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King Alfred
by [?]

Nations have their periods of youth, manhood and old age. Whether England is now passing into decline, living her life in her children, the Colonies, might be indelicate to ask. Perhaps as Briton, Celt, Jute and Saxon were fused to make that hardy, courageous, restless and sinewy man known as the Englishman, so are the English, the Dutch, the Swede, the German, the Slav, transplanted into America, being fused into a composite man who shall surpass any type that the world has ever seen. In the British Isles, just as in the great cities, mankind gets pot-bound. In the newer lands, the roots strike deep into the soil, and find the sustenance the human plant requires.

Walls keep folks in as well as shut other folks out. The British Isles, rock-faced and sea-girted, shut out the enemies of England without shutting the English in. A country surrounded by the sea produces sailors, and England’s position bred a type of man that made her mistress of the seas. As her drum-taps, greeting the rising sun, girdle the world, so do her lighthouses flash protection to the mariner wherever the hungry sea lies in wait along rocky coasts, the round world over. England has sounded the shallows, marked the rocks and reefs, and mapped the coasts.

The first settlement of Saxons in Britain occurred in the year Four Hundred Forty-nine. They did not come as invaders, as did the Romans five hundred years before; their numbers were too few, and their arms too crude to mean menace to the swarthy, black-haired Britons. These fair stranger-folk were welcomed as curiosities and were allowed to settle and make themselves homes. Word was sent back to Saxony and Jute-Land and more settlers came. In a few years came a shipload of Engles, with their women and children, red-haired, freckled, tawny. They tilled the soil with a faith and an intelligence such as the Britons never brought to bear: very much as the German settlers follow the pioneers and grow rich where the Mudsock fails. Naturally the fair-haired girls found favor in the sight of the swarthy Britons. Marriages occurred, and a new type of man-child appeared as the months went by. More Engles came. A century passed, and the coast, from Kent to the Firth of Forth, was dotted with the farms and homes of the people from the Baltic. There were now occasional protests from the original holders, and fights followed, when the Britons retreated before the strangers, or else were very glad to make terms. Victory is a matter of staying-power. The Engles had come to stay.

But a new enemy had appeared–the Norsemen or Danes. These were sea-nomads who acknowledged no man as master. Rough, bold, laughing at disaster, with no patience to build or dig or plow, they landed but to ravish, steal and lay waste, and then boarded their craft, sailing away, joying in the ruin they had wrought.

The next year they came back. The industry and the thrift of the Engles made Britain a land of promise, a storehouse where the good things of life could be secured much more easily than by creating or producing them. And so now, before this common foe, the Britons, Jutes, Celts, Saxons and Engles united to punish and expel the invaders.

The calamity was a blessing–as most calamities are. From being a dozen little kingdoms, Britain now became one. A “Cyng,” or captain, was chosen–an Engle, strong of arm, clear of brain, blue of eye, with long yellow hair. He was a man who commanded respect by his person and by his deeds. His name was Egbert.

King Alfred, or Elfred, was born at Wantage, Berkshire, in the year Eight Hundred Forty-nine. He was the grandson of Egbert, a great man, and the son of Ethelwulf, a man of mediocre qualities. Alfred was shrewd enough to inherit the courage and persistence of his grandfather. Our D. A. R. friends are right and Mark Twain is wrong–it is really more necessary to have a grandfather than a father.