Trust me each state must have its policies:
The daylight had dawned upon the glades of the oak forest. The green boughs glittered with all their pearls of dew. The hind led her fawn from the covert of high fern to the more open walks of the greenwood, and no huntsman was there to watch or intercept the stately hart, as he paced at the head of the antler'd herd.
The outlaws were all assembled around the Trysting-tree in the Harthill-walk, where they had spent the night in refreshing themselves after the fatigues of the siege, some with wine, some with slumber, many with hearing and recounting the events of the day, and computing the heaps of plunder which their success had placed at the disposal of their Chief.
The spoils were indeed very large; for, notwithstanding that much was consumed, a great deal of plate, rich armour, and splendid clothing, had been secured by the exertions of the dauntless outlaws, who could be appalled by no danger when such rewards were in view. Yet so strict were the laws of their society, that no one ventured to appropriate any part of the booty, which was brought into one common mass, to be at the disposal of their leader.
The place of rendezvous was an aged oak; not however the same to which Locksley had conducted Gurth and Wamba in the earlier part of the story, but one which was the centre of a silvan amphitheatre, within half a mile of the demolished castle of Torquilstone. Here Locksley assumed his seat---a throne of turf erected under the twisted branches of the huge oak, and the silvan followers were gathered around him. He assigned to the Black Knight a seat at his right hand, and to Cedric a place upon his left.
``Pardon my freedom, noble sirs,'' he said, ``but in these glades I am monarch---they are my kingdom; and these my wild subjects would reck but little of my power, were I, within my own dominions, to yield place to mortal man.---Now, sirs, who hath seen our chaplain? where is our curtal Friar? A mass amongst Christian men best begins a busy morning.''---No one had seen the Clerk of Copmanhurst. ``Over gods forbode!'' said the outlaw chief, ``I trust the jolly priest hath but abidden by the wine-pot a thought too late. Who saw him since the castle was ta'en?''
``I,'' quoth the Miller, ``marked him busy about the door of a cellar, swearing by each saint in the calendar he would taste the smack of Front-de-B<oe>uf's Gascoigne wine.''
``Now, the saints, as many as there be of them,'' said the Captain, ``forefend, lest he has drunk too deep of the wine-butts, and perished by the fall of the castle!---Away, Miller!---take with you enow of men, seek the place where you last saw him--- throw water from the moat on the scorching ruins ---I will have them removed stone by stone ere I lose my curtal Friar.''
The numbers who hastened to execute this duty, considering that an interesting division of spoil was about to take place, showed how much the troop had at heart the safety of their spiritual father.
``Meanwhile, let us proceed,'' said Locksley; ``for when this bold deed shall be sounded abroad, the bands of De Bracy, of Malvoisin, and other allies of Front-de-B<oe>uf, will be in motion against us, and it were well for our safety that we retreat from the vicinity.---Noble Cedric,'' he said, turning to the Saxon, ``that spoil is divided into two portions; do thou make choice of that which best suits thee, to recompense thy people who were partakers with us in this adventure.''
``Good yeoman,'' said Cedric, ``my heart is oppressed with sadness. The noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh is no more---the last sprout of the sainted Confessor! Hopes have perished with him which can never return!---A sparkle hath been quenched by his blood, which no human breath can again rekindle! My people, save the few who are now with me, do but tarry my presence to transport his honoured remains to their last mansion. The Lady Rowena is desirous to return to Rotherwood, and must be escorted by a sufficient force. I should, therefore, ere now, have left this place; and I waited---not to share the booty, for, so help me God and Saint Withold! as neither I nor any of mine will touch the value of a liard,---I waited but to render my thanks to thee and to thy bold yeomen, for the life and honour ye have saved.''
``Nay, but,'' said the chief Outlaw, ``we did but half the work at most---take of the spoil what may reward your own neighbours and followers.''
``I am rich enough to reward them from mine own wealth,'' answered Cedric.
``And some,'' said Wamba, ``have been wise enough to reward themselves; they do not march off empty-handed altogether. We do not all wear motley.''
``They are welcome,'' said Locksley; ``our laws bind none but ourselves.''
