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.

So in ten minutes or less they were armed and ready for aught; and Rani and I led them up to the castle, leaving the ship guard set, as if we were making a landing in earnest on an enemy’s shore.  Eight hundred strong we were, and foremost marched the men of Olaf’s ship, each one of whom wore ring mail of the best and a good helm, and carried both sword and axe and round shield.

Wulfnoth stood with his back to the gate as we entered with the leading files.  But when he heard the tramp and ring of warriors in their mail, he started and turned round sharply.  I saw his face flush red, and I saw Olaf’s smile, and Relf’s face of wonder.  And then the earl broke out—­angrily enough—­for his castle was, as it were, taken by Olaf.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“You wished to see my men, lord earl,” said Olaf.  “I sent for them therefore.  King Ethelred, for whom they fight just now, was pleased with them.”

Then the earl saw that Olaf tried one last plan by which to make him side with the king.  Maybe he thought that this chance had been waited for, but it was not so.  Therefore he choked down his anger that we should come unbidden into his fortress, and laughed harshly.

“Well for me, King Olaf, that you come in peace, as it seems.  One may see that these men are no untried war smiths.”

“There is no man in my own crew who has not seen four battles with me,” answered Olaf.  “Some have seen more.  The rest of the men have each seen two fights of mine.”

“I would that I had somewhat on hand that was worthy to be counted as another battle of yours, instead of a hunting of these forest wolves,” answered Wulfnoth, seeming to grow less angry.  “Supposing that you and I were to fight for the crown of England for ourselves—­either of us has as much right thereto as Cnut.”

“The Danes hold that England has paid scatt {6} to their king as overlord, and that is proof of right for Cnut, as they say,” answered Olaf.

“They say!” growled Wulfnoth fiercely.  “King and witan and people have been fools enough to buy peace with gold and not with edged steel.  But that has been ransom, not tribute.  When a warrior is made prisoner and held to ransom, is the man who takes the gold to set him free his master, therefore, ever after?  Scatt, forsooth!  I have a mind to go and teach the pack of fools whom Streone leads by the nose and calls a witan, that there is one man left in England who is strong enough to make them pay scatt to himself!”

Then Olaf said, very quietly: 

“Why not put an end to Danegeld once for all by helping me drive out the last Dane from England?  We should be strong enough as things are now.

“For Streone and his tools to reap the benefit?  Not I,” said the earl.  “Come, we have forgotten our own business.”

Now it seemed to me that Wulfnoth was eager to get our men back to the ships outside of the walls again, for there is no doubt that had Olaf chosen to take the place for Ethelred it was already done.  But such thought of treachery to his host could never be in Olaf’s mind, and it was the last time that he tried to win the earl over.

Project Gutenberg
King Olaf's Kinsman from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook