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Full text of "A child's book of warriors"

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BY W I LLL^M CANTON 





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OF 

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CIRL WAS SINGING HALIMUDDFiNAMONG 
IHli BRR^HTGRHEN LEAVJiS OF THB 
i'REES ANmHF. i^RINCB CHRCKED^^ 
HIS HORSJ: TO LISTEN TO UE:1>L<^^M 



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A CHILDS 
BOOK OF 
WARRIORS 

BY WILLIAM CANTON 

ILLUSTRATED BY 
HERBERT COLE 



LONDON 
J MDENT df SONS -LD 

NEW YORK 
EPDUTTON dr CO- 



All rights reserved 



^99- ^LSL PROPERTY OF THE 



CH 



C CITY OF NEW YORK (3, 3 ^/> q}j- 



TO URSULA 

For you who love heroic things 

In summer dream or winter tale, 
I tell of warriors, saints, and kings. 

In scarlet, sackcloth, glittering mail, 
And helmets peaked with iron wings. 

They beat down Wrong; they strove for Right. 

In ringing fields, on grappled ships, 
Singing they flung into the fight; 

They fell with triumph on their lips, 
And in their eyes a glorious light. 

That light still gleams. From far away 
Their brave song greets us like a cheer. 

We fight the same great fight as they. 

Right against Wrong ; we, now and here ; 

They, in their fashion, yesterday. 




Contents 



The Rock of Narsinga 
Balt the Attacot 

How THEY SAVED NiSIBIS 

Herv6 and Christina 
Sword and Cross . 
The Soul of Justinian . 
The Guardians of Rome 
The Two Charlemagnes 
God's Gleeman 
In the Days of Athelney 
Children of Kings 
Olaf the Viking . 



PAGE 
I 

43 
53 
71 
89 

"5 

133 
152 
176 
191 

204 



Vll 



A Child's Book of Warriors 



Olaf in England . 

At Strife with the Gods 

The Last Sea-Fight 

The Jorsala Pilgrims . 

" I Saw Three Ships A-sailing " 



PAGE 

225 
241 

265 

287 
301 



viu 




List of Illustrations 



COLOURED 



Page 



A girl was singing half-hidden among the bright green 
leaves of the trees, and the -prince checked his horse to 
listen to her (p. 191) . . . . , Frontispiece 

'■'■Look again, and yet again," said the Angel . facing 98 

" With Christ to aid me, I take up thy challenge, 

Thor'^ ....... facing 244 

LINE 

Who but Dulkarnein reddened zvith anger? ... 5 

Then he became aware that there was One who stood beside 



Then 'Jacobus ascended the watch-tower , and lifting his 
arms to heaven chanted in a loud voice, "Let God 
arise and let His enemies be scattered " 

And to have fair white linen and flowers on the altar 



29 



49 
65 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Page 
" Behold, ye people, the sign of our redeeming " . .83 

" Do not show yourself,'''' he said, " but hearken " . . iij 

Stretched out a hand which this chief of the old heaths and 

woods grasped with a proud smile . . . .141 

" No, no, man, no I That cannot he. Tell me thou art 

not sure " . . . . . . . .152 

He cast about for some brave tale of other days to lighten 

their spirits . . . . . . . 1 76 

" He says he thanks thee, King Hakon^"" answered Astrid, 

. . . " and his mother thanks thee too " . . . 204 

" And that land you shall lift up to the true Sun " . .233 

The Northmen . . . slowly yielded foot by foot. . . 283 

" These, when thou goest,^^ he said, " / pray thee take to 

Einar "......,. 297 




The Rock of Narsinga 

This was the first of the stories told in the garden at 
Sebertswold. 

Very few people know, said the Truthful Story- 
teller, how the great King Alexander came to the 
Rock of Narsinga; how the hill folk, deeming their 
rock impregnable, made a mock of him; and what 
befell them and made their lives bitter for many a 
long year afterwards. 

It was in the course of that marvellous invasion 
in which Alexander, bent upon achieving the lord- 
ship of the world, set in his crown the golden horns 
of East and West, and the peoples he conquered, 
unable to pronounce his Greek name, and seeing on 
his head the symbols of his power, called him Iskander 
Dulkarnein, Iskander the Two-horned. 

He had crossed the blinding wastes of salt and 
sand in the autumn, and had reached the edge of the 



A Child^s Book of Warriors 

hill country. During the great cold his legions lay 
round their camp-fires in the orchards and meadows 
of the Uzbeks; but at the first sign of spring, when 
almond-blossom breaks, he marched through the 
mountains to Narsinga, the Valley of the Sun. 
Winter was still white on the high pine woods and 
on the half-circle of peaks which shut in the valley; 
and the route eastward over the mountains was 
spear-deep in snow. At the foot of the pass the 
rock sprang up in precipitous cliffs. There was no 
foothold except upon one side where a track had 
been hewn in narrow steps to the stronghold on the 
summit, and there the wives and children of the 
hill chiefs had been sent for safety, with a band of 
valiant tribesmen to defend them. 

With a proud clamour of trumpets, the heralds of 
Iskander called for submission, and promised in 
return for prompt surrender, peace and unravaged 
fields, freedom to return to their homes, and alliance 
with the great king. " But if you will not, then 
shall he who hath shaken the snow from cities covered 
by the northern cold, let in the light on nations 
underground, and crossed the waters on bridges of 
the slain, wax wroth and harry your eyrie, and make 
your tribes his bondsmen for ever." 

Then from the rock came a barbarous peal of 
laughter, and the mountains awoke and flung to 



The Rock of Narsinga 

each other the echoes of that fierce derision; and 
Oxyart the Bactrian leaped upon the wall of the fort 
and cried down to the heralds : " Is Dulkarnein lord 
of the rainbow that he can come to us ? Or are his 
warriors winged that they can capture this mountain 
for him ? None other do we fear." And once again 
the cliffs of Narsinga rang with mocking laughter. 

Who but Dulkarnein reddened with anger? He 
had a splendid reward cried through the camp — 
twelve talents of gold for the first man, and thrice 
a hundred Darics for the tenth, who scaled the Rock 
of Narsinga.^ Adventurers were not wanting. Three 
hundred threw in their lot for the daring feat. They 
chose the side where the cliffs were steepest and 
least guarded; and advancing silently in the star- 
light, they planted ladders of pine, drove iron tent- 
pegs into the ice and the hard ground, and knotting 
ropes to the pegs, drew themselves up the face of 
the rock. 

A tithe perished in that wild climbing — broken on 
the rocks or lost in the chasms of snow; but the rest 
reached the top as the grey dawn broke. They piled 
up the small faggots they had brought, and kindled 
fire; and as the flame leaped up on the peak, there 
rose from the darkness of the valley pealing of 
trumpets and shouting of the legions; and that 

1 About ;^2700 for the first man, and £12^] for the tenth. 

3 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

clamour, as of a mighty wind, struck the hill-folk 
with panic. Women wailed and children ran shriek- 
ing; but the shaggy tribesmen stared motionless at 
the blaze, and at what seemed a host, half seen in 
its red light. 

Then out of the dark valley was heard the voice 
of the herald calling : " Ho, you of the rock, give 
ear! ' See you not my winged warriors? ' saith the 
lord of the rainbow. Cast aside quiver and bow, 
sword and spear, and yield to the mightiest. Your 
lives he spares you, man and maid, mother and child; 
but from this sunrise he counts you among his bond- 
folk." 

So the Rock of Narsinga was taken. 

When droves of horses had trampled down the 
snow in the pass, the legions of that famous invasion 
streamed over the mountains into the East; and in 
the midst, between vanguard and rearguard, passed 
the flower of kings, Iskander of the Two Horns. 

But a troop of veterans was left behind upon the 
rock to hold the tribes in subjection. Twice and 
yet again the people rose in arms, but the veterans 
came down into the valley and broke and slew them. 
In times of peace nothing was seen of these men of 
iron. No one knew how they fared; whether they 
were relieved; when they were provisioned. The 
rock was hated and shunned. Between sunset and 

4 




^Era&g■F^,-T COue. - 1 1^ 



f^ W/70 hat Dulkarnetn redcfenecl tvttfi anger ^ 



The Rock of Narsinga 

dawn the most daring spirit in the hills would have 
fled from it in terror. 

One sure sign there was of the sleepless watch of 
the garrison. Summer and winter, at noon or at 
midnight, the sound of their trumpets suddenly rang 
out from the fort on the rock. At one time it might 
be a low, plaintive cadence which floated across the 
valley; at another it was a fierce confusion of alarms 
and charges and recalls from pursuit. 

So the years passed away. The old people died 
and were laid in the stone chambers of sleep hewn 
in the cliffs. The boys and girls grew up, and a new 
race of children played in the Valley of the Sun. 
And long afterwards, upon a summer evening, the 
villagers sat under their sacred fig-tree near the 
little red shrine by the lake-side. 

The fragrance of the pine-woods was keen in the 
sunny air; and soft as the bloom of a plum the purple 
light lay upon the peaks. Among the villagers was 
a venerable elder to whom no one spoke, because he 
was slumbrous with the dreams of the aged; but as 
they talked together, some words fell upon his ear 
and aroused him to sudden and eager attention. 
His eyes gleamed with a wild, dark light as he 
questioned them. 

The Elder. Was there not one who spoke but now 
of the Lords of the Rock ? 

7 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Villagers. Yes, here is one who spoke of them. 

The Elder. It may be I did not hear aright. What 
doth he say ? 

Old man. He wonders whether the Lords of the 
Rock be not all dead at last. 

The Elder. Dead at last ? Wherefore should he 
wonder ? Hath he seen — hath he heard 

Old man. Nay, father of hoariness, he hath listened 
and hath not heard. He hath hearkened for their 
trumpets and hath heard them not. The trumpets 
blow no more. 

The Elder. That cannot be. Hath no man heard 
the wicked cry of the trumpets ? Who saith this ? 

Old man. Here is the young man. Let him 
answer thee. 

The Elder. Speak, son of wonder; what is this 
thou say'st of the trumpets ? 

Touth. In the winter storms I heard them. A 
little while ago in the great gales late in the spring 
they were silent. Yet who doth not know that they 
ever blared fiercest in the wind and tempest ? 

The Elder. Yea, truth-teller, 'twas in the wild 
weather they thought it most joy to lift up their 
voices. " Dulkarnein, Dulkarnein! Ye are his bond- 
folk, ye are his bondfolk! " 'Twas so they kept 
calling; by night, by day, in sun-time, in snow-time, 
but loudest always when the weather was wildest. 



The Rock of Narsinga 

Villagers. It may be the lords are all dead at last. 
{They come from under the sacred tree and look up 
curiously to the fort on the rock.) 

Touth. In the winter storms the trumpet-calls 
seemed to sound fainter than they used to be. Surely, 
I thought, even the Lords of the Rock are growing old. 

Villagers. They must all be very ancient men. 

'The Elder {who has been gazing at the rock with his 
wildly lighted eyes). All dead at last? They dead? 
Do not think it. They are not of flesh as we are; 
they are men of bronze, men of mill-stone. They 
will never die. 

Old man. All things yield to time and death; and 
these are very old, 

The Elder. Very old, very old ! They were veterans 
when I was still young. O ye gods of the steadfast 
hills, what valour and what might were theirs! We, 
the strong men of the cliffs, unconquered since time 
began, we went down like corn before them; they 
scattered us like leaves in the fall of the year. 
Dulkarnein, Dulkarnein! 

Villagers. Didst thou look on the Two-Horned, 
thou warrior of old ? 

The Elder. Even I. A tall companion he was; 
and out of the crowned head of him jutted the golden 
horns. Blue-eyed and yellow-haired, like a god! 
Wholly comely and radiant in the pride of his youth, 

9 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

save that he bore his neck somewhat awry! " Dul- 
karnein, Dulkarnein! Ye are his bondfolk! " We 
rose and they vanquished us. Again and yet again 
we rose, and the Lords of the Rock came upon us as 
a hail of fire. They clothed us with shame; they 
shod us with weakness; they bowed our proud heads 
with ashes. They sheathed the sword; they quelled 
our hearts with the trumpet-cry of power. The 
mountain echoes hooted us for slaves, but our sinews 
were loosened. Our children grew up in bondage; 
our children's children were born in bondage. Who 
among you but now thinks that of all losses the loss 
of life is the worst ? 

Villagers. Why, yes; lose life, lose all. 

7he Elder. And once we were the free men of the 
hills! Dulkarnein, Dulkarnein! 

(A troop of boys run in shouting joyfully, " The 
trumpets, the trumpets! " " The Lords of the Rock! " 
The Elder lifts up his hand for quiet. The lads stand 
silent and shame-faced.) 

The Elder. Let but one speak. You with the bird's 
nest. 

Boy. Peace on thy head, father; on .thine eyes, 
peace! We wondered why the trumpets had so 
long ceased sounding. We stole through the woods. 
We scaled the rock. At the top all was so still that 
we ventured upon the wall. 



The Rock of Narsinga 

The Elder. Yet this child was born in bondage! 

Boy. There was no one. All the place is tumbling 
down; it is all grown over with bushes. 

The Elder. Speak on; what more? 

Boy. Up yonder there are eight big stone trumpets 
fixed on pillars. They are choked with bird's nests 
and dead leaves. The wind cannot blow through 
them now; so they have stopped sounding. This is 
one of the nests. 

The Elder. O ye divine lights of night and day! 

Boy. The Lords made them long ago, zve think — 
before they marched away. 

The Elder. And we were the free men of the hills! 
Hold my hand, friends; mine eyes have grown dark. 
. . . Dulkarnein ! Dulkarnein ! . . . My breath fails 
for anguish. To die is not the worst of life's losses. 
(The Elder sinks back in their arms. They lay him 
down gently under the sacred tree^ and cover his face) 

" Now, that's where an aeroplane would have 
come in," said Giggums, the electrical engineer. 
" If they'd had a Bleriot, they would have jolly soon 
spotted that fake of old Iskander and his glittering 
Myrmidons." 

" They didn't need aeroplanes," rejoined Simplicia, 
" if they'd had great hearts. Did they, father ? 
Why, those boys were braver than they were." 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Boy scouts, I expect," said Giggums. " But, 
my bananas ! wasn't it a cute dodge ? " 

" It was horribly mean, and tricky, and cruel," 
cried Simplicia; and Vigdis, who evidently took 
Simplicia's view of the matter, scornfully flung a 
handful of rose-leaves over the electrician. 

All that afternoon, while the apple-trees glittered 
red and green, and out on the hill-side opposite the 
great beeches burned in gold and russet, with rings 
of fallen leaves glowing at their feet like reflections 
on the grass, we sat and talked of old heroic things 
" and battles long ago." And many a sunny evening 
after that; right through to the end of a wonderful 
September. All the apples were gathered; the 
martins flocked in thousands, and were up and away 
by starlight one morning (" Even little chaps like 
those run two houses," quoth the electrician); the 
pink flowers of the willow-herb turned into tufts of 
silvery feathers; and still there were tales to tell, 
for since time began there have ever been heroes, and 
all life is warfare by land and sea, and Alexander had 
little need to weep for worlds to conquer, until he had 
conquered the turbulent spirit under his own crown. 

There were tales of the huge earthworks that you 
can still see on the lonely downs; tales of legions 
lost in the forest, for the woodland tribes surrounded 
them as they marched, and the trees came crashing 



The Rock of Narsinga 

down on all sides of them, and they were trapped 
and slain among the fallen timber, and their bones 
were left to whiten in the gloom of the woods; tales 
of savage hordes who streamed from the steppes by 
the hundred thousand, with their wives and children 
in bullock waggons, seeking for new settlements. 
They carried all before them until they came to 
the entrenchment of the Caesars, and there a single 
red-plumed horse-soldier turned them aside — so awful 
was the name of Rome! 

Do not suppose we forgot our own great Roman 
Wall. Simplicia thought there was no romance equal 
to that of the mighty rampart which swept across 
the moors from the shipping in the Tyne to the sands 
of the Solway. She hugged herself with delight as 
she spoke of the tramp of the sentries and the flashing 
of spears between the watch-towers. Mile after mile, 
one looked from the tops of the castles, beyond the 
rolling heather, to the blue Cheviots. And all along 
the southern side of the Wall lay the stations — great 
camps grown into little towns, with white pillars of 
colonnades glinting through the trees. One liked to 
imagine them on market-days, full of life and gaiety 
— folk flocking in from villages and farms, traders 
and chapmen hawking their wares, merry groups of 
soldiers watching the jugglers and dancing-girls. 
Nothing could be more wonderful than those soldiers 

13 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and their babel of tongues. Spaniards and Syrians, 
men from Athens and Carthage, Goths from the 
Baltic and Huns from the Danube, negroes from 
Nubia and Persians from the Euphrates, they seemed 
to have come from every country under the sun. 

The weather broke early in October, and we had 
very few stories until Christmas, when Sigfrid, our 
Iceland friend, came and brought three days of 
driving snow with him. He rigged up snow-shoes 
for us, and in his honour we made the fire blaze with 
old wood from the rose-bushes and loppings from 
the fruit trees. Then to the huge joy of Vigdis, who 
pretended that we were in Iceland, and that the 
Northern Lights were dancing over the white wastes, 
Sigfrid told us the old Viking sagas. 

In the long evenings many of the stories got written 
down in remembrance of a good time, and I hope 
they still keep some of the freshness of the garden 
and the pleasantness of the winter fires. 








Bait the Attacot 

" The fairest spot on all the long Wall!" exclaimed 
Bait the Chapman, and his shrewd, kindly face lit 
up at the sight of Borcovicus, the great Roman 
station, glittering white and green on the ridge in 
the morning sunshine. " Yet I would give some- 
what to know how I have been brought hither; to 
understand what force has been laid upon me — plain 
as hand on shoulder, turning me aside from my way 
and pressing me onward; " and Bait's brows were 
knitted in perplexity as he thought of the unaccount- 
able impulses which had changed the course of his 
wanderings. Then he threw back his head with a 
laugh : " Why trouble ? There be more that walk 
the world than they who leave footprints in the 
dust." 

It was a wild, picturesque figure that strode, 
hunting-spear in hand, beside the string of three 
pack-horses. Broad and thick-set, clad in dark 

15 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

green tunic and deer-skin brogues; with heavy axe 
in belt, and shaggy red hair tumbling down behind 
on a short cloak of brown leather, — such he was long 
remembered on the moors and by the woodsides 
between York city and the Solway shores of his own 
people. 

The day was still at morning when the horses 
clattered through the town on the slope below the 
station, and as they stopped before the tavern of 
Paulus, the old centurion himself came hurrying 
from the courtyard. 

" Ho, Bait ! The very man ! And how fares it 
with thee, brave Attacot ? " 

" And with thee, babe of Rome ? " replied Bait, 
grasping his hand; " but why ' the very man ' ? " 

" Faith, thy calling has sharpened thy wits. Bait. 
Well, 'tis thus," slipping his arm through the chap- 
man's, and dropping his voice. " These three days 
I have had a message for thine ears alone. Lucius 
our Etheling has urgent need of thee, and bade me 
pray thee hasten to him at Cilurnum." 

" So ! Cilurnum ! I knew the call was to Cilurnum. 
Canst thou guess the reason for this haste ? " 

" Nay. I only know that the need was great and 
the message secret." 

" Give me food then, good Paulus, and the grass 
shall not grow under these feet." 

i6 



Bait the Attacot 

Without more words the beasts were stalled, the 
packs housed, and cup and trencher laid before the 
traveller; and as the chapman ate and drank, the 
two spoke in low voices of what was uppermost in 
men's minds. And that was the evil which had fallen 
upon the Christians ; for these were the days in which 
the Cassar Galerius was the malignant genius of the 
empire, and the persecution of Diocletian had begun. 
Already in the south the earth of Britain had been 
drenched with the blood of martyrs, and though no 
one had yet been challenged for his faith in the 
towns along the Wall, the believers looked with 
anxious hearts for what each to-morrow might bring 
forth. 

" I tell thee, friend," said Bait, " no man is safe. 
Every petty magistrate counts on his zeal for favour 
and profit. Our Caesar, Constantius, hates the edict, 
but though they say he is himself more than half a 
Christian, he cannot openly oppose it. Men's lives 
will be cheap with the sycophant and the secret 
enemy. But why do I talk when time presses ? 
What I can tell thou shalt hear; for before I go I 
would have thee write for me to the holy presbyter 
Martinus. Take thy pen." 

And this was Bait's letter to the priest. 

" Here am I writing to thee in the house of Paulus. 
Yet not I, Bait the unlearned, but Paulus writes, 

17 B 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

heeding well the words I say. As to this edict I 
pray the One God have thee in His keeping. 

" I have travelled far, and my news is grievous, 
though we in the north have yet been nowise molested. 
Churches have been destroyed; houses filled with 
believers have been set on fire; men and women 
have been bound together and cast into the rivers. 
So many were slain in one place, they call it now 
* the field of dead men.' But of that town, I praise 
the Lord of heaven and earth, and can tell thee such 
a portent as thou shalt scarce believe. 

" For, look you, when Aurelian the praetor came 
to the forum with his lictors, they found a great 
crowd staring with white faces at the judgment-seat. 
And as the crowd parted, the praetor saw that a 
naked man sat in the very seat of judgment. His 
body was bloody with scourging. His head was 
crowned with thorns. For a moment the lictors 
stood in amazement; then as they thrust forward 
to seize the man, he arose and stretched out his hands 
to stay them; and blood from wounds in his hands 
fell in great drops. His eyes were fixed upon Aurelian, 
and so gazing he vanished from sight. 

" What thinkst thou, venerable one ? That day 
Aurelian judged no one, and at nightfall he was dead." 

" Surely the Lord hath care of His saints," ex- 
claimed Paulus; but Bait continued. 

i8 



Bait the Attacot 

" Many have fled to the forests and the mountains. 
It grieves me that, being so many, they should have 
fled. Why did they not think, setting shoulder to 
shoulder, to make a stand for Christus ? 

" Here Paulus stays his pen to answer me : ' They 
that take the sword, with the sword shall they 
perish.' And they that took no sword, say I, have 
also perished. ' He died for us,' said Paulus. Where- 
fore, say I, we live for Him; is it not so thou teachest, 
Martinus ? 

" Till now we have been untroubled here, but no 
one can foresee what is to come. I hear strange 
rumours. Before this sun is set I am in Cilurnum, 
where new things are heard soonest. I know not 
why I should go thither in such haste. Yet these 
three days I have been pressed onward. Hast thou 
ever heard voices in thy sleep, calling thy name, and 
didst thou know they called thee from such or such 
a place ? 

" No more at this time. Bait the Attacot, writing 
to thee here with Paulus, who writes for me." 

Having pondered for a time, chin on hand, " Write 
again, Paulus," said the chapman. 

" Now I bethink me, yonder on the hill at Vindolana 
(Borcum) they worship Mithras; at Corstorpitum 
(Corbridge) 'tis Ashtoreth; here Sylvanus of the 
woods and heaths; there the ancient gods, the 

19 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

mother goddesses — I know not what. Worship any 
of these, saith the edict; worship what you will, so 
it be not Christus. Worship Christus, and you die. 
What bondage and oppression of the soul is this! 

Galerius, who hath made thee Caesar over the 
thoughts and hearts of men ? 

" Worship Christus, and you die. Then not 
without iron in hand. Surely life is a gladsome 
thing — to drink in the bright air, to see the faces of 
one's kind, and the flower on the heather, and the 
light on the blue hills afar. I burn no incense; and 

1 give my life to no man, Cassar or Augustus. I die 
not till I must, and then not alone. It makes me 
mad to think that, being so many, they struck no 
blow for Christus and the joy of free men. What 
sayst thou, man of God ? " 

Eastward from Borcovicus the Great Wall swings 
from crag to crag along the ridge, which sinks down 
at last into the green woods of the Tyne valley; but 
Bait followed the broad way of the legions, which 
runs direct across the lower ground. Swallows 
frolicked in the heavens; rabbits scuttled through 
the broom and bracken; bees droned among the rose- 
purple tops of the willow-herb; butterflies fluttered 
round the white flowers of the enchanter's night- 
shade; people went by with friendly " good days; " 

20 



Bait the Attacot 

far away on the towered rampart sentries moved to 
and fro — it was all just the same as he had seen it 
hundreds of times before. And yet, in some strange 
fashion, he was aware that everything was changed; 
and as he fared onward, going he knew not why, and 
whither he had no will to go, he looked and listened 
with the interest of a traveller who sees and hears 
new things that he will not hear or see again. 

Near the foot of the hill, where the road runs once 
more beside the Wall, a man sat on a boulder, drowsing 
in the hot sun. At the sight of him. Bait flourished 
his spear with a shout : " Hail, Trebonius Victor." 
Springing to his feet, the man waved his hand, and 
ran to meet him. He was a colossal negro, one of 
the Nubian auxiliaries who had served upon the 
Wall, and was now in the household of the Etheling. 
The genial black face, the huge black neck with its 
torque of gold, the brawny black arms with their 
silver arm-rings seemed doubly dark against his 
white woollen tunic. 

" Praise to the Giver, thou art come! " he cried. 
" The master hath long waited for thee. This track 
through the wood, good Bait, is quickest." 

They left the road, and striking through a green 
brake, plunged into a twilight of oak and beech. 
The track ended in a sunny clearing, in the midst of 
which a stockaded earth-ring and deep trench en- 

21 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

circled the home of Lucius and of the ancient British 
princes of his race. Their coming was signalled by 
a fierce clamour of hounds, until the voice of the 
Nubian rang out for silence. 

At the entrance of the great dyke Lucius met 
them : " Oh, friend Bait, I am fain to see thee. 
Much have I prayed to have thee, and the King of 
heaven hath surely sent thee." 

" Wherein can I serve thee, highness ? " 

" That thou shalt know quickly; but first thou 
shalt honour this house." 

" I will break bread, and I will drink with a proud 
heart to thee and thy house, but already have I 
eaten what befits a man." 

" This then," said the Etheling, as they sat in the 
old hall, " is the bitter need in which I ask thy help." 
And glancing at the wicked terms of the edict, he told 
how he had been warned that a friend of his youth, 
now grown to a deadly enemy, had planned to im- 
peach his faith in the gods and his loyalty to the 
emperor. At any moment, to-day, to-morrow, he 
might be called forth to burn incense to the idols. 

" And thou wouldst draw sword first ? " cried Bait 
with flashing eyes. " prince, I am thy man. At 
thy side I stand." 

" Nay, Bait, what wild man's thoughts are these ? 
To fight were folly; to flee were shame, and an evil 

22 



Bait the Attacot 

end. I could stand in the face of men and the face 
of the Maker of men, and bear witness to Him 
crucified. And at my side Valeria, my wife, un- 
shrinking. But oh, Bait! — my little lad; thou 
knowest him; he is but six years old — joyous as a 
little bird, fairer than any flower; how could I bear 
to see him in torture, to see him in the flames, to 
see him hewn or strangled ? Could I but send him 
to my kinsman, Fortunatus, in the palace at York, 
there he would be safe, and it would be well with us." 

" Didst thou desire me for this ? Then, by the 
Holy One in the heavens," said Bait, raising his hand 
on high, " I take the child for thee to York, or I 
perish by the way." 

" Wilt thou take him ? Oh, Bait, God give thee 
too a little son to be the joy of thy age. Thou hast 
lifted our heart out of anguish. Henceforth we shall 
know but a common sorrow. When canst thou go ? " 

For a moment the Attacot considered : " The river 
is not safe. We shall go by the ways of wood and 
wold. I know each ford, cave, hill-track, moorland 
gully 'twixt this and Knavesmire. Let it be when 
midnight has turned. The moon is at full and the 
dawn is early." 

" The Nubian shall go with thee." 

"Good! and better if thou wilt let him have a 
horse and one of thy wolf-hounds." 

23 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Bait, the poor house is thine; spare for nothing 
thou canst need." 

Bright shone the moon of the summer night on 
the grassy earthworks and the ancient roof-tree of 
a princely race. Again and again the little Marcus 
had been hugged and kissed with fond tears. There 
was no more to say but " God speed you " when 
Lucius gripped the men's hands hard, and " God 
bless you, true hearts " as the mother caught the 
child once more to her bosom. 

They passed through the dusk and glimmer of the 
sighing wood, Victor leading the horse, and the little 
man tripping between Bait and the wolf-hound, with 
a soft fist crumpled in Bait's fingers. Now they were 
in the midst of the vast open wonder of a world of 
misty silver and stillness, and the lad rode on the 
Nubian's shoulders, and short, black shadows went 
along the ground with them. Now the moon was 
sinking; a cold breath came from the east where the 
grey light was breaking, and Marcus lay asleep on 
the Nubian's arm in a fold of the cloak drawn close 
about them. Now the warm morning blazed in the 
pines, and he awoke to see fire burning among the 
rocks beside a brook, and breakfast ready. 

Such a frolic never had been before as this day in 
the free air and sun, going onward and still onward, 

24 



Bait the Attacot 

with new things to see every moment. And how 
good it was to lie on heather under a tree at noon, 
and then to spring up again, to run, to ride, to walk, to 
chatter merrily in these summer wilds ! They passed 
by upland villages and saw folk at work in the fields ; 
they splashed through shallow rivers ; here and there 
they spoke to a herdsman with his drove of swine in 
the glades, or a shepherd-boy on the high pastures. 
On every summit the men paused to scan the country 
they had left behind them; and then as they went 
on again Bait would speak of the land ahead — what 
streams were to cross; what villages and towns were 
near, where friends of his were to be found at need; 
what tracks led down to the great roads. 

That night they slept in one of the hill-caves, with 
Grim's head laid on his paws before a fire at the 
entrance, and one or other of the men keeping watch 
by turns. When Marcus folded his little hands, the 
first tears came with remembrance of home, but the 
Nubian took him in his arms and comforted him, 
and the twilight sorrow of childhood ran into the 
quiet underworld of sleep. 

It was the forenoon of the third day, and they had 
reached the moorland heights beyond the Tees river, 
when the Nubian, looking back, uttered a cry of 
warning: " See, see. Bait! " He pointed downward 
to three mounted figures, a long way distant on the 

25 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

plain beyond the stream. " Spanish horse from 
Cilurnum, if I know my own hand." 

" There is yet time," said Bait, " but let us push 
on; " and as they hastened through the waste, he 
gave the Nubian fresh instructions. " Less than an 
hour beyond where you leave me, for I must stop till 
the danger is over, a track drops down to Swale Water, 
and you come to Cataractoni (Catterick). Then to 
York — God willing — 'tis a plain course. Do not 
linger, and doubt not I shall be with you long ere 
you win so far." 

A mile or more over the heather, their journey would 
have ended at a long chasm which rent the moorland, 
but for a frail bridge of pine-trees. Far down in that 
rocky cleft a foaming torrent leaped and raged over 
ledge and boulder. 

" This timber once cut away," said Bait when they 
had passed over, " we are safe. Leave Grim with 
me. Farewell, little hero, till I overtake you. Speed, 
friend Victor! " 

Bait drew his axe from his belt and severed two 
of the pines on the northern side of the gulf. Return- 
ing to the opposite edge he hewed mightily. First 
one and then a second of the tall trunks bent, snapped, 
and plunged into the torrent. Then he toiled at the 
two remaining trees. As they parted and swung 
down with a crash, the wolf-hound growled and 

26 



Bait the Attacot 

sprang to his feet, and the beat of horses' hoofs came 
drumming over the turf. A glance served to show 
that Bait's work had been done well, and the riders 
drew rein. 

" Surrender, in the name of Cassar! " 

" If I would I could not," replied Bait, pointing 
to the chasm. 

" Let me help thee," laughed one of the troopers. 
He rode a little way back from the brink, wheeled 
swiftly round, and put his horse into a headlong race. 
In an instant the hound rushed forward and hurled 
himself against the wild charge. His fangs closed on 
the horse's throat in mid-leap, and hound, horse, and 
man were hurled down the sheer wall of the gulf. 

"Good Grim!" cried Bait, "thou too wast 
Christian and Attacot." 

Even as he spoke, another of the troopers rose in 
the saddle, and a spear flew from his hand. It 
struck the chapman in the chest. Bait staggered; 
steadied himself with a desperate effort; sent his axe 
whirling against his slayer, and reeled through the 
bracken. He fell against a boulder, and the spear 
snapped. 

Then a mist settled upon the moor — blinding, 
chilling. Was this death? He struggled with the 
darkness, with the cold. He grasped the boulder, 
and tried to gain his feet. 

27 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

At last, oh joy! he felt a mortal burden fall away 
from him. The mighty spirit of the Attacot stood 
panting with life. He had never indeed been truly 
alive until now! The rapture of life overpowered 
every other feeling. He was unconscious of place or 
of time. Whether he had stood there one moment 
or a hundred years he could not tell. Then he became 
aware that there was One who stood beside him. 

Two-and-twenty years had passed away. It was 
summer in the Bithynian hills. The chestnut woods 
were in the flush of June. Sails of many colours 
flitted upon the breezy waters. High over all, the 
snowy summits of Olympus floated like a dream. 
In Nicaea, at the head of the lake, the white storks 
looked down from the marble tops of the basilica 
upon such stir and excitement as had never yet been 
seen in its colonnaded streets. It was the year of 
that holy synod in which East and West met for the 
first time to restore the peace of Christendom. 

The voice of Constantine had echoed through the 
world : " Give me back my tranquil days and my 
nights free from care, you ministers of the Most 
High God, who are destroying the one fold with your 
needless wrangling over mysteries beyond the subtlety 
of man." But still the wild songs of Arius drove the 
people to madness; artisans, tradesmen, sailors took 

28 




H&R.ftEWT COt-E ''^ 



J6en he hecame aware ffjat fficre zvas Oncimfh) stood icside him 



Bait the Attacot 

up the ribald tunes in the streets, and the emperor's 
statues were broken in the fierce encounter of rival 
mobs. " It was the clash of the rock-giants," said 
the Bishop of Caesarea, " the Symplegades, when 
winter howls down the Hellespont." 

There was no choice but to call together the great 
teachers and examplars of the Church, and bid them 
settle their bitter dissensions. They came from the 
ends of the empire — bishops from Spain and the 
rivers of Assyria, from the Gothic forests and the 
shores of Mauretania; gaunt desert-fathers who bore 
the names of the old gods of Egypt; aged confessors 
whose testimony was written in the seared faces, the 
scored sides, and the maimed limbs. Such a con- 
course of the mighty in Israel no man living could 
hope to see twice in the world. 

The streets were thronged with fiery partisans, 
strangely clad anchorets, disputing philosophers, 
slaves, travellers, gay citizens, wondering country 
folk. Excitement and confusion were held in check 
by the imperial guards. 

Beside the portals of the basilica, at the meeting 
of the four streets from the city gates, the Tribune 
Marcus, a tall young man of singularly gallant bear- 
ing, scanned the passing of the Fathers of the Council. 
Many were unknown; the names of others were 
tossed about by the crowd, and curious scraps of 

31 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

gossip reached his ears from the garrulous spectators 
pressing about him. 

" Nicolas ! Nicolas ! " And the Bishop of Myra, 
" one of the pillars of the world," goes by with silvery 
locks and a smile on his broad, ruddy face. Here is 
a man from the ends of the earth — John, Patriarch 
of India ! This is Spyridion of Cyprus. " They took 
him from the sheep-cotes to make him bishop, but 
you may still see him with his crook on the hills." 
" Theophilus the Goth; those big, blue-eyed bar- 
barians are all for Arius ! " 

Silence suddenly falls upon the spectators as an 
old man, frail and tremulous, comes leaning upon 
the shoulder of a youth, whose radiant face and won- 
derful auburn hair — the hair of the old-world queens 
of Egypt — have a touch of angelic brightness. 

" Who, friend, are these ? " asks Marcus of a 
bystander. 

" The venerable man is Alexander, the Pope of 
Alexandria. How he has aged; and there is the 
look of death in his face! " 

" And the youth ? " 

" The youth, as you name him, Sir Tribune, is his 
Archdeacon Athanasius." 

And the dying patriarch moves on with the slight, 
shining figure, whose genius is to dominate this first 
universal Synod of the Christian Church, and whose 

32 



Bait the Attacot 

name will be held in remembrance for centuries 
throughout Christendom. 

An uncouth form now goes by, clad in rough goat- 
skins, and were it not for his clear, humorous eyes, 
more like a wild being of the woods and hills than a 
bishop. 

" 'Tis Jacobus of Edessa, from the Land between 
the Rivers," another bystander tells Marcus. " Dost 
thou know, Sir Tribune, that thou may'st see there 
the face of the Lord, even as He was when He dwelt 
amongst us ? This man, I doubt not, hath often 
looked upon it." 

Before Marcus can reply, an outburst of exclama- 
tions and fierce counter-cries greets the appearance of 
an extremely tall, crazed-looking ascetic in a long 
sleeveless coat and sandals. With twitching hands, 
and dim eyes peering through the tangles of grizzled 
hair that hang about his head and bloodless face, he 
passes on, muttering to himself. Can this be Arius 
the Heresiarch, the leader of men, the fanatic who 
sings and dances the mob of Alexandria into frenzy ? 

As Marcus gazes after him in amazement, loud 
shouts hail Paphnutius, the hoary confessor and 
bishop from the Thebaid. He drags one leg painfully 
along with the aid of a staff, for long ago the perse- 
cutors severed the tendons to prevent his escape 
from the mines. His right eye had been gouged out 

33 c 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

with a sword and the socket seared with hot iron; 
but the left is brilliantly dark, and see how those 
dusky features are illumined with infinite sweetness 
and peace! 

Marcus thrills with emotion. " This man suffered. 
My mother, my father died! " All the delight, all 
the pain, all the broken recollections of his strange 
boyhood live again in those words. 

With the arrival of the emperor Nicaea reached 
the height of splendour and enthusiasm. The synod 
was transferred to the palace. In the midst of the 
great hall the Holy Gospels were laid upon a throne 
of gold, as a visible image of the presence of Christ 
Himself. Constantine entered, without guards or 
attendants, and the venerable assembly rose to pay 
their homage. 

What man had ever more truly looked the Master 
of the World ? Great-statured, nobly featured, he 
surveyed the gathering with bright leonine glances. 
His long yellow hair, bound with a fillet of pearls, 
waved on his broad shoulders. A robe of purple 
silk, ablaze with barbaric gems and flowers of gold, 
fell to his scarlet shoes. 

He stood, blushing, until by their bowing they had 
motioned him to be seated, and then, in a singularly 
sweet voice, he besought them to do away with all 

34 



Bait the Attacot 

causes of disagreement and to dissolve every knot 
of controversy. Unbuckling his sword, he gave it 
with his ring and sceptre into their keeping; he was 
but a fellow servant of their common Lord and 
Saviour. A brazier was brought into the hall, and 
burning before them unread all the complaints, 
accusations, and petitions he had received, " Is it 
not the word of Christ," he asked, " that he who 
would be forgiven should first forgive his brother ? " 

The discussion of the great controversy had hardly 
been begun when wild rumours flew through Nicaea 
that Arius had stood forth and denied the divinity 
of Christ — had declared that there was a time when 
the Son of God did not exist; that God had created 
Him; and that, being a creature. He might have 
fallen and sinned through the frailty of His created 
nature. Many of the bishops had stopped their ears 
in horror, but Nicolas of Myra had leaped from his 
seat and struck the blasphemer in the mouth. 
Nicolas had been deposed for his violence and was 
now in bonds. 

At length there came a day when Arius had fled, 
and his book of songs denying the eternal Sonship 
of the Lord was cast into the flames; and the bishops, 
girding Constantine with the sword he had put into 
their keeping, laid in his hands the parchment on 
which Athanasius had copied the Creed of Nicaea: 

35 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, 
Maker of all things visible and invisible ..." 

This was the turning-point in the life of Marcus. 

In Rome he had seen the godless splendour, the 
vicious luxury, the laughing paganism of an age 
which was crumbling into the abyss. In Nicaea he 
beheld the pageantry of a Christianity so torn asunder 
with passionate wranglings and bitter hatreds that 
there seemed to be no place in it for Christ Himself, 
the divine Shepherd who led His flock to still waters 
and carried the lambs in His bosom. 

He resigned his sword, and for seventeen years he 
dwelt with the monks of Nematea in one of the 
ruined temples near the Nile. Over his head, bowed 
down in prayer, avenues of sphynxes gazed with 
stony eyes into the silence of the desert. Brightly 
coloured processions of Egyptian men and women 
sang to him a soundless dirge of dead men, of dead 
women, of dead delights, of the dust and ashes of a 
vanished race. Like his brethren he wove palm-leaf 
baskets, crossed the great river to sell them, to hire 
himself out as a labourer at harvest-time, to share 
the sorrows of the poor villagers, to worship with 
them at the same rude altars. 

Thereafter he went forth into the mountains of the 
eastern wilderness where Paul the Hermit had lived 

36 



Bait the Attacot 

and died. The place was an oasis, open to the sky, 
set among the rocks of an ancient crater. A clear 
fountain gushed from a cleft in the rocks, and palm- 
trees grew there. He was given charge of the 
monastery garden, and cultivated herbs and fruits, 
thinking with a quiet joy that the Lord Himself was 
once taken for a gardener. 

