Part 6 out of 12
hands on the unfortunate Isaac, plucked him up from the ground,
and, holding him between them, waited the hard-hearted Baron's
farther signal. The unhappy Jew eyed their countenances and that
of Front-de-Boeuf, in hope of discovering some symptoms of
relenting; but that of the Baron exhibited the same cold,
half-sullen, half-sarcastic smile which had been the prelude to
his cruelty; and the savage eyes of the Saracens, rolling
gloomily under their dark brows, acquiring a yet more sinister
expression by the whiteness of the circle which surrounds the
pupil, evinced rather the secret pleasure which they expected
from the approaching scene, than any reluctance to be its
directors or agents. The Jew then looked at the glowing furnace,
over which he was presently to be stretched, and seeing no chance
of his tormentor's relenting, his resolution gave way.
"I will pay," he said, "the thousand pounds of silver---That is,"
he added, after a moment's pause, "I will pay it with the help of
my brethren; for I must beg as a mendicant at the door of our
synagogue ere I make up so unheard-of a sum.---When and where
must it be delivered?"
"Here," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "here it must be delivered
---weighed it must be---weighed and told down on this very
dungeon floor.---Thinkest thou I will part with thee until thy
ransom is secure?"
"And what is to be my surety," said the Jew, "that I shall be at
liberty after this ransom is paid?"
"The word of a Norman noble, thou pawn-broking slave," answered
Front-de-Boeuf; "the faith of a Norman nobleman, more pure than
the gold and silver of thee and all thy tribe."
"I crave pardon, noble lord," said Isaac timidly, "but wherefore
should I rely wholly on the word of one who will trust nothing to
"Because thou canst not help it, Jew," said the knight, sternly.
"Wert thou now in thy treasure-chamber at York, and were I
craving a loan of thy shekels, it would be thine to dictate the
time of payment, and the pledge of security. This is MY
treasure-chamber. Here I have thee at advantage, nor will I
again deign to repeat the terms on which I grant thee liberty."
The Jew groaned deeply.---"Grant me," he said, "at least with my
own liberty, that of the companions with whom I travel. They
scorned me as a Jew, yet they pitied my desolation, and because
they tarried to aid me by the way, a share of my evil hath come
upon them; moreover, they may contribute in some sort to my
"If thou meanest yonder Saxon churls," said Front-de-Boeuf,
"their ransom will depend upon other terms than thine. Mind
thine own concerns, Jew, I warn thee, and meddle not with those
"I am, then," said Isaac, "only to be set at liberty, together
with mine wounded friend?"
"Shall I twice recommend it," said Front-de-Boeuf, "to a son of
Israel, to meddle with his own concerns, and leave those of
others alone?---Since thou hast made thy choice, it remains but
that thou payest down thy ransom, and that at a short day."
"Yet hear me," said the Jew---"for the sake of that very wealth
which thou wouldst obtain at the expense of thy------" Here he
stopt short, afraid of irritating the savage Norman. But
Front-de-Boeuf only laughed, and himself filled up the blank at
which the Jew had hesitated.
"At the expense of my conscience, thou wouldst say, Isaac; speak
it out---I tell thee, I am reasonable. I can bear the reproaches
of a loser, even when that loser is a Jew. Thou wert not so
patient, Isaac, when thou didst invoke justice against Jacques
Fitzdotterel, for calling thee a usurious blood-sucker, when thy
exactions had devoured his patrimony."
"I swear by the Talmud," said the Jew, "that your valour has been
misled in that matter. Fitzdotterel drew his poniard upon me in
mine own chamber, because I craved him for mine own silver. The
term of payment was due at the Passover."
"I care not what he did," said Front-de-Boeuf; "the question is,
when shall I have mine own?---when shall I have the shekels,
"Let my daughter Rebecca go forth to York," answered Isaac, "with
your safe conduct, noble knight, and so soon as man and horse can
return, the treasure------" Here he groaned deeply, but added,
after the pause of a few seconds,---"The treasure shall be told
down on this very floor."
"Thy daughter!" said Front-de-Boeuf, as if surprised,---"By
heavens, Isaac, I would I had known of this. I deemed that
yonder black-browed girl had been thy concubine, and I gave her
to be a handmaiden to Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, after the
fashion of patriarchs and heroes of the days of old, who set us
in these matters a wholesome example."
The yell which Isaac raised at this unfeeling communication made
the very vault to ring, and astounded the two Saracens so much
that they let go their hold of the Jew. He availed himself of
his enlargement to throw himself on the pavement, and clasp the
knees of Front-de-Boeuf.
"Take all that you have asked," said he, "Sir Knight---take ten
times more---reduce me to ruin and to beggary, if thou wilt,
---nay, pierce me with thy poniard, broil me on that furnace, but
spare my daughter, deliver her in safety and honour!---As thou
art born of woman, spare the honour of a helpless maiden---She is
the image of my deceased Rachel, she is the last of six pledges
of her love---Will you deprive a widowed husband of his sole
remaining comfort?---Will you reduce a father to wish that his
only living child were laid beside her dead mother, in the tomb
of our fathers?"
"I would," said the Norman, somewhat relenting, "that I had known
of this before. I thought your race had loved nothing save their
"Think not so vilely of us, Jews though we be," said Isaac, eager
to improve the moment of apparent sympathy; "the hunted fox, the
tortured wildcat loves its young---the despised and persecuted
race of Abraham love their children!"
"Be it so," said Front-de-Boeuf; "I will believe it in future,
Isaac, for thy very sake---but it aids us not now, I cannot help
what has happened, or what is to follow; my word is passed to my
comrade in arms, nor would I break it for ten Jews and Jewesses
to boot. Besides, why shouldst thou think evil is to come to the
girl, even if she became Bois-Guilbert's booty?"
"There will, there must!" exclaimed Isaac, wringing his hands in
agony; "when did Templars breathe aught but cruelty to men, and
dishonour to women!"
"Dog of an infidel," said Front-de-Boeuf, with sparkling eyes,
and not sorry, perhaps, to seize a pretext for working himself
into a passion, "blaspheme not the Holy Order of the Temple of
Zion, but take thought instead to pay me the ransom thou hast
promised, or woe betide thy Jewish throat!"
"Robber and villain!" said the Jew, retorting the insults of his
oppressor with passion, which, however impotent, he now found it
impossible to bridle, "I will pay thee nothing---not one silver
penny will I pay thee, unless my daughter is delivered to me in
safety and honour?"
"Art thou in thy senses, Israelite?" said the Norman, sternly
---"has thy flesh and blood a charm against heated iron and
"I care not!" said the Jew, rendered desperate by paternal
affection; "do thy worst. My daughter is my flesh and blood,
dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty
threatens. No silver will I give thee, unless I were to pour it
molten down thy avaricious throat---no, not a silver penny will I
give thee, Nazarene, were it to save thee from the deep damnation
thy whole life has merited! Take my life if thou wilt, and say,
the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the
"We shall see that," said Front-de-Boeuf; "for by the blessed
rood, which is the abomination of thy accursed tribe, thou shalt
feel the extremities of fire and steel!---Strip him, slaves, and
chain him down upon the bars."
In spite of the feeble struggles of the old man, the Saracens had
already torn from him his upper garment, and were proceeding
totally to disrobe him, when the sound of a bugle, twice winded
without the castle, penetrated even to the recesses of the
dungeon, and immediately after loud voices were heard calling for
Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Unwilling to be found engaged in
his hellish occupation, the savage Baron gave the slaves a signal
to restore Isaac's garment, and, quitting the dungeon with his
attendants, he left the Jew to thank God for his own deliverance,
or to lament over his daughter's captivity, and probable fate, as
his personal or parental feelings might prove strongest.
Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you, like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of love, force you.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The apartment to which the Lady Rowena had been introduced was
fitted up with some rude attempts at ornament and magnificence,
and her being placed there might be considered as a peculiar mark
of respect not offered to the other prisoners. But the wife of
Front-de-Boeuf, for whom it had been originally furnished, was
long dead, and decay and neglect had impaired the few ornaments
with which her taste had adorned it. The tapestry hung down from
the walls in many places, and in others was tarnished and faded
under the effects of the sun, or tattered and decayed by age.
Desolate, however, as it was, this was the apartment of the
castle which had been judged most fitting for the accommodation
of the Saxon heiress; and here she was left to meditate upon her
fate, until the actors in this nefarious drama had arranged the
several parts which each of them was to perform. This had been
settled in a council held by Front-de-Boeuf, De Bracy, and the
Templar, in which, after a long and warm debate concerning the
several advantages which each insisted upon deriving from his
peculiar share in this audacious enterprise, they had at length
determined the fate of their unhappy prisoners.
It was about the hour of noon, therefore, when De Bracy, for
whose advantage the expedition had been first planned, appeared
to prosecute his views upon the hand and possessions of the Lady
The interval had not entirely been bestowed in holding council
with his confederates, for De Bracy had found leisure to decorate
his person with all the foppery of the times. His green cassock
and vizard were now flung aside. His long luxuriant hair was
trained to flow in quaint tresses down his richly furred cloak.
His beard was closely shaved, his doublet reached to the middle
of his leg, and the girdle which secured it, and at the same time
supported his ponderous sword, was embroidered and embossed with
gold work. We have already noticed the extravagant fashion of
the shoes at this period, and the points of Maurice de Bracy's
might have challenged the prize of extravagance with the gayest,
being turned up and twisted like the horns of a ram. Such was
the dress of a gallant of the period; and, in the present
instance, that effect was aided by the handsome person and good
demeanour of the wearer, whose manners partook alike of the grace
of a courtier, and the frankness of a soldier.
He saluted Rowena by doffing his velvet bonnet, garnished with a
golden broach, representing St Michael trampling down the Prince
of Evil. With this, he gently motioned the lady to a seat; and,
as she still retained her standing posture, the knight ungloved
his right hand, and motioned to conduct her thither. But Rowena
declined, by her gesture, the proffered compliment, and replied,
"If I be in the presence of my jailor, Sir Knight---nor will
circumstances allow me to think otherwise---it best becomes his
prisoner to remain standing till she learns her doom."
"Alas! fair Rowena," returned De Bracy, "you are in presence of
your captive, not your jailor; and it is from your fair eyes that
De Bracy must receive that doom which you fondly expect from
"I know you not, sir," said the lady, drawing herself up with all
the pride of offended rank and beauty; "I know you not---and the
insolent familiarity with which you apply to me the jargon of a
troubadour, forms no apology for the violence of a robber."
