Two days after the departure of the messengers from the castle the look-ou_ave notice that he perceived a large body of horsemen and footmen coming dow_he valley, and half an hour later the banner of Gurth could be made out. Th_arrison at once set to work to replace the planking of the bridge, and thi_as accomplished by the time that the Saxon earl, accompanied by severa_hanes, and followed by a strong body of troops, reached the platform at th_ther end. As he did so Beorn and Wulf crossed the bridge to meet him.
"You have done well indeed, thanes!" Gurth exclaimed. "You have made _onquest to be proud of; for as we rode along this place seemed to us well- nigh impregnable. But your messengers have told me how you captured it, an_ow stoutly you have since defended it. It was a daring thought, indeed, t_ttempt the assault of such a place with a handful of men. You have rendered _plendid service to the king; for with the capture of this fortress, and o_lewellyn himself and his children, there is no fear that there will b_rouble in this part of Wales for years to come. We, too, are speciall_ndebted to you, for had we been forced to besiege this place it could onl_ave been taken with a vast loss of life, and it might well have resisted al_ur efforts. That seventy men should have taken it, even if weakly defended, is wonderful indeed."
"It is to Wulf, my lord, that the credit is chiefly due," Beorn said. "It wa_e who proposed and planned the attack; and though I have done my best t_upport him, I have but acted as his second in command. He is quicker-witte_han I am, and far more fitted to lead."
Wulf was about to speak, when Gurth stopped him with a gesture of the hand.
"At any rate, Beorn," he said, "you possess qualities that are by no mean_ommon. That you are a brave soldier I know well, but so I trust are all m_hanes; still, it is not every one who has the wit to perceive that anothe_as sharper wits than himself, still fewer who would have the generosity t_tand aside and to give the major share in an exploit like this to another.
What you may lose in credit by your avowal you will at least gain in th_steem of us all. Now, commandant," he said to Wulf with a smile, "show us th_ay into this capture of yours."
Before entering the castle itself Gurth made a detour of the walls, and upo_eeing them was still more surprised than before at the manner in which th_apture had been effected.
"You see, thanes," he said, "the matter hinged on the possession of thes_ates through the cross walls. That the rear walls should have been taken b_urprise was a daring action, but it would have availed nothing had th_arrison had time to close even the second of these gates; for though, as i_eems, no more numerous than our men, they could have easily held it unti_einforced from the village below, and would then have turned the tables o_heir assailants. The capture was due to the quickness and boldness with whic_ulf and Beorn, with the few men who had obtained a footing on the wall whe_he alarm was given, rushed forward and held the inner gateway until the res_ame up."
Gurth paused for a time on the wall above the point where the secret passag_ame out on the face of the rock, and having asked many questions as to how i_as that they were so well prepared for Llewellyn and his followers when the_ade the attack, he commended Wulf very strongly for his conduct in thi_atter.
"Others might have taken the castle as you did, young thane," he said, "bu_ssuredly most would have lost it again, for having set guards on the wall_hey would have given themselves up to feasting and sleep, without a though_hat there might possibly exist a secret passage through this rock, whic_ooks as if nothing short of a winged army could scale it. What say you, thanes?"
The Saxons cordially agreed with the earl. They were stout fighters, bu_etter in the field than in council, and it was in no small degree to th_anish blood in their veins that the sons of Godwin owed the vigour an_ntellect that had raised the family to so lofty a position among thei_ountrymen. On concluding his inspection of the walls Gurth entered th_astle, and after first examining the entrance to the secret passage, sat dow_ith the thanes to a banquet, the preparation of which had been begun as soo_s their coming was perceived. After that Gurth paid a visit to Llewellyn.
"Your fate is not in my hands, prince," he said to him, "but in that of m_rother Harold. As, however, you have used your influence to persuade you_eople to submit, I shall do my best to induce him to take a favourable vie_f your case."
The next day the main body of Gurth's force arrived, and encamped in th_alley. Llewellyn's chiefs all came in and made their submission, but th_eople for the most part took to the hills. As, day after day, news came o_he terrible retaliation dealt out by the troops of Harold and Tostig the_ost heart altogether, and sent in messengers craving to be allowed to come i_nd lay down their arms. Gurth at once accepted their submission, and hundred_eturned to their homes. In other parts of Wales the feeling that resistanc_as vain rapidly extended. Their most fertile valleys had all been turned int_eserts, and even on their own hills and among their own forests, where the_ad hitherto deemed themselves safe from attack, they were pursued and hunte_own by the now lightly-armed Saxons. From all parts, therefore, offers t_ubmit were sent in, and as a proof of their submission and regret for pas_ehaviour, they seized Griffith their king, killed him, and sent his head t_arold, who thereupon granted them terms, and ordered his forces to withdra_eyond the border.
The campaign had lasted less than three months, but so terrible had been th_low dealt to the Welsh that a hundred years passed before they again venture_o renew their incursions into England. Llewellyn was pardoned, but grea_reaches were made in the walls of the fortress facing the hill, and these h_as forbidden ever to repair. His children were taken to England, to b_rought up there, and to serve as hostages for his future good behaviour.
Harold, when he learnt the particulars of the capture and defence of Porthwyn, expressed his approval in the warmest terms.
"You have performed the greatest and most important feat of the war, Wulf," h_aid. "Yes, it is right that you should give every credit Beorn for his shar_n the matter; but I know you both well, and am assured that Beorn would neve_ave conceived and carried out the attack, and that had he done s_uccessfully, he and his men would all have been slain by Llewellyn tha_ight. Beorn is a good youth; he is brave and kind-hearted; he is no fool, an_ill make and excellent thane; will become a favourite at court, and be alway_oyal and staunch. But I shall look to see you more than this. You have a hea_uick to plan, readiness and decision in danger, and, as you have shown, _enius for war. Study the writings of the Romans, the greatest masters of wa_he world has ever seen, make yourself acquainted with the methods of Caesa_nd other great commanders, and do not neglect to ponder on their laws an_ustoms.
"When matters are settled here, travel to the various courts of Europe an_cquaint yourself with the ways of peoples who are far more advanced than w_n civilization, and you may come to stand some day among the most truste_ouncillors of the king, and as one of the best leaders of his troops. I se_hat the success you have attained while as yet so young has not puffed you u_n any way. Always remember, Wulf, that though success may be envied, thos_ho are successful may yet be liked if only they themselves do not see_onscious of success. I should say you had best not make a long stay at court, but betake you, shortly, to your estate. It is a good school, and one who ca_ule his own people wisely has a sound preparation for posts of large_esponsibility. You will always find in the prior of Bramber a wise adviser, who will direct your studies, and will aid you where your Latinity fall_hort.
"It will be time enough in another five years for you to go abroad; but, o_ourse, I do not wish you to remain all that time away from court. It is neve_ood to be forgotten; therefore, come up two or three times a year. I trus_hat there will be no fresh wars or troubles to hinder your studies o_nterfere with your life; but remember that there is always danger fro_ormandy, therefore always keep on foot your force of housecarls; and if, as _hink, your estates can afford it, add to their number, so that if troubl_oes come you will be able to again play a prominent part in it."
Wulf's contingent marched with the rest of the troops from the east as far a_eading, and there struck off by the nearest road to Steyning. He and Beor_ccompanied Harold to London, and after staying there for a short time, an_aking part in the fetes with which the conquest of the Welsh was celebrated, Wulf returned to Steyning and took up the life he had previously led there.
Before starting he asked Harold's advice as to whether he should fortif_teyning after the manner of the Norman castles.
"By no means, Wulf. Such castles are useful only against quarrelsom_eighbours. Wars are decided by great battles, and if these are lost a castl_oes but bring ruin upon its possessor, for it must sooner or later be taken.
The man who, when a cause is lost, returns quietly to his home and goes abou_is usual work may escape unnoticed, while one who shuts himself up in _astle is certain to suffer at last from the vengeance of the conquerors.
Resistance maintained in forests and swamps, as was done by the Bretons an_elsh, may weary out a foe, but a conqueror can wish for nothing better tha_hat the defeated may assemble themselves in towns and castles, where he ca_lowly, perhaps, but surely destroy them piecemeal."
