Once again, Scott takes his epigraph from Shakespeare, in this case the play <em>King John</em>. In the play, King John wants to kill Arthur of Brittany, his nephew and a competitor for the throne. In this passage, King John describes Arthur as an obstacle – one he wants his friend to remove for him.
Prince John and his men are feasting at York, but they're missing several important members: Front-de-Boeuf, De Bracy, and Bois-Guilbert.
Also, Isaac of York has yet to turn up with Prince John's money.
In other words, Prince John is an awkward position.
He is furious at his missing supporters.
He's heard rumors that Torquilstone is under siege, and that Front-de-Boeuf, Bois-Guilbert, and De Bracy have all been captured or killed.
Waldemar Fitzurse has sent De Bracy's lieutenant, Louis Winkelbrand, to Torquilstone to see what can be done.
De Bracy suddenly arrives at Prince John's hall. He is still filthy and bloody from the battle.
De Bracy tells Prince John that Bois-Guilbert has disappeared and Front-de-Boeuf is dead.
What's worse, King Richard is back in England. De Bracy has seen him with his own eyes.
Neither Prince John nor Fitzurse can believe it at first.
Prince John is somewhat comforted to hear that King Richard doesn't have a large army behind him.
De Bracy plans to lead his men to Flanders (now a part of Belgium and the Netherlands).
Fitzurse intends to seek sanctuary at the Church of Saint Peter.
Prince John is disgusted at how quickly his men are abandoning him.
He tells them they can't escape now. De Bracy won't make it as far as the coast, and the Archbishop of the Church of Saint Peter will turn Fitzurse over to King Richard at the first chance.
Prince John says the only thing they can do is ambush King Richard while he's still traveling alone.
De Bracy refuses. King Richard gave him mercy when he was his prisoner, so De Bracy cannot harm him.
Prince John doesn't plan to <em>harm </em>him; they'll just keep him as a prisoner for life.
But De Bracy still refuses to participate. He won't betray Prince John, but neither will he help him. It's not honorable to fight a man alone in a forest.
Fitzurse tries to convince De Bracy to go along with Prince John's plan. He points out that King Richard rejected De Bracy's service.
Prince John asks if De Bracy will abandon him after swearing his service to him.
Fitzurse promises Prince John that <em>he </em>will take care of the assassination, with the help of some of Prince John's men.
Once Fitzurse sets off, Prince John pulls De Bracy aside. He admires his moral fiber.
Prince John suspects that Fitzurse is all too eager to manipulate the kings of England. He doesn't trust him.
Prince John has a special job for De Bracy. He plans to make De Bracy his High Marshal – in other words, his main military commander.
But as soon as De Bracy leaves, Prince John tells another of his attendants, Hugh Bardon, to keep an eye on De Bracy and to report back on his movements.
Prince John swears to cut De Bracy's head off if he betrays him.