There the days of his years were spent in labour 
and prayer, and his spirit was upheld by the sweet 
ministry of created things. For if he looked over 
the hill-tops into the bright immeasurable distances 
until sight itself was lost in the intense shining of 
the desert, why so would it be when the soul stood 
at gaze before the divine splendour. When the sun 
went westering and the light abated, far hills rose up 
in the desert, wonderful as a mirage yet sure and 
steadfast; why, even thus, when our day declines, 
shall we discern fair forms of truth which were 
invisible in the glare and heat. Then in the rosy 
sundown an owl flitted from tamarind to tamarind; 
like wisdom making profit of the bitter trees of life. 

Thereafter as the sun dropped lower and lower, 
and the rim of the desert smouldered red, shadows 
passed over with the murmur of innumerable wings — 
first one and then a second flight, followed by a third 
and yet a fourth flight of goldfinches, which came 
every evening from the palms of the north to those 

37 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

of the south. In the passage of these Marcus took 
such pure joy that there was no room for other 
thought or feeling. The wilderness gloomed, but 
the high heavens were still luminous; and winding 
and doubling, crossing and making wheels within 
wheels, the pelicans and flamingos sailed overhead 
until they faded into trails of shadow; and far into 
the night Marcus sat in the darkness of his cell, 
weaving rushes and reciting psalms. 

Now it chanced that Marcus had planted a fig-tree, 
and it had waxed great and fruitful. In his old age, 
when his years fell little short of ninety, Macarius, 
the abbot of that desert, came to the oasis; and 
Marcus led him to the great tree, saying: " This was 
of my planting and watering; and the fruit is of 
exceeding virtue — yet I know not, for never yet have 
I tasted it." " Yea ? " said Macarius, musing for 
a little while; " take thine axe and cut it down." 

The old gardener's hands were lifted up in dismay; 
but he spoke no word and fetched the axe. " Give 
it to me," said the abbot, taking compassion on the 
troubled heart of age; " we will not harm the tree, 
seeing that it is a gift of God." But Marcus an- 
swered : " Woe is me, for I have sinned," and fell 
at the abbot's feet. " brother," said Macarius, 
" it was not so hard to fight with Constantine against 
barbarians as it is to fight against one's own will. 

38 



Bait the Attacot 

Yet 'tis in the same sign that we shall conquer." 
And the sign he spoke of was the cross which appeared 
in the heavens to Constantine. 

When evening came, Marcus went up into the 
heights and beheld the hills ascend out of the desert. 
But lo! while he looked, their colour changed from 
dreamy blue and rose to green and russet, and 
they rolled up over against him in a vast naked 
moorland. And this change was a miracle. 

Full eighty years had gone by, yet it seemed but 
as yesterday that he was a little lad on that wild 
heath. There yawned the chasm cloven deep through 
the moorland rock. Near the brink a man stood 
beside a boulder. Marcus recognised him; a long- 
forgotten name sprang to his lips, and he uttered a 
great cry. 

The cry was heard below in the oasis, and the 
brethren ran from their cells in the rocks, fearing 
that some ill had befallen him. 

" Bait, is it you ? Are you too still alive ? " 

The Attacot made no answer. But the soul of 
Marcus was illumined, and in that instant the mystery 
of the world was made clear to him. And he under- 
stood how Bait, in his clinging delight in existence — 
Bait, who would fight to the death for Christ, but 
would not freely die for any one, had stood for all 
these years upon the spot where he was slain; alive, 

39 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

yet not living; kept apart, in a trance of being, from 
the illimitable life that follows death. 

Then out upon the moorland Marcus was aware 
that there was One who stood beside the Attacot, 
speaking to him; and Marcus heard the words. 

" So slow has thou been to come to me that now 
I am constrained to come to thee." 

Bait seemed to waken suddenly from a trance; 
his face shone, and he spread abroad his arms, 
crying, " Lord, my Christus! " 

And Christ said : " Dost thou still so cling to 
thyself that thou wilt not die until thou must ? " 

" Lord," Bait answered, " I was but a savage man. 
Now I see Thee; now I know Thee. My will is Thy 
will to live or to die." 

"0 Bait," said the Lord, "I am Life. Thou 
shalt not die ; yet, as men count death, already 
thou hast long been dead. Look down at thy feet." 

Marcus looked down at Bait's feet, and he saw, 
even as Bait saw, the bones of a man which lay 
white in the bracken; and wedged in the crate of 
the chest was the head of a spear. 

The brethren found Marcus fallen on the hill, and 
when they thought to lift him, he besought them, 
" Forbear, dear brethren. This is my Pisgah. Suffer 
me to die where I have seen the Lord; " and he told 

40 



Bait the Attacot 

them of his vision. Then, as the breath fluttered 
upon his lips, " Watch with me," he said, " and pray, 
that I fail not at the last." 

The sun dropped. The desert darkened. Over- 
head in the shining of the high air the pelicans and 
flamingos made wheels of white within wheels of 
rose; but before they faded into shadowy trails the 
old man's eyes glazed, and Marcus was once more 
with Bait, and both were with Christ. 




41 




How They Saved Nisibis 

This is the story of Jacpbus of Edessa, who came in 
his rough goat-skin and took his place amid the 
splendour of the Synod of Nicaea, more like a wild 
creature of the woods than a bishop. 

Loath had he been to forego his hermit life among 
the Masian Mountains, where he had lived on wild 
herbs, nuts, and berries; his drink had been the 
torrent; his bed in summer the earth, with the 
leaves of the forest as a covert against the planets 
that strike and the blindness that comes of the light 
of the moon; but in winter, when the great cold 
which is the sister of death was abroad on the heights, 
he took shelter in a cave hewn out of the rock. 

Amid the peace and gladness of that lonely life, 
his nearness to God brought him nearer to men, and 
most of all he loved the people of Nisibis, the city of 
his birth. Far below upon the plain, in the Land 
between the Rivers, it lay glittering within the 

43 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

strength of its triple brown walls ; wide orchards and 
gardens and fruitful fields around it; and Mygdon, 
the blue river, flowing through the midst. Fair as it 
seemed in the beauty of youth, this was one of the 
ancient cities on the earth — as old as Nimrod; and 
Jacobus would stand on a cliff, gazing fondly down 
upon it, but he refused to be its bishop. 

At last his reluctance was overcome by the words 
of an old gardener, who said to him : " Have I leave 
to speak ? Lo, then, I have a lad, and when I bid 
him to keep the foxes from the vines, he answereth 
me, ' Master, I go a-fishing for thee in the pools of 
Mygdon; ' and when I would have him among the 
orange-trees, ' Master,' he saith, ' there is need that 
I gather thee fuel for the pot.' " And as Jacobus 
smiled, " servant of God," said the gardener, 
" what will it avail thee to pray in the mountain, if 
God would have thee for His work in the busy 
streets?" So Jacobus was made bishop; but he 
would not lay aside his hermit garb, " Lest," he said, 
" I should forget the hole of the pit whence I was 
digged; " and he continued to live as of old on 
meagre fare and scant sleep, and was ever ministering 
among his people. 

When long years had passed since the great 
synod, the Emperor Constantine died. He was 
carried to the Byzantium he had built on the edges 

44 



How They Saved Nisibis 

of two continents, and in his tomb they laid him in 
the porch of the Church of the Apostles. Thus did 
the Master of the World watch as a doorkeeper in the 
house of the holy fishermen. 

While he lived the very shadow of his sword held 
the world in awe; now that the strong hand had 
turned to clay sedition spread among the troops of 
the empire, the worshippers of the sun rose in fury 
against the Christians, and Sapor, Sultan of Persia, 
took the field to recover his lost provinces. 

The Land between the Rivers seemed an easy 
conquest and a rich spoil. Nisibis on the frontier 
barred the way. Twice he besieged it, and twice he 
was driven back. For the third attack his summons 
roused the depths of the East. A mighty array swept 
across the floating bridges of the Tigris — hordes of 
Tartar horsemen who used the lasso and scalping knife ; 
hill-tribes of the Five Rivers who were armed with 
bamboo bows and crane-skin shields; Indian kings 
with troops of elephants bearing towers on their 
backs; long trains of engines of war. Scarcely 
visible in the clouds of white dust, legion followed 
legion to the clash of barbaric music. 

The immense host closed with a multitude of 
women, slaves, servants, whole families with their 
children and their aged folk. It was a migration 
rather than a campaign, for these families were to be 

45 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the first settlers in Nisibis when its champions had 
been impaled round the walls and its citizens driven 
with whips into exile. For miles around the clamour 
and tramp of that invasion sounded like the hoarse 
roar of the sea, heard far inland on a frosty night. 

Lucilian was the Governor of Nisibis, but its real 
defender was the Bishop Jacobus. At the first news 
of the advance he assembled the inhabitants, dis- 
tributed arrows, and manned the walls ; and his voice 
rang through the city with the proud cheer of a 
valiant heart: " you men of Nisibis, are not these 
the worshippers of the sun, whom you have driven 
once and yet again from your walls ? They come a 
third time, and yet a third time will you blacken their 
faces. They will encompass you, and sit about the 
city like vultures about a camel fallen on the sand of 
the desert, but why should you fear? Stand fast, 
strike, laughing for joy, for the Lord God will give 
them into your hands, even He who made the sun. 
Quit you as mighty men, knowing that twice you can- 
not die and once you cannot miss. Who saith they 
are many and strong? Nay, if need be, your eyes 
shall be opened and you shall see the mountain, even 
Masius yonder, full of horses and chariots of fire." 

Day and night Jacobus prayed, and Ephrem, the 
Syrian Deacon, went among the people, heartening 
them greatly. And the hosts of Sapor closed about 

46 



How They Saved Nisibis 

Nisibis, and filled the gardens and orchards and the 
fields of rice and wheat. But when many days had 
passed, and the great war-engines were beaten back 
from the walls, and the elephants strove in vain to 
break down the gates with brazen rams, and fire and 
iron came like hail from the towers, Sapor turned the 
course of the river, thinking to reduce the city by thirst. 

When that failed, for there were many wells, he 
cast earthen dikes about Mygdon, huge and high, 
and gathered his waters to a mighty head; and when 
the ripples began to run over the mounds, he loosened 
the waters. They burst in a booming flood upon 
Nisibis; the wall of sun-dried bricks rocked, and foi 
the space of a hundred cubits it fell in a mass, but 
before the Persian hordes could mount to the assault 
there broke upon them wind and rain such as no man 
could withstand, and through the storm raced thunder 
and lightning, as it were horses and chariots of fire. 

All that night the men of Nisibis stood with Jacobus 
and Ephrem in the wide breach, and behind them the 
citizens reared a new wall to the height of five cubits. 
At sunrise drums and cymbals sounded the onset, 
when suddenly upon the rampart appeared a stately 
form in the dazzle of the morning. It was Jacobus, 
golden-mitred and robed in episcopal purple. The 
barbaric music ceased, and dismay checked the assail- 
ants. For a moment the priests of the sun thought 

47 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

it had been the imperial spirit of Constantine himself 
come to the rescue of the city. 

Once again the cymbals clashed amid the beating 
drums, and the heavy cavalry led the wild swarms 
to the breach; but the rushing waters had left unseen 
chasms which swallowed horse and man, and tracts 
of mud in which they floundered and sank. The 
dead became a bridge for the living, and still the 
hordes struggled on. 

Then Jacobus ascended the watch-tower, and 
lifting his arms to heaven chanted in a loud voice — 

" Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; " 

and below, on the new wall, that cry was taken up 
by the warriors of Nisibis. Yet louder than the song 
and the tumult of the onset was heard a sound of 
hissing, as when the bee-keeper beside the hives 
hisses for his bees. And the zimb-fly heard it, and 
came out of the south. As he came, the earth was 
filled with his humming. He came as a little cloud, 
which spread and darkened the sun. In myriads he 
fell on the Persian, man and beast. Horses threw 
their riders and trampled down the dense ranks about 
them. Screaming with pain, the castled elephants 
cut their way with the scythes fastened to their 
trunks, turned upon each other, and died raging. 
An agonising rabble, unable to advance or to retreat, 




Thenyacohtis ascem/ed the wahf) tower and li/t(.ng ^is arms io heaven 
chanted in a loud voice !Xet 9od anse andfet ^is enemies ie scattered^ 



How They Saved Nisibis 

the forlorn hope of Sapor shrieked and perished under 
the dark cloud of the zimb-fliy. 

The sultan leaped from his high throne. " Death 
to thee, God of the Romans! " he cried, and bending 
his bow, shot an arrow into the heavens. Then he 
mounted the great Horse of the Sun and fled, leaving 
twenty thousand slain under the towers of Nisibis. 

In that year Jacobus slept in Christ, and the city, 
weeping, buried him in his raiment of goat-skin; but 
Ephrem the Deacon lived to an old age white as the 
almond-blossom, and left many hymns and songs 
and glowing discourses, which may still be read in 
printed tomes of Latin, Greek, and Syriac. And 
though himself lowly of spirit, it was he who made 
the fair young daughter of the Governor of Edessa 
promise that never again should she enter a litter 
carried by slaves, for, said he, " The neck of man 
should bear no yoke save that of Christ." 




51 




Herve and Christina 



It was in the days of the Saxon conquest, and as 
the invaders pushed onward into the west, St. Gildas 
left the holy island of Avalon, and coming to Armorica 
he founded a monastery on the peninsula which shuts 
in the rock-sown waters of the Morbihan. Within 
his view lay the wooded isle in which his beloved 
Kadoc had made himself a home and had built a 
granite causeway to the shore, for the children who 
thronged to his school from the main land. It was 
among the oaks and pines of Rhuys that his com- 
panion Taliesin sang his mystic songs; in the sunny 
cloister by the blue sea he himself wrote the story 
of the Overthrow. 

" That conquest," he would say, " was a fire which 
raged across Britain till it slaked its red tongue in 
the waters of the sunset." Swords gleamed and 
flames crackled. Fields and farms were wasted. 
Pitiful it was to see the slain lying in the streets among 

53 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

tumbled columns and broken altars and the tops of 
high towers. Many hid themselves in the hills and 
the dark forests, until hunger drove them back, to 
become the serfs of the conquerors. Multitudes fled 
to the sea-shore. They crowded into the frail boats 
covered with bull's hide; their priests led them forth 
into the deep; they sat under the swelling of the sails 
and howled in misery: " Thou hast given us, God, 
like sheep for meat, and hast scattered us among the 
heathen." 

Among the fugitives in that sorrowful exodus was 
the young bard Huvarnion. Tall and winsome, 
master of many tongues, and skilled in all the craft 
of music and verse, he found a welcome among the 
famous gleemen who frequented the court of Childe- 
bert. King of the Franks. Paris he saw when it was 
still Lutetia, the strong little island-city of the Seine; 
and he passed in the king's retinue to more than one 
of the immense farms which the Franks liked better 
than any walled town. There they fleeted the time 
gaily in hunting and fishing and swimming. For the 
great feast at night the boar and fallow-deer were 
roasted whole, and in the oak-pillared hall saga and 
song and the sound of harp and rote alone checked 
the merriment over the beer-horns and silver wine- 
cups. 

But the heart of Huvarnion was often far away 

54 



] 



Herve and Christina 

among the hills beyond Severn, and when at length 
tidings came of a mighty battle in which the heathen 
had been broken and scattered, the bread of exile 
became too bitter and he could remain no longer. 
" You have leave to go," said Childebert, " for every 
man loves best the dust he played in as a child; " 
and the king gladdened him with costly gifts, and 
gave him a letter to the High Chief of Armorica, to 
speed him overseas. 

So Huvarnion reached the coast of Leon, and would 
indeed have sailed, but that thrice he saw in dreams 
a maiden more sweet and fair than awake he had 
ever seen. She stood singing in the glitter of the 
morning beside a spring on the heath, and her song 
was of her quest for simples — Joy-wort for the heavy- 
hearted, and Herb Eye-bright for the blind, and the 
red Cross-flower which prevents death. After his 
third dream Huvarnion rose from sleep. The sunny 
mist was drifting from the heath. Far away he heard 
her singing, and beside a clear spring he found her. 
Her name was Rivanon, and like himself she was a 
minstrel. After a brief wooing there was a joyful 
wedding. 

When their little son was born and they saw that 
he was blind, they wept over him in his mother's 
arms, and called him Herve, which is " bitterness." 
But love sweetened the bitterness. The child throve 

55 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and grew strong and bright in a home where music 
was never silent. He was still very yoi:ng when he 
began to touch the harp-strings, and his father made 
_jiim such an instrument as he could play. Then, as 
he grew bigger and little tunes came to him, " 
mother," he would cry, " isn't this like wild roses on 
the brambles? " or " Listen, mother; would you say 
that was moonlight ? " 

He was scarcely six years old when Huvarnion 
died; and in the autumn after that year Rivanon fell 
ill and lost her strength. One day Herve took her 
hands and placed them upon his shoulders : " See 
how big and brave I am. Now you must let me go 
out and beg for you." She drew him to her and cried 
quietly, but the lad had his way. His little white 
dog led him to the villages and farms, where he sang 
the many songs his mother had taught him. The 
folk were good to him, but there were cruel days in 
the white winter when he could hardly sing at all for 
the chattering of his teeth with cold, and his bare 
feet left red tracks in the snow; and when he reached 
home again, he just fell back into the little child, 
and Rivanon nursed him on her lap and sang and 
cried him to sleep. 

When he was about fourteen or fifteen he spoke to 
her of the great longing that was in his heart. " Some- 
times I think I am like one of those birds which are 

56 



Herve and Christina 

blinded that they may sing the more constantly. 
And oh, mother, how happy would it be for me if a 
hermitage were to be my cage ; and would it not make 
God look glad to hear me singing for Him at all times ?" 

" That perhaps may be God's will, dear son," 
said Rivanon; and she sent him to his great-uncle 
Gourfoed, who was a solitary in the forest of the 
Red Stones. The old man blessed him, and received 
him with joy among his disciples; but Rivanon 
joined a sisterhood of holy women who tended the 
sick and solaced the aged and sorrowful. 

Oh, the blithe school-days in the forest, when one 
could scarce believe that Herve was blind! For he 
seemed to be the very spirit of light, his face shone, 
and he fared as though he saw things by the bright- 
ness of his soul. He came to know the letters by 
shape and touch, so that he might teach others. His 
memory was like a wonderful book, in which the 
Scriptures were written day by day; and all manner 
of skill and deftness lived in his fingers. Out-of-doors 
he could tell the names of the trees by their sound in 
the wind; he was guided by their scent to the places 
where herbs and wild flowers grew; and never a bird 
or beast was there but came to him at call. When a 
wolf killed his little white dog, he put its leash on 
the savage creature, and bade him listen : " It is 
your turn now. Wolf, to lead the blind. People have 

57 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

a saying, ' Like the wolf, which is grey before he is 
good,' but you must be good now and ever after." 
And the wolf looked up into his sightless eyes, and in 
them he saw something that tamed him. 

One day of days, when Herve was grown up, his 
mother came to visit him. Service was just begin- 
ning at the little oak chapel in the forest. There was 
the cross-bearer with his small acolytes in red and 
white; and there were the solitaries in their grey 
habits and hair girdles. They were chanting a 
psalm as they went by in procession, and her heart 
leaped at the sound of Herve's voice, so that she 
cried out in her joy: " God's blessing be with you, 
my dear hermit son. I do not see you, but I would 
know your voice in a thousand." 

It was no great time afterwards that Gourfoed 
called Herve to him and said: " To-morrow we fare 
into the forest, the brethren and I — it may be even 
so far as the Red Stones, and there shall we rest 
until my change has come. But my work here in 
the school I leave to you and your angel. Oh, Herve, 
it is better to teach a little child than to work 
miracles." And when Herve wrung his hands and 
was silent for sorrow, the old man put his arms about 
his shoulders: " Blessed be you, my son, who have 
lifted my heart up many a day! " 

Have you watched the martins " packing " in the 

58 



Herve and Christina 

red autumn evenings, and seen them racing and 
winding and crossing in wild glee; and, when they 
suddenly dropped into the osiers, listened to their 
multitudinous twittering and chirming in the long 
willow-beds ? That was Herve's school at work and 
at play. And the blind teacher was as happy as 
the children. He contrived curious singing-games 
for them, and made many simple rhymes which they 
could easily remember. This was one, which he called 

THE RUDDER OR THE ROCK 

Little coble, 
When the long brown nets are drifting, 
And the green waves gently lifting, 
Take your ease and have your will. 
But when winds are piping shrill, 

Heed the rudder! 
If you won't obey the rudder. 
Then the rock you shall obey. 

Another ran like this, and he called it 

A SONG OF THINKING 

When you waken, let your heart 
Of your senses get the start, 
Springing up in song and prayer 
Higher than the skylark dare. 

" Lord, I give Thee," you shall say, 
" Here a little child to-day. 
Soul and body, wit and will, 
Keep him safe from every ill." 

59 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

See the Fire at work ; behold 
How he laughs in red and gold ! 
Think how easily you might 
Be as helpful and as bright. 

Oh, the heavenly morning Air ! 
God, like that, is everywhere. 
If you rest or if you run, 
Think He sees you, like the Sun. 

Like the glorious Sun that makes 
Roses on the bramble-brakes, 
Think He made you, girl and boy. 
For His love and for His joy. 

When you watch the Carrion-crow 
O'er the moorland croaking go. 
Think how wickedness must be 
Black, and more unclean than he. 

And when little Doves unseen 
Moan among the tree- tops green, 
Think your guardian angels are 
Still more sweet, and whiter far. 

When the stars begin to peep. 
Bless His name before you sleep. 
Make a place for Him in bed 
Who could nowhere lay His head. 

Sign yourself from side to side 
With the cross on which He died. 
So shall angels' wings be drawn 
Round your pillow till the dawn. 

Far and wide his songs and sayings were carried, 
like the winged seeds which the wind sows, till his 
name was loved in places he would never know; and 

60 



Herve and Christina 

solitaries came and built their cells near his chapel, 
that they might live under his rule. The little 
children grew up and others took their places, and 
so the years turned until it happened that Herve was 
awakened by a cry in the night, and knew that it 
was his mother calling. He arose and ran out-of- 
doors, and listened. But all was still in the forest, 
save for the lightest little wakeful leaves, which 
whisper Hush, hush! all night long. While he stood 
in doubt what he should do, some one twitched his 
habit. He gave a start, but immediately laughed to 
himself, and, reaching down, felt the shaggy head of 
Wolf. " Did you too hear ? Then we go." 

The cocks were crowing and the dogs barking, and 
they felt the shiver of the new day long before they 
came to Rivanon. She was lying white and still, at 
the mercy of God; and it was a world, as they say, 
to see her face colour and her eyes shine as she 
embraced her son. Near her was a little maid of six 
years, and Rivanon took the child's hand and laid 
it in his : " This is Christina, my niece. She has been 
with me since her mother died. I give her to you 
and God." Then in a little while she said under 
her breath, " my dear son! " and closed her eyes; 
and they heard a low sigh of heart's-ease as her 
angel led her forth. 

And now the peace of the forest was vexed by the 

6i 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

chiefs of Leon. Ever turbulent and still pagan at 
heart, they came to Herve that he might show them 
the secrets of the stars, and work spells to destroy 
their enemies; and when he denied them, they 
harassed him, now with fresh gifts and now with the 
ruffling of their wild men-at-arms. In his trouble as 
to whither they should go, he went to ask counsel of 
Gourfoed, and with him he took Christina and Wolf, 
for they were his eyes. 

They found the great red standing-stones in a 
distant glade, and in the midst of them the broad 
slab on four rocks, whereon men had been miserably 
sacrificed; but all around grew weeds and briars; 
and half-hidden by these were the ruins of huts, and 
a low mound marked with a cross of stones. So 
Herve knew that the old father Gourfoed was dead, 
and he returned home sorrowful. 

Messengers awaited him from the Bishop of Leon, 
who would fain have made him a priest, but Herve 
was abashed and would not. " Yet, if I be not all 
unworthy," he said, " ordain me an exorcist, that I 
may have power against the Evil One." And the 
good bishop gave him his wish, and counselled him 
to seek a place of peace in the wilds of Cornouaille, 
far to the westward. 

There they found a sheltered spot, beside a spring 
in a coombe of the moorland. Ground was granted 

62 



Herve and Christina 

them, and they cleared and fenced it, and tilled and 
planted; and built themselves cells, making for 
Christina a shelter thatched with broom under a 
cluster of willows. This was her beehive, and Wolf 
was her guardian and playfellow. 

Upon a night when the buckwheat was sprouting, 
Herve's sleep was broken with strange dreams. He 
heard the noise of axe and saw, fall of trees and 
lopping of boughs, and the sound of mallet and chisel 
dressing stone. Out of a mist loomed bullock-teams, 
with timber and grey-green blocks of stone upon the 
tugs. Men whom he could not see were stacking 
wood and piling stone in the coombe. Suddenly he 
was aware of two angels, shining in a great light, and 
at their feet lay a white scroll. It was unrolled upon 
the ground, and pebbles lay upon it to keep it open. 
One angel said to the other, " Shall not Herve take 
the chain and help us ? " The other answered, 
" Better that Herve should first take the scroll and 
scan it." Then Herve took up the scroll, and knew 
it for the builder's plan of a fair minster. One 
moment he studied the lines and figures; the next 
he was watching the angels as they marked and 
measured the ground with the silver chain. All the 
while the air was humming softly with numberless 
small voices, as though bees were singing: " Except 
the Lord — except the Lord shall build the house, 

63 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

they labour in vain — in vain — in vain ; except the Lord 
shall build the house, they labour in vain that build it." 

Then out into the unknown land, to manor and 
farm, to village and town, fared Herve in quest of 
all that was needed for the church of his vision. 
Never before, in the busy streets or on the misty 
moors, had folk stopped to gaze after such strange 
wanderers as the blind hermit, bare-headed and bare- 
footed, with the wolf by his side, and the child 
flitting like a gleesome elf of the apple-trees. Some- 
times they met with but cold comfort, but for the 
most part their very strangeness won them all they 
asked for. 

When the minster was built it was a world of 
wonder how anything so beautiful could have been 
wrought by a blind man; and long afterwards, when 
aged people told how Herve used to sing and play 
to the workmen as they laboured, it became a legend 
that long ago, on a summer night, the minster had 
sprung up to the music of an angel. 

Who so happy as Christina when Herve gave her 
charge of the church, to keep it clean, and to have 
fair white linen and flowers on the altar ? Sometimes 
when she was singing at her task, he would open the 
door softly, and stand to listen; but she would hear 
him, and call, " Uncle, I see you ; " and he would 
quickly steal away, strangely light-hearted. 

64 




Jind to /jave/hir w/)Ue {men andf/owers on iheaftar 



Herve and Christina 

One stern and thrilling scene entered into Herve's 
gentle life before the end. The savage chief Canao 
had slain his brother Hoel; and setting aside Hoel's 
little son Judual, had made himself High Prince 
instead. Treacherous and cruel, he oppressed the 
people, ravaging their fields and burning their home- 
steads. Their holy men alone could help them. 
But when the Bishops of the Nine Churches had 
warned Canao in vain, they sat in council and found 
there was but one way to check the tyrant. 

They assembled on the solitary hill, Menez-Bre, 
from which one looks over leagues of country, and 
along the crinkled shores and the grey sea of Cor- 
nouaille. Upon that hill-top was a dolmen of ancient 
days, and beside it the bishops kindled a torch, and 
giving it to Herve, whom they had summoned to 
them, they bade him utter against Canao the great 
curse which casts a man forth from all Christian 
heritage. And Herve mounted the old stones, and 
cried the curse abroad, weeping; but instead of 
extinguishing the torch, as one who dooms a soul 
to the outer darkness, Herve laid it upon the 
rock. 

Now, far away, while these things were done upon 
the hill Menez-Bre, the little Prince Judual fled for 
safety to the monastery of Leonor. But the holy 
man, Leonor, knowing how little he was like to be 

67 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

in safety there, sent him down at once to the shore 
with one of the brethren, and watched anxiously for 
a sign of their sailing. 

Black with rage came Canao, riding from the 
forest. " Bring me the child," he cried, dismounting. 
" He is not here," replied Leonor. " Where then ? " 
Leonor pointed to the sea : " Mark yon dark sail 
upon the waters. He is beneath it, on his way to 
the King of the Franks." 

Canao struck the holy man in the face, and scream- 
ing, "Not yet too late! " leaped into the saddle and 
dashed the spurs into his stallion's flanks. The 
fierce horse reared with a sharp cry and bounded 
forward. Hand could not hold him; rein could not 
turn him. Stones and turf flew from his hoofs as 
he raced with the bit between his teeth and thundered 
over the brink of the sea-cliffs. 

Far away, upon the hill Menez-Bre, Herve, instead 
of extinguishing the torch, laid it upon the rock: 
" fathers, let it burn so long as it may, in token of 
God's mercy! " 

The little maid was in her fourteenth year, and it 
was late in the autumn. The birch-trees glowed in 
tarnished silver and orange, and berries hung red as 
blood on the briars. The swallows had flown, and 
the starlings; and in the bright blustering weather 

68 



Herve and Christina 

thousands of crumpled leaves flocked and whirled, 
as if they too would fly. 

Christina was singing softly at her work in the 
church, and Herve opened the door; but instead of 
listening, he called her to him : " Christina, little 
sister, make my bed. Spread it here on the ground 
before the altar, that I may be at my Saviour's feet. 
Place a stone for my pillow, and let the bed be ashes, 
that the Dark Angel may find me lying there." 

Christina gazed at him with a frightened face: 
" Oh, uncle, you are not well. Let me take you 
away." 

" Nay, dear child; but do what I ask, and 
quickly." 

Christina ran, weeping bitterly, and told the 
brethren; and they, gathering round Herve, saw 
that his change was nigh. When the ashes were 
strewn before the altar, he lay down upon them and 
said, " Pray for me. My strength is gone; my heart 
fails; this is the end." 

And weeping beside him, Christina prayed: " Oh, 
uncle, do not leave me. Beg of God to let me follow 
you quickly, as a little boat follows the stream." 

" Beg only, little sister," Herve answered, " that 
God's will may be done." 

Then Christina went and lay at his feet, clasping 
them, for they were cold as stone. " How far have 

69 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

I led you, holy feet," she moaned to herself; " and 
whither will you now go without me ? " 

For a little time Herve's lips moved silently. As 
the Dark Angel stilled them with his touch, the 
child's heart broke; and turning away from Herve, 
the Dark Angel laid his hand tenderly upon her 
bright hair. 




70 



Sword and Cross 

In the eastern valleys of the Biharia Mountains 
survive the remains of a people unlike any other in 
Transylvania ; once, as they declare, a powerful 
race and lords of all the land north of the bright 
windings of the River Maros. They live in quaint 
villages which retain the shape of the old waggon 
laagers of their ancestors. On a grassy mound in 
the open space within the village stands the timber 
church, with its green spire and red walls. They 
have a breed of dogs, brought from their ancient 
home in the East, and these are not to be matched 
for strength, speed, and intelligence. 

Although they are good Christians, strange beliefs 
and traditions of a far-off time are mingled with their 
creed; and the most curious token of this is the cross 
they preserve in the oldest of their churches as a 
copy of the first cross venerated by their forefathers. 
It is of great age and of a singular form. Instead of 

71 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

a figure of the Redeemer, a sword, the hilt and cross- 
bar of which are banded with gold and roughly set 
with garnets and topazes of many colours, is sunk into 
the wood, and held in its place with strips of silver. 

The old travellers have made many guesses as to 
the meaning of the cross inlaid with the jewelled 
sword; this is its story. 

When Kunda, the King of the Urogs, was very 
old he dreamed a dream; and he called together his 
warrior chiefs and the priests and magicians. Armed 
with bow and lance, net and whip, they gathered 
about him on their horses, as was their custom, and 
hoary and nearly blind with years, he sat in the midst 
of them on his saddle and told his dream. 

" Speak to the children of the Sword," he said, 
" and bid them make ready for long wanderings. 
We are called hence into the ways of the setting sun. 
For in my sleep I heard the cry of the Sword, and 
this was the cry : ' Open thine eyes and watch 
whither I go. Thither, too, shall my children go, 
roaming far, fighting often, resting little, till I shall 
bring them into the land which I shall win for them.' 
Yea, and I beheld the Sword. It was brandished 
before me as by a mighty hand unseen: and as I 
watched, it travelled across the rolling steppes, 
through swamps and forests, over sweeping rivers, 

72 



Sword and Cross 

and once through the midst of a vast water. At 
sunrise the blade and the jewels glittered with light; 
at nightfall, when the sun went down beyond it, its 
shadow stretched across the world to my feet. Some- 
times the unseen hand bore it lightly, but often it 
seemed to hew its way as it went. Far away it 
climbed through rocks and trees to the chine of high 
mountains. There its point was lowered and waved 
right and left, and as I looked down from the moun- 
tains this was the cry of the Sword : ' This is the 
land. Speak to my children and bid them come and 
take possession.' Then the hand brandished the 
blade aloft, fixed it in the rock by the hilt, snatched 
it up again, and planted it point downwards." 

And the old king, gazing round on these wild, 
eager-eyed nomads who had seen but the sandy 
deserts sprinkled with thorns, and the marshy shores 
of the Caspian, and the illimitable steppes which 
turned to a dull brown when the spring rains had 
ceased, told of a land more rich and beautiful than 
it seemed possible for the world to contain — a land 
of shadows as well as of sun, of game as well as of 
pasture, where hunger and thirst were unknown. 
" But why the Sword was first planted point upwards 
and then reversed, that," he said, " I know not." 

All that year the tribes prepared for their emigra- 
tion, and in the following spring, when the grasses 

73 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

flowered shoulder-high on the wide prairies, a mighty 

multitude gathered for their exodus; the women and 

children in numberless ox-waggons, the men on the 

swift little horses from which they seemed to be 

inseparable. 

Before they set out, the great Sword which they 

worshipped was unwound from its silk wrappings 

and reared upon the mound of sacrifice. The priests 

chanted their savage hymn of the red death. Seven 

men, captured in a raid undertaken for the sacrifice, 

were led forth, and one by one the priests slew them 

with the Sword. While the victims fell and the idol 

was again planted, with its hilt buried in the turf to 

the jewelled cross-bar, and the blade reddened with 

slaughter, the barbaric chant rose once more from 

the mound: 

"Drink thy seven-fold cup, thou glittering god! 
With treasure we have decked thee, 
Fair of colour is thy raiment; 
Drink, shining hero, and quench thy thirst ! 
What sons hast thou to avenge thee ? 
None, if we are not thy sons. 
What brides hast thou ? 
Our women are thy brides. 
Be ever gracious and victorious, 
Lest our worship be turned to a song of reviling; 
March mightUy before us, 
Lest we leave thee wifeless and childless." 

Twice during that long journey the tall grasses of 
the steppes were burnt up in the blaze of summer, 

74 



Sword and Cross 

and twice the winter beat with snow and hail on their 
waggon-laager. Spaces strewn with whitened bones 
marked for many a year where they stood and fought 
and conquered and pushed on again to the country 
of the vision. For centuries afterwards shepherds 
watched their flocks on the vast plains from the tops 
of the mounds in which they laid their great warriors 
fallen; the little heaps which covered those who had 
sickened and died by the way were but as waves of 
the mid sea, visible for a moment and then lost for 
ever in the waste. 

Following a hunted stag, they forded the shallows 
of the Sea of Azov; how they carried their long 
team of waggons over the broad rivers of the West is 
still an unexplained wonder. 

In the third springtime they came to the mountain 
forests and ascended to the blue summits from which 
Kunda had seen the Sword pointing downwards and 
waving right and left over the inheritance of the 
Urogs. 

The aged king looked down from the top of the 
pass, but to his dim eyes all below was a vague 
brightness. " Is it indeed," he asked, " a fair land 
of sun and shadow ? Was the cry of the Sword a 
song of truth ? " 

" No fairer land have I ever beheld," replied Zagon 
the high priest. 

75 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

It was that Dacia beyond Danube and the deep 
woods which Trajan had conquered, and which the 
Romans had abandoned to the barbarians over a 
hundred years. The great roads still traversed it, 
reaching out into infinite distance; and these silent 
highways which had overawed the northern invaders 
were now to fill the Urogs with more amazement 
than the ruined temples and the forsaken cities. 
Large trees had spread their branches over the old 
camps; a darker growth of legends — wild stories of 
phantoms and deadly hoards of treasure arose around 
the grass-grown streets and pillared forums; and the 
spell of these mysterious remains was to fall upon 
the new-comers. 

" Over all," said Zagon, " there is a dazzle of gold; 
green and wide are the pastures; strange encamp- 
ments too, I see — folk, doubtless, who dwell in tents and 
laagers of stone, such as those we slew on the plains." 

" Then peace be on thy head, Sword, thou 
glittering god of the world!" cried Kunda; "Now 
I have lived long enough." And as the hoary man 
spoke he sank forward on his horse's neck. 

When they raised him up they found that he was 
dead. His son Haba was chosen in his place, and 
bearing the old king with them they poured down 
the mountains into the land which the Sword had 
promised. 

76 



Sword and Cross 

That sudden invasion brought Goths and Getes 
face to face with an enemy more fierce and ruthless 
even than themselves. The swarms of horsemen 
scattered and wheeled and dashed round them like 
a scurry of clouds in a tempest. They charged in a 
flight of arrows or a rush of spears. If the Goths 
broke and fled, trained packs of dogs, half-wolf, with 
spiked collars, pursued them and pulled them down. 
Did a champion shake his long yellow hair and stride 
out for single combat, a net was flung over him and 
he was cut down amid shrieks of laughter. Even 
within the trenches death hovered over the camp 
fires, for the archers of the night were abroad, and 
every gleam of flame was a mark for an arrow. And 
upon the town walls the defenders learned to be wary, 
for as a troop of flying horsemen swept past, one 
would ride nearer and suddenly swing his whip 
round his head; a slender thong would flash like a 
living thing over a space of thirty feet and curl about 
the neck of a man-at-arms, and in an instant the 
hapless wretch would be plucked from the battle- 
ments. Night was haunted by a new terror for the 
scouts. Steal as craftily as they might through the 
darkness, they came upon the Ugor — the man asleep 
in his saddle, the horse alert and watchful; and the 
snapping of dry wood or the tread of a careless foot 
awakened a hoarse cry and brought a score of shadowy 

77 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

riders to the spot. People began to believe that 
these terrible rovers lived, ate, slept, died on horse- 
back; indeed it was said at last that the Ugor was 
a beast-man, the evil and mysterious offspring of 
the desert. 

As the invaders moved westwards through the 
fruitful land, they came to Ravna, a little walled 
town built out of the wreck of a Roman city on one 
of the great roads. Fragments of marble columns 
still lay half-buried on the green mounds which 
covered the ruins; and for some distance on each 
side the highway was lined with the stately tombs 
of the vanished Romans. Many of these structures 
had fallen into decay; the largest had been rifled 
for treasure, the sculptured marble cofhns had been 
broken open, and the ashes of the dead cast out to 
the four winds. 

In one of these chambers of silence the saintly 
Eirenion had taken up his abode. For many years 
he had wandered over Dacia, proclaiming the tidings 
of salvation. Disciples had gathered about his 
hermitage; he had taught them and sent them abroad 
to the towns and villages. The common people 
adored him; even the proudest of the Gothic warriors 
treated him with reverence. It was never forgotten 
how, long ago, the great Bishop Wulfila, after blessing 
his labours and embracing him with the kiss of 

78 



Sword and Cross 

peace, had turned to the chiefs and said in a low 
voice : " Bow down your heads before this man. 
Ask not his name, but know that once, under Con- 
stantine the Emperor, he was a greater soldier than 
any of you, and to-day he is the beloved servant of 
the Lord Christ." In his grey hair and his humble 
garb he stood now as tall and commanding as they, 
and folk still talked of the time when he was a leader 
of the legions. 

Now it befell in these days of warfare with the 
Ugors that as Eirenion knelt in his hermitage praying 
for the peace and welfare of his people, he was startled 
by a long sound of moaning, which grew into a clamour 
of voices and the noise of a multitude in rapid move- 
ment. Going to the entrance of the tomb, he saw 
that it was a host of men fleeing in mad rout to the 
town for safety. 

The ranks of the Goths had been broken and panic 
had fallen upon their host. He hastened to the 
roadside and stretching his hands up against them, 
he cried in a loud voice, " Turn, men, and make a 
stand ! " But the crowds rushed on, panting and 
shouting, with white, wet faces. Many broke away 
at his cry and dispersed among the tombs and the 
mounds of the Roman ruins, but in the blindness of fear 
hundreds were swept past the town gates, and were 
conscious only of the long straight road before them. 

79 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

As the confused mass streamed along, Eirenion 
perceived that the swarthy horsemen, here and there 
in twos and threes, here and there in sixes and sevens, 
were mingled with the yellow-haired fugitives; and 
as they rode, their arrows flew before them, lances 
were plunged forward and downwards with rapid 
thrusts, swords flashed right and left; and ever the 
heaving and shouting chaos raced on until the rout 
closed in the dense swarms of the Ugor horde. 

During the fruitless attack upon the town, the 
fighting among the tombs, and the fierce pursuit on 
the long, straight road, Eirenion ministered to the 
wounded and the dying. When the first skirmishers 
showed that the enemy were returning he stood a 
little aside to scan the appearance of these unknown 
wanderers. Now and again horsemen started out 
from the savage throng, threatening to ride him 
down; they saw the tall priest erect, with kingly eyes, 
wave his hand in a great sign of the cross between 
him and them, and they fell back awe-struck. 

In the midst of the horde appeared a band of 
prisoners on foot, blood-stained and bound with 
thongs. Eirenion moved towards them with a 
friendly gesture, and was allowed to take his place 
at their head. " Whither you go, sons," he cried, 
" I go with you, if it be God's will. Let us fare 
onwards without care, trusting in Him, the Most 

80 



Sword and Cross 

Mighty. In His hands is the gift of life, in His hands 
is the gift of death, and which gift is the better for 
us He alone knoweth. Remember the strong hearts 
of your fathers even in the days when they knew Him 
not, and quit you as true men of Christ." 

And continually, as they marched on, he raised 
his voice in hymns and prayers, so that the Ugors 
looked on with amazement, and called to each other, 
" This man is their mighty magician. See how 
proudly now these slaves go, and how he has made 
their faces to shine! " 

Wounded and weary, they lay that night under 
the stars with the trained dogs couched in a circle 
round them; and a single sentry, slumbering on his 
horse, was their only human guard. Never was the 
light of the sun more sweet to men's eyes than that 
which warmed them on the morrow. Then as the 
noise and stir of the day began, the Ugor priests 
came and surveyed the captives, and choosing 
seven of the youngest and comeliest they led them 
away. 

Eirenion went forth with them. Passing through 
a throng of horsemen, they came to a mound in the 
midst of the encampment, and as Eirenion looked 
up and saw, fixed on the summit of the mound, a 
naked sword which glittered, " This sword," he said, 
" is surely the idol of these heathen people, and they 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

will slay these men as an offering. Lord God, let 
not this be ! " 

Eagerly he glanced about for king or leader in 
that strange horde. A little apart stood two men 
who seemed more commanding than the rest, and 
hastening towards them he addressed them in words 
and in gestures so expressive that most of what he 
said was as clear as though he had spoken in their 
own tongue: 

" These men are worshippers of that Almighty One 
in the heavens who is the Lord and Giver of life. He 
hath made them in His image; their blood you shall 
not shed to the idol of your people. He of you who 
is king, let him take his sword and free them from 
their bonds." 

" Behold, Zagon," said Haba, " this man is a priest 
of great power even as thou art thyself. He would 
unbind the victims. Let it be as he says. They 
cannot escape the Sword." 

The priest frowned, but he went and cut their 
thongs, and the captives made no movement, but 
stood in their place watching Eirenion. 

Then pointing to the naked sword on the mound, 
Eirenion said to the king, " Cast down this idol of 
slaughter and of sorrow, and turn thy heart to the 
true God who takes no delight in the shedding of 
blood." And even while Eirenion was speaking he 

82 




Jje/joldj ye 'people-, the si an ofuur rcdeeminq. 



Sword and Cross 

was vaguely aware of the words of the Evangelist, 
" Not to send peace but a sword," the jewelled cross- 
bar seemed to flash light into his very soul, and 
suddenly he perceived how in shape and in mean- 
ing Sword and Cross were one. He drew from his 
breast a silver cross, and put it into Haba's hands: 

" Look, King, upon this sign and upon that. Let 
me show thee how thou and thy people shall bow 
down and worship." 

Swiftly he sprang up the mound, plucked the 
weapon from the turf, and brandished it with a 
joyful shout. " Behold, ye people, the sign of our 
redeeming," and planting it point downwards in the 
earth — no longer a murderous Sword but a glorious 
Cross — knelt with bowed head before it. 

The daring act was greeted with a tumultuous 
uproar, but Haba lifted his hand for silence. " Sons 
of the Sword," he cried, " this too was in the vision 
of Kunda my father. Did ye not hear him say that 
the hand of the Spirit of the Sword first fixed it by 
the hilt, then snatched it up, and planted it with its 
point in the rock ? This man, whoever he may be, 
is truly some priest of strange power, and has wrought 
as the Spirit of the Sword bade him. Behold now, 
and heed it well, he is Haba's friend." 

Eirenion descended from the mound, and taking 
the silver cross he showed the king how it resembled 

85 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the reversed weapon which they had so barbarously 
adored. He strove to tell him how the Son of God 
had come down from heaven and died a cruel death 
for the sins of men, but Haba, though he listened 
gravely, could understand but little of what was 
said of the mystery of redemption. 

After the captive Goths had been set free, Eirenion 
remained and took up his abode with the Ugors; 
and as though he had received some portion of the 
divine gift of tongues he quickly mastered their 
language. With undying patience he taught them, 
winning their wild hearts to gentleness and peace; 
and many thousands were baptised in the waters of 
the Dacian streams. 

He explained to them the mystery of the corn- 
fields, how they nourished the world, and the craft of 
fire and the craft of water, so that they should rise 
to a higher life than that of the beast which slays 
and devours and has no store or comfort against the 
hard winter. Purging their gross worship, yet taking 
thought of the way in which men cling to the customs 
of their fathers, he wrought for them a symbol which 
blended together both Cross and Sword; and wreath- 
ing this with the branches of trees in the months of 
blossom, and with fair fruit and ears of corn in the 
harvest, they offered a bloodless sacrifice. 

86 



Sword and Cross 

Most of the Ugor priests furiously resisted these 
changes; and the more savage spirits of the horde, 
revolting from Haba and taking Zagon for king, 
drew a great following after them as they swept away 
westwards. A little time after that, when the Huns 
burst in myriads over the mountains, these tribes 
threw in their lot with the invaders. 

But Eirenion made peace between his converts 
and the Goths and Getes, and Haba led them into 
the valleys of the Biharia mountains, where they 
outlived the nomad hunger for constant change and 
the vast, free spaces of the desert and the steppes. 
Eirenion died among them in extreme old age; and 
the humble priest who had been one of the great 
soldiers of Constantine was laid by these sons of the 
Cross and Sword in such a mound as they had been 
used to raise over the mightiest of their warriors. 




87 




The Soul of Justinian 

It was the festival of the Star, the Star of the Magi. 
An unclouded sun glittered on the waters of the 
Golden Horn, on the swift ocean-stream which 
divided the eastern from the western world, on the 
beauty and splendour of Constantinople. 

The vast Hippodrome was thronged, and the 
marble benches glowed like a hanging garden with 
the colours of the rival factions of the city, the Blues 
and Greens, and their allies the Reds and Whites. 
The confused noise of upwards of thirty thousand 
people swelled into a long indescribable roar as the 
flying chariots, gay with party colours, dashed down 
the course in a storm of thundering hoofs and tossing 
manes, doubled round the goal-pillar, and swept 
back again on the further side of the statues and 
obelisks which filled the long central space of the 
stadium. 

With a somewhat moody aspect Justinian surveyed 

89 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the stirring spectacle from his throne. Every now 
and again as some fresh demonstration drew his 
attention to the Greens, his eyes rested on their 
ranks in cold displeasure. Almost from the begin- 
ning this faction had disturbed the games with their 
persistent outcries: " Health to Caesar! Long life to 
Caesar! Listen to the oppressed; grant us justice! " 
Race after race their complaint rose in shriller 
clamour against the Quaestor Tribonian and the 
Prefect John of Cappadocia, who were filling their 
own coffers by their merciless extortions. " We are 
poor, we are ground down, we are fleeced and flayed. 
If we must die, let it be in thy service. Victory to 
Caesar! " 

At the twentieth race Justinian lost patience. He 
made a sign to one of his heralds, and a ringing voice 
carried the imperial rebuke over the wide expanse of 
the amphitheatre : " Peace, you mouths of brass ! 
Silence and humility, you thankless Jews and 
Samaritans! " The cries of the faction became but 
the more vehement, and as the herald flung back 
the accents of the emperor's irritation and scornful 
indifference, the appeals for justice and relief turned 
into howls of rage and vituperation : " We renounce 
thee, Caesar! Justinian without justice! Cursed be 
the day this man's father was born! Thracian 
tyrant and protector of thieves! " 

90 



The Soul of Justinian 

The emperor himself rose grimly from his throne, 
and for a moment dead silence fell upon the multitude. 
" Have you no care for your lives ? " he asked m 
cold, clear tones which travelled far. 

It was the thoughtless folly of an angry man. The 
words were taken as an incentive by the Blues, 
whom Justinian had hitherto generally favoured. 
The faction, loyalist in politics and orthodox in faith, 
included the wild and lawless youth of the city, who 
affected the long hair and ruffling garb of the Bar- 
barians, went secretly armed by day and infested 
the streets at night. 

They sprang down from their seats, and in an 
instant the course of the Hippodrome was filled with 
yelling crowds mingled in savage conflict. The 
Greens, overborne by their opponents, turned and 
fled, and for hours the streets of Constantinople 
were given over to riot and bloodshed. Seven of the 
ringleaders of both parties were captured by the 
police, summarily tried, condemned, and hurried off 
to execution. Five were beheaded; the ropes broke 
as the last two — a Blue and a Green — were being 
hanged, and the mob overwhelmed the guard and 
rescued them. 

For the time being the factions set aside their 
mutual hatred, and made common cause against the 
tyrant who oppressed his people and the patron who 

91 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

assassinated his adherents. The prisons were emptied, 
palaces and private mansions pillaged, and at the 
first attempt of the civic troops to quell the sedition, 
the city was set on fire. In the spreading flames, 
which threatened to reduce the capital of the East 
to ashes, perished amid the wreck of priceless works 
of antiquity and the loss of enormous treasure the 
noble Cathedral of Sancta Sophia, founded by 
Constantine. 

For five days the destinies of the Empire trembled 
in the scales. The factions chose another Caesar, and 
crowned him in the Hippodrome with a woman's 
necklace. In the palace Justinian, disheartened and 
unnerved, took counsel with his chief ministers and 
the officers of his guard whether, like the Emperor 
Zeno, he should seek refuge for a time in Asia. John 
the Cappadocian and most of his colleagues gave 
their voice for flight. 

Beyond the blue strait of the Bosporus the sunny 
shores lay within view. Already this disastrous 
course seemed to have been adopted, when the future 
of the world was decided by the fairest and the 
proudest woman in Europe. 

" A woman's voice," said the Empress Theodora, 
" is an unwelcome sound in the council chamber; 
but those who have most at stake have the best right 
to speak. Death is the common lot of sovereign and 

92 



The Soul of Justinian 

slave; but flight from death is the coward's choice. 
Even if flight meant safety, I should not flee. Not 
for one hour shall I forego this diadem or yield the 
name of empress. Yonder is the sea; there are the 
ships. Escape is easy. But consider, Caesar! When 
you have bartered empire for the bread of exile and 
honour for safety, will desire to live ensure you 
against an ignoble end ? For my part I am at one with 
the old saying : The purple robe is a brave shroud." 

Fired by her intrepid spirit, Justinian sprang to 
his feet: "No more talk of retreat; here we hold 
to the end! " 

"You need a man," said Theodora; " Belisar is 
here." 

The emperor inclined with a gracious smile to the 
tall figure of the brilliant young Thracian, just 
returned from the Persian war. " What troops 
have you, General ? " 

" Five hundred horse, Caesar, and some two 
thousand veterans." 

" Then trample me out these factious firebrands." 

Rumours of Justinian's flight had spread through 
Constantinople, and the success of the revolution 
appeared already secured. The insurgents crowded 
the Hippodrome, hailing their necklace Caesar with 
cries of " Long life and victory." An attempt to 

93 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

take them by surprise through the winding staircase 
between the palace and the amphitheatre was found 
to be impracticable; and Belisar, dividing his forces, 
assailed at the same moment the two main portals. 
As he forced his way through the Gate of Death, he 
gazed with the pity of a great soldier on the immense 
multitude. At the startling apparition of the cavalry 
and the imperial standard, the people rose in masses 
and rushed down headlong into the clearest course; 
the trumpets sounded; the issues were choked by 
the crush of struggling fugitives; the terrible carnage 
began. 

The slain were counted by tens of thousands, and 
for a generation the cries and colours of the factions 
were unknown in the streets of the capital. 

In his calmer moments Justinian too regretted that 
horrible destruction of men whom God had made in 
His own image. One taunt hurled at him by the 
Greens rankled in his memory — " Justinian the 
Unjust! " His Thracian name, his name as a 
shepherd lad on the green plains about Sardica, had 
been Uprauda, the Upright. He had been raised 
from the sheepfold to the throne, and he was smitten 
with remorse as he reflected how the neglect of 
justice, the refusal to right the wrong, had brought 
about the catastrophe. 

And the great church, the church of the Divine 

94 



The Soul of Justinian 

Wisdom, the Eternal Word, the Second Person o£ 
the Holy Trinity, had gone up in flames through his 
folly. Henceforth his twofold purpose in life should 
be to raise a temple beyond the dreams of human 
worship, and to reunite the East and the West in one 
world-empire under the cross of Christ. 

Justinian slept but little. Rising early, he devoted 
the day to affairs of state; after sunset his own day 
began. He read and wrote far into the night, 
wandered for hours through the dim corridors, or 
mused in the moonlight or under the brilliant stars 
on the long marble galleries which overlooked the 
gardens and the sea. 

The blackened heaps of the ruined cathedral had 
not yet been wholly cleared away when, upon one of 
those spring-like nights which occur in January, the 
emperor, as he paced the outer gallery, became 
conscious of an extraordinary brightness in the air 
and a marvellous clearness of vision. Far away 
beyond the silvery waters of the Propontis — far away 
and yet so vivid as to seem near — he beheld the 
lofty white pillars of an old temple on a wooded hill 
in a green island. The temple was in ruins; most 
of the great columns had been shaken down by 
earthquake, but those which were still standing 
gleamed with strange beauty in the wonderful 
luminousness of the night. 

95 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Was Justinian dreaming, or was this a vision 
granted to the eyes of the spirit ? 

" Thus in the days of that ignorance at which 
God winked " 

The words were spoken close by his side. Startled, 
he turned and glanced around, but he was alone on 
the starlit gallery; and the low crystalline voice, 
which seemed to come out of the air, continued: 

" Thus it was that people worshipped aforetime 
what they believed to be divine, for unto no man 
hath been denied some inkling of Him who breathed 
the spirit of life into the clay He fashioned. Yon 
isle is Cyzicus; the temple was that of Cybele, whom 
men adored as the venerable mother of the gods. 
Look further! " 

In the warm hush and magical transparency of 
the night there appeared to glide before him, not a 
picture, but the living aspect of the idolatry of the 
pagan world. 

" The white city between the hill-sides and the 
harbour," said the voice, " is Ephesus. The clamour 
of the silversmiths has long been laid with dust; 
Diana the Great has fallen; yet these mighty columns 
of green jasper still flash out over the sea to the 
passing ships. Delos thou knowest, this little isle of 
the Cyclades, ' the star of the dark earth.' Here 
between the cedars and the snow, in the valley 

96 



The Soul of Justinian 

between the mountains, behold the City of the Sun 
and the thousand pillars of the shrine of Osiris. Why 
art thou moved ? Why do thine eyes fill with light ? 
What thought has sprung up in thy heart ? " 

" Lord God," cried Justinian, raising his hands in 
ecstasy, " let me live to build a new house to thy 
glory. Let the dead praise Thee whom they knew 
not when they were alive. Let the ancient worship 
of all lands add its splendour to the splendour of 
Thy temple. Shall not the great and costly stones 
which men reared to Isis and Cybele and all their 
shadowy dreams of Thee rear Thy cross into the 
heavens? So suffer Thy name to be uplifted high 
above all names, and the revelation of Thy mercy to 
be exalted over all that the world has believed and 
hoped of Thee! " 

" Then let me help thee," said the voice. He felt 
a touch upon his shoulder, as light as a snowflake. 
Beside him stood an angel, six-winged, dimly lumin- 
ous, scarcely separable from the air, yet softly 
iridescent with the innumerable colours of gems and 
flowers. 

" Look, does this please thee ? " 

With a thrill of rapture Justinian beheld on the 
palm of the angel's hand the model of such a church 
as had never yet been conceived by human genius. 
Without and within he saw it, with its storied walls 

97 G 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and springing columns, from the golden pavement 
to the glittering dome, which floated airily aloft as 
though it were hung from a starry chain. 

" Look again and yet again," said the angel, " so 
that thou shalt not forget anything thou hast been 
shown." 

" Give me angels to achieve this," said the em- 
peror; " it is a labour and a glory beyond the skill 
and strength of men." 

" Then thou couldst scarcely say the work was 
thine. Nay, come thou but as near as thou canst 
to the vision which has been vouchsafed thee. There- 
in man touches the topmost flower of service." 

" Stay yet a moment," cried Justinian, as the 
angelic form began to fade away into the starlit 
air. But only the low clear voice answered from 
lips unseen, " God prosper thee with all happiness," 
and the emperor was alone. 

Early on the morrow he summoned the famous 
architects, Anthemius the Lydian and Isidore of 
Miletus; and laying before them rude drawings of 
the great basilica, he described the wondrous church 
which he had seen in the angel's hand. As they 
listened, they referred from time to time to his 
drawings, and rapidly sketched plans of the edifice 
which his words conjured up in the mind's eye. 
Noting each stroke of their pencils and answering 

98 



The Soul of Justinian 

the questions they asked, Justinian corrected and 
changed many of the lines of their draughting. " Not 
so," he would say; " but thus it was and thus." 

Then he told them how their labour would be 
lightened and shortened by the store of wrought 
marble and costly stone brought from other lands. 
" Time is fleeting, flesh fades as the flower-de-luce, 
life flutters to its fall as the leaf on the tree; where- 
fore, I pray you, make good speed. Treasure shall 
not fail. Material you shall not lack, nor men. A 
hundred master-builders you shall have, and each 
master-builder a hundred workmen; and I would 
have five thousand labouring on the right hand, and 
five thousand on the left, and daily at sundown each 
shall be paid in silver pieces." 

Think now that you see the enormous task begun; 
that as if by enchantment the past is again alive, 
and stirring and resounding with the din of traffic 
and labour. On the cleared ground the masters 
measure off with white wands ten times the area of 
Solomon's Temple. Hundreds of men dig in the 
trenches; hundreds plant deep the foundation 
courses. The slaking lime fumes in white pools 
among the tawny sand-heaps. The huge scaffold 
poles are lashed together. 

In the distant brick-fields swarms of people hurry 
to and fro; bricks dry in long streets; the kilns 

99 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

smoke like a plundered city. War-galleys and broad- 
beamed merchant ships heave in from the freshening 
sea with slabs and drums from the granite and 
porphyry quarries and the sculptured spoils of the 
vanished gods. The sailors pull together to their 
wild sea-chants ; the giant cranes swing their burdens 
round; teams of huge-horned cattle and gangs of half- 
naked slaves strain at the hawsers, and the rollers 
groan under the colossal loads. 

Day after day, clad in coarse linen tunic and white 
headcloth, with a plain staff in his hand, Justinian 
mingled with the ten thousand workmen whose lowly 
lives were being wrought into the vast structure of 
the basilica. Penetrating everywhere, noting every- 
thing, climbing from scaffold to scaffold, putting a 
royal hand to some effort of strength, he passed 
from one busy group to another, praised, scolded, 
encouraged, jested, rewarded pieces of rapid and skilful 
labour with extraordinary gifts. 

With flushed cheeks and radiant eyes he gazed at 
last at the magnificent columns which towered above 
him. East and west of the massive piers which 
were to heave the dome into the blue heavens, eight 
porphyry pillars, based on white marble, crowned 
with white marble, recalled the splendour of the 
temple of the Sun. " Diana of the Ephesians," 
he exclaimed, " these on the north and south were 



The Soul of Justinian 

of thy treasures of green jasper, larger and more 
beautiful than any! These were thine, Virgin 
Pallas, when men adored thee at Athens; these thine, 
Phoebus, the Shining Archer, when they worshipped 
thee in Delos; these thine, venerable mother of the 
gods, in the morning of time at Cyzicus. Now, Lord, 
are they all Thine, glory to Thee and to Thy Christ! " 

Nor were Justinian's the only eyes which ranged 
watchfully over the work of the great church. When 
the masons were finishing the eastern niche, shaped 
like a vast sea-shell, wherein the altar was to stand, 
there was much questioning as to how the light 
should fall upon it. The architects had planned for 
but one window, but Justinian said, " Nay, surely, 
let there be two." 

Then said Anthemius the Lydian, bowing low: 
" Will not Caesar take account of the imagery and 
significance which may beautify these things ? One 
is the true light which enlighteneth every man. 
There is one altar and one sacrifice. One faith there 
is and one baptism; one fold and one shepherd; 
one God and Father of all." 

" Yea, Caesar," added Isidore of Miletus, " and 
doth not Ecclesiastes say, ' There is one alone, and 
there is not a second ' ? " 

The emperor laughed outright : " And verily 
Ecclesiastes also saith, ' Two are better than one ' 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and I would bid thee remember, Anthemius, that 
God made two great lights; two ways there are 
whereon men shall tremble grievously in the dark, 
and these are Life and Death; two movements are 
there of the reason and will whereon man stands in 
sore need of illumination, and these are Yea and Nay. 
And whether these be good reasons or not, methinks 
more light will fall on the altar from two windows 
than from one." 

" Let the light come from three windows, and this 
shall be the altar of the Holy Trinity! " 

The words were uttered by a tall man of great 
beauty and majesty. He came towards them as he 
spoke. They observed with surprise that he was 
clothed in purple, and that his shoes were of the same 
imperial colour. For a moment his eyes turned from 
one to the other, then with a bewildering suddenness 
he vanished from their sight. 

Not many days later, when all the place was still 
at the hour of the noontide slumber, and a little lad 
watched the masons' tools, there came a stately man 
in brilliant white robes. This, thought the lad, is 
doubtless the chief eunuch or some high officer of the 
palace, and he bowed low to him. 

" Go, child, and waken the men," said the stranger, 
" and bid them return to their labour. The hour of 
sleep is gone by." 



The Soul of Justinian 

" Is this the order of Caesar, lord ? " 

" It is my bidding." 

" Then I dare not, great lord, they would slay me 
ere they were well awake." 

" Then get thee to the emperor, and bid him come 
to me." 

" This is my place, illustrious one," the lad 
answered, " here I watch the tools and keep all safe; 
and though I would readily serve thee, from this 
spot I must not budge." 

" I will watch and guard for thee." 

The lad looked up full of doubt and shook his 
head. " A lost life should I be were I to go hence, 
and the men were to find the place untended." 

" Nay, then, unbeliever, I vow by the Holy Wisdom 
not to quit this spot, but to keep all safe till thy 
return. Do as I bid thee." 

Then the lad ran upon his errand, and as he drew 
near the palace, he met the emperor coming forth in 
his workman's garb. Having fallen at his feet, he 
looked up and panted: " I was sent to thee, Lord 
of the World : have I leave to speak ? " 

" Speak," said Justinian; and when the lad had 
told his story, " Think a little," he said, " and be 
very sure of what thou sayest. Were those the very 
words he spoke ? Repeat them." 

The lad repeated them: " I vow by the Holy 

103 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Wisdom not to quit this spot but to keep all safe 
tiU thy return." 

Then joyfully laughed Justinian: "Of such a 
guardian never could I have dreamed. Now may I 
ask trustfully, Watchman, what of the night? 
Watchman, what of the dawn? Come, boy, with 
me." 

He hastened back to the palace. To one high 
officer he said : " Have a ship ready to sail at once 
for the Cyclades." To another: "Give the child 
meat and drink and raiment. When the ship is 
ready put him aboard, and stay on the wharf till 
thou canst see it no longer." To a third : " Seek 
out the lad's home, and provide for his family if 
they would depart with him." To the lad himself: 
" Henceforth I wiU see to thy welfare, but never 
more do thou return to Constantinople." 

Lo! now, with an easy heart Justinian watched 
the cupolas and the vast dome arise. The vaulting 
was in white tiles of Rhodian clay, marvellous for 
lightness. On the tiles was graven : 

"God hath founded it; overthrown it shall not be; He will 
uphold it in the blush of dawn; " 

and the masons, as they set them, built in sacred 
relics, and hymns were sung in the nave far below. 
Four-and-twenty windows seemed to lift the dome 
clear into the air. From its inner surface looked 

104 



The Soul of Justinian 

down four six-winged seraphs, wrought in little cubes 
of gilt glass and glittering colours. The dazzle of 
the gold cross that crowned it without was seen in 
Bithynia from the snowy tops of Olympus. 

Then were all the walls covered with the beauty 
of marble — slabs of purple Phrygian with silver stars, 
of green Laconian, of blue Lybian, of black Celtic 
with white veins, of pale Lydian with red flowers. 
But wearisome would it be to tell of all the splendour 
of silver and bronze, of ivory and amber, of cedar 
and chrysoprase. Neither will I speak of the altar 
shimmering with gems as the Milky Way shimmers 
with stars, nor of the four-and-twenty colossal books 
of the Gospels, bound in thick plates of gold. More 
peaceful and sweet it is to think of the cool pavement, 
in which the marble was marked as with the ripples 
of waters flowing in four rivers through Paradise; 
and of the baptismal font, which was a copy of the 
well whereon Jesus sat, wearied in Samaria. 

Five years, eleven months, and ten days after its 
foundation the church of the Holy Wisdom was 
consecrated. The year was the year of our Lord 538, 
and the day was Christmas Eve. 

Justinian drove from the palace, like a victor in a 
chariot drawn by four horses. The Patriarch received 
him at the lofty portals. Over the entrance the Bible 
upon a throne was figured in a bas-relief of bronze, 

105 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and upon its open page was written: " I am the 

door; by me if any man enter in " Justinian 

ran from the threshold to the stately terraced rostrum, 
and there he said, with arms outstretched: " Praised 
be the Lord God, who hath deemed me worthy to 
achieve such a work. Solomon, I have surpassed 
thee!" 

So Justinian had his heart's desire. 

From the pinnacles of greatness the Thracian 
shepherd lad Uprauda looked out abroad over the 
nations, dreaming of his world-empire. Under the 
suns of three continents, Belisar, who had already 
saved him, fought his battles, ever loyal and irresist- 
ible. Conquest was added to conquest; tribute and 
spoil was poured into his treasury; kings clad in 
purple were led in triumph through the streets to 
his footstool crying, " Vanity, vanity! all is vanity! " 

In the watches of the night, as he wandered with 
sleepless energy, he was tempted to challenge the 
mighty seraph who kept watch and ward, faithful to 
his vow, in the shadows of Sancta Sophia. And 
behold! as often as that thought was played with in 
the emperor's fancy the angel heard it sounding 
down the nave like the challenge of the guards on 
the city walls in the dark. 

With the wondrous vision of angelic beings the 

J 06 



The Soul of Justinian 

seraph saw into Justinian's soul, and breathed a 
long sigh: "How quickly the small seeds of evil 
spring! A little time ago thou saidst in thy thought- 
lessness, 'God hath deemed me worthy!' Then 
came vanity crying from thy lips, ' Solomon, I have 
surpassed thee ! ' Then thou didst glory in thy 
reforms of justice, ' Bow down, world, and obey my 
law.' To-day thou wouldst jest with a spirit who 
stands before the Throne. Vainglorious fool! To- 
morrow thou wilt make thyself God's vicegerent — 
nay, I will look no more ! — thou sinkest from baseness 
to baseness! " 

As the seraph foresaw, so it happened. Justinian 
snatched the keys of Peter. What he proclaimed, 
that should the Universal Church believe. None 
should gainsay him. The Pope Vigilius was seized 
and carried to Constantinople. Armed men invaded 
the sanctuary and tore him by the beard from the 
altar. Imprisoned, excommunicated by the em- 
peror's orders, his name blotted from the tablets of 
the churches, the old man was at last suffered to 
depart, and died of sorrow and bodily anguish on 
his way to Rome. The Patriarch Eutychius was 
banished, and driven from monastery to monastery. 

More ignoble still was his treatment of Belisar. 
Jealousy and envy embittered him against the fear- 
less soldier whom he had once honoured with the 

107 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

only triumph granted to a subject in the course of 
four hundred years. The one man, to whom he owed 
sovereignty and perhaps life itself, was received with 
coldness, dogged with suspicion, ignominiously re- 
called from his commands. His veteran bodyguard 
was disbanded; half his wealth confiscated. Dis- 
trusted and feared, he was still indispensable, and 
once and again, saddened but unrepining, the strong 
man was ready at his master's need. 

After the death of the empress deep gloom, full 
of cares and disquietudes, fell upon Justinian, and 
with the advance of age he was seized with an insa- 
tiable avarice. Already oppressed with taxation for 
the defence of the empire, the people groaned under 
their new burdens. And now, in spite of his chains 
of fortresses, the Huns crossed the Danube, poured 
through the Balkan passes, and ravaged the Thrace 
of his boyhood. One flying horde of four thousand 
horse dashed up to the very towers of Constantinople. 
A cry for Belisar went up from the trembling city. 

For the last time the old warrior buckled on the 
harness of the victor days. The only troops on which 
he could depend were three hundred of his veteran 
guards. Half-armed peasants, crowds of untrained 
citizens gave a show of strength. Clouds of dust, 
numberless fires disheartened the enemy. As the 
barbaric squadrons advanced to the onset, they 

io8 



The Soul of Justinian 

were shaken by the clamour of a host rushing in on 
all sides from the woods. They were taken in front 
and fiank. The hero and his guards hewed down 
the foremost; the rest broke and fled in a hopeless 
rabble. 

The capital was saved. Cheering crowds escorted 
Belisar to the palace. The courtiers were silent. 
With a frigid embrace the emperor thanked and 
dismissed him. 

Envy and distrust and malice tracked the old lion- 
heart to the end. He was charged with plotting 
against the emperor. Justinian spared his life, but 
stripped him of his honours and estate. 

" For five-and-thirty years," said the hero, lifting 
his proud head, " I have been thy true liegeman. 
Look in my face, Caesar; is it the face of a traitor ? " 

" Many faces are masks," replied Justinian 
gloomily. 

" No mask wholly covers falsehood, Caesar. As the 
soul of a man is, such is his face." 

" I will speak with thee again," said Justinian, 
and turning away he muttered to himself, " Faces, 
faces! As I sit in the dusk they come upon me in 
multitudes — street-throngs, swarms of the Hippo- 
drome. I had never thought people had so many 
different faces. They pass me by in crowds; peace- 
ful, angry; idle, busy; merry, full of care. Some turn 

109 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

to me but do not see me. Women look into my 
eyes — so many women; dark and radiant, laughing 
girls, icy patricians. Some speak to me breathlessly. 
I hear the sound of their voices, but the words I 
cannot hear. And each of these, he would say, is 
the mirror of the soul. Let me consider this! " 

Now in the last year of the emperor's reign a 
letter was found in Sancta Sophia on the massive 
silver chair in which he used to sit. Justinian opened 
it and read: 

" Eutychius to Justinian. From the cloister in 
Amesea. The Lord hath spoken to me and I am 
troubled on thy account. Think of thy vainglory; 
think of thy presumption; think of thy sacrileges; 
think of thy cruelty; think of thy avarice; think of 
thy ingratitude. They are written in the Everlasting 
Book. Thy people curse thee. Across thy empire 
is written, Mene^ Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. 

" Think of thy days, which are numbered. I 
pray for thee." 

The heart of the emperor was hot with wrath. 
As he paced through the long moonlit corridors that 
night — for though he was now a man four score 
years and over, his spirit was yet more sleepless and 
untiring than of old — he crumpled the Patriarch's 



The Soul of Justinian 

letter in his hand, saying below his breath, " Surely, 
surely, I will slay this man." 

A belated courtier, hurrying through the corridor, 
beheld him standing in a space of bright moonlight. 
Justinian's back was towards him, but he knew the 
rich robes and tall figure of the emperor, and ap- 
proached with profound obeisances. At the sound 
of footsteps Justinian turned and spoke. The 
courtier gazed, grew white and trembled, rubbed his 
eyes, looked again, and then fled with a roar of 
horror. " Lord God, where is his face ? " 

In garb and presence it was the emperor; the 
jewelled circlet gleamed in his shaggy white hair; 
but to the emperor's head there was no face. 

As the rushing footsteps echoed along the marble 
walls, the great six-winged angel appeared at Jus- 
tinian's side. The emperor's heart was stricken 
with dismay. 

" How is it thou art here ? " he cried. " Hast thou 
forgotten thy charge in the great church? Didst 
thou not vow to watch and ward " 

" Till the lad returned," interposed the angel. 
" The lad hath returned. He was the monk who 
laid the letter on thy chair." 

For a long time all was silent in the long avenue 
chequered with moonlight. 

" Belisar is dead," at length said the angel. 

Ill 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Then he is dead," slowly responded Justinian; 
and the words seemed but an echo, without regret 
or care or admiration or resentment. 

" Heart of the nether millstone! " sighed the angel, 
" how greatness hath made thee little, and mag- 
nificence mean, and loyalty thankless, and truth 
unbelieving. What demon of pride and vainglory 
is it that possesses thee ? How shall I move thee ? " 

Again there was a long silence. 

"Look!" said the angel, "I will show thee the 
things that are to come." 

Then Justinian beheld a great city given over to 
pillage, and he knew it was Constantinople. For 
three days of carnage and plunder and sacrilege a 
licentious soldiery raged through the blood-drenched 
and burning streets. The splendid monuments of 
ancient days which made the city the wonder of the 
world were carried off or shattered to fragments. 
Horses and mules, laden with wrought silver, jewelled 
crosses and chalices, and the treasures of altars and 
shrines, stumbled over the defiled pavement of the 
churches. In Sancta Sophia " a daughter of Belial " 
was enthroned on the seat of the Patriarch, and 
drunken revellers danced round with blasphemous 
songs. 

" These warriors of the red cross," said the angel, 
" are vowed to rescue the sepulchre of the Lord from 

H2 



The Soul of Justinian 

the heathen. They have turned aside from their 
sacred enterprise to ravage a Christian city and to 
establish a new realm. Look again! " 

In one of the violated churches they beheld a 
magnificent sarcophagus broken open. It contained 
a sovereign of bygone time — embalmed, crowned, 
clothed in imperial purple. The body was dragged 
forth and held erect amid peals of ribald laughter, 
and Justinian recognised that it was himself. The 
crown was snatched from the hoary head; the jewels 
plucked from neck and arms. The rich robes were 
rent away. Naked as he was born into the world, 
the emperor was flung aside for the dogs. 

" So fleets away the glory of Justinian," said the 
angel. 

The tumultuous streets, the smouldering palaces, the 
sacrilegious host of the Crusaders vanished like mist. 

" Now behold the destiny of thy basilica ! " 

" I will not look! I will not look! " sobbed 
Justinian, covering his eyes with his hands. " I 
have sinned; I have sinned; but that I built with 
pure heart and clean hands, if anything be pure and 
clean in Thy sight. Thou knowest that I did not 
glory till the work was done! " 

" He hath forgotten me, remembering God," 
thought the angel, and melted silently into the 
moonlight. 

"3 H 




The Guardians of Rome 

" Thus," said the Abbot Finnian, " having kissed 
the hallowed earth of our Lord's country for the last 
time, we repaired to Joppa, and took ship for Rome. 
Now I come to the strangest part of my story. 
Many have visited the Holy Places, and many will 
visit them in days to come; but what I saw in Rome, 
that sacred city of the martyrs, eyes never looked 
on before; and never, I think, will the like be seen 
again." 

The abbot sat on the steps of the cross upon the 
green knoll. The brethren, grouped about him on 
the grass, drew still closer to listen. The red and 
yellow leaves fluttered softly down on the little bee- 
hive huts of stone in the clearing. On the blue 
lough lay the warm light of the autumn sun, drowsing 
towards eventide. 

" How we fared on the windy sea-ways," said the 
abbot, " there is little need to tell. At Syracuse, 

115 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

where doubtless we landed on the very stones trodden 
by Paul the Blessed, we learned that Rome was sore 
beleaguered. Under their young King Baduila — 
Totila, the Latins called him — the fair-haired giants 
of the Gothic forests had swept all before them, 
while the imperial commanders, divided by their 
jealousies and corrupted by luxury, pillaged the land 
they could not defend and revelled in shameful safety 
behind their fortress walls. 

" The Goths encompassed the city as with a ring 
of iron; and at the mouth of the Tiber the one man 
who could yet save Italy, and that was the great 
Belisarius, awaited the corn-ships from Syracuse, for 
Rome was starving. 

" The river Tiber, you must know, runs to sea in 
two channels, and there are two havens. Portus was 
held by Belisarius with a few thousand Thracian 
recruits, paid out of his own purse — so grudging was 
the emperor and so envious of his most famous 
soldier; Ostia was held by the Goths; between them 
lay the Sacred Isle, a green spot full of roses; but 
four miles inland from the sea Baduila had blocked 
the Tiber with a boom and iron chain, guarded by a 
bridge with a tower at each end. 

" When by good providence we got safe to Portus, 
the place was in a hum and stir of preparation. The 
corn-ships had come in; Rome was to be relieved. 

ii6 



The Guardians of Rome 

Swift dromons, manned with archers, were loading 
with provisions; stout barges and fire-ships were 
making ready for the bursting of the boom. Despite 
the pressure of his affairs, the illustrious Belisarius 
received us. Such a man! bronzed and dark, great- 
statured and powerful, still in the prime of life; but, 
first and last, it was the proud head and the kingly 
eyes lit with the splendour of victory which made 
him master of men. 

" At daybreak on the morrow the flotilla set out 
for the succour of Rome, and horse and foot advanced 
along the river-bank to support the attack. Isaac 
the Armenian was left in command of the station, 
and his one charge was to remain at his post what- 
ever befell. Towards noon we saw clouds of smoke 
rising far away on the plain, and a great cheer went 
up for there was little doubt that the Gothic towers 
were burning. Perchance the boom had been broken 
and the dromons were rowing hard for Rome. 

" Then was the daring venture brought to nought 
by the folly of one man. Carried away by vainglory 
the Armenian abandoned his trust, dashed across 
the Sacred Isle, and attacked Ostia with a hundred 
horsemen. The Goths pretended flight; the horse- 
men fell to plunder, and were cut down or captured 
by the enemy. Meanwhile clouds of arrows from the 
dromons swept the Gothic bridge; the iron chain 

117 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

was severed; the towers were set on fire, and the 
boom was being hewn with axes when a messenger 
brought Belisarius news that Isaac was a prisoner. 

" The great soldier stood aghast. Then Portus, 
his camp, his stores, his treasure must have been 
captured. All was lost and his ruin irretrievable, 
unless he could recover them from the enemy. In 
an instant the retreat was sounded, and horse and 
foot, dromons and archers were streaming back in 
fiery haste to the sea-shore. He found all safe, but 
the victory which might have saved the Immortal 
City had been snatched from his hand. That night 
Belisarius sickened with fever, and for many days 
he lay between life and death. 

" No worse enemy had the Romans than their own 
governor, Bessas, who crammed his coffers with the 
treasure wrung from their miseries. Bran was sold 
at the price of corn. The cost of wheat beggared all 
but the wealthiest. Dogs, mice, and nameless vermin 
were killed and eaten. Nettles became the common 
food of rich and poor. Men's faces grew green with 
famine. Among the rubbish heaps of the ruined 
palaces the patrician sank down and died clutching 
a handful of the stinging weeds. One poor wretch, 
distracted by the wail of his children for bread, led 
them to a bridge over the Tiber. ' Here,' he said, 
* are the fields in which sorrow and hunger are un- 

ii8 



The Guardians of Rome 

known,' and covering his head with his robe, plunged 
into the yellow waters. 

" At length a bribe secured what prayers had failed 
to obtain. The people were allowed to quit the city. 
Many were slain by the outposts, more perished in 
the open country; but a small number reached 
safety, and lived to look back on those evil days. 
Then the grasping governor brought about his own 
undoing. The troops were stinted of their rations. 
One of the gates was sold to the enemy. At dead of 
night twenty thousand Goths poured into the city. 
Rome awoke in uproar and a tumult of hurrying 
torches. The garrison abandoned their posts. Bessas 
and his creatures fled, leaving his blood-stained hoard 
for the spoiler. 

" The Gothic ranks stood steady through the hours 
of darkness. With the grey of dawn the sack of 
Rome began; but the king had sternly marked its 
limits. Outrage and bloodshed were forbidden; the 
churches were declared sanctuaries which it was 
death to violate. Again and again Baduila had 
warned them of the retribution that follows the abuse 
of victory. ' Remember,' he said, ' how when we 
were an exulting host, two hundred thousand strong, 
rich in treasure, in war-gear, in horses, a little band 
of Greeks overthrew us. Now we are but the remnant 
of a people, and Italy is ours. What but this has 

119 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

made the difference ? Of old we forgot justice, our 
hands were filled with violence and wickedness, and 
the wrath of God was laid upon us. To-day we are 
of one mind to be upright and just to all men, and 
God has been gracious. Of one thing be sure — the 
heavenly light forsakes a nation when it departs 
from righteousness.' 

" Think now of the swarms of fair-haired Goths 
hurrying through street and square, and raiding with 
fierce joy and with wonder the splendid palaces of 
the lords of Rome. Think, too, of the despairing 
crowds who had sought refuge in the churches, 
and expected to hear the savage war-cries of the 
barbarians. Pope Vigilius was in exile, but the flock 
of Christ was not without a shepherd. The faithful 
Deacon Pelagius pleaded with the king to succour 
his starving people, and Baduila himself came with 
food and fed the sufferers from the altars of the 
saints. 

" On the morrow the king announced the fate of 
the city to the fallen senators : ' Your wives, your 
children are free; you I hold as hostages. I grant your 
citizens their lives; but let them seek other homes. 
Here they can remain no longer. Never again shall 
this proud and ungrateful city be the stronghold of 
an enemy. Rome shall perish. Its walls shall be 
cast down. Never again shall the blood of the Goths 

120 



The Guardians of Rome 

be shed like water before them. The flames shall 
consume the stately buildings of which you made 
your boast. Your seven hills shall be a pasture, and 
the shepherd-lad shall pipe on the wreck of the 
Golden Milestone.' 