The time passed quickly and pleasantly at Steyning. Wulf studied hard fo_hree or four hours a day, looked after his tenants, hunted and hawked, doubled the number of his company of housecarls, and often rode over to th_riory of an evening. He now took his place naturally among the thanes in tha_art of the country, the reputation he had gained in the two wars giving him _tanding among them, to which, from his youth, he would not otherwise hav_een entitled. In accordance with Harold's advice he went three times durin_he year up to court, where he generally met Beorn, who spent the greater par_f his time there.
"How you can like all this formality and ceremony is more than I can imagine, Beorn."
"I don't care either for the formality or the ceremony, but I like th_musement and the gaiety, and should ask with much more reason how can yo_ike to spend your time studying parchments and reading the doings of thos_ld Romans, when you might be enjoying yourself here. The matter is altogethe_eyond me."
"I like it for itself, and I like it because it may some day be of grea_ervice to me."
"You see you are ambitious, Wulf, and I am not. I don't want to be a grea_ommander or a state-councillor, and if I did want it ever so much I know _hould never be one or the other. I am content to be a thane, as my father wa_efore me, and seek no greater change than that of a stay for a month a_ourt. That brightens one up more than anything; and one cannot be all one'_ife hunting in the woods and seeing after the tenants. By the way, I had _uarrel the other day with your old Norman enemy, Fitz-Urse. Your name wa_entioned, and he chose to sneer offensively. I told him that you had don_ore already than he would ever do if he lived to be an old man. We came t_igh words, and next day met in the forest and there settled it. He ran m_hrough the arm, and I slashed his cheek. As quarrelling is strictly forbidde_e made some excuse and went over to France, while I went down home till m_rm was well again. I fancy we hurt each other about equally, but the scar o_y arm won't show, while I fancy, from what the leech who dressed his woun_old me, the sear is likely to spoil his beauty for life."
"I am sorry you quarrelled with him about me, Beorn. It would have been bette_o have said nothing, though I thank you for your championship."
"Nonsense, Wulf. I know very well you would not hear anyone speak ill of m_ithout taking up the cudgels for me."
Wulf could not deny this. "Certainly not, Beorn; still it is a pity to make a_nemy, and Fitz-Urse has shown in my case that he is not one who forgives."
The Welsh campaign had terminated at the end of August, and it was a mont_ater that Wulf had returned to Steyning. Just a year afterwards he received _essage from Harold to come up to London, and to order his housecarls to hol_hemselves in readiness to start immediately on receiving an order from him.
Somewhat surprised, for no news had reached him of any trouble that could cal_or the employment of an armed force, Wulf rode for London alone, biddin_sgod follow with the housecarls as soon as he heard from him. When he reache_he palace he heard news that explained the cause of his summons. Northumbri_ad risen in rebellion against Earl Tostig. He was accused of tyranny an_ppression, and had been continually away from his earldom, leaving it to b_overned in his absence by a thane.
The country north of the Humber had for a long period of years bee_ndependent, appointing their own rulers, who owed no allegiance whatever t_he kings of the West Saxons. Although now incorporated in the kingdom o_ngland the Northumbrians regretted their lost independence, and this all th_ore, that the population were for the most part Danish, and viewed with a_ntense feeling of jealousy the preponderance gained by the West Saxons.
Tostig at the time the revolt declared itself was hunting with the king—wh_ad a great affection for him—in the forests of Wiltshire, and had not arrive_n town when Wulf reached the capital. It was not until the afternoon tha_ulf had an interview with Harold. The earl had just come from a council an_as alone.
"Thank you for coming up so speedily," he said as he shook the young thane b_he hand. "You have heard the news, I suppose?"
"I have heard that Northumberland has risen in rebellion."
"Yes, that was the news that arrived four days since."
"Is it serious?"
"Yes, very serious; the rebellion grows each day. It is headed by several o_he greatest landowners in the north, both Danish and Saxon, and the wors_art of the news is that the trouble has, as I hear, been stirred up by Edwi_f Mercia and his brother. It is the old rivalry between the House of Leofri_nd ours. They are jealous of our influence with the king, and would gladl_end England into two kingdoms again. We hear to-day that the Northumbria_obles have summoned a Gemot to meet, which amounts in fact to a rebellion, not only against Tostig but against the king."
"If Mercia joins Northumbria it would be a more serious business than that i_ales."
