So with twenty men we searched those covers in broad daylight, and found no token of any dwellers in the place. Nor were any Danes left, save one, and that was the man whom Olaf had smitten, for he had died. The embers of the fire were near him, and on the bank lay the severed belts that had bound us.
“These Danes have fought among themselves,” said our men, and hove the body into the water. So the Dane lies there instead of Olaf the king and me, with the Welshmen whom my heathen forefathers cast into the black depths, in revenge for the death of the White Lady.
Now when we came back to Bures there was a tired horse standing by the house door, and in the hall waited a messenger from Colchester, and he brought the news that we looked for and yet feared, so that we had hoped against hope that it would not come.
A Frisian trader had put into the Colchester river, and he brought word that even now Cnut might be taking the sea for England, for in all the western havens of Denmark was gathered such a mighty host and fleet that no man had ever known the like, and he had heard that the day for sailing would soon come.
Then Olaf made no delay but rode to Colchester to see this shipmaster and speak with him, for he thought that he might find out from him what point on our coasts would be that at which Cnut aimed first.
So Gunnhild and Olaf were right, and the little peace we had had was to end. Now would come the last struggle of English and Dane for mastery in our land, and in my heart I wished that we had such a king as Olaf Haraldsson. For it seemed to me that we were not ready, though we had had a year and more in which to prepare.
Chapter 9: The Treachery Of Edric Streone.
When Olaf had gone I sought out Father Ailwin, for the danger that I had seen for Hertha lay heavily on my mind, and now also I would tell him of the certainty of coming warfare, asking him what he and Gunnhild would do. So I went to the place where one might be sure to find him during the last two days, and that was in the churchyard, where our people and Olaf’s men were working together to raise for him a little wattled chapel among the ruins, that should serve at least until I could return and build the church anew.
It was a sore grief to me that the old one was gone, for in it had been crowned Eadmund the Holy, and it was rich with his gifts. And our hall had been the first house in which he had feasted as crowned king, so that we call the lane from church to hilltop St. Eadmund’s Lane since he rode along it in all the pomp of that high festival after he left the altar. Only the ruins of God’s house and man’s abode were there now, but the lane was bright with the flowers that the good king loved, and the nightingale sang in the wooded banks even as when he listened to it in the old days. We had always these things to mind us of the martyr.