King Alfred's Viking eBook

Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about King Alfred's Viking.

Suddenly Thord smote his hands together, and his face grew brighter.

“I have it,” he cried.  “There is an old vessel that lies in a creek a mile down the river.  A great buss {xvi} she is, and worth nothing; but she will float, and maybe will be afloat now.  If we can sink her across the channel in a place that I know, not one of these ships will get away till she is raised.”

Then I called every man to me whom I could see, and we went quickly to the place where this buss was, and she was just afloat.  Thord knew where her tackle was kept, and he had the oars out—­what there were of them at least, for they were old and rotten enough.  Then we had to shove her off and get her boat into the water, and the vessel itself floated up on the tide towards the narrow place where she might best be sunk to block the channel against ships that came from the town.

We had not gone far when there came a sound at which I started, for it was nothing more or less than the quick beat of oars coming down the river against the tide.  Thord and I and eight men of my own crew were in the buss, while I had maybe thirty men ashore who were keeping pace with us along the bank.  The rest of my own men were with these, and one shouted that he could see the ship, and that it was our own, crammed with men too.

Now at first it seemed as if the only thing for us to do was to go ashore in the boat as quickly as we could and get away; but Thord cried to me: 

“Then will the Danes take our ship to sea, and we have lost her for good.  It should not be said of us that we let her go without a blow struck to save her.”

“Sink this hulk straightway, then,” I said, falling to work, with the axe I had in thy hand, on the lowest strakes.  My men leaped to work as well, and in two minutes the seams began to gape, and then was a rush of water from broken planking that sent us over the side and into the boat in hot haste.

Then we pulled for shore, towing the bows of the fast-sinking buss with us till they grounded in the mud, and even as her stern swung with the tide across the channel she lurched and sank.

“We should have bided in her and fought,” growled Thord.  “Now in five minutes we shall see the bottom ripped out of our own ship by our own deed.”

But a foot of the bows and the mast of the buss stood out of the water, and I thought the Danes would see these marks.

Even as we gained the shore our dragon stem swept round the bend that had hidden us, and came on swiftly.  Then the Danes saw us, and those on the fore deck shouted, and the oars plashed wildly, and many on the side next to us stopped altogether; and at the same time the steersman saw the stem of the wreck, and, as I think, lost his head between fear of it and the sudden appearance of the foe whom he thought he had escaped.  The larboard oars were going yet, and the starboard had almost stopped.  He paid no heed to it, and the ship swung over.  Then the tide caught her bows, and in a moment she ran hard and fast on our bank, and the men in her fell right and left with the shock.

Project Gutenberg
King Alfred's Viking from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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