So the old thane went to his lodgings, hard by the palace, where he awaited his son.
Late in the evening Elfric arrived, his countenance flushed with wine: he had been seeking courage for the part he had to play in the wine cup.
Long and painful, most painful, was the interview that followed. Hardened in his rebellion, the unhappy Elfric defied his father’s authority and justified his sin, flatly refusing to return home, in which he pretended to be justified by “the duty a subject owed to his sovereign.”
Thus roused to energy, Ella solemnly adjured his boy to remember the story of his uncle Oswald, and the sad fate he had met with. It was very seldom indeed that Ella alluded to his unhappy brother, the story was too painful; but now that Elfric seemed to be commencing a similar course of disobedience, the example of the miserable outlaw came too forcibly to his mind to be altogether suppressed.
“Beware, my son,” added Ella, “lest the curse which fell upon Oswald fall upon you, and your younger brother succeed to your inheritance.”
“It is not a large one,” said Elfric, “and in that case, the king whom I serve will find me a better one.”
“Is it not written, ‘Put not your trust in princes?’ O my son, my son; you will bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave!”
It was of no avail. The old thane arose in the morning with the intention of taking Elfric home even by force, such force as Dunstan had used, if necessary, but found that the youth had disappeared in the night; neither could he learn what had become of him, but he shrewdly guessed that the young king could have told him.
Broken-hearted by his son’s cruel desertion, the thane of Aescendune returned home alone.
Rich in historical associations and reputed sanctity, the abbey of Glastonbury was the ecclesiastical centre of western England. Here grew the holy thorn which Joseph of Arimathea had planted when, fatigued with travel, he had struck his staff into the ground, and lo! a goodly tree; here was the holy well of which he had drunk, and where he baptized his converts, so that its waters became possessed of miraculous power to heal diseases.
Here again were memorials, dear to the vanquished Welsh; for did not Arthur, the great King Arthur, the hero of a thousand fights, the subject of gleeman’s melody and of the minstrel’s praise, lie buried here? if indeed he were dead, and not spirited away by magic power.
A Welsh population still existed around the abbey, for it was near the borders of West Wales, as a large portion of Devon and Cornwall was then called, and Exeter had not long become an English town. [xiv] The legends of Glastonbury were nearly all of that distant day when the Saxons and Angles had not yet discovered Britain, and she reposed safe under the protection of mighty Rome; hence, it was the object of pilgrimage and of deep veneration to all those of Celtic blood, while the English were unwilling to be behind in their veneration.