``But, thou, my poor knave,'' said Cedric, turning about and embracing his Jester, ``how shall I reward thee, who feared not to give thy body to chains and death instead of mine!---All forsook me, when the poor fool was faithful!''
A tear stood in the eye of the rough Thane as he spoke---a mark of feeling which even the death of Athelstane had not extracted; but there was something in the half-instinctive attachment of his clown, that waked his nature more keenly than even grief itself.
``Nay,'' said the Jester, extricating himself from master's caress, ``if you pay my service with the water of your eye, the Jester must weep for company, and then what becomes of his vocation? ---But, uncle, if you would indeed pleasure me, I pray you to pardon my playfellow Gurth, who stole a week from your service to bestow it on your son.''
``Pardon him!'' exclaimed Cedric; ``I will both
pardon and reward him.---Kneel down, Gurth.''---
The swineherd was in an instant at his master's feet---``Theow and Esne* art thou no longer,''
[*] Thrall and bondsman.
said Cedric touching him with a wand; ``Folkfree
and Sacless* art thou in town and from
[*] A lawful freeman.
town, in the forest as in the field. A hide of land I give to thee in my steads of Walbrugham, from me and mine to thee and thine aye and for ever; and God's malison on his head who this gainsays!''
No longer a serf, but a freeman and a landholder, Gurth sprung upon his feet, and twice bounded aloft to almost his own height from the ground. ``A smith and a file,'' he cried, ``to do away the collar from the neck of a freeman!---Noble master! doubled is my strength by your gift, and doubly will I fight for you!---There is a free spirit in my breast---I am a man changed to myself and all around.---Ha, Fangs!'' he continued,---for that faithful cur, seeing his master thus transported, began to jump upon him, to express his sympathy,--- ``knowest thou thy master still?''
``Ay,'' said Wamba, ``Fangs and I still know thee, Gurth, though we must needs abide by the collar; it is only thou art likely to forget both us and thyself.''
``I shall forget myself indeed ere I forget thee, true comrade,'' said Gurth; ``and were freedom fit for thee, Wamba, the master would not let thee want it.''
``Nay,'' said Wamba, ``never think I envy thee, brother Gurth; the serf sits by the hall-fire when the freeman must forth to the field of battle---And what saith Oldhelm of Malmsbury---Better a fool at a feast than a wise man at a fray.''
The tramp of horses was now heard, and the Lady Rowena appeared, surrounded by several riders, and a much stronger party of footmen, who joyfully shook their pikes and clashed their brown-bills for joy of her freedom. She herself, richly attired, and mounted on a dark chestnut palfrey, had recovered all the dignity of her manner, and only an unwonted degree of paleness showed the sufferings she had undergone. Her lovely brow, though sorrowful, bore on it a cast of reviving hope for the future, as well as of grateful thankfulness for the past deliverance---She knew that Ivanhoe was safe, and she knew that Athelstane was dead. The former assurance filled her with the most sincere delight; and if she did not absolutely rejoice at the latter, she might be pardoned for feeling the full advantage of being freed from further persecution on the only subject in which she had ever been contradicted by her guardian Cedric.
As Rowena bent her steed towards Locksley's seat, that bold yeoman, with all his followers, rose to receive her, as if by a general instinct of courtesy. The blood rose to her cheeks, as, courteously waving her hand, and bending so low that her beautiful and loose tresses were for an instant mixed with the flowing mane of her palfrey, she expressed in few but apt words her obligations and her gratitude to Locksley and her other deliverers. ---``God bless you, brave men,'' she concluded, ``God and Our Lady bless you and requite you for gallantly perilling yourselves in the cause of the oppressed!---If any of you should hunger, remember Rowena has food---if you should thirst, she has many a butt of wine and brown ale---and if the Normans drive ye from these walks, Rowena has forests of her own, where her gallant deliverers may range at full freedom, and never ranger ask whose arrow hath struck down the deer.''
``Thanks, gentle lady,'' said Locksley; ``thanks from my company and myself. But, to have saved you requites itself. We who walk the greenwood do many a wild deed, and the Lady Rowena's deliverance may be received as an atonement.''
