“Indeed,” said she, “I long to number thee soon among mine own sons, when thou leavest the monks thy tutors.”
“And I,” said I, right gallantly, “will strive to be worthy of honours so high, of a race so noble.”
Now, next morning we rode forth gaily, on our last stage, as we hoped, to Valognes, and a company of grooms and men-at-arms rode with us, such as beseemed my uncle’s rank. And for many miles we rode along the western bank of the river Douve, that runs by my uncle’s castle, but at length the stream took a great bend to the west, and we had to cross within some twelve miles of Valognes.
Here was a stout timber bridge on four piers, over which our road ran; and it was on the west side of the bridge that my lord stayed, it being a convenient place to send fit messengers to my lord duke to tell of our approach. Therefore a courtly gentleman of my lord’s retinue—by name De Norrey—with a groom were sent forward in advance.
Their horses’ hoofs clattered on the wooden way as they sped forth. But lo! great was our wonder and terror to see a sore disaster befall them there in the midst of the passage over the stream. We saw suddenly the road give way beneath them, as though it were clean sawn asunder, and both horsemen in a moment cast down suddenly into the stream below. Then, too, we heard a loud thunder of the beams falling, and there was a great mass of woodwork in the river, that dammed up for a while the flood.
The gentleman, the vicomte’s envoy, was alas! killed, thrown headlong by his horse against a pier ere he struck the water. The groom that rode with him marvellously escaped death, but was sore wounded by his fall.
“What villain hath done this?” cried the vicomte, in hot anger. “With my men will I scour the land till I track him.”
“Ah, my lord vicomte,” I said, “this is the work of Maugher, that I saw lurking in Coutances. And I grieve that thy good Sieur de Norrey should thus die by a stroke that was aimed at me.”
“If it be as thou sayest,” said my uncle, “this venomous man, kinsman though he be of the duke himself, shall no longer trouble men.”
Then, with all sadness, the body of De Norrey was recovered and borne back to St Sauveur, and we, riding down the stream a mile or more to where there was a safe ford, crossed safely, and riding sorrowfully and warily, though we were so near to the duke’s presence, came presently in sight of Valognes.
How at length I was brought before William, Conquestor Invictissimus, of all soldiers the greatest, and most invincible of dukes. Of the manner he received my mission, and of the expedition of Samson d’Anville.
And now, children of my house here in England, I bid you con eagerly what I write in these next leaves, for, if God will, I will record how I first met, in that land of the Cotentin, him who was my star of glory while he lived, being indeed the greatest prince of our day, and, as I think, as great a soldier as any that ever lived of our race or of any other. And, following his conquering arms, we came to this haven in our own fair country, as ye know.