Thus, like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings;
Vex'd and tormented, runs poor Barrabas,
With fatal curses towards these Christians.
Jew of Malta
The Disinherited Knight had no sooner reached his pavilion, than
squires and pages in abundance tendered their services to disarm
him, to bring fresh attire, and to offer him the refreshment of
the bath. Their zeal on this occasion was perhaps sharpened by
curiosity, since every one desired to know who the knight was
that had gained so many laurels, yet had refused, even at the
command of Prince John, to lift his visor or to name his name.
But their officious inquisitiveness was not gratified. The
Disinherited Knight refused all other assistance save that of his
own squire, or rather yeoman---a clownish-looking man, who, wrapt
in a cloak of dark-coloured felt, and having his head and face
half-buried in a Norman bonnet made of black fur, seemed to
affect the incognito as much as his master. All others being
excluded from the tent, this attendant relieved his master from
the more burdensome parts of his armour, and placed food and wine
before him, which the exertions of the day rendered very
The Knight had scarcely finished a hasty meal, ere his menial
announced to him that five men, each leading a barbed steed,
desired to speak with him. The Disinherited Knight had exchanged
his armour for the long robe usually worn by those of his
condition, which, being furnished with a hood, concealed the
features, when such was the pleasure of the wearer, almost as
completely as the visor of the helmet itself, but the twilight,
which was now fast darkening, would of itself have rendered a
disguise unnecessary, unless to persons to whom the face of an
individual chanced to be particularly well known.
The Disinherited Knight, therefore, stept boldly forth to the
front of his tent, and found in attendance the squires of the
challengers, whom he easily knew by their russet and black
dresses, each of whom led his master's charger, loaded with the
armour in which he had that day fought.
"According to the laws of chivalry," said the foremost of these
men, "I, Baldwin de Oyley, squire to the redoubted Knight Brian
de Bois-Guilbert, make offer to you, styling yourself, for the
present, the Disinherited Knight, of the horse and armour used by
the said Brian de Bois-Guilbert in this day's Passage of Arms,
leaving it with your nobleness to retain or to ransom the same,
according to your pleasure; for such is the law of arms."
The other squires repeated nearly the same formula, and then
stood to await the decision of the Disinherited Knight.
"To you four, sirs," replied the Knight, addressing those who had
last spoken, "and to your honourable and valiant masters, I have
one common reply. Commend me to the noble knights, your masters,
and say, I should do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which
can never be used by braver cavaliers.---I would I could here end
my message to these gallant knights; but being, as I term myself,
in truth and earnest, the Disinherited, I must be thus far bound
to your masters, that they will, of their courtesy, be pleased to
ransom their steeds and armour, since that which I wear I can
hardly term mine own."
"We stand commissioned, each of us," answered the squire of
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, "to offer a hundred zecchins in ransom
of these horses and suits of armour."
"It is sufficient," said the Disinherited Knight. "Half the sum
my present necessities compel me to accept; of the remaining
half, distribute one moiety among yourselves, sir squires, and
divide the other half betwixt the heralds and the pursuivants,
and minstrels, and attendants."
The squires, with cap in hand, and low reverences, expressed
their deep sense of a courtesy and generosity not often
practised, at least upon a scale so extensive. The Disinherited
Knight then addressed his discourse to Baldwin, the squire of
Brian de Bois-Guilbert. "From your master," said he, "I will
accept neither arms nor ransom. Say to him in my name, that our
strife is not ended---no, not till we have fought as well with
swords as with lances---as well on foot as on horseback. To this
mortal quarrel he has himself defied me, and I shall not forget
the challenge.---Meantime, let him be assured, that I hold him
not as one of his companions, with whom I can with pleasure
exchange courtesies; but rather as one with whom I stand upon
terms of mortal defiance."
"My master," answered Baldwin, "knows how to requite scorn with
scorn, and blows with blows, as well as courtesy with courtesy.
