Chapter 25 Summary
Sir Brian meets De Bracy in the hall, and they compare their amorous failures. Their intended victims are not cooperating, the Saxon defending herself with floods of tears and the Jew with resolution and pride. The horn is still blowing, but they await Front-de-Boeuf, who they know is negotiating ransom with Isaac. When Front-de-Beouf at last arrives, he brings a note from the besiegers. He thinks the writing is Saxon, but neither he nor De Bracy are literate.
Sir Brian reads the note but is not sure whether it is a joke. He reads the note aloud. It begins, "I, Wamba, the son of Witless," and goes on to include as its coauthor Gurth the swineherd. It declares that these two, allied with the Black Knight and the yeoman Locksley, demand the release of Cedric's party. The penalty for refusal is war, siege, or whatever else is required to obtain their release. The note was written by the Clerk of Copmanhurst in a language that is both comic and courtly. De Bracy and the Templar find it hilarious, but Front-de-Beouf warns that the outlaws are too numerous to take lightly. There are at least two hundred of them outside the castle.
Sir Brian and De Bracy tease Front-de-Beouf for being afraid of a jester and a swineherd, and they argue for sallying out and dispersing the besiegers. Front-de-Beouf argues that their enemies are not defenseless peasants, like they are used to meeting on their campaigns, but are good old English armed yeomen against whom they have no real advantage. Their own forces are at York, where they would also be, Front-de-Beouf reminds De Bracy, if it weren't for his "mad business." Sir Brian writes a return message to the besiegers in which he reprimands the Black Knight for so degrading himself and then requests that a priest be provided to hear the confessions of the prisoners. They will be executed in the morning in retribution for their attempted rescue.
Wamba, Gurth, Locksley, and the Black Knight await the castle's reply, while increasing numbers of both yeoman outlaws and Saxons belonging to Cedric's estates arrive to bolster the ranks of the besiegers. Sir Brian's note is written in French, and the Clerk of Copmanhurst cannot read it. It is passed from hand to hand until it finally reaches the Black Knight, who relates its contents. Gurth and Wamba are alarmed at the threat to execute Cedric, but Locksley declares that the nobles wouldn't dare. The Black Knight suggests that they send the hermit into the castle as the requested priest in order to spy out the situation, but the monk refuses because he is presently an outlaw and better at killing than confessing. Wamba, who trained a little to be a priest before becoming a jester, volunteers to go in disguise.