, that those opposed
to Bois-Guilbert, Malvoisin, and Front-de-Boeuf, rolled on the
ground. The antagonist of Grantmesnil, instead of bearing his
lance-point fair against the crest or the shield of his enemy,
swerved so much from the direct line as to break the weapon
athwart the person of his opponent---a circumstance which was
accounted more disgraceful than that of being actually unhorsed;
because the latter might happen from accident, whereas the former
evinced awkwardness and want of management of the weapon and of
the horse. The fifth knight alone maintained the honour of his
party, and parted fairly with the Knight of St John, both
splintering their lances without advantage on either side.
The shouts of the multitude, together with the acclamations of
the heralds, and the clangour of the trumpets, announced the
triumph of the victors and the defeat of the vanquished. The
former retreated to their pavilions, and the latter, gathering
themselves up as they could, withdrew from the lists in disgrace
and dejection, to agree with their victors concerning the
redemption of their arms and their horses, which, according to
the laws of the tournament, they had forfeited. The fifth of
their number alone tarried in the lists long enough to be greeted
by the applauses of the spectators, amongst whom he retreated, to
the aggravation, doubtless, of his companions' mortification.
A second and a third party of knights took the field; and
although they had various success, yet, upon the whole, the
advantage decidedly remained with the challengers, not one of
whom lost his seat or swerved from his charge---misfortunes which
befell one or two of their antagonists in each encounter. The
spirits, therefore, of those opposed to them, seemed to be
considerably damped by their continued success. Three knights
only appeared on the fourth entry, who, avoiding the shields of
Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf, contented themselves with
touching those of the three other knights, who had not altogether
manifested the same strength and dexterity. This politic
selection did not alter the fortune of the field, the challengers
were still successful: one of their antagonists was overthrown,
and both the others failed in the "attaint",*
* This term of chivalry, transferred to the law, gives the
* phrase of being attainted of treason.
that is, in striking the helmet and shield of their antagonist
firmly and strongly, with the lance held in a direct line, so
that the weapon might break unless the champion was overthrown.
After this fourth encounter, there was a considerable pause; nor
did it appear that any one was very desirous of renewing the
contest. The spectators murmured among themselves; for, among
the challengers, Malvoisin and Front-de-Boeuf were unpopular from
their characters, and the others, except Grantmesnil, were
disliked as strangers and foreigners.
But none shared the general feeling of dissatisfaction so keenly
as Cedric the Saxon, who saw, in each advantage gained by the
Norman challengers, a repeated triumph over the honour of
England. His own education had taught him no skill in the games
of chivalry, although, with the arms of his Saxon ancestors, he
had manifested himself, on many occasions, a brave and determined
soldier. He looked anxiously to Athelstane, who had learned the
accomplishments of the age, as if desiring that he should make
some personal effort to recover the victory which was passing
into the hands of the Templar and his associates. But, though
both stout of heart, and strong of person, Athelstane had a
disposition too inert and unambitious to make the exertions which
Cedric seemed to expect from him.
"The day is against England, my lord," said Cedric, in a marked
tone; "are you not tempted to take the lance?"
"I shall tilt to-morrow" answered Athelstane, "in the 'melee'; it
is not worth while for me to arm myself to-day."
Two things displeased Cedric in this speech. It contained the
Norman word "melee", (to express the general conflict,) and it
evinced some indifference to the honour of the country; but it
was spoken by Athelstane, whom he held in such profound respect,
that he would not trust himself to canvass his motives or his
foibles. Moreover, he had no time to make any remark, for Wamba
thrust in his word, observing, "It was better, though scarce
easier, to be the best man among a hundred, than the best man of
Athelstane took the observation as a serious compliment; but
Cedric, who better understood the Jester's meaning, darted at him
a severe and menacing look; and lucky it was for Wamba, perhaps,
that the time and place prevented his receiving, notwithstanding
his place and service, more sensible marks of his master's
The pause in the tournament was still uninterrupted, excepting by
the voices of the heralds exclaiming---"Love of ladies,
splintering of lances! stand forth gallant knights, fair eyes
look upon your deeds!"
The music also of the challengers breathed from time to time wild
bursts expressive of triumph or defiance, while the clowns
grudged a holiday which seemed to pass away in inactivity; and
old knights and nobles lamented in whispers the decay of martial
spirit, spoke of the triumphs of their younger days, but agreed
that the land did not now supply dames of such transcendent
beauty as had animated the jousts of former times. Prince John
began to talk to his attendants about making ready the banquet,
and the necessity of adjudging the prize to Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who had, with a single spear, overthrown two
knights, and foiled a third.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded
one of those long and high flourishes with which they had broken
the silence of the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet,
which breathed a note of defiance from the northern extremity.
All eyes were turned to see the new champion which these sounds
announced, and no sooner were the barriers opened than he paced
into the lists. As far as could be judged of a man sheathed in
armour, the new adventurer did not greatly exceed the middle
size, and seemed to be rather slender than strongly made. His
suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold, and
the device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the
roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited.
He was mounted on a gallant black horse, and as he passed
through the lists he gracefully saluted the Prince and the ladies
by lowering his lance. The dexterity with which he managed his
steed, and something of youthful grace which he displayed in his
manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which some of the
lower classes expressed by calling out, "Touch Ralph de Vipont's
shield---touch the Hospitallers shield; he has the least sure
seat, he is your cheapest bargain."
The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended
the platform by the sloping alley which led to it from the lists,
and, to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to
the central pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the
shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert until it rung again. All stood
astonished at his presumption, but none more than the redoubted
Knight whom he had thus defied to mortal combat, and who, little
expecting so rude a challenge, was standing carelessly at the
door of the pavilion.
"Have you confessed yourself, brother," said the Templar, "and
have you heard mass this morning, that you peril your life so
"I am fitter to meet death than thou art" answered the
Disinherited Knight; for by this name the stranger had recorded
himself in the books of the tourney.
"Then take your place in the lists," said Bois-Guilbert, "and
look your last upon the sun; for this night thou shalt sleep in
"Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight,
"and to requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new
lance, for by my honour you will need both."
Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse
backward down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him
in the same manner to move backward through the lists, till he
reached the northern extremity, where he remained stationary, in
expectation of his antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again
attracted the applause of the multitude.
However incensed at his adversary for the precautions which he
recommended, Brian de Bois-Guilbert did not neglect his advice;
for his honour was too nearly concerned, to permit his neglecting
any means which might ensure victory over his presumptuous
opponent. He changed his horse for a proved and fresh one of
great strength and spirit. He chose a new and a tough spear,
lest the wood of the former might have been strained in the
previous encounters he had sustained. Lastly, he laid aside his
shield, which had received some little damage, and received
another from his squires. His first had only borne the general
device of his rider, representing two knights riding upon one
horse, an emblem expressive of the original humility and poverty
of the Templars, qualities which they had since exchanged for the
arrogance and wealth that finally occasioned their suppression.
Bois-Guilbert's new shield bore a raven in full flight, holding
in its claws a skull, and bearing the motto, "Gare le Corbeau".
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two
extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to
the highest pitch. Few augured the possibility that the
encounter could terminate well for the Disinherited Knight, yet
his courage and gallantry secured the general good wishes of the
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal, than the champions
vanished from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed
in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The
lances burst into shivers up to the very grasp, and it seemed at
the moment that both knights had fallen, for the shock had made
each horse recoil backwards upon its haunches. The address of
the riders recovered their steeds by use of the bridle and spur;
and having glared on each other for an instant with eyes which
seemed to flash fire through the bars of their visors, each made
a demi-volte, and, retiring to the extremity of the lists,
received a fresh lance from the attendants.
A loud shout from the spectators, waving of scarfs and
handkerchiefs, and general acclamations, attested the interest
taken by the spectators in this encounter; the most equal, as
well as the best performed, which had graced the day. But no
sooner had the knights resumed their station, than the clamour
of applause was hushed into a silence, so deep and so dead, that
it seemed the multitude were afraid even to breathe.
A few minutes pause having been allowed, that the combatants and
their horses might recover breath, Prince John with his truncheon
signed to the trumpets to sound the onset. The champions a
second time sprung from their stations, and closed in the centre
of the lists, with the same speed, the same dexterity, the same
violence, but not the same equal fortune as before.
In this second encounter, the Templar aimed at the centre of his
antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair and forcibly, that his
spear went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his
saddle. On the other hand, that champion had, in the beginning
of his career, directed the point of his lance towards
Bois-Guilbert's shield, but, changing his aim almost in the
moment of encounter, he addressed it to the helmet, a mark more
difficult to hit, but which, if attained, rendered the shock more
irresistible. Fair and true he hit the Norman on the visor,
where his lance's point kept hold of the bars. Yet, even at this
disadvantage, the Templar sustained his high reputation; and had
not the girths of his saddle burst, he might not have been
unhorsed. As it chanced, however, saddle, horse, and man, rolled
on the ground under a cloud of dust.
To extricate himself from the stirrups and fallen steed, was to
the Templar scarce the work of a moment; and, stung with madness,
both at his disgrace and at the acclamations with which it was
hailed by the spectators, he drew his sword and waved it in
defiance of his conqueror. The Disinherited Knight sprung from
his steed, and also unsheathed his sword. The marshals of the
field, however, spurred their horses between them, and reminded
them, that the laws of the tournament did not, on the present
occasion, permit this species of encounter.
"We shall meet again, I trust," said the Templar, casting a
resentful glance at his antagonist; "and where there are none to
separate us."
"If we do not," said the Disinherited Knight, "the fault shall
not be mine. On foot or horseback, with spear, with axe, or with
sword, I am alike ready to encounter thee."
More and angrier words would have been exchanged, but the
marshals, crossing their lances betwixt them, compelled them to
separate. The Disinherited Knight returned to his first station,
and Bois-Guilbert to his tent, where he remained for the rest of
the day in an agony of despair.
Without alighting from his horse, the conqueror called for a bowl
of wine, and opening the beaver, or lower part of his helmet,
announced that he quaffed it, "To all true English hearts, and to
the confusion of foreign tyrants." He then commanded his trumpet
to sound a defiance to the challengers, and desired a herald to
announce to them, that he should make no election, but was
willing to encounter them in the order in which they pleased to
advance against him.
The gigantic Front-de-Boeuf, armed in sable armour, was the first
who took the field. He bore on a white shield a black bull's
head, half defaced by the numerous encounters which he had
undergone, and bearing the arrogant motto, "Cave, Adsum". Over
this champion the Disinherited Knight obtained a slight but
decisive advantage. Both Knights broke their lances fairly, but
Front-de-Boeuf, who lost a stirrup in the encounter, was adjudged
to have the disadvantage.
In the stranger's third encounter with Sir Philip Malvoisin, he
was equally successful; striking that baron so forcibly on the
casque, that the laces of the helmet broke, and Malvoisin, only
saved from falling by being unhelmeted, was declared vanquished
like his companions.
In his fourth combat with De Grantmesnil, the Disinherited Knight
showed as much courtesy as he had hitherto evinced courage and
dexterity. De Grantmesnil's horse, which was young and violent,
reared and plunged in the course of the career so as to disturb
the rider's aim, and the stranger, declining to take the
advantage which this accident afforded him, raised his lance, and
passing his antagonist without touching him, wheeled his horse
and rode back again to his own end of the lists, offering his
antagonist, by a herald, the chance of a second encounter. This
De Grantmesnil declined, avowing himself vanquished as much by
the courtesy as by the address of his opponent.
Ralph de Vipont summed up the list of the stranger's triumphs,
being hurled to the ground with such force, that the blood gushed
from his nose and his mouth, and he was borne senseless from the
The acclamations of thousands applauded the unanimous award of
the Prince and marshals, announcing that day's honours to the
Disinherited Knight.
--------In the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien,
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign Queen.
* * * * *
And as in beauty she surpass'd the choir,
So nobler than the rest was her attire;
A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
A branch of Agnus Castus in her hand,
She bore aloft her symbol of command.
The Flower and the Leaf
William de Wyvil and Stephen de Martival, the marshals of the
field, were the first to offer their congratulations to the
victor, praying him, at the same time, to suffer his helmet to be
unlaced, or, at least, that he would raise his visor ere they
conducted him to receive the prize of the day's tourney from the
hands of Prince John. The Disinherited Knight, with all knightly
courtesy, declined their request, alleging, that he could not at
this time suffer his face to be seen, for reasons which he had
assigned to the heralds when he entered the lists. The marshals
were perfectly satisfied by this reply; for amidst the frequent
and capricious vows by which knights were accustomed to bind
themselves in the days of chivalry, there were none more common
than those by which they engaged to remain incognito for a
certain space, or until some particular adventure was achieved.
The marshals, therefore, pressed no farther into the mystery of
the Disinherited Knight, but, announcing to Prince John the
conqueror's desire to remain unknown, they requested permission
to bring him before his Grace, in order that he might receive
the reward of his valour.
John's curiosity was excited by the mystery observed by the
stranger; and, being already displeased with the issue of the
tournament, in which the challengers whom he favoured had been
successively defeated by one knight, he answered haughtily to
the marshals, "By the light of Our Lady's brow, this same knight
hath been disinherited as well of his courtesy as of his lands,
since he desires to appear before us without uncovering his face.
---Wot ye, my lords," be said, turning round to his train, "who
this gallant can be, that bears himself thus proudly?"
"I cannot guess," answered De Bracy, "nor did I think there had
been within the four seas that girth Britain a champion that
could bear down these five knights in one day's jousting. By my
faith, I shall never forget the force with which he shocked De
Vipont. The poor Hospitaller was hurled from his saddle like a
stone from a sling."
"Boast not of that," said a Knight of St John, who was present;
"your Temple champion had no better luck. I saw your brave
lance, Bois-Guilbert, roll thrice over, grasping his hands full
of sand at every turn."
De Bracy, being attached to the Templars, would have replied, but
was prevented by Prince John. "Silence, sirs!" he said; "what
unprofitable debate have we here?"
"The victor," said De Wyvil, "still waits the pleasure of your
"It is our pleasure," answered John, "that he do so wait until we
learn whether there is not some one who can at least guess at his
name and quality. Should he remain there till night-fall, he has
had work enough to keep him warm."
"Your Grace," said Waldemar Fitzurse, "will do less than due
honour to the victor, if you compel him to wait till we tell your
highness that which we cannot know; at least I can form no guess
---unless he be one of the good lances who accompanied King
Richard to Palestine, and who are now straggling homeward from
the Holy Land."
"It may be the Earl of Salisbury," said De Bracy; "he is about
the same pitch."
"Sir Thomas de Multon, the Knight of Gilsland, rather," said
Fitzurse; "Salisbury is bigger in the bones." A whisper arose
among the train, but by whom first suggested could not be
ascertained. "It might be the King---it might be Richard
Coeur-de-Lion himself!"
"Over God's forbode!" said Prince John, involuntarily turning at
the same time as pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by
a flash of lightning; "Waldemar!---De Bracy! brave knights and
gentlemen, remember your promises, and stand truly by me!"
"Here is no danger impending," said Waldemar Fitzurse; "are you
so little acquainted with the gigantic limbs of your father's
son, as to think they can be held within the circumference of
yonder suit of armour?---De Wyvil and Martival, you will best
serve the Prince by bringing forward the victor to the throne,
and ending an error that has conjured all the blood from his
cheeks.---Look at him more closely," he continued, "your highness
will see that he wants three inches of King Richard's height, and
twice as much of his shoulder-breadth. The very horse he backs,
could not have carried the ponderous weight of King Richard
through a single course."
While he was yet speaking, the marshals brought forward the
Disinherited Knight to the foot of a wooden flight of steps,
which formed the ascent from the lists to Prince John's throne.
Still discomposed with the idea that his brother, so much
injured, and to whom he was so much indebted, had suddenly
arrived in his native kingdom, even the distinctions pointed out
by Fitzurse did not altogether remove the Prince's apprehensions;
and while, with a short and embarrassed eulogy upon his valour,
he caused to be delivered to him the war-horse assigned as the
prize, he trembled lest from the barred visor of the mailed form
before him, an answer might be returned, in the deep and awful
accents of Richard the Lion-hearted.
But the Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply to the
compliment of the Prince, which he only acknowledged with a
profound obeisance.
The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed,
the animal itself being fully accoutred with the richest
war-furniture; which, however, scarcely added to the value of the
noble creature in the eyes of those who were judges. Laying one
hand upon the pommel of the saddle, the Disinherited Knight
vaulted at once upon the back of the steed without making use of
the stirrup, and, brandishing aloft his lance, rode twice around
the lists, exhibiting the points and paces of the horse with the
skill of a perfect horseman.
The appearance of vanity, which might otherwise have been
attributed to this display, was removed by the propriety shown in
exhibiting to the best advantage the princely reward with which
he had been just honoured, and the Knight was again greeted by
the acclamations of all present.
In the meanwhile, the bustling Prior of Jorvaulx had reminded
Prince John, in a whisper, that the victor must now display his
good judgment, instead of his valour, by selecting from among the
beauties who graced the galleries a lady, who should fill the
throne of the Queen of Beauty and of Love, and deliver the prize
of the tourney upon the ensuing day. The Prince accordingly made
a sign with his truncheon, as the Knight passed him in his second
career around the lists. The Knight turned towards the throne,
and, sinking his lance, until the point was within a foot of the
ground, remained motionless, as if expecting John's commands;
while all admired the sudden dexterity with which he instantly
reduced his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and high
excitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue.
"Sir Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since that is the
only title by which we can address you, it is now your duty, as
well as privilege, to name the fair lady, who, as Queen of Honour
and of Love, is to preside over next day's festival. If, as a
stranger in our land, you should require the aid of other
judgment to guide your own, we can only say that Alicia, the
daughter of our gallant knight Waldemar Fitzurse, has at our
court been long held the first in beauty as in place.
Nevertheless, it is your undoubted prerogative to confer on whom
you please this crown, by the delivery of which to the lady of
your choice, the election of to-morrow's Queen will be formal and
complete.---Raise your lance."
The Knight obeyed; and Prince John placed upon its point a
coronet of green satin, having around its edge a circlet of gold,
the upper edge of which was relieved by arrow-points and hearts
placed interchangeably, like the strawberry leaves and balls upon
a ducal crown.
In the broad hint which he dropped respecting the daughter of
Waldemar Fitzurse, John had more than one motive, each the
offspring of a mind, which was a strange mixture of carelessness
and presumption with low artifice and cunning. He wished to
banish from the minds of the chivalry around him his own indecent
and unacceptable jest respecting the Jewess Rebecca; he was
desirous of conciliating Alicia's father Waldemar, of whom he
stood in awe, and who had more than once shown himself
dissatisfied during the course of the day's proceedings. He had
also a wish to establish himself in the good graces of the lady;
for John was at least as licentious in his pleasures as
profligate in his ambition. But besides all these reasons, he
was desirous to raise up against the Disinherited Knight (towards
whom he already entertained a strong dislike) a powerful enemy in
the person of Waldemar Fitzurse, who was likely, he thought,
highly to resent the injury done to his daughter, in case, as was
not unlikely, the victor should make another choice.
And so indeed it proved. For the Disinherited Knight passed the
gallery close to that of the Prince, in which the Lady Alicia was
seated in the full pride of triumphant beauty, and, pacing
forwards as slowly as he had hitherto rode swiftly around the
lists, he seemed to exercise his right of examining the numerous
fair faces which adorned that splendid circle.
It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties
who underwent this examination, during the time it was
proceeding. Some blushed, some assumed an air of pride and
dignity, some looked straight forward, and essayed to seem
utterly unconscious of what was going on, some drew back in
alarm, which was perhaps affected, some endeavoured to forbear
smiling, and there were two or three who laughed outright. There
were also some who dropped their veils over their charms; but, as
the Wardour Manuscript says these were fair ones of ten years
standing, it may be supposed that, having had their full share of
such vanities, they were willing to withdraw their claim, in
order to give a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age.
At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the
Lady Rowena was placed, and the expectation of the spectators was
excited to the utmost.
It must be owned, that if an interest displayed in his success
could have bribed the Disinherited Knight, the part of the lists
before which he paused had merited his predilection. Cedric the
Saxon, overjoyed at the discomfiture of the Templar, and still
more so at the, miscarriage of his two malevolent neighbours,
Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, had, with his body half stretched
over the balcony, accompanied the victor in each course, not with
his eyes only, but with his whole heart and soul. The Lady
Rowena had watched the progress of the day with equal attention,
though without openly betraying the same intense interest. Even
the unmoved Athelstane had shown symptoms of shaking off his
apathy, when, calling for a huge goblet of muscadine, he quaffed
it to the health of the Disinherited Knight. Another group,
stationed under the gallery occupied by the Saxons, had shown no
less interest in the fate of the day.
"Father Abraham!" said Isaac of York, when the first course was
run betwixt the Templar and the Disinherited Knight, "how
fiercely that Gentile rides! Ah, the good horse that was brought
all the long way from Barbary, he takes no more care of him than
if he were a wild ass's colt---and the noble armour, that was
worth so many zecchins to Joseph Pareira, the armourer of Milan,
besides seventy in the hundred of profits, he cares for it as
little as if he had found it in the highways!"
"If he risks his own person and limbs, father," said Rebecca, "in
doing such a dreadful battle, he can scarce be expected to spare
his horse and armour."
"Child!" replied Isaac, somewhat heated, "thou knowest not what
thou speakest---His neck and limbs are his own, but his horse and
armour belong to---Holy Jacob! what was I about to say!
---Nevertheless, it is a good youth---See, Rebecca! see, he is
again about to go up to battle against the Philistine---Pray,
child---pray for the safety of the good youth,---and of the
speedy horse, and the rich armour.---God of my fathers!" he again
exclaimed, "he hath conquered, and the uncircumcised Philistine
hath fallen before his lance,---even as Og the King of Bashan,
and Sihon, King of the Amorites, fell before the sword of our
fathers!---Surely he shall take their gold and their silver, and
their war-horses, and their armour of brass and of steel, for a
prey and for a spoil."
The same anxiety did the worthy Jew display during every course
that was run, seldom failing to hazard a hasty calculation
concerning the value of the horse and armour which was forfeited
to the champion upon each new success. There had been therefore
no small interest taken in the success of the Disinherited
Knight, by those who occupied the part of the lists before which
he now paused.
Whether from indecision, or some other motive of hesitation, the
champion of the day remained stationary for more than a minute,
while the eyes of the silent audience were riveted upon his
motions; and then, gradually and gracefully sinking the point of
his lance, he deposited the coronet Which it supported at the
feet of the fair Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while
the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena the Queen of Beauty and of
Love for the ensuing day, menacing with suitable penalties those
who should be disobedient to her authority. They then repeated
their cry of Largesse, to which Cedric, in the height of his joy,
replied by an ample donative, and to which Athelstane, though
less promptly, added one equally large.
There was some murmuring among the damsels of Norman descent, who
were as much unused to see the preference given to a Saxon
beauty, as the Norman nobles were to sustain defeat in the games
of chivalry which they themselves had introduced. But these
sounds of disaffection were drowned by the popular shout of "Long
live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and lawful Queen of Love and of
Beauty!" To which many in the lower area added, "Long live the
Saxon Princess! long live the race of the immortal Alfred!"
However unacceptable these sounds might be to Prince John, and to
those around him, he saw himself evertheless obliged to confirm
the nomination of the victor, and accordingly calling to horse,
he left his throne; and mounting his jennet, accompanied by his
train, he again entered the lists. The Prince paused a moment
beneath the gallery of the Lady Alicia, to whom he paid his
compliments, observing, at the same time, to those around him
---"By my halidome, sirs! if the Knight's feats in arms have
shown that he hath limbs and sinews, his choice hath no less
proved that his eyes are none of the clearest."
It was on this occasion, as during his whole life, John's
misfortune, not perfectly to understand the characters of those
whom he wished to conciliate. Waldemar Fitzurse was rather
offended than pleased at the Prince stating thus broadly an
opinion, that his daughter had been slighted.
"I know no right of chivalry," he said, "more precious or
inalienable than that of each free knight to choose his lady-love
by his own judgment. My daughter courts distinction from no one;
and in her own character, and in her own sphere, will never fail
to receive the full proportion of that which is her due."
Prince John replied not; but, spurring his horse, as if to give
vent to his vexation, he made the animal bound forward to the
gallery where Rowena was seated, with the crown still at her
"Assume," he said, "fair lady, the mark of your sovereignty, to
which none vows homage more sincerely than ourself, John of
Anjou; and if it please you to-day, with your noble sire and
friends, to grace our banquet in the Castle of Ashby, we shall
learn to know the empress to whose service we devote to-morrow."
Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native
"The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which
to reply to your courtesy, or to sustain her part in your
festival. I also, and the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh,
speak only the language, and practise only the manners, of our
fathers. We therefore decline with thanks your Highness's
courteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow, the Lady Rowena
will take upon her the state to which she has been called by the
free election of the victor Knight, confirmed by the acclamations
of the people."
So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's
head, in token of her acceptance of the temporary authority
assigned to her.
"What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the
Saxon language, in which, however, he was well skilled. The
purport of Cedric's speech was repeated to him in French. "It is
well," he said; "to-morrow we will ourself conduct this mute
sovereign to her seat of dignity.---You, at least, Sir Knight,"
he added, turning to the victor, who had remained near the
gallery, "will this day share our banquet?"
The Knight, speaking for the first time, in a low and hurried
voice, excused himself by pleading fatigue, and the necessity of
preparing for to-morrow's encounter.
"It is well," said Prince John, haughtily; "although unused to
such refusals, we will endeavour to digest our banquet as we may,
though ungraced by the most successful in arms, and his elected
Queen of Beauty."
So saying, he prepared to leave the lists with his glittering
train, and his turning his steed for that purpose, was the signal
for the breaking up and dispersion of the spectators.
Yet, with the vindictive memory proper to offended pride,
especially when combined with conscious want of desert, John had
hardly proceeded three paces, ere again, turning around, he fixed
an eye of stern resentment upon the yeoman who had displeased him
in the early part of the day, and issued his commands to the
men-at-arms who stood near---"On your life, suffer not that
fellow to escape."
The yeoman stood the angry glance of the Prince with the same
unvaried steadiness which had marked his former deportment,
saying, with a smile, "I have no intention to leave Ashby until
the day after to-morrow---I must see how Staffordshire and
Leicestershire can draw their bows---the forests of Needwood and
Charnwood must rear good archers."
"I," said Prince John to his attendants, but not in direct reply,
---"I will see how he can draw his own; and woe betide him
unless his skill should prove some apology for his insolence!"
"It is full time," said De Bracy, "that the 'outrecuidance'*
* Presumption, insolence.
of these peasants should be restrained by some striking example."
Waldemar Fitzurse, who probably thought his patron was not taking
the readiest road to popularity, shrugged up his shoulders and
was silent. Prince John resumed his retreat from the lists, and
the dispersion of the multitude became general.
In various routes, according to the different quarters from which
they came, and in groups of various numbers, the spectators were
seen retiring over the plain. By far the most numerous part
streamed towards the town of Ashby, where many of the
distinguished persons were lodged in the castle, and where others
found accommodation in the town itself. Among these were most of
the knights who had already appeared in the tournament, or who
proposed to fight there the ensuing day, and who, as they rode
slowly along, talking over the events of the day, were greeted
with loud shouts by the populace. The same acclamations were
bestowed upon Prince John, although he was indebted for them
rather to the splendour of his appearance and train, than to the
popularity of his character.
A more sincere and more general, as well as a better-merited
acclamation, attended the victor of the day, until, anxious to
withdraw himself from popular notice, he accepted the
accommodation of one of those pavilions pitched at the
extremities of the lists, the use of which was courteously
tendered him by the marshals of the field. On his retiring to
his tent, many who had lingered in the lists, to look upon and
form conjectures concerning him, also dispersed.
The signs and sounds of a tumultuous concourse of men lately
crowded together in one place, and agitated by the same passing
events, were now exchanged for the distant hum of voices of
different groups retreating in all directions, and these speedily
died away in silence. No other sounds were heard save the voices
of the menials who stripped the galleries of their cushions and
tapestry, in order to put them in safety for the night, and
wrangled among themselves for the half-used bottles of wine and
relics of the refreshment which had been served round to the
Beyond the precincts of the lists more than one forge was
erected; and these now began to glimmer through the twilight,
announcing the toil of the armourers, which was to continue
through the whole night, in order to repair or alter the suits of
armour to be used again on the morrow.
A strong guard of men-at-arms, renewed at intervals, from two
hours to two hours, surrounded the lists, and kept watch during
the night.
Thus, like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings;
Vex'd and tormented, runs poor Barrabas,
With fatal curses towards these Christians.
Jew of Malta
The Disinherited Knight had no sooner reached his pavilion, than
squires and pages in abundance tendered their services to disarm
him, to bring fresh attire, and to offer him the refreshment of
the bath. Their zeal on this occasion was perhaps sharpened by
curiosity, since every one desired to know who the knight was
that had gained so many laurels, yet had refused, even at the
command of Prince John, to lift his visor or to name his name.
But their officious inquisitiveness was not gratified. The
Disinherited Knight refused all other assistance save that of his
own squire, or rather yeoman---a clownish-looking man, who, wrapt
in a cloak of dark-coloured felt, and having his head and face
half-buried in a Norman bonnet made of black fur, seemed to
affect the incognito as much as his master. All others being
excluded from the tent, this attendant relieved his master from
the more burdensome parts of his armour, and placed food and wine
before him, which the exertions of the day rendered very
The Knight had scarcely finished a hasty meal, ere his menial
announced to him that five men, each leading a barbed steed,
desired to speak with him. The Disinherited Knight had exchanged
his armour for the long robe usually worn by those of his
condition, which, being furnished with a hood, concealed the
features, when such was the pleasure of the wearer, almost as
completely as the visor of the helmet itself, but the twilight,
which was now fast darkening, would of itself have rendered a
disguise unnecessary, unless to persons to whom the face of an
individual chanced to be particularly well known.
The Disinherited Knight, therefore, stept boldly forth to the
front of his tent, and found in attendance the squires of the
challengers, whom he easily knew by their russet and black
dresses, each of whom led his master's charger, loaded with the
armour in which he had that day fought.
"According to the laws of chivalry," said the foremost of these
men, "I, Baldwin de Oyley, squire to the redoubted Knight Brian
de Bois-Guilbert, make offer to you, styling yourself, for the
present, the Disinherited Knight, of the horse and armour used by
the said Brian de Bois-Guilbert in this day's Passage of Arms,
leaving it with your nobleness to retain or to ransom the same,
according to your pleasure; for such is the law of arms."
The other squires repeated nearly the same formula, and then
stood to await the decision of the Disinherited Knight.
"To you four, sirs," replied the Knight, addressing those who had
last spoken, "and to your honourable and valiant masters, I have
one common reply. Commend me to the noble knights, your masters,
and say, I should do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which
can never be used by braver cavaliers.---I would I could here end
my message to these gallant knights; but being, as I term myself,
in truth and earnest, the Disinherited, I must be thus far bound
to your masters, that they will, of their courtesy, be pleased to
ransom their steeds and armour, since that which I wear I can
hardly term mine own."
"We stand commissioned, each of us," answered the squire of
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, "to offer a hundred zecchins in ransom
of these horses and suits of armour."
"It is sufficient," said the Disinherited Knight. "Half the sum
my present necessities compel me to accept; of the remaining
half, distribute one moiety among yourselves, sir squires, and
divide the other half betwixt the heralds and the pursuivants,
and minstrels, and attendants."
The squires, with cap in hand, and low reverences, expressed
their deep sense of a courtesy and generosity not often
practised, at least upon a scale so extensive. The Disinherited
Knight then addressed his discourse to Baldwin, the squire of
Brian de Bois-Guilbert. "From your master," said he, "I will
accept neither arms nor ransom. Say to him in my name, that our
strife is not ended---no, not till we have fought as well with
swords as with lances---as well on foot as on horseback. To this
mortal quarrel he has himself defied me, and I shall not forget
the challenge.---Meantime, let him be assured, that I hold him
not as one of his companions, with whom I can with pleasure
exchange courtesies; but rather as one with whom I stand upon
terms of mortal defiance."
"My master," answered Baldwin, "knows how to requite scorn with
scorn, and blows with blows, as well as courtesy with courtesy.
Since you disdain to accept from him any share of the ransom at
which you have rated the arms of the other knights, I must leave
his armour and his horse here, being well assured that he will
never deign to mount the one nor wear the other."
"You have spoken well, good squire," said the Disinherited
Knight, "well and boldly, as it beseemeth him to speak who
answers for an absent master. Leave not, however, the horse and
armour here. Restore them to thy master; or, if he scorns to
accept them, retain them, good friend, for thine own use. So far
as they are mine, I bestow them upon you freely."
Baldwin made a deep obeisance, and retired with his companions;
and the Disinherited Knight entered the pavilion.
"Thus far, Gurth," said he, addressing his attendant, "the
reputation of English chivalry hath not suffered in my hands."
"And I," said Gurth, "for a Saxon swineherd, have not ill played
the personage of a Norman squire-at-arms."
"Yea, but," answered the Disinherited Knight, "thou hast ever
kept me in anxiety lest thy clownish bearing should discover
"Tush!" said Gurth, "I fear discovery from none, saving my
playfellow, Wamba the Jester, of whom I could never discover
whether he were most knave or fool. Yet I could scarce choose
but laugh, when my old master passed so near to me, dreaming all
the while that Gurth was keeping his porkers many a mile off, in
the thickets and swamps of Rotherwood. If I am discovered------"
"Enough," said the Disinherited Knight, "thou knowest my
"Nay, for that matter," said Gurth, "I will never fail my friend
for fear of my skin-cutting. I have a tough hide, that will bear
knife or scourge as well as any boar's hide in my herd."
"Trust me, I will requite the risk you run for my love, Gurth,"
said the Knight. "Meanwhile, I pray you to accept these ten
pieces of gold."
"I am richer," said Gurth, putting them into his pouch, "than
ever was swineherd or bondsman."
"Take this bag of gold to Ashby," continued his master, "and find
out Isaac the Jew of York, and let him pay himself for the horse
and arms with which his credit supplied me."
"Nay, by St Dunstan," replied Gurth, "that I will not do."
"How, knave," replied his master, "wilt thou not obey my
"So they be honest, reasonable, and Christian commands," replied
Gurth; "but this is none of these. To suffer the Jew to pay
himself would be dishonest, for it would be cheating my master;
and unreasonable, for it were the part of a fool; and
unchristian, since it would be plundering a believer to enrich an
"See him contented, however, thou stubborn varlet," said the
Disinherited Knight.
"I will do so," said Gurth, taking the bag under his cloak, and
leaving the apartment; "and it will go hard," he muttered, "but I
content him with one-half of his own asking." So saying, he
departed, and left the Disinherited Knight to his own perplexed
ruminations; which, upon more accounts than it is now possible to
communicate to the reader, were of a nature peculiarly agitating
and painful.
We must now change the scene to the village of Ashby, or rather
to a country house in its vicinity belonging to a wealthy
Israelite, with whom Isaac, his daughter, and retinue, had taken
up their quarters; the Jews, it is well known, being as liberal
in exercising the duties of hospitality and charity among their
own people, as they were alleged to be reluctant and churlish in
extending them to those whom they termed Gentiles, and whose
treatment of them certainly merited little hospitality at their
In an apartment, small indeed, but richly furnished with
decorations of an Oriental taste, Rebecca was seated on a heap of
embroidered cushions, which, piled along a low platform that
surrounded the chamber, served, like the estrada of the
Spaniards, instead of chairs and stools. She was watching the
motions of her father with a look of anxious and filial
affection, while he paced the apartment with a dejected mien and
disordered step; sometimes clasping his hands together
---sometimes casting his eyes to the roof of the apartment, as
one who laboured under great mental tribulation. "O, Jacob!" he
exclaimed---"O, all ye twelve Holy Fathers of our tribe! what a
losing venture is this for one who hath duly kept every jot and
tittle of the law of Moses---Fifty zecchins wrenched from me at
one clutch, and by the talons of a tyrant!"
"But, father," said Rebecca, "you seemed to give the gold to
Prince John willingly."
"Willingly? the blotch of Egypt upon him!---Willingly, saidst
thou?---Ay, as willingly as when, in the Gulf of Lyons, I flung
over my merchandise to lighten the ship, while she laboured in
the tempest---robed the seething billows in my choice silks
---perfumed their briny foam with myrrh and aloes---enriched
their caverns with gold and silver work! And was not that an
hour of unutterable misery, though my own hands made the
"But it was a sacrifice which Heaven exacted to save our lives,"
answered Rebecca, "and the God of our fathers has since blessed
your store and your gettings."
"Ay," answered Isaac, "but if the tyrant lays hold on them as he
did to-day, and compels me to smile while he is robbing me?---O,
daughter, disinherited and wandering as we are, the worst evil
which befalls our race is, that when we are wronged and
plundered, all the world laughs around, and we are compelled to
suppress our sense of injury, and to smile tamely, when we would
revenge bravely."
"Think not thus of it, my father," said Rebecca; "we also have
advantages. These Gentiles, cruel and oppressive as they are,
are in some sort dependent on the dispersed children of Zion,
whom they despise and persecute. Without the aid of our wealth,
they could neither furnish forth their hosts in war, nor their
triumphs in peace, and the gold which we lend them returns with
increase to our coffers. We are like the herb which flourisheth
most when it is most trampled on. Even this day's pageant had
not proceeded without the consent of the despised Jew, who
furnished the means."
"Daughter," said Isaac, "thou hast harped upon another string of
sorrow. The goodly steed and the rich armour, equal to the full
profit of my adventure with our Kirjath Jairam of Leicester
---there is a dead loss too---ay, a loss which swallows up the
gains of a week; ay, of the space between two Sabbaths---and yet
it may end better than I now think, for 'tis a good youth."
"Assuredly," said Rebecca, "you shall not repent you of requiting
the good deed received of the stranger knight."
"I trust so, daughter," said Isaac, "and I trust too in the
rebuilding of Zion; but as well do I hope with my own bodily eyes
to see the walls and battlements of the new Temple, as to see a
Christian, yea, the very best of Christians, repay a debt to a
Jew, unless under the awe of the judge and jailor."
So saying, he resumed his discontented walk through the
apartment; and Rebecca, perceiving that her attempts at
consolation only served to awaken new subjects of complaint,
wisely desisted from her unavailing efforts---a prudential line
of conduct, and we recommend to all who set up for comforters and
advisers, to follow it in the like circumstances.
The evening was now becoming dark, when a Jewish servant entered
the apartment, and placed upon the table two silver lamps, fed
with perfumed oil; the richest wines, and the most delicate
refreshments, were at the same time displayed by another
Israelitish domestic on a small ebony table, inlaid with silver;
for, in the interior of their houses, the Jews refused themselves
no expensive indulgences. At the same time the servant informed
Isaac, that a Nazarene (so they termed Christians, while
conversing among themselves) desired to speak with him. He that
would live by traffic, must hold himself at the disposal of every
one claiming business with him. Isaac at once replaced on the
table the untasted glass of Greek wine which he had just raised
to his lips, and saying hastily to his daughter, "Rebecca, veil
thyself," commanded the stranger to be admitted.
Just as Rebecca had dropped over her fine features a screen of
silver gauze which reached to her feet, the door opened, and
Gurth entered, wrapt in the ample folds of his Norman mantle.
His appearance was rather suspicious than prepossessing,
especially as, instead of doffing his bonnet, he pulled it still
deeper over his rugged brow.
"Art thou Isaac the Jew of York?" said Gurth, in Saxon.
"I am," replied Isaac, in the same language, (for his traffic had
rendered every tongue spoken in Britain familiar to him)---"and
who art thou?"
"That is not to the purpose," answered Gurth.
"As much as my name is to thee," replied Isaac; "for without
knowing thine, how can I hold intercourse with thee?"
"Easily," answered Gurth; "I, being to pay money, must know that
I deliver it to the right person; thou, who are to receive it,
will not, I think, care very greatly by whose hands it is
"O," said the Jew, "you are come to pay moneys?---Holy Father
Abraham! that altereth our relation to each other. And from whom
dost thou bring it?"
"From the Disinherited Knight," said Gurth, "victor in this day's
tournament. It is the price of the armour supplied to him by
Kirjath Jairam of Leicester, on thy recommendation. The steed
is restored to thy stable. I desire to know the amount of the
sum which I am to pay for the armour."
"I said he was a good youth!" exclaimed Isaac with joyful
exultation. "A cup of wine will do thee no harm," he added,
filling and handing to the swineherd a richer drought than Gurth
had ever before tasted. "And how much money," continued Isaac,
"has thou brought with thee?"
"Holy Virgin!" said Gurth, setting down the cup, "what nectar
these unbelieving dogs drink, while true Christians are fain to
quaff ale as muddy and thick as the draff we give to hogs!---What
money have I brought with me?" continued the Saxon, when he had
finished this uncivil ejaculation, "even but a small sum;
something in hand the whilst. What, Isaac! thou must bear a
conscience, though it be a Jewish one."
"Nay, but," said Isaac, "thy master has won goodly steeds and
rich armours with the strength of his lance, and of his right
hand---but 'tis a good youth---the Jew will take these in present
payment, and render him back the surplus."
"My master has disposed of them already," said Gurth.
"Ah! that was wrong," said the Jew, "that was the part of a fool.
No Christians here could buy so many horses and armour---no Jew
except myself would give him half the values. But thou hast a
hundred zecchins with thee in that bag," said Isaac, prying under
Gurth's cloak, "it is a heavy one."
"I have heads for cross-bow bolts in it," said Gurth, readily.
"Well, then"---said Isaac, panting and hesitating between
habitual love of gain and a new-born desire to be liberal in the
present instance, "if I should say that I would take eighty
zecchins for the good steed and the rich armour, which leaves me
not a guilder's profit, have you money to pay me?"
"Barely," said Gurth, though the sum demanded was more reasonable
than he expected, "and it will leave my master nigh penniless.
Nevertheless, if such be your least offer, I must be content."
"Fill thyself another goblet of wine," said the Jew. "Ah! eighty
zecchins is too little. It leaveth no profit for the usages of
the moneys; and, besides, the good horse may have suffered wrong
in this day's encounter. O, it was a hard and a dangerous
meeting! man and steed rushing on each other like wild bulls of
Bashan! The horse cannot but have had wrong."
"And I say," replied Gurth, "he is sound, wind and limb; and you
may see him now, in your stable. And I say, over and above, that
seventy zecchins is enough for the armour, and I hope a
Christian's word is as good as a Jew's. If you will not take
seventy, I will carry this bag" (and he shook it till the
contents jingled) "back to my master."
"Nay, nay!" said Isaac; "lay down the talents---the shekels---the
eighty zecchins, and thou shalt see I will consider thee
Gurth at length complied; and telling out eighty zecchins upon
the table, the Jew delivered out to him an acquittance for the
horse and suit of armour. The Jew's hand trembled for joy as he
wrapped up the first seventy pieces of gold. The last ten he
told over with much deliberation, pausing, and saying something
as he took each piece from the table, and dropt it into his
purse. It seemed as if his avarice were struggling with his
better nature, and compelling him to pouch zecchin after zecchin
while his generosity urged him to restore some part at least to
his benefactor, or as a donation to his agent. His whole speech
ran nearly thus:
"Seventy-one---seventy-two; thy master is a good youth
---seventy-three, an excellent youth---seventy-four---that piece
hath been clipt within the ring---seventy-five---and that looketh
light of weight ---seventy-six---when thy master wants money, let
him come to Isaac of York---seventy-seven---that is, with
reasonable security." Here he made a considerable pause, and
Gurth had good hope that the last three pieces might escape the
fate of their comrades; but the enumeration proceeded.
---"Seventy-eight---thou art a good fellow---seventy-nine---and
deservest something for thyself------"
Here the Jew paused again, and looked at the last zecchin,
intending, doubtless, to bestow it upon Gurth. He weighed it
upon the tip of his finger, and made it ring by dropping it upon
the table. Had it rung too flat, or had it felt a hair's breadth
too light, generosity had carried the day; but, unhappily for
Gurth, the chime was full and true, the zecchin plump, newly
coined, and a grain above weight. Isaac could not find in his
heart to part with it, so dropt it into his purse as if in
absence of mind, with the words, "Eighty completes the tale, and
I trust thy master will reward thee handsomely.---Surely," he
added, looking earnestly at the bag, "thou hast more coins in
that pouch?"
Gurth grinned, which was his nearest approach to a laugh, as he
replied, "About the same quantity which thou hast just told over
so carefully." He then folded the quittance, and put it under
his cap, adding,---"Peril of thy beard, Jew, see that this be
full and ample!" He filled himself unbidden, a third goblet of
wine, and left the apartment without ceremony.
"Rebecca," said the Jew, "that Ishmaelite hath gone somewhat
beyond me. Nevertheless his master is a good youth---ay, and I
am well pleased that he hath gained shekels of gold and shekels
of silver, even by the speed of his horse and by the strength of
his lance, which, like that of Goliath the Philistine, might vie
with a weaver's beam."
As he turned to receive Rebecca's answer, he observed, that
during his chattering with Gurth, she had left the apartment
In the meanwhile, Gurth had descended the stair, and, having
reached the dark antechamber or hall, was puzzling about to
discover the entrance, when a figure in white, shown by a small
silver lamp which she held in her hand, beckoned him into a side
apartment. Gurth had some reluctance to obey the summons. Rough
and impetuous as a wild boar, where only earthly force was to be
apprehended, he had all the characteristic terrors of a Saxon
respecting fawns, forest-fiends, white women, and the whole of
the superstitions which his ancestors had brought with them from
the wilds of Germany. He remembered, moreover, that he was in
the house of a Jew, a people who, besides the other unamiable
qualities which popular report ascribed to them, were supposed to
be profound necromancers and cabalists. Nevertheless, after a
moment's pause, he obeyed the beckoning summons of the
apparition, and followed her into the apartment which she
indicated, where he found to his joyful surprise that his fair
guide was the beautiful Jewess whom he had seen at the
tournament, and a short time in her father's apartment.
She asked him the particulars of his transaction with Isaac,
which he detailed accurately.
