Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Harold : the Last of the Saxon Kings — Volume 07
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Harold : the Last of the Saxon Kings — Volume 07" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BOOK VII.


THE WELCH KING.



CHAPTER I.


The sun had just cast his last beams over the breadth of water into
which Conway, or rather Cyn-wy, "the great river," emerges its winding
waves.  Not at that time existed the matchless castle, which is now
the monument of Edward Plantagenet, and the boast of Wales.  But
besides all the beauty the spot took from nature, it had even some
claim from ancient art.  A rude fortress rose above the stream of
Gyffin, out of the wrecks of some greater Roman hold [159], and vast
ruins of a former town lay round it; while opposite the fort, on the
huge and ragged promontory of Gogarth, might still be seen, forlorn
and grey, the wrecks of the imperial city, destroyed ages before by
lightning.

All these remains of a power and a pomp that Rome in vain had
bequeathed to the Briton, were full of pathetic and solemn interest,
when blent with the thought, that on yonder steep, the brave prince of
a race of heroes, whose line transcended, by ages, all the other
royalties of the North, awaited, amidst the ruins of man, and in the
stronghold which nature yet gave, the hour of his doom.

But these were not the sentiments of the martial and observant Norman,
with the fresh blood of a new race of conquerors.

"In this land," thought he, "far more even than in that of the Saxon,
there are the ruins of old; and when the present can neither maintain
nor repair the past, its future is subjection or despair."

Agreeably to the peculiar uses of Saxon military skill, which seems to
have placed all strength in dykes and ditches, as being perhaps the
cheapest and readiest outworks, a new trench had been made round the
fort, on two sides, connecting it on the third and fourth with the
streams of Gyffin and the Conway.  But the boat was rowed up to the
very walls, and the Norman, springing to land, was soon ushered into
the presence of the Earl.

Harold was seated before a rude table, and bending over a rough map of
the great mountain of Penmaen; a lamp of iron stood beside the map,
though the air was yet clear.

The Earl rose, as De Graville, entering with the proud but easy grace
habitual to his countrymen, said, in his best Saxon:

"Hail to Earl Harold!  William Mallet de Graville, the Norman, greets
him, and brings him news from beyond the seas."

There was only one seat in that bare room--the seat from which the
Earl had risen.  He placed it with simple courtesy before his visitor,
and leaning, himself, against the table, said, in the Norman tongue,
which he spoke fluently:

"It is no slight thanks that I owe to the Sire de Graville, that he
hath undertaken voyage and journey on my behalf; but before you impart
your news, I pray you to take rest and food."

"Rest will not be unwelcome; and food, if unrestricted to goats'
cheese, and kid-flesh,--luxuries new to my palate,--will not be
untempting; but neither food nor rest can I take, noble Harold, before
I excuse myself, as a foreigner, for thus somewhat infringing your
laws by which we are banished, and acknowledging gratefully the
courteous behavior I have met from thy countrymen notwithstanding."

"Fair Sir," answered Harold, "pardon us if, jealous of our laws, we
have seemed inhospitable to those who would meddle with them.  But the
Saxon is never more pleased than when the foreigner visits him only as
the friend: to the many who settle amongst us for commerce--Fleming,
Lombard, German, and Saracen--we proffer shelter and welcome; to the
few who, like thee, Sir Norman, venture over the seas but to serve us,
we give frank cheer and free hand."

Agreeably surprised at this gracious reception from the son of Godwin,
the Norman pressed the hand extended to him, and then drew forth a
small case, and related accurately, and with feeling, the meeting of
his cousin with Sweyn, and Sweyn's dying charge.

The Earl listened, with eyes bent on the ground, and face turned from
the lamp; and, when Mallet had concluded his recital, Harold said,
with an emotion he struggled in vain to repress:

"I thank you cordially gentle Norman, for kindness kindly rendered!
I--I--"  The voice faltered.  "Sweyn was very dear to me in his
sorrows!  We heard that he had died in Lycia, and grieved much and
long.  So, after he had thus spoken to your cousin, he--he----Alas!  O
Sweyn, my brother!"

"He died," said the Norman, soothingly; "but shriven and absolved; and
my cousin says, calm and hopeful, as they die ever who have knelt at
the Saviour's tomb!"

Harold bowed his head, and turned the case that held the letter again
and again in his hand, but would not venture to open it.  The knight
himself, touched by a grief so simple and manly, rose with the
delicate instinct that belongs to sympathy, and retired to the door,
without which yet waited the officer who had conducted him.

Harold did not attempt to detain him, but followed him across the
threshold, and briefly commanding the officer to attend to his guest
as to himself, said: "With the morning, Sire de Granville, we shall
meet again; I see that you are one to whom I need not excuse man's
natural emotions."

"A noble presence!" muttered the knight, as he descended the stairs;
"but he hath Norman, at least Norse, blood in his veins on the distaff
side.--Fair Sir!"--(this aloud to the officer)--"any meat save the
kid-flesh, I pray thee; and any drink save the mead!"

"Fear not, guest" said the officer; "for Tostig the Earl hath two
ships in yon bay, and hath sent us supplies that would please Bishop
William of London; for Tostig the Earl is a toothsome man."

"Commend me, then, to Tostig the Earl," said the knight; "he is an
earl after my own heart."



CHAPTER II.


On re-entering the room, Harold drew the large bolt across the door,
opened the case, and took forth the distained and tattered scroll:

"When this comes to thee, Harold, the brother of thy childish days
will sleep in the flesh, and be lost to men's judgment and earth's woe
in the spirit.  I have knelt at the Tomb; but no dove hath come forth
from the cloud,--no stream of grace hath re-baptised the child of
wrath!  They tell me now--monk and priest tell me--that I have atoned
all my sins; that the dread weregeld is paid; that I may enter the
world of men with a spirit free from the load, and a name redeemed
from the stain.  Think so, O brother!--Bid my father (if he still
lives, the dear old man!) think so;--tell Githa to think it; and oh,
teach Haco, my son, to hold the belief as a truth!  Harold, again I
commend to thee my son; be to him as a father!  My death surely
releases him as a hostage.  Let him not grow up in the court of the
stranger, in the land of our foes.  Let his feet, in his youth, climb
the green holts of England;--let his eyes, resin dims them, drink the
blue of her skies!  When this shall reach thee, thou in thy calm,
effortless strength, wilt be more great than Godwin our father.  Power
came to him with travail and through toil, the geld of craft and of
force.  Power is born to thee as strength to the strong man; it
gathers around thee as thou movest; it is not thine aim, it is thy
nature, to be great.  Shield my child with thy might; lead him forth
from the prison-house by thy serene right hand!  I ask not for
lordships and earldoms, as the appanage of his father; train him not
to be rival to thee:--I ask but for freedom, and English air!  So
counting on thee, O Harold, I turn my face to the wall, and hush my
wild heart to peace!"

The scroll dropped noiseless from Harold's hand.

"Thus," said he, mournfully, "hath passed away less a life than a
dream!  Yet of Sweyn, in our childhood, was Godwin most proud; who so
lovely in peace, and so terrible in wrath?  My mother taught him the
songs of the Baltic, and Hilda led his steps through the woodland with
tales of hero and scald.  Alone of our House, he had the gift of the
Dane in the flow of fierce song, and for him things lifeless had
being.  Stately tree, from which all the birds of heaven sent their
carol; where the falcon took roost, whence the mavis flew forth in its
glee,--how art thou blasted and seared, bough and core!--smit by the
lightning and consumed by the worm!"