" In aU that glorious capital once so thronged with 
people scarce five hundred citizens survived. A 
lamentable sight it was to behold beautiful women, 
noble children, proud old patricians going forth with 
a multitude of slaves in that dishonoured exodus. 

" Then began the work of destruction. The 
massive gates were carried off and burnt; the lofty 
towers were tumbled down; already a third of the 
giant walls had been laid in ruins when Belisarius, 
from his sick bed, appealed to the king to withhold 
his hand from that wonder of the world, which had 
been the growth of many centuries, of a storied line 
of kings and emperors. ' Pause in thy hour of 
triumph,' he wrote, ' and consider whether in the 
imperishable record of generations thou wouldst have 
men read. He who destroyed — or he who preserved — 
the world's greatest city was Baduila the Goth.' 

" The plea of the great soldier, the magnificence of 
Rome, the heroic legend of the past, the new saga in 
which he himself should appear in undying splendour 
moved the conqueror to magnanimity. ' Tell Beli- 
sarius,' he said to the ambassador, ' that I relent and 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

forego my revenge. The monuments of Rome shall 
stand unharmed, but henceforth it shall be a city of 
the dead.' 

" Then, in a little while, the Gothic legions de- 
parted. A detachment encamped on the Alban Hills 
to watch Portus, and Baduila, carrying off the 
hostages with him, marched into the south-east. In 
Rome no living soul, man or beast, was left behind. 

" As the days went by, the thought of this city of 
the dead lay upon me like a spell. I pondered over 
what I had been told of the talk of holy men on 
Mount Cassin. For as they spoke together of the 
Goths, the priest Sabine said, ' This king will so 
destroy Rome that no longer shall any man dwell 
therein; ' but the abbot Benedict answered him, 
* Not in that wise shall this city be removed, but 
wasted by storms and lightning and earthquake, it 
shall weather away within its borders.' Lo now! it 
seemed as if both of these foretellings were to come 
to pass; and I said within myself. To Rome shall I 
go whatever befall, so that in time to come it may 
be written, ' In those days of desolation pilgrims from 
Erin came to worship at the tombs of the Fisherman 
and Tent-maker.' 

" How shall I tell of the amazement and the deep 
awe with which we entered Rome ? For the first 



The Guardians of Rome 

time in thirteen hundred years that spot of earth 
was empty and silent. The sadness and stillness of 
the grave had fallen upon the glory of the Seven 
Hills. I thought of the word of the prophet, ' Hell 
from beneath is moved for thee; ' but there was no 
movement. The noise and glitter of the quellers of 
the world had vanished, even as summer clouds. 
Like the dead of old and the kings of forgotten 
nations, this mighty race had departed. We three 
alone — for I had taken Aidan and Gall with me — 
were living men in the desert of houses. We went 
together speaking under our breath, for a fear over- 
shadowed us as of the presence of unseen people. 

" Already the wild creatures had stolen in from 
the Campagna, and as we looked over those wide 
spaces still coloured with the gold and crimson of 
the withering of tall fennel and thistles, we wondered 
how long it would be before these streets and palaces 
of marble would sink down in grass-grown mounds 
and be lost in the open wilds. On the Garden Hill 
the crows had swarmed back to the gigantic walnut 
tree which had sprung out of Nero's tomb. During 
the famine they had flown to the Alban Hills, rising 
away to the south in their winter tints of sapphire 
and amethyst. But stranger than these sights was 
the plashing of the numberless fountains, the sound 
of living waters in the city of silence. 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

" We visited the great churches. The doors were 
wide open. The lamps had burned out, but we 
found means to light them again, and that first 
night we slept in the sanctuary of St. Peter, singing 
before we lay down, ' The sparrow hath found a 
house and the swallow a nest, even thine altars, 
Lord of Hosts.' 

" Open too were the portals of the stately houses, 
and though at first a nameless uneasiness held us 
back, we entered and passed through the halls and 
chambers, noting wreck and ravage of such luxury 
and wealth as we had never dreamed of. 

" The overthrow of the walls seemed the labour of 
giants. As we gazed on the tumbled masses, I saw 
in my mind's eye the trains of barbarian captives 
sculptured on column and triumphal arch. How 
had Babylon fallen; how had the radiant one been 
cut down, which weakened the nations! But even 
these gaps of destruction did not speak so eloquently 
of humbling and helplessness as the hollow arches 
from which the great gates had been carried away. 
The poorest hut has its hide or hurdle, but into Rome 
there was no one but might enter, and who should 
say him nay? It was as though I heard the voice 
of the Prophet. ' The fire shall devour thy bars, thy 
nobles shall dwell in the dust. Thy people is scattered 
upon the mountains.' And yet, had God willed, even 

124 



The Guardians of Rome 

then, in the twinkling of an eye, a breath of life 
might have raised a legion of kings and captains, of 
horsemen and chariots, so many were the statues of 
heroes in Rome. 

" We knelt and prayed in that wondrous arena, 
the dust of which had been drenched with the 
blood of the martyrs. We walked in Nero's gardens, 
wherein the ' living torches ' of the tyrant burned 
in the darkness. We went forth beyond the Gate 
Capena, where, it is said, Peter fleeing from this 
city, met the Lord carrying His cross, and having 
asked, 'Lord, whither dost Thou go ? ' Jesus answered, 
' To Rome, to be crucified again for thee.' But the 
sun would go down before I had finished, were I to 
tell of all we saw and did. 

" Three days we tarried in that place of many 
memories, for we thought not ever to see it again. 
And on the third night, though I lay wearied in body, 
I could not sleep for the tumult and passion of soul 
that worked within me. I rose, leaving the others 
sleeping, and stole abroad. The moon was at the 
full, and I wandered on in its clear shining. As I 
approached the Forum, I was startled by the sound 
of flutes and cymbals, and then of voices raised in a 
chant such as I had not heard before. Stepping noise- 
lessly into the deep shadows I glided into the Forum, 
and I saw within its moonlit space a little group 

125 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

of men, clothed in white, standing near an altar of 
incense before the Temple of Janus. The men chanted 
to the music of the flutes and cymbals; the incense 
rose in pale blue smoke; the roof and walls of the 
small temple, all overlaid with brass, glittered like 
gold in the silvery light. 

" Now this temple was one of the venerable relics of 
bygone generations, and no enemy had despoiled it. 
It contained the giant brazen statue of Janus of the 
Two Faces, whereof one was turned to the dawn and 
one to the setting sun. When Rome was pagan, its 
brazen doors were kept shut in the good times of 
peace and abundance, but in time of war they were 
thrown open for the god to march to battle with 
the legions. 

" As I listened I discovered that these men were 
secret adherents of the old paganism, enchanters and 
worshippers of devils. They called upon Janus to 
awake, to come forth and arouse the fallen gods to 
resume their sway in Rome. By what evil sorcery 
it was I know not, but the brazen doors of the temple 
swung wide, and the hideous idol leaped forth with 
a war-cry of ancient days, which rang through the 
night. Far-off voices answered. The air was beaten 
with the rushing of many feet. The white ground 
was mottled with the shapes and shadows of men 
and women — some dark, some pallid, some shining; 

126 




1^ "JDo not show yourseff" fje said, "I>ut /iear^en 



The Guardians of Rome 

and then I saw it was the gods and goddesses of 
Rome, the fauns and satyrs, the tyrants and perse- 
cutors — shall I not rather say, demons and lost souls ? 
— taking possession of the old-world statues of bronze 
and marble, and giving them a semblance of life. 

" It was in my mind to fling myself into that 
welter of evil, when a hand was laid upon me, and in 
the shadow beside me I saw a man. Tall he was 
rather than short, old rather than young, pleasant 
featured yet commanding. He was bare-footed and 
in fisher's garb, and on his shoulder he carried an 
oar. ' Do not show yourself,' he said, ' but hearken ! 
The sleepers of the Colosseum and the Catacombs 
have wakened. I hear their voices; I hear them 
coming.' 

" And I too heard. The earth was stirred beneath 
our feet with a deep murmur; vague risings of sound 
came to us, as of distant harps played by the wind. 
Then from the Sacred Way streamed in a radiant 
multitude, rosy children and tender maidens, men 
and women in their prime, old age in its serene 
beauty; and as their joyous song filled the Forum, 

" ' Tu Rex glories, Christe — 

Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ,' 

the spirits of the nether darkness fled before them. 

" ' Thou hast seen the Guardians of Rome,' said 
the Fisherman, and now I knew who it was that 

129 I 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

spoke to me, for until then I had not deemed that 
the blessed apostles walked in guise so lowly. ' Return 
when it is day to Portus, and say that the city hath 
yet many legions to defend it, and albeit the walls 
be fallen there is yet a host to raise them up again. 
Go now to thy rest for the dawn is nigh.' 

" Sleep, indeed, now lay heavily upon me, so that 
I scarce knew when that Holy One of the Rock 
departed, or how I lay down again beside my 
companions. 

" On the morrow we came quickly to Portus, and 
when the great captain heard that I had brought 
tidings, he received me without delay. I spoke as I 
had been bidden, and when I had told him of all I 
saw in Rome, he rose from his bed with new life, and 
forthwith all was astir again in camp and harbour. 

" He himself visited the City, and on the fortieth 
day that it had lain desert he entered with all his 
troops ; the Tiber was thronged with merchant ships, 
and the wharfs under the Hill Capitoline hummed 
with traffic. It was a world to see the soldiers and 
the peasants, who flocked in from the Campagna, 
stockading the trenches and roughly filling up the 
breaches in the walls, so that in fifteen days their 
vast circuit was made strong again around the Seven 
Hills. More helpers perchance were there with rubble 
and stone than any one was aware. 

130 



The Guardians of Rome 

" Not yet had there been time to make good the 
great gates when Baduila returned with his Gothic 
swarms. They bivouacked by the yellow river and 
attacked at sunrise; but in the open gateways 
Belisarius set his best and bravest, and strewed the 
approaches with four-spiked caltrops — thistle-heads 
of iron, which put up ever one sting against a horse's 
hoof throw them how you will. 

" Twice the assailants were beaten back, and in 
the thick of the fight, when the long-haired horsemen 
were struck down, it may be the Fisherman's oar was 
not far away. On the third day Baduila's standard- 
bearer fell. The royal ensign was snatched up from 
the dust with a severed hand grasping the staff. 

" That was the end. The Goths drew sullenly 
away from the Eternal City, to whose annals they 
had added the strangest incident in her many- 
centuried story. Belisarius completed the great 
gates, clamped and studded with iron, and hung 
them in the open gateways. Even in a city protected 
by unseen guardians there was need for them, for 
the holy ones do not help us until we have done all 
that we may to help ourselves." 



131 




Crown of the H 
Roman Empir< 




The IronCrowQ 
of Lombaray 



The Two Charlemagnes 

When King Karloman died his people offered their 
allegiance to his brother Charlemagne, and the two 
kingdoms were once more united under a single crown. 
But Queen Gerberga, fearing the worst for her children, 
fled in the depth of winter with her two little sons, 
and Ogier the Dane brought them safe through the 
Alps to the court of Desiderius, King of the Lombards. 

The king took up their cause, but little good came 
of his championship ; for when Desiderius found that 
nothing could induce the Pope to anoint the children 
with the sacred chrism as kings of the Franks, he 
pounced on three of the papal cities and stormed up 
within a day's march of Rome itself. Pope Hadrian 
promptly manned his walls, threatened the invaders 
with the curse of St. Peter, and called Charlemagne 
to his aid. 

The vast realm of the Franks rang with the 
summons to arms, and over the snowy passes the 

^33 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

hosts of the great Karl poured down into Italy. 
They found the lower gorges blocked with bulwarks 
of stone, but the Lombards were suddenly stricken 
with a midnight panic and fell back in confusion on 
Pavia, and the armies of the north spread over the 
wide corn lands of Lombardy. 

From the top of one of the lofty towers Desiderius 
and Ogier looked out over the far-off fields when 
they were made aware that Charlemagne was advanc- 
ing. The siege and baggage trains first emerged 
from the low haze of dust, and when Desiderius saw 
how all the ways were cumbered with waggons and 
engines of war, " Is not Karl with this great host ? " 
he asked. " No," replied Ogier, who had been a 
hostage at Charles's court. 

Then appeared the troops raised in all parts of the 
empire — spearmen and archers, men armed with 
flails, with scythes, with clubs of gnarled oak; and 
Desiderius exclaimed, " Surely the king is with this 
great multitude." " No, not yet," said Ogier. 
" What shall we do," cried Desiderius, growing 
troubled, " if he can bring more than these against 
us ? " " You will soon see what manner of king 
this man is," replied Ogier; " but what will happen 
to us I cannot tell." 

Then came the mighty Paladins, whose prowess 
was never at rest, and the Lombard cried out in 

134 



The Two Charlemagnes 

trepidation, " At last this must be Karl! " but again 
Ogier replied, " Not yet; no, not yet! " 

In the rear of these battalions rode in proud array 
the bishops, the priests of the chapel royal, the 
counts of the realm; and at the sight of them 
Desiderius loathed the light of the sun, and fell to 
sobbing and stammering, " Let us go down and hide 
ourselves in the depths of the earth." But once 
more Ogier answered, " Karl is not among these. 
When you shall see all the fields of the harvest 
tossing, and the ranks of corn bending in wild gusts, 
and when you shall hear your rivers roaring in a 
deluge of iron and your bridges creaking, and the 
clash of arms sounding in your ears, then you may 
say that Charlemagne is nigh." 

Scarcely had Ogier spoken when a stretch of sombre 
cloud rolled up in the north-west. The day grew 
dark; and more awful than the darkness, glimmer- 
ing swords flashed out from the smoke of the cloud. 
Then appeared a figure of iron. It was Charlemagne. 

Iron was his helm; iron sheathed his breast and 
broad shoulders; his gauntlets were iron; his feet 
were shod in iron. Of the colour and of the might of 
iron was the horse on which he rode. The host that 
rode before him, behind him, on either hand of him, 
were iron hearts, clad in the terror of iron. The 
land in all its ways and in all its fields was thronged 

135 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

with iron and with points of iron flashing dreadful 
lights. 

" Behold at last," said Ogier, " the man you have 
so long looked to see," and sank down at the king's 
side in a dead swoon. 

Pavia surrendered; Desiderius was dethroned; the 
baby princes went unharmed, but the dominion of 
the Lombards was ended. And " iron " was the last 
word in the story of this grim pageant of iron, for 
when Charlemagne crowned himself Lord of Lom- 
bardy, it was with the Iron Crown, which enshrined 
in gold and jewels one of the nails of the Crucifixion. 

This was the Charlemagne of the wars of giants 
and the mighty conquests. There was another; a 
big gladsome man, with more turns and likings than 
a harp has strings, and as full of music. For he 
delighted in learning, in hunting the aurochs, in 
following the cross barefoot on the solemn Rogation 
days, in having all his merry girls about him and 
giving the least little maid on his knee bite and sip 
from his plain cup and trencher. 

Seven feet he stood, in cross-gartered hose and 
high-laced boots — Frank fashion. His flaxen hair 
fell on his broad shoulders, and his soul looked out 
from a cheerful face and swift lively eyes. He went 
in homely tunic of linen or wool, bordered with 

136 



The Two Charlemagnes 

coloured silk, and perchance a coat of otter-skin in 
winter; and over all lie wore a white or a sapphire 
cloak, the corners of which hung low back and front, 
but scarce reached the knees on either side. " Warm 
to wear, and little to spoil," he said, laughing, to his 
courtiers, whom he once took to the chase in all 
their Eastern finery and brought back drenched 
and tattered; " but oh, you spendthrifts in Tyrian 
purple and dormouse fur and Phoenician feathers 
and fringes of cedar bark, how many pounds of silver 
have you left on the thorns and brambles ? " 

Yet if he was simple and sparing in his person, he 
opened a kingly hand when splendour was seemly. 
One priceless thing he ever carried in his belt, and 
that was Joyeuse, the Sword Jewellous, which con- 
tained in a hilt of gold and gems the head of the 
lance that pierced our Saviour's side. And thereto 
he wore a pilgrim's pouch — " against my faring to 
Jerusalem, or, if that may not be, to remind me that 
our life is but a pilgrim's way, and our joy but a 
pilgrim's rest, and our hope a palm." 

In the palace too were massive tables of engraved 
silver. One, which was square, displayed the City 
of Constantinople on the blue waters that wash at 
once the East and the West; one, which was round, 
showed the glory of Rome on the Seven Hills; but 
the costliest and most beautifully wrought was a 

137 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

similitude of the world. Here were Adam and Eve, 
and the Serpent on a withered tree. A narrow pass 
separated Mount Carmel from Sinai; and hard by 
the Mountains of Antioch stood the mountains of 
Araby, and one saw the mysteries of the earth from 
the Head of Europe to the deserts of the Antipodes. 
" And where is Frankland ? " asked little Hildruda. 
" This is Frankland near the two great waters." " Oh, 
the dear silver place ! " cried Hildruda. " Now you 
tell me," said Charlemagne, " who these are," point- 
ing to four figures outside the ring of the regions of 
men. " They are blowing horns," replied Hildruda; 
" are they wild hunters, since they have no clothes ? 
And these two are head over heels; maybe the 
aurochs has tossed them! " " Nay," laughed Charle- 
magne, " these are the four winds that blow over the 
world." 

Charles made them into twelve afterwards, and 
called them by Frankland names; and the twelve 
months he changed from their heathen calling to 
Winter-month and Mud-month, Spring-month and 
Easter-month, and the month of the storks and new 
leaves and springing flowers he named Love-month; 
and so with the rest, for he liked best all that was 
Frank and homely. 

The old folk-songs and the stories of ancient kings 
and heroes he had collected and written down. 

138 



The Two Charlemagnes 

" These," he said, " are the joy and glory of a people; 
never should they be forgotten; " and often he would 
sing those songs to the harp. So too with old customs; 
when they were good and kindly he would have them 
still observed, like that of the wayfarer, who might 
pluck three apples or three bunches of grapes or take 
three radishes, and no man would begrudge him. 
But if the customs might be bettered, he would 
change them; and thus instead of the old idols, 
people carried round the fields the cross with the 
fair image of Christ, not naked and in anguish, as 
we have it, but gold -crowned and clad in bright 
raiment; and instead of going round the budding 
corn with loud cries, they went singing litanies and 
hymns. " A pleasant and wholesome thought," he 
said, " that men and women should be singing away 
toil and care," and he would have herd and shepherd 
lad sing cheerily as they went afield and returned 
to fold and byre with their good beasts. 

Nor would he abate old uses even when they 
touched his own greatness. Riding abroad with his 
train one day, he saw seated by the roadside a man, 
who neither rose nor uncovered, but only raised his 
hand to his hat. An officer of the palace went angrily 
towards the man. " Who art thou," he asked, " to 
make so small account of King Karl ? " " Who art 
thou to ask ? " said the man. 

139 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Then Charlemagne drew near, and the man arose, 
with a smile on his ruddy brown face. " Thou dost 
not know me, Lord King," he said, " but it may be 
thou hast heard of the Barons of the Sun, old free- 
holders of this land when it was yet but a clearing 
here and there in forest and swamp. This man who 
speaks to thee is one of the last of their line. They 
held not from town, or prince, or emperor. Neither 
does he. They owed no man vassalage, they rose at 
no man's coming, they bared their heads to no man. 
Neither does he. Little is left of the old fiefs, but the 
Barons of the Sun were ever free men." Charlemagne 
smiled. " Wilt thou tell me where thou livest ? " 
" Yonder by the fir-wood," said the man. " Wouldst 
thou give me welcome should I come to see thee? " 
asked the king. " My poor house were thine, and 
thrice welcome shouldst thou be." " Be sure then 1 
will come, for I am fain to talk with thee; " and 
Charlemagne, leaning from his horse, stretched out a 
hand which this chief of the old heaths and woods 
grasped with a proud smile. 

Frank speech he called the salt of freedom, and the 
fearless truth-teller a third eye. It chanced at one 
of his feasts a captive Saxon prince was one of the 
guests, and when the Saxon saw how Charles and his 
paladins and prelates sat at table and were served 
on broidered cloths, while the poor sat on the bare 

140 




■Styetchecl ouir a nana ivntcn mis chief of the ofa nrj 

heaths anatvoocis araspea tvii/j a proucf >smt/h »«a 



The Two Charlemagnes 

ground, and the dogs with them, he rose from his 
place and spoke low in the king's ear. " Did not 
your Christ say that the poor were His body and in 
them He was received ? How can you bow your head 
before Him whom you treat with such scorn and give 
but a dog's honour ? " The paladins wondered to see 
Charlemagne blush, but he answered, " Your words 
are just. I have thought too little of this. But it 
shall be amended." 

These high feasts were little to his liking, and save 
when majesty and honour required his presence, the 
great earls held them in his name, and Charles fared 
frugally apart, listening the while to some brave book 
telling of bygone days. Most of all he took pleasure 
in St. Augustine's goodly tome, Touching the City oj 
God. " I would," he said, " I had but twelve clerks 
as learned and as wise as Jerome and Augustine." 
Whereat Alcuin, the bluff ruddy Englishman who 
had been the scholar of Bede's scholars, laughed out- 
right: " Commend me the moderation of great kings. 
The Creator of heaven and earth had no equals to 
these two, and you would have a dozen! " 

And work enough he could have found for a dozen ; 
for most of his princes of the Church were worldly and 
unlettered beyond belief. He had released them from 
service in arms, but still they flaunted in silk and 
purple — lords of luxury and turbulence; mighty men 

143 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

with hawks by the river-side and hounds in the forest ; 
burly revellers in their great tapestried halls, drink- 
ing deep, with garlanded heads, amid a tumult of 
music. Alcuin gave him untiring service in founding 
schools all over the land, and rearing a nobler genera- 
tion; and now and again, as the old warrior-priests 
were lapped in purple and lead, Charlemagne, by 
good guidance, laid his hand on some worthier man. 

It was scarcely by chance alone that as he hunted 
deep in the forest darkness closed in, and he came 
benighted to a little church and priest's house. The 
priest Amalarius gave him friendly welcome, and set 
such cheer as he could before him. Talking gaily and 
praising the sweet brown bread and the toothsome 
apples and the noble cheese, Charlemagne glanced 
in his talk at the rich tables of abbots and prelates, 
whom it would better become to think of barley 
loaves and fishes. 

The simple priest shook his head and answered 
gently: " If we judge at all, fair lord, let it be with 
charity. Are not these things God's creatures for 
our comfort and strength in the day ? One man may 
offend on green herbs, and another be blameless on 
the stalled ox. Esau was rebuked not for flesh, 
but for pottage; Adam condemned not for flesh but 
for fruit; Jonathan judged not for flesh but for 
honey. Elias ate flesh yet sinned not, and Abraham 

144 



The Two Charlemagnes 

laid flesh before angels. And so with drink. Surely 
Paul's little cup of wine were less to be reproved 
than greed and water." 

Charlemagne was well pleased, and thinking to 
test Amalarius yet further, he spoke slightly of the 
royal house. The priest's face grew troubled, and 
he replied: "Doubtless you say this in jest, or it 
may be with little thought. Yet he was a wise man 
who wrote, ' Revile not the king, no, not even in 
thought, for a bird of the air shall carry the matter.' 
But even if it chanced that fault might be found 
in the king's household, think how St. Augustine 
answered in such a case : ' I would not boast that my 
house is better than the Ark, wherein of eight men 
one was reprobate; or than the Lord's, in which 
Judas was one of the Twelve; or than heaven itself, 
from which the angels fell.' " 

Then Charlemagne smiled and said, " Forgive me, 
good father; I spoke with a fool's tongue, and you 
have done well to chide me." 

" Nay, son, not to chide, but to remind you," said 
the priest. 

At daybreak when the king rose and would have 
taken to horse, Amalarius came to him and said: 
"You thought not that even now I go to say Mass, and 
that you could tarry to thank God for sleep, and safety 
in the night, and a glad awakening in the world." 

145 K 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

"' Nay, gladly will I stay," said Charlemagne, 
reddening in the grey light. 

When Mass was said and the two came forth, 
Charlemagne took a piece of gold from his pilgrim's 
pouch and offered it to his host. " Great thanks," 
replied the priest, " I have no need for it; but if in 
your sport to-day you bring down a hind, very 
thankful shall I be to have the skin, for my poor 
boots are as weathered and worn as the shoes of 
poor pilgrims." 

" So much you shall have, and more," replied 
Charlemagne, " were it but for that saying of St. 
Augustine about his house." 

Home to Aix rode Charlemagne, right well pleased 
to have found such a priest; and not long after- 
wards, when the Archbishop of Treves died, he raised 
this single-hearted Amalarius to his high place. 

As streams are green, winding in the evening sun, 
and blue in the cold of the morning, and yet ever 
lightsome to see, so the colour of the king's moods 
and conditions changed, but still the man remained 
large and lovable. He travelled far, but his fame 
outstripped his horses. The Moorish minstrels sang 
of him in Fez, and he was the joy of the story-tellers 
of Baghdad. Foreign princes ransacked land and 
sea to honour him. 

Of all the kingly men who loved him, the Caliph 

146 



The Two Charlemagnes 

Haroun al-Raschid was the most lavish in his gifts. 
He sent him perfumes and spices, coloured hangings 
and mantles of silk, a mirror set in gold and enamel, 
and a bronze clock which was a miracle of cunning. 
For it had crystal windows that opened, some for the 
day and some for the night ; it showed the time, which 
fleets like clear wind and none can hold it, and it 
dropped little brazen balls on a cymbal to count the 
hour. At noon twelve windows opened, and twelve 
Persian heroes rode out in bright mail, and closed the 
twelve other windows which had been open since 
midnight. 

As if that were a trivial thing, Haroun sent him 
Abul-abaz, which is to say the Father of Stern Brows. 
Isaac the Jew brought Abul-abaz. From Africa they 
came to Genoa, sailing in a great carrack or sea- 
waggon; the winter stayed them at Vercelli, because 
of the deep snows in the Alps; but at last, on a July 
evening, the Father of Stern Brows stood towering 
in the sun before the palace gates, with the mahout 
on his neck, and Isaac beside his huge pillared 
shoulders, and a crowd of the good folk of Aix 
chattering in open-mouthed wonder. 

When the children got to know the friendly mind 
and gentleness of Abul-abaz, they delighted to make 
him their playmate, adorning him with garlands and 
ribbons, and screaming with glee as he lumbered 

147 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

beneath them like a hillside in motion. Charlemagne, 
who could crumple horse-shoes, discovered that a 
strong man was but a babe in the fold of the great 
creature's trunk. " No sage," he said to Alcuin, 
" could possibly be a tenth part as wise as the 
Father of Stern Brows looks. The lore of ages is 
stored in that huge prophet's head of his. His 
people have been Barons of the Sun from the morn- 
ing of the sixth day — a more ancient race than ours. 
Herein you see the lofty soul of the caliph, to send 
so noble an ambassador between brother kings." 

But of all Haroun's gifts Charlemagne prized most 
the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. These he sent to 
be in the keeping of the Bishop of Jerusalem, " for 
I know not," he wrote, " how long it might be before 
I could bring them and worship on that most sacred 
spot." 

When Charlemagne had finished the stately chapel 

from which Aix-la-Chapelle took half its name, he 

planned to enlarge the palace. On the ground that was 

needed for this work a poor woman had a little hut, 

which she would not sell even at ten times the price 

given for the houses of her neighbours. " Here I 

was born," she said, " and here my mother died, 

and here my father was born, and his father before 

him. This is my dear home; what gold or silver can 

buy me another which shall be the same ? " 

148 



The Two Charlemagnes 

As the officers of the palace could not persuade 
her, they began to threaten her with Charlemagne's 
displeasure. " I wonder," she said sharply, " to hear 
the king's servants so belie the king. You would 
not dare to say these things if he could hear you," 
" And I too wonder," said Charlemagne, when he 
was told of the matter, " that knowing me for what 
I am, you should act thus, thinking to please me." 
Whereupon he went himself to the woman, and bade 
her be neither fearful nor troubled. 

" I had no fear," she answered, " for I knew the 
king's justice would not suffer me to be harmed. 
But troubled I was, because of many memories. 
Yet lying awake in the night I have since thought 
how foolish we are to cling too closely to what is 
ours for only a little time, even were we to live 
long. And moreover, at any moment wind from 
the heavens, or fire, or weight of snow might snatch 
from us what we hold too dearly. So I pray the 
king to take the poor house, if I may only have some 
otherwhere to live." 

" You shall not want," said Charlemagne. But 
he ordered that the hut should remain untouched, 
as a token of how men should value justice. " To 
be generous," he said, " is in our own nature, but 
to be just we need God to give us something of His." 

So amid arcades of bright stone and marble columns 

149 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

from Rome and Ravenna stood the poor hut thatched 
with brown reeds. And there it remained until, long 
afterwards, the Northmen invaded Aix-la-Chapelle, 
and destroyed the palace, and stabled their horses 
in the noble chapel; but they could not find the 
spot where Charlemagne sat crowned on his throne 
of gold, with Joyeuse in his belt and a copy of the 
Gospels lying open on his knees. 





JNo, no, man, no ! That cannot l>e -lell me thou, arimot 



sure ' 




God's Gleeman 



In the days when Venerable Bede was a monk at 
Jarrow, there was nowhere else in England such a 
realm of song as the North Countrie. It was " like 
land, like people; " for moor and forest and fertile 
vale were at one time grim in wintry dourness, at 
another winsome in wild summer beauty. Life was 
hard, the age rude and turbulent; but over the length 
and breadth of Northumbria might be heard at fall 
of night the voice of the singer; and the music of 
bagpipe and reed-flute and harp was as familiar in 
fishing cotes and upland thorps as in the manors of 
ealdormen. 

There was one wayfarer who was ever welcome 
whithersoever he went, and that was the Gleeman; 
and of all the gleemen in the North Countrie Kyne- 
wulf was in his day the foremost. Young and hand- 
some, gay and gallant, he was widely a favourite 
among the great nobles, for he was of their own 

153 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

etheling blood, and the hand which woke the magic 
of the harp-strings was as deft with the sea-rovers' 
helm and as deadly with the sword in fight. 

More than one powerful chief had tried to retain 
him as the singer of his house, but in vain. All the 
world was too full of wonder and freshness for him 
to rest long in any place. His heart was hot within 
him for joy and adventure, and in the jocund reckless- 
ness of youth he roamed from burg to burg and from 
manor to manor, suiting his songs to his hearers and 
" winning renown and glittering gold." One night 
he might make mirth for the peasant folk of some 
hedge-girt village; the next he might be a guest at 
one of those worldly convents in which the abbess 
was still a great lady, and the nuns, with their hair 
curled and crinkled about their brows, went in violet 
linen and crimson tunics with fur-trimmed sleeves and 
white veils fastened with rosettes of bright ribbon. 

At intervals he felt the vague longing for more 
than even the kindly companionship of men and 
women can give, and the spirit of dreams led him 
into lonely places, where he watched with keen eyes 
and pure delight the wild creatures of heath and wood 
and sea-shore. To many of these he gave a second 
life in song, as gladsome to-day as it was over eleven 
hundred years ago; ay, and there still play in his 
verse some which have long vanished from the land, 

154 



God's Gleeman 

like the beaver of the nut-brown streams and the 
wild swan whose humming feathers — 

" Sounded along, 
A shining song, 

High o'er the flood and fell." 

There was one pleasant spot among the hills on 
the northern side of the Great Wall where he had 
long been received like a truant son of the house who 
had come home again; and if folk seldom spoke 
there of his fame as a gleeman he was all the better 
pleased on that account. In this old manor of 
Hanging Shaw — the green wood clinging to the hill- 
side — he had watched the thegn's little daughter 
Mildryth grow up from her prattling childhood. At 
each return from his wanderings it was still, " Why, 
elfkin, how you have sprung; and flowered too! " 
and at each departure there was the same laughing 
farewell, " Kiss me ere you go, and I will kiss you 
when you come back! " so that as time went on apace 
the blithe elf became to him more and more a com- 
panion when he was with her, and a sweet little soul 
to call to remembrance when he was far away. 

It was for her that he made many of his riddle- 
songs, and they were called riddles because in each 
there was a picture of something and she had to 
guess what it was; and Kynewulf had a delightful 
way of putting all manner of pretty everyday things 

155 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

into these songs. There were the five sisters who 
lived all through the summer out in the sunshine 
and the rain; but when the cold weather came they 
had a warm house in which there was a large room 
and a little closet, and four of them played in the 
room, but the fifth, who was very masterful and often 
went against the others, had the closet to herself. 
And all of them wore little half-moons on their fore- 
heads, and if they did not keep their moons white 
and clear the winter-elves tried to nip them with 
frost for their naughtiness. Mildryth hugged herself 
with glee when she found that this was a riddle-song 
of her fingers and her winter-mittens. 

There were riddles of beasts and birds which pleased 
her much. The white-muzzled brock, or badger, 
sang to her out of his burrow, telling her how he ran 
through the grass on his sharp pointed toes, and 
how, when his enemies came digging at the entrance 
of his earth, he had to tunnel a street through the 
hill-side for his dear little folk to win their way out 
to safety. Once too when Mildryth looked up at 
the branching antlers of the stag at the end of the 
roof-beam, Kynewulf made the great creature speak 
to her of his swift springing flights to the sunny hill- 
tops, of his raids on the green meadows, and of the 
hard winters when he shook the hoar-frost from his 
head and dug down through the frozen snow for food, 

156 



God's Gleeman 

How often, too, had the old forest trees shrouded 
]iim and his comrade on stormy nights! Then his 
voice rose, belling in sorrow — 

" High on the roof-beam all alone I bide; 
No brother here in winter or summer tide! 

Where art thou, fleet-hoof, who wast wont to range 
O'er de^vy turf with me, and crackling snow? 
Where gleams thy branchy head, I do not know. 

Whether on purple moor or gabled grange." 

"Oh, poor Stag!" cried Mildryth. "Let me 
repeat it thrice, and I shgll have it without book." 

Then there was the riddle of the swifts on a summer 
evening — 

" Airily up-floated, 

Here are little wights, 
Rushing, dusky-coated, 

Flecked with sunny lights; 
Winding high in esses. 

Hawking down again 
Round the wildwood nesses. 

Round the roofs of men; 
Racing, shrilling, jinking 

In a madcap game, 
While the sun is sinking. 

Hear them shrill their name! " 

These things had begun in the early days when 
Kynewulf used to remind her at table that " little 
wights took little bites; " but now the tricksy elf had 
grown into the little Lady Mildryth; and in these 
last months of the gleeman's wandering life it 
happened more than once that after he had turned 

157 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

his horse's head towards Hanging Shaw and galloped 
forward a mile or two, he suddenly drew rein and 
took another track. But call her what they might, 
the little Lady Mildryth was still very much the same 
sprightly elfkin; and that Kynewulf would have 
guessed, if he had seen her gazing eagerly across the 
meadows and wondering what it was that kept her 
merry friend so long away. 

Now it chanced in the autumn that Kynewulf was 
present at a high feast in one of the gay houses where 
a jovial warrior was lay abbot, and during the merry- 
making that night it seemed to him three times as 
though some one had plucked his sleeve, and he was 
somehow aware that the elfkin stood invisibly beside 
him. A strange lightness of heart came over him, 
so that folk wondered at the wild spirit of mirth 
which laughed in his eyes and rang out in his voice. 
He rose early in the same happy mood and rode 
away northward, thinking to himself, " To-night I 
sleep in Hanging Shaw even if I borrow an hour of 
the starlight. I have been too long away, and with 
a fool's reason." 

Companions fared with him some distance on the 
way, then parted east and west, while he went on 
alone, humming snatches of song and taking pure 
joy in the colour of the world. There was a mist on 
the far hillsides; dew sparkled on the gossamer; 

158 



God's Gleeman 

in a meadow shone a birch-tree, a silvery trunk with 
a cloud of orange gold against the blue sky. In a 
high rounded field churls were ploughing, and the 
teams of oxen went over the swell of the land like 
great ships sailing slowly; and one side of the furrow 
was black, and one was green with the growth of 
heart's ease in the stubble, which the ploughshare 
had not yet turned over and buried. 

In the afternoon the road ran through tracts of 
heather. Near the wayside a shepherd lad sat piping 
on a grey moor-stone, and a cross of green rushes lay 
upon the stone, and beside the cross were scrawled 
in chalk three runic letters — (:J, ^ , and ^■ 

" Hail, aged sire ! " cried Kynewulf as he approached 
him, " How many sheep hast thou to thy charge ? " 

" Two score and five, lord," answered the lad. 

" Dost thou know every one of them ? " 

" Ay, lord; and they know me, and my pipe and 
my horn." 

" That is as it should be with true shepherds. I 
see thou hast the cross with thee." 

"Ay, lord; for here be moor-pools, haunted by 
water-elves." 

" And what signs are these thou hast written in 
chalk?" 

" That, lord, methinks thou knowest," answered 
the lad with a smile. " These be ' Oak ' and ' Birch ' 

159 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and ' Thorn ' ; and in oak and birch and thorn is 
strong magic against sprites and dwarfs and dwimers 
and fierce witch-wives." 

" But these are not the things themselves, only- 
signs of them," said Kynewulf. 

" Nay, this is ' Oak ' and this is ' Thorn,' and this 
oak and this thorn is as mighty as any that ever 
grew in ground. Folk do say they be even mightier 
than the living trees, and this oak and thorn and 
others of their kind have such craft that they can 
stay ships upon the sea, and win love and hate, and 
cast folk into slumber, and raise up them that are 
dead. I know not. Canst thou believe it, lord ? " 

" Ay, can I, and do," replied Kynewulf laughing, 
" though perchance not quite in the way thou 
thinkest. Here, wise man of the moor, is a fee to 
thee " — dropping some coins into the lad's hand. 
" Fair fortune and long life! " 

" And better still to thee, lord! " said the shepherd 
lad. 

It was wearing towards evensong when man and 
beast stayed awhile for their last rest at Hagulstad, 
the fair town which is now called Hexham; and 
when Kynewulf rode on again, the low red light of 
the west was beginning to dwindle in the woods 
which overhung the way to the Great Wall. 

Grey moths fluttered out of the shadows. Bats 

i6o 



God's Gleeman 

flitted noiselessly by in freakish swervings. Trees 
and rocks lost their outlines in the uncertain twilight. 
Kynewulf was wishing that he were at large again 
under the open sky when a faint sound of chanting 
reached his ears, and a few moments later the dusky 
road flickered with the flames of far-off torches. " It 
is some procession of monks," he thought, " making 
their way homeward to the Abbey at Hagulstad." 

As the distance lessened, the flare of the moving 
lights revealed a company of darkly-hooded figures, 
and in the mournful chant he recognised the supplica- 
tion of the Penitential Psalms; but it was not until 
he had reined his horse aside to let the procession 
pass that he perceived how in the midst of them 
four of the brethren carried a bier shoulder-high, 
and over the bier lay a white pall. 

Behind the smoky blaze of the torches came a train 
of mourners, but so startling had been the discovery 
that this was a pageant of the grave, that Kynewulf 
scarce noticed the solitary man who rode in front of 
them with bowed head. After him rode other horse- 
men, and then the road was black with a great 
company on foot. 

Dimly visible the crowd moved by with a strange 
sound of trampling in the dark, and that muffled 
beat of footsteps passing away was more lamentable 
to hear than the dirge of the hooded men. 

i6i L 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

A white pall and but four bearers! Suddenly 
Kynewulf became aware that some little maid had 
gone down the dusty way into the stillness beyond 
the world. He leaned from his saddle and spoke to 
one of the mourners. 

" Tell me, good friend, who is dead ? " 

" The sweetest maiden under heaven, God rest her 
soul! It is the little Lady Mildryth of Hanging 
Shaw." 

"No, no, man, no! That cannot be. Tell me 
thou art not sure." 

" Ah, sure as the good thegn, who rides yonder 
with never a word to say." 

" God in the high heavens ! When did this 
happen? " 

" This is the fourth day; she was ailing but a little 
while; we bear her to her rest in the abbey." 

" I thank thee. There is no more to say. Go, 
man, go! " 

Cold and motionless as stone, Kynewulf sat gazing, 
long after the torch-light had flickered away; but 
still he saw the bier and the white pall, faring onward 
and onward into the darkness but never disappear- 
ing, and still he heard the trampling of feet, the 
muffled sound of generations passing for ever from 
fire and the light of the sun and the homes of 
men. 

162 



God's Gleeman 

And Mildryth was dead — dead ! Never more would 
her bright face be turned up to him; never more 
would he hear her merry laughter. With the wailing 
" Ea-la! Ea-la! " of a woman, he plunged through 
the darkness, heedless what became of him or whither 
he went. The little elf of sweetness and joy! lost, 
blown out like a light in the wind; ea-la! 

Out upon the cold waste beyond the Wall a deep 
gloom fell upon his mind, and the sins and follies of 
his reckless life crowded into memory. He felt him- 
self outcast and accursed. The very runes of his 
name changed into living things and fluttered duskily 
round him in care and anguish. " K and Y and N 
are we, and into what trouble hast thou brought us ! " 
Then he was seized with an unspeakable horror of 
he knew not what, and a shrieking fear made him 
leap from his saddle and cling screaming to his dumb 
companion. The horse rubbed its head against him, 
and when the wild fit passed he walked for a long 
way beside it with his hand twisted in its mane. 

