The great Abbey of Westminster was approaching its
completion; an army of masons and labourers swarmed like bees upon
and around it, and although differing widely in its massive
architecture, with round Saxon windows and arches, from the edifice
that was two or three generations later to be reared in its
place,—to serve as a still more fitting tomb for the ashes of its
pious founder,—it was a stately abbey, rivalling the most famous of
the English fanes of the period.
From his palace hard by King Edward had watched
with the deepest interest the erection of the minster that was the
dearest object of his life. The King was surrounded by Normans, the
people among whom he had lived until called from his retirement to
ascend the throne of England, and whom he loved far better than
those over whom he reigned. He himself still lived almost the life
of a recluse. He was sincerely anxious for the good of his people,
but took small pains to ensure it, his life being largely passed in
religious devotions, and in watching over the rise of the abbey he
A town had risen around minster and palace, and
here the workmen employed found their lodgings, while craftsmen of
all descriptions administered to the wants 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 years of age, ran down the steps in haste.
He was evidently a Saxon by his fair hair and fresh complexion, and
any observer of the time would have seen that he must, therefore,
be in the employment of Earl Harold, the great minister, who had
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 leg coverings, a garment somewhat
resembling a blouse of blue cloth girded in by a belt at the waist,
and falling in folds to the knee. Over his shoulders hung a short
mantle of orange colour with a hood. On his head was a cap with a
wide brim that was turned up closely behind, and projected in a
pointed shovel shape in front. In his belt was a small dagger. He
wore shoes of light yellow leather fastened by bands over the
insteps. As he ran down the steps of the palace he came into sharp
contact with another page who had just turned the corner of the
"I crave your pardon, Walter Fitz-Urse," he said
hurriedly, "but I was in haste and saw you not."
The other lad was as clearly Norman as the speaker
was Saxon. He was perhaps a year the senior in point of age, and
taller by half a head, but was of slighter build. The expression of
his face differed as widely from that of the Saxon as did his
swarthy complexion and dark hair, for while the latter face wore a
frank and pleasant expression, that of the Norman was haughty and
"You did it on purpose," he said angrily, "and were
we not under the shadow of the palace I would chastise you as you
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 are talking to a Norman serf?
You will please to remember you are in England; but if you are not
satisfied with my apology, I will ride with you a few miles into
the country, and we will then try with equal arms where the
chastisement is to fall."
The Norman put his hand to his dagger, but there
was an ominous growl from some men who had paused to listen to the
"You are an insolent boor, Wulf of Steyning, and
some day I will punish you as you deserve."
"Some day," the Saxon laughed, "we shall, I hope,
see you and all your tribe sent across the Channel. There are few
of us here who would not see your backs with pleasure."
"What is this?" an imperious voice demanded; and
turning round, Wulf saw William, the Norman Bishop of London, who,
followed by several monks and pages, had pushed his way through the
crowd. "Walter Fitz-Urse, what means this altercation?"
"The Saxon ran against me of set purpose, my lord,"
Walter Fitz-Urse said, in tones of deep humility, "and because I
complained he challenged me to ride with him into the country to
fight, and then he said he hoped that some day all the Normans
would be sent across the Channel."
"Is this so?" the prelate said sternly to Wulf;
"did you thus insult not only my page, but all of us, his
"I ran against him by accident," Wulf said, looking
up fearlessly in the prelate's face. "I apologized, though I know
not that I was more in fault than he; but instead of taking my
apology as one of gentle blood should do, he spoke like a churl,
and threatened me with chastisement, and then I did say that I
hoped he and all other Normans in the land would some day be packed
across the Channel."
"Your ears ought to be slit as an insolent
"I meant no insolence, my Lord Bishop; and as to
the slitting of my ears, I fancy 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 growing crowd, he said coldly:
"I shall lay the matter before him. Come, Walter,
enough of this. You are also somewhat to blame for not having
received more courteously the apologies of this saucy page."
The crowd fell back with angry mutterings as he
turned, and, followed by Walter Fitz-Urse and the ecclesiastics,
made his way along the street to the principal entrance of the
palace. Without waiting to watch his departure, Wulf, the Saxon
page, pushed his way through the crowd, and went off at full speed
to carry the message with which he had been charged.
"Our king is a good king," a squarely-built
man,—whose bare arms with the knotted muscles showing through the
skin, and hands begrimed with charcoal, indicated that he was a
smith,—remarked to a gossip as the little crowd broke up, "but it
is a grievous pity that he was brought up a Norman, still more that
he was not left in peace to pass his life as a monk as he desired.