Since you disdain to accept from him any share of the ransom at
which you have rated the arms of the other knights, I must leave
his armour and his horse here, being well assured that he will
never deign to mount the one nor wear the other."
"You have spoken well, good squire," said the Disinherited
Knight, "well and boldly, as it beseemeth him to speak who
answers for an absent master. Leave not, however, the horse and
armour here. Restore them to thy master; or, if he scorns to
accept them, retain them, good friend, for thine own use. So far
as they are mine, I bestow them upon you freely."
Baldwin made a deep obeisance, and retired with his companions;
and the Disinherited Knight entered the pavilion.
"Thus far, Gurth," said he, addressing his attendant, "the
reputation of English chivalry hath not suffered in my hands."
"And I," said Gurth, "for a Saxon swineherd, have not ill played
the personage of a Norman squire-at-arms."
"Yea, but," answered the Disinherited Knight, "thou hast ever
kept me in anxiety lest thy clownish bearing should discover
"Tush!" said Gurth, "I fear discovery from none, saving my
playfellow, Wamba the Jester, of whom I could never discover
whether he were most knave or fool. Yet I could scarce choose
but laugh, when my old master passed so near to me, dreaming all
the while that Gurth was keeping his porkers many a mile off, in
the thickets and swamps of Rotherwood. If I am discovered------"
"Enough," said the Disinherited Knight, "thou knowest my
"Nay, for that matter," said Gurth, "I will never fail my friend
for fear of my skin-cutting. I have a tough hide, that will bear
knife or scourge as well as any boar's hide in my herd."
"Trust me, I will requite the risk you run for my love, Gurth,"
said the Knight. "Meanwhile, I pray you to accept these ten
pieces of gold."
"I am richer," said Gurth, putting them into his pouch, "than
ever was swineherd or bondsman."
"Take this bag of gold to Ashby," continued his master, "and find
out Isaac the Jew of York, and let him pay himself for the horse
and arms with which his credit supplied me."
"Nay, by St Dunstan," replied Gurth, "that I will not do."
"How, knave," replied his master, "wilt thou not obey my
"So they be honest, reasonable, and Christian commands," replied
Gurth; "but this is none of these. To suffer the Jew to pay
himself would be dishonest, for it would be cheating my master;
and unreasonable, for it were the part of a fool; and
unchristian, since it would be plundering a believer to enrich an
"See him contented, however, thou stubborn varlet," said the
"I will do so," said Gurth, taking the bag under his cloak, and
leaving the apartment; "and it will go hard," he muttered, "but I
content him with one-half of his own asking." So saying, he
departed, and left the Disinherited Knight to his own perplexed
ruminations; which, upon more accounts than it is now possible to
communicate to the reader, were of a nature peculiarly agitating
We must now change the scene to the village of Ashby, or rather
to a country house in its vicinity belonging to a wealthy
Israelite, with whom Isaac, his daughter, and retinue, had taken
up their quarters; the Jews, it is well known, being as liberal
in exercising the duties of hospitality and charity among their
own people, as they were alleged to be reluctant and churlish in
extending them to those whom they termed Gentiles, and whose
treatment of them certainly merited little hospitality at their
In an apartment, small indeed, but richly furnished with
decorations of an Oriental taste, Rebecca was seated on a heap of
embroidered cushions, which, piled along a low platform that
surrounded the chamber, served, like the estrada of the
Spaniards, instead of chairs and stools. She was watching the
motions of her father with a look of anxious and filial
affection, while he paced the apartment with a dejected mien and
disordered step; sometimes clasping his hands together
---sometimes casting his eyes to the roof of the apartment, as
one who laboured under great mental tribulation. "O, Jacob!" he
exclaimed---"O, all ye twelve Holy Fathers of our tribe! what a
losing venture is this for one who hath duly kept every jot and
tittle of the law of Moses---Fifty zecchins wrenched from me at
one clutch, and by the talons of a tyrant!"
"But, father," said Rebecca, "you seemed to give the gold to
Prince John willingly."
