Hereward, The Last of the English
Part 8 out of 10
spite of himself, through the cowering, shrieking, struggling crowd.
On came the flames, leaping and crackling, laughing and shrieking, like a
live fiend. The archers and slingers In the boats cowered before it; and
fell, scorched corpses, as it swept on. It reached the causeway, surged
up, recoiled from the mass of human beings, then sprang over their heads
and passed onwards, girding them with flame.
The reeds were burning around them; the timbers of the bridge caught fire;
the peat and fagots smouldered beneath their feet. They sprang from the
burning footway and plunged into the fathomless bog, covering their faces
and eyes with scorched hands, and then sank in the black gurgling slime.
Ivo dragged William on, regardless of curses and prayers from his
soldiery; and they reached the shore just in time to see between them and
the water a long black smouldering writhing line; the morass to right and
left, which had been a minute before deep reed, an open smutty pool,
dotted with boatsful of shrieking and cursing men; and at the causeway-end
the tower, with the flame climbing up its posts, and the witch of Brandon
throwing herself desperately from the top, and falling dead upon the
embers, a motionless heap of rags.
"Fool that you are! Fool that I was!" cried the great king, as he rolled
off his horse at his tent door, cursing with rage and pain.
Ivo Taillebois sneaked off, sent over to Mildenhall for the second witch,
and hanged her, as some small comfort to his soul. Neither did he forget
to search the cabin till he found buried in a crock the bits of his own
gold chain and various other treasures, for which the wretched old women
had bartered their souls. All which he confiscated to his own use, as a
much injured man.
The next day William withdrew his army. The men refused to face again that
blood-stained pass. The English spells, they said, were stronger than
theirs, or than the daring of brave men. Let William take Torfrida and
burn her, as she had burned them, with reeds out of Willingham fen; then
might they try to storm Ely again.
Torfrida saw them turn, flee, die in agony. Her work was done; her passion
exhausted; her self-torture, and the mere weight of her fetters, which she
had sustained during her passion, weighed her down; she dropped senseless
on the turf, and lay in a trance for many hours.
Then she arose, and casting off her fetters and her sackcloth, was herself
again: but a sadder woman till her dying day.
HOW KING WILLIAM TOOK COUNSEL OF A CHURCHMAN.
If Torfrida was exhausted, so was Hereward likewise. He knew well that a
repulse was not a defeat. He knew well the indomitable persistence, the
boundless resources, of the mastermind whom he defied; and he knew well
that another attempt would be made, and then another, till--though it took
seven years in the doing--Ely would be won at last. To hold out doggedly
as long as he could was his plan: to obtain the best terms he could for
his comrades. And he might obtain good terms at last. William might be
glad to pay a fair price in order to escape such a thorn in his side as
the camp of refuge, and might deal--or, at least, promise to deal--
mercifully and generously with the last remnant of the English gentry. For
himself yield he would not: when all was over, he would flee to the sea,
with Torfrida and his own housecarles, and turn Viking; or go to Sweyn
Ulfsson in Denmark, and die a free man.
The English did not foresee these things. Their hearts were lifted up with
their victory, and they laughed at William and his French, and drank
Torfrida's health much too often for their own good. Hereward did not care
to undeceive them. But he could not help speaking his mind in the abbot's
chamber to Thurstan, Egelwin, and his nephews, and to Sigtryg Ranaldsson,
who was still in Ely, not only because he had promised to stay there, but
because he could not get out if he would.
Blockaded they were utterly, by land and water. The isle furnished a fair
supply of food; and what was wanting, they obtained by foraging. But they
had laid the land waste for so many miles round, that their plundering
raids brought them in less than of old; and if they went far, they fell in
with the French, and lost good men, even though they were generally
successful. So provisions were running somewhat short, and would run
Moreover, there was a great cause of anxiety. Bishop Egelwin, Abbot
Thurstan, and the monks of Ely were in rebellion, not only against King
William, but more or less against the Pope of Rome. They might be
excommunicated. The minster lands might be taken away.
Bishop Egelwin set his face like a flint. He expected no mercy. All he had
ever done for the French was to warn Robert Comyn that if he stayed in
Durham, evil would befall him. But that was as little worth to him as it
was to the said Robert. And no mercy he craved. The less a man had, the
more fit he was for Heaven. He could but die; and that he had known ever
since he was a chanter-boy. Whether he died in Ely, or in prison, mattered
little to him, provided they did not refuse him the sacraments; and that
they would hardly do. But call the Duke of Normandy his rightful sovereign
he would not, because he was not,--nor anybody else just now, as far as he
Valiant likewise was Abbot Thurstan, for himself. But he had--unlike
Bishop Egelwin, whose diocese had been given to a Frenchman--an abbey,
monks, and broad lands, whereof he was father and steward. And he must do
what was best for the abbey, and also what the monks would let him do. For
severe as was the discipline of a minster in time of peace, yet in time of
war, when life and death were in question, monks had ere now turned
valiant from very fear, like Cato's mouse, and mutinied: and so might the
monks of Ely,
And Edwin and Morcar?
No man knows what they said or thought; perhaps no man cared much, even in
their own days. No hint does any chronicler give of what manner of men
they were, or what manner of deeds they did. Fair, gentle, noble, beloved
even by William, they are mere names, and nothing more, in history: and it
is to be supposed, therefore, that they were nothing more in fact. The
race of Leofric and Godiva had worn itself out.
One night the confederates had sat late, talking over the future more
earnestly than usual. Edwin, usually sad enough, was especially sad that
Hereward jested with him, tried to cheer him; but he was silent, would not
drink, and went away before the rest.
The next morning he was gone, and with him half a dozen of his private
Hereward was terrified. If defections once began, they would be endless.
The camp would fall to pieces, and every man among them would be hanged,
mutilated, or imprisoned, one by one, helplessly. They must stand or fall
He went raging to Morcar. Morcar knew naught of it. On the faith and honor
of a knight, he knew naught. Only his brother had said to him a day or two
before, that he must see his betrothed before he died.
"He is gone to William, then? Does he think to win her now,--an outcast
and a beggar,--when he was refused her with broad lands and a thousand men
at his back? Fool! See that thou play not the fool likewise, nephew, or--"
"Or what?" said Morcar, defiantly.
"Or thou wilt go, whither Edwin is gone,--to betrayal and ruin."
"Why so? He has been kind enough to Waltheof and Gospatrick, why not to
"Because," laughed Hereward, "he wanted Waltheof, and he does not want you
and Edwin. He can keep Mercia quiet without your help. Northumbria and the
Fens he cannot without Waltheof's. They are a rougher set as you go east
and north, as you should know already, and must have one of themselves
over them to keep them in good humor for a while. When he has used
Waltheof as his stalking-horse long enough to build a castle every ten
miles, he will throw him away like a worn bowstring, Earl Morcar, nephew
Morcar shook his head.
In a week more he was gone likewise. He came to William at Brandon.
"You are come in at last, young earl?" said William, sternly. "You are
come too late."
"I throw myself on your knightly faith," said Morcar. But he had come in
an angry and unlucky hour.
"How well have you kept your own, twice a rebel, that you should appeal to
mine? Take him away."
"And hang him?" asked Ivo Taillebois.
"Pish! No,--thou old butcher. Put him in irons, and send him into
"Send him to Roger de Beaumont, Sire. Roger's son is safe in Morcar's
castle at Warwick, so it is but fair that Morcar should be safe in
And to Roger de Beaumont he was sent, while young Roger was Lord of
Warwick, and all around that once was Leofric and Godiva's.
Morcar lay in a Norman keep till the day of William's death. On his
death-bed the tyrant's heart smote him, and he sent orders to release him.
For a few short days, or hours, he breathed free air again. Then Rufus
shut him up once more, and forever.
And that was the end of Earl Morcar.
A few weeks after, three men came to the camp at Brandon, and they brought
a head to the king. And when William looked upon it, it was the head of
The human heart must have burst up again in the tyrant, as he looked on
the fair face of him he had so loved, and so wronged; for they say he
The knights and earls stood round, amazed and awed, as they saw iron tears
ran down Pluto's cheek.
"How came this here, knaves?" thundered he at last.
They told a rambling story, how Edwin always would needs go to Winchester,
to see the queen, for she would stand his friend, and do him right. And
how they could not get to Winchester, for fear of the French, and wandered
in woods and wolds; and how they were set upon, and hunted; and how Edwin
still was mad to go to Winchester: but when he could not, he would go to
Blethwallon and his Welsh; and how Earl Randal of Chester set upon them;
and how they got between a stream and the tide-way of the Dee, and were
cut off. And how Edwin would not yield. And how then they slew him in
self-defence, and Randal let them bring the head to the king.
This, or something like it, was their story. But who could believe
traitors? Where Edwin wandered, what he did during those months, no man
knows. All that is known is, three men brought his head to William, and
told some such tale. And so the old nobility of England died up and down
the ruts and shaughs, like wounded birds; and, as of wounded birds, none
knew or cared how far they had run, or how their broken bones had ached
before they died.
"Out of their own mouths they are condemned, says Holy Writ," thundered
William. "Hang them on high."
And hanged on high they were, on Brandon heath.
Then the king turned on his courtiers, glad to ease his own conscience by
"This is your doing, sirs! If I had not listened to your base counsels,
Edwin might have been now my faithful liegeman and my son-in-law; and I
had had one more Englishman left in peace, and one less sin upon my soul."
"And one less thorn in thy side," quoth Ivo Taillebois.
"Who spoke to thee? Ralph Guader, thou gavest me the counsel: thou wilt
answer it to God and his saints."
"That did I not. It was Earl Roger, because he wanted the man's Shropshire
Whereon high words ensued; and the king gave the earl the lie in his
teeth, which the earl did not forget.
"I think," said the rough, shrewd voice of Ivo, "that instead of crying
over spilt milk,--for milk the lad was, and never would have grown to good
beef, had he lived to my age--"
"Who spoke to thee?"
"No man, and for that reason I spoke myself. I have lands in Spalding, by
your Majesty's grace, and wish to enjoy them in peace, having worked for
them hard enough--and how can I do that, as long as Hereward sits in Ely?"
"Splendeur Dex!" said William, "them art right, old butcher."
So they laid their heads together to slay Hereward. And after they had
talked awhile, then spoke William's chaplain for the nonce, an Italian, a
friend and pupil of Lanfranc of Pavia, an Italian also, then Archbishop of
Canterbury, scourging and imprisoning English monks in the south. And he
spoke like an Italian of those times, who knew the ways of Rome.
"If his Majesty will allow my humility to suggest--"
"What? Thy humility is proud enough under the rose, I will warrant: but it
has a Roman wit under the rose likewise. Speak!"
"That when the secular and carnal arm has failed, as it is written
[Footnote: I do not laugh at Holy Scripture myself. I only insert this
as a specimen of the usual mediaeval "cant,"--a name and a practice which
are both derived, not from Puritans, but from monks.]--He poureth contempt
upon princes, and letteth them wander out of the way in the wilderness--or
fens; for the Latin word, and I doubt not the Hebrew, has both meanings."
"Splendeur Dex!" cried William, bitterly; "that hath he done with a
vengeance! Thou art right so far, Clerk!"
"Yet helpeth He the poor, videlicet, His Church and the religious, who are
vowed to holy poverty, out of misery, videlicet, the oppression of
barbarous customs, and maketh them households like a flock of sheep."
"They do that for themselves already, here in England," said William, with
a sneer at the fancied morals of the English monks and clergy. [Footnote:
The alleged profligacy and sensuality of the English Church before the
Conquest rests merely on a few violent and vague expressions of the Norman
monks who displaced them. No facts, as far as I can find, have ever been
alleged. And without facts on the other side, an impartial man will hold
by the one fact which is certain, that the Church of England, popish as it
was, was, unfortunately for it, not popish enough; and from its insular
freedom, obnoxious to the Church of Rome, and the ultramontane clergy of
Normandy; and was therefore to be believed capable--and therefore again
accused--of any and every crime.]
"But Heaven, and not the Church, does it for the true poor, whom your
Majesty is bringing in, to your endless glory."
"But what has all this to do with taking Ely?" asked William, impatiently.
"I asked thee for reason, and not sermons."
"This. That it is in the power of the Holy Father,--and that power he
would doubtless allow you, as his dear son and most faithful servant, to
employ for yourself, without sending to Rome, which might cause painful
It might seem strange that William, Taillebois, Guader, Warrenne,
short-spoken, hard-headed, hard-swearing warriors, could allow,
complacently, a smooth churchman to dawdle on like this, counting his
periods on his fingers, and seemingly never coming to the point.
But they knew well, that the churchman was a far cunninger, as well as a
more learned, man than themselves. They knew well that they could not
hurry him, and that they need not; that he would make his point at last,
hunting it out step by step, and letting them see how he got thither, like
a cunning hound. They knew that if he spoke, he had thought long and
craftily, till he had made up his mind; and that, therefore, he would very
probably make up their minds likewise. It was--as usual in that age--the
conquest, not of a heavenly spirit, though it boasted itself such, but of
a cultivated mind over brute flesh.
They might have said all this aloud, and yet the churchman would have gone
on, as he did, where he left off, with unaltered blandness of tone.
"To convert to other uses the goods of the Church,--to convert them to
profane uses would, I need not say, be a sacrilege as horrible to Heaven
as impossible to so pious a monarch--"
Ivo Taillebois winced. He had just stolen a manor from the monks of
Crowland, and meant to keep it.
"Church lands belonging to abbeys or sees, whose abbots or bishops are
contumaciously disobedient to the Holy See, or to their lawful monarch, he
being in the communion of the Church and at peace with the said Holy See.
If, therefore,--to come to that point at which my incapacity, through the
devious windings of my own simplicity, has been tending, but with halting
steps, from the moment that your Majesty deigned to hear--"
"Put in the spur, man!" said Ivo, tired at last, "and run the deer to
"Hurry no man's cattle, especially thine own," answered the churchman,
with so shrewd a wink, and so cheery a voice, that Ivo, when he recovered
from his surprise, cried,--
"Why, thou art a good huntsman thyself, I believe now."
"All things to all men, if by any means--But to return. If your Majesty
should think fit to proclaim to the recalcitrants of Ely, that unless they
submit themselves to your Royal Grace--and to that, of course, of His
Holiness, our Father--within a certain day, you will convert to other
uses--premising, to avoid scandal, that those uses shall be for the
benefit of Holy Church--all lands and manors of theirs lying without the
precincts of the Isle of Ely,--those lands being, as is known, large, and
of great value,--Quid plura? Why burden your exalted intellect by
detailing to you consequences which it has, long ere now, foreseen."
"----" quoth William, who was as sharp as the Italian, and had seen it
all. "I will make thee a bishop!"
"Spare to burden my weakness," said the chaplain; and slipt away into the
"You will take his advice?" asked Ivo.
"Then I shall see that Torfrida burn at last."
"Burn her?" and William swore.
"I promised my soldiers to burn the witch with reeds out of Haddenham fen,
as she had burned them; and I must keep my knightly word."
William swore yet more. Ivo Taillebois was a butcher and a churl.
"Call me not butcher and churl too often, Lord King, ere thou hast found
whether thou needest me or not. Rough I may be, false was I never."
"That thou wert not," said William, who needed Taillebois much, and feared
him somewhat; and remarked something meaning in his voice, which made him
calm himself, diplomat as he was, instantly. "But burn Torfrida thou shalt
"Well, I care not. I have seen a woman burnt ere now, and had no fancy for
the screeching. Beside, they say she is a very fair dame, and has a fair
daughter, too, coming on, and she may very well make a wife for a Norman."
"Marry her thyself."
"I shall have to kill Hereward first."
"Then do it, and I will give thee his lands."
"I may have to kill others before Hereward."
And so the matter dropped. But William caught Ivo alone after an hour, and
asked him what he meant.
"No pay, no play. Lord King, I have served thee well, rough and smooth."
"Thou hast, and hast been well paid. But if I have said aught hasty--"
"Pish, Majesty. I am a plain-spoken man, and like a plain-spoken master.
But, instead of marrying Torfrida or her daughter, I have more mind to her
niece, who is younger, and has no Hereward to be killed first,"
"Her niece? Who?"
"Lucia, as we call her,--Edwin and Morcar's sister,--Hereward's niece,
"No pay, no play, saidst thou?--so say I. What meant you by having to kill
others before Hereward?"
"Beware of Waltheof!" said Ivo.
"Waltheof? Pish! This is one of thy inventions for making me hunt every
Englishman to death, that thou mayest gnaw their bones."
"Is it? Then this I say more. Beware of Ralph Guader!"
"Pish on, Lord King." Etiquette was not yet discovered by Norman barons
and earls, who thought themselves all but as good as their king, gave him
their advice when they thought fit, and if he did not take it, attacked
him with all their meinie. "Pish on, but listen. Beware of Roger!"
"And what more?"
"And give me Lucia. I want her. I will have her."
William laughed. "Thou of all men! To mix that ditch-water with that
"They were mixed in thy blood, Lord King, and thou art the better man for
it, so says the world. Old wine and old blood throw any lees to the bottom
of the cask; and we shall have a son worthy to ride behind--"
"Take care!" quoth William.
"The greatest captain upon earth."
William laughed again, like Odin's self.
"Thou shalt have Lucia for that word."
"And thou shalt have the plot ere it breaks. As it will."
"To this have I come at last," said William to himself, as they parted.
"To murder these English nobles, to marry their daughters to my grooms.
Heaven forgive me! They have brought it upon themselves by contumacy to
"Call my secretary, some one."
The Italian re-entered.
"The valiant and honorable and illustrious knight, Ivo Taillebois, Lord of
Holland and Kesteven, weds Lucia, sister of the late earls Edwin and
Morcar, now with the queen; and with, her, her manors. You will prepare
"I am yours to death," said Ivo.
"To do you justice, I think thou wert that already. Stay--here--Sir
Priest--do you know any man who knows this Torfrida?"
"I do, Majesty," said Ivo. There is one Sir Ascelin, a man of Gilbert's,
in the camp."
"Send for him."
"This Torfrida," said William, "haunts me."
"Pray Heaven she have not bewitched your Majesty."
"Tut! I am too old a campaigner to take much harm by woman's sharpshooting
at fifteen score yards off, beside a deep stream between. No. The woman
has courage,--and beauty, too, you say?"
"What of that, O Prince?" said the Italian. "Who more beautiful--if report
be true--than those lost women who dance nightly in the forests with Venus
and Herodias,--as it may be this Torfrida has done many a time?"
"You priests are apt to be hard upon poor women."
"The fox found that the grapes were sour," said the Italian, laughing at
himself and his cloth, or at anything else by which he could curry favor.
"And this woman was no vulgar witch. That sort of personage suits
Taillebois's taste, rather than Hereward's."
"Hungry dogs eat dirty pudding," said Ivo, pertinently.
"The woman believed herself in the right. She believed that the saints of
heaven were on her side. I saw it in her attitude, in her gestures.
Perhaps she was right."
"Sire?" said both by-standers, in astonishment.
"I would fain see that woman, and see her husband too. They are folks
after my own heart. I would give them an earldom to win them."
"I hope that in that day you will allow your faithful servant Ivo to
retire to his ancestral manors in Anjou; for England will be too hot for
him. Sire, you know not this man,--a liar, a bully, a robber, a
swash-buckling ruffian, who--" and Ivo ran on with furious invective,
after the fashion of the Normans, who considered no name too bad for an
"Sir Ascelin," said William, as Ascelin came in, "you know Hereward?"
Ascelin bowed assent.
"Are these things true which Ivo alleges?"
"The Lord Taillebois may know best what manner of man he is since he came
into this English air, which changes some folks mightily," with a hardly
disguised sneer at Ivo; "but in Flanders he was a very perfect knight,
beloved and honored of all men, and especially of your father-in-law, the
"He is a friend of yours, then?"
"No man less. I owe him more than one grudge, though all in fair quarrel;
and one, at least, which can only be wiped out in blood."
"Tell me, sir!" thundered William, "unless you have aught to be ashamed
"It is no shame, as far as I know, to confess that I was once a suitor, as
were all knights for miles round, for the hand of the once peerless
Torfrida. And no shame to confess, that when Hereward knew thereof, he
sought me out at a tournament, and served me as he has served many a
better man before and since"
"Over thy horse's croup, eh?" said William.
"I am not a bad horseman, as all know, Lord King. But Heaven save me, and
all I love, from that Hereward. They say he has seven men's strength; and
I verily can testify to the truth thereof."
"That may be by enchantment," interposed the Italian.
"True, Sir Priest. This I know, that he wears enchanted armor, which
Torfrida gave him before she married him."
"Enchantments again," said the secretary.
"Tell me now about Torfrida," said William.
Ascelin told him all about her, not forgetting to say--what, according to
the chronicler, was a common report--that she had compassed Hereward's
love by magic arts. She used to practise sorcery, he said, with her
sorceress mistress, Richilda of Hainault. All men knew it. Arnoul,
Richilda's son, was as a brother to her. And after old Baldwin died, and
Baldwin of Mons and Richilda came to Bruges, Torfrida was always with her
while Hereward was at the wars.
"The woman is a manifest and notorious witch," said the secretary.
"It seems so indeed," said William, with something like a sigh. And so
were Torfrida's early follies visited on her; as all early follies are.
"But Hereward, you say, is a good knight and true?"
"Doubtless. Even when he committed that great crime at Peterborough--"
"For which he and all his are duly excommunicated by the Bishop," said the
"He did a very courteous and honorable thing." And Ascelin told how he had
saved Alftruda, and instead of putting her to ransom, had sent her safe to
"A very knightly deed. He should be rewarded for it."
"Why not burn the witch, and reward him with Alftruda instead, since your
Majesty is in so gracious a humor?" said Ivo.
"Alftruda! Who is she? Ay, I recollect her. Young Dolfin's wife. Why, she
has a husband already."
"Ay, but his Holiness at Rome can set that right. What is there that he
"There are limits, I fear, even to his power. Eh, priest?"
"What his Holiness's powers as the viceroy of Divinity on earth might be,
did he so choose, it were irreverent to inquire. But as he condescends to
use that power only for the good of mankind, he condescends, like
Divinity, to be bound by the very laws which he has promulgated for the
benefit of his subjects; and to make himself only a life-giving sun, when
he might be a destructive thunderbolt."
"He is very kind, and we all owe him thanks," said Ivo, who had a confused
notion that the Pope might strike him dead with lightning, but was
good-natured enough not to do so. "Still, he might think of this plan; for
they say that the lady is an old friend of Hereward's, and not over fond
of her Scotch husband."
"That I know well," said William.
"And beside--if aught untoward should happen to Dolfin and his kin--"
"She might, with her broad lands, be a fine bait for Hereward. I see. Now,
do this, by my command. Send a trusty monk into Ely. Let him tell the
monks that we have determined to seize all their outlying lands, unless
they surrender within the week. And let him tell Hereward, by the faith
and oath of William of Normandy, that if he will surrender himself to my
grace, he shall have his lands in Bourne, and a free pardon for himself
and all his comrades."
The men assented, much against their will, and went out on their errand.
"You have played me a scurvy trick, sir," said Ascelin, "in advising the
king to give the Lady Alftruda to Hereward."
"What! Did you want her yourself? On my honor I knew not of it. But have
patience. You shall have her yet, and all her lands, if you will hear my
counsel, and keep it."
"But you would give her to Hereward!"
"And to you too. It is a poor bait, say these frogs of fenmen, that will
not take two pike running. Listen to me. I must kill this Hereward. I hate
him. I cannot eat my meat for thinking of him. Kill him I must."
"And so must I."
"Then we are both agreed. Let us work together, and never mind if one's
blood be old and the other's new. I am neither fool nor weakly, as thou
Ascelin could not but assent.
"Then here. We must send the King's message. But we must add to it."
"That is dangerous."
"So is war; so is eating, drinking; so is everything. But we must not let
Hereward come in. We must drive him to despair. Make the messenger add but
one word,--that the king exempts from the amnesty Torfrida, on account
of----You can put it into more scholarly shape than I can."
"On account of her abominable and notorious sorceries; and demands that
she shall be given up forthwith to the ecclesiastical power, to be judged
as she deserves."
"Just so. And then for a load of reeds out of Haddenham fen."
"Heaven forbid!" said Ascelin, who had loved her once. "Would not
perpetual imprisonment suffice?"
"What care I? That is the churchmen's affair, not ours. But I fear we
shall not get her. Even so Hereward will flee with her,--maybe escape to
Flanders, or Denmark. He can escape through a rat's-hole if he will. And
then we are at peace. I had sooner kill him and have done with it: but out
of the way he must be put."
So they sent a monk in with the message, and commanded him to tell the
article about the Lady Torfrida, not only to Hereward, but to the abbot
and all the monks.
A curt and fierce answer came back, not from Hereward, but from Torfrida
herself,--that William of Normandy was no knight himself, or he would not
offer a knight his life, on condition of burning his lady.
William swore horribly. "What is all this about?" They told him--as much
as they chose to tell him. He was very wroth. "Who was Ivo Taillebois, to
add to his message? He had said that Torfrida should not burn." Taillebois
was stout; for he had won the secretary over to his side meanwhile. He had
said nothing about burning. He had merely supplied an oversight of the
king's. The woman, as the secretary knew, could not, with all deference to
his Majesty, be included in an amnesty. She was liable to ecclesiastical
censure, and the ecclesiastical courts. William might exercise his
influence on them in all lawful ways, and more, remit her sentence, even
so far as to pardon her entirely, if his merciful temper should so incline
him. But meanwhile, what better could he, Ivo, have done, than to remind
the monks of Ely that she was a sorceress; that she had committed grave
crimes, and was liable to punishment herself, and they to punishment also,
as her shelterers and accomplices? What he wanted was to bring over the
monks; and he believed that message had been a good stroke toward that. As
for Hereward, the king need not think of him. He never would come in
alive. He had sworn an oath, and he would keep it.
And so the matter ended.
HOW THE MONKS OF ELY DID AFTER THEIR KIND.
William's bolt, or rather inextinguishable Greek fire, could not have
fallen into Ely at a more propitious moment.
Hereward was away, with a large body of men, and many ships, foraging in
the northeastern fens. He might not be back for a week.
Abbot Thurstan--for what cause is not said--had lost heart a little while
before, and fled to "Angerhale, taking with him the ornaments and treasure
of the church."
Hereward had discovered his flight with deadly fear: but provisions he
must have, and forth he must go, leaving Ely in charge of half a dozen
independent English gentlemen, each of whom would needs have his own way,
just because it was his own.
Only Torfrida he took, and put her hand into the hand of Ranald
Sigtrygsson, and said, "Thou true comrade and perfect knight, as I did by
thy wife, do thou by mine, if aught befall."
And Ranald swore first by the white Christ, and then by the head of
Sleipnir, Odin's horse, that he would stand by Torfrida till the last; and
then, if need was, slay her.
"You will not need, King Ranald. I can slay myself," said she, as she took
the Ost-Dane's hard, honest hand.
And Hereward went, seemingly by Mepal or Sutton. Then came the message;
and all men in Ely knew it.
Torfrida stormed down to the monks, in honest indignation, to demand that
they should send to William, and purge her of the calumny. She found the
Chapter-door barred and bolted. They were all gabbling inside, like
starlings on a foggy morning, and would not let her in. She hurried back
to Ranald, fearing treason, and foreseeing the effect of the message upon
But what could Ranald do? To find out their counsels was impossible for
him, or any man in Ely. For the monks could talk Latin, and the men could
not. Torfrida alone knew the sacred tongue.
If Torfrida could but listen at the keyhole. Well,--all was fair in war.
And to the Chapter-house door she went, guarded by Ranald and some of his
housecarles, and listened, with a beating heart. She heard words now
incomprehensible. That men who most of them lived no better than their own
serfs; who could have no amount of wealth, not even the hope of leaving
that wealth to their children,--should cling to wealth,--struggle, forge,
lie, do anything for wealth, to be used almost entirely not for
themselves, but for the honor and glory of the convent,--indicates an
intensity of corporate feeling, unknown in the outer world then, or now.
The monastery would be ruined! Without this manor, without that wood,
without that stone quarry, that fishery,--what would become of them?
But mingled with those words were other words, unfortunately more
intelligible to this day,--those of superstition.
What would St. Etheldreda say? How dare they provoke her wrath? Would she
submit to lose her lands? She might do,--what might she not do? Her bones
would refuse ever to work a miracle again. They had been but too slack in
miracle-working for many years. She might strike the isle with barrenness,
the minster with lightning. She might send a flood up the fens. She
William the Norman, to do them justice, those valiant monks feared not;
for he was man, and could but kill the body. But St. Etheldreda, a virgin
goddess, with all the host of heaven to back her,--might she not, by
intercession with powers still higher than her own, destroy both body and
soul in hell?
"We are betrayed. They are going to send for the Abbot from Angerhale,"
said Torfrida at last, reeling from the door, "All is lost."
"Shall we burst open the door and kill them all?" asked Ranald, simply.
"No, King,--no. They are God's men; and we have blood enough on our
"We can keep the gates, lest any go out to the King."
"Impossible. They know the isle better than we, and have a thousand arts."
So all they could do was to wait in fear and trembling for Hereward's
return, and send Martin Lightfoot off to warn him, wherever he might be.
The monks remained perfectly quiet. The organ droned, the chants wailed,
as usual; nothing interrupted the stated order of the services; and in the
hall, each day, they met the knights as cheerfully as ever. Greed and
superstition had made cowards of them,--and now traitors.
It was whispered that Abbot Thurstan had returned to the minster; but no
man saw him; and so three or four days went on.
Martin found Hereward after incredible labors, and told him all, clearly
and shrewdly. The man's manifest insanity only seemed to quicken his wit,
and increase his powers of bodily endurance.
Hereward was already on his way home; and never did he and his good men
row harder than they rowed that day back to Sutton. He landed, and hurried
on with half his men, leaving the rest to disembark the booty. He was
anxious as to the temper of the monks. He foresaw all that Torfrida had
foreseen. And as for Torfrida herself, he was half mad. Ivo Taillebois's
addition to William's message had had its due effect. He vowed even
deadlier hate against the Norman than he had ever felt before. He ascended
the heights to Sutton. It was his shortest way to Ely. He could not see
Aldreth from thence; but he could see Willingham field, and Belsar's
hills, round the corner of Haddenham Hill.
The sun was setting long before they reached Ely; but just as he sank into
the western fen, Winter stopped, pointing. "Was that the flash of arms?
There, far away, just below Willingham town. Or was it the setting sun
upon the ripple of some long water?"
"There is not wind enough for such a ripple," said one. But ere they could
satisfy themselves, the sun was down, and all the fen was gray.
Hereward was still more uneasy. If that had been the flash of arms, it
must have come off a very large body of men, moving in column, and on the
old straight road between Cambridge and Ely. He hastened on his men. But
ere they were within sight of the minster-tower, they were aware of a
horse galloping violently towards them through the dusk. Hereward called a
halt. He heard his own heart beat as he stopped. The horse was pulled up
short among them, and a lad threw himself off.
"Hereward? Thank God, I am in time!"
The voice was the voice of Torfrida.
"Treason!" she gasped.
"I knew it."
"The French are in the island. They have got Aldreth. The whole army is
marching from Cambridge. The whole fleet is coming up from Southrey. And
you have time--"
"To burn Ely over the monks' heads. Men! Get bogwood out of yon cottage,
make yourselves torches, and onward!"
Then rose a babel of questions, which Torfrida answered as she could. But
she had nothing to tell. "Clerks' cunning," she said bitterly, "was an
overmatch for woman's wit." She had sent out a spy: but he had not
returned till an hour since. Then he came back breathless, with the news
that the French army was on the march from Cambridge, and that, as he came
over the water at Alrech, he found a party of French knights in the fort
on the Ely side, talking peaceably with the monks on guard.
She had run up to the borough hill,--which men call Cherry Hill at this
day,--and one look to the northeast had shown her the river swarming with
ships. She had rushed home, put on men's clothes, hid a few jewels in her
bosom, saddled Swallow, and ridden for her life thither.
"And King Ranald?"
He and his men had gone desperately out towards Haddenham, with what
English they could muster; but all were in confusion. Some were getting
the women and children into boats, to hide them in the reeds. Others
battering the minster gates, vowing vengeance on the monks.
"Then Ranald will be cut off! Alas for the day that ever brought his brave
And when the men heard that, a yell of fury and despair burst from all
Should they go back to their boats?
"No! onward," cried Hereward. "Revenge first, and safety after. Let us
leave nothing for the accursed Frenchmen but smoking ruins, and then
gather our comrades, and cut our way back to the north."
"Good counsel," cried Winter. "We know the roads, and they do not; and in
such a dark night as is coming, we can march out of the island without
their being able to follow us a mile."
They hurried on; but stopped once more, at the galloping of another horse.
"Who comes, friend or foe?"
"Alwyn, son of Orgar!" cried a voice under breath. "Don't make such a
noise, men! The French are within half a mile of you."
"Then one traitor monk shall die ere I retreat," cried Hereward, seizing
him by the throat.
"For Heaven's sake, hold!" cried Torfrida, seizing his arm. "You know not
what he may have to say."
"I am no traitor, Hereward; I have fought by your side as well as the
best; and if any but you had called Alwyn--"
"A curse on your boasting. Tell us the truth."
"The Abbot has made peace with the King. He would give up the island, and
St. Etheldreda should keep all her lands and honors. I said what I could;
but who was I to resist the whole chapter? Could I alone brave St.
"Alwyn, the valiant, afraid of a dead girl!"
"Blaspheme not, Hereward! She may hear you at this moment! Look there!"
and pointing up, the monk cowered in terror, as a meteor flashed through
"That is St. Etheldreda shooting at us, eh? Then all I can say is, she is
a very bad marksman. And the French are in the island?"
"Then forward, men, for one half-hour's pleasure; and then to die like
"On?" cried Alwyn. "You cannot go on. The King is at Whichford at this
moment with all his army, half a mile off! Right across the road to Ely!"
Hereward grew Berserk. "On! men!" shouted he, "we shall kill a few
Frenchmen apiece before we die!"
"Hereward," cried Torfrida, "you shall not go on! If you go, I shall be
taken. And if I am taken, I shall be burned. And I cannot burn,--I cannot!
I shall go mad with terror before I come to the stake. I cannot go stript
to my smock before those Frenchmen. I cannot be roasted piecemeal!
Hereward, take me away! Take me away! or kill me, now and here!"
He paused. He had never seen Torfrida thus overcome.
"Let us flee! The stars are against us. God is against us! Let us
hide,--escape abroad: beg our bread, go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem
together,--for together it must be always: but take me away!"
"We will go back to the boats, men," said Hereward.
But they did not go. They stood there, irresolute, looking towards Ely.
The sky was pitchy dark. The minster roofs, lying northeast, were utterly
invisible against the blackness.
"We may at least save some who escape out," said Hereward. "March on
quickly to the left, under the hill to the plough-field."
They did so.
"Lie down, men. There are the French, close on our right. Down among the
And they heard the heavy tramp of men within a quarter of a mile.
"Cover the mare's eyes, and hold her mouth, lest she neigh," said Winter.
Hereward and Torfrida lay side by side upon the heath. She was shivering
with cold and horror. He laid his cloak over her; put his arm round her.
"Your stars did not foretell you this, Torfrida." He spoke not bitterly,
but in utter sadness.
She burst into an agony of weeping.
"My stars at least foretold me nothing but woe, since first I saw your
"Why did you marry me, then?" asked he, half angrily.
"Because I loved you. Because I love you still."
"Then you do not regret?"
"Never, never, never! I am quite happy,--quite happy. Why not?"
A low murmur from the men made them look up. They were near enough to the
town to hear,--only too much. They heard the tramp of men, shouts and
yells. Then the shrill cries of women. All dull and muffled the sounds
came to them through the still night; and they lay there spell-bound, as
in a nightmare, as men assisting at some horrible tragedy, which they had
no power to prevent. Then there was a glare, and a wisp of smoke against
the black sky, and then a house began burning brightly, and then another.
"This is the Frenchman's faith!"
And all the while, as the sack raged in the town below, the minster stood
above, dark, silent, and safe. The church had provided for herself, by
sacrificing the children beneath her fostering shadow.
They waited nearly an hour: but no fugitives came out.
"Come, men," said Hereward, wearily, "we may as well to the boats."
And so they went, walking on like men in a dream, as yet too stunned to
realize to themselves the hopeless horror of their situation. Only
Hereward and Torfrida saw it all, looking back on the splendid past,--the
splendid hopes for the future: glory, honor, an earldom, a free Danish
England,--and this was all that was left!
"No it is not!" cried Torfrida suddenly, as if answering her own unspoken
thoughts, and his. "Love is still left. The gallows and the stake cannot
take that away." And she clung closer to her husband's side, and he again
They reached the shore, and told their tale to their comrades. Whither
"To Well. To the wide mere," said Hereward.
"But their ships will hunt us out there."
"We shall need no hunting. We must pick up the men at Cissham. You would
not leave them to be murdered, too, as we have left the Ely men?"
No. They would go to Well. And then?
"The Bruneswald, and the merry greenwood," said Hereward.
"Hey for the merry greenwood!" shouted Leofric the Deacon. And the men, in
the sudden delight of finding any place, any purpose, answered with a
"Brave hearts," said Hereward. "We will live and die together like
"We will, we will, Viking."
"Where shall we stow the mare?" asked Geri, "the boats are full already."
"Leave her to me. On board, Torfrida."
He got on board last, leading the mare by the bridle.
"Swim, good lass!" said he, as they pushed off; and the good lass, who had
done it many a time before, waded in, and was soon swimming behind.
Hereward turned, and bent over the side in the darkness. There was a
strange gurgle, a splash, and a swirl. He turned round, and sat upright
again. They rowed on.
"That mare will never swim all the way to Well," said one.
"She will not need it," said Hereward.
"Why," cried Torfrida, feeling in the darkness, "she is loose. What is
this in your hand? Your dagger! And wet!"
"Mare Swallow is at the bottom of the reach. We could never have got her
"And you have--" cried a dozen voices.
"Do you think that I would let a cursed Frenchman--ay, even William's
self--say that he had bestridden Hereward's mare?"
None answered: but Torfrida, as she laid her head upon her husband's
bosom, felt the great tears running down from his cheek on to her own.
None spoke a word. The men were awe-stricken. There was something
despairing and ill-omened in the deed. And yet there was a savage grandeur
in it, which bound their savage hearts still closer to their chief.
And so mare Swallow's bones lie somewhere in the peat unto this day.
They got to Well; they sent out spies to find the men who had been
"wasting Cissham with fire and sword"; and at last brought them in. Ill
news, as usual, had travelled fast. They had heard of the fall of Ely, and
hidden themselves "in a certain very small island which is called
Stimtench," where, thinking that the friends in search of them were
Frenchmen in pursuit, they hid themselves among the high reeds. There two
of them--one Starkwolf by name, the other Broher--hiding near each other,
"thought that, as they were monks, it might conduce to their safety if
they had shaven crowns; and set to work with their swords to shave each
other's heads as well as they could. But at last, by their war-cries and
their speech, recognizing each other, they left off fighting," and went
So jokes, grimly enough, Leofric the Deacon, who must have seen them come
in the next morning, with bleeding coxcombs, and could laugh over the
thing in after years. But he was in no humor for jesting in the days in
which they lay at Well. Nor was he in jesting humor when, a week
afterwards, hunted by the Normans from Well, and forced too take to meres
and waterways known only to them, and too shallow and narrow for the
Norman ships, they found their way across into the old Nene, and so by
Thorney on toward Crowland, leaving Peterborough far on the left. For as
they neared Crowland, they saw before them, rowing slowly, a barge full of
men. And as they neared that barge, behold, ail they who rowed were blind
of both their eyes; and all they who sat and guided them were maimed of
both their hands. And as they came alongside, there was not a man in all
that ghastly crew but was an ancient friend, by whose side they had fought
full many a day, and with whom they had drunk deep full many a night. They
were the first-fruits of William's vengeance; thrust into that boat, to
tell the rest of the fen-men what those had to expect who dared oppose the
Norman. And they were going, by some by-stream, to Crowland, to the
sanctuary of the Danish fen-men, that they might cast themselves down
before St. Guthlac, and ask of him that mercy for their souls which the
conqueror had denied to their bodies. Alas for them! they were but a
handful among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mutilated cripples, who
swarmed all over England, and especially in the north and east, throughout
the reign of the Norman conquerors. They told their comrades' fate,
slaughtered in the first attack, or hanged afterwards as rebels and
traitors to a foreigner whom they had never seen, and to whom they owed no
fealty by law of God or man.
"And Ranald Sigtrygsson?"
None knew aught of him. He never got home again to his Irish princess.
"And the poor women?" asked Torfrida.
But she received no answer.
And the men swore a great oath, and kept it, never to give quarter to a
Norman, as long as there was one left on English ground.
Neither were the monks of Ely in jesting humor, when they came to count up
the price of their own baseness. They had (as was in that day the cant of
all cowardly English churchmen, as well as of the more crafty Normans)
"obeyed the apostolic injunction, to submit to the powers that be, because
they are ordained," &c. But they found the hand of the powers that be a
very heavy one. Forty knights were billeted on them at free quarters with
all their men. Every morning the butler had to distribute to them food and
pay in the great hall; and in vain were their complaints of bad faith.
William meanwhile, who loved money as well as he "loved the tall deer,"
had had 1,000 (another says 700) marks of them as the price of their
church's safety, for the payment whereof, if one authority is to be
trusted, they sold "all the furniture of gold and silver, crosses, altars,
coffers, covers, chalices, platters, ewers, urnets, basons, cups, and
saucers." Nay, the idols themselves were not spared, "for," beside that,
"they sold a goodly image of our Lady with her little Son, in a throne
wrought with marvellous workmanship, which Elsegus the abbot had made.
Likewise, they stripped many images of holy virgins of much furniture of
gold and silver." [Footnote: These details are from a story found in the
Isle of Ely, published by Dr. Giles. It seems a late composition,--
probably of the sixteenth century,--and has manifest errors of fact; but
_valeat quantum_.] So that poor St. Etheldreda had no finery in which to
appear on festivals, and went in russet for many years after. The which
money (according to another [Footnote: Stow's "Annals."]) they took, as
they had promised, to Picot the Viscount at Cambridge. He weighed the
money; and finding it an ounce short, accused them of cheating the King,
and sentenced them to pay 300 marks more. After which the royal
commissioners came, plundered the abbey of all that was left, and took
away likewise "a great mass of gold and silver found in Wentworth,
wherewith the brethren meant to repair the altar vessels"; and also a
"notable cope which Archbishop Stigand gave, which the church hath wanted
to this day."
Thurstan, the traitor Abbot, died in a few months. Egelwin, the Bishop of
Durham, was taken in the abbey. He was a bishop, and they dared not kill
him. But he was a patriot, and must have no mercy. They accused him of
stealing the treasures of Durham, which he had brought to Ely for the
service of his country; and shut him up in Abingdon. A few months after,
the brave man was found starved and dead, "whether of his own will or
enforced"; and so ended another patriot prelate. But we do not read that
the Normans gave back the treasure to Durham. And so, yielding an immense
mass of booty, and many a fair woman, as the Norman's prey, ended the Camp
of Refuge, and the glory of the Isle of Ely.
HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE GREENWOOD.
And now is Hereward to the greenwood gone, to be a bold outlaw; and not
only an outlaw himself, but the father of all outlaws, who held those
forests for two hundred years, from the fens to the Scottish border.
Utlages, forestiers, latrunculi (robberlets), sicarii, cutthroats,
sauvages, who prided themselves upon sleeping on the bare ground; they
were accursed by the conquerors, and beloved by the conquered. The Norman
viscount or sheriff commanded to hunt them from hundred to hundred, with
hue and cry, horse and bloodhound. The English yeoman left for them a keg
of ale, or a basket of loaves, beneath the hollins green, as sauce for
their meal of "nombles of the dere."
"For hart and hind, and doe and roe,
Were in that forest great plentie,"
"Swannes and fesauntes they had full good
And foules of the rivere.
There fayled never so lytell a byrde,
That ever was bred on brere."
With the same friendly yeoman "that was a good felawe," they would lodge
by twos and threes during the sharp frosts of midwinter, in the lonely
farm-house which stood in the "field" or forest-clearing; but for the
greater part of the year their "lodging was on the cold ground" in the
holly thickets, or under the hanging rock, or in a lodge of boughs.
And then, after a while, the life which began in terror, and despair, and
poverty, and loss of land and kin, became not only tolerable, but
pleasant. Bold men and hardy, they cared less and less for
"The thornie wayes, the deep valleys,
The snowe, the frost, the rayne,
The colde, the hete; for dry or wete
We must lodge on the plaine,
And us above, none other roofe,
But a brake bushe, or twayne."
And they found fair lasses, too, in time, who, like Torfrida and Maid
Marian, would answer to their warnings against the outlaw life, with the
nut-browne maid, that--
"Amonge the wylde dere, such an archere
As men say that ye be,
He may not fayle of good vitayle
Where is so great plente:
And water clere of the rivere,
Shall be full swete to me,
With which in hele, I shall right wele,
Endure, as ye may see."
Then called they themselves "merry men," and the forest the "merry
greenwood"; and sang, with Robin Hood,--
"A merrier man than I, belyye
There lives not in Christentie."
They were coaxed back, at times, to civilized life; they got their grace
of the king, and entered the king's service; but the craving after the
greenwood was upon them. They dreaded and hated the four stone walls of a
Norman castle, and, like Robin Hood, slipt back to the forest and the
Gradually, too, law and order rose among them, lawless as they were; the
instinct of discipline and self-government, side by side with that of
personal independence, which is the peculiar mark and peculiar strength of
the English character. Who knows not how, in the "Lytell Geste of Robin
Hood," they shot at "pluck-buffet," the king among them, disguised as an
abbot; and every man who missed the rose-garland, "his tackle he should
"And bere a buffet on his head,
Iwys ryght all bare,
And all that fell on Robyn's lote,
He smote them wonder sair.
"Till Robyn fayled of the garlonde,
Three fyngers and mair."
Then good Gilbert bids him in his turn
"'Stand forth and take his pay.'
"'If it be so,' sayd Robyn,
'That may no better be,
Syr Abbot, I delyver thee myn arrowe,
I pray thee, Syr, serve thou me.'
"'It falleth not for myne order,' saith the kynge,
'Robyn, by thy leve,
For to smyte no good yeman,
For doute I should hym greve.'
"'Smyte on boldly,' sayd Robyn,
'I give thee large leve.'
Anon our kynge, with that word,
He folde up his sleve.
"And such a buffet he gave Robyn,
To grounde he yode full nere.
'I make myn avowe,' sayd Robyn,
'Thou art a stalwarte frere.
"'There is pyth in thyn arme,' sayd Robyn,
'I trowe thou canst well shoote.'
Thus our kynge and Hobyn Hode
Together they are met."
Hard knocks in good humor, strict rules, fair play, and equal justice, for
high and low; this was the old outlaw spirit, which has descended to their
inlawed descendants; and makes, to this day, the life and marrow of an
English public school.
One fixed idea the outlaw had,--hatred of the invader. If "his herde were
the king's deer," "his treasure was the earl's purse"; and still oftener
the purse of the foreign churchman, Norman or Italian, who had expelled
the outlaw's English cousins from their convents; shamefully scourged and
cruelly imprisoned them, as the blessed Archbishop Lanfranc did at
Canterbury, because they would not own allegiance to a French abbot; or
murdered them at the high altar, as did the new abbot of Glastonbury,
because they would not change their old Gregorian chant for that of
William of Fecamp. [Footnote: See the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle".]
On these mitred tyrants the outlaw had no mercy, as far as their purses
were concerned. Their persons, as consecrated, were even to him sacred and
inviolable,--at least, from wounds and death; and one may suppose Hereward
himself to have been the first author of the laws afterward attributed to
Robin Hood. As for "robbing and reving, beting and bynding," free warren
was allowed against the Norman.
"'Thereof no fors,' said Robyn,
'We shall do well enow.
But look ye do no housbonde harme,
That tilleth wyth his plough.
"'No more ye shall no good yeman,
That walketh by grene wood shawe;
Ne no knyght, ne no squyer,
That will be good felawe.
"'These bysshoppes, and these archbysshoppes,
Ye shall them bete and binde;
The hye sheryff of Nottingham,
Hym holde in your mynde.'
"Robyn loved our dere Ladye,
For doubt of dedely synne,
Wolde he never do company harme
That any woman was ynne."
And even so it was with Hereward in the Bruneswald, if the old
chroniclers, Leofric especially, are to be believed.
And now Torfrida was astonished. She had given way utterly at Ely, from
woman's fear, and woman's disappointment. All was over. All was lost. What
was left, save to die?
But--and it was a new and unexpected fact to one of her excitable Southern
blood, easily raised, and easily depressed--she discovered that neither
her husband, nor Winter, nor Geri, nor Wenoch, nor Ranald of Ramsey, nor
even the romancing harping Leofric, thought that all was lost. She argued
it with them, not to persuade them into base submission, but to satisfy
her own surprise.
"But what will you do?"
"Live in the greenwood."
"And what then?"
"Burn every town which a Frenchman holds, and kill every Frenchman we
"But what plan have you?"
"Who wants a plan, as you call it, while he has the green hollies
overhead, the dun deer on the lawn, bow in his hand, and sword by his
"But what will be the end of it all?"
"We shall live till we die."
"But William is master of all England."
"What is that to us? He is not our master."
"But he must be some day. You will grow fewer and fewer. His government
will grow stronger and stronger."
"What is that to us? When we are dead, there will be brave yeomen in
plenty to take our place. You would not turn traitor?"
"I? Never! never! I will live and die with you in your greenwood, as you
call it. Only--I did not understand you English."
Torfrida did not. She was discovering the fact, which her nation have more
than once discovered since, that the stupid valor of the Englishman never
knows when it is beaten; and sometimes, by that self-satisfied ignorance,
succeeds in not being beaten after all.
So Hereward--if the chronicles speak truth--assembled a formidable force,
well-nigh, at last, four hundred men. Winter, Geri, Wenoch, Grogan, one of
the Azers of Lincoln, were still with him. Ranald the butler still carried
his standard. Of Duti and Outi, the famous brothers, no more is heard. A
valiant Matelgar takes their place; Alfric and Sexwold and many another
gallant fugitive cast up, like scattered hounds, at the sound of "The
Wake's" war-horn. There were those among them (says Gaimar) who scorned to
fight single-handed less than three Normans. As for Hereward, he would
"Les quatre oscist, les treis fuirent;
Naffrez, sanglant, cil s'en partirent
En plusurs lius issi avint,
K'encontre seit tres bien se tuit
De seit hommes avait vertu,
Un plus hardi ne fu veu."
They ranged up the Bruneswald, dashing out to the war-cry of "A Wake! a
Wake!" laying all waste with fire and sword, that is, such towns as were
in the hands of Normans. And a noble range they must have had for gallant
sportsmen. Away south, between the Nene and Welland, stretched from
Stamford and Peterborough the still vast forests of Rockingham, nigh
twenty miles in length as the crow flies, down beyond Rockingham town, and
Geddington Chase. To the west, they had the range of the "hunting
counties," dotted still, in the more eastern part, with innumerable copses
and shaughs, the remnants of the great forest, out of which, as out of
Rockinghamshire, have been cut those fair parks and
Where the wealthy nobles dwell";
past which the Lord of Burleigh led his Welsh bride to that Burghley House
by Stamford town, well-nigh the noblest of them all, which was, in
Hereward's time, deep wood, and freestone down. Round Exton, and
Normanton, and that other Burley on the Hill; on through those Morkery
woods, which still retain the name of Hereward's ill-fated nephew; north
by Irnham and Corby; on to Belton and Syston (_par nobile_), and
southwest again to those still wooded heights, whence all-but-royal
Belvoir looks out over the rich green vale below, did Hereward and his men
range far and wide, harrying the Frenchman, and hunting the dun deer.
Stags there were in plenty. There remain to this day, in Grimsthorpe Park
by Bourne, the descendants of the very deer which Earl Leofric and Earl
Algar, and after them Hereward the outlaw, hunted in the Bruneswald.
Deep-tangled forest filled the lower claylands, swarming with pheasant,
roe, badger, and more wolves than were needed. Broken, park-like glades
covered the upper freestones, where the red deer came out from harbor for
their evening graze, and the partridges and plovers whirred up, and the
hares and rabbits loped away, innumerable; and where hollies and ferns
always gave dry lying for the night. What did men need more, whose bodies
were as stout as their hearts?
They were poachers and robbers; and why not? The deer had once been
theirs, the game, the land, the serfs; and if Godric of Corby slew the
Irnham deer, burned Irnham Hall over the head of the new Norman lord, and
thought no harm, he did but what he would with that which had been once
Easy it was to dash out by night and make a raid; to harry the places
which they once had owned themselves, in the vale of Belvoir to the west,
or to the east in the strip of fertile land which sloped down into the
fen, and levy black-mail in Rippinghale, or Folkingham, or Aslackby, or
Sleaford, or any other of the "Vills" (now thriving villages) which still
remain in Domesday-book, and written against them the ugly and
"In Tatenai habuerunt Turgisle et Suen IIII. Carrucas terae," &c. "Hoc Ivo
Taillebosc ibi habet in dominio,"--all, that is, that the wars had left of
The said Turgisle (Torkill or Turketil misspelt by Frenchmen) and Sweyn,
and many a good man more,--for Ivo's possessions were enormous,--were
thorns in the sides of Ivo and his men which must be extracted, and the
Bruneswald a nest of hornets, which must be smoked out at any cost.
Wherefore it befell, that once upon a day there came riding to Hereward in
the Bruneswald a horseman all alone.
And meeting with Hereward and his men he made signs of amity, and bowed
himself low, and pulled out of his purse a letter, protesting that he was
an Englishman and a "good felawe," and that, though he came from Lincoln
town, a friend to the English had sent him.
That was believable enough, for Hereward had his friends and his spies far
And when he opened the letter, and looked first, like a wary man, at the
signature, a sudden thrill went through him.
It was Alftruda's.
If he was interested in her, considering what had passed between them from
her childhood, it was nothing to be ashamed of. And yet somehow he felt
ashamed of that same sudden thrill.
And Hereward had reason to be ashamed. He had been faithful to
Torfrida,--a virtue most rare in those days. Few were faithful then, save,
it may be, Baldwin of Mons to his tyrant and idol, the sorceress Richilda;
and William of Normandy,--whatever were his other sins,--to his wise and
sweet and beautiful Matilda. The stories of his coldness and cruelty to
her seem to rest on no foundation. One need believe them as little as one
does the myth of one chronicler, that when she tried to stop him from some
expedition, and clung to him as he sat upon his horse, he smote his spur
so deep into her breast that she fell dead. The man had self-control, and
feared God in his own wild way,--therefore it was, perhaps, that he
And Hereward had been faithful likewise to Torfrida, and loved her with an
overwhelming adoration, as all true men love. And for that very reason he
was the more aware that his feeling for Alftruda was strangely like his
feeling for Torfrida, and yet strangely different.
There was nothing in the letter that he should not have read. She called
him her best and dearest friend, twice the savior of her life. What could
she do in return, but, at any risk to herself, try and save his life? The
French were upon him. The _posse comitatus_ of seven counties was
raising. "Northampton, Cambridge, Lincoln, Holland, Leicester, Huntingdon,
Warwick," were coming to the Bruneswald to root him out.
"Lincoln?" thought Hereward. "That must be Gilbert of Ghent, and Oger the
Breton. No! Gilbert is not coming, Sir Ascelin is coming for him. Holland?
That is my friend Ivo Taillebois. Well, we shall have the chance of paying
off old scores. Northampton? The earl thereof just now is the pious and
loyal Waltheof, as he is of Huntingdon and Cambridge. Is he going to join
young Fitz-Osbern from Warwick and Leicester, to root out the last
Englishman? Why not? That would be a deed worthy of the man who married
Judith, and believes in the powers that be, and eats dirt daily at
Then he read on.
Ascelin had been mentioned, he remarked, three or four times in the
letter, which was long, as from one lingering over the paper, wishing to
say more than she dared. At the end was a hint of the reason:--
"O, that having saved me twice, you could save me once more. Know you that
Gospatrick has been driven from his earldom on charge of treason, and that
Waltheof has Northumbria in his place, as well as the parts round you? And
that Gospatrick is fled to Scotland again, with his sons,--my man among
them? And now the report comes, that my man is slain in battle on the
Border; and that I am to be given away,--as I have been given away twice
before,--to Ascelin. This I know, as I know all, not only from him of
Ghent, but from him of Peterborough, Ascelin's uncle."
Hereward laughed a laugh of cynical triumph,--pardonable enough in a
"Gospatrick! the wittol! the woodcock! looking at the springe, and then
coolly putting his head therein. Throwing the hatchet after the helve!
selling his soul and never getting the price of it! I foresaw it, foretold
it, I believe to Alftruda herself,--foretold that he would not keep his
bought earldom three years. What a people we are, we English, if
Gospatrick is,--as he is,--the shrewdest man among us, with a dash of
canny Scots blood too. 'Among the one-eyed, the blind is king,' says
Torfrida, out of her wise ancients, and blind we are, if he is our best.
No. There is one better man left I trust, one that will never be fool
enough to put his head into the wolf's mouth, and trust the Norman, and
that is Hereward the outlaw."
And Hereward boasted to himself, at Gospatrick's expense, of his own
superior wisdom, till his eye caught a line or two, which finished the
"O that you would change your mind, much as I honor you for it. O that you
would come in to the king, who loves and trusts you, having seen your
constancy and faith, proved by so many years of affliction. Great things
are open to you, and great joys;--I dare not tell you what: but I know
them, if you would come in. You, to waste yourself in the forest, an
outlaw and a savage! Opportunity once lost, never returns; time flies
fast, Hereward, my friend, and we shall all grow old,--I think at times
that I shall soon grow old. And the joys of life will be impossible, and
nothing left but vain regrets."
"Hey?" said Hereward, "a very clerkly letter. I did not think she was so
good a scholar. Almost as good a one as Torfrida."
That was all he said; and as for thinking, he had the _posse comitatus_ of
seven counties to think of. But what could those great fortunes and joys
be, which Alftruda did not dare to describe?
She growing old, too? Impossible, that was woman's vanity. It was but two
years since she was as fair as a saint in a window. "She shall not marry
Ascelin. I will cut his head off. She shall have her own choice for once,
And Hereward found himself worked up to a great height of paternal
solicitude for Alftruda, and righteous indignation against Ascelin. He did
not confess to himself that he disliked much, in his selfish vanity, the
notion of Alftruda's marrying any one at all. He did not want to marry her
himself,--of course not. But there is no dog in the manger so churlish on
such points as a vain man. There are those who will not willingly let
their own sisters, their own daughters, their own servants marry. Why
should a woman wish to marry any one but them?
But Hereward, however vain, was no dreamer or sluggard. He set to work,
joyfully, cheerfully, scenting battle afar off, like Job's war-horse, and
pawing for the battle. He sent back Alftruda's messenger, with this
"Tell your lady that I kiss her hands and feet. That I cannot write, for
outlaws carry no pen and ink. But that what she has commanded, that will I
It is noteworthy, that when Hereward showed Torfrida (which he did
frankly) Alftruda's letter, he did not tell her the exact words of his
answer, and stumbled and varied much, vexing her thereby, when she,
naturally, wished to hear them word for word.
Then he sent out spies to the four airts of heaven. And his spies, finding
a friend and a meal in every hovel, brought home all the news he needed.
He withdrew Torfrida and his men into the heart of the forest,--no hint of
the place is given by the chronicler,--cut down trees, formed an abattis
of trunks and branches, and awaited the enemy.
HOW ABBOT THOROLD WAS PUT TO RANSOM.
Though Hereward had as yet no feud against "Bysshoppes and
Archbysshoppes," save Egelsin of Selsey, who had excommunicated him, but
who was at the other end of England, he had feud, as may be supposed,
against Thorold, Abbot of Peterborough, and Thorold feud likewise against
him. When Thorold had entered the "Golden Borough," hoping to fatten
himself with all its treasures, he had found it a smoking ruin, and its
treasures gone to Ely to pay Sweyn and his Danes. And such a "sacrilege,"
especially when he was the loser thereby, was the unpardonable sin itself
in the eyes of Thorold, as he hoped it might be in the eyes of St. Peter.
Joyfully therefore he joined his friend Ivo Taillebois; when, "with his
usual pompous verbosity," saith Peter of Blois, writing on this very
matter, he asked him to join in destroying Hereward.
Nevertheless, with all the Norman chivalry at their back, it behoved them
to move with caution; for (so says the chronicler) "Hereward had in these
days very many foreigners, as well as landsfolk, who had come to him to
practise and learn war, and fled from their masters and friends when they
heard of his fame; and some of them the king's courtiers, who had come to
see whether those things which they heard were true, whom Hereward
nevertheless received cautiously, on plighted troth and oath."
So Ivo Taillebois summoned all his men, and all other men's men who would
join him, and rode forth through Spalding and Bourne, having announced to
Lucia his bride that he was going to slay her one remaining relative; and
when she wept, cursed and kicked her, as he did once a week. After which
he came to Thorold of Peterborough.
So on the two worthies rode from Peterborough to Stamford, and from
Stamford into the wilderness, no man knows whither.
"And far they rode by bush and shaugh,
And far by moss and mire,"--
but never found a track of Hereward or his men. And Ivo Taillebois left
off boasting how he would burn Torfrida over a slow fire, and confined
himself to cursing; and Abbot Thorold left off warbling the song of Roland
as if he had been going to a second battle of Hastings, and wished himself
in warm bed at Peterborough.
But at the last they struck upon a great horse-track, and followed it at
their best pace for several miles, and yet no sign of Hereward.
"Catch an Englishman," quoth the abbot.
But that was not so easy. The poor folk had hidden themselves, like Israel
of old, in thickets and dens and caves of rocks, at the far-off sight of
the Norman tyrants, and not a living soul had appeared for twenty miles.
At last they caught a ragged wretch herding swine, and haled him up to
"Have you seen Hereward, villain?" asked he, through an interpreter.
"You lie. These are his fresh horse-tracks, and you must have seen him
"Thrust out one of his eyes, and he will find his tongue."
It was done.
"Will you answer now?"
The poor wretch only howled.
"Thrust out the other."
"No, not that! Mercy: I will tell. He is gone by this four hours. How have
you not met him?"
"Fool! The hoofs point onward there."
"Ay,"--and the fellow could hardly hide a grin,--"but he had shod all his
A storm of execration followed. They might be thrown twenty miles out of
their right road by the stratagem.
"So you had seen Hereward, and would not tell. Put out his other eye,"
said Taillebois, as a vent to his own feelings.
And they turned their horses' heads, and rode back, leaving the man blind
in the forest.
The day was waning now. The fog hung heavy on the treetops, and dripped
upon their heads. The horses were getting tired, and slipped and stumbled
in the deep clay paths. The footmen were more tired still, and, cold and
hungry, straggled more and more. The horse-tracks led over an open lawn of
grass and fern, with here and there an ancient thorn, and round it on
three sides thick wood of oak and beech, with under copse of holly and
hazel. Into that wood the horse-tracks led, by a path on which there was
but room for one horse at a time.
"Here they are at last!" cried Ivo. "I see the fresh footmarks of men, as
well as horses. Push on, knights and men at-arms."
The Abbot looked at the dark, dripping wood, and meditated.
"I think that it will be as well for some of us to remain here; and,
spreading our men along the woodside, prevent the escape of the villains.
_A moi, hommes d'armes!_"
"As you like. I will go in and bolt the rabbit; and you shall snap him up
as he comes out."
And Ivo, who was as brave as a bull-dog, thrust his horse into the path,
while the Abbot sat shivering outside. "Certain nobles of higher rank,"
says Peter de Blois, "followed his example, not wishing to rust their
armor, or tear their fine clothes, in the dank copse."
The knights and men-at-arms straggled slowly into the forest, some by the
path, some elsewhere, grumbling audibly at the black work before them. At
last the crashing of the branches died away, and all was still.
Abbot Thorold sat there upon his shivering horse, shivering himself as the
cold pierced through his wet mail; and as near an hour past, and no sign
of foe or friend appeared, he cursed the hour in which he took off the
beautiful garments of the sanctuary to endure those of the battle-field.
He thought of a warm chamber, warm bath, warm footcloths, warm pheasant,
and warm wine. He kicked his freezing iron feet in the freezing iron
stirrup. He tried to blow his nose with his freezing iron hand; but dropt
his handkerchief into the mud, and his horse trod on it. He tried to
warble the song of Roland; but the words exploded in a cough and a sneeze.
And so dragged on the weary hours, says the chronicler, nearly all day,
till the ninth hour. But never did they see coming out of the forest the
men who had gone in.
A shout from his nephew, Sir Ascelin, made all turn their heads. Behind
them, on the open lawn, in the throat between the woods by which they had
entered, were some forty knights, galloping toward them.
"No!" almost shrieked the Abbot. "There is the white-bear banner. It is
"There is Winter on his left," cried one. "And there, with the standard,
is the accursed monk, Ranald of Ramsey."
And on they came, having debouched from the wood some two hundred yards
off, behind a roll in the lawn, just far enough off to charge as soon as
they were in line.
On they came, two deep, with lances high over their shoulders, heads and
heels well down, while the green tufts flew behind them, "_A moi, hommes
d'armes!_" shouted the Abbot. But too late. The French turned right and
left. To form was impossible, ere the human whirlwind would be upon them.
Another half-minute and with a shout of "A bear! a bear. The Wake! the
Wake!" they were struck, ridden through, hurled over, and trampled into
"I yield. Grace! I yield!" cried Thorold, struggling from under his horse;
but there was no one to whom to yield. The knights' backs were fifty yards
off, their right arms high in the air, striking and stabbing.
The battle was "_a l'outrance_." There was no quarter given that day.
"And he that came live out thereof
Was he that ran away."
The Abbot tried to make for the wood, but ere he could gain it, the
knights had turned, and one rode straight at him, throwing away a broken
lance, and drawing his sword.
Abbot Thorold may not have been the coward which Peter of Blois would have
him, over and above being the bully which all men would have him; but if
so, even a worm will turn; and so did the Abbot: he drew sword from thigh,
got well under his shield, his left foot forward, and struck one blow for
his life, and at the right place,--his foe's bare knee.
But he had to do with a warier man than himself. There was a quick jerk of
the rein; the horse swerved round, right upon him, and knocked him head
over heels; while his blow went into empty air.
"Yield or die!" cried the knight, leaping from his horse, and kneeling on
"I am a man of God, an abbot, churchman, Thorold."
"Man of all the devils!" and the knight lugged him up, and bound his arms
behind him with the abbot's own belt.
"Ahoi! Here! I have caught a fish. I have got the Golden Borough in my
purse!" roared he. "How much has St. Peter gained since we borrowed of him
last, Abbot? He will have to pay out the silver pennies bonnily, if he
wishes to get back thee."
"Blaspheme not, godless barbarian!" Whereat the knight kicked him.
"And you have Thorold the scoundrel, Winter?" cried Hereward, galloping
up. "And we have three or four more dainty French knights, and a viscount
of I know not where among them. This is a good day's work. Now for Ivo and
And the Abbot, with four or five more prisoners, were hoisted on to their
own horses, tied firmly, and led away into the forest path.
"Do not leave a wounded man to die," cried a knight who lay on the lawn.
"Never we. I will come back and put you out of your pain," quoth some one.
"Siward! Siward Le Blanc! Are you in this meinie?" cried the knight in
"That am I. Who calls?"
"For God's sake save him!" cried Thorold. "He is my own nephew, and I will
"You will need all your money for yourself," said Siward the White, riding
"Are you Sir Ascelin of Ghent?"
"That am I, your host of old."
"I wish I had met you in better company. But friends we are, and friends
And he dismounted, and did his best for the wounded man, promising to
return and fetch him off before night, or send yeomen to do so.
As he pushed on through the wood, the Abbot began to see signs of a fight;
riderless horses crashing through the copse, wounded men straggling back,
to be cut down without mercy by the English. The war had been "_a
l'outrance_" for a long while. None gave or asked quarter. The knights
might be kept for ransom: they had money. The wretched men of the lower
classes, who had none, were slain: as they would have slain the English.
Soon they heard the noise of battle; and saw horsemen and footmen
pell-mell, tangled in an abattis, from behind which archers and
cross-bowmen shot them down in safety.
Hereward dashed forward, with the shout of Torfrida; and at that the
French, taken in the flank, fled, and were smitten as they fled, hip and
Hereward bade them spare a fugitive, and bring him to him.
"I give you your life; so run, and carry my message. That is Taillebois's
banner there forward, is it not?"
"Then go after him, and tell him,--Hereward has the Abbot of Burgh, and
half a dozen knights, safe by the heels. And unless Ivo clears the wood of
his men by nightfall, I will hang every one of them up for the crows
Ivo got the message, and having had enough fighting for the day, drew off,
says the chronicler, for the sake of the Abbot and his fellow-captives.
Two hours after the Abbot and the other prisoners were sitting, unbound,
but unarmed, in the forest encampment, waiting for a right good meal, with
Torfrida bustling about them, after binding up the very few wounded among
their own men.
Every courtesy was shown them; and their hearts were lifted up, as they
beheld approaching among the trees great caldrons of good soup; forest
salads; red deer and roe roasted on the wood embers; spits of pheasants
and partridges, larks and buntings, thrust off one by one by fair hands
into the burdock leaves which served as platters; and last, but not least,
jacks of ale and wine, appearing mysteriously from a cool old stone
quarry. Abbot Thorold ate to his heart's content, complimented every one,
vowed he would forswear all Norman cooks and take to the greenwood
himself, and was as gracious and courtly as if he had been at the new
palace at Winchester.
And all the more for this reason,--that he had intended to overawe the
English barbarians by his polished Norman manners. He found those of
Hereward and Torfrida, at least, as polished as his own.
"I am glad you are content, Lord Abbot," said Torfrida; "I trust you
prefer dining with me to burning me, as you meant to do."
"I burn such peerless beauty! I injure a form made only for the courts of
kings! Heaven and all saints, knighthood and all chivalry, forbid. What
Taillebois may have said, I know not! I am no more answerable for his
intentions than I am for his parentage,--or his success this day. Let
churls be churls, and wood-cutters wood-cutters. I at least, thanks to my
ancestors, am a gentleman."
"And, as a gentleman, will of course contribute to the pleasure of your
hosts. It will surely please you to gratify us with one stave at least of
that song, which has made your name famous among all knights," holding out
"I blush; but obey. A harp in the greenwood? A court in the wilderness!
And the vain Abbot took the harp, and said,--"These, if you will allow my
modesty to choose, are the staves on which I especially pride myself. The
staves which Taillefer--you will pardon my mentioning him--"
"Why pardon? A noble minstrel he was, and a brave warrior, though our foe.
And often have I longed to hear him, little thinking that I should hear
instead the maker himself."
So said Hereward; and the Abbot sang--those wondrous staves, where Roland,
left alone of all the Paladins, finds death come on him fast. And on the
Pyrenaean peak, beneath the pine, he lays himself, his "face toward the
ground, and under him his sword and magic horn, that Charles, his lord,
may say, and all his folk, The gentle count, he died a conqueror"; and
then "turns his eyes southward toward Spain, betakes himself to remember
many things; of so many lands which he conquered valiantly; of pleasant
France; of the men of his lineage; of Charlemagne, his lord, who brought
him up. He could not help to weep and sigh, but yet himself he would not
forget. He bewailed his sins, and prayed God's mercy:--True Father, who
ne'er yet didst lie, who raised St. Lazarus from death, and guarded Daniel
from the lions, guard my soul from all perils, for the sins which in my
life I did! His right glove then he offered to God; St. Gabriel took it
from his hand; on his arm the chief bowed down, with joined hands he went
unto his end. God sent down his angel cherubim, and St. Michael, whom men
call 'del peril.' Together with them, St. Gabriel, he came; the soul of
the count they bore to Paradise."
And the Abbot ended, sadly and gently, without that wild "Aoi!" the
war-cry with which he usually ends his staves. And the wild men of the
woods were softened and saddened by the melody; and as many as understood
French, said, when he finished, "Amen! so may all good knights die!"
"Thou art a great maker, Abbot! They told truths of thee. Sing us more of
thy great courtesy."
And he sang them the staves of the Olifant, the magic horn,--how Roland
would not sound it in his pride, and sounded it at Turpin's bidding, but
too late; and how his temples burst with that great blast, and Charles and
all his peers heard it through the gorges, leagues away in France. And
then his "Aoi" rang forth so loud and clear, like any trumpet blast, under
the oaken glades, that the wild men leaped to their feet, and shouted,
"Health to the gleeman! Health to the Abbot Thorold!"
"I have won them," thought the Abbot to himself. Strange mixture that man
must have been, if all which is told of him is true; a very typical
Norman, compact of cunning and ferocity, chivalry and poetry, vanity and
superstition, and yet able enough to help to conquer England for the Pope.
Then he pressed Hereward to sing, with many compliments; and Hereward
sang, and sang again, and all his men crowded round him as the outlaws of
Judaea may have crowded round David in Carmel or Hebron, to hear, like
children, old ditties which they loved the better the oftener they heard
"No wonder that you can keep these knights together, if you can charm them
thus with song. Would that I could hear you singing thus in William's
"No more of that, Sir Abbot. The only music which I have for William is
the music of steel on steel."
Hereward answered sharply, because he was half of Thorold's mind.
"Now," said Torfrida, as it grew late, "we must ask our noble guest for
what he can give us as easily and well as he can song,--and that is news.
We hear naught here in the greenwood, and must throw oneself on the
kindness of a chance visitor."
The Abbot leapt at the bait, and told them news, court gossip, bringing in
great folks' names and his own, as often and as familiarly mingled as he
"What of Richilda?" asked Torfrida.
"Ever since young Arnoul was killed at Cassel--"
"Arnoul killed?" shrieked Torfrida.
"Is it possible that you do not know?"
"How should I know, shut up in Ely for--years it seems."
"But they fought at Cassel three months before you went to Ely."
"Be it so. Only tell me. Arnoul killed!"
Then the Abbot told, not without feeling, a fearful story.
Robert the Frison and Richilda had come to open war, and Gerbod the
Fleming, Earl of Clueter, had gone over from England to help Robert.
William had sent Fitz-Osbern, Earl of Hereford, the scourge and tyrant of
the Welsh, to help Richilda. Fitz Osbern had married her, there and then.
She had asked help of her liege lord, the King of France, and he had sent
her troops. Robert and Richilda had fought on St. Peter's day,
1071,--nearly two years before, at Bavinchorum, by Cassel.
Richilda had played the heroine, and routed Robert's left wing, taken him
prisoner, and sent him off to St. Omer. Men said that she had done it by
her enchantments. But her enchantments betrayed her nevertheless. Fitz
Osbern, her bridegroom, fell dead. Young Arnoul had two horses killed
under him. Then Gerbod smote him to the ground, and Richilda and her
troops fled in horror. Richilda was taken, and exchanged for the Frison;
at which the King of France, being enraged, had come down and burnt St.
Omer. Then Richilda, undaunted, had raised fresh troops to avenge her son.
Then Robert had met them at Broqueroie by Mons, and smote them with a
dreadful slaughter. [Footnote: The place was called till late, and may be
now, "The Hedges of Death."] Then Richilda had turned and fled wildly into
a convent; and, so men said, tortured herself night and day with fearful
penances, if by any means she might atone for her great sins.
Torfrida heard, and laid her head upon her knees, and wept so bitterly,
that the Abbot entreated pardon for having pained her so much.
The news had a deep and lasting effect on her. The thought of Richilda
shivering and starving in the squalid darkness of a convent, abode by her
thenceforth. Should she ever find herself atoning in like wise for her
sorceries,--harmless as they had been; for her ambitions,--just as they
had been; for her crimes? But she had committed none. No, she had sinned
in many things: but she was not as Richilda. And yet in the loneliness and
sadness of the forest, she could not put Richilda from before the eyes of
It saddened Hereward likewise. For Richilda he cared little. But that boy.
How he had loved him! How he had taught him to ride, and sing, and joust,
and handle sword, and all the art of war. How his own rough soul had been
the better for that love. How he had looked forward to the day when Arnoul
should be a great prince, and requite him with love. Now he was gone.
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