He fills the land with his Normans; soon as an English bishop dies,
straightway a Norman is clapped into his place. All the offices at
court are filled with them, and it is seldom a word of honest
English is spoken in the palace. The Norman castles are rising over
the land, and his favourites divide among them the territory of
every English earl or thane who incurs the king's displeasure. Were
it not for Earl Harold, one might as well be under Norman sway
"Nay, nay, neighbour Ulred, matters are not so bad
as that. I dare say they would have been as you say had it not been
for Earl Godwin and his sons. But it was a great check that Godwin
gave them when he returned after his banishment, and the Norman
bishops and nobles hurried across the seas in a panic. For years
now the king has left all matters in the hands of Harold, and is
well content if only he can fast and pray like any monk, and give
all his thoughts and treasure to the building of yonder abbey."
"We want neither a monk nor a Norman over us," the
smith said roughly, "still less 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 full of good
intentions, and is a holy and pious monarch, but who is not strong
enough for a ruler. He leaves it to another to preserve England in
peace, to keep in order the great Earls of Mercia and the North, to
hold the land against Harold of Norway, Sweyn, and others, and,
above all, to watch the Normans across the water. A monk is well
enough in a convent, but truly 'tis bad for a country to have a
monk as its king."
"There have been some war-loving prelates, Ulred;
men as ambitious as any of the great earls, and more dangerous,
because they have learning."
"Ay, there have been great prelates," the smith
agreed. "Look at Lyfing of Worcester, to whom next only to Godwin
the king owed his throne. He was an Englishman first and a bishop
afterwards, and was a proof, if needed, that a man can be a great
churchman and a great patriot and statesman too. It was he rather
than Godwin who overcame the opposition of the Danish party, and
got the Witan at last to acquiesce in the choice of London and
Wessex, and to give their vote to Edward.
"Well was it he did so. For had he failed we should
have had as great a struggle in England as when Alfred battled
against the Danes. We of London and the men of Wessex under the
great Earl were bent upon being ruled by a prince of our own blood.
The last two Danish kings had shown us that anything is better than
being governed by the Northmen. It was Lyfing who persuaded the
Earl of Mercia to side with Wessex rather than with Northumbria,
but since Lyfing, what great Englishman have we had in the church?
Every bishopric was granted by Edward to Norman priests, until
Godwin and his sons got the upper hand after their exile. Since
then most of them have been given to Germans. It would seem that
the king was so set against Englishmen that only by bringing in
foreigners can Harold prevent all preferment going to Normans. But
what is the consequence? They say now that our church is governed
from Rome, whereas before Edward's time we Englishmen did not think
of taking our orders from Italy.
"There will trouble come of it all, neighbour.
Perhaps not so long as Edward reigns, but at his death. There is
but one of the royal race surviving, and he, like Edward, has lived
all his life abroad. There can be no doubt what the choice of
Englishmen will be. Harold has been our real ruler for years. He is
wise 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 not give up their hold without a struggle.
Men say that William, their duke, makes no secret of his hope to
become master of England, in which case God help us all. But that
won't come as long as Harold lives and Englishmen can wield sword
and battle-axe. As for myself, I have patched many a Norman suit of
armour, but, by St. Swithin, I shall have far more pleasure in
marring than I have ever had in mending them."
"Know you who were the boys who had that contention
"The Norman is a page of William, our Norman
bishop; I know no more of him than that The other is Wulf, who is a
ward and page of Earl Harold. His father was thane of Steyning in
South Sussex, one of Godwin's men, and at his death two years ago
Harold took the lad into his household, for he bore great affection
for Gyrth, who had accompanied him in his pilgrimage to Rome, and
fought by his side when he conquered the Welsh. It was there Gyrth
got the wound that at last brought about his death. Wulf has been
to my smithy many times, sometimes about matters of repairs to
arms, but more often, I think, to see my son Osgod. He had seen him
once or twice in calling at the shop, when one day Osgod, who is
somewhat given to mischief, was playing at ball, and drove it into
the face of a son of one of the Norman lords at court. The boy drew
his dagger, and there would have been blood shed, but Wulf, who was
passing at the time, and saw that the thing was a pure mishap and
not the result of set intention, threw himself between them.
