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

Chapter 18.

How Earl Godwin’s Widow Came to St. Omer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the same rational and prudent policy, William respected the fallen royal families, both of Harold and of Edward; at least, he warred not against women; and the wealth and influence of the great English ladies was enormous. Edith, sister of Harold, and widow of the Confessor, lived in wealth and honor at Winchester. Gyda, Harold’s mother, retained Exeter and her land. Aldytha, 20 or Elfgiva, sister of Edwin and Morcar, niece of Hereward, and widow, first of Griffin of Wales, and then of Harold, lived rich and safe in Chester. Godiva, the Countess, owned, so antiquarians say, manors from Cheshire to Lincolnshire, which would be now yearly worth the income of a great duke. Agatha, the Hungarian, widow of Edmund the outlaw, dwelt at Romsey, in Hampshire, under William’s care. Her son, Edward Etheling, the rightful heir of England, was treated by William not only with courtesy, but with affection; and allowed to rebel, when he did rebel, with impunity. For the descendant of Rollo, the heathen Viking, had become a civilized, chivalrous, Christian knight. His mighty forefather would have split the Etheling’s skull with his own axe. A Frank king would have shaved the young man’s head, and immersed him in a monastery. An eastern sultan would have thrust out his eyes, or strangled him at once. But William, however cruel, however unscrupulous, had a knightly heart, and somewhat of a Christian conscience; and his conduct to his only lawful rival is a noble trait amid many sins.

20 See her history, told as none other can tell it, in Bulwer’s “Harold.”

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

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

For now broke out in England that wrong-doing, which endured as long as she was a mere appanage and foreign farm of Norman kings, whose hearts and homes were across the seas in France. Fitz–Osbern, and Odo the warrior-prelate, William’s half-brother, had been left as his regents in England. Little do they seem to have cared for William’s promise to the English people that they were to be ruled still by the laws of Edward the Confessor, and that where a grant of land was made to a Norman, he was to hold it as the Englishman had done before him, with no heavier burdens on himself, but with no heavier burdens on the poor folk who tilled the land for him. Oppression began, lawlessness, and violence; men were ill-treated on the highways; and women — what was worse — in their own homes; and the regents abetted the ill-doers. “It seems,” says a most impartial historian, 21 “as if the Normans, released from all authority, all restraint, all fear of retaliation, determined to reduce the English nation to servitude, and drive them to despair.”

21 The late Sir F. Palgrave.

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

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

These things Gospatrick watched, as earl (so far as he could make any one obey him in the utter subversion of all order) of the lands between Forth and Tyne. And he determined to flee, ere evil befell him, to his cousin Malcolm Canmore, taking with him Marlesweyn of Lincolnshire, who had fought, it is said, by Harold’s side at Hastings, and young Waltheof of York. But, moreover, having a head, and being indeed, as his final success showed, a man of ability and courage, he determined on a stroke of policy, which had incalculable after-effects on the history of Scotland. He persuaded Agatha the Hungarian, Margaret and Christina her daughters, and Edgar the Etheling himself, to flee with him to Scotland. How he contrived to send them messages to Romsey, far south in Hampshire; how they contrived to escape to the Humber, and thence up to the Forth; this is a romance in itself, of which the chroniclers have left hardly a hint. But the thing was done; and at St. Margaret’s Hope, as tradition tells, the Scottish king met, and claimed as his unwilling bride, that fair and holy maiden who was destined to soften his fierce passions, to civilize and purify his people, and to become — if all had their just dues — the true patron saint of Scotland.

Malcolm Canmore promised a mighty army; Sweyn, a mighty fleet. And meanwhile, Eustace of Boulogne, the Confessor’s brother-in-law, himself a Norman, rebelled at the head of the down-trodden men of Kent; and the Welshmen were harrying Herefordshire with fire and sword, in revenge for Norman ravages.

But as yet the storm did not burst. William returned, and with him something like order. He conquered Exeter; he destroyed churches and towns to make his New Forest. He brought over his Queen Matilda with pomp and great glory; and with her, the Bayeux tapestry which she had wrought with her own hands; and meanwhile Sweyn Ulfsson was too busy threatening Olaf Haroldsson, the new king of Norway, to sail for England; and the sons of King Harold of England had to seek help from the Irish Danes, and, ravaging the country round Bristol, be beaten off by the valiant burghers with heavy loss.

So the storm did not burst; and need not have burst, it may be, at all, had William kept his plighted word. But he would not give his fair daughter to Edwin. His Norman nobles, doubtless, looked upon such an alliance as debasing to a civilized lady. In their eyes, the Englishman was a barbarian; and though the Norman might well marry the Englishwoman, if she had beauty or wealth, it was a dangerous precedent to allow the Englishman to marry the Norman woman, and that woman a princess. Beside, there were those who coveted Edwin’s broad lands; Roger de Montgomery, who already (it is probable) held part of them as Earl of Shrewsbury, had no wish to see Edwin the son-in-law of his sovereign. Be the cause what it may, William faltered, and refused; and Edwin and Morcar left the Court of Westminster in wrath. Waltheof followed them, having discovered — what he was weak enough continually to forget again — the treachery of the Norman. The young earls went off, one midlandward, one northward. The people saw their wrongs in those of their earls, and the rebellion burst forth at once, the Welsh under Blethyn, and the Cumbrians under Malcolm and Donaldbain, giving their help in the struggle.

It was the year 1069. A more evil year for England than even the year of Hastings.

The rebellion was crushed in a few months. The great general marched steadily north, taking the boroughs one by one, storming, massacring young and old, burning, sometimes, whole towns, and leaving, as he went on, a new portent, a Norman donjon — till then all but unseen in England — as a place of safety for his garrisons. At Oxford (sacked horribly, and all but destroyed), at Warwick (destroyed utterly), at Nottingham, at Stafford, at Shrewsbury, at Cambridge, on the huge barrow which overhangs the fen; and at York itself, which had opened its gates, trembling, to the great Norman strategist; at each doomed free borough rose a castle, with its tall square tower within, its bailey around, and all the appliances of that ancient Roman science of fortification, of which the Danes, as well as the Saxons, knew nothing. Their struggle had only helped to tighten their bonds; and what wonder? There was among them neither unity nor plan nor governing mind and will. Hereward’s words had come true. The only man, save Gospatrick, who had a head in England, was Harold Godwinsson: and he lay in Waltham Abbey, while the monks sang masses for his soul.

Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof trembled before a genius superior to their own — a genius, indeed, which had not its equal then in Christendom. They came in and begged grace of the king. They got it. But Edwin’s earldom was forfeited, and he and his brother became, from thenceforth, desperate men.

Malcolm of Scotland trembled likewise, and asked for peace. The clans, it is said, rejoiced thereat, having no wish for a war which could buy them neither spoil nor land. Malcolm sent ambassadors to William, and took that oath of fealty to the “Basileus of Britain,” which more than one Scottish king and kinglet had taken before — with the secret proviso (which, during the Middle Ages, seems to have been thoroughly understood in such cases by both parties), that he should be William’s man just as long as William could compel him to be so, and no longer.

Then came cruel and unjust confiscations. Ednoth the standard-bearer had fallen at Bristol, fighting for William against the Haroldssons, yet all his lands were given away to Normans. Edwin and Morcar’s lands were parted likewise; and — to specify cases which bear especially on the history of Hereward — Oger the Briton got many of Morcar’s manors round Bourne, and Gilbert of Ghent many belonging to Marlesweyn about Lincoln city. And so did that valiant and crafty knight find his legs once more on other men’s ground, and reappears in monkish story as “the most devout and pious earl, Gilbert of Ghent.”

What followed, Hereward heard not from flying rumors; but from one who had seen and known and judged of all. 22

For one day, about this time, Hereward was riding out of the gate of St. Omer, when the porter appealed to him. Begging for admittance were some twenty women, and a clerk or two; and they must needs see the châtelain. The châtelain was away. What should he do?

22 For Gyda’s coming to St. Omer that year, see Ordericus Vitalis.

Hereward looked at the party, and saw, to his surprise, that they were Englishwomen, and two of them women of rank, to judge from the rich materials of their travel-stained and tattered garments. The ladies rode on sorry country garrons, plainly hired from the peasants who drove them. The rest of the women had walked; and weary and footsore enough they were.

“You are surely Englishwomen?” asked he of the foremost, as he lifted his cap.

The lady bowed assent, beneath a heavy veil.

“Then you are my guests. Let them pass in.” And Hereward threw himself off his horse, and took the lady’s bridle.

“Stay,” she said, with an accent half Wessex, half Danish. “I seek the Countess Judith, if it will please you to tell me where she lives.”

“The Countess Judith, lady, lives no longer in St. Omer. Since her husband’s death, she lives with her mother at Bruges.”

The lady made a gesture of disappointment.

“It were best for you, therefore, to accept my hospitality, till such time as I can send you and your ladies on to Bruges.”

“I must first know who it is who offers me hospitality?”

This was said so proudly, that Hereward answered proudly enough in return —

“I am Hereward Leofricsson, whom his foes call Hereward the outlaw, and his friends Hereward the master of knights.”

She started, and threw her veil hack, looking intently at him. He, for his part, gave but one glance, and then cried —

“Mother of Heaven! You are the great Countess!”

“Yes, I was that woman once, if all be not a dream. I am now I know not what, seeking hospitality — if I can believe my eyes and ears — of Godiva’s son.”

“And from Godiva’s son you shall have it, as though you were Godiva’s self. God so deal with my mother, madam, as I will deal with you.”

“His father’s wit, and his mother’s beauty!” said the great Countess, looking upon him. “Too, too like my own lost Harold!”

“Not so, my lady. I am a dwarf compared to him.” And Hereward led the garron on by the bridle, keeping his cap in hand, while all wondered who the dame could be, before whom Hereward the champion would so abase himself.

“Leofric’s son does me too much honor. He has forgotten, in his chivalry, that I am Godwin’s widow.”

“I have not forgotten that you are Sprakaleg’s daughter, and niece of Canute, king of kings. Neither have I forgotten that you are an English lady, in times in which all English folk are one, and all old English feuds are wiped away.”

“In English blood. Ah! if these last words of yours were true, as you, perhaps, might make them true, England might be saved even yet.”

“Saved?”

“If there were one man in it, who cared for aught but himself.”

Hereward was silent and thoughtful.

He had sent Martin back to his house, to tell Torfrida to prepare bath and food; for the Countess Gyda, with all her train, was coming to be her guest. And when they entered the court, Torfrida stood ready.

“Is this your lady?” asked Gyda, as Hereward lifted her from her horse.

“I am his lady, and your servant,” said Torfrida, bowing.

“Child! child! Bow not to me. Talk not of servants to a wretched slave, who only longs to crawl into some hole and die, forgetting all she was and all she had.”

And the great Countess reeled with weariness and woe, and fell upon Torfrida’s neck.

A tall veiled lady next her helped to support her; and between them they almost carried her through the hall, and into Torfrida’s best guest-chamber.

And there they gave her wine, and comforted her, and let her weep awhile in peace.

The second lady had unveiled herself, displaying a beauty which was still brilliant, in spite of sorrow, hunger, the stains of travel, and more than forty years of life.

“She must be Gunhilda,” guessed Torfrida to herself, and not amiss.

She offered Gyda a bath, which she accepted eagerly, like a true Dane.

“I have not washed for weeks. Not since we sat starving on the Flat–Holme there, in the Severn sea. I have become as foul as my own fortunes: and why not? It is all of a piece. Why should not beggars beg unwashed?”

But when Torfrida offered Gunhilda the bath she declined.

“I have done, lady, with such carnal vanities. What use in cleansing that body which is itself unclean, and whitening the outside of this sepulchre? If I can but cleanse my soul fit for my heavenly Bridegroom, the body may become — as it must at last — food for worms.”

“She will needs enter religion, poor child,” said Gyda; “and what wonder?”

“I have chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from me.”

“Taken! taken! Hark to her! She means to mock me, the proud nun, with that same ‘taken.’”

“God forbid, mother!”

“Then why say taken, to me from whom all is taken? — husband, sons, wealth, land, renown, power — power which I loved, wretch that I was, as well as husband and as sons? Ah God! the girl is right. Better to rot in the convent, than writhe in the world. Better never to have had, than to have had and lost.”

“Amen!” said Gunhilda. “‘Blessed are the barren, and they that never gave suck,’ saith the Lord.”

“No! Not so!” cried Torfrida. “Better, Countess, to have had and lost, than never to have had at all. The glutton was right, swine as he was, when he said that not even Heaven could take from him the dinners he had eaten. How much more we, if we say, not even Heaven can take from us the love wherewith we have loved. Will not our souls be richer thereby, through all eternity?”

“In Purgatory?” asked Gunhilda.

“In Purgatory, or where else you will. I love my love; and though my love prove false, he has been true; though he trample me under foot, he has held me in his bosom; though he kill me, he has lived for me. What I have had will still be mine, when that which I have shall fail me.”

“And you would buy short joy with lasting woe?”

“That would I, like a brave man’s child. I say — the present is mine, and I will enjoy it, as greedily as a child. Let the morrow take thought for the things of itself. — Countess, your bath is ready.”

Nineteen years after, when the great conqueror lay, tossing with agony and remorse, upon his dying bed, haunted by the ghosts of his victims, the clerks of St. Saviour’s in Bruges city were putting up a leaden tablet (which remains, they say, unto this very day) to the memory of one whose gentle soul had gently passed away. “Charitable to the poor, kind and agreeable to her attendants, courteous to strangers, and only severe to herself,” Gunhilda had lingered on in a world of war and crime; and had gone, it may be, to meet Torfrida beyond the grave, and there finish their doubtful argument.

The Countess was served with food in Torfrida’s chamber. Hereward and his wife refused to sit, and waited on her standing.

“I wish to show these saucy Flemings,” said he, “that an English princess is a princess still in the eyes of one more nobly born than any of them.”

But after she had eaten, she made Torfrida sit before her on the bed, and Hereward likewise; and began to talk; eagerly, as one who had not unburdened her mind for many weeks; and eloquently too, as became Sprakaleg’s daughter and Godwin’s wife.

She told them how she had fled from the storm of Exeter, with a troop of women, who dreaded the brutalities of the Normans. 23 How they had wandered up through Devon, found fishers’ boats at Watchet in Somersetshire, and gone off to the little desert island of the Flat–Holme, in hopes of there meeting with the Irish fleet, which her sons, Edmund and Godwin, were bringing against the West of England. How the fleet had never come, and they had starved for many days; and how she had bribed a passing merchantman to take her and her wretched train to the land of Baldwin the Débonnaire, who might have pity on her for the sake of his daughter Judith, and Tosti her husband who died in his sins.

23 To do William justice, he would not allow his men to enter the city while they were blood-hot; and so prevented, as far as he could, the excesses which Gyda had feared.

And at his name, her tears began to flow afresh; fallen in his overweening pride — like Sweyn, like Harold, like herself —

“The time was, when I would not weep. If I could, I would not. For a year, lady, after Senlac, I sat like a stone. I hardened my heart like a wall of brass, against God and man. Then, there upon the Flat–Holme, feeding on shell-fish, listening to the wail of the sea-fowl, looking outside the wan water for the sails which never came, my heart broke down in a moment. And I heard a voice crying, ‘There is no help in man, go thou to God.’ And I answered, That were a beggar’s trick, to go to God in need, when I went not to him in plenty. No. Without God I planned, and without Him I must fail. Without Him I went into the battle, and without Him I must bide the brunt. And at best, Can He give me back my sons? And I hardened my heart again like a stone, and shed no tear till I saw your fair face this day.”

“And now!” she said, turning sharply on Hereward, “what do you do here? Do you not know that your nephews’ lands are parted between grooms from Angers and scullions from Normandy?”

“So much the worse for both them and the grooms.”

“Sir?”

“You forget, lady, that I am an outlaw.”

“But do you not know that your mother’s lands are seized likewise?”

“She will take refuge with her grandsons, who are, as I hear, again on good terms with their new master, showing thereby a most laudable and Christian spirit of forgiveness.”

“On good terms? Do you not know, then, that they are fighting again, outlaws, and desperate at the Frenchman’s treachery? Do you not know that they have been driven out of York, after defending the city street by street, house by house? Do you not know that there is not an old man or a child in arms left in York; and that your nephews, and the few fighting men who were left, went down the Humber in boats, and north to Scotland, to Gospatrick and Waltheof? Do you not know that your mother is left alone — at Bourne, or God knows where — to endure at the hands of Norman ruffians what thousands more endure?”

Hereward made no answer, but played with his dagger.

“And do you not know that England is ready to burst into a blaze, if there be one man wise enough to put the live coal into the right place? That Sweyn Ulffson, his kinsman, or Osbern, his brother, will surely land there within the year with a mighty host? And that if there be one man in England of wit enough, and knowledge enough of war, to lead the armies of England, the Frenchman may be driven into the sea — Is there any here who understands English?”

“None but ourselves.”

“And Canute’s nephew sit on Canute’s throne?”

Hereward still played with his dagger.

“Not the sons of Harold, then?” asked he, after a while.

“Never! I promise you that — I, Countess Gyda, their grandmother.”

“Why promise me, of all men, O great lady?”

“Because — I will tell you after. But this I say, my curse on the grandson of mine who shall try to seize that fatal crown, which cost the life of my fairest, my noblest, my wisest, my bravest!”

Hereward bowed his head, as if consenting to the praise of Harold. But he knew who spoke; and he was thinking within himself: “Her curse may be on him who shall seize, and yet not on him to whom it is given.”

“All that they, young and unskilful lads, have a right to ask is, their father’s earldoms and their father’s lands. Edwin and Morcar would keep their earldoms as of right. It is a pity that there is no lady of the house of Godwin, whom we could honor by offering her to one of your nephews, in return for their nobleness in giving Aldytha to my Harold. But this foolish girl here refuses to wed —”

“And is past forty,” thought Hereward to himself.

“However, some plan to join the families more closely together might be thought of. One of the young earls might marry Judith here. 24 Waltheof would have Northumbria, in right of his father, and ought to be well content — for although she is somewhat older than he, she is peerlessly beautiful — to marry your niece Aldytha.” 25

24 Tosti’s widow, daughter of Baldwin of Flanders

25 Harold’s widow.

“And Gospatrick?”

“Gospatrick,” she said, with a half-sneer, “will be as sure, as he is able, to get something worth having for himself out of any medley. Let him have Scotch Northumbria, if he claim it. He is a Dane, and our work will be to make a Danish England once and forever.”

“But what of Sweyn’s gallant holders and housecarles, who are to help to do this mighty deed?”

“Senlac left gaps enough among the noblemen of the South, which they can fill up, in the place of the French scum who now riot over Wessex. And if that should not suffice, what higher honor for me, or for my daughter the Queen–Dowager, than to devote our lands to the heroes who have won them back for us?”

Hereward hoped inwardly that Gyda would be as good as her word; for her greedy grasp had gathered to itself, before the Battle of Hastings, no less than six-and-thirty thousand acres of good English soil.

“I have always heard,” said he, bowing, “that if the Lady Gyda had been born a man, England would have had another all-seeing and all-daring statesman, and Earl Godwin a rival, instead of a helpmate. Now I believe what I have heard.”

But Torfrida looked sadly at the Countess. There was something pitiable in the sight of a woman ruined, bereaved, seemingly hopeless, portioning out the very land from which she was a fugitive; unable to restrain the passion for intrigue, which had been the toil and the bane of her sad and splendid life.

“And now,” she went on, “surely some kind saint brought me, even on my first landing, to you of all living men.”

“Doubtless the blessed St. Bertin, beneath whose shadow we repose here in peace,” said Hereward, somewhat dryly.

“I will go barefoot to his altar tomorrow, and offer my last jewel,” said Gunhilda.

“You,” said Gyda, without noticing her daughter, “are, above all men, the man who is needed.” And she began praising Hereward’s valor, his fame, his eloquence, his skill as a general and engineer; and when he suggested, smiling, that he was an exile and an outlaw, she insisted that he was all the fitter from that very fact. He had no enemies among the nobles. He had been mixed up in none of the civil wars and blood feuds of the last fifteen years. He was known only as that which he was, the ablest captain of his day — the only man who could cope with William, the only man whom all parties in England would alike obey.

And so, with flattery as well as with truth, she persuaded, if not Hereward, at least Torfrida, that he was the man destined to free England once more; and that an earldom — anything which he chose to ask — would be the sure reward of his assistance.

“Torfrida,” said Hereward that night, “kiss me well; for you will not kiss me again for a while.”

“What?”

“I am going to England tomorrow.”

“Alone?”

“Alone. I and Martin to spy out the land; and a dozen or so of housecarles to take care of the ship in harbor.”

“But you have promised to fight the Viscount of Pinkney.”

“I will be back again in time for him. Not a word — I must go to England, or go mad.”

“But Countess Gyda? Who will squire her to Bruges?”

“You, and the rest of my men. You must tell her all. She has a woman’s heart, and will understand. And tell Baldwin I shall be back within the month, if I am alive on land or water.”

“Hereward, Hereward, the French will kill you!”

“Not while I have your armor on. Peace, little fool! Are you actually afraid for Hereward at last?”

“O heavens! when am I not afraid for you!” and she cried herself to sleep upon his bosom. But she knew that it was the right, and knightly, and Christian thing to do.

Two days after, a long ship ran out of Calais, and sailed away north and east.

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