It shall be so, said Front-de-Buf. And he forthwith appointed a domestic to conduct Wamba to the apartment where Cedric and Athelstane were confined.
The impatience of Cedric had been rather enhanced than diminished by his confinement. He walked from one end of the hall to the other, with the attitude of one who advances to charge an enemy, or to storm the breach of a beleaguered place, sometimes ejaculating to himself, sometimes addressing Athelstane, who stoutly and stoically awaited the issue of the adventure, digesting, in the meantime, with great composure, the liberal meal which he had made at noon, and not greatly interesting himself about the duration of his captivity, which, he concluded, would, like all earthly evils, find an end in Heavens good time.
Pax vobiscum, said the Jester, entering the apartment; the blessing of St. Dunstan, St. Dennis, St. Duthoc, and all other saints whatsoever, be upon ye and about ye.
Enter freely, answered Cedric to the supposed friar; with what intent art thou come hither?
To bid you prepare yourselves for death, answered the Jester.
It is impossible! replied Cedric, starting. Fearless and wicked as they are, they dare not attempt such open and gratuitous cruelty!
Alas! said the Jester, to restrain them by their sense of humanity, is the same as to stop a runaway horse with a bridle of silk thread. Bethink thee, therefore, noble Cedric, and you also, gallant Athelstane, what crimes you have committed in the flesh; for this very day will ye be called to answer at a higher tribunal.
Hearest thou this, Athelstane? said Cedric; we must rouse up our hearts to this last action, since better it is we should die like men, than live like slaves.
I am ready, answered Athelstane, to stand the worst of their malice, and shall walk to my death with as much composure as ever I did to my dinner.
Let us then unto our holy gear, father, said Cedric.
Wait yet a moment, good uncle, said the Jester, in his natural tone; better look long before you leap in the dark.
By my faith, said Cedric, I should know that voice!
It is that of your trusty slave and jester, answered Wamba, throwing back his cowl. Had you taken a fools advice formerly, you would not have been here at all. Take a fools advice now, and you will not be here long.
How meanst thou, knave? answered the Saxon.
Even thus, replied Wamba; take thou this frock and cord, which are all the orders I ever had, and march quietly out of the castle, leaving me your cloak and girdle to take the long leap in thy stead.
Leave thee in my stead! said Cedric, astonished at the proposal; why, they would hang thee, my poor knave.
Een let them do as they are permitted, said Wamba; I trustno disparagement to your birththat the son of Witless may hang in a chain with as much gravity as the chain hung upon his ancestor the alderman.
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