Chapter 18 Summary
Cedric's pride restrains him from ordering his own servants to collect Wilfrid's unconscious body from the field, but he orders his cupbearer, Oswald, to look after his son. Wilfrid, however, has disappeared. Seeking the missing knight, Oswald spots Gurth, who is also looking frantically for Wilfrid and has forgotten to hide his face. Gurth is technically a runaway slave, so Oswald collects him and takes him back to Cedric. Cedric is worried about Wilfrid, but that only makes him try to sound even less concerned. He cuts off Rowena's objections and tells her he's going to the banquet. She replies that she will not go, but she cautions him that his pride will make him appear too hard-hearted.
On returning from the banquet, Cedric is in a foul mood. He takes out his anger on Gurth, who is unnecessarily tied up, and orders the homeward departure of his party. The superstitious Saxons receive a bad omen—a black dog howling at the gate—but it turns out to be Fangs, who has run away from Rotherwood and is looking for Gurth. Cedric vents his annoyance by throwing a javelin at the dog, which is grazed and frightened off. Gurth asks Wamba to let Cedric know that he will no longer serve him. Between Cedric's harsh treatment of Wilfrid and his cruelty to Fangs, Gurth has had enough, but Wamba reminds his friend that Cedric has a backup javelin handy for anyone else who irritates him. Besides, Wamba argues, Cedric had obviously tried to shoot past the dog and would have missed if Fangs hadn't jumped up. Gurth remains unforgiving.
Cedric and Athelstane talk of their own Saxon conspiracy, one in which the Saxons unite under a chief and throw off the oppressive Norman monarchy. Both Saxons have adherents of their own, although the primary candidate is Rowena because of her direct descent from Alfred. Athelstane is the exact opposite of Prince John in all but his love of food and drink—he is brave and militarily capable, good-natured, and though a bit dull-witted, wise enough to choose wise counselors and listen to them. In contrast to John's manic ambition, Athelstane's is alive but inert. Cedric's selfless devotion to the Saxon cause is shown in his determination to solidify all factions with the marriage of Athelstane to Rowena. Wilfrid's refusal to break off his own relationship with Rowena to forward Athelstane's suit is the primary cause for Cedric's disowning his son. Cedric had hoped that Rowena would lose interest in Wilfrid once he was out of the picture, but she has not relented, and her dislike of Athelstane has only increased. Now, in addition to Rowena's unwillingness to cooperate and Athelstane's unwillingness to exert himself, Wilfrid has reappeared, gallant and injured, throwing yet another monkey wrench into Cedric's plans.
The travelers stop for lunch and a rest, and by the time they start again for home, it is late. They will be riding through the night to reach home.