"This, Sir Knight," said Rebecca, "is but idle boasting — a brag of what you would have done had you not found it convenient to do otherwise. You received my glove, and my champion, if a creature so desolate can find one, must encounter your lance in the lists — yet you would assume the air of my friend and protector!"
"Thy friend and protector," said the Templar, gravely, "I will yet be — but mark at what risk, or rather at what certainty, of dishonour; and then blame me not if I make my stipulations, before I offer up all that I have hitherto held dear, to save the life of a Jewish maiden."
"Speak," said Rebecca; "I understand thee not."
"Well, then," said Bois-Guilbert, "I will speak as freely as ever did doting penitent to his ghostly father, when placed in the tricky confessional. — Rebecca, if I appear not in these lists I lose fame and rank — lose that which is the breath of my nostrils, the esteem, I mean, in which I am held by my brethren, and the hopes I have of succeeding to that mighty authority, which is now wielded by the bigoted dotard Lucas de Beaumanoir, but of which I should make a different use. Such is my certain doom, except I appear in arms against thy cause. Accursed be he of Goodalricke, who baited this trap for me! and doubly accursed Albert de Malvoisin, who withheld me from the resolution I had formed, of hurling back the glove at the face of the superstitious and superannuated fool, who listened to a charge so absurd, and against a creature so high in mind, and so lovely in form as thou art!"
"And what now avails rant or flattery?" answered Rebecca. "Thou hast made thy choice between causing to be shed the blood of an innocent woman, or of endangering thine own earthly state and earthly hopes — What avails it to reckon together? — thy choice is made."
"No, Rebecca," said the knight, in a softer tone, and drawing nearer towards her; "my choice is NOT made — nay, mark, it is thine to make the election. If I appear in the lists, I must maintain my name in arms; and if I do so, championed or unchampioned, thou diest by the stake and faggot, for there lives not the knight who hath coped with me in arms on equal issue, or on terms of vantage, save Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and his minion of Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe, as thou well knowest, is unable to bear his corslet, and Richard is in a foreign prison. If I appear, then thou diest, even although thy charms should instigate some hot-headed youth to enter the lists in thy defence."
"And what avails repeating this so often?" said Rebecca.
"Much," replied the Templar; "for thou must learn to look at thy fate on every side."
"Well, then, turn the tapestry," said the Jewess, "and let me see the other side."
"If I appear," said Bois-Guilbert, "in the fatal lists, thou diest by a slow and cruel death, in pain such as they say is destined to the guilty hereafter. But if I appear not, then am I a degraded and dishonoured knight, accused of witchcraft and of communion with infidels — the illustrious name which has grown yet more so under my wearing, becomes a hissing and a reproach. I lose fame, I lose honour, I lose the prospect of such greatness as scarce emperors attain to — I sacrifice mighty ambition, I destroy schemes built as high as the mountains with which heathens say their heaven was once nearly scaled — and yet, Rebecca," he added, throwing himself at her feet, "this greatness will I sacrifice, this fame will I renounce, this power will I forego, even now when it is half within my grasp, if thou wilt say, Bois-Guilbert, I receive thee for my lover."
"Think not of such foolishness, Sir Knight," answered Rebecca, "but hasten to the Regent, the Queen Mother, and to Prince John — they cannot, in honour to the English crown, allow of the proceedings of your Grand Master. So shall you give me protection without sacrifice on your part, or the pretext of requiring any requital from me."
"With these I deal not," he continued, holding the train of her robe — "it is thee only I address; and what can counterbalance thy choice? Bethink thee, were I a fiend, yet death is a worse, and it is death who is my rival."
"I weigh not these evils," said Rebecca, afraid to provoke the wild knight, yet equally determined neither to endure his passion, nor even feign to endure it. "Be a man, be a Christian! If indeed thy faith recommends that mercy which rather your tongues than your actions pretend, save me from this dreadful death, without seeking a requital which would change thy magnanimity into base barter."
"No, damsel!" said the proud Templar, springing up, "thou shalt not thus impose on me — if I renounce present fame and future ambition, I renounce it for thy sake, and we will escape in company. Listen to me, Rebecca," he said, again softening his tone; "England, — Europe, — is not the world. There are spheres in which we may act, ample enough even for my ambition. We will go to Palestine, where Conrade, Marquis of Montserrat, is my friend — a friend free as myself from the doting scruples which fetter our free-born reason — rather with Saladin will we league ourselves, than endure the scorn of the bigots whom we contemn. — I will form new paths to greatness," he continued, again traversing the room with hasty strides — "Europe shall hear the loud step of him she has driven from her sons! — Not the millions whom her crusaders send to slaughter, can do so much to defend Palestine — not the sabres of the thousands and ten thousands of Saracens can hew their way so deep into that land for which nations are striving, as the strength and policy of me and those brethren, who, in despite of yonder old bigot, will adhere to me in good and evil. Thou shalt be a queen, Rebecca — on Mount Carmel shall we pitch the throne which my valour will gain for you, and I will exchange my long-desired batoon for a sceptre!"
