We travelled easily that morning with a short stop mid-morning and then a longer one at noon to rest the horses and eat. We set out after an hour but the clouds opened and a fierce rain-burst hammered down upon us. It was as short-lived as it was intense, however, and all at once the sun shone out fiercely and the clouds melted away. At the same moment a huge double rainbow arched across the sky, glimmering like a jewel on fire.
‘Ah,’ said a voice close to my ear. ‘God’s promise to Noah. I wonder if it will be as hopeful for us.’
I turned abruptly. Stigand had crept up on my unawares. I tried to move away but his hand reached out and grasped for my bridle.
‘It is long since I have seen you, Edgar,’ he said. ‘Are they treating you well?’
‘What would you care?’ I said. ‘You betrayed me and our countrymen.’
He looked down at the ground and did not answer for a moment.
‘It must seem like that to you,’ he said at last. ‘But believe me; I did it for your sake and for that of our countrymen. There had been too many deaths already and I had visions ofEnglanddrowning in blood.’
‘We could have defeated theNormans,’ I said.
‘Do you think so? Do you really think so?’ He stared at me. ‘And just who would have led our warriors? You? Me? Or our brave Edwin and Morcar?’ He gestured towards them. ‘Look at them, riding fretful and cowed. Do you think they have it within themselves to take up the mantle of Harold?’
‘They fought bravely against the Danes atYork.’
‘Perhaps they did. But Harold still had to race north to succour them and defeat the Danes.’
I did not reply for I guessed in my heart that he was right about them. They were not of the mould of Harold. Nor, I had to admit to myself, of William.
‘None of that gave you the right to betray us,’ I continued.
He let go of my bridle. ‘Perhaps you are right,’ he said wearily. ‘But to me it seemed to be the least of all the evils facing us. Maybe, in the long end, you will thank me for it.’ He kicked his heels and trotted his pony forward to rejoin the Earls.
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