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Kingsley, Charles / Hereward, the Last of the English
Produced by Anne Soulard, Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon,
S.R.Ellison and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




HEREWARD,
THE LAST OF THE ENGLISH.

BY
CHARLES KINGSLEY




CONTENTS.


PRELUDE

CHAPTER
I. HOW HEREWARD WAS OUTLAWED, AND WENT NORTH TO SEEK HIS FORTUNES

II. HOW HEREWARD SLEW THE BEAR

III. HOW HEREWARD SUCCORED A PRINCESS OF CORNWALL

IV. HOW HEREWARD TOOK SERVICE WITH RANALD, KING OF WATERFORD

V. HOW HEREWARD SUCCORED THE PRINCESS OF CORNWALL A SECOND TIME

VI. HOW HEREWARD WAS WRECKED UPON THE FLANDERS SHORE

VII. HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE WAR AT GUISNES

VIII. HOW A FAIR LADY EXERCISED THE MECHANICAL ART TO WIN HEREWARD'S
LOVE

IX. HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE WAR IN SCALDMARILAND

X. HOW HEREWARD WON THE MAGIC ARMOR

XI. HOW THE HOLLANDERS TOOK HEREWARD FOR A MAGICIAN

XII. HOW HEREWARD TURNED BERSERK

XIII. HOW HEREWARD WON MARE SWALLOW

XIV. HOW HEREWARD RODE INTO BRUGES LIKE A BEGGAR-MAN

XV. HOW EARL TOSTI GODWINSSON CAME TO ST. OMER

XVI. HOW HEREWARD WAS ASKED TO SLAY AN OLD COMRADE

XVII. HOW HEREWARD TOOK THE NEWS FROM STANFORD BRIGG AND HASTINGS

XVIII. HOW EARL GODWIN'S WIDOW CAME TO ST. OMER

XIX. HOW HEREWARD CLEARED BOURNE OF FRENCHMEN

XX. HOW HEREWARD WAS MADE A KNIGHT AFTER THE FASHION OF THE ENGLISH

XXI. HOW IVO TAILLEBOIS MARCHED OUT OF SPALDING TOWN

XXII. HOW HEREWARD SAILED FOR ENGLAND ONCE AND FOR ALL

XXIII. HOW HEREWARD GATHERED AN ARMY

XXIV. HOW ARCHBISHOP ALDRED DIED OF SORROW

XXV. HOW HEREWARD FOUND A WISER MAN IN ENGLAND THAN HIMSELF

XXVI. HOW HEREWARD FULFILLED HIS WORDS TO THE PRIOR OF THE GOLDEN
BOROUGH

XXVII. HOW THEY HELD A GREAT MEETING IN THE HALL OF ELY

XXVIII. HOW THEY FOUGHT AT ALDRETH

XXIX. HOW SIR DADE BROUGHT NEWS FROM ELY

XXX. HOW HEREWARD PLAYED THE POTTER; AND HOW HE CHEATED THE KING

XXXI. HOW THEY FOUGHT AGAIN AT ALDRETH

XXXII. HOW KING WILLIAM TOOK COUNSEL OF A CHURCHMAN

XXXIII. HOW THE MONKS OF ELY DID AFTER THEIR KIND

XXXIV. HOW HEREWARD WENT TO THE GREENWOOD

XXXV. HOW ABBOT THOROLD WAS PUT TO RANSOM

XXXVI. HOW ALFTRUDA WROTE TO HEREWARD

XXXVII. HOW HEREWARD LOST SWORD BRAIN-BITER

XXXVIII. HOW HEREWARD CAME IN TO THE KING

XXXIX. HOW TORFRIDA CONFESSED THAT SHE HAD BEEN INSPIRED BY THE DEVIL

XL. HOW HEREWARD BEGAN TO GET HIS SOUL'S PRICE

XLI. HOW EARL WALTHEOF WAS MADE A SAINT

XLII. HOW HEREWARD GOT THE BEST OF HIS SOUL'S PRICE

XLIII. HOW DEEPING FEN WAS DRAINED




HEREWARD, THE LAST OF THE ENGLISH.




PRELUDE.


The heroic deeds of Highlanders, both in these islands and elsewhere, have
been told in verse and prose, and not more often, nor more loudly, than
they deserve. But we must remember, now and then, that there have been
heroes likewise in the lowland and in the fen. Why, however, poets have so
seldom sung of them; why no historian, save Mr. Motley in his "Rise of the
Dutch Republic," has condescended to tell the tale of their doughty deeds,
is a question not difficult to answer.

In the first place, they have been fewer in number. The lowlands of the
world, being the richest spots, have been generally the soonest conquered,
the soonest civilized, and therefore the soonest taken out of the sphere
of romance and wild adventure, into that of order and law, hard work and
common sense, as well as--too often--into the sphere of slavery,
cowardice, luxury, and ignoble greed. The lowland populations, for the
same reasons, have been generally the first to deteriorate, though not on
account of the vices of civilization. The vices of incivilization are far
worse, and far more destructive of human life; and it is just because they
are so, that rude tribes deteriorate physically less than polished
nations. In the savage struggle for life, none but the strongest,
healthiest, cunningest, have a chance of living, prospering, and
propagating their race. In the civilized state, on the contrary, the
weakliest and the silliest, protected by law, religion, and humanity, have
chance likewise, and transmit to their offspring their own weakliness or
silliness. In these islands, for instance, at the time of the Norman
Conquest, the average of man was doubtless superior, both in body and
mind, to the average of man now, simply because the weaklings could not
have lived at all; and the rich and delicate beauty, in which the women of
the Eastern Counties still surpass all other races in these isles, was
doubtless far more common in proportion to the numbers of the population.

Another reason--and one which every Scot will understand--why lowland
heroes "carent vate sacro," is that the lowlands and those who live in
them are wanting in the poetic and romantic elements. There is in the
lowland none of that background of the unknown, fantastic, magical,
terrible, perpetually feeding curiosity and wonder, which still remains in
the Scottish highlands; which, when it disappears from thence, will remain
embalmed forever in the pages of Walter Scott. Against that half-magical
background his heroes stand out in vivid relief; and justly so. It was not
put there by him for stage purposes; it was there as a fact; and the men
of whom he wrote were conscious of it, were moulded by it, were not
ashamed of its influence. Nature among the mountains is too fierce, too
strong, for man. He cannot conquer her, and she awes him. He cannot dig
down the cliffs, or chain the storm-blasts; and his fear of them takes
bodily shape: he begins to people the weird places of the earth with weird
beings, and sees nixes in the dark linns as he fishes by night, dwarfs in
the caves where he digs, half-trembling, morsels of copper and iron for
his weapons, witches and demons on the snow-blast which overwhelms his
herd and his hut, and in the dark clouds which brood on the untrodden
mountain-peak. He lives in fear: and yet, if he be a valiant-hearted man,
his fears do him little harm. They may break out, at times, in
witch-manias, with all their horrible suspicions, and thus breed cruelty,
which is the child of fear; but on the whole they rather produce in man
thoughtfulness, reverence, a sense, confused yet precious, of the
boundless importance of the unseen world. His superstitions develop his
imagination; the moving accidents of a wild life call out in him sympathy
and pathos; and the mountaineer becomes instinctively a poet.

The lowlander, on the other hand, has his own strength, his own "virtues,"
or manfulnesses, in the good old sense of the word: but they are not for
the most part picturesque or even poetical.

He finds out, soon enough for his weal and his bane, that he is stronger
than Nature; and right tyrannously and irreverently he lords it over her,
clearing, delving, diking, building, without fear or shame. He knows of no
natural force greater than himself, save an occasional thunder-storm; and
against that, as he grows more cunning, he insures his crops. Why should
he reverence Nature? Let him use her, and eat. One cannot blame him. Man
was sent into the world (so says the Scripture) to fill and subdue the
earth. But he was sent into the world for other purposes, which the
lowlander is but too apt to forget. With the awe of Nature, the awe of the
unseen dies out in him. Meeting with no visible superior, he is apt to
become not merely unpoetical and irreverent, but somewhat of a sensualist
and an atheist. The sense of the beautiful dies out in him more and more.
He has little or nothing around him to refine or lift up his soul, and
unless he meet with a religion and with a civilization which can deliver
him, he may sink into that dull brutality which is too common among the
lowest classes of the English lowlands, and remain for generations gifted
with the strength and industry of the ox, and with the courage of the
lion, and, alas! with the intellect of the former, and the self-restraint
of the latter.

But there may be a period in the history of a lowland race when they, too,
become historic for a while. There was such a period for the men of the
Eastern Counties; for they proved it by their deeds.

When the men of Wessex, the once conquering race of Britain, fell at
Hastings once and for all, and struck no second blow, then the men of the
Danelagh disdained to yield to the Norman invader. For seven long years
they held their own, not knowing, like true Englishmen, when they were
beaten; and fought on desperate, till there were none left to fight. Their
bones lay white on every island in the fens; their corpses rotted on
gallows beneath every Norman keep; their few survivors crawled into
monasteries, with eyes picked out, or hands and feet cut off, or took to
the wild wood as strong outlaws, like their successors and
representatives, Robin Hood, Scarlet, and John, Adam Bell, and Clym of the
Cleugh, and William of Cloudeslee. But they never really bent their necks
to the Norman yoke; they kept alive in their hearts that proud spirit of
personal independence, which they brought with them from the moors of
Denmark and the dales of Norway; and they kept alive, too, though in
abeyance for a while, those free institutions which were without a doubt
the germs of our British liberty.

They were a changed folk since first they settled in that Danelagh;--since
first in the days of King Beorhtric, "in the year 787, three ships of
Northmen came from Haeretha land, and the King's reeve rode to the place,
and would have driven them up to the King's town, for he knew not what men
they were: but they slew him there and then"; and after the Saxons and
Angles began to find out to their bitter bale what men they were, those
fierce Vikings out of the dark northeast.

But they had long ceased to burn farms, sack convents, torture monks for
gold, and slay every human being they met, in mere Berserker lust of
blood. No Barnakill could now earn his nickname by entreating his
comrades, as they tossed the children on their spear-points, to "Na kill
the barns." Gradually they had settled down on the land, intermarried with
the Angles and Saxons, and colonized all England north and east of Watling
Street (a rough line from London to Chester), and the eastern lowlands of
Scotland likewise. Gradually they had deserted Thor and Odin for "the
White Christ"; had their own priests and bishops, and built their own
minsters. The convents which the fathers had destroyed, the sons, or at
least the grandsons, rebuilt; and often, casting away sword and axe, they
entered them as monks themselves; and Peterborough, Ely, and above all
Crowland, destroyed by them in Alfred's time with a horrible destruction,
had become their holy places, where they decked the altars with gold and
jewels, with silks from the far East, and furs from the far North; and
where, as in sacred fortresses, they, and the liberty of England with
them, made their last unavailing stand.

For a while they had been lords of all England. The Anglo-Saxon race was
wearing out. The men of Wessex, priest-ridden, and enslaved by their own
aristocracy, quailed before the free Norsemen, among whom was not a single
serf. The God-descended line of Cerdic and Alfred was worn out. Vain,
incapable, profligate kings, the tools of such prelates as Odo and
Dunstan, were no match for such wild heroes as Thorkill the tall, or Olaf
Trygvasson, or Swend Forkbeard. The Danes had gradually colonized, not
only their own Danelagh and Northumbria, but great part of Wessex. Vast
sums of Danegelt were yearly sent out of the country to buy off the fresh
invasions which were perpetually threatened. Then Ethelred the Unready,
Ethelred Evil-counsel, advised himself to fulfil his name, and the curse
which Dunstan had pronounced against him at the baptismal font. By his
counsel the men of Wessex rose against the unsuspecting Danes, and on St.
Brice's eve, A. D. 1002, murdered them all with tortures, man, woman, and
child. It may be that they only did to the children as the fathers had
done to them: but the deed was "worse than a crime; it was a mistake." The
Danes of the Danelagh and of Northumbria, their brothers of Denmark and
Norway, the Orkneys and the east coast of Ireland, remained unharmed. A
mighty host of Vikings poured from thence into England the very next year,
under Swend Forkbeard and the great Canute; and after thirteen fearful
campaigns came the great battle of Assingdown in Essex, where "Canute had
the victory; and all the English nation fought against him, and all the
nobility of the English race was there destroyed."

That same year saw the mysterious death of Edmund Ironside, the last man
of Cerdic's race worthy of the name. For the next twenty-five years,
Danish kings ruled from the Forth to the Land's End.

A noble figure he was, that great and wise Canute, the friend of the
famous Godiva, and Leofric, Godiva's husband, and Siward Biorn, the
conqueror of Macbeth; trying to expiate by justice and mercy the dark
deeds of his bloodstained youth; trying (and not in vain) to blend the two
races over which he ruled; rebuilding the churches and monasteries which
his father had destroyed; bringing back in state to Canterbury the body of
Archbishop Elphege--not unjustly called by the Saxons martyr and
saint--whom Tall Thorkill's men had murdered with beef bones and
ox-skulls, because he would not give up to them the money destined for
God's poor; rebuking, as every child has heard, his housecarles' flattery
by setting his chair on the brink of the rising tide; and then laying his
golden crown, in token of humility, on the high altar of Winchester, never
to wear it more. In Winchester lie his bones unto this day, or what of
them the civil wars have left: and by him lie the bones of his son
Hardicanute, in whom, as in his half-brother Harold Harefoot before him,
the Danish power fell to swift decay, by insolence and drink and civil
war; and with the Danish power England fell to pieces likewise.

Canute had divided England into four great earldoms, each ruled, under
him, by a jarl, or earl--a Danish, not a Saxon title.

At his death in 1036, the earldoms of Northumbria and East Anglia--the
more strictly Danish parts--were held by a true Danish hero, Siward Biorn,
alias _Digre_ "the Stout", conqueror of Macbeth, and son of the Fairy
Bear; proving his descent, men said, by his pointed and hairy ears.

Mercia, the great central plateau of England, was held by Earl Leofric,
husband of the famous Lady Godiva.

Wessex, which Canute had at first kept in his own hands, had passed into
those of the famous Earl Godwin, the then ablest man in England. Possessed
of boundless tact and cunning, gifted with an eloquence which seems, from
the accounts remaining of it, to have been rather that of a Greek than an
Englishman; himself of high--perhaps of royal--Sussex blood (for the story
of his low birth seems a mere fable of his French enemies), and married
first to Canute's sister, and then to his niece, he was fitted, alike by
fortunes and by talents, to be the king-maker which he became.

Such a system may have worked well as long as the brain of a hero was
there to overlook it all. But when that brain was turned to dust, the
history of England became, till the Norman Conquest, little more than the
history of the rivalries of the two great houses of Godwin and Leofric.

Leofric had the first success in king-making. He, though bearing a Saxon
name, was the champion of the Danish party and of Canute's son, or reputed
son, Harold Harefoot; and he succeeded, by the help of the "Thanes north
of Thames," and the "lithsmen of London," which city was more than half
Danish in those days, in setting his puppet on the throne. But the blood
of Canute had exhausted itself. Within seven years Harold Harefoot and
Hardicanute, who succeeded him, had died as foully as they lived; and
Godwin's turn had come.

He, though married to a Danish princess, and acknowledging his Danish
connection by the Norse names which were borne by his three most famous
sons, Harold, Sweyn, and Tostig, constituted himself the champion of the
men of Wessex and the house of Cerdic. He had murdered, or at least caused
to be murdered, horribly, Alfred the Etheling, King Ethelred's son and
heir-apparent, when it seemed his interest to support the claims of
Hardicanute against Harefoot. He now found little difficulty in persuading
his victim's younger brother to come to England, and become at once his
king, his son-in-law and his puppet.

Edward the Confessor, if we are to believe the monks whom he pampered, was
naught but virtue and piety, meekness and magnanimity,--a model ruler of
men. Such a model ruler he was, doubtless, as monks would be glad to see
on every throne; because while he rules his subjects, they rule him. No
wonder, therefore, that (according to William of Malmesbury) the happiness
of his times (famed as he was both for miracles and the spirit of
prophecy) "was revealed in a dream to Brithwin, Bishop of Wilton, who made
it public"; who, meditating in King Canute's time on "the near extinction
of the royal race of the English," was "rapt up on high, and saw St. Peter
consecrating Edward king. His chaste life also was pointed out, and the
exact period of his reign (twenty-four years) determined; and, when
inquiring about his posterity, it was answered, 'The kingdom of the
English belongs to God. After you, He will provide a king according to his
pleasure.'" But those who will look at the facts will see in the holy
Confessor's character little but what is pitiable, and in his reign little
but what is tragical.

Civil wars, invasions, outlawry of Godwin and his sons by the Danish
party; then of Alfgar, Leofric's son, by the Saxon party; the outlaws on
either side attacking and plundering the English shores by the help of
Norsemen, Welshmen, Irish, and Danes,--any mercenaries who could be got
together; and then,--"In the same year Bishop Aldred consecrated the
minster at Gloucester to the glory of God and of St. Peter, and then went
to Jerusalem with such splendor as no man had displayed before him"; and
so forth. The sum and substance of what was done in those "happy times"
may be well described in the words of the Anglo-Saxon chronicler for the
year 1058. "This year Alfgar the earl was banished; but he came in again
with violence, through aid of Griffin (the king of North Wales, his
brother-in-law). And this year came a fleet from Norway. It is tedious to
tell how these matters went." These were the normal phenomena of a reign
which seemed, to the eyes of monks, a holy and a happy one; because the
king refused, whether from spite or superstition, to have an heir to the
house of Cerdic, and spent his time between prayer, hunting, the seeing of
fancied visions, the uttering of fancied prophecies, and the performance
of fancied miracles.

But there were excuses for him. An Englishman only in name,--a Norman, not
only of his mother's descent (she was aunt of William the Conqueror), but
by his early education on the Continent,--he loved the Norman better than
the Englishman; Norman knights and clerks filled his court, and often the
high dignities of his provinces, and returned as often as expelled; the
Norman-French language became fashionable; Norman customs and manners the
signs of civilization; and thus all was preparing steadily for the great
catastrophe, by which, within a year of Edward's death, the Norman became
master of the land.

