Strolling near the field, seemingly absorbed in thought, walked Redwald,
and seeing the reapers, he came towards them.
"A picture of peaceful enjoyment," he quietly said. "How often have I
wished I could but lay down sword and lance to take more innocent
weapons in hand, and to spend my declining days 'mid scenes like these."
"Indeed!" said Ella. "It is generally thought that men whose trade is
war love their calling."
"Yes; sometimes the fierce din of battle seems a pastime fit for the
gods, but the banquet is apt to cloy."
"Have you followed your profession for many years?"
"Since I was a mere child; even my boyhood was passed amid the din of arms."
There were very few professional soldiers in that day, and they were
much dreaded. An Englishman was always ready to take up arms when
lawfully called by his feudal superior, or when home or civil rights
were in danger, but he generally laid them down and returned to his
fields with joy; hence the rustics looked upon a man like Redwald with
much undisguised curiosity.
"Think you we shall soon hear from the contending parties?" asked
Alfred, who was, as usual, in attendance upon his father.
"Perhaps by nightfall; one of my men has just returned to tell me that
the king's progress was stopped by an entrenched camp of the rebels, and
that they expected to fight at early dawn."
The news was unexpected, and every one felt his heart beat more quickly.