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Chapter 21

  • > Alas, how many hours and years have past,
  • >
  • > Since human forms have round this table sate,
  • >
  • > Or lamp, or taper, on its surface gleam'd!
  • >
  • > Methinks, I hear the sound of time long pass'd
  • >
  • > Still murmuring o'er us, in the lofty void
  • >
  • > Of these dark arches, like the ling'ring voices
  • >
  • > Of those who long within their graves have slept.
  • >
  • > Orra, a Tragedy
  • While these measures were taking in behalf of Cedric and his companions, th_rmed men by whom the latter had been seized, hurried their captives alon_owards the place of security, where they intended to imprison them. Bu_arkness came on fast, and the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly know_o the marauders. They were compelled to make several long halts, and once o_wice to return on their road to resume the direction which they wished t_ursue. The summer morn had dawned upon them ere they could travel in ful_ssurance that they held the right path. But confidence returned with light, and the cavalcade now moved rapidly forward. Meanwhile, the following dialogu_ook place between the two leaders of the banditti.
  • "It is time thou shouldst leave us, Sir Maurice," said the Templar to D_racy, "in order to prepare the second part of thy mystery. Thou art next, thou knowest, to act the Knight Deliverer."
  • "I have thought better of it," said De Bracy; "I will not leave thee till th_rize is fairly deposited in Front-de-Boeuf's castle. There will I appea_efore the Lady Rowena in mine own shape, and trust that she will set down t_he vehemence of my passion the violence of which I have been guilty."
  • "And what has made thee change thy plan, De Bracy?" replied the Knigh_emplar.
  • "That concerns thee nothing," answered his companion.
  • "I would hope, however, Sir Knight," said the Templar, "that this alteratio_f measures arises from no suspicion of my honourable meaning, such a_itzurse endeavoured to instil into thee?"
  • "My thoughts are my own," answered De Bracy; "the fiend laughs, they say, whe_ne thief robs another; and we know, that were he to spit fire and brimston_nstead, it would never prevent a Templar from following his bent."
  • "Or the leader of a Free Company," answered the Templar, "from dreading at th_ands of a comrade and friend, the injustice he does to all mankind."
  • "This is unprofitable and perilous recrimination," answered De Bracy; "suffic_t to say, I know the morals of the Temple-Order, and I will not give thee th_ower of cheating me out of the fair prey for which I have run such risks."
  • "Psha," replied the Templar, "what hast thou to fear?—Thou knowest the vows o_ur order."
  • "Right well," said De Bracy, "and also how they are kept. Come, Sir Templar, the laws of gallantry have a liberal interpretation in Palestine, and this i_ case in which I will trust nothing to your conscience."
  • "Hear the truth, then," said the Templar; "I care not for your blue-eye_eauty. There is in that train one who will make me a better mate."
  • "What! wouldst thou stoop to the waiting damsel?" said De Bracy.
  • "No, Sir Knight," said the Templar, haughtily. "To the waiting-woman will _ot stoop. I have a prize among the captives as lovely as thine own."
  • "By the mass, thou meanest the fair Jewess!" said De Bracy.
  • "And if I do," said Bois-Guilbert, "who shall gainsay me?"
  • "No one that I know," said De Bracy, "unless it be your vow of celibacy, or _heek of conscience for an intrigue with a Jewess."
  • "For my vow," said the Templar, "our Grand Master hath granted me _ispensation. And for my conscience, a man that has slain three hundre_aracens, need not reckon up every little failing, like a village girl at he_irst confession upon Good Friday eve."
  • "Thou knowest best thine own privileges," said De Bracy. "Yet, I would hav_worn thy thought had been more on the old usurer's money bags, than on th_lack eyes of the daughter."
  • "I can admire both," answered the Templar; "besides, the old Jew is but half- prize. I must share his spoils with Front-de-Boeuf, who will not lend us th_se of his castle for nothing. I must have something that I can ter_xclusively my own by this foray of ours, and I have fixed on the lovel_ewess as my peculiar prize. But, now thou knowest my drift, thou wilt resum_hine own original plan, wilt thou not?—Thou hast nothing, thou seest, to fea_rom my interference."
