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Chapter 18

  • > Away! our journey lies through dell and dingle,
  • >
  • > Where the blithe fawn trips by its timid mother,
  • >
  • > Where the broad oak, with intercepting boughs,
  • >
  • > Chequers the sunbeam in the green-sward alley—
  • >
  • > Up and away!—for lovely paths are these
  • >
  • > To tread, when the glad Sun is on his throne
  • >
  • > Less pleasant, and less safe, when Cynthia's lamp
  • >
  • > With doubtful glimmer lights the dreary forest.
  • >
  • > Ettrick Forest
  • When Cedric the Saxon saw his son drop down senseless in the lists at Ashby,
  • his first impulse was to order him into the custody and care of his ow_ttendants, but the words choked in his throat. He could not bring himself t_cknowledge, in presence of such an assembly, the son whom he had renounce_nd disinherited. He ordered, however, Oswald to keep an eye upon him; an_irected that officer, with two of his serfs, to convey Ivanhoe to Ashby a_oon as the crowd had dispersed. Oswald, however, was anticipated in this goo_ffice. The crowd dispersed, indeed, but the knight was nowhere to be seen.
  • It was in vain that Cedric's cupbearer looked around for his young master—h_aw the bloody spot on which he had lately sunk down, but himself he saw n_onger; it seemed as if the fairies had conveyed him from the spot. Perhap_swald (for the Saxons were very superstitious) might have adopted some suc_ypothesis, to account for Ivanhoe's disappearance, had he not suddenly cas_is eye upon a person attired like a squire, in whom he recognised th_eatures of his fellow-servant Gurth. Anxious concerning his master's fate,
  • and in despair at his sudden disappearance, the translated swineherd wa_earching for him everywhere, and had neglected, in doing so, the concealmen_n which his own safety depended. Oswald deemed it his duty to secure Gurth,
  • as a fugitive of whose fate his master was to judge.
  • Renewing his enquiries concerning the fate of Ivanhoe, the only informatio_hich the cupbearer could collect from the bystanders was, that the knight ha_een raised with care by certain well-attired grooms, and placed in a litte_elonging to a lady among the spectators, which had immediately transporte_im out of the press. Oswald, on receiving this intelligence, resolved t_eturn to his master for farther instructions, carrying along with him Gurth,
  • whom he considered in some sort as a deserter from the service of Cedric.
  • The Saxon had been under very intense and agonizing apprehensions concernin_is son; for Nature had asserted her rights, in spite of the patrioti_toicism which laboured to disown her. But no sooner was he informed tha_vanhoe was in careful, and probably in friendly hands, than the paterna_nxiety which had been excited by the dubiety of his fate, gave way anew t_he feeling of injured pride and resentment, at what he termed Wilfred'_ilial disobedience.
  • "Let him wander his way," said he—"let those leech his wounds for whose sak_e encountered them. He is fitter to do the juggling tricks of the Norma_hivalry than to maintain the fame and honour of his English ancestry with th_laive and brown-bill, the good old weapons of his country."
  • "If to maintain the honour of ancestry," said Rowena, who was present, "it i_ufficient to be wise in council and brave in execution—to be boldest amon_he bold, and gentlest among the gentle, I know no voice, save hi_ather's———"
  • "Be silent, Lady Rowena!—on this subject only I hear you not. Prepare yoursel_or the Prince's festival: we have been summoned thither with unwonte_ircumstance of honour and of courtesy, such as the haughty Normans hav_arely used to our race since the fatal day of Hastings. Thither will I go,
  • were it only to show these proud Normans how little the fate of a son, wh_ould defeat their bravest, can affect a Saxon."
  • "Thither," said Rowena, "do I NOT go; and I pray you to beware, lest what yo_ean for courage and constancy, shall be accounted hardness of heart."
  • "Remain at home, then, ungrateful lady," answered Cedric; "thine is the har_eart, which can sacrifice the weal of an oppressed people to an idle an_nauthorized attachment. I seek the noble Athelstane, and with him attend th_anquet of John of Anjou."
  • He went accordingly to the banquet, of which we have already mentioned th_rincipal events. Immediately upon retiring from the castle, the Saxon thanes,
  • with their attendants, took horse; and it was during the bustle which attende_heir doing so, that Cedric, for the first time, cast his eyes upon th_eserter Gurth. The noble Saxon had returned from the banquet, as we hav_een, in no very placid humour, and wanted but a pretext for wreaking hi_nger upon some one.
  • "The gyves!" he said, "the gyves!—Oswald—Hundibert!—Dogs and villains!—wh_eave ye the knave unfettered?"
  • Without daring to remonstrate, the companions of Gurth bound him with _alter, as the readiest cord which occurred. He submitted to the operatio_ithout remonstrance, except that, darting a reproachful look at his master,
  • he said, "This comes of loving your flesh and blood better than mine own."
  • "To horse, and forward!" said Cedric.
  • "It is indeed full time," said the noble Athelstane; "for, if we ride not th_aster, the worthy Abbot Waltheoff's preparations for a rere-
  • supper[[19]](footnotes.xml#footnote_19) will be altogether spoiled." Th_ravellers, however, used such speed as to reach the convent of St Withold'_efore the apprehended evil took place. The Abbot, himself of ancient Saxo_escent, received the noble Saxons with the profuse and exuberant hospitalit_f their nation, wherein they indulged to a late, or rather an early hour; no_id they take leave of their reverend host the next morning until they ha_hared with him a sumptuous refection. As the cavalcade left the court of th_onastery, an incident happened somewhat alarming to the Saxons, who, of al_eople of Europe, were most addicted to a superstitious observance of omens,
  • and to whose opinions can be traced most of those notions upon such subjects,
  • still to be found among our popular antiquities. For the Normans being a mixe_ace, and better informed according to the information of the times, had los_ost of the superstitious prejudices which their ancestors had brought fro_candinavia, and piqued themselves upon thinking freely on such topics. In th_resent instance, the apprehension of impending evil was inspired by no les_espectable a prophet than a large lean black dog, which, sitting upright,
  • howled most piteously as the foremost riders left the gate, and presentl_fterwards, barking wildly, and jumping to and fro, seemed bent upon attachin_tself to the party. "I like not that music, father Cedric," said Athelstane;
  • for by this title of respect he was accustomed to address him. "Nor I either,
  • uncle," said Wamba; "I greatly fear we shall have to pay the piper." "In m_ind," said Athelstane, upon whose memory the Abbot's good ale (for Burton wa_lready famous for that genial liquor) had made a favourable impression,—"i_y mind we had better turn back, and abide with the Abbot until the afternoon.
  • It is unlucky to travel where your path is crossed by a monk, a hare, or _owling dog, until you have eaten your next meal." "Away!" said Cedric,
  • impatiently; "the day is already too short for our journey. For the dog, _now it to be the cur of the runaway slave Gurth, a useless fugitive like it_aster." So saying, and rising at the same time in his stirrups, impatient a_he interruption of his journey, he launched his javelin at poor Fangs—fo_angs it was, who, having traced his master thus far upon his stole_xpedition, had here lost him, and was now, in his uncouth way, rejoicing a_is reappearance. The javelin inflicted a wound upon the animal's shoulder,
  • and narrowly missed pinning him to the earth; and Fangs fled howling from th_resence of the enraged thane. Gurth's heart swelled within him; for he fel_his meditated slaughter of his faithful adherent in a degree much deeper tha_he harsh treatment he had himself received. Having in vain attempted to rais_is hand to his eyes, he said to Wamba, who, seeing his master's ill humou_ad prudently retreated to the rear, "I pray thee, do me the kindness to wip_y eyes with the skirt of thy mantle; the dust offends me, and these bond_ill not let me help myself one way or another." Wamba did him the service h_equired, and they rode side by side for some time, during which Gurt_aintained a moody silence. At length he could repress his feelings no longer.
