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The Rival Heirs being the Third and Last Chronicle of Aescendune by A. D. Crake

Part 5 out of 6

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conferred a long time--Zacharias departed--returned again--and in
the evening of the following day sought the bishop and placed a
packet in his hand.

It was the last night on which poor Wilfred was allowed by Norman
mercy to live. The archbishop was with him.

He was penitent and resigned; his last confession was made, and it
was arranged that on the morrow he should receive the Holy
Communion at St. George's Chapel, within the precincts, from the
hands of Lanfranc, ere led forth to die, as now ordered, upon that
mound the visitor to Oxford still beholds, hard by that same donjon

"I thank thee, father," he said to Lanfranc--"I thank thee for the
hope thou hast given me of meeting those I have lost, in a better
and brighter world."

"Thou diest penitent for thy sins, and forgiving thy foes?"

"I do, indeed; it has been a struggle, but thou hast conquered."

"Not I, but Divine grace;" and the mighty prelate turned aside to
hide a tear.

Another visitor was announced, and Geoffrey of Coutances drew near.

"Thou art resigned, my Wilfred?"

"I am, by God's grace."

"Yet thou lookest feeble and ill. Drink this tonic; it will give
thee strength to play the man tomorrow."

He emptied the contents of a phial into a small cup of water.
Wilfred drank it up.

"And now, my son, hast thou any message to leave behind thee?"

"When thou seest Etienne, tell him I forgive, as I trust he
forgives also--we have much to pardon each other--and beg him to be
a merciful lord to such poor English as yet dwell in Aescendune."

"I will, indeed, and so second your last appeal that I doubt not to

"And my sister--Hugo sent her, as he said, to be educated in the
convent of The Holy Trinity at Caen; convey her my last love, and a
lock of hair as a memento of her only brother. Poor Editha! she
will be alone now. Thou wilt care for her future fortunes; she has
a claim on the lands of Aescendune. Oh, Aescendune!--bright sky,
verdant fields, deep forest glades, pleasant river--thou passest to
Norman hands now."

It was the last moment of weakness.

"May I lie there beside my father?"

"Yes, thou shalt," said Lanfranc.

"After many years," muttered Geoffrey to himself, for he had a
secret, which he concealed from his more scrupulous brother.

Lanfranc rose to depart.

"Commend thyself to God in prayer; then sleep and dream of
Paradise. I will be with thee ere the October dawn."

And Lanfranc departed.

"How dost thou feel, my son?" said Geoffrey.

"Well, but strangely sleepy, as if control were leaving me and my
frame not my own. Was it a strengthening dose thou gavest me?"

"One which will, perchance, save thee. Lie on this bed; now sleep
if thou wilt--thou wilt arise the better for it."

And in a few minutes, all anxiety forgotten, Wilfred slept--slept
heavily. Geoffrey watched him awhile, then departed.

The morrow, and a great multitude of spectators had arranged
themselves around the slopes of the mound, just before sunrise.

On the tower itself stood Etienne de Malville, eager to see the end
of his hated rival, and to make sure, by ocular evidence, of his

The morning was clear, after high dawn. The spectator on the tower
looked towards the eastern hills, over the valley of the Cherwell,
to see the sun arise above the heights of Headington.

It came at last--the signal of death: a huge arc of fire, changing
rapidly into a semi-circle, and then into a globe. All the earth
rejoiced around, but a shudder passed through the crowd.

The headsman leaned upon his axe, but no procession yet approached.

The sun was now a quarter of an hour high, when a murmur passed
through the crowd that something had happened. At length the murmur
deepened into a report that Wilfred had been found dead in his bed.

"Died," said some, "by the judgment of God."

"The better for him," said others.

And there were even those who murmured bitterly that they were
disappointed of the spectacle, which they had left their beds to
witness. Such unfeeling selfishness is not without example in
modern times.

Etienne left the roof, burning with indignation, suspecting some
trick to cheat him of his vengeance.

"Come into this cell," said the soft voice of Lanfranc.

Etienne obeyed.

There lay his young rival, cold and pale. Etienne doubted no
longer; death was too palpably stamped upon the face.

"Canst thou forgive now?" said Lanfranc. "His last message was one
of forgiveness for thee."

"I know not. An hour ago I thought no power on earth could make me;
but we have each suffered wrongs."

"Ye have."

"I do forgive, then; requiescat in pace."

"So shall it be well with thee before God," said the good prelate.

So Wilfred was buried in the vaults of St. Frideswide's church. The
Archbishop Lanfranc celebrated the funeral mass. It was noticed
with surprise that Bishop Geoffrey absented himself from the
function and the subsequent burial rites.

The week ended, as all weeks come to an end. Lanfranc had gone to
Canterbury. The Conqueror, assured by trusty reporters of the death
of Wilfred, rejoiced that so satisfactory an accident had befallen,
sparing all publicity and shame to one he could but admire, as he
ever admired pluck and devotion.

Geoffrey alone remained a guest at a monastic foundation hard by
St. Frideswide's.

The midnight bell has struck twelve--or, rather, has been struck
twelve times by the sexton, in the absence of machinery.

All is silence and gloom in the church of St. Frideswide, and upon
the burial ground around.

Three muffled figures stand in a recess of the cloisters.

"This is the door," said the sexton; "but, holy St. Frideswide, to
go down there tonight!"

"Thou forgettest I am a bishop; I can lay spirits if they arise."

The sexton stood at the open door--a group of the bishop's
retainers farther off--that iron door which never opened to inmate

Geoffrey and the Jew advanced to the grave, amidst stone coffins
and recesses in the walls, where the dead lay, much as in the

They stopped before a certain recess.

There, swathed in woollen winding sheets, lay the mute form of
Wilfred of Aescendune.

"Let him see thee when he arises. The sight of this deathly place
may slay him. He will awake as from sleep. Take this sponge--bathe
well the brow; how the aromatic odour fills the vaults!"

A minute--no result. Another.

"Dog, hast thou deceived me and slain him? If so, thou shalt not

"Patience," said the Jew.

A heavy sigh escaped the sleeper.

"Thank God, he lives," said the bishop.

"Where am I? Have I slept long?"

"With friends--all is well.

"Cover his face; now bear him out to the air."

. . . . .

A barque was leaving the ancient port of Pevensey, bound for the
east. Two friends--one in the attire of a bishop, and a youth who
looked like a recent convalescent--stood on the deck.

"Farewell to England--dear England," said the younger.

"Thou mayest revisit it after thou hast fulfilled thy desire to
pray at thy Saviour's tomb, and to tread the holy soil His sacred
Feet have trodden; but it must be years hence."

"My best prayers must be for thee."

"Tut, tut, my child; thy adventures form an episode I love to think
of. See, Beachy Head recedes; anon thou shalt see the towers of
Coutances Cathedral across the deep."


Thirty years had passed away since the events recorded in our last
chapter, and the mighty Conqueror himself had gone to render an
account of his stewardship to the Judge of all men.

The thoughts and aspirations of all Christian people were now
attracted to far different subjects from the woes or wrongs of the
English nation. The Crusades had begun. Peter the Hermit had moved
all Christendom by his fiery eloquence, and sent them to avenge the
wrongs the pilgrims of the cross had sustained from Turkish hands,
and to free the holy soil from the spawn of the false prophet.

Since the Caliph Omar received the capitulation of Jerusalem, in
637, and established therein the religion of Mahomed, no greater
calamity had ever befallen Christendom than the conquest of Asia
Minor, and subsequently Syria, by the Turks.

The latter event, which occurred about nine years after the Norman
Conquest of England, transferred the government of Palestine, and
the custody of the holy places, from a race which, although
Mahometan, was yet tolerant, to a far fiercer and "anti-human"
government The "unspeakable Turk" had appeared on the scene of
European politics.

For, under the milder rule of the Fatimite Caliphs, who reigned
over Jerusalem from A.D. 969 to 1076, a peculiar quarter of the
holy city had been assigned to the Christians; a fair tribute
secured them protection, and the Sepulchre of Christ, with the
other scenes identified with the Passion, were left in their hands.
Greeks and Latins alike enjoyed freedom of worship, and crowds of
pilgrims flocked from all the western nations.

Then appeared our Turks on the scene. They first ravished Asia
Minor from the weak grasp of the later Roman Empire, and
established their capital and worship--the abomination of
desolation--where the first great Christian council had drawn up
the Nicene Creed, that is, at Nicaea in Bithynia.

Then, later on, under the Sultan Malek Shah, they attacked Syria
and Egypt, and the Holy Land passed under that blighting rule,
which has ever since withered it in its grasp, with a few brief

And now the scene changed: the pilgrims, who through innumerable
dangers had reached the holy city, only entered it to become the
victims of contumely and savage insult, and often perished by
brutal violence before they reached their goal--the Holy Sepulchre.

The very patriarch of Jerusalem was dragged by the hair and cast
into a filthy dungeon, in order to exact a heavy ransom from the
sympathy of his flock, and the tale of his sufferings harrowed all

For twenty years all this was borne.

At length came a pilgrim--then unknown to fame. He was a hermit,
named Peter, and came from Picardy in France. He mingled his tears
with those of the patriarch, to whom he obtained access.

"What can we do?" said the poor prelate. "The successors of
Constantine are no match for the fiery Turk."

"I will rouse the martial nations of Europe in your cause," was the

History tells how Peter the Hermit kept his word: how his fiery
eloquence aroused and kindled all hearts; how Christendom sent
forth her myriads, as under some potent spell.

