Our Little Saxon Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles


"Turgar! Turgar!" The name was spoken softly but insistently. The lad who called waited a moment. Then he took hold of the Danish cloak and pulled it a bit as he again called softly, "Turgar!"

Slowly Turgar's eyes opened, and he looked up—into the face of Heribert. "Why—" he began slowly, too dazed for the moment to realize where he was or what had happened. Then he leaped to his feet.

"Heribert!" he cried. "Where am I? Was it all a terrible dream? Tell me, Heribert! How came you here, or are all the horrors a part of my dream?"

"Softly," whispered Heribert, placing his hand upon Turgar's lips; and then he added, "No, Turgar, the horrors were all too real. But I told you that I knew the woods and all the country hereabout, and after I had run away I was ashamed, and I did not go far. I climbed up into a tree, high up, and I pulled the branches close about me, so that I was sure I could not be seen, and then I watched. Oh, Turgar, I know what followed! I heard them in the chapel, murdering, and chopping and hewing at the tombs and the altar. I thought you all had been killed. I saw the smoke come curling over the abbey walls and through the windows, and I saw the Danes march away. And then, Turgar, I saw a boy in a Danish cloak amongst them, and I looked sharp and saw that it was you. Oh, Turgar, I cannot tell you how I felt then, for I knew that that was worse than death.

"When the Danes had gone far enough so that I dared, I climbed down from the tree. I could not save the abbey from the flames, though I tried; then I thought I would try to save you.

"I had no plan, but I followed, away off to one side through the woods. The voices of the Danes guided me, and I knew the road they had taken. I saw them reach the second abbey, and I watched them load their wagons with the treasure they had stolen. Then again I followed them, till at last they came to the ford where the water was high and covered the rocks. Under cover of the darkness I drew nearer, and then I heard the tumult, and learned what had happened to one of the wagons. Then, oh, Turgar, a wonderful thought came to me!

"I went farther down the stream and swam across, and I listened on the farther side and learned that the Danes had concluded to spend the night at the river, for they feared to leave the treasure that was in the broken wagon. I was near enough in the darkness to hear them talk, and I learned just where their ships were at anchor—the ships upon which they intended to sail away with the treasure they had stolen. They were just across a strip of land, for there is the river. And I knew exactly, then, where I was. Oh, I could have shouted, but I dared not!

"I ran as fast as I could in the darkness until I came to the river, and there lay the Danish fleet. Five boats in all.

"Turgar!" cried Heribert, gripping his companion's arm, "I took my knife from my belt, placed it between my teeth, and swam out to where the boats were moored, and I cut the ropes that held them, one by one. I feared that there would be Danes on board, but I saw no one, and as I cut the ropes the ships began floating away with the current, toward the sea."

As Heribert finished he sank down upon the ground, and Turgar was frightened, for he thought that Heribert had fainted.

"Heribert!" he called, as softly and intently as Heribert had called his own name a few moments before.

Heribert opened his eyes and sat up. "This is no time to collapse," he said. "There is still work ahead of us."

Turgar's eyes were gleaming. "And the Danish ships are gone!" he cried.

"Gone!" answered Heribert. "I know not how far, of course, but so long as I could see them the current carried them free of the banks, and the sea was not far distant."

"And how did you get back? How did you find me?" asked Turgar, scarcely able to breathe for excitement over Heribert's tale.

"That was an accident," replied Heribert, "although I am sure our good prior would not put it so. He would have said it was the providence of God. But I ran back because I wanted to arouse Oswyn the Saxon, and tell him of the plight of the Danes. Perhaps he could yet gather enough men to attack them and get back the treasure that was stolen. And then, on my way back, just as the dawn broke, I saw what looked like a Danish cloak at the foot of a tree, and I stooped over it—and I saw your face. Oh, Turgar, I never can tell you how thankful I am that you escaped. How did you manage it?"

"They were all so busy with the broken wagon and the danger to the stolen treasure that they forgot me. I saw my chance and slipped away under cover of the darkness. But it was nothing—nothing, to what you did!"

"Ah!" said Heribert sorrowfully, "but you stayed and faced death, while I ran away."

"Don't, Heribert, don't!" cried Turgar. "You have more than made up for that. But come, you were on the way to the home of Oswyn. Can we not go on together?"

"Yes," said Heribert, "and we must hasten, for the Saxons must attack the Danes before they leave the ford, for now their arms are laid aside while they work."

"Come then," said Turgar, springing to his feet.

"It is not far," said Heribert.

Cautiously, yet as rapidly as possible, the two boys ran on, Heribert in the lead, for he seemed to find his way through the woods and marshes as a deer finds its way to water.

Once they stopped to gather a handful of wild berries, for neither one had tasted food for many hours, and they were weak and faint. Yet still they ran on.

At another time Heribert ran to one side to pull a strange looking plant. Rubbing the dirt from Its long tuberous root with his tunic, he broke it in half and handed one piece to Turgar. "Eat it," he said, it will strengthen you." And, eating the root as they went, they ran on.

They kept watch to right and to left, for they feared that straggling Danes might have stayed behind to search for further booty, but they saw no one.

Presently Heribert pointed ahead, and Turgar saw that they were approaching a cluster of buildings.

"That is the home of Oswyn," said Heribert, and in a few moments they staggered up to the door and pounded upon it with all their remaining strength.

When Oswyn answered the summons he was amazed to see upon his threshold two haggard, wild-eyed boys, one in a ragged, dirty tunic, the other in a crumpled Danish cloak.

"What means this?" he asked.

"Oh, Oswyn," cried Heribert, "I am Heribert, and this is Turgar. We are from the monastery at Crowland which the Danes have burned. Listen to my story; call your men; give us food and drink!"

The members of Oswyn's household gathered quickly about. Oswyn insisted upon each boy's drinking a glass of mead before they told their tale, and then all listened with breathless interest while they were told of the horrors of the raid upon Crowland and the second abbey, and then of the present plight of the Danes.

Hurriedly Oswyn sent out messengers and gathered together a band of armed men. The Saxons of those days were always prepared for battle, and in an incredibly short space of time they were upon the way.

Turgar and Heribert, strengthened by a hearty meal, accompanied them, to direct them by the shortest route back to the ford.