But the gentleness and candour of Rebecca’s nature imputed no fault to Ivanhoe for sharing in the universal prejudices of his age and religion. On the contrary the fair Jewess, though sensible her patient now regarded her as one of a race of reprobation, with whom it was disgraceful to hold any beyond the most necessary intercourse, ceased not to pay the same patient and devoted attention to his safety and convalescence. 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 health should be restored. Ivanhoe expressed great repugnance to this plan, which he grounded on unwillingness to give farther trouble to his benefactors.
“Was there not,” he said, “in Ashby, or near it, some Saxon franklin, or even some wealthy peasant, who would endure the burden of a wounded countryman’s residence with him until he should be again able to bear his armour?—Was there no convent of Saxon endowment, where he could be received?—Or could he not be transported as far as Burton, where he was sure to find hospitality with Waltheoff, the Abbot of St Withold’s, to whom he was related?”
“Any, the worst of these harbourages,” said Rebecca, with a melancholy smile, “would unquestionably be more fitting for your residence than the abode of a despised Jew; yet, Sir Knight, unless you would dismiss your physician, you cannot change your lodging. Our nation, as you well know, can cure wounds, though we deal not in inflicting them; and in our own family, in particular, are secrets which have been handed down since the days of Solomon, and of which you have already experienced the advantages. No Nazarene—I crave your forgiveness, Sir Knight—no Christian leech, within the four seas of Britain, could enable you to bear your corslet within a month.”
“And how soon wilt THOU enable me to brook it?” said Ivanhoe, impatiently.
“Within eight days, if thou wilt be patient and conformable to my directions,” replied Rebecca.
“By Our Blessed Lady,” said Wilfred, “if it be not a sin to name her here, it is no time for me or any true knight to be bedridden; and if thou accomplish thy promise, maiden, I will pay thee with my casque full of crowns, come by them as I may.”
“I will accomplish my promise,” said Rebecca, “and thou shalt bear thine armour on the eighth day from hence, if thou will grant me but one boon in the stead of the silver thou dost promise me.”
“If it be within my power, and such as a true Christian knight may yield to one of thy people,” replied Ivanhoe, “I will grant thy boon blithely and thankfully.”
“Nay,” answered Rebecca, “I will but pray of thee to believe henceforward that a Jew may do good service to a Christian, without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great Father who made both Jew and Gentile.”
“It were sin to doubt it, maiden,” replied Ivanhoe; “and I repose myself on thy skill without further scruple or question, well trusting you will enable me to bear my corslet on the eighth day. And now, my kind leech, let me enquire of the news abroad. What of the noble Saxon Cedric and his household?—what of the lovely Lady—” He stopt, as if unwilling to speak Rowena’s name in the house of a Jew—“Of her, I mean, who was named Queen of the tournament?”
“And who was selected by you, Sir Knight, to hold that dignity, with judgment which was admired as much as your valour,” replied Rebecca.
The blood which Ivanhoe had lost did not prevent a flush from crossing his cheek, feeling that he had incautiously betrayed a deep interest in Rowena by the awkward attempt he had made to conceal it.
“It was less of her I would speak,” said he, “than of Prince John; and I would fain know somewhat of a faithful squire, and why he now attends me not?”
“Let me use my authority as a leech,” answered Rebecca, “and enjoin you to keep silence, and avoid agitating reflections, whilst I apprize you of what you desire to know. Prince John hath broken off the tournament, and set forward in all haste towards York, with the nobles, knights, and churchmen of his party, after collecting such sums as they could wring, by fair means or foul, from those who are esteemed the wealthy of the land. It is said he designs to assume his brother’s crown.”
“Not without a blow struck in its defence,” said Ivanhoe, raising himself upon the couch, “if there were but one true subject in England I will fight for Richard’s title with the best of them—ay, one or two, in his just quarrel!”
“But that you may be able to do so,” said Rebecca touching his shoulder with her hand, “you must now observe my directions, and remain quiet.”
“True, maiden,” said Ivanhoe, “as quiet as these disquieted times will permit—And of Cedric and his household?”
“His steward came but brief while since,” said the Jewess, “panting with haste, to ask my father for certain monies, the price of wool the growth of Cedric’s flocks, and from him I learned that Cedric and Athelstane of Coningsburgh had left Prince John’s lodging in high displeasure, and were about to set forth on their return homeward.”
