Many years ago there lived in Eng-land a wise and good king whose name

was Al-fred. 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 Eng-lish. 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


At last, after a great battle, the English army was broken up and

scat-tered. Every man had to save himself in the best way he could.

King Alfred fled alone, in great haste, through the woods and swamps.

Late in the day the king came to the hut of a wood-cut-ter. He was

very tired and hungry, and he begged the wood-cut-ter's wife to give

him something to eat and a place to sleep in her hut.

The wom-an 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

to-geth-er 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


In a little while the wom-an 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

some-thing 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 be-lieve that she was so ill-na-tured.

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 any-thing to eat that night, or whether

he had to go to bed without his supper. But it was not many days

until he had gath-ered his men to-geth-er again, and had beaten the

Danes in a great battle.