Part 4 out of 5
one likes of that. At least the threat of the dungeon was no idle one.
Now went Havelok from the hall very heavy and troubled, for beyond the
fair talk of the king lurked surely some plan that was not fair at all.
It was not to be thought that he could not prevent, if he chose, a
foolish marriage of the princess, even did she desire it ever so much.
And my brother could not believe that she had set her heart on one whom
she had but seen once, and then in the midst of faintness. That,
however, might be known easily when he was face to face with her. It was
a thing that could not be made a matter of pretence.
Now when he came back to the great kitchen, which was nigh as big as the
hall, Withelm was yet there, for the priest was at the widow's, and
there was no haste to bring him; and by that time I had come in also,
and was sitting with him at the far end, where none had need to come. It
was Berthun's own end, as one might say, and he was lord in his own
place. Only a few thralls were about, and the cook himself had gone into
"Here is our brother," I said, "and there is somewhat wrong."
He came moodily up to us, and sat him down, saying nothing, and he
leaned his head on his hands for a while.
"What is amiss, brother?" said Withelm.
"Wait," he answered. "I will think before I speak."
I could see that this was not the old puzzlement, but something new and
heavy, so we held our peace. Long was he before he moved or spoke, and
when he did so it was wearily.
"Well knew I that somewhat was to happen to me in this town, even as I
told you, brother, when we first passed its gates. And now it seems to
be coming to pass. For this is what is on me, as it seems to me--
either that I must see the light of day no more, or must live to be a
scorn and sorrow to one for whom it were meet that a man should die."
"Surely the black dream is on you, my brother! Neither of these things
can be for you!" I cried.
"Would that it were the dream, for that is not all of sorrow, and that
also is of things so long past that they are forgotten. I can bear that,
for your voice always drives it away. But now the hand of Alsi the king
is on me for some ill of his own--"
"Stay," said Withelm. "Let us go out and speak, if that name is to be
heard. It were safer."
"Less safe, brother," answered Havelok. "At once we should be kept
apart. Listen, and I will tell you all, and then say your say."
Then he told us, word for word, all that had just passed between him and
the king. And as we listened, it grew on us that here was no wrong to
the princess, but rather the beginning of honour. I could see the
downfall that was in store for Alsi, and I thought also that I saw hope
for the winning back of the Danish kingdom, with an East Anglian host to
back us. And this also saw Withelm, and his eyes sparkled. But Havelok
knew not yet all that had grown so plain to us.
He ended, and we said nothing for a moment.
"Well?" he said, not looking up, but with eyes that sought the floor, as
"By Odin," said I, speaking the thought that was uppermost, "here will
be a downfall for Alsi!"
"Ay, you are right, brother. I will not wed her."
But that was by no means what I meant, as may be known; and now Withelm
held up a warning hand to me, and I knew that his advice was always best.
"If the maiden is unwilling, wed her not," he said. "If she is willing,
even as the king said, that is another matter. We have no reason to
doubt his word as yet."
"You saw not his face as he spoke. And then, how should the princess
think of me?"
"Who knows? Even Odin owned that the minds of maids were hard to fathom.
But one may find a reason or two. Maybe that oath has somewhat to do
with it. A good daughter will go far to carry out her father's will,
and, in the plain sense thereof, she will certainly do it thus. Then it
is likely that she knows that you are no churl, but the son of Grim,
though we have fallen on hard times for a while. I have heard say that
it is the custom here that a man who has crossed the seas in his own
ship so many times is a thane by right of that hardihood. Thane's son,
therefore, might we call you. Then there is the jealousy of every other
thane, if she chooses an East Anglian. Then she needs one who shall be
mighty to lead her forces. Even the greatest thane will be content to
follow a man who is a warrior of warriors. Ragnar can have told her what
you are in that way. Faith, brother, there are reasons enough."
Havelok laughed a short laugh at all this, and he grew brighter. There
was sense in Withelm's words, if they would not bear looking deeply into.
Then I said, adding to these words, "Moreover, Alsi could stop the whole
foolishness of his niece if he did not think it a fitting match in some
"So he could," answered Havelok. "But yet--I tell you that there was
naught but evil in his face. Why did he try to force me?"
Then he went back to the thing that weighed mostly on his noble heart--
the thought that he was unworthy altogether.
"I fear that the princess does but think of me because she must. It is
in my mind that Alsi may have threatened her also until she has
consented. How shall I know this?"
"Most easily, as she speaks with you," answered Withelm. "Tomorrow will
tell you that. And then, if you find things thus, what shall prevent
"Brother Radbard and the other housecarls," said Havelok grimly.
"Not if you ask the princess to help you out of her own way by
pretending to be most willing. If Alsi thinks you a gladsome couple,
there is no difficulty. You walk out of the palace as a master there.
Then you fly to Ragnar. That is all."
Now that was such an easy way out of the whole coil that we planned it
out. And yet it seemed to me that it was a pity that Havelok knew not
more of what seemed to us so sure now. So, seeing that things were
fairly straightened by this last thought, I got up and said that I must
be going, making a sign to Withelm to come also; and, with a few more
words, we went out. I saw Havelok set himself to a mighty task of water
drawing as I looked back.
"Now," said I, "here is a strange affair with a vengeance. Neither head
nor tail can I make of it. But if all we think is right, this is the
marriage for the son of Gunnar."
"Son of Gunnar, or son of Grim," said Withelm, "princess or not, happy
is the maiden who gains Havelok for a husband. Maybe her woman's wit has
told her so. She will have many suitors whom she knows to be seeking her
throne only, and to him she gives it as a gift unsought."
"That is all beyond me," I said; "but he would fill a throne well. But
his own modesty in the matter of his worthiness is likely to stand in
the way. Why should we not tell him all that we know? Then he will feel
that he is doing no wrong."
"Because we are not sure, and because it is not for us to choose the
time. I have sent for Arngeir this morning, as we said would be well
last night. If the princess is unwilling, there are many things that may
be said; and if not, there must be many days before the wedding; and,
ere the day, Havelok may feel that he is her equal in birth at least, if
we are not wrong. But since I have waited here, Mord has told me the
dream that has troubled the princess, that I may tell the priest, so
that he can think it over. She has dreamed that she is to wed a man who
shall be king both in Denmark and England, and she saw the man,
moreover. Strangely like Havelok's dream is that. Now what else made her
turn faint but that this vision was like Havelok? And does not that make
it possible that she wishes to wed him? Therefore I am going to tell the
priest the story of Havelok, so far as I know it."
"Well thought of. Tell him this also, for now I may surely tell you what
you have not yet heard thereof."
So I told him how Grim and I had taken Havelok from Hodulf, and then he
was the more certain that we had saved the son of our king.
Now we thought that we had got to the bottom of the whole matter of the
wedding. Of course the dream had all to do with the fainting, but
nothing to do with the supposed wish. But we did not know that.
"Speak not of Gunnar by name, however," I said; "he was a terror to
Christian folk. The priest is likely to hinder the marriage with all his
Withelm flushed as he had when he first spoke of the priest to me.
"I think not, brother; for he knows Havelok well, and loves him."
"So," said I shortly, "he hopes to make him a Christian, doubtless."
"I think that he will do so, if he has a Christian wife to help."
"That would not suit Havelok," I said, laughing.
"Nay, but such a mind as his it seems to suit well already, though he
has not heard much."
"Why, then," said I, wondering, "if it suits our best and bravest, it
must be a wondrous faith. It seems strange, however; but I know naught
of it. What is good for him and you, my brother, is sure to be best."
"I feared that you would be angry."
"Nay, but with you and Havelok? How should that be? Why, if you two said
that we must turn Christian, I should hold it right; so would Raven. I
suppose that I go to the Ve  because you do."
Now I troubled no more about the matter, being nothing but a sea dog who
could use a weapon. And now I said that I was going to Eglaf to say that
I might have to leave him at any time for home, in case we had to fly
with Havelok. So Withelm went his way to the old priest with a light
heart, and I to the captain.
"Well," said Eglaf, "this is about what I expected when your brother
came. Good it has been to have you here; and I think that I shall see
you as a housecarl for good yet. When do you go?"
"The first time that I do not turn up on guard I am gone, not till then."
"Come and drink a farewell cup first."
"I shall be in a great hurry if I do not do that," I answered, laughing.
But it was my thought that maybe when once my back was turned on the
town, I should not have time to think of going near King Alsi's guard.
Then I went to find Ragnar the earl, for we thought it well that he
should know what was on hand. But when I came to the house of the thane
with whom he was quartered, they told me that he had gone hastily with
all his men, for word had come of some rising in his land that must be
seen to at once. That was bad; and as one must find a reason for
everything, I thought that the going of Griffin had much to do with the
outbreak. There I was wrong, as I found later. But then, too, I knew
that the craft of Alsi was at work in this message. He had his own
reasons for wishing the earl out of the way.
CHAPTER XVI. A STRANGEST WEDDING.
Long spoke Withelm and the priest David together, until it was time for
them to seek the palace; and when they came there, they spoke to Mord
also. Then David thought it was well to say naught to Havelok until more
was learned from Goldberga herself, for he would soon see how things
stood with her. Then he would see Withelm again, and they would plan
together for the best. So Withelm waited for the return of the priest,
whom Mord took to his mistress. Alsi and his men were supping in the
hall, but Goldberga was waiting in her own chamber.
Now the princess thought that, after her message to the king, she would
hear no more of the kitchen knave, and so was happier. But all the while
she pondered over her dream the thought of Havelok must needs come into
it, and that was troublesome. Nevertheless, it was not to be helped,
seeing that there was no doubt at all that he and the man of the vision
were like to each other as ever were twins. Wherefore if the thought of
one must be pleasant so at last must be that of the other. And then came
the nurse with tales of what Berthun thought of this man of his--how
that he was surely a wandering prince, with a vow of service on him,
like Gareth of the Round Table in the days of Arthur.
So presently it seemed to the princess that the churl was gone, as it
were, and in his place was a wandering atheling, at least, who was not a
terror at all. Then at length the slow time wore away until Mord came
with David the priest.
