In a few moments the bright flame burst out on the rampart tower, like a red tongue of fire telling forth a deadly message. And lo! I saw, as I went, other tongues leap forth along the coast from tower and castle, all singing out in direful glee the same word “War.”
And once within the market-place I ran as I was bid to the Church of St. Pierre, and great man I felt myself, as I pushed open the church door and took the bell-rope in my hand. “Ding-dong!” rang out the alarm bell from the tower hasty and quick, and ere twenty pulls at the rope, the townsmen were all around, and I was drawn into the market-place, and there at the head of the Rue des Vaches I sang out lustily—
“Good men, good citizens and sons of St Pierre, make fast your defences, and man your walls this night; the fleet of Le Grand Sarrasin is anchored in Moulin Huet.”
Of what befell the abbot’s envoys to Duke William, our liege lord, and more particularly Brother Ralf, and how we were hemmed in by our foes.
There was no attack of the pirates upon St. Pierre that night, and no assault on our castles or cloister. And those who had taken refuge within our walls, ladies and children for the most part, whose lords were at the wars, spake as though they would return home having nought to fear. But this our abbot did prevent, except the very nearest living souls. Others from afar, as Dame Maude de Torteval, and the Lady Marie de la Mahie with those that they brought with them he sternly bade to stay in their safe haven.
Now, the pirates touched nor harmed naught in Guernsey through those first days, save some few beasts they drave up to their chateau with its high bastions amidst the trees, and its great flagstaff bearing a green flag with a white curve like a sickle moon broidered on it.
And it would seem that the fleet that lay in Moulin Huet had chiefly come to disencumber itself of all manner of goods for the furnishing and defence of the castle up yonder. For some four days the train of rough-bearded men in long seamen’s boots toiled to and fro from bay to castle, from castle to bay, with horse and ass, waggon and cart, till men said all the spoil of Brittany and Spain, with all manner of treasures of Moorish lands were stored in the deep caverns under the chateau. And it was even said that since Le Grand Sarrasin would be lord of Guernsey, he would treat well and justly them that dwelt therein, and that if the islanders touched not him he would smite not them, and so forth. But we of the cloister knew our abbot was no man to close his eyes, when ill was afoot around him, and that though the pirate-swarm had none other hand thrust into their comb, his at least would go there, or send others that were mightier.
And messengers to Normandy had been sent week by week, but none had of late returned. Day by day our hearts grew more anxious as we saw the number of Moorish ships in our waters, and we began to fear that they and their letters had fallen into those evil hands.