Very black grew the handsome face of the king as he heard.
“Am I often deceived thus?” he said. “I will even send some to ask of all the ins and outs of such another case hereafter. This Erpwald sent to me to say that Aldred and all his house had been slain by outlaws, and that he himself had driven them off and I believed him. After that I made over the Eastdean lands to him, and I take it that they were what he wanted. Well, he has not lived long to enjoy them, for he died not long ago, and now his brother holds the lands after him, and I know that he at least is a worthy man.
“Let it be. The child is my ward now, as an orphan, and I should have had to set his estate in the hands of some one to hold till he can take them. There will be no loss to him in the end.”
Then he smiled and looked Owen in the face.
“I know you well, Owen, though it is plain that you would not have it so. Mind you the day when I met Gerent at the Parrett bridge? I do not often forget a face, and I saw you then, and asked who you were. Now there is good and, as I hope, lasting peace between our lands, thanks to the wisdom of our good Aldhelm here, and I will ask you somewhat, for I know that you also wrought for that peace while you might. Come to me, and be of the nobles who guard me and mine, and so wait in honour until the time comes when you may return to your place. Then you will be with the boy also.”
So it came to pass that we took leave of that good friend the abbot, and went from Malmesbury in the train of Ina of Wessex. Thereafter for six years I served Ethelburga the queen, being trained in all wise as her own child, and after that I was one of the athelings of the court in one post or another, but always with the king when there was war on the long frontier of the Wessex land.
CHAPTER III. HOW KING INA’S FEAST WAS MARRED, AND OF A VOW TAKEN BY OSWALD.
At this time, when I take up my story again, I was two and twenty, not very tall indeed, but square in the shoulder, and well able to hold my own, at the least, with the athelings who were my comrades, at the weapon play or any of our sports. It would have been my own fault if I were not so, for there was no better warrior in all Ina’s following than Owen, and he taught me all I knew. And that knowledge I had tested on the field more than once, for Ina had no less trouble with his neighbours than any other king in England, whether in matters of raiding to be stopped or tribute to be enforced. Since I was too old to serve the queen as page any longer I had been of his bodyguard, and where he went was not always the safest place on a field for us who shielded him.