At the council of Clermont, in November 1095, took place that
famous scene in the presence of Pope Urban, when the cry, "God
wills it," thrilled from myriad lips, and became the watchword of
the Crusaders.

Men sold their estates for mere trifles; kings and dukes, like
Robert of Normandy, mortgaged their very crowns, that they might
fight in so holy a cause; and avaricious, cunning, and greedy
monarchs, like Rufus, stayed at home and bought cheaply.

And as with the monarch, so with the vassal; land was a drug in the
market, and horses and arms went up cent per cent.

The principal leaders of the first great Crusade {xxvi} were
Godfrey de Bouillon (duke of the empire), Hugh of Vermandois,
Robert of Normandy, Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond and Tancred of
the race of Robert Guiscard, the Norman conqueror of southern

Under their leadership, Constantinople was reached in safety. Nicea
was besieged, and taken from the Turkish Sultan, Soliman.

Then they first met the Turks in battle array at Dorylaeum--an
awful conflict which took place on the 4th of July 1097, in which
nearly four hundred thousand Moslems were arrayed against the

The Sultan evacuated Asia Minor, and the expedition passed through
a wasted land and deserted towns, without meeting a single enemy.

Nine months they were delayed before the city of Antioch, from
October 1097 to June 1098, when the city was taken by storm.

Then they were besieged themselves in that city, by nearly half a
million of Turks, and though reduced to the shadow of their former
strength, they sallied forth and utterly defeated their besiegers,
whose camp fell into their hands. Nothing could stand before the
enthusiasm of the western warriors, who fancied they saw spectral
forms of saints and martyrs fighting by their side.

At length, all obstacles removed, in the month of May, in the last
year of the eleventh century, they entered the Holy Land.

On this sacred soil the action of our tale recommences.

. . . . .

It was a lovely evening in May, and the year was the last of the
eleventh century.

The sun had gone down about half an hour, but had left behind him a
flood of golden light in the west, glorious to behold--so calm, so
transparent was that heavenly after glow, wherein deep cerulean
blue was flecked with the brightest crimson or the ruddiest gold.

The moon had risen in the east, and was shining from a deep
dark-blue background, which conveyed the idea of immeasurable
space, with a brilliancy which she seldom or never attains in our
northern sky.

A group of warriors had kindled a fire beneath the wide-spreading
branches of an immense cedar tree, which had, perhaps, been planted
in the reign of Solomon to supply the loss of those cut down for
the temple by Hiram of Tyre.

The landscape was a striking one.

Above them, in the distance, opened a mighty gorge, through which
flowed the rushing waters of a mountain torrent, one of the sources
of the Jordan, issuing from the snows of Hermon.

Below, the country expanded into a gently undulating plain, studded
with cedars, which resembled in no small degree the precincts of
some old English park.

Let us glance at the warriors, and we shall speedily learn that
they are no natives of the soil.

The armour they have laid aside, the coats of linked mail, with
long sleeves of similar material, the big triangular shields,
plated gauntlets, and steel breastplates, sufficiently bespoke
their western nationality; but the red cross, conspicuous on the
right sleeve, told that they were Crusaders.

Their leader appeared to be a young knight who, one would think,
had scarcely won his spurs, or had but recently done so; and his
retinue was limited to the customary attendance upon a single
"lance," a dozen men-at-arms, completely equipped, and twice that
number of light archers.

Their horses were picketed at a slight distance, so that they might
graze easily, and like their owners, were divested of their
armour--for the steeds also were usually loaded with defensive mail
covering the more vital parts of their frames.

The flesh of a deer was roasting at the general fire, and diffusing
a savoury odour around, and all the members of the company were
intent upon rest and enjoyment.

Apart from them stood their solitary sentinel, looking with dreamy
gaze over the fair landscape, and musing, perchance, of far-off
England--of his distant love, or of wife and children, and
wondering, very likely, whether, the war ended, he would live to
return, with all the prestige of a warrior of the Cross, and tell
of the marvels of Eastern climes to many a rustic audience.

Amidst these musings a sound fell upon his ear, which at first he
did not recognise, but which rapidly assumed the character of that
rumbling, earth-shaking, thunder-like sound which a large body of
cavalry, approaching at a gallop, but yet afar off, would make.

He strained his gaze along the desert wastes, beneath the spreading
branches of many cedars; but as yet no sight met the eye to support
the impressions made already upon the ear.

It was not long, however, before the rapidly approaching sounds
became too distinct to suffer him to hesitate, and he gave the

The merry song ceased; the conversation dropped; and in the awful
stillness the senses of each man confirmed the report of the

"They may be friends," said the young knight.

"Friends are scarce in the desert," said an aged man-at-arms, the
Nestor of the expedition; "permit us to arm, my lord."

The word was given, and each man-at-arms hastened to his steed; the
archers--footmen--adjusted their bows, when a troop of wild
horsemen, approaching with the speed of the wind, became visible.

They appeared to number a hundred men, so far as they could be
discerned and their force estimated amidst the dust which they
created, and their ever-changing evolutions. Anon grim forms and
wild faces appeared from the cloud; spears glanced in every
direction--now whirled around their heads, now thrown and caught
with the dexterity of jugglers.

They seemed to manage their horses less by the bridle than by the
inflections of their bodies, so that they could spare, at need,
both hands for combat--the one to hold the bucklers of rhinoceros
skin or crocodile hide, the other to wield spear or scimitar.

Turbans surrounded their heads, and light garments their bodies;
but defensive armour had they none.

"Let them come on," said the young knight; "we would not give way,
though the desert yielded twenty times such scum."

But they knew too well their own inferiority in the charge to
venture upon the steel of their mail-clad opponents. At about a
hundred yards distance from their quarry they swerved, divided into
two parties, and, riding to the right and left of their Christian
opponents, discharged upon them such a storm of darts and arrows
that the very air seemed darkened.

"Charge," shouted the young knight, "for God and the Holy

They charged, but might as well have ridden after the mirage of the
desert; the speed of the Arab horses seemed incredible, and they
eluded the charge as easily as a hare might elude that of a
tortoise. The Crusaders returned to their original station around
the cedar.

They looked at each other. Ten bodies, dead or wounded, lay still,
or writhing on the ground; for they had not had time to cover
themselves fully with their defensive armour, ere the storm of
arrows came down upon them, and most of the party were bleeding.

"They are gone," said the young knight.

"Not they, my lord," replied his Nestor; "a hungry wolf does not so
easily satisfy his craving with a mouthful--not they; they will
come again, and in such a fashion, I fear, as to try our strength
rarely. See, they are wheeling round. Let each man look well to his
armour, steady his spear, guard himself well with shield. They may
charge this time, seeing our strength so sadly reduced."

"Hourra! hourra!" rang over the desert, and once more the savage
horsemen came down like eagles swooping upon their prey.

Again they divided; again they passed at a slight interval of
time--just enough to prevent their receiving, on either side, such
arrows from their own brethren as found no sheath in English shield
or flesh--passed like the wind, and the deadly cloud of
death-dealing darts came like the fatal simoon of the desert, upon
their helpless foe.

Nay, not quite helpless; for at least a dozen Arab steeds roamed
the plain riderless. English archers, for they were from England,
were English archers still.

But in so unequal a strife numbers must have finally prevailed.

It was impossible for the English to charge so impalpable an
assailant; all they could do was to protect themselves, as far as
possible, by shield and coat of mail, while behind the living
rampart of steel-clad warriors, the archers returned arrow for
arrow, so far as time and numbers suffered them.

"Shall we not charge?" whispered more than once our boyish knight
to the old warrior, who had fought thirty years before at Hastings,
by whose advice his elders had instructed him to abide in case of

"Nay, were we separated, they would find out every joint in our
mail, and riddle us with arrows till we looked like porcupines,
while they would never tarry to abide one honest blow of a
battle-axe. Upon our archers depends our chance."

It would be a waste of time to tell in detail how the assailants
again and again repeated the same manoeuvre, until their Christian
opponents were reduced to a handful, when at length the Turks
changed their tactics and suddenly charged with all their force.

All would have been over with the Crusaders, crushed beneath the
weight of numbers, in spite of their superior weapons, at close
quarters. All seemed ended; the young knight, indeed, protected by
his excellent armour, still fought with all the valour of his
Norman race--fought like a paladin of romance--when--

A sudden cry, "Holy Cross to the rescue!" and a gallant band of
light horsemen charged the Infidels in the rear.

The assailants became the assailed, and fled in all directions.

"Rise up, sir knight--for knight you should be," said a stern manly
voice; and a warrior of noble mien, whose features were yet hidden
behind his visor, raised the youthful hero from the ground.


An hour had passed away since the conflict had ceased, and all was
again peaceful and still. The Christian dead were buried; the
Moslems yet dotted the plain with prostrate corpses, whose unclosed
and glassy eyes met the gazer in every direction.

Of these the Crusaders reckoned little, nor did the ghastly
spectacle at all disturb their rest. They sorrowed, indeed, for
their own comrades; but when the parting prayers were breathed over
their desert graves, they dismissed even them from their thoughts.

"They have given their lives in a noble cause, and the saints will
take good care of them and make their beds in Paradise," was the
general sentiment.

And now the fire was rekindled, the wine skins passed round, the
venison steaks again placed on the glowing embers, and they
refreshed the inner man, with appetites sharpened by their
desperate exertions in the late struggle.

Close by the side of the young knight sat their deliverer, whose
followers mingled with the Englishmen around at one or other of the
fires they had kindled.

"A health," said the young knight--"a health to our deliverer. Had
he not come so opportunely to our rescue, we were now supping in

"What name shall I give to our honoured guest?"

"Men call me the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, but it is too proud
a title to be borne by mortal man."

"Art thou he, then, whose fame has filled our ears, of whom
minstrels sing, who with a band of stout followers defied the
Moslem's rage in these forest fastnesses, before even Peter
preached the word of God?"

"Thou hast exaggerated my merits, but be they many, or as I would
say few, I am he of whom they speak."

"We are indeed honoured, thrice honoured, to be saved by thee; and
these thy followers--of what nation are they?"

"Of all countries which rejoice in the light of the True Faith, but
they were Varangians {xxvii}, of the household guard of the
Emperor of the East, whose service I left, to avenge the injuries
of the pilgrim, and to clear him a path through these robber-infested

"And may I ask the country which is honoured by thy birth, the
nation which claims thee as her worthiest son?"

"I have no nation," said the knight; sadly; "for these thirty years
I have been an exile from home."

The young knight asked no further questions, fearing to probe some
secret wound. He gave the toast, and all drank it with cheers,
which made the solitude ring.

An indefinable interest centred in this knight: rumour made him a
noble of the later empire, the "Acolyth" or commander of that
famous band of guards, whom the policy of the Caesar gathered
around the tottering throne of Constantinople--exiles from all
nations, but especially from England--driven by various fortunes
from home. Hereward--and before him Norwegian Harold, who perished
at Stamford Bridge--had served in their ranks.

This knight, whose real name none knew, had been the first to take
up the sword in defence of the pilgrims, who sought the Holy
Sepulchre, and who, on their passage southward, through these
solitudes, were grievously maltreated by robbers, whom the Turkish
Government--ever the same--protected, provided they paid the due
tithe of their spoils to the Sultan.

In their mountain solitudes, fame reported the knight to have his
secret retreat, whence no Turk nor Saracen could dislodge him, and
whence he often issued, the protector of the Christian, the dread
of his oppressor.

He had thrown aside his visor. Time, and perhaps grief, had marked
many a wrinkle on his manly forehead; his hair and beard were
grizzled with time and exposure; his age might have been variously
estimated: he seemed to bear the weight of half a century at the
least, but perhaps toil and trouble had dealt more severely with
him than time.

"My son," he said, as he marked the intent gaze of the youth, who
was excited by finding himself the companion of one so distinguished
by feats of arms, "I have told thee my own vain designation; now,
let me be anon the catechist. Of what country art thou?"

"Hast thou heard of a fair island across the sea men call England?"

"Have I not?"

"That is then my home."

"Thou art an Englishman? or do I not rather see one of the blood of
the conquerors of that fair land."

And here he suppressed what might have been a sigh.

"I am indeed Norman by my father's side--a race none need blush to
own, and received but recently knighthood from the hands of Robert
of Normandy, after the battle of Dorylaeum; but by my mother's side
I am of English blood."

"And thou blushest not to own it?"

"Why should I? Norman and English have long been peacefully united
on my father's lands, and we know no distinction."

"Such, I have heard, is not yet everywhere the case in thine
island; but thou hast not told me thy name."

"Edward of Aescendune, son of Etienne, lord of Aescendune in
England, and Malville in Normandy."

The stranger started as if an arrow had suddenly pierced him. The
young knight looked on him with amazement.

"A fit to which I am subject--it is nothing," said he, regaining
his composure and drinking a goblet of wine. "May I ask thy
mother's name? Thou saidst she was English."

"Edith, daughter of Edmund, the English lord of Aescendune, and
Winifred his wife."

The knight was still evidently unwell--a deadly pallor sat on his

"I fear me thou art hurt."

"Nay, my son; one who like myself has lain for weeks in unwholesome
caverns, with but scanty fare sometimes, contracts a tendency to
this kind of seizure. It will pass away."

"Art thou interested in England? Perhaps thyself English by birth?"

"I have said I have no country," replied he, sadly.

The young lord of Aescendune remembered his designation of himself
as an exile, and forbore to inquire, lest he should unawares renew
some ancient wound.

The manner in which the knight addressed his young companion had
something in it of tender interest; his voice sounded like that of
one who spake with emotion forcibly suppressed.

"Thy mother is yet living?" said he, with forced calmness.

"She mourns our absence in the halls of Aescendune, yet she could
not grudge us to the Cross, and methinks she finds consolation in
many a holy deed of mercy and charity."

"Hast thou any brethren, or art thou her only child?"

"Nay, we are four in number--two boys and two girls. My brother
Hugh is destined to be the future lord of Malville, and I, if I
survive, shall inherit Aescendune."

"Thy mother, my boy, must miss thee sadly. How bore she the pain of

"Religion came to her aid, and does still. I can fancy her each
morning as she kneels before the altar of St. Wilfred, and wearies
heaven with prayer for her absent lord and her boy, and perhaps
those prayers sent thee to my deliverance this night."

"Thrice blessed they who have so pious a mother. The Priory of St.
Wilfred didst thou say? Methinks he was an English saint."

"It is the third building which has existed within the century on
the spot. The first was burnt in the troubles which followed the
Conquest; the second, dedicated to St. Denys, shared the same fate,
and when the present priory was built, my father, who had brought
his English wife from the convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen,
where she received her education, restored the old dedication, as I
imagine to give her pleasure."

"Thy father, thou sayest, is with thee in this land?"

"He has gone forward with the host to the siege of the Holy City. I
was wounded on that glorious day when we scattered half a million
followers of Mohammed, who had penned us within the walls of
Antioch; and he left me with this faithful squire, Osmund--an old
man who fought with my grandsire at Hastings--to tarry in the city
till I should be fit to travel. Now we are journeying southward in
haste, fearing we shall be too late for our share in the holy work.
Dost thou not travel thitherward--thou of all men?"

"Even now I hasten, lest my unworthy eyes should fail to behold the
deliverance of that Holy Sepulchre whence my designation is taken.
We will travel together, so will thy journey be safer, for these
Turks hang like carrion upon the skirts of the grand army."

"Blithely do I accept thine offer. I would not willingly perish in
some obscure skirmish when the gates of Jerusalem are as the gates
of heaven before me, and I shall present my preserver to my father.
Are you ill again--I fear me--"

"It is nothing. Earthly feelings must not be permitted to mingle
with our sacred call."

"But I may introduce you to him?"

"When our work is done--thou mayest. The hill of Calvary will be
the fitting place, where--"

Here the knight paused, and was silent for awhile, then said--"It
is night, and night is the time for rest; we must sleep, my young
brother in arms, if we would be fit for travel tomorrow. See, we
alone are watchers; our companions are all wrapped in slumber--save
the sentinels, I will but assign the latter their posts and hours,
and seek nature's greatest boon to man."

Edward of Aescendune would fain have joined in this duty, but the
older soldier bade him rest, in a tone of gentle authority which he
could not resist. And the stern warrior drew the embers of the
fire, so as to warm the feet of the youth, while he cast a mantle
over him to protect him from the heavy dew.

The Knight of the Holy Sepulchre departed upon his rounds, and
assigned to the sentinels their posts, after which he returned and
lay amidst the sleeping forms beneath the cedars, the branches of
which were ever and anon fitfully illumined as some brand fell and
caused a flame to arise. He gazed intently, nay, even fondly, upon
the ingenuous face of the sleeping youth.

"How like his mother he is--what a load his simple tale has removed
from my breast! God, I thank thee! the old house of my fathers yet
lives in this boy--worthier far than I to represent it."


The remainder of the journey of Edward of Aescendune to the camp of
the Crusaders before Jerusalem was uneventful. With such an escort
as the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre and his well-known band, there
was little occasion to dread the onslaught of any of those troops
of Turks or Saracens, who hung on the skirts of the Crusading
hosts, to cut off the stragglers.

They skirted the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, crossed the
Jordan at the fords below, and travelled southwards along its
eastern bank.

The reason of this detour was twofold.

First, it was the route taken by the Saviour of mankind, on His
last journey to the guilty city which crucified Him; and the Knight
of the Holy Sepulchre felt a spiritual satisfaction in tracing the
steps of the Redeemer.

Secondly, the direct route had been taken by the host, and, like
locusts, they had devoured all the provisions on the way, and
scared from their track every edible beast.

From time to time the elder knight pointed out some venerable ruin
which tradition--ever active, if not always truthful--identified as
a resting place of the Divine Wayfarer; but there was little doubt
that they crossed the Jordan at the same fords which had been in
use in those far-off days, shortly before they entered and passed
through the city of ruins, which had once been Jericho.

Then followed the ascent of the rocky way, familiar to the readers
of the parable of the "Good Samaritan;" and let me remind my
younger friends that even in the days when there were few readers
and fewer books, all the leading episodes of our Lord's life,
including His miracles and parables, were oft-told tales

It was a day of feverish excitement when they drew near Bethany and
the Mount of Olives. All the followers of the young English knight,
who had never been in Palestine before, looked forward to the
moment when the Holy City would first meet their gaze with an
intense expectation which even rendered them silent; only as they
pressed onward they sometimes broke out into the Crusading
hymn--familiar to them as some popular song to modern soldiers.

And this was the song:

"Coelestis urbs, Hierusalem
Beata pacis visio,"

It was hardly to be a vision of peace to them.