Again bowing from her palfrey, Rowena turned to depart; but pausing a moment, while Cedric, who was to attend her, was also taking his leave, she found herself unexpectedly close by the prisoner De Bracy. He stood under a tree in deep meditation, his arms crossed upon his breast, and Rowena was in hopes she might pass him unobserved. He looked up, however, and, when aware of her presence, a deep flush of shame suffused his handsome countenance. He stood a moment most irresolute; then, stepping forward, took her palfrey by the rein, and bent his knee before her.
``Will the Lady Rowena deign to cast an eye ---on a captive knight---on a dishonoured soldier?''
``Sir Knight,'' answered Rowena, ``in enterprises such as yours, the real dishonour lies not in failure, but in success.''
``Conquest, lady, should soften the heart,'' answered De Bracy; ``let me but know that the Lady Rowena forgives the violence occasioned by an ill-fated passion, and she shall soon learn that De Bracy knows how to serve her in nobler ways.''
``I forgive you, Sir Knight,'' said Rowena, ``as a Christian.''
``That means,'' said Wamba, ``that she does not forgive him at all.''
``But I can never forgive the misery and desolation your madness has occasioned,'' continued Rowena.
``Unloose your hold on the lady's rein,'' said Cedric, coming up. ``By the bright sun above us, but it were shame, I would pin thee to the earth with my javelin---but be well assured, thou shalt smart, Maurice de Bracy, for thy share in this foul deed.''
``He threatens safely who threatens a prisoner,'' said De Bracy; ``but when had a Saxon any touch of courtesy?''
Then retiring two steps backward, he permitted the lady to move on.
Cedric, ere they departed, expressed his peculiar gratitude to the Black Champion, and earnestly entreated him to accompany him to Rotherwood.
``I know,'' he said, ``that ye errant knights desire to carry your fortunes on the point of your lance, and reck not of land or goods; but war is a changeful mistress, and a home is sometimes desirable even to the champion whose trade is wandering. Thou hast earned one in the halls of Rotherwood, noble knight. Cedric has wealth enough to repair the injuries of fortune, and all he has is his deliverer's---Come, therefore, to Rotherwood, not as a guest, but as a son or brother.''
``Cedric has already made me rich,'' said the Knight,---``he has taught me the value of Saxon virtue. To Rotherwood will I come, brave Saxon, and that speedily; but, as now, pressing matters of moment detain me from your halls. Peradventure when I come hither, I will ask such a boon as will put even thy generosity to the test.''
``It is granted ere spoken out,'' said Cedric, striking his ready hand into the gauntleted palm of the Black Knight,---``it is granted already, were it to affect half my fortune.''
``Gage not thy promise so lightly,'' said the Knight of the Fetterlock; ``yet well I hope to gain the boon I shall ask. Meanwhile, adieu.''
``I have but to say,'' added the Saxon, ``that, during the funeral rites of the noble Athelstane, I shall be an inhabitant of the halls of his castle of Coningsburgh---They will be open to all who choose to partake of the funeral banqueting; and, I speak in name of the noble Edith, mother of the fallen prince, they will never be shut against him who laboured so bravely, though unsuccessfully, to save Athelstane from Norman chains and Norman steel.''
``Ay, ay,'' said Wamba, who had resumed his attendance on his master, ``rare feeding there will be---pity that the noble Athelstane cannot banquet at his own funeral.---But he,'' continued the Jester, lifting up his eyes gravely, ``is supping in Paradise, and doubtless does honour to the cheer.''
``Peace, and move on,'' said Cedric, his anger at this untimely jest being checked by the recollection of Wamba's recent services. Rowena waved a graceful adieu to him of the Fetterlock---the Saxon bade God speed him, and on they moved through a wide glade of the forest.
They had scarce departed, ere a sudden procession moved from under the greenwood branches, swept slowly round the silvan amphitheatre, and took the same direction with Rowena and her followers. The priests of a neighbouring convent, in expectation of the ample donation, or soul-scat, which Cedric had propined, attended upon the car in which the body of Athelstane was laid, and sang hymns as it was sadly and slowly borne on the shoulders of his vassals to his castle of Coningsburgh, to be there deposited in the grave of Hengist, from whom the deceased derived his long descent. Many of his vassals had assembled at the news of his death, and followed the bier with all the external marks, at least, of dejection and sorrow. Again the outlaws arose, and paid the same rude and spontaneous homage to death, which they had so lately rendered to beauty---the slow chant and mournful step of the priests brought back to their remembrance such of their comrades as had fallen in the yesterday's array. But such recollections dwell not long with those who lead a life of danger and enterprise, and ere the sound of the death-hymn had died on the wind, the outlaws were again busied in the distribution of their spoil.
``Valiant knight,'' said Locksley to the Black Champion, ``without whose good heart and mighty arm our enterprise must altogether have failed, will it please you to take from that mass of spoil whatever may best serve to pleasure you, and to remind you of this my Trysting-tree?''
``I accept the offer,'' said the Knight, ``as frankly as it is given; and I ask permission to dispose of Sir Maurice de Bracy at my own pleasure.''
``He is thine already,'' said Locksley, ``and well for him! else the tyrant had graced the highest bough of this oak, with as many of his Free-Companions as we could gather, hanging thick as acorns around him.---But he is thy prisoner, and he is safe, though he had slain my father.''
``De Bracy,'' said the Knight, ``thou art free--- depart. He whose prisoner thou art scorns to take mean revenge for what is past. But beware of the future, lest a worse thing befall thee.---Maurice de Bracy, I say beware!''
De Bracy bowed low and in silence, and was about to withdraw, when the yeomen burst at once into a shout of execration and derision. The proud knight instantly stopped, turned back, folded his arms, drew up his form to its full height, and exclaimed, ``Peace, ye yelping curs! who open upon a cry which ye followed not when the stag was at bay---De Bracy scorns your censure as he would disdain your applause. To your brakes and caves, ye outlawed thieves! and be silent when aught knightly or noble is but spoken within a league of your fox-earths.''
This ill-timed defiance might have procured for De Bracy a volley of arrows, but for the hasty and imperative interference of the outlaw Chief. Meanwhile the knight caught a horse by the rein, for several which had been taken in the stables of Front-de-B<oe>uf stood accoutred around, and were a valuable part of the booty. He threw himself upon the saddle, and galloped off through the wood.
When the bustle occasioned by this incident was somewhat composed, the chief Outlaw took from his neck the rich horn and baldric which he had recently gained at the strife of archery near Ashby.
``Noble knight.'' he said to him of the Fetterlock,
``if you disdain not to grace by your acceptance
a bugle which an English yeoman has once
worn, this I will pray you to keep as a memorial of
your gallant bearing---and if ye have aught to do,
and, as happeneth oft to a gallant knight, ye chance
to be hard bested in any forest between Trent and
Tees, wind three mots* upon the horn thus, Wa-sa-hoa!
[*] The notes upon the bugle were anciently called mots, and are distinguished in the old treatises on hunting, not by musical characters, but by written words.
and it may well chance ye shall find helpers and rescue.''
He then gave breath to the bugle, and winded once and again the call which be described, until the knight had caught the notes.
``Gramercy for the gift, bold yeoman,'' said the Knight; ``and better help than thine and thy rangers would I never seek, were it at my utmost need.'' And then in his turn he winded the call till all the greenwood rang.
``Well blown and clearly,'' said the yeoman; ``beshrew me an thou knowest not as much of woodcraft as of war!---thou hast been a striker of deer in thy day, I warrant.---Comrades, mark these three mots---it is the call of the Knight of the Fetterlock; and he who hears it, and hastens not to serve him at his need, I will have him scourged out of our band with his own bowstring.''
``Long live our leader!'' shouted the yeomen, ``and long live the Black Knight of the Fetterlock!--- May he soon use our service, to prove how readily it will be paid.''
Locksley now proceeded to the distribution of the spoil, which he performed with the most laudable impartiality. A tenth part of the whole was set apart for the church, and for pious uses; a portion was next allotted to a sort of public treasury; a part was assigned to the widows and children of those who had fallen, or to be expended in masses for the souls of such as had left no surviving family. The rest was divided amongst the outlaws, according to their rank and merit, and the judgment of the Chief, on all such doubtful questions as occurred, was delivered with great shrewdness, and received with absolute submission. The Black Knight was not a little surprised to find that men, in a state so lawless, were nevertheless among themselves so regularly and equitably governed, and all that he observed added to his opinion of the justice and judgment of their leader.
When each had taken his own proportion of the booty, and while the treasurer, accompanied by four tall yeomen, was transporting that belonging to the state to some place of concealment or of security, the portion devoted to the church still remained unappropriated.
``I would,'' said the leader, ``we could hear tidings of our joyous chaplain---he was never wont to be absent when meat was to be blessed, or spoil to be parted; and it is his duty to take care of these the tithes of our successful enterprise. It may be the office has helped to cover some of his canonical irregularities. Also, I have a holy brother of his a prisoner at no great distance, and I would fain have the Friar to help me to deal with him in due sort---I greatly misdoubt the safety of the bluff priest.''
``I were right sorry for that,'' said the Knight of the Fetterlock, ``for I stand indebted to him for the joyous hospitality of a merry night in his cell. Let us to the ruins of the castle; it may be we shall there learn some tidings of him.''
While they thus spoke, a loud shout among the yeomen announced the arrival of him for whom they feared, as they learned from the stentorian voice of the Friar himself, long before they saw his burly person.
``Make room, my merry-men!'' he exclaimed; ``room for your godly father and his prisoner--- Cry welcome once more.---I come, noble leader, like an eagle with my prey in my clutch.''---And making his way through the ring, amidst the laughter of all around, he appeared in majestic triumph, his huge partisan in one hand, and in the other a halter, one end of which was fastened to the neck of the unfortunate Isaac of York, who, bent down by sorrow and terror, was dragged on by the victorious priest, who shouted aloud, ``Where is Allan-a-Dale, to chronicle me in a ballad, or if it were but a lay?---By Saint Hermangild, the jingling crowder is ever out of the way where there is an apt theme for exalting valour!''
``Curtal Priest,'' said the Captain, ``thou hast been at a wet mass this morning, as early as it is. In the name of Saint Nicholas, whom hast thou got here?''
``A captive to my sword and to my lance, noble Captain,'' replied the Clerk of Copmanhurst; ``to my bow and to my halberd, I should rather say; and yet I have redeemed him by my divinity from a worse captivity. Speak, Jew---have I not ransomed thee from Sathanas?---have I not taught thee thy credo, thy pater, and thine Ave Maria? ---Did I not spend the whole night in drinking to thee, and in expounding of mysteries?''
``For the love of God!'' ejaculated the poor Jew, ``will no one take me out of the keeping of this mad---I mean this holy man?''
``How's this, Jew?'' said the Friar, with a menacing aspect; ``dost thou recant, Jew?---Bethink thee, if thou dost relapse into thine infidelity, though thou are not so tender as a suckling pig--- I would I had one to break my fast upon---thou art not too tough to be roasted! Be conformable, Isaac, and repeat the words after me. Ave Maria!---''
``Nay, we will have no profanation, mad Priest,''
said Locksley; ``let us rather hear where you found
this prisoner of thine.''
``We can bear witness,'' said Gilbert; ``for when we had cleared away the ruin, and by Saint Dunstan's help lighted upon the dungeon stair, we found the runlet of sack half empty, the Jew half dead, and the Friar more than half---exhausted, as he calls it.''
``Ye be knaves! ye lie!'' retorted the offended
Friar; ``it was you and your gormandizing companions
that drank up the sack, and called it your
morning draught---I am a pagan, an I kept it not
for the Captain's own throat. But what recks it?
The Jew is converted, and understands all I have
told him, very nearly, if not altogether, as well as
``May I so find mercy in your eyes,'' said the Jew, ``as I know not one word which the reverend prelate spake to me all this fearful night. Alas! I was so distraught with agony, and fear, and grief, that had our holy father Abraham come to preach to me, he had found but a deaf listener.''
``Thou liest, Jew, and thou knowest thou dost.'' said the Friar; ``I will remind thee of but one word of our conference---thou didst promise to give all thy substance to our holy Order.''
``So help me the Promise, fair sirs,'' said Isaac, even more alarmed than before, ``as no such sounds ever crossed my lips! Alas! I am an aged beggar'd man---I fear me a childless---have ruth on me, and let me go!''
``Nay,'' said the Friar, ``if thou dost retract vows made in favour of holy Church, thou must do penance.''