He paused, and, though none were by, he long shaded his brow with his
hand.

"Now," thought he, as he rose and slowly paced the chamber, "now to
what lives yet on earth--his son!  Often hath my mother urged me in
behalf of these hostages; and often have I sent to reclaim them.
Smooth and false pretexts have met my own demand, and even the
remonstrance of Edward himself.  But, surely, now that William hath
permitted this Norman to bring over the letter, he will assent to what
it hath become a wrong and an insult to refuse; and Haco will return
to his father's land, and Wolnoth to his mother's arms."



CHAPTER III.


Messire Mallet de Graville (as becomes a man bred up to arms, and
snatching sleep with quick grasp whenever that blessing be his to
command) no sooner laid his head on the pallet to which he had been
consigned, than his eyes closed, and his senses were deaf even to
dreams.  But at the dead of the midnight he was wakened by sounds that
might have roused the Seven Sleepers--shouts, cries, and yells, the
blast of horns, the tramp of feet, and the more distant roar of
hurrying multitudes.  He leaped from his bed, and the whole chamber
was filled with a lurid bloodred air.  His first thought was that the
fort was on fire.  But springing upon the settle along the wall, and
looking through the loophole of the tower, it seemed as if not the
fort but the whole land was one flame, and through the glowing
atmosphere he beheld all the ground, near and far, swarming with men.
Hundreds were swimming the rivulet, clambering up dyke mounds, rushing
on the levelled spears of the defenders, breaking through line and
palisade, pouring into the enclosures; some in half-armour of helm and
corselet--others in linen tunics--many almost naked.  Loud sharp
shrieks of "Alleluia!" [160] blended with those of "Out! out!  Holy
crosse!" [161]  He divined at once that the Welch were storming the
Saxon hold.  Short time indeed sufficed for that active knight to case
himself in his mail; and, sword in hand, he burst through the door,
cleared the stairs, and gained the hall below, which was filled with
men arming in haste.

"Where is Harold?" he exclaimed.

"On the trenches already," answered Sexwolf, buckling his corslet of
hide.  "This Welch hell hath broke loose."

"And you are their beacon-fires?  Then the whole land is upon us!"

"Prate less," quoth Sexwolf; "those are the hills now held by the
warders of Harold: our spies gave them notice, and the watch-fires
prepared us ere the fiends came in sight, otherwise we had been lying
here limbless or headless.  Now, men, draw up, and march forth."

"Hold! hold!" cried the pious knight, crossing himself, "is there no
priest here to bless us? first a prayer and a psalm!"

"Prayer and psalm!" cried Sexwolf, astonished, "an thou hadst said ale
and mead, I could have understood thee.--Out! Out!--Holyrood,
Holyrood!"

"The godless paynims!" muttered the Norman, borne away with the crowd.

Once in the open space, the scene was terrific.  Brief as had been the
onslaught the carnage was already unspeakable.  By dint of sheer
physical numbers, animated by a valour that seemed as the frenzy of
madmen or the hunger of wolves, hosts of the Britons had crossed
trench and stream, seizing with their hands the points of the spears
opposed to them, bounding over the corpses of their countrymen, and
with yells of wild joy rushing upon the close serried lines drawn up
before the fort.  The stream seemed literally to run gore; pierced by
javelins and arrows, corpses floated and vanished, while numbers,
undeterred by the havoc, leaped into the waves from the opposite
banks.  Like bears that surround the ship of a sea-king beneath the
polar meteors, or the midnight sun of the north, came the savage
warriors through that glaring atmosphere.

Amidst all, two forms were pre-eminent: the one, tall and towering,
stood by the trench, and behind a banner, that now drooped round the
stave, now streamed wide and broad, stirred by the rush of men--for
the night in itself was breezeless.  With a vast Danish axe wielded by
both hands, stood this man, confronting hundreds, and at each stroke,
rapid as the levin, fell a foe.  All round him was a wall of his own--
the dead.  But in the centre of the space, leading on a fresh troop of
shouting Welchmen who had forced their way from another part, was a
form which seemed charmed against arrow and spear.  For the defensive
arms of this chief were as slight as if worn but for ornament: a small
corselet of gold covered only the centre of his breast, a gold collar
of twisted wires circled his throat, and a gold bracelet adorned his
bare arm, dropping gore, not his own, from the wrist to the elbow.  He
was small and slight-shaped--below the common standard of men--but he
seemed as one made a giant by the sublime inspiration of war.  He wore
no helmet, merely a golden circlet; and his hair, of deep red (longer
than was usual with the Welch), hung like the mane of a lion over his
shoulders, tossing loose with each stride.  His eyes glared like the
tiger's at night, and he leaped on the spears with a bound.  Lost a
moment amidst hostile ranks, save by the swift glitter of his short
sword, he made, amidst all, a path for himself and his followers, and
emerged from the heart of the steel unscathed and loud-breathing;
while, round the line he had broken, wheeled and closed his wild men,
striking, rushing, slaying, slain.

"Pardex, this is war worth the sharing," said the knight.  "And now,
worthy Sexwolf, thou shalt see if the Norman is the vaunter thou
deemest him.  Dieu nous aide!  Notre Dame!--Take the foe in the rear."
But turning round, he perceived that Sexwolf had already led his men
towards the standard, which showed them where stood the Earl, almost
alone in his peril.  The knight, thus left to himself, did not
hesitate:--a minute more, and he was in the midst of the Welch force,
headed by the chief with the golden panoply.  Secure in his ring mail
against the light weapons of the Welch, the sweep of the Norman sword
was as the scythe of Death.  Right and left he smote through the
throng which he took in the flank, and had almost gained the small
phalanx of Saxons, that lay firm in the midst, when the Cymrian
Chief's flashing eye was drawn to his new and strange foe, by the roar
and the groan round the Norman's way; and with the half-naked breast
against the shirt of mail, and the short Roman sword against the long
Norman falchion, the Lion King of Wales fronted the knight.

Unequal as seems the encounter, so quick was the spring of the Briton,
so pliant his arm, and so rapid his weapon, that that good knight (who
rather from skill and valour than brute physical strength, ranked
amongst the prowest of William's band of martial brothers) would
willingly have preferred to see before him Fitzosborne or Montgommeri,
all clad in steel and armed with mace and lance, than parried those
dazzling strokes, and fronted the angry majesty of that helmless brow.
Already the strong rings of his mail had been twice pierced, and his
blood trickled fast, while his great sword had but smitten the air in
its sweeps at the foe; when the Saxon phalanx, taking advantage of the
breach in the ring that girt them, caused by this diversion, and
recognising with fierce ire the gold torque and breastplate of the
Welch King, made their desperate charge.  Then for some minutes the
pele mele was confused and indistinct--blows blind and at random--
death coming no man knew whence or how; till discipline and steadfast
order (which the Saxons kept, as by mechanism, through the discord)
obstinately prevailed.  The wedge forced its way; and, though reduced
in numbers and sore wounded, the Saxon troop cleared the ring, and
joined the main force drawn up by the fort, and guarded in the rear by
its wall.