At length they stood on the slope of the same hill where the
Redeemer had wept over the guilty city; and--will my readers
believe me?--many of these men of strife--familiar with war and
bloodshed--did not restrain their tears of joy, as they forgot
their toils past, and dangers yet to come, ere they could enter the
holy walls.

This had been their longing expectation--this the goal of their
wearisome journey; they had oft doubted whether their eyes would
ever behold it--and now--It lay in all its wondrous beauty--beautiful
even then--before them; but, the banners of the false prophet floated
upon the Hill of Zion.

Across the valley of the Kedron rose the Mosque of Omar, on the
site of the Temple of Solomon; farther to the left lay the fatal
Valley of Hinnom, once defiled by the fires of Moloch; but on
neither of these sides lay the object of the greatest present
interest--the Christian Host.

Their attack was directed against the northern and western sides of
the city, where the approach was far more easy.

"There is the standard of Godfrey de Bouillon, on the first swell
of Mount Calvary," said the elder knight; "there on the left, where
the Jewish rabble erst stoned St. Stephen, Tancred and Robert of
Normandy conduct the attack; there, between the citadel and the
foot of Mount Zion, floats the banner of Raymond of Toulouse."

"And there, amidst the banners which surround the ducal lion of
Normandy, I see our own," cried young Edward. "Oh! let us charge
through that rabble and join them."

"Thine is a spirit I love to see; come, it shall be done--St.
George for merry England--Holy Sepulchre--en avant;" and the whole
galloped madly down the descent, first bringing the news of their
own arrival to a mixed crew of Saracens and Turks--an irregular
corps of observation which had got in their way.

They cleft their way to the very centre, as a wedge driven by a
powerful mallet cleaves its way to the heart of the tree. The
followers of Mohammed scattered in all directions, and then, like
wasps, clustered around in hope to sting.

Their fleet horses enabled them to keep near the Christian cavalry,
and to annoy them by countless flights of arrows, darts, and
spears, while, as usual, they avoided close contest, as a hunter
would avoid the hug of the bear. When they could not do so, it was
wondrous to see how limbs flew about, and bodies were cleft to the
very chine before the ponderous battle-axes of Western Christendom.

Still, it was with lessened numbers that our heroes fought their
way through, and had it not been that a body of Crusading cavalry,
attracted by the tumult, came prancing down the hill to their
rescue, in all the pomp and panoply of mediaeval warfare, they
might have fared worse.

There was a smart engagement when the succours arrived, ending in
the complete disappearance of all the Saracens and Turks from the
scene, while the victors rode together to the camp, exchanging
news, as if such a small affair was not worth talking about.

When they reached the camp, Edward of Aescendune exerted his powers
of persuasion in vain to induce the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre to
accompany him to his father's tent, there to receive the paternal

"When the city is taken, and the Holy Sepulchre free, and the army
(bareheaded and barefooted) accomplishes its vow on Calvary--then,
but not before--we shall meet--Etienne de Malville and--" he
paused, then continued, "and I shall meet once more."

"Once more? have you ever met before?"

"We have, but long ago--let it pass, my son. God's blessing rest
upon thee and protect thee on the morrow, when thou wilt, I fear,
have scant care for thyself."

"It is for Jerusalem or Paradise. I shall rest in one or the other
by tomorrow night at this time. I leave which to God."

"Good youth; the saints keep thee, dear boy, for thy fond mother's

At that word mother, a tear stood in the warlike stripling's eye.
An embrace fonder than seemed usual with the stern knight of many
deeds, and they parted.

If our tale had not protracted itself to such an extravagant length
already, it would delight us to tell of the feats of valour
performed respectively, by the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, by
Etienne de Malville, and by Edward his son; but it must suffice to
narrate in as few words as may be, the oft-told history of that
eventful day.

On the fortieth day of the siege the city was carried by assault,
and on Friday, at three in the afternoon, the day and even the hour
of the death of the Son of God, Godfrey de Bouillon planted his
standard on the walls, the first of the noble army of Crusaders.

Thus, four hundred and sixty years after the conquest of Christian
Jerusalem by the Mahometan, Caliph Omar, it was delivered from the
yoke of the false prophet.

Seventy thousand Moslems were slain by the sword; for three whole
days the massacre continued, until each worshipper of Mahomet had
been sought out amidst the hiding places of the city--full of
secret nooks and corners--and put to death.

And now, after this bloody sacrifice--the fruit of mistaken
zeal--the Christians proceeded to accomplish their vow, with every
mark of penitence. With bare heads and bleeding feet they mounted
the Via Dolorosa (the sorrowful way) and wept where the great
sacrifice had been offered for their sins. They literally bedewed
the sacred soil with their tears.

So strange a union of fierceness and piety may well astonish us,
but our office is to relate the facts.

It was over, this strange but touching act of devotion, and the
sacred hill was partially deserted. Here and there a group of
weeping penitents lingered, and on the spot where tradition
asserted the cross to have been raised, many were seen yet waiting
their turn to salute the ground reverently with their lips.

Two knightly warriors, a father and a son, who had just performed
this act of devotion, arose together, and as they gained their
feet, observed their immediate predecessor in the pious act,
awaiting them, as if he wished to accost them.

They were all, as we have seen, bareheaded, neither did they wear
any armour or weapons--all resistance had ceased, and with it all
warfare, before the ceremony of the day had begun.

"Father," said young Edward, "it is my deliverer."

The Knight of the Holy Sepulchre beckoned them to follow, and
together they gained the outskirts of the crowd.

Etienne de Malville has greatly changed since we last beheld him.
In the place of the sprightly, impetuous youth, our readers must
imagine a warrior, past the middle age; one whose scanty hair was
already deeply tinged with gray. Thirty years had left many
wrinkles on his brow; but where impatience and fiery temper had
once sat visible to all, age and experience had substituted
self-control and wisdom.

"I have to thank thee, my valiant brother in arms, for the life of
my son. To whom do I render my thanks? Well do I know thy fame as
the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre; but our vow accomplished, we may
lay aside our incognitos and assume our names once more."

"We may indeed, and I will utter the name of one--long since
numbered with the dead in the records of men, and re-assume it upon
this sacred mount."

Etienne gazed intently upon the open face, but no look of
recognition followed.

"I crave thy pardon, if I ought to recognise thee, yet truth
compels me to say I do not."

"Nor can I wonder; didst thou recognise me, thou wouldst think me a
ghost permitted to revisit the land of the living--one whom thou
didst actually behold wrapped in the cere cloth of the tomb!--whose
funeral thou didst witness with thine own eyes! Yet he lives, and
feels sure that thou wilt not revoke, upon this holy hill, that
pardon from the living, thou didst bestow upon the seeming dead."

Etienne trembled.

"Art thou then? nay, it cannot be!"

"Etienne de Malville, I am Wilfred of Aescendune."

For a moment Etienne turned pale, and gazed as if to make sure he
did not behold a ghost or a vampire--gazed like one startled out of
his self possession, and the first emotion which succeeded was
sheer incredulity; there was small trace of the once fair-haired
English boy in the sunburnt, storm-beaten warrior of fifty to
assist his memory.

"Nay, my brother, it cannot be; thou art jesting;--not, at least,
the Wilfred of Aescendune I once knew, and by whom I fear I dealt
somewhat hardly; he died, and was buried at Oxenford thirty years
agone. I saw his dead body; I beheld his burial; I have joined in
masses for his soul; I have prayed for his repose; nay, it cannot

But when in few words, but words to the purpose, Wilfred explained
the device of Geoffrey of Coutances--when he reminded Etienne of
facts, which none but he could have known--conviction gradually,
but firmly, seized the mind of his ancient enemy.

"I believe that thou art he," said the latter, with trembling
voice; "believe, though I cannot yet realise the fact, and I thank

He extended his hand gravely, and Wilfred grasped it with equal

"Thou art, then, my uncle Wilfred I have so long been taught to
think dead, for whom I have prayed many a time, for whom countless
masses have been offered at St. Wilfred's shrine," said young

"Thou hast not, then, been taught to hate me?"

"No, indeed," said the boy; "why should I?"

"He knows nought of the quarrel between us, save what it is fitting
that Edith's child should know," said Etienne. "It is well that
upon this holiest spot on earth, whence the Prince of Life uttered
the words which have floated through the ages--'Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do'--that Etienne de Malville and
Wilfred of Aescendune should become friends."

"It is, indeed."

"I have long been conscious that thou wast not alone to blame--that
thou hast to forgive as well as I; but thou, like myself, hast long
since, I am sure, earned the right to breathe the prayer, 'Forgive
us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.'"

Once more they grasped hands--Etienne still like one in a dream.

"Come now to my tent. There thou mayst tell me all the details of
thy story, and I will tell thee news, unless this boy, my son and
thy nephew, has anticipated me, of those thou didst leave behind
thirty years ago in England. Thy sister Edith is my beloved wife,
and in this boy Norman and Englishman meet together, the merits of
each combined, the faults obliterated, if a father may be trusted."

And the friends, who once were foes, entered the tent of Etienne.


"Last scene of all,
Which ends this strange eventful history."

Once more we must ask our readers to accompany us to Aescendune--it
is for the last time--to witness the final scenes recorded in these
veracious Chronicles.

Thirty-four years have passed since the battle of Hastings; and our
tale has now advanced to the autumn of the last year of the
eleventh century.

