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    > 小學英語 > 小學英語教材 > 澳大利亞語文第六冊 >  第31課

    (原版)澳大利亞語文第六冊 LESSON 31









    Cautiously Merdhin pursued his way until he came to the farm of a friend and fellow-freeman Willebrod, to whom he told the whole pitiful story. Willebrod was perplexed [1] at his friend's sad plight. He knew that Merdhin would be outlawed, if he did not yield himself for the crime he had committed; and he clearly saw that if he did yield himself, he would be prevented from collecting his tale [2] of wolves' tongues. He therefore persuaded Merdhin to remain in hiding, while he proceeded to Peter-borough to intercede with Hagen. On the fifth day he returned.

    Strengthen your heart, my friend, he said, "to hear sad news. Two days since, a Danish long-ship set sail from the Nen, and your children were put on board as slaves."

    Merdhin bounded from his seat, and cried, "My wife Hildelitha, where is she?"

    She disappeared last night, said Willebrod. "Whether she attempted to follow her children, or set off to discover you, I cannot say; I only know that she is gone."

    Merdhin rushed from the room, flung himself upon a horse, and galloped off towards the woods. Next day the horse returned alone, and from that time all trace of Merdhin was lost.

    Meanwhile, poor Hildelitha, half mad with anxiety and grief, wandered hither and thither, seeking her husband, and bewailing the loss of her children. From farmhouse to farmhouse she passed, receiving the charity of those who had known her in happier days, until she came to the abbey of Ely, where the monks gave her shelter.


    One beautiful evening in the early spring, a procession of boats sailed up the river Ouse. The first boat carried a flag with a huge raven embroidered on it, and this was a sign to all men that Cnut the king was on board. As the boats glided along, the soft twilight settled down, and the voices of the monks at evening prayer floated over the waters.

    The king listened eagerly to the beautiful strains, and his heart was full. When the voices died away, he burst into a song which he composed on the spur of the moment. The first verse ran thus:—

    Merrily sang the monks of Ely When Cnut the king was passing by; ' Row to the land, knights,' said the king, 'And let us hear these churchmen sing.'

    Cnut signed to his men to make for the abbey steps, and as they did so, a dreadful cry of anguish broke again and again on the silent air. "Help, help, King Cnut! Help, help!" the voice cried.

    The king heard the cry, and was grieved to think that any one should be in sore distress while his heart was so joyful within him. He had never turned a deaf ear to an appeal for assistance, and he would not do so now.

    When the boat arrived at the abbey, Cnut asked the monks who it was that had called upon him for help.

    Sire, they said, "it was a poor, distracted [3] woman, the wife of a freeman who has been greatly wronged. Grief has well-nigh turned her brain."

    When the king had supped, he sent for Hildelitha, and heard her sad story. On her knees she begged the king to spare her husband and restore her children.

    Fear not, said Cnut; "right shall be done."

    Then he ordered Hagen to appear before him, and thus addressed him: "Foully have you wronged Merdhin in plundering his farm, and setting him such a punishment. Bring back his children and place them in their mother's arms."

    But, sire, said the abashed [4] officer, "the vessel has sailed."

    Then let another vessel sail after it and return with the children. Now bring Merdhin thither.

    Sire, said Hagen, "he has fled no one knows where, to escape the penalty of hunting in your royal forest."

    You will find him in hiding amidst the outlaws in the forest of Crowland. Take what force is necessary, and bring him safely hither. It is my pleasure also to find you some commission [5] in Denmark when this business is settled. I have sent home the greater part of my followers; and none shall remain who do not respect the rights of the people of this island. Now, begone! and do my bidding.

    Three days later, Merdhin stood before the king, and received his pardon and forgiveness. Many weeks elapsed [6] , however, before the children were restored to their parents' arms.

    Then happiness reigned again in their homestead, and the peace of the district was kept by the king's strong rule. When the long winter evenings came, Hildelitha sang to her children the ballads which the king had made; and Merdhin was never tired of praising the wisdom, the justice, and the goodness of Cnut the Dane.


    Adapted from "Forest and Game-Law Tales'"

    * * *

    [1] perplexed: Puzzled; uncertain how to act.

    [2] tale: Tally, reckoning.

    [3] distracted: Crazy; frantic.

    [4] abashed: Ashamed; confused.

    [5] commission: Appointment; office.

    [6] elapsed: Passed.


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