"My father did but jest with thee, good fellow," said Rebecca;
"he owes thy master deeper kindness than these arms and steed
could pay, were their value tenfold. What sum didst thou pay my
father even now?"
"Eighty zecchins," said Gurth, surprised at the question.
"In this purse," said Rebecca, "thou wilt find a hundred.
Restore to thy master that which is his due, and enrich thyself
with the remainder. Haste---begone---stay not to render thanks!
and beware how you pass through this crowded town, where thou
mayst easily lose both thy burden and thy life.---Reuben," she
added, clapping her hands together, "light forth this stranger,
and fail not to draw lock and bar behind him." Reuben, a
dark-brow'd and black-bearded Israelite, obeyed her summons, with
a torch in his hand; undid the outward door of the house, and
conducting Gurth across a paved court, let him out through a
wicket in the entrance-gate, which he closed behind him with such
bolts and chains as would well have become that of a prison.
"By St Dunstan," said Gurth, as he stumbled up the dark avenue,
"this is no Jewess, but an angel from heaven! Ten zecchins from
my brave young master---twenty from this pearl of Zion---Oh,
happy day!---Such another, Gurth, will redeem thy bondage, and
make thee a brother as free of thy guild as the best. And then
do I lay down my swineherd's horn and staff, and take the
freeman's sword and buckler, and follow my young master to the
death, without hiding either my face or my name."
1st Outlaw: Stand, sir, and throw us that you have about you;
If not, we'll make you sit, and rifle you.
Speed: Sir, we are undone! these are the villains
That all the travellers do fear so much.
Val: My friends,---
1st Out: That's not so, sir, we are your enemies.
2d Out: Peace! we'll hear him.
3d Out: Ay, by my beard, will we;
For he's a proper man.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The nocturnal adventures of Gurth were not yet concluded; indeed
he himself became partly of that mind, when, after passing one or
two straggling houses which stood in the outskirts of the
village, he found himself in a deep lane, running between two
banks overgrown with hazel and holly, while here and there a
dwarf oak flung its arms altogether across the path. The lane
was moreover much rutted and broken up by the carriages which had
recently transported articles of various kinds to the tournament;
and it was dark, for the banks and bushes intercepted the light
of the harvest moon.
>From the village were heard the distant sounds of revelry, mixed
occasionally with loud laughter, sometimes broken by screams, and
sometimes by wild strains of distant music. All these sounds,
intimating the disorderly state of the town, crowded with
military nobles and their dissolute attendants, gave Gurth some
uneasiness. "The Jewess was right," he said to himself. "By
heaven and St Dunstan, I would I were safe at my journey's end
with all this treasure! Here are such numbers, I will not say of
arrant thieves, but of errant knights and errant squires, errant
monks and errant minstrels, errant jugglers and errant jesters,
that a man with a single merk would be in danger, much more a
poor swineherd with a whole bagful of zecchins. Would I were out
of the shade of these infernal bushes, that I might at least see
any of St Nicholas's clerks before they spring on my shoulders."
Gurth accordingly hastened his pace, in order to gain the open
common to which the lane led, but was not so fortunate as to
accomplish his object. Just as he had attained the upper end of
the lane, where the underwood was thickest, four men sprung upon
him, even as his fears anticipated, two from each side of the
road, and seized him so fast, that resistance, if at first
practicable, would have been now too late.---"Surrender your
charge," said one of them; "we are the deliverers of the
commonwealth, who ease every man of his burden."
"You should not ease me of mine so lightly," muttered Gurth,
whose surly honesty could not be tamed even by the pressure of
immediate violence,---"had I it but in my power to give three
strokes in its defence."
"We shall see that presently," said the robber; and, speaking to
his companions, he added, "bring along the knave. I see he would
have his head broken, as well as his purse cut, and so be let
blood in two veins at once."
Gurth was hurried along agreeably to this mandate, and having
been dragged somewhat roughly over the bank, on the left-hand
side of the lane, found himself in a straggling thicket, which
lay betwixt it and the open common. He was compelled to follow
his rough conductors into the very depth of this cover, where
they stopt unexpectedly in an irregular open space, free in a
great measure from trees, and on which, therefore, the beams of
the moon fell without much interruption from boughs and leaves.
Here his captors were joined by two other persons, apparently
belonging to the gang. They had short swords by their sides, and
quarter-staves in their hands, and Gurth could now observe that
all six wore visors, which rendered their occupation a matter of
no question, even had their former proceedings left it in doubt.
"What money hast thou, churl?" said one of the thieves.
"Thirty zecchins of my own property," answered Gurth, doggedly.
"A forfeit---a forfeit," shouted the robbers; "a Saxon hath
thirty zecchins, and returns sober from a village! An undeniable
and unredeemable forfeit of all he hath about him."
"I hoarded it to purchase my freedom," said Gurth.
"Thou art an ass," replied one of the thieves "three quarts of
double ale had rendered thee as free as thy master, ay, and freer
too, if he be a Saxon like thyself."
"A sad truth," replied Gurth; "but if these same thirty zecchins
will buy my freedom from you, unloose my hands, and I will pay
them to you."
"Hold," said one who seemed to exercise some authority over the
others; "this bag which thou bearest, as I can feel through thy
cloak, contains more coin than thou hast told us of."
"It is the good knight my master's," answered Gurth, "of which,
assuredly, I would not have spoken a word, had you been satisfied
with working your will upon mine own property."
"Thou art an honest fellow," replied the robber, "I warrant thee;
and we worship not St Nicholas so devoutly but what thy thirty
zecchins may yet escape, if thou deal uprightly with us.
Meantime render up thy trust for a time." So saying, he took
from Gurth's breast the large leathern pouch, in which the purse
given him by Rebecca was enclosed, as well as the rest of the
zecchins, and then continued his interrogation.---"Who is thy
"The Disinherited Knight," said Gurth.
"Whose good lance," replied the robber, "won the prize in
to-day's tourney? What is his name and lineage?"
"It is his pleasure," answered Gurth, "that they be concealed;
and from me, assuredly, you will learn nought of them."
"What is thine own name and lineage?"
"To tell that," said Gurth, "might reveal my master's."
"Thou art a saucy groom," said the robber, "but of that anon.
How comes thy master by this gold? is it of his inheritance, or
by what means hath it accrued to him?"
"By his good lance," answered Gurth.---"These bags contain the
ransom of four good horses, and four good suits of armour."
"How much is there?" demanded the robber.
"Two hundred zecchins."
"Only two hundred zecchins!" said the bandit; "your master hath
dealt liberally by the vanquished, and put them to a cheap
ransom. Name those who paid the gold."
Gurth did so.
"The armour and horse of the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert, at
what ransom were they held?---Thou seest thou canst not deceive
"My master," replied Gurth, "will take nought from the Templar
save his life's-blood. They are on terms of mortal defiance, and
cannot hold courteous intercourse together."
"Indeed!"---repeated the robber, and paused after he had said the
word. "And what wert thou now doing at Ashby with such a charge
in thy custody?"
"I went thither to render to Isaac the Jew of York," replied
Gurth, "the price of a suit of armour with which he fitted my
master for this tournament."
"And how much didst thou pay to Isaac?---Methinks, to judge by
weight, there is still two hundred zecchins in this pouch."
"I paid to Isaac," said the Saxon, "eighty zecchins, and he
restored me a hundred in lieu thereof."
"How! what!" exclaimed all the robbers at once; "darest thou
trifle with us, that thou tellest such improbable lies?"
"What I tell you," said Gurth, "is as true as the moon is in
heaven. You will find the just sum in a silken purse within
the leathern pouch, and separate from the rest of the gold."
"Bethink thee, man," said the Captain, "thou speakest of a Jew
---of an Israelite,---as unapt to restore gold, as the dry sand
of his deserts to return the cup of water which the pilgrim
spills upon them."
"There is no more mercy in them," said another of the banditti,
"than in an unbribed sheriffs officer."
"It is, however, as I say," said Gurth.
"Strike a light instantly," said the Captain; "I will examine
this said purse; and if it be as this fellow says, the Jew's
bounty is little less miraculous than the stream which relieved
his fathers in the wilderness."
A light was procured accordingly, and the robber proceeded to
examine the purse. The others crowded around him, and even two
who had hold of Gurth relaxed their grasp while they stretched
their necks to see the issue of the search. Availing himself of
their negligence, by a sudden exertion of strength and activity,
Gurth shook himself free of their hold, and might have escaped,
could he have resolved to leave his master's property behind him.
But such was no part of his intention. He wrenched a
quarter-staff from one of the fellows, struck down the Captain,
who was altogether unaware of his purpose, and had well-nigh
repossessed himself of the pouch and treasure. The thieves,
however, were too nimble for him, and again secured both the bag
and the trusty Gurth.
"Knave!" said the Captain, getting up, "thou hast broken my head;
and with other men of our sort thou wouldst fare the worse for
thy insolence. But thou shalt know thy fate instantly. First
let us speak of thy master; the knight's matters must go before
the squire's, according to the due order of chivalry. Stand thou
fast in the meantime---if thou stir again, thou shalt have that
will make thee quiet for thy life---Comrades!" he then said,
addressing his gang, "this purse is embroidered with Hebrew
characters, and I well believe the yeoman's tale is true. The
errant knight, his master, must needs pass us toll-free. He is
too like ourselves for us to make booty of him, since dogs should
not worry dogs where wolves and foxes are to be found in
"Like us?" answered one of the gang; "I should like to hear how
that is made good."
"Why, thou fool," answered the Captain, "is he not poor and
disinherited as we are?---Doth he not win his substance at the
sword's point as we do?---Hath he not beaten Front-de-Boeuf and
Malvoisin, even as we would beat them if we could? Is he not the
enemy to life and death of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, whom we have
so much reason to fear? And were all this otherwise, wouldst
thou have us show a worse conscience than an unbeliever, a Hebrew
"Nay, that were a shame," muttered the other fellow; "and yet,
when I served in the band of stout old Gandelyn, we had no such
scruples of conscience. And this insolent peasant,---he too, I
warrant me, is to be dismissed scatheless?"
"Not if THOU canst scathe him," replied the Captain.---"Here,
fellow," continued he, addressing Gurth, "canst thou use the
staff, that thou starts to it so readily?"
"I think," said Gurth, "thou shouldst be best able to reply to
that question."
"Nay, by my troth, thou gavest me a round knock," replied the
Captain; "do as much for this fellow, and thou shalt pass
scot-free; and if thou dost not---why, by my faith, as thou art
such a sturdy knave, I think I must pay thy ransom myself.---Take
thy staff, Miller," he added, "and keep thy head; and do you
others let the fellow go, and give him a staff---there is light
enough to lay on load by."
The two champions being alike armed with quarter-staves, stepped
forward into the centre of the open space, in order to have the
full benefit of the moonlight; the thieves in the meantime
laughing, and crying to their comrade, "Miller! beware thy
toll-dish." The Miller, on the other hand, holding his
quarter-staff by the middle, and making it flourish round his
head after the fashion which the French call "faire le moulinet",
exclaimed boastfully, "Come on, churl, an thou darest: thou shalt
feel the strength of a miller's thumb!"
"If thou best a miller," answered Gurth, undauntedly, making his
weapon play around his head with equal dexterity, "thou art
doubly a thief, and I, as a true man, bid thee defiance."
So saying, the two champions closed together, and for a few
minutes they displayed great equality in strength, courage, and
skill, intercepting and returning the blows of their adversary
with the most rapid dexterity, while, from the continued clatter
of their weapons, a person at a distance might have supposed that
there were at least six persons engaged on each side. Less
obstinate, and even less dangerous combats, have been described
in good heroic verse; but that of Gurth and the Miller must
remain unsung, for want of a sacred poet to do justice to its
eventful progress. Yet, though quarter-staff play be out of
date, what we can in prose we will do for these bold champions.
Long they fought equally, until the Miller began to lose temper
at finding himself so stoutly opposed, and at hearing the
laughter of his companions, who, as usual in such cases, enjoyed
his vexation. This was not a state of mind favourable to the
noble game of quarter-staff, in which, as in ordinary
cudgel-playing, the utmost coolness is requisite; and it gave
Gurth, whose temper was steady, though surly, the opportunity of
acquiring a decided advantage, in availing himself of which he
displayed great mastery.
The Miller pressed furiously forward, dealing blows with either
end of his weapon alternately, and striving to come to half-staff
distance, while Gurth defended himself against the attack,
keeping his hands about a yard asunder, and covering himself by
shifting his weapon with great celerity, so as to protect his
head and body. Thus did he maintain the defensive, making his
eye, foot, and hand keep true time, until, observing his
antagonist to lose wind, he darted the staff at his face with his
left hand; and, as the Miller endeavoured to parry the thrust, he
slid his right hand down to his left, and with the full swing of
the weapon struck his opponent on the left side of the head, who
instantly measured his length upon the green sward.
"Well and yeomanly done!" shouted the robbers; "fair play and Old
England for ever! The Saxon hath saved both his purse and his
hide, and the Miller has met his match."
"Thou mayst go thy ways, my friend," said the Captain, addressing
Gurth, in special confirmation of the general voice, "and I will
cause two of my comrades to guide thee by the best way to thy
master's pavilion, and to guard thee from night-walkers that
might have less tender consciences than ours; for there is many
one of them upon the amble in such a night as this. Take heed,
however," he added sternly; "remember thou hast refused to tell
thy name---ask not after ours, nor endeavour to discover who or
what we are; for, if thou makest such an attempt, thou wilt come
by worse fortune than has yet befallen thee."
Gurth thanked the Captain for his courtesy, and promised to
attend to his recommendation. Two of the outlaws, taking up
their quarter-staves, and desiring Gurth to follow close in the
rear, walked roundly forward along a by-path, which traversed the
thicket and the broken ground adjacent to it. On the very verge
of the thicket two men spoke to his conductors, and receiving an
answer in a whisper, withdrew into the wood, and suffered them to
pass unmolested. This circumstance induced Gurth to believe both
that the gang was strong in numbers, and that they kept regular
guards around their place of rendezvous.
When they arrived on the open heath, where Gurth might have had
some trouble in finding his road, the thieves guided him straight
forward to the top of a little eminence, whence he could see,
spread beneath him in the moonlight, the palisades of the lists,
the glimmering pavilions pitched at either end, with the pennons
which adorned them fluttering in the moonbeams, and from which
could be heard the hum of the song with which the sentinels were
beguiling their night-watch.
Here the thieves stopt.
"We go with you no farther," said they; "it were not safe that we
should do so.---Remember the warning you have received---keep
secret what has this night befallen you, and you will have no
room to repent it---neglect what is now told you, and the Tower
of London shall not protect you against our revenge."
"Good night to you, kind sirs," said Gurth; "I shall remember
your orders, and trust that there is no offence in wishing you a
safer and an honester trade."
Thus they parted, the outlaws returning in the direction from
whence they had come, and Gurth proceeding to the tent of his
master, to whom, notwithstanding the injunction he had
received, he communicated the whole adventures of the evening.
The Disinherited Knight was filled with astonishment, no less at
the generosity of Rebecca, by which, however, he resolved he
would not profit, than that of the robbers, to whose profession
such a quality seemed totally foreign. His course of reflections
upon these singular circumstances was, however, interrupted by
the necessity for taking repose, which the fatigue of the
preceding day, and the propriety of refreshing himself for the
morrow's encounter, rendered alike indispensable.
The knight, therefore, stretched himself for repose upon a rich
couch with which the tent was provided; and the faithful Gurth,
extending his hardy limbs upon a bear-skin which formed a sort
of carpet to the pavilion, laid himself across the opening of the
tent, so that no one could enter without awakening him.
The heralds left their pricking up and down,
Now ringen trumpets loud and clarion.
There is no more to say, but east and west,
In go the speares sadly in the rest,
In goth the sharp spur into the side,
There see men who can just and who can ride;
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick,
He feeleth through the heart-spone the prick;
Up springen speares, twenty feet in height,
Out go the swordes to the silver bright;
The helms they to-hewn and to-shred;
Out burst the blood with stern streames red.
Morning arose in unclouded splendour, and ere the sun was much
above the horizon, the idlest or the most eager of the spectators
appeared on the common, moving to the lists as to a general
centre, in order to secure a favourable situation for viewing the
continuation of the expected games.
The marshals and their attendants appeared next on the field,
together with the heralds, for the purpose of receiving the names
of the knights who intended to joust, with the side which each
chose to espouse. This was a necessary precaution, in order to
secure equality betwixt the two bodies who should be opposed to
each other.
According to due formality, the Disinherited Knight was to be
considered as leader of the one body, while Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who had been rated as having done second-best in
the preceding day, was named first champion of the other band.
Those who had concurred in the challenge adhered to his party of
course, excepting only Ralph de Vipont, whom his fall had
rendered unfit so soon to put on his armour. There was no want
of distinguished and noble candidates to fill up the ranks on
either side.
In fact, although the general tournament, in which all knights
fought at once, was more dangerous than single encounters, they
were, nevertheless, more frequented and practised by the chivalry
of the age. Many knights, who had not sufficient confidence in
their own skill to defy a single adversary of high reputation,
were, nevertheless, desirous of displaying their valour in the
general combat, where they might meet others with whom they were
more upon an equality. On the present occasion, about fifty
knights were inscribed as desirous of combating upon each side,
when the marshals declared that no more could be admitted, to the
disappointment of several who were too late in preferring their
claim to be included.
About the hour of ten o'clock, the whole plain was crowded with
horsemen, horsewomen, and foot-passengers, hastening to the
tournament; and shortly after, a grand flourish of trumpets
announced Prince John and his retinue, attended by many of those
knights who meant to take share in the game, as well as others
who had no such intention.
About the same time arrived Cedric the Saxon, with the Lady
Rowena, unattended, however, by Athelstane. This Saxon lord had
arrayed his tall and strong person in armour, in order to take
his place among the combatants; and, considerably to the surprise
of Cedric, had chosen to enlist himself on the part of the Knight
Templar. The Saxon, indeed, had remonstrated strongly with his
friend upon the injudicious choice he had made of his party; but
he had only received that sort of answer usually given by those
who are more obstinate in following their own course, than strong
in justifying it.
His best, if not his only reason, for adhering to the party of
Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Athelstane had the prudence to keep to
himself. Though his apathy of disposition prevented his taking
any means to recommend himself to the Lady Rowena, he was,
nevertheless, by no means insensible to her charms, and
considered his union with her as a matter already fixed beyond
doubt, by the assent of Cedric and her other friends. It had
therefore been with smothered displeasure that the proud though
indolent Lord of Coningsburgh beheld the victor of the preceding
day select Rowena as the object of that honour which it became
his privilege to confer. In order to punish him for a
preference which seemed to interfere with his own suit,
Athelstane, confident of his strength, and to whom his
flatterers, at least, ascribed great skill in arms, had
determined not only to deprive the Disinherited Knight of his
powerful succour, but, if an opportunity should occur, to make
him feel the weight of his battle-axe.
De Bracy, and other knights attached to Prince John, in obedience
to a hint from him, had joined the party of the challengers, John
being desirous to secure, if possible, the victory to that side.
On the other hand, many other knights, both English and Norman,
natives and strangers, took part against the challengers, the
more readily that the opposite band was to be led by so
distinguished a champion as the Disinherited Knight had approved
As soon as Prince John observed that the destined Queen of the
day had arrived upon the field, assuming that air of courtesy
which sat well upon him when he was pleased to exhibit it, he
rode forward to meet her, doffed his bonnet, and, alighting from
his horse, assisted the Lady Rowena from her saddle, while his
followers uncovered at the same time, and one of the most
distinguished dismounted to hold her palfrey.
"It is thus," said Prince John, "that we set the dutiful example
of loyalty to the Queen of Love and Beauty, and are ourselves her
guide to the throne which she must this day occupy.---Ladies," he
said, "attend your Queen, as you wish in your turn to be
distinguished by like honours."
So saying, the Prince marshalled Rowena to the seat of honour
opposite his own, while the fairest and most distinguished ladies
present crowded after her to obtain places as near as possible to
their temporary sovereign.
No sooner was Rowena seated, than a burst of music, half-drowned
by the shouts of the multitude, greeted her new dignity.
Meantime, the sun shone fierce and bright upon the polished arms
of the knights of either side, who crowded the opposite
extremities of the lists, and held eager conference together
concerning the best mode of arranging their line of battle, and
supporting the conflict.
The heralds then proclaimed silence until the laws of the tourney
should be rehearsed. These were calculated in some degree to
abate the dangers of the day; a precaution the more necessary, as
the conflict was to be maintained with sharp swords and pointed
The champions were therefore prohibited to thrust with the sword,
and were confined to striking. A knight, it was announced, might
use a mace or battle-axe at pleasure, but the dagger was a
prohibited weapon. A knight unhorsed might renew the fight on
foot with any other on the opposite side in the same predicament;
but mounted horsemen were in that case forbidden to assail him.
When any knight could force his antagonist to the extremity of
the lists, so as to touch the palisade with his person or arms,
such opponent was obliged to yield himself vanquished, and his
armour and horse were placed at the disposal of the conqueror.
A knight thus overcome was not permitted to take farther share in
the combat. If any combatant was struck down, and unable to
recover his feet, his squire or page might enter the lists, and
drag his master out of the press; but in that case the knight was
adjudged vanquished, and his arms and horse declared forfeited.
The combat was to cease as soon as Prince John should throw down
his leading staff, or truncheon; another precaution usually taken
to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood by the too long
endurance of a sport so desperate. Any knight breaking the rules
of the tournament, or otherwise transgressing the rules of
honourable chivalry, was liable to be stript of his arms, and,
having his shield reversed to be placed in that posture astride
upon the bars of the palisade, and exposed to public derision, in
punishment of his unknightly conduct. Having announced these
precautions, the heralds concluded with an exhortation to each
good knight to do his duty, and to merit favour from the Queen of
Beauty and of Love.
This proclamation having been made, the heralds withdrew to their
stations. The knights, entering at either end of the lists in
long procession, arranged themselves in a double file, precisely
opposite to each other, the leader of each party being in the
centre of the foremost rank, a post which he did not occupy until
each had carefully marshalled the ranks of his party, and
stationed every one in his place.
It was a goodly, and at the same time an anxious, sight, to
behold so many gallant champions, mounted bravely, and armed
richly, stand ready prepared for an encounter so formidable,
seated on their war-saddles like so many pillars of iron, and
awaiting the signal of encounter with the same ardour as their
generous steeds, which, by neighing and pawing the ground, gave
signal of their impatience.
As yet the knights held their long lances upright, their bright
points glancing to the sun, and the streamers with which they
were decorated fluttering over the plumage of the helmets. Thus
they remained while the marshals of the field surveyed their
ranks with the utmost exactness, lest either party had more or
fewer than the appointed number. The tale was found exactly
complete. The marshals then withdrew from the lists, and William
de Wyvil, with a voice of thunder, pronounced the signal words
--"Laissez aller!" The trumpets sounded as he spoke---the spears
of the champions were at once lowered and placed in the rests
---the spurs were dashed into the flanks of the horses, and the
two foremost ranks of either party rushed upon each other in full
gallop, and met in the middle of the lists with a shock, the
sound of which was heard at a mile's distance. The rear rank of
each party advanced at a slower pace to sustain the defeated, and
follow up the success of the victors of their party.
The consequences of the encounter were not instantly seen, for
the dust raised by the trampling of so many steeds darkened the
air, and it was a minute ere the anxious spectator could see the
fate of the encounter. When the fight became visible, half the
knights on each side were dismounted, some by the dexterity of
their adversary's lance,---some by the superior weight and
strength of opponents, which had borne down both horse and man,
---some lay stretched on earth as if never more to rise,---some
had already gained their feet, and were closing hand to hand with
those of their antagonists who were in the same predicament,
---and several on both sides, who had received wounds by which
they were disabled, were stopping their blood by their scarfs,
and endeavouring to extricate themselves from the tumult. The
mounted knights, whose lances had been almost all broken by the
fury of the encounter, were now closely engaged with their
swords, shouting their war-cries, and exchanging buffets, as if
honour and life depended on the issue of the combat.
The tumult was presently increased by the advance of the second
rank on either side, which, acting as a reserve, now rushed on to
aid their companions. The followers of Brian de Bois-Guilbert
shouted ---"Ha! Beau-seant! Beau-seant!*
* "Beau-seant" was the name of the Templars' banner, which
* was half black, half white, to intimate, it is said, that
* they were candid and fair towards Christians, but black
* and terrible towards infidels.
--- For the Temple---For the Temple!" The opposite party shouted
in answer---"Desdichado! Desdichado!"---which watch-word they
took from the motto upon their leader's shield.
The champions thus encountering each other with the utmost fury,
and with alternate success, the tide of battle seemed to flow now
toward the southern, now toward the northern extremity of the
lists, as the one or the other party prevailed. Meantime the
clang of the blows, and the shouts of the combatants, mixed
fearfully with the sound of the trumpets, and drowned the groans
of those who fell, and lay rolling defenceless beneath the feet
of the horses. The splendid armour of the combatants was now
defaced with dust and blood, and gave way at every stroke of the
sword and battle-axe. The gay plumage, shorn from the crests,
drifted upon the breeze like snow-flakes. All that was beautiful
and graceful in the martial array had disappeared, and what was
now visible was only calculated to awake terror or compassion.
Yet such is the force of habit, that not only the vulgar
spectators, who are naturally attracted by sights of horror, but
even the ladies of distinction who crowded the galleries, saw the
conflict with a thrilling interest certainly, but without a wish
to withdraw their eyes from a sight so terrible. Here and there,
indeed, a fair cheek might turn pale, or a faint scream might be
heard, as a lover, a brother, or a husband, was struck from his
horse. But, in general, the ladies around encouraged the
combatants, not only by clapping their hands and waving their
veils and kerchiefs, but even by exclaiming, "Brave lance! Good
sword!" when any successful thrust or blow took place under their
Such being the interest taken by the fair sex in this bloody
game, that of the men is the more easily understood. It showed
itself in loud acclamations upon every change of fortune, while
all eyes were so riveted on the lists, that the spectators seemed
as if they themselves had dealt and received the blows which were
there so freely bestowed. And between every pause was heard the
voice of the heralds, exclaiming, "Fight on, brave knights! Man
dies, but glory lives!---Fight on---death is better than defeat!
---Fight on, brave knights!---for bright eyes behold your deeds!"
Amid the varied fortunes of the combat, the eyes of all
endeavoured to discover the leaders of each band, who, mingling
in the thick of the fight, encouraged their companions both by
voice and example. Both displayed great feats of gallantry, nor
did either Bois-Guilbert or the Disinherited Knight find in the
ranks opposed to them a champion who could be termed their
unquestioned match. They repeatedly endeavoured to single out
each other, spurred by mutual animosity, and aware that the fall
of either leader might be considered as decisive of victory.
Such, however, was the crowd and confusion, that, during the
earlier part of the conflict, their efforts to meet were
unavailing, and they were repeatedly separated by the eagerness
of their followers, each of whom was anxious to win honour, by
measuring his strength against the leader of the opposite party.
But when the field became thin by the numbers on either side who
had yielded themselves vanquished, had been compelled to the
extremity of the lists, or been otherwise rendered incapable of
continuing the strife, the Templar and the Disinherited Knight at
length encountered hand to hand, with all the fury that mortal
animosity, joined to rivalry of honour, could inspire. Such was
the address of each in parrying and striking, that the spectators
broke forth into a unanimous and involuntary shout, expressive of
their delight and admiration.
But at this moment the party of the Disinherited Knight had the
worst; the gigantic arm of Front-de-Boeuf on the one flank, and
the ponderous strength of Athelstane on the other, bearing down
and dispersing those immediately exposed to them. Finding
themselves freed from their immediate antagonists, it seems to
have occurred to both these knights at the same instant, that
they would render the most decisive advantage to their party, by
aiding the Templar in his contest with his rival. Turning their
horses, therefore, at the same moment, the Norman spurred against
the Disinherited Knight on the one side, and the Saxon on the
other. It was utterly impossible that the object of this unequal
and unexpected assault could have sustained it, had he not been
warned by a general cry from the spectators, who could not but
take interest in one exposed to such disadvantage.
"Beware! beware! Sir Disinherited!" was shouted so universally,
that the knight became aware of his danger; and, striking a full
blow at the Templar, he reined back his steed in the same moment,
so as to escape the charge of Athelstane and Front-de-Boeuf.
These knights, therefore, their aim being thus eluded, rushed
from opposite sides betwixt the object of their attack and the
Templar, almost running their horses against each other ere they
could stop their career. Recovering their horses however, and
wheeling them round, the whole three pursued their united purpose
of bearing to the earth the Disinherited Knight.
Nothing could have saved him, except the remarkable strength and
activity of the noble horse which he had won on the preceding
This stood him in the more stead, as the horse of Bois-Guilbert
was wounded, and those of Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane were both
tired with the weight of their gigantic masters, clad in complete
armour, and with the preceding exertions of the day. The
masterly horsemanship of the Disinherited Knight, and the
activity of the noble animal which he mounted, enabled him for a
few minutes to keep at sword's point his three antagonists,
turning and wheeling with the agility of a hawk upon the wing,
keeping his enemies as far separate as he could, and rushing now
against the one, now against the other, dealing sweeping blows
with his sword, without waiting to receive those which were aimed
at him in return.
But although the lists rang with the applauses of his dexterity,
it was evident that he must at last be overpowered; and the
nobles around Prince John implored him with one voice to throw
down his warder, and to save so brave a knight from the disgrace
of being overcome by odds.
"Not I, by the light of Heaven!" answered Prince John; "this same
springald, who conceals his name, and despises our proffered
hospitality, hath already gained one prize, and may now afford to
let others have their turn." As he spoke thus, an unexpected
incident changed the fortune of the day.
There was among the ranks of the Disinherited Knight a champion
in black armour, mounted on a black horse, large of size, tall,
and to all appearance powerful and strong, like the rider by whom
he was mounted, This knight, who bore on his shield no device of
any kind, had hitherto evinced very little interest in the event
of the fight, beating off with seeming ease those combatants who
attacked him, but neither pursuing his advantages, nor himself
assailing any one. In short, he had hitherto acted the part
rather of a spectator than of a party in the tournament, a
circumstance which procured him among the spectators the name of
"Le Noir Faineant", or the Black Sluggard.
At once this knight seemed to throw aside his apathy, when he
discovered the leader of his party so hard bestead; for, setting
spurs to his horse, which was quite fresh, he came to his
assistance like a thunderbolt, exclaiming, in a voice like a
trumpet-call, "Desdichado, to the rescue!" It was high time;
for, while the Disinherited Knight was pressing upon the Templar,
Front-de-Boeuf had got nigh to him with his uplifted sword; but
ere the blow could descend, the Sable Knight dealt a stroke on
his head, which, glancing from the polished helmet, lighted with
violence scarcely abated on the "chamfron" of the steed, and
Front-de-Boeuf rolled on the ground, both horse and man equally
stunned by the fury of the blow. "Le Noir Faineant" then turned
his horse upon Athelstane of Coningsburgh; and his own sword
having been broken in his encounter with Front-de-Boeuf, he
wrenched from the hand of the bulky Saxon the battle-axe which he
wielded, and, like one familiar with the use of the weapon,
bestowed him such a blow upon the crest, that Athelstane also lay
senseless on the field. Having achieved this double feat, for
which he was the more highly applauded that it was totally
unexpected from him, the knight seemed to resume the sluggishness
of his character, returning calmly to the northern extremity of
the lists, leaving his leader to cope as he best could with Brian
de Bois-Guilbert. This was no longer matter of so much
difficulty as formerly. The Templars horse had bled much, and
gave way under the shock of the Disinherited Knight's charge.
Brian de Bois-Guilbert rolled on the field, encumbered with the
stirrup, from which he was unable to draw his foot. His
antagonist sprung from horseback, waved his fatal sword over the
head of his adversary, and commanded him to yield himself; when
Prince John, more moved by the Templars dangerous situation than
he had been by that of his rival, saved him the mortification of
confessing himself vanquished, by casting down his warder, and
putting an end to the conflict.
It was, indeed, only the relics and embers of the fight which
continued to burn; for of the few knights who still continued in
the lists, the greater part had, by tacit consent, forborne the
conflict for some time, leaving it to be determined by the strife
of the leaders.
The squires, who had found it a matter of danger and difficulty
to attend their masters during the engagement, now thronged into
the lists to pay their dutiful attendance to the wounded, who
were removed with the utmost care and attention to the
neighbouring pavilions, or to the quarters prepared for them in
the adjoining village.
Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, one of the
most gallantly contested tournaments of that age; for although
only four knights, including one who was smothered by the heat of
his armour, had died upon the field, yet upwards of thirty were
desperately wounded, four or five of whom never recovered.
Several more were disabled for life; and those who escaped best
carried the marks of the conflict to the grave with them. Hence
it is always mentioned in the old records, as the Gentle and
Joyous Passage of Arms of Ashby.
It being now the duty of Prince John to name the knight who had
done best, he determined that the honour of the day remained with
the knight whom the popular voice had termed "Le Noir Faineant."
It was pointed out to the Prince, in impeachment of this decree,
that the victory had been in fact won by the Disinherited Knight,
who, in the course of the day, had overcome six champions with
his own hand, and who had finally unhorsed and struck down the
leader of the opposite party. But Prince John adhered to his own
opinion, on the ground that the Disinherited Knight and his party
had lost the day, but for the powerful assistance of the Knight
of the Black Armour, to whom, therefore, he persisted in awarding
the prize.
To the surprise of all present, however, the knight thus
preferred was nowhere to be found. He had left the lists
immediately when the conflict ceased, and had been observed by
some spectators to move down one of the forest glades with the
same slow pace and listless and indifferent manner which had
procured him the epithet of the Black Sluggard. After he had
been summoned twice by sound of trumpet, and proclamation of the
heralds, it became necessary to name another to receive the
honours which had been assigned to him. Prince John had now no
further excuse for resisting the claim of the Disinherited
Knight, whom, therefore, he named the champion of the day.
Through a field slippery with blood, and encumbered with broken
armour and the bodies of slain and wounded horses, the marshals
of the lists again conducted the victor to the foot of Prince
John's throne.
"Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since by that title
only you will consent to be known to us, we a second time award
to you the honours of this tournament, and announce to you your
right to claim and receive from the hands of the Queen of Love
and Beauty, the Chaplet of Honour which your valour has justly
deserved." The Knight bowed low and gracefully, but returned
no answer.
While the trumpets sounded, while the heralds strained their
voices in proclaiming honour to the brave and glory to the victor
---while ladies waved their silken kerchiefs and embroidered
veils, and while all ranks joined in a clamorous shout of
exultation, the marshals conducted the Disinherited Knight across
the lists to the foot of that throne of honour which was occupied
by the Lady Rowena.
On the lower step of this throne the champion was made to kneel
down. Indeed his whole action since the fight had ended, seemed
rather to have been upon the impulse of those around him than
from his own free will; and it was observed that he tottered as
they guided him the second time across the lists. Rowena,
descending from her station with a graceful and dignified step,
was about to place the chaplet which she held in her hand upon
the helmet of the champion, when the marshals exclaimed with one
voice, "It must not be thus---his head must be bare." The knight
muttered faintly a few words, which were lost in the hollow of
his helmet, but their purport seemed to be a desire that his
casque might not be removed.
Whether from love of form, or from curiosity, the marshals paid
no attention to his expressions of reluctance, but unhelmed him
by cutting the laces of his casque, and undoing the fastening of
his gorget. When the helmet was removed, the well-formed, yet
sun-burnt features of a young man of twenty-five were seen,
amidst a profusion of short fair hair. His countenance was as
pale as death, and marked in one or two places with streaks of
Rowena had no sooner beheld him than she uttered a faint shriek;
but at once summoning up the energy of her disposition, and
compelling herself, as it were, to proceed, while her frame yet
trembled with the violence of sudden emotion, she placed upon the
drooping head of the victor the splendid chaplet which was the
destined reward of the day, and pronounced, in a clear and
distinct tone, these words: "I bestow on thee this chaplet, Sir
Knight, as the meed of valour assigned to this day's victor:"
Here she paused a moment, and then firmly added, "And upon brows
more worthy could a wreath of chivalry never be placed!"
The knight stooped his head, and kissed the hand of the lovely
Sovereign by whom his valour had been rewarded; and then, sinking
yet farther forward, lay prostrate at her feet.
There was a general consternation. Cedric, who had been struck
mute by the sudden appearance of his banished son, now rushed
forward, as if to separate him from Rowena. But this had been
already accomplished by the marshals of the field, who, guessing
the cause of Ivanhoe's swoon, had hastened to undo his armour,
and found that the head of a lance had penetrated his
breastplate, and inflicted a wound in his side.
"Heroes, approach!" Atrides thus aloud,
"Stand forth distinguish'd from the circling crowd,
Ye who by skill or manly force may claim,
Your rivals to surpass and merit fame.
This cow, worth twenty oxen, is decreed,
For him who farthest sends the winged reed."
The name of Ivanhoe was no sooner pronounced than it flew from
mouth to mouth, with all the celerity with which eagerness could
convey and curiosity receive it. It was not long ere it reached
the circle of the Prince, whose brow darkened as he heard the
news. Looking around him, however, with an air of scorn, "My
Lords," said he, "and especially you, Sir Prior, what think ye of
the doctrine the learned tell us, concerning innate attractions
and antipathies? Methinks that I felt the presence of my
brother's minion, even when I least guessed whom yonder suit of
armour enclosed."
"Front-de-Boeuf must prepare to restore his fief of Ivanhoe,"
said De Bracy, who, having discharged his part honourably in the
tournament, had laid his shield and helmet aside, and again
mingled with the Prince's retinue.
"Ay," answered Waldemar Fitzurse, "this gallant is likely to
reclaim the castle and manor which Richard assigned to him, and
which your Highness's generosity has since given to
"Front-de-Boeuf," replied John, "is a man more willing to swallow
three manors such as Ivanhoe, than to disgorge one of them. For
the rest, sirs, I hope none here will deny my right to confer the
fiefs of the crown upon the faithful followers who are around me,
and ready to perform the usual military service, in the room of
those who have wandered to foreign Countries, and can neither
render homage nor service when called upon."
The audience were too much interested in the question not to
pronounce the Prince's assumed right altogether indubitable.
"A generous Prince!---a most noble Lord, who thus takes upon
himself the task of rewarding his faithful followers!"
Such were the words which burst from the train, expectants all of
them of similar grants at the expense of King Richard's followers
and favourites, if indeed they had not as yet received such.
Prior Aymer also assented to the general proposition, observing,
however, "That the blessed Jerusalem could not indeed be termed a
foreign country. She was 'communis mater'---the mother of all
Christians. But he saw not," he declared, "how the Knight of
Ivanhoe could plead any advantage from this, since he" (the
Prior) "was assured that the crusaders, under Richard, had never
proceeded much farther than Askalon, which, as all the world
knew, was a town of the Philistines, and entitled to none of the
privileges of the Holy City."
Waldemar, whose curiosity had led him towards the place where
Ivanhoe had fallen to the ground, now returned. "The gallant,"
said he, "is likely to give your Highness little disturbance, and
to leave Front-de-Boeuf in the quiet possession of his gains--he
is severely wounded."
"Whatever becomes of him," said Prince John, "he is victor of the
day; and were he tenfold our enemy, or the devoted friend of our
brother, which is perhaps the same, his wounds must be looked to
---our own physician shall attend him."
A stern smile curled the Prince's lip as he spoke. Waldemar
Fitzurse hastened to reply, that Ivanhoe was already removed from
the lists, and in the custody of his friends.
"I was somewhat afflicted," he said, "to see the grief of the
Queen of Love and Beauty, whose sovereignty of a day this event
has changed into mourning. I am not a man to be moved by a
woman's lament for her lover, but this same Lady Rowena
suppressed her sorrow with such dignity of manner, that it could
only be discovered by her folded hands, and her tearless eye,
which trembled as it remained fixed on the lifeless form before
"Who is this Lady Rowena," said Prince John, "of whom we have
heard so much?"
"A Saxon heiress of large possessions," replied the Prior Aymer;
"a rose of loveliness, and a jewel of wealth; the fairest among a
thousand, a bundle of myrrh, and a cluster of camphire."
"We shall cheer her sorrows," said Prince John, "and amend her
blood, by wedding her to a Norman. She seems a minor, and must
therefore be at our royal disposal in marriage.---How sayst thou,
De Bracy? What thinkst thou of gaining fair lands and livings,
by wedding a Saxon, after the fashion of the followers of the
"If the lands are to my liking, my lord," answered De Bracy, "it
will be hard to displease me with a bride; and deeply will I hold
myself bound to your highness for a good deed, which will fulfil
all promises made in favour of your servant and vassal."
"We will not forget it," said Prince John; "and that we may
instantly go to work, command our seneschal presently to order
the attendance of the Lady Rowena and her company---that is, the
rude churl her guardian, and the Saxon ox whom the Black Knight
struck down in the tournament, upon this evening's banquet.---De
Bigot," he added to his seneschal, "thou wilt word this our
second summons so courteously, as to gratify the pride of these
Saxons, and make it impossible for them again to refuse;
although, by the bones of Becket, courtesy to them is casting
pearls before swine."
Prince John had proceeded thus far, and was about to give the
signal for retiring from the lists, when a small billet was put
into his hand.
"From whence?" said Prince John, looking at the person by whom it
was delivered.
"From foreign parts, my lord, but from whence I know not" replied
his attendant. "A Frenchman brought it hither, who said, he had
ridden night and day to put it into the hands of your highness."
The Prince looked narrowly at the superscription, and then at the
seal, placed so as to secure the flex-silk with which the billet
was surrounded, and which bore the impression of three
fleurs-de-lis. John then opened the billet with apparent
agitation, which visibly and greatly increased when he had
perused the contents, which were expressed in these words:
"Take heed to yourself for the Devil is unchained!"
The Prince turned as pale as death, looked first on the earth,
and then up to heaven, like a man who has received news that
sentence of execution has been passed upon him. Recovering from
the first effects of his surprise, he took Waldemar Fitzurse and
De Bracy aside, and put the billet into their hands successively.
"It means," he added, in a faltering voice, "that my brother
Richard has obtained his freedom."
"This may be a false alarm, or a forged letter," said De Bracy.
"It is France's own hand and seal," replied Prince John.
"It is time, then," said Fitzurse, "to draw our party to a head,
either at York, or some other centrical place. A few days later,
and it will be indeed too late. Your highness must break short
this present mummery."
"The yeomen and commons," said De Bracy, "must not be dismissed
discontented, for lack of their share in the sports."
"The day," said Waldemar, "is not yet very far spent---let the
archers shoot a few rounds at the target, and the prize be
adjudged. This will be an abundant fulfilment of the Prince's
promises, so far as this herd of Saxon serfs is concerned."
"I thank thee, Waldemar," said the Prince; "thou remindest me,
too, that I have a debt to pay to that insolent peasant who
yesterday insulted our person. Our banquet also shall go forward
to-night as we proposed. Were this my last hour of power, it
should be an hour sacred to revenge and to pleasure---let new
cares come with to-morrow's new day."
The sound of the trumpets soon recalled those spectators who had
already begun to leave the field; and proclamation was made that
Prince John, suddenly called by high and peremptory public
duties, held himself obliged to discontinue the entertainments
of to-morrow's festival: Nevertheless, that, unwilling so many
good yeoman should depart without a trial of skill, he was
pleased to appoint them, before leaving the ground, presently to
execute the competition of archery intended for the morrow. To
the best archer a prize was to be awarded, being a bugle-horn,
mounted with silver, and a silken baldric richly ornamented with
a medallion of St Hubert, the patron of silvan sport.
More than thirty yeomen at first presented themselves as
competitors, several of whom were rangers and under-keepers in
the royal forests of Needwood and Charnwood. When, however, the
archers understood with whom they were to be matched, upwards of
twenty withdrew themselves from the contest, unwilling to
encounter the dishonour of almost certain defeat. For in those
days the skill of each celebrated marksman was as well known for
many miles round him, as the qualities of a horse trained at
Newmarket are familiar to those who frequent that well-known
The diminished list of competitors for silvan fame still amounted
to eight. Prince John stepped from his royal seat to view more
nearly the persons of these chosen yeomen, several of whom wore
the royal livery. Having satisfied his curiosity by this
investigation, he looked for the object of his resentment, whom
he observed standing on the same spot, and with the same composed
countenance which he had exhibited upon the preceding day.
"Fellow," said Prince John, "I guessed by thy insolent babble
that thou wert no true lover of the longbow, and I see thou
darest not adventure thy skill among such merry-men as stand
"Under favour, sir," replied the yeoman, "I have another reason
for refraining to shoot, besides the fearing discomfiture and
"And what is thy other reason?" said Prince John, who, for some
cause which perhaps he could not himself have explained, felt a
painful curiosity respecting this individual.
"Because," replied the woodsman, "I know not if these yeomen and
I are used to shoot at the same marks; and because, moreover, I
know not how your Grace might relish the winning of a third prize
by one who has unwittingly fallen under your displeasure."
Prince John coloured as he put the question, "What is thy name,
"Locksley," answered the yeoman.
"Then, Locksley," said Prince John, "thou shalt shoot in thy
turn, when these yeomen have displayed their skill. If thou
carriest the prize, I will add to it twenty nobles; but if thou
losest it, thou shalt be stript of thy Lincoln green, and
scourged out of the lists with bowstrings, for a wordy and
insolent braggart."
"And how if I refuse to shoot on such a wager?" said the yeoman.
---"Your Grace's power, supported, as it is, by so many
men-at-arms, may indeed easily strip and scourge me, but cannot
compel me to bend or to draw my bow."
"If thou refusest my fair proffer," said the Prince, "the Provost
of the lists shall cut thy bowstring, break thy bow and arrows,
and expel thee from the presence as a faint-hearted craven."
"This is no fair chance you put on me, proud Prince," said the
yeoman, "to compel me to peril myself against the best archers of
Leicester And Staffordshire, under the penalty of infamy if they
should overshoot me. Nevertheless, I will obey your pleasure."
"Look to him close, men-at-arms," said Prince John, "his heart is
sinking; I am jealous lest he attempt to escape the trial.---And
do you, good fellows, shoot boldly round; a buck and a butt of
wine are ready for your refreshment in yonder tent, when the
prize is won."
