Chapter 2 Summary
Wamba's dawdling slows the progress of the herd, and they are overtaken on the road by the riders they first heard in the forest. There are ten men on horseback, eight of whom seem to be the servants of the leading pair. One is a high-ranking Cistercian monk whose robes somewhat follow the design of a monkish habit but are made of expensive fabrics and luxuriously trimmed. He rides a mule but has an Andalusian horse, a baggage mule, and several servants accompanying him. He is described as well fed, good humored, and able to put a suitable expression on his face as the situation demands.
His fellow traveler is a Templar, permanently sun burnt, scarred in one eye, and wearing a monastic cloak over chain mail. He is followed by his war horse and squires, who carry his weapons, and two exotic slaves acquired in the East.
Gurth recognizes the monk as the Prior of Jorveaulx, who has a reputation inconsistent with the policies of the Cistercian order. Prior Aymer is popular with nobles and common people because of his generosity in both absolving sins and dispensing charity. Nevertheless, he is Norman, and when he asks Gurth and Wamba where he and his companions might find a lord to put them up for the night, they don't immediately answer.
Prior Aymer asks again, in English rather than Norman French, where two humble servants of the church can find hospitality. The irony of the prior's self-description is not lost on Wamba, and the jester suggests that they go to a nearby hermitage. Aymer, however, is looking for more comfortable lodgings and asks for directions to Cedric's hall.
Gurth angers the Templar with his reluctance to tell them the way, but Prior Aymer intervenes when the exchange turns violent and presses Wamba for directions. The jester finally describes for them the road and and an upcoming signpost and which way to turn. Following his directions will take them to a priory some miles away rather than to Cedric's, but Wamba hopes that he and Gurth will be safely home before the trick is discovered.
As they ride, Aymer and the Templar argue about the proper treatment of Saxons. Fresh from the Crusades, the Templar is for meeting all resistance with violence; the Prior points out that they would never have gotten directions, let alone hospitality, by thrashing Cedric's thralls.
Aymer describes Cedric as proud and fierce and capable of contending with his neighbors, Malvoisin and Front-de-Beouf. He also makes a bet that the Templar himself will agree that Cedric's ward Rowena is the greatest beauty he has seen in a year.
At the signpost they cannot recall which way the jester said to turn. They appeal to a pilgrim, called a Palmer, also fresh from the Crusades, to show them the way. They arrive at Cedric's mansion just as the rain begins to fall.