The sun was setting on a forest glade surrounded by powerful oaks with sweeping branches, various beeches hollies and copsewood. In certain places the branches were so tightly woven the sunlight barely poked through. In the glade on top of a hill sat a circle of large stones that had been erected for some ancient druid tradition. Several still stood while others lay on the ground, the result of overzealous Christians. Two men were on top of the hill with the stones. One an older man with a stern almost savage look to him, a horn hanging from his belt along with two knives. The other a younger man by about ten years or so, in a colorful outfit with a hat where several small bells had been attached. Both wore collars around their necks inscribed with their names and the noble who owned both of them, a Saxon Cedric of Rotherwood.
The older man Gurth was a swineherd, and looked quite sad and sulllen. He blew his horn to call the swine back to him but they simply continued to feast on the plentiful beechmast and acorns they found.
"The curse of St. Withold upon these infernal porkers!" he said, "The curse of St. Withold upon them and upon me! If the two-legged wolf snap not up some of them ere nightfall, I am no true man. Here Fangs! Fangs!" The nearby ragged dog ran about limping trying in vain to rally the swine. The efforts were ineffective as the dog simply drove them all over the place.
"A devil draw the teeth of him," said Gurth," and the mother of mischief confound the Ranger of the forest that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs and makes them unfit for their trade!" he turned to his companion who sat nearby on the one of the large stones, "Wamba, up and help me. Take a turn round the back of the hill to gain wind on them and you may drive them before you as gently as so many innocent lambs."
"Truly," said Wamba, without moving from his perch, "I have consulted my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of opinion that to carry my gay garments through these grounds would be an act of unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal wardrobe. Therefore Gurth, I advise you to call off Fangs, and leave the herd to their destiny, which whether they meet with bands of travelling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims can be little else than to be converted into Normans by morning to your no small ease and comfort."
"The swine turned Normans to my comfort!" said Gurth, "explain that to me Wamba for my brain is too dull and my mind too vexed to understand riddles."
"Why how call you those grunting brutes running about on four legs?"
"Swine fool, swine. Every fool knows that."
"And swine is good Saxon," said Wamba, "but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn and quartered, and hung by the heels like a traitor?"
"Pork," said Gurth.
"I'm very glad every fool knows that too," said Wamba, "and pork I think is good Norman-French. So when the brute lives and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name, but when she becomes a Norman she is called pork and is carried to the castle hall to feast among the nobles. What do you think of this?"
"It is but true doctrine friend however it got into your fool's mouth."
"I can tell you more," Wamba said, "there is an old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon name while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as yourself, but becomes Beef a fiery French gallant when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calf too becomes Monsieur De Veau in the like manner. He is Saxon when he requires attendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes a matter of enjoyment."
"By St. Dunstan," said Gurth, "you speak but sad truths. Little is left to us but the air we breathe and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest is for their board, the loveliest is for their couch, the best and bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones leaving few here who have neither will or the powers to protect the unfortunate Saxon. God's blessing on our master Cedric. He has done the work of a man in standing in the gap. But Reginald Front-de-Boeuf is coming down to the this country in person, and we shall soon see how little Cedric's troubles will avail him."
"Gurth," said Wamba, "I know you think me a fool, or you would not be so rash in putting your head into my mouth. One word to Reginald Front-de-Boeuf or Philip de Malvoisin that you have spoken treason against the Norman and you are but a castaway swineherd. You would waver on one of these trees as a terror to all evil speakers against dignities."
"Dog, you would not betray me," said Gurth, "after having led me on to speak so much at disadvantage."
"Betray you," Wamba said, "no that would be the trick of a wise man, a fool cannot half so well help himself, but wait what have we here?" The sounds of several horses echoed in the distance.
"Never mind," Gurth said his herd of swine before him finally and with the aid of Fangs he began driving them onwards.
"But I must see the riders," said Wamba, "perhaps they are from from Fairy-land with a message from King Oberon."
"A murrain take you, "said Gurth, "will you really talk of such things while a terrible storm of thunder and lightning is raging within a few miles of us?" The thunder rumbled loudly as large drops fell from the rolling clouds. The trees creaked and sobbed as if announcing the tempest, "You can play the rational if you please, credit me for once and let us go home before the storm begins to rage for the night will be fearful."
Wamba nodded appearing to agree and followed Gurth as the swineherd led his charges away from the hill with the assistance of Fangs.
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