For many days reason and memory failed him. 
Whither he wandered, how he found food, where he 
slept, by what good guidance he escaped the perils 
of the waste he never knew. When at length the 
cloud lifted from his brain, he was standing, grey- 
haired and ragged, in the sunlight before a tall cross 
of stone. It was carved all over, here with runes 

163 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and there with vine-leaves, and little creatures among 
them; but the man's gaze was fixed on the runes, 
which were the voice of the cross speaking. As 
Kynewulf read, it told how it had lifted on high the 
mighty King, the Lord of the heavens ; how it was 
drenched with His blood; how folk came from afar 
to look upon Him, and it was overwhelmed with 
sore sorrow. 

Weeping bitterly, Kynewulf fell upon his knees 
and laid his head on the step of the cross. While he 
lay there an aged priest came by, and after watching 
him some time he drew near and touched him. 

" Rise, son; it may be that I can help thee." 

Kynewulf arose, and looked at the priest with 
piteous eyes, but spoke no word. The priest saw 
that his face was noble, his hair grizzled before its 
time, and his garb rich despite its disarray. Putting 
his arm within Kynewulf's, " Tell me," he said, " how 
thou hast come hither, for thou art not of these 
parts." 

" It were long to tell," replied Kynewulf, pressing 
his hand on his brow, " and I have forgotten many 
things." 

" Come with me then, for thou art in need of 
repose," and the priest led him to a little thorp 
enclosed within its dyke of stakes and quick-set 
thorn, and so to his home in the church. He laid 

164 



God's Gleeman 

food before him, and when Kynewulf had eaten and 
drunk, he told who he was and whence he came and 
all that had befallen him. 

" Be of good cheer, son," said the old priest, " for 
assuredly thy angel has been with thee. Now take 
thy rest, and fear no evil." 

All that day from noon until sunset and far into 
the darkness Kynewulf lay dreamless in the heavy 
sleep of the sorrowful. But at the dead hour of the 
night, when his outworn spirit had been made new, 
he beheld once more the cross, in a vision. It was 
not now a carved stone, but a great rood of wood, 
wonderful, wreathed with light, and casting aloft 
bright beams into the heavens. All the wood of the 
forest was glazed over with gold; the foot of it was 
crusted with gems and gems were on the shoulder-span. 

While he gazed upon it, he saw that this tree of 
glory was ever changing in its colour and clothing; 
now it was wet and crimson with blood, and now 
again dazzling with gold and jewels; and out of the 
vision, as it thus came and went, a wind of song told 
its story, from the ancient days when it was felled 
at the end of the weald, and reared up on a hill, and 
swung on high men outlawed — wolf-heads; from 
those ancient days unto that eventide when the Lord 
of Victory, lifted down from His pain, was laid in a 
grave of clean stone, and the poor folk sang a lay of 

165 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

sorrow over Him, and wending away out-wearied, 
left Him at rest with a little company. 

Long afterwards Kynewulf wrought that dream 
into a noble Song of the Rood, but now, lying on the 
sheer brink of perdition, he was overjoyed to hear 
the voice calling to him : " Loved listener of mine, 
bid all men to this beacon; on me the Son of God 
hung in anguish, and they may each one be healed 
who with awe behold me, for I have opened the true 
way of refuge." 

Kynewulf awoke, praying earnestly to the cross, 
and eager to die; but the morning brought another 
day and a new life. 

When he had regained his strength and clothed 
himself anew, he bade the good priest farewell. The 
old man held his hand for a little while, looking with 
much love into his face. 

" I am glad to have known thee, son, though I 
think not ever to see thee again. But good things 
abide for thee in thy east country, and not the least 
of them is to have the counsel and solace of my 
brother Beda. Do not fail to take my greeting to 
him." 

So it fell out that Kynewulf came to Jarrow. It 
was in the winter, and the low green hill was drifted 
with snow, and Tyne Water and the great pool where 
the king's ships lay were covered with ice; but 

i66 



God's Gleeman 

Father Beda was as friendly as fire in the ingle nook, 
and for all his fame gracious and lowly, and despite 
his busy life at leisure to speak with him. He heard 
all his confession and counselled him on the ordering 
of his life. 

" The cowl does not make the monk, nor the tarred 
rope the sea-rover. Think many times ere betaking 
thee to the cloister. Thy gifts are of the age, and 
such evil as thou hast done was in the age. I would 
have thee remain there and be God's Gleeman. Was 
not blessed Aldhelm wont to stand on the bridge and 
in the market-place singing English songs, so that he 
might draw folk to him to hear the Lord's Word ? " 

" Ea-la! " sighed Kynewulf, " I sing no more. My 
gift has been taken from me." 

" So it is with the birds when the old feathers fall. 
Let thy new feathers be grown, white and clean, and 
thou wilt sing again." 

" Nay, the wells are dry and all the blossom of the 
world is withered." 

" Never think it," said Beda cheerily. " The 
wells and the flower of the world are in each man's 
heart. Now listen to me, for though it seldom 
happens that any one can give to another such vision 
of things as he himself hath, I will tell thee of matters 
that folk talk of, but that a gleeman might better 
sing of, and so save them for the years that are to 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

come. Didst thou ever hear the legend of Thomas 
Didymus — how when the Lord would have him carry 
His Gospel unto Ind and Taprobane he was a slow- 
heart and loath to go; and the Lord said, ' Nay, but 
go thou shalt,' and casting a rope about his neck, 
He hailed Thomas to the haven where the Eastern 
ship folk trafficked, and sold him for a slave. But 
the chapman, somewhat in doubt, took Thomas 
aside, and questioned him, ' Art thou indeed this 
man's slave ? ' and Thomas answered eagerly, ' Yea, 
yea, truly He is my Master though I be the basest 
of His bondsmen.' " 

The light kindled in the gleeman's eyes, but Beda 
raised his hand and went on : " Here is a thing, as 
it were but of yesterday. Thou knowest how the 
holy Augustine came to Canterbury. He that con- 
secrated him was Virgilius, Bishop of Aries; and 
before he was bishop he was abbot in Lerins Isle. 
As he walked of a night round that island, like a 
faithful shepherd round the wattled fold, he came 
upon a strange ship lying close against the shore, 
and upon the deck he saw mariners in the starlight. 
Two came down the gangway and greeted him. 
They were bound, they said, to the Holy Places, and 
they had put in to the island hoping that they might 
win him to sail with them, for they had heard of his 
holiness and his austerity, and no truer pilot might 

i68 



God's Gleeman 

they have to that sacred land. Virgilius smiled grimly 
as he heard their praise, and he lifted up his hand 
and made the sign of the cross. Ship and mariners 
vanished, and in the dark waves he saw but the 
glimmering of the stars." 

And Kynewulf's eyes shone like stars. " Tell me 
more," he cried; " the thought of these things is 
new to me." 

" What a lay too mightest thou make," said Beda, 
" of the holy Guthlac in his isle among the black 
waters of the bright - flowering Fens! Or if thou 
shouldst wish for a loftier theme, hast thou not: 
In exitu Israel de Egypto ? Or, now that I think of 
thy dream, what dost thou say to the quest of Elene 
the Empress who found the blessed wood on which 
the Lord died? Then, high over all — when thou 
hast won to the strength and happy peace of thy 
manhood — wilt thou not sing of the Lord Himself, 
thy Christ and mine, who came to us a naked babe, 
and who will come yet again in the clouds on that 
day when the dead shall be as glass, showing within 
them all the hidden things of life, and thy rood-tree 
of light shall take the place of the fallen stars and 
the darkened sun ? " 

" Who shall be equal to such mighty minstrelsy ? " 
asked Kynewulf. 

" That, I said, was for the day of thy strength and 

169 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

tranquillity," replied Beda. Then turning over the 
smooth vellum leaves of a Greek book, and reading 
a little here and there, " When Matthew was a captive 
among the Mermedonians," he continued, " the Lord 
appeared to Andrew in a dream, and bade him hasten 
to the deliverance of his brother. But Andrew 
shrank aghast from the perils of the deep and the 
terror of waters and the naked earls of man-eating 
folk. The Lord's sorrowful rebuke brought him to 
a stouter heart; and early in the morning he went 
down with his disciples to the sea-shore. There he 
beheld a white ship with sun-browned mariners three, 
and these were the Lord Himself and two of His 
angels in the guise of foreign ship-folk. Andrew 
hailed them, ' Ho! ye bold sea-roamers, whither are 
ye bound ? ' The master-shipman answered, ' To 
Mermedonia.' ' Thither, too, would we,' said Andrew. 
' 'Tis a wicked coast,' said the Lord, ' and ill fare 
strangers landing there.' ' None the worse should 
we fare, if we might sail with you in this white ship 
with the green wales. Wilt thou take us ? ' ' Right 
willingly,' he answered, ' when ye have paid fee and 
charge, as we shall bargain.' ' No charge can we 
pay,' said Andrew, ' for we carry nor scrip nor purse; 
nay, nor bread nor shoes, but God will provide for 
thy payment.' Then laughed the shipman, sitting 
high on the bulwark, ' What manner of folk are ye 

170 



God's Gleeman 

that would wander far on the heaving street of ocean, 
having not imaged gold, nor yet arm-rings, nor any 
sort of treasure ? ' ' We are God's men,' said Andrew, 
* wending whither He bids us.' ' Ah,' said the Lord, 
the mariner, ' if you be God's men, I must needs take 
you freely.' " And looking up from the book, " Does 
it weary you ? " asked Beda. 

" No, no; say on," replied Kynewulf. 

" When the white ship was far away from the 
pleasant land, storm-winds rose, the seas cried out 
to each other, and the Terror of Waters came upon 
them, so that the disciples were afraid. Andrew 
strove to comfort them : ' Take courage ! It was on 
such an evening as this, long ago, that the great 
storm broke upon us from the hills, so that the 
waves beat into our ship, and our Master, as you 
know, was sleeping. Now He sleeps not nor slumbers, 
and leaves unhelped no man on earth whose courage 
does not fail him.' The storm died down, and in 
the stillness of the night Andrew and the Lord, the 
helmsman, talked together: ' In my youth I was a 
fisher, like Simon my brother, and through many 
gales have we run in our sea-boat, but never have I 
seen mariner like thee to steer through wet wind 
and sea-smoke. I would I had thy art.' ' That I 
might perchance teach thee,' said the Lord, the 
steersman; ' but what was that I heard thee say of 

171 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

one who slept in a great storm ? ' And Andrew told 
Him of the quelling of the winds and the stilling of 
the sea. ' What more dost thou remember of thy 
Master ? ' asked the Lord. ' Many a day it would 
take to tell thee all,' said Andrew, and as the ship 
bore on in the starlight he recalled the days of the 
Lord's companionship, until his eyes grew heavy. 
When he awoke it was morning, he was on the shore 
of Mermedonia, and he roused his companions, cry- 
ing, ' Awake, arise; it was Christ who was our 
steersman.' " 

Beda was still speaking when the bells rang for 
vespers, and he broke off and quickly closed the 
book. "Come," he said; "the angels, I know, visit 
the canonical hours and gatherings of the brethren. 
If they found me not there, would they not say, 
' Where is Beda that he does not come with the 
brethren to the prescribed prayers ? ' " 

Thus in the cJoister on the low green hill of Jarrow 
Beda sought to school Kynewulf to his new life as 
God's Gleeman. 

When Easter had gone by and birch-tree and 
rowan were in tender leaf, Kynewulf set out to the 
home of dear memories at Hanging Shaw. There he 
abode awhile, taking and giving such solace as he 
might. In the midst of May he received tidings of 

172 



God's Gleeman 

the death, of Beda on the eve of Ascension. " Why- 
was I not there? " he said; and thinking how that 
holy man lay alone in his cell, with but one scholar 
writing by his side, while the brethren were abroad 
with the cross, making the circuit of the fields and 
beseeching a blessing on the fruits of the earth, he 
marvelled at the strange endings of the lives of 
men. 

Thereafter he fared south to Hagulstad for the feast 
of Pentecost. On that day of the rushing wind and the 
tongues of fire, as he stood by the little elf's place of 
rest, the Lord and Light-bearer gave him back his 
gift of song, made pure in the fire and free from 
shame. 

When he returned once more to his wandering life, 
folk scarcely knew again the gay singer in the man 
who had shrieked on the waste and whose young 
hair was dashed with grey. 

Some of the themes that Beda taught him he 
wrought into noble verse, and men listened to them 
with quickened pulses. He won to his day of strength 
and tranquillity, and sang the Dream of the Rood 
which he had seen long ago in sleep. He was then 
an old man, with very few friends left on the earth. 
They had fared hence and had their abiding in 
heaven. 



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A Child's Book of Warriors 



When he too passed away from this fleeting life, 
I do not know. Best pleased am I to think of him 
as a shadowy gleeman, untouched by time, and 
flitting about the Northumbrian moors continually. 




174 




In the Days of Athelney 

Seven years did the monks of Lindisfarne wander 
over Old Northumbria with the body of St. Cuthbert. 
In the wildest tracts of that wide land of fell and 
forest there was no spot the saint in life had ever 
seen to which they did not bring him in his shrine; 
and further still they bore him than he had ever 
travelled. 

Evil was the day that brought about that long and 
strange wayfaring with the holy dead. For after 
Halfdene had sacked and burned the priory of Tyne- 
mouth, he and his Danish sea-wolves swept north- 
ward, harrying the unprotected coast. But swiftly 
as they sped, dismay and fear flew faster; and before 
the dragon-prows dashed into the bay at Lindisfarne, 
the little brotherhood, carrying in tears the shrine 
of their beloved saint, had escaped along the ridge 
of sand left bare between isle and mainland at ebb 
of the tide, and gathering their churls and tenants, 

177 M 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

with the flocks and herds of the abbey, had fled for 
refuge to the high moorland. 

One brother alone, who had been bidden to stay 
and watch, saw the sea-wolves leap ashore in their 
ring-shirts and iron-winged helms, and beheld that 
noble abbey and its stately church pillaged and 
reduced to ashes. 

Think now of those houseless fugitives in the bitter 
weather of the early spring. It is night, and you can 
trace but dimly the dark outlines of the wild heath, 
rolling away, waste beyond waste, under the icy 
stars. Out on the eastern knolls men keep watch to 
seaward. Dogs guard the sheep and cattle huddled 
among the gorse and broom. Down in a hollow, 
sheltered from view, fires are burning; and around 
these the poor folk — men and women, with their 
children and their old people — lie close for warmth. 
Under a leafless ash-tree rests the precious shrine, 
and beside it Bishop Eardulf and Eadred, the gentle 
Abbot of Carlisle, sleep for sorrow, when they sleep 
at all. 

The cold wind moans; the keen stars shift over- 
head. The little children cry, and are hushed to 
sleep again. The watch is changed; the turf grows 
stiff and whitens with frost. Away yonder in the 
holy island the ruins are still smouldering, and the 
sea-wolves carouse on the long-ships in the bay. 

178 



In the Days of Athelney 

O Cuthbert, servant of God, how long wilt thou suffer 
these things and make no sign ? 

The saint lies in his coffin, but not as one who has 
been dead well-nigh two hundred years. Lifelike he 
lies, and comely in alb of linen and golden stole; his 
face ruddy, rather long; his brown hair and slight 
beard sprinkled with silver; his feet sandalled. 
Mortality and time have left him without blemish. 
A breath of God, and he would arise, unchanged in 
form and feature as though he had trod these hills 
but yesterday. The head of Oswald the king and 
relics of Aidan and Venerable Bede lie beside him in 
his cofffn. These are crumbling into dust, but Cuth- 
bert only slumbers. So his people think of him, 
resting in his shrine. 

On the morrow began that long wayfaring. 

And first, seven stalwart laymen were chosen to 
bear the coffin, and with it that great book of the 
Gospels which Bilfrid cased in gold and silver work 
inlaid with gems, and which was so fair writ and 
illuminated with such beauty that even to this day 
it is held a marvel. The names of five of these staunch 
comrades remain — Hunred and Stitheard, Edmund 
and Franco and Eilaf; and long after Cuthbert had 
been laid in the peace of the great church on the 
wooded cliffs above the Wear, their goodly service 
was the boast of their descendants. 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

But as for the rest, saving only Abbot Eadred and 
Eardulf the Bishop, there is no remembrance at all. 
They have all gone — drifted like leaves, scattered 
like mist; the names of husband and wife and little 
children and lovers, once so dear, are now clean 
forgotten. How many they went forth, by what 
roads and wild tracks they journeyed, how they were 
turned hither and thither in a land overrun with 
fire and sword no one can tell. Churches and crosses 
marked in later days the spots where they had rested, 
little or long, with their hallowed burden; and these 
were dotted over the wide shires, from Melrose and 
Kirkcudbright (which is Cuthbert's Kirk) to the rocks 
and tarns between Coniston and Windermere, and 
from Ribble waters and Lytham sands to the deep 
woods of the squirrels of Craike. 

I see them passing as in a dream. I see their 
faces, I hear their voices as in a dream. Their faces 
are brown, and worn, and rugged, but their eyes are 
bright with courage. Their hymns float over the 
springs of Tyne; the shepherd hears them on the 
Furness fells. They live in tents and caves; their 
fires burn on ancient hearths, on the broken Roman 
Wall; they sleep among the purple heather and in 
huts of green boughs. Now I lose them in the smoke 
of the autumn rains; now snow lies deep, and the 
midnight skies are aglow with the Northern Lights. 

i8o 



In the Days of Athelney 

To-day a little child dies ; they will never again weep 
over its cairn on the waste. To-morrow an aged 
man will drop, and they will dig his grave in the 
trampled garth of a ruined church. 

I see them on the Cumbrian shore. In England, 
alas ! they have no more hope, they say, to live peace- 
fully. Beyond the seas are the green hills of Erin, 
where the sun shines, and they dream of a fair cloister 
where at last their saint may rest. But the winds 
rise, and the white surf beats them back to land. 

Over this ravaged countryside famine has fallen, 
and deadly sickness. The barns are empty, the fields 
are unplanted. The wanderers are worn out; they 
can go no further. And St. Cuthbert gives no help. 
Some lie down and die; others steal away into the 
hills, to live in such fashion as they may. 

Even the strength of the bearers has failed. But 
one of them sees in the brightness of sleep such a 
spot as they may have passed with little notice; and 
thither friendly strangers beckon him. At sunrise 
he and his fellows come to the place. 'Tis a death- 
stricken farm. In the wood hard by a roan horse 
runs up whinnying, and nuzzles them for loneliness. 
In the sheds they find harness, and a light dray 
whereon they may place the shrine. In the deserted 
house a little meal has been left in the meal-kist. Thus 
once again they turn with better cheer into new ways. 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Now it was in the third year of the wandering 
that Alfred the King lay in the marshes of Athelney. 
May-time it was, apple-bloom on the tree and the 
cuckoos calling; but black care sat by the hearth in 
the little island bulwark. Never yet had the king's 
fortunes fallen so low, or he been cast into such straits. 

Upon a certain night, as he sat at board with his 
scant companionship of trusty thegns, he saw how 
heavy and dismayed they showed. And saying 
within himself, " Keep me, good Lord, on the sunny 
side of despair, for if I too lose heart all is lost," he 
cast about for some brave tale of other days to lighten 
their spirits. 

Then, taking his little son upon his knee, " Stout 
kinsman," said he, " I would have you know that far 
away towards the rising sun lie the two halves of the 
world. East and West, and narrow seas race between 
them. Upon the eastern side Darius was in old time 
King of Kings and lord over many nations — Assyrians, 
Medes, Persians, and an innumerable people. But 
upon the western side Athens, a city resplendent with 
temples and houses of white stone, sat on a hill by 
the shore; a blue bay before it, and behind it the 
mountain Hymettus which glows at sundown with a 
wondrous violet light. And that, it may be, was why 
Athens was by-named the City of the Violet Crown. 

" Now upon the eastern side were rich cities of 

182 



In the Days of Athelney 

the Greeks along the Ionian shore ; and when the 
King of Kings would have brought these to serfdom, 
the men of Athens sailed on twenty ships to aid their 
kinsfolk, and marching inland they burned down his 
city of Sardis for the king, and got them back to sea 
with their spoil. 

" Wild as fire in dry reeds was Darius. He called 
the slave who fanned him at his meat. ' While Athens 
stands,' he said, ' do thou repeat three times each 
day, Master, remember the Athenians! To all the 
states of Hellas heralds were out demanding earth 
and water in token of submission, ' For under the 
wide heavens,' said the king, * we are the lord and 
givers of these.' Many of the Greek cities cried 
craven and paid the tribute; but at Athens the 
herald was flung into a pit, at Sparta he was cast 
into a well, while the people jeered, ' Earth and 
water! take there as much as Darius needs! ' 

" And three times, day after day, the slave who 
waved the fan of peacock's feathers repeated his cry, 
until at length a mighty host was gathered, and six 
hundred long-ships — great triremes that whitened 
the seas with sounding oars — bore into the west, and 
every ship carried fetters and chains for the men of 
Hellas. The Cyclades were wasted, the island cities 
destroyed, and landing on Euboea the Persians laid 
siege to Eretria. 

183 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Then was Athens distracted between the wisdom 
of valour and the folly of dismay. But when Eretria 
fell the councillors of Athens sent for the swift runner 
Pheidippides; and when he came before the archons 
sitting in their marble seats, with golden grasshoppers 
in their hair, they saw how tall and slim he stood, 
deep-chested, lean as a hound, with light, sinewy 
limbs, sandalled shapely feet, and eager eyes that 
seemed to drink distance in. And they smiled for 
pleasure in his goodliness. 

" ' Thou art our fleetest,' said one of the grave men; 

* how long to Sparta ? ' 

" ' 'Tis fifty leagues, and over mountains ; but start- 
ing now, and Hermes helping ' — for Hermes, kinsman, 
was one of their gods, and his shoes were winged — ' 

* surely I may catch the gleam of the Brazen House in 
the morning that follows to-morrow.' 

" 'To Sparta, then! And thus shalt thou say on 
coming into presence of the magistrates : " O Lace- 
demonians, the men of Athens entreat you to assist 
them, and not to suffer the most ancient city among 
the Greeks to fall into bondage to barbarians. 
Eretria is already reduced to slavery, and Hellas has 
become weaker by the loss of a renowned city." 
But do thou, young man, rejoice in thy strength, 
and if ever thou hast run swiftly, make now still 
better speed for Athens.' 

184 



In the Days of Athelney 

" Then was it up and away for Pheidippides, a 
pebble closed in each hand, and the lithe body poised 
upon feet supple and springy as a yew bow. Through 
the passes of ^galeos he sped; round the sweet- 
wooded bay by the sacred road to Eleusis; past 
Megara, and along the Evil Staircase hung on the 
face of the Scironic cliffs. Orchards, villages, temples, 
tombs, statues of gods and goddesses fleeted by; but 
the great mountains seemed to go with him, moving 
with slow might, loath to part from him, and then, 
as it were, passing him on, one to the next — a man 
to befriend for the sake of Athens. 

" So running and running, resting a while to eat and 
drink, stopping to sleep, his steady pace carried him 
into the south within gladsome vision of the sea. 
Next, away to westward he swerved, entered the 
narrow defiles, climbed through the rocks and sombre 
pines over the mountain masses, until at last there, 
in the morning sun, were the snowy domes of Tay- 
getus, there the streams of Eurotas flowing in a land 
of corn, and the Brazen House of Sparta, the goal 
of the fifty leagues, gleamed over the orange groves. 
" '0 Lacedemonians, the men of Athens entreat you.' 
" Did the fall of Eretria bring a flush to the Spartan 
faces ? Was the pride of Sparta stung with a thought 
of the conquest of Hellas ? Nay, but in their scornful 
lips and the furtive eyes of those who heard him he 

185 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

read hatred of Athens, envy of her glory, and malici- 
ous joy at her danger. 

" His heart was hot within him, and hotter still it 
burned when they gave their answer: ' Can Sparta 
be stone when Athens is suppliant ? Tell your 
archons this: When the moon rises full on the 
mountains Sparta takes the field. Sooner it may not 
be, for such is our old-time observance of law. Till 
then we wait in patience, reverencing the gods.' 

" ' I have heard,' he said; ' I remember; give me 
leave to depart with your answer.' 

" A moment he paused to tighten his belt ; he waved 
aside the offer of food and rest; speeding fleeter 
than ever he reached the Eurotas, and on the bank 
of the river he loosened his sandals and washed the 
dust of Sparta from his feet. And ' O you gods,' 
he cried as he fell into the measured tread of the 
fifty-league runner, ' to you, when our own kind fail 
us, we come at the end.' 

" Crossing the plain, he ascended the track of barren 
stone on the flank of Parthenion. There in the 
desolate gorges, where the mother-rock was rifted 
and scattered, he heard himself called by name. 
He turned, and gasped as he saw in a cleft of the 
mountain Pan the earth-god, in form half-man and 
half-goat. But the awful being looked graciously 
upon him and bade him draw near. 

i86 



In the Days of Athelney 

" ' Why,' he asked, ' has Athens alone of the cities 
in Hellas no thought of me who wish her well ? Not 
once or twice in times gone by have I been friendly 
to her, and so will I be again. Already I hear far 
off the plunging of ships and the shouting of the 
sailors; but bid Athens mark how, when the thin line 
of battle wavers and breaks in the fennel meadows. 
Pan will hold his place with her bravest. And thou,' 
said the god with a grave smile, ' thou hast run well 
for Athens, shalt fight well for Athens, and shalt not 
go without reward.' 

" Before Pheidippides was aware, the earth-god 
vanished and was one again with soil and stone, and 
nothing remained but, the cleft in the mountain 
where he had sat. 

" So, while Sparta waited for the full moon, the men 
of Athens took their stand at the head of the only 
road by which the Persians could advance on the 
city. Here the mountains drew back in a crescent 
from the sea, and left the green plain of Marathon, 
where the fennel flowered; and at each end of the 
crescent deep swamps filled the space between the 
road and the sea. They chose their ground on the 
rise at the foot of the mountains, and extended their 
formation across the breadth of the plain. There 
were neither horsemen nor archers. Their strength 
was massed in the wings; but their numbers scarce 

187 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

sufficed to fill the shallow ranks in the centre. The 
fate of Hellas depended that day on ten thousand 
men, and a gallant eight hundred sent by Platsea in 
grateful remembrance of help received from Athens. 

" Along the shore the invaders swarmed from the 
great ships; and spearmen, archers, and slingers, 
chariots and cavalry fell into dreadful array, one 
hundred and ten thousand strong. 

" For a moment Athens looked into the face of Asia, 
and then such a thing was done as men had never 
seen in the wars of the world. At a signal given, 
the whole Greek line, raising its cry of battle, swept 
down the rise at a run. North and south, the heavy 
wings shattered the Persian front, and rolled back 
horse and man into the marshes and the sea. But 
the centre wavered, broke, fled, but rallied, and as 
the rays of the setting sun streamed into the faces 
of the enemy, a rustic armed with a ploughshare 
stood in the broken line, and held a thousand at bay. 
More than a mortal man he seemed, and when the 
day was won he vanished, as Pan had vanished in 
the cleft of the mountain. 

" Such was Marathon fight. Seven of the great 
ships burning lighted the Persian fleet to sea. More 
than six thousand of the enemy fell. Athens lost 
one hundred and ninety men. 

" Once again the runner of runners plied his speed, 



In the Days of Athelney 

bearing these tidings to Athens : ' Pan fought for us ; 
Hellas is free.' 

" Six-and-twenty miles, by the road the Persians 
never should come, Pheidippides flew, reached the 
glorious city at dusk, and panted out his message. 
Then his breath failed, his heart stopped. To die 
with those words on his lips — what better reward 
than that could life bestow ? " 

"What a fight was that!" "What a runner!" 
" What a god to help ! " rang through the hall as 
Alfred finished his story. 

" Little kinsman," said the king, " call Athelney 
Athens, and we too have a God who in times gone 
by has often been friendly to us; ay, and so will 
He be again! " 

As the king lay awake that night thinking of many 
things, the place was filled with a soft shining, and 
a man stood near him in an alb of white linen and a 
golden stole. His face was ruddy and somewhat 
long, and his brown hair and slight beard were 
sprinkled with silver. Starting from his pillow, the 
king cried out, " Stand! who art thou? " The tall 
man told him his name and why he had come; and 
he bade him free his mind from too much care, and 
go forth strong-hearted, for in six days he should 
overcome his enemies. " And this shall be the sign. 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Rise up early and blow thine horn thrice, and three 
hundred men shall come to thee, harnessed for battle." 

In the morning King Alfred rose and sailed to the 
land. Three times he blew his horn; and thrice he 
was answered, and the friend of his heart, Ethelnoth 
the Ealdorman, came to him through the fens with 
three hundred men at his back. Breathless then was 
the running and riding east and west. The beacon 
was lit on the edge of Selwood Forest, and the men 
of Hampshire, the men of Wiltshire, the men of 
Somerset flocked to Egbert's Stone. 

Three days thereafter the king won the crowning 
battle of Ethandune. At the turning-point of the 
fight his standard-bearer was slain, but the standard 
was caught and held aloft by a tall man in a white 
alb and golden stole. Some said this was St. Neot, 
the king's kinsman, but I say St. Cuthbert. 




190 




Children of Kings 

Many a stirring year had gone by since King Alfred 
told his story in Athelney, when it chanced upon a 
day that his little kinsman — now grown into a brave 
and stalwart man — rode through the vale of the 
White Horse, and bethinking him of his old nurse, 
turned aside to the village on the downs where she 
dwelt. 

It was late in the spring-time. A warm light slept 
upon the hill-sides; fruit-trees were flowering in the 
garth about the small log-house; a girl was singing 
half-hidden among the bright green leaves of the 
trees, and the prince checked his horse to listen to 
her. 

For a moment as he stood at the doorway the old 
nurse gazed at him, wondering who he might be; 
then she caught him to her, laughing and crying; 
held him at arm's length and looked him fondly up 
and down. " Oh, little son of mine," she cried, 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

" God has made you a tall man and strong; and 
good no less, I warrant. I little hoped to see you 
again, and now you bring me more joy than I can 
tell." 

And when the horse had been put to graze in the 
meadow, she led him in and questioned him a hundred 
times of the king and of all her friends in the old 
days, and ran back in memory to his boyhood, asking 
him if he remembered this and that of the things 
done and said in the time long gone by. And when 
he in turn bade her tell him how she fared and if 
there was anything she needed for her happiness, 
" Nothing, dear lad," she answered, " unless it were 
to see you often, and to look once more, it might be, 
at the good king himself, were he to pass this way." 

" And who is it sings so blithe among your apple- 
trees ? " asked the prince. 

" That is Egwina," said the nurse. " Her father 
was a shepherd on the downs, but he was lost in the 
snow of the Great Winter; and her mother died no 
long while after, so I brought her hither to be my 
foster-child." 

" You had ever the big mother-heart, nurse," said 
the prince, " and little I wonder now at the flourish 
of your trees, for sweeter voice I never heard." 

" Ay, and her face is as sweet as her voice, and her 
heart more sweet than either. But here is the garth. 

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Children of Kings 

Will you not let her see what has come of the king's 
babe that lay in my lap ? " 

There then in the slumber of the ruddy sunshine 
these two met among the fruit-tree blossom, but red 
and white of apple and cherry were not more fresh 
and fair than the maid in her loveliness. And while 
Egwina thought, surely not even in the number of 
the king's great thegns is there any more lordly or 
more beautiful than this, the prince said to himself, 
here at last, by the blessed rood, I find the one girl 
in all the world that was meant for me. 

So the prince wooed and won her; and when time 
had sped by, and their little son Athelstan had come 
to run about, a merry child with his mother's blue eyes 
and sunny hair, a new joy fell to Alfred's lot and he 
seemed to grow young again. Not that the king 
was now truly old, but illness and sorrow and many 
anxious labours had furrowed his brow and sown his 
hair with hoar-frost. Manly and cheerful he always 
was, but never more light of heart than when the 
boy was with him. Even while he conversed on 
learned matters with his Bishop Asser or dictated a 
book to John or Grimbold his Mass-priests, the little 
grandson would stand between his knees, holding his 
thumb, and waiting patiently till he could lure him 
away to some fresh revelry. 

So dearly did the king love the child that when 

193 N 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

his sixth birthday came round, Alfred held a high 
feast at which he made him the youngest of his 
thegns. Calling him to the dais in the midst of the 
great chiefs, he buckled round him a sword-belt 
glittering with gems, threw a purple cloak over his 
shoulders, and drew back his long hair so that it fell 
down over the cloak in clusters of gold. Then he 
took a noble sword and held it out by the golden 
scabbard, and when the child grasped the hilt the 
king laughed gaily: "Aha, sea-rover! This time 
I have trapped you. You have taken the sword 
from me by the hilt, and that is a token that you are 
now my man." 

" Yes, grandfather," Athelstan answered with a 
shining look, " always I shall be your man, and you 
shall be my man, and both of us shall man each 
other." 

" So may it be! " rejoined the king. " And now 
I pray, little Stone of Nobleness, that you will wax 
as good as your name, ever remembering that good- 
ness is the best nobleness, and that stone is the most 
steadfast thing in the world. And if some day God 
should make you king, I pray that He may be your 
strength against hardship and sorrow; for though 
there is not a king but would wish to be without 
these if he could, yet I know he cannot; so I do 
not pray that you may be quit of them. And God 

194 



Children of Kings 

give you to know that every good gift and every 
power soon decays, and is heard of no more, if wisdom 
be not in it." 

That, I think, was the happiest time in all the days 
of King Alfred's life, and it lasted to the end of it; 
for it was in that year, shortly before the Mass of 
All Hallows, that he died and was buried in the 
great church of the abbey he had founded at 
Winchester. 

Long afterwards Athelstan came to the throne of 
his grandfather. He had waxed worthy of his name, 
as the king had prayed that he might do, and so 
well had he warded the land and kept faith with all 
men that his people called him the Steadfast. Look- 
ing abroad for some bright spirit of a man that he 
might make his friend, his thoughts turned to the 
north and rested upon Harald of the Fair Hair, who 
had subdued the hundred bickering little kings of 
the creeks and fells, and brought the whole of Norway 
under his strong rule. So it came about that on a 
summer evening as Harald feasted at Nidaros, an 
English earl entered the hall and strode up to the 
king's high seat, bearing a gift from Athelstan. 

It was a sword of swords, fenced with a guard of 
gold and set in a gold sheath twinkling with precious 
stones. Harald rose graciously as he heard the 

195 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

message, but when the earl saw how he took the 
sword by the pommel, he laughed outright as King 
Alfred had laughed long years ago : " Aha, King of 
Norway, you have laid hand to hilt, so now you have 
made yourself King Athelstan's man." 

Harald flushed and plucked the blade half from 
its sheath, and for a moment it seemed like as not 
that the jest would take an ill turn; but a happier 
thought flashed through his clear mind, and he 
answered with a smile: " That shall be as it may be. 
But the sword is a kingly sword, and it shall not 
cut kings' friendship. Sit on my right hand. Earl." 

Now Harald's sons were a wild and turbulent brood, 
all save Hakon, the tricksy little elf of his old age, 
and he had often fretted lest, when he were gone, 
the child might fall into the hands of his fierce half- 
brothers. In this gift of the sword he saw a means 
of safety. " The boy shall go to England," he said, 
" and grow to his strength unharmed; " and as he 
planned all that was to be said and done in the 
matter, " That, I think, will be a jest worth two of 
the English earl's." 

Next summer then, when Hakon was four years 
old. Hawk Halbrok and Sigurd the Earl bore away 
with him from Norway in two noble dragon-ships. 
Soon they saw the English shores running blue into 
the grey sea, and from them the sea-fowl came 

196 



Children of Kings 

glittering; and up the broad reaches of Water of 
Thames they sailed between meadows smelling sweet 
of the summer; and where the tideway narrowed 
there were the flowery garths and white houses of 
London town. But most they wondered at the great 
bridge with its street of high gables across the river, 
and below it they moored to the rings of a wharf 
of stone. 

Then thirty of the Norsemen sprang ashore with 
Hawk and Earl Sigurd — each with his sword hidden 
under his coat — and passed through the busy streets 
to the royal house. The king was sitting in council 
as they entered; and Hawk, who went foremost, 
bore the fair little lad on his left arm, and on his 
right he had heavy bracelets of gold, and he wore a 
crimson tunic, with his hair in a gold-embroidered 
silk cap. A strange gallant figure he made as he 
advanced straight to the king's throne, and without 
a word placed the boy upon the king's knee. 

" What does this mean ? " asked Athelstan, gazing 
in astonishment at the bold strangers. 

" This is Harald Fair Hair's young son," answered 
Hawk, " that he has sent you to foster." 

" Does he dare ? " cried Athelstan, and his brows 
blackened with wrath, for the foster-father of another 
man's child was ever counted his inferior. 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

" You have the child set upon your knee, King," 
said Hawk, as he saw the fierce passion rising. " You 
may slay him if you will, but you will not have 
destroyed all the sons of Harald." 

Athelstan glanced down at the boy, and the blithe 
little creature looked up into his face with eyes so 
fearless and friendly that the king's heart warmed 
towards him. 

" Tell your King Harald I will keep his son. And 
setting babe against sword, it may be that he has 
sent me the goodlier gift." 

Then said Earl Sigurd, " I am Harald's brother, 
and as he would not have you think we are come to 
you as beggars, he bade me pray you come down to 
our ships and see for yourself." 

" Very willingly," answered the king. 

Down to the quay they went straightway. One 
of the stately vessels was moored to the rings, but 
the other lay out in the stream. And never did ship 
more glorious swim on the Water of Thames; for 
forty rowers held it in its place against the race of 
the tide, and there it lay, with beak of gold, and 
dragon-coils of gold gleaming astern, shields of scarlet 
and silver to shelter the rowers on the benches, and 
glittering vane aloft on the masthead. From the 
great yard a purple sail hung billowing in the wind. 

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Children of Kings 

Round it sailed the white swans that the folk of 
London loved to see on their river, and the salmon- 
fishers had crept up in their boats to behold the 
wondrous ship. 

" This," said the earl, " is Harald's gift to you, 
King Athelstan; or, rather, I shall say, it is the 
casket that holds his gifts." 

At a sign the rowers brought the vessel along- 
side the quay, and right gladly the king went on 
board. 

In this fashion Hakon became Athelstan's foster- 
son. And the king had him baptised, and reared 
and taught with his own children; and he came to 
love him beyond words. So, indeed, did all people, 
for there was no lad more winsome in all England, or 
so tall and strong and comely as he. 

Harald never saw his little elf again. His mighty 
heart broken by the ingratitude of his children, and 
all his fair hair white as snow, he died very old, and 
was laid in his cairn in Hordaland, with his war-gear 
about him. Under his son Erik peace or comfort in 
Norway there was none. His savage cruelty won him 
the name of Blood-axe, and when at last the people 
rose and drove out him and his wicked queen, Gunhild, 
King Athelstan equipped three war-ships for Hakon, 
girded him with Quern-biter (the Cutter of Millstones), 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

and sent him forth glad and fearless to claim his royal 
heritage. 

The lad had yet but turned his fifteenth year, and 
when the crowds at the Peasant Assembly saw him 
in the bloom of his boyish grace, their hearts went 
out to him; old men cried that 'twas Harald Fair 
Hair come back young again; and quicker than fire 
glitters through dry grass, the tidings that he had 
been chosen king flew over Norway. 

No one dreamed then of the adventure that lay 
before him. Nothing less was that than the over- 
throw of the ancient gods of the North; and a hope- 
less work Hakon found it to be. More than once did 
Sigurd, the stout heathen earl of his childhood, make 
peace between him and his unyielding people, but 
in those iron days kings were slow to learn that it 
was ill preaching the Gospel of Peace with fire and 
sword. 

Yet for all his masterfulness, earl and peasant loved 
him well enough, and when the sons of Erik began 
their invasions, they upheld him staunchly by land 
and sea. But the Blood-axe brood brought him to 
his death at last. Under the wicked eyes of Brunhild 
herself, he had driven them in mad rout to their 
ships, when a random arrow struck him beneath his 
uplifted arm. His men carried him on board, and 

200 



Children of Kings 

bent to their oars homeward. But life was ebbing 
fast, and Hakon was never to see home again. They 
turned aside and landed him on Hella, the Flat 
Rock, and there he died in the house in which he 
was born. 

As the end drew near, his thoughts were busy with 
the country of Christ's earthly wayfaring; and 
thither, he said, he had a mind to go, if he lived, 
and be with Christian men. When he was asked 
whether he wished that his body should be taken 
to England, " Little better than a pagan have I lived 
in a pagan land," he answered; " bury me how you 
will." 

So he too was laid kingly in his cairn by those 
true-hearted heathen folk; and Norway was ruled 
by another Harald, who was of the Blood-axe strain, 
and who was called Greyfell from the colour of his 
cloak. 

So strangely do events repeat themselves, and from 
one generation to another weave together into a 
single picture the lives of men who were strangers to 
each other. Even beyond this the story goes. In 
the troubles that followed the death of King Hakon 
many of his friends and kinsfolk perished. Sigurd 
the wise and friendly earl was slain; and though 
Harald Grey Cloak proved a righteous king, and 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

many of the people were brought to belief in Christ 
in his day, dearly did he abide that slaying, for the 
earl's son, Hakon, lured him to a treacherous death 
at last. Tryggva too, the under-king of Vikin, they 
killed in Christni Fjord; but his Queen, Astrid, 
escaped, and of that came many things worth 
telling. 




