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 "Remember" 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

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Britons

The Gaels and Celts were followed by a third tribe of their own race, called the Britons, from whom the country took the name of Britain. They, too, came from the mainland, and, being more civilized than the Celts, drove them away from the coast into the interior. The Celts, in their turn, drove the Gaels still farther away, and forced them to go and live in the mountains of Scotland and Wales, where it was cold and foggy, but where there was plenty of game.

The Britons, however, had just the same religion as the Celts, and so they brought over more Druids, of their own tribe, who finally settled in the island of Anglesey. Here they founded a school, where they would keep a pupil at his studies for twenty years, making him learn by heart all they knew. Besides the Druids, there were teachers, or prophets, and a class of men called bards, who went about from place to place, singing the great deeds of heroes, which they or the Druids had woven into songs.

The Britons were braver and stronger than the Celts, and had better weapons. Their main pleasure was to terrify their enemies. To do this, they used to utter fearful cries, and brandish their spears. Each spear was provided with a noisy rattle, which made a great din when shaken or flung. It was fastened to the warrior's wrist by a long strap; and after a Briton had flung his spear at an enemy he would jerk it back by this strap.

As the Britons wore big moustaches, and painted their bodies blue, you can readily imagine how strange they looked, and how they must have frightened their enemies. They were fierce and quarrelsome, and rode small horses, which they had trained to fight too. These shaggy little ponies used to dash into the very midst of the fray, and stand still while their riders dismounted; but as soon as they felt their masters on their backs once more, they would rush off, knocking the enemies over and trampling them under foot. After the Britons had settled in England, they learned to make rude war chariots, to which they harnessed these intelligent little horses, which they guided by signs. To make more havoc, the Britons fastened scythes to their chariot wheels, and, driving rapidly into the very midst of the enemy, mowed their foes down like ripe grain.

Now, although the Gaels, Celts, and Britons were so rude at this time, there were other nations in Europe who had progressed faster, and had already reached a high degree of civilization. Towards the south, along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, there were many prosperous cities. Most of these had been founded by the Phoenicians, who, as they owned but a little strip of land on the coast of Asia, turned to the sea and became great navigators. Already, one thousand years before Christ, the Phoenicians had coasted all around the Mediterranean Sea, and we are told that they even ventured out into the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar. They soon began to carry goods from one place to another, and thus became great traders.

Men in those days were always fighting, so they wanted armour and weapons; and as copper is not quite hard enough for this purpose, they needed something to mix with it so as to harden it. The Phoenicians knew that tin was just what was needed; and as they could not find enough of this metal near home to supply the demand, they sailed off in search of tin mines elsewhere. They soon found some in Spain, and got tin from the natives in exchange for cloth and trinkets; then, when they reached home, they sold this tin at such profit that they soon became very rich. But since the tin mines in Spain could not furnish as much metal as the Phoenicians wanted, they soon sailed all around Spain, and along the coast of France, in search of more. Here some merchants told them that they could find all the tin they wanted in Britain; so the Phoenicians, if old stories be true, crossed the Channel and landed in England. There the Phoenicians found mines so rich that they are still worked to-day, nearly three thousand years after they were first discovered.

As the Phoenicians made large profits by their tin trade, they were very careful not to tell any one where the mines were situated; and whenever any one inquired where they got their metal, they would always answer, "From the Cassiterides," or Tin Islands.

Many years later, the Romans, who were great fighters, and needed a great deal of tin for the manufacture of their weapons, were very anxious to find these islands; so they fitted out a vessel and sent it away with orders to watch and follow a Phoenician ship, and not to give up the pursuit until the Tin Islands had been reached.

The Roman captain was a bold and clever man, so he managed to sail after the Phoenicians for a long while unseen; but finally the Phoenician captain discovered that he was followed, and that the long-guarded secret was likely to become known to his foes. Rather than let them find it out, he resolved to sacrifice his boat and crew.

So he changed his course a little, and lured the Roman vessel on into shallow waters, until it came on a sunken reef and was dashed to pieces. The Phoenician vessel could not escape the same fate, but the captain and his crew managed to cling to the spars until they were washed ashore or rescued. The men on the Roman vessel, how ever, all perished; and it was not till two hundred years later, and in a different way, that the Romans found out where the Tin Islands were situated.