Not a member?     Existing members login below:
Take Free-eBooks to GO! With our Mobile Apps here


Chapter 22
My daughter---O my ducats---O my daughter!
------------O my Christian ducats!
Justice---the Law---my ducats, and my daughter!
Merchant of Venice
Leaving the Saxon chiefs to return to their banquet as soon as their ungratified curiosity
should permit them to attend to the calls of their half-satiated appetite, we have to look
in upon the yet more severe imprisonment of Isaac of York. The poor Jew had been
hastily thrust into a dungeon-vault of the castle, the floor of which was deep beneath the
level of the ground, and very damp, being lower than even the moat itself. The only light
was received through one or two loop-holes far above the reach of the captive's hand.
These apertures admitted, even at mid-day, only a dim and uncertain light, which was
changed for utter darkness long before the rest of the castle had lost the blessing of
day. Chains and shackles, which had been the portion of former captives, from whom
active exertions to escape had been apprehended, hung rusted and empty on the walls
of the prison, and in the rings of one of those sets of fetters there remained two
mouldering bones, which seemed to have been once those of the human leg, as if some
prisoner had been left not only to perish there, but to be consumed to a skeleton.
At one end of this ghastly apartment was a large fire-grate, over the top of which were
stretched some transverse iron bars, half devoured with rust.
The whole appearance of the dungeon might have appalled a stouter heart than that of
Isaac, who, nevertheless, was more composed under the imminent pressure of danger,
than he had seemed to be while affected by terrors, of which the cause was as yet
remote and contingent. The lovers of the chase say that the hare feels more agony
during the pursuit of the greyhounds, than when she is struggling in their fangs.*
* "Nota Bene." ---We by no means warrant the accuracy of
* this piece of natural history, which we give on the
* authority of the Wardour MS. L. T.
And thus it is probable, that the Jews, by the very frequency of their fear on all
occasions, had their minds in some degree prepared for every effort of tyranny which
could be practised upon them; so that no aggression, when it had taken place, could
bring with it that surprise which is the most disabling quality of terror. Neither was it the
first time that Isaac had been placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had therefore
experience to guide him, as well as hope, that he might again, as formerly, be delivered
as a prey from the fowler. Above all, he had upon his side the unyielding obstinacy of
his nation, and that unbending resolution, with which Israelites have been frequently