Part 3 out of 12
with the blood of this ancient royal race, many of their
infirmities had descended to Athelstane. He was comely in
countenance, bulky and strong in person, and in the flower of his
age---yet inanimate in expression, dull-eyed, heavy-browed,
inactive and sluggish in all his motions, and so slow in
resolution, that the soubriquet of one of his ancestors was
conferred upon him, and he was very generally called Athelstane
the Unready. His friends, and he had many, who, as well as
Cedric, were passionately attached to him, contended that this
sluggish temper arose not from want of courage, but from mere
want of decision; others alleged that his hereditary vice of
drunkenness had obscured his faculties, never of a very acute
order, and that the passive courage and meek good-nature which
remained behind, were merely the dregs of a character that might
have been deserving of praise, but of which all the valuable
parts had flown off in the progress of a long course of brutal
It was to this person, such as we have described him, that the
Prince addressed his imperious command to make place for Isaac
and Rebecca. Athelstane, utterly confounded at an order which
the manners and feelings of the times rendered so injuriously
insulting, unwilling to obey, yet undetermined how to resist,
opposed only the "vis inertiae" to the will of John; and, without
stirring or making any motion whatever of obedience, opened his
large grey eyes, and stared at the Prince with an astonishment
which had in it something extremely ludicrous. But the impatient
John regarded it in no such light.
"The Saxon porker," he said, "is either asleep or minds me not
---Prick him with your lance, De Bracy," speaking to a knight
who rode near him, the leader of a band of Free Companions, or
Condottieri; that is, of mercenaries belonging to no particular
nation, but attached for the time to any prince by whom they were
paid. There was a murmur even among the attendants of Prince
John; but De Bracy, whose profession freed him from all scruples,
extended his long lance over the space which separated the
gallery from the lists, and would have executed the commands of
the Prince before Athelstane the Unready had recovered presence
of mind sufficient even to draw back his person from the weapon,
had not Cedric, as prompt as his companion was tardy, unsheathed,
with the speed of lightning, the short sword which he wore, and
at a single blow severed the point of the lance from the handle.
The blood rushed into the countenance of Prince John. He swore
one of his deepest oaths, and was about to utter some threat
corresponding in violence, when he was diverted from his purpose,
partly by his own attendants, who gathered around him conjuring
him to be patient, partly by a general exclamation of the crowd,
uttered in loud applause of the spirited conduct of Cedric. The
Prince rolled his eyes in indignation, as if to collect some safe
and easy victim; and chancing to encounter the firm glance of the
same archer whom we have already noticed, and who seemed to
persist in his gesture of applause, in spite of the frowning
aspect which the Prince bent upon him, he demanded his reason for
"I always add my hollo," said the yeoman, "when I see a good
shot, or a gallant blow."
"Sayst thou?" answered the Prince; "then thou canst hit the white
thyself, I'll warrant."
"A woodsman's mark, and at woodsman's distance, I can hit,"
answered the yeoman.
"And Wat Tyrrel's mark, at a hundred yards," said a voice from
behind, but by whom uttered could not be discerned.
This allusion to the fate of William Rufus, his Relative, at once
incensed and alarmed Prince John. He satisfied himself, however,
with commanding the men-at-arms, who surrounded the lists, to
keep an eye on the braggart, pointing to the yeoman.
"By St Grizzel," he added, "we will try his own skill, who is so
ready to give his voice to the feats of others!"
"I shall not fly the trial," said the yeoman, with the composure
which marked his whole deportment.
"Meanwhile, stand up, ye Saxon churls," said the fiery Prince;
"for, by the light of Heaven, since I have said it, the Jew shall
have his seat amongst ye!"
"By no means, an it please your Grace!---it is not fit for such
as we to sit with the rulers of the land," said the Jew; whose
ambition for precedence though it had led him to dispute Place
with the extenuated and impoverished descendant of the line of
Montdidier, by no means stimulated him to an intrusion upon the
privileges of the wealthy Saxons.
"Up, infidel dog when I command you," said Prince John, "or I
will have thy swarthy hide stript off, and tanned for
Thus urged, the Jew began to ascend the steep and narrow steps
which led up to the gallery.
"Let me see," said the Prince, "who dare stop him," fixing his
eye on Cedric, whose attitude intimated his intention to hurl the
Jew down headlong.
The catastrophe was prevented by the clown Wamba, who, springing
betwixt his master and Isaac, and exclaiming, in answer to the
Prince's defiance, "Marry, that will I!" opposed to the beard of
the Jew a shield of brawn, which he plucked from beneath his
cloak, and with which, doubtless, he had furnished himself, lest
the tournament should have proved longer than his appetite could
endure abstinence. Finding the abomination of his tribe opposed
to his very nose, while the Jester, at the same time, flourished
his wooden sword above his head, the Jew recoiled, missed his
footing, and rolled down the steps,---an excellent jest to the
spectators, who set up a loud laughter, in which Prince John and
his attendants heartily joined.
"Deal me the prize, cousin Prince," said Wamba; "I have
vanquished my foe in fair fight with sword and shield," he added,
brandishing the brawn in one hand and the wooden sword in the
"Who, and what art thou, noble champion?" said Prince John, still
"A fool by right of descent," answered the Jester; "I am Wamba,
the son of Witless, who was the son of Weatherbrain, who was the
son of an Alderman."
"Make room for the Jew in front of the lower ring," said Prince
John, not unwilling perhaps to, seize an apology to desist from
his original purpose; "to place the vanquished beside the victor
were false heraldry."
"Knave upon fool were worse," answered the Jester, "and Jew upon
bacon worst of all."
"Gramercy! good fellow," cried Prince John, "thou pleasest me
---Here, Isaac, lend me a handful of byzants."
As the Jew, stunned by the request, afraid to refuse, and
unwilling to comply, fumbled in the furred bag which hung by his
girdle, and was perhaps endeavouring to ascertain how few coins
might pass for a handful, the Prince stooped from his jennet and
settled Isaac's doubts by snatching the pouch itself from his
side; and flinging to Wamba a couple of the gold pieces which it
contained, he pursued his career round the lists, leaving the Jew
to the derision of those around him, and himself receiving as
much applause from the spectators as if he had done some honest
and honourable action.
At this the challenger with fierce defy
His trumpet sounds; the challenged makes reply:
With clangour rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
Their visors closed, their lances in the rest,
Or at the helmet pointed or the crest,
They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
And spurring see decrease the middle space.
Palamon and Arcite
In the midst of Prince John's cavalcade, he suddenly stopt, and
appealing to the Prior of Jorvaulx, declared the principal
business of the day had been forgotten.
"By my halidom," said he, "we have forgotten, Sir Prior, to name
the fair Sovereign of Love and of Beauty, by whose white hand the
palm is to be distributed. For my part, I am liberal in my
ideas, and I care not if I give my vote for the black-eyed
"Holy Virgin," answered the Prior, turning up his eyes in horror,
"a Jewess!---We should deserve to be stoned out of the lists; and
I am not yet old enough to be a martyr. Besides, I swear by my
patron saint, that she is far inferior to the lovely Saxon,
"Saxon or Jew," answered the Prince, "Saxon or Jew, dog or hog,
what matters it? I say, name Rebecca, were it only to mortify the
A murmur arose even among his own immediate attendants.
"This passes a jest, my lord," said De Bracy; "no knight here
will lay lance in rest if such an insult is attempted."
"It is the mere wantonness of insult," said one of the oldest and
most important of Prince John's followers, Waldemar Fitzurse,
"and if your Grace attempt it, cannot but prove ruinous to your
"I entertained you, sir," said John, reining up his palfrey
haughtily, "for my follower, but not for my counsellor."
"Those who follow your Grace in the paths which you tread," said
Waldemar, but speaking in a low voice, "acquire the right of
counsellors; for your interest and safety are not more deeply
gaged than their own."
>From the tone in which this was spoken, John saw the necessity of
acquiescence "I did but jest," he said; "and you turn upon me
like so many adders! Name whom you will, in the fiend's name,
and please yourselves."
"Nay, nay," said De Bracy, "let the fair sovereign's throne
remain unoccupied, until the conqueror shall be named, and then
let him choose the lady by whom it shall be filled. It will add
another grace to his triumph, and teach fair ladies to prize the
love of valiant knights, who can exalt them to such distinction."
"If Brian de Bois-Guilbert gain the prize," said the Prior, "I
will gage my rosary that I name the Sovereign of Love and
"Bois-Guilbert," answered De Bracy, "is a good lance; but there
are others around these lists, Sir Prior, who will not fear to
"Silence, sirs," said Waldemar, "and let the Prince assume his
seat. The knights and spectators are alike impatient, the time
advances, and highly fit it is that the sports should commence."
Prince John, though not yet a monarch, had in Waldemar Fitzurse
all the inconveniences of a favourite minister, who, in serving
his sovereign, must always do so in his own way. The Prince
acquiesced, however, although his disposition was precisely of
that kind which is apt to be obstinate upon trifles, and,
assuming his throne, and being surrounded by his followers, gave
signal to the heralds to proclaim the laws of the tournament,
which were briefly as follows:
First, the five challengers were to undertake all comers.
Secondly, any knight proposing to combat, might, if he pleased,
select a special antagonist from among the challengers, by
touching his shield. If he did so with the reverse of his lance,
the trial of skill was made with what were called the arms of
courtesy, that is, with lances at whose extremity a piece of
round flat board was fixed, so that no danger was encountered,
save from the shock of the horses and riders. But if the shield
was touched with the sharp end of the lance, the combat was
understood to be at "outrance", that is, the knights were to
fight with sharp weapons, as in actual battle.
Thirdly, when the knights present had accomplished their vow, by
each of them breaking five lances, the Prince was to declare the
victor in the first day's tourney, who should receive as prize a
warhorse of exquisite beauty and matchless strength; and in
addition to this reward of valour, it was now declared, he should
have the peculiar honour of naming the Queen of Love and Beauty,
by whom the prize should be given on the ensuing day.
Fourthly, it was announced, that, on the second day, there should
be a general tournament, in which all the knights present, who
were desirous to win praise, might take part; and being divided
into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully,
until the signal was given by Prince John to cease the combat.
The elected Queen of Love and Beauty was then to crown the knight
whom the Prince should adjudge to have borne himself best in this
second day, with a coronet composed of thin gold plate, cut into
the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day the knightly
games ceased. But on that which was to follow, feats of archery,
of bull-baiting, and other popular amusements, were to be
practised, for the more immediate amusement of the populace. In
this manner did Prince John endeavour to lay the foundation of a
popularity, which he was perpetually throwing down by some
inconsiderate act of wanton aggression upon the feelings and
prejudices of the people.
The lists now presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping
galleries were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy,
and beautiful in the northern and midland parts of England; and
the contrast of the various dresses of these dignified
spectators, rendered the view as gay as it was rich, while the
interior and lower space, filled with the substantial burgesses
and yeomen of merry England, formed, in their more plain attire,
a dark fringe, or border, around this circle of brilliant
embroidery, relieving, and, at the same time, setting off its
The heralds finished their proclamation with their usual cry of
"Largesse, largesse, gallant knights!" and gold and silver pieces
were showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point
of chivalry to exhibit liberality towards those whom the age
accounted at once the secretaries and the historians of honour.
The bounty of the spectators was acknowledged by the customary
shouts of "Love of Ladies---Death of Champions---Honour to the
Generous---Glory to the Brave!" To which the more humble
spectators added their acclamations, and a numerous band of
trumpeters the flourish of their martial instruments. When these
sounds had ceased, the heralds withdrew from the lists in gay and
glittering procession, and none remained within them save the
marshals of the field, who, armed cap-a-pie, sat on horseback,
motionless as statues, at the opposite ends of the lists.
Meantime, the enclosed space at the northern extremity of the
lists, large as it was, was now completely crowded with knights
desirous to prove their skill against the challengers, and, when
viewed from the galleries, presented the appearance of a sea of
waving plumage, intermixed with glistening helmets, and tall
lances, to the extremities of which were, in many cases, attached
small pennons of about a span's breadth, which, fluttering in the
air as the breeze caught them, joined with the restless motion of
the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
At length the barriers were opened, and five knights, chosen by
lot, advanced slowly into the area; a single champion riding in
front, and the other four following in pairs. All were
splendidly armed, and my Saxon authority (in the Wardour
Manuscript) records at great length their devices, their colours,
and the embroidery of their horse trappings. It is unnecessary
to be particular on these subjects. To borrow lines from a
contemporary poet, who has written but too little:
"The knights are dust,
And their good swords are rust,
Their souls are with the saints, we trust."*
* These lines are part of an unpublished poem, by Coleridge,
* whose Muse so often tantalizes with fragments which
* indicate her powers, while the manner in which she flings
* them from her betrays her caprice, yet whose unfinished
* sketches display more talent than the laboured
* masterpieces of others.
Their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their
castles. Their castles themselves are but green mounds and
shattered ruins---the place that once knew them, knows them no
more---nay, many a race since theirs has died out and been
forgotten in the very land which they occupied, with all the
authority of feudal proprietors and feudal lords. What, then,
would it avail the reader to know their names, or the evanescent
symbols of their martial rank!
Now, however, no whit anticipating the oblivion which awaited
their names and feats, the champions advanced through the lists,
restraining their fiery steeds, and compelling them to move
slowly, while, at the same time, they exhibited their paces,
together with the grace and dexterity of the riders. As the
procession entered the lists, the sound of a wild Barbaric music
was heard from behind the tents of the challengers, where the
performers were concealed. It was of Eastern origin, having been
brought from the Holy Land; and the mixture of the cymbals and
bells seemed to bid welcome at once, and defiance, to the knights
as they advanced. With the eyes of an immense concourse of
spectators fixed upon them, the five knights advanced up the
platform upon which the tents of the challengers stood, and there
separating themselves, each touched slightly, and with the
reverse of his lance, the shield of the antagonist to whom he
wished to oppose himself. The lower orders of spectators in
general---nay, many of the higher class, and it is even said
several of the ladies, were rather disappointed at the champions
choosing the arms of courtesy. For the same sort of persons,
who, in the present day, applaud most highly the deepest
tragedies, were then interested in a tournament exactly in
proportion to the danger incurred by the champions engaged.
Having intimated their more pacific purpose, the champions
retreated to the extremity of the lists, where they remained
drawn up in a line; while the challengers, sallying each from
his pavilion, mounted their horses, and, headed by Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, descended from the platform, and opposed
themselves individually to the knights who had touched their
At the flourish of clarions and trumpets, they started out
against each other at full gallop; and such was the superior
dexterity or good fortune of the challengers, that those opposed
to Bois-Guilbert, Malvoisin, and Front-de-Boeuf, rolled on the
ground. The antagonist of Grantmesnil, instead of bearing his
lance-point fair against the crest or the shield of his enemy,
swerved so much from the direct line as to break the weapon
athwart the person of his opponent---a circumstance which was
accounted more disgraceful than that of being actually unhorsed;
because the latter might happen from accident, whereas the former
evinced awkwardness and want of management of the weapon and of
the horse. The fifth knight alone maintained the honour of his
party, and parted fairly with the Knight of St John, both
splintering their lances without advantage on either side.
The shouts of the multitude, together with the acclamations of
the heralds, and the clangour of the trumpets, announced the
triumph of the victors and the defeat of the vanquished. The
former retreated to their pavilions, and the latter, gathering
themselves up as they could, withdrew from the lists in disgrace
and dejection, to agree with their victors concerning the
redemption of their arms and their horses, which, according to
the laws of the tournament, they had forfeited. The fifth of
their number alone tarried in the lists long enough to be greeted
by the applauses of the spectators, amongst whom he retreated, to
the aggravation, doubtless, of his companions' mortification.
A second and a third party of knights took the field; and
although they had various success, yet, upon the whole, the
advantage decidedly remained with the challengers, not one of
whom lost his seat or swerved from his charge---misfortunes which
befell one or two of their antagonists in each encounter. The
spirits, therefore, of those opposed to them, seemed to be
considerably damped by their continued success. Three knights
only appeared on the fourth entry, who, avoiding the shields of
Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf, contented themselves with
touching those of the three other knights, who had not altogether
manifested the same strength and dexterity. This politic
selection did not alter the fortune of the field, the challengers
were still successful: one of their antagonists was overthrown,
and both the others failed in the "attaint",*
* This term of chivalry, transferred to the law, gives the
* phrase of being attainted of treason.
that is, in striking the helmet and shield of their antagonist
firmly and strongly, with the lance held in a direct line, so
that the weapon might break unless the champion was overthrown.
After this fourth encounter, there was a considerable pause; nor
did it appear that any one was very desirous of renewing the
contest. The spectators murmured among themselves; for, among
the challengers, Malvoisin and Front-de-Boeuf were unpopular from
their characters, and the others, except Grantmesnil, were
disliked as strangers and foreigners.
But none shared the general feeling of dissatisfaction so keenly
as Cedric the Saxon, who saw, in each advantage gained by the
Norman challengers, a repeated triumph over the honour of
England. His own education had taught him no skill in the games
of chivalry, although, with the arms of his Saxon ancestors, he
had manifested himself, on many occasions, a brave and determined
soldier. He looked anxiously to Athelstane, who had learned the
accomplishments of the age, as if desiring that he should make
some personal effort to recover the victory which was passing
into the hands of the Templar and his associates. But, though
both stout of heart, and strong of person, Athelstane had a
disposition too inert and unambitious to make the exertions which
Cedric seemed to expect from him.
"The day is against England, my lord," said Cedric, in a marked
tone; "are you not tempted to take the lance?"
"I shall tilt to-morrow" answered Athelstane, "in the 'melee'; it
is not worth while for me to arm myself to-day."
Two things displeased Cedric in this speech. It contained the
Norman word "melee", (to express the general conflict,) and it
evinced some indifference to the honour of the country; but it
was spoken by Athelstane, whom he held in such profound respect,
that he would not trust himself to canvass his motives or his
foibles. Moreover, he had no time to make any remark, for Wamba
thrust in his word, observing, "It was better, though scarce
easier, to be the best man among a hundred, than the best man of
Athelstane took the observation as a serious compliment; but
Cedric, who better understood the Jester's meaning, darted at him
a severe and menacing look; and lucky it was for Wamba, perhaps,
that the time and place prevented his receiving, notwithstanding
his place and service, more sensible marks of his master's
The pause in the tournament was still uninterrupted, excepting by
the voices of the heralds exclaiming---"Love of ladies,
splintering of lances! stand forth gallant knights, fair eyes
look upon your deeds!"
The music also of the challengers breathed from time to time wild
bursts expressive of triumph or defiance, while the clowns
grudged a holiday which seemed to pass away in inactivity; and
old knights and nobles lamented in whispers the decay of martial
spirit, spoke of the triumphs of their younger days, but agreed
that the land did not now supply dames of such transcendent
beauty as had animated the jousts of former times. Prince John
began to talk to his attendants about making ready the banquet,
and the necessity of adjudging the prize to Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who had, with a single spear, overthrown two
knights, and foiled a third.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded
one of those long and high flourishes with which they had broken
the silence of the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet,
which breathed a note of defiance from the northern extremity.
All eyes were turned to see the new champion which these sounds
announced, and no sooner were the barriers opened than he paced
into the lists. As far as could be judged of a man sheathed in
armour, the new adventurer did not greatly exceed the middle
size, and seemed to be rather slender than strongly made. His
suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold, and
the device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the
roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited.
He was mounted on a gallant black horse, and as he passed
through the lists he gracefully saluted the Prince and the ladies
by lowering his lance. The dexterity with which he managed his
steed, and something of youthful grace which he displayed in his
manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which some of the
lower classes expressed by calling out, "Touch Ralph de Vipont's
shield---touch the Hospitallers shield; he has the least sure
seat, he is your cheapest bargain."
