A fiery wrangle ensued between the parent and his hot-headed heir, in which words ran so high, that Robert, stung to the soul with the covetousness and the sarcastic implications of his father, retired that very evening from court; and being beloved by the Norman nobles, many of them espoused his cause, and urged him to arm for his rights.
Bу the mediation of Matilda, it was arranged that the father and son should meet, and endeavour to settle matters amicably. The interview was a stormy one: Robert, as the price of his reconciliation, demanded the investure of the duchies of Normandy and Maine; this was met by a stem refusal from the father, who reminded his irascible heir of the fate of Absalom and Rehoboam, and bade him obey his parent, and not hearken to evil counsellors.
" I am here to demand my rights, and not to listen to sermons," answered Robert, with more insolence than prudence. " Say, on the honour of a father," he added, haughtily, ''is not the earldom of Maine lawfully mine by possession f and did not you yourself, long ago, promise me the investure of Normandy?"
"Tush!" replied the Conqueror, tartly; "you know, son, I do not intend to divest myself of my clothing till
I go to bed. Normandy is mine by patrimony, England I won by my good sword, and I swear, that whilst I live, no power on earth shall force me to divide my authority with another, even I should that other be my first-born; for! it is written in the holy evangelists, that! a kingdom divided against itself shall become desolate."
"True, sire," retorted Robert, "and it is also written in the holy book, put not your trust in kings. But," he continued, with a scornful smile, " the Duke of Normandy has a bad memory for unpleasant truths; he has doubtless forgotten that the good people of Mans submitted to his sword on condition that the earldom of Maine should be mine; nor is it convenient for him to remember, that Philip of France consented not to snatch Normandy from his grasp during his expedition into England, only on consideration that on his return he would place the crown of that duchy on my head.
However, as my royal father has found it convenient to break faith with his lieges, his suzerain, and his heir, I will instantly leave Normandy, and seek that justice from strangers which I cannot obtain here."
Then bidding his royal sire adieu, he departed, and, accompanied by several of his partisans, sought refuge at the court of his uncle, Robert of Flanders, where he commenced plotting against his father. The King of France and the Duke of Flanders seconded his efforts, advised him to take up arms, and otherwise counselled him to evil courses, But for a period, poverty and profligacy prevented him from carrying his designs into effect -indeed, at this time, so straitened were his circumstances, that, under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassments, he made repeated applications to his overfond parent, Matilda, who secretly supplied him with vast sums from her own private coders; and when these were exhausted, she, with the weakness of a doting mother, stripped herself of her jewels and costly trinkets for the same purpose.
Roger de Beaumont, the faithful premier of Normandy, no sooner discovered that Robert was arming against his father with his mother's wealth, than he dispatched a message to his royal master, who, with his son, William Rufus, was then in England, informing him of the fact, and requesting his speedy return to his native realms. This intelligence so startled William, that he scarcely believed it, till, on landing in Normandy, he intercepted Matilda's private agent, Sampson, in the very act of conveying a quantity of the royal plate to her rebel son, Robert.
The meeting between Matilda and her royal lord on this occasion was one of mingled indignation, sorrow, and impassioned tenderness.
" Oh, woe, woe, woe!" exclaimed the Conqueror, fixing his stern, but grief-dimmed eyes on the Queen. "The brightest jewel of my bosom hath pierced my heart with the deadly dart of treachery. She hath deceived her husband, and destroyed her own house. Behold, my wife—the treasure of my soul—to whom I have confided my wealth, my crown, my greatness, my all. She hath supported my rebel son in perfidy, and aided him to raise his sword against his own father."
" My lord," replied Matilda, " far be it from me to do you wrong. But when you spurn our first-born, and retain from him his rights, you drive him to wretchedness and distraction. And, oh, William! he is my child, and "were I hell-doomed for the act, still would I succour him in his distress, and with a mother's blessing lighten his woes. Kay, so much do I love him, that for his dear sake, I would dare any danger, do any deed. Ask me not, then, to enjoy the pomp of royalty, whilst he is pining in want and misery; as a loving husband, you have no authority to impose such insensibility on a mother; and аs an affectionate parent and honourable ruler, you are bound to accord that justice to our son Robert, which, were you in his station and he in yours, you would expect from his hands as a father."
To William's further reproaches Matilda only replied with tears; and the Conqueror, enraged by the conduct of her whom he could not cease to love, vented his wrath on her probably guiltless agent, Sampson, by ordering his eyes to be put out. But Matilda, who never deserted a friend in distress, enabled her terrified agent to escape the vengeance of her lord, by seeking refuge in Duche, a monastery of which she herself was patroness, and where, being shaven, and professed a monk immediately he entered, the soldiers who had tracked him thither were disappointed of their prey, as they durst not molest an ecclesiastic.
Nothing daunted by the arrival of the Conqueror, Robert, supported by the King of France, and the disaffected Norman nobles, boldly attacked Rouen, where he displayed great courage and military tact, and would have possessed himself of the castle, but for its more than ordinary strength, its powerful garrison, and the skill and undying bravery of its governor—Roger de Ivry.
On taking the field against his filial foe, William speedily discovered that the son whom he had held in contempt, and insultingly nicknamed Court