Page 1287

1287 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDAL ENGLAND.

called by Urban II, and all Western Europe

had taken fire at the recital of the outrages

done to the Christians in the East. Duke

Robert was among the first to catch the

enthusiasm and draw his sword. What

was the maintenance and development of

his province of Normandy compared with

the glory of smiting the infidel Turk who

sat cross-legged on the tomb of Christ?

But the coffers of the fiery Robert were

empty. In order to raise the means necessary to equip a band of Norman Crusaders,

he proposed to his brother Rufus to sell to

him for a period of five years the duchy

of Normandy for the sum of ten thousand

pounds. The offer was quickly accepted,

and William in order to raise the money

was constrained to resort to such cruel exactions as were, by the old chroniclers,

compared to flaying the people alive. But

the ten thousand pounds were raised and

paid into the treasury of Robert, who gladly

accepted the opportunity thus afforded of exchanging an actual earthly kingdom for the

prospect of a heavenly.

In entering upon the possession of Normandy thus acquired, William Rufus was

well received by his subjects. The people

of Maine, however, were not at all disposed

to accept the change of masters. Under

the leadership of their chief nobleman, the

Baron of La Fleche, they rose in hot rebellion, and it was only after a serious conflict that the king succeeded in reducing

them to submission. Once and again the

presence of William was demanded in Maine

to overawe the disaffected inhabitants. In

the last of his expeditions in that province

the king received a wound, which induced

him to return to England. On reaching

home he found that the crusading fever

had already begun to spread in the Island.

Several of his noblemen, imitating the example of Duke Robert, preferred to mortgage

or sell their estates in order to gain the means

to join in the universal campaign against

the Infidels. Means were thus afforded

the king of greatly extending his territorial

possessions. But while engaged in this

work his career was brought to a sudden

and tragic end.

In the summer of the year 1100, William,

according to his wont, sought the excitement

of the chase in the great hunting park of New Forest. He was accompanied by several

of his nobles. Among the rest was Sir Walter

de Poix, better known by his English name

of Sir Walter Tyrrel. The cavalcade was

gay and boisterous, and feasted and drank

under the great trees of Malwood-keep.

When the company in high spirits were about

to begin the hunt, a messenger came running to the king, saying that one of the

monks of St. Peter's at Gloucester had

dreamt a dream of horrid portent respecting

the sudden death of the king. "Give him a

hundred pence," said Rufus, "and bid him

dream of better fortune to our person. Do

they think I am one of those fools that give

up their pleasure or their business because

an old woman happens to dream or to sneeze.

To horse, Walter de Poix!"

Hereupon the reckless king with his

boon companions dashed into the woods

and began the chase. Towards evening

a hart sprang up between Rufus and the

thicket where Sir Walter was for the moment standing. The king drew his bow

to shoot; but the string snapped, and his

arrow went wide of the mark. He raised

his hand as if to shade his eyes while watching the hart and called aloud to his companion, "In the name of the devil, shoot,

Walter, shoot!" Sir Walter at once let fly

his arrow, but the fatal shaft, glancing against

the side of an oak, struck William in the

left breast and pierced him to the heart.

He fell from his horse and expired without

a word. Nor has authentic history ever been

able to decide whether the bolt that sped

him to his death was, according to common tradition, winged by accident or whether

it was purposely sent on its deadly mission either by Sir Walter himself or by some

secret foe of the king ambushed in the

thicket. At any rate, the childless William Rufus died with an arrow-head in

his breast in the depth of New Forest hunting ground, and the popular superstition

was confirmed that the great Park created aforetime by the destruction of so

many Anglo-Saxon hamlets and churches,

was destined many times to be wet with

the blood of the royal tyrants whose

wanton passions were therein excited and

gratified.

The history of Feudal England has thus

been traced from the beginning of the