Hereward, The Last of the English
Part 5 out of 10
romance in itself, of which the chroniclers have left hardly a hint. But
the thing was done; and at St. Margaret's Hope, as tradition tells, the
Scottish king met, and claimed as his unwilling bride, that fair and holy
maiden who was destined to soften his fierce passions, to civilize and
purify his people, and to become--if all had their just dues--the true
patron saint of Scotland.
Malcolm Canmore promised a mighty army; Sweyn, a mighty fleet. And
meanwhile, Eustace of Boulogne, the Confessor's brother-in-law, himself a
Norman, rebelled at the head of the down-trodden men of Kent; and the
Welshmen were harrying Herefordshire with fire and sword, in revenge for
But as yet the storm did not burst. William returned, and with him
something like order. He conquered Exeter; he destroyed churches and towns
to make his New Forest. He brought over his Queen Matilda with pomp and
great glory; and with her, the Bayeux tapestry which she had wrought with
her own hands; and meanwhile Sweyn Ulfsson was too busy threatening Olaf
Haroldsson, the new king of Norway, to sail for England; and the sons of
King Harold of England had to seek help from the Irish Danes, and,
ravaging the country round Bristol, be beaten off by the valiant burghers
with heavy loss.
So the storm did not burst; and need not have burst, it may be, at all,
had William kept his plighted word. But he would not give his fair
daughter to Edwin. His Norman nobles, doubtless, looked upon such an
alliance as debasing to a civilized lady. In their eyes, the Englishman
was a barbarian; and though the Norman might well marry the Englishwoman,
if she had beauty or wealth, it was a dangerous precedent to allow the
Englishman to marry the Norman woman, and that woman a princess. Beside,
there were those who coveted Edwin's broad lands; Roger de Montgomery, who
already (it is probable) held part of them as Earl of Shrewsbury, had no
wish to see Edwin the son-in-law of his sovereign. Be the cause what it
may, William faltered, and refused; and Edwin and Morcar left the Court of
Westminster in wrath. Waltheof followed them, having discovered--what he
was weak enough continually to forget again--the treachery of the Norman.
The young earls went off, one midlandward, one northward. The people saw
their wrongs in those of their earls, and the rebellion burst forth at
once, the Welsh under Blethyn, and the Cumbrians under Malcolm and
Donaldbain, giving their help in the struggle.
It was the year 1069. A more evil year for England than even the year of
The rebellion was crushed in a few months. The great general marched
steadily north, taking the boroughs one by one, storming, massacring young
and old, burning, sometimes, whole towns, and leaving, as he went on, a
new portent, a Norman donjon--till then all but unseen in England--as a
place of safety for his garrisons. At Oxford (sacked horribly, and all but
destroyed), at Warwick (destroyed utterly), at Nottingham, at Stafford, at
Shrewsbury, at Cambridge, on the huge barrow which overhangs the fen; and
at York itself, which had opened its gates, trembling, to the great Norman
strategist; at each doomed free borough rose a castle, with its tall
square tower within, its bailey around, and all the appliances of that
ancient Roman science of fortification, of which the Danes, as well as the
Saxons, knew nothing. Their struggle had only helped to tighten their
bonds; and what wonder? There was among them neither unity nor plan nor
governing mind and will. Hereward's words had come true. The only man,
save Gospatrick, who had a head in England, was Harold Godwinsson: and he
lay in Waltham Abbey, while the monks sang masses for his soul.
Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof trembled before a genius superior to their
own,--a genius, indeed, which had not its equal then in Christendom. They
came in and begged grace of the king. They got it. But Edwin's earldom was
forfeited, and he and his brother became, from thenceforth, desperate men.
Malcolm of Scotland trembled likewise, and asked for peace. The clans, it
is said, rejoiced thereat, having no wish for a war which could buy them
neither spoil nor land. Malcolm sent ambassadors to William, and took that
oath of fealty to the "Basileus of Britain," which more than one Scottish
king and kinglet had taken before,--with the secret proviso (which, during
the Middle Ages, seems to have been thoroughly understood in such cases by
both parties), that he should be William's man just as long as William
could compel him to be so, and no longer.
Then came cruel and unjust confiscations. Ednoth the standard-bearer had
fallen at Bristol, fighting for William against the Haroldssons, yet all
his lands were given away to Normans. Edwin and Morcar's lands were parted
likewise; and--to specify cases which bear especially on the history of
Hereward--Oger the Briton got many of Morcar's manors round Bourne, and
Gilbert of Ghent many belonging to Marlesweyn about Lincoln city. And so
did that valiant and crafty knight find his legs once more on other men's
ground, and reappears in monkish story as "the most devout and pious earl,
Gilbert of Ghent."
What followed, Hereward heard not from flying rumors; but from one who had
seen and known and judged of all. [Footnote: For Gyda's coming to St. Omer
that year, see Ordericus Vitalis.]
For one day, about this time, Hereward was riding out of the gate of St.
Omer, when the porter appealed to him. Begging for admittance were some
twenty women, and a clerk or two; and they must needs see the chatelain.
The chatelain was away. What should he do?
Hereward looked at the party, and saw, to his surprise, that they were
Englishwomen, and two of them women of rank, to judge from the rich
materials of their travel-stained and tattered garments. The ladies rode
on sorry country garrons, plainly hired from the peasants who drove them.
The rest of the women had walked; and weary and footsore enough they were.
"You are surely Englishwomen?" asked he of the foremost, as he lifted his
The lady bowed assent, beneath a heavy veil.
"Then you are my guests. Let them pass in." And Hereward threw himself off
his horse, and took the lady's bridle.
"Stay," she said, with an accent half Wessex, half Danish. "I seek the
Countess Judith, if it will please you to tell me where she lives."
"The Countess Judith, lady, lives no longer in St. Omer. Since her
husband's death, she lives with her mother at Bruges."
The lady made a gesture of disappointment.
"It were best for you, therefore, to accept my hospitality, till such time
as I can send you and your ladies on to Bruges."
"I must first know who it is who offers me hospitality?"
This was said so proudly, that Hereward answered proudly enough in
"I am Hereward Leofricsson, whom his foes call Hereward the outlaw, and
his friends Hereward the master of knights."
She started, and threw her veil hack, looking intently at him. He, for his
part, gave but one glance, and then cried,--
"Mother of Heaven! You are the great Countess!"
"Yes, I was that woman once, if all be not a dream. I am now I know not
what, seeking hospitality--if I can believe my eyes and ears--of Godiva's
"And from Godiva's son you shall have it, as though you were Godiva's
self. God so deal with my mother, madam, as I will deal with you."
"His father's wit, and his mother's beauty!" said the great Countess,
looking upon him. "Too, too like my own lost Harold!"
"Not so, my lady. I am a dwarf compared to him." And Hereward led the
garron on by the bridle, keeping his cap in hand, while all wondered who
the dame could be, before whom Hereward the champion would so abase
"Leofric's son does me too much honor. He has forgotten, in his chivalry,
that I am Godwin's widow."
"I have not forgotten that you are Sprakaleg's daughter, and niece of
Canute, king of kings. Neither have I forgotten that you are an English
lady, in times in which all English folk are one, and all old English
feuds are wiped away."
"In English blood. Ah! if these last words of yours were true, as you,
perhaps, might make them true, England might be saved even yet."
"If there were one man in it, who cared for aught but himself."
Hereward was silent and thoughtful.
He had sent Martin back to his house, to tell Torfrida to prepare bath and
food; for the Countess Gyda, with all her train, was coming to be her
guest. And when they entered the court, Torfrida stood ready.
"Is this your lady?" asked Gyda, as Hereward lifted her from her horse.
"I am his lady, and your servant," said Torfrida, bowing.
"Child! child! Bow not to me. Talk not of servants to a wretched slave,
who only longs to crawl into some hole and die, forgetting all she was and
all she had."
And the great Countess reeled with weariness and woe, and fell upon
A tall veiled lady next her helped to support her; and between them they
almost carried her through the hall, and into Torfrida's best
And there they gave her wine, and comforted her, and let her weep awhile
The second lady had unveiled herself, displaying a beauty which was still
brilliant, in spite of sorrow, hunger, the stains of travel, and more than
forty years of life.
"She must be Gunhilda," guessed Torfrida to herself, and not amiss.
She offered Gyda a bath, which she accepted eagerly, like a true Dane.
"I have not washed for weeks. Not since we sat starving on the Flat-Holme
there, in the Severn sea. I have become as foul as my own fortunes: and
why not? It is all of a piece. Why should not beggars beg unwashed?"
But when Torfrida offered Gunhilda the bath she declined.
"I have done, lady, with such carnal vanities. What use in cleansing that
body which is itself unclean, and whitening the outside of this sepulchre?
If I can but cleanse my soul fit for my heavenly Bridegroom, the body may
become--as it must at last--food for worms."
"She will needs enter religion, poor child," said Gyda; "and what wonder?"
"I have chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from me."
"Taken! taken! Hark to her! She means to mock me, the proud nun, with that
"God forbid, mother!"
"Then why say taken, to me from whom all is taken?--husband, sons, wealth,
land, renown, power,--power which I loved, wretch that I was, as well as
husband and as sons? Ah God! the girl is right. Better to rot in the
convent, than writhe in the world. Better never to have had, than to have
had and lost."
"Amen!" said Gunhilda. "'Blessed are the barren, and they that never gave
suck,' saith the Lord."
"No! Not so!" cried Torfrida. "Better, Countess, to have had and lost,
than never to have had at all. The glutton was right, swine as he was,
when he said that not even Heaven could take from him the dinners he had
eaten. How much more we, if we say, not even Heaven can take from us the
love wherewith we have loved. Will not our souls be richer thereby,
through all eternity?"
"In Purgatory?" asked Gunhilda.
"In Purgatory, or where else you will. I love my love; and though my love
prove false, he has been true; though he trample me under foot, he has
held me in his bosom; though he kill me, he has lived for me. What I have
had will still be mine, when that which I have shall fail me."
"And you would buy short joy with lasting woe?"
"That would I, like a brave man's child. I say,--the present is mine, and
I will enjoy it, as greedily as a child. Let the morrow take thought for
the things of itself.--Countess, your bath is ready."