  • "No," replied De Bracy, "I will remain beside my prize. What thou sayst i_assing true, but I like not the privileges acquired by the dispensation o_he Grand Master, and the merit acquired by the slaughter of three hundre_aracens. You have too good a right to a free pardon, to render you ver_crupulous about peccadilloes."
  • While this dialogue was proceeding, Cedric was endeavouring to wring out o_hose who guarded him an avowal of their character and purpose. "You should b_nglishmen," said he; "and yet, sacred Heaven! you prey upon your countryme_s if you were very Normans. You should be my neighbours, and, if so, m_riends; for which of my English neighbours have reason to be otherwise? _ell ye, yeomen, that even those among ye who have been branded with outlawr_ave had from me protection; for I have pitied their miseries, and curst th_ppression of their tyrannic nobles. What, then, would you have of me? or i_hat can this violence serve ye?—Ye are worse than brute beasts in you_ctions, and will you imitate them in their very dumbness?"
  • It was in vain that Cedric expostulated with his guards, who had too many goo_easons for their silence to be induced to break it either by his wrath or hi_xpostulations. They continued to hurry him along, travelling at a very rapi_ate, until, at the end of an avenue of huge trees, arose Torquilstone, no_he hoary and ancient castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It was a fortress o_o great size, consisting of a donjon, or large and high square tower, surrounded by buildings of inferior height, which were encircled by an inne_ourt-yard. Around the exterior wall was a deep moat, supplied with water fro_ neighbouring rivulet. Front-de-Boeuf, whose character placed him often a_eud with his enemies, had made considerable additions to the strength of hi_astle, by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank it at ever_ngle. The access, as usual in castles of the period, lay through an arche_arbican, or outwork, which was terminated and defended by a small turret a_ach corner.
  • Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-de-Boeuf's castle raise their gre_nd moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning sun above the wood b_hich they were surrounded, than he instantly augured more truly concernin_he cause of his misfortune.
  • "I did injustice," he said, "to the thieves and outlaws of these woods, when _upposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I might as justly hav_onfounded the foxes of these brakes with the ravening wolves of France. Tel_e, dogs—is it my life or my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too muc_hat two Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in th_ountry which was once the patrimony of our race?—Put us then to death, an_omplete your tyranny by taking our lives, as you began with our liberties. I_he Saxon Cedric cannot rescue England, he is willing to die for her. Tel_our tyrannical master, I do only beseech him to dismiss the Lady Rowena i_onour and safety. She is a woman, and he need not dread her; and with us wil_ie all who dare fight in her cause."
  • The attendants remained as mute to this address as to the former, and they no_tood before the gate of the castle. De Bracy winded his horn three times, an_he archers and cross-bow men, who had manned the wall upon seeing thei_pproach, hastened to lower the drawbridge, and admit them. The prisoners wer_ompelled by their guards to alight, and were conducted to an apartment wher_ hasty repast was offered them, of which none but Athelstane felt an_nclination to partake. Neither had the descendant of the Confessor much tim_o do justice to the good cheer placed before them, for their guards gave hi_nd Cedric to understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apar_rom Rowena. Resistance was vain; and they were compelled to follow to a larg_oom, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars, resembled those refectories an_hapter-houses which may be still seen in the most ancient parts of our mos_ncient monasteries.
  • The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train, and conducted, wit_ourtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her inclination, to a distan_partment. The same alarming distinction was conferred on Rebecca, in spite o_er father's entreaties, who offered even money, in this extremity o_istress, that she might be permitted to abide with him. "Base unbeliever,"
  • answered one of his guards, "when thou hast seen thy lair, thou wilt not wis_hy daughter to partake it." And, without farther discussion, the old Jew wa_orcibly dragged off in a different direction from the other prisoners. Th_omestics, after being carefully searched and disarmed, were confined i_nother part of the castle; and Rowena was refused even the comfort she migh_ave derived from the attendance of her handmaiden Elgitha.
  • The apartment in which the Saxon chiefs were confined, for to them we turn ou_irst attention, although at present used as a sort of guard-room, ha_ormerly been the great hall of the castle. It was now abandoned to meane_urposes, because the present lord, among other additions to the convenience, security, and beauty of his baronial residence, had erected a new and nobl_all, whose vaulted roof was supported by lighter and more elegant pillars, and fitted up with that higher degree of ornament, which the Normans ha_lready introduced into architecture.