No priestly garb had the old man on, for that had made his danger
certain; but though he was clad in a thrall's rough dress, he was not to
be mistaken for aught but a most reverend man.
"Peace be with you, my daughter," he said; "it is good to look on the
child of Orwenna, the queen whom we loved."
Then the chamberlain left those two alone, and at once Goldberga told
the priest why she had asked him to run the risk of coming to her, for
there is no doubt that he was in peril, though not from Alsi himself.
At first she asked him many things about her mother, and learned much of
her goodness to the poor folk, and of their love to her; and presently,
when she grew more sure of the kindness and seeming wisdom of the
priest, she told him all her dream, adding no thoughts of her own, as
she mistrusted them.
Then said David, "There seems naught but good in this, and it is not
hard to unravel. I think that all shall come to pass even as it was told
"I feared the heathen ways of the place, and thought that it might be
some snare of the old gods," said Goldberga.
But David told her that they could have no power on her, and asked her
if the king knew of the vision, that being one thing of which he was not
sure; and when he found that he did not, the whole affair seemed more
strange than before.
But now the princess asked him, "Plain were the words that I heard, hut
what meant the light as of a sunbeam that came from the mouth of the man
of the vision?"
"That surely means that in word and in heart and in all else the man
shall be kingly altogether, so that there shall be no mistaking the
same; and it may also mean that you shall know the man at once when you
At that Goldberga grew pale and red by turns, so that David, quick to
read the thoughts of those who came to him for help, asked if she had
seen anyone who she thought must be meant, not at all knowing that she
must needs say that this was Curan.
Not at all willingly did she tell him this; but she did so, adding at
last that Alsi had threatened to wed her to this man.
Now it was plain to David that all was pulling the same way, for surely
Alsi wrought, unknowing, for the fulfilling of the dream; and all seemed
to prove that Havelok was the son of the Danish king, and that he would
win back his kingdom. Then he found out that the princess had no
knowledge that the king had spoken to Havelok, but it did not seem to be
needful that he should tell her that he had done so. That would be told
by Alsi himself if he meant, as seemed certain, to carry out his threat.
So he thought awhile, and at last he saw what he might do without saying
anything to bend the choice of the princess in any way.
"It will soon be plain in what way the dream shall be fulfilled," he
said; "and this is certain, that you shall be wedded to none but the
right man, else had it not been sent. Have no fear, therefore, even as
it was bidden you."
Then the princess said that the only thing which troubled her was the
fear lest Alsi should yet force her to wed this one who was so like him
she had seen in her dream.
"That," said the priest, "is doubtless the most strange part of the
whole matter, yet I think that even thus there need be no fear. I will
tell you now that I know this one who is called Curan well, and I, and
all who know him, love him. Truly he is not a Christian, but he is no
hater of the faith, and that is much in these days. Nor is he a churl,
but rather one of the most noble of men. It is certain that, whatever
Alsi might wish, he would not wed you against your will. He has but to
know your thoughts in order to help you in any way. But I must also tell
you this, that he is a Dane, who fled from his land when he was a child;
and it is thought that he is the son of the Danish king, who was slain
at the time when Mord, your servant, fled also. He came to England in
the same ship as did Mord, who can tell you more of him. It is certain
that there is a secret about his birth, and the one who knows that
secret is not far off. If need is, we can learn it, for there was a set
time for its telling, and maybe this is it. Now, if it is true that he
is the son of the Danish king, it does seem as if your dream might be
bidding you to have no fear of what seems doubtful in the matter, though
I cannot tell, and do not like to say so for certain. His name is not
Curan, but Havelok."
Then Goldberga said, "I have heard of that flight and of the wreck from
Mord often. He was wont to tell me of the child, and of the lady who was
drowned, and he said that he thought him the king's son."
After that she was greatly cheered, for the worst of the trouble seemed
to be over and gone. It was in her mind now that Alsi knew who Havelok
was, and that he tried her, for she was not one to think ill of any.
So she let the priest go, with many thanks, saying, "Now I know that
whatever happens is the will of Heaven, and must be for the best. I am
ready for whatever shall befall."
Now I do not know what had seemed good to Alsi, for he had changed his
mind concerning David's visit to Goldberga, and had suddenly given
orders that if he came he was to be put in ward at once. So Mord met the
old man as he left the chamber, and told him that he must fly; and after
that Withelm took him away in the dusk, for none hindered his going, and
went to the widow's with him, hearing all that had been said; and that
which they thought was even as Goldberga had said, that all must needs
be for the best. In a day or two all would he plain, for Arngeir would
have come. So Withelm sent forth the old man to his own place with a
good store of food, going with him for some miles, and promising him
help for coming days until the dearth was ended.
Now into the palace none might come after the feast was set; and all
this time I was on guard, for there were double posts round the place,
by reason of Alsi's fear of the attackers of the princess, as was said.
So it happened that neither of us saw Havelok until next morning; and
now I have to tell how we saw him, and what happened with the first
sunlight, when men were thinking of breaking their fast.
We of the housecarls took that first meal of the day in the great hall
--so many of us, that is, who were not on duty; and when we had nigh
finished, Alsi would come in and seat himself on the high place, where
Eglaf and half a dozen other thanes sat also at times when there was no
special state to be kept.
I was early this morning, having just taken my spell of watching at the
gate, and being, therefore, free for the rest of the day, and I was
hungry with the sweet air of the July weather and the freshness that
comes with sunrise. So I was not altogether pleased to see that there
was seemingly some new affair of state on hand, while the breakfast was
not yet set out by reason of preparations that were going on where the
king's chair was wont to stand. There was Berthun, looking puzzled and
by no means pleased, and his men were busy setting out benches on the
high place, of a sort that were not those that were wont to be there, in
three sides of a square, the open side facing the hall. One bench made
each side, and all three were carved from back rail to clawed feet
wondrously. Old they seemed also. Then, too, instead of the sweet sedges
that strewed the high place, men had spread a cloth of bright hues
underfoot there, and the sedges had been swept among the rushes of the
lower places. All this was so strange that I went forward, and when I
had a chance I asked the steward what was on hand.
"If you know not, master housecarl, no more do I. 'Justice to be done,'
says the king, and so I suppose that you have some notable prisoner in
ward--maybe the leader of those villains who scared our fair princess."
"But we had taken no man, and I will say that we had wondered that we
had not been sent out to hunt those people, instead of biding to see if
they came to trouble us here."
"Why, then," said Berthun, "some thane must be bringing a captive
shortly. But why Alsi orders these benches, it passes me to make out.
They are those that have been used for the weddings of his kin since the
days of Hengist. Last time was when Orwenna, his sister, wedded
Ethelwald of Norfolk. Maybe he thinks that they need airing."
He laughed and went on directing his men; but knowing what I knew, I
wondered what it all might mean, for there was one wedding that I could
not help thinking of.
Presently the hall began to fill as men came in, and every one had
somewhat to say, and all marvelled at this that was going on. Then
Berthun came and beckoned to me, for I must fetch Eglaf the captain at
once, as the king had need of him, in haste. Then Eglaf hurried to the
hall; and after a word or two with Alsi, the horns were blown outside
the hall door to call every man of the guard to the place. And when they
came, we were all set round the wall as if guarding all that were in it.
But there were none but the folk of the palace to guard, and they were
wondering as were we; and when that was done, and the click and rattle
of arms as we moved to our places was ended, there was a silence on all
--the silence of men who wait for somewhat to happen.
Now Berthun went to the door on the high place, as he was wont when all
was ready for the king's presence, and the hush deepened, none knowing
what they expected to see.
Forth came Berthun backward, as was the custom, and he turned aside to
let the king pass him. His face was red and angry, as I thought, but
amazed also. I was standing next to Eglaf, and he was at the foot of the
dais, at the end of his line of men, so that I could see all plainly.
Then came Alsi, leading the princess, and after Goldberga came her
nurse. No other ladies were with her; and now I noticed that there was
not one thane on the high place, which was strange, and the first time
that such a thing had been since I came here. I looked down the hall,
and none were present. Now I looked at Alsi; and on his pale face was a
smile that might have been as of one who will be glad, though he does
not feel so. But the eyes of the princess were bright with tears, and
hardly did she look from the floor. Hers was a face to make one sad to
see at that time, wondrously beautiful as it was.
Alsi led her by the hand, and set her on the bench that was to his left,
and signed to the nurse to sit beside her, which the old lady did,
bridling and looking with scorn at the king as she took her place. There
she sought the hand of the princess, and held it tightly, as in
comforting wise. Very rich garments had the nurse, but Goldberga was
dressed in some plain robe of white that shone when the light caught it.
Mostly I do not see these things, but now I wished that she always wore
As for Alsi, he had on his finest gear, even as at the great feast of
the Witan--crimson cloak, fur-lined, and dark-green hose,
gold-gartered across, and white and gold tunic. He had a little crown on
also, and that was the only thing kingly about him, to my mind.
Now he cast one look at Goldberga, which made her shrink into herself,
as it were, and turned with a smile to us all.
"Friends," he said, "this is short notice for a wedding, but all men
know that 'Happy is the wooing that is not long a-doing,' so no more
need be said of that. All men know also that when good Ethelwald died he
made me swear to him that I would wed his daughter to the mightiest and
goodliest and fairest man that was in the land. I have ever been mindful
of that oath, and now it seems that the time for keeping it has come.
Whether the man whom my niece will wed is all that the oath requires,
you shall judge; and if he is such a one, I must not stand in the way. I
do not myself know that I have ever seen one who is so fully set forth
in words as is this bridegroom in those of the oath."
Now I heard one whisper near me, "Whom has Goldberga chosen?"
And that was what Alsi would have liked to hear, for his speech seemed
to say that thus it was, and maybe that he did not altogether like the
But now Alsi said to Berthun, "Bring in the bridegroom."
"Whom shall I bring, lord?" the steward asked in blank wonder, and Alsi
whispered his answer.
At that Berthun's hands flew up, and his mouth opened, and he did not stir.
"Go, fool," said Alsi, and I thought that he would have stamped his foot.
