Hereward, the Last of the English (Hereward the Wake), by Charles Kingsley

Chapter 11.

How the Hollanders Took Hereward for a Magician.

Of this weary Holland war which dragged itself on, campaign after campaign, for several years, what need to tell? There was, doubtless, the due amount of murder, plunder, burning, and worse; and the final event was certain from the beginning. It was a struggle between civilized and disciplined men, armed to the teeth, well furnished with ships and military engines, against poor simple folk in “felt coats stiffened with tar or turpentine, or in very short jackets of hide,” says the chronicler, “who fought by threes, two with a crooked lance and three darts each, and between them a man with a sword or an axe, who held his shield before those two; — a very great multitude, but in composition utterly undisciplined,” who came down to the sea-coast, with carts and wagons, to carry off the spoils of the Flemings, and bade them all surrender at discretion, and go home again after giving up Count Robert and Hereward, with the “tribunes of the brigades,” to be put to death, as valiant South Sea islanders might have done; and then found themselves as sheep to the slaughter before the cunning Hereward, whom they esteemed a magician on account of his craft and his invulnerable armor.

So at least says Leofric’s paraphrast, who tells long, confused stories of battles and campaigns, some of them without due regard to chronology; for it is certain that the brave Frisians could not on Robert’s first landing have “feared lest they should be conquered by foreigners, as they had heard the English were by the French,” because that event had not then happened.

And so much for the war among the Meres of Scheldt.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44