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Ivanhoe Told to the Children - Ethel Lindsay




The Disinherited Knight

The pause in the tournament was still uninterrupted, except by the voices of the heralds. Prince John began to talk to his attendants about making ready the banquet, and the necessity of awarding the prize to Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the Templar. At length there was the sound of a solitary trumpet at the northern entrance to the lists. All eyes were turned to see the new champion which these sounds announced, and as they looked they saw a single warrior ride into the lists. As far as they could judge he was a warrior who did not greatly exceed the middle size, and seemed rather slender than strongly made. He was mounted upon a gallant black horse and was clothed in steel armour, richly inlaid with gold, and the device on his shield was a young oak tree pulled up by the roots, with a Spanish word meaning Disinherited. To the wonder of all, this knight with much youthful grace and skill rode up to the tent of Bois-Guilbert and struck that challenger's shield until it rang. All stood astonished, but none more than the Templar himself, who had now been defied to mortal combat.

"Take your place in the lists," said Bois-Guilbert, "and look your last upon the sun, for this night thou shalt sleep in Paradise."

"Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight "and to requite it, I advise you to take a fresh horse and lance, for you will need both."

The Templar, however much resenting the advice, took the precaution to provide himself with a fresh horse and lance, and so rode into the lists where the stranger knight was waiting.

The people waited breathlessly until the signal for combat was given; then the champions rushed at each other with the shock of a thunderbolt. As they met, their lances shivered, and it seemed at the moment each knight had fallen, for the shock had made their horses fall back on their haunches. Receiving fresh lances, the knights dashed together again and fought till the girths of the Templar's saddle burst and he and his horse rolled on the ground. Stung with madness the Templar sprang to his feet, when the Disinherited Knight dismounted to meet his adversary on foot. At this the marshals of the tournament spurred their horses between them and reminded them that the laws of the tournament did not permit them to engage in this species of encounter.

"We shall meet again," cried the Templar, angrily looking at his victor, "and where there will be none to part us."

"I am ever ready to encounter thee," said the Disinherited Knight.

Then the Templar returned to his tent in rage and despair.

After this the conqueror desired his herald to announce that he was willing to meet the other four challengers in whatever order they might choose to come. At this the gigantic Front-de-Boeuf entered the lists, but over this champion the Disinherited Knight obtained a slight but decisive advantage. In the third encounter with Sir Philip Malvoisin he was equally successful. The last two knights he defeated in turn, throwing the last to the ground with such violence that blood gushed from his nose and mouth and he was borne senseless from the lists. The acclamations of thousands applauded the unanimous award of the Prince and his marshals, announcing that day's honours to the Disinherited Knight.

And now the marshals came forward to congratulate the victor, praying him to unlace his helmet that they might conduct him to receive the day's prize at the hands of the Prince. The Disinherited Knight with all courtesy declined to do this, alleging that he could not at this time suffer his face to be seen.

Prince John's curiosity was excited by the mystery of this unknown and valiant knight, and turning to some of his train, he asked them if they knew who the victor could be.

"I cannot guess," answered one, "nor did I think there could be a champion who could bear down those five challengers."

As Prince John and his followers were hazarding guesses as to who the knight might be, a whisper arose among the train that it might be King Richard himself.

"The gods forbid!" muttered John, turning pale as death. "Brave knights and gentlemen," he said, turning to his followers, "remember your promises, and stand truly by me."

"Here is no danger," said one, named Waldemar. "The king is far taller and broader than yonder knight. Look at him more closely, your Highness, and you will see."

As the marshals brought the victor forward and he stood at the foot of the throne, the Prince, still shaken with fear, congratulated him upon his valour, and delivered over to him the beautiful war-horse.

The Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply, but only acknowledged it with a low obeisance.

The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed, the animal accoutered with war furniture. Mounting, the victor rode twice round the lists, and was again applauded loudly by all present. Then the Prior of Jorvaulx reminded Prince John in a whisper that the knight must choose the lady he wished to fill the throne as Queen of Beauty. The Prince accordingly made a sign with his truncheon as the knight passed him. The knight turned to the throne, and the Prince then said:

"Sir Knight, it is now your privilege to name the fair lady who, as Queen of Honour and Love, is to preside over next day's festival."

He then placed upon the point of the knight's lance a coronet of green satin with a circlet of gold round it, which was to be the crown of the chosen Queen. The Disinherited Knight then rode past the galleries slowly, examining the many fair faces till he came to that in which the Lady Rowena sat. On this, Cedric the Saxon, who was overjoyed at the discomfiture of the Normans, and especially his neighbours Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, was watching the victor with his whole heart and soul. Even the unmoved Athelstane showed some excitement and quaffed a huge goblet of wine to the victor's health.

