Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Alfred the great
 The king and the bondmen
 The crusaders
 Moffat, the missionary
 Halcyon days
 The rewards of industry
 Back Cover

Group Title: Stories for summer days and winter nights : illustrated with coloured plates and wood engravings.
Title: Stories for summer days and winter nights
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00027015/00001
 Material Information
Title: Stories for summer days and winter nights illustrated with coloured plates and wood engravings
Physical Description: 1 v. (unpaged) : ill. (some col.) ; 18 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Groombridge and Sons ( Publisher )
Publisher: Groombridge & Sons
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1873
Copyright Date: 1873
Subject: Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Children's stories   ( lcsh )
Children's stories -- 1873   ( lcsh )
Publishers' advertisements -- 1873   ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1873
Genre: Children's stories   ( lcsh )
Publishers' advertisements   ( rbgenr )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States -- New York -- New York
General Note: Publisher's advertisements follow text.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00027015
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: notis - ALH8418
oclc - 60352653
alephbibnum - 002237924

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Front Matter
    Title Page
        Page 1
    Table of Contents
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Alfred the great
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
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        Page 15
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    The king and the bondmen
        Page 49
        Page 50
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    The crusaders
        Page 97
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    Moffat, the missionary
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
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        Page 150
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    Halcyon days
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
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    The rewards of industry
        Page 244
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    Back Cover
        Page 292
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        Page 294
Full Text




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B0E who have been born in England at a time
when the country is so thickly peopled,
so carefully cultivated, and so crowded
with towns, and villages, and busy cities,
find it difficult to imagine the time could ever lavo
been when England was a wild and thinly-inhabited
island, the natives of which were little less barbarous
than the inhabitants of some of the South Sea Islands
whom we call savages. And yet so it was. Two
thousand years ago, this island had on it no trees or
plants which were not the natural growth of the


island, and no buildings perhaps, but a few miserable
huts. Large portions of the island were covered with
vast forests of oak, beech, and elm, with tangled
underwood of briar and hawthorn, maple and hazel,
in which wild boars, wolves, and foxes took refuge.
In other parts were large swamps and morasses, full
of reeds and rushes, where many varieties of water-
fowl harboured, as well as otters, weasels, and water-
rats. Herds of wild cattle roamed over the hills,
and the half-naked inhabitants, instead of tilling the
ground and sowing grain, were content to live by the
chase, or on the wild fruits and berries they found in
the woods. They painted their skins with the juices
of plants, and their only clothing was the skins of the
beasts which they hunted down. Rude spears and
arrows were their only weapons, and they lived for
the most part in caves hollowed out of rocks, or huts
made of the branches of trees, woven together and
plastered over with mud. The most ingenious arts
which they had among them were, perhaps, the making
of small vessels of clay to hold their food, and little
boats of wicker-work covered with skins, in which
they paddled themselves across the streams. They
were rough in their manners and ignorant, worship-
ping the sun and moon, and rude' idols of wood and
stone. Their priests taught them no lessons of love
or humanity, but rather encouraged them in the most
cruel practices, such as offering up in sacrifice the
prisoners whom they took in war, under the idea that
it would be pleasing to their idols. These priests,
called Druids, dwelt in gloomy groves, and practised
strange and mysterious rites, so that they frightened
the people into obedience to their will. Their temples
were constructed with enormous blocks of stone, gene-
rally standing in circles, and within these their cruel


sacrifices were offered up by the priests. Such were
the ancient Britons. But these people, savages as
they were, must have had some good qualities in
them, which only wanted the example and teaching of
others in order to render them civilized and rational.
England was intended by a wise and over-ruling
Providence to be in the course of time the great
nation that it is now, and the events by which this
purpose was accomplished are among the most inte-
resting in history.
Perhaps the first notions which they ever acquired
of there being other people in the world cleverer and
more skilled than themselves, may have arisen from
occasional visits paid to the island by the Phoenicians,
who came from the great city of Tyre, in Syria, which
we read o in the Bible, and who landed on the coast
of Cornwall, to procure tin, a metal which abounds in
that part of the island. They traded with the Britons
for the tin, and as their money could be of no use to
the islanders, we may imagine that they gave in
change some of the articles of clothing, utensils, and
ornaments, in the manufacture of which they were so
skilled. Many of these things they would give in
exchange for lumps of tin; each time that they came,
perhaps, leaving behind them some newly-fashioned
garment, weapon, or vessel which served as a pattern
for the poor islanders, and made the cleverest among
them set to work to try and imitate them. The Britons
did not, however, make any very decided advance
towards civilization until about fifty-five years before
the birth of our Saviour, when what was then thought
by them to be a terrible calamity, proved afterwards
to have been an advantage, and helped them greatly
onwards. The Romans, then the greatest and most
powerful, as well as the most highly-civilized people


in the world, having conquered Gaul, or France, heard
there of the fertile island called Britain, which lay on
the other side of the sea to the north-west. They
made several attempts to land upon the island, but
were always beaten off by the natives, who crowded
down to the shore to repel them. At last, however,
the Romans came in such formidable numbers, that a
landing was effected, and the Britons finally overcome.
After this the Romans remained in the island for
nearly five hundred years, adding to their conquests
from time to time, until the whole people were under
their dominion. Different governors were sent from
Rome to rule over them, and some of these being wise
and good, they did much to improve the condition of
the country and people. They not only built towns
and fortresses, but they made good roads from one
end of the land to the other, and taught the Britons
many useful arts. Even to this day, remains of these
roads and fortresses are to be found, and here and
there even the remains of dwelling-houses, which must
have been constructed with both convenience and
beauty. It was difficult, however, for the Romans to
govern an island so far from Rome as Britain, and
when that empire began to lose some of its power, it
was obliged to withdraw its forces, and leave the
islanders to themselves. Now the Britons might have
managed to govern themselves, but they were quite
unable at that time to prevent the invasion of some
rude tribes of barbarians called the Picts and Scots,
who dwelt in the mountainous regions of Scotland,
and were constantly coming down in hordes to disturb
the more peaceful inhabitants of the south. After
many unsuccessful efforts to get rid of these trouble-
some neighbours, they were obliged to apply for
assistance to the Saxons, a warlike people in the north

of Germany, the fame of whose skill in war had reached
them. The Saxons came, headed by two valiant chiefs
called Hengist and Horsa; but after conquering the
Picts and Scots, and driving them back to their
mountains, they were not so ready to return home
again. Seeing how fair and fertile was the land, and
how helpless the inhabitants, they determined to make
a settlement in it; and inviting over more and more
of their fellow-countrymen to join them, they took
such complete possession of the island that its original
inhabitants could never again recover their authority.
Many of the Britons retired to Wales and Cornwall,
and continued a distinct people almost to this day;
but the greater number of the inhabitants of Britain
became so mixed up with the Saxon settlers, that they
were in future but one people. For a long time the
southern part of the island was called West Saxony;
but another tribe from Germany, called the Angles,
almost as powerful as the Saxons, came and settled in
the eastern part, and called it East Anglia. This led
to the whole people being called Anglo-Saxons, and
lastly it came to pass that in time the whole island
was named the Land of the Angles," or England.
The Saxons and Angles were a clever, hardy, and in-
dustrious race of people, and did more for the land
than ever the Romans had done, for they paid more
attention to its cultivation, and their habits and ways
of life suited the climate of the country better than
those of the luxurious Romans; while their many good
qualities make us English people of the present day
feel proud of being descended from the Anglo-Saxon
races of men.
We have thus seen that the islanders received
assistance in their progress, first from the Phoenicians,
then from the Romans, and, lastly, from the Angles


and Saxons; but it was after the settlement of the
latter people in the island, that a yet greater good
came to the people in the introduction of Christianity,
which tended we believe more than anything to make
them less rude and barbarous. An interesting story
is told of the manner in which this first came about.
It would seem that even after the Saxons and Angles
had settled in Britain, it was a custom to send chil-
dren to Rome to be sold as slaves. It might be that
they were orphans, or the children of prisoners taken
in battle, or it may have been that some parents were
inhuman enough to sell their own children: at all
events, it so happened that some beautiful fair-haired
and rosy-cheeked children were exposed for sale in
the market-place of Rome, and that their looks at-
tracted the notice of Gregory, who was then the
chief bishop of Rome, so that he inquired from what
part of the world they had been brought.
They are Angles," said the bystanders, in answer
to his question.
Angels, you must mean, not Angles !" exclaimed
he; and then turning his attention to the state of the
native country of the little children, he grieved to
think that its inhabitants had never heard the name
of God, nor of his Son Jesus Christ, and he would
fain have gone to Britain to teach the people the
" good tidings which had been brought by Christ.
The duties of his office, however, prevented Bishop
Gregory from doing this himself, so be deputed a
monk of the name of Augustine to travel through
France and cross the sea to the land of the Angles, in
order to make the people Christians, and induce them
to destroy their idols and heathen temples; and, in
their stead, build churches for the worship of the one
true God, and monasteries or holy houses, where those


who devoted themselves to the services of religion
could live in safety, and spend their time in instructing
the young, and taking care of the sick and infirm.
And this was done; and though for many cen-
turies afterwards, the islanders, whether called Britons,
Saxons, Angles, or English, were still too fond of
war, and even in the name of their religion committed
many crimes, yet still there was much good influence
always at work over the minds and habits of the people,
according as they understood and followed the precepts
of the Saviour, whom Augustine taught them to know
and love.



MANEI years passed after the Saxons -and Angles
settled in Britain, before it became one country under
the rule of one king. For a long time it was divided
into several different states or provinces, governed by
chiefs, who took upon themselves the title of king;
but at length, in 827, one of them named Egbert,
became more powerful than the rest, and making the
others subject to him, he called himself the king of all
England. It was during the reign of Egbert that the
island was first visited by the Danes, a people from
Denmark, who at that time were little better than
pirates or sea-robbers. They had attained great skill
in navigation, and built themselves many ships, in
which, coming down to the coasts of England and
Gaul, they would land and commit all kinds of depre-
dations. At first, these visits of the Danes to the
island were like those of robbers only; and after
having plundered one of the holy houses, or carried


off the herds and grain stores of some village on the
eastern coast, they would be satisfied to retire to their
vessels and set sail again; but we shall presently see
what very formidable enemies to the Anglo-Saxons
these Danes were in the end, and how it became the
whole business of both rulers and people to resist their
King Egbert was succeeded in the government of
the island by his son Ethelwolf, a prince who was less
remarkable for his warlike exploits than most of the
Saxon princes. He was, on the contrary, of a devout
turn of mind, and very strict in his observance of all
the religious ceremonies and customs introduced into
the country by the monks, who had now come over in
great numbers from Rome and settled in England;
and although these monks were too anxious to impose
upon the newly-converted people many kinds of super-
stitious observances, and thought more of teaching
them Latin prayers which they did not understand,
than reading or explaining the Scriptures to them,
they still had been able to awaken in the minds of
both the princes and people whom they taught, much
real piety and love of a holy life.
And thus it was with King Ethelwolf and Queen
Osburga his wife, a Saxon princess of great piety and
virtue. They had already three sons and a daughter,
when, in the year 849, at their royal palace at Wantage
in Berkshire, was born to them a little son, whom they
named Ailfred, or Alfred. Now, there must have been
something about the character or disposition of this
youngest son of Ethelwolf which, from his very earliest
childhood, caused him to be an object of great care
and love to his parents, and either because he had
shown marks of piety and goodness as a very young
child, or because they hoped it might have the effect


of making him disposed for holy things, he was sent,
when only six years old, all the way to Rome, to
receive the blessing of the chief bishop there, which
at that time was looked upon as a great religious
advantage. Escorted by a numerous train of attend-
ants to protect him from harm, the young prince went
and returned again; but though he was a thoughtful
and observing child, all that he saw of the great city
of Rome, and the countries he passed through, would
fade quickly out of his mind at that early age; and
though there might be left a faint impression of having
seen something far greater and grander than anything
around him in England, he would like nothing so well
as that old palace where he was born, and those
pleasant meadows and woods around it, where he could
again resume his childish sports.
And then the education of the young prince began;
such at least as was at that time customary among the
Saxon youths. He learned to use the bow, and to
throw the dart, and became expert in the chase, and
at all kinds of games and bodily exercises, for he was
brave and fearless; but no one thought of teaching
him to read or write. Of books, indeed, at that time
the Saxons had few, and scarcely any one but the
monks was acquainted with the Latin tongue, in which
the greater number of them were written. But
though there was little reading going on among them,
the Saxons were remarkable for their love of music
and poetry. The warriors and princes liked to keep
up the remembrance of all their warlike deeds and
exploits, by means of songs and poems. These were
sung or recited to the people by a race of men called
bards or glee-men, who played as they sang on a rude
kind of harp. The young Alfred loved to hear the
songs of the bards as they sat in his father's halls, and


sang songs and recited tales about the great deeds of
his forefathers, and the warriors who sat around would
each, in their turn, take the harp and sing some song
or recite some story as they struck its chords. And
Alfred learned to play the harp, and was soon as skil-
ful as the rest in bringing forth its sounds, while he
took delight in committing to memory the songs and
stories that he heard from the bards. This was a kind
of knowledge which pleased him better than acquiring
skill in the chase, or dexterity in the use of the bow
and lance, and the more he learned of these songs and
tales the more he wished to hear.
It happened one day, that his mother, who was
also very fond of Saxon poetry, called to her the young
princes, her sons, that she might show to them a
beautiful book of poems which had come into her
possession. It was beautifully written, and was, more-
over, adorned with gaily-coloured pictures and orna-
ments, so that it called forth the admiration of the
youths, who had never before seen so choice a volume.
"Whichever of you children," said the queen,
" can first learn to read this book, and say it by heart,
shall have it for your own;" and she probably told
them, at the same time, how full its pages were of
interesting stories, or spirited songs about the great
deeds of the Saxon warriors and heroes from whom
they were descended.
The elder princes, however, were silent, and
thought to themselves, perhaps, that after all, the
promised reward would not be equal to the trouble it
would cost them-they hesitated to undertake the
task. Then, as if all at once struck with an ambition
which ever after was to fill his mind-the ambition to
learn and know-the little Prince Alfred stepped for-
ward and asked eagerly, "Will you really give it to


