Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race
Page: 195Haco’s Plan
While men feasted Hereward listened and talked, and found out that the forty Danes were prisoners, to be released on the morrow when Haco was sure of his bride, but released useless and miserable, since they would be turned adrift blinded. Haco was taking his lovely bride back to his own land, and Hereward saw that any rescue, to be successful, must be attempted on the march. Yet he knew not the way the bridal company would go, and he lay down to sleep in the [Pg 349] hall, hoping that he might hear something more. When all men slept a dark shape came gliding through the hall and touched Hereward on the shoulder; he slept lightly, and awoke at once to recognise the old nurse of the princess. “Come to her now,” the old woman whispered, and Hereward went, though he knew not that the princess was still true to her lover. In her bower, which she was soon to leave, Haco’s sorrowful bride awaited the messenger.
Rescue for Haco’s Bride
Sadly she smiled on the young Saxon as she said: “I knew your face again in spite of the disguise, but you come too late. Bear my farewell to Sigtryg, and say that my father’s will, not mine, makes me false to my troth-plight.” “Have you not been told, lady, that he is here?” asked Hereward. “Here?” the princess cried. “I have not heard. He loves me still and has not forsaken me?” “No, lady, he is too true a lover for falsehood. He sent forty Danes yesterday to demand you of your father and threaten his wrath if he refused.” “And I knew not of it,” said the princess softly; “yet I had heard that Haco had taken some prisoners, whom he means to blind.” “Those are our messengers, and your future subjects,” said Hereward. “Help me to save them and you. Do you know Haco’s plans?” “Only this, that he will march to-morrow along the river, and where the ravine is darkest and forms the boundary between his kingdom and my father’s the prisoners are to be blinded and released.” “Is it far hence?” “Three miles to the eastward of this hall,” she replied. “We will be there. Have no fear, lady, whatever you may see, but be bold and look for your lover in the fight.” So [Pg 350] saying, Hereward kissed the hand of the princess, and passed out of the hall unperceived by any one.
Returning to Sigtryg, the young Saxon told all that he had learnt, and the Danes planned an ambush in the ravine where Haco had decided to blind and set free his captives. All was in readiness, and side by side Hereward and Sigtryg were watching the pathway from their covert, when the sound of horses’ hoofs heard on the rocks reduced them to silence. The bridal procession came in strange array: first the Danish prisoners bound each between two Cornishmen, then Haco and his unhappy bride, and last a great throng of Cornishmen. Hereward had taken command, that Sigtryg might look to the safety of his lady, and his plan was simplicity itself. The Danes were to wait till their comrades, with their guards, had passed through the ravine; then while the leader engaged Haco, and Sigtryg looked to the safety of the princess, the Danes would release the prisoners and slay every Cornishman, and the two parties of Danes, uniting their forces, would restore order to the land and destroy the followers of Haco.