predictions of the terrible omen? By the holy mass! if ho persists in opposing the will of the Most High, all the armament will be swallowed up in the ocean, and no one left to tell its loss to our weeping kindred !"
Time passed wearily; adverse winds still detained the fleet, and in the camp, despite the exertions of military authorities, so rife had become disaffection and desertion, that only a favourable wind, or the disabusing the superstitious soldiery of their groundless fears, could save the army from a mutual disbandment. To effect the latter object, William caused the shrine containing the venerated relics of St. Valleri, the patron saint of the harbour, to be conveyed, with due solemnity, to the heart of the encampment, when, calling the army together, he told them that their own impiety had raised the ire of the saint, who would only grant a favourable wind on receiving their earnest prayers and charitable contributions. Then, setting the example, he himself knelt before the revered shrine, and, with affected gravity, strewed the antependium with golden pieces. The stratagem completely succeeded. All murmurings and discontent ceased, and every man—knight, archer, and swordsman — eagerly crowded to the hallowed shrine, and, with hearts bursting with penitence and devotion, literally buried it with gifts of gold and silver, ''much," says an old chronicler," to the glory of the church, who reaped there from a golden harvest, so plenteous, that the monks of St. Valleri did nothing but cry for joy for a week after."
Whilst these devotions were proceeding, Matilda agreeably surprised her husband by unexpectedly arriving at the port, in a noble vessel, named the Mora, which, by her orders, had been secretly built, to present to him as a royal pledge of love and constancy during his absence. The Mora was a truly fine ship, and for size, strength, and sailing qualities, the queen of William's fleet; her fittings were highly superb, and beautifully carved, painted, and gilded. At the prow was a golden figure of Matilda's youngest son, William, with a bow and arrow in one hand, whilst with the other he held a trumpet to his lips, as if giving the signal of victory ; and at the stern was a cross, surrounded hy richly carved emblematical devices, inlaid with ivory and precious metals.
Matilda had scarcely presented this magnificent gift to her affectionate lord, when the long-desired wind sprang up ; and the invading host, viewing the arrival of the Mora as an auspicious omen, leaped into the vessels, exclaiming, "God is with us! Now for England, and victory!" With many fond farewells to his beloved duchess, William embarked on board the Mora. The gallant vessel led the way across the sea, and, to keep the squadron from parting, carried a blood-red flag by day, and lanterns burning by night. But her speed was so great that, during the voyage, she more than once outsailed her companions, and completely lost sight of them. However, as rough weather occurred during the passage, and the seamen were rude, unskilled navigators, it is remarkable that, with the loss of only two vessels, and a slight damage to four others, the whole fleet, after a month's perilous voyage, safely entered the harbour of Pevensy, on the coast of Sussex.
On the twenty-ninth of September, 1066, the day they entered the English port, the anxious Normans hastened to disembark. First landed the knights and soldiery; then came the carpenters, masons, and other workmen, carrying their tools by their side; and, lastly, the duke himself, who, springing on shore too hastily, measured his length on the sand.
As he fell, the superstitious Normans uttered a shrill cry of terror; and an instant afterwards, they all murmured, "Here is indeed an evil omen !"
But William, who on rising had grasped his hands full of sand, exclaimed, "By the splendour of God! he is no true interpreter who proclaims evil here. See, my brave lieges," he continued, extending out his hands, and shewing the soil they contained, "behold, warriors, I have already taken possession of the country, which, by God's help and yours, I will evermore hold."
William brought with him from Normandy a portable wooden fortress, which had been carefully framed, so as to be readily put together. This, on landing, was erected with all speed at a spot near to the beach, and close to where the mouldering remains of the castle still stand. The disjointed timbers were brought on shore by the soldiers and the sailors; and the carpenters and the masons put them together with such diligence and dexterity, that on the first day the building was completed, and at nightfall the duke and his councillors took up their quarters therein. Here, according to the chronicler, Malmesbury, he lay still for fifteen days, and kept his soldiers from plundering the neighbourhood.
As before observed, Tostig had arranged with the King of Norway, that they and the Normans should attack England simultaneously. But as the Norman ships had been unexpectedly windbound at St. Valleri, the Norwegian squadron, of three hundred sail, reached the Tyne about eighteen days before the arrival of their Norman allies. Harold, at the head of a large army, met the invaders at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, and after a hot, murderous contest, in which Tostig, the King of Norway, and a host of Norwegian knights and nobles were slain— crushed their forces, and captured their fleet, and all their valuables.
The news of William's landing, which spread through the country with eagle's wings, reached the ears of Harold just after he had obtained this signal victory over his basehearted brother. At first, he put no faith in the tidings, as, deceived by the Duke of Flanders, he had supposed that the Norman duke had delayed the threatened invasion till the following spring. But he was soon convinced of the truth of the alarming rumour, by the arrival of a trusty knight, who, having watched the landing of the hostile host, sped to him in hot haste, and in breathless anxiety, exclaimed,—
"Arm, sire! arm! the Normans have landed, and built a fort at Hastings. Their fighting men are countless as the stars, and their nobles so numerous, that the dazzled eyes cannot look on their polished panoplies. You are lost, sire, if you lose an hour, for they arc resolved to seize on the land, and hurl thee from the throne!"
This terrible intelligence induced Harold to instantly dispatch a message to William, offering to purchase his amicable departure with gold, silver, and costly apparel.