A target was placed at the upper end of the southern avenue which
led to the lists. The contending archers took their station in
turn, at the bottom of the southern access, the distance between
that station and the mark allowing full distance for what was
called a shot at rovers. The archers, having previously
determined by lot their order of precedence, were to shoot each
three shafts in succession. The sports were regulated by an
officer of inferior rank, termed the Provost of the Games; for
the high rank of the marshals of the lists would have been held
degraded, had they condescended to superintend the sports of the
One by one the archers, stepping forward, delivered their shafts
yeomanlike and bravely. Of twenty-four arrows, shot in
succession, ten were fixed in the target, and the others ranged
so near it, that, considering the distance of the mark, it was
accounted good archery. Of the ten shafts which hit the target,
two within the inner ring were shot by Hubert, a forester in the
service of Malvoisin, who was accordingly pronounced victorious.
"Now, Locksley," said Prince John to the bold yeoman, with a
bitter smile, "wilt thou try conclusions with Hubert, or wilt
thou yield up bow, baldric, and quiver, to the Provost of the
"Sith it be no better," said Locksley, "I am content to try my
fortune; on condition that when I have shot two shafts at yonder
mark of Hubert's, he shall be bound to shoot one at that which I
shall propose."
"That is but fair," answered Prince John, "and it shall not be
refused thee.---If thou dost beat this braggart, Hubert, I will
fill the bugle with silver-pennies for thee."
"A man can do but his best," answered Hubert; "but my grandsire
drew a good long bow at Hastings, and I trust not to dishonour
his memory."
The former target was now removed, and a fresh one of the same
size placed in its room. Hubert, who, as victor in the first
trial of skill, had the right to shoot first, took his aim with
great deliberation, long measuring the distance with his eye,
while he held in his hand his bended bow, with the arrow placed
on the string. At length he made a step forward, and raising the
bow at the full stretch of his left arm, till the centre or
grasping-place was nigh level with his face, he drew his
bowstring to his ear. The arrow whistled through the air, and
lighted within the inner ring of the target, but not exactly in
the centre.
"You have not allowed for the wind, Hubert," said his antagonist,
bending his bow, "or that had been a better shot."
So saying, and without showing the least anxiety to pause upon
his aim, Locksley stept to the appointed station, and shot his
arrow as carelessly in appearance as if he had not even looked at
the mark. He was speaking almost at the instant that the shaft
left the bowstring, yet it alighted in the target two inches
nearer to the white spot which marked the centre than that of
"By the light of heaven!" said Prince John to Hubert, "an thou
suffer that runagate knave to overcome thee, thou art worthy of
the gallows!"
Hubert had but one set speech for all occasions. "An your
highness were to hang me," he said, "a man can but do his best.
Nevertheless, my grandsire drew a good bow---"
"The foul fiend on thy grandsire and all his generation!"
interrupted John , "shoot, knave, and shoot thy best, or it shall
be the worse for thee!"
Thus exhorted, Hubert resumed his place, and not neglecting the
caution which he had received from his adversary, he made the
necessary allowance for a very light air of wind, which had just
arisen, and shot so successfully that his arrow alighted in the
very centre of the target.
"A Hubert! a Hubert!" shouted the populace, more interested in a
known person than in a stranger. "In the clout!---in the clout!
---a Hubert for ever!"
"Thou canst not mend that shot, Locksley," said the Prince, with
an insulting smile.
"I will notch his shaft for him, however," replied Locksley.
And letting fly his arrow with a little more precaution than
before, it lighted right upon that of his competitor, which it
split to shivers. The people who stood around were so astonished
at his wonderful dexterity, that they could not even give vent to
their surprise in their usual clamour. "This must be the devil,
and no man of flesh and blood," whispered the yeomen to each
other; "such archery was never seen since a bow was first bent in
"And now," said Locksley, "I will crave your Grace's permission
to plant such a mark as is used in the North Country; and welcome
every brave yeoman who shall try a shot at it to win a smile from
the bonny lass he loves best."
He then turned to leave the lists. "Let your guards attend me,"
he said, "if you please---I go but to cut a rod from the next
Prince John made a signal that some attendants should follow him
in case of his escape: but the cry of "Shame! shame!" which
burst from the multitude, induced him to alter his ungenerous
Locksley returned almost instantly with a willow wand about six
feet in length, perfectly straight, and rather thicker than a
man's thumb. He began to peel this with great composure,
observing at the same time, that to ask a good woodsman to shoot
at a target so broad as had hitherto been used, was to put shame
upon his skill. "For his own part," he said, "and in the land
where he was bred, men would as soon take for their mark King
Arthur's round-table, which held sixty knights around it. A
child of seven years old," he said, " might hit yonder target
with a headless shaft; but," added he, walking deliberately to
the other end of the lists, and sticking the willow wand upright
in the ground, "he that hits that rod at five-score yards, I call
him an archer fit to bear both bow and quiver before a king, an
it were the stout King Richard himself."
"My grandsire," said Hubert, "drew a good bow at the battle of
Hastings, and never shot at such a mark in his life---and neither
will I. If this yeoman can cleave that rod, I give him the
bucklers---or rather, I yield to the devil that is in his jerkin,
and not to any human skill; a man can but do his best, and I will
not shoot where I am sure to miss. I might as well shoot at the
edge of our parson's whittle, or at a wheat straw, or at a
sunbeam, as at a twinkling white streak which I can hardly see."
"Cowardly dog!" said Prince John.---"Sirrah Locksley, do thou
shoot; but, if thou hittest such a mark, I will say thou art the
first man ever did so. However it be, thou shalt not crow over
us with a mere show of superior skill."
"I will do my best, as Hubert says," answered Locksley; "no man
can do more."
So saying, he again bent his bow, but on the present occasion
looked with attention to his weapon, and changed the string,
which he thought was no longer truly round, having been a little
frayed by the two former shots. He then took his aim with some
deliberation, and the multitude awaited the event in breathless
silence. The archer vindicated their opinion of his skill: his
arrow split the willow rod against which it was aimed. A jubilee
of acclamations followed; and even Prince John, in admiration of
Locksley's skill, lost for an instant his dislike to his person.
"These twenty nobles," he said, "which, with the bugle, thou hast
fairly won, are thine own; we will make them fifty, if thou wilt
take livery and service with us as a yeoman of our body guard,
and be near to our person. For never did so strong a hand bend a
bow, or so true an eye direct a shaft."
"Pardon me, noble Prince," said Locksley; "but I have vowed, that
if ever I take service, it should be with your royal brother King
Richard. These twenty nobles I leave to Hubert, who has this day
drawn as brave a bow as his grandsire did at Hastings. Had his
modesty not refused the trial, he would have hit the wand as well
Hubert shook his head as he received with reluctance the bounty
of the stranger, and Locksley, anxious to escape further
observation, mixed with the crowd, and was seen no more.
The victorious archer would not perhaps have escaped John's
attention so easily, had not that Prince had other subjects of
anxious and more important meditation pressing upon his mind at
that instant. He called upon his chamberlain as he gave the
signal for retiring from the lists, and commanded him instantly
to gallop to Ashby, and seek out Isaac the Jew. "Tell the dog,"
he said, "to send me, before sun-down, two thousand crowns. He
knows the security; but thou mayst show him this ring for a
token. The rest of the money must be paid at York within six
days. If he neglects, I will have the unbelieving villain's
head. Look that thou pass him not on the way; for the
circumcised slave was displaying his stolen finery amongst us."
So saying, the Prince resumed his horse, and returned to Ashby,
the whole crowd breaking up and dispersing upon his retreat.
In rough magnificence array'd,
When ancient Chivalry display'd
The pomp of her heroic games,
And crested chiefs and tissued dames
Assembled, at the clarion's call,
In some proud castle's high arch'd hall.
Prince John held his high festival in the Castle of Ashby. This
was not the same building of which the stately ruins still
interest the traveller, and which was erected at a later period
by the Lord Hastings, High Chamberlain of England, one of the
first victims of the tyranny of Richard the Third, and yet better
known as one of Shakspeare's characters than by his historical
fame. The castle and town of Ashby, at this time, belonged to
Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, who, during the period of
our history, was absent in the Holy Land. Prince John, in the
meanwhile, occupied his castle, and disposed of his domains
without scruple; and seeking at present to dazzle men's eyes by
his hospitality and magnificence, had given orders for great
preparations, in order to render the banquet as splendid as
The purveyors of the Prince, who exercised on this and other
occasions the full authority of royalty, had swept the country of
all that could be collected which was esteemed fit for their
master's table. Guests also were invited in great numbers; and
in the necessity in which he then found himself of courting
popularity, Prince John had extended his invitation to a few
distinguished Saxon and Danish families, as well as to the Norman
nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood. However despised and
degraded on ordinary occasions, the great numbers of the
Anglo-Saxons must necessarily render them formidable in the civil
commotions which seemed approaching, and it was an obvious point
of policy to secure popularity with their leaders.
It was accordingly the Prince's intention, which he for some time
maintained, to treat these unwonted guests with a courtesy to
which they had been little accustomed. But although no man with
less scruple made his ordinary habits and feelings bend to his
interest, it was the misfortune of this Prince, that his levity
and petulance were perpetually breaking out, and undoing all that
had been gained by his previous dissimulation.
Of this fickle temper he gave a memorable example in Ireland,
when sent thither by his father, Henry the Second, with the
purpose of buying golden opinions of the inhabitants of that new
and important acquisition to the English crown. Upon this
occasion the Irish chieftains contended which should first offer
to the young Prince their loyal homage and the kiss of peace.
But, instead of receiving their salutations with courtesy, John
and his petulant attendants could not resist the temptation of
pulling the long beards of the Irish chieftains; a conduct which,
as might have been expected, was highly resented by these
insulted dignitaries, and produced fatal consequences to the
English domination in Ireland. It is necessary to keep these
inconsistencies of John's character in view, that the reader may
understand his conduct during the present evening.
In execution of the resolution which he had formed during his
cooler moments, Prince John received Cedric and Athelstane with
distinguished courtesy, and expressed his disappointment, without
resentment, when the indisposition of Rowena was alleged by the
former as a reason for her not attending upon his gracious
summons. Cedric and Athelstane were both dressed in the ancient
Saxon garb, which, although not unhandsome in itself, and in the
present instance composed of costly materials, was so remote in
shape and appearance from that of the other guests, that Prince
John took great credit to himself with Waldemar Fitzurse for
refraining from laughter at a sight which the fashion of the day
rendered ridiculous. Yet, in the eye of sober judgment, the
short close tunic and long mantle of the Saxons was a more
graceful, as well as a more convenient dress, than the garb of
the Normans, whose under garment was a long doublet, so loose as
to resemble a shirt or waggoner's frock, covered by a cloak of
scanty dimensions, neither fit to defend the wearer from cold or
from rain, and the only purpose of which appeared to be to
display as much fur, embroidery, and jewellery work, as the
ingenuity of the tailor could contrive to lay upon it. The
Emperor Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced,
seems to have been very sensible of the inconveniences arising
from the fashion of this garment. "In Heaven's name," said he,
"to what purpose serve these abridged cloaks? If we are in bed
they are no cover, on horseback they are no protection from the
wind and rain, and when seated, they do not guard our legs from
the damp or the frost."
Nevertheless, spite of this imperial objurgation, the short
cloaks continued in fashion down to the time of which we treat,
and particularly among the princes of the House of Anjou. They
were therefore in universal use among Prince John's courtiers;
and the long mantle, which formed the upper garment of the
Saxons, was held in proportional derision.
The guests were seated at a table which groaned under the
quantity of good cheer. The numerous cooks who attended on the
Prince's progress, having exerted all their art in varying the
forms in which the ordinary provisions were served up, had
succeeded almost as well as the modern professors of the culinary
art in rendering them perfectly unlike their natural appearance.
Besides these dishes of domestic origin, there were various
delicacies brought from foreign parts, and a quantity of rich
pastry, as well as of the simnel-bread and wastle cakes, which
were only used at the tables of the highest nobility. The
banquet was crowned with the richest wines, both foreign and
But, though luxurious, the Norman nobles were not generally
speaking an intemperate race. While indulging themselves in the
pleasures of the table, they aimed at delicacy, but avoided
excess, and were apt to attribute gluttony and drunkenness to the
vanquished Saxons, as vices peculiar to their inferior station.
Prince John, indeed, and those who courted his pleasure by
imitating his foibles, were apt to indulge to excess in the
pleasures of the trencher and the goblet; and indeed it is well
known that his death was occasioned by a surfeit upon peaches and
new ale. His conduct, however, was an exception to the general
manners of his countrymen.
With sly gravity, interrupted only by private signs to each
other, the Norman knights and nobles beheld the ruder demeanour
of Athelstane and Cedric at a banquet, to the form and fashion of
which they were unaccustomed. And while their manners were thus
the subject of sarcastic observation, the untaught Saxons
unwittingly transgressed several of the arbitrary rules
established for the regulation of society. Now, it is well
known, that a man may with more impunity be guilty of an actual
breach either of real good breeding or of good morals, than
appear ignorant of the most minute point of fashionable
etiquette. Thus Cedric, who dried his hands with a towel,
instead of suffering the moisture to exhale by waving them
gracefully in the air, incurred more ridicule than his companion
Athelstane, when he swallowed to his own single share the whole
of a large pasty composed of the most exquisite foreign
delicacies, and termed at that time a "Karum-Pie". When,
however, it was discovered, by a serious cross-examination, that
the Thane of Coningsburgh (or Franklin, as the Normans termed
him) had no idea what he had been devouring, and that he had
taken the contents of the Karum-pie for larks and pigeons,
whereas they were in fact beccaficoes and nightingales, his
ignorance brought him in for an ample share of the ridicule which
would have been more justly bestowed on his gluttony.
The long feast had at length its end; and, while the goblet
circulated freely, men talked of the feats of the preceding
tournament,---of the unknown victor in the archery games, of the
Black Knight, whose self-denial had induced him to withdraw from
the honours he had won,---and of the gallant Ivanhoe, who had so
dearly bought the honours of the day. The topics were treated
with military frankness, and the jest and laugh went round the
hall. The brow of Prince John alone was overclouded during these
discussions; some overpowering care seemed agitating his mind,
and it was only when he received occasional hints from his
attendants, that he seemed to take interest in what was passing
around him. On such occasions he would start up, quaff a cup of
wine as if to raise his spirits, and then mingle in the
conversation by some observation made abruptly or at random.
"We drink this beaker," said he, "to the health of Wilfred of
Ivanhoe, champion of this Passage of Arms, and grieve that his
wound renders him absent from our board---Let all fill to the
pledge, and especially Cedric of Rotherwood, the worthy father of
a son so promising."
"No, my lord," replied Cedric, standing up, and placing on the
table his untasted cup, "I yield not the name of son to the
disobedient youth, who at once despises my commands, and
relinquishes the manners and customs of his fathers."
"'Tis impossible," cried Prince John, with well-feigned
astonishment, "that so gallant a knight should be an unworthy or
disobedient son!"
"Yet, my lord," answered Cedric, "so it is with this Wilfred.
He left my homely dwelling to mingle with the gay nobility of
your brother's court, where he learned to do those tricks of
horsemanship which you prize so highly. He left it contrary to
my wish and command; and in the days of Alfred that would have
been termed disobedience---ay, and a crime severely punishable."
"Alas!" replied Prince John, with a deep sigh of affected
sympathy, "since your son was a follower of my unhappy brother,
it need not be enquired where or from whom he learned the lesson
of filial disobedience."
Thus spake Prince John, wilfully forgetting, that of all the sons
of Henry the Second, though no one was free from the charge, he
himself had been most distinguished for rebellion and ingratitude
to his father.
"I think," said he, after a moment's pause, "that my brother
proposed to confer upon his favourite the rich manor of Ivanhoe."
"He did endow him with it," answered Cedric; "nor is it my least
quarrel with my son, that he stooped to hold, as a feudal vassal,
the very domains which his fathers possessed in free and
independent right."
"We shall then have your willing sanction, good Cedric," said
Prince John, "to confer this fief upon a person whose dignity
will not be diminished by holding land of the British crown.
---Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," he said, turning towards that
Baron, "I trust you will so keep the goodly Barony of Ivanhoe,
that Sir Wilfred shall not incur his father's farther displeasure
by again entering upon that fief."
"By St Anthony!" answered the black-brow'd giant, "I will consent
that your highness shall hold me a Saxon, if either Cedric or
Wilfred, or the best that ever bore English blood, shall wrench
from me the gift with which your highness has graced me."
"Whoever shall call thee Saxon, Sir Baron," replied Cedric,
offended at a mode of expression by which the Normans frequently
expressed their habitual contempt of the English, "will do thee
an honour as great as it is undeserved."
Front-de-Boeuf would have replied, but Prince John's petulance
and levity got the start.
"Assuredly," said be, "my lords, the noble Cedric speaks truth;
and his race may claim precedence over us as much in the length
of their pedigrees as in the longitude of their cloaks."
"They go before us indeed in the field---as deer before dogs,"
said Malvoisin.
"And with good right may they go before us---forget not," said
the Prior Aymer, "the superior decency and decorum of their
"Their singular abstemiousness and temperance," said De Bracy,
forgetting the plan which promised him a Saxon bride.
"Together with the courage and conduct," said Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, "by which they distinguished themselves at
Hastings and elsewhere."
While, with smooth and smiling cheek, the courtiers, each in
turn, followed their Prince's example, and aimed a shaft of
ridicule at Cedric, the face of the Saxon became inflamed with
passion, and he glanced his eyes fiercely from one to another, as
if the quick succession of so many injuries had prevented his
replying to them in turn; or, like a baited bull, who, surrounded
by his tormentors, is at a loss to choose from among them the
immediate object of his revenge. At length he spoke, in a voice
half choked with passion; and, addressing himself to Prince John
as the head and front of the offence which he had received,
"Whatever," he said, "have been the follies and vices of our
race, a Saxon would have been held 'nidering'," *
* There was nothing accounted so ignominious among the
* Saxons as to merit this disgraceful epithet. Even William
* the Conqueror, hated as he was by them, continued to draw
* a considerable army of Anglo-Saxons to his standard, by
* threatening to stigmatize those who staid at home, as
* nidering. Bartholinus, I think, mentions a similar phrase
* which had like influence on the Danes. L. T.
(the most emphatic term for abject worthlessness,) "who should in
his own hall, and while his own wine-cup passed, have treated, or
suffered to be treated, an unoffending guest as your highness has
this day beheld me used; and whatever was the misfortune of our
fathers on the field of Hastings, those may at least be silent,"
here he looked at Front-de-Boeuf and the Templar, "who have
within these few hours once and again lost saddle and stirrup
before the lance of a Saxon."
"By my faith, a biting jest!" said Prince John. "How like you
it, sirs?---Our Saxon subjects rise in spirit and courage; become
shrewd in wit, and bold in bearing, in these unsettled times
---What say ye, my lords?---By this good light, I hold it best to
take our galleys, and return to Normandy in time."
"For fear of the Saxons?" said De Bracy, laughing; "we should
need no weapon but our hunting spears to bring these boars to
"A truce with your raillery, Sir Knights," said Fitzurse;---"and
it were well," he added, addressing the Prince, "that your
highness should assure the worthy Cedric there is no insult
intended him by jests, which must sound but harshly in the ear of
a stranger."
"Insult?" answered Prince John, resuming his courtesy of
demeanour; "I trust it will not be thought that I could mean, or
permit any, to be offered in my presence. Here! I fill my cup to
Cedric himself, since he refuses to pledge his son's health."
The cup went round amid the well-dissembled applause of the
courtiers, which, however, failed to make the impression on the
mind of the Saxon that had been designed. He was not naturally
acute of perception, but those too much undervalued his
understanding who deemed that this flattering compliment would
obliterate the sense of the prior insult. He was silent,
however, when the royal pledge again passed round, "To Sir
Athelstane of Coningsburgh."
The knight made his obeisance, and showed his sense of the honour
by draining a huge goblet in answer to it.
"And now, sirs," said Prince John, who began to be warmed with
the wine which he had drank, "having done justice to our Saxon
guests, we will pray of them some requital to our courtesy.
---Worthy Thane," he continued, addressing Cedric, "may we pray
you to name to us some Norman whose mention may least sully your
mouth, and to wash down with a goblet of wine all bitterness
which the sound may leave behind it?"
Fitzurse arose while Prince John spoke, and gliding behind the
seat of the Saxon, whispered to him not to omit the opportunity
of putting an end to unkindness betwixt the two races, by naming
Prince John. The Saxon replied not to this politic insinuation,
but, rising up, and filling his cup to the brim, be addressed
Prince John in these words: "Your highness has required that I
should name a Norman deserving to be remembered at our banquet.
This, perchance, is a hard task, since it calls on the slave to
sing the praises of the master---upon the vanquished, while
pressed by all the evils of conquest, to sing the praises of the
conqueror. Yet I will name a Norman---the first in arms and in
place---the best and the noblest of his race. And the lips that
shall refuse to pledge me to his well-earned fame, I term false
and dishonoured, and will so maintain them with my life.---I
quaff this goblet to the health of Richard the Lion-hearted!"
Prince John, who had expected that his own name would have closed
the Saxon's speech, started when that of his injured brother was
so unexpectedly introduced. He raised mechanically the wine-cup
to his lips, then instantly set it down, to view the demeanour of
the company at this unexpected proposal, which many of them felt
it as unsafe to oppose as to comply with. Some of them, ancient
and experienced courtiers, closely imitated the example of the
Prince himself, raising the goblet to their lips, and again
replacing it before them. There were many who, with a more
generous feeling, exclaimed, "Long live King Richard! and may he
be speedily restored to us!" And some few, among whom were
Front-de-Boeuf and the Templar, in sullen disdain suffered their
goblets to stand untasted before them. But no man ventured
directly to gainsay a pledge filled to the health of the
reigning monarch.
Having enjoyed his triumph for about a minute, Cedric said to his
companion, "Up, noble Athelstane! we have remained here long
enough, since we have requited the hospitable courtesy of Prince
John's banquet. Those who wish to know further of our rude Saxon
manners must henceforth seek us in the homes of our fathers,
since we have seen enough of royal banquets, and enough of Norman
So saying, he arose and left the banqueting room, followed by
Athelstane, and by several other guests, who, partaking of the
Saxon lineage, held themselves insulted by the sarcasms of Prince
John and his courtiers.
"By the bones of St Thomas," said Prince John, as they retreated,
"the Saxon churls have borne off the best of the day, and have
retreated with triumph!"
"'Conclamatum est, poculatum est'," said Prior Aymer; "we have
drunk and we have shouted,---it were time we left our wine
"The monk hath some fair penitent to shrive to-night, that he is
in such a hurry to depart," said De Bracy.
"Not so, Sir Knight," replied the Abbot; "but I must move several
miles forward this evening upon my homeward journey."
"They are breaking up," said the Prince in a whisper to Fitzurse;
"their fears anticipate the event, and this coward Prior is the
first to shrink from me."
"Fear not, my lord," said Waldemar; "I will show him such reasons
as shall induce him to join us when we hold our meeting at York.
---Sir Prior," he said, "I must speak with you in private, before
you mount your palfrey."
The other guests were now fast dispersing, with the exception of
those immediately attached to, Prince John's faction, and his
"This, then, is the result of your advice," said the Prince,
turning an angry countenance upon Fitzurse; "that I should be
bearded at my own board by a drunken Saxon churl, and that, on
the mere sound of my brother's name, men should fall off from me
as if I had the leprosy?"
"Have patience, sir," replied his counsellor; "I might retort
your accusation, and blame the inconsiderate levity which foiled
my design, and misled your own better judgment. But this is no
time for recrimination. De Bracy and I will instantly go among
these shuffling cowards, and convince them they have gone too far
to recede."
"It will be in vain," said Prince John, pacing the apartment with
disordered steps, and expressing himself with an agitation to
which the wine he had drank partly contributed---"It will be in
vain--they have seen the handwriting on the wall---they have
marked the paw of the lion in the sand---they have heard his
approaching roar shake the wood---nothing will reanimate their
"Would to God," said Fitzurse to De Bracy, "that aught could
reanimate his own! His brother's very name is an ague to him.
Unhappy are the counsellors of a Prince, who wants fortitude and
perseverance alike in good and in evil!"
And yet he thinks,---ha, ha, ha, ha,---he thinks
I am the tool and servant of his will.
Well, let it be; through all the maze of trouble
His plots and base oppression must create,
I'll shape myself a way to higher things,
And who will say 'tis wrong?
Basil, a Tragedy
No spider ever took more pains to repair the shattered meshes of
his web, than did Waldemar Fitzurse to reunite and combine the
scattered members of Prince John's cabal. Few of these were
attached to him from inclination, and none from personal regard.
It was therefore necessary, that Fitzurse should open to them new
prospects of advantage, and remind them of those which they at
present enjoyed. To the young and wild nobles, he held out the
prospect of unpunished license and uncontrolled revelry; to the
ambitious, that of power, and to the covetous, that of increased
wealth and extended domains. The leaders of the mercenaries
received a donation in gold; an argument the most persuasive to
their minds, and without which all others would have proved in
vain. Promises were still more liberally distributed than money
by this active agent; and, in fine, nothing was left undone that
could determine the wavering, or animate the disheartened. The
return of King Richard he spoke of as an event altogether beyond
the reach of probability; yet, when he observed, from the
doubtful looks and uncertain answers which he received, that this
was the apprehension by which the minds of his accomplices were
most haunted, he boldly treated that event, should it really take
place, as one which ought not to alter their political
"If Richard returns," said Fitzurse, "he returns to enrich his
needy and impoverished crusaders at the expense of those who did
not follow him to the Holy Land. He returns to call to a fearful
reckoning, those who, during his absence, have done aught that
can be construed offence or encroachment upon either the laws of
the land or the privileges of the crown. He returns to avenge
upon the Orders of the Temple and the Hospital, the preference
which they showed to Philip of France during the wars in the Holy
Land. He returns, in fine, to punish as a rebel every adherent
of his brother Prince John. Are ye afraid of his power?"
continued the artful confident of that Prince, "we acknowledge
him a strong and valiant knight; but these are not the days of
King Arthur, when a champion could encounter an army. If Richard
indeed comes back, it must be alone,---unfollowed---unfriended.
The bones of his gallant army have whitened the sands of
Palestine. The few of his followers who have returned have
straggled hither like this Wilfred of Ivanhoe, beggared and
broken men.---And what talk ye of Richard's right of birth?" he
proceeded, in answer to those who objected scruples on that head.
"Is Richard's title of primogeniture more decidedly certain than
that of Duke Robert of Normandy, the Conqueror's eldest son? And
yet William the Red, and Henry, his second and third brothers,
were successively preferred to him by the voice of the nation,
Robert had every merit which can be pleaded for Richard; he was a
bold knight, a good leader, generous to his friends and to the
church, and, to crown the whole, a crusader and a conqueror of
the Holy Sepulchre; and yet he died a blind and miserable
prisoner in the Castle of Cardiff, because he opposed himself to
the will of the people, who chose that he should not rule over
them. It is our right," he said, "to choose from the blood royal
the prince who is best qualified to hold the supreme power
---that is," said he, correcting himself, "him whose election
will best promote the interests of the nobility. In personal
qualifications," he added, "it was possible that Prince John
might be inferior to his brother Richard; but when it was
considered that the latter returned with the sword of vengeance
in his hand, while the former held out rewards, immunities,
privileges, wealth, and honours, it could not be doubted which
was the king whom in wisdom the nobility were called on to
These, and many more arguments, some adapted to the peculiar
circumstances of those whom he addressed, had the expected weight
with the nobles of Prince John's faction. Most of them consented
to attend the proposed meeting at York, for the purpose of making
general arrangements for placing the crown upon the head of
Prince John.
It was late at night, when, worn out and exhausted with his
various exertions, however gratified with the result, Fitzurse,
returning to the Castle of Ashby, met with De Bracy, who had
exchanged his banqueting garments for a short green kittle, with
hose of the same cloth and colour, a leathern cap or head-piece,
a short sword, a horn slung over his shoulder, a long bow in his
hand, and a bundle of arrows stuck in his belt. Had Fitzurse met
this figure in an outer apartment, he would have passed him
without notice, as one of the yeomen of the guard; but finding
him in the inner hall, he looked at him with more attention, and
recognised the Norman knight in the dress of an English yeoman.
"What mummery is this, De Bracy?" said Fitzurse, somewhat
angrily; "is this a time for Christmas gambols and quaint
maskings, when the fate of our master, Prince John, is on the
very verge of decision? Why hast thou not been, like me, among
these heartless cravens, whom the very name of King Richard
terrifies, as it is said to do the children of the Saracens?"
"I have been attending to mine own business," answered De Bracy
calmly, "as you, Fitzurse, have been minding yours."
"I minding mine own business!" echoed Waldemar; "I have been
engaged in that of Prince John, our joint patron."
"As if thou hadst any other reason for that, Waldemar," said De
Bracy, "than the promotion of thine own individual interest?
Come, Fitzurse, we know each other---ambition is thy pursuit,
pleasure is mine, and they become our different ages. Of Prince
John thou thinkest as I do; that he is too weak to be a
determined monarch, too tyrannical to be an easy monarch, too
insolent and presumptuous to be a popular monarch, and too fickle
and timid to be long a monarch of any kind. But he is a monarch
by whom Fitzurse and De Bracy hope to rise and thrive; and
therefore you aid him with your policy, and I with the lances of
my Free Companions."
"A hopeful auxiliary," said Fitzurse impatiently; "playing the
fool in the very moment of utter necessity.---What on earth dost
thou purpose by this absurd disguise at a moment so urgent?"
"To get me a wife," answered De Bracy coolly, "after the manner
of the tribe of Benjamin."
"The tribe of Benjamin?" said Fitzurse; "I comprehend thee not."
"Wert thou not in presence yester-even," said De Bracy, "when we
heard the Prior Aymer tell us a tale in reply to the romance
which was sung by the Minstrel?---He told how, long since in
Palestine, a deadly feud arose between the tribe of Benjamin and
the rest of the Israelitish nation; and how they cut to pieces
well-nigh all the chivalry of that tribe; and how they swore by
our blessed Lady, that they would not permit those who remained
to marry in their lineage; and how they became grieved for their
vow, and sent to consult his holiness the Pope how they might be
absolved from it; and how, by the advice of the Holy Father, the
youth of the tribe of Benjamin carried off from a superb
tournament all the ladies who were there present, and thus won
them wives without the consent either of their brides or their
brides' families."
"I have heard the story," said Fitzurse, "though either the Prior
or thou has made some singular alterations in date and
"I tell thee," said De Bracy, "that I mean to purvey me a wife
after the fashion of the tribe of Benjamin; which is as much as
to say, that in this same equipment I will fall upon that herd of
Saxon bullocks, who have this night left the castle, and carry
off from them the lovely Rowena."
"Art thou mad, De Bracy?" said Fitzurse. "Bethink thee that,
though the men be Saxons, they are rich and powerful, and
regarded with the more respect by their countrymen, that wealth
and honour are but the lot of few of Saxon descent."
"And should belong to none," said De Bracy; "the work of the
Conquest should be completed."
"This is no time for it at least," said Fitzurse "the approaching
crisis renders the favour of the multitude indispensable, and
Prince John cannot refuse justice to any one who injures their
"Let him grant it, if he dare," said De Bracy; "he will soon see
the difference betwixt the support of such a lusty lot of spears
as mine, and that of a heartless mob of Saxon churls. Yet I mean
no immediate discovery of myself. Seem I not in this garb as
bold a forester as ever blew horn? The blame of the violence
shall rest with the outlaws of the Yorkshire forests. I have
sure spies on the Saxon's motions---To-night they sleep in the
convent of Saint Wittol, or Withold, or whatever they call that
churl of a Saxon Saint at Burton-on-Trent. Next day's march
brings them within our reach, and, falcon-ways, we swoop on them
at once. Presently after I will appear in mine own shape, play
the courteous knight, rescue the unfortunate and afflicted fair
one from the hands of the rude ravishers, conduct her to
Front-de-Boeuf's Castle, or to Normandy, if it should be
necessary, and produce her not again to her kindred until she be
the bride and dame of Maurice de Bracy."
"A marvellously sage plan," said Fitzurse, "and, as I think, not
entirely of thine own device.---Come, be frank, De Bracy, who
aided thee in the invention? and who is to assist in the
execution? for, as I think, thine own band lies as far of as
"Marry, if thou must needs know," said De Bracy, "it was the
Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert that shaped out the enterprise,
which the adventure of the men of Benjamin suggested to me. He
is to aid me in the onslaught, and he and his followers will
personate the outlaws, from whom my valorous arm is, after
changing my garb, to rescue the lady."
"By my halidome," said Fitzurse, "the plan was worthy of your
united wisdom! and thy prudence, De Bracy, is most especially
manifested in the project of leaving the lady in the hands of thy
worthy confederate. Thou mayst, I think, succeed in taking her
from her Saxon friends, but how thou wilt rescue her afterwards
from the clutches of Bois-Guilbert seems considerably more
doubtful---He is a falcon well accustomed to pounce on a
partridge, and to hold his prey fast."
"He is a Templar," said De Bracy, "and cannot therefore rival me
in my plan of wedding this heiress;---and to attempt aught
dishonourable against the intended bride of De Bracy---By Heaven!
were he a whole Chapter of his Order in his single person, he
dared not do me such an injury!"
"Then since nought that I can say," said Fitzurse, "will put this
folly from thy imagination, (for well I know the obstinacy of thy
disposition,) at least waste as little time as possible---let not
thy folly be lasting as well as untimely."
"I tell thee," answered De Bracy, "that it will be the work of a
few hours, and I shall be at York---at the head of my daring and
valorous fellows, as ready to support any bold design as thy
policy can be to form one.---But I hear my comrades assembling,
and the steeds stamping and neighing in the outer court.
---Farewell.---I go, like a true knight, to win the smiles of
"Like a true knight?" repeated Fitzurse, looking after him; "like
a fool, I should say, or like a child, who will leave the most
serious and needful occupation, to chase the down of the thistle
that drives past him.---But it is with such tools that I must
work;---and for whose advantage?---For that of a Prince as unwise
as he is profligate, and as likely to be an ungrateful master as
he has already proved a rebellious son and an unnatural brother.
---But he---he, too, is but one of the tools with which I labour;
and, proud as he is, should he presume to separate his interest
from mine, this is a secret which he shall soon learn."
The meditations of the statesman were here interrupted by the
voice of the Prince from an interior apartment, calling out,
"Noble Waldemar Fitzurse!" and, with bonnet doffed, the future
Chancellor (for to such high preferment did the wily Norman
aspire) hastened to receive the orders of the future sovereign.
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
>From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well
Remote from man, with God he pass'd his days,
Prayer all his business---all his pleasure praise.
The reader cannot have forgotten that the event of the tournament
was decided by the exertions of an unknown knight, whom, on
account of the passive and indifferent conduct which he had
manifested on the former part of the day, the spectators had
entitled, "Le Noir Faineant". This knight had left the field
abruptly when the victory was achieved; and when he was called
upon to receive the reward of his valour, he was nowhere to be
found. In the meantime, while summoned by heralds and by
trumpets, the knight was holding his course northward, avoiding
all frequented paths, and taking the shortest road through the
woodlands. He paused for the night at a small hostelry lying out
of the ordinary route, where, however, he obtained from a
wandering minstrel news of the event of the tourney.
On the next morning the knight departed early, with the intention
of making a long journey; the condition of his horse, which he
had carefully spared during the preceding morning, being such as
enabled him to travel far without the necessity of much repose.
Yet his purpose was baffled by the devious paths through which he
rode, so that when evening closed upon him, he only found himself
on the frontiers of the West Riding of Yorkshire. By this time
both horse and man required refreshment, and it became necessary,
moreover, to look out for some place in which they might spend
the night, which was now fast approaching.
The place where the traveller found himself seemed unpropitious
for obtaining either shelter or refreshment, and he was likely to
be reduced to the usual expedient of knights-errant, who, on such
occasions, turned their horses to graze, and laid themselves down
to meditate on their lady-mistress, with an oak-tree for a
canopy. But the Black Knight either had no mistress to meditate
upon, or, being as indifferent in love as he seemed to be in war,
was not sufficiently occupied by passionate reflections upon her
beauty and cruelty, to be able to parry the effects of fatigue
and hunger, and suffer love to act as a substitute for the solid
comforts of a bed and supper. He felt dissatisfied, therefore,
when, looking around, he found himself deeply involved in woods,
through which indeed there were many open glades, and some paths,
but such as seemed only formed by the numerous herds of cattle
which grazed in the forest, or by the animals of chase, and the
hunters who made prey of them.
The sun, by which the knight had chiefly directed his course, had
now sunk behind the Derbyshire hills on his left, and every
effort which he might make to pursue his journey was as likely to
lead him out of his road as to advance him on his route. After
having in vain endeavoured to select the most beaten path, in
hopes it might lead to the cottage of some herdsman, or the
silvan lodge of a forester, and having repeatedly found himself
totally unable to determine on a choice, the knight resolved to
trust to the sagacity of his horse; experience having, on former
occasions, made him acquainted with the wonderful talent
possessed by these animals for extricating themselves and their
riders on such emergencies.
The good steed, grievously fatigued with so long a day's journey
under a rider cased in mail, had no sooner found, by the
slackened reins, that he was abandoned to his own guidance, than
he seemed to assume new strength and spirit; and whereas,
formerly he had scarce replied to the spur, otherwise than by a
groan, he now, as if proud of the confidence reposed in him,
pricked up his ears, and assumed, of his own accord, a more
lively motion. The path which the animal adopted rather turned
off from the course pursued by the knight during the day; but as
the horse seemed confident in his choice, the rider abandoned
himself to his discretion.
He was justified by the event; for the footpath soon after
appeared a little wider and more worn, and the tinkle of a small
bell gave the knight to understand that he was in the vicinity
of some chapel or hermitage.
Accordingly, he soon reached an open plat of turf, on the
opposite side of which, a rock, rising abruptly from a gently
sloping plain, offered its grey and weatherbeaten front to the
traveller. Ivy mantled its sides in some places, and in others
oaks and holly bushes, whose roots found nourishment in the
cliffs of the crag, waved over the precipices below, like the
plumage of the warrior over his steel helmet, giving grace to
that whose chief expression was terror. At the bottom of the
rock, and leaning, as it were, against it, was constructed a rude
hut, built chiefly of the trunks of trees felled in the
neighbouring forest, and secured against the weather by having
its crevices stuffed with moss mingled with clay. The stem of a
young fir-tree lopped of its branches, with a piece of wood tied
across near the top, was planted upright by the door, as a rude
emblem of the holy cross. At a little distance on the right
hand, a fountain of the purest water trickled out of the rock,
and was received in a hollow stone, which labour had formed into
a rustic basin. Escaping from thence, the stream murmured down
the descent by a channel which its course had long worn, and so
wandered through the little plain to lose itself in the
neighbouring wood.
Beside this fountain were the ruins of a very small chapel, of
which the roof had partly fallen in. The building, when entire,
had never been above sixteen feet long by twelve feet in breadth,
and the roof, low in proportion, rested upon four concentric
arches which sprung from the four corners of the building, each
supported upon a short and heavy pillar. The ribs of two of
these arches remained, though the roof had fallen down betwixt
them; over the others it remained entire. The entrance to this
ancient place of devotion was under a very low round arch,
ornamented by several courses of that zig-zag moulding,
resembling shark's teeth, which appears so often in the more
ancient Saxon architecture. A belfry rose above the porch on
four small pillars, within which hung the green and weatherbeaten
bell, the feeble sounds of which had been some time before heard
by the Black Knight.
The whole peaceful and quiet scene lay glimmering in twilight
before the eyes of the traveller, giving him good assurance of
lodging for the night; since it was a special duty of those
hermits who dwelt in the woods, to exercise hospitality towards
benighted or bewildered passengers.
Accordingly, the knight took no time to consider minutely the
particulars which we have detailed, but thanking Saint Julian
(the patron of travellers) who had sent him good harbourage, he
leaped from his horse and assailed the door of the hermitage
with the butt of his lance, in order to arouse attention and
gain admittance.
It was some time before he obtained any answer,
and the reply, when made, was unpropitious.
"Pass on, whosoever thou art," was the answer given by a deep
hoarse voice from within the hut, "and disturb not the servant of
God and St Dunstan in his evening devotions."
"Worthy father," answered the knight, "here is a poor wanderer
bewildered in these woods, who gives thee the opportunity of
exercising thy charity and hospitality."
"Good brother," replied the inhabitant of the hermitage, "it has
pleased Our Lady and St Dunstan to destine me for the object of
those virtues, instead of the exercise thereof. I have no
provisions here which even a dog would share with me, and a horse
of any tenderness of nurture would despise my couch---pass
therefore on thy way, and God speed thee."
"But how," replied the knight, "is it possible for me to find my
way through such a wood as this, when darkness is coming on? I
pray you, reverend father as you are a Christian, to undo your
door, and at least point out to me my road."
"And I pray you, good Christian brother," replied the anchorite,
"to disturb me no more. You have already interrupted one
'pater', two 'aves', and a 'credo', which I, miserable sinner
that I am, should, according to my vow, have said before
"The road---the road!" vociferated the knight, "give me
directions for the road, if I am to expect no more from thee."
"The road," replied the hermit, "is easy to hit. The path from
the wood leads to a morass, and from thence to a ford, which, as
the rains have abated, may now be passable. When thou hast
crossed the ford, thou wilt take care of thy footing up the left
bank, as it is somewhat precipitous; and the path, which hangs
over the river, has lately, as I learn, (for I seldom leave the
duties of my chapel,) given way in sundry places. Thou wilt then
keep straight forward-----"
"A broken path---a precipice---a ford, and a morass!" said the
knight interrupting him,---"Sir Hermit, if you were the holiest
that ever wore beard or told bead, you shall scarce prevail on me
to hold this road to-night. I tell thee, that thou, who livest
by the charity of the country---ill deserved, as I doubt it is
---hast no right to refuse shelter to the wayfarer when in
distress. Either open the door quickly, or, by the rood, I will
beat it down and make entry for myself."
"Friend wayfarer," replied the hermit, "be not importunate; if
thou puttest me to use the carnal weapon in mine own defence, it
will be e'en the worse for you."
At this moment a distant noise of barking and growling, which the
traveller had for some time heard, became extremely loud and
furious, and made the knight suppose that the hermit, alarmed
by his threat of making forcible entry, had called the dogs who
made this clamour to aid him in his defence, out of some inner
recess in which they had been kennelled. Incensed at this
preparation on the hermit's part for making good his inhospitable
purpose, the knight struck the door so furiously with his foot,
that posts as well as staples shook with violence.
The anchorite, not caring again to expose his door to a similar
shock, now called out aloud, "Patience, patience---spare thy
strength, good traveller, and I will presently undo the door,
though, it may be, my doing so will be little to thy pleasure."
The door accordingly was opened; and the hermit, a large,
strong-built man, in his sackcloth gown and hood, girt with a
rope of rushes, stood before the knight. He had in one hand a
lighted torch, or link, and in the other a baton of crab-tree,
so thick and heavy, that it might well be termed a club. Two
large shaggy dogs, half greyhound half mastiff, stood ready to
rush upon the traveller as soon as the door should be opened.
But when the torch glanced upon the lofty crest and golden spurs
of the knight, who stood without, the hermit, altering probably
his original intentions, repressed the rage of his auxiliaries,
and, changing his tone to a sort of churlish courtesy, invited
the knight to enter his hut, making excuse for his unwillingness
to open his lodge after sunset, by alleging the multitude of
robbers and outlaws who were abroad, and who gave no honour to
Our Lady or St Dunstan, nor to those holy men who spent life in
their service.
"The poverty of your cell, good father," said the knight, looking
around him, and seeing nothing but a bed of leaves, a crucifix
rudely carved in oak, a missal, with a rough-hewn table and two
stools, and one or two clumsy articles of furniture---"the
poverty of your cell should seem a sufficient defence against any
risk of thieves, not to mention the aid of two trusty dogs, large
and strong enough, I think, to pull down a stag, and of course,
to match with most men."
"The good keeper of the forest," said the hermit, "hath allowed
me the use of these animals, to protect my solitude until the
times shall mend."
Having said this, he fixed his torch in a twisted branch of iron
which served for a candlestick; and, placing the oaken trivet
before the embers of the fire, which he refreshed with some dry
wood, he placed a stool upon one side of the table, and beckoned
to the knight to do the same upon the other.
They sat down, and gazed with great gravity at each other, each
thinking in his heart that he had seldom seen a stronger or more
athletic figure than was placed opposite to him.
"Reverend hermit," said the knight, after looking long and
fixedly at his host, "were it not to interrupt your devout
meditations, I would pray to know three things of your holiness;
first, where I am to put my horse?---secondly, what I can have
for supper?---thirdly, where I am to take up my couch for the
"I will reply to you," said the hermit, "with my finger, it being
against my rule to speak by words where signs can answer the
purpose." So saying, he pointed successively to two corners of
the hut. "Your stable," said he, "is there---your bed there;
and," reaching down a platter with two handfuls of parched pease
upon it from the neighbouring shelf, and placing it upon the
table, he added, "your supper is here."
The knight shrugged his shoulders, and leaving the hut, brought
in his horse, (which in the interim he had fastened to a tree,)
unsaddled him with much attention, and spread upon the steed's
weary back his own mantle.
The hermit was apparently somewhat moved to compassion by the
anxiety as well as address which the stranger displayed in
tending his horse; for, muttering something about provender left
for the keeper's palfrey, he dragged out of a recess a bundle of
forage, which he spread before the knight's charger, and
immediately afterwards shook down a quantity of dried fern in the
corner which he had assigned for the rider's couch. The knight
returned him thanks for his courtesy; and, this duty done, both
resumed their seats by the table, whereon stood the trencher of
pease placed between them. The hermit, after a long grace, which
had once been Latin, but of which original language few traces
remained, excepting here and there the long rolling termination
of some word or phrase, set example to his guest, by modestly
putting into a very large mouth, furnished with teeth which might
have ranked with those of a boar both in sharpness and whiteness,
some three or four dried pease, a miserable grist as it seemed
for so large and able a mill.
The knight, in order to follow so laudable an example, laid aside
his helmet, his corslet, and the greater part of his armour, and
showed to the hermit a head thick-curled with yellow hair, high
features, blue eyes, remarkably bright and sparkling, a mouth
well formed, having an upper lip clothed with mustachoes darker
than his hair, and bearing altogether the look of a bold, daring,
and enterprising man, with which his strong form well
The hermit, as if wishing to answer to the confidence of his
guest, threw back his cowl, and showed a round bullet head
belonging to a man in the prime of life. His close-shaven crown,
surrounded by a circle of stiff curled black hair, had something
the appearance of a parish pinfold begirt by its high hedge. The
features expressed nothing of monastic austerity, or of ascetic
privations; on the contrary, it was a bold bluff countenance,
with broad black eyebrows, a well-turned forehead, and cheeks as
round and vermilion as those of a trumpeter, from which descended
a long and curly black beard. Such a visage, joined to the
brawny form of the holy man, spoke rather of sirloins and
haunches, than of pease and pulse. This incongruity did not
escape the guest. After he had with great difficulty
accomplished the mastication of a mouthful of the dried pease, he
found it absolutely necessary to request his pious entertainer to
furnish him with some liquor; who replied to his request by
placing before him a large can of the purest water from the
"It is from the well of St Dunstan," said he, "in which, betwixt
sun and sun, he baptized five hundred heathen Danes and Britons
---blessed be his name!" And applying his black beard to the
pitcher, he took a draught much more moderate in quantity than
his encomium seemed to warrant.
"It seems to me, reverend father," said the knight, "that the
small morsels which you eat, together with this holy, but
somewhat thin beverage, have thriven with you marvellously. You
appear a man more fit to win the ram at a wrestling match, or the
ring at a bout at quarter-staff, or the bucklers at a sword-play,
than to linger out your time in this desolate wilderness, saying
masses, and living upon parched pease and cold water."
"Sir Knight," answered the hermit, "your thoughts, like those of
the ignorant laity, are according to the flesh. It has pleased
Our Lady and my patron saint to bless the pittance to which I
restrain myself, even as the pulse and water was blessed to the
children Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, who drank the same
rather than defile themselves with the wine and meats which were
appointed them by the King of the Saracens."
"Holy father," said the knight, "upon whose countenance it hath
pleased Heaven to work such a miracle, permit a sinful layman to
crave thy name?"
"Thou mayst call me," answered the hermit, "the Clerk of
Copmanhurst, for so I am termed in these parts---They add, it is
true, the epithet holy, but I stand not upon that, as being
unworthy of such addition.---And now, valiant knight, may I pray
ye for the name of my honourable guest?"
"Truly," said the knight, "Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst, men call me
in these parts the Black Knight,---many, sir, add to it the
epithet of Sluggard, whereby I am no way ambitious to be
The hermit could scarcely forbear from smiling at his guest's
"I see," said he, "Sir Sluggish Knight, that thou art a man of
prudence and of counsel; and moreover, I see that my poor
monastic fare likes thee not, accustomed, perhaps, as thou hast
been, to the license of courts and of camps, and the luxuries of
cities; and now I bethink me, Sir Sluggard, that when the
charitable keeper of this forest-walk left those dogs for my
protection, and also those bundles of forage, he left me also
some food, which, being unfit for my use, the very recollection
of it had escaped me amid my more weighty meditations."
"I dare be sworn he did so," said the knight; "I was convinced
that there was better food in the cell, Holy Clerk, since you
first doffed your cowl.---Your keeper is ever a jovial fellow;
and none who beheld thy grinders contending with these pease, and
thy throat flooded with this ungenial element, could see thee
doomed to such horse-provender and horse-beverage," (pointing to
the provisions upon the table,) "and refrain from mending thy
cheer. Let us see the keeper's bounty, therefore, without
The hermit cast a wistful look upon the knight, in which there
was a sort of comic expression of hesitation, as if uncertain how
far be should act prudently in trusting his guest. There was,
however, as much of bold frankness in the knight's countenance
as was possible to be expressed by features. His smile, too, had
something in it irresistibly comic, and gave an assurance of
faith and loyalty, with which his host could not refrain from
After exchanging a mute glance or two, the hermit went to the
further side of the hut, and opened a hutch, which was concealed
with great care and some ingenuity. Out of the recesses of a
dark closet, into which this aperture gave admittance, he brought
a large pasty, baked in a pewter platter of unusual dimensions.
This mighty dish he placed before his guest, who, using his
poniard to cut it open, lost no time in making himself acquainted
with its contents.
"How long is it since the good keeper has been here?" said the
knight to his host, after having swallowed several hasty morsels
of this reinforcement to the hermit's good cheer.
"About two months," answered the father hastily.
"By the true Lord," answered the knight, "every thing in your
hermitage is miraculous, Holy Clerk! for I would have been sworn
that the fat buck which furnished this venison had been running
on foot within the week."
The hermit was somewhat discountenanced by this observation; and,
moreover, he made but a poor figure while gazing on the
diminution of the pasty, on which his guest was making desperate
inroads; a warfare in which his previous profession of abstinence
left him no pretext for joining.
"I have been in Palestine, Sir Clerk," said the knight, stopping
short of a sudden, "and I bethink me it is a custom there that
every host who entertains a guest shall assure him of the
wholesomeness of his food, by partaking of it along with him.
Far be it from me to suspect so holy a man of aught inhospitable;
nevertheless I will be highly bound to you would you comply with
this Eastern custom."
"To ease your unnecessary scruples, Sir Knight, I will for once
depart from my rule," replied the hermit. And as there were no
forks in those days, his clutches were instantly in the bowels
of the pasty.
The ice of ceremony being once broken, it seemed matter of
rivalry between the guest and the entertainer which should
display the best appetite; and although the former had probably
fasted longest, yet the hermit fairly surpassed him.
"Holy Clerk," said the knight, when his hunger was appeased, "I
would gage my good horse yonder against a zecchin, that that same
honest keeper to whom we are obliged for the venison has left
thee a stoup of wine, or a runlet of canary, or some such trifle,
by way of ally to this noble pasty. This would be a
circumstance, doubtless, totally unworthy to dwell in the memory
of so rigid an anchorite; yet, I think, were you to search yonder
crypt once more, you would find that I am right in my
The hermit only replied by a grin; and returning to the hutch, he
produced a leathern bottle, which might contain about four
quarts. He also brought forth two large drinking cups, made out
of the horn of the urus, and hooped with silver. Having made
this goodly provision for washing down the supper, he seemed to
think no farther ceremonious scruple necessary on his part; but
filling both cups, and saying, in the Saxon fashion, "'Waes
hael', Sir Sluggish Knight!" he emptied his own at a draught.
"'Drink hael', Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst!" answered the warrior,
and did his host reason in a similar brimmer.
"Holy Clerk," said the stranger, after the first cup was thus
swallowed, "I cannot but marvel that a man possessed of such
thews and sinews as thine, and who therewithal shows the talent
of so goodly a trencher-man, should think of abiding by himself
in this wilderness. In my judgment, you are fitter to keep a
castle or a fort, eating of the fat and drinking of the strong,
than to live here upon pulse and water, or even upon the charity
of the keeper. At least, were I as thou, I should find myself
both disport and plenty out of the king's deer. There is many a
goodly herd in these forests, and a buck will never be missed
that goes to the use of Saint Dunstan's chaplain."
"Sir Sluggish Knight," replied the Clerk, "these are dangerous
words, and I pray you to forbear them. I am true hermit to the
king and law, and were I to spoil my liege's game, I should be
sure of the prison, and, an my gown saved me not, were in some
peril of hanging."
"Nevertheless, were I as thou," said the knight, "I would take my
walk by moonlight, when foresters and keepers were warm in bed,
and ever and anon,---as I pattered my prayers,---I would let fly
a shaft among the herds of dun deer that feed in the glades
--Resolve me, Holy Clerk, hast thou never practised such a
"Friend Sluggard," answered the hermit, "thou hast seen all that
can concern thee of my housekeeping, and something more than he
deserves who takes up his quarters by violence. Credit me, it is
better to enjoy the good which God sends thee, than to be
impertinently curious how it comes. Fill thy cup, and welcome;
and do not, I pray thee, by further impertinent enquiries, put me
to show that thou couldst hardly have made good thy lodging had I
been earnest to oppose thee."
"By my faith," said the knight, "thou makest me more curious than
ever! Thou art the most mysterious hermit I ever met; and I will
know more of thee ere we part. As for thy threats, know, holy
man, thou speakest to one whose trade it is to find out danger
wherever it is to be met with."
"Sir Sluggish Knight, I drink to thee," said the hermit;
"respecting thy valour much, but deeming wondrous slightly of thy
discretion. If thou wilt take equal arms with me, I will give
thee, in all friendship and brotherly love, such sufficing
penance and complete absolution, that thou shalt not for the next
twelve months sin the sin of excess of curiosity."
The knight pledged him, and desired him to name his weapons.
"There is none," replied the hermit, "from the scissors of
Delilah, and the tenpenny nail of Jael, to the scimitar of
Goliath, at which I am not a match for thee---But, if I am to
make the election, what sayst thou, good friend, to these
Thus speaking, he opened another hutch, and took out from it a
couple of broadswords and bucklers, such as were used by the
yeomanry of the period. The knight, who watched his motions,
observed that this second place of concealment was furnished with
two or three good long-bows, a cross-bow, a bundle of bolts for
the latter, and half-a-dozen sheaves of arrows for the former. A
harp, and other matters of a very uncanonical appearance, were
also visible when this dark recess was opened.
"I promise thee, brother Clerk," said he, "I will ask thee no
more offensive questions. The contents of that cupboard are an
answer to all my enquiries; and I see a weapon there" (here be
stooped and took out the harp) "on which I would more gladly
prove my skill with thee, than at the sword and buckler."
"I hope, Sir Knight," said the hermit, "thou hast given no good
reason for thy surname of the Sluggard. I do promise thee I
suspect thee grievously. Nevertheless, thou art my guest, and I
will not put thy manhood to the proof without thine own free
will. Sit thee down, then, and fill thy cup; let us drink, sing,
and be merry. If thou knowest ever a good lay, thou shalt be
welcome to a nook of pasty at Copmanhurst so long as I serve the
chapel of St Dunstan, which, please God, shall be till I change
my grey covering for one of green turf. But come, fill a flagon,
for it will crave some time to tune the harp; and nought pitches
the voice and sharpens the ear like a cup of wine. For my part,
I love to feel the grape at my very finger-ends before they make
the harp-strings tinkle."*
* The Jolly Hermit.---All readers, however slightly
* acquainted with black letter, must recognise in the Clerk
* of Copmanhurst, Friar Tuck, the buxom Confessor of Robin
* Hood's gang, the Curtal Friar of Fountain's Abbey.
At eve, within yon studious nook,
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portray'd with many a holy deed
Of martyrs crown'd with heavenly meed;
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measured hymn.
* * * * *
Who but would cast his pomp away,
To take my staff and amice grey,
And to the world's tumultuous stage,
Prefer the peaceful Hermitage?
Notwithstanding the prescription of the genial hermit, with which
his guest willingly complied, he found it no easy matter to bring
the harp to harmony.
"Methinks, holy father," said he, "the instrument wants one
string, and the rest have been somewhat misused."
"Ay, mark'st thou that?" replied the hermit; "that shows thee a
master of the craft. Wine and wassail," he added, gravely
casting up his eyes---"all the fault of wine and wassail!---I
told Allan-a-Dale, the northern minstrel, that he would damage
the harp if he touched it after the seventh cup, but he would not
be controlled---Friend, I drink to thy successful performance."
So saying, he took off his cup with much gravity, at the same
time shaking his head at the intemperance of the Scottish harper.
The knight in the meantime, had brought the strings into some
order, and after a short prelude, asked his host whether he would
choose a "sirvente" in the language of "oc", or a "lai" in the
language of "oui", or a "virelai", or a ballad in the vulgar
* Note C. Minstrelsy.
"A ballad, a ballad," said the hermit, "against all the 'ocs' and
'ouis' of France. Downright English am I, Sir Knight, and
downright English was my patron St Dunstan, and scorned 'oc' and
'oui', as he would have scorned the parings of the devil's hoof
---downright English alone shall be sung in this cell."
"I will assay, then," said the knight, "a ballad composed by a
Saxon glee-man, whom I knew in Holy Land."
It speedily appeared, that if the knight was not a complete
master of the minstrel art, his taste for it had at least been
cultivated under the best instructors. Art had taught him to
soften the faults of a voice which had little compass, and was
naturally rough rather than mellow, and, in short, had done all
that culture can do in supplying natural deficiencies. His
performance, therefore, might have been termed very respectable
by abler judges than the hermit, especially as the knight threw
into the notes now a degree of spirit, and now of plaintive
enthusiasm, which gave force and energy to the verses which he
High deeds achieved of knightly fame,
From Palestine the champion came;
The cross upon his shoulders borne,
Battle and blast had dimm'd and torn.
Each dint upon his batter'd shield
Was token of a foughten field;
And thus, beneath his lady's bower,
He sung as fell the twilight hour:---
"Joy to the fair!---thy knight behold,
Return'd from yonder land of gold;
No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need,
Save his good arms and battle-steed
His spurs, to dash against a foe,
His lance and sword to lay him low;
Such all the trophies of his toil,
Such---and the hope of Tekla's smile!
"Joy to the fair! whose constant knight
Her favour fired to feats of might;
Unnoted shall she not remain,
Where meet the bright and noble train;
Minstrel shall sing and herald tell---
'Mark yonder maid of beauty well,
'Tis she for whose bright eyes were won
The listed field at Askalon!
"'Note well her smile!---it edged the blade
Which fifty wives to widows made,
When, vain his strength and Mahound's spell,
Iconium's turban'd Soldan fell.
Seest thou her locks, whose sunny glow
Half shows, half shades, her neck of snow?
Twines not of them one golden thread,
But for its sake a Paynim bled.'
"Joy to the fair!---my name unknown,
Each deed, and all its praise thine own
Then, oh! unbar this churlish gate,
The night dew falls, the hour is late.
Inured to Syria's glowing breath,
I feel the north breeze chill as death;
Let grateful love quell maiden shame,
And grant him bliss who brings thee fame."
During this performance, the hermit demeaned himself much like a
first-rate critic of the present day at a new opera. He reclined
back upon his seat, with his eyes half shut; now, folding his
hands and twisting his thumbs, he seemed absorbed in attention,
and anon, balancing his expanded palms, he gently flourished them
in time to the music. At one or two favourite cadences, he threw
in a little assistance of his own, where the knight's voice
seemed unable to carry the air so high as his worshipful taste
approved. When the song was ended, the anchorite emphatically
declared it a good one, and well sung.
"And yet," said he, "I think my Saxon countrymen had herded long
enough with the Normans, to fall into the tone of their
melancholy ditties. What took the honest knight from home? or
what could he expect but to find his mistress agreeably engaged
with a rival on his return, and his serenade, as they call it, as
little regarded as the caterwauling of a cat in the gutter?
Nevertheless, Sir Knight, I drink this cup to thee, to the
success of all true lovers---I fear you are none," he added, on
observing that the knight (whose brain began to be heated with
these repeated draughts) qualified his flagon from the water
"Why," said the knight, "did you not tell me that this water was
from the well of your blessed patron, St Dunstan?"
"Ay, truly," said the hermit, "and many a hundred of pagans did
he baptize there, but I never heard that he drank any of it.
Every thing should be put to its proper use in this world. St
Dunstan knew, as well as any one, the prerogatives of a jovial
And so saying, he reached the harp, and entertained his guest
with the following characteristic song, to a sort of derry-down
chorus, appropriate to an old English ditty.*
* It may be proper to remind the reader, that the chorus of
* "derry down" is supposed to be as ancient, not only as
* the times of the Heptarchy, but as those of the Druids,
* and to have furnished the chorus to the hymns of those
* venerable persons when they went to the wood to gather
* mistletoe.
I'll give thee, good fellow, a twelvemonth or twain,
To search Europe through, from Byzantium to Spain;
But ne'er shall you find, should you search till you tire,
So happy a man as the Barefooted Friar.
Your knight for his lady pricks forth in career,
And is brought home at even-song prick'd through with a spear;
I confess him in haste---for his lady desires
No comfort on earth save the Barefooted Friar's.
Your monarch?---Pshaw! many a prince has been known
To barter his robes for our cowl and our gown,
But which of us e'er felt the idle desire
To exchange for a crown the grey hood of a Friar!
The Friar has walk'd out, and where'er he has gone,
The land and its fatness is mark'd for his own;
He can roam where he lists, he can stop when he tires,
For every man's house is the Barefooted Friar's.
He's expected at noon, and no wight till he comes
May profane the great chair, or the porridge of plums
For the best of the cheer, and the seat by the fire,
Is the undenied right of the Barefooted Friar.
He's expected at night, and the pasty's made hot,
They broach the brown ale, and they fill the black pot,
And the goodwife would wish the goodman in the mire,
Ere he lack'd a soft pillow, the Barefooted Friar.
Long flourish the sandal, the cord, and the cope,
The dread of the devil and trust of the Pope;
For to gather life's roses, unscathed by the briar,
Is granted alone to the Barefooted Friar.
"By my troth," said the knight, "thou hast sung well and lustily,
and in high praise of thine order. And, talking of the devil,
Holy Clerk, are you not afraid that he may pay you a visit daring
some of your uncanonical pastimes?"
"I uncanonical!" answered the hermit; "I scorn the charge---I
scorn it with my heels!---I serve the duty of my chapel duly and
truly---Two masses daily, morning and evening, primes, noons, and
vespers, 'aves, credos, paters'------"
"Excepting moonlight nights, when the venison is in season," said
his guest.
"'Exceptis excipiendis'" replied the hermit, "as our old abbot
taught me to say, when impertinent laymen should ask me if I kept
every punctilio of mine order."
"True, holy father," said the knight; "but the devil is apt to
keep an eye on such exceptions; he goes about, thou knowest, like
a roaring lion."
"Let him roar here if he dares," said the friar; "a touch of my
cord will make him roar as loud as the tongs of St Dunstan
himself did. I never feared man, and I as little fear the devil
and his imps. Saint Dunstan, Saint Dubric, Saint Winibald, Saint
Winifred, Saint Swibert, Saint Willick, not forgetting Saint
Thomas a Kent, and my own poor merits to speed, I defy every
devil of them, come cut and long tail.---But to let you into a
secret, I never speak upon such subjects, my friend, until after
morning vespers."
He changed the conversation; fast and furious grew the mirth of
the parties, and many a song was exchanged betwixt them, when
their revels were interrupted by a loud knocking at the door of
the hermitage.
The occasion of this interruption we can only explain by resuming
the adventures of another set of our characters; for, like old
Ariosto, we do not pique ourselves upon continuing uniformly to
keep company with any one personage of our drama.
Away! our journey lies through dell and dingle,
Where the blithe fawn trips by its timid mother,
Where the broad oak, with intercepting boughs,
Chequers the sunbeam in the green-sward alley---
Up and away!---for lovely paths are these
To tread, when the glad Sun is on his throne
Less pleasant, and less safe, when Cynthia's lamp
With doubtful glimmer lights the dreary forest.
Ettrick Forest
When Cedric the Saxon saw his son drop down senseless in the
lists at Ashby, his first impulse was to order him into the
custody and care of his own attendants, but the words choked in
his throat. He could not bring himself to acknowledge, in
presence of such an assembly, the son whom he had renounced and
disinherited. He ordered, however, Oswald to keep an eye upon
him; and directed that officer, with two of his serfs, to convey
Ivanhoe to Ashby as soon as the crowd had dispersed. Oswald,
however, was anticipated in this good office. The crowd
dispersed, indeed, but the knight was nowhere to be seen.
It was in vain that Cedric's cupbearer looked around for his
young master---he saw the bloody spot on which he had lately sunk
down, but himself he saw no longer; it seemed as if the fairies
had conveyed him from the spot. Perhaps Oswald (for the Saxons
were very superstitious) might have adopted some such hypothesis,
to account for Ivanhoe's disappearance, had he not suddenly cast
his eye upon a person attired like a squire, in whom he
recognised the features of his fellow-servant Gurth. Anxious
concerning his master's fate, and in despair at his sudden
disappearance, the translated swineherd was searching for him
everywhere, and had neglected, in doing so, the concealment on
which his own safety depended. Oswald deemed it his duty to
secure Gurth, as a fugitive of whose fate his master was to
Renewing his enquiries concerning the fate of Ivanhoe, the only
information which the cupbearer could collect from the bystanders
was, that the knight had been raised with care by certain
well-attired grooms, and placed in a litter belonging to a lady
among the spectators, which had immediately transported him out
of the press. Oswald, on receiving this intelligence, resolved
to return to his master for farther instructions, carrying along
with him Gurth, whom he considered in some sort as a deserter
from the service of Cedric.
The Saxon had been under very intense and agonizing apprehensions
concerning his son; for Nature had asserted her rights, in spite
of the patriotic stoicism which laboured to disown her. But no
sooner was he informed that Ivanhoe was in careful, and probably
in friendly hands, than the paternal anxiety which had been
excited by the dubiety of his fate, gave way anew to the feeling
of injured pride and resentment, at what he termed Wilfred's
filial disobedience.
"Let him wander his way," said he---"let those leech his wounds
for whose sake he encountered them. He is fitter to do the
juggling tricks of the Norman chivalry than to maintain the fame
and honour of his English ancestry with the glaive and
brown-bill, the good old weapons of his country."
"If to maintain the honour of ancestry," said Rowena, who was
present, "it is sufficient to be wise in council and brave in
execution---to be boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the
gentle, I know no voice, save his father's------"
"Be silent, Lady Rowena!---on this subject only I hear you not.
Prepare yourself for the Prince's festival: we have been summoned
thither with unwonted circumstance of honour and of courtesy,
such as the haughty Normans have rarely used to our race since
the fatal day of Hastings. Thither will I go, were it only to
show these proud Normans how little the fate of a son, who could
defeat their bravest, can affect a Saxon."
"Thither," said Rowena, "do I NOT go; and I pray you to beware,
lest what you mean for courage and constancy, shall be accounted
hardness of heart."
"Remain at home, then, ungrateful lady," answered Cedric; "thine
is the hard heart, which can sacrifice the weal of an oppressed
people to an idle and unauthorized attachment. I seek the noble
Athelstane, and with him attend the banquet of John of Anjou."
He went accordingly to the banquet, of which we have already
mentioned the principal events. Immediately upon retiring from
the castle, the Saxon thanes, with their attendants, took horse;
and it was during the bustle which attended their doing so, that
Cedric, for the first time, cast his eyes upon the deserter
Gurth. The noble Saxon had returned from the banquet, as we have
seen, in no very placid humour, and wanted but a pretext for
wreaking his anger upon some one.
"The gyves!" he said, "the gyves!---Oswald---Hundibert!---Dogs
and villains!---why leave ye the knave unfettered?"
Without daring to remonstrate, the companions of Gurth bound him
with a halter, as the readiest cord which occurred. He submitted
to the operation without remonstrance, except that, darting a
reproachful look at his master, he said, "This comes of loving
your flesh and blood better than mine own."
"To horse, and forward!" said Cedric.
"It is indeed full time," said the noble Athelstane; "for, if we
ride not the faster, the worthy Abbot Waltheoff's preparations
for a rere-supper*
* A rere-supper was a night-meal, and sometimes signified a
* collation, which was given at a late hour, after the
* regular supper had made its appearance. L. T.
will be altogether spoiled."
The travellers, however, used such speed as to reach the convent
of St Withold's before the apprehended evil took place. The
Abbot, himself of ancient Saxon descent, received the noble
Saxons with the profuse and exuberant hospitality of their
nation, wherein they indulged to a late, or rather an early hour;
nor did they take leave of their reverend host the next morning
until they had shared with him a sumptuous refection.
As the cavalcade left the court of the monastery, an incident
happened somewhat alarming to the Saxons, who, of all people of
Europe, were most addicted to a superstitious observance of
omens, and to whose opinions can be traced most of those notions
upon such subjects, still to be found among our popular
antiquities. For the Normans being a mixed race, and better
informed according to the information of the times, had lost most
of the superstitious prejudices which their ancestors had brought
from Scandinavia, and piqued themselves upon thinking freely on
such topics.
In the present instance, the apprehension of impending evil was
inspired by no less respectable a prophet than a large lean black
dog, which, sitting upright, howled most piteously as the
foremost riders left the gate, and presently afterwards, barking
wildly, and jumping to and fro, seemed bent upon attaching itself
to the party.
"I like not that music, father Cedric," said Athelstane; for by
this title of respect he was accustomed to address him.
"Nor I either, uncle," said Wamba; "I greatly fear we shall have
to pay the piper."
"In my mind," said Athelstane, upon whose memory the Abbot's good
ale (for Burton was already famous for that genial liquor) had
made a favourable impression,---"in my mind we had better turn
back, and abide with the Abbot until the afternoon. It is
unlucky to travel where your path is crossed by a monk, a hare,
or a howling dog, until you have eaten your next meal."
"Away!" said Cedric, impatiently; "the day is already too short
for our journey. For the dog, I know it to be the cur of the
runaway slave Gurth, a useless fugitive like its master."
So saying, and rising at the same time in his stirrups, impatient
at the interruption of his journey, he launched his javelin at
poor Fangs---for Fangs it was, who, having traced his master thus
far upon his stolen expedition, had here lost him, and was now,
in his uncouth way, rejoicing at his reappearance. The javelin
inflicted a wound upon the animal's shoulder, and narrowly missed
pinning him to the earth; and Fangs fled howling from the
presence of the enraged thane. Gurth's heart swelled within him;
for he felt this meditated slaughter of his faithful adherent in
a degree much deeper than the harsh treatment he had himself
received. Having in vain attempted to raise his hand to his
eyes, he said to Wamba, who, seeing his master's ill humour had
prudently retreated to the rear, "I pray thee, do me the kindness
to wipe my eyes with the skirt of thy mantle; the dust offends
me, and these bonds will not let me help myself one way or
Wamba did him the service he required, and they rode side by side
for some time, during which Gurth maintained a moody silence. At
length he could repress his feelings no longer.
"Friend Wamba," said he, "of all those who are fools enough to
serve Cedric, thou alone hast dexterity enough to make thy folly
acceptable to him. Go to him, therefore, and tell him that
neither for love nor fear will Gurth serve him longer. He may
strike the head from me---he may scourge me---he may load me with
irons---but henceforth he shall never compel me either to love or
to obey him. Go to him, then, and tell him that Gurth the son of
Beowulph renounces his service."
"Assuredly," said Wamba, "fool as I am, I shall not do your
fool's errand. Cedric hath another javelin stuck into his
girdle, and thou knowest he does not always miss his mark."
"I care not," replied Gurth, "how soon he makes a mark of me.
Yesterday he left Wilfred, my young master, in his blood. To-day
he has striven to kill before my face the only other living
creature that ever showed me kindness. By St Edmund, St Dunstan,
St Withold, St Edward the Confessor, and every other Saxon saint
in the calendar," (for Cedric never swore by any that was not of
Saxon lineage, and all his household had the same limited
devotion,) "I will never forgive him!"
"To my thinking now," said the Jester, who was frequently wont to
act as peace-maker in the family, "our master did not propose to
hurt Fangs, but only to affright him. For, if you observed, he
rose in his stirrups, as thereby meaning to overcast the mark;
and so he would have done, but Fangs happening to bound up at the
very moment, received a scratch, which I will be bound to heal
with a penny's breadth of tar."
"If I thought so," said Gurth---"if I could but think so---but
no---I saw the javelin was well aimed---I heard it whizz through
the air with all the wrathful malevolence of him who cast it, and
it quivered after it had pitched in the ground, as if with regret
for having missed its mark. By the hog dear to St Anthony, I
renounce him!"
And the indignant swineherd resumed his sullen silence, which no
efforts of the Jester could again induce him to break.
Meanwhile Cedric and Athelstane, the leaders of the troop,
conversed together on the state of the land, on the dissensions
of the royal family, on the feuds and quarrels among the Norman
nobles, and on the chance which there was that the oppressed
Saxons might be able to free themselves from the yoke of the
Normans, or at least to elevate themselves into national
consequence and independence, during the civil convulsions which
were likely to ensue. On this subject Cedric was all animation.
The restoration of the independence of his race was the idol of
his heart, to which he had willingly sacrificed domestic
happiness and the interests of his own son. But, in order to
achieve this great revolution in favour of the native English, it
was necessary that they should be united among themselves, and
act under an acknowledged head. The necessity of choosing their
chief from the Saxon blood-royal was not only evident in itself,
but had been made a solemn condition by those whom Cedric had
intrusted with his secret plans and hopes. Athelstane had this
quality at least; and though he had few mental accomplishments or
talents to recommend him as a leader, he had still a goodly
person, was no coward, had been accustomed to martial exercises,
and seemed willing to defer to the advice of counsellors more
wise than himself. Above all, he was known to be liberal and
hospitable, and believed to be good-natured. But whatever
pretensions Athelstane had to be considered as head of the Saxon
confederacy, many of that nation were disposed to prefer to the
title of the Lady Rowena, who drew her descent from Alfred, and
whose father having been a chief renowned for wisdom, courage,
and generosity, his memory was highly honoured by his oppressed
It would have been no difficult thing for Cedric, had he been so
disposed, to have placed himself at the head of a third party, as
formidable at least as any of the others. To counterbalance
their royal descent, he had courage, activity, energy, and, above
all, that devoted attachment to the cause which had procured him
the epithet of The Saxon, and his birth was inferior to none,
excepting only that of Athelstane and his ward. These qualities,
however, were unalloyed by the slightest shade of selfishness;
and, instead of dividing yet farther his weakened nation by
forming a faction of his own, it was a leading part of Cedric's
plan to extinguish that which already existed, by promoting a
marriage betwixt Rowena and Athelstane. An obstacle occurred to
this his favourite project, in the mutual attachment of his ward
and his son and hence the original cause of the banishment of
Wilfred from the house of his father.
This stern measure Cedric had adopted, in hopes that, during
Wilfred's absence, Rowena might relinquish her preference, but in
this hope he was disappointed; a disappointment which might be
attributed in part to the mode in which his ward had been
educated. Cedric, to whom the name of Alfred was as that of a
deity, had treated the sole remaining scion of that great monarch
with a degree of observance, such as, perhaps, was in those days
scarce paid to an acknowledged princess. Rowena's will had been
in almost all cases a law to his household; and Cedric himself,
as if determined that her sovereignty should be fully
acknowledged within that little circle at least, seemed to take a
pride in acting as the first of her subjects. Thus trained in
the exercise not only of free will, but despotic authority,
Rowena was, by her previous education, disposed both to resist
and to resent any attempt to control her affections, or dispose
of her hand contrary to her inclinations, and to assert her
independence in a case in which even those females who have been
trained up to obedience and subjection, are not infrequently apt
to dispute the authority of guardians and parents. The opinions
which she felt strongly, she avowed boldly; and Cedric, who could
not free himself from his habitual deference to her opinions,
felt totally at a loss how to enforce his authority of guardian.
It was in vain that he attempted to dazzle her with the prospect
of a visionary throne. Rowena, who possessed strong sense,
neither considered his plan as practicable, nor as desirable, so
far as she was concerned, could it have been achieved. Without
attempting to conceal her avowed preference of Wilfred of
Ivanhoe, she declared that, were that favoured knight out of
question, she would rather take refuge in a convent, than share a
throne with Athelstane, whom, having always despised, she now
began, on account of the trouble she received on his account,
thoroughly to detest.
Nevertheless, Cedric, whose opinions of women's constancy was far
from strong, persisted in using every means in his power to bring
about the proposed match, in which he conceived he was rendering
an important service to the Saxon cause. The sudden and romantic
appearance of his son in the lists at Ashby, he had justly
regarded as almost a death's blow to his hopes. His paternal
affection, it is true, had for an instant gained the victory over
pride and patriotism; but both had returned in full force, and
under their joint operation, he was now bent upon making a
determined effort for the union of Athelstane and Rowena,
together with expediting those other measures which seemed
necessary to forward the restoration of Saxon independence.
On this last subject, he was now labouring with Athelstane, not
without having reason, every now and then, to lament, like
Hotspur, that he should have moved such a dish of skimmed milk to
so honourable an action. Athelstane, it is true, was vain
enough, and loved to have his ears tickled with tales of his high
descent, and of his right by inheritance to homage and
sovereignty. But his petty vanity was sufficiently gratified by
receiving this homage at the hands of his immediate attendants,
and of the Saxons who approached him. If he had the courage to
encounter danger, he at least hated the trouble of going to seek
it; and while he agreed in the general principles laid down by
Cedric concerning the claim of the Saxons to independence, and
was still more easily convinced of his own title to reign over
them when that independence should be attained, yet when the
means of asserting these rights came to be discussed, he was
still "Athelstane the Unready," slow, irresolute,
procrastinating, and unenterprising. The warm and impassioned
exhortations of Cedric had as little effect upon his impassive
temper, as red-hot balls alighting in the water, which produce a
little sound and smoke, and are instantly extinguished.
If, leaving this task, which might be compared to spurring a
tired jade, or to hammering upon cold iron, Cedric fell back to
his ward Rowena, he received little more satisfaction from
conferring with her. For, as his presence interrupted the
discourse between the lady and her favourite attendant upon the
gallantry and fate of Wilfred, Elgitha, failed not to revenge
both her mistress and herself, by recurring to the overthrow of
Athelstane in the lists, the most disagreeable subject which
could greet the ears of Cedric. To this sturdy Saxon, therefore,
the day's journey was fraught with all manner of displeasure and
discomfort; so that he more than once internally cursed the
tournament, and him who had proclaimed it, together with his own
folly in ever thinking of going thither.
At noon, upon the motion of Athelstane, the travellers paused in
a woodland shade by a fountain, to repose their horses and
partake of some provisions, with which the hospitable Abbot had
loaded a sumpter mule. Their repast was a pretty long one; and
these several interruptions rendered it impossible for them to
hope to reach Rotherwood without travelling all night, a
conviction which induced them to proceed on their way at a more
hasty pace than they had hitherto used.
A train of armed men, some noble dame
Escorting, (so their scatter'd words discover'd,
As unperceived I hung upon their rear,)
Are close at hand, and mean to pass the night
Within the castle.
Orra, a Tragedy
The travellers had now reached the verge of the wooded country,
and were about to plunge into its recesses, held dangerous at
that time from the number of outlaws whom oppression and poverty
had driven to despair, and who occupied the forests in such large
bands as could easily bid defiance to the feeble police of the
period. From these rovers, however, notwithstanding the lateness
of the hour Cedric and Athelstane accounted themselves secure, as
they had in attendance ten servants, besides Wamba and Gurth,
whose aid could not be counted upon, the one being a jester and
the other a captive. It may be added, that in travelling thus
late through the forest, Cedric and Athelstane relied on their
descent and character, as well as their courage. The outlaws,
whom the severity of the forest laws had reduced to this roving
and desperate mode of life, were chiefly peasants and yeomen of
Saxon descent, and were generally supposed to respect the persons
and property of their countrymen.
As the travellers journeyed on their way, they were alarmed by
repeated cries for assistance; and when they rode up to the place
from whence they came, they were surprised to find a horse-litter
placed upon the ground, beside which sat a young woman, richly
dressed in the Jewish fashion, while an old man, whose yellow cap
proclaimed him to belong to the same nation, walked up and down
with gestures expressive of the deepest despair, and wrung his
hands, as if affected by some strange disaster.
To the enquiries of Athelstane and Cedric, the old Jew could for
some time only answer by invoking the protection of all the
patriarchs of the Old Testament successively against the sons of
Ishmael, who were coming to smite them, hip and thigh, with the
edge of the sword. When he began to come to himself out of this
agony of terror, Isaac of York (for it was our old friend) was at
length able to explain, that he had hired a body-guard of six men
at Ashby, together with mules for carrying the litter of a sick
friend. This party had undertaken to escort him as far as
Doncaster. They had come thus far in safety; but having received
information from a wood-cutter that there was a strong band of
outlaws lying in wait in the woods before them, Isaac's
mercenaries had not only taken flight, but had carried off with
them the horses which bore the litter and left the Jew and his
daughter without the means either of defence or of retreat, to be
plundered, and probably murdered, by the banditti, who they
expected every moment would bring down upon them. "Would it but
please your valours," added Isaac, in a tone of deep humiliation,
"to permit the poor Jews to travel under your safeguard, I swear
by the tables of our law, that never has favour been conferred
upon a child of Israel since the days of our captivity, which
shall be more gratefully acknowledged."
"Dog of a Jew!" said Athelstane, whose memory was of that petty
kind which stores up trifles of all kinds, but particularly
trifling offences, "dost not remember how thou didst beard us in
the gallery at the tilt-yard? Fight or flee, or compound with
the outlaws as thou dost list, ask neither aid nor company from
us; and if they rob only such as thee, who rob all the world, I,
for mine own share, shall hold them right honest folk."
Cedric did not assent to the severe proposal of his companion.
"We shall do better," said be, "to leave them two of our
attendants and two horses to convey them back to the next
village. It will diminish our strength but little; and with your
good sword, noble Athelstane, and the aid of those who remain, it
will be light work for us to face twenty of those runagates."
Rowena, somewhat alarmed by the mention of outlaws in force, and
so near them, strongly seconded the proposal of her guardian.
But Rebecca suddenly quitting her dejected posture, and making
her way through the attendants to the palfrey of the Saxon lady,
knelt down, and, after the Oriental fashion in addressing
superiors, kissed the hem of Rowena's garment. Then rising, and
throwing back her veil, she implored her in the great name of the
God whom they both worshipped, and by that revelation of the Law
upon Mount Sinai, in which they both believed, that she would
have compassion upon them, and suffer them to go forward under
their safeguard. "It is not for myself that I pray this favour,"
said Rebecca; "nor is it even for that poor old man. I know,
that to wrong and to spoil our nation is a light fault, if not a
merit, with the Christians; and what is it to us whether it be
done in the city, in the desert, or in the field? But it is in
the name of one dear to many, and dear even to you, that I
beseech you to let this sick person be transported with care and
tenderness under your protection. For, if evil chance him, the
last moment of your life would be embittered with regret for
denying that which I ask of you."
The noble and solemn air with which Rebecca made this appeal,
gave it double weight with the fair Saxon.
"The man is old and feeble," she said to her guardian, "the
maiden young and beautiful, their friend sick and in peril of his
life---Jews though they be, we cannot as Christians leave them in
this extremity. Let them unload two of the sumpter-mules, and
put the baggage behind two of the serfs. The mules may transport
the litter, and we have led horses for the old man and his
Cedric readily assented to what she proposed, and Athelstane only
added the condition, "that they should travel in the rear of the
whole party, where Wamba," he said, "might attend them with his
shield of boar's brawn."
"I have left my shield in the tilt-yard," answered the Jester,
"as has been the fate of many a better knight than myself."
Athelstane coloured deeply, for such had been his own fate on the
last day of the tournament; while Rowena, who was pleased in the
same proportion, as if to make amends for the brutal jest of her
unfeeling suitor, requested Rebecca to ride by her side.
"It were not fit I should do so," answered Rebecca, with proud
humility, "where my society might be held a disgrace to my
By this time the change of baggage was hastily achieved; for the
single word "outlaws" rendered every one sufficiently alert, and
the approach of twilight made the sound yet more impressive.
Amid the bustle, Gurth was taken from horseback, in the course of
which removal he prevailed upon the Jester to slack the cord with
which his arms were bound. It was so negligently refastened,
perhaps intentionally, on the part of Wamba, that Gurth found no
difficulty in freeing his arms altogether from bondage, and then,
gliding into the thicket, he made his escape from the party.
The bustle had been considerable, and it was some time before
Gurth was missed; for, as he was to be placed for the rest of the
journey behind a servant, every one supposed that some other of
his companions had him under his custody, and when it began to be
whispered among them that Gurth had actually disappeared, they
were under such immediate expectation of an attack from the
outlaws, that it was not held convenient to pay much attention
to the circumstance.
The path upon which the party travelled was now so narrow, as not
to admit, with any sort of convenience, above two riders abreast,
and began to descend into a dingle, traversed by a brook whose
banks were broken, swampy, and overgrown with dwarf willows.
Cedric and Athelstane, who were at the head of their retinue, saw
the risk of being attacked at this pass; but neither of them
having had much practice in war, no better mode of preventing the
danger occurred to them than that they should hasten through the
defile as fast as possible. Advancing, therefore, without much
order, they had just crossed the brook with a part of their
followers, when they were assailed in front, flank, and rear at
once, with an impetuosity to which, in their confused and
ill-prepared condition, it was impossible to offer effectual
resistance. The shout of "A white dragon!---a white dragon!
---Saint George for merry England!" war-cries adopted by the
assailants, as belonging to their assumed character of Saxon
outlaws, was heard on every side, and on every side enemies
appeared with a rapidity of advance and attack which seemed to
multiply their numbers.
Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners at the same moment, and
each under circumstances expressive of his character. Cedric,
the instant that an enemy appeared, launched at him his remaining
javelin, which, taking better effect than that which he had
hurled at Fangs, nailed the man against an oak-tree that happened
to be close behind him. Thus far successful, Cedric spurred his
horse against a second, drawing his sword at the same time, and
striking with such inconsiderate fury, that his weapon
encountered a thick branch which hung over him, and he was
disarmed by the violence of his own blow. He was instantly made
prisoner, and pulled from his horse by two or three of the
banditti who crowded around him. Athelstane shared his
captivity, his bridle having been seized, and he himself forcibly
dismounted, long before he could draw his weapon, or assume any
posture of effectual defence.
The attendants, embarrassed with baggage, surprised and terrified
at the fate of their masters, fell an easy prey to the
assailants; while the Lady Rowena, in the centre of the
cavalcade, and the Jew and his daughter in the rear, experienced
the same misfortune.
Of all the train none escaped except Wamba, who showed upon the
occasion much more courage than those who pretended to greater
sense. He possessed himself of a sword belonging to one of the
domestics, who was just drawing it with a tardy and irresolute
hand, laid it about him like a lion, drove back several who
approached him, and made a brave though ineffectual attempt to
succour his master. Finding himself overpowered, the Jester at
length threw himself from his horse, plunged into the thicket,
and, favoured by the general confusion, escaped from the scene of
action. Yet the valiant Jester, as soon as he found himself
safe, hesitated more than once whether he should not turn back
and share the captivity of a master to whom he was sincerely
"I have heard men talk of the blessings of freedom," he said to
himself, "but I wish any wise man would teach me what use to make
of it now that I have it."
As he pronounced these words aloud, a voice very near him called
out in a low and cautious tone, "Wamba!" and, at the same time, a
dog, which he recognised to be Fangs, jumped up and fawned upon
him. "Gurth!" answered Wamba, with the same caution, and the
swineherd immediately stood before him.
"What is the matter?" said he eagerly; "what mean these cries,
and that clashing of swords?"
"Only a trick of the times," said Wamba; "they are all
"Who are prisoners?" exclaimed Gurth, impatiently.
"My lord, and my lady, and Athelstane, and Hundibert, and
"In the name of God!" said Gurth, "how came they prisoners?
---and to whom?"
"Our master was too ready to fight," said the Jester; "and
Athelstane was not ready enough, and no other person was ready at
all. And they are prisoners to green cassocks, and black visors.
And they lie all tumbled about on the green, like the crab-apples
that you shake down to your swine. And I would laugh at it,"
said the honest Jester, "if I could for weeping." And he shed
tears of unfeigned sorrow.
Gurth's countenance kindled---"Wamba," he said, "thou hast a
weapon, and thy heart was ever stronger than thy brain,---we are
only two---but a sudden attack from men of resolution will do
much---follow me!"
"Whither?---and for what purpose?" said the Jester.
"To rescue Cedric."
"But you have renounced his service but now," said Wamba.
"That," said Gurth, "was but while he was fortunate---follow me!"
As the Jester was about to obey, a third person suddenly made his
appearance, and commanded them both to halt. From his dress and
arms, Wamba would have conjectured him to be one of those outlaws
who had just assailed his master; but, besides that he wore no
mask, the glittering baldric across his shoulder, with the rich
bugle-horn which it supported, as well as the calm and commanding
expression of his voice and manner, made him, notwithstanding
the twilight, recognise Locksley the yeoman, who had been
victorious, under such disadvantageous circumstances, in the
contest for the prize of archery.
"What is the meaning of all this," said he, "or who is it that
rifle, and ransom, and make prisoners, in these forests?"
"You may look at their cassocks close by," said Wamba, "and see
whether they be thy children's coats or no---for they are as like
thine own, as one green pea-cod is to another."
"I will learn that presently," answered Locksley; "and I charge
ye, on peril of your lives, not to stir from the place where ye
stand, until I have returned. Obey me, and it shall be the
better for you and your masters.---Yet stay, I must render
myself as like these men as possible."
So saying he unbuckled his baldric with the bugle, took a
feather from his cap, and gave them to Wamba; then drew a vizard
from his pouch, and, repeating his charges to them to stand fast,
went to execute his purposes of reconnoitring.
"Shall we stand fast, Gurth?" said Wamba; "or shall we e'en give
him leg-bail? In my foolish mind, he had all the equipage of a
thief too much in readiness, to be himself a true man."
"Let him be the devil," said Gurth, "an he will. We can be no
worse of waiting his return. If he belong to that party, he must
already have given them the alarm, and it will avail nothing
either to fight or fly. Besides, I have late experience, that
errant thieves are not the worst men in the world to have to deal
The yeoman returned in the course of a few minutes.
"Friend Gurth," he said, "I have mingled among yon men, and have
learnt to whom they belong, and whither they are bound. There
is, I think, no chance that they will proceed to any actual
violence against their prisoners. For three men to attempt them
at this moment, were little else than madness; for they are good
men of war, and have, as such, placed sentinels to give the alarm
when any one approaches. But I trust soon to gather such a
force, as may act in defiance of all their precautions; you are
both servants, and, as I think, faithful servants, of Cedric the
Saxon, the friend of the rights of Englishmen. He shall not want
English hands to help him in this extremity. Come then with me,
until I gather more aid."
So saying, he walked through the wood at a great pace, followed
by the jester and the swineherd. It was not consistent with
Wamba's humour to travel long in silence.
"I think," said he, looking at the baldric and bugle which he
still carried, "that I saw the arrow shot which won this gay
prize, and that not so long since as Christmas."
"And I," said Gurth, "could take it on my halidome, that I have
heard the voice of the good yeoman who won it, by night as well
as by day, and that the moon is not three days older since I
did so."
"Mine honest friends," replied the yeoman, "who, or what I am, is
little to the present purpose; should I free your master, you
will have reason to think me the best friend you have ever had
in your lives. And whether I am known by one name or another
---or whether I can draw a bow as well or better than a
cow-keeper, or whether it is my pleasure to walk in sunshine or
by moonlight, are matters, which, as they do not concern you, so
neither need ye busy yourselves respecting them."
"Our heads are in the lion's mouth," said Wamba, in a whisper to
Gurth, "get them out how we can."
"Hush---be silent," said Gurth. "Offend him not by thy folly,
and I trust sincerely that all will go well."
When autumn nights were long and drear,
And forest walks were dark and dim,
How sweetly on the pilgrim's ear
Was wont to steal the hermit's hymn
Devotion borrows Music's tone,
And Music took Devotion's wing;
And, like the bird that hails the sun,
They soar to heaven, and soaring sing.
The Hermit of St Clement's Well
It was after three hours' good walking that the servants of
Cedric, with their mysterious guide, arrived at a small opening
in the forest, in the centre of which grew an oak-tree of
enormous magnitude, throwing its twisted branches in every
direction. Beneath this tree four or five yeomen lay stretched
on the ground, while another, as sentinel, walked to and fro in
the moonlight shade.
Upon hearing the sound of feet approaching, the watch instantly
gave the alarm, and the sleepers as suddenly started up and bent
their bows. Six arrows placed on the string were pointed
towards the quarter from which the travellers approached, when
their guide, being recognised, was welcomed with every token of
respect and attachment, and all signs and fears of a rough
reception at once subsided.
"Where is the Miller?" was his first question.
"On the road towards Rotherham."
"With how many?" demanded the leader, for such he seemed to be.
"With six men, and good hope of booty, if it please St Nicholas."
"Devoutly spoken," said Locksley; "and where is Allan-a-Dale?"
"Walked up towards the Watling-street, to watch for the Prior of
"That is well thought on also," replied the Captain;---"and where
is the Friar?"
"In his cell."
"Thither will I go," said Locksley. "Disperse and seek your
companions. Collect what force you can, for there's game afoot
that must be hunted hard, and will turn to bay. Meet me here by
daybreak.---And stay," he added, "I have forgotten what is most
necessary of the whole---Two of you take the road quickly towards
Torquilstone, the Castle of Front-de-Boeuf. A set of gallants,
who have been masquerading in such guise as our own, are carrying
a band of prisoners thither---Watch them closely, for even if
they reach the castle before we collect our force, our honour is
concerned to punish them, and we will find means to do so. Keep
a close watch on them therefore; and dispatch one of your
comrades, the lightest of foot, to bring the news of the yeomen
They promised implicit obedience, and departed with alacrity on
their different errands. In the meanwhile, their leader and his
two companions, who now looked upon him with great respect, as
well as some fear, pursued their way to the Chapel of
When they had reached the little moonlight glade, having in front
the reverend, though ruinous chapel, and the rude hermitage, so
well suited to ascetic devotion, Wamba whispered to Gurth, "If
this be the habitation of a thief, it makes good the old proverb,
The nearer the church the farther from God.---And by my
coxcomb," he added, "I think it be even so---Hearken but to the
black sanctus which they are singing in the hermitage!"
In fact the anchorite and his guest were performing, at the full
extent of their very powerful lungs, an old drinking song, of
which this was the burden:---
"Come, trowl the brown bowl to me,
Bully boy, bully boy,
Come, trowl the brown bowl to me:
Ho! jolly Jenkin, I spy a knave in drinking,
Come, trowl the brown bowl to me."
"Now, that is not ill sung," said Wamba, who had thrown in a few
of his own flourishes to help out the chorus. "But who, in the
saint's name, ever expected to have heard such a jolly chant come
from out a hermit's cell at midnight!"
"Marry, that should I," said Gurth, "for the jolly Clerk of
Copmanhurst is a known man, and kills half the deer that are
stolen in this walk. Men say that the keeper has complained to
his official, and that he will be stripped of his cowl and cope
altogether, if he keeps not better order."
While they were thus speaking, Locksley's loud and repeated
knocks had at length disturbed the anchorite and his guest.
"By my beads," said the hermit, stopping short in a grand
flourish, "here come more benighted guests. I would not for my
cowl that they found us in this goodly exercise. All men have
their enemies, good Sir Sluggard; and there be those malignant
enough to construe the hospitable refreshment which I have been
offering to you, a weary traveller, for the matter of three short
hours, into sheer drunkenness and debauchery, vices alike alien
to my profession and my disposition."
"Base calumniators!" replied the knight; "I would I had the
chastising of them. Nevertheless, Holy Clerk, it is true that
all have their enemies; and there be those in this very land whom
I would rather speak to through the bars of my helmet than
"Get thine iron pot on thy head then, friend Sluggard, as quickly
as thy nature will permit," said the hermit, "while I remove
these pewter flagons, whose late contents run strangely in mine
own pate; and to drown the clatter---for, in faith, I feel
somewhat unsteady---strike into the tune which thou hearest me
sing; it is no matter for the words---I scarce know them myself."
So saying, he struck up a thundering "De profundis clamavi",
under cover of which he removed the apparatus of their banquet:
while the knight, laughing heartily, and arming himself all the
while, assisted his host with his voice from time to time as his
mirth permitted.
"What devil's matins are you after at this hour?" said a voice
from without.
"Heaven forgive you, Sir Traveller!" said the hermit, whose own
noise, and perhaps his nocturnal potations, prevented from
recognising accents which were tolerably familiar to him---"Wend
on your way, in the name of God and Saint Dunstan, and disturb
not the devotions of me and my holy brother."
"Mad priest," answered the voice from without, "open to
"All's safe---all's right," said the hermit to his companion.
"But who is he?" said the Black Knight; "it imports me much to
"Who is he?" answered the hermit; "I tell thee he is a friend."
"But what friend?" answered the knight; "for he may be friend to
thee and none of mine?"
"What friend?" replied the hermit; "that, now, is one of the
questions that is more easily asked than answered. What friend?
---why, he is, now that I bethink me a little, the very same
honest keeper I told thee of a while since."
"Ay, as honest a keeper as thou art a pious hermit," replied the
knight, "I doubt it not. But undo the door to him before he beat
it from its hinges."
The dogs, in the meantime, which had made a dreadful baying at
the commencement of the disturbance, seemed now to recognise the
voice of him who stood without; for, totally changing their
manner, they scratched and whined at the door, as if interceding
for his admission. The hermit speedily unbolted his portal, and
admitted Locksley, with his two companions.
"Why, hermit," was the yeoman's first question as soon as he
beheld the knight, "what boon companion hast thou here?"
"A brother of our order," replied the friar, shaking his head;
"we have been at our orisons all night."
"He is a monk of the church militant, I think," answered
Locksley; "and there be more of them abroad. I tell thee, friar,
thou must lay down the rosary and take up the quarter-staff; we
shall need every one of our merry men, whether clerk or layman.
---But," he added, taking him a step aside, "art thou mad? to
give admittance to a knight thou dost not know? Hast thou forgot
our articles?"
"Not know him!" replied the friar, boldly, "I know him as well as
the beggar knows his dish."
"And what is his name, then?" demanded Locksley.
"His name," said the hermit---"his name is Sir Anthony of
Scrabelstone---as if I would drink with a man, and did not know
his name!"
"Thou hast been drinking more than enough, friar," said the
woodsman, "and, I fear, prating more than enough too."
"Good yeoman," said the knight, coming forward, "be not wroth
with my merry host. He did but afford me the hospitality which I
would have compelled from him if he had refused it."
"Thou compel!" said the friar; "wait but till have changed this
grey gown for a green cassock, and if I make not a quarter-staff
ring twelve upon thy pate, I am neither true clerk nor good
While he spoke thus, he stript off his gown, and appeared in a
close black buckram doublet and drawers, over which he speedily
did on a cassock of green, and hose of the same colour. "I pray
thee truss my points," said he to Wamba, "and thou shalt have a
cup of sack for thy labour."
"Gramercy for thy sack," said Wamba; "but think'st thou it is
lawful for me to aid you to transmew thyself from a holy hermit
into a sinful forester?"
"Never fear," said the hermit; "I will but confess the sins of my
green cloak to my greyfriar's frock, and all shall be well
"Amen!" answered the Jester; "a broadcloth penitent should have a
sackcloth confessor, and your frock may absolve my motley doublet
into the bargain."
So saying, he accommodated the friar with his assistance in tying
the endless number of points, as the laces which attached the
hose to the doublet were then termed.
While they were thus employed, Locksley led the knight a little
apart, and addressed him thus:---"Deny it not, Sir Knight---you
are he who decided the victory to the advantage of the English
against the strangers on the second day of the tournament at
"And what follows if you guess truly, good yeoman?" replied the
"I should in that case hold you," replied the yeoman, "a friend
to the weaker party."
"Such is the duty of a true knight at least," replied the Black
Champion; "and I would not willingly that there were reason to
think otherwise of me."
"But for my purpose," said the yeoman, "thou shouldst be as well
a good Englishman as a good knight; for that, which I have to
speak of, concerns, indeed, the duty of every honest man, but is
more especially that of a true-born native of England."
"You can speak to no one," replied the knight, "to whom England,
and the life of every Englishman, can be dearer than to me."
"I would willingly believe so," said the woodsman, "for never had
this country such need to be supported by those who love her.
Hear me, and I will tell thee of an enterprise, in which, if thou
be'st really that which thou seemest, thou mayst take an
honourable part. A band of villains, in the disguise of better
men than themselves, have made themselves master of the person of
a noble Englishman, called Cedric the Saxon, together with his
ward, and his friend Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and have
transported them to a castle in this forest, called Torquilstone.
I ask of thee, as a good knight and a good Englishman, wilt thou
aid in their rescue?"
"I am bound by my vow to do so," replied the knight; "but I would
willingly know who you are, who request my assistance in their
"I am," said the forester, "a nameless man; but I am the friend
of my country, and of my country's friends---With this account of
me you must for the present remain satisfied, the more especially
since you yourself desire to continue unknown. Believe, however,
that my word, when pledged, is as inviolate as if I wore golden
"I willingly believe it," said the knight; "I have been
accustomed to study men's countenances, and I can read in thine
honesty and resolution. I will, therefore, ask thee no further
questions, but aid thee in setting at freedom these oppressed
captives; which done, I trust we shall part better acquainted,
and well satisfied with each other."
"So," said Wamba to Gurth,---for the friar being now fully
equipped, the Jester, having approached to the other side of the
hut, had heard the conclusion of the conversation,---"So we have
got a new ally ?---l trust the valour of the knight will be truer
metal than the religion of the hermit, or the honesty of the
yeoman; for this Locksley looks like a born deer-stealer, and the
priest like a lusty hypocrite."
"Hold thy peace, Wamba," said Gurth; "it may all be as thou dost
guess; but were the horned devil to rise and proffer me his
assistance to set at liberty Cedric and the Lady Rowena, I fear I
should hardly have religion enough to refuse the foul fiend's
offer, and bid him get behind me."
The friar was now completely accoutred as a yeoman, with sword
and buckler, bow, and quiver, and a strong partisan over his
shoulder. He left his cell at the head of the party, and, having
carefully locked the door, deposited the key under the threshold.
"Art thou in condition to do good service, friar," said Locksley,
"or does the brown bowl still run in thy head?"
"Not more than a drought of St Dunstan's fountain will allay,"
answered the priest; "something there is of a whizzing in my
brain, and of instability in my legs, but you shall presently see
both pass away."
So saying, he stepped to the stone basin, in which the waters of
the fountain as they fell formed bubbles which danced in the
white moonlight, and took so long a drought as if he had meant to
exhaust the spring.
"When didst thou drink as deep a drought of water before, Holy
Clerk of Copmanhurst?" said the Black Knight.
"Never since my wine-but leaked, and let out its liquor by an
illegal vent," replied the friar, "and so left me nothing to
drink but my patron's bounty here."
Then plunging his hands and head into the fountain, he washed
from them all marks of the midnight revel.
Thus refreshed and sobered, the jolly priest twirled his heavy
partisan round his head with three fingers, as if he had been
balancing a reed, exclaiming at the same time, "Where be those
false ravishers, who carry off wenches against their will? May
the foul fiend fly off with me, if I am not man enough for a
dozen of them."
"Swearest thou, Holy Clerk?" said the Black Knight.
"Clerk me no Clerks," replied the transformed priest; "by Saint
George and the Dragon, I am no longer a shaveling than while my
frock is on my back---When I am cased in my green cassock, I
will drink, swear, and woo a lass, with any blithe forester in
the West Riding."
"Come on, Jack Priest," said Locksley, "and be silent; thou art
as noisy as a whole convent on a holy eve, when the Father Abbot
has gone to bed.---Come on you, too, my masters, tarry not to
talk of it---I say, come on, we must collect all our forces, and
few enough we shall have, if we are to storm the Castle of
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf."
"What! is it Front-de-Boeuf," said the Black Knight, "who has
stopt on the king's highway the king's liege subjects?---Is he
turned thief and oppressor?"
"Oppressor he ever was," said Locksley.
"And for thief," said the priest, "I doubt if ever he were even
half so honest a man as many a thief of my acquaintance."
"Move on, priest, and be silent," said the yeoman; "it were
better you led the way to the place of rendezvous, than say what
should be left unsaid, both in decency and prudence."
Alas, how many hours and years have past,
Since human forms have round this table sate,
Or lamp, or taper, on its surface gleam'd!
Methinks, I hear the sound of time long pass'd
Still murmuring o'er us, in the lofty void
Of these dark arches, like the ling'ring voices
Of those who long within their graves have slept.
Orra, a Tragedy
While these measures were taking in behalf of Cedric and his
companions, the armed men by whom the latter had been seized,
hurried their captives along towards the place of security, where
they intended to imprison them. But darkness came on fast, and
the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly known to the
marauders. They were compelled to make several long halts, and
once or twice to return on their road to resume the direction
which they wished to pursue. The summer morn had dawned upon
them ere they could travel in full assurance that they held the
right path. But confidence returned with light, and the
cavalcade now moved rapidly forward. Meanwhile, the following
dialogue took place between the two leaders of the banditti.
"It is time thou shouldst leave us, Sir Maurice," said the
Templar to De Bracy, "in order to prepare the second part of thy
mystery. Thou art next, thou knowest, to act the Knight
"I have thought better of it," said De Bracy; "I will not leave
thee till the prize is fairly deposited in Front-de-Boeuf's
castle. There will I appear before the Lady Rowena in mine own
shape, and trust that she will set down to the vehemence of my
passion the violence of which I have been guilty."
"And what has made thee change thy plan, De Bracy?" replied the
Knight Templar.
"That concerns thee nothing," answered his companion.
"I would hope, however, Sir Knight," said the Templar, "that this
alteration of measures arises from no suspicion of my honourable
meaning, such as Fitzurse endeavoured to instil into thee?"
"My thoughts are my own," answered De Bracy; "the fiend laughs,
they say, when one thief robs another; and we know, that were he
to spit fire and brimstone instead, it would never prevent a
Templar from following his bent."
"Or the leader of a Free Company," answered the Templar, "from
dreading at the hands of a comrade and friend, the injustice he
does to all mankind."
"This is unprofitable and perilous recrimination," answered De
Bracy; "suffice it to say, I know the morals of the Temple-Order,
and I will not give thee the power of cheating me out of the fair
prey for which I have run such risks."
"Psha," replied the Templar, "what hast thou to fear?---Thou
knowest the vows of our order."
"Right well," said De Bracy, "and also how they are kept. Come,
Sir Templar, the laws of gallantry have a liberal interpretation
in Palestine, and this is a case in which I will trust nothing to
your conscience."
"Hear the truth, then," said the Templar; "I care not for your
blue-eyed beauty. There is in that train one who will make me a
better mate."
"What! wouldst thou stoop to the waiting damsel?" said De Bracy.
"No, Sir Knight," said the Templar, haughtily. "To the
waiting-woman will I not stoop. I have a prize among the
captives as lovely as thine own."
"By the mass, thou meanest the fair Jewess!" said De Bracy.
"And if I do," said Bois-Guilbert, "who shall gainsay me?"
"No one that I know," said De Bracy, "unless it be your vow of
celibacy, or a cheek of conscience for an intrigue with a
"For my vow," said the Templar, "our Grand Master hath granted me
a dispensation. And for my conscience, a man that has slain
three hundred Saracens, need not reckon up every little failing,
like a village girl at her first confession upon Good Friday
"Thou knowest best thine own privileges," said De Bracy. "Yet, I
would have sworn thy thought had been more on the old usurer's
money bags, than on the black eyes of the daughter."
"I can admire both," answered the Templar; "besides, the old Jew
is but half-prize. I must share his spoils with Front-de-Boeuf,
who will not lend us the use of his castle for nothing. I must
have something that I can term exclusively my own by this foray
of ours, and I have fixed on the lovely Jewess as my peculiar
prize. But, now thou knowest my drift, thou wilt resume thine
own original plan, wilt thou not?---Thou hast nothing, thou
seest, to fear from my interference."
"No," replied De Bracy, "I will remain beside my prize. What
thou sayst is passing true, but I like not the privileges
acquired by the dispensation of the Grand Master, and the merit
acquired by the slaughter of three hundred Saracens. You have
too good a right to a free pardon, to render you very scrupulous
about peccadilloes."
While this dialogue was proceeding, Cedric was endeavouring to
wring out of those who guarded him an avowal of their character
and purpose. "You should be Englishmen," said he; "and yet,
sacred Heaven! you prey upon your countrymen as if you were very
Normans. You should be my neighbours, and, if so, my friends;
for which of my English neighbours have reason to be otherwise?
I tell ye, yeomen, that even those among ye who have been branded
with outlawry have had from me protection; for I have pitied
their miseries, and curst the oppression of their tyrannic
nobles. What, then, would you have of me? or in what can this
violence serve ye?---Ye are worse than brute beasts in your
actions, and will you imitate them in their very dumbness?"
It was in vain that Cedric expostulated with his guards, who had
too many good reasons for their silence to be induced to break it
either by his wrath or his expostulations. They continued to
hurry him along, travelling at a very rapid rate, until, at the
end of an avenue of huge trees, arose Torquilstone, now the hoary
and ancient castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It was a fortress
of no great size, consisting of a donjon, or large and high
square tower, surrounded by buildings of inferior height, which
were encircled by an inner court-yard. Around the exterior wall
was a deep moat, supplied with water from a neighbouring rivulet.
Front-de-Boeuf, whose character placed him often at feud with his
enemies, had made considerable additions to the strength of his
castle, by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank
it at every angle. The access, as usual in castles of the
period, lay through an arched barbican, or outwork, which was
terminated and defended by a small turret at each corner.
Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-de-Boeuf's castle raise
their grey and moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning
sun above the wood by which they were surrounded, than he
instantly augured more truly concerning the cause of his
"I did injustice," he said, "to the thieves and outlaws of these
woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I
might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with
the ravening wolves of France. Tell me, dogs---is it my life or
my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too much that two
Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in the
country which was once the patrimony of our race?---Put us then
to death, and complete your tyranny by taking our lives, as you
began with our liberties. If the Saxon Cedric cannot rescue
England, he is willing to die for her. Tell your tyrannical
master, I do only beseech him to dismiss the Lady Rowena in
honour and safety. She is a woman, and he need not dread her;
and with us will die all who dare fight in her cause."
The attendants remained as mute to this address as to the former,
and they now stood before the gate of the castle. De Bracy
winded his horn three times, and the archers and cross-bow men,
who had manned the wall upon seeing their approach, hastened to
lower the drawbridge, and admit them. The prisoners were
compelled by their guards to alight, and were conducted to an
apartment where a hasty repast was offered them, of which none
but Athelstane felt any inclination to partake. Neither had the
descendant of the Confessor much time to do justice to the good
cheer placed before them, for their guards gave him and Cedric to
understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apart
from Rowena. Resistance was vain; and they were compelled to
follow to a large room, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars,
resembled those refectories and chapter-houses which may be still
seen in the most ancient parts of our most ancient monasteries.
The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train, and conducted,
with courtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her
inclination, to a distant apartment. The same alarming
distinction was conferred on Rebecca, in spite of her father's
entreaties, who offered even money, in this extremity of
distress, that she might be permitted to abide with him. "Base
unbeliever," answered one of his guards, "when thou hast seen thy
lair, thou wilt not wish thy daughter to partake it." And,
without farther discussion, the old Jew was forcibly dragged off
in a different direction from the other prisoners. The
domestics, after being carefully searched and disarmed, were
confined in another part of the castle; and Rowena was refused
even the comfort she might have derived from the attendance of
her handmaiden Elgitha.
The apartment in which the Saxon chiefs were confined, for to
them we turn our first attention, although at present used as a
sort of guard-room, had formerly been the great hall of the
castle. It was now abandoned to meaner purposes, because the
present lord, among other additions to the convenience, security,
and beauty of his baronial residence, had erected a new and noble
hall, whose vaulted roof was supported by lighter and more
elegant pillars, and fitted up with that higher degree of
ornament, which the Normans had already introduced into
Cedric paced the apartment, filled with indignant reflections on
the past and on the present, while the apathy of his companion
served, instead of patience and philosophy, to defend him against
every thing save the inconvenience of the present moment; and so
little did he feel even this last, that he was only from time to
time roused to a reply by Cedric's animated and impassioned
appeal to him.
"Yes," said Cedric, half speaking to himself, and half addressing
himself to Athelstane, "it was in this very hall that my father
feasted with Torquil Wolfganger, when he entertained the valiant
and unfortunate Harold, then advancing against the Norwegians,
who had united themselves to the rebel Tosti. It was in this
hall that Harold returned the magnanimous answer to the
ambassador of his rebel brother. Oft have I heard my father
kindle as he told the tale. The envoy of Tosti was admitted,
when this ample room could scarce contain the crowd of noble
Saxon leaders, who were quaffing the blood-red wine around their
"I hope," said Athelstane, somewhat moved by this part of his
friend's discourse, "they will not forget to send us some wine
and refactions at noon---we had scarce a breathing-space allowed
to break our fast, and I never have the benefit of my food when I
eat immediately after dismounting from horseback, though the
leeches recommend that practice."
Cedric went on with his story without noticing this
interjectional observation of his friend.
"The envoy of Tosti," he said, "moved up the hall, undismayed by
the frowning countenances of all around him, until he made his
obeisance before the throne of King Harold.
"'What terms,' he said, 'Lord King, hath thy brother Tosti to
hope, if he should lay down his arms, and crave peace at thy
"'A brother's love,' cried the generous Harold, 'and the fair
earldom of Northumberland.'
"'But should Tosti accept these terms,' continued the envoy,
'what lands shall be assigned to his faithful ally, Hardrada,
King of Norway?'
"'Seven feet of English ground,' answered Harold, fiercely, 'or,
as Hardrada is said to be a giant, perhaps we may allow him
twelve inches more.'
"The hall rung with acclamations, and cup and horn was filled to
the Norwegian, who should be speedily in possession of his
English territory."
"I could have pledged him with all my soul," said Athelstane,
"for my tongue cleaves to my palate."
"The baffled envoy," continued Cedric, pursuing with animation
his tale, though it interested not the listener, "retreated, to
carry to Tosti and his ally the ominous answer of his injured
brother. It was then that the distant towers of York, and the
bloody streams of the Derwent,*
* Note D. Battle of Stamford.
beheld that direful conflict, in which, after displaying the
most undaunted valour, the King of Norway, and Tosti, both fell,
with ten thousand of their bravest followers. Who would have
thought that upon the proud day when this battle was won, the
very gale which waved the Saxon banners in triumph, was filling
the Norman sails, and impelling them to the fatal shores of
Sussex?---Who would have thought that Harold, within a few brief
days, would himself possess no more of his kingdom, than the
share which he allotted in his wrath to the Norwegian invader?
---Who would have thought that you, noble Athelstane---that you,
descended of Harold's blood, and that I, whose father was not the
worst defender of the Saxon crown, should be prisoners to a vile
Norman, in the very hall in which our ancestors held such high
"It is sad enough," replied Athelstane; "but I trust they will
hold us to a moderate ransom---At any rate it cannot be their
purpose to starve us outright; and yet, although it is high noon,
I see no preparations for serving dinner. Look up at the window,
noble Cedric, and judge by the sunbeams if it is not on the verge
of noon."
"It may be so," answered Cedric; "but I cannot look on that
stained lattice without its awakening other reflections than
those which concern the passing moment, or its privations. When
that window was wrought, my noble friend, our hardy fathers knew
not the art of making glass, or of staining it---The pride of
Wolfganger's father brought an artist from Normandy to adorn his
hall with this new species of emblazonment, that breaks the
golden light of God's blessed day into so many fantastic hues.
The foreigner came here poor, beggarly, cringing, and
subservient, ready to doff his cap to the meanest native of the
household. He returned pampered and proud, to tell his rapacious
countrymen of the wealth and the simplicity of the Saxon nobles
---a folly, oh, Athelstane, foreboded of old, as well as
foreseen, by those descendants of Hengist and his hardy tribes,
who retained the simplicity of their manners. We made these
strangers our bosom friends, our confidential servants; we
borrowed their artists and their arts, and despised the honest
simplicity and hardihood with which our brave ancestors supported
themselves, and we became enervated by Norman arts long ere we
fell under Norman arms. Far better was our homely diet, eaten in
peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love of which
hath delivered us as bondsmen to the foreign conqueror!"
"I should," replied Athelstane, "hold very humble diet a luxury
at present; and it astonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear
so truly in mind the memory of past deeds, when it appeareth you
forget the very hour of dinner."
"It is time lost," muttered Cedric apart and impatiently, "to
speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite!
The soul of Hardicanute hath taken possession of him, and he hath
no pleasure save to fill, to swill, and to call for more.
---Alas!" said he, looking at Athelstane with compassion, "that
so dull a spirit should be lodged in so goodly a form! Alas! that
such an enterprise as the regeneration of England should turn on
a hinge so imperfect! Wedded to Rowena, indeed, her nobler and
more generous soul may yet awake the better nature which is
torpid within him. Yet how should this be, while Rowena,
Athelstane, and I myself, remain the prisoners of this brutal
marauder and have been made so perhaps from a sense of the
dangers which our liberty might bring to the usurped power of his
While the Saxon was plunged in these painful reflections, the
door of their prison opened, and gave entrance to a sewer,
holding his white rod of office. This important person advanced
into the chamber with a grave pace, followed by four attendants,
bearing in a table covered with dishes, the sight and smell of
which seemed to be an instant compensation to Athelstane for all
the inconvenience he had undergone. The persons who attended on
the feast were masked and cloaked.
"What mummery is this?" said Cedric; "think you that we are
ignorant whose prisoners we are, when we are in the castle of
your master? Tell him," he continued, willing to use this
opportunity to open a negotiation for his freedom,---"Tell your
master, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, that we know no reason he can
have for withholding our liberty, excepting his unlawful desire
to enrich himself at our expense. Tell him that we yield to his
rapacity, as in similar circumstances we should do to that of a
literal robber. Let him name the ransom at which he rates our
liberty, and it shall be paid, providing the exaction is suited
to our means." The sewer made no answer, but bowed his head.
"And tell Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said Athelstane, "that I
send him my mortal defiance, and challenge him to combat with me,
on foot or horseback, at any secure place, within eight days
after our liberation; which, if he be a true knight, he will not,
under these circumstances, venture to refuse or to delay."
"I shall deliver to the knight your defiance," answered the
sewer; "meanwhile I leave you to your food."
The challenge of Athelstane was delivered with no good grace; for
a large mouthful, which required the exercise of both jaws at
once, added to a natural hesitation, considerably damped the
effect of the bold defiance it contained. Still, however, his
speech was hailed by Cedric as an incontestible token of reviving
spirit in his companion, whose previous indifference had begun,
notwithstanding his respect for Athelstane's descent, to wear out
his patience. But he now cordially shook hands with him in token
of his approbation, and was somewhat grieved when Athelstane
observed, "that he would fight a dozen such men as
Front-de-Boeuf, if, by so doing, he could hasten his departure
from a dungeon where they put so much garlic into their pottage."
Notwithstanding this intimation of a relapse into the apathy of
sensuality, Cedric placed himself opposite to Athelstane, and
soon showed, that if the distresses of his country could banish
the recollection of food while the table was uncovered, yet no
sooner were the victuals put there, than he proved that the
appetite of his Saxon ancestors had descended to him along with
their other qualities.
The captives had not long enjoyed their refreshment, however, ere
their attention was disturbed even from this most serious
occupation by the blast of a horn winded before the gate. It was
repeated three times, with as much violence as if it had been
blown before an enchanted castle by the destined knight, at whose
summons halls and towers, barbican and battlement, were to roll
off like a morning vapour. The Saxons started from the table,
and hastened to the window. But their curiosity was
disappointed; for these outlets only looked upon the court of the
castle, and the sound came from beyond its precincts. The
summons, however, seemed of importance, for a considerable degree
of bustle instantly took place in the castle.
My daughter---O my ducats---O my daughter!
------------O my Christian ducats!
Justice---the Law---my ducats, and my daughter!
Merchant of Venice
Leaving the Saxon chiefs to return to their banquet as soon as
their ungratified curiosity should permit them to attend to the
calls of their half-satiated appetite, we have to look in upon
the yet more severe imprisonment of Isaac of York. The poor Jew
had been hastily thrust into a dungeon-vault of the castle, the
floor of which was deep beneath the level of the ground, and very
damp, being lower than even the moat itself. The only light was
received through one or two loop-holes far above the reach of the
captive's hand. These apertures admitted, even at mid-day, only
a dim and uncertain light, which was changed for utter darkness
long before the rest of the castle had lost the blessing of day.
Chains and shackles, which had been the portion of former
captives, from whom active exertions to escape had been
apprehended, hung rusted and empty on the walls of the prison,
and in the rings of one of those sets of fetters there remained
two mouldering bones, which seemed to have been once those of the
human leg, as if some prisoner had been left not only to perish
there, but to be consumed to a skeleton.
At one end of this ghastly apartment was a large fire-grate, over
the top of which were stretched some transverse iron bars, half
devoured with rust.
The whole appearance of the dungeon might have appalled a stouter
heart than that of Isaac, who, nevertheless, was more composed
under the imminent pressure of danger, than he had seemed to be
while affected by terrors, of which the cause was as yet remote
and contingent. The lovers of the chase say that the hare feels
more agony during the pursuit of the greyhounds, than when she is
struggling in their fangs.*
* "Nota Bene." ---We by no means warrant the accuracy of
* this piece of natural history, which we give on the
* authority of the Wardour MS. L. T.
And thus it is probable, that the Jews, by the very frequency of
their fear on all occasions, had their minds in some degree
prepared for every effort of tyranny which could be practised
upon them; so that no aggression, when it had taken place, could
bring with it that surprise which is the most disabling quality
of terror. Neither was it the first time that Isaac had been
placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had therefore
experience to guide him, as well as hope, that he might again, as
formerly, be delivered as a prey from the fowler. Above all, he
had upon his side the unyielding obstinacy of his nation, and
that unbending resolution, with which Israelites have been
frequently known to submit to the uttermost evils which power and
violence can inflict upon them, rather than gratify their
oppressors by granting their demands.
In this humour of passive resistance, and with his garment
collected beneath him to keep his limbs from the wet pavement,
Isaac sat in a corner of his dungeon, where his folded hands, his
dishevelled hair and beard, his furred cloak and high cap, seen
by the wiry and broken light, would have afforded a study for
Rembrandt, had that celebrated painter existed at the period.
The Jew remained, without altering his position, for nearly three
hours, at the expiry of which steps were heard on the dungeon
stair. The bolts screamed as they were withdrawn---the hinges
creaked as the wicket opened, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf,
followed by the two Saracen slaves of the Templar, entered the
Front-de-Boeuf, a tall and strong man, whose life had been spent
in public war or in private feuds and broils, and who had
hesitated at no means of extending his feudal power, had
features corresponding to his character, and which strongly
expressed the fiercer and more malignant passions of the mind.
The scars with which his visage was seamed, would, on features of
a different cast, have excited the sympathy and veneration due to
the marks of honourable valour; but, in the peculiar case of
Front-de-Boeuf, they only added to the ferocity of his
countenance, and to the dread which his presence inspired. This
formidable baron was clad in a leathern doublet, fitted close to
his body, which was frayed and soiled with the stains of his
armour. He had no weapon, excepting a poniard at his belt, which
served to counterbalance the weight of the bunch of rusty keys
that hung at his right side.
The black slaves who attended Front-de-Boeuf were stripped of
their gorgeous apparel, and attired in jerkins and trowsers of
coarse linen, their sleeves being tucked up above the elbow, like
those of butchers when about to exercise their function in the
slaughter-house. Each had in his hand a small pannier; and, when
they entered the dungeon, they stopt at the door until
Front-de-Boeuf himself carefully locked and double-locked it.
Having taken this precaution, he advanced slowly up the apartment
towards the Jew, upon whom he kept his eye fixed, as if he wished
to paralyze him with his glance, as some animals are said to
fascinate their prey. It seemed indeed as if the sullen and
malignant eye of Front-de-Boeuf possessed some portion of that
supposed power over his unfortunate prisoner. The Jew sate with
his mouth a-gape, and his eyes fixed on the savage baron with
such earnestness of terror, that his frame seemed literally to
shrink together, and to diminish in size while encountering the
fierce Norman's fixed and baleful gaze. The unhappy Isaac was
deprived not only of the power of rising to make the obeisance
which his terror dictated, but he could not even doff his cap, or
utter any word of supplication; so strongly was he agitated by
the conviction that tortures and death were impending over him.
On the other hand, the stately form of the Norman appeared to
dilate in magnitude, like that of the eagle, which ruffles up its
plumage when about to pounce on its defenceless prey. He paused
within three steps of the corner in which the unfortunate Jew had
now, as it were, coiled himself up into the smallest possible
space, and made a sign for one of the slaves to approach. The
black satellite came forward accordingly, and, producing from his
basket a large pair of scales and several weights, he laid them
at the feet of Front-de-Boeuf, and again retired to the
respectful distance, at which his companion had already taken his
The motions of these men were slow and solemn, as if there
impended over their souls some preconception of horror and of
cruelty. Front-de-Boeuf himself opened the scene by thus
addressing his ill-fated captive.
"Most accursed dog of an accursed race," he said, awaking with
his deep and sullen voice the sullen echoes of his dungeon vault,
"seest thou these scales?"
The unhappy Jew returned a feeble affirmative.
"In these very scales shalt thou weigh me out," said the
relentless Baron, "a thousand silver pounds, after the just
measure and weight of the Tower of London."
"Holy Abraham!" returned the Jew, finding voice through the very
extremity of his danger, "heard man ever such a demand?---Who
ever heard, even in a minstrel's tale, of such a sum as a
thousand pounds of silver?---What human sight was ever blessed
with the vision of such a mass of treasure?---Not within the
walls of York, ransack my house and that of all my tribe, wilt
thou find the tithe of that huge sum of silver that thou speakest
"I am reasonable," answered Front-de-Boeuf, "and if silver be
scant, I refuse not gold. At the rate of a mark of gold for each
six pounds of silver, thou shalt free thy unbelieving carcass
from such punishment as thy heart has never even conceived."
"Have mercy on me, noble knight!" exclaimed Isaac; "I am old, and
poor, and helpless. It were unworthy to triumph over me---It is
a poor deed to crush a worm."
"Old thou mayst be," replied the knight; "more shame to their
folly who have suffered thee to grow grey in usury and knavery
---Feeble thou mayst be, for when had a Jew either heart or hand
---But rich it is well known thou art."
"I swear to you, noble knight," said the Jew "by all which I
believe, and by all which we believe in common------"
"Perjure not thyself," said the Norman, interrupting him, "and
let not thine obstinacy seal thy doom, until thou hast seen and
well considered the fate that awaits thee. Think not I speak to
thee only to excite thy terror, and practise on the base
cowardice thou hast derived from thy tribe. I swear to thee by
that which thou dost NOT believe, by the gospel which our church
teaches, and by the keys which are given her to bind and to
loose, that my purpose is deep and peremptory. This dungeon is
no place for trifling. Prisoners ten thousand times more
distinguished than thou have died within these walls, and their
fate hath never been known! But for thee is reserved a long and
lingering death, to which theirs were luxury."
He again made a signal for the slaves to approach, and spoke to
them apart, in their own language; for he also had been in
Palestine, where perhaps, he had learnt his lesson of cruelty.
The Saracens produced from their baskets a quantity of charcoal,
a pair of bellows, and a flask of oil. While the one struck a
light with a flint and steel, the other disposed the charcoal in
the large rusty grate which we have already mentioned, and
exercised the bellows until the fuel came to a red glow.
"Seest thou, Isaac," said Front-de-Boeuf, "the range of iron bars
above the glowing charcoal?*---
* Note E. The range of iron bars above that glowing charcoal
on that warm couch thou shalt lie, stripped of thy clothes as if
thou wert to rest on a bed of down. One of these slaves shall
maintain the fire beneath thee, while the other shall anoint thy
wretched limbs with oil, lest the roast should burn.---Now,
choose betwixt such a scorching bed and the payment of a thousand
pounds of silver; for, by the head of my father, thou hast no
other option."
"It is impossible," exclaimed the miserable Jew---"it is
impossible that your purpose can be real! The good God of nature
never made a heart capable of exercising such cruelty!"
"Trust not to that, Isaac," said Front-de-Boeuf, "it were a fatal
error. Dost thou think that I, who have seen a town sacked, in
which thousands of my Christian countrymen perished by sword, by
flood, and by fire, will blench from my purpose for the outcries
or screams of one single wretched Jew?---or thinkest thou that
these swarthy slaves, who have neither law, country, nor
conscience, but their master's will---who use the poison, or the
stake, or the poniard, or the cord, at his slightest wink
---thinkest thou that THEY will have mercy, who do not even
understand the language in which it is asked?---Be wise, old man;
discharge thyself of a portion of thy superfluous wealth; repay
to the hands of a Christian a part of what thou hast acquired by
the usury thou hast practised on those of his religion. Thy
cunning may soon swell out once more thy shrivelled purse, but
neither leech nor medicine can restore thy scorched hide and
flesh wert thou once stretched on these bars. Tell down thy
ransom, I say, and rejoice that at such rate thou canst redeem
thee from a dungeon, the secrets of which few have returned to
tell. I waste no more words with thee---choose between thy dross
and thy flesh and blood, and as thou choosest, so shall it be."
"So may Abraham, Jacob, and all the fathers of our people assist
me," said Isaac, "I cannot make the choice, because I have not
the means of satisfying your exorbitant demand!"
"Seize him and strip him, slaves," said the knight, "and let the
fathers of his race assist him if they can."
The assistants, taking their directions more from the Baron's eye
and his hand than his tongue, once more stepped forward, laid
hands on the unfortunate Isaac, plucked him up from the ground,
and, holding him between them, waited the hard-hearted Baron's
farther signal. The unhappy Jew eyed their countenances and that
of Front-de-Boeuf, in hope of discovering some symptoms of
relenting; but that of the Baron exhibited the same cold,
half-sullen, half-sarcastic smile which had been the prelude to
his cruelty; and the savage eyes of the Saracens, rolling
gloomily under their dark brows, acquiring a yet more sinister
expression by the whiteness of the circle which surrounds the
pupil, evinced rather the secret pleasure which they expected
from the approaching scene, than any reluctance to be its
directors or agents. The Jew then looked at the glowing furnace,
over which he was presently to be stretched, and seeing no chance
of his tormentor's relenting, his resolution gave way.
"I will pay," he said, "the thousand pounds of silver---That is,"
he added, after a moment's pause, "I will pay it with the help of
my brethren; for I must beg as a mendicant at the door of our
synagogue ere I make up so unheard-of a sum.---When and where
must it be delivered?"
"Here," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "here it must be delivered
---weighed it must be---weighed and told down on this very
dungeon floor.---Thinkest thou I will part with thee until thy
ransom is secure?"
"And what is to be my surety," said the Jew, "that I shall be at
liberty after this ransom is paid?"
"The word of a Norman noble, thou pawn-broking slave," answered
Front-de-Boeuf; "the faith of a Norman nobleman, more pure than
the gold and silver of thee and all thy tribe."
"I crave pardon, noble lord," said Isaac timidly, "but wherefore
should I rely wholly on the word of one who will trust nothing to
"Because thou canst not help it, Jew," said the knight, sternly.
"Wert thou now in thy treasure-chamber at York, and were I
craving a loan of thy shekels, it would be thine to dictate the
time of payment, and the pledge of security. This is MY
treasure-chamber. Here I have thee at advantage, nor will I
again deign to repeat the terms on which I grant thee liberty."
The Jew groaned deeply.---"Grant me," he said, "at least with my
own liberty, that of the companions with whom I travel. They
scorned me as a Jew, yet they pitied my desolation, and because
they tarried to aid me by the way, a share of my evil hath come
upon them; moreover, they may contribute in some sort to my
"If thou meanest yonder Saxon churls," said Front-de-Boeuf,
"their ransom will depend upon other terms than thine. Mind
thine own concerns, Jew, I warn thee, and meddle not with those
of others."
"I am, then," said Isaac, "only to be set at liberty, together
with mine wounded friend?"
"Shall I twice recommend it," said Front-de-Boeuf, "to a son of
Israel, to meddle with his own concerns, and leave those of
others alone?---Since thou hast made thy choice, it remains but
that thou payest down thy ransom, and that at a short day."
"Yet hear me," said the Jew---"for the sake of that very wealth
which thou wouldst obtain at the expense of thy------" Here he
stopt short, afraid of irritating the savage Norman. But
Front-de-Boeuf only laughed, and himself filled up the blank at
which the Jew had hesitated.
"At the expense of my conscience, thou wouldst say, Isaac; speak
it out---I tell thee, I am reasonable. I can bear the reproaches
of a loser, even when that loser is a Jew. Thou wert not so
patient, Isaac, when thou didst invoke justice against Jacques
Fitzdotterel, for calling thee a usurious blood-sucker, when thy
exactions had devoured his patrimony."
"I swear by the Talmud," said the Jew, "that your valour has been
misled in that matter. Fitzdotterel drew his poniard upon me in
mine own chamber, because I craved him for mine own silver. The
term of payment was due at the Passover."
"I care not what he did," said Front-de-Boeuf; "the question is,
when shall I have mine own?---when shall I have the shekels,
"Let my daughter Rebecca go forth to York," answered Isaac, "with
your safe conduct, noble knight, and so soon as man and horse can
return, the treasure------" Here he groaned deeply, but added,
after the pause of a few seconds,---"The treasure shall be told
down on this very floor."
"Thy daughter!" said Front-de-Boeuf, as if surprised,---"By
heavens, Isaac, I would I had known of this. I deemed that
yonder black-browed girl had been thy concubine, and I gave her
to be a handmaiden to Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, after the
fashion of patriarchs and heroes of the days of old, who set us
in these matters a wholesome example."
The yell which Isaac raised at this unfeeling communication made
the very vault to ring, and astounded the two Saracens so much
that they let go their hold of the Jew. He availed himself of
his enlargement to throw himself on the pavement, and clasp the
knees of Front-de-Boeuf.
"Take all that you have asked," said he, "Sir Knight---take ten
times more---reduce me to ruin and to beggary, if thou wilt,
---nay, pierce me with thy poniard, broil me on that furnace, but
spare my daughter, deliver her in safety and honour!---As thou
art born of woman, spare the honour of a helpless maiden---She is
the image of my deceased Rachel, she is the last of six pledges
of her love---Will you deprive a widowed husband of his sole
remaining comfort?---Will you reduce a father to wish that his
only living child were laid beside her dead mother, in the tomb
of our fathers?"
"I would," said the Norman, somewhat relenting, "that I had known
of this before. I thought your race had loved nothing save their
"Think not so vilely of us, Jews though we be," said Isaac, eager
to improve the moment of apparent sympathy; "the hunted fox, the
tortured wildcat loves its young---the despised and persecuted
race of Abraham love their children!"
"Be it so," said Front-de-Boeuf; "I will believe it in future,
Isaac, for thy very sake---but it aids us not now, I cannot help
what has happened, or what is to follow; my word is passed to my
comrade in arms, nor would I break it for ten Jews and Jewesses
to boot. Besides, why shouldst thou think evil is to come to the
girl, even if she became Bois-Guilbert's booty?"
"There will, there must!" exclaimed Isaac, wringing his hands in
agony; "when did Templars breathe aught but cruelty to men, and
dishonour to women!"
"Dog of an infidel," said Front-de-Boeuf, with sparkling eyes,
and not sorry, perhaps, to seize a pretext for working himself
into a passion, "blaspheme not the Holy Order of the Temple of
Zion, but take thought instead to pay me the ransom thou hast
promised, or woe betide thy Jewish throat!"
"Robber and villain!" said the Jew, retorting the insults of his
oppressor with passion, which, however impotent, he now found it
impossible to bridle, "I will pay thee nothing---not one silver
penny will I pay thee, unless my daughter is delivered to me in
safety and honour?"
"Art thou in thy senses, Israelite?" said the Norman, sternly
---"has thy flesh and blood a charm against heated iron and
scalding oil?"
"I care not!" said the Jew, rendered desperate by paternal
affection; "do thy worst. My daughter is my flesh and blood,
dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty
threatens. No silver will I give thee, unless I were to pour it
molten down thy avaricious throat---no, not a silver penny will I
give thee, Nazarene, were it to save thee from the deep damnation
thy whole life has merited! Take my life if thou wilt, and say,
the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the
"We shall see that," said Front-de-Boeuf; "for by the blessed
rood, which is the abomination of thy accursed tribe, thou shalt
feel the extremities of fire and steel!---Strip him, slaves, and
chain him down upon the bars."
