“Then this also must be made known the duke,” said Lanfranc, darkly.
“Now, my dear son,” said the abbot, “retire to our chamberlain. Cast off these poor weeds, and take from him aught in his presses that befits thy dignity, and then return to us, that we may see our vicomte’s nephew in his bravery.”
With a courtly bow I left them.
Now, the abbot’s chamberlain found me a fair good suit, more courtly than I had ever worn, and I scarce knew myself in the glory of its rich, dyed cloth. Fair linen next my skin, fit for an abbot’s wear, a long blue tunic broidered with gold, and a trim girdle, a grand surcoat of damask, and a gay red cloak over all, with an emerald brooch on my right shoulder. With bright stockings and a little ribboned hat I was no longer Nigel the scholar of the Vale, but Nigel de Bessin, gentleman and courtly soldier.
So drest and refreshed with food, I returned to my lord’s chamber, where at mine uncle’s footstool I heard these noble lords and churchmen speak of the circle of events from England to Italy, and through all their words the one great name of William seemed to be present as the centre of their surmisings. So deep had this son of Rollo stamped himself in the life of those rare days.
“Strange news from England, this,” said one, “now that the Atheling is dead. We can guess of a truth whom the royal priest will light upon, as he grows near his end.”
“He loves not Godwin’s brood,” said another.
“Then the prophecy that set Henry of France afire will yet be true in another way. William shall reign in London, not in Paris,” said Lanfranc.
“And thou at Canterbury, good brother,” said the abbot.
And, indeed, ere many years this came to pass.
How, being given letters to Duke William by the Abbots of St. Michael and of Bec, I set out for Coutances, and of what befell me on my way.
“Sit down and take thy pen, good Nigel,” said the abbot next morning; “this Lanfranc shall dictate thee thine epistle.”
I sat down by the abbot’s writing-horn, and wrote somewhat as follows, while the two great men put their wise heads together. After customary salutation, the letter ran—
“We send the bearer with news of grave moment to thee and thy rule. A Sarrasin pirate even now lords it in Guernsey, and kills very many of thy lieges. Moreover, his force grows daily to a greater height. There hath joined him Maugher, once archbishop.
“Thou wilt know how
best to protect thine honour. The bearer hath
for his years done wondrous chivalrously in this enterprise.
Delay not, duke, to hear him.”
Such was the letter that I bore, signed with the names of the two abbots. Now I had great joy in having the great Lanfranc’s countenance, for all men knew William loved him, since, after his first disgrace for his sharp rebuke of William’s marriage, he met him fearlessly, and with cool laughter and wise words brought him into still closer union than ever he had been before. So I knew my letter would have weight.