Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay

The Black Knight

When the Black Knight left the Trysting-tree of the generous outlaw, he held his way straight to a neighbouring religious house to which the wounded Ivanhoe had been carried under the guidance of the faithful Gurth. Here the Black Knight found him, and after spending some time with him, said:

"We will meet at Coningsburgh, where thy father, Cedric, holds the funeral ceremonies for his noble relation. I would see your Saxon kindred together and become better acquainted with them, and it shall be my task to reconcile thee with thy father." So saying, he took an affectionate farewell of Ivanhoe, who expressed an anxious desire to attend upon his deliverer. "Rest this day; thou hast scarce strength enough yet. I will take the honest Wamba as my guide," and so he set out. The same day Ivanhoe borrowed a horse, and commanding Gurth to keep close to his side, followed the track of the Black Knight into the forest.

Meanwhile the Black Knight and his guide were pacing at their leisure the paths of the forest. Suddenly Wamba, who had been amusing the knight with quaint sayings, and indulging in various antics as he sat on his horse, spoke seriously.

"If I mistake not," he said, "there is a company in yonder brake, that are on the lookout for us."

"What makes thee judge so?" said the knight.

"Because I have twice noticed men amongst the trees. If they were honest men, they would keep to the path."

"By my faith!" said the knight closing his visor, "I believe thou art right." As he spoke, three arrows flew at the same instant from the suspected spot against his head and breast.

"Let us close with them, Wamba," he said, and he rode straight at the thicket. He was met by six or seven men-at-arms, who ran against him with their lances. Three of the weapons struck him and splintered with as little effect as if they were driven against a tower of steel. The Black Knight's eyes seemed to flash fire even through the aperture of his visor. He raised himself in his stirrups with an air of dignity, and exclaimed, "What means this, my masters?" The men made no other reply than by drawing their swords and attacking him on every side, crying, "Die, tyrant!"

"Ha! Saint Edward! Saint George!" said the Black Knight, striking down two men; "have we traitors here?"

His opponents, dangerous as they were, gave way before him, for his arm dealt death at every blow, and it seemed as if he was to gain the battle, though against such heavy odds. Suddenly a knight, in blue armour, who had hitherto kept in the background, spurred forward with his lance, and taking aim at the horse and not its rider, wounded the noble animal mortally.

"That was a felon stroke!" exclaimed the Black Knight, as the horse fell, bearing him to the earth.

At this moment Wamba sounded the bugle, for the whole incident had passed so quickly that he had not had time to do so sooner. The sudden sound made the murderers give way for a moment, and Wamba rushed forward and assisted the Black Knight to rise.

"Shame on ye!" cried the knight in blue armour; "are ye afraid of a jester with a bugle?"

Animated by these words, they attacked the Black Knight anew, whose best refuge was now to place his back against an oak, and fight with his sword. The other knight, watching for a moment when his antagonist was most closely pressed, galloped against him, lance in hand. At this moment the Jester, seeing his intention, and hovering on the skirts of the fight, where he was little noticed by the men-at-arms, effectually checked the intentions of the Blue Knight by slashing his horse across the legs with his sword as it passed him, thus bringing it crashing to the ground with its rider. Still, however, the situation of the Black Knight was very dangerous, pressed by so many men, and he began to be fatigued when an arrow suddenly stretched dead his nearest foe, and a band of yeomen broke forth from the glade, headed by the forester, Locksley, and the jovial Friar, who soon disposed of the ruffians, killing some and wounding others. The Black Knight thanked his deliverers with a dignity they had not before observed in his bearing.

"And now," he said, "who is this knight who thus leads assassins?"

Wamba, with no gentle hand, rolled over the Blue Knight and undid his helmet. As he did so the Black Knight showed much surprise.

"Waldemar Fitzurse!" he said in astonishment. "What could urge you to such a deed? Stand back!" he said to those around. "I would speak to him alone. And now, Fitzurse, confess who set thee on this traitorous deed."

"Thy father's son, thy brother John," said Waldemar.

The Black Knight's eyes sparkled with indignation. After a moment he said: "Take thy life, Fitzurse; I release you on condition you leave England and never mention the name of John of Anjou as he that set you on to this felony. If thou breathest aught of this, by St. George! I will hang thee. Let this knight have a horse, Locksley."

"But that I judge I listen to a voice that must be obeyed, I would send an arrow through him," said the forester.

"Thou bearest an English heart, Locksley, and guess right. I am Richard, King of England!"

On hearing this, Locksley and his yeomen at once kneeled before him, and at the same time tendered their allegiance and implored his pardon for their offences.

"Rise, my friends," said Richard. "Arise, my liegemen, and be good subjects in future, and thou, brave Locksley—"

"Call me no longer Locksley, my liege, for I am Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest."

"King of outlaws!" said the King, "be assured that no deed shall be remembered to thy disadvantage;" and to the jovial friar of Copmanhurst, who, as you know, was also known to Robin Hood's followers as Friar Tuck and who was now kneeling before the King, he said, "Thou shalt have good meat and plenty of good wine and ale yearly delivered to you, and if there is not enough to satisfy thy hunger and thirst, thou must come to Court and become acquainted with my butler."

At this the Friar bowed profoundly.

"And Wamba," he went on, noting the Jester, "thy good service shall not be forgotten."

At this moment two newcomers appeared, and as they rode up it was seen that they were Ivanhoe and Gurth. The astonishment of Ivanhoe was beyond all bounds when he saw his master besprinkled with blood. He hesitated whether to address Richard as King or Black Knight.

"Fear not, Wilfred, to address me as Richard Plantagenet, for we are now in the company of true English hearts. Treason hath been with us, Ivanhoe," went on the King, "but thanks to these brave men, treason hath met its deserts. And now, I bethink me, thou art a traitor too," he said smiling, "for were not our orders positive that thou shouldst repose until thy wound was healed?"

"It is healed now, noble Prince," said Ivanhoe; "but wilt thou not declare thyself and save thy unhappy country, which is threatened with civil war?"

"The time I spend in concealment, Wilfred, is necessary," answered the King, "to give my friends and faithful nobles time to assemble their forces, that when Richard's return is announced he should be at the head of such a force as enemies shall tremble to face, and thus subdue the meditated treason without bloodshed. In twenty-four hours I shall have such news from the south and north as shall enable me to advance on York. And now, sirs," went on Richard, "let us on to Coningsburgh and think no more of this."