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Title: The Camp of Refuge - A Tale of the Conquest of the Isle of Ely
Author: MacFarlane, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Camp of Refuge - A Tale of the Conquest of the Isle of Ely" ***

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                          THE CAMP OF REFUGE.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: ISLE OF ELY AND CAMP OF REFUGE.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  THE
                            CAMP OF REFUGE:

                                 A Tale
                                   OF
                    THE CONQUEST OF THE ISLE OF ELY.

                         ---------------------

                                EDITED,
                      WITH NOTES AND APPENDIX, BY
                      SAMUEL H. MILLER, F.R.A.S.,

           _Joint Author of “The Fenland, Past and Present.”_

                                -------

                       SECOND ANNOTATED EDITION.

                                -------

                        _ILLUSTRATED WITH MAPS._

                                -------

                         WISBECH: LEACH & SON.
                    LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL & CO.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                WISBECH
                        LEACH AND SON, PRINTERS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         THE EDITOR’S PREFACE.


A generation has passed away since “THE CAMP OF REFUGE” first issued
from the press. Although published anonymously, it shows that its
author had a very extensive knowledge of the history and topography of
the Fen district.

The book, however, while it embodied much real history, was put forth
with no higher pretension than that of a tale, whose characters were
historic personages, and whose incidents occurred, in the main, during
the Norman Conquest.

Knowing that this interesting book had become very scarce, and thinking
that it would prove as acceptable to this, and perhaps to the next,
generation as it did to the past—the present publishers determined to
offer a new edition to the public; trusting at the same time that its
contents will help to foster a loyalty and a love for our English
nation.

But with a new edition some few comments appeared necessary; therefore
Notes to the text, a short Appendix, and two Maps have been added, not
with a view merely to embellish the original work, nor to convert it
into a real history, but to assist, in some measure, the youthful
reader, or mayhap those, too, who have but limited means of consulting
the many sources of information upon which the ground-work of the tale
rests.

                                                                S. H. M.

_June, 1880._


                       SECOND ANNOTATED EDITION.

In preparing this edition, care has been taken to correct whatever
defects, typographical or otherwise, may have been found in the former
one; several fresh foot-notes have been introduced, the Appendix has
been re-arranged and enlarged, and a Map (adapted from _Dugdale’s
Monasticon_), representing the ground plan of the Spalding Monastery,
or “Succursal Cell,” has also been added.

These emendations and additions, it is confidently hoped, will ensure
for the book a more extended appreciation than it has hitherto enjoyed.

                                                                S. H. M.

_May, 1887._



                             THE CONTENTS.


      CHAP.                                                       PAGE

         I. The Messenger                                            1

        II. The Succursal Cell at Spalding                          18

       III. The Great House at Ely                                  40

        IV. The Monks of Ely Feast                                  56

         V. The Monks of Ely take counsel                           76

        VI. Ivo Taille-Bois and the Ladie Lucia                     96

       VII. Hereward’s Return                                      106

      VIII. Lord Hereward goes to get his own                      120

        IX. Elfric the ex-novice, and Girolamo of Salerno, prepare
            to play at devils                                      145

         X. The House at Crowland                                  153

        XI. The Linden Grove and Ladie Alftrude                    172

       XII. The Marriage and the Ambuscade                         185

      XIII. How Lord Hereward and his Ladie lived at Ey            203

       XIV. Hereward is made Knight                                215

        XV. The Castle at Cam-Bridge and a Battle                  232

       XVI. The Traitorous Monks of Peterborough                   245

      XVII. Hereward goes to Brunn, and is disturbed there         260

     XVIII. The Danes and their King’s son                         281

       XIX. The Norman Witch                                       308

        XX. The Norman Duke tries again                            320

       XXI. The Monks of Ely complain and plot                     335

      XXII. Hereward brings Corn and Wine to Ely                   360

     XXIII. A Chapter and a Great Treason                          389

      XXIV. The Dungeon                                            413

       XXV. The Normans in the Camp                                428

      XXVI. A Fire and a Rescue                                    446

     XXVII. Hereward still Fights                                  458

    XXVIII. The Happy End                                          466

            Appendix—

              Note A. Foundation of Ely Abbey                      480

              Note B. The Legend of S. Lucy                        480

              Note C. Ovin’s Cross at Ely                          481

              Note D. Spalding Priory                              481

              Note E. Archbishop Parker’s Salt Vat                 481

              Note F. Abbey of S. Alban                            482

              Note G. Crowland Abbey                               482

              Note H. Ramsey Abbey                                 483

              Note I. Thorney Abbey                                483

              Note J. King’s Lynn in the 18th Century              484

              Note K. Camp of Refuge Surrendered                   485

              Note L. Peterborough Abbey                           486

              Note M. The Gift of Brand                            487

              Note N. Knut’s Visit to Ely                          487

              Fenland Bibliography                                 487

            Maps—The Isle of Ely (_Frontispiece._)

                 The Fen District.

                 Ground Plan of the Spalding Monastery and Boundaries,
                 _from Dugdale’s Monasticon_ (_to face page 481._)


                           THE FEN DISTRICT.

[Illustration:

_Horace E. Miller, del._

MAP _to_ “CAMP OF REFUGE.”]



                          THE CAMP OF REFUGE.



                              CHAPTER I.

                             THE MESSENGER.


It was long ago; it was in the year of grace one thousand and seventy,
or four years after the battle of Hastings, which decided the right of
power between the English and Norman nations, and left the old Saxon
race exposed to the goadings of the sharp Norman lance, that a novice
went on his way from the grand abbey of Crowland to the dependent house
or succursal cell of Spalding,[1] in the midst of the Lincolnshire
fens. The young man carried a long staff or pole in his hand, with
which he aided himself in leaping across the numerous ditches and
rivulets that intersected his path, and in trying the boggy ground
before he ventured to set his feet upon it. The upper end of his staff
was fashioned like unto the staff of a pilgrim, but the lower end was
armed with a heavy iron ferrule, from which projected sundry long steel
nails or spikes. It was a fen-pole,[2] such, I wist, as our fenners yet
use in Holland, Lindsey, and Kesteven. In a strong and bold hand this
staff might be a good war-weapon; and as the young man raised the
skirts of his black garment it might have been seen that he had a short
broad hunting-knife fastened to his girdle. He was a fair-haired,
blue-eyed, and full-lipped youth, with an open countenance and a ruddy
complexion: the face seemed made to express none but joyous feelings,
so that the grief and anxiety which now clouded it appeared to be quite
out of place. Nor was that cloud always there, for whensoever the
autumn sun shone out brightly, and some opening in the monotonous
forest of willows and alders gave him a pleasant or a varied prospect,
or when the bright king-fisher flitted across his path, or the wild
duck rose from the fen and flew heaven-ward,[3] or the heron raised
itself on its long legs to look at him from the sludge, or the timid
cygnet went sailing away in quest of the parent swan, his countenance
lighted up like that of a happy thoughtless boy. Ever and anon too some
inward emotion made him chuckle or laugh outright. Thus between sadness
and gladness the novice went on his way—a rough and miry way proper to
give a permanent fit of ill-humour to a less buoyant spirit, for he had
quitted the road or causeway which traversed the fens and was pursuing
a devious path, which was for the greater part miry in summer, but a
complete morass at the present season of the year. Notwithstanding all
his well-practised agility, and in spite of the good aid of his long
staff, he more than once was soused head over ears in a broad
water-course. With a good road within view, it may be thought that he
had some strong motive for choosing this very bad one; and every time
that his path approached to the road, or that the screen of alders and
willows failed him, he crouched low under the tall reeds and bulrushes
of the fen, and stole along very cautiously, peeping occasionally
through the rushes towards the road, and turning his ear every time
that the breeze produced a loud or unusual sound. As thus he went on,
the day declined fast, and the slanting sun shone on the walls of a
tall stone mansion, battlemented and moated—a dwelling-house, but a
house proper to stand a siege:[4] and in these years of trouble none
could dwell at peace in any house if unprovided with the means of
holding out against a blockade, and of repelling siege and assault. All
round this manor-house, to a wide space, the trees had been cut down
and the country drained; part of the water being carried off to a
neighbouring mere, and part being collected and gathered, by means of
various cuts, to fill the deep moat round the house.

Here the young man, in fear of being discovered by those who occupied
that warlike yet fair-looking dwelling, almost crawled on the ground.
Nevertheless he quitted his track to get nearer to the house; and then,
cowering among some reeds and bulrushes, he put his open hand above his
eyebrows, and gazed sharply at the moat, the drawbridge, the low
gateway with its round-headed arch, the battlements, and the black
Norman flag that floated over them. The while he gazed, the blast of a
trumpet sounded on the walls, and sounded again, and once again; and,
after the third blast, a noise as of many horses treading the high road
or causeway was heard among the fen reeds. The novice muttered, and
almost swore blasphemously, (albeit by the rules of the order he was
bound to use no stronger terms than _crede mihi_, or _planè_, or
_certè_, or _benedicamus Domina_;)[5] but he continued to gaze under
his palm until the sounds on the road came nearer and trumpet replied
to trumpet. Then, muttering “This is not a tarrying place for the feet
of a true Saxon!” he crawled back to the scarcely perceptible track he
had left, and kept on, in a stooping posture but at a rapid pace, until
he came to a thick clump of alders, the commencement of a wood which
stretched, with scarcely any interruption, to the banks of the river
Welland. Here, screened from sight, he struck the warlike end of his
staff against the trunk of a tree, and said aloud, “Forty Norman
men-at-arms! by Saint Etheldreda[6] and by the good eye-sight that
Saint Lucia[7] hath vouchsafed unto me! Forty Norman cut-throats, and
we in our succursal cell only five friars, two novices, two
lay-brothers, and five hinds! and our poor upper buildings all made of
wood, old and ready to burn like tow! and not ten bows in the place or
five men knowing how to use them! By Saint Ovin[8] and his cross! were
our walls but as strong as those of the monks of Ely, and our war-gear
better, and none of us cowards, I would say, ‘Up drawbridge! defy this
Norman woodcutter, who felled trees in the forest for his bread until
brought by the bastard to cut Saxon throats and fatten upon the lands
of our thanes and our churches and monasteries! I would spit at the
beard of this Ivo Taille-Bois, and call upon Thurstan my Lord Abbat of
Ely, and upon the true Saxon hearts in the Camp of Refuge, for
succour!’” And the passionate young man struck the trunk of the poor
unoffending tree until the bark cracked, and the long thin leaves,
loosened by autumn, fell all about him.

He then continued his journey through the low, thick, and monotonous
wood, and after sundry more leaps, and not a few sousings in the water
and slips in the mud, he reached the bank of the Welland at a point
just opposite to the succursal cell of Spalding. A ferry-boat was
moored under the walls of the house. He drew forth a blast horn; but
before putting it to his lips to summon the ferryman across, he
bethought him that he could not be wetter than he was, that he had got
his last fall in a muddy place, and that the readiest way to cleanse
himself before coming into the presence of his superior would be to
swim across the river instead of waiting to be ferried over. This also
suited the impatient mood he was in, and he knew that the serf who
managed the boat was always slow in his movements, and at times liable
to sudden and unseasonable fits of deafness. So, throwing his heavy
staff before him, like a javelin, and with so much vigour that it
reached and stuck deep into the opposite bank, he leaped into the river
and swam across after it. Before he came to the Welland the sun had
gone down; but it was a clear autumnal evening, and if he was not seen
in the twilight by a lay-brother stationed on the top of the house to
watch for his return and to keep a look-out along the river, it must
have been because the said lay-brother was either drowsy and had gone
to sleep, or was hungry and had gone down to see what was toward in the
kitchen.

The succursal cell of Spalding was but a narrow and humble place
compared with its great mother-house at Crowland: it seemed to stand
upon piles[9] driven deep into the marshy ground; the lower part of the
building was of stone, brick, and rubble, and very strong; but all the
upper part was of wood, even as the wayfaring novice had lamented. A
few small round-headed arches, with short thick mullions, showed where
was the chapel, and where the hall, which last served as refectory,
chapter, and for many other uses. Detached from the chapel was a low
thick campanile or bell-tower, constructed like the main building,
partly of stone, brick, and rubble, and partly of timber, the upper
part having open arches, through which might be seen the squat old bell
and the ponderous mallet, which served instead of a clapper. The
Welland almost washed the back of the house,[10] and a deep trench,
filled by the water of the river, went round the other sides. Without
being hailed or seen by anyone, the young man walked round from the
river bank to the front of the house, where the walls were pierced by a
low arched gateway, and one small grated window a little above the
arch. “The brothers are all asleep, and before supper time!” said the
novice, “but I must rouse old Hubert.” He then blew his horn as loud as
he could blow it. After a brief pause a loud but cracked voice cried
from within the gates, “Who comes hither, after evening song?”

“It is I, Elfric[11] the novice.”

“The voice is verily that of child Elfric; but I must see with my eyes
as well as hear with mine ears, for the Norman be prowling all about,
and these be times when the wolf counterfeiteth the voice of the lamb.”

“Open, Hubert, open,” cried the novice, “open, in the name of Saint
Chad![12] for I am wet, tired, and a-hungred, and the evening wind is
beginning to blow coldly from the meres. Open thy gate, Hubert, and let
fall the bridge; I am so hungry that I could eat the planks! Prithee,
is supper ready?”

To this earnest address no answer was returned; but after a minute or
two the twilight showed a cowled head behind the grates of the
window—a head that seemed nearly all eyes, so intensely did the
door-porter look forth across the moat—and then the voice which before
had been heard below, was heard above, saying, “The garb and figure be
verily those of Elfric, and the water streams from him to the earth.
Ho! Elfric the novice—an thou be he—throw back thy hood, and give the
sign!”

“Abbat Thurstan[13] and Saint Etheldreda for the East Englanders!”
shouted the young man.

Here, another voice was heard from within the building calling out
“Hubert, whom challengest? Is it Elfric returning from Crowland?”

“Yea,” quoth the portarius, “it is Elfric the novice safe back from
Crowland, but dripping like a water-rat, and shivering in the wind.
Come, help me lower the bridge, and let him in.”

The gate was soon opened, and the narrow drawbridge lowered. The youth
entered, and then helped to draw up the bridge and make fast the
iron-studded door. Within the archway every member of the little
community, except those who were preparing the evening repast or
spreading the tables in the refectory, and the superior who was
prevented by his gout and his dignity from descending to the door-way
to meet a novice (be his errand what it might), was standing on
tip-toe, and open-mouthed for news; but Elfric was a practised
messenger, and knowing that the bringer of bad news is apt to meet with
a cold welcome, and that the important tidings he brought ought to be
communicated first to the head of the house, he hurried through the
throng, and crossing a cloistered court, and ascending a flight of
stairs, he went straight to the cell of Father Adhelm,[14] the
sub-prior of Crowland Abbey, who ruled the succursal cell of Spalding.
The monks followed him into the room; but the novices and lay-brothers
stopped short at the threshold, taking care to keep the door ajar so
that they might hear whatsoever was said within. “I give thee my
benison, oh, my child! and may the saints bless thee, for thou art back
sooner than I weened. But speak, oh Elfric! quick! tell me what glad
tidings thou bringest from my Lord Abbat and our faithful brethren at
Crowland, and what news of that son of the everlasting fire, our evil
neighbour Ivo Taille-Bois?”

After he had reverentially kissed the hand of his superior, Elfric the
novice spake and said:—

“Father, I bring no glad tidings; my news be all bad news! Ivo
Taille-Bois is coming against us to complete his iniquities, by
finishing our destruction; and the Abbat[15] and our faithful brethren
at Crowland are harassed and oppressed themselves, and cannot help us!”

The faces of the monks grew very long; but they all said in one voice,
“Elfric, thou dreamest. Elfric, thou speakest of things that cannot be;
for hath not my Lord Abbat obtained the king’s peace, and security for
the lives of all his flock and the peaceful possession of all our
houses, succursal cells, churches and chapels, farms and lands
whatsoever, together with our mills, fisheries,[16] stews, warrens, and
all things appertaining to our great house and order?”[17]

One of the primary duties imposed upon novices was to be silent when
the elders spake. Elfric stood with his hands crossed upon his breast
and with his eyes bent upon the floor, until his superior said “Peace,
brothers! let there be silence until the youth hath reported what he
hath heard and seen.” And then turning to Elfric, Father Adhelm added,
“Bring you no missive from our good Abbat?”

“Yea,” said the novice, “I am the bearer of an epistle from my Lord
Abbat to your reverence; and lo! it is here.” And he drew forth from
under his inner garment a round case made of tin, and presented it most
respectuously to the superior.

“I am enduring the pains of the body as well as the agony of the
spirit,” said the superior, “and my swollen right hand refuses its
office; brother Cedric, undo the case.”

Cedric took the case, opened it, took out a scroll of parchment, kissed
it as if it had been a relic, unrolled it, and handed it to the
superior.

“Verily this is a long missive,” said the superior, running his eyes
over it, “and alack, and woe the while, it commenceth with words of ill
omen! Brethren my eyes are dim and cannot read by twilight:[18] the
body moreover is faint, I having fasted from everything but prayer and
meditation since the mid-day refection; and then, as ye can bear
witness, I ate no meat, but only picked a stewed pike[19] of the
smallest. Therefore, brethren, I opine that we had better read my Lord
Abbat’s epistle[20] after supper (when will they strike upon that
refectory bell?), and only hear beforehand what Elfric hath to say.”

The cloister-monks gladly assented, for they were as hungry as their
chief, and, not being very quick at reading, were glad that the
superior had not called for lights in the cell, and called upon them to
read the letter.

“Now speak, Elfric, and to the point; tell the tale shortly, and after
the evening meal the lamp shall be trimmed and we will draw our stools
round the hearth in the hall, and read the abbat’s epistle and
deliberate thereupon.”

Upon this injunction of Father Adhelm, the youth began to relate with
very commendable brevity, that the abbey of Crowland was surrounded and
in good part occupied by Norman knights and men-at-arms, who were
eating the brotherhood out of house and home, and committing every kind
of riot and excess; that the abbat had in vain pleaded the king’s
peace, and shown the letters of protection granted him by Lanfranc,[21]
the new foreign primate of the kingdom; that the Normans had seized
upon all the horses and mules and boats of the community; and that the
abbat (having received disastrous intelligence from the north[22] and
from other parts of England where the Saxon patriots had endeavoured to
resist the conqueror), had fallen sick, and had scarcely strength to
dictate and sign the letter he brought.

“These are evil tidings indeed,” said the superior, “but the storm is
yet distant, and may blow over without reaching us. It is many a rood
from Crowland to Spalding, and there is many a bog between us. Those
accursed knights and men-at-arms will not readily risk their horses and
their own lives in our fens; and now that Ivo Taille-Bois hath so often
emptied our granaries, and hath crippled or carried off all our cattle,
we have the protecting shield of poverty. There is little to be got
here but bare walls, and Ivo, having the grant of the neighbouring
lands from the man they call King William, is not willing that any
robber but himself should come hitherward. His mansion guards the
causeway, and none can pass thereon without his _bene placet_. But, oh
Elfric! what of the demon-possessed Ivo? Rests he not satisfied with
the last spoils he made on our poor house? Abides he not true to his
compact that he would come no more, but leave us to enjoy his king’s
peace and the peace of the Lord? Heeds he not the admonition addressed
to him by Lanfranc? Speak, Elfric, and be quick, for methinks I hear
the step of the cellarer by the refectory door.”

“The strong keep no compact with the weak,” responded the novice, “and
these lawless marauders care little for William their king, less for
their archbishop, and nothing for the Lord! While I was hid in Crowland
Abbey waiting for my Lord Abbat’s letter, I heard from one of the
friars who can interpret their speech, that some of these Normans were
saying that Ivo Taille-Bois wanted the snug nest at Spalding to put
cleaner birds into it: that Ivo had made his preparations to dispossess
us. And lo! as I came homeward through the fens, and passed as near as
I might to the manor-house which Taille-Bois made his own by forcibly
marrying the good Saxon[23] owner of it, I heard the flourish of
trumpets, and anon I saw, tramping along the causeway towards the
well-garrisoned manor-house, forty Norman men-at-arms!”

“Not so, surely not so, Elfric,” said the superior in a quake, “danger
cannot be so near us as that!”

“His eyes must have deceived him,” cried all the brothers.

“Nay,” said the youth, “I saw, as plainly as I now see the faces of
this good company, their lances glinting in the setting sun, and their
bright steel caps and their grey mail, and....”

“Fen-grass and willows,”[24] cried the superior, who seemed determined
not to give credit to the evil tidings, “what thou tookest for spears
were bulrushes waving in the breeze, and thy steel-caps and grey mails
were but the silvery sides of the willow-leaves turned upwards by the
wind! Boy, fasting weakens the sight and makes it dim!”

“Would it were so,” quoth Elfric; “but so was it not! I heard the
trumpet give challenge from the battlements—I heard the other trumpet
give response—I heard the tramping of many hoofs along the hard solid
causeway; and, creeping nearer to the road, I saw lances and horses and
men—and they were even forty!”

“It cannot be,” said one of the monks, “for, when he made his last
paction with us, Ivo Taille-Bois swore, not only by three Saxon saints
but eke by six saints of Normandie, that he would do us and our house
no further wrong.”

“The senses are deceptions,” said another of the brotherhood.

“The foul fiend, who often lurks in these wildernesses and plays fiery
pranks in our fens, may have put it into this youth’s head to mar our
peace with false alarms;” quoth another monk.

“Say _warning_, and not false alarm,” rejoined Elfric rather
petulantly. “If you will not be warned, you will be surprised in your
sleep or at your meals. These forty men-at-arms cannot come hither for
other purpose than that of finishing our ruin and driving us hence. As
sure as the sun riseth they will be here to-morrow morning.”

“The boy chafes, and loses respect for his elders,” said the monk who
had last spoken.

“Let him sup with the cats!” cried the superior.

At this moment a bell was struck below; and at the signal the novices
and lay-brothers ran from the door at which they had been listening,
and the superior, followed by the monks, and at a respectful distance
by the reproved and vexed novice, hobbled down stairs to the refectory.

The aspect of that hall, with its blazing wood fire, abundant tapers
and torches, and well-spread tables, intimated that the superior’s
account of the poverty and destitution to which Ivo the Norman had
reduced the house was only figurative or comparative. That good father
took his place at the head of the table; the monks took their seats
according to their degree of antiquity; the novices and the
lay-brothers sat below the salt;[25] and poor Elfric, submissive to his
penance, sat down cross-legged on the rushes in the middle of the
floor, and in the midst of all the cats of the establishment, who, I
wist, knew as well as the monks the meaning of the dinner and supper
bell, and always trooped into the refectory to share the fragments of
the feast. One of the novices ascended a little pulpit raised high in
one of the angles of the hall, and the superior having blessed the good
things placed before him, this young novice read from the book of
Psalms while the rest of the company ate their meal. After all had been
served, even to the meanest of the lay-brothers, Elfric’s bread and
meat and his stoup of wine were handed to him on the floor—and then
was seen what it signified to sup with the cats, for tabbies, greys,
blacks, and whites all whisked their tails, and purred and mewed, and
scratched round about him, greedy to partake with him, and some of the
most daring even dipped their whiskers into his porringer, or scratched
the meat from his spoon before it could reach his mouth. Nevertheless
the young man made a hearty meal, and so, in spite of their fears and
anxieties, did all the rest of that devout community. As grace was
said, and as the reader was descending from the pulpit to do as the
others had done, the superior, after swallowing a cup of wine, said
rather blithely, “Now trim the good lamp and feed the fire, close the
door, and place seats and the reading-desk round the hearth.” As the
novices and lay-brothers hastened to do these biddings, Father Cedric
whispered to the superior, “Would it not be fitting to shut out the
young and the unordained, and deliberate by ourselves, _maturi
fratres_?”[26] “No,” replied the superior, “we be all alike concerned;
let novices and lay-brothers stay where they are and hear the words of
our Lord Abbat. If danger be so nigh, all must prepare to meet it, and
some may be wanted to run into Spalding town to call upon all good
Christians and true Saxons there to come to the rescue.” Then turning
to the youth on the rushes he said, “Elfric the messenger, thou mayest
rise and take thy seat in thy proper place: I cannot yet believe all
thy news, and thou spokest when thou oughtest not to have spoken; but
these are days of tribulation, and mischief may be nearer than we
thought it. Yet, blessed be God! that provides food and drink for his
creatures, and that makes the bounteous meal and the red wine revive
the heart and courage of man, I feel very differently now from what I
felt before supper, and can better bear the weight of evil news, and
more boldly face the perils that may lie in my path.” By words or by
looks all the brotherhood re-echoed this last sentiment.



                              CHAPTER II.

                           THE SUCCURSAL CELL.


The Abbat of Crowland’s letter, read aloud and slowly by the cheerful
fire, had no note of gladness in it. It began “Woe to the Church! woe
to the servants of God! woe to all of the Saxon race!” and it ended
with, “Woe! woe! woe!” It related how all the prelates of English birth
were being expelled by foreign priests, some from France and some from
Italy; how nearly every Saxon abbat had been deprived, and nearly every
religious house seized by men-at-arms and given over to strange
shavelings from Normandie, from Anjou, from Picardie, from Maine, from
Gasconie, and numberless other parts,[27] and how these alien monks,
who could not speak the tongue which Englishmen spoke, were occupying
every pulpit and confessional, and consigning the people to perdition
because they spoke no French, and preferred their old masters and
teachers to their new ones, put over them by violence and the sword!
Jealousies and factions continued to rage among the Saxon lords and
among those that claimed kindred with the national dynasties; sloth and
gluttony, and the dullness of the brain they produce, rendered of no
avail the might of the Saxon arm, and the courage of the Saxon heart.
Hence a _dies iræ_, a day of God’s wrath. Aldred,[28] the archbishop of
York, had died of very grief and anguish of mind: Stigand,[29] the
English and the true archbishop of Canterbury, after wandering in the
Danelagh and in Scotland, and flying for his life from many places, had
gone in helpless condition to the Camp of Refuge in the Isle of Ely:
Edgar Etheling, that royal boy, had been deserted by the Danes, who had
crossed the seas in many ships to aid him; and he had fled once more in
a denuded state to the court of Malcolm Caenmore, the Scottish king. In
all the north of England there had been a dismal slaughter: from York
to Durham not an inhabited village remained—fire and the sword had
made a wilderness there—and from Durham north to Hexham, from the Wear
to the Tyne, the remorseless conqueror, _Herodes, Herode ferocior_, a
crueller Herod than the Herod of old, had laid waste the land and
slaughtered the people. York Minster had been destroyed by fire, and
every church, chapel, and religious house had been either destroyed or
plundered by the Normans. Everywhere the Saxon patriots, after brief
glimpses of success, had met with defeat and extermination, save and
except only in the Camp of Refuge and the Isle of Ely; and there too
misfortune had happened. Edwin and Morcar,[30] the sons of Alfgar,
brothers-in-law to King Harold, and the best and the bravest of the
Saxon nobles, had quitted the Camp of Refuge, that last asylum of
Anglo-Saxon independence, and had both perished. All men of name and
fame were perishing. The Saxon commonalty were stupified with amazement
and terror,—_Pavefactus est Populus_.[31] The Normans were making war
even upon the dead or upon the tombs of those who had done honour to
their country as patriots, warriors, spiritual teachers and saints.
Frithric,[32] the right-hearted Abbat of St. Albans, had been driven
from his abbey with all his brethren; and Paul, a young man from
Normandie and a reputed son of the intrusive Archbishop Lanfranc, had
been thrust in his place. And this Paul, as his first act in office,
had demolished the tombs of all his predecessors, whom he called rude
and idiotic men, because they were of the English race! And next, this
Paul had sent over into Normandie for all his poor relations and
friends—men ignorant of letters and of depraved morals—and he was
dividing among this foul rapacious crew the woods and the farms, all
the possessions and all the offices of the church and abbey of St.
Albans. Crowland was threatened with the same fate, and he, the abbat,
was sick and brokenhearted, and could oppose the Normans only with
prayers—with prayers to which, on account of the sins of the nation,
the blessed Virgin and the saints were deaf. The brethren in the
succursal cell at Spalding must look to themselves, for he, the abbat,
could give them no succour; and he knew of a certainty that Ivo
Taille-Bois had promised the cell to some of his kith and kin in
foreign parts.

The reading of this sad letter was interrupted by many ejaculations and
expressions of anger and horror, grief and astonishment; and when it
was over, the spirits of the community were so depressed that the
superior thought himself absolutely compelled to call upon the cellarer
and bid him fill the stoups again, to the end that there might be
another short _Biberes_. When the monks had drunk in silence, and had
crossed themselves after the draught, they began to ask each other what
was to be done? for they no longer doubted that Elfric had seen the
forty men-at-arms in the neighbourhood, or that Ivo Taille-Bois would
be thundering at their gate in the morning. Some proposed sending a
messenger into Spalding town, which was scarcely more than two good
bow-shots distant from the cell, lighting the beacon on the tower, and
sounding all the blast-horns on the house-top to summon the whole
neighbourhood to their aid; but the superior bade them reflect that
this would attract the notice of Ivo Taille-Bois, and be considered as
an hostile defiance; that the neighbourhood was very thinly peopled by
inexpert and timid serfs, and that most of the good men of Spalding
town who possessed arms and the art of wielding them had already taken
their departure for the Camp of Refuge. At last the superior said, “We
cannot attempt a resistance, for by means of a few lighted arrows the
children of Satan would set fire to our upper works, and so burn our
house over our heads. We must submit to the will of Heaven, and
endeavour to turn aside the wrath of our arch-persecutor. Lucia,[33]
the wife of Ivo Taille-Bois, was a high-born Saxon maiden when he
seized upon her (after slaying her friends), and made her his wife in
order to have the show of a title to the estates. As a maiden Lucia was
ever good and Saxon-hearted, especially devout to our patron saint,[34]
and a passing good friend and benefactress to this our humble cell. She
was fair among the daughters of men, fairest in a land where the
strangers themselves vouchsafe to say that beauty and comeliness
abound;[35] she may have gotten some sway over the fierce mind of her
husband, and at her supplications Ivo may be made to forego his wicked
purposes. Let us send a missive to the fair Lucia.”

Here Brother Cedric reminded Father Adhelm that a letter would be of
little use, inasmuch as the fair Lucia could not read, and had nobody
about her in the manor-house that could help her in this particular.
“Well then,” said the superior, “let us send that trusty and nimble
messenger Elfric to the manor-house, and let him do his best to get
access to the lady and acquaint her with our woes and fears. What
sayest thou, good Elfric?”

Albeit the novice thought that he had been but badly rewarded for his
last service, he crossed his arms on his breast, bowed his head, and
said, “Obedience is my duty. I will adventure to the manor-house, I
will try to see the Lady Lucia, I will go into the jaws of the monster,
if it pleaseth your reverence to command me so to do. But, if these
walls were all of stone and brick, I would rather stay and fight behind
them: for I trow that the fair Lucia hath no more power over Ivo
Taille-Bois than the lamb hath over the wolf, or the sparrow over the
sparrow-hawk.”

“But,” said the superior, “unless Heaven vouchsafe a miracle, we have
no other hope or chance than this. Good Elfric, go to thy cell and
refresh thyself with sleep, for thou hast been a wayfarer through long
and miry roads, and needest rest. We too are weary men, for we have
read a very long letter and deliberated long on weighty trying
business, and the hour is growing very late. Let us then all to bed,
and at earliest morning dawn, after complines, thou wilt gird up thy
loins and take thy staff in thine hand, and I will tell thee how to
bespeak the Lady Lucia, an thou canst get to her presence. I will take
counsel of my pillow, and call upon the saints to inspire me with a
moving message that I shall send.”

Elfric humbly saluted the superior and all his elders by name, wished
them a holy night, and withdrew from the refectory and hall to seek the
rest which he really needed: but before entering his cell he went to
the house-top to look out at the broad moon, and the wood, and the
river, and the open country, intersected by deep cuts and ditches,
which lay in front of the succursal cell. The night had become frosty,
and the moon and the stars were shining their brightest in a
transparent atmosphere. As the novice looked up the course of the
Welland he thought he distinguished something afar off floating on the
stream. He looked again, and felt certain that a large boat was
descending the river towards the house. He remained silent and almost
breathless until the vessel came so near that he was enabled to see
that the boat was filled with men-at-arms, all clad in mail, who held
their lances in their hands, and whose shields were fastened to the
sides of the boat, glittering in the moonlight. “I count forty and one
lances and forty and one shields,” said the youth to himself, “but
these good friars will tell me that I have seen bulrushes and
willow-leaves.” He closed his eyes for a time and then rubbed them and
looked out again. There was the boat, and there were the lances and the
shields and the men-at-arms, only nearer and more distinct, for the
current of the river was rapid, and some noiseless oars or paddles were
at work to increase the speed without giving the alarm. “I see what is
in the wind,” thought Elfric; “the Normans would surprise us and expel
us by night, without rousing the good people of Spalding town.” He ran
down the spiral staircase; but, short as was the time that he had been
on the housetop, every light had been extinguished in the hall during
the interval, every cell-door had been closed; and a chorus of loud
snores that echoed along the corridor told him that, maugre their
troubles and alarms, all the monks, novices, and lay-brothers were
already fast asleep. “I will do what I can do,” said the youth, “for if
I wake the superior he will do nothing. If the men of Spalding town
cannot rescue us, they shall at least be witnesses to the wrongs put
upon us. Nay, Gurth the smith, and Wybert the wheelwright, and Nat the
weaver, and Leolf the woodsman, be brave-hearted knaves, and have the
trick of archery. From the yon side of those ditches and trenches,
which these heavy-armed Normans cannot pass, perchance a hole or two
may be driven into their chain jerkins!”

Taking the largest horn in the house he again ascended to the roof, and
turning towards the little town he blew with all his strength and
skill, and kept blowing until he was answered by three or four horns in
the town. By this time the boat was almost under the walls of the
monastery, and an arrow from it came whistling close over the youth’s
head. “There are neither battlements nor parapets here,” said he, “and
it is now time to rouse the brethren.” In a moment he was in the
corridor rapping at the doors of the several cells, wherein the monks
slept on, not hearing the blowing of the horns; but before half the
inmates were roused from their deep slumber the Normans had landed from
the boat, and had come round to the front of the house shouting,
“Taille-Bois! Taille-Bois! Notre Dame to our aid! and Taille-Bois to
his own! Get up, ye Saxon churls that be ever sleeping or eating, and
make way for better men!”

The superior forgot his gout and ran to the hall. They all ran to the
hall, friars, novices, lay-brothers, and hinds,[36] and lights were
brought in and hurried deliberations commenced, in which every one took
part. Although there was overmuch sloth, there was little cowardice
among these recluses. If there had been any chance of making good the
defence of the house, well I ween the major part of them would have
voted for resistance; but chance there was none, and therefore, with
the exception of Elfric, whose courage, at this time of his life,
bordered on rashness, they all finally agreed with the superior that
the wisest things to do would be to bid Hubert the portarius throw open
the gate and lower the bridge; to assemble the whole community in the
chapel, light up all tapers on the high altar and shrines, and chant
the _Libera Nos Domine_—Good Lord deliver us!

“It is not psalmody that will save us from expulsion,” thought Elfric.

Now Hubert the porter was too old and too much disturbed in spirit to
do all that he had to do without help; and Father Cedric bade the
sturdy novice go and assist him.

“May I die the death of a dog—may I be hanged on a Norman gibbet,”
said Elfric to himself, “if I help to open the gates to these midnight
robbers!” And instead of following Hubert down to the gate, he went
again (_sine Abbatis licentiâ_, without license or knowledge of his
superior) to the house-top, to see whether any of the folk of Spalding
town had ventured to come nigh. As he got to the corner of the roof
from which he had blown the horn, he heard loud and angry voices below,
and curses and threats in English and in Norman French. And he saw
about a score of Spalding-men in their sheepskin jackets and with bows
and knives in their hands, menacing and reviling the mail-clad
men-at-arms. The Saxons soon got themselves well covered from the foe
by a broad deep ditch, and by a bank; but some of the Normans had
brought their bows with them, and a shaft let fly at the right moment
when one of the Saxons was exposing his head and shoulders above the
bank, took effect, and was instantly followed by a wild scream or
yell—“Wybert is down! Wybert is slain!”

“Then this to avenge him, for Wybert was a good man and true;” and
Elfric, who had brought a bow with him from the corridor, drew the
string to his ear and let fly an arrow which killed the Norman that had
killed Wybert the wright. It was the men-at-arms who now yelled; and,
even as their comrade was in the act of falling, a dozen more arrows
came whistling among them from behind the bank and made them skip.

Ivo Taille-Bois lifted up his voice and shouted, “Saxon churls, ye mean
to befriend your fainéant[37] monks; but if ye draw another bow I will
set fire to the cell and grill them all!”

This was a terrible threat, and the poor men of Spalding knew too well
that Ivo could easily do that which he threatened. The noise had
reached the chapel, where the superior was robing himself, and Father
Cedric came to the house-top to conjure the Saxons to retire and leave
the servants of the saints to the protection of the saints. At the top
of the spiral staircase he found the novice with the bow in his hand;
and he said unto him, “What dost thou here, _et sine licentiâ_”?[38]

“I am killing Normans,” said Elfric; “but Wybert the wright is slain,
and the men of Spalding are losing heart.”

“Mad boy, get thee down, or we shall all be burned alive. Go help
Hubert unbar the gate and drop the bridge.”

“That will I never, though I break my monastic vow of obedience,” said
the youth. “But hark! the chain rattles!—the bridge is down—the hinge
creaks—by heaven! the gate is open—Ivo Taille-Bois and his devils are
in the house! Then is this no place for me!” And before the monk could
check him, or say another word to him, the novice rushed to the
opposite side and leaped from the roof into the deep moat. Forgetting
his mission—which was to conjure the Saxons in the name of Father
Adhelm the superior of the house not to try the arms of the flesh,—old
Cedric followed to the spot whence the bold youth had taken his spring,
but before he got there Elfric had swum the moat and was making fast
for the Welland, in the apparent intention of getting into the fens
beyond the river, where Norman pursuit after him could be of no avail.
The monk then went towards the front of the building and addressed the
Saxons who still lingered behind the ditch and the bank, bemoaning the
fate of Wybert, and not knowing what to do. Raising his voice so that
they might hear him, Cedric beseeched them to go back to their homes in
the town; and he was talking words of peace unto them when he was
struck from behind by a heavy Norman sword which cleft his cowl and his
skull in twain: and he fell over the edge of the wall into the moat.
Some of the men-at-arms had seen Elfric bending his bow on the
house-top, and the Norman who had been slain had pointed, while dying,
in that direction. After gaining access they had slain old Hubert and
the lay-brother who had assisted him in lowering the drawbridge; and
then, while the rest rushed towards the chapel, two of the men-at-arms
found their way to the roof, and there seeing Cedric they despatched
him as the fatal archer and as the daring monk who had blown the horn
to call out the men of Spalding. As Father Cedric fell into the moat,
and the Normans were seen in possession of the cell, the men of
Spalding withdrew, and carried with them the body of Wybert. But if
they withdrew to their homes, it was but for a brief season and in
order to carry off their moveable goods and their families; for they
all knew that Ivo Taille-Bois would visit the town with fire and sword.
Some fled across the Welland and the fens to go in search of the Camp
of Refuge, and others took their way towards the wild and lonesome
shores of the Wash.

But how fared the brotherhood in the chapel below? As Ivo Taille-Bois
at the head of his men-at-arms burst into the holy place—made holy by
the relics of more than one Saxon saint, and by the tomb and
imperishable body of a Saxon who had died a saint and martyr at the
hand of the Danish Pagans in the old time, before the name of Normans
was ever heard of—the superior and friars, dressed in their stoles, as
if for high mass, and the novices and the lay-brothers, were all
chanting the _Libera Nos_; and they seemed not to be intimidated or
disturbed by the flashing of swords and lances, or by the sinful
imprecations of the invaders; for still they stood where they were, in
the midst of tapers and flambards, as motionless as the stone effigies
of the saints in the niches of the chapel; and their eyes moved not
from the books of prayer, and their hands trembled not, and still they
chanted in the glorious strain of the Gregorian chant[39] (which Time
had not mended), _Libera Nos Domine!_ “Good Lord deliver us!” and when
they had finished the supplication, they struck up in a more cheerful
note, _Deus Noster Refugium_, God is our Refuge.

Fierce and unrighteous man as he was, Ivo Taille-Bois stood for a
season on the threshold of the chapel with his mailed elbow leaning on
the font that held the holy water; and, as the monks chanted, some of
his men-at-arms crossed themselves and looked as if they were conscious
of doing unholy things which ought not to be done. But when the
superior glanced at him a look of defiance, and the choir began to sing
_Quid Gloriaris?_ “Why boasteth thou thyself, thou tyrant, that thou
canst do mischief?” Ivo bit his lips, raised up his voice—raised it
higher than the voices of the chanting monks, and said, “Sir Priest, or
prior, come forth and account to the servant of thy lawful King William
of Normandie for thy unlawful doings, for thy gluttonies, backslidings,
and rebellions, for thy uncleanliness of life and thy disloyalty of
heart!” But Father Adhelm moved not, and still the monks sang on: and
they came to the versets—“Thou hast loved to speak all words that may
do hurt; oh! thou false tongue—therefore shall God destroy thee for
ever: He shall take thee and pluck thee out of thy dwelling.”

“False monk, I will first pluck thee out of thine,” cried Ivo, who knew
enough church Latin to know what the Latin meant that the monks were
chanting; and he strode across the chapel towards the superior, and
some of his men-at-arms strode hastily after him, making the stone
floor of the chapel ring with the heavy tread of their iron-bound
shoon; and some of the men-at-arms stood fast by the chapel door,
playing with the fingers of their gloves of mail and looking in one
another’s eyes or down to the ground, as if they liked not the work
that Ivo had in hand. The monks, the novices, the lay-brothers, all
gathered closely round their superior and linked their arms together so
as to prevent Ivo from reaching him; and the superior, taking his
crucifix of gold from his girdle, and raising it high above his head
and above the heads of those who girded him in, and addressing the
Norman chief as an evil spirit, or as Sathanas the father of all evil
spirits, he bade him avaunt! Ivo had drawn his sword, but at sight of
the cross he hesitated to strike, and even retired a few steps in
arrear. The monks renewed their chant; nor stopped, nor were
interrupted by any of the Normans until they had finished this Psalm.
But when it was done Ivo Taille-Bois roared out, “Friars, this is
psalmody enough! Men-at-arms, your trumpets! Sound the charge.” And
three Normans put each a trumpet to his lips and sounded the charge;
which brought all the men-at-arms careering against the monks and the
novices and the lay-brothers; so that the living fence was broken and
some of the brethren were knocked down and trampled under foot, and a
path was opened for Ivo, who first took the golden crucifix from the
uplifted hand of Father Adhelm and put it round his own neck, and then
took the good father by the throat and bade him come forth from the
chapel into the hall, where worldly business might be done without
offering insult or violence to the high altar.

“I will first pour out the curses of the church on thy sacrilegious
head,” said the superior, throwing off the Norman count, and with so
much strength that Ivo reeled and would have fallen to the ground among
the prostrate monks, if he had not first fallen against some of his
men-at-arms. Father Adhelm broke away from another Norman who clutched
him, but in so doing he left nearly all his upper garment in the
soldier’s hand, and he was rent and ragged and without his crucifix
when he reached the steps of the altar and began his malediction.

“Stop the shaveling’s tongue, but shed no blood here,” cried Ivo;
“seize him, seize them all, and bring them into the refectory!”—and so
saying the chief rushed out of the chapel into the hall. It was an
unequal match—thirty-nine men-at-arms against a few monks and boys and
waiting men; yet before the superior could be dragged from the high
altar, and conveyed with all his community into the hall, several of
the Normans were made to measure their length on the chapel floor (they
could not wrestle like our true Saxons), and some of them were so
squeezed within their mail sleeves and gorgets[40] by the grip of Saxon
hands, that they bore away the marks and smarts that lasted them many a
day. It was for this that one of them cut the weazen[41] of the sturdy
old cook as soon as he got him outside the chapel door, and that
another of them cut off the ears of the equally stout cellarer.

At last they were all conveyed, bound with their cords or girdles, into
the hall. The Taille-Bois, with his naked sword in his hand, and with a
man-at-arms on either side of him, sat at the top of the hall in the
superior’s chair of state; and the superior and the rest of the
brotherhood were brought before him like criminals.

“Brother to the devil,” said Ivo, “what was meant by thy collecting of
armed men—rebel and traitor serfs that shall rue the deed!—thy
sounding of horns on the house-top; thy fighting monks that have killed
one of my best men-at-arms; thy long delay in opening thy doors to
those who knocked at them in the name of King William; thy outrages in
the chapel, and all thy other iniquities which I have so oft-times
pardoned at the prayer of the Lady Lucia? Speak, friar, and tell me why
I should not hang thee over thine own gateway as a terror and an
example to all the other Saxon monks in this country, who are all in
their hearts enemies and traitors to the good king that God and victory
have put over this land!”

Had it not been that Father Adhelm was out of breath, from his
wrestling in the Chapel, I wist he never would have allowed Ivo
Taille-Bois to speak so long without interruption. But by the time the
Norman paused, the superior had partly recovered his breath; and he did
not keep the Norman waiting for his answer.

“Son of the fire everlasting,” cried Adhelm, “it is for me to ask what
meanest thou by thy transgressions, past and present? Why hast thou
from thy first coming among us never ceased from troubling me and these
other servants of the saints, the brothers of this poor cell? Why hast
thou seized upon and emptied our granaries and our cellars (more the
possessions of the saints and of the poor than our possessions)? Why
hast thou carried off the best of our cattle? Why hast thou and thy
people lamed our horses and our oxen, and killed our sheep and poultry?
Why hast thou caused to be assailed on the roads, and beaten with
staves and swords, the lay-brothers and servants of this house? Why
didst thou come at the dead of night like a chief of robbers with thy
men-at-arms and cut-throats to break in upon us and to wound and slay
the servants of the Lord, who have gotten thy king’s peace, and letters
of protection from the Archbishop Lanfranc?[42] Oh, Ivo Taille-Bois!
tell me why thou shouldst not be overtaken by the vengeance of man’s
law in this world, and by eternal perdition in the next?”

Ivo was not naturally a man of many words; and thinking it best to cut
the discussion short, he grinned a grim grin, and said in a calm and
business-like tone of voice, “Saxon! we did not conquer thy country to
leave Saxons possessed of its best fruits. This house and these wide
domains are much too good for thee and thine: I want them, and long
have wanted them, to bestow upon others. Wot ye not that I have beyond
the sea one brother and three cousins that have shaved their crowns and
taken to thy calling—that in Normandie, Anjou, and Maine there are
many of my kindred and friends who wear hoods and look to me for
provision and establishment in this land of ignorance and heresy, where
none of your home-dwelling Saxon monks know how to make the tonsure[43]
in the right shape?”

“Woe to the land, and woe to the good Christian people of it!” said the
superior and several of his monks; “it is then to be with us as with
the brotherhood of the great and holy abbey of St. Albans! We are to be
driven forth empty-handed and brokenhearted, and our places are to be
supplied by rapacious foreigners who speak not and understand not the
tongue of the English people! Ah woe! was it for this that Saxon saints
and martyrs died and bequeathed their bones to our keeping and their
miracles to our superintendence; that Saxon kings and queens descended
from their thrones to live among us, and die among us, and enrich us,
so that we might give a beauty to holiness, a pomp and glory to the
worship of heaven, and ample alms, and still more ample employment to
the poor? Was it for this the great and good men of our race, our
thanes and our earls, bequeathed lands and money to us? Was it to
fatten herds of alien monks, who follow in the bloody track of conquest
and devastation, and come among us with swords and staves, and clad in
mail even like your men-at-arms, that we and our predecessors in this
cell have laboured without intermission to drain these bogs and fens,
to make roads for the foot of man through this miry wilderness, to cut
broad channels to carry off the waste waters to the great deep, to turn
quagmires into bounteous corn fields, and meres into green
pastures?”[44]

While the Saxon monks thus delivered themselves, Ivo and his Normans
(or such of them as could understand what was said) ofttimes
interrupted them, and spoke in this wise—“King William hath the
sanction of his holiness the Pope for all that he hath done or doth.
Lanfranc loveth not Saxon priests and monks, and Saxon priests and
monks love not the king nor any of the Normans, but are ever privately
preaching and prating about Harold and Edgar Etheling, and putting evil
designs into the heads of the people. The Saxon saints are no saints:
who ever heard their names beyond sea? Their half-pagan kings and
nobles have heaped wealth here and elsewhere that generous Norman
knights and better bred Norman monks[45] might have the enjoyment of
it. The nest is too good for these foul birds: we have better birds to
put into it. Let us then turn these Englishers out of doors.”

The last evil deed was speedily done, and superior, monks, novices,
lay-brothers, were all thrust out of the gateway, and driven across the
bridge. If the well-directed arrow of Elfric had slain one man-at-arms
and the folk of Spalding town had slightly wounded two or three others,
the Normans had killed Father Cedric, Hubert the porter, and the man
that assisted him, had killed the cook, and cut off the ears of the
cellarer. The conquerors therefore sought to shed no more blood, and
the Taille-Bois was satisfied when he saw the brotherhood dispossessed
and turned out upon the wide world with nothing they could call their
own, except the sandals on their feet, and the torn clothes on their
backs, and two or three church books. When a little beyond the moat
they all shook the dust from their feet against the sons of the
everlasting fire; and the superior, leisurely and in a low tone of
voice, finished the malediction which he had begun in the chapel
against Ivo Taille-Bois. This being over, Father Adhelm counted his
little flock and said, “But oh, my children, where is the good Cedric?”

“Cedric was killed on the house-top, and lies dead in the moat,” said
one of the lay-brothers who had learned his fate when the rest of the
community were ignorant of it.

“Peace to his soul, and woe to him that slew him!” said the superior;
“but where is Elfric? I see not the brave boy Elfric.”

“I saw Elfric outside the walls of our house and running for the
Welland, just as the Normans were admitted,” said the lay-brother who
had before spoken, “and it must have been he that sent the arrow
through the brain of the man-at-arms that lies there on the green
sward.”

“He will send his arrows through the brains of many more of them,” said
the superior. “My children, I feel the spirit of prophecy speaking
within me, and I tell ye all that Elfric, our whilome novice, will live
to do or cause to be done more mischief to the oppressors of his
country than all the chiefs that have taken up arms against them. He
hath a head to plan, and a heart to dare, and a strong hand to execute.
I know the course he will take. He will return to the Isle of Ely, the
place of his birth, in the midst of the many waters, and throw himself
into the Camp of Refuge, where the Saxon motto is ‘Death or
Independence.’”

Before moving to the near bank of the Welland, or to the spot to which
the Normans had sent down the ferry-boat, Father Adhelm again counted
his little flock, and said, “Cedric lies dead in the moat, Hubert and
Bracho lie cold under the archway, Elfric the novice is fled to be a
thorn in the sides of these Normans, but, oh tell me! where is good
Oswald the cook?”

“After they had dragged your reverence into the hall, a man-at-arms cut
his throat, even as Oswald used to cut the throats of swine; and he
lies dead by the chapel-door.”

“_Misericordia!_ (O mercy on us!) Go where we will, we shall never find
so good a cook again!”

Although it seemed but doubtful where or when they should find material
for another meal the afflicted community repeated the superior’s alacks
and misericordias! mourning the loss of old Oswald as a man and as a
Saxon, but still more as the best of cooks.[46]



                             CHAPTER III.

                         THE GREAT HOUSE AT ELY.


Islands made by the sea, and yet more islands, inland, by rivers,
lakes, and meres, have in many places ceased to be islands in
everything save only in name.[47] The changes are brought about by time
and the fluctuations of nature, or by the industry and perseverance of
man.

We, the monks of Ely that now live (_Henrico Secundo, regnante_),[48]
have witnessed sundry great changes in the Fen Country, and more
changes be now contemplated; in sort that in some future age, men may
find it hard to conceive, from that which they see in their day, the
manner of country the Fen country[49] was when the Normans first came
among us. Then, I wist, the Isle of Ely was to all intents an inland
island, being surrounded on every side by lakes, meres and broad
rivers, which became still broader in the season of rain, there being
few artificial embankments to confine them, and few or no droves or
cuts to carry off the increase of water towards the Wash and the sea.
The isle had its name from Helig or Elig,[50] a British name for the
Willow, which grew in great abundance in every part of it, and which
formed in many parts low but almost impenetrable forests, with marshes
and quagmires under them, or within them. Within the compass of the
waters, which marked the limits of the country, and isolated it from
the neighbouring countries—which also from south to north, for the
length of well nigh one hundred miles, and from east to west, for the
breath of well nigh forty miles, were a succession of inland islands,
formed like Ely itself—there were numerous meres, marshes, rivers, and
brooks. The whole isle was almost a dead flat, with here and there an
inconsiderable eminence standing up from it. These heights were often
surrounded by water; and when the autumnal or the spring rains swelled
the meres and streams, and covered the flats, they formed so many
detached islets. Though surrounded and isolated, they were never
covered by water; therefore it was upon these heights and knolls that
men in all times had built their towns, and their churches and temples.
Communications were kept up by means of boats, carricks, and skerries,
and of flat-bottomed boats which could float in shallow water; and,
save in the beds of the rivers, and in some of the meres, the waters
were but shallow even in the season of rains. But if it was a miry, it
was not altogether a hungry land. When the waters subsided, the
greenest and richest pasture sprung up in many parts of the plain, and
gave sustenance to innumerable herds. The alluvial soil was almost
everywhere rich and productive; and the patches which had been drained
and secured, rewarded the industry and ingenuity of the inhabitants
with abundant crops. The Roman conquerors, with amazing difficulty, had
driven one of their military roads[51] through the heart of the
country; but this noble causeway was an undeviating straight line,
without any branches or cross roads springing from it; and it was so
flanked in nearly its whole extent by meres, pools, rivers, rivulets,
swamps, and willow forests, that a movement to the one side or the
other was almost impracticable, unless the Romans, or those who
succeeded the conquerors in the use of the causeway, embarked in boats
and travelled like the natives of the country. In all times it had been
a land of refuge against invaders. In the days of Rome the ancient
Britons rallied here, and made a good stand after all the rest of
England had been subdued. Again, when Rome was falling fast to ruin,
and the legions of the empire had left the Britons to take care of
themselves, that people assembled here in great numbers to resist the
fierce Saxon invaders. Again, when the Saxons were assailed by the
Danes and Norwegians, and the whole host of Scandinavian rovers and
pirates, the indwellers of the Isle of Ely, after enjoying a long
exemption from the havoc of war and invasion, defied the bloody Dane,
and maintained a long contest with him; and now, as at earlier periods,
and as at a later date, the isle of Ely became a place of refuge to
many of the people of the upland country, and of other and more open
parts of England, where it had not been found possible to resist the
Danish battle-axes. The traditions of the ancient Britons had passed
away with that unhappy and extinct race; but the whole fenny country
was full of Saxon traditions, and stories of the days of trouble when
war raged over the isle, and the fierce Danes found their way up the
rivers, which opened upon the sea, into the very heart of the country.
The saints and martyrs of the district were chiefly brave Saxons who
had fought the Danes in many battles, and who had fallen at last under
the swords of the unconverted heathen. The miracles that were wrought
in the land of many waters were for the most part wrought at the tombs
of these Saxon warriors. The legends of patriotism were blended with
the legends and rites of religion. Every church had its patriot saint
and martyr; in every religious house the monks related the prowess, and
chanted daily requiems, and said frequent masses to the soul of some
great Saxon warrior who had fallen in battle; or to some fair Saxon
maid or matron, who had preferred torture and death to a union with a
pagan; or to some Saxon queen or princess, who, long before the coming
of the Danes, and at the first preaching of the Gospel among the Saxons
by Saint Augustine and his blessed followers, had renounced a throne
and all the grandeurs and pleasures of the world, and all her riches,
(_relictis fortunis omnibus!_) to devote herself to the service of
heaven, to found a monastery, and to be herself the first lady abbess
of the monastery she founded.

The foremost and most conspicious of all the heights in this fen
country was crowned by the abbey and conventual house of Ely, around
which a large town, entirely governed by the Lord Abbat, (or, in the
Lord Abbat’s name, by the Cellarius of the abbey), had grown. The first
conventual church was founded in the time of the Heptarchy, about the
year of our Lord six hundred and seventy, by Saint Etheldreda, a queen,
wife, virgin, and saint. Etheldreda[52] was wife to King Egfrid,[53]
the greatest of the Saxon kings, and daughter of Anna, king of the East
Angles, whose dominions included the isle of Ely, and extended over the
whole of Suffolk and Norfolk. This the first abbey church was built by
Saint Wilfrid, bishop of York, who, with his sainted companion,
Benedict, bishop of Northumberland, had travelled in far countries to
learn their arts, and had brought from Rome into England painted glass,
and glaziers, and masons, and all manner of artificers. When the Church
was finished, a monastery was built and attached to it by the same
royal devotee. Neither the love of her husband nor any other
consideration could make Etheldreda forego her fixed purpose of
immuring herself in the cloisters. Many of her attached servants of
both sexes, whom she had converted, followed her to Ely, and were
provided with separate and appropriate lodgings. Etheldreda was the
first abbess of Ely; and after many years spent in the exercise of
devotion, in fasting, penitence, and prayer, she died with so strong an
odour of sanctity that it could not be mistaken; and she was canonised
forthwith by the pope at Rome. Some of her servants were beatified:
one, the best and oldest of them all, Ovin,[54] who was said to descend
from the ancient Britons,[55] and who had been minister to her husband
the king, or to herself as queen, was canonised soon after his death.
Huna, her chaplain, after assisting at her interment, retired to a
small island in the Fens near Ely, where he spent the rest of his days
as an anchorite, and died with the reputation of a saint. Many sick
resorted to Huna’s grave and recovered health. Her sister Sexburga was
the second abbess of Ely, and second only to herself in sanctity. She
too was canonised; and so also were her successors the abbesses
Ermenilda and Withburga.[56] The bodies of all the four lay in the
choir of the church. The house had had many good penmen, and yet, it
was said that they had failed to record all the miracles that had been
wrought at these tombs. But the holiness of the place had not always
secured it. In or about the year 870 the unbelieving Danes, by
ascending the Ouse, got unto Ely, slew all the monks and nuns, and
plundered and destroyed the abbey. And after this, Saxon kings, no
better than heathens, annexed all the lands and revenues of the house
to the crown, to spend among courtiers and warriors the substance which
Saint Ermenilda and the other benefactors of the abbey had destined to
the support of peace-preaching monks, and to the sustenance of the
poor. And thus fared it with the abbey of Ely, until the reign of the
great and bountiful King Edgar, who in course of his reign founded or
restored no fewer than fifty monasteries. In the year 970 this
ever-to-be-revered king (_Rex Venerandus_) granted the whole of the
island of Ely, with all its appurtenances, privileges, and immunities,
to Ethelwald, bishop of Winchester, who rebuilt the church and the
monastery, and provided them well with monks of the Benedictine order.
The charter of Edgar, as was recorded by that king’s scribe in the
preamble to it, was granted “not privately and in a corner, but in the
most public manner, and under the canopy of heaven.” The charter was
confirmed by other kings, and subsequently by the pope. The great and
converted Danish King Canute, who loved to glide along the waters of
the river and listen to the monks of Ely singing in their choir, and
who ofttimes visited the Lord Abbat, and feasted with him at the
seasons of the great festivals of the church, confirmed the charter;
and the cartularies of the house contained likewise the confirmation of
King Edward the Confessor, now a saint and king in heaven, (_in cœlo
sanctus et rex_.)

Theoretical and fabulous are the tales of those who say that the Saxons
had no majestic architecture; that their churches and abbeys and
monasteries were built almost entirely of wood, without arches or
columns, without aisles or cloisters; and that there was no grandeur or
beauty in the edifices of England until after the Norman conquest. The
abbey built at Ely in the tenth century by the Saxon bishop Ethelwald
was a stately stone edifice, vast in its dimensions, and richly
ornamented in its details. Round-headed arches rested upon rows of
massive columns; the roof of the church and the roof of the great hall
of the abbey were arched and towering; and, high above all, a tower and
steeple shot into the air, to serve as a landmark throughout the flat
fenny country, and a guide to such as might lose themselves among the
meres and the labyrinths of the willow forests. If the monks of Ely
were lords of all the country and of all the people dwelling in it,
those people and all honest wayfarers ever found the hospitable gates
of the abbey open to receive them; and all comers were feasted,
according to their several degrees, by the Lord Abbat, the prior, the
cellarer, the hospitaller, the pietancer, or some other officer of the
house. Twenty knights, with their twenty squires to carry arms and
shield, (_arma ac scuta_), did service to the Lord Abbat as his
military retainers; and in his great stables room was left for many
more horses. The house had had many noble, hospitable, Saxon-hearted
heads, but never one more munificent and magnificent than the Abbat
Thurstan.[57] He had been appointed to the dignity in the peaceful days
of Edward the Confessor; but King Harold, on ascending the throne, had
shown him many favours, and had given him the means of being still more
generous. This last of our Saxon kings had begun his reign with great
popularity, being accessible, affable, and courteous to all men, and
displaying a great regard for piety and justice. In the Confessor’s
time, under the title of earl, he had ruled as a sovereign[58] in
Norfolk and Suffolk and part of Cambridge, and he was a native of East
Anglia. He had been open-handed and open-hearted. From all these
reasons the people of this part of England were singularly devoted to
his cause, and so thoroughly devoted to his person that they would not
for a very long time believe that he had perished in the battle of
Hastings; their hope and belief being that he had only been wounded,
and would soon re-appear among them to lead them against the Norman.

When Duke William had been crowned in Westminster Abbey, and when his
constantly reinforced and increasing armies had spread over the
country, many of the great Saxon heads of religious houses, even like
the Abbat of Crowland, had sent in their submission, and had obtained
the king’s peace, in the vain hope that thus they would be allowed to
retain their places and dignities, and preserve their brethren from
persecution, and the foundations over which they presided from the
hands of foreign spoilers and intruders. Not so Thurstan, my Lord Abbat
of Ely. He would not forget the many obligations he owed, and the
friendship and fealty he had sworn to the generous, lion-hearted
Harold; and while the lands of other prelates and abbats lay open
everywhere to the fierce Norman cavalry, and their hinds and serfs,
their armed retainers and tenants, and all the people dwelling near
them, were without heart or hope, and impressed with the belief that
the Normans were invincible, Thurstan, from the window of the hall, or
from the top of the abbey tower, looked across a wide expanse of
country which nature had made defensible; and he knew that he was
backed by a stout-hearted and devoted people, who would choke up the
rivers with the dead bodies of the Normans, and with their own corpses,
ere they would allow the invaders to reach the abbey of Ely and the
shrine of Saint Etheldreda. Hence Thurstan had been emboldened to give
shelter to such English lords, and such persecuted Saxons of whatsoever
degree, as fled from the oppression of the conquerors to the isle of
Ely. Thanes dispossessed of their lands, bishops deprived of their
mitres, abbots driven from their monasteries to make room for
foreigners, all flocked hither; and whether they brought much money or
rich jewels with them, or whether they brought nothing at all, they all
met with a hospitable reception: so large and English was the heart of
Abbat Thurstan. When it was seen that William was breaking all the old
and free Saxon institutions, and the mild and equitable laws of Edward
the Confessor, which he had most solemnly sworn to preserve and
maintain; that the promptest submission to the conqueror ensured no
lasting safety to life or property; and that the Normans, one and all,
laity and clergy, knights and bishops, were proclaiming that all men of
Saxon blood ought to be disseised of their property, and ought to be
reduced to servitude and bondage, and were acting as if this system
could soon be established, more and more fugitives came flying into the
fen country. The town of Ely was roomy, but it was crowded; vast were
the monastery, and hospitium, and dependencies, but they were crowded
also: and far and near, on the dry hillocks, and in the green plains
fenced from the waters, were seen huts and rude tents, and the blue
smoke of many fires rising above the grey willows and alders.

It were long to tell how many chiefs and nobles of fame, and how many
churchmen of the highest dignity, assembled at dinner-time, and at
supper-time, in my Lord Abbat’s great hall, where each had his seat
according to his rank, and where the arms of every great chief were
hung behind him on the wall, and where the banner of every chief and
noble floated over his head, pendant from the groined roof. All the
bravest and most faithful of the Saxon warriors who had survived the
carnage of Hastings, and of the many battles which had been fought
since that of Hastings, were here; and in the bodies of these men,
scarred with the wounds inflicted by the Norman lances, flowed the most
ancient and noble blood of England. They had been thanes and earls, and
owners of vast estates, but now they nearly all depended for their
bread on the Lord Abbat of Ely. Stigand,[59] the dispossessed Saxon
Primate of all England, was here; Egelwin, the dispossessed Saxon
Bishop of Durham, was here; Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, was here; and
on one side of Alexander sat the good Bishop of Lindisfarn, while on
the other side of him the pious Bishop of Winchester ate the bread of
dependence and sorrow. Among the chiefs of great religious houses were
Eghelnoth the Abbat of Glastonbury, and Frithric the most steadfast and
most Saxon-hearted of all Lord Abbats. A very hard man, an unlettered,
newly-emancipated serf, from one of the hungriest parts of Normandie or
Maine, had taken possession of the great house at Glastonbury,[60] and
had caused the bodies of his predecessors, the abbats of English race,
to be disinterred; and, gathering their bones together, he had cast
them in one heap without the gates, as if, instead of being the bones
of holy and beatified monks, they had been the bones of sheep, or oxen,
or of some unclean animals. Frithric of Saint Albans, who had been
spiritual and temporal lord of one of the fairest parts of England, of
nearly all the woodland and meadow-land and corn-fields that lay
between Saint Albans and Barnet on the one side, and between Luton and
Saint Albans on the other side—Frithric, who had maintained one score
and ten loaf-eaters or serving men in his glorious abbey, had wandered
alone and unattended through the wilds and the fens, begging his way
and concealing himself from Norman pursuit in the huts of the poorest
men; and he had brought nothing with him to Ely save two holy books
which had comforted him on his long wayfaring, and which he carried
under his arm. Every great house was wanted by the conquerors for their
unecclesiastical kindred; but Saint Albans was one of the greatest of
them all, and Frithric had done that which the Normans and their duke
would never forgive. When, months after that great assize of God’s
judgment in battle, the battle of Hastings, (and after that the
traitorous Saxon Witan, assembled in London, had sent a submissive
deputation to William the Bastard at Berkhamstead to swear allegiance
to him, and to put hostages into his hand,) the Normans were slaying
the people, and plundering and burning the towns and villages, upon
drawing nigh unto Saint Albans, they found their passage stopped by a
multitude of great trees[61] which had been felled and laid across the
road, and behind which—if there had not been traitors in London and
false Saxons everywhere—there would have been posted expert archers,
and valorous knights and hardy yeomen, and nathless every monk, novice,
lay-brother, and hind of the abbey, in such sort that the invaders and
their war-horses would never have gotten over those barricades of
forest trees, nor have ever ascended the hill where the great saint and
martyr Albanus[62] suffered his martyrdom in the days of the Dioclesian
persecution, and where Offa the true Saxon king of Mercia erected the
first church and the first great monastery for one hundred monks, that
they might keep alive the memory of the just, and pray over his tomb
seven times a-day. Wrathful was Duke William; for, albeit none stood
behind those ramparts of timber to smite him and his host, he could not
win forward, nor enter the town, nor approach the abbey, until his
men-at-arms and the followers of his camp should with long toil clear
the road, and remove one after the other those stout barriers of forest
trees. Red was he in the face as a burning coal when he summoned to his
presence Frithric the Lord Abbat, and demanded whose work it was, and
why these oaken barriers were raised in the jurisdiction of the
monastery. Abbat Frithric, whose heart was stouter than his own oaks,
looked, as became the free descendant of Saxon thanes and Danish
princes, right into the eyes of the conqueror, and said unto him in a
loud voice, “I have done the duty appertaining to my birth and calling;
and if others of my rank and profession had performed the like, as they
well could and ought, it had not been in thy power to penetrate into
the land thus far!” We have said his voice was loud when he spoke to
the conqueror: it was so loud that the hills re-echoed it, and that men
heard it that were hid in the woods to watch what the Normans would do,
and avoid their fury; and when the echoes of that true Saxon voice died
away, the thick growing oaks seemed to speak, for there came voices
from the woods on either side the road, shouting, “Hail! all hail! Lord
Frithric, our true Lord Abbat! If every Saxon lord had been true as he,
Harold would now be king!”

Quoth Duke William, in an angered voice, “Is the spirituality of
England of such power? If I may live and enjoy that which I have
gotten, I will make their power less; and especially I mind to begin
with thee, proud Abbat of Saint Albans!”

And how behaved Abbat Frithric when his domains were seized, and
ill-shaven foreign monks thrust into his house, and savage foreign
soldiers?—when, after that the conqueror had sworn upon all the relics
of the church of Saint Albans, and by the Holy Gospels, to respect the
abbey and all churches, and to preserve inviolate the good and ancient
laws which had been established by the pious kings of England, and more
especially by King Edward the Confessor, he allowed his Normans to kill
the Saxon people without bot or compensation, plundered every church in
the land, oppressed and despoiled all the abbeys, ploughed with
ploughshares of red hot iron over the faces of all Saxons, and yet
demanded from Frithric and his compeers a new oath of allegiance, and
fuller securities for his obedience—what then did the Lord Abbat of
Saint Albans? He assembled all his monks and novices in the hall of the
chapter, and taking a tender farewell of them, he said, “My brothers,
my children, the time is come when, according to Scripture, I must flee
from city to city before the face of our persecutors—_Fugiendum est a
facie persequentium a civitate in civitatem_.” And rather than be
forsworn, or desert the good cause, or witness without the power of
remedying them the sufferings and humiliations and forcible expulsions
of his monks, he went forth and became a wanderer as aforesaid, until
he crossed the land of willows and many waters, and came unto Ely, a
lone man, with nought but his missal and his breviary under his arm.
Now the Abbat Frithric was old when these years of trouble began; and
constant grief and toil, and the discomforts of his long journey on
foot from the dry sunny hill of Saint Albans to the fens and morasses
of Ely, had given many a rude shake to the hour-glass of his life.
Since his arrival at Ely he had wasted away daily: every time that he
appeared in the hall or refectory he seemed more and more haggard and
worn: most men saw that he was dying, but none saw it so clearly as
himself. When the young and hopeful would say to him, “Lord Frithric,
these evil days will pass away, the Saxons will get their own again,
and thou wilt get back as a true Saxon to thine own abbey,” he would
reply, “Young men, England will be England again, but not in my day; my
next move is to the grave: Saint Albans is a heavenly place, but it is
still upon earth, and, save the one hope that my country may revive,
and that the laws and manners and the tongue of the Saxons may not
utterly perish, my hopes are all in heaven!”

Some of the best and wisest of those who had sought for refuge in the
isle of Ely, feared that when this bright guiding light should be put
out, and other old patriots, like the Abbat Frithric, should take their
departure, the spirit which animated this Saxon league would depart
also, or gradually cool and decline.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                         THE MONKS OF ELY FEAST.


It was on a wet evening in Autumn, as the rain was descending in
torrents upon swamps that seemed to have collected all the rains that
had been falling since the departure of summer, and just as the monks
of Ely were singing the Ave Maria (_Dulce, cantaverunt Monachi in
Ely!_)[63] that Elfric, the whilom novice of Spalding, surrounded by
some of the Lord Abbat’s people, and many of the town folk, who were
all laughing and twitching at his cloak, arrived at the gate of the
hospitium.[64] Our Lord Abbat Frithric had brought with him two holy
books. Elfric, our novice, had brought with him two grim Norman heads,
for he had not been idle on the road, but had surprised and killed on
the borders of the fen country, first one man-at-arms, and then
another; and the good folk of Ely were twitching at his mantle in order
that they might see again the trophies which he carried under his broad
sleeve. At his first coming to the well-guarded ford across the Ouse,
the youth had made himself known. Was he not the youngest son of
Goodman Hugh, who dwelt aforetime by Saint Ovin’s Cross, hard by the
village of Haddenham, and only a few bow-shot from the good town of
Ely.[65] And when the Saxons had seen the two savage Norman heads, and
had looked in the youth’s face, the elders declared that he was the
very effigies of the Goodman Hugh; and some of the younkers said that,
albeit his crown was shorn, and his eye not so merry as it was, they
recalled his face well, and eke the days when Elfric the son of Goodman
Hugh played at bowls with them in the bowling-alley of Ely, and bobbed
for eels[66] with them in the river, and went out with them to snare
wild water-fowl in the fens. Judge, therefore, if he met not with an
hospitable reception from town and gown, from the good folk of Ely, and
from all the monks!

So soon as Elfric had refreshed himself in the hospitium, he was called
to the presence of Abbat Thurstan, and in truth to the presence of all
the abbat’s noble and reverend guests, for Thurstan was seated in his
great hall, where the servitors were preparing for the supper. Elfric
would have taken his trophies with him, but the loaf-man who brought
the message doubted whether the abbat would relish the sight of dead
men’s heads close afore suppertime, and told him that his prowess was
already known; and so Elfric proceeded without his trophies to the
great hall, where he was welcomed by the noble company like another
David that had slain two Goliaths.[67] When he had told the story of
Ivo Taille-Bois’ long persecution and night attack, and his own flight
and journey, and had answered numerous questions put to him by the
grave assembly, Abbat Thurstan asked him whether he knew what had
happened at Spalding since his departure, and what had become of Father
Adhelm and his monks, and what fate had befallen the good Abbat of
Crowland.

“After my flight from the succursal cell,” said the youth, “I dwelt for
a short season at Crowland, hidden in the township, or in Deeping-fen,
whither also came unto the abbey Father Adhelm and the rest of that
brotherhood of Spalding; and there we learned how Ivo Taille-Bois had
sent over to his own country to tell his kinsmen that he had to offer
them a good house, convenient for a prior and five friars, ready built,
ready furnished and well provided with lands and tenements; and how
these heretical and unsound Norman monks[68] were hastening to cross
the Channel and take possession of the succursal cell at Spalding. My
Lord Abbat of Crowland, having what they call the king’s peace, and
holding the letters of protection granted by Lanfranc”.... “They will
protect no man of Saxon blood, and the priest or monk that accepts them
deserves excommunication,” said Frithric, the Abbat of Saint Albans.

“Amen!” said Elfric; “but our Abbat of Crowland, relying upon these
hollow and rotten reeds, laid his complaints before the king’s council
at that time assembled near unto Peterborough, and sought redress and
restitution.[69] But the Normans sitting in council not only refused
redress and absolved Taille-Bois, but also praised him for what he had
done in the way of extortion, pillage, sacrilege, and murder; and”....

“My once wise brother thy Abbat of Crowland ought to have known all
this beforehand,” said the Abbat of Saint Albans; “for do not these
foreigners all support and cover one another, and form a close league,
bearing one upon another, even as on the body of the old dragon scale
is laid over scale?”

“_Sic est_, my Lord Abbat,” said the youth, bowing reverentially to the
dignitary of the church and the best of Saxon patriots, “so is it my
lord! and dragons and devils are these Normans all! Scarcely had the
decision of the king’s council reached our house at Crowland, ere it
was surrounded by armed men, and burst open at the dead of night, as
our poor cell at Spalding had been, and Father Adhelm and all those who
had lived under his rule at Spalding, were driven out as disturbers of
the king’s peace! I should have come hither sooner, but those to whom
my obedience was due begged me to tarry awhile. Now I am only the
forerunner of Father Adhelm and his brethren, and of my Lord Abbat of
Crowland himself; for the abbat can no longer bear the wrongs that are
put upon him, and can see no hope upon earth, and no resting-place in
broad England, except in the Camp of Refuge.”

“Another abbat an outcast and a wanderer! This spacious house will be
all too full of Saxon abbats and bishops: but I shall make room for
this new comer,” said Frithric of Saint Albans to Egelwin, Bishop of
Durham.[70]

Divers of the monks of Ely, and _specialiter_ the chamberlain, who kept
the accounts of the house, and the cellarer, who knew the daily drain
made on the winebutts, looked blank at this announcement of more
guests; but the bounteous and big-hearted Abbat of Ely said, “Our
brother of Crowland, and Father Adhelm of Spalding, shall be welcome
here—yea, and all they may bring with them; but tell me, oh youth, are
they near at hand, or afar off in the wilderness?”

“The feet of age travel not so fast as the feet of youth,” said Elfric,
“age thinks, youth runs. I wot I was at Ramsey[71] mere before they got
to the Isle of Thorney, and crossed the Ouse before they came to the
Nene, but as, by the blessing of the saints,” and the youth might have
said, in consequence of exercise and low living, “Father Adhelm’s
podagra hath left him, they can hardly fail of being here on the day of
Saint Edmund,[72] our blessed king and martyr, and that saint’s day is
the next day after to-morrow.”

“It shall be a feast-day,” said Thurstan; “for albeit Saint Edmund be
not so great a saint as our own saint, Etheldreda, the founder of this
house, and the monks of Saint Edmund-Bury (the loons have submitted to
the Norman!) have more to do with his worship than we have, King Edmund
is yet a great saint—a true Saxon saint, whose worship is old in the
land; and it hath been the custom of this house to exercise hospitality
on his festival. Therefore will we hold that day as we have been wont
to hold it; and our brothers from Crowland and Spalding, who must be
faring but badly in the fens, shall be welcomed with a feast.”

So bounteous and open-handed was the true Saxon Abbat of Ely. But the
chamberlain set his worldly head to calculate the expense, and the
cellarer muttered to himself, “By Saint Withburga[73] and her holy
well, our cellars will soon be dry!”

On Saint Edmund’s eve, after evening service in the choir and after
saying his prayers apart in the chapel of Saint Marie, Frithric, the
Abbat of Saint Albans departed this life. His last words were, that
England would be England still;[74] and all those who heard the words
and had English hearts, believed that he was inspired, and that the
spirit of prophecy spoke in his dying voice. The Abbat of Crowland was
so near, that he heard the passing-bell, as its sad sounds floated over
the fens, telling all the faithful that might be there of their duty to
put up a prayer for the dead. On Saint Edmund’s day the way-farers from
Crowland arrived, and that abbat took possession of the cell, and of
the seat in the refectory which had been occupied by Frithric. Fitting
place was also found for Father Adhelm, who had grown so thin upon the
journey that even Elfric scarcely knew him again. The feast in the hall
was as magnificent as any that had been given there to King Canute, or
even to any that had been given in the happy days of King Edward the
Confessor; and the appetites of the company assembled were worthy of
the best times. Fish, flesh, and fowl, and pasties of venison—nothing
was wanting. The patrimony of Saint Etheldreda, the lands and waters
appertaining unto the abbey, and administered by the bountiful abbat,
furnished the best portions of the feast. Were there in the world such
eels and eel-pouts as were taken in the Ouse and Cam close under the
walls of the abbey? Three thousand eels, by ancient compact, do the
monks of Ramsey pay every Lent unto the monks of Peterborough, for
leave to quarry stone in a quarry appertaining to Peterborough Abbey;
but the house of Ely might have paid ten times three thousand eels, and
not have missed them, so plenty were there, and eke so good![75] The
fame of these eels was known in far countries; be sure they were not
wanting on this Saint Edmund’s day. The streams, too, abounded with
pike, large and fit for roasting, with puddings in their bellies; and
the meres and stagnating waters swarmed with tench and carp, proper for
stewing. Ten expert hinds attended to these fresh-water fisheries, and
kept the abbat’s stews and the stews of the house constantly filled
with fish. It is said by an ancient historian that here in the fenny
country is such vast store of fish as astonishes strangers; for which
the inhabitants laugh at them: nor is there less plenty of
water-fowl;[76] and for a single halfpenny five men may have enough of
either, not only to stay their stomachs, but for a full meal! Judge,
then, if my Lord Abbat was well provided. It was allowed on all sides
that, for the Lenten season, and for all those fast-days of the Church
when meat was not to be eaten, no community in the land was so well
furnished as the monks of Ely; and that their fish-fasts were feasts.
While the brethren of other houses grew thin in Quadragesima, the monks
of Ely grew fat. Other communities might do well in roast meats and
baked meats; but for a fish dinner—for a banquet in Lent—there was
not in the land anything to compare with the dinners at Ely! Nor was
there lack of the fish[77] that swim the salt sea, or of the shell-fish
that are taken on the sea-coast, or of the finny tribes that come up
the river to spawn; the fishermen of Lynn were very devout to Saint
Etheldreda, and made a good penny by supplying the monks; they ascended
the Ouse with the best of their sea-fish in their boats, and with every
fish that was in season, or that they knew how to take. And so, at this
late November festival there were skates and plaice, sturgeon and
porpoises, oysters and cockles spread upon my Lord Abbat’s table. Of
the sheep and beeves we speak not; all men know the richness of the
pasture that springs up from the annually inundated meadows,[78] and
the bounty of the nibbling crop that grows on the upland slopes with
the wild thyme and the other savoury herbs that turn mutton into
venison. Of the wild boars of the forest and fen only the hure or head
was served up in this Aula Magna, the inferior parts being kept below
for the use of the lay-brothers and hinds, or to be distributed by the
hospitaller to the humbler degrees of pilgrims and strangers, or to be
doled out to the poor of the town of Ely—for wot ye, when the Lord
Abbat Thurstan feasted in Ely none fasted there: no! not the poorest
palmer that ever put cockle-shell in his cap or took the pilgrim’s
staff in his hand to visit the blessed shrine of Saint Etheldreda! Of
the wild buck, though less abundant in this fenny country than the
boar, nought was served up for my Lord Abbat and his own particular
guests except the tender succulent haunch; the lay-brothers and the
loaf-eaters of the house, and the poor pilgrims and the poor of the
town, got all the rest. The fat fowls of Norfolk, the capons of Caen in
Normandie, and the pavoni or peacocks that first came from Italie a
present from the _Legatus à latere_ of his holiness the Pope, were kept
and fattened in my Lord Abbat’s farm-yard; and well did his coquinarius
know how to cook them! To the wild-fowl there was no end, and Elfric,
our bold novice, the son of Goodman Hugh, who dwelt by Saint Ovin’s
Cross, hard by the village of Haddenham, and who had been a fen-fowler
from his youth, could have told you how facile it was to ensnare the
crane[79] and the heron, the wild duck and teal, and the eccentric and
most savoury snipe. Well, we ween, before men cut down the covering
woods, and drained the marshes, and brought too many people into the
fens and too many great ships up the rivers, the whole land of Saint
Etheldreda was like one great larder; and my Lord Abbat had only to
say, “Go forth and take for me so many fowl, or fish, or boars,” and it
was done. It is an antique and venerable proverb, that which sayeth
good eating demands good drinking. The country of the fens was not
productive of apple-trees, and the ale and beer that were drunk in the
house, and the mead and idromel likewise, were brought from Norfolk and
other neighbouring countries; but the abbat, and the officials, and the
cloister monks drank better wine than apple-wine, better drink than
mead or than pigment, for they drank of the juice of the generous vine,
which Noah planted on the first dry hill-side he found. The monks of
Glastonbury and Waltham, and of many other houses of the first
reputation, cultivated the grape on their own soil, where it seldom
would ripen, and drank English grape-wine much too sour and poor. Not
so our lordly monks of Ely! They sent the shipmen of Lynn to the Elbe,
and to the Rhine, and to the Mosel, to bring them more generous drink;
and they sent them to the south even so far as Gasconie and Espaing for
the ruby wine expressed from the grapes which grow in the sunniest
clime. In the good times four keels, two from the German Ocean and two
from the Gulf of Biscaye, steered every year through the sand-banks of
the Wash to Lynn,[80] and from Lynn up the Ouse even unto Ely, where
the tuns were landed and deposited in the cellars of the abbey, under
the charge of the sub-cellarer, a lay-brother from foreign parts, who
had been a vintner in his youth. And in this wise it came to be a
passant saying with men who would describe anything that was
super-excellent—“It is as good as the wine of the monks of Ely!”
Maugre the cellarer’s calculation of quantities, the best wine my Lord
Abbat had in hand was liberally circulated at the feast in silver cups
and in gold-mounted horns. Thus were the drinks equal to the viands, as
well in quantity as in quality; and if great was the skill of the
vintner, great also was the skill of the cook. In other houses of
religion, and in houses, too, of no mean fame, the monks had often to
lament that their coquinarius fed them over long on the same sort of
dishes; but it was not so with our monks of Ely, who possessed a cook
that had the art of giving variety to the selfsame viands, and who also
possessed lands, woods, and waters that furnished the most varied
materials for the cook to try his skill upon. As Father Adhelm finished
his last slice of porpoise,[81] curiously condimented with Eastern
spices, as fragrant to the nose as they were savoury to the palate, he
lifted up his eyes towards the painted ceiling, and said, “I did not
hope, after the death of Oswald our cook at Spalding, to eat of so
perfect a dish on this side the grave!”

Flowers[82] there were none to strew upon the floor; but the floor of
the hall was thickly strewed with sweet-smelling hay, and with the
rushes that grow in the fens; and the feet of the loaf-men of the abbat
and of the other servitors that waited on the lordly company made no
noise as they hurried to and fro with the dishes and the wine-cups and
drinking-horns. While dinner lasted, nought was heard but the voice of
the abbat’s chaplain, who read the Psalms in a corner of the hall, the
rattle of trenchers and knives, and, timeously,[83] such ejaculations
as these! “How good this fish! how good this flesh! how good this fowl!
how fine this pasty! how rich this wine!” But when the tables were
cleared, and grace after meat had been said, and my Lord Abbat’s
cupbearer had filled the cup of every guest with bright old Rhenish,
Thurstan stood up at the head of the table, and said, “Now drink we
round to the health of England’s true king, and this house’s best
friend, the Saxon-hearted Harold,[84] be he where he will! And may he
soon come back again! Cups off at a draught, while we drink Health to
King Harold!”

“We drink his health, and he is dead—we wish him back, and he is lying
in his coffin in the church of the abbey of Waltham, safe in the
keeping of the monks of Waltham! The wine is good, but the toast is
foolish.” Thus spake the envious prior to the small-hearted cellarer.
But the rest of the goodly company drank the wassail with joy and
exultation, and seemingly without any doubt that Harold was living and
would return. In their minds[85] it was the foul invention of the
enemy—to divide and discourage the English people—which made King
Harold die at Hastings. Who had seen him fall? Who had counted and
examined that noble throng of warriors that retreated towards the
sea-coast when the battle was lost by foul treachery, and that found
boats and ships, and sailed away for some foreign land? Was not Harold
in that throng, wounded, but with no deadly wound? Was it not known
throughout the land that the Normans, when they counted the slain, not
being able to find the body of Harold, sent some of our Saxon slaves
and traitors to seek for it—to seek but not to find it? Was it not a
mouldering and a mutilated corpse that the Normans caused to be
conveyed to Waltham, and to be there entombed, at the east end of the
choir, as the body of King Harold? And did not the monks of Waltham
close up the grave with brick-work, and inscribe the slab, HIC JACET
HAROLD INFELIX,[86] without ever seeing who or what was in the coffin?
So reasoned all of this good company, who loved the liberties of
England, and who had need of the sustaining hope that the brave Harold
was alive, and would come back again.

Other wassails followed fast one upon the other. They were all to the
healths of those who had stood out manfully against the invader, or had
preferred exile in the fens, and poverty in the Camp of Refuge to
submission to the conqueror. “Not less than a brimming cup can we drink
to the last arrived of our guests, our brother the Lord Abbat of
Crowland, and our brother the prior of Spalding,” said Thurstan,
filling his own silver cup with his own hand until the Rhenish ran over
upon the thirsty rushes at his feet.

“Might I be allowed,” said Father Adhelm at a later part of the feast,
“might my Lord Abbat vouchsafe me leave to call a wassail for an humble
and unconsecrated member of the Saxon church—who is nevertheless a
child of Saint Etheldreda, and a vassal of my Lord Abbat, being native
to this place—I would just drink one quarter of a cup, or it might be
one half, to Elfric the Novice, for he travelled for our poor succursal
cell when we were in the greatest perils; he carried my missives and my
messages through fire and water; he forewarned us of our last danger
and extremity; and, albeit he had not our order for the deed, and is
thereby liable to a penance for disobedience—he slew with his arrow
Ivo Taille-Bois’ man-at-arms that had savagely slain good Wybert our
wheel-wright.”

“Aye,” said Thurstan, “and he came hither across the fens as merry as
David dancing before the ark; and he brought with him the heads of two
Norman thieves who, with their fellows, had been murdering our serfs,
and trying to find an opening that should lead them to the Camp of
Refuge! Father Adhelm, I would have named thy youth in time; but as
thou hast named him, let us drink his name and health even now! And let
the draught be one half cup at least;—‘Elfric the novice of Spalding!’”

“This is unbecoming our dignity and the dignity of our house: next we
shall waste our wine in drinking wassail to our loaf-eaters and
swineherds,” muttered the cellarer to the prior.

But while the cellarer muttered and looked askance, his heart not being
Saxon or put in the right place, the noblest English lords that were
there, and the highest dignitaries of the church, the archbishop and
the bishops, the Lord Abbats, and the priors of houses, that were so
high that even the priors were styled Lords, _Domini_,[87] and wore
mitres, stood on their feet, and with their wine-cups raised high in
their hands, shouted as in one voice, “Elfric the novice;” and all the
obedientiarii or officials of the abbey of Ely that were of rank enow
to be bidden to my Lord Abbat’s table, stood up in like manner and
shouted, “Elfric the novice!” and, when the loud cheering was over, off
went the wine, and down to the ringing board the empty silver cups and
the golden-bound horns. He who had looked into those cups and horns
might have smiled at Father Adhelm’s halves and quarters: they were
nearly all filled to the brim: yet when they had quitted the lip and
were put down upon the table, there was scarcely a heel-tap to be found
except in the cup of the cellarer and in that of the envious prior of
Ely. So strong were the heads and stomachs of our Saxon ancestors
before the Normans came among us and brought with them all manner of
people from the south with all manner of effeminacies.

Judge ye if Elfric was a proud man that day! At wassail-time the wide
doors of the Aula Magna were thrown wide open; and harpers, and
meni-singers, and men that played upon the trumpet, the horn, the
flute, the pipe and tabor, the cymbal and the drum, or that touched the
strings of the viola, assembled outside, making good music with
instrument and voice; and all that dwelt within the precincts of the
abbey, or that were lodged for the nonce in the guest-house, came, an
they chose, to the threshold of the hall, and saw and heard what was
doing and saying inside and what outside. Now Elfric was there, with
palmers and novices trooping all around him, and repeating (albeit
dry-mouthed and without cups or horns to flourish) the wassail of the
lords and prelates, “Elfric the novice!” If at that moment my Lord
Abbat Thurstan or Father Adhelm had bidden the youth go and drive the
Normans from the strong stone keep of their doubly-moated and
trebly-walled castle by Cam-Bridge, Elfric would have gone and have
tried to do it. He no longer trod upon base earth, his head struck the
stars, as the poets say.

The abbat’s feast, which began at one hour before noon, did not end
until the hour of Ave Maria; nay, even then it was not finished, but
only suspended for a short season by the evening service in the choir;
for, after one hour of the night, the refectoriarius, or controller of
the refectory, re-appeared in the hall with waxen torches and bright
lanterns, and his servitors spread the table for supper.

As Abbat Thurstan returned to the refectory, leading by the hand his
guest the Abbat of Crowland, that dispossessed prelate said to his
host, “Tonight for finishing the feast; to-morrow morning for counsel.”

“Aye,” responded Thurstan, “to-morrow we will hold a chapter,—our
business can brook no further delay—our scouts and intelligencers
bring us bad news,—King Harold comes not, nor sends—the Camp of
Refuge needs a head—our warriors want a leader of fame and experience,
and one that will be true to the Saxon cause, and fearless. Woe the
while! where so many Saxons of fame have proved traitors, and have
touched the mailed hand of the son of the harlot of Falaise in
friendship and submission, and have accepted as the gift of the butcher
of Hastings the lands and honours which they held from their ancestors
and the best of Saxon kings—where, I say, may we look for such a Saxon
patriot and liberator? Oh, Harold! my lord and king, why tarriest thou?
Holy Etheldreda, bring him back to thy shrine, and to the Camp of
Refuge, which will cease to be a refuge for thy servants if Harold
cometh not soon! But, courage my Lord of Crowland! The Philistines are
not upon us; our rivers and ditches and marshes and meres are not yet
drained, and no Saxon in these parts will prove so accursed a
traitor[88] as to give the Normans the clue to our labyrinths. The
saint hath provided another joyous meal for us. Let us be grateful and
gay to-night; let us sup well and strongly, that we may be invigorated
and made fit to take strong and wise counsel in the morning.”

And heartily did the monks of Ely and their guests renew and finish
their feast, and hopefully and boldly did they speak of wars and
victories over the Normans, until the drowsiness of much wine overcame
them, and the sub-chamberlain of the house began to extinguish the
lights, and collect together the torches and the lanterns, while the
cellarer collected all the spoons, taking care to carry the Lord
Abbat’s spoon in his right hand, and the spoons of the monks in his
left hand, according to the statutes of the Order. It was the last time
that the feast of Saint Edmund the Martyr was kept in the true Saxon
manner in the great house at Ely. The next year, and the year following
that, the monks had little wine and but little ale to drink; and after
the long years of trouble although the cellars were getting filled
again, the true old Saxon brotherhood was broken up and mixed, a
foreigner was seated in the place of Abbat Thurstan,[89] and monks with
mis-shaven tonsures and mis-shaped hoods and gowns filled all the
superior offices of the abbey, purloining and sending beyond sea what
my Lord Thurstan had spent in a generous hospitality, among true-born
and generous-hearted Englishmen. But in this nether world even the
gifts of saints and the chartered donation of many kings are to be kept
only by the brave and the united: conquest recognises no right except
as a mockery: the conquered must not expect to be allowed to call their
life and limbs their own, or the air they breathe their own, or their
wives and children their own, or their souls their own: they have no
property but in the grave, no right but to die at the hour appointed
for them. Therefore let men perish in battle rather than outlive
subjugation, and look for mercy from conquerors! and, therefore, let
all the nations of the earth be warned by the fate of the Anglo Saxons
to be always one-hearted for their country.

  This patriotic and eloquent appeal may be very appropriately
  reiterated at the present day. The sentiment which it inculcates is
  as essential now as it was when the Saxons were defending the “Camp
  of Refuge.” Is it not consolidation rather than extension which is
  needed for the well being of our country? Will not the future
  greatness of our nation hinge upon the development of the highest
  principles of humanity—the unity, loyalty and virtue of its
  peoples?



                              CHAPTER V.

                     THE MONKS OF ELY TAKE COUNSEL.


At as early an hour as the church services and devotional exercises
would allow, Thurstan opened a chapter in the chapter-house, which
stood on the north side, hard by the chief gate of the church. As his
lordship entered, he said—the words that were appointed to be said on
such occasions—“May the souls of all the deceased brethren of this
house, and the souls of all true believers, rest in peace!” And the
convent replied, “Amen!” Then the Lord Abbat spoke again, and said,
“_Benedicite_,” and the convent bowed their heads. And next he said,
“Oh Lord! in thy name!” and then, “Let us speak of the order.” And
hereupon all present crossed themselves, and bent their heads on their
breasts, and the business of the chapter commenced. Only the prior, the
sub-prior, the cellarer or bursar, the sacrist, and sub-sacrist, the
chamberlain or treasurer, and the other chief officials or
_obedientiarii_, and the other cloistered monks, _maturi fratres_,
whose noviciate had been long passed, and whose monastic vows had been
all completed, had the right of being present in chapter, and of
deliberating and voting upon the business of the house and order. All
that passed in chapter was, in a manner, _sub sigillo confessionis_,
and not to be disclosed by any deliberating member to the rest of the
convent, or to any of them, and much less was it to be revealed to any
layman, or to any man beyond the precincts of the abbey. In these
consultations, on the day next after the festival of Saint Edmund’s,
the monks of Ely sat long with closed doors. When they came forth of
the chapter-house it was noticed that the face of the Lord Abbat was
very red, and that the faces of the prior and cellarer were very pale.
A lay-brother, who had been working on the top of the chapter-house
out-side, repairing some chinks in the roof, whispered to his familiars
that he had heard very high words passing below, and that he had
distinctly heard my Lord Abbat say, “Since the day of my election and
investiture no brother of this house has been loaded with chains, and
thrown into the underground dungeon; but, by the shrine of Saint
Etheldreda, were I to find one traitor among us, I would bind him and
chain him, and leave him to rot! And were there two of our brotherhood
unfaithful to the good cause, and to King Harold, and plotting to
betray the last hopes of England and this goodly house, and its tombs
and shrines and blessed relics, to the Norman, I would do what hath
been done aforetime in this abbey—I would bury them alive, or build
them up in the niches left in our deep foundation walls!”[90]

Now the gossips of the house, making much out of little, went about the
cloisters whispering to one another that some sudden danger was at
hand, and that my Lord Abbat suspected the prior and the cellarer of
some secret correspondence with the Norman knights that garrisoned Duke
William’s castle near unto Cam-Bridge.

“If it be so,” said Elfric, the novice from Spalding, “I would advise
every true Saxon monk, novice, and lay-brother, to keep their eyes upon
the cellarer and the prior!”

“That shall be done,” said an old lay-brother.

“Aye, we will all watch their outgoings and their comings in,” said
several of the gossips; “for the prior is a hard-dealing, peremptory
man, and cunning and crafty at the same time, never looking one in the
face; and ever since last pasque the cellarer hath shown an evil habit
of stinting us underlings and loaf-eaters in our meat and drink.”

“He hath ever been given too little to drink himself to be a true
Saxon,” said another; “we will watch him well!”

And they all said that they would watch the cellarer and eke the prior;
that they would for ever love, honour, and obey Thurstan their good and
bountiful Lord Abbat; and that they would all die with swords or spears
in their hands rather than see the Normans enter the Camp of Refuge. So
one-hearted was the community at this time.

Shortly after finishing the chapter in the usual manner, and coming out
with his chaplains, singing _Verba Mea_, Lord Thurstan went into his
own hall, and there assembled all the high and noble guests of the
house, whether laics, or priests, or monks, and all the obedientiarii
and cloistered brothers of the abbey, except the prior and the
cellarer, who had gone to their several cells with faces yet paler than
they were when they came forth from the chapter-house. In my Lord
Abbat’s hall no business was discussed that appertained exclusively to
the house or order: the deliberations all turned upon the general
interests of the country, or upon the means of prolonging the struggle
for national independence. Thurstan, after reminding the assembly that
the Saxon heroes of the Camp of Refuge had foiled the Normans in two
attempts they had made to penetrate into the Isle of Ely—the one in
the summer of the present year, and the other in the summer of the
preceding year, one thousand and sixty-nine—and that it was four good
years since the battle of Hastings, which William the Norman had
bruited on the continent as a victory which had given him possession of
all England, frankly made it known to all present that he had certain
intelligence that the Normans were making vast preparations at
Cam-Bridge, at Bury, at Stamford, at Huntingdon, and even at Brunn, in
order to invade the whole fenny country, and to press upon the Isle of
Ely and the Camp of Refuge from many opposite quarters. My Lord Abbat
further made it known that the duke had called to this service all his
bravest and most expert captains, and a body of troops that had been
trained to war in Brittanie and in other parts wherein there were fens
and rivers and meres, and thick-growing forests of willow and alder,
even as in the country of East Anglia. He also told them how Duke
William had sworn by the splendour of God’s face that another year
should not pass without seeing the Abbey of Ely in flames, the Camp of
Refuge broken into and scattered, the rule of the Normans established
over the whole land, and the refractory Saxons exterminated. “Now,”
said my Lord Abbat, “it behoves us to devise how we shall withstand
this storm, and to select some fitting and experienced captain that
shall have authority over all the fighting men of our league, and that
shall be able to measure swords with these vaunted leaders from foreign
parts. Our brave Saxon chiefs in the camp, or in this house, and now
present among us, are weary of their jealousies of one another, and
have wisely agreed to obey, one and all, one single leader of
experience and fame and good fortune, if such a leader can anywhere be
found, having a true Saxon heart within him, and being one that hath
never submitted to or negociated with the invader. Let us then cast
about and try and find such a chief. Let every one speak his mind
freely, and then we can compare and choose.”

Some named one chief, and some another: many brave and expert men were
named successively and with much applause, and with many expressions of
hope and confidence; but when Father Adhelm, the expelled prior of the
succursal cell at Spalding, stood up in his turn, and with the briefest
preamble named Hereward the son of Leofric, the late Lord of Brunn,
Hereward the truest of Saxons, the other chiefs seemed to be all
forgotten, even by those who had severally proposed them, and the
assembly listened in silence, or with a silence interrupted only by
shouts of triumph, while this good prior and whilom neighbour of
Hereward related the chief events of that warrior’s life, and pointed
out the hereditary and the personal claims he had to the consideration
of his countrymen. Ever since the earliest days in which the Saxons
gained a footing on the land, the Lords of Brunn, the ancestors of
Hereward, had been famed for their valour in the field, famed for their
prudence in the Witan and in all other councils, had been famed above
all their neighbours for their hospitality! And when the Saxons
embraced the Gospel as preached by Saint Augustine and his disciples,
who had been so devout as the Lords of Brunn? who so bountiful to the
shrines of saints and religious houses? who so ready to fight unto
death in defence of the church? Notable it was, and known unto all that
dwelt in the land of fens, that the house of Crowland, and the house of
Ely, and the shrine of Saint Etheldreda, had been served in the hour of
need by many of Hereward’s forefathers. When the unconverted,
heathenish Danes were ravaging the country, and burning all the
monasteries, and tethering their horses in the chapels of royal
palaces, one Lord of Brunn fought in the ranks by the side of Friar
Tolli,[91] from sunrise to sunset, for the defence of the Abbey of
Crowland, nor ceased fighting until three of the Danish sea-kings had
been slain, and the monks had had time to remove their relics, and
their books, and their sacred vases, into the impenetrable marshes of
that vicinity. Another Lord of Brunn,[92] who at the call of the monks
had marched across the fens with all his people, and with all of his
family that could wield a sword, had perished close under the walls of
Ely Abbey, after defeating the Pagans, and driving them back towards
their ships. The blood of each of these Lords of Brunn ran in the veins
of Hereward, and his deeds had proved him worthy of the blood. In his
youth—in the days of Edward[93] the Confessor—when the cunning
Normans were beginning to beset the court of the childless king, and to
act as if the inheritance was already their own, and the people of
England already their slaves, it chanced that our Hereward, who had
been on a pilgrimage to Canterbury,[94] came back to the sea by Dover,
and found Count Eustace of Boulogne, and his French men-at-arms engaged
in a fierce quarrel with the men of Dover, and galloping through the
streets with their naked swords in their hands, striking men and women,
and crushing divers children under their horses’ hoofs. Hereward,
though but a stripling, drew his blade, rallied the dull townsfolk, who
before had no leader, (and so were fighting loosely and without order,
and without any science of war,) and renewing the battle at a vantage,
he slew with his own hand a French knight; and then the men of Dover
slew nineteen of the strangers, wounded many more, and drove Count
Eustace and the rest out of the town to fly in dismay back to king
Edward. Later, when Harold,[95] as earl of the eastern counties, and
chief of king Edward’s armies, marched into Wales to curb the insolent
rage of King Griffith, Hereward attended him, and fought with him among
the mountains and glens, and lakes and morasses of Wales, until that
country was reduced by many victories, and Harold took shipping to
return to King Edward with the head of Griffith stuck upon the rostrum
or beak of his galley. Later still, when Hereward was of manly age, and
King Edward the Confessor was dead, having bequeathed his crown to
Harold, and Harold as our true king raised his banner of war to march
against his own unnatural brother Earl Tostig,[96] who had brought the
King of Norway and a great army of Norwegians into the country of York
to deprive him of his throne or dismember his kingdom, Hereward marched
with him with many of his father’s stout men of Brunn, and fought under
Harold’s eye in the great battle at Stamford Bridge—that battle which
ceased not until Earl Tostig and the king of Norway were both slain,
and the river was choked up with the Norwegian dead. From Stamford
Bridge the march of bold Harold was to Hastings, for the Normans had
landed while he had been vanquishing the Norwegians. On that long and
rapid march,[97] when hundreds of tried soldiers lagged behind,
Hereward kept pace with his royal master; and when the battle was
arrayed he was seen riding by Harold’s side; and when the battle
joined, his battle-axe was seen close by the battle-axes of Harold and
the king’s two loyal and brave brothers, Gurth and Leofwin, dealing
terrible blows, and cutting the steel caps and the coats of mail of the
Normans like chaff. Saxons, remember that he fought at Hastings through
nine long hours, and did not yield until ye saw that ye were betrayed!
Separated from his king in the fury of the last _melée_, Hereward
attempted to rally the East Angles and the men of Kent; and failing in
that, and hearing a mighty rumour that Harold the king was slain, he
galloped to the port of Winchelsey with a few of his father’s trusty
people, and there embarked for foreign parts, vowing that he would
never bow his head to the conqueror. The father[98] of Hereward, being
old and infirm, and infected by the unmanly fears which made so many
Saxons throw aside the sword before the conquest of England was well
begun, had made haste to tender his allegiance to the son of the
harlot, had obtained his peace, and had been allowed to retain his
lordship of Brunn, after paying sundry fines for his son’s patriotism.
But latterly the old Lord of Brunn had been gathered to his fathers,
and a Norman chief had seized his manor-house and all his lands, and
was now keeping them as his patrimony. Such, being told briefly, was
the story which Father Adhelm told to my Lord Abbat of Ely and his
guests and officials; and when he had done, he asked, where could a
better chief be found for the Camp of Refuge than Hereward the true
Saxon, and legitimate Lord of Brunn? And, hereupon, there was a
clapping of hands and shouting of voices in all that noble and devout
assembly—a shouting so loud that it echoed through all the abbey, and
was heard as far off as Saint Ovin’s Cross; and the indwellers of the
town of Ely, albeit they knew not what it meant, took up the cry, and
shouted, “Hereward to the Camp of Refuge! Hereward for England!”

“Bethinks me,” said the cautelous Abbat of Crowland, when the noise had
ceased, “that perchance Hereward will not come to us at our summons. He
must know how false our country has proved to herself, and how great
the progress the conqueror hath made in it: his lands and all his
inheritance are gone, a price is set upon his head in England, and his
valour and experience in war, and his other good qualities, have made
for him a prosperous and honorable home in a foreign land.[99] While
yet in my poor house at Crowland, a shipman from the Wash, who trades
to the opposite coast, told me that he had lately seen at Ypres my Lord
Hereward, living in great affluence and fame; and the mariner further
told me that Hereward had said to him that he would never wend back to
a land of cowards and traitors; that he had carved himself out new
estates in the fattest lands of the Netherlands, and that England had
nothing to give him except dishonour or a grave.”[100]

These representations damped the hopes of some of the company; but as
Hereward’s mind could not be known without a trial, it was determined
to send some trusty messenger across the seas, who might gain access to
the presence of the chief, and at the same time purchase and bring back
with him a supply of arms and warlike harness, with other things much
needed in the Camp of Refuge. The difficulties of this embassage struck
all that were present: “And who,” said the Lord Abbat, “shall be this
trusty and expert messenger?”

“Were it not for the greenness of his years and the lowliness of his
condition,” said the Prior of Spalding, “I would even venture to
recommend for the mission my bold-hearted, clear-headed, and
nimble-footed novice, Elfric.”

“Brother, thou hast said it,” responded Thurstan; “thy novice shall go!
Let the youth be summoned hither.”

The novice was soon kneeling at my Lord Abbat’s feet, and was soon made
acquainted as well with the difficult task he was expected to perform,
as with the uncomfortable doubts which had been propounded by the Abbat
of Crowland. When asked by his own immediate superior, Father Adhelm,
whether he would undertake the task, he answered, “Marry, and that I
will right gladly. When I first went to Spalding, I knew well Hereward,
the son of the Lord of Brunn, and some of those that were nearest to
him. If England is to be saved, he is the man that will save it. I
would go to the world’s end to find him and bring him hither. I love my
country, and I love travelling better than my meat and drink. I have
oft-times prayed to Saint Ovin that he would vouchsafe me the grace of
going into foreign parts! Moreover, my prime duty is obedience to my
superiors. Let me depart instantly, and I will the sooner bring you
back Lord Hereward!”

“Thou art very confident,” said the Abbat of Crowland: “how knowest
thou that Hereward will come with thee?”

“My lord and master,” said the novice, “I ween I can take over with me
a word of command, or a prayer more potential than a command, and one
which Hereward could not withstand even if he were king of all the
Netherlands’ country, and sure death stood upon the English beach to
seize him on return!”

“What does this young man mean?” said the Abbat of Crowland.

Elfric blushed, stammered, and could not go on.

“What dost thou mean?” said his Prior of Spalding.

Elfric stammered more than before, which angered his superior, and
brought down some harsh words upon his head.

“Nay,” said the good old Bishop of Lindisfarn,[101] “chide not the
young man, but give him to collect his thought and frame his speech. He
may know more of Lord Hereward than any one here knoweth. But ... but I
hope that this novice of a goodly house doth not think of employing any
witchcraft or unlawful spell! _De maleficio libera nos!_ From
witchcraft and sacrilege, and all the arts of the devil, good Lord
deliver us!”

The bishop crossed himself; they all crossed themselves; and Elfric not
only crossed himself, but likewise said “_Libera nos!_” and “_Amen!_”
But when he had so done and so said, his merry eye twinkled, and there
was as much of a smile about his mouth as the reverence due to the
company allowed of in a novice.

“If there be magic,” said he, “it is all white magic; if there be a
spell, it is not an unholy spell.” And as Elfric said these words he
looked into the good-natured, right hearty, and right English face of
my Lord Abbat Thurstan.

“Speak on, boy,” said the abbat; “speak out, my brave boy, and fear
nought!”

Being thus heartened, Elfric said: “Then, to speak with reverence
before this noble and reverend company, I wot well there were, when I
was first at Spalding, and when my Lord Hereward was at Brunn, certain
love-passages....”

“Certain _what_?” said the expelled Abbat of Cockermouth, who was
somewhat deaf.

“Love-passages,” said Elfric, looking very archly, and with a laugh in
his eyes, if not on his lips; “certain love-passages between the son of
the Lord of Brunn and the noble maiden Alftrude, the young daughter and
heiress to the lord of the neighbouring town, that old Saxon lord,
Albert of Ey.”[102]

“Truth, the two houses stood not very far apart,” said the Abbat of
Crowland; “but Albert of Ey was no friend to the old Lord of Brunn.”

“Most true, my lord; but Albert died before his neighbour, and left his
wide estates to his fair daughter Alftrude, having first given her in
ward to this Lanfranc, who is by some called Archbishop of Canterbury,
and whose will and power few can gainsay. Moreover, the Ladie Alftrude
is cousin to the Ladie Lucia, whom Ivo Taille-Bois hath made his wife;
and as that arch-enemy of our house extends his protection to his
wife’s cousin, not wishing that her lands should be seized by any
hungry Norman other than a relation of his own, the heiress of Ey hath
been allowed to live in the old manor-house, and to enjoy such
proportion of her father’s wealth as Lanfranc chooseth to allow her.
Many Norman knights have sought her hand, as the best means of
obtaining her land, but the Saxon maiden had ever said Nay! And
Lanfranc, who hath done violence to the very church for his own
interest, and Ivo Taille-Bois, who got his own Saxon wife by violence,
have hitherto had power enough to prevent any great wrong or violence
being done to Ladie Alftrude, the heiress of Ey. Now the Ladie Alftrude
remembers the times that are past, and sighs and weeps for the return
of Hereward, vowing that she will wed none but him, and that——”

“Thou seemeth well informed in these matters,” said one of the monks;
“but prithee, how didst thou obtain thine information?”

Elfric stammered a little, and blushed a good deal as he said, “The
young Ladie Alftrude hath long had for her handmaiden one Mildred of
Hadenham, a daughter of my late father’s friend, a maiden well behaved
and well favoured, and pious withal; and when I was sent to the
manor-house of Ey upon the business of our own house at Spalding, and
when I met Mildred at the church, or wake, or fair, we were ever wont
to talk about my Lord Hereward and my Ladie Alftrude, as well as of
other matters.”

“Father Adhelm,” said my Lord Abbat of Crowland in a whisper, “surely
thou hast allowed too much liberty to thy convent.”

“My lord,” replied the Prior of Spalding, “It is but a novice that
speaks; Elfric is not a cloister monk.”

“No, and never will be,” said the Abbat of Crowland, in another whisper.

“I now see thy spell,” said Thurstan, addressing Elfric, who was
standing silent, and still blushed; “I now see the witchcraft that thou
wouldest use. And dost thou believe that the Ladie Alftrude so loves
Hereward that she will jeopardise her estates for him, and call home
and marry him, though an outlaw? And dost thou believe that Lord
Hereward so loveth the Ladie Alftrude as to quit his new-found fortunes
for her, and to come at her bidding into England?”

“I believe in loving hearts,” replied Elfric; “I believe in all that
Mildred ever told me about Ladie Alftrude; and I can guess better than
your shipman and trader of the Wash what it was that made Lord Hereward
talk so high about his greatness in foreign parts, and vilipend[103]
his own country, and made declarations that he would never return to a
land of cowardice, and treachery, and falsehood. The exile hath heard
that the Ladie Lucia hath become the wife of Ivo-Taille-Bois, probably
without hearing the violence and the craft which brought about that
unholy marriage; and probably without knowing how much the Ladie Lucia
grieves, and how very a prisoner she is in her own manor-house, and in
the midst of her own lands and serfs. My Lord Hereward may also have
heard some unlucky rumours about a marriage between the Lady Alftrude
and some brother or cousin of Taille-Bois, which idle gossips said was
to take place with the sanction of Lanfranc; and judge ye, my lords and
holy fathers, whether this would not be enough to drive Hereward mad!
But a little wit and skill, and a little good luck, and all these cross
and crooked things may be made straight. If I can win to see the Ladie
Alftrude, and get from her some love-token and some comfortable
messages to the exiled Lord of Brunn, and if I can declare and vow, of
mine own knowledge, that the heart of the fair Saxon is aye the same,
write me down a traitor or a driveller, my lords, an I bring not
Hereward back with me.”

“Of a surety he will do it,” said Abbat Thurstan, rubbing his hands
joyously.

“I understand not much of this love logic, but I think he will do it,”
said the Abbat of Crowland.

“He will do anything,” said the Prior of Spalding; “but once let loose
on this wild flight, we shall never again get the young hawk back to
hand.”

The rest of the business was soon arranged, and precisely and in every
part as the novice himself suggested. No one thought of exacting oaths
of fidelity from Elfric. His faith, his discretion, and his valour had
been well tried already, and his honest countenance gave a better
assurance than oaths and bonds. As Saxon monks were the least
acceptable of all visitors to the Normans, and as the dress of monk or
palmer no longer gave protection to any man of English birth, and as
the late novice of Spalding might chance to be but too well known in
Ivo Taille-Bois’ vicinity, Elfric disguised himself as one of the
poorest of the wandering menestrels—half musician, half beggar and
idiot; and in this guise and garb, he, on the second day after the
feast of Saint Edmund, set out alone to find his way across the fens,
through the posts and watches of the Normans, and so on to the
manor-house and the jealously guarded bower of the Ladie Alftrude. He
was to return to Ely, if good fortune attended him, within seven days;
and then he would be ready to proceed to the country of the
Netherlanders, to seek for Lord Hereward, and to purchase the warlike
harness that was wanted. As soon as he had taken his departure from the
abbey, a quick boat was sent down the Ouse with orders to the steadiest
and oftenest-tried shipman of Lynn to get his good bark in readiness
for a sea-voyage, and to bring it up to Ely, in order to take on board
an important passenger bound on an embassage for my Lord Abbat.

Although the love of the Lady Alftrude might perchance bring back Lord
Hereward, it was not likely that it should buy from the trading men of
Ypres, or Ghent, or Bruges, the bows and the cross-bows, the swords and
the lanceheads, the coats of mail, and the other gear that were so much
wanted; and therefore Abbat Thurstan, after collecting what little he
could from his guests and in the Camp of Refuge, and after taking his
own signet-ring from his finger, and his own prelatical cross of gold
and chain of gold from his neck, called upon the chamberlain and the
cellarer and the sacrist for all the coin that had been put by the
pilgrims into the shrine-box. This time the livid-faced cellarer was
silent and obedient; but the chamberlain, demurring to the order of my
Lord Abbat, said, “Surely these contributions of the faithful were at
all times devoted to the repairing and beautifying of our church!”

“Thou sayeth it,” quoth my Lord Abbat; “but if we get not weapons and
harness wherewith to withstand the invaders, we shall soon have no
church left us to repair or beautify. By the holy face and
incorruptible body of Saint Etheldreda, I will strip her very shrine of
the gold plates which adorn it, and of the silver lamps which burn
before it, and melt the gold and the silver, and barter the ingots for
arms, rather than see the last refuge of my countrymen broken in upon,
and the accursed Normans in my house of Ely!”

“But doth not this savour of sacrilege?” said the sacrist.

“Not so much as of patriotism and of real devotion to our saint and
foundress. Saint Etheldreda, a true Saxon and East Anglian saint, will
approve of the deed, if it should become necessary to strip her shrine.
Her honour and sanctity depend not on lamps of silver and plates of
gold, however rich and rare: the faithful flocked to her tomb, and said
their orisons over it when it was but a plain stone block, with no
shrine near it; and well I ween more miracles were wrought there, in
the simple old times, than we see wrought now. Should the Normans get
into our church, they will strip the shrine, an we do not; and they
will rifle the tombs of Saint Sexburga, Saint Ermenilda, and Saint
Withburga[104] and cast forth the bodies of our saints upon the
dung-heap! Oh, sacrist! know ye not how these excommunicated foreigners
are everywhere treating the saints of Saxon birth, and are everywhere
setting up strange saints, whose names were never before heard by
Englishmen, and cannot be pronounced by them! The reason of all this is
clear: our Saxon hagiology is filled with the names of those that were
patriots as well as saints, and we cannot honour them in one capacity
without thinking of them in the other.”

“This is most true,” said the chamberlain; “and the Normans be likewise
setting up new shrines to the Blessed Virgin, and bringing in Notre
Dames, and our Ladie of Walsingham, and other Ladies that were never
heard of before; and they are enforcing pilgrimages in wholly new
directions! If these things endure, alack and woe the while for our
house of Ely, and for the monks of Saint Edmund’s-Bury, and for all
Saxon houses! Our shrine boxes will be empty; we shall be neglected and
forgotten in the land, even if the Normans do not dispossess us.”



                              CHAPTER VI.

                  IVO TAILLE-BOIS AND THE LADIE LUCIA.


Within the moated and battlemented manor-house near to the banks of the
Welland, which Elfric had stopped to gaze upon as he was travelling
from Crowland to Spalding, there was held a feast on the fourth day
after the feast of Saint Edmund, for the said fourth day from the great
Saxon festival was the feast-day of some saint of Normandie or of
Anjou, and the Ladie Lucia, maugre her sorrow and affliction, had given
birth to a male child a moon agone, and the child was to be baptized on
this day with much rejoicing. Ivo Taille-Bois and his Norman retainers
were glad, inasmuch as the birth of a son by a Saxon wife went to
secure them in their possession of the estates; and the Ladie Lucia was
glad of heart, as a mother cannot but rejoice at the birth of her
first-born; and her Saxon servants, and all the old retainers of her
father’s house, and all the Saxon serfs, were glad, because their
future lord would be more than one half Saxon, being native to the
country, a child of the good Ladie Lucia, the daughter of their last
Saxon lord. So merry were all, that grievances seemed to be forgotten:
the Normans ceased to oppress and insult; the Saxons ceased, for the
time being, to complain. The feast was very bountiful, for the Ladie
Lucia had been allowed the ordering of it; and the company was very
numerous and much mixed, for many Saxons of name had been bidden to the
feast, and pledges had been given on both sides that there should be a
truce to all hostilities and animosities; that there should be what the
Normans called the Truce of God until the son of Ivo Taille-Bois and
Lucia, the presumptive heir to all the lands of the old lord, should be
christened, and his christening celebrated in a proper manner. No less
a man than the prelate Lanfranc had interfered in making this salutary
arrangement. And for the first time since the death of her father,
Lanfranc’s fair ward, the Ladie Alftrude, had come forth from her own
manor-house to attend at the earnest invitation of her cousin the Ladie
Lucia. The Saxon heiress had come attended by sundry armed men and by
two aged English priests who stood high in the consideration and favour
of the potent Lanfranc. When, landing from her boat (the country was
now nearly everywhere under water), she walked up to the gate of the
house, and entering, drew aside her wimple and showed her sweet young
face and bright blue eyes, there rose a murmur of admiration from all
that were assembled there: the Saxons vowed in good old English that
the Ladie Alftrude was the fairest and noblest maiden in all England;
and the Normans swore in Norman-French and with many a _Vive Dieu_ that
they had never beheld anything equal to her either on the other side of
the seas or on this! Nay, some of the Norman knights, and more than one
whose beard was growing grey while he was yet in poverty or wholly
unprovided with any English estate, forgot the broad lands that
Alftrude inherited, to think only of her beautiful face. Yet when
Alftrude kissed her fair cousin and her cousin’s child, and sat down by
the side of the Lady Lucia at the top of the hall, it was hard to say
which was the more lovely, the young matron, or the scarcely younger
maiden.

“_Benedicite_,” said a young monk of Evreux who had come over for
promotion in some English abbey, “but the daughters of this land be
fair to look upon!”

“They be,” said a starch man in mail, “and they will conquer the
conquerors of England, and soon cause the name and distinction of
Norman to be swallowed up and forgotten in the country.”

“Had I come hither before taking my vows at Evreux, the devil might
have been a monk for me, but I would have been none of it!”

Peaceably, ay, and merrily, passed off the day. The fair Ladie Alftrude
stood at the font, and was one of the sponsors for her cousin’s
first-born. The banquet succeeded to the baptism, and dancing and music
in the hall followed on the banquet. The old times seemed to be coming
back again, those peaceful days of good King Edward, _Cœli
deliciæ_,[105] when every free-born Englishman enjoyed his own, and
every noble thane or earl held hospitality to be one of his primary
duties.

But Ivo Taille-Bois, though he boasted of being cousin to Duke William,
was a greedy low-born churl, and therefore he needs must mar the
happiness of his young wife (who ever since the birth of her son had
been striving to forget how she had been made his wife), by talking of
his unprovided brother, who had arrived in England, and was now
tarrying about the Conqueror’s court in the hope of obtaining from
Lanfranc the hand of his rich Saxon ward. The Ladie Lucia, knowing full
well how her cousin’s heart lay toward Hereward, tried often to change
the strain, but her Norman lord, forgetful even of courtesy to his
guests, would still keep vexing her ear with his brother’s suit, and
instead of continuing to be thankful to his saints for his own good
fortune in getting so vast an heritage, and so fair a wife, and then so
promising a child, he spoke as though he should feel himself a beggar
until all the domains of the Ladie Alftrude were in the hands of his
family. An anger that would not be concealed flashed in his eye
whenever he saw any well-fa’red knight or gallant youth discoursing
with Alftrude, and whether it were a Norman or a Saxon his wrath seemed
equal. Desperate thoughts and dark designs flitted through his mind. At
one time he thought that now that he had got the young heiress into his
house he would forcibly keep her where she was until his brother should
arrive and press his own suit in the ungodly manner of the first Norman
conquerors; but he cowered under the dread of Lanfranc and a Norman
sentence of excommunication, and he saw that the thing was not to be
done without great peril and much bloodshed under his own roof, for the
Saxon guests were numerous far above the Normans, and though, mayhap,
several of his Norman guests would not have scrupled about the deed if
it had been for their own profit, they could not be expected to concur
in it, or even to allow it, when it was only for the profit of him and
his brother. Vanity, thy name was Norman! There was young Guiscard[106]
of Avranches, there was tall Etienne[107] of Rouen (and verily a tall
and well-proportioned young man was he, and one that could talk glibly
both in English and in French), there was Baldwin of the Mount, a most
nimble dancer, and with a fine gilded cloak over his shoulders and not
a crown in his purse (even like all the rest of them); there was old
Mainfroy of La Perche, who had followed Robert Guiscard into Italie and
Grecia, and had lost an eye and half of a nose in those wars before
Ladie Alftrude was born; and there was old Drogo[108] from Chinon, who
looked as though he had added to his own nose that half of a nose
Mainfroy had lost (so hugeous and misshapen was Drogo’s nose!); and not
one of these gay knights but thought that the Lady Alftrude having once
seen and heard him must prefer him to all the world. In their own
conceit they were, one and all of them, already Lords of Ey and
husbands of Alftrude. Judge ye then whether Ivo Taille-Bois could have
safely ventured to stay his fair guest against her will, or shut up his
wife’s cousin in close bower for his as yet unknown and unseen brother!

But there was now in the hall a merrier eye, and one more roguish
withal, than ever shone under the brows of a Norman. The drawbridge
being down, and the gate of the house wide open, that all who list
might enter and partake according to his degree of some of the good
things that were provided, a young Saxon glee-man or menestrel came
over the bridge unchallenged, and only paused under the low archway of
the gate. His dress was tattered and torn, and not free from the mud
and slime of the fens, but sweet and clear was his voice, and merry and
right old English his song; and so all the Saxons that heard him gave
him welcome, and bade him enter the hall and sing a lay in honour of
the Ladie Lucia and of her first-born son, who would be good lord to
all Saxon folk as his grandfather had been before him. But before going
into the hall, where the feast was just over, and all the tables
cleared, the glee-man went aside into the buttery to renew his strength
with a good meal, and refresh his voice with a cup of good wine. When
he entered the hall the old Saxon seneschal cried, “A glee-man! another
glee-man come to sing an English song!” The Norman menestrels looked
scornfully at him and his tattered cloak; and the Saxon menestrels
asked of one another who he might be; for none of them knew him, albeit
the menestrels, like the beggars and other happy vagabonds of old
England, were united in league and brotherhood, in sort that every
menestrel of East Anglia was thought to know every other menestrel or
glee-man of that countrie. But when the new and unknown comer had
played his preludium on his Saxon lyre of four strings, and had sung
his downright Saxon song with a voice that was clear as a bell, and at
times loud as a trumpet, the English part of the company, from the
highest degree to the lowest, shouted and clapped their hands; and all
the English menestrels vowed that he was worthy of their guild; while
even the Norman glee-men confessed that, although the words were
barbarous and not to be understood by civil men, the air was good, and
the voice of the best. Whether the words were ancient as the music, or
whether they were made in part or wholly for the occasion by the
singer, they went deep into the hearts both of the Ladie Alftrude and
the Ladie Lucia; and while the young matron of the house put a little
ring into a cup, and bade her little Saxon page fill the cup with the
best wine, and hand it to the Saxon menestrel, the maiden Alftrude went
straight to the spot where that menestrel was standing, and asked him
to sing his song again. And when the glee-man had knelt on his knee to
the mistress of the house, and had drained her cup of wine until not so
much as the ghost of a drop was left in it, and when he had sung his
song over again, and more deftly and joyously than he had sung it
before, the Lady Alftrude still kept near him, and, discoursing with
him, took three or more turns across the lower part of the hall. Saxon
lords and Saxon dames and maidens of high degree were ever courteous to
the poor and lowly, and ever honoured those who had skill in
minstrelsy. At first the Ladie Alftrude smiled and laughed as if at
some witty conceit let fall by the menestrel; but then those who
watched her well, and were near enough to see, saw a cloud on her brow
and a blush on her cheek, and then a paleness, and a short gasping as
if for breath. But all this passed away, and the maiden continued to
discourse calmly with the menestrel, and whenever the menestrel raised
his voice it was only to give utterance to some pleasant gibe.

Ivo Taille-Bois, albeit he had seen him often under another hood, might
not know him, and all the English glee-men might continue to wonder who
he was; but we know full well that the menestrel was none other than
Elfric the novice. He had found his way unscathed to Ey, and not
finding the Ladie Alftrude there, he had followed her to the
manor-house of her fair cousin, well pleased that such a celebration
and feast would make easy his entrance into the house. A maiden of
Alftrude’s degree could not travel and visit without a featy handmaiden
attendant upon her. Rough men that bend bows and wield swords and
spears, and make themselves horny fists, are not fit to dress a ladie’s
hair or tie her sandals; and well we ween it becometh not priests with
shaven crowns to be lacing a maiden’s bodice; and so, besides the armed
men and the two churchmen, the Ladie Alftrude had brought with her
Mildred of Hadenham, that maiden well-behaved and well-favoured and
pious withal, whom Elfric was wont to entertain with talk about my Lord
Hereward, as well as of other matters. Now Mildred of Hadenham was
there at the lower end of the hall, seated among other handmaidens; and
as soon as Elfric entered, or, at the latest, as soon as he finished
the first verse of his song, she knew who the menestrel was as well as
we do. While the Ladie Alftrude was before their eyes, few of the noble
company cared to look that way or upon any other than her; but if a
sharp eye had watched it would have seen that Mildred several times
blushed a much deeper red than her mistress, and that the young
glee-man’s eyes were rather frequently seeking her out. And at last,
when the Ladie Alftrude returned to her cousin at the head of the hall,
and the floor of the hall was cleared for an exhibition of dancers, the
glee-man, after some gyrations, found his way to the side of Mildred of
Hadenham, and kept whispering to her, and making her blush even redder
than before, all the other handmaidens wondering the while, and much
envying Mildred, for, albeit his cloak was tattered and his hose
soiled, the young menestrel, besides having the sweetest voice, was
surpassingly well-favoured in form and face, and had the
happiest-looking eye that ever was seen.

The Ladie Alftrude talked long in a corner with her cousin the Ladie
Lucia, and then there was a calling and consulting with Mildred of
Hadenham, as though her mistress’s head-gear needed some rearrangement.
And after this the two cousins and the waiting-woman quitted the hall,
and went into an upper and inner chamber, and tarried there for a short
while, or for about the time it takes to say a score of _Aves_. Then
they come back to the hall, and the Ladie Lucia and the Ladie Alftrude
sit down together where the company is most thronged. But where is the
curiously delicate little ring that was glittering on Ladie Alftrude’s
finger?... Ha! Ha! we wot well that Elfric hath got it, and other
love-tokens besides, that he may carry them beyond seas, and bring back
Hereward to his ladie-love and to England that cannot do without him.
But where is that merriest of glee-men?... Many in the hall were asking
the question, for they wanted to hear him again. But Elfric was gone,
and none seemed to know how or when he went. Mayhap, maid Mildred knew
something about it, for when the English part of the company began to
call for the glee-man with the tattered cloak, that he might sing
another merry song, she turned her face to the wall and wept.

Well, I ween, had our simple dull Saxons outwitted the nimble-witted
Normans! Well had the menestrel and the ladies and the waiting-maid
played their several parts! Could Ivo Taille-Bois but have known his
errand, or have guessed at the mischief that he was brewing for him,
either Elfric would never have entered those walls, or he would never
have left them alive.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                           HEREWARD’S RETURN.


There may be between Thamesis and the Tyne worse seas and more perilous
rocks; but when the north-east wind blows right into that gulf, and the
waves of the German Ocean are driven on by the storms of winter, the
practised mariner will tell ye that the navigation of the Wash, the
Boston Deeps, and the Lynn Deeps, is a fearful thing to those who know
the shoals and coasts, and a leap into the jaws of death to those that
know them not. Besides the shallows near shore, there be sandbanks and
treacherous shoals in the middle of the bay, and these were ofttimes
shifting their places or changing their shapes. Moreover, so many
rivers and broad streams and inundations, that looked like regular
rivers in the wet seasons of the year, poured their waters into the
Wash, that it required all the skill of the mariner and pilot to find a
way into the proper bed of any one particular river, as the Ouse, the
Nene, or the Welland.[109] Here are many quick-sands, fatal to barks,
when concealed under the water; and even in summer-tide, when the
waters are dried, the shepherds and their flocks,[110] are often taught
by a woeful experience that these quick-sands have a wonderful force in
sucking in and holding fast whatsoever cometh upon them. In this sort
the perils of shipmen are not over even when they reach the shore, and
are advancing to tread upon what seemeth like _terra firma_. The Wash
and its sand-banks and the quick-sands had made more East-Anglian
widows and orphans than were made by any other calamity besides, save
always the fierce Norman conquest.

It was under one of the fiercest and loudest tempests that ever blew
from the sky of winter, and upon one of the roughest seas that ever
rolled into the Wash, that five barks, which seemed all to be deeply
laden and crowded with men, drove past the shoal called the
Dreadful,[111] and made for that other shoal called the Inner Dousing.
The sun, which had not been visible the whole day, now showed itself
like a ball of fire as it sank in the west behind the flats and fens of
Lincolnshire; and when the sun was down the fury of the tempest seemed
to increase. When they had neared the Inner Dousing, four of the barks
took in all their sail and lay-to as best they could in the trough of
the sea; but the fifth bark stood gallantly in for the Wash, with
nearly all her sails up. Swift as it bounded over the waves, it was
dark night before the foremost bark reached the little cape where
stands the chapel of our Ladie.[112] Here the bark showed three lights
at her mast-head, and then three lights over her prow, and then three
over her stern. Quickly as might be, these lights from on board the
fifth and foremost bark were answered by three times three of lights on
the belfry of Our Ladie’s chapel; and had it not been for the roaring
of the winds and the loud dashing of the sea on the resounding shore,
those on land by Our Ladie’s chapel might have heard a three times
three of hearty cheers from those on shipboard, and those on the ship
might have heard every cheer given back with interest and increase by
the crowd of true Saxons that stood by the chapel. The bark next showed
at her masthead a broad blue light, such as had never been seen before
in these parts; and presently from the lee side of the Inner Dousing
four other bright blue lights gleamed across the black sky; and having
in this wise answered signal, the four barks followed in the track of
the fifth and came up with it off Our Ladie’s chapel. Still keeping a
little in advance, like the pilot and admiral of the little fleet, the
bark that had first reached the coast glided into Lynn Deeps; and as it
advanced towards the mouth of the Ouse, signal-lights or piloting
lights rose at every homestead and hamlet, from Kitcham[113] to
Stone’s-end, from Stone’s-end to Castle Rising, and from Castle Rising
to the good town of Lynn. And besides these stationary lights, there
were other torches running along the shore close above the line of sea
foam. And much was all this friendly care needed, the deeps being
narrow and winding and the shoals and sand-banks showing themselves on
every side, and the wind still blowing a hurricane, and the masts of
the barks bending and cracking even under the little sail that they now
carried. On this eastern side of the Wash few could have slept, or have
tarried in their homes this night; for when—near upon midnight, and as
the monks of Lynn were preparing to say matins in the chapel of Saint
Nicholas—the five barks swirled safely into the deep and easy bed of
the Ouse, and came up to the prior’s wharf, and let go their anchors,
and threw their stoutest cordage ashore, to the end that the mariners
there might make them fast, and so give a double security against wind
and tide, the wharf and all the river bank was covered with men, women,
and children, and the houses in the town behind the river bank were
nearly all lighted up, as if it had been Midsummer’s eve, instead of
being the penultimate night[114] of the Novena of Christmas. It was not
difficult to make out that the foremost of the barks and one other
belonged to Lynn, inasmuch as the Lynn folk leaped on board of them as
soon as they were made fast at the wharf, calling upon their town
fellows, their brothers or sons, and hugging them _more Saxonico_[115]
when they found them out on the crowded decks. The other barks were of
foreign structure, and the mariners seemed to be all foreigners; but
the many passengers in each of them were all Englishmen, and _landsmen_
besides; for they had all been very sea-sick, and were now very
impatient to get their feet upon dry land.

The first that landed from the foremost bark was a tall, robust, and
handsome man, dressed as Saxon noblemen and warriors were wont to dress
before the incoming of the ill fashions of Normandie.

He carried in his right hand a long straight and broad sword, the blade
of which was curiously sheathed, and the hilt of which formed a cross.
When he had crossed the plankings of the wharf, and reached the solid
ground, he knelt on one knee and kissed the cross of his sword; and
then throwing himself prone upon the earth, and casting wide his arms
as though he would embrace it and hug it, he kissed the insensate soil,
and thanked his God and every saint in the Saxon calendar for that he
had been restored to the land which gave him birth, and which held the
dust and bones of his fathers. Some who had seen him in former days on
the Spalding side of the Wash, and some who had been apprised of his
coming, began instantly to shout, “It is he!—it is Lord Hereward of
Brunn! It is Hereward the Saxon! It is the Lord of Brunn, come to get
back his own and to help us to drive out the Normans.” The shouts were
taken up on every side, mariners and landsmen, foreigners and home-born
fensmen, and women and children, crying, “It is Hereward the Saxon!
Long live the young Lord of Brunn, who will never shut his hall-door in
the face of a poor Englishman, nor turn his back on a Frenchman!” Some
hemmed him in, and kissed his hands, and the sheath of his long
straight sword, and the skirts of his mantle, and the very sandals on
his feet; while others held their glaring torches close over his head,
that they might see him and show him to their mates. It was one Nan of
Lynn, and a well-famed and well-spoken woman, that said, as she looked
upon the Lord Hereward, “We Englishwomen of the fens will beat the
men-at-arms from Normandie, an we be but led by such a captain as this;
with that steel cap on his head, and that scarlet cloak over his
shoulders, he looks every inch as stalwart and as handsome a warrior as
the archangel Michael, whose portraiture we see in our church!”

The person nearest in attendance on Lord Hereward was that lucky wight
Elfric, who had been to seek him in foreign parts; but it was Elfric no
longer attired either as a tattered menestrel or as a shaveling novice,
but as something betwixt a blithesome page and an armed retainer. He
too had more than one tear of joy in his eye as he trod upon the shore;
but this tender emotion soon gave way to a hearty if not boisterous
mirth, and so he kept shouting, “Make way for Hereward the Lord of
Brunn!” and kept squeezing the hands of all the men and women and
children he knew in Lynn, as they walked towards the convent where
Hereward was to rest until daylight. Next to Elfric, the man that
seemed most entirely devoted to the service and to the person of
Hereward was a slight, slim man of middle stature and very dark
complexion; his hair was long, and would have been blacker than the
plumage of the raven save that time had touched it here and there with
grey; his nose was arched like the beak of a goshawk; and his eye, that
looked out from under a very black and bushy but very lofty eyebrow,
was blacker and keener than the eye of any hawk or other fowl of prey.
Some who had seen now and then a wandering Israelite, thought that this
stranger looked marvellously like a Jew; but this was a marvellous
mistake. None could think him either young or handsome; yet was there
something about his person and in his face that none could help looking
at, and then remembering for aye. Among the stout Saxons were some that
could have taken the dark, slim stranger between their finger and
thumb, and have squeezed the life out of him with as much ease as boys
crack nuts; but there was a quickness and sharpness in the stranger’s
eye that seemed to say he could outwit them all if he chose. On the way
to the convent Hereward several times addressed him in some foreign
tongue, and seemed by his looks to be taking advice of him.

As the convent was but a dependency of my Lord Abbat Thurstan, and a
succursal cell to Ely, ye may judge whether the Lord of Brunn and those
who came with him met with hospitality! Saxons and strangers (and all
landed from the barks as soon as might be, and hastened to the convent)
found suppers and beds, or suppers and clean sweet rushes to lie upon,
either with the sub-prior or in the guest-house. In the morning, as
soon as it was light, Hereward, Elfric, and the dark stranger, and a
score of armed men, re-embarked in the good ship that had brought them
to Lynn, and proceeded up the river Ouse, leaving the other four barks
at their moorings under the prior’s wharf. These four craft were to
keep a good look-out, and in case of any armed ships coming into the
Wash they were to run, through the most intricate passage, for
Spalding; but if no enemy should appear (and of this there was scarcely
a chance, as the weather continued stormy, and the Normans were bad
seamen, and very badly provided with shipping), they were all to wait
at Lynn until Lord Hereward should come back from Ely to lead them to
Spalding, and, farther still, to his own house at Brunn.

Broad and free was the river Ouse, and up as high as the junction of
the Stoke[116] Lord Hereward’s bark was favoured by the tide as well as
by the wind. Above the Stoke the tide failed; but the wind blew
steadily on, and many boats, with lusty rowers in them, came down from
Ely and Chettisham and Littleport, and took the bark in tow, for the
signal-lights and fires which had guided the fleet into Lynn had been
carried across the fens and to the Abbey of Ely, and had told my Lord
Abbat that the Lord Hereward was come. No bark had ever made such
voyage before, nor have many made it since; but a good while before the
sun went down our Lynn mariners made their craft fast to my Lord
Abbat’s pier, and Hereward and his bold and trusty followers landed in
the midst of a throng ten times greater and ten times more jubilant
than that which had welcomed them at Lynn. Before quitting the ship
Elfric put on his monastic habit. This he did not do without a sigh;
and he carried with him under his novice’s gown the gay dress he had
worn while in foreign parts and on shipboard. Maybe he expected that
services might be required from him in which such an attire would be
useful; or perhaps he hoped that his superior of Spalding and the Abbat
of Crowland would, in considering the services he had rendered already,
determine in their wisdom that the dress and calling of a monk were not
those which suited him best. Although not bound by any irrevocable vow,
Elfric was bound by the ties of gratitude to Father Adhelm, who had
taken him into the succursal cell at Spalding when a very young and
helpless orphan; and Elfric would never have been the man he proved
himself if he had been forgetful of duties and obligations.

At the outer gate of the convent Lord Hereward was met and embraced and
welcomed by the high-hearted abbat of the house, by the Archbishop
Stigand, the Abbat of Crowland, and by all the prelates and high
churchmen; and next by all the cloistered monks of Ely; and next by the
lay lords and the Saxon warriors of all parts: and all this right
reverend and right noble company shouted, “Welcome to our chief and our
deliverer! Honour and welcome to the young Lord of Brunn!”

As Thurstan led the Saxon hero by the hand towards his own Aula Magna,
he said, “But for the solemn season, which brooks not much noise,” (the
town folk, and the hinds that had come in from the fens, and the
novices and lay-brothers, were continuing to shout and make noise
enough to wake the dead that were sleeping in the cloisters), “we would
have received you, my lord, with a great clattering of bells and show
of flags and banners! Nevertheless thou comest at a most suitable
moment and on the very verge of the most joyous of all seasons; ’tis
the vigil of the Nativity. On this Christmas eve, like all
well-regulated religious houses and all good Christians, we fast upon a
banquet of eels and fish. At midnight we have the midnight mass,
chanted in our best manner; and to-morrow we feast indeed, and give up
all our souls to joy. To-morrow, then, our bells shall be struck upon
so that the Norman knights and men-at-arms shall hear them in
Cam-Bridge Castle, and shall tremble while they hear! And our Saxon
flags, and the banners of our saints, yea, the great banner of Saint
Etheldreda itself, shall be hung out on our walls! And when the other
duties of the day are over, we will sing a _Te Deum laudamus_ for thy
coming. My Lord Hereward, I have not known such joy, or half so much
hope, since the day on which our good Edward (_Rex venerandus_) put
this ring upon my finger and confirmed my election as abbat of this
house! My hope then was that I should be enabled to be a good ruler of
this ancient brotherhood, and good lord to all the Saxon folk that
dwell on the land of Saint Etheldreda. Now my higher hope is that thou
wilt be enabled, oh Hereward, to free all England from this cruel
bondage!”

The young Saxon noble, being wholly a man of action, and gifted with
much modesty, made but a very short reply to this and to other very
long speeches; he simply said that he had come back to get back his
own, and to help his good countrymen to get back their own; that the
Norman yoke was all too grievous to be borne; that it was very strange
and very sorrowful that brave King Harold came not back to his faithful
people of East-Anglia; and that, until King Harold should come,[117]
he, Hereward, would do his best for his friends and for himself.

Though all were eager to be informed of the strength which the Lord of
Brunn brought with him, and of the plans he proposed to pursue,
Thurstan thought it churlish to question any man fasting. Hereward,
however, declared that he had fared well on board the bark, and could
well wait till supper-time. And so, having closed the doors of the
abbat’s great hall, the lords and prelates proceeded to deliberate with
the dispossessed Lord of Brunn. The sum of Hereward’s replies to many
questions and cross-questions (he having no genius for narration) was
simply this:—Elfric had found him out in Flanders, and had delivered
to him letters, and messages, and tokens which had determined him to
quit his adoptive country and return to England. Many English exiles
who had been living in the Netherlands had made up their minds to come
over with him. Such money as they could command among them all, or
borrow at interest from the traders of Flanders, who seriously felt the
loss of their trade with England, had been applied to the purchase of
warlike harness, and to the hiring and equipping of three foreign
barks. The master of a bark from Lynn that chanced to be in those parts
had offered his bark and the services of himself and crew for nothing,
or for what his liege lord the Abbat of Ely might at any time choose to
give him. The gold and silver which my Lord Abbat had sent with Elfric
had been properly and profitably employed; and, besides spear-heads,
and swords, and bows, and jackets of mail, the Lynn bark now lying at
my Lord Abbat’s pier, and the other Lynn bark left behind at that town,
had brought such a quantity of Rhenish and Mosel wine as would suffice
for the consumption of the whole house until next Christmas. Counting
the men that had come in all the barks, there were more than one
hundred and ten true-hearted Saxons, well armed and equipped, and well
practised in the use of arms, as well in the Saxon fashion as in the
fashions used abroad; and every one of these men was proper to become a
centurion, or the trainer and leader of a hundred of our fen-men. It
was Lord Hereward’s notion that our great house at Ely and the Camp of
Refuge would be best relieved or screened from any chance of attack, by
the Saxons making at once a quick and sharp attack all along the Norman
lines or posts to the north and north-west of the Isle of Ely, or from
Spalding to Brunn, and Crowland, and Peterborough. Some thought that
his lordship preferred beginning in this direction because his own
estates and the lady of his love were there: we will not say that these
considerations had no weight with him, but we opine that his plan was a
good one, and that no great commander, such as Hereward was, would have
begun the war upon the invaders in any other manner, time or place.
Twenty of the armed men he had brought with him from their wearisome
exile—or more than twenty if my Lord Abbat thought fit—he would leave
at Ely; with the rest, who had been left with the ships at Lynn, he
would go to the Welland river, and make a beginning.

“But thou canst not go yet awhile,” said Abbat Thurstan, thinking of
the Christmas festivals and of the Rhenish wines; “thou canst not quit
us, my son, until after the feast of the Epiphany! ’Tis but twelve days
from to-morrow, and the Normans are not likely to be a-stirring during
those twelve days.”

“True, my Lord Abbat,” said Hereward, “the Normans will be feasting and
rejoicing; but it is on that very account that I must go forthwith in
order to take them unprepared and attack their bands separately, while
they are feasting. An ye, holy brothers, give me your prayers, and the
saints grant me the success I expect, I shall have recovered for ye the
house at Spalding and the abbey of Crowland, and for myself mine humble
house at Brunn, before these twelve days be over.”

“Then,” said the abbat, “thou mayest be back and keep the feast of the
Epiphany with us.”

Hereward thought of keeping the feast in another place and with a
different company, but the eager hospitality of Thurstan was not to be
resisted, and so he promised that he would return, if he could do so
without detriment to the business he had on hand. But when he spoke of
setting forth on the morrow after high mass, not only the Lord Abbat,
but every one that heard him, raised his voice against him, and
Hereward yielded to the argument that it would be wicked to begin war
on Christmas Day, or to do any manner of thing on that day except
praying and feasting. Something did Hereward say in praise of Elfric,
and of the ability, and courage, and quickness of invention he had
displayed while on his mission in foreign parts, and on shipboard.

“Albeit,” said he, “I would not rob my good friends the Abbat of
Crowland and the Prior of Spalding of so promising a novice, I needs
must think that he would make a much better soldier than monk; nor can
I help saying that I would rather have Elfric for my messenger and aid
in the field than any Saxon youth I know, whether of low degree or
high.”

“My good brother of Crowland and I have been thinking of these things,”
said Abbat Thurstan; “and these are surely days when the saints of
England require the services of men with steel caps on their heads as
much as they require the services of men with shaven crowns. Not but
that some of us that wear cowls have not wielded arms and done good
battle in our day for the defence of our shrines and houses.”

At this moment the eels and fish of the Christmas-eve supper were all
ready, and the best cask of Rhenish which the bark had brought up to my
Lord Abbat’s pier was broached.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                   LORD HEREWARD GOES TO GET HIS OWN.


In no time had there been at the house of Ely so great and glorious a
festival of the Nativity as that holden in the year of Grace one
thousand and seventy, the day after the return of the Saxon commander
Hereward, Lord of Brunn. Learned brothers of the house have written
upon it, and even to this day the monks of Ely talk about it. On the
day next after the feast, several hours before sunrise, the mariners in
the unloaded bark were getting all ready to drop down the Ouse to the
good town of Lynn, and Lord Hereward was communing with the Abbat
Thurstan, the Abbat of Crowland, and the Prior of Spalding, in my Lord
Abbat’s bedchamber. The rest of the prelates and lay lords were
sleeping soundly in their several apartments, having taken their leave
of Hereward in a full carouse the night before. Many things had been
settled touching correspondence or communication, and a general
co-operation and union of all the Saxons in the Camp of Refuge and all
that dwelt in the fen country, whether in the isle of Ely, or in the
isle of Thorney, or in Lindsey, or in Holland, or in other parts. Fresh
assurances were given that the chiefs and fighting men would all
acknowledge Hereward as their supreme commander, undertaking nothing
but at his bidding, and looking to none but him for their orders and
instructions. Abbat Thurstan agreed to keep the score of men that had
been brought up to Ely in the bark, but he demurred about receiving and
entertaining, as the commander of these men, the dark stranger with the
hooked nose and sharp eye. Hereward said that the stranger was a man
remarkably skilled in the science of war, and in the art of defending
places. Thurstan asked whether he were sure that he was not a spy of
the Normans, or one that would sell himself to the Normans for gold?
Then the Lord of Brunn told what he knew, or that which he had been
told, concerning the dark stranger. He was from Italie, from a region
not very far removed from Rome and the patrimony of Saint Peter; from
the name of his town he was hight[118] Girolamo of Salerno. His country
has been all invaded, and devastated, and conquered by Norman tribes,
from the same evil hive which had sent these depredators into merry
England to make it a land of woe. Robert Guiscard, one of twelve
brothers that were all conquerors and spoilers, had driven Girolamo
from his home and had seized upon his houses and lands, and had abused
the tombs of his ancestors, even as the followers of William the
Bastard were now doing foul things with the graves of our forefathers.
After enduring wounds, and bonds, and chains, Girolamo of Salerno had
fled from his native land for ever, leaving all that was his in the
hands of the Normans, and had gone over into Sicilie to seek a new home
and settlement among strangers. But the Normans, who thought they had
never robbed enough so long as there were more countries before them
which they could rob and conquer, crossed the sea into Sicilie[119]
under Roger Guiscard, the brother of Robert, and made prey of all that
fair island seven years before the son of the harlot of Falaise crossed
the Channel and came into England. Now Girolamo of Salerno had vowed
upon the relics of all the saints that were in the mother-church of
Salerno, that he would never live under the Norman tyranny; and sundry
of the Norman chiefs that went over with Roger Guiscard to Palermo had
vowed upon the crosses of their swords that they would hang him as a
dangerous man if they could but catch him. So Girolamo shook the dust
of Sicilie and Mongibel[120] from his feet, and, crossing the seas
again, went into Grecia. But go where he would, those incarnate devils
the Normans would be after him! He had not long lived in Grecia ere
Robert Guiscard came over from Otrantum and Brundisium, to spoil the
land and occupy it; therefore Girolamo fled again, cursing the Norman
lance. He had wandered long and far in the countries of the Orient: he
had visited the land of Egypt, he had been in Palestine, in Jerusalem,
in Bethlehem; he had stood and prayed on the spot where our Lord was
born, and on the spot where He was crucified; but, wearying of his
sojourn among Saracens, he had come back to the Christian west to see
if he could find some home where the hated Normans could not penetrate,
or where dwelt some brave Christian people that were hopeful of
fighting against those oppressors. He was roaming over the earth in
quest of enemies to the Normans when Hereward met him, two years ago,
in Flanders, and took his hand in his as a sworn foe to all men of that
race. Was, then, Girolamo of Salerno a likely man to be a spy or fautor
to the Normans in England? Thurstan acknowledged that he was not.
“But,” said he, “some men are so prone to suspicion that they suspect
everybody and everything that is near to them; and some men, nay, even
some monks and brothers of this very house, are so envious of my state
and such foes to my peace of mind, that whenever they see me more happy
and fuller of hope than common, they vamp me up some story or conjure
some spectrum to disquiet me and sadden me! Now, what said our prior
and cellarer no later than last night? They said, in the hearing of
many of this house, inexpert novices as well as cloister-monks, that
the dark stranger must be either an unbelieving Jew or a necromancer;
that when, at grand mass, the host was elevated in the church, he shot
glances of fire at it from his sharp eyes; and that when the service
was over they found him standing behind the high altar muttering what
sounded very like an incantation, in a tongue very like unto the Latin.”

Hereward smiled and said, “Assuredly he was but saying a prayer in his
own tongue. My Lord Abbat, this Girolamo of Salerno, hath lived
constantly with me for the term of two years, and I will warrant him as
true a believer as any man in broad England. He is a man of many
sorrows, and no doubt of many sins; but as for his faith!—why he is a
living and walking history of all the saints and martyrs of the church,
and of every miraculous image of Our Ladie that was ever found upon
earth. His troubles and his crosses, and his being unable to speak our
tongue, or to comprehend what is said around him, may make him look
moody and wild, and very strange: and I am told that in the country of
his birth most men have coal-black hair and dark flashing eyes; but
that in Salerno there be no Israelites allowed, and no necromancers or
warlocks or witches whatsoever; albeit, the walnut-tree of Beneventum,
where the witches are said to hold their sabbat, be not very many
leagues distant. In truth, my good Lord Abbat, it was but to serve you
and to serve your friends and retainers, that I proposed he should stay
for a season where he is; for I have seen such good proofs of his skill
in the stratagems of war, and have been promised by him so much aid and
assistance in the enterprises I am going to commence, that I would fain
have him with me. I only thought that if he stayed a while here in
quiet, he might learn to speak our tongue; and that if during my
absence the Normans should make any attempt from the side of Cam-Bridge
upon this blessed shrine of Saint Etheldreda, he might, by his
surpassing skill and knowledge of arms, be of use to your lordship and
the good brothers.”

“These are good motives,” said Thurstan, “and do honour to thee, my
son. It is not in my wont to bid any stranger away from the house....
But—but this stranger doth look so very strange and wild, that I would
rather he were away. Even our sub-sacrist, who hath not the same nature
as the prior and cellarer, saith that all our flaxen-headed novices in
the convent are afraid of that thin dark man, and that they say
whenever the stranger’s large black eye catches theirs they cannot
withdraw their eyes until he turns away from them. I think, my Lord
Hereward, the stranger may learn our tongue in thy camp. I believe that
the Normans will not try on this side now that the waters are all out,
and our rivers and ditches so deep; and if they do we can give a good
account of them—and I really do think that thou wilt more need than we
this knowing man’s services:—what say ye, my brother of Crowland?”

The Abbat of Crowland was wholly of the opinion of the Abbat of Ely,
and so likewise was the Prior of Spalding. It was therefore agreed that
Girolamo of Salerno should accompany the young Lord of Brunn.

“But” said Hereward, “in proposing to leave you this strange man from
Italie, I thought of taking from you, for yet another while, that Saxon
wight Elfric, seeing that he knoweth all this fen country better than
any man in my train; and that, while I am going round by the river and
the Wash, I would fain despatch, by way of the fens, a skilled and
trustful messenger in the direction of Ey....”

“To salute the Ladie Alftrude, and to tell her that thou art come,”
said the Abbat of Crowland.

“Even so,” quoth Hereward; “and to tell her moreover to look well to
her manor-house, and to let her people know that I am come, and that
they ought to come and join me at the proper time.”

“It is clear,” said the Prior of Spalding, “that none can do this
mission an it be not Elfric, who knoweth the goings and comings about
the house at Ey....”

“Aye, and the maid-servant that dwelleth within the gates,” quoth the
Abbat of Crowland.

The Prior of Spalding laughed, and eke my Lord Abbat of Ely; and when
he had done his laugh, Thurstan said “This is well said, and well
minded; and as we seem to be all agreed that, upon various
considerations, it would be better to unfrock the young man at once,
let us call up Elfric, and release him from his slight obligations, and
give him to Lord Hereward to do with him what he list. What say ye my
brothers?”

The two dignified monks said “yea;” and Elfric being summoned was told
that henceforth he was Lord Hereward’s man, and that he might doff his
cucullis,[121] and let his brown locks grow on his tonsure as fast as
they could grow.

The monk that sleeps in his horse-hair camise,[122] and that has
nothing to put on when he rises but his hose and his cloak, is not long
a-dressing; yet in less time than ever monk attired himself, Elfric put
on the soldier garb that he had worn while abroad. And then, having
received from Hereward a signet-ring and other tokens, and a long
message for the Ladie Alftrude, together with instructions how he was
to proceed after he had seen her; and having bidden a dutiful farewell
and given his thanks to the Prior of Spalding and to the two abbats,
and having gotten the blessing of all three, Elfric girded a good sword
to his loins, took his fen-staff in his hand, and went down to the
water-gate to get a light skerry, for the country was now like one
great lake, and the journey to Ey must be mostly made by boat.

It was now nigh upon day-dawn. The Lord Abbat and a few others
accompanied the Lord of Brunn to the pier, and saw him on board: then
the mariners let go their last mooring, and the bark began to glide
down the river.

Before the light of this winter day ended, Hereward was well up the
Welland, and the whole of his flotilla was anchored in that river not
far from Spalding, behind a thick wood of willows and alders, which
sufficed even in the leafless season to screen the barks from the view
of the Norman monks in the succursal cell.

As soon as it was dark, Hereward the liberator took one score and ten
armed men into the lightest of the barks, and silently and cautiously
ascended the river until he came close to the walls of the convent. The
caution was scarcely needed, for the Normans, albeit they were ever
reproaching the Saxons with gluttony and drunkenness, were feasting and
drinking at an immoderate rate, and had taken no care to set a watch.
Brightly the light of a great wood fire and of many torches shone
through the windows of the hall as Hereward landed with his brave men
and surrounded the house, while the mariners were taken good care of
the ferry-boat.

“If these men were in their own house,” said Hereward, “it is not I
that would disturb their mirth on such a night; but as they are in the
house of other men, we must even pull them forth by the ears. So! where
be the ladders?”

A strong ladder brought from the bark was laid across the moat, and ten
armed men passed one by one over this ladder to the opposite side of
the moat. The well-armed men were led by the brother of Wybert the
wright, and by another of the men who had fled from Spalding town on
that wicked night when Ivo Taille-Bois broke into the house. Now these
two men of Spalding well knew the strong parts and the weak parts of
the cell—as well they might, for they had ofttimes helped to repair
the woodwork and the roof of the building. Having drawn the strong
ladder after them to the narrow ledge of masonry on which they had
landed, they raised it against the wall, and while some steadied it,
first one armed man and then another climbed up by the ladder to the
top of the stone and brick part of the walls. Then the brother of
Wybert climbing still higher, by clutching the beams and the rough
timber got to the house-top, and presently told those below in a
whisper that all was right, that the door at the head of the spiral
staircase was unfastened and wide open.

In a very short time ten armed men and the two hinds from Spalding town
were safe on the roof; and the brother of Wybert said, “Now Saxons!”
and as he heard the signal, Lord Hereward said, “Now Saxons, your
horns!” And three stout Saxons, well skilled in the art of
noise-making, put each his horn to his mouth and sounded a challenge,
as loud as they could blow. Startled and wrathful, but not much
alarmed, was the intrusive prior from Angers when he heard this noise,
and bade his Angevin sacrist go to the window, and see what the Saxon
slaves wanted at this time of night with their rascaille cow-horns! But
when the sacrist reported that he saw a great bark lying in the river,
and many armed men standing at the edge of the moat (in the darkness
the sacrist took sundry stumps of willow-trees for warriors), the man
of Angers became alarmed, and all Ivo Taille-Bois’ kindred became
alarmed, and quitting the blazing fire and their good wine, they all
ran to the windows of the hall to see what was toward. As they were a
ruleless, lawless, unconsecrated rabble, who knew not what was meant by
monastic discipline, and respect, and obedience, they all talked and
shouted together, and shouted and talked so loud and so fast that it
was impossible for any Christian man to be heard in answer to them. But
at length the pseudo-prior silenced the gabble for a minute, and said,
“Saxons, who are you, and what do you want at this hour, disturbing the
repose of holy men at a holy season?”

Even this was said in Norman-French, which no man understood or could
speak, except Hereward and the dark stranger who had attended him
hither. But the Lord of Brunn gave out in good round French, “We are
Saxons true, and true men to King Harold, and we be come to pull you
out of this good nest which ye have defiled too long!”

“Get ye gone, traitors and slaves!” cried the false prior from Angers;
“ye cannot cross our moat nor force our gates, and fifty Norman lances
are lying hard by.”

“False monk, we will see,” quoth the Lord of Brunn. “Now, Saxons, your
blast-horns again; blow ye our second signal!”

The hornmen blew might and main; and before their last blast had ceased
echoing from an angle of the walls, another horn was heard blowing
inside the house, and then was heard a rushing and stamping of heavy
feet, and a clanging of swords in the hall, and a voice roaring, “Let
me cleave the skull of two of these shavelings for the sake of Wybert
the wright!”

“Thou art cold and shivering, Girolamo,” said Hereward; “but step out
of that quagmire where thou art standing, and follow me. We will
presently warm ourselves at the fireside of these Frenchmen.” Girolamo
followed the Lord of Brunn to the front of the house; and they were
scarcely there ere the drawbridge was down, and the gate thrown open.

“Well done, Ralph of Spalding,” said Hereward, who rushed into the
house followed by the score of armed men. But those who had descended
from above by the spiral staircase had left nothing to be done by those
who ascended from below. The false prior and all his false fraternity
had been seized, and had been bound with their own girdles, and had all
been thrown in a corner, where they all lay sprawling the one on the
top of the other, and screaming and begging for Misericorde. The
brother of Wybert the wright had given a bloody coxcomb to the prior,
and one of Hereward’s soldiers had slit the nose of a French monk that
had aimed at him with a pike; but otherwise little blood had been shed,
and no great harm done, save that all the stoups of wine and all the
wine-cups had been upset in the scuffle. The brother of Wybert begged
as a favour that he might be allowed to cut the throats of two of the
false monks; but the Lord of Brunn, so fierce in battle, was aye
merciful in the hour of victory, and never would allow the slaying of
prisoners, and so he told the good man of Spalding town that the monks
must not be slain; but that, before he had done with them, they should
be made to pay the price of his brother’s blood; nay, three times the
price that the Saxon laws put upon the life of a man of Wybert’s degree.

“I would give up that bot for a little of their blood!” said Wybert’s
brother. But, nevertheless, he was obliged to rest satisfied; for who
should dare gainsay the young Lord of Brunn?

Girolamo of Salerno, who understood nought of the debate between
Hereward and the brother of Wybert, thought that the intrusive monks
ought to be put into sacks and thrown into the river, inasmuch as that
the Normans, when they conquered Salerno, threw a score of good monks
of that town and vicinity into the sea; but when he delivered this
thought unto the Lord Hereward, that bold-hearted and kind-hearted
Saxon said that it was not the right way to correct cruelties by
committing cruelties, and that it was not in the true English nature to
be prone to revenge. All this while, and a little longer, the false
alien monks, with their hands tied behind them, lay sprawling and
crying Misericorde: howbeit, when they saw and understood that death
was not intended, they plucked up their courage and began to complain
and reprove.

“This is a foul deed,” said one of them, “a very foul deed, to disturb
and break in upon, and smite with the edge of the sword, the servants
of the Lord.”

“Not half so foul a deed,” quoth Hereward, “as that done by Ivo
Taille-Bois, the cousin of ye all, and the man who put ye here, and
thrust out the Saxon brotherhood at the dead of night, slaying their
cook. Ye may or may not have been servants of the Lord in the countries
from which ye came, but here are ye nought but intruders and usurpers,
and the devourers of better men’s goods.”

Here the prior from Angers spoke from the heap in the corner, and said,
“For this night’s work thou wilt be answerable unto the king.”

“That will I,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “when bold King Harold returns.”

“I will excommunicate thee and thy fautors,” said the intrusive prior.

“Thou hadst better not attempt it,” said Hereward, “for among my merry
men be some that know enough of church Latin to make out the difference
between a Maledicite and a Benedicite; and I might find it difficult to
prevent their cutting your weazens.”[123]

“Yet would I do it by bell, book and candle, if I could get the bell
and candle, and read the book,” said the intrusive prior.

“Thou hadst better not attempt it,” said two or three voices from the
heap; but another voice, which seemed buried under stout bodies and
habits and hoods, said, “There is no danger, for our prior cannot read,
and never had memory enough to say by heart more Latin than lies in a
Credo. Beshrew you, brothers all, bespeak these Saxons gently, so that
they may give us leave to go back into Normandie. If I had bethought me
that I was to play the monk in this fashion, Ivo Taille-Bois should
never have brought me from the plough-tail!”

When the Lord of Brunn and Girolamo of Salerno had done laughing, the
Lord Hereward said, “Let this goodly hall be cleared of this foul
rubbish. Girolamo, see these intruders carried on board the bark and
thrown into the hold. We will send them to my Lord Abbat at Ely, that
they may be kept as hostages. But tell the shipmen not to hurt a hair
of their heads.”

When the alien monks understood that they must go, they clamoured about
their goods and properties. This made Hereward wroth, and he said,
“When ye thrust out the good English monks, ye gave them nought!
Nevertheless I will give ye all that ye brought with ye.”

Here the voice that had spoken before from under the heap said, “We all
know we brought nothing with us—no, not so much as the gear we wear!
Therefore let us claim nothing, but hasten to be gone, and so hope to
get back the sooner into Normandie.”

But the prior and the sacrist and divers others continued to make a
great outcry about their goods, their holy-books, their altar vases,
their beds and their bed-clothes; and as this moved Lord Hereward’s
ire, he said to his merry men that they must turn them out; and the
merry men all did turn them out by pulling them before and kicking them
behind: and in this manner the unlettered and unholy crew that Ivo
Taille-Bois had thrust into the succursal cell of Spalding were lugged
and driven on shipboard, and there they were made fast under the
hatches. As soon as they were all cleared out of the convent, Lord
Hereward bade his Saxons put more fuel on the fire, and bring up more
wine, and likewise see what might be in the buttery. The brother of
Wybert the wright knew the way well both to cellar and buttery; and
finding both well filled, he soon re-appeared with wine and viands
enough. And so Hereward and his men warmed themselves by the blazing
fire, and ate and drank most merrily and abundantly: and when all had
their fill, and all had drunk a deep health to Hereward the liberator,
they went into the monk’s snug cells, and so fast to sleep.

On the morrow morning they rose betimes. So featly had the thing been
done over night, that none knew it but those who had been present. The
good folk that yet remained in Spalding town, though so close at hand,
had heard nothing of the matter. Hereward now summoned them to the
house; but having his reasons for wishing not to be known at this
present, he deputed one of his men to hold a conference with them, and
to tell the few good men of Spalding that the hour of deliverance was
at hand, that their false monks had been driven away, and that Father
Adhelm and their true monks would soon return: whereat the Spalding
folk heartily rejoiced. In the present state of the road, or rather of
the waters, there was no fear of any Norman force approaching the
succursal cell. Therefore Lord Hereward ordered that much of his
munition of war should be landed and deposited in the convent: and
leaving therein all his armed men with Girolamo of Salerno, he embarked
alone in the lightest of his barks, and went up the river as far as the
point that was nearest to Brunn. There, leaving the bark and all the
sailors, and taking with him nought but his sword and his fen-staff,
and covering himself with an old and tattered seaman’s coat, he landed
and struck across the fens, and walked, waded, leaped, and swam, until
he came within sight of his own old manor-house and the little township
of Brunn.[124] It was eventide, and the blue smoke was rising from the
manor-house and from the town, as peacefully as in the most peaceful
days. Hereward stopped and looked upon the tranquil scene, as he had
done so many times before at the same hour in the days of his youth,
when returning homeward from some visit, or from some fowling in the
fens; and as he looked, all that had since passed became as a dream;
and then he whistled and stepped gaily forward, as if his father’s
house was still his own house,[125] and his father there to meet and
bless him. But, alack! his father was six feet under the sod of the
churchyard, and a fierce Norman was in the house, with many
men-at-arms. Awakening from his evening dream, and feeling that the
invasion of England was no dream—the bloody battle of Hastings no
dream—the death of his father no dream—and that it was a sad reality
that he was a dispossessed man, barred out by force and by fraud from
his own, the young Lord of Brunn avoided the direct path to the
manor-house, and struck into a narrow sloppy lane which led into the
township. As he came among the low houses, or huts, the good people
where beginning to bar their doors for the night. “They will open,”
said Hereward, “when they know who is come among them!” He made
straight for the abode of one who had been his foster brother; and he
said as he entered it, “Be there true Saxon folk in the house?”

“Yea,” said the man of the house.

“Then wilt thou not be sorry to see Hereward the Saxon and thy
foster-brother;” and so saying he unmuffled himself and threw off his
dirty ship cloak; and his foster brother fell at his feet, and kissed
his hand, and hugged his knee, and said, “Is it even my young Lord
Hereward?” and so wept for joy.

“It is even I,” said the young Lord of Brunn; “it is even I come back
to get mine own, and to get back for every honest man his own. But
honest men must up and help. Will the honest folk of Brunn strike a
blow for Hereward and for themselves? Will the town-people, and my kith
and kindred and friends in the old days, receive and acknowledge me?”

It was the wife of the foster-brother that was now kneeling and
clasping Hereward’s knee, and that said, “The women of Brunn would
brand every catiff in the township that did not throw up his cap and
rejoice, and take his bill-hook and bow in his hand for the young Lord
of Brunn!”

Every one of the notables was summoned presently; and they all
recognised Hereward as their true lord and leader, vowing at the same
time that they would follow him into battle against the Normans, and do
his bidding whatever it might be. Many were the times that Hereward was
forced to put his finger upon his lip to recommend silence; for they
all wanted to hail his return with hearty Saxon shouts, and he wanted
to avoid rousing the Normans in the manor-house for the present. The
welcome he received left him no room to doubt of the entire affection
and devotion of the town-folk; and the intelligence he gleaned was more
satisfactory than he had anticipated. Raoul, a Norman knight, and, next
to Ivo Taille-Bois, the most powerful and diabolical of all the Normans
in or near to the fen-country, held the manor-house, and levied dues
and fees in the township; but many of those who dwelt in the
neighbourhood, and who had held their lands under the last quiet old
Lord of Brunn, had never submitted to the intruder, nor had Raoul and
his men-at-arms been able to get at them in their islands among the
fens and deep waters. There was John of the Bogs, who had kept his
house and gear untouched, and who could muster a score or twain of
lusty hinds, well armed with pikes and bill-hooks and bows; there was
Ralph of the Dyke, the chamberlain of the last Lord of Brunn, who had
beaten off Raoul and his men-at-arms in a dozen encounters; there were
other men, little less powerful than these two, who would be up and
doing if Lord Hereward would only show himself, or only raise his
little finger. The manor-house was well fortified and garrisoned; but
what of that? For Lord Hereward it should be stormed and taken, though
it should cost a score or twain of lives. Here the young Lord of Brunn
told them that he hoped to get back his house without wasting a single
drop of the blood of any of them, inasmuch as he had practised men of
war not far from hand, together with engines of war proper for sieges.
He bade them spread far and near the news of his return: he begged them
to do this cautiously, and to remain quiet until he should come back
among them; in the meanwhile they might be making such preparations for
war as their means allowed. To-morrow night it would be the full of
moon; and as soon as the good town-folk should see the moon rising over
Elsey Wood[126] they might expect him and his force. And now he must
take a short repast and a little sleep, so as to be able to commence
his return to the Welland river before midnight.

Long before midnight Hereward was on his way; but he travelled with
much more ease than he had done in coming to Brunn, for his
foster-brother and two other trusty men carried him in a boat the
greater part of the way.

