Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. — Pericles

Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay




The Second Day of the Tournament

The next morning the sun rose in unclouded splendour, and soon there were crowds of eager spectators moving towards the lists in order to secure favourable positions for the day's sports. Soon the heralds and marshals appeared to arrange the battle in which all the knights were to take part. The leader of one side was to be the knight who had won the tournament of the previous day, and according to custom, the second best, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, was to captain the other side.

About ten o'clock, when the borders of the lists were crowded with spectators, Cedric the Saxon, with the Lady Rowena, arrived. Athelstane was clothing himself in armour, and to the surprise of Cedric, was preparing to take the field on the side of the Templar. The reason for this was that the indolent and obstinate Saxon considered that the Lady Rowena was destined to be his wife, and he was jealous when the Dis-inherited Knight selected her for the honour of Queen of Beauty. He therefore hoped, by choosing the side of the Templar, to single him out during the fray and defeat him. All Prince John's followers had attached themselves to the side of the Templar, Prince John hoping that side would be victorious; but numbers of others chose the side of the brave unknown knight. As soon as Prince John observed the destined Queen of the day had arrived on the field, he rode up to her, doffed his bonnet, and alighting from his horse, assisted her to alight from her saddle.

"It is thus," said the Prince, "that we set the example of loyalty to the Queen of Beauty and ourselves guide her to her throne."

So saying, Prince John escorted the Lady Rowena to the seat of honour opposite his own, while the spectators shouted their greetings to her. The heralds then proclaimed silence while the laws of the tournament were rehearsed.

After this had been done, the knights of each party entered at opposite ends of the lists and arranged themselves in double file precisely opposite to each other. As soon as the leader of each party had arranged himself in the center of the foremost rank, one of the marshals of the tournament gave the signal to commence. At this spurs were dashed into horses' flanks, and both the front ranks dashed at each other at full gallop.

The consequences of the encounter were not instantly seen, for the dust raised by the trampling of so many steeds darkened the air, but it was soon seen that half the knights on either side were dismounted. Some lay stretched upon the earth as though they would never rise again, while others were already on their feet and fighting hand to hand. Those who were still mounted continued the fight with their swords.

Amid the varied fortunes of the combat, the eyes of all the spectators endeavoured to discover the leaders of each band. Both displayed great courage. They repeatedly tried to single out each other. Such, however, was the crowd and confusion that during the earlier part of the fight their efforts to meet were unavailing. At length, however, the Templar and Disinherited Knight met hand to hand with all the fury of mortal animosity and rivalry. But at this moment, the party of the Disinherited Knight had the worst; the gigantic forms of Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane bearing down to the assistance of the Templar.

At this unequal assault the spectators shouted warning to the Disinherited Knight, and hearing their cries he struck a full blow at the Templar, then reined back his steed to avoid the charge of Athelstane and Front-de-Boeuf. The masterly horsemanship of the Disinherited Knight enabled him for a minute to keep his three opponents at bay. So wonderfully did he do this with his sword that the lists rang with applause, but it was evident that he must soon be overpowered, and the nobles round Prince John begged him to stop the fight and so save so brave a knight.

"Not I, by Heaven!" said John; "this same man who conceals his name and refuses my hospitality hath gained one prize and may now let others have a turn."

Almost as he spoke, however, the fortunes of the day changed.

There was among the ranks of the Disinherited Knight a champion in black armour, mounted on a black horse, large and powerful as the rider by whom he was mounted. This knight, who bore no device upon his shield, had hitherto evinced very little interest in the fight, beating off with ease any who sought him out for combat in the melee. In short, he had hitherto acted the part rather of a spectator, and some of the spectators had even nicknamed him the Black Sluggard. Now seeing the leader of his party so hard pressed, he suddenly set spurs to his horse, which was quite fresh, and crying in a loud voice, "To the rescue!" dashed forward.

He met Front-de-Boeuf, and aiming a terrific blow with his sword at his head, both rider and horse rolled on the ground. He then turned his horse upon Athelstane of Coningsburgh; and his own sword having been broken when it crashed down on Front-de-Boeuf, he wrenched the battle-axe from the heavy Saxon's hand and struck him such a blow that Athelstane rolled from his horse and lay senseless on the ground. Having achieved this double feat, so totally unexpected, he seemed to resume his sluggish character, leaving the Disinherited Knight to fight the Templar alone. This was no longer a matter of much difficulty, for the Templar's horse had bled much, and gave way under the shock of the Disinherited Knight's charge. Brian de Bois-Guilbert rolled upon the field. His antagonist sprang to the ground, and waving his sword, commanded him to yield, when Prince John, moved by the Templar's dangerous situation, put an end to the conflict, thus saving the Templar from having to confess himself beaten.

The squires now thronged into the lists to attend the wounded, who were removed to the neighbouring tents with the utmost care. Thus ended the memorable tournament of Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

It being now the duty of Prince John to name the knight who had done best, he determined that the honour of the day remained with the Black Knight. It was pointed out to the Prince that the victory had, in fact, been won by the leader, the Disinherited Knight, who in the course of the day had overcome six champions and had finally defeated the leader of the opposite party, but Prince John adhered to his own opinion. To the surprise of all, however, the Black Knight was nowhere to be found, and had in fact been seen to ride slowly away into the forest. After he had been summoned twice by sound of trumpet, it became necessary to name another, and John had no choice but to name the Disinherited Knight champion of the day.

"Disinherited Knight," said John, "we a second time award to you the honours of the tournament and announce to you your right to claim and receive from the hands of the Queen of Beauty the Chaplet of Honour which your valour has justly deserved." The Knight bowed low and gracefully, but returned no answer.

While the trumpets sounded and while ladies waved their silken handkerchiefs, the marshals conducted the victor across the lists to the foot of the throne of honour, which was occupied by the Lady Rowena. On the lower step of this throne the champion was made to kneel down, and it was observed that he tottered as they guided him a second time across the lists. Rowena, descending from her station with dignified step, was about to place the chaplet which she held in her hand upon the helmet of the champion, when the marshals exclaimed with one voice, "It must not be thus—his head must be bare." The Knight muttered faintly a few words.

Whether from love of form, or curiosity, the marshals paid no heed to his words or expressions of reluctance, but cut the laces of his helmet. When this was removed, the well-formed, sunburnt features of a young man of twenty-five we seen. He had short fair hair and his pale face was seen to be streaked with blood.

Rowena had no sooner beheld him than she uttered a faint shriek; but summoning up her energy and self control, she placed the splendid chaplet upon the drooping head of the victor and said in a clear voice: "I bestow on thee this chaplet, Sir Knight, as the meed of valour assigned to this day's victor."

The Knight stooped his head and kissed the hand of the lovely Queen of Beauty, and then, sinking yet farther forward, lay prostrate at her feet.