Orders were at once given by the Grand Master to prepare the great hall of the preceptory for the trial of Rebecca as a sorceress; and even the president of the establishment did not hesitate to aid in procuring false evidence against the unfortunate Jewess, for the purpose of ingratiating himself with Beaumanoir, from whom he had kept secret the presence of Rebecca in the holy precincts.
When the ponderous castle bell had tolled the point of noon, the Jewess was led from her secluded chamber into the great hall in which the Grand Master had for the time established his court of justice. As she passed through the crowd of squires and yeomen, who already filled the lower end of the vast apartment, a scrap of paper was thrust into her hand, which she received almost unconsciously, and continued to hold without examining its contents. The assurance that she possessed some friend in this awful assembly gave her courage to look around, and to mark into whose presence she had been conducted. She gazed accordingly upon a scene which might well have struck terror into a bolder heart than hers.
On an elevated seat at the upper end of the great hall, directly before the accused, sat the Grand Master of the Temple, in full and ample robes of flowing white, holding in his hand the mystic staff, which bore the symbol of the Order. At his feet was placed a table, occupied by two scribes, whose duty it was to record the proceedings of the day. Their chairs were black and formed a marked contrast to the warlike appearance of the knights who attended the solemn gathering. The preceptors, of whom there were four present, occupied seats behind their superiors; and behind them stood the esquires of the Order, robed in white.
The whole assembly wore an aspect of the most profound gravity-- the reflection, as it were, of the sombre countenance of the austere and relentless Grand Master. The lower part of the hall was filled with guards and others whom curiosity had drawn together to witness the important and impressive ceremony.
The Grand Master himself, in a short speech, announced the charge against the Jewess; and, on its conclusion, several witnesses were called to prove the risks to which Bois-Guilbert exposed himself in endeavouring to save Rebecca from the blazing castle; while other witnesses testified to the apparent madness of the Templar in bringing the Jewess to the preceptory. A poor Saxon peasant was next dragged forward to the bar, who had been cured of a palsy by the accused. Most unwilling was his testimony, and given with many tears; but he admitted that two years since he had been unable to stir from his bed until the remedies applied by Rebecca's directions had in some degree restored the use of his limbs. With a trembling hand he produced from his bosom a small box of ointment, bearing some Hebrew characters upon the lid, which was, with most of the audience, a sure proof that the devil had stood apothecary.
Witnesses skilled in medicine were then brought forward to prove that they knew nothing of the materials of which the unguent was compounded, and who suggested that it must have been manufactured by means both unlawful and magical. Other witnesses came forward to prove that Rebecca's cures were accomplished by means of mutterings in an unknown tongue, and songs of a sweet, strange sound, which made the ears of the hearer tingle and his heart throb, adding that her garments were of a strange and mystic form, and that she had rings impressed with cabalistic devices, all which were, in those ignorant and superstitious times, easily credited as proofs of guilt.
On the conclusion of this weighty evidence the Grand Master in a solemn tone demanded of Rebecca what she had to say against the sentence of condemnation which he was about to pronounce.
"To invoke your pity," said the lovely Jewess, with a voice somewhat tremulous with emotion, "would, I am aware, be as useless as I should hold it mean. To state that to relieve the sick and wounded of another religion cannot be displeasing to God were also unavailing; to plead that many things which these men (whom may Heaven pardon!) have spoken against me are impossible would avail me but little, since you believe in their possibility, and still less would it advantage me to explain that the peculiarities of my dress, language, and manners are those of my people. I am friendless, defenceless, and the prisoner of my accuser there. He is of your own faith; his lightest word would weigh down the most solemn protestations of the distressed Jewess, and yet to himself, yes, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, to thyself I appeal, whether these accusations are not false?"
There was a pause; all eyes turned to the Templar. He was silent.
"Speak," she said, "if thou art a man; if thou art a Christian, speak! I conjure thee, by the habit which thou dost wear, by the name thou dost inherit, by the honour of thy mother, I conjure thee to say, are these things true?"
"Answer her, brother," said the Grand Master.
"The scroll, the scroll!" was all that Bois-Guilbert uttered in reply, looking to Rebecca.
