I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. — Mark Twain

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

A King's Narrow Escape

King Alfred was buried in Winchester, and his son Edward, called the Elder to distinguish him from other kings of the same name who came after him, reigned in his place. The new king was busy, during the greater part of his reign of twenty-five years, in fighting the Danes, who wanted to invade his territory.

Edward the Elder was followed by his son Athelstan the Glorious, who also had to struggle with the invaders. The Danes then had a very clever young leader named Anlaf. He fancied that if he could get into the Anglo-Saxon camp, as Alfred had once made his way into the camp of the Danes, he would be able to find out just where Athelstan slept, and could come again with his army to murder the king in his sleep.

Disguised as a bard, so the story runs, Anlaf went into the English camp, where he was not recognized, and where he played so well that Athelstan gave him a piece of money. Now the young Dane hated Athelstan, and was so proud that he took the money only so that the king should not suspect who he really was. But as soon as he got out of the camp, he forgot all caution, and, digging a hole in the ground, buried the coin his enemy had given him.

One of the Anglo-Saxon soldiers, who had once served Anlaf, saw him bury the money, and recognized him. After watching him out of sight, this soldier told Athelstan all he had seen. But when the king angrily inquired why he had not spoken sooner, so that the Danish leader could have been captured, he answered: "I once served Anlaf as faithfully as I am now serving you. If I betrayed him, you could not trust me not to betray you. But now you know your danger, and I advise you to change the place of your tent, lest he should come and attack you when you do not expect him."

King Athelstan followed the soldier's advice, and it was well that he did so; for that very night Anlaf broke into the camp, and, rushing straight to what he took for the king's tent, he killed a bishop who happened to be sleeping there.

The Saxons fought all that night and the next day, so this encounter is often called the Long Battle, as well as the battle of Brunanburgh. As Athelstan won the victory, the Danes left him thenceforth in peace.

Like Alfred, Athelstan was anxious that his people should learn as much as possible, so he had the whole of the Scriptures translated for them into Anglo-Saxon. He also encouraged commerce, and said that every merchant who made three journeys to the Mediterranean should receive the title of thane, or nobleman. It was no easy matter to travel in the tenth century, but the hope of winning this title induced many merchants to make these long and dangerous trips; and every time they came home they brought new things and new ideas to benefit the Anglo-Saxon people.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee