“Elfric,” he said, “am I a king? or did I dream I was crowned today?”
“You certainly were.”
“And yet these insolent monks have dared to force me from the company of Elgiva to return to that sottish feast, and what is worse, I find they have dared to send her and her mother home under an escort, so that I cannot even apologise to them. As I live, if I am a king I will have revenge.”
“I trust so, indeed,” said Elfric, “they deserve death.”
“I would it were in my power to inflict it; but this accursed monk—I go mad when I mention his name—is all too powerful. I believe Satan helps him.”
“Still there may be ways, if you only wait till you can look around you.”
“There may indeed.”
“Only have patience; all will be in your hands some day.”
“And if it be in my power I will restore the worship of Woden and Thor, and burn every monk’s nest in the land.”
“They were at least the gods of warriors.”
“Elfric, you will stand by me, will you not?”
“With my life.”
“Come to the window, now; see the old sots departing. There a priest, there a thane, there an earl—all drunk, I do believe; don’t you think so?”
“Yes, yes,” said Elfric, disregarding the testimony of both his eyes that they were all perfectly sober.
Just then his eye caught a very disagreeable object, and he turned somewhat pale.
“What are you looking at?” said Edwy.
“There is that old fox, Dunstan, talking with my father; he will learn that I am here.”
“What does it matter?”
“Only that he will easily persuade my father to take me home.”
“Then the commands of a king must outweigh those of a father. I have heard Dunstan say a king is the father of all his people, and I command you to stay.”
“I want to stay with all my heart.”
“Then you shall, even if I have to make a pretence of detaining you by force.”
The anticipations of Elfric were not far wrong. Dunstan had found out the truth. He had sought out the old thane to condole with him upon the pain he supposed he must recently have inflicted by his letter.
“I cannot express to you, my old friend and brother,” he said, “the great pain with which I sent your poor boy Elfric home, but it was a necessity.”
“Sent him home?” said Ella.
“Yes, at the time our lamented Edred died.”
“Sent him home!” repeated Ella, in such undisguised amazement that Dunstan soon perceived something was amiss, and in a few short minutes became possessed of the whole facts, while Ella learnt his son’s disgrace.
They conferred long and earnestly. The father’s heart was sorely wounded, but he could not think that Elfric would resist his commands, and he promised to take him back at once to Aescendune, where he hoped all would soon be well—“soon, very soon,” he said falteringly.