In spite of the feeble struggles of the old man, the Saracens had
already torn from him his upper garment, and were proceeding
totally to disrobe him, when the sound of a bugle, twice winded
without the castle, penetrated even to the recesses of the
dungeon, and immediately after loud voices were heard calling for
Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Unwilling to be found engaged in
his hellish occupation, the savage Baron gave the slaves a signal
to restore Isaac's garment, and, quitting the dungeon with his
attendants, he left the Jew to thank God for his own deliverance,
or to lament over his daughter's captivity, and probable fate, as
his personal or parental feelings might prove strongest.
Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you, like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of love, force you.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The apartment to which the Lady Rowena had been introduced was
fitted up with some rude attempts at ornament and magnificence,
and her being placed there might be considered as a peculiar mark
of respect not offered to the other prisoners. But the wife of
Front-de-Boeuf, for whom it had been originally furnished, was
long dead, and decay and neglect had impaired the few ornaments
with which her taste had adorned it. The tapestry hung down from
the walls in many places, and in others was tarnished and faded
under the effects of the sun, or tattered and decayed by age.
Desolate, however, as it was, this was the apartment of the
castle which had been judged most fitting for the accommodation
of the Saxon heiress; and here she was left to meditate upon her
fate, until the actors in this nefarious drama had arranged the
several parts which each of them was to perform. This had been
settled in a council held by Front-de-Boeuf, De Bracy, and the
Templar, in which, after a long and warm debate concerning the
several advantages which each insisted upon deriving from his
peculiar share in this audacious enterprise, they had at length
determined the fate of their unhappy prisoners.
It was about the hour of noon, therefore, when De Bracy, for
whose advantage the expedition had been first planned, appeared
to prosecute his views upon the hand and possessions of the Lady
The interval had not entirely been bestowed in holding council
with his confederates, for De Bracy had found leisure to decorate
his person with all the foppery of the times. His green cassock
and vizard were now flung aside. His long luxuriant hair was
trained to flow in quaint tresses down his richly furred cloak.
His beard was closely shaved, his doublet reached to the middle
of his leg, and the girdle which secured it, and at the same time
supported his ponderous sword, was embroidered and embossed with
gold work. We have already noticed the extravagant fashion of
the shoes at this period, and the points of Maurice de Bracy's
might have challenged the prize of extravagance with the gayest,
being turned up and twisted like the horns of a ram. Such was
the dress of a gallant of the period; and, in the present
instance, that effect was aided by the handsome person and good
demeanour of the wearer, whose manners partook alike of the grace
of a courtier, and the frankness of a soldier.
He saluted Rowena by doffing his velvet bonnet, garnished with a
golden broach, representing St Michael trampling down the Prince
of Evil. With this, he gently motioned the lady to a seat; and,
as she still retained her standing posture, the knight ungloved
his right hand, and motioned to conduct her thither. But Rowena
declined, by her gesture, the proffered compliment, and replied,
"If I be in the presence of my jailor, Sir Knight---nor will
circumstances allow me to think otherwise---it best becomes his
prisoner to remain standing till she learns her doom."
"Alas! fair Rowena," returned De Bracy, "you are in presence of
your captive, not your jailor; and it is from your fair eyes that
De Bracy must receive that doom which you fondly expect from
"I know you not, sir," said the lady, drawing herself up with all
the pride of offended rank and beauty; "I know you not---and the
insolent familiarity with which you apply to me the jargon of a
troubadour, forms no apology for the violence of a robber."
"To thyself, fair maid," answered De Bracy, in his former tone
---"to thine own charms be ascribed whate'er I have done which
passed the respect due to her, whom I have chosen queen of my
heart, and loadstar of my eyes."
"I repeat to you, Sir Knight, that I know you not, and that no
man wearing chain and spurs ought thus to intrude himself upon
the presence of an unprotected lady."
"That I am unknown to you," said De Bracy, "is indeed my
misfortune; yet let me hope that De Bracy's name has not been
always unspoken, when minstrels or heralds have praised deeds of
chivalry, whether in the lists or in the battle-field."
"To heralds and to minstrels, then, leave thy praise, Sir
Knight," replied Rowena, "more suiting for their mouths than for
thine own; and tell me which of them shall record in song, or in
book of tourney, the memorable conquest of this night, a conquest
obtained over an old man, followed by a few timid hinds; and its
booty, an unfortunate maiden, transported against her will to the
castle of a robber?"
"You are unjust, Lady Rowena," said the knight, biting his lips
in some confusion, and speaking in a tone more natural to him
than that of affected gallantry, which he had at first adopted;
"yourself free from passion, you can allow no excuse for the
frenzy of another, although caused by your own beauty."
"I pray you, Sir Knight," said Rowena, "to cease a language so
commonly used by strolling minstrels, that it becomes not the
mouth of knights or nobles. Certes, you constrain me to sit
down, since you enter upon such commonplace terms, of which each
vile crowder hath a stock that might last from hence to
"Proud damsel," said De Bracy, incensed at finding his gallant
style procured him nothing but contempt---"proud damsel, thou
shalt be as proudly encountered. Know then, that I have
supported my pretensions to your hand in the way that best suited
thy character. It is meeter for thy humour to be wooed with bow
and bill, than in set terms, and in courtly language."
"Courtesy of tongue," said Rowena, "when it is used to veil
churlishness of deed, is but a knight's girdle around the breast
of a base clown. I wonder not that the restraint appears to gall
you---more it were for your honour to have retained the dress and
language of an outlaw, than to veil the deeds of one under an
affectation of gentle language and demeanour."
"You counsel well, lady," said the Norman; "and in the bold
language which best justifies bold action I tell thee, thou shalt
never leave this castle, or thou shalt leave it as Maurice de
Bracy's wife. I am not wont to be baffled in my enterprises, nor
needs a Norman noble scrupulously to vindicate his conduct to the
Saxon maiden whom be distinguishes by the offer of his hand.
Thou art proud, Rowena, and thou art the fitter to be my wife.
By what other means couldst thou be raised to high honour and to
princely place, saving by my alliance? How else wouldst thou
escape from the mean precincts of a country grange, where Saxons
herd with the swine which form their wealth, to take thy seat,
honoured as thou shouldst be, and shalt be, amid all in England
that is distinguished by beauty, or dignified by power?"
"Sir Knight," replied Rowena, "the grange which you contemn hath
been my shelter from infancy; and, trust me, when I leave it
---should that day ever arrive---it shall be with one who has not
learnt to despise the dwelling and manners in which I have been
brought up."
"I guess your meaning, lady," said De Bracy, "though you may
think it lies too obscure for my apprehension. But dream not,
that Richard Coeur de Lion will ever resume his throne, far less
that Wilfred of Ivanhoe, his minion, will ever lead thee to his
footstool, to be there welcomed as the bride of a favourite.
Another suitor might feel jealousy while he touched this string;
but my firm purpose cannot be changed by a passion so childish
and so hopeless. Know, lady, that this rival is in my power, and
that it rests but with me to betray the secret of his being
within the castle to Front-de-Boeuf, whose jealousy will be more
fatal than mine."
"Wilfred here?" said Rowena, in disdain; "that is as true as that
Front-de-Boeuf is his rival."
De Bracy looked at her steadily for an instant.
"Wert thou really ignorant of this?" said he; "didst thou not
know that Wilfred of Ivanhoe travelled in the litter of the Jew?
---a meet conveyance for the crusader, whose doughty arm was to
reconquer the Holy Sepulchre!" And he laughed scornfully.
"And if he is here," said Rowena, compelling herself to a tone of
indifference, though trembling with an agony of apprehension
which she could not suppress, "in what is he the rival of
Front-de-Boeuf? or what has he to fear beyond a short
imprisonment, and an honourable ransom, according to the use of
"Rowena," said De Bracy, "art thou, too, deceived by the common
error of thy sex, who think there can be no rivalry but that
respecting their own charms? Knowest thou not there is a jealousy
of ambition and of wealth, as well as of love; and that this our
host, Front-de-Boeuf, will push from his road him who opposes his
claim to the fair barony of Ivanhoe, as readily, eagerly, and
unscrupulously, as if he were preferred to him by some blue-eyed
damsel? But smile on my suit, lady, and the wounded champion
shall have nothing to fear from Front-de-Boeuf, whom else thou
mayst mourn for, as in the hands of one who has never shown
"Save him, for the love of Heaven!" said Rowena, her firmness
giving way under terror for her lover's impending fate.
"I can---I will---it is my purpose," said De Bracy; "for, when
Rowena consents to be the bride of De Bracy, who is it shall dare
to put forth a violent hand upon her kinsman---the son of her
guardian---the companion of her youth? But it is thy love must
buy his protection. I am not romantic fool enough to further the
fortune, or avert the fate, of one who is likely to be a
successful obstacle between me and my wishes. Use thine
influence with me in his behalf, and he is safe,---refuse to
employ it, Wilfred dies, and thou thyself art not the nearer to
"Thy language," answered Rowena, "hath in its indifferent
bluntness something which cannot be reconciled with the horrors
it seems to express. I believe not that thy purpose is so
wicked, or thy power so great."
"Flatter thyself, then, with that belief," said De Bracy, "until
time shall prove it false. Thy lover lies wounded in this castle
---thy preferred lover. He is a bar betwixt Front-de-Boeuf and
that which Front-de-Boeuf loves better than either ambition or
beauty. What will it cost beyond the blow of a poniard, or the
thrust of a javelin, to silence his opposition for ever? Nay,
were Front-de-Boeuf afraid to justify a deed so open, let the
leech but give his patient a wrong draught---let the chamberlain,
or the nurse who tends him, but pluck the pillow from his head,
and Wilfred in his present condition, is sped without the
effusion of blood. Cedric also---"
"And Cedric also," said Rowena, repeating his words; "my noble
---my generous guardian! I deserved the evil I have encountered,
for forgetting his fate even in that of his son!"
"Cedric's fate also depends upon thy determination," said De
Bracy; "and I leave thee to form it."
Hitherto, Rowena had sustained her part in this trying scene with
undismayed courage, but it was because she had not considered the
danger as serious and imminent. Her disposition was naturally
that which physiognomists consider as proper to fair complexions,
mild, timid, and gentle; but it had been tempered, and, as it
were, hardened, by the circumstances of her education.
Accustomed to see the will of all, even of Cedric himself,
(sufficiently arbitrary with others,) give way before her wishes,
she had acquired that sort of courage and self-confidence which
arises from the habitual and constant deference of the circle in
which we move. She could scarce conceive the possibility of her
will being opposed, far less that of its being treated with total
Her haughtiness and habit of domination was, therefore, a
fictitious character, induced over that which was natural to her,
and it deserted her when her eyes were opened to the extent of
her own danger, as well as that of her lover and her guardian;
and when she found her will, the slightest expression of which
was wont to command respect and attention, now placed in
opposition to that of a man of a strong, fierce, and determined
mind, who possessed the advantage over her, and was resolved to
use it, she quailed before him.
After casting her eyes around, as if to look for the aid which
was nowhere to be found, and after a few broken interjections,
she raised her hands to heaven, and burst into a passion of
uncontrolled vexation and sorrow. It was impossible to see so
beautiful a creature in such extremity without feeling for her,
and De Bracy was not unmoved, though he was yet more embarrassed
than touched. He had, in truth, gone too far to recede; and yet,
in Rowena's present condition, she could not be acted on either
by argument or threats. He paced the apartment to and fro, now
vainly exhorting the terrified maiden to compose herself, now
hesitating concerning his own line of conduct.
If, thought he, I should be moved by the tears and sorrow of this
disconsolate damsel, what should I reap but the loss of these
fair hopes for which I have encountered so much risk, and the
ridicule of Prince John and his jovial comrades? "And yet," he
said to himself, "I feel myself ill framed for the part which I
am playing. I cannot look on so fair a face while it is
disturbed with agony, or on those eyes when they are drowned in
tears. I would she had retained her original haughtiness of
disposition, or that I had a larger share of Front-de-Boeuf's
thrice-tempered hardness of heart!"
Agitated by these thoughts, he could only bid the unfortunate
Rowena be comforted, and assure her, that as yet she had no
reason for the excess of despair to which she was now giving way.
But in this task of consolation De Bracy was interrupted by the
horn, "hoarse-winded blowing far and keen," which had at the same
time alarmed the other inmates of the castle, and interrupted
their several plans of avarice and of license. Of them all,
perhaps, De Bracy least regretted the interruption; for his
conference with the Lady Rowena had arrived at a point, where he
found it equally difficult to prosecute or to resign his
And here we cannot but think it necessary to offer some better
proof than the incidents of an idle tale, to vindicate the
melancholy representation of manners which has been just laid
before the reader. It is grievous to think that those valiant
barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England
were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been
such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not
only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity.
But, alas! we have only to extract from the industrious Henry one
of those numerous passages which he has collected from
contemporary historians, to prove that fiction itself can hardly
reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period.
The description given by the author of the Saxon Chronicle of the
cruelties exercised in the reign of King Stephen by the great
barons and lords of castles, who were all Normans, affords a
strong proof of the excesses of which they were capable when
their passions were inflamed. "They grievously oppressed the
poor people by building castles; and when they were built, they
filled them with wicked men, or rather devils, who seized both
men and women who they imagined had any money, threw them into
prison, and put them to more cruel tortures than the martyrs ever
endured. They suffocated some in mud, and suspended others by
the feet, or the head, or the thumbs, kindling fires below them.
They squeezed the heads of some with knotted cords till they
pierced their brains, while they threw others into dungeons
swarming with serpents, snakes, and toads." But it would be
cruel to put the reader to the pain of perusing the remainder of
this description.*
* Henry's Hist. edit. 1805, vol. vii. p. .146.
As another instance of these bitter fruits of conquest, and
perhaps the strongest that can be quoted, we may mention, that
the Princess Matilda, though a daughter of the King of Scotland,
and afterwards both Queen of England, niece to Edgar Atheling,
and mother to the Empress of Germany, the daughter, the wife, and
the mother of monarchs, was obliged, during her early residence
for education in England, to assume the veil of a nun, as the
only means of escaping the licentious pursuit of the Norman
nobles. This excuse she stated before a great council of the
clergy of England, as the sole reason for her having taken the
religious habit. The assembled clergy admitted the validity of
the plea, and the notoriety of the circumstances upon which it
was founded; giving thus an indubitable and most remarkable
testimony to the existence of that disgraceful license by which
that age was stained. It was a matter of public knowledge, they
said, that after the conquest of King William, his Norman
followers, elated by so great a victory, acknowledged no law but
their own wicked pleasure, and not only despoiled the conquered
Saxons of their lands and their goods, but invaded the honour of
their wives and of their daughters with the most unbridled
license; and hence it was then common for matrons and maidens of
noble families to assume the veil, and take shelter in convents,
not as called thither by the vocation of God, but solely to
preserve their honour from the unbridled wickedness of man.
Such and so licentious were the times, as announced by the public
declaration of the assembled clergy, recorded by Eadmer; and we
need add nothing more to vindicate the probability of the scenes
which we have detailed, and are about to detail, upon the more
apocryphal authority of the Wardour MS.
I'll woo her as the lion woos his bride.
While the scenes we have described were passing in other parts of
the castle, the Jewess Rebecca awaited her fate in a distant and
sequestered turret. Hither she had been led by two of her
disguised ravishers, and on being thrust into the little cell,
she found herself in the presence of an old sibyl, who kept
murmuring to herself a Saxon rhyme, as if to beat time to the
revolving dance which her spindle was performing upon the floor.
The hag raised her head as Rebecca entered, and scowled at the
fair Jewess with the malignant envy with which old age and
ugliness, when united with evil conditions, are apt to look upon
youth and beauty.
"Thou must up and away, old house-cricket," said one of the men;
"our noble master commands it---Thou must e'en leave this chamber
to a fairer guest."
"Ay," grumbled the hag, "even thus is service requited. I have
known when my bare word would have cast the best man-at-arms
among ye out of saddle and out of service; and now must I up and
away at the command of every groom such as thou."
"Good Dame Urfried," said the other man, "stand not to reason on
it, but up and away. Lords' hests must be listened to with a
quick ear. Thou hast had thy day, old dame, but thy sun has long
been set. Thou art now the very emblem of an old war-horse
turned out on the barren heath---thou hast had thy paces in thy
time, but now a broken amble is the best of them---Come, amble
off with thee."
"Ill omens dog ye both!" said the old woman; "and a kennel be
your burying-place! May the evil demon Zernebock tear me limb
from limb, if I leave my own cell ere I have spun out the hemp on
my distaff!"
"Answer it to our lord, then, old housefiend," said the man, and
retired; leaving Rebecca in company with the old woman, upon
whose presence she had been thus unwillingly forced.
"What devil's deed have they now in the wind?" said the old hag,
murmuring to herself, yet from time to time casting a sidelong
and malignant glance at Rebecca; "but it is easy to guess
---Bright eyes, black locks, and a skin like paper, ere the
priest stains it with his black unguent---Ay, it is easy to guess
why they send her to this lone turret, whence a shriek could no
more be heard than at the depth of five hundred fathoms beneath
the earth.---Thou wilt have owls for thy neighbours, fair one;
and their screams will be heard as far, and as much regarded, as
thine own. Outlandish, too," she said, marking the dress and
turban of Rebecca---"What country art thou of?---a Saracen? or an
Egyptian?---Why dost not answer?---thou canst weep, canst thou
not speak?"
"Be not angry, good mother," said Rebecca.
"Thou needst say no more," replied Urfried "men know a fox by the
train, and a Jewess by her tongue."
"For the sake of mercy," said Rebecca, "tell me what I am to
expect as the conclusion of the violence which hath dragged me
hither! Is it my life they seek, to atone for my religion? I
will lay it down cheerfully."
"Thy life, minion?" answered the sibyl; "what would taking thy
life pleasure them?---Trust me, thy life is in no peril. Such
usage shalt thou have as was once thought good enough for a
noble Saxon maiden. And shall a Jewess, like thee, repine
because she hath no better? Look at me---I was as young and
twice as fair as thou, when Front-de-Boeuf, father of this
Reginald, and his Normans, stormed this castle. My father and
his seven sons defended their inheritance from story to story,
from chamber to chamber---There was not a room, not a step of the
stair, that was not slippery with their blood. They died---they
died every man; and ere their bodies were cold, and ere their
blood was dried, I had become the prey and the scorn of the
"Is there no help?---Are there no means of escape?" said Rebecca
---"Richly, richly would I requite thine aid."
"Think not of it," said the hag; "from hence there is no escape
but through the gates of death; and it is late, late," she added,
shaking her grey head, "ere these open to us---Yet it is comfort
to think that we leave behind us on earth those who shall be
wretched as ourselves. Fare thee well, Jewess!---Jew or Gentile,
thy fate would be the same; for thou hast to do with them that
have neither scruple nor pity. Fare thee well, I say. My thread
is spun out---thy task is yet to begin."
"Stay! stay! for Heaven's sake!" said Rebecca; "stay, though it
be to curse and to revile me ---thy presence is yet some
"The presence of the mother of God were no protection," answered
the old woman. "There she stands," pointing to a rude image of
the Virgin Mary, "see if she can avert the fate that awaits
She left the room as she spoke, her features writhed into a sort
of sneering laugh, which made them seem even more hideous than
their habitual frown. She locked the door behind her, and
Rebecca might hear her curse every step for its steepness, as
slowly and with difficulty she descended the turret-stair.
Rebecca was now to expect a fate even more dreadful than that of
Rowena; for what probability was there that either softness or
ceremony would be used towards one of her oppressed race,
whatever shadow of these might be preserved towards a Saxon
heiress? Yet had the Jewess this advantage, that she was better
prepared by habits of thought, and by natural strength of mind,
to encounter the dangers to which she was exposed. Of a strong
and observing character, even from her earliest years, the pomp
and wealth which her father displayed within his walls, or which
she witnessed in the houses of other wealthy Hebrews, had not
been able to blind her to the precarious circumstances under
which they were enjoyed. Like Damocles at his celebrated
banquet, Rebecca perpetually beheld, amid that gorgeous display,
the sword which was suspended over the heads of her people by a
single hair. These reflections had tamed and brought down to a
pitch of sounder judgment a temper, which, under other
circumstances, might have waxed haughty, supercilious, and
>From her father's example and injunctions, Rebecca had learnt to
bear herself courteously towards all who approached her. She
could not indeed imitate his excess of subservience, because she
was a stranger to the meanness of mind, and to the constant state
of timid apprehension, by which it was dictated; but she bore
herself with a proud humility, as if submitting to the evil
circumstances in which she was placed as the daughter of a
despised race, while she felt in her mind the consciousness that
she was entitled to hold a higher rank from her merit, than the
arbitrary despotism of religious prejudice permitted her to
aspire to.
Thus prepared to expect adverse circumstances, she had acquired
the firmness necessary for acting under them. Her present
situation required all her presence of mind, and she summoned it
up accordingly.
Her first care was to inspect the apartment; but it afforded few
hopes either of escape or protection. It contained neither
secret passage nor trap-door, and unless where the door by which
she had entered joined the main building, seemed to be
circumscribed by the round exterior wall of the turret. The door
had no inside bolt or bar. The single window opened upon an
embattled space surmounting the turret, which gave Rebecca, at
first sight, some hopes of escaping; but she soon found it had no
communication with any other part of the battlements, being an
isolated bartisan, or balcony, secured, as usual, by a parapet,
with embrasures, at which a few archers might be stationed for
defending the turret, and flanking with their shot the wall of
the castle on that side.
There was therefore no hope but in passive fortitude, and in that
strong reliance on Heaven natural to great and generous
characters. Rebecca, however erroneously taught to interpret the
promises of Scripture to the chosen people of Heaven, did not err
in supposing the present to be their hour of trial, or in
trusting that the children of Zion would be one day called in
with the fulness of the Gentiles. In the meanwhile, all around
her showed that their present state was that of punishment and
probation, and that it was their especial duty to suffer without
sinning. Thus prepared to consider herself as the victim of
misfortune, Rebecca had early reflected upon her own state, and
schooled her mind to meet the dangers which she had probably to
The prisoner trembled, however, and changed colour, when a step
was heard on the stair, and the door of the turret-chamber slowly
opened, and a tall man, dressed as one of those banditti to whom
they owed their misfortune, slowly entered, and shut the door
behind him; his cap, pulled down upon his brows, concealed the
upper part of his face, and he held his mantle in such a manner
as to muffle the rest. In this guise, as if prepared for the
execution of some deed, at the thought of which he was himself
ashamed, he stood before the affrighted prisoner; yet, ruffian as
his dress bespoke him, he seemed at a loss to express what
purpose had brought him thither, so that Rebecca, making an
effort upon herself, had time to anticipate his explanation.
She had already unclasped two costly bracelets and a collar,
which she hastened to proffer to the supposed outlaw, concluding
naturally that to gratify his avarice was to bespeak his favour.
"Take these," she said, "good friend, and for God's sake be
merciful to me and my aged father! These ornaments are of value,
yet are they trifling to what he would bestow to obtain our
dismissal from this castle, free and uninjured."
"Fair flower of Palestine," replied the outlaw, "these pearls are
orient, but they yield in whiteness to your teeth; the diamonds
are brilliant, but they cannot match your eyes; and ever since I
have taken up this wild trade, I have made a vow to prefer beauty
to wealth."
"Do not do yourself such wrong," said Rebecca; "take ransom, and
have mercy!---Gold will purchase you pleasure,---to misuse us,
could only bring thee remorse. My father will willingly satiate
thy utmost wishes; and if thou wilt act wisely, thou mayst
purchase with our spoils thy restoration to civil society---mayst
obtain pardon for past errors, and be placed beyond the necessity
of committing more."
"It is well spoken," replied the outlaw in French, finding it
difficult probably to sustain, in Saxon, a conversation which
Rebecca had opened in that language; "but know, bright lily of
the vale of Baca! that thy father is already in the hands of a
powerful alchemist, who knows how to convert into gold and silver
even the rusty bars of a dungeon grate. The venerable Isaac is
subjected to an alembic, which will distil from him all he holds
dear, without any assistance from my requests or thy entreaty.
The ransom must be paid by love and beauty, and in no other coin
will I accept it."
"Thou art no outlaw," said Rebecca, in the same language in which
he addressed her; "no outlaw had refused such offers. No outlaw
in this land uses the dialect in which thou hast spoken. Thou
art no outlaw, but a Norman---a Norman, noble perhaps in birth
---O, be so in thy actions, and cast off this fearful mask of
outrage and violence!"
"And thou, who canst guess so truly," said Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, dropping the mantle from his face, "art no true
daughter of Israel, but in all, save youth and beauty, a very
witch of Endor. I am not an outlaw, then, fair rose of Sharon.
And I am one who will be more prompt to hang thy neck and arms
with pearls and diamonds, which so well become them, than to
deprive thee of these ornaments."
"What wouldst thou have of me," said Rebecca, "if not my wealth?
---We can have nought in common between us---you are a Christian
---I am a Jewess.---Our union were contrary to the laws, alike of
the church and the synagogue."
"It were so, indeed," replied the Templar, laughing; "wed with a
Jewess? 'Despardieux!'---Not if she were the Queen of Sheba! And
know, besides, sweet daughter of Zion, that were the most
Christian king to offer me his most Christian daughter, with
Languedoc for a dowery, I could not wed her. It is against my
vow to love any maiden, otherwise than 'par amours', as I will
love thee. I am a Templar. Behold the cross of my Holy Order."
"Darest thou appeal to it," said Rebecca, "on an occasion like
the present?"
"And if I do so," said the Templar, "it concerns not thee, who
art no believer in the blessed sign of our salvation."
"I believe as my fathers taught," said Rebecca; "and may God
forgive my belief if erroneous! But you, Sir Knight, what is
yours, when you appeal without scruple to that which you deem
most holy, even while you are about to transgress the most solemn
of your vows as a knight, and as a man of religion?"
"It is gravely and well preached, O daughter of Sirach!" answered
the Templar; "but, gentle Ecclesiastics, thy narrow Jewish
prejudices make thee blind to our high privilege. Marriage were
an enduring crime on the part of a Templar; but what lesser folly
I may practise, I shall speedily be absolved from at the next
Perceptory of our Order. Not the wisest of monarchs, not his
father, whose examples you must needs allow are weighty, claimed
wider privileges than we poor soldiers of the Temple of Zion have
won by our zeal in its defence. The protectors of Solomon's
Temple may claim license by the example of Solomon."
"If thou readest the Scripture," said the Jewess, "and the lives
of the saints, only to justify thine own license and profligacy,
thy crime is like that of him who extracts poison from the most
healthful and necessary herbs."
The eyes of the Templar flashed fire at this reproof---"Hearken,"
he said, "Rebecca; I have hitherto spoken mildly to thee, but now
my language shall be that of a conqueror. Thou art the captive
of my bow and spear---subject to my will by the laws of all
nations; nor will I abate an inch of my right, or abstain from
taking by violence what thou refusest to entreaty or necessity."
"Stand back," said Rebecca---"stand back, and hear me ere thou
offerest to commit a sin so deadly! My strength thou mayst
indeed overpower for God made women weak, and trusted their
defence to man's generosity. But I will proclaim thy villainy,
Templar, from one end of Europe to the other. I will owe to the
superstition of thy brethren what their compassion might refuse
me, Each Preceptory---each Chapter of thy Order, shall learn,
that, like a heretic, thou hast sinned with a Jewess. Those who
tremble not at thy crime, will hold thee accursed for having so
far dishonoured the cross thou wearest, as to follow a daughter
of my people."
"Thou art keen-witted, Jewess," replied the Templar, well aware
of the truth of what she spoke, and that the rules of his Order
condemned in the most positive manner, and under high penalties,
such intrigues as he now prosecuted, and that, in some instances,
even degradation had followed upon it---"thou art sharp-witted,"
he said; "but loud must be thy voice of complaint, if it is heard
beyond the iron walls of this castle; within these, murmurs,
laments, appeals to justice, and screams for help, die alike
silent away. One thing only can save thee, Rebecca. Submit to
thy fate---embrace our religion, and thou shalt go forth in such
state, that many a Norman lady shall yield as well in pomp as in
beauty to the favourite of the best lance among the defenders of
the Temple."
"Submit to my fate!" said Rebecca---"and, sacred Heaven! to what
fate?---embrace thy religion! and what religion can it be that
harbours such a villain?---THOU the best lance of the Templars!
---Craven knight!---forsworn priest! I spit at thee, and I defy
thee.---The God of Abraham's promise hath opened an escape to his
daughter---even from this abyss of infamy!"
As she spoke, she threw open the latticed window which led to the
bartisan, and in an instant after, stood on the very verge of the
parapet, with not the slightest screen between her and the
tremendous depth below. Unprepared for such a desperate effort,
for she had hitherto stood perfectly motionless, Bois-Guilbert
had neither time to intercept nor to stop her. As he offered to
advance, she exclaimed, "Remain where thou art, proud Templar, or
at thy choice advance!---one foot nearer, and I plunge myself
from the precipice; my body shall be crushed out of the very form
of humanity upon the stones of that court-yard, ere it become the
victim of thy brutality!"
As she spoke this, she clasped her hands and extended them
towards heaven, as if imploring mercy on her soul before she made
the final plunge. The Templar hesitated, and a resolution which
had never yielded to pity or distress, gave way to his admiration
of her fortitude. "Come down," he said, "rash girl!---I swear by
earth, and sea, and sky, I will offer thee no offence."
"I will not trust thee, Templar," said Rebecca; thou hast taught
me better how to estimate the virtues of thine Order. The next
Preceptory would grant thee absolution for an oath, the keeping
of which concerned nought but the honour or the dishonour of a
miserable Jewish maiden."
"You do me injustice," exclaimed the Templar fervently; "I swear
to you by the name which I bear---by the cross on my bosom---by
the sword on my side---by the ancient crest of my fathers do I
swear, I will do thee no injury whatsoever! If not for thyself,
yet for thy father's sake forbear! I will be his friend, and in
this castle he will need a powerful one."
"Alas!" said Rebecca, "I know it but too well---dare I trust
"May my arms be reversed, and my name dishonoured," said Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, "if thou shalt have reason to complain of me!
Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never."
"I will then trust thee," said Rebecca, "thus far;" and she
descended from the verge of the battlement, but remained standing
close by one of the embrasures, or "machicolles", as they were
then called.---"Here," she said, "I take my stand. Remain where
thou art, and if thou shalt attempt to diminish by one step the
distance now between us, thou shalt see that the Jewish maiden
will rather trust her soul with God, than her honour to the
While Rebecca spoke thus, her high and firm resolve, which
corresponded so well with the expressive beauty of her
countenance, gave to her looks, air, and manner, a dignity that
seemed more than mortal. Her glance quailed not, her cheek
blanched not, for the fear of a fate so instant and so horrible;
on the contrary, the thought that she had her fate at her
command, and could escape at will from infamy to death, gave a
yet deeper colour of carnation to her complexion, and a yet more
brilliant fire to her eye. Bois-Guilbert, proud himself and
high-spirited, thought he had never beheld beauty so animated and
so commanding.
"Let there be peace between us, Rebecca," he said.
"Peace, if thou wilt," answered Rebecca---"Peace---but with this
space between."
"Thou needst no longer fear me," said Bois-Guilbert.
"I fear thee not," replied she; "thanks to him that reared this
dizzy tower so high, that nought could fall from it and live
--thanks to him, and to the God of Israel!---I fear thee not."
"Thou dost me injustice," said the Templar; "by earth, sea, and
sky, thou dost me injustice! I am not naturally that which you
have seen me, hard, selfish, and relentless. It was woman that
taught me cruelty, and on woman therefore I have exercised it;
but not upon such as thou. Hear me, Rebecca---Never did knight
take lance in his hand with a heart more devoted to the lady of
his love than Brian de Bois-Guilbert. She, the daughter of a
petty baron, who boasted for all his domains but a ruinous tower,
and an unproductive vineyard, and some few leagues of the barren
Landes of Bourdeaux, her name was known wherever deeds of arms
were done, known wider than that of many a lady's that had a
county for a dowery.---Yes," he continued, pacing up and down the
little platform, with an animation in which he seemed to lose all
consciousness of Rebecca's presence---"Yes, my deeds, my danger,
my blood, made the name of Adelaide de Montemare known from the
court of Castile to that of Byzantium. And how was I requited?
---When I returned with my dear-bought honours, purchased by toil
and blood, I found her wedded to a Gascon squire, whose name was
never heard beyond the limits of his own paltry domain! Truly
did I love her, and bitterly did I revenge me of her broken
faith! But my vengeance has recoiled on myself. Since that day
I have separated myself from life and its ties---My manhood must
know no domestic home---must be soothed by no affectionate wife
---My age must know no kindly hearth---My grave must be solitary,
and no offspring must outlive me, to bear the ancient name of
Bois-Guilbert. At the feet of my Superior I have laid down the
right of self-action---the privilege of independence. The
Templar, a serf in all but the name, can possess neither lands
nor goods, and lives, moves, and breathes, but at the will and
pleasure of another."
"Alas!" said Rebecca, "what advantages could compensate for such
an absolute sacrifice?"
"The power of vengeance, Rebecca," replied the Templar, "and the
prospects of ambition."
"An evil recompense," said Rebecca, "for the surrender of the
rights which are dearest to humanity."
"Say not so, maiden," answered the Templar; "revenge is a feast
for the gods! And if they have reserved it, as priests tell us,
to themselves, it is because they hold it an enjoyment too
precious for the possession of mere mortals.---And ambition? it
is a temptation which could disturb even the bliss of heaven
itself."---He paused a moment, and then added, "Rebecca! she who
could prefer death to dishonour, must have a proud and a powerful
soul. Mine thou must be!---Nay, start not," he added, "it must
be with thine own consent, and on thine own terms. Thou must
consent to share with me hopes more extended than can be viewed
from the throne of a monarch!---Hear me ere you answer and judge
ere you refuse.---The Templar loses, as thou hast said, his
social rights, his power of free agency, but he becomes a member
and a limb of a mighty body, before which thrones already
tremble,---even as the single drop of rain which mixes with the
sea becomes an individual part of that resistless ocean, which
undermines rocks and ingulfs royal armadas. Such a swelling
flood is that powerful league. Of this mighty Order I am no mean
member, but already one of the Chief Commanders, and may well
aspire one day to hold the batoon of Grand Master. The poor
soldiers of the Temple will not alone place their foot upon the
necks of kings---a hemp-sandall'd monk can do that. Our mailed
step shall ascend their throne---our gauntlet shall wrench the
sceptre from their gripe. Not the reign of your vainly-expected
Messiah offers such power to your dispersed tribes as my ambition
may aim at. I have sought but a kindred spirit to share it, and
I have found such in thee."
"Sayest thou this to one of my people?" answered Rebecca.
"Bethink thee---"
"Answer me not," said the Templar, "by urging the difference of
our creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery
tales in derision. Think not we long remained blind to the
idiotical folly of our founders, who forswore every delight of
life for the pleasure of dying martyrs by hunger, by thirst, and
by pestilence, and by the swords of savages, while they vainly
strove to defend a barren desert, valuable only in the eyes of
superstition. Our Order soon adopted bolder and wider views, and
found out a better indemnification for our sacrifices. Our
immense possessions in every kingdom of Europe, our high military
fame, which brings within our circle the flower of chivalry from
every Christian clime---these are dedicated to ends of which our
pious founders little dreamed, and which are equally concealed
from such weak spirits as embrace our Order on the ancient
principles, and whose superstition makes them our passive tools.
But I will not further withdraw the veil of our mysteries. That
bugle-sound announces something which may require my presence.
Think on what I have said.---Farewell!---I do not say forgive me
the violence I have threatened, for it was necessary to the
display of thy character. Gold can be only known by the
application of the touchstone. I will soon return, and hold
further conference with thee."
He re-entered the turret-chamber, and descended the stair,
leaving Rebecca scarcely more terrified at the prospect of the
death to which she had been so lately exposed, than at the
furious ambition of the bold bad man in whose power she found
herself so unhappily placed. When she entered the
turret-chamber, her first duty was to return thanks to the God of
Jacob for the protection which he had afforded her, and to
implore its continuance for her and for her father. Another name
glided into her petition---it was that of the wounded Christian,
whom fate had placed in the hands of bloodthirsty men, his avowed
enemies. Her heart indeed checked her, as if, even in communing
with the Deity in prayer, she mingled in her devotions the
recollection of one with whose fate hers could have no alliance
---a Nazarene, and an enemy to her faith. But the petition was
already breathed, nor could all the narrow prejudices of her sect
induce Rebecca to wish it recalled.
A damn'd cramp piece of penmanship as ever I saw in my life!
She Stoops to Conquer
When the Templar reached the hall of the castle, he found De
Bracy already there. "Your love-suit," said De Bracy, "hath, I
suppose, been disturbed, like mine, by this obstreperous summons.
But you have come later and more reluctantly, and therefore I
presume your interview has proved more agreeable than mine."
"Has your suit, then, been unsuccessfully paid to the Saxon
heiress?" said the Templar.
"By the bones of Thomas a Becket," answered De Bracy, "the Lady
Rowena must have heard that I cannot endure the sight of women's
"Away!" said the Templar; "thou a leader of a Free Company, and
regard a woman's tears! A few drops sprinkled on the torch of
love, make the flame blaze the brighter."
"Gramercy for the few drops of thy sprinkling," replied De Bracy;
"but this damsel hath wept enough to extinguish a beacon-light.
Never was such wringing of hands and such overflowing of eyes,
since the days of St Niobe, of whom Prior Aymer told us.*
* I wish the Prior had also informed them when Niobe was
* sainted. Probably during that enlightened period when
* "Pan to Moses lent his pagan horn." L. T.
A water-fiend hath possessed the fair Saxon."
"A legion of fiends have occupied the bosom of the Jewess,"
replied the Templar; "for, I think no single one, not even
Apollyon himself, couldhave inspired such indomitable pride and
resolution.---But where is Front-de-Boeuf? That horn is sounded
more and more clamorously."
"He is negotiating with the Jew, I suppose," replied De Bracy,
coolly; "probably the howls of Isaac have drowned the blast of
the bugle. Thou mayst know, by experience, Sir Brian, that a Jew
parting with his treasures on such terms as our friend
Front-de-Boeuf is like to offer, will raise a clamour loud enough
to be heard over twenty horns and trumpets to boot. But we will
make the vassals call him."
They were soon after joined by Front-de-Boeuf, who had been
disturbed in his tyrannic cruelty in the manner with which the
reader is acquainted, and had only tarried to give some
necessary directions.
"Let us see the cause of this cursed clamour," said
Front-de-Boeuf---"here is a letter, and, if I mistake not, it is
in Saxon."
He looked at it, turning it round and round as if he had had
really some hopes of coming at the meaning by inverting the
position of the paper, and then handed it to De Bracy.
"It may be magic spells for aught I know," said De Bracy, who
possessed his full proportion of the ignorance which
characterised the chivalry of the period. "Our chaplain
attempted to teach me to write," he said, "but all my letters
were formed like spear-heads and sword-blades, and so the old
shaveling gave up the task."
"Give it me," said the Templar. "We have that of the priestly
character, that we have some knowledge to enlighten our valour."
"Let us profit by your most reverend knowledge, then," said De
Bracy; "what says the scroll?"
"It is a formal letter of defiance," answered the Templar; "but,
by our Lady of Bethlehem, if it be not a foolish jest, it is the
most extraordinary cartel that ever was sent across the
drawbridge of a baronial castle."
"Jest!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "I would gladly know who dares jest
with me in such a matter!---Read it, Sir Brian."
The Templar accordingly read it as follows:---"I, Wamba, the son
of Witless, Jester to a noble and free-born man, Cedric of
Rotherwood, called the Saxon,---And I, Gurth, the son of
Beowulph, the swineherd------"
"Thou art mad," said Front-de-Boeuf, interrupting the reader.
"By St Luke, it is so set down," answered the Templar. Then
resuming his task, he went on,---"I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph,
swineherd unto the said Cedric, with the assistance of our allies
and confederates, who make common cause with us in this our feud,
namely, the good knight, called for the present 'Le Noir
Faineant', and the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called
Cleave-the-Wand, Do you, Reginald Front de-Boeuf, and your allies
and accomplices whomsoever, to wit, that whereas you have,
without cause given or feud declared, wrongfully and by mastery
seized upon the person of our lord and master the said Cedric;
also upon the person of a noble and freeborn damsel, the Lady
Rowena of Hargottstandstede; also upon the person of a noble and
freeborn man, Athelstane of Coningsburgh; also upon the persons
of certain freeborn men, their 'cnichts'; also upon certain
serfs, their born bondsmen; also upon a certain Jew, named Isaac
of York, together with his daughter, a Jewess, and certain
horses and mules: Which noble persons, with their 'cnichts' and
slaves, and also with the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess
beforesaid, were all in peace with his majesty, and travelling
as liege subjects upon the king's highway; therefore we require
and demand that the said noble persons, namely, Cedric of
Rotherwood, Rowena of Hargottstandstede, Athelstane of
Coningsburgh, with their servants, 'cnichts', and followers, also
the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess aforesaid, together with all
goods and chattels to them pertaining, be, within an hour after
the delivery hereof, delivered to us, or to those whom we shall
appoint to receive the same, and that untouched and unharmed in
body and goods. Failing of which, we do pronounce to you, that
we hold ye as robbers and traitors, and will wager our bodies
against ye in battle, siege, or otherwise, and do our utmost to
your annoyance and destruction. Wherefore may God have you in
his keeping.---Signed by us upon the eve of St Withold's day,
under the great trysting oak in the Hart-hill Walk, the above
being written by a holy man, Clerk to God, our Lady, and St
Dunstan, in the Chapel of Copmanhurst."
At the bottom of this document was scrawled, in the first place,
a rude sketch of a cock's head and comb, with a legend expressing
this hieroglyphic to be the sign-manual of Wamba, son of Witless.
Under this respectable emblem stood a cross, stated to be the
mark of Gurth, the son of Beowulph. Then was written, in rough
bold characters, the words, "Le Noir Faineant". And, to conclude
the whole, an arrow, neatly enough drawn, was described as the
mark of the yeoman Locksley.
The knights heard this uncommon document read from end to end,
and then gazed upon each other in silent amazement, as being
utterly at a loss to know what it could portend. De Bracy was
the first to break silence by an uncontrollable fit of laughter,
wherein he was joined, though with more moderation, by the
Templar. Front-de-Boeuf, on the contrary, seemed impatient of
their ill-timed jocularity.
"I give you plain warning," he said, "fair sirs, that you had
better consult how to bear yourselves under these circumstances,
than give way to such misplaced merriment."
"Front-de-Boeuf has not recovered his temper since his late
overthrow," said De Bracy to the Templar; "he is cowed at the
very idea of a cartel, though it come but from a fool and a
"By St Michael," answered Front-de-Boeuf, "I would thou couldst
stand the whole brunt of this adventure thyself, De Bracy. These
fellows dared not have acted with such inconceivable impudence,
had they not been supported by some strong bands. There are
enough of outlaws in this forest to resent my protecting the
deer. I did but tie one fellow, who was taken redhanded and in
the fact, to the horns of a wild stag, which gored him to death
in five minutes, and I had as many arrows shot at me as there
were launched against yonder target at Ashby.---Here, fellow," he
added, to one of his attendants, "hast thou sent out to see by
what force this precious challenge is to be supported?"
"There are at least two hundred men assembled in the woods,"
answered a squire who was in attendance.
"Here is a proper matter!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "this comes of
lending you the use of my castle, that cannot manage your
undertaking quietly, but you must bring this nest of hornets
about my ears!"
"Of hornets?" said De Bracy; "of stingless drones rather; a band
of lazy knaves, who take to the wood, and destroy the venison
rather than labour for their maintenance."
"Stingless!" replied Front-de-Boeuf; "fork-headed shafts of a
cloth-yard in length, and these shot within the breadth of a
French crown, are sting enough."
"For shame, Sir Knight!" said the Templar. "Let us summon our
people, and sally forth upon them. One knight---ay, one
man-at-arms, were enough for twenty such peasants."
"Enough, and too much," said De Bracy; "I should only be ashamed
to couch lance against them."
"True," answered Front-de-Boeuf; "were they black Turks or Moors,
Sir Templar, or the craven peasants of France, most valiant De
Bracy; but these are English yeomen, over whom we shall have no
advantage, save what we may derive from our arms and horses,
which will avail us little in the glades of the forest. Sally,
saidst thou? we have scarce men enough to defend the castle. The
best of mine are at York; so is all your band, De Bracy; and we
have scarcely twenty, besides the handful that were engaged in
this mad business."
"Thou dost not fear," said the Templar, "that they can assemble
in force sufficient to attempt the castle?"
"Not so, Sir Brian," answered Front-de-Boeuf. "These outlaws
have indeed a daring captain; but without machines, scaling
ladders, and experienced leaders, my castle may defy them."
"Send to thy neighbours," said the Templar, "let them assemble
their people, and come to the rescue of three knights, besieged
by a jester and a swineherd in the baronial castle of Reginald
"You jest, Sir Knight," answered the baron; "but to whom should I
send?---Malvoisin is by this time at York with his retainers, and
so are my other allies; and so should I have been, but for this
infernal enterprise."
"Then send to York, and recall our people," said De Bracy. "If
they abide the shaking of my standard, or the sight of my Free
Companions, I will give them credit for the boldest outlaws ever
bent bow in green-wood."
"And who shall bear such a message?" said Front-de-Boeuf; "they
will beset every path, and rip the errand out of his bosom.---I
have it," he added, after pausing for a moment---"Sir Templar,
thou canst write as well as read, and if we can but find the
writing materials of my chaplain, who died a twelvemonth since in
the midst of his Christmas carousals---"
"So please ye," said the squire, who was still in attendance, "I
think old Urfried has them somewhere in keeping, for love of the
confessor. He was the last man, I have heard her tell, who ever
said aught to her, which man ought in courtesy to address to maid
or matron."
"Go, search them out, Engelred," said Front-de-Boeuf; "and then,
Sir Templar, thou shalt return an answer to this bold challenge."
"I would rather do it at the sword's point than at that of the
pen," said Bois-Guilbert; "but be it as you will."
