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profit by the conversations and instructions

of one so learned. For a long time Asser

remained with the king, reading with him

out of the best books and teaching him from

the abundance of his lore. The ties between

the distinguished monk and his sovereign

became as enduring as they were affectionate. The royal mind and the mind of the

scholar cooperated to kindle in the fogs

of our ancestral island, even in the darkness

of a gloomy and violent age, that torch

of gentle radiance which shineth in the


In the year 886, while the piratical Danes

were engaged in the siege of Paris, King

Alfred availed himself of the opportunity

to rebuild and fortify the city of London.

This ancient municipality, the founding of

which is said to antedate the Roman conquest, had been burned by the Danes, and

the place was reduced almost to a waste.

Under the patronage of the king, the city

arose from her ashes and soon became more

populous than ever Ethelred, earl of Mercia and son-in-law of the king, was made protector of London, which soon, though on the immediate frontier of Danelagh, became one

of the most important cities of the kingdom.

In the mean time the fleet of England had

been steadily extending the Saxon dominion

on the sea. At the first the king had found

it necessary, on account of the inexperience

of his own sailors, to employ foreign captains

for his flotilla. Many Frieslanders, skillful in

the management of vessels,

were procured as officers, and

the king's squadron, thus

manned and commanded, became equal, if not superior, to

the fleets of the Danes. In

the year 882, and again in

885, decisive victories were

gained by the English armament.

By his wisdom in administration and his successes in

war, Alfred so strengthened

his kingdom that his enemies

were kept at bay. For a period of seven years, during

which time the attention of

the pagans of the North was

almost wholly occupied in

Flanders and in France, the

realms ruled by the king of

the West Saxons had peace

and plenty. Already in the

green pastures of England

were seen those flocks and

herds which for more than a

thousand years have constituted a leading feature of the

wealth of the island. But

while this prosperity prevailed in the insular kingdom, certain

parts of the continent, particularly those

which were infested by the Danes, were

distressed with a grievous famine. This

condition of affairs soon led the Northmen to abandon the regions of starvation

for the realms of plenty. The very prosperity of England became a bait to allure

once more to her shores the wolfish pirates of

the Baltic.

In the year 893, the most formidable fleet

of Danes ever thus far seen in English waters

appeared off the coast of Romney Marsh.

The armament consisted of two hundred and