Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
IVANHOE. A ROMANCE.
By Sir Walter Scott.
Thus communed these; while to their lowly dome,
The full-fed swine return'd with evening home;
Compell'd, reluctant, to the several sties,
With din obstreperous, and ungrateful cries.
In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the
river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering
the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between
Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this
extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of
Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous
Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles
during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient
times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so
popular in English song.
Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period
towards the end of the reign of Richard I., when his return from his
long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his
despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every species
of subordinate oppression. The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant
during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second
had scarce reduced to some degree of subjection to the crown, had now
resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the feeble
interference of the English Council of State, fortifying their castles,
increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a
state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power, to place
themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a
figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.
The situation of the inferior gentry, or Franklins, as they were called,
who, by the law and spirit of the English constitution, were entitled
to hold themselves independent of feudal tyranny, became now unusually
precarious. If, as was most generally the case, they placed themselves
under the protection of any of the petty kings in their vicinity,
accepted of feudal offices in his household, or bound themselves by
mutual treaties of alliance and protection, to support him in his
enterprises, they might indeed purchase temporary repose; but it must
be with the sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every
English bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in
whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might lead him
to undertake. On the other hand, such and so multiplied were the means
of vexation and oppression possessed by the great Barons, that they
never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will, to harass and pursue,
even to the very edge of destruction, any of their less powerful
neighbours, who attempted to separate themselves from their authority,
and to trust for their protection, during the dangers of the times, to
their own inoffensive conduct, and to the laws of the land.
A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the
nobility, and the sufferings of the inferior classes, arose from
the consequences of the Conquest by Duke William of Normandy. Four
generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans
and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests,
two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while
the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat. The power had
been completely placed in the hands of the Norman nobility, by the event
of the battle of Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure
us, with no moderate hand. The whole race of Saxon princes and nobles
had been extirpated or disinherited, with few or no exceptions; nor were
the numbers great who possessed land in the country of their fathers,
even as proprietors of the second, or of yet inferior classes. The royal
policy had long been to weaken, by every means, legal or illegal, the
strength of a part of the population which was justly considered as
nourishing the most inveterate antipathy to their victor. All the
monarchs of the Norman race had shown the most marked predilection for
their Norman subjects; the laws of the chase, and many others equally
unknown to the milder and more free spirit of the Saxon constitution,
had been fixed upon the necks of the subjugated inhabitants, to add
weight, as it were, to the feudal chains with which they were loaded. At
court, and in the castles of the great nobles, where the pomp and state
of a court was emulated, Norman-French was the only language employed;
in courts of law, the pleadings and judgments were delivered in the same
tongue. In short, French was the language of honour, of chivalry, and
even of justice, while the far more manly and expressive Anglo-Saxon
was abandoned to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other. Still,
however, the necessary intercourse between the lords of the soil,
and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was cultivated,
occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect, compounded betwixt
the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they could render themselves
mutually intelligible to each other; and from this necessity arose by
degrees the structure of our present English language, in which the
speech of the victors and the vanquished have been so happily blended
together; and which has since been so richly improved by importations
from the classical languages, and from those spoken by the southern
nations of Europe.
This state of things I have thought it necessary to premise for the
information of the general reader, who might be apt to forget, that,
although no great historical events, such as war or insurrection, mark
the existence of the Anglo-Saxons as a separate people subsequent to the
reign of William the Second; yet the great national distinctions betwixt
them and their conquerors, the recollection of what they had formerly
been, and to what they were now reduced, continued down to the reign
of Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had
inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the descendants
of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.
The sun was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of that forest,
which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. Hundreds of
broad-headed, short-stemmed, wide-branched oaks, which had witnessed
perhaps the stately march of the Roman soldiery, flung their gnarled
arms over a thick carpet of the most delicious green sward; in some
places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies, and copsewood of
various descriptions, so closely as totally to intercept the level beams
of the sinking sun; in others they receded from each other, forming
those long sweeping vistas, in the intricacy of which the eye delights
to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet
wilder scenes of silvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun shot a
broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the shattered
boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they illuminated in
brilliant patches the portions of turf to which they made their way. A
considerable open space, in the midst of this glade, seemed formerly to
have been dedicated to the rites of Druidical superstition; for, on
the summit of a hillock, so regular as to seem artificial, there still
remained part of a circle of rough unhewn stones, of large dimensions.
Seven stood upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places,
probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some
prostrate near their former site, and others on the side of the hill.
One large stone only had found its way to the bottom, and in stopping
the course of a small brook, which glided smoothly round the foot of
the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble voice of murmur to the
placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.
The human figures which completed this landscape, were in number two,
partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic
character, which belonged to the woodlands of the West-Riding of
Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of these men had a
stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form
imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned
skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but
which had been worn off in so many places, that it would have been
difficult to distinguish from the patches that remained, to what
creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from
the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes
of body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar, than
was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be
inferred, that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders,
in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound
with thongs made of boars' hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin
leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the
calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make
the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle
by a broad leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of
which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn,
accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same
belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged
knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were fabricated in the
neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a
Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which was
only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and
scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red colour,
forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was
rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but
it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a
dog's collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck,
so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to
be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this
singular gorget was engraved, in Saxon characters, an inscription of the
following purport:--"Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of
Cedric of Rotherwood."
Beside the swine-herd, for such was Gurth's occupation, was seated, upon
one of the fallen Druidical monuments, a person about ten years younger
in appearance, and whose dress, though resembling his companion's in
form, was of better materials, and of a more fantastic appearance. His
jacket had been stained of a bright purple hue, upon which there had
been some attempt to paint grotesque ornaments in different colours. To
the jacket he added a short cloak, which scarcely reached half way down
his thigh; it was of crimson cloth, though a good deal soiled, lined
with bright yellow; and as he could transfer it from one shoulder to the
other, or at his pleasure draw it all around him, its width, contrasted
with its want of longitude, formed a fantastic piece of drapery. He had
thin silver bracelets upon his arms, and on his neck a collar of the
same metal bearing the inscription, "Wamba, the son of Witless, is the
thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood." This personage had the same sort of
sandals with his companion, but instead of the roll of leather thong,
his legs were cased in a sort of gaiters, of which one was red and the
other yellow. He was provided also with a cap, having around it more
than one bell, about the size of those attached to hawks, which jingled
as he turned his head to one side or other; and as he seldom remained a
minute in the same posture, the sound might be considered as incessant.
Around the edge of this cap was a stiff bandeau of leather, cut at the
top into open work, resembling a coronet, while a prolonged bag arose
from within it, and fell down on one shoulder like an old-fashioned
nightcap, or a jelly-bag, or the head-gear of a modern hussar. It was to
this part of the cap that the bells were attached; which circumstance,
as well as the shape of his head-dress, and his own half-crazed,
half-cunning expression of countenance, sufficiently pointed him out as
belonging to the race of domestic clowns or jesters, maintained in the
houses of the wealthy, to help away the tedium of those lingering
hours which they were obliged to spend within doors. He bore, like
his companion, a scrip, attached to his belt, but had neither horn nor
knife, being probably considered as belonging to a class whom it is
esteemed dangerous to intrust with edge-tools. In place of these, he
was equipped with a sword of lath, resembling that with which Harlequin
operates his wonders upon the modern stage.
The outward appearance of these two men formed scarce a stronger
contrast than their look and demeanour. That of the serf, or bondsman,
was sad and sullen; his aspect was bent on the ground with an appearance
of deep dejection, which might be almost construed into apathy, had
not the fire which occasionally sparkled in his red eye manifested that
there slumbered, under the appearance of sullen despondency, a sense of
oppression, and a disposition to resistance. The looks of Wamba, on
the other hand, indicated, as usual with his class, a sort of vacant
curiosity, and fidgetty impatience of any posture of repose, together
with the utmost self-satisfaction respecting his own situation, and the
appearance which he made. The dialogue which they maintained between
them, was carried on in Anglo-Saxon, which, as we said before, was
universally spoken by the inferior classes, excepting the Norman
soldiers, and the immediate personal dependants of the great feudal
nobles. But to give their conversation in the original would convey but
little information to the modern reader, for whose benefit we beg to
offer the following translation:
"The curse of St Withold upon these infernal porkers!" said the
swine-herd, after blowing his horn obstreperously, to collect together
the scattered herd of swine, which, answering his call with notes
equally melodious, made, however, no haste to remove themselves from the
luxurious banquet of beech-mast and acorns on which they had fattened,
or to forsake the marshy banks of the rivulet, where several of them,
half plunged in mud, lay stretched at their ease, altogether regardless
of the voice of their keeper. "The curse of St Withold upon them and
upon me!" said Gurth; "if the two-legged wolf snap not up some of them
ere nightfall, I am no true man. Here, Fangs! Fangs!" he ejaculated at
the top of his voice to a ragged wolfish-looking dog, a sort of lurcher,
half mastiff, half greyhound, which ran limping about as if with the
purpose of seconding his master in collecting the refractory grunters;
but which, in fact, from misapprehension of the swine-herd's signals,
ignorance of his own duty, or malice prepense, only drove them hither
and thither, and increased the evil which he seemed to design to remedy.
"A devil draw the teeth of him," said Gurth, "and the mother of mischief
confound the Ranger of the forest, that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs,
and makes them unfit for their trade!  Wamba, up and help me an thou
be'st a man; take a turn round the back o' the hill to gain the wind
on them; and when thous't got the weather-gage, thou mayst drive them
before thee as gently as so many innocent lambs."
"Truly," said Wamba, without stirring from the spot, "I have consulted
my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of opinion, that
to carry my gay garments through these sloughs, would be an act of
unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal wardrobe; wherefore,
Gurth, I advise thee to call off Fangs, and leave the herd to their
destiny, which, whether they meet with bands of travelling soldiers,
or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims, can be little else than to
be converted into Normans before morning, to thy no small ease and
"The swine turned Normans to my comfort!" quoth Gurth; "expound that
to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull, and my mind too vexed, to read
"Why, how call you those grunting brutes running about on their four
legs?" demanded Wamba.
"Swine, fool, swine," said the herd, "every fool knows that."
"And swine is good Saxon," said the Jester; "but how call you the sow
when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by the heels,
like a traitor?"
"Pork," answered the swine-herd.
"I am very glad every fool knows that too," said Wamba, "and pork, I
think, is good Norman-French; and so when the brute lives, and is in
the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a
Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to
feast among the nobles; what dost thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?"
"It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy
"Nay, I can tell you more," said Wamba, in the same tone; "there is old
Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the
charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery
French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are
destined to consume him. Mynheer Calf, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau
in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a
Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment."
"By St Dunstan," answered Gurth, "thou speakest but sad truths; little
is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been
reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose of enabling us to
endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest
is for their board; the loveliest is for their couch; the best and
bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant
lands with their bones, leaving few here who have either will or the
power to protect the unfortunate Saxon. God's blessing on our master
Cedric, he hath done the work of a man in standing in the gap; but
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf is coming down to this country in person, and we
shall soon see how little Cedric's trouble will avail him.--Here, here,"
he exclaimed again, raising his voice, "So ho! so ho! well done, Fangs!
thou hast them all before thee now, and bring'st them on bravely, lad."
"Gurth," said the Jester, "I know thou thinkest me a fool, or thou
wouldst not be so rash in putting thy head into my mouth. One word to
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, or Philip de Malvoisin, that thou hast
spoken treason against the Norman,--and thou art but a cast-away
swineherd,--thou wouldst waver on one of these trees as a terror to all
evil speakers against dignities."
"Dog, thou wouldst not betray me," said Gurth, "after having led me on
to speak so much at disadvantage?"
"Betray thee!" answered the Jester; "no, that were the trick of a wise
man; a fool cannot half so well help himself--but soft, whom have we
here?" he said, listening to the trampling of several horses which
became then audible.
"Never mind whom," answered Gurth, who had now got his herd before him,
and, with the aid of Fangs, was driving them down one of the long dim
vistas which we have endeavoured to describe.
"Nay, but I must see the riders," answered Wamba; "perhaps they are come
from Fairy-land with a message from King Oberon."
"A murrain take thee," rejoined the swine-herd; "wilt thou talk of such
things, while a terrible storm of thunder and lightning is raging within
a few miles of us? Hark, how the thunder rumbles! and for summer rain,
I never saw such broad downright flat drops fall out of the clouds; the
oaks, too, notwithstanding the calm weather, sob and creak with their
great boughs as if announcing a tempest. Thou canst play the rational if
thou wilt; credit me for once, and let us home ere the storm begins to
rage, for the night will be fearful."
Wamba seemed to feel the force of this appeal, and accompanied his
companion, who began his journey after catching up a long quarter-staff
which lay upon the grass beside him. This second Eumaeus strode hastily
down the forest glade, driving before him, with the assistance of Fangs,
the whole herd of his inharmonious charge.
A Monk there was, a fayre for the maistrie,
An outrider that loved venerie;
A manly man, to be an Abbot able,
Full many a daintie horse had he in stable:
And whan he rode, men might his bridle hear
Gingeling in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapell bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
Notwithstanding the occasional exhortation and chiding of his companion,
the noise of the horsemen's feet continuing to approach, Wamba could
not be prevented from lingering occasionally on the road, upon every
pretence which occurred; now catching from the hazel a cluster of
half-ripe nuts, and now turning his head to leer after a cottage maiden
who crossed their path. The horsemen, therefore, soon overtook them on
Their numbers amounted to ten men, of whom the two who rode foremost
seemed to be persons of considerable importance, and the others
their attendants. It was not difficult to ascertain the condition and
character of one of these personages. He was obviously an ecclesiastic
of high rank; his dress was that of a Cistercian Monk, but composed of
materials much finer than those which the rule of that order admitted.
His mantle and hood were of the best Flanders cloth, and fell in ample,
and not ungraceful folds, around a handsome, though somewhat corpulent
person. His countenance bore as little the marks of self-denial, as his
habit indicated contempt of worldly splendour. His features might have
been called good, had there not lurked under the pent-house of his eye,
that sly epicurean twinkle which indicates the cautious voluptuary.
In other respects, his profession and situation had taught him a ready
command over his countenance, which he could contract at pleasure into
solemnity, although its natural expression was that of good-humoured
social indulgence. In defiance of conventual rules, and the edicts of
popes and councils, the sleeves of this dignitary were lined and turned
up with rich furs, his mantle secured at the throat with a golden
clasp, and the whole dress proper to his order as much refined upon and
ornamented, as that of a quaker beauty of the present day, who, while
she retains the garb and costume of her sect continues to give to its
simplicity, by the choice of materials and the mode of disposing them,
a certain air of coquettish attraction, savouring but too much of the
vanities of the world.
This worthy churchman rode upon a well-fed ambling mule, whose furniture
was highly decorated, and whose bridle, according to the fashion of the
day, was ornamented with silver bells. In his seat he had nothing of the
awkwardness of the convent, but displayed the easy and habitual grace of
a well-trained horseman. Indeed, it seemed that so humble a conveyance
as a mule, in however good case, and however well broken to a pleasant
and accommodating amble, was only used by the gallant monk for
travelling on the road. A lay brother, one of those who followed in the
train, had, for his use on other occasions, one of the most handsome
Spanish jennets ever bred at Andalusia, which merchants used at that
time to import, with great trouble and risk, for the use of persons of
wealth and distinction. The saddle and housings of this superb palfrey
were covered by a long foot-cloth, which reached nearly to the ground,
and on which were richly embroidered, mitres, crosses, and other
ecclesiastical emblems. Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded
probably with his superior's baggage; and two monks of his own order,
of inferior station, rode together in the rear, laughing and conversing
with each other, without taking much notice of the other members of the
The companion of the church dignitary was a man past forty, thin,
strong, tall, and muscular; an athletic figure, which long fatigue and
constant exercise seemed to have left none of the softer part of the
human form, having reduced the whole to brawn, bones, and sinews, which
had sustained a thousand toils, and were ready to dare a thousand more.
His head was covered with a scarlet cap, faced with fur--of that kind
which the French call "mortier", from its resemblance to the shape of an
inverted mortar. His countenance was therefore fully displayed, and its
expression was calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of
fear, upon strangers. High features, naturally strong and powerfully
expressive, had been burnt almost into Negro blackness by constant
exposure to the tropical sun, and might, in their ordinary state, be
said to slumber after the storm of passion had passed away; but the
projection of the veins of the forehead, the readiness with which the
upper lip and its thick black moustaches quivered upon the slightest
emotion, plainly intimated that the tempest might be again and easily
awakened. His keen, piercing, dark eyes, told in every glance a history
of difficulties subdued, and dangers dared, and seemed to challenge
opposition to his wishes, for the pleasure of sweeping it from his road
by a determined exertion of courage and of will; a deep scar on his brow
gave additional sternness to his countenance, and a sinister expression
to one of his eyes, which had been slightly injured on the same
occasion, and of which the vision, though perfect, was in a slight and
partial degree distorted.
The upper dress of this personage resembled that of his companion in
shape, being a long monastic mantle; but the colour, being scarlet,
showed that he did not belong to any of the four regular orders of
monks. On the right shoulder of the mantle there was cut, in white
cloth, a cross of a peculiar form. This upper robe concealed what at
first view seemed rather inconsistent with its form, a shirt, namely, of
linked mail, with sleeves and gloves of the same, curiously plaited and
interwoven, as flexible to the body as those which are now wrought in
the stocking-loom, out of less obdurate materials. The fore-part of his
thighs, where the folds of his mantle permitted them to be seen, were
also covered with linked mail; the knees and feet were defended by
splints, or thin plates of steel, ingeniously jointed upon each
other; and mail hose, reaching from the ankle to the knee, effectually
protected the legs, and completed the rider's defensive armour. In
his girdle he wore a long and double-edged dagger, which was the only
offensive weapon about his person.
He rode, not a mule, like his companion, but a strong hackney for the
road, to save his gallant war-horse, which a squire led behind, fully
accoutred for battle, with a chamfron or plaited head-piece upon his
head, having a short spike projecting from the front. On one side of the
saddle hung a short battle-axe, richly inlaid with Damascene carving;
on the other the rider's plumed head-piece and hood of mail, with a long
two-handed sword, used by the chivalry of the period. A second squire
held aloft his master's lance, from the extremity of which fluttered a
small banderole, or streamer, bearing a cross of the same form with that
embroidered upon his cloak. He also carried his small triangular
shield, broad enough at the top to protect the breast, and from thence
diminishing to a point. It was covered with a scarlet cloth, which
prevented the device from being seen.
These two squires were followed by two attendants, whose dark visages,
white turbans, and the Oriental form of their garments, showed them to
be natives of some distant Eastern country. 
The whole appearance of this warrior and his retinue was wild and
outlandish; the dress of his squires was gorgeous, and his Eastern
attendants wore silver collars round their throats, and bracelets of the
same metal upon their swarthy arms and legs, of which the former were
naked from the elbow, and the latter from mid-leg to ankle. Silk and
embroidery distinguished their dresses, and marked the wealth and
importance of their master; forming, at the same time, a striking
contrast with the martial simplicity of his own attire. They were armed
with crooked sabres, having the hilt and baldric inlaid with gold, and
matched with Turkish daggers of yet more costly workmanship. Each of
them bore at his saddle-bow a bundle of darts or javelins, about four
feet in length, having sharp steel heads, a weapon much in use among
the Saracens, and of which the memory is yet preserved in the martial
exercise called "El Jerrid", still practised in the Eastern countries.
The steeds of these attendants were in appearance as foreign as their
riders. They were of Saracen origin, and consequently of Arabian
descent; and their fine slender limbs, small fetlocks, thin manes, and
easy springy motion, formed a marked contrast with the large-jointed,
heavy horses, of which the race was cultivated in Flanders and in
Normandy, for mounting the men-at-arms of the period in all the panoply
of plate and mail; and which, placed by the side of those Eastern
coursers, might have passed for a personification of substance and of
The singular appearance of this cavalcade not only attracted the
curiosity of Wamba, but excited even that of his less volatile
companion. The monk he instantly knew to be the Prior of Jorvaulx
Abbey, well known for many miles around as a lover of the chase, of
the banquet, and, if fame did him not wrong, of other worldly pleasures
still more inconsistent with his monastic vows.
Yet so loose were the ideas of the times respecting the conduct of the
clergy, whether secular or regular, that the Prior Aymer maintained a
fair character in the neighbourhood of his abbey. His free and jovial
temper, and the readiness with which he granted absolution from all
ordinary delinquencies, rendered him a favourite among the nobility and
principal gentry, to several of whom he was allied by birth, being of
a distinguished Norman family. The ladies, in particular, were not
disposed to scan too nicely the morals of a man who was a professed
admirer of their sex, and who possessed many means of dispelling the
ennui which was too apt to intrude upon the halls and bowers of an
ancient feudal castle. The Prior mingled in the sports of the field with
more than due eagerness, and was allowed to possess the best-trained
hawks, and the fleetest greyhounds in the North Riding; circumstances
which strongly recommended him to the youthful gentry. With the old,
he had another part to play, which, when needful, he could sustain
with great decorum. His knowledge of books, however superficial, was
sufficient to impress upon their ignorance respect for his supposed
learning; and the gravity of his deportment and language, with the high
tone which he exerted in setting forth the authority of the church
and of the priesthood, impressed them no less with an opinion of his
sanctity. Even the common people, the severest critics of the conduct of
their betters, had commiseration with the follies of Prior Aymer. He
was generous; and charity, as it is well known, covereth a multitude
of sins, in another sense than that in which it is said to do so in
Scripture. The revenues of the monastery, of which a large part was at
his disposal, while they gave him the means of supplying his own very
considerable expenses, afforded also those largesses which he bestowed
among the peasantry, and with which he frequently relieved the
distresses of the oppressed. If Prior Aymer rode hard in the chase, or
remained long at the banquet,--if Prior Aymer was seen, at the early
peep of dawn, to enter the postern of the abbey, as he glided home
from some rendezvous which had occupied the hours of darkness, men
only shrugged up their shoulders, and reconciled themselves to his
irregularities, by recollecting that the same were practised by many
of his brethren who had no redeeming qualities whatsoever to atone for
them. Prior Aymer, therefore, and his character, were well known to
our Saxon serfs, who made their rude obeisance, and received his
"benedicite, mes filz," in return.
But the singular appearance of his companion and his attendants,
arrested their attention and excited their wonder, and they could
scarcely attend to the Prior of Jorvaulx' question, when he demanded if
they knew of any place of harbourage in the vicinity; so much were they
surprised at the half monastic, half military appearance of the swarthy
stranger, and at the uncouth dress and arms of his Eastern attendants.
It is probable, too, that the language in which the benediction was
conferred, and the information asked, sounded ungracious, though not
probably unintelligible, in the ears of the Saxon peasants.
"I asked you, my children," said the Prior, raising his voice, and using
the lingua Franca, or mixed language, in which the Norman and Saxon
races conversed with each other, "if there be in this neighbourhood any
good man, who, for the love of God, and devotion to Mother Church,
will give two of her humblest servants, with their train, a night's
hospitality and refreshment?"
This he spoke with a tone of conscious importance, which formed a strong
contrast to the modest terms which he thought it proper to employ.
"Two of the humblest servants of Mother Church!" repeated Wamba to
himself,--but, fool as he was, taking care not to make his observation
audible; "I should like to see her seneschals, her chief butlers, and
other principal domestics!"
After this internal commentary on the Prior's speech, he raised his
eyes, and replied to the question which had been put.
"If the reverend fathers," he said, "loved good cheer and soft lodging,
few miles of riding would carry them to the Priory of Brinxworth, where
their quality could not but secure them the most honourable reception;
or if they preferred spending a penitential evening, they might turn
down yonder wild glade, which would bring them to the hermitage of
Copmanhurst, where a pious anchoret would make them sharers for the
night of the shelter of his roof and the benefit of his prayers."
The Prior shook his head at both proposals.
"Mine honest friend," said he, "if the jangling of thy bells had not
dizzied thine understanding, thou mightst know "Clericus clericum non
decimat"; that is to say, we churchmen do not exhaust each other's
hospitality, but rather require that of the laity, giving them thus
an opportunity to serve God in honouring and relieving his appointed
"It is true," replied Wamba, "that I, being but an ass, am,
nevertheless, honoured to hear the bells as well as your reverence's
mule; notwithstanding, I did conceive that the charity of Mother Church
and her servants might be said, with other charity, to begin at home."
"A truce to thine insolence, fellow," said the armed rider, breaking in
on his prattle with a high and stern voice, "and tell us, if thou canst,
the road to--How call'd you your Franklin, Prior Aymer?"
"Cedric," answered the Prior; "Cedric the Saxon.--Tell me, good fellow,
are we near his dwelling, and can you show us the road?"
"The road will be uneasy to find," answered Gurth, who broke silence for
the first time, "and the family of Cedric retire early to rest."
"Tush, tell not me, fellow," said the military rider; "'tis easy for
them to arise and supply the wants of travellers such as we are, who
will not stoop to beg the hospitality which we have a right to command."
"I know not," said Gurth, sullenly, "if I should show the way to my
master's house, to those who demand as a right, the shelter which most
are fain to ask as a favour."
"Do you dispute with me, slave!" said the soldier; and, setting spurs
to his horse, he caused him make a demivolte across the path, raising at
the same time the riding rod which he held in his hand, with a purpose
of chastising what he considered as the insolence of the peasant.
Gurth darted at him a savage and revengeful scowl, and with a fierce,
yet hesitating motion, laid his hand on the haft of his knife; but the
interference of Prior Aymer, who pushed his mule betwixt his companion
and the swineherd, prevented the meditated violence.
"Nay, by St Mary, brother Brian, you must not think you are now in
Palestine, predominating over heathen Turks and infidel Saracens; we
islanders love not blows, save those of holy Church, who chasteneth whom
she loveth.--Tell me, good fellow," said he to Wamba, and seconded his
speech by a small piece of silver coin, "the way to Cedric the Saxon's;
you cannot be ignorant of it, and it is your duty to direct the wanderer
even when his character is less sanctified than ours."
"In truth, venerable father," answered the Jester, "the Saracen head of
your right reverend companion has frightened out of mine the way home--I
am not sure I shall get there to-night myself."
"Tush," said the Abbot, "thou canst tell us if thou wilt. This reverend
brother has been all his life engaged in fighting among the Saracens
for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre; he is of the order of Knights
Templars, whom you may have heard of; he is half a monk, half a
"If he is but half a monk," said the Jester, "he should not be wholly
unreasonable with those whom he meets upon the road, even if they should
be in no hurry to answer questions that no way concern them."
"I forgive thy wit," replied the Abbot, "on condition thou wilt show me
the way to Cedric's mansion."
"Well, then," answered Wamba, "your reverences must hold on this path
till you come to a sunken cross, of which scarce a cubit's length
remains above ground; then take the path to the left, for there are
four which meet at Sunken Cross, and I trust your reverences will obtain
shelter before the storm comes on."
The Abbot thanked his sage adviser; and the cavalcade, setting spurs to
their horses, rode on as men do who wish to reach their inn before the
bursting of a night-storm. As their horses' hoofs died away, Gurth
said to his companion, "If they follow thy wise direction, the reverend
fathers will hardly reach Rotherwood this night."
"No," said the Jester, grinning, "but they may reach Sheffield if they
have good luck, and that is as fit a place for them. I am not so bad a
woodsman as to show the dog where the deer lies, if I have no mind he
should chase him."
"Thou art right," said Gurth; "it were ill that Aymer saw the Lady
Rowena; and it were worse, it may be, for Cedric to quarrel, as is most
likely he would, with this military monk. But, like good servants let us
hear and see, and say nothing."
We return to the riders, who had soon left the bondsmen far behind
them, and who maintained the following conversation in the Norman-French
language, usually employed by the superior classes, with the exception
of the few who were still inclined to boast their Saxon descent.
"What mean these fellows by their capricious insolence?" said the
Templar to the Benedictine, "and why did you prevent me from chastising
"Marry, brother Brian," replied the Prior, "touching the one of them, it
were hard for me to render a reason for a fool speaking according to his
folly; and the other churl is of that savage, fierce, intractable race,
some of whom, as I have often told you, are still to be found among the
descendants of the conquered Saxons, and whose supreme pleasure it is
to testify, by all means in their power, their aversion to their
"I would soon have beat him into courtesy," observed Brian; "I am
accustomed to deal with such spirits: Our Turkish captives are as fierce
and intractable as Odin himself could have been; yet two months in my
household, under the management of my master of the slaves, has made
them humble, submissive, serviceable, and observant of your will. Marry,
sir, you must be aware of the poison and the dagger; for they use either
with free will when you give them the slightest opportunity."
"Ay, but," answered Prior Aymer, "every land has its own manners and
fashions; and, besides that beating this fellow could procure us no
information respecting the road to Cedric's house, it would have been
sure to have established a quarrel betwixt you and him had we found our
way thither. Remember what I told you: this wealthy franklin is proud,
fierce, jealous, and irritable, a withstander of the nobility, and even
of his neighbors, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and Philip Malvoisin, who are
no babies to strive with. He stands up sternly for the privileges of
his race, and is so proud of his uninterrupted descend from Hereward, a
renowned champion of the Heptarchy, that he is universally called Cedric
the Saxon; and makes a boast of his belonging to a people from whom
many others endeaver to hide their descent, lest they should encounter a
share of the 'vae victis,' or severities imposed upon the vanquished."
"Prior Aymer," said the Templar, "you are a man of gallantry, learned
in the study of beauty, and as expert as a troubadour in all matters
concerning the 'arrets' of love; but I shall expect much beauty in this
celebrated Rowena to counterbalance the self-denial and forbearance
which I must exert if I am to court the favor of such a seditious churl
as you have described her father Cedric."
"Cedric is not her father," replied the Prior, "and is but of remote
relation: she is descended from higher blood than even he pretends to,
and is but distantly connected with him by birth. Her guardian, however,
he is, self-constituted as I believe; but his ward is as dear to him as
if she were his own child. Of her beauty you shall soon be judge; and if
the purity of her complexion, and the majestic, yet soft expression of a
mild blue eye, do not chase from your memory the black-tressed girls of
Palestine, ay, or the houris of old Mahound's paradise, I am an infidel,
and no true son of the church."
"Should your boasted beauty," said the Templar, "be weighed in the
balance and found wanting, you know our wager?"