"There was a great fuss over it, for the boy took
his tale to his father, who demanded that Osgod should be punished,
and would doubtless have gained his end had not Wulf spoken to Earl
Harold, who intervened in the matter and persuaded the Norman to
let it drop. Since then the boys have been great friends in their
way. Osgod is a year older than the young thane, and has already
made up his mind to be his man when he grows up, and he has got me
to agree 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 a powerful thane, and will doubtless
some day hold high place at court, and as he 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 all his pages are well instructed in arms,
and the two boys often have a bout with blunted swords when Wulf
comes to my smithy; and, by my faith, though I have taught Osgod
myself, and he already uses his arms well, the young thane is fully
a match for him. You would hardly believe that the boy can read as
well as a monk, but it is so. Earl Harold, you know, thinks a good
deal of education, and has founded a college at Waltham. He
persuaded Wulf's father to send 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 is at court and may
hold some day a high post there, it is useful to be able to read
deeds and grants of estates, instead of having to trust others'
"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 interest in the affair."
"That had I. I was holding myself in readiness, if
that Norman boy drew his dagger, to give him such a blow across the
wrist with my cudgel that it would be long before he handled a
weapon again. I fear Wulf has got himself into trouble. The bishop
will doubtless complain to the king of the language used by one of
Harold's pages, and though the earl is well able to see that no
harm comes to the lad, it is likely he will send him away to his
estates for a time. For he strives always to avoid quarrels and
disputes, and though he will not give way a jot in matters where it
seems to him that the good of the realm is concerned, he will go
much farther lengths than most men would do in the way of
conciliation. Look how he has borne with Tostig and with the Earls
of Mercia. He seems to have no animosity in his nature, but is
ready to forgive all injuries as soon as pardon is asked."
The smith was not far wrong in his opinion as to
what was likely to happen. As soon as Wulf returned to the palace
he was told that the earl desired his presence, and he proceeded at
once to the apartment where Harold transacted public business. It
was a hall of considerable size; the floor was strewed with rushes;
three scribes sat at a table, and to them the earl dictated his
replies and decisions on the various matters brought before him.
When he saw Wulf enter he rose from his seat, and, beckoning to him
to follow, pushed aside 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 his quarrel with Walter
Fitz-Urse, but he was ashamed that his thoughtlessness should have
given the slightest trouble to the earl, for, popular as he was
among all classes of men in southern England, Harold was an object
of love as well as respect to his dependents, and indeed to all who
came in close contact with him.
The earl was now forty-one years of age. He was
very tall, and was considered the strongest man in England. His
face was singularly handsome, with an expression of mingled
gentleness and firmness. His bearing was courteous to all. He
united a frank and straightforward manner with a polished address
rare among his rough countrymen. Harold had travelled more and
farther than any Englishman of his age. He had visited foreign
courts and mingled with people more advanced in civilization than
were those of England or Normandy, and was centuries ahead of the
mass of his countrymen. He was an ardent advocate of education, a
strong supporter of the national church, an upholder of the rights
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 utterly worthless kings, he had an earnest desire
for their good, although that desire seldom led to any very active
results. He was a member of their own royal house. He was deeply
religious. His life was pure and simple, and although all his
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 his predecessors had been Danes. But while they
respected Edward, for Harold, their real ruler, they felt a
passionate admiration. He was a worthy representative of all that
was best in the Saxon character. He possessed in an eminent degree
the openness of nature, the frank liberality, the indomitable
bravery, and the endurance of hardship that distinguished the race.
He was Earl of the West Saxons, and as such had special claims to
London, it was true, did not lie in his earldom,
but in that of his brother Leofwyn, but Leofwyn and Harold were as
one—true brothers in heart and in disposition. The gentleness and
courtesy of manner that, although natural, had been softened and
increased by Harold's contact with foreigners, was not only
pardoned but admired because he was England's champion against
foreigners. He had fought, and victoriously, alike against the
Norwegians, the Danes of Northumbria, and the Welsh, and he
struggled as sturdily, though peacefully, against Norman influence
in England. Already the dread of Norman preponderance was present
in the minds of Englishmen. It was no secret that in his early days
Edward had held out hopes, if he had not given an actual promise,
to William of Normandy that he should succeed him. Of late the king
had been somewhat weaned from his Norman predilections, and had
placed himself unreservedly in Harold's hands, giving to the latter
all real power while he confined himself to the discharge of
religious exercises, and to the supervision of the building of his
abbey, varied occasionally by hunting expeditions, for he still
retained a passionate love of the chase; but men knew that the
warlike Duke of Normandy would not be likely to forget the promise,
and that trouble might come to England from over the sea.
Harold, then, they not only regarded as their
present ruler, but as their future king, and as the national leader
and champion. Edward had no children. The royal house was extinct
save for Edward the Atheling, who, like the present king, had lived
all his life abroad, and could have no sympathy with Englishmen.
