I had seen what was coming, and so had Thord, and we ran our best to meet her as she struck. The tide was a good one, and she came well on the hard bank, and there was no need to tell my men what to do. Before the Danes knew what had happened we were climbing over the bows on board, and the Danes aft were leaping into the river to get away from us.
Some few tried to fight; but there must have been two hundred men packed along the gangways, and they could do nothing. They threw themselves into the water like the rats that had left the old buss even now, and we slew many, and the good ship was our own again. Some of the Danes got ashore on the far bank, some were met by our Saxons on this side, and but few got back to Bridgwater, for the river had most of them.
Another ship was coming at this time, but those in her heard the shouting and the cries; and it would seem that their hearts failed them, for they went back before we could see more than the tall mast above the banks from our decks.
Then we thought we might rest, for we were wearied out; but Thord would not suffer us to do so till he had got the ship carefully below the wreck, so that she was free. Had we waited for the next tide we could not have done it, as it turned out; for the rise of flood shortened quickly to the neap tides, and a bank of mud grew round the sunken hull, making the channel impassable altogether for the time, and so the last way of escape for Guthrum and his men was barred.
So I thought we had done well, and left Thord and my men to guard the ship and take her back to Combwich, where she would lie safely in the creek, while I rode to Alfred, almost sleeping on my wearied horse as I went.
There were two wrecks in that place in the morning; for they brought down one of Hubba’s ships in the dark on the next tide, and she ran on the sunken stem of the buss, and went down almost at once. After that no more attempt was made to fly by water.
Then began a siege that lasted for a fortnight, without anything happening that is worth telling; for the fear of Alfred was on the Danes, and they had not heart so much as to make one sally from the gates.
Chapter XIII. The Greatest Victory.
Now in a few days it was plain that Alfred held the Danes in the hollow of his hand as it were, and could do what he would with them. At first we looked for messengers from the place, to treat with him for peace; but none came. From the town at times we could hear shoutings and the noise of men who quarrelled, as if there were divided counsels among them that led to blows. They were very short of food also, because all their stores of cattle were left outside the walls, as I have said, so that we fared the better for their plundering while we waited.