And when Sir Launcelot and they were at the bridge there stert forth afore them of gentlemen and yeomen many, that said: Fair lords, ye may not pass this bridge and this fortress because of that black shield that I see one of you bear, and therefore there shall not pass but one of you at once; therefore choose you which of you shall enter within this bridge first.
That such was the case may, I think, be inferred from the following incident. He and I were sitting on a heap of sittings watching the poor creatures, who were in an unspeakably wretched condition. They were perfectly naked, except that each wore the usual stert reim. In the course of conversation my friend and I began speculating as to whether one of them would know a diamond if he saw it.
So when the king came thereas they were, he saw Sir Gawaine and Sir Gareth sit upon a little hill-side, and then the king avoided his horse. And when he came nigh Sir Gareth he would have spoken but he might not; and therewith he sank down in a swoon for gladness. And so they stert unto their uncle, and required him of his good grace to be of good comfort.
Breath o' God, oh! come an' blaw Frae my hert ilk fog awa'; Wauk me up, an' mak me strang, Fill my hert wi' mony a sang, Frae my lips again to stert, Fillin' sails o' mony a hert, Blawin' them ower seas dividin' To the only place to bide in. "Eh, Mr. Warlock! is that you singin' o' the Sawbath day?" said the voice of a young woman behind him, in a tone of gentle raillery rather than expostulation.
Eh! it's a fearfu' an' won'erfu' thing that drawin' o' hert to hert, an' syne a great snap, an' a stert back, an' there's miles atween them! The Lord alane kens the boddom o' 't; but I'm thinkin' there's mair intill't, an' a heap mair to come oot o' 't ere a' be dune, than we hae ony guiss at." Gibbie told her that Glashruach was his.
Then did Alswythe, in her kindness, fall into a like mistake as that I had made with the boy; for she turned to me, smiling, and said that she would surely take him into her service at Stert, and see to his training hereafter, but then remembered that she had no longer home, and her smile faded into tears. My heart ached for her, knowing I could give her no comfort.
So we went towards the river, as I had many a time seen the fishers go in the quiet days that were past; and we said little, but kept our eyes strained both up and down the river for sign of the Danes. But all we saw was once, far off on Stert, the flash of bright arms or helm; and there we knew before that men must be.
I folded my arm more closely round her, and would have answered, but that Wulfhere did so for me. "Aye, lady, and it is to Heregar that we owe our safety, for he has been down to Stert and warned us all." At that my love crept closer to me, as it were to thank me. Then she said: "Will there be fighting? And will my father have to fight?" "Aye, lady," said Wulfhere again, "as a good Saxon should."
Yet shall all my power be bent to help you back to your own, if only for the sake of today." Then would I thank him, but he stopped me. "To the man who lit the fire of Stert, who checked the panic on Cannington Hill, thanks are due, not gratitude from him. And to him justice and reward."
Many a long year it was before the king of their land, Norse or Dane, whichever he was, learned what had befallen his host, and how their bones lay on the Wessex shore and islands, for not one of all that had sailed that spring returned to give the news, or to tell how his comrades died on Stert fighting to the last, and on the island wishing they had fallen with the slain.