Thus fell Le Grand Sarrasin, and I would fain finish this chronicle here, for all matters at the Vale most quickly returned to their old order, the next year being chiefly occupied with the rebuilding of the cloister and the planning of that great church that took so many years to build, which at last is so magnifical, that the old church wherein we used to sing with our boyish trebles seems in our memories but a poor place.
To the laying of these noble stones much of the stores of treasure found in the caverns at the chateau was justly devoted, and the holy things of many a plundered House of God are to be found in the stately church of the cloister.
And in my time, at least, no pirates ever landed on that island. Like a rock of doom they shun the place, for indeed many hundred of them perished there, as I have told, and they lost in one day the gathered treasure of years of crime.
And their captain being destroyed, their spirit seemed fled out of them, to the joy of all good and honest men.
But I must close up this chronicle of his fall with an event that concerned myself, which, as it were, flowed straight out of it. For if I had not journeyed to Normandy, and been caught on my way first by Le Grand Sarrasin, I suppose I should never have been made known unto my father.
And it is of my father, Ralf de Bessin, that I must therefore tell.
Now, the next day after, when we had rested ourselves of our great toils in the battle and pursuit, I and Brother Hugo purposed to go to the Chapel of St Apolline to offer our thanks to the priest and him that had saved me from all the unknown horrors of the prison in which I was pent. Or at least we would hear whether yet they had appeared again.
The fall of the Moor had brought them back to earth, and they sat together in the small hut beside the fishers’ chapel, whence I had set out on my second journey. All the time they had lived in a cave hard by, fed daily by some fisher folk that knew their hiding-place; and indeed they looked as men that had fared exceeding roughly, and all the plumpness of the good Father had fled away.
I told them my story as I have told it to you in these leaves, and he whom I knew as Des Bois inquired again and again of all my dealings with the vicomte. Then, when I had finished, he said—
“Full bravely done. I regret not that I saved thee as I did, for thou hast some great deeds yet to do. And now, wouldst thou know, Nigel de Bessin, why I was led to save thee?”
I looked straight at him tenderly, for I guessed the truth.
“It was because thou wast indeed my son.” He clasped both my hands in his, and looked down into my eyes. And I said “Father” for the first time thus, knowing that this was he of whom the vicomtesse told me.
“Thy father indeed,” he said, “but ruined these many years by follies more than by crimes, as this Augustine, mine old schoolfellow, will tell.”