whichever of us can learn quickest to read it and say
it by heart ?" Osburga, his mother, smiled with plea-
sure, and said, Yes, I will."
Then Alfred took the book from her hands, and
going to one of the monks who lived at his father's
court, he begged that he would teach him to read;
and it is said, that in an almost incredibly short space
of time, he had not only learned to read the contents
of the volume, but bringing it to his mother, was able
to repeat to her the whole of its contents. But this
was only one book, and Alfred soon found that there
were many more books of the kind stored up in the
holy house which stood near the palace, and he deter-
mined that he would also make himself acquainted with
their contents.
What has come over the Prince Alfred'," may
some one of his companions have asked at this
time, "that he comes to the sports so seldom, and
has left off following the king and nobles to the
chase ?"
"Know you not," would one of the other princes
reply, that our brother Alfred is busy learning to
read books with the monks ? He is never so happy
now as when he is at his studies."
"Books, forsooth!" the thoughtless youths exclaim,
who cared for nothing so much as throwing the spear,
or shooting at a mark. "It is well for the country
that all have not the same fancies as the Prince Alfred,
or how should we make any stand against these fierce
barbarians, the Danes, when they come again. It is
well that there are those who like handling the bow and
battle-axe better than vellum books !"
There were others, however, who looked upon the
studies of Prince Alfred with more satisfaction and
pleasure. His father, the king, was pleased to see that

he was so anxious to acquire knowledge, and the heart
of his mother was gladdened by the reports which
reached her of his quickness and perseverance. But
the good Osburga was not destined to remain on earth
to watch over her beloved son in his passage to man-
hood, nor was she to see how the promise of his youth
was fulfilled. She died before Alfred was twelve
years old. It was then that King Ethelwolf deter-
mined to put into execution a desire which he had long
nourished in secret, of making a pilgrimage to Rome;
and he resolved that his son Alfred should be his com-
panion, while he gave up the government of his king-
dom to his eldest son Ethelbald. Considering the
unsettled state of the country at that time, owing to the
constant invasions of the Danes, it was, perhaps, neither
right nor prudent in the king to take such a step; but
the Romish monks who were in England at that time
encouraged a great veneration for the city of Rome,
and persuaded the king that nothing could be more
pleasing to God than visiting its churches and shrines,
while they also represented that it would be a great
advantage to the young Prince to spend some time
there, now that he was old enough to profit by the
instructions of'the priests and bishops who dwelt in
the Imperial city.
They accordingly set off with a large retinue of
nobles and followers, and, passing through France,
- isited the court of the French king, and stopped at
all the monasteries which were scattered over the land,
and wherever there were holy men of reputation for
sanctity and learning. Then crossing the Alps, they
proceeded on to Rome, where they sojourned a whole
year. This time Alfred was able to turn his visit to
more account than he had done before. He had
acquired, not only a habit of observing carefully, but


of reflecting on what he saw. In viewing the splendid
buildings that adorned the city of Rome, and noticing
the habits of its people, he perceived how backward
were his own countrymen in many useful arts and
acquirements, how much knowledge they were ignorant
of which it was desirable to know; and it may be that
even then there arose in the mind of the young Prince
a deep desire that his native land might improve, and
a determination that when he grew up he would en-
deavour to do something towards that improvement
himself. All the course of his after-life would seem to
prove that this was his good resolve, even at that
early age.



THE year spent by Ethelwolf at Rome was almost
entirely occupied in acts of devotion and piety; and
at his departure he left behind him the most costly
presents for the churches and religious houses there.
On his way home, he stopped for some time at the
court of the King of France, who gave him his young
daughter in marriage, and with this new queen, who
was almost as youthful as his son Alfred, he returned
to England, to find that his son Ethelbald had become
so fond of authority that he was unwilling to relinquish
again the government of the kingdom; and all the
remaining years of the king's life were disturbed by
quarrels with this undutiful son. Then Ethelwolf died,
and Ethelbald became the lawful King of England,
only to reign a few short years, during which he dis-
pleased his people by marrying his father's young

widow. He died at an early age, and was succeeded
by his next brother Ethelbert.
It was during the reign of this second brother that
the greater part of the youth of Alfred was passed.
He took no share in the affairs of the kingdom, and
at that time could have little expected that he would
ever be called upon to reign himself, for there was yet
another brother between him and the throne. It must
be in other ways that he was to serve his country, and
in the meantime he must seek to improve himself. He
determined to make himself so well acquainted with
the Latin language as to be able some day to translate
into the every-day tongue of the people some of the
books of the Bible, of whose contents they were so
ignorant, and he spent most of his time for many
years in quiet seclusion with his books and tutors;
while he dwelt in one of the royal palaces at Wantage
or at Reading, in Berkshire. It is not easy to picture
to ourselves what a palace of these Saxon kings was
like, with its rude architecture, and want of resem-
blance to the kingly residences of our times. The prin-
cipal apartment was perhaps only a large hall, at one
end of which the flooring was raised so as to make a
distinction between the place where sat the king and
his nobles, and the rest of the retainers and servants
when they took their meals. Narrow slits in the walls,
and the open door, were the only apertures by which
light could enter, for glass had not yet been used for
windows. In the middle of the hall was a large stone
hearth, upon which faggots were high piled, and which
as they burned sent up the smoke through an opening
in the ceiling, for there were no chimneys then. The
floor was strewn with rushes and fir-twigs, and only
perhaps in some inner apartment devoted to the use of
the queen and her ladies, was there anything like soft


couches or hangings of tapestry. At the table of the
king, placed across the end of the hall, would indeed
be seen cups of gold and silver, and even vessels of
crystal and glass; but at the board of the retainers
and vassals, only drinking cups of horn were used,
and dishes of the coarsest pottery, out of which the
men helped themselves to the meats with their rude
But while it is difficult to picture to ourselves the
interior of Alfred's home, it is pleasant to remember
that out of doors much, even at that remot'oe period,
must have been as it is in the present day with us.
Then ktnow, around the old Saxon palace, where so
much of his youth was passed, must have been rich
forest glades, where wide-spreading oaks and tall
beeches and elms gave refreshing shade on sultry
summer days. Then as now, the meadows in spring
would be yellow with cowslips and buttercups, and
primroses and violets crown the banks. And though
the people of those days spoke a language which we
could not now understand, yet there was no difference
in the notes of the blackbird and thrush, as they
warbled in the hedges; nor of the wood-pigeon as it
cooed in the forest shade, nor in the hum of the bees
as they filled the sultry air with their murmurings-all
such pleasant sounds would fall on the ear of Alfred
then as they do on ours now. And full of sweet influ-
ences would be such objects and such sounds upon the
heart of the pious young Prince as he wandered away
from the noisy revellers in the halls of his brother the
king, and sat on sunny banks on the upland, or sought
the shade in the forest glades. Alfred had provided
himself at this time with a little book-he called it his
hand-book, which he always carried about with him in
the bosom of his dress, and into which he would write


down from time to time verses from the Bible which
pleased him, or good and wise thoughts from other
books which he read, or it may be thoughts and re-
flections which passed through his own mind. We can
fancy him in his walks among the beautiful objects
of nature by which he was surrounded, noting down
in his hand-book pious thoughts of God's mercy in
making the world so beautiful for his creatures; or
poring over some verse in Latin from the Bible which
he had copied into it, and coming to a clearer and
truer knowledge of its meaning when helped by such
feelings-as when he read the words of David, 0
Lord, how manifold are thy works in wisdom hast thou
made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." But
if Alfred met with words in the sacred writings which
expressed his own happy and grateful feelings, there
were others which gave utterance to the trust in God
which he needed when bowed down by pain and
suffering. Alfred was not healthy. From his earliest
youth he had been troubled with a very painful disease
which not only caused him great agony at times, but
made him sometimes despair of growing up useful to
others. He feared that he might become lame and
disfigured. He had passed through the days of his
childhood and youth under this affliction, when relief
was at length granted him for a time. He was riding
one day with a party of attendants, and came to a
chapel where were buried the remains of a holy man
or saint, who had attained a great reputation for heal-
ing all kinds of diseases. The story of his wonderful
cures was told to Alfred as he stood before the altar
which had been raised over the tomb of the saint.
Moved by a sudden feeling of hope, Alfred threw him-
self down upon the ground and prayed earnestly to
God for relief from the fate which he so much dreaded;

and then arose and went his way. It would seem as if
his prayer had been heard, for though not on a sudden,
yet not very long after, the disease left him, and he
was restored to health and strength at a time when it
became necessary for him to enter into more active
life. Perhaps the first use he made of his newly re-
covered health, was to make himself better acquainted
with his native land.
The Saxons from the time of their settlement, had
done much to improve the general aspect of the
country. There were now towns and villages very
thickly scattered over the land. Churches and monas-
teries had been built of stone, which though only in a
rude style of architecture, were looked upon in those
days with great wonder and admiration. The town of
Winchester, which was considered the capital of the
kingdom, ruled over by the descendants of Egbert, was
remarkable for its churches and religious houses. At
Wimbourne and Sherbourne were churches or minsters
built with great care and skill, in which were deposited
all kinds of relics from Rome and the Holy Land, and
costly utensils of gold and silver, for the use of the
priests in the services of the church, besides valuable
collections of books and manuscripts in Saxon and
Latin. In other parts of the kingdom were still to be
seen the fortresses and other buildings left by the
Romans, such as at London, on the banks of the
Thames, where the Romans had at first built a fort,
and then round about it laid the foundation of a town.
At Canterbury, in Kent, Alfred would take pleasure in
visiting the first Christian church that was raised in
the island, and which was named after Augustine, who
brought into England the knowledge of the Christian
religion, and he would look with respect upon what
remained of the palace of Ethelbert, King of Kent,

the first of his ancestors who was baptized and became
a Christian.
All these places in the south, Alfred will have
visited, it is likely, and then, perhaps, travelled through
East Anglia, which took in the counties we now call
Norfolk and Suffolk, and he would be able to observe
the difference between its inhabitants, who were
descended from the Angles, and those of the Saxon
settlers. Here, too, had been built rich monasteries
at Ely and Croyland, and Bardsey, filled with monks
and teachers from Rome, with whom Alfred would
converse in Latin, and who would exhibit to him all
their treasures. It was at Gainsborough, in Lincoln-
shire, which belonged to the province of Mercia, that
Alfred became acquainted with a young Saxon lady of
the name of Ealswith, the daughter of an earl. She
was remarkable not only for her beauty, but also for
her sense and goodness; and becoming attached to
her, Alfred demanded her hand in marriage. As the
lady was descended on her mother's side from the
kings of Mercia, it was considered quite a suitable
connection for the young prince to form, and the
wedding was celebrated with great pomp and revelry.
After his marriage, which took place when he was
about twenty, Alfred lived for a short time in happy
seclusion with the gentle Ealswith, and indulged for
yet a little while longer his own quiet tastes and pur-
suits. Seated by her side he would delight in reciting
to her, while he accompanied himself on his harp, the
songs and poems he had learned in his childhood, or
he would recall to mind, and relate for her amuse-
ment, the account of all he had seen as a boy at
Rome, or at the court of the King of France, or he
would read to her some of the verses and wise sen-
tences which he had transcribed in his hand-book. At


such times the fingers of Ealswith, we may be sure,
were never idle, for the Saxon ladies of that time were
the most expert and industrious needle-women. They
spent much of their time in spinning, weaving, and
embroidering. Beautiful borders to garments were
worked by them in gold and silver thread and gaily-
dyed wool, besides large pieces of tapestry for hangings
to walls on which the deeds of their ancestors were
recorded; or they worked curious devices for the
banners which their fathers, husbands, and brothers
carried in battle. At such times, Ealswith may have
worked for Alfred the banner which was afterwards so
celebrated, which bore as its device a golden dragon,
little thinking, perhaps, as she worked at it, how soon
it was to be used by her young husband. But this
period of quiet happiness was soon brought to a close,
by events which obliged Alfred to sacrifice his own
feelings to the good of his country.
His brother Ethelbert died in 866, and Ethelred,
third son of Ethelwolf, became king, having inherited
the crown of England at a time when it brought upon
its wearer many cares and difficulties, for the land was
in a state of the greatest peril. All that the former
kings had done to repel the encroachments of the
Danes had been in vain. Not content with occasional
visits to the island, they had now become its regular
invaders. Large bodies of them, under powerful chiefs,
landed from time to time upon its shores, penetrating
into the very heart of the country, and seeking to make
a settlement. So sudden and ruthless were these attacks
of the Danes, that the inhabitants were never secure
for a single day of their possessions. The poor Saxon
peasant, who had by his industry and toil made him-
self a comfortable hut or cabin, and collected round
him convenient utensils for his daily use, and who had


sown corn and reared sheep and cattle, might, when
he least expected it, have his dwelling surrounded
with bands of armed Danes, who would trample down
his corn, and carry off his flocks and herds; and
would, perhaps, have to consider himself fortunate
if his wife and children were not carried off, or put
to death. And then the peasants would cease to till
the ground or tend flocks, for each one was obliged to
turn soldier, and take up arms against the enemy.
When, therefore, Ethelred, the king, called upon his
brother Alfred to come to his assistance in endeavour-
ing to resist the foe, he did not for a moment hesitate.
He had at one time intended to do quite different things
for the country's welfare, but he now began to feel that
perhaps it was after all the will of God that he should
be the one to deliver it from its present most terrible
scourge, and restore the people to peace and comfort.
Just at that time there was much reason to fear
that the Danes might be making such a settlement in
the country, that nothing could oppose their power.
A vast host of them had recently landed on the coast
of East Anglia, under Ingvar and Ubba, two of their
most skilful and ferocious chiefs. Ingvar of the
mighty mind," and Ubba of the wonderful daring,"
as they were called. In every direction had the bands
under these chiefs spread fear and desolation, plunder-
ing the rich monasteries of all the treasures they con-
tained, killing the monks, and then setting fire to the
sacred buildings. And when the whole of the east of
England had thus become a prey to their ravages,
they began to penetrate still further inland, and even
reached Nottingham, where they took possession of
its castle or fortress. Then the two royal brothers
mustered together all the forces they could collect, and
advancing towards the north, forced the greater part of


the Danish troops to retreat into Northumberland,
while such of them as had taken refuge in the fort of
Nottingham, they were obliged to leave there, not
having the means of laying siege to so strong a place.
The winter also came on, during which time the Saxons
did what they could to recruit their forces, and make
strong their places of defence against any farther in-
roads of the enemy. But before this season was well
over, they were surprised by the arrival of large bodies
of Danes, who sailed up the Thames in their ships,
and spread themselves over the southern parts of the
The king and Prince Alfred could not prevent
their progress, being in another part of the country
at the time, when they learned that the Danes had
attacked and made themselves masters of the royal
palace at Reading. This building, which stood just
whore a small river falls into the Thames, was con-
verted by the invaders into a kind of fortress, and
protected by the rivers on two of its sides, they had
raised a great dyke or bank on the others. They
thought that here they would at all times be able to
have easy communication with the sea by means of
their vessels, which could sail backwards and forwards
down the Thames, whilst they could send out parties
at any time in search of booty into the forests around
them. When, however, the two brothers found that
the Danes had actually taken possession of their royal
palace-the happy home of their childhood-they
determined that all their efforts should be united to
dislodge them from so important a post; and within
four days they appeared with their forces before
Reading, and attacked the enemy. It was not so easy,
however, to dislodge the crafty Danes from a position
which afforded them so many advantages, and many

conflicts took place before there could be said to be
victory on either side.
At last, however, it seemed as if both parties were
anxious to come to a decided engagement, and the
Saxons observing that the Danes divided their forces
into two separate bodies, resolved to do the same, and
each of the brothers took the command of half the
army. It was this division of the English forces which
gave Alfred the first opportunity of proving his skill
and courage; for it so happened, that one morning
early, while the king was in his tent at prayers, the
Danes commenced their attack upon his portion of
the troops. Nothing could be more unfortunate than
the position of the Saxons on this occasion, for they
were encamped at the foot of a hill called Ashdown,
while the Danes, who were placed upon it, and were
concealed and protected by thick underwood, began
pouring down their arrows from above. For a short
time Alfred waited in painful suspense, hoping that
his brother would join him and take the lead in the
attack on the enemy, but his coming being still de-
layed, he gave the signal for assault, and rushing up
the hill at the head of his bowmen, as boldly as a
boar," it is said, was soon engaged with the enemy
hand to hand. Then, at last, the king and his forces
joined the combat, and nothing could be more fierce
or desperate than the encounter. The Danes fought
with all the savage cruelty of their natures, bent on
conquest, for the sake of dominion and plunder. The
English fought for life and land, for their native
country, their religion, and all they held most dear.
Never since the Saxons had landed in Britain had
there ever been such a battle fought, and this time
right prevailed over might. Many of the Danish chiefs
fell during the combat; and then, on seeing so many

of their loaders slain, the rest fled in confusion, and
were pursued by the English to the castle of Reading,
where a large party were again able to establish them-
selves. This victory at Ashdown raised for a time the
hopes of the two brothers, and gave fresh courage to
the people; but the enemy was still very formidable,
and as long as they remained in possession of their
fortress at Reading, fresh hordes of them could sail up
the Thames and join their forces. And this was soon
the case; the Danish ranks were filled up, and fights
and skirmishes between the two armies took place,
with success first on one side and then on the other,
until another more important battle was fought between
them at Merton, in Surrey, in which the Saxons were
several times victorious during the fight, but which
ended in leaving the Danes the masters of the field.
It was in this engagement that Ethelred the king
received wounds, of which he shortly after died, leav-
ing his brother Alfred heir to the crown, and sole
defender of the kingdom.


ALFRED became king at the age of twenty-three-but
the land was at that time so completely in the posses-
sion of the Danes, that the title was little more than a
name. He became king, too, it would seem, not to
reign, but to fight, and all eyes and hearts were turned
to him as their only hope. The people had heard of
his courage on the day of the fight at Ashdown, and
they knew that their young king had also made him-
self remarkable for his piety and wisdom, and they


could not but hope that he would prove their deliverer
and preserver.
The first duty performed by Alfred on finding
himself king was to bury his unfortunate brother, with
all due solemnity, in the minster at Wimborne, in
Dorsetshire. No rejoicings or grand ceremonials could
take place to celebrate his own accession to the throne,
for at such a perilous and critical moment nothing
could be thought of or attempted, but the levying of
fresh troops and the making of new weapons of war-
fare. For one month only after his brother's death
did Alfred allow himself a period of repose, when he
felt obliged to take the field again; but the troops
which he had been able to collect were quite unequal
to encounter the vast numbers of Danes who were
coming up the Thames, and penetrating farther and
farther into the country. They fought and conquered
one body of Danes only to be attacked directly after-
wards by another, and after a year of such unsatis-
factory warfare, the people seemed to feel disappointed
that their young king should not have been more
successful, while such as had only recently become
soldiers got tired of fighting, and longed to return to
their former peaceful occupations. The whole army
seemed to have lost heart and courage. Perhaps
Alfred himself, in seeing this state of things, began
also to despair of conquering the enemy in battle, for
he determined about this time to try what he could
effect by means of money. Having gained the con-
sent of his nobles, he resolved on bribing the Danes
to leave his territories, and conclude a treaty of peace,
by the offer of a large sum of money, and some of the
principal chiefs were invited to come to a parley.
Tempted by the sight of gold, the Danes consented
very willingly to the terms proposed by Alfred, and,


as was the custom in those times, the most solemn
oaths were taken on both sides that the treaty should
be kept. Alfred, on his side, swore by the bones of
some saint or holy martyr; while the Danes swore by
their golden bracelets, which were the things they
held most sacred. It was soon found, however, that
there was little dependence to be placed on the solemn
promises of such barbarians. No reverence for truth
or sense of honour could bind them. Their vows were
no sooner made than broken. One party of Danes to
whom money had been given, on condition that they
should leave the country, took to their ships and sailed
away, only to land again on the coast of Northumber-
land; and another Danish chief allowed his troops, the
very same day, to attack a body of Saxon horsemen,
and put them to death.
One resource only was left to Alfred on finding
how little the word of his enemies could be relied on.
He determined to see what he could do with the Danes
on the ocean, and. he gave orders that all the vessels
that could be collected along the coasts should be
manned and armed, and sent out to sea, so as to
prevent, at least, the landing of any more Northmen.
This was done; and we may look upon this attempt of
King Alfred to protect the coast of England with his
ships as the first beginning of the English navy, which
has been for so many centuries the defence and the
glory of England. Ill adapted as his small vessels
were to compete with the larger and more skilfully-
built ships of the Danish sea-kings, the plan was for a
time successful; and in one or two encounters of the
English and Danish fleets, the former had the victory
on their side, while some very terrible storms did great
mischief to the ships of the invaders, which the English
were able to escape from, being better acquainted with


the coast. The Danes, however, made greater efforts
than ever after these losses, and breaking through all
their promises, and quite setting at defiance the treaty
of peace which they had entered into, they united all
their strength for an attack both by sea and land at
the same time. On this occasion the forces of Alfred
were so considerably reduced, that he could make no
further stand against the numbers opposed to him. In
vain did he send through the towns and villages mes-
sengers of war to raise more soldiers, carrying in their
hands an arrow and a naked sword as tokens of their
errand. In vain did he publish the old proclamation,
which in former days no Saxon who was old enough
or strong enough to fight was able to resist, for it
said, Let every man that is not worthless, whether in
a town or out of a town, leave his house and come !"
This time the summons produced no effect, for the
people had grown weary of war, and began to think it
would be better to submit to the Danes than fight any
longer. The army of Alfred was thus completely
broken up, and his followers fled wherever they thought
there would be safety from the pursuit of the enemy.
Many of the Saxon nobles took refuge in the moun-
tains of Wales and Cornwall, or passed over into
France; and monks and abbots left their monasteries
and escaped thither too, taking with them as many of
the treasures out of their monasteries as they could
save. The churches even were deserted by the priests,
and for a time it seemed as if the land would cease
to be Christian, and that the worship of the heathen
gods, Odin and Thor, would be restored by the
Those, however, who, like Alfred, had more trust in
God, and who felt sure that truth and right would at
last prevail, did not quite despair; but it is certain that


at this time many of the inhabitants of the country
thought it would be better to submit, for a while at
least, to the enemy, rather than endure the evils of
war any longer. They had lost sight, too, of their
young king, upon whom they had at first placed such
reliance. After the last desperate attack of the Danes,
Alfred had disappeared with a few followers, and no
one knew what had become of him. There was no
one around whom they could rally-no one to receive
orders from or obey. People asked one another what
had become of the king, and no one seemed to know;
and for a time it was even suspected that he must have
left the kingdom, or, what was still worse, that he had
been slain in battle.
It was when things were in this state, that, late in
the autumn, when the trees of the forest were begin.
ning to be bare, and when the swine had to farrow up
with their snouts a thick covering of brown and yellow
leaves, to get at the chestnuts and acorns which lay
beneath;-it was at this season of the year that a
young Saxon warrior of noble bearing, but with travel-
soiled garments, presented himself at the door of a
peasant's hut in the county of Somerset. He asked
for shelter, and though the owner of the hut was
absent, his wife bade the stranger welcome. He might
sit by the hearth, she said, and share their frugal supper
at the return of her husband, who had gone to drive
in the cows that had strayed away in the forest. The
stranger seated himself near the burning faggots on
the hearth, before which some cakes of bread were
baking, and then his hostess left him while she busied
herself in preparations for the evening meal. Only a
few weeks before had that tired traveller been in the
thickest of a furious combat with the Danes, and he
had since wandered about without shelter or restin

place. He was sad and weary. As he strung his bow
and tried the strength of its string, or looked at the
points of his arrows to see if they were sharp, he
turned over in his mind many sorrowful thoughts, and
mused on his strange and uncertain fate. He thought
of an absent young wife and child, knowing not if he
should ever see them again. He thought of plans
which when he was a boy had filled his mind, but
which he now feared could never be carried out; and,
above all, he thought of a whole people crushed and
suffering under ruthless oppressors, whom he would
fain help, and for whom he still hoped. On a sudden
he was roused from his reflections by the return of
his hostess, who, bustling into the cottage with a fresh
faggot for the fire, saw at a glance that her cakes on
the hearth were burning. Hallo thou varlet," cried
she, rushing angrily at the stranger, who sat by the
hearth, dost thou not see that the. cakes burn?
Why, then, dost thou not turn them ? Ready enough
though, I trow, wilt thou be to eat them hot from the
baking !"
Luckily, her husband came in at this moment, who
recognizing the stranger, and shocked at his wife's
rude manner of speech, threw himself at his feet, and
implored forgiveness. Then it was that the old woman
first discovered that the young man to whom she had
given shelter, and whom she had scolded so rudely,
was Alfred the king. Only too pleased was she then,
after receiving his ready forgiveness, to treat her royal
guest with all the respect and distinction that she was
able, and to help to conceal him from the bands of
Danes that were prowling about. Assisted by tho
cowherd, too, Alfred was enabled to summon around him
such of his followers as were in the neighbourhood, and
fr9m whom he had been accidentally separated. Being


resolved on remaining some time in concealment, he
concerted with them how they might contrive for them-
selves a place of refuge, where he could be safe from
the pursuit of the Danes. Now, not far from the cow-
herd's cottage was a tract of marshy land, which, by
the joining together of two rivers, the Parret and the
Tone, might be called an island; and it was so sur-
rounded with rushes, and brambles, and swamps, that
there was little chance of the enemy being able to
penetrate it.. Here, on a little plot of more solid
ground, Alfred determined to build something like a
fortress, in which he and his little band of followers
could take refuge, at all events, during the coming
winter. Quickly and secretly an edifice was raised of
wood, stones, clay, or whatever material they could
find. Such of the Saxons as dwelt in the country
round, and were in the secret of the king's hiding-
place, sent, no doubt, all they could spare of their own
comforts to make it habitable,-such things as could be
removed to the island without exciting the notice of
the Danes. After awhile the king was able to despatch
one of his most trusty nobles to fetch his young wife
and child, from whom he had been so long parted;
and there on the island of Athelney, as it was called,
after all the dangers to which they had been exposed
for so many months, Alfred and Ealswith met again;
not like the king and queen of a powerful kingdom,
but as houseless fugitives, with little hope at that time
of ever being able to recover their lost power and pos-
sessions. Nothing, indeed, could be more destitute of
the luxuries that usually surround a king and queen
than their present hiding-place. A rude sort of bridge
was constructed in one part of the island, by which
they passed to and from it in their expeditions in search
of provender, and this bridge was made where the


thick brambles and osiers would hide it from the eyes
of all but those who were in the king's confidence.
And difficult was it in such a place to get provisions
enough for those who were on the island, so that par-
ties were obliged to be out whole days together ex-
ploring the country round before they could bring
home a few bushels of corn, or capture a deer, or bring
down wild-fowl enough to replenish their stores for a
week or two. The winter was cold and dreary, -nd,

for fear of discovery, the king and queen were obliged
to remain almost like prisoners on the little island.
Like the humblest of her subjects, too, Ealswith would
perform the most menial occupations, in order to add
to the comforts of her husband and child. Often, for
hours together, would the king and queen be left in
the fortress while their attendants and followers were
away, and it was on one of these occasions that an
occurrence took place which showed that misfortune
had but increased the natural kindness and benevolence


of their hearts. One afternoon, when all had left the
island but the king and queen, a wandering beggar-
man, who had perhaps crossed over one of the streams
on the ice, came to the door of the fortress to ask for
alms. He was starving, and was very likely one who
had been reduced to this state by the cruelty of the
Danes. Little imagining what was their rank, he
begged of the king and queen for a crust of bread;
and, moved by compassion, Alfred and Ealswith went
to the place where their stores were kept to seek for
some food. They found nothing left but one loaf of
bread, and a few drops of wine at the bottom of a
flask, They knew not when their attendants might
return, nor indeed whether they might not, as had
happened before, return empty-handed; but disre-
garding their own destitution, which was almost as
great as that of the beggar, they divided with him
their last loaf, and poured out for him those last drops
of wine.
But Alfred, while in this place of retreat, was not
idle nor indifferent to the condition of his country.
He had felt that a period of rest was needed to prepare
for another and more determined effort to free the
country from its invaders; and he was all this time
making what preparations he could for it. As spring
opened upon them, and it became more easy to com-
municate with distant parts of the island, he sent out
trusty messengers to announce to all the well-disposed
that their king still lived. News reached Alfred, too,
of Guthrum, one of the most powerful of the Danish
chiefs, having penetrated with a large army so far into
the west of England as to be at that time not very
distant from the island of Athelney, while from the
south the encouraging tidings were brought him that
" Ingvar of the mighty mind," after landing with a


large body of Danes upon the coast of Devon %ad
been defeated and put to death by one of his brave
Saxon earls. In this engagement, too, had been taken
from the enemy, the celebrated Danish banner of the
black raven called the Reafon, which had been worked
by the sisters of Ingvar and Ubba, and which had
been supposed to possess a magical power.
And spring came, and even in the "Isle of
Princes "-for this was the meaning of the word
Athelney-there were many of the pleasant signs of
its approach. The sallows and willows which grew
around put forth their silvery catkins, and the water-
violets and marsh marigold blossomed in the shallow
swamps. It was the time of all others for hearts to
feel hopeful, and courage to get strong, just when
nature was beginning to show new life and vigour.
Alfred and his followers prepared themselves for
battle. Busily went on the making of bows and
sharpening arrows and battle-axes, and the weaving
of shields with the pliant osiers which grew around.
The little island became too small for the numbers who
crowded upon it to pay homage to their king, and to
take oaths of obedience to his word of command in
battle. His well-known banner of the golden dragon
was once more unfurled, and the hearts of all beat high
at the thought that it might again lead them on to
victory, as on the day of the fight at Ashdown. Then
came the news of how Guthrum was now encamped,
with all his army, on the borders of Selwood Forest,
not very far from Athelney. Various rumours came,
too, about the numbers of his army, and the manner
in which it was distributed. Alfred feared to plan an
attack until he knew how the forces were disposed,
and what were the numbers he would have to contend
against. He determined, therefore, to visit the camp


of Guthrum himself, to make sure of these important
matters. He resolved to go in the disguise of a Saxon
gleeman, or minstrel, and to make his way through
the soldiers into the very presence of the Danish Sea-
king. And he did so.
Taking with him only a single attendant to carry
his harp, Alfred set out on foot, and crossed the
country to where Guthrum lay encamped near the
borders of Selwood, and when within sight of the
Danish tents, he dismissed his follower, and slinging
his harp on his back, made his way through the sol-
diery. The Danes, who were almost as fond of music
as the Saxons, crowded round the Saxon gleeman, and
were delighted with the spirited songs which he sung,
and the skill with wiich he struck his harp. The
news of his arrival spread quickly through the camp,
and reached the ears of the king. Guthrum and his
followers were in the midst of revelry and feasting.
Success and conquest had made them careless and
confident. Though the invader had heard that Alfred
still lived, and was in concealment somewhere in the
west of the island, he did not fear that he could make
again any very powerful stand against him. He lived
a riotous and intemperate life in his royal tent. All
the valuable things of which he had despoiled the holy
houses and churches were now serving for his own
luxury and convenience. Gold and silver vessels, which
had been used in the religious services, were now filled
with wine at his board, and as Alfred stepped within
the tent, he could see around him much of the furni-
ture which had once belonged to the royal palaces of
his family. The Danish king sat at the banquet sur-
rounded by gaily-dressed women, and by his warriors
and chiefs, now habited only in loose robes, and with
little signs of war about them, for their armour and


helmets were thrown off for the sake of greater ease.
Alfred did not think that they looked too formidable
for his own troops to conquer. He was commanded
to play and sing, and he delighted the king and his
companions with his old ballads and poems; and as he

S .. '.........

