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The Wooing Of Elfrida
by [?]

Of all the many fair maidens of the Saxon realm none bore such fame for beauty as the charming Elfrida, daughter of the earl of Devonshire, and the rose of southern England. She had been educated in the country and had never been seen in London, but the report of her charms of face and person spread so widely that all the land became filled with the tale.

It soon reached the court and came to the ears of Edgar, the king, a youthful monarch who had an open ear for all tales of maidenly beauty. He was yet but little more than a boy, was unmarried, and a born lover. The praises of this country charmer, therefore, stirred his susceptible heart. She was nobly born, the heiress to an earldom, the very rose of English maidens,–what better consort for the throne could be found? If report spoke true, this was the maiden he should choose for wife, this fairest flower of the Saxon realm. But rumor grows apace, and common report is not to be trusted. Edgar thought it the part of discretion to make sure of the beauty of the much-lauded Elfrida before making a formal demand for her hand in marriage.

Devonshire was far away, roads few and poor in Saxon England, travel slow and wearisome, and the king had no taste for the journey to the castle of Olgar of Devon. Nor did he deem it wise to declare his intention till he made sure that the maiden was to his liking. He, therefore, spoke of his purpose to Earl Athelwold, his favorite, whom he bade to pay a visit, on some pretence, to Earl Olgar of Devonshire, to see his renowned daughter, and to bring to the court a certain account concerning her beauty.

Athelwold went to Devonshire, saw the lady, and proved faithless to his trust. Love made him a traitor, as it has made many before and since his day. So marvellously beautiful he found Elfrida that his heart fell prisoner to the most vehement love, a passion so ardent that it drove all thoughts of honor and fidelity from his soul, and he determined to have this charming lass of Devonshire for his own, despite king or commons.

Athelwold’s high station had secured him a warm welcome from his brother earl. He acquitted himself of his pretended mission to Olgar, basked as long as prudence permitted in the sunlight of his lady’s eyes, and, almost despite himself, made manifest to Elfrida the sudden passion that had filled his soul. The maiden took it not amiss. Athelwold was young, handsome, rich, and high in station, Elfrida susceptible and ambitious, and he returned to London not without hope that he had favorably impressed the lady’s heart, and filled with the faithless purpose of deceiving the king.

“You have seen and noted her, Athelwold,” said Edgar, on giving him audience; “what have you to say? Has report spoken truly? Is she indeed the marvellous beauty that rumor tells, or has fame, the liar, played us one of his old tricks?”

“Not altogether; the woman is not bad-looking,” said Athelwold, with studied lack of enthusiasm; “but I fear that high station and a pretty face have combined to bewitch the people. Certainly, if she had been of low birth, her charms would never have been heard of outside her native village.”

“I’ faith, Athelwold, you are not warm in your praise of this queen of beauty,” said Edgar, with some disappointment. “Rumor, then, has lied, and she is but an every-day woman, after all?”

“Beauty has a double origin,” answered Athelwold; “it lies partly in the face seen, partly in the eyes seeing. Some might go mad over this Elfrida, but to my taste London affords fairer faces. I speak but for myself. Should you see her you might think differently.”

Athelwold had managed his story shrewdly; the king’s ardor grew cold.