He sat down accordingly, and indited, in the French language, an
epistle of the following tenor:---"Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf,
with his noble and knightly allies and confederates, receive no
defiances at the hands of slaves, bondsmen, or fugitives. If the
person calling himself the Black Knight have indeed a claim to
the honours of chivalry, he ought to know that he stands degraded
by his present association, and has no right to ask reckoning at
the hands of good men of noble blood. Touching the prisoners we
have made, we do in Christian charity require you to send a man
of religion, to receive their confession, and reconcile them with
God; since it is our fixed intention to execute them this morning
before noon, so that their heads being placed on the battlements,
shall show to all men how lightly we esteem those who have
bestirred themselves in their rescue. Wherefore, as above, we
require you to send a priest to reconcile them to God, in doing
which you shall render them the last earthly service."
This letter being folded, was delivered to the squire, and by him
to the messenger who waited without, as the answer to that which
he had brought.
The yeoman having thus accomplished his mission, returned to the
head-quarters of the allies, which were for the present
established under a venerable oak-tree, about three arrow-flights
distant from the castle. Here Wamba and Gurth, with their allies
the Black Knight and Locksley, and the jovial hermit, awaited
with impatience an answer to their summons. Around, and at a
distance from them, were seen many a bold yeoman, whose silvan
dress and weatherbeaten countenances showed the ordinary nature
of their occupation. More than two hundred had already
assembled, and others were fast coming in. Those whom they
obeyed as leaders were only distinguished from the others by a
feather in the cap, their dress, arms, and equipments being in
all other respects the same.
Besides these bands, a less orderly and a worse armed force,
consisting of the Saxon inhabitants of the neighbouring township,
as well as many bondsmen and servants from Cedric's extensive
estate, had already arrived, for the purpose of assisting in his
rescue. Few of these were armed otherwise than with such rustic
weapons as necessity sometimes converts to military purposes.
Boar-spears, scythes, flails, and the like, were their chief
arms; for the Normans, with the usual policy of conquerors, were
jealous of permitting to the vanquished Saxons the possession or
the use of swords and spears. These circumstances rendered the
assistance of the Saxons far from being so formidable to the
besieged, as the strength of the men themselves, their superior
numbers, and the animation inspired by a just cause, might
otherwise well have made them. It was to the leaders of this
motley army that the letter of the Templar was now delivered.
Reference was at first made to the chaplain for an exposition of
its contents.
"By the crook of St Dunstan," said that worthy ecclesiastic,
"which hath brought more sheep within the sheepfold than the
crook of e'er another saint in Paradise, I swear that I cannot
expound unto you this jargon, which, whether it be French or
Arabic, is beyond my guess."
He then gave the letter to Gurth, who shook his head gruffly, and
passed it to Wamba. The Jester looked at each of the four
corners of the paper with such a grin of affected intelligence as
a monkey is apt to assume upon similar occasions, then cut a
caper, and gave the letter to Locksley.
"If the long letters were bows, and the short letters broad
arrows, I might know something of the matter," said the brave
yeoman; "but as the matter stands, the meaning is as safe, for
me, as the stag that's at twelve miles distance."
"I must be clerk, then," said the Black Knight; and taking the
letter from Locksley, he first read it over to himself, and then
explained the meaning in Saxon to his confederates.
"Execute the noble Cedric!" exclaimed Wamba; "by the rood, thou
must be mistaken, Sir Knight."
"Not I, my worthy friend," replied the knight, "I have explained
the words as they are here set down."
"Then, by St Thomas of Canterbury," replied Gurth, "we will have
the castle, should we tear it down with our hands!"
"We have nothing else to tear it with," replied Wamba; "but mine
are scarce fit to make mammocks of freestone and mortar."
"'Tis but a contrivance to gain time," said Locksley; "they dare
not do a deed for which I could exact a fearful penalty."
"I would," said the Black Knight, "there were some one among us
who could obtain admission into the castle, and discover how the
case stands with the besieged. Methinks, as they require a
confessor to be sent, this holy hermit might at once exercise his
pious vocation, and procure us the information we desire."
"A plague on thee, and thy advice!" said the pious hermit; "I
tell thee, Sir Slothful Knight, that when I doff my friar's
frock, my priesthood, my sanctity, my very Latin, are put off
along with it; and when in my green jerkin, I can better kill
twenty deer than confess one Christian."
"I fear," said the Black Knight, "I fear greatly, there is no one
here that is qualified to take upon him, for the nonce, this same
character of father confessor?"
All looked on each other, and were silent.
"I see," said Wamba, after a short pause, "that the fool must be
still the fool, and put his neck in the venture which wise men
shrink from. You must know, my dear cousins and countrymen, that
I wore russet before I wore motley, and was bred to be a friar,
until a brain-fever came upon me and left me just wit enough to
be a fool. I trust, with the assistance of the good hermit's
frock, together with the priesthood, sanctity, and learning which
are stitched into the cowl of it, I shall be found qualified to
administer both worldly and ghostly comfort to our worthy master
Cedric, and his companions in adversity."
"Hath he sense enough, thinkst thou?" said the Black Knight,
addressing Gurth.
"I know not," said Gurth; "but if he hath not, it will be the
first time he hath wanted wit to turn his folly to account."
"On with the frock, then, good fellow," quoth the Knight, "and
let thy master send us an account of their situation within the
castle. Their numbers must be few, and it is five to one they
may be accessible by a sudden and bold attack. Time wears---away
with thee."
"And, in the meantime," said Locksley, "we will beset the place
so closely, that not so much as a fly shall carry news from
thence. So that, my good friend," he continued, addressing
Wamba, "thou mayst assure these tyrants, that whatever violence
they exercise on the persons of their prisoners, shall be most
severely repaid upon their own."
"Pax vobiscum," said Wamba, who was now muffled in his religious
And so saying he imitated the solemn and stately deportment of a
friar, and departed to execute his mission.
The hottest horse will oft be cool,
The dullest will show fire;
The friar will often play the fool,
The fool will play the friar.
Old Song
When the Jester, arrayed in the cowl and frock of the hermit, and
having his knotted cord twisted round his middle, stood before
the portal of the castle of Front-de-Boeuf, the warder demanded
of him his name and errand.
"Pax vobiscum," answered the Jester, "I am a poor brother of the
Order of St Francis, who come hither to do my office to certain
unhappy prisoners now secured within this castle."
"Thou art a bold friar," said the warder, "to come hither, where,
saving our own drunken confessor, a cock of thy feather hath not
crowed these twenty years."
"Yet I pray thee, do mine errand to the lord of the castle,"
answered the pretended friar; "trust me it will find good
acceptance with him, and the cock shall crow, that the whole
castle shall hear him."
"Gramercy," said the warder; "but if I come to shame for leaving
my post upon thine errand, I will try whether a friar's grey gown
be proof against a grey-goose shaft."
With this threat he left his turret, and carried to the hall of
the castle his unwonted intelligence, that a holy friar stood
before the gate and demanded instant admission. With no small
wonder he received his master's commands to admit the holy man
immediately; and, having previously manned the entrance to guard
against surprise, he obeyed, without further scruple, the
commands which he had received. The harebrained self-conceit
which had emboldened Wamba to undertake this dangerous office,
was scarce sufficient to support him when he found himself in the
presence of a man so dreadful, and so much dreaded, as Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf, and he brought out his "pax vobiscum", to which
he, in a good measure, trusted for supporting his character, with
more anxiety and hesitation than had hitherto accompanied it.
But Front-de-Boeuf was accustomed to see men of all ranks tremble
in his presence, so that the timidity of the supposed father did
not give him any cause of suspicion.
"Who and whence art thou, priest?" said he.
"'Pax vobiscum'," reiterated the Jester, "I am a poor servant of
St Francis, who, travelling through this wilderness, have fallen
among thieves, (as Scripture hath it,) 'quidam viator incidit in
latrones', which thieves have sent me unto this castle in order
to do my ghostly office on two persons condemned by your
honourable justice."
"Ay, right," answered Front-de-Boeuf; "and canst thou tell me,
holy father, the number of those banditti?"
"Gallant sir," answered the Jester, "'nomen illis legio', their
name is legion."
"Tell me in plain terms what numbers there are, or, priest, thy
cloak and cord will ill protect thee."
"Alas!" said the supposed friar, "'cor meum eructavit', that is
to say, I was like to burst with fear! but I conceive they may be
---what of yeomen ---what of commons, at least five hundred men."
"What!" said the Templar, who came into the hall that moment,
"muster the wasps so thick here? it is time to stifle such a
mischievous brood." Then taking Front-de-Boeuf aside "Knowest
thou the priest?"
"He is a stranger from a distant convent," said Front-de-Boeuf;
"I know him not."
"Then trust him not with thy purpose in words," answered the
Templar. "Let him carry a written order to De Bracy's company
of Free Companions, to repair instantly to their master's aid.
In the meantime, and that the shaveling may suspect nothing,
permit him to go freely about his task of preparing these Saxon
hogs for the slaughter-house."
"It shall be so," said Front-de-Boeuf. And he forthwith
appointed a domestic to conduct Wamba to the apartment where
Cedric and Athelstane were confined.
The impatience of Cedric had been rather enhanced than diminished
by his confinement. He walked from one end of the hall to the
other, with the attitude of one who advances to charge an enemy,
or to storm the breach of a beleaguered place, sometimes
ejaculating to himself, sometimes addressing Athelstane, who
stoutly and stoically awaited the issue of the adventure,
digesting, in the meantime, with great composure, the liberal
meal which he had made at noon, and not greatly interesting
himself about the duration of his captivity, which he concluded,
would, like all earthly evils, find an end in Heaven's good time.
"'Pax vobiscum'," said the Jester, entering the apartment; "the
blessing of St Dunstan, St Dennis, St Duthoc, and all other
saints whatsoever, be upon ye and about ye."
"Enter freely," answered Cedric to the supposed friar; "with what
intent art thou come hither?"
"To bid you prepare yourselves for death," answered the Jester.
"It is impossible!" replied Cedric, starting. "Fearless and
wicked as they are, they dare not attempt such open and
gratuitous cruelty!"
"Alas!" said the Jester, "to restrain them by their sense of
humanity, is the same as to stop a runaway horse with a bridle of
silk thread. Bethink thee, therefore, noble Cedric, and you
also, gallant Athelstane, what crimes you have committed in the
flesh; for this very day will ye be called to answer at a higher
"Hearest thou this, Athelstane?" said Cedric; "we must rouse up
our hearts to this last action, since better it is we should die
like men, than live like slaves."
"I am ready," answered Athelstane, "to stand the worst of their
malice, and shall walk to my death with as much composure as ever
I did to my dinner."
"Let us then unto our holy gear, father," said Cedric.
"Wait yet a moment, good uncle," said the Jester, in his natural
tone; "better look long before you leap in the dark."
"By my faith," said Cedric, "I should know that voice!"
"It is that of your trusty slave and jester," answered Wamba,
throwing back his cowl. "Had you taken a fool's advice formerly,
you would not have been here at all. Take a fool's advice now,
and you will not be here long."
"How mean'st thou, knave?" answered the Saxon.
"Even thus," replied Wamba; "take thou this frock and cord, which
are all the orders I ever had, and march quietly out of the
castle, leaving me your cloak and girdle to take the long leap in
thy stead."
"Leave thee in my stead!" said Cedric, astonished at the
proposal; "why, they would hang thee, my poor knave."
"E'en let them do as they are permitted," said Wamba; "I trust
---no disparagement to your birth---that the son of Witless may
hang in a chain with as much gravity as the chain hung upon his
ancestor the alderman."
"Well, Wamba," answered Cedric, "for one thing will I grant thy
request. And that is, if thou wilt make the exchange of garments
with Lord Athelstane instead of me."
"No, by St Dunstan," answered Wamba; "there were little reason in
that. Good right there is, that the son of Witless should suffer
to save the son of Hereward; but little wisdom there were in his
dying for the benefit of one whose fathers were strangers to
"Villain," said Cedric, "the fathers of Athelstane were monarchs
of England!"
"They might be whomsoever they pleased," replied Wamba; "but my
neck stands too straight upon my shoulders to have it twisted for
their sake. Wherefore, good my master, either take my proffer
yourself, or suffer me to leave this dungeon as free as I
"Let the old tree wither," continued Cedric, "so the stately hope
of the forest be preserved. Save the noble Athelstane, my trusty
Wamba! it is the duty of each who has Saxon blood in his veins.
Thou and I will abide together the utmost rage of our injurious
oppressors, while he, free and safe, shall arouse the awakened
spirits of our countrymen to avenge us."
"Not so, father Cedric," said Athelstane, grasping his hand,
---for, when roused to think or act, his deeds and sentiments
were not unbecoming his high race---"Not so," he continued; "I
would rather remain in this hall a week without food save the
prisoner's stinted loaf, or drink save the prisoner's measure of
water, than embrace the opportunity to escape which the slave's
untaught kindness has purveyed for his master."
"You are called wise men, sirs," said the Jester, "and I a crazed
fool; but, uncle Cedric, and cousin Athelstane, the fool shall
decide this controversy for ye, and save ye the trouble of
straining courtesies any farther. I am like John-a-Duck's mare,
that will let no man mount her but John-a-Duck. I came to save
my master, and if he will not consent---basta---I can but go away
home again. Kind service cannot be chucked from hand to hand
like a shuttlecock or stool-ball. I'll hang for no man but my
own born master."
"Go, then, noble Cedric," said Athelstane, "neglect not this
opportunity. Your presence without may encourage friends to our
rescue---your remaining here would ruin us all."
"And is there any prospect, then, of rescue from without?" said
Cedric, looking to the Jester.
"Prospect, indeed!" echoed Wamba; "let me tell you, when you fill
my cloak, you are wrapped in a general's cassock. Five hundred
men are there without, and I was this morning one of the chief
leaders. My fool's cap was a casque, and my bauble a truncheon.
Well, we shall see what good they will make by exchanging a fool
for a wise man. Truly, I fear they will lose in valour what they
may gain in discretion. And so farewell, master, and be kind to
poor Gurth and his dog Fangs; and let my cockscomb hang in the
hall at Rotherwood, in memory that I flung away my life for my
master, like a faithful------fool."
The last word came out with a sort of double expression, betwixt
jest and earnest. The tears stood in Cedric's eyes.
"Thy memory shall be preserved," he said, "while fidelity and
affection have honour upon earth! But that I trust I shall find
the means of saving Rowena, and thee, Athelstane, and thee, also,
my poor Wamba, thou shouldst not overbear me in this matter."
The exchange of dress was now accomplished, when a sudden doubt
struck Cedric.
"I know no language," he said, "but my own, and a few words of
their mincing Norman. How shall I bear myself like a reverend
"The spell lies in two words," replied Wamba--- "'Pax vobiscum'
will answer all queries. If you go or come, eat or drink, bless
or ban, 'Pax vobiscum' carries you through it all. It is as
useful to a friar as a broomstick to a witch, or a wand to a
conjurer. Speak it but thus, in a deep grave tone,---'Pax
vobiscum!'---it is irresistible---Watch and ward, knight and
squire, foot and horse, it acts as a charm upon them all. I
think, if they bring me out to be hanged to-morrow, as is much to
be doubted they may, I will try its weight upon the finisher of
the sentence."
"If such prove the case," said the master, "my religious orders
are soon taken---'Pax vobiscum'. I trust I shall remember the
pass-word.---Noble Athelstane, farewell; and farewell, my poor
boy, whose heart might make amends for a weaker head---I will
save you, or return and die with you. The royal blood of our
Saxon kings shall not be spilt while mine beats in my veins; nor
shall one hair fall from the head of the kind knave who risked
himself for his master, if Cedric's peril can prevent it.
"Farewell, noble Cedric," said Athelstane; "remember it is the
true part of a friar to accept refreshment, if you are offered
"Farewell, uncle," added Wamba; "and remember 'Pax vobiscum'."
Thus exhorted, Cedric sallied forth upon his expedition; and it
was not long ere he had occasion to try the force of that spell
which his Jester had recommended as omnipotent. In a low-arched
and dusky passage, by which he endeavoured to work his way to the
hall of the castle, he was interrupted by a female form.
"'Pax vobiscum!'" said the pseudo friar, and was endeavouring to
hurry past, when a soft voice replied, "'Et vobis---quaso, domine
reverendissime, pro misericordia vestra'."
"I am somewhat deaf," replied Cedric, in good Saxon, and at the
same time muttered to himself, "A curse on the fool and his 'Pax
vobiscum!' I have lost my javelin at the first cast."
It was, however, no unusual thing for a priest of those days to
be deaf of his Latin ear, and this the person who now addressed
Cedric knew full well.
"I pray you of dear love, reverend father," she replied in his
own language, "that you will deign to visit with your ghostly
comfort a wounded prisoner of this castle, and have such
compassion upon him and us as thy holy office teaches---Never
shall good deed so highly advantage thy convent."
"Daughter," answered Cedric, much embarrassed, "my time in this
castle will not permit me to exercise the duties of mine office
---I must presently forth---there is life and death upon my
"Yet, father, let me entreat you by the vow you have taken on
you," replied the suppliant, "not to leave the oppressed and
endangered without counsel or succour."
"May the fiend fly away with me, and leave me in Ifrin with the
souls of Odin and of Thor!" answered Cedric impatiently, and
would probably have proceeded in the same tone of total departure
from his spiritual character, when the colloquy was interrupted
by the harsh voice of Urfried, the old crone of the turret.
"How, minion," said she to the female speaker, "is this the
manner in which you requite the kindness which permitted thee to
leave thy prison-cell yonder?---Puttest thou the reverend man to
use ungracious language to free himself from the importunities
of a Jewess?"
"A Jewess!" said Cedric, availing himself of the information to
get clear of their interruption,---"Let me pass, woman! stop me
not at your peril. I am fresh from my holy office, and would
avoid pollution."
"Come this way, father," said the old hag, "thou art a stranger
in this castle, and canst not leave it without a guide. Come
hither, for I would speak with thee.---And you, daughter of an
accursed race, go to the sick man's chamber, and tend him until
my return; and woe betide you if you again quit it without my
Rebecca retreated. Her importunities had prevailed upon Urfried
to suffer her to quit the turret, and Urfried had employed her
services where she herself would most gladly have paid them, by
the bedside of the wounded Ivanhoe. With an understanding awake
to their dangerous situation, and prompt to avail herself of each
means of safety which occurred, Rebecca had hoped something from
the presence of a man of religion, who, she learned from Urfried,
had penetrated into this godless castle. She watched the return
of the supposed ecclesiastic, with the purpose of addressing him,
and interesting him in favour of the prisoners; with what
imperfect success the reader has been just acquainted.
Fond wretch! and what canst thou relate,
But deeds of sorrow, shame, and sin?
Thy deeds are proved---thou know'st thy fate;
But come, thy tale---begin---begin.
* * * * *
But I have griefs of other kind,
Troubles and sorrows more severe;
Give me to ease my tortured mind,
Lend to my woes a patient ear;
And let me, if I may not find
A friend to help---find one to hear.
Crabbe's Hall of Justice
When Urfried had with clamours and menaces driven Rebecca back to
the apartment from which she had sallied, she proceeded to
conduct the unwilling Cedric into a small apartment, the door of
which she heedfully secured. Then fetching from a cupboard a
stoup of wine and two flagons, she placed them on the table, and
said in a tone rather asserting a fact than asking a question,
"Thou art Saxon, father---Deny it not," she continued, observing
that Cedric hastened not to reply; "the sounds of my native
language are sweet to mine ears, though seldom heard save from
the tongues of the wretched and degraded serfs on whom the proud
Normans impose the meanest drudgery of this dwelling. Thou art a
Saxon, father---a Saxon, and, save as thou art a servant of God,
a freeman.---Thine accents are sweet in mine ear."
"Do not Saxon priests visit this castle, then?" replied Cedric;
"it were, methinks, their duty to comfort the outcast and
oppressed children of the soil."
"They come not---or if they come, they better love to revel at
the boards of their conquerors," answered Urfried, "than to hear
the groans of their countrymen---so, at least, report speaks of
them---of myself I can say little. This castle, for ten years,
has opened to no priest save the debauched Norman chaplain who
partook the nightly revels of Front-de-Boeuf, and he has been
long gone to render an account of his stewardship.---But thou art
a Saxon---a Saxon priest, and I have one question to ask of
"I am a Saxon," answered Cedric, "but unworthy, surely, of the
name of priest. Let me begone on my way---I swear I will return,
or send one of our fathers more worthy to hear your confession."
"Stay yet a while," said Urfried; "the accents of the voice which
thou hearest now will soon be choked with the cold earth, and I
would not descend to it like the beast I have lived. But wine
must give me strength to tell the horrors of my tale." She
poured out a cup, and drank it with a frightful avidity, which
seemed desirous of draining the last drop in the goblet. "It
stupifies," she said, looking upwards as she finished her
drought, "but it cannot cheer---Partake it, father, if you would
hear my tale without sinking down upon the pavement." Cedric
would have avoided pledging her in this ominous conviviality, but
the sign which she made to him expressed impatience and despair.
He complied with her request, and answered her challenge in a
large wine-cup; she then proceeded with her story, as if appeased
by his complaisance.
"I was not born," she said, "father, the wretch that thou now
seest me. I was free, was happy, was honoured, loved, and was
beloved. I am now a slave, miserable and degraded---the sport of
my masters' passions while I had yet beauty---the object of their
contempt, scorn, and hatred, since it has passed away. Dost thou
wonder, father, that I should hate mankind, and, above all, the
race that has wrought this change in me? Can the wrinkled
decrepit hag before thee, whose wrath must vent itself in
impotent curses, forget she was once the daughter of the noble
Thane of Torquilstone, before whose frown a thousand vassals
"Thou the daughter of Torquil Wolfganger!" said Cedric, receding
as he spoke; "thou---thou---the daughter of that noble Saxon, my
father's friend and companion in arms!"
"Thy father's friend!" echoed Urfried; "then Cedric called the
Saxon stands before me, for the noble Hereward of Rotherwood had
but one son, whose name is well known among his countrymen. But
if thou art Cedric of Rotherwood, why this religious dress?
---hast thou too despaired of saving thy country, and sought
refuge from oppression in the shade of the convent?"
"It matters not who I am," said Cedric; "proceed, unhappy woman,
with thy tale of horror and guilt!---Guilt there must be---there
is guilt even in thy living to tell it."
"There is---there is," answered the wretched woman, "deep, black,
damning guilt,---guilt, that lies like a load at my breast
--guilt, that all the penitential fires of hereafter cannot
cleanse.---Yes, in these halls, stained with the noble and pure
blood of my father and my brethren---in these very halls, to have
lived the paramour of their murderer, the slave at once and the
partaker of his pleasures, was to render every breath which I
drew of vital air, a crime and a curse."
"Wretched woman!" exclaimed Cedric. "And while the friends of
thy father---while each true Saxon heart, as it breathed a
requiem for his soul, and those of his valiant sons, forgot not
in their prayers the murdered Ulrica---while all mourned and
honoured the dead, thou hast lived to merit our hate and
execration---lived to unite thyself with the vile tyrant who
murdered thy nearest and dearest---who shed the blood of infancy,
rather than a male of the noble house of Torquil Wolfganger
should survive---with him hast thou lived to unite thyself, and
in the hands of lawless love!"
"In lawless hands, indeed, but not in those of love!" answered
the hag; "love will sooner visit the regions of eternal doom,
than those unhallowed vaults.---No, with that at least I cannot
reproach myself---hatred to Front-de-Boeuf and his race governed
my soul most deeply, even in the hour of his guilty endearments."
"You hated him, and yet you lived," replied Cedric; "wretch! was
there no poniard---no knife---no bodkin!---Well was it for thee,
since thou didst prize such an existence, that the secrets of a
Norman castle are like those of the grave. For had I but dreamed
of the daughter of Torquil living in foul communion with the
murderer of her father, the sword of a true Saxon had found thee
out even in the arms of thy paramour!"
"Wouldst thou indeed have done this justice to the name of
Torquil?" said Ulrica, for we may now lay aside her assumed name
of Urfried; "thou art then the true Saxon report speaks thee! for
even within these accursed walls, where, as thou well sayest,
guilt shrouds itself in inscrutable mystery, even there has the
name of Cedric been sounded---and I, wretched and degraded, have
rejoiced to think that there yet breathed an avenger of our
unhappy nation.---I also have had my hours of vengeance---I have
fomented the quarrels of our foes, and heated drunken revelry
into murderous broil---I have seen their blood flow---I have
heard their dying groans!---Look on me, Cedric---are there not
still left on this foul and faded face some traces of the
features of Torquil?"
"Ask me not of them, Ulrica," replied Cedric, in a tone of grief
mixed with abhorrence; "these traces form such a resemblance as
arises from the graves of the dead, when a fiend has animated the
lifeless corpse."
"Be it so," answered Ulrica; "yet wore these fiendish features
the mask of a spirit of light when they were able to set at
variance the elder Front-de-Boeuf and his son Reginald! The
darkness of hell should hide what followed, but revenge must
lift the veil, and darkly intimate what it would raise the dead
to speak aloud. Long had the smouldering fire of discord glowed
between the tyrant father and his savage son---long had I nursed,
in secret, the unnatural hatred---it blazed forth in an hour of
drunken wassail, and at his own board fell my oppressor by the
hand of his own son---such are the secrets these vaults conceal!
---Rend asunder, ye accursed arches," she added, looking up
towards the roof, "and bury in your fall all who are conscious
of the hideous mystery!"
"And thou, creature of guilt and misery," said Cedric, "what
became thy lot on the death of thy ravisher?"
"Guess it, but ask it not.---Here---here I dwelt, till age,
premature age, has stamped its ghastly features on my countenance
---scorned and insulted where I was once obeyed, and compelled to
bound the revenge which had once such ample scope, to the efforts
of petty malice of a discontented menial, or the vain or unheeded
curses of an impotent hag---condemned to hear from my lonely
turret the sounds of revelry in which I once partook, or the
shrieks and groans of new victims of oppression."
"Ulrica," said Cedric, "with a heart which still, I fear, regrets
the lost reward of thy crimes, as much as the deeds by which thou
didst acquire that meed, how didst thou dare to address thee to
one who wears this robe? Consider, unhappy woman, what could the
sainted Edward himself do for thee, were he here in bodily
presence? The royal Confessor was endowed by heaven with power
to cleanse the ulcers of the body, but only God himself can cure
the leprosy of the soul."
"Yet, turn not from me, stern prophet of wrath," she exclaimed,
"but tell me, if thou canst, in what shall terminate these new
and awful feelings that burst on my solitude---Why do deeds, long
since done, rise before me in new and irresistible horrors? What
fate is prepared beyond the grave for her, to whom God has
assigned on earth a lot of such unspeakable wretchedness? Better
had I turn to Woden, Hertha, and Zernebock---to Mista, and to
Skogula, the gods of our yet unbaptized ancestors, than endure
the dreadful anticipations which have of late haunted my waking
and my sleeping hours!"
"I am no priest," said Cedric, turning with disgust from this
miserable picture of guilt, wretchedness, and despair; "I am no
priest, though I wear a priest's garment."
"Priest or layman," answered Ulrica, "thou art the first I have
seen for twenty years, by whom God was feared or man regarded;
and dost thou bid me despair?"
"I bid thee repent," said Cedric. "Seek to prayer and penance,
and mayest thou find acceptance! But I cannot, I will not,
longer abide with thee."
"Stay yet a moment!" said Ulrica; "leave me not now, son of my
father's friend, lest the demon who has governed my life should
tempt me to avenge myself of thy hard-hearted scorn---Thinkest
thou, if Front-de-Boeuf found Cedric the Saxon in his castle, in
such a disguise, that thy life would be a long one?---Already his
eye has been upon thee like a falcon on his prey."
"And be it so," said Cedric; "and let him tear me with beak and
talons, ere my tongue say one word which my heart doth not
warrant. I will die a Saxon---true in word, open in deed---I bid
thee avaunt!---touch me not, stay me not!---The sight of
Front-de-Boeuf himself is less odious to me than thou, degraded
and degenerate as thou art."
"Be it so," said Ulrica, no longer interrupting him; "go thy way,
and forget, in the insolence of thy superority, that the wretch
before thee is the daughter of thy father's friend.---Go thy way
---if I am separated from mankind by my sufferings---separated
from those whose aid I might most justly expect---not less will I
be separated from them in my revenge!---No man shall aid me, but
the ears of all men shall tingle to hear of the deed which I
shall dare to do!---Farewell!---thy scorn has burst the last tie
which seemed yet to unite me to my kind---a thought that my woes
might claim the compassion of my people."
"Ulrica," said Cedric, softened by this appeal, "hast thou borne
up and endured to live through so much guilt and so much misery,
and wilt thou now yield to despair when thine eyes are opened to
thy crimes, and when repentance were thy fitter occupation?"
"Cedric," answered Ulrica, "thou little knowest the human heart.
To act as I have acted, to think as I have thought, requires the
maddening love of pleasure, mingled with the keen appetite of
revenge, the proud consciousness of power; droughts too
intoxicating for the human heart to bear, and yet retain the
power to prevent. Their force has long passed away---Age has no
pleasures, wrinkles have no influence, revenge itself dies away
in impotent curses. Then comes remorse, with all its vipers,
mixed with vain regrets for the past, and despair for the future!
---Then, when all other strong impulses have ceased, we become
like the fiends in hell, who may feel remorse, but never
repentance.---But thy words have awakened a new soul within me
---Well hast thou said, all is possible for those who dare to
die!---Thou hast shown me the means of revenge, and be assured I
will embrace them. It has hitherto shared this wasted bosom with
other and with rival passions---henceforward it shall possess me
wholly, and thou thyself shalt say, that, whatever was the life
of Ulrica, her death well became the daughter of the noble
Torquil. There is a force without beleaguering this accursed
castle---hasten to lead them to the attack, and when thou shalt
see a red flag wave from the turret on the eastern angle of the
donjon, press the Normans hard---they will then have enough to do
within, and you may win the wall in spite both of bow and
mangonel.---Begone, I pray thee---follow thine own fate, and
leave me to mine."
Cedric would have enquired farther into the purpose which she
thus darkly announced, but the stern voice of Front-de-Boeuf was
heard, exclaiming, "Where tarries this loitering priest? By the
scallop-shell of Compostella, I will make a martyr of him, if he
loiters here to hatch treason among my domestics!"
"What a true prophet," said Ulrica, "is an evil conscience! But
heed him not---out and to thy people---Cry your Saxon onslaught,
and let them sing their war-song of Rollo, if they will;
vengeance shall bear a burden to it."
As she thus spoke, she vanished through a private door, and
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf entered the apartment. Cedric, with
some difficulty, compelled himself to make obeisance to the
haughty Baron, who returned his courtesy with a slight
inclination of the head.
"Thy penitents, father, have made a long shrift---it is the
better for them, since it is the last they shall ever make.
Hast thou prepared them for death?"
"I found them," said Cedric, in such French as he could command,
"expecting the worst, from the moment they knew into whose power
they had fallen."
"How now, Sir Friar," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "thy speech,
methinks, smacks of a Saxon tongue?"
"I was bred in the convent of St Withold of Burton," answered
"Ay?" said the Baron; "it had been better for thee to have been a
Norman, and better for my purpose too; but need has no choice of
messengers. That St Withold's of Burton is a howlet's nest worth
the harrying. The day will soon come that the frock shall
protect the Saxon as little as the mail-coat."
"God's will be done," said Cedric, in a voice tremulous with
passion, which Front-de-Boeuf imputed to fear.
"I see," said he, "thou dreamest already that our men-at-arms are
in thy refectory and thy ale-vaults. But do me one cast of thy
holy office, and, come what list of others, thou shalt sleep as
safe in thy cell as a snail within his shell of proof."
"Speak your commands," said Cedric, with suppressed emotion.
"Follow me through this passage, then, that I may dismiss thee by
the postern."
And as he strode on his way before the supposed friar,
Front-de-Boeuf thus schooled him in the part which he desired he
should act.
"Thou seest, Sir Friar, yon herd of Saxon swine, who have dared
to environ this castle of Torquilstone---Tell them whatever thou
hast a mind of the weakness of this fortalice, or aught else that
can detain them before it for twenty-four hours. Meantime bear
thou this scroll---But soft---canst read, Sir Priest?"
"Not a jot I," answered Cedric, "save on my breviary; and then I
know the characters, because I have the holy service by heart,
praised be Our Lady and St Withold!"
"The fitter messenger for my purpose.---Carry thou this scroll to
the castle of Philip de Malvoisin; say it cometh from me, and is
written by the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and that I pray
him to send it to York with all the speed man and horse can make.
Meanwhile, tell him to doubt nothing, he shall find us whole and
sound behind our battlement---Shame on it, that we should be
compelled to hide thus by a pack of runagates, who are wont to
fly even at the flash of our pennons and the tramp of our horses!
I say to thee, priest, contrive some cast of thine art to keep
the knaves where they are, until our friends bring up their
lances. My vengeance is awake, and she is a falcon that slumbers
not till she has been gorged."
"By my patron saint," said Cedric, with deeper energy than became
his character, "and by every saint who has lived and died in
England, your commands shall be obeyed! Not a Saxon shall stir
from before these walls, if I have art and influence to detain
them there."
"Ha!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "thou changest thy tone, Sir Priest,
and speakest brief and bold, as if thy heart were in the
slaughter of the Saxon herd; and yet thou art thyself of kindred
to the swine?"
Cedric was no ready practiser of the art of dissimulation, and
would at this moment have been much the better of a hint from
Wamba's more fertile brain. But necessity, according to the
ancient proverb, sharpens invention, and he muttered something
under his cowl concerning the men in question being
excommunicated outlaws both to church and to kingdom.
"'Despardieux'," answered Front-de-Boeuf, "thou hast spoken the
very truth---I forgot that the knaves can strip a fat abbot, as
well as if they had been born south of yonder salt channel. Was
it not he of St Ives whom they tied to an oak-tree, and compelled
to sing a mass while they were rifling his mails and his wallets?
---No, by our Lady---that jest was played by Gualtier of
Middleton, one of our own companions-at-arms. But they were
Saxons who robbed the chapel at St Bees of cup, candlestick and
chalice, were they not?"
"They were godless men," answered Cedric.
"Ay, and they drank out all the good wine and ale that lay in
store for many a secret carousal, when ye pretend ye are but
busied with vigils and primes!---Priest, thou art bound to
revenge such sacrilege."
"I am indeed bound to vengeance," murmured Cedric; "Saint Withold
knows my heart."
Front-de-Boeuf, in the meanwhile, led the way to a postern,
where, passing the moat on a single plank, they reached a small
barbican, or exterior defence, which communicated with the open
field by a well-fortified sallyport.
"Begone, then; and if thou wilt do mine errand, and if thou
return hither when it is done, thou shalt see Saxon flesh cheap
as ever was hog's in the shambles of Sheffield. And, hark thee,
thou seemest to be a jolly confessor---come hither after the
onslaught, and thou shalt have as much Malvoisie as would drench
thy whole convent."
"Assuredly we shall meet again," answered Cedric.
"Something in hand the whilst," continued the Norman; and, as
they parted at the postern door, he thrust into Cedric's
reluctant hand a gold byzant, adding, "Remember, I will fly off
both cowl and skin, if thou failest in thy purpose."
"And full leave will I give thee to do both," answered Cedric,
leaving the postern, and striding forth over the free field with
a joyful step, "if, when we meet next, I deserve not better at
thine hand."---Turning then back towards the castle, he threw the
piece of gold towards the donor, exclaiming at the same time,
"False Norman, thy money perish with thee!"
Front-de-Boeuf heard the words imperfectly, but the action was
suspicious---"Archers," he called to the warders on the outward
battlements, "send me an arrow through yon monk's frock!---yet
stay," he said, as his retainers were bending their bows, "it
avails not--we must thus far trust him since we have no better
shift. I think he dares not betray me---at the worst I can but
treat with these Saxon dogs whom I have safe in kennel.---Ho!
Giles jailor, let them bring Cedric of Rotherwood before me, and
the other churl, his companion---him I mean of Coningsburgh
---Athelstane there, or what call they him? Their very names are
an encumbrance to a Norman knight's mouth, and have, as it were,
a flavour of bacon---Give me a stoup of wine, as jolly Prince
John said, that I may wash away the relish---place it in the
armoury, and thither lead the prisoners."
His commands were obeyed; and, upon entering that Gothic
apartment, hung with many spoils won by his own valour and that
of his father, he found a flagon of wine on the massive oaken
table, and the two Saxon captives under the guard of four of his
dependants. Front-de-Boeuf took a long drought of wine, and then
addressed his prisoners;---for the manner in which Wamba drew the
cap over his face, the change of dress, the gloomy and broken
light, and the Baron's imperfect acquaintance with the features
of Cedric, (who avoided his Norman neighbours, and seldom stirred
beyond his own domains,) prevented him from discovering that the
most important of his captives had made his escape.
"Gallants of England," said Front-de-Boeuf, "how relish ye your
entertainment at Torquilstone?---Are ye yet aware what your
'surquedy' and 'outrecuidance'*
* "Surquedy" and "outrecuidance" - insolence and presumption
merit, for scoffing at the entertainment of a prince of the House
of Anjou?---Have ye forgotten how ye requited the unmerited
hospitality of the royal John? By God and St Dennis, an ye pay
not the richer ransom, I will hang ye up by the feet from the
iron bars of these windows, till the kites and hooded crows have
made skeletons of you!---Speak out, ye Saxon dogs---what bid ye
for your worthless lives?---How say you, you of Rotherwood?"
"Not a doit I," answered poor Wamba---"and for hanging up by the
feet, my brain has been topsy-turvy, they say, ever since the
biggin was bound first round my head; so turning me upside down
may peradventure restore it again."
"Saint Genevieve!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "what have we got here?"
And with the back of his hand he struck Cedric's cap from the
head of the Jester, and throwing open his collar, discovered
the fatal badge of servitude, the silver collar round his neck.
"Giles---Clement---dogs and varlets!" exclaimed the furious
Norman, "what have you brought me here?"
"I think I can tell you," said De Bracy, who just entered the
apartment. "This is Cedric's clown, who fought so manful a
skirmish with Isaac of York about a question of precedence."
"I shall settle it for them both," replied Front-de-Boeuf; "they
shall hang on the same gallows, unless his master and this boar
of Coningsburgh will pay well for their lives. Their wealth is
the least they can surrender; they must also carry off with them
the swarms that are besetting the castle, subscribe a surrender
of their pretended immunities, and live under us as serfs and
vassals; too happy if, in the new world that is about to begin,
we leave them the breath of their nostrils.---Go," said he to
two of his attendants, "fetch me the right Cedric hither, and I
pardon your error for once; the rather that you but mistook a
fool for a Saxon franklin."
"Ay, but," said Wamba, "your chivalrous excellency will find
there are more fools than franklins among us."
"What means the knave?" said Front-de-Boeuf, looking towards his
followers, who, lingering and loath, faltered forth their belief,
that if this were not Cedric who was there in presence, they knew
not what was become of him.
"Saints of Heaven!" exclaimed De Bracy, "he must have escaped in
the monk's garments!"
"Fiends of hell!" echoed Front-de-Boeuf, "it was then the boar of
Rotherwood whom I ushered to the postern, and dismissed with my
own hands!---And thou," he said to Wamba, "whose folly could
overreach the wisdom of idiots yet more gross than thyself---I
will give thee holy orders---I will shave thy crown for thee!
---Here, let them tear the scalp from his head, and then pitch
him headlong from the battlements---Thy trade is to jest, canst
thou jest now?"
"You deal with me better than your word, noble knight," whimpered
forth poor Wamba, whose habits of buffoonery were not to be
overcome even by the immediate prospect of death; "if you give
me the red cap you propose, out of a simple monk you will make a
"The poor wretch," said De Bracy, "is resolved to die in his
vocation.---Front-de-Boeuf, you shall not slay him. Give him to
me to make sport for my Free Companions.---How sayst thou, knave?
Wilt thou take heart of grace, and go to the wars with me?"
"Ay, with my master's leave," said Wamba; "for, look you, I must
not slip collar" (and he touched that which he wore) "without his
"Oh, a Norman saw will soon cut a Saxon collar." said De Bracy.
"Ay, noble sir," said Wamba, "and thence goes the proverb---
'Norman saw on English oak,
On English neck a Norman yoke;
Norman spoon in English dish,
And England ruled as Normans wish;
Blithe world to England never will be more,
Till England's rid of all the four.'"
"Thou dost well, De Bracy," said Front-de-Boeuf, "to stand there
listening to a fool's jargon, when destruction is gaping for us!
Seest thou not we are overreached, and that our proposed mode of
communicating with our friends without has been disconcerted by
this same motley gentleman thou art so fond to brother? What
views have we to expect but instant storm?"
"To the battlements then," said De Bracy; "when didst thou ever
see me the graver for the thoughts of battle? Call the Templar
yonder, and let him fight but half so well for his life as he has
done for his Order---Make thou to the walls thyself with thy huge
body---Let me do my poor endeavour in my own way, and I tell thee
the Saxon outlaws may as well attempt to scale the clouds, as
the castle of Torquilstone; or, if you will treat with the
banditti, why not employ the mediation of this worthy franklin,
who seems in such deep contemplation of the wine-flagon?---Here,
Saxon," he continued, addressing Athelstane, and handing the cup
to him, "rinse thy throat with that noble liquor, and rouse up
thy soul to say what thou wilt do for thy liberty."
"What a man of mould may," answered Athelstane, "providing it be
what a man of manhood ought.---Dismiss me free, with my
companions, and I will pay a ransom of a thousand marks."
"And wilt moreover assure us the retreat of that scum of mankind
who are swarming around the castle, contrary to God's peace and
the king's?" said Front-de-Boeuf.
"In so far as I can," answered Athelstane, "I will withdraw them;
and I fear not but that my father Cedric will do his best to
assist me."
"We are agreed then," said Front-de-Boeuf---"thou and they are to
be set at freedom, and peace is to be on both sides, for payment
of a thousand marks. It is a trifling ransom, Saxon, and thou
wilt owe gratitude to the moderation which accepts of it in
exchange of your persons. But mark, this extends not to the Jew
"Nor to the Jew Isaac's daughter," said the Templar, who had now
joined them.
"Neither," said Front-de-Boeuf, "belong to this Saxon's company."
"I were unworthy to be called Christian, if they did," replied
Athelstane: "deal with the unbelievers as ye list."
"Neither does the ransom include the Lady Rowena," said De Bracy.
"It shall never be said I was scared out of a fair prize without
striking a blow for it."
"Neither," said Front-de-Boeuf, "does our treaty refer to this
wretched Jester, whom I retain, that I may make him an example to
every knave who turns jest into earnest."
"The Lady Rowena," answered Athelstane, with the most steady
countenance, "is my affianced bride. I will be drawn by wild
horses before I consent to part with her. The slave Wamba has
this day saved the life of my father Cedric---I will lose mine
ere a hair of his head be injured."
"Thy affianced bride?---The Lady Rowena the affianced bride of a
vassal like thee?" said De Bracy; "Saxon, thou dreamest that the
days of thy seven kingdoms are returned again. I tell thee, the
Princes of the House of Anjou confer not their wards on men of
such lineage as thine."
"My lineage, proud Norman," replied Athelstane, "is drawn from a
source more pure and ancient than that of a beggarly Frenchman,
whose living is won by selling the blood of the thieves whom he
assembles under his paltry standard. Kings were my ancestors,
strong in war and wise in council, who every day feasted in their
hall more hundreds than thou canst number individual followers;
whose names have been sung by minstrels, and their laws recorded
by Wittenagemotes; whose bones were interred amid the prayers of
saints, and over whose tombs minsters have been builded."
"Thou hast it, De Bracy," said Front-de-Boeuf, well pleased with
the rebuff which his companion had received; "the Saxon hath hit
thee fairly."
"As fairly as a captive can strike," said De Bracy, with apparent
carelessness; "for he whose hands are tied should have his tongue
at freedom.---But thy glibness of reply, comrade," rejoined he,
speaking to Athelstane, "will not win the freedom of the Lady
To this Athelstane, who had already made a longer speech than was
his custom to do on any topic, however interesting, returned no
answer. The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a
menial, who announced that a monk demanded admittance at the
postern gate.
"In the name of Saint Bennet, the prince of these bull-beggars,"
said Front-de-Boeuf, "have we a real monk this time, or another
impostor? Search him, slaves---for an ye suffer a second
impostor to be palmed upon you, I will have your eyes torn out,
and hot coals put into the sockets."
"Let me endure the extremity of your anger, my lord," said Giles,
"if this be not a real shaveling. Your squire Jocelyn knows him
well, and will vouch him to be brother Ambrose, a monk in
attendance upon the Prior of Jorvaulx."
"Admit him," said Front-de-Boeuf; "most likely he brings us news
from his jovial master. Surely the devil keeps holiday, and the
priests are relieved from duty, that they are strolling thus
wildly through the country. Remove these prisoners; and, Saxon,
think on what thou hast heard."
"I claim," said Athelstane, "an honourable imprisonment, with due
care of my board and of my couch, as becomes my rank, and as is
due to one who is in treaty for ransom. Moreover, I hold him
that deems himself the best of you, bound to answer to me with
his body for this aggression on my freedom. This defiance hath
already been sent to thee by thy sewer; thou underliest it, and
art bound to answer me---There lies my glove."
"I answer not the challenge of my prisoner," said Front-de-Boeuf;
"nor shalt thou, Maurice de Bracy.---Giles," he continued, "hang
the franklin's glove upon the tine of yonder branched antlers:
there shall it remain until he is a free man. Should he then
presume to demand it, or to affirm he was unlawfully made my
prisoner, by the belt of Saint Christopher, he will speak to one
who hath never refused to meet a foe on foot or on horseback,
alone or with his vassals at his back!"
The Saxon prisoners were accordingly removed, just as they
introduced the monk Ambrose, who appeared to be in great
"This is the real 'Deus vobiscum'," said Wamba, as he passed the
reverend brother; "the others were but counterfeits."
"Holy Mother," said the monk, as he addressed the assembled
knights, "I am at last safe and in Christian keeping!"
