Part 3 out of 10
"Axe-men and bow-men, put on your harness, and be ready; but neither
strike nor shoot till I give the word. We must land peaceably if we can;
if not, we will die fighting."
So said Hereward, and took the rudder into his own hand. "Now then," as
she rushed into the breakers, "pull together, rowers all, and with a
The men yelled, and sprang from the thwarts as they tugged at the oars.
The sea boiled past them, surged into the waist, blinded them with spray.
She grazed the sand once, twice, thrice, leaping forward gallantly each
time; and then, pressed by a huge wave, drove high and dry upon the beach,
as the oars snapt right and left, and the men tumbled over each other in
The peasants swarmed down like flies to a carcass; but they recoiled as
there rose over the forecastle bulwarks, not the broad hats of peaceful
buscarles, but peaked helmets, round red shields, and glittering axes.
They drew back, and one or two arrows flew from the crowd into the ship.
But at Hereward's command no arrows were shot in answer.
"Bale her out quietly; and let us show these fellows that we are not
afraid of them. That is the best chance of peace."
At this moment a mounted party came down between the sandhills; it might
be, some twenty strong. Before them rode a boy on a jennet, and by him a
clerk, as he seemed, upon a mule. They stopped to talk with the peasants,
and then to consult among themselves. Suddenly the boy turned from his
party; and galloping down the shore, while the clerk called after him in
vain, reined up his horse, fetlock deep in water, within ten yards of the
"Yield yourselves!" he shouted, in French, as he brandished a hunting
spear. "Yield yourselves, or die!"
Hereward looked at him smiling, as he sat there, keeping the head of his
frightened horse toward the ship with hand and heel, his long locks
streaming in the wind, his face full of courage and command, and of
honesty and sweetness withal; and thought that he had never seen so fair a
"And who art thou, thou pretty, bold boy?" asked Hereward, in French.
"I," said he, haughtily enough, as resenting Hereward's familiar "thou,"
"am Arnulf, grandson and heir of Baldwin, Marquis of Flanders, and lord of
this land. And to his grace I call on you to surrender yourselves."
Hereward looked, not only with interest, but respect, upon the grandson of
one of the most famous and prosperous of northern potentates, the
descendant of the mighty Charlemagne himself. He turned and told the men
who the boy was.
"It would be a good trick," quoth one, "to catch that young whelp, and
keep him as a hostage."
"Here is what will have him on board before he can turn," said another, as
he made a running noose in a rope.
"Quiet, men! Am I master in this ship or you?"
Hereward saluted the lad courteously. "Verily the blood of Baldwin of the
Iron Arm has not degenerated. I am happy to behold so noble a son of so
noble a race."
"And who are you, who speak French so well, and yet by your dress are
neither French nor Fleming?"
"I am Harold Naemansson, the Viking; and these my men. I am here, sailing
peaceably for England; as for yielding,--mine yield to no living man, but
die as we are, weapon in hand. I have heard of your grandfather, that he
is a just man and a bountiful; therefore take this message to him, young
sir. If he have wars toward, I and my men will fight for him with all our
might, and earn hospitality and ransom with our only treasure, which is
our swords. But if he be at peace, then let him bid us go in peace, for we
are Vikings, and must fight, or rot and die."
"You are Vikings?" cried the boy, pressing his horse into the foam so
eagerly, that the men, mistaking his intent, had to be represt again by
Hereward. "You are Vikings! Then come on shore, and welcome. You shall be
my friends. You shall be my brothers. I will answer to my grandfather. I
have longed to see Vikings. I long to be a Viking myself."
"By the hammer of Thor," cried the old master, "and thou wouldst make a
bonny one, my lad."
Hereward hesitated, delighted with the boy, but by no means sure of his
power to protect them.
But the boy rode back to his companions, who had by this time ridden
cautiously down to the sea, and talked and gesticulated eagerly.
Then the clerk rode down and talked with Hereward.
"Are you Christians?" shouted he, before he would adventure himself near
"Christians we are, Sir Clerk, and dare do no harm to a man of God."
The Clerk rode nearer; his handsome palfrey, furred cloak, rich gloves and
boots, moreover his air of command, showed that he was no common man.
"I," said he, "am the Abbot of St. Bertin of Sithiu, and tutor of yonder
prince. I can bring down, at a word, against you, the Chatelain of St.
Omer, with all his knights, besides knights and men-at-arms of my own. But
I am a man of peace, and not of war, and would have no blood shed if I can
"Then make peace," said Hereward. "Your lord may kill us if he will, or
have us for his guests if he will. If he does the first, we shall kill,
each of us, a few of his men before we die; if the latter, we shall kill a
few of his foes. If you be a man of God, you will counsel him
"Alas! alas!" said the Abbot, with a shudder, "that, ever since Adam's
fall, sinful man should talk of nothing but slaying and being slain; not
knowing that his soul is slain already by sin, and that a worse death
awaits him hereafter than that death of the body of which he makes so
"A very good sermon, my Lord Abbot, to listen to next Sunday morning: but
we are hungry and wet and desperate just now; and if you do not settle
this matter for us, our blood will be on your head,--and may be your own
The Abbot rode out of the water faster than he had ridden in, and a fresh
consultation ensued, after which the boy, with a warning gesture to his
companions, turned and galloped away through the sand-hills.
"He is gone to his grandfather himself, I verily believe," quoth Hereward.
They waited for some two hours, unmolested; and, true to their policy of
seeming recklessness, shifted and dried themselves as well as they could,
ate what provisions were unspoilt by the salt water, and, broaching the
last barrel of ale, drank healths to each other and to the Flemings on
At last down rode, with the boy, a noble-looking man, and behind him more
knights and men-at-arms. He announced himself as Manasses, Chatelain of
St. Omer, and repeated the demand to surrender.
"There is no need for it," said Hereward. "We are already that young
prince's guests. He has said that we shall be his friends and brothers. He
has said that he will answer to his grandfather, the great Marquis, whom I
and mine shall be proud to serve. I claim the word of a descendant of
"And you shall have it!" cried the boy. "Chatelain! Abbot! these men are
mine. They shall come with me, and lodge in St. Bertin."
"Heaven forefend!" murmured the Abbot.
"They will be safe, at least, within your ramparts," whispered the
"And they shall tell me about the sea. Have I not told you how I long for
Vikings; how I will have Vikings of my own, and sail the seas with them,
like my Uncle Robert, and go to Spain and fight the Moors, and to
Constantinople and marry the Kaiser's daughter? Come," he cried to
Hereward, "come on shore, and he that touches you or your ship, touches
"Sir Chatelain and my Lord Abbot," said Hereward, "you see that, Viking
though I be, I am no barbarous heathen, but a French-speaking gentleman,
like yourselves. It had been easy for me, had I not been a man of honor,
to have cast a rope, as my sailors would have had me do, over that young
boy's fair head, and haled him on board, to answer for my life with his
own. But I loved him, and trusted him, as I would an angel out of heaven;
and I trust him still. To him, and him only, will I yield myself, on
condition that I and my men shall keep all our arms and treasure, and
enter his service, to fight his foes, and his grandfather's, wheresoever
they will, by land or sea."
"Fair sir," said the Abbot, "pirate though you call yourself, you speak so
courtly and clerkly, that I, too, am inclined to trust you; and if my
young lord will have it so, into St. Bertin I will receive you, till our
lord, the Marquis, shall give orders about you and yours."
So promises were given all round; and Hereward explained the matter to the
men, without whose advice (for they were all as free as himself) he could
"Needs must," grunted they, as they packed up each his little valuables.
Then Hereward sheathed his sword, and leaping from the bow, came up to the
"Put your hands between his, fair sir," said the Chatelain.
"That is not the manner of Vikings."
And he took the boy's right hand, and grasped it in the plain English
"There is the hand of an honest man. Come down, men, and take this young
lord's hand, and serve him in the wars as I will do."
One, by one the men came down; and each took Arnulf's hand, and shook it
till the lad's face grew red. But none of them bowed, or made obeisance.
They looked the boy full in the face, and as they stepped back, stared
round upon the ring of armed men with a smile and something of a swagger.
"These are they who bow to no man, and call no man master," whispered the
And so they were: and so are their descendants of Scotland and
Northumbria, unto this very day.
The boy sprang from his horse, and walked among them and round them in
delight. He admired and handled their long-handled double axes; their
short sea-bows of horn and deer-sinew; their red Danish jerkins; their
blue sea-cloaks, fastened on the shoulder with rich brooches; and the gold
and silver bracelets on their wrists. He wondered at their long shaggy
beards, and still more at the blue patterns with which the English among
them, Hereward especially, were tattooed on throat and arm and knee.
"Yes, you are Vikings,--just such as my Uncle Robert tells me of."
Hereward knew well the exploits of Robert le Frison in Spain and Greece.
"I trust that your noble uncle," he asked, "is well? He was one of us poor
sea-cocks, and sailed the swan's path gallantly, till he became a mighty
prince. Here is a man here who was with your noble uncle in Byzant."
And he thrust forward the old master.
The boy's delight knew no bounds. He should tell him all about that in St.
Then he rode back to the ship, and round and round her (for the tide by
that time had left her high and dry), and wondered at her long snake-like
lines, and carven stem and stern.
"Tell me about this ship. Let me go on board of her. I have never seen a
ship inland at Mons there; and even here there are only heavy ugly busses,
and little fishing-boats. No. You must be all hungry and tired. We will go
to St. Bertin at once, and you shall be feasted royally. Hearken,
villains!" shouted he to the peasants. "This ship belongs to the fair sir
here,--my guest and friend; and if any man dares to steal from her a stave
or a nail, I will have his thief's hand cut off."
"The ship, fair lord," said Hereward, "is yours, not mine. You should
build twenty more after her pattern, and man them with such lads as these,
and then go down to
'Miklagard and Spanialand,
That lie so far on the lee, O!'
as did your noble uncle before you."
And so they marched inland, after the boy had dismounted one of his men,
and put Hereward on the horse.
"You gentlemen of the sea can ride as well as sail," said the chatelain,
as he remarked with some surprise Hereward's perfect seat and hand.
"We should soon learn to fly likewise," laughed Hereward, "if there were
any booty to be picked up in the clouds there overhead"; and he rode on by
Arnulf's side, as the lad questioned him about the sea, and nothing else.
"Ah, my boy," said Hereward at last, "look there, and let those be Vikings
And he pointed to the rich pastures, broken by strips of corn-land and
snug farms, which stretched between the sea and the great forest of
"What do you mean?"
But Hereward was silent. It was so like his own native fens. For a moment
there came over him the longing for a home. To settle down in such a fair
fat land, and call good acres his own; and marry and beget stalwart sons,
to till the old estate when he could till no more. Might not that be a
better life--at least a happier one--than restless, homeless, aimless
adventure? And now, just as he had had a hope of peace,--a hope of seeing
his own land, his own folk, perhaps of making peace with his mother and
his king,--the very waves would not let him rest, but sped him forth, a
storm-tossed waif, to begin life anew, fighting he cared not whom or why,
in a strange land.
So he was silent and sad withal.
"What does he mean?" asked the boy of the Abbot.
"He seems a wise man: let him answer for himself."
The boy asked once more.
"Lad! lad!" said Hereward, waking as from a dream. "If you be heir to such
a fair land as that, thank God for it, and pray to Him that you may rule
it justly, and keep it in peace, as they say your grandfather and your
father do; and leave glory and fame and the Vikings' bloody trade to those
who have neither father nor mother, wife nor land, but live like the wolf
of the wood, from one meal to the next."
"I thank you for those words, Sir Harold," said the good Abbot, while the
boy went on abashed, and Hereward himself was startled at his own saying,
and rode silent till they crossed the drawbridge of St. Bertin, and
entered that ancient fortress, so strong that it was the hiding-place in
war time for all the treasures of the country, and so sacred withal that
no woman, dead or alive, was allowed to defile it by her presence; so that
the wife of Baldwin the Bold, ancestor of Arnulf, wishing to lie by her
husband, had to remove his corpse from St. Bertin to the Abbey of
Blandigni, where the Counts of Flanders lay in glory for many a
The pirates entered, not without gloomy distrust, the gates of that
consecrated fortress; while the monks in their turn were (and with some
reason) considerably frightened when they were asked to entertain as
guests forty Norse rovers. Loudly did the elder among them bewail (in
Latin, lest their guests should understand too much) the present weakness
of their monastery, where St. Bertin was left to defend himself and his
monks all alone against the wicked world outside. Far different had been
their case some hundred and seventy years before. Then St. Valeri and St.
Riquier of Ponthieu, transported thither from their own resting-places in
France for fear of the invading Northmen, had joined their suffrages and
merits to those of St. Bertin, with such success that the abbey had never
been defiled by the foot of the heathen. But, alas! the saints, that is
their bodies, after a while became homesick; and St. Valeri appearing in a
dream to Hugh Capet, bade him bring them back to France in spite of
Arnulf, Count of those parts, who wished much to retain so valuable an
addition to his household gods.
But in vain. Hugh Capet was a man who took few denials. With knights and
men-at-arms he came, and Count Arnulf had to send home the holy corpses
with all humility, and leave St. Bertin all alone.
Whereon St. Valeri appeared in a dream to Hugh Capet, and said unto him,
"Because thou hast zealously done what I commanded, thou and thy
successors shall reign in the kingdom of France to everlasting
generations." [Footnote: "Histoire des Comtes de Flandre," par E. le Glay.
E. gestis SS. Richarii et Walerici.]
However, there was no refusing the grandson and heir of Count Baldwin; and
the hearts of the monks were comforted by hearing that Hereward was a good
Christian, and that most of his crew had been at least baptized. The Abbot
therefore took courage, and admitted them into the hospice, with solemn
warnings as to the doom which they might expect if they took the value of
a horse-nail from the patrimony of the blessed saint. Was he less powerful
or less careful of his own honor than St. Lieven of Holthem, who, not more
than fifty years before, had struck stone-blind four soldiers of the
Emperor Henry's, who had dared, after warning, to plunder the altar?
[Footnote: Ibid.] Let them remember, too, the fate of their own
forefathers, the heathens of the North, and the check which, one hundred
and seventy years before, they had received under those very walls. They
had exterminated the people of Walcheren; they had taken prisoner Count
Regnier; they had burnt Ghent, Bruges, and St. Omer itself, close by;
they had left naught between the Scheldt and the Somme, save stark corpses
and blackened ruins. What could withstand them till they dared to lift
audacious hands against the heavenly lord who sleeps there in Sithiu? Then
they poured down in vain over the Heilig-Veld, innumerable as the locusts.
Poor monks, strong in the protection of the holy Bertin, sallied out and
smote them hip and thigh, singing their psalms the while. The ditches of
the fortress were filled with unbaptized corpses; the piles of vine-twigs
which they lighted to burn down the gates turned their flames into the
Norsemen's faces at the bidding of St. Bertin; and they fled from that
temporal fire to descend into that which is eternal, while the gates of
the pit were too narrow for the multitude of their miscreant souls.
[Footnote: This gallant feat was performed in the A. D. 891.]
So the Norsemen heard, and feared; and only cast longing eyes at the gold
and tapestries of the altars, when they went in to mass.
For the good Abbot, gaining courage still further, had pointed out to
Hereward and his men that it had been surely by the merits and suffrages
of the blessed St. Bertin that they had escaped a watery grave.
Hereward and his men, for their part, were not inclined to deny the
theory. That they had miraculously escaped, from the accident of the tide
being high, they knew full well; and that St. Bertin should have done them
the service was probable enough. He, of course, was lord and master in his
own country, and very probably a few miles out to sea likewise.
So Hereward assured the Abbot that he had no mind to eat St. Bertin's
bread, or accept his favors, without paying honestly for them; and after
mass he took from his shoulders a handsome silk cloak (the only one he
had), with a great Scotch Cairngorm brooch, and bade them buckle it on the
shoulders of the great image of St. Bertin.
At which St. Bertin was so pleased (being, like many saints, male and
female, somewhat proud after their death of the finery which they despised
during life), that he appeared that night to a certain monk, and told him
that if Hereward would continue duly to honor him, the blessed St. Bertin,
and his monks at that place, he would, in his turn, insure him victory in
all his battles by land and sea.
After which Hereward stayed quietly in the abbey certain days; and young
Arnulf, in spite of all remonstrances from the Abbot, would never leave
his side till he had heard from him and from his men as much of their
adventures as they thought it prudent to relate.
HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE WAR AT GUISNES.
The dominion of Baldwin of Lille,--Baldwin the Debonair,--Marquis of
Flanders, and just then the greatest potentate in Europe after the Kaiser
of Germany and the Kaiser of Constantinople, extended from the Somme to
the Scheldt, including thus much territory which now belongs to France.
His forefathers had ruled there ever since the days of the "Foresters" of
Charlemagne, who held the vast forests against the heathens of the fens;
and of that famous Baldwin Bras-de-fer,--who, when the foul fiend rose out
of the Scheldt, and tried to drag him down, tried cold steel upon him
(being a practical man), and made his ghostly adversary feel so sorely the
weight of the "iron arm," that he retired into his native mud,--or even
He, like a daring knight as he was, ran off with his (so some say) early
love, Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald of France, a descendant of
Charlemagne himself. Married up to Ethelwulf of England, and thus
stepmother of Alfred the Great,--after his death behaving, alas for her!
not over wisely or well, she had verified the saying:
"Nous revenons toujours
A nos premiers amours,"
and ran away with Baldwin.
Charles, furious that one of his earls, a mere lieutenant and creature,
should dare to marry a daughter of Charlemagne's house, would have
attacked him with horse and foot, fire and sword, had not Baldwin been the
only man who could defend his northern frontier against the heathen
The Pope, as Charles was his good friend, fulminated against Baldwin the
excommunication destined for him who stole a widow for his wife, and all
Baldwin and Judith went straight to Rome, and told their story to the
He, honest man, wrote to Charles the Bald a letter which still
remains,--alike merciful, sentimental, and politic, with its usual
ingrained element of what we now call (from the old monkish word
"cantare") cant. Of Baldwin's horrible wickedness there is no doubt. Of
his repentance (in all matters short of amendment of life, by giving up
the fair Judith), still less. But the Pope has "another motive for so
acting. He fears lest Baldwin, under the weight of Charles's wrath and
indignation, should make alliance with the Normans, enemies of God and the
holy Church; and thus an occasion arise of peril and scandal for the
people of God, whom Charles ought to rule," &c., &c., which if it
happened, it would be worse for them and for Charles's own soul.
To which very sensible and humane missive (times and creeds being
considered), Charles answered, after pouting and sulking, by making
Baldwin _bona fide_ king of all between Somme and Scheldt, and
leaving him to raise a royal race from Judith, the wicked and the fair.
This all happened about A. D. 863. Two hundred years after, there ruled
over that same land Baldwin the Debonair, as "Marquis of the Flamands."
Baldwin had had his troubles. He had fought the Count of Holland. He had
fought the Emperor of Germany; during which war he had burnt the cathedral
of Nimeguen, and did other unrighteous and unwise things; and had been
beaten after all.
Baldwin had had his troubles, and had deserved them. But he had had his
glories, and had deserved them likewise. He had cut the Fosse Neuf, or new
dike, which parted Artois from Flanders. He had so beautified the
cathedral of Lille, that he was called Baldwin of Lille to his dying day.
He had married Adela, the queen countess, daughter of the King of France.
He had become tutor of Philip, the young King, and more or less thereby
regent of the north of France, and had fulfilled his office wisely and
well. He had married his eldest son, Baldwin the Good, to the terrible
sorceress Richilda, heiress of Hainault, wherefore the bridegroom was
named Baldwin of Mons. He had married one of his daughters, Matilda, to
William of Normandy, afterwards the Conqueror; and another, Judith, to
Tosti Godwinsson, the son of the great Earl Godwin of England. She
afterwards married Welf, Duke of Bavaria; whereby, it may be, the blood of
Baldwin of Flanders runs in the veins of Queen Victoria.
And thus there were few potentates of the North more feared and respected
than Baldwin, the good-natured Earl of Flanders.
But one sore thorn in the side he had, which other despots after him
shared with him, and with even worse success in extracting it,--namely,
the valiant men of Scaldmariland, which we now call Holland. Of them
hereafter. At the moment of Hereward's arrival, he was troubled with a
lesser thorn, the Count of Guisnes, who would not pay him up certain dues,
and otherwise acknowledge his sovereignty.
