صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

humanity upon the stones of that courtyard ere it become the victim of thy brutality!"

As she spoke this, she clasped her hands and extended them towards heaven, as if imploring mercy on her soul before she made the final plunge. The Templar hesitated, and a resolution which had never yielded to pity or distress gave way to his admiration of her fortitude. « Come down, he said, “rash girl !--I swear by earth, and sea, and sky, I will offer thee no offence."

"I will not trust thee, Templar,” said Rebecca ; "thou hast taught me better how to estimate the virtues of thine Order. The next Preceptory would grant thee absolution for an oath, the keeping of which concerned nought but the honour or the dishonour of a miserable Jewish maiden.”

“You do me injustice,” exclaimed the Templar fervently ;. “I swear to you by the name which í bear—by the cross on my bosom—by the sword on my side-by the ancient crest of my fathers do I swear, I will do thee no injury whatsoever ! If not for thyself, yet for thy father's sake forbear ! I will be his friend, and in this castle he will need a powerful one.

Alas !” said Rebecca, “I know it but too well-dare I trust thee?”

"May my arms be reversed, and my name dishonoured,” said Brian de Bois-Guilbert, "if thou shalt have reason to complain of me? Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never.".

“I will then trust thee," said Rebecca, “ thus far;" and she descended from the verge of the battlement, but remained standing close by one of the embrasures, or machicolles, as they were then called.—“Here," she said, "I take my stand. Remain where thou art, and if thou shall 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 !”.

While Rebecca spoke thus, her high and firm resolve, which corresponded so well with the expressive beauty of her countenance, gave to her looks, air, and mauner, a dignity that seemed more than mortal. Her glance quailed not, her cheek blanched not, for the fear of a fate so instant and so horrible ; on the contrary, the thought that she had her fate at her command, and could escape at will from infamy to death, gave a yet deeper colour of carnation to her complexion, and a yet more brilliant fire to her eye. Bois-Guilbert, proud himself and high-spirited, thought he had never beheld beauty so animated and so commanding. Let there be peace between us, Rebecca,” he said.

Peace, if thou wilt," answered Rebecca. " Peace--but with this space between.”

Thou need'st no longer fear me," said Bois-Guilbert.

“I fear thee not,” replied she; " thanks to him that reared this dizzy tower so high, that nought could fall from it and live—thanks to him, and to the God of Israel! I fear thee not."

Thou dost me injustice," said the Templar ; "by earth, sea, and ky, thou dost me injustice ! I am not naturally that which you have seen me, hard, selfish, and relentless. It was woman that taught me cruelty, and on woman, therefore, I have exercised it; but not upon such as thou. Hear me, Rebecca—Never did knight take lance in his hand with a heart more devoted to the lady of his love than Brian de Bois-Guilbert. She, the daughter of a petty baron, who boasted for all his domains but a ruinous tower, and an unproductive vineyard, and some few leagues of the barren Landes of Bourdeaux, her name was known wherever deeds of arms were done, known wider than that of many a lady's that had a county for a dowry. Yes," he continued, pacing up and down the little platform, with an animation in which he seemed to lose all consciousness of Rebecca's presence, "yes, my deeds, my danger, my blood, made the name of Adelaide de Montmare known from the court of Castile to that of Byzantium. And how was I requited ?- When I returned with my dearbought honours, purchased by toil and blood, I found her wedded to a Gascon squire, whose name was never heard beyond the limits of his own paltry domain ? _Truly did I love her, and bitterly did I revenge me of her broken faith! But my vengeance has recoiled on myself. Since that day I have separated myself from life and its ties—my manhood must know no domestic home_must be soothed by no affectionate wife.-My age must know no kindly hearth.—My grave must be solitary, and no offspring must outlive me, to bear the ancient name of Bois-Guilbert. At the feet of my Superior I have laid down the right of self-action-the privilege of independence. The Templar, a serf in all but the name, can possess neither lands, nor goods, and lives, moves, and breathes but at the will and pleasure of another."

“Alas !” said Rebecca, "what advantages could compensate for such an absolute sacrifice ?”.

“The power of vengeance, Rebecca,” replied the Templar, "and the prospects of ambition.

An evil recompense,” said Rebecca, “ for the surrender of the rights which are dearest to humanity.”

