Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay

"To The Battlements"

Returning to his hall, Front-de-Boeuf ordered that the two prisoners, Cedric and Athelstane, should be brought before him. His commands were obeyed, and the two captives soon stood before him under guard.

"How do you like your entertainment here, dog?" he said, turning to the one he thought was Cedric. "What will you pay me to spare your life?"

"Nothing," said Wamba.

"Saint Genevieve!" said Front-de-Boeuf;" what have we got here?"

And with this he struck off Cedric's cap from his servant's head.

"You dogs and varlets!" he exclaimed to his attendants. "Giles—Clement—what have you brought me here?"

"I think I can tell you," said de Bracy, who had just entered. "This is Cedric's jester."

"I will settle it then for them both," said Front-de-Beouf; "they shall hang on the same gallows. Fiends of hell! It must have been the Saxon boar I let out at the postern. Dost thou not see, de Bracy, that he has our communication and will now know its contents? What have we to expect but that they will instantly storm the castle?"

"To the battlements, then," said de Bracy. "Call the Templar. Let us do our best and the Saxon outlaws might as well try to scale the clouds as the walls of this castle." So saying, he opened a latticed window which led to a balcony and immediately called back—"Saint Dennis! the archers swarm like a cloud about the walls, protected by planks and large shields."

Reginald Front-de-Boeuf went to look out also, and then snatching his bugle, blew a long blast, and commanded his men to their posts on the walls.

De Bracy now went to the eastern side of the castle to direct the defense, while the Templar went to the western. "By my faith!" he said as he turned to go to his post, "these men approach with discipline. They must be commanded by some noble knight or gentleman, skillful in war."

"I espy him," said de Bracy, who had been looking out. "I see the waving of a knight's crest and the gleam of armour. By Saint Dennis, he is the same Black Knight who overthrew you at Ashby, Front-de-Boeuf."

"So much the better," replied Front-de-Boeuf, "that he comes here to give me my revenge."

Each knight now repaired to his post, and at the head of the few followers whom they were able to muster, and who were insufficient to defend such a large castle, they awaited calmly the threatened assault.

The reader may have guessed that the litter contained the fallen hero, Ivanhoe. When he sank down and seemed abandoned by all the world, it was Rebecca who prevailed on her father Isaac to have him carried away to a house near Ashby where many Jews were lodging. Here Rebecca bound up his wounds and nursed him, though it was difficult to restrain his impatience when he heard that his faithful servant Gurth was made prisoner by his father.

"The brother of my King," he said, "by whom I was honoured, is raising his arm to take his crown; be wise, maiden, and let me go."

"Nay," said Rebecca, "thou art too weak; be patient and you will recover."

Ivanhoe was convinced by the reasoning of Rebecca, and obeyed; and one morning, soon after, she pronounced him well enough to be moved. He was still too weak to stand or ride a horse, however, so he was placed in the horse litter which had brought him from the lists, and every precaution taken for his travelling with ease. Isaac, with the fear of robbers and thieves ever before him, travelled at a very great speed, thus passing the more leisurely and ease-loving Cedric and his party. The reader already knows how abruptly their journey ended, and how the Jew and his daughter, with the litter, were permitted to continue their journey with Cedric. After the attack, they were, with the others of the party, taken to Front-de-Boeuf's castle.

De Bracy, though he recognised Ivanhoe when he was carried into the castle, was too chivalrous to betray him to Front-de-Boeuf, who would have had no scruple about putting him to death. On the other hand, de Bracy would not liberate a rival suitor to the hand of the Lady Rowena, as the events of the tournament had shown him to be. He, therefore, caused him to be carried to a distant apartment in the castle, where he was nursed by an old woman. When the attack on the castle was made, however, in the excitement Rebecca was able to make her way to her patient once more, and bending over this couch, felt his pulse.

"Is it you, gentle maiden?" he asked. "Thanks to your skill, I am better."

At this moment there was great clamour and bustle in the castle, for the attack had begun. They could hear the voices of the knights calling to their followers, and Ivanhoe, as he heard these war-like sounds, grew restless and impatient.

"If I could but drag myself to yonder window," he said, "that I might see how the brave game goes!

"You may not," said Rebecca. "I myself will stand at the lattice and describe to you what passes."

"You must not—you shall not!" exclaimed Ivanhoe; "the archers will shoot you. Rebecca, dear Rebecca, this is no maiden's pastime; do not expose thyself; at least cover thyself with yonder ancient shield and show as little of your person as possible."

Following Ivanhoe's directions, she was thus able to describe what was passing without the castle and report to him. From here, she could now see that the skirts of the wood seemed lined with archers, and that it was on this side that the defenders seemed to expect the greatest danger to the castle.

"Under what banner are they?" asked Ivanhoe.

"Under no ensign of war which I can observe," answered Rebecca.

"Canst thou see any leaders?" he asked.

"A knight clad in sable armour is the most conspicuous; he alone is armed from head to heel."

"What device does he bear on his shield?" replied Ivanhoe.

"Something resembling a bar of iron and a padlock."

"Seem there no other leaders?" exclaimed the anxious inquirer.

"None of mark and distinction that I can behold," said Rebecca; "but, doubtless, the other side of the castle is also attacked. God of Zion! They are attacking now; "and as she spoke, Ivanhoe heard the assailants shouting their battle cry, "St. George for merry England!"

The archers, trained by their woodland pastimes, aimed their arrows so well that no defender dared show on the castle walls. This heavy discharge continued thick and sharp.

"And I must lie here like a bedridden monk!" exclaimed Ivanhoe. "Look from the window once again, kind maiden. What dost thou see now?"

"Nothing but a cloud of arrows," replied Rebecca. "Where is the knight?"

"I see him not," answered Rebecca.

"Foul craven!" exclaimed Ivanhoe; "is he afraid?"

"No, no," said Rebecca. "I see him now; he leads a party close under the outer barrier. Now they are pulling down the piles and palisades. His black plume floats above the throng. Now there is a breach and they are fighting hand to hand." Then she uttered a shriek. "He is down!—he is down!"

"Who is down?" said Ivanhoe excitedly.

"The Black Knight," answered Rebecca faintly. "No," she exclaimed, "he is up again; his sword is broken, but he snatches an axe from a yeoman. Now he is fighting Front-de-Boeuf hand to hand. Now he falls."

"Who falls?" said Ivanhoe.

"Front-de-Boeuf," answered the Jewess. "The Templar and his men rush to the rescue; their united efforts compel the Black Knight to pause while they drag Front-de-Boeuf within the walls. Now they have won the barriers and they press hard upon the outer walls; some plant ladders and swarm up like bees. Now the ladders are thrown down, but the Black Knight approaches the postern gate with his huge axe."

"By Saint John of Acre!" said Ivanhoe, "methought there was but one man in England that might do such a deed."

"The postern gate shakes," continued Rebecca; "it crashes—it is splintered by his blows—they rush in—the outwork is won. Oh, God! they throw the defenders from the walls into the moat. Now it is over for the time," said Rebecca; "our friends are strengthening themselves."

"Surely," said Ivanhoe, "they will not now abandon the attack. See'st thou the Black Knight now? Why, his deeds are those of a hero. Can'st thou see if he has any motto on his shield?"

"No," said Rebecca. "All about him is black as the raven's wing. Alas," she continued, leaving her position at the window now that there was a lull in the fighting, "all this excitement and yearning after action will injure your health. How could'st thou hope to take part till thine own wound is healed?"

Soon after this, Ivanhoe, worn out with the excitement, fell asleep. Rebecca then wrapped herself closely in her veil and sat down at a distance from his couch to watch.