MANY years ago there lived in England a wise
and good king whose name was Alfred. No other
man ever did so much for his country as he; and
people now, all over the world, speak of him as
Alfred the Great.
In those days a king did not have a very easy
life. There was war almost all the time, and no one
else could lead his army into battle so well as he.
And so, between ruling and fighting, he had a busy
time of it indeed.
A fierce, rude people, called the Danes, had
come from over the sea, and were fighting the
English. There were so many of them, and they were
so bold and strong, that for a long time they gained
every battle. If they kept on, they would soon be the
masters of the whole country.
At last, after a great battle, the English army
was broken up and scattered. Every man had to save
himself in the best way he could. King Alfred fled
alone, in great haste, through the woods and
Late in the day the king came to the hut of a
woodcutter. He was very tired and hungry, and he
begged the woodcutter’s wife to give him something
to eat and a place to sleep in her hut.
The woman was baking some cakes upon the
hearth, and she looked with pity upon the poor,
ragged fellow who seemed so hungry. She had no
thought that he was the king.
“Yes,” she said, “I will give you some supper
if you will watch these cakes. I want to go out and
milk the cow; and you must see that they do not
burn while I am gone.”
King Alfred was very willing to watch the
cakes, but he had far greater things to think about.
How was he going to get his army together again?
And how was he going to drive the fierce Danes out
of the land? He forgot his hunger; he forgot the
cakes; he forgot that he was in the woodcutter’s hut.
His mind was busy making plans for to-morrow.
In a little while the woman came back. The
cakes were smoking on the hearth. They were
burned to a crisp. Ah, how angry she was!
“You lazy fellow!” she cried. “See what you
have done! You want something to eat, but you do
not want to work!”
I have been told that she even struck the king
with a stick; but I can hardly believe that she was so
The king must have laughed to himself at the
thought of being scolded in this way; and he was so
hungry that he did not mind the woman’s angry
words half so much as the loss of the cakes.
I do not know whether he had anything to eat
that night, or whether he had to go to bed without
his supper. But it was not many days until he had
gathered his men together again, and had beaten the
Danes in a great battle.