Front-de-Boeuf, De Bois-Guilbert and De Bracy meet. They have received a written demand from, of all people, Wamba and Gurth. The demand is that the knights surrender their prisoners within one hour or face the consequences. The document is also signed by the Black Knight. Locksley has placed his mark on it too. The knights do not know how to react. De Bracy laughs, but Front-de-Boeuf realizes how serious the ultimatum is. He knows there must be a strong force arrayed against them, and a squire confirms that at least two hundred men oppose them. But the knights are confident they have the means to hold the castle against the attackers. De Bois-Guilbert composes a reply to the challenge, which says that they will execute their prisoners before noon. The knights also request that a priest be sent to hear the last confessions of the prisoners. When the men in the forest get this message, they have to decide who to send as a priest. The Black Knight proposes Friar Tuck, but he refuses. Wamba then volunteers for the job.
Wamba arrives at the castle. De Bois-Guilbert decides that he should be given a written order asking De Bracy’s men in York to come to their aid. In the meantime, Wamba is shown into the hall where Cedric and Athelstane are held. Wamba tells them to prepare for their deaths. They receive this news with disbelief, but then face up to it with courage. Wamba then reveals his identity, and offers to swap his monk’s gown for Cedric’s clothing, so Cedric can escape. Cedric wants Athelstane to be the one who escapes, but he refuses. Wamba says that he will only swap clothes with Cedric, and Cedric is moved by Wamba’s sacrifice. On his way out, disguised as a priest, he is accosted by Rebecca, who has been temporarily let out of her cell by Urfried. She asks him to come to the aid of a wounded prisoner. She means Ivanhoe, whom she has been allowed to attend, although Cedric does not know this. But Cedric does not want to be delayed, and then Urfried shoos Rebecca away.
Urfried ushers the reluctant Cedric into a small apartment. She begins to tell him her story. Cedric is amazed to discover that she is the daughter of Torquil Wolfganger, his father’s friend. Urfried then guesses that she is talking to Cedric, and she continues her story. Her real name is Ulrica. She was forced to live as the paramour of her father’s killer, but she did everything she could to ensure that the family she was compelled to live with met misfortune. She fomented hatred between the elder Front-de-Boeuf and his son, and the son (who now holds Cedric captive) killed his father. Cedric despises Ulrica because she did not kill herself to escape such a tormented existence. But she says she still has the power of revenge. She tells him that when the besiegers see a red flag flying from the turret, they are to press their assault, for the Normans will have enough to deal with within the castle. She then leaves and Front-de-Boeuf enters. He gives Cedric (whom he thinks is a priest) a scroll to take to the castle of Philip de Malvoisin. Malvoisin is then to send it to York. After the phony monk has left, Front-de-Boeuf calls for Cedric to be brought to him. When he discovers that the man purporting to be Cedric is in fact Wamba, and that Cedric has escaped, he is furious. He threatens to throw Wamba from the battlements, but De Bracy persuades him to allow the jester to join his, De Bracy’s, service. Athelstane then offers to pay a thousand marks as a ransom for the freedom of all the prisoners. Front-de-Boeuf agrees, but he will not release Isaac, Rebecca, Rowena and Wamba. Athelstane says the deal is off, because Rowena is his bride-to-be and Wamba has just saved the life of Cedric his master, so he cannot allow them to remain as captives. Then Ambrose, an old monk in attendance on the Prior of Jorvaulx, arrives. He says that the Prior has been captured by outlaws in the woods, who are demanding ransom. He asks for the knights’ assistance, but they refuse. The knights prepare the castle for the expected assault.
The narrative returns to the story of how Ivanhoe came to be in the litter transported by Isaac and Rebecca. After Ivanhoe is injured in the tournament, Rebecca persuades her father to allow Ivanhoe to be taken to the house in Ashby where they are staying. There she cares for his wounds, using her knowledge of medicine she learned from an old Jewess. She then persuades Isaac to let Ivanhoe travel with them to York. She tells him that Ivanhoe is in the favor of Richard the Lion-Hearted, and if Richard should return, Isaac will need a powerful advocate. This is because Isaac supplied Richard’s brother Prince John with much of the money he needed for his rebellious plans.
For the most part in these chapters, Scott is busy creating tension and suspense, setting up the situation for the climax of part two. But he also inserts touches of humor, notably in the challenge to the Normans issued by Wamba and Gurth. This also has a symbolic significance, since it shows that the ordinary Saxon people are capable of challenging the arrogant Normans. Chapter XXVII also reveals a courage and heroism in Athelstane’s character that might previously have been unsuspected.
The motif of disguise returns again, first through Wamba and then through Cedric. Scott makes sure that the reader gets a lot of pleasure at the expense of the twice-outwitted Front-de-Boeuf and his resultant fury. Like Athelstane, Wamba too emerges from his humble role as jester to become a heroic figure, prepared to sacrifice himself for his master. The Saxons show considerable courage and resourcefulness during their imprisonment.
In Chapter XXVIII, Scott makes use of a common motif in medieval romance, that of the wounded knight nursed back to health by a woman skilled in the healing arts. This motif lies at the heart of the story of Tristan and Iseult, for example. To this familiar theme, Rebecca’s unrequited love for Ivanhoe forms a touching sub-plot.