-- ', '. '.9


sang his own spirits and courage rose high at the
thought that he might yet be able to drive from the
shores of England these ruthless invaders. Little did
any one think that the meanly-habited bard, whose
songs so charmed them, was the wise and valiant



Alfred, of whom they had heard so much, and who, it
may be, some of them had even seen at a distance,
when at the head of his troops in battle. No one sus-
pected who he was, and he came and went unharmed
from the presence of Guthrum. He returned to
Athelney, and took back with him all the particulars
which were wanted of the forces of the enemy, and
they were such as to lead him to determine on making
a very decided attack as soon as possible. Easter was
then near at hand, and Alfred only waited until the
services and ceremonials of the Church peculiar to that
season had been performed, as well as their situation
would allow, before he renewed his preparations for
Once again he sent his heralds round into all the
towns and villages, and once again they made the
customary proclamation, "Let every man who is not
worthless, come !" This time Englishmen were not
worthless, for they obeyed the summons very promptly.
Weary of the oppressions of the Danes, and full of joy
to find their young king was still living, and well
rested, too, after the long time that had elapsed since
they had last encountered the Danes, they gladly
equipped themselves for battle, and crowded round
the banner of Alfred.
Every heart beat high with hope and courage,
while the prudent and wise arrangements made by the
king, and even the very sight of him once more among
his nobles, filled them with confidence in his success.
And this time the Anglo-Saxons were able to effect a
decided conquest of the Danes.
It was in the month of May that, Alfred's pre-
parations being completed, he marched forth from his
fortress of Athelney, at the head of the troops which
had collected around him; and at Brixton, near Sel-

woou, fie met all those which came from Wiltshire
and Hampshire, and other parts of the south, to fight
under his command. With cries of joy did they all
recognize their beloved king again, who seemed risen
from the dead. After resting for the night, with the
very first streaks of daylight the army proceeded on
its march until they came to where the Danish host
were encamped. Guthrum had scarcely time to
assemble his troops, after hearing that Alfred was
advancing with his army, when a most terrible en-
counter took place. The troops of Alfred were not so
numerous as those of the enemy, but they were in
much better order than the Danes; and this, together
with the great courage with which they fought, enabled
the Saxons to gain a most complete victory. Such of the
Danes as were not killed or taken prisoners retreated
into a fortress at Chippenham, and then Alfred sur-
rounded this place, and laid siege to it. For more
than a fortnight were the Danes shut up in the fort,
until at last they were reduced to submission by hunger.
Guthrum offered to give up as many men as hostages
as Alfred chose, and promised to keep a treaty of peace
more faithfully than his countrymen had done before,
if he only would let them depart.
To convince Alfred of his being ready to begin
quite another course of conduct, Guthrum also sent
word that he was ready to become a Christian, which,
as the Saxons had been fighting for their religion as
well as their country, was hailed by all as a most joyful
event. It was a proud moment for Alfred, when, a
short time after, Guthrum, accompanied by thirty of
his followers, appeared in the camp, and underwent
the rite of baptism, the English king standing sponsor.
Nothing, too, could be more generous, or more Chris-
tian-like, than the way in which Alfred behaved to-

wards Guthrum. He trusted to his promises that he
would never molest him again, and not only allowed
him to retain possession of that part of the island
which was called East Anglia, which he had before
subdued, but sent him away loaded with rich pre-
sents, and was willing from that time to treat him as
a friend and ally; and although Guthrum did not
keep his promises as strictly as he might have done,
he was never again able to disturb very seriously the
rule and reign of Alfred.


IT is pleasant to know that soon after the events we
have just related, Alfred was able to turn his attention
to the condition of his people, and to carry out some
of the plans which had filled his mind from his earliest
childhood, and for which his studies had so well pre-
pared him during his youth. Other kings have fought
bravely like Alfred to recover or defend their king-
doms, and governed wisely afterwards, in order to
retain possession of them, but we know of none who
so earnestly desired to make his people wiser and
better, and who, loving wisdom and virtue himself,
saw so clearly that they alone would make his subjects
happy, and his kingdom great and powerful.
And nothing could be more lamentable than the
state of the country after the long wars in which the
people had been engaged, and the ravages of the
Danes. Not only had the cultivation of the country

been neglected, but all law had ceased to be obeyed,
and people had got so accustomed to taking by force
from others what they wanted, that no one respected
the property of another or could make sure of keeping
his own. Being so long familiar with bloodshed also
had a bad effect on the minds of men, and murders
and violence of all kinds had become common. Thi
king's subjects, too, were composed of several differ-
ent races of people, which made it yet more difficult

to govern them. Here were the remains of the Ancient
Britons, his own Saxons and Angles, and numbers of
Danes, who, following the example of Guthrum, became
Christians, and settled in the country. With all these
difficulties to contend with, Alfred was obliged at first
to be very strict; to establish severe punishments for
all kinds of crime, and to see that the laws were duly
The first thing that he did was to order a survey
of the whole kingdom to be made, and caused it to be
divided into counties or shires; the shires to be divided


into hundreds, and the hundreds into tenths or tith-
ings. Over all these he appointed different officers,
who were to be accountable to one another, and lastly
to himself, for keeping peace and order. Before this
time there had been laws among the Saxons in Eng-
land, but hitherto they had been enforced by the kings,
or his Earls and Ealdormen, but now, for the first time,
were regular judges appointed, who were to examine
into all crimes committed, and punish the offenders ;
and the punishments were to be not according to the
fancies of the judges, but in conformity with written
laws, which Alfred very carefully collected. In making
his book or code of laws, Alfred began with many
extracts from the Old and New Testaments. First of
all his people were to obey the Ten Commandments,
and he added also the Commandment given by Christ
himself; "All things whatsoever ye would that men
should do unto you, do ye unto them." "'For," said
Alfred, "according to this one Commandment, man
shall remember that he shall judge every one rightly,
and then he requires no other law." Then followed
such of the old Saxon laws as he deemed to be good,
and afterwards such as he had made himself, and at
the conclusion of the book in which they were written,
he added the words, I, King Alfred, caused all these
laws to be collected and written, those which our fore-
fathers observed, and those which appeared to me to be
good, and I showed them to my Witan, and they said
they were willing they should be obeyed."
Now, the Witan was the council or assembly which
the Saxon kings always assembled around them on
any important occasions, that they might deliberate
upon what was to be done. Sometimes it was called
the Witana-gemot," or "assembly of wise men."
When Alfred had completed his code of laws, and


they began to be enforced, nothing gave the people
more love and respect for their king, than his anxiety
to see that justice was done as much to the poor and
oppressed as to the rich and powerful; and if any
doubt arose about the justice of any sentence, they
could always appeal to the king himself, who would
take the greatest pains to look into the affair and
decide according to truth and right.
And thus order was restored -in the land by the
wise rule of this good king, and the people grew peace-
ful and industrious in their habits, and honest above
all things. In after times it was said that during the
reign of Alfred a traveller might lose a purse full of
gold upon the highway, and find it untouched a month
afterwards, while it is told of Alfred himself, that to
make trial of the honesty of his people, he caused
golden bracelets to be hung upon the branches of
trees by the side of high roads, confident that no way-
farer would dare to remove them.
Alfred's next care was to provide for the education
of the people, which during the disturbed times had
been greatly neglected. The priests, whose business
it had been to instruct the youth in their monasteries,
had for the most part been dispersed or put to death
by the Danes. At that time all the services and
prayers of the churches were in Latin, and when
Alfred came to the throne he lamented greatly over
the fact that there were very few who knew the English
of their prayers. There were so few," said he after-
wards, in looking back to this time, "that I do not
actually remember one south of the Thames, when I
began to reign."
The better to carry out his views for the instruc-.
tion of his people, the king summoned around him the
most learned monks that he could hear of, either in his


own country, or in France or Rome. One of these,
called Asser, he kept as a sort of tutor in his own
family, and the rest he distributed about the island in
all the monasteries still remaining, while he built many
new ones, and established in them schools of learning.
Much of his own time that he could spare from the cares
of government was spent in translating into the lan-
guage used by the people, not only parts of the Bible,
but many other good and pious books, as well as
works on history and geography; and in some of
those very schools of learning founded by Alfred, such
as the University of Oxford, are there to be seen, even
at the present day, the book of laws written by him
and many of his translations from the Latin. But
these are not in English such as we can read and
understand now, but in the old Anglo-Saxon tongue,
from which the language we use at present is derived.
The whole country became one large school, when
all the plans of Alfred were carried out, and every
one was made to be ashamed of ignorance. It is said,
that when the king found out sometimes that the old
judges who came before him could not even read the
laws that they had to execute, he would reprove them
very severely, bidding them go home and learn to read,
or give up their offices to younger men, who were better
But in addition to all these efforts to improve the
people, Alfred had many other things to attend to
which required great foresight and careful govern-
ment. Towards the end of his reign, the country
was again disturbed by an invasion from the cele-
brated Danish pirate or Sea-king Hastings, and it was
only after many engagements, both by sea and land,
that Hastings was finally driven from the English
shores. At one time, his wife and children who ag-


companies him, fell into the hands of Alfred, and it
might have been expected, perhaps, that he would
revenge himself upon them, for the injury done to his
country by Hastings; but Alfred remembered the
Christian commandment which he had made one of
his laws, and not only treated his captives kindly, but
restored them safely into the hands of his enemy.
It was after the last invasion of the Danes, that
Alfred turned his attention to the protection of the
country by means of a navy, and he caused numbers
of vessels larger and more skilfully constructed to be
built at London and Rochester. He sent, too, to the
opposite coasts of Holland and Flanders, for sailors to
man them, who understood navigation better than his
own people, and in fact, laid the foundation of that
navy which we sometimes call the Wooden Walls of
England," from the defence which it has proved to our
little island.
In many other ways, did Alfred by his wise arrange-
ments increase the power of England, at the same'time
that he helped to civilize his people and made them a
free and great nation. He overlooked nothing. To
make the very best use of his time, he divided it into
three portions; one of which it was his delight to
spend in prayer and religious services; another he
gave to sleep and exercise; and the third to duty and
the cares of government. But there were no clocks
nor watches in those days, to mark the passing away
'of time, and the sky of England is too apt to bQ
clouded over for time to be measured by the sun or
stars. Alfred had, therefore, recourse to a very in-
genious expedient for supplying these wants. He took
wax tapers of equal lengths, and divided them by
marks into twelve inches. These tapers were to burn
in succession through the twenty-four hours of day and


night, and he took them with him wherever he went.
But the wind and rain in travelling, or even that which
came through the unglazed windows or cracks in walls,
or the covering of his tent, made his tapers burn un-
equally, or blew them out; so Alfred invented lanterns.
He caused these to be made of the finest sheets of
horn pared down so as to be quite transparent, with
doors that could be closely shut, and in these he placed
his time-measuring tapers, which, as they burnt, told
him how his well-spent days were passed.
Many other useful inventions belong to the time
of Alfred. He sent to foreign countries for skilful
workmen of all kinds to come and teach his people
ingenious arts; and houses and churches began to be
erected in a better style of architecture, and the in-
sides of dwellings to be more conveniently furnished.
Among the many other things told of Alfred, it is said
that he sent monks to assist in the spreading of Chris-
tianity in India, and that these missionaries brought
back with thqm many precious stones, spices, and
perfumes, and other productions of the East, before
unknown in England.

No shade of doubt obseureth thee,
Whose living fame to farthest Ind
Was wafted on the exulting wind
That filled thy sails with victory I!

0 old heroic scorn of ease!
Hope rises, ne'er so often slaii ;
Despair flees with the routed Danes
An English navy guards the seas.

Yon glittering jewel on thy hand
Place boldly in the public way,
And find it there at latest day :
For Alfred's justice walks the land.


And Learning keeps her open school
Upon the steps of Alfred's throne.
Speak from thy glory, Valour's Own!
Instruct our statesmen how to rule.

But it would take many such little books as this
to tell all that was done by this good and wise king,
to benefit his people. He died in 901, when at the
age of fifty-three, to the great grief of the nation;
but he left behind to succeed him as king, his son
Edward, whom he had very carefully educated, and
who was also wise and good.
In the libraries and museums of our colleges, are
treasured up in remembrance of Alfred, the very books
which he wrote, the coins that bear his name, and even
ornaments that he is supposed to have worn; but we
have no need of such relics to remind us of him; for
when we look around and see what a powerful and
civilized country England has become, we may call to
mind, that no one man has ever done so much to secure
us our advantages and blessings, as he whom we so
justly call, ALFRED THE GREAT.