Nineteen years after, when the great conqueror lay, tossing with agony and
remorse, upon his dying bed, haunted by the ghosts of his victims, the
clerks of St. Saviour's in Bruges city were putting up a leaden tablet
(which remains, they say, unto this very day) to the memory of one whose
gentle soul had gently passed away. "Charitable to the poor, kind and
agreeable to her attendants, courteous to strangers, and only severe to
herself," Gunhilda had lingered on in a world of war and crime; and had
gone, it may be, to meet Torfrida beyond the grave, and there finish their
The Countess was served with food in Torfrida's chamber. Hereward and his
wife refused to sit, and waited on her standing.
"I wish to show these saucy Flemings," said he, "that an English princess
is a princess still in the eyes of one more nobly born than any of them."
But after she had eaten, she made Torfrida sit before her on the bed, and
Hereward likewise; and began to talk; eagerly, as one who had not
unburdened her mind for many weeks; and eloquently too, as became
Sprakaleg's daughter and Godwin's wife.
She told them how she had fled from the storm of Exeter, with a troop of
women, who dreaded the brutalities of the Normans. [Footnote: To do
William justice, he would not allow his men to enter the city while they
were blood-hot; and so prevented, as far as he could, the excesses which
Gyda had feared.] How they had wandered up through Devon, found fishers'
boats at Watchet in Somersetshire, and gone off to the little desert
island of the Flat-Holme, in hopes of there meeting with the Irish fleet,
which her sons, Edmund and Godwin, were bringing against the West of
England. How the fleet had never come, and they had starved for many days;
and how she had bribed a passing merchantman to take her and her wretched
train to the land of Baldwin the Debonnaire, who might have pity on her
for the sake of his daughter Judith, and Tosti her husband who died in his
And at his name, her tears began to flow afresh; fallen in his overweening
pride,--like Sweyn, like Harold, like herself--
"The time was, when I would not weep. If I could, I would not. For a year,
lady, after Senlac, I sat like a stone. I hardened my heart like a wall of
brass, against God and man. Then, there upon the Flat-Holme, feeding on
shell-fish, listening to the wail of the sea-fowl, looking outside the
wan water for the sails which never came, my heart broke down in a moment.
And I heard a voice crying, 'There is no help in man, go thou to God.' And
I answered, That were a beggar's trick, to go to God in need, when I went
not to him in plenty. No. Without God I planned, and without Him I must
fail. Without Him I went into the battle, and without Him I must bide the
brunt. And at best, Can He give me back my sons? And I hardened my heart
again like a stone, and shed no tear till I saw your fair face this day."
"And now!" she said, turning sharply on Hereward, "what do you do here? Do
you not know that your nephews' lands are parted between grooms from
Angers and scullions from Normandy?"
"So much the worse for both them and the grooms."
"You forget, lady, that I am an outlaw."
"But do you not know that your mother's lands are seized likewise?"
"She will take refuge with her grandsons, who are, as I hear, again on
good terms with their new master, showing thereby a most laudable and
Christian spirit of forgiveness."
"On good terms? Do you not know, then, that they are fighting again,
outlaws, and desperate at the Frenchman's treachery? Do you not know that
they have been driven out of York, after defending the city street by
street, house by house? Do you not know that there is not an old man or a
child in arms left in York; and that your nephews, and the few fighting
men who were left, went down the Humber in boats, and north to Scotland,
to Gospatrick and Waltheof? Do you not know that your mother is left
alone--at Bourne, or God knows where--to endure at the hands of Norman
ruffians what thousands more endure?"
Hereward made no answer, but played with his dagger.
"And do you not know that England is ready to burst into a blaze, if there
be one man wise enough to put the live coal into the right place? That
Sweyn Ulffson, his kinsman, or Osbern, his brother, will surely land there
within the year with a mighty host? And that if there be one man in
England of wit enough, and knowledge enough of war, to lead the armies of
England, the Frenchman may be driven into the sea--Is there any here who
"None but ourselves."
"And Canute's nephew sit on Canute's throne?"
Hereward still played with his dagger.
"Not the sons of Harold, then?" asked he, after a while.
"Never! I promise you that--I, Countess Gyda, their grandmother."
"Why promise me, of all men, O great lady?"
"Because--I will tell you after. But this I say, my curse on the grandson
of mine who shall try to seize that fatal crown, which cost the life of my
fairest, my noblest, my wisest, my bravest!"
Hereward bowed his head, as if consenting to the praise of Harold. But he
knew who spoke; and he was thinking within himself: "Her curse may be on
him who shall seize, and yet not on him to whom it is given."
"All that they, young and unskilful lads, have a right to ask is, their
father's earldoms and their father's lands. Edwin and Morcar would keep
their earldoms as of right. It is a pity that there is no lady of the
house of Godwin, whom we could honor by offering her to one of your
nephews, in return for their nobleness in giving Aldytha to my Harold. But
this foolish girl here refuses to wed--"
"And is past forty," thought Hereward to himself.
"However, some plan to join the families more closely together might be
thought of. One of the young earls might marry Judith here. [Footnote:
Tosti's widow, daughter of Baldwin of Flanders] Waltheof would have
Northumbria, in right of his father, and ought to be well content,--for
although she is somewhat older than he, she is peerlessly beautiful,--to
marry your niece Aldytha." [Footnote: Harold's widow.]
"Gospatrick," she said, with a half-sneer, "will be as sure, as he is
able, to get something worth having for himself out of any medley. Let him
have Scotch Northumbria, if he claim it. He is a Dane, and our work will
be to make a Danish England once and forever."
"But what of Sweyn's gallant holders and housecarles, who are to help to
do this mighty deed?"
"Senlac left gaps enough among the noblemen of the South, which they can
fill up, in the place of the French scum who now riot over Wessex. And if
that should not suffice, what higher honor for me, or for my daughter the
Queen-Dowager, than to devote our lands to the heroes who have won them
back for us?"
Hereward hoped inwardly that Gyda would be as good as her word; for her
greedy grasp had gathered to itself, before the Battle of Hastings, no
less than six-and-thirty thousand acres of good English soil.
"I have always heard," said he, bowing, "that if the Lady Gyda had been
born a man, England would have had another all-seeing and all-daring
statesman, and Earl Godwin a rival, instead of a helpmate. Now I believe
what I have heard."
But Torfrida looked sadly at the Countess. There was something pitiable in
the sight of a woman ruined, bereaved, seemingly hopeless, portioning out
the very land from which she was a fugitive; unable to restrain the
passion for intrigue, which had been the toil and the bane of her sad and
"And now," she went on, "surely some kind saint brought me, even on my
first landing, to you of all living men."
"Doubtless the blessed St. Bertin, beneath whose shadow we repose here in
peace," said Hereward, somewhat dryly.
"I will go barefoot to his altar to-morrow, and offer my last jewel," said
"You," said Gyda, without noticing her daughter, "are, above all men, the
man who is needed." And she began praising Hereward's valor, his fame, his
eloquence, his skill as a general and engineer; and when he suggested,
smiling, that he was an exile and an outlaw, she insisted that he was all
the fitter from that very fact. He had no enemies among the nobles. He had
been mixed up in none of the civil wars and blood feuds of the last
fifteen years. He was known only as that which he was, the ablest captain
of his day,--the only man who could cope with William, the only man whom
all parties in England would alike obey.
And so, with flattery as well as with truth, she persuaded, if not
Hereward, at least Torfrida, that he was the man destined to free England
once more; and that an earldom--anything which he chose to ask--would be
the sure reward of his assistance.
"Torfrida," said Hereward that night, "kiss me well; for you will not kiss
me again for a while."
"I am going to England to-morrow."
"Alone. I and Martin to spy out the land; and a dozen or so of housecarles
to take care of the ship in harbor."
"But you have promised to fight the Viscount of Pinkney."
"I will be back again in time for him. Not a word,--I must go to England,
or go mad."
"But Countess Gyda? Who will squire her to Bruges?"
"You, and the rest of my men. You must tell her all. She has a woman's
heart, and will understand. And tell Baldwin I shall be back within the
month, if I am alive on land or water."
"Hereward, Hereward, the French will kill you!"
"Not while I have your armor on. Peace, little fool! Are you actually
afraid for Hereward at last?"
"O heavens! when am I not afraid for you!" and she cried herself to sleep
upon his bosom. But she knew that it was the right, and knightly, and
Christian thing to do.
Two days after, a long ship ran out of Calais, and sailed away north and
HOW HEREWARD CLEARED BOURNE OF FRENCHMEN.
It may have been well, a week after, that Hereward rode from the direction
of Boston, with Martin running at his heels.
As Hereward rode along the summer wold the summer sun sank low, till just
before it went down he came to an island of small enclosed fields, high
banks, elm-trees, and a farm inside; one of those most ancient holdings of
the South and East Counts, still to be distinguished, by their huge banks
and dikes full of hedgerow timber, from the more modern corn-lands
outside, which were in Hereward's time mostly common pasture-lands.
"This should be Azerdun," said he; "and there inside, as I live, stands
Azer getting in his crops. But who has he with him?"
With the old man were some half-dozen men of his own rank; some helping
the serfs with might and main; one or two standing on the top of the
banks, as if on the lookout; but all armed _cap-a-pie_.
"His friends are helping him to get them in," quoth Martin, "for fear of
the rascally Normans. A pleasant and peaceable country we have come back
"And a very strong fortress are they holding," said Hereward, "against
either Norman horsemen or Norman arrows. How to dislodge those six fellows
without six times their number, I do not see. It is well to recollect
And so he did; and turned to use again and again, in after years, the
strategetic capabilities of an old-fashioned English farm.
Hereward spurred his horse up to the nearest gate, and was instantly
confronted by a little fair-haired man, as broad as he was tall, who
heaved up a long "twybill," or double axe, and bade him, across the gate,
go to a certain place.
"Little Winter, little Winter, my chuck, my darling, my mad fellow, my
brother-in-arms, my brother in robbery and murder, are you grown so honest
in your old age that you will not know Hereward the wolfs-head?"
"Hereward!" shrieked the doughty little man. "I took you for an accursed
Norman in those outlandish clothes;" and lifting up no little voice, he
"Hereward is back, and Martin Lightfoot at his heels!"
The gate was thrown open, and Hereward all but pulled off his horse. He
was clapped on the back, turned round and round, admired from head to
foot, shouted at by old companions of his boyhood, naughty young
housecarles of his old troop, now settled down into honest thriving
yeomen, hard working and hard fighting, who had heard again and again,
with pride, of his doughty doings over sea. There was Winter, and Gwenoch,
and Gery, Hereward's cousin,--ancestor, it may be, of the ancient and
honorable house of that name, and of those parts; and Duti and Outi, the
two valiant twins; and Ulfard the White, and others, some of whose names,
and those of their sons, still stand in Domesday-book.
"And what," asked Hereward, after the first congratulations were over, "of
my mother? What of the folk at Bourne?"
All looked each at the other, and were silent.
"You are too late, young lord," said Azer.
"The Norman"--Azer called him what most men called him then--"has given it
to a man of Gilbert of Ghent's,--his butler, groom, cook, for aught I
"To Gilbert's man? And my mother?"
"God help your mother, and your young brother, too. We only know that
three days ago some five-and-twenty French marched into the place."
"And you did not stop them?"
"Young sir, who are we to stop an army? We have enough to keep our own.
Gilbert, let alone the villain Ivo of Spalding, can send a hundred men
down on us in four-and-twenty hours."
"Then I," said Hereward in a voice of thunder, "will find the way to send
two hundred down on him"; and turning his horse from the gate, he rode
away furiously towards Bourne.
He turned back as suddenly, and galloped into the field.
"Lads! old comrades! will you stand by me if I need you? Will you follow
Hereward, as hundreds have followed him already, if he will only go
"We will, we will."
"I shall be back ere morning. What you have to do, I will tell you then."
"Stop and eat, but for a quarter of an hour."
Then Hereward swore a great oath, by oak and ash and thorn, that he would
neither eat bread nor drink water while there was a Norman left in Bourne.
"A little ale, then, if no water," said Azer.
Hereward laughed, and rode away,
"You will not go single-handed against all those ruffians," shouted the
old man after him. "Saddle, lads, and go with him, some of you, for very
But when they galloped after Hereward, he sent them back. He did not know
yet, he said, what he would do. Better that they should gather their
forces, and see what men they could afford him, in case of open battle.
And he rode swiftly on.
When he came within the lands of Bourne it was dark.
"So much the better," thought Hereward. "I have no wish to see the old
place till I have somewhat cleaned it out."
He rode slowly into the long street between the overhanging gables. At the
upper end he could see the high garden walls of his mother's house, and
rising over them the great hall, its narrow windows all ablaze with light.
With a bitter growl he rode on, trying to recollect a house where he could
safely lodge. Martin pointed one out.
"Old Viking Surturbrand, the housecarle, did live there, and maybe lives
"We will try." And Martin knocked at the door.
The wicket was opened, but not the door; and through the wicket window a
surly voice asked who was there.
"Who lives here?"
"Perry, son of Surturbrand. Who art thou who askest?"
"An honest gentleman and his servant, looking for a night's lodging."
"This is no place for honest folk."
"As for that, we don't wish to be more honest than you would have us; but
lodging we will pay for, freely and well."
"We want none of your money"; and the wicket was shut.
Martin pulled out his axe, and drove the panel in.
"What are you doing? We shall rouse the town," said Hereward.
"Let be; these are no French, but honest English, and like one all the
better for a little horse-play."
"What didst do that for?" asked the surly voice again. "Were it not for
those rascal Frenchmen up above, I would come out and split thy skull for
"If there be Frenchmen up above," said Martin, in a voice of feigned
terror, "take us in for the love of the Virgin and all the saints, or
murdered we shall be ere morning light."
"You have no call to stay in the town, man, unless you like."
Hereward rode close to the wicket, and said in a low voice, "I am a
nobleman of Flanders, good sir, and a sworn foe to all French. My horse is
weary, and cannot make a step forward; and if you be a Christian man, you
will take me in and let me go off safe ere morning light."
"From Flanders?" And the man turned and seemed to consult those within. At
length the door was slowly opened, and Perry appeared, his double axe over
"If you be from Flanders, come in for mercy; but be quick, ere those
Frenchmen get wind of you."
Hereward went in. Five or six men were standing round the long table, upon
which they had just laid down their double axes and javelins. More than
one countenance Hereward recognized at once. Over the peat-fire in the
chimney-corner sat a very old man, his hands upon his knees, as he warmed
his bare feet at the embers. He started up at the noise, and Hereward saw
at once that it was old Surturbrand, and that he was blind.
"Who is it? Is Hereward come?" asked he, with the dull, dreamy voice of
"Not Hereward, father," said some one, "but a knight from Flanders."
The old man dropped his head upon his breast again with a querulous whine,
while Hereward's heart beat high at hearing his own name. At all events he
was among friends; and approaching the table he unbuckled his sword and
laid it down among the other weapons. "At least," said he, "I shall have
no need of thee as long as I am here among honest men."
"What shall I do with my master's horse?" asked Martin. "He can't stand in
the street to be stolen by drunken French horseboys."
"Bring him in at the front door, and out at the back," said Perry. "Fine
times these, when a man dare not open his own yard-gate."
"You seem to be all besieged here," said Hereward. "How is this?"
"Besieged we are," said the man; and then, partly to turn the subject off,
"Will it please you to eat, noble sir?"
Hereward ate and drank: while his hosts eyed him, not without some
lingering suspicion, but still with admiration and some respect. His
splendid armor and weapons, as well as the golden locks which fell far
below his shoulders, and conveniently hid a face which he did not wish yet
to have recognized, showed him to be a man of the highest rank; while the
palm of his small hand, as hard and bony as any woodman's, proclaimed him
to be no novice of a fighting man. The strong Flemish accent which both he
and Martin Lightfoot had assumed prevented the honest Englishmen from
piercing his disguise. They watched him, while he in turn watched them,
struck by their uneasy looks and sullen silence.
"We are a dull company," said he after a while, courteously enough. "We
used to be told in Flanders that there were none such stout drinkers and
none such jolly singers as you gallant men of the Danelagh here."
"Dull times make dull company," said one, "and no offence to you, Sir
"Are you such a stranger," asked Perry, "that you do not know what has
happened in this town during the last three days?"
"No good, I will warrant, if you have Frenchmen in it."
"Why was not Hereward here?" wailed the old man in the corner. "It never
would have happened if he had been in the town."
"What?" asked Hereward, trying to command himself.
"What has happened," said Perry, "makes a free Englishman's blood boil to
tell of. Here, Sir Knight, three days ago, comes in this Frenchman with
some twenty ruffians of his own, and more of one Taillebois's, too, to see
him safe; says that this new king, this base-born Frenchman, has given
away all Earl Morcar's lands, and that Bourne is his; kills a man or two;
upsets the women; gets drunk, ruffles, and roisters; breaks into my lady's
bower, calling her to give up her keys, and when she gives them, will have
all her jewels too. She faces them like a brave Princess, and two of the
hounds lay hold of her, and say that she shall ride through Bourne as she
rode through Coventry. The boy Godwin--he that was the great Earl's
godson, our last hope, the last of our house--draws sword on them; and he,
a boy of sixteen summers, kills them both out of hand. The rest set on
him, cut his head off, and there it sticks on the gable spike of the hall
to this hour. And do you ask, after that, why free Englishmen are dull
"And our turn will come next," growled somebody. "The turn will go all
round; no man's life or land, wife or daughters, will be safe soon for
these accursed Frenchmen, unless, as the old man says, Hereward comes
Once again the old man wailed out of the chimney-corner: "Why did they
ever send Hereward away? I warned the good Earl, I warned my good lady,
many a time, to let him sow his wild oats and be done with them; or they
might need him some day when they could not find him! He was a lad! He was
a lad!" and again he whined, and sank into silence.
Hereward heard all this dry-eyed, hardening his heart into a great
resolve. "This is a dark story," said he calmly, "and it would behoove me
as a gentleman to succor this distressed lady, did I but know how. Tell me
what I can do now, and I will do it."
"Your health!" cried one. "You speak like a true knight."
"And he looks the man to keep his word, I'll warrant him," spoke another.
"He does," said Perry, shaking his head; "but if anything could have been
done, sir, be sure we would have done it: but all our armed men are
scattered up and down the country, each taking care, as is natural, of his
own cattle and his own women. There are not ten men-at-arms in Bourne this
night; and, what is worse, sir, as you know, who seem to have known war as
well as me, there is no man to lead them."
Here Hereward was on the point of saying, "And what if I led you?"--On the
point too of discovering himself: but he stopped short.
Was it fair to involve this little knot of gallant fellows in what might
be a hopeless struggle, and have all Bourne burned over their heads ere
morning by the ruffian Frenchmen? No; his mother's quarrel was his own
private quarrel. He would go alone and see the strength of the enemy; and
after that, may be, he would raise the country on them: or--and half a
dozen plans suggested themselves to his crafty brain as he sat brooding
and scheming: then, as always, utterly self-confident.
He was startled by a burst of noise outside,--music, laughter, and shouts.
"There," said Perry, bitterly, "are those Frenchmen, dancing and singing
in the hall with my Lord Godwin's head above them!" And curses bitter and
deep went round the room. They sat sullen and silent it may be for an hour
or more; only moving when, at some fresh outbreak of revelry, the old man
started from his doze and asked if that was Hereward coming.
"And who is this Hereward of whom you speak?" said Hereward at last.
"We thought you might know him, Sir Knight, if you come from Flanders, as
you say you do," said three or four voices in a surprised and surly tone.
"Certainly I know such a man, if he be Hereward the wolf's-head, Hereward
the outlaw, as they call him. And a good soldier he is, though he be not
yet made a knight; and married, too, to a rich and fair lady. I served
under this Hereward a few months ago in the Friesland War, and know no man
whom I would sooner follow."
"Nor I neither," chimed in Martin Lightfoot from the other end of the
"Nor we," cried all the men-at-arms at once, each vying with the other in
extravagant stories of their hero's prowess, and in asking the knight of
Flanders whether they were true or not.
To avoid offending them, Hereward was forced to confess to a great many
deeds which he had never done: but he was right glad to find that his fame
had reached his native place, and that he could count on the men if he
"But who is this Hereward," said he, "that he should have to do with your
Half a dozen voices at once told him his own story.
"I always heard," said he, dryly, "that that gentleman was of some very
noble kin; and I will surely tell him all that has befallen here as soon
as I return to Flanders."
At last they grew sleepy, and the men went out and brought in bundles of
sweet rush, and spread them against the wall, and prepared to lie down,
each his weapon by his side. And when they were lain down, Hereward
beckoned to him Perry and Martin Lightfoot, and went out into the back
yard, under the pretence of seeing to his horse.
"Perry Surturbrandsson," said he, "you seem to be an honest man, as we in
foreign parts hold all the Danelagh to be. Now it is fixed in my mind to
go up, and my servant, to your hall, and see what those French upstarts
are about. Will you trust me to go, without my fleeing back here if I am
found out, or in any way bringing you to harm by mixing you up in my
private matters? And will you, if I do not come back, keep for your own
the horse which is in your stable, and give moreover this purse and this
ring to your lady, if you can find means to see her face to face; and say
thus to her,--that he that sent that purse and ring may be found, if he be
alive, at St. Omer, or with Baldwin, Count of Flanders; and that if he be
dead, as he is like enough to be, his trade being naught but war, she will
still find at St. Omer a home and wealth and friends, till these evil
times be overpast?"
As Hereward had spoken with some slight emotion, he had dropped unawares
his assumed Flemish accent, and had spoken in broad burly Lincolnshire;
and therefore it was that Perry, who had been staring at him by the
moonlight all the while, said, when he was done, tremblingly,--
"Either you are Hereward, or you are his fetch. You speak like Hereward,
you look like Hereward. Just what Hereward would be now, you are. You are
my lord, and you cannot deny it."
"Perry, if you know me, speak of me to no living soul, save to your lady
my mother; and let me and my serving-man go free out of your yard-gate. If
I ask you before morning to open it again to me, you will know that there
is not a Frenchman left in the Hall of Bourne."
Perry threw his arms around him, and embraced him silently.
"Get me only," said Hereward, "some long woman's gear and black mantle, if
you can, to cover this bright armor of mine."
Perry went off in silence as one stunned,--brought the mantle, and let
them out of the yard-gate. In ten minutes more, the two slipping in by
well-known paths, stood under the gable of the great hall. Not a soul was
stirring outside. The serfs were all cowering in their huts like so many
rabbits in their burrows, listening in fear to the revelry of their new
tyrants. The night was dark: but not so dark but that Hereward could see
between him and the sky his brother's long locks floating in the breeze.
"That I must have down, at least," said he, in a low voice.
"Then here is wherewithal," said Martin Lightfoot, as he stumbled over
something. "The drunken villains have left the ladder in the yard."
Hereward got up the ladder, took down the head and wrapped it in the
cloak, and ere he did so kissed the cold forehead. How he had hated that
boy! Well, at least he had never wilfully harmed him,--or the boy him
either, for that matter. And now he had died like a man, killing his foe.
He was of the true old blood after all. And Hereward felt that he would
have given all that he had, save his wife or his sword-hand, to have that
boy alive again, to pet him, and train him, and teach him to fight at his
Then he slipped round to one of the narrow unshuttered windows and looked
in. The hall was in a wasteful blaze of light,--a whole month's candles
burning in one night. The table was covered with all his father's choicest
plate; the wine was running waste upon the floor; the men were lolling at
the table in every stage of drunkenness; the loose women, camp-followers,
and such like, almost as drunk as their masters; and at the table head,
most drunk of all, sat, in Earl Leofric's seat, the new Lord of Bourne.
Hereward could scarce believe his eyes. He was none other than Gilbert of
Ghent's stout Flemish cook, whom he had seen many a time in Scotland.
Hereward turned from the window in disgust; but looked again as he heard
words which roused his anger still more.
For in the open space nearest the door stood a gleeman, a dancing,
harping, foul-mouthed fellow, who was showing off ape's tricks, jesting
against the English, and shuffling about in mockeries of English dancing.
At some particularly coarse jest of his, the new Lord of Bourne burst into
a roar of admiration.
"Ask what thou wilt, fellow, and thou shalt have it. Thou wilt find me a
better master to thee than ever was Morcar, the English barbarian."
The scoundrel, say the old chroniclers, made a request concerning
Hereward's family which cannot be printed here.
Hereward ground his teeth. "If thou livest till morning light," said he,
"I will not."
The last brutality awoke some better feeling in one of the girls,--a large
coarse Fleming, who sat by the new lord's side. "Fine words," said she,
scornfully enough, "for the sweepings of Norman and Flemish kennels. You
forget that you left one of this very Leofric's sons behind in Flanders,
who would besom all out if he was here before the morning's dawn."
"Hereward?" cried the cook, striking her down with a drunken blow; "the
scoundrel who stole the money which the Frisians sent to Count Baldwin,
and gave it to his own troops? We are safe enough from him at all events;
he dare not show his face on this side the Alps, for fear of the gallows."
Hereward had heard enough. He slipped down from the window to Martin, and
led him round the house.
"Now then, down with the ladder quick, and dash in the door. I go in; stay
thou outside. If any man passes me, see that he pass not thee."
Martin chuckled a ghostly laugh as he helped the ladder down. In another
moment the door was burst in, and Hereward stood upon the threshold. He
gave one war-shout,--his own terrible name,--and then rushed forward. As
he passed the gleeman, he gave him one stroke across the loins; the wretch
And then began a murder, grim and great. They fought with ale-cups, with
knives, with benches: but, drunken and unarmed, they were hewn down like
sheep. Fourteen Normans, says the chronicler, were in the hall when
Hereward burst in. When the sun rose there were fourteen heads upon the
gable. Escape had been impossible. Martin had laid the ladder across the
door; and the few who escaped the master's terrible sword, stumbled over
it, to be brained by the man's not less terrible axe.
Then Hereward took up his brother's head, and went in to his mother.
The women in the bower opened to him. They had seen all that passed from
the gallery above, which, as usual, hidden by a curtain, enabled the women
to watch unseen what passed in the hall below.
The Lady Godiva sat crouched together, all but alone,--for her
bower-maidens had fled or been carried off long since,--upon a low stool
beside a long dark thing covered with a pall. So utterly crushed was she,
that she did not even lift up her head as Hereward entered.
He placed his ghastly burden reverently beneath the pall, and then went
and knelt before his mother.
For a while neither spoke a word. Then the Lady Godiva suddenly drew back
her hood, and dropping on her knees, threw her arms round Hereward's neck,
and wept till she could weep no more.
"Blessed strong arms," sobbed she at last, "around me! To feel something
left in the world to protect me; something left in the world which loves
"You forgive me, mother?"
"You forgive me? It was I, I who was in fault,--I, who should have
cherished you, my strongest, my bravest, my noblest,--now my all."
"No, it was all my fault; and on my head is all this misery. If I had been
here, as I ought to have been, all this might have never happened."
"You would only have been murdered too. No: thank God you were away; or
God would have taken you with the rest. His arm is bared against me, and
His face turned away from me. All in vain, in vain! Vain to have washed my
hands in innocency, and worshipped Him night and day. Vain to have builded
minsters in his honor, and heaped the shrines of his saints with gold.
Vain to have fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and washed the feet of
His poor, that I might atone for my own sins, and the sins of my house.
This is His answer. He has taken me up, and dashed me down: and naught is
left but, like Job, to abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes--of I
know not what."
"God has not deserted you. See, He has sent you me!" said Hereward,
wondering to find himself, of all men on earth, preaching consolation.
"Yes, I have you! Hold me. Love me. Let me feel that one thing loves me
upon earth. I want love; I must have it: and if God, and His mother, and
all the saints, refuse their love, I must turn to the creature, and ask it
to love me, but for a day."
"For ever, mother."
"You will not leave me?"
"If I do, I come back, to finish what I have begun."
"More blood? O God! Hereward, not that! Let us return good for evil. Let
us take up our crosses. Let us humble ourselves under God's hand, and flee
into some convent, and there die praying for our country and our kin."
"Men must work, while women pray. I will take you to a minster,--to
"No, not to Peterborough!"
"But my Uncle Brand is abbot there, they tell me, now this four years; and
that rogue Herluin, prior in his place."
"He is dying,--dying of a broken heart, like me. And the Frenchman has
given his abbey to one Thorold, the tyrant of Malmesbury,--a Frenchman
like himself. No, take me where I shall never see a French face. Take me
to Crowland--and him with me--where I shall see naught but English faces,
and hear English chants, and die a free Englishwoman under St. Guthlac's
"Ah!" said Hereward, bitterly, "St. Guthlac is a right Englishman, and
will have some sort of fellow-feeling for us; while St. Peter, of course,
is somewhat too fond of Rome and those Italian monks. Well,--blood is
thicker than water; so I hardly blame the blessed Apostle."
"Do not talk so, Hereward."
"Much the saints have done for us, mother, that we are to be so very
respectful to their high mightinesses. I fear, if this Frenchman goes on
with his plan of thrusting his monks into our abbeys, I shall have to do
more even for St. Guthlac than ever he did for me. Do not say more,
mother. This night has made Hereward a new man. Now, prepare"--and she
knew what he meant--"and gather all your treasures; and we will start for
Crowland to-morrow afternoon."
HOW HEREWARD WAS MADE A KNIGHT AFTER THE FASHION OF THE ENGLISH.
A wild night was that in Bourne. All the folk, free and unfree, man and
woman, out on the streets, asking the meaning of those terrible shrieks,
followed by a more terrible silence.
At last Hereward strode down from the hall, his drawn sword in his hand.
"Silence, good folks, and hearken to me, once for all. There is not a
Frenchman left alive in Bourne. If you be the men I take you for, there
shall not be one left alive between Wash and Humber. Silence, again!" as a
fierce cry of rage and joy arose, and men rushed forward to take him by
the hand, women to embrace him. "This is no time for compliments, good
folks, but for quick wit and quick blows. For the law we fight, if we do
fight; and by the law we must work, fight or not. Where is the lawman of
"I was lawman last night, to see such law done as there is left," said
Perry. "But you are lawman now. Do as you will. We will obey you."
"You shall be our lawman," shouted many voices.
"I! Who am I? Out-of-law, and a wolf's-head."
"We will put you back into your law,--we will give you your lands in full
"Never mind a husting on my behalf. Let us have a husting, if we have one,
for a better end than that. Now, men of Bourne, I have put the coal in the
bush. Dare you blow the fire till the forest is aflame from south to
north? I have fought a dozen of Frenchmen. Dare you fight Taillebois and
Gilbert of Ghent, with William, Duke of Normandy, at their back? Or will
you take me, here as I stand, and give me up to them as an outlaw and a
robber, to feed the crows outside the gates of Lincoln? Do it, if you
will. It will be the wiser plan, my friends. Give me up to be judged and
hanged, and so purge yourselves of the villanous murder of Gilbert's
cook,--your late lord and master."
"Lord and master! We are free men!" shouted the holders, or yeomen
gentlemen. "We hold our lands from God and the sun."
"You are our lord!" shouted the socmen, or tenants. "Who but you? We will
follow, If you will lead!"
"Hereward is come home!" cried a feeble voice behind. "Let me come to him.
Let me feel him."
And through the crowd, supported by two ladies, tottered the mighty form
of Surturbrand, the blind Viking.
"Hereward is come!" cried he, as he folded his master's son in his arms.
"Hoi! he is wet with blood! Hoi! he smells of blood! Hoi! the ravens will
grow fat now, for Hereward is come home!"
Some would have led the old man away; but he thrust them off fiercely.
"Hoi! come wolf! Hoi! come kite! Hoi! come erne from off the fen! You
followed us, and we fed you well, when Swend Forkbeard brought us over the
sea. Follow us now, and we will feed you better still, with the mongrel
Frenchers who scoff at the tongue of their forefathers, and would rob
their nearest kinsman of land and lass. Hoi! Swend's men! Hoi! Canute's
men! Vikings' sons, sea-cocks' sons, Berserkers' sons all! Split up the
war-arrow, and send it round, and the curse of Odin on every man that will
not pass it on! A war-king to-morrow, and Hildur's game next day, that the
old Surturbrand may fall like a freeholder, axe in hand, and not die like
a cow, in the straw which the Frenchman has spared him."
All men were silent, as the old Viking's voice, cracked and feeble when he
began, gathered strength from rage, till it rang through the still
night-air like a trumpet-blast.
The silence was broken by a long wild cry from the forest, which made the
women start, and catch their children closer to them. It was the howl of a
"Hark to the witch's horse! Hark to the son of Fenris, how he calls for
meat! Are ye your fathers' sons, ye men of Bourne? They never let the gray
beast call in vain."
Hereward saw his opportunity and seized it. There were those in the crowd,
he well knew, as there must needs be in all crowds, who wished themselves
well out of the business; who shrank from the thought of facing the Norman
barons, much more the Norman king; who were ready enough, had the tide of
feeling begun to ebb, of blaming Hereward for rashness, even though they
might not have gone so far as to give him up to the Normans; who would
have advised some sort of compromise, pacifying half-measure, or other
weak plan for escaping present danger, by delivering themselves over to
future destruction. But three out of four there were good men and true.
The savage chant of the old barbarian might have startled them somewhat,
for they were tolerably orthodox Christian folk. But there was sense as
well as spirit in its savageness; and they growled applause, as he ceased.
But Hereward heard, and cried,--
"The Viking is right! So speaks the spirit of our fathers, and we must
show ourselves their true sons. Send round the war-arrow, and death to the
man who does not pass it on! Better die bravely together than falter and
part company, to be hunted down one by one by men who will never forgive
us as long as we have an acre of land for them to seize. Perry, son of
Surturbrand, you are the lawman. Put it to the vote!"
"Send round the war-arrow!" shouted Perry himself; and if there was a man
or two who shrank from the proposal they found it prudent to shout as
loudly as did the rest.
Ere the morning light, the war-arrow was split into four splinters, and
carried out to the four airts, through all Kesteven. If the splinter were
put into the house-father's hand, he must send it on at once to the next
freeman's house. If he were away, it was stuck into his house-door, or
into his great chair by the fireside, and woe to him if, on his return, he
sent it not on likewise. All through Kesteven went that night the
arrow-splinters, and with them the whisper, "Hereward is come again!" And
before midday there were fifty well-armed men in the old camping-field
outside the town, and Hereward haranguing them in words of fire.
A chill came over them, nevertheless, when he told them that he must
return at once to Flanders.
"But it must be," he said. He had promised his good lord and sovereign,
Baldwin of Flanders, and his word of honor he must keep. Two visits he
must pay, ere he went; and then to sea. But within the year, if he were
alive on ground, he would return, and with him ships and men, it might be
with Sweyn and all the power of Denmark. Only let them hold their own
till the Danes should come, and all would be well. And whenever he came
back, he would set a light to three farms that stood upon a hill, whence
they could be seen far and wide over the Bruneswold and over all the fen;
and then all men might know for sure that Hereward was come again.
"And nine-and-forty of them," says the chronicler, "he chose to guard
Bourne," seemingly the lands which had been his nephew Morcar's, till he
should come back and take them for himself. Godiva's lands, of Witham,
Toft and Mainthorpe, Gery his cousin should hold till his return, and send
what he could off them to his mother at Crowland.
Then they went down to the water and took barge, and laid the corpse
therein; and Godiva and Hereward sat at the dead lad's head; and Winter
steered the boat, and Gwenoch took the stroke-oar.
And they rowed away for Crowland, by many a mere and many an ea; through
narrow reaches of clear brown glassy water; between the dark-green alders;
between the pale-green reeds; where the coot clanked, and the bittern
boomed, and the sedge-bird, not content with its own sweet song, mocked
the song of all the birds around; and then out into the broad lagoons,
where hung motionless, high overhead, hawk beyond hawk, buzzard beyond
buzzard, kite beyond kite, as far as eye could see. Into the air, as they
rowed on, whirred up the great skeins of wild fowl innumerable, with a cry
as of all the bells of Crowland, or all the hounds of Bruneswold; and
clear above all the noise sounded the wild whistle of the curlews, and the
trumpet-note of the great white swan. Out of the reeds, like an arrow,
shot the peregrine, singled one luckless mallard from the flock, caught
him up, struck him stone dead with one blow of his terrible heel, and
swept his prey with him into the reeds again.
"Death! death! death!" said Lady Godiva, as the feathers fluttered down
into the boat and rested on the dead boy's pall. "War among man and beast,
war on earth, war in air, war in the water beneath," as a great pike
rolled at his bait, sending a shoal of white fish flying along the
surface. "And war, says holy writ, in heaven above. O Thou who didst die
to destroy death, when will it all be over?"
And thus they glided on from stream to stream, until they came to the
sacred isle of "the inheritance of the Lord, the soil of St. Mary and St.
Bartholomew; the most holy sanctuary of St. Guthlac and his monks; the
minster most free from worldly servitude; the special almshouse of the
most illustrious kings; the sole place of refuge for any one in all
tribulations; the perpetual abode of the saints; the possession of
religious men, especially set apart by the Common Council of the kingdom;
by reason of the frequent miracles of the most holy Confessor, an ever
fruitful mother of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi; and, by reason of
the privileges granted by the kings, a city of grace and safety to all who
As they drew near, they passed every minute some fisher's log canoe, in
which worked with net or line the criminal who had saved his life by
fleeing to St. Guthlac, and becoming his man henceforth; the slave who had
fled from his master's cruelty; and here and there in those evil days, the
master who had fled from the cruelty of Normans, who would have done to
him as he had done to others. But all old grudges were put away there.
They had sought the peace of St. Guthlac; and therefore they must keep his
peace, and get their living from the fish of the five rivers, within the
bounds whereof was peace, as of their own quiet streams; for the Abbot and
St. Guthlac were the only lords thereof, and neither summoner nor sheriff
of the king, nor armed force of knight or earl, could enter there.
At last they came to Crowland minster,--a vast range of high-peaked
buildings, founded on piles of oak and hazel driven into the fen,--itself
built almost entirely of timber from the Bruneswold; barns, granaries,
stables, workshops, stranger's hall,--fit for the boundless hospitality of
Crowland,--infirmary, refectory, dormitory, library, abbot's lodgings,
cloisters; and above, the great minster towering up, a steep pile, half
wood, half stone, with narrow round-headed windows and leaden roofs; and
above all the great wooden tower, from which, on high days, chimed out the
melody of the seven famous bells, which had not their like in English
land. Guthlac, Bartholomew, and Bettelm were the names of the biggest,
Turketul and Tatwin of the middle, and Pega and Bega of the smallest. So
says Ingulf, who saw them a few years after pouring down on his own head
in streams of melted metal. Outside the minster walls were the cottages of
the corodiers, or laboring folk; and beyond them again the natural park of
grass, dotted with mighty oaks and ashes; and, beyond all those, cornlands
of inexhaustible fertility, broken up by the good Abbot Egelric some
hundred years before, from which, in times of dearth, the monks of
Crowland fed the people of all the neighboring fens.
They went into the great court-yard. All men were quiet, yet all men were
busy. Baking and brewing, carpentering and tailoring in the workshops,
reading and writing in the cloister, praying and singing in the church,
and teaching the children in the school-house. Only the ancient
sempects--some near upon a hundred and fifty years old--wandered where
they would, or basked against a sunny wall, like autumn flies, with each a
young monk to guide him, and listen to his tattle of old days. For, said
the laws of Turketul the good, "Nothing disagreeable about the affairs of
the monastery shall be mentioned in their presence. No person shall
presume in any way to offend them; but with the greatest peace and
tranquillity they shall await their end."
So, while the world outside raged, and fought, and conquered, and
plundered, they within the holy isle kept up some sort of order, and
justice, and usefulness, and love to God and man. And about the yards,
among the feet of the monks, hopped the sacred ravens, descendants of
those who brought back the gloves at St. Guthlac's bidding; and overhead,
under all the eaves, built the sacred swallows, the descendants of those
who sat and sang upon St. Guthlac's shoulders; and when men marvelled
thereat, he, the holy man, replied: "Know that they who live the holy life
draw nearer to the birds of the air, even as they do to the angels in
And Lady Godiva called for old Abbot Ulfketyl, the good and brave, and
fell upon his neck, and told him all her tale; and Ulfketyl wept upon her
neck, for they were old and faithful friends.
And they passed into the dark, cool church, where in the crypt under the
high altar lay the thumb of St. Bartholomew, which old Abbot Turketul used
to carry about, that he might cross himself with it in times of danger,
tempest, and lightning; and some of the hair of St. Mary, Queen of Heaven,
in a box of gold; and a bone of St. Leodegar of Aquitaine; and some few
remains, too, of the holy bodies of St. Guthlac; and of St. Bettelm, his
servant; and St. Tatwin, who steered him to Crowland; and St. Egbert, his
confessor; and St. Cissa the anchorite; and of the most holy virgin St.
Etheldreda; and many more. But little of them remained since Sigtryg and
Bagsac's heathen Danes had heaped them pellmell on the floor, and burned
the church over them and the bodies of the slaughtered monks.
The plunder which was taken from Crowland on that evil day lay, and lies
still, with the plunder of Peterborough and many a minster more, at the
bottom of the Nene, at Huntingdon Bridge. But it had been more than
replaced by the piety of the Danish kings and nobles; and above the twelve
white bearskins which lay at the twelve altars blazed, in the light of
many a wax candle, gold and jewels inferior only to those of Peterborough
And there in the nave they buried the lad Godwin, with chant and dirge;
and when the funeral was done Hereward went up toward the high altar, and
bade Winter and Gwenoch come with him. And there he knelt, and vowed a vow
to God and St. Guthlac and the Lady Torfrida his true love, never to leave
from slaying while there was a Frenchman left alive on English ground.
And Godiva and Ulfketyl heard his vow, and shuddered; but they dared not
stop him, for they, too, had English hearts.
And Winter and Gwenoch heard it, and repeated it word for word.
Then he kissed his mother, and called Winter and Gwenoch, and went forth.
He would be back again, he said, on the third day.
Then those three went to Peterborough, and asked for Abbot Brand. And the
monks let them in; for the fame of their deed had passed through the
forest, and all the French had fled.
And old Brand lay back in his great arm-chair, his legs all muffled up in
furs, for he could get no heat; and by him stood Herluin the prior, and
wondered when he would die, and Thorold take his place, and they should
drive out the old Gregorian chants from the choir, and have the new Norman
chants of Robert of Fecamp, and bring in French-Roman customs in all
things, and rule the English boors with a rod of iron.
And old Brand knew all that was in his heart, and looked up like a patient
ox beneath the butcher's axe, and said, "Have patience with me, Brother
Herluin, and I will die as soon as I can, and go where there is neither
French nor English, Jew nor Gentile, bond or free, but all are alike in
the eyes of Him who made them."
But when he saw Hereward come in, he cast the mufflers off him, and sprang
up from his chair, and was young and strong in a moment, and for a moment.
And he threw his arms round Hereward, and wept upon his neck, as his
mother had done. And Hereward wept upon his neck, though he had not wept
upon his mother's.
Then Brand held him at arms' length, or thought he held him, for he was
leaning on Hereward, and tottering all the while; and extolled him as the
champion, the warrior, the stay of his house, the avenger of his kin, the
hero of whom he had always prophesied that his kin would need him, and
that then he would not fail.
But Hereward answered him modestly and mildly,--
"Speak not so to me and of me, Uncle Brand. I am a very foolish, vain,
sinful man, who have come through great adventures, I know not how, to
great and strange happiness, and now again to great and strange sorrows;
and to an adventure greater and stranger than all that has befallen me
from my youth up until now. Therefore make me not proud, Uncle Brand, but
keep me modest and lowly, as befits all true knights and penitent sinners;
for they tell me that God resists the proud, and giveth grace to the
humble. And I have that to do which do I cannot, unless God and his saints
give me grace from this day forth."
Brand looked at him, astonished; and then turned to Herluin.
"Did I not tell thee, prior? This is the lad whom you called graceless and
a savage; and see, since he has been in foreign lands, and seen the ways
of knights, he talks as clerkly as a Frenchman, and as piously as any
"The Lord Hereward," said Herluin, "has doubtless learned much from the
manners of our nation which he would not have learned in England. I
rejoice to see him returned so Christian and so courtly a knight."
"The Lord Hereward, Prior Herluin, has learnt one thing in his
travels,--to know somewhat of men and the hearts of men, and to deal with
them as they deserve of him. They tell me that one Thorold of
Malmesbury,--Thorold of Fecamp, the minstrel, he that made the song of
Rowland,--that he desires this abbey."
"I have so heard, my lord."
"Then I command,--I, Hereward, Lord of Bourne!--that this abbey be held
against him and all Frenchmen, in the name of Swend Ulfsson, king of
England, and of me. And he that admits a Frenchman therein, I will shave
his crown for him so well, that he shall never need razor more. This I
tell thee; and this I shall tell your monks before I go. And unless you
obey the same, my dream will be fulfilled; and you will see Goldenbregh in
a light low, and burning yourselves in the midst thereof."
"Swend Ulfsson? Swend of Denmark? What words are these?" cried Brand.
"You will know within six months, uncle."
"I shall know better things, my boy, before six months are out."
"Uncle, uncle, do not say that."
"Why not? If this mortal life be at best a prison and a grave, what is it
worth now to an Englishman?"
"More than ever; for never had an Englishman such a chance of showing
English mettle, and winning renown for the English name. Uncle, you must
do something for me and my comrades ere we go."
"Make us knights."
"Knights, lad? I thought you had been a belted knight this dozen years?"
"I might have been made a knight by many, after the French, fashion, many
a year agone. I might have been knight when I slew the white bear. Ladies
have prayed me to be knighted again and again since. Something kept me
from it. Perhaps" (with a glance at Herluin) "I wanted to show that an
English squire could be the rival and the leader of French and Flemish
"And thou hast shown it, brave lad!" said Brand, clapping his great hands.
"Perhaps I longed to do some mighty deed at last, which would give me a
right to go to the bravest knight in all Christendom, and say, 'Give me
the accolade, then! Thou only art worthy to knight as good a man as
"Pride and vainglory," said Brand, shaking his head.
"But now I am of a sounder mind. I see now why I was kept from being
knighted,--till I had done a deed worthy of a true knight; till I had
mightily avenged the wronged, and mightily succored the oppressed; till I
had purged my soul of my enmity against my own kin, and could go out into
the world a new man, with my mother's blessing on my head."
"But not of the robbery of St. Peter," said Herluin. The French monk
wanted not for moral courage,--no French monk did in those days. And he
proved it by those words.
"Do not anger the lad, Prior; now, too, above all times, when his heart is
softened toward the Lord."
"He has not angered me. The man is right. Here, Lord Abbot and Sir Prior,
is a chain of gold, won in the wars. It is worth fifty times the sixteen
pence which I stole, and which I repaid double. Let St. Peter take it, for
the sins of me and my two comrades, and forgive. And now, Sir Prior, I do
to thee what I never did for mortal man. I kneel, and ask thy forgiveness.
Kneel, Winter! Kneel, Gwenoch!" And Hereward knelt.
Herluin was of double mind. He longed to keep Hereward out of St. Peter's
grace. He longed to see Hereward dead at his feet; not because of any
personal hatred, but because he foresaw in him a terrible foe to the
Norman cause. But he wished, too, to involve Abbot Brand as much as
possible in Hereward's "rebellions" and "misdeeds," and above all, in the
master-offence of knighting him; for for that end, he saw, Hereward was
come. Moreover, he was touched with the sudden frankness and humility of
the famous champion. So he answered mildly,--
"Verily, thou hast a knightly soul. May God and St. Peter so forgive thee
and thy companions as I forgive thee, freely and from my heart."
"Now," cried Hereward, "a boon! a boon! Knight me and these my fellows,
Uncle Brand, this day."
Brand was old and weak, and looked at Herluin.
"I know," said Hereward, "that the French look on us English monk-made
knights as spurious and adulterine, unworthy of the name of knight. But, I
hold--and what churchman will gainsay me?--that it is nobler to receive
sword and belt from a man of God than from a man of blood like one's self;
the fittest to consecrate the soldier of an earthly king, is the soldier
of Christ, the King of kings." [Footnote: Almost word for word from the
"Life of Hereward."]
"He speaks well," said Herluin. "Abbot, grant him his boon."
"Who celebrates high mass to-morrow?"
"Wilton the priest, the monk of Ely," said Herluin, aloud. "And a very
dangerous and stubborn Englishman," added he to himself.
"Good. Then this night you shall watch in the church. To-morrow, after the
Gospel, the thing shall be done as you will."
That night two messengers, knights of the Abbot, galloped from
Peterborough. One to Ivo Taillebois at Spalding, to tell him that Hereward
was at Peterborough, and that he must try to cut him off upon the
Egelric's road, the causeway which one of the many Abbots Egelric had made
some thirty years before, through Deeping Fen to Spalding, at an enormous
expense of labor and of timber. The other knight rode south, along the
Roman road to London, to tell King William of the rising of Kesteven, and
all the evil deeds of Hereward and of Brand.
And old Brand slept quietly in his bed, little thinking on what errands
his prior had sent his knights.
Hereward and his comrades watched that night in St. Peter's church.
Oppressed with weariness of body, and awe of mind, they heard the monks
drone out their chants through the misty gloom; they confessed the
sins--and they were many--of their past wild lives. They had to summon up
within themselves courage and strength henceforth to live, not for
themselves, but for the fatherland which they hoped to save. They prayed
to all the heavenly powers of that Pantheon which then stood between man
and God, to help them in the coming struggle; but ere the morning dawned,
they were nodding, unused to any long strain of mind.
Suddenly Hereward started, and sprang up, with a cry of fire.
"What? Where?" cried his comrades, and the monks who ran up.
"The minster is full of flame. No use! too late! you cannot put it out! It
"You have been dreaming," said one.
"I have not," said Hereward. "Is it Lammas night?"
"What a question! It is the vigil of the Nativity of St. Peter and St.
"Thank heaven! I thought my old Lammas night's dream was coming true at
Herluin heard, and knew what he meant.
After which Hereward was silent, filled with many thoughts.
The next morning, before the high mass, those three brave men walked up to
the altar; laid thereon their belts and swords; and then knelt humbly at
the foot of the steps till the Gospel was finished.
Then came down from the altar Wilton of Ely, and laid on each man's bare
neck the bare blade, and bade him take back his sword in the name of God
and of St. Peter and St. Paul, and use it like a true knight, for a terror
and punishment to evil-doers, and a defence for women and orphans, and the
poor and the oppressed, and the monks the servants of God.
And then the monks girded each man with his belt and sword once more. And
after mass was sung, they rose and went forth, each feeling himself--and
surely not in vain--a better man.
At least this is certain, that Hereward would say to his dying day, how he
had often proved that none would fight so well as those who had received
their sword from God's knights the monks. And therefore he would have, in
after years, almost all his companions knighted by the monks; and brought
into Ely with him that same good custom which he had learnt at
Peterborough, and kept it up as long as he held the isle.
So says the chronicler Leofric, the minstrel and priest.
It was late when they got back to Crowland. The good Abbot received them
with a troubled face.
"As I feared, my Lord, you have been too hot and hasty. The French have
raised the country against you."
"I have raised it against them, my lord. But we have news that Sir
"And who may he be?"
"A very terrible Goliath of these French; old and crafty, a brother of old
Earl Warrenne of Norfolk, whom God confound. And he has sworn to have your
life, and has gathered knights and men-at-arms at Lynn in Norfolk."
"Very good; I will visit him as I go home, Lord Abbot. Not a word of this
to any soul."
"I tremble for thee, thou young David."
"One cannot live forever, my lord. Farewell."
A week after, a boatman brought news to Crowland, how Sir Frederick was
sitting in his inn at Lynn, when there came in one with a sword, and said:
"I am Hereward. I was told that thou didst desire, greatly, to see me;
therefore I am come, being a courteous knight," and therewith smote off
his head. And when the knights and others would have stopped him, he cut
his way through them, killing some three or four at each stroke, himself
unhurt; for he was clothed from head to foot in magic armor, and whosoever
smote it, their swords melted in their hands. And so, gaining the door, he
vanished in a great cloud of sea-fowl, that cried forever, "Hereward is
come home again!"
And after that, the fen-men said to each other, that all the birds upon
the meres cried nothing, save "Hereward is come home again!"
And so, already surrounded with myth and mystery, Hereward flashed into
the fens and out again, like the lightning brand, destroying as he passed.
And the hearts of all the French were turned to water; and the land had
peace from its tyrants for many days.
HOW IVO TAILLEBOIS MARCHED OUT OF SPALDING TOWN.
A proud man was Ivo Taillebois, as he rode next morning out of Spalding
town, with hawk on fist, and hound at heel, and a dozen men-at-arms at his
back, who would, on due or undue cause shown, hunt men while he hunted
An adventurer from Anjou, brutal, ignorant, and profligate,--low-born, too
(for his own men whispered, behind his back, that he was no more than his
name hinted, a wood-cutter's son), he still had his deserts. Valiant he
was, cunning, and skilled in war. He and his troop of Angevine ruttiers
had fought like tigers by William's side, at Hastings; and he had been
rewarded with many a manor, which had been Earl Algar's, and should now
have been Earl Edwin's, or Morcar's, or, it may be, Hereward's own.
"A fat land and fair," said he to himself; "and, after I have hanged a few
more of these barbarians, a peaceful fief enough to hand down to the
lawful heirs of my body, if I had one. I must marry. Blessed Virgin! this
it is to serve and honor your gracious majesty, as I have always done
according to my poor humility. Who would have thought that Ivo Taillebois
would ever rise so high in life as to be looking out for a wife,--and that
a lady, too?"
Then thought he over the peerless beauties of the Lady Lucia, Edwin and
Morcar's sister, almost as fair as that hapless aunt of hers,--first
married (though that story is now denied) to the wild Griffin, Prince of
Snowdon, and then to his conqueror, and (by complicity) murderer, Harold,
the hapless king. Eddeva faira, Eddeva pulcra, stands her name in
Domesday-book even now, known, even to her Norman conquerors, as the
Beauty of her time, as Godiva, her mother, had been before her. Scarcely
less beautiful was Lucia, as Ivo had seen her at William's court, half
captive and half guest: and he longed for her; love her he could not. "I
have her father's lands," quoth he; "what more reasonable than to have the
daughter, too? And have her I will, unless the Mamzer, in his present
merciful and politic mood, makes a Countess of her, and marries her up to
some Norman coxcomb with a long pedigree,--invented the year before last.
If he does throw away his daughter on that Earl Edwin, in his fancy for
petting and patting these savages into good humor, he is not likely to
throw away Edwin's sister on a Taillebois. Well, I must put a spoke in
Edwin's wheel. It will not be difficult to make him, or Morcar, or both of
them, traitors. We must have a rebellion in these parts. I will talk about
it to Gilbert of Ghent. We must make these savages desperate, and William
furious, or he will be soon giving them back their lands, beside asking
them to Court; and then, how are valiant knights, like us, who have won
England for him, to be paid for their trouble? No, no. We must have a
rebellion, and a confiscation, and then, when English lasses are going
cheap, perhaps the Lady Lucia may fall to my share."
And Ivo Taillebois kept his word; and without difficulty, for he had many
to help him. To drive the English to desperation, and get a pretext for
seizing their lands, was the game which the Normans played, and but too
As he rode out of Spalding town, a man was being hanged on the gallows
there permanently provided.
That was so common a sight, that Ivo would not have stopped, had not a
priest, who was comforting the criminal, ran forward, and almost thrown
himself under the horse's feet.
"Mercy, good my Lord, in the name of God and all his saints!"
Ivo went to ride on.
"Mercy!" and he laid hands on Ivo's bridle. "If he took a few pike out of
your mere, remember that the mere was his, and his father's before him;
and do not send a sorely tempted soul out of the world for a paltry pike."
"And where am I to get fish for Lent, Sir Priest, if every rascal nets my
waters, because his father did so before him? Take your hand off my
bridle, or, par le splendeur Dex" (Ivo thought it fine to use King
William's favorite oath), "I will hew it off!"
The priest looked at him, with something of honest English fierceness in
his eyes, and dropping the bridle, muttered to himself in Latin: "The
bloodthirsty and deceitful man shall not live out half his days.
Nevertheless my trust shall be in Thee, O Lord!"
"What art muttering, beast? Go home to thy wife" (wife was by no means the
word which Ivo used) "and make the most of her, before I rout out thee and
thy fellow-canons, and put in good monks from Normandy in the place of
your drunken English swine. Hang him!" shouted he, as the by-standers fell
on their knees before the tyrant, crouching in terror, every woman for her
husband, every man for wife and daughter. "And hearken, you fen-frogs all.
Who touches pike or eel, swimming or wading fowl, within these meres of
mine, without my leave, I will hang him as I hanged this man,--as I hanged
four brothers in a row on Wrokesham bridge but yesterday."
"Go to Wrokesham bridge and see," shouted a shrill cracked voice from
behind the crowd.
All looked round; and more than one of Ivo's men set up a yell, the
hangman loudest of all.
"That's he, the heron, again! Catch him! Stop him! Shoot him!"
But that was not so easy. As Ivo pushed his horse through the crowd,
careless of whom he crushed, he saw a long lean figure flying through the
air seven feet aloft, with his heels higher than his head, on the further
side of a deep broad ditch; and on the nearer side of the same one of his
best men lying stark, with a cloven skull.
"Go to Wrokesham!" shrieked the lean man, as he rose and showed a
ridiculously long nose, neck, and legs,--a type still not uncommon in the
fens,--a quilted leather coat, a double-bladed axe slung over his shoulder
by a thong, a round shield at his back, and a pole three times as long as
himself, which he dragged after him, like an unwieldy tail.
"The heron! the heron!" shouted the English.
"Follow him, men, heron or hawk!" shouted Ivo, galloping his horse up to
the ditch, and stopping short at fifteen feet of water.
"Shoot, some one! Where are the bows gone?"
The heron was gone two hundred yards, running, in spite of his pole, at a
wonderful pace, before a bow could be brought to bear. He seemed to expect
an arrow; for he stopped, glanced his eye round, threw himself flat on his
face, with his shield, not over his body, but over his bare legs; sprang
up as the shaft stuck in the ground beside him, ran on, planted his pole
in the next dike, and flew over it.
In a few minutes he was beyond pursuit; and Ivo turned, breathless with
rage, to ask who he was.
"Alas, sir! he is the man who set free the four men at Wrokesham Bridge
"Set free! Are they not hanged and dead?"
"We--we dared not tell you. But he came upon us--"
"Single-handed, you cowards?"
"Sir, he is not a man, but a witch or a devil. He asked us what we did
there. One of our men laughed at his long neck and legs, and called him
heron. 'Heron I am,' says he, 'and strike like a heron, right at the
eyes'; and with that he cuts the man over the face with his axe, and laid
him dead, and then another, and another.'
"Till you all ran away, villains!"
"We gave back a step,--no more. And he freed one of those four, and he
again the rest; and then they all set on us, and went to hang us in their
"When there were ten of you, I thought?"
"Sir, as we told you, he is no mortal man, but a fiend."
"Beasts, fools! Well, I have hanged this one, at least!" growled Ivo, and
then rode sullenly on.
"Who is this fellow?" cried he to the trembling English.
"Wulfric Raher, Wulfric the Heron, of Wrokesham in Norfolk."
"Aha! And I hold a manor of his," said Ivo to himself. "Look you,
villains, this fellow is in league with you."
A burst of abject denial followed. "Since the French,--since Sir
Frederick, as they call him, drove him out of his Wrokesham lands, he
wanders the country, as you see: to-day here, but Heaven only knows where
he will be to-morrow."
"And finds, of course, a friend everywhere. Now march!" And a string of
threats and curses followed.
It was hard to see why Wulfric should not have found friends; as he was
simply a small holder, or squire, driven out of house and land, and turned
adrift on the wide world, for the offence of having fought in Harold's
army at the battle of Hastings. But to give him food or shelter was, in
Norman eyes, an act of rebellion against the rightful King William; and
Ivo rode on, boiling over with righteous indignation, along the narrow
drove which led toward Deeping.
A pretty lass came along the drove, driving a few sheep before her, and
spinning as she walked.
"Whose lass are you?" shouted Ivo.
"The Abbot of Crowland's, please your lordship," said she, trembling.
"Much too pretty to belong to monks. Chuck her up behind you, one of you."
The shrieking and struggling girl was mounted behind a horseman and bound,
and Ivo rode on.
A woman ran out of a turf-hut on the drove side, attracted by the girl's
cries. It was her mother.
"My lass! Give me my lass, for the love of St. Mary and all saints!" and
she clung to Ivo's bridle.
He struck her down, and rode on over her.
A man cutting sedges in a punt in the lode alongside looked up at the
girl's shrieks, and leapt on shore, scythe in hand.
"Father! father!" cried she.
"I'll rid thee, lass, or die for it," said he, as he sprang up the
drove-dike and swept right and left at the horses' legs.
The men recoiled. One horse went down, lamed for life; another staggered
backwards into the further lode, and was drowned. But an arrow went
through the brave serf's heart, and Ivo rode on, cursing more bitterly
than ever, and comforted himself by flying his hawks at a covey of
Soon a group came along the drove which promised fresh sport to the
man-hunters: but as the foremost person came up, Ivo stopped in wonder at
the shout of,--
"Ivo! Ivo Taillebois! Halt and have a care! The English are risen, and we
are all dead men!"
