Chapter 39

O maid, unrelenting and cold as thou art,
My bosom is proud as thine own.

It was in the twilight of the day when her trial, if it could be called such, had taken place, that a low knock was heard at the door of Rebecca’s prison-chamber. It disturbed not the inmate, who was then engaged in the evening prayer recommended by her religion, and which concluded with a hymn we have ventured thus to translate into English.

When Israel, of the Lord beloved,
   Out of the land of bondage came,
Her fathers’ God before her moved,
   An awful guide, in smoke and flame.
By day, along the astonish’d lands
   The cloudy pillar glided slow;
By night, Arabia’s crimson’d sands
   Return’d the fiery column’s glow.

There rose the choral hymn of praise,
   And trumph and timbrel answer’d keen,
And Zion’s daughters pour’d their lays,
   With priest’s and warrior’s voice between.
No portents now our foes amaze,
   Forsaken Israel wanders lone;
Our fathers would not know THY ways,
   And THOU hast left them to their own.

But, present still, though now unseen;
   When brightly shines the prosperous day,
Be thoughts of THEE a cloudy screen
   To temper the deceitful ray.
And oh, when stoops on Judah’s path
   In shade and storm the frequent night,
Be THOU, long-suffering, slow to wrath,
   A burning and a shining light!

Our harps we left by Babel’s streams,
   The tyrant’s jest, the Gentile’s scorn;
No censer round our altar beams,
   And mute our timbrel, trump, and horn.
But THOU hast said, The blood of goat,
   The flesh of rams, I will not prize;
A contrite heart, and humble thought,
   Are mine accepted sacrifice.

When the sounds of Rebecca’s devotional hymn had died away in silence, the low knock at the door was again renewed. “Enter,” she said, “if thou art a friend; and if a foe, I have not the means of refusing thy entrance.”

“I am,” said Brian de Bois-Guilbert, entering the apartment, “friend or foe, Rebecca, as the event of this interview shall make me.”

Alarmed at the sight of this man, whose licentious passion she considered as the root of her misfortunes. Rebecca drew backward with a cautious and alarmed, yet not a timorous demeanour, into the farthest corner of the apartment, as if determined to retreat as far as she could, but to stand her ground when retreat became no longer possible. She drew herself into an attitude not of defiance, but of resolution, as one that would avoid provoking assault, yet was resolute to repel it, being offered, to the utmost of her power.

“You have no reason to fear me, Rebecca,” said the Templar; “or if I must so qualify my speech, you have at least now no reason to fear me.”

“I fear you nor, Sir Knight,” replied Rebecca, although her short-drawn breath seemed to belie the heroism of her accents; “my trust is strong, and I fear thee not.”

“You have no cause,” answered Bois-Guilbert gravely; “my former frantic attempts you have not now to dread. Within your call are guards, over whom I have no authority. They are designed to conduct you to death, Rebecca, yet would not suffer you to be insulted by any one, even by me, were my frenzy—for frenzy it is—to urge me so far.”

“May Heaven be praised!” said the Jewess; “death is the least of my apprehensions in this den of evil.”

“Ay,” replied the Templar, “the idea of death is easily received by the courageous mind, when the road to it is sudden and open. A thrust with a lance, a stroke with a sword, were to me little.—To you, a spring from a dizzy battlement, a stroke with a sharp poniard, has no terrors, compared with what either thinks disgrace. Mark me—I say this—perhaps mine own sentiments of honour are not less fantastic, Rebecca, than thine are; but we know alike how to die for them.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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