The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended
the platform by the sloping alley which led to it from the lists,
and, to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to
the central pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the
shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert until it rung again. All stood
astonished at his presumption, but none more than the redoubted
Knight whom he had thus defied to mortal combat, and who, little
expecting so rude a challenge, was standing carelessly at the
door of the pavilion.
"Have you confessed yourself, brother," said the Templar, "and
have you heard mass this morning, that you peril your life so
"I am fitter to meet death than thou art" answered the
Disinherited Knight; for by this name the stranger had recorded
himself in the books of the tourney.
"Then take your place in the lists," said Bois-Guilbert, "and
look your last upon the sun; for this night thou shalt sleep in
"Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight,
"and to requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new
lance, for by my honour you will need both."
Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse
backward down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him
in the same manner to move backward through the lists, till he
reached the northern extremity, where he remained stationary, in
expectation of his antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again
attracted the applause of the multitude.
However incensed at his adversary for the precautions which he
recommended, Brian de Bois-Guilbert did not neglect his advice;
for his honour was too nearly concerned, to permit his neglecting
any means which might ensure victory over his presumptuous
opponent. He changed his horse for a proved and fresh one of
great strength and spirit. He chose a new and a tough spear,
lest the wood of the former might have been strained in the
previous encounters he had sustained. Lastly, he laid aside his
shield, which had received some little damage, and received
another from his squires. His first had only borne the general
device of his rider, representing two knights riding upon one
horse, an emblem expressive of the original humility and poverty
of the Templars, qualities which they had since exchanged for the
arrogance and wealth that finally occasioned their suppression.
Bois-Guilbert's new shield bore a raven in full flight, holding
in its claws a skull, and bearing the motto, "Gare le Corbeau".
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two
extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to
the highest pitch. Few augured the possibility that the
encounter could terminate well for the Disinherited Knight, yet
his courage and gallantry secured the general good wishes of the
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal, than the champions
vanished from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed
in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The
lances burst into shivers up to the very grasp, and it seemed at
the moment that both knights had fallen, for the shock had made
each horse recoil backwards upon its haunches. The address of
the riders recovered their steeds by use of the bridle and spur;
and having glared on each other for an instant with eyes which
seemed to flash fire through the bars of their visors, each made
a demi-volte, and, retiring to the extremity of the lists,
received a fresh lance from the attendants.
A loud shout from the spectators, waving of scarfs and
handkerchiefs, and general acclamations, attested the interest
taken by the spectators in this encounter; the most equal, as
well as the best performed, which had graced the day. But no
sooner had the knights resumed their station, than the clamour
of applause was hushed into a silence, so deep and so dead, that
it seemed the multitude were afraid even to breathe.
A few minutes pause having been allowed, that the combatants and
their horses might recover breath, Prince John with his truncheon
signed to the trumpets to sound the onset. The champions a
second time sprung from their stations, and closed in the centre
of the lists, with the same speed, the same dexterity, the same
violence, but not the same equal fortune as before.
In this second encounter, the Templar aimed at the centre of his
antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair and forcibly, that his
spear went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his
saddle. On the other hand, that champion had, in the beginning
of his career, directed the point of his lance towards
Bois-Guilbert's shield, but, changing his aim almost in the
moment of encounter, he addressed it to the helmet, a mark more
difficult to hit, but which, if attained, rendered the shock more
irresistible. Fair and true he hit the Norman on the visor,
where his lance's point kept hold of the bars. Yet, even at this
disadvantage, the Templar sustained his high reputation; and had
not the girths of his saddle burst, he might not have been
unhorsed. As it chanced, however, saddle, horse, and man, rolled
on the ground under a cloud of dust.
To extricate himself from the stirrups and fallen steed, was to
the Templar scarce the work of a moment; and, stung with madness,
both at his disgrace and at the acclamations with which it was
hailed by the spectators, he drew his sword and waved it in
defiance of his conqueror. The Disinherited Knight sprung from
his steed, and also unsheathed his sword. The marshals of the
field, however, spurred their horses between them, and reminded
them, that the laws of the tournament did not, on the present
occasion, permit this species of encounter.
"We shall meet again, I trust," said the Templar, casting a
resentful glance at his antagonist; "and where there are none to
"If we do not," said the Disinherited Knight, "the fault shall
not be mine. On foot or horseback, with spear, with axe, or with
sword, I am alike ready to encounter thee."
More and angrier words would have been exchanged, but the
marshals, crossing their lances betwixt them, compelled them to
separate. The Disinherited Knight returned to his first station,
and Bois-Guilbert to his tent, where he remained for the rest of
the day in an agony of despair.
Without alighting from his horse, the conqueror called for a bowl
of wine, and opening the beaver, or lower part of his helmet,
announced that he quaffed it, "To all true English hearts, and to
the confusion of foreign tyrants." He then commanded his trumpet
to sound a defiance to the challengers, and desired a herald to
announce to them, that he should make no election, but was
willing to encounter them in the order in which they pleased to
advance against him.
The gigantic Front-de-Boeuf, armed in sable armour, was the first
who took the field. He bore on a white shield a black bull's
head, half defaced by the numerous encounters which he had
undergone, and bearing the arrogant motto, "Cave, Adsum". Over
this champion the Disinherited Knight obtained a slight but
decisive advantage. Both Knights broke their lances fairly, but
Front-de-Boeuf, who lost a stirrup in the encounter, was adjudged
to have the disadvantage.
In the stranger's third encounter with Sir Philip Malvoisin, he
was equally successful; striking that baron so forcibly on the
casque, that the laces of the helmet broke, and Malvoisin, only
saved from falling by being unhelmeted, was declared vanquished
like his companions.
In his fourth combat with De Grantmesnil, the Disinherited Knight
showed as much courtesy as he had hitherto evinced courage and
dexterity. De Grantmesnil's horse, which was young and violent,
reared and plunged in the course of the career so as to disturb
the rider's aim, and the stranger, declining to take the
advantage which this accident afforded him, raised his lance, and
passing his antagonist without touching him, wheeled his horse
and rode back again to his own end of the lists, offering his
antagonist, by a herald, the chance of a second encounter. This
De Grantmesnil declined, avowing himself vanquished as much by
the courtesy as by the address of his opponent.
Ralph de Vipont summed up the list of the stranger's triumphs,
being hurled to the ground with such force, that the blood gushed
from his nose and his mouth, and he was borne senseless from the
The acclamations of thousands applauded the unanimous award of
the Prince and marshals, announcing that day's honours to the
--------In the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien,
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign Queen.
* * * * *
And as in beauty she surpass'd the choir,
So nobler than the rest was her attire;
A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
A branch of Agnus Castus in her hand,
She bore aloft her symbol of command.
The Flower and the Leaf
William de Wyvil and Stephen de Martival, the marshals of the
field, were the first to offer their congratulations to the
victor, praying him, at the same time, to suffer his helmet to be
unlaced, or, at least, that he would raise his visor ere they
conducted him to receive the prize of the day's tourney from the
hands of Prince John. The Disinherited Knight, with all knightly
courtesy, declined their request, alleging, that he could not at
this time suffer his face to be seen, for reasons which he had
assigned to the heralds when he entered the lists. The marshals
were perfectly satisfied by this reply; for amidst the frequent
and capricious vows by which knights were accustomed to bind
themselves in the days of chivalry, there were none more common
than those by which they engaged to remain incognito for a
certain space, or until some particular adventure was achieved.
The marshals, therefore, pressed no farther into the mystery of
the Disinherited Knight, but, announcing to Prince John the
conqueror's desire to remain unknown, they requested permission
to bring him before his Grace, in order that he might receive
the reward of his valour.
John's curiosity was excited by the mystery observed by the
stranger; and, being already displeased with the issue of the
tournament, in which the challengers whom he favoured had been
successively defeated by one knight, he answered haughtily to
the marshals, "By the light of Our Lady's brow, this same knight
hath been disinherited as well of his courtesy as of his lands,
since he desires to appear before us without uncovering his face.
---Wot ye, my lords," be said, turning round to his train, "who
this gallant can be, that bears himself thus proudly?"
"I cannot guess," answered De Bracy, "nor did I think there had
been within the four seas that girth Britain a champion that
could bear down these five knights in one day's jousting. By my
faith, I shall never forget the force with which he shocked De
Vipont. The poor Hospitaller was hurled from his saddle like a
stone from a sling."
"Boast not of that," said a Knight of St John, who was present;
"your Temple champion had no better luck. I saw your brave
lance, Bois-Guilbert, roll thrice over, grasping his hands full
of sand at every turn."
De Bracy, being attached to the Templars, would have replied, but
was prevented by Prince John. "Silence, sirs!" he said; "what
unprofitable debate have we here?"
"The victor," said De Wyvil, "still waits the pleasure of your
"It is our pleasure," answered John, "that he do so wait until we
learn whether there is not some one who can at least guess at his
name and quality. Should he remain there till night-fall, he has
had work enough to keep him warm."
"Your Grace," said Waldemar Fitzurse, "will do less than due
honour to the victor, if you compel him to wait till we tell your
highness that which we cannot know; at least I can form no guess
---unless he be one of the good lances who accompanied King
Richard to Palestine, and who are now straggling homeward from
the Holy Land."
"It may be the Earl of Salisbury," said De Bracy; "he is about
the same pitch."
"Sir Thomas de Multon, the Knight of Gilsland, rather," said
Fitzurse; "Salisbury is bigger in the bones." A whisper arose
among the train, but by whom first suggested could not be
ascertained. "It might be the King---it might be Richard
"Over God's forbode!" said Prince John, involuntarily turning at
the same time as pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by
a flash of lightning; "Waldemar!---De Bracy! brave knights and
gentlemen, remember your promises, and stand truly by me!"
"Here is no danger impending," said Waldemar Fitzurse; "are you
so little acquainted with the gigantic limbs of your father's
son, as to think they can be held within the circumference of
yonder suit of armour?---De Wyvil and Martival, you will best
serve the Prince by bringing forward the victor to the throne,
and ending an error that has conjured all the blood from his
cheeks.---Look at him more closely," he continued, "your highness
will see that he wants three inches of King Richard's height, and
twice as much of his shoulder-breadth. The very horse he backs,
could not have carried the ponderous weight of King Richard
through a single course."
While he was yet speaking, the marshals brought forward the
Disinherited Knight to the foot of a wooden flight of steps,
which formed the ascent from the lists to Prince John's throne.
Still discomposed with the idea that his brother, so much
injured, and to whom he was so much indebted, had suddenly
arrived in his native kingdom, even the distinctions pointed out
by Fitzurse did not altogether remove the Prince's apprehensions;
and while, with a short and embarrassed eulogy upon his valour,
he caused to be delivered to him the war-horse assigned as the
prize, he trembled lest from the barred visor of the mailed form
before him, an answer might be returned, in the deep and awful
accents of Richard the Lion-hearted.
But the Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply to the
compliment of the Prince, which he only acknowledged with a
The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed,
the animal itself being fully accoutred with the richest
war-furniture; which, however, scarcely added to the value of the
noble creature in the eyes of those who were judges. Laying one
hand upon the pommel of the saddle, the Disinherited Knight
vaulted at once upon the back of the steed without making use of
the stirrup, and, brandishing aloft his lance, rode twice around
the lists, exhibiting the points and paces of the horse with the
skill of a perfect horseman.
The appearance of vanity, which might otherwise have been
attributed to this display, was removed by the propriety shown in
exhibiting to the best advantage the princely reward with which
he had been just honoured, and the Knight was again greeted by
the acclamations of all present.
In the meanwhile, the bustling Prior of Jorvaulx had reminded
Prince John, in a whisper, that the victor must now display his
good judgment, instead of his valour, by selecting from among the
beauties who graced the galleries a lady, who should fill the
throne of the Queen of Beauty and of Love, and deliver the prize
of the tourney upon the ensuing day. The Prince accordingly made
a sign with his truncheon, as the Knight passed him in his second
career around the lists. The Knight turned towards the throne,
and, sinking his lance, until the point was within a foot of the
ground, remained motionless, as if expecting John's commands;
while all admired the sudden dexterity with which he instantly
reduced his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and high
excitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue.
"Sir Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since that is the
only title by which we can address you, it is now your duty, as
well as privilege, to name the fair lady, who, as Queen of Honour
and of Love, is to preside over next day's festival. If, as a
stranger in our land, you should require the aid of other
judgment to guide your own, we can only say that Alicia, the
daughter of our gallant knight Waldemar Fitzurse, has at our
court been long held the first in beauty as in place.
Nevertheless, it is your undoubted prerogative to confer on whom
you please this crown, by the delivery of which to the lady of
your choice, the election of to-morrow's Queen will be formal and
complete.---Raise your lance."
The Knight obeyed; and Prince John placed upon its point a
coronet of green satin, having around its edge a circlet of gold,
the upper edge of which was relieved by arrow-points and hearts
placed interchangeably, like the strawberry leaves and balls upon
a ducal crown.
In the broad hint which he dropped respecting the daughter of
Waldemar Fitzurse, John had more than one motive, each the
offspring of a mind, which was a strange mixture of carelessness
and presumption with low artifice and cunning. He wished to
banish from the minds of the chivalry around him his own indecent
and unacceptable jest respecting the Jewess Rebecca; he was
desirous of conciliating Alicia's father Waldemar, of whom he
stood in awe, and who had more than once shown himself
dissatisfied during the course of the day's proceedings. He had
also a wish to establish himself in the good graces of the lady;
for John was at least as licentious in his pleasures as
profligate in his ambition. But besides all these reasons, he
was desirous to raise up against the Disinherited Knight (towards
whom he already entertained a strong dislike) a powerful enemy in
the person of Waldemar Fitzurse, who was likely, he thought,
highly to resent the injury done to his daughter, in case, as was
not unlikely, the victor should make another choice.
And so indeed it proved. For the Disinherited Knight passed the
gallery close to that of the Prince, in which the Lady Alicia was
seated in the full pride of triumphant beauty, and, pacing
forwards as slowly as he had hitherto rode swiftly around the
lists, he seemed to exercise his right of examining the numerous
fair faces which adorned that splendid circle.
It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties
who underwent this examination, during the time it was
proceeding. Some blushed, some assumed an air of pride and
dignity, some looked straight forward, and essayed to seem
utterly unconscious of what was going on, some drew back in
alarm, which was perhaps affected, some endeavoured to forbear
smiling, and there were two or three who laughed outright. There
were also some who dropped their veils over their charms; but, as
the Wardour Manuscript says these were fair ones of ten years
standing, it may be supposed that, having had their full share of
such vanities, they were willing to withdraw their claim, in
order to give a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age.
At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the
Lady Rowena was placed, and the expectation of the spectators was
excited to the utmost.
It must be owned, that if an interest displayed in his success
could have bribed the Disinherited Knight, the part of the lists
before which he paused had merited his predilection. Cedric the
Saxon, overjoyed at the discomfiture of the Templar, and still
more so at the, miscarriage of his two malevolent neighbours,
Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, had, with his body half stretched
over the balcony, accompanied the victor in each course, not with
his eyes only, but with his whole heart and soul. The Lady
Rowena had watched the progress of the day with equal attention,
though without openly betraying the same intense interest. Even
the unmoved Athelstane had shown symptoms of shaking off his
apathy, when, calling for a huge goblet of muscadine, he quaffed
it to the health of the Disinherited Knight. Another group,
stationed under the gallery occupied by the Saxons, had shown no
less interest in the fate of the day.
"Father Abraham!" said Isaac of York, when the first course was
run betwixt the Templar and the Disinherited Knight, "how
fiercely that Gentile rides! Ah, the good horse that was brought
all the long way from Barbary, he takes no more care of him than
if he were a wild ass's colt---and the noble armour, that was
worth so many zecchins to Joseph Pareira, the armourer of Milan,
besides seventy in the hundred of profits, he cares for it as
little as if he had found it in the highways!"
"If he risks his own person and limbs, father," said Rebecca, "in
doing such a dreadful battle, he can scarce be expected to spare
his horse and armour."
"Child!" replied Isaac, somewhat heated, "thou knowest not what
thou speakest---His neck and limbs are his own, but his horse and
armour belong to---Holy Jacob! what was I about to say!
---Nevertheless, it is a good youth---See, Rebecca! see, he is
again about to go up to battle against the Philistine---Pray,
child---pray for the safety of the good youth,---and of the
speedy horse, and the rich armour.---God of my fathers!" he again
exclaimed, "he hath conquered, and the uncircumcised Philistine
hath fallen before his lance,---even as Og the King of Bashan,
and Sihon, King of the Amorites, fell before the sword of our
fathers!---Surely he shall take their gold and their silver, and
their war-horses, and their armour of brass and of steel, for a
prey and for a spoil."
The same anxiety did the worthy Jew display during every course
that was run, seldom failing to hazard a hasty calculation
concerning the value of the horse and armour which was forfeited
to the champion upon each new success. There had been therefore
no small interest taken in the success of the Disinherited
Knight, by those who occupied the part of the lists before which
he now paused.
Whether from indecision, or some other motive of hesitation, the
champion of the day remained stationary for more than a minute,
while the eyes of the silent audience were riveted upon his
motions; and then, gradually and gracefully sinking the point of
his lance, he deposited the coronet Which it supported at the
feet of the fair Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while
the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena the Queen of Beauty and of
Love for the ensuing day, menacing with suitable penalties those
who should be disobedient to her authority. They then repeated
their cry of Largesse, to which Cedric, in the height of his joy,
replied by an ample donative, and to which Athelstane, though
less promptly, added one equally large.
There was some murmuring among the damsels of Norman descent, who
were as much unused to see the preference given to a Saxon
beauty, as the Norman nobles were to sustain defeat in the games
of chivalry which they themselves had introduced. But these
sounds of disaffection were drowned by the popular shout of "Long
live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and lawful Queen of Love and of
Beauty!" To which many in the lower area added, "Long live the
Saxon Princess! long live the race of the immortal Alfred!"
However unacceptable these sounds might be to Prince John, and to
those around him, he saw himself evertheless obliged to confirm
the nomination of the victor, and accordingly calling to horse,
he left his throne; and mounting his jennet, accompanied by his
train, he again entered the lists. The Prince paused a moment
beneath the gallery of the Lady Alicia, to whom he paid his
compliments, observing, at the same time, to those around him
---"By my halidome, sirs! if the Knight's feats in arms have
shown that he hath limbs and sinews, his choice hath no less
proved that his eyes are none of the clearest."
It was on this occasion, as during his whole life, John's
misfortune, not perfectly to understand the characters of those
whom he wished to conciliate. Waldemar Fitzurse was rather
offended than pleased at the Prince stating thus broadly an
opinion, that his daughter had been slighted.
"I know no right of chivalry," he said, "more precious or
inalienable than that of each free knight to choose his lady-love
by his own judgment. My daughter courts distinction from no one;
and in her own character, and in her own sphere, will never fail
to receive the full proportion of that which is her due."
Prince John replied not; but, spurring his horse, as if to give
vent to his vexation, he made the animal bound forward to the
gallery where Rowena was seated, with the crown still at her
"Assume," he said, "fair lady, the mark of your sovereignty, to
which none vows homage more sincerely than ourself, John of
Anjou; and if it please you to-day, with your noble sire and
friends, to grace our banquet in the Castle of Ashby, we shall
learn to know the empress to whose service we devote to-morrow."
Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native
"The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which
to reply to your courtesy, or to sustain her part in your
festival. I also, and the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh,
speak only the language, and practise only the manners, of our
fathers. We therefore decline with thanks your Highness's
courteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow, the Lady Rowena
will take upon her the state to which she has been called by the
free election of the victor Knight, confirmed by the acclamations
of the people."
So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's
head, in token of her acceptance of the temporary authority
assigned to her.
"What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the
Saxon language, in which, however, he was well skilled. The
purport of Cedric's speech was repeated to him in French. "It is
well," he said; "to-morrow we will ourself conduct this mute
sovereign to her seat of dignity.---You, at least, Sir Knight,"
he added, turning to the victor, who had remained near the
gallery, "will this day share our banquet?"
The Knight, speaking for the first time, in a low and hurried
voice, excused himself by pleading fatigue, and the necessity of
preparing for to-morrow's encounter.
"It is well," said Prince John, haughtily; "although unused to
such refusals, we will endeavour to digest our banquet as we may,
though ungraced by the most successful in arms, and his elected
Queen of Beauty."
So saying, he prepared to leave the lists with his glittering
train, and his turning his steed for that purpose, was the signal
for the breaking up and dispersion of the spectators.
Yet, with the vindictive memory proper to offended pride,
especially when combined with conscious want of desert, John had
hardly proceeded three paces, ere again, turning around, he fixed
an eye of stern resentment upon the yeoman who had displeased him
in the early part of the day, and issued his commands to the
men-at-arms who stood near---"On your life, suffer not that
fellow to escape."
The yeoman stood the angry glance of the Prince with the same
unvaried steadiness which had marked his former deportment,
saying, with a smile, "I have no intention to leave Ashby until
the day after to-morrow---I must see how Staffordshire and
Leicestershire can draw their bows---the forests of Needwood and
Charnwood must rear good archers."
"I," said Prince John to his attendants, but not in direct reply,
---"I will see how he can draw his own; and woe betide him
unless his skill should prove some apology for his insolence!"
"It is full time," said De Bracy, "that the 'outrecuidance'*
* Presumption, insolence.
of these peasants should be restrained by some striking example."
Waldemar Fitzurse, who probably thought his patron was not taking
the readiest road to popularity, shrugged up his shoulders and
was silent. Prince John resumed his retreat from the lists, and
the dispersion of the multitude became general.
In various routes, according to the different quarters from which
they came, and in groups of various numbers, the spectators were
seen retiring over the plain. By far the most numerous part
streamed towards the town of Ashby, where many of the
distinguished persons were lodged in the castle, and where others
found accommodation in the town itself. Among these were most of
the knights who had already appeared in the tournament, or who
proposed to fight there the ensuing day, and who, as they rode
slowly along, talking over the events of the day, were greeted
with loud shouts by the populace. The same acclamations were
bestowed upon Prince John, although he was indebted for them
rather to the splendour of his appearance and train, than to the
popularity of his character.
A more sincere and more general, as well as a better-merited
acclamation, attended the victor of the day, until, anxious to
withdraw himself from popular notice, he accepted the
accommodation of one of those pavilions pitched at the
extremities of the lists, the use of which was courteously
tendered him by the marshals of the field. On his retiring to
his tent, many who had lingered in the lists, to look upon and
form conjectures concerning him, also dispersed.
The signs and sounds of a tumultuous concourse of men lately
crowded together in one place, and agitated by the same passing
events, were now exchanged for the distant hum of voices of
different groups retreating in all directions, and these speedily
died away in silence. No other sounds were heard save the voices
of the menials who stripped the galleries of their cushions and
tapestry, in order to put them in safety for the night, and
wrangled among themselves for the half-used bottles of wine and
relics of the refreshment which had been served round to the
Beyond the precincts of the lists more than one forge was
erected; and these now began to glimmer through the twilight,
announcing the toil of the armourers, which was to continue
through the whole night, in order to repair or alter the suits of
armour to be used again on the morrow.
A strong guard of men-at-arms, renewed at intervals, from two
hours to two hours, surrounded the lists, and kept watch during
Thus, like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings;
Vex'd and tormented, runs poor Barrabas,
With fatal curses towards these Christians.
Jew of Malta
The Disinherited Knight had no sooner reached his pavilion, than
squires and pages in abundance tendered their services to disarm
him, to bring fresh attire, and to offer him the refreshment of
the bath. Their zeal on this occasion was perhaps sharpened by
curiosity, since every one desired to know who the knight was
that had gained so many laurels, yet had refused, even at the
command of Prince John, to lift his visor or to name his name.
But their officious inquisitiveness was not gratified. The
Disinherited Knight refused all other assistance save that of his
own squire, or rather yeoman---a clownish-looking man, who, wrapt
in a cloak of dark-coloured felt, and having his head and face
half-buried in a Norman bonnet made of black fur, seemed to
affect the incognito as much as his master. All others being
excluded from the tent, this attendant relieved his master from
the more burdensome parts of his armour, and placed food and wine
before him, which the exertions of the day rendered very
The Knight had scarcely finished a hasty meal, ere his menial
announced to him that five men, each leading a barbed steed,
desired to speak with him. The Disinherited Knight had exchanged
his armour for the long robe usually worn by those of his
condition, which, being furnished with a hood, concealed the
features, when such was the pleasure of the wearer, almost as
completely as the visor of the helmet itself, but the twilight,
which was now fast darkening, would of itself have rendered a
disguise unnecessary, unless to persons to whom the face of an
individual chanced to be particularly well known.
The Disinherited Knight, therefore, stept boldly forth to the
front of his tent, and found in attendance the squires of the
challengers, whom he easily knew by their russet and black
dresses, each of whom led his master's charger, loaded with the
armour in which he had that day fought.
"According to the laws of chivalry," said the foremost of these
men, "I, Baldwin de Oyley, squire to the redoubted Knight Brian
de Bois-Guilbert, make offer to you, styling yourself, for the
present, the Disinherited Knight, of the horse and armour used by
the said Brian de Bois-Guilbert in this day's Passage of Arms,
leaving it with your nobleness to retain or to ransom the same,
according to your pleasure; for such is the law of arms."
The other squires repeated nearly the same formula, and then
stood to await the decision of the Disinherited Knight.
"To you four, sirs," replied the Knight, addressing those who had
last spoken, "and to your honourable and valiant masters, I have
one common reply. Commend me to the noble knights, your masters,
and say, I should do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which
can never be used by braver cavaliers.---I would I could here end
my message to these gallant knights; but being, as I term myself,
in truth and earnest, the Disinherited, I must be thus far bound
to your masters, that they will, of their courtesy, be pleased to
ransom their steeds and armour, since that which I wear I can
hardly term mine own."
"We stand commissioned, each of us," answered the squire of
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, "to offer a hundred zecchins in ransom
of these horses and suits of armour."
"It is sufficient," said the Disinherited Knight. "Half the sum
my present necessities compel me to accept; of the remaining
half, distribute one moiety among yourselves, sir squires, and
divide the other half betwixt the heralds and the pursuivants,
and minstrels, and attendants."
The squires, with cap in hand, and low reverences, expressed
their deep sense of a courtesy and generosity not often
practised, at least upon a scale so extensive. The Disinherited
Knight then addressed his discourse to Baldwin, the squire of
Brian de Bois-Guilbert. "From your master," said he, "I will
accept neither arms nor ransom. Say to him in my name, that our
strife is not ended---no, not till we have fought as well with
swords as with lances---as well on foot as on horseback. To this
mortal quarrel he has himself defied me, and I shall not forget
the challenge.---Meantime, let him be assured, that I hold him
not as one of his companions, with whom I can with pleasure
exchange courtesies; but rather as one with whom I stand upon
terms of mortal defiance."
"My master," answered Baldwin, "knows how to requite scorn with
scorn, and blows with blows, as well as courtesy with courtesy.
Since you disdain to accept from him any share of the ransom at
which you have rated the arms of the other knights, I must leave
his armour and his horse here, being well assured that he will
never deign to mount the one nor wear the other."
"You have spoken well, good squire," said the Disinherited
Knight, "well and boldly, as it beseemeth him to speak who
answers for an absent master. Leave not, however, the horse and
armour here. Restore them to thy master; or, if he scorns to
accept them, retain them, good friend, for thine own use. So far
as they are mine, I bestow them upon you freely."
Baldwin made a deep obeisance, and retired with his companions;
and the Disinherited Knight entered the pavilion.
"Thus far, Gurth," said he, addressing his attendant, "the
reputation of English chivalry hath not suffered in my hands."
"And I," said Gurth, "for a Saxon swineherd, have not ill played
the personage of a Norman squire-at-arms."
"Yea, but," answered the Disinherited Knight, "thou hast ever
kept me in anxiety lest thy clownish bearing should discover
"Tush!" said Gurth, "I fear discovery from none, saving my
playfellow, Wamba the Jester, of whom I could never discover
whether he were most knave or fool. Yet I could scarce choose
but laugh, when my old master passed so near to me, dreaming all
the while that Gurth was keeping his porkers many a mile off, in
the thickets and swamps of Rotherwood. If I am discovered------"
"Enough," said the Disinherited Knight, "thou knowest my
"Nay, for that matter," said Gurth, "I will never fail my friend
for fear of my skin-cutting. I have a tough hide, that will bear
knife or scourge as well as any boar's hide in my herd."
"Trust me, I will requite the risk you run for my love, Gurth,"
said the Knight. "Meanwhile, I pray you to accept these ten
pieces of gold."
"I am richer," said Gurth, putting them into his pouch, "than
ever was swineherd or bondsman."
"Take this bag of gold to Ashby," continued his master, "and find
out Isaac the Jew of York, and let him pay himself for the horse
and arms with which his credit supplied me."
"Nay, by St Dunstan," replied Gurth, "that I will not do."
"How, knave," replied his master, "wilt thou not obey my
"So they be honest, reasonable, and Christian commands," replied
Gurth; "but this is none of these. To suffer the Jew to pay
himself would be dishonest, for it would be cheating my master;
and unreasonable, for it were the part of a fool; and
unchristian, since it would be plundering a believer to enrich an
"See him contented, however, thou stubborn varlet," said the
"I will do so," said Gurth, taking the bag under his cloak, and
leaving the apartment; "and it will go hard," he muttered, "but I
content him with one-half of his own asking." So saying, he
departed, and left the Disinherited Knight to his own perplexed
ruminations; which, upon more accounts than it is now possible to
communicate to the reader, were of a nature peculiarly agitating
We must now change the scene to the village of Ashby, or rather
to a country house in its vicinity belonging to a wealthy
Israelite, with whom Isaac, his daughter, and retinue, had taken
up their quarters; the Jews, it is well known, being as liberal
in exercising the duties of hospitality and charity among their
own people, as they were alleged to be reluctant and churlish in
extending them to those whom they termed Gentiles, and whose
treatment of them certainly merited little hospitality at their
In an apartment, small indeed, but richly furnished with
decorations of an Oriental taste, Rebecca was seated on a heap of
embroidered cushions, which, piled along a low platform that
surrounded the chamber, served, like the estrada of the
Spaniards, instead of chairs and stools. She was watching the
motions of her father with a look of anxious and filial
affection, while he paced the apartment with a dejected mien and
disordered step; sometimes clasping his hands together
---sometimes casting his eyes to the roof of the apartment, as
one who laboured under great mental tribulation. "O, Jacob!" he
exclaimed---"O, all ye twelve Holy Fathers of our tribe! what a
losing venture is this for one who hath duly kept every jot and
tittle of the law of Moses---Fifty zecchins wrenched from me at
one clutch, and by the talons of a tyrant!"
"But, father," said Rebecca, "you seemed to give the gold to
Prince John willingly."
"Willingly? the blotch of Egypt upon him!---Willingly, saidst
thou?---Ay, as willingly as when, in the Gulf of Lyons, I flung
over my merchandise to lighten the ship, while she laboured in
the tempest---robed the seething billows in my choice silks
---perfumed their briny foam with myrrh and aloes---enriched
their caverns with gold and silver work! And was not that an
hour of unutterable misery, though my own hands made the
"But it was a sacrifice which Heaven exacted to save our lives,"
answered Rebecca, "and the God of our fathers has since blessed
your store and your gettings."
"Ay," answered Isaac, "but if the tyrant lays hold on them as he
did to-day, and compels me to smile while he is robbing me?---O,
daughter, disinherited and wandering as we are, the worst evil
which befalls our race is, that when we are wronged and
plundered, all the world laughs around, and we are compelled to
suppress our sense of injury, and to smile tamely, when we would
"Think not thus of it, my father," said Rebecca; "we also have
advantages. These Gentiles, cruel and oppressive as they are,
are in some sort dependent on the dispersed children of Zion,
whom they despise and persecute. Without the aid of our wealth,
they could neither furnish forth their hosts in war, nor their
triumphs in peace, and the gold which we lend them returns with
increase to our coffers. We are like the herb which flourisheth
most when it is most trampled on. Even this day's pageant had
not proceeded without the consent of the despised Jew, who
furnished the means."
"Daughter," said Isaac, "thou hast harped upon another string of
sorrow. The goodly steed and the rich armour, equal to the full
profit of my adventure with our Kirjath Jairam of Leicester
---there is a dead loss too---ay, a loss which swallows up the
gains of a week; ay, of the space between two Sabbaths---and yet
it may end better than I now think, for 'tis a good youth."
"Assuredly," said Rebecca, "you shall not repent you of requiting
the good deed received of the stranger knight."
"I trust so, daughter," said Isaac, "and I trust too in the
rebuilding of Zion; but as well do I hope with my own bodily eyes
to see the walls and battlements of the new Temple, as to see a
Christian, yea, the very best of Christians, repay a debt to a
Jew, unless under the awe of the judge and jailor."
So saying, he resumed his discontented walk through the
apartment; and Rebecca, perceiving that her attempts at
consolation only served to awaken new subjects of complaint,
wisely desisted from her unavailing efforts---a prudential line
of conduct, and we recommend to all who set up for comforters and
advisers, to follow it in the like circumstances.
The evening was now becoming dark, when a Jewish servant entered
the apartment, and placed upon the table two silver lamps, fed
with perfumed oil; the richest wines, and the most delicate
refreshments, were at the same time displayed by another
Israelitish domestic on a small ebony table, inlaid with silver;
for, in the interior of their houses, the Jews refused themselves
no expensive indulgences. At the same time the servant informed
Isaac, that a Nazarene (so they termed Christians, while
conversing among themselves) desired to speak with him. He that
would live by traffic, must hold himself at the disposal of every
one claiming business with him. Isaac at once replaced on the
table the untasted glass of Greek wine which he had just raised
to his lips, and saying hastily to his daughter, "Rebecca, veil
thyself," commanded the stranger to be admitted.
Just as Rebecca had dropped over her fine features a screen of
silver gauze which reached to her feet, the door opened, and
Gurth entered, wrapt in the ample folds of his Norman mantle.
His appearance was rather suspicious than prepossessing,
especially as, instead of doffing his bonnet, he pulled it still
deeper over his rugged brow.
"Art thou Isaac the Jew of York?" said Gurth, in Saxon.
"I am," replied Isaac, in the same language, (for his traffic had
rendered every tongue spoken in Britain familiar to him)---"and
who art thou?"
"That is not to the purpose," answered Gurth.
"As much as my name is to thee," replied Isaac; "for without
knowing thine, how can I hold intercourse with thee?"
"Easily," answered Gurth; "I, being to pay money, must know that
I deliver it to the right person; thou, who are to receive it,
will not, I think, care very greatly by whose hands it is
"O," said the Jew, "you are come to pay moneys?---Holy Father
Abraham! that altereth our relation to each other. And from whom
dost thou bring it?"
"From the Disinherited Knight," said Gurth, "victor in this day's
tournament. It is the price of the armour supplied to him by
Kirjath Jairam of Leicester, on thy recommendation. The steed
is restored to thy stable. I desire to know the amount of the
sum which I am to pay for the armour."
"I said he was a good youth!" exclaimed Isaac with joyful
exultation. "A cup of wine will do thee no harm," he added,
filling and handing to the swineherd a richer drought than Gurth
had ever before tasted. "And how much money," continued Isaac,
"has thou brought with thee?"
"Holy Virgin!" said Gurth, setting down the cup, "what nectar
these unbelieving dogs drink, while true Christians are fain to
quaff ale as muddy and thick as the draff we give to hogs!---What
money have I brought with me?" continued the Saxon, when he had
finished this uncivil ejaculation, "even but a small sum;
something in hand the whilst. What, Isaac! thou must bear a
conscience, though it be a Jewish one."
"Nay, but," said Isaac, "thy master has won goodly steeds and
rich armours with the strength of his lance, and of his right
hand---but 'tis a good youth---the Jew will take these in present
payment, and render him back the surplus."
"My master has disposed of them already," said Gurth.
"Ah! that was wrong," said the Jew, "that was the part of a fool.
No Christians here could buy so many horses and armour---no Jew
except myself would give him half the values. But thou hast a
hundred zecchins with thee in that bag," said Isaac, prying under
Gurth's cloak, "it is a heavy one."
"I have heads for cross-bow bolts in it," said Gurth, readily.
"Well, then"---said Isaac, panting and hesitating between
habitual love of gain and a new-born desire to be liberal in the
present instance, "if I should say that I would take eighty
zecchins for the good steed and the rich armour, which leaves me
not a guilder's profit, have you money to pay me?"
"Barely," said Gurth, though the sum demanded was more reasonable
than he expected, "and it will leave my master nigh penniless.
Nevertheless, if such be your least offer, I must be content."
"Fill thyself another goblet of wine," said the Jew. "Ah! eighty
zecchins is too little. It leaveth no profit for the usages of
the moneys; and, besides, the good horse may have suffered wrong
in this day's encounter. O, it was a hard and a dangerous
meeting! man and steed rushing on each other like wild bulls of
Bashan! The horse cannot but have had wrong."
"And I say," replied Gurth, "he is sound, wind and limb; and you
may see him now, in your stable. And I say, over and above, that
seventy zecchins is enough for the armour, and I hope a
Christian's word is as good as a Jew's. If you will not take
seventy, I will carry this bag" (and he shook it till the
contents jingled) "back to my master."
"Nay, nay!" said Isaac; "lay down the talents---the shekels---the
eighty zecchins, and thou shalt see I will consider thee
Gurth at length complied; and telling out eighty zecchins upon
the table, the Jew delivered out to him an acquittance for the
horse and suit of armour. The Jew's hand trembled for joy as he
wrapped up the first seventy pieces of gold. The last ten he
told over with much deliberation, pausing, and saying something
as he took each piece from the table, and dropt it into his
purse. It seemed as if his avarice were struggling with his
better nature, and compelling him to pouch zecchin after zecchin
while his generosity urged him to restore some part at least to
his benefactor, or as a donation to his agent. His whole speech
ran nearly thus:
"Seventy-one---seventy-two; thy master is a good youth
---seventy-three, an excellent youth---seventy-four---that piece
hath been clipt within the ring---seventy-five---and that looketh
light of weight ---seventy-six---when thy master wants money, let
him come to Isaac of York---seventy-seven---that is, with
reasonable security." Here he made a considerable pause, and
Gurth had good hope that the last three pieces might escape the
fate of their comrades; but the enumeration proceeded.
---"Seventy-eight---thou art a good fellow---seventy-nine---and
deservest something for thyself------"
Here the Jew paused again, and looked at the last zecchin,
intending, doubtless, to bestow it upon Gurth. He weighed it
upon the tip of his finger, and made it ring by dropping it upon
the table. Had it rung too flat, or had it felt a hair's breadth
too light, generosity had carried the day; but, unhappily for
Gurth, the chime was full and true, the zecchin plump, newly
coined, and a grain above weight. Isaac could not find in his
heart to part with it, so dropt it into his purse as if in
absence of mind, with the words, "Eighty completes the tale, and
I trust thy master will reward thee handsomely.---Surely," he
added, looking earnestly at the bag, "thou hast more coins in
Gurth grinned, which was his nearest approach to a laugh, as he
replied, "About the same quantity which thou hast just told over
so carefully." He then folded the quittance, and put it under
his cap, adding,---"Peril of thy beard, Jew, see that this be
full and ample!" He filled himself unbidden, a third goblet of
wine, and left the apartment without ceremony.
