I longed in my heart to break through that encircling line and reach Duke William; but how could I go? The attack might at any hour come, the brethren were armed beneath their robes, all goodly things were already stored in the Castle, and we were ready to pass thither when commanded. Hugo had his watchmen on the seaward wall, and had enrolled in martial wise all the lay brethren, many gentlemen, and sundry stout herdmen, shepherds, and merchants of the island. None slept, though some lay down to sleep; two days passed without attack, but at the dawning of the third day we saw some twenty ships sweep from St. Martin’s northward, and as the wind permitted, draw nearer, until they were as close as they dared come, and we saw the boats trailing astern of every ship.
Then we knew we were surrounded both on land and by sea. Yet that sheer cliff was hard to mount, running straight up to our wall from the very sea. So in God and our own walls we had confidence still, and the prayers of men in danger went up from the Abbey choir. No prayers were said in those walls, after that day for ever. The day after, church, cloister, hall, refectory, guesthouse and abbot’s dwelling were flaming up to heaven, or charred and ruined amid their fallen roofs and stones.
Of our passing from cloister to castle, and of the burning of the Vale Abbey. Of their siege of the castle, and the exploits of Brother Hugo.
Now, on the next day it was close upon the hour of Lauds, when the scouts that were set in sight of the chateau among the thick brushwood and gorse, came with great haste and told us that the Moors were even now on their way to us, hoping to catch us unsuspecting at our prayers. Now we had our orders of Brother Hugo in such a case, and we simply did what we had done already at his bidding, many times for practice of safety in an hour of danger. First the great heavy doors of the monastery were closed, and the bolts drawn, and the bars of iron swung into place to stay their passage. Then we swiftly gathered up whatever still was left that was precious or useful—books, vestments, relics, and sacred vessels had gone already—and by the ringing of a little bell gathering together all that were now housed with us—a goodly company indeed it was of old and young—with all due confidence of heart and mind we proceeded in long line to the Church, which lay from east to west, forming with high thick walls the northern defence of our cloister. And as we passed two and two up the choir that morning, the monks raised with slow and solemn voice their last Miserere in that holy place, the home of many of them from their boyhood.