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Hereward, The Last of the English by Charles Kingsley

Part 4 out of 10

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with his staff, and ask him afterwards who he might be. But ere he could
strike, the man or horse kicked up with his hind legs in his face, and
then springing on to the said hind legs ran away with extraordinary
swiftness some fifty yards; and then went down on all-fours and began
grazing again.

"Beest thou man or devil?" cried Dirk, somewhat frightened.

The thing looked up. The face at least was human.

"Art thou a Christian man?" asked it in bad Frisian, intermixed with
snorts and neighs.

"What's that to thee?" growled Dirk; and began to wish a little that he
was one, having heard that the sign of the cross was of great virtue in
driving away fiends.

"Thou art not Christian. Thou believest in Thor and Odin? Then there is
hope,"

"Hope of what?" Dirk was growing more and more frightened.

"Of her, my sister! Ah, my sister, can it be that I shall find thee at
last, after ten thousand miles, and thirty years of woeful wandering?"

"I have no man's sister here. At least, my wife's brother was killed--"

"I speak not of a sister in a woman's shape. Mine, alas!--O woeful prince,
O more woeful princess!--eats the herb of the field somewhere in the shape
of a mare, as ugly as she was once beautiful, but swifter than the swallow
on the wing."

"I've none such here," quoth Dirk, thoroughly frightened, and glancing
uneasily at mare Swallow.

"You have not? Alas, wretched me! It was prophesied to me, by the witch,
that I should find her in the field of one who worshipped the old gods;
for had she come across a holy priest, she had been a woman again, long
ago. Whither must I wander afresh!" And the thing began weeping bitterly,
and then ate more grass.

"I--that is--thou poor miserable creature," said Dirk, half pitying, half
wishing to turn the subject, "leave off making a beast of thyself awhile,
and tell me who thou art."

"I have made no beast of myself, most noble Earl of the Frisians, for so
you doubtless are. I was made a beast of,--a horse of, by an enchanter of
a certain land, and my sister a mare."

"Thou dost not say so!" quoth Dirk, who considered such an event quite
possible.

"I was a prince of the county of Alboronia, which lies between Cathay and
the Mountains of the Moon, as fair once as I am foul now, and only less
fair than my lost sister; and, by the enchantments of a cruel magician, we
became what we are."

"But thou art not a horse, at all events?"

"Am I not? Thou knowest, then, more of me than I do of myself,"--and it
ate more grass. "But hear the rest of my story. My hapless sister was sold
away, with me, to a merchant; but I, breaking loose from him, fled until I
bathed in a magic fountain. At once I recovered my man's shape, and was
rejoicing therein, when out of the fountain rose a fairy more beautiful
than an elf, and smiled upon me with love.

"She asked me my story, and I told it. And when it was told, 'Wretch!' she
cried, 'and coward, who hast deserted thy sister in her need. I would have
loved thee, and made thee immortal as myself; but now thou shalt wander,
ugly, and eating grass, clothed in the horse-hide which has just dropped
from thy limbs, till thou shalt find thy sister, and bring her to bathe,
like thee, in this magic well.'"

"All good spirits help us! And you are really a prince?"

"As surely," cried the thing, with a voice of sudden rapture, "as that
mare is my sister"; and he rushed at mare Swallow. "I see, I see, my
mother's eyes, my father's nose--"

"He must have been a chuckle-headed king that, then," grinned Dirk to
himself. "The mare's nose is as big as a buck-basket. But how can she be a
princess, man,--prince, I mean? she has a foal running by her here."

"A foal?" said the thing, solemnly. "Let me behold it. Alas, alas, my
sister! Thy tyrant's threat has come true, that thou shouldst be his bride
whether thou wouldst or not. I see, I see in the features of thy son his
hated lineaments."

"Why he must be as like a horse, then, as your father. But this will not
do, Master Horse-man; I know that foal's pedigree better than I do my
own."

"Man, man, simple, though honest! Hast thou never heard of the skill of
the enchanter of the East? How they transform their victims at night back
again into human shape, and by day into the shape of beasts again?"

"Yes--well--I know that--"

"And do you not see how you are deluded? Every night, doubt not, that mare
and foal take their human shape again; and every night, perhaps, that foul
enchanter visits in your fen, perhaps in your very stable, his wretched
and perhaps unwilling bride."

"An enchanter in my stable? That is an ugly guest. But no. I've been into
the stables fifty times, to see if that mare was safe. Mare was mare, and
colt was colt, Mr. Prince, if I have eyes to see."

"And what are eyes against enchantments? The moment you opened the door,
the spell was cast over them again. You ought to thank your stars that no
worse has happened yet; that the enchanter, in fleeing, has not wrung your
neck as he went out, or cast a spell on you, which will fire your barns,
lame your geese, give your fowls the pip, your horses the glanders, your
cattle the murrain, your children the St. Vitus' dance, your wife the
creeping palsy, and yourself the chalk-stones in all your fingers."

"The Lord have mercy on me! If the half of this be true, I will turn
Christian. I will send for a priest, and be baptized to-morrow!"

"O my sister, my sister! Dost thou not know me? Dost thou answer my
caresses with kicks? Or is thy heart, as well as thy body, so enchained by
that cruel necromancer, that thou preferest to be his, and scornest thine
own salvation, leaving me to eat grass till I die?"

"I say, Prince,--I say,--What would you have a man to do? I bought the
mare honestly, and I have kept her well. She can't say aught against me on
that score. And whether she be princess or not, I'm loath to part with
her."

"Keep her then, and keep with her the curse of all the saints and angels.
Look down, ye holy saints" (and the thing poured out a long string of
saints' names), "and avenge this catholic princess, kept in bestial
durance by an unbaptized heathen! May his--"

"Don't! don't!" roared Dirk. "And don't look at me like that" (for he
feared the evil eye), "or I'll brain you with my staff!"

"Fool, if I have lost a horse's figure, I have not lost his swiftness. Ere
thou couldst strike, I should have run a mile and back, to curse thee
afresh." And the thing ran round him, and fell on all-fours again, and ate
grass.

"Mercy, mercy! And that is more than I ever asked yet of man. But it is
hard," growled he, "that a man should lose his money, because a rogue
sells him a princess in disguise."

"Then sell her again; sell her, as thou valuest thy life, to the first
Christian man thou meetest. And yet no. What matters? Ere a month be over,
the seven years' enchantment will have passed, and she will return to her
own shape, with her son, and vanish from thy farm, leaving thee to vain
repentance, and so thou wilt both lose thy money and get her curse.
Farewell, and my malison abide with thee!"

And the thing, without another word, ran right away, neighing as it went,
leaving Dirk in a state of abject terror.

He went home. He cursed the mare, he cursed the man who sold her, he
cursed the day he saw her, he cursed the day he was born. He told his
story with exaggerations and confusions in plenty to all in the house; and
terror fell on them likewise. No one, that evening, dare go down into the
fen to drive the horses up; and Dirk got very drunk, went to bed, and
trembled there all night (as did the rest of the household), expecting the
enchanter to enter on a flaming fire-drake, at every howl of the wind.

The next morning, as Dirk was going about his business with a doleful
face, casting stealthy glances at the fen, to see if the mysterious mare
was still there, and a chance of his money still left, a man rode up to
the door.

He was poorly clothed, with a long rusty sword by his side. A broad felt
hat, long boots, and a haversack behind his saddle, showed him to be a
traveller, seemingly a horse-dealer; for there followed him, tied head and
tail, a brace of sorry nags.

"Heaven save all here," quoth he, making the sign of the cross. "Can any
good Christian give me a drink of milk?"

"Ale, if thou wilt," said Dirk. "But what art thou, and whence?"

On any other day, he would have tried to coax his guest into trying a
buffet with him for his horse and clothes; but this morning his heart was
heavy with the thought of the enchanted mare, and he welcomed the chance
of selling her to the stranger.

"We are not very fond of strangers about here, since these Flemings have
been harrying our borders. If thou art a spy, it will be worse for thee."

"I am neither spy nor Fleming; but a poor servant of the Lord Bishop of
Utrecht's, buying a garron or two for his lordship's priests. As for these
Flemings, may St. John Baptist save from them both me and you. Do you know
of any man who has horses to sell hereabouts?"

"There are horses in the fen yonder," quoth Dirk, who knew that churchmen
were likely to give a liberal price, and pay in good silver.

"I saw them as I rode up. And a fine lot they are; but of too good a stamp
for my short purse, or for my holy master's riding,--a fat priest likes a
quiet nag, my master."

"Humph. Well, if quietness is what you need, there is a mare down there, a
child might ride her with a thread of wool. But as for price,--and she has
a colt, too, running by her."

"Ah?" quoth the horseman. "Well, your Walcheren folk make good milk,
that's certain. A colt by her? That's awkward. My Lord does not like young
horses; and it would be troublesome, too, to take the thing along with
me."

The less anxious the dealer seemed to buy, the more anxious grew Dirk to
sell; but he concealed his anxiety, and let the stranger turn away,
thanking him for his drink.

"I say!" he called after him. "You might look at her as you ride past the
herd."

The stranger assented, and they went down into the fen, and looked over
the precious mare, whose feats were afterwards sung by many an English
fireside, or in the forest, beneath the hollins green, by such as Robin
Hood and his merry men. The ugliest, as well as the swiftest, of mares,
she was, say the old chroniclers; and it was not till the stranger had
looked twice at her, that he forgot her great chuckle head,
greyhound-flanks, and drooping hind-quarters, and began to see the great
length of those same quarters,--the thighs let down into the hocks, the
arched loin, the extraordinary girth through the saddle, the sloping
shoulder, the long arms, the flat knees, the large, well-set hoofs, and
all the other points which showed her strength and speed, and justified
her fame.

"She might carry a big man like you through the mud," said he, carelessly,
"but as for pace, one cannot expect that with such a chuckle head. And if
one rode her through a town, the boys would call after one, 'All head and
no tail.' Why, I can't see her tail for her quarters, it is so ill set
on."