“Went any lady with them to the banquet?” said Wilfred.
“The Lady Rowena,” said Rebecca, answering the question with more precision than it had been asked—“The Lady Rowena went not to the Prince’s feast, and, as the steward reported to us, she is now on her journey back to Rotherwood, with her guardian Cedric. And touching your faithful squire Gurth—-”
“Ha!” exclaimed the knight, “knowest thou his name?—But thou dost,” he immediately added, “and well thou mayst, for it was from thy hand, and, as I am now convinced, from thine own generosity of spirit, that he received but yesterday a hundred zecchins.”
“Speak not of that,” said Rebecca, blushing deeply; “I see how easy it is for the tongue to betray what the heart would gladly conceal.”
“But this sum of gold,” said Ivanhoe, gravely, “my honour is concerned in repaying it to your father.”
“Let it be as thou wilt,” said Rebecca, “when eight days have passed away; but think not, and speak not now, of aught that may retard thy recovery.”
“Be it so, kind maiden,” said Ivanhoe; “I were most ungrateful to dispute thy commands. But one word of the fate of poor Gurth, and I have done with questioning thee.”
“I grieve to tell thee, Sir Knight,” answered the Jewess, “that he is in custody by the order of Cedric.”—And then observing the distress which her communication gave to Wilfred, she instantly added, “But the steward Oswald said, that if nothing occurred to renew his master’s displeasure against him, he was sure that Cedric would pardon Gurth, a faithful serf, and one who stood high in favour, and who had but committed this error out of the love which he bore to Cedric’s son. And he said, moreover, that he and his comrades, and especially Wamba the Jester, were resolved to warn Gurth to make his escape by the way, in case Cedric’s ire against him could not be mitigated.”
“Would to God they may keep their purpose!” said Ivanhoe; “but it seems as if I were destined to bring ruin on whomsoever hath shown kindness to me. My king, by whom I was honoured and distinguished, thou seest that the brother most indebted to him is raising his arms to grasp his crown;—my regard hath brought restraint and trouble on the fairest of her sex;—and now my father in his mood may slay this poor bondsman but for his love and loyal service to me!—Thou seest, maiden, what an ill-fated wretch thou dost labour to assist; be wise, and let me go, ere the misfortunes which track my footsteps like slot-hounds, shall involve thee also in their pursuit.”
“Nay,” said Rebecca, “thy weakness and thy grief, Sir Knight, make thee miscalculate the purposes of Heaven. Thou hast been restored to thy country when it most needed the assistance of a strong hand and a true heart, and thou hast humbled the pride of thine enemies and those of thy king, when their horn was most highly exalted, and for the evil which thou hast sustained, seest thou not that Heaven has raised thee a helper and a physician, even among the most despised of the land?—Therefore, be of good courage, and trust that thou art preserved for some marvel which thine arm shall work before this people. Adieu—and having taken the medicine which I shall send thee by the hand of Reuben, compose thyself again to rest, that thou mayest be the more able to endure the journey on the succeeding day.”
Ivanhoe was convinced by the reasoning, and obeyed the directions, of Rebecca. The drought which Reuben administered was of a sedative and narcotic quality, and secured the patient sound and undisturbed slumbers. In the morning his kind physician found him entirely free from feverish symptoms, and fit to undergo the fatigue of a journey.
He was deposited in the horse-litter which had brought him from the lists, and every precaution taken for his travelling with ease. In one circumstance only even the entreaties of Rebecca were unable to secure sufficient attention to the accommodation of the wounded knight. Isaac, like the enriched traveller of Juvenal’s tenth satire, had ever the fear of robbery before his eyes, conscious that he would be alike accounted fair game by the marauding Norman noble, and by the Saxon outlaw. He therefore journeyed at a great rate, and made short halts, and shorter repasts, so that he passed by Cedric and Athelstane who had several hours the start of him, but who had been delayed by their protracted feasting at the convent of Saint Withold’s. Yet such was the virtue of Miriam’s balsam, or such the strength of Ivanhoe’s constitution, that he did not sustain from the hurried journey that inconvenience which his kind physician had apprehended.