The words were spoken in French; and in French Ivo answered, laughing,--
"Thou art not a dead man yet it seems, Sir Robert; art going on pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, that thou comest in this fashion? Or dost mean to return to
Anjou as bare as thou camest out of it?"
For Sir Robert had, like Edgar in Shakespear's _Lear_, "reserved
himself a blanket, else had we all been shamed."
But very little more did either he, his lady, and his three children wear,
as they trudged along the drove, in even poorer case than that
Robert of Coningsby,
Who came out of Normandy,
With his wife Tiffany,
And his maid Maupas,
And his dog Hardigras.
"For the love of heaven and all chivalry, joke me no jokes, Sir Ivo, but
give me and mine clothes and food! The barbarians rose on us last
night,--with Azer, the ruffian who owned my lands, at their head, and
drove us out into the night as we are, bidding us carry the news to you,
for your turn would come next. There are forty or more of them in West
Deeping now, and coming eastward, they say, to visit you, and, what is
more than all, Hereward is come again."
"Hereward?" cried Ivo, who knew that name well.
Whereon Sir Robert told him the terrible tragedy of Bourne.
"Mount the lady on a horse, and wrap her in my cloak. Get that dead
villain's clothes for Sir Robert as we go back. Put your horses' heads
about and ride for Spalding."
"What shall we do with the lass?"
"We cannot be burdened with the jade. She has cost us two good horses
already. Leave her in the road, bound as she is, and let us see if St.
Guthlac her master will come and untie her."
So they rode back. Coming from Deeping two hours after, Azer and his men
found the girl on the road, dead.
"Another count in the long score," quoth Azer. But when, in two hours
more, they came to Spalding town, they found all the folk upon the street,
shouting and praising the host of Heaven. There was not a Frenchman left
in the town.
For when Ivo returned home, ere yet Sir Robert and his family were well
clothed and fed, there galloped into Spalding from, the north Sir Ascelin,
nephew and man of Thorold, would-be Abbot of Peterborough, and one of the
garrison of Lincoln, which was then held by Hereward's old friend, Gilbert
"Not bad news, I hope," cried Ivo, as Ascelin clanked into the hall. "We
have enough of our own. Here is all Kesteven, as the barbarians call it,
risen, and they are murdering us right and left."
"Worse news than that, Ivo Taillebois," ("Sir," or "Sieur," Ascelin was
loath to call him, being himself a man of family and fashion; and holding
the _nouveaux venus_ in deep contempt,)--"worse news than that: the
North has risen again, and proclaimed Prince Edgar King."
"A king of words! What care I, or you, as long as the Mamzer, God bless
him! is a king of deeds?"
"They have done their deeds, though, too. Gospatrick and Marlesweyn are
back out of Scotland. They attacked Robert de Comines [Footnote: Ancestor
of the Comyns of Scotland.] at Durham, and burnt him in his own house.
There was but one of his men got out of Durham to tell the news. And now
they have marched on York; and all the chiefs, they say, have joined
them,--Archill the Thane, and Edwin and Morcar, and Waltheof too, the
"Blessed Virgin!" cried Ivo, "thou art indeed gracious to thy most
"What do you mean?"
"You will see some day. Now, I will tell you but one word. When fools make
hay, wise men can build ricks. This rebellion,--if it had not come of
itself, I would have roused it. We wanted it, to cure William of this just
and benevolent policy of his, which would have ended in sending us back to
France as poor as we left it. Now, what am I expected to do? What says
Gilbert of Ghent, the wise man of Lic--nic--what the pest do you call that
outlandish place, which no civilized lips can pronounce?"
"Lic-nic-cole?" replied Ascelin, who, like the rest of the French, never
could manage to say Lincoln. "He says, 'March to me, and with me to join
the king at York.'"
"Then he says well. These fat acres will be none the leaner, if I leave
the English slaves to crop them for six months. Men! arm and horse Sir
Robert of Deeping. Then arm and horse yourselves. We march north in half
an hour, bag and baggage, scrip and scrippage. You are all bachelors, like
me, and travel light. So off with you!--Sir Ascelin, you will eat and
"That will I."
"Quick, then, butler! and after that pack up the Englishman's plate-chest,
which we inherited by right of fist,--the only plate and the only
title-deeds I ever possessed."
"Now, Sir Ascelin,"--as the three knights, the lady, and the poor children
ate their fastest,--"listen to me. The art of war lies in this one
nutshell,--to put the greatest number of men into one place at one time,
and let all other places shift. To strike swiftly, and strike heavily.
That is the rule of our liege lord, King William; and by it he will
conquer England, or the world, if he will; and while he does that, he
shall never say that Ivo Taillebois stayed at home to guard his own manors
while he could join his king, and win all the manors of England once and
"Pardieu! whatever men may say of thy lineage or thy virtues, they cannot
deny this,--that thou art a most wise and valiant captain."
"That am I," quoth Taillebois, too much pleased with the praise to care
about being _tutoye_ by younger men. "As for my lineage, my lord the
king has a fellow-feeling for upstarts; and the woodman's grandson may
very well serve the tanner's. Now, men! is the litter ready for the lady
and children? I am sorry to rattle you about thus, madame, but war has no
courtesies; and march I must."
And so the French went out of Spalding town.
"Don't be in a hurry to thank your saints!" shouted Ivo to his victims. "I
shall be back this day three months; and then you shall see a row of
gibbets all the way from here to Deeping, and an Englishman hanging on
HOW HEREWARD SAILED FOE ENGLAND ONCE AND FOR ALL.
So Hereward fought the Viscount of Pinkney, who had the usual luck which
befell those who crossed swords with him, and plotted meanwhile with Gyda
and the Countess Judith. Abbot Egelsin sent them news from King Sweyn in
Denmark; soon Judith and Tosti's two sons went themselves to Sweyn, and
helped the plot and the fitting out of the armament. News they had from
England in plenty, by messengers from Queen Matilda to the sister who was
intriguing to dethrone her husband, and by private messengers from Durham
and from York.
Baldwin, the _debonnaire_ marquis, had not lived to see this fruit of
his long efforts to please everybody. He had gone to his rest the year
before; and now there ruled in Bruges his son, Baldwin the Good, "Count
Palatine," as he styled himself, and his wife Richilda, the Lady of
They probably cared as little for the success of their sister Matilda as
they did for that of their sister Judith; and followed out--Baldwin at
least--the great marquis's plan of making Flanders a retreat for the
fugitives of all the countries round.
At least, if (as seems) Sweyn's fleet made the coast of Flanders its
rendezvous and base of operations against King William, Baldwin offered no
So the messengers came, and the plots went on. Great was the delight of
Hereward and the ladies when they heard of the taking of Durham and York;
but bitter their surprise and rage when they heard that Gospatrick and the
Confederates had proclaimed Edgar Atheling king.
"Fools! they will ruin all!" cried Gyda. "Do they expect Swend Ulfsson,
who never moved a finger yet, unless he saw that it would pay him within
the hour, to spend blood and treasure in putting that puppet boy upon the
throne instead of himself?"
"Calm yourself, great Countess," said Hereward, with a smile. "The man who
puts him on the throne will find it very easy to take him off again when
"Pish!" said Gyda. "He must put him on the throne first. And how will he
do that? Will the men of the Danelagh, much less the Northumbrians, ever
rally round an Atheling of Cerdic's house? They are raising a Wessex army
in Northumbria; a southern army in the north. There is no real loyalty
there toward the Atheling, not even the tie of kin, as there would be to
Swend. The boy is a mere stalking-horse, behind which each of these greedy
chiefs expects to get back his own lands; and if they can get them back by
any other means, well and good. Mark my words, Sir Hereward, that cunning
Frenchman will treat with them one by one, and betray them one by one,
till there is none left."
How far Gyda was right will be seen hereafter. But a less practised
diplomat than the great Countess might have speculated reasonably on such
At least, let this be said, that when historians have complained of the
treachery of King Swend Ulfsson and his Danes, they have forgotten certain
broad and simple facts.
Swend sailed for England to take a kingdom which he believed to be his by
right; which he had formerly demanded of William. When he arrived there,
he found himself a mere cat's-paw for recovering that kingdom for an
incapable boy, whom he believed to have no right to the throne at all.
Then came darker news. As Ivo had foreseen, and as Ivo had done his best
to bring about, William dashed on York, and drove out the Confederates
with terrible slaughter; profaned the churches, plundered the town.
Gospatrick and the earls retreated to Durham; the Atheling, more cautious,
Then came a strange story, worthy of the grown children who, in those old
times, bore the hearts of boys with the ferocity and intellect of men.
A great fog fell on the Frenchmen as they struggled over the Durham moors.
The doomed city was close beneath them; they heard Wear roaring in his
wooded gorge. But a darkness, as of Egypt, lay upon them: "neither rose
any from his place."
Then the Frenchmen cried: "This darkness is from St. Cuthbert himself. We
have invaded his holy soil. Who has not heard how none who offend St.
Cuthbert ever went unpunished? how palsy, blindness, madness, fall on
those who dare to violate his sanctuary?"
And the French turned and fled from before the face of St. Cuthbert; and
William went down to Winchester angry and sad, and then went off to
Gloucestershire; and hunted--for, whatever befell, he still would hunt--in
the forest of Dean.
And still Swend and his Danes had not sailed; and Hereward walked to and
fro in his house, impatiently, and bided his time.
In July, Baldwin died. Arnoul, the boy, was Count of Flanders, and
Richilda, his sorceress-mother, ruled the land in his name. She began to
oppress the Flemings; not those of French Flanders, round St. Omer, but
those of Flemish Flanders, toward the north. They threatened to send for
Robert the Frison to right them.
Hereward was perplexed. He was Robert the Frison's friend, and old
soldier. Richilda was Torfrida's friend; so was, still more, the boy
Arnoul; which party should he take? Neither, if he could help it. And he
longed to be safe out of the land.
And at last his time came. Martin Lightfoot ran in, breathless, to tell
how the sails of a mighty fleet were visible from the Dunes.
"Here?" cried Hereward. "What are the fools doing down here, wandering
into the very jaws of the wolf? How will they land here? They were to have
gone straight to the Lincolnshire coast. God grant this mistake be not the
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