202 




He says he tfianfes tfiee, King 

Hdfeon ; answered Astrid 

dnd Kis motfier thanks thee too. 





Olaf the VikinCT 

o 

After the slaying of Tryggva, Queen Astrid fled 
with a small following; and Thorold, her foster- 
father, led her through the dark pine woods and the 
rocky tracts of the fells to an island in a lonely lake, 
where she might safely lie hidden for a time. There 
her babe was born; and Thorold sprinkled him with 
water in the old heathen fashion, and called him Olaf 
after his grandfather. And as soon as the danger of 
pursuit appeared to have gone by, her little band of 
defenders returned quietly to their homes. 

All through the summer the fair young queen 
remained on the island, nursing her little son, and 
hoping for happier fortunes. But as the red leaves 
began to fall, and the days to shorten and grow cold, 
" It is time now," said Thorold, " to get to your 
father's before the first snow." So they set out, 
Astrid and the babe, with two hand-maids, and 
Thorold and his son Thorgils, a boy of six years; 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

and travelling by starlight, and keeping away from 
the homesteads except when it was late and dark, 
they arrived at Olfrusted and were in comfort there 
with her father during the winter. 

Yet it was not long before a rumour of Olaf's birth 
reached the wicked old queen, Gunhild, and scarcely 
had the spring gales cleared the ice from the fjords 
and the snow from the passes before spies and troops 
of horsemen were sent out in search of the babe. 
" A little seed, son Harald, will tumble a stone wall," 
said Gunhild; " see that no bantling of the Fair Hair' 
breed lives to shove you from your seat." 

Then began a long and perilous flight through the 
Norland wilds of rock and water and forest; but 
neither on the wolf-pack's highway, which is the 
heathland, nor on the troll-wife's byway, which is 
the precipice, did any ill befall them, and foster- 
father Thorold brought them safely through into 
Sweden to the homestead of Hakon the Old. 

Even to that shelter the hatred of Gunhild pursued 
them, but the kindly old king, knowing she was as 
treacherous as ice of one night's frost, made no more 
account of her gifts and promises than of her threats. 
" If Astrid will go with you, or give you the boy," 
he said to her messengers, " so let it be. For the 
rest, my old house lacks not silver, nor yet gold; no, 
nor good iron to take care of both." And when the 

206 



Olaf the Viking 

messengers began to bluster, a grim thrall, glaring 
through his tangled red hair, sprang out upon them 
and drove them from the steading with his dung- 
fork. 

For two winters they dwelt there in Sweden, and 
as the child grew ruddy and stout upon his feet, the 
old king said to him, " Now, comrade, none too early 
can we fit ourselves for the sport and work of great 
earls and warriors. Play with the harp-strings and 
the making of songs," he went on, laughing, " will 
come to thee later; but what should hinder thee in 
the summer-time from riding and steering and swim- 
ming — ay, and from the handling of sword and 
javelin in thy small way? Then in the winter we 
shall have the skates and the chessmen. And I think 
it may happen that thou shalt show some skill in 
the eight arts of the heroes while thy body is still 
supple and thy wits nimble. What sayst thou, 
little king's son ? " 

" He says he thanks thee. King Hakon," answered 
Astrid, drawing the lad to her knee, and looking 
across him to the old man with her young eyes 
shining; " and his mother thanks thee too. Often 
indeed I wonder, when I think of all the goodness 
we have had from thee. No other in these lands, I 
warrant, would have been so bold to befriend us as 

thou hast been." 

207 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Still, from time to time, came disquieting signs of 
the hatred and watchfulness of Gunhild, so that 
Astrid bethought her that the safest place for the 
child would be with her brother Sigurd, who was 
held in great honour by King Valdamar of Garda in 
the Russian land. Olaf had completed his third 
year when she spoke of this matter to Hakon the 
Old. 

" I will not say thee nay," replied the king, " for 
it may be this is the wisest course. But oh, small 
companion-in-arms, I had thought thou wouldst stay 
to lay me in my cairn, and perchance to sit in my 
high seat after me. But Weird, who spins our thread 
of life, will have it otherwise. Well, well! it is much 
to remember that you two have been to me here in 
this house as pleasant as the morning-star and the 
red of the summer dawn, so that for the most part 
I have forgotten how all things for me are now 
drawing nigh to the end. Nay, do not look sad. Let 
us take all that comes to us with a cheerful heart. 
Merrily you shall depart, and seemly too, as befits 
folk dear to Hakon the Old." 

He presented them with kingly gifts, gave them 
men and women servants, and put them in care of a 
company of worthy merchants faring eastward beyond 
the Baltic. But Garda they never reached, for their 
ship was captured by sea-rovers and carried in to 

208 



Olaf the Viking 



Eistland. There Olaf saw his mother sold for a bond- 
woman and led away sorrowful; but he and Thorold 
and the lad Thorgils fell to the lot of a black-haired, 
beetle-browed Eistlander. 

They were still standing on the quay when a 
yeoman came up, leading a fine goat. " What may 
be the price of the lads ? " he asked the Viking. 
" Wilt thou take the goat in exchange for the two ? 
The old man is of no use to me." 

"A mouth to fill, and no use to any one," said the 
Eistlander; and raising his axe, he struck the old 
foster-father down, so that he fell dead into the wash 
of the sea. 

" Friend, thou art quick," said the yeoman. 

" Ay, 'twas ever word and blow with me," laughed 
the Viking. " Take the lads, and give me the goat." 

But Olaf, with his little clenched fists crossed hard 
upon his breast, stood glaring at him. 

" Wilt know me again ? " said the Eistlander, 
scowling under his black brows. 

" Ay," said Olaf, " that is not unlike." 

So the lads passed from hand to hand in Eistland, 
till a farmer named Reas bought them. Olaf he 
never held for a thrall, but treated him as one of his 
own household, clad him handsomely, and reared 
him in all manly service. " Look at his long bright 

209 o 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

hair, wife," he said, " and his hands, and the fearless 
eyes and the proud bearing of him ! A king's son he 
well may be, and at the lowest no less than some 
great earl's child." 

" Clear enough it is to see," replied his wife gaily, 
" that there is nothing too good for him." 

Now when Olaf had been for six years in the home- 
stead with Reas, Sigurd, the brother of Queen Astrid, 
came west from Garda, collecting tribute for King 
Valdamar. As he rode into the garth at Reas-stead 
Olaf went forward to greet him and welcome his 
following. Sigurd gazed hard at the boy and asked 
him his name. 

" My name is Olaf, son of Tryggva of Vikin." 

" Then thy mother's name was Astrid, and so it 
chances that we are kinsmen," said Sigurd alighting; 
" for I am Sigurd, Astrid's brother." 

" It was to thee then that we were sailing," said 
Olaf, " when the Vikings fell upon us; " and he told 
him of their evil fortune on sea and shore. 

Then musing for a little while, Sigurd asked, 
" Wouldst thou be free and fare with me to Garda ? " 

" Ay, gladly enough, if Thorgils went free too." 

" They are good lads," said Reas, when Sigurd 
questioned him, " and I had no thought to be rid of 
them; but if they wish to go with thee, thou shalt 
have them at a price and a promise." 

210 



Olaf the Viking 

" And what may that be ? " 

" For the elder a mark of gold is the price, but it 
is nine marks for this lad, for I will not say that I do 
not hold him dear." 

" The more pleased am I to pay," replied Sigurd. 

" And this is the promise," Reas went on; " thou 
shalt treat them well; they shall not be sold again; 
and if thou wouldst be rid of them thou shalt bring 
them back to me." 

" That I think will not happen," said Sigurd, " for 
this is my sister's child." 

With warm leave-taking and many a look back- 
ward the lads rode out from Reas-stead, and so with 
Sigurd to Holmgard, which is Great Novgorod in the 
Russian realm. 

Now it happened on a day in Holmgard that as 
Olaf wandered among the folk at the fair there were 
men sitting by a stall, and as he passed them he 
heard one say, " Wise men think before they speak, 
but thou art as ready with thy hand as with thy 
tongue." " Ay," laughed another, " 'twas ever word 
and blow with me ! " 

At the sound of the voice Olaf drew the axe from 
his belt, and for an instant he saw again, as if it 
were happening before him, the good old man fall 
dead into the wash of the sea. He turned about 
sharp. There sat the Eistlander, with the braggart 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

laugh still on his brute mouth; and Olaf, springing 
forward, buried his axe between his beetling brows, 
and fled. 

" I have slain a man," he panted, as he burst in 
upon Sigurd. 

" Then, kinsman," said Sigurd drily, " it is like 
enough that thou wilt soon lose thy life." 

" Thou wouldst have slain him thyself," cried Olaf; 
" 'twas he that killed Thorold, thy sister's foster- 
father, as I told thee." 

" Ay? " replied Sigurd; " then I will not say but 
that things might have been worse. We must away 
to the queen, and that quickly. It may be that she 
will, of her grace, stand between thee and the law." 

Now when Queen Olga saw the fair lad and heard 
all that had befallen during his brief life, she laid her 
hand gently on his sunny head. " Pity it were," she 
said, " that one so young and comely, and a king's 
son, should lose his life in such a case." And summon- 
ing her guard, she gave him into their safe-keeping; 
and when the matter had been brought before King 
Valdamar, she paid his blood-fine for the slaying of 
the Eistlander. So Olaf laid his hands between the 
queen's and became her man. 

Here now was he who had been bartered and sold 
for a thrall come at last to a great house, where the 
benches were wrought of walrus tusks, and the white 

212 



Olaf the Viking 

swan smoked on the board, and the silver cups were 
crowned with sweet mead and green wine. So 
strangely up and down does Fortune turn her wheel ! 

Proud and stirring days were these for Olaf among 
the queen's warriors, who took him for their comrade- 
in-arms and luck-bringer. Many a ringing song and 
wild tale set his heart beating and his eyes gleaming 
as he listened to their talk of adventure by land and 
sea. They told of Viking fights along the shores of 
the Baltic, and of rich spoil to be won in the green 
islands away sunsetward; of the leagues of black 
pine-forest and the tracks over which ships were 
hauled on wheels to the mighty rivers flowing into 
the South; but most of all he delighted to hear of 
the huge mysterious mounds on the steppe, where old 
Scythian kings were said to be buried between sheets 
of pure gold, and of the wondrous city Miklagard 
(Byzantium or Constantinople), where the wharves 
were of white marble, and great vessels rested their 
gilded prows against the houses while their sterns 
were afloat. 

When Olaf was twelve years old and had grown 
very tall and strong. Queen Olga gave him three 
ships, and sent him forth on his first cruise against 
the lands and cities which had broken away from 
Garda and refused tribute. Goodly sailers they were, 
with scarlet hulls, and beaks carved in scarlet and 

213 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

gold, black oars, and gilt vanes, and white sails 
striped with blue and green. Since Olaf was in 
command and was of royal blood, he was called 
king, according to the custom in Garda; and nothing 
less than kingly was his bearing, in his mail-shirt of 
woven rings, with his long yellow hair clustering on 
his fringed red cloak, and the bright look of good 
fortune on his face. That autumn he brought home 
much tribute and plunder, gold and silver, fine 
raiment, and costly work in amber and jet, ivory, 
and precious stones. 

So through the blithe summers Olaf went sea- 
faring, and ever as the moon of hunters rose red and 
ruddy over the forest, his ships drove into Holmgard 
laden with booty, and Queen Olga received him with 
a gracious welcome. King Valdamar soon made 
him war-lord of his frontiers, and the seers and wise 
men declared that guardian spirits, of a more shining 
aspect than any seen before, had come with the 
young stranger into the land. 

But some of the great folk about the court were 
bitter with envy, and they tried to fill the king's 
mind with suspicions and fears. " It is easy," they 
said, " to make any man powerful, but when he is 
powerful, is it easy to keep him true ? " " If a 
stranger mocks the old gods of any land, the evil may 
fall not upon him but upon the land that suffers 

214 



Olaf the Viking 

Mm." But most of all they feared lest Olaf should 
sow division between their lord and the queen. 

Sigurd heard rumours of these plots and warned 
Olaf, but when Valdamar looked into the lad's frank 
face his doubts and fears vanished. Of the ancient 
gods indeed Olaf took little heed, and when the king 
reproached him, he answered, " No great joy, I think, 
King Valdamar, comes to you of their worship; for 
as often as you visit them I see your look, which 
is kingly and gracious, grown dark and heavy with 
care. And let not dread of their anger trouble you, 
for being gods they must now know whither I shall 
ride or sail in the new spring; " and straightway he 
begged the king leave to depart, " though whether 
southward by the forests and Mother Dneiper to 
Miklagard, or westward to the great seas, I cannot 
tell." 

And half relieved and half reluctant, Valdamar 
consented. 

Upon a night when the spring was at hand and the 
sweet gales of a new time sang through the pine- 
woods and rocked the broken ice on the sea-ways, 
Olaf saw in a dream a pillar of stone that ascended 
into the heavens; and it was so notched with foot- 
holds that he began to climb. Ever upward he went 
until he had passed through the clouds, and beheld 
around him wide fields of summer flowers. The 

215 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

fragrance was more sweet than that of any earthly 
wind, and among the flowers walked joyful people 
clad in white. Beside him he heard the voices of 
two unseen who spoke concerning him: "He hath 
not bowed down to idols of wood and stone, and if 
he doth not worship Thee, it is that he hath not 
known Thee; " and the other answered, " In a little 
while the winds of the world shall bear him to the 
place where he shall know me, and he shall learn to 
strive after righteousness." Then as Olaf descended 
into the clouds, he heard the lamentation of men 
despairing; and far beneath, in the shadow of the 
nether fires, he saw the shapes of the ancient gods 
sitting in chains, and the wraiths of their worshippers 
— mighty chiefs of the cairns that overlook the sea, 
and forgotten kings who had been buried between 
sheets of gold. And he awoke trembling and in great 
awe. 

Thus came the gallant days of Holmgard to an end; 
and all that summer Olaf raided fjord and bay, and 
chased the sails of viking and chapman to the west- 
ward; but when the weather broke he ran for safe 
anchorage under the lee of Wendland, where Geira, 
the daughter of King Burislaf, was queen. When 
she was told of his coming she sent messengers 
begging him to pass the winter with her. " Very 
willingly," said Olaf, and had his ships laid snug in 

216 



Olaf the Viking 

a sheltered nook and tented over against wind and 
snow. 

Right glad of each other were these two when they 
met, for although Geira was a widow, there was no 
woman more beautiful in Wendland, and she and 
Olaf were of one age. Before Yule-tide came they 
were married; and in the stately house with them 
was Astrid, her young sister, who loved Olaf dearly. 
Speedily he brought the realm to peace and strong 
rule, harrying robber-holds and quelling lawless 
towns, which had set the queen at nought in the 
days of her widowhood. 

For three winters Olaf abode in Wendland, and 
near the close of the third it happened that they sat 
in hall upon a night when snow drifted and the wind 
blew keen through cranny and crevice. The tapestry 
shook along the walls; and as the light of the pine- 
logs flickered over it, and the figures wrought in it 
seemed to be alive, Gizur the poet touched his harp 
and made songs of the pictures — merry songs and 
mournful, songs of yesterday and of long ago, love 
songs and sword songs and songs of ships sinking. 
But after he had ceased Geira sat buried in thought; 
and when Olaf asked why she was so silent, " Once," 
she answered, " these men and women were as happy 
as we, and as glad to be living; but now they are all 
dead, and scarce remembered. Of all their dear lives 

217 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

there is left but a working in coloured threads, and 
little we think of it, except as a screen to keep the 
wind away." 

It was not long thereafter that Geira fell sick and 
died. When she was gone, it was as though the sun 
had set in darkness in midsummer, and no warm 
glow lingered through the night on the brown lakes 
and the pine-forest. He went out and sat on a blue 
stone, gazing blindly across the green nesses and the 
grey seas; and Astrid knelt in front of him, and 
held his hand between hers. And when he rose up, 
roaring with the dumb pain of his heart, she stood 
beside him, but spoke no word, for she knew that 
sorrow lay heavy upon him. Then he looked at her, 
and put his arms about her head : " Little girl, there 
is no delight now in Wendland! " 

And going down to the shore, he bade the men 
make the ships ready for sea. 

About this time Lodin, a rich merchant of Vikin, 
came to a place in Eistland where a fair was being 
held, and among the thralls who stood for sale he 
saw a woman, and though she was meanly clad and 
wasted and wan, he recognised her for the wife of 
King Tryggva. He questioned her, and when she 
had told him all the ills that had befallen her, " Take 
heart again, lady," he said. " Thy little son, as I 

218 



Olaf the Viking 

have heard, has grown to a name renowned among 
kingly men, and I wot he has long looked for thee in 
vain. But come now, wilt thou not plight me thy 
troth and let me take thee back with me to thine 
own land ? " The poor queen's heart was full, and 
she bowed her head in consent; and this was the 
end of her sorrows. 

But Olaf sailed westward, with never a glance 
thrown back to Wendland. So widely had his fame 
spread that as he swept into Eyra-sound, Sweyn of 
the Forked-beard, gathering his crews for the summer 
raiding, would not suffer him to pass, but must needs 
have him for his guest. When their friendship had 
somewhat grown, " What blither sea-ranging would 
you have," asked the Dane, " than to put your ships 
to mine, and share with me this harrying of England ?" 
" None blither, perchance," said Olaf; " and if you 
would have it so, you should find me no laggard." 
So, with a humming wind in the shrouds, the summer- 
host of the kings goes churning the bath of the wild 
swans. 

Now we are in England; and the sea-warden on 
the cliffs, and the fisher in the bay, and the shepherd 
on the links see the ships go by — ninety sail and 
three; and a flock of ravens follows them in the sun- 
set. Riders and runners speed along the coast, and 
at dusk signal-fires break out on the hill-tops. But 

219 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

where the Vikings land they find few in thorp or 
farmstead to withstand them, until they came to 
Maldon Blackwater. 

Swiftly they crowded into the bay; and, ship after 
ship, their coloured sails dropped as the keels grounded 
on the long low isle in the midst of the Panta river. 
From Maldon town on the ridge Earl Brytnoth rode 
down with the men of Essex to meet them; but the 
tide was at the flood and the water ran deep between 
the two hosts. Then to the further side of the stream 
came a herald from the ships, and cried with a mighty 
voice, "Hail and hearken; these are the words of 
the sea-rovers. Hasten, men of the land, with the 
price of your safety. Better that silver and gold 
should defend you than that we should meet in the 
rush of spears. If you, lord and leader, will agree to 
redeem your people, the Vikings will give you friend- 
ship; peace they will make with you, and taking the 
tribute on board, turn again seaward." 

Brandishing his lance aloft, Brytnoth sent his words 
ringing across the water: " Take back the answer of 
this people. Here stand we for the king and the 
realm, for homestead and kinsfolk. Take back the 
answer of Brytnoth. Look well at the tribute we 
bring. For gold you shall have spear-heads, and the 
keen edges of swords for silver. Thus far have you 
come unfought, but you go unfought no further." 

220 



Olaf the Viking 

Then, to and fro, whistled flights of arrows until 
the ebbing tide ran shallow upon the ford, which 
went on a narrow ridge of rock through the deep 
waters of the Panta stream. The Vikings thronged 
down to the bank, with eager shouts to press forward; 
but Brytnoth bade Wulfstan hold the passage with 
Elfhere and Maccus, and the rovers who ventured 
out upon that sunken bridge fared on a longer 
journey than they had thought to take. 

When the ship-folk saw how warily the track was 
guarded, they challenged Brytnoth with scoffing 
cries : " Meet us as heroes meet, hand to hand on 
open ground. Come over to us here on the isle, or 
give us way to you across the ford." The proud 
earl drew back his defence, and answered scornfully, 
" Take your passage without toll, and here is room 
on the shore for many graves ! " 

Too much English earth did the great-heart that 
day in his disdain give away to strangers. 

Then flew the ravens in circles over the rush of 
spears, and Dane and Saxon closed in the crimson 
fight of Maldon Blackwater. 

For many a year afterwards gleemen sang of it, 
and round the bivouac fire and in the thegn's hall 
men's hearts leaped to the battle-cry, " Stand fast 
for king and country! " Never doubt that Olaf and 
the Forked-beard were in the forefront of that onset, 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

but the maker of the old song had no care for the 
names of any but his own English folk. 

Struck by a rover's spear, Brytnoth snapped the 
shaft with his shield, and thrust his foeman through 
the throat. With a second deadly cut he rent 
another's ring-mail asunder, and, laughing for glad- 
ness, thanked God for the good day's work He had 
given him to do. This way and that swayed the 
fight as young men and veterans fell; and now the 
Danes gave way, and now the Saxon ranks were 
borne backward. 

In one fierce charge the earl was pierced through 
with an assagai — such was the name of the keen 
outland weapon. A stripling who fought by his side 
drew it from the gushing wound, and hurling it back, 
slew the sender. " A gallant cast, son of Wulfstan! " 
cried Brytnoth, unsheathing his axe as a tall fair- 
haired Viking pressed in upon him; but before the 
old hero could strike, a sea-wolf hewed down his 
arm. The broad brown axe dropped from his grasp; 
he could hold it no longer. Still his voice rang out 
cheerily, " Stand fast. East Saxons, stand fast! " 
And at length when he felt his feet failing under 
him, he looked up to heaven and prayed aloud: 
" Lord of all folk, from a full heart I thank Thee 
for all the delight I have had in this world, for the 
love of woman and the bliss of little children, for the 



Olaf the Viking 

fellowship of true men, for home and gear, for service 
and honour, for long life and the strong arm, for this 
goodly land and glad sea, for all the fair world of Thy 
making. And not least I thank Thee for this seemly 
death. Now, Lord of clemency, grant my spirit grace 
in my need; take it. Lord of angels, in peace to 
Thy safe-keeping." 

Scarcely had he ceased when the heathen smote 
him to the earth, and spoiled him of his arms and 
bracelets; and at his side fell the stripling Wulfmer, 
son of Wulfstan the ford-warden. 

The hedge of shields was broken. Dastards 
turned and fled; but the great-hearts of Essex — 
Edward the Long, Elfwine, Offa, and many another 
— fought shoulder to shoulder, and died about the 
body of Brytnoth. 

" Too old am I for wayfaring," said Brytwold the 
hoary; " here I stay, and to-night I think to sleep 
beside the lord and comrade I loved." 

Escferth, the Northumbrian hostage, said nothing, 
but listened well-pleased to the creaking of his great 
bow as he sped arrow after arrow into the pack of the 
sea-wolves. 

Thus the old hero-song leaves them fighting by 
the Panta stream, below the grey earthworks of 
Maldon; the last page of it has been lost; how the 

223 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Saxon gleeman brought it to a close has long been 
forgotten. 

Through the deep woods and along the reedy 
water-lanes of the Fens the body of Brytnoth was 
borne by the monks to the minster at Ely. Far 
across marsh and mere floated their dirge-music as 
they laid it to rest before the high altar in the choir. 

" Above all men I have known," said the abbot, 
" this lord was strong and gracious. Great-hearted 
he was and glad-hearted, a true thegn of Christ, 
courteous and loyal to the humblest. Long shall I 
bear in mind his last message to me, ' Tell my Lord 
Abbot that I cannot dine without my men, because 
I cannot fight without them.' Such an earl we 
cannot look to have again." 

But a coward fear of the sea-rovers fell upon King 
Ethelred and his councillors. They kissed the hand 
that smote them; they fed the marauders who pillaged 
them; they bought a shameful peace. Ten thousand 
pounds of silver was weighed out from the treasure 
chests and taken down in waggons to the ships. 

When the kings had divided the spoil, Sweyn bore 
away to Denmark, but Olaf, as you shall hear, spread 
his white sails striped with blue and green down the 
track of the westering sun. 



224 




Olaf in England 

Bitter cause had folk to remember those white 
sails striped with blue and green, for Olaf cruised 
along Frankland, plundering town and village; and 
doubling the red granite horns of Brittany, ran down 
the rich sunny coast until the snow-capped moun- 
tains of Spain stretched east and west before him, 
like the outermost wall of the world. 

" I have heard of these mountains," said Leif, son 
of Eric the Red, whom he had with him on that 
voyage. " Bear away to the south-west, and we 
shall come to the Long Sea, and the burning land of 
the Blackamoors, and Rome the Golden City of old 
time." 

Coming at last to Italy they saw the hills green 
with vines and grey with olives, and a fair white city 
glittering on the shores of a blue bay. They dropped 
sails far out in the offing and planned to steal to land 
in the dark and capture the place at daybreak. 

225 p 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

TKat night they feasted on a sea of stars with a 
starry heaven over them; but in the dark hour 
before dawn, as they glided across the bay with a 
cautious dip of the oars, suddenly innumerable bells 
began to ring out along the shore — bells loud and 
clear, bells faint and far away; and lights gleamed 
out red from the darkness, in the city, on the 
shore, among the vineyards and olive groves, as if 
the whole land had sprung up from sleep. They 
ceased rowing, and as they hung on their oars in 
amazement, they heard the distant voices of people 
calling and answering each other. 

Scared by that strange awakening, the rovers put 
out to sea again, little thinking it was the matin 
bells summoning to prayer the holy men and women 
whose convents were thickly scattered on the hills, 
that had saved the city from pillage. 

They had but few such mischances, and such booty 
fell to their daring as had never yet been seen in 
Norland waters. Rich raiment there was, and silks 
and cloth of gold, Greek ewers and basins set with 
jewels, swords and gilt armour, chalices and crosses 
rough with gems, and caskets of carved ivory 
containing gold-lettered Gospels written on purple 
vellum. 

In the third year after Maldon fight they turned 
their dragon-prows to the west, and as they fared 

226 



Olaf in England 

homeward old Harald Blue-tooth died, so>ihat Sweyn 
became sole king in Denmark. And Sweyn held a 
great funeral feast at which he drank to the memory 
of his father, and took an oath to harry England 
again ere the summer was over and tumble Ethelred 
from his throne. Then the huge ale-horns were 
drained to the memory of Christ, and the third 
rouse they gave to St. Michael. Not long thereafter 
Sweyn and his host got to their ships, and meeting 
with Olaf in the North Sea, both kings steered for 
England. 

In many a field the harvesters toiled in the hot 
sun till all the corn was cut and bound in sheaves, 
save a patch in the centre. At last that too was cut 
at a stroke; the men planted their scythes upright 
and clashed their whetstones and the long blades 
thrice together. The women emptied the crumbs 
from their baskets; the men spilt a sup of ale on 
the field, drank deep, and waved their hats, cheering. 
Then all went singing to the farmstead, while the 
sparrows swung on the straggling stalks left standing 
for the little elves. 

Scarcely had the harvest been gathered in when 
the Viking fleet rose like a pageant from the sea. 
Four-and-ninety sail, they crowded up the Thames 
to burn London, but it was the Latter Ladymas, and, 
with our Lady's help, the townsfolk beat them back. 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

Then the rovers swarmed into creeks and river- 
mouths, and getting horses from burning village and 
farm, went plundering and man-slaying from Thanet 
to the Hampshire woods. 

Once again Ethelred opened his treasure-chests 
and paid sixteen thousand pounds of silver for a 
hollow peace. The price of that ignominy would 
have bought the whole of Kent, water and weald. 

So Sweyn lay at Southampton, with the West 
Saxons to victual his people for the winter if he were 
minded to stay; but Olaf was bent on a haven 
further west under the warm headlands of Devon. 
Before they parted came tidings of a mighty sea- 
fight in Norway. " And this matter, I think," said 
Sweyn, " concerns you nearly, for it is time such a 
man as you are should remember the old kingliness 
of his race." 

Now the news told of a venture of the Jomsborg 
Vikings to wrest Norway from Hakon, the son of 
Earl Sigurd. With sixty ships they sped north- 
ward, plundering and slaying, and Hakon met them 
with one hundred and fifty in Hiorunga Bay. Then 
the fleets closed in the grimmest of sea-fights; but 
the Jomsborg vessels were the larger and taller, and 
so fast and fierce the Vikings shot that Hakon's men 
gave way. Faint hope was there of his winning in 
that strife; and when he saw his ships drifting loose, 

228 



Olaf in England 

full of the dead and the dying, he took his little son, 
Erling, a lad of seven years, and sacrificed him to the 
fierce goddess of the Hell-grove. Black grew the 
heavens with storm; giant hail drove in the faces of 
the Vikings, the sea hissed and whitened. In the 
midst of the sudden tumult a woman was seen on 
the bows of Hakon's ship darting flashes of death 
from each hand. The Vikings cut their lashings and 
fled; some were captured, others escaped to the 
open sea. The earl's power was unbroken. 

The land had sunken again to paganism. Hakon 
had brought back the dread gods of the old time, 
with their evil worship and cruel sacrifices. Of these 
things the people made little account, but as the 
earl grew grey, he had grown the more wicked and 
wanton, till there was no man or woman safe from 
the waywardness of his dark soul. 

Thinking of these strange chances, Olaf sailed away, 
but ere he reached Devon great gales caught his 
ships and drove them far out of their course, and 
when the weather abated they were near the Scilly 
Isles, and put in there for water. Upon a rock in that 
wild cluster of islands dwelt a hermit, who was said 
to have the far-sight of things to come and to behold 
the lives of men as in a magic glass. Thereto he 
knew the speech of birds, and the island folk did not 
doubt but that the gulls and petrels, the terns and 

229 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

grey lag geese brought him the rumours of far-off 
lands, so that he foretold little that did not come 
to pass. 

Many of the rovers were eager to look upon him, and 
to learn, if they might, what luck should befall them. 

" Let us put his craft to the trial," said Olaf. 
" Thorolf shall take my name and go in my stead, 
and perchance we shall make merry over what 
comes of it." 

Whereupon it was " Out oars ! " and away to the 
Hermit's Rock. The seamen found the holy man 
seated at the mouth of his cave, and they perceived 
that he was tall and large of limb, but exceeding aged. 
They stayed their oars and called aloud, " Here comes 
the king to speak with thee," but they got no answer. 

Thorolf leaped ashore in gold-inlaid helmet, bright 
sark of mail, and gold-fringed cloak of scarlet, of all 
the rovers the tallest and handsomest save Olaf 
himself. Still the hermit never moved from the 
stone, and it was not till the Viking stood beside 
him that he raised his eyes. They were blue and 
cold, and for the first time Thorolf knew what it was 
to be afraid. 

" Did you think to make a mock of me ? " asked 
the seer. " You are not the king. Yet, since you 
have come, I give you this warning. Be true to your 
king. Go back now the way you came." 

230 



Olaf in England 

Then Olaf himself, greatly wondering, came to the 
isle, and the hermit standing on the brink of the 
sea greeted him with outstretched hand, " Welcome, 
fair son! " and leading him to his cave, questioned 
him of his seafaring and of his early years. 

" And this is your home ? " asked Olaf, as the old 
man paused for a moment in thought. " A lonely 
spot it is for any one." 

" Not so lonely as it seems to you," replied the 
hermit. " Where a man is, there is his angel, though 
mortal eyes may often see him no more than one 
sees the clear air. And Christ doth not forget us. 
Nor is the High King of heaven ever far from any of 
us. Here, too, be many birds, both of the sea and 
of the ancient land, and gentleness makes them tame. 
Also the seals come hither, and they have no fear." 

" But a man needs the fellowship of his like." 

" That is so," said the hermit, " and the folk of 
these isles are kindly neighbours. They come to me, 
and I go to them, when the heart calls; " and he 
showed Olaf in the depths of the cave his coracle of 
beast skin stretched over a wicker frame-work. 

" And has this ever been your home ? " then, 
laughing, he added quickly, " A child's question, 
I think." 

" Nay, in my youth," replied the aged man, " I 
was such a one as yourself, full of delight in adventure 

231 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and strife, full of the pride of strength, and the wild 
joy of the earth. I thought I had forgotten it all. 
Strange how your Norland eyes and fair hair bring 
back days long gone by. I remember tall men of 
your country. They came to London town yonder 
with wondrous ships and a four-year-old child; " and 
he told the story of Athelstan's foster-son, who came 
to be a great king. 

" Ay, Hakon," said Olaf ; " my father was kinsman 
of his, and ruled for him in Vikin, as I have said." 

" Little it profits to recall those days of the roving 
eyes and the wayward heart. Fifty years hath God 
sustained me in these isles, a sinful man, for His high 
purpose. But come and see what I would show you." 

The holy man led Olaf by a rugged path to the 
summit of his rock. 

" Look around on these many isles, little and large, 
sown by the score on these bright waters." 

Some of them were bare spires and shelves of stone 
on which only sea-birds could perch; others were 
still gaily coloured with grass and wild flowers; here 
and there, on the largest, blue smoke rose from the 
fisher-women's fires, and near them rode his own 
ships. 

" From of old," said the hermit, " the folk have 
called them Scilly, the Isles of the Sun. And in 
truth they are the mountain peaks and plateaux of 

232 



Olaf in England 

an ancient land where that bright light of the heavens 
was worshipped. Now it is sunken deep and lost, like 
a great ship gone down at sea. So say the ancient 
winter tales, and I believe them. Could you but 
raise this sunken land up from the dark gulfs, what 
a realm it would be for your kingship ! " 

Olaf gazed at the speaker in astonishment, but the 
holy man continued: " I know you would ask me of 
the hidden things that are to happen. This I will 
tell you. You shall come to great glory and power, 
and shall be a mighty king. And this shall be the 
work appointed to you ; not to heave up valleys and 
mountains out of the sea, but to raise a people sunken 
in darkness and the worship of evil spirits. You 
shall make known to them the Lord Christ, whom 
you yourself know not yet; and that land you shall 
lift up to the true Sun." 

Then the hermit stretched his arm towards the 
isles. "There lie your ships," he said; "goodlier 
have I never seen, with their gilded beaks and 
coloured shields. This token I give you that you 
may believe my words. You shall not sail far from 
this before you shall do battle. Men shall be slain 
on this side and that, and you sorely wounded. Yet 
in seven nights you shall be well again; and there- 
after you shall accept the true faith and holy 
baptism." 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

It all came to pass as the aged man foretold, for 
out upon the high seas the rovers fell into hot con- 
tention, and Thorolf with three ships broke away 
from Olaf, and attacked him. Thorolf and six tall 
men were slain in the fight and buried in the cold sea; 
but Olaf, who had been stricken hard with an arrow, 
was taken by his men to an island where there was 
a great minster. As they bore him ashore on his 
shield, he saw the brethren come to meet him, with 
their abbot in white robes and cloth of gold, which 
glittered a long way off in the sun. They bade him 
welcome, and leading the way to their cloister, bound 
up his wound with precious balsam, so that in seven 
nights he was healed. 

Much he communed with the Abbot Bernard and 
questioned him of the hermit, and of the White 
Christ, and the true faith. At nights, as Olaf and 
his people sat at their ale, the abbot told them of 
the life and death of God's Son on earth. Like little 
children they listened, and when they had heard 
that wondrous saga, they cried out, " We will be 
Christ's men," and consented to be baptised. Out 
of his spoil Olaf gave the abbot costly gifts, cross 
and chalice set with gems, rich vestments, and a 
golden Gospel. 

Thereafter he sailed to Southampton. Sweyn 
Forked-beard had departed, but Elphege the bishop 

236 



Olaf in England 



came from Winchester to visit him. The two rode 
to Andover, where Ethelred received them with 
much honour, and Olaf promised the king that he 
would never again harry England. That winter the 
ships were drawn up on the shore of the great haven 
under the Hampshire woods, and Olaf abode in peace, 
a Christian man in a Christian land. 

All through the cold months one thought was in 
Olaf's mind — how he should fare to Norway, over- 
throw the wicked Earl Hakon, and get mastery of all 
the realm that had been Harald Fair Hair's. He 
talked over these things with Bishop Sigurd, and 
planned how he should take priests and monks with 
him, and first they should hie to Dublin and learn 
from the merchants and shipmen, who trafficked 
there in those days, what the folk were saying and 
doing in Norway. 

So when the new spring came and fair weather, 
he put again to sea and came to the Green Isle. It 
chanced upon a day, as the ships lay off the coast, that 
the rovers came back from a foray with many hundred 
head of cattle, and among them the cows of a poor 
peasant. The wretched old carle hurried after them, 
and besought the king to have pity on his misery. 
" Pick out thy cattle from the drove if thou canst," 
said Olaf, " but we cannot be stayed by thee." 

" Thy bed be in the heavens, king," said the man 

237 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and turning to the dog that was with him, " Fetch 
them out, Vigi," he cried. 

The dog was a big shaggy creature, brown and 
black in colour, and he ran this way and that among 
the horned beasts, and got the cows together. 

" The brand on each of them, as thou seest, king, 
is the same." 

" Ay," replied Olaf, " the beasts are surely thine." 
Then stroking the dog's head, " Wilt thou part with 
this wonderful Vigi ? " he asked. 

" To thee, king, very gladly, for thou wilt use 
him well." 

" Great thanks," said Olaf; and drawing a coil of 
gold from his arm, he gave it to the old man, " Let 
this be a token of friendship between us." 

After a sharp look at his old master's face, Vigi 
went readily on board, and no comrade had Olaf 
truer to the end than this great dog. 

Now the fame of these Viking raids and the golden 
spoils spread over Norway; and when it was said 
that this Oli of Garda (for so Olaf had named him- 
self) was of the line of the Norland kings. Earl Hakon 
was disquieted and took counsel of his friend, Thori 
Klak. " If this be the son of Tryggva," he said, " I 
look for hard fighting ere long, and little good to 
come of it. Now, Thori, to Dublin I would have 
you go and discover the truth in this matter. Should 

238 



Olaf in England 

it prove as I misdoubt it will, make friends with this 
Olaf and lead him with bright hopes that, if he returns 
with you, the folk will surely rise against me and 
choose him for king. But if you cannot bring him 
into my hands, find a way to slay him." Olaf's 
uncles, too, Jostein and Karlhead, the brothers of 
Queen Astrid, he forced by threat of torture to go 
with Thori and bear out his tale. 

A lucky day it seemed to Olaf when he got to 
Dublin and met his own kinsmen among the Norland 
folk. Eagerly he questioned them, and brighter 
omens of success could not be wished for than Thori's 
talk of how things had gone from bad to worse with 
Hakon, so that any change would be better for the 
people than this earl's masterful wickedness. But 
since the overthrow of the Jomsborg Vikings who 
was there daring enough to cope with him ? 

" Perchance a man of Harald Fair Hair's lineage," 
said Olaf, " and he not far away from us who are 
speaking here." 

" That," cried Thori joyfully, " will be welcome 
news in Norway." 

So out of Dublin Bay, and northward by the 
Western Isles, Olaf sailed with five ships to the realm 
of his kinsfolk. The plotters, in their own ship, bore 
him company; and as they stretched away from the 
Orkney Islands it was high summer. 

239 




At Strife with the Gods 

Out of the summer sea heaved the rugged blue 
summits of Norway. The ships put in to Moster 
Haven, and Bishop Sigurd joyfully sang mass in the 
king's tent. Thori, however, grew anxious lest the 
news of Olaf's coming should stir the people to a 
sudden uprising against the earl, and he urged the 
king to act secretly and to hasten northward night 
and day. " Thy best chance," he said, " is to fall 
upon Hakon without warning. If thy name be 
noised abroad and thou give him time to gather his 
strength, little luck, I think, will go with thy venture." 
Crafty though this counsel was, no other could have 
served Olaf's turn better. 

Again the bright sails bellied to the wind, and 
leaving the sheltered sea-way along the rocky walls 
of the coast, the ships skirted the outer isles of the 
broken chain of rocks and skerries which stretches 
away to the north. 

Hour after hour Olaf watched in silent gladness 
the slowly changing outlines of the wild realm which 

241 Q 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

he claimed for Christ. The long day declined, but 
the light of a setting sun which never wholly set 
flushed the restless sea and the hushed heavens with 
a slumbrous glow wherein the stern mountains, the 
jagged reefs, and the billows that broke upon them 
appeared transformed into a world overgrown with 
flowers. It was a world too in which there was 
no sound except the low murmuring of wind and 
water. 

In the stillness and the strange beauty of that sun 
of the night, it seemed to Olaf for a moment as though 
he were sitting once more on the blue stone beside 
the sea in Wendland and that Geira had just died. 
All the radiance and joy of existence had gone out 
with the light of her eyes ; but now for the first time 
since her death the earth was again clothed with 
magical colour and sweetness. Sorrow fell away 
from him. He felt no longer the ache of bereavement 
or the hopelessness of regret. His spirit sprang up 
young and confident, and with a mind free from care 
he stood at the beginning of a new life. " Thanks 
and praise to Christ," he said, " I am my own man 
again. Henceforth I fare onward without grief or 
misgiving." 

One by one, through the glamour of the summer 
night, the six ships sailed northward, as silent as ships 
in a dream. 

242 



At Strife with the Gods 

It was close upon midnight, and Bishop Sigurd 
stood at Olaf's side. Of the sunken sun only an arc 
remained, burning blood-red between the purple sea 
and a green sky dappled with dull crimson and gold, 
and a track of fire ran across the rolling waves. 

" We stand between night and morning," said 
Olaf. " Another day begins, and another time." 

"Pray God's blessing on it," rejoined the bishop, "for 
a mighty work lies before you, and more dangerous 
enemies oppose it than perchance you dream of." 

