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Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 234 pages of information about King Alfred's Viking.

Now we heard that as soon as we landed.  And then I had my first knowledge of the ways of a Saxon levy.  For no sooner were the ships berthed than their crews began to leave them, making for their homes.

One or two men I caught in the act of leaving in the early morning, and spoke sharply to them, for it seemed that soon there would be ships enough and not a man to tend them.  Whereon they answered: 

“We have done what we were called up for, and more also.  Now may others take our places.  What more would you have?  We have won our victory, and the ships are not needed for a while.”

So they went, and nothing I could say would stay them.  I waxed angry on that, and I thought I might as well sail for Ireland as not.  There seemed no chance of doing aught here, where men would throw away what they had won of advantage.

So I went back to my own ship and sat under the after awning, in no good temper.  Thord and Kolgrim were yet busy in and about the vessels, making all secure, and setting men to work on what needed repairing.  Presently Harek the scald came and sat with me, and I grumbled to my heart’s content about this Saxon carelessness and throwing away of good luck.

Many Saxons—­men from camp, and freemen of the place, and some thanes—­came, as one might expect, to stare at the ships and their prizes.  I paid no heed to them as the day went on, only wishing that Odda would come and speak to me about his doings, for I had sent word to him that we were in the river.  Sometimes a thane would stay and speak with me from the wharf alongside which my own ship was with one or two others, and they were pleasant enough, though they troubled me with over many thanks, which was Odda’s fault.  However, I will say this, that if every man made as little of his own doings and as much of those of his friends as did the honest ealdorman, it were well in some ways.

By and by, while we were talking, having got through my grumble, Kolgrim came along the shore with some Saxon noble whom he had met; and this stranger was asking questions about each ship that he passed.  I suppose that Kolgrim had answered many such curious folk already; for when he came near and we could hear what he was saying, I was fain to laugh, for, as sailors will, he was telling the landsman strange things.

“What do we pull up the anchor with?” he was saying.  “Why, with yonder big rope that goes from masthead to bows.” and he pointed to the great mainstay of our ship.  “One must have a long purchase, if you know what that is.”

“Ah, ’tis wonderful,” said the Saxon.

Then he caught my eye, and saw that I was smiling.  He paid no heed to me, however, but looked long at the ship that lay astern of ours—­one of the captured Danes.  Thord had set a gang of shore folk to bend the sail afresh to a new yard, for the old one had been strained in the gale that came before the fight.

“What are those men doing, friend?” he asked Kolgrim directly.

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