Chapter 37 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 742

On the dais of the hall sits the grand master, and behind him are arranged the knights and squires of Templestowe. Sir Brian anxiously carves lines in the floor with the point of his sword; Beaumanoir interprets the scratches as cabalistic symbols. Rebecca stands before the grand master, and filling the rest of the hall are interested spectators.

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The proceedings begin with the grand master's ominous declaration that if Sir Brian is guilty of bringing a woman—a Jewish woman—into the preceptory for the purpose of trying to kiss her, he will be "cut off and cast out" for his "heinous and multiplied guilt." This pronouncement makes the notoriously lecherous members of the order nervous. But, Beaumanoir continues, if the knight couldn't help himself because he was bewitched, then they must first try the witch and afterward see if there is anything left to charge Sir Brian with.

It is easily proved by real witnesses that Sir Brian, in escaping from the conflagration of Torquilstone, protected Rebecca at the risk of his own life. The narratives are grossly exaggerated and cast doubt on Sir Brian's having been in his right mind at the time. Next, Malvoisin contritely testifies to admitting Rebecca—with the best of motives. He notes that Sir Brian was so enamored of Rebecca that he seemed to operate under some "alienation of mind." The preceptor submissively accepts the terms of his penance, although it seems unlikely they will be carried out any more than can be avoided.

Sir Brian is called upon to express his current understanding of his relationship with Rebecca. The knight does not have a talent for dissembling and wordlessly struggles to stifle his scorn and anger. He is declared to be made mute by a demon, which is immediately cast out to no effect. The grand master proceeds, nevertheless, and calls for witnesses from the audience.

A terrified peasant testifies that Rebecca treated him for a sudden disease from which he recovered though retains a limp. He doesn't think she meant any harm in curing him. The grand master derides the peasant as the kind of person the devil would give a disease to just so he could cure it. He asks to see the magic ointment used to cure him and remarks that the scripture on the lid has been used for blasphemy. The two medical men present cannot identify the ointment, and it is judged to be a magical potion. The peasant asks for it back, but the judge admonishes him to prefer being bedridden and says that it is better to "despoil infidels" than to accept benevolence from them. The peasant sarcastically tells the grand master that he will tell his brothers, who are employed by a rabbi, that robbing their master is more lawful than serving him faithfully.

Rebecca is told to remove her veil, which she does only reluctantly and after being threatened with having her veil removed by the guards. Her modesty and beauty affect even the two hardened, paid informers who are called next. The first testifies that she speaks and sings in an unknown language (Hebrew), dresses in a strange eastern fashion, and makes cabalistic writings. The second says that she cured a fatally wounded man at Torquilstone with a magic spell that had him back on the walls with his comrades in fifteen minutes. Not to be beaten, the first witness said he'd seen her fly from the turret window as a swan.

Rowena gives a perfectly reasonable defense, but she notes that if her judge will believe what is obviously impossible, then she can't hope to be acquitted on reasonable grounds. Instead, she appeals to Sir Brian to back up her story.

Sir Brian, torn between his passion for Rebecca and the certainty of his own ruin if he defends her, cannot answer. Finally, he tells her to look at the scrolled note in her hand. Beaumanoir assumes that the scroll contains an enchantment that is preventing Sir Brian from speaking, but the note is from Sir Brian: demand a champion. The medieval law allowed for an accused person to demand that a trial be by combat rather than by a court—innocence would be proved if the accused's champion won. Rebecca follows Sir Brian's advice, declaring that God will provide a champion for her. Then, as a knight would challenge another to mortal combat, she throws her glove at the grand master's feet.

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