Meanwhile Harold, supported by the band under Sexwolf, had succeeded
at length in repelling farther reinforcements of the Welch at the more
accessible part of the trenches; and casting now his practised eye
over the field, he issued orders for some of the men to regain the
fort, and open from the battlements, and from every loophole, the
batteries of stone and javelin, which then (with the Saxons, unskilled
in sieges,) formed the main artillery of forts.  These orders given,
he planted Sexwolf and most of his band to keep watch round the
trenches; and shading his eye with his hand, and looking towards the
moon, all waning and dimmed in the watchfires, he said, calmly, "Now
patience fights for us.  Ere the moon reaches yon hill-top, the troops
of Aber and Caer-hen will be on the slopes of Penmaen, and cut off the
retreat of the Walloons.  Advance my flag to the thick of yon strife."

But as the Earl, with his axe swung over his shoulder, and followed
but by some half-score or more with his banner, strode on where the
wild war was now mainly concentred, just midway between trench and
fort, Gryffyth caught sight both of the banner and the Earl, and left
the press at the very moment when he had gained the greatest
advantage; and when indeed, but for the Norman, who, wounded as he
was, and unused to fight on foot, stood resolute in the van, the
Saxons, wearied out by numbers, and falling fast beneath the javelins,
would have fled into their walls, and so sealed their fate,--for the
Welch would have entered at their heels.

But it was the misfortune of the Welch heroes never to learn that war
is a science; and instead of now centering all force on the point most
weakened, the whole field vanished from the fierce eye of the Welch
King, when he saw the banner and form of Harold.

The Earl beheld the coming foe, wheeling round, as the hawk on the
heron;--halted, drew up his few men in a semicircle, with their large
shields as a rampart, and their levelled spears as a palisade; and
before them all, as a tower, stood Harold with his axe.  In a minute
more he was surrounded; and through the rain of javelins that poured
upon him, hissed and glittered the sword of Gryffyth.  But Harold,
more practised than the Sire de Graville in the sword-play of the
Welch, and unencumbered by other defensive armour (save only the helm,
which was shaped like the Norman's,) than his light coat of hide,
opposed quickness to quickness, and suddenly dropping his axe, sprang
upon his foe, and clasping him round with his left arm, with the right
hand griped at his throat:

"Yield and quarter!--yield, for thy life, son of Llewellyn!"

Strong was that embrace, and deathlike that gripe; yet, as the snake
from the hand of the dervise--as a ghost from the grasp of the
dreamer, the lithe Cymrian glided away, and the broken torque was all
that remained in the clutch of Harold.

At this moment a mighty yell of despair broke from the Welch near the
fort: stones and javelins rained upon them from the walls, and the
fierce Norman was in the midst, with his sword drinking blood; but not
for javelin, stone, and sword, shrank and shouted the Welchmen.  On
the other side of the trenches were marching against them their own
countrymen, the rival tribes that helped the stranger to rend the
land: and far to the right were seen the spears of the Saxon from
Aber, and to the left was heard the shout of the forces under Godrith
from Caer-hen; and they who had sought the leopard in his lair were
now themselves the prey caught in the toils.  With new heart, as they
beheld these reinforcements, the Saxons pressed on; tumult, and
flight, and indiscriminate slaughter, wrapped the field.  The Welch
rushed to the stream and the trenches; and in the bustle and
hurlabaloo, Gryffyth was swept along, as a bull by a torrent; still
facing the foe, now chiding, now smiting his own men, now rushing
alone on the pursuers, and halting their onslaught, he gained, still
unwounded, the stream, paused a moment, laughed loud, and sprang into
the wave.  A hundred javelins hissed into the sullen and bloody
waters.  "Hold!" cried Harold the Earl, lifting his hand on high, "No
dastard dart at the brave!"



CHAPTER IV.


The fugitive Britons, scarce one-tenth of the number that had first
rushed to the attack,--performed their flight with the same Parthian
rapidity that characterised the assault; and escaping both Welch foe
and Saxon, though the former broke ground to pursue them, they gained
the steeps of Penmaen.

There was no further thought of slumber that night within the walls.
While the wounded were tended, and the dead were cleared from the
soil, Harold, with three of his chiefs, and Mallet de Graville, whose
feats rendered it more than ungracious to refuse his request that he
might assist in the council, conferred upon the means of terminating
the war with the next day.  Two of the thegns, their blood hot with
strife and revenge, proposed to scale the mountain with the whole
force the reinforcements had brought them, and put all they found to
the sword.

The third, old and prudent, and inured to Welch warfare, thought
otherwise.

"None of us," said he, "know what is the true strength of the place
which ye propose to storm.  Not even one Welchman have we found who
hath ever himself gained the summit, or examined the castle which is
said to exist there." [162]

"Said!" echoed De Graville, who, relieved of his mail, and with his
wounds bandaged, reclined on his furs on the floor.  "Said, noble sir!
Cannot our eyes perceive the towers?"

The old thegn shook his head.  "At a distance, and through mists,
stones loom large, and crags themselves take strange shapes.  It may
be castle, may be rock, may be old roofless temples of heathenesse
that we see.  But to repeat (and, as I am slow, I pray not again to be
put out in my speech)--none of us know what, there, exists of defence,
man-made or Nature-built.  Not even thy Welch spies, son of Godwin,
have gained to the heights.  In the midst lie the scouts of the Welch
King, and those on the top can see the bird fly, the goat climb.  Few
of thy spies, indeed, have ever returned with life; their heads have
been left at the foot of the hill, with the scroll in their lips,--
'Dic ad inferos--quid in superis novisti.'  Tell to the shades below
what thou hast seen in the heights above."

"And the Walloons know Latin!" muttered the knight; "I respect them!"

The slow thegn frowned, stammered, and renewed:

"One thing at least is clear; that the rock is well nigh
insurmountable to those who know not the passes; that strict watch,
baffling even Welch spies, is kept night and day; that the men on the
summit are desperate and fierce; that our own troops are awed and
terrified by the belief of the Welch, that the spot is haunted and the
towers fiend-founded.  One single defeat may lose us two years of
victory.  Gryffyth may break from the eyrie, regain what he hath lost,
win back our Welch allies, ever faithless and hollow.  Wherefore, I
say, go on as we have begun.  Beset all the country round; cut off all
supplies, and let the foe rot by famine--or waste, as he hath done
this night, his strength by vain onslaught and sally."

"Thy counsel is good," said Harold, "but there is yet something to add
to it, which may shorten the strife, and gain the end with less
sacrifice of life.  The defeat of tonight will have humbled the
spirits of the Welch; take them yet in the hour of despair and
disaster.  I wish, therefore, to send to their outposts a nuncius,
with these terms: 'Life and pardon to all who lay down arms and
surrender.'"

"What, after such havoc and gore?" cried one of the thegns.

"They defend their own soil," replied the Earl simply: "had not we
done the same?"

"But the rebel Gryffyth?" asked the old thegn, "thou canst not accept
him again as crowned sub-king of Edward?"

"No," said the Earl, "I propose to exempt Gryffyth alone from the
pardon, with promise, natheless, of life if he give himself up as
prisoner; and count, without further condition, on the King's mercy."
There was a prolonged silence.  None spoke against the Earl's
proposal, though the two younger thegns misliked it much.

At last said the elder, "But hast thou thought who will carry this
message?  Fierce and wild are yon blood-dogs; and man must needs
shrive soul and make will, if he will go to their kennel."

"I feel sure that my bode will be safe," answered Harold: for Gryffyth
has all the pride of a king, and, sparing neither man nor child in the
onslaught, will respect what the Roman taught his sires to respect--
envoy from chief to chief--as a head scatheless and sacred."

"Choose whom thou wilt, Harold," said one of the young thegns,
laughing, "but spare thy friends; and whomsoever thou choosest, pay
his widow the weregeld."

"Fair sirs," then said De Graville, "if ye think that I, though a
stranger, could serve you as nuncius, it would be a pleasure to me to
undertake this mission.  First, because, being curious as concerns
forts and castles, I would fain see if mine eyes have deceived me in
taking yon towers for a hold of great might.  Secondly, because that
same wild-cat of a king must have a court rare to visit.  And the only
reflection that withholds my pressing the offer as a personal suit is,
that though I have some words of the Breton jargon at my tongue's
need, I cannot pretend to be a Tully in Welch; howbeit, since it seems
that one, at least, among them knows something of Latin, I doubt not
but what I shall get out my meaning!"

"Nay, as to that, Sire de Graville," said Harold, who seemed well
pleased with the knight's offer, "there shall be no hindrance or let,
as I will make clear to you; and in spite of what you have just heard,
Gryffyth shall harm you not in limb or in life.  But, kindly and
courteous Sir, will your wounds permit the journey, not long, but
steep and laborious, and only to be made on foot?"

"On foot!" said the knight, a little staggered, "Pardex! well and
truly, I did not count upon that!"

"Enough," said Harold, turning away in evident disappointment, "think
of it no more."

"Nay, by your leave, what I have once said I stand to," returned the
knight; "albeit, you may as well cleave in two one of those
respectable centaurs of which we have read in our youth, as part
Norman and horse.  I will forthwith go to my chamber, and apparel
myself becomingly--not forgetting, in case of the worst, to wear my
mail under my robe.  Vouchsafe me but an armourer, just to rivet up
the rings through which scratched so felinely the paw of that well-
appelled Griffin."

"I accept your offer frankly," said Harold, "and all shall be prepared
for you, as soon as you yourself will re-seek me here."

The knight rose, and though somewhat stiff and smarting with his
wounds, left the room lightly, summoned his armourer and squire, and
having dressed with all the care and pomp habitual to a Norman, his
gold chain round his neck, and his vest stiff with broidery, he re-
entered the apartment of Harold.  The Earl received him alone, and
came up to him with a cordial face.  "I thank thee more, brave Norman,
than I ventured to say before my thegns, for I tell thee frankly, that
my intent and aim are to save the life of this brave king; and thou
canst well understand that every Saxon amongst us must have his blood
warmed by contest, and his eyes blind with national hate.  You alone,
as a stranger, see the valiant warrior and hunted prince, and as such
you can feel for him the noble pity of manly foes."

"That is true," said De Graville, a little surprised, "though we
Normans are at least as fierce as you Saxons, when we have once tasted
blood; and I own nothing would please me better than to dress that
catamaran in mail, put a spear in its claws, and a horse under its
legs, and thus fight out my disgrace at being so clawed and mauled by
its griffes.  And though I respect a brave knight in distress, I can
scarce extend my compassion to a thing that fights against all rule,
martial and kingly."

The Earl smiled gravely.  "It is the mode in which his ancestors
rushed on the spears of Caesar.  Pardon him."

"I pardon him, at your gracious request," quoth the knight, with a
grand air, and waving his hands; "say on."

"You will proceed with a Welch monk--whom, though not of the faction
of Gryffyth, all Welchmen respect--to the mouth of a frightful pass,
skirting the river; the monk will bear aloft the holy rood in signal
of peace.  Arrived at that pass, you will doubtless be stopped.  The
monk here will be spokesman; and ask safe-conduct to Gryffyth to
deliver my message; he will also bear certain tokens, which will no
doubt win the way for you."

"Arrived before Gryffyth, the monk will accost him; mark and heed well
his gestures, since thou wilt know not the Welch tongue he employs.
And when he raises the rood, thou,--in the mean while, having artfully
approached close to Gryffyth,--wilt whisper in Saxon, which he well
understands, and pressing the ring I now give thee into his hand,
'Obey, by this pledge; thou knowest Harold is true, and thy head is
sold by thine own people.'  If he asks more thou knowest nought."

"So far, this is as should be from chief to chief," said the Norman,
touched, "and thus had Fitzosborne done to his foe.  I thank thee for
this mission, and the more that thou hast not asked me to note the
strength of the bulwark, and number the men that may keep it."

Again Harold smiled.  "Praise me not for this, noble Norman--we plain
Saxons have not your refinements.  If ye are led to the summit, which
I think ye will not be, the monk at least will have eyes to see, and
tongue to relate.  But to thee I confide this much;--I know already,
that Gryffyth's strongholds are not his walls and his towers, but the
superstition of our men, and the despair of his own.  I could win
those heights, as I have won heights as cloudcapt, but with fearful
loss of my own troops, and the massacre of every foe.  Both I would
spare, if I may."

"Yet thou hast not shown such value for life, in the solitudes I
passed," said the knight bluntly.

Harold turned pale, but said firmly, "Sire de Graville, a stern thing
is duty, and resistless is its voice.  These Welchmen, unless curbed
to their mountains, eat into the strength of England, as the tide
gnaws into a shore.  Merciless were they in their ravages on our
borders, and ghastly and torturing their fell revenge.  But it is one
thing to grapple with a foe fierce and strong, and another to smite
when his power is gone, fang and talon.  And when I see before me the
faded king of a great race, and the last band of doomed heroes, too
few and too feeble to make head against my arms,--when the land is
already my own, and the sword is that of the deathsman, not of the
warrior,--verily, Sir Norman, duty releases its iron tool, and man
becomes man again."

"I go," said the Norman, inclining his head low as to his own great
Duke, and turning to the door; yet there he paused, and looking at the
ring which he had placed on his finger, he said, "But one word more,
if not indiscreet--your answer may help argument, if argument be
needed.  What tale lies hid in this token?"

Harold coloured and paused a moment, then answered:

"Simply this.  Gryffyth's wife, the lady Aldyth, a Saxon by birth,
fell into my hands.  We were storming Rhadlan, at the farther end of
the isle; she was there.  We war not against women; I feared the
license of my own soldiers, and I sent the lady to Gryffyth.  Aldyth
gave me this ring on parting; and I bade her tell Gryffyth that
whenever, at the hour of his last peril and sorest need, I sent that
ring back to him, he might hold it the pledge of his life."

"Is this lady, think you, in the stronghold with her lord?"

"I am not sure, but I fear yes," answered Harold.

"Yet one word: And if Gryffyth refuse, despite all warning?"

Harold's eyes drooped.

"If so, he dies; but not by the Saxon sword.  God and our lady speed
you!"



CHAPTER V.


On the height called Pen-y-Dinas (or "Head of the City") forming one
of the summits of Penmaen-mawr, and in the heart of that supposed
fortress which no eye in the Saxon camp had surveyed [163], reclined
Gryffyth, the hunted King.  Nor is it marvellous that at that day
there should be disputes as to the nature and strength of the supposed
bulwark, since, in times the most recent, and among antiquaries the
most learned, the greatest discrepancies exist, not only as to
theoretical opinion, but plain matter of observation, and simple
measurement.  The place, however, I need scarcely say, was not as we
see it now, with its foundations of gigantic ruin, affording ample
space for conjecture; yet, even then, a wreck as of Titans, its date
and purpose were lost in remote antiquity.

The central area (in which the Welch King now reclined) formed an oval
barrow of loose stones: whether so left from the origin, or the relics
of some vanished building, was unknown even to bard and diviner.
Round this space were four strong circumvallations of loose stones,
with a space about eighty yards between each; the walls themselves
generally about eight feet wide, but of various height, as the stones
had fallen by time and blast. Along these walls rose numerous and
almost countless circular buildings, which might pass for towers,
though only a few had been recently and rudely roofed in.  To the
whole of this quadruple enclosure there was but one narrow entrance,
now left open as if in scorn of assault; and a winding narrow pass
down the mountain, with innumerable curves, alone led to the single
threshold.  Far down the hill, walls again were visible; and the whole
surface of the steep soil, more than half way in the descent, was
heaped with vast loose stones, as if the bones of a dead city.  But
beyond the innermost enclosure of the fort (if fort, or sacred
enclosure, be the correcter name), rose, thick and frequent, other
mementos of the Briton; many cromlechs, already shattered and
shapeless; the ruins of stone houses; and high over all, those
upraised, mighty amber piles, as at Stonehenge, once reared, if our
dim learning be true, in honour to Bel, or Bal-Huan [164], the idol of
the sun.  All, in short, showed that the name of the place, "the Head
of the City," told its tale; all announced that, there, once the Celt
had his home, and the gods of the Druid their worship.  And musing
amidst these skeletons of the past, lay the doomed son of Pen-Dragon.

Beside him a kind of throne had been raised with stones, and over it
was spread a tattered and faded velvet pall.  On this throne sat
Aldyth the Queen; and about the royal pair was still that mockery of a
court which the jealous pride of the Celt king retained amidst all the
horrors of carnage and famine.  Most of the officers indeed
(originally in number twenty-four), whose duties attached them to the
king and queen of the Cymry, were already feeding the crow or the
worm.  But still, with gaunt hawk on his wrist, the penhebogydd (grand
falconer) stood at a distance; still, with beard sweeping his breast,
and rod in hand, leant against a projecting shaft of the wall, the
noiseless gosdegwr, whose duty it was to command silence in the King's
hall; and still the penbard bent over his bruised harp, which once had
thrilled, through the fair vaults of Caerleon and Rhaldan, in high
praise of God, and the King, and the Hero Dead.  In the pomp of gold
dish and vessel [165] the board was spread on the stones for the King
and Queen; and on the dish was the last fragment of black bread, and
in the vessel full and clear, the water from the spring that bubbled
up everlastingly through the bones of the dead city.

Beyond this innermost space, round a basin of rock, through which the
stream overflowed as from an artificial conduit, lay the wounded and
exhausted, crawling, turn by turn, to the lips of the basin, and happy
that the thirst of fever saved them from the gnawing desire of food.
A wan and spectral figure glided listlessly to and fro amidst those
mangled, and parched, and dying groups.  This personage, in happier
times, filled the office of physician to the court, and was placed
twelfth in rank amidst the chiefs of the household.  And for cure of
the "three deadly wounds," the cloven skull, or the gaping viscera, or
the broken limb (all three classed alike), large should have been his
fee [166].  But feeless went he now from man to man, with his red
ointment and his muttered charm; and those over whom he shook his lean
face and matted locks, smiled ghastly at that sign that release and
death were near.  Within the enclosures, either lay supine, or stalked
restless, the withered remains of the wild army.  A sheep, and a
horse, and a clog, were yet left them all to share for the day's meal.
And the fire of flickering and crackling brushwood burned bright from
a hollow amidst the loose stones; but the animals were yet unslain,
and the dog crept by the fire, winking at it with dim eyes.

But over the lower part of the wall nearest to the barrow, leant three
men.  The wall there was so broken, that they could gaze over it on
that grotesque yet dismal court; and the eyes of the three men, with a
fierce and wolfish glare, were bent on Gryffyth.

Three princes were they of the great old line; far as Gryffyth they
traced the fabulous honours of their race, to Hu-Gadarn and Prydain,
and each thought it shame that Gryffyth should be lord over him!  Each
had had throne and court of his own; each his "white palace" of peeled
willow wands--poor substitutes, O kings, for the palaces and towers
that the arts of Rome had bequeathed your fathers!  And each had been
subjugated by the son of Llewellyn, when, in his day of might, he re-
united under his sole sway all the multiform principalities of Wales,
and regained, for a moment's splendour, the throne of Roderic the
Great.

"Is it," said Owain, in a hollow whisper, "for yon man, whom heaven
hath deserted, who could not keep his very torque from the gripe of
the Saxon, that we are to die on these hills, gnawing the flesh from
our bones?  Think ye not the hour is come?"

"The hour will come, when the sheep, and the horse, and the dog are
devoured," replied Modred, "and when the whole force, as one man, will
cry to Gryffyth, 'Thou a king!--give us bread!'"

"It is well," said the third, an old man, leaning on a wand of solid
silver, while the mountain wind, sweeping between the walls, played
with the rags of his robe,--"it is well that the night's sally, less
of war than of hunger, was foiled even of forage and food.  Had the
saints been with Gryffyth, who had dared to keep faith with Tostig the
Saxon."

Owain laughed, a laugh hollow and false.

"Art thou Cymrian, and talkest of faith with a Saxon?  Faith with the
spoiler, the ravisher and butcher?  But a Cymrian keeps faith with
revenge; and Gryffyth's trunk should be still crownless and headless,
though Tostig had never proffered the barter of safety and food.
Hist! Gryffyth wakes from the black dream, and his eyes glow from
under his hair."

And indeed at this moment the King raised himself on his elbow, and
looked round with a haggard and fierce despair in his glittering eyes.

"Play to us, Harper; sing some song of the deeds of old!"  The bard
mournfully strove to sweep the harp, but the chords were broken, and
the note came discordant and shrill as the sigh of a wailing fiend.

"O King!" said the bard, "the music hath left the harp."

"Ha!" murmured Gryffyth, "and Hope the earth!  Bard, answer the son of
Llewellyn.  Oft in my halls hast thou sung the praise of the men that
have been.  In the halls of the race to come, will bards yet unborn
sweep their harps to the deeds of thy King?  Shall they tell of the
day of Torques, by Llyn-Afangc, when the princes of Powys fled from
his sword as the clouds from the blast of the wind?  Shall they sing,
as the Hirlas goes round, of his steeds of the sea, when no flag came
in sight of his prows between the dark isle of the Druid [167] and the
green pastures of Huerdan? [168]  Or the towns that he fired, on the
lands of the Saxon, when Rolf and the Nortbmen ran fast from his
javelin and spear?  Or say, Child of Truth, if all that is told of
Gryffyth thy King shall be his woe and his shame?"

The bard swept his hand over his eyes, and answered:

"Bards unborn shall sing of Gryffyth the son of Llewellyn.  But the
song shall not dwell on the pomp of his power, when twenty sub-kings
knelt at his throne, and his beacon was lighted in the holds of the
Norman and Saxon.  Bards shall sing of the hero, who fought every inch
of crag and morass in the front of his men,--and on the heights of
Penmaen-mawr, Fame recovers thy crown!"

"Then I have lived as my fathers in life, and shall live with their
glory in death!" said Gryffyth; "and so the shadow hath passed from my
soul."  Then turning round, still propped upon his elbow, he fixed his
proud eye upon Aldyth, and said gravely, "Wife, pale is thy face, and
gloomy thy brow; mournest thou the throne or the man?"

Aldyth cast on her wild lord a look of more terror than compassion, a
look without the grief that is gentle, or the love that reveres; and
answered:

"What matter to thee my thoughts or my sufferings?  The sword or the
famine is the doom thou hast chosen.  Listening to vain dreams from
thy bard, or thine own pride as idle, thou disdainest life for us
both: be it so; let us die!"

A strange blending of fondness and wrath troubled the pride on
Gryffyth's features, uncouth and half savage as they were, but still
noble and kingly.

"And what terror has death, if thou lovest me?" said he.

Aldyth shivered and turned aside.  The unhappy King gazed hard on that
face, which, despite sore trial and recent exposure to rough wind and
weather, still retained the proverbial beauty of the Saxon women--but
beauty without the glow of the heart, as a landscape from which
sunlight has vanished; and as he gazed, at the colour went and came
fitfully over his swarthy cheeks whose hue contrasted the blue of his
eye and the red tawny gold of his shaggy hair.

"Thou wouldst have me," he said at length, "send to Harold thy
countryman; thou wouldst have me, me--rightful lord of all Britain--
beg for mercy, and sue for life.  Ah, traitress, and child of robber-
sires, fair as Rowena art thou, but no Vortimer am I!  Thou turnest in
loathing from the lord whose marriage-gift was a crown; and the sleek
form of thy Saxon Harold rises up through the clouds of the carnage."

All the fierce and dangerous jealousy of man's most human passion--
when man loves and hates in a breath--trembled in the Cymrian's voice,
and fired his troubled eye; for Aldyth's pale cheek blushed like the
rose, but she folded her arms haughtily on her breast, and made no
reply.

"No," said Gryffyth, grinding teeth, white [169] and strong as those
of a young hound.  "No, Harold in vain sent me the casket; the jewel
was gone.  In vain thy form returned to my side; thy heart was away
with thy captor: and not to save my life (were I so base as to seek
it), but to see once more the face of him to whom this cold hand, in
whose veins no pulse answers my own, had been given, if thy House had
consulted its daughter, wouldst thou have me crouch like a lashed dog
at the feet of my foe!  Oh Shame! shame! shame!  Oh worst perfidy of
all!  Oh sharp--sharper than Saxon sword or serpent's tooth, is--is--"

Tears gushed to those fierce eyes, and the proud King dared not trust
to his voice.

Aldyth rose coldly.  "Slay me if thou wilt--not insult me.  I have
said, 'Let us die!'"

With these words, and vouchsafing no look on her lord, she moved away
towards the largest tower or cell, in which the single and rude
chamber it contained had been set apart for her.

Gryffyth's eye followed her, softening gradually as her form receded,
till lost to his sight.  And then that peculiar household love, which
in uncultivated breasts often survives trust and esteem, rushed back
on his rough heart, and weakened it, as woman only can weaken the
strong to whom Death is a thought of scorn.

He signed to his bard, who, during the conference between wife and
lord, had retired to a distance, and said, with a writhing attempt to
smile:

"Was there truth, thinkest thou, in the legend, that Guenever was
false to King Arthur?"

"No," answered the bard, divining his lord's thought, for Guenever
survived not the King, and they were buried side by side in the Vale
of Avallon."

"Thou art wise in the lore of the heart, and love hath been thy study
from youth to grey hairs.  Is it love, is it hate, that prefers death
for the loved one, to the thought of her life as another's?"  A look
of the tenderest compassion passed over the bard's wan face, but
vanished in reverence, as he bowed his head and answered:

"O King, who shall say what note the wind calls from the harp, what
impulse love wakes in the soul--now soft and now stern?  But," he
added, raising his form, and, with a dread calm on his brow, "but the
love of a king brooks no thought of dishonour; and she who hath laid
her head on his breast should sleep in his grave."

"Thou wilt outlive me," said Gryffyth, abruptly.  "This carn be my
tomb!"

"And if so," said the bard, "thou shalt sleep not alone.  In this carn
what thou lovest best shall be buried by thy side; the bard shall
raise his song over thy grave, and the bosses of shields shall be
placed at intervals, as rises and falls the sound of song.  Over the
grave of two shall a new mound arise, and we will bid the mound speak
to others in the fair days to come.  But distant yet be the hour when
the mighty shall be laid low! and the tongue of thy bard may yet chant
the rush of the lion from the toils and the spears.  Hope still!"

Gryffyth, for answer, leant on the harper's shoulder, and pointed
silently to the sea, that lay, lake-like at the distance, dark-studded
with the Saxon fleet.  Then turning, his hands stretched over the
forms that, hollow-eyed and ghost-like, flitted between the walls, or
lay dying, but mute, around the waterspring.  His hand then dropped,
and rested on the hilt of his sword.

At this moment there was a sudden commotion at the outer entrance of
the wall; the crowd gathered to one spot, and there was a loud hum of
voices.  In a few moments one of the Welch scouts came into the
enclosure, and the chiefs of the royal tribes followed him to the carn
on which the King stood.

"Of what tellest thou?" said Gryffyth, resuming on the instant all the
royalty of his bearing.

"At the mouth of the pass," said the scout, kneeling, "there are a
monk bearing the holy rood, and a chief, unarmed.  And the monk is
Evan, the Cymrian, of Gwentland; and the chief, by his voice, seemeth
not to be Saxon.  The monk bade me give thee these tokens" (and the
scout displayed the broken torque which the King had left in the grasp
of Harold, together with a live falcon belled and blinded), "and bade
me say thus to the King: Harold the Earl greets Gryffyth, son of
Llewellyn, and sends him, in proof of good will, the richest prize he
hath ever won from a foe; and a hawk, from Llandudno;--that bird which
chief and equal give to equal and chief.  And he prays Gryffyth, son
of Llewellyn, for the sake of his realm and his people, to grant
hearing to his nuncius."

A murmur broke from the chiefs--a murmur of joy and surprise from all,
save the three conspirators, who interchanged anxious and fiery
glances.  Gryffyth's hand had already closed, while he uttered a cry
that seemed of rapture, on the collar of gold; for the loss of that
collar had stung him, perhaps more than the loss of the crown of all
Wales.  And his heart, so generous and large, amidst all its rude
passions, was touched by the speech and the tokens that honoured the
fallen outlaw both as foe and as king.  Yet in his face there was
still seen a moody and proud struggle; he paused before he turned to
the chiefs.

"What counsel ye--ye strong in battle, and wise in debate?" said he.

With one voice all, save the Fatal Three, exclaimed: "Hear the monk, O
King!"

"Shall we dissuade?" whispered Modred to the old chief, his
accomplice.

"No; for so doing, we shall offend all:--and we must win all."

Then the bard stepped into the ring.  And the ring was hushed, for
wise is ever the counsel of him whose book is the human heart.

"Hear the Saxons," said he, briefly, and with an air of command when
addressing others, which contrasted strongly his tender respect to the
King; "hear the Saxons, but not in these walls.  Let no man from the
foe see our strength or our weakness.  We are still mighty and
impregnable, while our dwelling is in the realm of the Unknown.  Let
the King, and his officers of state, and his chieftains of battle,
descend to the pass.  And behind, at the distance, let the spearmen
range from cliff to cliff, as a ladder of steel; so will their numbers
seem the greater."

"Thou speakest well," said the King.

Meanwhile the knight and the monk waited below at that terrible pass
[170], which then lay between mountain and river, and over which the
precipices frowned, with a sense of horror and weight.  Looking up,
the knight murmured:

"With those stones and crags to roll down on a marching army, the
place well defies storm and assault; and a hundred on the height would
overmatch thousands below."

He then turned to address a few words, with all the far-famed courtesy
of Norman and Frank, to the Welch guards at the outpost.  They were
picked men; the strongest and best armed and best fed of the group.
But they shook their heads and answered not, gazing at him fiercely,
and showing their white teeth, as dogs at a bear before they are
loosened from the band.

"They understand me not, poor languageless savages!" said Mallet de
Graville, turning to the monk, who stood by with the lifted rood;
"speak to them in their own jargon."

"Nay," said the Welch monk, who, though of a rival tribe from South
Wales, and at the service of Harold, was esteemed throughout the land
for piety and learning, "they will not open mouth till the King's
orders come to receive or dismiss us unheard."

"Dismiss us unheard!" repeated the punctilious Norman; "even this poor
barbarous King can scarcely be so strange to all comely and gentle
usage, as to put such insult on Guillaume Mallet de Graville.  But,"
added the knight, colouring, "I forgot that he is not advised of my
name and land; and, indeed, sith thou art to be spokesman, I marvel
why Harold should have prayed my service at all, at the risk of
subjecting a Norman knight to affronts contumelious."

"Peradventure," replied Evan, "peradventure thou hast something to
whisper apart to the King, which, as stranger and warrior, none will
venture to question; but which from me, as countryman and priest,
would excite the jealous suspicions of those around him."

"I conceive thee," said De Graville.  "And see, spears are gleaming
down the path; and per pedes Domini, yon chief with the mantle, and
circlet of gold on his head, is the cat-king that so spitted and
scratched in the melee last night."

"Heed well thy tongue," said Evan, alarmed; "no jests with the leader
of men."

"Knowest thou, good monk, that a facete and most gentil Roman (if the
saintly writer from whom I take the citation reports aright--for,
alas! I know not where myself to purchase, or to steal, one copy of
Horatius Flaccus) hath said 'Dulce est desipere in loco.'  It is sweet
to jest, but not within reach of claws, whether of kaisars or cats."

Therewith the knight drew up his spare but stately figure, and
arranging his robe with grace and dignity, awaited the coming chief.

Down the paths, one by one, came first the chiefs, privileged by birth
to attend the King; and each, as he reached the mouth of the pass,
drew on the upper side, among the stones of the rough ground.  Then a
banner, tattered and torn, with the lion ensign that the Welch princes
had substituted for the old national dragon, which the Saxon of Wessex
had appropriated to themselves [171], preceded the steps of the King.
Behind him came his falconer and bard, and the rest of his scanty
household.  The King halted in the pass, a few steps from the Norman
knight; and Mallet de Graville, though accustomed to the majestic mien
of Duke William, and the practised state of the princes of France and
Flanders, felt an involuntary thrill of admiration at the bearing of
the great child of Nature with his foot on his father's soil.

Small and slight as was his stature, worn and ragged his mantle of
state, there was that in the erect mien and steady eye of the Cymrian
hero, which showed one conscious of authority, and potent in will; and
the wave of his hand to the knight was the gesture of a prince on his
throne.  Nor, indeed, was that brave and ill-fated chief without some
irregular gleams of mental cultivation, which under happier auspices,
might have centred into steadfast light.  Though the learning which
had once existed in Wales (the last legacy of Rome) had long since
expired in broil and blood, and youths no longer flocked to the
colleges of Caerleon, and priests no longer adorned the casuistical
theology of the age, Gryffyth himself, the son of a wise and famous
father [172], had received an education beyond the average of Saxon
kings.  But, intensely national, his mind had turned from all other
literature, to the legends, and songs, and chronicles of his land; and
if he is the best scholar who best understands his own tongue and its
treasures, Gryffyth was the most erudite prince of his age.

His natural talents, for war especially, were considerable; and judged
fairly--not as mated with an empty treasury, without other army than
the capricious will of his subjects afforded, and amidst his bitterest
foes in the jealous chiefs of his own country, against the disciplined
force and comparative civilisation of the Saxon--but as compared with
all the other princes of Wales, in warfare, to which he was
habituated, and in which chances were even, the fallen son of
Llewellyn had been the most renowned leader that Cymry had known since
the death of the great Roderic.

So there he stood; his attendants ghastly with famine, drawn up on the
unequal ground; above, on the heights, and rising from the stone
crags, long lines of spears artfully placed; and, watching him with
deathful eyes, somewhat in his rear, the Traitor Three.

"Speak, father, or chief," said the Welch King in his native tongue;
"what would Harold the Earl of Gryffyth the King?"

Then the monk took up the word and spoke.

"Health to Gryffyth-ap-Llewellyn, his chiefs and his people!  Thus
saith Harold, King Edward's thegn:  By land all the passes are
watched; by sea all the waves are our own.  Our swords rest in our
sheaths; but famine marches each hour to gride and to slay.  Instead
of sure death from the hunger, take sure life from the foe.  Free
pardon to all, chiefs and people, and safe return to their homes,--
save Gryffyth alone.  Let him come forth, not as victim and outlaw,
not with bent form and clasped hands, but as chief meeting chief, with
his household of state.  Harold will meet him, in honour, at the gates
of the fort.  Let Gryffyth submit to King Edward, and ride with Harold
to the Court of the Basileus.  Harold promises him life, and will
plead for his pardon.  And though the peace of this realm, and the
fortune of war, forbid Harold to say, 'Thou shalt yet be a king;' yet
thy crown, son of Llewellyn, shall at least be assured in the line of
thy fathers, and the race of Cadwallader shall still reign in Cymry."

The monk paused, and hope and joy were in the faces of the famished
chiefs; while two of the Traitor Three suddenly left their post, and
sped to tell the message to the spearmen and multitudes above.
Modred, the third conspirator, laid his hand on his hilt, and stole
near to see the face of the King;--the face of the King was dark and
angry, as a midnight of storm.

Then, raising the cross on high, Evan resumed.

"And I, though of the people of Gwentland, which the arms of Gryffyth
have wasted, and whose prince fell beneath Gryffyth's sword on the
hearth of his hall--I, as God's servant, the brother of all I behold,
and, as son of the soil, mourning over the slaughter of its latest
defenders--I, by this symbol of love and command, which I raise to the
heaven, adjure thee, O King, to give ear to the mission of peace,--to
cast down the grim pride of earth.  And instead of the crown of a day,
fix thy hopes on the crown everlasting.  For much shall be pardoned to
thee in thine hour of pomp and of conquest, if now thou savest from
doom and from death the last lives over which thou art lord."

It was during this solemn appeal that the knight, marking the sign
announced to him, and drawing close to Gryffyth, pressed the ring into
the King's hand, and whispered:

"Obey by this pledge.  Thou knowest Harold is true, and thy head is
sold by thine own people."

The King cast a haggard eye at the speaker, and then at the ring, over
which his hand closed with a convulsive spasm.  And at that dread
instant the man prevailed over the King; and far away from people and
monk, from adjuration and duty, fled his heart on the wings of the
storm--fled to the cold wife he distrusted: and the pledge that should
assure him of life, seemed as a love-token insulting his fall:--Amidst
all the roar of roused passions, loudest of all was the hiss of the
jealous fiend.

As the monk ceased, the thrill of the audience was perceptible, and a
deep silence was followed by a general murmur, as if to constrain the
King.

Then the pride of the despot chief rose up to second the wrath of the
suspecting man.  The red spot flushed the dark cheek, and he tossed
the neglected hair from his brow.

He made one stride towards the monk, and said, in a voice loud, and
deep, and slow, rolling far up the hill:

"Monk, thou hast said; and now hear the reply of the son of Llewellyn,
the true heir of Roderic the Great, who from the heights of Eryri saw
all the lands of the Cymrian sleeping under the dragon of Uther.  King
was I born, and king will I die.  I will not ride by the side of the
Saxon to the feet of Edward, the son of the spoiler.  I will not, to
purchase base life, surrender the claim, vain before men and the hour,
but solemn before God and posterity--the claim of my line and my
people.  All Britain is ours--all the island of Pines.  And the
children of Hengist are traitors and rebels--not the heirs of
Ambrosius and Uther.  Say to Harold the Saxon, Ye have left us but the
tomb of the Druid and the hills of the eagle; but freedom and royalty
are ours, in life and in death--not for you to demand them, not for us
to betray.  Nor fear ye, O my chiefs, few, but unmatched in glory and
truth; fear not ye to perish by the hunger thus denounced as our doom,
on these heights that command the fruits of our own fields!  No, die
we may, but not mute and revengeless.  Go back, whispering warrior; go
back, false son of Cymry--and tell Harold to look well to his walls
and his trenches.  We will vouchsafe him grace for his grace--we will
not take him by surprise, nor under cloud of the night.  With the
gleam of our spears and the clash of our shields, we will come from
the hill: and, famine-worn as he deems us, hold a feast in his walls
which the eagles of Snowdon spread their pinions to share!"

"Rash man and unhappy!" cried the monk; "what curse drawest thou down
on thy head!  Wilt thou be the murtherer of thy men, in strife
unavailing and vain?  Heaven holds thee guilty of all the blood thou
shalt cause to be shed."

"Be dumb!--hush thy screech, lying raven!" exclaimed Gryffyth, his
eyes darting fire and, his slight form dilating.  "Once, priest and
monk went before us to inspire, not to daunt; and our cry, Alleluia!
was taught us by the saints of the Church, on the day when Saxons,
fierce and many as Harold's, fell on the field of Maes-Garmon.  No,
the curse is on the head of the invader, not on those who defend
hearth and altar.  Yea, as the song to the bard, the CURSE leaps
through my veins, and rushes forth from my lips.  By the land they
have ravaged; by the gore they have spilt; on these crags, our last
refuge; below the carn on yon heights, where the Dead stir to hear
me,--I launch the curse of the wronged and the doomed on the children
of Hengist!  They in turn shall know the steel of the stranger--their
crown shall be shivered as glass, and their nobles be as slaves in the
land.  And the line of Hengist and Cerdic shall be rased from the roll
of empire.  And the ghosts of our fathers shall glide, appeased, over
the grave of their nation.  But we--WE, though weak in the body, in
the soul shall be strong to the last!  The ploughshare may pass over
our cities, but the soil shall be trod by our steps, and our deeds
keep our language alive in the songs of our bards.  Nor in the great
Judgment Day, shall any race but the race of Cymry rise from their
graves in this corner of earth, to answer for the sins of the brave!"
[173]

So impressive the voice, so grand the brow, and sublime the wild
gesture of the King, as he thus spoke, that not only the monk himself
was awed; not only, though he understood not the words, did the Norman
knight bow his head, as a child when the lightning he fears as by
instinct flashes out from the cloud,--but even the sullen and wide-
spreading discontent at work among most of the chiefs was arrested for
a moment.  But the spearmen and multitude above, excited by the
tidings of safety to life, and worn out by repeated defeat, and the
dread fear of famine, too remote to hear the King, were listening
eagerly to the insidious addresses of the two stealthy conspirators,
creeping from rank to rank; and already they began to sway and move,
and sweep slowly down towards the King.

Recovering his surprise, the Norman again neared Gryffyth, and began
to re-urge his mission of peace.  But the chief waved him back
sternly, and said aloud, though in Saxon:

"No secrets can pass between Harold and me.  This much alone, take
thou back as answer: I thank the Earl, for myself, my Queen, and my
people.  Noble have been his courtesies, as foe; as foe I thank him--
as king, defy.  The torque he hath returned to my hand, he shall see
again ere the sun set.  Messengers, ye are answered.  Withdraw, and
speed fast, that we may pass not your steps on the road."

The monk sighed, and cast a look of holy compassion over the circle;
and a pleased man was he to see in the faces of most there, that the
King was alone in his fierce defiance.  Then lifting again the rood,
he turned away, and with him went the Norman.

The retirement of the messengers was the signal for one burst of
remonstrance from the chiefs--the signal for the voice and the deeds
of the Fatal Three.  Down from the heights sprang and rushed the angry
and turbulent multitudes; round the King came the bard and the
falconer, and some faithful few.

The great uproar of many voices caused the monk and the knight to
pause abruptly in their descent, and turn to look behind.  They could
see the crowd rushing down from the higher steeps; but on the spot
itself which they had so lately left, the nature of the ground only
permitted a confused view of spear points, lifted swords, and heads
crowned with shaggy locks, swaying to and fro.

"What means all this commotion?" asked the knight, with his hand on
his sword.

"Hist!" said the monk, pale as ashes, and leaning for support upon the
cross.

Suddenly, above the hubbub, was heard the voice of the King, in
accents of menace and wrath, singularly distinct and clear; it was
followed by a moment's silence--a moment's silence followed by the
clatter of arms, a yell, and a howl, and the indescribable shock of
men.

And suddenly again was heard a voice that seemed that of the King, but
no longer distinct and clear!--was it laugh?--was it groan?

All was hushed; the monk was on his knees in prayer; the knight's
sword was bare in his hand.  All was hushed--and the spears stood
still in the air; when there was again a cry, as multitudinous, but
less savage than before.  And the Welch came down the pass, and down
the crags.

The knight placed his back to a rock.  "They have orders to murther
us," he murmured; "but woe to the first who come within reach of my
sword!"

Down swarmed the Welchmen, nearer and nearer; and in the midst of them
three chiefs--the Fatal Three.  And the old chief bore in his hand a
pole or spear, and on the top of that spear, trickling gore step by
step, was the trunkless head of Gryffyth the King.

"This," said the old chief, as he drew near, "this is our answer to
Harold the Earl.  We will go with ye."

"Food! food!" cried the multitude.

And the three chiefs (one on either side the trunkless head that the
third bore aloft) whispered, "We are avenged!"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Harold : the Last of the Saxon Kings — Volume 07" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home