OW, children, shall we have that story about
an event which took place in England some
hundreds of years ago ?
1" Oh, yes, grandpapa: do tell it. We
are all rcady."
Well, then-you will, perhaps, not have forgotten
what I told you some months ago about the Sea-
kings-how their history ended with the coming
of William the Conqueror, who brought over a large
army and took possession of England. From that


time up to the period of the story which I shall pre-
sently begin, there had been a great deal of fighting,
and suffering, and misery, all over the country. Every-
where the native Anglo-Saxon population had been
forced to submit to the Normans, who treated them
with great severity and cruelty. In some parts the
land had been laid waste for scores of miles, and no
living thing left therein, to punish the inhabitants for
daring to resist the invaders. When William became
king, he had more than eight hundred parks, and
forests, and chases, throughout the realm; and such
delight did he take in the deer, which were then
numerous in the great woods that grew thickly in
almost every shire, that it was said of him he loved
them as though he were their father. Very strict laws
were made to punish any one who should attempt to
kill or injure a deer, and rangers and keepers, who
were called'verderers and regarders, were appointed
to keep watch in the forests and seize the offen ers.
Besides this, nearly all the land was taken away from
those to whom it belonged and given to the barons,
and lords, and captains, as a reward for helping William
to conquer the country, and when these chiefs took
possession they became masters also of nearly all the
people who were living on the estates. At that time
large numbers of the population were in the condition
of slaves, and when a farm was bought or sold they
were made over from one owner to another just as
though they were a flock of sheep, as though they
were fit for nothing but to work without pay, and
could neither feel hardship nor injustice. They were
forced to do all the hard work, to fight in the battles
whether they would or not, and to fare badly. Any-
thing was good enough for villans, as they were called;
and if ever they dared to complain, they were flogged,


or shut up in prison, or made to stand for several
hours in a sort of pillory. So it went on for many
years, the lords and barons becoming more and more
powerful, and the villans or rural population more and
more discontented. Had there not been some good
and charitable men among the monks and friars who
then lived in the monasteries and abbeys, whose ruins
now look so beautiful in many of the pleasantest parts
of our land, the poor thralls would have been miserable
indeed. The monks, however, were at times enabled
to offer them consolation, and to protect them from
the cruel punishments of their masters. After a while
the barons began to quarrel among themselves, and, to
guard against the danger of sudden attacks, they built
strong castles on their estates, in which they could
shut themselves up in time of danger and withstand
the assaults of their enemies. While they quarrelled
the villans and other peasantry suffered, and to be as
safe as possible from the attacking parties, the poor
people used to build their houses near to the castle,
and that is one reason why in our days we frequently
see a village or small town at the foot of a hill on the
top of which stands the ruin of an ancient baronial
fortress. Sometimes, too, the barons would quarrel
with the king, and the monarch had frequently to
yield to their demands, and grant them many privi-
leges. During the reign of Stephen they built castles
by hundreds, more than ever before, and great was
the distress which their strifes and contentions brought
upon the country. One of our old chroniclers says:-
"In this king's time, all was dissension, and evil, and
rapine. Thou mightest go a whole day's journey, and
not find a man sitting in a town, nor an acre of land
tilled. The poor died of hunger; and those who had
been men well-to-do begged for bread. Never was
B 2


more mischief done by heathen invaders, To till the
ground was to plough the sands of the sea. This
lasted nineteen years that Stephen was king, and it
grew continually worse and worse."
Then as time went on, wars broke out between
England and France, and money was wanted to pay
the cost, for war is an expensive game, and the way
of raising money was to make the people pay taxes.
This created murmurs and discontent; and gradually
the people in the towns by trade and industry grew so
powerful that the barons no longer dared to molest
them, and at last they obtained the right to sit in par.
liament and assist in making the laws which they were
called on to obey. At times some of the barons took
part with the people, as in the days of King John, when
they forced that monarch to sign what is called Magna
Charta, or the great Charter, which laid the foundation
for many of the liberties and privileges which we now
enjoy. But it is not easy to change old customs, and
though part of the nation had gained their freedom,
the villans were yet in as irksome a state of bondage
as ever, and they, seeing many of their neighbours
bettered in condition, thought that they would like to
be free too; for it was very bitter for a man to feel
that he did not belong to himself, and that he could
only do as he was bid by his taskmasters. But the
poor villans vere very ignorant, they had but few
friends, and whenever they dared to murmur or rebel
they only brought down upon themselves the ven-
geance of the great lords, who, besides punishing
them, used to say that slaves had nothing to do but to
labour, and were not to trouble themselves with any
other matters. However, when once a people feel that
they ought to be free, and know that they are treated
with injustice, they nurse the thought silently in their


hearts until the time comes to bring it forth, and so it
went on in England up to the days of King Richard
the Second.



AND now the story begins:-
The sun was slowly setting on a calm evening in
June, and threw its golden beams afar over the land-
scape, and on the trees of a tall forest that stretched
away, from the base of a hill on which stood a strong
castle, to a long distance across the slopes and levels
of the county of Essex. The slanting beams pene-
trated here and there through the closely interwoven
branches, and sent a stream of light down into the
dusky shade below, making the surrounding gloom
look the deeper by the contrast. The trees grew thick
and tangled together, not trimmed and thinned as the
forests are in our days; and the path which wound in
and out among the stems was rough and uneven,
sometimes making a sudden bend to get out of the
way of an old mossy root, or losing itself in a swampy
hollow, or crossing a little stream that crept lazily
along in its narrow channel. The owls were begin-
ning to hoot, and now and then the hoarse croak of a
raven was heard; indeed, all things showed that night,
the time for repose, was coming on.
Along this path a young man was walking with a
weary step, as though he were very tired. His dress
was a gaberdine or frock similar to that worn by


labourers of the present day, except that it was made
of coarse grey woollen, and fastened round the waist
with a belt; short leggings covered his knees, while
his feet, neck, and head were bare. On his shoulder


he carried a spade, which was not shaped as ours
are, but had a place on one side only for the foot.
Once or twice he shifted it from side to side, or
grasping it with both hands seemed as though he
would like to strike a blow with it as a weapon, and
muttered to himself as he went along. Evidently
something had happened to trouble him, for his look
was full of anger and vexation. At last he spoke in
a low tone-" And so the new lord is to come next
month, and we shall all have to go and do service to
him, and promise to be his bondmen as long as we
live. Oh, 'tis a weary, weary life I! Will it always be
Then he trudged on for awhile in silence. Pre-
sently he spoke again: "And the steward; he must
give me stripes forsooth, and call me a dog, and
threaten to put me in the tumbril because the field was
not dug to please him. Ah, if I were but a free man


I would have knocked him down with my spade I! Oh,
if I could but run away, and work where I pleased I
'Tis misery to be a bondman."
Just then a slight noise attracted the speaker's
attention; he looked up and saw a deer walking slowly
among the bushes a little way from the path, and
munching the tender twigs. He stopped at the sight
and looked hastily round; no one was visible: "There
again," he said, "there's something for the lords and
nobles; a poor man hardly dares look at it, but hap
what may I'll scare the beast." So saying, he hurled
his spade with so sure an aim that it struck the deer
on the shoulder; the animal uttered a short quick
cry of pain, and dashed off at full speed into the heart
of the forest.
The man had picked up his spade, and stood watch-
ing the flying animal, when he was startled by a loud
voice in his ear, and a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"How now !" cried one of the keepers, who had
witnessed the occurrence from a place of concealment,
"is that the way our lord's deer are to be worried by
a sulky kern ? You thought no one was by to see;
but come, a night in the castle dungeon will teach you
to mend your manners."
The bondman struggled to escape, but the keeper's
grasp was too secure to be easily shaken off; he was
forced to submit, and was led away in the opposite
direction to that in which he had just before been
Ralph, that was the peasant's name, walked sul-
lenly on by the side of his captor, determined to seize
the first opportunity that offered for escape, but with
very little hope. It was a sudden change from walk-
ing homewards to comfortable rest to being made a
prisoner, and his heart was full of bitter thoughts


against those who punished a poor man for chasing an
animal in the forest.
The evening grew darker as the two went farther
among the trees; they had got near the entrance of
a gloomy opening which led between the tangled
thickets to the castle, when twenty or thirty men
were seen to come from it with swift but silent
What knaves be these ?" cried the keeper, think-
ing to intimidate the party of peasants: for such they
"What knave is it that asks ?" retorted the men,
who, instead of showing any alarm, came resolutely
forwards, and looked threateningly at the speaker.
Presently one among them cried as he saw the pri-
soner still held fast in the keeper's gripe: "'Tis Ralph
Spink, son of goodman Hubert, who has worked
hereabouts ever since he was born. Loose your hand,
fellow, you hold a better man than yourself," he added,
addressing the keeper.
A dozen hands were raised to enforce the com-
mand: Ralph regained his liberty, and the keeper in
turn became a prisoner. Six men were bid to lead
him away to the wildest part of the forest, and leave
him there bound fast to a tree. Meanwhile the others
bent their steps to another part of the wood, to a
secluded hollow, where, in the dim light of the moon,
which was beginning to rise, two or three hundred
men were seen standing round a big stone, from
the top of which an individual was speaking vehe-
mently to them.
"I tell ye," he said, "that the work is begun.
Our brethren in Norfolk have risen against the tax,
and cut off the heads of the jury that sat to try them.
Was it not enough that last year every soul in England


of the age of sixteen and over paid a tax of a groat,*
that our gentlemen and nobles might have money to
pay for their wars ? but now they must have more
money, and every man and woman, and their children
of fifteen years, shall pay three groats, whether he
have the coin or not; and the tax-gatherers go
about like wolves to worry the poor. Will ye submit
to this ?"
Here there were cries of Nay, nay, nay !" from
the crowd, and many said, What shall we do? what
shall wve do ?"
"I will tell ye what ye shall do," answered the
orator: ye shall do the same as our brethren in
Kent. The tax-gatherers went to Dartford, and enter-
ing a house they demanded the tax with so much of
brutal violence and insult that Wat Tyler, the sturdy
smith, felled one of them dead to the ground, with
a blow of his hammer. Thereupon the people ran
together from all parts, shouting against the grievous
tax, and having chosen Tyler as their leader, they are
now marching towards London to seek justice at the
hands of King Richard, who would be a friend to the
commons but for"the advice of evil counsellors. The
bondmen's day has come at last; thousands are up in
arms, and will ye not join them ?"
We will! we will !" replied a hundred voices.
Let us go, then," said the speaker as he de-
scended from his elevated post; I will be your leader.
Now, for King Richard and the true Commons !"
For King Richard and the true Commons !"
cried the throng; those who knew the way through
the forest then went to the front to serve as guides,
and in a few minutes the whole troop had disappeared,
The groat, or fourpence, of King Richard's days, was about equal
to one shilling of our present money.


led on by the hope of liberty. Ralph went with them,
glad to escape from his daily toil under a hard task-
This was an eventful night for the young peasant.
We must now see what took place in the home to
which he was going when he was made prisoner by
the keeper.




JUST at the outskirts of the forest, there stood a
small rustic cabin or cottage, built of wood plastered
with clay, and with a low thatched roof, not much
unlike the humblest sort of labourers' cottages to be
seen in the southern counties of England in the pre-
sent day. But it was very rude and roughly finished;
there was no glass then to fill the opening that served
for a window, and the wind entered by many a chink,
making itself keenly felt during the cold blasts of
winter. Now, however, being a calm spring even-
ing, the door of the little tenement stood open, and
showed the inmates seated in quiet conversation. A
few heavy, rudely-formed stools, and a three-legged
table, made up nearly the whole furniture of the
humble dwelling. On one of the stools sat a man
whose hair was beginning to turn grey, and whose
back was bent by years of labour, but a thick full
beard which covered his chin gave a dignified look
to his countenance. By his side was seated a woman,
who, while she talked, employed herself in spinning
woollen yarns from a distaff; and a comely-looking
maiden sat near the bright wood fire baking cakes on
the hearth. The day's work was over, and the villan
and his family were about to eat their evening meal.
Besides these three, there was a young man in the
dress of a monk, who stood leaning against the wall
near the door, and, from his likeness to the girl at
the fire, it'was easy to see that he was her brother.
It was not uncommon in those days for the son of a


villan to be taken into a monastery or convent to be
brought up under the charge of one of the monks,
until at length he became a monk himself. From
time to time he looked out along the narrow path
that led from the cottage to the forest, as though
watching for some one; at last he said, "Ralph is
late this evening. If he tarries much longer, I shall
have to go without seeing him. I wonder what keeps
him ?"
Some new wrong, I trow," said Hubert, as the
elderly man was named, "for Ralph is a good lad,
and comes willingly home when his day's work is
ended. Mayhap the steward hath doubled his task,
for the new lord is to come to the castle ere long.
And so it goes on; we must toil for our masters by
night and by day, whether we like it or not. I am
a-weary of such a life."
Say not so, father," answered the girl, who had
left her occupation at the fire, say not so; for if
we work hard, do we not have holidays sometimes ?
and we can rest on the Sundays."
Truly we have these, Cicely; but am I not a
bondman; are we not all born thralls of the baron ?
I want freedom, not holidays."
It will not always be so, father; the day will
come when they who till the land shall be as free
as the town-folk and the gentlefolk," said the young
monk Jocelin.
Ah, my son, but when; I said so, too, when I
was young as you are; for we heard how that the
peasants and bondmen in France had risen up to
fight for their freedom. Brave work it was, for they
killed many of the nobles, and pulled down their
castles! But now, my hair is turning grey, and
freedom is as far off as ever."