"My gold collar," answered the Prior, "against ten butts of Chian
wine;--they are mine as securely as if they were already in the convent
vaults, under the key of old Dennis the cellarer."
"And I am myself to be judge," said the Templar, "and am only to be
convicted on my own admission, that I have seen no maiden so beautiful
since Pentecost was a twelvemonth. Ran it not so?--Prior, your collar
is in danger; I will wear it over my gorget in the lists of
"Win it fairly," said the Prior, "and wear it as ye will; I will trust
your giving true response, on your word as a knight and as a churchman.
Yet, brother, take my advice, and file your tongue to a little more
courtesy than your habits of predominating over infidel captives
and Eastern bondsmen have accustomed you. Cedric the Saxon, if
offended,--and he is noway slack in taking offence,--is a man who,
without respect to your knighthood, my high office, or the sanctity
of either, would clear his house of us, and send us to lodge with the
larks, though the hour were midnight. And be careful how you look on
Rowena, whom he cherishes with the most jealous care; an he take the
least alarm in that quarter we are but lost men. It is said he banished
his only son from his family for lifting his eyes in the way of
affection towards this beauty, who may be worshipped, it seems, at a
distance, but is not to be approached with other thoughts than such as
we bring to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin."
"Well, you have said enough," answered the Templar; "I will for a night
put on the needful restraint, and deport me as meekly as a maiden; but
as for the fear of his expelling us by violence, myself and squires,
with Hamet and Abdalla, will warrant you against that disgrace. Doubt
not that we shall be strong enough to make good our quarters."
"We must not let it come so far," answered the Prior; "but here is the
clown's sunken cross, and the night is so dark that we can hardly see
which of the roads we are to follow. He bid us turn, I think to the
"To the right," said Brian, "to the best of my remembrance."
"To the left, certainly, the left; I remember his pointing with his
"Ay, but he held his sword in his left hand, and so pointed across his
body with it," said the Templar.
Each maintained his opinion with sufficient obstinacy, as is usual in
all such cases; the attendants were appealed to, but they had not been
near enough to hear Wamba's directions. At length Brian remarked, what
had at first escaped him in the twilight; "Here is some one either
asleep, or lying dead at the foot of this cross--Hugo, stir him with the
butt-end of thy lance."
This was no sooner done than the figure arose, exclaiming in good
French, "Whosoever thou art, it is discourteous in you to disturb my
"We did but wish to ask you," said the Prior, "the road to Rotherwood,
the abode of Cedric the Saxon."
"I myself am bound thither," replied the stranger; "and if I had a
horse, I would be your guide, for the way is somewhat intricate, though
perfectly well known to me."
"Thou shalt have both thanks and reward, my friend," said the Prior, "if
thou wilt bring us to Cedric's in safety."
And he caused one of his attendants to mount his own led horse, and give
that upon which he had hitherto ridden to the stranger, who was to serve
for a guide.
Their conductor pursued an opposite road from that which Wamba had
recommended, for the purpose of misleading them. The path soon led
deeper into the woodland, and crossed more than one brook, the approach
to which was rendered perilous by the marshes through which it flowed;
but the stranger seemed to know, as if by instinct, the soundest ground
and the safest points of passage; and by dint of caution and attention,
brought the party safely into a wilder avenue than any they had yet
seen; and, pointing to a large low irregular building at the upper
extremity, he said to the Prior, "Yonder is Rotherwood, the dwelling of
Cedric the Saxon."
This was a joyful intimation to Aymer, whose nerves were none of the
strongest, and who had suffered such agitation and alarm in the course
of passing through the dangerous bogs, that he had not yet had the
curiosity to ask his guide a single question. Finding himself now at his
ease and near shelter, his curiosity began to awake, and he demanded of
the guide who and what he was.
"A Palmer, just returned from the Holy Land," was the answer.
"You had better have tarried there to fight for the recovery of the Holy
Sepulchre," said the Templar.
"True, Reverend Sir Knight," answered the Palmer, to whom the appearance
of the Templar seemed perfectly familiar; "but when those who are under
oath to recover the holy city, are found travelling at such a distance
from the scene of their duties, can you wonder that a peaceful peasant
like me should decline the task which they have abandoned?"
The Templar would have made an angry reply, but was interrupted by the
Prior, who again expressed his astonishment, that their guide, after
such long absence, should be so perfectly acquainted with the passes of
"I was born a native of these parts," answered their guide, and as he
made the reply they stood before the mansion of Cedric;--a low irregular
building, containing several court-yards or enclosures, extending over
a considerable space of ground, and which, though its size argued the
inhabitant to be a person of wealth, differed entirely from the tall,
turretted, and castellated buildings in which the Norman nobility
resided, and which had become the universal style of architecture
Rotherwood was not, however, without defences; no habitation, in
that disturbed period, could have been so, without the risk of being
plundered and burnt before the next morning. A deep fosse, or ditch,
was drawn round the whole building, and filled with water from a
neighbouring stream. A double stockade, or palisade, composed of pointed
beams, which the adjacent forest supplied, defended the outer and inner
bank of the trench. There was an entrance from the west through the
outer stockade, which communicated by a drawbridge, with a similar
opening in the interior defences. Some precautions had been taken to
place those entrances under the protection of projecting angles, by
which they might be flanked in case of need by archers or slingers.
Before this entrance the Templar wound his horn loudly; for the rain,
which had long threatened, began now to descend with great violence.
Then (sad relief!) from the bleak coast that hears
The German Ocean roar, deep-blooming, strong,
And yellow hair'd, the blue-eyed Saxon came.
In a hall, the height of which was greatly disproportioned to its
extreme length and width, a long oaken table, formed of planks
rough-hewn from the forest, and which had scarcely received any polish,
stood ready prepared for the evening meal of Cedric the Saxon. The roof,
composed of beams and rafters, had nothing to divide the apartment from
the sky excepting the planking and thatch; there was a huge fireplace at
either end of the hall, but as the chimneys were constructed in a very
clumsy manner, at least as much of the smoke found its way into the
apartment as escaped by the proper vent. The constant vapour which this
occasioned, had polished the rafters and beams of the low-browed hall,
by encrusting them with a black varnish of soot. On the sides of the
apartment hung implements of war and of the chase, and there were at
each corner folding doors, which gave access to other parts of the
The other appointments of the mansion partook of the rude simplicity
of the Saxon period, which Cedric piqued himself upon maintaining.
The floor was composed of earth mixed with lime, trodden into a hard
substance, such as is often employed in flooring our modern barns. For
about one quarter of the length of the apartment, the floor was raised
by a step, and this space, which was called the dais, was occupied only
by the principal members of the family, and visitors of distinction.
For this purpose, a table richly covered with scarlet cloth was placed
transversely across the platform, from the middle of which ran the
longer and lower board, at which the domestics and inferior persons fed,
down towards the bottom of the hall. The whole resembled the form of the
letter T, or some of those ancient dinner-tables, which, arranged on the
same principles, may be still seen in the antique Colleges of Oxford or
Cambridge. Massive chairs and settles of carved oak were placed upon the
dais, and over these seats and the more elevated table was fastened a
canopy of cloth, which served in some degree to protect the dignitaries
who occupied that distinguished station from the weather, and
especially from the rain, which in some places found its way through the
The walls of this upper end of the hall, as far as the dais extended,
were covered with hangings or curtains, and upon the floor there was a
carpet, both of which were adorned with some attempts at tapestry, or
embroidery, executed with brilliant or rather gaudy colouring. Over the
lower range of table, the roof, as we have noticed, had no covering;
the rough plastered walls were left bare, and the rude earthen floor was
uncarpeted; the board was uncovered by a cloth, and rude massive benches
supplied the place of chairs.
In the centre of the upper table, were placed two chairs more elevated
than the rest, for the master and mistress of the family, who presided
over the scene of hospitality, and from doing so derived their Saxon
title of honour, which signifies "the Dividers of Bread."
To each of these chairs was added a footstool, curiously carved and
inlaid with ivory, which mark of distinction was peculiar to them. One
of these seats was at present occupied by Cedric the Saxon, who, though
but in rank a thane, or, as the Normans called him, a Franklin, felt, at
the delay of his evening meal, an irritable impatience, which might have
become an alderman, whether of ancient or of modern times.
It appeared, indeed, from the countenance of this proprietor, that he
was of a frank, but hasty and choleric temper. He was not above the
middle stature, but broad-shouldered, long-armed, and powerfully made,
like one accustomed to endure the fatigue of war or of the chase; his
face was broad, with large blue eyes, open and frank features, fine
teeth, and a well formed head, altogether expressive of that sort of
good-humour which often lodges with a sudden and hasty temper. Pride and
jealousy there was in his eye, for his life had been spent in asserting
rights which were constantly liable to invasion; and the prompt, fiery,
and resolute disposition of the man, had been kept constantly upon the
alert by the circumstances of his situation. His long yellow hair was
equally divided on the top of his head and upon his brow, and combed
down on each side to the length of his shoulders; it had but little
tendency to grey, although Cedric was approaching to his sixtieth year.
His dress was a tunic of forest green, furred at the throat and cuffs
with what was called minever; a kind of fur inferior in quality to
ermine, and formed, it is believed, of the skin of the grey squirrel.
This doublet hung unbuttoned over a close dress of scarlet which sat
tight to his body; he had breeches of the same, but they did not reach
below the lower part of the thigh, leaving the knee exposed. His
feet had sandals of the same fashion with the peasants, but of finer
materials, and secured in the front with golden clasps. He had bracelets
of gold upon his arms, and a broad collar of the same precious metal
around his neck. About his waist he wore a richly-studded belt, in
which was stuck a short straight two-edged sword, with a sharp point, so
disposed as to hang almost perpendicularly by his side. Behind his seat
was hung a scarlet cloth cloak lined with fur, and a cap of the same
materials richly embroidered, which completed the dress of the opulent
landholder when he chose to go forth. A short boar-spear, with a broad
and bright steel head, also reclined against the back of his chair,
which served him, when he walked abroad, for the purposes of a staff or
of a weapon, as chance might require.
Several domestics, whose dress held various proportions betwixt the
richness of their master's, and the coarse and simple attire of Gurth
the swine-herd, watched the looks and waited the commands of the Saxon
dignitary. Two or three servants of a superior order stood behind their
master upon the dais; the rest occupied the lower part of the hall.
Other attendants there were of a different description; two or three
large and shaggy greyhounds, such as were then employed in hunting the
stag and wolf; as many slow-hounds of a large bony breed, with thick
necks, large heads, and long ears; and one or two of the smaller dogs,
now called terriers, which waited with impatience the arrival of the
supper; but, with the sagacious knowledge of physiognomy peculiar to
their race, forbore to intrude upon the moody silence of their master,
apprehensive probably of a small white truncheon which lay by Cedric's
trencher, for the purpose of repelling the advances of his four-legged
dependants. One grisly old wolf-dog alone, with the liberty of an
indulged favourite, had planted himself close by the chair of state, and
occasionally ventured to solicit notice by putting his large hairy head
upon his master's knee, or pushing his nose into his hand. Even he was
repelled by the stern command, "Down, Balder, down! I am not in the
humour for foolery."
In fact, Cedric, as we have observed, was in no very placid state of
mind. The Lady Rowena, who had been absent to attend an evening mass at
a distant church, had but just returned, and was changing her garments,
which had been wetted by the storm. There were as yet no tidings of
Gurth and his charge, which should long since have been driven home from
the forest and such was the insecurity of the period, as to render it
probable that the delay might be explained by some depreciation of the
outlaws, with whom the adjacent forest abounded, or by the violence
of some neighbouring baron, whose consciousness of strength made
him equally negligent of the laws of property. The matter was of
consequence, for great part of the domestic wealth of the Saxon
proprietors consisted in numerous herds of swine, especially in
forest-land, where those animals easily found their food.
Besides these subjects of anxiety, the Saxon thane was impatient for the
presence of his favourite clown Wamba, whose jests, such as they were,
served for a sort of seasoning to his evening meal, and to the deep
draughts of ale and wine with which he was in the habit of accompanying
it. Add to all this, Cedric had fasted since noon, and his usual supper
hour was long past, a cause of irritation common to country squires,
both in ancient and modern times. His displeasure was expressed in
broken sentences, partly muttered to himself, partly addressed to the
domestics who stood around; and particularly to his cupbearer, who
offered him from time to time, as a sedative, a silver goblet filled
with wine--"Why tarries the Lady Rowena?"
"She is but changing her head-gear," replied a female attendant, with as
much confidence as the favourite lady's-maid usually answers the master
of a modern family; "you would not wish her to sit down to the banquet
in her hood and kirtle? and no lady within the shire can be quicker in
arraying herself than my mistress."
This undeniable argument produced a sort of acquiescent umph! on the
part of the Saxon, with the addition, "I wish her devotion may choose
fair weather for the next visit to St John's Kirk;--but what, in the
name of ten devils," continued he, turning to the cupbearer, and raising
his voice as if happy to have found a channel into which he might divert
his indignation without fear or control--"what, in the name of ten
devils, keeps Gurth so long afield? I suppose we shall have an evil
account of the herd; he was wont to be a faithful and cautious drudge,
and I had destined him for something better; perchance I might even have
made him one of my warders." 
Oswald the cupbearer modestly suggested, "that it was scarce an hour
since the tolling of the curfew;" an ill-chosen apology, since it turned
upon a topic so harsh to Saxon ears.
"The foul fiend," exclaimed Cedric, "take the curfew-bell, and the
tyrannical bastard by whom it was devised, and the heartless slave who
names it with a Saxon tongue to a Saxon ear! The curfew!" he added,
pausing, "ay, the curfew; which compels true men to extinguish their
lights, that thieves and robbers may work their deeds in darkness!--Ay,
the curfew;--Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and Philip de Malvoisin know the
use of the curfew as well as William the Bastard himself, or e'er a
Norman adventurer that fought at Hastings. I shall hear, I guess,
that my property has been swept off to save from starving the hungry
banditti, whom they cannot support but by theft and robbery. My faithful
slave is murdered, and my goods are taken for a prey--and Wamba--where
is Wamba? Said not some one he had gone forth with Gurth?"
Oswald replied in the affirmative.
"Ay? why this is better and better! he is carried off too, the Saxon
fool, to serve the Norman lord. Fools are we all indeed that serve them,
and fitter subjects for their scorn and laughter, than if we were born
with but half our wits. But I will be avenged," he added, starting from
his chair in impatience at the supposed injury, and catching hold of his
boar-spear; "I will go with my complaint to the great council; I have
friends, I have followers--man to man will I appeal the Norman to the
lists; let him come in his plate and his mail, and all that can render
cowardice bold; I have sent such a javelin as this through a stronger
fence than three of their war shields!--Haply they think me old; but
they shall find, alone and childless as I am, the blood of Hereward is
in the veins of Cedric.--Ah, Wilfred, Wilfred!" he exclaimed in a lower
tone, "couldst thou have ruled thine unreasonable passion, thy father
had not been left in his age like the solitary oak that throws out
its shattered and unprotected branches against the full sweep of the
tempest!" The reflection seemed to conjure into sadness his irritated
feelings. Replacing his javelin, he resumed his seat, bent his looks
downward, and appeared to be absorbed in melancholy reflection.
From his musing, Cedric was suddenly awakened by the blast of a horn,
which was replied to by the clamorous yells and barking of all the dogs
in the hall, and some twenty or thirty which were quartered in other
parts of the building. It cost some exercise of the white truncheon,
well seconded by the exertions of the domestics, to silence this canine
"To the gate, knaves!" said the Saxon, hastily, as soon as the tumult
was so much appeased that the dependants could hear his voice. "See what
tidings that horn tells us of--to announce, I ween, some hership 
and robbery which has been done upon my lands."
Returning in less than three minutes, a warder announced "that the Prior
Aymer of Jorvaulx, and the good knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert, commander
of the valiant and venerable order of Knights Templars, with a small
retinue, requested hospitality and lodging for the night, being on
their way to a tournament which was to be held not far from
Ashby-de-la-Zouche, on the second day from the present."
"Aymer, the Prior Aymer? Brian de Bois-Guilbert?"--muttered Cedric;
"Normans both;--but Norman or Saxon, the hospitality of Rotherwood must
not be impeached; they are welcome, since they have chosen to halt--more
welcome would they have been to have ridden further on their way--But it
were unworthy to murmur for a night's lodging and a night's food; in
the quality of guests, at least, even Normans must suppress their
insolence.--Go, Hundebert," he added, to a sort of major-domo who stood
behind him with a white wand; "take six of the attendants, and introduce
the strangers to the guests' lodging. Look after their horses and mules,
and see their train lack nothing. Let them have change of vestments if
they require it, and fire, and water to wash, and wine and ale; and bid
the cooks add what they hastily can to our evening meal; and let it
be put on the board when those strangers are ready to share it. Say to
them, Hundebert, that Cedric would himself bid them welcome, but he is
under a vow never to step more than three steps from the dais of his own
hall to meet any who shares not the blood of Saxon royalty. Begone! see
them carefully tended; let them not say in their pride, the Saxon churl
has shown at once his poverty and his avarice."
The major-domo departed with several attendants, to execute his master's
"The Prior Aymer!" repeated Cedric, looking to Oswald, "the brother, if
I mistake not, of Giles de Mauleverer, now lord of Middleham?"
Oswald made a respectful sign of assent. "His brother sits in the
seat, and usurps the patrimony, of a better race, the race of Ulfgar of
Middleham; but what Norman lord doth not the same? This Prior is, they
say, a free and jovial priest, who loves the wine-cup and the bugle-horn
better than bell and book: Good; let him come, he shall be welcome. How
named ye the Templar?"
"Brian de Bois-Guilbert."
"Bois-Guilbert," said Cedric, still in the musing, half-arguing tone,
which the habit of living among dependants had accustomed him to employ,
and which resembled a man who talks to himself rather than to those
around him--"Bois-Guilbert? that name has been spread wide both for
good and evil. They say he is valiant as the bravest of his order;
but stained with their usual vices, pride, arrogance, cruelty, and
voluptuousness; a hard-hearted man, who knows neither fear of earth,
nor awe of heaven. So say the few warriors who have returned from
Palestine.--Well; it is but for one night; he shall be welcome
too.--Oswald, broach the oldest wine-cask; place the best mead, the
mightiest ale, the richest morat, the most sparkling cider, the most
odoriferous pigments, upon the board; fill the largest horns 
--Templars and Abbots love good wines and good measure.--Elgitha, let
thy Lady Rowena, know we shall not this night expect her in the hall,
unless such be her especial pleasure."
"But it will be her especial pleasure," answered Elgitha, with great
readiness, "for she is ever desirous to hear the latest news from
Cedric darted at the forward damsel a glance of hasty resentment; but
Rowena, and whatever belonged to her, were privileged and secure from
his anger. He only replied, "Silence, maiden; thy tongue outruns thy
discretion. Say my message to thy mistress, and let her do her pleasure.
Here, at least, the descendant of Alfred still reigns a princess."
Elgitha left the apartment.
"Palestine!" repeated the Saxon; "Palestine! how many ears are turned
to the tales which dissolute crusaders, or hypocritical pilgrims, bring
from that fatal land! I too might ask--I too might enquire--I too might
listen with a beating heart to fables which the wily strollers devise
to cheat us into hospitality--but no--The son who has disobeyed me is no
longer mine; nor will I concern myself more for his fate than for that
of the most worthless among the millions that ever shaped the cross on
their shoulder, rushed into excess and blood-guiltiness, and called it
an accomplishment of the will of God."
He knit his brows, and fixed his eyes for an instant on the ground; as
he raised them, the folding doors at the bottom of the hall were cast
wide, and, preceded by the major-domo with his wand, and four domestics
bearing blazing torches, the guests of the evening entered the
With sheep and shaggy goats the porkers bled,
And the proud steer was on the marble spread;
With fire prepared, they deal the morsels round,
Wine rosy bright the brimming goblets crown'd.
* * * * *
Disposed apart, Ulysses shares the treat;
A trivet table and ignobler seat,
The Prince assigns--
--Odyssey, Book XXI
The Prior Aymer had taken the opportunity afforded him, of changing his
riding robe for one of yet more costly materials, over which he wore
a cope curiously embroidered. Besides the massive golden signet ring,
which marked his ecclesiastical dignity, his fingers, though contrary
to the canon, were loaded with precious gems; his sandals were of the
finest leather which was imported from Spain; his beard trimmed to as
small dimensions as his order would possibly permit, and his shaven
crown concealed by a scarlet cap richly embroidered.
The appearance of the Knight Templar was also changed; and, though
less studiously bedecked with ornament, his dress was as rich, and
his appearance far more commanding, than that of his companion. He had
exchanged his shirt of mail for an under tunic of dark purple silk,
garnished with furs, over which flowed his long robe of spotless white,
in ample folds. The eight-pointed cross of his order was cut on the
shoulder of his mantle in black velvet. The high cap no longer invested
his brows, which were only shaded by short and thick curled hair of
a raven blackness, corresponding to his unusually swart complexion.
Nothing could be more gracefully majestic than his step and manner,
had they not been marked by a predominant air of haughtiness, easily
acquired by the exercise of unresisted authority.
These two dignified persons were followed by their respective
attendants, and at a more humble distance by their guide, whose figure
had nothing more remarkable than it derived from the usual weeds of a
pilgrim. A cloak or mantle of coarse black serge, enveloped his whole
body. It was in shape something like the cloak of a modern hussar,
having similar flaps for covering the arms, and was called a "Sclaveyn",
or "Sclavonian". Coarse sandals, bound with thongs, on his bare feet;
a broad and shadowy hat, with cockle-shells stitched on its brim, and
a long staff shod with iron, to the upper end of which was attached a
branch of palm, completed the palmer's attire. He followed modestly the
last of the train which entered the hall, and, observing that the lower
table scarce afforded room sufficient for the domestics of Cedric and
the retinue of his guests, he withdrew to a settle placed beside and
almost under one of the large chimneys, and seemed to employ himself in
drying his garments, until the retreat of some one should make room
at the board, or the hospitality of the steward should supply him with
refreshments in the place he had chosen apart.
Cedric rose to receive his guests with an air of dignified hospitality,
and, descending from the dais, or elevated part of his hall, made three
steps towards them, and then awaited their approach.
"I grieve," he said, "reverend Prior, that my vow binds me to advance
no farther upon this floor of my fathers, even to receive such guests
as you, and this valiant Knight of the Holy Temple. But my steward has
expounded to you the cause of my seeming discourtesy. Let me also pray,
that you will excuse my speaking to you in my native language, and that
you will reply in the same if your knowledge of it permits; if not, I
sufficiently understand Norman to follow your meaning."
"Vows," said the Abbot, "must be unloosed, worthy Franklin, or permit
me rather to say, worthy Thane, though the title is antiquated. Vows
are the knots which tie us to Heaven--they are the cords which bind
the sacrifice to the horns of the altar,--and are therefore,--as I said
before,--to be unloosened and discharged, unless our holy Mother Church
shall pronounce the contrary. And respecting language, I willingly
hold communication in that spoken by my respected grandmother, Hilda
of Middleham, who died in odour of sanctity, little short, if we may
presume to say so, of her glorious namesake, the blessed Saint Hilda of
Whitby, God be gracious to her soul!"
When the Prior had ceased what he meant as a conciliatory harangue,
his companion said briefly and emphatically, "I speak ever French,
the language of King Richard and his nobles; but I understand English
sufficiently to communicate with the natives of the country."
Cedric darted at the speaker one of those hasty and impatient glances,
which comparisons between the two rival nations seldom failed to call
forth; but, recollecting the duties of hospitality, he suppressed
further show of resentment, and, motioning with his hand, caused his
guests to assume two seats a little lower than his own, but placed close
beside him, and gave a signal that the evening meal should be placed
upon the board.
While the attendants hastened to obey Cedric's commands, his eye
distinguished Gurth the swineherd, who, with his companion Wamba, had
just entered the hall. "Send these loitering knaves up hither," said the
Saxon, impatiently. And when the culprits came before the dais,--"How
comes it, villains! that you have loitered abroad so late as this? Hast
thou brought home thy charge, sirrah Gurth, or hast thou left them to
robbers and marauders?"
"The herd is safe, so please ye," said Gurth.
"But it does not please me, thou knave," said Cedric, "that I should be
made to suppose otherwise for two hours, and sit here devising vengeance
against my neighbours for wrongs they have not done me. I tell thee,
shackles and the prison-house shall punish the next offence of this
Gurth, knowing his master's irritable temper, attempted no exculpation;
but the Jester, who could presume upon Cedric's tolerance, by virtue
of his privileges as a fool, replied for them both; "In troth, uncle
Cedric, you are neither wise nor reasonable to-night."
"'How, sir?" said his master; "you shall to the porter's lodge, and
taste of the discipline there, if you give your foolery such license."
"First let your wisdom tell me," said Wamba, "is it just and reasonable
to punish one person for the fault of another?"
"Certainly not, fool," answered Cedric.
"Then why should you shackle poor Gurth, uncle, for the fault of his dog
Fangs? for I dare be sworn we lost not a minute by the way, when we had
got our herd together, which Fangs did not manage until we heard the
"Then hang up Fangs," said Cedric, turning hastily towards the
swineherd, "if the fault is his, and get thee another dog."
"Under favour, uncle," said the Jester, "that were still somewhat on the
bow-hand of fair justice; for it was no fault of Fangs that he was lame
and could not gather the herd, but the fault of those that struck off
two of his fore-claws, an operation for which, if the poor fellow had
been consulted, he would scarce have given his voice."
"And who dared to lame an animal which belonged to my bondsman?" said
the Saxon, kindling in wrath.
"Marry, that did old Hubert," said Wamba, "Sir Philip de Malvoisin's
keeper of the chase. He caught Fangs strolling in the forest, and said
he chased the deer contrary to his master's right, as warden of the
"The foul fiend take Malvoisin," answered the Saxon, "and his keeper
both! I will teach them that the wood was disforested in terms of
the great Forest Charter. But enough of this. Go to, knave, go to thy
place--and thou, Gurth, get thee another dog, and should the keeper dare
to touch it, I will mar his archery; the curse of a coward on my head,
if I strike not off the forefinger of his right hand!--he shall draw
bowstring no more.--I crave your pardon, my worthy guests. I am beset
here with neighbours that match your infidels, Sir Knight, in Holy Land.
But your homely fare is before you; feed, and let welcome make amends
for hard fare."
The feast, however, which was spread upon the board, needed no apologies
from the lord of the mansion. Swine's flesh, dressed in several modes,
appeared on the lower part of the board, as also that of fowls, deer,
goats, and hares, and various kinds of fish, together with huge loaves
and cakes of bread, and sundry confections made of fruits and honey.
The smaller sorts of wild-fowl, of which there was abundance, were
not served up in platters, but brought in upon small wooden spits or
broaches, and offered by the pages and domestics who bore them, to each
guest in succession, who cut from them such a portion as he pleased.
Beside each person of rank was placed a goblet of silver; the lower
board was accommodated with large drinking horns.
When the repast was about to commence, the major-domo, or steward,
suddenly raising his wand, said aloud,--"Forbear!--Place for the Lady
A side-door at the upper end of the hall now opened behind the banquet
table, and Rowena, followed by four female attendants, entered the
apartment. Cedric, though surprised, and perhaps not altogether
agreeably so, at his ward appearing in public on this occasion, hastened
to meet her, and to conduct her, with respectful ceremony, to the
elevated seat at his own right hand, appropriated to the lady of the
mansion. All stood up to receive her; and, replying to their courtesy by
a mute gesture of salutation, she moved gracefully forward to assume her
place at the board. Ere she had time to do so, the Templar whispered to
the Prior, "I shall wear no collar of gold of yours at the tournament.
The Chian wine is your own."
"Said I not so?" answered the Prior; "but check your raptures, the
Franklin observes you."
Unheeding this remonstrance, and accustomed only to act upon the
immediate impulse of his own wishes, Brian de Bois-Guilbert kept
his eyes riveted on the Saxon beauty, more striking perhaps to his
imagination, because differing widely from those of the Eastern
Formed in the best proportions of her sex, Rowena was tall in stature,
yet not so much so as to attract observation on account of superior
height. Her complexion was exquisitely fair, but the noble cast of her
head and features prevented the insipidity which sometimes attaches
to fair beauties. Her clear blue eye, which sat enshrined beneath a
graceful eyebrow of brown sufficiently marked to give expression to the
forehead, seemed capable to kindle as well as melt, to command as well
as to beseech. If mildness were the more natural expression of such a
combination of features, it was plain, that in the present instance, the
exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception of general homage,
had given to the Saxon lady a loftier character, which mingled with and
qualified that bestowed by nature. Her profuse hair, of a colour betwixt
brown and flaxen, was arranged in a fanciful and graceful manner in
numerous ringlets, to form which art had probably aided nature. These
locks were braided with gems, and, being worn at full length, intimated
the noble birth and free-born condition of the maiden. A golden chain,
to which was attached a small reliquary of the same metal, hung round
her neck. She wore bracelets on her arms, which were bare. Her dress was
an under-gown and kirtle of pale sea-green silk, over which hung a long
loose robe, which reached to the ground, having very wide sleeves, which
came down, however, very little below the elbow. This robe was crimson,
and manufactured out of the very finest wool. A veil of silk, interwoven
with gold, was attached to the upper part of it, which could be, at
the wearer's pleasure, either drawn over the face and bosom after the
Spanish fashion, or disposed as a sort of drapery round the shoulders.
When Rowena perceived the Knight Templar's eyes bent on her with an
ardour, that, compared with the dark caverns under which they moved,
gave them the effect of lighted charcoal, she drew with dignity the veil
around her face, as an intimation that the determined freedom of his
glance was disagreeable. Cedric saw the motion and its cause. "Sir
Templar," said he, "the cheeks of our Saxon maidens have seen too little
of the sun to enable them to bear the fixed glance of a crusader."
"If I have offended," replied Sir Brian, "I crave your pardon,--that
is, I crave the Lady Rowena's pardon,--for my humility will carry me no
"The Lady Rowena," said the Prior, "has punished us all, in chastising
the boldness of my friend. Let me hope she will be less cruel to the
splendid train which are to meet at the tournament."
"Our going thither," said Cedric, "is uncertain. I love not these
vanities, which were unknown to my fathers when England was free."
"Let us hope, nevertheless," said the Prior, "our company may determine
you to travel thitherward; when the roads are so unsafe, the escort of
Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is not to be despised."
"Sir Prior," answered the Saxon, "wheresoever I have travelled in this
land, I have hitherto found myself, with the assistance of my good sword
and faithful followers, in no respect needful of other aid. At present,
if we indeed journey to Ashby-de-la-Zouche, we do so with my noble
neighbour and countryman Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and with such a
train as would set outlaws and feudal enemies at defiance.--I drink
to you, Sir Prior, in this cup of wine, which I trust your taste will
approve, and I thank you for your courtesy. Should you be so rigid
in adhering to monastic rule," he added, "as to prefer your acid
preparation of milk, I hope you will not strain courtesy to do me
"Nay," said the Priest, laughing, "it is only in our abbey that we
confine ourselves to the 'lac dulce' or the 'lac acidum' either.
Conversing with, the world, we use the world's fashions, and therefore
I answer your pledge in this honest wine, and leave the weaker liquor to
"And I," said the Templar, filling his goblet, "drink wassail to the
fair Rowena; for since her namesake introduced the word into England,
has never been one more worthy of such a tribute. By my faith, I could
pardon the unhappy Vortigern, had he half the cause that we now witness,
for making shipwreck of his honour and his kingdom."
"I will spare your courtesy, Sir Knight," said Rowena with dignity, and
without unveiling herself; "or rather I will tax it so far as to require
of you the latest news from Palestine, a theme more agreeable to our
English ears than the compliments which your French breeding teaches."
"I have little of importance to say, lady," answered Sir Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, "excepting the confirmed tidings of a truce with
He was interrupted by Wamba, who had taken his appropriated seat upon
a chair, the back of which was decorated with two ass's ears, and which
was placed about two steps behind that of his master, who, from time
to time, supplied him with victuals from his own trencher; a favour,
however, which the Jester shared with the favourite dogs, of whom, as we
have already noticed, there were several in attendance. Here sat Wamba,
with a small table before him, his heels tucked up against the bar of
the chair, his cheeks sucked up so as to make his jaws resemble a pair
of nut-crackers, and his eyes half-shut, yet watching with alertness
every opportunity to exercise his licensed foolery.
"These truces with the infidels," he exclaimed, without caring how
suddenly he interrupted the stately Templar, "make an old man of me!"
"Go to, knave, how so?" said Cedric, his features prepared to receive
favourably the expected jest.
"Because," answered Wamba, "I remember three of them in my day, each
of which was to endure for the course of fifty years; so that, by
computation, I must be at least a hundred and fifty years old."
"I will warrant you against dying of old age, however," said the
Templar, who now recognised his friend of the forest; "I will assure
you from all deaths but a violent one, if you give such directions to
wayfarers, as you did this night to the Prior and me."
"How, sirrah!" said Cedric, "misdirect travellers? We must have you
whipt; you are at least as much rogue as fool."
"I pray thee, uncle," answered the Jester, "let my folly, for once,
protect my roguery. I did but make a mistake between my right hand and
my left; and he might have pardoned a greater, who took a fool for his
counsellor and guide."
Conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the porter's
page, who announced that there was a stranger at the gate, imploring
admittance and hospitality.
"Admit him," said Cedric, "be he who or what he may;--a night like that
which roars without, compels even wild animals to herd with tame, and to
seek the protection of man, their mortal foe, rather than perish by
the elements. Let his wants be ministered to with all care--look to it,
And the steward left the banqueting hall to see the commands of his
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with
the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the
same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is?
--Merchant of Venice
Oswald, returning, whispered into the ear of his master, "It is a Jew,
who calls himself Isaac of York; is it fit I should marshall him into
"Let Gurth do thine office, Oswald," said Wamba with his usual
effrontery; "the swineherd will be a fit usher to the Jew."
"St Mary," said the Abbot, crossing himself, "an unbelieving Jew, and
admitted into this presence!"
"A dog Jew," echoed the Templar, "to approach a defender of the Holy
"By my faith," said Wamba, "it would seem the Templars love the Jews'
inheritance better than they do their company."
"Peace, my worthy guests," said Cedric; "my hospitality must not be
bounded by your dislikes. If Heaven bore with the whole nation of
stiff-necked unbelievers for more years than a layman can number, we may
endure the presence of one Jew for a few hours. But I constrain no man
to converse or to feed with him.--Let him have a board and a morsel
apart,--unless," he said smiling, "these turban'd strangers will admit
"Sir Franklin," answered the Templar, "my Saracen slaves are true
Moslems, and scorn as much as any Christian to hold intercourse with a
"Now, in faith," said Wamba, "I cannot see that the worshippers of
Mahound and Termagaunt have so greatly the advantage over the people
once chosen of Heaven."
"He shall sit with thee, Wamba," said Cedric; "the fool and the knave
will be well met."
"The fool," answered Wamba, raising the relics of a gammon of bacon,
"will take care to erect a bulwark against the knave."
"Hush," said Cedric, "for here he comes."
Introduced with little ceremony, and advancing with fear and hesitation,
and many a bow of deep humility, a tall thin old man, who, however, had
lost by the habit of stooping much of his actual height, approached the
lower end of the board. His features, keen and regular, with an aquiline
nose, and piercing black eyes; his high and wrinkled forehead, and long
grey hair and beard, would have been considered as handsome, had they
not been the marks of a physiognomy peculiar to a race, which, during
those dark ages, was alike detested by the credulous and prejudiced
vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious nobility, and who,
perhaps, owing to that very hatred and persecution, had adopted a
national character, in which there was much, to say the least, mean and
The Jew's dress, which appeared to have suffered considerably from the
storm, was a plain russet cloak of many folds, covering a dark purple
tunic. He had large boots lined with fur, and a belt around his
waist, which sustained a small knife, together with a case for writing
materials, but no weapon. He wore a high square yellow cap of a peculiar
fashion, assigned to his nation to distinguish them from Christians, and
which he doffed with great humility at the door of the hall.
The reception of this person in the hall of Cedric the Saxon, was such
as might have satisfied the most prejudiced enemy of the tribes of
Israel. Cedric himself coldly nodded in answer to the Jew's repeated
salutations, and signed to him to take place at the lower end of the
table, where, however, no one offered to make room for him. On the
contrary, as he passed along the file, casting a timid supplicating
glance, and turning towards each of those who occupied the lower end of
the board, the Saxon domestics squared their shoulders, and continued
to devour their supper with great perseverance, paying not the least
attention to the wants of the new guest. The attendants of the Abbot
crossed themselves, with looks of pious horror, and the very heathen
Saracens, as Isaac drew near them, curled up their whiskers with
indignation, and laid their hands on their poniards, as if ready to
rid themselves by the most desperate means from the apprehended
contamination of his nearer approach.
Probably the same motives which induced Cedric to open his hall to this
son of a rejected people, would have made him insist on his attendants
receiving Isaac with more courtesy. But the Abbot had, at this moment,
engaged him in a most interesting discussion on the breed and character
of his favourite hounds, which he would not have interrupted for matters
of much greater importance than that of a Jew going to bed supperless.
While Isaac thus stood an outcast in the present society, like his
people among the nations, looking in vain for welcome or resting
place, the pilgrim who sat by the chimney took compassion upon him, and
resigned his seat, saying briefly, "Old man, my garments are dried,
my hunger is appeased, thou art both wet and fasting." So saying, he
gathered together, and brought to a flame, the decaying brands which
lay scattered on the ample hearth; took from the larger board a mess of
pottage and seethed kid, placed it upon the small table at which he had
himself supped, and, without waiting the Jew's thanks, went to the
other side of the hall;--whether from unwillingness to hold more close
communication with the object of his benevolence, or from a wish to draw
near to the upper end of the table, seemed uncertain.
Had there been painters in those days capable to execute such a subject,
the Jew, as he bent his withered form, and expanded his chilled and
trembling hands over the fire, would have formed no bad emblematical
personification of the Winter season. Having dispelled the cold, he
turned eagerly to the smoking mess which was placed before him, and
ate with a haste and an apparent relish, that seemed to betoken long
abstinence from food.
Meanwhile the Abbot and Cedric continued their discourse upon hunting;
the Lady Rowena seemed engaged in conversation with one of her attendant
females; and the haughty Templar, whose eye wandered from the Jew to
the Saxon beauty, revolved in his mind thoughts which appeared deeply to
"I marvel, worthy Cedric," said the Abbot, as their discourse proceeded,
"that, great as your predilection is for your own manly language, you do
not receive the Norman-French into your favour, so far at least as the
mystery of wood-craft and hunting is concerned. Surely no tongue is so
rich in the various phrases which the field-sports demand, or furnishes
means to the experienced woodman so well to express his jovial art."
"Good Father Aymer," said the Saxon, "be it known to you, I care not
for those over-sea refinements, without which I can well enough take my
pleasure in the woods. I can wind my horn, though I call not the blast
either a 'recheate' or a 'morte'--I can cheer my dogs on the prey, and
I can flay and quarter the animal when it is brought down, without using
the newfangled jargon of 'curee, arbor, nombles', and all the babble of
the fabulous Sir Tristrem." 
"The French," said the Templar, raising his voice with the presumptuous
and authoritative tone which he used upon all occasions, "is not only
the natural language of the chase, but that of love and of war, in which
ladies should be won and enemies defied."
"Pledge me in a cup of wine, Sir Templar," said Cedric, "and fill
another to the Abbot, while I look back some thirty years to tell you
another tale. As Cedric the Saxon then was, his plain English tale
needed no garnish from French troubadours, when it was told in the ear
of beauty; and the field of Northallerton, upon the day of the Holy
Standard, could tell whether the Saxon war-cry was not heard as far
within the ranks of the Scottish host as the 'cri de guerre' of
the boldest Norman baron. To the memory of the brave who fought
there!--Pledge me, my guests." He drank deep, and went on with
increasing warmth. "Ay, that was a day of cleaving of shields, when a
hundred banners were bent forwards over the heads of the valiant, and
blood flowed round like water, and death was held better than flight.
A Saxon bard had called it a feast of the swords--a gathering of the
eagles to the prey--the clashing of bills upon shield and helmet, the
shouting of battle more joyful than the clamour of a bridal. But our
bards are no more," he said; "our deeds are lost in those of another
race--our language--our very name--is hastening to decay, and none
mourns for it save one solitary old man--Cupbearer! knave, fill the
goblets--To the strong in arms, Sir Templar, be their race or language
what it will, who now bear them best in Palestine among the champions of
"It becomes not one wearing this badge to answer," said Sir Brian de
Bois-Guilbert; "yet to whom, besides the sworn Champions of the Holy
Sepulchre, can the palm be assigned among the champions of the Cross?"
"To the Knights Hospitallers," said the Abbot; "I have a brother of
"I impeach not their fame," said the Templar; "nevertheless---"
"I think, friend Cedric," said Wamba, interfering, "that had Richard
of the Lion's Heart been wise enough to have taken a fool's advice,
he might have staid at home with his merry Englishmen, and left the
recovery of Jerusalem to those same Knights who had most to do with the
loss of it."
"Were there, then, none in the English army," said the Lady Rowena,
"whose names are worthy to be mentioned with the Knights of the Temple,
and of St John?"
"Forgive me, lady," replied De Bois-Guilbert; "the English monarch did,
indeed, bring to Palestine a host of gallant warriors, second only to
those whose breasts have been the unceasing bulwark of that blessed
"Second to NONE," said the Pilgrim, who had stood near enough to hear,
and had listened to this conversation with marked impatience. All turned
toward the spot from whence this unexpected asseveration was heard.
"I say," repeated the Pilgrim in a firm and strong voice, "that the
English chivalry were second to NONE who ever drew sword in defence of
the Holy Land. I say besides, for I saw it, that King Richard himself,
and five of his knights, held a tournament after the taking of St
John-de-Acre, as challengers against all comers. I say that, on that
day, each knight ran three courses, and cast to the ground three
antagonists. I add, that seven of these assailants were Knights of the
Temple--and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert well knows the truth of what I
It is impossible for language to describe the bitter scowl of rage
which rendered yet darker the swarthy countenance of the Templar. In the
extremity of his resentment and confusion, his quivering fingers griped
towards the handle of his sword, and perhaps only withdrew, from the
consciousness that no act of violence could be safely executed in that
place and presence. Cedric, whose feelings were all of a right onward
and simple kind, and were seldom occupied by more than one object at
once, omitted, in the joyous glee with which he heard of the glory of
his countrymen, to remark the angry confusion of his guest; "I would
give thee this golden bracelet, Pilgrim," he said, "couldst thou tell me
the names of those knights who upheld so gallantly the renown of merry
"That will I do blithely," replied the Pilgrim, "and without guerdon; my
oath, for a time, prohibits me from touching gold."
"I will wear the bracelet for you, if you will, friend Palmer," said
"The first in honour as in arms, in renown as in place," said the
Pilgrim, "was the brave Richard, King of England."
"I forgive him," said Cedric; "I forgive him his descent from the tyrant
"The Earl of Leicester was the second," continued the Pilgrim; "Sir
Thomas Multon of Gilsland was the third."
"Of Saxon descent, he at least," said Cedric, with exultation.
"Sir Foulk Doilly the fourth," proceeded the Pilgrim.
"Saxon also, at least by the mother's side," continued Cedric, who
listened with the utmost eagerness, and forgot, in part at least, his
hatred to the Normans, in the common triumph of the King of England and
his islanders. "And who was the fifth?" he demanded.
"The fifth was Sir Edwin Turneham."
"Genuine Saxon, by the soul of Hengist!" shouted Cedric--"And the
sixth?" he continued with eagerness--"how name you the sixth?"
"The sixth," said the Palmer, after a pause, in which he seemed to
recollect himself, "was a young knight of lesser renown and lower rank,
assumed into that honourable company, less to aid their enterprise than
to make up their number--his name dwells not in my memory."
"Sir Palmer," said Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert scornfully, "this assumed
forgetfulness, after so much has been remembered, comes too late to
serve your purpose. I will myself tell the name of the knight before
whose lance fortune and my horse's fault occasioned my falling--it was
the Knight of Ivanhoe; nor was there one of the six that, for his years,
had more renown in arms.--Yet this will I say, and loudly--that were he
in England, and durst repeat, in this week's tournament, the challenge
of St John-de-Acre, I, mounted and armed as I now am, would give him
every advantage of weapons, and abide the result."
"Your challenge would soon be answered," replied the Palmer, "were your
antagonist near you. As the matter is, disturb not the peaceful hall
with vaunts of the issue of the conflict, which you well know cannot
take place. If Ivanhoe ever returns from Palestine, I will be his surety
that he meets you."
"A goodly security!" said the Knight Templar; "and what do you proffer
as a pledge?"
"This reliquary," said the Palmer, taking a small ivory box from his
bosom, and crossing himself, "containing a portion of the true cross,
brought from the Monastery of Mount Carmel."
The Prior of Jorvaulx crossed himself and repeated a pater noster, in
which all devoutly joined, excepting the Jew, the Mahomedans, and the
Templar; the latter of whom, without vailing his bonnet, or testifying
any reverence for the alleged sanctity of the relic, took from his neck
a gold chain, which he flung on the board, saying--"Let Prior Aymer
hold my pledge and that of this nameless vagrant, in token that when the
Knight of Ivanhoe comes within the four seas of Britain, he underlies
the challenge of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, which, if he answer not, I will
proclaim him as a coward on the walls of every Temple Court in Europe."
"It will not need," said the Lady Rowena, breaking silence; "My voice
shall be heard, if no other in this hall is raised in behalf of the
absent Ivanhoe. I affirm he will meet fairly every honourable challenge.
Could my weak warrant add security to the inestimable pledge of this
holy pilgrim, I would pledge name and fame that Ivanhoe gives this proud
knight the meeting he desires."
A crowd of conflicting emotions seemed to have occupied Cedric, and
kept him silent during this discussion. Gratified pride, resentment,
embarrassment, chased each other over his broad and open brow, like the
shadow of clouds drifting over a harvest-field; while his attendants,
on whom the name of the sixth knight seemed to produce an effect almost
electrical, hung in suspense upon their master's looks. But when Rowena
spoke, the sound of her voice seemed to startle him from his silence.
"Lady," said Cedric, "this beseems not; were further pledge necessary, I
myself, offended, and justly offended, as I am, would yet gage my honour
for the honour of Ivanhoe. But the wager of battle is complete, even
according to the fantastic fashions of Norman chivalry--Is it not,
"It is," replied the Prior; "and the blessed relic and rich chain will I
bestow safely in the treasury of our convent, until the decision of this
Having thus spoken, he crossed himself again and again, and after
many genuflections and muttered prayers, he delivered the reliquary to
Brother Ambrose, his attendant monk, while he himself swept up with less
ceremony, but perhaps with no less internal satisfaction, the golden
chain, and bestowed it in a pouch lined with perfumed leather, which
opened under his arm. "And now, Sir Cedric," he said, "my ears are
chiming vespers with the strength of your good wine--permit us another
pledge to the welfare of the Lady Rowena, and indulge us with liberty to
pass to our repose."
"By the rood of Bromholme," said the Saxon, "you do but small credit to
your fame, Sir Prior! Report speaks you a bonny monk, that would hear
the matin chime ere he quitted his bowl; and, old as I am, I feared to
have shame in encountering you. But, by my faith, a Saxon boy of twelve,
in my time, would not so soon have relinquished his goblet."
The Prior had his own reasons, however, for persevering in the course
of temperance which he had adopted. He was not only a professional
peacemaker, but from practice a hater of all feuds and brawls. It was
not altogether from a love to his neighbour, or to himself, or from
a mixture of both. On the present occasion, he had an instinctive
apprehension of the fiery temper of the Saxon, and saw the danger that
the reckless and presumptuous spirit, of which his companion had
already given so many proofs, might at length produce some disagreeable
explosion. He therefore gently insinuated the incapacity of the native
of any other country to engage in the genial conflict of the bowl
with the hardy and strong-headed Saxons; something he mentioned, but
slightly, about his own holy character, and ended by pressing his
proposal to depart to repose.
The grace-cup was accordingly served round, and the guests, after making
deep obeisance to their landlord and to the Lady Rowena, arose and
mingled in the hall, while the heads of the family, by separate doors,
retired with their attendants.
"Unbelieving dog," said the Templar to Isaac the Jew, as he passed him
in the throng, "dost thou bend thy course to the tournament?"
"I do so propose," replied Isaac, bowing in all humility, "if it please
your reverend valour."
"Ay," said the Knight, "to gnaw the bowels of our nobles with usury,
and to gull women and boys with gauds and toys--I warrant thee store of
shekels in thy Jewish scrip."
"Not a shekel, not a silver penny, not a halfling--so help me the God
of Abraham!" said the Jew, clasping his hands; "I go but to seek the
assistance of some brethren of my tribe to aid me to pay the fine which
the Exchequer of the Jews have imposed upon me--Father Jacob be my
speed! I am an impoverished wretch--the very gaberdine I wear is
borrowed from Reuben of Tadcaster." 
The Templar smiled sourly as he replied, "Beshrew thee for a
false-hearted liar!" and passing onward, as if disdaining farther
conference, he communed with his Moslem slaves in a language unknown to
the bystanders. The poor Israelite seemed so staggered by the address
of the military monk, that the Templar had passed on to the extremity
of the hall ere he raised his head from the humble posture which he had
assumed, so far as to be sensible of his departure. And when he did
look around, it was with the astonished air of one at whose feet a
thunderbolt has just burst, and who hears still the astounding report
ringing in his ears.
The Templar and Prior were shortly after marshalled to their sleeping
apartments by the steward and the cupbearer, each attended by two
torchbearers and two servants carrying refreshments, while servants of
inferior condition indicated to their retinue and to the other guests
their respective places of repose.
To buy his favour I extend this friendship:
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.
--Merchant of Venice
As the Palmer, lighted by a domestic with a torch, passed through the
intricate combination of apartments of this large and irregular mansion,
the cupbearer coming behind him whispered in his ear, that if he had
no objection to a cup of good mead in his apartment, there were many
domestics in that family who would gladly hear the news he had brought
from the Holy Land, and particularly that which concerned the Knight of
Ivanhoe. Wamba presently appeared to urge the same request, observing
that a cup after midnight was worth three after curfew. Without
disputing a maxim urged by such grave authority, the Palmer thanked them
for their courtesy, but observed that he had included in his religious
vow, an obligation never to speak in the kitchen on matters which were
prohibited in the hall. "That vow," said Wamba to the cupbearer, "would
scarce suit a serving-man."
The cupbearer shrugged up his shoulders in displeasure. "I thought to
have lodged him in the solere chamber," said he; "but since he is so
unsocial to Christians, e'en let him take the next stall to Isaac the
Jew's.--Anwold," said he to the torchbearer, "carry the Pilgrim to the
southern cell.--I give you good-night," he added, "Sir Palmer, with
small thanks for short courtesy."
"Good-night, and Our Lady's benison," said the Palmer, with composure;
and his guide moved forward.
In a small antechamber, into which several doors opened, and which was
lighted by a small iron lamp, they met a second interruption from the
waiting-maid of Rowena, who, saying in a tone of authority, that her
mistress desired to speak with the Palmer, took the torch from the hand
of Anwold, and, bidding him await her return, made a sign to the
Palmer to follow. Apparently he did not think it proper to decline this
invitation as he had done the former; for, though his gesture
indicated some surprise at the summons, he obeyed it without answer or
A short passage, and an ascent of seven steps, each of which was
composed of a solid beam of oak, led him to the apartment of the Lady
Rowena, the rude magnificence of which corresponded to the respect which
was paid to her by the lord of the mansion. The walls were covered with
embroidered hangings, on which different-coloured silks, interwoven with
gold and silver threads, had been employed with all the art of which the
age was capable, to represent the sports of hunting and hawking. The bed
was adorned with the same rich tapestry, and surrounded with curtains
dyed with purple. The seats had also their stained coverings, and one,
which was higher than the rest, was accommodated with a footstool of
ivory, curiously carved.
No fewer than four silver candelabras, holding great waxen torches,
served to illuminate this apartment. Yet let not modern beauty envy the
magnificence of a Saxon princess. The walls of the apartment were so ill
finished and so full of crevices, that the rich hangings shook in the
night blast, and, in despite of a sort of screen intended to protect
them from the wind, the flame of the torches streamed sideways into the
air, like the unfurled pennon of a chieftain. Magnificence there was,
with some rude attempt at taste; but of comfort there was little, and,
being unknown, it was unmissed.
The Lady Rowena, with three of her attendants standing at her back, and
arranging her hair ere she lay down to rest, was seated in the sort of
throne already mentioned, and looked as if born to exact general homage.
The Pilgrim acknowledged her claim to it by a low genuflection.
"Rise, Palmer," said she graciously. "The defender of the absent has
a right to favourable reception from all who value truth, and honour
manhood." She then said to her train, "Retire, excepting only Elgitha; I
would speak with this holy Pilgrim."
The maidens, without leaving the apartment, retired to its further
extremity, and sat down on a small bench against the wall, where they
remained mute as statues, though at such a distance that their whispers
could not have interrupted the conversation of their mistress.
"Pilgrim," said the lady, after a moment's pause, during which she
seemed uncertain how to address him, "you this night mentioned a name--I
mean," she said, with a degree of effort, "the name of Ivanhoe, in
the halls where by nature and kindred it should have sounded most
acceptably; and yet, such is the perverse course of fate, that of many
whose hearts must have throbbed at the sound, I, only, dare ask you
where, and in what condition, you left him of whom you spoke?--We heard,
that, having remained in Palestine, on account of his impaired health,
after the departure of the English army, he had experienced the
persecution of the French faction, to whom the Templars are known to be
"I know little of the Knight of Ivanhoe," answered the Palmer, with
a troubled voice. "I would I knew him better, since you, lady, are
interested in his fate. He hath, I believe, surmounted the persecution
of his enemies in Palestine, and is on the eve of returning to England,
where you, lady, must know better than I, what is his chance of
The Lady Rowena sighed deeply, and asked more particularly when the
Knight of Ivanhoe might be expected in his native country, and whether
he would not be exposed to great dangers by the road. On the first
point, the Palmer professed ignorance; on the second, he said that the
voyage might be safely made by the way of Venice and Genoa, and from
thence through France to England. "Ivanhoe," he said, "was so well
acquainted with the language and manners of the French, that there was
no fear of his incurring any hazard during that part of his travels."
"Would to God," said the Lady Rowena, "he were here safely arrived, and
able to bear arms in the approaching tourney, in which the chivalry
of this land are expected to display their address and valour. Should
Athelstane of Coningsburgh obtain the prize, Ivanhoe is like to hear
evil tidings when he reaches England.--How looked he, stranger, when
you last saw him? Had disease laid her hand heavy upon his strength and
"He was darker," said the Palmer, "and thinner, than when he came from
Cyprus in the train of Coeur-de-Lion, and care seemed to sit heavy on
his brow; but I approached not his presence, because he is unknown to
"He will," said the lady, "I fear, find little in his native land to
clear those clouds from his countenance. Thanks, good Pilgrim, for your
information concerning the companion of my childhood.--Maidens," she
said, "draw near--offer the sleeping cup to this holy man, whom I will
no longer detain from repose."
One of the maidens presented a silver cup, containing a rich mixture of
wine and spice, which Rowena barely put to her lips. It was then offered
to the Palmer, who, after a low obeisance, tasted a few drops.
"Accept this alms, friend," continued the lady, offering a piece of
gold, "in acknowledgment of thy painful travail, and of the shrines thou
The Palmer received the boon with another low reverence, and followed
Edwina out of the apartment.
In the anteroom he found his attendant Anwold, who, taking the torch
from the hand of the waiting-maid, conducted him with more haste than
ceremony to an exterior and ignoble part of the building, where a number
of small apartments, or rather cells, served for sleeping places to the
lower order of domestics, and to strangers of mean degree.
"In which of these sleeps the Jew?" said the Pilgrim.
"The unbelieving dog," answered Anwold, "kennels in the cell next your
holiness.--St Dunstan, how it must be scraped and cleansed ere it be
again fit for a Christian!"
"And where sleeps Gurth the swineherd?" said the stranger.
"Gurth," replied the bondsman, "sleeps in the cell on your right, as the
Jew on that to your left; you serve to keep the child of circumcision
separate from the abomination of his tribe. You might have occupied a
more honourable place had you accepted of Oswald's invitation."
"It is as well as it is," said the Palmer; "the company, even of a Jew,
can hardly spread contamination through an oaken partition."
So saying, he entered the cabin allotted to him, and taking the torch
from the domestic's hand, thanked him, and wished him good-night. Having
shut the door of his cell, he placed the torch in a candlestick made of
wood, and looked around his sleeping apartment, the furniture of which
was of the most simple kind. It consisted of a rude wooden stool,
and still ruder hutch or bed-frame, stuffed with clean straw, and
accommodated with two or three sheepskins by way of bed-clothes.
The Palmer, having extinguished his torch, threw himself, without taking
off any part of his clothes, on this rude couch, and slept, or at least
retained his recumbent posture, till the earliest sunbeams found their
way through the little grated window, which served at once to admit both
air and light to his uncomfortable cell. He then started up, and after
repeating his matins, and adjusting his dress, he left it, and entered
that of Isaac the Jew, lifting the latch as gently as he could.
The inmate was lying in troubled slumber upon a couch similar to that on
which the Palmer himself had passed the night. Such parts of his dress
as the Jew had laid aside on the preceding evening, were disposed
carefully around his person, as if to prevent the hazard of their
being carried off during his slumbers. There was a trouble on his brow
amounting almost to agony. His hands and arms moved convulsively, as
if struggling with the nightmare; and besides several ejaculations in
Hebrew, the following were distinctly heard in the Norman-English, or
mixed language of the country: "For the sake of the God of Abraham,
spare an unhappy old man! I am poor, I am penniless--should your irons
wrench my limbs asunder, I could not gratify you!"
The Palmer awaited not the end of the Jew's vision, but stirred him with
his pilgrim's staff. The touch probably associated, as is usual, with
some of the apprehensions excited by his dream; for the old man started
up, his grey hair standing almost erect upon his head, and huddling some
part of his garments about him, while he held the detached pieces with
the tenacious grasp of a falcon, he fixed upon the Palmer his keen black
eyes, expressive of wild surprise and of bodily apprehension.
"Fear nothing from me, Isaac," said the Palmer, "I come as your friend."
"The God of Israel requite you," said the Jew, greatly relieved; "I
dreamed--But Father Abraham be praised, it was but a dream." Then,
collecting himself, he added in his usual tone, "And what may it be your
pleasure to want at so early an hour with the poor Jew?"
"It is to tell you," said the Palmer, "that if you leave not this
mansion instantly, and travel not with some haste, your journey may
prove a dangerous one."
"Holy father!" said the Jew, "whom could it interest to endanger so poor
a wretch as I am?"
"The purpose you can best guess," said the Pilgrim; "but rely on this,
that when the Templar crossed the hall yesternight, he spoke to his
Mussulman slaves in the Saracen language, which I well understand, and
charged them this morning to watch the journey of the Jew, to seize upon
him when at a convenient distance from the mansion, and to conduct
him to the castle of Philip de Malvoisin, or to that of Reginald
It is impossible to describe the extremity of terror which seized upon
the Jew at this information, and seemed at once to overpower his whole
faculties. His arms fell down to his sides, and his head drooped on his
breast, his knees bent under his weight, every nerve and muscle of his
frame seemed to collapse and lose its energy, and he sunk at the foot of
the Palmer, not in the fashion of one who intentionally stoops, kneels,
or prostrates himself to excite compassion, but like a man borne down on
all sides by the pressure of some invisible force, which crushes him to
the earth without the power of resistance.
"Holy God of Abraham!" was his first exclamation, folding and elevating
his wrinkled hands, but without raising his grey head from the pavement;
"Oh, holy Moses! O, blessed Aaron! the dream is not dreamed for nought,
and the vision cometh not in vain! I feel their irons already tear my
sinews! I feel the rack pass over my body like the saws, and harrows,
and axes of iron over the men of Rabbah, and of the cities of the
children of Ammon!"
