I have seen the sea, swept in by a fierce north wind, so triumph over man’s poor defences. I have seen the mad fire catch hold of mart and dwelling in a blazing town that met Duke William’s anger. I saw in the north the great eygre rush through Lindis’ bed, and swamp the peaceful plain with doom and ruin. Not less resistless, not less vehement was the first assault of Samson’s Normans. And I knew now, as I looked, how, by fire and spirit more than by numbers, William won the famous day of Val-es-dunes, and I might have guessed, had I known what was to hap ere ten years had run away, what would come to pass below Hastings in England on the crown of Senlac.
They recked not of death or wounds—where one line fell, another took its place. Like a river that ceaselessly flows, they swarmed into the Castle, and closed with the Moors. So it seemed that, overcome by the ferocity of the onslaught, the Moors soon gave up all effort to defend the wall, but reinforced the troop that held the crest of the hill, that contended in a mighty struggle with the invading Normans. This way and that way the battle surged. Now it seemed they would drive them back after all, now they themselves were carried backward. Norman and pirate were mixed strangely together in this fierce conflict. We expected each moment that the signal for us to join the fray would ring out, but it came not. It seemed to us that Samson, greedy of honour for his men, desired to claim the total glory of the victory. But we knew not his great sagacity, nor what a strength we were to him lying there in ambush.
But what of Le Grand Geoffroy? We saw him bear the first brunt of the onset. He rushed then like a flame from line to line. And where he was, the Moors seemed to rush on to victory. Once Samson and he had met, but supported by two smart swordsmen, the Sarrasin had retired and left Samson to them. And now we espied him not, and hoped some hand had struck him that we saw not. Meanwhile, the Normans made great way, and drave the enemy back step by step, killing as they went.
Le Grand Geoffroy was neither wounded nor dead! With a great shout he came forth from the very womb of the earth with another swarm of warriors at his heels, and we saw that this last reserve had been kept back to surprise us in the rear. Then, as the great monster rushed in upon the Normans, while still they poured into the Castle, rang out the signal on the trumpet, and from our ward of trees we lusty islanders and zealous monks sprang in to do our share. Here was Hugo, and I his esquire, in the front rank of them all; here was poor distraught Ralf clutching his hilt like a man frenzied. Monk, gentleman, farmer, miller, serf—we all rushed with gladness, that the time at last had come for us to join the battle, in a great wave of fury on the contingent of relief that was headed by Geoffroy himself. And well we did our part. For we, who knew so well the cruelties of the man we fought with, were