These authorities I have followed as closely as possible, only slightly varying the persons to whom the portents, so characteristic of the times, occurred, and referring some—as is quite possible, without detracting from their significance to men of that day—to natural causes. Those who searched for the body of the king are unnamed by the chroniclers, and I have, therefore, had no hesitation in putting the task into the hands of the hero of the tale. The whole sequence of events is unaltered.
Offa’s own part in the removal of the hapless young king is given entirely from the accounts of the chroniclers, and the characters of Quendritha the queen and her accomplice Gymbert are by no means drawn here more darkly than in their pages. The story of her voyage and finding by Offa is from Brompton’s Annals.
The first recorded landing of the Danes in Wessex, with which the story opens, is from the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle;” the name of the sheriff, and the account of the headstrong conduct which led to his end, being added from Ethelwerd. The exact place of the landing is not stated; but as it was undoubtedly near Dorchester, it may be located at Weymouth with sufficient probability. For the reasons which led to the exile of Ecgbert, and to his long stay at the court of Carl the Great, the authority is William of Malmesbury. The close correspondence between the Mercian and Frankish courts is, of course, historic—Offa seeming most anxious to ally himself with the great Continental monarch, if only in name. The position of the hero as an honoured and independent guest at the hall of Offa would certainly be that assigned to an emissary from Carl.
With regard to the proper names involved, I have preferred to use modern forms rather than the cumbrous if more correct spelling of the period. The name of the terrible queen, for example, appears on her coins as “Cynethryth,” and varies in the pages of the chroniclers from “Quendred” to the form chosen as most simple for use today. And it has not seemed worth while to substitute the ancient names of places for those in present use which sufficiently retain their earlier form or meaning.
The whole story of King Ethelbert’s wooing and its disastrous ending is a perfect romance in all truth, without much need for enhancement by fiction, and perhaps has its forgotten influence on many a modern romance, by the postponement of a wedding day until the month of May—so disastrous for him and his bride—has passed.
C. W. Whistler.
A shore of dull green and yellow sand dunes, beyond whose low tops a few sea-worn pines and birch trees show their heads, and at whose feet the gray sea hardly breaks in the heavy stillness that comes with the near thunder of high summer. The tide is full and nearing the turn, and the shore birds have gone elsewhere till their food is bared again at its falling. Only a few dotterels, whose eggs lie somewhere near, run and flit, piping, to and fro, for a boat and two men are resting at the very edge of the wave as if the ebb would see them afloat again.