Alas, how many hours and years have past,
Since human forms have round this table sate,
Or lamp, or taper, on its surface gleam'd!
Methinks, I hear the sound of time long pass'd
Still murmuring o'er us, in the lofty void
Of these dark arches, like the ling'ring voices
Of those who long within their graves have slept.
Orra, a Tragedy
While these measures were taking in behalf of Cedric and his
companions, the armed men by whom the latter had been seized,
hurried their captives along towards the place of security, where
they intended to imprison them. But darkness came on fast, and
the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly known to the
marauders. They were compelled to make several long halts, and
once or twice to return on their road to resume the direction
which they wished to pursue. The summer morn had dawned upon
them ere they could travel in full assurance that they held the
right path. But confidence returned with light, and the
cavalcade now moved rapidly forward. Meanwhile, the following
dialogue took place between the two leaders of the banditti.
"It is time thou shouldst leave us, Sir Maurice," said the
Templar to De Bracy, "in order to prepare the second part of thy
mystery. Thou art next, thou knowest, to act the Knight
"I have thought better of it," said De Bracy; "I will not leave
thee till the prize is fairly deposited in Front-de-Boeuf's
castle. There will I appear before the Lady Rowena in mine own
shape, and trust that she will set down to the vehemence of my
passion the violence of which I have been guilty."
"And what has made thee change thy plan, De Bracy?" replied the
"That concerns thee nothing," answered his companion.
"I would hope, however, Sir Knight," said the Templar, "that this
alteration of measures arises from no suspicion of my honourable
meaning, such as Fitzurse endeavoured to instil into thee?"
"My thoughts are my own," answered De Bracy; "the fiend laughs,
they say, when one thief robs another; and we know, that were he
to spit fire and brimstone instead, it would never prevent a
Templar from following his bent."
"Or the leader of a Free Company," answered the Templar, "from
dreading at the hands of a comrade and friend, the injustice he
does to all mankind."
"This is unprofitable and perilous recrimination," answered De
Bracy; "suffice it to say, I know the morals of the Temple-Order,
and I will not give thee the power of cheating me out of the fair
prey for which I have run such risks."
"Psha," replied the Templar, "what hast thou to fear?---Thou
knowest the vows of our order."
"Right well," said De Bracy, "and also how they are kept. Come,
Sir Templar, the laws of gallantry have a liberal interpretation
in Palestine, and this is a case in which I will trust nothing to
"Hear the truth, then," said the Templar; "I care not for your
blue-eyed beauty. There is in that train one who will make me a
"What! wouldst thou stoop to the waiting damsel?" said De Bracy.
"No, Sir Knight," said the Templar, haughtily. "To the
waiting-woman will I not stoop. I have a prize among the
captives as lovely as thine own."
"By the mass, thou meanest the fair Jewess!" said De Bracy.
"And if I do," said Bois-Guilbert, "who shall gainsay me?"
"No one that I know," said De Bracy, "unless it be your vow of
celibacy, or a cheek of conscience for an intrigue with a
"For my vow," said the Templar, "our Grand Master hath granted me
a dispensation. And for my conscience, a man that has slain
three hundred Saracens, need not reckon up every little failing,
like a village girl at her first confession upon Good Friday
"Thou knowest best thine own privileges," said De Bracy. "Yet, I
would have sworn thy thought had been more on the old usurer's
money bags, than on the black eyes of the daughter."
"I can admire both," answered the Templar; "besides, the old Jew
is but half-prize. I must share his spoils with Front-de-Boeuf,
who will not lend us the use of his castle for nothing. I must
have something that I can term exclusively my own by this foray
of ours, and I have fixed on the lovely Jewess as my peculiar
prize. But, now thou knowest my drift, thou wilt resume thine
own original plan, wilt thou not?---Thou hast nothing, thou
seest, to fear from my interference."
"No," replied De Bracy, "I will remain beside my prize. What
thou sayst is passing true, but I like not the privileges
acquired by the dispensation of the Grand Master, and the merit
acquired by the slaughter of three hundred Saracens. You have
too good a right to a free pardon, to render you very scrupulous
While this dialogue was proceeding, Cedric was endeavouring to
wring out of those who guarded him an avowal of their character
and purpose. "You should be Englishmen," said he; "and yet,
sacred Heaven! you prey upon your countrymen as if you were very
Normans. You should be my neighbours, and, if so, my friends;
for which of my English neighbours have reason to be otherwise?
I tell ye, yeomen, that even those among ye who have been branded
with outlawry have had from me protection; for I have pitied
their miseries, and curst the oppression of their tyrannic
nobles. What, then, would you have of me? or in what can this
violence serve ye?---Ye are worse than brute beasts in your
actions, and will you imitate them in their very dumbness?"
It was in vain that Cedric expostulated with his guards, who had
too many good reasons for their silence to be induced to break it
either by his wrath or his expostulations. They continued to
hurry him along, travelling at a very rapid rate, until, at the
end of an avenue of huge trees, arose Torquilstone, now the hoary
and ancient castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It was a fortress
of no great size, consisting of a donjon, or large and high
square tower, surrounded by buildings of inferior height, which
were encircled by an inner court-yard. Around the exterior wall
was a deep moat, supplied with water from a neighbouring rivulet.
Front-de-Boeuf, whose character placed him often at feud with his
enemies, had made considerable additions to the strength of his
castle, by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank
it at every angle. The access, as usual in castles of the
period, lay through an arched barbican, or outwork, which was
terminated and defended by a small turret at each corner.
Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-de-Boeuf's castle raise
their grey and moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning
sun above the wood by which they were surrounded, than he
instantly augured more truly concerning the cause of his
"I did injustice," he said, "to the thieves and outlaws of these
woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I
might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with
the ravening wolves of France. Tell me, dogs---is it my life or
my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too much that two
Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in the
country which was once the patrimony of our race?---Put us then
to death, and complete your tyranny by taking our lives, as you
began with our liberties. If the Saxon Cedric cannot rescue
England, he is willing to die for her. Tell your tyrannical
master, I do only beseech him to dismiss the Lady Rowena in
honour and safety. She is a woman, and he need not dread her;
and with us will die all who dare fight in her cause."
The attendants remained as mute to this address as to the former,
and they now stood before the gate of the castle. De Bracy
winded his horn three times, and the archers and cross-bow men,
who had manned the wall upon seeing their approach, hastened to
lower the drawbridge, and admit them. The prisoners were
compelled by their guards to alight, and were conducted to an
apartment where a hasty repast was offered them, of which none
but Athelstane felt any inclination to partake. Neither had the
descendant of the Confessor much time to do justice to the good
cheer placed before them, for their guards gave him and Cedric to
understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apart
from Rowena. Resistance was vain; and they were compelled to
follow to a large room, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars,
resembled those refectories and chapter-houses which may be still
seen in the most ancient parts of our most ancient monasteries.
The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train, and conducted,
with courtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her
inclination, to a distant apartment. The same alarming
distinction was conferred on Rebecca, in spite of her father's
entreaties, who offered even money, in this extremity of
distress, that she might be permitted to abide with him. "Base
unbeliever," answered one of his guards, "when thou hast seen thy
lair, thou wilt not wish thy daughter to partake it." And,
without farther discussion, the old Jew was forcibly dragged off
in a different direction from the other prisoners. The
domestics, after being carefully searched and disarmed, were
confined in another part of the castle; and Rowena was refused
even the comfort she might have derived from the attendance of
her handmaiden Elgitha.
The apartment in which the Saxon chiefs were confined, for to
them we turn our first attention, although at present used as a
sort of guard-room, had formerly been the great hall of the
castle. It was now abandoned to meaner purposes, because the
present lord, among other additions to the convenience, security,
and beauty of his baronial residence, had erected a new and noble
hall, whose vaulted roof was supported by lighter and more
elegant pillars, and fitted up with that higher degree of
ornament, which the Normans had already introduced into
Cedric paced the apartment, filled with indignant reflections on
the past and on the present, while the apathy of his companion
served, instead of patience and philosophy, to defend him against
every thing save the inconvenience of the present moment; and so
little did he feel even this last, that he was only from time to
time roused to a reply by Cedric's animated and impassioned
appeal to him.
"Yes," said Cedric, half speaking to himself, and half addressing
himself to Athelstane, "it was in this very hall that my father
feasted with Torquil Wolfganger, when he entertained the valiant
and unfortunate Harold, then advancing against the Norwegians,
who had united themselves to the rebel Tosti. It was in this
hall that Harold returned the magnanimous answer to the
ambassador of his rebel brother. Oft have I heard my father
kindle as he told the tale. The envoy of Tosti was admitted,
when this ample room could scarce contain the crowd of noble
Saxon leaders, who were quaffing the blood-red wine around their
"I hope," said Athelstane, somewhat moved by this part of his
friend's discourse, "they will not forget to send us some wine
and refactions at noon---we had scarce a breathing-space allowed
to break our fast, and I never have the benefit of my food when I
eat immediately after dismounting from horseback, though the
leeches recommend that practice."