"Stand up, Isaac, and hearken to me," said the Palmer, who viewed
the extremity of his distress with a compassion in which contempt was
largely mingled; "you have cause for your terror, considering how your
brethren have been used, in order to extort from them their hoards, both
by princes and nobles; but stand up, I say, and I will point out to you
the means of escape. Leave this mansion instantly, while its inmates
sleep sound after the last night's revel. I will guide you by the secret
paths of the forest, known as well to me as to any forester that ranges
it, and I will not leave you till you are under safe conduct of some
chief or baron going to the tournament, whose good-will you have
probably the means of securing."
As the ears of Isaac received the hopes of escape which this speech
intimated, he began gradually, and inch by inch, as it were, to raise
himself up from the ground, until he fairly rested upon his knees,
throwing back his long grey hair and beard, and fixing his keen black
eyes upon the Palmer's face, with a look expressive at once of hope and
fear, not unmingled with suspicion. But when he heard the concluding
part of the sentence, his original terror appeared to revive in full
force, and he dropt once more on his face, exclaiming, "'I' possess the
means of securing good-will! alas! there is but one road to the favour
of a Christian, and how can the poor Jew find it, whom extortions have
already reduced to the misery of Lazarus?" Then, as if suspicion had
overpowered his other feelings, he suddenly exclaimed, "For the love of
God, young man, betray me not--for the sake of the Great Father who
made us all, Jew as well as Gentile, Israelite and Ishmaelite--do me no
treason! I have not means to secure the good-will of a Christian beggar,
were he rating it at a single penny." As he spoke these last words, he
raised himself, and grasped the Palmer's mantle with a look of the
most earnest entreaty. The pilgrim extricated himself, as if there were
contamination in the touch.
"Wert thou loaded with all the wealth of thy tribe," he said, "what
interest have I to injure thee?--In this dress I am vowed to poverty,
nor do I change it for aught save a horse and a coat of mail. Yet think
not that I care for thy company, or propose myself advantage by it;
remain here if thou wilt--Cedric the Saxon may protect thee."
"Alas!" said the Jew, "he will not let me travel in his train--Saxon or
Norman will be equally ashamed of the poor Israelite; and to travel
by myself through the domains of Philip de Malvoisin and Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf--Good youth, I will go with you!--Let us haste--let
us gird up our loins--let us flee!--Here is thy staff, why wilt thou
"I tarry not," said the Pilgrim, giving way to the urgency of his
companion; "but I must secure the means of leaving this place--follow
He led the way to the adjoining cell, which, as the reader is apprised,
was occupied by Gurth the swineherd.--"Arise, Gurth," said the Pilgrim,
"arise quickly. Undo the postern gate, and let out the Jew and me."
Gurth, whose occupation, though now held so mean, gave him as much
consequence in Saxon England as that of Eumaeus in Ithaca, was offended
at the familiar and commanding tone assumed by the Palmer. "The Jew
leaving Rotherwood," said he, raising himself on his elbow, and looking
superciliously at him without quitting his pallet, "and travelling in
company with the Palmer to boot--"
"I should as soon have dreamt," said Wamba, who entered the apartment at
the instant, "of his stealing away with a gammon of bacon."
"Nevertheless," said Gurth, again laying down his head on the wooden log
which served him for a pillow, "both Jew and Gentile must be content to
abide the opening of the great gate--we suffer no visitors to depart by
stealth at these unseasonable hours."
"Nevertheless," said the Pilgrim, in a commanding tone, "you will not, I
think, refuse me that favour."
So saying, he stooped over the bed of the recumbent swineherd, and
whispered something in his ear in Saxon. Gurth started up as if
electrified. The Pilgrim, raising his finger in an attitude as if to
express caution, added, "Gurth, beware--thou are wont to be prudent. I
say, undo the postern--thou shalt know more anon."
With hasty alacrity Gurth obeyed him, while Wamba and the Jew followed,
both wondering at the sudden change in the swineherd's demeanour. "My
mule, my mule!" said the Jew, as soon as they stood without the postern.
"Fetch him his mule," said the Pilgrim; "and, hearest thou,--let me have
another, that I may bear him company till he is beyond these parts--I
will return it safely to some of Cedric's train at Ashby. And do
thou"--he whispered the rest in Gurth's ear.
"Willingly, most willingly shall it be done," said Gurth, and instantly
departed to execute the commission.
"I wish I knew," said Wamba, when his comrade's back was turned, "what
you Palmers learn in the Holy Land."
"To say our orisons, fool," answered the Pilgrim, "to repent our sins,
and to mortify ourselves with fastings, vigils, and long prayers."
"Something more potent than that," answered the Jester; "for when would
repentance or prayer make Gurth do a courtesy, or fasting or vigil
persuade him to lend you a mule?--I trow you might as well have told his
favourite black boar of thy vigils and penance, and wouldst have gotten
as civil an answer."
"Go to," said the Pilgrim, "thou art but a Saxon fool."
"Thou sayst well," said the Jester; "had I been born a Norman, as I
think thou art, I would have had luck on my side, and been next door to
a wise man."
At this moment Gurth appeared on the opposite side of the moat with the
mules. The travellers crossed the ditch upon a drawbridge of only two
planks breadth, the narrowness of which was matched with the straitness
of the postern, and with a little wicket in the exterior palisade, which
gave access to the forest. No sooner had they reached the mules, than
the Jew, with hasty and trembling hands, secured behind the saddle
a small bag of blue buckram, which he took from under his cloak,
containing, as he muttered, "a change of raiment--only a change of
raiment." Then getting upon the animal with more alacrity and haste
than could have been anticipated from his years, he lost no time in so
disposing of the skirts of his gabardine as to conceal completely from
observation the burden which he had thus deposited "en croupe".
The Pilgrim mounted with more deliberation, reaching, as he departed,
his hand to Gurth, who kissed it with the utmost possible veneration.
The swineherd stood gazing after the travellers until they were lost
under the boughs of the forest path, when he was disturbed from his
reverie by the voice of Wamba.
"Knowest thou," said the Jester, "my good friend Gurth, that thou art
strangely courteous and most unwontedly pious on this summer morning? I
would I were a black Prior or a barefoot Palmer, to avail myself of thy
unwonted zeal and courtesy--certes, I would make more out of it than a
kiss of the hand."
"Thou art no fool thus far, Wamba," answered Gurth, "though thou arguest
from appearances, and the wisest of us can do no more--But it is time to
look after my charge."
So saying, he turned back to the mansion, attended by the Jester.
Meanwhile the travellers continued to press on their journey with a
dispatch which argued the extremity of the Jew's fears, since persons at
his age are seldom fond of rapid motion. The Palmer, to whom every path
and outlet in the wood appeared to be familiar, led the way through the
most devious paths, and more than once excited anew the suspicion of
the Israelite, that he intended to betray him into some ambuscade of his
His doubts might have been indeed pardoned; for, except perhaps the
flying fish, there was no race existing on the earth, in the air, or
the waters, who were the object of such an unintermitting, general, and
relentless persecution as the Jews of this period. Upon the slightest
and most unreasonable pretences, as well as upon accusations the most
absurd and groundless, their persons and property were exposed to every
turn of popular fury; for Norman, Saxon, Dane, and Briton, however
adverse these races were to each other, contended which should look with
greatest detestation upon a people, whom it was accounted a point of
religion to hate, to revile, to despise, to plunder, and to persecute.
The kings of the Norman race, and the independent nobles, who followed
their example in all acts of tyranny, maintained against this devoted
people a persecution of a more regular, calculated, and self-interested
kind. It is a well-known story of King John, that he confined a wealthy
Jew in one of the royal castles, and daily caused one of his teeth to
be torn out, until, when the jaw of the unhappy Israelite was half
disfurnished, he consented to pay a large sum, which it was the tyrant's
object to extort from him. The little ready money which was in the
country was chiefly in possession of this persecuted people, and the
nobility hesitated not to follow the example of their sovereign, in
wringing it from them by every species of oppression, and even personal
torture. Yet the passive courage inspired by the love of gain, induced
the Jews to dare the various evils to which they were subjected, in
consideration of the immense profits which they were enabled to realize
in a country naturally so wealthy as England. In spite of every kind
of discouragement, and even of the special court of taxations already
mentioned, called the Jews' Exchequer, erected for the very purpose of
despoiling and distressing them, the Jews increased, multiplied, and
accumulated huge sums, which they transferred from one hand to another
by means of bills of exchange--an invention for which commerce is said
to be indebted to them, and which enabled them to transfer their wealth
from land to land, that when threatened with oppression in one country,
their treasure might be secured in another.
The obstinacy and avarice of the Jews being thus in a measure placed
in opposition to the fanaticism that tyranny of those under whom they
lived, seemed to increase in proportion to the persecution with which
they were visited; and the immense wealth they usually acquired in
commerce, while it frequently placed them in danger, was at other times
used to extend their influence, and to secure to them a certain
degree of protection. On these terms they lived; and their character,
influenced accordingly, was watchful, suspicious, and timid--yet
obstinate, uncomplying, and skilful in evading the dangers to which they
When the travellers had pushed on at a rapid rate through many devious
paths, the Palmer at length broke silence.
"That large decayed oak," he said, "marks the boundaries over which
Front-de-Boeuf claims authority--we are long since far from those of
Malvoisin. There is now no fear of pursuit."
"May the wheels of their chariots be taken off," said the Jew, "like
those of the host of Pharaoh, that they may drive heavily!--But leave me
not, good Pilgrim--Think but of that fierce and savage Templar, with
his Saracen slaves--they will regard neither territory, nor manor, nor
"Our road," said the Palmer, "should here separate; for it beseems not
men of my character and thine to travel together longer than needs must
be. Besides, what succour couldst thou have from me, a peaceful Pilgrim,
against two armed heathens?"
"O good youth," answered the Jew, "thou canst defend me, and I know thou
wouldst. Poor as I am, I will requite it--not with money, for money, so
help me my Father Abraham, I have none--but---"
"Money and recompense," said the Palmer, interrupting him, "I have
already said I require not of thee. Guide thee I can; and, it may be,
even in some sort defend thee; since to protect a Jew against a Saracen,
can scarce be accounted unworthy of a Christian. Therefore, Jew, I will
see thee safe under some fitting escort. We are now not far from the
town of Sheffield, where thou mayest easily find many of thy tribe with
whom to take refuge."
"The blessing of Jacob be upon thee, good youth!" said the Jew; "in
Sheffield I can harbour with my kinsman Zareth, and find some means of
travelling forth with safety."
"Be it so," said the Palmer; "at Sheffield then we part, and
half-an-hour's riding will bring us in sight of that town."
The half hour was spent in perfect silence on both parts; the Pilgrim
perhaps disdaining to address the Jew, except in case of absolute
necessity, and the Jew not presuming to force a conversation with a
person whose journey to the Holy Sepulchre gave a sort of sanctity to
his character. They paused on the top of a gently rising bank, and the
Pilgrim, pointing to the town of Sheffield, which lay beneath them,
repeated the words, "Here, then, we part."
"Not till you have had the poor Jew's thanks," said Isaac; "for I
presume not to ask you to go with me to my kinsman Zareth's, who might
aid me with some means of repaying your good offices."
"I have already said," answered the Pilgrim, "that I desire no
recompense. If among the huge list of thy debtors, thou wilt, for my
sake, spare the gyves and the dungeon to some unhappy Christian who
stands in thy danger, I shall hold this morning's service to thee well
"Stay, stay," said the Jew, laying hold of his garment; "something
would I do more than this, something for thyself.--God knows the Jew
is poor--yes, Isaac is the beggar of his tribe--but forgive me should I
guess what thou most lackest at this moment."
"If thou wert to guess truly," said the Palmer, "it is what thou canst
not supply, wert thou as wealthy as thou sayst thou art poor."
"As I say?" echoed the Jew; "O! believe it, I say but the truth; I am
a plundered, indebted, distressed man. Hard hands have wrung from me my
goods, my money, my ships, and all that I possessed--Yet I can tell thee
what thou lackest, and, it may be, supply it too. Thy wish even now is
for a horse and armour."
The Palmer started, and turned suddenly towards the Jew:--"What fiend
prompted that guess?" said he, hastily.
"No matter," said the Jew, smiling, "so that it be a true one--and, as I
can guess thy want, so I can supply it."
"But consider," said the Palmer, "my character, my dress, my vow."
"I know you Christians," replied the Jew, "and that the noblest of you
will take the staff and sandal in superstitious penance, and walk afoot
to visit the graves of dead men."
"Blaspheme not, Jew," said the Pilgrim, sternly.
"Forgive me," said the Jew; "I spoke rashly. But there dropt words from
you last night and this morning, that, like sparks from flint, showed
the metal within; and in the bosom of that Palmer's gown, is hidden a
knight's chain and spurs of gold. They glanced as you stooped over my
bed in the morning."
The Pilgrim could not forbear smiling. "Were thy garments searched by as
curious an eye, Isaac," said he, "what discoveries might not be made?"
"No more of that," said the Jew, changing colour; and drawing forth his
writing materials in haste, as if to stop the conversation, he began to
write upon a piece of paper which he supported on the top of his
yellow cap, without dismounting from his mule. When he had finished, he
delivered the scroll, which was in the Hebrew character, to the Pilgrim,
saying, "In the town of Leicester all men know the rich Jew, Kirjath
Jairam of Lombardy; give him this scroll--he hath on sale six Milan
harnesses, the worst would suit a crowned head--ten goodly steeds, the
worst might mount a king, were he to do battle for his throne. Of these
he will give thee thy choice, with every thing else that can furnish
thee forth for the tournament: when it is over, thou wilt return them
safely--unless thou shouldst have wherewith to pay their value to the
"But, Isaac," said the Pilgrim, smiling, "dost thou know that in these
sports, the arms and steed of the knight who is unhorsed are forfeit to
his victor? Now I may be unfortunate, and so lose what I cannot replace
The Jew looked somewhat astounded at this possibility; but collecting
his courage, he replied hastily. "No--no--no--It is impossible--I will
not think so. The blessing of Our Father will be upon thee. Thy lance
will be powerful as the rod of Moses."
So saying, he was turning his mule's head away, when the Palmer, in his
turn, took hold of his gaberdine. "Nay, but Isaac, thou knowest not all
the risk. The steed may be slain, the armour injured--for I will spare
neither horse nor man. Besides, those of thy tribe give nothing for
nothing; something there must be paid for their use."
The Jew twisted himself in the saddle, like a man in a fit of the colic;
but his better feelings predominated over those which were most familiar
to him. "I care not," he said, "I care not--let me go. If there is
damage, it will cost you nothing--if there is usage money, Kirjath
Jairam will forgive it for the sake of his kinsman Isaac. Fare thee
well!--Yet hark thee, good youth," said he, turning about, "thrust
thyself not too forward into this vain hurly-burly--I speak not for
endangering the steed, and coat of armour, but for the sake of thine own
life and limbs."
"Gramercy for thy caution," said the Palmer, again smiling; "I will use
thy courtesy frankly, and it will go hard with me but I will requite
They parted, and took different roads for the town of Sheffield.
Knights, with a long retinue of their squires,
In gaudy liveries march and quaint attires;
One laced the helm, another held the lance,
A third the shining buckler did advance.
The courser paw'd the ground with restless feet,
And snorting foam'd and champ'd the golden bit.
The smiths and armourers on palfreys ride,
Files in their hands, and hammers at their side;
And nails for loosen'd spears, and thongs for shields provide.
The yeomen guard the streets in seemly bands;
And clowns come crowding on, with cudgels in their hands.
--Palamon and Arcite
The condition of the English nation was at this time sufficiently
miserable. King Richard was absent a prisoner, and in the power of
the perfidious and cruel Duke of Austria. Even the very place of his
captivity was uncertain, and his fate but very imperfectly known to the
generality of his subjects, who were, in the meantime, a prey to every
species of subaltern oppression.
Prince John, in league with Philip of France, Coeur-de-Lion's mortal
enemy, was using every species of influence with the Duke of Austria, to
prolong the captivity of his brother Richard, to whom he stood indebted
for so many favours. In the meantime, he was strengthening his own
faction in the kingdom, of which he proposed to dispute the succession,
in case of the King's death, with the legitimate heir, Arthur Duke of
Brittany, son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, the elder brother of John. This
usurpation, it is well known, he afterwards effected. His own character
being light, profligate, and perfidious, John easily attached to his
person and faction, not only all who had reason to dread the resentment
of Richard for criminal proceedings during his absence, but also the
numerous class of "lawless resolutes," whom the crusades had turned back
on their country, accomplished in the vices of the East, impoverished
in substance, and hardened in character, and who placed their hopes
of harvest in civil commotion. To these causes of public distress and
apprehension, must be added, the multitude of outlaws, who, driven
to despair by the oppression of the feudal nobility, and the severe
exercise of the forest laws, banded together in large gangs, and,
keeping possession of the forests and the wastes, set at defiance the
justice and magistracy of the country. The nobles themselves, each
fortified within his own castle, and playing the petty sovereign over
his own dominions, were the leaders of bands scarce less lawless and
oppressive than those of the avowed depredators. To maintain these
retainers, and to support the extravagance and magnificence which their
pride induced them to affect, the nobility borrowed sums of money from
the Jews at the most usurious interest, which gnawed into their estates
like consuming cankers, scarce to be cured unless when circumstances
gave them an opportunity of getting free, by exercising upon their
creditors some act of unprincipled violence.
Under the various burdens imposed by this unhappy state of affairs,
the people of England suffered deeply for the present, and had yet
more dreadful cause to fear for the future. To augment their misery, a
contagious disorder of a dangerous nature spread through the land; and,
rendered more virulent by the uncleanness, the indifferent food, and
the wretched lodging of the lower classes, swept off many whose fate the
survivors were tempted to envy, as exempting them from the evils which
were to come.
Yet amid these accumulated distresses, the poor as well as the rich, the
vulgar as well as the noble, in the event of a tournament, which was the
grand spectacle of that age, felt as much interested as the half-starved
citizen of Madrid, who has not a real left to buy provisions for his
family, feels in the issue of a bull-feast. Neither duty nor infirmity
could keep youth or age from such exhibitions. The Passage of Arms,
as it was called, which was to take place at Ashby, in the county of
Leicester, as champions of the first renown were to take the field
in the presence of Prince John himself, who was expected to grace the
lists, had attracted universal attention, and an immense confluence of
persons of all ranks hastened upon the appointed morning to the place of
The scene was singularly romantic. On the verge of a wood, which
approached to within a mile of the town of Ashby, was an extensive
meadow, of the finest and most beautiful green turf, surrounded on one
side by the forest, and fringed on the other by straggling oak-trees,
some of which had grown to an immense size. The ground, as if fashioned
on purpose for the martial display which was intended, sloped gradually
down on all sides to a level bottom, which was enclosed for the lists
with strong palisades, forming a space of a quarter of a mile in length,
and about half as broad. The form of the enclosure was an oblong square,
save that the corners were considerably rounded off, in order to afford
more convenience for the spectators. The openings for the entry of the
combatants were at the northern and southern extremities of the lists,
accessible by strong wooden gates, each wide enough to admit two
horsemen riding abreast. At each of these portals were stationed two
heralds, attended by six trumpets, as many pursuivants, and a strong
body of men-at-arms for maintaining order, and ascertaining the quality
of the knights who proposed to engage in this martial game.
On a platform beyond the southern entrance, formed by a natural
elevation of the ground, were pitched five magnificent pavilions,
adorned with pennons of russet and black, the chosen colours of the five
knights challengers. The cords of the tents were of the same colour.
Before each pavilion was suspended the shield of the knight by whom it
was occupied, and beside it stood his squire, quaintly disguised as a
salvage or silvan man, or in some other fantastic dress, according to
the taste of his master, and the character he was pleased to assume
during the game. 
The central pavilion, as the place of honour, had been assigned to Brian
be Bois-Guilbert, whose renown in all games of chivalry, no less than
his connexions with the knights who had undertaken this Passage of
Arms, had occasioned him to be eagerly received into the company of the
challengers, and even adopted as their chief and leader, though he had
so recently joined them. On one side of his tent were pitched those of
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and Richard de Malvoisin, and on the other was
the pavilion of Hugh de Grantmesnil, a noble baron in the vicinity,
whose ancestor had been Lord High Steward of England in the time of the
Conqueror, and his son William Rufus. Ralph de Vipont, a knight of St
John of Jerusalem, who had some ancient possessions at a place called
Heather, near Ashby-de-la-Zouche, occupied the fifth pavilion. From the
entrance into the lists, a gently sloping passage, ten yards in breadth,
led up to the platform on which the tents were pitched. It was strongly
secured by a palisade on each side, as was the esplanade in front of the
pavilions, and the whole was guarded by men-at-arms.
The northern access to the lists terminated in a similar entrance of
thirty feet in breadth, at the extremity of which was a large enclosed
space for such knights as might be disposed to enter the lists with the
challengers, behind which were placed tents containing refreshments of
every kind for their accommodation, with armourers, tarriers, and other
attendants, in readiness to give their services wherever they might be
The exterior of the lists was in part occupied by temporary galleries,
spread with tapestry and carpets, and accommodated with cushions for the
convenience of those ladies and nobles who were expected to attend the
tournament. A narrow space, betwixt these galleries and the lists, gave
accommodation for yeomanry and spectators of a better degree than
the mere vulgar, and might be compared to the pit of a theatre. The
promiscuous multitude arranged themselves upon large banks of turf
prepared for the purpose, which, aided by the natural elevation of the
ground, enabled them to overlook the galleries, and obtain a fair view
into the lists. Besides the accommodation which these stations afforded,
many hundreds had perched themselves on the branches of the trees which
surrounded the meadow; and even the steeple of a country church, at some
distance, was crowded with spectators.
It only remains to notice respecting the general arrangement, that
one gallery in the very centre of the eastern side of the lists, and
consequently exactly opposite to the spot where the shock of the combat
was to take place, was raised higher than the others, more richly
decorated, and graced by a sort of throne and canopy, on which the
royal arms were emblazoned. Squires, pages, and yeomen in rich liveries,
waited around this place of honour, which was designed for Prince John
and his attendants. Opposite to this royal gallery was another, elevated
to the same height, on the western side of the lists; and more gaily, if
less sumptuously decorated, than that destined for the Prince himself.
A train of pages and of young maidens, the most beautiful who could be
selected, gaily dressed in fancy habits of green and pink, surrounded
a throne decorated in the same colours. Among pennons and flags bearing
wounded hearts, burning hearts, bleeding hearts, bows and quivers,
and all the commonplace emblems of the triumphs of Cupid, a blazoned
inscription informed the spectators, that this seat of honour was
designed for "La Royne de las Beaulte et des Amours". But who was to
represent the Queen of Beauty and of Love on the present occasion no one
was prepared to guess.
Meanwhile, spectators of every description thronged forward to occupy
their respective stations, and not without many quarrels concerning
those which they were entitled to hold. Some of these were settled by
the men-at-arms with brief ceremony; the shafts of their battle-axes,
and pummels of their swords, being readily employed as arguments to
convince the more refractory. Others, which involved the rival claims
of more elevated persons, were determined by the heralds, or by the two
marshals of the field, William de Wyvil, and Stephen de Martival, who,
armed at all points, rode up and down the lists to enforce and preserve
good order among the spectators.
Gradually the galleries became filled with knights and nobles, in their
robes of peace, whose long and rich-tinted mantles were contrasted with
the gayer and more splendid habits of the ladies, who, in a greater
proportion than even the men themselves, thronged to witness a sport,
which one would have thought too bloody and dangerous to afford their
sex much pleasure. The lower and interior space was soon filled by
substantial yeomen and burghers, and such of the lesser gentry, as, from
modesty, poverty, or dubious title, durst not assume any higher place.
It was of course amongst these that the most frequent disputes for
"Dog of an unbeliever," said an old man, whose threadbare tunic bore
witness to his poverty, as his sword, and dagger, and golden chain
intimated his pretensions to rank,--"whelp of a she-wolf! darest
thou press upon a Christian, and a Norman gentleman of the blood of
This rough expostulation was addressed to no other than our acquaintance
Isaac, who, richly and even magnificently dressed in a gaberdine
ornamented with lace and lined with fur, was endeavouring to make place
in the foremost row beneath the gallery for his daughter, the beautiful
Rebecca, who had joined him at Ashby, and who was now hanging on her
father's arm, not a little terrified by the popular displeasure which
seemed generally excited by her parent's presumption. But Isaac, though
we have seen him sufficiently timid on other occasions, knew well that
at present he had nothing to fear. It was not in places of general
resort, or where their equals were assembled, that any avaricious or
malevolent noble durst offer him injury. At such meetings the Jews
were under the protection of the general law; and if that proved a
weak assurance, it usually happened that there were among the persons
assembled some barons, who, for their own interested motives, were ready
to act as their protectors. On the present occasion, Isaac felt more
than usually confident, being aware that Prince John was even then in
the very act of negotiating a large loan from the Jews of York, to
be secured upon certain jewels and lands. Isaac's own share in this
transaction was considerable, and he well knew that the Prince's eager
desire to bring it to a conclusion would ensure him his protection in
the dilemma in which he stood.
Emboldened by these considerations, the Jew pursued his point, and
jostled the Norman Christian, without respect either to his descent,
quality, or religion. The complaints of the old man, however, excited
the indignation of the bystanders. One of these, a stout well-set
yeoman, arrayed in Lincoln green, having twelve arrows stuck in his
belt, with a baldric and badge of silver, and a bow of six feet length
in his hand, turned short round, and while his countenance, which his
constant exposure to weather had rendered brown as a hazel nut, grew
darker with anger, he advised the Jew to remember that all the wealth
he had acquired by sucking the blood of his miserable victims had but
swelled him like a bloated spider, which might be overlooked while he
kept in a comer, but would be crushed if it ventured into the light.
This intimation, delivered in Norman-English with a firm voice and
a stern aspect, made the Jew shrink back; and he would have probably
withdrawn himself altogether from a vicinity so dangerous, had not the
attention of every one been called to the sudden entrance of Prince
John, who at that moment entered the lists, attended by a numerous and
gay train, consisting partly of laymen, partly of churchmen, as light in
their dress, and as gay in their demeanour, as their companions. Among
the latter was the Prior of Jorvaulx, in the most gallant trim which a
dignitary of the church could venture to exhibit. Fur and gold were not
spared in his garments; and the points of his boots, out-heroding
the preposterous fashion of the time, turned up so very far, as to
be attached, not to his knees merely, but to his very girdle, and
effectually prevented him from putting his foot into the stirrup. This,
however, was a slight inconvenience to the gallant Abbot, who,
perhaps, even rejoicing in the opportunity to display his accomplished
horsemanship before so many spectators, especially of the fair sex,
dispensed with the use of these supports to a timid rider. The rest
of Prince John's retinue consisted of the favourite leaders of his
mercenary troops, some marauding barons and profligate attendants upon
the court, with several Knights Templars and Knights of St John.
It may be here remarked, that the knights of these two orders were
accounted hostile to King Richard, having adopted the side of Philip
of France in the long train of disputes which took place in Palestine
betwixt that monarch and the lion-hearted King of England. It was the
well-known consequence of this discord that Richard's repeated victories
had been rendered fruitless, his romantic attempts to besiege Jerusalem
disappointed, and the fruit of all the glory which he had acquired had
dwindled into an uncertain truce with the Sultan Saladin. With the same
policy which had dictated the conduct of their brethren in the Holy
Land, the Templars and Hospitallers in England and Normandy attached
themselves to the faction of Prince John, having little reason to desire
the return of Richard to England, or the succession of Arthur, his
legitimate heir. For the opposite reason, Prince John hated and
contemned the few Saxon families of consequence which subsisted in
England, and omitted no opportunity of mortifying and affronting them;
being conscious that his person and pretensions were disliked by them,
as well as by the greater part of the English commons, who feared
farther innovation upon their rights and liberties, from a sovereign of
John's licentious and tyrannical disposition.
Attended by this gallant equipage, himself well mounted, and splendidly
dressed in crimson and in gold, bearing upon his hand a falcon, and
having his head covered by a rich fur bonnet, adorned with a circle of
precious stones, from which his long curled hair escaped and overspread
his shoulders, Prince John, upon a grey and high-mettled palfrey,
caracoled within the lists at the head of his jovial party, laughing
loud with his train, and eyeing with all the boldness of royal criticism
the beauties who adorned the lofty galleries.
Those who remarked in the physiognomy of the Prince a dissolute
audacity, mingled with extreme haughtiness and indifference to the
feelings of others could not yet deny to his countenance that sort of
comeliness which belongs to an open set of features, well formed by
nature, modelled by art to the usual rules of courtesy, yet so far
frank and honest, that they seemed as if they disclaimed to conceal the
natural workings of the soul. Such an expression is often mistaken for
manly frankness, when in truth it arises from the reckless indifference
of a libertine disposition, conscious of superiority of birth, of
wealth, or of some other adventitious advantage, totally unconnected
with personal merit. To those who did not think so deeply, and they were
the greater number by a hundred to one, the splendour of Prince John's
"rheno", (i.e. fur tippet,) the richness of his cloak, lined with the
most costly sables, his maroquin boots and golden spurs, together with
the grace with which he managed his palfrey, were sufficient to merit
In his joyous caracole round the lists, the attention of the Prince
was called by the commotion, not yet subsided, which had attended the
ambitious movement of Isaac towards the higher places of the assembly.
The quick eye of Prince John instantly recognised the Jew, but was
much more agreeably attracted by the beautiful daughter of Zion, who,
terrified by the tumult, clung close to the arm of her aged father.
The figure of Rebecca might indeed have compared with the proudest
beauties of England, even though it had been judged by as shrewd a
connoisseur as Prince John. Her form was exquisitely symmetrical,
and was shown to advantage by a sort of Eastern dress, which she wore
according to the fashion of the females of her nation. Her turban
of yellow silk suited well with the darkness of her complexion. The
brilliancy of her eyes, the superb arch of her eyebrows, her well-formed
aquiline nose, her teeth as white as pearl, and the profusion of her
sable tresses, which, each arranged in its own little spiral of twisted
curls, fell down upon as much of a lovely neck and bosom as a simarre
of the richest Persian silk, exhibiting flowers in their natural colours
embossed upon a purple ground, permitted to be visible--all these
constituted a combination of loveliness, which yielded not to the most
beautiful of the maidens who surrounded her. It is true, that of the
golden and pearl-studded clasps, which closed her vest from the throat
to the waist, the three uppermost were left unfastened on account of
the heat, which something enlarged the prospect to which we allude. A
diamond necklace, with pendants of inestimable value, were by this means
also made more conspicuous. The feather of an ostrich, fastened in her
turban by an agraffe set with brilliants, was another distinction of
the beautiful Jewess, scoffed and sneered at by the proud dames who sat
above her, but secretly envied by those who affected to deride them.
"By the bald scalp of Abraham," said Prince John, "yonder Jewess must be
the very model of that perfection, whose charms drove frantic the wisest
king that ever lived! What sayest thou, Prior Aymer?--By the Temple
of that wise king, which our wiser brother Richard proved unable to
recover, she is the very Bride of the Canticles!"
"The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley,"--answered the Prior, in
a sort of snuffling tone; "but your Grace must remember she is still but
"Ay!" added Prince John, without heeding him, "and there is my Mammon
of unrighteousness too--the Marquis of Marks, the Baron of Byzants,
contesting for place with penniless dogs, whose threadbare cloaks have
not a single cross in their pouches to keep the devil from dancing
there. By the body of St Mark, my prince of supplies, with his lovely
Jewess, shall have a place in the gallery!--What is she, Isaac? Thy wife
or thy daughter, that Eastern houri that thou lockest under thy arm as
thou wouldst thy treasure-casket?"
"My daughter Rebecca, so please your Grace," answered Isaac, with a
low congee, nothing embarrassed by the Prince's salutation, in which,
however, there was at least as much mockery as courtesy.
"The wiser man thou," said John, with a peal of laughter, in which his
gay followers obsequiously joined. "But, daughter or wife, she should
be preferred according to her beauty and thy merits.--Who sits above
there?" he continued, bending his eye on the gallery. "Saxon churls,
lolling at their lazy length!--out upon them!--let them sit close, and
make room for my prince of usurers and his lovely daughter. I'll make
the hinds know they must share the high places of the synagogue with
those whom the synagogue properly belongs to."
Those who occupied the gallery to whom this injurious and unpolite
speech was addressed, were the family of Cedric the Saxon, with that of
his ally and kinsman, Athelstane of Coningsburgh, a personage, who, on
account of his descent from the last Saxon monarchs of England, was held
in the highest respect by all the Saxon natives of the north of England.
But with the blood of this ancient royal race, many of their infirmities
had descended to Athelstane. He was comely in countenance, bulky
and strong in person, and in the flower of his age--yet inanimate in
expression, dull-eyed, heavy-browed, inactive and sluggish in all his
motions, and so slow in resolution, that the soubriquet of one of his
ancestors was conferred upon him, and he was very generally called
Athelstane the Unready. His friends, and he had many, who, as well as
Cedric, were passionately attached to him, contended that this sluggish
temper arose not from want of courage, but from mere want of decision;
others alleged that his hereditary vice of drunkenness had obscured his
faculties, never of a very acute order, and that the passive courage
and meek good-nature which remained behind, were merely the dregs of a
character that might have been deserving of praise, but of which all the
valuable parts had flown off in the progress of a long course of brutal
It was to this person, such as we have described him, that the Prince
addressed his imperious command to make place for Isaac and Rebecca.
Athelstane, utterly confounded at an order which the manners and
feelings of the times rendered so injuriously insulting, unwilling to
obey, yet undetermined how to resist, opposed only the "vis inertiae" to
the will of John; and, without stirring or making any motion whatever of
obedience, opened his large grey eyes, and stared at the Prince with
an astonishment which had in it something extremely ludicrous. But the
impatient John regarded it in no such light.
"The Saxon porker," he said, "is either asleep or minds me not--Prick
him with your lance, De Bracy," speaking to a knight who rode near him,
the leader of a band of Free Companions, or Condottieri; that is, of
mercenaries belonging to no particular nation, but attached for the time
to any prince by whom they were paid. There was a murmur even among the
attendants of Prince John; but De Bracy, whose profession freed him from
all scruples, extended his long lance over the space which separated
the gallery from the lists, and would have executed the commands of
the Prince before Athelstane the Unready had recovered presence of mind
sufficient even to draw back his person from the weapon, had not Cedric,
as prompt as his companion was tardy, unsheathed, with the speed of
lightning, the short sword which he wore, and at a single blow severed
the point of the lance from the handle. The blood rushed into the
countenance of Prince John. He swore one of his deepest oaths, and
was about to utter some threat corresponding in violence, when he was
diverted from his purpose, partly by his own attendants, who gathered
around him conjuring him to be patient, partly by a general exclamation
of the crowd, uttered in loud applause of the spirited conduct of
Cedric. The Prince rolled his eyes in indignation, as if to collect some
safe and easy victim; and chancing to encounter the firm glance of the
same archer whom we have already noticed, and who seemed to persist
in his gesture of applause, in spite of the frowning aspect which the
Prince bent upon him, he demanded his reason for clamouring thus.
"I always add my hollo," said the yeoman, "when I see a good shot, or a
"Sayst thou?" answered the Prince; "then thou canst hit the white
thyself, I'll warrant."
"A woodsman's mark, and at woodsman's distance, I can hit," answered the
"And Wat Tyrrel's mark, at a hundred yards," said a voice from behind,
but by whom uttered could not be discerned.
This allusion to the fate of William Rufus, his Relative, at once
incensed and alarmed Prince John. He satisfied himself, however, with
commanding the men-at-arms, who surrounded the lists, to keep an eye on
the braggart, pointing to the yeoman.
"By St Grizzel," he added, "we will try his own skill, who is so ready
to give his voice to the feats of others!"
"I shall not fly the trial," said the yeoman, with the composure which
marked his whole deportment.
"Meanwhile, stand up, ye Saxon churls," said the fiery Prince; "for, by
the light of Heaven, since I have said it, the Jew shall have his seat
"By no means, an it please your Grace!--it is not fit for such as we
to sit with the rulers of the land," said the Jew; whose ambition for
precedence though it had led him to dispute Place with the extenuated
and impoverished descendant of the line of Montdidier, by no means
stimulated him to an intrusion upon the privileges of the wealthy
"Up, infidel dog when I command you," said Prince John, "or I will have
thy swarthy hide stript off, and tanned for horse-furniture."
Thus urged, the Jew began to ascend the steep and narrow steps which led
up to the gallery.
"Let me see," said the Prince, "who dare stop him," fixing his eye on
Cedric, whose attitude intimated his intention to hurl the Jew down
The catastrophe was prevented by the clown Wamba, who, springing
betwixt his master and Isaac, and exclaiming, in answer to the Prince's
defiance, "Marry, that will I!" opposed to the beard of the Jew a shield
of brawn, which he plucked from beneath his cloak, and with which,
doubtless, he had furnished himself, lest the tournament should have
proved longer than his appetite could endure abstinence. Finding the
abomination of his tribe opposed to his very nose, while the Jester,
at the same time, flourished his wooden sword above his head, the Jew
recoiled, missed his footing, and rolled down the steps,--an excellent
jest to the spectators, who set up a loud laughter, in which Prince John
and his attendants heartily joined.
"Deal me the prize, cousin Prince," said Wamba; "I have vanquished my
foe in fair fight with sword and shield," he added, brandishing the
brawn in one hand and the wooden sword in the other.
"Who, and what art thou, noble champion?" said Prince John, still
"A fool by right of descent," answered the Jester; "I am Wamba, the
son of Witless, who was the son of Weatherbrain, who was the son of an
"Make room for the Jew in front of the lower ring," said Prince John,
not unwilling perhaps to, seize an apology to desist from his original
purpose; "to place the vanquished beside the victor were false
"Knave upon fool were worse," answered the Jester, "and Jew upon bacon
worst of all."
"Gramercy! good fellow," cried Prince John, "thou pleasest me--Here,
Isaac, lend me a handful of byzants."
As the Jew, stunned by the request, afraid to refuse, and unwilling
to comply, fumbled in the furred bag which hung by his girdle, and
was perhaps endeavouring to ascertain how few coins might pass for a
handful, the Prince stooped from his jennet and settled Isaac's doubts
by snatching the pouch itself from his side; and flinging to Wamba a
couple of the gold pieces which it contained, he pursued his career
round the lists, leaving the Jew to the derision of those around him,
and himself receiving as much applause from the spectators as if he had
done some honest and honourable action.
At this the challenger with fierce defy
His trumpet sounds; the challenged makes reply:
With clangour rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
Their visors closed, their lances in the rest,
Or at the helmet pointed or the crest,
They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
And spurring see decrease the middle space.
Palamon and Arcite
In the midst of Prince John's cavalcade, he suddenly stopt, and
appealing to the Prior of Jorvaulx, declared the principal business of
the day had been forgotten.
"By my halidom," said he, "we have forgotten, Sir Prior, to name the
fair Sovereign of Love and of Beauty, by whose white hand the palm is to
be distributed. For my part, I am liberal in my ideas, and I care not if
I give my vote for the black-eyed Rebecca."
"Holy Virgin," answered the Prior, turning up his eyes in horror, "a
Jewess!--We should deserve to be stoned out of the lists; and I am not
yet old enough to be a martyr. Besides, I swear by my patron saint, that
she is far inferior to the lovely Saxon, Rowena."
"Saxon or Jew," answered the Prince, "Saxon or Jew, dog or hog, what
matters it? I say, name Rebecca, were it only to mortify the Saxon
A murmur arose even among his own immediate attendants.
"This passes a jest, my lord," said De Bracy; "no knight here will lay
lance in rest if such an insult is attempted."
"It is the mere wantonness of insult," said one of the oldest and most
important of Prince John's followers, Waldemar Fitzurse, "and if your
Grace attempt it, cannot but prove ruinous to your projects."
"I entertained you, sir," said John, reining up his palfrey haughtily,
"for my follower, but not for my counsellor."
"Those who follow your Grace in the paths which you tread," said
Waldemar, but speaking in a low voice, "acquire the right of
counsellors; for your interest and safety are not more deeply gaged than
From the tone in which this was spoken, John saw the necessity of
acquiescence "I did but jest," he said; "and you turn upon me like
so many adders! Name whom you will, in the fiend's name, and please
"Nay, nay," said De Bracy, "let the fair sovereign's throne remain
unoccupied, until the conqueror shall be named, and then let him choose
the lady by whom it shall be filled. It will add another grace to his
triumph, and teach fair ladies to prize the love of valiant knights, who
can exalt them to such distinction."
"If Brian de Bois-Guilbert gain the prize," said the Prior, "I will gage
my rosary that I name the Sovereign of Love and Beauty."
"Bois-Guilbert," answered De Bracy, "is a good lance; but there are
others around these lists, Sir Prior, who will not fear to encounter
"Silence, sirs," said Waldemar, "and let the Prince assume his seat.
The knights and spectators are alike impatient, the time advances, and
highly fit it is that the sports should commence."
Prince John, though not yet a monarch, had in Waldemar Fitzurse all the
inconveniences of a favourite minister, who, in serving his sovereign,
must always do so in his own way. The Prince acquiesced, however,
although his disposition was precisely of that kind which is apt to be
obstinate upon trifles, and, assuming his throne, and being surrounded
by his followers, gave signal to the heralds to proclaim the laws of the
tournament, which were briefly as follows:
First, the five challengers were to undertake all comers.
Secondly, any knight proposing to combat, might, if he pleased, select
a special antagonist from among the challengers, by touching his shield.
If he did so with the reverse of his lance, the trial of skill was made
with what were called the arms of courtesy, that is, with lances at
whose extremity a piece of round flat board was fixed, so that no danger
was encountered, save from the shock of the horses and riders. But if
the shield was touched with the sharp end of the lance, the combat was
understood to be at "outrance", that is, the knights were to fight with
sharp weapons, as in actual battle.
Thirdly, when the knights present had accomplished their vow, by each of
them breaking five lances, the Prince was to declare the victor in the
first day's tourney, who should receive as prize a warhorse of exquisite
beauty and matchless strength; and in addition to this reward of valour,
it was now declared, he should have the peculiar honour of naming the
Queen of Love and Beauty, by whom the prize should be given on the
Fourthly, it was announced, that, on the second day, there should be a
general tournament, in which all the knights present, who were desirous
to win praise, might take part; and being divided into two bands of
equal numbers, might fight it out manfully, until the signal was given
by Prince John to cease the combat. The elected Queen of Love and Beauty
was then to crown the knight whom the Prince should adjudge to have
borne himself best in this second day, with a coronet composed of thin
gold plate, cut into the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day
the knightly games ceased. But on that which was to follow, feats of
archery, of bull-baiting, and other popular amusements, were to be
practised, for the more immediate amusement of the populace. In this
manner did Prince John endeavour to lay the foundation of a popularity,
which he was perpetually throwing down by some inconsiderate act of
wanton aggression upon the feelings and prejudices of the people.
The lists now presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping galleries
were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy, and beautiful
in the northern and midland parts of England; and the contrast of the
various dresses of these dignified spectators, rendered the view as
gay as it was rich, while the interior and lower space, filled with the
substantial burgesses and yeomen of merry England, formed, in their more
plain attire, a dark fringe, or border, around this circle of brilliant
embroidery, relieving, and, at the same time, setting off its splendour.
The heralds finished their proclamation with their usual cry of
"Largesse, largesse, gallant knights!" and gold and silver pieces were
showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point of chivalry
to exhibit liberality towards those whom the age accounted at once the
secretaries and the historians of honour. The bounty of the spectators
was acknowledged by the customary shouts of "Love of Ladies--Death of
Champions--Honour to the Generous--Glory to the Brave!" To which the
more humble spectators added their acclamations, and a numerous band of
trumpeters the flourish of their martial instruments. When these sounds
had ceased, the heralds withdrew from the lists in gay and glittering
procession, and none remained within them save the marshals of the
field, who, armed cap-a-pie, sat on horseback, motionless as statues,
at the opposite ends of the lists. Meantime, the enclosed space at the
northern extremity of the lists, large as it was, was now completely
crowded with knights desirous to prove their skill against the
challengers, and, when viewed from the galleries, presented the
appearance of a sea of waving plumage, intermixed with glistening
helmets, and tall lances, to the extremities of which were, in many
cases, attached small pennons of about a span's breadth, which,
fluttering in the air as the breeze caught them, joined with the
restless motion of the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
At length the barriers were opened, and five knights, chosen by lot,
advanced slowly into the area; a single champion riding in front, and
the other four following in pairs. All were splendidly armed, and my
Saxon authority (in the Wardour Manuscript) records at great length
their devices, their colours, and the embroidery of their horse
trappings. It is unnecessary to be particular on these subjects. To
borrow lines from a contemporary poet, who has written but too little:
"The knights are dust,
And their good swords are rust,
Their souls are with the saints, we trust." 
Their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their castles.
Their castles themselves are but green mounds and shattered ruins--the
place that once knew them, knows them no more--nay, many a race since
theirs has died out and been forgotten in the very land which they
occupied, with all the authority of feudal proprietors and feudal
lords. What, then, would it avail the reader to know their names, or the
evanescent symbols of their martial rank!
Now, however, no whit anticipating the oblivion which awaited their
names and feats, the champions advanced through the lists, restraining
their fiery steeds, and compelling them to move slowly, while, at the
same time, they exhibited their paces, together with the grace and
dexterity of the riders. As the procession entered the lists, the
sound of a wild Barbaric music was heard from behind the tents of the
challengers, where the performers were concealed. It was of Eastern
origin, having been brought from the Holy Land; and the mixture of the
cymbals and bells seemed to bid welcome at once, and defiance, to the
knights as they advanced. With the eyes of an immense concourse of
spectators fixed upon them, the five knights advanced up the platform
upon which the tents of the challengers stood, and there separating
themselves, each touched slightly, and with the reverse of his lance,
the shield of the antagonist to whom he wished to oppose himself. The
lower orders of spectators in general--nay, many of the higher class,
and it is even said several of the ladies, were rather disappointed
at the champions choosing the arms of courtesy. For the same sort
of persons, who, in the present day, applaud most highly the deepest
tragedies, were then interested in a tournament exactly in proportion to
the danger incurred by the champions engaged.
Having intimated their more pacific purpose, the champions retreated
to the extremity of the lists, where they remained drawn up in a line;
while the challengers, sallying each from his pavilion, mounted their
horses, and, headed by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, descended from the
platform, and opposed themselves individually to the knights who had
touched their respective shields.
At the flourish of clarions and trumpets, they started out against
each other at full gallop; and such was the superior dexterity or
good fortune of the challengers, that those opposed to Bois-Guilbert,
Malvoisin, and Front-de-Boeuf, rolled on the ground. The antagonist of
Grantmesnil, instead of bearing his lance-point fair against the crest
or the shield of his enemy, swerved so much from the direct line as
to break the weapon athwart the person of his opponent--a circumstance
which was accounted more disgraceful than that of being actually
unhorsed; because the latter might happen from accident, whereas the
former evinced awkwardness and want of management of the weapon and of
the horse. The fifth knight alone maintained the honour of his party,
and parted fairly with the Knight of St John, both splintering their
lances without advantage on either side.
The shouts of the multitude, together with the acclamations of the
heralds, and the clangour of the trumpets, announced the triumph of the
victors and the defeat of the vanquished. The former retreated to
their pavilions, and the latter, gathering themselves up as they could,
withdrew from the lists in disgrace and dejection, to agree with their
victors concerning the redemption of their arms and their horses, which,
according to the laws of the tournament, they had forfeited. The fifth
of their number alone tarried in the lists long enough to be greeted
by the applauses of the spectators, amongst whom he retreated, to the
aggravation, doubtless, of his companions' mortification.
A second and a third party of knights took the field; and although
they had various success, yet, upon the whole, the advantage decidedly
remained with the challengers, not one of whom lost his seat or
swerved from his charge--misfortunes which befell one or two of their
antagonists in each encounter. The spirits, therefore, of those opposed
to them, seemed to be considerably damped by their continued success.
Three knights only appeared on the fourth entry, who, avoiding the
shields of Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf, contented themselves
with touching those of the three other knights, who had not altogether
manifested the same strength and dexterity. This politic selection
did not alter the fortune of the field, the challengers were still
successful: one of their antagonists was overthrown, and both the others
failed in the "attaint",  that is, in striking the helmet and shield
of their antagonist firmly and strongly, with the lance held in a direct
line, so that the weapon might break unless the champion was overthrown.
After this fourth encounter, there was a considerable pause; nor did
it appear that any one was very desirous of renewing the contest.
The spectators murmured among themselves; for, among the challengers,
Malvoisin and Front-de-Boeuf were unpopular from their characters,
and the others, except Grantmesnil, were disliked as strangers and
But none shared the general feeling of dissatisfaction so keenly as
Cedric the Saxon, who saw, in each advantage gained by the Norman
challengers, a repeated triumph over the honour of England. His own
education had taught him no skill in the games of chivalry, although,
with the arms of his Saxon ancestors, he had manifested himself, on
many occasions, a brave and determined soldier. He looked anxiously
to Athelstane, who had learned the accomplishments of the age, as if
desiring that he should make some personal effort to recover the victory
which was passing into the hands of the Templar and his associates.
But, though both stout of heart, and strong of person, Athelstane had a
disposition too inert and unambitious to make the exertions which Cedric
seemed to expect from him.
"The day is against England, my lord," said Cedric, in a marked tone;
"are you not tempted to take the lance?"
"I shall tilt to-morrow" answered Athelstane, "in the 'melee'; it is not
worth while for me to arm myself to-day."
Two things displeased Cedric in this speech. It contained the Norman
word "melee", (to express the general conflict,) and it evinced
some indifference to the honour of the country; but it was spoken by
Athelstane, whom he held in such profound respect, that he would not
trust himself to canvass his motives or his foibles. Moreover, he had
no time to make any remark, for Wamba thrust in his word, observing, "It
was better, though scarce easier, to be the best man among a hundred,
than the best man of two."
Athelstane took the observation as a serious compliment; but Cedric,
who better understood the Jester's meaning, darted at him a severe and
menacing look; and lucky it was for Wamba, perhaps, that the time and
place prevented his receiving, notwithstanding his place and service,
more sensible marks of his master's resentment.
The pause in the tournament was still uninterrupted, excepting by
the voices of the heralds exclaiming--"Love of ladies, splintering of
lances! stand forth gallant knights, fair eyes look upon your deeds!"
The music also of the challengers breathed from time to time wild bursts
expressive of triumph or defiance, while the clowns grudged a holiday
which seemed to pass away in inactivity; and old knights and nobles
lamented in whispers the decay of martial spirit, spoke of the triumphs
of their younger days, but agreed that the land did not now supply dames
of such transcendent beauty as had animated the jousts of former times.
Prince John began to talk to his attendants about making ready
the banquet, and the necessity of adjudging the prize to Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, who had, with a single spear, overthrown two knights, and
foiled a third.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded one of
those long and high flourishes with which they had broken the silence of
the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet, which breathed a note
of defiance from the northern extremity. All eyes were turned to see
the new champion which these sounds announced, and no sooner were the
barriers opened than he paced into the lists. As far as could be judged
of a man sheathed in armour, the new adventurer did not greatly exceed
the middle size, and seemed to be rather slender than strongly made.
His suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold, and the
device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with
the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited. He was mounted on
a gallant black horse, and as he passed through the lists he gracefully
saluted the Prince and the ladies by lowering his lance. The dexterity
with which he managed his steed, and something of youthful grace which
he displayed in his manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which
some of the lower classes expressed by calling out, "Touch Ralph de
Vipont's shield--touch the Hospitallers shield; he has the least sure
seat, he is your cheapest bargain."
The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended the
platform by the sloping alley which led to it from the lists, and,
to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to the central
pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the shield of Brian
de Bois-Guilbert until it rung again. All stood astonished at his
presumption, but none more than the redoubted Knight whom he had thus
defied to mortal combat, and who, little expecting so rude a challenge,
was standing carelessly at the door of the pavilion.
"Have you confessed yourself, brother," said the Templar, "and have you
heard mass this morning, that you peril your life so frankly?"
"I am fitter to meet death than thou art" answered the Disinherited
Knight; for by this name the stranger had recorded himself in the books
of the tourney.
"Then take your place in the lists," said Bois-Guilbert, "and look your
last upon the sun; for this night thou shalt sleep in paradise."
"Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight, "and to
requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new lance, for by
my honour you will need both."
Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse backward
down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him in the same
manner to move backward through the lists, till he reached the
northern extremity, where he remained stationary, in expectation of his
antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again attracted the applause of
However incensed at his adversary for the precautions which he
recommended, Brian de Bois-Guilbert did not neglect his advice; for
his honour was too nearly concerned, to permit his neglecting any means
which might ensure victory over his presumptuous opponent. He changed
his horse for a proved and fresh one of great strength and spirit. He
chose a new and a tough spear, lest the wood of the former might have
been strained in the previous encounters he had sustained. Lastly,
he laid aside his shield, which had received some little damage, and
received another from his squires. His first had only borne the general
device of his rider, representing two knights riding upon one horse, an
emblem expressive of the original humility and poverty of the Templars,
qualities which they had since exchanged for the arrogance and wealth
that finally occasioned their suppression. Bois-Guilbert's new shield
bore a raven in full flight, holding in its claws a skull, and bearing
the motto, "Gare le Corbeau".
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two
extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to the
highest pitch. Few augured the possibility that the encounter could
terminate well for the Disinherited Knight, yet his courage and
gallantry secured the general good wishes of the spectators.
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal, than the champions vanished
from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed in the centre
of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The lances burst into
shivers up to the very grasp, and it seemed at the moment that both
knights had fallen, for the shock had made each horse recoil backwards
upon its haunches. The address of the riders recovered their steeds
by use of the bridle and spur; and having glared on each other for an
instant with eyes which seemed to flash fire through the bars of their
visors, each made a demi-volte, and, retiring to the extremity of the
lists, received a fresh lance from the attendants.
A loud shout from the spectators, waving of scarfs and handkerchiefs,
and general acclamations, attested the interest taken by the spectators
in this encounter; the most equal, as well as the best performed, which
had graced the day. But no sooner had the knights resumed their station,
than the clamour of applause was hushed into a silence, so deep and so
dead, that it seemed the multitude were afraid even to breathe.
A few minutes pause having been allowed, that the combatants and their
horses might recover breath, Prince John with his truncheon signed to
the trumpets to sound the onset. The champions a second time sprung from
their stations, and closed in the centre of the lists, with the same
speed, the same dexterity, the same violence, but not the same equal
fortune as before.
In this second encounter, the Templar aimed at the centre of his
antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair and forcibly, that his spear
went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his saddle.
On the other hand, that champion had, in the beginning of his career,
directed the point of his lance towards Bois-Guilbert's shield, but,
changing his aim almost in the moment of encounter, he addressed it
to the helmet, a mark more difficult to hit, but which, if attained,
rendered the shock more irresistible. Fair and true he hit the Norman on
the visor, where his lance's point kept hold of the bars. Yet, even at
this disadvantage, the Templar sustained his high reputation; and had
not the girths of his saddle burst, he might not have been unhorsed. As
it chanced, however, saddle, horse, and man, rolled on the ground under
a cloud of dust.
To extricate himself from the stirrups and fallen steed, was to the
Templar scarce the work of a moment; and, stung with madness, both at
his disgrace and at the acclamations with which it was hailed by the
spectators, he drew his sword and waved it in defiance of his conqueror.
The Disinherited Knight sprung from his steed, and also unsheathed his
sword. The marshals of the field, however, spurred their horses between
them, and reminded them, that the laws of the tournament did not, on the
present occasion, permit this species of encounter.
"We shall meet again, I trust," said the Templar, casting a resentful
glance at his antagonist; "and where there are none to separate us."
"If we do not," said the Disinherited Knight, "the fault shall not be
mine. On foot or horseback, with spear, with axe, or with sword, I am
alike ready to encounter thee."
More and angrier words would have been exchanged, but the marshals,
crossing their lances betwixt them, compelled them to separate. The
Disinherited Knight returned to his first station, and Bois-Guilbert
to his tent, where he remained for the rest of the day in an agony of
Without alighting from his horse, the conqueror called for a bowl of
wine, and opening the beaver, or lower part of his helmet, announced
that he quaffed it, "To all true English hearts, and to the confusion of
foreign tyrants." He then commanded his trumpet to sound a defiance
to the challengers, and desired a herald to announce to them, that he
should make no election, but was willing to encounter them in the order
in which they pleased to advance against him.
The gigantic Front-de-Boeuf, armed in sable armour, was the first who
took the field. He bore on a white shield a black bull's head, half
defaced by the numerous encounters which he had undergone, and bearing
the arrogant motto, "Cave, Adsum". Over this champion the Disinherited
Knight obtained a slight but decisive advantage. Both Knights broke
their lances fairly, but Front-de-Boeuf, who lost a stirrup in the
encounter, was adjudged to have the disadvantage.
In the stranger's third encounter with Sir Philip Malvoisin, he was
equally successful; striking that baron so forcibly on the casque, that
the laces of the helmet broke, and Malvoisin, only saved from falling by
being unhelmeted, was declared vanquished like his companions.
In his fourth combat with De Grantmesnil, the Disinherited Knight showed
as much courtesy as he had hitherto evinced courage and dexterity. De
Grantmesnil's horse, which was young and violent, reared and plunged
in the course of the career so as to disturb the rider's aim, and the
stranger, declining to take the advantage which this accident afforded
him, raised his lance, and passing his antagonist without touching
him, wheeled his horse and rode back again to his own end of the lists,
offering his antagonist, by a herald, the chance of a second encounter.
This De Grantmesnil declined, avowing himself vanquished as much by the
courtesy as by the address of his opponent.
Ralph de Vipont summed up the list of the stranger's triumphs, being
hurled to the ground with such force, that the blood gushed from his
nose and his mouth, and he was borne senseless from the lists.
The acclamations of thousands applauded the unanimous award of the
Prince and marshals, announcing that day's honours to the Disinherited
----In the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien,
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign Queen.
* * * * *
And as in beauty she surpass'd the choir,
So nobler than the rest was her attire;
A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
A branch of Agnus Castus in her hand,
She bore aloft her symbol of command.
The Flower and the Leaf
William de Wyvil and Stephen de Martival, the marshals of the field,
were the first to offer their congratulations to the victor, praying
him, at the same time, to suffer his helmet to be unlaced, or, at least,
that he would raise his visor ere they conducted him to receive
the prize of the day's tourney from the hands of Prince John. The
Disinherited Knight, with all knightly courtesy, declined their request,
alleging, that he could not at this time suffer his face to be seen, for
reasons which he had assigned to the heralds when he entered the lists.
The marshals were perfectly satisfied by this reply; for amidst the
frequent and capricious vows by which knights were accustomed to bind
themselves in the days of chivalry, there were none more common than
those by which they engaged to remain incognito for a certain space, or
until some particular adventure was achieved. The marshals, therefore,
pressed no farther into the mystery of the Disinherited Knight, but,
announcing to Prince John the conqueror's desire to remain unknown, they
requested permission to bring him before his Grace, in order that he
might receive the reward of his valour.
John's curiosity was excited by the mystery observed by the stranger;
and, being already displeased with the issue of the tournament, in which
the challengers whom he favoured had been successively defeated by one
knight, he answered haughtily to the marshals, "By the light of Our
Lady's brow, this same knight hath been disinherited as well of his
courtesy as of his lands, since he desires to appear before us without
uncovering his face.--Wot ye, my lords," he said, turning round to his
train, "who this gallant can be, that bears himself thus proudly?"
"I cannot guess," answered De Bracy, "nor did I think there had been
within the four seas that girth Britain a champion that could bear down
these five knights in one day's jousting. By my faith, I shall never
forget the force with which he shocked De Vipont. The poor Hospitaller
was hurled from his saddle like a stone from a sling."
"Boast not of that," said a Knight of St John, who was present;
"your Temple champion had no better luck. I saw your brave lance,
Bois-Guilbert, roll thrice over, grasping his hands full of sand at
De Bracy, being attached to the Templars, would have replied, but was
prevented by Prince John. "Silence, sirs!" he said; "what unprofitable
debate have we here?"
"The victor," said De Wyvil, "still waits the pleasure of your
"It is our pleasure," answered John, "that he do so wait until we learn
whether there is not some one who can at least guess at his name and
quality. Should he remain there till night-fall, he has had work enough
to keep him warm."
