Alfred accordingly found that the flame of his candles was blown by the wind, which made the wax burn irregularly; and, to remedy the evil, he contrived the plan of protecting them by thin plates of horn. Horn, when softened by hot water, can easily be cut and fashioned into any shape, and, when very thin, is almost transparent. Alfred had these thin plates of horn prepared, and set into the sides of a box made open to receive them, thus forming a rude sort of lantern, within which the time-keeping candles could burn in peace. Mankind have consequently given to King Alfred the credit of having invented lanterns.
Having thus completed his apparatus for the correct measurement of time, Alfred was enabled to be more and more systematic in the division and employment of it. One of the historians of the day relates that his plan was to give one third of the twenty-four hours to sleep and refreshment, one third to business, and the remaining third to the duties of religion. Under this last head was probably included all those duties and pursuits which, by the customs of the day, were considered as pertaining to the Church, such as study, writing, and the consideration and management of ecclesiastical affairs. These duties were performed, in those days, almost always by clerical men, and in the retirement and seclusion of monasteries, and were thus regarded as in some sense religious duties. We must conclude that Alfred classed them thus, as he was a great student and writer all his days, and there is no other place than this third head to which the duties of this nature can be assigned. Thus understood, it was a very wise and sensible division; though eight hours daily for any long period of time, appropriated to services strictly devotional, would not seem to be a wise arrangement, especially for a man in the prime of life, and in a position demanding the constant exercise of his powers in the discharge of active duties.
Thus the years of Alfred’s life passed away, his kingdom advancing steadily all the time in good government, wealth, and prosperity. The country was not, however, yet freed entirely from the calamities and troubles arising from the hostility of the Danes. Disorders continually broke out among those who had settled in the land, and, in some instances, new hordes of invaders came in. These were, however, in most instances, easily subdued, and Alfred went on with comparatively little interruption for many years, in prosecuting the arts and improvements of peace. At last, however, toward the close of his life, a famous Northman leader, named Hastings, landed in England at the head of a large force, and made, before he was expelled, a great deal of trouble. An account of this invasion will be given in the next chapter.
THE CLOSE OF LIFE.
It was twelve or fifteen years after Alfred’s restoration to his kingdom, by means of the victory at Edendune, that the great invasion of Hastings occurred. That victory took place in the year 878. It was in the years 893-897 that Hastings and his horde of followers infested the island, and in 900 Alfred died, so that his reign ended, as it had commenced, with protracted and desperate conflicts with the Danes.