Being again at Spalding, the approaches to which had been curiously
strengthened, during his short absence, by Girolamo of Salerno,
Hereward sent off one of the barks for Ely to convey the news of his
first success and the prisoners he had made to the Lord Abbat, and to
bring back the good prior of Spalding to his own cell; he left one bark
moored below Spalding to watch the lower part of the river, and prevent
any but friendly boats from ascending (there was little danger of any
Norman coming this way; but a good commander like the Lord of Brunn
leaves nothing to chance, and neglects no precaution); and with the
three other barks and Girolamo and twenty of his armed men he began to
move up the river on the following morning. Ten men were left to hold
the succursal cell, and protect the township of Spalding; and all such
war-stores as were not immediately required were left in the convent.
The three barks were to be moored near to the point of debarkation, so
as to prevent any communication between Crowland and Spalding, it being
very expedient to keep the intrusive monks at Crowland ignorant of what
had passed and what was passing. True, these unholy Norman friars were
feasting and keeping their Christmas, and were little likely to move
out at such a season, or to take heed of anything that was happening
beyond the walls of their own house: but Hereward, as we have said,
neglected no precaution; and therefore it was that the Lord of Brunn
was ever successful in war. When he and his troops landed at the bend
of the river that was nearest to Brunn, it was made visible to all, and
not without manifest astonishment, that Girolamo of Salerno could do
many wondrous things. Under his direction light and shallow skerries,
and boats made of wicker-work, and lined with skins, had been prepared;
and while these were capable of carrying men and stores across the
deeper streams that lay between the bend of the Welland and the town of
Brunn, they were so light that they could easily be carried on the
men’s shoulders. A catapult and another engine which Hereward had
purchased in Flanders were taken to pieces in order to be carried in
these boats and skerries; the more precious parts of the munition of
war which Girolamo had made with his own hands before embarking for
England were most carefully wrapped up in many cloths and skins, so
that even in that wettest of countries they could not be wetted. There
was one small package, a very small package was it, of which the dark
stranger took especial care, carrying it himself, and telling Hereward
that with its contents he could open the gates of the strongest of
houses.

Notwithstanding the weight of their arms, and of the other burdens they
had to bear from one stream or mere to another, the whole party pushed
steadily forward across the more than half-inundated fens; and although
some of the men, not being native fen-men, were not practised in such
travelling, and although some of them could not swim, they all reached
in safety a broad dry dyke[127] near to the back of the township of
Brunn a good hour before the full moon began to rise over Elsey-Wood.
Having seen everything safely landed, Hereward walked alone into the
town, going straight to the house of his foster-brother. But before he
got into the rambling street he was accosted by three tall Saxons, who
said, “Is it our Lord Hereward?”

“Yea; and are ye ready to be stirring? Have ye collected a few true men
that will strike a blow for the houseless Lord of Brunn?”

“Thou shalt see, my Lord,” said one of the three, who was no less a man
than John of the Bogs, and clapping his hands thrice, three score and
more Saxons armed with bows and bills, and some of them with swords and
battle-axes, started forth from behind so many alders and willow-trees;
and at that moment the broad full moon showed her bright, full face
over the bare trees of Elsey-Wood. The men had been well taught, and so
they did not rend the air with a shout which might have startled the
Normans in the manor-house; but every man of them, whether freeman or
serf, knelt at Lord Hereward’s feet, and kissed his hand.

The score of armed men and all that had been brought with them from
Spalding were soon carried into town. A supper was all ready, and
smoking on the table of Lord Hereward’s foster-brother. Every man was
welcomed as one amongst brethren, albeit these simple-minded men of
Brunn started and looked askance when they saw the dark stranger with
the hooked nose and fiery eyes; and much they marvelled all when they
heard the young Lord of Brunn talking with this stranger in an unknown
tongue.

“Wouldst thou have possession of thine house to-night or to-morrow
morning?” said Girolamo. “At the hazard of burning a part of it I could
gain thee admittance in less then half an hour by means of my Greek
fire.”

“I would not have a plank of the dear old place burned,” said Hereward.
“I would rather delay my entrance till the morning.”

“Then this must be a busy night,” replied the dark man.

And a busy night it was; for lo! in the morning, when Raoul the Norman
knight awoke from the deep sleep which had followed his heavy
overnight’s carouse, and looked forth from his chamber in the tower
over the gateway of the manor-house, he saw what seemed another and a
taller tower on the opposite side of the moat; and what seemed a bridge
of boats laid across the moat; and in the tower were archers with their
bows bent, and men-at-arms with swords and battle-axes. Raoul rubbed
his eyes, and still seeing the same sight, thought it all magic or a
dream. But there was more magic than this, for when he called up his
sleepy household, and his careless and over-confident men-at-arms, and
went round the house, he saw another bridge of boats leading to the
postern-gate at the back of the house, and beyond that bridge he saw a
catapult with a score of armed men standing by it. But look where he
would, there were armed men; the manor-house was surrounded, and
surrounded in such fashion that there could be no egress from it, and
small hope of defending it. The despairing Norman knight, therefore,
went back to his tower over the gateway, and called a parley.

“What would ye, O Saxons?” said Raoul; “know ye not that ye are
breaking the king’s peace? Who is your leader, and what wants he?”

“I am their leader and lord,” quoth Hereward, speaking from that
marvellous wooden tower which Girolamo had caused to be raised; “I am
their leader and the Lord of Brunn, and all that I want is to get
possession of my house and lands. So come forth, Norman, and fear not!
Thou and thy men shall have quarter and kindly treatment. But if ye
seek to resist, or let fly so much as one arrow upon these my good
people, by all the saints of old England I will hang ye all on one
gibbet.”

“What shall we do in this strait?” said Raoul to his seneschal.

“Take terms and surrender,” quoth the seneschal; “for the house cannot
be defended against the host that is come against it, and against the
engines of war that are raised against it. Three butts of that catapult
would shiver the postern gate; that tower in front commands the
battlements; the bridges of boats will give access to every part of the
walls. This could not be done in one short night, except by magic; but
magic is not to be withstood by sinful men-at-arms, and our chaplain is
gone to feast with the monks of Crowland. Moreover, oh Raoul, we have
consumed nearly all our provisions in our own feastings, and so should
starve in a day or two if we could hold out so long—but that is
impossible.”

“But,” said Raoul, “be there not some twenty or thirty Norman lances no
farther off than in the town of Stamford?”[128]

“But they cannot cross the wide watery fens; and if they were here they
could not charge among these accursed bogs.”

“’Tis all too true,” quoth Raoul, “and therefore must we surrender.”

The Norman knight spoke again to Hereward, who stood on the tower,
looking like the good soldier and great lord that he was; and Raoul
bargained to give immediate admittance to the Saxons, if the Saxons
would only grant life and liberty to him and his garrison, with
permission to carry off such arms and property as were their own.

“Life and security of limb ye shall have,” said Hereward, “and liberty
ye shall have likewise when good King Harold comes back and peace is
restored; but, in the meantime, I must have ye kept as hostages, and
sent to Ely to do penance for your sins: your arms must remain with us
who want them; but an ye brought any other property with ye beyond the
clothes on your backs, it shall be restored upon your solemn oaths that
ye did not get it by robbery here in England!”

“These are harsh terms,” muttered Raoul; “but, Saxon, thou art no
knight.”

“I soon shall be one,” quoth Hereward; “but that is nought to thee. So
come out of mine house, and save me the trouble of hanging thee. Come
out, I say, ye Norman thieves, and give me up mine own!”

And Raoul, seeing nothing better for it, pulled down a flag which some
too confident wight had raised over the battlements; and the drawbridge
being let down, and the front gate opened, he and all his Normans came
forth and laid down their armour and their arms at the feet of Hereward
the Saxon.

Even thus did the young Lord of Brunn get his own again.



                              CHAPTER IX.

 ELFRIC THE EX-NOVICE, AND GIROLAMO OF SALERNO, PREPARE TO PLAY AT DEVILS.


A feast was prepared in the great hall of the manor-house, and the
young Lord of Brunn was about sitting down to table with his kinsmen
and the good friends that had rallied round him in the hour of need,
when Elfric arrived at Brunn from the house of the Ladie Alftrude at
Ey. To look at Lord Hereward’s glad countenance as he talked in a
corner of the hall with the new comer, one would have thought that he
had won a fairer house and a wider domain than those of his ancestors
of which he had repossessed himself in the morning. And for that matter
he had won or was winning his way to a better house and greater estate;
for had not the fair young heiress of Ey sent again to tell him that
she abided by her troth-plight, and looked for him to come and rescue
her from that burthensome and dishonouring protection of the Normans
under which she had been living! The retainers of her father’s house,
and all the hinds and serfs, were devoted to her, and ready to receive
the young Lord of Brunn as their own liege lord and deliverer. Her
friends and neighbours had all been consulted, and would assemble in
arms and meet Lord Hereward at any hour and place that it might suit
him to name. Save some few men-at-arms that were at Crowland to protect
the intrusive Norman monks, there was no Norman force nearer to Ey than
Stamford. The season of the year and all things were favourable for
recovering the whole of the fen-country, and for driving the invaders
from every country in the neighbourhood of the fens.

After putting a few questions to Elfric, such as lovers usually put to
their pages when they come from seeing their ladie-loves, Hereward
asked what force there might be in Crowland Abbey. Elfric said that
there might be one knight and from ten to fifteen men-at-arms; but then
all the monks that had been so recently brought over from France were
fighting men, at a pinch; and these intruders were from thirty to forty
in number, and well provided with weapons and warlike harness. The
young man also bade Lord Hereward reflect that the great house at
Crowland was not like the cell at Spalding, but a lofty and very strong
place, and built mostly of stone and brick. Elfric too had learned that
Crowland was well stored with provisions, so that it might stand a long
siege.

“And yet,” said the Lord of Brunn, “it is upon the great house of
Crowland that I would fain make my next attempt; and great in every way
are the advantages that would follow the capture of that strong and
holy place, and the immediate restoration of the true Saxon Lord Abbat
and his dispossessed brethren.”

“My silly head hath been venturing to think of this,” said Elfric, “and
I very believe that with the aid of Girolamo and with a little of that
blue fire and stinking smoke which he hath the trick of making, I could
drive knight, men-at-arms, and monks all out of the abbey without any
loss or let to our good Saxons.”

“Why, what wouldst do?” said Hereward.

“Only this, my lord. I would make the Normans believe that all the
blubber-devils of Crowland were come back to earth to drive them from
the house.”

“I see, yet do not fully comprehend,” said Lord Hereward; “but we will
talk of these things with Girolamo to-night, when this my first feast
as Lord of Brunn is over, and when every Saxon shall have seen that the
hospitality of mine ancestors is not to know decrease in me.”

And late that night, when Hereward’s first and most bountiful feast was
over, and when his guests had betaken themselves to the town of Brunn,
or to their beds or to clean hay and rushes in the manor-house, Elfric
and Girolamo followed Hereward to his inner chamber, and consulted with
him about the best means of driving out the French from Crowland. First
crossing himself—for although he feared not man, he had a lively dread
of all manner of goblins and demons—the Lord of Brunn said, “Elfric,
thou mayest now tell us about thy Crowland devils.”

“You wist well, my lord,” said Elfric, “for who should know it better,
that in the heathenish times the whole of the isle[129] of Crowland and
all the bogs and pools round about were haunted day and night, but most
at night, by unaccountable troops and legions of devils, with
blubber-lips, fiery mouths, scaley faces, beetle heads, sharp long
teeth, long chins, hoarse throats, black skins, hump shoulders, big
bellies, burning loins, bandy legs, cloven hoofs for feet, and long
tails at their buttocks. And who so well as your lordship knoweth that
these blubber-fiends, angered at that their fens and stinking pools
should be invaded, allowed our first monks of Crowland no peace nor
truce, but were for ever gibing and mowing at them, biting them with
their sharp teeth, switching them with their filthy tails, putting dirt
in their meat and drink, nipping them by the nose, giving them cramps
and rheums and shivering agues and burning fevers, and fustigating and
tormenting not a few of the friars even to death! And your lordship
knows that these devils of Crowland were not driven away until the time
when that very pious man Guthlacus became a hermit there, and cut the
sluices that lead from the fetid pools to the flowing rivers. Then, in
sooth, the devils of Crowland were beaten off by prayer and by holy
water, and the horrible blue lights which they were wont to light upon
the most fetid of the pools, ceased to be seen of men.”[130]

“All this legend I know full well,” said the Lord of Brunn, explaining
it to Girolamo of Salerno, who crossed himself many times as he heard
the description of the very hideous Crowland devils.

“All that dwell in the fen-country know the legend,” continued Elfric;
“the house of Crowland is full of the legend, and the usurping Norman
crew must know the legend well, and in the guilt of their conscience
must needs tremble at it! The devils are painted in cloister and
corridor, their blue lights are painted, as they used to appear to our
first good monks; and the most pious anchorite Guthlacus[131] is
depicted in the act of laying the evil ones. If a Saxon saint laid
them, these Norman sinners have done enough to bring them back again;
and it can only be by the bones of our saints and the other Saxon
relics that lie in the church of Crowland, that the devils of Crowland
are prevented from returning. Now all that I would do is this,—I would
haunt the house and the fens round about with sham devils, and so make
these Norman intruders believe that the old real blubber-fiends were
upon them! I do not believe they would stand two days and nights of
such a siege as I could give them, if your lordship would but consent
and Girolamo lend his aid.”

“But were it not sinful for christened Saxon men to play at devils?”

“Assuredly not, when playing against devils like these Normans, and for
a holy end, and for the restoration of such good men and true Saxons as
my Lord Abbat of Crowland and his expelled brotherhood.”

Hereward put the question, as a case of conscience, to Girolamo, as
_vir bonus et sapiens_, a good man and learned; and Girolamo was of
opinion that, as the wicked ofttimes put on the semblance of saints to
do mischief, the good might, with certain restrictions, be allowed to
put on the semblance of devils to do good. His patron Hereward, he
said, would give him credit for being a true believer, and a devout,
though weak and sinful, son of the church, yet would he think it no sin
to play the part of a Crowland devil, or to give to Elfric the benefit
of his science in making ghastly blue lights, or in causing flames to
appear on the surface of the stagnant waters, or in fact in doing
anything that might be required of him in order to scare away the
Normans. Hereward had still some misgivings, but he yielded to the
representations of Elfric and the exceeding great earnestness of
Girolamo; and when he dismissed them for the night he said, “Well,
since you will have it so, go and play at devils in Crowland. Only have
a care that ye be not taken or slain, and be back to this house as soon
as ye can; for if Crowland cannot be taken, we must try and blockade
it, and proceed to Ey to collect more strength.”

“I have good hope, my lord,” said Girolamo; “for with my white magic I
can do things that will carry terror to the hearts of these untaught
Normans; and then this young man Elfric hath ever succeeded in all that
he hath attempted: he already knoweth enough of my language (thanks to
the little Latin he got as a novice) to make out my meaning and to act
as my interpreter to others. He tells me that even should the devil
experiment fail, he can assure our retreat, with scarcely any chance of
danger.”

“Then go, Girolamo, and take with thee such men and boats and other
appliances as thou mayest need. But have a care, for I have work on
hand that cannot be done without thee; and if I lose Elfric I lose the
nimblest-witted of all my Saxons. So good night, and may the blessed
saints go with ye both, although ye be dressed in devils’ skins!”

“Brother devil, that is to be,” said Elfric to the Salernitan, “there
be bulls’ hides and bulls’ horns in the out-houses; and good coils of
iron chain in the kitchen, to do the clanking.”

“Boy,” said Girolamo, “thou hast but a vulgar idea about demons! Dost
think I am going to make jack-pudding devils, such as are gazed at at
wakes and country fairs? No, no; I will give you devils of another sort
I guess. But leave all that to me, and apply your own mind to the means
of getting into the house at Crowland or of establishing a
correspondence therein, so that the Normans may be devil-ridden inside
as well as outside.”

“And do thou, great master Girolamo, leave that to me,” said Elfric,
“for I know some that are within the house of Crowland that would face
the real devil and all his legions for the chance of driving out the
French abbat and friars; and if I myself do not know every dark corner,
every underground passage, and every hiding-hole in and about the
house, why there is no one living that hath such knowledge.”

Here the two separated. The young Saxon lay down on some rushes near
the door of Lord Hereward’s chamber, and pulling his cloak over his
face was soon fast asleep: the Salernitan, who had a chamber all to
himself, sat up till a late hour among the packages and vessels he had
brought with him: and yet was he ready to start on his journey for
Crowland at the first glimpse of day. Those who entered his room in the
morning, just after he was gone, smelt a strong smell of sulphur: and,
sorely to Girolamo’s cost, some louts remembered this smell at a later
season.



                              CHAPTER X.

                         THE HOUSE AT CROWLAND.


Compared with Crowland, Ely was quite a dry place: there the abbey
church and conventual buildings stood upon a hill and on firm hard
ground;[132] but here all the edifices stood upon piles driven into the
bog, and instead of a high and dry hill, there was nothing but a dead
wet flat, and unless in those parts where the monastery and the town
stood the ground was so rotten and boggy that a pole might be thrust
down thirty feet deep. Next to the church was a grove of alders, but
there was nothing else round about but water and bogs, and the reeds
that grow in water. In short this Crowland, both in the situation and
nature of the place, was a marvel even in the fen-country; and, certes,
it was different from all places in any other part of England. Lying in
the worst part of the fens, it was so enclosed and encompassed with
deep bogs and pools, that there was no access to it except on the north
and east sides,[133] and there too only by narrow causeways. Even in
the summer season the cattle and flocks were kept at a great distance,
there being no pasture-land upon which they could be placed without
danger of seeing them swallowed up; so that when the owners would milk
their cows they went in boats, by them called skerries, and so small
that they would carry but two men and their milk-pails. There was no
corn growing within five miles of Crowland. The greatest gain was from
the fish and wild-ducks that were caught; and the ducks were so many
that the Crowland fowlers could at times drive into a single net three
thousand ducks at once; and so the good people called these pools their
real corn-fields.[134] For this liberty of fishing and fowling they
paid yearly to the Lord Abbat a very round sum of money: and, we ween,
the abbat and the monks had ever the choice of the best fowls and
fishes they caught. That holy man Guthlacus, who had laid the Crowland
devils, and who had cut the sluices that led from the fetid pools to
the flowing rivers, had also made the causeways which gave access to
the town and monastery. These narrow but solid roads of wood and gravel
ran across the deepest marshes, and had willows and alders growing on
either side of them: they were marvellous works for the times; and do
we not see in our own day a pyramidal stone on the causeway leading to
the north, inscribed with the name of Guthlacus?[135] Much had this
beatified anchorite done to alter the face of the country; yet many of
the foulest pools remained and could not be purified. The town was
separated from the abbey by a broad stream, and three other streams or
water-courses flowed through the town,[136] separating the streets from
each other; the streets were planted with willows; and the houses
raised on piles driven into the bottom of the bog; and the people of
one street communicated with the people of another street by means of
light flying-bridges or by means of their skerries. A bold people they
were, and hardy and dexterous withal, for their lives were spent in
hazardous fowling and fishing, and in toiling over measureless waters
and quagmires. Fenners must be bold and expert men, or they must
starve. Moreover the folk of Crowland town were very devout and
constant in their worship of the Saxon saints and had a laudable
affection for their dispossessed Saxon monks and Lord Abbat: although
in the time of King Edward, of happy memory, when they knew not what
real sorrow or trouble was, they would at times murmur to my Lord
Abbat’s chamberlain about the money they were called upon to pay, and
at times they would even quarrel lustily with the purveyors of the
house about eels and wild-ducks, pikes and herons, and such like
trivialities. But the usurping abbat from France had already nearly
doubled their rents and dues, and for every fish or fowl that the Saxon
purveyors had claimed, the Norman purveyors laid their hands upon a
dozen. Ye may judge, therefore, whether the good folk of Crowland town
did not abhor the Norman monks and wish them gone.

In turning away the good Lord Abbat and all his obedientiarii or
officials, and all his superior monks, the intruders had left in the
house a few inferior monks, and about half a score of servientes and
lay-brothers to hew their wood and draw their water. And they had so
overwrought these Saxon laics, and had so taunted and vilipended them,
that the poor hinds, one and all, wished them in the bottomless pit.

On the night after Lord Hereward’s feast at Brunn and the fifth night
from the festival of the Nativity, Alain of Beauvais, the intrusive
abbat, was feasting in the hall with his Norman friars, who had never
passed through a noviciate, and with his Norman men-at-arms, who were
neither more nor less godly than his monks. One or two of the English
laics were waiting upon these their lords and masters; the other
lay-brothers were supposed to be gone to their straw beds. Alain the
pseudo-abbat, being warm with wine, was talking in the manner of all
Frenchmen about dames and demoiselles, and was telling his company what
a sweet lady it was that broke her heart when he first left Beauvais to
seek his fortune with Duke William. Just at this juncture of time there
came into the hall an invisible devil in the essence of a stink. It was
such a stench as mortal nose had never smelt before—it was so intense,
so foul and diabolical, that no mortal man could bear it long! Alain
the pseudo-abbat, putting both his hands to his nose, said, “Notre Dame
de la misericordi! what smell is this?” They all put their hands to
their nostrils, and roared “What stink is this?”

Before the English lay-brothers could make any answer, the foul smell,
which kept growing stronger, was accompanied by a terrible rumbling
noise:—and then there came most violent gusts of wind, which
extinguished all the lamps, cressets, torches, and candles; and then,
upon the darkness of the hall, there burst a livid, ghastly, blue
light, and above and below, from side to side, the hall seemed filled
with streaming blue flames, and still that atrocious stench grew
stronger and stronger! Abbat, monks, men-at-arms, and all, rushed out
of the hall, some crying that it was the eve of the day of judgment,
and some roaring that it must be the devils of Crowland come back
again. Outside the hall, in the darkened corridor (and by this time
there was not a single lamp left burning in any part of the house, but
only the altar-lights in the church) they ran against and stumbled over
other Frenchmen who were running up from the inferior offices and from
the stables, for they had all and several been driven away by blue
lights and foul smells; and every mother’s son of them believed that
the Crowland devils had been sent to dispossess them and drive them
back to Normandie. The corridor was long and straight, but as dark as
pitch; some fell in their flight and rolled the one over the other, and
some stood stock still and silent as stocks, save that their knees
knocked together and their teeth chattered; and some ran forward
howling for mercy, and confessing their sins to that hell-darkness.
But, when near the end of the long dark passage, a French monk and a
man-at-arms that ran the foremost of them all fell through the flooring
with a hideous crash, and were heard shrieking from some unexplored
regions below, that the fiends had gotten them—that the devils of
Crowland were whirling them off to the bottomless pit! [The pit or
fetid pool into which these two evil-doers were thrown was not
bottomless, though deep; yet I wist nothing was ever more seen either
of that monk or of that man-at-arms.] As these piercing shrieks were
heard from below, the Normans roared in the corridor—some blaspheming
and cursing the day and hour that they came to England, others praying
to be forgiven, with many a _Libera nos!_ and _Salve!_ and others
gnashing their teeth and yelling like maniacs. But some there were that
made no noise at all, for they had swooned through excess of fear.

And now there came an exceeding bright light from the chasm in the
floor through which the monk and the man-at-arms had fallen; but the
light, though bright, was still of a ghastly blue tinge; and by that
light full twenty devils, or it might be more, were seen ascending and
descending to and from the flaming pit, or chasm in the floor. Some of
these fiends had blubber-lips, beetle heads, humped shoulders, and
bandy legs, and were hirsute[137] and black as soot; others of them
were red and altogether shapeless; others were round and yellow; but
all their visages were most irregular and frightful, and they had all
long tails tipped with fire, and flashes of red, green, and yellow
flames came out of the mouths of every one of them. As for hoarse
throats, no voices could be hoarser and more dreadful than the voices
of these lubber-fiends as they went up and down the pit, like buckets
in a well, or as they roared in the dark cavities under the passage,
and beneath the very spot where the Normans lay huddled. The intrusive
abbat tried to say a _De profundis_, but the words stuck in his throat,
not being very familiar with that passage.

By degrees that exceeding bright light from the chasm in the floor died
away, leaving the corridor as black as Erebus. “An we could but get to
the church door,” said one of the false monks, “we might be safe! Will
no man try?—Is there no brave man-at-arms that will adventure along
this passage and see whether we can cross that chasm and get out of
it?” The men-at-arms thought that this was a reconnaissance to be more
properly made by monks, who were supposed to know more about the devil
and his ways than did plain soldiers: nevertheless several of them said
they would adventure, if they had but their swords or their pikes with
them. But they had all left their weapons in their several lodgings;
and so, not one of them would budge. The darkness continued, but the
voices which had been roaring below ground ceased. At last Alain of
Beauvais, fortifying himself with such short prayers and Latin
interjections as he could recollect, and crossing himself many score
times, resolved to go along the dark passage and try whether there
could be an exit from it. Slowly he went upon his hands and knees,
groping and feeling the floor with his hands, and now and then rapping
on the floor with his fist to essay whether it was sound. Thus this
unrighteous intruder went on groping and rapping in the dark until he
came close to the edge of the chasm. Then a quivering blue light shot
out of the pit, and then—monstrum horrendum! a head, bigger than the
heads of ten mortal men, and that seemed all fire and flame within,
rose up close to the intrusive abbat’s nose, and a sharp shrill voice
was heard to say in good Norman French, “Come up, my fiends, from your
sombre abodes! Come up and clutch me my long while servant and slave
Alain of Beauvais!” The intrusive abbat rushed back screaming, and fell
swooning among the swooned. Again the long corridor was filled with
that intense and intolerable blue light, and again the blubber fiends
ascended and descended like buckets in a well, and again the horrible
noise was heard below, and the devil that spoke the good Norman French
was heard shouting, “Devil Astaroth, art thou ready? Devil Balberith,
hast thou lit thy fires on the top of the waters? Devil Alocco, are thy
pools all ready to receive these Norman sinners? Fiends of the fen, are
your torches all prepared? Fire fiends, are ye ready with your
unquenchable fires? Incubuses[138] and succubuses, demons, devils, and
devilings all, are ye ready?” And the hoarse voices, sounding as if
they came from the bowels of the earth, roared more fearfully than
before; and one loud shrill voice, that sounded as if close to the
mouth of the pit, said in good Norman French, “Yea, great devil of
Crowland, we be all ready!”

“’Tis well,” said the other voice, “then set fire to every part of this
once holy building, over which the sins of these Norman intruders have
given us power! Fire it from porch to roof-tree, and if they will seek
to abide here, let them perish in the flames, and be buried under the
cinders and ashes.”

“If the devil had spoken Saxon,” said one of the monks, “I should have
known nought of his meaning, but since he parleys in Norman, it is not
I that will neglect his warning!” And rushing back into the hall where
they had so lately been feasting, and bursting open one of the windows,
this well-advised intruder leaped from the window into the stinking
moat. As when a frighted ram is seized by the horns and dragged by the
shepherd hind through the brake, all the silly flock that could not
move before follow him one by one, even so did our Norman monks and
men-at-arms follow the first monk through the window and into the foul
moat! Such as had swooned were brought, if not to their senses, to the
use of their legs and arms, by the renewal of that exceeding bright
light, or by the pinches and twitches of their comrades, which they
took for pinchings of the devil—roaring accordingly. But in a
wondrously short space of time every one of the intruders was outside
of the house, and was either sprawling in the foul moat, or wading
through muck and mud towards the firm, dry causeway. There was great
peril of drowning or of being suffocated in the bogs; nor were they yet
free from the supernatural terrors, for ghastly blue fires were burning
on the surface of sundry of the deeper pools, and there was an
overpowering stench of sulphur. Not one of them doubted but that the
lights were from hell; yet, truth to say, those blue flames showed them
how to avoid the deep pools in which they might have been drowned, and
how to find their way to the causeway; for the moon had not yet risen,
and except when illuminated by these unearthly lights the fens were as
dark as chaos. When they had floundered a long while in the mud and
fen-bogs, they got to the firm and dry causeway which the holy
Guthlacus had made for the use of better men. They were so exhausted by
the fatigue, fright, and agony of mind they had undergone, that they
all threw themselves flat upon the narrow road, and there lay in their
soaked clothes, and shivering in the cold winds of night. They were
still so near to Crowland that they could see bright lights, with
nothing blue or unearthly about them, streaming from the windows of the
abbey and from almost every house in the township, and could very
distinctly hear the ringing of the church bells and the shouting of
triumphant voices.

“The like of this hath not been seen or heard,” said Alain of Beauvais;
“the serfs of Crowland are in league with the devils of Crowland! The
Saxon rebels to King William have called the demons to their
assistance!”

“Nothing so clear,” said one of the men-at-arms, “but let my advice be
taken. The moon is rising now, therefore let us rise and follow the
road that lies before us, and endeavour to get out of these infernal
fens to the town of Huntingdon or to the castle at Cam-Bridge, or to
some other place where there be Normans and Christians. If the men of
Crowland should come after us, Saxons and slaves as they are, they may
drive us from this causeway to perish in the bogs, or cut us to pieces
upon the narrow road, for we have not so much as a single sword among
us all!”

“We have nothing,” groaned Alain of Beauvais.

“Aye,” grunted one of his friars, “we brought little with us and
assuredly we take less away with us! We be poorer than when we came and
drove the English abbat out of his house with nought but his missal and
breviary.”

“But we men-of-war depart much poorer than we came,” said one of the
soldiers; “for each of us brought a good stout English horse with him,
and arms and armour—and all these are left to the devils of Crowland;
and we shall all be laughed at for being devil-beaten, though how
men-at-arms can contend with demons I cannot discover. But hark! what
new din is that?”

The din was a roar of voices proceeding from Crowland town. It soon
came nearer, and still nearer; and then the hurried tramping of many
feet, and the tramp of horses as well as of men, were heard along the
causeway; and, as the moon shone out, the head of a dense moving column
was seen on the narrow road and sundry skerries or light skiffs were
seen gliding along the canals or broad ditches which ran on either side
the causeway; and shouts were heard of “Hereward for England! Hereward
for England!”

Hereupon the Normans all rose from the cold ground, and began to run
with all the speed and strength that was left in them along the narrow
road, the hindmost hardly ever ceasing to cry “Misericordia,” or “Have
pity upon us, gentle Saxons!” But run as they would, the cry of
“Hereward for England” was close behind them; and the horses, being put
into a trot, broke in among them. More than one of the men-at-arms had
the mortification of being knocked down and ridden over by a Crowland
man mounted on his own war-horse; several of the monks got fresh
immersions in the canals. Had the Saxons so disposed, not a Norman of
all that company would have escaped with his life, for they were all as
helpless as babes in their swaddling-clothes. But Hereward of the true
English heart had conjured Elfric and the Salernitan to shed as little
blood and destroy as few lives as possible; and Girolamo well knew that
the terror and panic these fugitives would carry into whatsoever Norman
camp or station they went would do far more good to the good cause than
was to be done by despatching or by making prisoners of this score or
two of obscure rogues.

Thus Elfric, who led the van on a stately horse, called a halt when he
had carried his pursuit to some three miles from Crowland abbey. “And
now,” said he, “with the permission of good Guthlacus, we will cut such
a trench as shall prevent these robbers from returning to Crowland. So
dig and pull away, ye lusty fenners and nimble boys of Crowland that
lately made such good sham devils! Dig away for one good hour by this
bright moonlight, and to-morrow ye may make the trench broader and
deeper by daylight! Oh, Guthlacus, we will repair thy good work when
the good times come back again, and when honest men may walk along the
road in peace, without any fear of Norman cut-throats!”

Two score and more lusty hinds came forward with axes and spades and
mattocks; and within the hour a trench was dug quite broad and deep
enough to stop the march of any heavily armed man or war-horse. The
Saxons then returned to Crowland, and as they went they sang in chorus
a joyous war-song, and shouted “Hereward for England!”

Girolamo the Salernitan, who had remained in the abbey with the Saxon
lay-brothers, had put the house so completely in order and had so
cleansed it of the foul odours he had made by his art, and had so
sweetened it with frankincense brought from the church, and with barks
and fragrant spirits taken from his own packets, that no man could have
conceived that anything extraordinary had taken place. Save that the
good Lord Abbat and his cloister monks were missing, the whole house
looked just as it did before the Normans broke in upon it and drove
away the Lord Abbat and his brethren. Honest and merry English voices
rang again through hall, corridor, and cloister, instead of Norman
speech that whistles in the nose; and Saxon saints were once more
invoked instead of the unknown saints of France.

Other men had been busy in the house besides the Salernitan and his
assistants. No joyful occurrence ever took place among the Saxons
without its being noted by a feast;—provided only that such good
Saxons had wherewith to feast upon. The Normans had gone off in much
too great a hurry to think of taking anything with them. In the buttery
remained, among other rich drinking-horns, all carved and ornamented
with silver, that famed horn which Witlaf,[139] king of Mercia, had
given from his own table to Crowland monastery, in order that the elder
monks might drink thereout on festivals, and in their benedictions
remember sometimes the soul of the donor. It was a mighty large horn,
such as became a great king: and it was an ancient custom of the house
that when any new Lord Abbat came they filled the horn with strong
wine, and offered to him to drink, and if he happened to drink it all
off cheerfully, they promised to themselves a noble Lord Abbat and many
good years in his time. Now for this high festival the subcellarer
brought forth this ancient and royal drinking-horn, which held twice
the quantity of our modern horns; and in order that there might be no
delay in filling it, the good subcellarer caused to be brought up from
below an entire cask of wine, and as soon as the cask was in the
refectory the head of it was stove it. Old Robin the cook, who had been
pastor and master in the art culinary to that good cook of Spalding,
had so bestirred himself, and had put so many other hands and feet in
motion, that there was a good supper ready for all of the house, and
all of the town, and all of the vicinage of Crowland who had been
aiding in the good work of disseising, now so happily accomplished; and
by the time Elfric and his friends got back to the monastery, the feast
was ready. The thin and dark Salernitan, being but a puny eater and no
drinker, and not fully versed in our vernacular, partook only of three
or four dishes and of one cup of wine; and then went straight to the
bed which had been prepared for him. The homely Saxons felt a relief
when he was gone. They sent the wine round faster, and began to
discourse of the wonders they had done and seen. Elfric gave thanks to
the lay-brothers of the house without whose aid the sham devils of
Crowland could never have gotten within the house.

“And how suitably attired!” said Roger the tailor.

“Yet what nimble devils we were!” said Orson the smith.

“What vizards! what tails! That thin dark stranger made the vizards;
but it was I that made the tails, and proud am I of the work! How they
twisted! How lism[140] they were! How I switched mine about by pulling
the strings under my jerkin!”

“I wish,” said Hob the carpenter, “that thou hadst not switched thy
devil’s tail into mine eye as I was coming up after thee through the
trap-door. That trap-door was a good device, and it was all mine own;
for who went and cut away the beams just at the right time but Hob?”

“All did well,” said Elfric, “but there were some that did wondrously.
Colin Rush, thou madest a very pretty nimble devil! Hugh, thy roar was
perfection! Joseph the novice, thou wast so terrible a devil to look
upon, that although I dressed thee myself, I was more than half afraid
of thee!”

“And I,” responded Joseph, “was wholly terrified at thee, master
Elfric! nor can I yet make out how thou didst contrive to throw about
all that fire and flame, through eyes, mouth, and nostrils, without
burning thy big vizard. Hodge the miller set fire to his big head and
burned it to pieces, and so could do nothing but stay below in the
cellar and help in the roaring.”

“And not much did I like that dark underground place,“ quoth Hodge:
”and when the lights were all out, and goodman Hugh, groping his way in
the dark, caught my tail in his hand and pulled it till it nearly came
away from my breech, I ’gan fancy that the Crowland devils were
angered, and that some real devil was going to haul me off! I wot that
the roar I then gave was quite in earnest! My flesh still quivers, and
ice comes over my heart as I think of it!”

“Then melt thine ice with good warm wine,” said Elfric: pushing him a
cup: “I thought thou hadst known that all the Crowland devils had been
laid for aye by the good Guthlacus, and that thou hadst had nothing to
fear whilst engaged in so good a work and all for the service of thy
liege lord the abbat, and for the honour and service of the church and
the liberties of England. Did I not besprinkle thee with holy water
before thou didst don thy devil-skin?”

“For my part,” said another, “what most feared me was that awful
stench! I was told, that as a devil I must not cough, but help coughing
I could not as I stirred up the pan over the charcoal fire, and kept
throwing in the foul drugs the dark stranger gave me to throw in. In
sooth I neither frisked about nor hauled myself up by the rope over the
trap-door; nor did I howl, nor did I help to carry the blue links and
torches; but the stinking part did I all myself, and I think I may be
proud of it! Not to defraud an honest man and good artisan of his due,
I may say it was Hob the carpenter that bored the holes through the
floor so that the incense might rise right under our Norman abbat’s
nose; but for all the rest it was I that did it. That hell-broth still
stinks in the nose of my memory. Prithee, another cup of wine, that I
may forget it.”

“Well,” said old Gaffer the tithing-man of Crowland, “we have done the
thing, and I hope it hath been honestly done; and without offence to
the saints or to the beatified Guthlacus.”

“Never doubt it,” quoth Elfric: “the Norman spoilers and oppressors are
gone to a man, and as naked as they came. I, the humble friend and
follower of my Lord Hereward the liberator, am here to dispense
hospitality to-night; your own Lord Abbat will be here in a few days;
and the dread of our demons of the fens and Crowland devils will make
the invaders run from all the fen country. So much good could not have
come out of evil; if the means employed had been unlawful or in any way
sinful, we should have failed, and never have met with such easy and
complete success.”

“Nevertheless,” continued Gaffer, “the things which I have seen fill me
with doubt and amaze. Whoever saw the like before? Fire burning upon
the top of water, flames not to be quenched by water from below nor by
water from above! Smoke and flames not of their natural colours, but
blue, and green, and scarlet, and bright yellow! and the light from
these flames so dazzling and so ghastly! In truth I wot not how this
can be done by mortal man!”

“Nor wot I,” said Elfric; “but this I know full well, that there was no
magic or sortilege in the preparation, and that the stranger is as good
and devout a Christian as any that dwells in the land. Many are the
things which I have seen done by the hand of man that I cannot
understand; but am I therefore to think that the evil one hath a finger
in them? I have carried on my back, and have handled with mine own
hands, the liquids and the substances which have been used, and yet
have felt neither cramp nor any other ache. And plain homely things
those substances and liquids do appear to be—the quietest and dullest
trash until mixed together and compounded. Girolamo, who hath studied
in the schools in foreign parts, even as our young clerks studied at
Cam-Bridge before the detestable Normans came and built their donjon
there, calls this art of compounding by the name of Chemeia, or Chimia,
and he says that things much more wondrous are to be done by it.
Further, he says, that his own proficiency has been acquired by long
fasting and diligent study, by prayers to heaven and votive offerings
to the saints. Methinks it were better to give God credit for these
inventions and combinations, and for the wit and ingenuity of man, than
to be always attributing them to the devil, as our uninformed clowns
do. [But these last words the ex-novice spoke under his breath.] And
this also do I know—the stranger sprinkled his powders with holy
water, and prayed the prayers of our church all the while he was doing
his preparations.”

“But what makes him look so grim and black, and so wild about the
eyes,” said the old cook.

“Nothing but sorrow and anxiety, sun and climate,” replied Elfric. “In
the country of the south where he was born there be no blue eyes or
flaxen heads of hair; and the Normans drove him from his home and
seized his house and lands, even as they are now doing with Englishmen;
and he hath known long captivity and cruel torture, and hath wandered
in the far climates of the East where the hand of the Arab is lifted
against every man.”

“Well,” said Hob the carpenter, “two things are clear—the Normans are
gone from Crowland, and we have gotten their wine butts. And,
therefore, I submit to this good company that we should leave off
talking and be jolly. Goodman Hodge, pass me down the cup.”



                              CHAPTER XI.

                  THE LINDEN-GROVE AND LADIE ALFTRUDE.


The restored Lord of Brunn, having done so much in a few days, made
full report thereof unto the good Lord Abbat and the great prelates and
Saxon thanes that had made the isle of Ely and the Camp of Refuge their
homes. Right joyous was the news; and prudent and unanimous were the
counsels which followed it. The Abbat of Crowland and the Prior of
Spalding, and such of their monks as had gone with them or followed
them to Ely to escape from the oppression of Ivo Taille-Bois, now,
without loss of time, returned to the banks of the Welland.

The abbat and the prior were soon comfortably re-established in their
several houses; the rest of the expelled monks came flocking back to
their cells, and the good Saxon fen-men began to renew their
pilgrimages to the shrines. Many pilgrims too came from the countries
bordering on the fens; and while some of these men remained to fight
under the Lord of Brunn, others going back to their homes carried with
them the glad intelligence that the Camp of Refuge was more
unassailable than it had ever been, and that a most powerful Saxon
league was forming for the total expulsion of the Normans from England.

Besides his own dependence and the chiefs of his own kindred, many
Saxon hinds, and not a few chiefs of name, began now to repair to
Hereward’s standard. There came his old brother in arms Winter of
Wisbech, who had never touched the mailed hand of the conqueror in sign
of peace and submission; there came his distant relative Gherik, who
bore on his brow the broad scar of an almost deadly wound he had gotten
at Hastings; there came Alfric[141] and Rudgang, and Sexwold and Siward
Beorn, that true Saxon soldier who had formerly been a companion to
Edgar Etheling in his flight, and who had come back from Scotland
because he could not bear to live in ease and plenty while his country
was oppressed. Not one of these Saxon warriors but would stand against
three Normans on foot! Hereward afterward gave proof, and more times
than once, that he could keep his ground against seven! As for the
hungry outlandish men the Conqueror was bringing from all the countries
in southern Europe, to help him to do that which he boasted he had done
in the one battle of Hastings, they were not men to face any of our
lusty Saxons of the old race; but they fell before them in battle like
reeds of the fen when trampled upon. But the skill and craft of these
alien men were great: many of them were drawn from Italie, though not
from the same part of that country which gave birth to Girolamo; and
therefore were the services of the Salernitan the more valuable; and
therefore was it that the young Lord of Brunn had need of all his own
strategy, and of all the inborn and acquired qualities which made him
the foremost captain of that age.

Ivo Taille-Bois, whom some did call the devil of the fens, was not in
the manor-house of the Ladie Lucia, near unto Spalding, when Hereward
first came to claim his own, and to turn out his false monks. Being
weary with living among bogs and marshes, and having occasion to
consult with the Norman vicomte who held command at Stamford, Ivo had
gone to that town, some few days before the feast of the Nativity, and
had carried with him his Saxon wife and her infant child, leaving none
in the moated and battlemented house save a few servants, and some ten
or twelve armed Normans. The house was strong and difficult of access;
but if it had not been for the respect due to the Lady Lucia, the
kinswoman of his own Ladie Alftrude, Hereward, on his gaining
possession of Spalding, would have made a rough attempt upon it: and
such was the temper of the Saxons within the house, that doubtlessly
they would have played into his hands. For several days the Normans
remained wholly ignorant of the great things which had been done in the
succursal cell, at Brunn and at Crowland, for they could not venture
outside the walls of the manor-house, and even if there had been no
danger in their so doing, the inundated state of the country, and the
cold wintry weather, offered few temptations to rambling. At length the
passing of many skerries across the fens, and the frequent passage of
larger boats, crowded with people, on the broad and not distant
Welland, and the triumphant shouts that were occasionally heard from
the banks of the river, caused the men-at-arms to suspect that some
insurrection was a-foot. They thanked their stars that the moat was so
broad, the house so strong, and the store-house so well stored, and
they went on sleeping like dormice, or like squirrels, in the topmost
hollow of an oak, whose root is deep under the wintry waters. They
could not trust any Saxon messenger to Stamford; and therefore it was
not from his garrison in the manor-house, but directly from Alain of
Beauvais and others of that unholy crew, that the fierce Ivo learned
all that had happened upon or round about his wife’s domains. Some of
the herd were seized with fever and delirium—the effects of fear and
fatigue and wet clothes—and they did not recover their senses for many
a week; but Alain and such of them as could talk and reason, related
all the horrible circumstances of their expulsion and flight, of the
onset of the devils of Crowland, and of the close and self-evident
league existing between Beelzebub and the Saxons. All this was horrible
to hear; but Alain of Beauvais pronounced a name which was more
horrible or odious to Ivo Taille-Bois than that of Lucifer
himself:—this was the name of Hereward the Saxon—of Hereward the Lord
of Brunn, which the men of Crowland town had shouted in their ears as
the Norman monks were flying along the causeway. Partly through the
tattle of some serving-women, and more through the confidence of his
wife, who did not hate her Norman lord quite so much as she ought to
have done, Ivo had learned something of the love passages between
Hereward and the Ladie Alftrude, and something also of the high fame
which Hereward had obtained as a warrior: and he gnashed his teeth as
he said to himself in Stamford town, “If this foul game last, my
brother may go back to Normandie a beggar, and I may follow him as
another beggar, for this Saxon churl will carry off Lanfranc’s rich
ward, and besiege and take my house by Spalding, and the devil and the
Saxon people being all with him, he will disseise me of all my lands!
But I will to the Vicomte of Stamford, and ask for fifty lances to join
to my own followers, and albeit I may not charge home to Spalding, I
can ride to Ey and carry off the Saxon girl before this Hereward takes
her. Great Lanfranc must needs excuse the deed, for if I take her not,
and give her to my brother, the Saxon rebel and traitor will take her.
I was a dolt and wife-governed fool ever to have let her depart from
mine house after that christening feast. But haply now my brother is
here! The instant we get her he shall wed her. We will carry a ring
with us to Ey for that purpose!”

While Ivo Taille-Bois was thus making up his wicked mind in Stamford
town, the good Lord Hereward was advancing with one hundred brave
Saxons from his fair house at Brunn to the fairer and statelier house
of the Ladie Alftrude at Ey, having dispatched Elfric the ex-novice
before him to make his way straight, and to appoint a place of meeting
with his ladie-love, and a place of meeting between his friends and
retainers, and her retainers and the friends of her house. Now from
Brunn[142] to Ey is a much longer distance than from Stamford to Ey;
but while the Normans were obliged to keep to the roundabout roads and
to make many preparations beforehand (for fear of the fenners), the
Englishmen, aided by skerries, and whatever the country people could
lend them, struck directly across the fens. And in this wise it befel
that Lord Hereward got a good footing within the Ladie Alftrude’s
domain many hours before Ivo Taille-Bois and his brother could get
within sight of the manor-house of Ey. On the bank of a river which
flowed towards the Welland, and which formed the natural boundary of
her far-extending lands, the hundred chosen warriors of the Lord of
Brunn were met and welcomed by fifty armed men of the Ladie of Ey, and
by fifty or sixty more brave men from the neighbouring fens, furnished
with long fen-poles, bill-hooks, and bows. While these united warriors
marched together towards the manor-house in goodly array, and shouting
“Hereward for England!” the young Lord of Brunn, attended by none but
Elfric, who had met him by the river, quitted the array and strode
across some fields towards the little church of the township which
stood on a bright green hillock, with a linden grove close behind it.
It was within that ivied church that the heir of Brunn and the heiress
of Ey had first met as children; and it was in that linden-grove that
the bold young man Hereward had first told Alftrude how much he loved
her. And was it not within that grove, then all gay and leafy, and now
leafless and bare, that Hereward had taken his farewell when going to
follow King Harold to the wars, and that the Ladie Alftrude had
reconfirmed to him her troth-plight? And was it not for these good
reasons that the Saxon maiden, who loved not public greetings in the
hall, amidst shouts and acclamations, had appointed the linden-grove,
behind the old church, to be the place where she should welcome back
Hereward to his home and country. The church and the linden-grove were
scarce an arrow-flight from the manor-house. The noble maiden was
attended by none but her handmaiden Mildred. When the young Lord of
Brunn came up and took the Ladie Alftrude by the hand, that noble pair
walked into the grove by a path which led towards the little church.
For some time their hearts were too full to allow of speech: and when
they could speak no ear could hear them, and no mortal eye see them.
With Elfric and the maid Mildred it was not so. They stopped at the
edge of the grove, and both talked and laughed enow—though they too
were silent for a short space, and stood gazing at each other. It is
said that it was the maiden who spoke first, and that she marvelled
much at Elfric’s changed attire.

“Master novice,” she said, “where are thy gown and thy cowl? When last
I saw thee thou wast habited as a wandering glee-man; and now I see
thee armed and attired even like a man-at-arms. What meaneth this? Is
thy war-dress to serve only for an occasion, like thy menestrel cloak?
Tell me, art thou monk, menestrel, or soldier? I thought thy noviciate
was all but out, and that thou wast about to take thy vows.”

“No vows for me,” said Elfric, “but vows to serve my country, and
vows to love thee, oh Mildred! I was not meant to be a
cloister-monk—albeit, if the Normans had not come into the fen
country, and I had never been sent on the business of the Spalding
cell to the house of thy mistress, and had never seen thee, fair
Mildred, I might in all possibility have submitted quietly to the
manner of life which had been chosen for me. But these accidents
which have happened have made me feel that I love fighting better
than praying, and loving much better than fasting. My superiors have
all come to the same conclusion, and have liberated me, and have
given me to the brave and bountiful Lord Hereward to be his page and
sword-bearer, and whatsoever he may please to make me.” Maid Mildred
tried to check her tongue, and to look composed or indifferent; but
not being well practised in the art of concealing her feelings, she
set up a cry of joy, and then falling on her knees she inwardly and
silently thanked heaven that Elfric was not to be a monk, or one that
could not be loved by her without sin. Perhaps the ex-novice
understood what was passing in her mind; and perhaps he did not: for
when he raised her up by her hand, and kept her hand closed within
his own, and looked in her bright blue eyes, he said, “Mildred, art
thou glad, indeed, at this my change of condition? Art thou, indeed,
happy that I should be a soldier, fighting for the good English
cause, and a sword-bearer constantly in attendance on the brave and
bountiful Lord of Brunn, to go wherever he goeth, and to dwell with
him in mansion and hall, when the battle is over and the camp struck;
or wouldst thou have me back in the house at Spalding, and a monk for
all my days?”

“It seemeth to me that when devout and learned men have opined that
thou art fitter for a soldier than for a monk, it is not for a weak
unlettered maid like me to gainsay it. In sooth thou lookest
marvellously well in that soldier jerkin and baldric; and that plumed
cap becomes thy merry face better than the hood. Thou carriest that
sword too by thy side with a better grace than ever thou didst carry
missal or breviary. But—but—alack and woe the while!—soldiers get
killed and monks do not! Elfric, thou wert safer in thy cell.”

“No, Mildred, these are times when war rages in the convent as in the
tented field. No house is safe from intrusion; and where I was, Norman
should never intrude without finding at the least one bold heart to
defy him and oppose him. A young man of my temper would encounter more
danger in the cloisters than on the field of battle, and would perish
unnoticed by the world, and without any service to his country. But as
a soldier and follower of Hereward our great captain, I may aid the
liberties of the Saxon people, and if I fall I shall fall, the sword in
my hand, fighting like a man, with the broad green earth under me, and
the open blue sky above me! I shall not die pent in cloister like a rat
in his hole! and men will remember me when I am gone as the slayer of
many Normans.... But turn not so pale, be not discomfited, my merry
Mildred, at this thought of death! Of the thousands that go forth into
battle the greater part always return, and return unscathed, whether
they have been victorious or vanquished; but if victorious, the less is
their loss. Death turns aside from those who fear him not, or are too
busy and too earnest in a just cause to think about him. The brave live
when the cowards perish: the dread carnage falls upon those who run
away, or who are deaf to the voice of their leader. Our cause is just,
and will be protected and blessed by heaven. We fight only for our
own—for our own country, our own king, our own ancient laws and
usages, our own church. The Lord Hereward is as politic as he is brave;
he is famed even beyond seas as one of the greatest of commanders; and
with such a cause and such a leader, upheld and followed as they must
be by all honest and stout-hearted Englishmen, we cannot fail of
victory. And when these Norman robbers shall be driven forth of the
land, and good King Harold restored, there will be no more war, and no
more danger.”

Mildred felt comforted, and they spoke no more of war. Elfric related
all his wondrous adventures, and described all that he had seen in
foreign lands when he was in quest of the Lord of Brunn, the maiden
listening to him with wide-open, wondering eyes. Next he told her how
ingeniously he had played the devil at Crowland, and driven away the
Norman shavelings; and at this Mildred laughed out right merrily,
saying that she would like to have seen it, and yet would not like to
have seen it, and asking him what sort of vizard he had worn, and what
had been his complexion as a devil. Elfric told her that he would
appear to her, and frighten her as a devil some night soon, if she did
not give him one kiss now; and so Mildred laughed a little, and blushed
a little, and said nay a little, and then let the bold youth take what
he asked for. It is weened and wotted by some that there had been
kisses under the hood before now; but now the cucullus had given way to
the cap, and there was no harm in it. All this talk and dalliance by
the edge of the linden-grove occupied much time, yet the Ladie Alftrude
and the Lord Hereward did not reappear; and much as Elfric loved his
master, and Mildred her mistress, they did not think the time long, nor
wish for their reappearing. Both, however, spoke much of the bold lord
and the fair lady, and in settling their matters for them (as
handmaidens and pages will aye be settling the loves and marriages of
their masters and mistresses), they in a manner settled their own lots.
The Lord of Brunn and the Ladie Alftrude, so long torn asunder, must
soon be united for ever by holy church—that was quite certain; Elfric
would never quit his lord—that was quite certain; Mildred could never
leave her lady—that was equally certain; and from this they derived
the consequent certainty that he, Elfric, and she, Mildred, must
henceforward have a great deal of each other’s company. Further than
this they did not go; for just as Elfric was about to propound another
proposition, Lord Hereward and the Ladie Alftrude came forth from the
grove, and took the direct path towards the manor-house, smiling each
upon the youth and upon the maiden as they passed them. The ladie’s
countenance was happy and serene, although her eyes showed that she had
been weeping; the Lord Hereward had a clear, open, joyous face at all
seasons, but now he seemed radiant with joy all over him: and as thus
they went their way to the near house, followed by the young soldier
and the young handmaiden, there were four of the happiest faces that
ever the sun shone upon.

When they came to the good old Saxon house, where lowered drawbridge
and open gate betokened the Saxon hospitality and the absence of all
fear about Norman intruders, there was a universal throwing of caps
into the air, with another loud and universal shouting of welcome to
the Lord of Brunn; and every man, woman, and child there, whether a
relative or retainer of the one house or of the other, whether a vassal
to the young lord or to the young lady, coupled the names of the twain
as if they were to be indissolubly joined, and still cried, “Long life
to Lord Hereward and the Ladie Alftrude! Long life to the Ladie
Alftrude and to Lord Hereward! God bless the bravest and fairest of the
Saxons!” The impatience of these good people had been great, for great
was their curiosity and great their appetite: they had all been longing
to see, side by side, the long-separated and re-united pair, and the
feast had been ready in the hall for the space of one hour or more.

It proved a much merrier feast than that given by Ivo Taille-Bois at
the christening of his son; and if Elfric had sung well there, he sang
much better here. Sundry kinsmen and kinswomen of the Ladie Alftrude,
who had long journeys to make, and who had not been able to arrive
before, arrived during the festivity; and, during the same season of
joy, sundry scouts and messengers came in, and spoke either with the
Lord of Brunn or with his sword-bearer; for Hereward in the act of
being very merry could be very wise, and he could think of fighting at
the same time that he was thinking of love: he had sent scouts into
many parts, and other good Saxons that were living near Cam-Bridge, or
Huntingdon, or Stamford, or other Norman stations, were now beginning
to send messengers to him with all the information that could be
procured, and with all the good suggestions they had skill to offer,
for all good men fixed their hopes upon him. After communing for a
short time with one of these trustworthy messengers, Hereward gave a
merry peal of laughter, and said aloud, “So this Ivo Taille-Bois is
coming hither to seek my bride! He shall be welcome! Let him come.”



                             CHAPTER XII.

                     THE MARRIAGE AND THE AMBUSCADE.


It was agreed on all sides that too much happiness had been lost
already in their long separation, and that Alftrude and Hereward ought
now to be married as quickly as possible; the great heiress whose lands
were so coveted could be safe only under the protection of a warlike
lord and devoted husband; and who was there in the land so brave and
likely to be so devoted as the Lord of Brunn, who had known and loved
her from his youth, and who had gotten her troth-plight? If the ladie
remained single, and the fortune of war should prove for a season
unfavourable, the Normans, by mixing fraud with force, might carry her
off, as they carried off and forcibly wedded other English heiresses;
but if she were once united to Hereward, even the Normans might
hesitate ere they broke the sacred tie of the Church. Time was not
needed for wooing, for there had been good and long wooing long ago;
and but for the Normans would not Hereward and Alftrude long since have
been husband and wife?[143] Thus reasoned all the kinsmen and kinswomen
of the Ladie Alftrude; and yielding to their good advice, the Saxon
heiress consented that her good old household priest should prepare the
little church on the hill by the linden-grove, and that the wedding
should take place on the morrow.

Hereward was urged by a pleasant spirit of revenge to be thus urgent;
for Ivo Taille-Bois was coming on the morrow with his men-at-arms and
with his brother Geoffroy, that unmannerly and unlucky wooer; and so
the Lord of Brunn would fain bid them to his marriage feast, if so it
might be. But Hereward kept this pleasant thought to himself, or
explained it to none but Elfric and Girolamo of Salerno. The morning
after that happy meeting in the linden-grove was a bright winter’s
morning. The sun rarely shines so bright in the summer time in the fen
country. The little church was ready, the good old English priest was
robed and at the altar; the path leading from the manor-house to the
church, in lack of flowers, was strewed with rushes, and the serfs of
the Ladie Alftrude were ranged on either side of the path; the lady
herself was attired[144] as became a bride (a Saxon bride in the good
old time before our fashions were corrupted); her fair young kinswomen,
who were to stand by her side at the altar, were dressed and ready, and
all other persons and things were ready about two hours before noon.
There was music and there were fresh shouts of joy in the hall and
outside of the manor-house when Lord Hereward stepped forth with his
blushing bride on his arm and headed the gay procession. But though
gay, the attendance was not so great as it might have been, for a great
many of the armed men were not there, and even the sword-bearer and the
Salernitan were both absent. Maid Mildred thought it very strange and
very wrong that Elfric should be away at such a happy juncture; but the
truth is that Elfric and Girolamo, and many of the fighting men, had
something else to do. The goodly procession soon reached the church
porch, and then all entered that could find room without over-crowding
their betters. But most of the armed men who had followed the
procession either remained in the porch or stationed themselves on the
hill side outside the church. It was noticed afterwards that these bold
men often looked to their weapons, and that all the hinds and serfs
that had been standing by the pathway had bills and bows, or long
fen-poles loaded and spiked with iron. The household priest had
scarcely said the Benedicite ere the alert Elfric came running up the
hill and through the linden-grove and into the porch, and up to his
lord’s side in the body of the church; and when Elfric had whispered a
few words Hereward said, “Alftrude, let thy heart rejoice! I have
caught as in a trap the villains that would have wronged thee! Saxons,
all rejoice, and remain here, and move not until I return!” And so
bowing to the priest, and praying his patience, the Lord of Brunn
strode out of the church, leaving the fair ladie of Ey looking all
astonishment and somewhat pale. Behind the church Elfric helped the
lord to his armour and arms. While putting on his mail, Hereward said,
“Are they well in? Art thou sure that thou hast caught this Ivo and his
brother?”

“Well in!” said Elfric; “as many as we let come over the bridge are in
up to their chins, and Ivo and his brother came on first!”

“It pleaseth me well,” quoth Hereward, as he ran down the hill followed
by his sword-bearer; “it pleaseth me right well! I did not expect the
two caitiffs quite so soon; but since they are come, I vow by every
saint that ever spoke the Saxon tongue, that they shall be witnesses to
my marriage, and after they shall be bidden to my wedding feast!”

“I wish them a good appetite,” said Elfric.

A scant mile beyond the church hill and the linden-grove there ran a
narrow but very deep stream, which was crossed by an old wooden bridge.
All persons coming from Stamford must pass this river; and Hereward had
been properly advised of all Ivo’s intentions and of all his movements.
Girolamo had been hard at work over-night upon the bridge, and by his
good science the timbers of the bridge were so cut into pieces and put
together again, that he could allow any given number of persons to
cross, and then by a simple operation disjoint the bridge and pull it
to pieces so that no more should pass. To contain the water within its
bed some broad embankments of earth had been made in very old times
near to the bridge; and under cover of these embankments nearly all the
armed Saxons had been mustered by Lord Hereward at a very early hour in
the morning, yet not until divers other traps and pitfalls had been
prepared for the Normans. As the Lord of Brunn and the Ladie Alftrude
were walking from the manor-house to the church, the good men lying in
ambush by the river side discovered a great troop pressing along the
half-inundated road towards the bridge. These Normans had not been able
to get their horses across the fens, and therefore were they all coming
on afoot, cursing the bogs and pools and making a loud outcry when they
ought all to have been silent. Girolamo and Elfric, who were holding
some coils of rope in their hands behind the embankment, presently
heard Ivo Taille-Bois say to his brother, “Vive Notre Dame, the wooden
bridge is standing! The fools have not had wit enough to see that it
ought to be cut down! Set me down this Hereward for an ass! Come on
Geoffroy, this detestable footmarch is all but over. Behind that hill
and grove stands thy manor-house, and therein thy bride.”

“We shall soon see that,” said Elfric to himself, “and thou shalt soon
see whose bride the Ladie Alftrude is.”

This while Girolamo was peeping at the head of the Norman column; and
he kept peeping until Ivo Taille-Bois and his brother Geoffroy and some
half-score men-at-arms came upon the bridge and fairly crossed it. And
then, as the rest of the diabolical band were about to follow, Elfric
gave a shrill whistle, and tugged at his rope, and other good Saxons
pulled hard at other ropes, and in the twinkling of an eye the bridge
fell to pieces, and Ivo and his brother and such as had followed them
remained on this side of the bridge, and the rest of the Normans
remained on the other side of the bridge. And then a score of horns
sounded lustily along the ambuscaded line, and fourscore well-armed
Saxons vaulted from their wet lair to the top of the embankments, and
set up a shout, and sent such a flight of arrows across the river as
put the Normans on the other side to a rapid flight along the causeway.
Ivo and his brother and the rest that had crossed the bridge ran along
the inner bank of the river followed by hearty laughter and a few sharp
arrows from the Saxons; but they had not gone far when what seemed hard
and dry ground broke in under their feet, and let them all drop into a
quagmire or pool, one not quite so foul as some of those by Crowland
Abbey, but still foul enough.[145] It was not until he saw them safely
deposited in this place that Elfric went in search of his master; and
as he went off for the church he enjoined the Saxons, in Lord
Hereward’s name, to do the Normans no further hurt.

Now, as the Lord of Brunn strode down from the hill towards the river
side, and as the Saxons on the embankment shouted, “Hereward for
England!” Ivo Taille-Bois, all in his woeful plight, looked hard at the
Saxon warrior, and as Hereward came nearer Ivo said, “Peste! brother
Geoffroy, but this Hereward is the very man that shivered my shield
with his battle-axe and unhorsed me at Hastings. An I had thought he
had been so near I would not have come with thee on thy accursed
wooing!”

“Brother Ivo,” said Geoffroy, “it is thou that hast brought me into
this evil with thy mad talk about Saxon heiresses. But let us confess
our sins, for our last moment is at hand. My feet are sinking deeper
and deeper in the mud: I can scarcely keep my mouth above the surface
of this feculent pool!”

When the Lord of Brunn came up to the edge of the pool with Elfric and
Girolamo, and all his merry men who had been standing on the
embankments, and who could no longer see the Normans who had fled from
the opposite side of the river,[146] the Norman men-at-arms that were
floundering in the pool with their leader set up a cry about
misericorde and ransom; and even the great Taille-Bois himself called
out lustily for quarter; while his brother, who was a shorter man,
cried out that he would rather be killed by the sword than by drowning,
and piteously implored the Saxons to drag out of that foul pool no less
a knight than Geoffroy Taille-Bois.

“Verily,” said Elfric, who understood his French, “verily, Master
Geoffroy, thou art in a pretty pickle to come a-wooing to the fairest
and noblest maiden in all England.”

“That is he!” said the Lord of Brunn, who at first took more notice of
Geoffroy, nay, much more notice than he took of Ivo; “and I believe
that if he were in better case, and a Saxon, and no Norman, he would
not be a very dangerous rival.”

“Hereward of Brunn,” said Ivo, whose teeth were chattering with cold,
if not with fear; “Hereward the Saxon, an[147] thou be he, bid thy
churls draw us from this pool, and I will settle with thee the terms of
ransom. Thou canst not wish that we should be smothered here; and if
thou art a soldier, thou wilt not put to the sword two knights of name,
who have been most unfairly entrapped by a set of boors.”

“Ivo Taille-Bois the Norman, an[147] thou be he,” said Hereward, “I wish
neither to drown nor to slay thee by the sword; at least not at this
present; but I would fain humble thy pride and arrogance, and give thee
some reason to remember thy foul attempt to seize and force the will of
a noble maiden whom thou believedst to be defenceless!”

“As for being entrapped by boors,” said Girolamo of Salerno, “thou art
mistaken, oh Taille-Bois! in that, for I, thine equal, laid the trap
into which thou art fallen.”

“And foul designs deserve foul traps,” said Elfric.

“I know not what design thou layest to my charge,” said Ivo. “I am true
liege man to King William, the lawful heir of King Edward, of happy
memory: the heiress of these lands is in the king’s peace, and under
the protection of the primate Lanfranc; and I, the Vicomte of Spalding,
hearing that there were troubles in these parts, was coming only to
place the lady in security.”

“Aye, such security as the wolf giveth to the lamb,” said Hereward.
“But Ivo, add not more guilt and dishonour to thy soul by lying! The
intent of thy coming, and the object for which thou hast brought thy
brother with thee, are as well known to me as to thyself. Ye Normans be
all too talkative to keep a secret, and if King Harold had Saxon
traitors that betrayed him, so have ye men in your camps and in your
stations that think it no sin to betray you Normans. Have a heed to it,
Ivo! and bethink thyself in time that all Saxons be not so dull-witted
as thou imaginest.”

Geoffroy Taille-Bois, greatly encouraged by the Lord of Brunn’s
assurance that death was not intended either by drowning or by the
sword, spoke out as boldly and as clearly as the chattering of his
teeth would allow, and said, “Saxon, methinks that thou talkest at an
unfair vantage, and that we might settle the matter of ransom the
sooner if we were on dry land.”

“’Tis well thought,” replied Hereward, “for I have small time to lose
in parley. This is my wedding day, Sir Geoffroy. My bride, the Ladie
Alftrude, is in the church, and the priest is waiting for me with open
book at the altar. My humour is that thou and thy brother shall be
witnesses to our marriage ceremony. Come, my good Saxons, drag me this
pond, and pull out those big Norman fish!”

A score of Saxons instantly threw strong fishing-nets and coils of rope
across the pool. The men-at-arms, seeing that quarter was to be given,
gladly caught hold of the ropes, and so were landed; but the mention of
the marriage, and of Hereward’s humour to have them both present at it
as witnesses, had so filled the minds of Ivo and his brother with
trouble and shame, that they caught neither at the ropes nor at the
nets, seeming to prefer tarrying where they were to going up to the
church. The Lord of Brunn waxed impatient; and making a sign to Elfric,
that nimble sportsman threw a noose over the surface of the pool, and
threw it with so good an aim that he caught Geoffroy round the neck;
and then giving his coil a good tug, which brought the head of the
unlucky rival of his master under water, Elfric shouted, “Come out,
thou false Norman, come out, and to the wedding, or be drowned or
hanged—I care not which.”

Geoffroy, thus hardly entreated, waded and struggled to the brink as
best he could, and was there pulled out all covered with mud, or with
the green mantle of the pool. Ivo, apprehending a rope round his own
neck, caught hold of one of the nets that the shouting and laughing
Saxons kept throwing at him, and he too was dragged out of the water,
all bemired or green, and almost breathless.

Such of the men-at-arms as had kept their weapons had laid them at the
feet of Lord Hereward, in token of unconditional surrender. Geoffroy,
the unlucky wooer, had no weapon to give up, having left his sword in
the pool; but his brother Ivo had his broad blade at his side, and when
called upon to surrender it, he made a wry face and said that a knight
ought to surrender only to a knight, meaning hereby to taunt the Lord
of Brunn with his not having been admitted into the high military
confraternity.

“Ivo,” said Hereward, “I told Raoul, that dispossessed usurper and
robber, and I now tell thee, that I shall soon be a knight, meaning
that I shall be one according to usage and rites and ceremonies. True
knighthood is in the heart and soul of man, and not in the ceremonies.
Were I not already a truer knight than thou, I would hang thee and thy
brother to these willow-trees, and butcher thy men here, even as too
many of ye Normans have butchered defenceless Saxon prisoners after
surrender. Give up thy sword, man, or it may not be in my power to save
thee from the fury of my people! Give up thy sword, I say!”

Ivo began a long protest, which so incensed Elfric and Girolamo that
they drew their own blades; but the Lord of Brunn bade them put up
their weapons, and then said to the proud Norman knight, “Traitor and
spoiler as thou art, talk no more of dark stratagem and treachery! A
people, struggling for their own against numerous and organised armies,
must avail themselves of the natural advantages which their soil and
country, their rivers and meres, or mountains, may afford them. No
stratagem is foul: the foulness is all in the invaders and robbers.
Armies are not to be bound by the rules of thy chivalry. Until my
forces be both increased and improved, I will risk no open battle, or
adventure any number of my men in an encounter with the trained troops
from Normandie, and from nearly all Europe besides, that have been
making a constant occupation and trade of war for so long a season.
This I frankly tell thee; but at the same time I tell thee to thy
teeth, that if I and thou ever meet on a fair and open field, I will do
thee battle hand to hand for that sword which thou must now surrender.
Norman! I would fight thee for it now, but that the field is not fair
here—but that these rough fen-men would hardly allow fair play between
us—but that this is my wedding-day, and the priest and my bride are
waiting. Man, I will brook no more delay—give me thy sword or die!”

Ivo Taille-Bois stretched out his unwilling arm, and holding the point
of his sword in his own hand, he put the hilt of it into the hand of
the English champion, who threw it among the heap of Norman swords that
lay at his back. At this new mark of contempt, Ivo muttered, “Was ever
knight treated in so unknightly a manner! Must I really be dragged to
the church by these dirty clowns?”

To this my Lord Hereward replied, “Did ever knight engage in such
unknightly deed! Yea, Ivo, and thou, Geoffroy, likewise, I tell ye ye
must to the church; and if ye will not go but upon compulsion, these
honest men and clean shall drag ye both thither.”

“Then,” said Geoffroy, speaking mildly, “permit us at least to wipe
this mud from our hose, and this green slime from our coats.”

“It needs not,” said the Lord of Brunn, with a laugh; “thine hose are
not so dirty as the motive which brought thee hither, and thine head is
as green as thy coat. So close up, my men, and let us march.”

The Lord Hereward, however, did not prevent Ivo from rubbing himself
down with the skirt of a coat appurtenant to one of his men-at-arms. As
for Geoffroy, Elfric would not permit a Norman to approach him; and
when he would have stopped by the hill-side to rub himself against a
tree, as our fen swine use when they would clean themselves from the
mud of the marshes, Elfric or some other zealous Saxon got between him
and the tree and pushed him forward.

In this wise—the Normans groaning and distilling, and the Saxons
laughing and shouting—the whole mixed party ascended the hill and came
to the church. The Lord Hereward’s absence from the church had been but
short—it had not lasted an hour in all—yet were the priest and the
goodly company assembled growing very impatient, and the Ladie Alftrude
very much alarmed, albeit she was a maiden of high courage, as befitted
one who lived in troublous times, and she had been opportunely advised
that the Lord Hereward had only gone to an easy triumph. But bright,
though bashfully, beamed her blue eye when Hereward appeared in the
porch. But who were these two forlorn Norman knights walking close
behind him with their heads bent on their breasts and their eyes on the
ground? Ha, ha! sweet Ladie Alftrude, thine own eye became more
bashful, and thy blush a deeper red, when thou didst see and understand
who those two knights were, and why they had been brought into the
church! The dames and damsels of the company all stared in amaze; and
the Saxon priest, still standing with open book, started and crossed
himself as he looked at Ivo Taille-Bois and his brother Geoffroy.

“They be but two witnesses the more,” said bold Hereward. “We will tell
thee at the feast how proper it is that they should be here; but now,
good priest, go on with that which their arrival interrupted. Elfric,
make space here near the altar for our two unbidden guests. Dames, come
not too near them, for they be very cold strangers!”

The marriage ceremony then went on to its happy completion, Ivo
Taille-Bois and his brother Geoffroy grinding their teeth and groaning
inwardly all the while: and even thus was it made to come to pass that
those who would have carried off the Ladie Alftrude were forced to be
witnesses to her union with her old and true love. It was a tale for a
menestrel; and a pretty tale Elfric made of it, at a later date, to
sing to his four-stringed Saxon lyre.

“And now,” shouted the bountiful Lord of Brunn, as they all quitted the
church, “now for the wassail-bowl and the feast in hall! Ivo
Taille-Bois, and thou, Geoffroy, much as thou wouldst have wronged us,
we bid thee to the feast—the Ladie Alftrude and I bid thee to our
marriage feast!”

“Throw me rather into thy dungeon,” said Geoffroy.

“Enough of this farcing,” said Ivo. “Hereward the Saxon, name the terms
of the ransom, and let us be gone from thy presence. Ladie Alftrude,
remember that I am thy cousin by marriage.”

“Methinks,” replied Alftrude, “that thou oughtest to have remembered
that same fact before coming with thy men-at-arms against me.”

But, after saying these words, the gentle and kind-hearted Saxon bride,
stepping aside from the throng, spoke for a while in Lord Hereward’s
ear; and after that the Lord of Brunn, who was radiant with joy as ever
was knight that sat with King Arthur at the Round Table, turned to Ivo
and Geoffroy, and said, “Unwilling guests mar a feast. Since ye will
not come willingly, ye need not come at all. A Saxon manor-house hath
no dungeon in it or near it, and at present I have no wish to keep ye
in duresse. Saxon chiefs were ever generous on their happy days, and
when shall I find a day so happy as this? I will ask no ransom, for
thou, Sir Geoffroy, art but a pauper; and thou, oh Ivo, albeit thou
callest thyself Vicomte of Spalding, thou wilt soon find thyself as
moneyless and as landless as thy brother! I will ask for no vows or
promises, for well I ween ye would break them all. I will only ask of
thee, oh Ivo, that if we twain meet on some field of battle, thou wilt
not turn from me! Thy half score men-at-arms we will send to the Camp
of Refuge, that they may be exchanged for a like number of Saxon
prisoners; but for thyself, and for thy brother, I say get ye gone, and
tell your Normans in Stamford town, aye, and in London city, all that
you have seen and heard this day, and all that they may expect if they
come to make war in the fen country.”

“How can we get gone? The bridge is broken, and we cannot cross that
cursed river,” said Ivo.

“Thy Saxon boors will murder us on the road,” said Geoffroy.

“Not on our lands; not within the bounds of Ladie Alftrude’s domains.
Elfric, Girolamo, conduct these Norman knights across the river, and
send a few good men to escort them to the edge of the fen country. Let
not a drop of blood be spilt, nor so much as a hair of their head be
injured. It were of ill omen that blood should be shed on this day.
There will be a time for that hereafter. Come, make good speed, for the
feast will be but dull until Elfric returns.”

“But wilt thou not give us back our swords, that we may defend
ourselves with them in case of attack?” said Ivo.

“No, no,” quoth the Lord of Brunn; “we must keep the swords to show
that ye have been here-about—that ye have been our surrendered
prisoners. As for self-defence, ye had better not think of that until
ye get back to Stamford town. Ye must trust to my escort, and to the
respect and obedience paid to me by all this fen country. If our
fenners were to fall upon ye, it is not your brace of swords that would
be of any use.”

“Then I say again we shall be murthered on the road,” said Geoffroy.

“And I again say nay,” quoth the Lord of Brunn. “I tell ye again, that
ye shall have safe escort to the edge of the fens, and that not a hair
of your head shall be injured—provided only ye do not insult homely
honest folk by calling them foul names, or by otherwise treating them
discourteously, for if ye offend in that way the Saxon blood may boil
up and cause my orders to be forgotten. So now go!—and if I cannot say
Fare ye well for aye, I say May ye fare well as far as Stamford, and
until we meet on a fair field, where thou and I, Sir Ivo, may prove
which is the better man or the better knight.”

As the two Normans walked off the ground, they looked so crestfallen
and woe-begone that the Ladie Alftrude quite pitied them, and chided
her maid Mildred for so loudly laughing at them and pointing the finger
of scorn at them. But others wanted this chiding as much as Mildred,
seeing that every Saxon maid and every Saxon matron present were
laughing and tittering at Geoffroy Taille-Bois’ unlucky wooing, and his
damp and dismal case.

The marriage feast in the hall was sumptuous and most joyous. It was
enlivened and lengthened by tricks of jugglery and legerdemain, by the
recitation of tales, legends, and romances, and by lays sung to musical
instruments, for although the notice given had been so short, many
jugglers and menestrels had hurried to Ey from different parts of the
fen country. In nearly all the rest of broad England the art of the
Saxon menestrel was now held in scorn; and the menestrel himself was
oppressed and persecuted, for his tales and songs all went to remind
the Saxon people of their past history, of their heroes and native
saints, and of their past independence. But this persecution had driven
many towards the eastern coasts, and thus it was that the fen country
and the Camp of Refuge as much abounded with Saxon menestrels as with
dispossessed Saxon monks. Of those that flocked in troops to the
manor-house at Ey, to sing at the marriage feast, it may be judged
whether they did not exert their best skill on so solemn an occasion!
Loudly and nobly did they sing Athelstane’s Song of Victory,[148] which
related how Athelstane the King, the Lord of Earls, the rewarder of
heroes, and his brother Edmund of the ancient race, triumphed over the
foe at Brunanburg,[149] cleaving their shields and hewing their
banners; how these royal brothers[150] were ever ready to take the
field to defend the land and their homes and hearths against every
invader and robber; how they had made the Northmen sail back in their
nailed ships, on the roaring sea, over the deep water, after strewing
the English shore with their dead, that were left behind to be devoured
by the sallow kite, the swarth raven, the hoary vulture, the swift
eagle, the greedy goshawk, and that grey beast the wolf of the weald.
And as the menestrel sang, the drinking-horn, capacious as became the
hospitality of that old Saxon house, was handed quickly round by page
and waiting-man, who carried great vessels in their hands, and filled
the dark horn right up to its silver rim with mead, or wine, or
pigment, every time that they presented the horn to gentle or simple.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

              HOW LORD HEREWARD AND HIS LADIE LIVED AT EY.


Even when the marriage festival was over it was a happy and a merry
life that which they led in the good Saxon manor-house, and discreet
and orderly withal. It being the wolf-month of the year (Januarius),
when the days are still short and the nights long, Hereward and the
Ladie Alftrude, together with the whole household, rose long before it
was daylight. Before attending to any household or other duties,
prayers were said in the hall by Alefric, the good mass-priest, all the
servants of the house and all the indwelling serfs being present
thereat. Some short time after prayers the first of the four meals of
the day was served by torch or candle-light, and the lord and ladie
broke their fast; and when they had finished the meal the door of the
house was thrown open, and the poor from the neighbouring township, or
the wanderers that had no home, were admitted into the house, and the
lord and lady with their own hands distributed food among them, and
while they distributed it the mass-priest blessed the meat and said a
prayer. And this being over they went forth at early-dawn to the little
church on the hill behind the linden-grove and there heard mass. The
ladie then went home to attend unto domestic concerns, and the lord
went forth with his hawks and proper attendants to hawk by the river,
or he took forth his hounds (of that famous breed of English dogs which
hath been famed in all times, and as well for war as for hunting, and
which hath been so much coveted by foreign nations that already it
beginneth to disappear from this land), and he called together the free
men of the vicinage that loved the sport, and such of the serfs as were
best practised in it, and went well armed with _venabula_ or
hunting-spears into the fens and covers to hunt the hart and hind, or
the wild goat, or the wild bull of the fens, or the wild boar, or the
grey wolf, which was not yet extinct in these parts of England.

[It was a good law of King Canute, which said that every free man in
England might hunt in his own woods and grounds, and hunt as much as he
list, provided only he interfered not with the royal parks and
demesnes. But the Norman princes, not content with spreading their
parks all over the country, and with seizing upon the lands of the
church and the poor to make them great hunting-grounds and deer-parks,
established cruel laws therewith, so that whosoever slew a hart or a
hind should be deprived of his eyesight; and Duke William forbade men
to kill the hart or the boar, and, as our Saxon chronicler saith, he
loved the tall deer as if he were their father! and likewise he decreed
that none should kill so much as a hare, and at this the rich men
bemoaned and the poor men shuddered. Old England will not be England
until these un-Saxon laws be entirely gone from us!][151]

From this good sport Lord Hereward returned to the house about an hour
before the sun reached the meridian, and then was served the abundant
dinner in the hall; and the not stinted dinner in the kitchen for the
churls and serfs followed the dinner in the hall. If the weather was
fine, the lady as well as the lord went out in the afternoon to hawk,
or to fish, or to see the pleasant and profitable sport of their expert
fenners who snared the wild fowl, or took the animals of the chace by
means of _fovea_ or deep pitfalls which they cunningly dug in the
ground in the likeliest places, and still more cunningly concealed by
laying across them sticks, and twigs, and moss, and turf. As the sun
set they returned again to the house and sang in concert with all the
household the _Ave Maria_ or they went into the little church and heard
the full service of Vespers. Upon these duties of religion there
followed a slight _merenda_ or afternoon’s drinking, or refection
between dinner and supper; and then Elfric or some other skilful wight
made music in the hall by playing upon the harp and singing; or
Alefricus, that learned clerk, brought down a book and read in it, or
the freedmen and elders of the township gathered round the cheerful
hearth with the lord and ladie, and related tales and legends of the
old times, or took counsel with Hereward as to the future. If a Saxon
gleeman came that way he was ever welcome; and these evening hours were
often made to pass away the more pleasantly by the arrival of such a
stranger, who, mayhap, could sing a new song, or tell an unheard tale,
or give some little intelligence of what was passing in the upland
country and in the world beyond the fens. No Saxon chief of fame ever
stinted the bard; and whether he went south or north, east or west, the
menestrel found every hall open to him, and had but to speak his wants
and to raise his grateful voice, and all and more than he wanted was
given unto him. When he entered a house they brought him water to wash
his hands and warm water for his feet, or they prepared for him the
warm bath, which was ever offered in good Saxon houses on the arrival
of an honoured and welcome guest—and where was the guest that could be
more welcome than the bard? So dearly did the Lord of Brunn love the
sound of the harp that it was his occasional custom now, and his
constant custom in after-life, to place a harper near his bedchamber to
amuse and solace him upon occasion, and for the exhilaration of his
spirits and as an excitement to devotion. And it was because Hereward
so loved menestrels, and pious and learned men of the Saxon stock, that
his friends and adherents were so numerous while he was living, and his
deeds so faithfully recorded and lovingly preserved when he was dead.
Thus music and talk brought on the hour for supper; and after supper
the good mass-priest said prayers in the hall to gentle and simple; and
then, when a good watch had been set, all of the household went to
their beds and prayed to lead as happy a life on the morrow as that
which they had led to day: for, whether serfs, or free-born men, or
manumitted churls, all were happy at Ey, and most kindly entreated by
lord and ladie twain; in such sort that what happened in other houses,
as the running away of serfs, or the putting collars round their necks
and gyves to their legs to prevent their running away, never happened
here or at Brunn.

And if they lived thus happily and orderly for these few days at Ey,
when danger was close at hand, and when they might be said to be living
in the midst of perils and uncertainties, I wist their rule was not
changed at a later time of their lives, when Hereward and Alftrude came
to dwell in safety and tranquility at the noble old house at Brunn.

But during these few tranquil days at Ey the young bride’s mind was at
times clouded by the thought that her husband must soon leave her to
contend with the pitiless Normans, and to rush into all the hazards of
war; and, Saxon-hearted as she was, this afflictive thought, being
aided by the gentleness of her nature, which ever revolted at
bloodshed, made her long for a peace upon almost any terms, not even
excepting that of submission to the Norman dominion. “My Hereward!”
said the Ladie Alftrude, “it is now more than four years since the
banner of King Harold was laid low, and yet blood hath never ceased
flowing in England! When will this cruel war come to an end? Oh,
Hereward, why wilt thou leave me again, and so soon? What art thou
fighting for?”

“Sweet Alftrude,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “I am fighting for my
country, for the Saxon church, and for mine own inheritance! A man can
hardly have more to fight for!”

“But, Hereward, is not all the country, save this most fenny part of
it, quietly submitting to the Conqueror! Doth not Lanfranc the
archbishop give assurance that no lasting usurpation of the goods of
the church is contemplated, and that it is his wish and intention only
to improve the Saxon church and the great and rich Saxon houses of
religion by bringing over from foreign parts some more learned priests,
and more learned and more active monks? And are not these broad lands
enough for thee and me? Nay, frown not! and might not thine own lands
at Brunn be secured if thou wouldst submit and take the peace of the
Norman ruler? Forgive me if I err, as the error all proceeds from the
love I bear thee and the dread I have of losing thee. England, we are
told, was happy under the dominion of Canute the Dane, and what was
King Canute in England but a conqueror? And if Englishmen were happy
under one foreign conqueror, might they not be happy under another?”

“Not so, sweet Alftrude. Canute was contented to govern according to
the old Saxon laws. When he gave some new laws, they were the freest
and best that were ever given until those of Edward the Confessor, and
they were given with counsel of his Witan, a free and honoured
assemblage of Saxon lords and Saxon bishops, Saxon abbats and priests,
and Saxon eldermen.[152] And in those dooms or laws King Canute,
speaking with and for the Saxon Witan, said that just laws should be
established, and every unjust law carefully suppressed, and that every
injustice should be weeded out and rooted up from this country; and
that God’s justice should be exalted; and that thenceforth every man,
whether poor or rich, should be esteemed worthy of his folk-right, and
have just dooms[153] doomed to him. And likewise did Canute, in these
dooms, which were conceived in the mild Saxon spirit, raise his voice
and set his face against death punishments and all barbarous penalties.
‘And we instruct and command,’ said he, ‘that though a man sin and sin
deeply, his correction shall be so regulated as to be becoming before
God and tolerable before men; and let him who hath power of judgment
very earnestly bear in mind what he himself desires when he thus
prays—Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass
against us. And we command that Christian men be not, on any account,
for altogether too little, condemned to death, but rather let gentle
punishments be decreed, for the benefit of the people; and let not be
destroyed, for little God’s handiwork, and his own purchase which he
dearly bought.’ Thus said King Canute in his dooms, and in his days men
in power were made to act according to those mild laws. But how is it
now, under the Normans? My gentle-hearted bride, I would not wring thy
heart and bring tears into thine eyes, but is it not true that for any
wrong done or offence given—nay, for the allowable deed of defending
their own, and standing up for their country, Saxons of all degrees are
butchered like sheep in the shambles, or are put to slow and horrible
deaths, or are mutilated in the limbs, or have their eyes put out, as
if it were no sin to spoil and destroy God’s noblest handiwork? Nay, is
not the life of a Saxon held as a thing of less price than the life of
a small deer? By our old laws, if the greatest thane in the land slew
but the poorest serf or lowliest churl, he made bot for it; but now,
and even in those parts of England where the war hath ceased, if the
meanest Norman soldier kill twenty Saxon serfs or slay a Saxon lord, no
heed is taken of it. The Saxons have no redress except that which they
may find in their own swords. Even in London city, there is one law for
the Saxons and another law for the Normans. If a Saxon be accused of
murder or robbery he is bound to justify himself according to our
ancient custom, by compurgation, and by the ordeal of red-hot iron or
boiling water; but if a Frenchman be accused of the like crime by a
Saxon, he vindicates himself by duello or single combat, or simply by
his oath, according to the law of Normandie. King Canute said, ‘Let the
free people of England manage their own townships and shires, and learn
to govern themselves; let no man apply to the king unless he cannot get
justice within his own hundred; let there be thrice a-year a
burgh-gemot, and twice a-year a shire-gemot, unless there be need
oftener; and let there be present the bishop of the shire and the
elderman, and there let both expound as well the law of God as the law
of man.’ But William the Norman alloweth not of these free things;
William the Norman consulteth not the Witan of the nation, but
governeth the country through a Norman council. When he was coming back
from his pilgrimage to Rome, King Canute sent a long letter to Egelnoth
the metropolitan,[154] to Archbishop Alfric, to all bishops and chiefs,
and to all the nation of the English, both nobles and commoners,
greeting them all, and telling them all that he had dedicated his life
to God, to govern his kingdoms with justice, and to observe the right
in all things. ‘And therefore,’ said he, ‘I beg and command those unto
whom I have entrusted the government, as they wish to preserve my good
will, and save their own souls, to do no injustice either to rich or to
poor: and let those who are noble, and those who are not, equally
obtain their rights according to their laws, from which no departure
shall be allowed either from fear of me, or through favour to the
powerful, or to the end of supplying my treasury, for _I want no money
raised by injustice_.’ But what saith this Norman William? He saith,
‘Get me all the money ye can, and heed not the means!’ And hath he not
extorted money by right and by unright? And have not his greedy
followers done worse than he in the land? And are they not building
castles everywhere to make robbers’ dens of them? And have they not
made beggars of the rich, and miserably swinked[155] the poor—aye,
even where resistance was none after Hastings, and where the Saxons
prostrated themselves and trusted to the promises and oaths pledged by
William at Westminster and Berkhampstead, that he would govern the land
according to our old laws? For the church, my sweet Alftrude, I see not
that it is to be improved by thrusting out peaceful monks and priests
of English birth, and by thrusting in turbulent fighting priests, who
speak not and comprehend not the tongue of the English people. Better
men may come hereafter; but, certes, it is but an ungodly crew which,
as yet hath followed Duke William, and Lanfranc, the whilom Abbat of
Caen, into England! Touching my poor house and lands at Brunn, it is
not by a mean submission to Duke William that I should ever keep them
from Raoul the Norman plunderer that had seized upon them. They must be
kept at the sword’s point, and at the sword’s point must these thine
own good house and lands be maintained. The protection of Lanfranc,
given to the noble maiden and heiress of Ey, will not be extended to
the wife of Hereward of Brunn, whom Normans call a rebel and an outlaw.
Oh Alftrude, the wife of a soldier like me, and in a war like this,
hath need of a soldier’s heart within her own bosom!”

“And I will find it or make it there, mine own Hereward! I knew the
danger, and all the risk, and thou thyself toldest me of it all before
I became thine. As I live and love thee, and by all the saints to whom
I pray for better times, I was thinking less of myself than of thee
when I spoke that which I have spoken. Thou knowest the state of these
great matters better than a poor woman can know them, albeit I can
understand the difference between Canute the Dane and William the
Norman. If submission will not avail, or if submission be
dishonouring”....

“It were in the lowest degree base and dishonourable; for although I
came over into England at thy summons, it was to fight, and not to
submit; and I have since so pledged my faith to the Abbat of Ely and to
all the good lords in the Camp of Refuge, that I would rather perish in
these the first days of my happiness than forego or wax cold in the
good cause.”

“Then fight on, mine own brave Hereward! And come what may, I will
never murmur so that I be near to thee; and whether we live in plenty
at Ey or at Brunn, or wander through the wild fens poorer and more
unprovided than is the poorest churl that now dwelleth within these
gates, thou shalt hear no complaint from me. Let not the wide seas, and
evil tongues, and false tales divide us evermore, and I shall be happy.”

“And with such a bride, and such a wife, I shall be invincible. Cheer
up, my own Alftrude! If submission will bring down utter ruin as well
as utter shame, a bold and persevering resistance, and an unflinching
hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, may bring her old laws and liberties
back to England, and bring to us glory and happiness, and a peaceful
and honoured life in after-times. I would be a peaceful man, even now,
if so I might, and if I had less to fight for; for, albeit, I love the
art and stratagems of war, and the rapture that is given by the
well-contested combat, I love not much blood, and never could get
myself to hate any man or parties of men, for any length of time. Were
their rule less cruel and tyrannical to the English people, and were my
good friends and allies secured in their lives, honours, and
properties, I could sit down quietly and in good fellowship with these
same Norman knights; nay, I would not refuse a seat on my hearth to Ivo
Taille-Bois, or even to his brother Geoffroy.”

“Name not that ugly name,” said the Lady Alftrude, blushing a little.
And here the discourses ended. The gentle lady had strengthened her
heart with the great love that was in it, so as to bear whatsoever
might befall her as the mate of Lord Hereward, the last champion of the
Saxon liberties.

While the lord and lady talked this above stairs, there was something
of the like discourse below stairs between the waiting-woman and the
sword-bearer; for maid Mildred, merry as she was, could not but feel
that Elfric was running a course of great peril, and that peace and
tranquility would be a blessed thing, if it could only be obtained.
Albeit the young sword-bearer spoke not so knowingly of the old Saxon
laws, and the dooms[156] of King Canute, and of Witans and Gemots, as
did his lord, he found sufficiently good arguments to show that the war
was a just and unavoidable war; and that while everything was to be
hoped from bravery, there was nothing to be gotten by a timid
submission. There was another consideration:—“But for this war,” said
Elfric, “I must have become a monk! I am now a soldier and liege-man to
Lord Hereward, and ready, as soon as the lord and ladie permit, to be
thy loving husband, oh Mildred of Hadenham!”



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                        HEREWARD IS MADE KNIGHT.


Before the marriage festival was well ended, the festival of the
Epiphany arrived. The Lord of Brunn could not go to Ely; but he was now
in constant correspondence with the good Lord Abbat and the prelates
and lay nobles there; and in sending off his last Norman prisoners, he
had sent to tell the abbat that he must hold him excused, and that he
would eat the paschal lamb with him, hoping before the Easter festival
to have gained many more advantages over the Normans. The returning
messenger brought Hereward much good advice and some money from Ely.
Among the many pieces of good counsel which the Abbat Thurstan gave was
this, that the young Lord of Brunn should lose no time in getting
himself made a lawful soldier or knight, according to the forms and
religious rites of that Saxon military confraternity which had been
authorised by the ancient laws of the country, and which had existed
long before the Normans came into England with their new-fashioned
rules and unholy rites. The great lay lords at Ely and in the Camp of
Refuge had all been initiated, and their swords had been blessed by
Saxon priests; and as all these knights and lords had agreed in
appointing Hereward to the supreme command, it behoved him to be
inaugurated in the Saxon knighthood; otherwise there would be a mark of
inferiority upon him, and people might proclaim that he was not a
lawful soldier. Now the young Lord of Brunn had thought well of these
things before, and had been reminded of them by the taunting Normans.
Any Lord Abbat or other prelate could perform the rites. The Abbat of
Crowland had now returned to his house, and would rejoice to confer the
honour upon Hereward; but Hereward’s own uncle, and by his father’s
side, was Lord Abbat of Peterborough;[157] and not only was it more
suitable that the rites should be performed by him and in his church,
but also was it urgent that the young Lord of Brunn should march
speedily upon Peterborough in order to rescue his kinsman and the Saxon
monks that yet lived under his rule from the oppression and tyranny of
the Normans. This uncle of Hereward and Lord Abbat of Peterborough,
whose secular name was Brand, had been sundry times plundered and
maltreated, and now expected every day to be dispossessed. Brand had
not long been Lord Abbat, and he had put on the Peterborough mitre, of
silver gilded, at a time of the greatest trouble. His predecessor the
Abbat Leofric[158] had gone forth with the English army of King Harold;
and, after Hastings, he had sickened, and returning unto Peterborough,
he had died on the night of Allhallow mass: God honour his soul! In his
day was all bliss and all good at Peterborough. He was beloved of all.
But afterwards, as we shall see, came all wretchedness and all evil on
the minster: God have mercy on it! All that he could do had been done
by good Leofric’s successor. Abbat Brand had given a large sum of money
to Duke William, in the view of keeping the house and convent free from
molestation. Always a rich and always a bountiful man had been the
uncle of Lord Hereward; and while yet a cloister monk and one of the
obedientiarii, he had given to the monastery many lands, as in Muscham,
Schotter, Scalthorp, Yolthorp, Messingham, Riseby, Normanby, Althorp,
and many other parts. Judge ye, therefore, whether the brothers of
Peterborough were not largely indebted to Abbat Brand,[159] and whether
Abbat Brand was not the proper man to confer Saxon knighthood on his
nephew. After the disastrous journey of Ivo Taille-Bois and his brother
to Ey, the news of which was rumoured all over the country, Brand had
dispatched an intelligencer to his bold nephew, and had sent other
messengers to his neighbours, and to all the good Saxon people that
dwelt between Peterborough and Stamford. He had beseeched Hereward to
march to his rescue, and to the rescue of his house; and Hereward, like
a duteous nephew and loving kinsman, had sent to promise that he would
be with him with good two hundred armed men on the octave of the
Epiphany.

But, before going for Peterborough, the young Lord of Brunn had much to
do in the way of collecting men and arms, strengthening the house at Ey
and the house at Brunn, and the abbey of Crowland, and the succursal
cell at Spalding; and much time he spent with Girolamo of Salerno in
devising war stratagems, and in planning the means by which the whole
fen country might be rendered still more defensible than it was, as by
the cutting of new ditches, the making of sluices and flood-gates,
movable bridges, and the like. The men-at-arms, left by Ivo Taille-Bois
to guard the manor-house near to Spalding, becoming sorely alarmed, and
despairing of finding their way across the fens, sent a Saxon messenger
to the returned Prior of Spalding, with an offer to surrender the house
to the soldiers of Lord Hereward, if the good prior would only secure
them in their lives by extending over them the shield of the church.
The conditions were immediately agreed to: a garrison of armed Saxons
took possession of the moated and battlemented house, and the Normans
were sent as war prisoners to Ely. Hereward gave orders that all due
respect should be paid to the house, and to all other the goods and
chattels of the Ladie Lucia; for albeit that ladie was forcibly the
wife of Ivo, she was cousin to Alftrude and relative to King Harold,
and her heart was believed to be wholly Saxon. As Brunn was a house of
greater strength, and farther removed from that skirt or boundary of
the fen country upon which the Normans were expected to collect their
strength, Hereward removed his bride to Brunn, and there he left her in
the midst of friends and defenders; for his followers were now so
numerous that he could keep his promise with his uncle Brand without
leaving his bride exposed to danger, and without weakening one of the
sundry posts he had occupied, as well along other rivers as upon the
banks of the Welland.

By the octave of the Epiphany, being the thirteenth day of the
Wolf-month, or kalends of January, and the day of Saint Kentigern, a
Saxon abbat and confessor, the Lord of Brunn was at the Abbey of
Peterborough with more than two hundred well-armed Saxons! and on that
very night—a night of the happiest omen—was begun his initiation in
the old abbey church. First, Hereward confessed himself to the prior,
and received absolution. After this he watched all night in the church,
fasting and praying. At times a cloister monk prayed in company with
him; but for the most part he was left alone in the ghostly silence of
the place, where light was there none save the cressets that burned
dimly before the effigies of his patron saint. But while he knelt
there, Elfric his faithful sword-bearer stood guard outside the door of
the church, whiling away the time as best he could, by calling to mind
all the legends and godly stories connected with the Peterborough Abbey
and its first founders, and _specialiter_ that marvellously pretty
miracle which Saint Chad performed in the presence of his recent
convert King Wolfere. Which miracle was this, according to the faithful
relation of Walter of Whittlesey, a monk of the house: One day, after
praying a long while with King Wolfere in his oratory, the weather
being warm, Saint Chad put off his vestment and hung it upon a sunbeam,
and the sunbeam supported it so that it fell not to the ground; which
King Wolfere seeing, put off his gloves and belt, and essayed to hang
them also upon the sunbeam, but they presently fell to the ground,
whereat King Wolfere was the more confirmed in the faith.[160] In the
morning, at the hour of mass Hereward placed his sword upon the high
altar; and when mass had been said, and he had confessed himself and
been absolved again, the Lord Abbat took the now hallowed sword and put
it about Hereward’s neck with a benediction, and communicating the holy
mysteries, finished the simple and altogether religious ceremonial: and
from thenceforward Hereward remained a lawful soldier and Saxon knight.
In the good Saxon times men were never so vain and sinful as to believe
that a knight could make knight, or that any lay lord, or even any
sovereign prince or king, could give admittance into the confraternity
of knights by giving the accolade with strokes of the flat of the sword
upon the shoulders and with the tying on of spurs and hauberks, and the
girding on the sword, and such like vanities. These things were brought
in among us by the Normans; and being brought in, our knights lost
their religious character, and ceasing to be the defenders of the
church, and the protectors of all that wanted protection, they became
unhallowed oppressors, depredators, barefaced robbers, and the scourges
of their kind. And it was so at the very first that these Normans did
affect to contemn and abhor our old Saxon custom of consecration of a
soldier, calling our Saxon knights in derision priest-made knights and
shaveling soldiers, and by other names that it were sinful to repeat.

The good Abbat Brand had now nothing more to fear for his shrines and
chalices. Every Norman that was in Peterborough, or in the vicinage of
that town, fled to Stamford; and the Lord of Brunn, with the help of
the Salernitan, strengthened the abbey, and made good works to defend
the approaches to it, even as he had done at Crowland and elsewhere.
Happy was Abbat Brand, and hopeful was he of the deliverance of all
England; but he lived not long after this happy day, and when he was
gone cowardice and treachery invaded his house, and monks who had lost
their English natures made bargains and compacts with the Normans, and
brought about many calamities and shames, as will be seen hereafter. If
Brand had lived, or if Hereward could have remained at Peterborough
these things would not have happened, and disgrace would not have been
brought down upon a convent which for four hundred and more years had
been renowned as the seat of devotion, hospitality, and patriotism. But
the Lord of Brunn could not stay long on the banks of the Nene, his
presence being demanded in many other places. Between the octave of the
Epiphany and the quinzane of Pasche, Hereward recovered or liberated
twenty good townships near the north-western skirts of the great
fen-country, fought and defeated Norman troops in ten battles, and took
from them five new castles which they had built. A good score of Norman
knights were made captive to his sword; but he had not the chance to
encounter either Ivo Taille-Bois or his brother.

As the paschal festival approached, Hereward received various urgent
messages from the Abbat of Ely. These messages did not all relate to
the coming festivity, and the promise of the Lord of Brunn to be the
Lord Abbat’s guest: while Hereward had been beating the Normans, and
gaining strength on the side of Peterborough and Stamford, the Normans
had been making themselves very strong at Cam-bridge, and were now
threatening to make another grand attack upon the Camp of Refuge from
that side. Abbat Thurstan therefore required immediate assistance, and
hoped that Hereward would bring with him all the armed men he could.
Moreover, jealousies and heartburnings had again broken out among the
Saxon chiefs, who had all pledged themselves to acknowledge the supreme
authority of the Lord of Brunn. If Hereward would only come, these
dissensions would cease. Other weighty matters must be discussed; and
the discussion would be naught if Hereward were not present. Thus
strongly urged, Hereward left his young wife in his house at Brunn, and
taking with him nearly three hundred armed men, he began his march down
the Welland in the hope of raising more men in that fenniest of the
fen-countries, which lies close on the Wash, and with the intention of
crossing the Wash, and ascending the Ouse in ships and boats. It
grieved him to leave the Ladie Alftrude, and much did it grieve Elfric
his sword-bearer to quit maid Mildred; but Hereward thought that his
wife would be safe in his strong house at Brunn, and Elfric was made
happy by the assurance that as soon as they came back again he should
be allowed to marry Mildred. The Ladie Alftrude had shed a few tears,
and her handmaiden had made sundry louder lamentations; but the lady
was full of heart and courage and hope, nor did the maid lament out of
any fear.

When the Lord of Brunn moored his little fleet of barks, and raised his
standard on the shores of the Wash, many more good fen-men came
trooping to him, as he had expected. Many came from Hoiland.[161] And
how did they come? They came marching through the mires and waters upon
high stilts, looking all legs, or, at a distance, like herons of some
giant breed. Voyagers have related that in that sandy country which
lies along the Biscayan gulf, and between Bordeaux and Spain, men and
women and children all walk upon high stalking poles or stilts, as the
only means of getting across their soft, deep sands; and here, in the
most marshy part of the fens, men, women, and children were trained to
use the same long wooden legs, not to get over dry loose sand, but to
get over water and quagmire, and broad and deep ditches. These stilted
men of Hoiland, who were all minded to go help in the Camp of Refuge,
threw their stilts[162] into Lord Hereward’s bark; which was as if men
of another country should throw away their legs, for without these
stilts, we ween, there was no walking or wayfaring in Hoiland: but the
thing was done to show that they were devoted to the good cause and put
an entire trust in the victorious Lord of Brunn, and that they would go
with him, legs, arms, and hearts, wherever he might choose to lead them.

At Lynn, on the other side of the Wash, still more Saxons joined Lord
Hereward’s army, some of them coming in boats, and some marching by
land. Ha! had there been but five Herewards in England, England would
have been saved!

It was on the eve of the most solemn, yet most joyous festival of
Pasche, or on the 24th day of the month Aprilis, in the year of grace
one thousand and seventy-one, that the Lord of Brunn, arrived with his
host at the great house of Ely, to the inconceivable joy of every true
Saxon heart that was there. Pass we the welcome and the feast, and come
we to the councils and deliberations in the Aula Magna of the house. On
the third day after the paschal Sunday all the Saxon lords and chiefs,
prelates and cloister-monks, met early in the morning, or immediately
after prime, and ceased not their deliberations until the dinner hour.
On one great point there was no difference of opinion—the victorious
Lord of Brunn was to hold supreme command over all the troops and
bands, of whatsoever description, collected in the Camp of Refuge, and
have the entire management of the war wherever it should be carried. On
other heads of debate opinions were very various, but the greatest
divergency of all was upon the question whether the Danes should or
should not be invited again to the assistance of the Saxons. When all
had spoken on the one side or the other, and with much vehemence of
speech, the Lord of Brunn, who had been forced to correct his taciturn
habits, and to speak on many occasions at greater length than he had
ever fancied he should speak, rose and said—

“Prelates and chiefs, ancients and younger men, if one so young as
myself may deliver opinions in this assemblage, I would say let us
take heed ere we tamper any more with Danemarck. The woes of the
Anglo-Saxons first began when the Danes crossed the seas in their
nailed ships and came among them first to rob and plunder, and next to
seek a settlement in this fat and fertile land of England. Our rubric
is filled with Saxon martyrs butchered by the Danes. This noble house
of religion where we now consult was plundered and burned by the
Danes; and the Danes slew all the ancient brotherhood of the house,
and did the foulest things upon the tombs of the four Saxon virgins
and saints—Saint Etheldreda, Saint Sexburga, Saint Ermenilda, Saint
Withburga. I am lately from the Abbey of Peterborough, where I read
upon the monumental stones the names of the good Saxon abbats and
monks of that house that were murthered by the Danes. The same thing
happened at Crowland, and at fifty more religious houses. The Danes
have been the great makers of Saxon martyrdoms. The worst famed of our
Saxon kings are those who submitted to them or failed in conquering
them; the name of King Alfred is honoured chiefly for that he defeated
the Danes in an hundred battles, and checked their rapacity and
blood-thirstiness.”

“Oh, Hereward of Brunn!” said the bishop of Lindisfarne, “this is all
true; but all this happened when the Danes were unconverted Pagans.”

“But good my Lord Bishop of Lindisfarne,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “let
us note well the conduct of the Danes since they have been Christian
men, and we shall find as Saxons that we have not much to praise them
for. Had it not been for the unmeet alliance between Lord Tostig and
the strangers, and the invasion of Northumbria and York, and the need
King Harold lay under of breaking that unholy league, and fighting
Tostig in the great battle by Stamford Bridge, King Harold would never
have been worsted at the battle of Hastings, for his armed forces would
have been entire, and fresh for the fight, instead of being thinned as
they were by that first bloody combat, and worn out by that long march
from York unto Hastings.”

“It was an army of Norwegians that fought King Harold by Stamford
Bridge,” said the Prior of Ely.

“I fought in that battle,” quoth Hereward, “and know that it was a
mixed army of Danes and Norwegians, even like most of the armies that,
for two hundred years and more, devastated this land and the kingdom of
Scotland. But let that pass. Those armies came as open enemies: let us
see the conduct of an army that came as friends. Only last year the
good Saxon people from the Tyne to the York Ouse were deserted in the
hour of success and victory by an army of Danes, commanded by the
brothers of the King of Danemarck, who had been invited into the
country by the suffering Saxons, and who had sworn upon the relics of
saints not to leave this land until it was clear of the Normans. The
two royal Danes took the gold of the son of Robert the Devil and the
harlot of Falaise, and thereupon took their departure in their ships,
and left the Saxons, with their plan all betrayed, to be slaughtered in
heaps, and the whole north country to be turned into a solitude and
desert, a Golgotha, or place of skulls.”

“This is too true,” said the Bishop of Durham; “and terrible is all
this truth!”

“But,” said the Bishop of Lindisfarne, “the King of Danemarck’s
brothers are not the King of Danemarck himself. We hear that the king
is incensed at what those brothers did, and that he hath banished them
from his presence and from the land of Danemarck, and that he hath
sworn by the rood[163] that he will send four hundred keels across the
ocean, and take himself the command of the army.”

“Yet even if he come,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “he may prove as
faithless and as greedy for gold as his brothers; or he may set up his
pretended right to the throne of King Harold, our absent but not lost
lord, and in that case we shall find that the Saxon people will fall
from our side; for if they are to be cursed with a new and foreign
master, they will not overmuch care whether his name be William of
Normandie or Svend of Danemarck.”

“Assuredly not quite so,” said the Prior of Ely, who opposed Hereward
the more because the Lord Abbat Thurstan was disposed to agree with
him; “assuredly not quite so, my Lord of Brunn, for there hath been
large admixture of Danish blood in our Anglo-Saxon race,[164] and Danes
and English sprang, _ab origine_, from nearly one and the same great
hive of nations in the north.”

“And so also do these North men, or Normans,” said Hereward, “only they
have more affinity to Danes and Norwegians than to us; and while the
Danish pirates were ravaging the coasts of England, Rollo, the North
man, ravaged the coasts of France, and gained a settlement and
sovereignty, and gave the name of Normandie to the country which has
now sent forth these new conquerors and devastators upon England. Trace
back our blood to the source, and I, and the Lord Abbat Thurstan as
well as I, and many other true Englishmen, natives of the English
Danelagh, may be called half Danes; but a man can have only one
country, and only one people that he can call countrymen, and these
admixtures of blood in parts and parcels of England will not be
considered by the English people at large; and let it be Danes, or let
it be Normans, it will be the same to them.”

“But,” said the Abbat of Cockermouth, “the Danes be now very poor, and
their king will not be able to raise an army sufficiently strong to aim
at any great thing by himself.”

“And therefore is it,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “that come king or come
king’s brothers, they will get what they can from us poor Saxons as the
price of their assistance, then get all the gold they can get from the
Normans as the price of their neutrality, then betray all such of our
secrets as they possess, and then embark and sail away for their own
country, leaving us in a far worse plight than before. I say, let us
not send for them, or ask their aid at all! If a people cannot defend
themselves by their own swords, they will never be defended at all. If
England cannot be saved without calling in one foreign people to act
against another, she will never be saved. If this king of Danemarck
comes this year he will act as his kinsmen did last year, and we shall
rue the day of his coming. Wherefore, I say, let us pray for the speedy
return of King Harold, and let us keep what little store of gold and
silver we possess to nurture and pay our own native soldiers, and to
purchase in the Netherlands such munition and warlike gear as we may
yet need; but let us not waste it by sending into Danemarck.”

“Were our enemies less numerous and powerful,” said one of the chiefs,
“we still might hope to stand our ground, in this wet and difficult
corner of England, alone and unaided!”

“We shall be the better able to stand our ground against any foe if we
be on our guard against false friends, and keep our money and our own
counsels,” said Abbat Thurstan. “Lord Hereward hath reason for all he
saith; take my word for it he is right.”

But there were many there that would not take my Lord Abbat’s word, and
that would not be persuaded by the arguments of the Lord of Brunn; and
in an inauspicious hour it was determined to send an embassage from the
lords and prelates in the Camp of Refuge to the king and lords and free
rovers of Danemarck, to implore their aid and assistance, and to
present them with a sum of money, as the earnest of a large future
reward. The strong money-box at the shrines of Ely church, wherein the
pilgrims deposited their offerings, was now in reality broken open and
emptied; at which some of the unworthy members of the house who had
most opposed Hereward and their Lord Abbat went about whispering and
muttering, in the corners of the cloisters, and even among the townfolk
of Ely, that sacrilege had been committed. Yet was the total sum thus
procured so very disproportionate to the well-known appetites of the
Danes for money, that a collection was made in the Camp of Refuge, and
even Jews were secretly invited from Norwich and St. Edmundbury in
order to see whether they could be tempted to advance some money upon
bonds: and here were raised fresh whisperings and murmurings about
impiety, together with severe censures on Abbat Thurstan for want of
uniformity or consistency of conduct, seeing that he had formerly been
the sworn foe to all the Israelites whom the Normans had brought over
in their train; and that, nevertheless, the convent were now sending
for the Jews to open accounts and dealings with them. It suited not
these back-biters to remember that they themselves, in determining that
the aid of the Danes should be required, had agreed that money should
and must be sent to them; and that when Abbat Thurstan said there was
but very little money in the house, they themselves had recommended
sending for the Israelites who made a trade of usury. All points
connected with the unhappy business had been decided, after the public
discussions in the hall, by the members of the house in close chapter,
wherein the Lord Abbat had only given his vote as one. But these
unfaithful monks and untrue Englishmen hoped to make people believe
that their opinions had been overruled, and that Thurstan was
answerable for everything.

It was also noticed—although not by the abbat and the monks that were
faithful unto him, and that were never allowed to hear any of the
whisperings and murmurings—that several of those who had most eagerly
voted for calling in the assistance of the Danes shrugged their
shoulders whenever men mentioned the expected invasion of the fen
country and the new attack on the Camp of Refuge, and spoke of the
Norman as a power too formidable to be resisted by the English, or by
any allies that the English could now procure.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                 THE CASTLE AT CAM-BRIDGE AND A BATTLE.


When the Normans first came into England, the town of Cam-Bridge, or
Grant-Bridge, was not the stately town which we have seen it since, nor
was it the flourishing place which it had been in the time of the Saxon
Heptarchy.[165] According to the Venerable Bede, Sebert, or Sigebert,
King of the East Angles, by the advice of Felix the Bishop, instituted
within his kingdom a school for learning, in imitation of what he had
seen in France; and this school is believed to have been fixed on the
very spot where the town of Cam-Bridge now stands.[166] Others there
are who say that a school had flourished there in the time of the
Romans, and that Sebert, or Sigebert, only restored this school in the
year of our Lord six hundred and thirty. Certain it is that from a very
early time Cam-Bridge was the residence of many students, who at first
lived in apartments hired of the townspeople, and afterwards in inns or
hostels of their own, where they formed separate communities, of which
each was under its own head or principal. But in the fiery distraction
of the Danish invasion of England, when abbats and monks and religious
women were slaughtered at the feet of their own altars, and churches
and abbeys and monasteries consumed, the pagan flames fell upon this
quiet seat of learning, and left nothing behind but ashes and ruins.
After this the place lay a long time neglected. There are some who
write that when, about the year of grace nine hundred and twenty, King
Edward, surnamed the Elder, and the eldest son and successor of Alfred
the Great, repaired the ravages of the Danes at Cam-Bridge, he erected
halls for students, and appointed learned professors; but these facts
appear to be questionable, and it is thought that, although learning
would no more abandon the place than the waters of the river Cam would
cease to flow by it, the scholars were in a poor and insecure
condition, and were living not in the halls or colleges of stately
architecture, but under the thatched roofs of the humble burghers, when
the blast of the Norman trumpets was first heard in the land. At that
sound all humane studies were suspended. The town and territory round
it were bestowed upon a Norman chief, and Norman men-at-arms were
quartered in the houses which had lodged the students. But it was not
until the third year after the battle of Hastings, when Duke William
became sorely alarmed at the great strength of the Saxons, gathered or
still gathering in the neighbouring isle of Ely, that Cam-Bridge felt
to their full extent the woes attendant on wars and foreign conquest.
Then it was made a great military station, and a castle was built to
lodge more soldiers, and command and control the town and all the
vicinity. Just beyond the river Cam, and opposite to the little
township, there stood, as there still stands, a lofty barrow or mound
of earth,[167] overgrown with green sward, and looking like those
mounds which the traveller observes by Salisbury plains, and on the
plain where the ancient city of Troy once stood. This great cone was
not raised and shaped by nature. The common people, who will be for
ever betraying their ignorance, said that the devil had made it, for
some ridiculous purpose; but learned men opined that it had been raised
by the ancient Britons[168] for some purpose of defence, or as some
lasting monument to the great dead. When the Romans came and conquered
the country, they had made an entrenched camp round about this mound,
and had built a tower or guard-house upon the top of the mound; but
these works had either been destroyed by the Danes or had been allowed
to fall into decay and into ruin through the too great negligence of
the Saxons. Now from top of this green hillock, looking across rivers
and meres and flat fens, where the highest tree that grew was the
marsh-willow, a good eye could see for many miles and almost penetrate
into the recesses of the isle of Ely and the Camp of Refuge. The old
Roman road or causeway, called the Ermine[169] Street, which led into
the heart of the fen country, ran close under the mound and a little
outside the trenches of the Roman camp. Seeing all the advantages of
the spot, as a barrier for the defence of the country behind the Cam,
and as an advanced position on the side of the country, and as a place
of arms wherein might be collected the means of attacking the
indomitable Camp of Refuge, the Normans cleared out the broad ditches
which the Romans had dug, and which time and accident or design had
filled up, restored the double circumvallation of earthen walls or
embankments, erected a strong castle within, and raised the Julius, or
keep or main tower of the castle, upon the summit of the mound, where
the old Roman tower or guard-house had stood. They had not been allowed
to do all this work without many interruptions and night-attacks of the
daring people of the neighbouring fens, or by the bold Saxons who had
fled for refuge into the isle of Ely. But when the work was finished
the Normans boasted that they had bitted and bridled the wild Saxon
horse of the fens. For some time past knights, and men-at-arms, and
bowmen, and foot-soldiers, drawn from nearly every country in Europe to
aid the son of Robert the Devil in conquering the little island of
England, had been arriving at the entrenched camp and castle of
Cam-Bridge; whither also had come from the city of London and from
various of the towns and ports which had quietly submitted to the
strangers, great convoys of provisions and stores of arms and armour
and clothes; and all these aliens had been telling such of the English
people as could understand them, and had not fled from the town, that
they were going to assault the great house at Ely and the Camp of
Refuge, and hang all the traitors and rebels they might find there,
upon the willow trees. Nothing, however, could be undertaken in the
land of marshes and rushes until the rainy season should be over and
the waters somewhat abated. Now it happened this year that the rains
ceased much earlier than was usual, and that the summer sun, as if
impatient for empire, began to rule and to dry up the wet ground long
before the season of spring was passed. There fell very little rain
after the quinquane of Pasche,[170] but after the feast of Saint
Walburga the Virgin there fell no rain at all, and the weather became
uncommonly dry and hot. It was pleasant to the eye to see the waters of
the Cam, the Ouse, the Welland, the Nene, the Witham, and the other
rivers retiring as it were into their natural beds, and flowing very
smoothly and clearly towards the great Wash; to see green meadows
re-appear where pools and meres had been, and flocks and herds
beginning to graze where boats and skerries and men walking upon tall
stilts had been seen but a few weeks before; to see, as far as the eye
could reach, a beautiful green prospect, with rich pastures, gliding
rivers, and adornments of woods and islands. But if this was pleasant
to the eye, it was not conducive to the security of the Saxon chiefs.
On the vigil of Saint Bede the Venerable, priest and confessor, which
falls on the twenty-seventh of the decades of May, Eustache of
Ambleville, a Norman captain of high repute, who had come over with
William and the first incomers, and had fought at the battle of
Hastings, arrived at Cam-Bridge with more soldiers, and with orders
from William to take the entire command of all the forces collected in
the camp and castle. Eustache was so confident of an easy victory that
he would not allow himself to think of the possibility of any defeat or
reverse. As he looked from the top of the keep towards Ely, he said,
triumphantly, “The waters are gone, and I am come. The Camp of Refuge
is no more! In three days’ time we shall be feasting in the hall of
this rebellious abbat, who hath so long defied us!” The other knights
that were to follow him in this adventure were just as confident as
Eustache of Ambleville, and the men-at-arms were already calculating
how they should divide the spoil that was to be made at Ely. Little did
they think how the shrine-boxes had all been emptied! Less still did
they think of the great loss of goods they themselves were going to
sustain!

Much did these Normans pretend to despise our Saxon fathers for their
ignorance of the stratagems of war, and for their general dulness: and
yet it must be confessed that they themselves gave very many proofs of
ignorance and dulness, as well as of great negligence, the fruit of the
unwise contempt in which they held their adversaries. Before the
arrival of Eustache some few of the Normans had ridden along the
causeway as far as they could conveniently go on horseback, but for the
state of the country beyond their ride they trusted to mere report,
taking no pains whatever to inform themselves accurately. They had all
been told of the extraordinary deeds which Hereward had performed, but
they gave the whole merit of these exploits to Crowland devils and
other fiends and goblins that were not to be feared in summer weather
or in daylight. They had been told that the Lord of Brunn was a
well-skilled commander, but they would not believe that any Saxon
whatsoever could be a great soldier. Instead of being cautious and
silent as to their intended attack, they had been loudly proclaiming it
on every side. Certes, Duke William was a knowing soldier himself, and
one that did great things in war, being cautelous and discreet; but,
wherever he was not, his chiefs in command did not much. It was rather
for the sake of avoiding the heat of the day than for any other reason
that Eustache resolved to begin his march at midnight. He did not think
of surprising the Saxons, and, as for being surprised by them, he
scornfully laughed at the notion. He wished, he said, that the rebels
and traitors should know that he was coming, in order that they might
collect all their forces in the camp, and so afford him the opportunity
of destroying them all at one blow. His chief fear was that Hereward
the Saxon would flee from the mere terror of his name.

On the midnight which followed the feast of Saint Bede the Normans
began to issue from their castle and camp. There shone a bright moon
along the causeway where they formed their array. First went a great
troop of horse with lances and long pennants floating from them. Next
went a body of archers bearing long bows and quivers well stocked with
long arrows. Then followed a large and miserable company of Saxon serfs
and hinds, who had been forcibly impressed into the service, and who
were laden like beasts of burthen, carrying stores and provisions on
their backs, and hurdles, and planks, and other pieces of timber, by
means of which these too confident Normans hoped to be able to cross
every ditch, stream, and river. After this unhappy company there
marched another band of archers; and then there went another and still
greater body of horse; and in the rear of all were more bowmen. As the
raised road was very narrow the horsemen marched only two abreast, and
the footmen only three abreast; and thus, as the total number of the
army was great, the line was very long and thin; and the knights riding
in the rear would seldom either hear or see what was passing in the
van. Yet merrily and thoughtlessly they went on singing their Norman
war-songs, their bridles ringing sharp and clear in the cool night air
as if to accompany the music of their songs, and their bright
lance-heads glinting in the moon-light: thus merrily and thoughtlessly
until the van came abreast of Fenny Ditton, where the road or causeway
was flanked on either side by a broad deep ditch or canal, and by a
long belt of thick growing willows and alders. But here Eustache, and
the other knights that rode in the van, heard a loud voice shouting in
very good Norman-French—“Halt, horse and foot! No farther to-night!
Saxons true do forbid your advance!” And, well nigh at the same moment
those knights and soldiers that rode in the rear heard another loud
voice shouting—“Halt, Normans! Halt ye must, but ye shall not get back
to Cam-Bridge unless ye can swim the ditch.” It seemed as though some
hollow willow-trees had spoken, for neither in front nor rear was there
a man seen. But presently the loud voices spoke again, and a still
louder voice was heard about mid-way between the two, and all the three
voices cried—“Saxons, your bow-strings to your ears, and next a charge
for England and Lord Hereward!” As soon as these words were heard in
the centre, the Saxon serfs, whom the Normans had impressed, threw the
provisions and stores they carried right across the broad ditches;
threw down the hurdles and beams and timber on the road, and then, with
a wild yell, rushed into the water and swam across to the covering of
the trees. But in the centre those trees were all alive before these
men reached them, and no sooner were they seen to be safe than a rush
was made towards the ground which they had abandoned. All fen-men swim,
but to make their passage the quicker light bridges were laid across
the ditches, and moving from the right-hand side of the road and from
the left-hand side two bodies of Saxons, well armed with bows and
billhooks, established themselves on the causeway just where Eustache’s
long line was broken. In vain did the Normans nearest to it think of
closing up that fatal gap; the Saxon serfs had so thrown about their
timber on the road that they could not cross it without falling or
stumbling. The Saxons, who had just got into the gap, making themselves
shields of the hurdles, fought fiercely with bill and bow, and their
comrades behind the willow trees smote the thin Norman lines on both
sides with their arrows. Eustache of Ambleville, without seeing or
knowing that his army was cut in twain, went charging along the
causeway with his van, the Saxon arrows rattling on their steel jackets
all the while; for here, as in the centre and rear, every tree that
grew on either side the road covered some Saxon bowman. But short was
Eustache’s career, for he found the causeway cut away before his
horse’s feet, and a trench much broader than any horse could leap, cut
across from ditch to ditch; and beyond this trench was a good barricade
formed of felled trees, after the fashion used by that true Saxon the
late Lord Abbat of Saint Alban’s: and from behind that breastwork and
across the trench there came such a flight of arrows and spears and
javelins, and other missiles, that neither Eustache nor any of his
people could stand it. Then the trumpet in the van sounded the retreat.
The Norman knight, commanding in the rear, had sounded the retreat
before this, and finding that he could not force his way forward, he
had begun to retrace his steps towards Cam-Bridge Castle: but this
rearward knight had not gone further in arrear than Eustache had
careered in advance ere he found the road broken, and a barricade of
freshly cut willow trees laid across it with bowmen and billmen behind
it. Horsemen and archers being mixed, as in the van, the rear turned
back again along the causeway, as if determined to drive the Saxons
from off the road and so unite themselves with the van from which they
were severed; and thus van and rear were moving in opposite
directions—were rushing to meet and hustle against each other on that
narrow way, even as waves beat against waves in a mighty storm. Their
meeting would have been very fatal; but they could not meet at all, for
the Saxons that had made the great gap had been reinforced from either
side; they had made barricades of the timber, and they plied with their
sharp archery the heads of both the Norman columns, while other Saxons
assailed those columns on their flanks, and still another band throwing
a flying-bridge over the chasm, where Eustache had been made to halt,
and turn back, charged along the causeway, still shouting, “Hereward
for England! Pikes, strike home, for the Lord of Brunn sees ye!” And
foremost of all those pikes was the Lord Hereward himself, who shouted
more than once, “Stop, Eustache! Run not so fast, Eustache of
Ambleville! This is not the way to the Camp of Refuge!”

Broken, confused beyond all precedent of confusion, disheartened,
assailed on every side, and driven to desperation, the Normans began to
leap from the fatal narrow causeway into the ditches, where many of the
heavily-armed men and divers knights were drowned. Some surrendered to
Lord Hereward on the road, and were admitted to quarter. Others were
killed in heaps; and the rest, succeeding in crossing the ditches, and
in getting through the willow groves, ran for their lives across the
open country towards Cam-Bridge. Dry as the season was, there were
still many bogs and morasses in those plains, and into these many of
the panic-stricken fugitives ran and sank up to their necks. As
Girolamo, the Salernitan, led one of the parties of Saxons in pursuit,
he muttered to himself in his own tongue, “Those Normans in English
bogs look like so many Mariuses[171] in the marshes of Minturnum!”
Those were the most fortunate that sank where the sedges grew thick, or
the bulrushes concealed them. Those who showed their heads above the
bog were for the most part slain by spears or arrows. In all, not
one-third of the force, which Sir Eustache had led forth a few hours
before with so much pride and confidence, got back alive to the camp
and castle at Cam-Bridge: all the horses had been drowned or
suffocated, or wounded, and rendered useless, or killed or taken.
Provisions, stores, and all the implements of the army had been lost;
and, although Eustache of Ambleville had escaped with life, he had left
his standard behind him in the hands of the Lord Hereward, who, after
this signal victory, returned in triumph, and with his spolia opima, to
Ely Abbey, where the monks in the choir sang “Te Deum Laudamus.”

As for Eustache of Ambleville, he soon quitted the command of the post
at Cam-Bridge, and cursing the Fen Country, as a place where knights
and horses were of no use, he made the best haste he could back to
London city. For many a long day the Normans left at Cam-Bridge would
not venture outside the walls of their castle.

It boots not to tell of what became of that other Norman force
collected in Huntingdon for the invasion of the isle of Ely. Was it not
overthrown and totally discomfited at Fenny Stanton? And was not this,
and were not other victories gained by the Saxons from the Camp of
Refuge, recited in the songs in praise of Lord Hereward, which the
Saxon people now began to sing about the streets of our cities and
great towns, even in the hearing of their Norman oppressors?



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                  THE TRAITOROUS MONKS OF PETERBOROUGH


But the Lord of Brunn could not be everywhere. While he was gaining
great victories on the southern side of the Fen Country, the Normans
were gaining strength in the north, and were receiving the aid of
cowards and traitors. Brand, the uncle of Lord Hereward, and the good
Lord Abbat of Peterborough, who had ever laboured to keep his convent
true to their own saints and to their own country, was now lying by the
side of the abbats, his predecessors, under the stone-flooring of the
abbey-church; and with him had died all the English spirit of the
place. The monks began to murmur, for that they were called upon to
contribute to the sustenance of the Saxon fighting men that had been
left to guard their house; and for that they had been called upon to
send some small matter of gold and silver for the use of the brave
Saxons that were maintaining the liberties of England in the Camp of
Refuge. Having, by their own representations and entreaties, brought
about the removal of nearly every bowman and billman that Hereward had
left behind him, these monks next began to turn up their eyes, and say
that they had no armed strength wherewith to withstand the Normans, and
that therefore it were better to make terms with Ivo Taille-Bois, and
cease all connection and correspondence with the Lord of Brunn and that
faction. But happily even at Peterborough, when the good Abbat Brand
was dead, not all the monks were traitorous. Some of them made haste to
inform their late abbat’s nephew, and the hope and stay of England, of
what was passing; and the Lord Hereward made haste to apply some remedy
to this foul disorder.

Great had been the wrath excited among the Normans by that last great
act of Abbat Brand’s life—the Saxon knighthood of Lord Hereward. Duke
William had sworn by the splendour of God that the abbat should rue the
day on which he had given his benediction to the sword of a rebel; but
a greater than kings had saved good Brand from this kingly fury. When
he knew that he was dead, William named as his successor that terrible
Norman, the Abbat Torauld[172] of Fescamp, who always wore a coat of
mail under his rochet, and who wielded the sword and battle-axe much
oftener or much more willingly than he carried the crosier.[173] This
terrible Torauld had been wont to govern his monks even in foreign
parts as captains govern their turbulent soldiery; and whenever any
opposition was offered to him, it was his custom to cry, “Come hither,
my men-at-arms!” and upon men-at-arms he always depended for the
enforcing of his ecclesiastical discipline. Where he ruled there were
few penances except such as were inflicted with his own hand; for he
was a very choleric man, and would smite his monks and novices over
their fleshiest parts with the flat of his heavy sword, and tweak their
noses with his sharp steel gloves, and strike them over their shaven
crowns with his batoon. Terrible as a man, and still more terrible as
an abbat, was this same Torauld of Fescamp! Monks crossed themselves,
and said _Libera nos_, whenever his name was mentioned. Now Duke
William told this terrible Torauld that as Peterborough was so near to
the turbulent Fen Country, and so little removed from the Camp of
Refuge, it was a place well suited to an abbat who was so good a
soldier, and that a soldier rather than an abbat was wanted to preside
over that abbey. And Torauld was farther told, by Ivo Taille-Bois, who
was roaring, like a bear bereft of her cub, for the loss of the
manor-house at Spalding, that on arriving at Peterborough he must take
good care to disinter the Abbat Brand, and throw his body upon the dung
heap; that he must well scourge the monks for their past contumacy, and
make a quick clutch at such treasure as might yet remain within the
house, seeing that the Norman troops were greatly distressed by reason
of their poverty, and that, notably, he, the Vicomte of Spalding, had
not a denier.[174]

“_Factum est_,” said Torauld, “consider all this as done.”

And in order that it might be done the more easily, Ivo Taille-Bois
superadded one hundred and forty men to those that the fighting abbat
brought with him, thus making Torauld’s whole force consist of one
hundred and sixty well-armed Frenchmen. At the head of this little
army, with sword girded round his middle and with battle-axe tied to
his saddle-bow, the monk of Fescamp began his march from Stamford Town.
As soon as the disloyal monks heard that he was coming, they drove away
by main force the very few Saxon soldiers that remained about the
house, and began to prepare sackcloth and ashes for themselves, and a
sumptuous feast for the Abbat Torauld, hoping thereby to conciliate
him, and make him forget the bold doings of my Lord Abbat Brand.

But before that uncanonical abbat and his men-at-arms could get half
way to Peterborough,[175] the Lord Hereward, who had been duly apprised
of all these late proceedings and intentions, arrived at the abbey with
Elfric his sword-bearer, and about three-score fighting men; and before
the monks could make fast their gates he was within the house. There be
some who do say that the entrance was not got without a fight, and that
some of my Lord Hereward’s people set fire to a part of the monastery;
but I ween there was no fighting or beating of monks until Torauld,
that very stern man, got possession of the house, and that there was no
fire until a time long after the visit of the Saxons, when the monks of
Peterborough, being disorderly and drunken, set fire to the house
themselves by accident. The Lord of Brunn made straight for the house
which King Etheldred of happy memory had built for the Lord Abbats. A
building it was very large and stately; all the rooms of common
habitation were built above-stairs, and underneath were very fair
vaults, and goodly cellars for sundry uses; and the great hall above
was a magnificent room, having at the upper end, in the wall, very high
above the floor, three stately thrones, whereon were seated the
effigies of the three royal founders, carved curiously in wood, and
painted and gilt.[176] In this hall stood Hereward and his merry men.
Little did the monks wot of this visit. They thought the Lord of Brunn
was many a league off, fighting in the fens; and when he came among
them like one dropped from the clouds, and they saw in his honest,
plain-speaking face that he was angered, the traitors began to blush,
and some of them to turn pale; and when this first perturbation was
over, they began to welcome him in the very words of a speech they had
prepared for the welcoming of Torauld. But Hereward soon cut their
speech short, and asked the prior of the house what was become of the
twenty men he had left there for the protection of the house. The prior
said that the men had behaved in a riotous manner, eating and drinking
all the day long, and had deserted and run away because they had been
reproved.

“It likes me not to call a priest a liar, but this is false!” said the
Lord of Brunn; “thou and thy French faction have driven away those
honest men; and here be some of them to speak for themselves, and to
tell thee, oh prior, how busy thou hast been ever since the death of my
good uncle (peace to his soul!) in preparing to make terms with the
French—in preparing to welcome the shaven cut-throat that is now
a-coming to rule over this house!”

The men stood forward, and the loyal part of the monks (alas! that they
were so few) stood forward also, and told the traitors to their faces
all that they had been doing. The prior and the chamberlain, the
refectorarius and the rest of the officials, then began to excuse
themselves on the plea of their weakness, and on the plea of the great
danger in which they stood.

“You confess, then,” said Hereward, “that you cannot of yourselves
defend this house and its shrines?”

“Of a surety we confess it,” said the prior; “nor is this house to be
held against the Normans even with a garrison of armed men.
Peterborough is not Ely, good my lord! _There_ Saxon monks may hold
their own; but _here_ it cannot be done.”

“So ho!” quoth Hereward, “this is where I would have thee! and
therefore, oh prior, since thou canst not keep thy gilded crosses and
silver vessels, thy chalices and pateras, thy drapery and rich church
hangings, and as all these things and all other the property of this
house will fall into the hands of the Norman thieves if they are not
removed, I will and must carry them all off to Ely, where thou allowest
they will be in safe Saxon keeping.”

“Wouldst thou despoil the temple of the Lord? Wouldst thou rob the
shrines of Saxon saints?” said the sacrist.

“My Lord of Brunn, thou darest not do the deed,” said the prior.

“It is not for thee, false monk! to set the limits to my daring, when
my conscience sanctions that which I am doing, and when the cause of my
country urges it to be done,” said Hereward.

“I will excommunicate thee as a sacrilegious robber,” said the prior.

“Archbishop Stigand, the true primate of England, will excommunicate
thee as a traitor to his country and traitor to his church,” quoth the
Lord of Brunn. “But I have little time to waste in words. Come, my
merry men, be stirring! pack up all the plate, and all the hangings,
and everything that we can carry with us.”

“They shall not have the keys,” said the chamberlain or treasurer of
the house.

“We have them already,” quoth Elfric, who had been led to the
chamberlain’s cell by one of the true Saxon monks. “We have the keys
already, and so have we the engraven seals of silver gilt. The sigillum
of so good a man as Abbat Brand shall never be used by so bad a man as
Torauld. See! here it is, my lord!” And so saying Elfric handed the
good massive seal to his master, who kissed it as though it had been a
relic, and then put it in his bosom.

“This is sacrilege! This is the worst of thefts,” roared the prior.
“This is done in the teeth of the law, and in outrage of the gospel.
Sinful young man, knowest thou not the old Saxon law which saith,
Sevenfold are the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church, and seven are
the degrees of ecclesiastical states and holy orders, and seven times
should God’s servants praise God daily in church, and it is very
rightly incumbent on all God’s friends that they love and venerate
God’s church, and in grith and frith[177] hold God’s servants; and let
him who injures them, by word or work, earnestly make reparation with a
sevenfold bot, if he will merit God’s mercy, because holiness, and
orders, and God’s hallowed houses, are, for awe of God, ever to be
earnestly venerated?”

“I know that good Saxon law,” said Hereward, “and bow my head in
reverence to it! I earnestly venerate this hallowed house and all
houses that be hallowed, and all the shrines that belong to them. I do
not rob, but only remove to safe keeping what others would rob; and,
for any mischief that may be done to the goods of this house by such
removal, I will myself make bot, not seven but seventy-fold, whenever
England shall be free, and Harold restored to his throne.”

“Dreams!” said the prior—“thy King Harold lies six feet deep in
Waltham clay!”

“Unmannered priest, thou liest in thy throat for saying so! King Harold
is alive, is safe in some foreign land, and at his own good time will
be back to claim his own. But come he back or come he not back, the
Normans shall not have the spoil of this house. They have spoiled too
many hallowed houses already! Look at Saint Alban’s! look at Saint
Edmund’s-bury! and at York and Durham and Lindisfarn, and all other
places, and tell me how they have respected Saxon saints and the
property consecrate of our monasteries!”

“Leave that to us,” said the chamberlain.

“I tell thee again I will leave nought for the Normans!” quoth Lord
Hereward. And while he was speaking, his merry men all, aided and
assisted by the honest monks, who revered the memory of Abbat Brand,
were packing; and before the prior could finish a _maledicite_ which he
began, all the gold and silver, all the linen and silks and embroidered
hangings, and all the effigies of the Saxon saints, and all the
silver-gilded plates from their shrines, were carefully made up into
divers parcels, for facility of carriage, and the relics of the saints
were packed up in coffers. Ywere, an un-Saxon monk of the house, had
succeeded in concealing the testaments, mass-hackles, cantel-copes, and
such other small things, which he afterwards laid at the feet of the
French abbat; but Hereward’s people had gotten all the things of great
value: they had climbed up to the holy rood, and had taken away the
diadem from our Lord’s head, all of pure gold, and had seized the
bracket that was underneath his feet, which was all of red-gold: they
had climbed up the campanile, or belfry, and had brought down a table
that was hid there, all gold and silver; they had seized two shrines of
gold and nine reliquaries of silver, and fifteen large crucifixes of
gold and of silver; and, altogether, they had so many treasures in
money, in raiment and in books, as no man could tell another.

The prior now snivelled and said, “Lord Hereward, my Lord of Brunn,
wilt thou then leave us nothing to attract pilgrims to our shrines?
Thou mightest as well carry off the house and the church, as carry
these things away with thee!”

“Our house will be discredited and we shall starve!” said the sacrist.
“Lord of Brunn, leave us at least the bones of our saints!”

“Once more,” said Hereward, “once more and for the last time I tell ye
all that I will leave to the Norman spoilers and oppressors nought that
I can carry. If I could carry away the house and the church and the
altars, by Saint Ovin and his cross, by Saint Withburga and her blessed
and ever-flowing well, I would do it!—but only to bring them back
again when this storm shall be passed, and when every true Saxon shall
get his own.”

Then turning to Elfric, Hereward said, “Where is the sacrist’s register
of all these effects and properties?”

Elfric handed a very long scroll of parchment to his lord. This
parchment had been placed in the hands of Elfric by the sub-sacrist,
one of the honest party, and the parchment contained, in good Saxon
writing, a list of the treasures, even as they had been left on the day
of the death of the good Abbat Brand.

“Now write me at the bottom of this scroll a receipt and declaration,”
said the Lord of Brunn to the sub-sacrist. “Say that I, Hereward the
Saxon, have taken away with me into the Isle of Ely, and unto that
hallowed house of the true Saxon Abbat Lord Thurstan, all the things
above enumerated. Say that I have removed them only in order to save
them from the thievish hands of the Normans, or only to prevent their
being turned against ourselves—say that I swear by all my hopes of
life eternal to do my best to restore them uninjured so soon as the
Normans are driven out of England; and say that I will make bot for
every loss and for every injury. Mortal man can do no more than this.”

The sub-sacrist, maugre the threats and maledictions of his superior
the sacrist, and of the prior and refectorarius, and all the upper
officials, quickly engrossed on the parchment all that the Lord of
Brunn wanted; and Hereward, being himself a scholar and penman, signed
it with his name. Next he called for signatures of witnesses. Girolamo
of Salerno wrote a _sic subscribitur_, and wrote his signature, and
Elfric, who had improved as much in learning as in the art of war, did
the same. Some others made the sign of the cross opposite to their
names that were written for them; but upon the whole it was a good
receipt, and solemn and well witnessed. The Lord of Brunn handed the
parchment to the prior, bidding him to take care of it, and show it to
his new abbat Torauld as soon as that Frenchman should arrive with his
one hundred and sixty men-at-arms; but the prior cast the parchment
upon the ground, saying that the house was impiously spoiled—that
nothing would ever be gotten back again—that nothing was left in the
house but woe, nakedness, and tribulation.

“Oh prior!” said Hereward, and he smiled as he said it—“oh untrue and
un-Saxon prior! the savoury odours that come upwards from thy kitchen
tell me that there is something more than this. By saint Ovin! it is
not Torauld of Fescamp and his men-at-arms that shall eat this thy
feast! Elfric, see those viands served up in the refectory, and we will
eat them all, be they cooked or uncooked, done or underdone.”

“My Lord,” responded Elfric, “the roast meats be done to a turn, the
boiled meats and the stewed meats, and fowl and fish be all ready. The
cook of this house of Peterborough, being no caterer for Normans, but a
Saxon true, and one that hath owed his promotion to thine uncle, of
happy memory, the Abbat Brand, hath seen to all these things, and hath
advanced the good dinner by an hour or twain.”

“Then for love of mine uncle’s nephew, let him dish up as quickly as
may be! Elfric, what say thy scouts? Where be the Frenchmen now?”

“Good ten miles off, my lord; so do not over-hurry the meal.”

“Prior, sacrist, chamberlain, traitors all!” said Lord Hereward, “will
ye do penance with us in eating of this feast which ye had prepared for
Norman stomachs?”

“The wrath of the Lord will overtake thee for this ribaldry! Oh,
Hereward of Brunn, we will not break bread with thee, nor sit at the
table with such as thou art.”

“Then stay here where ye are, and munch your dry bread to the odour of
our roast meats,” said the young Lord of Brunn.

And so, leaving the false monks under guard of some of his merry men,
Hereward with the true monks went straight to the refectory and fared
sumptuously; and then, like the bounteous lord that he was, he made all
his followers, of whatsoever degree, eat, drink, and be merry; and so
heartily did these true Saxons eat and drink, that of that same feast
they left nothing behind them for Torauld of Fescamp and his hungry
Normans. And when it was time to get gone, and they could drink no
more, Elfric and sub-sacrist went down to the cellars and set every
cask running, to the end that there should not be a drop of wine or a
drop of ale or a drop of mead to cool the throats of the disappointed
Frenchmen.

Then the Lord of Brunn and his merry men all took their departure from
the abbey of Peterborough, taking with them the chalices and pateras,
the crosses and candelabra, the shrine-plates and the reliquaries, the
diadems and the tables, the linens, the silks, and hangings, and
everything that was worth taking, and everything that Torauld of
Fescamp and his men-at-arms most wanted to find and seize. And thus did
the great house of Peterborough cease to be called the rich and begin
to be called miserably poor, _de aurea erat pauperrima_.[178]

Judge ye the wrath of that terrible false French abbat when he came to
the house at Peterborough, and heard and likewise saw all that had been
done! First he pulled at his own hair, and next he snatched at the
prior’s head and tore his hair away by handfuls. He would not believe
one jot of the tale that was told him about Hereward’s forcible entry
and seizures; he would believe nothing but that they were all in league
with the rebels and robbers of the fens, even as they had been when
Abbat Brand blessed the sword of Hereward and made him knight, and took
into his house a garrison of armed Saxons. The more they protested and
vowed, the more he disbelieved them; and this first conference between
these untrue Saxon monks and their choleric Norman abbat ended in
Torauld’s shouting, “Come hither, my men-at-arms, and fustigate these
liars!” And while the men-at-arms beat the commoner monks and the
lay-brothers of the house, Torauld himself tweaked the noses of the
superiors with his gauntleted hand, and drawing his heavy sword, he
applied the flat of it to the prior, the sacrist, the chamberlain, the
refectorarius, and all the rest of the officials, beating them all even
as he used to belabour his monks and novices in Normandie. But the true
English members of the house did not share in this pain and
humiliation, for the sub-sacrist and every one of them that was a good
Saxon had gone off with Lord Hereward more than an hour before. When he
grew tired of this his first hard lesson in ecclesiastical discipline,
Torauld caused the prior and the sacrist and every monk that had stayed
behind, to be thrown into the dungeon of the house, and there he kept
them two days and two nights without food and drink.

Some few of the new Lord Abbat of Peterborough’s men-at-arms thought,
that instead of fustigating the English monks, they ought to have
followed Hereward and the English soldiers, and have made an effort to
recover the good things they had carried off; but Torauld, who was bold
only where there was no chance of resistance, would not venture a
pursuit after an alert and most daring enemy into a difficult country;
and so he swore to his people that the Saxon robbers must have been
gone, not one, but more than three hours before his arrival; that
instead of counting sixty men, they were six hundred strong at the very
least. Whether they were sixty or six hundred, none of the men-at-arms
who knew anything concerning the fenny country were at all eager for
the pursuit, albeit they all imagined that the treasure which Lord
Hereward had carried off with him from the abbey was great enough to
pay for a king’s ransom.

Thus the new Norman Abbat and his unpriestly and ungodly men entered
upon possession of the ancient abbey of Peterborough: but feast that
day was there none.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

             HEREWARD GOES TO BRUNN, AND IS DISTURBED THERE.


From Peterborough the Lord of Brunn made one good march across the fen
country to Crowland, where he saluted the good Abbat and brotherhood,
who had put their house into excellent order. And having tarried for a
short season with the trusty monks of Crowland, he went down the river
Welland unto Spalding, where he embarked the treasure which he had
taken, and sent Girolamo of Salerno to have charge of it and see it
safely delivered to the Lord Abbat of Ely.[179] Having done all this,
and having seen that the river Welland and the country about Crowland
and Spalding were well guarded, Hereward went across the country to
Brunn to visit his fair wife, whom he had not seen since the quinquaine
of Pasche. Elfric went with him, and in this manner there were two
happy meetings. The old manor-house at Brunn had been beautified as
well as strengthened under the eye of the Ladie Alftrude; and the old
township, being ridded of the Normans, was beginning to look peaceful
and prosperous as it used to do in the happy times of the good Lord
Leofric of blessed memory. The unthinking people were already
forgetting their past troubles, and beginning to imagine that there
would be no troubles for the future, or that, come what might the
Normans would never get footing again in the fen country. Elfric was
not an unthinking young man, but his love for Maid Mildred caused him
to take up the notion of the townfolk. He thought he might soon turn
his sword into a reaping-hook, and that it was already time for keeping
the promise which his master had made to him. Mildred said nay, nay,
but in a manner which sounded very like yea, yea. Lord Hereward said,
“Wait awhile; ye are both young, and this war is not over. Beyond the
fens the Normans are still triumphant, and the Saxons confounded and
submissive. Elfric, there is work to do, and short is the time that I
can abide here.”

The ex-novice quietly submitted himself to the will of his lord; and
for a short season he lead a very easy, happy life, hawking or fishing
in the morning, with Hereward and the ladie, and rambling in the eve
with Mildred in the wood which lay near the house. One fine summer eve,
about fifteen days after their coming to Brunn, Elfric and Mildred went
rather farther into the wood than it had been usual for them to go; and
reaching the bank of a clear little stream, they sat down among the
tall rushes, and after talking and laughing for awhile they became
reflective and silent, and gazed at the stream as it glided by, all
gilded and enamelled by the setting sun. They had not sate thus long
when Elfric was startled by some distant sound, which did not reach the
ear of Mildred, for when he said, “What noise is that?” she said she
heard none. But Elfric was quite certain he had heard a noise afar off,
and a sound of a rustling among the willows and fen-trees. “Well,” said
Mildred, “it will be the evening breeze, or the fen-sparrows, or mayhap
the marsh-tits tapping the old willow-trees to hollow out their nests.”

“There breathes not a breath of air, and this is not the season in
which the marsh-tit makes its nest in the old willows,” said Elfric.
“But hark! I hear the sound again, and ... ah! what is that?... By St.
Ovin’s cross! I see afar off a something shining in the red sunbeams
that looks like the head of a Norman lance! See! look there, behind
those trees at the foot of yon hillock!”

The maiden looked, and although at first she saw nothing, she soon
turned pale, and said, “In truth, Elfric, I see a spear, and another,
and now another. But now they move not! they disappear.”

“Mildred,” said the young man, “run back to the manor-house with thy
best speed, and tell Lord Hereward what thou hast seen!”

“But wilt thou not go with me? I almost fear to go alone through the
wood.”

“The path is straight and dry,” said Elfric; “there is no danger: but I
must go forward and discover what be these new comers, who are coming
so stealthily towards the wood and the manor-house, and who bring
lances with them and sound no horn.”

“But there will be peril for thee, oh Elfric, unarmed and all alone as
thou art.”

“Fear not for that, my Mildred; I will crawl through the rushes and
keep this winding stream between me and these strangers. But fly to the
house, and if thou chancest to meet any of Lord Hereward’s people, bid
them hasten home and look to their arms.”

“Alas!” quoth Mildred, “when will this fighting be over?” and having so
said, she flew like a lapwing towards the house, while Elfric
disappeared among the sedges and bulrushes.

“Lances so near the wood!” said Hereward, “and no notice given! Our
guard at Edenham[180] must have fallen asleep!”

“Or mayhap they be gone to Corby,” said Mildred, “for to-day is Corby
wake.”

“Or it may be,” said Hereward, “that thou and Elfric are both
mistaken—albeit his good eyes are not apt to deceive him.”

Before the Lord of Brunn had time to assemble his people, Elfric was
back to speak for himself, and to give more certain and full notice of
what was toward. He had gone near enough not only to see, but also to
hear. The force was a great Norman force led on by Ivo Taille-Bois and
Torauld of Fescamp, who hoped to take Hereward by surprise, and to
recover from him the treasure which he had seized at Peterborough; for,
being robbers themselves, they made sure that he meant to keep the
treasure for himself.

“What be their numbers?” said the Lord of Brunn.

“Two hundred men-at-arms,” responded Elfric.

“Bring they any of their great siege-tools?” asked Hereward.

“None, my Lord. They carry nothing but their arms, and even with that
burthen they seem sorely fatigued. They are covered with our fen mud,
and are all swearing that they should have been forced to travel
without their horses.”

“Then,” said Hereward, “although Girolamo be away, we can hold good
this house and laugh at their attempt to take it. Call in all the good
folk of the township, and then up drawbridge, and make fast gates!”

“Under subjection, my Lord,” quoth Elfric, “I will say that I think
that we can do better than shut ourselves up in the house to wait for
their coming. I heard their plan of approach, and it is this: They are
all to remain concealed where they are until it be dark. Then Ivo
Taille-Bois is to march through the wood, and surround the house with
one hundred men, while that bull-headed Torauld, who seemeth not to
relish the fighting with soldiers so much as he doth the fighting with
unarmed monks, is to lodge himself with the other hundred men on the
skirts of the wood, so as to prevent the people of the township from
coming to the manor-house.”

“Art thou sure,” said Hereward, “that thou knowest Norman French enough
to make out all this sense from their words?”

“Quite certain, my Lord. I was close to them, and they talked loud, as
is their wont. Nay, they talked even louder than common, being angered,
and Ivo-Taille saying that as it was church business the churchman
ought to go foremost; and Torauld saying that Ivo did not enough
respect the lives and limbs of Norman prelates. Set me down this
Torauld for a rank coward! They told me at Peterborough that he was as
big as a bull, and for that much so he is; but from my hiding-place in
the rushes I could see that he quaked and turned pale at the thought of
leading the attack.”

“Thou wast ever a good scout,” said the Lord of Brunn, “but a wary
commander never trusts to one report. We have lads here that know the
paths and the bye-paths. We will have these Normans watched as it grows
dark.”

In the mean time all the good people of the township were forewarned,
and called to the manor-house. The aged, with the women and children,
were to stay within those strong walls; but all the rest were armed,
and kept in readiness to sally forth. Of the sixty merry men that had
stolen the march upon Torauld and got to Peterborough before him, some
had been left at Crowland and some at Spalding, and some had taken up
their long stilts and had walked across the bogs to see their kindred
and friends in Hoilandia. Only one score and ten of these tried
soldiers remained; the good men of the township of Brunn that put on
harness and were ready to fight, made more than another score; and
besides these there was about half a score of hardy hinds who had
followed the Ladie Alftrude from her home.

As it grew dark the scouts reported that the Normans were in motion,
and that they were moving in two separate bodies, even as Elfric
reported they would do. Then the Lord of Brunn went himself to watch
their movements. He made out, more by his ears than by his eyes, that
one body was coming straight on for the wood and the house, and that
the other body was turning round the wood by a path which would bring
them to a little bridge near the edge of the wood, this bridge being
between the township and the manor-house. By his own prudent order
lights had been left burning in one or two of the better sort of
houses, and the whole town thus looked as it usually did at that hour;
while bright lights beamed from every window of the manor-house, to
make Ivo Taille-Bois believe that the Lord of Brunn was feasting and
carousing and wholly off his guard.

“Thus far, well!” thought Hereward, as he ran back to the house. “It
will take these heavy Normans a good length of time to cross the stream
and get into the wood; and while Ivo is coming into the wood on the one
side, I will go out of it on the other side, and catch this bully monk
and his people as in a trap. And Taille-Bois shall rue the day that he
turned his face towards Brunn.”

Leaving half a score of his best men in the house, and commanding all
that were in the house to be silent and without fear, the Lord of Brunn
sallied forth with all the rest of his merry men: and as soon as he and
they were beyond the moat, the little garrison drew up the draw-bridge
and made fast the gate. When he counted his troop, he found it to be
not more than fifty strong; but every man of them was vigorous and well
equipped; and there was truth in the Saxon song which said that every
true Saxon in arms was equal to three Frenchmen, and that the Lord of
Brunn never turned his back even upon six Frenchmen. Warned by Elfric,
that best of all scouts, when Ivo was crossing the stream, and
calculating his only time to a nicety, Hereward marched through a
corner of the wood and took post on some broken ground near the end of
the little bridge. His people were all as silent as the grave, and so
they continued; nor could they be seen any more than they could be
heard, for they lay in the hollows of the ground with their faces prone
to the earth, and their bows and weapons under them: and the night was
now rather dark, and the trees which grew close behind the broken
ground cast a deep shadow over it. The Saxons had not been long in this
their ambuscade when they heard a loud shouting of “A Taille-Bois! A
Taille-Bois!” which came from the side of the manor-house; and the next
instant they heard another loud shouting in their front of “Torauld!
Torauld!”

“So so!” said Hereward, “the twain have timed their marches well! The
monk will be here anon; but let every Saxon among us remain on his face
until he cross the narrow bridge, and then up and fall on!”

And as the Lord of Brunn said, so was it done. Eager to get possession
of the bridge, the monk from Fescamp avoided the little township, and
came straight to the stream[181] which flowed between it and the
manor-house, and crossed over the bridge with all his people: and no
sooner were they all over than the Saxons started up like armed men
springing from the bowels of the earth, and shouting “Hereward for
England!” they fell upon their amazed and confounded enemy, who could
neither discover their strength nor form themselves into any order of
battle. Instanter some of the Normans screamed that these were the
devils of Crowland risen again; and so, screaming, they made a rush
back to the bridge. Now the bridge was very narrow, and walled on
either side with a parapet wall of brickwork; and when the whole of
Torauld’s force began to follow the first fuyards,[182] with a mad
rushing and confusion, they got jammed together upon that narrow
bridge, or falling one over the other they obstructed the passage.
Torauld, that big monk, could not get upon the bridge at all, or near
to it. And as he stood crowded and squeezed by his disordered men, and
heard the Saxon battle-axe ringing upon their mailed armour and plated
shields, he set up his big voice and cried “Quarter! Quarter! Mercy, O
Lord of Brunn!”

“Dost thou surrender, Torauld of Fescamp?” shouted Hereward.

“Aye, and at thy discretion,” said the terrible abbat, no longer
terrible.

“Normans, do ye all surrender upon quarter?” shouted Hereward, who had
already slain three of them with his own hand.

The Normans, not even excepting those on the bridge, or even those five
or six that had gotten beyond the bridge, all declared that they
surrendered at discretion.

“Then,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “hand me your swords, and come hither
and lay down all your arms!”

And, in that grim darkness, Torauld, and the several leaders of the
band, stretched out their hands and delivered up their swords to
Hereward; and Hereward, as he got them, handed them to his
sword-bearer, and Elfric made a bundle of them all under his left arm,
singing, as he had wont to do in the choir at Spalding, but with a
louder note, “_Infixæ sunt gentes!_—The heathen are sunk down in the
pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken!”
And all the Norman men-at-arms, seeing but dimly what they were doing,
and taking the trees on the skirts of the wood for Saxon warriors,
piled their arms in a trice, and allowed themselves to be bound with
their own girdles and baldrics. When Hereward’s people proceeded to
bind Torauld, that tamed monster made a miserable lamentation, for he
thought that the Saxons would bind him first, and then slay him; and
none knew better than himself the intolerable wrongs he had done since
his first coming to the kingdom, and the outrages he had been guilty of
in the monasteries and churches of England. But Elfric bade him bellow
not so miserably, and told him how that it was the custom of the Lord
of Brunn not to slay his prisoners, but only to send them to a place of
safe keeping, such as the Camp of Refuge, or the strong vault under Ely
Abbey. And when the Normans were all bound, Hereward made his
sword-bearer count them all; and Elfric, groping among them as the
shepherd does among his sheep when the night is dark, found and
reported that there were four score and ten of them. The rest had been
slain, or had rushed into the stream to get drowned.

All this work by the bridge had not been done without much noise. In
making their sudden onslaught, and in raising their shout for Hereward,
the Saxons had made the welkin ring; and the cries and screams of the
discomfited Normans were distinctly heard across the wood and at the
manor-house. The Saxons within that house heard both cries, and well
understood what they meant: Ivo Taille-Bois and his men also heard them
and understood them; and so, cursing Torauld the monk for a fool, Ivo
halted his men under cover of the trees; and then, after listening for
a brief space of time, and after hearing plainer than before the Norman
cry of _misericorde_ instead of attempting to surround the house, Ivo
began to retrace his steps through the wood. And although the night was
brightening up elsewhere, it continued so dark in that wood, and his
people ran in so great hurry, that at almost every step some of them
missed the narrow path, or fell over the roots of the trees. And as Ivo
thus retreated, his ear was assailed by the taunting shouts of the
Saxons in the manor-house, and by the triumphant shouts of those who
had sallied forth with Hereward to smite Torauld in the dark.

But louder and louder still were the shouts in the good house of Brunn
when its young Lord returned unhurt (and not a man of his was hurt)
with the captives he had made, and notably with the once terrible
Torauld.

“Thou seest,” said Hereward, “that thy friend Ivo hath not stayed to
keep his appointed meeting with thee at my humble house! but stay thou
here awhile, oh monk of Fescamp! and I will even go try whether I can
overtake Ivo, and bring him back to meet thee! He hath the start, but
is not so good a fenner as I am. So, come, my merry men all, one horn
of wine apiece, and then for a chase through the wood and across the
stream! An we catch not the great wood-cutter, we may perchance cut off
part of his tail. But first lock me up these prisoners in the turret.
Our women and old men will suffice to take care of them while we follow
the chase.”

The Ladie Alftrude, and sundry other persons, thought and said that
Lord Hereward had done enough for this one night; but the Lord of Brunn
thought he had never done enough when there was more to do, and before
Ivo Taille-Bois could get clear out of the wood, Hereward was upon his
track, with fifty of his merry men. Some of the Normans, missing the
ford across the stream, were captured on the bank; but the rest got
safely over, and ran for their lives across the plain, whereon they
never could have run at all if the summer had been less hot and dry.
They were closely followed by the Saxons, who took a good many more of
them, and killed others: but Ivo was too far ahead to be caught; and it
was all in vain that Hereward shouted and called upon him to stop and
measure swords with him on dry ground, and on a fair field. So the Lord
of Brunn gave up the pursuit, and returned to his manor-house, taking
with him a good score more prisoners. And if the louts who had been
sent to keep guard at Edenham had not gone to Corby wake, and had not
drunk themselves drunk there, Ivo Taille-Bois would have been captured
or killed, with every man that followed him, before he could have got
out upon the road which leads from the fen country to Stamford. The
rest of that night was given to festivity and joy. On the morrow
morning Hereward brought his Norman captives forth from the turret into
the great hall, and made inquest into their names and qualities. There
were several knights of name among them; several that had high rank and
good lands in Normandie before ever they came to plunder England. Now
these proud foreign knights condescended to address the Lord of Brunn
as one of the military confraternity, and they spoke with him about
ransom as knight speaks to knight. Hereward, knowing well how the Abbat
of Ely had been constrained to lay hands on that which had been offered
on the shrine of the saints, and to deal with unbelieving and usurious
Jews, and how sorely money was needed throughout the Camp of Refuge,
did not gainsay these overtures about ransoms; but he fixed the total
ransom at so high a price, that Torauld and the Norman knights all
vowed that they could never pay or get their friends to pay it. The
Lord of Brunn, who believed them not, told them that they must pay the
three thousand marks he had named, or live and die in the fastnesses of
the fen country. Torauld who loved money more than he loved his own
soul, and who never doubted but that Hereward had all the treasures he
had taken from Peterborough, and meant to keep them for his own use and
profit, offered, as lawful superior of that house, and abbat appointed
by King William, to give the Lord of Brunn a title to all those things
as the price of the ransom for himself and the Norman nobles. But
hereat the Lord of Brunn was greatly incensed, and said, “Robber that
thou art, dost thou take me for a sacrilegious robber? The treasure of
Peterborough is not here, but at Ely,[183] in the safe keeping of the
good Lord Abbat Thurstan, to be kept or even used for the good of
England, and to be restored to Peterborough with bot, and with other
treasure, at the proper season. But thou, oh Torauld of Fescamp, thou
hast no right to it, or control over it; and if thou hadst it, it is
not my father’s son that would barter with thee for the goods of the
church and the spoils of the altar! Torauld of Fescamp, and thou Piron
of Montpinchon, and thou Olivier Nonant, and thou Pierre of Pommereuil,
and the rest of ye, I tell ye one and all, and I swear it by the
blessed rood, that I will never liberate ye, or any of ye, until the
three thousand marks, as ransom, be paid into my hands, or into the
hands of the Lord Abbat of Ely! So, look well to it. Three thousand
marks, or a lifelong home and a grave in the safest and dreariest part
of the fens.”

One and all, they again protested, and even vowed that so large a sum
could never be raised for their liberation; and that they would not so
much as name the sum to their friends and families.

“Well,” said the Lord of Brunn, “then to-morrow we will clap ye all on
ship-board and send ye across the salt sea Wash for Ely and the Camp of
Refuge.”

And on the morrow, by times, all the Norman captives, gentle or simple,
knights or men-at-arms, were marched off to the Welland and put on
board ship and under hatches: nor ever did they get free from their
Saxon prison in the fens until twelve good months after their capture,
when they got the money, and paid down the three thousand marks,
together with some small pecunia for their meat and drink, and the
trouble they had given during their captivity. And long did Torauld
bemoan the day when he accepted the office of abbat of Peterborough,
and went to take vengeance on that house on account of Lord Hereward’s
knighthood. He came forth from the fens an altered and subdued man; and
although he tyrannically ruled a religious house for many years after
these his misadventures, he was never more known to tweak his monks by
the nose with his steel gloves on, or to beat them with the flat of his
sword, or to call out “Come hither, my men-at-arms.” In truth, although
he plucked up spirit enough to rob and revile monks, he never put on
armour or carried a sword again.

Thus had the good Lord of Brunn triumphed on the land which he
inherited from his father and recovered with his own sword; thus within
the good manor of Brunn had he foiled the stratagems of his enemies,
and beaten them and humbled them, and made them the captives of his
sword: but he could not long remain to enjoy his triumph there; his
sword and his counsel were wanted in other parts; and deeming that the
unwonted dryness of the season might perchance enable Ivo Taille-Bois
or some other Norman lord to make another attempt upon Brunn, he took
his ladie with him whither he went. A small but trusty garrison was
left in the old manor-house, together with sundry matrons and maids,
but Mildred went with her ladie, as did Elfric with his lord.

As they came to the Welland, on their way to Ely, there came unto Lord
Hereward some brave men from the world beyond the fens, to tell him
that a great body of Saxon serfs had gathered together at the edge of
Sherwood forest and on the banks of the Trent, and that all these men
were ready to join him and become his servants and soldiers. Hereward
gave the messengers the encouragement they seemed to merit, and sent
his sword-bearer back with them to see what manner of men the band was
made of, and to bring them across the fens if he should find them worth
their bread and meat.

Now the men that had collected were hardy and fit for war, and many of
them, being natives to the forests and trained to hunting, were keen
bowmen. The Lord of Brunn, who knew the worth of the English bow, much
wanted good bowmen; and thus Elfric would gladly have brought away all
these foresters with him. But when the marching time came, sundry of
these churls said that they were well where they were in Sherwood:—and
for that matter so they were, for the Normans could not easily get at
them, and they were lords of the forest and of all the game in it, and
they robbed all that came near to the forest. But all the churls were
not so churlish, nor so fond of living without law and order, nor so
careless as to what became of their countrymen; and many were the good
bowmen that said they would go to the Saxon camp. Some of these upland
churls, however, who had not led so free a life as the fenners, and had
not had such good Lords as the Abbat of Ely and the Lord of Brunn,
began to say to the men of the hills that were following Elfric, that
they thought they were engaging in an idle chase and a very useless
struggle, inasmuch as they would still be all serfs and bondmen whether
the Normans or the Saxons ruled the land. But Elfric, hearing this,
bade them all remember that it was one thing to obey a Lord that spoke
their own tongue, and another to obey a stranger Lord who spoke it not
and despised it; that the good Saxon Lords were ever merciful and kind,
not putting more labour on the serf than the serf could bear, and
feeding and entertaining him well when sickness or when old age allowed
him not to work at all; and that the good old Saxon laws and customs
did not leave the eyes, limbs, life, and conscience of the serfs in the
hands of their lords and masters, nor allow Christian bondmen to be
treated as though they were beasts of the field; in which fashion the
Normans were now treating them. Quoth a grey-beard in the crowd, “There
is some truth in what the young man saith. That was not a bad law which
said, ‘Let the churl keep the fasts of the church as well as the Lord,
and let the master that feeds his serfs on fast-days with meat, denying
them bread, be put in the pillory.’”

“Aye,” said another elder, smothing his beard, “but that was a still
better law which said, ‘Let not the serf be made to work on the
feast-days of the church, nor to do any manner of work on the Sabbath:
Let all have rest on the seventh day, which is the day of the Lord
God!’”

Here one who had been a mass-priest in the upland country, but who had
fled from the intolerable persecutions of the Normans and was now armed
against that people, spoke as one that had tasted books, and said,
“Many were our good old Saxon laws for keeping holy the Sabbath-day,
and making the seventh day a day of rest for all that live in the land,
whether rich or poor, master or slave. The fourth commandment, which
the Normans set at nought in as far as the poor English serf is
concerned in it, was a most binding law with all good Saxons, and was
enforced by many royal laws and civil enactments, and with the imposing
of penalties upon all such as broke the commandment. The laws and
ordinances of King Edward the Elder said—‘If any one engage in Sunday
marketing, let him forfeit the goods and pay a fine of thirty
shillings. If a freeman work, let him forfeit his freedom, or redeem it
by paying wite[184]; if a Lord oblige his churl to work, let him pay
wite.’ And, after this, King Athelstane said in his dooms ‘that there
should be no marketing and no labour on Sundays, and that if any one
did market on Sundays he should forfeit the goods and pay thirty
shillings.’ And, after this, King Ethelred said in his dooms, ‘Let
Sunday’s festival be rightly kept by _all_, as is becoming, and let
marketings and folkmotes be carefully abstained from on that holy day;
let huntings and worldly works be strictly abstained from on that day.’
And by the laws of King Edgar no man was to work from noontide of the
Saturday till the dawn of Monday; and soulscot[185] was to be paid for
every Christian man to the priest, in order that the priest might pray
for him and instruct him. And the canons[186] of Ælfric, inhibiting the
breach of the sanctity of the Lord’s day, say, ‘The mass-priests shall
on Sundays explain to the people the sense of the Gospels in English,
and explain to them in English the pater-noster and the creed, to the
end that all the people may know the faith and cultivate their
Christianity.’ And in this very canon the pious Ælfric saith, ‘Let the
priest and teacher beware of that which the prophet said; _Canes muti
non possunt latrare_, Dumb dogs cannot bark!’ But what are these Norman
teachers and priests from beyond the sea but dumb dogs to the Saxon
people, seeing they know no English and will not learn it?”

“Yes,” said the ancient who had first spoken, “until these Normans came
among us the bondman had one day in seven to himself, and on every
other festival of the church he was allowed to forget his bonds, and to
take rest and enjoyment, and to think of his soul; but now we be
treated as if we had no souls.”

“And,” said another of the serfs, “in former days the laws protected
the money and goods of a bondman, if so be he could obtain any, for the
Saxon law said that the master must not take from his slave that which
the slave had gained by his industry. But now the serf cannot so much
as call his life his property.”

“Nor can any other true Saxon call anything his own, unless he stand up
and fight for it, and prove strong enough to keep it,” said Elfric, who
was well pleased to see and hear that his discourse on the difference
between the old bondage and the present was not thrown away upon the
upland serfs.

Quoth the priest who had before spoken, “Our old Saxon laws were chary
of blood, and held in tender respect the life of all men, whether they
belonged to the nobility or were in a state of villainage. Few crimes
were punished with death or even with mutilation. The commandment that
man shall do no murder was not only read in churches, but was
recommended and enforced in the laws and dooms of many Saxon kings. ‘If
any one be slain,’ said the old law, ‘let him be paid for according to
his birth.’ If a thane slew a churl, he had to pay for it....”

“Aye,” said one of the serfs, “but the value of the life of a churl was
not more than the price of a few bullocks; whereas hides of land or the
worth of hundreds of bullocks was to be paid by him that slew a thane.”

“Tush!” quoth Elfric, “thou canst not expect that the life of a churl
can ever be priced so high as that of a noble, or that the same doom
shall await the man that kills a Lord and the man that kills a peasant!”

The priest and all the bystanders said that such an expectation would
be too unreasonable, and that such a thing could never come to pass in
this world: and so the discontented churl merely muttered that he
thought, since it was allowed the churl had an immortal soul, even as
the thane, that the life of a churl was worth more than a few bullocks;
and then said no more about it, bethinking himself that even that price
was better than no price at all, and that no Normans that he knew of
had ever yet been made to make bot for maiming or killing a Saxon serf.

Some few of these men returned into Sherwood forest, to live at large
there, but the major part of them tied on their buskins, fastened their
sheep-skin jackets, put their bows and quivers to their backs, and
marched off merrily with the sword-bearer to join Lord Hereward at Ely
or in the Camp. And after this, and at various times, many upland
churls, discontented with their lot, came from the northern side of the
Trent and from other parts of the country to join the Saxon army in the
fens. It must not be thought that the Lord of Brunn was unmindful of
the old laws, which ordained that no Lord or free man should harbour or
entertain the churl that had fled from his rightful owner; but Hereward
felt that no Norman could have the right of property over Saxon serfs;
and therefore he harboured and entertained such as came freely to him.
If the case had been otherwise, he would, like the just Lord that he
was, have put collars and chains upon the serfs and have sent them back
to their masters.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                     THE DANES AND THEIR KING’S SON.


