Chapter 23 Summary
Rowena has been placed in the room of Front-de-Beouf's dead wife. Its magnificence is decayed, but the castle has no better room to put her in. De Bracy has changed into his most fashionable clothes and hopes to overcome the bad impression the abduction may have made on her by pleading the violence of his passion for her. Rowena isn't buying it. He tries to court her in the language of chivalry, but she is scathing in her refusals, calling him a churl and a clown. De Bracy admits the wisdom of her words but warns her that she will never leave Torquilstone except as his wife.
De Bracy lists for her the advantages such a marriage would have for her: status, honor, and a nice house instead of the pig farm of Cedric. Rowena says she will never leave her childhood home unless on the arm of someone else. De Bracy understands her meaning and assures her that Richard will never assume the throne of England again and that Wilfrid will never be allowed to marry her. If De Bracy were to tell Front-de-Beouf that Wilfrid is in the castle, all would be over for him. Rowena denies knowing that Wilfrid is the wounded knight in the company of Isaac and is confused why Front-de-Beouf would want anything but ransom from him anyway. De Bracy tells her that women are not the only cause of rivalry among men and that these two are rivals for the barony of Ivanhoe. Front-de-Beouf would not hesitate to put Wilfrid out of the way, but De Bracy promises to protect Wilfrid if Rowena will agree to marry him. Rowena cannot believe the terms of his blackmail, but De Bracy assures her that her love is the price for Wilfrid's life—and Cedric's.
Raised almost as a queen, Rowena is astonished to find that her will is of no consequence and that she is helpless in her captivity. She collapses, weeping and distraught. De Bracy is embarrassed but unwilling to soften his demand or his terms. Wishing himself harder hearted, De Bracy is relieved by the commotion caused by the horn blowing outside the castle.
The narrator, ready to counter the objections of readers who might believe their Norman ancestors incapable of torture and rape, inserts historical testimony to support the plausibility of his story. Torture, he argues, was well documented. Rape was a natural outcome of the Norman conquest. Primarily, he relates the necessity of Matilda's temporarily becoming a nun (at the time, she was not yet the queen). Saxon women of the period, according to the priests who confirmed Matilda's plight before a council of clergy, frequently sought shelter in convents to avoid ravishment by lecherous Normans.