"I think not that it will be so," Harold said. "Edwin has been alway_onspiring. He stirred up the Welsh, he has encouraged the Norwegians, he ha_ntrigued in Northumbria. He and his brother have ever been a source o_rouble, and yet he has never openly rebelled; he sets others to do th_ighting for him, prepared if they are successful to reap the fruits of thei_ictory. There is, of course, still hope that moderate councils may prevail, but I fear that the Northumbrians will consider that they have gone too far t_urn back. At present, at any rate, no steps will be taken. As long as n_rmed forces are set in motion there are hopes that matters may be arranged, but the approach of an army would set all Northumbria on fire. The Gemot i_ummoned to meet this day week—that is on the third of October—and we shal_ait to hear what steps they take. Messengers have already been sent to _arge number of thanes to be prepared for service. I would that all kept _orce of housecarls as you do. I am going down to-night to my house nea_ampton. Do you come down with me, Wulf. Edith will be glad to see you."
Wulf had in the days of his pageship several times accompanied Harold t_ampton, and knew well the lady, who was known to the Saxons as Edith of th_wan-neck. She was by birth far inferior in position to Harold. The relatio_etween them was similar to that known throughout the middle ages as left-han_arriages. These were marriages contracted between men of high rank and ladie_f inferior position, and while they lasted were regarded as being lawful; bu_hey could be, and frequently were, broken off, when for politic or othe_easons the prince or noble had to seek another alliance. The lady was o_reat beauty and talent, and exercised a large influence over Harold. This wa_lways employed for good, and she was much beloved by the Saxons.
The alliance had been formed while Harold was quite a young man, and he an_dith were fondly attached to each other. His rise, however, to the positio_f the foremost man in England, and the prospect of his accession to th_hrone, rendered it probable that ere long he would be obliged to marry on_ho would strengthen his position, and would from her high birth be fitted t_hare the crown with him. William of Normandy was perfectly well aware of th_elation in which Edith stood to Harold, and had not regarded her as an_bstacle to the earl's marriage with his daughter; and even Harold himself ha_ot attempted to give it as a reason for declining the offer of the hand o_he Norman princess.
As they rode down to Hampton the earl said, "I dare say you are somewha_urprised at my leaving the court at this crisis, Wulf, but in truth I want t_eep my hands free. Tostig, you know, is rash and impetuous. I love him well, but am not blind to his faults; and I fear that the people of Northumbria hav_ome just cause for complaint against him. He is constantly away from hi_arldom. He was absent for months when he went to Rome, and he spends a grea_art of his time either at the court here or with the king at his hunting- lodges. The Northumbrians are a proud people, and it is small wonder that the_bject to be governed by an absent earl. Tostig is furious at what he term_he insolence of the Northumbrians, and I would fain avoid all questions o_ispute with him. It is not improbable that the king and his councillors ma_e called upon to hear the complaints of the Northumbrians, and to decid_etween them and Tostig. This will be bitter enough for my brother. He ma_eturn at any moment, and I greatly wish to avoid all argument with him befor_he matter is discussed in council."
The house at Hampton was a large one, and here Edith lived in considerabl_tate. Grooms ran up and took the horses as Harold and Wulf dismounted. Si_etainers in jerkins embroidered with the earl's cognizance appeared at th_oors. As they entered the house, Edith came out from an inner room and fondl_mbraced Harold.
"Who is this you have with you, Harold?"
"What, have you forgotten Wulf of Steyning, who has, as I told you, turned ou_ great fighter, and was the captor of the castle of Porthwyn, and of it_wner, Llewellyn ap Rhys?"
"I did not know you again, Wulf," Edith said holding out her hand to him, "bu_ow that I hear who you are I recognize you. Why, it is four years since I sa_ou, and you were then a mischievous little page. Harold has often spoken t_e about you, and your adventures in Normandy and Wales. I did not expect t_ee you, Harold," she went on turning to the earl, "after what you told me i_he letter you sent me yesterday, about the troubles in the north. I feare_hat you would be kept at court."
"Tostig and the king are still away," he said, "and he will return so furiou_t this revolt against his authority, that, thinking as I do that he is in n_mall degree at fault—for I have frequently remonstrated with him at spendin_o large a portion of his time away from his earldom,—I thought it best to ge_way."
"It is strange how Tostig differs from the rest of you," Edith said. "You an_eofwyn, and Gurth are all gentle and courteous, while Tostig is fierce an_mpetuous."
"Tostig has his faults," Harold said; "but we love each other dearly, and fro_he time we were boys together we have never had a dispute. It will be har_ndeed upon me if I am called upon to side against him. We have learnt, Edith, that Edwin and Morcar have been intriguing with the Northumbrians. Thes_ercian earls are ever bringing troubles upon the country, and I fear the_ill give even greater trouble in the future. If they stir up disturbances, a_hey have done, against the king, who is king by the will of the people, an_lso by right of birth, what will it be when—" and he stopped.
"When you shall mount the throne, my Harold," Edith said proudly. "Oh, tha_his feud between Leofric's house and Godwin's were at an end. It bodes il_or England."
"It is natural," Harold said gently. "It is as gall and wormwood to the earl_f Mercia to see the ascendancy of the West Saxons, and still more would it b_o were I, Godwin's son, without a drop of royal blood in my veins, to come t_e their king."
"The feud must be closed," Edith said firmly, though Wulf noticed that he_ace paled. "I have told you so before, Harold, and there is but one way."
"It shall never be closed in that way, Edith; rather would I lie in my grave."
"You have not to think of yourself, Harold, still less of me. It is of Englan_ou have to think—this England that will assuredly choose you as its king, an_ho will have a right to expect that you will make any or every sacrifice fo_ts sake"
"Any but that," Harold said.
She smiled faintly and shook her head. Wulf did not understand th_onversation, but there was a look of earnest resolve in her face that deepl_mpressed him. He had moved a short distance away, and now turned and looke_ut of the window, while they exchanged a few more words, having been, as h_aw, altogether oblivious of his presence in the earnestness with which the_oth spoke.
For a week Harold remained at Hampton. Wulf saw that he was much troubled i_is mind, and concluded that the messengers who came and went every day wer_he bearers of bad tidings. It was seldom that he was away from the side o_dith. When they were together she was always bright, but once or twice whe_ulf found her alone her features bore an expression of deep sadness.
"We must ride for London, Wulf," Harold said one morning after reading _etter brought by a royal messenger. "The king has laid his orders on me t_roceed at once to town, and indeed the news is well-nigh as bad as can be.
The Gemot has voted the deposition of Tostig, has even had the insolence t_eclare him an outlaw, and has elected Morcar in his place. It has also issue_ecrees declaring all partisans of Tostig outlaws, and confiscating thei_states. Two of Tostig's Danish housecarls were slain on the first day o_heir meeting. Two hundred of Tostig's personal followers have since bee_assacred; his treasury has been broken open, and all its contents carrie_ff. The election of Morcar shows but too plainly the designs of the earls o_ercia. They wish to divide England into two portions, and to reign suprem_orth of the Wellan. This will give them full half of England, and woul_ssuredly, even did we not oppose them now, lead to a terrible war. The mor_errible as William of Normandy will be watching from across the channel, ready to take instant advantage of our dissensions. God avert a war like this.
Every sacrifice must be made rather than that the men of the north and sout_f England should fly at each other's throats."
The earl scarcely spoke a word during the ride to London, but rode absorbed i_is thoughts with a sad and anxious countenance.
Day after day the news became more serious. Morcar accepted the earldom o_orthumbria, hurried to York, and placing himself at the head of th_orthumbrian forces, marched south, being joined on the way by the men o_incoln, Nottingham, and Derby, in all of which shires the Danish element wa_ery strong. At Northampton, which had formed part of the government o_ostig, Morcar was joined by his brother Edwin at the head of the forces o_ercia, together with a large body of Welsh. They found the people o_orthampton less favourable to their cause than they had expected, and i_evenge harried the whole country, killing and burning, and carrying off th_attle as booty and the men as slaves.
Harold bore the brunt of the trouble alone, for, regardless of the fact tha_alf the kingdom was in a flame, King Edward and Tostig continued thei_unting expeditions in Wiltshire, in spite of the urgent messages sent b_arold entreating them to return. In the meantime, still hoping that peac_ight in some way be preserved, Harold sent messages to all the thanes o_mportance in Wessex, ordering them to prepare to march to London with th_hole of their retainers and levies, as soon as they received orders to get i_otion. But while he still tarried in Wiltshire the king acceded to Harold'_equest that he might be empowered to go to Northampton to treat in Edward'_ame with the rebels.
As soon as he received this permission Harold hastened to Northampton, accompanied by only half a dozen of his thanes, among whom was Wulf. He wa_eceived with respect by the rebels, but when their leaders assembled, and i_he king's name he called upon them to lay down their arms, to cease fro_avaging, and to lay any complaints they might have to make against Tosti_efore the king or the National Gemot, he met with a flat refusal. They woul_ot listen to any proposition that involved the possibility of the return o_ostig, and boldly said that if the king wished to retain Northumbria as par_f his realm he must confirm the sentence of their Gemot upon Tostig, and mus_ecognize their election of Morcar to the earldom.
In all this Harold perceived clearly enough that, although it was th_orthumbrian leaders who were speaking, they were acting entirely under th_nfluence of Edwin and Morcar. All that he could obtain was that some of th_orthern thanes should accompany him to lay their demands before the kin_imself. Edward, upon hearing, by a swift messenger sent by Harold, of th_ailure of his attempt to induce the Northumbrians to lay down their arms, reluctantly abandoned the pleasures of the chase, and proceeded to Bretford, near Salisbury, where there was a royal house, and summoned a Witenagemot. As, however, the occasion was urgent, it was attended only by the king's chie_ouncillors, and by the thanes of that part of Wessex.
Between Tostig and Harold the quarrel that the latter had feared had alread_roken out. Harold was anxious above all things for peace, and although th_low to his own interests and to those of his family, by the transfer o_orthumbria from his brother to one of the Mercian earls, was a most seriou_ne, he preferred that even this should take place to embarking in a war tha_ould involve the whole of England. Tostig was so furious at finding tha_arold was not willing to push matters to the last extremity in his favour, that he accused him of being the secret instigator of the Northumbrian revolt.
The absurdity of such an accusation was evident. It was as much to Harold'_nterest as to that of Tostig that the great northern earldom should remain i_he hands of his family; but an angry man does not reason, and Tostig's fur_as roused to the highest point by the outspoken utterances of many of th_embers of the Witenagemot. These boldly accused him of cruelty and avarice, and declared that many of his acts of severity were caused by hi_etermination, under a show of justice, to possess himself of the wealth o_hose he condemned. Tostig then rose and declared before the assembly that th_hole rising was the work of Harold.
The latter simply denied the charge on oath, and his word was accepted a_ufficient. The Witan then turned to the question as to how the revolt was t_e dealt with. The king was vehemently in favour of putting it down by forc_f arms. Tostig was of all the Saxons his favourite friend, and he considere_he insult offered to him as dealt against himself. So determined was he, tha_e sent out orders for the whole of the forces of Wessex to march and join th_oyal standard. In vain Harold and Edward's wisest councillors endeavoured t_issuade him from a step that would deluge the country in blood, and migh_ead to terrible disaster. In vain they pointed out that while all the thane_ould willingly put their forces at his disposal to resist a foreign foe, o_ven to repel an invasion from the north, they would not risk life and fortun_n an endeavour to force a governor upon a people who hated him, and, as mos_hought, with good reason.
The king was immovable; but Harold and his councillors took steps quietly t_nform the thanes that the Witan was opposed to the order, and that for th_resent no harm would be done by disregarding the royal mandate. The king, i_is anger and mortification at finding himself unable to march against th_ebels with an overwhelming force, fell ill, and the control of affairs passe_nto Harold's hands; and the king, whose fits of passion, though extreme whil_hey lasted, were but short-lived gave him full power to deal with the matte_s he thought best.
Harold had done all that he could for Tostig when he went to Northampton, bu_ad failed. There was no alternative now between a great war, followe_robably by a complete split of the kingdom, or acquiescence in the demands o_he men of the North. He did not hesitate, but in the name of the kin_onfirmed the decisions arrived at by the Gemot of York—recognized Morcar a_arl of Northumbria, and granted a complete amnesty for all offences committe_uring the rising, on condition only that a general Witenagemot should be hel_t Oxford. At this meeting Northern and Southern England were again solemnl_econciled, as they had been forty-seven years before at an assembly held a_he same place.