Part 5 out of 12
and do not, I pray thee, by further impertinent enquiries, put me
to show that thou couldst hardly have made good thy lodging had I
been earnest to oppose thee."
"By my faith," said the knight, "thou makest me more curious than
ever! Thou art the most mysterious hermit I ever met; and I will
know more of thee ere we part. As for thy threats, know, holy
man, thou speakest to one whose trade it is to find out danger
wherever it is to be met with."
"Sir Sluggish Knight, I drink to thee," said the hermit;
"respecting thy valour much, but deeming wondrous slightly of thy
discretion. If thou wilt take equal arms with me, I will give
thee, in all friendship and brotherly love, such sufficing
penance and complete absolution, that thou shalt not for the next
twelve months sin the sin of excess of curiosity."
The knight pledged him, and desired him to name his weapons.
"There is none," replied the hermit, "from the scissors of
Delilah, and the tenpenny nail of Jael, to the scimitar of
Goliath, at which I am not a match for thee---But, if I am to
make the election, what sayst thou, good friend, to these
Thus speaking, he opened another hutch, and took out from it a
couple of broadswords and bucklers, such as were used by the
yeomanry of the period. The knight, who watched his motions,
observed that this second place of concealment was furnished with
two or three good long-bows, a cross-bow, a bundle of bolts for
the latter, and half-a-dozen sheaves of arrows for the former. A
harp, and other matters of a very uncanonical appearance, were
also visible when this dark recess was opened.
"I promise thee, brother Clerk," said he, "I will ask thee no
more offensive questions. The contents of that cupboard are an
answer to all my enquiries; and I see a weapon there" (here be
stooped and took out the harp) "on which I would more gladly
prove my skill with thee, than at the sword and buckler."
"I hope, Sir Knight," said the hermit, "thou hast given no good
reason for thy surname of the Sluggard. I do promise thee I
suspect thee grievously. Nevertheless, thou art my guest, and I
will not put thy manhood to the proof without thine own free
will. Sit thee down, then, and fill thy cup; let us drink, sing,
and be merry. If thou knowest ever a good lay, thou shalt be
welcome to a nook of pasty at Copmanhurst so long as I serve the
chapel of St Dunstan, which, please God, shall be till I change
my grey covering for one of green turf. But come, fill a flagon,
for it will crave some time to tune the harp; and nought pitches
the voice and sharpens the ear like a cup of wine. For my part,
I love to feel the grape at my very finger-ends before they make
the harp-strings tinkle."*
* The Jolly Hermit.---All readers, however slightly
* acquainted with black letter, must recognise in the Clerk
* of Copmanhurst, Friar Tuck, the buxom Confessor of Robin
* Hood's gang, the Curtal Friar of Fountain's Abbey.
At eve, within yon studious nook,
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portray'd with many a holy deed
Of martyrs crown'd with heavenly meed;
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measured hymn.
* * * * *
Who but would cast his pomp away,
To take my staff and amice grey,
And to the world's tumultuous stage,
Prefer the peaceful Hermitage?
Notwithstanding the prescription of the genial hermit, with which
his guest willingly complied, he found it no easy matter to bring
the harp to harmony.
"Methinks, holy father," said he, "the instrument wants one
string, and the rest have been somewhat misused."
"Ay, mark'st thou that?" replied the hermit; "that shows thee a
master of the craft. Wine and wassail," he added, gravely
casting up his eyes---"all the fault of wine and wassail!---I
told Allan-a-Dale, the northern minstrel, that he would damage
the harp if he touched it after the seventh cup, but he would not
be controlled---Friend, I drink to thy successful performance."
So saying, he took off his cup with much gravity, at the same
time shaking his head at the intemperance of the Scottish harper.
The knight in the meantime, had brought the strings into some
order, and after a short prelude, asked his host whether he would
choose a "sirvente" in the language of "oc", or a "lai" in the
language of "oui", or a "virelai", or a ballad in the vulgar
* Note C. Minstrelsy.
"A ballad, a ballad," said the hermit, "against all the 'ocs' and
'ouis' of France. Downright English am I, Sir Knight, and
downright English was my patron St Dunstan, and scorned 'oc' and
'oui', as he would have scorned the parings of the devil's hoof
---downright English alone shall be sung in this cell."
"I will assay, then," said the knight, "a ballad composed by a
Saxon glee-man, whom I knew in Holy Land."
It speedily appeared, that if the knight was not a complete
master of the minstrel art, his taste for it had at least been
cultivated under the best instructors. Art had taught him to
soften the faults of a voice which had little compass, and was
naturally rough rather than mellow, and, in short, had done all
that culture can do in supplying natural deficiencies. His
performance, therefore, might have been termed very respectable
by abler judges than the hermit, especially as the knight threw
into the notes now a degree of spirit, and now of plaintive
enthusiasm, which gave force and energy to the verses which he
THE CRUSADER'S RETURN.
High deeds achieved of knightly fame,
From Palestine the champion came;
The cross upon his shoulders borne,
Battle and blast had dimm'd and torn.
Each dint upon his batter'd shield
Was token of a foughten field;
And thus, beneath his lady's bower,
He sung as fell the twilight hour:---
"Joy to the fair!---thy knight behold,
Return'd from yonder land of gold;
No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need,
Save his good arms and battle-steed
His spurs, to dash against a foe,
His lance and sword to lay him low;
Such all the trophies of his toil,
Such---and the hope of Tekla's smile!
"Joy to the fair! whose constant knight
Her favour fired to feats of might;
Unnoted shall she not remain,
Where meet the bright and noble train;
Minstrel shall sing and herald tell---
'Mark yonder maid of beauty well,
'Tis she for whose bright eyes were won
The listed field at Askalon!
"'Note well her smile!---it edged the blade
Which fifty wives to widows made,
When, vain his strength and Mahound's spell,
Iconium's turban'd Soldan fell.
Seest thou her locks, whose sunny glow
Half shows, half shades, her neck of snow?
Twines not of them one golden thread,
But for its sake a Paynim bled.'
"Joy to the fair!---my name unknown,
Each deed, and all its praise thine own
Then, oh! unbar this churlish gate,
The night dew falls, the hour is late.
Inured to Syria's glowing breath,
I feel the north breeze chill as death;
Let grateful love quell maiden shame,
And grant him bliss who brings thee fame."
During this performance, the hermit demeaned himself much like a
first-rate critic of the present day at a new opera. He reclined
back upon his seat, with his eyes half shut; now, folding his
hands and twisting his thumbs, he seemed absorbed in attention,
and anon, balancing his expanded palms, he gently flourished them
in time to the music. At one or two favourite cadences, he threw
in a little assistance of his own, where the knight's voice
seemed unable to carry the air so high as his worshipful taste
approved. When the song was ended, the anchorite emphatically
declared it a good one, and well sung.
"And yet," said he, "I think my Saxon countrymen had herded long
enough with the Normans, to fall into the tone of their
melancholy ditties. What took the honest knight from home? or
what could he expect but to find his mistress agreeably engaged
with a rival on his return, and his serenade, as they call it, as
little regarded as the caterwauling of a cat in the gutter?
Nevertheless, Sir Knight, I drink this cup to thee, to the
success of all true lovers---I fear you are none," he added, on
observing that the knight (whose brain began to be heated with
these repeated draughts) qualified his flagon from the water
"Why," said the knight, "did you not tell me that this water was
from the well of your blessed patron, St Dunstan?"
"Ay, truly," said the hermit, "and many a hundred of pagans did
he baptize there, but I never heard that he drank any of it.
Every thing should be put to its proper use in this world. St
Dunstan knew, as well as any one, the prerogatives of a jovial
And so saying, he reached the harp, and entertained his guest
with the following characteristic song, to a sort of derry-down
chorus, appropriate to an old English ditty.*
* It may be proper to remind the reader, that the chorus of
* "derry down" is supposed to be as ancient, not only as
* the times of the Heptarchy, but as those of the Druids,
* and to have furnished the chorus to the hymns of those
* venerable persons when they went to the wood to gather
THE BAREFOOTED FRIAR.
I'll give thee, good fellow, a twelvemonth or twain,
To search Europe through, from Byzantium to Spain;
But ne'er shall you find, should you search till you tire,
So happy a man as the Barefooted Friar.
Your knight for his lady pricks forth in career,
And is brought home at even-song prick'd through with a spear;
I confess him in haste---for his lady desires
No comfort on earth save the Barefooted Friar's.
Your monarch?---Pshaw! many a prince has been known
To barter his robes for our cowl and our gown,
But which of us e'er felt the idle desire
To exchange for a crown the grey hood of a Friar!
The Friar has walk'd out, and where'er he has gone,
The land and its fatness is mark'd for his own;
He can roam where he lists, he can stop when he tires,
For every man's house is the Barefooted Friar's.
He's expected at noon, and no wight till he comes
May profane the great chair, or the porridge of plums
For the best of the cheer, and the seat by the fire,
Is the undenied right of the Barefooted Friar.
He's expected at night, and the pasty's made hot,
They broach the brown ale, and they fill the black pot,
And the goodwife would wish the goodman in the mire,
Ere he lack'd a soft pillow, the Barefooted Friar.
Long flourish the sandal, the cord, and the cope,
The dread of the devil and trust of the Pope;
For to gather life's roses, unscathed by the briar,
Is granted alone to the Barefooted Friar.
"By my troth," said the knight, "thou hast sung well and lustily,
and in high praise of thine order. And, talking of the devil,
Holy Clerk, are you not afraid that he may pay you a visit daring
some of your uncanonical pastimes?"
"I uncanonical!" answered the hermit; "I scorn the charge---I
scorn it with my heels!---I serve the duty of my chapel duly and
truly---Two masses daily, morning and evening, primes, noons, and
vespers, 'aves, credos, paters'------"
"Excepting moonlight nights, when the venison is in season," said
"'Exceptis excipiendis'" replied the hermit, "as our old abbot
taught me to say, when impertinent laymen should ask me if I kept
every punctilio of mine order."
"True, holy father," said the knight; "but the devil is apt to
keep an eye on such exceptions; he goes about, thou knowest, like
a roaring lion."
"Let him roar here if he dares," said the friar; "a touch of my
cord will make him roar as loud as the tongs of St Dunstan
himself did. I never feared man, and I as little fear the devil
and his imps. Saint Dunstan, Saint Dubric, Saint Winibald, Saint
Winifred, Saint Swibert, Saint Willick, not forgetting Saint
Thomas a Kent, and my own poor merits to speed, I defy every
devil of them, come cut and long tail.---But to let you into a
secret, I never speak upon such subjects, my friend, until after
He changed the conversation; fast and furious grew the mirth of
the parties, and many a song was exchanged betwixt them, when
their revels were interrupted by a loud knocking at the door of
The occasion of this interruption we can only explain by resuming
the adventures of another set of our characters; for, like old
Ariosto, we do not pique ourselves upon continuing uniformly to
keep company with any one personage of our drama.
Away! our journey lies through dell and dingle,
Where the blithe fawn trips by its timid mother,
Where the broad oak, with intercepting boughs,
Chequers the sunbeam in the green-sward alley---
Up and away!---for lovely paths are these
To tread, when the glad Sun is on his throne
Less pleasant, and less safe, when Cynthia's lamp
With doubtful glimmer lights the dreary forest.
When Cedric the Saxon saw his son drop down senseless in the
lists at Ashby, his first impulse was to order him into the
custody and care of his own attendants, but the words choked in
his throat. He could not bring himself to acknowledge, in
presence of such an assembly, the son whom he had renounced and
disinherited. He ordered, however, Oswald to keep an eye upon
him; and directed that officer, with two of his serfs, to convey
Ivanhoe to Ashby as soon as the crowd had dispersed. Oswald,
however, was anticipated in this good office. The crowd
dispersed, indeed, but the knight was nowhere to be seen.
It was in vain that Cedric's cupbearer looked around for his
young master---he saw the bloody spot on which he had lately sunk
down, but himself he saw no longer; it seemed as if the fairies
had conveyed him from the spot. Perhaps Oswald (for the Saxons
were very superstitious) might have adopted some such hypothesis,
to account for Ivanhoe's disappearance, had he not suddenly cast
his eye upon a person attired like a squire, in whom he
recognised the features of his fellow-servant Gurth. Anxious
concerning his master's fate, and in despair at his sudden
disappearance, the translated swineherd was searching for him
everywhere, and had neglected, in doing so, the concealment on
which his own safety depended. Oswald deemed it his duty to
secure Gurth, as a fugitive of whose fate his master was to
Renewing his enquiries concerning the fate of Ivanhoe, the only
information which the cupbearer could collect from the bystanders
was, that the knight had been raised with care by certain
well-attired grooms, and placed in a litter belonging to a lady
among the spectators, which had immediately transported him out
of the press. Oswald, on receiving this intelligence, resolved
to return to his master for farther instructions, carrying along
with him Gurth, whom he considered in some sort as a deserter
from the service of Cedric.
The Saxon had been under very intense and agonizing apprehensions
concerning his son; for Nature had asserted her rights, in spite
of the patriotic stoicism which laboured to disown her. But no
sooner was he informed that Ivanhoe was in careful, and probably
in friendly hands, than the paternal anxiety which had been
excited by the dubiety of his fate, gave way anew to the feeling
of injured pride and resentment, at what he termed Wilfred's
"Let him wander his way," said he---"let those leech his wounds
for whose sake he encountered them. He is fitter to do the
juggling tricks of the Norman chivalry than to maintain the fame
and honour of his English ancestry with the glaive and
brown-bill, the good old weapons of his country."
"If to maintain the honour of ancestry," said Rowena, who was
present, "it is sufficient to be wise in council and brave in
execution---to be boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the
gentle, I know no voice, save his father's------"
"Be silent, Lady Rowena!---on this subject only I hear you not.
Prepare yourself for the Prince's festival: we have been summoned
thither with unwonted circumstance of honour and of courtesy,
such as the haughty Normans have rarely used to our race since
the fatal day of Hastings. Thither will I go, were it only to
show these proud Normans how little the fate of a son, who could
defeat their bravest, can affect a Saxon."
"Thither," said Rowena, "do I NOT go; and I pray you to beware,
lest what you mean for courage and constancy, shall be accounted
hardness of heart."
"Remain at home, then, ungrateful lady," answered Cedric; "thine
is the hard heart, which can sacrifice the weal of an oppressed
people to an idle and unauthorized attachment. I seek the noble
Athelstane, and with him attend the banquet of John of Anjou."
He went accordingly to the banquet, of which we have already
mentioned the principal events. Immediately upon retiring from
the castle, the Saxon thanes, with their attendants, took horse;
and it was during the bustle which attended their doing so, that
Cedric, for the first time, cast his eyes upon the deserter
Gurth. The noble Saxon had returned from the banquet, as we have
seen, in no very placid humour, and wanted but a pretext for
wreaking his anger upon some one.
"The gyves!" he said, "the gyves!---Oswald---Hundibert!---Dogs
and villains!---why leave ye the knave unfettered?"
Without daring to remonstrate, the companions of Gurth bound him
with a halter, as the readiest cord which occurred. He submitted
to the operation without remonstrance, except that, darting a
reproachful look at his master, he said, "This comes of loving
your flesh and blood better than mine own."
"To horse, and forward!" said Cedric.
"It is indeed full time," said the noble Athelstane; "for, if we
ride not the faster, the worthy Abbot Waltheoff's preparations
for a rere-supper*
* A rere-supper was a night-meal, and sometimes signified a
* collation, which was given at a late hour, after the
* regular supper had made its appearance. L. T.
will be altogether spoiled."
The travellers, however, used such speed as to reach the convent
of St Withold's before the apprehended evil took place. The
Abbot, himself of ancient Saxon descent, received the noble
Saxons with the profuse and exuberant hospitality of their
nation, wherein they indulged to a late, or rather an early hour;
nor did they take leave of their reverend host the next morning
until they had shared with him a sumptuous refection.
As the cavalcade left the court of the monastery, an incident
happened somewhat alarming to the Saxons, who, of all people of
Europe, were most addicted to a superstitious observance of
omens, and to whose opinions can be traced most of those notions
upon such subjects, still to be found among our popular
antiquities. For the Normans being a mixed race, and better
informed according to the information of the times, had lost most
of the superstitious prejudices which their ancestors had brought
from Scandinavia, and piqued themselves upon thinking freely on
In the present instance, the apprehension of impending evil was
inspired by no less respectable a prophet than a large lean black
dog, which, sitting upright, howled most piteously as the
foremost riders left the gate, and presently afterwards, barking
wildly, and jumping to and fro, seemed bent upon attaching itself
to the party.
"I like not that music, father Cedric," said Athelstane; for by
this title of respect he was accustomed to address him.
"Nor I either, uncle," said Wamba; "I greatly fear we shall have
to pay the piper."
"In my mind," said Athelstane, upon whose memory the Abbot's good
ale (for Burton was already famous for that genial liquor) had
made a favourable impression,---"in my mind we had better turn
back, and abide with the Abbot until the afternoon. It is
unlucky to travel where your path is crossed by a monk, a hare,
or a howling dog, until you have eaten your next meal."
"Away!" said Cedric, impatiently; "the day is already too short
for our journey. For the dog, I know it to be the cur of the
runaway slave Gurth, a useless fugitive like its master."
So saying, and rising at the same time in his stirrups, impatient
at the interruption of his journey, he launched his javelin at
poor Fangs---for Fangs it was, who, having traced his master thus
far upon his stolen expedition, had here lost him, and was now,
in his uncouth way, rejoicing at his reappearance. The javelin
inflicted a wound upon the animal's shoulder, and narrowly missed
pinning him to the earth; and Fangs fled howling from the
presence of the enraged thane. Gurth's heart swelled within him;
for he felt this meditated slaughter of his faithful adherent in
a degree much deeper than the harsh treatment he had himself
received. Having in vain attempted to raise his hand to his
eyes, he said to Wamba, who, seeing his master's ill humour had
prudently retreated to the rear, "I pray thee, do me the kindness
to wipe my eyes with the skirt of thy mantle; the dust offends
me, and these bonds will not let me help myself one way or
Wamba did him the service he required, and they rode side by side
for some time, during which Gurth maintained a moody silence. At
length he could repress his feelings no longer.
"Friend Wamba," said he, "of all those who are fools enough to
serve Cedric, thou alone hast dexterity enough to make thy folly
acceptable to him. Go to him, therefore, and tell him that
neither for love nor fear will Gurth serve him longer. He may
strike the head from me---he may scourge me---he may load me with
irons---but henceforth he shall never compel me either to love or
to obey him. Go to him, then, and tell him that Gurth the son of
Beowulph renounces his service."
"Assuredly," said Wamba, "fool as I am, I shall not do your
fool's errand. Cedric hath another javelin stuck into his
girdle, and thou knowest he does not always miss his mark."
"I care not," replied Gurth, "how soon he makes a mark of me.
Yesterday he left Wilfred, my young master, in his blood. To-day
he has striven to kill before my face the only other living
creature that ever showed me kindness. By St Edmund, St Dunstan,
St Withold, St Edward the Confessor, and every other Saxon saint
in the calendar," (for Cedric never swore by any that was not of
Saxon lineage, and all his household had the same limited
devotion,) "I will never forgive him!"
"To my thinking now," said the Jester, who was frequently wont to
act as peace-maker in the family, "our master did not propose to
hurt Fangs, but only to affright him. For, if you observed, he
rose in his stirrups, as thereby meaning to overcast the mark;
and so he would have done, but Fangs happening to bound up at the
very moment, received a scratch, which I will be bound to heal
with a penny's breadth of tar."
"If I thought so," said Gurth---"if I could but think so---but
no---I saw the javelin was well aimed---I heard it whizz through
the air with all the wrathful malevolence of him who cast it, and
it quivered after it had pitched in the ground, as if with regret
for having missed its mark. By the hog dear to St Anthony, I
And the indignant swineherd resumed his sullen silence, which no
efforts of the Jester could again induce him to break.
Meanwhile Cedric and Athelstane, the leaders of the troop,
conversed together on the state of the land, on the dissensions
of the royal family, on the feuds and quarrels among the Norman
nobles, and on the chance which there was that the oppressed
Saxons might be able to free themselves from the yoke of the
Normans, or at least to elevate themselves into national
consequence and independence, during the civil convulsions which
were likely to ensue. On this subject Cedric was all animation.
The restoration of the independence of his race was the idol of
his heart, to which he had willingly sacrificed domestic
happiness and the interests of his own son. But, in order to
achieve this great revolution in favour of the native English, it
was necessary that they should be united among themselves, and
act under an acknowledged head. The necessity of choosing their
chief from the Saxon blood-royal was not only evident in itself,
but had been made a solemn condition by those whom Cedric had
intrusted with his secret plans and hopes. Athelstane had this
quality at least; and though he had few mental accomplishments or
talents to recommend him as a leader, he had still a goodly
person, was no coward, had been accustomed to martial exercises,
and seemed willing to defer to the advice of counsellors more
wise than himself. Above all, he was known to be liberal and
hospitable, and believed to be good-natured. But whatever
pretensions Athelstane had to be considered as head of the Saxon
confederacy, many of that nation were disposed to prefer to the
title of the Lady Rowena, who drew her descent from Alfred, and
whose father having been a chief renowned for wisdom, courage,
and generosity, his memory was highly honoured by his oppressed
It would have been no difficult thing for Cedric, had he been so
disposed, to have placed himself at the head of a third party, as
formidable at least as any of the others. To counterbalance
their royal descent, he had courage, activity, energy, and, above
all, that devoted attachment to the cause which had procured him
the epithet of The Saxon, and his birth was inferior to none,
excepting only that of Athelstane and his ward. These qualities,
however, were unalloyed by the slightest shade of selfishness;
and, instead of dividing yet farther his weakened nation by
forming a faction of his own, it was a leading part of Cedric's
plan to extinguish that which already existed, by promoting a
marriage betwixt Rowena and Athelstane. An obstacle occurred to
this his favourite project, in the mutual attachment of his ward
and his son and hence the original cause of the banishment of
Wilfred from the house of his father.
This stern measure Cedric had adopted, in hopes that, during
Wilfred's absence, Rowena might relinquish her preference, but in
this hope he was disappointed; a disappointment which might be
attributed in part to the mode in which his ward had been
educated. Cedric, to whom the name of Alfred was as that of a
deity, had treated the sole remaining scion of that great monarch
with a degree of observance, such as, perhaps, was in those days
scarce paid to an acknowledged princess. Rowena's will had been
in almost all cases a law to his household; and Cedric himself,
as if determined that her sovereignty should be fully
acknowledged within that little circle at least, seemed to take a
pride in acting as the first of her subjects. Thus trained in
the exercise not only of free will, but despotic authority,
Rowena was, by her previous education, disposed both to resist
and to resent any attempt to control her affections, or dispose
of her hand contrary to her inclinations, and to assert her
independence in a case in which even those females who have been
trained up to obedience and subjection, are not infrequently apt
to dispute the authority of guardians and parents. The opinions
which she felt strongly, she avowed boldly; and Cedric, who could
not free himself from his habitual deference to her opinions,
felt totally at a loss how to enforce his authority of guardian.
It was in vain that he attempted to dazzle her with the prospect
of a visionary throne. Rowena, who possessed strong sense,
neither considered his plan as practicable, nor as desirable, so
far as she was concerned, could it have been achieved. Without
attempting to conceal her avowed preference of Wilfred of
Ivanhoe, she declared that, were that favoured knight out of
question, she would rather take refuge in a convent, than share a
throne with Athelstane, whom, having always despised, she now
began, on account of the trouble she received on his account,
thoroughly to detest.
Nevertheless, Cedric, whose opinions of women's constancy was far
from strong, persisted in using every means in his power to bring
about the proposed match, in which he conceived he was rendering
an important service to the Saxon cause. The sudden and romantic
appearance of his son in the lists at Ashby, he had justly
regarded as almost a death's blow to his hopes. His paternal
affection, it is true, had for an instant gained the victory over
pride and patriotism; but both had returned in full force, and
under their joint operation, he was now bent upon making a
determined effort for the union of Athelstane and Rowena,
together with expediting those other measures which seemed
necessary to forward the restoration of Saxon independence.
On this last subject, he was now labouring with Athelstane, not
without having reason, every now and then, to lament, like
Hotspur, that he should have moved such a dish of skimmed milk to
so honourable an action. Athelstane, it is true, was vain
enough, and loved to have his ears tickled with tales of his high
descent, and of his right by inheritance to homage and
sovereignty. But his petty vanity was sufficiently gratified by
receiving this homage at the hands of his immediate attendants,
and of the Saxons who approached him. If he had the courage to
encounter danger, he at least hated the trouble of going to seek
it; and while he agreed in the general principles laid down by
Cedric concerning the claim of the Saxons to independence, and
was still more easily convinced of his own title to reign over
them when that independence should be attained, yet when the
means of asserting these rights came to be discussed, he was
still "Athelstane the Unready," slow, irresolute,
procrastinating, and unenterprising. The warm and impassioned
exhortations of Cedric had as little effect upon his impassive
temper, as red-hot balls alighting in the water, which produce a
little sound and smoke, and are instantly extinguished.
If, leaving this task, which might be compared to spurring a
tired jade, or to hammering upon cold iron, Cedric fell back to
his ward Rowena, he received little more satisfaction from
conferring with her. For, as his presence interrupted the
discourse between the lady and her favourite attendant upon the
gallantry and fate of Wilfred, Elgitha, failed not to revenge
both her mistress and herself, by recurring to the overthrow of
Athelstane in the lists, the most disagreeable subject which
could greet the ears of Cedric. To this sturdy Saxon, therefore,
the day's journey was fraught with all manner of displeasure and
discomfort; so that he more than once internally cursed the
tournament, and him who had proclaimed it, together with his own
folly in ever thinking of going thither.
At noon, upon the motion of Athelstane, the travellers paused in
a woodland shade by a fountain, to repose their horses and
partake of some provisions, with which the hospitable Abbot had
loaded a sumpter mule. Their repast was a pretty long one; and
these several interruptions rendered it impossible for them to
hope to reach Rotherwood without travelling all night, a
conviction which induced them to proceed on their way at a more
hasty pace than they had hitherto used.
A train of armed men, some noble dame
Escorting, (so their scatter'd words discover'd,
As unperceived I hung upon their rear,)
Are close at hand, and mean to pass the night
Within the castle.
Orra, a Tragedy
The travellers had now reached the verge of the wooded country,
and were about to plunge into its recesses, held dangerous at
that time from the number of outlaws whom oppression and poverty
had driven to despair, and who occupied the forests in such large
bands as could easily bid defiance to the feeble police of the
period. From these rovers, however, notwithstanding the lateness
of the hour Cedric and Athelstane accounted themselves secure, as
they had in attendance ten servants, besides Wamba and Gurth,
whose aid could not be counted upon, the one being a jester and
the other a captive. It may be added, that in travelling thus
late through the forest, Cedric and Athelstane relied on their
descent and character, as well as their courage. The outlaws,
whom the severity of the forest laws had reduced to this roving
and desperate mode of life, were chiefly peasants and yeomen of
Saxon descent, and were generally supposed to respect the persons
and property of their countrymen.
As the travellers journeyed on their way, they were alarmed by
repeated cries for assistance; and when they rode up to the place
from whence they came, they were surprised to find a horse-litter
placed upon the ground, beside which sat a young woman, richly
dressed in the Jewish fashion, while an old man, whose yellow cap
proclaimed him to belong to the same nation, walked up and down
with gestures expressive of the deepest despair, and wrung his
hands, as if affected by some strange disaster.
To the enquiries of Athelstane and Cedric, the old Jew could for
some time only answer by invoking the protection of all the
patriarchs of the Old Testament successively against the sons of
Ishmael, who were coming to smite them, hip and thigh, with the
edge of the sword. When he began to come to himself out of this
agony of terror, Isaac of York (for it was our old friend) was at
length able to explain, that he had hired a body-guard of six men
at Ashby, together with mules for carrying the litter of a sick
friend. This party had undertaken to escort him as far as
Doncaster. They had come thus far in safety; but having received
information from a wood-cutter that there was a strong band of
outlaws lying in wait in the woods before them, Isaac's
mercenaries had not only taken flight, but had carried off with
them the horses which bore the litter and left the Jew and his
daughter without the means either of defence or of retreat, to be
plundered, and probably murdered, by the banditti, who they
expected every moment would bring down upon them. "Would it but
please your valours," added Isaac, in a tone of deep humiliation,
"to permit the poor Jews to travel under your safeguard, I swear
by the tables of our law, that never has favour been conferred
upon a child of Israel since the days of our captivity, which
shall be more gratefully acknowledged."
"Dog of a Jew!" said Athelstane, whose memory was of that petty
kind which stores up trifles of all kinds, but particularly
trifling offences, "dost not remember how thou didst beard us in
the gallery at the tilt-yard? Fight or flee, or compound with
the outlaws as thou dost list, ask neither aid nor company from
us; and if they rob only such as thee, who rob all the world, I,
for mine own share, shall hold them right honest folk."
Cedric did not assent to the severe proposal of his companion.
"We shall do better," said be, "to leave them two of our
attendants and two horses to convey them back to the next
village. It will diminish our strength but little; and with your
good sword, noble Athelstane, and the aid of those who remain, it
will be light work for us to face twenty of those runagates."
Rowena, somewhat alarmed by the mention of outlaws in force, and
so near them, strongly seconded the proposal of her guardian.
But Rebecca suddenly quitting her dejected posture, and making
her way through the attendants to the palfrey of the Saxon lady,
knelt down, and, after the Oriental fashion in addressing
superiors, kissed the hem of Rowena's garment. Then rising, and
throwing back her veil, she implored her in the great name of the
God whom they both worshipped, and by that revelation of the Law
upon Mount Sinai, in which they both believed, that she would
have compassion upon them, and suffer them to go forward under
their safeguard. "It is not for myself that I pray this favour,"
said Rebecca; "nor is it even for that poor old man. I know,
that to wrong and to spoil our nation is a light fault, if not a
merit, with the Christians; and what is it to us whether it be
done in the city, in the desert, or in the field? But it is in
the name of one dear to many, and dear even to you, that I
beseech you to let this sick person be transported with care and
tenderness under your protection. For, if evil chance him, the
last moment of your life would be embittered with regret for
denying that which I ask of you."
The noble and solemn air with which Rebecca made this appeal,
gave it double weight with the fair Saxon.
"The man is old and feeble," she said to her guardian, "the
maiden young and beautiful, their friend sick and in peril of his
life---Jews though they be, we cannot as Christians leave them in
this extremity. Let them unload two of the sumpter-mules, and
put the baggage behind two of the serfs. The mules may transport
the litter, and we have led horses for the old man and his
Cedric readily assented to what she proposed, and Athelstane only
added the condition, "that they should travel in the rear of the
whole party, where Wamba," he said, "might attend them with his
shield of boar's brawn."
"I have left my shield in the tilt-yard," answered the Jester,
"as has been the fate of many a better knight than myself."
Athelstane coloured deeply, for such had been his own fate on the
last day of the tournament; while Rowena, who was pleased in the
same proportion, as if to make amends for the brutal jest of her
unfeeling suitor, requested Rebecca to ride by her side.
"It were not fit I should do so," answered Rebecca, with proud
humility, "where my society might be held a disgrace to my
By this time the change of baggage was hastily achieved; for the
single word "outlaws" rendered every one sufficiently alert, and
the approach of twilight made the sound yet more impressive.
Amid the bustle, Gurth was taken from horseback, in the course of
which removal he prevailed upon the Jester to slack the cord with
which his arms were bound. It was so negligently refastened,
perhaps intentionally, on the part of Wamba, that Gurth found no
difficulty in freeing his arms altogether from bondage, and then,
gliding into the thicket, he made his escape from the party.
The bustle had been considerable, and it was some time before
Gurth was missed; for, as he was to be placed for the rest of the
journey behind a servant, every one supposed that some other of
his companions had him under his custody, and when it began to be
whispered among them that Gurth had actually disappeared, they
were under such immediate expectation of an attack from the
outlaws, that it was not held convenient to pay much attention
to the circumstance.
The path upon which the party travelled was now so narrow, as not
to admit, with any sort of convenience, above two riders abreast,
and began to descend into a dingle, traversed by a brook whose
banks were broken, swampy, and overgrown with dwarf willows.
Cedric and Athelstane, who were at the head of their retinue, saw
the risk of being attacked at this pass; but neither of them
having had much practice in war, no better mode of preventing the
danger occurred to them than that they should hasten through the
defile as fast as possible. Advancing, therefore, without much
order, they had just crossed the brook with a part of their
followers, when they were assailed in front, flank, and rear at
once, with an impetuosity to which, in their confused and
ill-prepared condition, it was impossible to offer effectual
resistance. The shout of "A white dragon!---a white dragon!
---Saint George for merry England!" war-cries adopted by the
assailants, as belonging to their assumed character of Saxon
outlaws, was heard on every side, and on every side enemies
appeared with a rapidity of advance and attack which seemed to
multiply their numbers.
Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners at the same moment, and
each under circumstances expressive of his character. Cedric,
the instant that an enemy appeared, launched at him his remaining
javelin, which, taking better effect than that which he had
hurled at Fangs, nailed the man against an oak-tree that happened
to be close behind him. Thus far successful, Cedric spurred his
horse against a second, drawing his sword at the same time, and
striking with such inconsiderate fury, that his weapon
encountered a thick branch which hung over him, and he was
disarmed by the violence of his own blow. He was instantly made
prisoner, and pulled from his horse by two or three of the
banditti who crowded around him. Athelstane shared his
captivity, his bridle having been seized, and he himself forcibly
dismounted, long before he could draw his weapon, or assume any
posture of effectual defence.
The attendants, embarrassed with baggage, surprised and terrified
at the fate of their masters, fell an easy prey to the
assailants; while the Lady Rowena, in the centre of the
cavalcade, and the Jew and his daughter in the rear, experienced
the same misfortune.
Of all the train none escaped except Wamba, who showed upon the
occasion much more courage than those who pretended to greater
sense. He possessed himself of a sword belonging to one of the
domestics, who was just drawing it with a tardy and irresolute
hand, laid it about him like a lion, drove back several who
approached him, and made a brave though ineffectual attempt to
succour his master. Finding himself overpowered, the Jester at
length threw himself from his horse, plunged into the thicket,
and, favoured by the general confusion, escaped from the scene of
action. Yet the valiant Jester, as soon as he found himself
safe, hesitated more than once whether he should not turn back
and share the captivity of a master to whom he was sincerely
"I have heard men talk of the blessings of freedom," he said to
himself, "but I wish any wise man would teach me what use to make
of it now that I have it."
As he pronounced these words aloud, a voice very near him called
out in a low and cautious tone, "Wamba!" and, at the same time, a
dog, which he recognised to be Fangs, jumped up and fawned upon
him. "Gurth!" answered Wamba, with the same caution, and the
swineherd immediately stood before him.
"What is the matter?" said he eagerly; "what mean these cries,
and that clashing of swords?"
"Only a trick of the times," said Wamba; "they are all
"Who are prisoners?" exclaimed Gurth, impatiently.
"My lord, and my lady, and Athelstane, and Hundibert, and
"In the name of God!" said Gurth, "how came they prisoners?
---and to whom?"
"Our master was too ready to fight," said the Jester; "and
Athelstane was not ready enough, and no other person was ready at
all. And they are prisoners to green cassocks, and black visors.
And they lie all tumbled about on the green, like the crab-apples
that you shake down to your swine. And I would laugh at it,"
said the honest Jester, "if I could for weeping." And he shed
tears of unfeigned sorrow.
Gurth's countenance kindled---"Wamba," he said, "thou hast a
weapon, and thy heart was ever stronger than thy brain,---we are
only two---but a sudden attack from men of resolution will do
"Whither?---and for what purpose?" said the Jester.
"To rescue Cedric."
"But you have renounced his service but now," said Wamba.
"That," said Gurth, "was but while he was fortunate---follow me!"
As the Jester was about to obey, a third person suddenly made his
appearance, and commanded them both to halt. From his dress and
arms, Wamba would have conjectured him to be one of those outlaws
who had just assailed his master; but, besides that he wore no
mask, the glittering baldric across his shoulder, with the rich
bugle-horn which it supported, as well as the calm and commanding
expression of his voice and manner, made him, notwithstanding
the twilight, recognise Locksley the yeoman, who had been
victorious, under such disadvantageous circumstances, in the
contest for the prize of archery.
"What is the meaning of all this," said he, "or who is it that
rifle, and ransom, and make prisoners, in these forests?"
"You may look at their cassocks close by," said Wamba, "and see
whether they be thy children's coats or no---for they are as like
thine own, as one green pea-cod is to another."
"I will learn that presently," answered Locksley; "and I charge
ye, on peril of your lives, not to stir from the place where ye
stand, until I have returned. Obey me, and it shall be the
better for you and your masters.---Yet stay, I must render
myself as like these men as possible."
So saying he unbuckled his baldric with the bugle, took a
feather from his cap, and gave them to Wamba; then drew a vizard
from his pouch, and, repeating his charges to them to stand fast,
went to execute his purposes of reconnoitring.
"Shall we stand fast, Gurth?" said Wamba; "or shall we e'en give
him leg-bail? In my foolish mind, he had all the equipage of a
thief too much in readiness, to be himself a true man."
"Let him be the devil," said Gurth, "an he will. We can be no
worse of waiting his return. If he belong to that party, he must
already have given them the alarm, and it will avail nothing
either to fight or fly. Besides, I have late experience, that
errant thieves are not the worst men in the world to have to deal
The yeoman returned in the course of a few minutes.
"Friend Gurth," he said, "I have mingled among yon men, and have
learnt to whom they belong, and whither they are bound. There
is, I think, no chance that they will proceed to any actual
violence against their prisoners. For three men to attempt them
at this moment, were little else than madness; for they are good
men of war, and have, as such, placed sentinels to give the alarm
when any one approaches. But I trust soon to gather such a
force, as may act in defiance of all their precautions; you are
both servants, and, as I think, faithful servants, of Cedric the
Saxon, the friend of the rights of Englishmen. He shall not want
English hands to help him in this extremity. Come then with me,
until I gather more aid."
So saying, he walked through the wood at a great pace, followed
by the jester and the swineherd. It was not consistent with
Wamba's humour to travel long in silence.
"I think," said he, looking at the baldric and bugle which he
still carried, "that I saw the arrow shot which won this gay
prize, and that not so long since as Christmas."
"And I," said Gurth, "could take it on my halidome, that I have
heard the voice of the good yeoman who won it, by night as well
as by day, and that the moon is not three days older since I
"Mine honest friends," replied the yeoman, "who, or what I am, is
little to the present purpose; should I free your master, you
will have reason to think me the best friend you have ever had
in your lives. And whether I am known by one name or another
---or whether I can draw a bow as well or better than a
cow-keeper, or whether it is my pleasure to walk in sunshine or
by moonlight, are matters, which, as they do not concern you, so
neither need ye busy yourselves respecting them."
"Our heads are in the lion's mouth," said Wamba, in a whisper to
Gurth, "get them out how we can."
"Hush---be silent," said Gurth. "Offend him not by thy folly,
and I trust sincerely that all will go well."
When autumn nights were long and drear,
And forest walks were dark and dim,
How sweetly on the pilgrim's ear
Was wont to steal the hermit's hymn
Devotion borrows Music's tone,
And Music took Devotion's wing;
And, like the bird that hails the sun,
They soar to heaven, and soaring sing.
The Hermit of St Clement's Well
It was after three hours' good walking that the servants of
Cedric, with their mysterious guide, arrived at a small opening
in the forest, in the centre of which grew an oak-tree of
enormous magnitude, throwing its twisted branches in every
direction. Beneath this tree four or five yeomen lay stretched
on the ground, while another, as sentinel, walked to and fro in
the moonlight shade.
Upon hearing the sound of feet approaching, the watch instantly
gave the alarm, and the sleepers as suddenly started up and bent
their bows. Six arrows placed on the string were pointed
towards the quarter from which the travellers approached, when
their guide, being recognised, was welcomed with every token of
respect and attachment, and all signs and fears of a rough
reception at once subsided.
"Where is the Miller?" was his first question.
"On the road towards Rotherham."
"With how many?" demanded the leader, for such he seemed to be.
"With six men, and good hope of booty, if it please St Nicholas."
"Devoutly spoken," said Locksley; "and where is Allan-a-Dale?"
"Walked up towards the Watling-street, to watch for the Prior of
"That is well thought on also," replied the Captain;---"and where
is the Friar?"
"In his cell."
"Thither will I go," said Locksley. "Disperse and seek your
companions. Collect what force you can, for there's game afoot
that must be hunted hard, and will turn to bay. Meet me here by
daybreak.---And stay," he added, "I have forgotten what is most
necessary of the whole---Two of you take the road quickly towards
Torquilstone, the Castle of Front-de-Boeuf. A set of gallants,
who have been masquerading in such guise as our own, are carrying
a band of prisoners thither---Watch them closely, for even if
they reach the castle before we collect our force, our honour is
concerned to punish them, and we will find means to do so. Keep
a close watch on them therefore; and dispatch one of your
comrades, the lightest of foot, to bring the news of the yeomen
They promised implicit obedience, and departed with alacrity on
their different errands. In the meanwhile, their leader and his
two companions, who now looked upon him with great respect, as
well as some fear, pursued their way to the Chapel of
When they had reached the little moonlight glade, having in front
the reverend, though ruinous chapel, and the rude hermitage, so
well suited to ascetic devotion, Wamba whispered to Gurth, "If
this be the habitation of a thief, it makes good the old proverb,
The nearer the church the farther from God.---And by my
coxcomb," he added, "I think it be even so---Hearken but to the
black sanctus which they are singing in the hermitage!"
In fact the anchorite and his guest were performing, at the full
extent of their very powerful lungs, an old drinking song, of
which this was the burden:---
"Come, trowl the brown bowl to me,
Bully boy, bully boy,
Come, trowl the brown bowl to me:
Ho! jolly Jenkin, I spy a knave in drinking,
Come, trowl the brown bowl to me."
"Now, that is not ill sung," said Wamba, who had thrown in a few
of his own flourishes to help out the chorus. "But who, in the
saint's name, ever expected to have heard such a jolly chant come
from out a hermit's cell at midnight!"
"Marry, that should I," said Gurth, "for the jolly Clerk of
Copmanhurst is a known man, and kills half the deer that are
stolen in this walk. Men say that the keeper has complained to
his official, and that he will be stripped of his cowl and cope
altogether, if he keeps not better order."
While they were thus speaking, Locksley's loud and repeated
knocks had at length disturbed the anchorite and his guest.
"By my beads," said the hermit, stopping short in a grand
flourish, "here come more benighted guests. I would not for my
cowl that they found us in this goodly exercise. All men have
their enemies, good Sir Sluggard; and there be those malignant
enough to construe the hospitable refreshment which I have been
offering to you, a weary traveller, for the matter of three short
hours, into sheer drunkenness and debauchery, vices alike alien
to my profession and my disposition."
"Base calumniators!" replied the knight; "I would I had the
chastising of them. Nevertheless, Holy Clerk, it is true that
all have their enemies; and there be those in this very land whom
I would rather speak to through the bars of my helmet than
"Get thine iron pot on thy head then, friend Sluggard, as quickly
as thy nature will permit," said the hermit, "while I remove
these pewter flagons, whose late contents run strangely in mine
own pate; and to drown the clatter---for, in faith, I feel
somewhat unsteady---strike into the tune which thou hearest me
sing; it is no matter for the words---I scarce know them myself."
So saying, he struck up a thundering "De profundis clamavi",
under cover of which he removed the apparatus of their banquet:
while the knight, laughing heartily, and arming himself all the
while, assisted his host with his voice from time to time as his
"What devil's matins are you after at this hour?" said a voice
"Heaven forgive you, Sir Traveller!" said the hermit, whose own
noise, and perhaps his nocturnal potations, prevented from
recognising accents which were tolerably familiar to him---"Wend
on your way, in the name of God and Saint Dunstan, and disturb
not the devotions of me and my holy brother."
"Mad priest," answered the voice from without, "open to
"All's safe---all's right," said the hermit to his companion.
"But who is he?" said the Black Knight; "it imports me much to
"Who is he?" answered the hermit; "I tell thee he is a friend."
"But what friend?" answered the knight; "for he may be friend to
thee and none of mine?"
"What friend?" replied the hermit; "that, now, is one of the
questions that is more easily asked than answered. What friend?
---why, he is, now that I bethink me a little, the very same
honest keeper I told thee of a while since."
"Ay, as honest a keeper as thou art a pious hermit," replied the
knight, "I doubt it not. But undo the door to him before he beat
it from its hinges."
The dogs, in the meantime, which had made a dreadful baying at
the commencement of the disturbance, seemed now to recognise the
voice of him who stood without; for, totally changing their
manner, they scratched and whined at the door, as if interceding
for his admission. The hermit speedily unbolted his portal, and
admitted Locksley, with his two companions.
"Why, hermit," was the yeoman's first question as soon as he
beheld the knight, "what boon companion hast thou here?"
"A brother of our order," replied the friar, shaking his head;
"we have been at our orisons all night."
"He is a monk of the church militant, I think," answered
Locksley; "and there be more of them abroad. I tell thee, friar,
thou must lay down the rosary and take up the quarter-staff; we
shall need every one of our merry men, whether clerk or layman.
---But," he added, taking him a step aside, "art thou mad? to
give admittance to a knight thou dost not know? Hast thou forgot
"Not know him!" replied the friar, boldly, "I know him as well as
the beggar knows his dish."
"And what is his name, then?" demanded Locksley.
"His name," said the hermit---"his name is Sir Anthony of
Scrabelstone---as if I would drink with a man, and did not know
"Thou hast been drinking more than enough, friar," said the
woodsman, "and, I fear, prating more than enough too."
"Good yeoman," said the knight, coming forward, "be not wroth
with my merry host. He did but afford me the hospitality which I
would have compelled from him if he had refused it."
"Thou compel!" said the friar; "wait but till have changed this
grey gown for a green cassock, and if I make not a quarter-staff
ring twelve upon thy pate, I am neither true clerk nor good
While he spoke thus, he stript off his gown, and appeared in a
close black buckram doublet and drawers, over which he speedily
did on a cassock of green, and hose of the same colour. "I pray
thee truss my points," said he to Wamba, "and thou shalt have a
cup of sack for thy labour."
"Gramercy for thy sack," said Wamba; "but think'st thou it is
lawful for me to aid you to transmew thyself from a holy hermit
into a sinful forester?"
"Never fear," said the hermit; "I will but confess the sins of my
green cloak to my greyfriar's frock, and all shall be well
"Amen!" answered the Jester; "a broadcloth penitent should have a
sackcloth confessor, and your frock may absolve my motley doublet
into the bargain."
So saying, he accommodated the friar with his assistance in tying
the endless number of points, as the laces which attached the
hose to the doublet were then termed.
While they were thus employed, Locksley led the knight a little
apart, and addressed him thus:---"Deny it not, Sir Knight---you
are he who decided the victory to the advantage of the English
against the strangers on the second day of the tournament at
"And what follows if you guess truly, good yeoman?" replied the
"I should in that case hold you," replied the yeoman, "a friend
to the weaker party."
"Such is the duty of a true knight at least," replied the Black
Champion; "and I would not willingly that there were reason to
think otherwise of me."
"But for my purpose," said the yeoman, "thou shouldst be as well
a good Englishman as a good knight; for that, which I have to
speak of, concerns, indeed, the duty of every honest man, but is
more especially that of a true-born native of England."
"You can speak to no one," replied the knight, "to whom England,
and the life of every Englishman, can be dearer than to me."
"I would willingly believe so," said the woodsman, "for never had
this country such need to be supported by those who love her.
Hear me, and I will tell thee of an enterprise, in which, if thou
be'st really that which thou seemest, thou mayst take an
honourable part. A band of villains, in the disguise of better
men than themselves, have made themselves master of the person of
a noble Englishman, called Cedric the Saxon, together with his
ward, and his friend Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and have
transported them to a castle in this forest, called Torquilstone.
I ask of thee, as a good knight and a good Englishman, wilt thou
aid in their rescue?"
"I am bound by my vow to do so," replied the knight; "but I would
willingly know who you are, who request my assistance in their
"I am," said the forester, "a nameless man; but I am the friend
of my country, and of my country's friends---With this account of
me you must for the present remain satisfied, the more especially
since you yourself desire to continue unknown. Believe, however,
that my word, when pledged, is as inviolate as if I wore golden
"I willingly believe it," said the knight; "I have been
accustomed to study men's countenances, and I can read in thine
honesty and resolution. I will, therefore, ask thee no further
questions, but aid thee in setting at freedom these oppressed
captives; which done, I trust we shall part better acquainted,
and well satisfied with each other."
"So," said Wamba to Gurth,---for the friar being now fully
equipped, the Jester, having approached to the other side of the
hut, had heard the conclusion of the conversation,---"So we have
got a new ally ?---l trust the valour of the knight will be truer
metal than the religion of the hermit, or the honesty of the
yeoman; for this Locksley looks like a born deer-stealer, and the
priest like a lusty hypocrite."
"Hold thy peace, Wamba," said Gurth; "it may all be as thou dost
guess; but were the horned devil to rise and proffer me his
assistance to set at liberty Cedric and the Lady Rowena, I fear I
should hardly have religion enough to refuse the foul fiend's
offer, and bid him get behind me."
The friar was now completely accoutred as a yeoman, with sword
and buckler, bow, and quiver, and a strong partisan over his
shoulder. He left his cell at the head of the party, and, having
carefully locked the door, deposited the key under the threshold.
"Art thou in condition to do good service, friar," said Locksley,
"or does the brown bowl still run in thy head?"
"Not more than a drought of St Dunstan's fountain will allay,"
answered the priest; "something there is of a whizzing in my
brain, and of instability in my legs, but you shall presently see
both pass away."
So saying, he stepped to the stone basin, in which the waters of
the fountain as they fell formed bubbles which danced in the
white moonlight, and took so long a drought as if he had meant to
exhaust the spring.
"When didst thou drink as deep a drought of water before, Holy
Clerk of Copmanhurst?" said the Black Knight.
"Never since my wine-but leaked, and let out its liquor by an
illegal vent," replied the friar, "and so left me nothing to
drink but my patron's bounty here."
Then plunging his hands and head into the fountain, he washed
from them all marks of the midnight revel.
Thus refreshed and sobered, the jolly priest twirled his heavy
partisan round his head with three fingers, as if he had been
balancing a reed, exclaiming at the same time, "Where be those
false ravishers, who carry off wenches against their will? May
the foul fiend fly off with me, if I am not man enough for a
dozen of them."
"Swearest thou, Holy Clerk?" said the Black Knight.
"Clerk me no Clerks," replied the transformed priest; "by Saint
George and the Dragon, I am no longer a shaveling than while my
frock is on my back---When I am cased in my green cassock, I
will drink, swear, and woo a lass, with any blithe forester in
the West Riding."
"Come on, Jack Priest," said Locksley, "and be silent; thou art
as noisy as a whole convent on a holy eve, when the Father Abbot
has gone to bed.---Come on you, too, my masters, tarry not to
talk of it---I say, come on, we must collect all our forces, and
few enough we shall have, if we are to storm the Castle of
"What! is it Front-de-Boeuf," said the Black Knight, "who has
stopt on the king's highway the king's liege subjects?---Is he
turned thief and oppressor?"
"Oppressor he ever was," said Locksley.
"And for thief," said the priest, "I doubt if ever he were even
half so honest a man as many a thief of my acquaintance."
"Move on, priest, and be silent," said the yeoman; "it were
better you led the way to the place of rendezvous, than say what
should be left unsaid, both in decency and prudence."
Alas, how many hours and years have past,
Since human forms have round this table sate,
Or lamp, or taper, on its surface gleam'd!
Methinks, I hear the sound of time long pass'd
Still murmuring o'er us, in the lofty void
Of these dark arches, like the ling'ring voices
Of those who long within their graves have slept.
Orra, a Tragedy
While these measures were taking in behalf of Cedric and his
companions, the armed men by whom the latter had been seized,
hurried their captives along towards the place of security, where
they intended to imprison them. But darkness came on fast, and
the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly known to the
marauders. They were compelled to make several long halts, and
once or twice to return on their road to resume the direction
which they wished to pursue. The summer morn had dawned upon
them ere they could travel in full assurance that they held the
right path. But confidence returned with light, and the
cavalcade now moved rapidly forward. Meanwhile, the following
dialogue took place between the two leaders of the banditti.
"It is time thou shouldst leave us, Sir Maurice," said the
Templar to De Bracy, "in order to prepare the second part of thy
mystery. Thou art next, thou knowest, to act the Knight
"I have thought better of it," said De Bracy; "I will not leave
thee till the prize is fairly deposited in Front-de-Boeuf's
castle. There will I appear before the Lady Rowena in mine own
shape, and trust that she will set down to the vehemence of my
passion the violence of which I have been guilty."
"And what has made thee change thy plan, De Bracy?" replied the
"That concerns thee nothing," answered his companion.
"I would hope, however, Sir Knight," said the Templar, "that this
alteration of measures arises from no suspicion of my honourable
meaning, such as Fitzurse endeavoured to instil into thee?"
"My thoughts are my own," answered De Bracy; "the fiend laughs,
they say, when one thief robs another; and we know, that were he
to spit fire and brimstone instead, it would never prevent a
Templar from following his bent."
"Or the leader of a Free Company," answered the Templar, "from
dreading at the hands of a comrade and friend, the injustice he
does to all mankind."
"This is unprofitable and perilous recrimination," answered De
Bracy; "suffice it to say, I know the morals of the Temple-Order,
and I will not give thee the power of cheating me out of the fair
prey for which I have run such risks."
"Psha," replied the Templar, "what hast thou to fear?---Thou
knowest the vows of our order."
"Right well," said De Bracy, "and also how they are kept. Come,
Sir Templar, the laws of gallantry have a liberal interpretation
in Palestine, and this is a case in which I will trust nothing to
"Hear the truth, then," said the Templar; "I care not for your
blue-eyed beauty. There is in that train one who will make me a
"What! wouldst thou stoop to the waiting damsel?" said De Bracy.
"No, Sir Knight," said the Templar, haughtily. "To the
waiting-woman will I not stoop. I have a prize among the
captives as lovely as thine own."
"By the mass, thou meanest the fair Jewess!" said De Bracy.
"And if I do," said Bois-Guilbert, "who shall gainsay me?"
"No one that I know," said De Bracy, "unless it be your vow of
celibacy, or a cheek of conscience for an intrigue with a
"For my vow," said the Templar, "our Grand Master hath granted me
a dispensation. And for my conscience, a man that has slain
three hundred Saracens, need not reckon up every little failing,
like a village girl at her first confession upon Good Friday
"Thou knowest best thine own privileges," said De Bracy. "Yet, I
would have sworn thy thought had been more on the old usurer's
money bags, than on the black eyes of the daughter."
"I can admire both," answered the Templar; "besides, the old Jew
is but half-prize. I must share his spoils with Front-de-Boeuf,
who will not lend us the use of his castle for nothing. I must
have something that I can term exclusively my own by this foray
of ours, and I have fixed on the lovely Jewess as my peculiar
prize. But, now thou knowest my drift, thou wilt resume thine
own original plan, wilt thou not?---Thou hast nothing, thou
seest, to fear from my interference."
"No," replied De Bracy, "I will remain beside my prize. What
thou sayst is passing true, but I like not the privileges
acquired by the dispensation of the Grand Master, and the merit
acquired by the slaughter of three hundred Saracens. You have
too good a right to a free pardon, to render you very scrupulous
While this dialogue was proceeding, Cedric was endeavouring to
wring out of those who guarded him an avowal of their character
and purpose. "You should be Englishmen," said he; "and yet,
sacred Heaven! you prey upon your countrymen as if you were very
Normans. You should be my neighbours, and, if so, my friends;
for which of my English neighbours have reason to be otherwise?
I tell ye, yeomen, that even those among ye who have been branded
with outlawry have had from me protection; for I have pitied
their miseries, and curst the oppression of their tyrannic
nobles. What, then, would you have of me? or in what can this
violence serve ye?---Ye are worse than brute beasts in your
actions, and will you imitate them in their very dumbness?"
It was in vain that Cedric expostulated with his guards, who had
too many good reasons for their silence to be induced to break it
either by his wrath or his expostulations. They continued to
hurry him along, travelling at a very rapid rate, until, at the
end of an avenue of huge trees, arose Torquilstone, now the hoary
and ancient castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It was a fortress
of no great size, consisting of a donjon, or large and high
square tower, surrounded by buildings of inferior height, which
were encircled by an inner court-yard. Around the exterior wall
was a deep moat, supplied with water from a neighbouring rivulet.
Front-de-Boeuf, whose character placed him often at feud with his
enemies, had made considerable additions to the strength of his
castle, by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank
it at every angle. The access, as usual in castles of the
period, lay through an arched barbican, or outwork, which was
terminated and defended by a small turret at each corner.
Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-de-Boeuf's castle raise
their grey and moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning
sun above the wood by which they were surrounded, than he
instantly augured more truly concerning the cause of his
"I did injustice," he said, "to the thieves and outlaws of these
woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I
might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with
the ravening wolves of France. Tell me, dogs---is it my life or
my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too much that two
Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in the
country which was once the patrimony of our race?---Put us then
to death, and complete your tyranny by taking our lives, as you
began with our liberties. If the Saxon Cedric cannot rescue
England, he is willing to die for her. Tell your tyrannical
master, I do only beseech him to dismiss the Lady Rowena in
honour and safety. She is a woman, and he need not dread her;
and with us will die all who dare fight in her cause."
The attendants remained as mute to this address as to the former,
and they now stood before the gate of the castle. De Bracy
winded his horn three times, and the archers and cross-bow men,
who had manned the wall upon seeing their approach, hastened to
lower the drawbridge, and admit them. The prisoners were
compelled by their guards to alight, and were conducted to an
apartment where a hasty repast was offered them, of which none
but Athelstane felt any inclination to partake. Neither had the
descendant of the Confessor much time to do justice to the good
cheer placed before them, for their guards gave him and Cedric to
understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apart
from Rowena. Resistance was vain; and they were compelled to
follow to a large room, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars,
resembled those refectories and chapter-houses which may be still
seen in the most ancient parts of our most ancient monasteries.
The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train, and conducted,
with courtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her
inclination, to a distant apartment. The same alarming
distinction was conferred on Rebecca, in spite of her father's
entreaties, who offered even money, in this extremity of
distress, that she might be permitted to abide with him. "Base
unbeliever," answered one of his guards, "when thou hast seen thy
lair, thou wilt not wish thy daughter to partake it." And,
without farther discussion, the old Jew was forcibly dragged off
in a different direction from the other prisoners. The
domestics, after being carefully searched and disarmed, were
confined in another part of the castle; and Rowena was refused
even the comfort she might have derived from the attendance of
her handmaiden Elgitha.
The apartment in which the Saxon chiefs were confined, for to
them we turn our first attention, although at present used as a
sort of guard-room, had formerly been the great hall of the
castle. It was now abandoned to meaner purposes, because the
present lord, among other additions to the convenience, security,
and beauty of his baronial residence, had erected a new and noble
hall, whose vaulted roof was supported by lighter and more
elegant pillars, and fitted up with that higher degree of
ornament, which the Normans had already introduced into
Cedric paced the apartment, filled with indignant reflections on
the past and on the present, while the apathy of his companion
served, instead of patience and philosophy, to defend him against
every thing save the inconvenience of the present moment; and so
little did he feel even this last, that he was only from time to
time roused to a reply by Cedric's animated and impassioned
appeal to him.
"Yes," said Cedric, half speaking to himself, and half addressing
himself to Athelstane, "it was in this very hall that my father
feasted with Torquil Wolfganger, when he entertained the valiant
and unfortunate Harold, then advancing against the Norwegians,
who had united themselves to the rebel Tosti. It was in this
hall that Harold returned the magnanimous answer to the
ambassador of his rebel brother. Oft have I heard my father
kindle as he told the tale. The envoy of Tosti was admitted,
when this ample room could scarce contain the crowd of noble
Saxon leaders, who were quaffing the blood-red wine around their
"I hope," said Athelstane, somewhat moved by this part of his
friend's discourse, "they will not forget to send us some wine
and refactions at noon---we had scarce a breathing-space allowed
to break our fast, and I never have the benefit of my food when I
eat immediately after dismounting from horseback, though the
leeches recommend that practice."
Cedric went on with his story without noticing this
interjectional observation of his friend.
"The envoy of Tosti," he said, "moved up the hall, undismayed by
the frowning countenances of all around him, until he made his
obeisance before the throne of King Harold.
"'What terms,' he said, 'Lord King, hath thy brother Tosti to
hope, if he should lay down his arms, and crave peace at thy
"'A brother's love,' cried the generous Harold, 'and the fair
earldom of Northumberland.'
"'But should Tosti accept these terms,' continued the envoy,
'what lands shall be assigned to his faithful ally, Hardrada,
King of Norway?'
"'Seven feet of English ground,' answered Harold, fiercely, 'or,
as Hardrada is said to be a giant, perhaps we may allow him
twelve inches more.'
"The hall rung with acclamations, and cup and horn was filled to
the Norwegian, who should be speedily in possession of his
"I could have pledged him with all my soul," said Athelstane,
"for my tongue cleaves to my palate."
"The baffled envoy," continued Cedric, pursuing with animation
his tale, though it interested not the listener, "retreated, to
carry to Tosti and his ally the ominous answer of his injured
brother. It was then that the distant towers of York, and the
bloody streams of the Derwent,*
* Note D. Battle of Stamford.
beheld that direful conflict, in which, after displaying the
most undaunted valour, the King of Norway, and Tosti, both fell,
with ten thousand of their bravest followers. Who would have
thought that upon the proud day when this battle was won, the
very gale which waved the Saxon banners in triumph, was filling
the Norman sails, and impelling them to the fatal shores of
Sussex?---Who would have thought that Harold, within a few brief
days, would himself possess no more of his kingdom, than the
share which he allotted in his wrath to the Norwegian invader?
---Who would have thought that you, noble Athelstane---that you,
descended of Harold's blood, and that I, whose father was not the
worst defender of the Saxon crown, should be prisoners to a vile
Norman, in the very hall in which our ancestors held such high
"It is sad enough," replied Athelstane; "but I trust they will
hold us to a moderate ransom---At any rate it cannot be their
purpose to starve us outright; and yet, although it is high noon,
I see no preparations for serving dinner. Look up at the window,
noble Cedric, and judge by the sunbeams if it is not on the verge
"It may be so," answered Cedric; "but I cannot look on that
stained lattice without its awakening other reflections than
those which concern the passing moment, or its privations. When
that window was wrought, my noble friend, our hardy fathers knew
not the art of making glass, or of staining it---The pride of
Wolfganger's father brought an artist from Normandy to adorn his
hall with this new species of emblazonment, that breaks the
golden light of God's blessed day into so many fantastic hues.
The foreigner came here poor, beggarly, cringing, and
subservient, ready to doff his cap to the meanest native of the
household. He returned pampered and proud, to tell his rapacious
countrymen of the wealth and the simplicity of the Saxon nobles
---a folly, oh, Athelstane, foreboded of old, as well as
foreseen, by those descendants of Hengist and his hardy tribes,
who retained the simplicity of their manners. We made these
strangers our bosom friends, our confidential servants; we
borrowed their artists and their arts, and despised the honest
simplicity and hardihood with which our brave ancestors supported
themselves, and we became enervated by Norman arts long ere we
fell under Norman arms. Far better was our homely diet, eaten in
peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love of which
hath delivered us as bondsmen to the foreign conqueror!"
"I should," replied Athelstane, "hold very humble diet a luxury
at present; and it astonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear
so truly in mind the memory of past deeds, when it appeareth you
forget the very hour of dinner."
"It is time lost," muttered Cedric apart and impatiently, "to
speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite!
The soul of Hardicanute hath taken possession of him, and he hath
no pleasure save to fill, to swill, and to call for more.
---Alas!" said he, looking at Athelstane with compassion, "that
so dull a spirit should be lodged in so goodly a form! Alas! that
such an enterprise as the regeneration of England should turn on
a hinge so imperfect! Wedded to Rowena, indeed, her nobler and
more generous soul may yet awake the better nature which is
torpid within him. Yet how should this be, while Rowena,
Athelstane, and I myself, remain the prisoners of this brutal
marauder and have been made so perhaps from a sense of the
dangers which our liberty might bring to the usurped power of his
While the Saxon was plunged in these painful reflections, the
door of their prison opened, and gave entrance to a sewer,
holding his white rod of office. This important person advanced
into the chamber with a grave pace, followed by four attendants,
bearing in a table covered with dishes, the sight and smell of
which seemed to be an instant compensation to Athelstane for all
the inconvenience he had undergone. The persons who attended on
the feast were masked and cloaked.
"What mummery is this?" said Cedric; "think you that we are
ignorant whose prisoners we are, when we are in the castle of
your master? Tell him," he continued, willing to use this
opportunity to open a negotiation for his freedom,---"Tell your
master, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, that we know no reason he can
have for withholding our liberty, excepting his unlawful desire
to enrich himself at our expense. Tell him that we yield to his
rapacity, as in similar circumstances we should do to that of a
literal robber. Let him name the ransom at which he rates our
liberty, and it shall be paid, providing the exaction is suited
to our means." The sewer made no answer, but bowed his head.
"And tell Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said Athelstane, "that I
send him my mortal defiance, and challenge him to combat with me,
on foot or horseback, at any secure place, within eight days
after our liberation; which, if he be a true knight, he will not,
under these circumstances, venture to refuse or to delay."
"I shall deliver to the knight your defiance," answered the
sewer; "meanwhile I leave you to your food."
The challenge of Athelstane was delivered with no good grace; for
a large mouthful, which required the exercise of both jaws at
once, added to a natural hesitation, considerably damped the
effect of the bold defiance it contained. Still, however, his
speech was hailed by Cedric as an incontestible token of reviving
spirit in his companion, whose previous indifference had begun,
notwithstanding his respect for Athelstane's descent, to wear out
his patience. But he now cordially shook hands with him in token
of his approbation, and was somewhat grieved when Athelstane
observed, "that he would fight a dozen such men as
Front-de-Boeuf, if, by so doing, he could hasten his departure
from a dungeon where they put so much garlic into their pottage."
Notwithstanding this intimation of a relapse into the apathy of
sensuality, Cedric placed himself opposite to Athelstane, and
soon showed, that if the distresses of his country could banish
the recollection of food while the table was uncovered, yet no
sooner were the victuals put there, than he proved that the
appetite of his Saxon ancestors had descended to him along with
their other qualities.
The captives had not long enjoyed their refreshment, however, ere
their attention was disturbed even from this most serious
occupation by the blast of a horn winded before the gate. It was
repeated three times, with as much violence as if it had been
blown before an enchanted castle by the destined knight, at whose
summons halls and towers, barbican and battlement, were to roll
off like a morning vapour. The Saxons started from the table,
and hastened to the window. But their curiosity was
disappointed; for these outlets only looked upon the court of the
castle, and the sound came from beyond its precincts. The
summons, however, seemed of importance, for a considerable degree
of bustle instantly took place in the castle.
My daughter---O my ducats---O my daughter!
------------O my Christian ducats!
Justice---the Law---my ducats, and my daughter!
Merchant of Venice
Leaving the Saxon chiefs to return to their banquet as soon as
their ungratified curiosity should permit them to attend to the
calls of their half-satiated appetite, we have to look in upon
the yet more severe imprisonment of Isaac of York. The poor Jew
had been hastily thrust into a dungeon-vault of the castle, the
floor of which was deep beneath the level of the ground, and very
damp, being lower than even the moat itself. The only light was
received through one or two loop-holes far above the reach of the
captive's hand. These apertures admitted, even at mid-day, only
a dim and uncertain light, which was changed for utter darkness
long before the rest of the castle had lost the blessing of day.
Chains and shackles, which had been the portion of former
captives, from whom active exertions to escape had been
apprehended, hung rusted and empty on the walls of the prison,
and in the rings of one of those sets of fetters there remained
two mouldering bones, which seemed to have been once those of the
human leg, as if some prisoner had been left not only to perish
there, but to be consumed to a skeleton.
At one end of this ghastly apartment was a large fire-grate, over
the top of which were stretched some transverse iron bars, half
devoured with rust.
The whole appearance of the dungeon might have appalled a stouter
heart than that of Isaac, who, nevertheless, was more composed
under the imminent pressure of danger, than he had seemed to be
while affected by terrors, of which the cause was as yet remote
and contingent. The lovers of the chase say that the hare feels
more agony during the pursuit of the greyhounds, than when she is
struggling in their fangs.*
* "Nota Bene." ---We by no means warrant the accuracy of
* this piece of natural history, which we give on the
* authority of the Wardour MS. L. T.
And thus it is probable, that the Jews, by the very frequency of
their fear on all occasions, had their minds in some degree
prepared for every effort of tyranny which could be practised
upon them; so that no aggression, when it had taken place, could
bring with it that surprise which is the most disabling quality
of terror. Neither was it the first time that Isaac had been
placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had therefore
experience to guide him, as well as hope, that he might again, as
formerly, be delivered as a prey from the fowler. Above all, he
had upon his side the unyielding obstinacy of his nation, and
that unbending resolution, with which Israelites have been
frequently known to submit to the uttermost evils which power and
violence can inflict upon them, rather than gratify their
oppressors by granting their demands.
In this humour of passive resistance, and with his garment
collected beneath him to keep his limbs from the wet pavement,
Isaac sat in a corner of his dungeon, where his folded hands, his
dishevelled hair and beard, his furred cloak and high cap, seen
by the wiry and broken light, would have afforded a study for
Rembrandt, had that celebrated painter existed at the period.
The Jew remained, without altering his position, for nearly three
hours, at the expiry of which steps were heard on the dungeon
stair. The bolts screamed as they were withdrawn---the hinges
creaked as the wicket opened, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf,
followed by the two Saracen slaves of the Templar, entered the
Front-de-Boeuf, a tall and strong man, whose life had been spent
in public war or in private feuds and broils, and who had
hesitated at no means of extending his feudal power, had
features corresponding to his character, and which strongly
expressed the fiercer and more malignant passions of the mind.
The scars with which his visage was seamed, would, on features of
a different cast, have excited the sympathy and veneration due to
the marks of honourable valour; but, in the peculiar case of
Front-de-Boeuf, they only added to the ferocity of his
countenance, and to the dread which his presence inspired. This
formidable baron was clad in a leathern doublet, fitted close to
his body, which was frayed and soiled with the stains of his
armour. He had no weapon, excepting a poniard at his belt, which
served to counterbalance the weight of the bunch of rusty keys
that hung at his right side.
The black slaves who attended Front-de-Boeuf were stripped of
their gorgeous apparel, and attired in jerkins and trowsers of
coarse linen, their sleeves being tucked up above the elbow, like
those of butchers when about to exercise their function in the
slaughter-house. Each had in his hand a small pannier; and, when
they entered the dungeon, they stopt at the door until
Front-de-Boeuf himself carefully locked and double-locked it.
Having taken this precaution, he advanced slowly up the apartment
towards the Jew, upon whom he kept his eye fixed, as if he wished
to paralyze him with his glance, as some animals are said to
fascinate their prey. It seemed indeed as if the sullen and
malignant eye of Front-de-Boeuf possessed some portion of that
supposed power over his unfortunate prisoner. The Jew sate with
his mouth a-gape, and his eyes fixed on the savage baron with
such earnestness of terror, that his frame seemed literally to
shrink together, and to diminish in size while encountering the
fierce Norman's fixed and baleful gaze. The unhappy Isaac was
deprived not only of the power of rising to make the obeisance
which his terror dictated, but he could not even doff his cap, or
utter any word of supplication; so strongly was he agitated by
the conviction that tortures and death were impending over him.
On the other hand, the stately form of the Norman appeared to
dilate in magnitude, like that of the eagle, which ruffles up its
plumage when about to pounce on its defenceless prey. He paused
within three steps of the corner in which the unfortunate Jew had
now, as it were, coiled himself up into the smallest possible
space, and made a sign for one of the slaves to approach. The
black satellite came forward accordingly, and, producing from his
basket a large pair of scales and several weights, he laid them
at the feet of Front-de-Boeuf, and again retired to the
respectful distance, at which his companion had already taken his
The motions of these men were slow and solemn, as if there
impended over their souls some preconception of horror and of
cruelty. Front-de-Boeuf himself opened the scene by thus
addressing his ill-fated captive.
"Most accursed dog of an accursed race," he said, awaking with
his deep and sullen voice the sullen echoes of his dungeon vault,
"seest thou these scales?"
The unhappy Jew returned a feeble affirmative.
"In these very scales shalt thou weigh me out," said the
relentless Baron, "a thousand silver pounds, after the just
measure and weight of the Tower of London."
"Holy Abraham!" returned the Jew, finding voice through the very
extremity of his danger, "heard man ever such a demand?---Who
ever heard, even in a minstrel's tale, of such a sum as a
thousand pounds of silver?---What human sight was ever blessed
with the vision of such a mass of treasure?---Not within the
walls of York, ransack my house and that of all my tribe, wilt
thou find the tithe of that huge sum of silver that thou speakest
"I am reasonable," answered Front-de-Boeuf, "and if silver be
scant, I refuse not gold. At the rate of a mark of gold for each
six pounds of silver, thou shalt free thy unbelieving carcass
from such punishment as thy heart has never even conceived."
"Have mercy on me, noble knight!" exclaimed Isaac; "I am old, and
poor, and helpless. It were unworthy to triumph over me---It is
a poor deed to crush a worm."
"Old thou mayst be," replied the knight; "more shame to their
folly who have suffered thee to grow grey in usury and knavery
---Feeble thou mayst be, for when had a Jew either heart or hand
---But rich it is well known thou art."
"I swear to you, noble knight," said the Jew "by all which I
believe, and by all which we believe in common------"
"Perjure not thyself," said the Norman, interrupting him, "and
let not thine obstinacy seal thy doom, until thou hast seen and
well considered the fate that awaits thee. Think not I speak to
thee only to excite thy terror, and practise on the base
cowardice thou hast derived from thy tribe. I swear to thee by
that which thou dost NOT believe, by the gospel which our church
teaches, and by the keys which are given her to bind and to
loose, that my purpose is deep and peremptory. This dungeon is
no place for trifling. Prisoners ten thousand times more
distinguished than thou have died within these walls, and their
fate hath never been known! But for thee is reserved a long and
lingering death, to which theirs were luxury."
He again made a signal for the slaves to approach, and spoke to
them apart, in their own language; for he also had been in
Palestine, where perhaps, he had learnt his lesson of cruelty.
The Saracens produced from their baskets a quantity of charcoal,
a pair of bellows, and a flask of oil. While the one struck a
light with a flint and steel, the other disposed the charcoal in
the large rusty grate which we have already mentioned, and
exercised the bellows until the fuel came to a red glow.
"Seest thou, Isaac," said Front-de-Boeuf, "the range of iron bars
above the glowing charcoal?*---
* Note E. The range of iron bars above that glowing charcoal
on that warm couch thou shalt lie, stripped of thy clothes as if
thou wert to rest on a bed of down. One of these slaves shall
maintain the fire beneath thee, while the other shall anoint thy
wretched limbs with oil, lest the roast should burn.---Now,
choose betwixt such a scorching bed and the payment of a thousand
pounds of silver; for, by the head of my father, thou hast no
"It is impossible," exclaimed the miserable Jew---"it is
impossible that your purpose can be real! The good God of nature
never made a heart capable of exercising such cruelty!"
"Trust not to that, Isaac," said Front-de-Boeuf, "it were a fatal
error. Dost thou think that I, who have seen a town sacked, in
which thousands of my Christian countrymen perished by sword, by
flood, and by fire, will blench from my purpose for the outcries
or screams of one single wretched Jew?---or thinkest thou that
these swarthy slaves, who have neither law, country, nor
conscience, but their master's will---who use the poison, or the
stake, or the poniard, or the cord, at his slightest wink
---thinkest thou that THEY will have mercy, who do not even
understand the language in which it is asked?---Be wise, old man;
discharge thyself of a portion of thy superfluous wealth; repay
to the hands of a Christian a part of what thou hast acquired by
the usury thou hast practised on those of his religion. Thy
cunning may soon swell out once more thy shrivelled purse, but
neither leech nor medicine can restore thy scorched hide and
flesh wert thou once stretched on these bars. Tell down thy
ransom, I say, and rejoice that at such rate thou canst redeem
thee from a dungeon, the secrets of which few have returned to
tell. I waste no more words with thee---choose between thy dross
and thy flesh and blood, and as thou choosest, so shall it be."
"So may Abraham, Jacob, and all the fathers of our people assist
me," said Isaac, "I cannot make the choice, because I have not
the means of satisfying your exorbitant demand!"
"Seize him and strip him, slaves," said the knight, "and let the
fathers of his race assist him if they can."
The assistants, taking their directions more from the Baron's eye
and his hand than his tongue, once more stepped forward, laid