“Then I, Thrand the freeman of Colchester, nowise caring what befell me, answered in a loud voice:
“‘Let him die. He is not fit to live.’
“‘Slay him, therefore,’ said Cnut.
“Thereat Streone cried for mercy once, grovelling. And he having done so, I lifted the axe I bore and slew him, even on the high place at the king’s feet.
“Then one in the hall said in a great voice:
“‘Justice is from the hands of Cnut the king.’
“There went round a murmur of assent to that, and I called to me another of Thorkel’s men, a Colchester man of your guard also, and while all held their peace and Cnut stood still looking at what was done, stirring neither hand nor foot, but with his eyes burning bright with rage and his head a little forward, as an eagle that will strike, we two bore the traitor’s body to the window that overhangs the Thames, and cast it thereout into the swift tide.
“After that I went my way down the hall, and the king cried:
“‘Let the man go forth.’
“So that none spoke to me or withstood me.
“When I got to the street it was dark, and it seemed to me that the best thing that I could do was to fly. So I went by day and night, and I am here.”
So that was the traitor’s end. And I was glad, for I knew that England was free from her greatest foe. Justly was Edric Streone slain, and all men held that it was well done. Nor did any man ever seek Thrand to avenge the earl’s death on his slayer. I think none held him worth avenging.
I bade Thrand hold his peace concerning his part in this matter, for a while at least, lest I should lose him.
After Streone’s death it was plain that Cnut was king indeed, for his Danish jarls knew him too well to despise him. They went each to his place, and the land began to smile again with the peace that had come, and Cnut sent Eirik the jarl home to Denmark with the host, as I have said.
Chapter 16: By Wormingford Mere.
Now it was not long after Streone’s death that I had a message from Emma the queen to bid me to her wedding with Cnut, that should be completed with all magnificence. And I went with Thorkel the jarl and Egil, and I could not complain of the welcome I had both from the queen and from Cnut. I might say much of that wedding, for it was wonderful, but I cared not much for it, except that there I met Elfric the abbot again, and he would have me stay in his house, so that it was most pleasant to be with him, and away from the bustle and mirth of the strangers who were with the king.
But for this wedding Eadward Atheling would not come from Normandy. Men said that he was likely to gather forces against his new stepfather, but that it would be of no use. So thought I, for it was a true word that I had heard at Senlac in the hut on Caldbec hill—that Cnut should have the goodwill of all men, even of myself. For so it was, as one might see written in the faces of the London burghers, who alone of all England had baffled him again and again, and now could not do enough honour to him. He had won even their love.