There being, then, no one of the royal house available, who but
Harold, 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, although generally selected from the royal house, ruled
rather by the election of the people as declared by their
representatives in the Witan than by their hereditary right. The
prince next in succession by blood might, at the death of the
sovereign, be called king, but he was not really a monarch until
elected by the Witan and formally consecrated.
It had been nine months after he had been acclaimed
to the throne by the people of London that King Edward had been
elected king by the Witan, and formally enthroned. Thus, then, the
fact that Harold did not belong to the royal family mattered but
little in the eyes of Englishmen. To them belonged the right of
choosing their own monarch, and if they chose him, who was to say
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 as that with which he had
stood before the haughty prelate of London. A slight smile played
upon Harold's face as he looked down upon the boy.
"You are a troublesome varlet, Wulf, and the Lord
Bishop has been making serious 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; and that 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. I was running out to carry the message
with which you charged me to Ernulf of Dover when I ran against
Fitz-Urse. That was not my fault, but a pure mischance,
nevertheless I expressed my regret in fitting terms. Instead of
accepting them, he spoke insolently, talked of chastising me, and
put his hand on the hilt of his dagger. Then, my lord, I grew angry
too. Why should I, the page of Earl Harold, submit to be thus
contemptuously spoken to by this young Norman, who is but the page
of an upstart bishop, and whom, if your lordship will give
permission, I would right willingly fight, with swords or any other
weapons. Doubtless, in my anger, I did not speak respectfully of
Walter's countrymen, and for this I am sorry, since it has been the
ground of complaint and of trouble to you."
"In fact, Wulf, you spoke as a quarrelsome boy and
not as the page of one who has the cares of this kingdom on his
shoulders, and whose great desire is to keep 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, as my page, should bear in mind that here
at court it behoves you to behave and to speak not as a headstrong
boy, but as one whose words may, rightly or wrongly, be considered
as an echo of those you may have heard from me. And now to the
third charge, that you withstood the prelate; a matter that, in the
king's eyes, is a very serious one."
"The bishop would give ear to nought I had to say.
He listened to his own page's account and not to mine, and when I
said in my defence that though I did use the words about the
Normans, I did so merely as one boy quarrelling with 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
a Norman serf. I only replied that before there was any slitting of
ears your lordship would have a say in the matter. So far, I admit,
I did withstand the bishop, and I see not how I could have made
"It would have been better to have held your peace
"It would, my lord, but it would also surely have
been better had the bishop abstained from talking about slitting
"That would have been better also, but two wrongs
do not make a right. I was present when the bishop made his
complaint, and upon my inquiring more into the matter, his version
was somewhat similar to yours. I then pointed out to him that if
holy bishops lost their tempers and used threats that were beyond
their power to carry into effect, they must not be too severe upon
boys who forget the respect due to their office. Nevertheless, I
admitted that you were wrong, and I promised the king, who was
perhaps more disturbed by this incident than there was any occasion
for, that I would take you to task seriously, 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 the agreement that the
bishop should, on his part, admonish Walter Fitz-Urse against
discourteous behaviour and unseemly brawling, and had I known that
he had put his hand on his dagger, I would have gone further. Have
you any witnesses that he did so?"
"Yes, my lord; I saw the smith Ulred among those
standing by, and doubtless he would see the action."
"That is well," Harold said. "I shall acquaint the
bishop with the fact when I tell him that I have ordered you to
leave for your estate at Steyning, and that if his page denies it,
I have witnesses to prove the truth of your assertions. I think in
that case he will be glad to drop the matter, for were I to mention
the fact to the king, he, who has a horror of the drawing of
weapons, would order Walter Fitz-Urse to be sent back to Normandy.
So your exile is not likely to be of long duration. You understand,
Wulf, that I am not seriously angered with you in this matter. You
are but a boy, and one cannot expect that you will behave as a
prudent man; but remember, lad, even a boy's words may do mischief,
especially when placed as you are. There may come a time when you
shall show by deeds and not by words your feelings against the
Normans, but till then bear yourself prudently. We Saxons are over
given to hasty words, and this is a fault. I myself, as all men
know, have no love for the 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 not withstood his wishes
in the matter, trying only that a certain amount of preferment in
the land should be bestowed upon those who are its owners and not
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 my own way in the matter, I should think that
sufficient had already been said and done in so trifling a matter
as a boys' quarrel; but as it has been brought before our king by a
bishop, it is in the king's eyes a serious business, for assuredly
he himself would have borne a reproof from William of London 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 on your estate will do you no harm; it is sometime since
you were there, and it is a good thing that the lord of the soil
should be well known by those over whom he is placed."