"Father Eustace was once in France," replied
Jocelin, and I have heard him say that the suffer-
ings of the peasants became afterwards worse than
ever, and they knew not what to do in their misery.
I have myself read of such things in a book in our
convent library."
I wish I could read," interrupted Cicely; "there
must be wonderful matters in those old parchment
volumes, since Jocelin takes such delight in them."
Ay," said Joan, as she looked with pride on her
son, "there be wonders, truly Do we not see that
the man who can read is oftentimes of more use than
a noble? But why shouldst thou wish to read, Cicely?
there be no books for the like of thee."
At times," observed Jocelin, "when I have been
sitting with Father Eustace, copying some rare book
for many hours, till our fingers are weary, then he
will say he doubteth not that nome day men will find
out a quicker way of making books than copying
them with the pen on skins of parchment. Father
Eustace hath a goodly discernment, but I see not
how it is to be done. He saith also that a day will
come when knowledge shall be mightier than they
who bring many men to battle."
"Oh, if that were going to happen in our day "
exclaimed Cicely.
Joan now laid aside her distaff, and, taking one of
the hard, horny hands of the bondman in her own, she
said, Listen to what Jocelin says, husband; doth he
not often bring us words of peace and comfort, which
he learns yonder in the convent ? "
Who talks of peace and comfort," rejoined
Hubert; ""am I not a thrall ? Must I not go to the
field at day dawn, and yoke the oxen, and plough till
my back aches; and then when evening comes I must


drive the oxen home, and feed them, and cleanse their
stall. And after all, if our masters be not pleased, we
get blows and foul words. They call us dogs and
liars : they say we have no gratitude, and are only fit
to live with swine; and they tell us to eat nettles and
reeds, and briars and straw for our Sunday diet, and
peascods all the week besides; and they ask why
should a villan eat beef or any dainty meat, and bid
him go down on all-fours and eat grass as an ox. I
am a-weary, I am a-weary; would that I were free! "
"Did not Roger, our eldest son, want to be free!"
replied Joan in a sad tone. "He fled from his home,
and we have never seen him since."
'Twas well done," answered Hubert; "I would
fly too were I younger. They raised the hue and cry
after him, but he kept out of their way for a year and
a day, and then he was free. Did we not hear that he
had hidden himself in London, and learnt the craft of
a smith, and can work wherever he likes. It is better
never to see him, than to have him here a thrall."
"I wish he would come and see us," said Cicely.
"So do I," observed the mother; "it would make
my heart glad to see our first-born once more, now
that he is free."
I wish he would come," repeated Hubert, and
take Cicely away with him."
"Take Cicely away!" exclaimed Joan, "and why?"
"Because then she would be safe from the evil-
minded steward; he told me to-day he would take
her to be one of the waiting-maids at the castle."
Cicely uttered a loud cry of alarm, and clung round
her father's neck, as though to seek his protection,
while Jocelin, starting forwards, cried, "Would the
bad man dare to do this ? What, onr comely Cicely
to live among those roysterers at the castle ? I will


speak to Father Eustace about it, and he, if needs be,
will ask the abbot to interpose the authority of the
church for the protection of the weak against the
strong." He would have spoken further, but at that
moment the sound of a bell was heard pealing softly
at a distance. I must go," he said, "and without
having seen Ralph. Good-night, father-mother-
sister. Be of good cheer. I will see you again ere
long. Good-night."
So saying, he went out, and was soon out of sight
in the deepening gloom of the forest.




JOCELIN'S departure roused the familyfrom their trouble:
Hubert rose and closed the door, and fastened it with
a stout wooden bar; and while a few sticks were thrown
on the fire to raise a flame, he dropped a thick curtain
over the window to prevent the light from being seen
by anyone on the outside. Meantime, Cicely placed a
piece of bacon on the table in a wooden trencher, and
brought the cakes from the hearth, and the inmates
of the humble dwelling sat down to their frugal supper.
They were eating in silence, when a hasty knock
came at the door. Oh, there's Ralph," cried Cicely,
" I'm so glad !" and she sprang up to unbar the door.
Let me go, child," said her father, we know not
who it may be." He rose, and going to the door, asked
who it was that knocked at that late hour.
A dusty-foot," was the answer.
Hubert stood hesitating, when his wife said, That's
the voice of the pedlar, who brought us news of our
son from London. Let him come in." He imme-
diately unbarred the door, and admitted a tall strong
man, with a sunburnt face, a short staff in his hand, a
heavy pack on his shoulder, and dusty feet, as though
he had walked far.
The stranger entered with a weary step, and flinging
his pack down in a corner, drew a stool to the hearth,
threw a handful of sticks on the fire, and seemed in-
clined to make himself at home. Hubert invited him
to share in the supper, on which the pedlar rose, and
looking at the table, said, 'Tis homely fare; however,


so there be enough, it will do as well as the best for a
hungry traveller. But have ye no wine, friend Hubert ?"
Who asks for wine in abondman's cottage ?" was
the answer. Wine is for the nobles, but hard blows
for the thrall."
Had ye been in London on the first entry of King
Richard," said the packman, ye would have seen wine
in plenty for all comers."
Did you see it, Master Dusty-foot ?" asked Cicely;
" tell us all about it."
I did see it: the king had come on horseback from
Richmond, attended by a procession of lords and gentle-
men, who wore such rich and costly apparel that the
like had never before been seen. Silks and velvets
from France and Italy seemed to be of no more account
to them than serge to a peasant; and there were some
of the cloaks trimmed with fur and precious stones
worth ten thousand marks a-piece. Every noble was
attended by a knight walking at each side of his horse,
and many of the gentlemen wore their hose of two
colours-one leg red and the other white, or purple and
yellow, and the peaks of their shoes curled up half-way
to their knees. It was a brave spectacle, and they went
on with trumpets and clarions sounding; and the people
who crowded the streets by thousands, and gazed from
every window, shouted with right goodwill as they
went by. It took three hours for the train to pass,
and all that time the public fountains and conduits
were made to run with wine, so that whoever would
could drink as much as he chose. Then in Chepe there
was a castle built with four towers, and on each tower
there stood a beautiful maiden waving leaves of gold
over the king's head, and scattering handfuls of gold
coins. At this there was a great blast from all the
trumpets; and the maidens descended, and filling their


cups with wine that flowed from the fountain at the
foot of the castle, they offered them to Richard, who
stopped to drink. While he halted, a golden angel
that stood over the gate of the castle, stooped and
placed a crown upon his head. Then the shouts were
louder than ever: it seemed as though the whole city
was going mad, each street striving to outdo the

"Oh, I wish I had been there !" cried Cicely, "to
see so rare a sight.".
What wouldst thou do, apoor bondman's daughter,
in the great city ?" retorted Joan; "better for thee to
be here in the forest. But," she added, turning to the
packman, "have ye seen Roger; can ye tell us nought
of him ?"
Yes, I can tell ye somewhat about Roger. Three
weeks ago, I saw him in London, and well and hearty
he looks, and as ready with his hammer as any man in
thio city."


But why comes he not to see us ?" asked Joan.
"He wishes first to skill himself in smith's craft;
but he means to venture down here this summer if he
can, for he longs to see you all once more, and the old
forest where he was born. See here is a chain with
links of steel which he wrought with his own hands;
he sends it to his sister and these kerchiefs and
As the packman said this, he produced the articles
from his pack and handed them to the maiden, who
received them with an exclamation of surprise and
pleasure; while tears of joy came into the mother's
eyes as she saw these tokens of affection from her
Heaven bless the boy!" said Hubert, that he hath
not forgotten his parents, and his poor home; I trust
he risketh nought in coming to see us."
He will come secretly," answered the dusty-foot,
" and now that he has money in his pouch, he has a
mind to try whether some cunning lawyer of the
courts cannot win your freedom as hath been done by
many others, who now have liberty to work for whom-
soever they list."
"The boy meaneth well," rejoined Hubert, "but
I fear the day of freedom is far off for me and mine.
As the lord bids so must we work. And if we have
eggs to sell or poultry, or a swine, we cannot sell
whither we would, but must go to one market or one
fair, and no other. Could we do as you, Master Pack-
man, and go where it pleases us, we should add some-
what to our slender gains. 'Tis a weary life "
Ay! and will be worse yet," answered the dusty-
foot, "for the king and his council have declared a
new poll-tax; last year it was one groat, but this year
it is to be three, and everybody must pay."


"What, everybody ?" exclaimed Hubert; "surely
not bondmen and cottagers."
Yes, bondmen and cottagers, fifteen year old or
more, no matter how poor they be. Everybody must
pay, except beggars."
More sorrow for the thralls," said Joan; have
we not enough to bear already ?"
"Let our masters pay it," cried Hubert, as he
started up and paced to and fro in the narrow room.
" Let our masters pay it. They call us their cattle, let
them pay it. We belong not to ourselves."
They do not go free," said the packman, "for a
duke has to pay six pounds, and barons and knights
two pounds, and gentlemen and burgesses, according
to their means. Truly the 'council have soon forgotten
what the good Bishop of Rochester said when he
preached before them at the king's coronation, and
advised them not to burden the people with great
taxations. There be many who say trouble will come
of it."
Let it come," rejoined Hubert, shall we pay
who are bondmen, and must serve our masters with
life and limb ? the nobles and the lawyers get all the
money, let them pay the tax," and he continued
pacing to and fro.
Cicely rose, and leading her father back to his seat,
said in a soothing tone, "Do not chafe, father; it is
better to be patient; and, perhaps, the evil may be
not so great as it seems."
Patient, my child! who can be patient that must
obey another's will, work when that other pleases, and
pay a sore tax out of an empty pocket ?"
"'Tis a grievous hardship, father; but what can
we do ? Besides, does not Jocelin tell ds that better
days will come?"


"But when retorted Hubert; many a time
have we heard of better days for the bondmen; but
when are they to come ?"
"Soon enough," answered the dusty-foot, "if
what I heard at Colchester fair yesterday be true.
There was talk among the folk of risings of the villains
in parts of this county of Essex, and in Suffolk and
Norfolk ; and they do say, that over in Kent, on the
other side of the Thames, there be thousands of them
up in arms, who swear they will be bondmen no
Think ye it is true ?" inquired Hubert, eagerly.
"Like enough," replied the packman, "for tho
villains in the fair looked overbold, and many said they
would find money for the tax in the lords' castles, and
others declared that if villans were taxed, then villans
ought to help to make the laws."
"They said well," rejoined Hubert, "let them
make free men of us, and then we'll pay the tax, and
show that a villan hath wit as well as a lord."
There be many that say so already; had ye been
at the fair, ye would have heard the minstrels singing
as they went up and down :-

"' Come listen, good folk, come listen to me,
Come listen, my merry men all;
There's a time for the lord, and a time for the knight,
And a time shall come for the thrall.
"' For the thrall shall go up, and the knight shall go down,
And the flail be a match for the sword;
And the thrall shall be free, and go where he will
And hold his head high as a lord.'"

"And what said the thralls when they heard that ?"
asked Hubert.
"They said not much," answered the dusty-foot;


" but had ye seen them look at one another, and grasp
their stout ash staves the tighter, ye would have known
that the song was to their liking. It will not be long,
I warrant, before they sing it for themselves."
The tax will rouse many to anger who would have
remained peaceable," observed Hubert.
Ay, it will so," rejoined the packman. "As I
was leaving the town, I saw in one of the streets
women and young girls weeping, and their husbands
and brothers looking sullen and angry, for the tax-
gatherers had been there with brutal words, and seized
their blankets and household stuff, because the humble-
folk could not pay the tax for lack of money. It
made me sad to see the sight, and I gave six groats to
a widow and her daughter, to save them from the like
Ye did kindly, good packman," said Joan, may
Heaven reward you for it."
Then I went a little farther," continued the dusty-
foot, "and saw a throng of folk with a man speaking
in their midst. I was minded to see what was doing,
and on coming up found it was a gospeller-a Lollard
as some call him-preaching to the crowd."
"I have heard of them," said Hubert; but whence
do they come, and what do they preach about?"
They be disciples of one John Wycliffe, a zealous
churchman, but who says that the church has many
errors which must be amended. Great numbers have
joined themselves to him, and some of these he sends
forth to preach in all the country. They go barefoot
and clad in a coarse gown, for Wycliffe says it is not
seemly for a preacher to be rich, or to wear fine
"If one would come to this poor dwelling," inter-
rupted Hubert, "he would be right welcome."


The packman went on: "What they preach about
is taken from the Gospels, and they read the book to
the folk, for Wycliffe has brought it from the Latin
into our English speech, so that the common people
may hear and understand; and in truth they listen
gladly, and when the gospeller said that all men were
equal in the sight of God, that the master was no
better than the servant, it made them cry out for joy.
They never heard the like before."
"'Tis good news," said Hubert; "I would that
every bondman in the land heard it! "
They won't be bondmen long after that," answered
the packman; and added, but, good Hubert, it grows
late-what is the hour ? "
It must be near midnight," was the answer.
So late!" cried the packman. There's a won-
derful clock lately set up in London. I wish we had
little clocks to carry about with us, then we should
always know the hour. But I must be up betimes in
the morning-good night." So saying, he climbed a
ladder that led to a loft in the roof, and disappeared.
After covering up the fire with ashes, the others
laid down on their humble beds, and in a few minutes
all was quiet in the cottage; the only sound that broke
the silence was the rustling of the wind as it swept
through the forest.




THE news of the rising spread fast and far through
the land, and soon in Norfolk and Suffolk, Cambridge-
shire, Essex, and parts of the adjoining counties, the
villans all left the domains and estates on which they
had worked as bondmen from the days of their birth,
and betook themselves by tens and twenties, and hun-
dreds, to the appointed meeting-places, where they
assembled in such multitudes as to number tens of
thousands. Most of them had never before been ten
miles away from their little cottage-homes, and were
ignorant of everything except the simple tasks and
duties which formed their daily occupation; they
knew how to labour, and would fight when their
masters took them away in troops to the wars; but
none of the light of instruction which now over-
spreads the land had then shone upon them. It is
not surprising, therefore, if they showed the usual
consequences of ignorance; many were lazy, many
vicious and cruel, many cunning and revengeful, and
all of them superstitious. They believed in lucky
and unlucky days, and in witches, and when any
calamity overtook them, they thought it was caused
by an unlucky day, or by some poor old woman who
might have the reputation of being a witch. And yet
these same bondmen could be brave in presence of
real danger, and at times endure severe hardships
without a murmur. They were a rude, sunburnt,
hard-handed multitude; speaking a strong rustic


dialect similar to that which may be still heard in
some parts of the south and east of England. Some
among them, however, were men of honest purpose
and prudent judgment, and strove to act as advisers
or leaders to the rest, and all of them were agreed
in demanding their freedom. Liberty is precious,
even to the humblest man; it is to liberty that we
owe so many of the blessings we enjoy in England.
Besides the counties which I have named, the
rising had spread into Kent, Surrey, and Sussex.
Wat Tyler, he who had killed the tax-gatherer, was
chosen leader, and the bondmen flocked to join him in
such numbers, that he was soon at the head of a
hundred thousand men, armed with many sorts of
weapons. Some had only sticks and staves, others
carried scythe-blades, sickles, handbills, or axes, and a
good number had bows and arrows, and spears, which
they took by force from their owners wherever they
could find them. Nothing could stop them; and
thus at the same tinie, on each side of the Thames, a
great army of villains was advancing towards London.
gn they went, day after day, their numbers con-
tinually increasing, along the roads, across the fields,
choking the narrow streets of the towns and villages
through which they passed, trampling down every-
thing that stood in their way. On they went, seizing
food wherever they could find it, for the mighty host
had to be fed every day, and many inhabitants of
places in the line of march fled in terror at their
approach. Whenever the multitude came in sight of
a gentleman's house, a great party rushed to attack
and plunder it. They dashed in doors, shattered the
windows, broke open coffers and closets, to find
parchments and writings, which they burnt in the
court-yard, with a great pile of the costly furniture.


