"But, my son," said Edith, "consider his sacred office."
"Consider my three days' fast," replied Athelstane; "I will have their blood every one of them. Front-de-Boeuf was burnt alive for a less matter, for he kept a good table for his prisoners, only put too much garlic in his last dish of pottage. But these hypocritical, ungrateful slaves, so often the self-invited flatterers at my board, who gave me neither pottage nor garlic, more or less, they die, by the soul of Hengist!"
"But the Pope, my noble friend," — said Cedric —
"But the devil, my noble friend," — answered Athelstane; "they die, and no more of them. Were they the best monks upon earth, the world would go on without them."
"For shame, noble Athelstane," said Cedric; "forget such wretches in the career of glory which lies open before thee. Tell this Norman prince, Richard of Anjou, that, lion-hearted as he is, he shall not hold undisputed the throne of Alfred, while a male descendant of the Holy Confessor lives to dispute it."
"How!" said Athelstane, "is this the noble King Richard?"
"It is Richard Plantagenet himself," said Cedric; "yet I need not remind thee that, coming hither a guest of free-will, he may neither be injured nor detained prisoner — thou well knowest thy duty to him as his host."
"Ay, by my faith!" said Athelstane; "and my duty as a subject besides, for I here tender him my allegiance, heart and hand."
"My son," said Edith, "think on thy royal rights!"
"Think on the freedom of England, degenerate Prince!" said Cedric.
"Mother and friend," said Athelstane, "a truce to your upbraidings — bread and water and a dungeon are marvellous mortifiers of ambition, and I rise from the tomb a wiser man than I descended into it. One half of those vain follies were puffed into mine ear by that perfidious Abbot Wolfram, and you may now judge if he is a counsellor to be trusted. Since these plots were set in agitation, I have had nothing but hurried journeys, indigestions, blows and bruises, imprisonments and starvation; besides that they can only end in the murder of some thousands of quiet folk. I tell you, I will be king in my own domains, and nowhere else; and my first act of dominion shall be to hang the Abbot."
"And my ward Rowena," said Cedric — "I trust you intend not to desert her?"
"Father Cedric," said Athelstane, "be reasonable. The Lady Rowena cares not for me — she loves the little finger of my kinsman Wilfred's glove better than my whole person. There she stands to avouch it — Nay, blush not, kinswoman, there is no shame in loving a courtly knight better than a country franklin — and do not laugh neither, Rowena, for grave-clothes and a thin visage are, God knows, no matter of merriment — Nay, an thou wilt needs laugh, I will find thee a better jest — Give me thy hand, or rather lend it me, for I but ask it in the way of friendship. — Here, cousin Wilfred of Ivanhoe, in thy favour I renounce and abjure — -Hey! by Saint Dunstan, our cousin Wilfred hath vanished! — Yet, unless my eyes are still dazzled with the fasting I have undergone, I saw him stand there but even now."
All now looked around and enquired for Ivanhoe, but he had vanished. It was at length discovered that a Jew had been to seek him; and that, after very brief conference, he had called for Gurth and his armour, and had left the castle.
"Fair cousin," said Athelstane to Rowena, "could I think that this sudden disappearance of Ivanhoe was occasioned by other than the weightiest reason, I would myself resume — "
But he had no sooner let go her hand, on first observing that Ivanhoe had disappeared, than Rowena, who had found her situation extremely embarrassing, had taken the first opportunity to escape from the apartment.
"Certainly," quoth Athelstane, "women are the least to be trusted of all animals, monks and abbots excepted. I am an infidel, if I expected not thanks from her, and perhaps a kiss to boot — These cursed grave-clothes have surely a spell on them, every one flies from me. — To you I turn, noble King Richard, with the vows of allegiance, which, as a liege-subject — "
But King Richard was gone also, and no one knew whither. At length it was learned that he had hastened to the court-yard, summoned to his presence the Jew who had spoken with Ivanhoe, and after a moment's speech with him, had called vehemently to horse, thrown himself upon a steed, compelled the Jew to mount another, and set off at a rate, which, according to Wamba, rendered the old Jew's neck not worth a penny's purchase.
"By my halidome!" said Athelstane, "it is certain that Zernebock hath possessed himself of my castle in my absence. I return in my grave-clothes, a pledge restored from the very sepulchre, and every one I speak to vanishes as soon as they hear my voice! — But it skills not talking of it. Come, my friends — such of you as are left, follow me to the banquet-hall, lest any more of us disappear — it is, I trust, as yet tolerably furnished, as becomes the obsequies of an ancient Saxon noble; and should we tarry any longer, who knows but the devil may fly off with the supper?"