Many are the tales that men all round the coasts will tell of the great sea flood that came on Michaelmas even. For it ran far into the land where no tide had run before, and many towns were destroyed by it, and many people were drowned. It will be long before the scathe it wrought will be forgotten. Many of the earl’s ships were broken, even where they lay behind the island, and two of ours were lost—carried across the level where no ship had ever swum before. And eight of our men had been swept from the causeway and drowned. Two lie yet under the wreck of bridge and causeway, or in the Ashbourne valley amid wrack and ruin of field and forest that the flood left behind it.
But these things I learnt afterwards. Now I was like to die, and Olaf bided at my side and minded nought else, as men said.
Chapter 6: Sexberga The Thane’s Daughter.
Days came and went by while I lay helpless. Olaf the king at last must needs leave me, and take the ships back to the Thames, there to watch against Cnut’s return, in which he, almost alone in England, believed. But he would not sail before he knew that I would recover, and he left me in the kind hands of Anselm, the old Norman priest, who was well skilled in leech craft, and of Relf the Thane and his wife. So I need say nought of the long days of weakness after danger was gone, for there are few men who have not known what they are like, and well for them if they have had such tending as these good folk gave to me.
Yet it was not till November had half gone that I was able to ride hunting again at last, and to go out with Relf in the crisp frosts of early winter through the great woods of the Andred’s-weald in search of wolf and boar, or when the mists hung round the gray copses, and the turf in the glades was soft, and scent was high, to follow the deer that harboured in the deep shaws. We were seldom without their spoils as we came homeward, and how good it was to feel my strength coming back to me as I rode—to find the grip on a spear shaft hardening, and the bow hand growing steadier against a longer pull on the tough string. And Relf rejoiced with me to see this, for he deemed that he owed me the more care because my hurt had been gained in fighting for him and his home. Honest and rough, with a warm heart was this forest thane, and we grew to be fast friends.
Now when I was helpless, Wulfnoth the earl and Godwine would often ride from Pevensea to learn how I fared. For Wulfnoth and Godwine alike loved Olaf the king, and Godwine thought of me as his own friend among the vikings of our fleet. But presently Godwine went away to Bosham, where the earl’s ships were mostly laid up, to see to the housing of his vessels for the winter, and when I grew strong it was rather my place to go to Pevensea and wait on Wulfnoth, if I would see him. I think the earl came to Penhurst more often also, because he would dig for more treasure in all the old ruins in the town. But he found no more, as one might well suppose, for it was but a chance that our find had escaped the searching of the first Saxon comers. Yet I saw him now and then, and ever would he rail at Ethelred the king, who sat still and left the Danish thingmen in possession of the eastern strongholds even yet.