"To thyself, fair maid," answered De Bracy, in his former tone
---"to thine own charms be ascribed whate'er I have done which
passed the respect due to her, whom I have chosen queen of my
heart, and loadstar of my eyes."
"I repeat to you, Sir Knight, that I know you not, and that no
man wearing chain and spurs ought thus to intrude himself upon
the presence of an unprotected lady."
"That I am unknown to you," said De Bracy, "is indeed my
misfortune; yet let me hope that De Bracy's name has not been
always unspoken, when minstrels or heralds have praised deeds of
chivalry, whether in the lists or in the battle-field."
"To heralds and to minstrels, then, leave thy praise, Sir
Knight," replied Rowena, "more suiting for their mouths than for
thine own; and tell me which of them shall record in song, or in
book of tourney, the memorable conquest of this night, a conquest
obtained over an old man, followed by a few timid hinds; and its
booty, an unfortunate maiden, transported against her will to the
castle of a robber?"
"You are unjust, Lady Rowena," said the knight, biting his lips
in some confusion, and speaking in a tone more natural to him
than that of affected gallantry, which he had at first adopted;
"yourself free from passion, you can allow no excuse for the
frenzy of another, although caused by your own beauty."
"I pray you, Sir Knight," said Rowena, "to cease a language so
commonly used by strolling minstrels, that it becomes not the
mouth of knights or nobles. Certes, you constrain me to sit
down, since you enter upon such commonplace terms, of which each
vile crowder hath a stock that might last from hence to
"Proud damsel," said De Bracy, incensed at finding his gallant
style procured him nothing but contempt---"proud damsel, thou
shalt be as proudly encountered. Know then, that I have
supported my pretensions to your hand in the way that best suited
thy character. It is meeter for thy humour to be wooed with bow
and bill, than in set terms, and in courtly language."
"Courtesy of tongue," said Rowena, "when it is used to veil
churlishness of deed, is but a knight's girdle around the breast
of a base clown. I wonder not that the restraint appears to gall
you---more it were for your honour to have retained the dress and
language of an outlaw, than to veil the deeds of one under an
affectation of gentle language and demeanour."
"You counsel well, lady," said the Norman; "and in the bold
language which best justifies bold action I tell thee, thou shalt
never leave this castle, or thou shalt leave it as Maurice de
Bracy's wife. I am not wont to be baffled in my enterprises, nor
needs a Norman noble scrupulously to vindicate his conduct to the
Saxon maiden whom be distinguishes by the offer of his hand.
Thou art proud, Rowena, and thou art the fitter to be my wife.
By what other means couldst thou be raised to high honour and to
princely place, saving by my alliance? How else wouldst thou
escape from the mean precincts of a country grange, where Saxons
herd with the swine which form their wealth, to take thy seat,
honoured as thou shouldst be, and shalt be, amid all in England
that is distinguished by beauty, or dignified by power?"
"Sir Knight," replied Rowena, "the grange which you contemn hath
been my shelter from infancy; and, trust me, when I leave it
---should that day ever arrive---it shall be with one who has not
learnt to despise the dwelling and manners in which I have been
"I guess your meaning, lady," said De Bracy, "though you may
think it lies too obscure for my apprehension. But dream not,
that Richard Coeur de Lion will ever resume his throne, far less
that Wilfred of Ivanhoe, his minion, will ever lead thee to his
footstool, to be there welcomed as the bride of a favourite.
Another suitor might feel jealousy while he touched this string;
but my firm purpose cannot be changed by a passion so childish
and so hopeless. Know, lady, that this rival is in my power, and
that it rests but with me to betray the secret of his being
within the castle to Front-de-Boeuf, whose jealousy will be more
fatal than mine."
"Wilfred here?" said Rowena, in disdain; "that is as true as that
Front-de-Boeuf is his rival."
De Bracy looked at her steadily for an instant.
"Wert thou really ignorant of this?" said he; "didst thou not
know that Wilfred of Ivanhoe travelled in the litter of the Jew?
---a meet conveyance for the crusader, whose doughty arm was to
reconquer the Holy Sepulchre!" And he laughed scornfully.
"And if he is here," said Rowena, compelling herself to a tone of
indifference, though trembling with an agony of apprehension
which she could not suppress, "in what is he the rival of
Front-de-Boeuf? or what has he to fear beyond a short
imprisonment, and an honourable ransom, according to the use of
"Rowena," said De Bracy, "art thou, too, deceived by the common
error of thy sex, who think there can be no rivalry but that
respecting their own charms? Knowest thou not there is a jealousy
of ambition and of wealth, as well as of love; and that this our
host, Front-de-Boeuf, will push from his road him who opposes his
claim to the fair barony of Ivanhoe, as readily, eagerly, and
unscrupulously, as if he were preferred to him by some blue-eyed
damsel? But smile on my suit, lady, and the wounded champion
shall have nothing to fear from Front-de-Boeuf, whom else thou
mayst mourn for, as in the hands of one who has never shown
"Save him, for the love of Heaven!" said Rowena, her firmness
giving way under terror for her lover's impending fate.
"I can---I will---it is my purpose," said De Bracy; "for, when
Rowena consents to be the bride of De Bracy, who is it shall dare
to put forth a violent hand upon her kinsman---the son of her
guardian---the companion of her youth? But it is thy love must
buy his protection. I am not romantic fool enough to further the
fortune, or avert the fate, of one who is likely to be a
successful obstacle between me and my wishes. Use thine
influence with me in his behalf, and he is safe,---refuse to
employ it, Wilfred dies, and thou thyself art not the nearer to
"Thy language," answered Rowena, "hath in its indifferent
bluntness something which cannot be reconciled with the horrors
it seems to express. I believe not that thy purpose is so
wicked, or thy power so great."
"Flatter thyself, then, with that belief," said De Bracy, "until
time shall prove it false. Thy lover lies wounded in this castle
---thy preferred lover. He is a bar betwixt Front-de-Boeuf and
that which Front-de-Boeuf loves better than either ambition or
beauty. What will it cost beyond the blow of a poniard, or the
thrust of a javelin, to silence his opposition for ever? Nay,
were Front-de-Boeuf afraid to justify a deed so open, let the
leech but give his patient a wrong draught---let the chamberlain,
or the nurse who tends him, but pluck the pillow from his head,
and Wilfred in his present condition, is sped without the
effusion of blood. Cedric also---"
"And Cedric also," said Rowena, repeating his words; "my noble
---my generous guardian! I deserved the evil I have encountered,
for forgetting his fate even in that of his son!"
"Cedric's fate also depends upon thy determination," said De
Bracy; "and I leave thee to form it."
Hitherto, Rowena had sustained her part in this trying scene with
undismayed courage, but it was because she had not considered the
danger as serious and imminent. Her disposition was naturally
that which physiognomists consider as proper to fair complexions,
mild, timid, and gentle; but it had been tempered, and, as it
were, hardened, by the circumstances of her education.
Accustomed to see the will of all, even of Cedric himself,
(sufficiently arbitrary with others,) give way before her wishes,
she had acquired that sort of courage and self-confidence which
arises from the habitual and constant deference of the circle in
which we move. She could scarce conceive the possibility of her
will being opposed, far less that of its being treated with total
Her haughtiness and habit of domination was, therefore, a
fictitious character, induced over that which was natural to her,
and it deserted her when her eyes were opened to the extent of
her own danger, as well as that of her lover and her guardian;
and when she found her will, the slightest expression of which
was wont to command respect and attention, now placed in
opposition to that of a man of a strong, fierce, and determined
mind, who possessed the advantage over her, and was resolved to
use it, she quailed before him.
After casting her eyes around, as if to look for the aid which
was nowhere to be found, and after a few broken interjections,
she raised her hands to heaven, and burst into a passion of
uncontrolled vexation and sorrow. It was impossible to see so
beautiful a creature in such extremity without feeling for her,
and De Bracy was not unmoved, though he was yet more embarrassed
than touched. He had, in truth, gone too far to recede; and yet,
in Rowena's present condition, she could not be acted on either
by argument or threats. He paced the apartment to and fro, now
vainly exhorting the terrified maiden to compose herself, now
hesitating concerning his own line of conduct.
If, thought he, I should be moved by the tears and sorrow of this
disconsolate damsel, what should I reap but the loss of these
fair hopes for which I have encountered so much risk, and the
ridicule of Prince John and his jovial comrades? "And yet," he
said to himself, "I feel myself ill framed for the part which I
am playing. I cannot look on so fair a face while it is
disturbed with agony, or on those eyes when they are drowned in
tears. I would she had retained her original haughtiness of
disposition, or that I had a larger share of Front-de-Boeuf's
thrice-tempered hardness of heart!"
Agitated by these thoughts, he could only bid the unfortunate
Rowena be comforted, and assure her, that as yet she had no
reason for the excess of despair to which she was now giving way.
But in this task of consolation De Bracy was interrupted by the
horn, "hoarse-winded blowing far and keen," which had at the same
time alarmed the other inmates of the castle, and interrupted
their several plans of avarice and of license. Of them all,
perhaps, De Bracy least regretted the interruption; for his
conference with the Lady Rowena had arrived at a point, where he
found it equally difficult to prosecute or to resign his
And here we cannot but think it necessary to offer some better
proof than the incidents of an idle tale, to vindicate the
melancholy representation of manners which has been just laid
before the reader. It is grievous to think that those valiant
barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England
were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been
such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not
only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity.
But, alas! we have only to extract from the industrious Henry one
of those numerous passages which he has collected from
contemporary historians, to prove that fiction itself can hardly
reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period.
The description given by the author of the Saxon Chronicle of the
cruelties exercised in the reign of King Stephen by the great
barons and lords of castles, who were all Normans, affords a
strong proof of the excesses of which they were capable when
their passions were inflamed. "They grievously oppressed the
poor people by building castles; and when they were built, they
filled them with wicked men, or rather devils, who seized both
men and women who they imagined had any money, threw them into
prison, and put them to more cruel tortures than the martyrs ever
endured. They suffocated some in mud, and suspended others by
the feet, or the head, or the thumbs, kindling fires below them.
They squeezed the heads of some with knotted cords till they
pierced their brains, while they threw others into dungeons
swarming with serpents, snakes, and toads." But it would be
cruel to put the reader to the pain of perusing the remainder of
* Henry's Hist. edit. 1805, vol. vii. p. .146.
