“No angels, holy Father,” answered Samson, smiling; “but stalwart fellows in plenty, with a strong stroke and a high spirit. Normans, in brief, that know well how to carry through a matter such as this. But how oft have they attempted an attack?”
“Our general shall inform thee best,” said the abbot, “this good brother, whose clear head and strong courage have saved us not once nor twice; and, indeed, most good it is that two such men as thou and he should meet.”
With that he led Brother Hugo to Samson, and the two brave warriors did embrace with all due show of courtesy.
“Thrice, now, have they engaged to storm our wall,” said Hugo, “and, while strength remained, we feared not to throw back to their sore damage such attacks. But three nights back we were in extremer case, for the rogues entered by a cunning mine the citadel itself, and but for swift action on our part they had got through in force, and overpowered the garrison. But, by God’s favour, we were aroused in time, and with a great scuffle drave them back, and with small loss to ourselves slew a score or more, and so at morn destroyed and blocked the mine; and even this night we feared a like attack, had you not brought this great army from my lord the duke to destroy for ever the Sarrasin’s arrogance.”
Then they took counsel of the resources of their arms; and, indeed, with the islanders that were with us already, and that now came flocking, being afeared to come before (as there are such in every cause), we mustered an exceeding great host, and after the ravages the Sarrasin had made, we had even now fear of famine till corn could come in by sea. And the Normans, since the Castle was too strait for all already, lay encamped in a fair camp by the waterside by St. Sampson’s Bay, till their leader should ordain the order of attack.
Now all was changed in Vale and hill country, for the Moors that so long had roamed at will, setting their watches and their sentinels on every headland and navigable inlet, and claiming to be of right the liege lords of all from Blanchelande to Torteval, from Torteval to Vale, were now shut up in their great chateau, and their fleets lying in Grand Havre and Moulin Huet Bay. No longer able to be besiegers, they had become besieged, and indeed, if they knew all, were already in extreme case. We saw none of their vile faces in lane or forest-path. The narrow street of St. Pierre Port was cleared of the swaggerers, with their clanking metal and heady brawls; while our Normans lay by St. Sampson’s shrine waiting the order to attack, they sat quiet and sullen in their hold.
And in this sullen calm there was much to fear.
How we set forth to attack Le Chateau du Grand Sarrasin. Of the Normans’ valour, and of the flight of our foes.
Now, for the next two days Samson had under review our islanders, and the brethren, who in martial accoutrements, and restored moreover already by good store of food, would fain take part in the great matter of executing Heaven’s vengeance on Le Grand Sarrasin and his troop. These were bound together in a second regiment auxiliary to the men-at-arms, and set by Samson of his deep wisdom under Hugo’s leading.