Edwy the Fair or the First Chronicle of Aescendune eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 273 pages of information about Edwy the Fair or the First Chronicle of Aescendune.

Desolate and solitary indeed seemed the huge pile of untenanted buildings as the evening breeze swept through them.  The last straggler had gone; Dunstan was still in his cell arranging or destroying certain papers, the guide and lay brothers held six strong and serviceable horses in the courtyard below, near the open gate, impatient to start, and blaming secretly the dilatoriness of their great chieftain.  They watched the sun as he sank lower and lower in the western sky, and thought of the woods and forests they must traverse, frequented by wolves, and sometimes by outlaws whom they dreaded far more.  Still Dunstan did not appear.

Alfred and Guthlac, on a watchtower above, gazed on the plain stretched before them.  Mile after mile it extended towards that forest where the enemy was now known to lurk, and they watched each road, nay, each copse and field, with jealous eye, lest it should conceal an enemy.  Ofttimes the shadow of some passing cloud, as it swept over moor or mere, was taken for an armed host; ofttimes the wind, as it sighed amongst the trees and blew the dried leaves hither and thither, seemed to carry the warning “An enemy is near.”

At length danger seemed to show itself plainly:  just as the sun set, a dark shadow moved from a distant angle of the forest on the plain beneath, and the words “The enemy!” escaped simultaneously from Alfred and Guthlac as the setting sun seemed reflected upon spear and sword, flashing in a hundred points as they caught the reflection of the departing luminary.

Alfred, at the prior’s desire, hurried to the chamber of Dunstan.

“Father,” he said, “the enemy are near.  They have left the forest.”

“That is four miles in distance:  there will be time for me to finish this letter to my brother of Abingdon.”

“But, father, their horses may be fleeter than ours.”

“We are under God’s protection:  I am sure we shall not be overtaken:  be at peace, my son.”

Poor Alfred felt as if his faith were very sorely tried indeed, but he strove to acquiesce.

It was now quite dark, and the ears of the would-be fugitives were strained to catch the sounds which should warn them of approaching danger.

At length they fancied they heard sounds arise from the plain before them:  suppressed noises, such as must unavoidably be made by a force on its passage; and Alfred again sought the cell of Dunstan, yet dared not enter, urgent though the emergency seemed.

At this moment he was startled by a demoniacal burst of laughter, which seemed to fill the corridor in which he waited with exultant joy.

What could it be? he felt as if he had never heard such laughter before —­so terrible, yet so boisterous.

A moment of dread silence, and then it began again, and filled each corridor and chamber.

At that moment Dunstan came forth, and saw the pale face of Alfred.

“It is only the devil,” he said “we are not ignorant of his devices.

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Edwy the Fair or the First Chronicle of Aescendune from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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