As another instance of these bitter fruits of conquest, and
perhaps the strongest that can be quoted, we may mention, that
the Princess Matilda, though a daughter of the King of Scotland,
and afterwards both Queen of England, niece to Edgar Atheling,
and mother to the Empress of Germany, the daughter, the wife, and
the mother of monarchs, was obliged, during her early residence
for education in England, to assume the veil of a nun, as the
only means of escaping the licentious pursuit of the Norman
nobles. This excuse she stated before a great council of the
clergy of England, as the sole reason for her having taken the
religious habit. The assembled clergy admitted the validity of
the plea, and the notoriety of the circumstances upon which it
was founded; giving thus an indubitable and most remarkable
testimony to the existence of that disgraceful license by which
that age was stained. It was a matter of public knowledge, they
said, that after the conquest of King William, his Norman
followers, elated by so great a victory, acknowledged no law but
their own wicked pleasure, and not only despoiled the conquered
Saxons of their lands and their goods, but invaded the honour of
their wives and of their daughters with the most unbridled
license; and hence it was then common for matrons and maidens of
noble families to assume the veil, and take shelter in convents,
not as called thither by the vocation of God, but solely to
preserve their honour from the unbridled wickedness of man.
Such and so licentious were the times, as announced by the public
declaration of the assembled clergy, recorded by Eadmer; and we
need add nothing more to vindicate the probability of the scenes
which we have detailed, and are about to detail, upon the more
apocryphal authority of the Wardour MS.
I'll woo her as the lion woos his bride.
While the scenes we have described were passing in other parts of
the castle, the Jewess Rebecca awaited her fate in a distant and
sequestered turret. Hither she had been led by two of her
disguised ravishers, and on being thrust into the little cell,
she found herself in the presence of an old sibyl, who kept
murmuring to herself a Saxon rhyme, as if to beat time to the
revolving dance which her spindle was performing upon the floor.
The hag raised her head as Rebecca entered, and scowled at the
fair Jewess with the malignant envy with which old age and
ugliness, when united with evil conditions, are apt to look upon
youth and beauty.
"Thou must up and away, old house-cricket," said one of the men;
"our noble master commands it---Thou must e'en leave this chamber
to a fairer guest."
"Ay," grumbled the hag, "even thus is service requited. I have
known when my bare word would have cast the best man-at-arms
among ye out of saddle and out of service; and now must I up and
away at the command of every groom such as thou."
"Good Dame Urfried," said the other man, "stand not to reason on
it, but up and away. Lords' hests must be listened to with a
quick ear. Thou hast had thy day, old dame, but thy sun has long
been set. Thou art now the very emblem of an old war-horse
turned out on the barren heath---thou hast had thy paces in thy
time, but now a broken amble is the best of them---Come, amble
off with thee."
"Ill omens dog ye both!" said the old woman; "and a kennel be
your burying-place! May the evil demon Zernebock tear me limb
from limb, if I leave my own cell ere I have spun out the hemp on
"Answer it to our lord, then, old housefiend," said the man, and
retired; leaving Rebecca in company with the old woman, upon
whose presence she had been thus unwillingly forced.
"What devil's deed have they now in the wind?" said the old hag,
murmuring to herself, yet from time to time casting a sidelong
and malignant glance at Rebecca; "but it is easy to guess
---Bright eyes, black locks, and a skin like paper, ere the
priest stains it with his black unguent---Ay, it is easy to guess
why they send her to this lone turret, whence a shriek could no
more be heard than at the depth of five hundred fathoms beneath
the earth.---Thou wilt have owls for thy neighbours, fair one;
and their screams will be heard as far, and as much regarded, as
thine own. Outlandish, too," she said, marking the dress and
turban of Rebecca---"What country art thou of?---a Saracen? or an
Egyptian?---Why dost not answer?---thou canst weep, canst thou
"Be not angry, good mother," said Rebecca.
"Thou needst say no more," replied Urfried "men know a fox by the
train, and a Jewess by her tongue."
"For the sake of mercy," said Rebecca, "tell me what I am to
expect as the conclusion of the violence which hath dragged me
hither! Is it my life they seek, to atone for my religion? I
will lay it down cheerfully."
"Thy life, minion?" answered the sibyl; "what would taking thy
life pleasure them?---Trust me, thy life is in no peril. Such
usage shalt thou have as was once thought good enough for a
noble Saxon maiden. And shall a Jewess, like thee, repine
because she hath no better? Look at me---I was as young and
twice as fair as thou, when Front-de-Boeuf, father of this
Reginald, and his Normans, stormed this castle. My father and
his seven sons defended their inheritance from story to story,
from chamber to chamber---There was not a room, not a step of the
stair, that was not slippery with their blood. They died---they
died every man; and ere their bodies were cold, and ere their
blood was dried, I had become the prey and the scorn of the
"Is there no help?---Are there no means of escape?" said Rebecca
---"Richly, richly would I requite thine aid."
"Think not of it," said the hag; "from hence there is no escape
but through the gates of death; and it is late, late," she added,
shaking her grey head, "ere these open to us---Yet it is comfort
to think that we leave behind us on earth those who shall be
wretched as ourselves. Fare thee well, Jewess!---Jew or Gentile,
thy fate would be the same; for thou hast to do with them that
have neither scruple nor pity. Fare thee well, I say. My thread
is spun out---thy task is yet to begin."
"Stay! stay! for Heaven's sake!" said Rebecca; "stay, though it
be to curse and to revile me ---thy presence is yet some
"The presence of the mother of God were no protection," answered
the old woman. "There she stands," pointing to a rude image of
the Virgin Mary, "see if she can avert the fate that awaits
She left the room as she spoke, her features writhed into a sort
of sneering laugh, which made them seem even more hideous than
their habitual frown. She locked the door behind her, and
Rebecca might hear her curse every step for its steepness, as
slowly and with difficulty she descended the turret-stair.
Rebecca was now to expect a fate even more dreadful than that of
Rowena; for what probability was there that either softness or
ceremony would be used towards one of her oppressed race,
whatever shadow of these might be preserved towards a Saxon
heiress? Yet had the Jewess this advantage, that she was better
prepared by habits of thought, and by natural strength of mind,
to encounter the dangers to which she was exposed. Of a strong
and observing character, even from her earliest years, the pomp
and wealth which her father displayed within his walls, or which
she witnessed in the houses of other wealthy Hebrews, had not
been able to blind her to the precarious circumstances under
which they were enjoyed. Like Damocles at his celebrated
banquet, Rebecca perpetually beheld, amid that gorgeous display,
the sword which was suspended over the heads of her people by a
single hair. These reflections had tamed and brought down to a
pitch of sounder judgment a temper, which, under other
circumstances, might have waxed haughty, supercilious, and
>From her father's example and injunctions, Rebecca had learnt to
bear herself courteously towards all who approached her. She
could not indeed imitate his excess of subservience, because she
was a stranger to the meanness of mind, and to the constant state
of timid apprehension, by which it was dictated; but she bore
herself with a proud humility, as if submitting to the evil
circumstances in which she was placed as the daughter of a
despised race, while she felt in her mind the consciousness that
she was entitled to hold a higher rank from her merit, than the
arbitrary despotism of religious prejudice permitted her to
Thus prepared to expect adverse circumstances, she had acquired
the firmness necessary for acting under them. Her present
situation required all her presence of mind, and she summoned it
Her first care was to inspect the apartment; but it afforded few
hopes either of escape or protection. It contained neither
secret passage nor trap-door, and unless where the door by which
she had entered joined the main building, seemed to be
circumscribed by the round exterior wall of the turret. The door
had no inside bolt or bar. The single window opened upon an
embattled space surmounting the turret, which gave Rebecca, at
first sight, some hopes of escaping; but she soon found it had no
communication with any other part of the battlements, being an
isolated bartisan, or balcony, secured, as usual, by a parapet,
with embrasures, at which a few archers might be stationed for
defending the turret, and flanking with their shot the wall of
the castle on that side.
There was therefore no hope but in passive fortitude, and in that
strong reliance on Heaven natural to great and generous
characters. Rebecca, however erroneously taught to interpret the
promises of Scripture to the chosen people of Heaven, did not err
in supposing the present to be their hour of trial, or in
trusting that the children of Zion would be one day called in
with the fulness of the Gentiles. In the meanwhile, all around
her showed that their present state was that of punishment and
probation, and that it was their especial duty to suffer without
sinning. Thus prepared to consider herself as the victim of
misfortune, Rebecca had early reflected upon her own state, and
schooled her mind to meet the dangers which she had probably to
The prisoner trembled, however, and changed colour, when a step
was heard on the stair, and the door of the turret-chamber slowly
opened, and a tall man, dressed as one of those banditti to whom
they owed their misfortune, slowly entered, and shut the door
behind him; his cap, pulled down upon his brows, concealed the
upper part of his face, and he held his mantle in such a manner
as to muffle the rest. In this guise, as if prepared for the
execution of some deed, at the thought of which he was himself
ashamed, he stood before the affrighted prisoner; yet, ruffian as
his dress bespoke him, he seemed at a loss to express what
purpose had brought him thither, so that Rebecca, making an
effort upon herself, had time to anticipate his explanation.
She had already unclasped two costly bracelets and a collar,
which she hastened to proffer to the supposed outlaw, concluding
naturally that to gratify his avarice was to bespeak his favour.
"Take these," she said, "good friend, and for God's sake be
merciful to me and my aged father! These ornaments are of value,
yet are they trifling to what he would bestow to obtain our
dismissal from this castle, free and uninjured."
"Fair flower of Palestine," replied the outlaw, "these pearls are
orient, but they yield in whiteness to your teeth; the diamonds
are brilliant, but they cannot match your eyes; and ever since I
have taken up this wild trade, I have made a vow to prefer beauty
"Do not do yourself such wrong," said Rebecca; "take ransom, and
have mercy!---Gold will purchase you pleasure,---to misuse us,
could only bring thee remorse. My father will willingly satiate
thy utmost wishes; and if thou wilt act wisely, thou mayst
purchase with our spoils thy restoration to civil society---mayst
obtain pardon for past errors, and be placed beyond the necessity
of committing more."
"It is well spoken," replied the outlaw in French, finding it
difficult probably to sustain, in Saxon, a conversation which
Rebecca had opened in that language; "but know, bright lily of
the vale of Baca! that thy father is already in the hands of a
powerful alchemist, who knows how to convert into gold and silver
even the rusty bars of a dungeon grate. The venerable Isaac is
subjected to an alembic, which will distil from him all he holds
dear, without any assistance from my requests or thy entreaty.
The ransom must be paid by love and beauty, and in no other coin
will I accept it."
