1206 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
the peasantry remained and were reduced to
an ignominious servitude by their Danish
In the county of Somerset, a heroic band
still upheld the banners of the king; but when
Alfred came among them he was obliged,
for fear of treachery, to hide himself. He found a lurking place in the
forests of Prince's Island, which was then the
haunt of wild beasts and the home of outlaws.
Here the king was obliged to maintain himself as best he could by fishing and the chase.
Sometimes he and his companions would sally
forth by night, and, falling secretly upon the
Danes, plunder some exposed camp and then
return to covert. To this epoch of extreme
hardship belongs the story of Alfred's visit to
the hut of the swineherd, where he lodged for
some time unknown to the peasant and his
wife. One day, while the king sat moody
by the hearthstone, and the woman of the
hovel was baking bread, he noticed not that
the loaves were burning. The housewife, at
length discovering the ruin of her bread,
rushed upon him with angry gesture and exclaimed: "You man! you will not turn the
bread you see burning, but you will be glad
enough to eat it!"
In this extremity of his fortunes the
king was discovered by others of his faithful
friends. Many rallied around him as the
hope of Saxon England. The islet where
they gathered, was fortified, and Alfred began to look forward to an escape from his
shameful subjection. His spirit was also
strengthened by a vision of St. Cuthbert, who
came to him in the guise of a pilgrim, begging
alms. With him the king divided his only
loaf, and the pilgrim went away; but here turned by night and comforted the king with
assurances of success. Such is a pious tradition of the times.
Meanwhile, the men of Somersetshire,
Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Hampshire took
heart against the Danes and flocked to the
camp of Alfred, now no longer concealed.
The courage of the gathering army was still
further kindled by an event in Devon. Hubba,
one of the Danish chiefs, had landed with
a large force in that province; but the men
of Devon rose upon them in great might,
slew the king with nine hundred of his followers, and captured their banner, embroidered
with the terrible raven of Denmark.
Already the king ventured forth and skirmished with the enemy. Determining to