They had seen at times, when they had pleaded for
liberty in a court of law, that the lords and the lawyers
had always proved them to be bondmen by means of
parchments and writings, and the villans thought if
these were destroyed they could never again be re-
duced to bondage. On they went, stopping all whom
they met, making them shout for King Richard and
the true Commons, and some who refused to shout
were cruelly beaten or otherwise ill-treated. Any
one who was known to be a hard, tyrannical master,
they hanged without mercy, and all the lawyers they
could seize shared the same fate, the villans declaring
,that lawyers and gentlemen were no longer wanted,
and should everywhere be put to death. They would
have none but peasants in the land, and'in each county
a peasant should be chosen as king, instead of having
a monarch to rule over the whole realm, to keep
them in subjection, and make them pay taxes against
their will, and they carried a banner on which was
written :-

On they went, day after day, hastening towards
London to see the king. Richard the Second was
then not more than seventeen years of age ; the villans
knew that he was young, and believed that he would
grant them their liberty, if the lords of his council
would give their consent. They wished no harm to the
king, but vowed vengeance on his advisers. But al-
though bent on redressing their grievances the villans
had frequent quarrels among themselves; first, one
wished to be king of a county, then another and an-
other ; and some of the leaders were very haughty and
overbearing, more so than the lords of whom they com-


plained so much, and when roused to anger punished
or killed their followers in the most brutal manner.
Some of the multitude were so shocked at these pro-
ceedings, that they gave up the march, and instead of
going to London, turned their steps homewards, pre-
ferring to work in thraldom, rather than submit to the
violence of their companions and equals.
Ralph saw several of his companions withdraw one
after another, but he kept on, and was among the most
active in searching for food, and running hither and
thither to rouse the villans'on the farms and manors
to take part in the struggle for freedom, and none
were more ready than he to join in the shout for King
Richard and the true Commons. Yet at times, when
he had marched a whole day with little or no food, and
had to lie down at night under a hedge, or among the
fern and rushes that grew on the borders of the fields,
he would feel half-inclined to wish himself at home,
poor as that home was. He thought of his father,
mother, and sister, sitting down to their frugal repast,
and then sleeping quietly beneath their humble roof,
while he, weary and footsore, was without shelter, a
stranger in the midst of thousands, not one of whom
could tell how the enterprise would end. But sleep
comes to the weary although their bed may be on the
,ground, and Ralph would wake in the morning with
renewed hope and courage. Every day, too, was
bringing him nearer to London, and there he hoped to
find his brother Roger, and learn some mechanic trade
which he would like better than digging and ploughing.
At last the multitude came near to the city, and
while the main body took up their quarters in the fields
and meadows about Bow and Mile-end, which are now
covered with streets and houses, a great troop went
forward and posted themselves with their leaders in


sight of the eastern gates. Through these gates, which
were defended by soldiers, was the only way of entrance
on that side, for London was then surrounded by a
strong wall, so that unless the enemies who might
come to attack it could gain possession of the gates, it
was hardly possible to get into the city, for there were
no cannon and gunpowder in those days for battering
down fortified places.
Meanwhile Wat Tyler had marched across Kent
with his thousands, and arrived at Blackheath, a high
table-land on the hills above Greenwich, from which
London can easily be seen. Here the vast multitude
halted for a time, while messengers were sent to confer
with the host on the other side of the river, and arrange
plans for a further advance. Here the villains stood
looking eagerly at the city which so many of them had
never seen before, wondering at its numerous church-
towers with their gilded weathercocks glittering in the
beams of the setting sun, the spire of old St. Paul's
rising high above all the rest. There, too, they saw
the Tower, and the royal banner waving above the
battlements, showing that the king was within the
fortress; and there were ships which had come with
merchandise from distant lands, some at anchor in the
broad river Thames, others sailing smoothly on with
the tide; and .at one place, what looked like a confused
street supported on arches, showed where stood the
only bridge that then crossed the stream.
After waiting some time the host became impatient,
and Tyler gave command to go forward. On they
went, the archers and billmen marching first, and Tyler
riding on a horse at their head. They soon reached
Southwark, then only a village, and went up to the
gate of the bridge, which was strongly fortified, and
demanded entrance. But the citizens had armed them.


selves, and came there in haste, with such soldiers as
they could muster, to defend the passage, for they
knew that if the villans once got into the city there
would be nothing but riot and mischief, and perhaps
bloodshed. Finding themselves stopped, Tyler and
the other leaders determined to make an attack upon
the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lam-
beth, which was on the same side of the river as
Southwark. No sooner was the order given than the
thousands of bondmen rushed in wild disorder over
the low flat meadows which then lay on the south side
of the Thames, shouting for success to the true Com-
mons, and flourishing their weapons eager for the
assault. Sudbury, the Archbishop, was one of the
king's council, and was disliked by the people, who
thought that Richard was too young to be a tyrant,
and that the council alone were to blame for the tax
and other oppressions under which they suffered.
Presently they arrived at the palace, and bursting
open the gates the mob poured in, rushing from room
to room in search of the prelate, who, if he had been
found, would have been cruelly murdered. The Arch-
bishop, however, was in the Tower, along with the
king and other members of the council, and the villans,
disappointed in their main object, began to tear down
the beautiful tapestries and hangings, to dash the
costly furniture to pieces, and above all to search for
parchments and writings. All these things were piled
in heaps in the middle of the spacious rooms, and
burning torches thrust in among them, and in a very
few minutes all parts of the palace were in a blaze.
No one was allowed to plunder, for Tyler said they
were not robbers, but men striving for freedom, and
as the flames rose higher and higher, the mob set up a
great shout, and cried, as they waved their torches-
c 3


"Down with the gentlemen: we will have neither
gentlemen nor lawyers! There go the parchments,
and the rolls, and the writings. Hurra! There shall
be none but peasants in the land, and the peasants
shall be free !"
It was a startling spectacle, for night had set in,
and as the flames rushed and roared from every win-
dow of the stately building, and the smoke rose in
glowing and whirling columns above the blazing pile,
a fearful light was spread through the air, visible for
miles around. The king and the nobles saw it from
the Tower, but they only laughed at what they called
the ignorant rage of brutal villans; and the citizens
of London saw it, and the stout of heart took new
courage at the sight, and the timid shrunk with alarm;
and many a mother felt her heart sink with terror as
she looked from her window and saw the red gleam in
the sky, and put up a prayer for her children who were
sleeping peacefully in their beds unconscious of the
danger that threatened their home. The common
people saw it too, and they came from their dwellings
in the back streets and narrow lanes and alleys of the
city, and met together in troops armed with such
weapons as they could seize, and resolved to help the
insurgents. While some of them crossed the river
secretly in boats to hold counsel with the leaders of
the bondmen, the others ran to the bridge to open the
gates. Tyler and his men, who after burning the
palace had broken open two jails and set the prisoners
at liberty, had by this time returned to Southwark and
again demanded entrance, so that the Lord Mayor
with his guards, and the people on the bridge, were
now beset on both sides. The peasants being asked
what they intended to do, replied that they only wished
to punish those nobles who had broug-ht distress upon


the country by engaging in expensive wars and other
extravagances; on which the citizens opened the
gates, and Tyler with his thousands passed triumph-
antly over, and entered the city. They made no
attempt to steal, and paid for all they wanted, and
instantly out off the head of any one of their number
found plundering, and the Londoners hoped the bond-
men would soon obtain their demands, and take their
departure without further mischief. But so large a
multitude was not easy to be kept in order; they had
not been long in the city before they found their way
to the Duke of Lancaster's palace in the Savoy, not far
from where Somerset House now stands, and renewed
the work of destruction. The duke was one of the
hated nobles, and the crowd rushed from room to room
seeking for the owner, and wondering at the magni-
ficence of the stately edifice, and tearing down the
rich damasks, the gold and silver work, and tasteful
-carvings which beautified the walls. They spared
nothing, and set the building on fire, and in a few
hours nothing was left of its valuable contents but
smoking ashes. One of the men who was detected
stealing a silver candlestick was flung into the flames as
a punishment for his offence, and to prove, as Tyler had
said, that the peasants were not robbers. Some thirty
or forty of them, however, had got into the cellars of
the palace, where they broke open the wine casks, and
stayed so long drinking the intoxicating liquor, that
the walls of the building fell in and choked up all the
passages, and the rioters, unable to get out, perished
miserably under the fiery heap.




MEANWHILE the host that had marched up from Essex,
and halted at Mile End, had made their way on the
other side into the city, and came with eager haste
to help on the mischief. The palace of the Bishop of
Chester was next burnt; then Newgate and the Fleet
prisons were broken open, and the prisoners released.
Among these were many hardened criminals who
mingled with the crowd, and plundered whatever they
could lay hands on; every moment the confusion
grew more and more terrible, and the citizens began
to repent that they had opened their gates. The
mob finding no opposition, grew bolder at the sight of
their own violence; and to avenge themselves on Sir
Robert Hales, the Lord High Treasurer, they set fire
to the spacious convent or Hospital of St. John,
which continued burning for seven days; at the same
time they burnt the Temple and the Inns of Court,
these being the places where the lawyers lived, alfd
threw into the flames all the books and papers they
could find anywhere in the lodgings of the law-
students. Again and again did they cry that they
would have neither gentlemen nor lawyers, that vil-
lans' blows were as hard as lords' blows, while
Tyler declared that after a few days there should be
no laws but such as he spoke with his own mouth.'
So great were the numbers of the peasants, that
they could be busy in many places at once ; a large


party had already assembled on Tower Hill, wonder-
ing how they should get into the Tower, which was
separated from them by a wide and deep moat, and
defended by high and strong walls, and six hundred
archers. Richard was in the fortress with his coun-
cil ; they could hear the noise and shouting outside,
and some among them trembled as the threatening
cries of the despised peasants reached their ears.
The bondmen had sent a message to the king asking
permission to lay their grievances before him; some
of the council thought that the request should be
granted; but the Archbishop and the Lord High
Treasurer besought the monarch to have nothing to
do with such shoeless ribalds." The bondmen heard
of this, and it made them fiercer than ever to know
that their message should be answered by scorn. The
king, however, resolved to go out and confer with
the insurgents, and he rode forth from the Tower
on horseback, attended by a few of his knights and
nobles, and proceeded to Mile End, whither he was
followed by great numbers of the peasants. Here
full liberty was given them to state their grievances;
the king thought it best to agree to all they asked,
and he promised freedom to every one, and gave them
a charter drawn up by one of his secretaries, in
which it was declared that thenceforth there should be
no more servitude or villanage in England.
From the first the bondmen had believed that
Richard would be their friend, as soon as he knew
their wishes; and when they saw him face to face,
their confidence was strengthened. Richard's youth-
ful and cheerful looks, his fair face and bright eyes
won upon them, and now that he had come and talked
with them and given them a charter to secure their
freedom, it seemed there was nothing more to wish for.


But while this peaceable interview was taking place at
Mile End, a .body of the villans who had remained in
the city, had forced their way into the Tower, deter-
mined to have vengeance. They pulled the knights
by the beard and mocked them with foul abuse, and
rolled themselves on the king's bed, and rioted in his
sumptuously furnished rooms, shouting that it was now
their turn to reign and live with pomp and pride in a
king's palace. All the lords and ladies who were in
the Tower were treated with the grossest indignity;
and the Archbishop and the Lord High Treasurer, who
had called them shoeless ribalds," were dragged
from their place of refuge to the open place on Tower
Hill, and there beheaded, amidst the shouts of the
multitude. All sorts of insulting epithets were heaped
upon them as they were hurried along, and all who
could get near gave them rude cuffs and blows, asking
in mockery whether a villan's knock could do any
harm. No sooner had the heads of the two unfortu-
nate noblemen fallen than they were set up on spears,
and carried about in wild triumph, and at sight of the
horrid spectacle, the bondmen sent up a furious shout,
which struck dismay into the hearts of all who heard
it. What was to be done ? whose turn would come
next.? The king was obliged to betake himself to his
palace at Westminster, while the villains, joined by all
the rabble of the metropolis, and made bolder by suc-
cess, wantonly destroyed all that excited their dis-
pleasure. They stopped all the Lombards and other
foreign merchants and traders from France and Italy,
whom they met in the thoroughfares, and bade them
say the words-bread and cheese; and any one of the
strangers who could not pronounce the words as well
as an Englishman, was immediately put to death, the
mob shouting all the time that as they would have no


gentlemen and lawyers, so they would have no
foreigners-England was for Englishmen. These
murders were followed by the plunder of the mer-
chants' warehouses; and all the rich velvets and silks,
and embroideries, brought from over the sea, were
trampled under foot in the streets or torn to pieces,
and for a whole week this work of pillage went on,
accompanied by drunkenness and murder, for any one
that dared to interfere was knocked down without
further question, and at last the rioters began to quarrel
with each other, and numbers lost their lives.
In all this, we see the effects of ignorance; had the
peasants been better informed, or had wiser leaders,
the excesses might have been avoided. On the other
hand, had they not been oppressed they would not
have needed to fight for their liberty. We see in the
event that wrong, whether on the part of those who rule,
or those who are ruled, always brings its own punish-
ment. Slavery, however, is so terrible a lot, that we
cannot always blame those who make a struggle for
While this was going on, messengers had passed
several times between the king and other parties of
the peasants, who, when they got the charters for
which they clamoured, were still dissatisfied and made
fresh demands, declaring they would not go home till
they had liberty to buy and sell where they liked;
they began, too, to talk of further violence more
terrible than any which they had yet attempted; and
threatened that if their requests were not granted,
they would murder the king and all the nobles, and
set fire to the whole city.
Matters were in this state when another message
came from the king, by which he promised that if the
villans would meet him the next morning in Smith-


field, he would hear what they had to say. Accord-
ingly, early on the following day, Tyler, having collected
some forty or fifty thousand of the great multitude
from different parts of the city, marched to the place
appointed, and there he drew up his men in order of
battle. The bowmen and those who were best.armed
he stationed in front, and the rest in regular ranks
behind one another, standing close and watchful in
case of a surprise. When all were arranged, Tyler,
seated on his horse, rode up and down between the
lines exhorting them to stand firm, to show themselves
true men, for the day had come when they should be
free, and no more labour in forced bondage for knight
or noble. The multitude answered with a shout, that
they would not disperse until all their demands had
been granted.
Now the blast of trumpets was heard, and the cry
rose that the king was coming. Tyler placed himself
at the head of his men, and waited for the monarch's
approach. Presently Richard made his appearance
riding on horseback, with a few attendants; he wore
neither helmet nor armour, perhaps to let the peasants
see that he believed they would do him no harm. A
velvet cap was on his head, and a rich mantle trimmed
with fur, and glittering with pearls, hung from his
shoulders; and the people thought, as they saw his
open, cheerful look, that he had surely come to be their
friend. Sir John Newton, one of the knights, was
sent forward to begin the conference; but Tyler, in
great anger, commanded him to dismount, declaring
that no one but the king should ride in his presence.
The king came up on hearing the dispute, and bade
the sturdy leader state his wishes. Tyler answered,
that, besides the charters already granted, which libe-
rated the bondmen from their servitude, they should


be left free to buy or sell anywhere they chose; and
that all the forests, and warrens, and parks, and
rivers should be free also, so that poor men might
hunt the game, and catch fish and fowl, as well as the
gentlemen, and whenever they chose. As he said this,
and while the king was considering his reply, Tyler
rode nearer, and sat playing with his dagger in an
insolent and threatening manner. The attendants,
fearing for Richard's safety, came closer round him.
Tyler grew impatient, and seized the bridle of the king's
horse; on seeing which, Sir William Walworth, the
mayor of London, struck the daring leader so heavy a
blow with his mace, that he fell from his horse, and
as he lay stunned on the ground the other knights and
esquires despatched him with their swords. This was
a fearful moment, for no sooner did the bondmen see
their leader fall, than they put themselves in m, tion
to avenge his death. Savage cries and execrations
were heard from the foremost ranks of the mighty
host, and already the archers had drawn their bows
and pointed their arrows; a minute more, and not one
of the royal party would have been left alive on the
field, when Richard, with great presence of mind, rode
up to the throng, and cried with hearty voice, Why
this clamour, my liege men? What are ye doing?
Will you kill your king ? Be not displeased for the
death of a traitor and a scoundrel. I will be your
captain and your leader; follow me to the fields, and I
will grant all you can ask." A few were won over
by the king's gracious manner, they went behind him
as he rode off, and all the others followed. When
they were at some distance, the citizens began to
recover from their panic, and armed themselves, and
took measures to prevent a renewal of the outrages
which for a week had kept the city in alarm.


