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   Chapter 30 AT LAST.

The Story of the Odyssey By Alfred John Church Characters: 16860

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It was nearly sunset on the second day of the great battle of Badon Hill.63 The long, desperate fight was over, and the great British champion had turned back for a time the tide of Saxon invasion. The heathen dead lay, rank by rank, as they had fallen, every man in his place, in the great wedge-like formation which had resisted all the efforts of the Britons during the first day of the struggle, and had been with difficulty broken through on the second.

The King was sitting amidst a circle of his knights on the top of the hill, resting from his toils. His cross-hilted sword stood fixed in the ground before him. On one side lay his helmet, bearing for its crest a dragon wrought in gold; on the other, his shield, on which was blazoned the figure of the Virgin.

[pg 307] A priest approached, walking in front of a party of four who were carrying a litter, and who, at a sign from their leader, set it down before the King.

"My lord," said the priest, "I was traversing the field to see whether I could serve any of the wounded with my ministrations, when word was brought to me that a Saxon desired to talk with me. He could speak the British tongue, it was told me, a thing almost unheard of among these barbarians. I did not delay to visit the man, and finding that he desired above all things to speak to your lordship, I took it upon myself to order that he should be brought."

The wounded man raised himself with some difficulty, and by the help of one of the bearers, into a sitting posture. He was of almost gigantic proportions, and though his hair and beard were white as snow, showed little of the waste and emaciation of age.

One of the King's knights recognized him at once.

"I noted him," said he, "for a long time during the battle. He was in the front rank, and stood close to a young chief, whose guardian he seemed to be. I observed that he was content to ward off blows that were aimed at the young man, but never dealt any himself. What came to him and his charge afterwards I do not know, for the tide of battle carried me away."

[pg 308] "What do you want?" said the King.

"My lord King," said the old man, speaking British fluently, though with a foreign accent, "the knight speaks true. Neither to-day, nor yesterday, nor indeed through all the years during which my people have fought with yours, have I stained my hands with British blood. Indeed for forty years I have not set foot on this island. But this year I was constrained to come, for the young Prince of my people, Logrin by name, was with the army, and his father had given him into my charge, and I could not leave him. All day, therefore, I stood by him, and warded off the blows with such strength and skill as I had, and when his death hour came, for he fell on the morning of the second day, I cared no more for my own life. So much I say that you may listen to me the more willingly, though report says of you that you are generous, not to friends only, but also to foes. But I have something to say that is of more moment. Many years ago I was a prisoner in this land, having been taken by one of the ships of Count ?lius. Many things happened to me during my sojourn here of which it does not concern me to speak, except of this. There was in the household of the Count a maiden, his daughter by adoption, but of British birth, Carna by name. She was very anxious to bring me to faith in her Master, Christ; and I was no little moved by her words, and still [pg 309]more by the example of her goodness. But I loved her, and this love seemed to hinder me, for how could I tell whether it were truth itself or the love that was persuading me? And would not he be the basest of men who for love of a woman should leave the faith of his fathers? So I remained, though it was half against my own mind, in my unbelief, and when she would not take me for her husband, being unbaptized, we parted, and I saw her no more. But her words, and the memory of her, have dwelt with me unceasingly, and now that God has brought me back to this land, I desire to have that which once I refused. But tell me, my lord King, have you any knowledge of this lady Carna?"

"Yes," said the King, "I know her well, and by the ordering of God, as I do not doubt, she is in this very place this day, for she gives her whole time to ministering to such as are in trouble or sorrow. She shall be sent for forthwith, and the archbishop also, who will, if he thinks fit, administer to you the holy rite of baptism."

Cedric, for as my readers will have guessed it was he, bowed his head in assent, and after swallowing a cordial which the King's physician put to his lips, sank back upon the litter.

In about half an hour Carna appeared. She was dressed in the garb of a religious house, for she had taken the vows, and she was followed by a small [pg 310]company of holy women who, like her, had devoted their lives to the service of their poor and suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Time had dealt gently with her, as he often does with gentle souls. The glossy chestnut hair of the past was changed indeed to a silvery white, and her face was wasted with fast and vigil; but her complexion was clear and delicate as of old, and her eyes as lustrous and deep.

When she saw and recognized the wounded man-for she did recognize him at once-a sweet and tender smile came over her face. Her gift of intuition seemed to tell her that her prayers were answered, and that the soul for which her supplications had gone up day by day, from youth to age, had been given to her.

"Carna," said the dying man, "God has brought me back to you after many years, and before it is too late. Your God is my God, and your country my country-but not here. Once I could not own it, fearing lest my love should be leading me into falsehood; but all things are now made clear. But, my lord King," he went on, feebly turning his head to Arthur, "bid them make haste, for I would be baptized before I die, and my time is short."