Accordingly, he raised his halberd, and would have laid the staff of it lustily on the Jew's shoulders, had not the Black Knight stopped the blow, and thereby transferred the Holy Clerk's resentment to himself.
``By Saint Thomas of Kent,'' said he, ``an I buckle to my gear, I will teach thee, sir lazy lover, to mell with thine own matters, maugre thine iron case there!''
``Nay, be not wroth with me,'' said the Knight; ``thou knowest I am thy sworn friend and comrade.''
``I know no such thing,'' answered the Friar; ``and defy thee for a meddling coxcomb!''
``Nay, but,'' said the Knight, who seemed to take a pleasure in provoking his quondam host, ``hast thou forgotten how, that for my sake (for I say nothing of the temptation of the flagon and the pasty) thou didst break thy vow of fast and vigil?''
``Truly, friend,'' said the Friar, clenching his huge fist, ``I will bestow a buffet on thee.''
``I accept of no such presents,'' said the Knight;
``I am content to take thy cuff* as a loan, but I will
[*]Note G. Richard C<oe>ur-de-Lion.
repay thee with usury as deep as ever thy prisoner there exacted in his traffic.''
``I will prove that presently,'' said the Friar.
``Hola!'' cried the Captain, ``what art thou after, mad Friar? brawling beneath our Trysting-tree?''
``No brawling,'' said the Knight, ``it is but a friendly interchange of courtesy.---Friar, strike an thou darest---I will stand thy blow, if thou wilt stand mine.''
``Thou hast the advantage with that iron pot on thy head,'' said the churchman; ``but have at thee---Down thou goest, an thou wert Goliath of Gath in his brazen helmet.''
The Friar bared his brawny arm up to the elbow, and putting his full strength to the blow, gave the Knight a buffet that might have felled an ox. But his adversary stood firm as a rock. A loud shout was uttered by all the yeomen around; for the Clerk's cuff was proverbial amongst them, and there were few who, in jest or earnest, had not had the occasion to know its vigour.
``Now, Priest,'' said, the Knight, pulling off his gauntlet, ``if I had vantage on my head, I will have none on my hand---stand fast as a true man.''
``_Genam meam dedi vapulatori_---I have given my cheek to the smiter,'' said the Priest; ``an thou canst stir me from the spot, fellow, I will freely bestow on thee the Jew's ransom.''
So spoke the burly Priest, assuming, on his part, high defiance. But who may resist his fate? The buffet of the Knight was given with such strength and good-will, that the Friar rolled head over heels upon the plain, to the great amazement of all the spectators. But he arose neither angry nor crestfallen.
``Brother,'' said he to the Knight, ``thou shouldst have used thy strength with more discretion. I had mumbled but a lame mass an thou hadst broken my jaw, for the piper plays ill that wants the nether chops. Nevertheless, there is my hand, in friendly witness, that I will exchange no more cuffs with thee, having been a loser by the barter. End now all unkindness. Let us put the Jew to ransom, since the leopard will not change his spots, and a Jew he will continue to be.''
``The Priest,'' said Clement, ``is not have so confident of the Jew's conversion, since he received that buffet on the ear.''
``Go to, knave, what pratest thou of conversions? ---what, is there no respect?---all masters and no men?---I tell thee, fellow, I was somewhat totty when I received the good knight's blow, or I had kept my ground under it. But an thou gibest more of it, thou shalt learn I can give as well as take.''
``Peace all!'' said the Captain. ``And thou, Jew, think of thy ransom; thou needest not to be told that thy race are held to be accursed in all Christian communities, and trust me that we cannot endure thy presence among us. Think, therefore, of an offer, while I examine a prisoner of another cast.''
``Were many of Front-de-B<oe>uf's men taken?'' demanded the Black Knight.
``None of note enough to be put to ransom,'' answered the Captain; ``a set of hilding fellows there were, whom we dismissed to find them a new master--- enough had been done for revenge and profit; the bunch of them were not worth a cardecu. The prisoner I speak of is better booty---a jolly monk riding to visit his leman, an I may judge by his horse-gear and wearing apparel.---Here cometh the worthy prelate, as pert as a pyet.'' And, between two yeomen, was brought before the silvan throne of the outlaw Chief, our old friend, Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx.