Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHarold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 3
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 3 Post by :mtndoc Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2482

Click below to download : Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 3 (Format : PDF)

Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 3

BOOK I. NORMAN VISITOR, SAXON KING, DANISH PROPHETESS
CHAPTER III

While King Edward was narrating to the Norman Duke all that he knew, and all that he knew not, of Hilda's history and secret arts, the road wound through lands as wild and wold-like as if the metropolis of England lay a hundred miles distant. Even to this day patches of such land, in the neighbourhood of Norwood, may betray what the country was in the old time:--when a mighty forest, "abounding with wild beasts"--"the bull and the boar"--skirted the suburbs of London, and afforded pastime to king and thegn. For the Norman kings have been maligned by the popular notion that assigns to them all the odium of the forest laws. Harsh and severe were those laws in the reign of the Anglo-Saxon; as harsh and severe, perhaps, against the ceorl and the poor man, as in the days of Rufus, though more mild unquestionably to the nobles. To all beneath the rank of abbot and thegn, the king's woods were made, even by the mild Confessor, as sacred as the groves of the Druids: and no less penalty than that of life was incurred by the lowborn huntsman who violated their recesses. (24)

Edward's only mundane passion was the chase; and a day rarely passed, but what after mass he went forth with hawk or hound. So that, though the regular season for hawking did not commence till October, he had ever on his wrist some young falcon to essay, or some old favourite to exercise. And now, just as William was beginning to grow weary of his good cousin's prolix recitals, the hounds suddenly gave tongue, and from a sedge-grown pool by the way-side, with solemn wing and harsh boom, rose a bittern.

"Holy St. Peter!" exclaimed the Saint-king, spurring his palfrey, and loosing his famous Peregrine falcon (25). William was not slow in following that animated example, and the whole company rode at half speed across the rough forest-land, straining their eyes upon the soaring quarry, and the large wheels of the falcons. Riding thus, with his eyes in the air, Edward was nearly pitched over his palfrey's head, as the animal stopped suddenly, checked by a high gate, set deep in a half embattled wall of brick and rubble. Upon this gate sate, quite unmoved and apathetic, a tall ceorl, or labourer, while behind it was a gazing curious group of men of the same rank, clad in those blue tunics of which our peasant's smock is the successor, and leaning on scythes and flails. Sour and ominous were the looks they bent upon that Norman cavalcade. The men were at least as well clad as those of the same condition are now; and their robust limbs and ruddy cheeks showed no lack of the fare that supports labour. Indeed, the working man of that day, if not one of the absolute theowes or slaves, was, physically speaking, better off, perhaps, than he has ever since been in England, more especially if he appertained to some wealthy thegn of pure Saxon lineage, whose very title of lord came to him in his quality of dispenser of bread (26); and these men had been ceorls under Harold, son of Godwin, now banished from the land.

"Open the gate, open quick, my merry men," said the gentle Edward (speaking in Saxon, though with a strong foreign accent), after he had recovered his seat, murmured a benediction, and crossed himself three times. The men stirred not.

"No horse tramps the seeds we have sown for Harold the Earl to reap;" said the ceorl, doggedly, still seated on the gate. And the group behind him gave a shout of applause.

Moved more than ever he had been known to be before, Edward spurred his steed up to the boor, and lifted his hand. At that signal twenty swords flashed in the air behind, as the Norman nobles spurred to the place. Putting back with one hand his fierce attendants, Edward shook the other at the Saxon. "Knave, knave," he cried, "I would hurt you, if I could!"

There was something in these words, fated to drift down into history, at once ludicrous and touching. The Normans saw them only in the former light, and turned aside to conceal their laughter; the Saxon felt them in the latter and truer sense, and stood rebuked. That great king, whom he now recognised, with all those drawn swords at his back, could not do him hurt; that king had not the heart to hurt him. The ceorl sprang from the gate, and opened it, bending low.

"Ride first, Count William, my cousin," said the King, calmly.

The Saxon ceorl's eyes glared as he heard the Norman's name uttered in the Norman tongue, but he kept open the gate, and the train passed through, Edward lingering last. Then said the King, in a low voice,--

"Bold man, thou spokest of Harold the Earl and his harvests; knowest thou not that his lands have passed from him, and that he is outlawed, and that his harvests are not for the scythes of his ceorls to reap?"

"May it please you, dread Lord and King," replied the Saxon simply, "these lands that were Harold the Earl's, are now Clapa's, the sixhaendman's."

"How is that?" quoth Edward, hastily; "we gave them neither to sixhaendman nor to Saxon. All the lands of Harold hereabout were divided amongst sacred abbots and noble chevaliers--Normans all."

"Fulke the Norman had these fair fields, yon orchards and tynen; Fulke sold them to Clapa, the Earl's sixhaendman, and what in mancusses and pence Clapa lacked of the price, we, the ceorls of the Earl, made up from our own earnings in the Earl's noble service. And this very day, in token thereof, have we quaffed the bedden-ale (27). Wherefore, please God and our Lady, we hold these lands part and parcel with Clapa; and when Earl Harold comes again, as come he will, here at least he will have his own."

Edward, who, despite a singular simplicity of character, which at times seemed to border on imbecility, was by no means wanting in penetration when his attention was fairly roused, changed countenance at this proof of rough and homely affection on the part of these men to his banished earl and brother-in-law. He mused a little while in grave thought, and then said, kindly--

"Well, man, I think not the worse of you for loyal love to your thegn, but there are those who would do so, and I advise you, brotherlike, that ears and nose are in peril if thou talkest thus indiscreetly."

"Steel to steel, and hand to hand," said the Saxon, bluntly, touching the long knife in his leathern belt, "and he who sets gripe on Sexwolf son of Elfhelm, shall pay his weregeld twice over."

"Forewarned, foolish man, thou are forewarned. Peace," said the King; and, shaking his head, he rode on to join the Normans, who now, in a broad field, where the corn sprang green, and which they seemed to delight in wantonly trampling, as they curvetted their steeds to and fro, watched the movements of the bittern and the pursuit of the two falcons.

"A wager, Lord King!" said a prelate, whose strong family likeness to William proclaimed him to be the Duke's bold and haughty brother, Odo (28), Bishop of Bayeux;--"a wager. My steed to your palfrey that the Duke's falcon first fixes the bittern."

"Holy father," answered Edward, in that slight change of voice which alone showed his displeasure, "these wagers all savour of heathenesse, and our canons forbid them to mone (29) and priest. Go to, it is naught."

The bishop, who brooked no rebuke, even from his terrible brother, knit his brows, and was about to make no gentle rejoinder, when William, whose profound craft or sagacity was always at watch, lest his followers should displease the King, interposed, and taking the word out of the prelate's mouth, said:

"Thou reprovest us well, Sir and King; we Normans are too inclined to such levities. And see, your falcon is first in pride of place. By the bones of St. Valery, how nobly he towers! See him cover the bittern!--see him rest on the wing!--Down he swoops! Gallant bird!"

"With his heart split in two on the bittern's bill," said the bishop; and down, rolling one over the other, fell bittern and hawk, while William's Norway falcon, smaller of size than the King's, descended rapidly, and hovered over the two. Both were dead.

"I accept the omen," muttered the gazing Duke; "let the natives destroy each other!" He placed his whistle to his lips, and his falcon flew back to his wrist.

"Now home," said King Edward.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 4 Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 4

Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 4
BOOK I. NORMAN VISITOR, SAXON KING, DANISH PROPHETESS CHAPTER IVThe royal party entered London by the great bridge which divided Southwark from the capital; and we must pause to gaze a moment on the animated scene which the immemorial thoroughfare presented. The whole suburb before entering Southwark was rich in orchards and gardens, lying round the detached houses of the wealthier merchants and citizens. Approaching the river-side, to the left, the eye might see the two circular spaces set apart, the one for bear, the other for bull-baiting. To the right, upon a green mound of waste, within sight
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 2 Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 2

Harold, The Last Of The Saxon Kings - Book 1. Norman Visitor, Saxon King, Danish Prophetess - Chapter 2
BOOK I. NORMAN VISITOR, SAXON KING, DANISH PROPHETESS CHAPTER IIA magnificent race of men were those war sons of the old North, whom our popular histories, so superficial in their accounts of this age, include in the common name of the "Danes." They replunged into barbarism the nations over which they swept; but from that barbarism they reproduced the noblest elements of civilisation. Swede, Norwegian, and Dane, differing in some minor points, when closely examined, had yet one common character viewed at a distance. They had the same prodigious energy, the same passion for freedom, individual and civil,
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT