Now, as I rode by, I was level with the first story of the houses. And, suddenly, before one window, my eyes were held captive, and I could not turn them away. A man in a fisher’s tunic was gazing out on us, and I had not even to ask myself where I had seen his face before, for I knew that it was Maugher. My eyes fell before his, and I blushed and trembled at his sight.
“Uncle, uncle! my lord vicomte!” I said when we were passed, “dost know who stood at yon window in a sailor’s dress?”
“What meanest thou?” said he, as he saw me tremble.
“It was my Lord Archbishop of Rouen, the Sarrasin’s accomplice,” I whispered in his ear.
We reined in our horses and looked back, but the man was gone.
“It was a fancy, child,” said the vicomte; “there was no man there.”
I said naught; but I knew it was no fancy, and I guessed whence these villains that lately attacked me got their commission.
Now, at Coutances we learned of the canon, that knew the duke’s whereabouts, that he was near Barfleur, seeing both to his navy of ships in the harbour there, and having care also to the exercise of archers on the land.
“As I think,” said the canon, “you will find my lord duke either in the shipyard of Barfleur, or the shooting-ground of archers at Valognes hard by.”
It was then to Valognes, beyond the river Douve, that we were next to ride, and we would pass on the way my uncle’s castle of St Sauveur, where mine ancestors had been settled since they were lords of the Bessin. And the whole distance to Valognes was near fifty miles. It was then mine uncle’s wish that we should rest again at his house, and prepare to approach Duke William with due state on the morrow; and this, though I was unwilling to delay, I was forced to agree to.
So before evening we came in sight of St. Sauveur, a high and fair castle, round whose walls the Douve makes a circuit.
Across a bridge raised on pillars over the moat we rode, and through the wide-open gate we came into the courtyard, where there was great greeting of my lord vicomte by my cousins, from whom he had been some weeks absent.
“And here,” said he, to young Alain and Rainauld, his sons, “is Nigel, your cousin, a good scholar of Guernsey, that bids fair to be a better soldier still.”
So with fair greetings was I led in to the chamber of my lady the vicomtesse, where with plenty demure damsels she plied her needle. Much surprised was she to see me, and heard with a grave face my story.
“And thou art but sixteen,” she said, “and art about so noble an enterprise? My Alain has barely left his governor. Indeed, thy good monks know how to teach chivalry.”