"Your Grace," said Waldemar Fitzurse, "will do less than due honour to
the victor, if you compel him to wait till we tell your highness that
which we cannot know; at least I can form no guess--unless he be one of
the good lances who accompanied King Richard to Palestine, and who are
now straggling homeward from the Holy Land."
"It may be the Earl of Salisbury," said De Bracy; "he is about the same
"Sir Thomas de Multon, the Knight of Gilsland, rather," said Fitzurse;
"Salisbury is bigger in the bones." A whisper arose among the train,
but by whom first suggested could not be ascertained. "It might be the
King--it might be Richard Coeur-de-Lion himself!"
"Over God's forbode!" said Prince John, involuntarily turning at the
same time as pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by a flash of
lightning; "Waldemar!--De Bracy! brave knights and gentlemen, remember
your promises, and stand truly by me!"
"Here is no danger impending," said Waldemar Fitzurse; "are you so
little acquainted with the gigantic limbs of your father's son, as
to think they can be held within the circumference of yonder suit
of armour?--De Wyvil and Martival, you will best serve the Prince by
bringing forward the victor to the throne, and ending an error that has
conjured all the blood from his cheeks.--Look at him more closely," he
continued, "your highness will see that he wants three inches of King
Richard's height, and twice as much of his shoulder-breadth. The very
horse he backs, could not have carried the ponderous weight of King
Richard through a single course."
While he was yet speaking, the marshals brought forward the Disinherited
Knight to the foot of a wooden flight of steps, which formed the ascent
from the lists to Prince John's throne. Still discomposed with the idea
that his brother, so much injured, and to whom he was so much indebted,
had suddenly arrived in his native kingdom, even the distinctions
pointed out by Fitzurse did not altogether remove the Prince's
apprehensions; and while, with a short and embarrassed eulogy upon his
valour, he caused to be delivered to him the war-horse assigned as the
prize, he trembled lest from the barred visor of the mailed form before
him, an answer might be returned, in the deep and awful accents of
Richard the Lion-hearted.
But the Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply to the compliment
of the Prince, which he only acknowledged with a profound obeisance.
The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed, the
animal itself being fully accoutred with the richest war-furniture;
which, however, scarcely added to the value of the noble creature in the
eyes of those who were judges. Laying one hand upon the pommel of the
saddle, the Disinherited Knight vaulted at once upon the back of the
steed without making use of the stirrup, and, brandishing aloft his
lance, rode twice around the lists, exhibiting the points and paces of
the horse with the skill of a perfect horseman.
The appearance of vanity, which might otherwise have been attributed to
this display, was removed by the propriety shown in exhibiting to the
best advantage the princely reward with which he had been just honoured,
and the Knight was again greeted by the acclamations of all present.
In the meanwhile, the bustling Prior of Jorvaulx had reminded Prince
John, in a whisper, that the victor must now display his good judgment,
instead of his valour, by selecting from among the beauties who graced
the galleries a lady, who should fill the throne of the Queen of Beauty
and of Love, and deliver the prize of the tourney upon the ensuing day.
The Prince accordingly made a sign with his truncheon, as the Knight
passed him in his second career around the lists. The Knight turned
towards the throne, and, sinking his lance, until the point was within
a foot of the ground, remained motionless, as if expecting John's
commands; while all admired the sudden dexterity with which he instantly
reduced his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and high
excitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue.
"Sir Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since that is the only
title by which we can address you, it is now your duty, as well as
privilege, to name the fair lady, who, as Queen of Honour and of Love,
is to preside over next day's festival. If, as a stranger in our land,
you should require the aid of other judgment to guide your own, we
can only say that Alicia, the daughter of our gallant knight Waldemar
Fitzurse, has at our court been long held the first in beauty as in
place. Nevertheless, it is your undoubted prerogative to confer on whom
you please this crown, by the delivery of which to the lady of
your choice, the election of to-morrow's Queen will be formal and
complete.--Raise your lance."
The Knight obeyed; and Prince John placed upon its point a coronet of
green satin, having around its edge a circlet of gold, the upper edge
of which was relieved by arrow-points and hearts placed interchangeably,
like the strawberry leaves and balls upon a ducal crown.
In the broad hint which he dropped respecting the daughter of Waldemar
Fitzurse, John had more than one motive, each the offspring of a mind,
which was a strange mixture of carelessness and presumption with low
artifice and cunning. He wished to banish from the minds of the chivalry
around him his own indecent and unacceptable jest respecting the Jewess
Rebecca; he was desirous of conciliating Alicia's father Waldemar,
of whom he stood in awe, and who had more than once shown himself
dissatisfied during the course of the day's proceedings. He had also a
wish to establish himself in the good graces of the lady; for John was
at least as licentious in his pleasures as profligate in his ambition.
But besides all these reasons, he was desirous to raise up against
the Disinherited Knight (towards whom he already entertained a strong
dislike) a powerful enemy in the person of Waldemar Fitzurse, who was
likely, he thought, highly to resent the injury done to his daughter, in
case, as was not unlikely, the victor should make another choice.
And so indeed it proved. For the Disinherited Knight passed the gallery
close to that of the Prince, in which the Lady Alicia was seated in the
full pride of triumphant beauty, and, pacing forwards as slowly as he
had hitherto rode swiftly around the lists, he seemed to exercise his
right of examining the numerous fair faces which adorned that splendid
It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties who
underwent this examination, during the time it was proceeding. Some
blushed, some assumed an air of pride and dignity, some looked straight
forward, and essayed to seem utterly unconscious of what was going on,
some drew back in alarm, which was perhaps affected, some endeavoured to
forbear smiling, and there were two or three who laughed outright. There
were also some who dropped their veils over their charms; but, as the
Wardour Manuscript says these were fair ones of ten years standing, it
may be supposed that, having had their full share of such vanities, they
were willing to withdraw their claim, in order to give a fair chance to
the rising beauties of the age.
At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the Lady
Rowena was placed, and the expectation of the spectators was excited to
It must be owned, that if an interest displayed in his success could
have bribed the Disinherited Knight, the part of the lists before which
he paused had merited his predilection. Cedric the Saxon, overjoyed at
the discomfiture of the Templar, and still more so at the miscarriage of
his two malevolent neighbours, Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, had, with
his body half stretched over the balcony, accompanied the victor in each
course, not with his eyes only, but with his whole heart and soul. The
Lady Rowena had watched the progress of the day with equal attention,
though without openly betraying the same intense interest. Even the
unmoved Athelstane had shown symptoms of shaking off his apathy, when,
calling for a huge goblet of muscadine, he quaffed it to the health
of the Disinherited Knight. Another group, stationed under the gallery
occupied by the Saxons, had shown no less interest in the fate of the
"Father Abraham!" said Isaac of York, when the first course was run
betwixt the Templar and the Disinherited Knight, "how fiercely that
Gentile rides! Ah, the good horse that was brought all the long way
from Barbary, he takes no more care of him than if he were a wild ass's
colt--and the noble armour, that was worth so many zecchins to Joseph
Pareira, the armourer of Milan, besides seventy in the hundred of
profits, he cares for it as little as if he had found it in the
"If he risks his own person and limbs, father," said Rebecca, "in doing
such a dreadful battle, he can scarce be expected to spare his horse and
"Child!" replied Isaac, somewhat heated, "thou knowest not what thou
speakest--His neck and limbs are his own, but his horse and armour
belong to--Holy Jacob! what was I about to say!--Nevertheless, it is
a good youth--See, Rebecca! see, he is again about to go up to battle
against the Philistine--Pray, child--pray for the safety of the good
youth,--and of the speedy horse, and the rich armour.--God of my
fathers!" he again exclaimed, "he hath conquered, and the uncircumcised
Philistine hath fallen before his lance,--even as Og the King of
Bashan, and Sihon, King of the Amorites, fell before the sword of our
fathers!--Surely he shall take their gold and their silver, and their
war-horses, and their armour of brass and of steel, for a prey and for a
The same anxiety did the worthy Jew display during every course that was
run, seldom failing to hazard a hasty calculation concerning the value
of the horse and armour which was forfeited to the champion upon each
new success. There had been therefore no small interest taken in the
success of the Disinherited Knight, by those who occupied the part of
the lists before which he now paused.
Whether from indecision, or some other motive of hesitation, the
champion of the day remained stationary for more than a minute, while
the eyes of the silent audience were riveted upon his motions; and then,
gradually and gracefully sinking the point of his lance, he deposited
the coronet which it supported at the feet of the fair Rowena. The
trumpets instantly sounded, while the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena
the Queen of Beauty and of Love for the ensuing day, menacing with
suitable penalties those who should be disobedient to her authority.
They then repeated their cry of Largesse, to which Cedric, in the height
of his joy, replied by an ample donative, and to which Athelstane,
though less promptly, added one equally large.
There was some murmuring among the damsels of Norman descent, who were
as much unused to see the preference given to a Saxon beauty, as the
Norman nobles were to sustain defeat in the games of chivalry which they
themselves had introduced. But these sounds of disaffection were drowned
by the popular shout of "Long live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and
lawful Queen of Love and of Beauty!" To which many in the lower area
added, "Long live the Saxon Princess! long live the race of the immortal
However unacceptable these sounds might be to Prince John, and to
those around him, he saw himself nevertheless obliged to confirm the
nomination of the victor, and accordingly calling to horse, he left
his throne; and mounting his jennet, accompanied by his train, he again
entered the lists. The Prince paused a moment beneath the gallery of
the Lady Alicia, to whom he paid his compliments, observing, at the same
time, to those around him--"By my halidome, sirs! if the Knight's feats
in arms have shown that he hath limbs and sinews, his choice hath no
less proved that his eyes are none of the clearest."
It was on this occasion, as during his whole life, John's misfortune,
not perfectly to understand the characters of those whom he wished to
conciliate. Waldemar Fitzurse was rather offended than pleased at the
Prince stating thus broadly an opinion, that his daughter had been
"I know no right of chivalry," he said, "more precious or inalienable
than that of each free knight to choose his lady-love by his own
judgment. My daughter courts distinction from no one; and in her own
character, and in her own sphere, will never fail to receive the full
proportion of that which is her due."
Prince John replied not; but, spurring his horse, as if to give vent
to his vexation, he made the animal bound forward to the gallery where
Rowena was seated, with the crown still at her feet.
"Assume," he said, "fair lady, the mark of your sovereignty, to which
none vows homage more sincerely than ourself, John of Anjou; and if
it please you to-day, with your noble sire and friends, to grace our
banquet in the Castle of Ashby, we shall learn to know the empress to
whose service we devote to-morrow."
Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native Saxon.
"The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which to
reply to your courtesy, or to sustain her part in your festival. I also,
and the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh, speak only the language, and
practise only the manners, of our fathers. We therefore decline with
thanks your Highness's courteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow,
the Lady Rowena will take upon her the state to which she has been
called by the free election of the victor Knight, confirmed by the
acclamations of the people."
So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's head, in
token of her acceptance of the temporary authority assigned to her.
"What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the
Saxon language, in which, however, he was well skilled. The purport of
Cedric's speech was repeated to him in French. "It is well," he said;
"to-morrow we will ourself conduct this mute sovereign to her seat of
dignity.--You, at least, Sir Knight," he added, turning to the victor,
who had remained near the gallery, "will this day share our banquet?"
The Knight, speaking for the first time, in a low and hurried voice,
excused himself by pleading fatigue, and the necessity of preparing for
"It is well," said Prince John, haughtily; "although unused to such
refusals, we will endeavour to digest our banquet as we may, though
ungraced by the most successful in arms, and his elected Queen of
So saying, he prepared to leave the lists with his glittering train, and
his turning his steed for that purpose, was the signal for the breaking
up and dispersion of the spectators.
Yet, with the vindictive memory proper to offended pride, especially
when combined with conscious want of desert, John had hardly proceeded
three paces, ere again, turning around, he fixed an eye of stern
resentment upon the yeoman who had displeased him in the early part of
the day, and issued his commands to the men-at-arms who stood near--"On
your life, suffer not that fellow to escape."
The yeoman stood the angry glance of the Prince with the same unvaried
steadiness which had marked his former deportment, saying, with a smile,
"I have no intention to leave Ashby until the day after to-morrow--I
must see how Staffordshire and Leicestershire can draw their bows--the
forests of Needwood and Charnwood must rear good archers."
"I," said Prince John to his attendants, but not in direct reply,--"I
will see how he can draw his own; and woe betide him unless his skill
should prove some apology for his insolence!"
"It is full time," said De Bracy, "that the 'outrecuidance'  of
these peasants should be restrained by some striking example."
Waldemar Fitzurse, who probably thought his patron was not taking the
readiest road to popularity, shrugged up his shoulders and was silent.
Prince John resumed his retreat from the lists, and the dispersion of
the multitude became general.
In various routes, according to the different quarters from which
they came, and in groups of various numbers, the spectators were seen
retiring over the plain. By far the most numerous part streamed towards
the town of Ashby, where many of the distinguished persons were lodged
in the castle, and where others found accommodation in the town itself.
Among these were most of the knights who had already appeared in the
tournament, or who proposed to fight there the ensuing day, and who, as
they rode slowly along, talking over the events of the day, were greeted
with loud shouts by the populace. The same acclamations were bestowed
upon Prince John, although he was indebted for them rather to the
splendour of his appearance and train, than to the popularity of his
A more sincere and more general, as well as a better-merited
acclamation, attended the victor of the day, until, anxious to withdraw
himself from popular notice, he accepted the accommodation of one of
those pavilions pitched at the extremities of the lists, the use of
which was courteously tendered him by the marshals of the field. On his
retiring to his tent, many who had lingered in the lists, to look upon
and form conjectures concerning him, also dispersed.
The signs and sounds of a tumultuous concourse of men lately crowded
together in one place, and agitated by the same passing events, were now
exchanged for the distant hum of voices of different groups retreating
in all directions, and these speedily died away in silence. No other
sounds were heard save the voices of the menials who stripped the
galleries of their cushions and tapestry, in order to put them in safety
for the night, and wrangled among themselves for the half-used bottles
of wine and relics of the refreshment which had been served round to the
Beyond the precincts of the lists more than one forge was erected; and
these now began to glimmer through the twilight, announcing the toil of
the armourers, which was to continue through the whole night, in order
to repair or alter the suits of armour to be used again on the morrow.
A strong guard of men-at-arms, renewed at intervals, from two hours to
two hours, surrounded the lists, and kept watch during the night.
Thus, like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings;
Vex'd and tormented, runs poor Barrabas,
With fatal curses towards these Christians.
--Jew of Malta
The Disinherited Knight had no sooner reached his pavilion, than squires
and pages in abundance tendered their services to disarm him, to bring
fresh attire, and to offer him the refreshment of the bath. Their zeal
on this occasion was perhaps sharpened by curiosity, since every one
desired to know who the knight was that had gained so many laurels, yet
had refused, even at the command of Prince John, to lift his visor or
to name his name. But their officious inquisitiveness was not gratified.
The Disinherited Knight refused all other assistance save that of his
own squire, or rather yeoman--a clownish-looking man, who, wrapt in a
cloak of dark-coloured felt, and having his head and face half-buried
in a Norman bonnet made of black fur, seemed to affect the incognito
as much as his master. All others being excluded from the tent, this
attendant relieved his master from the more burdensome parts of his
armour, and placed food and wine before him, which the exertions of the
day rendered very acceptable.
The Knight had scarcely finished a hasty meal, ere his menial announced
to him that five men, each leading a barbed steed, desired to speak with
him. The Disinherited Knight had exchanged his armour for the long robe
usually worn by those of his condition, which, being furnished with a
hood, concealed the features, when such was the pleasure of the
wearer, almost as completely as the visor of the helmet itself, but the
twilight, which was now fast darkening, would of itself have rendered
a disguise unnecessary, unless to persons to whom the face of an
individual chanced to be particularly well known.
The Disinherited Knight, therefore, stept boldly forth to the front of
his tent, and found in attendance the squires of the challengers, whom
he easily knew by their russet and black dresses, each of whom led
his master's charger, loaded with the armour in which he had that day
"According to the laws of chivalry," said the foremost of these men, "I,
Baldwin de Oyley, squire to the redoubted Knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert,
make offer to you, styling yourself, for the present, the Disinherited
Knight, of the horse and armour used by the said Brian de Bois-Guilbert
in this day's Passage of Arms, leaving it with your nobleness to retain
or to ransom the same, according to your pleasure; for such is the law
The other squires repeated nearly the same formula, and then stood to
await the decision of the Disinherited Knight.
"To you four, sirs," replied the Knight, addressing those who had last
spoken, "and to your honourable and valiant masters, I have one common
reply. Commend me to the noble knights, your masters, and say, I should
do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which can never be used by
braver cavaliers.--I would I could here end my message to these
gallant knights; but being, as I term myself, in truth and earnest, the
Disinherited, I must be thus far bound to your masters, that they will,
of their courtesy, be pleased to ransom their steeds and armour, since
that which I wear I can hardly term mine own."
"We stand commissioned, each of us," answered the squire of Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf, "to offer a hundred zecchins in ransom of these horses
and suits of armour."
"It is sufficient," said the Disinherited Knight. "Half the sum
my present necessities compel me to accept; of the remaining half,
distribute one moiety among yourselves, sir squires, and divide the
other half betwixt the heralds and the pursuivants, and minstrels, and
The squires, with cap in hand, and low reverences, expressed their deep
sense of a courtesy and generosity not often practised, at least upon a
scale so extensive. The Disinherited Knight then addressed his discourse
to Baldwin, the squire of Brian de Bois-Guilbert. "From your master,"
said he, "I will accept neither arms nor ransom. Say to him in my name,
that our strife is not ended--no, not till we have fought as well with
swords as with lances--as well on foot as on horseback. To this
mortal quarrel he has himself defied me, and I shall not forget the
challenge.--Meantime, let him be assured, that I hold him not as one of
his companions, with whom I can with pleasure exchange courtesies; but
rather as one with whom I stand upon terms of mortal defiance."
"My master," answered Baldwin, "knows how to requite scorn with scorn,
and blows with blows, as well as courtesy with courtesy. Since you
disdain to accept from him any share of the ransom at which you have
rated the arms of the other knights, I must leave his armour and his
horse here, being well assured that he will never deign to mount the one
nor wear the other."
"You have spoken well, good squire," said the Disinherited Knight,
"well and boldly, as it beseemeth him to speak who answers for an absent
master. Leave not, however, the horse and armour here. Restore them to
thy master; or, if he scorns to accept them, retain them, good friend,
for thine own use. So far as they are mine, I bestow them upon you
Baldwin made a deep obeisance, and retired with his companions; and the
Disinherited Knight entered the pavilion.
"Thus far, Gurth," said he, addressing his attendant, "the reputation of
English chivalry hath not suffered in my hands."
"And I," said Gurth, "for a Saxon swineherd, have not ill played the
personage of a Norman squire-at-arms."
"Yea, but," answered the Disinherited Knight, "thou hast ever kept me in
anxiety lest thy clownish bearing should discover thee."
"Tush!" said Gurth, "I fear discovery from none, saving my playfellow,
Wamba the Jester, of whom I could never discover whether he were most
knave or fool. Yet I could scarce choose but laugh, when my old master
passed so near to me, dreaming all the while that Gurth was keeping his
porkers many a mile off, in the thickets and swamps of Rotherwood. If I
"Enough," said the Disinherited Knight, "thou knowest my promise."
"Nay, for that matter," said Gurth, "I will never fail my friend for
fear of my skin-cutting. I have a tough hide, that will bear knife or
scourge as well as any boar's hide in my herd."
"Trust me, I will requite the risk you run for my love, Gurth," said the
Knight. "Meanwhile, I pray you to accept these ten pieces of gold."
"I am richer," said Gurth, putting them into his pouch, "than ever was
swineherd or bondsman."
"Take this bag of gold to Ashby," continued his master, "and find out
Isaac the Jew of York, and let him pay himself for the horse and arms
with which his credit supplied me."
"Nay, by St Dunstan," replied Gurth, "that I will not do."
"How, knave," replied his master, "wilt thou not obey my commands?"
"So they be honest, reasonable, and Christian commands," replied Gurth;
"but this is none of these. To suffer the Jew to pay himself would be
dishonest, for it would be cheating my master; and unreasonable, for it
were the part of a fool; and unchristian, since it would be plundering a
believer to enrich an infidel."
"See him contented, however, thou stubborn varlet," said the
"I will do so," said Gurth, taking the bag under his cloak, and leaving
the apartment; "and it will go hard," he muttered, "but I content him
with one-half of his own asking." So saying, he departed, and left the
Disinherited Knight to his own perplexed ruminations; which, upon more
accounts than it is now possible to communicate to the reader, were of a
nature peculiarly agitating and painful.
We must now change the scene to the village of Ashby, or rather to a
country house in its vicinity belonging to a wealthy Israelite, with
whom Isaac, his daughter, and retinue, had taken up their quarters; the
Jews, it is well known, being as liberal in exercising the duties of
hospitality and charity among their own people, as they were alleged to
be reluctant and churlish in extending them to those whom they
termed Gentiles, and whose treatment of them certainly merited little
hospitality at their hand.
In an apartment, small indeed, but richly furnished with decorations of
an Oriental taste, Rebecca was seated on a heap of embroidered cushions,
which, piled along a low platform that surrounded the chamber, served,
like the estrada of the Spaniards, instead of chairs and stools. She
was watching the motions of her father with a look of anxious and
filial affection, while he paced the apartment with a dejected mien
and disordered step; sometimes clasping his hands together--sometimes
casting his eyes to the roof of the apartment, as one who laboured under
great mental tribulation. "O, Jacob!" he exclaimed--"O, all ye twelve
Holy Fathers of our tribe! what a losing venture is this for one who
hath duly kept every jot and tittle of the law of Moses--Fifty zecchins
wrenched from me at one clutch, and by the talons of a tyrant!"
"But, father," said Rebecca, "you seemed to give the gold to Prince John
"Willingly? the blotch of Egypt upon him!--Willingly, saidst thou?--Ay,
as willingly as when, in the Gulf of Lyons, I flung over my merchandise
to lighten the ship, while she laboured in the tempest--robed the
seething billows in my choice silks--perfumed their briny foam with
myrrh and aloes--enriched their caverns with gold and silver work! And
was not that an hour of unutterable misery, though my own hands made the
"But it was a sacrifice which Heaven exacted to save our lives,"
answered Rebecca, "and the God of our fathers has since blessed your
store and your gettings."
"Ay," answered Isaac, "but if the tyrant lays hold on them as he did
to-day, and compels me to smile while he is robbing me?--O, daughter,
disinherited and wandering as we are, the worst evil which befalls our
race is, that when we are wronged and plundered, all the world laughs
around, and we are compelled to suppress our sense of injury, and to
smile tamely, when we would revenge bravely."
"Think not thus of it, my father," said Rebecca; "we also have
advantages. These Gentiles, cruel and oppressive as they are, are in
some sort dependent on the dispersed children of Zion, whom they despise
and persecute. Without the aid of our wealth, they could neither furnish
forth their hosts in war, nor their triumphs in peace, and the gold
which we lend them returns with increase to our coffers. We are like the
herb which flourisheth most when it is most trampled on. Even this day's
pageant had not proceeded without the consent of the despised Jew, who
furnished the means."
"Daughter," said Isaac, "thou hast harped upon another string of sorrow.
The goodly steed and the rich armour, equal to the full profit of my
adventure with our Kirjath Jairam of Leicester--there is a dead loss
too--ay, a loss which swallows up the gains of a week; ay, of the space
between two Sabbaths--and yet it may end better than I now think, for
'tis a good youth."
"Assuredly," said Rebecca, "you shall not repent you of requiting the
good deed received of the stranger knight."
"I trust so, daughter," said Isaac, "and I trust too in the rebuilding
of Zion; but as well do I hope with my own bodily eyes to see the walls
and battlements of the new Temple, as to see a Christian, yea, the very
best of Christians, repay a debt to a Jew, unless under the awe of the
judge and jailor."
So saying, he resumed his discontented walk through the apartment; and
Rebecca, perceiving that her attempts at consolation only served to
awaken new subjects of complaint, wisely desisted from her unavailing
efforts--a prudential line of conduct, and we recommend to all who set
up for comforters and advisers, to follow it in the like circumstances.
The evening was now becoming dark, when a Jewish servant entered the
apartment, and placed upon the table two silver lamps, fed with perfumed
oil; the richest wines, and the most delicate refreshments, were at the
same time displayed by another Israelitish domestic on a small ebony
table, inlaid with silver; for, in the interior of their houses, the
Jews refused themselves no expensive indulgences. At the same time the
servant informed Isaac, that a Nazarene (so they termed Christians,
while conversing among themselves) desired to speak with him. He that
would live by traffic, must hold himself at the disposal of every one
claiming business with him. Isaac at once replaced on the table the
untasted glass of Greek wine which he had just raised to his lips, and
saying hastily to his daughter, "Rebecca, veil thyself," commanded the
stranger to be admitted.
Just as Rebecca had dropped over her fine features a screen of silver
gauze which reached to her feet, the door opened, and Gurth entered,
wrapt in the ample folds of his Norman mantle. His appearance was rather
suspicious than prepossessing, especially as, instead of doffing his
bonnet, he pulled it still deeper over his rugged brow.
"Art thou Isaac the Jew of York?" said Gurth, in Saxon.
"I am," replied Isaac, in the same language, (for his traffic had
rendered every tongue spoken in Britain familiar to him)--"and who art
"That is not to the purpose," answered Gurth.
"As much as my name is to thee," replied Isaac; "for without knowing
thine, how can I hold intercourse with thee?"
"Easily," answered Gurth; "I, being to pay money, must know that I
deliver it to the right person; thou, who are to receive it, will not, I
think, care very greatly by whose hands it is delivered."
"O," said the Jew, "you are come to pay moneys?--Holy Father Abraham!
that altereth our relation to each other. And from whom dost thou bring
"From the Disinherited Knight," said Gurth, "victor in this day's
tournament. It is the price of the armour supplied to him by Kirjath
Jairam of Leicester, on thy recommendation. The steed is restored to thy
stable. I desire to know the amount of the sum which I am to pay for the
"I said he was a good youth!" exclaimed Isaac with joyful exultation. "A
cup of wine will do thee no harm," he added, filling and handing to the
swineherd a richer drought than Gurth had ever before tasted. "And how
much money," continued Isaac, "has thou brought with thee?"
"Holy Virgin!" said Gurth, setting down the cup, "what nectar these
unbelieving dogs drink, while true Christians are fain to quaff ale as
muddy and thick as the draff we give to hogs!--What money have I
brought with me?" continued the Saxon, when he had finished this uncivil
ejaculation, "even but a small sum; something in hand the whilst. What,
Isaac! thou must bear a conscience, though it be a Jewish one."
"Nay, but," said Isaac, "thy master has won goodly steeds and rich
armours with the strength of his lance, and of his right hand--but 'tis
a good youth--the Jew will take these in present payment, and render him
back the surplus."
"My master has disposed of them already," said Gurth.
"Ah! that was wrong," said the Jew, "that was the part of a fool. No
Christians here could buy so many horses and armour--no Jew except
myself would give him half the values. But thou hast a hundred zecchins
with thee in that bag," said Isaac, prying under Gurth's cloak, "it is a
"I have heads for cross-bow bolts in it," said Gurth, readily.
"Well, then"--said Isaac, panting and hesitating between habitual love
of gain and a new-born desire to be liberal in the present instance, "if
I should say that I would take eighty zecchins for the good steed and
the rich armour, which leaves me not a guilder's profit, have you money
to pay me?"
"Barely," said Gurth, though the sum demanded was more reasonable than
he expected, "and it will leave my master nigh penniless. Nevertheless,
if such be your least offer, I must be content."
"Fill thyself another goblet of wine," said the Jew. "Ah! eighty
zecchins is too little. It leaveth no profit for the usages of the
moneys; and, besides, the good horse may have suffered wrong in this
day's encounter. O, it was a hard and a dangerous meeting! man and steed
rushing on each other like wild bulls of Bashan! The horse cannot but
have had wrong."
"And I say," replied Gurth, "he is sound, wind and limb; and you may
see him now, in your stable. And I say, over and above, that seventy
zecchins is enough for the armour, and I hope a Christian's word is as
good as a Jew's. If you will not take seventy, I will carry this bag"
(and he shook it till the contents jingled) "back to my master."
"Nay, nay!" said Isaac; "lay down the talents--the shekels--the eighty
zecchins, and thou shalt see I will consider thee liberally."
Gurth at length complied; and telling out eighty zecchins upon the
table, the Jew delivered out to him an acquittance for the horse and
suit of armour. The Jew's hand trembled for joy as he wrapped up the
first seventy pieces of gold. The last ten he told over with much
deliberation, pausing, and saying something as he took each piece from
the table, and dropt it into his purse. It seemed as if his avarice were
struggling with his better nature, and compelling him to pouch zecchin
after zecchin while his generosity urged him to restore some part at
least to his benefactor, or as a donation to his agent. His whole speech
ran nearly thus:
"Seventy-one--seventy-two; thy master is a good youth--seventy-three,
an excellent youth--seventy-four--that piece hath been clipt
within the ring--seventy-five--and that looketh light of
weight--seventy-six--when thy master wants money, let him come to Isaac
of York--seventy-seven--that is, with reasonable security." Here he made
a considerable pause, and Gurth had good hope that the last three pieces
might escape the fate of their comrades; but the enumeration
proceeded.--"Seventy-eight--thou art a good fellow--seventy-nine--and
deservest something for thyself---"
Here the Jew paused again, and looked at the last zecchin, intending,
doubtless, to bestow it upon Gurth. He weighed it upon the tip of his
finger, and made it ring by dropping it upon the table. Had it rung too
flat, or had it felt a hair's breadth too light, generosity had carried
the day; but, unhappily for Gurth, the chime was full and true, the
zecchin plump, newly coined, and a grain above weight. Isaac could not
find in his heart to part with it, so dropt it into his purse as if in
absence of mind, with the words, "Eighty completes the tale, and I trust
thy master will reward thee handsomely.--Surely," he added, looking
earnestly at the bag, "thou hast more coins in that pouch?"