The face of the country is little altered since we last beheld it,
so far as the works of God are concerned: the woods, His first
temples, and the everlasting hills stand, as when Elfric and his
brother hunted therein with Prince Edwy, or the sainted Bertric
suffered martyrdom in the recesses of the forest, at the hands of
the ruthless Danes {xxix}.

But the works of man are more transitory, and in them there is a
great change. The Norman castle rebuilt by Etienne stands where
erst stood the Anglo-Saxon hall; the new Priory of St. Wilfred's
resembles that of St. Denys in architecture, although it bears the
name of the old English saint, to whose honour the first sacred
pile, erected by Offa of Aescendune was dedicated; the houses which
dot the scene are of a more substantial character; stone is
superseding wood. Whatever were its darker features, the Norman
conquest brought with it a more advanced civilisation, especially
as expressed in architecture {xxx}.

Within her bower, as the retiring apartments of the lady of the
castle were termed, sat Edith of Aescendune, not the first who had
borne that name. She had now passed middle age, and her years would
soon number half a century, yet time had dealt very kindly with
her, and but few shades of grey appeared amidst her locks. The
traces of a gentle grief were upon her, but men said she mourned
for the absence of her lord and her eldest son, and her thoughts
seemed far away from the embroidery at which she worked with her
maidens--an altar frontal for the priory church.

She thought of the far East--of the sandy wastes of Syria. Or her
fancy painted the holy city, with her dear ones as worshippers in
its reconquered shrines.

For she had not found an unkind lord in Etienne. The scenes which
he had passed through, as related in the earlier pages of this
Chronicle, had produced fruit for good, which Lanfranc (under whose
spiritual guidance he placed himself) had zealously tended and

He dared not think of his father, of whose guilt he could not but
be unwillingly convinced; nor was it true in his case:

"He who's convinced against his will
Is but an unbeliever still."

But there was one act of mercy of which he had been the object,
which above all influenced and changed his heart towards the
English. And that was the Christian charity he had received from
the aged Englishwoman, the nurse of Wilfred, whose son Eadwin he
had so cruelly slain in the Dismal Swamp.

Acting under the advice of Lanfranc, he had sought and obtained
Edith in marriage, and had thereby, like Henry Beauclerc, united
the claims of conquerors and conquered in his person. He had
obtained from the king a promise of free pardon to all the refugees
yet in the Dismal Swamp, where it will be remembered the poor
English had fled, who were unfit to accompany Wilfred to the Camp
of Refuge, and had thereupon invited them all to rebuild their old
homes and dwell in them.

At first they would not trust him, but through the mediation of
Father Kenelm and of poor old Hilda, he succeeded in gaining their
confidence, and he did not betray their trust.

So Norman and Englishman were happily united at Aescendune, and in
spite of some little difficulties, arising from the airs the
conquerors could not help giving themselves, became more like one
people daily; and in a few years, so many followed their lord's
example, and intermarried with the English, captivated by the
beauty of the Anglo-Saxon maidens, that distinction of race became
speedily abolished, and hence Aescendune was perhaps the happiest
village in the distracted island.

The priory was rebuilt, as well as the castle, and occupied by
Benedictine monks of both races; but unlike most other monasteries,
it had an English prior. Lanfranc had appointed Father Kenelm, at
Etienne's earnest request, in gratitude for events in which that
good father had borne his part in the Dismal Swamp. This
appointment, more than aught else, reconciled the English to Norman

At first Edith feared her new lord, whom she had been compelled to
marry, remembering the sadness of her mother's married life; but
his persistent kindness won her heart; and after the birth of young
Edward, whom we have introduced to our readers, all restraint was
removed, and they were as happy a pair as need be.

Their children were taught to converse in both tongues--Old English
and Norman French--and to treat all alike, the kinsfolk of father
or of mother.

Putting together the details given by Edward of Aescendune to the
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and these few outlines of intervening
events, our readers will have little difficulty in understanding
the history of the thirty years.

Within her bower (as we have said) was the lady of Aescendune.
Seated in an embrasure of the lofty tower in which her rooms were
situate, her attention became fixed upon a horseman, who was riding
swiftly towards the castle from the direction of Warwick.

"I wonder," thought she, "whether this be a messenger from--" and
then she checked the thought, as though it must end in disappointment.

For months she had not heard from the absent ones. She knew
Jerusalem was taken; but if any letters had been sent, they had
miscarried--no unlikely circumstance in those days.

The messenger reached the castle.

Soon steps were heard ascending the stairs with such precipitate
haste, that the lady felt sure that some important tidings had

Young Hugh--an active, fresh-coloured boy, with his Father's
features, tempered by the softer expression of his mother,
perhaps--bounded into the room.

"Oh, mother! lady mother!--letters from father, about him and
Edward. The man below is old Tristam--you remember Tristam who went
to the wars. They have landed, landed, and are upon the road home.
Oh! happy day. Tristam was sent forward. Read,--only read."

She was as pale as death, and fainting from the sudden shock.
Excess of joy has its dangers.

Her two girls, Margaret and Hilda, had followed their brother, and
their gentle care soon restored her: but the shock had been great.

"Read, mother,--read," said Hugh.

The accomplishments of reading and writing--for they were
accomplishments then--were possessed both by husband and wife.

We will give but one paragraph in the letter:

We have landed safely at Southampton, my own Edith. God has
preserved us from many dangers, doubtless owing to thy many prayers
at St. Wilfred's altar. Thou hast, I hope, received safely the
letters I sent from Joppa last autumn, and knowest whom I am
bringing home with me. How wonderful it all is, and with what
strange feelings the exile must approach the home of his boyhood!
But he is very composed and quiet in his manner, and we grow in
mutual esteem daily. He declares that he will accept no part of his
ancient inheritance, but that he finds his highest joy in thinking
that, in his sister's children, the descendants of the ancient line
yet possess the land of their forefathers.

"What can he mean? Whom is he bringing with him? Send for Tristam.
Ah! I see there is the old prior at the gate--he is talking with
him;" and Hugh hurried down to fetch them up.

They entered the room: our old friend, Father Kenelm, as hale an
old man as one could well find at seventy-five years of
age--Wilfred's protector and friend, in the most critical moments
of his life--and Tristam--do our readers remember him?

"God bless you, my children, in joy as in sorrow," was his

"How far are they off?"

"When will they be here?" and Tristam, who stood humbly at the
door, found himself the object of universal attraction, and did not
know which to answer first.

"Welcome, Tristam, welcome," said his lady; "thou art the morning
star, the harbinger of my sun. How far hence are they?"

"They will be here by sunset, my lady."

"I will go and meet them," cried Hugh, and ran down stairs to get
his horse ready.

"But whom is he bringing with him?"

"My child," said Father Kenelm, "has he not told thee?"

"Nay, he speaks so mysteriously--read."

Father Kenelm read. Then, looking up, he spoke with deep emotion.
Tristam had told him all.

"One long since dead to the world, and as many thought buried. I
alone knew of his existence, as a secret which I was absolutely
forbidden to disclose; and as many years had elapsed since I last
heard of him, I thought him dead--he who was once the hope of

"End our suspense!"

"Thou hadst a brother once--a bright, laughing, fair-haired boy,
whom thou didst love whilst father and mother lived. I speak of
events long forgotten, save by me."

"Nay, I have never forgotten him. Hast thou not often commemorated
him amongst the faithful departed, at my request?"

"Only as one, whom the world might yet contain in the body, or
whose soul heaven might have received--I knew not which. Well, my
lady, this thy brother yet lives."


"And is returning home with thy husband."

"Wilfred alive!--nay, thou jestest. He died at Oxenford and was
buried there, nearly thirty years agone."

"Geoffrey, then Bishop of Coutances, deceived the lad's enemies by
a fictitious death and burial, but forbade the rescued youth to
return home, or make his existence known, save to me."

At this moment, the gleams, the parting beams, of the setting sun
shone upon pennon and upon lance, issuing from the wood afar off.
The multitude, who had assembled below, saw the sight, and rushed
tumultuously forward to meet their kinsfolk.

Hugh forgot the story about his uncle, ran down stairs, and joined
the throng, who pressed over the bridge.

Amidst the pomp of banners, the crash of trumpets, and the loud
acclamations and cheers of the crowd, the Crusaders reached home,
and entered the castle yard.

Edith fell into the arms of her lord as he dismounted, then sought
her son. She knew not to which to turn.

A grave personage, who studied hard to maintain his composure, but
whose eyes were filled with tears, had also dismounted, and was
standing by.

"Edith," cried Etienne, "behold our brother."

And she fell upon his neck with a torrent of tears, as all the life
of her childhood rushed upon her--"hours that were to memory dear."

Only a few more lines are needed to dismiss the heroes and
personages of our tale to rest.

Wilfred spent a few happy days with his brother-in-law cheered by
the society of his sister and her children.

Between him and Etienne all clouds had departed; they had learned,
amidst the perils of the return journey, to appreciate each other,
and wondered they had ever been such foes.

Once only he visited the Dismal Swamp, the scene of such exciting
events in his earlier life. He found it an utter wilderness, not a
house had been left standing; Etienne had wished to abolish the
very remembrance of the scenes in which, as his conscience told
him, he had acted so ill a part, and when he had succeeded in
persuading the English to trust him, and return to Aescendune, he
had fired the little hamlet and reduced it to ashes.

The brook murmured in solitude and silence, the birds sang
undisturbed by the strife of men.