"Thou art no outlaw," said Rebecca, in the same language in which
he addressed her; "no outlaw had refused such offers. No outlaw
in this land uses the dialect in which thou hast spoken. Thou
art no outlaw, but a Norman---a Norman, noble perhaps in birth
---O, be so in thy actions, and cast off this fearful mask of
outrage and violence!"
"And thou, who canst guess so truly," said Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, dropping the mantle from his face, "art no true
daughter of Israel, but in all, save youth and beauty, a very
witch of Endor. I am not an outlaw, then, fair rose of Sharon.
And I am one who will be more prompt to hang thy neck and arms
with pearls and diamonds, which so well become them, than to
deprive thee of these ornaments."
"What wouldst thou have of me," said Rebecca, "if not my wealth?
---We can have nought in common between us---you are a Christian
---I am a Jewess.---Our union were contrary to the laws, alike of
the church and the synagogue."
"It were so, indeed," replied the Templar, laughing; "wed with a
Jewess? 'Despardieux!'---Not if she were the Queen of Sheba! And
know, besides, sweet daughter of Zion, that were the most
Christian king to offer me his most Christian daughter, with
Languedoc for a dowery, I could not wed her. It is against my
vow to love any maiden, otherwise than 'par amours', as I will
love thee. I am a Templar. Behold the cross of my Holy Order."
"Darest thou appeal to it," said Rebecca, "on an occasion like
"And if I do so," said the Templar, "it concerns not thee, who
art no believer in the blessed sign of our salvation."
"I believe as my fathers taught," said Rebecca; "and may God
forgive my belief if erroneous! But you, Sir Knight, what is
yours, when you appeal without scruple to that which you deem
most holy, even while you are about to transgress the most solemn
of your vows as a knight, and as a man of religion?"
"It is gravely and well preached, O daughter of Sirach!" answered
the Templar; "but, gentle Ecclesiastics, thy narrow Jewish
prejudices make thee blind to our high privilege. Marriage were
an enduring crime on the part of a Templar; but what lesser folly
I may practise, I shall speedily be absolved from at the next
Perceptory of our Order. Not the wisest of monarchs, not his
father, whose examples you must needs allow are weighty, claimed
wider privileges than we poor soldiers of the Temple of Zion have
won by our zeal in its defence. The protectors of Solomon's
Temple may claim license by the example of Solomon."
"If thou readest the Scripture," said the Jewess, "and the lives
of the saints, only to justify thine own license and profligacy,
thy crime is like that of him who extracts poison from the most
healthful and necessary herbs."
The eyes of the Templar flashed fire at this reproof---"Hearken,"
he said, "Rebecca; I have hitherto spoken mildly to thee, but now
my language shall be that of a conqueror. Thou art the captive
of my bow and spear---subject to my will by the laws of all
nations; nor will I abate an inch of my right, or abstain from
taking by violence what thou refusest to entreaty or necessity."
"Stand back," said Rebecca---"stand back, and hear me ere thou
offerest to commit a sin so deadly! My strength thou mayst
indeed overpower for God made women weak, and trusted their
defence to man's generosity. But I will proclaim thy villainy,
Templar, from one end of Europe to the other. I will owe to the
superstition of thy brethren what their compassion might refuse
me, Each Preceptory---each Chapter of thy Order, shall learn,
that, like a heretic, thou hast sinned with a Jewess. Those who
tremble not at thy crime, will hold thee accursed for having so
far dishonoured the cross thou wearest, as to follow a daughter
of my people."
"Thou art keen-witted, Jewess," replied the Templar, well aware
of the truth of what she spoke, and that the rules of his Order
condemned in the most positive manner, and under high penalties,
such intrigues as he now prosecuted, and that, in some instances,
even degradation had followed upon it---"thou art sharp-witted,"
he said; "but loud must be thy voice of complaint, if it is heard
beyond the iron walls of this castle; within these, murmurs,
laments, appeals to justice, and screams for help, die alike
silent away. One thing only can save thee, Rebecca. Submit to
thy fate---embrace our religion, and thou shalt go forth in such
state, that many a Norman lady shall yield as well in pomp as in
beauty to the favourite of the best lance among the defenders of
"Submit to my fate!" said Rebecca---"and, sacred Heaven! to what
fate?---embrace thy religion! and what religion can it be that
harbours such a villain?---THOU the best lance of the Templars!
---Craven knight!---forsworn priest! I spit at thee, and I defy
thee.---The God of Abraham's promise hath opened an escape to his
daughter---even from this abyss of infamy!"
As she spoke, she threw open the latticed window which led to the
bartisan, and in an instant after, stood on the very verge of the
parapet, with not the slightest screen between her and the
tremendous depth below. Unprepared for such a desperate effort,
for she had hitherto stood perfectly motionless, Bois-Guilbert
had neither time to intercept nor to stop her. As he offered to
advance, she exclaimed, "Remain where thou art, proud Templar, or
at thy choice advance!---one foot nearer, and I plunge myself
from the precipice; my body shall be crushed out of the very form
of humanity upon the stones of that court-yard, ere it become the
victim of thy brutality!"
As she spoke this, she clasped her hands and extended them
towards heaven, as if imploring mercy on her soul before she made
the final plunge. The Templar hesitated, and a resolution which
had never yielded to pity or distress, gave way to his admiration
of her fortitude. "Come down," he said, "rash girl!---I swear by
earth, and sea, and sky, I will offer thee no offence."
"I will not trust thee, Templar," said Rebecca; thou hast taught
me better how to estimate the virtues of thine Order. The next
Preceptory would grant thee absolution for an oath, the keeping
of which concerned nought but the honour or the dishonour of a
miserable Jewish maiden."
"You do me injustice," exclaimed the Templar fervently; "I swear
to you by the name which I bear---by the cross on my bosom---by
the sword on my side---by the ancient crest of my fathers do I
swear, I will do thee no injury whatsoever! If not for thyself,
yet for thy father's sake forbear! I will be his friend, and in
this castle he will need a powerful one."
"Alas!" said Rebecca, "I know it but too well---dare I trust
"May my arms be reversed, and my name dishonoured," said Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, "if thou shalt have reason to complain of me!
Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never."
"I will then trust thee," said Rebecca, "thus far;" and she
descended from the verge of the battlement, but remained standing
close by one of the embrasures, or "machicolles", as they were
then called.---"Here," she said, "I take my stand. Remain where
thou art, and if thou shalt attempt to diminish by one step the
distance now between us, thou shalt see that the Jewish maiden
will rather trust her soul with God, than her honour to the
While Rebecca spoke thus, her high and firm resolve, which
corresponded so well with the expressive beauty of her
countenance, gave to her looks, air, and manner, a dignity that
seemed more than mortal. Her glance quailed not, her cheek
blanched not, for the fear of a fate so instant and so horrible;
on the contrary, the thought that she had her fate at her
command, and could escape at will from infamy to death, gave a
yet deeper colour of carnation to her complexion, and a yet more
brilliant fire to her eye. Bois-Guilbert, proud himself and
high-spirited, thought he had never beheld beauty so animated and
"Let there be peace between us, Rebecca," he said.
"Peace, if thou wilt," answered Rebecca---"Peace---but with this
"Thou needst no longer fear me," said Bois-Guilbert.
"I fear thee not," replied she; "thanks to him that reared this
dizzy tower so high, that nought could fall from it and live
--thanks to him, and to the God of Israel!---I fear thee not."
"Thou dost me injustice," said the Templar; "by earth, sea, and
sky, thou dost me injustice! I am not naturally that which you
have seen me, hard, selfish, and relentless. It was woman that
taught me cruelty, and on woman therefore I have exercised it;
but not upon such as thou. Hear me, Rebecca---Never did knight
take lance in his hand with a heart more devoted to the lady of
his love than Brian de Bois-Guilbert. She, the daughter of a
petty baron, who boasted for all his domains but a ruinous tower,
and an unproductive vineyard, and some few leagues of the barren
Landes of Bourdeaux, her name was known wherever deeds of arms
were done, known wider than that of many a lady's that had a
county for a dowery.---Yes," he continued, pacing up and down the
little platform, with an animation in which he seemed to lose all
consciousness of Rebecca's presence---"Yes, my deeds, my danger,
my blood, made the name of Adelaide de Montemare known from the
court of Castile to that of Byzantium. And how was I requited?
---When I returned with my dear-bought honours, purchased by toil
and blood, I found her wedded to a Gascon squire, whose name was
never heard beyond the limits of his own paltry domain! Truly
did I love her, and bitterly did I revenge me of her broken
faith! But my vengeance has recoiled on myself. Since that day
I have separated myself from life and its ties---My manhood must
know no domestic home---must be soothed by no affectionate wife
---My age must know no kindly hearth---My grave must be solitary,
and no offspring must outlive me, to bear the ancient name of
Bois-Guilbert. At the feet of my Superior I have laid down the
right of self-action---the privilege of independence. The
Templar, a serf in all but the name, can possess neither lands
nor goods, and lives, moves, and breathes, but at the will and
pleasure of another."
"Alas!" said Rebecca, "what advantages could compensate for such
an absolute sacrifice?"
"The power of vengeance, Rebecca," replied the Templar, "and the
prospects of ambition."
"An evil recompense," said Rebecca, "for the surrender of the
rights which are dearest to humanity."
"Say not so, maiden," answered the Templar; "revenge is a feast
for the gods! And if they have reserved it, as priests tell us,
to themselves, it is because they hold it an enjoyment too
precious for the possession of mere mortals.---And ambition? it
is a temptation which could disturb even the bliss of heaven
itself."---He paused a moment, and then added, "Rebecca! she who
could prefer death to dishonour, must have a proud and a powerful
soul. Mine thou must be!---Nay, start not," he added, "it must
be with thine own consent, and on thine own terms. Thou must
consent to share with me hopes more extended than can be viewed
from the throne of a monarch!---Hear me ere you answer and judge
ere you refuse.---The Templar loses, as thou hast said, his
social rights, his power of free agency, but he becomes a member
and a limb of a mighty body, before which thrones already
tremble,---even as the single drop of rain which mixes with the
sea becomes an individual part of that resistless ocean, which
undermines rocks and ingulfs royal armadas. Such a swelling
flood is that powerful league. Of this mighty Order I am no mean
member, but already one of the Chief Commanders, and may well
aspire one day to hold the batoon of Grand Master. The poor
soldiers of the Temple will not alone place their foot upon the
necks of kings---a hemp-sandall'd monk can do that. Our mailed
step shall ascend their throne---our gauntlet shall wrench the
sceptre from their gripe. Not the reign of your vainly-expected
Messiah offers such power to your dispersed tribes as my ambition
may aim at. I have sought but a kindred spirit to share it, and
I have found such in thee."