  • Cedric paced the apartment, filled with indignant reflections on the past an_n the present, while the apathy of his companion served, instead of patienc_nd philosophy, to defend him against every thing save the inconvenience o_he present moment; and so little did he feel even this last, that he was onl_rom time to time roused to a reply by Cedric's animated and impassione_ppeal to him.
  • "Yes," said Cedric, half speaking to himself, and half addressing himself t_thelstane, "it was in this very hall that my father feasted with Torqui_olfganger, when he entertained the valiant and unfortunate Harold, the_dvancing against the Norwegians, who had united themselves to the rebe_osti. It was in this hall that Harold returned the magnanimous answer to th_mbassador of his rebel brother. Oft have I heard my father kindle as he tol_he tale. The envoy of Tosti was admitted, when this ample room could scarc_ontain the crowd of noble Saxon leaders, who were quaffing the blood-red win_round their monarch."
  • "I hope," said Athelstane, somewhat moved by this part of his friend'_iscourse, "they will not forget to send us some wine and refactions a_oon—we had scarce a breathing-space allowed to break our fast, and I neve_ave the benefit of my food when I eat immediately after dismounting fro_orseback, though the leeches recommend that practice."
  • Cedric went on with his story without noticing this interjectional observatio_f his friend.
  • "The envoy of Tosti," he said, "moved up the hall, undismayed by the frownin_ountenances of all around him, until he made his obeisance before the thron_f King Harold.
  • "'What terms,' he said, 'Lord King, hath thy brother Tosti to hope, if h_hould lay down his arms, and crave peace at thy hands?'
  • "'A brother's love,' cried the generous Harold, 'and the fair earldom o_orthumberland.'
  • "'But should Tosti accept these terms,' continued the envoy, 'what lands shal_e assigned to his faithful ally, Hardrada, King of Norway?'
  • "'Seven feet of English ground,' answered Harold, fiercely, 'or, as Hardrad_s said to be a giant, perhaps we may allow him twelve inches more.'
  • "The hall rung with acclamations, and cup and horn was filled to th_orwegian, who should be speedily in possession of his English territory."
  • "I could have pledged him with all my soul," said Athelstane, "for my tongu_leaves to my palate."
  • "The baffled envoy," continued Cedric, pursuing with animation his tale, though it interested not the listener, "retreated, to carry to Tosti and hi_lly the ominous answer of his injured brother. It was then that the distan_owers of York, and the bloody streams of th_erwent,[[20]](footnotes.xml#footnote_20) beheld that direful conflict, i_hich, after displaying the most undaunted valour, the King of Norway, an_osti, both fell, with ten thousand of their bravest followers. Who would hav_hought that upon the proud day when this battle was won, the very gale whic_aved the Saxon banners in triumph, was filling the Norman sails, an_mpelling them to the fatal shores of Sussex?—Who would have thought tha_arold, within a few brief days, would himself possess no more of his kingdom, than the share which he allotted in his wrath to the Norwegian invader? —Wh_ould have thought that you, noble Athelstane—that you, descended of Harold'_lood, and that I, whose father was not the worst defender of the Saxon crown, should be prisoners to a vile Norman, in the very hall in which our ancestor_eld such high festival?" "It is sad enough," replied Athelstane; "but I trus_hey will hold us to a moderate ransom—At any rate it cannot be their purpos_o starve us outright; and yet, although it is high noon, I see n_reparations for serving dinner. Look up at the window, noble Cedric, an_udge by the sunbeams if it is not on the verge of noon." "It may be so,"
  • answered Cedric; "but I cannot look on that stained lattice without it_wakening other reflections than those which concern the passing moment, o_ts privations. When that window was wrought, my noble friend, our hard_athers knew not the art of making glass, or of staining it—The pride o_olfganger's father brought an artist from Normandy to adorn his hall wit_his new species of emblazonment, that breaks the golden light of God'_lessed day into so many fantastic hues. The foreigner came here poor, beggarly, cringing, and subservient, ready to doff his cap to the meanes_ative of the household. He returned pampered and proud, to tell his rapaciou_ountrymen of the wealth and the simplicity of the Saxon nobles —a folly, oh, Athelstane, foreboded of old, as well as foreseen, by those descendants o_engist and his hardy tribes, who retained the simplicity of their manners. W_ade these strangers our bosom friends, our confidential servants; we borrowe_heir artists and their arts, and despised the honest simplicity and hardihoo_ith which our brave ancestors supported themselves, and we became enervate_y Norman arts long ere we fell under Norman arms. Far better was our homel_iet, eaten in peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love o_hich hath delivered us as bondsmen to the foreign conqueror!" "I should,"
  • replied Athelstane, "hold very humble diet a luxury at present; and i_stonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear so truly in mind the memory o_ast deeds, when it appeareth you forget the very hour of dinner." "It is tim_ost," muttered Cedric apart and impatiently, "to speak to him of aught els_ut that which concerns his appetite! The soul of Hardicanute hath take_ossession of him, and he hath no pleasure save to fill, to swill, and to cal_or more. —Alas!" said he, looking at Athelstane with compassion, "that s_ull a spirit should be lodged in so goodly a form! Alas! that such a_nterprise as the regeneration of England should turn on a hinge so imperfect!
  • Wedded to Rowena, indeed, her nobler and more generous soul may yet awake th_etter nature which is torpid within him. Yet how should this be, whil_owena, Athelstane, and I myself, remain the prisoners of this brutal maraude_nd have been made so perhaps from a sense of the dangers which our libert_ight bring to the usurped power of his nation?" While the Saxon was plunge_n these painful reflections, the door of their prison opened, and gav_ntrance to a sewer, holding his white rod of office. This important perso_dvanced into the chamber with a grave pace, followed by four attendants, bearing in a table covered with dishes, the sight and smell of which seemed t_e an instant compensation to Athelstane for all the inconvenience he ha_ndergone. The persons who attended on the feast were masked and cloaked.
  • "What mummery is this?" said Cedric; "think you that we are ignorant whos_risoners we are, when we are in the castle of your master? Tell him," h_ontinued, willing to use this opportunity to open a negotiation for hi_reedom,—"Tell your master, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, that we know no reason h_an have for withholding our liberty, excepting his unlawful desire to enric_imself at our expense. Tell him that we yield to his rapacity, as in simila_ircumstances we should do to that of a literal robber. Let him name th_ansom at which he rates our liberty, and it shall be paid, providing th_xaction is suited to our means." The sewer made no answer, but bowed hi_ead. "And tell Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said Athelstane, "that I sen_im my mortal defiance, and challenge him to combat with me, on foot o_orseback, at any secure place, within eight days after our liberation; which, if he be a true knight, he will not, under these circumstances, venture t_efuse or to delay." "I shall deliver to the knight your defiance," answere_he sewer; "meanwhile I leave you to your food." The challenge of Athelstan_as delivered with no good grace; for a large mouthful, which required th_xercise of both jaws at once, added to a natural hesitation, considerabl_amped the effect of the bold defiance it contained. Still, however, hi_peech was hailed by Cedric as an incontestible token of reviving spirit i_is companion, whose previous indifference had begun, notwithstanding hi_espect for Athelstane's descent, to wear out his patience. But he no_ordially shook hands with him in token of his approbation, and was somewha_rieved when Athelstane observed, "that he would fight a dozen such men a_ront-de-Boeuf, if, by so doing, he could hasten his departure from a dungeo_here they put so much garlic into their pottage." Notwithstanding thi_ntimation of a relapse into the apathy of sensuality, Cedric placed himsel_pposite to Athelstane, and soon showed, that if the distresses of his countr_ould banish the recollection of food while the table was uncovered, yet n_ooner were the victuals put there, than he proved that the appetite of hi_axon ancestors had descended to him along with their other qualities. Th_aptives had not long enjoyed their refreshment, however, ere their attentio_as disturbed even from this most serious occupation by the blast of a hor_inded before the gate. It was repeated three times, with as much violence a_f it had been blown before an enchanted castle by the destined knight, a_hose summons halls and towers, barbican and battlement, were to roll off lik_ morning vapour. The Saxons started from the table, and hastened to th_indow. But their curiosity was disappointed; for these outlets only looke_pon the court of the castle, and the sound came from beyond its precincts.
  • The summons, however, seemed of importance, for a considerable degree o_ustle instantly took place in the castle.