“Yes,” she said, “I will give you some supper if you will watch these cakes. I want to go out and milk the cow; and you must see that they do not burn while I am gone.”
King Alfred was very willing to watch the cakes, but he had far greater things to think about. How was he going to get his army to-geth-er again? And how was he going to drive the fierce Danes out of the land? He forgot his hunger; he forgot the cakes; he forgot that he was in the woodcutter’s hut. His mind was busy making plans for to-mor-row.
In a little while the wom-an came back. The cakes were smoking on the hearth. They were burned to a crisp. Ah, how angry she was!
“You lazy fellow!” she cried. “See what you have done! You want some-thing to eat, but you do not want to work!”
I have been told that she even struck the king with a stick; but I can hardly be-lieve that she was so ill-na-tured.
The king must have laughed to himself at the thought of being scolded in this way; and he was so hungry that he did not mind the woman’s angry words half so much as the loss of the cakes.
I do not know whether he had any-thing to eat that night, or whether he had to go to bed without his supper. But it was not many days until he had gath-ered his men to-geth-er again, and had beaten the Danes in a great battle.
At one time the Danes drove King Alfred from his kingdom, and he had to lie hidden for a long time on a little is-land in a river.
One day, all who were on the is-land, except the king and queen and one servant, went out to fish. It was a very lonely place, and no one could get to it except by a boat. About noon a ragged beggar came to the king’s door, and asked for food.
The king called the servant, and asked, “How much food have we in the house?”
“My lord,” said the servant, “we have only one loaf and a little wine.”
Then the king gave thanks to God, and said, “Give half of the loaf and half of the wine to this poor man.”
The servant did as he was bidden. The beggar thanked the king for his kindness, and went on his way.
In the after-noon the men who had gone out to fish came back. They had three boats full of fish, and they said, “We have caught more fish to-day than in all the other days that we have been on this island.”
The king was glad, and he and his people were more hopeful than they had ever been before.
When night came, the king lay awake for a long time, and thought about the things that had happened that day. At last he fancied that he saw a great light like the sun; and in the midst of the light there stood an old man with black hair, holding an open book in his hand.
It may all have been a dream, and yet to the king it seemed very real indeed. He looked and wondered, but was not afraid.