History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we made today. — Henry Ford

Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay




The Jew and the Palmer

So with deep bows to their host and his ward, the guests arose and retired to their sleeping apartments. As they passed down the hall the Templar turned as he came to the old Jew and cursed him, afterwards turning to mutter something in a foreign tongue to his own eastern slaves.

As the Palmer, escorted by a domestic bearing a torch, passed through the apartments, he was stopped by a waiting maid, who informed him that the Lady Rowena wished to speak with him. The Palmer showed some surprise at the summons, but obeyed it without answer.

Arrived at the Lady Rowena's apartment, the Palmer found himself in a room richly decorated, though in the rough style still in use with the Saxons. It was richly draped with tapestries and lit by large waxen torches. In spite of this magnificence, however, the walls were so full of crevices that the night wind shook the hangings, while the flames of the torches were blown side-ways.

The Lady Rowena was seated on a sort of throne, and the Palmer went towards her and knelt down.

"Rise, Palmer," said the lady. "You this night mentioned the name of Ivanhoe in the hall where by nature it should have sounded most welcome."

"I know little of the Knight of Ivanhoe," answered the Palmer with a troubled voice. "I would I knew better, lady, since you are interested in his fate; though I have heard that he was unjustly treated by the French knights in Palestine."

"Would to God," said the Lady Rowena, "that he were here safely in England and could bear arms in the approaching tournament," and she sighed deeply. "Should Athelstane of Coningsburgh win the prize at the tournament, Ivanhoe is likely to hear evil tidings when he does return." She said this for she well knew it was Cedric's intention to marry her to Athelstane, his noble kinsman. "How looked the stranger when you last saw him?"

"He was darker and thinner," said the Palmer, "than when we first came to Palestine with King Richard."

"Thanks, good Pilgrim," she said after a pause, "for your information concerning the friend of my childhood. Accept this alms, friend, as a token of my gratitude."

The Palmer took the piece of gold offered him and followed a maid from the apartment.

In an anteroom he found a man waiting to escort him to the small apartments or cells where the domestics and strangers of low degree slept.

"In which of these sleeps the Jew? he asked.

"In the next cell to yours," replied the man.

"And where sleeps Gurth the swine-herd?" said the stranger.

"Gurth," replied the servant, "sleeps on the other side of you."

As the Palmer entered the cell allotted to him, he took the torch from the serving man and wished him good-night. The Palmer, having extinguished his torch, threw himself on his bed, where he lay till the earliest sunbeams found their way through the little grated window. He then started up, and leaving his cell, entered that of Isaac the Jew, lifting the latch as gently as he could. He found its occupant tossing from side to side on his narrow bed in troubled slumber.

The Palmer stirred the sleeping man with his staff, at which the Jew started up in wild alarm, fearing someone had come to rob him.

"Fear nothing from me, Isaac," said the Palmer. "I come as your friend."

"What may it be your pleasure to want at so early an hour from the poor Jew?"

"It is to tell you," said the Palmer, "that if you leave not this mansion instantly and travel with haste, your journey may be a dangerous one."

"Holy father!" said the Jew; "whom could it interest to endanger so poor a wretch as I am?"

"Last night," said the Palmer, "as the Templar passed down the hall I heard him say to his attendants in the Saracen language, which I understand, "Seize upon the Jew at a convenient distance from this mansion and conduct him to the castle of Philip de Malvoisin or Front-de-Boeuf.'"

The poor old Jew fell at the Pilgrim's feet as one stricken with grief and fear.

"Stand up and hearken to me, Isaac," said the Pilgrim. "You have cause for terror considering how your brethren have been ill-treated in order to extract from them their hoards of gold, but stand up, and I will show you how to escape. Depart instantly, and I will guide you by the secret path of the priest, and not leave you till you are under the protection of some good noble going to the tournament."

"Good youth," cried the old man. "I will go with you."

"Follow me, then," said the Pilgrim. "I must find a way to leave this house."

He led the way to the adjoining cell, occupied by Gurth the swineherd.

"Arise, Gurth," said the Pilgrim. "Undo the gate and let out the Jew and me."

Gurth, whose occupation in those days was not looked upon as so mean as now, was somewhat offended at the commanding tone of the Pilgrim, and did not attempt to rise from his pallet.

"We suffer no visitors to depart by stealth at this early hour," he said.

"Nevertheless," replied the Pilgrim in a commanding tone, "you will not refuse me that favour," saying which he bent down and whispered something in his ear in Saxon.

At this Gurth hastily jumped to obey him, and led them out through the postern gate. Here Gurth left them to fetch the Jew's mule, and shortly returned, bringing another also for the Pilgrim to ride. Then mounting, the Pilgrim gave his hand to Gurth, who kissed it. As the travelers rode off he stood gazing after them till they were lost under the boughs of the forest path.

As they proceeded on their way, the Jew was seized with fear lest he should be betrayed by his companion into an ambuscade. At this time the Jews were never sure of their lives, and often had to buy them off with their immense riches. It is told of King John that he confined a rich Jew in one of his castles and caused one of his teeth to be torn out each day until, when most of his teeth were gone, the unhappy Jew consented to pay the tyrant a large ransom.

When the travelers had gone on some time a very rapid rate, they came to a large, decayed oak.

"That tree marks the boundary of Front-de-Boeuf's land," said the Pilgrim, "and our roads separate here.

The Jew, however, begged the pilgrim not to leave him, and so he consented to travel as far as Sheffield, where the Jew would meet men of his tribe with whom to take refuge.

"The blessing of Jacob be on you, good youth!" he said. "I will reward thee with a horse and armour to fight at the tournament."

The Pilgrim started, and faced his companion.

"What fiend prompted that guess?" he said hastily.

"No matter," said the Jew, smiling; "it is true, and I can supply thy wants. I saw a knight's chain and spurs of gold beneath your Pilgrim's cloak as you stooped over my bed this morning."

The Palmer smiled on hearing this.

"Dost thou not know, Isaac, that the loser at the tournament forfeits his horse and armour, and so might I forfeit your horse should I be beaten."

The Jew looked somewhat astounded at this possibility. "No, no, it is impossible. I will not think so," he said, taking courage. "Thy lance will be too powerful. Take this piece of paper on which I have written to the rich Jew, Kirjath, at Leicester. He has goodly horses and armour fit for kings, and will furnish you for the tournament."

"I thank thee, Jew," said the Palmer, taking the paper. "I will accept thy kind offer, and it will go hard with me but I will requite it."

Then they parted, each taking different roads into the town of Sheffield.