"Willingly? the blotch of Egypt upon him!---Willingly, saidst
thou?---Ay, as willingly as when, in the Gulf of Lyons, I flung
over my merchandise to lighten the ship, while she laboured in
the tempest---robed the seething billows in my choice silks
---perfumed their briny foam with myrrh and aloes---enriched
their caverns with gold and silver work! And was not that an
hour of unutterable misery, though my own hands made the
"But it was a sacrifice which Heaven exacted to save our lives,"
answered Rebecca, "and the God of our fathers has since blessed
your store and your gettings."
"Ay," answered Isaac, "but if the tyrant lays hold on them as he
did to-day, and compels me to smile while he is robbing me?---O,
daughter, disinherited and wandering as we are, the worst evil
which befalls our race is, that when we are wronged and
plundered, all the world laughs around, and we are compelled to
suppress our sense of injury, and to smile tamely, when we would
"Think not thus of it, my father," said Rebecca; "we also have
advantages. These Gentiles, cruel and oppressive as they are,
are in some sort dependent on the dispersed children of Zion,
whom they despise and persecute. Without the aid of our wealth,
they could neither furnish forth their hosts in war, nor their
triumphs in peace, and the gold which we lend them returns with
increase to our coffers. We are like the herb which flourisheth
most when it is most trampled on. Even this day's pageant had
not proceeded without the consent of the despised Jew, who
furnished the means."
"Daughter," said Isaac, "thou hast harped upon another string of
sorrow. The goodly steed and the rich armour, equal to the full
profit of my adventure with our Kirjath Jairam of Leicester
---there is a dead loss too---ay, a loss which swallows up the
gains of a week; ay, of the space between two Sabbaths---and yet
it may end better than I now think, for 'tis a good youth."
"Assuredly," said Rebecca, "you shall not repent you of requiting
the good deed received of the stranger knight."
"I trust so, daughter," said Isaac, "and I trust too in the
rebuilding of Zion; but as well do I hope with my own bodily eyes
to see the walls and battlements of the new Temple, as to see a
Christian, yea, the very best of Christians, repay a debt to a
Jew, unless under the awe of the judge and jailor."
So saying, he resumed his discontented walk through the
apartment; and Rebecca, perceiving that her attempts at
consolation only served to awaken new subjects of complaint,
wisely desisted from her unavailing efforts---a prudential line
of conduct, and we recommend to all who set up for comforters and
advisers, to follow it in the like circumstances.
The evening was now becoming dark, when a Jewish servant entered
the apartment, and placed upon the table two silver lamps, fed
with perfumed oil; the richest wines, and the most delicate
refreshments, were at the same time displayed by another
Israelitish domestic on a small ebony table, inlaid with silver;
for, in the interior of their houses, the Jews refused themselves
no expensive indulgences. At the same time the servant informed
Isaac, that a Nazarene (so they termed Christians, while
conversing among themselves) desired to speak with him. He that
would live by traffic, must hold himself at the disposal of every
one claiming business with him. Isaac at once replaced on the
table the untasted glass of Greek wine which he had just raised
to his lips, and saying hastily to his daughter, "Rebecca, veil
thyself," commanded the stranger to be admitted.
Just as Rebecca had dropped over her fine features a screen of
silver gauze which reached to her feet, the door opened, and
Gurth entered, wrapt in the ample folds of his Norman mantle.
His appearance was rather suspicious than prepossessing,
especially as, instead of doffing his bonnet, he pulled it still
deeper over his rugged brow.
"Art thou Isaac the Jew of York?" said Gurth, in Saxon.
"I am," replied Isaac, in the same language, (for his traffic had
rendered every tongue spoken in Britain familiar to him)---"and
who art thou?"
"That is not to the purpose," answered Gurth.
"As much as my name is to thee," replied Isaac; "for without
knowing thine, how can I hold intercourse with thee?"
"Easily," answered Gurth; "I, being to pay money, must know that
I deliver it to the right person; thou, who are to receive it,
will not, I think, care very greatly by whose hands it is
"O," said the Jew, "you are come to pay moneys?---Holy Father
Abraham! that altereth our relation to each other. And from whom
dost thou bring it?"
"From the Disinherited Knight," said Gurth, "victor in this day's
tournament. It is the price of the armour supplied to him by
Kirjath Jairam of Leicester, on thy recommendation. The steed
is restored to thy stable. I desire to know the amount of the
sum which I am to pay for the armour."
"I said he was a good youth!" exclaimed Isaac with joyful
exultation. "A cup of wine will do thee no harm," he added,
filling and handing to the swineherd a richer drought than Gurth
had ever before tasted. "And how much money," continued Isaac,
"has thou brought with thee?"
"Holy Virgin!" said Gurth, setting down the cup, "what nectar
these unbelieving dogs drink, while true Christians are fain to
quaff ale as muddy and thick as the draff we give to hogs!---What
money have I brought with me?" continued the Saxon, when he had
finished this uncivil ejaculation, "even but a small sum;
something in hand the whilst. What, Isaac! thou must bear a
conscience, though it be a Jewish one."
"Nay, but," said Isaac, "thy master has won goodly steeds and
rich armours with the strength of his lance, and of his right
hand---but 'tis a good youth---the Jew will take these in present
payment, and render him back the surplus."
"My master has disposed of them already," said Gurth.
"Ah! that was wrong," said the Jew, "that was the part of a fool.
No Christians here could buy so many horses and armour---no Jew
except myself would give him half the values. But thou hast a
hundred zecchins with thee in that bag," said Isaac, prying under
Gurth's cloak, "it is a heavy one."
"I have heads for cross-bow bolts in it," said Gurth, readily.
"Well, then"---said Isaac, panting and hesitating between
habitual love of gain and a new-born desire to be liberal in the
present instance, "if I should say that I would take eighty
zecchins for the good steed and the rich armour, which leaves me
not a guilder's profit, have you money to pay me?"
"Barely," said Gurth, though the sum demanded was more reasonable
than he expected, "and it will leave my master nigh penniless.
Nevertheless, if such be your least offer, I must be content."
"Fill thyself another goblet of wine," said the Jew. "Ah! eighty
zecchins is too little. It leaveth no profit for the usages of
the moneys; and, besides, the good horse may have suffered wrong
in this day's encounter. O, it was a hard and a dangerous
meeting! man and steed rushing on each other like wild bulls of
Bashan! The horse cannot but have had wrong."
"And I say," replied Gurth, "he is sound, wind and limb; and you
may see him now, in your stable. And I say, over and above, that
seventy zecchins is enough for the armour, and I hope a
Christian's word is as good as a Jew's. If you will not take
seventy, I will carry this bag" (and he shook it till the
contents jingled) "back to my master."
"Nay, nay!" said Isaac; "lay down the talents---the shekels---the
eighty zecchins, and thou shalt see I will consider thee
Gurth at length complied; and telling out eighty zecchins upon
the table, the Jew delivered out to him an acquittance for the
horse and suit of armour. The Jew's hand trembled for joy as he
wrapped up the first seventy pieces of gold. The last ten he
told over with much deliberation, pausing, and saying something
as he took each piece from the table, and dropt it into his
purse. It seemed as if his avarice were struggling with his
better nature, and compelling him to pouch zecchin after zecchin
while his generosity urged him to restore some part at least to
his benefactor, or as a donation to his agent. His whole speech
ran nearly thus:
"Seventy-one---seventy-two; thy master is a good youth
---seventy-three, an excellent youth---seventy-four---that piece
hath been clipt within the ring---seventy-five---and that looketh
light of weight ---seventy-six---when thy master wants money, let
him come to Isaac of York---seventy-seven---that is, with
reasonable security." Here he made a considerable pause, and
Gurth had good hope that the last three pieces might escape the
fate of their comrades; but the enumeration proceeded.
---"Seventy-eight---thou art a good fellow---seventy-nine---and
deservest something for thyself------"
Here the Jew paused again, and looked at the last zecchin,
intending, doubtless, to bestow it upon Gurth. He weighed it
upon the tip of his finger, and made it ring by dropping it upon
the table. Had it rung too flat, or had it felt a hair's breadth
too light, generosity had carried the day; but, unhappily for
Gurth, the chime was full and true, the zecchin plump, newly
coined, and a grain above weight. Isaac could not find in his
heart to part with it, so dropt it into his purse as if in
absence of mind, with the words, "Eighty completes the tale, and
I trust thy master will reward thee handsomely.---Surely," he
added, looking earnestly at the bag, "thou hast more coins in
Gurth grinned, which was his nearest approach to a laugh, as he
replied, "About the same quantity which thou hast just told over
so carefully." He then folded the quittance, and put it under
his cap, adding,---"Peril of thy beard, Jew, see that this be
full and ample!" He filled himself unbidden, a third goblet of
wine, and left the apartment without ceremony.
"Rebecca," said the Jew, "that Ishmaelite hath gone somewhat
beyond me. Nevertheless his master is a good youth---ay, and I
am well pleased that he hath gained shekels of gold and shekels
of silver, even by the speed of his horse and by the strength of
his lance, which, like that of Goliath the Philistine, might vie
with a weaver's beam."
As he turned to receive Rebecca's answer, he observed, that
during his chattering with Gurth, she had left the apartment
In the meanwhile, Gurth had descended the stair, and, having
reached the dark antechamber or hall, was puzzling about to
discover the entrance, when a figure in white, shown by a small
silver lamp which she held in her hand, beckoned him into a side
apartment. Gurth had some reluctance to obey the summons. Rough
and impetuous as a wild boar, where only earthly force was to be
apprehended, he had all the characteristic terrors of a Saxon
respecting fawns, forest-fiends, white women, and the whole of
the superstitions which his ancestors had brought with them from
the wilds of Germany. He remembered, moreover, that he was in
the house of a Jew, a people who, besides the other unamiable
qualities which popular report ascribed to them, were supposed to
be profound necromancers and cabalists. Nevertheless, after a
moment's pause, he obeyed the beckoning summons of the
apparition, and followed her into the apartment which she
indicated, where he found to his joyful surprise that his fair
guide was the beautiful Jewess whom he had seen at the
tournament, and a short time in her father's apartment.
She asked him the particulars of his transaction with Isaac,
which he detailed accurately.
"My father did but jest with thee, good fellow," said Rebecca;
"he owes thy master deeper kindness than these arms and steed
could pay, were their value tenfold. What sum didst thou pay my
father even now?"
"Eighty zecchins," said Gurth, surprised at the question.
"In this purse," said Rebecca, "thou wilt find a hundred.
Restore to thy master that which is his due, and enrich thyself
with the remainder. Haste---begone---stay not to render thanks!
and beware how you pass through this crowded town, where thou
mayst easily lose both thy burden and thy life.---Reuben," she
added, clapping her hands together, "light forth this stranger,
and fail not to draw lock and bar behind him." Reuben, a
dark-brow'd and black-bearded Israelite, obeyed her summons, with
a torch in his hand; undid the outward door of the house, and
conducting Gurth across a paved court, let him out through a
wicket in the entrance-gate, which he closed behind him with such
bolts and chains as would well have become that of a prison.
"By St Dunstan," said Gurth, as he stumbled up the dark avenue,
"this is no Jewess, but an angel from heaven! Ten zecchins from
my brave young master---twenty from this pearl of Zion---Oh,
happy day!---Such another, Gurth, will redeem thy bondage, and
make thee a brother as free of thy guild as the best. And then
do I lay down my swineherd's horn and staff, and take the
freeman's sword and buckler, and follow my young master to the
death, without hiding either my face or my name."