"I leave it, lady, ere this moon again changes. My father had a brother high in favour with Mohammed Boabdil, King of Grenada — thither we go, secure of peace and protection, for the payment of such ransom as the Moslem exact from our people."
"And are you not then as well protected in England?" said Rowena. "My husband has favour with the King — the King himself is just and generous."
"Lady," said Rebecca, "I doubt it not — but the people of England are a fierce race, quarrelling ever with their neighbours or among themselves, and ready to plunge the sword into the bowels of each other. Such is no safe abode for the children of my people. Ephraim is an heartless dove — Issachar an over-laboured drudge, which stoops between two burdens. Not in a land of war and blood, surrounded by hostile neighbours, and distracted by internal factions, can Israel hope to rest during her wanderings."
"But you, maiden," said Rowena — "you surely can have nothing to fear. She who nursed the sick-bed of Ivanhoe," she continued, rising with enthusiasm — "she can have nothing to fear in England, where Saxon and Norman will contend who shall most do her honour."
"Thy speech is fair, lady," said Rebecca, "and thy purpose fairer; but it may not be — there is a gulf betwixt us. Our breeding, our faith, alike forbid either to pass over it. Farewell — yet, ere I go indulge me one request. The bridal-veil hangs over thy face; deign to raise it, and let me see the features of which fame speaks so highly."
"They are scarce worthy of being looked upon," said Rowena; "but, expecting the same from my visitant, I remove the veil."
She took it off accordingly; and, partly from the consciousness of beauty, partly from bashfulness, she blushed so intensely, that cheek, brow, neck, and bosom, were suffused with crimson. Rebecca blushed also, but it was a momentary feeling; and, mastered by higher emotions, past slowly from her features like the crimson cloud, which changes colour when the sun sinks beneath the horizon.
"Lady," she said, "the countenance you have deigned to show me will long dwell in my remembrance. There reigns in it gentleness and goodness; and if a tinge of the world's pride or vanities may mix with an expression so lovely, how should we chide that which is of earth for bearing some colour of its original? Long, long will I remember your features, and bless God that I leave my noble deliverer united with — "
She stopped short — her eyes filled with tears. She hastily wiped them, and answered to the anxious enquiries of Rowena — "I am well, lady — well. But my heart swells when I think of Torquilstone and the lists of Templestowe. — Farewell. One, the most trifling part of my duty, remains undischarged. Accept this casket — startle not at its contents."
Rowena opened the small silver-chased casket, and perceived a carcanet, or neck lace, with ear-jewels, of diamonds, which were obviously of immense value.
"It is impossible," she said, tendering back the casket. "I dare not accept a gift of such consequence."
"Yet keep it, lady," returned Rebecca. — "You have power, rank, command, influence; we have wealth, the source both of our strength and weakness; the value of these toys, ten times multiplied, would not influence half so much as your slightest wish. To you, therefore, the gift is of little value, — and to me, what I part with is of much less. Let me not think you deem so wretchedly ill of my nation as your commons believe. Think ye that I prize these sparkling fragments of stone above my liberty? or that my father values them in comparison to the honour of his only child? Accept them, lady — to me they are valueless. I will never wear jewels more."
"You are then unhappy!" said Rowena, struck with the manner in which Rebecca uttered the last words. "O, remain with us — the counsel of holy men will wean you from your erring law, and I will be a sister to you."
"No, lady," answered Rebecca, the same calm melancholy reigning in her soft voice and beautiful features — "that — may not be. I may not change the faith of my fathers like a garment unsuited to the climate in which I seek to dwell, and unhappy, lady, I will not be. He, to whom I dedicate my future life, will be my comforter, if I do His will."
"Have you then convents, to one of which you mean to retire?" asked Rowena.
"No, lady," said the Jewess; "but among our people, since the time of Abraham downwards, have been women who have devoted their thoughts to Heaven, and their actions to works of kindness to men, tending the sick, feeding the hungry, and relieving the distressed. Among these will Rebecca be numbered. Say this to thy lord, should he chance to enquire after the fate of her whose life he saved."
There was an involuntary tremour on Rebecca's voice, and a tenderness of accent, which perhaps betrayed more than she would willingly have expressed. She hastened to bid Rowena adieu.
"Farewell," she said. "May He, who made both Jew and Christian, shower down on you his choicest blessings! The bark that waits us hence will be under weigh ere we can reach the port."
She glided from the apartment, leaving Rowena surprised as if a vision had passed before her. The fair Saxon related the singular conference to her husband, on whose mind it made a deep impression. He lived long and happily with Rowena, for they were attached to each other by the bonds of early affection, and they loved each other the more, from the recollection of the obstacles which had impeded their union. Yet it would be enquiring too curiously to ask, whether the recollection of Rebecca's beauty and magnanimity did not recur to his mind more frequently than the fair descendant of Alfred might altogether have approved.
Ivanhoe distinguished himself in the service of Richard, and was graced with farther marks of the royal favour. He might have risen still higher, but for the premature death of the heroic Coeur-de-Lion, before the Castle of Chaluz, near Limoges. With the life of a generous, but rash and romantic monarch, perished all the projects which his ambition and his generosity had formed; to whom may be applied, with a slight alteration, the lines composed by Johnson for Charles of Sweden — His fate was destined to a foreign strand,
A petty fortress and an "humble" hand;
He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a TALE.