Svend Estrithson sat upon the throne of Danemarck, and was a powerful
king and a great warrior, having fought many battles by sea against his
neighbour the King of Norway. When his brother Osbiorn Jarl abandoned
the Saxons and returned from England into Danemarck, Svend Estrithson
was exceedingly wroth at him, and his anger was the greater because the
Jarl had not only lost the treasure which William the Norman had given
him as the price of his treasons to the English people, but had lost
likewise nearly the whole of the Danish fleet; for a great storm arose
at sea and swallowed up most of the two hundred and forty returning
ships.[187] Osbiorn Jarl escaped drowning; but when he presented
himself before the face of his brother the king, Svend loaded him with
reproaches, deprived him of his lands and honours, and drove him into a
disgraceful banishment.[188] Even thus was bad faith punished, and
vengeance taken upon the Danes for that they had both plundered and
betrayed the Saxon people, who were fighting for their liberties
against the Normans.

Svend Estrithson, being of the line of the great King Canute,[189]
raised some claim to the throne of England, and had ever considered his
right better and more legal than that of William of Normandie. Before
the arrival at his court of the earnest invitation of the monks of Ely
and the great Saxon lords in the Camp of Refuge, he had resolved in his
own mind to try his fortune once more on our side the sea, hoping that
if he should do no more he should at least be enabled to make up for
the loss of his great fleet, a loss which pressed heavily upon his
heart, and destroyed his peace by day and his rest by night. He had
summoned his jarls and chiefs, the descendants of the sea-kings or
great pirates of old, and had taken counsel of the old sea-rovers and
warriors who had been in England with the great Canute, or who had
served under Canute’s sons, King Harold Harefoot and King Hardicanute.
Now these jarls and chiefs, together with many of their followers, were
well acquainted with all the eastern side of England from the Scottish
border to the end of Cornwall; and they knew every bay, harbour, and
creek on the coast, and all the deep inlets of the sea and the rivers
which gave access to the interior of the country, for they had warred
or plundered in them all, aforetime. Being called upon by King Svend to
give their advice, these chiefs and nobles all said that another
expedition ought to be attempted without loss of time; and it was
agreed at a great meeting of the Viborgting, which corresponds with the
Witangemot of old England, that another great fleet should be got
ready, and that the king or his eldest son should take the command of
it. Some doubts, however, occurred as to the present strength of the
Normans and the present condition of the English; and, although they
meant to betray them or conquer them themselves, the Danes proposed to
begin merely as allies of the English,[190] and felt little good could
be done unless the English on the eastern coast were unsubdued by the
Normans, and ready to receive the Danes with open arms. At this
juncture a ship arrived from Lynn with the envoy from the Camp of
Refuge on board. As soon as the Englishman had presented the letters
and the gold and silver he brought to Svend Estrithson, the king called
together his great council. The envoy from the Camp of Refuge was
allowed to speak at great length before the council, and the shipmen of
Lynn were more privately examined touching the present situation of
affairs in the fen country. All doubts were removed, and the fleet was
forthwith ordered to get ready for the voyage to England. Already many
thousands of long and yellow-haired warriors had been collected for the
enterprise, and now many thousands more flocked towards the fleet from
all parts of Jutland, Zealand, and Holstein, and from Stralsund and the
Isle of Rugen, and the other isles that stand near the entrance of the
Baltic Sea; for whenever an expedition to the rich and fertile country
of the Anglo-Saxons was on foot, the hearts of the Danes rejoiced in
the prospect of good booty, even as the hearts of the coast-dwelling
people rejoice when they hear that a rich wreck or a large fat whale
hath been stranded near to their doors. King Svend Estrithson, of a
certainty, would have gone himself[191] into England with the fleet,
but his royal shield fell to the ground and broke as he was lifting it
down from the wall, and a hare crossed his path as he was walking in
his garden, and the priest his chaplain sneezed three times while he
was saying mass before him, and he was greatly enamoured of the
Princess Gyda,[192] and in consequence of all these evil omens the king
resolved to stay at home, and to send his eldest son Knut into
England.[193] Taking with him the royal standard of the black raven,
and many jarls of high renown into his own ship, Knut began his voyage
forthwith, being followed by two hundred and fifty keels, large and
small. The royal ship was rich and splendid; it had thirty benches of
rowers; its prow was adorned with a dragon’s head, the eyes of which
were of precious stones and the tongue of red gold; and the sides and
the stern of the ship glowed with burnished gold; the whole body of the
ship glittered in the sun like some great and marvellous fish or some
swimming dragon; and, in sooth, the whole ship was dragon-shaped. The
masts and the cordage and the sails were surpassing rich and gay; the
masts were covered with ivory and pearl, the cords seemed to be covered
with white silk, and the sails were of many and bright colours. There
were cloths of gold spread all about, and the flag that waved at the
mainmast-head was all of silk and gold; and the windlass and the rudder
were bepainted with blue and gold. And on board this right royal ship
every warrior wore bright steel-chain armour, and carried a shield and
battle-axe inlaid with gold and jewels, and each of value enough to
purchase a hide of land. A few other ships there were in this great
fleet only a little less splendid than that of Knut. The rest were of a
coarser make, and with no adornments about them except the figure-head
at the prow and the banner at the mast-head; and they varied in size
and burthen from the great ship which could carry two hundred fighting
men, down to the little bark which carried but ten. To speak the truth,
many of the fleet were little better than fishing barks. The summer
wind blew fresh and fair for England, the waves seethed before their
prows, and on the morning of that glad evening at Brunn when Lord
Hereward captured Torauld of Fescamp and put Ivo Taille-Bois to flight
and shame, nearly the whole of the great fleet came to anchor off the
Wash, and not far from the chapel of our Ladie. Knut, the king’s son,
being uncertain and suspicious, like one that had treacherous plans in
his own mind, despatched one of his smallest and poorest keels with a
crafty and keen-sighted chief up the Wash and up the Ouse, to confer
with Abbat Thurstan and the Saxon chiefs at Ely, to spy into the
condition of the Camp of Refuge, and to invite the Lord Abbat and some
of the great chiefs to come down to Lynn, in order to hold there a
solemn conference with his jarls and chiefs. The messenger-bark
proceeded on her voyage prosperously, and landed the cunning Dane at
Ely. Good Abbat Thurstan wondered and grieved that the prince had not
come himself; yet he bade his envoy welcome, and feasted him in his
hall. But still more did Thurstan wonder and grieve when he was told
that Knut meant not to come to Ely, but was calling for a congress at
Lynn.

“There may be danger,” said the Lord Abbat to the cunning old envoy,
“if I quit this house, and the great thanes leave the Camp of Refuge,
though only for a short season; but there can be no peril in thy
prince’s coming hither, and assuredly it is only here that we can
entertain him as the son of a great king ought to be entertained.”

The old Dane said that the prince his master had schemes of operation
which would not allow him to send his ships up the Ouse for this
present; that he would come hereafter, when good progress should have
been made in the war against the Normans; and that in the meanwhile it
were best for my Lord Abbat, and some other of the prelates, and some
of the great lay lords, to go down to Lynn and hold a conference, and
make a combined plan of operations with the prince and the jarls.

Much did the Saxon lords wish to make out what was the nature of the
plan the prince had already adopted; but the astutious old envoy would
tell them nothing, and protested that he knew nothing about it. The
Saxons plied him hard with wine; but the more he drank, the more close
the old Dane became. And although he would tell nothing himself, he
wanted to know everything from the English: as, what was the strength
of their army in the Camp of Refuge—what their means of
subsistence—what the names of all their chiefs—what their
correspondence and alliance with other Saxon chiefs in other parts of
England—what the strength of the Normans in various parts of England,
and which the provinces and the chiefs that had entirely submitted to
them, with many other particulars. It was too confiding, and indeed
very unwise so to do; but the Saxons, albeit often betrayed before now,
were not much given to suspicion, and so they satisfied him according
to the best of their knowledge on all these points, and conducted him
into their camp that he might see with his own eyes how matters stood
there, and afforded him all possible opportunities of judging for
himself as to the means they had in hand, and the chances they had of
successfully terminating a struggle which had already lasted for years.
The crafty old man thought the nakedness of the land much greater than
it really was, and he afterwards made a report conformably to Knut his
master and prince. Yet, on the morrow morning, when he was about to
take his departure from the ever hospitable house of Ely, he took the
Lord Abbat aside, and with bland looks and most gentle voice asked him
whether he had not in the abbey some small matter to send as a present
and welcoming gift to the royal Dane. Now good Thurstan, who was never
of those that had expected a vast and unmingled good from the coming of
the Danes, told him how he had broken open the shrine-boxes and
stripped the shrines, and contaminated the house with dealing with
usurers, in order to get what had been sent into Danemarck as a present
for the king.

“But,” said the greedy Dane, “have there been no pilgrims to thy shrine
since then?”

“Nay,” said the Lord Abbat, “some few there have been that have left
their little offerings; and, doubtless, many more will come ere many
days be past, for in this blessed month occur the festivals of our
saints, to wit, that of Saint Sexburga, queen and second abbess of this
house, and that of her kinswoman and successor, Saint Withburga, virgin
and abbess. On such seasons the donations of the faithful were wont to
be most liberal; but alas! few are the Saxons now that have anything
left to give to Saxon saints! And the matter we have in our coffers at
this present is too small for a gift to a prince, and is, moreover,
much needed by this impoverished brotherhood.”

To this the cunning, clutching old Dane said that a small matter was
better than no money at all; that it had been the custom in all times
to propitiate kings and princes with free gifts; that the Lord Abbat
had better send such gold and silver as he had; and that the great Knut
might come up to Ely after the festival of the two saints, when the
shrine-boxes would be fuller, and so give the monks of Ely occasion to
make a more suitable offering.

At these words Lord Thurstan grew red in the face, and stared at the
Dane with a half incredulous look; and then he said, “Wouldst thou skin
us alive? Wouldst take the last silver penny? Wouldst see the shrines
of four among the greatest of our saints left in dirt and darkness?
Dane, can it be that thou art herein doing the bidding of a royal and a
Christian prince? Hast thou thy master’s orders to ask that which thou
art asking?”

Not a whit discountenanced, the old Dane said that men who lived with
princes learned to know their wishes, and hastened to execute them,
without waiting for express commands; and that he must repeat that he
thought the best thing the Abbat of Ely could do would be to send
Prince Knut all the money he had in the house.

“By the rood,” quoth Thurstan, still more angered, “these Danes be as
rapacious as the Normans! By Saint Sexburga and Saint Witburga, and by
every other good saint in the calendarium, I will not consent to this!
I will not rob the shrines to get a mere beggar’s alms. I cannot do the
thing thou askest of mine own authority. Such matters must be discussed
in full chapter, and settled by the votes of the officials and
cloister-monks of the house. But I will not do even so much as to name
the matter!”

“Then,” said the phlegmatic old Dane, “I will speak to the prior, or to
the chamberlain, or to some other official; and as time presses, my
Lord Abbat, thou wilt hold me excused if I go and do it at once!”

And thus saying, he left good Thurstan, and went to some of the monks
who had been standing near enough to overhear every word that had been
said since the Lord Abbat waxed warm. The envious prior was there, and
being ever ready to give pain to his superior, he proposed that the
chapter should be summoned on the instant. This being agreed to by the
major part, the monks withdrew towards the chapter-house, the cunning
and cool old Dane saying to some of them as they went thither, that he
much feared that if any distaste or disappointment were given to Knut,
he would take his fleet back to Danemarck and do nothing for the
English. Short, therefore, was the chapter, and decisive the vote,
notwithstanding the opposition of Thurstan and a few others: the
shrine-boxes were again emptied, and the truly beggar-like amount of
silver and gold was put into a silken purse to be carried to Lynn. So
incensed was the bounteous Lord Abbat, who ever had a large heart and a
scorn for mean and covetous things, that he almost vowed not to go back
with the old Dane to salute his royal master, and be present at the
delivery of such a gift; but he bethought him that if he went not the
prior must go, and that if the prior went some evil might come of it.
And so the right noble Abbat of Ely went down to Lynn, together with
the exiled abbats of other houses and sundry lords from the Camp of
Refuge, much wishing that the Lord of Brunn were with him to aid him in
the conference.

As Thurstan landed at Lynn, where he expected to see the royal ship and
a good part of its attendant fleet, he was mortified to find that there
were no ships there except a few Lynn barques; and, upon going into the
town, he was yet more disappointed and distressed by hearing, from some
good Saxons who had come in from the hamlets on the coast, that the
Danish fleet had sailed away to the northward, leaving only a few of
the smaller barks at the anchorage near the Wash. Sharply did he
question the old Dane as to these movements. The Dane said that it was
possible the prince had run a little along the north coast to pick up
news, and that it was quite certain he would soon be back. More than
this he would not say, except that patience was a virtue. Some of our
Saxons went almost mad with impatience; but on the next day they
received intelligence that the fleet had returned to the anchorage off
the chapel of our Ladie, and on the day next after that, Knut, with six
of his largest ships, sailed up the Wash. In his run to the northward,
if he had not picked up much news, he had picked up every English ship
or barque that he found afloat, and he had plundered every defenceless
village or township that lay near to that coast. He now cast his anchor
a long way before he came to Lynn, and instead of proceeding to that
good town to meet the English prelates and nobles, he sent up a
messenger to summon them on board his own ship. At this the Abbat of
Ely was much vexed and startled; and he said to himself, “Who shall
tell me that this is not a plot, and that the Danes will not seize us
and carry us off, or even deliver us up to the Normans?” but nearly all
those who had accompanied him from Ely despaired of the salvation of
England without Danish assistance, and were eager to go on ship-board
and meet the prince in the way it pleased him to prescribe, and
Thurstan grew ashamed of his fears and suspicions. Other good men,
however, had their suspicions as well as the Lord Abbat; and when he
embarked in the small Danish craft which had been left waiting for the
envoy at Lynn, many trusty Saxons of the township and vicinage would
absolutely go with him, and every bark or boat that could swim was
crowded by the bold Lynn mariners, and rowed down to the Wash.

Knut, the son of the king of Danemarck, standing on his proud gilded
ship, received the English prelates and chiefs with great stateliness,
yet not without courtesy; and when the silken purse and the scrapings
of the shrine-treasures had been presented to him (Thurstan blushing
the while), he sat down with his jarls on one side of a long table, and
the Englishmen sat down on the opposite side; and then the conference
began. Unhapily for the English landsmen a summer storm began to blow
at the same time, causing the royal ship to roll, and thus making them
feel the terrible sickness of the sea. At this Thurstan almost wished
that he had let the prior come, instead of coming himself. Knut, the
prince, spoke first in a very few words, and then his jarls further
propounded and explained his plan of the war. The Danes indeed had
nearly all the talking to themselves, for not many of them understood
what the English said, or had patience to hear it interpreted; the
qualms and sickness of the English almost took away their power of
speech, and, moreover, they very soon discovered that nothing they
could say had any effect in altering the opinions and decisions of the
predetermined Danes. It was grievous, they said that the English, who
had been so rich, should now have so little money to share with their
friends and deliverers! They hoped that the good prelates and lords
would be able to hold out in the isle of Ely and throughout the fen
country; and as they had held out so long, no doubt they could hold out
longer. In the meanwhile they, their good allies the Danes, would
divide their fleet, and scour all the coast, and sail up all the great
rivers, for this would distract the attention of the Normans, would
alarm them at one and the same time in many different and distant
places, and infallibly compel them to recall their forces from
Cam-bridge and Stamford, and to give up all premeditated attacks on the
fen country.

“Aye,” said a sea-rover, whose yellow hair had grown as white as snow
with excess of age, and whose sunken eye glistened at the memory of
past adventures of that sort, “Aye, Saxons! we will sweep all this
eastern coast from north to south and from south to north, as with a
besom! We will sail or row our barks up every river that flows into the
sea on this side of your island, and that hath keels on its waters or
towns on its banks. Tweed, Tyne, and Humber, Trent, Orwell, Stour, and
Thamesis, with all the rivers that run between them or into them, shall
hear our war-cry as of yore!”

“But, alas!” said one of the Saxon lords, “who will suffer in this kind
of war but the Saxons? The Normans have very few ships. The ships on
the coast and on the rivers, and the townships and hamlets, are all
English still, and cannot be seized or destroyed without ruin to us and
the cause which the king of Danemarck hath engaged to support.”

The old sea-rover was silent, and the other Danes pretended not to
understand what the Saxon lord said. Abbat Thurstan told the prince
that of a surety the Saxons in the Camp of Refuge could continue to
defend themselves; but that they could do still better if the Danes
would spare them some arms and other warlike harness, and remain for a
while in the Wash and in the rivers which empty themselves into it, in
order to co-operate with the Saxons. Knut, who well knew that there was
nothing to be picked up in those waters, shook his head, and said that
his own plan was the best, and could not be altered; and that, touching
the matter of arms and harness, he had none to spare, but that he would
send over to the Netherlanders’ country and buy, _if_ the Saxons would
give him the money. Here the abbat and the Saxon lords were silent. But
when Knut spoke of the great losses which the Danes had suffered in the
foundering of their return fleet the year before,[194] Thurstan
reddened and said, “The Jarl Osbiorn acted a traitorous part, and hath
been treated as a traitor by his brother and king. That loss was the
direct judgment of Heaven! The fleet was loaded with the spoils of
England and with the money taken from the Norman for betraying the
English! Prince, and jarls all! if ye be come to do as Osbiorn did last
year, I say look to your fleet, and look to the health of your own
souls!”

Hereupon Knut and his great chiefs began to cross themselves, and to
make many promises and protestations; and then the prince called for
wine and pledged the Lord Abbat of Ely and the other English lords, lay
and ecclesiastic, severally: and when they had all drunk wine, he broke
up the conference and dismissed them in a very unhappy state both of
mind and of stomach, for the storm had increased, and the wine was sour
and bad. The royal Dane hauled in his anchors and set sail to get out
of the Wash and from among the dangerous sandbanks. As soon as the
Saxon lords got ashore at Lynn, and free from their exceeding great
sickness, Thurstan said that he greatly feared a woeful error had been
committed in inviting the Danes back again, and that a short time would
show that the Lord of Brunn had been quite right in recommending the
Saxons to trust to their own arms and efforts for their independence;
but those lords who had voted for the invitation said that it was clear
the Danes would have come back whether they had been invited or not,
and that it was equally clear that England could not be saved without
the aid of some foreign nation. These lords also thought that a crowned
king like Svend Estrithson would not break his royal word, and that the
prince his son would not act like Osbiorn, albeit he might, in the
ancient manner of the Danes, be too eager to scour the seas and rivers
and capture whatever he might find, whether it belonged to friend or
foe, to Saxon or to Norman. Yet, truth to say, these lords were far
from feeling assured, and save one or two, that were afterwards proved
to be false traitors in their hearts, they all returned to Ely sadder
men than they were when they left it to go to meet Knut.

That which the white-headed sea-rover had said, and a great deal more
than he uttered, speedily came to pass: north and south the English
coast was plundered; and, ascending the many rivers in their lighter
vessels and in their boats, the Danes went far into the interior of the
country, pillaging, burning, and destroying, even as their forefathers
had done in the heathenish times. Up the broad Humber they went until
they got into the Yorkshire Ouse, and they would have gone on to the
city of York, but that it was strongly garrisoned by Normans, and the
whole country a desert—a desert which Osbiorn and his evil company had
made in the preceding year. On the river Yare they went as high as the
good city of Norwich, but they ventured not to attack the Normans in
that place.[195] The Waveney, too, and the Ald they visited, nor left
the poor Saxons there so much as a fishing-boat. Up the river Deeben as
far as the wood bridge, where a pleasant town hath since risen; and
between the pleasant, green-wooded banks of the Orwell, they sailed
many a league. After ravaging the banks of the Stour, Knut collected
all his ships together and then spread his sails on the smooth Medway
and the broad Thamesis, going up the Thamesis almost to London; and
then mooring his ships, and making a great show as though he intended
to land an army and lay siege to the Tower of London, which the Normans
were then busily enlarging and strengthening.

Not all the doings of the Danes, and the robberies and cruelties they
committed upon poor defenceless Saxons, could be known in the Camp of
Refuge; yet enough was known by the report of the country people to
grieve every English heart in the camp, and to confirm the worst
suspicions which Abbat Thurstan had conceived. On the other hand, it
was made apparent that the Normans were greatly distracted by this new
invasion, and that, while their vicomtes and knights and men-at-arms
were marching in almost every other direction, none of them came near
to the last asylum of Saxon liberty. In truth, the posts which had
previously been drawn round the fen country were so far weakened that
the Lord Hereward, who had again taken a direct and entire command in
the Camp of Refuge, made several good sallies from the fens and brought
back not a few Norman prisoners, together with good store of provision.

Matters were in this good train in the camp when intelligence was
brought that Knut, with the whole of his mighty fleet, had returned to
the Wash. The Danish faction, or all those Saxon lords who counted more
upon Danish assistance than upon their own valour and the valour of
their countrymen, were greatly rejoiced at these tidings, and would not
allow any man to doubt that Knut, having made good seizings and spoils,
was now come to co-operate with the English warriors and their great
captain the Lord of Brunn; and these unwise lords, being partly guided
or misguided by traitors, outvoted the Lord Abbat, and sent down a
deputation to Lynn to salute and welcome the royal Dane, and to invite
him and escort him to Ely. And this time Knut was nothing loth to come:
and he came up the river with a part of his fleet of ships and with
many of his jarls and most famed warriors. Crowned kings had visited
the great house of Ely before now, and kings of the Danish as well as
of the Saxon line, but to none of them had there been given a more
splendid feast than was now given to Knut, who as yet was but a jarl
and a king’s son. The Saxon dames of high name and beauty came in from
the Camp of Refuge, or from houses in the township of Ely, or in
circumjacent hamlets, to welcome the princely stranger and adorn the
festival; and fairest among these fair was Alftrude, the young wife of
the Lord of Brunn. The Lord Hereward himself was there, but much less
cheerful and festive than was his wont; for on his last sally from the
fens he had heard more than he knew before of the evil doings of the
Dane; and, moreover, he had ever suspected their good faith.

When the feasting was over, the cunning old Dane, that had come up to
Ely before as envoy from the prince, began to relate what great
mischief Knut had done to Duke William, and what great service he had
rendered to the House of Ely and the Camp of Refuge, and the whole fen
country, by the diversion he had made with his ships; and before any of
the Saxon lords could reply or make any observation upon these his
words, the astute Dane asked whether the festivals of Saint Sexburga
and Saint Withburga had been well attended by pilgrims, and whether the
shrine-boxes had had a good replenishing? The chamberlain, who ought
not to have spoken before his superior the Lord Abbat, said that the
festivals had been thronged, and that, considering the troublesome
times, the donations of the pilgrims had been liberal.

“That is well,” said the old fox, “for our ships have had much wear and
tear, and stand in need of repairs; and the prince wants some gold and
silver to pay his seamen and his fighting men, who are growing weary
and dissatisfied for want of pay.”

Here the Lord Abbat looked rather grim, and said, “Of a truth I thought
that thy people had made great booty! By Saint Etheldreda, the founder
of this house—the house was never so poor as it now is, or had such
urgent need of money as it now hath! By my soul it is but a small
matter that is in our shrine-boxes, and all of it, and more than all,
is due unto the Jews!”

“It is sinful and heathenish to pay unto Jews the gold and silver which
Christian pilgrims have deposited on the shrines of their saints,” said
one of the Danish jarls.

And hereat the Lord Abbat Thurstan blushed and held down his head, much
grieving that, though against his vote and will, the house had been
driven to traffic with Israelites and money-changers; yet still
remembering that this evil thing had been begun in order to get money
to send to the insatiate Danes. All this while Prince Knut kept his
state, and said not a word. But the cunning old man went on to say,
that hitherto the profits of the expedition had not been half enough to
pay King Svend Estrithson the price of half the ships he had lost last
year; and that, although the amount of gold and silver in the
shrine-boxes might be but small, there was a rumour that there was
other good treasure in the house.[196]

Here it was that the Lord of Brunn grew red, for he was the first to
understand that the greedy Dane meant to speak of the chalices and
pateras, the crown of gold, the gold and silver tables, and the other
things of great price that he had brought away with him from
Peterborough in order that they might be saved from Torauld of Fescamp.
Again speaking, when he ought not to have spoken—before Abbat Thurstan
could speak or collect his thoughts—the chamberlain said, “Verily, oh
Dane! I have under my charge some strong boxes which the Lord of Brunn
sent hither from Peterborough; and, albeit, I know not with precision
what these strong boxes contain...”

Here Abbat Thurstan stopped the talkative chamberlain and said, “Let
the strong boxes contain what they will, the contents are none of ours!
They be here as a sacred deposit, to be returned to the _good_ monks of
Peterborough when they can get back to their house and their church,
and live without dread of Saxon traitors and Norman plunderers!”

But many of the Danes, believing the Peterborough treasure to be far
greater than it was, said that it would be no such sin to employ it for
secular purposes, or to give it for the support of friends and allies
who had quitted their homes and their countries, and had crossed the
stormy ocean to aid the English; for that, when the Danes and the
English between them should have driven the Normans out of the land,
there would be no lack of gold and silver wherewith to replace the
sacred vessels, and to give back to Peterborough Abbey far more than
had been taken from it. Some of them declared, and severally promised
and swore by their own saints, that if Knut, their leader, and the son
of their king, was but gratified in this particular, he would land all
his best warriors and join Hereward the Saxon, and so go in search of
Duke William and bring the Normans to battle: and if Knut did not swear
by his saints, or say much by word of mouth, he nodded his head and
seemed to consent—the christened infidel, and unprince-like prince
that he was.

It may be judged whether Lord Hereward was not eager for such an
increase of strength as might enable him to carry the war into the
heart of England or under the walls of the city of London! It may be
judged whether he did not burn for the opportunity of fighting a great
and decisive battle: but Hereward had a reverence for the property of
the church, and a great misgiving of the Danes; and he whispered to his
best friend, the Lord Abbat, “If we put this guilt upon our souls, and
give these insatiate Danes all that they ask, they will do not for us
that which they promise, but will sail away in their ships with the
plunder they have made as soon as the storms of winter approach.”

This too was the doubt if not the entire belief of Thurstan. But the
chamberlain and the prior called out aloud for a chapter; and those who
were of a party with the prior and chamberlain laboured might and main
to convince the whole brotherhood that the Danes ought to be gratified,
and that they could be gratified without sin. Nay, some of them
whispered to the more timid part of the community, that if the
Peterborough treasure, as well as the shrine-money, were not quietly
given to Knut, he would take it by force, as the house and the avenues
to it were filled with his armed men, and as his barks were lying close
under the abbey walls. The call for a chapter now became so loud and
general that the Lord Abbat could not resist it; and so, leaving his
guests in the hall, Thurstan went to the chapter-house, and, being
followed by all who were competent to vote, the doors were closed, and
the brotherhood deliberated. That deliberation was long, and would have
been longer but for the impatience of the Danes, who vociferated in the
hall, and even went the length of running to the door of the
chapter-house and striking upon it, with loud and most unmannerly
shoutings. At last it was resolved by the majority, and sorely against
the will of the Lord Abbat, that the Danes should have the
shrine-money, with other Ely treasure, and all the Peterborough
treasure,[197] with the exception of the relics, for which it was
thought they would care but little, inasmuch as they were not relics of
Danish saints.

Thurstan was so grieved at this resolution that he would not report it
in the hall; but the prior gladly charged himself with the office, and
then he and the chamberlain and the sacrist conveyed the cunning old
Dane, and the prince, his master, into the treasury of the house, and
there counted and delivered over to them all the gold and silver, and
all the gilded crosses and silver vessels, and all the silks and
hangings, with everything else which had been brought from
Peterborough, except the relics. But even these last were taken out of
the reliquaries which held them, as the said reliquaries were made of
gold and of silver, or of crystal and amber curiously wrought, and so
Knut would carry them away with him.

Let Peterborough weep for its own, and Ely weep for that which was its
own![198] King Canute, who had so loved to keep the festival of the
Purification in great solemnity at Ely Abbey, had once brought his wife
unto the abbey, and Emma, the queen, had given many rich gifts to the
church. A piece of purple cloth, wrought with gold and set with jewels,
such as there was none like it in the kingdom, she offered to St.
Etheldreda; and to the other saints there, she offered to each of them
a covering of silk, embroidered and set with jewels, but of less value
than the former. Also did Emma, the queen of King Canute, give, as a
covering for the high altar, a large pall of a green colour, adorned
with plates of gold, to be used on the grand festivals; and to be
placed over this she gave a great piece of fine linen of a deep red
colour; and this linen covered the whole of the altar, and reached from
the corners quite down to the ground, and it had a gold fringe more
than a foot in breadth, and making a rich and glorious show. Prince
Knut knew of these precious gifts of Queen Emma, for the fame of them
had gone into foreign lands, and therefore his cunning old man asked
for them and got them, to the great displeasure of the saints.

As the Danes were carrying all this treasure down to their ships, the
cunning old man renewed his assurances that the prince, being thus
gratified, would soon do great things for the Saxon cause. Hereward
asked the old man in his plain direct way, _when_ Knut would land his
warriors? The cunning man replied, that it was not for him to fix the
day and hour, but that his lordship would soon hear news of the fleet.
The Lord of Brunn then turned aside and said to the Lord Abbat—“By
Saint Ovin and his cross, I believe the first news will be that the
fleet has started back to Danemarck! Let us yet stop this treasure and
send them away empty-handed, at least from Ely! I care nought for their
serried ranks, and ponderous battle-axes. We have a good force, my Lord
Abbat, in the township, and, were that not more than enough, a few
blasts of the Saxon horn would bring us warriors from the Camp!”

“My son,” said Thurstan, “I fear their battle-axes no more than thou
dost; but I cannot dare act in violation of the decisions of the
chapter. Alas! there are jealousies and animosities enough already. As
sure as the sun shines in the heavens, that dark browed, envious prior
is in a plot against me! Could he find the opportunity, he would
deprive me of my authority by a vote of the house in chapter. I dare
not resist the will of the majority: the gold and the treasure must
even go, since traitors and fools, but more fools than traitors, have
so willed it.”

“Then,” quoth the Lord of Brunn, “Let us only hope and pray that this
Knut may have more good faith and honour than we give him credit for.”

“I will speak to him again, ere he depart,” said the Abbat.

And Thurstan spoke earnestly to Knut, and Knut nodded his head, and
uttered many Ahs! and Ohs! but said nothing farther. It was thought by
some that this taciturnity did not proceed from choice but from
necessity, as the son of the Danish King had swallowed a prodigious
quantity of wine, and could hardly stand on his legs without support.
And in the drinking of wine and strong drinks, if other nations
marvelled at the Saxons, the Saxons themselves marvelled at the Danes.
So great was the quantity consumed on this day that the wine-cellars at
Ely, which had not been replenished since Lord Hereward’s first return
from foreign parts, were left almost dry. And thus, having drunk nearly
all the wine and taken off all the treasure of the house, the Danes and
their prince got back to their ships. Knut stood up on the deck of the
royal galley, just under the royal standard of Danemarck, and made some
gestures, as though he would make a speech. Such of the monks of Ely,
and such of the Saxon lay lords as had given him their attendance to
the water-side, stood a-tip-toe on the river-bank, and strained their
eyes to see, and opened wide their ears to hear; but nothing came from
Knut but an Ah! and an Oh! and a loud hickup; and the galley being
unmoored and the rowers on their banks, Knut waved his hand, and the
vessel glided down the river towards Lynn.

That very night the town of Lynn, which had received the Danish fleet
in all friendship and with much hospitality, was plundered and set fire
to; and before the next night the whole fleet had quitted the Wash and
the English coast, and was in full sail for Danemarck, loaded with the
plunder of England and with the money which had been again paid by the
Normans as the price of Danish treachery.

Even while he was lying in the river Thamesis[199] with his great
fleet, and was seeming to threaten the Tower of London, Knut received
on board envoys and rich presents from Duke William, and was easily
made to sign a treaty of amity and alliance with the Normans, even as
his uncle Osbiorn had done the year before. And did the traitorous
Danes enjoy the spoil they had gotten? Not so. When they got into the
middle of the sea there arose a violent storm and dispersed the ships
wherein were lodged the spoils made at Ely[200] and at other places,
and some of these ships went to Norway, some to Ireland, and some to
the bottom of the sea; and all of the spoils of Ely and Peterborough
that reached Danemarck consisted of a table and a few reliquaries and
crucifixes; and these things, being deposited in the church of a town
belonging to King Svend, were consumed by fire, for the careless and
drunken shipmen set fire to the town and church by night,[201] and so
caused the loss of much more treasure than that which the shipmen had
brought with them from England. The amount of the total treasure paid
to Knut by Duke William was never known with any certainty in England,
out of the very vitals of which it was torn; but it is known in another
place, where all these acts of treachery are recorded, and heavily will
it press upon the soul of Knut, and upon the selfish soul of his
father, Svend Estrithson, who ratified the foul bargain he had made.
And, even in this world, hath not the avenging hand of Heaven smitten
them twain? Hath not the excommunication of the holy church fallen
twice upon Svend? Hath not unnatural warfare raged long between the
sons of Svend, and hath not Knut been murdered in his prime—aye,
murdered, in a church, to which he fled for sanctuary? He had offended
the saints by his broken faith, and by plundering the shrines in
England; and therefore no shrine or altar could save him from the
treachery and malice of his own subjects.

All the evils done to England by Knut and his Danes are not yet told,
but they will plainly appear hereafter.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                            THE NORMAN WITCH.


So the Danes and their ships were gone with all that they could carry
with them; and the Saxons of Ely and in the Camp of Refuge, after being
robbed as well as betrayed, were left to their own devices. Much was
Duke William heartened by the departure of Knut, and the treaty he had
made with him; and, seeing no enemy in any other part of England, he
gave his whole mind to the war in the Fen-country. More knights and
adventurers had come over from France and from sundry other countries
to aid the Conqueror in his enterprises, and to seek provision and
fortune in unhappy England. Choosing some of the best of these new
comers, and joining them to troops that had been tried in the hard
warfare of the Fen-country, the Son of Robert the Devil by the harlot
of Falaise sent strong garrisons to Grantham and Stamford, and
Peterborough, and Cam-Bridge; and, carrying with him his chancellor and
nearly the whole of his court, he quitted London and went himself to
Cam-Bridge to direct the war in person. As he and his mighty great host
were marching through the country towards the river Cam, and as the
poor Saxon people counted the number of the lances, they said,
“_Miserere Domine!_ The conquest of our country is complete, and not
even Hereward the Brave will be able longer to defend the Camp of
Refuge!”

When Duke William arrived in the camp at Cam-Bridge, and examined the
Fen-country which lay before him, he severely censured the folly and
rashness of Eustache of Ambleville; and also chiding the impatient and
self-confident knights that were now with him and eager to fall on, he
swore his terrible oath, by the splendour of God’s face, that he would
not allow of any fighting until the ancient causeway[202] should be
repaired and fortified with towers, and another and a broader causeway
carried across the marshes into the very heart of the fens, and
opposite to the point whereon the Saxons had constructed the main
defence of their Camp of Refuge. Timber and stones and baked bricks
were brought from all parts of the country, and every Saxon serf that
could be caught was impressed, and was forced to labour almost unto
death upon works intended for the destruction of his countrymen.
Skilful artizans and men experienced in the making of roads and the
building of bridges were brought to Cam-Bridge from the city of London,
from the city of Caen in Normandie, and from other places beyond the
seas; and the task which William had in hand was made the easier by the
long-continued, unwonted dryness of the season. But the Lord of Brunn,
although he prayed heartily for rain, did in no wise lose heart; and in
proportion as his difficulties increased, his wit and invention
increased also. The working parties on the roads were constantly
covered and protected by great bodies of troops put under the command
of vigilant officers; but this did not prevent Hereward from stealing
through the tall, concealing rushes of the fens, and the forests of
willows and alders, and falling upon the workmen and destroying their
works. On several occasions he cut the Norman guard to pieces before
they could form in order of battle; and several times he destroyed in a
single night the labour of many days, levelling the Norman towers with
the ground, breaking up their bridges, and carrying off their timber
and their tools and other good spoil. It always happened that when his
enemies were surest he would not come, he came; and when they expected
him at one given point, he was sure to make an attack upon another and
distant point. At times his ambuscades, surprises, and onslaughts were
so numerous and rapid that he seemed to have the faculty of being in
many places at one and the same time. Many a Norman knight was
surprised at his post, or even carried off from the midst of a camp,
and dragged through the rushes and forests at the dead of night, an
astounded and helpless captive. Many a time a great body of Norman
troops would take to flight and leave all their baggage behind them,
upon merely hearing the shout of “Hereward for England!” or those other
shouts, “The Lord of Brunn is coming! Fly, ye Norman thieves! Out!
out!” Such were Lord Hereward’s successes, and such the Norman awe of
his unforeseen stratagems and unaccountable surprises, that the Normans
entirely believed Hereward to be in league with the devil, and to be
aided by witches and necromancers and fiends worse than the blubber
devils of Crowland. Now it was true that, for many of his stratagems
and devices, and for many of the sleights and tricks with which he
appalled the Normans, Hereward was indebted to the science and travail
of that thin, dark man of Salerno and Norman-hater, Girolamo; and, by
means of deserters from the camp, and by means of ransomed Normans that
had been allowed to quit the camp, the Salernitan, if he had not been
made well known to the Normans, had been much talked about, and had
become the object of so much dread that no knight or man-at-arms ever
named his name without crossing himself. Nor were the Normans long
before they agreed, one and all, that the dark and silent Salernitan
was Hereward’s chief magician, the devil-dealing necromancer to whom he
stood indebted for all his successes. Loudly did they raise their
voices against this supposed wickedness; and yet, when they found that
their misfortunes and losses went on increasing, they came to the
resolution to meet what was no witchcraft at all with real witchcraft,
and they told Duke William in Cam-Bridge Castle that he must send over
into Normandie for the most famed witch of that land, where there was
no lack either of witches or of warlocks; and the son of Robert the
Devil, whose father, as his name imports, had been liege man to
Lucifer, sent over to Normandie accordingly to seek for the most
dreaded of Norman witches. Now, whether it was this wickedness that did
it, or whether it was that the moist air of the fens and the autumnal
season did not suit Duke William, certain at least it is that he fell
sick of a fever and ague, and thereupon took a hurried departure from
Cam-Bridge and travelled towards London, having first sent to call from
Stamford town Ivo Taille-Bois to take the command of the great army.
Now, when Ivo came to Cam-Bridge, and when Duke William was away in
London, matters went far worse with the Normans than before, for the
Viscomte was not a great captain, as the Duke assuredly was. Moreover,
many of the troops took the ague, and others were so unmanned by their
fears that they could never be made to stand their ground; and, in
fine, all vowed that they would not venture among the woods and
bulrushes, nor attempt any feat of arms whatever until the great witch
should arrive from Normandy to countervail the black arts of the
Salernitan and the other wizards and witches they falsely believed to
be employed by the pious Lord of Brunn.

At last a terrible Norman witch[203] arrived at Cam-Bridge, and she was
received in the entrenched camp and in the castle with transports of
exceeding great joy. Loathsome and wicked at the same time were it to
describe the person and features, the attire and demeanour, the spells
and incantations of this frightful and detestable portentum. Her years
far exceeded the ordinary length of human life, and they had all been
spent in sin and in the practise of infernal arts: in sin and actual
devilry had she been conceived and born, for her mortal father was none
other than that arch-heresiarch and enemy to the saints, Leutarde of
Vertus, in the bishopric of Chalons, who went about with a
sledge-hammer breaking the images of God’s saints, and preaching that
God’s prophets had not always prophesied the truth, and that God-living
servants and ministers of the altar had no right to their tithes! Since
the day when her sire, pursued by his bishop, cast himself head
foremost into a deep well and was drowned (for the devils, in their
compact with him, had only agreed that he should never be burned), this
foul strega, his only daughter, had wandered over the face of the wide
earth doing mischief, and dwelling most in those forsaken, accursed
parts of the earth where witchcraft does most flourish. It was said
that she had been as far north as that dread isle which is covered with
snow, and which yet is for ever vomiting smoke and flames; even to that
northern isle[204] which pious men believe to be one of the entrances
into hell, and which has been notoriously inhabited at all times by
devils and devil-worshippers; that she had lived among the Laps, who
call up demons by beat of drum; and that she had dwelt in the
Orcades,[205] where the devil’s dam and her handmaidens use to raise
great storms, and to sell wind foul or fair. Of a surety was there no
witch of all that congregated round the witch-tree of Beneventum more
known than this! It was known, too, how she came by that broken leg
which made her limp in her gait. Once in flying through the air to the
hellish sabbat at Beneventum she came too near to the cross of Saint
Peter’s Church at Rome, and so fell to the earth.

Ivo Taille-Bois,[206] profane man as he was, would have turned with
horror from the witch, but in his sinful ignorance he believed that the
devil’s arts might be employed against the devil, and he saw that all
the soldiery, nay, and all the chivalry put under his command, believed
that without witchcraft they could never cope with the Lord of Brunn,
nor make any way in the Fen-country. As for the witch herself, she
promised the men immediate and most marvellous victories. Therefore it
was agreed that she should go forth with the troops and the working
parties and penetrate into the fens, and that she should take her
station on a high wooden tower, and thence give her directions as well
to the working men as to the fighting men. Now Lord Hereward and
Girolamo of Salerno, being advised of the arrival of the hag and of the
plans of the Normans, took counsel together, and trusted, with the aid
of the saints, to break the spell and sortilege, and consume the witch
while in the very act of her witchcraft. Calling in his merry men from
all their outposts, and posting them behind a river, Lord Hereward
allowed the Normans to advance a good way into the fens, and he offered
them no molestation while they were building a lofty wooden tower in
the midst of an open plain. But when the tower was finished and the
witch was at her incantations, and when the Norman band was gathered
round the foot of the tower in that open plain, Hereward and Girolamo,
aided only by Elfric and a few other alert Saxons, came round unseen to
the edge of the plain and set fire to the dense reeds and rushes that
grew upon it. It is the custom of the fenners to burn their reeds and
stubble in the month of November of every year in order to fertilize
the soil with the ashes thereof; and at this season one sees all this
moorish country in a flame, to his great wonder and surprise, if he be
a stranger in these parts. It was now the burning-time, and owing to
the exceeding dryness of the summer and of the autumn likewise, the
reeds and junci in this plain were all as dry as matches: add to this
that the Saleritan had brought with him and had sprinkled over the
plain some of his marvellous compounds which made a raging and
inextinguishable fire, and that the wind was blowing keenly from the
north-east right across the plain and towards the tall wooden tower,
and then it may be, to some degree, imagined, how rapidly and awfully
the flames, once lit, rolled over that broad open field, crackling, and
hissing, and then roaring in the wind, while columns of thick, pungent,
suffocating smoke rolled after them, darkening the sun and sky and
making visible the horrible red glare. At the first glimpse of the
mighty blaze the hag stopped her incantation and let the hell-broth she
was brewing drop from her skinny hands with a hideous yell; and the
men-at-arms and the labourers that were gathered at the foot of the
tower cast a look of dread and horror to windward and screamed like the
witch, and then took to their heels and ran across the plain in the
desperate hope of keeping before the winds and the flames, and paying
no heed to the witch, who had no means of descending from her tower.
“Ha! ha! thou hag! where is thy witch-tree of Beneventum now, which no
mortal axe can cut down or lop, and no earthly fire consume? Ha! witch!
where be the broad double channels and the rapid and cool streams of
the river Calor? If they flowed by thee close as they used to do when
thou wast perched on that witch-tree, high as is thy tower, wouldst not
leap headlong into the deep water? Ha! accursed daughter of Leutard
Iconoclastes, wouldst call upon the saints whose blessed effigies were
broken by thy fathers sledge hammer? What! dost scream and raise thy
skinny hands to Heaven? ’Tis vain, ’tis vain! the saints in Heaven will
not hear thee, so down with thy hands towards earth and the fiery
plain, and invoke the fiends to whom thou hast sold thy soul. So! so!
the fire catcheth and thy tower of wood crackles in the flames, and the
flames mount upward and embrace thee round about and lick thee with
their blistering tongues! Ha! shriek and writhe! these flames give only
a mild foretaste of thine eternal doom. These flames be but fed with
dry rushes and fen-grass, and the wood of the oak and pine; but the
unquenchable flames of the nethermost pit are fed with brimstone and
naphtha. See! the tower falls and she is consumed, flesh and bones, in
the hissing fire!—and so perish all witches!”

Thus spake Girolamo of Salerno, like the true believer that he was, as
the Norman witch was burning. But the hag did not perish alone; the
crackling fire, carried onward by the strong wind, overtaking and
consuming nearly all the Normans that had advanced with her into the
plains to set up her accursed tower. Ivo Taille-Bois, with the rest of
the Norman host, had stopped at the ford where the witch had crossed
before she came into the plain; but when he saw the fire kindled and
roll across the fen almost as rapidly as the waters of a mighty
cataract, and saw the smoke arise and shut out the sight of the blessed
sun, Ivo turned and fled, and every man with him fled in wild dismay,
nor stopped until they came to the castle by Cam-Bridge. And the ford
where the hag crossed over into the plain is called unto this day
Witchford.[207]

And when the fire which Girolamo had lit had burned itself out, and the
smoke had cleared away, the fierce wind fell and there came on a
terrible storm of thunder and lightning; and when this was over the
long delayed rains began to fall in torrents, filling the rivers and
brooks and marshpools, and making the whole country once more
impassable; and these rains, intermitting only for brief hours,
continued to fall for seven days and seven nights; and that part of the
causeway which had been built by Duke William’s orders was undermined
and washed away, so that no trace remained of it. And then, while the
Normans remained penned up in the castle and in the intrenched camp,
the Lord of Brunn and his Saxons launched their light boats in the
rivers and meres, and destroyed all the works which had been built to
defend the whole road. Thus in the next year the Conqueror had
everything to begin anew. In the meanwhile Ivo Taille-Bois gave up the
command in despair, and went away to Stamford, where he had left his
wife, the Ladie Lucia. During the winter this Vicomte of Spalding made
an essay to recover possession of the Ladie Lucia’s manor-house and
estates at Spalding; but as the Saxons had still a little fleet of
barks and the entire command of the Welland river, Ivo failed entirely,
and was not even able to do so much as disturb the tranquillity of the
good Saxon monks of Crowland. And while the Norman vicomte was thus
unsuccessful, other and great successes attended the Saxon lord. With
one numerous band collected near his house at Brunn, the Lord Hereward
found his way across the country as far as Newark, where he defeated a
great body of Normans, and found good spoil; and after this, with
another band, drawn mostly from the impenetrable bogs of Hoilandia, he
ascended the Witham as far as Boston and there surprised and captured
three Norman knights, and some three-score Norman men-at-arms. And it
so chanced that among these three knights was that unlucky wooer
Geoffroy, the brother of Ivo, who had found in some upland part of
England a Saxon wife and heiress, but one neither so handsome nor so
rich as the Ladie Alftrude, for it was a widow quite old enough to be
Sir Geoffroy’s mother, and her whole estate was not much larger than
one of the Ladie Alftrude’s farms. Having no money to pay for his
ransom, and his brother having none to give or lend him, Geoffroy was
sent into the fens and kept there as a close prisoner. And before the
Lord of Brunn had done, he made other members of that family know what
it was to live among the bulrushes. But now, having done all these
things, and performed many other exploits, Hereward, at the approach of
spring, brought his fair young spouse from Ely to his house at Brunn,
and a very few days after her arrival the lady gave birth[208] to an
heir to the united honours of Brunn and Ey. And hereupon followed high
rejoicings, and a christening, and such an hospitable feast as only
true Saxon lords knew how to give. The good-hearted Lord Abbat of
Crowland baptized the child, and sundry of his monks, and the good
prior of Spalding among them, were bidden to the feast. “Elfric, my
trusty sword-bearer,” said the Lord of Brunn when the feast was over,
“Elfric, I say, methinks I have given proof, that a man may love and
fight, and be a husband and a soldier, at one and the same time, and
that if we are to put off thy espousal day with maid Mildred until this
war be over, thou wilt run a chance of never being married at all!”

“Good, my Lord,” said Elfric, “This is what I have been thinking for
more than these nine months past.”

“Then beshrew me,” said the Lord of Brunn, “thou and Mildred shall be
made one before the world be a moon older!”

The Lord of Brunn meant what he said; but Heaven ordered it otherwise.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                      THE NORMAN DUKE TRIES AGAIN.


William of Normandie sate in his gorgeous hall in the royal citadel of
Winchester: the proud crown of England was on his head, and the
jewelled sceptre in his hand, and knights, lords, and prelates stood in
his presence to do his every bidding, and to tell him that he was the
greatest of conquerors and sovereign princes; yet a cloud was on his
broad brow, and his face was sad and thoughtful.

“I am no king of England,” said he, “so long as this Hereward the Saxon
holds out against me or lives! This sceptre is a child’s plaything
unless I can drive the Saxons out of the Camp of Refuge!”

“The robbers and outlaws shall be driven out,” said Hugo of Grantmesnil.

“Hugo,” said the duke, “it is five years since thou first toldest me
that, and the camp seems stronger now than ever it was.”

“If it were not for the drowning waters, and the sinking bogs, and all
the abominations of those fens and forests, which are fit only for
Saxon hogs to wallow in, the deed were easy to do,” said Peter of
Blainville.

“Be it easy or be it hard,” quoth Duke William, “the deed must be done,
or we must all prepare to go back into Normandie, and give up all that
we have gotten! It bots us little to have bought off the greedy Dane;
for Philip of France, whom some do call my suzerain lord, is one that
will prefer conquest to money; and Philip is not only threatening my
dominions in Normandie, but is also leaguing with mine enemies in this
island; he is corresponding with the King of the Scots, and with Edgar
Etheling the Saxon, and guest and brother-in-law to the Scottish king;
and if this rebellion in the Fen-country be not soon suppressed, we may
soon count upon seeing a French army on the coast, and a Scottish army
marching through the north; and then the wild men will rush from the
mountains of Wales and invade us in the west, as they have done
aforetime; and thereupon will ensue a universal rising of the Saxon
people, who are nowhere half subdued. By the splendour! while these
things last I am no king!”

One of the Norman prelates lifted up his voice and asked, whether the
offer of a free pardon, and the promise of a large sum of money, would
not make Hereward the Saxon abandon the Saxon cause, and desert from
the Camp of Refuge?

“By Notre Dame of Bayeux!” said Bishop Odo, the warlike and always
fighting brother of Duke William, “by Notre Dame, and by my own sword
and soul, this young man Hereward is not like other men! He hath been
offered a free pardon, with possession of his lands, whether his by
marriage or by inheritance, and he hath been promised as much gold and
silver as would pay for a king’s ransom; and yet he hath rejected all
this with scorn, and hath vowed, by his uncouth Saxon saints, that so
long as a hundred men can be kept together in the Fen-country, he will
never submit, or cease his warfare against the Normans!”

“But that devil from beyond the Alps,” said the Norman prelate who had
spoken before, “that rebel to the house of Guiscard, that necromancer,
Girolamo of Salerno, is he not to be bought?”

“It hath been tried,” said Bishop Odo, “but to no effect. That Italian
devil is more athirst for Norman blood than is the Saxon devil. Before
he quitted his home and fled beyond seas to seek out new enemies to our
race, he gained a name which still makes the bravest of our Normans in
Italie say a _Libera nos_ when they utter it! We will burn him alive
when we catch him, but until that hour comes there is nothing to hope
and much to fear from him, for he hath given up his life and soul to
vengeance, and he hath more skill in the art of war, and is more versed
in the diabolical arts of magic, than any other man upon earth.”

“But what of the Saxon Abbat of Ely?” said the prelate who had before
spoken about the efficacy of bribes, “what of this Thurstan?”

“There is not a stubborner Saxon out of hell,” replied Odo, Bishop of
Bayeux; “he hath been tried long since. Thou mightest as well attempt
to bribe the raging sea! Thou mightest grill him on a gridiron like
Saint Lawrence, or tear him into small pieces with iron pincers like
Saint Agatha, and he would only curse us and our conquest, and pray for
the usurper Harold, whom the fools firmly believe to be alive!”

“But,” said the other prelate, “among the other clownish monks of Ely,
may there not be found a——”

“Peace!” said Duke William, “that hath been thought of already, and
perhaps something may come of it—that is, if ye be but silent and
discreet. Ye are all too loud-tongued, and overmuch given to talking;
and these walls, though raised by Norman hands, may yet have Saxon
ears! Retire we to the innermost council chamber.”

And William rose and withdrew to the innermost room, and those who had
the right followed, and the chamberlains closed the door and kept guard
on the outside, and the heavy door-curtains were drawn within so that
none might approach the door, and not even the chamberlains hear what
passed inside. That secret council lasted till a late hour of the
evening. The words which were said be not known, but the things
determined upon were made known but too soon. It was the eve of Saint
Mark the Evangelist, and, before the feast of Saint Bede the Venerable,
Duke William was again at Cam-Bridge, and with a far greater army and
train than he had sent thither the preceding year; and at the same time
a great fleet of ships and barks began to be prepared in the London
river. No more witches were sent for, but William called over many more
experienced warriors from France, and ordered barks to be equipped in
the rivers and ports of Normandie. The traitorous Dane had told him
that he must leave his war horses in their stalls, and think of ships
and boats, if he would drive the amphibious Saxons out of the
Fen-country.

While the banner of William floated over the Julius Tower, or Keep, on
the tall mound by Cam-Bridge, country hinds and labourers of all sorts,
and horses and draught oxen, and mules and asses too numerous to count,
were collected within the fortified camp; and again timber and stones
and burned bricks were brought from all parts of the land, and in
greater abundance than before. For several weeks nothing was heard but
the sawing of wood and the hewing and chipping of stone, and a loud and
incessant hammering. A stranger to the history and present woes of
England might have thought that the Normans were going to build a Tower
of Babel, or that, penitent for the mischief they had done, they were
going to rebuild the town at Cam-Bridge, in order to bring back the
affrighted muses, and the houseless professors of learning, and the
pining English students, to sumptuous inns and halls. In truth, there
seemed work and stuff enough to furnish out a great city altogether
new. But, upon a near view, a knowing eye would have seen that all this
toil was for the making of engines of war, of towers to place along the
causeway, of bridges to throw across the streams, and of other
ponderous machines to aid the Normans in crossing the fens, and in
carrying the horrors of war into the last asylum of Saxon liberty.

And while they travailed thus on the south side of the Isle of Ely
under the watchful and severe eye of Duke William, other Normans and
other Saxon serfs (poor slaves constrained to this unpalatable task)
laboured in the north under the eyes of various chiefs who had been
promised in fiefs all the lands which they should conquer. With such of
the ships and barks of the fleet as were first ready, a host was sent
up the Wash and up the fen waters as high as Wisbech; and these ships
carried with them good store of timber and other materials, and,
besides the soldiers, many good builders, who began forthwith to build
a causeway and a castle at Wisbech.[209] Thus threatened on both faces
of the Fen-country, Lord Hereward had much to do: but he flew from side
to side as the occasion called for his presence; and, with the aid of
Girolamo, that cunning man, and the willing and ready labour of the fen
people, he speedily built up another castle, partly of wood and partly
of earth and turves, to face the Norman’s castle at Wisbech, and to
render their causeway there of none avail: and is not the ruin of this
castle seen even in our day? And is it not called Castle Hereward? And
do not the now happy and peaceful fenners relate how many assaults, and
bickerings, and battles took place on the spot?

When his own preparations were well advanced on the side of the river
Cam, Duke William sent his half-brother Robert, whom he had made Earl
of Moreton, to take more ships and men, and go from the river Thamesis
to the Wash and the new castle at Wisbech, and there tarry quietly
until the day next after the Festival of Saint John the Baptist, when
he was to attack Castle Hereward with all his force, and press into the
Isle of Ely from the north, while he, the Duke, should be preparing to
invade the island from the south. But this Count Robert, being but a
gross and dull-witted man, did not comprehend all the meaning of his
orders, and because he reached Wisbech Castle sooner than had been
expected, and got all ready to fight two days before Saint John’s Day,
he needs must fall on at once. Now the Lord of Brunn, with one eye upon
Count Robert and one upon Duke William, gathered great force to a head
at Castle Hereward, beat the dull-witted man, slew with the edge of the
sword or drove into the fens more than half his knights and
men-at-arms, set the new castle at Wisbech in a blaze, and burned a
good part of it, and was back at Ely and with the Saxon army in the
great camp before Count Robert had recovered from his amaze, and long
before Duke William could learn anything of the matter. And so it
chanced that when, on the day next after Saint John’s Day, Duke William
moved with his mighty host and machines of war from the castle at
Cam-Bridge towards the Camp of Refuge, in the full belief that the
attention of the Saxons would be all distracted, and that Hereward,
their great leader, would be away on the shores of the Wash and hotly
engaged with Count Robert, the bold Lord of Brunn had his eye solely
upon him, and with men elate with victory was watching his approach,
even as he had long been watching and preparing for it. The broken old
road[210] was repaired, and the now diminished streams were made
passable by means of the wooden bridges which the Norman soldiers
carried or caused to be carried with them, and by throwing down stones,
and timber, and bricks, and dry earth in strong wooden frames, Duke
William, after three days of cruel labour and toils which killed many
of his people, got within sight of the deep waters of Ely, and caught a
distant view of the Witchford, where his Norman witch had crossed over.
But the ford was now guarded by a double castle, or double fort; the
one on this side of the stream, and the other on that; and the farther
bank and the plain beyond it seemed, as the duke approached a little
nearer, to be covered with a Saxon army, and with trophies taken from
the Normans. Onward, however, he went until he saw the banner of his
half-brother Count Robert held out over the wooden walls of the Saxons;
but then he understood full well what had befallen his people at
Wisbech; and so, like the persevering and prudent commander that he
was, he ordered an immediate retreat. But it passed his skill and his
might to conduct this retreat in a safe and orderly manner; the Normans
got confused, and Hereward, crossing at the ford, charged through thick
and thin, through bog and dry ground, and along the temporary causeway
which had been made: the bridges of wood broke down under excess of
weight; Duke William himself fell into deep water and was nearly
drowned, and many of his people were wholly drowned or smothered, while
many more were slain by the sword or taken prisoners. And still the
bold Saxons, as they followed, shouted “Hereward for England! Stop,
thou Bastard William! Thou art running as fast as thy brother Robert
ran from Castle Hereward!”

After this misadventure Duke William judged more favourably of the
conduct of his many commanders who had failed in the same enterprise;
and seeing all the difficulties of the war, and the inexhaustible
resources of that cunning captain, the Lord of Brunn, he called a
council in the castle at Cam-Bridge, and there determined to try no
more battles and assaults, but to rely solely upon a close blockade of
the Isle of Ely. Forthwith orders were sent to all the commanders of
posts round the Fen-country (the dull-witted Count Robert was recalled
from Wisbech, and an abler captain sent to that vicinage) to strengthen
themselves in their several positions by building towers and walls, and
digging trenches, and by increasing the numbers of their men-at-arms;
but at the same time they were strictly commanded to make no movement
beyond the limits of their defensive works, however great the
temptation to attack the Saxons might be. The great fleet so long
collecting in the river Thamesis, and which was in good part composed
of English vessels which the Danes had captured and then sold to Duke
William, was sent round the coast well filled with fighting men, and
piloted by some of those Danish mariners and sea rovers who knew so
well all the bays and rivers on this eastern coast; and by the end of
the month of July, or a little before the Feast of Saint Ethelwold,
every station on the coast, from the mouth of the Orwell to the broader
mouth of the river Humber, was watched and guarded, and every estuary,
river, or creek that gave egress from the Fen-country was blocked up by
ships and barks, in such sort that the Saxons in the Camp of Refuge
could no longer have any communication with the sea, or with the
countries beyond the sea, from whence they had been wont to draw arms
and munitions of war, and corn, wines, and oil, and other supplies. By
the same means all aid and friendly intercourse were completely cut
off; the good Saxons dwelling in a sort of independence on the northern
shores of England, and the good Englishmen that had fled into Scotland,
could no longer send their barks up the Wash and the Ouse with
provisions and comfort for the house of Ely and the Camp; and thus the
whole Isle of Ely was cut off, by land and by water, from all the rest
of the world, and was girded by a mighty chain, the links of which
seemed every day to grow stronger.

Many were the bold essays which the Lord of Brunn made to break up this
blockade. Twice, descending the Ouse, or the Welland, with the barks he
had stationed at Ely, and near to Spalding, he defeated and drove away
the enemy’s ships, and burned some of them with that unquenchable fire
which the Salernitan knew how to make; but after these actions the
Normans and their shipmen became more watchful and cautious, keeping
outside of the mouths of the rivers, and continuing to increase their
force; for other ships and barques, both great and small, came over
from Normandie, and others were hired for this service among the
sea-dwelling Netherlanders, who seemed evermore disposed to serve
whatever faction could pay them best. And alas! the Normans had now
their hands in the great and ever-filling treasury of broad England,
and the true sons of England, whether at Ely or in the Camp, had no
longer any gold or silver! or any means of sending forth that which can
bring back money or the money’s worth. Horned cattle had they still in
some abundance, nor was there, as yet, any scarcity in sheep, or in
wool, or in hides; but of corn to make the bread, which is the staff of
life, and of wine, which maketh glad the heart of man, was there little
or none left in this part of the land; forasmuch as that the
Fen-country did not grow much corn at any season, and the last season
had been one of dearth, and only a few butts of wine had been brought
over since the departure of the Danes, owing to the lack of money above
mentioned. Those sea-rovers, having drunk almost the last drop of wine
as well as carried off the last treasures of the house, had greatly
disheartened and troubled many of the monks of Ely, and murmurs, and
censures, and base thoughts now began to rise among several of the
cloister-monks who, down to this evil time, had been the steadiest
friends of the Lord Abbat, Thurstan. Truly, truly, their trial was
hard, and difficult for true Saxon stomachs to bear! The octaves of
Saint John had come and passed without anything that could be called a
feast: on the day of Saint Joseph of Arimathea they had no wine to
drink, and on the day of that high Saxon saint, Osevald, king and
martyr, they had no bread to eat with their roast meats. These were sad
things to a brotherhood that had been wont to fare so well, and whose
feasts, it hath been said by our old poet (a monk of the house), were
as superior to the feasts of all the other monasteries of England as
day is superior to night:—

                 Prævisis aliis, Eliensia festa videre
                 Est, quasi prævisâ nocte, videre diem.

Yet the bountiful Abbat Thurstan, who had given the best feasts of all
that the house had ever known, and who loved as much as any man to see
the drinking-horn go round, kept up his good spirit without wine—it
was sustained by his generous love of country and liberty!—and he
reasoned well with those he heard murmur, and yet held out to them the
prospect of better times when corn should come in from the upland
country in abundance, and good wine from beyond-sea.

If want began to be felt among the monks of Ely, it is not to be
believed but that it was felt still more sharply among the Saxon
fighting men collected in the Camp of Refuge. But the stomachs of these
warriors were not so dainty as the stomachs of the monks, and the
commonalty of them, being accustomed to fare hard before now, made no
complaint. Alas, no! It was not through the malecontent of these rude
men, nor through these lay stomachs, but through the malice and
gluttony of cloister-monks, that the sanctuary was violated.

The Lord of Brunn having emptied his own granaries and cellars for the
behoof of the house at Ely, made sundry very desperate forays, breaking
through the Norman chain of posts, and going far in the upland country
in search of supplies, and risking his noble life, more than once, for
nought but a sack of wheat, or a cask of ale, or a firkin of mead.
While the blockade was as yet young, a few devout pilgrims, who would
not be shut out from the shrines of the Saxon saints at Ely, nor fail
to offer up their little annual offerings, and a few sturdy friends who
knew the straits to which the monks were about to be reduced, eluded
the vigilance of the Normans, and found their way, through those mazes
of waters and labyrinths of woods, to the abbey, and carried with them
some small supplies: but as time went on and the force of the Normans
increased as well by land as by water, these hazardous journeys were
stopped, and divers of the poor Saxons were caught, and were then
pitilessly hanged as rebels and traitors; and then a law was banded
that every man, woman, or child, that attempted to go through the
Fen-country, either to Ely Abbey or the Camp of Refuge, would be hanged
or crucified. But, alack! real traitors to their country were
afterwards allowed to pass the Norman posts, and go on to Ely Abbey,
and it was through their agency and the representations of some of the
Normans that were taken prisoners in war and carried to the monastery,
that the envious prior, and the chamberlain, and the cellarer, and the
rest of that foul faction were emboldened to raise their voice publicly
against the good Abbat, and to lay snares in the path of the Lord of
Brunn. Now the same troubles arose out of the same causes in Crowland
Abbey, where sundry of the cloister monks began to say that since they
could get no bread and wine it were best to make terms with the Norman
Abbat of Peterborough (that Torauld of Fescamp who had been released
upon ransom, and was again making himself terrible), give up the cause
of Lord Hereward, who had restored them to their house, and had given
up wealth and honours abroad to come and serve his country, and submit
like peaceable subjects to _King_ William, whose power was too great to
be any longer disputed. But here, at Crowland, these things were for a
long time said in great secrecy, and whispered in the dormitories by
night. It was the same in the succursal cell at Spalding; and the
coming danger was the greater from the secrecy and mystery of the
traitorous part of these communities. Father Adhelm, the good prior of
Spalding, knew of no danger, and could believe in no treachery until
the Philistines were upon him; and it was mainly owing to this his
security, and to his representations of the safety of that corner of
the fens, that the Lord of Brunn sent his wife and infant son,[211]
with maid Mildred and other women, to dwell in the strong manor-house
at Spalding, which belonged to the Ladie Lucia, wife of Ivo
Taille-Bois, and cousin to the Ladie Alftrude. The Camp of Refuge and
the town of Ely had not, for some time past, been fitting
abiding-places for ladies and delicate children; but now the Normans
were closing in their line of blockade on that side, and, although they
meant it not, they seemed to be on the eve of making a desperate
assault on the Camp, having, with incredible labour, laid down under
the eyes and with the direction of Duke William, another causeway,
which was far broader and more solid than any of the others, and which
ran across the fens towards the waters of Ely for the distance of two
well-measured miles. It was Elfric that commanded the party which gave
convoy to the Ladie Alftrude; and well we wot he wished the journey had
been a longer one: yet when his duty was done, and the whole party
safely lodged in the battlemented and moated house at Spalding, he
quitted maid Mildred, though with something of a heavy heart, and
hastened back to join his toil-oppressed master. And careworn and
toil-oppressed indeed was now that joyous and frank-hearted Lord of
Brunn, for he had to think of everything, and to provide for
everything; and save in Girolamo the Salernitan, and Elfric his
armour-bearer, he had but few ready-witted men to aid him in his
increasing difficulties. Nevertheless, the defences at the Witchford
were strengthened, numerous trenches and canals were dug to render the
Witch plain impassable, even if the river should be crossed, and bands
of Saxons, armed with bows, bills, pole-axes, swords, and clubs, or
long fen-poles, were kept on the alert by night as well as by day, to
march to any point which the Normans might attack.

Now, we have said it, William the Norman was a great and cunning
commander (ye might have searched through the world at that time, and
have found none greater!), and being thus skilled, and having a
fearless heart withal, and a sort of lion magnanimity, he was proper to
judge of the skill of other captains, and not incapable of admiring and
lauding that skill even in an enemy. And as from his causeway (even as
from a ship in the midst of the waters) he watched the defences which
Hereward raised, and all the rapid and wise movements he made, he
ofttimes exclaimed, “By the splendour! this Saxon is a right cunning
captain! It were worth half a realm could I win him over to my service.
But, O Hereward, since thou wilt not submit, thou must perish in thy
pride through hunger, or in the meshes which I am spreading for thee.”



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                   THE MONKS OF ELY COMPLAIN AND PLOT.


As no corn came, and no wine could be had, the tribulations and
murmurings in the monastery grew louder and louder. Certain of the
monks had never looked with a friendly eye upon Girolamo the
Salernitan, but now there was suddenly raised an almost universal
clamour among them that that dark-visaged and thin-bodied alien was,
and ever had been, a necromancer. Unmindful of the many services he had
done, and forgetting how many times they had, when the drinking-horns
could be well filled, rejoiced and jubilated at his successes, and
_specialiter_ on that not far by-gone day when he had burned the Norman
witch, in the midst of her incantations, with the reeds and grass of
the fen, the monks now called him by the foulest and most horrible of
all names, and some of them even called out for his death. These men
said that if Girolamo were brought to the stake and burned as he had
burned the Norman witch, the wrath of Heaven would be appeased, and
matters would go much better with the house of St. Etheldreda, and with
all the English people. Albeit they all knew how innocently those
devils had been made; and, albeit they had seen with their own eyes,
that Girolamo was constant at prayers, mass, and confession, and that
he never prepared his mixtures and compounds until after prayer and
long fasting (to say nothing of his frequently partaking in the
Sacrament of our Lord’s Supper), they rumoured, even like the Normans,
that he had raised devils, and employed fen-fiends, and incubuses, and
succubuses, and had lit hell-fires upon the pools and within the holy
house at Crowland; that he was ever attended by a demon, called by him
Chemeia;[212] that he had been a Jew, and next a follower of
Mahound;[213] that he had sold his soul to the devil of devils at
Jerusalem or Mecca: that he did not eat and drink like Saxons and
Christians, only because he went to graves and charnel-houses at the
dead of night, and feasted upon the bodies of the dead with his fiends
and hell-hounds—with a great deal more too horrible and obscene to
mention.[214]

Now before a breath of this bad wind reached him, Girolamo had begun to
grow a-weary of the Fen-country; and but for his deadly-hatred to the
Norman race and his great love for the Lord of Brunn, he would have
quitted it and England, long before this season, to wander again into
some sunny climate. Ofttimes would he say to himself in his solitary
musings,—“Oh flat, wet, and fenny land, shall mine eyes never more
behold a mountain? Oh fogs, and vapours, and clouds for ever dropping
rain, shall I never see a bright blue sky again?[215] Oh fireless,
watery sun, scarcely brighter or warmer than the moon in my own land
beyond the Alps and the Apennines, shall I never see thee again in thy
glory? Am I to perish in these swamps—to be buried in a bog? Oh for
one glimpse before I die of mine own blue mountains, and bright blue
seas and skies!—one glance at thy bay, oh beautiful Salerno, and at
the mountain of Saint Angelo and the hills of Amalfi, at the other
mountains, and hills, and olive-groves, and gay vine-yards that gird
thee in! There be no hills here but mud-banks; no trees but dull alders
and willows.[216] But courage, sinking heart, or sinking, shivering
frame, for there is food here for my revenge; there be Normans here to
circumvent and kill!”

So did the Salernitan commune with himself in his many lonely hours
(many because he sought them and avoided the society of men) before the
evil tongues were wagged against him. Upon his first hearing what the
monks were then beginning to say of him, he only muttered to himself,
“This is a dull-witted generation that I have fallen among! These
Saxons go still on all-fours! They are but ultra-montanes and
barbarians, knowing nothing of the history of past ages, or of the
force and effect of the natural sciences! Dolts are they all except the
Lord Hereward, and his share of wit is so great that none is left for
his countrymen. But Hereward is worthy of ancient Rome; and it is not
the stupid sayings of his people that will make me quit his side and
disappoint my vengeance. I have done these same Saxons some good
service, and I will do them more before I die or go hence. They will
think better of me when they know more of me, and of the natural means
wherewith I work mine ends. Ha! ha! I needs must laugh when I hear that
Girolamo of Salerno, the witch-seeker and the destroyer of witches, the
sworn foe to all magic save the MAGIA ALBA, which is no magic at all,
but only science, should be named as a wizard and necromancer! Oh! ye
good doctors, and teachers of Salerno who flourished and began to make
a school for the study of Nature before the Normans came among us,
think of this—think of your pupil, penitent, and devotee, being taken
in these dark septentrional regions for a sorcerer! Ha! ha!”

But when Girolamo saw that the Saxon people were beginning to avoid him
as one that had the pest, and that the monks of Ely were pointing at
him with the finger, and that silent tongues and angry eyes, with
crossings and spittings on the ground and coarse objurgations, met him
wherever he went, he grew incensed and spoke freely with the Lord of
Brunn about it.

“Girolamo, my friend and best coadjutor,” said the Lord of Brunn,
“think nothing of it! This is but the talk of ignorance or malice.
Beshrew me an I do not think that the Normans have gotten some traitor
to raise this babel and thereby injure us. But the Lord Abbat Thurstan,
who hath shrieved and assoiled thee so often, will now answer for the
purity of thy faith as for his own, and will silence these murmurers.”

But it was not so: Hereward made too large an account not of the good
will, but of the power of Thurstan, not knowing all that passed in the
chapters of the house, nor so much as suspecting half of the cabals
that were framing in secret meetings and in close discussions by night
in the dormitories. No sooner had the Lord Abbat begun to reprehend
such as spoke evil of the Salernitan, than the factious and false parts
of the monks declared among themselves that, Christian prelate as he
was, he had linked himself with a sorcerer; and in charges they had
already prepared, and with great privacy written down upon parchment,
they inserted this—that Abbat Thurstan, unmindful of the duties of his
holy office, and in contempt of the remonstrances of the prior, the
chamberlain, and others, the majority of the house Ely, had made
himself the friend and defensor of the said Girolamo of Salerno, that
dark mysterious man who had notoriously sold himself to the arch-fiend,
who had gone into the depths and iniquities of necromancy beyond all
precedent, and who had, by his truly diabolical art, raised devils,
trafficked with witches, and brought hell-fires upon earth.

It was at this juncture of time that two pretended pilgrims and
devotees of Saint Etheldreda arrived at the guest-house of Ely, giving
out that they had with great risk and real danger found their way
through the lines of the beleaguering Normans, but that, so entire was
their devotion to the saint, no perils could prevent them from coming
to the shrine. It was not much noted at the time, but it was well
remembered afterwards, and when it was all too late, that these two
palmers spent much more of their time in walking and talking outside
the abbey walls with the prior and the chamberlain, than in the praying
inside the church and in the chapel of the saint: that they seemed to
shun the Lord Abbat, and that they took their departure in a sudden
manner, and without taking leave of the Abbat as good pilgrims were
wont to do. And almost immediately after the departure of the two false
palmers, a proclamation was made by sound of trumpet and by Duke
William’s orders, that the Abbat of Ely, having leagued himself with a
sorcerer (having long before leagued himself with traitors and rebels
and robbers), had incurred the anathemas of the church, which would
soon be pronounced upon him by bell, book, and candle,[217] and with
all the formalities in use. And after this had been proclaimed by sound
of trumpet in the Camp, and at the cross of the town of Cam-Bridge, and
at the crosses of Peterborough, Huntingdon, Stamford, and many other
towns, the cloister-monks most adverse to the Lord Abbat began to throw
off all secrecy and disguise, and to talk as loud as trumpets both in
the streets of Ely and in the monastery, calling Girolamo a sorcerer
and worse. Upon this the dark Salernitan came up from the Camp to the
monastery, and demanded to be heard in the church or in the hall, in
the presence of the whole house. Thurstan, with right good will,
assented; and although some of the monks tried to oppose it, Girolamo
was admitted to plead his own defence and justification in the great
hall. It was the envious prior’s doing, but the novices and all the
younger monks were shut out, for the prior feared greatly the effect of
the speech of the Salernitan, who by this time had made himself master
of the Saxon tongue, while in the Latin tongue and in Latin quotations,
Girolamo had few equals on this side the Alps. He presented himself
alone, having forcibly and successfully opposed the Lord Hereward, who
would fain have accompanied him to the abbey. “If you should be with
me,” he had said to the Lord of Brunn, “they will impute it to me, in
case of my effacing these vile stigmas, that I have been saved by your
favour and interference, or by the respect and awe which is due to you,
or by the dread they entertain of your arms; and should I fail in my
defence, they might afterwards work you great mischief by representing
you as mine advocate. No! good my Lord, alone will I stand upon my
defence, and bring down confusion upon these calumniators!”

And thus it was all alone that the dark and thin and sad Salernitan
entered the great hall, in the midst of a coughing and spitting, and an
uplifting and a turning away of eyes, as if the monks felt sulphur in
their gorges, and saw some fearful and supernatural object with their
eyes. Nothing abashed, the Salernitan threw off the black mantle which
he ordinarily wore, and stepping unto the midst of the hall—the monks
being seated all round him—he made the blessed sign of the cross,
threw up his hands for a moment as if in prayer, and then spoke. And
when he first began to speak, although he more immediately faced the
abbat and his friendly honest countenance, his coal-black eyes, which
seemed all of a blaze, rested and were fixed upon the envious false
visage of the prior, who wriggled in his seat, and whose eyes were bent
upon the ground, all unable to encounter the burning glances of that
animated, irate Italian.

“My good Lord Abbat,” said Girolamo, looking as we have said, not at
Thurstan, but at the prior, “what is this horrid thing that I hear?
What are these evil rumours which have been raised against me, while I
have been adventuring my life for the service of this house and the
good Saxon cause?”

“There hath been some idle talk about sortilege, and it grieves me to
say that this idle talk hath of late become very loud in this house,”
responded Thurstan.

“And who be they who first raised this talk?” said Girolamo; “where are
my accusers? Who are the members of this house that have not seen as
well my devotion to Heaven as the earthly and natural and legitimate
means by which I have worked out mine ends for the furtherance of the
good cause? Where are they, that I may speak to them and tell them to
their faces how much they have erred or how greatly they have lied? But
they dare not look me in the face!”

And as he said these words he turned his burning eyes from the prior to
the chamberlain, and then from the chamberlain to another cankerous
monk, and to another, and another, and they all pulled their cowls over
their brows and looked down upon the floor. But at last the chamberlain
found voice and courage enough to raise his head a little; and he said,
“Oh, stranger! since thy first coming amongst us thou hast done things
most strange—so strange that wise and good men have thought they have
seen the finger of the devil in it.”

Quoth the Salernitan, “It was to do strange things that I came hither,
and it was because I could do them that the brave and pious Lord of
Brunn brought me with him to bear part in a contest which was desperate
before we came. But I tell thee, oh monk, that all of even the
strangest things I have done have been done by legitimate and natural
means, and by that science which I have acquired by long study and much
fasting, and much travelling in far-off countries, where many things
are known which are as yet unknown in these thy boreal regions. To
speak not of the marvels I have witnessed in the East, I tell thee,
Saxon, that I have seen the doctors who teach, or who used to teach, in
the schools of my native town before the Norman barbarians came among
us, do things that would make thy dull eyes start out of their sockets,
and the hair stand erect round thy tonsure; and yet these doctors and
teachers were members of that Christian Church to which thou, and I,
and all of us belong—were doctors in divinity, and priests, and
confessors, and men of holy lives; and it never passed through their
bright and pure minds that what the ignorant could not understand
should be imputed to them or to their scholars as a crime. Saxon, I
say, take the beam of ignorance out of thine eye, and then wilt thou
see that man can do marvellous things without magic or the aid of the
devil. The real wizard or witch is the lowest and most benighted of
mankind, and necromancy can be employed only for the working out of
wicked and detestable ends. But what was and what is the end I have in
view? Is it wicked to defend this house and the shrines of your
national saints from violence and spoliation? Is it detestable in one
who hath known in his own person and in his own country the woes of
foreign conquest, to devote his sword and his life, his science, and
all the little that is his, to the cause of a generous people
struggling against fearful odds for their independence, and fighting
for their own against these Norman invaders!”

“By Saint Etheldreda,” said Abbat Thurstan, “these ends and objects
cannot be sinful! and as sinful means can be employed only for sinful
ends, so can righteous ends be served only by righteous means. Fire
mingles with fire, and water with water: but fire and water will not
mingle or co-exist.” And divers of the cloister-monks, who had never
been touched by the venom that was about to ruin the house of Ely and
the whole country of England, took up and repeated the Abbat’s words,
speaking also of the facts in evidence, as that Girolamo the Salernitan
had many times conferred great benefit on the Saxon cause, and the
like. And even some of the house who had turned too ready an ear to
their own fears, or to the evil and crafty whisperings and suggestions
of the prior and his faction, assented to Thurstan’s proposition, and
said that verily it appeared the Salernitan was free from the damnable
guilt wherewith he was charged, and that if he had used any magic at
all, it was only that Magia Alba, or White Magic, which proceeded from
the study and ingenuity of man, and which might be used without sin.

Now as these things were said in the hall, the prior, fearing that his
plot might be counter-plotted, and the meshes he had woven be torn to
pieces, and blown to the winds, waxed very desperate; and, after
whispering for awhile in the ear of the chamberlain who sat by him, he
threw his cowl back from his head, and standing up, spoke passionately.
But while the prior spoke he never once looked at Girolamo, who
remained standing in the middle of the great hall, firm and erect, and
with his arms crossed over his breast. No! desperate as he was, the
prior could not meet the fiery glances of that dark thin man; and so he
either looked at the round and ruddy face of Thurstan, or in the faces
of those monks of his own faction who had made up their minds to
support him in all that he might say or do.

“It seemeth to me,” said the prior, “that a wicked man may pretend to
serve a good cause only for the sake of injuring it, and that a weak
man may be brought to believe that good can come out of things that are
evil, and that witchcraft and all manner of wickednesses may be
employed against an enemy, albeit this is contrary to the doctrine of
our Church, and is provocative of the wrath of Heaven. Now, from the
first coming of this alien among us, things have gone worse and worse
with us. Not but that there have been certain victories and other short
glimpses of success, meant only to work upon our ungodly pride, and
delude us and make our present misery the keener. When this alien first
came, the Lord Abbat liked him not—I need not tell ye, my brethren,
that the Lord Abbat said to many of us, that he liked not the looks of
the stranger the Lord Hereward brought with him; or that I and the
cellarius, and many more of us, thought from the beginning that the man
was a Jew—an Israelite—yea, one of that accursed race that crucified
our Lord!...”

“Liar or idiot,” said the fiery man of Italie, “thou wilt be cursed for
saying it!”

“That which I have said I have said,” quoth the prior; “we took thee
for a Jew, and the Lord Abbat confessed, then, that thou didst verily
look like one, although he hath altered his tone since. And stranger, I
now tell thee to thy face (but still the prior looked not in Girolamo’s
face) that I believe thou mayest well be that wandering Jew that cannot
die until the day of Judgment come.”

The Salernitan shrieked rather than said, “This is too horrible, too
atrocious! Malignant monk, wouldst drive me mad, and make me slay thee
here in the midst of thy brothers?”

“In this hallowed place I am safe from thy magic and incantations,”
said the prior.

Girolamo could not speak, for the words stuck in his throat, but he
would, mayhap, have sprung upon the prior with his dagger, if the Lord
Abbat had not instantly raised his hand and his voice, and said,
“Peace! stranger peace! Let the prior say all that he hath to say, and
then thou shalt answer him. Nay, by Saint Etheldreda! by Saint
Sexburga, and by every saint in our Calendarium, I will answer him too!
For is he not bringing charges against me, and seeking to deprive me of
that authority over this house which was given me by heaven, and by
King Edward the Confessor, and by the unanimous vote of the brethren of
Ely in chapter assembled? Prior, I have long known what manner of man
thou art, and how thou hast been pining and groaning and plotting for
my seat and crozier; but thou art now bolder than thou wast wont to be.
’Tis well! Therefore speak out, and do ye, my children, give ear unto
him. Then speak, prior! Go on, I say!” In saying these words, Lord
Thurstan was well nigh as much angered as Girolamo had been; but his
anger was of a different kind, and instead of growing deadly pale and
ashy like the Salernitan, his face became as red as fire; and instead
of moving and clenching his right hand, as though he would clutch some
knife or dagger, he merely struck with his doubled fist upon the table
before him, giving the table mighty raps. All this terrified the craven
heart of the prior, who stood speechless and motionless, and who would
have returned to his seat if the cellarer had not approached him and
comforted him, and if several cloister-monks of the faction had not
muttered, “Go on to the end, oh, prior! thou hast made a good
beginning.”

And then the prior said, “I will go on if they will give me pledge not
to interrupt me until I have done.”

“I give the pledge,” said the Abbat; and the Salernitan said, “The
pledge is given.”

Being thus heartened, the prior went on. Girolamo the Salernitan, he
said, had been seen gnashing his teeth and shooting fire out of his
eyes at the elevation of the Most Holy; had been heard muttering in an
unknown tongue behind the high altar, and among the tombs and shrines
of the saints; and also had he often been seen wandering by night, when
honest Christians were in their beds, among the graves of the poor of
Ely, and gazing at the moon and stars, and talking to some unseen
demon. He had never been seen to eat and drink enough to support life;
and therefore it was clear that he saved his stomach for midnight
orgies in the church-yard with devils and witches. It was not true that
all the devils at Crowland were sham-devils, for some of the novices
and lay-brothers of the house, and some of the clowns of Crowland town,
who had been seduced, and made to disguise themselves in order to give
a cover to what was doing, had since declared that, although all their
company made only twelve in number, they had seen twice twelve when the
infernal lights were lit in the dark cellars of the house where their
pranks began; and it was a notable fact that one of the Crowland hinds,
first cousin to Orson the smith, had been so terrified at this increase
of number and at all that he had heard and seen on that fearful night,
that he had gone distraught,[218] and had never yet recovered it. It
was known unto all men how, not only on that night and in that place,
but also on many other nights and in many other places, the alien had
made smells that were not of earth, nor capable of being made by
earthly materials, and had made fire burn upon water, mixing flame and
flood! Now, the Lord Abbat himself had said that fire and water would
not mingle! Nor would they but by magic. The convent would all remember
this! Not content with possessing the diabolical arts himself, Girolamo
had imparted them to another: Elfric the sword-bearer, from whom better
things might have been expected, considering his training in a godly
house, had been seen mixing and using these hellish preparations which
he could not have done if he had not first spat upon the cross and
covenanted with witches and devils. Nay, so bold-faced had this young
man been in his crime that he hath done this openly! The stranger had
been seen many times in battle, and in the thickest of the fight, yet,
while the Saxons fell thick around him, and every man that was not
killed was wounded, he got no hurt,—no not the smallest! When the
arrows came near him they turned aside or fell at his feet without
touching him. There was a Norman knight, lately a prisoner in the Saxon
Camp, who declared that when he was striking at the thin stranger with
the certainty of cleaving him with his battle-axe, the axe turned aside
in his firm strong hands as though some invisible hand had caught hold
of it. Moreover, there was a Norman man-at-arms who had solemnly vowed
that he had thrust his sword right through the thin body of the alien,
had driven the hilt home on his left breast; and that when he withdrew
his sword, instead of falling dead to the earth, the stranger stood
erect, laughing scornfully at him, and losing no blood, and showing no
sign of any wound. Now all these things fortified the belief that the
stranger was the Jew that could not die! Seeing that a deep impression
was made upon many of his hearers who had gone into the hall with the
determination of believing that there had been no magic, and that
nothing unlawful had been done by the defenders of the liberties of the
Saxon people and the privileges of the Saxon church, the cunning prior
turned his attack upon Thurstan. It was notorious, he said, that
Thurstan had been a profuse and wasteful abbat of that house, taking no
thought of the morrow, but feasting rich and poor when the house was at
the poorest; that he was a man that never kept any balance between what
he got and what he gave; and that he had always turned the deaf side of
his head to those discreet brothers the chamberlain, the sacrist, the
cellarer and refectorarius, who had long since foretold the dearth and
famine which the convent were now suffering. [Here nearly every monk
present laid his right hand upon his abdomen and uttered a groan.] It
was known unto all of them, said the prior, that under the rule and
government of Thurstan such things had been done in the house as had
never been done under any preceding abbat. The shrine-boxes had been
emptied; the plates of silver and of gold, the gifts of pious kings and
queens, had been taken from the shrines themselves; the treasure
brought from the abbey of Peterborough had only been brought to be
given up to the Danes and sent for ever from England, together with the
last piece of silver the pilgrims had left in the house of Ely! And
then the Jews! the Jews! Had not dealings been opened with them? Had
not a circumcised crew been brought into the patrimony of Saint
Etheldreda, and lodged in the guest house of the abbey? Had not the
abbat’s seal been used in sealing securities that were now in the hands
of the Israelities? And was not all the money gotten from the Jews gone
long ago, and was not the treasury empty, the granary empty, the cellar
empty,—was there not an universal void and emptiness in all the abbey,
and throughout the patrimony of St. Etheldreda? [The monks groaned
again.] In concluding his long discourse the prior raised his unmanly
voice as high as it could be raised without cracking, and said—“Upon
all and several the indubitable facts I have recited, I accuse this
Girolamo of Salerno of magic and necromancy; and I charge Thurstan,
abbat of this house, and Elfric, whilom novice in the succursal cell of
Spalding, of being defensors, fautors, and abettors of the necromancer.
And what saith the sixteenth of the canons enacted under the pious King
Edgar? And how doth it apply to our abbat? The canon saith this—‘And
we enjoin, that every priest zealously promote Christianity, and
totally extinguish every heathenism; and fordid necromancies and
divinations and enchantments, and the practices which are carried on
with various spells, and with frith-splots and with elders, and also
with various other trees, and with stones, and with many various
delusions, with which men do much of what they should not.’ I have
done.”[219]

For a while there was silence, the monks sitting and gazing at each
other in astonishment and horror. At length, seeing that the abbat was
almost choked, and could not speak at all, Girolamo said, “my lord, may
I begin?”

Thurstan nodded a yea.

Hereupon the Salernitan went over the whole history of his past life,
with all its sorrows, studies, and wanderings; and bade the monks
reflect whether such a life was not fitted to make a man moody and sad
and unlike other men. He acknowledged that, as compared with Saxons,
and more especially with the Saxon monks of Ely, he ate and drank very
little; but this was because his appetite was not good, and his habit
of life very different from theirs. He allowed that he was fond of
wandering about in lonely places, more especially by moonlight, but
this was because eating little he required the less sleep, and because
the sadness of his heart was soothed by solitude and the quiet aspect
of the moon and stars. All this, and a great deal more, the Salernitan
said in a passably composed and quiet voice; but when he came to deny
and refute the charges which the prior had made, his voice pealed
through that hall like thunder, and his eyes flashed like lightning. In
concluding he said—“I was ever a faithful son of Mother Church. The
blessed Pope at Rome—Pope Alexander it was—hath put his hand upon
this unworthy head and given me his benediction. The pious abbat of the
ancient Benedictine house of La Cava that stands in the chasm of the
mountain between Salerno and the city of Neapolis held me at the
baptismal font; cloister-monks were my early instructors, and learned
doctors of the church were my teachers in youth and manhood. I have
been a witch-seeker and a witch-finder in mine own country. Ye have
known me, here, burn, or help to burn, a witch almost under your own
eyes. Jews have I ever abhorred,[220] even as much as witches,
necromancers, and devils! Saracens and Moors, and all that follow
Mahound, have I ever hated as Jews, and as much as good Christians
ought to hate them! Oh prior, that makest thyself my accuser, thou hast
been a home-staying man, and hast not been called upon to testify to
thy faith in the lands where heathens rule and reign, and Mahound is
held to be the prophet of God, and superior to God’s own Son. But I
tell thee, prior, that I have testified to my faith in such places, and
openly on the threshold of Mahound’s temples, braving death and seeking
a happy martyrdom which, alas! I could not find. Saxons! in a town in
Palestine wherein, save a guard of Saracens, there were none but Jews,
I took the chief rabbi by the beard at the gate of his synagogue.
Saxons! to show my faith I have eaten swine’s flesh at Jerusalem, in
the midst of Saracens and Jews. Saxons! in the Christian countries of
Europe I never met an Israelite without kicking him and loading him
with reproaches. Bethink ye then, after all this, whether I, Girolamo
of Salerno, be a Jew, or Mahounder, or necromancer! If ye are weary of
me let me be gone to the country from which I came. I brought little
with me, and shall take still less away. If ye would repay with torture
and death the good I have done ye, seize me now, throw me into your
prison, load me with chains, put me to the rack, do with me what ye
will, but call me not Jew and wizard!”

Sundry of the monks said that the words of the stranger sounded very
like truth and honesty, and that of a surety the good Lord Hereward
would not have brought a wizard with him into England, or have lived so
long in friendship with a necromancer. Others of the cloister-monks,
but they were few in number, said that Girolamo had disproved nothing,
and that it could be but too well proved that woe and want had fallen
upon the good house of Ely—that the treasury, granary, wine-cellar
were all empty. The Lord Abbat now spoke, but his anger had cooled, and
his speech was neither loud nor long. He declared that every man, being
in his senses and not moved by private malice, must be convinced that
the Salernitan was a good believer and no wizard; and that, whatever he
had done, however strange some things might appear, had been done by
means not unlawful. This being the case there could be no sin or blame
in his having made himself the defensor of the stranger, and no sin in
Elfric’s having associated with him, and assisted in his works. “But,”
said the abbat, “though the prior hath not been bold enough to name
that name, ye must all know and feel that, if this man were a
necromancer, charges would lie far more against Hereward, our great
captain, than against me or that poor young man, Elfric. Would ye
accuse the Lord of Brunn of sorcery and witchcraft? I see ye dare not,
nay, I see ye would not!”

As to the daring, Thurstan was right: but as to the will, he was wrong;
for the prior and the chamberlain, and some others, would have accused
Hereward if they had only had courage enough so to do.

The abbat next told the prior and all the members of the house that
were present, that he had taken no important step without the advice
and vote of the chapter; that of late, in many cases, the vote in
chapter had been in direct opposition to his own wishes and declared
feelings; and that whether it were the taking of the shrine-money, or
the bargaining with the Israelites, or the calling back of the Danes
(that source of so much woe), or the giving up of the Peterborough
treasure, he had been out-voted by the majority, at the head of which
had always stood the prior and the chamberlain. If honest-hearted
Thurstan had called for a vote of the brotherhood at this moment it
would have gone for him, and the prior and his coadjutors would have
been confounded; if he had ceased speaking altogether, and had
dismissed the assembly, some mischief might have been avoided or
delayed; but unluckily he went on to speak about the obligation the
house lay under of feeding and supporting the Saxon lords and warriors
in the Camp of Refuge, about his general administration of the revenues
of the abbey, and about other matters which had nothing to do with the
Salernitan or the foul charges brought against him; and, saying that
these were things to be discussed in a chapter of the whole house, and
that if it could be proved that in any of these things he had wilfully
done amiss or acted upon a selfish motive, he would readily resign
mitre and crozier and return to the lowliest condition of a
cloister-monk, he quitted the hall, beckoning Girolamo to follow him,
and leaving the monks together to be wrought upon by the craft and
malice and treachery of the prior and the chamberlain, who had sold
their souls not to one devil but to two—the demon of lucre and the
demon of ambition and pride. As soon as he was out of the hall, the
prior put his evil face under the cowl of the chamberlain, and
whispered, “Brother, ’t was our good fortune that put the word in his
mouth! We will soon call a chapter and depose him from his authority.
Our task will then be easy; but as long as he is abbat many timid minds
will fear him.”

“But,” whispered the chamberlain in return, “we must first of all shake
the faith which too many here present have put in his words, and in the
protestations of Girolamo.”

“The logic of hunger will aid us,” said the prior, “and so will the
promptings of fear: there is not a measure of wheat in Ely, and the
report hath been well spread that the Normans intend to begin their
attack very soon, and to put every monk to the sword that shall not
have previously submitted. To-morrow Hereward goes upon some desperate
expedition to try to get us corn and wine: he cannot, and will not
succeed; and, while he is absent, we can report of him and his
expedition as we list.”

“’Tis well imagined,” said the chamberlain in another whisper; “but we
must undo the effect of that devil Girolamo’s speech, and prepare the
minds of the monks for the work we would have them do.”

While the prior and the chamberlain were thus whispering together,
divers of the old monks, who loved not their faction and who had grown
weary of this long sitting, quitted the hall without leaving the mantle
of their wisdom and experience behind them; and after their departure
the prior and his faction so perplexed the dull wits of the honester
part of the community, that they again began to believe that the
Salernitan was a necromancer and the abbat his fautor, that there was
no hope of getting corn or wine unless they submitted to Duke William,
and that if they did not submit they would all be murthered by the
Normans.

They also spoke, and at great length, of the privations they had
undergone ever since the beginning of the war.

“Yea! how long and how manifold have been our sufferings,” said the
sub-sacrist. “When this accursed Camp first began to be formed, was not
our house entirely filled with guests? Did they not seize upon our
hall, nay, even upon our kitchen? And were not we of the convent
obliged to take our meals in the dormitory, as well on flesh days as on
fish-days? Were not all open spaces in the monastery crowded, so that
the abbey looked more like a fair than a house of religion? Was not the
grass-plot of the cloisters so trampled down by the feet of profane
fighting-men that no vestige of green was to be seen upon it? And
though most of these guests be now gone into the Camp, because there is
little left here for them to devour, do not the cellars, the
store-houses, the kitchen, and every part of the house speak of their
having been here, and of the poverty and disorder in which they have
left us?”

“Aye,” said the refectorarius, “wonderful hath been the waste! The
revenue of the abbat, the common property of the house, and the
incomings allotted to the several officials to enable them to bear the
charges and do the duties of their offices, have all been anticipated
and consumed! And let our improvident Abbat tell me how I am to find
that which I am bound to provide for the whole convent to wit, pots,
noggins, cups, table-cloths, mats, basons, double-cloths, candlesticks,
towels, plates, saltcellars, silver plates wherewith to mend the cups
that be broken, and the like; besides furnishing three times in the
year, to wit, at All Saints, Christmas, and Easter, five burthens of
straw to put under the feet of the monks in the refectory, and five
burthens of rushes and hay wherewith to strew the hall?”

“And I,” quoth the cellarius, “how am I to be father unto the whole
convent inasmuch as meat and drink be concerned, when I have not a
penny left to spend in township or market? By the rules of the Order,
_Statutis Ordinis_, when any monk at table asks me for bread or for
beer, in reason, I am to give it him; but how am I to give without the
wherewithal?”

“And I,” said the chamberlain, “how am I to find, for both monks and
novices, gowns and garters, half socks and whole socks, and bed and
bedding, and linsey-woolsey for sheets and shirts, and knives, and
razors, and combs, in order that the convent go clean and cleanly
shaved? Aye, tell me how I am to change the straw of the beds, provide
baths for the refreshment of the bodies of the monks, to find shoes for
the horses and spurs for the monks when they are sent travelling, to
keep and entertain two bathers and four tailors, when Abbat Thurstan
hath taken mine all or hath forced me to give it to laymen and
strangers and Norwich Jews? Let our universal poverty say whether this
hath been a misgoverned house! Brothers, judge for yourselves whether
Thurstan, who hath brought down all this ruin upon us, ought to be
allowed to rule over us!”

The crafty prior said in a quieter tone of voice, “For my part, I will
not now dwell upon these temporal evils, albeit they are hard for men
in the flesh to bear; but I would bid the convent take heed lest one
and all they incur the sentence of excommunication by the pope himself.
It is now quite clear that Pope Gregory wills that William the Norman
shall be King of England, and that the English church, with all English
houses of religion, shall submit to him, and take their instructions
from Archbishop Lanfranc.”

When the meeting in the hall broke up, the chamberlain said to the
prior, “We shall yet have the pleasure of burning Girolamo as a
necromancer!”

“An he be not the Jew that cannot die,” quoth the prior.

When the Salernitan reached the Camp that evening he said to the Lord
of Brunn, “Certes the monks of Ely will no longer say I am a wizard;
but there be traitors among them, and much do I fear that their
rebellious stomachs will make traitors of them all!”

“Against that must we provide,” quoth the Lord Hereward; “to-morrow we
must go get them corn and wine from the Normans. Our stratagem is well
laid, but we must die rather than fail. So good night, Girolamo, and to
our tents and sheepskins.”



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                  HEREWARD BRINGS CORN AND WINE TO ELY.


There was no cloister-monk of Ely that better knew the legends of the
house than Elfric, for his father, Goodman Hugh, who had dwelt by saint
Ovin’s cross, and his father’s father who had dwelt in the same place,
had been great fenners and fowlers and gossips, and had hawked with the
best of the abbats and monks, and had stored their memories with the
history of the abbey and the saints of Ely, and had amused and
sanctified the long winter-nights, when the fire of wood mixed with
peat burned brightly on their hearth, by relating to little Elfric all
the legends that they knew. Now there was one of these which had made a
profound impression upon Elfric’s mind, which, by nature, loved
adventure and ingenious stratagem. It was a short tale, and simple
withal, and easy to tell.

Saint Withburga, the fourth in order of the four great female saints
that were and are the ornaments and shining lights of the great house,
did not live and die as her sister Saint Etheldreda had done, at Ely,
and as Lady Abbess. In her infancy she was sent to nurse at a village
called Holkham, belonging to the king her father, Anna, king of the
East Angles. In this place she lived many years, whence the village of
Holkham was sometimes called Withburgstowe, and a church was built
there in memory of her. On the death of the king her father, which
befel in the year of grace six hundred and fifty-four, Withburga
removed from Holkham to Dereham, another village in the country of East
Anglia; and here, affecting a retired and religious life, she founded a
monastery of nuns, over which she presided for many years. Peaceful and
holy was her life, and blessed was her end. When she died, they buried
her there, in the churchyard at Dereham.[221] And lo! after many more
years had passed, and the other tenants of this churchyard and even
those that had been buried long after had mouldered into dust, the
grave of Withburga being opened, her body was found entire and without
the slightest sign of corruption! Aye, there she lay in her shroud and
coffin, with her hands crossed upon her breast, and with her little
crucifix of silver lying upon her breast, even as she had lain on the
bier on the day of her death so many, many years before. The saintly
incorruptible body was forthwith removed into the church, where it was
preserved with great care and devotion by the good people of Dereham,
and it continued there, not without manifold miracles, until the time
of that pious monarch King Edgar,[222] who restored the monastery at
Ely, which the Danes had burned, and gave the house that precious
charter which hath been named before as not being given privately and
in a corner, but in the most public manner and under the canopy of
Heaven. Now, in restoring the abbey of Ely to its pristine splendour,
and in augmenting the number of the brotherhood, it behoved the king to
increase the lands and domains of the house; and, conformably, the
pious Edgar (may all his sins be forgiven for the good he did the
church!) conferred on the abbey of Ely the village of Dereham, with all
its demesnes and appendages, and with the church wherein the body of
the virgin Saint Withburga was preserved and venerated by the people of
Dereham[223] and by all the good Saxon people round about. Now the Lord
Abbat on that day, having the grant of Dereham and all that appertained
to it, could not feel otherwise than very desirous of getting
possession of the body of the saint in order to translate it to Ely and
there place it by the side of the body and shrine of the blessed
Etheldreda. The saintly virgin sisters had been separated in their
lives and ought to be united in death; Ely Abbey could offer a more
noble shrine than the small dependent church at Dereham; it was proper
too, and likewise was it profitable, that the pilgrims and devotees to
their four female saints of East Anglia should always come to Ely
instead of going sundry times a-year to Dereham, as had been the
custom, and that all the four shrines should be under one roof, and the
contents of the shrine-boxes poured into one common treasury. All this
had been laid before the king, and the pious Edgar, who never meant
that others should keep what he had bestowed upon his beloved house of
Ely, had given his royal licence for the translation of the body of
Saint Withburga to the abbey. But the Lord Abbat, being a prudent and
cautelous man, and taking counsel of his brother the bishop of
Winchester and of other wise and peace loving men, came to this wise
conclusion:—That, inasmuch as it was not likely that the people of
Dereham and that vicinage would part with so valuable a treasure
without resistance, if the intended translation should be made publicly
known to them, it would be expedient and commendable, and accordant
with the peaceable character of monks, to steal away the body
privately, and to admit none but a few of the most active and prudent
of the cloister-monks of Ely into the secret beforehand. Accordingly no
notice was given to the hinds and in-dwellers at Dereham, nor was there
any mention made of the great matter outside of the Aula Magna of Ely
Abbey; and on the day appointed the Lord Abbat and some of the most
active and prudent of the monks, attended by the sturdiest loaf-eaters
of the abbey all well armed, and after hearing mass in the abbey
church, set out on their journey to steal the body of the saint; and on
their arrival at Dereham they were received with great respect by the
inhabitants, who thought that they had come simply to take possession
of the place in virtue of the king’s charter and donation, and who
suspected no further design. The Lord Abbat, as lord and proprietor and
chief, temporal as well as spiritual, held a court for the
administration of justice in the manner usual with bishops and abbats,
and according to the wise and good laws of our Saxon kings. And after
this public court of justice, wherein such as had stolen their
neighbours’ goods were condemned to make bot, the bountiful Lord Abbat
bade the good people of Dereham to a feast. And while the good folk of
Dereham were eating and drinking, and making merry, and were thinking
of nought but the good meat and abundant drink before them, the sturdy
loaf-eaters from Ely, unwatched and unnoticed, and working in great
stillness, were making those preparations for the translation which
they had been ordered to make. And, at the time pre-concerted and
fixed, my Lord Abbat and his active and prudent monks took occasion to
withdraw from the carousing company in the hall, and immediately
repaired to the church under colour of performing their regular
devotions. But they left the service of Nones unsaid for that day,
taking no heed of the canonical hours, but getting all things ready for
the happy and peaceful translation. After a time the abbat and his
prudent monks returned to the company and caused more drink to be
brought into the hall, still farther to celebrate the happy day of his
lordship’s taking possession. The whole day having been spent in
feasting and drinking, and dark night coming on apace, the company
retired by degrees, every man to his own house or hut, his home or
present resting place: and thereupon the monks went again to the
church, opened the tomb (of which the fastenings had been forced),
opened the coffin, and devoutly inspected the body of Saint Withburga,
and having inspected and revered it they closed up the coffin again,
and got everything in readiness for carrying it off. About the middle
of the night, or between the third and fourth watch when the matutina
or lauds are begun to be sung, the coffin in which the body of the
saint was inclosed, was put upon the shoulders of the active and
prudent monks, who forthwith conveyed it with great haste and without
any noise-making to a wheeled car which had been provided for that
purpose. The coffin was put into the car, the servants of the abbat
were placed as guards round about the car to defend it, the Lord Abbat
and the monks followed the car in processional order, other well-armed
loaf-eaters followed the abbat and the monks; and in this order they
set forward for Brandon. The journey was long and anxious, but when
they came to the village of Brandon and to the bank of the river which
leads towards the house of Ely, they found ready and waiting for them
the boats which the abbat had commanded, and immediately embarking with
their precious treasure they hoisted sail and made ply their oars at
the same time. In the meanwhile the men of Dereham, having recovered
from the deep sleep and the confusion of ideas which are brought on by
much strong drink, had discovered that the monks of Ely had stolen the
body of Saint Withburga. Hullulu! never was such noise heard in so
small a place before. Every man, woman, and child in Dereham was
roused, and ran shrieking to the empty tomb in the church, and at the
sound of the horn, all the people from all the hamlets and homesteads
near unto the pleasant hill of Dereham came trooping in with bills and
staves, not knowing what had happened, but fancying that the fiery Dane
was come again. But when they saw or were told about the empty tomb,
the people all shouted “Who hath done this deed? Who hath stolen the
body of our saint?” Now no one could gainsay that the Abbat of Ely with
his monks had done it. A serf who had gone early a-field to cut grass
while the dew was on it, had met the car and the procession on the road
between Dereham and Brandon; and what was of more significance, the
presbyter or mass-priest of the church of Dereham, coming to the
communion-table found upon it a piece of parchment whereon was written
these words: “I, Abbat of Ely and Lord of Dereham, by and with the
consent and approval of Edgar the King, have translated the body of
Saint Withburga, to be hereafter kept in Ely Abbey with increased pomp,
worship, and reverence; and this, oh presbyter of Dereham, is my
receipt for the blessed body aforesaid.” Then, I wis, were heard words
of much irreverence from the ignorant and rustical people of the place!
Some of them stopped not in calling the right excellent abbat a thief,
a midnight robber, a perturbator of the peace of saints, a violator of
the tombs of the saints! Nor did they spare King Edgar more than the
abbat, saying that although he might by his kingly power and without
wrong grant to the house at Ely their lands and services, and even
their church, he had no right to give away the body of their saint, and
order it to be removed out of their church, wherein it had reposed for
thrice one hundred years; and they all presently agreed to pursue the
abbat and the monks, and endeavour to recover the prey. And so, arming
themselves with whatsoever weapons they could most readily meet with,
they all poured out of Dereham, and took the shortest way to
Brandon.[224] They were brisk men these folk of the uplands, well
exercised in the game of bowls, and in pitching the bar, and in running
and leaping, and in wrestling on the church-green; they were
light-footed men these men of Dereham; but although they ran their best
it was all too late when they got to Brandon, for the monks had got a
long way down the river with the saint’s body. Nevertheless the Dereham
folk continued the chase; they divided themselves into two bands or
parties, and while one party ran down one bank of the river, the other
ran down on the opposite side. They even came abreast of the Lord
Abbat’s boats, and got near enough to see the pall which covered the
coffin that contained the body of their saint; but the river being here
broad and deep, and they being unprovided with boats (the prudent abbat
had taken care for that), they could not get at the coffin or at the
monks; and so, after spending some time on the banks shaking their
bill-hooks and staves, and uttering threats and reproaches till they
were tired, they gave up the pursuit as hopeless, and began to return
home with sad and very angry hearts. The Lord Abbat and the monks of
Ely continued their voyage without molestation.[225] They landed safely
on the same day, about a mile from Ely Abbey, at the place called
Tidbrithseie, but which men do now call Turbutsey.[226] Here they were
received with great joy and triumph by all sorts of people, who came
down to the waterside, with the monks and mass-priests, to meet them,
for all the in-dwellers of Ely town, and all the people that dwelt near
it, were as glad to get the body of the saint as the people of Dereham
were grieved to lose it. And at eventide, or about compline or second
vespers, on this self-same day, the body and coffin of the saint, being
put upon another car, was conveyed by land from Turbutsey to Ely, and
into the abbey, with solemn procession and the singing of praises to
God, and was then, with all due reverence and a _Te Deum Laudamus_ in
the choir, deposited in the abbey-church next to Saint Etheldreda, and
near unto Saint Sexburga and Saint Ermenilda. Now this happy
translation of Saint Withburga’s body took place on the eighth of the
month of July, in the year of our Lord nine hundred and seventy-four.
And is not the day of this translation ever observed as a high festival
by the monks of Ely? Much did the Lord Abbat congratulate himself on
his success; and well he might, for translations of the like kind, as
well before his time and since, have often been attended with fighting
and bloodshed, nay, with great battles between party and party, and the
death of many baptized men! But through the good policy and great
wisdom of this our Lord Abbat there was not a man that had either given
or received so much as a blow from a staff or cudgel. Head-aches there
had been at Dereham on first waking in the morning, but these had
proceeded only from the over-free use of the abbat’s strong drinks, and
were cured by the fresh morning air and the good exercise the men got
in running after their saint. _Decus et decor, divitiæ et miracula
omnia_—credit, grace, and ornament, riches and many miracles, did the
saint bring to the house of Ely! And mark the goodness and bounty of
the saint in making heavenly bot to the good folk of Dereham! There, in
the churchyard, and out of the grave wherein Withburga had been first
buried, sprang up a curing miraculous well to cure disorders of the
spirit as well as of the flesh. And have its waters ever ceased to
flow, and is it not called Saint Withburga’s well?[227] albeit the
vulgar do name it, now-a-days, the well of Saint Winifred.

Now it was in thinking upon this legend that Elfric, the sword-bearer
of the Lord of Brunn, was brought to turn his thoughts upon the now
well-peopled town and well-cultivated fields of the upland of Dereham;
and thus thinking, and knowing the store of wine and corn that might be
had in that vicinage, he had proposed to his lord to make a foray in
that direction, and to proceed, in part, after the manner in which the
Lord Abbat of the olden time had proceeded when he went to steal away
the body of the saint. And Elfric had been thanked by the Lord Hereward
for his suggestion, and had been called into council as well as
Girolamo, and had given many hints as to the best means of carrying out
the good plan of robbing the Saxons of Dereham (who had rather tamely
submitted to the Normans), in order to feed the monks of Ely and the
Saxons of the Camp of Refuge.

Because of the many waters and the streams that cut up the country into
the form and appearance of some great _echec_[228] board, Duke William
had not been able to make his line of beleaguerment quite so perfect
and strong on this side of the Fen-country as he had done on the other
sides; but he had posted a good number of archers and spearmen on the
uplands beyond the fens, and between Swaffham and Dereham, and upon
these he relied for checking the incursions of the Saxons, and keeping
them out of countries abounding with supplies. Now Lord Hereward had
caused to be collected a good number of skerries and other light and
fast boats, even as the good abbat had done aforetime, and these boats
had been sent up the river by night to the vicinage of Brandon, where,
with the brave fellows on board of them, they lay concealed among the
tall rushes. And while the Lord of Brunn, crossing the rivers and
meres, collected a good force in front of Swaffham, which would not
fail of drawing all the Norman troops towards that one point, his
sword-bearer and the Salernitan were to make rapidly for Brandon with
more men, and from Brandon to make for Dereham; so timing their
movements, in small parties and along different paths, that they should
all meet in the churchyard and by Saint Withburga’s well at midnight of
a moonless night, when the town would be buried in sleep.

On the day next after that on which the evil-minded prior of Ely had
formally accused Girolamo of witchcraft, and had spoken so daringly
against the Lord Abbat, Hereward marched from the Camp of Refuge with
only a few men, his intention being to increase his strength on his
march; and well did he know that at the sounding of his horn, and at
the sight of his banner, the hardy fenners would follow him
whithersoever he might choose to lead. The gleemen and menestrels who
sang the songs which had been made in honour of him were the best and
surest recruiters for the army of the Lord of Brunn. They were ever
going from township to township, with their voices and harps, or Saxon
lyres. They were small townships these in the fenny countries, and
rustical and wild. The fashion of house-building had little changed
here since the days of the ancient Britons: the houses or huts were of
a round shape, and not unlike the form of bee-hives; they had a door in
front, and an opening at top to let out the smoke, but window to let in
the light was there none; the walls were made of wattle and dab, the
roofs of rushes and willow branches cut in the fens; but the better
sort of the houses had stone foundations and rough stone pillars and
traves for the door-way, the stone having been brought from the quarry
belonging to Peterborough Abbey, or from some other distant quarry. Yet
these poor houses were not so comfortless within as might have been
prejudged by those who only saw the outside; the hides of the cattle,
the fleeces of the sheep, and the skins of the deer, and the abounding
feathers of the fen-fowl were good materials for warm covering and warm
clothing; neither turf nor wood for firing was ever lacking in those
parts, and the brawny churls that came forth from the townships,
blowing their blast-horns, or shouting for the Lord of Brunn, or
brandishing their fen poles over their heads, did not look as if they
were scant of meat, or fasted more frequently than mother church
prescribed. At the same time Elfric and Girolamo, with their party,
began their devious, roundabout march for Brandon, being instructed to
keep as much out of sight even of the country people as was possible,
and to shun any encounter with the Normans, even though tempted by ever
so favourable an opportunity. Hereward had said to them, “Our present
business is to get corn and wine for the abbey, and not to fight. Be
cautious and true to time, and diverge not a hair’s breadth from the
plan which hath been laid down. Conjoint or combined operations fail
oftener through vanity and conceit than through any other cause. But ye
be not men of that sort; ye will get your stores down to the boats at
Brandon by daybreak to-morrow morning, or between lauds and prime, and
I shall then have made my retreat, and be upon the bank of the
river[229] between Hockwold and Brandon, and ready to give ye the hand
if it should be needful. Elfric, mind keep thy swinging hanger in its
sheath, and think only of bread and wine!” And unto these, the parting
words of their lord and captain, the sword-bearer and the Salernitan
had both said, “Upon our souls be it!” And well did they redeem their
solemn pledge. The wise monks who went to steal away the body of the
saint were hardly so prudent and cautelous. Elfric even eschewed the
marvellous temptation of falling upon a young Norman knight that was
riding along the high-road between Brandon and Dereham, attended by
only two men-at-arms and a horse-boy. By keeping under cover, and by
creeping in little parties of twos or threes across the country where
there was no cover to conceal them, the forayers all got safely into
the churchyard and to St. Withburga’s well at midnight. The Lord of
Brunn, who had not sought concealment, but had taken the most direct
and open road, and exposed his movement as much as he could do, had got
behind Swaffham by the hour of sunset, and had made such a hubbub and
kindled such a fire in the country between Swaffham and Castle Acre
that all the Normans had marched off in that direction, even as had
been anticipated. Even the young knight and his attendants, whom Elfric
had let pass on the road, had spurred away for Castle Acre, which, at
one time, was reported to be on fire. In this sort there was not a
Norman left in Dereham; and as for the Saxons of the town, after
wondering for a season what was toward, they came to the conclusion
that it was business which did not concern them, and so went quietly to
their beds—the burgher and the freeman to his sheets of strong brown
linen, and the hind and serf to his coverlet of sheep-skins or his bed
of straw. The snoring from the little township was so loud that a good
ear could hear it in the church-yard; the very dogs of the place seemed
all asleep, and there was not a soul in Dereham awake and stirring
except a grey-headed old Saxon, who came with horn lantern in one hand
and a big wooden mallet in the other to strike upon the church bell
which hung in a little round tower apart, but not far from the church.
As the old man came tottering among the graves and hillocks of earth,
behind which the foraying party was all concealed, Elfric whispered to
Girolamo, “For this night the midnight hour must remain untold by
church-bell in Dereham. We must make capture of this good grey-beard,
and question him as to where lie the most stores, and where the best
horses and asses.”

And scarcely were the words said or whispered ere Girolamo had fast
hold of the bell-knocker on the one side, and Elfric on the other. The
patriarch of Dereham was sore affrighted, and would have screamed out
if Elfric had not thrust his cap, feather and all, into his open mouth.
Gaffer continued to think that he was clutched by goblins or by devils;
as the dim and yellow light from the horn lantern fell upon the sharp
dark face of the Salernitan, the old fellow, fortified in his belief,
shook and trembled like leaves of the witch-elm, or more tremulous
aspen, and nearly swooned outright. Elfric took the cap out of his
mouth, and let go the right arm of the old man, who thereupon took to
crossing himself, and muttering some fragment of a Saxon prayer potent
against evil spirits.

“Father,” said Elfric, who was now holding the horn lantern, “Father,
we be no evil spirits or goblins, but honest Saxons from the Camp of
Refuge come to seek corn and wine for the good monks of Ely; so tell us
where we can best provide ourselves, and find cattle to carry our store
down to Brandon. Come, quick, good Gaffer, for the time presses!”

When the old man looked into the merry laughing face of the
ruddy-cheeked, fair-haired sword-bearer, his dread evanished, for there
was no believing such a face to belong to any body or thing that was
evil. Gaffer, moreover, bethought himself that he had never yet heard
of spirit, ghost, or goblin asking for bread and wine. In brief, the
old hind was very soon comforted altogether, and having no corn or wine
of his own, and no great love for those that had, he soon gave all the
information that was demanded of him; and this being got, Elfric gave a
low whistle, and the armed Saxons started up from their hiding places
behind the grave mounds, and Saint Withburga’s well, and other parts
and corners of the churchyard, and ranged themselves in battle-array,
and marched into the one long single street of the town. The houses of
Dereham, in this dry and rich upland country, were better than the
houses in the fens, but still most of them were small, and low, and
poor, and rudely covered with thatch. Some larger and better houses
there were, and of most of these the Norman chiefs and their soldiers
had taken possession. The presbyter or mass-priest and the borhman[230]
had, however, kept the good houses that were their own, and they had
granaries with corn in them, and cellars holding both wine and ale, and
barns and yards behind their houses, and stables, that were not empty;
but these it was resolved not to touch, except, perhaps, for the
purpose of borrowing a horse or two to carry the corn and the wine,
that might be gotten elsewhere, down to the boats below Brandon. While
Girolamo remained with one good party at the end of the street watching
the road which leads into the town from Swaffham and Castle Acre,
Elfric with another party of the merry men proceeded right merrily to
levy the contribution. He began with the Norman houses. Here the Saxon
serfs, though somewhat alarmed when first roused from their deep sleep,
not only threw open their doors with alacrity, but also led Elfric’s
people to the cellars and store-houses. Nay, upon a little talk with
the fen-men, and after an agreement made between them that the doors
should be broken as if violence had been used, and some resistance
attempted, they threw open all parts of the houses, stables, and
outhouses, and assisted their countrymen in packing up their booty, in
harnessing the horses and asses, as well as in other necessary offices.
Not a murmur was heard until they came to visit some of the houses of
the freed-men of Dereham. These men, who had some small stores of their
own, were more angered than comforted by being told that the corn was
to make bread for the monks of Ely; for, strange and wicked as it may
appear, it was nevertheless quite true, that in Dereham the translation
of Saint Withburga’s body had never been forgiven, but was still held
as a piece of cheating and thievery, notwithstanding the heavenly bot
or compensation of the miraculous well, and in spite of King Edgar’s
charter, and the subsequent approval of our lord the Pope, and maugre
the fact obvious to all men that the saint was better lodged at Ely
than ever she could have been in this little church. In truth, those
freemen made an exceeding great clamour. “To the devil with the monks
of Ely for us,” said they. “In the bygone times they came to Dereham
and treacherously stole away the body of our saint by night, and now
they send armed men to break upon our sleep and carry off our grain!”

Elfric bade them remember and mind that the Lord Abbat of Ely was lord
and proprietor of Dereham, and that they were or ought to be his liege
men; and as they continued to complain, and to say that they wished the
Normans would soon get back from Swaffham and Castle Acre, Elfric broke
the pates of two or three of them with one of their own staves. But
nowhere could these men do more than grumble; their numbers being but
small, and the serfs being mostly on the other side: moreover, arms had
they none, their friends the Normans having taken care of that. Having
found cattle enough elsewhere, Elfric would not molest the mass-priest,
who slept so soundly that he heard nothing of what was passing, and
knew nothing of the matter until Elfric had gotten down to the little
Ouse, or twenty good miles from Dereham.

It was midnight when the fen-men arrived at Dereham town, and before
prime they were below Brandon, and loading their boats with the corn
and wine which had previously loaded a score of good upland
pack-horses, and more than a score of dapple asses. “This,” said
Elfric, “is not a bad lift for one night’s work! I should like to see
the face of the Normans when they return from Swaffham and Castle Acre
into Dereham!”

Even Girolamo seemed merry, and almost smiled, as he counted the
measures of corn and the measures of wine. But hark! a brazon trumpet
is heard from the other side of Brandon; aye, the blast of a trumpet,
and a Norman trumpet too; and before the Saxons had half finished
loading their boats, a great body of Norman cavalry came trotting down
the road which ran along the bank of the river, being followed at no
great distance by a great company of Norman bowmen. It was not from
Dereham that these foes came—oh no! the Normans who had quitted that
town on the preceding evening to look after Lord Hereward, had not yet
returned, and some of them never would return—but it had so chanced
that an armament on the march from Saint Edmundsbury and Thetford came
this morning to Brandon and caught sight of the boats on the river, and
of the armed Saxons on the bank. Some of the midnight party thought
that it would be best to get into the boats and abandon the half of the
booty; but this was not to be thought of, inasmuch as not a drop of the
wine which the monks of Ely so much wanted had been gotten into the
boats. Girolamo and Elfric saw at a glance (and it was needful to have
quick sight and instant decision, for the Normans were almost upon
them), that the ground they stood upon, being a narrow road, with a
deep river on one side, and a ditch and a low, broad, and marshy meadow
on the other, was good defensive ground, for the horse could only
charge upon the narrow road, and it would take the archers afoot some
time to get across the ditch into the fields, if, indeed, the archers
should decide upon adventuring on that swampy ground.

“We can make them dance the dance we have given them before,” said the
Salernitan. “Tie me those pack-horses and asses tight together between
the Norman horse and us, pile up these barrels and bags; leap, twenty
good bowmen, into those boats, and ascend the river a little, and
string to ear and take these horsemen in flank as they come down the
road, while we meet them in the teeth with pikes and javelins.”

“And,” quoth Elfric, looking at the sun, “if we but keep our ground,
Lord Hereward will be on the opposite side of the river before ye can
say a dozen credos—so blow! Saxons, blow your horns to help that
blatant trumpet in telling the Lord of Brunn that fighting is toward,
and keep ready a few of the boats to waft over Lord Hereward’s force to
this side of the river!”

The Saxons blew their horns as loud as they could blow them, meaning
the blasts to be as much a note of defiance to the enemy as a signal to
their friends; and the Norman trumpeter kept blowing his brazon and
far-sounding trumpet, and the Norman cavaliers kept charging along the
road, shouting and cursing and calling the Saxons thieves and
cowards—which they had no right to do. As the enemy came near, the
Saxons set up a shout, and the scared horses and asses tied together on
the road, set up their heels with such a kicking and braying and
neighing as were never seen and heard; and up started from the sedge by
the river bank the score of good Saxon archers that had gone a little
up the river in the boats, and whiz went their arrows into the bowels
of the horses the Normans were riding, and every arrow that did not
kill, disabled some horse or man, the archers in the sedges being too
near their aim to throw away a single arrow. The knight in command
ordered the trumpeter to sound a retreat, but before the man could put
the brass to his lips, a shaft went through his cheeks and spoiled his
trumpeting for aye. But the Normans showed that they could run without
sound of trumpet; and away galloped the valorous knight to bring up his
bowmen. These Norman archers had no great appetite for the business,
and albeit they were told there was a great treasure to be gotten, they
stood at a distance, looking now down the road, and now down the river,
and now across the ditch and the plashy meadows beyond it; and thus
they stood at gaze until they heard a round of Saxon cheers, and the
too well-known war-cry of “Hereward for England!” and until they saw a
warlike band advancing towards Brandon by the opposite bank of the
river. A cockle shell to a mitre—but they tarried not long then! Away
went the Normans, horse and foot, as fast as they could go through
Brandon town and back upon the high road by which they had marched from
Thetford.

“Ha! ha!” cried the Lord of Brunn to his friends from across the river;
“what new wasps’ nest is this ye have been among?”

The sword-bearer replied that it was a Norman force which had been
marching from the south-east.

“’Tis well,” said Hereward; “and I see ye have made good booty, and so
all is well on your side. On our side we have led the Normans from
Dereham and thereabouts a very pretty dance. I drew a party of them
after me into the fens and cut them off or captured them to a man. I
count as my prisoners one rash young knight and fifteen men-at-arms.”

“We have loaded and brought hither more than a score of asses and a
full score of pack-horses. Shall we finish loading? All the wine is
here, and a good deal of the corn, and—”

“But shall we not pursue?” cried Girolamo. “Those Normans that came on
so boldly are now running like sheep. By moving across this marsh, as
light fen-men move, we shall be sure to cut off a part of them.”

“Since the corn and wine are now safe, be it as you please, Girolamo;
but take Elfric with thee, and go not too far in pursuit.”

A light skerry was drawn from the river and laid across the ditch in
less than a credo; and then away went the Salernitan and the
sword-bearer, and all the best archers and boldest men of their party,
across the plashy fields; and soon they came up with the rear of the
flying Normans, and engaged them in battle on the dry road between
Brandon and Thetford, and slew many of them, and captured many more,
together with all the baggage and stores of the armament. The short but
fierce battle was over, and Elfric was counting the prisoners, when one
of them after surrendering his sword, and after begging for and
receiving quarter, sneaked out of the throng and endeavoured to escape
by running into a thicket near the roadside. The Salernitan, who was
resting himself after his exertion, and leaning on the cross of his
well-used sword, now in its sheath, saw the intention of the
man-at-arms, and rushed after him into the thicket. Now that caitiff,
in giving up his sword, had not given up a concealed dagger, and when
Girolamo touched him on the shoulder, merely with the point of his
still-sheathed sword, he drew that dastardly and unknightly weapon from
his breast, and plunged it into the left side of the Salernitan.
Girolamo fell to the ground with the murderer’s knife in his side; but
in the next instant, the murderer was shot through the brain by a
well-directed arrow, and as he fell, several Saxons fell with their
swords upon him, and, in their fury at his treachery, they hacked his
body to pieces. Yet these honest men, though they saw the blood was
welling from his side, had much ado to believe that the dark stranger
was really hurt with a mortal hurt, and could die like other men. It
would be hard to say how long they might have stood looking upon him,
stupidly, but not unkindly, if he had not said, “Saxons, raise my head,
place me with my back to a tree, and go seek Elfric, and tell him I am
hurt by one of his felon prisoners.”

Elfric came running to the spot with rage, grief, and astonishment on
his countenance. The sword-bearer was breathless and could not speak;
the Salernitan was already half-suffocated with the blood that flowed
inwardly, but it was he that spoke first and said, “Elfric! after
twenty-five years of war and mortal hate between me and them, the
Normans have killed me at last! Elfric, let me not die unavenged. Slay
me every Norman prisoner thou hast taken on this foul day.”

The sword-bearer, knowing that Lord Hereward allowed not of such
massacres, and wishing not to irritate Girolamo by a refusal, did some
violence to his conscience and sense of truth, first by nodding his
head as if in assent, and next by saying that the prisoners should
assuredly rue the atrocious deed which had been done. [But these words
were truer than Elfric had reason to think they would be; for while he
was in the wood some of the fen-men, having no longer any commander
with them to control their wrath, beat and wounded the prisoners, and
dispatched some of them outright.] When the Salernitan spoke again he
said, “Elfric, leave not my body here to be tracked and outraged by the
accursed Normans. Get it carried to Ely and see it interred like the
body of a Christian man. And, Elfric, sprinkle a little holy water over
my grave, and go there at times to say a _De profundis_ for the peace
of my soul!”

Here the sword-bearer said he hoped the hurt was not so bad but that
some skilful leech might cure it.

“Alas, no! not all the leeches between this and Salerno could do me any
good. Dear Salerno! shining bay, bright sky, blue hills, I shall never
see ye more! I lived but for the hope of that, and for vengeance upon
the Normans! My life hath been a life of woe, but I have done them some
harm, thank God for that! But it is over.... I grow faint. Oh, that
some godly confessor were at hand to shrieve me!”

“Shall I run into Brandon and seek a priest,” said the sword-bearer;
“or shall I send one of these our true men into the town?”

“No, Elfric, thou must not leave me in my last agony, and there is no
time for sending and seeking. But, Elfric, undo my collar, and unbutton
this hard mail-jacket, and bring out the silver crucifix, which I
received from my mother, and which hath never been from my neck—no,
not for a second of time—during these last forty years. Elfric, I have
kissed that silver crucifix openly, and in despite of the accursed
ravings of Jews and Saracens, upon the very spot where our Lord was
crucified! Elfric, that little cross was round my neck, held by the
same silver chain to which my mother hung it, when, sailing between
Cyprus and Palestine with turbaned infidels, the bark went down in deep
water, and every soul perished, save only I! Kind Saxon, it was my
faith in that cross that saved my health and life in Alexandria, when
pestilence raged throughout the land of Egypt, and depopulated
Alexandria, and all the cities of Egypt! Let my dying lips close upon
that cross:—and, good Elfric, as thou hopest thyself to die in peace,
and to be admitted into the dominions of the saints, see that chain and
cross buried with me,—round my neck and upon my breast, as they now
are! And take and keep for thyself whatever else I possess, except this
sword, which thou wilt give in my name to the Lord of Brunn. Dear boy!
the Normans have not left me much to give thee ... but I had broad and
rich lands once, and horses of high breed and price, and rich
furniture, and sparkling jewels brought from the Orient by the
Amalfitans!”[231]

While the dying Salernitan was thus speaking—his voice ever growing
fainter and fainter—the sword-bearer gently and piously did all that
he had been required to do, undoing the collar, and unbuttoning the
coat of mail which the Salernitan wore under his loose mantle of
woollen cloth, and bringing out from beneath the under-vest the silver
crucifix, and placing it in the feeble right hand of the Salernitan,
who then kissed it and said, “Mother dear, I shall soon be with thee!
Oh, heavenly Mother, let my soul pass easily from this hapless body!”

Here Elfric, who had been well indoctrinated in the days of his youth
by the best of the monks of Spalding, crossed himself and said, that it
was God himself who had enjoined the forgiveness of our enemies, and
that holy men had ever declared that the moribund died easiest when he
forgave all the wrongs that had been done him, and died in peace with
all mankind.

Girolamo had to gasp for breath before he could speak; but at length he
said, “Saxon, I die in peace with all mankind, or with all that profess
the Christian faith—save only the Normans. I forgive all men as I hope
to be forgiven. _Fiat misericordia tua, Domine_; yea, I forgive all and
die in peace with all, save only the detestable ungodly Normans, who
have heaped upon me such wrong as cannot be forgiven, and who have
belied the promises made at their baptism, and who be Christians but in
name. Elfric, remember! they slew my kindred and all the friends of my
youth, or they caused them to die in sickly dungeons or in exile and
beggary; they surprised and stole from me the young bride of my heart
and gave her over to violence and infamy! Elfric, wouldst ever forgive
them if they should thus seize and treat thy Mildred?”

Elfric shook his head as though he would say he never could; but albeit
Elfric was not dying, he ought not to have done this. Girolamo’s head
was now falling on his breast, and he several times essayed to speak
and could not. At last he said to Elfric, who was kneeling by his side,
“Tell the Lord Hereward that I die his constant friend, and call upon
him to avenge my death! Elfric, put thine ear closer to my mouth.... So
... and Elfric, go tell the monks at Ely that I am not the Jew that
cannot die!”

Here the sword-bearer, who was supporting the Salernitan with his right
arm, felt a short and slight shivering, and raising his head so as to
look in his face, he saw that the eyelids were dropping over the dark
eyes,—and, in another brief instant, Girolamo was dead.

The Saxons cut down branches of trees, and with the branches and their
fen poles, and some of the lances which had been taken from the
Normans, they made a rude catafalk or bier, and placing the Salernitan
upon it, with many a _De profundis_, and many expressions of wonderment
that he should have died, they carried him from the thicket and over
the Thetford road and across the plashy meadows. The bier was followed
by the surviving Norman prisoners, all expecting to be offered up as an
holocaust, and crying _Misericorde_ and _Nôtre Dame_. The pursuit and
the fight, the capture and the woe which had followed it, had
altogether filled a very short space of time; and Hereward, who had
crossed the river with all his forces, and having embarked in the boats
all that remained to be embarked, was congratulating Elfric on his
speed, when he saw that the body stretched upon the bier was no less a
man than Girolamo of Salerno. At first the Lord of Brunn thought or
hoped that Girolamo was only wounded; but when his sword-bearer told
him that he was dead, he started as one that hears a great and
unexpected calamity, and he put his hand to his brow and said, “Then,
by all the saints of Ely, we have bought the corn and wine for the
monks at too dear a price!”

Some short season Hereward passed in silent and sad reflections. Then
approaching the bier whereon the body of Girolamo lay with the face
turned to the skies, and the little silver cross lying on the breast,
and the limbs decently composed, all through the pious care of Elfric,
the Lord of Brunn muttered a _De profundis_ and a _Requiescat in pace_,
and then said, “Elfric, I never loved that man! Perhaps, at times, I
almost feared him, with the reach of his skill and the depth and
darkness of his passions. I never could hate the foul fiend himself so
much as Girolamo hated these Normans! But, be it said, his wrongs and
sufferings have far exceeded mine. England and I stand deeply indebted
to him!”

“He bade me give thee this his sword, and to tell thee that he died thy
friend,” said Elfric.

“There never yet was sword deeper in the gore of our foes,” said
Hereward; “I know he was my friend, and in many things my instructor,
and I reproach my heart for that it never could love him, albeit it was
ever grateful towards him! But, Elfric, we must down the river without
delay, for the monks of Ely will be clamorous for their wine, and
traitors may take advantage of mine absence from the camp. See to it,
Elfric, for a heaviness is upon my heart such as I have never known
before. I had bad dreams in my last sleep, visions of surprisings and
burnings by the Normans, and now the great loss and bad omen of
Girolamo’s death bring those dreams back upon my mind with more force
than they had before.”

“I have had my dreams too of late,” said the sword-bearer; “but dreams,
good my lord, are to be read contrariwise. Let me give your lordship a
slice of wheaten bread and a cup of wine.”

Quoth the Lord of Brunn, “’Tis not badly thought, for I am fasting
since last sunset, and the monks of Ely must hold us excused if we
broach one cask. Elfric, I say again, we have paid all too dearly for
this corn and wine.”



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                     A CHAPTER AND A GREAT TREASON.


No sooner had the Lord of Brunn quitted the Camp of Refuge, the day
before that on which the Salernitan was slain, than the prior and the
chamberlain and their faction called upon the Lord Abbat to summon a
chapter of the house, in order to deliberate upon the perilous state of
affairs; and notably upon the emptiness of the granaries and
wine-cellars of the convent, there being, they said, barely red wine
enough in the house to suffice for the service of the mass through
another week. Now, good Thurstan, nothing daunted by the malice and
plots of the prior (of which he knew but a part), readily convoked the
chapter, and gave to every official and every cloister-monk full
liberty to speak and vote according to his conscience and the best of
his knowledge. But much was the Lord Abbat grieved when he saw that a
good many of the monks did not rise and greet him as they ought to do,
and turned their faces from him as he entered the chapter-house and
gave them his _benedicite_, and _pax vobiscum_. And the abbat was still
more grieved and astonished when he heard the prior taking up the foul
accusation of Girolamo which had been disposed of the day before, and
talking about witchcraft and necromancy, instead of propounding some
scheme for the defence of the house and the Camp of Refuge against the
Norman invaders. Much did the good Thurstan suffer in patient silence;
but when the atrabilious[232] prior went on to repeat his accusations
against Elfric, the whilom novice of Spalding, and against himself, the
Lord Abbat of Ely, as defensors, fautors, and abettors of the
necromancer, and said that it was now known unto the holy Father of the
church at Rome, and throughout all Christendom, that last year an
attempt had been made to compass the life of _King_ William by
witchcraft (the Norman duke having only had a taste of our fen-fever,
as aforesaid!), Thurstan could remain silent no longer, and striking
the table with his honest Saxon hand until his abbatial ring was broken
on his finger (a sad omen of what was coming!), he raised his voice and
made the hanging roof of the chapter-house re-echo, and the cowardly
hearts of the wicked monks quiver and shake within them.

“There is a malice,” cried Thurstan, “worse than maleficium! There is a
crime worse than witchcraft, and that is—_ingratitude_! Prior, when I
was but a young cloister-monk, I found thee a sickly beggar in the
fens, and brought thee into this house! It was I that raised thee to
thy present eminence and illustration, and now thou wouldst sting me to
the heart! Prior, I say, there is worse guilt even than ingratitude,
and that is treason to one’s country! Prior, I have long suspected thee
of a traitorous correspondence with the Normans, or at least of a
traitorous wish to benefit thine own worldly fortune by serving them by
the damnable acts of betraying thy country and this house. I have been
but a fool, a compassionating, weak-hearted fool not to have laid thee
fast in a dungeon long ago. Remember! it is more than a year since I
threatened thee within these walls. But I relied upon the Saxon honesty
and the conscience and the solemn oaths of this brotherhood, and so
thought that thou couldst do no mischief, and mightest soon repent of
thy wickedness. And tell me, oh prior, and look me in the face, and
throw back thy cowl that all may see _thy_ face; tell me, have I not a
hundred times taken pains to show thee what, even in this world and in
mere temporalities, hath been the hard fate of the Saxon monks and
clergy that betrayed their flocks and submitted to the Normans? Speak,
prior; I wait for thine answer.”

But the prior could not or would not then speak.

“Hola!” cried the abbat. “Is mine authority gone from me? Is the power
I hold from Heaven, and from the sainted Confessor,[233] _Rex
venerandus_, and by the one-voiced vote of this house, already usurped?
Is my call to be disobeyed? Shall this false monk insult me before the
brotherhood by refusing to answer me? I appeal to all the monks in
chapter assembled.”

Several of the monks said that the prior was bound to answer the
question which the abbat had put to him; but the chamberlain stood
forward and said with an insolent tone, that in a chapter like the
present every monk might speak or be silent as he thought best; that
the question was irrelevant; and that, moreover, Brother Thurstan (mark
ye, he called him _frater_, and not dominus or abbat!) had put the said
question in a loud, angry, and unmannerly voice; and was, as he was but
too apt to be, in a very fierce and ungodly passion of rage.

“Oh chamberlain!” cried the abbat, “thou art in the complot against me
and thy country and the patrimony of Saint Etheldreda, and I have long
thought it, and....” “And _I_,” said the chamberlain, audaciously
interrupting the Lord Abbat while he was speaking, “And I have long
thought that thou hast been leading this house into perdition, and that
thou art not fit to be the head of it.”

A few of the cloister-monks started to their feet at these daring
words, and recited the rules of the Order of Saint Benedict, and called
upon the chamberlain and upon all present to remember their vows of
obedience, and the respect due to every lord abbat that had been
canonically elected and appointed; but alas! the number of these
remonstrants was very small—much smaller than it would have been only
the day before, for the faction had travailed hard during the night,
and had powerfully worked upon the fears of the monks, more especially
by telling them that neither bread nor wine could anywhere be had, and
that a new legate was coming into England from the pope to
excommunicate every Saxon priest and monk that did not submit to the
Conqueror. Now when Thurstan saw how few there were in chapter that
seemed to be steady to their duty, and true to their vows and to the
rules of the order (promulgated by Saint Benedict and confirmed by so
many pontiffs of Rome, and so many heads of the Benedictine Order,
dwelling in the house on Mons Casinium, by the river Liris, where Saint
Benedict himself dwelt, and fasted and prayed, when he was in the
flesh), his heart, bold and stout as it was, sank within him, and he
fell back in his carved seat and muttered to himself, “My pastoral
crook is broken! My flock are turned into wolves!”

But, among the true-hearted Saxon monks, there was one that had the
courage to defy the prior and his faction, and to stand forward and to
speak roundly in defence of the oppressed Lord Abbat; and when he had
spoken others found heart to do the same; and thereupon the weak and
unsteady part of the chapter, who had no malice against Thurstan, and
who had only taken counsel of their fears and craving stomachs, began
to fall away from the line where the factious would have kept them, and
even to reprove the chamberlain and the prior. This change of wind
refreshed both the body and the soul of Thurstan, who knew as little of
fear as any man that lived; and who had been borne down for a moment by
the weight and agony of the thought that all his friends were either
arrayed against him, or were too cowardly to defend him. Speaking again
as one having authority and the power to enforce it, he commanded the
prior and chamberlain to sit silent in their seats. And the two rebel
monks sate silent while Thurstan, in a very long and earnest discourse,
but more free from the passion of wrath than it had been, went once
more over the history of his life and doings, from the day of his
election down to the present troublous day; and spoke hopefully of the
return of King Harold, and confidently of the ability of the Saxons to
defend the Fen-country if they only remained true to themselves and to
the Lord Hereward, without plots or machinations or cowardly and
treacherous compacts with the enemy. The Lord Abbat’s discourse lasted
so long that it was now near the hour of dinner; and, as much speaking
bringeth on hunger and thirst, he was led to think about food and
drink, and these thoughts made him say, “My children, ye all know that
the Lord of Brunn hath gone forth of the Camp, at the point of day, to
procure for us corn and wine. He hath sworn to me to bring us both—and
when did the Lord of Brunn break his oath or fail in an enterprise? I
tell ye one and all that he hath vowed to bring us wine and bread or
die!”

The door of the chapter-house was closed and made fast, in order that
none should go out or come in so long as the chapter lasted; but while
Thurstan was saying his last words, the sub-sacrist, who was sitting
near a window which looked into the quadrangle or open square of the
abbey, very secretly and adroitly made a sign to some that were
standing below in the quadrangle; and scarcely had the Lord Abbat
pronounced the word “_die_” when a loud wailing and shouting was heard
from without, and then the words “He is dead! He is dead! The Lord
Hereward is killed!”

At these sounds Thurstan turned as pale as a white-washed wall, and
others turned as pale as Thurstan; and the traitor-monks smote their
breasts and made a show of being as much grieved and astounded as any
of them.

“Ah woe!” said the abbat, “but this is fatal news! What fresh sorrow is
this upon me! Hereward lost! He dead, whose arm and counsels formed our
strength! Oh! that I had died yesterday, or an hour ago! But who brings
the dire news? What and where is the intelligencer? Suspend this
miserable chapter, and throw open the door that we may see and hear.”

The sub-sacrist was the first that rushed to the door, and threw it
wide open and called upon a crowd of men without to come in and speak
to the Lord Abbat.

The crowd rushed in. It was made up of hinds and serfs from the
township of Ely, and of the gaping novices and lay brothers and serving
men of the abbey; but in the head of it was an old fenner, who dwelt on
the Stoke river between Hilgay and Downham-market, and who was well
known for his skill in fowling and decoying birds, and for no other
good deed: his name was Roger Lighthand, and he was afterwards hanged
for stealing. He had his tale by rote, and he told it well. He was
going that morning to look after some snares near Stoke-ferry, when, to
his amazement, he saw a great band of Normans marching across the fens
under the guidance of some of the fenners. He concealed himself and the
Normans concealed themselves: and soon afterwards there came a band of
Saxons headed by the Lord of Brunn, and these Saxons fell into the
ambush which the Normans had laid for them; and the Lord of Brunn,
after a desperate fight, was slain, and his head was cut off by the
Normans and stuck upon a spear; and then the Normans marched away in
the direction of Brandon, carrying with them as prisoners all the
Saxons of Lord Hereward that they had not slain—all except _one_ man,
who had escaped out of the ambush and was here to speak for himself.
And now another fenner opened his mouth to give forth the lies which
had been put into it; and this man said that, early in the morning, the
Lord of Brunn, with a very thin attendance, had come across the fens
where he dwelt, with a great blowing of horns, and with sundry gleemen,
who sang songs about the victories of Hereward the Saxon, and who drew
all the fenners of those parts, and himself among the rest, to join the
Lord of Brunn, in order to march with him to the upland country and get
corn and wine for the good monks of Ely. “When the Lord Hereward fell,”
said this false loon, “I was close to him, and I afterwards saw his
head upon the Norman lance.” “And I too,” quoth Roger Lighthand, “from
my hiding-place among the rushes, saw the bleeding head of the Lord of
Brunn as plainly as I now see the face of the Lord Abbat!”

The traitorous monks made a loud lamentation and outcry, but Thurstan
could neither cry nor speak, and he sate with his face buried in his
hands; while the prior ordered the crowd to withdraw, and then barred
the door after them. As he returned from the door to his seat, the
prior said, “Brethren, our last hope is gone!” And every monk then
present, save only three, repeated the words, “Our last hope is gone!”

“The great captain hath perished,” said the chamberlain: “he will bring
us no corn and wine! There is no help for us except only in tendering
our submission to _King_ William, and in showing him how to get through
the fens and fall upon the _rebel_ people in the Camp of Refuge, who
have consumed our substance and brought us to these straits!”

Many voices said in a breath that there was no other chance of escaping
famine or slaughter.

This roused the Saxon-hearted Lord Abbat, who had almost begun to weep
in tenderness for brave Hereward’s death; and, striking the table until
the hall rang again, he up and said, “Let me rather die the death of
the wicked than have part in, or permit, so much base treachery! Let me
die ten times over rather than be false to my country! Let me die a
hundred deaths, or let me live in torture, rather than betray the
noblest of the nobles of England that be in the Camp of Refuge; and the
venerable archbishop and bishops, abbats and priors that have so long
found a refuge in this house—a house ever famed for its hospitality.
Let me, I say....”

Here the prior, with great boldness and insolence, interrupted the Lord
Abbat, and said with a sneer, “The few servants of the church that now
be in this house shall be looked to in our compact with the Normans;
but for the fighting-lords that be in the Camp of Refuge, let them look
to themselves! They have arms and may use them, or by laying down their
arms they may hope to be admitted to quarter and to the _King’s_ peace;
or ... or they may save their lives by timeous flight ... they may get
them back into Scotland or to their own countries from which they came,
for our great sorrow, to devour our substance and bring down
destruction upon our house. We, the monks of Ely, owe them nothing!”

“Liar that thou art,” said Thurstan, “we owe them years of liberty and
the happy hope of being for ever free of Norman bondage and oppression.
If ye bring the spoilers among us, ye will soon find what we have owed
to these valorous lords and knights! We owe to them and to their
fathers much of the treasure which is gone and much of the land which
remains to this monastery: we owe to them the love and good faith which
all true Englishmen owe to one another; and in liberal minds this debt
of affection only grows the stronger in adverse seasons. We are pledged
to these lords and knights by every pledge that can have weight and
value between man and man!”

“All this,” quoth the chamberlain, “may or may not be true; but we
cannot bargain for the lives and properties of those that are in the
Camp of Refuge: and we are fully resolved to save our own lives, with
such property as yet remains to this, by thee misgoverned, monastery.
Nevertheless we will entreat the King to be merciful unto the rebels.”

“What rebels! what king!” roared the Lord Abbat again, smiting the
table; “oh chamberlain! oh prior! oh ye back-sliding monks that sit
there with your chins in your hands, not opening your lips for the
defence of your superior, to whom ye have all vowed a constant
obedience, it is ye that are the rebels and traitors! _Deo regnante et
Rege expectante_, by the great God that reigns, and by King Harold that
is expected, this Norman bastard is no king of ours! There is no king
of England save only King Harold, who will yet come back to claim his
own, and to give us our old free laws!”

“We tell thee again, oh Thurstan! that Harold lies buried in Waltham
Abbey, and that there be those who have seen...”

“Brother,” quoth the prior to the chamberlain, “brother, we but lose
our time in this idle and angry talk with a man who was ever too prone
to wrath, and too headstrong. The moments of time are precious! Let us
put the question.”

“Do it thyself, oh prior,” said the chamberlain, who then sat down,
looking very pale.

“It is a painful duty,” said the prior, “but I will do it.”

And having so said, the prior stood up, right before the Lord Abbat,
though not without fear and trembling, and, after stammering for some
time, he spoke in this strain, looking rather at the abbat’s feet than
in his face:—“Thurstan, it is better that one man should suffer a
temporary evil than that many men should perish! It is better that thou
shouldest cease to rule over this house than that the house, and all of
us in it, should be destroyed! I, the prior, and next in authority unto
thee, and with the consent and advice of all the chief obedientiarii of
the convent, do invite and intreat thee voluntarily to suspend thyself
from all the duties of thine office!”

“Chick of the fens, art so bold as this?” cried Thurstan, “hast thrown
thy respect for the canons of the church and the rules of this order of
St. Benedict into the same hell-pit where thou hast thrown the rest of
thy conscience? Children! brothers! ye, the ancient members of the
convent, what say ye this?”

Three monks who had grown grey in the house, without ever acquiring, or
wishing to acquire, any of the posts of eminence, to wit, Father
Kynric, Father Elsin, and Father Celred, raised their voices and said,
that such things had not been heard of before; that the prior,
unmindful of his vows, and of the deep debt of gratitude he owed unto
the Lord Abbat, was seeking to thrust him from his seat, that he might
sit upon it himself; and that if such things were allowed there would
be an end to the glory of the house of Ely, an end to all subordination
and obedience, an end to the rule under which the house had flourished
ever since the days of King Edgar, _Rex piissimus_.

Thus spoke the three ancient men; but no other monks supported them,
albeit a few of the younger members of the convent whispered in each
other’s ears that the prior was dealing too harsh a measure to the
bountiful Lord Thurstan.

The prior, glad to address anybody rather than the Lord Abbat, turned
round and spoke to Kynric, Elsin, and Celred: “Brothers,” said he, “ye
are mistaken as to my meaning. I, the humblest born of this good
community, wish not for higher promotion, and feel that I am all
unworthy of that which I hold. I propose not a forcible deprivation,
nor so much as a forcible suspension. I, in mine own name, and in the
names of the sub-prior, the cellarer, the sacrist, the sub-sacrist, the
chamberlain, the sub-chamberlain, the refectorarius, the precentor, and
others the obedientiarii, or officials of this goodly and godly house
of Ely, do only propound that Thurstan, our Lord Abbat, do, for a
season and until these troubles be past, quietly and of his own free
will, cease to exercise the functions of his office. Now, such a thing
as this hath been heard of aforetime. Have we not a recent instance and
precedent of it in our own house, in the case and conduct of Abbat
Wilfric, the immediate predecessor of my Lord Thurstan? But let me tell
that short tale, and let him whom it most concerneth take it for a
warning and example.—The Lord Abbat Wilfric was a high-born man, as
high-born as my Lord Thurstan himself, for there was royal Danish and
Saxon blood in his veins. Many were the hides of land, and many the
gifts he gave to this community and church: my Lord Thurstan hath not
given more! Many were the years that he lived in credit and reputation,
and governed the abbey with an unblemished character. Our refectory was
never better supplied than in the days of Abbat Wilfric; and, albeit
there were wars and troubles, and rumours of many wars in his days, our
cellars were never empty, nor was the house ever obliged to eat roast
and baked meats without any wheaten bread. It was a happy time for him
and for us! But, in an evil hour, Guthmund, the brother of my Lord
Abbat Wilfric, came unto this house with a greedy hand and a woeful
story about mundane loves and betrothals—a story unmeet for monastic
ears to hear. Guthmund, had paid his court to the daughter of one of
the greatest noblemen of East Anglia, and had gained her love. Now
Guthmund, though of so noble a family, and related to princes, was not
entitled to the privileges of prime nobility, neither took he rank with
them, forasmuch as that he had not in actual possession a sufficient
estate, to wit, forty hides of land. This being the case, the father of
the maiden forbade the troth-plight, and bade Guthmund fly his hawks in
another direction, and come no more to the house. So Guthmund came with
his piteous tale to his brother the Abbat Wilfric, who, thinking of
temporalities when he ought to have been thinking of spiritualities,
and preferring the good of a brother to the good of this house, did,
without consulting with any of the convent, but in the utmost privacy,
convey unto the said Guthmund sundry estates and parcels of land
appurtenant to this monastery, to wit, Acholt, part of Mereham,[234]
Livermere, Nachentune, Bedenestede, and Gerboldesham, to the end that,
being possessed of them, Guthmund might hold rank with the prime
nobility and renew his love-suit with a certainty of success.[235] Wot
ye well this pernicious brother of the abbat went away not with the sad
face he had brought to the abbey, but with a very joyous countenance,
for he took with him from our cartularies, the title-deeds of those
broad lands which had been given to the abbey by sundry pious lords.
Yes! Guthmund went his way, and was soon happy with his bride and the
miserable pleasures of the flesh, and the pomps and vanities of the
world. But the abbat, his brother, was never happy again, for his
conscience reproached him, and the secret of the foul thing which he
had done was soon discovered. The brotherhood assembled in chapter,
even as it is now assembled, denounced the robbery, the spoliation, and
sacrilege, and asked whether it were fit that such an abbat should
continue to hold rule over the house? Wilfric, not hardened in sin, but
full of remorse, felt that he could no longer be, or act as Lord Abbat,
and therefore went he away voluntarily from the abbey, renouncing all
authority. Yea, he went his way unto Acholt, where, from much sorrow
and perturbation of mind, he soon fell sick and died: and, as he died
very penitent, we brought back his body for sepulture in the abbey
church; and then proposed that our brother Thurstan should be our Abbat
and ruler.”

“Saint Etheldreda give me patience!” said Thurstan, “Oh prior, what
have I to do with this tale? Why revive the memory of the sins of a
brother, and once superior and father, who died of grief for that which
he had done, and which an excess of brotherly love had urged him to do?
How doth this tale apply to me? what have I had to do in it or with it,
save only to recover for this house the lands which my unhappy
predecessor conveyed away? I have brought ye hides of land, but have
given none to any of my kindred. That which hath been spent since the
black day of Hastings, hath been spent for the defence of the patrimony
of Saint Etheldreda, and for the service of the country. Have I not
brought Guthmund to compound with me, and to agree to hold from, and
under the abbey, and during his lifetime only, and with payment of dues
and services to the abbey, all the lands which his brother, the Abbat
Wilfric,—may his soul find pardon and rest!—alienated by that wicked
conveyance? and hath not the same Guthmund given us the dues and
services; and will not the lands of Acholt, Mereham, Livermere,
Nachentune, Bedenestede, and Gerboldesham revert to the house so soon
as he dies? Oh prior, that hast the venom of the serpent without the
serpent’s cunning, if ye bring in the son of the harlot of Falaise, and
if some pauper of a Norman knight get hold of these lands, the abbey
will never get them back again!” [And as Thurstan said, so it happened.
The demesnes were given to one Hugo de Montfort, and the church was
never able to recover possession of them.][236]

“Brethren,” said the prior, “I put it to ye, whether we be not now in
greater tribulation and want than ever we were before? Abbat Wilfric
gave away five manors and a part of a sixth; but the convent was still
left rich.”

“Aye! and the cellars full, and the granaries full,” said the cellarius.

“And nothing was taken from our treasury or from the shrines of our
saints,” said the sub-sacrist.

“Nor was there any dealing and pledging with the accursed Israelites,”
said the chamberlain.

“Nor did we then bring upon ourselves the black guilt of robbing other
religious houses to give the spoils to the half-converted, drunken
Danes,” said the sub-chamberlain.

“Slanderers and traitors all,” shouted Thurstan, “ye all know how these
things were brought about! There is not one of ye but had more to do in
that of which ye now complain than I had! Ye forced me into those
dealings with Jews and Danes.”

“Thou wast abbat and ruler of the house, and as such thou art still
answerable for all;” said the prior with a very insolent and diabolical
sneer.

Thurstan could no longer control his mighty wrath, and springing upon
the prior and seizing him by the neck he shouted, “Dog, I will answer
upon thy throat! Nay, viper, that stingest thy benefactor, I will crush
thee under my heel!”

And before the cellarer and chamberlain or any of that faction could
come to the rescue, the puny prior, with a blackened face, was cast on
his back upon the floor of the chapter-house, and the Lord Abbat had
his foot upon him.

The prior moaned and then screamed and yelled like a whipped cur: the
faction rose from their seats and came to his aid, but as they all knew
and dreaded the stalwart strength that was in Thurstan’s right arm,
each of them wished some other monk to go foremost, and so the cellarer
pushed forward the chamberlain, and the chamberlain pushed forward the
sub-chamberlain, the sacrist, the sub-sacrist, and so with the rest;
and maugre all this pushing, not one of them would venture to lay his
hand upon the sleeve of the abbat’s gown, or to get within reach of
Thurstan’s strong right arm.

But the Lord Abbat cooling in his wrath, and feeling scorn and contempt
instead of anger, took his foot from the hollow breast of the recreant
prior, and bade him rise and cease his yelling: and the prior rose, and
the abbat returned to his seat.

Now those of the faction who had not felt the tight grip of Thurstan’s
right hand, nor the weight of his foot, were greatly rejoiced at what
had happened, as they thought it would give them a handle whereby to
move a vote of the chapter for the forcible suspension of the Lord
Abbat; and to this end they raised a loud clamour that Thurstan had
acted uncanonically, tyrannically, and indecently, in beating a monk
who was next in dignity to himself, and that by this one act he had
merited suspension.

“Babblers and fools,” cried Thurstan, growing wroth again; “Fools that
ye are, though with more malice than folly, and with more treachery
than ignorance, it is not unto me that ye can expound the canons of the
church, or the rules of the order of Saint Benedict! Was I not bred up
in this house from mine infancy? Was I not reputed sufficiently learned
both in English and in Latin, many years before I became your abbat?
Have I not read and gotten by heart the laws and institutes? Ye have a
rule if ye would read it! and is it not this—that it is your duty to
obey your Lord Abbat in all things, and that your abbat may impose upon
each and all of ye such penance as he thinks fit, _secundum delictum_,
even to the chastising of ye with his own hand? Chamberlain! I have
seen Abbat Wilfric cudgel thee with his fen-pole until thy back was as
black as thy heart now is. Sacrist! thou art old now, but thou wilt
remember how Abbat Wilfric’s predecessor knocked thee down in the
refectory on the eve of Saint John, for being drunk before
evening-song, and thine offence was small compared to that which this
false prior hath given me before the whole house!”

The prior, who had now recovered his breath and removed himself to the
farthest end of the hall, spoke and said—“But what say the canons of
Ælfric?—‘Let not a priest wear weapons nor work strife, nor let him
swear oaths, but with gentleness and simplicity ever speak truly as a
learned servant of God:’—and what sayeth Ælfric in his pastoral
epistle?—‘No priest shall be too proud nor too boastful. He shall not
be violent and quarrelsome, nor stir up strife, but he shall pacify
quarrels always if he can; and he may not who is God’s soldier lawfully
wear weapons, nor go into any battle:’—and what say the canons enacted
under King Edgar, the great benefactor of this our house?—‘Let each of
God’s servants be to other a support and a help both before God and
before men: and we enjoin that each respect the other.’”

“Say on,” cried the abbat; “thou sayest not all the canons of good King
Edgar, for it ordains that all junior priests or monks shall respect
and obey their elders and superiors. But I will not lose more time and
temper in talking with thee and such as thou art; and since the major
part of the convent have fallen off from their duty and the respect and
obedience they owe me, I, Thurstan, by the grace of God Lord Abbat of
Ely, entering my solemn protest against the wrong which hath been done
me, and making my appeal to God against this injustice and rebellion,
do here, for this time being, take off my mitre and dalmatic, and lay
down my crosier, and take my departure for the Camp of Refuge, to take
my chance with those whom ye are betraying.”

And so saying, Thurstan laid mitre, dalmatic, and crosier upon the
table, and then strode down the hall towards the door.

“Oh Thurstan,” cried the chamberlain with a voice of great joy, “thou
hast done wisely! but it would not be wisely done in us to let thee go
forth of this house for this present! Sub-prior, cellarer, friends, all
that would save the abbey and your own lives, look to the door! Prior,
put it to the vote that the house in chapter assembled do accept the
voluntary resignation of Thurstan, and that he, our whilom abbat, be
closely confined within his own innermost chamber, until another
chapter ordain otherwise, or until this exceeding great danger be past.”

The door was more than secured; and save only the feeble voices of
those three old and good monks, Fathers Kynric, Elsin, and Celred, not
a voice was heard to speak against these wicked proposals, or in favour
of the bountiful Lord Abbat, whose heart died within him at the sight
of so much ingratitude, and who stood, as if rooted to the ground, at
the end of the hall near the door, muttering to himself, “Hereward, my
son, if thou hadst lived it ne’er had come to this! Oh noble lords and
knights and warriors true in the Camp,—no longer a Camp of Refuge, but
_Castra Doloris_, a Camp of Woe,—ye will be betrayed and butchered,
and in ye will be betrayed and butchered the liberties of England and
the last rights of the English church, before warning can be given ye!
Oh Stigand, my spiritual lord, and all ye Saxon bishops and abbats that
came hither as to a sanctuary, ye have but thrown yourselves into the
lion’s den! Hereward, dear, brave Hereward, thou art happy, thou art
happy in this, that thou hast at least died like a soldier! The rest of
us will die like sheep in the shambles!”

While Thurstan, a sadder man than ever was Marius among the ruins of
Carthage, was thus standing motionless, and communing with his own sad
heart, the prior put to the vote the resolution which the chamberlain
had moved; and the large majority of the house, some being deep in the
plot, but more being carried by the dread of the Normans and the dread
of famine, or being thrown into despair by the reported death of the
Lord of Brunn, voted as the prior and chamberlain wished they would
vote. The prior would fain have cast Thurstan into that subterranean
dungeon into which Thurstan had once threatened,[237] but unluckily
only threatened, to cast him; and he took much pains to show that it
was needful to keep the deposed abbat in a place of great strength and
security, to keep his imprisonment a secret, and to prevent all
possibility of access to him or correspondence with him; but when he
came to name the dark damp cold cells in the foundations of the abbey,
wherein the rebellious son of an old East Anglian king had been
immured, after having been deprived of his eyes, the monks testified
compunction and disgust, and even sundry monks that had long been the
most desperate of his faction spoke against the barbarity, and
therefore the astute prior had not put it to the vote, and Thurstan was
merely conveyed to the inner chamber of his own apartment; and this
being done, and a strong guard being left in the abbat’s apartment, the
monks all went to their long delayed dinner, and as soon as the dinner
was over, the prior, the cellarer, the chamberlain, the sacrist, and a
large attendance of monks and lay brothers went forth to complete their
treason, leaving behind them rigorous orders that all the gates of the
abbey should be kept closed, and that none should be admitted therein
until they returned from Cam-Bridge.[238] The way which the traitors
took across the fens and broad waters of Ely was indirect and long, for
they feared to be seen of any Saxon, and so shunned the good folk of
the township of Ely, the faithful vassals and loaf-eaters of the abbey.
Nevertheless they got to the causey which the Normans had made before
compline, or second vespers, and finding fleet horses there waiting for
them, they got to the castle at Cam-Bridge, and into the presence of
Duke William and his fiercer half-brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, two
good hours before the beginning of lauds.[239] The false Saxons kneeled
at the feet of the Normans, kissed their hands—mailed hands both, for
the bishop, heedless of the canons of the church, wore armour and
carried arms as frequently as his brother the duke, and, like the duke,
intended to take the field against the last of the Saxons, and was only
waiting for the summons and the sign which the monks of Ely were to
give. The compact had been propounded many nights before this; but now
the duke, speaking as lawful sovereign of England, and the Bishop of
Bayeux, speaking as one that had authority from the primate Lanfranc
and from the Pope of Rome himself, laid their hands upon the relics of
some Saxon saints which the traitor monks had brought with them, and
solemnly promised and vowed that, in consideration of the said monks
showing them a safe byway to the Camp of Refuge, and in consideration
of their other services, they would do no harm, nor suffer any to be
done either to Ely Abbey, or to any monk, novice, lay brother, or other
servant soever of that house. Aye, they promised and vowed that the
whole patrimony of Saint Etheldreda should remain and be confirmed to
the Saxon brotherhood, and that not a hide of land should be taken from
them, nor a single Norman knight, soldier, abbat, or monk be forced
upon them, or enriched by their spoils. Aye, and they promised and
vowed to enrich the shrines of the saints, and to restore to the abbey
its pristine splendour and all its ancient possessions, not excepting
those for which Guthmund, the brother of Abbat Wilfric, had compounded;
and they opened unto the delighted eyes of the prior the sure and
brilliant prospect of the mitre and crosier. And upon this the false
monks of Ely swore upon the same relics to do all and more than they
had promised to do; and so kneeled again and kissed the mailed hands,
and took their departure from that ill-omened castle on the hill that
stood and stands near to Cam-Bridge; and riding along the causey as
fast as the best English horses could carry them, and then stealing
over the waters, across the fens, and through the woods of willows,
like night thieves that blow no horn, because they will not that their
going and coming be known to honest men, they got back to the abbey,
and went to their several cells about the same hour of prime on which
Elfric the sword-bearer, and Girolamo the Salernitan, got down as far
as to Brandon with corn and wine for the house.

The order was again given that all the gates of the abbey should be
kept closed; and during the whole of that day, or from the rising of
the sun to the setting thereof, no living soul was allowed either to
enter the house or to issue therefrom. So much did the traitors fear
lest their treasons and the wrongs they had done unto the good Lord
Abbat should become known to the good folk of Ely town, and through
them to the warriors in the Camp of Refuge. Some of the Saxon prelates
had gone forth for the Camp several days before, and had not yet
returned; but such as remained in the house (only a few sick and aged
men) were told that the Lord Abbat was sick, and could not be spoken
with, and that the doors and gates were kept closed in order that he
might not be disturbed. Nor was this all false. Thurstan’s wrath, and
then his grief and perturbations, had brought on a fever and ague and
he was lying on his bed in a very helpless and very hopeless state,
with none to help him or hear him, for the sub-prior had made fast the
door of the inner chamber, and the door of the chamber which led into
it; and the guard was stationed at a distance in the corridor.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                              THE DUNGEON.


It was just before sunset of the disastrous day which saw the
traitorous monks of Ely return from the castle at Cam-Bridge, that the
Lord of Brunn and his trusty sword-bearer arrived at Turbutsey[240]
(where the monks of old had landed the body of Saint Withburga) with
the corn and wine for the abbey; and also with the dead body of the
Salernitan, which they hoped to inter in the abbey church-yard.
Turbutsey had but few in-dwellers; and the poor hinds that were there
had heard nothing of the foul report of Lord Hereward’s death, which
had wrought such mischief in the abbey. Lord Hereward, eager to be at
his proper post in the Camp of Refuge, took the direct road, or path,
which led thereunto, carrying with him, for the comfort of secular
stomachs, only a few flagons of wine and a few measures of wheat, and
ordering Elfric to go up to the abbey with all the rest of the
provision, as soon as it should be all landed from the boats and
skerries. But, before the landing was finished, there came down some
gossips from the township of Ely, who reported with marvellous sad
faces, that the gates of the abbey had been closed ever since the
mid-day of yesterday; and that the whole house was as silent and sad as
a pest-house, on account, no doubt, of the death of the good Lord of
Brunn, the kind-hearted, open-handed lord, who had ever befriended the
Saxon poor! Upon hearing them talk in this fashion, the sword bearer
came up to the gossips, and told them that the Lord of Brunn was no
more dead than he was.

“Verily,” said the people, “the sad news came down to the township
yesterday before the hour of noon; and ever since then the abbey gates
and church gates have been closed, and the township hath been in tears.”

Now, upon hearing this strange news, Elfric’s quick fancy began to
work, and apprehending some evil, albeit he knew not what, he resolved
not to carry up the stores, but to go up alone by himself to see what
strange thing had happened in the abbey, that should have caused the
monks to bar their doors, and even the doors of the church, against the
faithful. He thought not of the want of rest for one night, or of the
toils he had borne on that night and during two whole days, for he had
borne as much before without any great discomfort; but he looked at the
stark body of the Salernitan, as it lay with the face covered in one of
the boats, and then he thought of Girolamo’s death-wound and dying
moment, and of the ill-will which some of the convent had testified
towards that stranger, and of the rumours he had heard of murmurings
and caballings against the good Lord Abbat, and he said to himself, “My
heart is heavy, or heavier than it ever was before, and my mind is
haunted by misgivings. If the monks of Ely be traitors to their
country, and rebels to their abbat, by all the blessed saints of the
house of Ely they shall not taste of this bread, nor drink of this
wine! And then this unburied, uncoffined, unanealed[241] body, and the
dying prayer of Girolamo for Christian burial, and a grave whither the
Normans should come not!... I must see to that, and provide against
chances.” And having thus said to himself, he said aloud to his troop
of fenners: “Unload no more corn and wine, but stay ye here at
Turbutsey until ye see me back again; but if I come not back by
midnight, or if any evil report should reach ye before then, cross the
river, and carry all the corn and the wine with ye deep into the fens;
and carry also with ye this the dead body of Girolamo, unto whom I
bound myself to see it interred in some safe and consecrate place; and
go by the straightest path towards Spalding! Do all this if ye love me
and reverence the Lord of Brunn; and in the meanwhile rejoice your
hearts with some of the good drink: only be wise and moderate.” And the
fenners said that they would do it all, and would be moderate: and
thereupon, leaving behind him the Ely gossips, and the fenners, the
corn, the wine, and the dead body of Girolamo, Elfric took the road to
the abbey, and arrived _ad magnam portam_, at the main-gate, before it
was quite dark. A few of the town folk had followed him to the gate,
shouting with all their main that Elfric the lucky sword-bearer had
come back, that the Lord of Brunn had come back, and that they had
brought good store of corn, meal, and wine for my Lord Abbat Thurstan:
for, upon reflection, Elfric had thought it wise to tell them this
much. But from within the abbey Elfric heard no sound, nor did he see
the form or face of man, in the turret over the gate-way, or in the
windows, or on the house-top. But there were those or the watch within
who saw Elfric very clearly, and who heard the noise the town-folk were
making: and anon the small wicket-gate was opened, and Elfric was bade
enter; and the poor folk were commanded to go home, and cease making
that outcry. Once, if not twice, Elfric thought of withdrawing with the
Ely folk, and then of racing back to Turbutsey; for he liked not the
aspect of things: but it was needful that he should have a clear notion
of what was toward in the abbey, and so blaming himself, if not for his
suspicions, for his own personal apprehensions, he stepped through the
wicket, taking care to shout, at the top of his voice, as he got under
the echoing archway, “Good news! brave news! The Lord Hereward is come
back to the camp, and hath brought much corn and wine for this hallowed
house! Lead me to Abbat Thurstan—I must speak with the Lord Abbat
forthwith!

“Thou mayst speak with him in the bottomless pit,” said the sub-prior.
And as the sub-prior spoke, under the dark archway within the gate, a
half-score from among the traitorous monks leaped upon the faithful
sword-bearer, and put a gag into his mouth, so that he could cry out no
more, and whirled him across the court-yards, and through the
cloisters, and down the steep wet staircase, and into the cell or
vault, or living grave, within and under the deep foundations of the
abbey: and there, in the bowels of the earth, and in utter solitude and
utter darkness, and with three several iron-bound doors closed upon
him, they left him, making great haste to return to the refectory, and
hoping that their plan had been so well managed that none but the
desperate members of their own faction had either seen Elfric enter, or
heard his shouts, or the shouts of the town-folk.

