"I will," said the spectre, "when I have collected breath. Alive, saidst thou? I am as much alive as he can be who has fed on bread and water for three days. I went down under the Templar's sword, stunned, indeed, but unwounded, for the blade struck me flatlings, being averted by the good mace with which I warded the blow.
Others, of both sides, were beaten down and slaughtered above me, so that I never recovered my senses until I found myself in a coffin--an open one, by good luck--placed before the altar in church."
Having concluded his story, still breathless with excitement, he looked about him. He had caught a glimpse of Ivanhoe as he first came into the apartment, but had lost sight of him owing to the crowd of eager listeners by which the room was now thronged.
Filled with a spirit of generosity to his rival, he took the hand of Rowena, who stood beside him, and was about to place it in that of Ivanhoe, when it was found that Wilfred had vanished from the room.
It was at length discovered that a Jew had been to seek the knight, and that, after a very brief conference, he had called for Gurth and his armour, and had left the castle. King Richard was also gone, and no one knew whither.
Meanwhile, the tiltyard of the Preceptory of Templestowe was prepared for the combat which should decide the life or death of Rebecca. As the hour approached which was to determine the fate of the unfortunate Jewess, a vast multitude had gathered to witness a spectacle even in that age but seldom seen.
At one end of the lists arose the throne of the Grand Master, surrounded with seats for the preceptors and the knights of the Order, over which floated the sacred standard of the Templars.
At the opposite end was a pile of faggots, so arranged around a stake, deeply fixed in the ground, as to leave a space for the victim whom they were destined to consume. Close by stood four black slaves, whose colour and African features, then so little known in England, appalled the multitude, who gazed on them as demons.
Soon the slow and sullen sounds of the great church bell chilled with awe the hearts of the assembled crowd; and before long the Grand Master, preceded by a stately retinue, approached his throne. Behind him came Brian de Bois-Guilbert, armed cap-a-pie in bright armour, but looking ghastly pale. A long procession followed, and next a guard of warders on foot, in sable livery, amidst whom might be seen the pale form of the accused maiden. All her ornaments had been removed, and a coarse white dress, of the simplest form, had been substituted for her Oriental garments; yet there was such an exquisite mixture of courage and resignation in her look that even in this garb, and with no other ornament than her long black tresses, each eye wept that looked upon her.
The unfortunate Jewess was conducted to a black chair placed near the pile; and soon after a loud and long flourish of trumpets announced that the court were seated for judgment.
There was a dead pause of many minutes.
"No champion appears for the appellant," said the Grand Master.
Another pause succeeded; and then the knights whispered to each other that it was time to declare the pledge of Rebecca forfeited.
At this instant a knight, urging his horse to speed, appeared on the plain advancing towards the lists. A hundred voices exclaimed, "A champion! A champion!" and amidst a ringing cheer the knight rode into the tilt-yard, although his horse appeared to reel from fatigue.
To the summons of the herald, who demanded his rank, his name, and purpose, the stranger answered, raising his helmet as he spoke, "I am Wilfred of Ivanhoe."
"I will not fight with thee at present," said Bois-Guilbert. "Get thy wounds healed."
"Ha! proud Templar," said Ivanhoe, "hast thou forgotten that twice didst thou fall before this lance? I will proclaim thee a coward in every court in Europe unless thou do battle without farther delay."
"Dog of a Saxon!" said the Templar, "take thy lance, and prepare for the death thou hast drawn upon thee!"
At once each champion took his place, the trumpets sounded, and the knights charged each other in full career. The wearied horse of Ivanhoe, and its no less exhausted rider, went down, as all had expected, before the well-aimed lance and vigorous steed of the Templar. But although the spear of Ivanhoe did but touch the shield of Bois-Guilbert, that champion, to the astonishment of all who beheld it, reeled in his saddle, lost his stirrups, and fell in the lists.
Ivanhoe was soon on foot, hastening to mend his fortune with his sword; but his antagonist arose not. Wilfred, placing his foot on his breast, and the sword's point to his throat, commanded him to yield him, or die on the spot. Bois-Guilbert returned no answer.
"Slay him not, sir knight," cried the Grand Master. "We allow him vanquished."
He descended into the lists, and commanded them to unhelm the conquered champion. His eyes were closed; the dark red flush was still on his brow. As they looked on him in astonishment the eyes opened, but they were fixed and glazed. The flush passed from his brow, and gave way to the pallid hue of death.
Unscathed by the lance of his enemy, he had died a victim to the violence of his own contending passions.
"This is indeed the judgment of God," said the Grand Master, looking upwards; "Thy will be done!"
Turning then to Wilfred of Ivanhoe, he said, "I pronounce the maiden free and guiltless. The arms and the body of the deceased knight are at the will of the victor."
His further speech was interrupted by a clattering of horses'
feet, and the Black Knight, followed by a numerous band of men- at-arms, galloped into the lists.
At a glance he saw how matters stood. "Bohun," he said, addressing one of his attendant knights, "do thine office."
The officer stepped forward, and, laying his hand on the shoulder of Albert de Malvoisin, said, "I arrest thee of high treason."
"Who dares to arrest a Knight of the Temple in my presence?" said the Grand Master; "and by whose authority is this bold outrage offered?"
"By my authority," said the king, raising his visor, "and by the order of Richard Plantagenet who stands before you."
While he spoke the royal standard of England was seen to float over the towers of the preceptory instead of the Temple banner; and before long the followers of the king were in complete possession of the entire castle.
Meanwhile Rebecca, giddy and almost senseless at the rapid change of circumstances, was locked in the arms of her aged father; and shortly after the two retreated hurriedly from the lists.
Not many days passed before the nuptials of Wilfred and the fair Rowena were celebrated in the noble minster of York, attended by the king in person.
On the second morning after this happy bridal Rebecca was shown into the apartment of the Lady of Ivanhoe. She had come, she said, to pay the debt of gratitude which she owed to Wilfred, and to ask his wife to transmit to him her grateful farewell. She prayed that God might bless their union, and, as she rose to leave, she handed Rowena a casket filled with most precious jewels. "Accept them, lady," she said; "to me they are valueless; I will never wear jewels more. My father and I, we are going to a far country where at least we shall dwell in liberty. He to whom I dedicate my future life will be my Comforter if I do His will. Say this to thy lord should he chance to inquire after the fate of her whose life he saved." She then hastened to bid Rowena adieu, and glided from the apartment.
Wilfred lived long and happily with his bride, for they were attached to each other by the bonds of early affection, and they loved each other the more from the recollection of the obstacles which had so long impeded their union.
Retold by Sir Edward Sullivan
The Castle of Ellangowan was an old and massive structure, situated by the seashore in the southwestern part of Scotland. It had been for many years the dwelling-place of a family named Bertram, each of whom had in succession borne the title of the Laird of Ellangowan. They had once been people of wealth and importance in the neighbourhood; but through lack of prudence and other misfortunes, they had, one after another, lost much of the greatness and prosperity which had belonged to them in better days. One of their number became at last so poor that he could no longer maintain the old family residence; so he contented himself with occupying a much smaller house which he had himself built, from the windows of which he could still look out on the ancient abode of his forefathers, as it dwindled year by year to the condition of a neglected ruin.
At the time that our story commences, one Godfrey Bertram was the Laird of Ellangowan, and the owner of the now diminished estates.
He was a good-tempered, easy-going kind of man, and became, in consequence, very popular with all the poorer people of the district, and especially with the gipsies, a large number of whom were at all times to be found in the neighbourhood.
His wife had brought him a little money when he married; and he and she continued to lead a quiet and not unhappy life in their new home. Amongst Mr. Bertram's most intimate companions in his retirement was one Abel Sampson, a tall and awkward-looking man, with a harsh voice and huge feet, who was known to the people around as "the dominie." He was a man who spoke but little, and generally used very long words when he did; but he had a kindly and good-natured heart. He was for a time the parish schoolmaster at the village of Kippletringan, which was close to Ellangowan, and was employed now and then as a kind of clerk by the laird.
The village of Kippletringan was situated a little distance from the sea; and although the neighbourhood was dignified by the possession of a customhouse, the place was still the favourite haunt of a large body of desperate and determined smugglers, who, it was supposed, were assisted by many of the small shopkeepers of the locality in disposing of the contraband goods which were surreptitiously brought from foreign parts.
One cloudy November evening, a young traveller, Guy Mannering by name, just come from the University of Oxford, was making his way with difficulty over the wild and lonely moorland which extended for many miles on the outskirts of the village. He had lost the road to Kippletringan, whither he was bound, but was lucky enough to find a guide to conduct him there before he had gone completely astray; and late at night he arrived at Godfrey Bertram's house, where he was hospitably welcomed by the owner. Supper was got ready, a good bottle of wine was opened, and the laird and the dominic and Guy Mannering were enjoying themselves comfortably, when the conversation was interrupted by the shrill voice of someone coming upstairs.
"It's Meg Merrilies, the gipsy, as sure as I'm a sinner," said Mr.
Bertram; and, as the door opened, a tall woman, full six feet high, with weather-beaten features and hair as black as midnight, stepped into the room.
Her appearance was altogether of so strange a kind, that it made Mannering start. After some conversation with the laird, the gipsy woman informed him that she had come to tell the fortune of his little son, who was born that night, and asked to be told the exact hour of his birth.
Now Guy Mannering himself, amongst other accomplishments, possessed a knowledge of the stars; and on learning the time at which young Bertram was born, he went outside to study the heavens, with a view to foretelling what the future of the child would be.
The sky had become beautifully clear, for the rising wind had swept away the clouds with which it had been previously overcast, and the observer was enabled to note carefully the positions of the principal planets, from which he made out that three periods of the infant's life would be attended by great danger to him, namely, his fifth, his tenth, and his twenty-first year.
On the morning following, Mannering strolled out towards the old castle, thinking to himself whether he should tell Mr. Bertram what he had learned from the stars respecting his young son's future life. The castle was merely a ruin at this time, and as he wandered amidst the gloomy remnants of the ancient structure, his attention was arrested by the voice of the gipsy whom he had seen the night before. He soon found an opening in one of the walls through which he could observe Meg Merrilies without himself being seen.
She was sitting on a broken stone, in a strange, wild dress, and engaged in spinning a thread drawn from wool of three different colours. She was at the same time half singing and half muttering a kind of charm, which seemed to have reference to the child which had been born the night before; and as she finished, Mannering heard her murmur something about the thread of life being three times broken and three times mended, and distinctly heard her say: "He'll be a lucky lad an he win through wi't." [Footnote: "He will be a lucky lad if he lives through it."]