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- The Junior Classics, V5 - 60/72 -


slightest screen between her and the tremendous depth below. Unprepared for such a desperate effort, Bois-Guilbert had time neither to intercept nor to stop her. As he offered to advance, she exclaimed, "Remain where thou art, proud Templar, or at thy choice advance! One foot nearer, and I plunge myself from the precipice; my body shall be crushed out of the very form of humanity upon the stones below ere it become the victim of thy brutality!"

The Templar hesitated, and a resolution which would have never yielded to pity or distress gave way to his admiration for her fortitude. "Come down," he said, "rash girl! I swear by earth, and sea, and sky, I will offer thee no offence. Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never."

"Thus far," said Rebecca, "I will trust thee;" and she descended from the verge of the battlement, but remained standing close by one of the embrasures. "Here," she said, "I take my stand. If thou shalt attempt to diminish by one step the distance now between us, thou shalt see that the Jewish maiden will rather trust her soul with God than her honour to the Templar."

As she spoke, the bugle was heard to sound, announcing that the presence of the knight was required in another part of the castle; and as he instantly obeyed the summons, Rebecca found herself once more alone.

When the Templar reached the hall of the castle, he found De Bracy there already. They were soon after joined by Front-de-Boeuf.

"Let us see the cause of this cursed clamour," said Front-de- Boeuf. "Here is a letter, and if I mistake not, it is in Saxon."

The Templar took the paper from his hand and read it. It was a demand to surrender the prisoners within one hour, failing which the castle would be instantly besieged; and it was signed at the end by Wamba and Gurth, by the Black Knight and Locksley.

The answer which was returned from the castle to this missive announced that the prisoners would not be given up; but that permission would be given to a man of religion to come to receive their dying confession, as it had been determined to execute them before noon.

When this reply was brought back to the party of the Black Knight, a hurried consultation was held as to what they should do. There being no churchman amongst them, and as no one else seemed willing to undertake the risk of trusting himself within the castle, Wamba, the jester, was selected for the office. He was soon muffled in his religious disguise; and imitating the solemn and stately deportment of a friar, he departed to execute his mission.

As he approached the castle gate, he was at once admitted, and shortly after was ushered into the apartment where Cedric and Athelstane were confined; and the three were left alone. It was not long before Cedric recognised the voice of his jester. The faithful servant at once suggested that his master should change garments with him, and so make his escape. But it required the strong pressure of both Wamba and Athelstane before Cedric would consent. At length he yielded, and the exchange of dress was accomplished. He left the apartment saying that he would rescue his friends, or return and die along with them.

In a low-arched and dusky passage by which Cedric endeavoured to work his way to the hall, he was met by Urfried, the old crone of the tower.

"Come this way, father," she said to him; "thou art a stranger, and canst not leave the castle without a guide. Come hither, for I would speak with thee."

So saying, she proceeded to conduct the unwilling Cedric into a small apartment, the door of which she heedfully secured. "Thou art a Saxon, father," she said to him; "the sounds of my native language are sweet to mine ears, though seldom heard for many years."

She then told him the story of her unhappy and degraded life, and how she was once the daughter of the noble thane of Torquilstone.

"Thou the daughter of Torquil Wolfganger!" said Cedric; "thou-- thou, the daughter of my father's friend and companion in arms!"

"Thy father's friend!" echoed Urfried; "then Cedric, called the Saxon, stands before me. But why this religious dress?"

"It matters not who I am," said Cedric; "proceed, unhappy woman, unhappy Ulrica, I should say, for thou canst be none other, with thy tale of horror and guilt. Wretched woman!" he exclaimed, as she concluded her miserable history, "so thou hast lived, when all believed thee murdered; hast lived to merit our hate and execration; lived to unite thyself with the vile tyrant who slew thy nearest and dearest!"

"I hated him with all my soul," replied Ulrica; "I also have had my hours of vengeance; I have fomented the quarrels of our foes; I have seen their blood flow, and heard their dying groans; I have seen my oppressor fall at his own board by the hand of his own son. Yet here I dwelt, till age, premature age, has stamped its ghastly features on my countenance, scorned and insulted where I was once obeyed. Thou art the first I have seen for twenty years by whom God was feared or man regarded; and dost thou bid me despair?"

