The yell which Isaac raised at this unfeeling communication made the very vault to ring, and astounded the two Saracens so much that they let go their hold of the Jew. He availed himself of his enlargement to throw himself on the pavement, and clasp the knees of Front-de-Boeuf.
"Take all that you have asked," said he, "Sir Knight — take ten times more — reduce me to ruin and to beggary, if thou wilt, — nay, pierce me with thy poniard, broil me on that furnace, but spare my daughter, deliver her in safety and honour! — As thou art born of woman, spare the honour of a helpless maiden — She is the image of my deceased Rachel, she is the last of six pledges of her love — Will you deprive a widowed husband of his sole remaining comfort? — Will you reduce a father to wish that his only living child were laid beside her dead mother, in the tomb of our fathers?"
"I would," said the Norman, somewhat relenting, "that I had known of this before. I thought your race had loved nothing save their moneybags."
"Think not so vilely of us, Jews though we be," said Isaac, eager to improve the moment of apparent sympathy; "the hunted fox, the tortured wildcat loves its young — the despised and persecuted race of Abraham love their children!"
"Be it so," said Front-de-Boeuf; "I will believe it in future, Isaac, for thy very sake — but it aids us not now, I cannot help what has happened, or what is to follow; my word is passed to my comrade in arms, nor would I break it for ten Jews and Jewesses to boot. Besides, why shouldst thou think evil is to come to the girl, even if she became Bois-Guilbert's booty?"
"There will, there must!" exclaimed Isaac, wringing his hands in agony; "when did Templars breathe aught but cruelty to men, and dishonour to women!"
"Dog of an infidel," said Front-de-Boeuf, with sparkling eyes, and not sorry, perhaps, to seize a pretext for working himself into a passion, "blaspheme not the Holy Order of the Temple of Zion, but take thought instead to pay me the ransom thou hast promised, or woe betide thy Jewish throat!"
"Robber and villain!" said the Jew, retorting the insults of his oppressor with passion, which, however impotent, he now found it impossible to bridle, "I will pay thee nothing — not one silver penny will I pay thee, unless my daughter is delivered to me in safety and honour!"
"Art thou in thy senses, Israelite?" said the Norman, sternly — "has thy flesh and blood a charm against heated iron and scalding oil?"
"I care not!" said the Jew, rendered desperate by paternal affection; "do thy worst. My daughter is my flesh and blood, dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty threatens. No silver will I give thee, unless I were to pour it molten down thy avaricious throat — no, not a silver penny will I give thee, Nazarene, were it to save thee from the deep damnation thy whole life has merited! Take my life if thou wilt, and say, the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the Christian."
"We shall see that," said Front-de-Boeuf; "for by the blessed rood, which is the abomination of thy accursed tribe, thou shalt feel the extremities of fire and steel! — Strip him, slaves, and chain him down upon the bars."
In spite of the feeble struggles of the old man, the Saracens had already torn from him his upper garment, and were proceeding totally to disrobe him, when the sound of a bugle, twice winded without the castle, penetrated even to the recesses of the dungeon, and immediately after loud voices were heard calling for Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Unwilling to be found engaged in his hellish occupation, the savage Baron gave the slaves a signal to restore Isaac's garment, and, quitting the dungeon with his attendants, he left the Jew to thank God for his own deliverance, or to lament over his daughter's captivity, and probable fate, as his personal or parental feelings might prove strongest.