"Say not so, maiden,” answered the Templar; “revenge is a feast for the gods! And if they have reserved it, as priests tell us, to themselves, it is because they hold it an enjoyment too precious for the possession of mere mortals.—And ambition ? it is a temptation which could disturb even the bliss of heaven itself.”—He paused a moment, and then added, “Rebecca ! she who could prefer death to dishonour, must have a proud and a powerful soul. Mine thou must be —Nay, start not,” he added, “it must be with thine own consent, and on thine own terms. Thou must consent to share with me hopes more extended than can be viewed from the throne of a monarch Hear me ere you answer, and judge ere you refuse.—The Templar loses, as thou hast said, his social rights, his power of free agency, but he becomes a member and a limb of a mighty body, before which thrones already tremble, --even as the single drop of rain which mixes with the sea becomes an individual part of that resistless ocean, which undermines rocks and engulfs royal armadas. Such a swelling flood is that powerful league. Of this mighty Order I am no mean member, but already one of the Chief Commanders, and may well aspire one day to hold the baton of Grand Master. The

poor

soldiers of the Temple will not alone place their foot upon the necks of kings—a hemp-sandall’d monk can do that. Our mailed step shall ascend their throne-oar gauntlet shall wrench the sceptre from their gripe. Not the reign of your vainly-expected Messiah offers such power to your dispersed tribes as my ambition may aim at... I have sought but a kindred spirit to share it, and I have found such in thee."

Sayest thou this to one of my people ?” answered Rebecca. “Bethink thee

“Answer me not," said the Templar, " by urging the difference of our

[ocr errors]

creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery tales in derision. Think not we long remained blind to the idiotical folly of our founders, who forswore every delight of life for the pleasure of dying martyrs by hunger, by thirst, and by pestilence, and by the swords of savages, while they vainly strove to defend a barren desert, valuable only in the eyes of superstition. Our Order soon adopted bolder and wider views, and found out a better indemnification for our sacrifices. Our immense possessions in every kingdom of Europe, our high military fame, which brings within our circle the flower of chivalry from every Christian clime—these are dedicated to ends of which our pious founders little dreamed, and which are equally concealed from such weak spirits as embrace our Order on the ancient principles, and whose superstition makes them our passive tools. But I will not farther withdraw the veil of our mysteries. --That bugle-sound announces something which may require my presence. Think on what I have said.-Farewell !—I do not say forgive me the violence I have threatened, for it was necessary to the display of thy character. Gold can be only known by the application of the touchstone. I will soon return, and hold further conference with thee.”

He re-entered the turret-chamber, and descended the stair, leaving Rebecca scarcely more terrified at the prospect of the death to which she had been so lately exposed, than at the furious ambition of the bold bad man in whose power she found herself so unhappily placed. When she entered the turret-chamber, her first duty was to return thanks to the God of Jacob for the protection which he had afforded her, and to implore its continuance for her and for her father. Another name glided into her petition—it was that of the wounded Christian, whom fate had placed in the hands of bloodthirsty men, his avowed enemies. Her heart indeed checked her, as if, even in communing with the Deity in prayer, she mingled in her devotions the recollection of one with whose fate hers could have no alliance-a Nazarene, and an enemy to her faith. But the petition was already breathed, nor could all the narrow prejudices of her sect induce Rebecca to wish it recalled.

CHAPTER XXV.

[ocr errors]

summons.

“A damn'd cramp piece of penmanship as ever I saw in my life !"

- She Stoops to Conquer. HEN the Templar reached the hall of the castle, he found De

Bracy already there. “Your love-suit,” said De Bracy, "hath,
I suppose, been disturbed, like mine, by this obstreperous

But you have come later and more reluctantly, and, therefore, I presume your interview has proved more agreeable than mine."

“ Has your suit, then, been unsuccessfully paid to the Saxon heiress ?” said the Templar.

“By the bones of Thomas à Becket,” answered De Bracy, “the Lady Rowena must have heard that I cannot endure the sight of women's tears."

"Away!" said the Templar; "thou a leader of a Free Company, and regard a woman's tears ! A few drops sprinkled on the torch of love make the flame blaze the brighter.”

“Gramercy for the few drops of thy sprinkling," replied De Bracy; “but this damsel hath wept enough to extinguish a beacon-light. Never was such wringing of hands and such overflowing of eyes, since the days of St. Niobe, * of whom Prior Aymer told us. A water-fiend hath possessed the fair Saxon."

"A legion of fiends have occupied the bosom of the Jewess," replied the Templar ; " for I think no single one, not even Apollyon himself, could have inspired such indomitable pride and resolution.—But where is Front-de-Beuf ? That horn is sounded more and more clamorously.”

"He is negotiating with the Jew, I suppose,” replied De Bracy, coolly ; "probably the howls of Isaac have drowned the blast of the bugle. Thou mayst know, by experience, Sir Brian, that a Jew parting with his treasures on such terms as our friend Front-de-Bouf is like to offer, will raise a clamour loud enough to be heard over twenty horns and trumpets to boot. But we will make the vassals call him."

They were soon after joined by Front-de-Bouf, who had been disturbed in his tyrannic cruelty, in the manner with which the reader is acquainted, and had only tarried to give some necessary directions.

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

He looked at it, turning it round and round as if he had had really some hopes of coming at the meaning by inverting the position of the paper, and then handed it to De Bracy.

I wish the Prior had also informed them when Niobe was sainted. Probably during that enlightened period when “ Pan to Moses lent his pagan horn."

L. T.

"Give it me,

" It inay be magic spells for aught I know,” said De Bracy, who pos. sessed his full proportion of the ignorance which characterised the chivalry of the period. "Our Chaplain attempted to teach me to write," he said, “ but all my letters were formed like spear-heads and sword-blades, and so the old shaveling,gave up the task.

said the Templar. We have that of the priestly character, that we have some knowledge to enlighten our valour.”

"Let us profit by your most reverend knowledge, then," said De Bracy ; “what says the scroll ?”.

“It is a formal letter of defiance," answered the Templar; “but, by our Lady of Bethlehem, if it be not a foolish jest, it is the most extraordinary cartel that ever was sent across the drawbridge of a baronial castle.

" Jest !” said Front-de-Bæuf ; "I would gladly know who dares jest with me in such a matter !-Read it, Sir Brian."

The Templar accordingly read it as follows :

I, Wamba, the son of Witless, Jester to a noble and free-born man, Cedric of Rotherwood, called the Saxon.-And I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, the swineherd

"Thou art mad," said Front-de-Bouf, interrupting the reader.

"By St. Luke, it is so set down," answered the Templar. Then resuming his task, he went on—"I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, swineherd unto the said Cedric, with the assistance of our allies and confederates, who make common cause with us in this our feud, namely, the good knight, called for the present Le Noir Faineant, and the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called Cleave-the-wand, Do you Reginald Front-de-Bouf, and your allies and accomplices whomsoever, to wit, that whereas you have, without cause given or feud declared, wrongfully and by mastery seized upon the person of our lord and master the said Cedric; also upon the person of a noble and freeborn damsel, the Lady Rowena of Hargottstandstede; also upon the person of a noble and freeborn man, Athelstane of Coningsburgh ; also upon the persons of certain freeborn men, their cnichts ; also upon certain serfs, their born bondsmen ; also upon a certain Jew, named Isaac of York, together with his daughter, a Jewess, and certain horses and mules : Which noble persons, with their cnichts and slaves, and also with the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess beforesaid, were all in peace with his majesty, and travelling as liege subjects upon the king's highway ; therefore we require and demand that the said noble persons, namely, Cedric of Rotherwood, Rowena of Hargottstandstede, Athelstane of Coningsburgh, with their servants, cnichts, and followers, also the horses and mules, Jew and Jewess aforesaid, together with all goods and chattels to them pertaining, be, within an hour after the delivery hereof, delivered to us, or to those whom we shall appoint to receive the same, and that untouched and unharmed in body and goods. Failing of which, we do pronounce to you, that we hold ye as robbers and traitors, and will wager our bodies against you in battle, siege, or otherwise, and do our utmost to your annoyance and destruction. Wherefore may God have you in his keeping.–Signed by us upon the eve of St. Withold's day, under the great trysting oak in the Hart-hill Walk, the above being written by a holy man, Clerk to God, Our Lady, and St. Dunstan, in the Chapel of Copmanhurst.

At the bottom of this document was scrawled, in the first place, a rudo

« السابقةمتابعة »