"I bid thee repent," said Cedric; "but I cannot, I will not, longer abide with thee."

"Stay yet a moment!" said Ulrica. "Revenge henceforth shall possess me wholly, and thou thyself shalt say that, whatever was the life of Ulrica, her death well became the daughter of the noble Torquil. Hasten to lead your forces to the attack, and when thou shalt see a red flag wave from the eastern turret, press the Normans hard; they will have enough to do within. Begone, I pray thee; follow thine own fate, and leave me to mine."

As she spoke she vanished through a private door, and Front-de- Boeuf entered the apartment.

"Thy penitents, father," he said, "have made a long shrift; but come, follow me through this passage, that I may dismiss thee by the postern."

As Cedric was leaving the castle, the Norman gave him a note to carry to Philip de Malvoisin, begging him to send assistance with all the speed he could. He promised the friar a large reward for doing the errand, and as they parted at the postern door he thrust into Cedric's reluctant hand a piece of gold, adding, "Remember, I will flay off thy cowl and skin if thou failest in thy purpose."

When Front-de-Boeuf rejoined his friends and found out the trick which had been played upon him, and that Cedric had escaped, his rage was unbounded, and it was only on De Bracy interceding for him that he consented to spare the life of the poor jester.

Before long the inmates of the castle had other things to occupy them. The enemy was announced to be under their very walls; and each knight repaired hastily to his post, and at the head of the few followers whom they were able to muster they awaited with calm determination the threatened assault.

When at length the attack upon the castle was commenced all was at once bustle and clamour within its gloomy walls. The heavy step of men-at-arms traversed the battlements, or resounded on the narrow and winding passages and the stairs which led to the various bartizans and points of defence. The voices of the knights were heard animating their followers, or directing means of defence; while their commands were often drowned in the clashing of armour or the clamourous shouts of those whom they addressed. The shrill bugle without was answered by a flourish of Norman trumpets from the battlements, while the cries of both parties augmented the fearful din. Showers of well-directed arrows came pouring against each embrasure and opening in the parapets, as well as every window where a defender might be suspected to be stationed; and these were answered by a furious discharge of whizzing shafts and missiles from the walls.

And so for some time the fight went on; many combatants falling on either side. But soon the conflict became even more desperate when the Black Knight, at the head of a body of his followers, led an attack upon the outer barrier of the barbican. Down came the piles and palisades before their irresistible onslaught; but their headlong rush through the broken barriers was met by Front-de- Boeuf himself and a number of the defenders.

The two leaders came face to face, and fought hand to hand on the breach amid the roar of their followers who watched the progress of the strife. Hot and fierce was the combat that ensued between them; but ere many minutes had passed the giant form of Front-de- Boeuf tottered like an oak under the steel of the woodman, and dropped to the ground.

His followers rushed forward to where he lay, and their united force compelling the Black Knight to pause, they dragged their wounded leader within the walls.

An interval of quiet now succeeded, the besiegers remaining in possession of the outer defences of the castle, and the besieged retiring for the time within the walls of the fortress.

During the confusion which reigned amongst the followers of Front- de-Boeuf when the attack had commenced, Rebecca had been allowed to take the place of the old crone, Ulrica, who was in close attendance on the wounded man who had been brought into the castle in company with Isaac of York and the other captives. The sufferer was Ivanhoe himself, who had so mysteriously disappeared on the conclusion of the tournament, when his father, Cedric, had sent his servants to attend him to a place of safety. The gallant young warrior, who, as he fell fainting to the ground, seemed to be abandoned by all the world, had been transported from the lists at the entreaty of Rebecca, to the house at Ashby then occupied by Isaac of York, where his wounds were dressed and tended by the Jewish maiden herself. So great was her skill and knowledge of medicine, that she undertook to restore the injured knight to health in eight days' time; but she informed him of the necessity they were under of removing to York, and of her father's resolution to transport him thither, and tend him in his own house until his wound should be healed. It was on their journey to that town that they were overtaken on the road by Cedric and his party, in whose company they were afterwards carried captive to the Castle of Torquilstone.


The Junior Classics, V5 - 60/72

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