"A dream," said Rebecca; "an empty vision of the night, which, were it a waking reality, affects me not. Enough, that the power which thou mightest acquire, I will never share; nor hold I so light of country or religious faith, as to esteem him who is willing to barter these ties, and cast away the bonds of the Order of which he is a sworn member, in order to gratify an unruly passion for the daughter of another people. — Put not a price on my deliverance, Sir Knight — sell not a deed of generosity — protect the oppressed for the sake of charity, and not for a selfish advantage — Go to the throne of England; Richard will listen to my appeal from these cruel men."
"Never, Rebecca!" said the Templar, fiercely. "If I renounce my Order, for thee alone will I renounce it — Ambition shall remain mine, if thou refuse my love; I will not be fooled on all hands. — Stoop my crest to Richard? — ask a boon of that heart of pride? — Never, Rebecca, will I place the Order of the Temple at his feet in my person. I may forsake the Order, I never will degrade or betray it."
"Now God be gracious to me," said Rebecca, "for the succour of man is well-nigh hopeless!"
"It is indeed," said the Templar; "for, proud as thou art, thou hast in me found thy match. If I enter the lists with my spear in rest, think not any human consideration shall prevent my putting forth my strength; and think then upon thine own fate — to die the dreadful death of the worst of criminals — to be consumed upon a blazing pile — dispersed to the elements of which our strange forms are so mystically composed — not a relic left of that graceful frame, from which we could say this lived and moved! — Rebecca, it is not in woman to sustain this prospect — thou wilt yield to my suit."
"Bois-Guilbert," answered the Jewess, "thou knowest not the heart of woman, or hast only conversed with those who are lost to her best feelings. I tell thee, proud Templar, that not in thy fiercest battles hast thou displayed more of thy vaunted courage, than has been shown by woman when called upon to suffer by affection or duty. I am myself a woman, tenderly nurtured, naturally fearful of danger, and impatient of pain — yet, when we enter those fatal lists, thou to fight and I to suffer, I feel the strong assurance within me, that my courage shall mount higher than thine. Farewell — I waste no more words on thee; the time that remains on earth to the daughter of Jacob must be otherwise spent — she must seek the Comforter, who may hide his face from his people, but who ever opens his ear to the cry of those who seek him in sincerity and in truth."
"We part then thus?" said the Templar, after a short pause; "would to Heaven that we had never met, or that thou hadst been noble in birth and Christian in faith! — Nay, by Heaven! when I gaze on thee, and think when and how we are next to meet, I could even wish myself one of thine own degraded nation; my hand conversant with ingots and shekels, instead of spear and shield; my head bent down before each petty noble, and my look only terrible to the shivering and bankrupt debtor — this could I wish, Rebecca, to be near to thee in life, and to escape the fearful share I must have in thy death."
"Thou hast spoken the Jew," said Rebecca, "as the persecution of such as thou art has made him. Heaven in ire has driven him from his country, but industry has opened to him the only road to power and to influence, which oppression has left unbarred. Read the ancient history of the people of God, and tell me if those, by whom Jehovah wrought such marvels among the nations, were then a people of misers and of usurers! — And know, proud knight, we number names amongst us to which your boasted northern nobility is as the gourd compared with the cedar — names that ascend far back to those high times when the Divine Presence shook the mercy-seat between the cherubim, and which derive their splendour from no earthly prince, but from the awful Voice, which bade their fathers be nearest of the congregation to the Vision — Such were the princes of the House of Jacob."
Rebecca's colour rose as she boasted the ancient glories of her race, but faded as she added, with at sigh, "Such WERE the princes of Judah, now such no more! — They are trampled down like the shorn grass, and mixed with the mire of the ways. Yet are there those among them who shame not such high descent, and of such shall be the daughter of Isaac the son of Adonikam! Farewell! — I envy not thy blood-won honours — I envy not thy barbarous descent from northern heathens — I envy thee not thy faith, which is ever in thy mouth, but never in thy heart nor in thy practice."
"There is a spell on me, by Heaven!" said Bois-Guilbert. "I almost think yon besotted skeleton spoke truth, and that the reluctance with which I part from thee hath something in it more than is natural. — Fair creature!" he said, approaching near her, but with great respect, — "so young, so beautiful, so fearless of death! and yet doomed to die, and with infamy and agony. Who would not weep for thee? — The tear, that has been a stranger to these eyelids for twenty years, moistens them as I gaze on thee. But it must be — nothing may now save thy life. Thou and I are but the blind instruments of some irresistible fatality, that hurries us along, like goodly vessels driving before the storm, which are dashed against each other, and so perish. Forgive me, then, and let us part, at least, as friends part. I have assailed thy resolution in vain, and mine own is fixed as the adamantine decrees of fate."