Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you, like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of love, force you.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The apartment to which the Lady Rowena had been introduced was
fitted up with some rude attempts at ornament and magnificence,
and her being placed there might be considered as a peculiar mark
of respect not offered to the other prisoners. But the wife of
Front-de-Boeuf, for whom it had been originally furnished, was
long dead, and decay and neglect had impaired the few ornaments
with which her taste had adorned it. The tapestry hung down from
the walls in many places, and in others was tarnished and faded
under the effects of the sun, or tattered and decayed by age.
Desolate, however, as it was, this was the apartment of the
castle which had been judged most fitting for the accommodation
of the Saxon heiress; and here she was left to meditate upon her
fate, until the actors in this nefarious drama had arranged the
several parts which each of them was to perform. This had been
settled in a council held by Front-de-Boeuf, De Bracy, and the
Templar, in which, after a long and warm debate concerning the
several advantages which each insisted upon deriving from his
peculiar share in this audacious enterprise, they had at length
determined the fate of their unhappy prisoners.
It was about the hour of noon, therefore, when De Bracy, for
whose advantage the expedition had been first planned, appeared
to prosecute his views upon the hand and possessions of the Lady
The interval had not entirely been bestowed in holding council
with his confederates, for De Bracy had found leisure to decorate
his person with all the foppery of the times. His green cassock
and vizard were now flung aside. His long luxuriant hair was
trained to flow in quaint tresses down his richly furred cloak.
His beard was closely shaved, his doublet reached to the middle
of his leg, and the girdle which secured it, and at the same time
supported his ponderous sword, was embroidered and embossed with
gold work. We have already noticed the extravagant fashion of
the shoes at this period, and the points of Maurice de Bracy's
might have challenged the prize of extravagance with the gayest,
being turned up and twisted like the horns of a ram. Such was
the dress of a gallant of the period; and, in the present
instance, that effect was aided by the handsome person and good
demeanour of the wearer, whose manners partook alike of the grace
of a courtier, and the frankness of a soldier.
He saluted Rowena by doffing his velvet bonnet, garnished with a
golden broach, representing St Michael trampling down the Prince
of Evil. With this, he gently motioned the lady to a seat; and,
as she still retained her standing posture, the knight ungloved
his right hand, and motioned to conduct her thither. But Rowena
declined, by her gesture, the proffered compliment, and replied,
"If I be in the presence of my jailor, Sir Knight---nor will
circumstances allow me to think otherwise---it best becomes his
prisoner to remain standing till she learns her doom."
"Alas! fair Rowena," returned De Bracy, "you are in presence of
your captive, not your jailor; and it is from your fair eyes that
De Bracy must receive that doom which you fondly expect from
"I know you not, sir," said the lady, drawing herself up with all
the pride of offended rank and beauty; "I know you not---and the
insolent familiarity with which you apply to me the jargon of a
troubadour, forms no apology for the violence of a robber."
"To thyself, fair maid," answered De Bracy, in his former tone
---"to thine own charms be ascribed whate'er I have done which
passed the respect due to her, whom I have chosen queen of my
heart, and lodestar of my eyes."
"I repeat to you, Sir Knight, that I know you not, and that no
man wearing chain and spurs ought thus to intrude himself upon
the presence of an unprotected lady."
"That I am unknown to you," said De Bracy, "is indeed my
misfortune; yet let me hope that De Bracy's name has not been
always unspoken, when minstrels or heralds have praised deeds of
chivalry, whether in the lists or in the battle-field."
"To heralds and to minstrels, then, leave thy praise, Sir
Knight," replied Rowena, "more suiting for their mouths than for
thine own; and tell me which of them shall record in song, or in
book of tourney, the memorable conquest of this night, a conquest
obtained over an old man, followed by a few timid hinds; and its
booty, an unfortunate maiden, transported against her will to the
castle of a robber?"
"You are unjust, Lady Rowena," said the knight, biting his lips
in some confusion, and speaking in a tone more natural to him
than that of affected gallantry, which he had at first adopted;
"yourself free from passion, you can allow no excuse for the
frenzy of another, although caused by your own beauty."
"I pray you, Sir Knight," said Rowena, "to cease a language so
commonly used by strolling minstrels, that it becomes not the
mouth of knights or nobles. Certes, you constrain me to sit
down, since you enter upon such commonplace terms, of which each
vile crowder hath a stock that might last from hence to
"Proud damsel," said De Bracy, incensed at finding his gallant
style procured him nothing but contempt---"proud damsel, thou
shalt be as proudly encountered. Know then, that I have
supported my pretensions to your hand in the way that best suited
thy character. It is meeter for thy humour to be wooed with bow
and bill, than in set terms, and in courtly language."
"Courtesy of tongue," said Rowena, "when it is used to veil
churlishness of deed, is but a knight's girdle around the breast
of a base clown. I wonder not that the restraint appears to gall
you---more it were for your honour to have retained the dress and
language of an outlaw, than to veil the deeds of one under an
affectation of gentle language and demeanour."