"Ill set on, or none," said Dirk, testily; "don't go to speak against her
pace till you have seen it. Here, lass!"

Dirk was, in his heart, rather afraid of the princess; but he was
comforted when she came up to him like a dog.

"She's as sensible as a woman," said he; and then grumbled to himself,
"may be she knows I mean to part with her."

"Lend me your saddle," said he to the stranger.

The stranger did so; and Dirk mounting galloped her in a ring. There was
no doubt of her powers, as soon as she began to move.

"I hope you won't remember this against me, madam," said Dirk, as soon as
he got out of the stranger's hearing. "I can't do less than sell you to a
Christian. And certainly I have been as good a master to you as if I'd
known who you were; but if you wish to stay with me you've only to kick me
off, and say so, and I'm yours to command."

"Well, she can gallop a bit," said the stranger, as Dirk pulled her up and
dismounted; "but an ugly brute she is nevertheless, and such a one as I
should not care to ride, for I am a gay man among the ladies. However,
what is your price?"

Dirk named twice as much as he would have taken.

"Half that, you mean." And the usual haggle began.

"Tell thee what," said Dirk at last, "I am a man who has his fancies; and
this shall be her price; half thy bid, and a box on the ear."

The demon of covetousness had entered Dirk's heart. What if he got the
money, brained or at least disabled the stranger, and so had a chance of
selling the mare a second time to some fresh comer?

"Thou art a strange fellow," quoth the horse-dealer. "But so be it."

Dirk chuckled. "He does not know," thought he, "that he has to do with
Dirk Hammerhand," and he clenched his fist in anticipation of his rough
joke.

"There," quoth the stranger, counting out the money carefully, "is thy
coin. And there--is thy box on the ear."

And with a blow which rattled over the fen, he felled Dirk Hammerhand to
the ground.

He lay senseless for a moment, and then looked wildly round. His jaw was
broken.

"Villain!" groaned he. "It was I who was to give the buffet, not thou!"

"Art mad?" asked the stranger, as he coolly picked up the coins, which
Dirk had scattered in his fall. "It is the seller's business to take, and
the buyer's to give."

And while Dirk roared for help in vain he leapt on mare Swallow and rode
off shouting,

"Aha! Dirk Hammerhand! So you thought to knock a hole in my skull, as you
have done to many a better man than yourself. He is a lucky man who never
meets his match, Dirk. I shall give your love to the Enchanted Prince, my
faithful serving-man, whom they call Martin Lightfoot."

Dirk cursed the day he was born. Instead of the mare and colt, he had got
the two wretched garrons which the stranger had left, and a face which
made him so tender of his own teeth, that he never again offered to try a
buffet with a stranger.

CHAPTER XIV.

HOW HEREWARD RODE INTO BRUGES LIKE A BEGGARMAN.

The spring and summer had passed, and the autumn was almost over, when
great news came to the Court of Bruges, where Torfrida was now a
bower-maiden.

The Hollanders had been beaten till they submitted; at least for the
present. There was peace, at least for the present, through all the isles
of Scheldt; and more than all, the lovely Countess Gertrude had resolved
to reward her champion by giving him her hand, and the guardianship of her
lands and the infant son.

And Hereward?

From him, or of him, there was no word. That he was alive and fighting,
was all the messenger could say.

Then Robert came back to Bruges, with a gallant retinue, leading home his
bride. And there met him his father and mother, and his brother of Mons,
and Richilda the beautiful and terrible sorceress,--who had not yet
stained her soul with those fearful crimes which she had expiated by
fearful penances in after years, when young Arnoul, the son for whom she
had sold her soul, lay dead through the very crimes by which she had meant
to make him a mighty prince. And Torfrida went out with them to meet Count
Robert, and looked for Hereward, till her eyes were ready to fall out of
her head. But Hereward was not with them.

"He must be left behind, commanding the army," thought she. "But he might
have sent one word!"

There was a great feast that day, of course; and Torfrida sat thereat: but
she could not eat. Nevertheless she was too proud to let the knights know
what was in her heart; so she chatted and laughed as gayly as the rest,
watching always for any word of Hereward. But none mentioned his name.

The feast was long; the ladies did not rise till nigh bedtime; and then
the men drank on.

They went up to the Queen-Countess's chamber; where a solemn undressing of
that royal lady usually took place.

The etiquette was this. The Queen-Countess sat in her chair of state in
the midst, till her shoes were taken off, and her hair dressed for the
night. Right and left of her, according to their degrees, sat the other
great ladies; and behind each of them, where they could find places, the
maidens.

It was Torfrida's turn to take off the royal shoes; and she advanced into
the middle of the semicircle, slippers in hand.

"Stop there!" said the Countess-Queen.

Whereat Torfrida stopped, very much frightened.

"Countesses and ladies," said the mistress. "There are, in Provence and
the South, what I wish there were here in Flanders,--Courts of Love, at
which all offenders against the sacred laws of Venus and Cupid are tried
by an assembly of their peers, and punished according to their deserts."

Torfrida turned scarlet.

"I know not why we, countesses and ladies, should have less knowledge of
the laws of love than those gayer dames of the South, whose blood runs--to
judge by her dark hair--in the veins of yon fair maid."

There was a silence. Torfrida was the most beautiful woman in the room;
more beautiful than even Richilda the terrible: and therefore there were
few but were glad to see her--as it seemed--in trouble.

Torfrida's mother began whimpering, and praying to six or seven saints at
once. But nobody marked her,--possibly not even the saints; being
preoccupied with Torfrida.

"I hear, fair maid,--for that you are that I will do you the justice to
confess,--that you are old enough to be married this four years since."

Torfrida stood like a stone, frightened out of her wits, plentiful as they
were.

"Why are you not married?"

There was, of course, no answer.

"I hear that knights have fought for you; lost their lives for you."

"I did not bid them," gasped Torfrida, longing that the floor would open,
and swallow up the Queen-Countess and all her kin and followers, as it did
for the enemies of the blessed Saint Dunstan, while he was arguing with
them in an upper room at Calne.

"And that the knight of St. Valeri, to whom you gave your favor, now lies
languishing of wounds got in your cause."

"I--I did not bid him fight," gasped Torfrida, now wishing that the floor
would open and swallow up herself.

"And that he who overthrew the knight of St. Valeri,--to whom you gave
that favor, and more--"

"I gave him nothing a maiden might not give," cried Torfrida, so fiercely
that the Queen-Countess recoiled somewhat.

"I never said that you did, girl. Your love you gave him. Can you deny
that?"

Torfrida laughed bitterly: her Southern blood was rising.

"I put my love out to nurse, instead of weaning it, as many a maiden has
done before me. When my love cried for hunger and cold, I took it back
again to my own bosom: and whether it has lived or died there, is no one's
matter but my own."

"Hunger and cold? I hear that him to whom you gave your love you drove out
to the cold, bidding him go fight in his bare shirt, if he wished to win
your love."

"I did not. He angered me--he--" and Torfrida found herself in the act of
accusing Hereward.

She stopped instantly.

"What more, Majesty? If this be true, what more may not be true of such a
one as I? I submit myself to your royal grace."

"She has confessed. What punishment, ladies, does she deserve? Or, rather,
what punishment would her cousins of Provence inflict, did we send her
southward, to be judged by their Courts of Love?"

One lady said one thing, one another. Some spoke cruelly, some worse than
cruelly; for they were coarse ages, the ages of faith; and ladies said
things then in open company which gentlemen would be ashamed to say in
private now.

"Marry her to a fool," said Richilda, at last, bitterly.

"That is too common a misfortune," answered the lady of France. "If we did
no more to her, she might grow as proud as her betters."

Adela knew that her daughter-in-law considered her husband a fool; and was
somewhat of the same opinion, though she hated Richilda.

"No," said she; "we will do more. We will marry her to the first man who
enters the castle."

Torfrida looked at her mistress to see if she were mad. But the
Countess-Queen was serene and sane. Then Torfrida's southern heat and
northern courage burst forth.

"You--marry--me--to--" said she, slowly, with eyes so fierce, and lips so
vivid, that Richilda herself quailed.

There was a noise of shouting and laughing in the court below, which made
all turn and listen.

The next moment a serving-man came in, puzzled and inclined to laugh.

"May it please your Majesty, here is the strangest adventure. There is
ridden into the castle-yard a beggar-man, with scarce a shirt to his back,
on a great ugly mare, with a foal running by her, and a fool behind him,
carrying lance and shield. And he says that he is come to fight any knight
of the Court, ragged as he stands, for the fairest lady in the Court, be
she who she may, if she have not a wedded husband already."

"And what says my Lord Marquis?"

"That it is a fair challenge, and a good adventure; and that fight he
shall, if any man will answer his defiance."

"And I say, tell my Lord the Marquis, that fight he shall not: for he
shall have the fairest maiden in this Court for the trouble of carrying
her away; and that I, Adela of France, will give her to him. So let that
beggar dismount, and be brought up hither to me."

There was silence again. Torfrida looked round her once more, to see
whether or not she was dreaming, and whether there was one human being to
whom she could appeal. Her mother sat praying and weeping in a corner.
Torfrida looked at her with one glance of scorn, which she confessed and
repented, with bitter tears, many a year after, in a foreign land; and
then turned to bay with the spirit of her old Paladin ancestor, who choked
the Emir at Mont Majeur.

Married to a beggar! It was a strange accident; and an ugly one; and a
great cruelty and wrong. But it was not impossible, hardly improbable, in
days when the caprice of the strong created accidents, and when cruelty
and wrong went for nothing, even with very kindly honest folk. So Torfrida
faced the danger, as she would have faced that of a kicking horse, or a
flooded ford; and like the nut-brown bride,

"She pulled out a little penknife,
That was both keen and sharp."

and considered that the beggar-man could wear no armor, and that she wore
none either. For if she succeeded in slaying that beggar-man, she might
need to slay herself after, to avoid being--according to the fashion of
those days--burnt alive.