Now I knew who was meant in a moment, and even as the steward took his
first step from off the dais to go down the hail to his own entrance, I
said to Eglaf, "Here is an end to my service with you. My time is up."
"Why, what is amiss?"
"The bridegroom is my brother--that is all; and I must be free to
serve him as I may."
"Well, if that is so, you are in luck. But I do not think that either of
Grim's sons can be the man. Big enough are you, certainly, but goodly?
Nay, but that red head of yours spoils you."
I daresay that he would have said more about Raven and Withelm, for a
talk was going round; but a hush came suddenly, and then a strange
murmur of stifled wonder, for Havelok came into the hall after Berthun,
and all eyes were turned to him.
Now I saw my brother smile as he came, seeing someone whom he liked
first of all; and then he looked up the hall, and at once his face
became ashy pale, for he saw what was to be done. Yet he went on firmly,
looking neither to right nor left, until he came to the high place.
There he caught my eye, and I made a little sign to him to show that I
knew his trouble.
They came to the step, and Berthun stood aside to let Havelok pass, and
then Alsi held out his hand to raise my brother to the high place. But
Havelok seemed not to see that, stepping up by himself as the king bade
him come. Then the women who were in the hall spoke to one another in a
murmur that seemed of praise; but whiter and more white grew the
princess, so that I feared that she would faint. But she did not; and
presently there seemed to come into her eyes some brave resolve, and she
was herself again, looking from Alsi to Havelok, and again at Alsi.
Now, too, the king looked at him up and down, as one who measures his
man before a fight. And when he met Havelok's eyes he grew red, and
turned away to the folk below him.
"So, friends," he cried, "what say you? Am I true to the words of my
oath in allowing this marriage?"
There was not one there who did not know Havelok, whom they called
Curan; and though all thought these doings strange, there was a hum of
assent, for the oath said naught of the station in life of the
bridegroom. Good King Ethelwald had been too trustful.
"That is well," said Alsi, with a grave face. "All here will bear
witness that this was not done without counsel taken. Now, let the
bridegroom sit in his place here to my right."
He waved his hand, and Havelok sat down on the bench that faced
Goldberga; and now he looked long at her with a look that seemed to be
questioning. Alsi was going to his seat in the cross bench, where the
parents of the couple are wont to sit at a wedding while the vows are
made, but he seemed to bethink himself. It is my belief that he said
what he did in order to shame both Havelok and Goldberga.
"Why, it is not seemly that the bridegroom should sit alone without one
to be by him. Where are your friends, Curan?"
At that Alsi met with more than he bargained for. At once Berthun came
forward, and forth came I, and without a word we sat one on each side of
him. There were others who would have come also, for I saw even Eglaf
take a step towards the high place, had we not done so.
Alsi's face became black at that, for here was not the friendless churl
he was scoffing at. But he tried to smile, as if pleased.
"Why, this is well," he said. "Good it is to see a master helping his
man, and a soldier ready to back a comrade of a sort. Now we have
witnesses. Let us go on with the wedding."
Now the golden loving cup that was used at the feasts had been filled
and set at a little side table that stood there, and it was to be the
bride cup that should be drunk between the twain when all was settled.
So Alsi took this cup and held it, while he sat in the place of the
father of the bride. Now, I knew nothing of what should he done, but
Berthun did so, and well he took my brother's part, having undertaken
for him thus.
"It is the custom," said Alsi, "that the bridegroom should state what he
sets forth of the dowry to the bride."
Whereat Berthun, without hesitation, spoke hastily to Havelok, and told
him to let him answer, meaning, as I have not the least doubt, to
promise all that he had saved in long years of service. But Havelok
smiled a little, and set his hand to his neck, and I remembered one
thing that he had--a ring which had always hung on a cord under his
jerkin since he came to Grimsby, and which my father had bidden him keep
"This give I," he said, setting it on the floor at his feet, "and with
it all that I am, and all that I shall hereafter be, and all that shall
be mine at any time."
Alsi looked at the ring as it flashed before him, and his face changed.
No such jewel had he in all his treasures, for it was of dwarf work in
gold, set with a deep crimson stone that was like the setting sun for
brightness. I do not know whence these stones came, unless it were from
the East. Eleyn the queen, his mother, was thence, and I know now that
the ring was hers. But I think that when Alsi saw this he half repented
of the match, though he had gone too far now to draw back. So he bowed,
and said that it was well, as he would have said had there been nothing
Then Berthun, in his turn, asked for the bridegroom that the dowry of
the bride should be stated for all to hear.
"The wealth left my niece by her father," said Alsi. "The matter of the
kingdom is for the Witan of the East Anglians to settle."
Then came from out the king's chamber two men bearing bags of gold, and
that was set before the princess. It was a noble dowry, and honest was
the king in this matter at least.
Now were the vows to be said and the bride cup to be drunk, and that was
the hardest part of all to Havelok.
Slowly he rose as the king held it out to him, and he took it from his
hand and stood before Goldberga; and she, too, rose and faced him, and
for a moment they stood thus, surely the most handsome couple that had
Then Havelok said, looking in the clear eyes of the princess, "This have
I sworn, that I will wed no unwilling bride. It is but for you to say
one word, and the cup falls, and all is ended."
Alsi started at that, and I thought he was going to speak, but he held
his peace. Still as a rock was Havelok while he waited for the answer,
and the folk in the hall were as still as he. They began to see that all
was not right as the king would have it thought.
Once the princess looked at Alsi, and that with pride in her face, and
then she looked long and steadfastly at Havelok, and one by one his
fingers loosened themselves on the golden stem of the cup, that she
might know him ready for her word.
Then she put forth her hand and closed it round his strong fingers, that
he must hold it fast by her doing, and that was all that was needed. It
was more than words could have told. And she smiled as she did it.
And at that a light came on Havelok's face, and he smiled gravely back
at her, and he said in a low voice that shook a little, "May the gods so
treat me as I treat you, my princess. Can it be that you will trust me
She answered in no words, but I saw her hand tighten over his, and her
eyes never left his face.
Then Havelok raised his other hand, and took that of Goldberga, which
was on the cup, and faced to the people.
"Thus do I pledge her who shall be henceforward my wife through good and
ill; and may Odin, Freya, and Niord be witnesses of my oath of faith to
her in all that the word may mean."
So he drank, and I stole a glance at the king. Never saw I a man so
amazed, for to him the Danish names of the Asir had come as some sort of
a shock, seeing that he had deemed this man, with the name of Curan, a
Briton. And he looked at Berthun with a look that seemed to say more
than was likely to be pleasant by-and-by. But the steward paid no heed
Now Havelok had made his vow, and he gave the cup to the princess; and
she, too, turned a little toward the people, but still she looked on
"Faith shall answer to faith," she said in a clear voice. "Here do I
take this man for my husband, in the sight of God, and with you all as
witnesses, and I pray that the blessing of Him may be on us both."
So she drank also, and Havelok stopped and raised the wondrous ring from
where it had been unheeded on the floor, and took the band of Goldberga,
and set it on her finger, and kissed the hand ere he let it go.
But Goldberga lifted her face toward him, and he bent and kissed her
forehead, and so they were wedded.
I have heard men scoff at the thought of love at first sight, but never
can any one of us do so who saw this wedding.
CHAPTER XVII. HOW THE BRIDE WENT HOME.
Now the folk cheered, and loudest of all honest Eglaf and his warriors.
I wondered what should come next, for neither feast nor bride ale was
prepared, and Berthun was looking puzzled. Then I saw that the only face
in all the wide hall which was not bright was that of Alsi, and his brow
was black as a thunder cloud, while his fingers were white with the
force with which he clutched and twisted the end of his jewelled belt.
Plainly he was in a royal rage that none had scoffed at this wedding,
but that all had taken it as a matter that was right altogether.
But he had one more evil thing in his mind that must be seen through;
and he came forward, smoothing his face, as best he might, to the fixed
smile that I had seen when he spoke with Ragnar, and learned that his
first plot had miscarried.
"Now, friends," he said, "all this has been so hasty that we have
prepared no feast. Even now, it seems that the horses stand at the door
to take bride and bridegroom hence, and doubtless there waits somewhere
the feast that has been bespoken without my knowledge. Well, strange are
the ways of lovers, and we will pardon them. I have therefore only to
bid them farewell."
With that he turned to Havelok, and held out his hand, as in all good
fellowship, but Havelok would not see it.
"Fare as it shall be meted to you by the Asir, King Alsi," he said, "for
at least Loki loves craft."
Then he turned to me, and asked hurriedly where we should go if we must
"To Grimsby," I said. "That is home."
Alsi spoke to the princess now, and maybe it was as well that he did not
offer so much as his hand. Wise was he in his way.
"Farewell, niece," he said; "all this shall come shortly before the
Witan of Ethelwald's folk."
"Farewell, uncle," she answered calmly. "That is a matter which I will
see to myself. You have carried out your oath to the letter, so far, and
now it remains that you should leave the government of the realm to me."
With that she put her hand on Havelok's arm.
"Come, husband; we have heard that the horses wait. Let us be gone."
And then in a quick whisper she added, as if nigh overdone, "Take me
hence quickly, for I may not bear more."
They wasted no more words; and through a lane of folk, who blessed them,
those two went to the great door down the long hall, and I followed, and
Berthun and the nurse came after me. One flung the door open; and on the
steps, all unaware of what had happened, lounged Mord, waiting, and up
and down on the green the grooms led the horses of the princess--six
in all. On two were packed her goods, and the third had a pack saddle
that waited for the bags that held her dowry. The other three were for
herself and Mord and the nurse. There was not one for Havelok.
"This is hasty, my princess," Mord said. "Whither are we bound?"
"For Grimsby, Mord," I answered quickly. "Are there no more horses to be
"Never a one, unless we steal from the king," he answered.
The people were crowding out now that they might see the start, and I
saw Berthun speak to a man among them who was a stranger to me. And from
him he turned directly with a glad face.
"Go down to such a hostelry," he said to me, "and there ask for what
horses you will. Maybe I shall have to follow you for my part in this
matter--that is, if I am not put in the dungeon."
