Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay

At Rotherwood

After it had gone some distance, the cavalcade stopped, unable to decide which way Wamba had directed them. As they did so, they espied a man lying beside the path either asleep or dead.

"Here, Hugo," said the Templar to one of his attendants, "stir him with the butt-end of your lance."

This was no sooner done than the figure arose and said, "Whosoever thou art, it is discourteous to disturb my thoughts."

"We did but wish to speak to you," said the Prior. "Which is the way to Cedric the Saxon's house?

"I am going there myself," said the stranger, "and if I had a horse, I would be your guide."

"Thou shalt have both thanks and reward," said the Prior, and he caused one of his attendants to mount a led horse and gave that upon which he had ridden to the stranger.

And now their conductor, taking the opposite path to that directed by Wamba, led them by devious and often dangerous paths across brooks and by bogs which had caused much agitation to the Prior, whose nerves were not of the strongest. At last they came into a wide avenue, and pointing to a large, low building at the upper extremity, their conductor said to the Prior, "Yonder is Rotherwood, the dwelling of Cedric the Saxon."

"Who are you?" said the Prior, easy again now that he was in sight of his destination.

"A Palmer, just returned from the Holy Land," was the answer.

Now, a Palmer was a pilgrim who had journeyed to the Holy Land and was so called because he returned carrying a branch of palm which he wore stuck in his hood or attached to his staff.

"You had better have tarried there and fought," said the Templar.

"True, Reverend Knight," answered the Palmer, "but when such as you who are under oath to fight for the Holy Sepulcher are found wandering so far from the Holy Land, can you wonder that a peaceful peasant like me should decline the task which you have abandoned?"

The Templar would have made an angry reply, but they now stood before the mansion. This was a low, irregular building, containing several courtyards or enclosures, but it differed entirely from the tall, castellated buildings in which the Normans resided. It was not, however, without defenses. A deep fosse, or ditch, was drawn round the whole building, and filled with water from a neighbouring stream. A double stockade or high fence composed of pointed beams defended the outer and inner bank of the trench or moat. There was an entrance from the west through the outer stockade, which communicated with the interior by a drawbridge over the trench.

Before the entrance the Templar wound his horn loudly, for the rain, which had long threatened, began to descend with great violence.

"Why tarries the Lady Rowena?" said Cedric to his cup-bearer, as he sat at head of the table in the big hall, waiting the arrival of his fair ward before commencing the evening meal.

"She is changing her head-gear," replied a female attendant who stood near, "for she has been to evening mass and was caught in the storm."

"I wish she may choose a fair evening next time she goes to her devotions," said Cedric irritably.

At that moment the blast of a horn was heard through the hall. This was immediately followed by the barking of all the dogs in the hall and many that were quartered in various parts of the building.

"To the gate, knaves!" said Cedric to his attendants, "and see what tidings the horn tells of."

In a few minutes a warder returned to announce Prior Aymer and the Knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert.

"Normans both," muttered Cedric, repeating their names, "but Norman or Saxon, I cannot refuse hospitality. Go, Hundebert," he added to a servant, "introduce the strangers to the guests' lodging. Let them have a change of vestments and see that they lack nothing; bid the cooks add what they hastily can to our evening meal. Elgitha, let thy Lady Rowena know we shall not this night expect her in the hall unless such be her special wish. Here at least the descendant of King Alfred still reigns a princess."

Cedric sat waiting his unwelcome guests, his eyes fixed on the ground for an instant; as he raised them the folding doors at the end of the hall opened, and preceded by his servant Hundebert, with his wand, and servants bearing torches, Bois-Guilbert and the Prior, followed by the Palmer, wrapped in his long cloak and covering his face with a mask, entered the hall.

Cedric rose to receive his guests with an air of dignified hospitality, and descending from the dais, advanced three steps to meet them.

"I grieve, Reverend Prior," he said, "that my vow binds me not to advance farther upon this floor except to receive one of Saxon Royal blood, and I cannot do so even to receive such guests as you. Sir Prior and Knight, let welcome make amends for hard fare."

The guests being seated, the feast, which was a plentiful one, was about to begin when Hundebert, suddenly raising his wand, said aloud—"Forbear!—Place for the Lady Rowena." A side door opened, and the Lady Rowena, followed by her maids, entered the apartment. Cedric at once advanced to lead her to the elevated seat at his own right hand, while the others stood to receive her. She replied to their courtesy by a mute gesture of salutation as she moved gracefully forward to assume her place at the board. Cedric, though hiding his feelings, was not altogether pleased that his beautiful ward should appear in public on this occasion.



