Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 1 A QUARREL.

  • The great Abbey of Westminster was approaching its completion; an army o_asons and labourers swarmed like bees upon and around it, and althoug_iffering widely in its massive architecture, with round Saxon windows an_rches, from the edifice that was two or three generations later to be reare_n its place,—to serve as a still more fitting tomb for the ashes of its piou_ounder,—it was a stately abbey, rivalling the most famous of the Englis_anes of the period.
  • From his palace hard by King Edward had watched with the deepest interest th_rection of the minster that was the dearest object of his life. The King wa_urrounded by Normans, the people among whom he had lived until called fro_is retirement to ascend the throne of England, and whom he loved far bette_han those over whom he reigned. He himself still lived almost the life of _ecluse. He was sincerely anxious for the good of his people, but took smal_ains to ensure it, his life being largely passed in religious devotions, an_n watching over the rise of the abbey he had founded.
  • A town had risen around minster and palace, and here the workmen employe_ound their lodgings, while craftsmen of all descriptions administered to th_ants both of these and of the nobles of Edward's court.
  • From one of the side doors of the palace a page, some fifteen or sixteen year_f age, ran down the steps in haste. He was evidently a Saxon by his fair hai_nd fresh complexion, and any observer of the time would have seen that h_ust, therefore, be in the employment of Earl Harold, the great minister, wh_ad for many years virtually ruled England in the name of its king.
  • The young page was strongly and sturdily built. His garb was an English one, but with some admixture of Norman fashions. He wore tightly-fitting le_overings, a garment somewhat resembling a blouse of blue cloth girded in by _elt at the waist, and falling in folds to the knee. Over his shoulders hung _hort mantle of orange colour with a hood. On his head was a cap with a wid_rim that was turned up closely behind, and projected in a pointed shove_hape in front. In his belt was a small dagger. He wore shoes of light yello_eather fastened by bands over the insteps. As he ran down the steps of th_alace he came into sharp contact with another page who had just turned th_orner of the street.
  • "I crave your pardon, Walter Fitz-Urse," he said hurriedly, "but I was i_aste and saw you not."
  • The other lad was as clearly Norman as the speaker was Saxon. He was perhaps _ear the senior in point of age, and taller by half a head, but was o_lighter build. The expression of his face differed as widely from that of th_axon as did his swarthy complexion and dark hair, for while the latter fac_ore a frank and pleasant expression, that of the Norman was haughty an_rrogant.
  • "You did it on purpose," he said angrily, "and were we not under the shadow o_he palace I would chastise you as you deserve."
  • The smile died suddenly out from the Saxon's face. "Chastise me!" he repeated.
  • "You would find it somewhat difficult, Master Fitz-Urse. Do you think you ar_alking to a Norman serf? You will please to remember you are in England; bu_f you are not satisfied with my apology, I will ride with you a few mile_nto the country, and we will then try with equal arms where the chastisemen_s to fall."
  • The Norman put his hand to his dagger, but there was an ominous growl fro_ome men who had paused to listen to the quarrel.
  • "You are an insolent boor, Wulf of Steyning, and some day I will punish you a_ou deserve."
  • "Some day," the Saxon laughed, "we shall, I hope, see you and all your trib_ent across the Channel. There are few of us here who would not see your back_ith pleasure."
  • "What is this?" an imperious voice demanded; and turning round, Wulf sa_illiam, the Norman Bishop of London, who, followed by several monks an_ages, had pushed his way through the crowd. "Walter Fitz-Urse, what mean_his altercation?"
  • "The Saxon ran against me of set purpose, my lord," Walter Fitz-Urse said, i_ones of deep humility, "and because I complained he challenged me to rid_ith him into the country to fight, and then he said he hoped that some da_ll the Normans would be sent across the Channel."
  • "Is this so?" the prelate said sternly to Wulf; "did you thus insult not onl_y page, but all of us, his countrymen?"
  • "I ran against him by accident," Wulf said, looking up fearlessly in th_relate's face. "I apologized, though I know not that I was more in fault tha_e; but instead of taking my apology as one of gentle blood should do, h_poke like a churl, and threatened me with chastisement, and then I did sa_hat I hoped he and all other Normans in the land would some day be packe_cross the Channel."
  • "Your ears ought to be slit as an insolent varlet."
  • "I meant no insolence, my Lord Bishop; and as to the slitting of my ears, _ancy Earl Harold, my master, would have something to say on that score."
  • The prelate was about to reply, but glancing at the angry faces of the growin_rowd, he said coldly:
  • "I shall lay the matter before him. Come, Walter, enough of this. You are als_omewhat to blame for not having received more courteously the apologies o_his saucy page."
  • The crowd fell back with angry mutterings as he turned, and, followed b_alter Fitz-Urse and the ecclesiastics, made his way along the street to th_rincipal entrance of the palace. Without waiting to watch his departure, Wulf, the Saxon page, pushed his way through the crowd, and went off at ful_peed to carry the message with which he had been charged.
  • "Our king is a good king," a squarely-built man,—whose bare arms with th_notted muscles showing through the skin, and hands begrimed with charcoal, indicated that he was a smith,—remarked to a gossip as the little crowd brok_p, "but it is a grievous pity that he was brought up a Norman, still mor_hat he was not left in peace to pass his life as a monk as he desired. H_ills the land with his Normans; soon as an English bishop dies, straightway _orman is clapped into his place. All the offices at court are filled wit_hem, and it is seldom a word of honest English is spoken in the palace. Th_orman castles are rising over the land, and his favourites divide among the_he territory of every English earl or thane who incurs the king'_ispleasure. Were it not for Earl Harold, one might as well be under Norma_way altogether."
  • "Nay, nay, neighbour Ulred, matters are not so bad as that. I dare say the_ould have been as you say had it not been for Earl Godwin and his sons. Bu_t was a great check that Godwin gave them when he returned after hi_anishment, and the Norman bishops and nobles hurried across the seas in _anic. For years now the king has left all matters in the hands of Harold, an_s well content if only he can fast and pray like any monk, and give all hi_houghts and treasure to the building of yonder abbey."
  • "We want neither a monk nor a Norman over us," the smith said roughly, "stil_ess one who is both Norman and monk I would rather have a Dane, like Canute, who was a strong man and a firm one, than this king, who, I doubt not, is ful_f good intentions, and is a holy and pious monarch, but who is not stron_nough for a ruler. He leaves it to another to preserve England in peace, t_eep in order the great Earls of Mercia and the North, to hold the lan_gainst Harold of Norway, Sweyn, and others, and, above all, to watch th_ormans across the water. A monk is well enough in a convent, but truly 'ti_ad for a country to have a monk as its king."
  • "There have been some war-loving prelates, Ulred; men as ambitious as any o_he great earls, and more dangerous, because they have learning."
  • "Ay, there have been great prelates," the smith agreed. "Look at Lyfing o_orcester, to whom next only to Godwin the king owed his throne. He was a_nglishman first and a bishop afterwards, and was a proof, if needed, that _an can be a great churchman and a great patriot and statesman too. It was h_ather than Godwin who overcame the opposition of the Danish party, and go_he Witan at last to acquiesce in the choice of London and Wessex, and to giv_heir vote to Edward.
  • "Well was it he did so. For had he failed we should have had as great _truggle in England as when Alfred battled against the Danes. We of London an_he men of Wessex under the great Earl were bent upon being ruled by a princ_f our own blood. The last two Danish kings had shown us that anything i_etter than being governed by the Northmen. It was Lyfing who persuaded th_arl of Mercia to side with Wessex rather than with Northumbria, but sinc_yfing, what great Englishman have we had in the church? Every bishopric wa_ranted by Edward to Norman priests, until Godwin and his sons got the uppe_and after their exile. Since then most of them have been given to Germans. I_ould seem that the king was so set against Englishmen that only by bringin_n foreigners can Harold prevent all preferment going to Normans. But what i_he consequence? They say now that our church is governed from Rome, wherea_efore Edward's time we Englishmen did not think of taking our orders fro_taly.
  • "There will trouble come of it all, neighbour. Perhaps not so long as Edwar_eigns, but at his death. There is but one of the royal race surviving, an_e, like Edward, has lived all his life abroad. There can be no doubt what th_hoice of Englishmen will be. Harold has been our real ruler for years. He i_ise and politic as well as brave, and a great general. He is our own earl, and will assuredly be chosen. Then we shall have trouble with the Normans.
  • Already they bear themselves as if they were our masters, and they will no_ive up their hold without a struggle. Men say that William, their duke, make_o secret of his hope to become master of England, in which case God help u_ll. But that won't come as long as Harold lives and Englishmen can wiel_word and battle-axe. As for myself, I have patched many a Norman suit o_rmour, but, by St. Swithin, I shall have far more pleasure in marring than _ave ever had in mending them."
  • "Know you who were the boys who had that contention just now?"
  • "The Norman is a page of William, our Norman bishop; I know no more of hi_han that The other is Wulf, who is a ward and page of Earl Harold. His fathe_as thane of Steyning in South Sussex, one of Godwin's men, and at his deat_wo years ago Harold took the lad into his household, for he bore grea_ffection for Gyrth, who had accompanied him in his pilgrimage to Rome, an_ought by his side when he conquered the Welsh. It was there Gyrth got th_ound that at last brought about his death. Wulf has been to my smithy man_imes, sometimes about matters of repairs to arms, but more often, I think, t_ee my son Osgod. He had seen him once or twice in calling at the shop, whe_ne day Osgod, who is somewhat given to mischief, was playing at ball, an_rove it into the face of a son of one of the Norman lords at court. The bo_rew his dagger, and there would have been blood shed, but Wulf, who wa_assing at the time, and saw that the thing was a pure mishap and not th_esult of set intention, threw himself between them.
  • "There was a great fuss over it, for the boy took his tale to his father, wh_emanded that Osgod should be punished, and would doubtless have gained hi_nd had not Wulf spoken to Earl Harold, who intervened in the matter an_ersuaded the Norman to let it drop. Since then the boys have been grea_riends in their way. Osgod is a year older than the young thane, and ha_lready made up his mind to be his man when he grows up, and he has got me t_gree to it, though I would rather that he had stuck to my handicraft. Still, the prospect is not a bad one. Harold will be King of England, Wulf will be _owerful thane, and will doubtless some day hold high place at court, and a_e seems to have taken a real liking to Osgod, the boy may have good chances.
  • "Wulf will make a good fighting man one of these days. Harold sees that al_is pages are well instructed in arms, and the two boys often have a bout wit_lunted swords when Wulf comes to my smithy; and, by my faith, though I hav_aught Osgod myself, and he already uses his arms well, the young thane i_ully a match for him. You would hardly believe that the boy can read as wel_s a monk, but it is so. Earl Harold, you know, thinks a good deal o_ducation, and has founded a college at Waltham. He persuaded Wulf's father t_end him there, and, indeed, will take none as his pages unless they can read.
  • I see not what good reading can do to most men, but doubtless for one who i_t court and may hold some day a high post there, it is useful to be able t_ead deeds and grants of estates, instead of having to trust others'
  • interpretation."
  • "I wondered to see you press forward so suddenly into the crowd, neighbour, seeing that you are a busy man, but I understand now that you had an interes_n the affair."
  • "That had I. I was holding myself in readiness, if that Norman boy drew hi_agger, to give him such a blow across the wrist with my cudgel that it woul_e long before he handled a weapon again. I fear Wulf has got himself int_rouble. The bishop will doubtless complain to the king of the language use_y one of Harold's pages, and though the earl is well able to see that no har_omes to the lad, it is likely he will send him away to his estates for _ime. For he strives always to avoid quarrels and disputes, and though he wil_ot give way a jot in matters where it seems to him that the good of the real_s concerned, he will go much farther lengths than most men would do in th_ay of conciliation. Look how he has borne with Tostig and with the Earls o_ercia. He seems to have no animosity in his nature, but is ready to forgiv_ll injuries as soon as pardon is asked."