"Sayest thou this to one of my people?" answered Rebecca.
"Answer me not," said the Templar, "by urging the difference of
our creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery
tales in derision. Think not we long remained blind to the
idiotical folly of our founders, who forswore every delight of
life for the pleasure of dying martyrs by hunger, by thirst, and
by pestilence, and by the swords of savages, while they vainly
strove to defend a barren desert, valuable only in the eyes of
superstition. Our Order soon adopted bolder and wider views, and
found out a better indemnification for our sacrifices. Our
immense possessions in every kingdom of Europe, our high military
fame, which brings within our circle the flower of chivalry from
every Christian clime---these are dedicated to ends of which our
pious founders little dreamed, and which are equally concealed
from such weak spirits as embrace our Order on the ancient
principles, and whose superstition makes them our passive tools.
But I will not further withdraw the veil of our mysteries. That
bugle-sound announces something which may require my presence.
Think on what I have said.---Farewell!---I do not say forgive me
the violence I have threatened, for it was necessary to the
display of thy character. Gold can be only known by the
application of the touchstone. I will soon return, and hold
further conference with thee."
He re-entered the turret-chamber, and descended the stair,
leaving Rebecca scarcely more terrified at the prospect of the
death to which she had been so lately exposed, than at the
furious ambition of the bold bad man in whose power she found
herself so unhappily placed. When she entered the
turret-chamber, her first duty was to return thanks to the God of
Jacob for the protection which he had afforded her, and to
implore its continuance for her and for her father. Another name
glided into her petition---it was that of the wounded Christian,
whom fate had placed in the hands of bloodthirsty men, his avowed
enemies. Her heart indeed checked her, as if, even in communing
with the Deity in prayer, she mingled in her devotions the
recollection of one with whose fate hers could have no alliance
---a Nazarene, and an enemy to her faith. But the petition was
already breathed, nor could all the narrow prejudices of her sect
induce Rebecca to wish it recalled.
A damn'd cramp piece of penmanship as ever I saw in my life!
She Stoops to Conquer
When the Templar reached the hall of the castle, he found De
Bracy already there. "Your love-suit," said De Bracy, "hath, I
suppose, been disturbed, like mine, by this obstreperous summons.
But you have come later and more reluctantly, and therefore I
presume your interview has proved more agreeable than mine."
"Has your suit, then, been unsuccessfully paid to the Saxon
heiress?" said the Templar.
"By the bones of Thomas a Becket," answered De Bracy, "the Lady
Rowena must have heard that I cannot endure the sight of women's
"Away!" said the Templar; "thou a leader of a Free Company, and
regard a woman's tears! A few drops sprinkled on the torch of
love, make the flame blaze the brighter."
"Gramercy for the few drops of thy sprinkling," replied De Bracy;
"but this damsel hath wept enough to extinguish a beacon-light.
Never was such wringing of hands and such overflowing of eyes,
since the days of St Niobe, of whom Prior Aymer told us.*
* I wish the Prior had also informed them when Niobe was
* sainted. Probably during that enlightened period when
* "Pan to Moses lent his pagan horn." L. T.
A water-fiend hath possessed the fair Saxon."
"A legion of fiends have occupied the bosom of the Jewess,"
replied the Templar; "for, I think no single one, not even
Apollyon himself, couldhave inspired such indomitable pride and
resolution.---But where is Front-de-Boeuf? That horn is sounded
more and more clamorously."
"He is negotiating with the Jew, I suppose," replied De Bracy,
coolly; "probably the howls of Isaac have drowned the blast of
the bugle. Thou mayst know, by experience, Sir Brian, that a Jew
parting with his treasures on such terms as our friend
Front-de-Boeuf is like to offer, will raise a clamour loud enough
to be heard over twenty horns and trumpets to boot. But we will
make the vassals call him."
They were soon after joined by Front-de-Boeuf, who had been
disturbed in his tyrannic cruelty in the manner with which the
reader is acquainted, and had only tarried to give some
"Let us see the cause of this cursed clamour," said
Front-de-Boeuf---"here is a letter, and, if I mistake not, it is
He looked at it, turning it round and round as if he had had
really some hopes of coming at the meaning by inverting the
position of the paper, and then handed it to De Bracy.
"It may be magic spells for aught I know," said De Bracy, who
possessed his full proportion of the ignorance which
characterised the chivalry of the period. "Our chaplain
attempted to teach me to write," he said, "but all my letters
were formed like spear-heads and sword-blades, and so the old
shaveling gave up the task."
"Give it me," said the Templar. "We have that of the priestly
character, that we have some knowledge to enlighten our valour."
"Let us profit by your most reverend knowledge, then," said De
Bracy; "what says the scroll?"
"It is a formal letter of defiance," answered the Templar; "but,
by our Lady of Bethlehem, if it be not a foolish jest, it is the
most extraordinary cartel that ever was sent across the
drawbridge of a baronial castle."
"Jest!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "I would gladly know who dares jest
with me in such a matter!---Read it, Sir Brian."
The Templar accordingly read it as follows:---"I, Wamba, the son
of Witless, Jester to a noble and free-born man, Cedric of
Rotherwood, called the Saxon,---And I, Gurth, the son of
Beowulph, the swineherd------"
"Thou art mad," said Front-de-Boeuf, interrupting the reader.
"By St Luke, it is so set down," answered the Templar. Then
resuming his task, he went on,---"I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph,
swineherd unto the said Cedric, with the assistance of our allies
and confederates, who make common cause with us in this our feud,
namely, the good knight, called for the present 'Le Noir
Faineant', and the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called
Cleave-the-Wand, Do you, Reginald Front de-Boeuf, and your allies
and accomplices whomsoever, to wit, that whereas you have,
without cause given or feud declared, wrongfully and by mastery
seized upon the person of our lord and master the said Cedric;
also upon the person of a noble and freeborn damsel, the Lady
Rowena of Hargottstandstede; also upon the person of a noble and
freeborn man, Athelstane of Coningsburgh; also upon the persons
of certain freeborn men, their 'cnichts'; also upon certain
serfs, their born bondsmen; also upon a certain Jew, named Isaac
of York, together with his daughter, a Jewess, and certain
horses and mules: Which noble persons, with their 'cnichts' and
slaves, and also with the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess
beforesaid, were all in peace with his majesty, and travelling
as liege subjects upon the king's highway; therefore we require
and demand that the said noble persons, namely, Cedric of
Rotherwood, Rowena of Hargottstandstede, Athelstane of
Coningsburgh, with their servants, 'cnichts', and followers, also
the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess aforesaid, together with all
goods and chattels to them pertaining, be, within an hour after
the delivery hereof, delivered to us, or to those whom we shall
appoint to receive the same, and that untouched and unharmed in
body and goods. Failing of which, we do pronounce to you, that
we hold ye as robbers and traitors, and will wager our bodies
against ye in battle, siege, or otherwise, and do our utmost to
your annoyance and destruction. Wherefore may God have you in
his keeping.---Signed by us upon the eve of St Withold's day,
under the great trysting oak in the Hart-hill Walk, the above
being written by a holy man, Clerk to God, our Lady, and St
Dunstan, in the Chapel of Copmanhurst."
At the bottom of this document was scrawled, in the first place,
a rude sketch of a cock's head and comb, with a legend expressing
this hieroglyphic to be the sign-manual of Wamba, son of Witless.
Under this respectable emblem stood a cross, stated to be the
mark of Gurth, the son of Beowulph. Then was written, in rough
bold characters, the words, "Le Noir Faineant". And, to conclude
the whole, an arrow, neatly enough drawn, was described as the
mark of the yeoman Locksley.
The knights heard this uncommon document read from end to end,
and then gazed upon each other in silent amazement, as being
utterly at a loss to know what it could portend. De Bracy was
the first to break silence by an uncontrollable fit of laughter,
wherein he was joined, though with more moderation, by the
Templar. Front-de-Boeuf, on the contrary, seemed impatient of
their ill-timed jocularity.
"I give you plain warning," he said, "fair sirs, that you had
better consult how to bear yourselves under these circumstances,
than give way to such misplaced merriment."
"Front-de-Boeuf has not recovered his temper since his late
overthrow," said De Bracy to the Templar; "he is cowed at the
very idea of a cartel, though it come but from a fool and a
"By St Michael," answered Front-de-Boeuf, "I would thou couldst
stand the whole brunt of this adventure thyself, De Bracy. These
fellows dared not have acted with such inconceivable impudence,
had they not been supported by some strong bands. There are
enough of outlaws in this forest to resent my protecting the
deer. I did but tie one fellow, who was taken redhanded and in
the fact, to the horns of a wild stag, which gored him to death
in five minutes, and I had as many arrows shot at me as there
were launched against yonder target at Ashby.---Here, fellow," he
added, to one of his attendants, "hast thou sent out to see by
what force this precious challenge is to be supported?"
"There are at least two hundred men assembled in the woods,"
answered a squire who was in attendance.
"Here is a proper matter!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "this comes of
lending you the use of my castle, that cannot manage your
undertaking quietly, but you must bring this nest of hornets
about my ears!"
"Of hornets?" said De Bracy; "of stingless drones rather; a band
of lazy knaves, who take to the wood, and destroy the venison
rather than labour for their maintenance."
"Stingless!" replied Front-de-Boeuf; "fork-headed shafts of a
cloth-yard in length, and these shot within the breadth of a
French crown, are sting enough."
"For shame, Sir Knight!" said the Templar. "Let us summon our
people, and sally forth upon them. One knight---ay, one
man-at-arms, were enough for twenty such peasants."
"Enough, and too much," said De Bracy; "I should only be ashamed
to couch lance against them."
"True," answered Front-de-Boeuf; "were they black Turks or Moors,
Sir Templar, or the craven peasants of France, most valiant De
Bracy; but these are English yeomen, over whom we shall have no
advantage, save what we may derive from our arms and horses,
which will avail us little in the glades of the forest. Sally,
saidst thou? we have scarce men enough to defend the castle. The
best of mine are at York; so is all your band, De Bracy; and we
have scarcely twenty, besides the handful that were engaged in
this mad business."
"Thou dost not fear," said the Templar, "that they can assemble
in force sufficient to attempt the castle?"
"Not so, Sir Brian," answered Front-de-Boeuf. "These outlaws
have indeed a daring captain; but without machines, scaling
ladders, and experienced leaders, my castle may defy them."
"Send to thy neighbours," said the Templar, "let them assemble
their people, and come to the rescue of three knights, besieged
by a jester and a swineherd in the baronial castle of Reginald
"You jest, Sir Knight," answered the baron; "but to whom should I
send?---Malvoisin is by this time at York with his retainers, and
so are my other allies; and so should I have been, but for this
"Then send to York, and recall our people," said De Bracy. "If
they abide the shaking of my standard, or the sight of my Free
Companions, I will give them credit for the boldest outlaws ever
bent bow in green-wood."
"And who shall bear such a message?" said Front-de-Boeuf; "they
will beset every path, and rip the errand out of his bosom.---I
have it," he added, after pausing for a moment---"Sir Templar,
thou canst write as well as read, and if we can but find the
writing materials of my chaplain, who died a twelvemonth since in
the midst of his Christmas carousals---"
"So please ye," said the squire, who was still in attendance, "I
think old Urfried has them somewhere in keeping, for love of the
confessor. He was the last man, I have heard her tell, who ever
said aught to her, which man ought in courtesy to address to maid
"Go, search them out, Engelred," said Front-de-Boeuf; "and then,
Sir Templar, thou shalt return an answer to this bold challenge."
"I would rather do it at the sword's point than at that of the
pen," said Bois-Guilbert; "but be it as you will."
He sat down accordingly, and indited, in the French language, an
epistle of the following tenor:---"Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf,
with his noble and knightly allies and confederates, receive no
defiances at the hands of slaves, bondsmen, or fugitives. If the
person calling himself the Black Knight have indeed a claim to
the honours of chivalry, he ought to know that he stands degraded
by his present association, and has no right to ask reckoning at
the hands of good men of noble blood. Touching the prisoners we
have made, we do in Christian charity require you to send a man
of religion, to receive their confession, and reconcile them with
God; since it is our fixed intention to execute them this morning
before noon, so that their heads being placed on the battlements,
shall show to all men how lightly we esteem those who have
bestirred themselves in their rescue. Wherefore, as above, we
require you to send a priest to reconcile them to God, in doing
which you shall render them the last earthly service."
This letter being folded, was delivered to the squire, and by him
to the messenger who waited without, as the answer to that which
he had brought.
The yeoman having thus accomplished his mission, returned to the
head-quarters of the allies, which were for the present
established under a venerable oak-tree, about three arrow-flights
distant from the castle. Here Wamba and Gurth, with their allies
the Black Knight and Locksley, and the jovial hermit, awaited
with impatience an answer to their summons. Around, and at a
distance from them, were seen many a bold yeoman, whose silvan
dress and weatherbeaten countenances showed the ordinary nature
of their occupation. More than two hundred had already
assembled, and others were fast coming in. Those whom they
obeyed as leaders were only distinguished from the others by a
feather in the cap, their dress, arms, and equipments being in
all other respects the same.
Besides these bands, a less orderly and a worse armed force,
consisting of the Saxon inhabitants of the neighbouring township,
as well as many bondsmen and servants from Cedric's extensive
estate, had already arrived, for the purpose of assisting in his
rescue. Few of these were armed otherwise than with such rustic
weapons as necessity sometimes converts to military purposes.
Boar-spears, scythes, flails, and the like, were their chief
arms; for the Normans, with the usual policy of conquerors, were
jealous of permitting to the vanquished Saxons the possession or
the use of swords and spears. These circumstances rendered the
assistance of the Saxons far from being so formidable to the
besieged, as the strength of the men themselves, their superior
numbers, and the animation inspired by a just cause, might
otherwise well have made them. It was to the leaders of this
motley army that the letter of the Templar was now delivered.
Reference was at first made to the chaplain for an exposition of
"By the crook of St Dunstan," said that worthy ecclesiastic,
"which hath brought more sheep within the sheepfold than the
crook of e'er another saint in Paradise, I swear that I cannot
expound unto you this jargon, which, whether it be French or
Arabic, is beyond my guess."
He then gave the letter to Gurth, who shook his head gruffly, and
passed it to Wamba. The Jester looked at each of the four
corners of the paper with such a grin of affected intelligence as
a monkey is apt to assume upon similar occasions, then cut a
caper, and gave the letter to Locksley.
"If the long letters were bows, and the short letters broad
arrows, I might know something of the matter," said the brave
yeoman; "but as the matter stands, the meaning is as safe, for
me, as the stag that's at twelve miles distance."
"I must be clerk, then," said the Black Knight; and taking the
letter from Locksley, he first read it over to himself, and then
explained the meaning in Saxon to his confederates.
"Execute the noble Cedric!" exclaimed Wamba; "by the rood, thou
must be mistaken, Sir Knight."
"Not I, my worthy friend," replied the knight, "I have explained
the words as they are here set down."
"Then, by St Thomas of Canterbury," replied Gurth, "we will have
the castle, should we tear it down with our hands!"
"We have nothing else to tear it with," replied Wamba; "but mine
are scarce fit to make mammocks of freestone and mortar."
"'Tis but a contrivance to gain time," said Locksley; "they dare
not do a deed for which I could exact a fearful penalty."
"I would," said the Black Knight, "there were some one among us
who could obtain admission into the castle, and discover how the
case stands with the besieged. Methinks, as they require a
confessor to be sent, this holy hermit might at once exercise his
pious vocation, and procure us the information we desire."
"A plague on thee, and thy advice!" said the pious hermit; "I
tell thee, Sir Slothful Knight, that when I doff my friar's
frock, my priesthood, my sanctity, my very Latin, are put off
along with it; and when in my green jerkin, I can better kill
twenty deer than confess one Christian."
"I fear," said the Black Knight, "I fear greatly, there is no one
here that is qualified to take upon him, for the nonce, this same
character of father confessor?"
All looked on each other, and were silent.
"I see," said Wamba, after a short pause, "that the fool must be
still the fool, and put his neck in the venture which wise men
shrink from. You must know, my dear cousins and countrymen, that
I wore russet before I wore motley, and was bred to be a friar,
until a brain-fever came upon me and left me just wit enough to
be a fool. I trust, with the assistance of the good hermit's
frock, together with the priesthood, sanctity, and learning which
are stitched into the cowl of it, I shall be found qualified to
administer both worldly and ghostly comfort to our worthy master
Cedric, and his companions in adversity."
"Hath he sense enough, thinkst thou?" said the Black Knight,
"I know not," said Gurth; "but if he hath not, it will be the
first time he hath wanted wit to turn his folly to account."
"On with the frock, then, good fellow," quoth the Knight, "and
let thy master send us an account of their situation within the
castle. Their numbers must be few, and it is five to one they
may be accessible by a sudden and bold attack. Time wears---away
"And, in the meantime," said Locksley, "we will beset the place
so closely, that not so much as a fly shall carry news from
thence. So that, my good friend," he continued, addressing
Wamba, "thou mayst assure these tyrants, that whatever violence
they exercise on the persons of their prisoners, shall be most
severely repaid upon their own."
"Pax vobiscum," said Wamba, who was now muffled in his religious
And so saying he imitated the solemn and stately deportment of a
friar, and departed to execute his mission.
The hottest horse will oft be cool,
The dullest will show fire;
The friar will often play the fool,
The fool will play the friar.
When the Jester, arrayed in the cowl and frock of the hermit, and
having his knotted cord twisted round his middle, stood before
the portal of the castle of Front-de-Boeuf, the warder demanded
of him his name and errand.
"Pax vobiscum," answered the Jester, "I am a poor brother of the
Order of St Francis, who come hither to do my office to certain
unhappy prisoners now secured within this castle."
"Thou art a bold friar," said the warder, "to come hither, where,
saving our own drunken confessor, a cock of thy feather hath not
crowed these twenty years."
"Yet I pray thee, do mine errand to the lord of the castle,"
answered the pretended friar; "trust me it will find good
acceptance with him, and the cock shall crow, that the whole
castle shall hear him."
"Gramercy," said the warder; "but if I come to shame for leaving
my post upon thine errand, I will try whether a friar's grey gown
be proof against a grey-goose shaft."
With this threat he left his turret, and carried to the hall of
the castle his unwonted intelligence, that a holy friar stood
before the gate and demanded instant admission. With no small
wonder he received his master's commands to admit the holy man
immediately; and, having previously manned the entrance to guard
against surprise, he obeyed, without further scruple, the
commands which he had received. The harebrained self-conceit
which had emboldened Wamba to undertake this dangerous office,
was scarce sufficient to support him when he found himself in the
presence of a man so dreadful, and so much dreaded, as Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf, and he brought out his "pax vobiscum", to which
he, in a good measure, trusted for supporting his character, with
more anxiety and hesitation than had hitherto accompanied it.
But Front-de-Boeuf was accustomed to see men of all ranks tremble
in his presence, so that the timidity of the supposed father did
not give him any cause of suspicion.
"Who and whence art thou, priest?" said he.
"'Pax vobiscum'," reiterated the Jester, "I am a poor servant of
St Francis, who, travelling through this wilderness, have fallen
among thieves, (as Scripture hath it,) 'quidam viator incidit in
latrones', which thieves have sent me unto this castle in order
to do my ghostly office on two persons condemned by your
"Ay, right," answered Front-de-Boeuf; "and canst thou tell me,
holy father, the number of those banditti?"
"Gallant sir," answered the Jester, "'nomen illis legio', their
name is legion."
"Tell me in plain terms what numbers there are, or, priest, thy
cloak and cord will ill protect thee."
"Alas!" said the supposed friar, "'cor meum eructavit', that is
to say, I was like to burst with fear! but I conceive they may be
---what of yeomen ---what of commons, at least five hundred men."
"What!" said the Templar, who came into the hall that moment,
"muster the wasps so thick here? it is time to stifle such a
mischievous brood." Then taking Front-de-Boeuf aside "Knowest
thou the priest?"
"He is a stranger from a distant convent," said Front-de-Boeuf;
"I know him not."
"Then trust him not with thy purpose in words," answered the
Templar. "Let him carry a written order to De Bracy's company
of Free Companions, to repair instantly to their master's aid.
In the meantime, and that the shaveling may suspect nothing,
permit him to go freely about his task of preparing these Saxon
hogs for the slaughter-house."
"It shall be so," said Front-de-Boeuf. And he forthwith
appointed a domestic to conduct Wamba to the apartment where
Cedric and Athelstane were confined.
The impatience of Cedric had been rather enhanced than diminished
by his confinement. He walked from one end of the hall to the
other, with the attitude of one who advances to charge an enemy,
or to storm the breach of a beleaguered place, sometimes
ejaculating to himself, sometimes addressing Athelstane, who
stoutly and stoically awaited the issue of the adventure,
digesting, in the meantime, with great composure, the liberal
meal which he had made at noon, and not greatly interesting
himself about the duration of his captivity, which he concluded,
would, like all earthly evils, find an end in Heaven's good time.
"'Pax vobiscum'," said the Jester, entering the apartment; "the
blessing of St Dunstan, St Dennis, St Duthoc, and all other
saints whatsoever, be upon ye and about ye."
"Enter freely," answered Cedric to the supposed friar; "with what
intent art thou come hither?"
"To bid you prepare yourselves for death," answered the Jester.
"It is impossible!" replied Cedric, starting. "Fearless and
wicked as they are, they dare not attempt such open and
"Alas!" said the Jester, "to restrain them by their sense of
humanity, is the same as to stop a runaway horse with a bridle of
silk thread. Bethink thee, therefore, noble Cedric, and you
also, gallant Athelstane, what crimes you have committed in the
flesh; for this very day will ye be called to answer at a higher
"Hearest thou this, Athelstane?" said Cedric; "we must rouse up
our hearts to this last action, since better it is we should die
like men, than live like slaves."
"I am ready," answered Athelstane, "to stand the worst of their
malice, and shall walk to my death with as much composure as ever
I did to my dinner."
"Let us then unto our holy gear, father," said Cedric.
"Wait yet a moment, good uncle," said the Jester, in his natural
tone; "better look long before you leap in the dark."
"By my faith," said Cedric, "I should know that voice!"
"It is that of your trusty slave and jester," answered Wamba,
throwing back his cowl. "Had you taken a fool's advice formerly,
you would not have been here at all. Take a fool's advice now,
and you will not be here long."
"How mean'st thou, knave?" answered the Saxon.
"Even thus," replied Wamba; "take thou this frock and cord, which
are all the orders I ever had, and march quietly out of the
castle, leaving me your cloak and girdle to take the long leap in
"Leave thee in my stead!" said Cedric, astonished at the
proposal; "why, they would hang thee, my poor knave."
"E'en let them do as they are permitted," said Wamba; "I trust
---no disparagement to your birth---that the son of Witless may
hang in a chain with as much gravity as the chain hung upon his
ancestor the alderman."
"Well, Wamba," answered Cedric, "for one thing will I grant thy
request. And that is, if thou wilt make the exchange of garments
with Lord Athelstane instead of me."
"No, by St Dunstan," answered Wamba; "there were little reason in
that. Good right there is, that the son of Witless should suffer
to save the son of Hereward; but little wisdom there were in his
dying for the benefit of one whose fathers were strangers to
"Villain," said Cedric, "the fathers of Athelstane were monarchs
"They might be whomsoever they pleased," replied Wamba; "but my
neck stands too straight upon my shoulders to have it twisted for
their sake. Wherefore, good my master, either take my proffer
yourself, or suffer me to leave this dungeon as free as I
"Let the old tree wither," continued Cedric, "so the stately hope
of the forest be preserved. Save the noble Athelstane, my trusty
Wamba! it is the duty of each who has Saxon blood in his veins.
Thou and I will abide together the utmost rage of our injurious
oppressors, while he, free and safe, shall arouse the awakened
spirits of our countrymen to avenge us."
"Not so, father Cedric," said Athelstane, grasping his hand,
---for, when roused to think or act, his deeds and sentiments
were not unbecoming his high race---"Not so," he continued; "I
would rather remain in this hall a week without food save the
prisoner's stinted loaf, or drink save the prisoner's measure of
water, than embrace the opportunity to escape which the slave's
untaught kindness has purveyed for his master."
"You are called wise men, sirs," said the Jester, "and I a crazed
fool; but, uncle Cedric, and cousin Athelstane, the fool shall
decide this controversy for ye, and save ye the trouble of
straining courtesies any farther. I am like John-a-Duck's mare,
that will let no man mount her but John-a-Duck. I came to save
my master, and if he will not consent---basta---I can but go away
home again. Kind service cannot be chucked from hand to hand
like a shuttlecock or stool-ball. I'll hang for no man but my
own born master."
"Go, then, noble Cedric," said Athelstane, "neglect not this
opportunity. Your presence without may encourage friends to our
rescue---your remaining here would ruin us all."
"And is there any prospect, then, of rescue from without?" said
Cedric, looking to the Jester.
"Prospect, indeed!" echoed Wamba; "let me tell you, when you fill
my cloak, you are wrapped in a general's cassock. Five hundred
men are there without, and I was this morning one of the chief
leaders. My fool's cap was a casque, and my bauble a truncheon.
Well, we shall see what good they will make by exchanging a fool
for a wise man. Truly, I fear they will lose in valour what they
may gain in discretion. And so farewell, master, and be kind to
poor Gurth and his dog Fangs; and let my cockscomb hang in the
hall at Rotherwood, in memory that I flung away my life for my
master, like a faithful------fool."
The last word came out with a sort of double expression, betwixt
jest and earnest. The tears stood in Cedric's eyes.
"Thy memory shall be preserved," he said, "while fidelity and
affection have honour upon earth! But that I trust I shall find
the means of saving Rowena, and thee, Athelstane, and thee, also,
my poor Wamba, thou shouldst not overbear me in this matter."
The exchange of dress was now accomplished, when a sudden doubt
"I know no language," he said, "but my own, and a few words of
their mincing Norman. How shall I bear myself like a reverend
"The spell lies in two words," replied Wamba--- "'Pax vobiscum'
will answer all queries. If you go or come, eat or drink, bless
or ban, 'Pax vobiscum' carries you through it all. It is as
useful to a friar as a broomstick to a witch, or a wand to a
conjurer. Speak it but thus, in a deep grave tone,---'Pax
vobiscum!'---it is irresistible---Watch and ward, knight and
squire, foot and horse, it acts as a charm upon them all. I
think, if they bring me out to be hanged to-morrow, as is much to
be doubted they may, I will try its weight upon the finisher of
"If such prove the case," said the master, "my religious orders
are soon taken---'Pax vobiscum'. I trust I shall remember the
pass-word.---Noble Athelstane, farewell; and farewell, my poor
boy, whose heart might make amends for a weaker head---I will
save you, or return and die with you. The royal blood of our
Saxon kings shall not be spilt while mine beats in my veins; nor
shall one hair fall from the head of the kind knave who risked
himself for his master, if Cedric's peril can prevent it.
"Farewell, noble Cedric," said Athelstane; "remember it is the
true part of a friar to accept refreshment, if you are offered
"Farewell, uncle," added Wamba; "and remember 'Pax vobiscum'."
Thus exhorted, Cedric sallied forth upon his expedition; and it
was not long ere he had occasion to try the force of that spell
which his Jester had recommended as omnipotent. In a low-arched
and dusky passage, by which he endeavoured to work his way to the
hall of the castle, he was interrupted by a female form.
"'Pax vobiscum!'" said the pseudo friar, and was endeavouring to
hurry past, when a soft voice replied, "'Et vobis---quaso, domine
reverendissime, pro misericordia vestra'."
"I am somewhat deaf," replied Cedric, in good Saxon, and at the
same time muttered to himself, "A curse on the fool and his 'Pax
vobiscum!' I have lost my javelin at the first cast."
It was, however, no unusual thing for a priest of those days to
be deaf of his Latin ear, and this the person who now addressed
Cedric knew full well.
"I pray you of dear love, reverend father," she replied in his
own language, "that you will deign to visit with your ghostly
comfort a wounded prisoner of this castle, and have such
compassion upon him and us as thy holy office teaches---Never
shall good deed so highly advantage thy convent."
"Daughter," answered Cedric, much embarrassed, "my time in this
castle will not permit me to exercise the duties of mine office
---I must presently forth---there is life and death upon my
"Yet, father, let me entreat you by the vow you have taken on
you," replied the suppliant, "not to leave the oppressed and
endangered without counsel or succour."
"May the fiend fly away with me, and leave me in Ifrin with the
souls of Odin and of Thor!" answered Cedric impatiently, and
would probably have proceeded in the same tone of total departure
from his spiritual character, when the colloquy was interrupted
by the harsh voice of Urfried, the old crone of the turret.
"How, minion," said she to the female speaker, "is this the
manner in which you requite the kindness which permitted thee to
leave thy prison-cell yonder?---Puttest thou the reverend man to
use ungracious language to free himself from the importunities
of a Jewess?"
"A Jewess!" said Cedric, availing himself of the information to
get clear of their interruption,---"Let me pass, woman! stop me
not at your peril. I am fresh from my holy office, and would
"Come this way, father," said the old hag, "thou art a stranger
in this castle, and canst not leave it without a guide. Come
hither, for I would speak with thee.---And you, daughter of an
accursed race, go to the sick man's chamber, and tend him until
my return; and woe betide you if you again quit it without my
Rebecca retreated. Her importunities had prevailed upon Urfried
to suffer her to quit the turret, and Urfried had employed her
services where she herself would most gladly have paid them, by
the bedside of the wounded Ivanhoe. With an understanding awake
to their dangerous situation, and prompt to avail herself of each
means of safety which occurred, Rebecca had hoped something from
the presence of a man of religion, who, she learned from Urfried,
had penetrated into this godless castle. She watched the return
of the supposed ecclesiastic, with the purpose of addressing him,
and interesting him in favour of the prisoners; with what
imperfect success the reader has been just acquainted.
Fond wretch! and what canst thou relate,
But deeds of sorrow, shame, and sin?
Thy deeds are proved---thou know'st thy fate;
But come, thy tale---begin---begin.
* * * * *
But I have griefs of other kind,
Troubles and sorrows more severe;
Give me to ease my tortured mind,
Lend to my woes a patient ear;
And let me, if I may not find
A friend to help---find one to hear.
Crabbe's Hall of Justice
When Urfried had with clamours and menaces driven Rebecca back to
the apartment from which she had sallied, she proceeded to
conduct the unwilling Cedric into a small apartment, the door of
which she heedfully secured. Then fetching from a cupboard a
stoup of wine and two flagons, she placed them on the table, and
said in a tone rather asserting a fact than asking a question,
"Thou art Saxon, father---Deny it not," she continued, observing
that Cedric hastened not to reply; "the sounds of my native
language are sweet to mine ears, though seldom heard save from
the tongues of the wretched and degraded serfs on whom the proud
Normans impose the meanest drudgery of this dwelling. Thou art a
Saxon, father---a Saxon, and, save as thou art a servant of God,
a freeman.---Thine accents are sweet in mine ear."
"Do not Saxon priests visit this castle, then?" replied Cedric;
"it were, methinks, their duty to comfort the outcast and
oppressed children of the soil."
"They come not---or if they come, they better love to revel at
the boards of their conquerors," answered Urfried, "than to hear
the groans of their countrymen---so, at least, report speaks of
them---of myself I can say little. This castle, for ten years,
has opened to no priest save the debauched Norman chaplain who
partook the nightly revels of Front-de-Boeuf, and he has been
long gone to render an account of his stewardship.---But thou art
a Saxon---a Saxon priest, and I have one question to ask of
"I am a Saxon," answered Cedric, "but unworthy, surely, of the
name of priest. Let me begone on my way---I swear I will return,
or send one of our fathers more worthy to hear your confession."
"Stay yet a while," said Urfried; "the accents of the voice which
thou hearest now will soon be choked with the cold earth, and I
would not descend to it like the beast I have lived. But wine
must give me strength to tell the horrors of my tale." She
poured out a cup, and drank it with a frightful avidity, which
seemed desirous of draining the last drop in the goblet. "It
stupifies," she said, looking upwards as she finished her
drought, "but it cannot cheer---Partake it, father, if you would
hear my tale without sinking down upon the pavement." Cedric
would have avoided pledging her in this ominous conviviality, but
the sign which she made to him expressed impatience and despair.
He complied with her request, and answered her challenge in a
large wine-cup; she then proceeded with her story, as if appeased
by his complaisance.
"I was not born," she said, "father, the wretch that thou now
seest me. I was free, was happy, was honoured, loved, and was
beloved. I am now a slave, miserable and degraded---the sport of
my masters' passions while I had yet beauty---the object of their
contempt, scorn, and hatred, since it has passed away. Dost thou
wonder, father, that I should hate mankind, and, above all, the
race that has wrought this change in me? Can the wrinkled
decrepit hag before thee, whose wrath must vent itself in
impotent curses, forget she was once the daughter of the noble
Thane of Torquilstone, before whose frown a thousand vassals
"Thou the daughter of Torquil Wolfganger!" said Cedric, receding
as he spoke; "thou---thou---the daughter of that noble Saxon, my
father's friend and companion in arms!"
"Thy father's friend!" echoed Urfried; "then Cedric called the
Saxon stands before me, for the noble Hereward of Rotherwood had
but one son, whose name is well known among his countrymen. But
if thou art Cedric of Rotherwood, why this religious dress?
---hast thou too despaired of saving thy country, and sought
refuge from oppression in the shade of the convent?"
"It matters not who I am," said Cedric; "proceed, unhappy woman,
with thy tale of horror and guilt!---Guilt there must be---there
is guilt even in thy living to tell it."
"There is---there is," answered the wretched woman, "deep, black,
damning guilt,---guilt, that lies like a load at my breast
--guilt, that all the penitential fires of hereafter cannot
cleanse.---Yes, in these halls, stained with the noble and pure
blood of my father and my brethren---in these very halls, to have
lived the paramour of their murderer, the slave at once and the
partaker of his pleasures, was to render every breath which I
drew of vital air, a crime and a curse."
"Wretched woman!" exclaimed Cedric. "And while the friends of
thy father---while each true Saxon heart, as it breathed a
requiem for his soul, and those of his valiant sons, forgot not
in their prayers the murdered Ulrica---while all mourned and
honoured the dead, thou hast lived to merit our hate and
execration---lived to unite thyself with the vile tyrant who
murdered thy nearest and dearest---who shed the blood of infancy,
rather than a male of the noble house of Torquil Wolfganger
should survive---with him hast thou lived to unite thyself, and
in the hands of lawless love!"
"In lawless hands, indeed, but not in those of love!" answered
the hag; "love will sooner visit the regions of eternal doom,
than those unhallowed vaults.---No, with that at least I cannot
reproach myself---hatred to Front-de-Boeuf and his race governed
my soul most deeply, even in the hour of his guilty endearments."
"You hated him, and yet you lived," replied Cedric; "wretch! was
there no poniard---no knife---no bodkin!---Well was it for thee,
since thou didst prize such an existence, that the secrets of a
Norman castle are like those of the grave. For had I but dreamed
of the daughter of Torquil living in foul communion with the
murderer of her father, the sword of a true Saxon had found thee
out even in the arms of thy paramour!"
"Wouldst thou indeed have done this justice to the name of
Torquil?" said Ulrica, for we may now lay aside her assumed name
of Urfried; "thou art then the true Saxon report speaks thee! for
even within these accursed walls, where, as thou well sayest,
guilt shrouds itself in inscrutable mystery, even there has the
name of Cedric been sounded---and I, wretched and degraded, have
rejoiced to think that there yet breathed an avenger of our
unhappy nation.---I also have had my hours of vengeance---I have
fomented the quarrels of our foes, and heated drunken revelry
into murderous broil---I have seen their blood flow---I have
heard their dying groans!---Look on me, Cedric---are there not
still left on this foul and faded face some traces of the
features of Torquil?"
"Ask me not of them, Ulrica," replied Cedric, in a tone of grief
mixed with abhorrence; "these traces form such a resemblance as
arises from the graves of the dead, when a fiend has animated the
"Be it so," answered Ulrica; "yet wore these fiendish features
the mask of a spirit of light when they were able to set at
variance the elder Front-de-Boeuf and his son Reginald! The
darkness of hell should hide what followed, but revenge must
lift the veil, and darkly intimate what it would raise the dead
to speak aloud. Long had the smouldering fire of discord glowed
between the tyrant father and his savage son---long had I nursed,
in secret, the unnatural hatred---it blazed forth in an hour of
drunken wassail, and at his own board fell my oppressor by the
hand of his own son---such are the secrets these vaults conceal!
---Rend asunder, ye accursed arches," she added, looking up
towards the roof, "and bury in your fall all who are conscious
of the hideous mystery!"
"And thou, creature of guilt and misery," said Cedric, "what
became thy lot on the death of thy ravisher?"
"Guess it, but ask it not.---Here---here I dwelt, till age,
premature age, has stamped its ghastly features on my countenance
---scorned and insulted where I was once obeyed, and compelled to
bound the revenge which had once such ample scope, to the efforts
of petty malice of a discontented menial, or the vain or unheeded
curses of an impotent hag---condemned to hear from my lonely
turret the sounds of revelry in which I once partook, or the
shrieks and groans of new victims of oppression."
"Ulrica," said Cedric, "with a heart which still, I fear, regrets
the lost reward of thy crimes, as much as the deeds by which thou
didst acquire that meed, how didst thou dare to address thee to
one who wears this robe? Consider, unhappy woman, what could the
sainted Edward himself do for thee, were he here in bodily
presence? The royal Confessor was endowed by heaven with power
to cleanse the ulcers of the body, but only God himself can cure
the leprosy of the soul."
"Yet, turn not from me, stern prophet of wrath," she exclaimed,
"but tell me, if thou canst, in what shall terminate these new
and awful feelings that burst on my solitude---Why do deeds, long
since done, rise before me in new and irresistible horrors? What
fate is prepared beyond the grave for her, to whom God has
assigned on earth a lot of such unspeakable wretchedness? Better
had I turn to Woden, Hertha, and Zernebock---to Mista, and to
Skogula, the gods of our yet unbaptized ancestors, than endure
the dreadful anticipations which have of late haunted my waking
and my sleeping hours!"
"I am no priest," said Cedric, turning with disgust from this
miserable picture of guilt, wretchedness, and despair; "I am no
priest, though I wear a priest's garment."
"Priest or layman," answered Ulrica, "thou art the first I have
seen for twenty years, by whom God was feared or man regarded;
and dost thou bid me despair?"
"I bid thee repent," said Cedric. "Seek to prayer and penance,
and mayest thou find acceptance! But I cannot, I will not,
longer abide with thee."
"Stay yet a moment!" said Ulrica; "leave me not now, son of my
father's friend, lest the demon who has governed my life should
tempt me to avenge myself of thy hard-hearted scorn---Thinkest
thou, if Front-de-Boeuf found Cedric the Saxon in his castle, in
such a disguise, that thy life would be a long one?---Already his
eye has been upon thee like a falcon on his prey."
"And be it so," said Cedric; "and let him tear me with beak and
talons, ere my tongue say one word which my heart doth not
warrant. I will die a Saxon---true in word, open in deed---I bid
thee avaunt!---touch me not, stay me not!---The sight of
Front-de-Boeuf himself is less odious to me than thou, degraded
and degenerate as thou art."
"Be it so," said Ulrica, no longer interrupting him; "go thy way,
and forget, in the insolence of thy superority, that the wretch
before thee is the daughter of thy father's friend.---Go thy way
---if I am separated from mankind by my sufferings---separated
from those whose aid I might most justly expect---not less will I
be separated from them in my revenge!---No man shall aid me, but
the ears of all men shall tingle to hear of the deed which I
shall dare to do!---Farewell!---thy scorn has burst the last tie
which seemed yet to unite me to my kind---a thought that my woes
might claim the compassion of my people."
"Ulrica," said Cedric, softened by this appeal, "hast thou borne
up and endured to live through so much guilt and so much misery,
and wilt thou now yield to despair when thine eyes are opened to
thy crimes, and when repentance were thy fitter occupation?"
"Cedric," answered Ulrica, "thou little knowest the human heart.
To act as I have acted, to think as I have thought, requires the
maddening love of pleasure, mingled with the keen appetite of
revenge, the proud consciousness of power; droughts too
intoxicating for the human heart to bear, and yet retain the
power to prevent. Their force has long passed away---Age has no
pleasures, wrinkles have no influence, revenge itself dies away
in impotent curses. Then comes remorse, with all its vipers,
mixed with vain regrets for the past, and despair for the future!
---Then, when all other strong impulses have ceased, we become
like the fiends in hell, who may feel remorse, but never
repentance.---But thy words have awakened a new soul within me
---Well hast thou said, all is possible for those who dare to
die!---Thou hast shown me the means of revenge, and be assured I
will embrace them. It has hitherto shared this wasted bosom with
other and with rival passions---henceforward it shall possess me
wholly, and thou thyself shalt say, that, whatever was the life
of Ulrica, her death well became the daughter of the noble
Torquil. There is a force without beleaguering this accursed
castle---hasten to lead them to the attack, and when thou shalt
see a red flag wave from the turret on the eastern angle of the
donjon, press the Normans hard---they will then have enough to do
within, and you may win the wall in spite both of bow and
mangonel.---Begone, I pray thee---follow thine own fate, and