Amongst another group stationed under the gallery was Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca. As the Disinherited Knight rode his courses, the Jew had shown great anxiety for his horse and the armour he rode, fearing it should be hurt in the fray.

"Ah, the good horse that was brought from so far," he exclaimed; "he takes no more care of him than if he were a wild ass's colt, and the armour he wears he cares for as little as if he had found it on the highway."

"If he risks his own life, father," said Rebecca, "he can scarce be expected to spare his horse and armour."

"Child!" said Isaac excitedly, "thou knowest not what thou speakest. Nevertheless, he is a good youth. See, he is about to do battle again. Pray for him, Rebecca, and his steed and his rich armour."

And now the fight was over, and the knight, riding round to choose the Queen of Beauty, drew up before this gallery occupied by the Saxon and Jew. The knight paused for fully a minute, while all round the lists watched his movements intently. At last, gradually and gracefully, he dropped the point of his lance and deposited the coronet which it supported at the feet of the Lady Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena Queen of Beauty and of Love. Prince John then spurred his horse forward to the gallery where sat the Lady Rowena. He was angry that one of the Norman ladies had not been chosen.

"Assume, fair lady," he said as he rode up, "your coronet, and if it please you to-day, with your noble sire and friends, to grace our banquet at the Castle of Ashby, we shall learn to know the empress of to-morrow."

Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her.

"The Lady Rowena possesses not the language in which to reply to your courtesy. I also and the noble Athel-stane speak only the language of our fathers. We therefore decline your Highness's courteous invitation."

So saying, he lifted the coronet and placed it on Rowena's head.

"What says he?" said Prince John, pretending not to understand the Saxon's reply. "It is well," said he when this was repeated in French. "You, at least, Sir Knight, will this day share our banquet?"

The Knight, speaking for the first time in a low and hurried voice, excused himself by pleading fatigue.

"It is well," said Prince John, "although we are unused to such refusals. We will endeavour to digest our banquet without the day's victor or the Queen of Beauty."

So saying, he rode out of the lists with his glittering train. This was the signal for the breaking up of the spectators.

The Disinherited Knight had no sooner reached his tent than squires and pages in abundance offered their services to attend him and take off his armour. He refused all assistance, however, save that of his own squire or yeoman, who, wrapped in a long cloak, seemed just as anxious as his master not to be recognised.

The Knight had scarcely finished a hasty meal ere his man announced to him that five men, each leading a horse with armour on its back, desired to speak to him. The knight had now changed his armour and wore a long robe with a hood. This almost concealed his face when drawn forward, but as it was nearly dark it was impossible to distinguish his features even without this precaution. He therefore stepped boldly forth and found the squires of the five challengers, each of whom led his master's charger, loaded with the armour in which he had fought that day.

"According to the laws of chivalry," said the foremost of these men, "I, squire to the redoubted Knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert, make offer to you of my master's horse and armour."

The other squires repeated the same formula, and all awaited the decision of the Disinherited Knight.

"To you all, sirs," replied the Knight, "I have one common reply. Tell your master that I should do ill to deprive them of steeds and arms which can never be used by braver men; but as I am, in truth, the Disinherited, I must ask your masters that they will, of their courtesy, ransom their steeds and arms, since that which I wear I can hardly call my own."

"We stand commissioned, each of us," answered a squire, "to offer a hundred pieces in ransom of these horses and armour."

"It is enough," said the Knight; "half the sum is sufficient for my present necessities; the other half distribute amongst yourselves and the heralds and minstrels."

The squires, with cap in hand and low bows, expressed their deep sense of the Knight's generosity. The Knight then turned to the squire of Bois-Guilbert.

"From your master," said he, "I will accept neither arms nor ransom. Say to him in my name that our strife is not ended till we have fought with swords as with lances. To this mortal combat he has defied me and I shall not forget his challenge."

"My master," answered the squire, whose name was Baldwin, "knows how to requite scorn with scorn, blow with blow. He would never mount this horse again since you would not accept a ransom from him, so I must leave him here."

"You have spoken well, good squire," said the Knight. "Leave not, however, the horse and armour here. If your master refuses to have them back, keep them, good friend, for your own use."

Baldwin made a low bow and retired with his companions; and the Knight entered his tent.

"Thus far, Gurth," he said, turning to his attendant, "the reputation of English chivalry hath not suffered in my hands."

"And I," said Gurth, "for a swineherd have not ill played the part of a Squire-at-arms. If I am discovered—"

"Enough," said the Knight; "thou knowest my promise. Trust me, I will requite thee for the risk thou runnest for love of me. Meanwhile, I pray you to accept these ten golden pieces. And now," continued his master, "take this bag of gold to Ashby and find out Isaac the Jew of York, and let him pay himself for the horse and arms which he procured from me."

"I will do so," said Gurth, and taking the bag under his cloak, he left the apartment.