Part 2 out of 12
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
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*
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
"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
"'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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,"
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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