"He would not keep him back," he said, "if he desired to leave home," but as he uttered the words he felt his heart very heavy, for Aescendune would lose half its brightness in losing Elfric. But Elfric's choice was already made, and he only succeeded in repressing his delight with great difficulty, in deference to the serious aspect and words of his revered sire.
In the depths of the forest, about ten miles from Aescendune, in the opposite direction to that in which the enemy lay, is a solitary valley, surrounded by such morasses and quagmires that only those who know the paths could safely journey thither.
"Oh, nothing, my lord!" said he, resuming his wonted aspect with difficulty, but at last becoming calm as a lake when the wind has died away. "Only a sudden spasm." "I hope you are not ill?" "No, my lord; you need not really feel anxious concerning me. "The hall of Aescendune appears a pleasant place for a summer residence," he added. "I have been there before," said the king.
In the summer of the year 1068, in the mouth of June, I, with twenty other men, who have, so far as I know, perished by firs in the Dismal Swamp, was summoned to wait upon the Baron of Aescendune in a private chamber. He told us that the honour of his house depended upon us, and asked us whether we were willing to stand by him in his necessity. He had selected us well.
These had been asides, while all the company were listening to the gleeman; but now Edwy threw himself heart and soul into the current conversation, and all went merry as a marriage peal, until the ceremoniarius for Edwy loved formality in some things threw open the folding doors and announced the captain of the hus-carles, and Elfric of Aescendune.
The piteous appeal went to the heart of the monk, and he knelt down, and by the aid of a small lamp, examined the wounds of the sufferer. "Thou mayst yet live, my son," he said; "tell me where is thy home; is it in Mercia?" "It is! it is! My home is Aescendune; it is not far from here." "Aescendune knowest thou Father Cuthbert?" "I do indeed; he was my tutor, once my spiritual father."
To these poor monks Wilfred had been commended by the good prior of Aescendune, and with them he purposed to rest all day, for it was not safe to travel before nightfall without a Norman passport.
Warwick Castle was given to Henry de Beaumont, whose lady we have seen at Aescendune, at the dedication of the priory, and the jousts which followed; Nottingham was held by William Peverill; and similar measures were taken at York, Lincoln, Huntingdon, Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere.
Never did the household of Aescendune begin the day without religious observance, and the first thing that they did on this, as on every day, was to repair to the priory church, where Father Cuthbert said mass; after which he and his brother the Thane were closeted together for a long time.
"I don't know," said the fierce young Norman, and, breaking off the conversation, switched savagely at the head of a thistle close at hand, which he neatly beheaded. The others quite understood the action and the bitterness with which he spoke, for they knew that he considered himself defrauded of the lands of Aescendune by the arrangements Bishop Geoffrey had effected in favour of Wilfred.