“My lords,” said I, “the good brothers of St. Michael of the Vale in Guernsey are besieged and shut in this four weeks, nay, stormed and murdered by a most pestilent villain and an innumerable horde of Moorish devils that are settled in the isle. Men call him Le Grand Sarrasin, and as ye have doubtless heard, he is a caitiff without mercy, that wars on women as on men, on monks and husbandmen. This is he that calls himself the Lord of the Norman seas, in clear treachery to our lord the duke, and so cunning he is that he hath watchmen and spies at every harbour, that he may establish himself more stoutly ere help come.”
“And didst thou escape his hands?” said mine uncle, pondering, head upon hand.
“Nay; he caught me and shut me in the womb of the earth, but by God’s grace I escaped him—but this matters not. Give me your good aid to the duke, that in all haste I may return with a great host to save the brethren.”
“How old art thou, my son?” asked Lanfranc.
“Father, but sixteen years,” said I, as though I feared they might smile at me.
“And thou,” said he, in admiration, “hast come through these terrors in such a spirit of courage, wisdom, and love. Verily, my lords, ye see here a child that God has led marvellously on an undoubted work of charity.”
While their eyes rested on me with a wonder I loved not—for, indeed, what had I done above what any knightly youth should do for those he loves?—I spake on, telling them how few days’ food remained at Vale, and how strait they were shut in, and begging them to see that I passed on to William swiftly.
“The duke is far north now,” said the abbot, “gathering strength for the dangers that are looming from France. It is a sore ill time to beseech him. Yet matters will not wait. In this case,” he said strangely, “thou wilt be thine own best advocate with him, for well he loves a brave and knightly deed. With all haste fit letters shall be written to win thee a ready entrance to his presence—to his heart thou must win thine own way, as thou hast with us.”
“Teach him not, then,” said Lanfranc, “too piteously of the sorrows of our brethren, for a few monks more or less matter not to him, but represent the arrogance of this Sarrasin, and how clearly he claims the title of Lord of the Seas. That will touch best our sovereign lord.”
“Is not my Lord Maugher still in Guernsey?” asked the abbot, pondering.
“Yea, he is,” I said.
“And how acts he in this trouble? Is he besieged with the brethren, or goes he free?”
“My lords,” said I, “as I was led captive through the Sarrasin’s castle, I saw the same evil beast that my lord calls Folly, but men his familiar demon. I saw it in the very presence of Geoffroy; therefore I think these evil men are hand and glove together.”
“Nay—wilt thou swear this?” said Lanfranc.
“Ay, that I will,” I said.