Page 1278

1278 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

smiles and allurements, the king's own brother-in-law, Earl Tilleuil of Hastings Castle, and

the powerful Hugh de Grantmesnil, earl of

Norfolk, quitted England and retired into Normandy. So serious was the situation that

the king deemed it expedient to send his

queen, Matilda, back to Rouen. For himself, however, he was as undaunted as ever.

To fill the places made vacant by defection

and desertion, he sent invitations into all

the countries of Western Europe, offering

the brilliant rewards of conquest to those

who would join his standard. Nor was

the call without an answer. Bands of rovers,

wandering knights, soldiers in ill repute, and

refugee noblemen came flocking to the prey.

The year 1069 was mostly occupied with

military operations in the North. The

city of York was besieged by the insurgent

population, and was only relieved by the

approach of William with an army. A second fortress and garrison were established

in the city, which was thus rendered impregnable. As soon as the outposts were

secure, a campaign was undertaken against

the rebels of Durham. The expedition was

led by Robert de Comine, who marched

into the enemy's country and entered Durham with little opposition. During the

night, however, the English lighted signal fires on the neighboring heights and gathered

from all directions. At daybreak on the

following morning they burst into the town,

fired the houses, fell upon the Normans, and

slaughtered them without mercy. Of Robert's forces only two men escaped to tell the

tale of destruction.

Encouraged by their great success, the

Northumbrians immediately dispatched ambassadors to the king of Denmark, urging

him to make an invasion of England. At

the same time they sent overtures to Malcolm, king of the Scots, representing to him

the advantages of an alliance against the

Normans. At the court of the Scottish

monarch Edgar Atheling had found a refuge,

and his claims to the crown of England were

not forgotten in the general movement. The

sons of King Harold, also, were abroad and

were regarded by some as a possibility of the

future. But the very multiplicity of interests

in the attempted combination against the

Normans prevented unity of action and forbade success.

By and by a Danish fleet of two hundred

and forty ships, commanded by the sons

of the Danish king, was sent to aid the Northumbrians and Scots against the Conqueror.

The squadron first appeared off Dover and

then sailing northward entered the Humber. A landing was effected at the mouth

of the Ouse, and the army of Danes, reinforced by their English allies, marched directly on York. The Normans were driven

into the fortifications, and were cut off

from all communication with the country.

For eight days the assailants beat around

the ramparts. Finally a fire broke out, and

the city was wrapped in flames. In order

to escape a more horrid death, the Normans

rushed forth, sword in hand, and met their

fate on the spears of the infuriated Northumbrians and Danes. The slaughter degenerated into a massacre, and of the three

thousand men composing the garrison only

a few escaped with their lives. The smoldering ashes of York steamed with the blood

of Normandy.

King William was hunting in the forest of

Dean when the terrible news came to him of

the butchery of his Yorkshire army. Flaming with rage, he burst out with his usual

oath, "by the splendor of God," that he

would leave not a Northumbrian alive. As a

preparatory measure, he at once relaxed his

severity towards the Saxons of South England, and resumed his old r61e of cajoling

them with bountiful promises. At the same

time he managed by shrewd diplomacy to

induce the king of Denmark to withdraw his

army from England. As to the Saxons, however, they were not any longer to be lulled

with soothing words. When with the opening of the following spring, the Conqueror, at

the head of a powerful army began his march

against the Northumbrians the sullen and

vengeful English rose behind him with torch

and pike and pole-ax to satiate their desperate anger in the wake of his campaign.

But the persistent William was not to be distracted from his purpose. The son of a tanner's daughter had in his mind's eye the vision

of burnt-up York and the bleaching bones of

his Norman knights.

Now was it the turn of the men of the

North to quake with well grounded apprehension. In the hour of need the Danish fleet

sailed down the Humber and disappeared.