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

“Harek the scald knows,” I said.  “They will be well pleased, for the pay is good, and places among Harald’s courtmen are much sought for.”

Then Alfred smiled, and spoke of myself.

“As for King Ranald himself, he will be my guest.”

“I am a wandering viking, and I seem to have found great honour,” I said.  “What I can do I will, in this matter.  Yet there is one thing I must say, King Alfred.  I would not be where men are jealous of me.”

“The only man likely to be so is Odda,” the king answered.  “You must settle that with him.  It is the place that he must have held that you are taking.  No man in all England can be jealous of a viking whose business is with ships.  But Odda put this into my mind at first, and then Godred found out that he was right.”

“Lord king,” said I, “had I known who you were at that time, I should have spoken no differently.  We Northmen are free in speech as in action.”

“So says Odda,” replied Alfred, smiling.  “He has piteous tales of one Thord, whom you sent to teach him things, and the way in which he was made to learn.”

“Nevertheless,” said Odda, “I will not have Thord blamed, for it is in my mind that we should have learned in no other way so quickly.”

Again the bishop signed to the king, and Alfred became grave.

“Here is one thing that our good Sigehelm minds me of.  It seems that you are a heathen.”

“Why, no, if that means one who hates Christians,” I said.  “Certainly I do not do that, having no cause to do so.  Those whom I know are yourself, and Neot, and Odda, and one or two more only.”

“That is not it,” said the king.  “What we call a heathen is one who worships the old gods—­the Asir.”

“Certainly I do that—­ill enough.”

“Then,” said Alfred, while Odda shifted in his seat, seeming anxious as to how I should take this, “it is our rule that before a heathen man can serve with us, he shall at least be ready to learn our faith, and also must be signed with the cross, in token that he hates it not {viii}.”

“Why should I not learn of your faith?” I said.  “Neot asked me of mine.  As for the other, I do not know rightly what it means.  I see your people sign themselves crosswise, and I cannot tell why, unless it is as we hallow a feast by signing it with Thor’s hammer.”

“It is more than that,” Alfred said, motioning to Sigehelm to say nothing, for he was going to speak.  “First you must know what it means, and then say if you will be signed therewith.”

Then he said to Sigehelm: 

“Here is one who will listen to good words, not already set against them, as some Danes are, by reason of ill report and the lives of bad Christians.  Have no fear of telling him what you will.”

Now, if I were to serve King Alfred, it seemed to me to be only reasonable that I should know the beliefs of those with whom I had to do.  Then I minded me of Neot, and his way of asking about my gods, as if the belief of every man was of interest to him.

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