Wulf bowed deeply and withdrew. The prospect of a
visit for a few weeks or even months to Steyning was not a terrible
one. It was some years since he had stayed there for any time. He
had been two years at Waltham, and since his father's death had
been for the most part with Harold, and the thought of an
unrestricted 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 quite satisfied that Harold was not seriously
angered with him, and for anything else he cared little.
As he understood that his duties as a page were at
present at an end, he thought he would first call upon Ulred the
smith, to ask him if he had seen Walter Fitz-Urse handle his
dagger, and also to tell Osgod that he was going away for a time.
He found the smith at work.
"Good morning, Master Wulf; though this is not the
first time I have seen you today, 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 to you. The bishop has made complaint
against me to the king, and Earl Harold has ordered me to go down
to Steyning for a time. Of course I acted wrongly in speaking as I
did to the bishop, but so far as Walter Fitz-Urse is concerned I
maintain that I did no wrong. I told my lord as much, and that the
Norman put hand upon his dagger. The earl said that if I could
prove that it would benefit my case. I told him that I had seen you
close by, but that I did not know whether you saw the page do
"Assuredly I did," the smith replied, "and had my
cudgel in readiness to tap him on the wrist if he had drawn his
dagger. I would testify the same before King 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, Master Wulf, and Osgod here will miss you
"That shall I," the lad said. "Could you not take
me down with you, young master? You could teach me there how to
comport myself as your squire, so that when the time comes that you
need one, I should know my duties. Besides, you could practise on
me with sword and battle-axe."
"I could not do much in the way of teaching you,
Osgod, seeing as yet I am myself but a learner, but I should be
glad, in truth, to have you with me, and it would be good for me to
keep up my practice in arms. I shall feel almost like a stranger
there, and should like to have one I know with me. I could ask Earl
Harold to let me have a horse for you from his stables, where he
has two or three score doing nothing."
"With your favour, sir, I would rather trust to my
own feet. I am a stout walker, and though I shall not be able to
keep up with you, I think that each night I can get to the
hostelrie where you may put up; but, if not, it matters little, I
can make my way after you and join you there—that is, if my father
will give me permission to go."
"You may as well go sooner as later," the smith
said. "Since you have taken into your head that you will be Master
Wulf's man, I see not that it will benefit you remaining in the
forge. You know enough now to mend a broken rivet and 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 say against 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 to take 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 I shall 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 start without delay; it is but ten o'clock,
and you may be at Guildford before sunset. '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 taking you, you
can turn your face backward to-morrow and no harm will be
"I shall overtake you before you are half-way,
Osgod, and can then take you up behind me on my horse; and now I
will go back to the palace. I may have to wait some time before I
can see Earl Harold. From sunrise to sunset he has but a few
moments to himself, and I shall have to watch my time to get a word
It was not, indeed, until two o'clock in the
afternoon that Wulf had a chance of speaking to the duke. Then,
seeing that he was for the moment alone, he entered 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 best so, boy. A time in the country will
do you good, and there will be much for you to do down there. I
have ordered two of my men to be in readiness to mount and ride
with you, for I would not that you should go unattended. One of
them will bear a message from me and a letter under my hand to the
steward, and will tell him that although you will, of course,
remain as my ward until you come of age, you are in all respects to
be treated as if you were already my sworn man, and thane. It would
be well if you could gather among your tenants twenty stout men as
house-carls. The steward is ordered to pay to you whatever moneys
you may require, and to account for them to me when he sends me in
his checkers. These house-carls will, of course, be paid. There
must be ample store of armour at Steyning for them, for your father
was followed by forty house-carls when he went with me to the Welsh
wars. One of the men who goes with you is a stout man-at-arms and
is one of my own house-carls; he will remain with you and will
instruct your men in arms and teach them to fight shoulder to
shoulder. There may be bad times ere long, and it is upon trained
troops and not upon hasty levies that we must most depend. In time
I trust you will be able to place fifty such men in the field, but
at present twenty will suffice. Have you aught to say to me before
"Yes, my lord; first, to thank you for your
kindness, and to say that I will carry out your instructions;
secondly, to tell you that Ulred the smith saw Walter Fitz-Urse
handle his dagger, and was standing ready to knock it from his hand
did he draw it. Lastly, that Ulred's son Osgod, who is a stout lad
a year older than myself, and for his age well accustomed to arms,
desires to be sworn as my man and to serve me in hall and in field.
I like him much and have almost daily practised with him in arms,
and I should be glad to have him with me if you see no
"Not at all, Wulf; it is well that a man should
have at his side one in whom he 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. He started to walk this morning,
understanding that if you refused him permission to 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 his spirit. 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 from Westminster.