King Alfred's Viking eBook

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

Then came Harek’s voice outside, where he hung up fish to freeze against the morrow; and he sang softly some old saga of the fishing for the Midgard snake by Asa Thor.  And that grated on me, though I ever waited to hear what song the blithe scald had to fit what was on hand, after his custom.  Alfred heard too, and he glanced at me, and I was fain to hang my head.

“Ranald, who brought to pass the sign, shall surely share in its bodings of good,” he said, quickly and kindly.  “I think that he is highly favoured.”

Then in came my comrades, and they bent to the king, and he thanked them; and after that was supper and much cheerfulness.  Harek sang, and Alfred, and after them Denewulf.  Much I marvelled at the wisdom of this strange man, but I never knew how he gained it.  King Alfred was ever wont to say that in him he had found his veriest counsellor against despair in that dark time; and when in after days he took him from the fen and made him a bishop, he filled the place well and wisely, being ever the same humble-minded man that I had known in Athelney {xiv}.

Chapter X. Athelney and Combwich.

In the morning King Alfred took us to the southern end of his island, and there told us what his plans were.  And as we listened they seemed to us to be wiser than mortal mind could have made, so simple and yet so sure were they, as most great plans will be.  It is no wonder that his people hold that he was taught them from above.

He bade us look across the fens to the wooded heights of Selwood Forest, to south and east, and to the bold spur of the Polden Hills beyond the Parret that they call Edington.  There was nought but fen and river and marsh between them and us—­“impassable by the Danes who prowled there.  Only at the place where the two rivers join was a steep, rounded hill, that stood up strangely from the level—­the hill that they call the Stane, on Stanmoor; and there were other islands like this on which we stood, unseen among the thickets, or so low that one might not know of them until upon them.

“Now,” he said, “sooner or later the Danes will know I am here, where they cannot reach me.  Therefore I will keep them watching this place until I can strike them a blow that will end the trouble once for all.  They will be sure that we gather men on the Quantock side, whence Heregar can keep them; and so, while they watch for us to attack them thence, we will gather beyond Selwood, calling all the thanes from Hants and Wilts and Dorset and Somerset to meet me on a fixed day, and so fall on them.  Now we will build a fort yonder on Stane hill that will make them wonder, and so the plan will begin to work.  For I have only told you the main lines thereof; the rest must go as can be planned from day to day.”

Then he looked steadfastly at the Selwood heights, and added: 

“And if the plan fails, and the battle I look for goes against us, there remain Heregar’s places yet.  Petherton, Combwich, and Dowsborough are good places, where a king may die in a ring of foes, looking out over the land for which his life is given.”

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