Gurth grinned, which was his nearest approach to a laugh, as he replied,
"About the same quantity which thou hast just told over so carefully."
He then folded the quittance, and put it under his cap, adding,--"Peril
of thy beard, Jew, see that this be full and ample!" He filled himself
unbidden, a third goblet of wine, and left the apartment without
"Rebecca," said the Jew, "that Ishmaelite hath gone somewhat beyond me.
Nevertheless his master is a good youth--ay, and I am well pleased that
he hath gained shekels of gold and shekels of silver, even by the speed
of his horse and by the strength of his lance, which, like that of
Goliath the Philistine, might vie with a weaver's beam."
As he turned to receive Rebecca's answer, he observed, that during his
chattering with Gurth, she had left the apartment unperceived.
In the meanwhile, Gurth had descended the stair, and, having reached the
dark antechamber or hall, was puzzling about to discover the entrance,
when a figure in white, shown by a small silver lamp which she held in
her hand, beckoned him into a side apartment. Gurth had some reluctance
to obey the summons. Rough and impetuous as a wild boar, where only
earthly force was to be apprehended, he had all the characteristic
terrors of a Saxon respecting fawns, forest-fiends, white women, and
the whole of the superstitions which his ancestors had brought with them
from the wilds of Germany. He remembered, moreover, that he was in the
house of a Jew, a people who, besides the other unamiable qualities
which popular report ascribed to them, were supposed to be profound
necromancers and cabalists. Nevertheless, after a moment's pause, he
obeyed the beckoning summons of the apparition, and followed her into
the apartment which she indicated, where he found to his joyful surprise
that his fair guide was the beautiful Jewess whom he had seen at the
tournament, and a short time in her father's apartment.
She asked him the particulars of his transaction with Isaac, which he
"My father did but jest with thee, good fellow," said Rebecca; "he owes
thy master deeper kindness than these arms and steed could pay, were
their value tenfold. What sum didst thou pay my father even now?"
"Eighty zecchins," said Gurth, surprised at the question.
"In this purse," said Rebecca, "thou wilt find a hundred. Restore to
thy master that which is his due, and enrich thyself with the remainder.
Haste--begone--stay not to render thanks! and beware how you pass
through this crowded town, where thou mayst easily lose both thy burden
and thy life.--Reuben," she added, clapping her hands together, "light
forth this stranger, and fail not to draw lock and bar behind him."
Reuben, a dark-brow'd and black-bearded Israelite, obeyed her summons,
with a torch in his hand; undid the outward door of the house, and
conducting Gurth across a paved court, let him out through a wicket in
the entrance-gate, which he closed behind him with such bolts and chains
as would well have become that of a prison.
"By St Dunstan," said Gurth, as he stumbled up the dark avenue, "this
is no Jewess, but an angel from heaven! Ten zecchins from my brave young
master--twenty from this pearl of Zion--Oh, happy day!--Such another,
Gurth, will redeem thy bondage, and make thee a brother as free of thy
guild as the best. And then do I lay down my swineherd's horn and staff,
and take the freeman's sword and buckler, and follow my young master to
the death, without hiding either my face or my name."
1st Outlaw: Stand, sir, and throw us that you have about you;
If not, we'll make you sit, and rifle you.
Speed: Sir, we are undone! these are the villains
That all the travellers do fear so much.
Val: My friends,--
1st Out: That's not so, sir, we are your enemies.
2d Out: Peace! we'll hear him.
3d Out: Ay, by my beard, will we;
For he's a proper man.
--Two Gentlemen of Verona
The nocturnal adventures of Gurth were not yet concluded; indeed he
himself became partly of that mind, when, after passing one or two
straggling houses which stood in the outskirts of the village, he found
himself in a deep lane, running between two banks overgrown with hazel
and holly, while here and there a dwarf oak flung its arms altogether
across the path. The lane was moreover much rutted and broken up by the
carriages which had recently transported articles of various kinds to
the tournament; and it was dark, for the banks and bushes intercepted
the light of the harvest moon.
From the village were heard the distant sounds of revelry, mixed
occasionally with loud laughter, sometimes broken by screams, and
sometimes by wild strains of distant music. All these sounds, intimating
the disorderly state of the town, crowded with military nobles and
their dissolute attendants, gave Gurth some uneasiness. "The Jewess was
right," he said to himself. "By heaven and St Dunstan, I would I were
safe at my journey's end with all this treasure! Here are such numbers,
I will not say of arrant thieves, but of errant knights and errant
squires, errant monks and errant minstrels, errant jugglers and errant
jesters, that a man with a single merk would be in danger, much more a
poor swineherd with a whole bagful of zecchins. Would I were out of
the shade of these infernal bushes, that I might at least see any of St
Nicholas's clerks before they spring on my shoulders."
Gurth accordingly hastened his pace, in order to gain the open common
to which the lane led, but was not so fortunate as to accomplish his
object. Just as he had attained the upper end of the lane, where the
underwood was thickest, four men sprung upon him, even as his fears
anticipated, two from each side of the road, and seized him so fast,
that resistance, if at first practicable, would have been now too
late.--"Surrender your charge," said one of them; "we are the deliverers
of the commonwealth, who ease every man of his burden."
"You should not ease me of mine so lightly," muttered Gurth, whose
surly honesty could not be tamed even by the pressure of immediate
violence,--"had I it but in my power to give three strokes in its
"We shall see that presently," said the robber; and, speaking to his
companions, he added, "bring along the knave. I see he would have his
head broken, as well as his purse cut, and so be let blood in two veins
Gurth was hurried along agreeably to this mandate, and having been
dragged somewhat roughly over the bank, on the left-hand side of the
lane, found himself in a straggling thicket, which lay betwixt it and
the open common. He was compelled to follow his rough conductors into
the very depth of this cover, where they stopt unexpectedly in an
irregular open space, free in a great measure from trees, and on which,
therefore, the beams of the moon fell without much interruption from
boughs and leaves. Here his captors were joined by two other persons,
apparently belonging to the gang. They had short swords by their sides,
and quarter-staves in their hands, and Gurth could now observe that
all six wore visors, which rendered their occupation a matter of no
question, even had their former proceedings left it in doubt.
"What money hast thou, churl?" said one of the thieves.
"Thirty zecchins of my own property," answered Gurth, doggedly.
"A forfeit--a forfeit," shouted the robbers; "a Saxon hath thirty
zecchins, and returns sober from a village! An undeniable and
unredeemable forfeit of all he hath about him."
"I hoarded it to purchase my freedom," said Gurth.
"Thou art an ass," replied one of the thieves "three quarts of double
ale had rendered thee as free as thy master, ay, and freer too, if he be
a Saxon like thyself."
"A sad truth," replied Gurth; "but if these same thirty zecchins will
buy my freedom from you, unloose my hands, and I will pay them to you."
"Hold," said one who seemed to exercise some authority over the others;
"this bag which thou bearest, as I can feel through thy cloak, contains
more coin than thou hast told us of."
"It is the good knight my master's," answered Gurth, "of which,
assuredly, I would not have spoken a word, had you been satisfied with
working your will upon mine own property."
"Thou art an honest fellow," replied the robber, "I warrant thee; and we
worship not St Nicholas so devoutly but what thy thirty zecchins may yet
escape, if thou deal uprightly with us. Meantime render up thy trust
for a time." So saying, he took from Gurth's breast the large leathern
pouch, in which the purse given him by Rebecca was enclosed, as well as
the rest of the zecchins, and then continued his interrogation.--"Who is
"The Disinherited Knight," said Gurth.
"Whose good lance," replied the robber, "won the prize in to-day's
tourney? What is his name and lineage?"
"It is his pleasure," answered Gurth, "that they be concealed; and from
me, assuredly, you will learn nought of them."
"What is thine own name and lineage?"
"To tell that," said Gurth, "might reveal my master's."
"Thou art a saucy groom," said the robber, "but of that anon. How comes
thy master by this gold? is it of his inheritance, or by what means hath
it accrued to him?"
"By his good lance," answered Gurth.--"These bags contain the ransom of
four good horses, and four good suits of armour."
"How much is there?" demanded the robber.
"Two hundred zecchins."
"Only two hundred zecchins!" said the bandit; "your master hath dealt
liberally by the vanquished, and put them to a cheap ransom. Name those
who paid the gold."
Gurth did so.
"The armour and horse of the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert, at what
ransom were they held?--Thou seest thou canst not deceive me."
"My master," replied Gurth, "will take nought from the Templar save
his life's-blood. They are on terms of mortal defiance, and cannot hold
courteous intercourse together."
"Indeed!"--repeated the robber, and paused after he had said the
word. "And what wert thou now doing at Ashby with such a charge in thy
"I went thither to render to Isaac the Jew of York," replied Gurth,
"the price of a suit of armour with which he fitted my master for this
"And how much didst thou pay to Isaac?--Methinks, to judge by weight,
there is still two hundred zecchins in this pouch."
"I paid to Isaac," said the Saxon, "eighty zecchins, and he restored me
a hundred in lieu thereof."
"How! what!" exclaimed all the robbers at once; "darest thou trifle with
us, that thou tellest such improbable lies?"
"What I tell you," said Gurth, "is as true as the moon is in heaven. You
will find the just sum in a silken purse within the leathern pouch, and
separate from the rest of the gold."
"Bethink thee, man," said the Captain, "thou speakest of a Jew--of an
Israelite,--as unapt to restore gold, as the dry sand of his deserts to
return the cup of water which the pilgrim spills upon them."
"There is no more mercy in them," said another of the banditti, "than in
an unbribed sheriffs officer."
"It is, however, as I say," said Gurth.
"Strike a light instantly," said the Captain; "I will examine this said
purse; and if it be as this fellow says, the Jew's bounty is little
less miraculous than the stream which relieved his fathers in the
A light was procured accordingly, and the robber proceeded to examine
the purse. The others crowded around him, and even two who had hold of
Gurth relaxed their grasp while they stretched their necks to see the
issue of the search. Availing himself of their negligence, by a sudden
exertion of strength and activity, Gurth shook himself free of their
hold, and might have escaped, could he have resolved to leave his
master's property behind him. But such was no part of his intention.
He wrenched a quarter-staff from one of the fellows, struck down the
Captain, who was altogether unaware of his purpose, and had well-nigh
repossessed himself of the pouch and treasure. The thieves, however,
were too nimble for him, and again secured both the bag and the trusty
"Knave!" said the Captain, getting up, "thou hast broken my head;
and with other men of our sort thou wouldst fare the worse for thy
insolence. But thou shalt know thy fate instantly. First let us speak of
thy master; the knight's matters must go before the squire's, according
to the due order of chivalry. Stand thou fast in the meantime--if
thou stir again, thou shalt have that will make thee quiet for thy
life--Comrades!" he then said, addressing his gang, "this purse is
embroidered with Hebrew characters, and I well believe the yeoman's tale
is true. The errant knight, his master, must needs pass us toll-free. He
is too like ourselves for us to make booty of him, since dogs should not
worry dogs where wolves and foxes are to be found in abundance."
"Like us?" answered one of the gang; "I should like to hear how that is
"Why, thou fool," answered the Captain, "is he not poor and disinherited
as we are?--Doth he not win his substance at the sword's point as we
do?--Hath he not beaten Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, even as we would
beat them if we could? Is he not the enemy to life and death of Brian
de Bois-Guilbert, whom we have so much reason to fear? And were all
this otherwise, wouldst thou have us show a worse conscience than an
unbeliever, a Hebrew Jew?"
"Nay, that were a shame," muttered the other fellow; "and yet, when I
served in the band of stout old Gandelyn, we had no such scruples of
conscience. And this insolent peasant,--he too, I warrant me, is to be
"Not if THOU canst scathe him," replied the Captain.--"Here, fellow,"
continued he, addressing Gurth, "canst thou use the staff, that thou
starts to it so readily?"
"I think," said Gurth, "thou shouldst be best able to reply to that
"Nay, by my troth, thou gavest me a round knock," replied the Captain;
"do as much for this fellow, and thou shalt pass scot-free; and if thou
dost not--why, by my faith, as thou art such a sturdy knave, I think
I must pay thy ransom myself.--Take thy staff, Miller," he added, "and
keep thy head; and do you others let the fellow go, and give him a
staff--there is light enough to lay on load by."
The two champions being alike armed with quarter-staves, stepped forward
into the centre of the open space, in order to have the full benefit of
the moonlight; the thieves in the meantime laughing, and crying to their
comrade, "Miller! beware thy toll-dish." The Miller, on the other hand,
holding his quarter-staff by the middle, and making it flourish round
his head after the fashion which the French call "faire le moulinet",
exclaimed boastfully, "Come on, churl, an thou darest: thou shalt feel
the strength of a miller's thumb!"
"If thou be'st a miller," answered Gurth, undauntedly, making his weapon
play around his head with equal dexterity, "thou art doubly a thief, and
I, as a true man, bid thee defiance."
So saying, the two champions closed together, and for a few minutes they
displayed great equality in strength, courage, and skill, intercepting
and returning the blows of their adversary with the most rapid
dexterity, while, from the continued clatter of their weapons, a person
at a distance might have supposed that there were at least six persons
engaged on each side. Less obstinate, and even less dangerous combats,
have been described in good heroic verse; but that of Gurth and the
Miller must remain unsung, for want of a sacred poet to do justice to
its eventful progress. Yet, though quarter-staff play be out of date,
what we can in prose we will do for these bold champions.
Long they fought equally, until the Miller began to lose temper at
finding himself so stoutly opposed, and at hearing the laughter of his
companions, who, as usual in such cases, enjoyed his vexation. This was
not a state of mind favourable to the noble game of quarter-staff, in
which, as in ordinary cudgel-playing, the utmost coolness is requisite;
and it gave Gurth, whose temper was steady, though surly, the
opportunity of acquiring a decided advantage, in availing himself of
which he displayed great mastery.
The Miller pressed furiously forward, dealing blows with either end of
his weapon alternately, and striving to come to half-staff distance,
while Gurth defended himself against the attack, keeping his hands about
a yard asunder, and covering himself by shifting his weapon with great
celerity, so as to protect his head and body. Thus did he maintain
the defensive, making his eye, foot, and hand keep true time, until,
observing his antagonist to lose wind, he darted the staff at his face
with his left hand; and, as the Miller endeavoured to parry the thrust,
he slid his right hand down to his left, and with the full swing of the
weapon struck his opponent on the left side of the head, who instantly
measured his length upon the green sward.
"Well and yeomanly done!" shouted the robbers; "fair play and Old
England for ever! The Saxon hath saved both his purse and his hide, and
the Miller has met his match."
"Thou mayst go thy ways, my friend," said the Captain, addressing Gurth,
in special confirmation of the general voice, "and I will cause two of
my comrades to guide thee by the best way to thy master's pavilion, and
to guard thee from night-walkers that might have less tender consciences
than ours; for there is many one of them upon the amble in such a night
as this. Take heed, however," he added sternly; "remember thou hast
refused to tell thy name--ask not after ours, nor endeavour to discover
who or what we are; for, if thou makest such an attempt, thou wilt come
by worse fortune than has yet befallen thee."
Gurth thanked the Captain for his courtesy, and promised to attend to
his recommendation. Two of the outlaws, taking up their quarter-staves,
and desiring Gurth to follow close in the rear, walked roundly forward
along a by-path, which traversed the thicket and the broken ground
adjacent to it. On the very verge of the thicket two men spoke to his
conductors, and receiving an answer in a whisper, withdrew into the
wood, and suffered them to pass unmolested. This circumstance induced
Gurth to believe both that the gang was strong in numbers, and that they
kept regular guards around their place of rendezvous.
When they arrived on the open heath, where Gurth might have had some
trouble in finding his road, the thieves guided him straight forward to
the top of a little eminence, whence he could see, spread beneath him
in the moonlight, the palisades of the lists, the glimmering pavilions
pitched at either end, with the pennons which adorned them fluttering
in the moonbeams, and from which could be heard the hum of the song with
which the sentinels were beguiling their night-watch.
Here the thieves stopt.
"We go with you no farther," said they; "it were not safe that we should
do so.--Remember the warning you have received--keep secret what has
this night befallen you, and you will have no room to repent it--neglect
what is now told you, and the Tower of London shall not protect you
against our revenge."
"Good night to you, kind sirs," said Gurth; "I shall remember your
orders, and trust that there is no offence in wishing you a safer and an
Thus they parted, the outlaws returning in the direction from whence
they had come, and Gurth proceeding to the tent of his master, to whom,
notwithstanding the injunction he had received, he communicated the
whole adventures of the evening.
The Disinherited Knight was filled with astonishment, no less at the
generosity of Rebecca, by which, however, he resolved he would not
profit, than that of the robbers, to whose profession such a quality
seemed totally foreign. His course of reflections upon these singular
circumstances was, however, interrupted by the necessity for taking
repose, which the fatigue of the preceding day, and the propriety
of refreshing himself for the morrow's encounter, rendered alike
The knight, therefore, stretched himself for repose upon a rich couch
with which the tent was provided; and the faithful Gurth, extending
his hardy limbs upon a bear-skin which formed a sort of carpet to the
pavilion, laid himself across the opening of the tent, so that no one
could enter without awakening him.
The heralds left their pricking up and down,
Now ringen trumpets loud and clarion.
There is no more to say, but east and west,
In go the speares sadly in the rest,
In goth the sharp spur into the side,
There see men who can just and who can ride;
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick,
He feeleth through the heart-spone the prick;
Up springen speares, twenty feet in height,
Out go the swordes to the silver bright;
The helms they to-hewn and to-shred;
Out burst the blood with stern streames red.
Morning arose in unclouded splendour, and ere the sun was much above the
horizon, the idlest or the most eager of the spectators appeared on the
common, moving to the lists as to a general centre, in order to secure a
favourable situation for viewing the continuation of the expected games.
The marshals and their attendants appeared next on the field, together
with the heralds, for the purpose of receiving the names of the knights
who intended to joust, with the side which each chose to espouse. This
was a necessary precaution, in order to secure equality betwixt the two
bodies who should be opposed to each other.
According to due formality, the Disinherited Knight was to be considered
as leader of the one body, while Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who had been
rated as having done second-best in the preceding day, was named first
champion of the other band. Those who had concurred in the challenge
adhered to his party of course, excepting only Ralph de Vipont, whom his
fall had rendered unfit so soon to put on his armour. There was no want
of distinguished and noble candidates to fill up the ranks on either
In fact, although the general tournament, in which all knights fought
at once, was more dangerous than single encounters, they were,
nevertheless, more frequented and practised by the chivalry of the age.
Many knights, who had not sufficient confidence in their own skill to
defy a single adversary of high reputation, were, nevertheless, desirous
of displaying their valour in the general combat, where they might
meet others with whom they were more upon an equality. On the present
occasion, about fifty knights were inscribed as desirous of combating
upon each side, when the marshals declared that no more could be
admitted, to the disappointment of several who were too late in
preferring their claim to be included.
About the hour of ten o'clock, the whole plain was crowded with
horsemen, horsewomen, and foot-passengers, hastening to the tournament;
and shortly after, a grand flourish of trumpets announced Prince John
and his retinue, attended by many of those knights who meant to take
share in the game, as well as others who had no such intention.
About the same time arrived Cedric the Saxon, with the Lady Rowena,
unattended, however, by Athelstane. This Saxon lord had arrayed his
tall and strong person in armour, in order to take his place among the
combatants; and, considerably to the surprise of Cedric, had chosen to
enlist himself on the part of the Knight Templar. The Saxon, indeed, had
remonstrated strongly with his friend upon the injudicious choice he had
made of his party; but he had only received that sort of answer usually
given by those who are more obstinate in following their own course,
than strong in justifying it.
His best, if not his only reason, for adhering to the party of Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, Athelstane had the prudence to keep to himself. Though
his apathy of disposition prevented his taking any means to recommend
himself to the Lady Rowena, he was, nevertheless, by no means insensible
to her charms, and considered his union with her as a matter already
fixed beyond doubt, by the assent of Cedric and her other friends. It
had therefore been with smothered displeasure that the proud though
indolent Lord of Coningsburgh beheld the victor of the preceding day
select Rowena as the object of that honour which it became his privilege
to confer. In order to punish him for a preference which seemed to
interfere with his own suit, Athelstane, confident of his strength,
and to whom his flatterers, at least, ascribed great skill in arms, had
determined not only to deprive the Disinherited Knight of his powerful
succour, but, if an opportunity should occur, to make him feel the
weight of his battle-axe.
De Bracy, and other knights attached to Prince John, in obedience to
a hint from him, had joined the party of the challengers, John being
desirous to secure, if possible, the victory to that side. On the
other hand, many other knights, both English and Norman, natives and
strangers, took part against the challengers, the more readily that
the opposite band was to be led by so distinguished a champion as the
Disinherited Knight had approved himself.
As soon as Prince John observed that the destined Queen of the day had
arrived upon the field, assuming that air of courtesy which sat well
upon him when he was pleased to exhibit it, he rode forward to meet
her, doffed his bonnet, and, alighting from his horse, assisted the Lady
Rowena from her saddle, while his followers uncovered at the same time,
and one of the most distinguished dismounted to hold her palfrey.
"It is thus," said Prince John, "that we set the dutiful example of
loyalty to the Queen of Love and Beauty, and are ourselves her guide to
the throne which she must this day occupy.--Ladies," he said, "attend
your Queen, as you wish in your turn to be distinguished by like
So saying, the Prince marshalled Rowena to the seat of honour opposite
his own, while the fairest and most distinguished ladies present crowded
after her to obtain places as near as possible to their temporary
No sooner was Rowena seated, than a burst of music, half-drowned by
the shouts of the multitude, greeted her new dignity. Meantime, the sun
shone fierce and bright upon the polished arms of the knights of either
side, who crowded the opposite extremities of the lists, and held eager
conference together concerning the best mode of arranging their line of
battle, and supporting the conflict.
The heralds then proclaimed silence until the laws of the tourney should
be rehearsed. These were calculated in some degree to abate the dangers
of the day; a precaution the more necessary, as the conflict was to be
maintained with sharp swords and pointed lances.
The champions were therefore prohibited to thrust with the sword, and
were confined to striking. A knight, it was announced, might use a mace
or battle-axe at pleasure, but the dagger was a prohibited weapon. A
knight unhorsed might renew the fight on foot with any other on the
opposite side in the same predicament; but mounted horsemen were in that
case forbidden to assail him. When any knight could force his antagonist
to the extremity of the lists, so as to touch the palisade with his
person or arms, such opponent was obliged to yield himself vanquished,
and his armour and horse were placed at the disposal of the conqueror.
A knight thus overcome was not permitted to take farther share in the
combat. If any combatant was struck down, and unable to recover his
feet, his squire or page might enter the lists, and drag his master out
of the press; but in that case the knight was adjudged vanquished, and
his arms and horse declared forfeited. The combat was to cease as
soon as Prince John should throw down his leading staff, or truncheon;
another precaution usually taken to prevent the unnecessary effusion
of blood by the too long endurance of a sport so desperate. Any knight
breaking the rules of the tournament, or otherwise transgressing the
rules of honourable chivalry, was liable to be stript of his arms, and,
having his shield reversed to be placed in that posture astride upon the
bars of the palisade, and exposed to public derision, in punishment of
his unknightly conduct. Having announced these precautions, the heralds
concluded with an exhortation to each good knight to do his duty, and to
merit favour from the Queen of Beauty and of Love.
This proclamation having been made, the heralds withdrew to their
stations. The knights, entering at either end of the lists in long
procession, arranged themselves in a double file, precisely opposite to
each other, the leader of each party being in the centre of the foremost
rank, a post which he did not occupy until each had carefully marshalled
the ranks of his party, and stationed every one in his place.
It was a goodly, and at the same time an anxious, sight, to behold so
many gallant champions, mounted bravely, and armed richly, stand ready
prepared for an encounter so formidable, seated on their war-saddles
like so many pillars of iron, and awaiting the signal of encounter with
the same ardour as their generous steeds, which, by neighing and pawing
the ground, gave signal of their impatience.
As yet the knights held their long lances upright, their bright points
glancing to the sun, and the streamers with which they were decorated
fluttering over the plumage of the helmets. Thus they remained while the
marshals of the field surveyed their ranks with the utmost exactness,
lest either party had more or fewer than the appointed number. The tale
was found exactly complete. The marshals then withdrew from the lists,
and William de Wyvil, with a voice of thunder, pronounced the signal
words--"Laissez aller!" The trumpets sounded as he spoke--the spears of
the champions were at once lowered and placed in the rests--the spurs
were dashed into the flanks of the horses, and the two foremost ranks
of either party rushed upon each other in full gallop, and met in the
middle of the lists with a shock, the sound of which was heard at a
mile's distance. The rear rank of each party advanced at a slower pace
to sustain the defeated, and follow up the success of the victors of
The consequences of the encounter were not instantly seen, for the dust
raised by the trampling of so many steeds darkened the air, and it was
a minute ere the anxious spectator could see the fate of the encounter.
When the fight became visible, half the knights on each side were
dismounted, some by the dexterity of their adversary's lance,--some by
the superior weight and strength of opponents, which had borne down
both horse and man,--some lay stretched on earth as if never more to
rise,--some had already gained their feet, and were closing hand to hand
with those of their antagonists who were in the same predicament,--and
several on both sides, who had received wounds by which they were
disabled, were stopping their blood by their scarfs, and endeavouring to
extricate themselves from the tumult. The mounted knights, whose lances
had been almost all broken by the fury of the encounter, were now
closely engaged with their swords, shouting their war-cries, and
exchanging buffets, as if honour and life depended on the issue of the
The tumult was presently increased by the advance of the second rank
on either side, which, acting as a reserve, now rushed on to aid their
companions. The followers of Brian de Bois-Guilbert shouted--"Ha!
Beau-seant! Beau-seant! 
"--For the Temple--For the Temple!" The opposite party shouted in
answer--"Desdichado! Desdichado!"--which watch-word they took from the
motto upon their leader's shield.
The champions thus encountering each other with the utmost fury, and
with alternate success, the tide of battle seemed to flow now toward the
southern, now toward the northern extremity of the lists, as the one
or the other party prevailed. Meantime the clang of the blows, and
the shouts of the combatants, mixed fearfully with the sound of the
trumpets, and drowned the groans of those who fell, and lay rolling
defenceless beneath the feet of the horses. The splendid armour of the
combatants was now defaced with dust and blood, and gave way at every
stroke of the sword and battle-axe. The gay plumage, shorn from the
crests, drifted upon the breeze like snow-flakes. All that was beautiful
and graceful in the martial array had disappeared, and what was now
visible was only calculated to awake terror or compassion.
Yet such is the force of habit, that not only the vulgar spectators,
who are naturally attracted by sights of horror, but even the ladies of
distinction who crowded the galleries, saw the conflict with a thrilling
interest certainly, but without a wish to withdraw their eyes from a
sight so terrible. Here and there, indeed, a fair cheek might turn pale,
or a faint scream might be heard, as a lover, a brother, or a husband,
was struck from his horse. But, in general, the ladies around encouraged
the combatants, not only by clapping their hands and waving their veils
and kerchiefs, but even by exclaiming, "Brave lance! Good sword!" when
any successful thrust or blow took place under their observation.
Such being the interest taken by the fair sex in this bloody game,
that of the men is the more easily understood. It showed itself in
loud acclamations upon every change of fortune, while all eyes were so
riveted on the lists, that the spectators seemed as if they themselves
had dealt and received the blows which were there so freely bestowed.
And between every pause was heard the voice of the heralds, exclaiming,
"Fight on, brave knights! Man dies, but glory lives!--Fight on--death
is better than defeat!--Fight on, brave knights!--for bright eyes behold
Amid the varied fortunes of the combat, the eyes of all endeavoured to
discover the leaders of each band, who, mingling in the thick of the
fight, encouraged their companions both by voice and example. Both
displayed great feats of gallantry, nor did either Bois-Guilbert or the
Disinherited Knight find in the ranks opposed to them a champion who
could be termed their unquestioned match. They repeatedly endeavoured to
single out each other, spurred by mutual animosity, and aware that the
fall of either leader might be considered as decisive of victory. Such,
however, was the crowd and confusion, that, during the earlier part
of the conflict, their efforts to meet were unavailing, and they were
repeatedly separated by the eagerness of their followers, each of whom
was anxious to win honour, by measuring his strength against the leader
of the opposite party.
But when the field became thin by the numbers on either side who had
yielded themselves vanquished, had been compelled to the extremity
of the lists, or been otherwise rendered incapable of continuing the
strife, the Templar and the Disinherited Knight at length encountered
hand to hand, with all the fury that mortal animosity, joined to rivalry
of honour, could inspire. Such was the address of each in parrying
and striking, that the spectators broke forth into a unanimous and
involuntary shout, expressive of their delight and admiration.
But at this moment the party of the Disinherited Knight had the worst;
the gigantic arm of Front-de-Boeuf on the one flank, and the ponderous
strength of Athelstane on the other, bearing down and dispersing
those immediately exposed to them. Finding themselves freed from their
immediate antagonists, it seems to have occurred to both these knights
at the same instant, that they would render the most decisive advantage
to their party, by aiding the Templar in his contest with his rival.
Turning their horses, therefore, at the same moment, the Norman spurred
against the Disinherited Knight on the one side, and the Saxon on the
other. It was utterly impossible that the object of this unequal and
unexpected assault could have sustained it, had he not been warned by a
general cry from the spectators, who could not but take interest in one
exposed to such disadvantage.
"Beware! beware! Sir Disinherited!" was shouted so universally, that
the knight became aware of his danger; and, striking a full blow at the
Templar, he reined back his steed in the same moment, so as to escape
the charge of Athelstane and Front-de-Boeuf. These knights, therefore,
their aim being thus eluded, rushed from opposite sides betwixt the
object of their attack and the Templar, almost running their horses
against each other ere they could stop their career. Recovering their
horses however, and wheeling them round, the whole three pursued their
united purpose of bearing to the earth the Disinherited Knight.
Nothing could have saved him, except the remarkable strength and
activity of the noble horse which he had won on the preceding day.
