Chapter 4 Summary
Prior Aymer and Sir Brian have changed out of their riding clothes and into more sumptuous attire. The Palmer's simple, ragged clothes contrast sharply with the other guests, and he enters almost unnoticed. Seeing that the servants' table is overcrowded, the Palmer stands by the chimney, drying himself while Cedric welcomes the others in Saxon English.
Aymer chides Cedric for his stubborn (and provocative) adherence to old ways but is conciliatory, appreciating the opportunity of Cedric's famous hospitality. Sir Brian declares that he speaks only the king's language—French, although he understands English well enough.
Cedric's irritation soon finds a target with the late arrival of Gurth and Wamba. The jester argues that the fault lies with Gurth's dog Fang, who failed to round up the herd in a timely way. When Cedric tells Gurth to get a new dog, Wamba argues that the fault is not Fang's but Malvoisin's for employing the man who lamed the dog. Cedric's anger is thus safely redirected onto a familiar source of annoyance, his noble Norman neighbor, whom he detests.
Rowena is announced just as the feast is served, and Sir Brian concedes his wager with Aymer. Perceiving Sir Brian's fascination, Rowena veils herself, and Cedric reprimands his guest for staring. Sir Brian apologizes, as humbly as his pride will allow him.
Aymer intervenes with some diplomatic flattery and invites Cedric and Rowena to travel with them to the impending tournament as Ashby. He expects that they will also attend this huge annual event. Cedric declines their company, boasting that he is still powerful enough to travel without such an escort.
Rowena deflects Sir Brian's increasingly drunken compliments by asking for news from Palestine, to which he replies that he has nothing important to report except a truce with Saladin.
From his place in the jester's chair among Cedric's many dogs, Wamba remarks that these truces are always supposed to last fifty years, which would make him more than one hundred and fifty years old if he counted all the truces he has seen in his lifetime. Sir Brian predicts that the jester will certainly never enjoy an old age if he goes around giving mischievous directions to travelers, as he had earlier that night. Cedric scolds Wamba for his discourtesy in misdirecting the guests, but Wamba pleads a simple case of confusion between left and right.
The porter interrupts with the announcement of yet another guest. Cedric orders the porter to admit the stranger, whomever he is, for the extraordinary violence of the storm "compels even wild animals to herd with tame."