  • The smith was not far wrong in his opinion as to what was likely to happen. A_oon as Wulf returned to the palace he was told that the earl desired hi_resence, and he proceeded at once to the apartment where Harold transacte_ublic business. It was a hall of considerable size; the floor was strewe_ith rushes; three scribes sat at a table, and to them the earl dictated hi_eplies and decisions on the various matters brought before him. When he sa_ulf enter he rose from his seat, and, beckoning to him to follow, pushe_side the hangings across a door leading to an apartment behind and went in.
  • Wulf had no fear whatever of any severe consequence to himself from hi_uarrel with Walter Fitz-Urse, but he was ashamed that his thoughtlessnes_hould have given the slightest trouble to the earl, for, popular as he wa_mong all classes of men in southern England, Harold was an object of love a_ell as respect to his dependents, and indeed to all who came in close contac_ith him.
  • The earl was now forty-one years of age. He was very tall, and was considere_he strongest man in England. His face was singularly handsome, with a_xpression of mingled gentleness and firmness. His bearing was courteous t_ll. He united a frank and straightforward manner with a polished address rar_mong his rough countrymen. Harold had travelled more and farther than an_nglishman of his age. He had visited foreign courts and mingled with peopl_ore advanced in civilization than were those of England or Normandy, and wa_enturies ahead of the mass of his countrymen. He was an ardent advocate o_ducation, a strong supporter of the national church, an upholder of th_ights of all men, and although he occasionally gave way to bursts of passion, was of a singularly sweet and forgiving disposition.
  • King Edward was respected by his people because, coming after two utterl_orthless kings, he had an earnest desire for their good, although that desir_eldom led to any very active results. He was a member of their own roya_ouse. He was deeply religious. His life was pure and simple, and although al_is tastes and sympathies were with the land in which he had been brought up, Englishmen forgave him this because at least he was a Saxon, while hi_redecessors had been Danes. But while they respected Edward, for Harold, their real ruler, they felt a passionate admiration. He was a worth_epresentative of all that was best in the Saxon character. He possessed in a_minent degree the openness of nature, the frank liberality, the indomitabl_ravery, and the endurance of hardship that distinguished the race. He wa_arl of the West Saxons, and as such had special claims to their fealty.
  • London, it was true, did not lie in his earldom, but in that of his brothe_eofwyn, but Leofwyn and Harold were as one—true brothers in heart and i_isposition. The gentleness and courtesy of manner that, although natural, ha_een softened and increased by Harold's contact with foreigners, was not onl_ardoned but admired because he was England's champion against foreigners. H_ad fought, and victoriously, alike against the Norwegians, the Danes o_orthumbria, and the Welsh, and he struggled as sturdily, though peacefully, against Norman influence in England. Already the dread of Norman preponderanc_as present in the minds of Englishmen. It was no secret that in his earl_ays Edward had held out hopes, if he had not given an actual promise, t_illiam of Normandy that he should succeed him. Of late the king had bee_omewhat weaned from his Norman predilections, and had placed himsel_nreservedly in Harold's hands, giving to the latter all real power while h_onfined himself to the discharge of religious exercises, and to th_upervision of the building of his abbey, varied occasionally by huntin_xpeditions, for he still retained a passionate love of the chase; but me_new that the warlike Duke of Normandy would not be likely to forget th_romise, and that trouble might come to England from over the sea.
  • Harold, then, they not only regarded as their present ruler, but as thei_uture king, and as the national leader and champion. Edward had no children.
  • The royal house was extinct save for Edward the Atheling, who, like th_resent king, had lived all his life abroad, and could have no sympathy wit_nglishmen. There being, then, no one of the royal house available, who bu_arold, the head of the great house of Godwin, the earl of the West Saxons, the virtual ruler of England, could be chosen? The English kings, althoug_enerally selected from the royal house, ruled rather by the election of th_eople as declared by their representatives in the Witan than by thei_ereditary right. The prince next in succession by blood might, at the deat_f the sovereign, be called king, but he was not really a monarch unti_lected by the Witan and formally consecrated.
  • It had been nine months after he had been acclaimed to the throne by th_eople of London that King Edward had been elected king by the Witan, an_ormally enthroned. Thus, then, the fact that Harold did not belong to th_oyal family mattered but little in the eyes of Englishmen. To them belonge_he right of choosing their own monarch, and if they chose him, who was to sa_hem nay?
  • Wulf felt uncomfortable as he followed the stately figure into the inner room, but he faced the Earl as the door closed behind him with as fearless a look a_hat with which he had stood before the haughty prelate of London. A sligh_mile played upon Harold's face as he looked down upon the boy.
  • "You are a troublesome varlet, Wulf, and the Lord Bishop has been makin_erious complaint of you to the king. He says that you brawled with his page, Walter Fitz-Urse; that you used insolent words against his countrymen; an_hat you even withstood himself. What have you to say to this?"
  • "The brawling was on the part of the bishop's page and not of mine, my lord. _as running out to carry the message with which you charged me to Ernulf o_over when I ran against Fitz-Urse. That was not my fault, but a pur_ischance, nevertheless I expressed my regret in fitting terms. Instead o_ccepting them, he spoke insolently, talked of chastising me, and put his han_n the hilt of his dagger. Then, my lord, I grew angry too. Why should I, th_age of Earl Harold, submit to be thus contemptuously spoken to by this youn_orman, who is but the page of an upstart bishop, and whom, if your lordshi_ill give permission, I would right willingly fight, with swords or any othe_eapons. Doubtless, in my anger, I did not speak respectfully of Walter'_ountrymen, and for this I am sorry, since it has been the ground of complain_nd of trouble to you."
  • "In fact, Wulf, you spoke as a quarrelsome boy and not as the page of one wh_as the cares of this kingdom on his shoulders, and whose great desire is t_eep peace between all parties," the earl put in gravely.
  • For the first time Wulf hung his head:
  • "I was wrong, my lord."
  • "You were wrong, Wulf; it is not good always to say what we think; and you, a_y page, should bear in mind that here at court it behoves you to behave an_o speak not as a headstrong boy, but as one whose words may, rightly o_rongly, be considered as an echo of those you may have heard from me. And no_o the third charge, that you withstood the prelate; a matter that, in th_ing's eyes, is a very serious one."
  • "The bishop would give ear to nought I had to say. He listened to his ow_age's account and not to mine, and when I said in my defence that though _id use the words about the Normans, I did so merely as one boy quarrellin_ith the other, he said I ought to have my ears slit. Surely, my lord, a free- born thane is not to be spoken to even by a Norman bishop as if he were _orman serf. I only replied that before there was any slitting of ears you_ordship would have a say in the matter. So far, I admit, I did withstand th_ishop, and I see not how I could have made other reply."
  • "It would have been better to have held your peace altogether, Wulf."
  • "It would, my lord, but it would also surely have been better had the bisho_bstained from talking about slitting ears."
  • "That would have been better also, but two wrongs do not make a right. I wa_resent when the bishop made his complaint, and upon my inquiring more int_he matter, his version was somewhat similar to yours. I then pointed out t_im that if holy bishops lost their tempers and used threats that were beyon_heir power to carry into effect, they must not be too severe upon boys wh_orget the respect due to their office. Nevertheless, I admitted that you wer_rong, and I promised the king, who was perhaps more disturbed by thi_ncident than there was any occasion for, that I would take you to tas_eriously, and that to avoid any further brawl between you and young Fitz- Urse, you should for a time be sent away from court. I did this on th_greement that the bishop should, on his part, admonish Walter Fitz-Urs_gainst discourteous behaviour and unseemly brawling, and had I known that h_ad put his hand on his dagger, I would have gone further. Have you an_itnesses that he did so?"
  • "Yes, my lord; I saw the smith Ulred among those standing by, and doubtless h_ould see the action."
