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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 220 pages of information about Alfgar the Dane or the Second Chronicle of Aescendune.

“Alfgar,” said the gleeman, “you will find a quiver of arrows and a long bow at the bottom of the boat behind you.”

Alfgar handed them to him.

“The points are passing sharp, and the bow is in order; take your turn to row.”

Alfgar obeyed; he could not do otherwise, the gleeman’s tone of command was so powerful, but he feared they would loss time by the change.

“You need not hurry yourself; let them approach.  They are not likely to have brought other weapons than their swords and axes.”

The boat gained on them rapidly, until it was within a hundred and fifty yards.

“Keep just this distance if you can,” said the gleeman, and drew an arrow suddenly to its head; it whistled through the air, and the steersman, transfixed, rose, leapt in the boat, and fell in the sea a corpse.

“Gone to seek oysters for King Sweyn’s table, I suppose,” said the gleeman.

Another steersman promptly took the place, but some yards were lost by the pursuers.

“Slacken, we are too far for accurate aim; and we English must not disgrace ourselves in Danish eyes.”

They slackened, another arrow sped, and the foremost rower fell.  Evidently the Danes had no means of reply.

“Slacken yet more;” and before the pursuers could recover their confusion, a third fell, then a fourth, before the unerring shafts.  The fifth was at the fearful gleeman’s mercy, but he restrained himself, now danger had vanished.

But as he did so he cried aloud: 

“Dane, we give thee thy life, blood sucker though thou art.  Go, and tell King Sweyn that Edmund {viii} the Etheling, son of Ethelred of England, has been his gleeman, and hopes he enjoyed the song which told the doom of parricides.”

CHAPTER XII.  THE MONASTERY OF ABINGDON.

One of the central lights of civilisation and Christianity in the early days of Wessex was the monastery of Abingdon.  St. Birinus had fixed the centre of his missionary labours at Dorchester, only six miles distant, but the Abbey was the fruit of the heroic zeal of another evangelist, upon whom his mantle fell—­St. Wilfrid.  After the death of Birinus, the zeal of his successors failed to evangelise the southeastern districts of Wessex, until, at length, came Wilfrid, fervent in zeal, and, stationing himself at Selsey, near Chichester, evangelised both Sussex and Wessex, sending out missionaries like-minded with himself, even into the most inaccessible wilds.

Centwin was then king of Sussex, but various petty states were tributary to him, and ruled by viceroys.  One of these viceroys was Cissa, whose dominions included Wiltshire and the greater part of Berkshire {ix}.  This Cissa and his nephew, Hean, founded Abingdon.  A mission was sent out from Chichester which attracted great multitudes of the Berkshire folk.  Hean was present, and heard the preacher take for his text

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