Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay

The Capture of Cedric

When Cedric saw his son drop down senseless, he could not bring himself to acknowledge in public the son whom he had renounced; but he ordered that he was to be conveyed to Ashby and cared for. When the crowd dispersed, however, the knight was nowhere to be seen. It was in vain that Cedric's cupbearer, Oswald, looked round for his young master, until his eye suddenly lighted on a man dressed as a squire whom he recognised as his fellow servant, Gurth, who was also looking for his young master. At last Oswald learned from bystanders that the knight had been raised by certain well-attired grooms and carried away. Oswald went to tell this news to Cedric, forcing Gurth to go along with him.

When Cedric left the banquet, he returned to Rowena, who had resolutely refused to accompany him. Soon all the Saxons of their party were mounted and a start was made for home. It was at this moment that he spied Gurth, and his anger at his treatment at the banquet vented itself on the swineherd, whose hands he commanded to be tied with a halter.

"To horse, and forward!" cried Cedric.

After a long journey, the travelers reached the verge of a large wood through which they had to pass, and which was at that time held dangerous from the number of outlaws who roamed its glades. As they did so, they heard repeated cries for assistance. Riding up to the place from whence they came, they were surprised to find Isaac the Jew and his daughter. The Jew, when he could calm himself, explained that he had hired six men as a bodyguard at Ashby to carry his friend on a litter which now lay on the ground. They had come to the edge of the wood, when, thinking they heard the sound of outlaws, they had fled, and taken with them the mules which had carried the litter.

"Would you permit the poor Jews to travel under your protection?" concluded Isaac.

At the same moment Rebecca stole to the side of Rowena's horse and said in a low voice, "In the name of one dear to many and even you, I beseech you to let this sick person be transported under your protection."

The solemn air of Rebecca gave weight to her words, and the Lady Rowena said to her guardian: "The man is old and feeble, and their friend sick and in peril of his life, and Jews though they be, we cannot leave them. Let two of our mules transport the litter."

To this Cedric assented, while Athelstane insisted that they should travel in the rear of the party, though the Lady Rowena requested Rebecca to ride at her side. It was arranged that Gurth should give up his horse to the Jewess and ride behind another of the attendants, but in the bustle of changing he managed to loose his bonds and slip away unseen.

The party now proceeded on their way, but as the path was narrow, they had to ride two abreast, and it was in this order that they were suddenly surprised by a band of outlaws and made prisoners. The only one who escaped was Wamba the jester, and as he was about to return to be made a prisoner with his master, he was joined by Gurth, who had followed a short way behind the party since his escape, and had only heard the cries and the clash of swords.

As soon as he heard what had happened, he proposed to Wamba that they should attack the outlaws, trusting to the suddenness of their onslaught to drive them off. As they were about to do this, a third person appeared and commanded them to halt. He was dressed much as the outlaws, but wore no mask.

"What is the meaning of all this?" said he.

Wamba explained.

"Stay here, then," said the other, "and I dare you to disobey me," saying which, he took a mask from his pocket and disappeared once more. Soon he returned.

"The men will do your masters no violence," he said, "and it is impossible for us to attack so large a band; but I trust soon to gather such a force as may set your masters free. You are both servants, I think, of Cedric the Saxon, the friend of the rights of Englishmen, and he shall not want English hands to help him."

As he set off hurriedly through the forest, Gurth and Wamba wondered much where they were being led and how it would end.

It was after a good three hours' walking that the servants of Cedric arrived at a small opening in the forest, in the center of which grew an enormous oak-tree. Beneath this tree four or five yeomen lay stretched on the ground, while another walked to and fro in the moonlight, keeping guard. As the travelers approached, their guide was welcomed with every token of respect.

"Where is the Friar?" he asked.

"In his cell," was the reply.

"Thither will I go," said their guide, who was none other than the bold Robin Hood, who had made his name famous even in those days of derring-do. For the time being he had assumed the name of Locksley. "Disperse and seek your companions. Collect what force you can. Two of you take the road quickly towards Torquilstone, the castle of Front-de-Boeuf. A set of gallants, who have disguised themselves as members of our band, are carrying a band of prisoners thither. Keep a close watch on them and send me news as soon as you can."

The men then promised implicit obedience, and started on their errands, while Locksley, with Gurth and Wamba, walked on till they came to the chapel of Copmanhurst.

When they reached the little hermitage in which the Black Knight had sought hospitality, they heard sounds of singing, and so loud was this that Locksley had to knock long before he could make the priest hear. At last, however, the singing ceased and the door was unbolted.

"Why, hermit," said Locksley as soon as he had entered and beheld the knight, "what boon companion hast thou here?"

"Good yeoman," said the knight, coming forward, "be not wroth with my merry host. He did but afford me the hospitality which I would have compelled from him if he had refused it."

"Thou compel!" exclaimed the Friar; "wait till I have changed my monk's gown for a green suit, and if I make not a bruise on thy pate with my staff, I am neither true monk nor good yeoman."

While he hurriedly proceeded to change his cloak, Locksley called the knight on one side and said, "Sir Knight, deny it not—you are he who decided the victory at the tournament at Ashby."

"And what if I am?"

"In that case," said Locksley, "I should hold you the friend of the weaker party."

"Such," answered the other, "is the duty of a true knight at least."

"Hear me, then," said Locksley. "A band of villains in the disguise of better men, have taken prisoners a noble Englishman called Cedric, his ward, and his noble kinsman, Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and have transported them to the castle called Torquilstone. I ask thee, as a good knight and a good Englishman, wilt thou aid in their rescue?"

"I will willingly," said the knight "but I would know who you are who request my assistance."

"I am at present a nameless man," answered the forester, "but I am the friend of my country and my country's friend. With this account of me you must at present remain satisfied."

The Friar was now completely dressed as a yeoman, with sword and bow and quiver of arrows.

"Come on, Jack Priest," said Locksley; "we must collect all our forces; we shall have few enough if we are to storm Front-de-Boeuf's castle."

And so they hurried away through the forest.