Perhaps it ought to have been so. Perhaps by no other method could
England, and, with England, Scotland, and in due time Ireland, have become
partakers of that classic civilization and learning, the fount whereof,
for good and for evil, was Rome and the Pope of Rome: but the method was
at least wicked; the actors in it tyrannous, brutal, treacherous,
hypocritical; and the conquest of England by William will remain to the
end of time a mighty crime, abetted--one may almost say made possible, as
too many such crimes have been before and since--by the intriguing
ambition of the Pope of Rome.

Against that tyranny the free men of the Danelagh and of Northumbria rose.
If Edward, the descendant of Cerdic, had been little to them, William, the
descendant of Rollo, was still less. That French-speaking knights should
expel them from their homes, French-chanting monks from their convents,
because Edward had promised the crown of England to William, his foreign
cousin, or because Harold Godwinsson of Wessex had sworn on the relics of
all the saints to be William's man, was contrary to their common-sense of
right and reason.

So they rose and fought: too late, it may be, and without unity or
purpose; and they were worsted by an enemy who had both unity and purpose;
whom superstition, greed, and feudal discipline kept together, at least in
England, in one compact body of unscrupulous and terrible confederates.

But theirs was a land worth fighting for,--a good land and large: from
Humber mouth inland to the Trent and merry Sherwood, across to Chester and
the Dee, round by Leicester and the five burghs of the Danes; eastward
again to Huntingdon and Cambridge (then a poor village on the site of an
old Roman town); and then northward again into the wide fens, the land of
the Girvii and the Eormingas, "the children of the peat-bog," where the
great central plateau of England slides into the sea, to form, from the
rain and river washings of eight shires, lowlands of a fertility
inexhaustible, because ever-growing to this day.

They have a beauty of their own, these great fens, even now, when they are
diked and drained, tilled and fenced,--a beauty as of the sea, of
boundless expanse and freedom. Much more had they that beauty eight
hundred years ago, when they were still, for the most part, as God had
made them, or rather was making them even then. The low rolling uplands
were clothed in primeval forest: oak and ash, beech and elm, with here and
there, perhaps, a group of ancient pines, ragged and decayed, and fast
dying out in England even then; though lingering still in the forests of
the Scotch highlands.

Between the forests were open wolds, dotted with white sheep and golden
gorse; rolling plains of rich though ragged turf, whether cleared by the
hand of man or by the wild fires which often swept over the hills. And
between the wood and the wold stood many a Danish "town," with its
clusters of low straggling buildings round the holder's house, stone or
mud below, and wood above; its high dikes round tiny fields; its flocks of
sheep ranging on the wold; its herds of swine in the forest; and below, a
more precious possession still,--its herds of mares and colts, which fed
with the cattle in the rich grass-fen.

For always, from the foot of the wolds, the green flat stretched away,
illimitable, to an horizon where, from the roundness of the earth, the
distant trees and islands were hulled down like ships at sea. The firm
horse-fen lay, bright green, along the foot of the wold; beyond it, the
browner peat, or deep fen; and among it, dark velvet alder beds, long
lines of reed-rond, emerald in spring, and golden under the autumn sun;
shining river-reaches; broad meres dotted with a million fowl, while the
cattle waded along their edges after the rich sedge-grass, or wallowed in
the mire through the hot summer's day. Here and there, too, upon the far
horizon, rose a tall line of ashen trees, marking some island of firm rich
soil. Here and there, too, as at Ramsey and Crowland, the huge ashes had
disappeared before the axes of the monks, and a minster tower rose over
the fen, amid orchards, gardens, cornfields, pastures, with here and there
a tree left standing for shade. "Painted with flowers in the spring," with
"pleasant shores embosomed in still lakes," as the monk-chronicler of
Ramsey has it, those islands seemed to such as the monk terrestrial
paradises.

Overhead the arch of heaven spread more ample than elsewhere, as over the
open sea; and that vastness gave, and still gives, such "effects" of
cloudland, of sunrise, and sunset, as can be seen nowhere else within
these isles. They might well have been star worshippers, those Girvii, had
their sky been as clear as that of the East: but they were like to have
worshipped the clouds rather than the stars, according to the too
universal law, that mankind worship the powers which do them harm, rather
than the powers which do them good.

And therefore the Danelagh men, who feared not mortal sword, or axe,
feared witches, ghosts, Pucks, Will-o'-the-Wisps, werewolves, spirits of
the wells and of the trees, and all dark, capricious, and harmful beings
whom their fancy conjured up out of the wild, wet, and unwholesome
marshes, or the dark wolf-haunted woods. For that fair land, like all
things on earth, had its darker aspect. The foul exhalations of autumn
called up fever and ague, crippling and enervating, and tempting, almost
compelling, to that wild and desperate drinking which was the
Scandinavian's special sin. Dark and sad were those short autumn days,
when all the distances were shut off, and the air choked with foul brown
fog and drenching rains from off the eastern sea; and pleasant the
bursting forth of the keen north-east wind, with all its whirling
snowstorms. For though it sent men hurrying out into the storm, to drive
the cattle in from the fen, and lift the sheep out of the snow-wreaths,
and now and then never to return, lost in mist and mire, in ice and
snow;--yet all knew that after the snow would come the keen frost and the
bright sun and cloudless blue sky, and the fenman's yearly holiday, when,
work being impossible, all gave themselves up to play, and swarmed upon
the ice on skates and sledges, and ran races, township against township,
or visited old friends full forty miles away; and met everywhere faces as
bright and ruddy as their own, cheered by the keen wine of that dry and
bracing frost.

Such was the Fenland; hard, yet cheerful; rearing a race of hard and
cheerful men; showing their power in old times in valiant fighting, and
for many a century since in that valiant industry which has drained and
embanked the land of the Girvii, till it has become a very "Garden of the
Lord." And the Scotsman who may look from the promontory of Peterborough,
the "golden borough" of old time; or from the tower of Crowland, while
Hereward and Torfrida sleep in the ruined nave beneath; or from the
heights of that Isle of Ely which was so long "the camp of refuge" for
English freedom; over the labyrinth of dikes and lodes, the squares of
rich corn and verdure,--will confess that the lowland, as well as the
highland, can at times breed gallant men. [Footnote: The story of Hereward
(often sung by minstrels and old-wives in succeeding generations) may be
found in the "Metrical Chronicle of Geoffrey Gaimar," and in the prose
"Life of Hereward" (paraphrased from that written by Leofric, his house-
priest), and in the valuable fragment "Of the family of Hereward." These
have all three been edited by Mr. T. Wright. The account of Hereward in
Ingulf seems taken, and that carelessly, from the same source as the Latin
prose, "De Gestis Herewardi." A few curious details may be found in Peter
of Blois's continuation of Ingulf; and more, concerning the sack of
Peterborough, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. I have followed the
contemporary authorities as closely as I could, introducing little but
what was necessary to reconcile discrepancies, or to illustrate the
history, manners, and sentiments of the time.--C. K.]




CHAPTER I.

HOW HEREWARD WAS OUTLAWED, AND WENT NORTH TO SEEK HIS FORTUNES.


Known to all is Lady Godiva, the most beautiful as well as the most
saintly woman of her day; who, "all her life, kept at her own expense
thirteen poor folk wherever she went; who, throughout Lent, watched in the
church at triple matins, namely, one for the Trinity, one for the Cross,
and one for St. Mary; who every day read the Psalter through, and so
persevered in good and holy works to her life's end,"--the "devoted friend
of St. Mary, ever a virgin," who enriched monasteries without
number,--Leominster, Wenlock, Chester, St. Mary's Stow by Lincoln,
Worcester, Evesham; and who, above all, founded the great monastery in
that town of Coventry, which has made her name immortal for another and a
far nobler deed; and enriched it so much "that no monastery in England
possessed such abundance of gold, silver, jewels, and precious stones,"
beside that most precious jewel of all, the arm of St. Augustine, which
not Lady Godiva, but her friend, Archbishop Ethelnoth, presented to
Coventry, "having bought it at Pavia for a hundred talents of silver and a
talent of gold." [Footnote: William of Malmesbury.]

Less known, save to students, is her husband, Leofric the great Earl of
Mercia and Chester, whose bones lie by those of Godiva in that same
minster of Coventry; how "his counsel was as if one had opened the Divine
oracles"; very "wise," says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "for God and for
the world, which was a blessing to all this nation"; the greatest man,
save his still greater rival, Earl Godwin, in Edward the Confessor's
court.

Less known, again, are the children of that illustrious pair: Algar, or
Alfgar, Earl of Mercia after his father, who died, after a short and
stormy life, leaving two sons, Edwin and Morcar, the fair and hapless
young earls, always spoken of together, as if they had been twins; a
daughter, Aldytha, or Elfgiva, married first (according to some) to
Griffin, King of North Wales, and certainly afterwards to Harold, King of
England; and another, Lucia (as the Normans at least called her), whose
fate was, if possible, more sad than that of her brothers.

