The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. — Tacitus

Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay




At Castle Conigsburgh

Later, the King, attended by Ivanhoe, Gurth and Wamba, arrived without further interruption at the castle of Coningsburgh.

When Richard Coeur-de-Lion and his small band approached the castle, a black flag was flying from the top of the tower, and numerous parties of mourners were approaching up the sides of the hill to the gate. As Richard and his followers entered the castle yard, a steward, struck by the good bearing of Richard and Ivanhoe, advanced to meet them, and soon conducted them to the entrance of the tower. As they entered the large round room, Wilfred took opportunity to muffle up his face in his mantle, so that his father should not recognise him until the King should give the signal.

Assembled in the apartment, round an oak table, were about a dozen of the most distinguished representatives of the neighbouring Saxon families. They were mostly elderly men, for the younger men had, like Ivanhoe, broken down the barriers which had so long separated the Norman conquerors and the Saxons, to the great displeasure of their seniors.

Cedric, seated amongst these men, seemed to be acknowledged now as their chief. Upon the entrance of Richard—known to him as the Black Knight—he rose gravely and welcomed him, raising a goblet at the same time. Richard, no stranger to the Saxon customs, returned the greeting with appropriate words, at the same time raising a cup which was handed to him.

After this, Cedric conducted Richard and Ivanhoe into the next apartment, where the body of Athelstane lay guarded by pious monks from the convent of St. Edmund's. After muttering a brief prayer here beside the bier, Cedric led them to a small room destined, as he informed them, for the exclusive accommodation of honourable guests. He assured them of every attention and was about to withdraw when the Black Knight took his hand.

"I crave to remind you, noble Thane, that when we last parted you promised to grant me a boon."

"It is granted ere named, noble knight," said Cedric.

"Know me, then," said the Black Knight, "as Richard Plantagenet."

"Richard of Anjou!" exclaimed Cedric, stepping back with the utmost astonishment.

"No, noble Cedric—Richard of England!—whose deepest wish is to see her sons united with each other. And now, worthy Thane, hast thou no knee for thy Prince?"

"To Norman blood it hath never bended," said Cedric.

"Reserve thy homage, then," said the monarch, "until I shall prove my right to it by my equal protection of Normans and English."

"Prince," answered Cedric, "I have ever done justice to thy bravery, nor am I ignorant of thy claim to the crown through thy descent from Matilda; but Matilda, though of royal Saxon blood, was not the heir to the monarchy."

"I will not dispute my title with thee, noble Thane," said Richard calmly. "And now to my boon. I require thee, on thy word, to forgive and receive to thy paternal affection the good knight, Wilfred of Ivanhoe. In this I have interest, wishing to see my friend happy and dissensions disappear amongst my people."

"And this is Wilfred!" said Cedric, pointing to his son.

"My father!—my father!" said Wilfred, prostrating himself at Cedric's feet; "grant me thy forgiveness!"

"Thou hast it, my son," said Cedric, raising him up. "The son of Hereward knows how to keep his word. Thou art about to speak," he said sternly, "and I guess the topic. The Lady Rowena must complete two years in mourning ere she weds. Were we to treat of a new union now, the ghost of Athelstane would rise."

It seemed as if Cedric's words had raised a specter, for as he uttered them, a door flew open, and Athelstane entered. The effect of this apparition on the persons present was utterly appalling.

"In the name of God!" said Cedric, recovering himself, "if thou art mortal, speak!"

"I will," said the specter composedly, "when I have gained breath. I am alive."

"Why, noble Athelstane," said the Black Knight, "I myself saw thee struck down by the fierce Templar."

"You thought amiss, Sir Knight," said Athelstane. "No, the Templar's sword turned in his hand as he struck the blow, so that I was able to ward it off with my mace, though it still hit my head heavily and I fell, stunned, indeed, but unwounded, so that I never recovered my senses until I found myself in my coffin; an open one, by good luck."

"And now," said Cedric, "tell this Norman prince, Richard of Anjou, that lion-hearted as he is, he shall not hold the throne while a descendant of Edward the Confessor lives."

"How!" said Athelstane; "is this King Richard?"

"It is Richard Plantagenet himself," said Cedric; "yet I need hardly remind thee that coming here a guest he cannot be detained prisoner. Thou knowest thy duty as host."

"Ay, by my faith!" said Athelstane; "and I know my duty as a subject, for I tender him my allegiance. I have had enough of plots, for since they were first hatched I have had nothing but journeys, indigestions and blows, and they can only end in the murder of some thousands of folk. I tell you I will be king nowhere but in my own castle."

"And my fair ward Rowena, then," said Cedric—"I trust you intend not to desert her?"

"Father Cedric," said Athelstane, "be reasonable. The Lady Rowena cares not for me. She loves my kinsman and your son Wilfred. Here, Wilfred," he called as he turned round; but Ivanhoe was nowhere to be seen. It was at length discovered that a Jew had been to seek him and that he had been seen hurrying away from the castle with Gurth.

"Well," said Athelstane, "I turn to you, noble King Richard, to take vows of allegiance as a liege subject—"

But King Richard was gone also, and it was found that, shortly after Ivanhoe had left, he had secured the Jew, and, after a moment's speech, compelled him to mount a horse and set off at a speed which Wamba said would be the death of the Jew.