  • "Friend Wamba," said he, "of all those who are fools enough to serve Cedric,
  • thou alone hast dexterity enough to make thy folly acceptable to him. Go t_im, therefore, and tell him that neither for love nor fear will Gurth serv_im longer. He may strike the head from me—he may scourge me—he may load m_ith irons—but henceforth he shall never compel me either to love or to obe_im. Go to him, then, and tell him that Gurth the son of Beowulph renounce_is service." "Assuredly," said Wamba, "fool as I am, I shall not do you_ool's errand. Cedric hath another javelin stuck into his girdle, and tho_nowest he does not always miss his mark." "I care not," replied Gurth, "ho_oon he makes a mark of me. Yesterday he left Wilfred, my young master, in hi_lood. To-day he has striven to kill before my face the only other livin_reature that ever showed me kindness. By St Edmund, St Dunstan, St Withold,
  • St Edward the Confessor, and every other Saxon saint in the calendar," (fo_edric never swore by any that was not of Saxon lineage, and all his househol_ad the same limited devotion,) "I will never forgive him!" "To my thinkin_ow," said the Jester, who was frequently wont to act as peace-maker in th_amily, "our master did not propose to hurt Fangs, but only to affright him.
  • For, if you observed, he rose in his stirrups, as thereby meaning to overcas_he mark; and so he would have done, but Fangs happening to bound up at th_ery moment, received a scratch, which I will be bound to heal with a penny'_readth of tar." "If I thought so," said Gurth—"if I could but think so—bu_o—I saw the javelin was well aimed—I heard it whizz through the air with al_he wrathful malevolence of him who cast it, and it quivered after it ha_itched in the ground, as if with regret for having missed its mark. By th_og dear to St Anthony, I renounce him!" And the indignant swineherd resume_is sullen silence, which no efforts of the Jester could again induce him t_reak. Meanwhile Cedric and Athelstane, the leaders of the troop, converse_ogether on the state of the land, on the dissensions of the royal family, o_he feuds and quarrels among the Norman nobles, and on the chance which ther_as that the oppressed Saxons might be able to free themselves from the yok_f the Normans, or at least to elevate themselves into national consequenc_nd independence, during the civil convulsions which were likely to ensue. O_his subject Cedric was all animation. The restoration of the independence o_is race was the idol of his heart, to which he had willingly sacrifice_omestic happiness and the interests of his own son. But, in order to achiev_his great revolution in favour of the native English, it was necessary tha_hey should be united among themselves, and act under an acknowledged head.
  • The necessity of choosing their chief from the Saxon blood-royal was not onl_vident in itself, but had been made a solemn condition by those whom Cedri_ad intrusted with his secret plans and hopes. Athelstane had this quality a_east; and though he had few mental accomplishments or talents to recommen_im as a leader, he had still a goodly person, was no coward, had bee_ccustomed to martial exercises, and seemed willing to defer to the advice o_ounsellors more wise than himself. Above all, he was known to be liberal an_ospitable, and believed to be good-natured. But whatever pretension_thelstane had to be considered as head of the Saxon confederacy, many of tha_ation were disposed to prefer to the title of the Lady Rowena, who drew he_escent from Alfred, and whose father having been a chief renowned for wisdom,
  • courage, and generosity, his memory was highly honoured by his oppresse_ountrymen. It would have been no difficult thing for Cedric, had he been s_isposed, to have placed himself at the head of a third party, as formidabl_t least as any of the others. To counterbalance their royal descent, he ha_ourage, activity, energy, and, above all, that devoted attachment to th_ause which had procured him the epithet of The Saxon, and his birth wa_nferior to none, excepting only that of Athelstane and his ward. Thes_ualities, however, were unalloyed by the slightest shade of selfishness; and,
  • instead of dividing yet farther his weakened nation by forming a faction o_is own, it was a leading part of Cedric's plan to extinguish that whic_lready existed, by promoting a marriage betwixt Rowena and Athelstane. A_bstacle occurred to this his favourite project, in the mutual attachment o_is ward and his son and hence the original cause of the banishment of Wilfre_rom the house of his father. This stern measure Cedric had adopted, in hope_hat, during Wilfred's absence, Rowena might relinquish her preference, but i_his hope he was disappointed; a disappointment which might be attributed i_art to the mode in which his ward had been educated. Cedric, to whom the nam_f Alfred was as that of a deity, had treated the sole remaining scion of tha_reat monarch with a degree of observance, such as, perhaps, was in those day_carce paid to an acknowledged princess. Rowena's will had been in almost al_ases a law to his household; and Cedric himself, as if determined that he_overeignty should be fully acknowledged within that little circle at least,
  • seemed to take a pride in acting as the first of her subjects. Thus trained i_he exercise not only of free will, but despotic authority, Rowena was, by he_revious education, disposed both to resist and to resent any attempt t_ontrol her affections, or dispose of her hand contrary to her inclinations,
  • and to assert her independence in a case in which even those females who hav_een trained up to obedience and subjection, are not infrequently apt t_ispute the authority of guardians and parents. The opinions which she fel_trongly, she avowed boldly; and Cedric, who could not free himself from hi_abitual deference to her opinions, felt totally at a loss how to enforce hi_uthority of guardian. It was in vain that he attempted to dazzle her with th_rospect of a visionary throne. Rowena, who possessed strong sense, neithe_onsidered his plan as practicable, nor as desirable, so far as she wa_oncerned, could it have been achieved. Without attempting to conceal he_vowed preference of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, she declared that, were that favoure_night out of question, she would rather take refuge in a convent, than shar_ throne with Athelstane, whom, having always despised, she now began, o_ccount of the trouble she received on his account, thoroughly to detest.
  • Nevertheless, Cedric, whose opinions of women's constancy was far from strong,
  • persisted in using every means in his power to bring about the proposed match,
  • in which he conceived he was rendering an important service to the Saxo_ause. The sudden and romantic appearance of his son in the lists at Ashby, h_ad justly regarded as almost a death's blow to his hopes. His paterna_ffection, it is true, had for an instant gained the victory over pride an_atriotism; but both had returned in full force, and under their join_peration, he was now bent upon making a determined effort for the union o_thelstane and Rowena, together with expediting those other measures whic_eemed necessary to forward the restoration of Saxon independence. On thi_ast subject, he was now labouring with Athelstane, not without having reason,
  • every now and then, to lament, like Hotspur, that he should have moved such _ish of skimmed milk to so honourable an action. Athelstane, it is true, wa_ain enough, and loved to have his ears tickled with tales of his hig_escent, and of his right by inheritance to homage and sovereignty. But hi_etty vanity was sufficiently gratified by receiving this homage at the hand_f his immediate attendants, and of the Saxons who approached him. If he ha_he courage to encounter danger, he at least hated the trouble of going t_eek it; and while he agreed in the general principles laid down by Cedri_oncerning the claim of the Saxons to independence, and was still more easil_onvinced of his own title to reign over them when that independence should b_ttained, yet when the means of asserting these rights came to be discussed,
  • he was still "Athelstane the Unready," slow, irresolute, procrastinating, an_nenterprising. The warm and impassioned exhortations of Cedric had as littl_ffect upon his impassive temper, as red-hot balls alighting in the water,
  • which produce a little sound and smoke, and are instantly extinguished. If,
  • leaving this task, which might be compared to spurring a tired jade, or t_ammering upon cold iron, Cedric fell back to his ward Rowena, he receive_ittle more satisfaction from conferring with her. For, as his presenc_nterrupted the discourse between the lady and her favourite attendant upo_he gallantry and fate of Wilfred, Elgitha, failed not to revenge both he_istress and herself, by recurring to the overthrow of Athelstane in th_ists, the most disagreeable subject which could greet the ears of Cedric. T_his sturdy Saxon, therefore, the day's journey was fraught with all manner o_ispleasure and discomfort; so that he more than once internally cursed th_ournament, and him who had proclaimed it, together with his own folly in eve_hinking of going thither. At noon, upon the motion of Athelstane, th_ravellers paused in a woodland shade by a fountain, to repose their horse_nd partake of some provisions, with which the hospitable Abbot had loaded _umpter mule. Their repast was a pretty long one; and these severa_nterruptions rendered it impossible for them to hope to reach Rotherwoo_ithout travelling all night, a conviction which induced them to proceed o_heir way at a more hasty pace than they had hitherto used.