"Faith," I answered, "better had you come with us than run that risk.
Alsi is in a bad mood."
He shook his head; and then the people behind him made way, for the king
"Almost had you forgotten this," he said; "and I think you will want it."
The men with the money were there, and he waved his hand to them.
Havelok lifted the princess to her horse without heeding him, and the
men set the bags on the pack horses.
"See the bridegroom down the street, you who were his witnesses," the
king went on, with a curling lip; "and if you are a wise man, master
Berthun, you will not come back again."
Berthun bowed and went into the hail, past the king, and across to his
own door, without a word. After him the thronging people closed up, and
though I thought that a housecarl would have been sent to see what he
was about, this would have made an open talk, and Alsi forbore.
"Let Havelok take your horse, Mord," I whispered to him; "I will tell
you why directly."
He nodded, and I told Havelok to mount. Then I helped up the nurse, who
wept and muttered to herself; and so we started, Alsi standing on the
steps with words of feigned goodspeed as we did so.
But the housecarls and the people shouted with wishes that were real, no
doubt thinking that we were bound for the far-off kingdom of the prince
who had won Goldberga by service as a kitchen knave in her uncle's hall
for very love of her.
Directly we were outside the gate that leads down the hill, I saw
Withelm, who was there waiting for me, and he knew at once what had
He came to my side, and asked only, "Already?"
"Already," I answered; "but it is well. Go to the widow's straightway,
and bring Havelok's arms to him at the hostelry at the end of the
marketplace, where we have to find more horses."
He went at once, and silently we came down the street and to the
courtyard of the inn. Some few folk stared at us; but the princess was
hardly known here, and she had cast her long, white mantle hoodwise over
her head and face, so that one could not tell who she was. So early in
the day there were few people in the marketplace either.
Berthun was in the courtyard of the inn, and I was glad to see him, for
I did not know what would happen to him. It was likely that Alsi would
seek for someone on whom to visit his anger at the way things had gone.
But the steward had been warned, and was not one to run any risk.
"I did but go back for a few things that I did not care to leave," he
said; and he showed me that he had brought his own horse from the
stables, and on it were large saddlebags. No poor man was Berthun after
years of service in the palace, where gifts from thane and lady are
always ready for the man who has had the care of them. Across the saddle
bow also were his mail shirt and arms, and his shield hung with his helm
from the peak.
"You see that I must needs cast in my lot with yours, or rather
Curan's," he said, laughing; "but it is in my mind that in the end I
shall not be sorry to have done so. I think that I am tired of the
fireside, and want adventure for a while."
"Well," I answered, "you are likely to have them, and that shortly, if I
am not mistaken; but we shall see. Now about these horses, for we had
better get out of Lincoln as soon as we may."
The man he had spoken with was a merchant, who came yearly, and was a
friend of his. He had more horses than he meant to keep, as he had here
each year; for every one knows that a horse can always be sold in
Lincoln, and they were good ones. Then my gold came in well, and I
bought three, one for each of us brothers. I daresay that I paid dearly
for them, but there was no time for haggling in the way that a horse
dealer loves. Out of the way of Alsi we must get, before he bethought
him of more crafty devices. And I thought, moreover, that we should be
riding towards East Anglia shortly, and it was not everywhere that a
steed fit to carry Havelok on a long journey was to be had.
I had bidden him leave all this to me as we came down the hill, and glad
he was to do so. Now he had dismounted, and stood by the side of the
princess, speaking earnestly to her. It was plain that what he said was
pleasant to her also. But we left them apart, as one might suppose.
Now came a warrior into the courtyard, and he bore more arms. It was
Withelm, who had borrowed the gear of the widow's dead husband, that he
might be ready for whatever might happen: and it was good to see
Havelok's eyes grow bright as he spied the well-known weapons that his
brother had in his arms. He said one word to Goldberga, and then came to us.
"Let me get into war gear at once," he said, laughing in a way that
lightened my heart. "I shall not feel that I have shaken off service to
Alsi until I have done so."
And then he saw Berthun here for the first time.
"Nay, but here is my master," he added. "And I will say that I owe him
much for his kindness."
"Now the kindness shall be on your part, if any was on mine. Take me
into your service, I pray you, henceforward."
"Good friend of mine," said Havelok, "naught have I to offer you. And
how should one serve me?"
"With heart and hand and head, neither more nor less," answered Berthun.
"I have seen you serve, and now will see you command. Let me bide with
you, my master, at least, giving you such service as I may."
"Such help as you may, rather. For now we all serve the princess,"
And with that Berthun was well content for the time.
"Well, then," said I, "see to Havelok's arms, while we get the horses
ready, for I want Withelm here."
So Havelok and his new man went into the house with his arms, and then I
saw Goldberga beckoning to us. It was the first time that I had spoken
to her, and I think that I was frightened, if that is what they call the
feeling that makes one wish to be elsewhere. But there was nothing to
fear in the sweet face that she turned to us.
"Brothers," she said, "Havelok tells me that it was one of you who
brought David the priest to me. I do not rightly know yet which is Withelm."
With that she smiled and blushed a little, and I stood, helm in hand,
stupidly enough. But my brother was more ready.
"I am Withelm, my princess--" he began.
"Nay; but 'sister' it shall be between me and my husband's brothers.
Now, brother Withelm, there is one thing that is next my heart, and in
it I know you will help me."
There she wavered for a moment, and then went on bravely.
"Christian am I, and I do not think that we are rightly wedded until the
priest has done his part. And to that Havelok agrees most willingly,
saying that I must ask you thereof, for he does not know where the old
man is now."
"Wedded in the little chapel that is in the thick of Cabourn woods shall
you be, for David has gone there already. We can ride and find him
before many hours are over, sweet lady of ours."
She thanked him in few words, and with much content.
Then came forth from the house Havelok, in the arms that suited him so
well--golden, shining mail shirt of hard bronze scales, and steel,
horned helm, plain and strong, and girt with sword and seax, and with
axe and shield slung over shoulder, as noble a warrior surely as was in
all England, ay, or in the Northlands that gave him birth either; and
what wonder that the eyes of the princess glowed with a new pride as she
looked at her mighty husband?
But Mord almost shouted when he saw him come thus, and to me he said,
"It is Gunnar--Gunnar, I tell you--come back from Asgard to help my
"Wait till we get to Grimsby, and Arngeir will make all clear," I said.
"Get into your arms, and we will start. All is ready now."
We did not wait for Mord, but mounted and rode out, and the princess
looked round at us as she rode first beside Havelok, and said, "Never
have I ridden so well attended, as I think."
And from beside me, with broad face from under his helm, Berthun
answered for us all, "Never with men so ready to die for you, at least,
And that was true.
Half a mile out of the town we rode at a quick trot, and then thundered
Mord after us, and his hurry surely meant something. I reined up and
waited for him.
"What is the hurry, Mord?" said I.
"Maybe it is nothing, and maybe it is much," he answered; "but Griffin
of Chester has gone up to the palace, for I saw him. He has his arm in a
sling, and his face looks as if it had been trodden on. Now Alsi will
tell him all this, and if we are not followed I am mistaken. He would
think nothing of wiping out our party to take the princess, and Alsi
will not mind if he does. How shall we give him the slip?"
Withelm rode with his chin over his shoulder, and I beckoned him and
told him this. Not long was his quick wit in seeing a way out of what
might be a danger.
"Let us ride on quickly down the Ermin Street, and he will think us
making for the south and Norwich. Then we will turn off to Cabourn, and
he will lose us. After that he may hear that some of us belong to
Grimsby, and will go there; but he will be too late to hurt us. Hard men
are our fishers, and they would fight for Havelok and the sons of Grim."
So we did that, riding down the old Roman way to a wide, waste forest
land where none should see us turn off, and then across the forest paths
to Cabourn; and there we found the hermit, and there Havelok and
Goldberga were wedded again with all the rites of Holy Church, and the
bride was well content.
Now while that was our way, I will say what we escaped by this plan of
my brother's, though we did not hear all for a long time. Presently we
did hear what had happened at Grimsby towards this business, as will be
To Lincoln comes Griffin, with Cadwal his thane, just as we had left the
town thus by another road, and straightway he betakes himself to the
palace. There he finds Alsi in an evil mood, and in the hall the people
are talking fast, and there is no Berthun to receive him.
So, as he sits at the high table and breaks his fast beside the king, he
asks what all the wonderment may be. And Alsi tells him, speaking in Welsh.
"East Anglia is mine," he says, "for I have rid myself of the girl."
Griffin sets his hand on his dagger.
"Hast killed her?" he says sharply.
"No; married her."
"To whom, then?"
"To a man whom the Witan will not have as a king at any price."
"There you broke faith with me," says Griffin, snarling. "I would have
taken her, and chanced that."
"My oath was in the way of that. You missed the chance on the road the
other day, which would have made things easy for us both. There was no
other for you."
Now Griffin curses Ragnar, and the Welsh tongue is good for that business.
"Who is the man, then?" he says, when he has done.
"The biggest and best-looking countryman of yours that I have ever set
eyes on," answers Alsi, looking askance at Griffin's angry face. "There
is a sort of consolation for you."
"His name," fairly shouts Griffin.
"Curan, the kitchen knave," says Alsi, chuckling.
"O fool, and doubly fool!" cries Griffin; "now have you outdone
yourself. Was it not plain to you that the man could be no thrall? Even
Ragnar looks mean beside him, and I hate Ragnar, so that I know well how
goodly he is."
Now Alsi grows uneasy, knowing that this had become plainer and plainer
to him as the wedding went on.
"Why, what do you know of this knave of mine?" he asks. "He was goodly
enough for the sake of my oath, and the Witan will have none of him.
That is all I care for."
"What do I know of him? Just this--that you have married the queen of
the East Angles to Havelok, son of Gunnar Kirkeban of Denmark, for whom
men wait over there even now. The Witan not have him? I tell you that
every man in the land will follow him and Goldberga if they so much as
lift their finger. Done are the days of your kingship, and that by your
Alsi grows white at this and trembles, for he minds the wondrous ring
and the names of the Asir, but he asks for more certainty.
Then Griffin tells him that he was with Hodulf, and knew all the secret
of the making away with the boy, and how that came to naught. Then he
says that Hodulf had heard from certain Vikings that they had fallen on
Grim's ship, and that in the grappling of the vessel the boy and a lady
had been drowned. It is quite likely that they, or some of them, thought
so in truth, seeing how that happened. After that Hodulf had made
inquiry, and was told that there were none but the children of Grim with
him, and so was content. So my father's wisdom was justified.
"Now I learned his name the other day; and I have a ship waiting to take
me at once to Hodulf, that I may warn him. I have ridden back from
Grimsby even now to say that, given a chance, say on some lonely ride,
that might well have been contrived, I would take Goldberga with me
beyond the sea. I thought more of that than of Hodulf, to say the truth."
Now Alsi breaks down altogether, and prays Griffin to help him out of this.
"Follow the party and take her. They are few and unarmed, and it will be
easy, for men think that there is a plot to carry her off, and this will
not surprise any. Go to the sheriff and tell him that it has happened,
and he will hang the men on sight when you have taken them. Then get to
sea with the girl, and to Hodulf, and both he and I will reward you."
"Thanks," says Griffin, with a sneer; "I have my own men. Yours might
have orders that I am the one to be hanged. It would be worth your while
now to make a friend of your kitchen knave. You are not to be trusted."
So these two wrangle for a while bitterly, for Alsi is not overlord of
Griffin in any way. And the end is that the thane rides towards Grimsby
first of all, with twenty men at his heels, knowing more than we
thought. But he hears naught of us, and presently meets Arngeir on his
way thence to see us. Him he knows, for already he has had dealings with
him in the hiring of the ship. So he learns from him that certainly no
such party as he seeks is on the road, and therefore rides off to the
Ermin Street to stay us from going south.
But now we had time for a long start; and so he follows the Roman road
when he reaches it all that day and part of next, and we hear no more of
him at that time. There are many parties travelling on that way, and he
follows one after another.
Now Arngeir knew at once that somewhat had happened when he heard from
Griffin that the most notable man of those whom he sought was named
Curan, and therefore he turned back at once and waited for us. And when
we came in sight of the long roof of the house that Grim, our father,
had built, standing among the clustering cottages of our fishers, with
the masts of a trading ship or two showing above it in the haven, he was
there on the road to greet us, having watched anxiously for our coming
from the beacon tower that we had made.
Maybe we were two miles out of Grimsby at this time, for one can see far
along the level marsh tracks from our tower; and Withelm and Mord and I
rode on to him as soon as we saw him, that we might tell him all that
had happened, and we rode slowly and talked for half a mile or so.
Then Withelm waited and brought Havelok to us, staying himself with the
princess, that he might tell her the wondrous story of her husband; for
we thought that it would be easier for him than for our brother maybe.
Havelok was not one to speak freely of himself.
And when Goldberga had heard all, she was silent for a long way, and
then wept a little, but at last told Withelm that all this had been
foretold to her in her dream.
"Yet I am glad," she said, "that I did not know this for certain, else
had my Havelok thought that I did but wed him for his birth. Tell him,
brother, that it was not so; say that I knew him as the husband Heaven
sent for me when first I saw him."
Now Havelok listened to Arngeir as he told him the well-kept secret, and
now and again asked a question.
And when all was told he said, "Now have the dreams passed, and the
light is come. I mind all plainly from the first."
And he told all that had happened after Hodulf caught him, from the
murder of his sisters to the time when I helped my father to take him
from the sack. Only he never remembered the death of his mother or the
storm, or how we came to Grimsby. Maybe it is rather a wonder that after
all those hard things gone through he should recall anything, for he was
nearly dying when we came ashore, as I have told.
"But I am Grim's son," he said, "for all this, and never shall I forget
it. By right of life saved, and by right of upbringing, am I his, and by
right of brotherhood to his sons. Gunnar, who was my father, would have
me say this, if I am like him, as Mord tells me I am."
Then he looked at us in brotherly wise, as if we would maybe not allow
that claim now; but there needed naught to be said between us when he
met our eyes. He was Grim's son indeed to us, and we his younger
brothers for all the days that were to come.
"One thing there is that makes me glad," he said, "and that is because I
may now be held worthy of this sweet bride of mine so strangely given,
as indeed I fear that I am not. Men will say that she has done no wrong
in wedding me; and for all that Alsi may say, it will be believed that
she knew well whom she was wedding. There will be no blame to her."
That seemed to be all his thought of the matter now, and it was like
him. Then he went back to his princess, and we spurred on to Grimsby,
and set all to work, that the greeting might be all that we could make it.
And so, when those two rode into our garth, and the gates were closed
after them, we reined our horses round them, and drew our swords, and
cried the ancient greeting with one mighty shout:
"Skoal to Havelok Gunnarsson--Skoal to Goldberga, Havelok's wife!
Skoal! Yours we are, and for you we will die! Skoal!"
CHAPTER XVIII. JARL SIGURD OF DENMARK.
Now one would like to tell of quiet days at Grimsby; but they were not
to be. Three days after Havelok's homecoming we were on the "swan's
path," and heading for Denmark, with the soft south wind of high summer
speeding us on the way. And I will tell how that came about, for else it
may seem strange that Havelok did not see to the rights of his wife
first of all.
That was his first thought, in truth, and we brothers planned many ways
of getting to work for her, for it was certain that Alsi would be on his
guard. And on the next day came a man from Lincoln to seek Berthun, with
news. That good friend had done what none of us had been able to manage,
for he had told the merchant, his friend, to bide in the hall and hear
what went on, and then to let him know all else that seemed needful that
we should hear. Now he had learned all from the words of Griffin and
Alsi, who took no care in their speech, thinking that none in the hall
knew the Welsh tongue that they used.
It being the business of a merchant to know that of every place where he
trades, and he travelling widely, there was no difficulty to him, and
mightily he enjoyed the sport. Then he sent off straightway to us; and
now it was plain that we were in danger--not at once, maybe, but ere
long. Griffin would hear sooner or later that his quarry was in Grimsby
after all. So we went to our good old friend, Witlaf of Stallingborough,
and told him all.
"Why," he said, "I will have no Welsh outsiders harrying my friends.
Light up your beacon if he comes, and shut your gates in his face, and I
and the housecarls will take him in the rear, and he will not wait here
long. I have not had a fight for these twenty years or so, and it does
me good to think of one."
So we thought that there was little fear of the Welshman.
When I came back from this errand, however, I chose to pass the mound
where my father slept, and on it, hand in hand, sat Havelok and
Goldberga--for it was a quiet place, and none came near it often. It
was good to see them thus in that place, and happy they seemed together.
Goldberga called me when I came near, and I sat down beside them as she
"Here we have been talking of what we shall do now, for it seems that to
both of us are many things to hand," she said. "Good it would be if we
could set them aside; but we were born to them, and we cannot let them
be. And, most of all, here in this place we may not forget the duty that
Grim would remind us of. Havelok must go to Denmark and win back his
kingdom from Hodulf first of all."
"We have thought that East Anglia was to be won first from Alsi," I said.
"So says Havelok; but I do not think so. For, indeed, I am but the wife,
and the things of the husband come first of all. Now, this is what I
would say. Sail to Denmark before Hodulf knows what is coming, and there
will be less trouble."
"I am slow at seeing things," said Havelok; "but the same might be said
of your kingdom."
"Alsi is ready, and Hodulf is not," she answered, laughing; "any one can
"Is it not so, brother?"
So it was; and I thought that she was right.
"Let us ask the brothers," I said, "for here are many things to be
thought of; and, first of all, where to get men."
That was the greatest trouble to our minds, but none at all to hers.
"Get them in Denmark," she said, when we were all together in the great
room of the house that evening. "Let us go as merchant folk, and find
Sigurd, or his son if he is dead. If I am not much mistaken, all the
land will rise for the son of Gunnar so soon as it is known that he has
"Sigurd is yet alive," Arngeir said; "and more than that, he is waiting.
For he promised Grim that he would be ready, and I heard the promise. I
think that this plan is good, and can well be managed. Here is the ship
that Griffin was to have taken today, and he is not here. Gold enough I
have, for Grim hoarded against this time."
Then he showed us the store that, through long years, my father had
brought together to take the place of that of Sigurd's which had been
lost; and it was no small one. And so we planned at once; and in the end
we three brothers were to go with Havelok and Goldberga, leaving Mord to
get to Ragnar and tell him that Goldberga was following the fortunes of
her husband, and would return to see to her own if all went well.
Berthun would go with him, and Arngeir would bide at home, for we needed
one to whom messages might come; and while none would know us now in
Denmark, either Arngeir or Mord might be seen, and men would tell Hodulf
that the men of Grim had come home, and so perhaps spoil all. Word might
go to Denmark from Griffin even yet.
We had little thought of any sorry ending to our plans, for the dreams
that had come so true so far cheered us. And so, with the evening tide
of the next day, we sailed in the same ship that had been hired for Griffin.
But first Havelok spent a long hour on my father's mound alone, thinking
of all that he owed to him who rested there. And to him came Goldberga
softly, presently, lest he should be lonely in that place. And there she
spoke to him of her own faith, saying that already he owed much to it.
For he was making his vows to the Asir for success.
"Shall you pray yet again to the Asir, my husband?" she asked.
"Why should I? I have vowed my vows, and there is an end. If they heed
them, all is well; and if not, the Norns hinder."
"There is One whom the Norns hinder not at all," she said gently, and so
told him how that her prayers would go up every day.
Fain was she that he also prayed in that wise to her God, that naught
might be apart in their minds.
Then he said, "I have heard this from David and Withelm also, and it is
good. Teach me to vow to your God, sweet wife, and I will do so; and you
shall teach me to pray as you pray."
So it came to pass that Havelok in the after days was more than ready to
help the Christian teachers when they came to him; for that was how the
vow that he made ran, that he would do so if he was king, and had the power.
Now there is nothing to tell of our voyage, for one could not wish for a
better passage, if the ship was slow. Indeed, she was so slow that a
smaller vessel that left Tetney haven on the next day reached the same
port that we were bound for on the night that we came to our old home.
And that we learned soon after she had come.
Into Sigurd's haven we sailed on the morning tide, and strange it seemed
to me to see the well-known place unchanged as we neared it. My father's
house was there, and Arngeir's, and the great hall of the jarl towered
over all, as I remembered it. Men were building a ship in the long shed
where ours had been built, and where the queen had hidden; and the
fishing boats lay on the hard as on the day when Havelok had come to us.
The little grove was yet behind our house, and it seemed strange when I
remembered that the old stones of its altar were far beyond the seas. I
wondered if Thor yet stood under his great ash tree; and then I saw one
change, for that tree was gone, and in its place stood a watchtower,
stone built, and broad and high, for haven beacon.
On the high fore deck stood Havelok, and his arm was round Goldberga as
we ran in, but they were silent. The land held overmuch of coming wonder
for them to put into words, as I think.
Presently the boats came off to us in the old way, and here and there I
seemed to know the faces of the men, but I was not sure. It was but the
remembrance of the old Danish cast of face, maybe. I could put no names
to any of them. And as we were warped alongside the wharf, there rode
down to see who we were Sigurd the jarl himself, seeming unchanged,
although twelve years had gone over him. He was younger than my father,
I think, and was at that age when a man changes too slowly for a boy to
notice aught but that the one he left as a man he thought old is so yet.
He was just the noble-looking warrior that I had always wondered at and
We had arranged in this way: Havelok was to be the merchant, and we his
partners in the venture, trading with the goods in the ship as our own.
That the owner, who was also ship master, had agreed to willingly
enough, as we promised to make good any loss that might be from our want
of skill in bargaining. One may say that we bought the cargo, which was
not a great one, on our own risk, therefore, hiring the vessel to wait
our needs, in case we found it better to fly or to land elsewhere
presently. Then Havelok was to ask the jarl's leave to trade in the
land, and so find a chance to speak with him in private. After that the
goods might be an excuse for going far and wide through the villages to
let men know who had come, without rousing Hodulf's fears.
And as we thought of all this on the voyage, Goldberga remembered that
it was likely that Sigurd would know again the ring that had been the
queen's, and she said that it had better be shown him at once, that he
might begin to suspect who his guest was. For we knew that he was true
to the son of Gunnar, if none else might still be so.
This seemed good to us all; and, indeed, everything seemed to be well
planned, though we knew that there are always some happenings that have
been overlooked. We thought we had provided against these by keeping the
ship as our own to wait for us, however, and it will be seen how it all
worked out in the end.
Now Havelok went ashore as soon as the ship was moored; and the moment
that he touched land he made a sign on his breast, and I think that it
was not that of the hammer of Thor, for Goldberga watched him with
bright eyes, and she seemed content as she did so. He went at once to
where the jarl sat on his horse waiting him, and greetings passed. I was
so used to seeing men stare at my brother that I thought little of the
long look that Sigurd gave him; but presently it seemed that he was
mightily taken with this newcomer, for he came on board the ship, that
he might speak more with him and us.
"Presently," he said, "you must come and dine with me at my hall; for
the lady whom I saw as you came in will be weary, and a meal on shore
after a long voyage is ever pleasant. Now what is your errand here?"
"Trading, jarl," answered Havelok.
"I thought you somewhat over warlike-looking for a merchant," said
Sigurd; "what is your merchandise?"
"Lincoln cloth, and bar iron, and such like; and with it all one thing
that is worth showing to you, jarl, for I will sell it to none but
Now we went aft slowly, and presently Havelok and the jarl were alone by
the steering oar, by design on our part.
"This seems to be somewhat special," said Sigurd. "What is it?"
Havelok took the ring from his pouch, and set it in the jarl's hand
without a word; and long Sigurd looked at it. I saw the red on his cheek
deepen as he did so, but he said never a word for a long time. And next
he looked at Havelok, and the eyes of these two met.
"This is beyond price," said the jarl slowly. "Not my whole town would
buy this. It is such as a queen might wear and be proud of."
"Should I show it to Hodulf the king, therefore?" asked Havelok, with
his eyes on those of the jarl.
"Let no man see it until I know if I can buy it," answered Sigurd.
"Trust it to my keeping, if you will, for I would have it valued maybe."
"It is my wife's, and you must ask her that."
Then Havelok called Goldberga from her cabin under the after deck, and
the jarl greeted her in most courtly wise.
"I will trust it with you, Jarl Sigurd," she said, when he asked her if
he might keep the ring for a time. "Yet it is a great trust, as you
know, and it will be well to show the ring to none but men who are true."
"It is to true men that I would show it," he answered, with that look
that had passed between him and Havelok already; and I was sure that he
knew now pretty certainly who we were. Yet he could not say more at this
time, for the many men who waited for Havelok must be told somewhat of
his coming first.
Now men were gathering on the wharf to see the newcomers, and so the
jarl spoke openly for all to hear.
"Come up to my hall, all of you, and take a meal ashore with me; for
good is the first food on dry land after days at sea and the fare of the
So he went across the gangway, and to his horse, and rode away quickly,
calling back to us, "Hasten, for we wait for you. And I will find you
lodgings in the town for the time that you bide with us."
Now at first that seemed somewhat hazardous, for we had meant to stay in
the ship, lest we should have to fly for any reason suddenly. But it
seemed that we had no choice but to do as he bade us, and we could not
doubt him in any way. We should go armed, of course, as in a strange
place; and, after all, unless Hodulf heard of us, and wanted to see us,
he was not to be feared as yet. So I fell to wondering where our
lodgings would he, and if the old families still dwelt in the houses
that I had known, and then who had ours. Many such thoughts will crowd
into the mind of one who sees his old land again after many years, and
finds naught changed, to the eye at least.
Men have told me that, as we came into the hall presently, they thought
us the most goodly company that had ever crossed its threshold; and that
is likely, for at our head were Havelok and Goldberga. Raven was a
mighty warrior to look on as he came next, grave and silent, with
far-seeing grey eyes that were full of watching, as it were, from his
long seafaring, and yet had the seaman's ready smile in them. And
Withelm was the pattern of a well-made youth who has his strength yet to
gather, and already knows how to make the best use of that he has. There
were none but thought that he was the most handsome of the three sons of
Grim. And last came I, and I am big enough, at least, to stand at
Havelok's back; and for the rest, one remembers what Eglaf said of me.
But I do not think that any noticed us with those twain to look at,
unless they scanned our arms, which were more after the English sort
than the Danish, so far as mail and helms are concerned, and therefore
might seem strange.
The old hall was not changed at all; and handsome it seemed after
Alsi's, though it was not so large. There were more and better weapons
on the walls, and carved work was everywhere, so that in the swirl and
heat-flicker of the torches the beams, and door posts, and bench ends,
and the pillars of the high seat seemed alive with knotted dragons that
began, and ended, and writhed everywhere, wondrous to look on. Our
English have not the long winter nights, and cruel frosts, and deep snow
that make time for such work as this for the men of the household.
There fell a silence as we came in, and then Sigurd greeted us; and we
were set on the high seat, and feasted royally. On right and left of our
host sat Havelok and Goldberga, and the jarl's wife next to Havelok, and
Biorn the Brown, the sheriff, next to our princess. This was a newcomer
here since my days, but well we liked him.
There is nothing to tell of what happened at this feast, for Sigurd
asked no questions of us but the most common ones of sea, and wind, and
voyage, and never a word that would have been hard for Havelok to answer
in this company, where men of Hodulf's might well be present. Withelm
noticed this, and said that no doubt it was done purposely, and he
thought much of it.
When we had ended with song and tale, and it was near time for rest,
Sigurd bade Biorn, the sheriff, take us to his house for the night,
telling him that he must answer for our safety, and specially that of
the fair lady who had come from so far. And then he gave us a good guard
of his housecarls to take us down the street, as if he feared some danger.
"Why, jarl," said Biorn, "our guests will have a bad night if they think
that in our quiet place they need twenty men to see them to bed thus!"
"Nay, but the town is strange to the lady," answered Sigurd; "and who
knows what she may fear in a foreign land!"
So Biorn laughed, and was content; and we bade farewell to the jarl, and
went out. And then I found that it was to my father's house we were to
go, for it had been given to Biorn.
Now, I was next to Goldberga as we came to the door, and there was a
step into the house which we always had to warn strangers of when it was
dark; and so, in the old way, without thinking for a moment, I said to
her, "One step into the house, sister."
"Ho, Master Radbard, if that is you, you have sharp eyes in the dark,"
said Biorn at once; "I was just about to say that myself."
"I have some feeling in my toes," I answered; and that turned the
matter, for they laughed.
And then, when we were inside, and the courtmen had gone clattering down
the street homewards, Biorn took the great door bar from its old place
and ran it into the sockets in the doorposts, as I had done so many
times; and the runes that my father had cut on it when he made the house
were still plain to be seen on it, with the notches I had made with the
first knife that I ever had. More I will not say, but everywhere that my
eyes fell were things that I knew, even to fishing gear, for it seemed
that Biorn was somewhat of a fisher, like Grim himself.
Then they put me and my brothers into our old loft, and Havelok and
Goldberga had the room that had been my father's. As for Biorn, he would
be in the great room, before the fire. There was only this one door to
the house, and therefore he would guard that. His thralls were in the
sheds, as ours used to be, so that we and he were alone in the house.
Now, as soon as we three had gone into our old place of rest, Raven went
at once, as in the old days, to the little square window that was in the
high-pitched gable, and looked out over the town and sea. We used to
laugh at him for this, for he was never happy until he had seen, as we
said, if all was yet there.
"There are yet lights in the jarl's hall," he said, "and there are one
or two moving about down in the haven. I think that there is a vessel
"Come and lie down, brother," I said. "We are not in Grimsby, and you
cannot go and take toll from her if there is."
He laughed, and came to his bed; but we talked of old days and of many
things more for a long while before we slept. And most of all, we
thought that Sigurd the jarl knew Havelok by the token of the ring and
by that likeness to Gunnar which Mord had seen, and that our errand was
So we slept without thought of any danger; but the first hour of the
night in that house was not so quiet to Goldberga, for presently she
woke Havelok, and she was trembling.
"Husband," she said, "it is in my mind that we are in danger in this
place; for I cannot sleep by reason of a dream that will come to me so
soon as my eyes are closed."
"You are overtired with the voyage," Havelok told her gently; and then
he asked her what the dream was.
"It seems that I see you attacked by a boar and many foxes, and hard
pressed, and then that a bear and good hounds help you. Yet we have to
flee to a great tree, and there is safety. Then come two lions, and they
"I think that is a dream that comes of waves, and the foam that has
followed us, and the shrill wind in the rigging, and the humming of the
sail, sweet wife; and the tree is the tall mast maybe, and the lions are
the surges that you saw along this shore, where is no danger."
So she was content; and then all in the house slept.
CHAPTER XIX. THE LAST OF GRIFFIN OF WALES.
Maybe it was about an hour before midnight when the first waking came to
any of us, and then it was Biorn himself who was roused by footsteps
that stayed at the doorway itself, after coming across the garth, and
then a voice that was strange to him which bade him open. At once he
caught up his axe and went to the door, and asked quietly who was there.
"Open at once," said the man who was without; "we must speak with you."
"Go hence, I pray you, and wait for morning," said the sheriff. "Here
are guests of the jarl's, and they must not be disturbed."
"Open, or we will open for ourselves," was the answer. "We have no time
to stay here talking."
"That is no honest speech," quoth Biorn. "Go hence, or give me your
errand from without."
"Open, fool, or we will have the door down."
"There is an axe waiting for you if you do that. I rede you go hence in
peace, or it may be worse for you in the end."
I suppose it was in the mind of the sheriff that here were some friends
of his who had been overlong at the ale bench in the hall that evening;
but on this there was a little talk outside, and then the crash of a
great stone that was hurled against the door; and at that he started
back and got his mail shirt on him, for the door was strong enough to
stand many such blows yet. It seemed that there was more than a drunken
frolic on hand. Then came another stone against the door, and it shook;
and at the same moment Havelok came from his chamber to see what was
amiss, for the noise had waked him. He had thrown on the feasting gear
that he had been wearing; but he had neither mail nor helm, though he
had his axe in his hand.
"What is the noise?" he said anxiously, seeing that Biorn was arming.
The sheriff told him quickly, and again the door was battered.
"It is a pity that a good door should be spoilt," said Havelok, "for
down it is bound to come thus. Stand you there with the axe, and I will
even save them the trouble of breaking in."
"Nay," said Biorn; "we know not how many are there, and it were better
that you should arm first. There is time."
"Why, they think that you are alone in the house, no doubt, and will run
when they find out their mistake. They are common thieves from the
forest, or outlaws. Stand you by to cut down the first man that dares to
enter, if there happen to be one bold enough."
He set his axe down, and went to the bar, and began to slide it back
into the deep socket that would let it free, and the men outside stayed
their blows as they heard it scraping. It was a very heavy bar of oak,
some seven feet long, and over a palm square.
"Now!" cried Havelok, and caught the bar from its place.
He did not take the trouble to set it down and get his axe; but as the
door opened a little he stood back balancing the great beam in his
hands, as a boy would handle a quarterstaff, ready for the rush of the
thieves that he expected, and so he was in the way of Biorn more or less.
Now there was silence outside, and one saw that the door was free, and
set his foot to it, and flung it open, for it went inwards. And then
Havelok knew that there was a stern fight before him, for the moonlight
showed the grim form of Griffin, the Welsh thane, fully armed and ready.
"Stand back, friend," cried Biorn hastily, fearing for the unarmed man,
and caring nothing that beyond the foremost was a group of some half
dozen more warriors.
But he spoke too late, for as Griffin stepped back a pace on seeing his
enemy himself in the doorway, Havelok had gone a pace forward, and now
was outside, where he had a clear swing of his unhandy weapon.
Now Griffin gathered himself together, and spoke some few words to his
men in his own tongue; but my brother paid no heed to them, for he knew
what the way of the Briton was likely to be. And he was not wrong, for
without warning Griffin flew on him, sword point foremost, and left
handed, for he might not use the right for many a long day yet.
Biorn shouted; but Havelok was ready, and the heavy bar caught and
shivered the light sword, and then swung and hurled the thane back among
his men with a rib broken. Havelok followed that up, falling on the men
even as their leader was among their feet. Two he felled with downright
strokes, and another shrank away in time to save himself from the like
fate. Then a fourth got in under his guard, and wounded Havelok slightly
in the left arm; and unless Biorn had been out and beside him by that
time it would have gone hard with him, for both those who were left were
on him, and another was hanging back for a chance to come.
There was shouting enough now, for the Briton does not fight in silence
as do the northern men, and we had waked. First of all Raven ran down to
the great room, half dazed with sleep, and blaming himself for all this
trouble, for he had seen that a ship was coming in, and he might have
thought it possible that it had brought Griffin and his men, whose
tongue had told him at once what had happened.
Now he called to us to arm quickly, and sought for a weapon for himself;
and in that familiar place he went to the old corner where the oars were
wont to be set. There was one, for I have said that this Biorn was a
fisher, and the place that was handy for us had been so for him. That
was a homely weapon to Raven, and out into the moonlight he came with
it, and swept a Welshman away from Havelok's side as he came. But now
more men were coming--townsfolk who had been roused by the noise--
and they knew nothing of the attackers, and so thought them friends of
ours, who joined us in falling on their sheriff; and there was a wild
confusion when Withelm and I came down armed.
But what we saw first was a dim, white figure in the doorway of the
other room; and there stood Goldberga, wide eyed and trembling.
"My dream, my dream!" she said.
But of that we knew nothing; and we could but tell her to be of good
courage, for we would win through yet, and so went out to the fight.
By this time Griffin was up again, and as I came from the door he was
once more ready to fall on Havelok from behind. So I thought it best to
stay him, and I shouted his name, and he turned and made for me. But
there was no skill in his coming, or he did not think me worth it, for
the axe had the better, and there was an end of Griffin.
Withelm saw at once that Havelok had no weapon but the bar, and he ran
to him and held out his own axe.
"Thanks, brother. Mine is inside the door. Get it for me," said he; but
now he was laughing, and doing not much harm to anyone, and as I got
behind his back I saw why this was.
There was only one of Griffin's men left, and all the rest of the crowd
of half-armed men were townsfolk. Havelok and Raven were keeping these
back with sweeps of their long weapons, and behind them against the wall
was the sheriff, swearing and shouting vainly to bid his people hold off
and listen to him. And the noise was so great that they did but think
that he was calling them to rescue him from these who had taken him
prisoner. It seemed that the Welshman was keeping this up also; but
neither he nor any of the men cared to risk any nearness to the sweep of
bar and long oar in such hands. There were many broken heads in that
crowd; but it was growing greater every minute, and those who were
coming were well armed, having taken their time over it. They say that
there were sixty men there at one time.
Now ran Withelm with the axe, and at that Havelok parted with the door
bar, and ended the last Welshman at the same time, for he hurled it at
him endwise, like a spear, and it took him full in the chest, and he
went down to rise no more. And at that the townsmen ran in, and we were
busy for a space, until once more they were in a howling circle round
us. But they had wounded Havelok again; and Biorn was at his wit's end,
for he had had to take part in the fight this time. The men were mad
with battle, and forgot who he was, as it seemed. And now some raised a
cry for bows.
That was the worst thing that we had to fear, and Raven called to us,
"Into the house, brothers, and keep them out of it till the jarl comes.
He will hear, or be sent for."
So we went back and got into the doorway, and we could not bar it at
first. But Withelm hewed off the blade of Raven's oar, and I went out
and cleared the folk away for a space, and leapt back; and Havelok and I
got the door shut quickly against them as they came back on it, and we
barred it with the oar loom. That was but pine, however, and it would
not last long.
Outside, the people were quiet for a little, wondering, no doubt, how to
rescue Biorn. He wanted to go out to them, but it did not seem safe just
yet. If they grew more reasonable it might be so.
Then, as we rested thus, Goldberga came quickly, for she saw that her
husband was wounded, and she began to bind his hurts with a scarf she
had. She was very pale, but she was not weeping, and her hands did not
shake as she went to work.
"This is my dream," she said. "Was that the voice of Griffin that I
heard? It does not seem possible; but there is none other who speaks in
the old tongue of Britain here, surely."
"There is no more fear of him," said Havelok, looking tenderly at her.
"Your dream has come true so far, if he was in it. How did it end?"
"We fled to a tree," she said, smiling faintly.
Havelok smiled also, for this seemed dream stuff only to all of us--
all of us but Withelm, that is, for at once he said, "This door will be
down with a few blows. What of that tower of yours, Biorn? Might we not
get there and wait till the jarl comes?"
At that Biorn almost shouted.
"That is a good thought, and we can get there easily. Well it will be,
also, for the men are wild now, and there have been too many slain and
hurt for them to listen to reason."
"Bide you here," said Withelm, "for it is we whom they seek. Then you
can talk to them."
But he would not do that, seeing that we had been put in his charge by
"I go with you," he said. "Now, if we climb out of the window that is in
the back of the house we can get to the tower before they know we are gone."
We went into that chamber where Havelok had once been when he was taken
from the sack, and even as I unbarred the heavy shutter and took it
down, the door began to shake with a fresh attack on it. The trees of
the grove were two hundred yards from the house, maybe, and among them
loomed high and black the watchtower I had seen from the sea. A wide
path had been cut to it, and the moonlight shone straight down this to
the door of the building.
Now Biorn went out first, and then he helped out Goldberga, and after
her we made Havelok go; and we called to these three to get to the tower
as Withelm came next, for every moment I looked to see our enemies--if
they are to be called so when I hardly suppose they knew what they were
fighting about--come round to fall on the back of the house.
Because of Goldberga they went; and Biorn opened the tower door, and she
passed into the blackness of its entry, but the two men stayed outside
for us. And we three were all out of the house when the first of the
crowd bethought themselves, and made for the back, and saw us.
At once they raised a shout and a rush, and we did not think it worth
while to wait for them, as they would get between us and the tower,
which was open for us. So we ran, and they were, some twenty of them,
hard at our heels as we reached the door, and half fell inside, for the
winding stairway was close to the entry. I think that Biorn and Havelok
had made their plans as they saw what was coming, for Havelok followed
us and stood in the doorway, while Biorn was just outside with his axe
"Hold hard, friends!" he called, as the men came up and halted before
him; "what is all this?"
"Stand aside and let us get at them," said the foremost, panting.
"Nay," said Biorn; "what harm have they done?"
"Slain a dozen men and lamed twice as many more," answered several
voices; "have them forth straightway."
"They were attacked, and defended themselves," said the sheriff, "and it
is no fault of theirs that they had to do their best. Get you home, and
I will answer to the jarl for them. They are the jarl's guests."
Then was a howl that was strange, and with it voices which seemed to let
some light on the matter.
"They have slain the jarl's guests."
And then came forward a big black-bearded man whom I had seen in the
crowd already, and he squared up to Biorn.
"Lies are no good, master sheriff, for we know that the outlanders who
spoke the strange tongue must be the guests who came."
"I am no liar," answered Biorn. "Is there not one man here who saw the
ship and her folk this afternoon?"
Now this man seemed not to want that question answered, for he shouted
to the crowd not to waste time in wrangling, but to have out the
murderers; and he took a step towards Biorn, bidding him side no more
with the men, but let the folk deal with them.
"You overdo your business as sheriff!" he said.
It was Biorn who wasted no more time, for he saw that here was deeper
trouble than a common riot. He lifted his axe.
"Come nearer at your peril," he said.
Then the black-bearded man sprang at him, and axe met sword for a parry
or two, flashing white in the moonlight. Then one weapon flashed red
suddenly, and it was Biorn's, and back into the tower he sprang as his
foe fell, and Havelok flung the door to, and I barred it.
"Up," said Biorn; and in the dark we stumbled from stair to stair, while
the crowd howled and beat on the door below us. It was good to get out
into the moonlight on the roof, where we could rest. I was glad that the
tower was there instead of Thor, and also that it was strong. It was no
great height, but wide, and the men below looked comfortably far off at
"Here is a fine affair," quoth Biorn, sitting himself down with his back
against the high stone wall round the tower top. "It will take me all my
time to set this right."
"You have stood by us well, friend," Havelok said, "and it is a pity
that you have had to share our trouble so far as this. Who was the man
who fell on you?"
"That is the trouble," answered Biorn, "for there will be more noise
over him than all the rest. He was Hodulf's steward, the man who gathers
the scatt, and therefore is not liked. And all men know that there was
no love lost between him and me."
"Hodulf's man," said I; "how long has he been here, and is he a Norseman?"
For I knew him. He was the man who had spoken to me at the boat side
when we had to fly--one, therefore, who knew all of the secret of Havelok.
"Ay, one of the Norsemen who came here with the king at the first, and
is almost the last left of that crew. I suppose that you have heard the
We had, in a way that the honest sheriff did not guess, and I only
nodded. But I thought that we had got rid of an enemy in him, and that
Griffin had fallen in with him on landing, and known him, and taken him
into his counsel about us. He would have gone down to see the vessel and
collect the king's dues from her and from us at the same time. He had
not come into the town till late, as we heard afterwards.
There was no time for asking more now, however, for the shouts of the
men round the door ceased, and someone gave orders, as if there was a
plan to be carried out. So I went and looked over on the side where the
door was to see what was on hand.
It was about what one would have expected. They had got the trunk of a
tree, and were going to batter the door in. But now we were all armed,
for Raven had brought Havelok's gear with him when he fetched his own.
He had thought also for Goldberga, and she was sitting in the corner of
the tower walls wrapped in a great cloak that she had used at sea, with
her eyes on her husband, unfearing, and as it seemed waiting for the end
that her dream foretold.
I called the rest, and we looked down on the men. They saw us, and an
arrow or two flew at us, badly aimed in the moonlight.
"Waste of good arrows," said Havelok; "but we must keep them from the
"Would that the jarl would come," growled Biorn, "for I do not see how
we are to do that."
"If they do break in," said I, "any one can hold a stairway like this
against a crowd."
"I do not want to hurt more of these," answered Havelok, looking round
him. And then his eyes lit up, and he laughed. "Why, we can keep them
back easily enough, after all."
He went to the tower corner, and shouted to the men below. Four or five
had the heavy log that they were to use as a ram, and they were just
about to charge the door with it, and no timber planking can stand that
sort of thing.
"Ho, men," he cried; "set that down, or some of you may get hurt."
They set up a roar of laughter at him as they heard, and then Havelok
laid hold of the great square block of stone that was on the very corner
of the wall, and tore it from its setting.
"Odin!" said Biorn, as he saw that, "where do they breed such men as this?"
"Here," answered Withelm, looking at the sheriff.
Now Havelok hove up the stone over his head, and a sort of gasp went up
from the crowd below. One saw what was coming, and ran to drag back the
men with the beam, and stopped short before he reached them in terror,
crying to them to beware. But their heads were down, and they were
starting into a run.
"Halt!" cried Havelok, but they did not stay. "Stand clear!" he shouted
in the sailor's way.
And then he swung the stone and let it go, while those who watched fled
back as if it was cast at them. Down is crashed on the attackers,
felling the man whom it struck, and dashing the timber from the grasp of
the others, so that one fell with it across his leg and lay howling,
while the rest gathered themselves up and got away from under the tower
as soon as they might.
Now no man dared to come forward, and that angered Havelok.
"Are you going to let these two bide there?" he said. "Pick the poor
knaves from under the stone and timber, and see to them."
But they hung back yet, and he called them "nidring."
Thereat two or three made a step forward, and one said, "Lord, let us do
as you bid us, and harm us not."
"You are safe," he answered, and Biorn laughed and said that this was
the most wholesome word that he had heard tonight.
"Lord, forsooth! Mighty little of that was there five minutes ago."
But it was not the terrible stone throwing only that wrung this from
them, as I think. They had seen Havelok in his arms, with the light of
battle on his face in the broad moonlight, and knew him for a king among
They took the hurt men from under the tower, and then crowded together,
watching us. And some man must needs loose an arrow at us, and it rang
on my mail, and that let loose the crowd again. Soon we had to shelter
under the battlement, but they were not able to lodge any arrows among
us, for that is a bit of skill that needs daylight. Then they dared to
get to the timber once more, and we saw them coming.
Havelok took his helm, and set it on his sword point, and raised it
slowly above the wall, and that drew all the arrows in a moment. Then he
leapt up, and tore the stone from the other corner; and again, but this
time without warning, it fell on the men below, and that wrought more
harm than before. But it stayed them for a time, though not so long, for
now their blood was up, and the berserk spirit was waking in them.
Already the third stone was poised in the mighty hands, and would have
fallen, when there was a cry of, "The jarl! the jarl!" and along the
path into the clearing galloped Sigurd himself, with his courtmen
running behind him, and he called on the men to stay.
They dropped the beam at the command, and were silent. And Sigurd looked
up at the tower, and saw who was there, and stayed with his face raised,
motionless for a space. I minded how Mord had stared and cried out when
first he saw Havelok, the son of Gunnar, in his war gear.
"Biorn! where is Biorn?" cried Sigurd, looking back on the crowd as if
he thought he would be there.
"Here am I, jarl," came the answer, and the sheriff looked out from
"What is all this?"
"On my word, jarl, I cannot tell. Here have I been beset in my own
house, and but for your guests some of us would have come off badly.
There were outlanders who fell on us, and, as I think, stirred up the
folk to carry on the business, telling them that we had slain ourselves,
as one might say, for it was the cry that we had slain the jarl's guests."
"O fools, to take up the word of a chance stranger against that of your
own sheriff!" Sigurd cried, facing the people.
"Nay, but the steward said so likewise," cried some.
"Hodulf's steward?" said the jarl suddenly; "where is he?"
"Yonder. Biorn slew him."
"He was leading this crowd," said Biorn from above, "tried to force his
way into the tower past me, and would not be warned."
"What of the outlanders?"
"All slain. Seven Welshmen they were."
Then I said plainly, remembering that the jarl would have known him,
"Their leader was Griffin, who came with Hodulf at the first. What
brought him here, think you, Sigurd the jarl?"
But Sigurd looked round on the people, and scanned them for a long time,
and at last he said, in a hush that fell when he began to speak, "Men
who mind the old days, look at the man whom you have sought to kill, and
say if there is that about him which will tell you why Hodulf's men have
set you on him thus."
Then the white faces turned with one accord to Havelok, as he stood
resting the great cornerstone on the battlement before him, and there
grew a whisper that became a word and that was almost a shout from the
many voices that answered.
"Gunnar! Gunnar Kirkeban come again!"
Then was silence, and the jarl spoke to Havelok.
"Tell us your name, and whence you come."
"Havelok Grimsson of Grimsby men call me," he said.
And then men knew who he was indeed, for little by little the secret had
been pieced together, if not told from the king's place, in the years
that had passed. And at that there rose and grew a murmur and a cry.
"Havelok, son of Gunnar! Havelok the king!"
Then said Sigurd in a great voice, "Who is for Hodulf of us all? Let no
man go hence who is for him."
And I saw two or three men cut down then and there, and after that there
was a roar of voices that called for Havelok to lead them.
"Come down, lord," said Sigurd, unhelming and looking up.
So we went from the tower, and round Havelok the men crowded, kissing
his hand and asking pardon for what they had wrought in error; and
Sigurd dismounted and knelt before him, holding forth his sword hilt in
token of homage, that his king might touch it.
"Only Havelok son of Gunnar dares call himself son of Grim also, and in
that word all the tale is told. But I have known you from the first by
the token of the ring and by this likeness. Yet I waited for you to
speak, and for the time that should be best; and now that has come of
itself, and I am glad."