"Safe thou art," replied De Bracy; "and for Christianity, here is
the stout Baron Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, whose utter abomination
is a Jew; and the good Knight Templar, Brian de Bois-Guilbert,
whose trade is to slay Saracens---If these are not good marks of
Christianity, I know no other which they bear about them."
"Ye are friends and allies of our reverend father in God, Aymer,
Prior of Jorvaulx," said the monk, without noticing the tone of
De Bracy's reply; "ye owe him aid both by knightly faith and holy
charity; for what saith the blessed Saint Augustin, in his
treatise 'De Civitate Dei'------"
"What saith the devil!" interrupted Front-de-Boeuf; "or rather
what dost thou say, Sir Priest? We have little time to hear
texts from the holy fathers."
"'Sancta Maria!'" ejaculated Father Ambrose, "how prompt to ire
are these unhallowed laymen!---But be it known to you, brave
knights, that certain murderous caitiffs, casting behind them
fear of God, and reverence of his church, and not regarding the
bull of the holy see, 'Si quis, suadende Diabolo'------"
"Brother priest," said the Templar, "all this we know or guess at
---tell us plainly, is thy master, the Prior, made prisoner, and
to whom?"
"Surely," said Ambrose, "he is in the hands of the men of Belial,
infesters of these woods, and contemners of the holy text, 'Touch
not mine anointed, and do my prophets naught of evil.'"
"Here is a new argument for our swords, sirs," said
Front-de-Boeuf, turning to his companions; "and so, instead of
reaching us any assistance, the Prior of Jorvaulx requests aid at
our hands? a man is well helped of these lazy churchmen when he
hath most to do!---But speak out, priest, and say at once, what
doth thy master expect from us?"
"So please you," said Ambrose, "violent hands having been imposed
on my reverend superior, contrary to the holy ordinance which I
did already quote, and the men of Belial having rifled his mails
and budgets, and stripped him of two hundred marks of pure
refined gold, they do yet demand of him a large sum beside, ere
they will suffer him to depart from their uncircumcised hands.
Wherefore the reverend father in God prays you, as his dear
friends, to rescue him, either by paying down the ransom at which
they hold him, or by force of arms, at your best discretion."
"The foul fiend quell the Prior!" said Front-de-Boeuf; "his
morning's drought has been a deep one. When did thy master hear
of a Norman baron unbuckling his purse to relieve a churchman,
whose bags are ten times as weighty as ours?---And how can we do
aught by valour to free him, that are cooped up here by ten times
our number, and expect an assault every moment?"
"And that was what I was about to tell you," said the monk, "had
your hastiness allowed me time. But, God help me, I am old, and
these foul onslaughts distract an aged man's brain.
Nevertheless, it is of verity that they assemble a camp, and
raise a bank against the walls of this castle."
"To the battlements!" cried De Bracy, "and let us mark what these
knaves do without;" and so saying, he opened a latticed window
which led to a sort of bartisan or projecting balcony, and
immediately called from thence to those in the apartment
---"Saint Dennis, but the old monk hath brought true tidings!
---They bring forward mantelets and pavisses,*
* Mantelets were temporary and movable defences formed of
* planks, under cover of which the assailants advanced to
* the attack of fortified places of old. Pavisses were a
* species of large shields covering the whole person,
* employed on the same occasions.
and the archers muster on the skirts of the wood like a dark
cloud before a hailstorm."
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf also looked out upon the field, and
immediately snatched his bugle; and, after winding a long and
loud blast, commanded his men to their posts on the walls.
"De Bracy, look to the eastern side, where the walls are lowest
---Noble Bois-Guilbert, thy trade hath well taught thee how to
attack and defend, look thou to the western side---I myself will
take post at the barbican. Yet, do not confine your exertions to
any one spot, noble friends!---we must this day be everywhere,
and multiply ourselves, were it possible, so as to carry by our
presence succour and relief wherever the attack is hottest. Our
numbers are few, but activity and courage may supply that defect,
since we have only to do with rascal clowns."
"But, noble knights," exclaimed Father Ambrose, amidst the bustle
and confusion occasioned by the preparations for defence, "will
none of ye hear the message of the reverend father in God Aymer,
Prior of Jorvaulx?---I beseech thee to hear me, noble Sir
"Go patter thy petitions to heaven," said the fierce Norman, "for
we on earth have no time to listen to them.---Ho! there, Anselm I
see that seething pitch and oil are ready to pour on the heads of
these audacious traitors---Look that the cross-bowmen lack not
* The bolt was the arrow peculiarly fitted to the cross-bow,
* as that of the long-bow was called a shaft. Hence the
* English proverb---"I will either make a shaft or bolt of
* it," signifying a determination to make one use or other
* of the thing spoken of.
---Fling abroad my banner with the old bull's head---the knaves
shall soon find with whom they have to do this day!"
"But, noble sir," continued the monk, persevering in his
endeavours to draw attention, "consider my vow of obedience, and
let me discharge myself of my Superior's errand."
"Away with this prating dotard," said Front-de Boeuf, "lock him
up in the chapel, to tell his beads till the broil be over. It
will be a new thing to the saints in Torquilstone to hear aves
and paters; they have not been so honoured, I trow, since they
were cut out of stone."
"Blaspheme not the holy saints, Sir Reginald," said De Bracy, "we
shall have need of their aid to-day before yon rascal rout
"I expect little aid from their hand," said Front-de-Boeuf,
"unless we were to hurl them from the battlements on the heads of
the villains. There is a huge lumbering Saint Christopher
yonder, sufficient to bear a whole company to the earth."
The Templar had in the meantime been looking out on the
proceedings of the besiegers, with rather more attention than the
brutal Front-de-Boeuf or his giddy companion.
"By the faith of mine order," he said, "these men approach with
more touch of discipline than could have been judged, however
they come by it. See ye how dexterously they avail themselves
of every cover which a tree or bush affords, and shun exposing
themselves to the shot of our cross-bows? I spy neither banner
nor pennon among them, and yet will I gage my golden chain, that
they are led on by some noble knight or gentleman, skilful in the
practice of wars."
"I espy him," said De Bracy; "I see the waving of a knight's
crest, and the gleam of his armour. See yon tall man in the
black mail, who is busied marshalling the farther troop of the
rascaille yeomen---by Saint Dennis, I hold him to be the same
whom we called 'Le Noir Faineant', who overthrew thee,
Front-de-Boeuf, in the lists at Ashby."
"So much the better," said Front-de-Boeuf, "that he comes here to
give me my revenge. Some hilding fellow he must be, who dared
not stay to assert his claim to the tourney prize which chance
had assigned him. I should in vain have sought for him where
knights and nobles seek their foes, and right glad am I he hath
here shown himself among yon villain yeomanry."
The demonstrations of the enemy's immediate approach cut off all
farther discourse. Each knight repaired to his post, and at the
head of the few followers whom they were able to muster, and who
were in numbers inadequate to defend the whole extent of the
walls, they awaited with calm determination the threatened
This wandering race, sever'd from other men,
Boast yet their intercourse with human arts;
The seas, the woods, the deserts, which they haunt,
Find them acquainted with their secret treasures:
And unregarded herbs, and flowers, and blossoms,
Display undreamt-of powers when gather'd by them.
The Jew
Our history must needs retrograde for the space of a few pages,
to inform the reader of certain passages material to his
understanding the rest of this important narrative. His own
intelligence may indeed have easily anticipated that, when
Ivanhoe sunk down, and seemed abandoned by all the world, it was
the importunity of Rebecca which prevailed on her father to have
the gallant young warrior transported from the lists to the house
which for the time the Jews inhabited in the suburbs of Ashby.
It would not have been difficult to have persuaded Isaac to this
step in any other circumstances, for his disposition was kind and
grateful. But he had also the prejudices and scrupulous timidity
of his persecuted people, and those were to be conquered.
"Holy Abraham!" he exclaimed, "he is a good youth, and my heart
bleeds to see the gore trickle down his rich embroidered
hacqueton, and his corslet of goodly price---but to carry him to
our house!---damsel, hast thou well considered?---he is a
Christian, and by our law we may not deal with the stranger and
Gentile, save for the advantage of our commerce."
"Speak not so, my dear father," replied Rebecca; "we may not
indeed mix with them in banquet and in jollity; but in wounds and
in misery, the Gentile becometh the Jew's brother."
"I would I knew what the Rabbi Jacob Ben Tudela would opine on
it," replied Isaac;---"nevertheless, the good youth must not
bleed to death. Let Seth and Reuben bear him to Ashby."
"Nay, let them place him in my litter," said Rebecca; "I will
mount one of the palfreys."
"That were to expose thee to the gaze of those dogs of Ishmael
and of Edom," whispered Isaac, with a suspicious glance towards
the crowd of knights and squires. But Rebecca was already busied
in carrying her charitable purpose into effect, and listed not
what he said, until Isaac, seizing the sleeve of her mantle,
again exclaimed, in a hurried voice---"Beard of Aaron!---what if
the youth perish!---if he die in our custody, shall we not be
held guilty of his blood, and be torn to pieces by the
"He will not die, my father," said Rebecca, gently extricating
herself from the grasp of Isaac "he will not die unless we
abandon him; and if so, we are indeed answerable for his blood to
God and to man."
"Nay," said Isaac, releasing his hold, "it grieveth me as much to
see the drops of his blood, as if they were so many golden
byzants from mine own purse; and I well know, that the lessons of
Miriam, daughter of the Rabbi Manasses of Byzantium whose soul is
in Paradise, have made thee skilful in the art of healing, and
that thou knowest the craft of herbs, and the force of elixirs.
Therefore, do as thy mind giveth thee---thou art a good damsel, a
blessing, and a crown, and a song of rejoicing unto me and unto
my house, and unto the people of my fathers."
The apprehensions of Isaac, however, were not ill founded; and
the generous and grateful benevolence of his daughter exposed
her, on her return to Ashby, to the unhallowed gaze of Brian de
Bois-Guilbert. The Templar twice passed and repassed them on the
road, fixing his bold and ardent look on the beautiful Jewess;
and we have already seen the consequences of the admiration which
her charms excited when accident threw her into the power of that
unprincipled voluptuary.
Rebecca lost no time in causing the patient to be transported to
their temporary dwelling, and proceeded with her own hands to
examine and to bind up his wounds. The youngest reader of
romances and romantic ballads, must recollect how often the
females, during the dark ages, as they are called, were initiated
into the mysteries of surgery, and how frequently the gallant
knight submitted the wounds of his person to her cure, whose
eyes had yet more deeply penetrated his heart.
But the Jews, both male and female, possessed and practised the
medical science in all its branches, and the monarchs and
powerful barons of the time frequently committed themselves to
the charge of some experienced sage among this despised people,
when wounded or in sickness. The aid of the Jewish physicians
was not the less eagerly sought after, though a general belief
prevailed among the Christians, that the Jewish Rabbins were
deeply acquainted with the occult sciences, and particularly with
the cabalistical art, which had its name and origin in the
studies of the sages of Israel. Neither did the Rabbins disown
such acquaintance with supernatural arts, which added nothing
(for what could add aught?) to the hatred with which their nation
was regarded, while it diminished the contempt with which that
malevolence was mingled. A Jewish magician might be the subject
of equal abhorrence with a Jewish usurer, but he could not be
equally despised. It is besides probable, considering the
wonderful cures they are said to have performed, that the Jews
possessed some secrets of the healing art peculiar to themselves,
and which, with the exclusive spirit arising out of their
condition, they took great care to conceal from the Christians
amongst whom they dwelt.
The beautiful Rebecca had been heedfully brought up in all the
knowledge proper to her nation, which her apt and powerful mind
had retained, arranged, and enlarged, in the course of a progress
beyond her years, her sex, and even the age in which she lived.
Her knowledge of medicine and of the healing art had been
acquired under an aged Jewess, the daughter of one of their most
celebrated doctors, who loved Rebecca as her own child, and was
believed to have communicated to her secrets, which had been left
to herself by her sage father at the same time, and under the
same circumstances. The fate of Miriam had indeed been to fall a
sacrifice to the fanaticism of the times; but her secrets had
survived in her apt pupil.
Rebecca, thus endowed with knowledge as with beauty, was
universally revered and admired by her own tribe, who almost
regarded her as one of those gifted women mentioned in the sacred
history. Her father himself, out of reverence for her talents,
which involuntarily mingled itself with his unbounded affection,
permitted the maiden a greater liberty than was usually indulged
to those of her sex by the habits of her people, and was, as we
have just seen, frequently guided by her opinion, even in
preference to his own.
When Ivanhoe reached the habitation of Isaac, he was still in a
state of unconsciousness, owing to the profuse loss of blood
which had taken place during his exertions in the lists. Rebecca
examined the wound, and having applied to it such vulnerary
remedies as her art prescribed, informed her father that if fever
could be averted, of which the great bleeding rendered her little
apprehensive, and if the healing balsam of Miriam retained its
virtue, there was nothing to fear for his guest's life, and that
he might with safety travel to York with them on the ensuing day.
Isaac looked a little blank at this annunciation. His charity
would willingly have stopped short at Ashby, or at most would
have left the wounded Christian to be tended in the house where
he was residing at present, with an assurance to the Hebrew to
whom it belonged, that all expenses should be duly discharged.
To this, however, Rebecca opposed many reasons, of which we shall
only mention two that had peculiar weight with Isaac. The one
was, that she would on no account put the phial of precious
balsam into the hands of another physician even of her own tribe,
lest that valuable mystery should be discovered; the other, that
this wounded knight, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, was an intimate
favourite of Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and that, in case the monarch
should return, Isaac, who had supplied his brother John with
treasure to prosecute his rebellious purposes, would stand in no
small need of a powerful protector who enjoyed Richard's favour.
"Thou art speaking but sooth, Rebecca," said Isaac, giving way to
these weighty arguments---"it were an offending of Heaven to
betray the secrets of the blessed Miriam; for the good which
Heaven giveth, is not rashly to be squandered upon others,
whether it be talents of gold and shekels of silver, or whether
it be the secret mysteries of a wise physician---assuredly they
should be preserved to those to whom Providence hath vouchsafed
them. And him whom the Nazarenes of England call the Lion's
Heart, assuredly it were better for me to fall into the hands of
a strong lion of Idumea than into his, if he shall have got
assurance of my dealing with his brother. Wherefore I will lend
ear to thy counsel, and this youth shall journey with us unto
York, and our house shall be as a home to him until his wounds
shall be healed. And if he of the Lion Heart shall return to the
land, as is now noised abroad, then shall this Wilfred of Ivanhoe
be unto me as a wall of defence, when the king's displeasure
shall burn high against thy father. And if he doth not return,
this Wilfred may natheless repay us our charges when he shall
gain treasure by the strength of his spear and of his sword, even
as he did yesterday and this day also. For the youth is a good
youth, and keepeth the day which he appointeth, and restoreth
that which he borroweth, and succoureth the Israelite, even the
child of my father's house, when he is encompassed by strong
thieves and sons of Belial."
It was not until evening was nearly closed that Ivanhoe was
restored to consciousness of his situation. He awoke from a
broken slumber, under the confused impressions which are
naturally attendant on the recovery from a state of
insensibility. He was unable for some time to recall exactly to
memory the circumstances which had preceded his fall in the
lists, or to make out any connected chain of the events in which
he had been engaged upon the yesterday. A sense of wounds and
injury, joined to great weakness and exhaustion, was mingled with
the recollection of blows dealt and received, of steeds rushing
upon each other, overthrowing and overthrown---of shouts and
clashing of arms, and all the heady tumult of a confused fight.
An effort to draw aside the curtain of his conch was in some
degree successful, although rendered difficult by the pain of his
To his great surprise he found himself in a room magnificently
furnished, but having cushions instead of chairs to rest upon,
and in other respects partaking so much of Oriental costume, that
he began to doubt whether he had not, during his sleep, been
transported back again to the land of Palestine. The impression
was increased, when, the tapestry being drawn aside, a female
form, dressed in a rich habit, which partook more of the Eastern
taste than that of Europe, glided through the door which it
concealed, and was followed by a swarthy domestic.
As the wounded knight was about to address this fair apparition,
she imposed silence by placing her slender finger upon her ruby
lips, while the attendant, approaching him, proceeded to uncover
Ivanhoe's side, and the lovely Jewess satisfied herself that the
bandage was in its place, and the wound doing well. She
performed her task with a graceful and dignified simplicity and
modesty, which might, even in more civilized days, have served to
redeem it from whatever might seem repugnant to female delicacy.
The idea of so young and beautiful a person engaged in attendance
on a sick-bed, or in dressing the wound of one of a different
sex, was melted away and lost in that of a beneficent being
contributing her effectual aid to relieve pain, and to avert the
stroke of death. Rebecca's few and brief directions were given
in the Hebrew language to the old domestic; and he, who had been
frequently her assistant in similar cases, obeyed them without
The accents of an unknown tongue, however harsh they might have
sounded when uttered by another, had, coming from the beautiful
Rebecca, the romantic and pleasing effect which fancy ascribes to
the charms pronounced by some beneficent fairy, unintelligible,
indeed, to the ear, but, from the sweetness of utterance, and
benignity of aspect, which accompanied them, touching and
affecting to the heart. Without making an attempt at further
question, Ivanhoe suffered them in silence to take the measures
they thought most proper for his recovery; and it was not until
those were completed, and this kind physician about to retire,
that his curiosity could no longer be suppressed.---"Gentle
maiden," be began in the Arabian tongue, with which his Eastern
travels had rendered him familiar, and which he thought most
likely to be understood by the turban'd and caftan'd damsel who
stood before him---"I pray you, gentle maiden, of your
But here he was interrupted by his fair physician, a smile which
she could scarce suppress dimpling for an instant a face, whose
general expression was that of contemplative melancholy. "I am
of England, Sir Knight, and speak the English tongue, although my
dress and my lineage belong to another climate."
"Noble damsel,"---again the Knight of Ivanhoe began; and again
Rebecca hastened to interrupt him.
"Bestow not on me, Sir Knight," she said, "the epithet of noble.
It is well you should speedily know that your handmaiden is a
poor Jewess, the daughter of that Isaac of York, to whom you were
so lately a good and kind lord. It well becomes him, and those
of his household, to render to you such careful tendance as your
present state necessarily demands."
I know not whether the fair Rowena would have been altogether
satisfied with the species of emotion with which her devoted
knight had hitherto gazed on the beautiful features, and fair
form, and lustrous eyes, of the lovely Rebecca; eyes whose
brilliancy was shaded, and, as it were, mellowed, by the fringe
of her long silken eyelashes, and which a minstrel would have
compared to the evening star darting its rays through a bower of
jessamine. But Ivanhoe was too good a Catholic to retain the
same class of feelings towards a Jewess. This Rebecca had
foreseen, and for this very purpose she had hastened to mention
her father's name and lineage; yet---for the fair and wise
daughter of Isaac was not without a touch of female weakness
---she could not but sigh internally when the glance of
respectful admiration, not altogether unmixed with tenderness,
with which Ivanhoe had hitherto regarded his unknown
benefactress, was exchanged at once for a manner cold, composed,
and collected, and fraught with no deeper feeling than that which
expressed a grateful sense of courtesy received from an
unexpected quarter, and from one of an inferior race. It was not
that Ivanhoe's former carriage expressed more than that general
devotional homage which youth always pays to beauty; yet it was
mortifying that one word should operate as a spell to remove poor
Rebecca, who could not be supposed altogether ignorant of her
title to such homage, into a degraded class, to whom it could not
be honourably rendered.
But the gentleness and candour of Rebecca's nature imputed no
fault to Ivanhoe for sharing in the universal prejudices of his
age and religion. On the contrary the fair Jewess, though
sensible her patient now regarded her as one of a race of
reprobation, with whom it was disgraceful to hold any beyond the
most necessary intercourse, ceased not to pay the same patient
and devoted attention to his safety and convalescence. She
informed him of the necessity they were under of removing to
York, and of her father's resolution to transport him thither,
and tend him in his own house until his health should be
restored. Ivanhoe expressed great repugnance to this plan, which
he grounded on unwillingness to give farther trouble to his
"Was there not," he said, "in Ashby, or near it, some Saxon
franklin, or even some wealthy peasant, who would endure the
burden of a wounded countryman's residence with him until he
should be again able to bear his armour?---Was there no convent
of Saxon endowment, where he could be received?---Or could he not
be transported as far as Burton, where he was sure to find
hospitality with Waltheoff, the Abbot of St Withold's, to whom he
was related?"
"Any, the worst of these harbourages," said Rebecca, with a
melancholy smile, "would unquestionably be more fitting for your
residence than the abode of a despised Jew; yet, Sir Knight,
unless you would dismiss your physician, you cannot change your
lodging. Our nation, as you well know, can cure wounds, though
we deal not in inflicting them; and in our own family, in
particular, are secrets which have been handed down since the
days of Solomon, and of which you have already experienced the
advantages. No Nazarene---I crave your forgiveness, Sir Knight
---no Christian leech, within the four seas of Britain, could
enable you to bear your corslet within a month."
"And how soon wilt THOU enable me to brook it?" said Ivanhoe,
"Within eight days, if thou wilt be patient and conformable to my
directions," replied Rebecca.
"By Our Blessed Lady," said Wilfred, "if it be not a sin to name
her here, it is no time for me or any true knight to be
bedridden; and if thou accomplish thy promise, maiden, I will pay
thee with my casque full of crowns, come by them as I may."
"I will accomplish my promise," said Rebecca, "and thou shalt
bear thine armour on the eighth day from hence, if thou will
grant me but one boon in the stead of the silver thou dost
promise me."
"If it be within my power, and such as a true Christian knight
may yield to one of thy people," replied Ivanhoe, "I will grant
thy boon blithely and thankfully."
"Nay," answered Rebecca, "I will but pray of thee to believe
henceforward that a Jew may do good service to a Christian,
without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great
Father who made both Jew and Gentile."
"It were sin to doubt it, maiden," replied Ivanhoe; "and I repose
myself on thy skill without further scruple or question, well
trusting you will enable me to bear my corslet on the eighth day.
And now, my kind leech, let me enquire of the news abroad. What
of the noble Saxon Cedric and his household?---what of the lovely
Lady---" He stopt, as if unwilling to speak Rowena's name in the
house of a Jew---"Of her, I mean, who was named Queen of the
"And who was selected by you, Sir Knight, to hold that dignity,
with judgment which was admired as much as your valour," replied
The blood which Ivanhoe had lost did not prevent a flush from
crossing his cheek, feeling that he had incautiously betrayed a
deep interest in Rowena by the awkward attempt he had made to
conceal it.
"It was less of her I would speak," said he, "than of Prince
John; and I would fain know somewhat of a faithful squire, and
why he now attends me not?"
"Let me use my authority as a leech," answered Rebecca, "and
enjoin you to keep silence, and avoid agitating reflections,
whilst I apprize you of what you desire to know. Prince John
hath broken off the tournament, and set forward in all haste
towards York, with the nobles, knights, and churchmen of his
party, after collecting such sums as they could wring, by fair
means or foul, from those who are esteemed the wealthy of the
land. It is said be designs to assume his brother's crown."
"Not without a blow struck in its defence," said Ivanhoe, raising
himself upon the couch, "if there were but one true subject in
England I will fight for Richard's title with the best of them
---ay, one or two, in his just quarrel!"
"But that you may be able to do so," said Rebecca touching his
shoulder with her hand, "you must now observe my directions, and
remain quiet."
"True, maiden," said Ivanhoe, "as quiet as these disquieted times
will permit---And of Cedric and his household?"
"His steward came but brief while since," said the Jewess,
"panting with haste, to ask my father for certain monies, the
price of wool the growth of Cedric's flocks, and from him I
learned that Cedric and Athelstane of Coningsburgh had left
Prince John's lodging in high displeasure, and were about to set
forth on their return homeward."
"Went any lady with them to the banquet?" said Wilfred.
"The Lady Rowena," said Rebecca, answering the question with more
precision than it had been asked---"The Lady Rowena went not to
the Prince's feast, and, as the steward reported to us, she is
now on her journey back to Rotherwood, with her guardian Cedric.
And touching your faithful squire Gurth------"
"Ha!" exclaimed the knight, "knowest thou his name?---But thou
dost," he immediately added, "and well thou mayst, for it was
from thy hand, and, as I am now convinced, from thine own
generosity of spirit, that he received but yesterday a hundred
"Speak not of that," said Rebecca, blushing deeply; "I see how
easy it is for the tongue to betray what the heart would gladly
"But this sum of gold," said Ivanhoe, gravely, "my honour is
concerned in repaying it to your father."
"Let it be as thou wilt," said Rebecca, "when eight days have
passed away; but think not, and speak not now, of aught that may
retard thy recovery."
"Be it so, kind maiden," said Ivanhoe; "I were most ungrateful to
dispute thy commands. But one word of the fate of poor Gurth,
and I have done with questioning thee."
"I grieve to tell thee, Sir Knight," answered the Jewess, "that
he is in custody by the order of Cedric."---And then observing
the distress which her communication gave to Wilfred, she
instantly added, "But the steward Oswald said, that if nothing
occurred to renew his master's displeasure against him, he was
sure that Cedric would pardon Gurth, a faithful serf, and one who
stood high in favour, and who had but committed this error out of
the love which he bore to Cedric's son. And he said, moreover,
that he and his comrades, and especially Wamba the Jester, were
resolved to warn Gurth to make his escape by the way, in case
Cedric's ire against him could not be mitigated."
"Would to God they may keep their purpose!" said Ivanhoe; "but it
seems as if I were destined to bring ruin on whomsoever hath
shown kindness to me. My king, by whom I was honoured and
distinguished, thou seest that the brother most indebted to him
is raising his arms to grasp his crown;---my regard hath brought
restraint and trouble on the fairest of her sex;---and now my
father in his mood may slay this poor bondsman but for his love
and loyal service to me!---Thou seest, maiden, what an ill-fated
wretch thou dost labour to assist; be wise, and let me go, ere
the misfortunes which track my footsteps like slot-hounds, shall
involve thee also in their pursuit."
"Nay," said Rebecca, "thy weakness and thy grief, Sir Knight,
make thee miscalculate the purposes of Heaven. Thou hast been
restored to thy country when it most needed the assistance of a
strong hand and a true heart, and thou hast humbled the pride of
thine enemies and those of thy king, when their horn was most
highly exalted, and for the evil which thou hast sustained, seest
thou not that Heaven has raised thee a helper and a physician,
even among the most despised of the land?---Therefore, be of good
courage, and trust that thou art preserved for some marvel which
thine arm shall work before this people. Adieu---and having
taken the medicine which I shall send thee by the hand of Reuben,
compose thyself again to rest, that thou mayest be the more able
to endure the journey on the succeeding day."
Ivanhoe was convinced by the reasoning, and obeyed the
directions, of Rebecca. The drought which Reuben administered
was of a sedative and narcotic quality, and secured the patient
sound and undisturbed slumbers. In the morning his kind
physician found him entirely free from feverish symptoms, and fit
to undergo the fatigue of a journey.
He was deposited in the horse-litter which had brought him from
the lists, and every precaution taken for his travelling with
ease. In one circumstance only even the entreaties of Rebecca
were unable to secure sufficient attention to the accommodation
of the wounded knight. Isaac, like the enriched traveller of
Juvenal's tenth satire, had ever the fear of robbery before his
eyes, conscious that he would be alike accounted fair game by the
marauding Norman noble, and by the Saxon outlaw. He therefore
journeyed at a great rate, and made short halts, and shorter
repasts, so that he passed by Cedric and Athelstane who had
several hours the start of him, but who had been delayed by their
protracted feasting at the convent of Saint Withold's. Yet such
was the virtue of Miriam's balsam, or such the strength of
Ivanhoe's constitution, that he did not sustain from the hurried
journey that inconvenience which his kind physician had
In another point of view, however, the Jew's haste proved
somewhat more than good speed. The rapidity with which he
insisted on travelling, bred several disputes between him and the
party whom he had hired to attend him as a guard. These men were
Saxons, and not free by any means from the national love of ease
and good living which the Normans stigmatized as laziness and
gluttony. Reversing Shylock's position, they had accepted the
employment in hopes of feeding upon the wealthy Jew, and were
very much displeased when they found themselves disappointed, by
the rapidity with which he insisted on their proceeding. They
remonstrated also upon the risk of damage to their horses by
these forced marches. Finally, there arose betwixt Isaac and his
satellites a deadly feud, concerning the quantity of wine and ale
to be allowed for consumption at each meal. And thus it happened,
that when the alarm of danger approached, and that which Isaac
feared was likely to come upon him, he was deserted by the
discontented mercenaries on whose protection he had relied,
without using the means necessary to secure their attachment.
In this deplorable condition the Jew, with his daughter and her
wounded patient, were found by Cedric, as has already been
noticed, and soon afterwards fell into the power of De Bracy and
his confederates. Little notice was at first taken of the
horse-litter, and it might have remained behind but for the
curiosity of De Bracy, who looked into it under the impression
that it might contain the object of his enterprise, for Rowena
had not unveiled herself. But De Bracy's astonishment was
considerable, when he discovered that the litter contained a
wounded man, who, conceiving himself to have fallen into the
power of Saxon outlaws, with whom his name might be a protection
for himself and his friends, frankly avowed himself to be Wilfred
of Ivanhoe.
The ideas of chivalrous honour, which, amidst his wildness and
levity, never utterly abandoned De Bracy, prohibited him from
doing the knight any injury in his defenceless condition, and
equally interdicted his betraying him to Front-de-Boeuf, who
would have had no scruples to put to death, under any
circumstances, the rival claimant of the fief of Ivanhoe. On the
other hand, to liberate a suitor preferred by the Lady Rowena, as
the events of the tournament, and indeed Wilfred's previous
banishment from his father's house, had made matter of notoriety,
was a pitch far above the flight of De Bracy's generosity. A
middle course betwixt good and evil was all which he found
himself capable of adopting, and he commanded two of his own
squires to keep close by the litter, and to suffer no one to
approach it. If questioned, they were directed by their master
to say, that the empty litter of the Lady Rowena was employed to
transport one of their comrades who had been wounded in the
scuffle. On arriving at Torquilstone, while the Knight Templar
and the lord of that castle were each intent upon their own
schemes, the one on the Jew's treasure, and the other on his
daughter, De Bracy's squires conveyed Ivanhoe, still under the
name of a wounded comrade, to a distant apartment. This
explanation was accordingly returned by these men to
Front-de-Boeuf, when he questioned them why they did not make for
the battlements upon the alarm.
"A wounded companion!" he replied in great wrath and
astonishment. "No wonder that churls and yeomen wax so
presumptuous as even to lay leaguer before castles, and that
clowns and swineherds send defiances to nobles, since men-at-arms
have turned sick men's nurses, and Free Companions are grown
keepers of dying folk's curtains, when the castle is about to be
assailed.---To the battlements, ye loitering villains!" he
exclaimed, raising his stentorian voice till the arches around
rung again, "to the battlements, or I will splinter your bones
with this truncheon!"
The men sulkily replied, "that they desired nothing better than
to go to the battlements, providing Front-de-Boeuf would bear
them out with their master, who had commanded them to tend the
dying man."
"The dying man, knaves!" rejoined the Baron; "I promise thee we
shall all be dying men an we stand not to it the more stoutly.
But I will relieve the guard upon this caitiff companion of
yours.---Here, Urfried---hag---fiend of a Saxon witch---hearest
me not?---tend me this bedridden fellow since he must needs be
tended, whilst these knaves use their weapons.---Here be two
arblasts, comrades, with windlaces and quarrells*
* The arblast was a cross-bow, the windlace the machine
* used in bending that weapon, and the quarrell, so called
* from its square or diamond-shaped head, was the bolt
* adapted to it.
---to the barbican with you, and see you drive each bolt through
a Saxon brain."
The men, who, like most of their description, were fond of
enterprise and detested inaction, went joyfully to the scene of
danger as they were commanded, and thus the charge of Ivanhoe was
transferred to Urfried, or Ulrica. But she, whose brain was
burning with remembrance of injuries and with hopes of vengeance,
was readily induced to devolve upon Rebecca the care of her
Ascend the watch-tower yonder, valiant soldier,
Look on the field, and say how goes the battle.
Schiller's Maid of Orleans
A moment of peril is often also a moment of open-hearted kindness
and affection. We are thrown off our guard by the general
agitation of our feelings, and betray the intensity of those,
which, at more tranquil periods, our prudence at least conceals,
if it cannot altogether suppress them. In finding herself once
more by the side of Ivanhoe, Rebecca was astonished at the keen
sensation of pleasure which she experienced, even at a time when
all around them both was danger, if not despair. As she felt his
pulse, and enquired after his health, there was a softness in her
touch and in her accents implying a kinder interest than she
would herself have been pleased to have voluntarily expressed.
Her voice faltered and her hand trembled, and it was only the
cold question of Ivanhoe, "Is it you, gentle maiden?" which
recalled her to herself, and reminded her the sensations which
she felt were not and could not be mutual. A sigh escaped, but
it was scarce audible; and the questions which she asked the
knight concerning his state of health were put in the tone of
calm friendship. Ivanhoe answered her hastily that he was, in
point of health, as well, and better than he could have expected
---"Thanks," he said, "dear Rebecca, to thy helpful skill."
"He calls me DEAR Rebecca," said the maiden to herself, "but it
is in the cold and careless tone which ill suits the word. His
war-horse---his hunting hound, are dearer to him than the
despised Jewess!"
"My mind, gentle maiden," continued Ivanhoe, "is more disturbed
by anxiety, than my body with pain. From the speeches of those
men who were my warders just now, I learn that I am a prisoner,
and, if I judge aright of the loud hoarse voice which even now
dispatched them hence on some military duty, I am in the castle
of Front-de-Boeuf---If so, how will this end, or how can I
protect Rowena and my father?"
"He names not the Jew or Jewess," said Rebecca internally; "yet
what is our portion in him, and how justly am I punished by
Heaven for letting my thoughts dwell upon him!" She hastened
after this brief self-accusation to give Ivanhoe what information
she could; but it amounted only to this, that the Templar
Bois-Guilbert, and the Baron Front-de-Boeuf, were commanders
within the castle; that it was beleaguered from without, but by
whom she knew not. She added, that there was a Christian priest
within the castle who might be possessed of more information.
"A Christian priest!" said the knight, joyfully; "fetch him
hither, Rebecca, if thou canst---say a sick man desires his
ghostly counsel---say what thou wilt, but bring him---something I
must do or attempt, but how can I determine until I know how
matters stand without?"
Rebecca in compliance with the wishes of Ivanhoe, made that
attempt to bring Cedric into the wounded Knight's chamber,
which was defeated as we have already seen by the interference of
Urfried, who had also been on the watch to intercept the supposed
monk. Rebecca retired to communicate to Ivanhoe the result of
her errand.
They had not much leisure to regret the failure of this source of
intelligence, or to contrive by what means it might be supplied;
for the noise within the castle, occasioned by the defensive
preparations which had been considerable for some time, now
increased into tenfold bustle and clamour. The heavy, yet hasty
step of the men-at-arms, traversed the battlements or resounded
on the narrow and winding passages and stairs which led to the
various bartisans and points of defence. The voices of the
knights were heard, animating their followers, or directing means
of defence, while their commands were often drowned in the
clashing of armour, or the clamorous shouts of those whom they
addressed. Tremendous as these sounds were, and yet more
terrible from the awful event which they presaged, there was a
sublimity mixed with them, which Rebecca's high-toned mind could
feel even in that moment of terror. Her eye kindled, although
the blood fled from her cheeks; and there was a strong mixture of
fear, and of a thrilling sense of the sublime, as she repeated,
half whispering to herself, half speaking to her companion, the
sacred text,---"The quiver rattleth---the glittering spear and
the shield---the noise of the captains and the shouting!"
But Ivanhoe was like the war-horse of that sublime passage,
glowing with impatience at his inactivity, and with his ardent
desire to mingle in the affray of which these sounds were the
introduction. "If I could but drag myself," he said, "to yonder
window, that I might see how this brave game is like to go---If I
had but bow to shoot a shaft, or battle-axe to strike were it but
a single blow for our deliverance!---It is in vain---it is in
vain---I am alike nerveless and weaponless!"
"Fret not thyself, noble knight," answered Rebecca, "the sounds
have ceased of a sudden---it may be they join not battle."
"Thou knowest nought of it," said Wilfred, impatiently; "this
dead pause only shows that the men are at their posts on the
walls, and expecting an instant attack; what we have heard was
but the instant muttering of the storm---it will burst anon in
all its fury.---Could I but reach yonder window!"
"Thou wilt but injure thyself by the attempt, noble knight,"
replied his attendant. Observing his extreme solicitude, she
firmly added, "I myself will stand at the lattice, and describe
to you as I can what passes without."
"You must not---you shall not!" exclaimed Ivanhoe; "each lattice,
each aperture, will be soon a mark for the archers; some random
"It shall be welcome!" murmured Rebecca, as with firm pace she
ascended two or three steps, which led to the window of which
they spoke.
"Rebecca, dear Rebecca!" exclaimed Ivanhoe, "this is no maiden's
pastime---do not expose thyself to wounds and death, and render
me for ever miserable for having given the occasion; at least,
cover thyself with yonder ancient buckler, and show as little of
your person at the lattice as may be."
Following with wonderful promptitude the directions of Ivanhoe,
and availing herself of the protection of the large ancient
shield, which she placed against the lower part of the window,
Rebecca, with tolerable security to herself, could witness part
of what was passing without the castle, and report to Ivanhoe the
preparations which the assailants were making for the storm.
Indeed the situation which she thus obtained was peculiarly
favourable for this purpose, because, being placed on an angle
of the main building, Rebecca could not only see what passed
beyond the precincts of the castle, but also commanded a view of
the outwork likely to be the first object of the meditated
assault. It was an exterior fortification of no great height
or strength, intended to protect the postern-gate, through which
Cedric had been recently dismissed by Front-de-Boeuf. The castle
moat divided this species of barbican from the rest of the
fortress, so that, in case of its being taken, it was easy to
cut off the communication with the main building, by withdrawing
the temporary bridge. In the outwork was a sallyport
corresponding to the postern of the castle, and the whole was
surrounded by a strong palisade. Rebecca could observe, from the
number of men placed for the defence of this post, that the
besieged entertained apprehensions for its safety; and from the
mustering of the assailants in a direction nearly opposite to the
outwork, it seemed no less plain that it had been selected as a
vulnerable point of attack.
These appearances she hastily communicated to Ivanhoe, and added,
"The skirts of the wood seem lined with archers, although only a
few are advanced from its dark shadow."
"Under what banner?" asked Ivanhoe.
"Under no ensign of war which I can observe," answered Rebecca.
"A singular novelty," muttered the knight, "to advance to storm
such a castle without pennon or banner displayed!---Seest thou
who they be that act as leaders?"
"A knight, clad in sable armour, is the most conspicuous," said
the Jewess; "he alone is armed from head to heel, and seems to
assume the direction of all around him."
"What device does he bear on his shield?" replied Ivanhoe.
"Something resembling a bar of iron, and a padlock painted blue
on the black shield."*
* Note F. Heraldry
"A fetterlock and shacklebolt azure," said Ivanhoe; "I know not
who may bear the device, but well I ween it might now be mine
own. Canst thou not see the motto?"
"Scarce the device itself at this distance," replied Rebecca;
"but when the sun glances fair upon his shield, it shows as I
tell you."
"Seem there no other leaders?" exclaimed the anxious enquirer.
"None of mark and distinction that I can behold from this
station," said Rebecca; "but, doubtless, the other side of the
castle is also assailed. They appear even now preparing to
advance---God of Zion, protect us!---What a dreadful sight!
---Those who advance first bear huge shields and defences made of
plank; the others follow, bending their bows as they come on.
---They raise their bows!---God of Moses, forgive the creatures
thou hast made!"
Her description was here suddenly interrupted by the signal for
assault, which was given by the blast of a shrill bugle, and at
once answered by a flourish of the Norman trumpets from the
battlements, which, mingled with the deep and hollow clang of the
nakers, (a species of kettle-drum,) retorted in notes of defiance
the challenge of the enemy. The shouts of both parties augmented
the fearful din, the assailants crying, "Saint George for merry
England!" and the Normans answering them with loud cries of "En
avant De Bracy!---Beau-seant! Beau-seant!---Front-de-Boeuf a la
rescousse!" according to the war-cries of their different
It was not, however, by clamour that the contest was to be
decided, and the desperate efforts of the assailants were met by
an equally vigorous defence on the part of the besieged. The
archers, trained by their woodland pastimes to the most effective
use of the long-bow, shot, to use the appropriate phrase of the
time, so "wholly together," that no point at which a defender
could show the least part of his person, escaped their cloth-yard
shafts. By this heavy discharge, which continued as thick and
sharp as hail, while, notwithstanding, every arrow had its
individual aim, and flew by scores together against each
embrasure and opening in the parapets, as well as at every
window where a defender either occasionally had post, or might be
suspected to be stationed,---by this sustained discharge, two or
three of the garrison were slain, and several others wounded.
But, confident in their armour of proof, and in the cover which
their situation afforded, the followers of Front-de-Boeuf, and
his allies, showed an obstinacy in defence proportioned to the
fury of the attack and replied with the discharge of their large
cross-bows, as well as with their long-bows, slings, and other
missile weapons, to the close and continued shower of arrows;
and, as the assailants were necessarily but indifferently
protected, did considerably more damage than they received at
their hand. The whizzing of shafts and of missiles, on both
sides, was only interrupted by the shouts which arose when either
side inflicted or sustained some notable loss.
"And I must lie here like a bedridden monk," exclaimed Ivanhoe,
"while the game that gives me freedom or death is played out by
the hand of others!---Look from the window once again, kind
maiden, but beware that you are not marked by the archers beneath
--Look out once more, and tell me if they yet advance to the
With patient courage, strengthened by the interval which she had
employed in mental devotion, Rebecca again took post at the
lattice, sheltering herself, however, so as not to be visible
from beneath.
"What dost thou see, Rebecca?" again demanded the wounded knight.
"Nothing but the cloud of arrows flying so thick as to dazzle
mine eyes, and to hide the bowmen who shoot them."
"That cannot endure," said Ivanhoe; "if they press not right on
to carry the castle by pure force of arms, the archery may avail
but little against stone walls and bulwarks. Look for the Knight
of the Fetterlock, fair Rebecca, and see how he bears himself;
for as the leader is, so will his followers be."
"I see him not," said Rebecca.
"Foul craven!" exclaimed Ivanhoe; "does he blench from the helm
when the wind blows highest?"
"He blenches not! he blenches not!" said Rebecca, "I see him now;
he leads a body of men close under the outer barrier of the
* Every Gothic castle and city had, beyond the outer-walls,
* a fortification composed of palisades, called the
* barriers, which were often the scene of severe
* skirmishes, as these must necessarily be carried before
* the walls themselves could be approached. Many of those
* valiant feats of arms which adorn the chivalrous pages of
* Froissart took place at the barriers of besieged places.
---They pull down the piles and palisades; they hew down the
barriers with axes.---His high black plume floats abroad over the
throng, like a raven over the field of the slain.---They have
made a breach in the barriers---they rush in---they are thrust
back!---Front-de-Boeuf heads the defenders; I see his gigantic
form above the press. They throng again to the breach, and the
pass is disputed hand to hand, and man to man. God of Jacob! it
is the meeting of two fierce tides---the conflict of two oceans
moved by adverse winds!"
She turned her head from the lattice, as if unable longer to
endure a sight so terrible.
"Look forth again, Rebecca," said Ivanhoe, mistaking the cause of
her retiring; "the archery must in some degree have ceased, since
they are now fighting hand to hand.---Look again, there is now
less danger."
Rebecca again looked forth, and almost immediately exclaimed,
"Holy prophets of the law! Front-de-Boeuf and the Black Knight
fight hand to hand on the breach, amid the roar of their
followers, who watch the progress of the strife---Heaven strike
with the cause of the oppressed and of the captive!" She then
uttered a loud shriek, and exclaimed, "He is down!---he is down!"
"Who is down?" cried Ivanhoe; "for our dear Lady's sake, tell me
which has fallen?"
"The Black Knight," answered Rebecca, faintly; then instantly
again shouted with joyful eagerness---"But no---but no!---the
name of the Lord of Hosts be blessed!---he is on foot again, and
fights as if there were twenty men's strength in his single arm
---His sword is broken---he snatches an axe from a yeoman---he
presses Front-de-Boeuf with blow on blow---The giant stoops and
totters like an oak under the steel of the woodman---he falls
---he falls!"
"Front-de-Boeuf?" exclaimed Ivanhoe.
"Front-de-Boeuf!" answered the Jewess; "his men rush to the
rescue, headed by the haughty Templar---their united force
compels the champion to pause---They drag Front-de-Boeuf within
the walls."
"The assailants have won the barriers, have they not?" said
"They have---they have!" exclaimed Rebecca---"and they press the
besieged hard upon the outer wall; some plant ladders, some swarm
like bees, and endeavour to ascend upon the shoulders of each
other---down go stones, beams, and trunks of trees upon their
heads, and as fast as they bear the wounded to the rear, fresh
men supply their places in the assault---Great God! hast thou
given men thine own image, that it should be thus cruelly defaced
by the hands of their brethren!"
"Think not of that," said Ivanhoe; "this is no time for such
thoughts---Who yield?---who push their way?"
"The ladders are thrown down," replied Rebecca, shuddering; "the
soldiers lie grovelling under them like crushed reptiles---The
besieged have the better."
"Saint George strike for us!" exclaimed the knight; "do the false
yeomen give way?"
"No!" exclaimed Rebecca, "they bear themselves right yeomanly
---the Black Knight approaches the postern with his huge axe
---the thundering blows which he deals, you may hear them above
all the din and shouts of the battle---Stones and beams are
hailed down on the bold champion---he regards them no more than
if they were thistle-down or feathers!"
"By Saint John of Acre," said Ivanhoe, raising himself joyfully
on his couch, "methought there was but one man in England that
might do such a deed!"
"The postern gate shakes," continued Rebecca; "it crashes---it is
splintered by his blows---they rush in---the outwork is won---Oh,
God!---they hurl the defenders from the battlements---they throw
them into the moat---O men, if ye be indeed men, spare them that
--go to archives for part II--

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