Therefore when the chatelain of St. Omer sent him word to Bruges that a
strange Viking had landed with his crew, calling himself Harold
Naemansson, and offering to take service with him, he returned for answer
that the said Harold might make proof of his faith and prowess upon the
said Count, in which, if he acquitted himself like a good knight, Baldwin
would have further dealings with him.
So the chatelain of St. Omer, with all his knights and men-at-arms, and
Hereward with his sea-cocks, marched northwest up to Guisnes, with little
Arnulf cantering alongside in high glee; for it was the first war that he
had ever seen.
And they came to the Castle of Guisnes, and summoned the Count, by trumpet
and herald, to pay or fight.
Whereon, the Count preferring the latter, certain knights of his came
forth and challenged the knights of St. Omer to fight them man to man.
Whereon there was the usual splintering of lances and slipping up of
horses, and hewing at heads and shoulders so well defended in mail that no
one was much hurt. The archers and arbalisters, meanwhile, amused
themselves with shooting at the castle walls, out of which they chipped
several small pieces of stone. And when they were all tired, they drew off
on both sides, and went in to dinner.
At which Hereward's men, who were accustomed to a more serious fashion of
fighting, stood by, mightily amused, and vowing it was as pretty a play as
ever they saw in their lives.
The next day the same comedy was repeated.
"Let me go in against those knights, Sir chatelain," asked Hereward, who
felt the lust of battle tingling in him from head to heel; "and try if I
cannot do somewhat towards deciding all this. If we fight no faster than
we did yesterday, our beards will be grown down to our knees before we
"Let my Viking go!" cried Arnulf. "Let me see him fight!" as if he had
been a pet gamecock or bulldog.
"You can break a lance, fine sir, if it please you," said the chatelain.
"I break more than lances," quoth Hereward as he cantered off.
"You," said he to his men, "draw round hither to the left; and when I
drive the Frenchmen to the right, make a run for it, and get between them
and the castle gate; and we will try the Danish axe against their horses'
Then Hereward spurred his horse, shouting, "A bear! a bear!" and dashed
into the press; and therein did mightily, like any Turpin or Roland, till
he saw lie on the ground, close to the castle gate, one of the chatelain's
knights with four Guisnes knights around him. Then at those knights he
rode, and slew them every one; and mounted that wounded knight on his own
horse and led him across the field, though the archers shot sore at him
from the wall. And when the press of knights rode at him, his Danish men
got between them and the castle, and made a stand to cover him. Then the
Guisnes knights rode at them scornfully, crying,--
"What footpad churls have we here, who fancy they can face horsed
But they did not know the stuff of the Danish men; who all shouted, "A
bear! A bear!" and turned the lances' points with their targets, and hewed
off the horses' heads, and would have hewed off the riders' likewise,
crying that the bear must be fed, had not Hereward bidden them give
quarter according to the civilized fashion of France and Flanders. Whereon
all the knights who were not taken rode right and left, and let them pass
through in peace, with several prisoners, and him whom Hereward had
At which little Arnulf was as proud as if he had done it himself; and the
chatelain sent word to Baldwin that the new-comer was a prudhomme of no
common merit; while the heart of the Count of Guisnes became as water; and
his knights, both those who were captives and those who were not,
complained indignantly of the unchivalrous trick of the Danes,--how
villanous for men on foot, not only to face knights, but to bring them
down to their own standing ground by basely cutting off their horses'
To which Hereward answered, that he knew the rules of chivalry as well as
any of them; but he was hired, not to joust at a tournament, but to make
the Count of Guisnes pay his lord Baldwin, and make him pay he would.
The next day he bade his men sit still and look on, and leave him to
himself. And when the usual "monomachy" began, he singled out the burliest
and boldest knight whom he saw, rode up to him, lance point in air, and
courteously asked him to come and be killed in fair fight. The knight
being, says the chronicler, "magnificent in valor of soul and counsel of
war, and held to be as a lion in fortitude throughout the army," and
seeing that Hereward was by no means a large or heavy man, replied as
courteously, that he should have great pleasure in trying to kill
Hereward. On which they rode some hundred yards out of the press, calling
out that they were to be left alone by both sides, for it was an honorable
duel, and, turning their horses, charged.
After which act they found themselves and their horses all four in a row,
sitting on their hind-quarters on the ground, amid the fragments of their
"Well ridden!" shouted they both at once, as they leaped up laughing and
drew their swords.
After which they hammered away at each other merrily in "the devil's
smithy"; the sparks flew, and the iron rang, and all men stood still to
see that gallant fight.
So they watched and cheered, till Hereward struck his man such a blow
under the ear, that he dropped, and lay like a log.
"I think I can carry you," quoth Hereward, and picking him up, he threw
him over his shoulder, and walked toward his men.
"A bear! a bear!" shouted they in delight, laughing at the likeness
between Hereward's attitude, and that of a bear waddling off on his hind
legs with his prey in his arms.
"He should have killed his bullock outright before he went to carry him.
And the knight, awaking from his swoon, struggled violently (says Leofric)
But Hereward, though the smaller, was the stronger man; and crushing him
in his arms, walked on steadily.
"Knights, to the rescue! Hoibricht is taken!" shouted they of Guisnes,
galloping towards him.
"A bear! a bear! To me, Biornssons! To me, Vikings all!" shouted Hereward.
And the Danes leapt up, and ran toward him, axe in hand.
The chatelain's knights rode up likewise; and so it befell, that Hereward
carried his prisoner safe into camp.
"And who are you, gallant knight?" asked he of his prisoner.
"Hoibricht, nephew of Eustace, Count of Guisnes."
"So I suppose you will be ransomed. Till then--Armorer!"
And the hapless Hoibricht found himself chained and fettered, and sent off
to Hereward's tent, under the custody of Martin Lightfoot.
"The next day," says the chronicler, "the Count of Guisnes, stupefied with
grief at the loss of his nephew, sent the due honor and service to his
prince, besides gifts and hostages."
And so ended the troubles of Baldwin, and Eustace of Guisnes
HOW A FAIR LADY EXERCISED THE MECHANICAL ART TO WIN HEREWARD'S LOVE.
The fair Torfrida sat in an upper room of her mother's house in St. Omer,
alternately looking out of the window and at a book of mechanics. In the
garden outside, the wryneck (as is his fashion in May) was calling
Pi-pi-pi among the gooseberry bushes, till the cobwalls rang again. In the
book was a Latin recipe for drying the poor wryneck, and using him as a
philtre which should compel the love of any person desired. Mechanics, it
must be understood, in those days were considered as identical with
mathematics, and those again with astrology and magic; so that the old
chronicler, who says that Torfrida was skilled in "the mechanic art," uses
the word in the same sense as does the author of the "History of Ramsey,"
who tells us how a certain holy bishop of St. Dunstan's party, riding down
to Corfe through the forest, saw the wicked queen-mother Elfrida (her who
had St. Edward stabbed at Corfe Gate) exercising her "mechanic art," under
a great tree; in plain English, performing heathen incantations; and how,
when she saw that she was discovered, she tempted him to deadly sin: but
when she found him proof against allurement, she had him into her bower;
and there the enchantress and her ladies slew him by thrusting red-hot
bodkins under his arms, so that the blessed man was martyred without any
sign of wound. Of all which let every man believe as much as he list.
Torfrida had had peculiar opportunities of learning mechanics. The fairest
and richest damsel in St. Omer, she had been left early by her father an
orphan, to the care of a superstitious mother and of a learned uncle, the
Abbot of St. Bertin. Her mother was a Provencale, one of those Arlesiennes
whose dark Greek beauty still shines, like diamonds set in jet, in the
doorways of the quaint old city. Gay enough in her youth, she had, like a
true Southern woman, taken to superstition in her old age; and spent her
days in the churches, leaving Torfrida to do and learn what she would. Her
nurse, moreover, was a Lapp woman, carried off in some pirating foray, and
skilled in all the sorceries for which the Lapps were famed throughout the
North. Her uncle, partly from good-nature, partly from a pious hope that
she might "enter religion," and leave her wealth to the Church, had made
her his pupil, and taught her the mysteries of books; and she had proved
to be a strangely apt scholar. Grammar, rhetoric, Latin prose and poetry,
such as were taught in those days, she mastered ere she was grown up. Then
she fell upon romance, and Charlemagne and his Paladins, the heroes of
Troy, Alexander and his generals, peopled her imagination. She had heard,
too, of the great necromancer Virgilius (for into such the middle age
transformed the poet), and, her fancy already excited by her Lapp nurse's
occult science, she began eagerly to court forbidden lore.
Forbidden, indeed, magic was by the Church in public; but as a reality,
not as an imposture. Those whose consciences were tough and their faith
weak, had little scruple in applying to a witch, and asking help from the
powers below, when the saints above were slack to hear them. Churchmen,
even, were bold enough to learn the mysteries of nature, Algebra, Judicial
Astrology, and the occult powers of herbs, stones, and animals, from the
Mussulman doctors of Cordova and Seville; and, like Pope Gerbert, mingle
science and magic, in a fashion excusable enough in days when true
inductive science did not exist.
Nature had her miraculous powers,--how far good, how far evil, who could
tell? The belief that God was the sole maker and ruler of the universe was
confused and darkened by the cross-belief, that the material world had
fallen under the dominion of Satan and his demons; that millions of
spirits, good and evil in every degree, exercised continually powers over
crops and cattle, mines and wells, storms and lightning, health and
disease. Riches, honors, and royalties, too, were under the command of the
powers of darkness. For that generation, which was but too apt to take its
Bible in hand upside down, had somehow a firm faith in the word of the
Devil, and believed devoutly his somewhat startling assertion, that the
kingdoms of the world were his, and the glory of them; for to him they
were delivered, and to whomsoever he would he gave them: while it had a
proportionally weak faith in our Lord's answer, that they were to worship
and serve the Lord God alone. How far these powers extended, how far they
might be counteracted, how far lawfully employed, were questions which
exercised the minds of men and produced a voluminous literature for
several centuries, till the search died out, for very weariness of
failure, at the end of the seventeenth century.
The Abbot of St. Bertin, therefore, did not hesitate to keep in his
private library more than one volume which he would not have willingly
lent to the simple monks under his charge; nor to Torfrida either, had she
not acquired so complete a command over the good old man, that he could
deny her nothing.
So she read of Gerbert, Pope Silvester II., who had died only a generation
back: how (to quote William of Malmesbury) "he learned at Seville till he
surpassed Ptolemy with the astrolabe, Alcandrus in astronomy, and Julius
Firmicus in judicial astrology; how he learned what the singing and flight
of birds portended, and acquired the art of calling up spirits from hell;
and, in short, whatever--hurtful or healthful--human curiosity had
discovered, besides the lawful sciences of arithmetic and astronomy, music
and geometry"; how he acquired from the Saracens the abacus (a counting
table); how he escaped from the Moslem magician, his tutor, by making a
compact with the foul fiend, and putting himself beyond the power of
magic, by hanging himself under a wooden bridge so as to touch neither
earth nor water; how he taught Robert, King of France, and Otto the
Kaiser; how he made an hydraulic organ which played tunes by steam, which
stood even then in the Cathedral of Rheims; how he discovered in the
Campus Martius at Rome wondrous treasures, and a golden king and queen,
golden courtiers and guards, all lighted by a single carbuncle, and
guarded by a boy with a bent bow; who, when Gerbert's servant stole a
golden knife, shot an arrow at that carbuncle, and all was darkness, and
yells of demons.
All this Torfrida had read; and read, too, how Gerbert's brazen head had
told him that he should be Pope, and not die till he had sung mass at
Jerusalem; and how both had come true,--the latter in mockery; for he was
stricken with deadly sickness in Rome, as he sang mass at the church
called Jerusalem, and died horribly, tearing himself in pieces.
Which terrible warning had as little effect on Torfrida as other terrible
warnings have on young folk, who are minded to eat of the fruit of the
tree of knowledge of good and evil.
So Torfrida beguiled her lonely life in that dull town, looking out over
dreary flats and muddy dikes, by a whole dream-world of fantastic
imaginations, and was ripe and ready for any wild deed which her wild
brain might suggest.
Pure she was all the while, generous and noble-hearted, and with a deep
and sincere longing--as one soul in ten thousand has--after knowledge for
its own sake; but ambitious exceedingly, and that not of monastic
sanctity. She laughed to scorn the notion of a nunnery; and laughed to
scorn equally the notion of marrying any knight, however much of a
prudhomme, whom she had yet seen. Her uncle and Marquis Baldwin could have
between them compelled her, as an orphan heiress, to marry whom they
liked. But Torfrida had as yet bullied the Abbot and coaxed the Count
successfully. Lances had been splintered, helmets split, and more than one
life lost in her honor; but she had only, as the best safeguard she could
devise, given some hint of encouragement to one Ascelin, a tall knight of
St. Valeri, the most renowned bully of those parts, by bestowing on him a
scrap of ribbon, and bidding him keep it against all comers. By this means
she insured the personal chastisement of all other youths who dared to
lift their eyes to her, while she by no means bound herself to her
spadassin of St. Valeri. It was all very brutal, but so was the time; and
what better could a poor lady do in days when no man's life or woman's
honor was safe, unless--as too many were forced to do--she retired into a
cloister, and got from the Church that peace which this world certainly
could not give, and, happily, dared not take away?
The arrival of Hereward and his men had of course stirred the great
current of her life, and indeed that of St. Omer, usually as stagnant as
that of the dikes round its wall. Who the unknown champion was,--for his
name of "Naemansson" showed that he was concealing something at
least,--whence he had come, and what had been his previous exploits,
busied all the gossips of the town. Would he and his men rise and plunder
the abbey? Was not the chatelain mad in leaving young Arnulf with him all
day? Madder still, in taking him out to battle against the Count of
Guisnes? He might be a spy,--the _avant-courrier_ of some great
invading force. He was come to spy out the nakedness of the land, and
would shortly vanish, to return with Harold Hardraade of Norway, or Sweyn
of Denmark, and all their hosts. Nay, was he not Harold Hardraade himself
in disguise? And so forth. All which Torfrida heard, and thought within
herself that, be he who he might, she should like to look on him again.
Then came the news how the very first day that he had gone out against the
Count of Guisnes he had gallantly rescued a wounded man. A day or two
after came fresh news of some doughty deed; and then another, and another.
And when Hereward returned, after a week's victorious fighting, all St.
Omer was in the street to stare at him.
Then Torfrida heard enough, and, had it been possible, more than enough,
of Hereward and his prowess.
And when they came riding in, the great Marquis at the head of them all,
with Robert le Frison on one side of him, and on the other Hereward,
looking "as fresh as flowers in May," she looked down on him out of her
little lattice in the gable, and loved him, once and for all, with all her
heart and soul.
And Hereward looked up at her and her dark blue eyes and dark raven locks,
and thought her the fairest thing that he had ever seen, and asked who she
might be, and heard; and as he heard he forgot all about the Sultan's
daughter, and the Princess of Constantinople, and the Fairy of
Brocheliaunde, and all the other pretty birds which were still in the bush
about the wide world; and thought for many a day of naught but the pretty
bird which he held--so conceited was he of his own powers of winning
her--there safe in hand in St. Omer.
So he cast about to see her, and to win her love. And she cast about to
see him, and win his love. But neither saw the other for a while; and it
might have been better for one of them had they never seen the other
If Torfrida could have foreseen, and foreseen, and foreseen----why, if she
were true woman, she would have done exactly what she did, and taken the
bitter with the sweet, the unknown with the known, as we all must do in
life, unless we wish to live and die alone.
HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE WAR IN SCALDMARILAND.
It has been shown how the Count of Guisnes had been a thorn in the side of
Baldwin of Lille, and how that thorn was drawn out by Hereward. But a far
sharper thorn in his side, and one which had troubled many a Count before,
and was destined to trouble others afterward, was those unruly Hollanders,
or Frisians, who dwelt in Scaldmariland, "the land of the meres of the
Scheldt." Beyond the vast forests of Flanders, in morasses and alluvial
islands whose names it is impossible now to verify, so much has the land
changed, both by inundations and by embankments, by the brute forces of
nature and the noble triumphs of art, dwelt a folk, poor, savage, living
mostly, as in Caesar's time, in huts raised above the sea on piles or
mounds of earth; often without cattle or seedfield, half savage, half
heathen, but free. Free, with the divine instinct of freedom, and all the
self-help and energy which spring thereout.
They were a mongrel race; and, as most mongrel races are (when sprung from
parents not too far apart in blood), a strong race; the remnant of those
old Frisians and Batavians, who had defied, and all but successfully
resisted, the power of Rome; mingled with fresh crosses of Teutonic blood
from Frank, Sueve, Saxon, and the other German tribes, who, after the fall
of the Roman Empire, had swept across the land.
Their able modern historian has well likened the struggle between Civilis
and the Romans to that between William the Silent and the Spaniard. It
was, without doubt, the foreshadow of their whole history. They were
distinguished, above most European races, for sturdy independence, and,
what generally accompanies it, sturdy common sense. They could not
understand why they should obey foreign Frank rulers, whether set over
them by Dagobert or by Charlemagne. They could not understand why they
were to pay tithes to foreign Frank priests, who had forced on them, at
the sword's point, a religion which they only half believed, and only half
understood. Many a truly holy man preached to them to the best of his
powers: but the cross of St. Boniface had too often to follow the sword of
Charles Martel; and for every Frisian who was converted another was
"Free Frisians," nevertheless, they remained, at least in name and in
their statute-book, "as long as the wind blows out of the clouds, and the
world stands." The feudal system never took root in their soil. [Footnote:
Motley. "Rise of the Dutch Republic."] If a Frank Count was to govern
them, he must govern according to their own laws. Again and again they
rebelled, even against that seemingly light rule. Again and again they
brought down on themselves the wrath of their nominal sovereigns the
Counts of Flanders; then of the Kaisers of Germany; and, in the thirteenth
century, of the Inquisition itself. Then a crusade was preached against
them as "Stadings," heretics who paid no tithes, ill-used monks and nuns,
and worshipped (or were said to worship) a black cat and the foul fiend
among the meres and fens. Conrad of Marpurg, the brutal Director of St.
Elizabeth of Hungary, burnt them at his wicked will, extirpating, it may
be, heresy, but not the spirit of the race. That, crushed down and
seemingly enslaved, during the middle age, under Count Dirk and his
descendants, still lived; destined at last to conquer. They were a people
who had determined to see for themselves and act for themselves in the
universe in which they found themselves; and, moreover (a necessary
corollary of such a resolution), to fight to the death against any one who
interfered with them in so doing.
Again and again, therefore, the indomitable spirit rose, founding free
towns with charters and guilds; embanking the streams, draining the meres,
fighting each other and the neighboring princes; till, in their last great
struggle against the Pope and Spain, they rose once and for all,
"Heated hot with burning fears,
And bathed in baths of hissing tears,
And battered with the strokes of doom
To shape and use,"
as the great Protestant Dutch Republic.
A noble errand it had been for such a man as Hereward to help those men
toward freedom, instead of helping Frank Counts to enslave them;--men of
his own blood, with laws and customs like those of his own Anglo-Danes,
living in a land so exactly like his own that every mere and fen and wood
reminded him of the scenes of his boyhood. The very names of the two lands
were alike,--"Holland," the hollow land,--the one of England, the other of
But all this was hidden from Hereward. To do as he would be done by was a
lesson which he had never been taught. If men had invaded his land, he
would have cried, like the Frisians whom he was going to enslave, "I am
free as long as the wind blows out of the clouds!" and died where he
stood. But that was not the least reason why he should not invade any
other man's land, and try whether or not he, too, would die where he
stood. To him these Frieslanders were simply savages, probably heathens,
who would not obey their lawful lord, who was a gentleman and a Christian;
besides, renown, and possibly a little plunder, might be got by beating
them into obedience. He knew not what he did; and knew not, likewise, that
as he had done to others, so would it be done to him.
Baldwin had at that time made over his troublesome Hollanders to his
younger son Robert, the Viking whom little Arnulf longed to imitate.
Florent, Count of Holland, and vassal of the great Marquis, had just died,
leaving a pretty young widow, to whom the Hollanders had no mind to pay
one stiver more than they were forced. All the isles of Zeeland, and the
counties of Eonham and Alost, were doing that which was right in the sight
of their own eyes, and finding themselves none the worse therefor,--though
the Countess Gertrude doubtless could buy fewer silks of Greece or gems of
Italy. But to such a distressed lady a champion could not long be wanting;
and Robert, after having been driven out of Spain by the Moors with
fearful loss, and in a second attempt wrecked with all his fleet as soon
as he got out of port, resolved to tempt the main no more, and leave the
swan's path for that of the fat oxen and black dray-horses of Holland.
So he rushed to avenge the wrongs of the Countess Gertrude; and his
father, whose good-natured good sense foresaw that the fiery Robert would
raise storms upon his path,--happily for his old age he did not foresee
the worst,--let him go, with his blessing.
So Robert gathered to him valiant ruffians, as many as he could find; and
when he heard of the Viking who had brought Eustace of Guisnes to reason,
it seemed to him that he was a man who would do his work. So when the
great Marquis came down to St. Omer to receive the homage of Count Eustace
of Guisnes, Robert came thither too, and saw Hereward.
"You have done us good service, Harold Naemansson, as it pleases you to be
called," said Baldwin, smiling. "But some man's son you are, if ever I saw
a gallant knight earl-born by his looks as well as his deeds."
"And for me," said Robert, "Naemansson or earl's son, here is my Viking's
welcome to all Vikings like myself." And he held out his hand.
Hereward took it.
"You failed in Galicia, beausire, only because your foes were a hundred to
one. You will not fail where you are going, if (as I hear) they are but
ten to one."
Robert laughed, vain and gratified.
"Then you know where I have been, and where I am going?"
"Why not? As you know well, we Vikings are all brothers, and all know each
other's counsel, from ship to ship and port to port."
Then the two young men looked each other in the face, and each saw that
the other was a man who would suit him.
"Skall to the Viking!" cried Robert, aping, as was his fancy, the Norse
rovers' slang. "Will you come with me to Holland?"
"You must ask my young lord there," and he pointed to Arnulf. "I am his
man now, by all laws of honor."
A flush of jealousy passed over Robert's face. He, haplessly for himself,
thought that he had a grievance.
The rights of primogeniture--_droits d'ainesse_--were not respected
in the family of the Baldwins as they should have been, had prudence and
common sense had their way.
No sacred or divine right is conferred by the fact of a man's being the
first-born son. If Scripture be Scripture, the "Lord's anointed" was
usually rather a younger son of talent and virtue; one born, not according
to the flesh, but according to the spirit, like David and Solomon. And so
it was in other realms besides Flanders during the middle age. The father
handed on the work--for ruling was hard work in those days--to the son
most able to do it. Therefore we can believe Lambert of Aschaffenbourg
when he says, that in Count Baldwin's family for many ages he who pleased
his father most took his father's name, and was hereditary prince of all
Flanders; while the other brothers led an inglorious life of vassalage to
But we can conceive, likewise, that such a method would give rise to
intrigues, envyings, calumnies, murders, fratracidal civil wars, and all
the train of miseries which for some years after this history made
infamous the house of Baldwin, as they did many another noble house, till
they were stopped by the gradual adoption of the rational rule of
So Robert, who might have been a daring and useful friend to his brother,
had he been forced to take for granted from birth that he was nobody, and
his brother everybody,--as do all younger sons of English noblemen, to
their infinite benefit,--held himself to be an injured man for life,
because his father called his first-born Baldwin, and promised him the
succession,--which indeed he had worthily deserved, according to the laws
of Mammon and this world, by bringing into the family such an heiress as
Richilda and such a dowry as Mons.
But Robert, who thought himself as good as his brother,--though he was not
such, save in valor,--nursed black envy in his heart. Hard it was to him
to hear his elder brother called Baldwin of Mons, when he himself had not
a foot of land of his own. Harder still to hear him called Baldwin the
Good, when he felt in himself no title whatsoever to that epithet. Hardest
of all to see a beautiful boy grow up, as heir both of Flanders and of
Had he foreseen whither that envy would have led him; had he foreseen the
hideous and fratracidal day of February 22d, 1071, and that fair boy's
golden locks rolling in dust and blood,--the wild Viking would have
crushed the growing snake within his bosom; for he was a knight and a
gentleman. But it was hidden from his eyes. He had to "dree his
weird,"--to commit great sins, do great deeds, and die in his bed, mighty
and honored, having children to his heart's desire, and leaving the rest
of his substance to his babes. Heaven help him, and the like of him!
But he turned to young Arnulf.
"Give me your man, boy!"
Arnulf pouted. He wanted to keep his Viking for himself, and said so.
"He is to teach me to go 'leding,' as the Norsemen call it, like you."
Robert laughed. A hint at his piratical attempts pleased his vanity, all
the more because they had been signal failures.
"Lend him me, then, my pretty nephew, for a month or two, till he has
conquered these Friesland frogs for me; and then, if thou wilt go leding
"I hope you may never come back," thought Robert to himself; but he did
not say it,
"Let the knight go," quoth Baldwin.
"Let me go with him, then."
"No, by all saints! I cannot have thee poked through with a Friesland
pike, or rotted with a Friesland ague."
Arnulf pouted still.
"Abbot, what hast thou been at with the boy? He thinks of naught but blood
and wounds, instead of books and prayers."
"He is gone mad after this--this knight."
"The Abbot," said Hereward, "knows by hearing of his ears that I bid him
bide at home, and try to govern lands in peace like his father and you,
The Abbot told honestly what had passed between Hereward and the lad, as
they rode to St. Bertin.
Baldwin was silent, thinking, and smiling jollily, as was the wont of the
"You are a man of sense, beausire. Come with me," said he at last.
And he, Hereward, and Robert went into an inner room.
"Sit down on the settle by me."
"It is too great an honor."
"Nonsense, man! If I be who I am, I know enough of men to know that I need
not be ashamed of having you as bench-fellow. Sit down."
Hereward obeyed of course.
"Tell me who you are."
Hereward looked out of the corner of his eyes, smiling and perplexed.
"Tell me and Robert who you are, man; and be done with it. I believe I
know already. I have asked far and wide of chapmen, and merchants, and
wandering knights, and pirate rascals,--like yourself."
"And you found that I was a pirate rascal?"
"I found a pirate rascal who met you in Ireland, three years since, and
will swear that if you have one gray eye and one blue--"
"As he has," quoth Robert.
"That I am a wolf's head, and a robber of priests, and an Esau on the face
of the earth; every man's hand against me, and mine--for I never take but
what I give--against every man."
"That you are the son of my old friend Leofric of Chester: and the
hottest-hearted, shrewdest-headed, hardest-handed Berserker in the North
Seas. You killed Gilbert of Ghent's bear, Siward Digre's cousin. Don't
"Don't hang me, or send me to the Westminster miracle-worker to be hanged,
and I will confess."
"I? Every man is welcome who comes hither with a bold hand and a strong
heart. 'The Refuge for the Destitute,' they call Flanders; I suppose
because I am too good-natured to turn rogues out. So do no harm to mine,
and mine shall do no harm to you."
Baldwin's words were true. He found house-room for everybody, helped
everybody against everybody else (as will be seen), and yet quarrelled
with nobody--at least in his old age--by the mere virtue of good
nature,--which blessed is the man who possesseth.
So Hereward went off to exterminate the wicked Hollanders, and avenge the
wrongs of the Countess Gertrude.
HOW HEREWARD WON THE MAGIC ARMOR.
Torfrida had special opportunities of hearing about Hereward; for young
Arnulf was to her a pet and almost a foster-brother, and gladly escaped
from the convent to tell her the news.
He had now had his first taste of the royal game of war. He had seen
Hereward fight by day, and heard him tell stories over the camp-fire by
night. Hereward's beauty, Hereward's prowess, Hereward's songs, Hereward's
strange adventures and wanderings, were forever in the young boy's mouth;
and he spent hours in helping Torfrida to guess who the great unknown
might be; and then went back to Hereward, and artlessly told him of his
beautiful friend, and how they had talked of him, and of nothing else; and
in a week or two Hereward knew all about Torfrida; and Torfrida knew--what
filled her heart with joy--that Hereward was bound to no lady-love, and
owned (so he had told Arnulf) no mistress save the sword on his thigh.
Whereby there had grown up in the hearts of both the man and the maid a
curiosity, which easily became the parent of love.
But when Baldwin the great Marquis came to St. Omer, to receive the homage
of Eustace of Guisnes, young Arnulf had run into Torfrida's chamber in
great anxiety. "Would his grandfather approve of what he had done? Would
he allow his new friendship with the unknown?"
"What care I?" said Torfrida. "But if your friend wishes to have the
Marquis's favor, he would be wise to trust him, at least so far as to tell
"I have told him so. I have told him that you would tell him so."
"I? Have you been talking to him about me?"
"That is not well done, Arnulf, to talk of ladies to men whom they do not
Arnulf looked up, puzzled and pained; for she spoke haughtily.
"I know naught of your new friend. He may be a low-born man, for anything
that I can tell."
"He is not! He is as noble as I am. Everything he says and does--every
"You are young,--as you have shown by talking of me to him. But I have
given you my advice"; and she moved languidly away. "Let him tell your
grandfather who he is, or remain suspected."
The boy went away sadly.
Early the next morning he burst into Torfrida's room as she was dressing
"How now? Are these manners for the heir of Flanders?"
"He has told all!"
"He has!" and she started and dropt her comb.
"Pick up that comb, girl. You need not go away. I have no secrets with
"I thought you would be glad to hear."
"I? What can I want in the matter, save that your grandfather should be
satisfied that you are entertaining a man worthy to be your guest?"
"And he is worthy: he has told my grandfather who he is."
"But not you?"
"No. They say I must not know yet. But this I know, that they welcomed
him, when he told them, as if he had been an earl's son; and that he is
going with my Uncle Robert against the Frieslanders."
"And if he be an earl's son, how comes he here, wandering with rough
seamen, and hiding his honest name? He must have done something of which
he is ashamed."
"I shall tell you nothing," said Arnulf, pouting.
"What care I? I can find out by art magic if I like."
"I don't believe all that. Can you find out, for instance, what he has on
"But what is under that beard?"
"You are laughing at me."
"Of course I am, as I shall at any one who challenges me to find out
anything so silly, and so unfit."
"I shall go."
"Go then." For she knew very well that he would come back again.
"Nurse," said Torfrida to the old Lapp woman, when they were alone, "find
out for me what is the name of this strange champion, and what he has
beneath his beard."
"Beneath his beard?"
"Some scar, I suppose, or secret mark. I must know. You will find out for
your Torfrida, will you not, nurse?"
"I will make a charm that will bring him to you, were all the icebergs of
Quenland between you and him: and then you can see for yourself."
"No, no, no! not yet, nurse!" and Torfrida smiled. "Only find me out that
one thing: that I must know."
And yet why she wanted to know, she could not tell herself.
The old woman came back to her, ere she went to bed.
"I have found it out all, and more. I know where to get scarlet
toadstools, and I put the juice in his men's ale: they are laughing and
roaring now, merry-mad every one of them."
"But not he?"
"No, no. He is with the Marquis. But in madness comes out truth; and that
long hook-nosed body-varlet of his has told us all."
And she told Torfrida who Hereward was, and the secret mark.
"There is a cross upon his throat, beneath his chin, pricked in after
their English fashion."
"Then,--then the spell will not work upon him; the Holy Cross will turn it
"It must be a great Cross and a holy one that will turn off my charms,"
said the old hag, with a sneer, "whatever it may do against yours. But on
the back of his hand,--that will be a mark to know him by,--there is
pricked a bear,--a white bear that he slew." And she told the story of the
fairy bear; which Torfrida duly stored up in her heart.
"So he has the Cross on his throat," thought Torfrida to herself. "Well,
if it keep off my charm, it will keep off others, that is one comfort; and
one knows not what fairies or witches or evil creatures he may meet with
in the forests and the fens."
The discovery of Hereward's rank did not, doubtless, lessen Torfrida's
fancy for him. She was ambitious enough, and proud enough of her own
lineage, to be full glad that her heart had strayed away--as it must needs
stray somewhere--to the son of the third greatest man in England. As for
his being an outlaw, that mattered little. He might be inlawed, and rich
and powerful, any day in those uncertain, topsy-turvy times; and, for the
present, his being a wolf's head only made him the more interesting to
her. Women like to pity their lovers. Sometimes--may all good beings
reward them for it--they love merely because they pity. And Torfrida found
it pleasant to pity the insolent young coxcomb, who certainly never
dreamed of pitying himself.
When Hereward went home that night, he found the Abbey of St. Bertin in
horrible confusion. His men were grouped outside the gate, chattering like
monkeys; the porter and the monks, from inside, entreating them, vainly,
to come in and go to bed quietly.
But they would not. They vowed and swore that a great gulf had opened all
down the road, and that one step more would tumble them in headlong. They
manifested the most affectionate solicitude for the monks, warning them,
on their lives, not to step across the threshold, or they would be
swallowed (as Martin, who was the maddest of the lot, phrased it) with
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In vain Hereward stormed; assured them that the
supposed abyss was nothing but the gutter; proved the fact by kicking
Martin over it. The men determined to believe their own eyes, and after a
while fell asleep, in heaps, in the roadside, and lay there till morning,
when they woke, declaring, as did the monks, that they had been all
bewitched. They knew not--and happily the lower orders, both in England
and on the Continent, do not yet know--the potent virtues of that strange
fungus, with which Lapps and Samoiedes have, it is said, practised wonders
for centuries past.
The worst of the matter was, that Martin Lightfoot, who had drank most of
the poison, and had always been dreamy and uncanny, in spite of his
shrewdness and humor, had, from that day forward, something very like a
bee in his bonnet.
But before Count Robert and Hereward could collect sufficient troops for
the invasion of Holland, another chance of being slain in fight arose, too
tempting to be overlooked; namely, the annual tournament at Pont de
l'Arche above Rouen, where all the noblest knights of Normandy would
assemble, to win their honor and ladies' love by hewing at each other's
sinful bodies. Thither, too, the best knights of Flanders must needs go,
and with them Hereward. Though no knight, he was allowed in Flanders, as
he had been in Scotland, to take his place among that honorable company.
For, though he still refused the honor of knighthood, on the ground that
he had, as yet, done no deed deserving thereof, he was held to have
deserved it again and again, and all the more from his modesty in
So away they all went to Pont de l'Arche, a right gallant meinie: and
Torfrida watched them go from the lattice window.
And when they had passed down the street, tramping and jingling and
caracoling, young Arnulf ran into the house with eyes full of tears,
because he was not allowed to go likewise; and with a message for
Torfrida, from no other than Hereward.
"I was to tell you this and no more: that if he meets your favor in the
field, he that wears it will have hard work to keep it."
Torfrida turned pale as ashes; first with wild delight, and then with wild
"Ha?--does he know who--Sir Ascelin?"
"He knows well enough. Why not? Every one knows. Are you afraid that he is
not a match for that great bullock?"
"Afraid? Who said I was afraid? Sir Ascelin is no bullock either; but a
courteous and gallant knight."
"You are as pale as death, and so--"
"Never mind what I am," said she, putting her hands over his eyes, and
kissing him again and again, as a vent for her joy.
The next few days seemed years for length: but she could wait. She was
sure of him now. She needed no charms. "Perhaps," thought she, as she
looked in the glass, "I was my own charm." And, indeed, she had every fair
right to say so.
At last news came.
She was sitting over her books; her mother, as usual, was praying in the
churches; when the old Lapp nurse came in. A knight was at the door. His
name, he said, was Siward the White, and he came from Hereward.
From Hereward! He was at least alive: he might be wounded, though; and she
rushed out of the chamber into the hall, looking never more beautiful; her
color heightened by the quick beating of her heart; her dark hair, worn
loose and long, after the fashion of those days, streaming around her and
A handsome young man stood in the door-way, armed from head to foot.
"You are Siward, Hereward's nephew?"
He bowed assent. She took him by the hands, and, after the fashion of
those days, kissed him on the small space on either cheek, which was left
bare between the nose-piece and the chain-mail.
"You are welcome. Hereward is--is alive?"
"Alive and gay, and all the more gay at being able to send to the Lady
Torfrida by me something which was once hers, and now is hers once more."
And he drew from his bosom the ribbon of the knight of St. Valeri.
She almost snatched it from his hand, in her delight at recovering her
"How--where--did he get this?"
"He saw it, in the thick of the tournament, on the helm of a knight who,
he knew, had vowed to maim him or take his life; and, wishing to give him
a chance of fulfilling his vow, rode him down, horse and man. The knight's
Norman friends attacked us in force; and we Flemings, with Hereward at our
head, beat them off, and overthrew so many, that we are almost all horsed
at the Norman's expense. Three more knights, with their horses, fell
before Hereward's lance."
"And what of this favor?"
"He sends it to its owner. Let her say what shall be done with it."
Torfrida was on the point of saying, "He has won it; let him wear it for
my sake." But she paused. She longed to see Hereward face to face; to
speak to him, if but one word. If she allowed him to wear the favor, she
must at least have the pleasure of giving it with her own hands. And she
"And he is killed?"
"Only bruised; but he shall be killed, if you will."
"Then," said Siward, mistaking her meaning, "all I have to tell Hereward
is, it seems, that he has wasted his blow. He will return, therefore, to
the Knight of St. Valeri his horse, and, if the Lady Torfrida chooses, the
favor which he has taken by mistake from its rightful owner." And he set
his teeth, and could not prevent stamping on the ground, in evident
passion. There was a tone, too, of deep disappointment in his voice, which
made Torfrida look keenly at him. Why should Hereward's nephew feel so
deeply about that favor? And as she looked,--could that man be the youth
Siward? Young he was, but surely thirty years old at least. His face could
hardly be seen, hidden by helmet and nose-piece above, and mailed up to
the mouth below. But his long mustache was that of a grown man; his vast
breadth of shoulder, his hard hand, his sturdy limbs,--these surely
belonged not to the slim youth whom she had seen from her lattice riding
at Hereward's side. And, as she looked, she saw upon his hand the bear of
which her nurse had told her.
"You are deceiving me!" and she turned first deadly pale, and then
crimson. "You--you are Hereward himself!"
"I? Pardon me, my lady. Ten minutes ago I should have been glad enough to
have been Hereward. Now, I am thankful enough that I am only Siward; and
not Hereward, who wins for himself contempt by overthrowing a knight more
fortunate than he." And he bowed, and turned away to go.
"Hereward! Hereward!" and, in her passion, she seized him by both his
hands. "I know you! I know that device upon your hand. At last! at last my
hero,--my idol! How I have longed for this moment! How I have toiled for
it, and not in vain! Good heavens! what am I saying?" And she tried, in
her turn, to escape from Hereward's mailed arms.
"Then you do not care for that man?"
"For him? Here! take my favor, wear it before all the world, and guard it
as you only can; and let them all know that Torfrida is your love."
And with hands trembling with passion, she bound the ribbon round his
"Yes! I am Hereward," he almost shouted; "the Berserker, the brain-hewer,
the land-thief, the sea-thief, the feeder of wolf and raven,--Aoi! Ere my
beard was grown, I was a match for giants. How much more now, that I am a
man whom ladies love? Many a champion has quailed before my very glance.
How much more, now that I wear Torfrida's gift? Aoi!"
Torfrida had often heard that wild battle-cry of Aoi! of which the early
minstrels were so fond,--with which the great poet who wrote the "Song of
Roland" ends every paragraph; which has now fallen (displaced by our
modern Hurrah), to be merely a sailor's call or hunter's cry. But she
shuddered as she heard it close to her ears, and saw, from the flashing
eye and dilated nostril, the temper of the man on whom she had thrown
herself so utterly. She laid her hand upon his lips.
"Silence! silence for pity's sake. Remember that you are in a maiden's
house; and think of her good fame."
Hereward collected himself instantly, and then holding her at arm's
length, gazed upon her. "I was mad a moment. But is it not enough to make
me mad to look at you?"
"Do not look at me so, I cannot bear it," said she, hanging down her head.
"You forget that I am a poor weak girl."
"Ah! we are rough wooers, we sea-rovers. We cannot pay glozing French
compliments like your knights here, who fawn on a damsel with soft words
in the hall, and will kiss the dust off their queen's feet, and die for a
hair of their goddess's eyebrow; and then if they catch her in the forest,
show themselves as very ruffians as if they were Paynim Moors. We are
rough, lady, we English: but those who trust us, find us true."
"And I can trust you?" she asked, still trembling.
"On God's cross there round your neck," and he took her crucifix and
kissed it. "You only I love, you only I will love, and you will I love in
all honesty, before the angels of heaven, till we be wedded man and wife.
Who but a fool would soil the flower which he means to wear before all the
"I knew Hereward was noble! I knew I had not trusted him in vain!"
"I kept faith and honor with the Princess of Cornwall, when I had her at
my will, and shall I not keep faith and honor with you?"
"The Princess of Cornwall?" asked Torfrida.
"Do not be jealous, fair queen. I brought her safe to her betrothed; and
wedded she is, long ago. I will tell you that story some day. And now--I
"Not yet! not yet! I have something to--to show you."
She motioned him to go up the narrow stairs, or rather ladder, which led
to the upper floor, and then led him into her chamber.
A lady's chamber was then, in days when privacy was little cared for, her
usual reception room; and the bed, which stood in an alcove, was the
common seat of her and her guests. But Torfrida did not ask him to sit
down. She led the way onward towards a door beyond.
Hereward followed, glancing with awe at the books, parchments, and strange
instruments which lay on the table and the floor.
The old Lapp nurse sat in the window, sewing busily. She looked up, and
smiled meaningly. But as she saw Torfrida unlock the further door with one
of the keys which hung at her girdle, she croaked out,--
"Too fast! Too fast! Trust lightly, and repent heavily."
"Trust once and for all, or never trust at all," said Torfrida, as she
opened the door.
Hereward saw within rich dresses hung on perches round the wall, and
chests barred and padlocked.
"These are treasures," said she, "which many a knight and nobleman has
coveted. By cunning, by flattery, by threats of force even, have they
tried to win what lies here,--and Torfrida herself, too, for the sake of
her wealth. But thanks to the Abbot my uncle, Torfrida is still her own
mistress, and mistress of the wealth which her forefathers won by sea and
land far away in the East. All here is mine,--and if you be but true to
me, all mine is yours. Lift the lid for me, it is too heavy for my arms."
Hereward did so; and saw within golden cups and bracelets, horns of ivory
and silver, bags of coin, and among them a mail shirt and helmet, on which
he fixed at once silent and greedy eyes.
She looked at his face askance, and smiled. "Yes, these are more to
Hereward's taste than gold and jewels. And he shall have them. He shall
have them as a proof that if Torfrida has set her love upon a worthy
knight, she is at least worthy of him; and does not demand, without being
able to give in return."
And she took out the armor, and held it up to him.
"This Is the work of dwarfs or enchanters! This was not forged by mortal
man! It must have come out of some old cavern, or dragon's hoard!" said
Hereward, in astonishment at the extreme delicacy and slightness of the
mail-rings, and the richness of the gold and silver with which both
hauberk and helm were inlaid.
"Enchanted it is, they say; but its maker, who can tell? My ancestor won
it, and by the side of Charles Martel. Listen, and I will tell you how.
"You have heard of fair Provence, where I spent my youth; the land of the
sunny south; the land of the fig and the olive, the mulberry and the rose,
the tulip and the anemone, and all rich fruits and fair flowers,--the land
where every city is piled with temples and theatres and towers as high as
heaven, which the old Romans built with their enchantments, and tormented
the blessed martyrs therein."
"Heavens, how beautiful you are!" cried Hereward, as her voice shaped
itself into a song, and her eyes flashed, at the remembrance of her
Torfrida was not altogether angry at finding that he was thinking of her,
and not of her words.
"Peace, and listen. You know how the Paynim held that land,--the Saracens,
to whom Mahound taught all the wisdom of Solomon,--as they teach us in
turn," she added in a lower voice.
"And how Charles and his Paladins," [Charles Martel and Charlemagne were
perpetually confounded in the legends of the time] "drove them out, and
conquered the country again for God and his mother."
"I have heard--" but he did not take his eyes off her face.
"They were in the theatre at Arles, the Saracens, where the blessed martyr
St. Trophimus had died in torments; they had set up there their idol of
Mahound, and turned the place into a fortress. Charles burnt it over their
heads: you see--I have seen--the blackened walls, the blood-stained
marbles, to this day. Then they fled into the plain, and there they turned
and fought. Under Montmajeur, by the hermit's cell, they fought a summer's
day, till they were all slain. There was an Emir among them, black as a
raven, clad in magic armor. All lances turned from it, all swords shivered
on it. He rode through the press without a wound, while every stroke of
his scymitar shore off a head of horse or man. Charles himself rode at
him, and smote him with his hammer. They heard the blow in Avignon, full
thirty miles away. The flame flashed out from the magic armor a fathom's
length, blinding all around; and when they recovered their sight, the
enchanter was far away in the battle, killing as he went.
"Then Charles cried, 'Who will stop that devil, whom no steel can wound?
Help us, O blessed martyr St. Trophimus, and save the soldiers of the
Cross from shame!'
"Then cried Torfrid, my forefather, 'What use in crying to St. Trophimus?
He could not help himself, when the Paynim burnt him: and how can he help
us? A tough arm is worth a score of martyrs here.'
"And he rode at that Emir, and gript him in his arms. They both fell, and
rolled together on the ground; but Torfrid never loosed his hold till he
had crushed out his unbaptized soul and sent it to join Mahound in hell.
"Then he took his armor, and brought it home in triumph. But after a while
he fell sick of a fever; and the blessed St. Trophimus appeared to him,
and told him that it was a punishment for his blasphemy in the battle. So
he repented, and vowed to serve the saint all his life. On which he was
healed instantly, and fell to religion, and went back to Montmajeur; and
there he was a hermit in the cave under the rock, and tended the graves
hewn in the living stone, where his old comrades, the Paladins who were
slain, sleep side by side round the church of the Holy Cross. But the
armor he left here; and he laid a curse upon it, that whosoever of his
descendants should lose that armor in fight, should die childless, without
a son to wield a sword. And therefore it is that none of his ancestors,
valiant as they have been, have dared to put this harness on their backs."
And so ended a story, which Torfrida believed utterly, and Hereward
"And now, Hereward mine, dare you wear that magic armor, and face old
"What dare I not?"
"Think. If you lose it, in you your race must end."
"Let it end. I accept the curse."
And he put the armor on.
But he trembled as he did it. Atheism and superstition go too often hand
in hand; and godless as he was, sceptical of Providence itself, and much
more of the help of saint or angel, still the curse of the old warrior,
like the malice of a witch or a demon, was to him a thing possible,
probable, and formidable.
She looked at him in pride and exultation.
"It is yours,--the invulnerable harness! Wear it in the forefront of the
battle! And if weapon wound you through it, may I, as punishment for my
lie, suffer the same upon my tender body,--a wound for every wound of
yours, my knight!" [Footnote: "Volo enim in meo tale quid nunc perpeti
corpore semel, quicquid eas ferrei vel e metallo excederet."]
And after that they sat side by side, and talked of love with all honor
and honesty, never heeding the old hag, who crooned to herself in her
"Quick thaw, long frost,
Quick joy, long pain,
Soon found, soon lost,
You will take your gift again."
HOW THE HOLLANDERS TOOK HEREWARD FOR A MAGICIAN.
Of this weary Holland war which dragged itself on, campaign after
campaign, for several years, what need to tell? There was, doubtless, the
due amount of murder, plunder, burning, and worse; and the final event was
certain from the beginning. It was a struggle between civilized and
disciplined men, armed to the teeth, well furnished with ships and
military engines, against poor simple folk in "felt coats stiffened with
tar or turpentine, or in very short jackets of hide," says the chronicler,
"who fought by threes, two with a crooked lance and three darts each, and
between them a man with a sword or an axe, who held his shield before
those two;--a very great multitude, but in composition utterly
undisciplined," who came down to the sea-coast, with carts and wagons, to
carry off the spoils of the Flemings, and bade them all surrender at
discretion, and go home again after giving up Count Robert and Hereward,
with the "tribunes of the brigades," to be put to death, as valiant South
Sea islanders might have done; and then found themselves as sheep to the
slaughter before the cunning Hereward, whom they esteemed a magician on
account of his craft and his invulnerable armor.
So at least says Leofric's paraphrast, who tells long, confused stories of
battles and campaigns, some of them without due regard to chronology; for
it is certain that the brave Frisians could not on Robert's first landing
have "feared lest they should be conquered by foreigners, as they had
heard the English were by the French," because that event had not then
And so much for the war among the Meres of Scheldt.
HOW HEREWARD TURNED BERSERK.
Torfrida's heart misgave her that first night as to the effects of her
exceeding frankness. Her pride in the first place was somewhat wounded;
she had dreamed of a knight who would worship her as his queen, hang on
her smile, die at her frown; and she had meant to bring Hereward to her
feet as such a slave, in boundless gratitude; but had he not rather held
his own, and brought her to his feet, by assuming her devotion as his
right? And if he assumed that, how far could she trust him not to abuse
his claim? Was he quite as perfect, seen close, as seen afar off? And now
that the intoxication of that meeting had passed off, she began to
remember more than one little fault which she would have gladly seen
mended. Certain roughnesses of manner which contrasted unfavorably with
the polish (merely external though it was) of the Flemish and Norman
knights; a boastful self-sufficiency, too, which bordered on the ludicrous
at whiles even in her partial eyes; which would be a matter of open
laughter to the knights of the Court. Besides, if they laughed at him,
they would laugh at her for choosing him. And then wounded vanity came in
to help wounded pride; and she sat over the cold embers till almost dawn
of day, her head between her hands, musing sadly, and half wishing that
the irrevocable yesterday had never come.
But when, after a few months, Hereward returned from his first campaign in
Holland, covered with glory and renown, all smiles, and beauty, and
health, and good-humor, and gratitude for the magic armor which had
preserved him unhurt, then Torfrida forgot all her fears, and thought
herself the happiest maid alive for four-and-twenty hours at least.
And then came back, and after that again and again, the old fears.
Gradually she found out that the sneers which she had heard at English
barbarians were not altogether without ground.
Not only had her lover's life been passed among half-brutal and wild
adventurers; but, like the rest of his nation, he had never felt the
influence of that classic civilization without which good manners seem,
even to this day, almost beyond the reach of the white man. Those among
whom she had been brought up, whether soldiers or clerks, were probably no
nobler or purer at heart--she would gladly have believed them far less
so--than Hereward; but the merest varnish of Roman civilization had given
a charm to their manners, a wideness of range to their thoughts, which
Hereward had not.
Especially when he had taken too much to drink,--which he did, after the
Danish fashion, far oftener than the rest of Baldwin's men,--he grew rude,
boastful, quarrelsome. He would chant his own doughty deeds, and "gab," as
the Norman word was, in painful earnest, while they gabbed only in sport,
and outvied each other in impossible fanfaronades, simply to laugh down a
fashion which was held inconsistent with the modesty of a true knight.
Bitter it was to her to hear him announcing to the company, not for the
first or second time, how he had slain the Cornish giant, whose height
increased by a foot at least every time he was mentioned; and then to hear
him answered by some smart, smooth-shaven youth, who, with as much mimicry
of his manner as he dared to assume, boasted of having slain in Araby a
giant with two heads, and taken out of his two mouths the two halves of
the princess whom he was devouring, which being joined together afterwards
by the prayers of a holy hermit, were delivered back safe and sound to her
father the King of Antioch. And more bitter still, to hear Hereward
angrily dispute the story, unaware (at least at first) that he was being
Then she grew sometimes cold, sometimes contemptuous, sometimes altogether
fierce; and shed bitter tears in secret, when she was complimented on the
modesty of her young savage.
But she was a brave maiden; and what was more, she loved him with all her
heart. Else why endure bitter words for his sake? And she set herself to
teach and train the wild outlaw into her ideal of a very perfect knight.
She talked to him of modesty and humility, the root of all virtues; of
chivalry and self-sacrifice; of respect to the weak, and mercy to the
fallen; of devotion to God, and awe of His commandments. She set before
him the example of ancient heroes and philosophers, of saints and martyrs;
and as much awed him by her learning as by the new world of higher and
purer morality which was opened for the first time to the wandering
And he drank it all in. Taught by a woman who loved him, he could listen
to humiliating truths, which he would have sneered at, had they come from
the lips of a hermit or a priest. Often he rebelled; often he broke loose,
and made her angry, and himself ashamed: but the spell was on him,--a far
surer, as well as purer spell than any love-potion of which foolish
Torfrida had ever dreamed,--the only spell which can really civilize
man,--that of woman's tact and woman's purity.
But there were relapses, as was natural. The wine at Robert the Frison's
table was often too good; and then Hereward's tongue was loosed, and
Torfrida justly indignant. And one evening there came a very serious
relapse, and out of which arose a strange adventure.
For one day the Great Marquis sent for his son to Bruges, ere he set out
for another campaign in Holland; and made him a great feast, to which he
invited Torfrida and her mother. For Adela of France, the Queen Countess,
had heard so much of Torfrida's beauty, that she must needs have her as
one of her bower-maidens; and her mother, who was an old friend of
Adela's, of course was highly honored by such a promotion for her
So they went to Bruges, and Hereward and his men went of course; and they
feasted and harped and sang; and the saying was fulfilled,--
"'Tis merry in the hall
When beards wag all."
But the only beard which wagged in that hall was Hereward's; for the
Flemings, like the Normans, prided themselves on their civilized and
smooth-shaven chins, and laughed (behind his back) at Hereward, who prided
himself on keeping his beautiful English beard, with locks of gold which,
like his long golden hair, were combed and curled daily, after the fashion
of the Anglo-Danes.
But Hereward's beard began to wag somewhat too fast, as he sat by
Torfrida's side, when some knight near began to tell of a wonderful mare,
called Swallow, which was to be found in one of the islands of the
Scheldt, and was famous through all the country round; insinuating,
moreover, that Hereward might as well have brought that mare home with him
as a trophy.
Hereward answered, in his boasting vein, that he would bring home that
mare, or aught else that he had a liking to.
"You will find it not so easy. Her owner, they say, is a mighty strong
churl of a horse-breeder, Dirk Hammerhand by name; and as for cutting his
throat, that you must not do; for he has been loyal to Countess Gertrude,
and sent her horses whenever she needed."
"One may pick a fair quarrel with him nevertheless."
"Then you must bide such a buffet as you never abode before. They say his
arm has seven men's strength; and whosoever visits him, he challenges to
give and take a blow; but every man that has taken a blow as yet has never
"Hereward will have need of his magic head-piece, if he tries that
adventure," quoth another.
"Ay," retorted the first speaker; "but the helmet may stand the rap well
enough, and yet the brains inside be the worse."
"Not a doubt. I knew a man once, who was so strong, that he would shake a
nut till the kernel went to powder, and yet never break the shell."
"That is a lie!" quoth Hereward. And so it was, and told purposely to make
him expose himself.
Whereon high words followed, which Torfrida tried in vain to stop.
Hereward was flushed with ire and scorn.
"Magic armor, forsooth!" cried he at last. "What care I for armor or for
magic? I will wager to you"--"my armor," he was on the point of saying,
but he checked himself in time--"any horse in my stable, that I go in my
shirt to Scaldmariland, and bring back that mare single-handed."
"Hark to the Englishman. He has turned Berserk at last, like his
forefathers. You will surely start in a pair of hose as well, or the
ladies will be shamed."
And so forth, till Torfrida was purple with shame, and wished herself
fathoms deep; and Adela of France called sternly from the head of the
table to ask what the wrangling meant.
"It is only the English Berserker, the Lady Torfrida's champion," said
some one, in his most courteous tone, "who is not yet as well acquainted
with the customs of knighthood as that fair lady hopes to make him
"Torfrida's champion?" asked Adela, in a tone of surprise, if not scorn.
"If any knight quarrels with my Hereward, he quarrels with Robert
himself!" thundered Count Robert. "Silence!"
And so the matter was hushed up.
The banquet ended; and they walked out into the garden to cool their
heads, and play at games, and dance.
Torfrida avoided Hereward: but he, with the foolish pertinacity of a man
who knows he has had too much wine, and yet pretends to himself that he
has not, would follow her, and speak to her.
She turned away more than once. At last she was forced to speak to him.
"So! You have made me a laughing-stock to these knights. You have scorned
at my gifts. You have said--and before these men, too--that you need
neither helm nor hauberk. Give me them back, then, Berserker as you are,
and go sleep off your wine."
"That will I," laughed Hereward boisterously.
"You are tipsy," said she, "and do not know what you say."
"You are angry, and do not know what you say. Hearken proud lass. I will
take care of one thing, and that is, that you shall speak the truth."
"Did I not say that you were tipsy?"
"Pish! You said that I was a Berserker. And truth you shall speak; for
baresark I go to-morrow to the war, and baresark I win that mare or die."
"That will be very fit for you."
And the two turned haughtily from each other.
Ere Torfrida went to bed that night, there was a violent knocking. Angry
as she was, she was yet anxious enough to hurry out of her chamber, and
open the door herself.
Martin Lightfoot stood there with a large leather case, which he flung at
her feet somewhat unceremoniously.
"There is some gear of yours," said he, as it clanged and rattled on the
"What do you mean, man?"
"Only that my master bid me say that he cares as little for his own life
as you do." And he turned away.
She caught him by the arm:--
"What is the meaning of this? What is in this mail?"
"You should know best. If young folks cannot be content when they are well
off, they will go farther and fare worse," says Martin Lightfoot. And he
slipt from her grasp and fled into the night.
She took the mail to her room and opened it. It contained the magic armor.
All her anger was melted away. She cried; she blamed herself. He would be
killed; his blood would be on her head. She would have carried it back to
him with her own hands; she would have entreated him on her knees to take
it back. But how face the courtiers? and how find him? Very probably, too,
he was by that time hopelessly drunk. And at that thought she drew herself
into herself, and trying to harden her heart again, went to bed, but not
to sleep; and bitterly she cried as she thought over the old hag's
"Quick joy, long pain,
You will take your gift again."
It might have been five o'clock the next morning when the clarion rang
down the street. She sprang up and drest herself quickly; but never more
carefully or gayly. She heard the tramp of horse-hoofs. He was moving
a-field early, indeed. Should she go to the window to bid him farewell?
Should she hide herself in just anger?
She looked out stealthily through the blind of the little window in the
gable. There rode down the street Robert le Frison in full armor, and
behind him, knight after knight, a wall of shining steel. But by his side
rode one bare-headed, his long yellow curls floating over his shoulders.
His boots had golden spurs, a gilt belt held up his sword; but his only
dress was a silk shirt and silk hose. He laughed and sang, and made his
horse caracol, and tossed his lance in the air, and caught it by the
point, like Taillefer at Hastings, as he passed under the window.
She threw open the blind, careless of all appearances. She would have
called to him: but the words choked her; and what should she say?
He looked up boldly, and smiled.
"Farewell, fair lady mine. Drunk I was last night: but not so drunk as to
forget a promise."
And he rode on, while Torfrida rushed away and broke into wild weeping.
HOW HEREWARD WON MARE SWALLOW.
On a bench at the door of his high-roofed wooden house sat Dirk
Hammerhand, the richest man in Walcheren. From within the house sounded
the pleasant noise of slave-women, grinding and chatting at the handquern;
from without, the pleasant noise of geese and fowls without number. And as
he sat and drank his ale, and watched the herd of horses in the fen, he
thought himself a happy man, and thanked his Odin and Thor that owing to
his princely supplies of horses to Countess Gertrude, Robert the Frison
and his Christian Franks had not harried him to the bare walls, as they
would probably do ere all was over.
As he looked at the horses, some half-mile off, he saw a strange stir
among them. They began whinnying and pawing round a four-footed thing in
the midst, which might be a badger, or a wolf,--though both were very
uncommon in that pleasant isle of Walcheren; but which plainly had no
business there. Whereon he took up a mighty staff, and strode over the fen
He found neither wolf nor badger; but to his exceeding surprise, a long
lean man, clothed in ragged horse-skins, whinnying and neighing exactly
like a horse, and then stooping to eat grass like one. He advanced to do
the first thing which came into his head, namely to break the man's back