  • "That is well," Harold said. "I shall acquaint the bishop with the fact when _ell him that I have ordered you to leave for your estate at Steyning, an_hat if his page denies it, I have witnesses to prove the truth of you_ssertions. I think in that case he will be glad to drop the matter, for wer_ to mention the fact to the king, he, who has a horror of the drawing o_eapons, would order Walter Fitz-Urse to be sent back to Normandy. So you_xile is not likely to be of long duration. You understand, Wulf, that I a_ot seriously angered with you in this matter. You are but a boy, and on_annot expect that you will behave as a prudent man; but remember, lad, even _oy's words may do mischief, especially when placed as you are. There may com_ time when you shall show by deeds and not by words your feelings against th_ormans, but till then bear yourself prudently. We Saxons are over given t_asty words, and this is a fault. I myself, as all men know, have no love fo_he Normans, but no one has heard me speak against them. The king loves them, as is but natural, seeing that he was brought up amongst them, and I have no_ithstood his wishes in the matter, trying only that a certain amount o_referment in the land should be bestowed upon those who are its owners an_ot strangers to it and its tongue. You will ride this afternoon for Steyning, Wulf, but I hope it will not be long before you are back again. If I had m_wn way in the matter, I should think that sufficient had already been sai_nd done in so trifling a matter as a boys' quarrel; but as it has bee_rought before our king by a bishop, it is in the king's eyes a seriou_usiness, for assuredly he himself would have borne a reproof from William o_ondon more meekly than you did, and having therefore become a church matter, it is altogether beyond my power to interfere. At any rate, a short sojourn o_our estate will do you no harm; it is sometime since you were there, and i_s a good thing that the lord of the soil should be well known by those ove_hom he is placed."
  • Wulf bowed deeply and withdrew. The prospect of a visit for a few weeks o_ven months to Steyning was not a terrible one. It was some years since he ha_tayed there for any time. He had been two years at Waltham, and since hi_ather's death had been for the most part with Harold, and the thought of a_nrestricted life and of spending his time as he chose, hunting and hawking, and going about among his tenants, was by no means unpleasant. He was quit_atisfied that Harold was not seriously angered with him, and for anythin_lse he cared little.
  • As he understood that his duties as a page were at present at an end, h_hought he would first call upon Ulred the smith, to ask him if he had see_alter Fitz-Urse handle his dagger, and also to tell Osgod that he was goin_way for a time. He found the smith at work.
  • "Good morning, Master Wulf; though this is not the first time I have seen yo_oday, for I was at hand when you had that quarrel with the Norman page."
  • "Yes, I caught sight of your face, Ulred. It was about that I have come t_ou. The bishop has made complaint against me to the king, and Earl Harold ha_rdered me to go down to Steyning for a time. Of course I acted wrongly i_peaking as I did to the bishop, but so far as Walter Fitz-Urse is concerned _aintain that I did no wrong. I told my lord as much, and that the Norman pu_and upon his dagger. The earl said that if I could prove that it woul_enefit my case. I told him that I had seen you close by, but that I did no_now whether you saw the page do it."
  • "Assuredly I did," the smith replied, "and had my cudgel in readiness to ta_im on the wrist if he had drawn his dagger. I would testify the same befor_ing Edward himself."
  • "Thank you, Ulred, I will tell my lord so."
  • "I am sorry you are to be sent away from court. That is a bad job, Maste_ulf, and Osgod here will miss you greatly."
  • "That shall I," the lad said. "Could you not take me down with you, youn_aster? You could teach me there how to comport myself as your squire, so tha_hen the time comes that you need one, I should know my duties. Besides, yo_ould practise on me with sword and battle-axe."
  • "I could not do much in the way of teaching you, Osgod, seeing as yet I a_yself but a learner, but I should be glad, in truth, to have you with me, an_t would be good for me to keep up my practice in arms. I shall feel almos_ike a stranger there, and should like to have one I know with me. I could as_arl Harold to let me have a horse for you from his stables, where he has tw_r three score doing nothing."
  • "With your favour, sir, I would rather trust to my own feet. I am a stou_alker, and though I shall not be able to keep up with you, I think that eac_ight I can get to the hostelrie where you may put up; but, if not, it matter_ittle, I can make my way after you and join you there—that is, if my fathe_ill give me permission to go."
  • "You may as well go sooner as later," the smith said. "Since you have take_nto your head that you will be Master Wulf's man, I see not that it wil_enefit you remaining in the forge. You know enough now to mend a broken rive_nd to do such repairs to helm and armour as may be needed on an expedition; therefore, if the young thane is minded to take you I have naught to sa_gainst it."
  • "Then so shall it be," Wulf said, "I shall see my Lord Harold before I start, and will tell him that you are minded to be my man, and that I am minded so t_ake you. He will not object, I am sure, but it were best to ask him, since, when I return to court, I shall have you about me."
  • "When do you start, Master Wulf?"
  • "I am ordered to go to-day; therefore, as soon as I have seen the earl again _hall be off."
  • "Where will you sleep to-night?"
  • "I shall ride to Guildford this afternoon."
  • "Then you had better lay aside your hammer at once, Osgod," the smith said,
  • "and don fresh clothes, and make your best suit into a bundle and star_ithout delay; it is but ten o'clock, and you may be at Guildford befor_unset. 'Tis but thirty miles, and eight hours' walking will take you there.
  • If the young thane tells you that Lord Harold makes objection to his takin_ou, you can turn your face backward to-morrow and no harm will be done."
  • "I shall overtake you before you are half-way, Osgod, and can then take you u_ehind me on my horse; and now I will go back to the palace. I may have t_ait some time before I can see Earl Harold. From sunrise to sunset he has bu_ few moments to himself, and I shall have to watch my time to get a word wit_im."
  • It was not, indeed, until two o'clock in the afternoon that Wulf had a chanc_f speaking to the duke. Then, seeing that he was for the moment alone, h_ntered the room and stood with bowed head waiting for Harold to address him.
  • "So you have come to say good-bye, Wulf," the latter said kindly; "it is bes_o, boy. A time in the country will do you good, and there will be much fo_ou to do down there. I have ordered two of my men to be in readiness to moun_nd ride with you, for I would not that you should go unattended. One of the_ill bear a message from me and a letter under my hand to the steward, an_ill tell him that although you will, of course, remain as my ward until yo_ome of age, you are in all respects to be treated as if you were already m_worn man, and thane. It would be well if you could gather among your tenant_wenty stout men as house-carls. The steward is ordered to pay to you whateve_oneys you may require, and to account for them to me when he sends me in hi_heckers. These house-carls will, of course, be paid. There must be ampl_tore of armour at Steyning for them, for your father was followed by fort_ouse-carls when he went with me to the Welsh wars. One of the men who goe_ith you is a stout man-at-arms and is one of my own house-carls; he wil_emain with you and will instruct your men in arms and teach them to figh_houlder to shoulder. There may be bad times ere long, and it is upon traine_roops and not upon hasty levies that we must most depend. In time I trust yo_ill be able to place fifty such men in the field, but at present twenty wil_uffice. Have you aught to say to me before you go?"
  • "Yes, my lord; first, to thank you for your kindness, and to say that I wil_arry out your instructions; secondly, to tell you that Ulred the smith sa_alter Fitz-Urse handle his dagger, and was standing ready to knock it fro_is hand did he draw it. Lastly, that Ulred's son Osgod, who is a stout lad _ear older than myself, and for his age well accustomed to arms, desires to b_worn as my man and to serve me in hall and in field. I like him much and hav_lmost daily practised with him in arms, and I should be glad to have him wit_e if you see no objection."
  • "Not at all, Wulf; it is well that a man should have at his side one in who_e can altogether trust, be he of gentle blood or simple man-at-arms."
  • "Then I may take him down with me, my lord?"
  • "Yes, if it pleases you. Can he ride?"
  • "Not as yet, my lord, I will see that he is instructed down at Steyning. H_tarted to walk this morning, understanding that if you refused him permissio_o be my man he would at once return. We shall overtake him on the road."
  • "Bid one of your escort take him up behind," the earl said, "I like hi_pirit. See that he is fittingly apparelled. You shall hear from me ere long."
  • Half an hour later Wulf mounted, and with his two followers rode fro_estminster.