"Rebecca," said the Jew, "that Ishmaelite hath gone somewhat
beyond me. Nevertheless his master is a good youth---ay, and I
am well pleased that he hath gained shekels of gold and shekels
of silver, even by the speed of his horse and by the strength of
his lance, which, like that of Goliath the Philistine, might vie
with a weaver's beam."
As he turned to receive Rebecca's answer, he observed, that
during his chattering with Gurth, she had left the apartment
In the meanwhile, Gurth had descended the stair, and, having
reached the dark antechamber or hall, was puzzling about to
discover the entrance, when a figure in white, shown by a small
silver lamp which she held in her hand, beckoned him into a side
apartment. Gurth had some reluctance to obey the summons. Rough
and impetuous as a wild boar, where only earthly force was to be
apprehended, he had all the characteristic terrors of a Saxon
respecting fawns, forest-fiends, white women, and the whole of
the superstitions which his ancestors had brought with them from
the wilds of Germany. He remembered, moreover, that he was in
the house of a Jew, a people who, besides the other unamiable
qualities which popular report ascribed to them, were supposed to
be profound necromancers and cabalists. Nevertheless, after a
moment's pause, he obeyed the beckoning summons of the
apparition, and followed her into the apartment which she
indicated, where he found to his joyful surprise that his fair
guide was the beautiful Jewess whom he had seen at the
tournament, and a short time in her father's apartment.
She asked him the particulars of his transaction with Isaac,
which he detailed accurately.
"My father did but jest with thee, good fellow," said Rebecca;
"he owes thy master deeper kindness than these arms and steed
could pay, were their value tenfold. What sum didst thou pay my
father even now?"
"Eighty zecchins," said Gurth, surprised at the question.
"In this purse," said Rebecca, "thou wilt find a hundred.
Restore to thy master that which is his due, and enrich thyself
with the remainder. Haste---begone---stay not to render thanks!
and beware how you pass through this crowded town, where thou
mayst easily lose both thy burden and thy life.---Reuben," she
added, clapping her hands together, "light forth this stranger,
and fail not to draw lock and bar behind him." Reuben, a
dark-brow'd and black-bearded Israelite, obeyed her summons, with
a torch in his hand; undid the outward door of the house, and
conducting Gurth across a paved court, let him out through a
wicket in the entrance-gate, which he closed behind him with such
bolts and chains as would well have become that of a prison.
"By St Dunstan," said Gurth, as he stumbled up the dark avenue,
"this is no Jewess, but an angel from heaven! Ten zecchins from
my brave young master---twenty from this pearl of Zion---Oh,
happy day!---Such another, Gurth, will redeem thy bondage, and
make thee a brother as free of thy guild as the best. And then
do I lay down my swineherd's horn and staff, and take the
freeman's sword and buckler, and follow my young master to the
death, without hiding either my face or my name."
1st Outlaw: Stand, sir, and throw us that you have about you;
If not, we'll make you sit, and rifle you.
Speed: Sir, we are undone! these are the villains
That all the travellers do fear so much.
Val: My friends,---
1st Out: That's not so, sir, we are your enemies.
2d Out: Peace! we'll hear him.
3d Out: Ay, by my beard, will we;
For he's a proper man.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The nocturnal adventures of Gurth were not yet concluded; indeed
he himself became partly of that mind, when, after passing one or
two straggling houses which stood in the outskirts of the
village, he found himself in a deep lane, running between two
banks overgrown with hazel and holly, while here and there a
dwarf oak flung its arms altogether across the path. The lane
was moreover much rutted and broken up by the carriages which had
recently transported articles of various kinds to the tournament;
and it was dark, for the banks and bushes intercepted the light
of the harvest moon.
>From the village were heard the distant sounds of revelry, mixed
occasionally with loud laughter, sometimes broken by screams, and
sometimes by wild strains of distant music. All these sounds,
intimating the disorderly state of the town, crowded with
military nobles and their dissolute attendants, gave Gurth some
uneasiness. "The Jewess was right," he said to himself. "By
heaven and St Dunstan, I would I were safe at my journey's end
with all this treasure! Here are such numbers, I will not say of
arrant thieves, but of errant knights and errant squires, errant
monks and errant minstrels, errant jugglers and errant jesters,
that a man with a single merk would be in danger, much more a
poor swineherd with a whole bagful of zecchins. Would I were out
of the shade of these infernal bushes, that I might at least see
any of St Nicholas's clerks before they spring on my shoulders."
Gurth accordingly hastened his pace, in order to gain the open
common to which the lane led, but was not so fortunate as to
accomplish his object. Just as he had attained the upper end of
the lane, where the underwood was thickest, four men sprung upon
him, even as his fears anticipated, two from each side of the
road, and seized him so fast, that resistance, if at first
practicable, would have been now too late.---"Surrender your
charge," said one of them; "we are the deliverers of the
commonwealth, who ease every man of his burden."
"You should not ease me of mine so lightly," muttered Gurth,
whose surly honesty could not be tamed even by the pressure of
immediate violence,---"had I it but in my power to give three
strokes in its defence."
"We shall see that presently," said the robber; and, speaking to
his companions, he added, "bring along the knave. I see he would
have his head broken, as well as his purse cut, and so be let
blood in two veins at once."
Gurth was hurried along agreeably to this mandate, and having
been dragged somewhat roughly over the bank, on the left-hand
side of the lane, found himself in a straggling thicket, which
lay betwixt it and the open common. He was compelled to follow
his rough conductors into the very depth of this cover, where
they stopt unexpectedly in an irregular open space, free in a
great measure from trees, and on which, therefore, the beams of
the moon fell without much interruption from boughs and leaves.
Here his captors were joined by two other persons, apparently
belonging to the gang. They had short swords by their sides, and
quarter-staves in their hands, and Gurth could now observe that
all six wore visors, which rendered their occupation a matter of
no question, even had their former proceedings left it in doubt.
"What money hast thou, churl?" said one of the thieves.
"Thirty zecchins of my own property," answered Gurth, doggedly.
"A forfeit---a forfeit," shouted the robbers; "a Saxon hath
thirty zecchins, and returns sober from a village! An undeniable
and unredeemable forfeit of all he hath about him."
"I hoarded it to purchase my freedom," said Gurth.
"Thou art an ass," replied one of the thieves "three quarts of
double ale had rendered thee as free as thy master, ay, and freer
too, if he be a Saxon like thyself."
"A sad truth," replied Gurth; "but if these same thirty zecchins
will buy my freedom from you, unloose my hands, and I will pay
them to you."
"Hold," said one who seemed to exercise some authority over the
others; "this bag which thou bearest, as I can feel through thy
cloak, contains more coin than thou hast told us of."
"It is the good knight my master's," answered Gurth, "of which,
assuredly, I would not have spoken a word, had you been satisfied
with working your will upon mine own property."
"Thou art an honest fellow," replied the robber, "I warrant thee;
and we worship not St Nicholas so devoutly but what thy thirty
zecchins may yet escape, if thou deal uprightly with us.
Meantime render up thy trust for a time." So saying, he took
from Gurth's breast the large leathern pouch, in which the purse
given him by Rebecca was enclosed, as well as the rest of the
zecchins, and then continued his interrogation.---"Who is thy
"The Disinherited Knight," said Gurth.
"Whose good lance," replied the robber, "won the prize in
to-day's tourney? What is his name and lineage?"
"It is his pleasure," answered Gurth, "that they be concealed;
and from me, assuredly, you will learn nought of them."
"What is thine own name and lineage?"
"To tell that," said Gurth, "might reveal my master's."
"Thou art a saucy groom," said the robber, "but of that anon.
How comes thy master by this gold? is it of his inheritance, or
by what means hath it accrued to him?"
"By his good lance," answered Gurth.---"These bags contain the
ransom of four good horses, and four good suits of armour."
"How much is there?" demanded the robber.
"Two hundred zecchins."
"Only two hundred zecchins!" said the bandit; "your master hath
dealt liberally by the vanquished, and put them to a cheap
ransom. Name those who paid the gold."
Gurth did so.
"The armour and horse of the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert, at
what ransom were they held?---Thou seest thou canst not deceive
"My master," replied Gurth, "will take nought from the Templar
save his life's-blood. They are on terms of mortal defiance, and
cannot hold courteous intercourse together."
"Indeed!"---repeated the robber, and paused after he had said the
word. "And what wert thou now doing at Ashby with such a charge
in thy custody?"
"I went thither to render to Isaac the Jew of York," replied
Gurth, "the price of a suit of armour with which he fitted my
master for this tournament."
"And how much didst thou pay to Isaac?---Methinks, to judge by
weight, there is still two hundred zecchins in this pouch."
"I paid to Isaac," said the Saxon, "eighty zecchins, and he
restored me a hundred in lieu thereof."
"How! what!" exclaimed all the robbers at once; "darest thou
trifle with us, that thou tellest such improbable lies?"
"What I tell you," said Gurth, "is as true as the moon is in
heaven. You will find the just sum in a silken purse within
the leathern pouch, and separate from the rest of the gold."
"Bethink thee, man," said the Captain, "thou speakest of a Jew
---of an Israelite,---as unapt to restore gold, as the dry sand
of his deserts to return the cup of water which the pilgrim
spills upon them."
"There is no more mercy in them," said another of the banditti,
"than in an unbribed sheriffs officer."
"It is, however, as I say," said Gurth.
"Strike a light instantly," said the Captain; "I will examine
this said purse; and if it be as this fellow says, the Jew's
bounty is little less miraculous than the stream which relieved
his fathers in the wilderness."
A light was procured accordingly, and the robber proceeded to
examine the purse. The others crowded around him, and even two
who had hold of Gurth relaxed their grasp while they stretched
their necks to see the issue of the search. Availing himself of
their negligence, by a sudden exertion of strength and activity,
Gurth shook himself free of their hold, and might have escaped,
could he have resolved to leave his master's property behind him.
But such was no part of his intention. He wrenched a
quarter-staff from one of the fellows, struck down the Captain,
who was altogether unaware of his purpose, and had well-nigh
repossessed himself of the pouch and treasure. The thieves,
however, were too nimble for him, and again secured both the bag
and the trusty Gurth.
"Knave!" said the Captain, getting up, "thou hast broken my head;
and with other men of our sort thou wouldst fare the worse for
thy insolence. But thou shalt know thy fate instantly. First
let us speak of thy master; the knight's matters must go before
the squire's, according to the due order of chivalry. Stand thou
fast in the meantime---if thou stir again, thou shalt have that
will make thee quiet for thy life---Comrades!" he then said,
addressing his gang, "this purse is embroidered with Hebrew
characters, and I well believe the yeoman's tale is true. The
errant knight, his master, must needs pass us toll-free. He is
too like ourselves for us to make booty of him, since dogs should
not worry dogs where wolves and foxes are to be found in
"Like us?" answered one of the gang; "I should like to hear how
that is made good."
"Why, thou fool," answered the Captain, "is he not poor and
disinherited as we are?---Doth he not win his substance at the
sword's point as we do?---Hath he not beaten Front-de-Boeuf and
Malvoisin, even as we would beat them if we could? Is he not the
enemy to life and death of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, whom we have
so much reason to fear? And were all this otherwise, wouldst
thou have us show a worse conscience than an unbeliever, a Hebrew
"Nay, that were a shame," muttered the other fellow; "and yet,
when I served in the band of stout old Gandelyn, we had no such
scruples of conscience. And this insolent peasant,---he too, I
warrant me, is to be dismissed scatheless?"
"Not if THOU canst scathe him," replied the Captain.---"Here,
fellow," continued he, addressing Gurth, "canst thou use the
staff, that thou starts to it so readily?"
"I think," said Gurth, "thou shouldst be best able to reply to
"Nay, by my troth, thou gavest me a round knock," replied the
Captain; "do as much for this fellow, and thou shalt pass
scot-free; and if thou dost not---why, by my faith, as thou art
such a sturdy knave, I think I must pay thy ransom myself.---Take
thy staff, Miller," he added, "and keep thy head; and do you
others let the fellow go, and give him a staff---there is light
enough to lay on load by."
The two champions being alike armed with quarter-staves, stepped
forward into the centre of the open space, in order to have the
full benefit of the moonlight; the thieves in the meantime
laughing, and crying to their comrade, "Miller! beware thy
toll-dish." The Miller, on the other hand, holding his
quarter-staff by the middle, and making it flourish round his
head after the fashion which the French call "faire le moulinet",
exclaimed boastfully, "Come on, churl, an thou darest: thou shalt
feel the strength of a miller's thumb!"
"If thou best a miller," answered Gurth, undauntedly, making his
weapon play around his head with equal dexterity, "thou art
doubly a thief, and I, as a true man, bid thee defiance."
So saying, the two champions closed together, and for a few
minutes they displayed great equality in strength, courage, and
skill, intercepting and returning the blows of their adversary
with the most rapid dexterity, while, from the continued clatter
of their weapons, a person at a distance might have supposed that
there were at least six persons engaged on each side. Less
obstinate, and even less dangerous combats, have been described
in good heroic verse; but that of Gurth and the Miller must
remain unsung, for want of a sacred poet to do justice to its
eventful progress. Yet, though quarter-staff play be out of
date, what we can in prose we will do for these bold champions.
Long they fought equally, until the Miller began to lose temper
at finding himself so stoutly opposed, and at hearing the
laughter of his companions, who, as usual in such cases, enjoyed
his vexation. This was not a state of mind favourable to the
noble game of quarter-staff, in which, as in ordinary
cudgel-playing, the utmost coolness is requisite; and it gave
Gurth, whose temper was steady, though surly, the opportunity of
acquiring a decided advantage, in availing himself of which he
displayed great mastery.
The Miller pressed furiously forward, dealing blows with either
end of his weapon alternately, and striving to come to half-staff
distance, while Gurth defended himself against the attack,
keeping his hands about a yard asunder, and covering himself by
shifting his weapon with great celerity, so as to protect his
head and body. Thus did he maintain the defensive, making his
eye, foot, and hand keep true time, until, observing his
antagonist to lose wind, he darted the staff at his face with his
left hand; and, as the Miller endeavoured to parry the thrust, he
slid his right hand down to his left, and with the full swing of
the weapon struck his opponent on the left side of the head, who
instantly measured his length upon the green sward.
"Well and yeomanly done!" shouted the robbers; "fair play and Old
England for ever! The Saxon hath saved both his purse and his
hide, and the Miller has met his match."
"Thou mayst go thy ways, my friend," said the Captain, addressing
Gurth, in special confirmation of the general voice, "and I will
cause two of my comrades to guide thee by the best way to thy
master's pavilion, and to guard thee from night-walkers that
might have less tender consciences than ours; for there is many
one of them upon the amble in such a night as this. Take heed,
however," he added sternly; "remember thou hast refused to tell
thy name---ask not after ours, nor endeavour to discover who or
what we are; for, if thou makest such an attempt, thou wilt come
by worse fortune than has yet befallen thee."
Gurth thanked the Captain for his courtesy, and promised to
attend to his recommendation. Two of the outlaws, taking up
their quarter-staves, and desiring Gurth to follow close in the
rear, walked roundly forward along a by-path, which traversed the
thicket and the broken ground adjacent to it. On the very verge
of the thicket two men spoke to his conductors, and receiving an
answer in a whisper, withdrew into the wood, and suffered them to
pass unmolested. This circumstance induced Gurth to believe both
that the gang was strong in numbers, and that they kept regular
guards around their place of rendezvous.
When they arrived on the open heath, where Gurth might have had
some trouble in finding his road, the thieves guided him straight
forward to the top of a little eminence, whence he could see,
spread beneath him in the moonlight, the palisades of the lists,
the glimmering pavilions pitched at either end, with the pennons
which adorned them fluttering in the moonbeams, and from which
could be heard the hum of the song with which the sentinels were
beguiling their night-watch.
Here the thieves stopt.
"We go with you no farther," said they; "it were not safe that we
should do so.---Remember the warning you have received---keep
secret what has this night befallen you, and you will have no
room to repent it---neglect what is now told you, and the Tower
of London shall not protect you against our revenge."
"Good night to you, kind sirs," said Gurth; "I shall remember
your orders, and trust that there is no offence in wishing you a
safer and an honester trade."
Thus they parted, the outlaws returning in the direction from
whence they had come, and Gurth proceeding to the tent of his
master, to whom, notwithstanding the injunction he had
received, he communicated the whole adventures of the evening.
The Disinherited Knight was filled with astonishment, no less at
the generosity of Rebecca, by which, however, he resolved he
would not profit, than that of the robbers, to whose profession
such a quality seemed totally foreign. His course of reflections
upon these singular circumstances was, however, interrupted by
the necessity for taking repose, which the fatigue of the
preceding day, and the propriety of refreshing himself for the
morrow's encounter, rendered alike indispensable.
The knight, therefore, stretched himself for repose upon a rich
couch with which the tent was provided; and the faithful Gurth,
extending his hardy limbs upon a bear-skin which formed a sort
of carpet to the pavilion, laid himself across the opening of the
tent, so that no one could enter without awakening him.
The heralds left their pricking up and down,
Now ringen trumpets loud and clarion.
There is no more to say, but east and west,
In go the speares sadly in the rest,
In goth the sharp spur into the side,
There see men who can just and who can ride;
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick,
He feeleth through the heart-spone the prick;
Up springen speares, twenty feet in height,
Out go the swordes to the silver bright;
The helms they to-hewn and to-shred;
Out burst the blood with stern streames red.
Morning arose in unclouded splendour, and ere the sun was much
above the horizon, the idlest or the most eager of the spectators
appeared on the common, moving to the lists as to a general
centre, in order to secure a favourable situation for viewing the
continuation of the expected games.
The marshals and their attendants appeared next on the field,
together with the heralds, for the purpose of receiving the names
of the knights who intended to joust, with the side which each
chose to espouse. This was a necessary precaution, in order to
secure equality betwixt the two bodies who should be opposed to
According to due formality, the Disinherited Knight was to be
considered as leader of the one body, while Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who had been rated as having done second-best in
the preceding day, was named first champion of the other band.
Those who had concurred in the challenge adhered to his party of
course, excepting only Ralph de Vipont, whom his fall had
rendered unfit so soon to put on his armour. There was no want
of distinguished and noble candidates to fill up the ranks on
In fact, although the general tournament, in which all knights
fought at once, was more dangerous than single encounters, they
were, nevertheless, more frequented and practised by the chivalry
of the age. Many knights, who had not sufficient confidence in
their own skill to defy a single adversary of high reputation,
were, nevertheless, desirous of displaying their valour in the
general combat, where they might meet others with whom they were
more upon an equality. On the present occasion, about fifty
knights were inscribed as desirous of combating upon each side,
when the marshals declared that no more could be admitted, to the
disappointment of several who were too late in preferring their
claim to be included.
About the hour of ten o'clock, the whole plain was crowded with
horsemen, horsewomen, and foot-passengers, hastening to the
tournament; and shortly after, a grand flourish of trumpets
announced Prince John and his retinue, attended by many of those
knights who meant to take share in the game, as well as others
who had no such intention.
About the same time arrived Cedric the Saxon, with the Lady
Rowena, unattended, however, by Athelstane. This Saxon lord had
arrayed his tall and strong person in armour, in order to take
his place among the combatants; and, considerably to the surprise
of Cedric, had chosen to enlist himself on the part of the Knight
Templar. The Saxon, indeed, had remonstrated strongly with his
friend upon the injudicious choice he had made of his party; but
he had only received that sort of answer usually given by those
who are more obstinate in following their own course, than strong
in justifying it.