This stood him in the more stead, as the horse of Bois-Guilbert was
wounded, and those of Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane were both tired with
the weight of their gigantic masters, clad in complete armour, and with
the preceding exertions of the day. The masterly horsemanship of the
Disinherited Knight, and the activity of the noble animal which he
mounted, enabled him for a few minutes to keep at sword's point his
three antagonists, turning and wheeling with the agility of a hawk upon
the wing, keeping his enemies as far separate as he could, and rushing
now against the one, now against the other, dealing sweeping blows with
his sword, without waiting to receive those which were aimed at him in
But although the lists rang with the applauses of his dexterity, it
was evident that he must at last be overpowered; and the nobles around
Prince John implored him with one voice to throw down his warder, and to
save so brave a knight from the disgrace of being overcome by odds.
"Not I, by the light of Heaven!" answered Prince John; "this
same springald, who conceals his name, and despises our proffered
hospitality, hath already gained one prize, and may now afford to
let others have their turn." As he spoke thus, an unexpected incident
changed the fortune of the day.
There was among the ranks of the Disinherited Knight a champion in
black armour, mounted on a black horse, large of size, tall, and to all
appearance powerful and strong, like the rider by whom he was mounted,
This knight, who bore on his shield no device of any kind, had hitherto
evinced very little interest in the event of the fight, beating off with
seeming ease those combatants who attacked him, but neither pursuing
his advantages, nor himself assailing any one. In short, he had hitherto
acted the part rather of a spectator than of a party in the tournament,
a circumstance which procured him among the spectators the name of "Le
Noir Faineant", or the Black Sluggard.
At once this knight seemed to throw aside his apathy, when he discovered
the leader of his party so hard bestead; for, setting spurs to
his horse, which was quite fresh, he came to his assistance like a
thunderbolt, exclaiming, in a voice like a trumpet-call, "Desdichado,
to the rescue!" It was high time; for, while the Disinherited Knight was
pressing upon the Templar, Front-de-Boeuf had got nigh to him with his
uplifted sword; but ere the blow could descend, the Sable Knight dealt
a stroke on his head, which, glancing from the polished helmet, lighted
with violence scarcely abated on the "chamfron" of the steed, and
Front-de-Boeuf rolled on the ground, both horse and man equally stunned
by the fury of the blow. "Le Noir Faineant" then turned his horse upon
Athelstane of Coningsburgh; and his own sword having been broken in his
encounter with Front-de-Boeuf, he wrenched from the hand of the bulky
Saxon the battle-axe which he wielded, and, like one familiar with
the use of the weapon, bestowed him such a blow upon the crest, that
Athelstane also lay senseless on the field. Having achieved this double
feat, for which he was the more highly applauded that it was totally
unexpected from him, the knight seemed to resume the sluggishness of
his character, returning calmly to the northern extremity of the lists,
leaving his leader to cope as he best could with Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
This was no longer matter of so much difficulty as formerly. The
Templars horse had bled much, and gave way under the shock of the
Disinherited Knight's charge. Brian de Bois-Guilbert rolled on the
field, encumbered with the stirrup, from which he was unable to draw his
foot. His antagonist sprung from horseback, waved his fatal sword over
the head of his adversary, and commanded him to yield himself; when
Prince John, more moved by the Templars dangerous situation than he had
been by that of his rival, saved him the mortification of confessing
himself vanquished, by casting down his warder, and putting an end to
It was, indeed, only the relics and embers of the fight which continued
to burn; for of the few knights who still continued in the lists, the
greater part had, by tacit consent, forborne the conflict for some time,
leaving it to be determined by the strife of the leaders.
The squires, who had found it a matter of danger and difficulty to
attend their masters during the engagement, now thronged into the lists
to pay their dutiful attendance to the wounded, who were removed with
the utmost care and attention to the neighbouring pavilions, or to the
quarters prepared for them in the adjoining village.
Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, one of the most
gallantly contested tournaments of that age; for although only four
knights, including one who was smothered by the heat of his armour, had
died upon the field, yet upwards of thirty were desperately wounded,
four or five of whom never recovered. Several more were disabled for
life; and those who escaped best carried the marks of the conflict to
the grave with them. Hence it is always mentioned in the old records, as
the Gentle and Joyous Passage of Arms of Ashby.
It being now the duty of Prince John to name the knight who had done
best, he determined that the honour of the day remained with the knight
whom the popular voice had termed "Le Noir Faineant." It was pointed out
to the Prince, in impeachment of this decree, that the victory had been
in fact won by the Disinherited Knight, who, in the course of the
day, had overcome six champions with his own hand, and who had finally
unhorsed and struck down the leader of the opposite party. But Prince
John adhered to his own opinion, on the ground that the Disinherited
Knight and his party had lost the day, but for the powerful assistance
of the Knight of the Black Armour, to whom, therefore, he persisted in
awarding the prize.
To the surprise of all present, however, the knight thus preferred was
nowhere to be found. He had left the lists immediately when the conflict
ceased, and had been observed by some spectators to move down one of
the forest glades with the same slow pace and listless and indifferent
manner which had procured him the epithet of the Black Sluggard. After
he had been summoned twice by sound of trumpet, and proclamation of
the heralds, it became necessary to name another to receive the honours
which had been assigned to him. Prince John had now no further excuse
for resisting the claim of the Disinherited Knight, whom, therefore, he
named the champion of the day.
Through a field slippery with blood, and encumbered with broken armour
and the bodies of slain and wounded horses, the marshals of the lists
again conducted the victor to the foot of Prince John's throne.
"Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since by that title only
you will consent to be known to us, we a second time award to you the
honours of this tournament, and announce to you your right to claim and
receive from the hands of the Queen of Love and Beauty, the Chaplet of
Honour which your valour has justly deserved." The Knight bowed low and
gracefully, but returned no answer.
While the trumpets sounded, while the heralds strained their voices in
proclaiming honour to the brave and glory to the victor--while ladies
waved their silken kerchiefs and embroidered veils, and while all ranks
joined in a clamorous shout of exultation, the marshals conducted the
Disinherited Knight across the lists to the foot of that throne of
honour which was occupied by the Lady Rowena.
On the lower step of this throne the champion was made to kneel down.
Indeed his whole action since the fight had ended, seemed rather to have
been upon the impulse of those around him than from his own free will;
and it was observed that he tottered as they guided him the second time
across the lists. Rowena, descending from her station with a graceful
and dignified step, was about to place the chaplet which she held in her
hand upon the helmet of the champion, when the marshals exclaimed with
one voice, "It must not be thus--his head must be bare." The knight
muttered faintly a few words, which were lost in the hollow of his
helmet, but their purport seemed to be a desire that his casque might
not be removed.
Whether from love of form, or from curiosity, the marshals paid no
attention to his expressions of reluctance, but unhelmed him by cutting
the laces of his casque, and undoing the fastening of his gorget. When
the helmet was removed, the well-formed, yet sun-burnt features of a
young man of twenty-five were seen, amidst a profusion of short fair
hair. His countenance was as pale as death, and marked in one or two
places with streaks of blood.
Rowena had no sooner beheld him than she uttered a faint shriek; but at
once summoning up the energy of her disposition, and compelling herself,
as it were, to proceed, while her frame yet trembled with the violence
of sudden emotion, she placed upon the drooping head of the victor
the splendid chaplet which was the destined reward of the day, and
pronounced, in a clear and distinct tone, these words: "I bestow on thee
this chaplet, Sir Knight, as the meed of valour assigned to this day's
victor:" Here she paused a moment, and then firmly added, "And upon
brows more worthy could a wreath of chivalry never be placed!"
The knight stooped his head, and kissed the hand of the lovely Sovereign
by whom his valour had been rewarded; and then, sinking yet farther
forward, lay prostrate at her feet.
There was a general consternation. Cedric, who had been struck mute by
the sudden appearance of his banished son, now rushed forward, as if to
separate him from Rowena. But this had been already accomplished by the
marshals of the field, who, guessing the cause of Ivanhoe's swoon, had
hastened to undo his armour, and found that the head of a lance had
penetrated his breastplate, and inflicted a wound in his side.
"Heroes, approach!" Atrides thus aloud,
"Stand forth distinguish'd from the circling crowd,
Ye who by skill or manly force may claim,
Your rivals to surpass and merit fame.
This cow, worth twenty oxen, is decreed,
For him who farthest sends the winged reed."
The name of Ivanhoe was no sooner pronounced than it flew from mouth
to mouth, with all the celerity with which eagerness could convey and
curiosity receive it. It was not long ere it reached the circle of the
Prince, whose brow darkened as he heard the news. Looking around him,
however, with an air of scorn, "My Lords," said he, "and especially you,
Sir Prior, what think ye of the doctrine the learned tell us, concerning
innate attractions and antipathies? Methinks that I felt the presence
of my brother's minion, even when I least guessed whom yonder suit of
"Front-de-Boeuf must prepare to restore his fief of Ivanhoe," said De
Bracy, who, having discharged his part honourably in the tournament, had
laid his shield and helmet aside, and again mingled with the Prince's
"Ay," answered Waldemar Fitzurse, "this gallant is likely to reclaim
the castle and manor which Richard assigned to him, and which your
Highness's generosity has since given to Front-de-Boeuf."
"Front-de-Boeuf," replied John, "is a man more willing to swallow three
manors such as Ivanhoe, than to disgorge one of them. For the rest,
sirs, I hope none here will deny my right to confer the fiefs of the
crown upon the faithful followers who are around me, and ready to
perform the usual military service, in the room of those who have
wandered to foreign Countries, and can neither render homage nor service
when called upon."
The audience were too much interested in the question not to pronounce
the Prince's assumed right altogether indubitable. "A generous
Prince!--a most noble Lord, who thus takes upon himself the task of
rewarding his faithful followers!"
Such were the words which burst from the train, expectants all of
them of similar grants at the expense of King Richard's followers and
favourites, if indeed they had not as yet received such. Prior Aymer
also assented to the general proposition, observing, however, "That the
blessed Jerusalem could not indeed be termed a foreign country. She
was 'communis mater'--the mother of all Christians. But he saw not,"
he declared, "how the Knight of Ivanhoe could plead any advantage from
this, since he" (the Prior) "was assured that the crusaders, under
Richard, had never proceeded much farther than Askalon, which, as all
the world knew, was a town of the Philistines, and entitled to none of
the privileges of the Holy City."
Waldemar, whose curiosity had led him towards the place where Ivanhoe
had fallen to the ground, now returned. "The gallant," said he,
"is likely to give your Highness little disturbance, and to leave
Front-de-Boeuf in the quiet possession of his gains--he is severely
"Whatever becomes of him," said Prince John, "he is victor of the day;
and were he tenfold our enemy, or the devoted friend of our brother,
which is perhaps the same, his wounds must be looked to--our own
physician shall attend him."
A stern smile curled the Prince's lip as he spoke. Waldemar Fitzurse
hastened to reply, that Ivanhoe was already removed from the lists, and
in the custody of his friends.
"I was somewhat afflicted," he said, "to see the grief of the Queen of
Love and Beauty, whose sovereignty of a day this event has changed into
mourning. I am not a man to be moved by a woman's lament for her lover,
but this same Lady Rowena suppressed her sorrow with such dignity of
manner, that it could only be discovered by her folded hands, and her
tearless eye, which trembled as it remained fixed on the lifeless form
"Who is this Lady Rowena," said Prince John, "of whom we have heard so
"A Saxon heiress of large possessions," replied the Prior Aymer; "a rose
of loveliness, and a jewel of wealth; the fairest among a thousand, a
bundle of myrrh, and a cluster of camphire."
"We shall cheer her sorrows," said Prince John, "and amend her blood, by
wedding her to a Norman. She seems a minor, and must therefore be at our
royal disposal in marriage.--How sayst thou, De Bracy? What thinkst thou
of gaining fair lands and livings, by wedding a Saxon, after the fashion
of the followers of the Conqueror?"
"If the lands are to my liking, my lord," answered De Bracy, "it will be
hard to displease me with a bride; and deeply will I hold myself bound
to your highness for a good deed, which will fulfil all promises made in
favour of your servant and vassal."
"We will not forget it," said Prince John; "and that we may instantly go
to work, command our seneschal presently to order the attendance of the
Lady Rowena and her company--that is, the rude churl her guardian, and
the Saxon ox whom the Black Knight struck down in the tournament, upon
this evening's banquet.--De Bigot," he added to his seneschal, "thou
wilt word this our second summons so courteously, as to gratify the
pride of these Saxons, and make it impossible for them again to refuse;
although, by the bones of Becket, courtesy to them is casting pearls
Prince John had proceeded thus far, and was about to give the signal for
retiring from the lists, when a small billet was put into his hand.
"From whence?" said Prince John, looking at the person by whom it was
"From foreign parts, my lord, but from whence I know not" replied his
attendant. "A Frenchman brought it hither, who said, he had ridden night
and day to put it into the hands of your highness."
The Prince looked narrowly at the superscription, and then at the
seal, placed so as to secure the flex-silk with which the billet was
surrounded, and which bore the impression of three fleurs-de-lis.
John then opened the billet with apparent agitation, which visibly and
greatly increased when he had perused the contents, which were expressed
in these words:
"Take heed to yourself for the Devil is unchained!"
The Prince turned as pale as death, looked first on the earth, and
then up to heaven, like a man who has received news that sentence of
execution has been passed upon him. Recovering from the first effects of
his surprise, he took Waldemar Fitzurse and De Bracy aside, and put
the billet into their hands successively. "It means," he added, in a
faltering voice, "that my brother Richard has obtained his freedom."
"This may be a false alarm, or a forged letter," said De Bracy.
"It is France's own hand and seal," replied Prince John.
"It is time, then," said Fitzurse, "to draw our party to a head, either
at York, or some other centrical place. A few days later, and it will be
indeed too late. Your highness must break short this present mummery."
"The yeomen and commons," said De Bracy, "must not be dismissed
discontented, for lack of their share in the sports."
"The day," said Waldemar, "is not yet very far spent--let the archers
shoot a few rounds at the target, and the prize be adjudged. This will
be an abundant fulfilment of the Prince's promises, so far as this herd
of Saxon serfs is concerned."
"I thank thee, Waldemar," said the Prince; "thou remindest me, too, that
I have a debt to pay to that insolent peasant who yesterday insulted our
person. Our banquet also shall go forward to-night as we proposed. Were
this my last hour of power, it should be an hour sacred to revenge and
to pleasure--let new cares come with to-morrow's new day."
The sound of the trumpets soon recalled those spectators who had already
begun to leave the field; and proclamation was made that Prince John,
suddenly called by high and peremptory public duties, held himself
obliged to discontinue the entertainments of to-morrow's festival:
Nevertheless, that, unwilling so many good yeoman should depart without
a trial of skill, he was pleased to appoint them, before leaving the
ground, presently to execute the competition of archery intended for
the morrow. To the best archer a prize was to be awarded, being a
bugle-horn, mounted with silver, and a silken baldric richly ornamented
with a medallion of St Hubert, the patron of silvan sport.
More than thirty yeomen at first presented themselves as competitors,
several of whom were rangers and under-keepers in the royal forests of
Needwood and Charnwood. When, however, the archers understood with whom
they were to be matched, upwards of twenty withdrew themselves from the
contest, unwilling to encounter the dishonour of almost certain defeat.
For in those days the skill of each celebrated marksman was as well
known for many miles round him, as the qualities of a horse trained at
Newmarket are familiar to those who frequent that well-known meeting.
The diminished list of competitors for silvan fame still amounted to
eight. Prince John stepped from his royal seat to view more nearly the
persons of these chosen yeomen, several of whom wore the royal livery.
Having satisfied his curiosity by this investigation, he looked for the
object of his resentment, whom he observed standing on the same spot,
and with the same composed countenance which he had exhibited upon the
"Fellow," said Prince John, "I guessed by thy insolent babble that thou
wert no true lover of the longbow, and I see thou darest not adventure
thy skill among such merry-men as stand yonder."
"Under favour, sir," replied the yeoman, "I have another reason for
refraining to shoot, besides the fearing discomfiture and disgrace."
"And what is thy other reason?" said Prince John, who, for some cause
which perhaps he could not himself have explained, felt a painful
curiosity respecting this individual.
"Because," replied the woodsman, "I know not if these yeomen and I are
used to shoot at the same marks; and because, moreover, I know not how
your Grace might relish the winning of a third prize by one who has
unwittingly fallen under your displeasure."
Prince John coloured as he put the question, "What is thy name, yeoman?"
"Locksley," answered the yeoman.
"Then, Locksley," said Prince John, "thou shalt shoot in thy turn, when
these yeomen have displayed their skill. If thou carriest the prize,
I will add to it twenty nobles; but if thou losest it, thou shalt
be stript of thy Lincoln green, and scourged out of the lists with
bowstrings, for a wordy and insolent braggart."
"And how if I refuse to shoot on such a wager?" said the yeoman.--"Your
Grace's power, supported, as it is, by so many men-at-arms, may indeed
easily strip and scourge me, but cannot compel me to bend or to draw my
"If thou refusest my fair proffer," said the Prince, "the Provost of the
lists shall cut thy bowstring, break thy bow and arrows, and expel thee
from the presence as a faint-hearted craven."
"This is no fair chance you put on me, proud Prince," said the yeoman,
"to compel me to peril myself against the best archers of Leicester And
Staffordshire, under the penalty of infamy if they should overshoot me.
Nevertheless, I will obey your pleasure."
"Look to him close, men-at-arms," said Prince John, "his heart is
sinking; I am jealous lest he attempt to escape the trial.--And do you,
good fellows, shoot boldly round; a buck and a butt of wine are ready
for your refreshment in yonder tent, when the prize is won."
A target was placed at the upper end of the southern avenue which led
to the lists. The contending archers took their station in turn, at the
bottom of the southern access, the distance between that station and the
mark allowing full distance for what was called a shot at rovers. The
archers, having previously determined by lot their order of precedence,
were to shoot each three shafts in succession. The sports were regulated
by an officer of inferior rank, termed the Provost of the Games; for the
high rank of the marshals of the lists would have been held degraded,
had they condescended to superintend the sports of the yeomanry.
One by one the archers, stepping forward, delivered their shafts
yeomanlike and bravely. Of twenty-four arrows, shot in succession,
ten were fixed in the target, and the others ranged so near it, that,
considering the distance of the mark, it was accounted good archery. Of
the ten shafts which hit the target, two within the inner ring were shot
by Hubert, a forester in the service of Malvoisin, who was accordingly
"Now, Locksley," said Prince John to the bold yeoman, with a bitter
smile, "wilt thou try conclusions with Hubert, or wilt thou yield up
bow, baldric, and quiver, to the Provost of the sports?"
"Sith it be no better," said Locksley, "I am content to try my fortune;
on condition that when I have shot two shafts at yonder mark of
Hubert's, he shall be bound to shoot one at that which I shall propose."
"That is but fair," answered Prince John, "and it shall not be refused
thee.--If thou dost beat this braggart, Hubert, I will fill the bugle
with silver-pennies for thee."
"A man can do but his best," answered Hubert; "but my grandsire drew a
good long bow at Hastings, and I trust not to dishonour his memory."
The former target was now removed, and a fresh one of the same size
placed in its room. Hubert, who, as victor in the first trial of skill,
had the right to shoot first, took his aim with great deliberation,
long measuring the distance with his eye, while he held in his hand his
bended bow, with the arrow placed on the string. At length he made a
step forward, and raising the bow at the full stretch of his left arm,
till the centre or grasping-place was nigh level with his face, he
drew his bowstring to his ear. The arrow whistled through the air, and
lighted within the inner ring of the target, but not exactly in the
"You have not allowed for the wind, Hubert," said his antagonist,
bending his bow, "or that had been a better shot."
So saying, and without showing the least anxiety to pause upon his
aim, Locksley stept to the appointed station, and shot his arrow as
carelessly in appearance as if he had not even looked at the mark. He
was speaking almost at the instant that the shaft left the bowstring,
yet it alighted in the target two inches nearer to the white spot which
marked the centre than that of Hubert.
"By the light of heaven!" said Prince John to Hubert, "an thou suffer
that runagate knave to overcome thee, thou art worthy of the gallows!"
Hubert had but one set speech for all occasions. "An your highness
were to hang me," he said, "a man can but do his best. Nevertheless, my
grandsire drew a good bow--"
"The foul fiend on thy grandsire and all his generation!" interrupted
John, "shoot, knave, and shoot thy best, or it shall be the worse for
Thus exhorted, Hubert resumed his place, and not neglecting the
caution which he had received from his adversary, he made the necessary
allowance for a very light air of wind, which had just arisen, and
shot so successfully that his arrow alighted in the very centre of the
"A Hubert! a Hubert!" shouted the populace, more interested in a known
person than in a stranger. "In the clout!--in the clout!--a Hubert for
"Thou canst not mend that shot, Locksley," said the Prince, with an
"I will notch his shaft for him, however," replied Locksley.
And letting fly his arrow with a little more precaution than before, it
lighted right upon that of his competitor, which it split to shivers.
The people who stood around were so astonished at his wonderful
dexterity, that they could not even give vent to their surprise in their
usual clamour. "This must be the devil, and no man of flesh and blood,"
whispered the yeomen to each other; "such archery was never seen since a
bow was first bent in Britain."
"And now," said Locksley, "I will crave your Grace's permission to plant
such a mark as is used in the North Country; and welcome every brave
yeoman who shall try a shot at it to win a smile from the bonny lass he
He then turned to leave the lists. "Let your guards attend me," he said,
"if you please--I go but to cut a rod from the next willow-bush."
Prince John made a signal that some attendants should follow him in
case of his escape: but the cry of "Shame! shame!" which burst from the
multitude, induced him to alter his ungenerous purpose.
Locksley returned almost instantly with a willow wand about six feet in
length, perfectly straight, and rather thicker than a man's thumb. He
began to peel this with great composure, observing at the same time,
that to ask a good woodsman to shoot at a target so broad as had
hitherto been used, was to put shame upon his skill. "For his own part,"
he said, "and in the land where he was bred, men would as soon take for
their mark King Arthur's round-table, which held sixty knights around
it. A child of seven years old," he said, "might hit yonder target with
a headless shaft; but," added he, walking deliberately to the other end
of the lists, and sticking the willow wand upright in the ground, "he
that hits that rod at five-score yards, I call him an archer fit to bear
both bow and quiver before a king, an it were the stout King Richard
"My grandsire," said Hubert, "drew a good bow at the battle of Hastings,
and never shot at such a mark in his life--and neither will I. If this
yeoman can cleave that rod, I give him the bucklers--or rather, I yield
to the devil that is in his jerkin, and not to any human skill; a man
can but do his best, and I will not shoot where I am sure to miss. I
might as well shoot at the edge of our parson's whittle, or at a wheat
straw, or at a sunbeam, as at a twinkling white streak which I can
"Cowardly dog!" said Prince John.--"Sirrah Locksley, do thou shoot; but,
if thou hittest such a mark, I will say thou art the first man ever
did so. However it be, thou shalt not crow over us with a mere show of
"I will do my best, as Hubert says," answered Locksley; "no man can do
So saying, he again bent his bow, but on the present occasion looked
with attention to his weapon, and changed the string, which he thought
was no longer truly round, having been a little frayed by the two former
shots. He then took his aim with some deliberation, and the multitude
awaited the event in breathless silence. The archer vindicated their
opinion of his skill: his arrow split the willow rod against which it
was aimed. A jubilee of acclamations followed; and even Prince John, in
admiration of Locksley's skill, lost for an instant his dislike to his
person. "These twenty nobles," he said, "which, with the bugle, thou
hast fairly won, are thine own; we will make them fifty, if thou wilt
take livery and service with us as a yeoman of our body guard, and be
near to our person. For never did so strong a hand bend a bow, or so
true an eye direct a shaft."
"Pardon me, noble Prince," said Locksley; "but I have vowed, that if
ever I take service, it should be with your royal brother King Richard.
These twenty nobles I leave to Hubert, who has this day drawn as brave
a bow as his grandsire did at Hastings. Had his modesty not refused the
trial, he would have hit the wand as well I."
Hubert shook his head as he received with reluctance the bounty of the
stranger, and Locksley, anxious to escape further observation, mixed
with the crowd, and was seen no more.
The victorious archer would not perhaps have escaped John's attention
so easily, had not that Prince had other subjects of anxious and more
important meditation pressing upon his mind at that instant. He called
upon his chamberlain as he gave the signal for retiring from the lists,
and commanded him instantly to gallop to Ashby, and seek out Isaac the
Jew. "Tell the dog," he said, "to send me, before sun-down, two thousand
crowns. He knows the security; but thou mayst show him this ring for a
token. The rest of the money must be paid at York within six days. If
he neglects, I will have the unbelieving villain's head. Look that thou
pass him not on the way; for the circumcised slave was displaying his
stolen finery amongst us."
So saying, the Prince resumed his horse, and returned to Ashby, the
whole crowd breaking up and dispersing upon his retreat.
In rough magnificence array'd,
When ancient Chivalry display'd
The pomp of her heroic games,
And crested chiefs and tissued dames
Assembled, at the clarion's call,
In some proud castle's high arch'd hall.
Prince John held his high festival in the Castle of Ashby. This was
not the same building of which the stately ruins still interest the
traveller, and which was erected at a later period by the Lord Hastings,
High Chamberlain of England, one of the first victims of the tyranny
of Richard the Third, and yet better known as one of Shakspeare's
characters than by his historical fame. The castle and town of Ashby, at
this time, belonged to Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, who, during
the period of our history, was absent in the Holy Land. Prince John, in
the meanwhile, occupied his castle, and disposed of his domains without
scruple; and seeking at present to dazzle men's eyes by his hospitality
and magnificence, had given orders for great preparations, in order to
render the banquet as splendid as possible.
The purveyors of the Prince, who exercised on this and other occasions
the full authority of royalty, had swept the country of all that could
be collected which was esteemed fit for their master's table. Guests
also were invited in great numbers; and in the necessity in which he
then found himself of courting popularity, Prince John had extended his
invitation to a few distinguished Saxon and Danish families, as well as
to the Norman nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood. However
despised and degraded on ordinary occasions, the great numbers of
the Anglo-Saxons must necessarily render them formidable in the civil
commotions which seemed approaching, and it was an obvious point of
policy to secure popularity with their leaders.
It was accordingly the Prince's intention, which he for some time
maintained, to treat these unwonted guests with a courtesy to which they
had been little accustomed. But although no man with less scruple
made his ordinary habits and feelings bend to his interest, it was
the misfortune of this Prince, that his levity and petulance were
perpetually breaking out, and undoing all that had been gained by his
Of this fickle temper he gave a memorable example in Ireland, when sent
thither by his father, Henry the Second, with the purpose of buying
golden opinions of the inhabitants of that new and important acquisition
to the English crown. Upon this occasion the Irish chieftains contended
which should first offer to the young Prince their loyal homage and
the kiss of peace. But, instead of receiving their salutations with
courtesy, John and his petulant attendants could not resist the
temptation of pulling the long beards of the Irish chieftains; a
conduct which, as might have been expected, was highly resented by these
insulted dignitaries, and produced fatal consequences to the English
domination in Ireland. It is necessary to keep these inconsistencies
of John's character in view, that the reader may understand his conduct
during the present evening.
In execution of the resolution which he had formed during his cooler
moments, Prince John received Cedric and Athelstane with distinguished
courtesy, and expressed his disappointment, without resentment, when the
indisposition of Rowena was alleged by the former as a reason for her
not attending upon his gracious summons. Cedric and Athelstane were both
dressed in the ancient Saxon garb, which, although not unhandsome in
itself, and in the present instance composed of costly materials, was
so remote in shape and appearance from that of the other guests, that
Prince John took great credit to himself with Waldemar Fitzurse for
refraining from laughter at a sight which the fashion of the day
rendered ridiculous. Yet, in the eye of sober judgment, the short close
tunic and long mantle of the Saxons was a more graceful, as well as a
more convenient dress, than the garb of the Normans, whose under garment
was a long doublet, so loose as to resemble a shirt or waggoner's frock,
covered by a cloak of scanty dimensions, neither fit to defend the
wearer from cold or from rain, and the only purpose of which appeared
to be to display as much fur, embroidery, and jewellery work, as the
ingenuity of the tailor could contrive to lay upon it. The Emperor
Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced, seems to have
been very sensible of the inconveniences arising from the fashion of
this garment. "In Heaven's name," said he, "to what purpose serve these
abridged cloaks? If we are in bed they are no cover, on horseback they
are no protection from the wind and rain, and when seated, they do not
guard our legs from the damp or the frost."
Nevertheless, spite of this imperial objurgation, the short cloaks
continued in fashion down to the time of which we treat, and
particularly among the princes of the House of Anjou. They were
therefore in universal use among Prince John's courtiers; and the
long mantle, which formed the upper garment of the Saxons, was held in
The guests were seated at a table which groaned under the quantity of
good cheer. The numerous cooks who attended on the Prince's progress,
having exerted all their art in varying the forms in which the ordinary
provisions were served up, had succeeded almost as well as the modern
professors of the culinary art in rendering them perfectly unlike their
natural appearance. Besides these dishes of domestic origin, there were
various delicacies brought from foreign parts, and a quantity of rich
pastry, as well as of the simnel-bread and wastle cakes, which were only
used at the tables of the highest nobility. The banquet was crowned with
the richest wines, both foreign and domestic.
But, though luxurious, the Norman nobles were not generally speaking
an intemperate race. While indulging themselves in the pleasures of
the table, they aimed at delicacy, but avoided excess, and were apt to
attribute gluttony and drunkenness to the vanquished Saxons, as vices
peculiar to their inferior station. Prince John, indeed, and those who
courted his pleasure by imitating his foibles, were apt to indulge to
excess in the pleasures of the trencher and the goblet; and indeed it is
well known that his death was occasioned by a surfeit upon peaches and
new ale. His conduct, however, was an exception to the general manners
of his countrymen.
With sly gravity, interrupted only by private signs to each other, the
Norman knights and nobles beheld the ruder demeanour of Athelstane
and Cedric at a banquet, to the form and fashion of which they were
unaccustomed. And while their manners were thus the subject of sarcastic
observation, the untaught Saxons unwittingly transgressed several of the
arbitrary rules established for the regulation of society. Now, it is
well known, that a man may with more impunity be guilty of an actual
breach either of real good breeding or of good morals, than appear
ignorant of the most minute point of fashionable etiquette. Thus Cedric,
who dried his hands with a towel, instead of suffering the moisture to
exhale by waving them grac
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