Their second son was Hereward, whose history this tale sets forth; their
third and youngest, a boy whose name is unknown.

They had, probably, another daughter beside; married, it may be, to some
son of Leofric's stanch friend old Siward Biorn, the Viking Earl of
Northumberland, and conqueror of Macbeth; and the mother, may be, of the
two young Siwards, the "white" and the "red," who figure in chronicle and
legend as the nephews of Hereward. But this pedigree is little more than a
conjecture.

Be these things as they may, Godiva was the greatest lady in England, save
two: Edith, Harold's sister, the nominal wife of Edward the Confessor; and
Githa, or Gyda, as her own Danes called her, Harold's mother, niece of
Canute the Great. Great was Godiva; and might have been proud enough, had
she been inclined to that pleasant sin. And even then (for there is a
skeleton, they say, in every house) she carried that about her which might
well keep her humble; namely, shame at the misconduct of Hereward, her
son.

Her favorite residence, among the many manors and "villas," or farms which
Leofric possessed, was neither the stately hall at Loughton by
Bridgenorth, nor the statelier castle of Warwick, but the house of Bourne
in South Lincolnshire, between the great woods of the Bruneswald and the
great level of the fens. It may have been her own paternal dowry, and have
come down to her in right of her Danish ancestors, and that great and
"magnificent" Jarl Oslac, from whom she derived her all-but-royal blood.
This is certain, that Leofric, her husband, went in East Anglia by the
name of Leofric, Lord of Bourne; that, as Domesday Book testifies, his son
Alfgar, and his grandson Morcar, held large lands there and thereabout.
Alfgar's name, indeed, still lives in the village of Algar-Kirk; and Lady
Godiva, and Algar after her, enriched with great gifts Crowland, the
island sanctuary, and Peterborough, where Brand, either her brother or
Leofric's, was a monk, and in due time an abbot.

The house of Bourne, as far as it can be reconstructed by imagination, was
altogether unlike one of the tall and gloomy Norman castles which twenty
years later reared their evil donjons over England. It was much more like
a house in a Chinese painting; an irregular group of low buildings, almost
all of one story, stone below and timber above, with high-peaked
roofs,--at least in the more Danish country,--affording a separate room,
or rather house, for each different need of the family. Such a one may be
seen in the illuminations of the century. In the centre of the building is
the hall, with door or doors opening out into the court; and sitting
thereat, at the top of a flight of steps, the lord and lady, dealing
clothes to the naked and bread to the hungry. On one side of the hall is a
chapel; by it a large room or "bower" for the ladies; behind the hall a
round tower, seemingly the strong place of the whole house; on the other
side a kitchen; and stuck on to bower, kitchen, and every other principal
building, lean-to after lean-to, the uses of which it is impossible now to
discover. The house had grown with the wants of the family,--as many good
old English houses have done to this day. Round it would be scattered
barns and stables, in which grooms and herdsmen slept side by side with
their own horses and cattle; and outside all, the "yard," "garth," or
garden-fence, high earth-bank with palisades on top, which formed a strong
defence in time of war. Such was most probably the "villa," "ton," or
"town" of Earl Leofric, the Lord of Bourne, the favorite residence of
Godiva,--once most beautiful, and still most holy, according to the
holiness of those old times.

Now on a day--about the year 1054--while Earl Siward was helping to bring
Birnam wood to Dunsinane, to avenge his murdered brother-in-law, Lady
Godiva sat, not at her hall door, dealing food and clothing to her
thirteen poor folk, but in her bower, with her youngest son, a two-years'
boy, at her knee. She was listening with a face of shame and horror to the
complaint of Herluin, Steward of Peterborough, who had fallen in that
afternoon with Hereward and his crew of "housecarles."

To keep a following of stout housecarles, or men-at-arms, was the pride as
well as the duty of an Anglo-Danish Lord, as it was, till lately, of a
Scoto-Danish Highland Laird. And Hereward, in imitation of his father and
his elder brother, must needs have his following from the time he was but
fifteen years old. All the unruly youths of the neighborhood, sons of free
"holders," who owed some sort of military service to Earl Leofric; Geri,
his cousin; Winter, whom he called his brother-in-arms; the Wulfrics, the
Wulfards, the Azers, and many another wild blade, had banded themselves
round a young nobleman more unruly than themselves. Their names were
already a terror to all decent folk, at wakes and fairs, alehouses and
village sports. They atoned, be it remembered, for their early sins by
making those names in after years a terror to the invaders of their native
land: but as yet their prowess was limited to drunken brawls and
faction-fights; to upsetting old women at their work, levying blackmail
from quiet chapmen on the high road, or bringing back in triumph, sword in
hand and club on shoulder, their leader Hereward from some duel which his
insolence had provoked.

But this time, if the story of the sub-prior was to be believed, Hereward
and his housecarles had taken an ugly stride forward toward the pit. They
had met him riding along, intent upon his psalter, in a lonely path of the
Bruneswald,--"Whereon your son, most gracious lady, bade me stand, saying
that his men were thirsty and he had no money to buy ale withal, and none
so likely to help him thereto as a fat priest,--for so he scandalously
termed me, who, as your ladyship knows, am leaner than the minster
bell-ropes, with fasting Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year,
beside the vigils of the saints, and the former and latter Lents.

"But when he saw who I was, as if inspired by a malignant spirit, he
shouted out my name, and bade his companions throw me to the ground."

"Throw you to the ground?" shuddered the Lady Godiva.

"In much mire, madam. After which he took my palfrey, saying that heaven's
gate was too lowly for men on horseback to get in thereat; and then my
marten's fur gloves and cape which your gracious self bestowed on me,
alleging that the rules of my order allowed only one garment, and no furs
save catskins and such like. And lastly--I tremble while I relate,
thinking not of the loss of my poor money, but the loss of an immortal
soul--took from me a purse with sixteen silver pennies, which I had
collected from our tenants for the use of the monastery, and said,
blasphemously, that I and mine had swindled your ladyship, and therefore
him, your son, out of many a fair manor ere now; and it was but fair that
he should tithe the rents thereof, as he should never get the lands out of
our claws again; with more of the like, which I blush to repeat,--and so
left me to trudge hither in the mire."

"Wretched boy!" said the Lady Godiva, and hid her face in her hands; "and
more wretched I, to have brought such a son into the world!"

The monk had hardly finished his doleful story, when there was a pattering
of heavy feet, a noise of men shouting and laughing outside, and a voice,
above all, calling for the monk by name, which made that good man crouch
behind the curtain of Lady Godiva's bed. The next moment the door of the
bower was thrown violently open, and in walked, or rather reeled, a noble
lad eighteen years old. His face was of extraordinary beauty, save that
the lower jaw was too long and heavy, and that his eyes wore a strange and
almost sinister expression, from the fact that the one of them was gray
and the other blue. He was short, but of immense breadth of chest and
strength of limb; while his delicate hands and feet and long locks of
golden hair marked him of most noble, and even, as he really was, of
ancient royal race. He was dressed in a gaudy costume, resembling on the
whole that of a Highland chieftain. His knees, wrists, and throat were
tattoed in bright blue patterns; and he carried sword and dagger, a gold
ring round his neck, and gold rings on his wrists. He was a lad to have
gladdened the eyes of any mother: but there was no gladness in the Lady
Godiva's eyes as she received him; nor had there been for many a year. She
looked on him with sternness,--with all but horror; and he, his face
flushed with wine, which he had tossed off as he passed through the hall
to steady his nerves for the coming storm, looked at her with smiling
defiance, the result of long estrangement between mother and son.

"Well, my lady," said he, ere she could speak, "I heard that this good
fellow was here, and came home as fast as I could, to see that he told you
as few lies as possible."

"He has told me," said she, "that you have robbed the Church of God."

"Robbed him, it may be, an old hoody crow, against whom I have a grudge of
ten years' standing."

"Wretched, wretched boy! What wickedness next? Know you not, that he who
robs the Church robs God himself?"

"And he who harms God's people," put in the monk from behind the chair,
"harms his Maker."

"His Maker?" said the lad, with concentrated bitterness. "It would be a
gay world, if the Maker thereof were in any way like unto you, who call
yourselves his people. Do you remember who told them to set the peat-stack
on fire under me ten years ago? Ah, ha, Sir Monk, you forget that I have
been behind the screen,--that I have been a monk myself, or should have
been one, if my pious lady mother here had had her will of me, as she may
if she likes of that doll there at her knee. Do you forget why I left
Peterborough Abbey, when Winter and I turned all your priest's books
upside down in the choir, and they would have flogged us,--me, the Earl's
son,--me, the Viking's son,--me, the champion, as I will be yet, and make
all lands ring with the fame of my deeds, as they rung with the fame of my
forefathers, before they became the slaves of monks; and how when Winter
and I got hold of the kitchen spits, and up to the top of the peat-stack,
and held you all at bay there, a whole abbeyful of cowards there, against
two seven years' children? It was you bade set the peat-stack alight under
us, and so bring us down; and would have done it, too, had it not been for
my Uncle Brand, the only man that I care for in this wide world.



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