So soon as Elfric could get the gag out of his mouth, and recover from
his first astonishment, he began to think; and he thought that this was
but a bad return for his fighting and risking death for the sake of the
stomachs and bowels of the monks of Ely; and he became convinced in his
own mind that the traitorous monks must have made away with the noble
Abbat Thurstan, and have consummated their treachery: and then he
thought of his friends in the Camp of Refuge, and at Hadenham, and of
the Lord Hereward and the Ladie Alftrude, and, most of all, of the maid
Mildred! And then there came before him the ghastly face of the
Salernitan, and rang in his ears, like a knell, the words which the
dying Girolamo had used in the morning, when speaking of the hard doom
of his beloved! And, next to this, he bethought himself of the fearful
legend of the house of Ely, which related how the blinded prince, who
had pined so long in those dreary vaults, had ever since haunted them
under the most frightful forms! Yet when his lively fancy had brought
all these things before him, and even when he had become convinced that
he would be buried alive, or left to starve and gnaw the flesh from his
own bones in that truly hellish pit, which he knew was as dark by day
as by night, a sudden and sweet calm came over his distraught mind; and
he kneeled on the cold slimy floor of the dungeon and raised to heaven
his hands, which he could not see himself, but which were well seen by
the saints above, unto whom thick darkness is as bright light; and when
he had said a short prayer for himself and for his Mildred, for his
generous lord and most bountiful ladie, he threw himself along the
ground, and laying his left arm under his head for a pillow, he made
himself up for sleep. “Come what will,” said he, “I have been true to
my God, to my saints, to my country, to my church, to my lord and
master, and to my love! This martyrdom will soon be over! Not these
deep hollows of the earth, nor all the weight of all the walls and
arched roofs and springing towers of Ely Abbey can crush or confine, or
keep down, the immortal spirit of man! Mildred! my Lord Hereward! my
noble lady and mistress! and thou, oh joyous and Saxon-hearted Lord
Abbat Thurstan! if traitors have it their own way here, we meet in
heaven, where there be no Normans and no Saxon traitors!” And so
saying, or thinking, and being worn out by excess of fatigue, or rather
by the excessiveness of his late short moral anguish,—an agony sharper
than that of the rack, upon which men are said to have fallen
asleep,—Elfric in a very few moments fell into the soundest of all
sleeps. The toads, which fatten in darkness, among the noxious and
colourless weeds which grow where light is not, and the earth-worms
crawled over and over him, but without awakening him, or giving him any
disturbance in his deep sleep. And as he slept, that black and horrent
dungeon, in which his body lay, was changed, by the bright visions
which blessed his sleep, into scenes as bright as the chapel of Saint
Etheldreda in the abbey church, on the great day of the saint’s
festival, when a thousand waxen tapers are burning, and the whole air
is loaded with incense and with music. It was the sunshine of a good
conscience shining inwardly.

Now, while it fared thus with the captive below, much talk and
discussion took place among divers of the honest monks above; for,
notwithstanding the great care which had been taken to send away the
Ely folk, and to seize and gag Elfric as soon as he came within the
gate, the cry of the men of Ely, and the shout of the sword-bearer that
Lord Hereward had come back, and had brought much corn and wine, were
heard in almost every part of the house; and, upon hearing them, the
monks that were not of the faction grievously lamented what had been
done against the Lord Abbat, and in favour of the Normans, and very
clearly perceived that a trick had been put upon them in the report of
Lord Hereward’s death.

“I tell ye now, as I told ye then,” said Father Kynric, “that ye all
make too much account of your meat and drink, and are all too impatient
of temporary inconvenience. But what said the blessed Etheldreda? ‘The
fashion of this world passeth away; and that only is to be accounted
life which is purchased by submitting to temporal inconveniences.’”

“And tell me,” said that other good old Saxon monk, the Father Celred;
“tell me, oh my brethren, tell me how Saint Etheldreda fared when she
was in the flesh, and ruled this house as lady abbess?”

“Aye,” said good Father Elsin, “Saint Etheldreda never wore linen, but
only woollen; she never returned to her bed after matins, which were
then begun immediately after midnight; and, except on the great
festivals of the church, she ate only once a day, nor cared nor knew
whether her bread was white or brown.”

“Alack!” said Kenulph of Swaffham, a cloister-monk who had voted for
the wicked prior solely because the cellars and the granaries were
empty; “alack! man’s flesh is weak, and hunger is so strong! Saint
Etheldreda was a woman, and a delicate princess; but, an she had been
an upland man like me, and with such a sharp Saxon stomach as I have,
she never could have lived upon one meal a day!”

“That is to say,” quoth Father Cranewys, “if she had not been sustained
by permanent and wondrous miracle, for ye wis, Brother Kenulph, that
there be ladie saints in hagiology that have lived for octaves, and for
whole moons together, upon nothing but the scent of a rose. I wonder,
and would fain know, how much corn and wine the Lord of Brunn hath
brought with him.”

“Whatever he hath brought,” quoth Father Kynric, “the Normans will get
it all! the prior and the sub-prior, and all the rest of the officials
speak in riddles, but none of us can be so dull as not to see that Duke
William will be here to-night or to-morrow morning, and that the prior
went to invite him hither. The mischief is now done, and the prior is
too strong to be resisted; but if there were but three cloister-monks
of my mind, I would break out of this house in spite of the sub-prior’s
calls, and locks, and bars! Yea, I would break out and release the
brave boy Elfric, and away with him to the Camp of Refuge, to put my
Lord Hereward and our other noble friends, and the whole Saxon host
upon their guard. Everlasting infamy will rest upon the monks of Ely,
if they be taken and massacred in their sleep.”

“If,” said the monk from Swaffham, “the supplies which the Lord
Hereward hath brought be abundant, I would rather go and pass this
autumn and coming winter in the fens, than stay here under the usurped
rule of the prior, who beareth a mortal hatred against all of us that
ever opposed him. Nay, I would rather continue to eat meat and fish
without bread (provided only there was a little wine), than abide here
to witness so foul a treason as thou talkest of. But prithee, brother
Kynric, how much corn and wine may a man reasonably expect to have been
brought down, and where is it?”

Kynric responded, that he only knew that the Ely folk had cried, that
there was good store of corn, meal, and wine, and that Elfric had
shouted within the gate that there was much corn and wine.

Father Elsin said that he had heard the cellarer say to the
sub-sacrist, that the good store of provision would be at Turbutsey,
inasmuch as Hereward had promised to land it there; and that at a very
early hour in the morning it should all be sent for and brought into
the abbey.

“In that case,” quoth the upland monk, “If a few of us could sally out
before midnight, the corn and wine might be ours.”

“Of a surety,” said Father Kynric, “and we might carry it with us into
the fens, which will not be conquered though the Camp of Refuge should
fall; and we might share it with Lord Hereward and his true Saxons, and
look to time and chance, and the bounty of the saints, for fresh
supplies.”

“Then by all the saints that lie entombed in Ely,” said Kenulph of
Swaffham, “I will break out and quit this dishonoured and dishallowed
community! The porter at the great gate came like me from Swaffham; Tom
of Tottington, the lay-brother that waits upon the sub-prior, the
holder of the keys, was brought into this house by me: there be other
lay brothers and servientes that would do my will or thy will, oh
Kynric, or thine, Elsin, or thine, Celred, sooner than the will of the
prior, and the rather since they have heard of the corn and wine!
Assuredly they will unbar doors and break out with us when they are
told that the store is so near at hand as at Turbutsey!”

“An we could but carry off with us our true Lord Abbat Thurstan,” said
Father Kynric, “it were a glorious deed.”

“But it cannot be,” quoth Kenulph, “for the infirmarer told me anon
that Thurstan is sick almost to death; and then he is watched and
guarded by all the keenest of the faction, and the faction is too
numerous and strong to allow us to proceed by force, or to attempt
anything save by stratagem and in secrecy. But, silence! we are
watched, and that fox, the sub-sacrist, is getting within ear-shot. So
let us separate, and let each of us, before going into the dormitory,
and into his cell, speak with such of the house as he can with entire
faith depend upon. I will go unto the gate-keeper.”

It was the custom of the monks to walk and talk in the cloisters for a
space between supper and bed time; and the above discourses were made
in the quietest corner of the cloisters a very short time before the
second watch of the night. Those who had made them separated, and very
soon after they all withdrew to the dormitory; and the sub-prior, as
was the bounden duty of his office, went through the dormitory and
knocked at every cell-door, and called upon every monk by name, and
heard and saw that each monk and each novice was in his cell for the
night. And when the sub-prior had thus fulfilled what was _in statutis
ordinis_, he went to his own chamber, which was in the turret over the
great gateway; and being weary, he went straight to his bed, first
putting under his pillow the key of the gate, and the keys of the foul
dungeon into which Elfric had been whirled. The prior, the chamberlain,
the cellarer, and other chiefs of the faction, sate up awhile in secret
conference in the prior’s own private chamber; but then they too
separated and went to their beds, comforting themselves with the
prospect of the abundance which should henceforward reign in the house,
and of the honours and advantages they should severally receive on the
morrow from Duke William for their dark treason to their countrymen.
Being all worn out with fatigue, they were soon fast asleep, each
having proposed to himself to rise at a very early hour in the morning,
in order to get in Lord Hereward’s supplies, and to see to the proper
decorating of the church for the reception of Duke William, and his
brother the fighting bishop, and the rest of the Norman crew. Above and
below, the whole abbey of Ely was asleep when the good fathers Kynric,
Elsin, Celred, Cranewys, and Kenulph, with two other cloister-monks who
had determined to flee from the house, came one by one in perfect
silence, and carrying their shoes and sandals in their hands, forth
from the dormitory, and into the quadrangle of the abbey, and then
under the low arched way, where the gatekeeper, that free layman from
Swaffham, was standing ready to unbar the gate, and where the
lay-brother that waited upon the sub-prior was waiting for his order to
begin. A word from Father Kenulph in his ear, and away went the
sub-prior’s man up into the chamber over the gateway. And before one
might say three credos, the lay-brother was back again under the
archway, with the four ponderous keys in his hand. Then they all went
into the gatekeeper’s room, where two cressets were burning brightly;
and by that light the cloister monks saw that there was blood upon the
heaviest of the keys.

“Tom of Tottington,” said Kenulph, “what is this? What is it thou hast
done?”

“Nothing;” said the serviens, “but only this: the sub-prior woke from
his sleep as I drew the keys from under his pillow, and was going to
cry out and alarm the house, and so I brained him. He was ever hard
master unto me.”

“Well!” quoth Kenulph, “’tis better that the sub-prior perish in his
sins and unconfessed, than that we fail in our enterprise, and leave
our friends in the Camp to be taken unawares. So, Tom of Tottington,
hurry thee down to the prison and bring up Elfric.”

The churl from Tottington grew quite pale, and said, “I dare not do it!
I am no cloister-monk or mass-priest, and have no Latin whereby to lay
spirits! I cannot adventure into the bowels of the earth to face the
restless ghost of the blind prince.... I cannot go alone!”

“Well!” quoth Kenulph, who first crossed himself, “I will go with thee;
so bear the keys, and I will carry the light, and say the prayer _Ab
hoste maligno libera nos, Domine_, as we go.”

The sword-bearer was still sleeping happily when the monk and the
lay-brother came into the dark vault with the bright shining cresset;
but as the light fell upon his eyelids he awoke, and saw Father Kenulph
standing over him; and then he started up and said, “I have been
dreaming a true dream; for when did Father Kenulph do aught but good to
honest man and true Saxon! Ah! Tom of Tottington, art thou here too?
Then shall I not be buried alive or starved to death!”

“Elfric,” said Kenulph, “thou art safe and free, so rise and follow us.
But tell me, good Elfric, what supply didst bring to Turbutsey?”

“We loaded with corn and with wine a score of upland pack-horses, and
many more than a score of strong asses,” said the sword-bearer.

“’Tis well,” quoth Kenulph, licking his lips and rubbing his hands,
“’tis better than well! So follow me, and when thou comest to the upper
regions make no noise, for the Lord Abbat Thurstan is deposed from his
authority and is sick unto death; the abbey is in the hands of the
prior and his crew; and we and a few more honest members of the house
are flying from it to get the stores at Turbutsey, and to give warning
to the Lord of Brunn, that the false monks of Ely have sold and
betrayed him.”

“I thought as much as all this,” quoth the sword-bearer; and without
asking any questions, he followed the cloister-monk and the lay-brother
to the gatekeeper’s chamber, praising and blessing the saints for this
his so speedy deliverance. As he entered the room, reverentially
saluting the other cloister-monks, the porter gave him his sword, which
had been snatched from him upon his being first seized under the
gateway. Next the stout porter took down some swords and spears, and
fen-poles, that hung in his room, and armed his friends and himself
with them; and then, in less than a Credo, the whole party got out of
the monastery through the wicket-gate, and, first closing and fastening
the wicket on the outside, they all took the broad high road that leads
to Turbutsey. Six good cloister-monks, and ten good lay-brothers and
servientes, were there in this company; but all the rest of the convent
remained behind to await the slaughter of their countrymen in the Camp,
to welcome the Normans to Ely, and to get from them—that which they
deserved. Elfric and Tom of Tottington (an expert fenner, and much
fitter to be a soldier than the waiting-man of a monk) presently
quitted the road to take a rough path across the fens which led
directly into the Camp: the rest hastened on to Turbutsey, and as they
arrived there before the midnight, they were in good time to aid the
true men Elfric had left there in getting the good stores across the
river and well into the fens. Some of the party would have left the
body of Girolamo behind at Turbutsey, or would have thrown it into the
river; but the people said what Elfric had said to them concerning the
dead body, and the fighting men who had fought the Normans near
Brandon, and who had seen with their own eyes the Christian end the
Salernitan had made, all declared that Girolamo must have Christian
burial in some consecrated place where the Normans could not disturb
his ashes.



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                        THE NORMANS IN THE CAMP.


The Camp of Refuge, wherein the Saxons had so long withstood the
violent threats of the Normans, was not in itself a very noticeable
place. But for the army and the last hopes of England collected
therein, the wayfarer might have passed it without any especial
observation, there being several such places in the Fen country, partly
surrounded by embankments of earth, and wholly girded in, and doubly or
trebly girded by rivers, ditches, pools, and meres. The embankments had
been first made, in very remote ages, by those who first attempted to
drain parts of the fen country; but tradition said that these peaceful
works had been made to serve the purposes of defensive war, in those
days when the Iceni stood against their Roman invaders, when the
Britons stood against the first Saxons, and when the Saxons opposed the
marauding Danes. The embankments which were made to keep out the water,
and confine the rivers to their beds, were proper to keep out an enemy,
even if he could reach them; and the fenners, who kept solely to the
business of grazing, fishing, and fowling, knew best how to defend and
how to stock such places. In the upland countries men took shelter on
the high hills; but here, when an enemy approached, men threw
themselves within these flats and enclosures in the midst of the
waters, taking with them their herds and flocks, and their hooks and
nets for fishing, and their snares for fowling. At the first sound of
this Norman invasion, and before any Saxon lord or knight fled for
refuge into the Isle of Ely, the people of the country drove their
fattening beeves into the enclosed but wide space which afterwards came
to be called the Camp, but which for a long season bore rather the
appearance of a grazing-field than that of a place of arms; and even
when the Saxon lords and knights came and gathered together their armed
followers on that green grassy spot, the space was so wide that the
cattle were left to remain where they were, and the many cowherds and
shepherds were mixed with the Saxon soldiery, each by times doing the
duty of the other; and now, when well-nigh everything else was consumed
and gone, there remained within the broad limits of the Camp great
droves of the finest and fattest cattle.

There was no moon, and the night was of the darkest, when Elfric
approached the Camp, flying along the ground like a lapwing. As watches
were set, and as the men were vigilant as became the soldiers of the
Lord of Brunn, he was challenged sundry times before he reached his
lord’s tent. Hereward was asleep, but at the voice and tidings of his
sword-bearer he was presently up and armed, and ready to go the round
of the Camp.

“Elfric,” said Hereward, “if the traitorous monks of Ely shall have
called in their own people, who formed our outer guard, and have given
the Normans the clue to the watery labyrinth which has been our
strength and safety so long, we may still hold out against more than
one assault behind the embankments of this Camp, provided only our
people do not get panic-stricken by the suddenness of the attack, and
in the darkness of this night. Would that it were morning! But come
what may, there is one comfort: we shall have our harness on our backs
before the fight begins!”

And having so said, the Lord of Brunn, followed by his sword-bearer,
went from post to post to bid the men be on the alert, and from tent to
tent, or from hut to hut, to rouse the sleeping chiefs to tell them
that the monks of Ely were traitors to the good cause, and that the
Normans were coming; and when this was done, Hereward, with an
unperturbed spirit, and with all that knowledge of war which he had
acquired beyond sea, and from the knowing Salernitan, and from all that
quickness which nature had given him, laid down his plan for defending
the interior of the Camp, and appointed every chief to the post he
should hold, speaking cheerfully to them all, and telling them that
five years had passed since the battle of Hastings, and that England
was not conquered yet; and that if the Normans should be foiled in this
attack, their loss would be terrible, their retreat across the fens
almost impracticable.

By the time all this was said and done it was more than two hours after
the midnight hour, and it had scarcely been done ere the war-cry of the
Normans was heard close under the south-western face of the Camp. By
using the name of the Abbat Thurstan, the false prior had made the
people of the abbey abandon the fords in that direction; and by the
same false prior’s procurement, a traitorous fenner had guided the
Normans through the labyrinth. But there was more fatal mischief yet to
proceed from the same dark cauldron and source of evil. Some other
traitor, serving among the retainers of the abbey that had been left
quartered in the Camp, because they could not be withdrawn without Lord
Hereward’s order set up the cry that the Saxons were all betrayed, and
that the Normans had gotten into the Camp; and thereupon the poor
bewildered wights, who knew but too well that the Norman war-cry could
be heard where it was heard only through treachery, fell into disorder
and dismay, and abandoning the post which they had been appointed to
hold, and disregarding the voice of their commander, they fled across
the Camp, shouting, “Treason! treason! Fly, Saxons, fly!”

The Normans began to enter the Camp in overpowering numbers; and
although the first glimmerings of day began to be seen from the east,
it was still so dark that it was hard to distinguish between friend and
foe. But Hereward soon found himself at the spot where the danger was
greatest; and the foe, who had not yet recovered from the dread of his
name, halted at the shouts of “Hereward for England!” and were soon
driven out of the Camp, with a great slaughter. Whilst this was doing
on the south-western side, another host of Normans, under the same
traitorous guidance, got round towards the north face of the Camp, and
after some hard fighting, got over the embankment, and into the Camp.
Leaving a brave old Saxon earl and his people to keep the ground he had
recovered, Hereward rushed with Elfric and his own choice band to the
northern side; and although the distance was considerable, his
battle-axe was ringing among the Normans there before they had found
time to form themselves in good fighting order. But Odo, the fighting
bishop, was among these Normans; and thus knights and men-at-arms
fought most valiantly, and held the ground they had gained for a long
time. Nevertheless, just as the rising sun was shining on the tower of
Ely Abbey, Odo and his host, or such of his host as survived, retreated
the way they had come; but while they were in the act of retreating,
Duke William led in person an assault on another part of the Camp; and
on the south-west side, the brave old Saxon earl being slain, his men
gave way, and the Normans again rushed in on that side. Also, and at
nearly the same instant of time, Norman spears were discerned coming
round upon the Camp from other quarters. As he paused to deliberate
whither he should first direct his steps, and as he shook the blood
from the blade and shaft of his battle-axe—a ponderous weapon which no
other man then in England could wield—the Lord of Brunn, still looking
serenely, bespoke his sword-bearer, “May God defend the house of Ely
and the Lord Abbat; but the knavish monks have done the work of
treachery very completely! They must have made known unto the Normans
all the perilous passages of the fens. We are beset all about! But we
must even drive the Normans back again. Numerous are they, yet their
knights love not to fight on foot, and they can have brought few horses
or none across the swamps. But Elfric, my man, thou art bleeding! Art
much hurt?”

Now, although Elfric had got an ugly cut upon his brow, he smiled, and
said, “’Tis nothing, good my Lord: ’tis only a scratch from the sharp
end of Bishop Odo’s pastoral crook. If he had not been so timeously
succoured, I would have cleft his shaven crown in spite of his steel
cap, or have made him a prisoner!”

When this was said, and when the keen eye of Hereward had made survey
of the whole field, he and his sword-bearer, and all his matchless
band, who had been trained to war in a hundred fights and surprises,
rushed towards the spot where floated the proud banner of Duke William.
They were soon upon that prime of the Norman army; and then was seen
how the Lord of Brunn and his Saxons true bore them in the brunt of
war. Thunder the battle-axes; gride the heavy swords! Broad shields are
shivered, and the Norman left arms that bore them are lopped off like
hazel twigs; helms are broken, and corslets reft in twain; and still
this true Saxon band shouted, “Holy rood! holy rood! Out! out! Get ye
out, Normans! Hereward for England! Saxons, remember Hastings!” Stout
young Raoul of Caen, the page that carried the arms and the shield
(_arma ac scuta_) of the Duke, was slain by Hereward’s sword-bearer;
and where Raoul met his untimely death, other Normans perished or bled.
Duke William shouted, “Notre Dame! Notre Dame! Dieu aide! Dieu aide!”
but was forced to give ground, and the Duke retreated beyond the
earth-raised mound or great embankment which girded the Camp on that
side.

“The patrimony of Saint Etheldreda is not easy to conquer! We have
beaten off the two brothers!” Thus spoke Elfric.

“So far is well,” quoth Hereward! “but what is this I see and hear?
What are those cravens doing in the centre of the Camp? By the Lord of
Hosts, some of them be throwing down their weapons, and crying for
quarter! Wipe the blood from out thine eyes, Elfric; keep close to my
side, and come on, brave men all!”

And away from the earth-raised mound, over which he had driven the
Norman Duke, went the Lord of Brunn with his warrior band; and then was
the fight renewed in the midst of the Camp, where some of the
disheartened Saxons were using all the French they knew in crying,
“Misericorde! misericorde! Grace! grace!”

“Fools!” shouted the Lord of Brunn, “these Normans will show ye no
mercy! There is no grace for ye but in your own swords!” And then the
Saxons took heart again, and rallying round Hereward, they soon charged
the foe, and fought them hand to hand. In their turn the Normans began
to yield, and to cry for quarter; but this band in the centre was
supported by another and another; and soon Duke William, and that
ungodly bishop, his brother, came back into the interior of the Camp,
with many knights and men-at-arms that had not yet tasted the sharpness
of the Saxon steel, and that were all fresh for the combat. Louder and
louder waxed the war-cry on either side, and terrible and strange
became the scene within the wide Camp; for the cattle, scared by the
loud noise, and by the clash and the glittering of arms, were running
wildly about the Camp in the midst of the combatants; and the fierce
bulls of the fens, lashing themselves into furor, and turning up the
soil with their horns, came careering down, and breaking through the
serried lines of the invaders; and many a Norman was made to feel that
his mail jacket was but a poor defence against the sharp horns of the
bull that pastured on the patrimony of Saint Etheldreda. Also rose
there to heaven a dreadful rugitus, or roaring, mixed with the loud
bewailing and the shrieks of timid herdsmen, and of women and children;
and the wives and children of the Saxons ran about the Camp, seeking
for a place of safety, and finding none. The Saxon warriors were now
falling fast, but the Normans fell also; and victory was still
doubtful, when loud shouts were heard, and another forest of lances was
seen coming down on the Camp from the south; and upon this, one entire
body of the Saxon host threw down their arms, and surrendered
themselves as prisoners.

Hereward, who was leaning upon his battle-axe, and wiping the sweat
from his brow, said to his sword-bearer, “This is a sad sight!”

“A sad sight and a shameful,” quoth Elfric; “but there are Saxons still
that are not craven; Here our lines be all unbroken.”

“And so will we yet fight on,” quoth Hereward.

But the Lord of Brunn had scarcely said the words when a number of
Saxon lords, old dwellers in the Camp of Refuge, and men that had
fought at Hastings, and in many a battle since, gathered round Lord
Hereward, and threw their swords and battle-axes and dinted shields
upon the ground, and told him that the fight was lost, and that (_de
communi concilio magnatum_), with the common advice and consent of the
magnates, they had all determined to surrender upon quarter, and take
the King’s peace.

Quoth the Lord of Brunn, “Ye will not do the thing ye name! or, an ye
do it, bitterly will ye rue it! Your names be all down in a book of
doom: the Normans will mutilate and butcher ye all! Better that ye die
fighting! The battle is not lost, if ye will but think it is not. I was
with King Harold at the battle by Stamford Bridge, and in a worse
plight than now; and yet on that day we conquered. So, up hearts, my
Saxon lords and thanes! Let us make one charge more for King Harold and
the liberties of England! Nay, we will make a score good charges ere we
die!”

But the Magnates would not be heartened, nor take up the shields and
the arms they had thrown down; and when the reinforced battalia of the
Norman centre formed once more into line, and levelled their spears,
and when the rest of that countless Norman host began to close round
the Saxon army in the midst of the Camp, all the fighting men that
obeyed these Saxon lords threw down their arms, and cried for
quarter—for forgiveness and mercy!

Sad and sick was the heart of the Lord of Brunn; but this lasted but
for a moment, and his eye was bright and his face joyous as he shouted
to Elfric and the rest of his own devoted band, “Let the fools that
court dishonour and mutilation, and an opprobrious grave, stay here and
yield; but let those who would live in freedom or die with honour
follow me! We will cut our way out of this foully betrayed Camp, and
find another Camp of Refuge where there be no monks of Ely for
neighbours!”

And at these good words three hundred stout Saxons and more formed
themselves into a compact column, and the Lord of Brunn, with Elfric by
his side, put himself in the head of the column, and the band shouted
again, “Hereward for England! Saxons, remember Hastings!” Then were
heard the voices of command all along the different Norman lines, and
from the right and from the left, from behind and from before, those
lines began to move and to close, and to form living barriers and
hedgerows of lances on every side: and next, near voices were heard
offering fifty marks of gold to the man that should slay or seize the
traitor Hereward. But the Norman was not yet born that could withstand
the battle-axe of the Lord of Brunn: and so the Norman lines yielded to
his charge, and so he led his three hundred Saxons and more
triumphantly out of the Camp and across the fens—yea, over rivers and
streams and many waters, where Normans could not follow—until they
came into a thick wood of willows, where they found the six good
cloister-monks and the ten good lay-brothers who had fled with Elfric
from Ely Abbey, and the party of true men from Turbutsey, who had
carried with them the corn, meal, and wine, and likewise the body of
Girolamo of Salerno. Loudly was the Lord of Brunn greeted by every man
that was in the wood. The first thing that was done after his coming
was to bury the Salernitan. Near the edge of the wood, and by the side
of a stream, the monks of Ely of the old time had built a small
mass-house for the conveniency of the souls of some of the fenners, who
could not always quit their fishing and fowling and go so far as the
abbey church; and on a green dry hillock, at the back of the
mass-house, there was a small cœmeterium holding the wattled graves of
not a few of the fenners.

“This ground,” said Father Celred, “is consecrated ground; the Normans
will not soon get hither, and we will leave no cross and make no sign
to show the stranger’s grave; and every man here is too true a man ever
to betray the secret to the Normans.”

“And when better days come, we will provide some suitable monument for
the stranger who died in fighting for the Saxon. Girolamo, thou art
happy in that thou hast not lived to see this foul morning! Father
Celred, fathers all, I warrant ye he was a true son of the church, and
died a good Christian. So withhold not to do the rites and give him
Christian burial.”

Thus spake the Lord of Brunn as he gazed upon the awfully placid face
of the Salernitan, whose body lay uncovered upon a rustic bier: and the
good monks all said that they doubted not, and would never doubt, the
word of Lord Hereward. And the Saxon hinds, under the direction of
Elfric, rapidly scooped out a grave on the sunniest side of the green
hillock, on the side which faced the south and was turned toward the
sunny land in which the stranger was born; and when the grave was made,
Hereward took his own good mantle from his shoulders and piously
wrapped it round the dead body to serve it instead of shroud and
coffin, which could not be had; and then Father Celred blessed the
grave, and the lay-brothers laid the body reverentially in it; and then
all the monks that had come from Ely said the service for the dead and
chanted the _De Profundis_. Next the earth was thrown in, and the green
sods, which had been removed carefully and piecemeal, were laid upon
the surface and joined together so as to unite and grow together in a
few days, making the spot look like the rest of the sward: and thus,
without mound or withy-bound hillock, without a stone or a cross, was
left all that could die of Girolamo the Salernitan—far, far, far away
from the land of his birth and of his love. Yet was his lowly grave not
unhonoured.

After these sad offices, Hereward and his party refreshed themselves
with wine and bread, and renewed their march, going in the direction of
the river Welland and the succursal cell at Spalding.[242]

And, meanwhile, how fared it with the Saxon idiots in the Camp who had
cast down their weapons, and trusted to Norman mercy and to Norman
promises?—How fared it? In sooth it fared with them as the Lord of
Brunn had foretold, and as it ever hath fared with men that surrendered
when they ought to have fought on. The conquerors, in summing up the
amount of the harm they did to the Camp of Refuge, counted not the
lives of the churls and serfs—which went for nothing in their
eyes—but they put down that they slew, after the fight was over, of
Saxon nobles and knights and fighting-men of gentle blood, more than a
thousand. But happy those who were slain outright! A thousandfold worse
the fate of those that were let live: their right hands and their right
feet were cut off, their eyes were put out, and they were cast upon the
wide world to starve, or were thrown into loathsome dungeons to rot, or
transported beyond the seas to exhibit their misery to the scornful
eyes of the people of Normandie and Anjou, to remain living monuments
of Duke William’s vengeance, and to be a terror to such as presumed to
dispute his authority. In this way some of the noblest of the land were
sent into Normandie. Egelwin, the good Bishop of Durham, being found in
the Camp, was sent a close prisoner to Abingdon, where he died shortly
after of a broken heart. Never yet heard we of a fight more noble than
that of the Camp of Refuge, while the Lord of Brunn was there and the
Saxons in heart to fight; and never yet was there a sadder scene than
that which followed upon his departure thence! Except cattle and sheep,
and armour and arms, and human bodies to hack and destroy, the Normans
found scarcely anything in the Camp, wherein they had expected to make
great booty.

And how fared it with the guilty prior and the traitorous monks of Ely?
Did they profit by their great treason? Were peace and joy their lot
when the blood of their countrymen had been poured out like water? Did
they and their house thrive after all that torture and horror in the
Camp? Not so! not so! Those who deal in treachery reap treachery for
their reward; and all men hate and scorn even the traitors who have
most served them. Before the butchery in the Camp was well over, a
great band of Normans ran to the abbey and took forcible possession of
it, and beat and reviled the monks because they did not bring forth the
money and the bread and wine which they had not to give; and these rude
soldiers lodged themselves in the house, and turned all the monks into
the barns and outhouses—all but a few, who remonstrated and resisted,
and who where therefore thrown into that noxious prison underground
into which they had cast Elfric the night before. And on the morrow of
the fight in the Camp, the Norman Duke[243] himself went up to the
abbey with all his great chiefs, saying that he would pay his devotions
at the shrine of St. Etheldreda, albeit she was but a Saxon saint. And
William did go into the church, and kneel at the shrine of the saint.
Yea, he did more than this, for he laid his offering upon the shrine.
But what was the princely offering of this great prince who ruled on
both sides of the sea?—It was just one single mark of gold,[244] and
that a mark which had been in the hands of the Jews and clipped! And
when he had made this splendid donation, he called the monks together
in the hall, and told them that they must pay unto him a thousand marks
of gold as the price of his pardon for the long rebellion they had been
in. And when the chapfallen chamberlain said, and said truly, that
there was no money in the house, a sneering Norman knight told him that
there were Jews at Norwich, and that the monks must get money by
pledging their lands and by giving bonds to the Israelites. The good
Abbat Thurstan, being still sick in his bed, escaped the sight of much
of this woe: but when the prior knelt at the foot of Duke William, and
said that he trusted he would be merciful to the ruined house, and
continue him as the head of it, and sanction his election by the
brotherhood as lord abbat, the Duke swore his great oath, “By the
splendour of God’s face,” that he was not so minded; and that Abbat
Thurstan should be abbat still, inasmuch as he was a man of noble birth
and of a noble heart. Sundry great Saxon lords, who had long since made
their peace with the Norman, had spoken well for the high-born
Thurstan; but that which decided the mind of Duke William was the
reflection that, if so true and stout a man as Thurstan promised him
his allegiance, he would prove true to his promise at whatsoever
crisis; while no faith or trust could be put in the promises and vows
of such a man as the prior. And thus Thurstan[245] was told on his
sick-bed that his rule was restored, and that he should be allowed to
appoint and have a new set of officials, instead of the prior, the
chamberlain, the sacrist and sub-sacrist the cellarer, and all the rest
that had been rebellious and traitorous unto him—provided only that he
would promise to be at peace with the Normans. And, after Thurstan had
been most solemnly assured by some of the Saxon thanes who came to the
abbey with the Conqueror, that King Harold, his benefactor, was
assuredly dead, and lay buried in Waltham Abbey, and that good terms
would be granted to his friend my Lord of Brunn if he would but cease
the hopeless contest, Thurstan promised to live in peace and to think
no more of resistance: and before Duke William departed from the house
of Ely the lord abbat saluted him as King of England, and put his hand
into his hand as a token and pledge that he was and would be true and
liege man unto him. It cost his Saxon heart a pang which almost made it
crack; but having thus pledged himself, nothing upon earth, being
earthly, would ever make Thurstan untrue to the Norman.

In leaving the abbey, the Conqueror did not remove with him all the
Normans. On the contrary, he called up still more knights and
men-at-arms, and ordered them all to quarter themselves upon the
monks, and be by them entertained with meat, drink, and pay, as well
as lodging.[246] The Norman knights and soldiers kept possession of
the best parts of the house, respecting only the inner apartments of
the restored abbat: the knights suspended their arms and shields in
the great hall, where the arms of the Saxon thanes had lately hung,
and in the refectory at every meal-time a hungry Norman soldier was
seated by the side of every monk. This was a strange and unseemly
sight to see in the common hall of so noble and once so religious a
house; but it was the will of the Conqueror that it should be so, and
the monks had brought down all these mischiefs upon their own heads.
From the lands and revenues especially appertaining to Thurstan as
lord abbat, the Norman knights were not allowed to take much; but upon
those appertaining to the monks in common, they fell without
restriction and without remorse, seizing a manor here and a manor
there, and getting them converted into heritable property, to their
heirs for ever, by grant and fief-charter from Duke William. And while
so many broad hides were taken from them for good, the monks were
compelled to pledge other lands, and the very revenues of the shrines,
in order to pay the imposed fine of a thousand marks, and in order to
find meat and drink, and whatsoever else was demanded by their
rapacious guests. Sad grew the monks of Ely, and every day thinner.
The knights and men-at-arms ever helped themselves first, and very
often left their unwilling hosts nothing to eat. The proverb about the
glorious feast of the monks of Ely seemed to have become nothing but a
proverb, or the mere legend of a state of happiness which had passed
away never to return. Greater still had been the woes of the monks if
the restored abbat had been prone to spite and vengeance, for the
Normans were willing to put a rod of iron in his hands, and would have
rejoiced to see him use it; but Thurstan had a forgiving heart, and
when he had deprived the worst of the officials of their offices, and
had gotten the prior and the chamberlain removed to other houses far
away from the Isle of Ely, he took pity upon all the rest of the
convent, and did what in him lay to comfort them in their afflictions,
and to supply their wants from his own store. Thus lived the monks,
and thus the abbat, for about the space of three years: at the end of
that time the good old Thurstan died, and was interred in the chancel
among his mitred predecessors.[247] And then still worse befel the
monks; for Duke William, or his brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, brought
over one of their most fighting and turbulent monks from Normandie,
and made him lord abbat of Ely;[248] and this new abbat did not cease
from persecuting the Saxon monks until two-thirds of them were in
their graves, and their places supplied by French monks. These were
the things which befel the convent after their foul rebellion against
Abbat Thurstan, and their fouler betrayal of the Camp of Refuge.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                          A FIRE AND A RESCUE.


It was dark night before the Lord of Brunn and his party got near unto
the river Welland and Spalding, and great had been their speed to get
thither so soon.[249] As they halted near the river-bank, under cover
of some willows, they saw boats filled with Normans passing and
repassing, and heard them hailing one another. In remarking upon this
to his lord, the sword-bearer said, “Our barks on these waters have
been overpowered! The Normans have been trying to encompass us by water
as well as by land. No marvel were it to me to find them on every river
between this and Trent or Humber; but it is not they that will stop
good fenmen like us.”

“Yet we be come hither in good time, for they may be preparing to lay
siege to my ladie in the moated manor house. I would wager my best
trained hawk against a kestrel that Ivo Taille-Bois is come hitherward
from Stamford to recover what he calls his own!” So said Lord Hereward.

Quoth Elfric: “An Ivo be here, we will beat him and catch him again!
And when we catch him, we will not let him go, as we did, my lord, on
the happy day of thy marriage.”

While they were thus discoursing with low voices among the
willow-trees, a great and bright light was suddenly seen in the
direction of Spalding, from which they were still distant some three
old English miles. A first they thought it was but a beacon-fire
lighted by the Normans, or perhaps by the Saxons; but the light grew
and spread very fast, and showed itself as a portentous blaze, and
sparks were seen flying upwards into the murky night-air, and then a
great body of smoke came rolling before the night-wind, which was
blowing freshly down the river. Hereward uttered the name of his wife
the Ladie Alftrude,[250] Elfric uttered the name of Mildred, and both
said a hurried prayer, for each believed that the Normans had set fire
to the manor-house. In an instant the whole band was again in motion,
rushing rapidly but silently along the willow-fringed bank of the
Welland; but when they got nearer and came to a turn of the river, they
made out that the fire was not on this, but on the other side of the
river, and that, instead of the manor house, it must be either the
succursal cell or the poor little township of Spalding that was in a
blaze. And when they got nearer still, they saw that it was the little
town; but they also saw that the cell was beleagured, and that many
armed men, carrying torches in their hands, were crossing the river and
running towards the manor-house.

“Unto the blessed saints be the praise,” said Lord Hereward, “but we be
come just in time! My Saxons true, leave here among the willows the
wine and stores, and let us forward to the rescue of the Ladie Alftrude
and mine infant son.[251] Be quiet till you reach the end of the
causey, on which they are gathering their force, and then shout and
fall on!”

Away went the Saxons among the willows and tall rushes, until they came
close to the causey which led from the bank of the river to the moated
manor-house, and which was hard and dry now, although in the winter
season it was for the most part under water. The Normans, who were
making an exceeding great noise themselves, heard not the little
unavoidable noise made by Lord Hereward’s people; and notwithstanding
the light thrown up by the burning town, the Frenchmen saw not more of
the Saxons than they heard of them, until they set up their shouts of
“Hereward for England! The Saxons to the rescue!” And scarcely had the
first of these shouts ceased to be echoed ere Hereward and his true men
were upon the causey and hewing down the astounded enemy, of whom not a
few were without their arms, for they had been bringing across the
river great beams and planks wherewith to cross the moat of the
manor-house. The Normans that were still on the opposite side of the
river, beleaguering the succursal cell, came down to their boats and
attempted to cross over to succour their countrymen on the causey; but
Lord Hereward posted fifty good archers among the willows at the very
edge of the water, and, taking good aim in the red fire-light, these
good bowmen sent such fatal flights of arrows into the boats that the
Normans put back in dismay: and the boats which had been going up and
down the river, full of armed men, took all to flight upon hearing the
shouts of “Hereward for England,” and never stopped until they got out
of the Welland into the broad Wash, where the Conqueror, by the advice
of the false Danes, had collected a fleet of ships. At these good signs
same of the town folk of Spalding, who had fled into the fens to escape
the Norman fury, returned towards their burning town and threatened the
rear of their foe; and some other of the town folk, who had thrown
themselves into the Cell to assist the true monks who had driven out
the false ones, now joined in shouting “Hereward for England;” and
getting to the house-top, assailed their beleaguerers with arrows and
javelins, and whatsoever else they could get to hurl at them. Thus
stood the Norman host, part on one side of the river and part on the
other, and no communication between them. Yet when those on the causey
were joined by a great band that had been up to the manor-house, they
were far more numerous than the Saxon party. With the band that came
down from the manor-house was Ivo Taille-Bois himself; and his people
shouted as he came upon the ground where battle had been joined, “A
Taille-Bois! a Taille-Bois!”

The Lord of Brunn, who had made a good free space with his own single
battle-axe, now cried out in his loudest and cheeriest voice, “Welcome,
oh Ivo Taille-Bois! I as good as told thee on my wedding-day at Ey that
we should meet again! Ivo, all that I ask of thee now is that thou wilt
not turn from me! Ivo Taille-Bois, this is a fair field! Here is good
hard ground, and no fen-pool; so, Sir Ivo, stand forward, and let thee
and me prove which is the better man and the better knight!”

But Ivo, remembering still the battle of Hastings and the weight of
Lord Hereward’s battle-axe—albeit it was but a stripling’s arm then
weilded it—would not stand forward; and he only cried from among his
men-at-arms and the knights that were with him, “This is no fair field,
and I have no horse, and a knight should engage in single combat only
on horseback; and thou art no true knight, but only a priest-made
knight, and a rebel and traitor!”

“For the last thou liest in thy throat,” quoth the Lord of Brunn. “I am
a free and true Saxon fighting for his country against invaders and
robbers! Thou art but a beast to make thy valour depend upon a
four-legged creature! But since thou wilt not stand forth and try thy
strength and skill with me here in this good space between our two
hosts, I will come and seek thee in the midst of thy people. So, Ivo,
look to thyself!”

And having thus spoken, the Lord of Brunn waved his battle-axe over his
head and sprang forward, and Elfric went close by his side, and the
boldest of his Saxons followed him, shouting again “Hereward for
England! Saxons to the rescue of the Ladie Alftrude!” And so loud were
these shouts that they were heard afar off on either side of the river,
and were given back not only by the true men in the succursal cell and
by the returning townsfolk of Spalding, but also by the stanch little
garrison which had been left with the Ladie Alftrude in the moated
manor-house. The torches which the Normans had been carrying were all
extinguished and thrown away, and moon or star was none, but the ruddy
flames from the burning town still gave light enough for the good
aiming of sword, pike, and battle-axe. For a time the Normans stood
their ground on the causey, and did manfully enough; but when Ivo
Taille-Bois saw the carnage the Lord of Brunn was making, and saw that
his battle-axe was opening a path through his dense phalanx to the spot
where he stood, he bade his trumpet sound a retreat. Ivo could not have
done a worse thing, for so soon as his men began to retreat they got
into a panic; and while some ran along the causey, others quitted that
road and ran into the fens. Nay, Ivo himself was swept from the road,
and compelled to run for it across a broad marsh where there was at
this season little water, but much mud. Lord Hereward, who saw him go,
said to his sword-bearer, “That big bully of Angevin is not worth my
following: go, Elfric, and bring him hither; you will find him
somewhere there among the bulrushes. He will surrender; so slay him
not, but bring him here alive, and we will keep him and teach him to
lead a fen life.”

And while Elfric went in pursuit of Sir Ivo, other Saxons followed the
Normans that were running along the causey and throwing away their arms
to run the lighter, until they saw them a good way beyond the
manor-house; and other Saxons going into the fens slew many of the
unskilled Normans who had fled thitherward and stuck in the mud. On the
opposite side of the river the Norman force which had been assaulting
the cell was now in full flight for Stamford: in all its parts the army
of the vicomte was discomfited and shamefully routed. Deep in the mud
and among the bulrushes, and helpless as he was when with his brother
Geoffroy he lay floundering in the fen pool near Ey, Elfric and the
score of merry men he took with him found the great Ivo Taille-Bois
with two Norman knights as helpless as himself: and upon being summoned
by the sword-bearer and threatened by the Saxon soldiers, Ivo and the
two knights crawled out of the mud upon their hands and knees, and gave
themselves up as prisoners to Hereward the _Knight_ and Lord of Brunn,
for Ivo could call him knight now, aye, knight and lord!

When the great vicomte and so-called nephew of the Conqueror was
brought into the presence of Hereward, that merry Saxon lord could not
but laugh at the woeful figure he made: and he said, smiling all the
while, “Oh, Sir Ivo, this is the second time we meet, and each time
thou comest before me in very dirty plight! But, Ivo, the mud and slime
of our fens are not so foul as the work thou hast each time had in
hand! At Ey thou thoughtest to have surprised a defenceless maiden, and
here hast thou been coming against a young matron, my right noble wife,
and a poor defenceless little township and a handful of monks. Ivo,
thou art a big man and hast a big voice, yet art thou but a braggart
and coward! ’Tis well thou hast not had time to do mischief at the
manor-house, for hadst thou done any, I would have hacked thee to
pieces! As it stands thou art my prisoner, nor will I ever hear of
ransom.”

The Taille-Bois hung down his head, and said no word, except that he
hoped the Lord of Brunn would yet remember that by marriage they were
as good as cousins.

The townfolk of Spalding and the true and now relieved monks came
across the river in the boats which the Normans had left behind them,
and saluted and did honour to Hereward; nor did they forget Elfric, who
had lived so long among them; and as they as yet knew nought of what
had befallen the Saxons that morning in the Camp of Refuge, these poor
men were all jubilant beyond measure.

It was not an hour since Hereward first fell upon the Normans on the
causey, and everything that he could do for this night was already
done. He bade Elfric count the prisoners and the number of the slain.
Without counting those who had perished in the fens, more than two
score Normans lay stark dead on the causey. More were wounded, but not
half a score of Saxons were slain. The exceeding great light which had
come from the burning town was now dying away, for the flames had
consumed everything that was consumable in Spalding. But many torches
were soon lighted, and by their light the Lord of Brunn and his
faithful sword-bearer marched hastily towards the manor-house, over
which their hearts had long been hovering; and they were followed
thitherward by Ivo Taille-Bois and the rest of the prisoners, and by a
part of the Saxon force, the rest of those three hundred true men being
left to guard the river and the succursal cell.

At the sound of his horn the drawbridge was lowered and the gates of
the manor-house was thrown open to the Lord of Brunn; and then was
there happy meeting in the hall with the Ladie Alftrude and the maid
Mildred—so happy that Hereward and Elfric forgot for the time the
shame and woe of that bloody morning, and the young dame and the maiden
forgot their own late agony and danger: nor was it when the lady
brought her first-born son, rosy from his sleep, and put him in the
arms of his glad sire, and when maid Mildred hung upon the arm of the
sword-bearer and called him her deliverer, and said that she would
never more leave him, but go whithersoever he might go, that these sad
things could be brought back to the mind, or that either Hereward or
Elfric could recollect that henceforward they and those who were
dearest unto them must lead a wandering life in the wilds and the fens.
Nay, when a cheerful fire was lit in the great hall, and the tables
were well spread, and the drinking-horns well filled, every good Saxon
present seemed to think that this joy must last.

Yet if, in the morning after this happy meeting, there came sad
thoughts and many and much sadder recollections, there was no craven
panic, nor so much as any visible perturbation or confusion. _Vir
serenissimus_, a most serene and imperturbable man, was the Lord of
Brunn: and to this high quality of his nature was mainly owing all that
he had done and all that he lived to do afterwards. The Ladie Alftrude
was worthy to mate with such a lord; and their serenity made serene and
confident all those that were about them. And therefore was it that
when the foul treason at Ely was made known to all of them, and when
much more bad news was brought in, as that the Normans had stormed and
taken the lady’s manor-house at Ey and the lord’s manor-house at Brunn,
and had been admitted again into Crowland Abbey, these good Saxons lost
not heart and abated not of hope, but vowed that they would fight to
the last for Lord Hereward, and be true to him in every extremity.

All things were got ready for a retreat into the farthest parts of
Lincolnshire, or into the impenetrable country upon the Wash, as
expediency might dictate; for it was thought that the Normans, being so
near, would not delay in bringing a great army against Spalding
manor-house, and in making the most desperate efforts to seize the last
great Saxon lord that was now in arms against them. But the autumn
season was now at hand, and it was so ordained that the heavy rains set
in earlier than usual, and fell more heavily and lasted longer than
common, in such sort that the fens were laid under water and the roads
made impassable. And although many boats of all sorts and sizes were
collected, they could not be used, for a fresh gathering on the
Scottish border[252] constrained Duke William to turn his attention
thitherward and to dispatch to the river Tyne and to the river Tweed
many of the warriors and shipmen that had been collected to complete
the subjugation of the fen country. When these Normans were gone, Lord
Hereward drove their monks once more from Crowland Abbey, and got
possession of his house at Brunn and of the stores which had been there
deposited; and after making many good forays into the upland country,
he brought his brave fenners back to Spalding, together with a good
number of Norman prisoners, of whom some were of high degree. The poor
unhoused townfolk of Spalding found shelter for the winter in the large
manor-house and in the succursal cell, or in Crowland Abbey, keeping
themselves ready to move in the spring with the Lord of Brunn and his
warlike band. There was abundance of wine and corn, and meat and fish,
and all good things in this new Camp of Refuge; and the winter passed
merrily away, with all due observation made of saints’ days and of all
the feast days the Saxon church had appointed. But one feast there was
which was more joyous than all the rest; and that was given by the Lord
of Brunn, ever free of hand and large of soul, a short time before the
quinzaine of the Nativity, when Elfric and Mildred were made man and
wife. Their hands were joined by the same Alefricus Diaconus who had
been Lord Hereward’s mass-priest at Brunn, and who had performed the
marriage-rites for his lord and the Ladie Alftrude at Ey. But the
true-hearted monks of Spalding, and the monks that had fled from Ely,
took part in the ceremony in the chapel, as afterwards in the feast in
the hall; for notwithstanding all the mischief that the monks of Ely
had done him, Hereward was still _homo monachorum_, or a lover of
monks—provided only they were true Saxon monks, and had no dealings
with the Normans. But all true Saxons and bold fenners for many miles
round feasted at Spalding on Elfric’s wedding day; the freed-men being
entertained according to their degree, and the churls and serfs
according to their degrees. Alefric, the deacon, put these things into
a book, but the pages[253] are now missing.



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                         HEREWARD STILL FIGHTS.


At the return of spring, Duke William being at Warwick Castle,[254] on
the pleasant river Avon, gave forth his mandate for the collecting of a
great army to proceed against the Lord of Brunn. Much had it vexed and
grieved his proud soul that Hereward should have escaped from the Camp
of Refuge in the Isle of Ely, and have made his name terrible in other
parts: for, during the winter, Peterborough and Stamford—aye, Grantham
and Newark—had heard the war-cry of the Lord of Brunn, and the Normans
there had been plundered by his band; and further still, where
Nottingham looks down upon Trent, Hereward had carried his successful
foray. “By the splendour,” quoth Duke William, as he thought upon those
things, “I would give back all the Saxon lives that were taken near Ely
for the life of this one man, who hath more power of mischief in him
than all the Saxons put together. Or I would give to him the broadest
earldom in all England if he would but submit and be my liege-man! I
need such a soldier, for the men that followed me from Normandie are
become all rich in this fat land, and risk not themselves in battle as
they used to do when their fortunes were to make by sword and lance.
This shall be thought of again, albeit my half-brother Odo and all my
Normans have vowed the death of that terrible Lord of Brunn, and think
that every hide of land left to a Saxon is so much robbed from them.”

During the spring months another mighty host was collected from out of
the several shires of Huntingdon, Cam-Bridge, Leicester, Nottingham,
Derby, Warwick, and others; and viscomtes and comtes, and knights of
great fame and long experience in war, were placed in command, and were
ordered to encompass the Lord of Brunn, and make an end of him or of
his resistance. No stores were spared; nothing was spared that was
thought likely to forward the one great object. Scarcely had William
made a greater array of strength when he first landed at Pevensey, to
march against King Harold at Hastings.

But Hereward, that cunning captain and excellent soldier, _inclytus
miles_, was not idle during this season: he went hither and thither
throughout the country on the Wash and the whole fen country, calling
upon the fenners to be steady and true to him and their native land;
and to get their bows and arrows ready, and to sharpen such swords and
axes, or bill-hooks and spear-heads, as they might have; and to be ever
in a state of readiness to fight, if fighting could stead them, or to
retreat with their cattle into the inaccessible places and the
labyrinths among the waters and the meres. And the wandering menestrels
and gleemen, who had been driven hitherward from all other parts of
England, with Elfric, who was as good a gleemen as any of the number,
went from one township in the fens to another, singing the Saxon songs
which did honour to the Lord of Brunn, and told how often he had
prevailed in fight over the Norman invaders. And at the sound of these
songs the fenners gave up their peaceful occupations and prepared for
war; while many hundreds went at once to join the standard of the Lord
of Brunn. The men of Hoiland mounted themselves on their tall stilts,
and came wading across marsh and mere unto the manor-house of Spalding;
others came thither in their light skerries; others came on foot, with
their fen-poles in their hands, leaping such waters and drains as could
be leaped, and swimming across the rest like the water-fowls of the
fens. Loud blew the Saxon horn everywhere: the monks of Ely could hear
it in their cells by night, and their guests the Norman warriors, who
ventured not to come forth beyond Hadenham or Turbutsey, could hear it
in the hall or refectory by day. The country seemed all alive and
stirring, and full of strange sights: but the strangest sight of all
was that of the men from the shores of the Wash marching in troops on
their high stilts, carrying their bows and quivers and swords and pikes
at their backs, and looking, at a distance, with their long wooden
shanks and their bodies propped in the air, like troops of giant cranes
or herons. And ever as they went, and whether they went upon stilts or
upon their own feet, or in flitting skerries, or in heavier and slower
boats, these brave fenners sung in chorus the good songs which they had
learned from the gleemen. In this wise the Lord of Brunn had a great
force collected and in arms by the time of summer, when the waters had
abated and the green fields were showing themselves, and the Normans
were beginning to march, in the fantastic hope of encircling Hereward
as hunters gird in a beast of prey. There were no traitors here, as at
Ely, to show the short and safe ways across the fens; and Ivo
Taille-Bois, the only Norman chief that could be said to know a little
of the wild and difficult country, was a close prisoner in the house at
Spalding, where he tried to beguile the tedium of his captivity by
playing almost constantly at dice with the two Norman knights who had
been captured with him in the marsh. Add to all this that the Normans,
who had not before tried what it was to make war in the fens, had a
contempt of their enemy, and a measureless confidence in their own
skill and prowess, and it will be understood that their discomfiture
was unavoidable. They came down from the upland country in separate
bodies, and towards points far apart; and before they could place
themselves, or contract their intended circle and give the hand to one
another, Hereward attacked them separately, and beat them one by one.
Nor did the Normans fare much better when they gave up their plan of
circle and united their forces in one head. The Lord of Brunn, who had
counted upon being driven from Spalding into the wilderness, found not
only that he could maintain himself there, but that he could also hold
his own good house at Brunn; for, when the Norman host marched upon
that manor, they fell into an ambuscade he had laid for them, and
suffered both loss and shame, and then fled from an enemy they had
hardly seen; for the fenners had willow-trees for their shields, or
they had bent their bows in the midst of the tall growing rushes. Thus
passed the summer months; and Duke William[255] was still on the
northern borders, fighting against Malcolm Caenmore; and as that Scots
war became more and more obstinate, the Duke was compelled to call to
his aid nearly the whole of his splendid chivalry, and almost every
Norman foot-soldier that he could prudently withdraw from England. With
such mighty forces Duke William marched from the left bank of the Tweed
to end of the Frith of Forth, and all through the Lothians; and
thereupon the Scots king, albeit he would not deliver up the Saxon
nobles who had taken refuge at his court, came and agreed with Duke
William, and delivered hostages, and promised to be his man. But by
this time another year was spent, and the fens were again
impracticable; and, moreover, the Norman conqueror was compelled to
tarry long at Durham, in order to settle the North country. Before the
quinzaine of this Nativity the goodly stock of Lord Hereward was
increased by the birth of a daughter, and Elfric was a father. The two
children were baptized on the same day; and at the feast, which was
given in the same hall at Spalding wherein Ivo Taille-Bois and the
Ladie Lucia had given their great feast for the christening of their
first-born, the merry sword-bearer said, “Well, we be still here! and
it is now my opinion that I shall be a grandfather before the Normans
shall drive us out of the fens!” The carefully guarded Norman prisoners
of rank and note were very sad; but Ivo Taille-Bois was the saddest of
them all on this festal day, for his wife and child were far away from
him, living under the protection of the primate Lanfranc at Canterbury,
and, much as he had tried, he could get no news of them; nor could he
see any prospect of regaining his liberty, inasmuch as the Lord of
Brunn declared that he wanted not money, and was determined to keep him
and his men as hostages.

With another year there came fresh preparation for invading the fen
country, and giving the deathblow to Saxon liberty by destroying
Hereward. But again the saints befriended the last of the Saxons, for
great commotions burst out in Normandie, and in the county of Maine the
people rose to a man against the tyrannies and oppressions of Duke
William;[256] and thus the Conqueror was constrained to pass over into
France with all the troops he could collect. Before he went he sent
once more to offer a free _pardon_ to the Lord of Brunn and a few of
his adherents; but Hereward said that, in fighting for the liberties
and old laws of his country, he had not done that which called for
pardon: and as the terms proposed were otherwise inadmissible, the Lord
of Brunn had rejected them all, and had told the proud Duke that he
would yet trust to his sword, and to the brave fenners, and to the
inexpungnable country he had so long occupied. Aided by many thousands
of native English soldiers whom he carried over with him into Normandie
and Maine, and who there fought most valorously for him, Duke William
conquered the men of Maine and reduced them to his obedience. But this
occupied him many months; and when he returned into England, it was to
put down another insurrection and a wide-spread conspiracy, which were
headed not by the Saxon nobles, but by Roger Fitz-Osborne, Raoul de
Gael, and other nobles of Norman or French birth, who were not
satisfied with the vast estates and high titles they had obtained in
England, but wanted more, and had long been saying that William the
Bastard was a tyrant in odium with all men, and that his death would
gladden their hearts. Battles were fought and sieges were made before
the Duke had triumphed over this confederacy; and while he was thus
fighting and laying sieges, the Lord of Brunn reigned as a king in the
fen country, and kept all the countries thereunto adjacent in a state
of constant alarm. The herds and flocks of Hereward and his associates
increased and multiplied the while; the drained and enclosed grounds
gave their bountiful crops; the rivers and meres seemed more than ever
to abound with fish and wild-fowl; and whatsoever else was wanted was
supplied by successful forays to the upland countries and to the
sea-coasts: so great was the plenty, that even the poor bondmen often
ate wheaten bread—white loaves which might have been put upon the
table of my Lord Abbat of Ely. The Ladie Alftrude and the wife of the
sword-bearer were again mothers (so gracious were the saints unto
them!); and Elfric’s first-born son was grown big enough to show a
marvellous similitude to his father, _specialiter_ about the laughing
mouth and merry eyes.

Having nothing else upon hand for that present, William sent another
great army to try their fortunes in the fen country; and (grieves me to
say!) many of these soldiers were native English, and some few of them
men from the Isle of Ely, who had experience in fen-warfare. Now was
the manor-house of Brunn retaken, and now was Lord Hereward compelled
to abandon Spalding, and to get him gone into the heart of Lincolnshire
with his family and his people, and all his friends, and his Norman
prisoners; but he drove off his cattle with him, and he found other
herds where he went; and he found, moreover, subjugated townships and
Norman town-governors unprepared to resist him. Some men do say that he
had with him scant three hundred fighting men; but he flitted so
rapidly from place to place, and so multiplied his attacks, that the
Normans ever thought he had many thousands. And when the great Norman
army marched against him in Lindsey in the north, Hereward doubled
them, and marched back to the south into Kesteven; and when they came
to look for him in Kesteven, either he was back in Lindsey, or
continuing his course to the south, he got him into Hoiland and that
flooded country near the Wash, where the Normans never could penetrate,
and where every man that lived and went upon tall stilts was his liege
man. Here, in Hoiland, and in perfect safety, chiefly abided the Ladie
Alftrude, and the women and children, and the Norman prisoners. The
name of the Lord of Brunn was more than ever sounded throughout broad
England, and from the Wash to the Humber it was a name of dread to all
Normans and friends of Normans. Every feat of arms or skilful stratagem
inspired some new song or tale; and the gleemen were never idle, and
were never unhonoured.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                             THE HAPPY END.


There chanced to be one very hard winter, and the rivers and streams
were frozen over, as well as the bogs and swamps. It was such a winter
as one of those in which King Canute went to visit the monks of
Ely.[257] Then the nobles of Canute’s court said, “We cannot pass; the
king must not pass on the slippery, unsafe ice, which may break and
cause us all to be drowned in the fen-waters.” But Canute, like the
pious and stout king that he was, up and said, “Hold ice or break ice,
I will keep the feast of the Purification with the good monks of Ely!
An there be but one bold fenner that will go before over the ice by
Soham mere and show the way, I will be the next to follow!” Now there
chanced to be standing amidst the crowd one Brithmer, a fenner of the
Isle of Ely, that was called, from his exceeding fatness, Budde, or
Pudding; and this heavy man stood forward and said that he would go
before the king and show him a way on the ice across Soham mere. Quoth
Canute, who, albeit so great a king, was but a small, light man: “If
the ice can bear thy weight, it can well bear mine! So go on, and I
follow!” So Brithmer went his way across the bending and cracking ice,
and the king followed him at a convenient distance; and one by one the
courtiers followed the king, and after a few falls on the ice they all
got safe to Ely. And, for the good deed which he had done, King Canute
made fat Brithmer, who was but a serf before, a free man, and gave unto
him some free lands, which Brithmer’s posterity hold and enjoy unto
this day by virtue of the grant made by King Canute. But there was not
a fenner of Lord Hereward’s party, fat or lean, that would show the
Norman a way across the ice; and the Duke was in no case to undertake
any such adventurous journey, and hardly one of his chiefs would have
exposed himself and his people to such a march, and to the risks of a
sudden thaw; and the Saxons passed the season of frosts without any
alarm, albeit every part of the fens was passable for divers weeks.

Duke William was now waxing old and growing exceedingly fat, in sort
that he could not bestir himself as he had been used to do. At the same
time his sons, who had grown into man’s estate, had become very
undutiful, and even rebellious. Robert, his first-born, who was short
in his legs, but very lofty in spirit, claimed as his own the duchy of
Normandie and the county of Maine, alleging that the dominion of those
countries had been promised to him by his father, and that his father
ought to rest satisfied with the great kingdom of England. And although
William had told Robert that he would not throw off his clothes until
he went to bed—meaning thereby to say that he would give up none of
his principalities and powers until he went to his grave—that
impatient, furious young man showed that he would not wait and be
patient. The family of the Conqueror was a brotherhood of Cains.
Robert, less favoured by nature than they, thought that his father
always gave preference to his younger brothers William and Henry: and
being in France, in the little town of Aigle, William and Henry, after
playing at dice, as was the fashion with milites, made a great noise
and uproar, to the great disturbance of their elder brother; and when
Robert remonstrated with them from a courtyard beneath, they called him
Shorthose, and emptied a pitcher of water upon his head. Thereupon
Robert drew his sword and would have slain both his brothers; but being
prevented in that, he raised the standard of revolt against his own
father, and endeavoured to surprise the city and strong castle at
Rouen. Here, too, Robert failed of success, but he fled into Brittanie;
and he was now visibly supported not only by many Breton chiefs and by
the great Count of Anjou, but also by Philip the French king, who never
could stomach the power and greatness to which the son of the harlot of
Falaise had attained. Now, while all this mischief was brewing, Duke
William felt that there were many of the barons in Normandie in whom he
could put no manner of trust, and he well knew that too many of the
great Normans settled in England were unsteady in their allegiance to
him. In this state of things it behoved him more than ever to insure
tranquillity in England before he should again cross the seas, and to
endeavour to secure the goodwill of the Saxon people, who were
gradually becoming accustomed to his rule, and who had but so recently
shown how valorously they could fight for him when he put his trust in
them. And therefore had he somewhat relaxed the rigour of his
government towards the English people, and had made promise to many
native nobles that he would govern the country according to the good
laws of Edward the Confessor. Now some of these English nobles were
closely allied by blood with the Ladie Lucia, and consequently with the
Ladie Alftrude; and was not the Ladie Lucia the wife of Duke William’s
own nephew, Ivo Taille-Bois? And was not the Ladie Alftrude wife unto
Hereward the Lord of Brunn, who held that nephew in duresse, and who
had for so many years prevented Ivo from enjoying the wide domains of
his spouse? Perhaps Ivo had not been an altogether unkind husband, or
it may be that the two children which she had borne unto him carried a
great weight in his favour in the mind and heart of Lucia, who, certes,
had long been very anxious for the liberation and return of her French
husband. Some good Saxons at the time thought that this was
un-Saxonlike and mean and wicked in the fair heiress of Spalding; but
there were many young dames, and not a few Saxon dames that could
hardly be called young, who felt much as the Ladie Lucia felt about
their Norman husbands. But go and read the story of old Rome and the
Sabine women! Nay, go read the Evangil, which tells us how the wife
will give up everything for her husband. And, _crede mihi_, these
womanly affections and instincts helped more than anything else to make
disappear the distinction between the conquering and the conquered race.

Now after that many of her kindred and friends had supplicated Duke
William to offer to the Lord of Brunn such terms as might procure the
release of her husband and the pacification of the fen country, the
Ladie Lucia herself found her way to the court, and at the most
opportune moment she knelt before the Conqueror with her two fair
children. The hard heart of the Norman ruler was touched; but politic
princes are governed by the head and not by the heart, and it was only
upon calculation that William determined to set at nought the opinions
and the opposition of many of his advisers, and grant unto Hereward the
most liberal terms of composition. In the presence of Lanfranc and
other learned priests he caused to be written upon parchment, that he
would give and grant friendship and the protection of the good old laws
not only unto Hereward, but also unto all his friends, partisans, and
followers whatsoever, of whatsoever degree; that the life, eyes, limbs,
and goods of the poorest fenner should be as sacred as those of Lord
Hereward himself; that Lord Hereward should have and hold all the
titles of honour and all the lands which he had inherited from his
ancestors or obtained by his marriage with the Ladie Alftrude; that he
should be allowed to administer the Saxon laws among his people, as
well at Ey as at Brunn; and that, in return for all these and sundry
other advantages, nothing would be required from him further than that
he should liberate, together with all other his Norman prisoners, Ivo
Taille-Bois, viscomte of Spalding, and give the hand of friendship to
Ivo, and restore to him the house and all the lands at Spalding, which
were his by right of his marriage with the Ladie Lucia, and live in
good cousinship with Ivo as became men so nearly connected through
their wives, living at the same time in peace and friendship with all
Normans, and pledging himself by his honour as a knight and by his vow
pronounced with his right hand laid upon the relics of the Saxon saints
he most esteemed, to be henceforward and alway true liegeman to King
William and to his lawful successors.

When a Saxon monk, known for his good English heart, and for the pious
life he had led in Waltham Abbey,[258] got into the fen country, and
into the presence of the Lord of Brunn with this scroll, the gentle
Ladie Alftrude, who had borne many toils and troubles without a murmur,
was lying sick of a marsh fever, which she had caught in Hoiland. This
afflicting event was calculated to have some influence over her lord’s
decision; but many other events and circumstances, too numerous to
name, all led to the same conclusion. No hope of the return of King
Harold could be maintained any longer; the good old Saxon monk from
Waltham vowed that his body was really buried in Waltham Abbey, that
the river Lea, flowing fast by that Abbey gate, ever murmured his
requiem, by night as by day, and that he himself, for years past, had
said a daily mass for the peace of his soul. All the great Saxon chiefs
had submitted long ago; Earl Waltheof, the last that had made a stir in
arms, had been captured and beheaded outside Winchester town, and was
now lying (though not without a strong odour of sanctity) in a deep
grave at Crowland Abbey; Edgar Etheling, the last representative of the
line of King Alfred, was living contentedly, and growing fat in a
Norman palace at Rouen, with a pound of silver a day for his
maintenance; for he had long since given himself up, and sworn himself
liege-man to William. Every rising had been put down in England, and
all conditions of men seemed determined to rise no more, but to live in
peace and good fellowship with the Normans; there was nothing but
marrying and giving in marriage between the two races, and Saxon lords
and other men of note were taking unto themselves Norman or French
wives; and the great father of the whole Christian church, the Pope at
Rome, Gregory, the seventh of that name, had given plenary powers to
Archbishop Lanfranc to reorganize the Saxon church, and to
excommunicate all such Saxons as submitted not to his primacy and to
the government established. William, on the other hand, promised to
take vengeance on none of Lord Hereward’s followers, and to injure no
fen-man for that which was past.

“Elfric,” said the Lord of Brunn, “I think we must accept these terms,
and cease this roving life among woods and meres. We have done what
brave men can do: we have shown the Normans that England was not
conquered in one fatal battle. We might yet hold out here, but for the
rest of England we can do nothing; and our being here costs some
Englishmen in the vicinage very dearly! What sayest thou, my
ever-trusty sword-bearer? Wilt follow thy old master to London city,
and make peace with Duke William and his Normans, who have never been
able to overcome us?”

Quoth Elfric, “Where my lord goes there go I, be it to London city or
to London tower. I think we have shown the Normans that England was not
won by the battle of Hastings. An the Duke keep but his faith, we may
live freely and happily in the good old house at Brunn, and among our
honest fen folk.”

Of the monks who had fled from Ely with Elfric some were dead, but the
gentle and good Father Elsin and the fiery and old Father Kenulph, and
several of the lay-brothers were yet alive; and therefore Hereward told
the Duke’s emissary, the good monk from Waltham, that their must be an
especial agreement to relieve these monks of Ely from the rules of
their order, and allow them to abide at Brunn or at Ey. The emissary
was further told that, before Lord Hereward would submit, Duke William
must swear upon the relics of his saints to observe the paction, to be
true to every article of the agreement: and to give an earnest of his
own sincerity and truth, the Lord of Brunn swore in the solemnest
manner that he was ready to accept the conditions offered to him; and
that, having once accepted them, nothing but treachery and violence on
the other side would ever make him swerve from them so much as the
breadth of a hair.

The monk of Waltham went his way unto London; and in as short a time as
might be he came back again as far as the succursal cell at Spalding,
attended by a goodly company of Norman and Saxon nobles, who came to
bear witness that Lanfranc and the chancellor of the kingdom had put
their signatures to the scroll as well as the king, and that William
had sworn in their presence to be faithful to the deed. Now the Lord of
Brunn went to Spalding with a goodly retinue of armed men, but not more
numerous than the party which had come thither with the monk of
Waltham; and having heard all that the monk and the lords had to tell
him, and having carefully perused the deed (for Hereward had tasted
books, and could read well in Latin), he wrote his name to the deed,
and some of the principal men with him wrote their names; and then he
swore upon the relics to be liege-man to _King_ William. And now
William the Norman might in truth be called a king, and king of all
England. It was in the Kalends of October, in the year of grace one
thousand and seventy-six, and ten years after the great assize of God’s
judgment at Hastings, that this thing was done and an end put to the
resistance of the Saxons.

He had sworn upon the relics of saints before now, and had broken his
oath; but this time King William was true to the vow he made, for great
and manifold were the advantages he reaped from the submission of the
Lord of Brunn. It needs not to say that the great Saxon warrior who had
ever been true to his saints and a scrupulous observer of his word, was
more than faithful to every part of his engagement. After he had been
to London city to pay homage to the king which it was the will of
Heaven to place over the country, he returned to his good house at
Brunn, and hung his sword and battle-axe upon the wall, never to take
them down again unless England should be invaded by the Scots or Danes.
King William, who went over into France to force his undutiful son
Robert to forego his plots and rebellions, and to take vengeance on the
French king (in both of which things he in the end succeeded), would
with a glad heart have carried Hereward, the cunning captain, the great
soldier, with him; and to tempt him into that service he made offer of
lofty titles and commands, and of many hides of land in the upland
country; but Hereward loved not to fight except for his own country and
countrymen, and against those who had wronged him and oppressed them;
and instead of clutching greedily at the king’s offers, as many English
lords had done, he preferred keeping his own in his own native parts,
and ever remained plain Lord of Brunn.

Ivo Taille-Bois returned to the manor-house at Spalding with his wife
and children; and albeit his brow was sometimes darkened by the
recollections of the wedding at Ey, and the defeat and surrender in the
marsh, and the hard life he had led as a prisoner in the fens, he lived
on the whole, in very good fellowship with his neighbour and cousin of
Brunn. Ivo never more harrowed the good Saxon monks of Spalding, who
were left for a long time to their own peaceful and happy government.
As for the traitorous monks of Crowland Abbey, who had brought back the
Normans, they fared after the same manner as the false monks at Ely and
the ungrateful monks at Peterborough; they were condemned by the
Saxons, harassed and plundered by the Normans they had served, and
fustigated by a sharp iracund abbat from France; and thus they did
penance for many years, and until most of them were dead, when their
cells were occupied by truer men, and the abbey of Crowland began again
to be the revered place it had been in former times.

As Lord Hereward had ever been averse to cruelty, and constant in his
endeavours to prevent his people being cruel to the prisoners they took
in battle, the Normans had no scores of vengeance against him; and when
they found that they were not to be gratified by dividing his broad
lands among them, as they had long expected to do, they lived in a
neighbourly manner with him, and even sought his friendship. Not one of
them but allowed that he had been a great warrior; and when the monks
of their nation, who had seen much of the war in England with their own
eyes, began to chronicle the war and to relate the high emprises of
William the Conqueror, maugre their Norman prejudices they paid a
tribute of praise and admiration to the military skill, and the
indomitable courage, and perseverance of Hereward, the son of Leofric,
Lord of Brunn.

There were troubles in the land after the year of grace one thousand
and seventy-six, but they came not near to Brunn. Twenty-four years
after the submission of Hereward, when the Conqueror was in his grave,
and his son Rufus had been slain by the arrow of a Norman knight, his
other son, Henry the Clerk, ascended the throne, and in so doing he
passed the good Charter called the Charter of Liberties, whereby he
restored the laws of King Edward the Confessor, and engaged to redress
all the grievances of the two preceding reigns. And shortly after his
accession to the throne, King Henry still further conciliated his
Anglo-Saxon subjects by espousing a Saxon wife, the fair Maud, daughter
of Malcolm, King of Scots, and of Margaret the good queen, the relation
of King Edward the Confessor, and of the right kingly kin of England.
Maud had been sent from Scotland at a very early age and committed to
the care of her English aunt Christina, the pious Abbess of Wilton.
Many great Norman lords, as Alain the Lord of Richmond, and William de
Garenne, Earl of Surrey, had asked her in marriage, but she had refused
them all; and even when Henry Beauclerc, a crowned and anointed king,
made suit for her hand, and offered to place her by his side on the
throne which her ancestors had sat upon for ages, she testified a
preference for the quiet religious life she was leading; and it
required the representations and entreaties of many noble Saxon friends
to make her forego her purpose of entering into religion. “Oh most
noble and fair among women,” said these Saxons, “if thou wilt, thou
canst restore the ancient honour of England, and be a pledge of
reconciliation and friendship; but if thou art obstinate in thy
refusal, the enmity between the two races will endure, and the shedding
of human blood know no end!” To these representations she yielded; and
those Saxons who had advised her lived to see much good to England
proceed from the marriage, which was a great step towards that
intermixture of the Saxon and Norman races which had been begun many
years before, and which we have since seen proceed so rapidly. The
elevation of the fair Maud to the throne filled the hearts of the
English with joy, for not only was she their countrywoman and a
descendant from the royal stock of Alfred the Great, but she was also
at the time of her marriage beautiful in person, charitable unto the
poor, and distinguished above all the ladies of her time by a love for
learning and learned men. Elfric the sword-bearer, who was yet in the
prime vigour of life, brought to mind the dying prediction of Frithric
the Abbat of St. Albans, and said joyously to his lord, that “England
would be England still, and that the Saxon tongue and laws were things
that could not be rooted out!”

“Elfric,” said Lord Hereward, “the great stream of our old Saxon blood
is fast absorbing the less stream of Norman blood, and so will it
continue to do. The children of Normans, being born in England and
suckled by Saxon nurses, will cease to be Normans. All men love to keep
that which they have gotten; and as our old Saxon laws are far more
free than those of France, and give more security for life and goods,
and oppose a stronger barrier to the tyranny of princes, the Normans
that now live among us, or their sons that shall succeed them, will,
for their own sakes, cling to our old laws, and help the chiefs and the
great body of the English people to make the spirit of them to be
enduring in the land.”

Thus talked the Lord of Brunn and his faithful sword-bearer; and thus
they lived to teach their children’s children.

Hereward continued to live comfortably and peaceably with his
neighbours and with all men, and he died in peace after he had lived
many more years. Both he and the Ladie Alftrude reached a patriarchal
age, and they left a patriarchal stock behind them. They were buried
with all honour in Crowland Abbey, which, by this time, had become a
holier and a better governed house than ever it had been before. A
learned monk of Crowland wrote good verses in Latin upon the tombstone
of the Lord of Brunn; but we find in our own home tongue lines which
might have been a still better epitaph:—

                 Him loved young, him loved old,
                 Earl and baron, dreng and kayn,
                 Knight, bondeman, and swain,
                 Widows, maidens, priests, and clerks,
                 And all for his good werkes.
                 He loved God with all his might,
                 And holy kirk and soothe and right.

And that there might be a lasting record of his prowess in battle and
skill in war, his good and learned mass-priest Alefricus Diaconus, had
written before he died, and in the same old English tongue, a goodly
book of the deeds of Hereward, the great soldier; and albeit this
goodly book, by some evil chance, hath disappeared, Hugo Candidus and
Robert of Swaffham, two right learned monks of the abbey of
Peterborough, have put the substance of it, and such portions as could
be found, into their treatise intituled, DE GESTIS HEREWARDI INCLYTI
MILITIS.



                               APPENDIX.


                          NOTE A.—(_Page 5._)

                        FOUNDATION OF ELY ABBEY.

Ely Abbey was founded by Ætheldreda in A.D. 673. She was the first
Abbess. Her right of rule over the Isle of Ely itself was derived from
her husband, Tonbert, a prince of the Gyrvii or Fen people. This
monastery rose to great importance—passed through various
vicissitudes—incident to the times of invasion and conflict—was
heroically defended at various periods—submitted to the power of Duke
William, was converted into a Bishopric in 1109—Hervey being its first
prelate—and shared the fate of other monastic houses in the reign of
Henry VIII., when its revenue amounted to about £13,000 per year, at
the present value of money.[259]


                          NOTE B.—(_Page 5._)

                         THE LEGEND OF S. LUCY.

Saint Lucia was a native of Syracuse; her hand was sought in marriage
by a young nobleman whose suit she refused, whereupon her lover
complained that her beautiful eyes haunted him day and night; she cut
them out and sent them to him, begging to be allowed to persue her
religious aspirations unmolested, hence she is often represented with
the balls of her eyes laid on a dish; perhaps her eyes were defaced or
plucked out—though her present “Acts” make no mention of any such
circumstance. In many places her intercession was particularly implored
for distemper of the eyes, (for, as a recompense for this self
abnegation, Heaven restored her eyes making them more beautiful than
before).

Her chief offence may have been that she bestowed the whole of her
large wealth on the poor instead of sharing it with her suitor who
accused her to the governor of professing Christianity and in
consequence she suffered in the Diocletian persecution. She appears to
have died in prison, of wounds, on 13th December, 304, A.D. In the 6th
century she was honoured at Rome among the most illustrious virgins
whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary
of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England,
till the change of religion, as a holiday of the second rank on which
no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at
Syracuse for many years. She is often represented with a palm branch in
one hand and a burning lamp in the other, expressive of her name which
means Light, in Greek, λύκη. _“Notes Ecclesiological and Historical
on the Holy Days,” London, 1864, also “Lives of the Saints,” by Rev.
Alban Butler._

[Illustration: THE GROUND PLAN OF THE AREA OF SPALDING MONASTERY.

(_From the “Monasticon.”_)

A—Situs Abbatæ (the Site of the Abbey).

B—Clavicularium (the Gate House).

C—Horreum (the Store-house or Barn).

D—Turris (the Tower).

E—Forum Mercatorium (the Market).

F—Pons Altus (the High Bridge).

G—Welland Flumen (the River Welland).

H—Fossa (a Trench).

I—Pons Irinus (the Lily Bridge).

K—Aqua vocata Westload (the Stream called the Westlode).

L—Strata S. Thomæ (S. Thomas’s Causey).]


                     NOTE C.—(_Pages 5, 45, 57._)

                          OVIN’S CROSS AT ELY.

When the British Archæological Association met in Congress at Wisbech
(Aug., 1878,) the subject of the _Inscription_ of this cross became a
matter of discussion. Mr. W. de Gray Birch, Hon. Sec., has since
produced a paper on this inscription. Mr. Birch supposed the
inscription to have been originally metrical, and that the form given
at page 57 of this book suffered by a blunder of the stonecutter, and
perhaps from some manipulation of recent times. Mr. Birch inclines to
read—

               “Trine! tuam lucem da, Deus, et requiem.”

The reader will find this subject elaborately discussed in Vol. 35 of
Journal of British Archæological Association, pages 388-396.


                          NOTE D.—(_Page 7._)

                            SPALDING PRIORY.

The Priory of Spalding was commenced in 1052 by Thorold, brother of
Godiva. It was dedicated to SS. Mary and Nicholas and consisted at
first of a prior and five monks, drawn from Crowland.

This cell was endowed with the manor of Spalding. Lucia, countess of
Chester, the heiress to the property of Thorold the founder, married
Ivo Taille-Bois the nephew of William the Conqueror.

Of his dealings with the priory we have already learnt in the text. The
privileges of Spalding were granted to the convent of Angiers. Lucia
appears to have outlived Ivo—in fact, had three husbands and after the
death of Ralph the third one, gave a fresh confirmation of the
liberties of Spalding to the monks of Angiers in 1129.

Gough says, “Here were buried Ivo Taille-Bois in 1104 and his wife
Lucia in 1141.” See plan facing page 481.


                       NOTE E.—(_Pages 16, 17._)

                      ARCHBISHOP PARKER’S SALT-VAT.

This “Salt-vat” is of silver gilt and elaborately ornate; but it is not
known whether it was of English or foreign manufacture. A copy has been
made for South Kensington Museum. The authorities of Corpus Christi
College, Cambridge, permitted the editor of this book to see the
original and to make a copy of the inscription which is as follows:—

                        MATTHÆVS: ARCHIEP[=V]S:
                          CANTVARIENSIS: DEDIT
                           COLLEGIO: CORPORIS
                         CHRISTI: CANTABRIGIÆ:
                           PRIMO: SEPTEMBRIS:
                           ANNO: D[=N]I: 1570


                         NOTE F.—(_Page 20._)

                           ABBEY OF S. ALBAN.

Saint Alban, the proto-martyr, suffered death in the Diocletian
persecution in 303 A.D.

King Offa is said to have exhumed the body, placed it in a magnificent
shrine, and established monks to watch over it in 793; but Bede says
that a church was established where the martyrdom took place in 731
A.D.; and Offa is believed to have designed a nobler church which
perhaps was not completed by him, but by Eadmer, the 9th Saxon Abbat,
and this church existed at the time of the Norman conquest.

Paul of Caen, appointed by Lancfranc in 1077 “pulled down the Saxon
building and constructed the church entirely anew of stones and tiles
taken from the ancient Roman city of Verulam, a great portion of which
had been collected by the two last Saxon Abbots.” (Frithric, mentioned
in note on page 20, being one of them.)

This, then, was substantially the same church which has been restored
in these modern times and which became the Cathedral of the new diocese
of S. Albans in 1877, when Dr. Claughton was enthroned as Bishop.

The reader will find valuable information in

1. _A History of the Abbey of S. Alban_, by DR. NICHOLSON.

2. _Report on the Lady Chapel of S. Alban_, by SIR GILBERT SCOTT.

3. _The Restoration of the Abbey of S. Alban_, by J. CHAPPLE, 1874.

4. _The Restoration of the Abbey Church of S. Alban_, 1876.

5. _A short History of the Abbey Church of S. Alban_, by J. CHAPPLE,
1882.


                         NOTE G.—(_Page 59_).

                             CROWLAND ABBEY.

Crowland Abbey was founded by Æthelbald in 716, according to a promise
made to the hermit Guthlac who lived there in seclusion for 15 years.

The reader will find an account of this recluse in Ordericus who
followed what was written by bishop Felix. Ordericus says that the name
of Guthlac signified “the gift of war,” and that he belonged to a tribe
called Guthlacingas. Gudlacus is the spelling in William of Malmesbury.

Ordericus gives his own account of the building of Crowland Abbey as he
learnt it on the spot.

Æthelbald sent for Kenulph, a monk of Evesham, and granted to him the
whole island of Crowland, for the purpose of congregating and
supporting a society of monks exempting it for ever from all secular
payments and services. _Dugdale’s Monasticon._


                         NOTE H.—(_Page 61._)

                              RAMSEY ABBEY.

Ramsey Abbey was founded by St. Oswald and Æthelwine of East-Anglia, in
969.[260] The Abbey was dedicated to SS. Mary and Benedict and was
occupied by the order of “Black Monks.” It became richly endowed to the
annual value of about £18000 of present money.


                         NOTE I.—(_Page 61._)

                             THORNEY ABBEY.

Thorney.—This spot appears to have been selected for the establishing
of a religious house at the time that Wulphere and his kin went to the
consecration of the church at Peterborough.[261] Abbot Saxulf requested
of that Mercian king a grant of Thorney, saying—“There is an island
here which is called ANCARIG, and my desire is that we build a minster
there to the glory of S. Mary, so that those may dwell therein who wish
to lead a life of peace and rest.”

Thus it would seem that in 662 A.D. this fen island (Thorney now) was
“Ancarig,” or “Hermit’s isle,”[262] and how long before we know not.
Hermits—we suppose—developed into monks. Keltic Christians may have
chosen a life of seclusion, and to some of them Thorney may have been a
hermitage.

_Ancarig_ seems allied to the Saxon words, “ANCER,” a hermit or
recluse; and “IG,” an island.

But there are similar elements in the Welsh language, as “ANCR,” a
hermit; and “UNIG,” lonely, out of the way;—(also “ING,” narrow or
confined.)

Therefore, “Ancarig” may have been so named—may have been a
hermitage—in what are called old British times, _i.e._ prior either to
the Roman conquest or the Saxon supremacy. The derivation was probably
quite independent of the Greek forms, _ana_ and _choreo_, from which
our modern word, Anchorite, is supposed to come.

Thorney, in common with other monasteries, suffered during the Danish
invasions, but revived in the peaceful reign of Ædgar.

Athelwold, bishop of Winchester, established himself at Thorney about
964, and according to William of Malmesbury he gained possession of
land sufficient to maintain himself and 12 monks (Iccircoque nontantum
terrarum illuc, quantum alibi congessit; sed quantum sibi et. XII.
monachis sat esset.)

To effect this he is said to have cleared the land of the thorns and
brambles.

The following lines are from _Novæ Arundines or New Marsh-Melodies_, by
H. HAILSTONE, M.A. Palmer, Cambridge. 1885.

                             THORNEY ABBEY.

                 Ah! mute is Thorney’s matin bell,
                   And hushed the holy singing
                 That rose from out the hermits’ cell,
                   In tuneful numbers ringing!

                 Delightsome was that isle of yore,
                   Where apples without measure
                 Did bloom, and Phœbus panted o’er
                   The vineyard’s purple treasure!

                 Beneath the bosom of the eyot
                   In pleasing holts embower’d,
                 The tippet-grebes did congregate,
                   The snow-white heron tower’d.

                 Now all their water-ways are dry;
                   Then sit we ’twixt the setting
                 Of yon bright orb that gilds the sky,
                   And Cynthia’s crystal fretting.

                 Behold how Ceres’ lap is full:
                   O may no fortune fickle
                 The bounteous goddess’ gifts annul,
                   Or stint the golden sickle!


                         NOTE J.—(_Page 67._)

                    KING’S LYNN IN THE 18TH CENTURY.

“This beautiful and large Town standeth towards the Mouth of the Great
Ouse.”

“The Goodness of its Situation affords a great Advantage to Traffick
and Commerce, having a commodious large Harbour, capable of containing
two hundred Sail of Ships, and several navigable Rivers falling into it
from Eight several Counties by which means divers Capital Cities and
Towns therein, viz.: _Peterborough, Ely, Stamford, Bedford, St. Ives,
Huntingdon, St. Neots, Northampton, Cambridge, St. Edmund’s Bury,
Thetford_, etc., are served with all sorts of heavy Commodities, as
Coal from Newcastle, Salt from Lymington, Deals, Firr-timber, all sorts
of Iron, Wines, etc., Imported hither from beyond the Sea; and from
these parts great Quantities of Wheat, Rye, Oats, Cole-seed, Barley,
etc., are brought down these Rivers, whereby a great foreign and inland
Trade is maintained, the Breed of Sea-men increased, and the Customs
and Revenues of the Town very much advanced.”

But Lynn, as a port, seems then to have been declining, in comparative
importance, for Mackerell says on p. 188:—

“The Port is reckon’d Commodious, but the Trade of the Northern Coast
is almost ruin’d by the Southern and Western having ingrossed it to
their own great Advantage.”—_History and Antiquities of King’s Lynn_,
by B. MACKERELL, Gent., London, 1738.


                     NOTE K.—(_Pages 74, 409._)[*]

                    THE CAMP OF REFUGE SURRENDERED.
                  (_From Historia Eliensis, lib. sec._)

109. “_Quod monachi Elyensis clementiam regis adierunt et de atrocitate
itineris exercitus et equorum ejus._

“Monachi igitur de Ely cognoscentes mala quæ in regno fiebant et in
ecclesiarum rebus pervasionem fieri et diminutionem ab extermina
(externa; _E_) gente graviter doluerunt, magnificentiam templi Domini
reminiscentes, et loci sancti sibi tale discrimen imminere veriti sunt,
flentes unanimiter auxilium de cœlo et suæ in æternum patrocinantis
Christi sponsæ dilectæ Ætheldredæ præsidium adesse poscebant. Et divina
inspirante clementia salubre demum ineuntes consilium ad regem mittere
constituunt, illius flagitare misericordiam et pacem. Invaluerat enim
fames ut supra retulimus, per totam regionem atque istic innumeris
milibus hostilis collegii etiam horrea servata Egypti tantam inopiam
non supplerent. Nam (deest) reliquiæ ciborum in loco jam fuerant
exaustæ, eo quod septimus erat annus ex quo seditionem adversus novum
regem commoverunt, frumenti copia sufficere nulla diu poterat, furto
enim vel rapto vesci monachorum ordini minime licuit. Et convocatis ad
se primoribus qui urbem et aquarum exitus muniunt, ipsos inde abigere
atque Normannorum catervis fore tradendos si consiliis eorum abnuant.
His territi mox verbis, piguit eos gravissimi incepti ejus felicem
exitum tum nequaquam sperant, prælia existimantes levia si his malis
conferatur. Urgebat eos fames valida, intus pavor angebat nimius, nec
ad comportandum rapinas egredi nisi in manu valida audebant, enses
Normanorum plus omni periculo metuentes. Et arepto itinere in Warewich
vico famoso reverenter regem cum debita supplicatione monachi
requirunt, se suaque omnia ejus clementiæ commendantes. Stetit itaque
abbas Elyensis Thurstanus cum suis monachis coram rege magno Willelmo,
orans et deprecans per misericordiam Dei ut averteret iram furoris sui
ab eis et a civitate sua, spondens per omnia deinceps fidele obsequium,
et consistente satraparum caterva, optimum reputavit dicens,
‘majestatem illius tolerare supra se, cum jus regni a Deo sit illi
concessum. Verum et si dignanter (dignatur) eis attendat, finem laborum
suorum haud dubitanter assequi posse, et ingressum insulæ citius
optinere proponit; si tantum pro Deo et suæ animæ salute praedia et
bona per suos de loco abstracta restitui faceret.’ Et spopondit rex.”


                         NOTE L.—(_Page 216._)

                           PETERBOROUGH ABBEY.

Peterborough Abbey takes precedence of all Fen monasteries. It was
founded in 660, and Æthelred obtained for it, special and important
privileges, from Pope Agatho, in 680—and these were enjoyed for nearly
a thousand years.[263] Peterborough was not erected into a Bishopric
till after the dissolution; Henry the 8th conferred this
privilege—perhaps _in honour_ of his wife Katherine, whose remains
still lie in the north aisle of the cathedral, under a large slab
bearing a very shabby inscription, which no one, up to the present,
seems to have thought of improving to the memory of an injured Queen.
The inscription is as follows:—

                      +-------------------------+
                      |                         |
                      |   Queen Catherine.      |
                      |      [MDXX]XVI.         |
                      |                         |
                      +-------------------------+

The letters in brackets are worn off, but the date was evidently 1536,
as the Queen died in January of that year.

This inscription is engraved on a thin brass plate, about 7 inches long
and 3 inches broad;—now (March, 1880,) much worn.

This is not the original plate, which was rather larger than the
present one.

Since the above note was penned the central tower of the cathedral has
been rebuilt from the foundation,—the transepts have been thoroughly
renovated, and the choir is to undergo considerable alteration. (April,
1887.)

When the latter part of the work of restoration has been sufficiently
advanced, attention will be given to the tomb of Katherine. Dean
Perowne intends to have this tomb opened, and then to decide what
memorial of that Queen may be most appropriate. The Katherines of
England have been invited to subscribe to this desirable object, and
many have already responded.


                         NOTE M.—(_Page 217._)

                           THE GIFT OF BRAND.

“Whilst he was a monk he gave to the monastery many lands as in
Muscham, Schotter, Scalthorp, Yolthorp, Messingham, Malmston, Cletham,
Hibaldstow, Rachevildthorp, Holme, Riseby, Walcot, Normanby, Althorp,
these joyning with him, Askylus, Syricus, and Sivortus, who procured
from king Edward a confirmation of these lands to the Church.

Brand enjoyed not long his government, but in November, Anno 1069,
which was the third of king William, he died.”—GUNTON’S _History of
the Church of Peterborough_.


                         NOTE N.—(_Page 466._)

                          KNUT’S VISIT TO ELY.

The fen waters being frozen over, Knut travels to Ely in a sledge,
under the guidance of Brithmer. The king there celebrates the feast of
the Purification.—“Ad hanc igitur solempnitatem ipsum regem
aliquotiens præ nimio gelu et glacie inibi contigit non posse
pervenire, usquequaque paludibus et aquis gelatis, sed sic a bonitatis
suæ studio rex non mutatur, licet nimium gemens et anxius fuisset; in
Domino Deo confisus, super mare de Saham, cum non cessaret vehemens
pruina, usque in Ely trahere se in vehiculo desuper glaciem cogitavit,
sed, siquis eum præcederet, securius et minus pavide asperum iter
perficere, nec differre asseruit. Casu enim astitit ibi vir magnus et
incompositus ex insula quidam Brihtmerus Budde, pro densitate sic
cognominatus, in multitudine, et ante regem se progredi spopondit. Nec
mora, rex festinus in vehiculo secutus est, admirantibus cunctis illum
tantam audatiam præsumpsisse. Quo perveniens cum gaudio solempnitatem
ex more illic celebravit.”—(_Liber Eliensis_, lib. 2, p. 203.)


                         FENLAND BIBLIOGRAPHY.

The following Works relate to the History and Geography of the
Fen-district, (Those marked thus † apply entirely to the district.)

  Anon.                        †The Visitor’s Guide to and History of
                                 Crowland Abbey with an appendix on
                                 the Triangular Bridge, and a Plan of
                                 the Abbey. Crowland, 1839.

  Anon.                        †History of Stamford. Published by J.
                                 Drakard. 4to. Stamford, 1822.

  Armstrong, Col. J.           †History of the Ancient and Present
                                 state of the Navigation of the Port of
                                 King’s Lynn, &c. 1725.


  Babington, C. C.             †Ancient Cambridgeshire; an account of
                                 Roman and other ancient roads, &c.

  Babington, C. C.             Cambridge Antiquarian Society’s
                                 Publications, No. 3.

  Benedict of Peterboro’       †Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi (1162-92)
                                 edited by William Stubbs, M.A., &c.
                                 London, 1867.

  Bentham, J.                  †The History and Antiquities of the
                                 Conventual and Cathedral Church at Ely,
                                 from the foundation of the monastery
                                 A.D. 673 to the year 1771. 4to
                                 Cambridge, 1771.

  Birch, W. de Gray            Memorials of St. Guthlac. 8vo. Wisbech,
                                 1881.

  Birch, W. de Gray            The Chronicles of Croyland Abbey, by
                                 Ingulph. 8vo. Wisbech, 1883.

  Boyne, William               Tokens of the 17th century. London,
                                 1858.

  Brittan, J.                  The Beauties of England and Wales.
                                 1801.

  Britton, John                †History of Peterborough Cathedral.

  Brogden, J. E.               Lincolnshire Provincial Words.

  [Calver, Capt. E. K., R.N.   †Chart of the Wash from Skegness to
                                 Blakeney. Published at the Admiralty,
                                 January, 1873.]

  Camden, William              Britannia (1607 A.D.) Translation by
                                 Richard Gough, F.A. and R.G.S. 3
                                 vols., fol. London, 1789.

  Cammack, T.                  †On the Antiquities of Spalding. Proc.
                                 Lincolnsh. Arch. Soc. London, 1851.

  Clarke, J. A.                †Fen Sketches. Sm. 8vo. Wisbech,
                                 1851.

  Creasey                      History of New and Old Sleaford. 8vo.
                                 Sleaford, 1825.

  Dugdale, Sir W.              History of Imbanking and Draining of
                                 Rivers, Fens, and Marshes. Fol. London,
                                 1722.

  Dugdale, Sir W.              The Monasticon.

  Elstobb, W.                  †An Historical Account of the Great
                                 Level of the Fens. 8vo. Lynn, 1793.

  English, H. S.               Crowland and Burgh. 1871.

  Evans, John                  Ancient Stone Implements of Great
                                 Britain. 8vo. London, 1872.

  Evans, John                  Ancient British Coins.

  Forby, Robert                Vocabulary of East-Anglia. London,
                                 1839.

  Freeman, E. A.               History of the Norman Conquest. 6 vols.
                                 8vo. Oxford, 1870.

  Freeman, E. A.               “Lindum Colonia,” a paper in Macmillan’s
                                  Magazine, for 1875.


  Gunton, Rev. Prebendary.     †The History of the Church of
                                 Peterborough. Set forth by Symon
                                 Patrick, D.D., Dean of Peterboro’.
                                 Printed for Richard Chiswell at the
                                 Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Churchyard,
                                 1686.

  Heathcote, J. M.             †Reminiscences of Fen and Mere. 8vo.
                                 London, 1876.

  Henry of Huntingdon.         History of the English. Translation in
                                 Bohn’s series.

  Ingulphus                    †Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland.
                                 Translated by H. T. Riley, B.A. London,
                                 1854.

  Jenyns, Rev. L.              †Observation in Meteorology in Cambs.
                                 8vo. Van Voorst, 1858.

  Kemble, J. M.                The Saxons in England. London, 1849.

  Kingsley, Canon              †Hereward the Wake. Macmillan, London.

  Leland                       Collectanea ex libro Hugonis Monachi
                                 Petroburgensis.

  Lubbock                      Pre-historic Times.

  Mackerell, B.                †History and Antiquities of the
                                 flourishing Corporation of King’s
                                 Lynn. London, 1738.

  Marshall, W.                 †On some ancient Court Rolls of the
                                 Manor of Littleport. Cambridge
                                 Antiquarian Society’s Communications,
                                 vol. IV.

  Marshall, W.                 On an ancient Canoe found imbedded in
                                 the Fen Peat near Magdalen Bend on
                                 the river Ouse. Ditto, vol. IV., 1878.

  Marrat, W.                   The History of Lincolnshire. 3 vols.
                                 4to. Boston, 1814-16.

  Michel, Francisque           Chroniques Anglo-Normandes. 3 vols.
                                 Rouen, 1836.

  Miller, S. H., and           †The Fenland, Past and Present. 8vo.
  Skertchly, S. B. J.            Wisbech, 1878.

  Miller, S. H.                Fenland Meteorological Circular, 1874 to
  (_Editor._)                    1877. 2 vols. Wisbech.

  Miller, S. H.                “The Great Fen.” English Illustrated
                                 Magazine. Macmillan, 1885.

  Miller, S. H.                “Alleged Idolatry in the Fens.” Cambridge
                                 Antiquarian Society, 1886-7.

  Nall, J. G.                  Glossary of the Dialect and
                                 Provincialisms of East-Anglia.
                                 Longmans, 1866.

  Nevinson, Rev C., M.A.       History of Stamford. Demy 8vo. Johnson,
                                 Stamford, 1879.

  Oldfield                     †History of Wainfleet.

  Oliphant, T. L. K.           The Sources of Standard English. London,
                                 1873.

  Oliver, Dr. G.               †Religious Houses on the Witham. 1846.


  Ordericus Vitalis            The Original Text (published in 1838 by
                                 the French Historical Society, and
                                 edited by August le Provost.
                                 Translation of above by T. Forester,
                                 M.A. Bohn’s series, 1853.)

  Richards, W.                 †The History of Lynn, civil,
                                 ecclesiastical, &c. 2 vols. 8vo.
                                 London, 1812.

  Stewart, Rev. D. J.          †Liber Eliensis, ad fidem codicam
  (_Editor._)                    variorum. London, 1848.

  Skertchly, S. B. J.          †The Geology of the Fenland. (Memoir
                                 of the Geological Survey.) London,
                                 1877.

  Stukely, William             Itinerarium Curiosum. 2 vols, fol.,
                                 1724.

  Stukely, William             Palæographica Britannica. 3 numbers,
                                 4to., Stamford, 1746 and 1752.

  Thierry, J. N. A.            History of the Norman Conquest. English
                                 Edition, Bohn, 1856.

  Thompson, P.                 †History and Antiquities of Boston.
                                 4to. London, 1856.

  Trollope, Rev. E.            †Hereward the Saxon Patriot. Paper
                                 read before the Associated
                                 Architectural Societies at Bourne
                                 in June, 1861.

  Turner, Sharon               History of the Anglo-Saxons. London,
                                 1799.

  Vermuyden, Sir C.            †Discourse touching the drainage of the
                                 great Fennes. An Appendix in Wells’
                                 History of the Bedford Level.

  Walker, N., and              †The History of Wisbech and the Fens.
  Craddock, T.                   8vo. Wisbech, 1849.

  Warner, Rev. R. H.           Legends of St. Chad. 8vo. Wisbech, 1870.

  Warner, Rev. R. H.           History of Thorney Abbey. 8vo. Wisbech,
                                 1879.

  Watson, H.                   †Historical Account of Wisbech. 1827.

  Wells, S.                    †History of the Drainage of the Bedford
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  Wheeler, W. H.               †History of the Fens of South
                                 Lincolnshire. 8vo. Boston, 1868.

  William of Malmesbury        De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum. Edited
                                 by N. E. S. A. Hamilton. London,
                                 1870.

  Wise, John                   Ramsey Abbey, its rise and fall.
                                 Huntingdon, 1881.

  Wright, Thomas               †Gesta Herewardi Saxonis. Appendix in
                                 Geoffrey Gaimar’s Anglo-Norman Metrical
                                 Chronicle. Caxton Society’s
                                 Publications. London, 1850.

  (Various Authors)            Fen and Marshland Churches. 3 vols.
                                 4to., Wisbech, 1873-6.

                               Report of British Archæological Society’s
                                 visit in 1878. Vol. 35.

-----

Footnote 1:

  For Notes on Crowland Abbey, Spalding cell, and other religious
  houses, see Appendix.

Footnote 2:

  Fen-poles like that described in the text are not in use now, in this
  fourth quarter of the 19th century. Sportsmen use poles, as they do
  in most meadowy districts intersected by ditches; but the fen ditches
  are often dry in summer and early autumn and the boggy grounds are
  rare in these days. From Crowland to Spalding is eight miles in a
  straight line, but on such a route the Welland must be twice crossed.
  Now-a-days the traveller finds a good road from Crowland by Cowbit to
  Spalding,—the Saxon novice however had a devious course through
  Deeping Fen.

Footnote 3:

  For a description and list of Birds of the Fens, see “The Fenland,
  Past and Present.”

Footnote 4:

  This manor house was then held by a Norman, Ivo Taille-Bois, a nephew
  of William the Conqueror, one who figures greatly in this tale and in
  “Hereward the Wake;” the manor had belonged to Earl Leofric.
  According to Domesday book (350-351 B.) Ivo had large estates in
  Holland (South Lincolnshire.)

Footnote 5:

  Trust me! truly! surely! may we praise the Lord! are mild
  asseverations, but it is implied that in those days restraints on
  profanity were necessary. It has been asserted that profane swearing
  is coeval with Christianity, rather, perhaps with canonization—men
  called upon their patron saints to witness, and went beyond them. In
  Demosthenes’ oath—

          “By earth, by all her fountains, streams and floods!”

  there was no profanity.

Footnote 6:

  St. Etheldreda (or Æthelthryth) was the foundress and first abbess of
  Ely monastery (A.D. 673). See Appendix, Note A.

Footnote 7:

  This is not the Lucia of Mercian fame; but St. Lucia, whose day in
  the old calendars was 13th December. See Appendix, Note B.

Footnote 8:

  St. Ovin was steward to St. Etheldreda. His cross, erected by himself
  or to his memory, is still seen in Ely Cathedral. See pp. 45 and 57,
  and Note C.

Footnote 9:

  This reference to standing upon piles appears indefinite—the idea
  seems to have been suggested by Ingulph’s assertion that the first
  abbey of Crowland was built on piles, which is not at all probable
  seeing that all traces of the abbey buildings are found on
  gravel—and the probabilities are that the site for the ancient
  monastery was there selected for that very reason. The gravel ridge
  runs south-west towards Peakirk. (See map.)

Footnote 10:

  In Dugdale’s Monasticon a plan shewing the site of the Priory is
  given; it was south of the market place, west of the Welland, and not
  half-way between that river and Westlode. The refectory still exists:
  it is divided into seven dwellings, called “Abbey Buildings.” See
  Appendix, Note D.

Footnote 11:

  There was an abbot of Malmsbury, named Elfric, in 974. (_Gesta. Pont.
  Ang._)

Footnote 12:

  St. Chad was first bishop of Lichfield (669-672). “Here perished,
  according to the tradition, in the fiery persecution of Diocletian, a
  thousand British Christians with Amphibalus at their head.” (_Life
  and Legends of St. Chad._) But this Saint was more than Bishop of
  Lichfield—he was bishop of the Mercians; (this diocese included
  about seventeen counties) hence the force of Elfric’s appeal. St.
  Ovin had made a pilgrimage from the Fens into Yorkshire and joined
  St. Chad, at that time abbot of Lastingham.

Footnote 13:

  Thurstan was then abbot of Ely, but more of him hereafter.

Footnote 14:

  The writer of the text does not profess to be strictly historical,
  and as there does not appear to be any record of the names of the
  early priors of Spalding, he borrows one in vogue at the time about
  which he writes. One Aldhelm or Aldelm was abbot of Malmsbury or
  bishop of Sherborne (715-719). Spalding cell was founded in 1052, and
  the first recorded name of a prior was Herbertus, 1149.

Footnote 15:

  This was really Ulfcytel, not Ingulphus.

Footnote 16:

  For “Old Fisheries,” see “Fenland, Past and Present.”

Footnote 17:

  According to Ingulph, the king confirmed to the monastery the charter
  of Ædred.

Footnote 18:

  We may assume there were no spectacles in those days.

Footnote 19:

  The Pike has been a noted fish in the Fen-waters.

Footnote 20:

  It is noteable that the old monks experienced that mental worry
  retarded digestion.

Footnote 21:

  Archbishop Stigand suffered deprivation in April, 1070, through the
  influence of the Conqueror, and Lanfranc, Abbot of Caen, became
  Metropolitan in August of the same year. “Lanfranc yielded to the
  combined prayers and commands of all Normandy. With a heavy heart, as
  he himself tells us, he forsook the monastic life which he loved
  above all other lives.” (Norm. Conq., vol. iv., p. 346.) We wonder
  which of the two felt the greater “deprivation?”

Footnote 22:

  William had conquered the north of England before the elevation of
  Lanfranc, but the news may not have reached the Fen country for some
  months. Chester had fallen—the counties south of that stronghold
  were devastated, and many thousands of refugees found their way as
  far south as Evesham Abbey, where they received succour at the hands
  of Abbot Æthelwig. There, too, was one bearing the name of the novice
  (Elfric, in the text)—Prior Ælfric who cared for the dying fugitives.

Footnote 23:

  See note on Lady Lucia, chapter II., p. 22.

Footnote 24:

  The Fen people of old often eluded their enemies by taking to the
  reeds and rushes which grew luxuriantly in the fens, towering above a
  man’s head: and willows grew abundantly by the water-courses as they
  do now in some parts of the Fens.

Footnote 25:

  It was customary, in olden times, to place a “Salt Vat” in the centre
  of the dinner table. This vessel was often highly ornamented like
  Archbishop’s Parker’s Salt Vat, still preserved in Corpus Christi
  College, Cambridge. Appendix, Note E.

  Persons of rank sat between the Salt Vat and the head of the
  table—while dependents or inferior persons sat below it.

  An old English Ballad says—

               “Thou art a carle of mean degree,
               The salt it doth stand between me and thee.”

  And in Bishop Hall’s Satires—

                   ... “That he do, on no default,
                   Even presume to sit above the salt.”

Footnote 26:

  Venerable brothers.

Footnote 27:

  There was a general ejection of the Saxon Abbots and Priors—save
  some few like the Abbot of Evesham who made submission.

Footnote 28:

  Aldred had placed the crown on the head of William (as he had done on
  that of Harold) and was faithful to William’s cause. The tales of
  Aldred rebuking the conqueror for wrong doing are well told in
  Freeman’s Norm. Conquest, vol. IV., p. 260. Aldred succumbed to the
  stress of sorrow and died 11th Sept., 1069.

Footnote 29:

  The accounts of Stigand fleeing to the Camp of Refuge rest upon no
  good authority. Mr. Freeman thinks that from authentic narratives it
  is conclusive that Stigand was imprisoned at Winchester from the time
  of his deposition till his death.

Footnote 30:

  Morcar (or Morkere) appears to have gone to the camp after the death
  of his brother Edwin, who on making his way to Scotland was slain by
  traitors. The idea of Edwin’s having taken refuge there probably
  arose from the fact that the boss of a shield bearing a name similar
  to his was found in the Isle. (See the figure of this in “The Fenland
  Past and Present;” also a reference to it in the note on St. Godric,
  p. 436.)

Footnote 31:

  The people were terrified.

Footnote 32:

  The history of Abbot Frithric (Fredericus) appears to be largely
  mythical. He became Abbot of St. Albans in 1064 and was a favorite
  with Edward the Confessor. The tale of blocking the road with trees
  is told by Thierry. Frithric may have sought refuge at Ely—but Mr.
  Freeman remarks “all that certain history has to say about Frithric
  is that he was Abbot of St. Albans, and that he died or was deposed
  some time between 1075 and 1077.”

  Paul, a Norman monk, then became Abbot. Paul, aided by Lanfranc
  reared the great church of St. Albans, and the ruins of Verulam, the
  Roman city, were used in the construction of this wondrous pile—548
  feet long—in the transept of which may still be seen Roman bricks in
  the arches. The restoration of this Abbey church is now complete; but
  the reader must visit it in order to realize the solemn grandeur of
  the pile. He will see that there was artistic beauty in the work but
  will regret that “Goths” as well as time made ravages upon it. (See
  Appendix, Note F.)

Footnote 33:

  Lady Lucia was daughter of Algar; Leofric, Earl of Mercia (who died
  in 1057), and Lady Godiva were the parents of Algar, and Hereward is
  thought to have been the second son of the same parents, and,
  therefore, uncle of Lucia. Kingsley (Hereward the Wake, p. 426)
  assumes that Ivo Taille-Bois wedded this Lucia, and says he “rode
  forth through Spalding and Bourne having announced to Lucia, his
  bride, that he was going to slay her remaining relative; and when she
  wept, cursed and kicked her, as he did once a week.” That Ivo married
  the sister of Edwin and Morcar is not veritable history—but “he
  really had a wife, who on Norman lips was spoken of as Lucy.”

Footnote 34:

  The Priory was dedicated to St. Mary.

Footnote 35:

  “In these islands, at the time of the Norman conquest, the average
  of man was doubtless superior, both in body and mind, to the average
  of man now, simply because the weaklings could not have lived at
  all; and the rich and delicate beauty, in which the women of the
  Eastern Counties still surpass all other races in these isles, was
  doubtless far more common in proportion to the numbers of the
  population.”—_Kingsley._

  Is it a fact that the English of eight centuries ago were both
  _mentally_ superior and more robust than ourselves? If the Spartans
  gained in physique by the destruction of _their_ weaklings, many a
  genius in embryo may have perished on Mount Taygetus. “The survival
  of the fittest” is a physical principle only. Of old—as even
  now—the weak died of indigence. Sir D. Brewster says of Newton,
  “That frail tenement which seemed scarcely able to imprison its
  immortal mind, was destined to enjoy a vigorous maturity, and to
  survive even the average term of human existence.”

Footnote 36:

  Lay-brothers and underlings.

Footnote 37:

  Fainéant—idling.

Footnote 38:

  And without permission.

Footnote 39:

  The Gregorian Music is coming into more general favour at the present
  day. The Gregorian Chants are Choral Music arranged according to the
  celebrated Church modes by Pope Gregory I.

Footnote 40:

  Pieces of armour that protect the throat, (Fr. _gorge_, the gullet.)

Footnote 41:

  Properly weasand, from Saxon _wæsend_, the windpipe.

Footnote 42:

  Ingulphus was introduced to court at the time of the interview of
  Edward the Confessor and William Duke of Normandy, 1051, and went
  with the latter to Normandy. He is said to have been consecrated by
  Lanfranc, and installed at Crowland in 1076. This is the general
  reading of the Monasticon, but we shall be more accurate by regarding
  Wulketul (or Ulfcytel) as Abbot of Crowland at the time of the
  expulsion of the monks of Spalding.

Footnote 43:

  The crown formed on the head of the Roman Catholic clergy by clipping
  the hair (from Fr. _tonsurer_.)

Footnote 44:

  The most effectual drainage belongs to a very recent period. At the
  present day a stranger could not realize, while passing through the
  Fen district, that it once was what is described in the text.

Footnote 45:

  The abandoned cell was given by Ivo to the abbey of St. Nicholas of
  Angiers in Normandy. “The charter of licence for this purpose will be
  found in the Appendix of instruments, together with the substance of
  a charter from Ivo Taille-Bois, dated in 1085.” This last date was
  really the time of the deposition of Ulfcytel of Crowland. A second
  charter of Ivo’s, granted to the Abbot of Angiers the tithes of toll,
  salt, sea-fish and the fishery of Westlode for the monks’ support.

Footnote 46:

  The writer seems to have held the sentiment—that human attachment,
  even among devout men, has a vein of selfishness in it. Love devoid
  of selfishness is pure indeed!

Footnote 47:

  Names ending in _ea_ as Manea, and some modified into _ey_ as Thorney.

Footnote 48:

  This appears to be a reference to “Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi”—the
  chronicle of the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I. (1169-92), by
  Benedict of Peterborough.

  The student will find this in the series of chronicles published
  under the authority of the Master of the Rolls. (Longmans.)

Footnote 49:

  The only piece of real old Fen, at the present day, is found near
  Burwell, south of Ely and east of the Cam. A stranger riding through
  the Fen district would merely consider himself a traveller in a
  fertile plain—he would not realize that it was once Fen.

Footnote 50:

  This etymology is not correct. Ely means _eel-island_; _æl_, Saxon
  for eel; _ig_, Saxon for island; and Elig became modified into Ely.
  See “The book of Ely” (_Liber Eliensis_), also “The Fenland.”

Footnote 51:

  This refers to Akeman Street, which ran from Cambridge to Ely,
  Littleport, across the Little Ouse near Brandon and on to Lynn—most
  likely a British road originally. (See map.)

Footnote 52:

  Etheldreda was first married to Tonbert, a prince of the South
  Gyrwians, in 652, and it was through him she gained her title to the
  Isle of Ely, which retained the privilege of a principality after a
  bishopric was erected there.

Footnote 53:

  Ecgfrith was son of Oswin (Oswy) king of Northumbria; at his death
  the supremacy of Northumbria declined.

Footnote 54:

  In Liber Eliensis he is thus spoken of—“Venerant cum ea nonnulli
  nobiles (? fideles) viri ac feminæ de provincia Orientalium
  Anglorium, inter quos præcipuæ auctoritatis vir magnificus erat
  Oswinus nomine.”

Footnote 55:

  Stukely writing to Bentham says, “Ovin is a Welsh name ... the Isle
  of Ely was possessed by the Britons long after the Saxons had taken
  hold of England.”

Footnote 56:

  Withburga founded a nunnery at East Dereham. On the west side of East
  Dereham Church may still be seen the ruins of a tomb (there is a well
  near)—the whole being inclosed. A stone bears this inscription—

           “The Ruins of a tomb which contained the remains of
                                WITHBURGA,
                       Youngest daughter of Annas,
                         King of the East-Angles,
                            Who died A.D. 654.

  The Abbot and Monks of Ely stole this precious Relique and translated
  it to Ely Cathedral where it was interred near her three Royal
  sisters, A.D. 974.”

Footnote 57:

  This Thurstan was a Saxon Abbot but it may be well to note there were
  two other “superiors” of religious houses, bearing that name—one
  Thurstan a Norman of Glastonbury appointed in 1082; this Abbot got
  into conflict with his monks as he wished to abandon the Gregorian
  duets—foul deeds followed. Another Norman Thurstan (or Toustain) was
  Abbot of Pershore in 1085.

Footnote 58:

  Harold was Earl of East-Anglia from 1045 till his temporary
  banishment 1051-52. Ælfgar ruled during that time.

Footnote 59:

  Stigand appears rather to have continued a prisoner at
  Winchester—Note p. 19.

Footnote 60:

  This may refer to Thurstan named in note on page 48.

Footnote 61:

  See note page 20.

Footnote 62:

  The Shrine of Albanus has recently been disentombed at St. Alban’s
  Cathedral—and reconstructed as far as the materials allowed on the
  spot where it stood originally. The martyrdom of St. Alban is figured
  on it.

Footnote 63:

                    “Sweetly sang the monks in Ely,”
                    As king Canute was rowed hard by.

Footnote 64:

  The novice must have travelled some 40 to 50 miles, and by a
  difficult route.

Footnote 65:

  Haddenham is 5 miles south-west of Ely, as the crow flies, Grunty fen
  lies between the two. The distance by rail is about 6 miles. St.
  Ovin’s Cross was removed from Haddenham to Ely, by Bentham, in 1770.
  Here is the inscription—

                  +-----------------------------------+
                  |   [cross] LVCEM · TVAM · OVINO    |
                  |   DA · DEVS · ET · REQVI[=E]      |
                  |          · AMEN ·                 |
                  +-----------------------------------+

  The translation is—Thy light to Ovin give, O Lord, and rest. Amen.
  See, also, Appendix, Note C.

Footnote 66:

  The frequent reference to “eels,” strengthens the view taken as to
  the origin of the word Ely. In these parts, rent was often taken in a
  supply of eels. Abbot Brithnoth endowed Ely with two fisheries. It
  had a grant of 10,000 eels annually from Well. No wonder that the
  monks grew fat in Lent. Generally, the monks of Ely were “good living
  folks,” as will be seen presently.

Footnote 67:

  Elfric is represented as a valiant youth, although he was in training
  for a sacred vow, and a saintly life,—and not for “carnal warfare.”
  The conflict in which he was engaged, was not even one where
  Christian resisted Pagan: it was the struggle of “a house divided
  against itself”—among Saxons and Normans, men professing a common
  faith. The novice however was of a spirit fitted for those boisterous
  times; and in the sequel we shall find that he may never have
  intended to pass beyond the novitiate. Ælfric was a favourite name.
  In the tenth century an Archbishop of Canterbury (Ælfric) wrote
  homilies still in use by learners of the Anglo-Saxon language. (See
  quotation on p. 278.)

Footnote 68:

  See note on page 37.

Footnote 69:

  This seems to refer to the generally received opinion that Ingulphus
  was Abbot; he is supposed to have gone to London, and carried with
  him the charters granted to Crowland by the Saxon kings. “They were
  read, he states, before the king and council; and although the
  earlier grants, which were written in the Saxon hand, down to the
  last Mercian king, were treated with contempt, yet the charters of
  Edred, Edgar and the succeeding kings, being written wholly or in
  part in the Gallican hand, they were allowed: the king confirming to
  the monastery the charter of Edred. The same success, however, did
  not attend his solicitation to have Spalding restored; the interest
  of Ivo Taille-Bois prevailed against him.”—_Monasticon._

  See Appendix Note G.

Footnote 70:

  Edgelwin, alias Æthelwine, bishop of Durham, fell under the
  displeasure of William I. Some Norman Soldiers had committed
  sacrilege at Durham. William commanded the Bishop and Chapter to
  excommunicate them. Æthelwine failed to do so; the Conqueror outlawed
  him, and he fled. He set sail for the Continent, but was driven back
  to Scotland; thence he fled to Ely; after the surrender of the Isle,
  1071, Æthelwine was imprisoned at Abingdon and died there in 1072.

Footnote 71:

  Ramsey mere is 16 miles N.W. of Ely, and Thorney is 9 miles N. of
  that mere. Ramsey Abbey, Appendix Note H. Thorney Abbey, Appendix
  Note I.

Footnote 72:

  Eadmund, the last king of East-Anglia, was tied to an oak tree, and
  shot by the arrows of the Northmen, on 20th Nov., 870. Ely appears to
  have been included in that kingdom; but Crowland and Spalding in
  Mercia.

Footnote 73:

  Withburga or Werburga was the fourth abbess of Ely. She was the last
  whose name was recorded, though the monastery was under abbesses for
  nearly 200 years, that is, till the Danish havoc in 870. The “holy
  well” is in East Dereham Church Yard—see note p. 45.

Footnote 74:

  From what has been said already, the reader will be led to regard the
  story of Frithric as largely mythical, but he will view the words
  here put into the saint’s dying utterance, as prophetic of the
  ultimate supremacy of the Saxon race. The narrative is finely solemn,
  for as this “swan-song,” was being sung, the Crowland fugitives were
  wading through the deep fens on a November night, just near enough to
  hear the distant passing knell.

  We are still ruled by the laws of King Eadward the Confessor—laws
  which owe something to Godwine and Harold. The Norman Conquest,
  however, had the effect, when the scathing had passed over, of
  developing the old principles of the Saxons—and thus “England was a
  gainer by the conquest.” This subject is ably discussed in Vol. V. of
  Freeman’s Norman Conquest.

Footnote 75:

  The Abbey of St. Edmund’s-bury too had the right of a fishery in a
  fen mere, just west of Upwell, granted by King Canute.

Footnote 76:

  As to abundance of water-fowl in the Fens, and the method of taking
  them, see “Decoy” in “Fenland, Past and Present.”

Footnote 77:

  The same source of information may be consulted respecting the fish
  in the Fen rivers and in the Wash.

Footnote 78:

  In the neighbourhood of the Fen rivers there are “Wash-lands,” (the
  word must not be confounded with THE WASH which is a bay), that is,
  lands liable to be overflowed in winter or in wet seasons. They
  relieve the river banks from undue pressure of the water which must
  necessarily pass slowly to sea. The largest “Wash-land” in the fens
  is between the Old and New Bedford rivers, some 20 miles long and 3/4
  wide in some parts, containing nearly 6000 acres; this “Wash” is
  generally overflowed in winter; the water does not overflow the
  banks, but is let into the Wash through a sluice near Earith. This
  shallow water is frozen over during hard winters, like that of
  1878-9, and forms a firm skating ground for the “Welney skaters,”
  unsurpassed in speed. If the spring is dry the waters retire, and in
  early summer the grass is abundant, and upon it may be seen vast
  numbers of cattle grazing.

Footnote 79:

  On the wash-lands of the rivers great numbers of wild birds have been
  taken. For two centuries previous to the thorough drainage of the
  Fens, decoying was a means of capturing many thousands of birds
  annually, and in the “Washes” netting was practised.

Footnote 80:

  King’s Lynn had a considerable trade in wine, a century ago, and in
  the first year of the 19th century, 1280 tuns were imported, but
  since that time its wine trade has declined. See Appendix, Note J.

Footnote 81:

  Porpoises are still common in the Wash.

Footnote 82:

  It must not be supposed that flowers did not grow in the Fens—the
  Flora was abundant and beautiful, but at the season of which the
  writer speaks, wild flowers would be scarce. (For ancient Flora, see
  “Fenland” p. 295.)

  Eight hundred years ago the monks may not have taken to floriculture.

Footnote 83:

  Seasonably.

Footnote 84:

  Harold was Earl of Eastangle and Essex about 1045, and was deservedly
  popular.

Footnote 85:

  The Monks of Ely still clung to the idea that Harold was alive and
  that the report of his death was merely a ruse.

Footnote 86:

  Here lies Harold the unhappy.

Footnote 87:

  The first prior of Ely was Vincentius; his successors were mitred
  priors, they held the title _Dominus_, and in some reigns were
  summoned to parliament.

Footnote 88:

  The Abbot and some of his monks are said eventually to have made
  submission to the Conqueror, and to have actually betrayed the
  defenders of the Camp. The Book of Ely (_Liber Eliensis_) is quoted,
  on this point, in the Appendix. Note K.

Footnote 89:

  The successor of Thurstan was Theodwin, a Norman monk of Jumièges.

Footnote 90:

  The religious, (like the Roman vestals) who broke their vows, were
  immured in a niche,—hence we have in _Marmion_ (Canto II, “The
  Convent”) this verse—

                   “And now that blind old Abbot rose,
                     To speak the Chapter’s doom,
                   On those the wall was to inclose,
                     Alive, within the tomb.”

Footnote 91:

  This Lord of Brunn (Bourn) was Morcard who, with Tolli and Algar,
  Earl of Holland, (S. Lincolnshire) fought against the Danes; these
  invaders, under Hubba, had entered Kesteven (the central division of
  Lincolnshire) in the Autumn of 870. There is a Hubba’s or Hubbard
  Bridge 4 miles south of Boston.

Footnote 92:

  We have no record of a Lord of Brunn fighting at Ely; in the repulse
  of the Danes at Ely _several_ English noblemen were engaged.

  (For account of the invasion under Hubba, the Danish attack of the
  Isle and the burning of Ely monastery, see _Lib. Elien._, lib. I.,
  pp. 78-82.)

Footnote 93:

  Ralph, the Timid, (a son of Drogo, Count of Mantes and of Eadward’s
  sister), was Earl of Worcestershire and also of Herefordshire in
  about 1050-1055. Ralph’s mother (Goda) after the death of her first
  husband, was married to Count Eustace; he visited the English Court
  in Sept., 1051. Eustace came to enrich himself out of English wealth
  and he was not disappointed—neither were his followers.

Footnote 94:

  It is not at all probable that Hereward was ever devout enough to
  make such a pilgrimage to Canterbury, but the hero of a tale must
  come to the front in all the great valourous acts of his time.

  The man who first resisted the outrage of Eustace and his followers,
  was a burgher of Dover—whose name is unknown—a general conflict
  ensued, twenty of the people of Dover were killed, and nineteen of
  the Normans, (others wounded no doubt), but Eustace appears to have
  found it necessary to retire,—he returned to Eadward, then at
  Gloucester, and told the tale to his own advantage; this affair
  caused a rupture between the king and Earl Godwine and led to the
  fall of the latter.

Footnote 95:

  Harold was Earl of East Anglia in about 1045, and was translated to
  the Earldom of Wessex, in 1053, when Ælfgar son of Leofric, became
  Earl of East-Anglia.

  Leofric died in 1057, then Ælfgar took the Earldom of Mercia, and
  Gurth the fourth son of Godwine, was made Earl of East-Anglia.

  Now Harold’s final campaign against the Welsh took place in 1063,
  when Harold’s brother—not himself—was ruler of East-Anglia.

  The Griffith mentioned in the text was King of North Wales. (This
  Gruffydd was a son of Llywelyn—he had slain, in 1055, another
  Gruffydd, King of S. Wales.)

  There was terrible slaughter before the Welsh were subdued, but it is
  thought that Griffith was slain by his own people. It was the beak of
  Griffith’s ship, and also Griffith’s head that were brought as
  trophies to Eadward.

Footnote 96:

  The Northumbrians deposed Tostig in Oct., 1065, and elected Morkere,
  the younger son of Ælfgar as their Earl. (Eadwine was Earl of
  Mercia.) Tostig took refuge in Flanders late in the same year, and he
  became one of the first of William of Normandy’s allies. Before the
  middle of 1066, he was in possession of such forces as enabled him to
  make a raid; he landed on the Isle of Wight, ravaged part of Sussex,
  he then attacked the N. of Lincolnshire, but was repulsed by Eadwine
  and Morkere and found refuge with Malcolm in Scotland.

  Tostig obtained the help of Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway named
  in the text, with him invaded Yorkshire and encamped at
  Stamford-bridge, some 8 miles east of York—the battle in which they
  both fell, was fought 25th Sept., 1066.

  History knows nothing of Hereward’s being either at the battle of
  Stamford-bridge nor at Hastings.

Footnote 97:

  The march to London occupied little more than a week—it was early in
  October, and Harold collected forces on his way.

Footnote 98:

  If Hereward’s father was then living, he was not Leofric of
  Mercia,—(he died in 1057). There may have been a Leofric lord of
  Brunn, father of Hereward, at whose instigation he was outlawed by
  Eadward the Confessor; in that case Hereward was in Flanders at the
  beginning of the conquest. Hereward was no doubt banished but the
  evidence as to its cause is as doubtful as that respecting his
  parentage. (See note p. 22).

Footnote 99:

  The reader may find in Kingsley’s Hereward the Wake, a glowing
  account of Hereward’s deeds in Flanders—deeds worthy of a Hero, but
  yet mythical.

Footnote 100:

  There is not even a hint here that Hereward was married in the
  Netherlands, nor is anything said on this point when, further on in
  the council, the name of Alftrude is introduced—so the writer of the
  text looks upon her as Hereward’s first and only love.

Footnote 101:

  This evidently refers to Æthelwine, Bishop of Durham—A bishopric
  originated on the Isle of Lindisfarne by the action of Scotch
  Missionaries, early in the 7th century,—it was rendered famous by
  St. Cuthbert and was permanently fixed at Durham by Ealdhun in 995;
  hence the writer of the text adopted the original name.

Footnote 102:

  Ey or Eye (the name for island—being modified from Sax. _ea_) is
  situated about 3 miles N.E. of Peterborough. It is now “Eye Green” in
  railway tables, to distinguish it from Eye in Suffolk.

Footnote 103:

  Defamed.

Footnote 104:

  The Sisters of Ætheldreda.

Footnote 105:

  The delights of heaven.

Footnote 106:

  The writer brings the noted characters of the time into his own tale,
  and here we find interwoven several names of persons who had no
  direct connexion with the fen district or its heroes.

  The Guiscard of the text was the Robert Guiscard (or Wiscard) who
  acquired the Dukedom of Apulia—crossed over into Epeiros (1081),
  threatening the Eastern Empire; a great battle was fought at Durazzo,
  in which banished or adventurous English distinguished themselves. It
  is notable that Englishmen, then as now, defended Constantinople.

Footnote 107:

  Stephen.

Footnote 108:

  We know of no other Drogo than the one already named (note page
  82)—he had gone on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with Duke Robert, the
  Conqueror’s father, and both died on their journey homeward in 1035.

Footnote 109:

  If the reader will consult a Chart of the Wash—such as Capt. E. K.
  Calver’s, published by the Admiralty in 1873,—he will see how
  strictly accurate is the description in the text. The channels are
  tortuous, intricate, and variable.

Footnote 110:

  The waters of the Wash spread for miles over the flat shores and
  leave a deposit thereon; this accretion is assisted by “jetties” made
  of stakes, thrown out from the permanent shore; the flats are thus
  raised above ordinary tides and on them a coarse herbage grows; sheep
  are fed on this and as the tide-time approaches these animals may be
  seen retiring to ground beyond the reach of the waters—numerous are
  the streamlets or runlets which intersect these flats of the Wash.

Footnote 111:

  The sand bank here called “Dreadful” is we presume the “Dudgeon” (a
  name allied to Welsh _Dygen_, malice, ill-will), some 15 miles east
  of the “Inner Dousing”; the latter lies 10 miles to the east of
  Sutton-le-Marsh, and runs parallel to the Lincolnshire coast.

  From the Inner Dousing to Boston Deeps is a south-westerly course.
  (See Map showing distances and direction of these sands from
  Gibraltar Point.)

Footnote 112:

  Probably means Chapel on Lincolnshire coast. (See Map.)

Footnote 113:

  Perhaps Heacham in Norfolk is intended (see Map); there is no place
  called Stone’s end between Heacham and Castle Rising—perhaps the
  name is borrowed from “Stone-ends” the name given to the embankments
  at the outfall of the river Nene. In other respects the paragraph is
  geographically correct.

Footnote 114:

  On 23rd December, 1069.

Footnote 115:

  In the Saxon fashion.

Footnote 116:

  The Stoke or Wissey enters the Ouse near Hilgay, or about a mile
  above Denver Sluice. (See map.)

Footnote 117:

  They still fondly clung to the idea that Harold was not slain, but
  only hidden from his enemies.

Footnote 118:

  Hight, called—(a perfect form of Sax. _Hatan_, to call).

Footnote 119:

  The Guiscards had conquered (1059) Calabria and conciliated the Holy
  See by granting to it Benevento.

  It may be noted that the influence of this invasion of the Norman
  adventurers was felt till a very recent period in Italy—as the
  contention between the Papal and Neapolitan governments about the
  possession of Benevento lasted till the present century—the dispute,
  in fact, gave Napoleon I. a pretext for seizing the duchy, which he
  did in 1806, and conferred it upon Talleyrand.

Footnote 120:

  This refers to Ætna, which is called Monte Gibello by the Sicilians.

Footnote 121:

  Latin, a hood.

Footnote 122:

  Italian, _cámice_, properly, a priest’s garment of _white linen_, but
  _camicia_ was the shirt.

Footnote 123:

  See Note page 33.

Footnote 124:

  Bourn is 10 miles west of Spalding; the river Glen runs mid-way,
  (this is a tributary of the Welland which it enters 5 miles below
  Spalding)—Bourn Fen lies to the West of this river.

Footnote 125:

  The site of this manor house of Bourn is shown in an engraving in the
  “Fenland Past and Present.”

Footnote 126:

  Elsey Wood is one mile south of Bourn and just west of the Car-dyke.
  It is marked on the Ordnance Map.

Footnote 127:

  This may refer to the Car-dyke which is nearly filled up and
  consequently “dry” at the present day. (See Map.)

Footnote 128:

  This town, 9 or 10 miles south-south-west of Bourn, is situate near
  the Fen boundary, on the river Welland.

Footnote 129:

  The writer says “isle of Crowland,” and so it is marked in our map,
  and called “a gravel ridge,” from this it is evident there was no
  necessity to drive piles for building the Abbey upon, for the
  religious house was established before the town was built.

Footnote 130:

  The legend of the Crowland devils had its origin, no doubt, in the
  “cramps and rheums and shivering agues and burning fevers” or in the
  hallucination caused by these ailments. The impure vapours from the
  swamps, where fresh and salt waters met and deposited animal and
  vegetable remains—not from the peat bogs—produced those terrible
  diseases which are almost unknown to the present fen-dwellers. Was it
  not St. Guthlac and other fen hermits who conjured up those
  marvellous tales about satanic legions? Those hermits were not the
  eradicators of malaria nor did St. Guthlac enter upon any great
  scheme of fen drainage. The “horrible blue lights,” the
  “Will-o’-the-wisps,” were not banished by the pious action of “the
  saints,” but by effectual drainage and culture—it is true those
  lights have “ceased to be seen of men;” for a peep at Jack-o’-lantern
  would be a rare treat to the young fenners of these days.

Footnote 131:

  The writer of the text has given a Latin termination to the name
  Guthlac, which word is purely Saxon. This name is derived from two
  Saxon words, _i.e._ Guth (Guð), _war_, and lac, _an offering_, or
  _sacrifice_. Guthlac means simply _warfare_, but as applied to this
  anchorite it must be regarded as a compound expressive of the
  character or deeds of the man. He was the son of a Mercian noble and
  a soldier, but he may have acquired the name after becoming a monk,
  if so, Guthlac signifies “an offering in (Christian?) warfare,”
  _i.e._, in the conflict of Christianity against Paganism.

Footnote 132:

  The ground of Ely Cathedral is 51-1/2 feet above sea level (Ordnance
  datum.) Crowland is perhaps 12 or 15 feet (the lowest part of the
  fens being between Peterboro’ and Wisbech, about 5 feet.) Crowland
  Abbey was not built upon piles but on solid gravel which runs some
  way north-east of the structure—the peaty soil lies north-east and
  south of this. (See “The Fenland past and present,” p. 141.)

Footnote 133:

  The gravel ridge runs south-west of Crowland, and that would afford
  the best means of access to the monastery; we imagine that the bogs
  lay in old times to the _north-west_ and _south-east_ of the
  ridge,—warp or silt is found to the north-east—a roadway was
  constructed on the peat to the northward towards the Welland and then
  followed the bend of the river.

Footnote 134:

  A fine Decoy near Crowland is still worked in the season. (See “The
  Fenland”).

Footnote 135:

  This stone still stands and bears an inscription signifying “Guthlac
  has placed this stone for a boundary mark.” It is represented by an
  engraving in “The Fenland.”

Footnote 136:

  Three streams flowed under the “triangular bridge” which still
  stands, the streams however are tunnelled, and persons may walk or
  drive under the arches of this antique and curious structure.

Footnote 137:

  Shaggy or rough and hairy.

Footnote 138:

  Incubuses and succubuses, imaginary beings who are supposed to be the
  cause of nightmare or the sense of suffocation and other painful
  sensations during sleep. The demon is really indigestion, which, in
  its effects, is hideous enough no doubt.

Footnote 139:

  Witlaf was King of Mercia, 826-839 A.D.

Footnote 140:

  Lism, contracted from _lissom_, supple, nimble, or lithesome.

Footnote 141:

  Alfric probably refers to Æthelric who, once bishop of Durham,
  retired to Peterborough—he was imprisoned at Westminster by William.
  Siward Beorn, called also Barn (Siwardus cognomento Barn, _Lib.
  Elien._) a Northumbrian Thegn and a son of Æthelgar, was undoubtedly
  with Hereward at the Camp of Refuge.

Footnote 142:

  From Bourn to Eye is about 14 miles in a straight line; but from
  Stamford to Eye, 12-1/2 miles. By road, however, the difference is
  much greater.

Footnote 143:

  The writer of “The Camp of Refuge” knows of no other bride than
  Alftrude. The reader of Kingsley’s “Hereward the Wake” will however
  be a little puzzled, when he remembers the tale of Torfrida who
  became “an Englishwoman of the English, as she proved by strange
  deeds and sufferings for many a year.” The stories of Hereward’s
  wives are simply legendary. Hereward may have received overtures from
  Turfrida in Flanders and married her—she may have accompanied him to
  England. Alftrude also may have made advances in a similar manner and
  been married to Hereward, and if any probability deserves acceptance
  it is that Turfrida died before Hereward’s marriage to Ælfthryth.
  (This is the correct Saxon form for Alftrude and is derived from
  _Ælf_, a fairy, Þryð, strength; hence Ælfthryth means
  _Fairy-strength_, just as _Ælf-scieno_ means Elfin beauty.)

Footnote 144:

  That is, with a linen garment or kirtle (Sax. _cyrtel_), fitted with
  tight sleeves down to the wrists, and over that a wide loose robe or
  gown (gown is a Keltic word retained from ancient times—Welsh,
  _gŵn_,) long enough to reach to the feet—this robe was kept
  close to the body by a girdle at the waist. The upper class of women
  wore a mantle over the above dress—this was somewhat like a chasuble
  or priest’s habit,—they had also gold ornaments and bracelets. The
  head-covering (Sax. _wæfels_), was a long veil of linen or silk
  wrapped round the head and neck. The feet were covered with a woollen
  wrapper or sock (Sax. _socc_); shoes (_sceós_) tied with thongs.
  (Saxons never went bare-footed except as an act of penance.)

Footnote 145:

  There are no such foul quagmires or pools near Crowland in these
  days. The old Abbey is surrounded by fine arable and pasture ground.

Footnote 146:

  This river, so called, may have been the car-dyke, seeing Ivo came
  from Stamford. The Catts-water, the old water-course between
  Peterborough, Spalding, and S. Holland, lay a mile or more to the
  east of Eye. (See Map.)

Footnote 147:

  _An_ is frequently used in the text as the equivalent of _if_ or _and
  if_ (in sentences expressing condition or purpose), so in this
  passage from Shakespeare:—

                         “He can’t flatter, he!
             An honest mind and plain he must speak truth,
             _An_ they will take it so; if not, he’s plain.”

  The two lines show a nice distinction in the use of the article and
  of the conjunction by the older writers.

Footnote 148:

  Æthelstan and Eadmund gained a great victory over the Danes and Scots
  (in all five _kings_ and seven earls leagued) at Brunanburh (supposed
  to be in the north of Lincolnshire), in 937.

Footnote 149:

  Here are the first few lines of “Æthelstan’s Song of Victory.”

           Æthelstan cyning     Æthelstan king
           eorla drihten        of earls the lord
           beorna beah-gyfa     rewarder of heroes,
           and his brothor eac  and his brother eke,
           Eadmund Ætheling     Eadmund Ætheling
           ealdor langyne tyr,  elder of ancient race,
           geslogon æt secce    slew in the fight
           sweorda ecgum        with the edge of their swords
           ymbe Brunan-burh     the foe at Brunanburh.

Footnote 150:

  Afterwards, in 941, Eadmund recovered “the five boroughs” from Danish
  rule, _i.e._, Lincoln, Stamford, Leicester, Nottingham, and Derby.

Footnote 151:

  Will what remains of the un-Saxon laws yet be repealed or modified in
  the interest of declining agriculture?

Footnote 152:

  In note, page 62, the laws of Eadward are referred to, but as the
  assemblage of the Witan is here specially named in the text, we may
  remark that the Norman Conquest checked the growing power of the
  eorldermen and prevented them from forming such a distinct and
  powerful order as might have crippled the rights and liberties of the
  people. The Norman invasion threw the nobles back upon the aid of the
  people, which could not have been obtained without the promise of
  political and social concessions.

Footnote 153:

  Dooms, see note p. 214.

Footnote 154:

  According to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, Knut went to Rome in 1031,
  returned the same year and wrote a letter to the clergy and magnates
  of the land; Egelnoth (or Æthelnoth) was Abp. of Canterbury from 1020
  to 1038; (Ælfric was Abp. from 995 to 1006, the same as referred to
  in Note p. 58).

  The Ælfric coupled with Egelnoth, above, was Abp. of York from 1023
  to 1052.

  Knut’s letter is in Chron. _Florence of Worcester_, I, p. 185, ed.
  Eng. His. Soc.

Footnote 155:

  Over-worked, from Sax. _swincan_, to toil.

Footnote 156:

  Dooms (from Sax. _dom_, trial, sentence, &c.; verb, _doeman_, to
  judge,) used in the sense of decrees, laws, or precedents in law.
  Knut’s Laws (found in _Thorpe’s Laws and Institutes_, vol. i.) were
  enacted by the Witan.

  “A.D. 1016-1020.—Probably between these years was the great gemót at
  Winchester, in which Cnut promulgated his laws.”—_Kemble’s Saxons in
  England_, ii. 259. See also p. 209 above.

Footnote 157:

  If Abbat Brand of Peterborough knighted Hereward there is some
  discrepancy of dates, for Brand died 27th Nov., 1069, and Hereward
  must then have landed earlier than Dec., 1069, (page 109). It was not
  Dec., 1068, as this was the year of William’s first campaign in the
  north—the Conqueror spent Christmas, 1069, at York, and the revolt
  of the fen country took place in May, 1070,—that is, after Brand’s
  successor, Torold, was appointed. Ingulph asserts that Hereward came
  over to be knighted by Brand, and then returned to Flanders to fetch
  his wife Torfrida. The matter is so far important that knighthood was
  essential to Hereward’s being a leader of men, and to conceive the
  ceremony done by Brand was more grateful than if it had been at the
  hand of the Abbat of Crowland. Further on the reader will find the
  24th April, 1071, as the date assigned to Hereward’s arrival with his
  forces at Ely.

  Peterborough Abbey, Appendix, Note L.

Footnote 158:

  Leofric fought at the battle of Hastings (Oct. 14th, 1066,) and died
  at Peterborough in November. The monks choose their Provost Brand,
  and he was confirmed in the Abbacy by Eadgar Ætheling.

Footnote 159:

  The Gift of Brand, Appendix, Note M.

Footnote 160:

  “The story of the sunbeam belongs of course to the realm of pure
  fable. But myths have an origin as well as a meaning, and it would
  not be surprising if this same story should hereafter be traced, as
  many others have been, to the cradle of Aryan mythology, and the
  miracle of Saint Chad prove to have been performed by some far more
  ancient seer at the foot of the Himalayas, or on the banks of the
  Ganges.”—See p. 108, _Legends of St. Chad_, by Rev. R. H. Warner.
  Wisbech: Leach and Son.

Footnote 161:

  South Lincolnshire. The spelling Hoiland often occurs in the text.
  Dugdale sometimes wrote Holand and Hoyland. The word Holland means
  hollow land—the _Hol_ is allied to German _hohl_. Was not the _Hoi_
  or _Hoy_ in Hoiland derived from the low German _holig_? See “The
  Fenland,” note, page 27.

Footnote 162:

  Boys mounted on stilts may occasionally be seen at the present day.
  This stilt-walking, however, is merely boyish amusement.

Footnote 163:

  The Cross or Crucifix. The _holy rood_ was generally a life size
  figure of the Saviour on the Cross.

Footnote 164:

  The Danish and Saxon languages came from the same branch—that is,
  from the Teutonic branch of the Indo-European family of languages.
  Indic, Hellenic, Italic, Teutonic, Celtic, are all members of this
  family. But this again came from a parent speech, called the Aryan,
  which originated in central Asia. There are no literary monuments of
  this parent left.

Footnote 165:

  The editor has elsewhere maintained that our country was not ruled in
  Saxon times by a precise Heptarchy nor even by an Octarchy; but the
  reader may find in Sharon Turner’s Hist. of the Anglo-Saxons, first
  edition published in 1799, page 253, a chapter devoted to “_The
  History of the Anglo-Saxon Octarchy to the Victory of Oswald over
  Cadwallon, A.D. 634_.”

Footnote 166:

  Sigebert was the _fifth_ King of the East-Angles. Edward the Elder is
  said to have erected halls for students—a regular system of
  academical education may not, however, have been introduced till the
  12th century. The university received special privileges from Edward
  III., 1333, and it renounced the supremacy of the Pope in 1534.

Footnote 167:

  “Cambridge is the _Caer Graunt_ of Nennius.... The position of this
  fortified town was well chosen, for it is situated on one of the most
  commanding spots to be found in the district. Its site is the
  projecting extremity of a low range of hills, backed by a slight
  depression or broad and shallow valley. On at least two of its sides
  the ground fell away rather rapidly from the foot of the ramparts,
  and the river defended the fourth.

  “It is highly probable that the Saxon town of _Grantabrigge_ stood
  upon the same site as the Roman CAMBORITUM.”

                               Babington’s Ancient Cambridgeshire, 1853.

Footnote 168:

  “It must however be added that the Castle Hill at Cambridge, which is
  situated within the walls of Camboritum, is manifestly one of the
  Ancient British tumuli, so often found to occupy commanding posts and
  to have been fortified in after times. The lower part of the hill is
  natural, but the upper half in all probability artificial.”

                                                                 _Ibid._

Footnote 169:

  Not Ermine Street, but Akeman Street. See Map. Also Babington’s Map
  in “Ancient Cambridgeshire.”

Footnote 170:

  “The quinquaine of Pasche” is intended for the fifth day of Easter.
  Pascha, the Jewish Passover, is here put as the equivalent of Easter.

Footnote 171:

  On the approach of Sulla (87 B.C.) Marius fled from Rome to Ostia,
  thence by the sea coast to Minturnæ and hid himself in the marshes in
  the south of Latium.

Footnote 172:

  See note, page 218.

Footnote 173:

  “His rule at Malmesbury was tyrannical, and the story runs that
  William picked him out, as being more of a soldier than a monk, as
  the fittest man to rule the great house of Peterborough, now that it
  was threatened by Hereward and his fellow outlaws in the fens.”
  Freeman’s Norm. Conq., Vol. IV., page 458.

Footnote 174:

  A twelfth part of a sous.

Footnote 175:

  June 1st, 1070 is the date assigned by history, and the “Peterborough
  Chronicle” says that Danes took part in the plunder when Hereward
  entered the monastery on the 2nd June.

Footnote 176:

  Probably this building was near the west entrance to the minster
  yard; that which bears the name of “King’s Lodgings.” It has been
  used by Judges of Assize, but is now a place of business.

Footnote 177:

  Grith is a special privilege or security; frith, a general peace.

Footnote 178:

  It had been called the Golden Borough, but was now bereft of its gold.

Footnote 179:

  Some Danes are said to have taken part in plundering
  Peterborough—some who belonged to a fleet under Osbeorn—a Danish
  earl that had approached Ely just before. The fleet soon left with
  some of the plunder—a storm shattered this fleet and many of the
  golden treasures of Peterborough were never to be returned.

Footnote 180:

  About 1-1/2 mile N.E. of Bourn. (See Map.)

Footnote 181:

  A tributary of the Glen.

Footnote 182:

  French, “runaways.”

Footnote 183:

  See note, page 260.

Footnote 184:

  _Wite_ was a fine to the King or state for the violation of law. In
  case of murder another fine also was imposed, called the _wér_. The
  _wite_ was satisfaction rendered to the state, and _wér_ to the
  family of the deceased.

Footnote 185:

  _Sáwl-sceat_, soul tribute, formerly paid at the open grave for
  repose of the departed soul.

Footnote 186:

  See Note, page 58 above.

Footnote 187:

  It is remarkable that the writer says nothing about the loss of the
  Peterborough booty.

Footnote 188:

  Perhaps Osbeorn was banished more because he had taken a bribe of
  William than for his misfortunes at sea. The bribe had bought off the
  Danish aid to the English. Swend had hoped that his fleet in
  conjunction with the defenders of the Camp of Refuge would gain him
  the crown of England.

Footnote 189:

  Svend, sometimes written Sweyn or Swegen, retained his mother’s name.
  He is called Estrithson. His mother Estrith was the sister of
  Canute—his father was Ulf a Danish Earl, and this Ulf was brother of
  Gytha the wife of the great Earl Godwine; hence the ground of Svend’s
  asserted claim.

Footnote 190:

  This remark applies to the former expedition in 1070, under Osbeorn.
  The resources of the country could not meet such a demand upon them
  as would now be made for a hasty outfit, and when we read further on
  that thousands “flocked from all parts,” we take it that this
  extraordinary effort belonged to the same preparation of 1070. There
  were plenty of plunderous adventurers around the Baltic shores—men
  who would give their services in the hope of rich booty, but we have
  to consider how long it would take to make known the proposed
  invasion and to collect recruits.

Footnote 191:

  It is stated in the Peterborough Chronicle that king Svend did come
  to the Humber with the expedition in 1070; but if he did he returned
  very quickly.

Footnote 192:

  Gyda was the daughter of Harold, Godwine’s son; she took refuge at
  Svend’s court and was married to king Waldemar.

Footnote 193:

  His son Cnut accompanied the fleet under Osbeorn—so did his son
  Harold. The latter became king of Denmark in 1076, the former in
  1081. The two princes gained some experience with their uncle
  Osbeorn. Our author has separated the events from one expedition and
  added them to another. This fleet of 200 Danish ships under Cnut (and
  also earl Hakon) was not prepared till the year before Svend’s death,
  that is, in 1075. The Camp of Refuge had been assailed by William and
  the defenders dispersed; therefore no envoy could have gone from Lynn
  to the Danish court. The reader must put the two tales into one, and
  remember that the Danes under Cnut’s command came to our shores in
  1075, went up the Humber, robbed or damaged York Minster, and retired.

Footnote 194:

  This is evidently placed too early for veritable history.

Footnote 195:

  Ralph, earl of Norfolk, revolted against William in 1075, and sought
  the aid of the Danes. He could not hold his own at Norwich, and went
  to Denmark to urge the coming of the fleet. So it was at Ralph’s
  instance that the fleet came; but, as before stated, it went to
  Humber not to Yare. Emma, Ralph’s wife, and her forces capitulated
  and were banished before Knut could arrive.

  But Norwich stands on the Wensum—not on the Yare. The former rises
  near Fakenham—the latter some miles S. of East Dereham. The Wensum
  runs into the Yare two miles below Norwich. The Waveney rises near
  the little Ouse—flows past Diss, Bungay, and Beccles, and has a
  sinuous course till it enters the Yare near Burgh Castle in Suffolk.

Footnote 196:

  The reader will understand that this fictitious narrative is intended
  to be a forcible illustration of impositions which the Danes did
  actually make upon the Saxons, and to meet which the Danegeld was
  from time to time augmented.

Footnote 197:

  This was too late for the disposal of the Peterborough treasure.

Footnote 198:

  This account of the gifts to Ely, by Canute and Emma, is related in
  the _Liber Eliensis_, lib. II., p. 196.

Footnote 199:

  It was the fleet under Osbeorn that had appeared in the Thames.

Footnote 200:

  See note, page 260.

Footnote 201:

  This is true of what happened at Osbeorn’s return.

Footnote 202:

  See the position of this marked on the Map.

Footnote 203:

  The legend of the witch finds place in Lib. Elien., book ii., pp.
  234-7.

Footnote 204:

  Iceland.

Footnote 205:

  The Orkneys.

Footnote 206:

  Ivo himself suggested that the witch should be employed (Lib. Elien.,
  p. 234) and if the king’s consent could be obtained, that the project
  should be carried out promptly; thus, “si rex adquiesceret, citius
  eam accessiri faceret.” Others besides Ivo would have rejoiced to see
  the Isle submit under the influence of sorcery—“Laudant hoc
  astantes”—it was an easy stratagem for valiant men, and however
  mythical the tale may appear, there is no doubt it originated in
  fact. William was not superior to the promptings of superstition for
  he had a soothsayer and conjurer with his first invading army.

  It is curious the writer of the text says nothing about Hereward’s
  going in disguise—_the Gesta Herewardi_, says as a potter; _the Lib.
  Elien._, “tonso crine et barba, ad Brandunam ... devenit.” William
  was at Brandon forming his plans for investing the Isle of Ely.

  Hereward discovered the project of Ivo—he went to the king’s camp
  and was nearly found out but he escaped and took refuge in Somersham
  wood. Then followed a most heroic defence of the Isle.

Footnote 207:

  Situated just north of Grunty Fen. Witcham, also, lies about 3 miles
  to the N.W. (See Map.)

Footnote 208:

  See note, Chapter 26.

Footnote 209:

  There was no castle at Wisbech during the conquest of the Isle, but
  there was no doubt an entrenched station, a “turf” castle—which the
  Normans constructed to command the river. The stone castle, which
  subsequently took the place of the entrenchment, was begun in the
  last year of William’s reign and was dismantled by Henry II. A
  private dwelling now occupies the site—and the run of the moat may
  be traced around it, by the Wisbech Museum, the “Castle Lodge,” and
  “Love Lane.” “Castle Hereward” is of the writer’s own building.

Footnote 210:

  See the route of William’s approach sketched on a Map in “The
  Fenland,” p. 106.

Footnote 211:

  See note, Chapter 26.

Footnote 212:

  Chemistry.

Footnote 213:

  Mahomet.

Footnote 214:

  The earnest workers in the world have often been, in like manner,
  requited by the ignorant.

Footnote 215:

  See note 3, on page 40; also note, page 148.

Footnote 216:

  Many parts of the Fen country are now well stocked with elm, ash,
  birch, poplar, oak, lime, and other forest trees, but where the peat
  is near the surface the trees are not abundant.

Footnote 217:

  And so in “Marmion”—(The Court)—

                  “The Lady Abbess loud exclaimed——
                  . . . . . . . . .
                  To martyr, saint and prophet prayed,
                  Against Lord Marmion inveighed
                  And called the Prioress to aid,
                  To curse with candle, bell, and book.”

Footnote 218:

  Distracted.

Footnote 219:

  This is a fine exposition of cowardly, narrow-minded bigotry—it has
  many real counterparts.

Footnote 220:

  Girolamo was not magnanimous enough to be above the vulgar prejudice
  against the Jews, a people who have never escaped their avenging
  Nemesis.

Footnote 221:

  See p. 45.

Footnote 222:

  Eadgar bestowed the manor of Hatfield consisting of 2260 acres, as
  well as Dereham, upon the restored Abbey of Ely.

Footnote 223:

  De Dyrham, vide Liber Eliensis ii. p. 156.

                      “Dyrham cum omnibus quæ ad
                      eandem villam pertinebant....”

Footnote 224:

  This would be some 25 miles.

Footnote 225:

  From Brandon to Brandon Creek Bridge by the Little Ouse is about 13
  or 14 miles, and thence up the Great Ouse by Littleport about 8 miles.

Footnote 226:

  There is a place called Turbetsea House, to the east of Ely and near
  Sandy’s cut.

Footnote 227:

  See note on page 45. This _well_ has never been known to be frozen
  over. Enquiries on the spot would warrant the assertion that this is
  correct as to its condition during a century past.

Footnote 228:

  French, check (chess-board.)

Footnote 229:

  The Little Ouse.

Footnote 230:

  Borh, security. The _Borhman_ may mean the principal man, who took
  suretyship in the Hundred. Every free Saxon had to be in surety
  (borh.) See _Kemble’s Saxons in England_, under “Tithing and
  Hundred;” also _Turner’s History of Anglo Saxons_, “Let every lord
  have his household in his own _borh_.” _Law of Edgar._

Footnote 231:

  Amalfi is an ancient city and seaport on the gulf of Salerno. It was
  one of the great Republics of Italy, and the rival of Venice and
  Genoa. The Amalfians traded to every known part of the world—among
  them were princely merchants. Of Amalfi it is said—

                                   “her coins,
               Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime;
             From Alexandria southward to Sennaar,
             And eastward, through Damascus and Cabul,
             And Samarcand, to thy great wall Cathay.”

Footnote 232:

  ? atrabilarious (melancholic.)

Footnote 233:

  See page 48.

Footnote 234:

  Mereham probably means Ramsey, for which see account in Dugdale’s
  Imbanking, 2nd ed., p. 364.

  Livermere was west of Outwell, near the Old Nene river. The abbot of
  St. Edmundsbury had a right of fishery in that mere. There is a
  Livermere in Suffolk to the north of Bury St. Edmund’s—perhaps this
  formerly belonged to the same monastery and derived its name from the
  mere in the Fens.

Footnote 235:

  Wilfric conveys these estates to his brother. See Lib. Elien. II, p.
  218.

  See Sharon Turner’s History of Anglo-Saxons, Vol. II., p. 22.

Footnote 236:

  “The treachery of the monks of Ely soon received its reward; forty
  men-at-arms occupied their convent as a military post, and lived
  there in free quarter. Every morning the cellarist was obliged to
  distribute among them their pay and provisions in the great hall of
  the chapter.”—Thierry’s Norm. Conq.

Footnote 237:

  See page 77.

Footnote 238:

  The monks may not have completed their treasonable designs at this
  juncture; however, Thierry says—“The offer of the monks was
  accepted; and two Norman barons, Gilbert de Clare and William de
  Warrenne, pledged their word for the execution of the treaty.”

Footnote 239:

  It does not appear from the History of Ely that the monks approached
  William till they went in company with Thurstan to make submission at
  Warwick. See Appendix K.

Footnote 240:

  See this spot marked on the Map.

Footnote 241:

  This is properly _unaneled_ (Sax. _æl_, oil); so it is intended to
  mean that he had not received extreme unction—as in Shakespeare—

                “Cut off, ev’n in the blossoms of my sin,
                Unhousel’d, unanointed, unanel’d.”

Footnote 242:

  Hereward is said (in _Vita Herewardi_) to have made his way to the
  sea shore. Wells in Norfolk is supposed to be the spot where he
  embarked, and the supposition rests upon the phrase “_Mare wide
  vocatum juxta Welle_.” But Hereward could much more easily have
  reached Welle in the Fens—(there are now Upwell and Outwell in
  Norfolk); Welle in the Fens was not so far from the sea then as it is
  now, and if vessels were ready, Hereward could have entered the
  Wellestream which at that time ran past Lynn. The Ouse flowed past
  Wisbech then, and the Normans appear to have been in force at the
  “Turf Castle” in that town.

  If it were necessary to evade the Normans, supposing they were in
  force, off the mouth of the Ouse, in the Wash, he could take to the
  open sea—and if the course were open he could enter the Welland and
  approach Spalding or Bourn.

  Whatever may have been the course pursued, the fugitives could not
  have arrived at either place in so short a time as is represented at
  the commencement of Chap. XXVI.

  From Ely to Spalding by railway is some 36 miles.

Footnote 243:

  It is said to have been on 27th Oct., 1071, that William went to Ely.

Footnote 244:

  This act is recorded in Liber Eliensis (lib. secundus, p. 245) “Ad
  monasterium denique veniens longe a sancto corpore virginis stans
  _marcam auri_ super altare projecit, propius accedere non ausus,
  verebatur sibi a Deo judicium inferri pro malis quæ sui in loco
  patraverant.” The reader will form his own judgment on this religious
  (?) act of a man who demanded 1000 marks from an almost destitute
  monastery and offered _one_ at the shrine of the saint.

  But the writer oddly charges William with offering a _clipped_ coin
  whereas it appears that it was because the 700 marks, which the
  conqueror at first demanded, were of light weight [“dolo
  nummulariorum (money-lenders) dragma fraudata minus recti ponderis
  examinata invenitur habuisse,”—Lib. Elien., 246] that he claimed 300
  more as a punishment to the monks.

Footnote 245:

  See note, p. 445.

Footnote 246:

  See Note page 404.

Footnote 247:

  Thurstan died in 1076 (Lib. Elien. p. 243.) The king thereupon seized
  the valuables that remained in the monastery.

Footnote 248:

  Theodwin, a monk of Jumièges, was then appointed, and he insisted
  upon the restoration of all the gold and silver jewels.

  “Hic abbas industria sua priusquam abbatiam intraret ad eam revocavit
  totum quod in auro et argento et lapidibus ante illius promotionem
  rex inde abstulerat, nolens eam ullo modo suscipere, nisi rex
  jusserat auferri juberet referri.” (Lib. Elien., II. 113.)

Footnote 249:

  See Note page 439.

Footnote 250:

  It is remarkable that in _Geoffrey Gaimar’s Metrical Chronicle_ we
  have mention of only one wife, Alftrude, who is there represented as
  having sent to Hereward on several occasions inviting him to visit
  her (we suppose at Eye). She inherited her father’s domain which she
  promised to bestow upon Hereward if he would marry her. He would then
  be able to continue his contest against the French. But this marriage
  seems to have led to a peace with the king and to Hereward’s joining
  William in subduing the revolted province of Maine. Here is the
  passage from Gaimar:—

                     “Co fu Alftrued ki co mandout
                     A Hereward, ke mult amout;
                     Par plusurs faiz tant le manda
                     Ke Hereward s’en apresta.
                     Vers li alat od mult grant gent,
                     Triwes aveit tut veirement,
                     Al rei se deveit acorder;
                     Dedenz cel mais deveit passer
                     La mer pur guerreier Mansels,
                     Ki ont al rei toleit chastels.”

  Although the genealogists say that Alftrude had a daughter whose name
  was Turfrida, the date does not agree with Gaimar’s account.

Footnote 251:

  The genealogists say a daughter, not a son, who was named Turfrida,
  born 1063.

  The reader should consult a paper, entitled “Hereward the Saxon
  Patriot,” by the Rev. E. Trollope, M.A., in Associated Architectural
  Societies’ Reports and Papers, Vol. VI. 1871, which contains the
  Genealogy of the Wake family. The living representative is Sir
  Herewald Wake, Bart., Northamptonshire.

Footnote 252:

  In the year that the Isle of Ely was reduced, Malcolm III. of
  Scotland married Margaret the Saxon, that is in 1071. Malcolm had
  committed ravages in Northumbria and given shelter to Eadgar
  Ætheling, his wife’s brother. Here was sufficient cause for William
  to reduce Scotland to submission. It was not immediately after the
  conquest of the Isle, but in Aug., 1072, that the conqueror went to
  Scotland, for his presence was required in Normandy early in 1072;
  therefore, the soldiers and ships were not drawn immediately from the
  Fen district to the Scotch invasion.

Footnote 253:

  Supposed to have been missing from the _Gesta Herewardi_, before
  mentioned in note p. 439 as _Vita Herewardi_, in which MS. our hero
  is styled _Inclytus Miles_, as also on page 459 following.

Footnote 254:

  See Note, page 410; and Appendix, Note K.

Footnote 255:

  He went in Aug., 1072.

Footnote 256:

  This, as has been shown, occurred before the invasion of Scotland.

Footnote 257:

  See Appendix for account of Cnut’s crossing the ice under the
  guidance of Brithmer (as given in Lib. Elien.) Note N.

Footnote 258:

  The writer very ingeniously brings a _religieux_ from the minster
  founded by Harold to reconcile Hereward to a submission to the
  Conqueror; he was not a monk however. Waltham was not then an Abbey.
  Harold rebuilt a church there, established a College of secular
  Canons, with a Dean at their head, and brought over from the
  continent a learned man, named Adelhard, as a lecturer in this
  college. (Here is an indication that Harold was a man of progress.)

  Now of course an appeal from one attached to Harold’s minster at
  Waltham would be as forcible as any that could be conceived, and
  especially when it was attended by the assurance that Harold’s dead
  body lay within the precincts of the church.

  Waltham was erected into an Abbey in the reign of Henry II. and it
  is notable that the body of Edward the First was buried by the side
  of that of Harold, in 1307—(though it was afterwards translated to
  Westminster Abbey); “the king with whom England fell might greet
  his first true successor in the king with whom she rose
  again.”—(Freeman.)

  The devastations of other centuries have swept away all traces of the
  tomb of Harold from Waltham—as they have also every vestige of the
  tomb of Waltheof or of Hereward at Crowland—or even the shrine of
  Ætheldreda at Ely.

Footnote 259:

  We learn from William of Malmesbury that it very early acquired
  considerable riches:—“Quantitatem possessionum antiquarum ex hoc
  conice, quod licet plura dempta, plura usurpata, is, qui modo rem
  regit, mille et. cccctas. libras marsupio suo quotannis
  annumeret.”—_Gesta Pont. Ang._, lib. IV., § 184.

Footnote 260:

  “Ramesiensis abbatiæ fuit edificator Sanctus Oswaldus, Eboracensis
  Archiepiscopus, cooperate Egelwine quodam Orientalium Anglorum
  comite.”—_Gesta Pont. Ang._ lib. IV. § 181.

Footnote 261:

  See Warner’s History of Thorney Abbey, p. 17.

Footnote 262:

  We can hardly agree with Mr. Warner when he says (on p. 12), “That
  any human being lived on so dreary a spot, at least till the 7th
  century, is highly improbable,” for we believe that the Kelts
  occupied the fen islands, and perhaps the hunting folks who peopled
  our land before the Kelts came did the same.

  Thorney may have been “a paradise” at other periods than in William
  of Malmesbury’s time.

Footnote 263:

  It may really have been begun by Paeda, king of Mercia, in 650, was
  called Medehamstede and was dedicated to St. Peter on its completion
  by Wolfhere in 656.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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                              THE FENLAND:
                           PAST AND PRESENT:
                                  ITS

                   _HISTORY—GEOGRAPHY—GEOLOGY—NATURAL
     HISTORY—SCENERY—ANTIQUITIES—CLIMATOLOGY—DRAINAGE—AGRICULTURAL
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                                   BY

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                         WISBECH: LEACH & SON.



                          Transcriber's Notes

  When italics were used in the original book, the corresponding text
  has been surrounded by _underscores_. The oe ligature is
  represented by the letters oe. Macrons above letters have been
  depicted as [=x], where x is the letter with macron. A symbol of a
  cross has been represented as [cross]. Fractions following a whole
  number have been separated from the whole number with a dash, such
  that 1-1/2 represents one and a half.

  Ditto marks and dashes used to represent duplicated text have been
  replaced by the text they represent.

  Some presumed printer's errors have been corrected, including
  normalizing punctuation. Further corrections are listed below with
  the printed text (top) and corrected text (bottom):

  carry of
  carry off p. 36

  Quaragesima
  Quadragesima p. 64

  appetities
  appetites p. 68

  prilgrimage
  pilgrimage p. 82

  this; With
  this; with p. 111

  Navitity p. 120
  Nativity

  that their was no access
  that there was no access p. 143

  all manor
  all manner p. 147

  De profundis
  _De profundis_ p, 159

  as the moon shown out
  as the moon shone out p. 163

  must soon he united
  must soon be united p. 182

  knigbt
  knight p. 194

  with the Romans had dug
  which the Romans had p. 235

  fen-men-swim
  fen-men swim p. 240

  made hast
  made haste p. 246

  Normam
  Norman p. 272

  seige
  siege p. 297

  that I my speak to them
  that I may speak to them p. 342

  prisioners
  prisoners p. 380

  have it there own way
  have it their own way p. 418

  inconvience
  inconvenience p. 419

  Forbes, Robest
  Forby, Robert p. 488

  Venerant cum ex nonnulli
  Venerant cum ea nonnulli Footnote 54

  auctortatis
  auctoritatis Footnote 54

  East-anglia
  East-Anglia Footnote 72

  forth
  fourth Footnote 73

  Theoawin
  Theodwin Footnote 89

  Camp of Reguge
  Camp of Refuge Footnote 141

  Rrunan-burh
  Brunan-burh Footnote 149

  conntry
  country Footnote 157

   . 106.
  p. 106. Footnote 210

  pag 40
  page 40 Footnote 215

  Jumiège
  Jumièges Footnote 248

  possessionem
  possessionum Footnote 259

  Her Majesty’s Geological Snrvey.
  Her Majesty’s Geological Survey. (Advertisements)

  * Transcriber's Note: Several corrections to Note K have been made
  based on reference to the original source (_Historia Eliensis, lib.
  sec._). These corrections include a stretch of missing words,
  without which the passage does not make sense. For those
  interested, the uncorrected Note K as originally printed in this
  book is reproduced below:

  109. “_Quod monachi Elyensis clementiam regis adierunt et de
  atrocitate itineris exercitus et equorum ejus._

  “Monachi igitur de Ely cognoscentes mala quæ in regno fiebant et in
  ecclesiarum rebus pervasionem fieri et diminutionem ab extermina
  (externa; _E_) gente graviter doluerunt, magnificentiam templi
  Domini reminiscentes, et loci sancti sibi tale discrimen imminere
  veriti sunt, fientes unanimiter auxilium de cœlo et suæ in æternum
  patrocinantis Christi sponsæ dilectæ Ætheldredæ præsidium adesse
  poscebant. Et divina inspirante clementia salubre demum ineuntes
  consilium ad regem mittere constituunt, illius flagitare
  misericordiam et pacem. Invaluerat enim fames ut supra retulimus,
  per totam regionem atque istic innumeris milibus hostilis collegii
  etiam horrea servata Egypti tautam inopiam non supplerent. Nam
  (deest) reliquiæ ciborum in loco jam fuerant exaustæ, eo quod
  septimus erat annus ex quo seditionem adversus novum regem
  commoverunt, frumenti copia sufficere nulla diu poterat, furto enim
  vel rapto vesci monachorum ordini minime licuit. Et convocatis ad
  se primoribus qui urbem et aquarum exitus muniunt, ipsos inde eorum
  abnuant. His territi mox verbis, piguit eos gravissimi incepti ejus
  felicem exitum tum nequaquam sperant, prælia existimantes levia si
  his malis conferatur. Urgebat eos fames valida, intus pavor angebat
  nimius, nec ad comportandum rapinas egredi nisi in manu valida
  audebant, enses Normanorum plus omni periculo metuentes. Et arepto
  itinere in Warewich vico famoso reverenter regem cum debita
  supplicatione monachi requirunt, se suaque omnia ejus clementiæ
  commendantes. Stetit itaque abbas Elyensis Thurstanus cum suis
  monachis coram rege magno Willelmo, orans et deprecans per
  misericordiam Dei ut averteret iram furoris sui ab eis et a
  civitate sua, spondens per omnia deinceps fidele obsequium, et
  consistente satraparum caterva, optimum reputavit dicens,
  ‘majestatem illius tolerare supra se, cum jus regni a Deo sit illi
  concessum. Verum et is dignanter (dignatur) eis attendat, finem
  laborum suorum haud dubitanter assequi posse, et ingressum insulæ
  citius optinere proponit; si tantum pro Deo et suæ animæ salute
  praedia et bona per suo de loco abstraca restitui faceret.’ Et
  spopondit rex.”





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