“Why are you crying, Guthrum?” Alfrec asked.
Guthrum was a picture of misery, sitting amongst the hedgerow, his knees to his chest. His threadbare tunic damp from his tears.
“Dad is going to kill me,” Guthrum snivelled, wiping his nose with his sleeve.
“I won’t let him,” Alfrec replied and Guthrum choked on a half-sob, half-laugh.
“You are two years younger than me. If Dad beats me half to death how can you help?”
Alfrec looked down, his well-meant intent shining in his eyes. Guthrum regretted his reply and said, “You are brave to offer, but I have to face him myself.”
“What have you done?” Alfrec asked, sitting alongside his brother. The day was warm and the sky clear. It was almost pleasant sitting in the dappled shade.
“He gave me a penny to buy a chicken, but I lost the penny.”
“Where did you lose it?” Alfrec asked.
Guthrum snorted. “If I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting here.” Alfrec cast Guthrum a glance that suggested the reply was unhelpful.
“I had it in my pouch,” Guthrum said. “I stopped when I saw a hare and took out my sling, but the time I had my sling ready the hare had gone.”
“Empty your pouch and let’s check,” Alfrec offered.
Guthrum upended his pouch and his worldly belonging spilled out onto the damp grass.
“What’s that,” Alfrec asked pointing at one object.
“That’s a bat’s wing,” Guthrum said picking it up. “It brings me luck.”
“Well I would get rid of that. It clearly hasn’t helped.” Alfrec said. “No sign of the coin then. Can we steal a chicken?” he suggested hopefully.
“What and have my hand cut off? No thanks. There’s nothing for it, but to face Dad and take a beating as well as I can.”
Alfrec looked down, “You are braver than me. I’d run away before facing him.”
The two boys sat in silence, neither wanting to hurry toward the dreaded encounter.
Jack grinned. “Bloody hell,” he said with a whoop. His detector had given him a faint signal and now a glimmer of silver stood out in stark contrast with the black loamy soil. His fingers scratched at the dirt revealing more of the object.
“What u got,” Kev asked, coming over and laying his own detector down before removing his headphones.
“A hammered, I think.”
“Bloody hell, is right,” Kev said reaching out to take the object which now sat in Jack’s hand. “That’s a Saxon penny.”
Jack stood and promptly started his hammie-dance. “Oh yes! Oh yes!” he chortled as he circled round his friend.
Kev grinned, “Great find, mate. This’ll be find of the month.” Neither men gave a thought to the lad who had lost it and the beating he took from his irate father ad if Guthrum had been alive to see Jack’s hammie-dance, he would have groaned to see such peculiar cavorting by a grown man.