The priest had departed on another errand, and the King was perplexed. The physician whispered in his ear-

[pg 311] "He has not many moments to live."

"Baptize him, my lord King, yourself," said Carna; "it is lawful in case of need, and none can do it more fittingly."

"I will willingly be his sponsor," said the knight who had first spoken, "for there was never braver man wielded axe or sword."

The King dipped his hand in a golden cup that stood on the table by his chair, sprinkled the water thrice on the dying man, as he pronounced the solemn formula, and signed on his forehead the sign of the Cross. He then put the cross-shaped hilt of his sword to the lips of the newly baptized. Cedric devoutly kissed it. The next minute he was dead.

THE END.

UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, PRINTERS, WOKING AND LONDON.

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Footnotes

1.

A reference to the well-known salutation of the gladiators as they passed the Emperor in his seat at the Public Games. "Ave C?sar Imperator! Morituri te salutant." Hail! C?sar Emperor, the doomed to death salute thee.

2.

Now known all over the world as Portsmouth Harbour.

3.

Honorius and Arcadius, who ruled over the Western and Eastern Empires respectively, were the weak sons of the vigorous Theodosius.

4.

Marcus was the first of three usurpers successively saluted Emperor by the legions of Britain.

5.

Vespasian, appointed by Claudius in A.D. 52 to the command of the second legion, had made extensive conquests in Britain adding, among other places, the Isle of Wight (Vectis) to the Empire.

6.

The observation of omens, or signs, supposed to indicate the future, was one of the duties of a commanding officer.

7.

When one of the vine-sticks used in administering corporal punishment to the Roman soldiers was broken on the culprit's back, he would at once call for another. A milder disciplinarian would probably consider that when the stick was broken the punishment might end.

8.

"Decimation" was a common military punishment in cases of mutiny or bad behaviour on the field of battle. Every tenth man, taken by lot, was put to death.

9.

It would seem that the myth which made the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, into a British princess, had already grown up. She was, in fact, the daughter of a tavern-keeper, and in no way connected with Britain.

10.

A donative was a dis

tribution of money made to the soldiers on such occasions as the accession of an Emperor.

11.

Lymne, in Kent, now some miles inward, on the edge of Romney Marsh.

12.

Constantinople.

13.

His capital is said to have been near the ancient Caieta and modern Gaieta.

14.

The "five" are, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, whose united reigns extended from 97 to 180 A.D.-a period of peace and prosperity such as Rome never enjoyed again.

15.

The hills that run as far as Arreton and the valley of the Medina.

16.

Brading Haven.

17.

The villa consisted, it will be seen, of the three parts which were commonly found in establishments of this kind. These were called respectively the Urbana, containing the rooms in which the family resided, and including also the garden terraces, &c.; the Rustica, occupied by slaves and workmen but in this case, as will be seen, partly used for another purpose; and the Fructuaria, containing cellars for wine, &c., barns, granaries, and storehouses of various kinds.

18.

The British bishops were notoriously poor, and their clergy were doubtless still more slenderly provided for.

19.

Lutetia Parisiorum, now Paris.

20.

Now Lyons.

21.

The Elbe.

22.

Probably the Channel Islands, always a dangerous place for navigation.

23.

Perhaps something like the early Saxon poem which we know under the name of Beowulf.

24.

Possibly the reason why so much buried money belonging to the later days of the Roman occupation of Britain has been found.

25.

Ireland. A similar incident is mentioned by Tacitus in his life of Agricola. An Irish petty king, driven from his throne by internal troubles, came to the Roman general and promised, if he were restored, to bring the island under the dominion of Rome. This is the first notice of the country that occurs in history.

26.

This was exactly what had happened not many years before to St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland.

27.

Probably somewhere near Wexford.

28.

With us tables are cleared after a meal; with the Romans they seem to have been actually removed.

29.

Theodosius ordered a massacre at Thessalonica on account of some offence offered to him by the populace of that city.

30.

Chichester.

31.

Pevensey.

32.

Boulogne.

33.

Commonly known by his Romanized name of Caractacus.

34.

Streets of Rome.

35.

This river, of course, must have been the Avon.

36.

Winchester.

37.

Salisbury.

38.

Now known as Downton, a small market town, about five miles south of Salisbury.

39.

A trilith consists of two upright stones with a third placed across.

40.

"How say ye then to my soul that she should flee as a bird unto the hill?"-Psalm xi. 1.

41.

Commonly called Jerome.

42.

John Chrysostom, at Antioch 386-398, at Constantinople 398-404.

43.

Winchester.

44.

Calleva Attrebatium, now known as Silchester, one of the most perfect specimens of a Roman camp to be seen in this country.

45.

Princeps Civitatis.

46.

The wall of Antoninus, built to defend Northern Britain from the Caledonians, and held by Roman forces till far on in the fourth century.

47.

Daniel iii. 19.

48.

It may be as well to say a few words about Stilicho. He was the son of a Vandal captain, and attracted by his skill and courage the favourable notice of the Emperor Theodosius, who gave him his niece Serena in marriage. His influence continued to increase, and in course of time Theodosius made him and his wife guardians of his young son Honorius, whom he shortly afterwards proclaimed Augustus, and Emperor of the West. In 394 Theodosius died, and the Empire was divided between his two sons, Honorius taking the West and Arcadius the East. Stilicho's daughter Maria was now betrothed to Honorius, and his influence continued to increase. He restored peace to the Empire, conquering the Franks, chastising the Saxon pirates, and driving back, it is said, the Picts and Scots from Britain by the very terror of his name. For six years (398-404) he was engaged in a struggle with Alaric, King of the Goths, over whom he won, in the year 403, a great victory at Pollentia, near the modern Turin, and whom he defeated again in the following year under the walls of Verona. He is said to have conceived the idea of securing the Empire for his own son, and for this purpose to have entered into intrigues with his old enemy Alaric. However this may be, it is certain that he fell into disgrace. His end is related in this chapter. The poet Claudian employed himself in writing the praises of Stilicho and invectives against his rivals Rufinus and Eutropius.

49.

"Stilichonis apex et cognita fulsit

Canities."

"There shone Stilicho's towering head and well-known locks of white"-a passage quoted from Claudian by D'Israeli, with exquisite propriety, in his eulogium on the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Commons, November, 1852.

50.

In one of ?sop's fables, a trumpeter, taken prisoner, begs for his life, pleading that he has never struck a blow in battle; but is told that he has done much worse in encouraging others to fight by his martial music.

51.

A tribe that occupied a region included in what is now known as Russian Poland.

52.

Serena was wife to Stilicho, and, as has been said before, niece to the Emperor Theodosius.

53.

The Imperial standard (see page 21).

54.

Business to-morrow.

55.

The Forest of Anderida occupied a great part of Hampshire and nearly the whole of Sussex, except a strip of land along the coast. It must have measured a hundred miles from east to west.

56.

The Black Forest, part of which was known to the Romans.

57.

July 21st.

58.

This is the translation of a passage from the first book of an unfinished poem by Claudian, entitled De Raptu Proserpin?, "The Carrying off Proserpine." It is an amplification of the legend that Pluto, god of the region of the dead, carried off Proserpine, daughter of Ceres, to be his wife and queen, while she was gathering flowers in the fields of Enna in Sicily. The passage translated occurs in the first book, and describes the tapestry with which Proserpine is busy, as a gift to her absent mother. The poem breaks off in the third book, while relating the search which the mother makes for her lost daughter.

59.

This was actually done about this time, and with the result foreshadowed in the conversation given above.

60.

Carausius had held, towards the end of the third century, the same command as that of the Count of the Saxon Shore, had rebelled against the Emperor, made himself master of Britain and all the Western Seas, and had then proclaimed himself Augustus. The Emperor Diocletian made several attempts to reduce him, but, finding that this could not be done, acknowledged him as a partner in the Empire. Six years later Carausius was murdered by one of his lieutenants, Allectus, who doubtless hoped thus to bring himself into favour at Rome.

61.

Mantelet: a shield of wood, metal, or rope, for the protection of sappers, &c.

62.

A skeleton has been found in the well of the Brading Villa.

63.

The battle of Badon Hill, fought in 451, seems to be a well authenticated historical fact. King Arthur defeated the Saxons after a fierce conflict which lasted for two days. Badon Hill is near Bath.

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Transcriber's Note

Variations in hyphenation ("countryside", "country-side"; "headquarters", "head-quarters") have not been changed.

Other changes, which have been made to the text:

page 19, "tomount" changed to "to mount"

page 23, quote mark added after "mishap."

page 33, "Lasetrygones" changed to "Laestrygones"

page 76, "asid" changed to "said"

page 79, quote mark added after "letter-carriers."

page 87, single quote mark changed to double quote mark after "long."

page 111, "oga" changed to "toga"

page 115, quote mark added after "free."

page 139, quote mark added after "wanted."

page 156, "eemed" changed to "seemed"

page 157, "greal" changed to "great"

page 178, period added after "Sorbiodunum", comma changed to period after "them"

page 233, quote mark added after "man."

page 255, "Or" changed to "On"

page 288, "inot" changed to "into"

page 297, quote mark added after "man,"

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