Now, the Prior and Templar were on their way to Ashby to attend a great tournament at which Prince John, the absent king's brother, was to be present.

"Let us hope that the Lady Rowena will be present at the tournament," said the Prior.

"Our going thither is uncertain," said Cedric. "I love not these vanities, which were unknown to my fathers when England was free."

"Let us hope, nevertheless, that our company may determine you to travel thitherward."

"Sir Prior," said Cedric, "I have always found the assistance of my own good sword, with my faithful followers, in no respect needful of aid. If I go to Ashby I travel with my noble country man, Athelstane of Coningsburgh. I drink to your health, Sir Prior."

"I will tax your courtesy, Sir Knight," said Lady Rowena to the Templar, "to tell the latest news of Palestine."

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the porter's page to announce that there was a stranger at the gates, imploring shelter.

"Admit him," said Cedric. "We cannot refuse him food and rest a night like this. Let his wants be ministered to with all care."

The page, returning, whispered in his master's ear, "It is a Jew, who calls himself Isaac of York; is it fit that I marshal him into the hall?"

So hated were the Jews at this time that they were persecuted in whatever country they wandered. Yet in spite of much cruelty and sometimes even torture, they grew rich, though they had to hide their riches, and often feigned poverty for fear they should be seized by the wicked barons and tortured till they handed over large portions of their wealth and savings. Wherever they went they were treated as outcasts, and so Cedric said, "I cannot refuse my hospitality even to an unbelieving Jew." So the page went back to admit the stranger.

With many a bow of deep humility, an old man followed the page into the hall. His long cloak was drenched with rain and upon his head he wore a square, yellow cap which all Jews were compelled to wear to distinguish them from Christians.

The old man met with a cruel reception, and Cedric nodded coldly and signed to him to take a place at the lower end of the table amongst the inferior servants of his household, where, however, no one offered to make room. While the Jew thus stood an outcast, unable to obtain a seat at the table, the Pilgrim, who sat by the chimney corner, rose from his seat, saying, "Old man, sit and dry your garments and appease your hunger;" and saying this he brought him a plate of porridge from the larger board and set it on a small table by the Jew's side. Then without waiting the Jew's thanks, he crossed to the other side of the hall, nearer the upper end of the table.

At this moment Cedric raised his goblet. "To the strong in arms," he said, "who fight in Palestine as cham-pions of the Cross!"

"It becomes not one of them to answer," said Sir Brian Bois-Guilbert; "yet to whom but the sworn champions of the Holy Sepulcher can the praise be assigned?"

"Were there, then, none in the English army" said the Lady Rowena, "whose names are worthy to be mentioned?"

"Forgive me, lady," said the Knight. "King Richard did bring a host of gallant warriors."

"Who were second to none," exclaimed the Pilgrim, now joining in the conversation for the first time. "I say," he repeated in a strong voice as all turned towards him, "that the English chivalry were second to none."

"I will give thee a piece of gold, Palmer," said Cedric, "if thou wilt name me those knights who were the bravest and the most gallant!"

"That will I blithely do without gold," said the Pilgrim. "The first in honour as in arms was Richard, King of England. The Earl of Leicester was the second. Sir Thomas Multon of Gilsland was the third. Sir Foulk Doilly the fourth; Sir Edwin Turneham the fifth."

"Genuine Saxon the last!" shouted Cedric with exultation. "And the sixth?" he continued with eagerness.

"The sixth," said the Palmer, "was a knight of lesser rank, but his name I do not remember."

"Sir Palmer," said the Templar scornfully, "you assume forgetfulness. I will myself name this knight before whose lance ill-luck caused me to fall—it was the Knight of Ivanhoe. No one had more renown in arms, and were he in England, and durst repeat the challenge at the coming tournament at Ashby, I would give him every advantage of weapons and abide by the result."

"Your challenge would soon be answered," retorted the Palmer, "were your antagonist near you."

Meanwhile Cedric had remained a silent listener, though his face betrayed many conflicting emotions, while the name of Ivanhoe seemed to have produced an electrical effect on his servants.

"And now, Sir Cedric," said the Prior, "permit us another pledge to the welfare of the Lady Rowena, and allow us to pass to our repose, as we are tired."