So when the arras was drawn back, and that beggar-man came into the room,
instead of shrieking, fainting, hiding, or turning, she made three steps
straight toward him, looking him in the face like a wild-cat at bay. Then
she threw up her arms; and fell upon his neck.

It was Hereward himself. Filthy, ragged: but Hereward.

His shirt was brown with gore, and torn with wounds; and through its rents
showed more than one hardly healed scar. His hair and beard was all in
elf-locks; and one heavy cut across the head had shorn not only hair, but
brain-pan, very close. Moreover, any nose, save that of Love, might have
required perfume.

But Hereward it was; and regardless of all beholders, she lay upon his
neck, and never stirred nor spoke.

"I call you to witness, ladies," cried the Queen-Countess, "that I am
guiltless. She has given herself to this beggar-man of her own free will.
What say you?" And she turned to Torfrida's mother.

Torfrida's mother only prayed and whimpered.

"Countesses and Ladies," said the Queen-Countess, "there will he two
weddings to-morrow. The first will be that of my son Robert and my pretty
Lady Gertrude here. The second will be that of my pretty Torfrida and
Hereward."

"And the second bride," said the Countess Gertrude, rising and taking
Torfrida in her arms, "will be ten times prettier than the first. There,
sir, I have done all you asked of me. Now go and wash yourself."

* * * * *

"Hereward," said Torfrida, a week after, "and did you really never change
your shirt all that time?"

"Never. I kept my promise."

"But it must have been very nasty."

"Well, I bathed now and then."

"But it must have been very cold."

"I am warm enough now."

"But did you never comb your hair, neither?"

"Well, I won't say that. Travellers find strange bed-fellows. But I had
half a mind never to do it at all, just to spite you."

"And what matter would it have been to me?"

"O, none. It is only a Danish fashion we have of keeping clean."

"Clean! You were dirty enough when you came home. How silly you were! If
you had sent me but one word!"

"You would have fancied me beaten, and scolded me all over again. I know
your ways now, Torfrida."

CHAPTER XV.

HOW EARL TOSTI GODWINSSON CAME TO ST. OMER.

The winter passed in sweet madness; and for the first time in her life,
Torfrida regretted the lengthening of the days, and the flowering of the
primroses, and the return of the now needless wryneck; for they warned her
that Hereward must forth again, to the wars in Scaldmariland, which had
broken out again, as was to be expected, as soon as Count Robert and his
bride had turned their backs.

And Hereward, likewise, for the first time in his life, was loath to go to
war. He was, doubtless, rich enough in this world's goods. Torfrida
herself was rich, and seems to have had the disposal of her own property,
for her mother is not mentioned in connection therewith. Hereward seems to
have dwelt in her house at St. Omer as long as he remained in Flanders. He
had probably amassed some treasure of his own by the simple, but then most
aristocratic, method of plunder. He had, too, probably, grants of land in
Holland from the Frison, the rents whereof were not paid as regularly as
might be. Moreover, as "_Magister Militum_," ("Master of the Knights,") he
had, it is likely, pay as well as honor. And he approved himself worthy of
his good fortune. He kept forty gallant housecarles in his hall all the
winter, and Torfrida and her lasses made and mended their clothes. He gave
large gifts to the Abbey of St. Bertin; and had masses sung for the souls
of all whom he had slain, according to a rough list which he furnished,--
bidding the monks not to be chary of two or three masses extra at times,
as his memory was short, and he might have sent more souls to purgatory
than he had recollected. He gave great alms at his door to all the poor.
He befriended, especially, all shipwrecked and needy mariners, feeding and
clothing them, and begging their freedom as a gift from Baldwin. He
feasted the knights of the neighborhood, who since his baresark campaign,
had all vowed him the most gallant of warriors, and since his accession of
wealth, the most courteous of gentlemen; and so all went merrily, as it is
written, "As long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak well of
thee."

So he would have fain stayed at home at St. Omer; but he was Robert's man,
and his good friend likewise; and to the wars he must go forth once more;
and for eight or nine weary months Torfrida was alone: but very happy, for
a certain reason of her own.

At last the short November days came round; and a joyful woman was fair
Torfrida, when Martin Lightfoot ran into the hall, and throwing himself
down on the rushes like a dog, announced that Hereward and his men would
be home before noon, and then fell fast asleep.

There was bustling to and fro of her and her maids; decking of the hall in
the best hangings; strewing of fresh rushes, to the dislodgement of
Martin; setting out of square tables, and stoops and mugs thereon; cooking
of victuals, broaching of casks; and above all, for Hereward's self,
heating of much water, and setting out, in the inner chamber, of the great
bath-tub and bath-sheet, which was the special delight of a hero fresh
from the war.

And by midday the streets of St. Omer rang with clank and tramp and
trumpet-blare, and in marched Hereward and all his men, and swung round
through the gateway into the court, where Torfrida stood to welcome them,
as fair as day, a silver stirrup-cup in her hand. And while the men were
taking off their harness and dressing their horses, she and Hereward went
in together, and either took such joy of the other, that a year's parting
was forgot in a minute's meeting.

"Now," cried she, in a tone half of triumph, half of tenderness, "look
there!"

"A cradle? And a baby?"

"Your baby."

"Is it a boy?" asked Hereward, who saw in his mind's eye a thing which
would grow and broaden at his knee year by year, and learn from him to
ride, to shoot, to fight. "Happy for him if he does not learn worse from
me," thought Hereward, with a sudden movement of humility and contrition,
which was surely marked in heaven; for Torfrida marked it on earth.

But she mistook its meaning.

"Do not be vexed. It is a girl."

"Never mind!" as if it was a calamity over which he was bound to comfort
the mother. "If she is half as beautiful as you look at this moment, what
splintering of lances there will be about her! How jolly, to see the lads
hewing at each other, while our daughter sits in the pavilion, as Queen of
Love!"

Torfrida laughed. "You think of nothing but fighting, bear of the North
Seas."

"Every one to his trade. Well, yes, I am glad that it is a girl."

"I thought you seemed vexed. Why did you cross yourself?"

"Because I thought to myself, how unfit I was to bring up a boy to be such
a knight as--as you would have him; how likely I was, ere all was over, to
make him as great a ruffian as myself."

"Hereward! Hereward!" and she threw her arms round his neck for the tenth
time. "Blessed be you for those words! Those are the fears which never
come true, for they bring down from heaven the grace of God, to guard the
humble and contrite heart from that which it fears."

"Ah, Torfrida, I wish I were as good as you!"

"Now--my joy and my life, my hero and my scald--I have great news for you,
as well as a little baby. News from England."

"You, and a baby over and above, are worth all England to me."

"But listen: Edward the king is dead!"

"Then there is one fool less on earth; and one saint more, I suppose, in
heaven."

"And Harold Godwinsson is king in his stead. And he has married your niece
Aldytha, and sworn friendship with her brothers."

"I expected no less. Well, every dog has his day."

"And his will be a short one. William of Normandy has sworn to drive him
out."

"Then he will do it. And so the poor little Swan-neck is packed into a
convent, that the houses of Godwin and Leofric may rush into each other's
arms, and perish together! Fools, fools, fools! I will hear no more of
such a mad world. My queen, tell me about your sweet self. What is all
this to me? Am I not a wolf's head, and a landless man?"

"O my king, have not the stars told me that you will be an earl and a
ruler of men, when all your foes are wolves' heads as you are now? And the
weird is coming true already. Tosti Godwinsson is in the town at this
moment, an outlaw and a wolf's head himself."

Hereward laughed a great laugh.

"Aha! Every man to his right place at last. Tell me about that, for it
will amuse me. I have heard naught of him since he sent the king his
Hereford thralls' arms and legs in the pickle-barrels; to show him, he
said, that there was plenty of cold meat on his royal demesnes."

"You have not heard, then, how he murdered in his own chamber at York,
Gamel Ormsson and Ulf Dolfinsson?"

"That poor little lad? Well, a gracious youth was Tosti, ever since he
went to kill his brother Harold with teeth and claws, like a wolf; and as
he grows in years, he grows in grace. But what said Ulf's father and the
Gospatricks?"

"Dolfin and young Gospatrick were I know not where. But old Gospatrick
came down to Westminster, to demand law for his grandnephew's blood."

"A silly thing of the old Thane, to walk into the wolf's den."

"And so he found. He was stabbed there, three days after Christmas-tide,
and men say that Queen Edith did it, for love of Tosti, her brother. Then
Dolfin and young Gospatrick took to the sea, and away to Scotland: and so
Tosti rid himself of all the good blood in the North, except young
Waltheof Siwardsson, whose turn, I fear, will come next."

"How comes he here, then?"

"The Northern men rose at that, killed his servant at York, took all his
treasures, and marched down to Northampton, plundering and burning. They
would have marched on London town, if Harold had not met them there from
the king. There they cried out against Tosti, and all his taxes, and his
murders, and his changing Canute's laws, and would have young Morcar for
their earl. A tyrant they would not endure. Free they were born and bred,
they said, and free they would live and die. Harold must needs do justice,
even on his own brother."

"Especially when he knows that that brother is his worst foe."

"Harold is a better man than you take him for, my Hereward. But be that as
it may, Morcar is earl, and Tosti outlawed, and here in St. Omer, with
wife and child."

"My nephew Earl of Northumbria! As I might have been, if I had been a
wiser man."

"If you had, you would never have found me."

"True, my queen! They say Heaven tempers the wind to the shorn lamb; but
it tempers it too, sometimes, to the hobbled ass; and so it has done by
me. And so the rogues have fallen out, and honest men may come by their
own. For, as the Northern men have done by one brother, so will the
Eastern men do by the other. Let Harold see how many of those fat
Lincolnshire manors, which he has seized into his own hands, he holds by
this day twelve months. But what is all this to me, my queen, while you
and I can kiss, and laugh the world to scorn?"