The guards were replaced and strengthened at
the gates, and in a short time the Tower was re-
taken; and more than a thousand men well armed,
and with a brave captain at their head, marched
out to the fields on the north of the city, where
the insurgents who had followed the king were
assembled. The sight of the troops approaching at
quick pace in military array caused a sudden change;
the bondmen, who a short time before had been so
turbulent and resolute, seemed at once to lose all
courage, and betook themselves hastily to flight.
The king gave orders to spare the fugitives, saying,
that many of them were simple-minded men, who
had been made to forget their duty by a few who
were discontented; little mercy, however, was shown
to the flying peasantry. As they ran in scattered
groups over the country, they fell an easy sacrifice to
the men-at-arms, who followed them on horseback,
trampling them down, and despatching them with
swords and lances, till hundreds of them were left
dead in the fields. The nobles, too, collected an army
of forty thousand men, and so harassed and intimi-
dated the poor villans as entirely to put down for. that
time any further attempts at insurrection. However,
the charters had been given, and the hope of liberty
cheered them as they straggled back to their humble
homes; but as soon as the danger was past, the king
and the lords, false to their promises, revoked all the
charters, and the peasants found themselves condemned
once more to that weary bondage, with all its bitter
pains and penalties, from which they had so vainly
striven to set themselves free.
Those who were powerful forgot to be merciful,
and despairing servitude was once more the lot of the
English bondmen.




WE must now leave this scene of tumult and suffering,
and go back once more to the quiet forest in Essex.
Hubert had kept on with his work as usual; he
had heard of Ralph's departure from some of those
who gave up and returned before reaching London,
and comforted himself with the hope that his son
would soon return with news that the villans were to
be released from their bondage, and with liberty to
work and buy and sell wheresoever they pleased. But
two weeks had scarcely passed before he began to see
numbers of wretched-looking peasants hastening down
into the country, eager, as it seemed, to leave London
far behind them. Now and then some of the fugitives
would enter the cottage to ask for a bit of bread, or
a drink of water, and from them Hubert heard of
the disastrous effects of the struggle for liberty; how
that Tyler had lost his life while conferring with the
king at Smithfield, and the other leaders had been
taken and executed, while the thousands of villans
were all dispersed and put to flight. Still they re-
membered that the king had given them charters
of freedom, and they hoped to find themselves free
when the alarm and rage excited by the insurrection
had subsided. But now they were all in terror; how
soon had their bright expectations faded into dis-
appointment !
This was sad intelligence, and, what was worse,
there came no tidings of Ralph; no one knew what


had become of him. Had he been killed in the street-
riots, or during the pursuit ? was he lying anywhere
wounded, or was he only hiding until he could find
a safe opportunity for returning home ? These were
questions which the inmates of the cottage were
continually thinking of or asking one another; and
a deep sorrow filled their hearts, because of the
absent one, and Joan and Cicely often wept as they
thought of him.
Hubert did not shed tears, yet he grieved sorely:
then shortly afterwards came the news that the
charters had been revoked, and the day of liberation
from the galling yoke seemed farther off than ever.
This was soon followed by a more alarming report:
Chief Justice Tresillian had been sent out from
London to different parts of the country, to try the
rebels, as they were called, and he condemned to
be hanged all that were accused and brought before
him, whether guilty or not, till more than fifteen
hundred of the hapless peasants had suffered the
terrible penalty. In those days judges too often
forgot to temper judgment with mercy.
At length, nearly all the vassals had returned to
the estate; none of them, however, could give any
account of Ralph. The daily tasks were renewed
and went on as before; there was hewing of wood
and drawing of water, tending cattle and swine,
besides field-labour and other services, and to those
who had most set their hearts on gaining their
liberty it seemed more irksome and grievous than
over to be still working as thralls.
Matters were in this state, with no prospect of a
change, when, one day, word went round among the
bondmen that the new lord was coming to live at the
castle.' They talked about the change one with an-


other, and wondered whether he would be as severe
and haughty as their former master had been; would
he increase their burdens, or show them kindness ?
No one could tell. Some among them felt that it would
be very, very hard to have to promise once more to be
true and faithful servants to a master, who cared no
more for them than for the swine that ate acorns in the
forest; but it was always the case, that when an estate
was sold, all the bondmen were sold with it, as though
they had been cattle to be transferred from hand to
hand, just as their owners pleased. Every one in turn
would have to go before the new baron, and say,-
"Hear you, Lord de Hedingham, I (Hubert Spink)
shall be true and faithful unto you from this day forth,
and shall owe you fealty for the land I hold of you in
villanage, and be subject to you in body and goods, so
help me Heaven and all the saints."
Gloomy thoughts filled Hubert's mind as he walked
slowly homewards at the close of the same day, and he
was surprised as he drew near his cottage, to hear the
sound of laughter and cheerful voices coming from
within. What did it mean ? and how was it that cheer-
fulness which had for so long forsaken his little dwelling,
had suddenly come back again ? It was speedily ex-
plained, for as soon as she saw him approaching the
door, Cicely ran out to meet him, crying, Oh, father,
father! Ralph's come home again, and Roger along
with him."
This was glad news for the weary bondman, and
when he entered, and his two sons rushed to grasp his
hands, an exclamation of thankful joy burst from his
", Roger !" he said, welcome home again. How
stout thou art grown, boy ; and how bright thy eye is 1
It was never so in the days of thy servitude."


"I am free now, father," answered Roger, shaking
Rubert's hand heartily, "and no man has a right to
hold or harm me. And when a man can look whom-
soever he will in the face without fear, shall his eye-not
be bright and his countenance brave ?"
I would I were free too, my son," replied Hubert;
"thy words make me feel the more, how hard it is to
be a bondman."
Grieve not, father," said Cicely, "let us be cheer-
ful now that my brothers are come home;" and she
kissed her father and patted him on the cheek, as
though coaxing him to forget the one great sorrow
that weighed him down. She then set herself, with a
willing spirit and ready hand, to prepare their homely
How happy was Joan! she seemed never to grow
tired of gazing at Roger, and admiring his altered
looks, and to know that Ralph had returned un-
harmed from all the dangers of the insurrection,
was to her satisfaction enough, though Hubert said
it would have been better had Ralph hidden himself
in London for a year and a day, and then he too
would have been free. Then Roger told that he had
come home with Ralph, because he hoped to be able
to buy his father's freedom with the money which
he had saved. Every one looked pleased on hearing
this except Hubert, who shook his head and said,
that as he had lived a thrall, so did he believe he
should die a thrall. Cicely, however, begged him
not to despair, and afterwards Ralph related all that
had befallen him from the time of his departure. He
had seen the king at Mile End, when the meeting
with the vassals took place, and heard him promise
the charters of freedom, and had helped to shout,
" Long live King Richard I" believing, with the others,


that the day of liberty was indeed at hand. After-
wards he went through the city with the throng of
peasants, wondering at the extraordinary sights that
met his eye; but when the plunder and rioting began,
his heart failed him, and he stole away and wan-
dlered up and down all the narrow streets wherever
there was any noise of work going on, in the hope
of finding his brother. He had nearly given up the
search in despair, when he heard the sound of a
hammer upon an anvil, and looking in at the smithy
from whence it proceeded, there he saw Roger, hard
at work, making the sparks fly from the red-hot iron
with vigorous strokes of his sturdy arm. The meet-
ing was a joyful one, and Roger had kept him concealed
until all danger was past, and now they had both come
home together.
Many were the exclamations of surprise and
thankfulness that interrupted Ralph's story; and
Cicely seemed as though she could never grow tired
of asking questions about the great city of London,
with its palaces, and churches, and long streets of
shops, and hundreds of people walking about, many
of them wearing fine dresses, such as were never seen
in country places: and so in cheerful talk, all troubles
were for a time forgotten.
The next day was an important one for all who
dwelt on the estate of the Lord de Hedingham. At
an early hour the cottars, borderers, and villans might
be seen making their way across the fields, and
through the forest to the castle. In the court-yard
of the ancient building the retainers or fighting-men
were drawn up in regular array, the serving-men
were all dressed in new liveries, and ran nimbly
about in performance of their duties, or waited in
the places allotted to them. Gradually the throng of


tenants poured into the great hall, until the whole
space was filled, and a few of the villans had to
remain on the outside by the door, where they stood
watching what went on within.
At the upper end of the hall, on the raised floor,
called the dais, was seated the Lord de Hedingham,
and by his side the Lady Edith, richly apparelled.
High over their heads hung a splendid banner of
crimson and gold, a pile of parchments lay on a table
at one side under the charge of the steward, and -on
the other side stood Father Eustace, with Jocelin in
the rear, holding a book in his hand to be used in
the coming ceremony. It was a striking spectacle;
the lofty and the lowly met face to face, and the
vassals waited in silent expectation of what was to
follow. Many among them sorrowing that they
should have to renounce their right to liberty once
more, and promise faithful service with their lips,
which they refused in their hearts. It was a solemn
While they thus stood waiting, the Lord de He-
dingham rose and said, as he looked round on the
assembly :-" Ye are here to renew your oaths of
fealty to me, your lord and master, for the estate, with
all that lives and grows upon it, is mine. Ye owe me
service by the law of the land, and I look for faithful
service; and I know full well that many who now
stand before me marched up to London with the rebels,
and took part in their riotous doings."
When the villans heard this, they looked at one
another in dismay, and began to tremble for the con-
sequences of their revolt. The lord, however, went
on:-" Ye have been misguided and led astray by evil
counsellers, some have lost their lives, and in other
ways many have been severely punished; in conside-


- ration whereof I shall not chastise you further. And
now, moved by the entreaties of the Lady Edith, who
is, as most of ye are, of the Saxon race, I release ye
all from your bondage. Henceforward there shall be
none but freemen on my estate. Ye shall pay me rent
for your cottages and your lands; and to such as work
for me, I will pay a due fee for their labour. The
steward will inscribe your names on the roll as my
tenants, and by that shall ye know that your thraldom
is at an end."

For a moment, every one stood in dumb amaze-
ment, scarcely believing what they had heard; but
when they saw the proud and grateful look which the
Lady Edith cast upon her husband, as he stood there
with the glow of benevolence upon his face, such a
shout went up as had never been heard in the castle
hall since it was built, making the old oaken roof ring
again with the sound. Hands and arms were lifted


aloft in wild excitement; many of the womenn wept
from the surprise of the sudden joy, and tears were
seen dropping from the eyes of some of the bearded
weather-beaten peasants who looked too rugged and
toilworn for any such display of feeling. Again and
again was the hearty cry repeated, Long live the
Lord de Hedingham, and the Lady Edith !" So great
is the power of kindness to touch the heart and win
the affections I
As Hubert walked home, he held his head erect;
his eye had never been so bright nor his step so firm.
The desire of his heart was accomplished, and he was
free. How sweet it seemed to breathe the breath of
liberty I
His family were by his side, their hearts too full for
speech, and they walked for a time in silence. As
they came in sight of their cottage, they saw a man
barefooted, and dressed in a coarse grey gown, slowly
advancing. He looks like one of the gospellers that
the dusty-foot told us of," said Cicely.
"He is a gospeller," remarked Ralph. Roger
and I saw one as we journeyed home from London."
The stranger accosted them and craved food and
shelter till the next day, for he had walked far and
was foot-sore. Hubert gave him a hearty welcome,
and they all entered the cottage. After rest and re.
freshment, the wanderer told that he went about from
place to place, teaching the poor something that was
good for them to know; and taking a short thick
book in parchment cover from the pocket of his gown,
he read aloud to the listeners who sat in eager atten-
tion, catching every word that fell from the speaker's
mouth. It was such as they had never heard before.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the king-
dom of heaven-Blessed are they that mourn, for they


shall be comforted-Many that are first shall be last;
and the last first-Come unto me, all ye that labour.
and are heavy laden, and-I will give ye rest."
When he had finished, Hubert said I could
almost be a bondman again to hear such words as
those, but if ye teach the same to all the thralls in
England, Master Gospeller, there will soon be no more
There is a spirit abroad," answered the stranger,
"which will grow and prosper until all men shall be
free as ye are this day. Meantime we go up and
down, preaching the truth to all who will hear."
And so in glad discourse the evening wore away;
and many a prayer was put up that night for the Lord
de Hedingham and the Lady Edith.

Such was one of the struggles for liberty of the
peasant population of England; but although they
were released from bondage in several parts of the
country, the greater number still remained in a state
of villanage. From time to time, they made new
efforts to gain their freedom, and another great insur-
rection, of which Jack Cade was the leader, broke out
in 1450. London was again captured, but the insur-
gents were driven back, as on the former occasion,
and only by slow degrees was the long-desired liberty
obtained. Sometimes the question was talked about
in Parliament, at others, the great proprietors at their


death would order all their bondmen to be set free;
and at last, in the reign of Charles II., a law was
passed which put an end to slavery in England for
ever. From that time our peasantry have gone on
with their useful labours, ploughing, sowing, and
gathering the harvests, living hard and on small
wages, but sharing the rights and privileges of free
men in common with the rest of the nation

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