A damn'd cramp piece of penmanship as ever I saw in my life! She Stoops to Conquer
When the Templar reached the hall of the castle, he found De Bracy already there. "Your love-suit," said De Bracy, "hath, I suppose, been disturbed, like mine, by this obstreperous summons. But you have come later and more reluctantly, and therefore I presume your interview has proved more agreeable than mine."
"Has your suit, then, been unsuccessfully paid to the Saxon heiress?" said the Templar.
"By the bones of Thomas a Becket," answered De Bracy, "the Lady Rowena must have heard that I cannot endure the sight of women's tears."
"Away!" said the Templar; "thou a leader of a Free Company, and regard a woman's tears! A few drops sprinkled on the torch of love, make the flame blaze the brighter."
"Gramercy for the few drops of thy sprinkling," replied De Bracy; "but this damsel hath wept enough to extinguish a beacon-light. Never was such wringing of hands and such overflowing of eyes, since the days of St Niobe, of whom Prior Aymer told us.*
* I wish the Prior had also informed them when Niobe was * sainted. Probably during that enlightened period when * "Pan to Moses lent his pagan horn." L. T.
A water-fiend hath possessed the fair Saxon."
"A legion of fiends have occupied the bosom of the Jewess," replied the Templar; "for, I think no single one, not even Apollyon himself, could have inspired such indomitable pride and resolution.---But where is Front-de-Boeuf? That horn is sounded more and more clamorously."
"He is negotiating with the Jew, I suppose," replied De Bracy, coolly; "probably the howls of Isaac have drowned the blast of the bugle. Thou mayst know, by experience, Sir Brian, that a Jew parting with his treasures on such terms as our friend Front-de-Boeuf is like to offer, will raise a clamour loud enough to be heard over twenty horns and trumpets to boot. But we will make the vassals call him."
They were soon after joined by Front-de-Boeuf, who had been disturbed in his tyrannic cruelty in the manner with which the reader is acquainted, and had only tarried to give some necessary directions.
"Let us see the cause of this cursed clamour," said Front-de-Boeuf---"here is a letter, and, if I mistake not, it is in Saxon."
He looked at it, turning it round and round as if he had had really some hopes of coming at the meaning by inverting the position of the paper, and then handed it to De Bracy.
"It may be magic spells for aught I know," said De Bracy, who possessed his full proportion of the ignorance which characterised the chivalry of the period. "Our chaplain attempted to teach me to write," he said, "but all my letters were formed like spear-heads and sword-blades, and so the old shaveling gave up the task."
"Give it me," said the Templar. "We have that of the priestly character, that we have some knowledge to enlighten our valour."
"Let us profit by your most reverend knowledge, then," said De Bracy; "what says the scroll?"
"It is a formal letter of defiance," answered the Templar; "but, by our Lady of Bethlehem, if it be not a foolish jest, it is the most extraordinary cartel that ever was sent across the drawbridge of a baronial castle."
"Jest!" said Front-de-Boeuf, "I would gladly know who dares jest with me in such a matter!---Read it, Sir Brian."
The Templar accordingly read it as follows:---"I, Wamba, the son of Witless, Jester to a noble and free-born man, Cedric of Rotherwood, called the Saxon,---And I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, the swineherd------"
"Thou art mad," said Front-de-Boeuf, interrupting the reader.
"By St Luke, it is so set down," answered the Templar. Then resuming his task, he went on,---"I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, swineherd unto the said Cedric, with the assistance of our allies and confederates, who make common cause with us in this our feud, namely, the good knight, called for the present 'Le Noir Faineant', and the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called Cleave-the-Wand. Do you, Reginald Front de-Boeuf, and your allies...
(The entire section is 3,101 words.)