As he uttered the words faint strains of an un- 
earthly music floated to them from some unknown 
distance in sea or air. Olaf gazed intently and then 
pointed to the far heavens. Dimly visible at first, 
a strange wedge-shaped shadow passed among the 
softly coloured clouds. As it advanced it grew darker 
and vaster, but glimmerings of light played upon it, 
and the faint strains of music changed into clear 
trumpet-notes ringing down from the sky. 

" It is the singing swans," said Olaf. " See how 
the great flock whitens as it comes nearer. Listen, 
and you will hear the strange beating of their 
wings." 

^^ Domine Deus/" cried Sigurd, signing himself 
with the cross; "these are not swans; and their 
voices are singing human words." 

" No," replied Olaf in awestruck tones; " they are 

243 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Odin's maidens, the Choosers of the Slain. Thus, it 
is said, they sing their song of death as they hasten 
to some battle-field." 

" Nay, son, this is but an illusion of the Spirit of 
Evil," said the bishop, as the spectral host swept 
overhead and their garments streamed in white and 
dusky folds with the speed of their flight. 

" Look," exclaimed the king, " look at the sun! " 

Near the blood-red arc and against the light of the 
green sky moved awful and colossal shapes, which 
were luminous at one moment and at the next seemed 
to be wild and menaceful shadows. 

" I know not how I know," whispered Olaf, " but 
those are the ancient gods of the land." 

The bishop did not answer, but his lips moved in 
prayer : " Adveniat regnum tuum — Thy kingdom 
come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." 

Out of the distance came a fierce cry as of the wind 
in winter: "Return, return, ere we slay you, 
troublers of the land! " 

But the ships sailed on in silence. 

Then a great flash of lightning split the heavens 
with rifts of flame, and a peal of thunder rolled along 
the deep. Flash followed flash, and in the dazzling 
brightness the giant shapes of the old gods were seen 
to be in swift commotion, coming across the sea. 

Olaf snatched his sword from its scabbard, caught 

244 



At Strife with the Gods 

it by the blade, and held the cross high above his 
head. The jewelled hilt and the white blade glittered 
in the lightning. Clear to see also were the gold 
helmet, the steel ring-shirt, and the crimson mantle 
of the king. Then in a pause of the thunder Olaf 
cried back his answer: "With Christ to aid me, I 
take up thy challenge, Thor! " 

In an instant the tumult ceased. The dread 
shadows vanished. The red sun rose half out of 
the sea, and the slumbering glow quickened towards 
day. 

Sigurd and the king gazed at each other in 
wonderment. 

" Are these — things that we have seen ? " asked 
Olaf; " or was it all a dream and phantasm of the 
night ? " 

" What we have seen, many have seen," replied 
the bishop, with a wide movement of his hand. 

Then Olaf became aware of crowds of faces on the 
ships turned towards him in silent inquiry, for a 
great awe had fallen on the men, and they marvelled 
how the mighty gods of the ancient days had been 
abashed and scattered by the vision of the cross and 
the name of Christ. 

When they had come to Agad Ness, Thori per- 
suaded the king to abide there until he returned with 
tidings of the earl's movements and the temper of 

245 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the people. " Thus," he said, " you will best choose 
the course that it will be wisest to follow." So they 
cast anchor and lay in quiet that day under the Ness 
in Drontheim Fjord. 

Late in the evening the traitor came back in haste 
and called Jostein and Karlhead to him. " Things," 
he said, " have taken a turn that is little to my 
liking; we must do what we may to amend them." 
And when he had taken counsel with them he bade 
them bring Olaf ashore to confer with him in 
secret. 

The two rowed to the king's ship, and as they 
came alongside the king was leaning on the rail as 
though he awaited them, and Vigi lay at his feet. 

" Thori has returned," said Karlhead; " he has 
sent to ask thee if thou wilt come ashore and speak 
with him unobserved." 

" Ay," said Olaf, and without more ado he went 
over the rail and dropped into the boat. The great 
dog tried to follow him, but Olaf bade him lie down 
and be still. He paid no heed, and ran to and fro 
whimpering and whining; and when the boat had 
been pushed off he uttered a woeful howl, and spring- 
ing into the fjord began to swim after them. 

They had not taken many strokes when Jostein 
cried, "Where is thy sword, king? How is it thou 
art weaponless ? " 

246 



At Strife with the Gods 

Olaf's hand moved quickly to his empty belt, and 
he shook his head with a smile. " Even the most 
careful forget at times," he answered. 

" The king must not go unarmed," rejoined 
Jostein; " we will row back for thy sword." 

" Give way, friends ! Kings are ever armed," said 
Olaf. As the men sat motionless, hesitating what to 
do, Olaf's eyes rested on the eager face of the dog 
swimming. " Let us take the poor creature on 
board," he said. " 'Tis hard to punish him for being 
faithful." 

He stretched out his hand and patted his head 
before lifting him into the boat. " Good soul, thou 
hast a woman's love in thy shaggy body! Now, 
kinsmen, give way! " 

But the two still rested on their oars, and the 
warm glow of the summer night tinged the island 
rocks, and the ruddy reflection of these lit up the 
waters of the fjord. 

" Would it surprise thee, king," at last Karlhead 
asked slowly, " to hear that the yeomen have risen 
in arms against Hakon ? The war-arrow with its 
twisted cord has been sent round. The dissolute old 
madman is in hiding among the hills, but all the 
countryside is searching for him. His ships are 
waiting for him in the creeks, but they will not be 
able to save him." 

247 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" These indeed are tidings ! " cried Olaf. " Thori's 
counsel was wise. Why do we waste time here ? " 

" Listen to the end," said Jostein. " Do not think 
too hardly of us, sister's-son. It was not our good 
will to seek thee out in Dublin and lure thee hither. 
It was that, or death and torture, for us." 

" How should you lure me ? " 

" Thori swore to bring thee and deliver thee to 
Hakon, or if that should fail, to slay thee off the 
earth." 

" Ay ? And that was Thori's thought. And what 
would Thori do now ? " 

" When we have landed he will hold thee in talk 
till three of his ship-folk have crept between thee 
and the sea. Then he will draw weapon and fall 
upon thee — and we too with him; that was his mind; 
but we stand by thee, as thou knowest." 

" Nay," said Olaf, " I thank you for your good 
service, but you shall have no hand in this slaying." 

" Now, wilt thou not go back and take thy arms ? " 

But Olaf answered with flashing eyes, " God giveth 
angels; I walk not alone. Have no fear for me, and 
let us hasten." 

Without a word the brothers bent to their oars, 
and the boat surged through the bright waters. As 
they landed and drew it up on the beach, Olaf picked 
two round stones from the shingle, and laid them in 



At Strife with the Gods 

a fold of his cloak. At some little distance from the 
shore, Thori, who had heard the sound of the oars, 
came down to meet them. 

Olaf strode rapidly in advance, and as the two men 
approached each other the traitor saw such a look 
of stormy splendour on the king's face that his false 
heart failed him. He stopped suddenly with a sharp 
cry: " I see it blazing in thine eyes. Thy kinsmen 
have betrayed me." 

" Thou hast betrayed thyself," said Olaf; " and 
now sudden death lays hands on thee." 

With outstretched arm Olaf leaped forward to 
seize the dastard, but Thori, stricken with panic, 
turned and fled. 

" Thou canst not flee from thy terror," cried the 
king, " nor can swiftness save thee from me. Bring 
him down, Vigi; slay him if thou wilt." 

The great dog gave tongue, and bounded in pursuit 
of the fugitive. At the same moment the brothers 
raised a warning shout, and Olaf turned to see the 
three shipmen running in upon him with uplifted axes. 

He took the stones from his cloak, poised them 
one in each hand above his head, and measured the 
distance with glittering eyes. Then, deadly as 
lightning, both stones were hurled at once; there 
was a dull crash, and two of his assailants fell head- 
long to the earth. In a twinkling his cloak was 

249 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

flung off and grasped in readiness, but the third man 
held back white and trembling. 

" Put thine axe in thy belt," said Olaf. 

The shipman obeyed. 

" See if thy comrades are dead." 

"They are dead, king," the man replied; "thou 
hast shattered " 

" Enough! Go to Thori yonder, and see if he still 
lives." 

" Call back thy hound, king." 

The deep baying of the dog had ceased, and at 
Olaf's whistle Vigi raced back to his side. 

"Thori is dead," said the seaman; "the hound 
has strangled him." 

" Get to thy ship. Earl Hakon lies yonder in the 
fjord. If thou and thy fellows would go to him, you 
are free. If you will be my men, come to me 
to-morrow." 

That night, in the darkness of a noisome hiding- 
place, Hakon was slain while he slept by his thrall 
Kark, and the traitor, who was born on the same 
day as the earl and had been given him in child- 
hood, hastened to Ladir with his grey dishonoured 
head. 

Early in the dazzle of the morning the six ships 
rowed, with war-horns sounding, up the fjord to 

250 



At Strife with the Gods 

Ladir. Hakon's men came down to meet them, but 
they were daunted by the array and wild clamour 
of the onset, and heading for the nearest shore, they 
took to the hills. 

Joyously Olaf landed on the crowded wharf. The 
mere sight of the young hero — his lofty stature and 
singular beauty, his bright friendly look, blue eyes, 
and long yellow hair — drew the hearts of the people 
to him and they thronged about him with cries of 
welcome. Talk of his strength and prowess and of 
the strange events that had happened during the 
voyage passed from mouth to mouth, so that folk 
would hear of nothing but his being chosen king. 

In the midst of this excitement came Kark the 
thrall with Hakon's head. He told Olaf of their 
flight and his slaying of his master. " And now, 
king," he said, " I saw in a dream how I was here 
in Ladir, and you put a costly jewel about my 
neck." 

" That shall be a blood-red ring," said Olaf. " Give 
him the reward of the traitor." 

The wood in the forest and the iron in the hills 
rejoiced as the axe sundered soul from body. The 
two heads were hung side by side for the choughs 
on the gallows-mound in the doom-ring of Nidarholm. 
Thither went the folk crying up to them with curses, 
and hurling stones. So bitter was the hatred in the 

251 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

land that for long afterwards men avoided Hakon's 
name and never spoke of him except as the Wicked 
Earl. 

Then a " Thing " or great council of the people was 
summoned, and Olaf was chosen by the eight shires 
of Drontheim to rule over them. Straightway he 
spoke to them of the true God in the heavens, and 
of his wish that they should forsake sorcery and 
sacrifices and heathen worship and believe in Him 
alone. " For this have I come among you, that 
giving up the evil things of the olden time, you should 
accept baptism and come to the faith of Christ." 
He warned them that no man should henceforth seek 
to bring in whales or shoals of fish by magic songs, 
or sit out at midnight on the cross-roads to hold 
commerce with spirits of darkness. Then pointing 
to the temple hard by, which Earl Hakon had re- 
stored, " Ye know," he cried, " who gave you this 
temple. Ye have seen his head in the doom-ring; 
come and behold the gods in whom he trusted." 

Breaking into the sacred enclosure, he and his sea- 
wolves hewed down the portals of the temple, and 
wrenched away the carved ring of massive gold with 
which Hakon had adorned it. With his own battle- 
axe Olaf dashed Thor from his high place, and the 
images of the other gods and goddesses were shattered 
to fragments. Then when the building had been 

252 



At Strife with the Gods 

despoiled of its rich hangings and its splendour of 
gold and silver, it was set on fire. 

" Now you have seen with your own eyes," said 
the king, " what power these gods have to help 
themselves or any man. Wherefore I pray you heed 
my counsel, which is that you become Christ's men 
even as you are the king's." 

When the winter drew to a close Olaf went out 
through the south country, imposing his kingship 
and declaring the true faith. Hakon's son, Earl Erik, 
had thought to make a stand with his kith and kin, 
but when he heard how the great lords and yeomen 
everywhere swore allegiance to the king, they escaped 
through the wild ways into Sweden. In the spring- 
time Olaf reached Vikin, the old realm of his father 
Tryggva, and there he found, with great joy after so 
many years, his mother Astrid, and brothers andsisters, 
and many doughty men and fair women of his stock. 

" Of all the folk in Norway," said he, " ye are 
dearest to me because of our blood. And, as is right, 
to you I look first for fellowship and help, for be sure 
of this that one of two things will happen, either that 
I make Norway a Christian land or lose my life." 

" That last shall not happen to thee if we may 
hinder it," said Thorgeir, his half brother; " but we 
also look to thee, Olaf, for something, and that is 
favour and gentleness." 

253 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Well you may," replied the king; " and who 
shall gainsay you ? Powerful men I shall make you, 
if you will share in my labour. Fain, indeed, would 
I win all men by gentleness and peace to what is for 
their great good, both now and hereafter. But if 
there be stark and wayward fellows who would make 
head against the king, what choice is left for the 
king but to break them to his will? Have the folk 
of Norway forgotten how Hakon drove iron harrows 
over them in an evil cause ? And shall I not be 
wrathful if they resist me when I would rid the land 
of wickedness and the rule of devils ? " 

So great was the love that went out to the high 
heart and brave presence of the king that every- 
where in Vikin the images of the gods were over- 
thrown and their temples destroyed. In many other 
places Bishop Sigurd went forth teaching and baptiz- 
ing, though many consented through fear and against 
their liking. In Hordaland and Rogaland, however, 
the yeomen were hardy and proud, and they prepared 
to stand by the dark worship of old days. When 
Olaf landed among them he invited the chief men to 
a feast, and after they had had much friendly talk 
together, he reproached them with the cruel blood- 
offerings which they made to Frey. They would 
neither deny their shame nor confess it. 

" Then," said the king, " if you have been un- 

254 



At Strife with the Gods 

justly accused, it will be easy for you to obey me, 
and destroy Frey's image." 

" That we shall never do. We have served him 
long, and well has he repaid us." 

" Much I fear then that you are blood-guilty. Now 
listen to me. To-morrow we shall meet at the Thing. 
Frey shall be there. I shall question him and judge 
him. He shall make good his cause, else I will surely 
slay him, and teach you the good way which the 
High God has taught me." 

In the grey of the morning, then, the king rowed 
to the great temple in the fjord. In the green 
meadows were Frey's stud horses; and Olaf, who 
had the horseman's word, called the sacred white 
stallion, which came whinnying to him. It was shod 
with silver, and its mane and tail were plaited with 
ribbons and gold thread. Olaf mounted it, and his 
men took the geldings, and they rode to the temple. 

Alighting, Olaf went in and struck the idols down 
from their altars, but Frey he carried off unharmed 
to his ship. Long before the others he and his men 
got to the place of the Thing, and hid the image in 
his tent, and when the meeting had assembled he 
spoke to them for some time of the well-being of the 
land, the observance of good laws, and the duty of 
kings to have constant care for the peace and happy 
estate of their people. 

255 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Enemies and evil-doers shall a true king bring 
to fair trial and sharp justice. What say you — shall 
a rich man or a mighty escape this law ? " 

" No, none," cried many voices in the crowd. 

" No, none," rejoined the king, " not even though 
he be a god. Bring Frey to judgment; let him come 
freely if he will; if not, lay hands upon him." 

So the king's men bore the great image from the 
tent, and placed it upright beside Olaf. 

" Does any one know this respondent ? " 

" He is Frey, king, as thou knowest, our fathers' 
god and ours." 

" How comes it you needs must worship him ? " 

" Very mighty we have thought him till now. 
Often aforetime has he spoken with us, and has given 
us fair seasons and plenty by sea and by land." 

" Is he then less mighty now ? " 

" Not less mighty, but he is angered against us 
because of thee and the talk of thy God." 

Olaf shook his head. " Never has he spoken to 
you, though it may be the Spirit of Darkness has 
spoken through his mouth. Witness now how I 
shall put him to fair trial." 

Grasping his axe in his right hand, the king turned 
to the statue: " Frey, god of this people of mine, 
speak now, if thou canst speak, some word in thy 
defence." 

256 



At Strife with the Gods 

Frey was silent. 

" Let the Evil then speak, which perchance is within 
thee, and which has long misled this people." 

The Thing-folk held their breath to listen; in the 
stillness was heard the cry of the plover on the fell- 
side; but never a word came from Frey. 

" If there be any strength or greatness in thee, 
Frey, or power to harm or spell to blight, use it now 
and spare not, for my hand is raised up against thee. 
If thou slumberest, awake; awake, for I am upon 
thee." 

Olaf swung his axe aloft, but Frey did not move. 
He shore away his hand, but Frey heeded not. Then 
he smote him and clove him asunder. 

" you brave folk, whom I would have my 
friends, how shall I reason with you if your own 
eyes will not convince you ? Hear, then, the choice 
I give you; receive the baptism of the living God, 
or do battle with me." 

Happily the people submitted, and Olaf sailed 
away northward to the great council which had been 
called at Frosta. But the chiefs had sent out war- 
arrows, and the yeomen had come in arms — a great 
host who cried out in tumult against him when he 
spoke of change. 

" When thou camest among us first," said Iron- 
beard of Yriar, " we thought it was heaven, and we 

257 R 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

rejoiced in thee as a man beloved of the gods; but 
thou hast deceived us. If it be still thy purpose to 
spoil us of our freedom, to burn our temples, and to 
send thy priest with the ram's-horn staff to wash us, 
we will drive thee out like Athelstan's foster-son." 

Seeing that he could neither quell them nor persuade 
them at that time, the king answered graciously: 
" Truly, I would still have you think it heaven as 
when I came, and I would bind you to me in loyal 
fellowship. Thus far, therefore, I will make agree- 
ment with you. I will come to you again when you 
hold your great sacrifice, either at midsummer or at 
Yule-tide, and it may happen that my blood-offerings 
shall not be less than yours. Then we shall seek 
together to be of one mind in the matter of our 
worship." 

With this promise the people were well pleased, 
and Olaf returned to Vikin. Now at this time Sigrid 
the Haughty was Queen of Sweden, and she was a 
widow; and the thought came to Olaf that if he 
married her, all that great land of the north from 
sea to sea might be brought under the rule of Christ. 
The queen was not unwilling, and all went pleasantly 
with his suit until Olaf spoke of her christening. 

" Oh, fair friend," said Sigrid, " in this I cannot 
yield to your wishes. You shall follow what faith 
you will, as indeed it becomes a king; but it would 

258 



At Strife with the Gods 

ill befit me who am queen of this realm to forsake 
lightly the worship of my fathers." 

" Have you led me so far but to fool and flout me ? " 
asked Olaf, rising hastily. " You knew well, I think, 
that I would wed no heathen woman." And as he 
spoke he shook his gloves in his vexation, and by ill 
chance the tips touched her cheek. 

Then, too, Sigrid rose, with a dark flush on her face : 
" Little love, it appears, would have been lost between 
us; but this shame which you have done me may 
one day be your downfall." 

So they parted suddenly in anger, and afterwards 
Olaf had cause to remember her words. 

Now when the leaf was golden on the silver birch, 
Olaf spread sail again for the north, and when it was 
drawing towards Yule he invited the foremost men 
from all the country round to a feast. After they 
had made merry together, " You mind," he said, 
" how mad the folk were with me at the Frosta Thing 
and threatened to drive me out, and how we came 
to agreement. Now if the gods be as wroth with 
me as the folk were — and I will not deny the grievous 
despite I have done them — it will not be any small 
blood-offering that will appease them. They will 
look for as noble a sacrifice as king can make. No 
wretched thrall, robber, or broken man shall I 
dare to offer them, but it shall be men worthy of 

259 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

them, the noblest and best in the inlands and out- 
lands. Here are their names." 

Amid looks of dismay he read out a list of famous 
names, and at a sign from the king armed men stood 
with bare axes beside these chosen guests. 

" These are the men I have honoured, and eager 
will they be to have the gods receive them and 
reward their faithful service." 

" What," cried Olaf when loud murmurs rose from 
all sides of the hall, " do you misdoubt the power 
and goodness of the gods ? " and making a long pause, 
he looked silently from face to face. " Why then 
will you not rather turn to Him who has made the 
heavens and the earth, who is as gracious as He is 
mighty, in whose thoughts there is no evil, and who 
will welcome you with no less love in your old age 
than when you are young ? " 

So the king got the better of these idolaters, and 
when the chief men had given hostages for their 
baptism he went up to Moere for the Yule sacrifice. 
Kolbiorn and Kiartan the Icelander and Halfred the 
Skald went with him, and they found a vast gather- 
ing of yeomen from the eight shires. Ironbeard their 
leader stood forth, and braved the king with loud 
words : " All we are of the same mind as we were 
at Frosta." 

" What I promised at Frosta, that I hold to," 

260 



At Strife with the Gods 

replied Olaf. " I have come to enter into the temple 
with you." 

Inalltheland of Norway there was no goodlier temple 
than this of Moere. The cross-beams were covered 
with plates of silver; the hangings were of sea-purple, 
and a gold chain was looped round the walls. There 
were many carved images of the gods, and Thor was 
in the midst, glittering with gold in a splendid chariot, 
and two he-goats were yoked to the chariot with a 
rope of twisted silver about their horns. 

When Olaf had looked at Thor he raised his staff 
and struck him from his place. His companions 
flung down the other idols, and at the sound of their 
breaking, his men fell upon Ironbeard and slew him 
in the porch. Little gain had the yeomen from this 
Thing, for no one desired Olaf's blood-offerings, and 
the loss of their leader left them hopeless of victory. 
Wherefore they made their peace with the king. 

Ironbeard was laid in his grave-mound, and a 
blood-fine for his slaying was awarded against the 
king's men, but Olaf offered as an atonement to take 
his daughter Gudrun for his queen. With great joy 
the dead man's kinsfolk came to their bridal, hoping 
for friendship and quiet days. 

But that night, when all the palace lay in the still- 
ness of sleep, Olaf awoke from a warning dream and 
saw Gudrun leaning over him. In her uplifted hand 

261 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

a dagger gleamed in the moonlight. She stood spell- 
bound before his calm gaze, and he arose, and taking 
the weapon from her, called her women. The moon 
had scarcely changed its place in heaven when the 
young queen and her company were riding to her 
home in Yriar. So bride and bridegroom parted 
without a word, never to meet again. 

In this masterful fashion for the most part Olaf 
preached the Gospel to the rude and hardy race of a 
barbaric age. He bound the wizards to a reef at 
low-water, and the surf of the rising tide swept over 
the Skerry of Shrieks, and made an end of sorcery in 
Norway. Fugitives were run down like wolves. 
Rebels were burnt in their homesteads. 

Raud the Strong was the last of the turbulent 
pagans who set him at defiance. When he heard 
that Olaf was bearing up to God's Isle in search of 
him, the fearless chief entered his temple, and called 
upon Thor : " Blow mightily in thy red beard, thou 
lord of the old land, and lift up thy storm-cry against 
this king ! " The winds rose and came down in boom- 
ing gusts from the hills. All that day the king's 
ships were stayed at the mouth of Salten Fjord; all 
that night they plunged and strained at their cables; 
and day broke in an angry glare of tempest. 

Then Bishop Sigurd robed himself in white alb and 
gold-wrought cope, and raising aloft the cross, he 

262 



At Strife with the Gods 

set it on the prow of Olaf s ship. On either side he 
lit the sacred candles, and the flames burnt clear, 
with never a flicker in the still air; and still water 
lay about the bows. The rowers ran to their benches; 
the bishop intoned a hymn; the great ship felt the 
pull of forty oars, and as it sprang forward, a lane of 
glassy sea opened through the midst of the storm. 
But on either side, beyond the sweep of the oar- 
blades, the waves tossed up their white caps and the 
flying spindrift hid the shape of the hills. 

Thus through the gales of Thor Olaf won to 
God's Isle, and Raud was surprised and taken. But 
though the sturdy pagan renounced his old creed — 
" Never again shall I bend to him who has betrayed 
me! " — he refused to believe in Christ, and died in 
torture. 




263 




The Last Sea- Fight 

Ruthless as he was in spreading the true faith, 
no such king as Olaf had ever before been seen in 
Norway. The people loved him for his shining 
manliness. The most great-hearted, the blithest, the 
most impetuous of men was he; open-handed, and 
delighting in splendour. They forgave his violence 
for his justice, and his masterful spirit for his kindli- 
ness to the lowly. 

Of his skill and strength his sea-wolves never tired 
of bragging; as swimmer, rock-climber, ski-man he 
had no rival. He could split an arrow with an arrow, 
and cast two spears at a time, right hand and left. 
Kiartan's ship he saved by main force when the 
cable parted; and when Eindridi saw him walk 
on the oars over the water while the rowers were 
rowing, and keep three daggers at play in the air, 
" Thine angels," he said, " help thee to do this, and 
I cannot contend against them." 

265 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Now when the king had slain Raud the Strong he 
brought away Raud's dragon-ship with him. Larger 
it was by far than the Crane; indeed there was no 
nobler ship in Norway, with the dragon's head and 
the coils of the tail overlaid with gold, and its sail 
which spread like a dragon's wing. Olaf himself 
steered it. 

Sailing down by the steep coast, he saw a stranger 
standing upon a rock, and as the ship veered in so as 
well-nigh to graze it, the stranger climbed on board 
and saluted the king. He was young to look at, 
tall and handsome, red-bearded, and clad in green. 
He talked and laughed merrily with the seamen, and 
fell to wrestling with them, but the strongest there 
could not hold his own against him. Then he told 
them old-world tales of wonder. " In those times," 
he said, " the folk of these fells and fjords were 
mighty friendly with me. In their need they called 
upon me for help, and I slew the giants for them. 
Friendly they would have been to this day had they 
not been mishandled in a way which may not alto- 
gether escape vengeance." Glancing sideways at 
Olaf, he uttered a jeering laugh and plunged over- 
board. Then the seamen knew that they had spoken 
face to face with Thor of the Thunder-hammer. 

Not once or twice did trolls and creatures of dark- 
ness lurk in the forest or among the rocks of the 

266 



The Last Sea- Fight 

shore to mock and fleer at the king, but their power 
of evil had passed from them. It was in these days 
that Hall and Thorhall the Seer were on the hillside, 
and as they sat silent Thorhall smiled. " Why are 
you smiling ? " asked Hall. " I am smiling," said 
the Seer, " at the sight of so many of the doors of 
the hills wide open, and the little people bundling 
their wallets for a long wayfaring." 

So well pleased was the king with Raud's dragon- 
ship that he laid the keel of another still larger and 
goodlier, and his own he called the Long Serpent and 
Raud's the Short. He was yet busied with this 
work when a sail put in to Ladir, and it bore Thyra, 
the sister of Sweyn the Forked-beard. Sorely against 
her will Sweyn had given her to Burislaf, the old 
heathen King of Wendland; but with him she would 
not stay, neither would she eat or drink, and at last, 
under cloud of night, she fled through the wilds with 
her foster-father, and took ship to Olaf for refuge 
and counsel. She was fair and young, and of the 
king's faith, and he saw not how he might mend her 
fortunes so well as by sharing his throne with her. 

Now it was not long after their marriage that 
Thyra began to fret over the fair estates which she 
owned in Wendland, and urged Olaf to claim their 
revenues for her. " So good a friend of thine is 
Burislaf that he will readily grant whatever thou 

267 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

may'st ask, and these lands I hold in my own right." 
" Hast thou not all thou canst desire ? " asked Olaf. 
" Why should such thoughts trouble thee ? " 

Still she repined, and often during that winter she 
was in tears over her grievance. The king spoke 
of the matter with his secret counsellors, but they 
besought him to wait for change and chance, and not 
to waste the lives of tall men by stirring in so doubtful 
a cause. In the early spring it chanced upon the 
Sunday of Palms that Olaf saw a man with fragrant 
sprays of angelica, and gaily carried some to Thyra. 
She was in a petulant mood, and put them from her 
with graceless words: 

" It is easy to see that I am but a beggarly queen 
when thou thinkest angelica leaves should please me. 
A pity Sweyn should so daunt thee that I may not 
enjoy what is my own! " 

Olaf flushed red with anger : " God's splendour, 
what an asp may lurk in a rosy mouth! Better all 
thy revenues were at the bottom of the deep sea than 
the bones of but a score of my ship-folk. But no 
man shall ever say that thy brother Sweyn could 
make me go in fear of him." 

Then, as the rhymes of the old song go, 

" Wilful as wind, 
Neither to hold nor bind," 

he left her, and she was sorry enough that she had 

268 



The Last Sea- Fight 

angered him. He had the Long Serpent finished and 
launched from the slips, and that summer he manned 
her as never war-ship had been manned in those seas. 
Red Wulf guarded the king's banner at the prow, 
and in that peerless company were Kolbiorn, called 
King's Shadow, because he was so like the king, 
Thorstein the White, Hyrning and Thorgeir, Olaf's 
half-brothers, and heroes as many more than can be 
named. No man among them had more than sixty 
or less than twenty years to his age except Einar the 
Archer. He was in his eighteenth summer, but he 
drew the strongest bow and shot the surest arrow 
in Norway. 

Southward with a great host of sail they fared for 
Wendland, and in one place and another along the 
coast the king landed to cheer and strengthen the 
folk in their new faith. Strange things happened in 
those glowing summer nights, for while deep slumber 
lay on the ships and guards kept watch on shore, 
the king would suddenly come upon them from 
inland when they thought him sleeping. No one had 
seen him go ashore; none knew whence he came; 
there was no trace of footsteps on sand or dewy 
grass. 

All this greatly troubled Thorkel, who wondered 
whether indeed the king went thus abroad in the 
dead night season, or if it were some spirit of evil 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

which assumed the king's likeness. Wherefore, upon 
a night when he knew that Olaf was on board, he 
set himself to watch at the foot of the gangway 
between ship and shore. Slowly passed the hours 
of the dreamy twilight; the breeze of the morning 
began to blow cold, and Thorkel had just thought, 
" This night at least he has slept sound," when iron 
arms were cast about him, and he was flung into 
the sea. 

"That for meddling!" 

At the sound of the king's voice Thorkel feared he 
was angry, but Olaf threw him a rope, and laughed 
as he hauled him on board. 

" I did not mean to vex thee," said Thorkel. 

" Thou, of all men, art never like to vex me," 
replied Olaf, and indeed the man was his bosom- 
friend and counsellor; " but when I saw thee standing 
there, I could not keep my hands from making sport 
of thee." 

" Thou hast made sport of my cloak," said Thorkel. 

" Let not that grieve thee to the soul; thou shalt 
have another cloak." 

" And if thy enemies, men or devils, lie in wait 
for thee, and fall upon thee and spoil thee, wilt thou 
give us another Olaf ? " asked Thorkel. " What folly 
is this in a great chief, to wander far away from his 
ships, unarmed and alone! " 

270 



The Last Sea- Fight 

" Dear man, have no care for me," replied the king; 
" no evil can befall me whither I go." 

On the following night the king touched Thorkel's 
feet to awake him, and signed to him to dress; and 
they went ashore together, and passed near the 
watchers, but these paid no heed to them. 

" Dost thou see ? " asked Olaf . " While my arm 
is in thine, no one is aware of thee or me. Now, if 
thou wilt, thou shalt fare with me whither I fare, but 
thou shalt swear never to speak of this night's doings 
so long as I am king." 

Inland they went till they came to a pine-wood, and 
in the clearing of the trees there stood a fair house. 

" Abide here till I return," said Olaf; and he 
entered, but did not quite close the door; and 
Thorkel saw that the house was dazzling with light, 
and filled with a fragrance which took away all 
feeling of care or sorrow, or of weight or weariness. 
In the midst knelt the king with his arms raised to 
heaven; and out of the great light came stately and 
gracious beings in white robes, and they blessed the 
king and raised him to his feet. Then out of the 
fragrance came a throng of little children singing, and 
they too were in white raiment bordered with gold, 
and rosebuds and green leaves were woven in their 
bright hair. 

Then Olaf came forth, and the house fell into 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

darkness within; but the king brought with him an 
after-glow of the light and a lingering of the fragrance. 
And as they returned through the pine-wood Thorkel 
looked back, but the fair house had vanished from 
the clearing. 

One other thing there is to tell of this sea-faring. 
While they lay off Hildsholm one of the shipmen 
made a wager to climb the great rock, Smalsar Horn. 
A perilous place it is beyond most, springing high 
and sheer out of the sea, and its sharp spit of stone 
stands solitary in the heavens. When this man had 
gone far up, he came to such a pass that he could 
neither ascend higher nor yet get down again. Then 
the king, laughing with a lad's glee, slung his shield 
over his shoulders, and went up the rock, calling to 
the man, " Bide there till I come." Right to the 
top of the Horn he won, and fastened his shield to the 
spit, so that it glittered like a star. As he made it 
fast, his dream of the stone pillar in Garda rose up 
in his mind; and for a moment he seemed to behold 
around him once more fields of summer flowers and 
the fair white company of happy souls. And he 
wondered within himself, " Is this a sign ? Yet 
shall it give me neither fear nor misgiving." And 
descending swift and light-hearted, he took the 
shipman under his mighty arm, and brought him 
down to a safe place. 

272 



The Last Sea- Fight 

Along the Danish shores and down through Eyra 
Sound they fared without hindrance, and came at 
length to Wendland, where with great friendliness 
King Burislaf gave them welcome. He was the 
father of Geira whom Olaf first loved; and when 
they came to speak of Thyra's claims the old king 
readily granted all that was right and seemly, and 
that trouble was brought to a happy close. 

So Olaf tarried long in Wendland, forgathering 
with old friends, and the time fleeted by in revelry 
and good-fellowship. Most of all he was glad at 
heart to meet once more with Astrid, Geira's young 
sister, who was now the wife of Sigvald, Earl of the 
Jomsvikings. Yet, could he have foreseen it, this 
joy and remembrance of early love were but the last 
bright threads running through the dark with which 
the picture of his life was being woven. 

Now before these things had happened, when the 
first rumour of the king's sailing reached Denmark, 
Sigrid the Haughty was queen of that land, for she 
had married Sweyn Forked-beard; and she cast 
about in her subtle mind how she might turn this 
venture to Olaf's undoing. She had never forgiven 
him, and when she thought of the slight he had put 
upon her, the flick of his glove seemed still burning 
on her cheek. She let slip no chance of stirring up 
strife between Sweyn and his old Viking comrade, 

273 I 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

and when all other means failed she burst into angry 
tears : 

" Woe's the day I listened to a king who dare not 
avenge my wrongs! Yet, poor man, why should I 
upbraid thee with my shame, when thou canst not 
avenge thy own ? When Olaf took thy sister Thyra, 
was it with leave asked of thee ? And now, they say, 
he is to raid Wendland for revenues that by right 
are no longer hers. Had thy father, old Harald 
Blue-tooth, been alive, would he have put up meekly 
with these affronts ? " 

She so fretted and stung him with her taunts that 
he too flared out in wrath: " True it is also I might 
to-day have been King in England had he not broken 
faith and made peace with Ethelred." 

Then Queen Sigrid spun out webs of craft to close 
about Olaf and bring him to his death in the Baltic 
sea-ways. 

" Alone," she said, " thou canst not cope with him 
on water, but the Jomsvikings will join thee; my 
son shall aid thee with the power of Sweden; and 
who but Earl Erik will be keen of this chance to lay 
hold on Norway, and pay Olaf back for his father's 
head on the gallows-tree ? To Wendland Olaf shall 
fare with a proud heart; what his home-coming shall 
be lies in thy hand." 

So kings and earls were leagued together, but 

274 



The Last Sea- Fight 

Sigvald, the leader of the Jomsvikings, would have 
no hand in the plot, except that he consented to keep 
Olaf in Wendland long enough for the hostile fleets 
to gather. Out of Sweden and Denmark they came 
in vast numbers, and masking themselves with green 
boughs they lay under Hiddensee on the Svold, which 
is the Race of the sea near Rugen Isle. 

For all their care the plotters could not keep their 
secret, and rumours spread to Wendland of a mighty 
thronging of ships in the western narrows, and many 
surmised that this could mean no less than war. 
Already the Northmen were wishing for home, and 
they pressed the king to return. " Free you are to 
go at any time," replied Olaf, " but I shall think 
those most friendly who tarry for me." None would 
leave him, and, disquieted and impatient, the North- 
men waited until it was his pleasure to depart. 

On the eve of their sailing, Astrid came at night 
to warn him of his danger, and to join forces with 
him if he would accept her aid; but Olaf answered 
cheerily: "More ways than one I see out of this 
peril, little sister, but never shall I shrink from the 
challenge of my foes. And why should I embroil 
thee with thy neighbours, dear heart ? Nay, the 
issue is in God's hands, all-powerful to keep my 
kingdom mine or to give it to another." 

" Yet I shall sail with thee," said Astrid. " Do 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

but throw back thy head for a sign, and thou shalt 
have what service I can do thee." 

As the king held her hand at parting, " Dost thou 
mind, little sister," he asked, " how long ago we sat 
in hall and Gizur made songs of the folk in the 
tapestry ? " 

" I mind it well," said Astrid, leaning closer to him. 

" Ay, and Geira said, how these folk, once happy 
and glad to be alive, were all now dead and half for- 
gotten, and served but to keep out the cold wind ? " 

Astrid inclined her head silently. 

" So perchance it may be with us, and minstrels 
by the winter fire may make songs of our images. 
But we knew not then that the end of all was other- 
wise. Hence we shall fare when our earthly day is 
done; but in the high halls of the Lord God we shall 
be, not as dead folk in pictures, but living men and 
women still. Sleep light of heart, sister; He that 
keeps us will not slumber." 

Early on the morrow " All aboard! " was sounded, 
and hawsers were cast loose, and all put out to sea — 
sixty of the king's ships and eleven under Sigvald. 
Westward they bore, the small sail drawing away in 
the light wind, and the great warships moving more 
slowly. And ever there was a Wendish skeid — 
nearer at one time and further off at another — which 
hung within hail of the Long Serpent. 

276 



The Last Sea- Fight 

Under Hidden's Island lay Sweyn and the Swede 
king and Earl Erik, and at the first glimmer of the 
coming sails they went up with numbers of their men 
to the wooded hill, and watched the small ships of the 
Northmen go to the open sea. Fair was the wind, 
and brightly the September sun shone over the 
Svold, and when the larger ships drove in from the 
offing, first one and then another was taken for the 
king's great dragon. Again and yet again men 
cried out in wonder, " Here it comes ! " but Erik 
laughed, " Many more splendid ships has King Olaf 
than these; let them go! " So, sail after sail, more 
than half of the great fleet swept through the narrows, 
and no one suspected the foe lying in ambush. 

Then out of the east came the cruisers of the Joms- 
vikings, and with them three stately vessels. One 
of these was the Crane and another the Short Serpent 
of Raud. And Sweyn cried out joyfully, " Aboard, 
aboard ! High shall the Long Serpent carry me before 
sunset, and this hand shall wind her larboard and 
starboard at my will." 

" Even this ship," rejoined Earl Erik testily, 
" thou couldst scarce wrest from him with thy Danes 
alone; but King Olaf has a better." 

And as they went down from the hill they saw yet 
a fourth great vessel. Its prow was a grim dragon's 
head blazing in gold over the sea, and its strong sides 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

were in their height and their length such an amaze- 
ment that silence and fear fell upon the enemy as 
they got to their ships. 

Thus far had all gone prosperously with the North- 
men, and there was no sign of Queen Sigrid's guile; 
but as these large ships entered the Svold the Joms- 
vikings suddenly dropped sail and rowed closer in to 
the island. 

" Here will I await King Olaf," said Sigvald. " It 
seems to me there is a great crowd of folk on the 
island and that peril lies ahead." 

The captains of the Crane and the Short Serpent, 
astonished by this strange shift and uncertain what 
it might mean, lowered their sails also. So did the 
other ships, and all lay-to for Olaf to come up to 
them. But scarcely had the Great Dragon stood in to 
windward when the leagued fleets shot out from their 
ambush and swarmed over the Race. 

" Bear on, king," Thorkel cried to Olaf; " drive 
out to the open sea; the odds here are too heavy for 
thee." 

" Strike sails ! Out oars ! " Olaf answered with 
a ringing cry. " Let no man here think of flight. 
God look to my life, I shall fight blithely in this place. 
Lash ships together! " 

The war-horns sounded the signals, and the Norse 
ships gathered about the Great Dragon — the Crane 

278 



The Last Sea- Fight 

to weatKerward, the Short Serpent to lee, and the rest 
four deep on either side. Eleven ships in all, and 
they were lashed gunwale to gunwale. So vast was 
the length of the Long Serpent that her forecastle 
lay out alone far forward of the others. 

" If we lie in this way," said Red Wulf, " we shall 
have wild weather behind these bulwarks." 

" Ay ? " said Olaf. " It was ever my intent that 
the Dragon should be in the forefront ; I thought not 
to have a craven to ward my banner." 

Red Wulf flung back a scornful gibe, and Olaf, 
snatching his bow, set an arrow to the string. 

" Shoot at thy foes, king. Belike thou wilt not 
have too many men by the sun goes down." 

Then came the Wendish skeid under the Dragon's 
quarter, and a man at the prow spoke to the king 
in a strange tongue, and Olaf answered him cheerily. 
" This is one of our Wendish friends," he said, as the 
sheid passed astern, and rowing near to the shore came 
to anchor. Afterwards it was in the minds of many 
that the Lady Astrid might have been on board that 
ship. 

From the poop of the Dragon Olaf looked out over 
the sea, and as he beheld the throng of his foes, he 
thought with a twinge of regret of the many goodly 
ships that had fared out to the open sea. Yet his 
words were gay and proud-hearted. " That banner 

279 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

over against us is King Sweyn's," he said with a 
laugh. " Danes do not beat Northmen. Leave them 
out of the reckoning. Who is yonder ? " 

" Thy namesake, Olaf the Swede." 

"Home were a better place for the Lap-King!^ 
And those tall ships to windward?" 

" That is Earl Erik Hakonson.'* 

" Northmen like ourselves. The earl will look to 
us for a battle of giants to-day." 

Then the horns sounded onset, and with the hoarse 
whoop of war sixty Danish ships swooped down on 
the Great Dragon in a storm of arrows. The North- 
men grappled them with hooks, and shot down upon 
them from their high decks; and all they grappled 
they cleared of men and cast adrift. King Sweyn 
fell back in confusion, and the Lap-King fell upon 
the Dragon with fifteen ships. They too were 
grappled with steel, and the decks reddened with 
slaughter. 

Meanwhile, on the flank of the fierce fighting, came 

Erik in Ironbeard, which bristled with spikes from 

prow to sea, and attacked the outer ships. Many 

fell upon both sides, but Olaf's men were driven 

inward from vessel to vessel, and as each was cleared 

the lashings were sundered and the next was boarded. 

Danes and Swedes thronged about Ironbeard and made 

1 Olaf was crowned as a babe; hence Lap-King or Bosom-King. 

280 



The Last Sea- Fight 

good Erik's losses, but every Northman that fell left 
Olaf the weaker. At last all the king's ships were 
ravaged and cut adrift, and on the decks of the Great 
Dragon were crowded all the fighting men of Norway. 

All that day the youngest of them, Einar the 
Archer, had plied his bow doughtily, and twice had 
Erik felt the wind of his arrows. 

" Shoot me that tall young man," cried the earl 
to Finn of Herland. 

" That man bears a charmed life to-day, lord," 
replied Finn, " yet I may mar his shooting." 

Now Finn had fashioned Einar's bow, and as Einar 
bent it against the earl for the third time, Finn sent a 
bolt which snapped it in his grasp. 

" What was it that broke ? " asked Olaf as he heard 
the sound. 

" Norway from thy hand, king," said Einar. 

" More noise would have come of so great a break- 
ing," replied Olaf. " Norway does not hang on thy 
bow. Take mine! " 

Einar took it and drew the horns till the length of 
the arrow came short of the stretch. " Too weak a 
bow for so mighty a king! " he said, and throwing it 
aside he caught up his shield and joined the slayers. 

Once did the earl board the Long Serpent^ but the 
king's men stoutly drove him back. " A bold feat! " 
exclaimed Olaf; " but the earl, I think, will not clear 

281 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the Dragon while Thor is his shipmate " — for on 
prow of Ironbeard dwelt a golden idol of Thor. 

After that Erik put in to land with his wounded 
and slain, and he bade Danes and Swedes pluck up 
courage and make another onset, if they would not 
be shamefully vanquished by a single ship. Then 
once again the Wendish skeid came out to Olaf : " Our 
men will fight for you, will gladly die or win with you, 
whichever way fortune goes." But the king would 
not take their help. " Yet you may be of good 
service to me," he said, " if you will stay upon the 
spot where you have been all day." 

So the skeid returned to anchor; and Ironbeard 
came again to the attack, and all about Dane and 
Swede darted and stung like a host of hornets. 
Great logs were hoisted and dropped on board the 
Dragon till she took a heavy list to weatherward, and 
Erik's men swarmed over the bulwarks. 

Thrice did Olaf hurl his spears, double-handed, 
at the earl, but Erik stood unscathed. " Little 
wonder! " said Olaf when he perceived that the 
dweller of the prow had been changed, and in the 
place of Thor a gold cross stood on Ironbeard. 

The forecastle was abandoned, and the Northmen, 
drunk with the joy of battle, slowly yielded foot by 
foot as they drew aft. In that last heroic stand were 
Hyrning and Thorgeir, Red Wulf and Einar, and 

282 



I 



I 



The Last Sea- Fight 

Kolbiorn King's Shadow, who had dressed so like the 
king as to fill men's minds with uncertainty which 
was which. 

High on the poop stood Olaf in gilded helm, with 
his shield glittering on his arm, and over his sark of 
ring-mail he wore a sleeveless coat of scarlet silk. 
When Kolbiorn went up and stood beside him, it 
seemed as though there were two kings. 

As the earl's horde made a fierce rush a blaze of 
splendour came from the setting sun, so that the 
figures on the poop seemed to vanish in its brightness. 
And when that wondrous light abated there was no 
one seen in Olaf's place, and the last of the stalwart 
men of the Great Dragon plunged into the sea. 

A frantic clamour of victory rose from the allied 
fleets. In the swarms of skiffs and cutters chasing 
the Northmen who had gone overboard the seamen 
joined in the exultant cry, and ceased from slaying. 
Treacherous friends and craven foes, the Jomsvikings 
rowed cheering into the tossing field of conflict. 

In the midst of the wild commotion, the oars of the 
Wendish sksid flashed through the water, and racing 
eastward for home, that gallant little ship dis- 
appeared in the shades of the twilight. 

Of the last defenders of the Dragon, Kolbiorn and 
Einar the Archer and Thorkel were saved; and Eai'l 
Erik steered the peerless ship to Vikin, and thtj'' 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

sailed with him. When they had moored to the 
quay, Einar spoke to Vigi, who had lain on the poop 
all through the fight : " All is over now, Vigi, and we 
are masterless men." 

Springing to his feet, the great dog flung up his 
head, howling with anguish, and followed Einar 
ashore. Hard by the haven was a green howe look- 
ing over the sea, and Vigi ran to the top of it, and 
laid him low with tears running down his face. 
Kindly folk brought him food, but never again did 
he eat or drink; and there they found him dead. 

So, in the splendour of the setting sun, the armed 
figure of the king vanished from Norway. For many 
a winter the people talked of the swift Wendish skeid 
rowing hard into the shadows of the September 
twilight, and foretold that Olaf would surely come 
again. The wild swans sang in the summer night; 
angelica stalks were fragrant in the early spring; but 
never more was the king seen in Norway. 

The folk lamented him, and they most who knew 
him best, and long afterwards was remembered the 
song which Halfred the Skald made of him. 

" All over Norway, when Olaf was here, 

The high cliffs seemed laughing ; but ever since then 
The sea-ways are joyless, the hill-sides are drear, 
And restless I roam, the forlornest of men." 



286 




The Jorsala Pilgrims 



b' 



It was many a winter after the Svold sea-fight; and 
Gaut and Runolf were pilgrims from Iceland in 
Jorsala Land. They had drunk of the well at 
Nazareth. They had seen the snows of Hermon. 
By the sea of Galilee they had sat among the flower- 
ing grasses, the pink flax and the tall daisies growing 
over the carved stones of Capernaum. They had 
bathed in the sacred waters of Jordan. 

In the Holy City of Jorsala they had prayed at the 
tomb wherein the body of the Lord was laid, and had 
bowed down before the wood of the cross on which He 
died. Upon the spot on which the Temple of King 
Solomon had stood there stood now a glittering dome 
with curtains of brocade, and within it they beheld 
the rock which is the oldest rock in all the world. 
Thereon in ancient summers did the threshers winnow 
the sheaves of Araunah. Beneath that rock there 
is a cave; and ever on the night before Easter morn 

387 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

may be heard the hollow voices of all the patriarchs 
and prophets of Israel giving thanks to God for the 
resurrection of the Lord. In that cave they say 
there is a weU, which is called the Well of the Leaf, for 
one who went down into it found a path which led to 
the gates of Paradise, and he brought back a leaf 
plucked from the Tree of Weird, on which the destinies 
of men are written. 

When they had seen Bethlehem — 'tis a little white 
town on a hill, and below it lie the starry fields of the 
Shepherds — they desired to gaze upon the way by 
which Moses had led the children of Israel out of the 
House of Bondage, and they faced towards Gaza. 
Resting at fall of night by their tent fire, Gaut asked : 

" Have the things on which we have looked brought 
thee nearer to the Lord ? " 

" That I scarce know," said Runolf. " It was 
great joy and expectation to come hither. Far have 
we travelled and fared hard, and perchance it should 
content us that we have often thought of Him. But 
never has it happened that a third has joined us two 
by the way, and that we felt our hearts burn within 
us while He spoke. When day has been far spent 
strangers have broken bread with us, but never have 
our eyes been opened to know Him by our fire. I 
had in some manner hoped that somewhere we might 
have felt that He was close to us. We have gone 

288 



The Jorsala Pilgrims 



the ways He went, but if we ever touched the ground 
touched by His feet there was no sign to tell us of it." 

" Nowhere have I seen Him," said Gaut, " not 
even in sleep." 

" He is no longer living in this land," continued 
Runolf. " The wind has blown abroad the dust in 
which He wrote. The rain has washed the rock on 
which He trod. We have been looking for the 
shadows of a dream. Less easy has it been to feel 
Him beside me on the mountain or the shore than it 
is now to make-believe we two are now sitting on 
Blue Shaw Heath." 

Then, after a pause, he added: " Blue Shaw Heath! 
Dost thou mind the ruddy moorland and the great bow 
of blue glacier ? No fairer spot on a summer night 
have I seen on earth. I shall never see it again! " 

" There are many weathers in a week," said Gaut, 
" and more in a month. What ails thee to-night ? " 

" I know not; such foreboding as might trouble 
a woman." 

From Gaza, the city of sweet wells and green garths, 
they took the route which goes through the Desert 
to the Red Sea; but as the day began to decline a 
sudden sickness fell upon Runolf, and he could go 
no further. He was laid in the shadow of a tent, 
and Gaut sat with the sick man's head upon his 
knees. The Arabs came and looked at him. They 

289 X 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

saw that his face was drawn, and in his eyes was no 
intent to live, and one of them bethought him of the 
convent of holy men on the edge of the Desert, where 
there is ever some hakeem skilled in the virtues of 
herbs and balsams. They gathered about Gaut 
speaking eagerly all together and gesticulating 
towards the north-east, but he could not understand 
them. Then two of them mounted their horses and 
galloped over the shifting sands, where no man's 
footsteps abide. 

The sun went down, and Runolf lay still, scarcely 
speaking at all, save to murmur his thanks when his 
comrade moistened his lips with wine. As the dark- 
ness fell, the Arabs kindled a fire, and little flames 
glimmered out far away in the Desert where the 
nomads had pitched their tents. Flashes of summer 
lightning began to play along the horizon, and some 
of these grew so large and dazzling that it seemed 
as if the heavens were opening. 

All at once Runolf sat up, and grasping Gaut's 
hand, he pointed before him: "Look, look! Didst 
thou see Him? He is near us. There! " 

For an instant, leagues of the Desert sprang out in 
the vivid flash, but Gaut saw nothing except sand 
and stones. 

" He is close to us. I was wrong. He still lives 
in this land," said Runolf. 

290 



The Jorsala Pilgrims 

Then as yet another blaze of light expanded, "He has 
vanished from our sight," said Runolf ; " but I have 
seen Him, as Peter saw Him, and John and Lazarus." 
And he sank back and lay in a glad stillness. 

Out of the Desert came the Arab horsemen and a 
company of monks from the convent. They laid 
Runolf on a litter, and Gaut walked by his side as 
they bore him towards little specks of fire far away 
in the vast trackless night. Beyond these lights 
there were others; and yet again they guided their 
steps till they came to a rocky strath, with running 
water and palm-trees and olives. Here in the dark- 
ness it seemed as though they had entered into a 
maze of living stars, but these were fire-flies swarm- 
ing among the rocks and trees. 

In the cloister of the convent they were met by a 
man of mighty stature, aged and handsome. He 
bowed to Gaut with a kindly look and then leaned 
over his companion. He touched the sick man's face 
and closed his open eyes; and turning to Gaut, he 
asked in a gentle voice — 

" You are Northmen ? " 

" Ay, lord; from Iceland. This is Runolf Grimason 
of Sheepfell by Blue Shaw Heath. My name is Gaut 
Ormson of Haukness." 

" You have come far," said the tall man; " and 
to-night thy friend has fared further. No more can 

291 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

we help him, nor has he need we should. Be not too 
sorrowful for this. But now thou shalt rest and 
sleep, as is the privilege of sorrow. These shall watch 
beside thy friend, and to-morrow I will speak with 
thee." 

On the morrow Gaut looked for the last time on 
Runolf, and the dead man's face seemed to have 
grown younger, and there was no line of disquietude 
in it. The brethren put a palm-branch between the 
dead pilgrim's hands, and laid him to rest in a tomb 
cut out of the rock on the strath side. 

Then the kingly old man took Gaut's arm, saying, 
" Come now, brother, if it please thee to converse 
with me." He seemed to be the abbot of that house, 
for wheresoever he came monks and priests rose and 
stood ready to do him service; and he held himself 
so high above others that Gaut, who was no small 
man, scarce reached the masses of silvery hair which 
hung about his shoulders. He led Gaut to a fair stone 
house set among the palm-trees in the strath and 
laid fruit and bread and wine before him. 

" Tell me first," he said, " whither thou wouldst 
go; or would it please thee to abide here and become 
one of us." 

" Nay, I thank you, lord, but I will home again, 
and die among my neighbours." 

" No need at all to die," replied the abbot cheer- 

292 



The Jorsala Pilgrims 

fully, " but if it be in thy mind to return home, I 
will give thee, when thou wilt, such furtherance as 
I may command." 

Then having questioned him of his pilgrimage and 
of the men and places he had seen, " Now," said he, 
" good man from Iceland, tell me some news of thy 
home folk. Is Halfred the Skald still alive — him 
they called the Troublesome Poet ? " 

" King Olaf gave him that name," said Gaut. 
" He is dead, lord, these many winters. When the 
king fell in the Svold fight such anguish came upon 
him that he had no peace anywhere, but wandered 
restlessly as thistle-down in the wind. This, indeed, 
he said in one of his songs." 

" Dost thou remember it, brother ? " 

" It ran thus," replied Gaut. 

" 'AH over Norway, when Olaf was here. 

The high cliffs seemed laughing; but ever since then 
The sea-ways are joyless, the hill-sides are drear. 
The wild flowers are withered, the green tree is sere, 

And I whirl like a leaf, the most restless of men.' 

This, too, if one might repeat it, is another song he 
made: 

" 'When the battle-horns blared in the shock of the ships. 
Would that I had been there, with a song on my lips ! 
Though but little the luck that a lone hand could bring. 
It were heaven to have struck by the side of the king. 
There is nought to replace, day or night, to the end. 
In my thought the king's face, in my sight the true friend ! ' 

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A Child's Book of Warriors 

A great song he made upon the Creation of the World, 
and that was in atonement of the transgressions of 
his youth when yet he worshipped the heathen spirits. 
He died in a wild storm on a voyage to Greenland, 
for a great wave dashed the boom upon him, and 
that killed him. His last words were a song, though 
I do not remember it aright. ' There is a lady,' he 
said, ' who will weep for me though of old I was her 
sorrow; yet freely would I now die, did I know that 
God would receive my soul.' They laid him in an 
oaken chest with an arm-ring of gold, a helmet, and 
a rich cloak. These were gifts he had of King Olaf. 
When they gave him to the sea, winds and waters 
bore him far, and the chest came ashore on the holy 
island of lona; but thralls broke it open, and stealing 
the precious things, they cast the body into a marsh. 
'Tis said that King Olaf appeared to the abbot in a 
vision. That I know not, but the guile of the thralls 
was discovered. Halfred was laid with honour in the 
church; of the arm-ring was made a chalice, of the 
cloak a cloth for the altar, and candlesticks of the 
helmet." 

" It is strange to think of," said the abbot pacing 
to and fro. " And what of Kiartan ? " 

" He too is dead," said Gaut. " Ever he was seen 
to be a man fore-doomed. Folk say he loved the 
king's sister Ingebiorg, and when they kissed at 

294 



The Jorsala Pilgrims 

parting 'twas a sore farewell. But Gudrun, who 
loved him above all the men in Iceland, brought him 
to his death. BoUi, his best friend, slew him, and 
yet loved him so that he held him in his arms till 
he died. The church at Burg, whither his body was 
borne, had been newly blest and was still hung in 
white. And this was a kindly chance in a hard 
weird, for Kiartan was the first man who kept Lent 
in Iceland, fasting and faring meagrely on the fruits 
of the earth." 

" He was a goodly man," said the abbot, " and 
the king's sister did not need to love a nobler. But 
answer me this now. Is any memory of King Olaf 
kept green among you northern folk ? " 

" Ay, lord," said Gaut. " Glorious is the memory 
of that king, for he brought the realm to the creed 
of Christ." 

" And what do folk say in these days of the 
sea-fight at Svold? I have heard that the 
king did not perish in that fight, but lived long 
after — even to the days of the kings who now 
rule." 

" Many are the voices, and one says, and the other 
gainsays. Folk think that the king sank in his mail 
and made an end. Folk think that at the moment 
of the great light God took him. Folk think, too, 
that the king dived and swam beneath the great 

295 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

ships, and was carried away into safety by his 
Wendish friends." 

" That last were more likely to happen," said the 
abbot, "than that he should have been caught up 
into Paradise. Some good, perchance, he did in his 
life, but he was a sinful man — even as I. Now tell 
me, what hast thou heard of Einar Tamberskelver ? 
Does he still live ? " 

" Yea, and a mighty lord he is, and well 
loved." 

" Greater archer than he there was not in Norway 
when he was young; and no man on the Dragon did 
more valiant deeds; " and the abbot, rising from his 
seat, brought from a chest a kingly belt and dagger. 
" These, when thou goest," he said, " I pray thee 
take to Einar, and greet him for me with this message, 
that he said a true word when he spoke of the break- 
ing of the great bow of Norway from the king's 
hand." 

" Very willingly," replied Gaut; and as he paused 
as if in doubt of something, the abbot asked him, 
" What is in thy thought ? " 

" I had a thing to say, if I might say it." 

" Speak freely," said the abbot. 

" Once when I was a lad I saw King Olaf. It is 
long ago ; but changing gold for silver and the bloom 
of youth for the majesty of age, you, lord, remember 

296 



The Jorsala Pilgrims 

me strangely of him. I pray you tell me whether 
you are not indeed King Olaf ? " 

" I knew the man, brother," answered the abbot, 
" and no one stood nearer to him than I in the last 
sea-fight; but I bear not his name, and I desire not 
his glory." 

Some days thereafter, when Gaut had rested, the 
abbot provided him with all he needed, and gave 
him guides, who led him through the hills and the 
old Forest of Assur till he came to the sea and there 
found a ship for Greenland. All things were done 
in obedience to the abbot's word, as though he were 
a king in that land. 

When Einar received his gift and heard his message, 
his eyes filled with tears. " I would I had been with 
thee, Gaut," he said, " for this was no other than 
King Olaf that spoke with thee." 

Now, when Edward the Confessor was king, it was 
his custom to read to his great men from the saga 
of King Olaf at Eastertide; " for," said he, " as 
Easter day is the greatest and most glorious of all 
days, so was this king the best and most illustrious 
of all the kings of our age." This he did ever as the 
feast of the Lord arisen came round. 

One Easter Sunday when they had heard how the 
king escaped from the sea and had reached Jorsala 

299 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Land, and there withdrawn to the peace of the 
cloister, King Edward closed the book and stood 
up beside the throne. 

" To what we have read this day, I add this word," 
he said. " Pilgrims, returning from the holy places, 
have brought tidings of what we knew not until 
now. King Olaf whom we loved is dead. Pray for 
his soul. Suscipiat te, rex mens, Christus qui te 
vocavit — May Christ who called thee receive thee, 
my king! " 




300 




" I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

A GUN was fired at sunset. It was the signal for 
the vesper hymn, and for the shifting of the course 
of the three caravels to due west. The lateen sails, 
long and shapely as a swallow's wings, were hauled 
closer to the wind, and the Ace, which was the fastest 
sailer of the three, stood down a way of billowy fire 
which ran straight into the blazing orb of the sun. 
Then with a strange and thrilling sound in the 
infinite spaces of those silent seas rose the strains 
of the Salve Regina, the mariner's evening prayer : 

" Hail, Queen ! Mother of compassion. 
Life, sweetness, and hope of us, hail! " 

The crew were still singing when the sun dipped. The 
track of fire died out along the heaving waters. For 
a few moments longer the small clouds of the trades 
shone in gold and rose-colour; then the warm hues 
faded, and the wondrous lights of heaven powdered 
the blue-green of the night. 

The illimitable ocean, which had all day long been 

301 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

of deep blue, turned to a pale spectral luminousness. 
The long billows curled and broke in lines of flying 
sapphire. Gushes of liquid flame washed the sides 
of the caravel. Medusae floated past in tangles and 
sprays of jewels. Trails of green light showed the 
web of death woven by the sharks as they crossed 
and re-crossed each other. Far astern, the shimmer- 
ing wake of the Ace seemed to mark out the path for 
the Lassie and the Blessed Mary, on whose canvas 
the green crosses and the 'scutcheon of Castile were 
no longer visible, but lanterns burned at the mast- 
heads and high upon the castled poops. 

On board the Ace the seamen stood together 
forward in small groups with their faces turned west- 
ward. Tried men they were, young for the most 
part and all but three of them Spaniards. That 
night there would be no sleep for any, unless it were 
for the sick. They were nearing the goal of their 
adventure. At any moment the dim summits of the 
Land of Gold and Spices might eclipse the clear stars 
which blazed low down on the horizon. At latest it 
would surely appear in the white glimmer of the 
dawn, and silk doublet and king's pension would 
fall to the lucky mortal who first sighted it. 

In those steady winds, the course once set, there 
was seldom need to touch a sail from watch to watch. 
Over the long swells, teeming and sparkling with life, 

302 



" I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

the small caravel of fifty tons kept her lead, but 
monotony, inaction, and fatigue began to have their 
effect on the men in spite of their keen expectancy on 
this last of the nights, of which there had been so 
many. Drowsiness was creeping over them when 
suddenly the thrumming of a guitar arose, and 
Oye I and Brava ! from a dozen voices welcomed the 
player. " A cantilena^ Pedro, a madrigal^ a balada, 
anything to clear the dust out of our eyes." 

" Caballeros,^^ replied Pedro, " I give you the very 
honourable and melancholy ditty of San Pedro de 
Cardena," and clearing his throat while he twanged 
a brisk prelude, the seaman sang: 

" In San Pedro de Cardena, 

High in his ivory chair, 
With face so fresh and comely, 

With eyes so bright and fair, 
With vast white beard in order. 

For six long years and more 
Had sat the great dead hero. 

The Cid Campeador. 

" All richly carved and golden 

Rose o'er the ivory seat 
The blazoned baldachino; 

But at the dead Cid's feet 
The beautiful Ximena, 

The wife he loved so dear, 
Lay wrapped in silk and spices 

Within her sepulchre. 

303 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" Clad in his crimson mantle, 

He sat erect and grand. 
The long strings of his mantle 

He held in his right hand ; 
His mighty sword Tizona, 

Which many a Moor had cleft, 
Sheathed in its graven scabbard, 

"Was lying on his left. 

" In San Pedro de Cardeila 

Each year they sanctified 
With solemn mass and sermon 

The day the great Cid died. 
The monks sang Miserere, 

The abbey bells were tolled, 
The poor were fed at table 

And clothed against the cold. 

Upon the seventh high feast-day, 

Behold, it came to pass 
There thronged a countless gathering 

To hear the dead Cid's mass; 
For Jew and turbaned Moslem 

Had swarmed from near and far — 
Foul dogs! — to gaze upon thee. 

My hero of Bivar. 

" And when the mitred Abbot, 
Don Garci, saw how great 
The crowd in the cathedral. 

The crowd about the gate. 
He came down from the pulpit; 
' My sons, go forth,' said he, 
' And I will preach my sermon 
Beneath the walnut-tree.' 

304 



' I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

" Now, while he there stood preaching, 

Within the chapel hid, 
A Jew, a miscreant, lingered 

Before the stately Cid, 
Marvelling to see him seated 

Upon his ivory chair. 
With beard so long and hoary. 

And face so fresh and fair, 

" And holding in his right hand 

His cloak-strings, while the brand — 
The mighty sword Tizona — 

Lay sheathed in his left hand. 
And when this unbeliever 

Turned from the ivory throne 
And peered about the chapel. 

He saw he was alone! 

" Now loud and clear, now fainter. 

The Abbot's speech he heard; 
He heard the great tree's branches 

By fitful breezes stirred; 
And when Don Garci's sermon 

Thrilled through his hearers, he 
Could hear the vast crowd's murmur. 

As of a human tree. 

" The gorgeous windows painted 

The banner of the dead. 
Then to himself this heathen 

Began to think, and said: 
' This is that valiant body 

Which, living, aU men feared! 
Now, Cid, what harm befalls him 

Who plucks you by the beard ? ' 

305 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" One step he takes advancing; 

He lifts his hand and sneers — 
Ah me, what shrieks of terror 

Are these the Abbot hears ? 
What screams for help and mercy, 

That ring so long and loud ? 
The Abbot leaves his preachment. 

And hastens through the crowd. 

" Within the silent chapel, 

Before the ivory throne, 
Livid with fright and lifeless, 

The Jew lay stark as stone. 
For lo ! the tall dead hero 

Had shifted his right hand ; 
A palm's-breadth from the scabbard 

Had drawn the mighty brand ; 
The mantle-strings had loosened. 

The mantle dropped to ground. 
As, starting on the dastard. 

The Cid had risen, and frowned." 

Cries of applause greeted the close of the song, 
but Israel the gunner, drawing up his tall figure from 
the bulwarks on which he had been leaning, turned 
to Pedro. " The Jews, Pedro Galdos," he began in 
quiet tones, but before he could go further, the 
singer sprang towards him with open hand. " Pardon, 
brother," he cried earnestly, "pardon! I had for- 
gotten. So long have you been one of us that no 
one remembered." 

" That is well said, brother," replied Israel. " To 

306 



" I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

me you meant no scorn, nor indeed perchance to any 
son of Abraham. But songs such as these make 
black blood between people and people, when God 
knows there is little need. In the old days, caballeros, 
an evil king came against Israel with the noise of a 
great multitude, horsemen in thousands, and men 
in mail, and elephants bearing castles on their backs; 
and the mountains blazed like fire as the sun flashed 
on the shields of brass and gold. There was but a 
little band to withstand them, but Eleazar Avaran 
saw that one of the great beasts stood higher than 
the rest, and that its huge body glittered with royal 
bucklers; and thinking that the king was in the 
castle which the beast carried, he leaped forward 
and fought with the mailed men that marched before 
the beast. On this side and that he slew them until 
they divided and gave way on either hand. Then 
he ran under the beast, and thrust mightily upward, 
and took the life of it. As it sank down dead it fell 
upon him, and so Eleazar Avaran gave his life for 
Israel." 

" By the horn of the unicorn — and the Lord deliver 
us from it ! " cried Patricio, the wild man with ruddy 
hair, merry blue eyes, and long upper lip, " 'twas a 
noble death, and the man a hero, God rest his soul ! " 

" When this king's father was king before him," 
continued the gunner, " and the heathen revelled in 

307 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

the temple of the Lord, and the children of Israel 
were constrained to go crowned with ivy and roses 
and vine leaves in the processions of the false gods 
and to eat of the meats offered to idols, there was a 
woman with seven sons who would do none of these 
things. She and her sons were taken before the 
king; and the eldest son was scourged and tortured 
and slain with fire, before the face of his mother and 
his brethren. One after another they took her sons, 
and maimed and slew them, while she stood by with 
her hope set on the Lord, and bade them be of good 
courage for the sake of the Law. When they came 
to the last of the sons, the king said, ' Thou art but 
a lad, and the light is pleasant to the young, and thy 
mother has no other left her but thee; eat and live.' 
And when the king could not win him to his will 
either by wealth or power or promise of friendship, 
he said to the mother, ' Speak thou to him, he is thy 
youngest and the last of thy children; bid him save 
himself.' ' I will speak to him,' said the woman 
gladly, and laughed scornfully at the king. ' Dear 
son,' she said, in the speech of her fathers, * have pity 
on me who bore you, and for three years suckled 
you, and nourished and reared you unto these days. 
Lift up your eyes, dear child, and see the things in 
heaven and earth all made by God out of nought, 
and the children of men with them. Have no fear 

308 



" I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

of this butcher; show yourself worthy of your 
brothers, so that in God's mercy I may receive you 
again with them.' Then said the lad, ' Why do we 
wait ? ' and he rebuked the king to his face, and was 
tortured still more cruelly than the others. And 
when they had slain him, they slew the mother also. 
The Jew has no country now, caballeros, but Israel 
has still men brave as Eleazar, and women as noble 
as this mother without a name." 

" By the horn of the unicorn and the jewel that's 
into it," exclaimed Patricio, " the lady was the better 
man, senor gunner. A most enchanting and magnani- 
mous lady! — like Queen Maev herself, and who should 
know but me that's a king's son in my own country ? 
I am telling you, boys and cahalleros, there's not a 
country on all the big flat of the world that has not 
its champions and its fine women to it. And why 
not ? Did not the Lord in heaven make us all of the 
one clay and moisten the clay with the one river 
of the garden, and blow His own blessed breath into 
it ? And so He did." 

" That is a true word, Don Patricio," said Gioia 
the Sicilian. " In my country where I was born — 
and that's in Sicily — on the other side of the river 
there are mounds and broken pillars of marble. In 
the ancient times, the priest told me, that was a 
glorious city, and the governor was Duke Himera. 

309 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

Now a mighty African king came over the seas against 
it with ten thousand ships, for he wanted to have 
the city and all the island and then go against Rome 
and drive out the holy pope, for the king was a pagan. 
He landed and pitched a great camp and drew up 
his caravels and round ships on the shore, and the 
fighting began, and Duke Himera had a bad time of 
it. But on a day they brought in a prisoner, and he 
told the duke that one of the western cities in the 
island had turned traitor, and was sending the 
African a body of horsemen to help him." 

"That reminds me now," said Patricio; "go on, 
sir, go on; I won't interrupt you." 

" Well, the duke laughed and clapped his hands 
together at the news. He sent out his own horsemen 
under cloud of night, and they fetched a round 
through the hills, and came to the African camp in 
the twilight of the morning. ' We are the cavalry 
from the west,' said they, and the Africans threw 
open the camp-gates to them with shouts of joy. 
But before any one could guess what they were about, 
the horsemen galloped down to the shore and set the 
ships on fire, and then they began to slaughter. 
When the clouds of smoke and flame were seen from 
the city, Duke Himera and his troops rushed out 
against the enemy; and all that day there was mighty 
fighting along the sea-shore. 

310 



" I Saw Three Ships A-saiUng " 

" This way and that the battle swung like a wood 
in the wind; now it was the duke winning, and now 
it was the invaders. And all that day the African 
king stood beside a great altar of fire on the high 
ground of the camp and sacrificed living men to his 
gods. Hour after hour the strife went on with 
changing fortunes, but as the bloody day drew to 
its end the Africans began to give way, and Himera 
to drive them to the sea and the wrecks of the 
smoking ships. Then the African king saw at last 
that his kingdom had been taken from him, and 
lifting up his hands, he raised a wild chant to the 
setting sun, and cast himself into the great fire." 

" By the horn of the unicorn and his collar of gold," 
cried Patricio, " he was a glorious old sinner, the 
heavens be his bed! for sure the Lord knew it was 
Himself the man would be worshipping, but hadn't 
heard His name. Now, boys and cahalleros, these 
horsemen of the duke brought to memory an old 
story of one of the kings in my country, and who 
should remember it better than myself that's a king's 
son, now in exile ? Will ye hear it ? Long and long 
ago then, on a summer evening, a rider on horseback 
came to a poor cabin on the morning side of the 
green hills of Wicklow. The man of the cabin was 
working on his bit of land, and he looked up at the 
sound of the hoofs. ' A good day to you, and the 

311 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

blessing of God,' says the rider; ' where's the woman 
of the cabin ? ' ' She's within doors,' said the man. 
* Then tell her she's wanted,' and when the woman 
came the rider throws back his cloak, and there was 
a child in the bend of his arm. ' Take it,' says he, 
' and don't let it fall. It's two years old he is, and 
you'll call him Brian the Red. Here's a bag of silver 
with him, and you'll bring him up kindly for your 
own child, till I come this way again.' Before the 
woman could find a word, the rider was galloping 
off into the hills, and there was the boy in her arms 
laughing up in her face. 

" Now, cahalleros, when Brian the Red was five 
years old, this mother of his brought him from the 
fair a wooden horse that went on wheels, for it was of 
horses and of horses that the small soul was talking 
day in and day out. ' Sure then,' says she, ^ it's a 
king's son he is, and a horse he shall have, if I have 
to go bare for it.' After that, up and down goes 
Brian the Red, dragging his horse after him, and 
talking to him, and putting words into the creature's 
mouth to answer himself. 

" A mile or more from the cabin there was a fairy 
fort, and who steps boldly into it but Brian, and sits 
down on the grass, and gives his horse handfuls of 
the grass to eat ? But somehow that day it comes 
upon him that the horse is only bits of wood pinned 

312 



(C 



I Saw Three Ships A-saiUng " 



together, and not a living creature at all. With that 
he flings him on one side, and lets out a mighty cry 
of misery. In a moment a green turf of the mound 
is tilted up, and out looks a woman's face, small as 
small but pretty as you please. ' Are you hungry, 
now, bright pulse of my heart ? ' says she. ' I am 
not, thank you kindly,' says Brian. ' Then why are 
you bawling, my darling ? ' says she. ' The horse 
is wood, and can't go,' says the soul, ' and he's not a 
horse at all,' and began to roar again. ' Was it a 
real live horse you wanted ? ' ' Sure, then, I'm a 
real live boy,' he answers. ' Get on your feet then, 
hero-boy,' says she laughing, ' for here is one that 
will teach you the horseman's word and the foal's 
cry, and make you a lord of horses.' 

" Out of the green window of the fairy fort looks 
a little merry man of the ' good people ' and calls 
the lad to him. ' Listen now,' says he, ' and re- 
member. This is the horseman's word, and the 
horse that hears it will break bounds or kill himself 
but he will come to you. And he will follow you like 
a lamb and love you truer than a woman. But keep 
the word for his own ear.' And when the little man 
had whispered the word, ' This,' says he, ' is the 
foal's cry, and never a mare in the world but wiU 
come to you at the sound of it, uproarious and 
fighting-mad to protect its young — and that's you, 

313 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

my son, until you appease it with the horseman's 
word. Away now, and get what you want. Yonder 
in the hollow of the Grassy Land are the King of 
Wicklow's horses.' * Are they big?' asks the soul. 
' The King of Wicklow's stallion is the biggest beast 
in the world.' ' Thank you, lady; and thank you, 
sir,' says Brian, and picks up his wooden horse, and 
trots away with joy in the eyes of him. 

" In the grey of the next day in the morning 
comes up the soul out of the hollow of the Grassy 
Land, with the mighty stallion walking like a moun- 
tain by the side of him, and stops at the cabin. 
' Come out, mother, and look at him,' he shouts; 
' he's a real horse and the biggest in the world.' 
' Where did you get him from ? ' asks the man of the 
cabin. ' Sure, he's the King of Wicklow's stallion,' 
says Brian, * and I got him on the Grassy Land.' 
' Ochone, ochone ! ' cries the woman ; ' it's a killed 
boy you will be, stealing the king's stallion.' ' I 
didn't steal him,' says Brian; ' he just came with me.' 

" Away to court goes the poor man, all trembling. 
The countryside was astir, seeking high and low for 
the King of Wicklow's mighty horse; and to make 
a long story short, the man tells the king's warriors 
where they will find the stallion. ' You can't take 
him without me,' says Brian when they got to the 
cabin. And sure they could not, for the stallion 

314 



" I Saw Three Ships A-sailing " 

lays back his ears, and bares his white teeth, and 
lashes out when any one steps near. ' Put me on 
his back,' says the soul, ' and it's quiet as a larib 
he'll go; ' and ' Whoa! ' says he to the stallion. A 
tall soldier lifts the lad on to the beast's back, and the 
stallion whinnies with pleasure at the feel of him. 

" ' Why did you steal the best of my horses ? ' said 
the King of Wicklow. ' Sure, King of Wicklow dear, 
steal him I did not, but I spoke to him and he came 
with me. And if you think I couldn't have taken 
the others, I could.' ' Could you then ? ' says the 
king, wondering at the queerness and the boldness 
of the soul. " Then and now,' says Brian, ' but I 
didn't want them.' *• What for did you want this 
one ? ' says the king. ' Look,' says Brian, holding 
out his wooden horse, ' this is the only horse I had, 
and it can't go, and it is not alive, and it's not as big 
as myself.' ' It is not,' says the king; ' what do you 
keep it for ? ' ' Ah, well,' says Brian, hugging it to 
him, ' it's a fine horse when you make believe, and 
he's an old friend.' ' Whose lad is this ? ' asked the 
king. ' That's a secret mystery. King of Wicklow,' 
says the woman of the cabin, and tells him how the 
soul was brought to them. ' When was that ? ' 
asked the king eagerly. ' Three years ago and more 
it was,' says the woman. ' Glory be to the Father,' 
cries the king, ' it's my own boy that was stolen.' 

315 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

With that he hugs the lad to him, and there was great 
rejoicing from the green hills of Wicklow to the sea. 

" Ever after the lad was free to go among the horses 
and play with them as he liked. When some time 
had gone by, there was war broke out with the 
King of Meath, and that king sent down a great 
host with chariots and horses against the King of 
Wicklow. ' Father,' says Brian, ' I will give you 
this battle for nothing if you like.' ' How will you 
do that ? ' asks the king. ' Sure then,' says the hero- 
boy, ' I will stand on the hill-side, and as the King of 
Meath goes by with his horses and chariots, I will 
let out the cry of the foal, and there is not a 
mare but will turn and run to me, and in the 
confusion you can fall on the King of Meath.' By the 
horn " 

But before Patricio could cry out, " A light ! " the 
voice of Rodriguez of Triana came ringing from the 
bows, "Land ho! Land!" 

Far away to the west gleamed a light which rose 
and fell, as though it were a torch burning on a fishing- 
boat at sea. Beyond the light rose a dim outline of 
land, making a blank among the low stars, yet itself 
scarcely visible in the blue-green sky. 

" Fire a gun," said the captain, " and let the 
admiral know we have won;" and Israel the gunner 
lit the first powder burnt in those western seas, 

316 



" I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

The caravels shortened sail and lay-to until day. 
In the blaze of the morning sun, when the air blew 
sweet as the breath of spring in Andalusia, and only 
the nightingales were wanting, the boats dashed in 
to a long green isle covered with new-world trees. 

A tall man, ruddy and fair, with blue eyes and long 
hair white as silver, was the first to leap ashore, to 
fall on his knees and kiss the earth. It was the 
Admiral Cristobal Colon. Drawing his sword and 
spreading the royal standard of the green cross, he 
took possession of the island in the name of the 
sovereigns of Castile. As he returned thanks to God 
for aU His mercies, one thought ran uppermost in 
his mind: Now surely, Lord, I shall live to free 
the land of Thy holy sepulchre. That was really the 
dream of his life; and his search for the Land of Gold 
and Spices was undertaken to provide him with the 
means of attaining his end. 



Our last story was told on Twelfth Night, and the 
snow was deep on the ground. 

" And this is the last of the apple-tree fires," said 
the Truthful Story-teller, who had measured his 
magic fuel to suit the stories. 

" Is there no more of that lovely old apple-wood ? " 
exclaimed Beatrice. " Oh, what a pity! " 

317 



A Child's Book of Warriors 

" I like it," said Vigdis emphatically, " it is warm! 
Doesn't it bring back the breezy summer days when 
the crows went sailing over, and we heard the apples 
dropping ? " 

"What ages ago it all seems!" said Beatrice. 
" Do you mind how Hedgehog escaped into the 
plantation, and we went hunting for him?" 

" I wonder where Hog o' the Hedge is now. Wasn't 
he a spiky old bird ? " — this from Simplicia. 

" And Giggums came after us," continued Beatrice, 
" and we both nearly died of laughing, doing Claribel !" 

"My dears!" exclaimed mother. "Spiky bird! 
Doing Claribel!" 

" Oh, you sweet thing! " cried Simplicia, " that's 
Tennyson — 

" ' Where Claribel low-lieth; ' 

like Brer Rabbit, only Claribel sounds nicer! " 

At which mother heaved a tragic sigh, and the 
Truthful Story-teller laughed, and we all went on 
chattering nonsense till it was quite late. 

" Must you go to-morrow, Beatrice ? " asked 
Vigdis; " I am sorry." 

" So am I," said Simplicia; " we must try to live 
without you." 

" Oh, I shall be back in July," rejoined Beatrice 
cheerily. 

" Then we must try to live with you," said Simplicia. 

318 



'' I Saw Three Ships A-saiHng " 

Whereupon these two rushed gleefully at each 
other, and closed in the hug practised by the Giant 
Wrestlers. 

Whereupon also, the Truthful Story-teller, referring 
ironically to bear-gardens and other select places of 
amusement, wrapped up, and went out into the snow 
with Sigfrid. For, as it has been noted, it was 
Twelfth Night; and when the roads are white and 
the flakes falling, the words " Twelfth Night " are 
like a magic pipe leading back to old snowy winters, 
and Elizabethan revels, and the hills from which 
the turbaned kings and the horses and camels come 
winding in Orient splendour in Fabriano's altar-piece 
of the Magi at Bethlehem. 




TH^ 



^ND 



LETCHWORTH 

THE TEMPLE PRESS 

PRINTERS 



■:;r-.--^^^--* 



M^i