"This to you, beloved, that, great as you are, Torfrida must have you
greater still; and out of all this coil and confusion you may win
something, if you be wise."

"Sweet lips, be still, and let us love instead of plotting."

"And this, too--you shall not stop my mouth--that Harold Godwinsson has
sent a letter to you."

"Harold Godwinsson is my very good lord," sneered Hereward.

"And this it said, with such praises and courtesies concerning you, as
made thy wife's heart beat high with pride: 'If Hereward Leofricsson will
come home to England, he shall have his rights in law again, and his
manors in Lincolnshire, and a thanes-ship in East Anglia, and manors for
his men-at-arms; and if that be not enough, he shall have an earldom, as
soon as there is one to give.'"

"And what says to that, Torfrida, Hereward's queen?"

"You will not be angry if I answered the letter for you?"

"If you answered it one way,--no. If another,--yes."

Torfrida trembled. Then she looked Hereward full in the face with her keen
clear eyes.

"Now shall I see whether I have given myself to Hereward in vain, body and
soul, or whether I have trained him to be my true and perfect knight."

"You answered, then," said Hereward, "thus--"

"Say on," said she, turning her face away again.

"Hereward Leofricsson tells Harold Godwinsson that he is his equal, and
not his man; and that he will never put his hands between the hands of a
son of Godwin. An Etheling born, a king of the house of Cerdic, outlawed
him from his right, and none but an Etheling born shall give him his right
again."

"I said it, I said it. Those were my very words!" and Torfrida burst into
tears, while Hereward kissed her, almost fawned upon her, calling her his
queen, his saga-wife, his guardian angel.

"I was sorely tempted," sobbed she. "Sorely. To see you, rich and proud,
upon your own lands, an earl may be,--may be, I thought at whiles, a king.
But it could not be. It did not stand with honor, my hero,--not with
honor."

"Not with honor. Get me gay garments out of the chest, and let us go in
royally, and royally feast my jolly riders."

"Stay awhile," said she, kissing his head as she combed and curled his
long golden locks; and her own raven ones, hardly more beautiful, fell
over them and mingled with them. "Stay awhile, my pride. There is another
spell in the wind, stirred up by devil or witch-wife, and it comes from
Tosti Godwinsson."

"Tosti, the cold-meat butcher? What has he to say to me?"

"This,--'If Hereward will come with me to William of Normandy, and help us
against Harold, the perjured, then will William do for him all that Harold
would have done, and more beside.'"

"And what answered Torfrida?"

"It was not so said to me that I could answer. I had it by a side-wind,
through the Countess Judith." [Footnote: Tosti's wife, Earl Baldwin's
daughter, sister of Matilda, William the Conqueror's wife.]

"And she had it from her sister, Matilda."

"And she, of course, from Duke William himself."

"And what would you have answered, if you had answered, pretty one?"

"Nay, I know not. I cannot be always queen. You must be king sometimes."

Torfrida did not say that this latter offer had been a much sorer
temptation than the former.

"And has not the base-born Frenchman enough knights of his own, that he
needs the help of an outlaw like me?"

"He asks for help from all the ends of the earth. He has sent that
Lanfranc to the Pope; and there is talk of a sacred banner, and a crusade
against England."

"The monks are with him, then?" said Hereward. "That is one more count in
their score. But I am no monk. I have shorn many a crown, but I have kept
my own hair as yet, you see."

"I do see," said she, playing with his locks. "But,--but he wants you. He
has sent for Angevins, Poitevins, Bretons, Flemings,--promising lands,
rank, money, what not. Tosti is recruiting for him here in Flanders now.
He will soon be off to the Orkneys, I suspect, or to Sweyn in Denmark,
after Vikings."

"Here? Has Baldwin promised him men?"

"What could the good old man do? He could not refuse his own son-in-law.
This, at least, I know, that a messenger has gone off to Scotland, to
Gilbert of Ghent, to bring or send any bold Flemings who may prefer fat
England to lean Scotland."

"Lands, rank, money, eh? So he intends that the war should pay itself--out
of English purses. What answer would you have me make to that, wife mine?"

"The Duke is a terrible man. What if he conquers? And conquer he will."

"Is that written in your stars?"

"It is, I fear. And if he have the Pope's blessing, and the Pope's
banner--Dare we resist the Holy Father?"

"Holy step-father, you mean; for a step-father he seems to prove to merry
England. But do you really believe that an old man down in Italy can make
a bit of rag conquer by saying a few prayers at it? If I am to believe in
a magic flag, give me Harold Hardraade's Landcyda, at least, with Harold
and his Norsemen behind it."

"William's French are as good as those Norsemen, man for man; and horsed
withal, Hereward."

"That may be," said he, half testily, with a curse on the tanner's
grandson and his French popinjays, "and our Englishmen are as good as any
two Norsemen, as the Norse themselves say." He could not divine, and
Torfrida hardly liked to explain to him the glamour which the Duke of
Normandy had cast over her, as the representative of chivalry, learning,
civilization, a new and nobler life for men than the world had yet seen;
one which seemed to connect the young races of Europe with the wisdom of
the ancients and the magic glories of old Imperial Rome.

"You are not fair to that man," said she, after a while. "Hereward,
Hereward, have I not told you how, though body be strong, mind is
stronger? That is what that man knows; and therefore he has prospered.
Therefore his realms are full of wise scholars, and thriving schools, and
fair minsters, and his men are sober, and wise, and learned like clerks--"

"And false like clerks, as he is himself. Schoolcraft and honesty never
went yet together, Torfrida--"

"Not in me?"

"You are not a clerk, you are a woman, and more, you are an elf, a
goddess; there is none like you. But hearken to me. This man is false. All
the world knows it."

"He promises, they say, to govern England justly as King Edward's heir,
according to the old laws and liberties of the realm."

"Of course. If he does not come as the old monk's heir, how does he come
at all? If he does not promise our--their, I mean, for I am no
Englishman--laws and liberties, who will join him? But his riders and
hirelings will not fight for nothing. They must be paid with English land,
and English land they will have, for they will be his men, whoever else
are not. They will be his darlings, his housecarles, his hawks to sit on
his fist and fly at his game; and English bones will be picked clean to
feed them. And you would have me help to do that, Torfrida? Is that the
honor of which you spoke so boldly to Harold Godwinsson?"

Torfrida was silent. To have brought Hereward under the influence of
William was an old dream of hers. And yet she was proud at the dream being
broken thus. And so she said:

"You are right. It is better for you,--it is better than to be William's
darling, and the greatest earl in his court,--to feel that you are still
an Englishman. Promise me but one thing, that you will make no fierce or
desperate answer to the Duke."

"And why not answer the tanner as he deserves?"

"Because my art, and my heart too, tells me that your fortunes and his are
linked together. I have studied my tables, but they would not answer. Then
I cast lots in Virgilius--"

"And what found you there?" asked he, anxiously.

"I opened at the lines,--

'Pacem me exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis
Oratis? Equidem et vivis concedere vellem.'"

"And what means that?"

"That you may have to pray him to pity the slain; and have for answer,
that their lands may be yours if you will but make peace with him. At
least, do not break hopelessly with that man. Above all, never use that
word concerning him which you used just now; the word which he never
forgives. Remember what he did to them of Alencon, when they hung raw
hides over the wall, and cried, 'Plenty of work for the tanner!'"

"Let him pick out the prisoners' eyes, and chop off their hands, and shoot
them into the town from mangonels,--he must go far and thrive well ere I
give him a chance of doing that by me."

"Hereward, Hereward, my own! Boast not, but fear God. Who knows, in such a
world as this, to what end we may come? Night after night I am haunted
with spectres, eyeless, handless--"

"This is cold comfort for a man just out of hard fighting in the
ague-fens!"

She threw her arms round him, and held him as if she would never let him
go.

"When you die, I die. And you will not die: you will be great and
glorious, and your name will be sung by scald and minstrel through many a
land, far and wide. Only be not rash. Be not high-minded. Promise me to
answer this man wisely. The more crafty he is, the more crafty must you be
likewise."

"Let us tell this mighty hero, then," said Hereward,--trying to laugh away
her fears, and perhaps his own,--"that while he has the Holy Father on his
side, he can need no help from a poor sinful worm like me."

"Hereward, Hereward!"

"Why, is there aught about hides in that?"

"I want,--I want an answer which may not cut off all hope in case of the
worst."

"Then let us say boldly, 'On the day that William is King of all England,
Hereward will come and put his hands between his, and be his man.'"

That message was sent to William at Rouen. He laughed,--

"It is a fair challenge from a valiant man. The day shall come when I will
claim it."

Tosti and Hereward passed that winter in St. Omer, living in the same
street, passing each other day by day, and never spoke a word one to the
other.

Robert the Frison heard of it, and tried to persuade Hereward.

"Let him purge himself of the murder of Ulf, the boy, son of my friend
Dolfin; and after that, of Gamel, son of Orm; and after that, again, of
Gospatrick, my father's friend, whom his sister slew for his sake; and
then an honest man may talk with him. Were he not my good lord's
brother-in-law, as he is, more's the pity, I would challenge him to fight
_a l'outrance_, with any weapons he might choose."

"Heaven protect him in that case," quoth Robert the Frison.

"As it is, I will keep the peace. And I will see that my men keep the
peace, though there are Scarborough and Bamborough lads among them, who
long to cut his throat upon the streets. But more I will not do."

So Tosti sulked through the winter at St. Omer, and then went off to get
help from Sweyn, of Denmark, and failing that, from Harold Hardraade of
Norway. But how he sped there must be read in the words of a cunninger
saga-man than this chronicler, even in those of the "Icelandic Homer,"
Snorro Sturleson.

CHAPTER XVI.

HOW HEREWARD WAS ASKED TO SLAY AN OLD COMRADE.

In those days Hereward went into Bruges, to Marquis Baldwin, about his
business. And as he walked in Bruges street, he met an old friend, Gilbert
of Ghent.

He had grown somewhat stouter, and somewhat grayer, in the last ten years:
but he was as hearty as ever; and as honest, according to his own notions
of honesty.

He shook Hereward by both hands, clapt him on the back, swore with many
oaths, that he had heard of his fame in all lands, that he always said
that he would turn out a champion and a gallant knight, and had said it
long before he killed the bear. As for killing it, it was no more than he
expected, and nothing to what Hereward had done since, and would do yet.

Wherefrom Hereward opined that Gilbert had need of him.

They chatted on: Hereward asking after old friends, and sometimes after
old foes, whom he had long since forgiven; for though he always avenged an
injury, he never bore malice for one; a distinction less common now than
then, when a man's honor, as well as his safety, depended on his striking
again, when he was struck.

"And how is little Alftruda? Big she must be now?" asked he at last.

"The fiend fly away with her,--or rather, would that he had flown away
with her, before ever I saw the troublesome little jade. Big? She is grown
into the most beautiful lass that ever was seen,--which is, what a young
fellow like you cares for; and more trouble to me than all my money, which
is what an old fellow like me cares for. It is partly about her that I am
over here now. Fool that I was, ever to let an Etheliza [Footnote: A
princess of the royal blood of Cerdic, and therefore of Edward the
Confessor.] into my house"; and Gilbert swore a great deal.

"How was she an Etheliza?" asked Hereward, who cared nothing about the
matter. "And how came she into your house? I never could understand that,
any more than how the bear came there."

"Ah! As to the bear, I have my secrets, which I tell no one. He is dead
and buried, thanks to you."

"And I sleep on his skin every night."

"You do, my little Champion? Well, warm is the bed that is well earned.
But as for her;--see here, and I'll tell you. She was Gospatrick's ward
and kinswoman,--how, I do not rightly know. But this I know, that she
comes from Uchtred, the earl whom Canute slew, and that she is heir to
great estates in Northumberland.

"Gospatrick, that fought at Dunsinane?"

"Yes, not the old Thane, his uncle, whom Tosti has murdered; but
Gospatrick, King Malcolm's cousin, Dolfin's father. Well, she was his
ward. He gave me her to keep, for he wanted her out of harm's way--the
lass having a bonny dower, lands and money--till he could marry her up to
one of his sons. I took her; of course I was not going to do other men's
work for naught; so I would have married her up to my poor boy, if he had
but lived. But he would not live, as you know. Then I would have married
her to you, and made you my heir, I tell you honestly, if you had not
flown off, like a hot-headed young springald, as you were then."

"You were very kind. But how is she an Etheliza?"

"Etheliza? Twice over. Her father was of high blood among those Saxons;
and if not, are not all the Gospatricks Ethelings? Their grandmother,
Uchtred's wife, was Ethelred, Evil-Counsel's daughter, King Edward of
London's sister; and I have heard that this girl's grandfather was their
son,--but died young,--or was killed with his father. Who cares?"

"Not I," quoth Hereward.

"Well--he wants to marry her to Dolfin, his eldest son."

"Why, Dolfin had a wife when I was at Dunsinane."

"But she is dead since, and young Ulf, her son, murdered by Tosti last
winter."

"I know."

"Whereon Gospatrick sends to me for the girl and her dowry. What was I to
do? Give her up? Little it is, lad, that I ever gave up, after I had it
once in my grip, or I should be a poorer man than I am now. Have and hold,
is my rule. What should I do? What I did. I was coming hither on business
of my own, so I put her on board ship, and half her dower,--where the
other half is, I know; and man must draw me with wild horses, before he
finds out;--and came here to my kinsman, Baldwin, to see if he had any
proper young fellow to whom we might marry the lass, and so go shares in
her money and the family connection. Could a man do more wisely?"

"Impossible," quoth Hereward.

"But see how a wise man is lost by fortune. When I come here, whom should
I find but Dolfin himself? The dog had scent of my plan, all the way from
Dolfinston there, by Peebles. He hunts me out, the hungry Scotch wolf;
rides for Leith, takes ship, and is here to meet me, having accused me
before Baldwin as a robber and ravisher, and offers to prove his right to
the jade on my body in single combat."

"The villain!" quoth Hereward. "There is no modesty left on earth, nor
prudence either. To come here, where he might have stumbled on Tosti, who
murdered his son, and I would surely do the like by him, himself. Lucky
for him that Tosti is off to Norway on his own errand."

"Modesty and prudence? None now-a-days, young sire; nor justice either, I
think; for when Baldwin hears us both--and I told my story as cannily as I
could--he tells me that he is very sorry for an old vassal and kinsman,
and so forth,--but I must either disgorge or fight."

"Then fight," quoth Hereward.

"'Per se aut per campioneem,'--that's the old law, you know."

"Not a doubt of it."

"Look you, Hereward. I am no coward, nor a clumsy man of my hands."

"He is either fool or liar who says so."

"But see. I find it hard work to hold my own in Scotland now. Folks don't
like me, or trust me; I can't say why."

"How unreasonable!" quoth Hereward.

"And if I kill this youth, and so have a blood-feud with Gospatrick, I
have a hornet's nest about my ears. Not only he and his sons,--who are
masters of Scotch Northumberland, [Footnote: Between Tweed and Forth.]--
but all his cousins; King Malcolm, and Donaldbain, and, for aught I know,
Harold and the Godwinssons, if he bid them take up the quarrel. And
beside, that Dolfin is a big man. If you cross Scot and Saxon, you breed a
very big man. If you cross again with a Dane or a Norseman, you breed a
giant. His grandfather was a Scots prince, his grandmother an English
Etheliza, his mother a Norse princess, as you know,--and how big he is,
you should remember. He weighs half as much again as I, and twice as much
as you."

"Butchers count by weight, and knights by courage," quoth Hereward.

"Very well for you, who are young and active; but I take him to be a
better man than that ogre of Cornwall, whom they say you killed."

"What care I? Let him be twice as good, I'd try him."

"Ah! I knew you were the old Hereward still. Now hearken to me. Be my
champion. You owe me a service, lad. Fight that man, challenge him in open
field. Kill him, as you are sure to do. Claim the lass, and win her,--and
then we will part her dower. And (though it is little that I care for
young lasses' fancies), to tell you truth, she never favored any man but
you."

Hereward started at the snare which had been laid for him; and then fell
into a very great laughter.

"My most dear and generous host: you are the wiser, the older you grow. A
plan worthy of Solomon! You are rid of Sieur Dolfin without any blame to
yourself."

"Just so."

"While I win the lass, and, living here in Flanders, am tolerably safe
from any blood-feud of the Gospatricks."

"Just so."

"Perfect: but there is only one small hindrance to the plan; and that
is--that I am married already."

Gilbert stopped short, and swore a great oath.

"But," he said, after a while, "does that matter so much after all?"

"Very little, indeed, as all the world knows, if one has money enough, and
power enough."

"And you have both," they say.

"But, still more unhappily, my money is my wife's."

"Peste!"

"And more unhappily still, I am so foolishly fond of her, that I would
sooner have her in her smock, than any other woman with half England for a
dower."

"Then I suppose I must look out for another champion."

"Or save yourself the trouble, by being--just as a change--an honest man."

"I believe you are right," said Gilbert, laughing; "but it is hard to
begin so late in life."

"And after one has had so little practice."

"Aha! Thou art the same merry dog of a Hereward. Come along. But could we
not poison this Dolfin, after all?"

To which proposal Hereward gave no encouragement.

"And now, my tres beausire, may I ask you, in return, what business brings
you to Flanders?"

"Have I not told you?"

"No, but I have guessed. Gilbert of Ghent is on his way to William of
Normandy."

"Well. Why not?"

"Why not?--certainly. And has brought out of Scotland a few gallant
gentlemen, and stout housecarles of my acquaintance."

Gilbert laughed.

"You may well say that. To tell you the truth, we have flitted, bag and
baggage. I don't believe that we have left a dog behind."

"So you intend to 'colonize' in England, as the learned clerks would call
it? To settle; to own land; and enter, like the Jews of old, into goodly
houses which you builded not, farms which you tilled not, wells which you
digged not, and orchards which you planted not?"

"Why, what a clerk you are! That sounds like Scripture."

"And so it is. I heard it in a French priest's sermon, which he preached
here in St. Omer a Sunday or two back, exhorting all good Catholics, in
the Pope's name, to enter upon the barbarous land of England, tainted with
the sin of Simon Magus, and expel thence the heretical priests, and so
forth, promising them that they should have free leave to cut long thongs
out of other men's hides."

Gilbert chuckled.

"You laugh. The priest did not; for after sermon I went up to him, and
told him how I was an Englishman, and an outlaw, and a desperate man, who
feared neither saint nor devil; and if I heard such talk as that again in
St. Omer, I would so shave the speaker's crown that he should never need
razor to his dying day."

"And what is that to me?" said Gilbert, in an uneasy, half-defiant tone;
for Hereward's tone had been more than half-defiant.

"This. That there are certain broad lands in England, which were my
father's, and are now my nephews' and my mother's, and some which should
by right be mine. And I advise you, as a friend, not to make entry on
those lands, lest Hereward in turn make entry on you. And who is he that
will deliver you out of my hand?"

"God and his Saints alone, thou fiend out of the pit!" quoth Gilbert,
laughing. But he was growing warm, and began to tutoyer Hereward.

"I am in earnest, Gilbert of Ghent, my good friend of old time."

"I know thee well enough, man. Why in the name of all glory and plunder
art thou not coming with us? They say William has offered thee the earldom
of Northumberland."

"He has not. And if he has, it is not his to give. And if it were, it is
by right neither mine nor my nephews', but Waltheof Siwardsson's. Now
hearken unto me; and settle it in your mind, thou and William both, that
your quarrel is against none but Harold and the Godwinssons, and their men
of Wessex; but that if you go to cross the Watling street, and meddle with
the free Danes, who are none of Harold's men--"

"Stay. Harold has large manors in Lincolnshire, and so has Edith his
sister; and what of them, Sir Hereward?"

"That the man who touches them, even though the men on them may fight on
Harold's side, had better have put his head into a hornet's nest. Unjustly
were they seized from their true owners by Harold and his fathers; and the
holders of them will owe no service to him a day longer than they can
help; but will, if he fall, demand an earl of their own race, or fight to
the death."

"Best make young Waltheof earl, then."

"Best keep thy foot out of them, and the foot of any man for whom thou
carest. Now, good by. Friends we are, and friends let us be."

"Ah, that thou wert coming to England!"

"I bide my time. Come I may, when I see fit. But whether I come as friend
or foe depends on that of which I have given thee fair warning."

So they parted for the time.

It will be seen hereafter how Gilbert took his own advice about young
Waltheof, but did not take Hereward's advice about the Lincoln manors.

In Baldwin's hall that day Hereward met Dolfin; and when the magnificent
young Scot sprang to him, embraced him, talked over old passages,
complimented him on his fame, lamented that he himself had won no such
honors in the field, Hereward felt much more inclined to fight for him
than against him.

Presently the ladies entered from the bower inside the hall. A buzz of
expectation rose from all the knights, and Alftruda's name was whispered
round.

She came in, and Hereward saw at the first glance that Gilbert had for
once in his life spoken truth. So beautiful a girl he had never beheld;
and as she swept down toward him he for one moment forgot Torfrida, and
stood spell-bound like the rest.

Her eye caught his. If his face showed recognition, hers showed none. The
remembrance of their early friendship, of her deliverance from the
monster, had plainly passed away.

"Fickle, ungrateful things, these women," thought Hereward,

She passed him close. And as she did so, she turned her head and looked
him full in the face one moment, haughty and cold.

"So you could not wait for me?" said she, in a quiet whisper, and went on
straight to Dolfin, who stood trembling with expectation and delight.

She put her hand into his.

"Here stands my champion," said she.

"Say, here kneels your slave," cried the Scot, dropping to the pavement a
true Highland knee. Whereon forth shrieked a bagpipe, and Dolfin's
minstrel sang, in most melodious Gaelic,--

"Strong as a horse's hock,
shaggy as a stag's brisket,
Is the knee of the young torrent-leaper,
the pride of the house of Crinan.
It bent not to Macbeth the accursed,
it bends not even to Malcolm the Anointed,
But it bends like a harebell--who shall blame it?--
before the breath of beauty."

Which magnificent effusion being interpreted by Hereward for the
instruction of the ladies, procured for the red-headed bard more than one
handsome gift.

A sturdy voice arose out of the crowd.

"The fair lady, my Lord Count, and knights all, will need no champion as
far as I am concerned. When one sees so fair a pair together, what can a
knight say, in the name of all knighthood, but that the heavens have made
them for each other, and that it were sin and shame to sunder them?"

The voice was that of Gilbert of Ghent, who, making a virtue of necessity,
walked up to the pair, his weather-beaten countenance wreathed into what
were meant for paternal smiles.

"Why did you not say as much in Scotland, and save me all this trouble?"
pertinently asked the plain-spoken Scot.

"My lord prince, you owe me a debt for my caution. Without it, the poor
lady had never known the whole fervency of your love; or these noble
knights and yourself the whole evenness of Count Baldwin's justice."

Alftruda turned her head away half contemptuously; and as she did so, she
let her hand drop listlessly from Dolfin's grasp, and drew back to the
other ladies.

A suspicion crossed Hereward's mind. Did she really love the Prince? Did
those strange words of hers mean that she had not yet forgotten Hereward
himself?

However, he said to himself that it was no concern of his, as it certainly
was not: went home to Torfrida, told her everything that had happened,
laughed over it with her, and then forgot Alftruda, Dolfin, and Gilbert,
in the prospect of a great campaign in Holland.

CHAPTER XVII.

HOW HEREWARD TOOK THE NEWS FROM STANFORD BRIGG AND HASTINGS.

After that, news came thick and fast.

News of all the fowl of heaven flocking to the feast of the great God,
that they might eat the flesh of kings, and captains, and mighty men, and
horses, and them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both bond and
free.

News from Rome, how England, when conquered, was to be held as a fief of
St. Peter, and spiritually, as well as temporarily, enslaved. News how the
Gonfanon of St. Peter, and a ring with a bit of St. Peter himself enclosed
therein, had come to Rouen, to go before the Norman host, as the Ark went
before that of Israel.

Then news from the North. How Tosti had been to Sweyn, and bid him come
back and win the country again, as Canute his uncle had done; and how the
cautious Dane had answered that he was a much smaller man than Canute, and
had enough to hold his own against the Norsemen, and could not afford to
throw for such high stakes as his mighty uncle.

Then how Tosti had been to Norway, to Harold Hardraade, and asked him why
he had been fighting fifteen years for Denmark, when England lay open to
him. And how Harold of Norway had agreed to come; and how he had levied
one half of the able-bodied men in Norway; and how he was gathering a
mighty fleet at Solundir, in the mouth of the Sogne Fiord. Of all this
Hereward was well informed; for Tosti came back again to St. Omer, and
talked big. But Hereward and he had no dealings with each other. But at
last, when Tosti tried to entice some of Hereward's men to sail with him,
Hereward sent him word that if he met him, he would kill him in the
streets.

Then Tosti, who (though he wanted not for courage) knew that he was no
match for Hereward, went off to Bruges, leaving his wife and family
behind; gathered sixty ships at Ostend, went off to the Isle of Wight, and
forced the landsfolk to give him money and food. And then Harold of
England's fleet, which was watching the coast against the Normans, drove
him away; and he sailed off north, full of black rage against his brother
Harold and all Englishmen, and burned, plundered, and murdered, along the
coast of Lincolnshire, out of brute spite to the Danes who had expelled
him.

Then came news how he had got into the Humber; how Earl Edwin and his
Northumbrians had driven him out; and how he went off to Scotland to meet
Harold of Norway; and how he had put his hands between Harold's, and
become his man.

And all the while the Norman camp at St. Pierre-sur-Dive grew and grew;
and all was ready, if the wind would but change.

And so Hereward looked on, helpless, and saw these two great storm-clouds
growing,--one from north, and one from south,--to burst upon his native
land.

Two invasions at the same moment of time; and these no mere Viking raids
for plunder, but deliberate attempts at conquest and colonization, by the
two most famous captains of the age. What if both succeeded? What if the
two storm-clouds swept across England, each on its own path, and met in
the midst, to hurl their lightnings into each other? A fight between
William of Normandy and Harold of Norway, on some moorland in Mercia,--it
would be a battle of giants; a sight at which Odin and the Gods of
Valhalla would rise from their seats, and throw away the mead-horn, to
stare down on the deeds of heroes scarcely less mighty than themselves.
Would that neither might win! Would that they would destroy and devour,
till there was none left of Frenchmen or of Norwegians!

So sang Hereward, after his heathen fashion; and his housecarles applauded
the song. But Torfrida shuddered.

"And what will become of the poor English in the mean time?"

"They have brought it on themselves," said Hereward, bitterly. "Instead of
giving the crown to the man who should have had it,--to Sweyn of
Denmark,--they let Godwin put it on the head of a drivelling monk; and as
they sowed, so will they reap."

But Hereward's own soul was black within him. To see these mighty events
passing as it were within reach of his hand, and he unable to take his
share in them,--for what share could he take? That of Tosti Godwinsson
against his own nephews? That of Harold Godwinsson, the usurper? That of
the tanner's grandson against any man? Ah that he had been in England! Ah
that he had been where he might have been,--where he ought to have been
but for his own folly,--high in power in his native land,--perhaps a great
earl; perhaps commander of all the armies of the Danelagh. And bitterly he
cursed his youthful sins as he rode to and fro almost daily to the port of
Calais, asking for news, and getting often only too much.

For now came news that the Norsemen had landed in Humber: that Edwin and
Morcar were beaten at York; that Hardraade and Tosti were masters of the
North.

And with that, news that, by the virtue of the relics of St. Valeri, which
had been brought out of their shrine to frighten the demons of the storm,
and by the intercession of the blessed St. Michael, patron of Normandy,
the winds had changed, and William's whole armament had crossed the
Channel, landed upon an undefended shore, and fortified themselves at
Pevensey and Hastings.

And then followed a fortnight of silence and torturing suspense.

Hereward could hardly eat, drink, sleep, or speak. He answered Torfrida's
consolations curtly and angrily, till she betook herself to silent
caresses, as to a sick animal. But she loved him all the better for his
sullenness; for it showed that his English heart was wakening again, sound
and strong.

At last news came. He was down, as usual, at the port. A ship had just
come in from the northward. A man just landed stood on the beach
gesticulating, and calling in an unknown tongue to the bystanders, who
laughed at him, and seemed inclined to misuse him.

Hereward galloped down the beach.

"Out of the way, villains! Why man, you are a Norseman!"

"Norseman am I, Earl, Thord Gunlaugsson is my name, and news I bring for
the Countess Judith (as the French call her) that shall turn her golden
hair to snow,--yea, and all fair lasses' hair from Lindesness to
Loffoden!"

"Is the Earl dead?"

"And Harold Sigurdsson!"

Hereward sat silent, appalled. For Tosti he cared not. But Harold
Sigurdsson, Harold Hardraade, Harold the Viking, Harold the Varanger,
Harold the Lionslayer, Harold of Constantinople, the bravest among
champions, the wisest among kings, the cunningest among minstrels, the
darling of the Vikings of the North; the one man whom Hereward had taken
for his pattern and his ideal, the one man under whose banner he would
have been proud to fight--the earth seemed empty, if Harold Hardraade were
gone.

"Thord Gunlaugsson," cried he, at last, "or whatever be thy name, if thou
hast lied to me, I will draw thee with wild horses."

"Would God that I did lie! I saw him fall with an arrow through his
throat. Then Jarl Tosti took the Land-ravager and held it up till he died.
Then Eystein Orre took it, coming up hot from the ships. And then he died
likewise. Then they all died. We would take no quarter. We threw off our
mail, and fought baresark, till all were dead together." [Footnote: For
the details of this battle, see Skorro Sturleson, or the admirable
description in Bulwer's "Harold."]

"How camest thou, then, hither?"

"Styrkar the marshal escaped in the night, and I with him, and a few more.
And Styrkar bade me bring the news to Flanders, to the Countess, while he
took it to Olaf Haroldsson, who lay off in the ships."

"And thou shalt take it. Martin! get this man a horse. A horse, ye
villains, and a good one, on your lives!"

"And Tosti is dead?"

"Dead like a hero. Harold offered him quarter,--offered him his earldom,
they say: even in the midst of battle; but he would not take it. He said
he was the Sigurdsson's man now, and true man he would be!"

"Harold offered him?--what art babbling about? Who fought you?"

"Harold Godwinsson, the king."

"Where?"

"At Stanford Brigg, by York Town."

"Harold Godwinsson slew Harold Sigurdsson? After this wolves may eat
lions!"

"The Godwinsson is a gallant fighter, and a wise general, or I had not
been here now."

"Get on thy horse, man!" said he, scornfully and impatiently, "and gallop,
if thou canst."

"I have ridden many a mile in Ireland, Earl, and have not forgotten my
seat."

"Thou hast, hast thou?" said Martin; "thou art Thord Gunlaugsson of
Waterford."

"That am I. How knowest thou me, man?"

"I am of Waterford. Thou hadst a slave lass once, I think; Mew: they
called her Mew, her skin it was so white."

"What's that to thee?" asked Thord, turning on him savagely.

"Why, I meant no harm. I saw her at Waterford when I was a boy, and
thought her a fair lass enough, that is all."

And Martin dropped into the rear. By this time they were at the gates of
St. Omer.

As they rode side by side, Hereward got more details of the fight.

"I knew it would fall out so. I foretold it!" said Thord. "I had a dream.
I saw us come to English land, and fight; and I saw the banners floating.
And before the English army was a great witchwife, and rode upon a wolf,
and he had a corpse in his bloody jaws. And when he had eaten one up, she
threw him another, till he had swallowed all."

"Did she throw him thine?" asked Martin, who ran holding by the stirrup.

"That did she, and eaten I saw myself. Yet here I am alive."

"Then thy dreams were naught."

"I do not know that. The wolf may have me yet."

"I fear thou art fey." [Footnote: Prophesying his own death.]

"What the devil is it to thee if I be?"

"Naught. But be comforted. I am a necromancer; and this I know by my art,
that the weapon that will slay thee was never forged in Flanders here."

"There was another man had a dream," said Thord, turning from Martin
angrily. "He was standing in the king's ship, and he saw a great witchwife
with a fork and a trough stand on the island. And he saw a fowl on every
ship's stem, a raven, or else an eagle, and he heard the witchwife sing an
evil song."

By this time they were in St. Omer.

Hereward rode straight to the Countess Judith's house. He never had
entered it yet, and was likely to be attacked if he entered it now. But
when the door was opened, he thrust in with so earnest and sad a face that
the servants let him pass, but not without growling and motions as of
getting their weapons.

"I come in peace, my men, I come in peace: this is no time for brawls.
Where is the steward, or one of the Countess's ladies? Tell her, madam,
that Hereward waits her commands, and entreats her, in the name of St.
Mary and all Saints, to vouchsafe him one word in private."

The lady hurried into the bower. The next moment Judith hurried out into
the hall, her fair face blanched, her fair eyes wide with terror.

Hereward fell on his knee.

"What is this? It must be bad news if you bring it."

"Madam, the grave covers all feuds. Earl Tosti was a very valiant hero;
and would to God that we had been friends!"

She did not hear the end of the sentence, but fell back with a shriek into
the women's arms.

Hereward told them all that they needed to know of that fratricidal
strife; and then to Thord Gunlaugsson,--

"Have you any token that this is true? Mind what I warned you, if you
lied!"

"This have I, Earl and ladies," and he drew from his bosom a reliquary.
"Ulf the marshal took this off his neck, and bade me give it to none but
his lady. Therefore, with your pardon, Sir Earl, I did not tell you that I
had it, not knowing whether you were an honest man."

"Thou hast done well, and an honest man thou shall find me. Come home, and
I will feed thee at my own table; for I have been a sea-rover and a Viking
myself."

They left the reliquary with the ladies, and went.

"See to this good man, Martin."

"That will I, as the apple of my eye."

And Hereward went into Torfrida's room.

"I have news, news!"

"So have I."

"Harold Hardraade is slain, and Tosti too!"

"Where? how?"

"Harold Godwinsson slew them by York."

"Brother has slain brother? O God that died on cross!" murmured Torfrida,
"when will men look to thee, and have mercy on their own souls? But,
Hereward, I have news,--news more terrible by far. It came an hour ago. I
have been dreading your coming back."

"Say on. If Harold Hardraade is dead, no worse can happen."

"But Harold Godwinsson is dead!"

"Dead! Who next? William of Normandy? The world seems coming to an end, as
the monks say it will soon." [Footnote: There was a general rumor abroad
that the end of the world was at hand, that the "one thousand years" of
prophecy had expired.]

"A great battle has been fought at a place they call Heathfield."

"Close by Hastings? Close to the landing-place? Harold must have flown
thither back from York. What a captain the man is, after all."

"Was. He is dead, and all the Godwinssons, and England lost."

If Torfrida had feared the effect of her news, her heart was lightened at
once as Hereward answered haughtily,--

"England lost? Sussex is not England, nor Wessex either, any more than
Harold was king thereof. England lost? Let the tanner try to cross the
Watling street, and he will find out that he has another stamp of
Englishmen to deal with."

"Hereward, Hereward, do not be unjust to the dead. Men say--the Normans
say--that they fought like heroes."

"I never doubted that; but it makes me mad--as it does all Eastern and
Northern men--to hear these Wessex churls and Godwinssons calling
themselves all England."

Torfrida shook her head. To her, as to most foreigners, Wessex and the
southeast counties were England; the most civilized; the most Norman; the
seat of royalty; having all the prestige of law, and order, and wealth.
And she was shrewd enough to see, that as it was the part of England which
had most sympathy with Norman civilization, it was the very part where the
Norman could most easily gain and keep his hold. The event proved that
Torfrida was right: but all she said was, "It is dangerously near to
France, at least."

"It is that. I would sooner see 100,000 French north of the Humber, than
10,000 in Kent and Sussex, where he can hurry over supplies and men every
week. It is the starting-point for him, if he means to conquer England
piecemeal."

"And he does."

"And he shall not!" and Hereward started up, and walked to and fro. "If
all the Godwinssons be dead, there are Leofricssons left, I trust, and
Siward's kin, and the Gospatricks in Northumbria. Ah? Where were my
nephews in the battle? Not killed too, I trust?"

"They were not in the battle."

"Not with their new brother-in-law? Much he has gained by throwing away
the Swan-neck, like a base hound as he was, and marrying my pretty niece.
But where were they?"

"No man knows clearly. They followed him down as far as London, and then
lingered about the city, meaning no man can tell what: but we shall
hear--and I fear hear too much--before a week is over."

"Heavens! this is madness, indeed. This is the way to be eaten up one by
one! Neither to do the thing, nor leave it alone. If I had been there! If
I had been there--"

"You would have saved England, my hero!" and Torfrida believed her own
words.

"I don't say that. Besides, I say that England is not lost. But there were
but two things to do: either to have sent to William at once, and offered
him the crown, if he would but guarantee the Danish laws and liberties to
all north of the Watling street; and if he would, fall on the Godwinssons
themselves, by fair means or foul, and send their heads to William."

"Or what?"

"Or have marched down after him, with every man they could muster, and
thrown themselves on the Frenchman's flank in the battle; or between him
and the sea, cutting him off from France; or--O that I had but been there,
what things could I have done! And now these two wretched boys have fooled
away their only chance--"

"Some say that they hoped for the crown themselves.

"Which?--not both? Vain babies!" And Hereward laughed bitterly. "I suppose
one will murder the other next, in order to make himself the stronger by
being the sole rival to the tanner. The midden cock, sole rival to the
eagle! Boy Waltheof will set up his claim next, I presume, as Siward's
son; and then Gospatrick, as Ethelred Evil-Counsel's great-grandson; and
so forth, and so forth, till they all eat each other up, and the tanner's
grandson eats the last. What care I? Tell me about the battle, my lady, if
you know aught. That is more to my way than their statecraft."

And Torfrida told him all she knew of the great fight on Heathfield
Down--which men call Senlac--and the Battle of Hastings. And as she told
it in her wild, eloquent fashion, Hereward's face reddened, and his eyes
kindled. And when she told of the last struggle round the Dragon
[Footnote: I have dared to differ from the excellent authorities who say
that the standard was that of "A Fighting Man"; because the Bayeux
Tapestry represents the last struggle as in front of a Dragon standard,
which must be--as is to be expected--the old standard of Wessex, the
standard of English Royalty. That Harold had also a "Fighting Man"
standard, and that it was sent by William to the Pope, there is no reason
to doubt. But if the Bayeux Tapestry be correct, the fury of the fight for
the standard would be explained. It would be a fight for the very symbol
of King Edward's dynasty.] standard; of Harold's mighty figure in the
front of all, hewing with his great double-headed axe, and then rolling in
gore and agony, an arrow in his eye; of the last rally of the men of Kent;
of Gurth, the last defender of the standard, falling by William's sword,
the standard hurled to the ground, and the Popish Gonfanon planted in its
place,--then Hereward's eyes, for the first and last time for many a year,
were flushed with noble tears; and springing up he cried: "Honor to the
Godwinssons! Honor to the Southern men! Honor to all true English hearts!
Why was I not there to go with them to Valhalla?"

Torfrida caught him round the neck. "Because you are here, my hero, to
free your country from her tyrants, and win yourself immortal fame."

"Fool that I am, I verily believe I am crying."

"Those tears," said she, as she kissed them away, "are more precious to
Torfrida than the spoils of a hundred fights, for they tell me that
Hereward still loves his country, still honors virtue, even in a foe."

And thus Torfrida--whether from woman's sentiment of pity, or from a
woman's instinctive abhorrence of villany and wrong,--had become there and
then an Englishwoman of the English, as she proved by strange deeds and
sufferings for many a year.

"Where is that Norseman, Martin?" asked Hereward that night ere he went to
bed, "I want to hear more of poor Hardraade."

"You can't speak to him now, master. He is sound asleep this two hours;
and warm enough, I will warrant."

"Where?"

"In the great green bed with blue curtains, just above the kitchen."

"What nonsense is this?"

"The bed where you and I shall lie some day; and the kitchen which we
shall be sent down to, to turn our own spits, unless we mend our manners
mightily."

Hereward looked at the man. Madness glared in his eyes, unmistakably.

"You have killed him!"

"And buried him, cheating the priests."

"Villain!" cried Hereward, seizing him.

"Take your hands off my throat, master. He was only my father."

Hereward stood shocked and puzzled. After all, the man was "No-man's-man,"
and would not be missed; and Martin Lightfoot, letting alone his madness,
was as a third hand and foot to him all day long.

So all he said was, "I hope you have buried him well and safely?"

"You may walk your bloodhound over his grave, to-morrow, without finding
him."

And where he lay, Hereward never knew. But from that night Martin got a
trick of stroking and patting his little axe, and talking to it as if it
had been alive.

CHAPTER XVIII.

HOW EARL GODWIN'S WIDOW CAME TO ST. OMER.

It would be vain to attempt even a sketch of the reports which came to
Flanders from England during the next two years, or of the conversation
which ensued thereon between Baldwin and his courtiers, or Hereward and
Torfrida. Two reports out of three were doubtless false, and two
conversations out of three founded on those false reports.

It is best, therefore, to interrupt the thread of the story, by some small
sketch of the state of England after the battle of Hastings; that so we
may, at least, guess at the tenor of Hereward and Torfrida's counsels.

William had, as yet, conquered little more than the South of England:
hardly, indeed, all that; for Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and the
neighboring parts, which had belonged to Sweyn, Harold's brother, were
still insecure; and the noble old city of Exeter, confident in her Roman
walls, did not yield till two years after, in A.D. 1068.

North of his conquered territory, Mercia stretched almost across England,
from Chester to the Wash, governed by Edwin and Morcar, the two fair
grandsons of Leofric, the great earl, and sons of Alfgar. Edwin called
himself Earl of Mercia, and held the Danish burghs. On the extreme
northwest, the Roman city of Chester was his; while on the extreme
southeast (as Domesday book testifies), Morcar held large lands round
Bourne, and throughout the south of Lincolnshire, besides calling himself
the Earl of Northumbria. The young men seemed the darlings of the
half-Danish northmen. Chester, Coventry, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester,
Stamford, a chain of fortified towns stretching across England, were at
their command; Blethyn, Prince of North Wales, was their nephew.

Northumbria, likewise, was not yet in William's hands. Indeed, it was in
no man's hands, since the free Danes, north of the Humber, had expelled
Tosti, Harold's brother, putting Morcar in his place, and helped that
brother to slay him at Stanford Brigg. Morcar, instead of residing in his
earldom of Northumbria, had made one Oswulf his deputy; but he had rivals
enough. There was Gospatrick, claiming through his grandfather, Uchtred,
and strong in the protection of his cousin Malcolm, King of Scotland;
there was young Waltheof, "the forest thief," who had been born to Siward
Biorn in his old age, just after the battle of Dunsinane; a fine and
gallant young man, destined to a swift and sad end.

William sent to the Northumbrians one Copsi, a Thane of mark and worth, as
his procurator, to expel Oswulf. Oswulf and the land-folk answered by
killing Copsi, and doing, every man, that which was right in his own eyes.

William determined to propitiate the young earls. Perhaps he intended to
govern the centre and north of England through them, as feudal vassals,
and hoped, meanwhile, to pay his Norman conquerors sufficiently out of the
forfeited lands of Harold, and those who had fought by his side at
Hastings. It was not his policy to make himself, much less to call
himself, the Conqueror of England. He claimed to be its legitimate
sovereign, deriving from his cousin, Edward the Confessor; and whosoever
would acknowledge him as such had neither right nor cause to fear.
Therefore he sent for the young earls. He courted Waltheof, and more,
really loved him. He promised Edwin his daughter in marriage. Some say it
was Constance, afterwards married to Alan Fergant of Brittany; but it may,
also, have been the beautiful Adelaide, who, none knew why, early gave up
the world, and died in a convent. Be that as it may, the two young people
saw each, and loved each other at Rouen, whither William took Waltheof,
Edwin, and his brother; as honored guests in name, in reality as hostages,
likewise.

With the same rational and prudent policy, William respected the fallen
royal families, both of Harold and of Edward; at least, he warred not
against women; and the wealth and influence of the great English ladies
was enormous. Edith, sister of Harold, and widow of the Confessor, lived
in wealth and honor at Winchester. Gyda, Harold's mother, retained Exeter
and her land. Aldytha, [Footnote: See her history, told as none other can
tell it, in Bulwer's "Harold."] or Elfgiva, sister of Edwin and Morcar,
niece of Hereward, and widow, first of Griffin of Wales, and then of
Harold, lived rich and safe in Chester. Godiva, the Countess, owned, so
antiquarians say, manors from Cheshire to Lincolnshire, which would be now
yearly worth the income of a great duke. Agatha, the Hungarian, widow of
Edmund the outlaw, dwelt at Romsey, in Hampshire, under William's care.
Her son, Edward Etheling, the rightful heir of England, was treated by
William not only with courtesy, but with affection; and allowed to rebel,
when he did rebel, with impunity. For the descendant of Rollo, the heathen
Viking, had become a civilized, chivalrous, Christian knight. His mighty
forefather would have split the Etheling's skull with his own axe. A Frank
king would have shaved the young man's head, and immersed him in a
monastery. An eastern sultan would have thrust out his eyes, or strangled
him at once. But William, however cruel, however unscrupulous, had a
knightly heart, and somewhat of a Christian conscience; and his conduct to
his only lawful rival is a noble trait amid many sins.

So far all went well, till William went back to France; to be likened, not
as his ancestors, to the gods of Valhalla, or the barbarous and destroying
Viking of mythic ages, but to Caesar, Pompey, Vespasian, and the civilized
and civilizing heroes of classic Rome.

But while he sat at the Easter feast at Fecamp, displaying to Franks,
Flemings, and Bretons, as well as to his own Normans, the treasures of
Edward's palace at Westminster, and "more English wealth than could be
found in the whole estate of Gaul"; while he sat there in his glory, with
his young dupes, Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof by his side, having sent
Harold's banner in triumph to the Pope, as a token that he had conquered
the Church as well as the nation of England; and having founded abbeys as
thank-offerings to Him who had seemed to prosper him in his great crime:
at that very hour the handwriting was on the wall, unseen by man; and he
and his policy and his race were weighed in the balance, and found
wanting.

For now broke out in England that wrong-doing, which endured as long as
she was a mere appanage and foreign farm of Norman kings, whose hearts and
homes were across the seas in France. Fitz-Osbern, and Odo the
warrior-prelate, William's half-brother, had been left as his regents in
England. Little do they seem to have cared for William's promise to the
English people that they were to be ruled still by the laws of Edward the
Confessor, and that where a grant of land was made to a Norman, he was to
hold it as the Englishman had done before him, with no heavier burdens on
himself, but with no heavier burdens on the poor folk who tilled the land
for him. Oppression began, lawlessness, and violence; men were ill-treated
on the highways; and women--what was worse--in their own homes; and the
regents abetted the ill-doers. "It seems," says a most impartial
historian, [Footnote: The late Sir F. Palgrave.] "as if the Normans,
released from all authority, all restraint, all fear of retaliation,
determined to reduce the English nation to servitude, and drive them to
despair."

In the latter attempt they succeeded but too soon; in the former, they
succeeded at last: but they paid dearly for their success.

Hot young Englishmen began to emigrate. Some went to the court of
Constantinople, to join the Varanger guard, and have their chance of a
Polotaswarf like Harold Hardraade. Some went to Scotland to Malcolm
Canmore, and brooded over return and revenge. But Harold's sons went to
their father's cousin; to Sweyn--Swend--Sweno Ulfsson, and called on him
to come and reconquer England in the name of his uncle Canute the Great;
and many an Englishman went with them.

These things Gospatrick watched, as earl (so far as he could make any one
obey him in the utter subversion of all order) of the lands between Forth
and Tyne. And he determined to flee, ere evil befell him, to his cousin
Malcolm Canmore, taking with him Marlesweyn of Lincolnshire, who had
fought, it is said, by Harold's side at Hastings, and young Waltheof of
York. But, moreover, having a head, and being indeed, as his final success
showed, a man of ability and courage, he determined on a stroke of policy,
which had incalculable after-effects on the history of Scotland. He
persuaded Agatha the Hungarian, Margaret and Christina her daughters, and
Edgar the Etheling himself, to flee with him to Scotland. How he contrived
to send them messages to Romsey, far south in Hampshire; how they
contrived to escape to the Humber, and thence up to the Forth; this is a

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