The scene of Edwin's death from the arrows of Etienne's followers
could hardly be identified; but under the very tree where Pierre
had fallen in stern retaliation, Wilfred knelt, and besought pardon
for himself and rest for the soul which he had sent so hurriedly
before the judgment seat.

"Oh how much we had to forgive each other, Etienne and I," he said
half aloud.

These words caused him to raise his head, and look instinctively
over the place where the light wind was bowing down the heads of
the tall reeds and sedges, which grew where the fire, that
destroyed Count Hugo and his band, had swept over their

These remembrances saddened him, he returned to the castle--the
prey of conflicting emotions.

But much did Wilfred marvel at the peace and concord that reigned
in this happy village, in such contrast to the discord which
elsewhere marked the relations between Englishman and Norman, the
conquered and the conquerors; and one day he ventured to remark
upon the happy change to his old rival and brother-in-law.

"Come with me," said Etienne, "and I will explain it all."

He led Wilfred to the Priory Church, and they entered the hallowed
pale, with its round Norman arches and lofty roof, where the very
tread seemed an intrusion upon the silence, which spake of the
eternal repose that shall be, after the storms of this troublesome
world have their end.

There is something in the Early Norman architecture which appears
to the writer awe-inspiring; the massive round column, the bold and
simple arch, have a more solemn effect upon his senses than the
loveliest productions of the more florid and decorated period.

Such a stern and simple structure was this Priory Church of St.
Wilfred of Aescendune.

It was the hour of nones, and the strains of the hymn of St.
Ambrose, "Rerum Deus tenax vigor," were pealing from the
Benedictines in the choir: which has been thus paraphrased:

"O strength and stay, upholding all creation:
Who ever dost Thyself unmoved abide,
Yet, day by day, the light, in due gradation,
From hour to hour, through all its changes guide.

"Grant to life's day a calm unclouded ending,
An eve untouched by shadow of decay,
The brightness of a holy death bed, blending
With dawning glories of the eternal day {xxxi}."

His thoughts full of the ideas suggested by the solemn strain,
Wilfred followed Etienne into the south transept.

There, upon a plain altar tomb of stone lay the effigy of an aged
matron, her hands clasped in prayer, and beneath were the words:


The "rival heirs" stood by the tomb, their hands clasped, while the
tears streamed down their cheeks. It was she indeed, who by her
simple obedience to the Divine law of love, which is the central
idea of the Gospel, had reconciled jarring hearts, and brought
about, in Aescendune, the reign of peace and love.

"I strove," said Etienne, at last breaking the long silence, "to be
a son to her, in place of the ill-fated boy whom I so cruelly slew;
nor were my efforts in vain, or my repentance unaccepted. We built
her a house, on the site of her ancient cottage, and when strife
arose, we often submitted the matter to her judgment, and she, who
had been the foster mother of one lord, and the preserver from
death of the other, reconciled the followers of both.

"When at last the hour came for her to commit her sweet soul to
God, I stood by her dying bed.

"'Mother,' said I, 'what can I do when thou art gone to show my
love for thy memory?'

"'Only go on as thou hast begun,' she replied, 'be a father to all
thy people, Englishman and Norman alike, and their prayers will
succour thee at the judgment seat of God--I go into peace.'

"And she left peace behind her--"

Here Etienne could say no more, and the two "rival heirs" stood a
long time gazing upon the "cold marble and the sculptured stone,"
while tears which were no disgrace to their manhood fell like
gentle rain from heaven.

Soon after this Wilfred had a long conference with Prior Kenelm.
The result was, that he announced his intention of retiring from
the world and ending his days in the cloister. His years had been
years of strife and tumult--he would give the residue to God.

So he entered the famous order of St. Benedict, and after the death
of Father Kenelm became the prior of the monastery dedicated to his
patron saint--founded by his own forefathers.

His greatest joy was when surrounded by his nephews and
nieces--yea, great-nephews and great-nieces, after the happy
marriage of Edward of Aescendune to Lady Agatha of Wilmcote.

Etienne and Edith lived blessed in each other's love to the end.
The Norman estates fell to Hugh, the English ones to Edward, who
not unworthily represented both English and Norman lines--"a knight
without fear and without reproach."

The last years of our hero, Wilfred, were years of tranquil
happiness and serene joy, such as Milton wrote of in later ages, in
those lines of wondrous beauty:

"Let my due feet never fail
To walk the cloisters hallowed pale,
With storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religions light,
And let the pealing organ blow
To the foil-voiced choir below,
Bring all heaven before mine eyes,
Dissolve me into ecstasies."

In the ruins of the abbey of St. Wilfred the spectator may notice a
cross-legged knight, whose feet rest upon a vanquished lion. His
whole attitude is expressive of intense action; the muscles seem
strained in the effort to draw his sword and demolish a Turk, while
the face expresses all that is noble in manly courage.

Hard by lies a prior in his vestments, his hands meekly clasped.
The colour has not yet quite faded, which embellished the statue;
but the remarkable thing is the face. Even yet, in spite of the
broken and mouldering stone, there is a calmness of repose about
that face which is simply wonderful.

It has been our task to call them both back to life--knight and
prior, and to make them live in our pages. Pardon us, gentle
readers, for the imperfect way in which we have fulfilled it.

Thus ends the Third and last Chronicle of Aescendune.

i Ordericus Vitalis, lib. iv. 523.

ii William of Malmesbury.

iii Sassenach equals Saxon.

iv It seems strange how such a misconception could ever have
arisen and coloured English literature to so great an extent, for
if we turn to the pages of the contemporaneous historians, such as
Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, Florence of Worcester,
Ordericus Vitalis--born within the century of the Conquest--we find
that they all describe the Anglo-Saxons as English, not Saxons.

v See the Second Chronicle, chapter VI.

vi Genealogy of Aescendune.

The reader may be glad to have the genealogy of the family, in whom
it has been the author's aim to interest him, placed clearly before
him. The following table includes the chief names in the three
Chronicles; the date of decease is given in each case.

Offa, 940.
* Oswald, 937.
+ Ragnar, 959.
* Ella, 959.
+ Elfric, 960.
+ Alfred, 998, m. Alftrude.
o Elfric, 975.
o Elfwyn, 1036, m. Hilda.
# Bertric, 1006.
# Ethelgiva, 1064, m. Alfgar.
@ Edmund, 1066, m. Winifred.
- Wilfred, 1122.
- Edith, 1124, m. Etienne, 1110.
@ Elfleda, 1030.
o Cuthbert, 1034 (Prior).
o Bertha, 1030, m. Herstan.
# Winifred, 1067.
+ Edgitha, 990.

vii This Herstan figures largely in "Alfgar the Dane." He
married Bertha, daughter of Alfred of Aescendune, the hero of the
"First Chronicle." See the genealogical table at the end of the

"By Thy Cross and Passion;
Good Lord, deliver her."

ix Poison amongst the Normans.

It may be thought by many readers that the poisoner's art could
never have flourished among so chivalrous a people as the Normans;
but the contrary was the case; and there are several instances of
such foul murders in the pages of the old chroniclers, sufficient
to justify the introduction of the scene in our story.

At the plot called the Bridal of Norwich, A.D. 1075, Roger, Earl of
Hereford, and Ralph, Earl of Norwich, did not scruple to accuse
William himself of the murder of Conan, Duke of Brittany, who,
finding that the duke was on the point of withdrawing all his
troops for the invasion of England, prepared to take advantage of
it by making a raid upon Normandy. It was said that William could
think of no other means of meeting the difficulty, than by causing
the gauntlets and helmet of the unfortunate Conan to be poisoned by
one of his chamberlains, who held lands in Normandy, and was under
William's influence. Conan, however, did not die till the 11th of
December, after the battle of Senlac, and the accusation is hard to
reconcile with the general character of William. Ordericus relates
that Walter, Count of Pontoise, and his wife, were murdered at
Falaise, when prisoners, by poison "treacherously administered by
their enemies," A.D. 1064.

x Anglo-Saxon Outlaws.

The true secret of the sympathy of the English people with such
noted outlaws as Robin Hood and Little John, and their companions,
is, that they were made such by Norman tyranny, and maintained
their freedom in the greenwoods, when the usurping barons had
reduced the people elsewhere to slavery. Hence their exploits were
sung by every minstrel, and received with enthusiasm.

"History," says Thierry, "has not understood these outlaws; it has
passed them over in silence, or else, adopting the legal acts of
the time, it has branded them with names which deprive them of all
interest--such as 'rebels,' 'robbers,' 'banditti.'

"But let us not," continues the historian, "be misled by these
odious titles; in all countries, subjugated by foreigners, they
have been given by the victors to the brave men who took refuge in
the mountains and forests, abandoning the towns and cities to such
as were content to live in slavery."

Such were our refugees in the Dismal Swamp.

xi See "Alfgar the Dane."

xii "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him
drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."

xiii Martyrdom of St. Edmund, King of East Anglia.

This saintly king fought against the Danes, under Hinguar and
Hubba, in defence of his country. Being defeated, he was taken
prisoner by the enemy, who offered him his life, and restoration to
his kingdom, if he would renounce Christianity, and become
tributary. Upon his refusal he was tied naked to a tree, cruelly
scourged, and then shot slowly to death with arrows, calling upon
the name of Christ throughout his protracted martyrdom, Who
doubtless did not fail His servant in his hour of extreme need.

The strangest part of the story has yet to be told. An old oak was
pointed out as the tree of the martyrdom until very recent years.
Sceptics, of course, doubted the fact; but when the tree was blown
down in a violent storm, a Danish arrowhead was found embedded in
the very centre of the trunk, grown over, and concealed for nearly
a thousand years--the silent witness to the agonies of a martyr.
The martyrdom took place A.D. 870, the year before Alfred ascended
the throne. In the churches of Norfolk and Suffolk the picture of
St. Edmund, pierced with arrows, is often seen on old rood screens.

xiv Norman Torture Chamber.

We read in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the barons in Stephen's

"They greatly oppressed the wretched people by making them work at
their castles, and when the castles were finished they filled them
with devils and evil men. Then they took those whom they suspected
to have any goods, by night and by day, seizing both men and women,
and they put them in prison for their gold and silver, and tortured
them with pains unspeakable. They hung some up by their feet, and
smoked them with foul smoke; some by their thumbs, or by the head,
and they hung burning things on their feet. They put a knotted
string about their heads, and twisted it till it went into their
brain. They put them into dungeons, wherein were adders and snakes
and toads, and thus wore them out. Some they put into a crucet
house--that is, into a chest that was short and narrow, and not
deep, and they put sharp stones in it, and crushed the man therein
so that they broke all his limbs. There were hateful and grim
things called Sachenteges in many of the castles, and which two or
three men had enough to do to carry. The sachentege was made thus:
it was fastened to a beam having a sharp iron to go round a man's
throat and neck, so that he might noways sit, or lie, or sleep, but
must bear all the iron. Many thousands they exhausted with hunger.
I cannot and I may not tell of all the wounds and all the tortures
they inflicted upon the wretched men of this land."

This awful description of the cruelty of the Norman barons under
the grandson of the Conqueror may partially apply to the barons of
an earlier period, such as Hugo de Malville.

xv Destruction of Norman Forces by Fire.

We read that at the instigation of Ivo Taille-Bois (see Note),
William had the weakness to employ a sorceress to curse the English
in the Camp of Refuge, and by her spells to defeat those of the
supposed English magicians. She was placed in a wooden turret at
the head of the road, which the Conqueror was labouring to make
across the fens, to get at the refugees; but Hereward, watching his
opportunity, set fire to the flags and reeds; the wind rapidly
spread the conflagration; and the witch, her guards, the turret,
and the workmen, all alike perished in the flames, even as in our
story, Hugo de Malville in the Dismal Swamp.

xvi State of England in 1069.

In order that the reader may the better comprehend the chances
which lay before the insurgents of this year, the third after
Hastings, we will briefly summarise the state of affairs.

At the close of the preceding year the Midlands, after several
spasmodic struggles, appeared prostrate and helpless at the feet of
the Conqueror, who had taken advantage of the opportunity to build
strong castles everywhere, and to garrison them with brave captains
and trusty soldiers. Warwick Castle was given to Henry de Beaumont,
whose lady we have seen at Aescendune, at the dedication of the
priory, and the jousts which followed; Nottingham was held by
William Peverill; and similar measures were taken at York, Lincoln,
Huntingdon, Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere.

But ere all this was fully accomplished, the three sons of King
Harold--Godwin, Edmund and Magnus--who had been kindly received by
Dermot, King of Leinster in Ireland, reappeared in the southwest,
and although, after some partial success, they were forced to
retreat, yet they aroused anew the spirit of resistance to the
Norman yoke, and kindled the expiring embers of patriotism.

In the month of February 1069--at which period the city of York was
the extreme limit of the Conquest--one Robert de Comyn was sent to
reduce Durham and the banks of the Tyne to subjection. As he
approached the city, Egelwin the bishop met him, and begged him not
to enter or there would be bloodshed; but he disdained the mild
request, and, entering, his soldiers behaved with the utmost
insolence, and slew a few inoffensive men "pour encourager les
autres," to intimidate the rest. The soldiers then encamped in the
streets of the town, and the general took up his quarters in the
bishop's palace.

When night came on, the gallant countrymen who dwelt on the Tyne
lit the beacon fires on all the hills; the country arose, and all
hastened to Durham. By daybreak they had forced the gates, which
the Normans defended; the soldiers then took refuge from the people
they had so cruelly insulted, in the Episcopal palace; thence they
had the advantage with their arrows, until the English, unable to
storm the place, set it on fire, and burned the dwelling, with
Robert de Comyn, who well deserved his fate, and all his men:
twelve hundred horse, and a large number of foot soldiers and
military attendants, perished, and only two escaped.

A larger body, sent to avenge them, halted between York and Durham,
and, seized with an unwonted terror, refused to proceed; the good
people said that Saint Cuthbert had struck them motionless by
supernatural power to protect his shrine in Durham.

This success stirred up the people of Yorkshire, who, later in the
year, besieged William Mallet in York, aided by a Danish force
which had landed on the coasts, and took it on the eighth day, when
all the garrison was slain--"three thousand men of France," as the
Chronicles express it. The Earl Waltheof killed, with his own
battle-axe, twenty Normans in their flight, and, chasing a hundred
more into the woody marshes, took advantage of the dry season, like
our friends at Aescendune, and burned them all with the wood.

All over England the struggle spread. Hereward took the command at
the Camp of Refuge, in the Isle of Ely, and crippled the Normans
around. Somerset and Dorset rose again; the men of Chester and a
body of Welshmen under "Edric the Wild" (sometimes called the
Forester), besieged Shrewsbury. The men of Cornwall attacked
Exeter, and a large body of insurgents collected at Stafford.

It was in putting down the northern insurrection that William
devastated Yorkshire and Northumberland, with such severity that
the country did not recover for centuries, while the victims to
famine, fire, and sword equalled a hundred thousand. These
spasmodic insurrections were only the dying throes of Anglo-Saxon
liberty. Everywhere they miscarried, and the Normans prevailed.

xvii The readers of Alfgar the Dane will remember that we gave
a brief account of this interesting spot in that chronicle. It was
the town to which Edmund Ironside and Alfgar first repaired after
their escape from the Danes in the Isle of Wight.

xviii On one of these islands now stands the mill, on the other
the Nag's Head Inn; the site of the old abbey is chiefly occupied
by a brewery!

xix Monastic Offices.

These were seven in number, besides the night hours. Lauds, before
daybreak; Prime, 7 A.M.; Terce, 9 A.M.; Sext, noon; Nones, 3 P.M.;
Vespers, 6 P.M.; and Compline, 9 P.M. These were in addition to
many daily celebrations of Mass.

Our modern prayer-book Matins is an accumulation and abridgment of
Matins, Lauds, and Prime; our Evensong of Vespers and Compline.
Terce, Sext, and Nones, which consisted mainly of portions of Psalm
119, with varying Versicles and Collects, are unrepresented in our
Anglican office.

If the older reader is curious to learn of what Compline consisted,
he may be told that its main features were Psalms 4, 31, 91, and
184; the hymn, Te Lucis ante Terminum, "Before the ending of the
day."--H. A. & M. 15; and the Collect, "Lighten our Darkness."

xx Roll of the Conquerors.

These names are taken from a charter, long preserved in Battle
Abbey, and quoted in the notes to Thierry's Norman Conquest. It
gives a list of the principal warriors who fought at Hastings,
whose names are afterwards found, much to their advantage, in
Domesday Book. Many names now common, even amongst the poor, make
their first appearance in England therein, besides the noble ones
quoted in our text. We regret that our space does not allow us to
give the roll, which is many columns in length.

xxi Ivo Taille-Bois.

This petty tyrant, of infamous memory, was the chief of the Angevin
auxiliaries of William, who received as his reward the hand of
Lucy, sister of the Earls Edwin and Morcar; and with her also
received all the ancient domains of their family in the
neighbourhood of the Camp of Refuge, which proximity did not
augment his prosperity. The ancient chronicler of the Abbey of
Croyland (Ingulf) says:

"All the people of that district honoured Ivo with the greatest
attention, and supplicated him on bended knee, bestowed on him all
the honour they could, and the services they were bound to render;
still he did not repay their confidence, but tortured and harassed,
worried and annoyed, imprisoned and tormented them, every day
loading them with fresh burdens, till he drove them, by his
cruelty, to seek other and milder lords. Against the monastery and
the people of Croyland he raged with the utmost fury; he would
chase their cattle with dogs, drown them in the lakes, mutilate
them in various ways, or break their backs or legs."

It is pleasing to learn that he met some punishment for his evil
deeds. Hereward took him prisoner, very ignominiously, and held him
a captive for a long time, to the delight of the poor vassals; he
fell under the displeasure of William Rufus, in 1089, as a partisan
of Robert and was sent home to Anjou deprived of all his ill-gotten
wealth. He was, however, allowed to return under Henry, and died of
paralysis in 1114 at his manor of Spalding, where, the old
chronicler pithily says, "he was buried amidst the loudly expressed
exultation of all his neighbours."

xxii The Camp of Refuge.

There still exists, in the southeastern district of Lincolnshire
and the northern part of Cambridgeshire, a vast extent of flat
land, intersected in every direction by rivers and dykes, known as
the fen country.

Eight centuries ago, before many attempts had been made to confine
the streams within their banks, this country resembled an inland
sea, interspersed with flat islands of firm ground.

One portion of this country was called the "Isle of Ely;" another
the "Isle of Thorney;" another, partially drained by the monks, the
"Isle of Croyland."

In many parts half bog, it was quite impracticable for heavy-armed
soldiers, and hence it offered a refuge to bands of patriots from
all the neighbouring districts when worsted by the Normans.

Hither came the true Englishman Stigand, sometime Archbishop of
Canterbury, and after the conquest of the north, Egelwin, Bishop of
Durham, who found both substantial entertainment at the board of
Abbot Thurstan, abbot of the great monastery of Ely, and one of the
stoutest patriots of the day.

At this time Hereward was living in Flanders; but hearing that his
father was dead, that a Norman had seized his inheritance, and was
grievously maltreating his aged mother, he returned home secretly,
and, assembling a band of relations and retainers, expelled the
intruder from his house after a sharp but brief conflict.

But he could not hope to rest after such an exploit; therefore he
waged open war with the Normans around, and by his extraordinary
bravery and good fortune soon attracted such universal attention
that the patriots in the Camp of Refuge besought him to come and be
their leader.

Here, for nearly three years, he defied all the efforts of William.
His uncle Brand, Abbot of Peterborough, conferred on him the order
of knighthood, for which act William designed adequate punishment.
The abbot would doubtless have been expelled, but death anticipated
the Conqueror of England. To punish the monks, the King appointed
the fighting abbot, Turauld, as the successor of Brand, and in
order to conciliate this ruffian-for such he was-the monks of
Peterborough prepared their best cheer. But Hereward and his merry
men anticipated Turauld's arrival by an hour or two, ate up the
dinner prepared for the Normans, and spoiled what the did not eat;
carried away, for safe keeping at Ely, all the treasures of the
abbey, and left an empty house for the intruder.

Shortly afterwards, that worthy, together with Ivo Taille-Bois,
concerted a plan for attacking the English. Hereward entrapped them
both, and kept them in captivity, much to the joy of the monks of
Peterborough, and the vassals of Ivo, as we have elsewhere noted.

All the valour and nobility of Old England yet surviving, gathered
around the great chieftain; thither came Edwin and Morcar, the
brothers-in-law of King Harold; and many an earl and knight,
fearless as the warriors of the Round Table, fought beneath the
banner of Hereward, and banqueted while there was aught left to
eat, at the board of the large-hearted Abbot Thurstan.

The Danes, who had been summoned to the aid of the English
patriots, were bought off soon after their arrival by the gold of
William, but still Hereward fought on.

At length William stationed his fleet in the Wash, with orders to
guard every outlet from the fens to the ocean; still he could not
reach Hereward, who had retired, with his valiant men, to their
stronghold, situate in an expanse of water, which, in the narrowest
part, was at least two miles in breadth. Then the king undertook a
tremendous task-that of constructing a solid road through the
inundated marshes, throwing bridges over the deeper channels, and
building a causeway elsewhere. But in the face of an active enemy
this was no easy task; and so frequently were the Normans surprised
by Hereward that they believed he must be aided by sorcery, and
employed the "witch," who perished by fire (as mentioned in another
Note), to counteract his magic, with the result already described.

But William was determined that the last refuge of English liberty
should fall, and, backed by all the resources of a kingdom, the end
came at last. The monks of Ely, starved out, deposed their abbot,
the gallant Thurstan, and betrayed the secret approaches of the
camp to the Normans.

In the gray dawn of an autumnal morning, in the year 1071, the
Normans, guided through the labyrinth by the traitors-the guards
having been decoyed from their posts-entered the camp.

Hereward and his men fought like heroes, with all the courage of
despair; they did all that men could do; but, assailed from all
sides, many of the English lords, dismayed by the hopeless
character of the conflict, threw down their swords, and cried for
quarter. But their brave chieftain-with a mere handful of
men-disdaining to save their lives by submission, cut their way
through the foe, and escaped across the marshes, after most doughty
deeds of valour, for the assault was led by William in person.

For a long time Hereward maintained the hopeless struggle-for it
was now hopeless-till the king sent to offer him his favour, and
restoration to his paternal estates, on condition his accepting
accomplished facts, and taking the oath of allegiance to the
Conqueror. Feeling that all hope of shaking off the Norman yoke was
lost, Hereward laid down his arms and accepted "the king's peace."

There are two accounts of his death; the one, which we hope is
true, that he ended his days in peace; the other, that his Norman
neighbours fell upon him as he was sleeping in the open air; that
he awoke in time to defend himself, and slew fifteen men-at-arms
and a Breton knight ere he succumbed to numbers-the chief of the
troop, named Asselin, swearing, as he cut the head from the corpse,
that he had never seen so valiant a man. It was long a popular
saying amongst the English, and amongst the Normans that, had there
been four such as he, the Conquest could not have been accomplished.

The fate of those who submitted, or were taken in the Camp of
Refuge, was pitiable; many had their hands cut off, or their eyes
put out, and with cruel mockery were set "free;" the leaders were
imprisoned in all parts of England.

Egelwin, Bishop of Durham, was sent to Abingdon, where within a few
months he died of hunger, either voluntary or enforced; while
Archbishop Stigand was condemned to perpetual imprisonment.

xxiii Lanfranc.

This noted ecclesiastic was a native of Pavia; he was bred up to
the law, and, coming to France, established a school at Avranches,
which was attended by pupils of the highest rank.

On a journey to Rouen he was robbed and left bound in a wood, where
some peasants found him, and brought him for shelter to the Abbey
of Bec, recently founded by Herluin. Here he felt himself called to
the monastic life, and became a monk at Bec, which sprang up
rapidly under him into a school no less of literature than of
piety, where William often retired to make spiritual retreats, and
where an intimacy sprang up between them. He became successively
Prior of Bec and abbot of William's new foundation of St. Stephen's
at Caen. His influence with the Pope procured the papal sanction
for the invasion of England; and afterwards, in 1070, the
Archbishopric of Canterbury was pressed upon him by William, which
he held until his death in 1089, in the eighty-fourth year of his

In some respects he dealt harshly with the English clergy, and
connived at their wholesale deprivation. We must own, in
extenuation, that their lives and conduct had not been such as to
do honour to God, that they were said to be the most ignorant
clergy in Europe; and that the sins of the nation under their
guidance were owned, even by the English, to have brought the heavy
judgment of the Conquest upon them. Otherwise, Lanfranc was a
protector of the oppressed, in which character he is introduced in
the tale.

If Englishmen can only forgive him his share in the Conquest, few
Archbishops of Canterbury can be named more worthy of our respect.

xxiv It must be remembered that Lanfranc was a firm believer in
the right of King William, in the supposed testament of Edward the
Confessor; and in the right of Rome to dispose of disputed thrones.
Good man though he was, he believed in all this rubbish, as true
Englishmen must ever deem it.

xxv Oxford in the Olden Time.

The earliest authentic record in which Oxford finds a place is of
the year 912, when we read in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that King
Edward took possession of the city, when he took upon himself the
responsibility of defending the valley of the Thames against Danish
incursions, upon the death of his sister's husband, Aethelred,
Ealdorman of the Mercians, to whom the city had formerly belonged.

Then, probably, was that mound thrown up which still exists
opposite the old Norman tower of Robert D'Oyly; and from that
period the city gradually grew into importance, until it quite
superseded the more ancient city, Dorchester. which was situated at
the angle formed by the tributary river Tame, fifteen miles lower
down the stream, even as Oxford occupied the similar angle formed
by the Cherwell.

The charge of Oxford, and the district around, was committed to
Robert D'Oyly, afore-mentioned, who built the lofty tower opposite
the mound, deepened the ditches, enlarged the fortifications he
found already there; and, about the date of our tale, founded the
Church of St. George in the Castle.

He had a ruinous city to preside over. Before the Conquest it
contained about three thousand inhabitants; but the number was
greatly diminished, for out of seven hundred and twenty-one houses
formerly inhabited, four hundred and seventy-eight were now lying

The University was yet a thing of the future. Mr. James Parker (in
his pamphlet, on the history of Oxford during the tenth and
eleventh centuries, which he kindly presented to the writer.) has
clearly shown that its supposed foundation by Alfred is a myth. The
passage in Asser, commonly quoted in support of the statement, is
an interpolation not older, perhaps, than the days of Edward III.
During the twelfth century the town appears, from whatever causes,
to have recovered from the effects of the Conquest, and from that
period its growth was rapid, until circumstances brought about the
growth of a University honoured throughout the civilised world.

xxvi An undisciplined mob had preceded them and perished on the
road. We have not space to write their history.

xxvii The Varangians.

Ordericus Vitalis, B. iv., says, "When the English had lost their
freedom, they turned themselves eagerly to discover the means of
regaining their liberty. Some fled to Sweyn, King of Denmark, to
excite him to fight for the inheritance of his grandfather, Canute.
Not a few fled into exile in other lands, either to escape the
Norman rule, or in the hope of acquiring the means of renewing the
struggle at home. Some of these, in early manhood, penetrated into
a far distant land, and offered their services to the Emperor of
Constantinople, against whom (the Norman) Robert Guiscard had
arrayed all his forces. The English exiles were favourably
received, and opposed in battle to the Normans, who were far too
strong for the Greeks in personal combat.

"The Emperor Alexius began to build a town for the English, a
little above Constantinople; but the troubles from the Normans
increasing, he soon recalled them to the capital, and intrusted the
palace, with all its treasures, to their keeping. This was the way
in which the English found their way to Ionia, where they still
remain, honoured by the Emperor and his people."

xxviii Particularly those portions found in the Gospels for the
different Sundays in the Christian year, which even then (and long

Book of the day: