To prove it on thee to the extremest point
Of martial daring.
Even Lucas Beaumanoir himself was affected by the mien and appearance of Rebecca. He was not originally a cruel, or even a severe man; but with passions by nature cold, and with a high, though mistaken, sense of duty, his heart had been gradually hardened by the ascetic life which he pursued, the supreme power which he enjoyed, and the supposed necessity of subduing infidelity and eradicating heresy, which he conceived peculiarly incumbent on him. His features relaxed in their usual severity as he gazed upon the beautiful creature before him, alone, unfriended, and defending herself with so much spirit and courage. He crossed himself twice, as doubting whence arose the unwonted softening of a heart which, on such occasions, used to resemble in hardness the steel of his sword. At length he spoke.
Damsel, he said, if the pity I feel for thee arise from any practice thine evil arts have made on me, great is thy guilt. But I rather judge it the kinder feelings of nature, which grieves that so goodly a form should be a vessel of perdition. Repent, my daughterconfess thy witchcraftsturn thee from thine evil faithembrace this holy emblem, and all shall yet be well with thee here and hereafter. In some sisterhood of the strictest order shalt thou have time for prayer and fitting penance, and that repentance not to be repented of. This do and live; what has the law of Moses done for thee that thou shouldst die for it?
It was the law of my fathers, said Rebecca; it was delivered in thunders and in storms upon the mountain of Sinai, in cloud and in fire. This, if ye are Christians, ye believeit is, you say, recalled; but so my teachers have not taught me.
Let our chaplain, said Beaumanoir, stand forth, and tell this obstinate infidel
Forgive the interruption, said Rebecca meekly; I am a maiden, unskilled to dispute for my religion, but I can die for it, if it be Gods will.Let me pray your answer to my demand of a champion.
Give me her glove, said Beaumanoir. This is indeed, he continued, as he looked at the flimsy texture and slender fingers, a slight and frail gage for a purpose so deadly!Seest thou, Rebecca, as this thin and light glove of thine is to one of our heavy steel gauntlets, so is thy cause to that of the Temple, for it is our Order which thou hast defied.
Cast my innocence into the scale, answered Rebecca, and the glove of silk shall outweigh the glove of iron.
Then thou dost persist in thy refusal to confess thy guilt, and in that bold challenge which thou hast made?
I do persist, noble sir, answered Rebecca.
So be it then, in the name of Heaven, said the Grand Master; and may God show the right!
Amen, replied the Preceptors around him, and the word was deeply echoed by the whole assembly.
Brethren, said Beaumanoir, you are aware that we might well have refused to this woman the benefit of the trial by combat; but, though a Jewess and an unbeliever, she is also a stranger and defenceless, and God forbid that she should ask the benefit of our mild laws, and that it should be refused to her. Moreover, we are knights and soldiers as well as men of religion, and shame it were to us, upon any pretence, to refuse proffered combat. Thus, therefore, stands the case. Rebecca, the daughter of Isaac of York, is, by many frequent and suspicious circumstances, defamed of sorcery practised on the person of a noble knight of our holy Order, and hath challenged the combat in proof of her innocence. To whom, reverend brethren, is it your opinion that we should deliver the gage of battle, naming him, at the same time, to be our champion on the field?
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|