Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581
Athelstane, Cedric, and Rowena are accompanied by ten servants, plus Wamba and Gurth. Aside from being a fairly large party, they are Saxons, as are the outlaws that haunt the forest. The Saxon nobles are not overly concerned by Saxon yeomen, reduced to a life of crime by Norman oppression. Isaac and Rebecca, however, cannot rely on the sympathy of the outlaws for their security, and the escort they hired in Ashby abandons them—and takes the horses with them. As the Saxon party overtakes them on the road, Isaac and Rebecca are encumbered by a stretcher on which a wounded man lies. A large band of outlaws is rumored to be nearby. Athelstane is for leaving them to the robbers, but Cedric suggests lending them a couple of attendants and a horse to get them back to the last village.
Rebecca rises from where she has been sitting with the wounded man and goes to Rowena. She begs for them to be allowed to join the Saxon company, not for her sake or her father's sake but for the wounded man's sake. She does not name him, but she tactfully indicates to Rowena that she would regret not helping the wounded knight. Rowena, who is used to having her wishes followed, orders mules to be harnessed to the litter and horses provided for Isaac and his daughter. Athelstane proposes that the Jews should ride in the rear with Wamba so that he can entertain them with his meat shield. Wamba replies that he has left his shield on the field (as had happened to Athelstane, the reminder of which galls him). Rowena asks Rebecca to ride with her, but Rebecca declines stating that she does not wish to be in the position of disgracing Rowena by her presence.
The servants are nervous about the rumored outlaws and hurry to rearrange the baggage. Gurth slips his rope without much trouble and escapes unnoticed into the forest. By the time his absence is discovered, going back to find him is too difficult, and the party continues on its way. At a narrow place, De Bracy's pseudo outlaws ambush the party. Cedric nails one with his last javelin but is afterward pulled off his horse. Athelstane, as usual, is unready and easily taken. The only member of the cavalcade not captured is Wamba, who snatches a sword from a servant and tries to cut his way to Cedric. Seeing that his attempt is futile, he jumps from his horse and escapes into the forest. At a loss what to do next, Wamba is jumped on by Fangs, who is now happily reunited with Gurth. Wamba describes what has happened, and Gurth proposes that they take Wamba's sword and attack the attackers. With the element of surprise, he believes the two of them can take the whole band.
Before they can act, they are stopped by the sudden appearance of Locksley. The yeoman archer, to all appearances just another outlaw, hears their story and goes to mingle with the band of thieves to discover whether they are his own men. Returning, he assures them that the robbers will not harm the captives but that the three of them cannot possibly overwhelm such a large armed band, for they are not yeomen but men of war. Gurth recognizes the captain of thieves by his voice and advises Wamba to try not to offend Locksley, although he believes with the outlaw's help, all will be well.
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