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

Restoring the Treasure

Turgar and Heribert had been made happy beyond measure by the gifts of Prince Albert, and two more justly proud and delighted boys could not have been found in all the land of the Saxons.

The rout of the Danes at the ford had been complete. Oswyn's men had surprised them while their arms were laid aside, for they had worked long in trying to repair the broken wagon, and, finding it an impossible task, they had sent away for another wagon into which they were transferring the treasure when they were attacked.

They had, in a measure, recovered from their surprise, and had armed themselves, when the monks arrived with such shouting that it seemed as though this handful of men had been a whole army, for the Danes could hear but could not see them. Before they emerged from the woods, the Danes, thinking that the Saxons were being fully reinforced, left their coveted treasure and ran toward the river, thinking to sail away in their ships and thus at least save their own lives.

But arriving at the point where their ships had been anchored, and finding that all were gone, the men lost all semblance of order and were destroyed by the pursuing Saxons, to a man.

There was great rejoicing in the neighborhood of Gyrth's little home when the monks returned and told their story, and no one rejoiced more heartily than the two boys who had witnessed the terrible cruelty of the Danish horde, and who had been the means of bringing about their punishment.

In spite of their rejoicing over this victory, however, it was a sad company of monks that made its way on the following morning from the hermitage back to the ruined abbey of Crowland. Turgar and Heribert accompanied them.

But they set about their task of burying, of clearing away, and of rebuilding with the determination of men who found a grim satisfaction in building up what the hated Danes had destroyed, and to whom the hardest tasks were far better than idleness.

The boys found much that they could do to help, but how different were the days spent in clearing rubbish or mixing mortar for the masonry, from the former days when they had sung in the chapel choir, studied with the good Prior Theodore, or illumined the letters of a manuscript beside their beloved Friar Joly.

Turgar thought deeply of all these things as he toiled, for after the happenings of the last few days he would never again be the same carefree boy that he had been before. But in spite of the character of the hard work that he was now doing, he realized that a life of physical activity and even of danger, suited him better than the life of a student. He was happier when helping even to build walls and to fashion casements than when reciting Latin chants and translating books, so long as there were Danes in the land, and the people were subject to such attacks as he had witnessed.

"I am glad that I have learned to read and to write," he said one day to Heribert, "but I could not be satisfied to stay here forever. When the abbey is rebuilt, I hope that I may go home."

"If you go, I shall wish to go home, too," answered Heribert.

Their days of peril and excitement had made the two boys fast friends, for each had recognized the true heroism of the other, and their admiration soon turned to a deep and lasting love.

After a moment Turgar asked, "Have you ever heard, Heribert, what became of the Danish ships after you cut them adrift?"

"Friar Joly told me only this morning," replied Heribert, "that some of Oswyn's men were sent to follow them down the river, and that they captured all of them. One had reached the sea, one had run its prow into a bank and was held fast, while the others were at the mouth of the river. They were all delivered over to the King."

"You will be rewarded for that some day," said Turgar.

"This is reward enough," replied Heribert simply, touching the clasp on the shoulder of his tunic.

Turgar laid his hand with a gesture of affection upon his bracelet. "I like to feel it there," he said, "and to know that it has been upon the arm of Prince Alfred. It gives me greater courage for every sort of duty. Though I hope," he continued, with a laugh, "that the duty may not always be that of mixing mortar."

Heribert laughed, too, as he started away with a bucket of the despised mortar upon his shoulder.

Slowly the abbey began to take on something of its former appearance, and at last the walls were completed, the altar replaced, and the work of restoration finished.

Then a day was set apart for certain of the monks to go to the hermitage of Gyrth and bring back the hidden treasure. Friar Joly headed the little band, and at his request Turgar and Heribert were permitted to go with them.

To the monks this return of the treasure was a solemn festival, but to the two boys it seemed more like an adventure, for they were glad of the change of occupation and of scene. Then, too, there was always the need of looking out for Danes, although none had been reported in that part of the country for some time.

Their trip to the hermitage was without special adventure, and the company was warmly greeted by Gyrth. After a simple ceremony, they began the actual work of unearthing the hidden treasure.

Friar Joly saw that the boys were equipped with tools for the work, and instructed them to use the greatest care so that no injury should be done the precious vessels.

"Here is the spot," said Turgar, as he and Heribert reached a certain tree. "Under this gnarled branch, the friar told me that we would find certain of the pieces." He knelt as he spoke and pushed aside the leaves and leaf mold, revealing beneath it the unmistakable signs of freshly turned earth.

Then the boys began digging, but the treasure was not deeply covered.

"Carefully now!" cried Heribert. Then, together, they worked with their hands to remove the remaining earth.

"Ah," exclaimed Turgar a moment later, holding up a heavy golden goblet, "this seems always to fall to my lot, and I am glad!" Then, as they worked, he told Heribert the story of King Arthur and his Knights, as Friar Joly had told it to him, though he knew the story more fully now, for he had read about it, and had asked many questions since he had first heard the tale.

"And this," he added, as he completed his story "once belonged to King Arthur. I wonder if Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad ever drank from it."

"I would like to have lived in those days, and to have followed King Arthur," said Heribert. "I wonder if there were Danes to fight in those days, too."

"There were Saxons to fight in those days," replied Turgar, with a laugh, "and, from what I am told, they must have been nearly as bad as the Danes."

"How so?" exclaimed Heribert warmly, for Heribert had spent less time in study than Turgar,

"The early Saxons, you know, were heathen, and they worshiped the gods of Asgard, just as the Danes do now. They, too, came from the Northland, and were fierce pirates as well as terrible fighters."

"Then King Arthur and his Knights were not Saxons?" asked Heribert.

"No, they were Britons, and the Saxons conquered them and settled upon their land."

"Well, if that is the case," responded Heribert, "I think I am quite as well satisfied to fight with Prince Alfred against the Danes. I have no love for the Britons. But I don't like your comparing the Saxons with the Danes!"

"It isn't a nice comparison, I admit," agreed Turgar, "but look it up for yourself. The books in the abbey tell about it. They say that it is the Christian religion that has changed the nature of the Saxons, and that it would do the same for the Danes if they would accept it."

"That is hard to believe of the Danes," replied Heribert, as he replaced the last shovelful of earth, and Turgar, gathering up his share of the treasure, responded, "That is true; but it probably is just what the Britons said about the Saxons long years ago."