King Olaf's Kinsman eBook

Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 352 pages of information about King Olaf's Kinsman.

What need for me to say aught of those three years of warfare?  Their tale is written in fire over all the fair face of England.  For nothing checked Swein Forkbeard until step by step the Danish hosts closed on London, and at last even the brave citizens were forced to yield to him.  Then Ethelred our king must needs fly from his throne, and leave the land to its Danish master.

Yet it was true, as Eadmund the Atheling said, that the Dane was but master of the land, and not of the English people.  Even today my mind is full of wondering honour for those sullen Saxon levies of ours who for three years bore defeat after defeat at the hands of the trained and hardened veterans of the north, uncomplaining and unbent.  What wonder if at last we were wearied out and must hold our hands for a while?

So now when I was nineteen, and looking and feeling many years older by reason of the long stress of warfare and trouble, I was at Rouen, in Normandy, at the court of our queen’s brother, Richard the Duke.  To him Ethelred had fled at the last and there, too, were the queen and the athelings, good Abbot Elfric of Peterborough, and a few more of the court, besides myself.  Ethelred had hoped to gain some help from the duke; but he could only give us shelter in our need, for he had even yet to hold the land that Rolf, his forefather, had won against his neighbours, and could spare us not one of his warriors.

So in Rouen we waited and watched for some new turn of things that might give us fresh hopes of regaining our own land.  Yet it was a weary waiting for one knew not what; and Ethelred the king grew moody and despairing as the days went on, and there seemed to be no help.

But Eadmund was ever planning for return, and was restless, riding down to each ship that came into the river to hear what news might be, until the winter set in, and we must needs wait until springtime brought the traders again from the English shores.

Only Elfgiva the queen, whom her own people call Emma, was well content to be in her own land again for a while, though one might easily see that she sorely grieved for the loss of her state as the queen of England.  And Eadward the Atheling loved to be among the wondrous buildings of the Norman land, spending long hours with the learned men, and planning many good things to be wrought in England when times of peace should come once more.  And in these plannings Elfric the abbot was ever ready to help him, and the more, as I think, that to hear of their thoughts of return to England, and of happier times, would cheer our king.  For Elfric would never allow but that we were here for a short while only, saying that England would yet rise up refreshed, and sweep the Danes into the sea, from whence they came.

“Else why should I have given all that I have—­even five hundred pounds—­for St. Florentine his body (wanting the head, in truth, but I might not have that), if I were not sure that I should take it home for the greater glory of St. Peter’s church at Medehamstede {4} presently?  Answer me that, lord king, and be not so downhearted.”

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King Olaf's Kinsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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