The Jewess instantly remembered the slip of paper which she continued to hold in her hand, and, looking at it without being observed, she read the words, _"Demand a champion!"_
"Rebecca," said the Grand Master, who believed the words of Bois- Guilbert had reference to some other writing, "hast thou aught else to say?"
"There is yet one chance of life left to me," said the Jewess, "even by your own fierce laws. I deny this charge; I maintain my innocence. I challenge the privilege of trial by combat, and will appear by my champion. There lies my gage."
She took her embroidered glove from her hand and flung it down before the Grand Master, with an air of mingled simplicity and dignity which excited universal surprise and admiration.
A short consultation then took place between Beaumanoir and the preceptors, in which it was decided that Brian de Bois-Guilbert was the fittest knight to do battle for the Holy Order. To him, accordingly, the glove of Rebecca was handed; and the Jewess was commanded to find a champion by the third day following. It was further intimated to her that should she fail to do so, or if her champion should be discomfited, she should die the death of a sorceress, according to doom.
Being granted permission to communicate with her father, she hastily wrote a few lines in Hebrew to him, imploring him to seek out Wilfred, the son of Cedric, and let him know that she was in sore need of a champion. As it fortuned, the messenger who did her errand had not far to go before he met Isaac of York.
The poor old man, on learning his daughter's terrible condition, was quite overcome; but, cheered in some measure by the kindly words of a rabbi who was with him, he determined, weak and feverish though he was, to make a last effort for the child he loved so dearly. And having said farewell the two Jews parted, Isaac to seek out Ivanhoe, and the rabbi to go to York to look for other assistance.
In the twilight of the day of her trial, if it could be called such, a low knock was heard at the door of Rebecca's prison- chamber; and shortly after Brian de Bois-Guilbert entered the apartment.
She drew back in terror at the sight of the man who had been the cause of all her misfortunes; but he bade her not to be afraid. He had come, he said, to tell her that he was prepared to refuse to do battle for the Templars against her and sacrifice his name and honour as a member of the Holy Order, and that he would leave the preceptory, appear in three days in disguise, and himself be her champion against any knight who should confront him, on one condition: that she should accept him as a lover.
Rebecca listened to his words, and then with scorn refused his offer.
"So be it then, proud damsel," said Bois-Guilbert; "thou hast thyself decided thine own fate. I shall appear in the lists against thy champion, and know that there lives not the knight who may cope with me alone save Richard Coeur-de-Lion and his minion Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe, as thou well knowest, is unable to bear his corslet, and Richard is in a foreign prison. Farewell." And so saying the Templar left the apartment.
Pending this time, so full of terror and anxiety for poor Rebecca, the Black Knight, having left the company of the generous outlaw, held his way to a neighbouring religious house to which the wounded Ivanhoe had been removed when the castle was taken. Here he remained for the night; and the following day he set out for Coningsburgh to attend the obsequies of the deceased Athelstane, Wamba alone being his companion.
They had ridden together for some distance when the quick eye of the jester caught sight of some men in armour concealed in a brake not far from where they were.
Almost immediately after three arrows were discharged from the suspected spot, one of which glanced off the visor of the Black Knight.
"Let us close with them," said the knight, and he rode straight to the thicket. He was met by six or seven men-at-arms, who ran against him with their lances at full career. Three of the weapons struck against him, and splintered with as little effect as if they had been driven against a tower of steel.
The attacking party then drew their swords and assailed him on every side. But many as they were to one they had met their match; and a man reeled and fell at every blow delivered by the Black Knight. His opponents, desperate as they were, now bore back from his deadly blows, and it seemed as if the terror of his single strength was about to gain the battle against such odds when a knight in blue armour, who had kept himself behind the other assailants, spurred forward with his lance, and taking aim, not at the rider but at the steed, wounded the noble animal mortally.
"That was a felon stroke!" exclaimed the Black Knight, as the horse fell to the earth bearing his rider along with him.
At this moment Wamba winded the outlaw's bugle, which he had been given to carry. The sudden sound made the murderers bear back once more, and Wamba did not hesitate to rush in and assist his knight to rise.
"Shame on ye, false cowards!" exclaimed he in the blue harness; "do ye fly from the empty blast of a horn blown by a jester?"
Animated by his words, they attacked the Black Knight anew, whose best refuge was now to place his back against an oak, and defend himself with his sword. The felon knight, who had taken another spear, watching the moment when his formidable antagonist was most closely pressed, galloped against him in hopes to nail him with his lance against the tree; but Wamba, springing forward in good time, checked the fatal career of the Blue Knight, by hamstringing his horse with a stroke of his sword; and horse and man went heavily to the ground. Almost immediately after, a band of yeomen, headed by Locksley, broke forth from the glade, who, joining manfully in the fray, soon disposed of the ruffians, all of whom lay on the spot dead, or mortally wounded.
The visor of the Blue Knight, who still lay entangled under his wounded steed, was now opened, and the features of Waldemar Fitzurse were disclosed.
"Stand back, my masters," said the Black Knight to those about him; "I would speak with this man alone. And now, Waldemar Fitzurse, say me the truth: confess who set thee on this traitorous deed."
"Richard," answered the fallen knight, "it was thy father's son."
Richard's eyes sparkled with indignation, but his better nature overcame it. "Take thy life unasked," he said; "but, on this condition, that in three days thou shalt leave England, and that thou wilt never mention the name of John of Anjou as connected with thy felony." Then, turning to where the yeomen stood apart, he said, "Let this knight have a steed, Locksley, and let him depart unharmed. Thou bearest an English heart, and must needs obey me. I am Richard of England!"
At these words the yeomen kneeled down before him, tendering their allegiance, while they implored pardon for their offences.
"Rise, my friends," said Richard. "Your misdemeanours have been atoned by the loyal services you rendered my distressed subjects before the walls of Torquilstone, and the rescue you have this day afforded your sovereign. Arise, my liegemen, and be good subjects in future. And thou, brave Locksley--"
"Call me no longer Locksley, my liege," said the outlaw; "I am Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest."
Before many more minutes had gone a sylvan repast was hastily prepared beneath a huge oak-tree for the King of England. Amongst those who partook of the forest hospitality of the outlaws were Ivanhoe and Gurth, who just then came on the scene, the former now all but cured of his wound, thanks to the healing balsam with which he had been provided by Rebecca the Jewess.
When the feast was concluded, the king, attended by Ivanhoe, Wamba, and Gurth, proceeded on his way to Coningsburgh. As the travellers approached the ancient Saxon fortress, they could see the huge black banner floating from the top of the tower, which announced that the obsequies of the late owner were still in the act of being solemnized. All around the castle was a scene of busy commotion, the whole countryside being gathered from far and near to partake of the funeral banquet. Cooks and mendicants, strolling soldiers from Palestine, pedlars, mechanics, wandering palmers, hedge-priests, Saxon minstrels and Welsh bards, together with jesters and jugglers, formed a motley and hungry gathering, such as could only be seen on the occasion which now brought them together; and through this riotous crowd Richard and his followers with difficulty made their way.
As they entered the apartment where Cedric sat, Ivanhoe muffled his face in his mantle. Upon the entrance of Richard, the Saxon arose gravely to bid him welcome. Having greeted him and his friends with the mournful ceremony suited to the occasion, Cedric led his knightly guest to another apartment, where he was about to leave him, when the Black Knight took his hand.
"I crave to remind you, noble thane," he said, "that when we last parted you promised to grant me a boon."
"It is granted ere named, noble knight," said Cedric, still unaware that he was speaking to the king.
"Know me, then, from henceforth," said the Black Knight, "as Richard Plantagenet; the boon I crave is that thou wilt forgive and receive to thy paternal affection this good knight here, Wilfred of Ivanhoe."
"And this is Wilfred!" said Cedric, pointing to his son.
"My father! my father!" said Ivanhoe, prostrating himself at Cedric's feet, "grant me thy forgiveness!"
"Thou hast it, my son," said Cedric, raising him up. But he had scarce uttered the words when the door flew open, and Athelstane, arrayed in the garments of the grave, stood before them, pale, haggard, and like something arisen from the dead.
The effect of this apparition on the persons present was utterly appalling. Cedric started back in amazement. Ivanhoe crossed himself, repeating prayers in Saxon, Latin, and Norman-French, while Richard alternately said "_Benedicite_" and swore, "_Mort de ma vie!_"
"In the name of God," said Cedric, starting back, "if thou art mortal, speak! Living or dead, noble Athelstane, speak to Cedric!"