Chapter 56 Summary
Face to face with John Aycliffe, Crispin has the urge to fall into his old submissive posture. However, he remembers how Aycliffe tormented his mother and murdered Father Quinel. This makes Crispin angry, and anger helps him meet Aycliffe’s eyes. Boldly, Crispin says, “If you’re intending to call the guards…tell them Lord Furnival’s son has come.”
Aycliffe pretends not to believe that Crispin is really Aycliffe’s son. Crispin says he has proof, and he shows Aycliffe the lead cross with the writing on it. Aycliffe hesitates, then argues that anyone could have written this. Crispin does not back down. He points out that few people know how to read and write, that several people believe him to be Lord Furnival's son, and that he looks very much like the portrait haning in this chapel.
By now, Aycliffe is obviously frightened. He demands that Crispin hand over the cross at once. But Crispin is no longer the timid, cowering boy he once was, and his knowledge about himself gives him power. Aycliffe moves to hit Crispin, but the boy blocks the blow. “It’s you who fear me. You fear I’ll become your lord,” he says. He also accuses Aycliffe of killing Father Quinel.
Aycliffe stops denying that Furnival is Crispin’s father, but he claims that Asta was “nothing but a servant.” He says that she did not deserve to take a high place in society. Then he adds that “God Himself” is behind the orders that declare someone a wolf’s head. Such a powerful decree cannot be overturned. No matter what Crispin knows, his status as wolf’s head is unchanged, and the palace guards can kill him. Aycliffe moves to call the soldiers—but Crispin attacks and manages to knock Aycliffe down.
Holding Aycliffe at knifepoint, Crispin demands that Bear be released immediately. He says that he does not want money or power, only his friend. After a moment’s consideration, Aycliffe asks Crispin to make a solemn oath to leave Great Wexly, hand over the lead cross, and renounce his claim. Crispin agrees but says that Aycliffe must first swear to deliver both Bear and Crispin out of the city.
Because he has no choice, John Aycliffe slowly makes the vow that Crispin demands. When it is finished, Crispin makes his own oath far more readily. Then he demands to be taken to Bear. Aycliffe glares, obviously unhappy at this turn of events, but he leads the way.