In another point of view, however, the Jew’s haste proved somewhat more than good speed. The rapidity with which he insisted on travelling, bred several disputes between him and the party whom he had hired to attend him as a guard. These men were Saxons, and not free by any means from the national love of ease and good living which the Normans stigmatized as laziness and gluttony. Reversing Shylock’s position, they had accepted the employment in hopes of feeding upon the wealthy Jew, and were very much displeased when they found themselves disappointed, by the rapidity with which he insisted on their proceeding. They remonstrated also upon the risk of damage to their horses by these forced marches. Finally, there arose betwixt Isaac and his satellites a deadly feud, concerning the quantity of wine and ale to be allowed for consumption at each meal. And thus it happened, that when the alarm of danger approached, and that which Isaac feared was likely to come upon him, he was deserted by the discontented mercenaries on whose protection he had relied, without using the means necessary to secure their attachment.
In this deplorable condition the Jew, with his daughter and her wounded patient, were found by Cedric, as has already been noticed, and soon afterwards fell into the power of De Bracy and his confederates. Little notice was at first taken of the horse-litter, and it might have remained behind but for the curiosity of De Bracy, who looked into it under the impression that it might contain the object of his enterprise, for Rowena had not unveiled herself. But De Bracy’s astonishment was considerable, when he discovered that the litter contained a wounded man, who, conceiving himself to have fallen into the power of Saxon outlaws, with whom his name might be a protection for himself and his friends, frankly avowed himself to be Wilfred of Ivanhoe.
The ideas of chivalrous honour, which, amidst his wildness and levity, never utterly abandoned De Bracy, prohibited him from doing the knight any injury in his defenceless condition, and equally interdicted his betraying him to Front-de-Boeuf, who would have had no scruples to put to death, under any circumstances, the rival claimant of the fief of Ivanhoe. On the other hand, to liberate a suitor preferred by the Lady Rowena, as the events of the tournament, and indeed Wilfred’s previous banishment from his father’s house, had made matter of notoriety, was a pitch far above the flight of De Bracy’s generosity. A middle course betwixt good and evil was all which he found himself capable of adopting, and he commanded two of his own squires to keep close by the litter, and to suffer no one to approach it. If questioned, they were directed by their master to say, that the empty litter of the Lady Rowena was employed to transport one of their comrades who had been wounded in the scuffle. On arriving at Torquilstone, while the Knight Templar and the lord of that castle were each intent upon their own schemes, the one on the Jew’s treasure, and the other on his daughter, De Bracy’s squires conveyed Ivanhoe, still under the name of a wounded comrade, to a distant apartment. This explanation was accordingly returned by these men to Front-de-Boeuf, when he questioned them why they did not make for the battlements upon the alarm.
“A wounded companion!” he replied in great wrath and astonishment. “No wonder that churls and yeomen wax so presumptuous as even to lay leaguer before castles, and that clowns and swineherds send defiances to nobles, since men-at-arms have turned sick men’s nurses, and Free Companions are grown keepers of dying folk’s curtains, when the castle is about to be assailed.—To the battlements, ye loitering villains!” he exclaimed, raising his stentorian voice till the arches around rung again, “to the battlements, or I will splinter your bones with this truncheon!”
The men sulkily replied, “that they desired nothing better than to go to the battlements, providing Front-de-Boeuf would bear them out with their master, who had commanded them to tend the dying man.”
“The dying man, knaves!” rejoined the Baron; “I promise thee we shall all be dying men an we stand not to it the more stoutly. But I will relieve the guard upon this caitiff companion of yours.—Here, Urfried—hag—fiend of a Saxon witch—hearest me not?—tend me this bedridden fellow since he must needs be tended, whilst these knaves use their weapons.—Here be two arblasts, comrades, with windlaces and quarrells 34—to the barbican with you, and see you drive each bolt through a Saxon brain.”
34.The arblast was a cross-bow, the windlace the machine used in bending that weapon, and the quarrell, so called from its square or diamond-shaped head, was the bolt adapted to it.
The men, who, like most of their description, were fond of enterprise and detested inaction, went joyfully to the scene of danger as they were commanded, and thus the charge of Ivanhoe was transferred to Urfried, or Ulrica. But she, whose brain was burning with remembrance of injuries and with hopes of vengeance, was readily induced to devolve upon Rebecca the care of her patient.