"You counsel well, lady," said the Norman; "and in the bold
language which best justifies bold action I tell thee, thou shalt
never leave this castle, or thou shalt leave it as Maurice de
Bracy's wife. I am not wont to be baffled in my enterprises, nor
needs a Norman noble scrupulously to vindicate his conduct to the
Saxon maiden whom he distinguishes by the offer of his hand.
Thou art proud, Rowena, and thou art the fitter to be my wife.
By what other means couldst thou be raised to high honour and to
princely place, saving by my alliance? How else wouldst thou
escape from the mean precincts of a country grange, where Saxons
herd with the swine which form their wealth, to take thy seat,
honoured as thou shouldst be, and shalt be, amid all in England
that is distinguished by beauty, or dignified by power?"
"Sir Knight," replied Rowena, "the grange which you contemn hath
been my shelter from infancy; and, trust me, when I leave it
---should that day ever arrive---it shall be with one who has not
learnt to despise the dwelling and manners in which I have been
"I guess your meaning, lady," said De Bracy, "though you may
think it lies too obscure for my apprehension. But dream not,
that Richard Coeur de Lion will ever resume his throne, far less
that Wilfred of Ivanhoe, his minion, will ever lead thee to his
footstool, to be there welcomed as the bride of a favourite.
Another suitor might feel jealousy while he touched this string;
but my firm purpose cannot be changed by a passion so childish
and so hopeless. Know, lady, that this rival is in my power, and
that it rests but with me to betray the secret of his being
within the castle to Front-de-Boeuf, whose jealousy will be more
fatal than mine."
"Wilfred here?" said Rowena, in disdain; "that is as true as that
Front-de-Boeuf is his rival."
De Bracy looked at her steadily for an instant.
"Wert thou really ignorant of this?" said he; "didst thou not
know that Wilfred of Ivanhoe travelled in the litter of the Jew?
---a meet conveyance for the crusader, whose doughty arm was to
reconquer the Holy Sepulchre!" And he laughed scornfully.
"And if he is here," said Rowena, compelling herself to a tone of
indifference, though trembling with an agony of apprehension
which she could not suppress, "in what is he the rival of
Front-de-Boeuf? or what has he to fear beyond a short
imprisonment, and an honourable ransom, according to the use of
"Rowena," said De Bracy, "art thou, too, deceived by the common
error of thy sex, who think there can be no rivalry but that
respecting their own charms? Knowest thou not there is a jealousy
of ambition and of wealth, as well as of love; and that this our
host, Front-de-Boeuf, will push from his road him who opposes his
claim to the fair barony of Ivanhoe, as readily, eagerly, and
unscrupulously, as if he were preferred to him by some blue-eyed
damsel? But smile on my suit, lady, and the wounded champion
shall have nothing to fear from Front-de-Boeuf, whom else thou
mayst mourn for, as in the hands of one who has never shown
"Save him, for the love of Heaven!" said Rowena, her firmness
giving way under terror for her lover's impending fate.
"I can---I will---it is my purpose," said De Bracy; "for, when
Rowena consents to be the bride of De Bracy, who is it shall dare
to put forth a violent hand upon her kinsman---the son of her
guardian---the companion of her youth? But it is thy love must
buy his protection. I am not romantic fool enough to further the
fortune, or avert the fate, of one who is likely to be a
successful obstacle between me and my wishes. Use thine
influence with me in his behalf, and he is safe,---refuse to
employ it, Wilfred dies, and thou thyself art not the nearer to
"Thy language," answered Rowena, "hath in its indifferent
bluntness something which cannot be reconciled with the horrors
it seems to express. I believe not that thy purpose is so
wicked, or thy power so great."
"Flatter thyself, then, with that belief," said De Bracy, "until
time shall prove it false. Thy lover lies wounded in this castle
---thy preferred lover. He is a bar betwixt Front-de-Boeuf and
that which Front-de-Boeuf loves better than either ambition or
beauty. What will it cost beyond the blow of a poniard, or the
thrust of a javelin, to silence his opposition for ever? Nay,
were Front-de-Boeuf afraid to justify a deed so open, let the
leech but give his patient a wrong draught---let the chamberlain,
or the nurse who tends him, but pluck the pillow from his head,
and Wilfred in his present condition, is sped without the
effusion of blood. Cedric also---"
"And Cedric also," said Rowena, repeating his words; "my noble
---my generous guardian! I deserved the evil I have encountered,
for forgetting his fate even in that of his son!"
"Cedric's fate also depends upon thy determination," said De
Bracy; "and I leave thee to form it."
Hitherto, Rowena had sustained her part in this trying scene with
undismayed courage, but it was because she had not considered the
danger as serious and imminent. Her disposition was naturally
that which physiognomists consider as proper to fair complexions,
mild, timid, and gentle; but it had been tempered, and, as it
were, hardened, by the circumstances of her education.
Accustomed to see the will of all, even of Cedric himself,
(sufficiently arbitrary with others,) give way before her wishes,
she had acquired that sort of courage and self-confidence which
arises from the habitual and constant deference of the circle in
which we move. She could scarce conceive the possibility of her
will being opposed, far less that of its being treated with total
Her haughtiness and habit of domination was, therefore, a
fictitious character, induced over that which was natural to her,
and it deserted her when her eyes were opened to the extent of
her own danger, as well as that of her lover and her guardian;
and when she found her will, the slightest expression of which
was wont to command respect and attention, now placed in
opposition to that of a man of a strong, fierce, and determined
mind, who possessed the advantage over her, and was resolved to
use it, she quailed before him.
After casting her eyes around, as if to look for the aid which
was nowhere to be found, and after a few broken interjections,
she raised her hands to heaven, and burst into a passion of
uncontrolled vexation and sorrow. It was impossible to see so
beautiful a creature in such extremity without feeling for her,
and De Bracy was not unmoved, though he was yet more embarrassed
than touched. He had, in truth, gone too far to recede; and yet,
in Rowena's present condition, she could not be acted on either
by argument or threats. He paced the apartment to and fro, now
vainly exhorting the terrified maiden to compose herself, now
hesitating concerning his own line of conduct.
If, thought he, I should be moved by the tears and sorrow of this
disconsolate damsel, what should I reap but the loss of these
fair hopes for which I have encountered so much risk, and the
ridicule of Prince John and his jovial comrades? "And yet," he
said to himself, "I feel myself ill framed for the part which I
am playing. I cannot look on so fair a face while it is
disturbed with agony, or on those eyes when they are drowned in
tears. I would she had retained her original haughtiness of
disposition, or that I had a larger share of Front-de-Boeuf's
thrice-tempered hardness of heart!"
Agitated by these thoughts, he could only bid the unfortunate
Rowena be comforted, and assure her, that as yet she had no
reason for the excess of despair to which she was now giving way.
But in this task of consolation De Bracy was interrupted by the
horn, "hoarse-winded blowing far and keen," which had at the same
time alarmed the other inmates of the castle, and interrupted
their several plans of avarice and of license. Of them all,
perhaps, De Bracy least regretted the interruption; for his
conference with the Lady Rowena had arrived at a point, where he
found it equally difficult to prosecute or to resign his
And here we cannot but think it necessary to offer some better
proof than the incidents of an idle tale, to vindicate the
melancholy representation of manners which has been just laid
before the reader. It is grievous to think that those valiant
barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England
were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been
such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not
only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity.
But, alas! we have only to extract from the industrious Henry one
of those numerous passages which he has collected from
contemporary historians, to prove that fiction itself can hardly
reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period.
The description given by the author of the Saxon Chronicle of the
cruelties exercised in the reign of King Stephen by the great
barons and lords of castles, who were all Normans, affords a
strong proof of the excesses of which they were capable when
their passions were inflamed. "They grievously oppressed the
poor people by building castles; and when they were built, they
filled them with wicked men, or rather devils, who seized both
men and women who they imagined had any money, threw them into
prison, and put them to more cruel tortures than the martyrs ever
endured. They suffocated some in mud, and suspended others by
the feet, or the head, or the thumbs, kindling fires below them.
They squeezed the heads of some with knotted cords till they
pierced their brains, while they threw others into dungeons
swarming with serpents, snakes, and toads." But it would be
cruel to put the reader to the pain of perusing the remainder of
* Henry's Hist. edit. 1805, vol. vii. p. .146.
As another instance of these bitter fruits of conquest, and
perhaps the strongest that can be quoted, we may mention, that
the Princess Matilda, though a daughter of the King of Scotland,
and afterwards both Queen of England, niece to Edgar Atheling,
and mother to the Empress of Germany, the daughter, the wife, and
the mother of monarchs, was obliged, during her early residence
for education in England, to assume the veil of a nun, as the
only means of escaping the licentious pursuit of the Norman
nobles. This excuse she stated before a great council of the
clergy of England, as the sole reason for her having taken the
religious habit. The assembled clergy admitted the validity of
the plea, and the notoriety of the circumstances upon which it
was founded; giving thus an indubitable and most remarkable
testimony to the existence of that disgraceful license by which
that age was stained. It was a matter of public knowledge, they
said, that after the conquest of King William, his Norman
followers, elated by so great a victory, acknowledged no law but
their own wicked pleasure, and not only despoiled the conquered
Saxons of their lands and their goods, but invaded the honour of
their wives and of their daughters with the most unbridled
license; and hence it was then common for matrons and maidens of
noble families to assume the veil, and take shelter in convents,
not as called thither by the vocation of God, but solely to
preserve their honour from the unbridled wickedness of man.
Such and so licentious were the times, as announced by the public
declaration of the assembled clergy, recorded by Eadmer; and we
need add nothing more to vindicate the probability of the scenes
which we have detailed, and are about to detail, upon the more
apocryphal authority of the Wardour MS.