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King Alfred of England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about King Alfred of England.

The following account is from a Latin life of St. Neot, which still exists in manuscript, and is of great antiquity: 

“Alfred, a fugitive, and exiled from his people, came by chance and entered the house of a poor herdsman, and there remained some days concealed, poor and unknown.

“It happened that, on the Sabbath day, the herdsman, as usual, led his cattle to their accustomed pastures, and the king remained alone in the cottage with the man’s wife.  She, as necessity required, placed a few loaves, which some call loudas, on a pan, with fire underneath, to be baked for her husband’s repast and her own, on his return.

“While she was necessarily busied, like peasants, on other offices, she went anxious to the fire, and found the bread burning on the other side.  She immediately assailed the king with reproaches.  ’Why, man! do you sit thinking there, and are too proud to turn the bread?  Whatever be your family, with your manners and sloth, what trust can be put in you hereafter?  If you were even a nobleman, you will be glad to eat the bread which you neglect to attend to.’  The king, though stung by her upbraidings, yet heard her with patience and mildness, and, roused by her scolding, took care to bake her bread thereafter as she wished.”

There is one remaining account, which is as follows: 

“It happened that the herdsman one day, as usual, led his swine to their accustomed pasture, and the king remained at home alone with the wife.  She placed her bread under the ashes of the fire to bake, and was employed in other business when she saw the loaves burning, and said to the king in her rage, ’You will not turn the bread you see burning, though you will be very glad to eat it when done!’ The king, with a submitting countenance, though vexed at her upbraidings not only turned the bread, but gave them to the woman well baked and unbroken.”

It is obvious, from the character of these several accounts that each writer, taking the substantial fact as the groundwork of his story, has added such details and chosen such expressions for the housewife’s reproaches as suited his own individual fancy.  We find, unfortunately for the truth and trustworthiness of history, that this is almost always the case, when independent and original accounts of past transactions, whether great or small, are compared.  The gravest historians, as well as the lightest story tellers, frame their narrations for effect, and the tendency in all ages to shape and fashion the narrative with a view to the particular effect designed by the individual narrator to be produced has been found entirely irresistible.  It is necessary to compare, with great diligence and careful scrutiny, a great many different accounts, in order to learn how little there is to be exactly and confidently believed.]

CHAPTER IX.

REASSEMBLING OF THE ARMY.

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