Cedric went on with his story without noticing this
interjectional observation of his friend.
"The envoy of Tosti," he said, "moved up the hall, undismayed by
the frowning countenances of all around him, until he made his
obeisance before the throne of King Harold.
"'What terms,' he said, 'Lord King, hath thy brother Tosti to
hope, if he should lay down his arms, and crave peace at thy
"'A brother's love,' cried the generous Harold, 'and the fair
earldom of Northumberland.'
"'But should Tosti accept these terms,' continued the envoy,
'what lands shall be assigned to his faithful ally, Hardrada,
King of Norway?'
"'Seven feet of English ground,' answered Harold, fiercely, 'or,
as Hardrada is said to be a giant, perhaps we may allow him
twelve inches more.'
"The hall rung with acclamations, and cup and horn was filled to
the Norwegian, who should be speedily in possession of his
"I could have pledged him with all my soul," said Athelstane,
"for my tongue cleaves to my palate."
"The baffled envoy," continued Cedric, pursuing with animation
his tale, though it interested not the listener, "retreated, to
carry to Tosti and his ally the ominous answer of his injured
brother. It was then that the distant towers of York, and the
bloody streams of the Derwent,*
* Note D. Battle of Stamford.
beheld that direful conflict, in which, after displaying the
most undaunted valour, the King of Norway, and Tosti, both fell,
with ten thousand of their bravest followers. Who would have
thought that upon the proud day when this battle was won, the
very gale which waved the Saxon banners in triumph, was filling
the Norman sails, and impelling them to the fatal shores of
Sussex?---Who would have thought that Harold, within a few brief
days, would himself possess no more of his kingdom, than the
share which he allotted in his wrath to the Norwegian invader?
---Who would have thought that you, noble Athelstane---that you,
descended of Harold's blood, and that I, whose father was not the
worst defender of the Saxon crown, should be prisoners to a vile
Norman, in the very hall in which our ancestors held such high
"It is sad enough," replied Athelstane; "but I trust they will
hold us to a moderate ransom---At any rate it cannot be their
purpose to starve us outright; and yet, although it is high noon,
I see no preparations for serving dinner. Look up at the window,
noble Cedric, and judge by the sunbeams if it is not on the verge
"It may be so," answered Cedric; "but I cannot look on that
stained lattice without its awakening other reflections than
those which concern the passing moment, or its privations. When
that window was wrought, my noble friend, our hardy fathers knew
not the art of making glass, or of staining it---The pride of
Wolfganger's father brought an artist from Normandy to adorn his
hall with this new species of emblazonment, that breaks the
golden light of God's blessed day into so many fantastic hues.
The foreigner came here poor, beggarly, cringing, and
subservient, ready to doff his cap to the meanest native of the
household. He returned pampered and proud, to tell his rapacious
countrymen of the wealth and the simplicity of the Saxon nobles
---a folly, oh, Athelstane, foreboded of old, as well as
foreseen, by those descendants of Hengist and his hardy tribes,
who retained the simplicity of their manners. We made these
strangers our bosom friends, our confidential servants; we
borrowed their artists and their arts, and despised the honest
simplicity and hardihood with which our brave ancestors supported
themselves, and we became enervated by Norman arts long ere we
fell under Norman arms. Far better was our homely diet, eaten in
peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love of which
hath delivered us as bondsmen to the foreign conqueror!"
"I should," replied Athelstane, "hold very humble diet a luxury
at present; and it astonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear
so truly in mind the memory of past deeds, when it appeareth you
forget the very hour of dinner."
"It is time lost," muttered Cedric apart and impatiently, "to
speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite!
The soul of Hardicanute hath taken possession of him, and he hath
no pleasure save to fill, to swill, and to call for more.
---Alas!" said he, looking at Athelstane with compassion, "that
so dull a spirit should be lodged in so goodly a form! Alas! that
such an enterprise as the regeneration of England should turn on
a hinge so imperfect! Wedded to Rowena, indeed, her nobler and
more generous soul may yet awake the better nature which is
torpid within him. Yet how should this be, while Rowena,
Athelstane, and I myself, remain the prisoners of this brutal
marauder and have been made so perhaps from a sense of the
dangers which our liberty might bring to the usurped power of his
While the Saxon was plunged in these painful reflections, the
door of their prison opened, and gave entrance to a sewer,
holding his white rod of office. This important person advanced
into the chamber with a grave pace, followed by four attendants,
bearing in a table covered with dishes, the sight and smell of
which seemed to be an instant compensation to Athelstane for all
the inconvenience he had undergone. The persons who attended on
the feast were masked and cloaked.
"What mummery is this?" said Cedric; "think you that we are
ignorant whose prisoners we are, when we are in the castle of
your master? Tell him," he continued, willing to use this
opportunity to open a negotiation for his freedom,---"Tell your
master, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, that we know no reason he can
have for withholding our liberty, excepting his unlawful desire
to enrich himself at our expense. Tell him that we yield to his
rapacity, as in similar circumstances we should do to that of a
literal robber. Let him name the ransom at which he rates our
liberty, and it shall be paid, providing the exaction is suited
to our means." The sewer made no answer, but bowed his head.
"And tell Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf," said Athelstane, "that I
send him my mortal defiance, and challenge him to combat with me,
on foot or horseback, at any secure place, within eight days
after our liberation; which, if he be a true knight, he will not,
under these circumstances, venture to refuse or to delay."
"I shall deliver to the knight your defiance," answered the
sewer; "meanwhile I leave you to your food."
The challenge of Athelstane was delivered with no good grace; for
a large mouthful, which required the exercise of both jaws at
once, added to a natural hesitation, considerably damped the
effect of the bold defiance it contained. Still, however, his
speech was hailed by Cedric as an incontestible token of reviving
spirit in his companion, whose previous indifference had begun,
notwithstanding his respect for Athelstane's descent, to wear out
his patience. But he now cordially shook hands with him in token
of his approbation, and was somewhat grieved when Athelstane
observed, "that he would fight a dozen such men as
Front-de-Boeuf, if, by so doing, he could hasten his departure
from a dungeon where they put so much garlic into their pottage."
Notwithstanding this intimation of a relapse into the apathy of
sensuality, Cedric placed himself opposite to Athelstane, and
soon showed, that if the distresses of his country could banish
the recollection of food while the table was uncovered, yet no
sooner were the victuals put there, than he proved that the
appetite of his Saxon ancestors had descended to him along with
their other qualities.
The captives had not long enjoyed their refreshment, however, ere
their attention was disturbed even from this most serious
occupation by the blast of a horn winded before the gate. It was
repeated three times, with as much violence as if it had been
blown before an enchanted castle by the destined knight, at whose
summons halls and towers, barbican and battlement, were to roll
off like a morning vapour. The Saxons started from the table,
and hastened to the window. But their curiosity was
disappointed; for these outlets only looked upon the court of the
castle, and the sound came from beyond its precincts. The
summons, however, seemed of importance, for a considerable degree
of bustle instantly took place in the castle.
NOTE TO CHAPTER XXI.
Note D.---Battle of Stamford.
A great topographical blunder occurred here in former editions.
The bloody battle alluded to in the text, fought and won by King
Harold, over his brother the rebellious Tosti, and an auxiliary
force of Danes or Norsemen, was said, in the text, and a
corresponding note, to have taken place at Stamford, in
Leicestershire, and upon the river Welland. This is a mistake,
into which the author has been led by trusting to his memory, and
so confounding two places of the same name. The Stamford,
Strangford, or Staneford, at which the battle really was fought,
is a ford upon the river Derwent, at the distance of about seven
miles from York, and situated in that large and opulent county.
A long wooden bridge over the Derwent, the site of which, with
one remaining buttress, is still shown to the curious traveller,
was furiously contested. One Norwegian long defended it by his
single arm, and was at length pierced with a spear thrust through
the planks of the bridge from a boat beneath.
The neighbourhood of Stamford, on the Derwent, contains some
memorials of the battle. Horseshoes, swords, and the heads of
halberds, or bills, are often found there; one place is called
the "Danes' well," another the "Battle flats." From a tradition
that the weapon with which the Norwegian champion was slain,
resembled a pear, or, as others say, that the trough or boat in
which the soldier floated under the bridge to strike the blow,
had such a shape, the country people usually begin a great
market, which is held at Stamford, with an entertainment called
the Pear-pie feast, which after all may be a corruption of the
Spear-pie feast. For more particulars, Drake's History of York
may be referred to. The author's mistake was pointed out to him,
in the most obliging manner, by Robert Belt, Esq. of Bossal
House. The battle was fought in 1066.