Part 5 out of 5
So said Sigurd, as we went from the tower to the hall, with the townsmen
at our heels in a wondering crowd. There were many among them who would
show the wounds that Havelok had given them with pride hereafter, as
tokens that they had known him well.
Then we stayed on the steps of the hall door, and the jarl called out
man by man, and the war arrow was put in their hands with the names of
those men who waited for the coming of Havelok, that all through the
night the message that should bring him a mighty host on the morrow
should go far and wide.
And the gathering word was, "Come, for the horn of the king is sounding."
Then Sigurd said, "Speak to the people, my king, and all is done."
So Havelok smiled, and lifted his voice, and spoke.
"Stand by me, friends, as steadfastly as you have fought against me, and
I shall be well content. And see, here is the queen for whom you will
fight also. There is not one of you but will play the man under her eyes."
Not many words or crafty, but men saw his face, and heard that which was
in the voice, and they needed no word of reward to come, but shouted as
we had shouted when the bride came home to Grimsby, and I thought that
with the shout the throne of Hodulf was rocking.
CHAPTER XX. THE OWNING OF THE HEIR.
Worn out we were with that long fight, and we all had some small wounds
--not much worth speaking of; and when these were seen to, we slept.
Only my brother Raven waked, and he sat through all the rest of the
short night on the high place, with his sword across his knees,
watching, for he blamed himself, overmuch as we all thought, for the
happenings of the attack.
"Trouble not, brother, for we were in the keeping of Biorn, and he could
not have dreamt that foes could follow us over seas. It was not for you
to be on guard."
These were Withelm's words, but for once Raven did not heed them.
"Would Grim, our father, have slept with a lee shore under him, leaving
a stranger to keep watch? That is not how he taught me my duty; and I
have been careless, and I know it. I should have thought of Griffin when
I saw the ship come in."
So he had his way, and the last that I saw ere my eyes closed was his
stern form guarding us; and when I woke he was yet there, motionless,
with far-off eyes that noted the little movement that I made, and
glanced at me to see that all was well.
In the grey of the morning the first of the chiefs to whom the arrow had
sped began to come in; but the jarl would not have Havelok waked, for he
was greatly troubled at the little wounds that had befallen this
long-waited guest. So the chiefs gathered very silently in the great
hall, and sat waiting while the light broadened and shone, gleam by
gleam, on their bright arms and anxious faces. It was not possible for
those who had not yet seen Havelok to be all so sure that it was indeed
he. They longed to see him, and to know him for the very son of Gunnar
Presently there were maybe twenty chiefs in the hall--men who had
fought beside Kirkeban, and men who had been boys with Havelok, and some
who had known his grandfather--and the jarl thought that it was time
that they had the surety that they needed, for time went on, and there
was certainty that Hodulf must hear of all this morning. One could not
expect that no man would earn reward by warning him.
So Sigurd went softly to the place where Havelok lay in the little guest
chamber that opened out of the inner room that was the jarl's own, and
he slid the boards that closed it apart gently and looked in to wake
him. But instead of doing that, he came back to the hall and beckoned
the chiefs, and they rose and followed him silently. And when they went
Raven went also, without a word, that he might be near his charge while
these many strangers spoke with him.
Now Sigurd stood at the spot where the little shifting of the sliding
board made it possible to see within the chamber, and one by one the
chiefs came and peered through the chink for a moment, and stood aside
for the next. And it was wondrous to see how each man went and looked
with doubt or wonder or just carelessly, and then turned away with a
great light of joy on his face and a new life in the whole turn and sway
of the body.
It was dark in the chamber, save for the dim spaces under the eaves that
let in the sweet air from the sea to the sleepers. But from somewhere
aloft, where the timbering of the upper walls toward the east had
shrunk, so that there was a little hole that faced the newly-risen sun,
came the long shaft of a sunbeam that pierced the darkness like a
glorious spear, and lit on the mighty shoulder of Havelok that lay bare
of covering, and on the white hand of Goldberga that was across it. And
on the one they saw the crimson bent-armed cross that was the mark of
the line whence he and his father had sprung, and on the other glowed
and flashed the blood-red stone of the ring of Eleyn the queen. And
round that circle of sunshine was light enough for the chiefs to see
those two noble faces, and they were content.
"Gunnar's son," said one old chief: "but were he only the son of Grim,
for those twain would I die."
So the warriors crept back to the hall silently as they had come; and
now they went out to their men and told them that all doubt had gone,
and along the road that led to Hodulf's town the jarl sent mounted men
to watch for his coming. And always fresh men were pouring in, and among
them went the chiefs who had seen Havelok, and told them the news.
Now it was not long before there was a gathering of all the chiefs in
the hall of Sigurd, that they might break their fast, and then they saw
Havelok as he led in the princess to meet them. He stood on the high
place in his arms, and a shout of greeting went up; and when it was
over, Sigurd asked him to tell all that had happened to him; and he did
that in as few words as might be, for he was no great speaker, though
what he did say was always to the point, and left little to be asked.
And when he had ended, there rose up a grey-headed old chief, and said,
"Give this warrior the horn of Gunnar, that we may hear him wind it. I
would not say that unless I were sure that he was the right man to have it."
Now I stood beside Havelok, and while Sigurd went from the hall to some
treasure chamber to get this that had been asked for, I said to him,
"Mind you the day when we met Ragnar. and a call came into your dream?
Wind that call now; for, if I am not wrong, it will be welcome to those
who knew your father."
"I mind the day but not the call. I have never remembered it since," he
said, and I was sorry.
Sigurd brought the horn, and it was a wondrous one, golden and heavy. It
seemed to be a hunting horn, not very long, and little curved, but from
end to end it was wrought with strange figures of men and beasts in
rings that ran round it.
"Have you seen this before?" asked Sigurd wistfully, and looking into
Havelok's face as he gave it into his hand.
One could feel that men waited his answer, and it came slowly.
"Ay, friend, I am sure that I have, but I cannot yet say when or where.
I am sure that it is not the first time that I have had it in my hand."
And as he said this, Havelok's face flushed a little, and his brow
wrinkled as if he tried to bring back the things of that which he had
thought his dream for so long.
It would seem that in the years there had grown up a tale that this was
a magic horn, which none but the very son of Gunnar could wind, and to
the chiefs who saw Havelok now for the first time this was a test to
prove him. But all knew that the words he spoke of it were proof enough,
for a pretender would have said plainly that it had been Gunnar's, and
that he knew it. I think that Sigurd was wise in what he did next, for
he set another horn in my brother's hand, and asked him the same
question; and at this Havelok looked for a moment and shook his head.
"I have not seen that one before, nor one like it. I am sure that I have
seen this, or its fellow."
At that the faces that watched brightened, for there was no doubt in the
way that Havelok spoke; and then the old chief who had asked for the
horn said, "That--'The horn of the king is sounding'--was the
gathering word of the night that has brought us here, and long have we
waited for it. Let Havelok wind his father's horn, that we may hear it
Then Havelok set it to his lips, and at once the call that he had
remembered came back to him, and clear and sweet and full of longing its
strange notes rang under the arched roof, unfaltering until the last;
and then over him came the full remembrance of all that it had been to
him, and he turned away from the many eyes and sank on the high seat,
and set his head in his arms on the table, that men might not see that
he needs must weep; and Goldberga stepped a little before him, and set
her hand on his, for I think that she knew the loneliness that came on him.
Yet he was not alone in his sorrow, for down in the hall were men to
whom the lost call brought back the memory of a bright young king riding
to his home, and calling the son whom he loved with the call that he had
made for him alone; and they saw the fair child running from the hall,
and the mother following more slowly with smiles of welcome; and they
saw the grim courtmen, who looked on and were glad; and they minded how
they had lifted the boy to the war saddle; and their eyes grew hot with
tears also, and they had no need to be ashamed.
And as men stood motionless, with the last notes of the wild horn yet
ringing in their ears, there drifted a shadow across the days, and, lo!
beside Havelok, with his hand on his shoulder, stood the form of Gunnar
the king for a long moment, bright as any one of us who lived, in the
morning sunlight, and his face was full of joy and of hope and promise
for the time to come. And then he passed, but as he faded from us his
hand was on the hand of Goldberga that clasped her husband's, as though
he would wed them afresh there on the high place of his friend's hall.
Now there went a sigh of wonder among the chiefs, and Havelok looked up
as if he followed the going of one whom he would not lose, and I know
that he saw Gunnar after he was unseen to us.
"Surely," he said, "surely that was my father who was here?"
And Sigurd answered, "With your own call you called him, and he was here."
But now the last lurking doubt was gone, and there was no more delay,
for the chiefs crowded with shouts of joy to the high place, and they
knelt to Havelok and hailed him as king then and there; and so they led
him to the great door of the hall, and the mightiest of them raised him
high on a wide shield before all the freemen who waited on the green
that is round the jarl's house, and they cried, "Skoal to Havelok the king!"
And there was in answer the most stirring shout that a man may hear--
the shout of a host that hail the one for whom they are content to die.
That was the first day of the reign of Havelok the king; and now there
were two kings in the land, and one was loved as few have been loved,
and the other was hated. And one was weak in men, as yet, while the
other was strong.
Now Sigurd bade all those who were present gather in solemn Thing, that
they might make Havelok king indeed; and that was a gathering of all the
best in our quarter of the land, so that all would uphold what they had
done. And when they were gathered in the great hall in due order, the
doors were set wide open, and outside the freemen who followed the
chiefs sat in silence to see what they might and hear.
Then swore Havelok to keep the ancient laws and customs, and to do
even-handed justice to all men, and to be bound by all else that a good
king should hold by. Sometimes these oaths are not kept as well as they
might be, but I was certain that here was one who would keep them.
Thereafter Sigurd brought forth a crown that he had had made hastily by
his craftsmen from two gold arm rings, and they set it on Havelok's
head, and hailed him as king indeed; and one by one the chiefs came and
swore all fealty to him, beginning with Sigurd, and ending with a boy of
some seventeen winters, who looked at the king he bent before as though
he was Thor himself.
Then they would have had Havelok forth to the people at once; but he
bade them hearken for a moment, and said, taking Goldberga by the hand,
"Were it not for this my wife, I do not think that I had been here
today, and without her I am nothing. Now I am king by your word, and I
think that I might bid you take her as queen. But I had rather that she
was made queen by your word also, that whither I live or fall in the
strife that is to come, you may fight for her."
At that there was a murmur of praise, and all agreed that she should be
crowned at once. So Havelok set the crown on her head while the chiefs
in one voice swore to uphold her through good and ill, as though she
were Havelok himself.
Then said Havelok, "Now have you taken her for queen for her own sake,
and I will tell you a thing that has not been heard here as yet. On this
throne sits the queen of two lands, and there shall come a day when you
and I shall set your lady on that other throne which is hers by right.
King's daughter she is, for Ethelwald of the East Angles was her father,
and out of her right has she been kept by Alsi of Lindsey, her evil
At that men were glad, for great is the magic of kingly descent. And
thereupon that old warrior who had bidden Havelok sound the horn said,
"We have heard of Ethelwald the good king, and of this Alsi moreover,
and we know men who have seen both, and also Orwenna, the mother of our
own queen here. I followed your father across the seas in the old days,
and I seem to hear his voice again as you speak to us. And I saw him--
ay, I saw him yonder even now, and I am content. When the time comes
that for the sake of Goldberga you will gather a host and cross the
'swan's path,' I will not hold back, if you will have me."
There was spoken the mind of all that company, and they were not
backward to say so. For in the heart of the Dane is ever the love of the
sea, and of the clash of arms on a far-off strand that comes after
battle with wind and wave.
Very bravely did Goldberga thank the chiefs for their love to her
husband and herself in a few words that were all that were needed to
bind the hearers to her, so well and truly were they chosen. And she
said that if the Anglian land was to be won it was for Havelok and not
for herself altogether, and she added, "Here we have spoken as if
already Hodulf was overthrown, and it is good that we are in such brave
heart. Yet this has been foretold to me, and I am sure that there will
be no mishap."
Then Sigurd said, "What gift do we give our queen, now that she has come
But Goldberga replied, "If it is the custom that one shall be given, I
will mind you of the promise hereafter, when Anglia is won, and you and
I are Havelok's upholders on that throne. There is one thing that I will
ask then, that a wrong may be righted."
"Nay, but we will give you some gift now, and then you shall ask what
you will also."
"You have given me more than I dared hope," she said, "even the brave
hearts and hands that have hailed us here. I can ask no more. Only
promise to give me one boon when I need it, and I am happy."
Then they said, "What you will, and when you will, Goldberga, the queen.
There is naught that you will ask amiss."
Now they showed Havelok to the warriors as crowned king, and I need not
tell how he was greeted. And after that we all went back into the hall
to speak of the way in which we were to meet Hodulf.
Havelok would have a message sent to him, bidding him give up the land
"It may be that thus we shall save the sadness of fighting our own
people, though, indeed, they love the playground of Hodulf. He is an
outlander, and perhaps he may think well to make terms with us."
Some said that it was of no use, but then Havelok answered that even so
it was good to send a challenge to him.
"For the sake of peace we will do this, though I would rather meet him
in open fight, for I have my father to avenge."
Now I rose up and said, "Let me go and speak with him, taking Withelm as
my counsellor. For I know all the story, and that will make him sure
that he has the right man to fight against. I will speak with him in
open hall, and more than he shall learn how he thought to slay Havelok."
All thought that this was good, and I was to go at once. It was but a
few hours' ride, as has been said, to his town, and the matter was as
well done with.
So they gave me a guard of twenty of the jarl's courtmen, and in half an
hour I was riding northward on my errand. And to say the truth I did not
know if it was certain that I should come back, for Hodulf was hardly to
I did wait to break my fast, and that was all, for I had no mind to
spend the night on the road back from the talk that I should have had;
but though I wasted so little time, the people were already beginning to
prepare for rejoicing in their own way with games of all sorts and with
feasting in the open. I saw, as we rode down the street, the piles of
firewood that were to roast oxen whole, and near them were the butts
that held ale for all comers. There were men who set up the marks for
the archers, and others who staked out the rings for the wrestling and
sword play. And as we left the town we met two men who led a great brown
bear by a ring in his nose, for the baiting. I was sorry for the poor
beast, but the men called him "Hodulf," already, and I thought that a
good sign in its way.
Another good sign, and that one which could not be mistaken, was to see
the warriors coming in by twos and threes as the news reached them. They
were dotted along the roads from all quarters, and across the heaths we
saw the flash of the arms of more.
And ever as they met us they hailed us with, "What cheer, comrades? Is
the news true? Is Havelok come to his own?" and the like, and they would
hurry on, rejoicing in the answer that they had.
But I will say that presently, when we passed a stretch of wild moor
where we saw no man, the same was going on towards the town of Hodulf;
for if the news came to a village, some would be for the king that was,
and other and older men for the king that might be. Yet all asked that
question; and more than once, when they heard the reply, there would be
a halt and a talk, and then the men would turn and cast in their lot
with the son of Gunnar, hastening to him with more eager steps than had
taken them to Hodulf.
CHAPTER XXI. THE TOKEN OF SACK AND ANCHOR.
It seemed only the other day that I had passed over the well-known ways,
and I showed Withelm the hollow where Grim had met with the king and
taken his precious burden from him. Then we passed along the wild shore,
and the linnets were singing and the whinchats were calling as ever, and
the old mounds of the heroes of the bygone were awesome to me now as
long ago, when I looked at them standing lonesome along the shore with
only the wash of the waves to disturb them. And so we came to the town
at high noon, and already there was the bustle of a gathering host in
the place, for the news had fled before us.
They had built a new and greater hall in place of that which had been
burned; and there sat Hodulf with his chiefs, wondering and planning,
and maybe waiting for more certain news of what had happened. Not long
would they wait for that now.
We rode to the door, and one came to meet us with words of welcome,
thinking that we were men who came to the levy that was gathering; but
his words stayed when I asked to be taken to the presence of Hodulf, as
I came with a message from Havelok Gunnarsson the king.
The man, chamberlain or steward, or whatever he was, stared at me, and
said in a low voice, "It is true then?"
"True as I am Radbard Grimsson, who helped Havelok to fly from hence."
"Unwelcome will you be, for Hodulf is in no good mood," the man said. "I
hardly think it safe for you to trust yourself with him."
"Then," said I, "open the door of the hall, and I will go in with my
men, and see what he says."
"Well, that will be bad for me, but I have a mind to see Havelok."
So I told Withelm to come at my side, and bade half the courtmen follow
us closely, and when they were inside to see that the door was not
barred after us on any pretence. The rest would bide with the horses
Then we loosed the peace strings of our weapons, and in we went, quietly
and in order; and the chiefs turned to look at us, thinking us more of
themselves. Hodulf sat on his place on the dais, and there were
thirty-one others with him, sitting on the benches that were set along
the walls. Withelm counted them.
Then the door was closed, and the man with whom I had spoken set his
back against it, but it was not barred; and I went forward to the steps
of the high place, and stood before Hodulf.
"Well, what now?" he said, seeing that I was a stranger.
"First of all, I ask for safe conduct from this hall as a messenger from
king to king."
"That you have, of course," he answered. "What is your message?"
It did not seem that he thought of Havelok at all, but rather that I
came from some king to whom he had sent. There were two living not so
far off. I thought that there was no good in beating about the bush, for
such an errand as mine had better he told boldly. So I spoke out for all
"This is the word of Havelok, son of Gunnar the king, to Hodulf of
Norway, who sits in his place. Home he has come to take his own, and now
he would tell you that the time has come that he is able to rule the
kingdom for himself."
"And what if he has?" said Hodulf, without the least change of face, as
if he had been expecting this, and nothing more or less.
But if he was quiet, the chiefs had heard my words in a very different
way. Some had leaped up, and others bent forward, to hear the answer to
my words the better. I heard one or two laugh; but there were some on
whose faces seemed to be written doubt and anxiety. I think that some
would have spoken, for Hodulf held up his hand for silence, and looked
to me for answer.
"It will be well for you to give up the throne to him, making such terms
as you may," I said.
"That is a fair offer," said Hodulf, quite unmoved, to all seeming, but
looking at me in a way that told me how his anger was held back by main
force, as it were; "but how am I to know that this one who sends so bold
a message is the real Havelok? I am not a fool that I should give up my
throne to the first who asks it. Doubtless you bring some token that you
come from the very son of Gunnar."
"It is right that you should ask one, and also that you should have one
that there can be no mistaking," I said. "This is it. By the token of
the sack and the anchor I bid you know that Havelok sends me to you."
At that the face of Hodulf became ashy grey beneath the tan of wind and
sea, and I saw that his hand clutched the hilt of his sword so that the
knuckles of his fingers grew white. He had never thought to hear of that
deed again, and he knew that he had to deal with the one whom he had
thought dead. Some of the young chiefs in the hall laughed at that
token, but he flashed a glance at them which stayed the laugh on their lips.
"I know not what you mean," he said, altogether staggered.
"It is right," I said, "that if the token is not plain I should make it
so. It is but fair also to the chiefs who are here."
Then he stayed me. True it is that old sin makes new shame.
"I will take it as enough," he said hastily. "I mind some old saying of
the kind. Ay, that is it--a hidden king and a voyage across the sea.
It is enough."
"Not enough," said a chief in the hall close to the high seat. "Let this
warrior say what he means plainly."
There were many who agreed to this, and I did not wait for Hodulf any
longer. I told them who I was, and then showed them why that token was
to be held enough for any man; and as I spoke, there were black looks
toward the high seat among the older men. As for Hodulf, he sat with a
forced smile, and seemed to listen indulgently, as to a well-made tale.
And after that the matter was out of my hands, for the same chief who
had asked for the tale came and stood by my side, and he faced Hodulf
"For twelve years have I served you as king, and now I know that I have
wasted the faith I gave you. What became of the sisters of Havelok?
Answer me that, Hodulf, or I will go and ask their brother concerning
whom you have lied to me."
"Go and ask him," answered Hodulf, biting his lips; "go and hear more
lies. Who can know the son of Gunnar when he sees him?"
"That is answered out of your own mouth," said the chief. "Is Sigurd a
fool that he should hail the first man who asks him to do so?"
And from beside me Withelm answered also, "Maybe it is a pity that
Griffin of Wales was slain last night in trying to kill Havelok. He knew
him, and I have heard that he came here to warn Hodulf that his time was
Hodulf's face grew whiter when he heard that; but it was what he needed,
as some sort of excuse to let loose his passion.
White and shaking with wrath and fear, he rose up and he cried,
"Murdered is Griffin! Ho, warriors, let not these go forth!"
Whereon the old chief lifted his voice also, "Ho, Gunnar's men! Ho, men
who love the old line! To Grim's son, ahoy!"
And he drew his sword, snapping the thongs that had bound it to the
sheath, so manfully tugged he at them in his wrath, and there was a rush
of men to us, and another to Hodulf.
Now I think that we might have slain him there, and after that have been
slain ourselves, for the odds were against us, even though I had the
courtmen; but that was Havelok's deed to do, for the sake of father and
sisters to be avenged, and so we only cut our way out of the hall to the
door, which my men threw open at once. There were two of Hodulf's men
hurt only, for the most of them had run to the high place, and few were
between us and our going. So we took five chiefs and their followers
back with us, and that was worth the errand.
We thought that it would not be long now before Hodulf was on us; but
the days passed, and there was no news of him, and all the while we grew
stronger. I do not know if the same could be said of him, and it is
doubtful if time made much difference to his forces. Those who followed
him were the men who owed all to him, either as men raised to some sort
of power when he first came, or else strangers whom he had brought in
with him. Some of the younger chiefs of the old families held by him
also, for they had known no other, and then there were old feuds with
Gunnar that held back some from us; but these few took part with neither
So before a week was out we had a matter of six thousand men in and
about the town; and it seemed that, with so good a force, it was as well
to march on Hodulf as to wait for him. And that was good hearing for us
all, for there was not a man who did not long to be up and doing, though
to smite a blow for Havelok should be the last deed that he might do.
They made me captain of the courtmen who were Havelok's own, maybe
because I had served with Alsi, and Withelm was captain of Goldberga's
own guard. High honour was that for the sons of Grim, for there was not
one in either of these companies but was of high birth; but then we were
Havelok's brothers, and all seemed well content to serve under us. I
wanted Raven to be in my place, but he said that he was no warrior on shore.
"Just now I am Havelok's watchdog, to be at his heels always. Presently,
if he likes to give me a ship when we sail to England, that will suit me."
So Havelok made him his standard bearer; and as that would keep him at
the king's side in the thickest fight, he was well pleased. Goldberga
wrought the standard that he bore, with the help of Sigurd's wife, and
on it was the figure of Grim, sword and shield in hand, but with his
helm at his feet, as showing that he had laid it by; and on either side
of him stood Havelok and his wife, each with a crown above their heads,
as though they waited for the coming time when they should be set there
firmly by the bearing forward of this banner. Havelok bore his axe,
holding out the ring to Goldberga with the other hand, while she had her
sceptre in the left, and stretched the right hand to her husband. There
were runes that told the names of these three, for that is needful in
such work, as it passes the skill of woman to make a good likeness, nor
do I think it would be lucky to do so if it could be compassed. Wondrous
was the banner with gold and bright colours, and it was hung from a
gilded spear, ashen hafted, and long, that it might be seen afar in battle.
Now on the day when Havelok set his men in order for the march on Hodulf
word came that he was coming at last. It is likely that he knew we were
on the point of marching, and would choose his own ground on which to
wait for us. So we went to certain battle, as it seemed, and none were
sorry for that. So in the bright sunshine of a cloudless morning Havelok
and Goldberga rode down the line of the men, who would fight to the
death for them, and those two were good to look on. Day and night
Sigurd's weapon smiths had wrought to make a mail shirt that should be
worthy of a king, and I thought that they had wrought well. They had set
a crown round the helm that they made for him, and Sigurd had given him
a sword that had been his father's at one time, golden hilted, and with
runes on its blue blade. But Havelok would not part with the axe that
Grim had given him, plain as it was, and that was his chosen weapon.
But for once I think that men looked more at her who rode at Havelok's
side than at him, goodly and kingly as he was in the war gear. For
Goldberga had on a silver coat of chain mail, and a little gold circlet
was round the silver helm that she wore, while at her saddle bow was an
axe, on which were runes written in gold, and a sword light enough for
her hand was in a gem-studded baldric from her shoulder. There was a
chief who had given her these, and it was said that they had first of
all belonged to one who had fought as a shield maiden at the great
battle of Dunheidi, by the side of Hervoer, the sister of the mighty
hero Angantyr. His forefather had won them at that time, and now they
were worn by one who was surely like the Valkyries, for no fairer or
more wondrous to look on in war gear could they be than our English queen.
She would have gone even into the battle with Havelok, but that neither
he nor we would suffer. She was to bide here in the town until we came
back in triumph or defeat; and as men looked on her, they grew strong,
that no tears might be for those bright eyes.
Now I left them before the march began, for I and the courtmen were to
go forward and see where the foe was posted, and so bring word again.
And we went some five miles before we saw the first sign of them. Then
on a rise in the wild heath waited a few horsemen, who watched us for a
little while, and then rode away from us and beyond it. We followed
them, and when we came to where they had been, we saw that they had
fallen back on a company of about the same strength as ours, save that
there were more horsemen. I was the only mounted man of my little force,
and that rather to save my strength than because I liked riding. I
should certainly fight on foot, as would Havelok himself, in the old
way. It is not good to trust to the four feet of a horse when one means
We bided where we were, waiting to see what these men did, and soon
beyond them grew the long cloud of dust starred with shifting sparks
that told us that the host of Hodulf was on foot and advancing. It
seemed to me that here we had a good place to meet it, for the land went
down in a long slope that was in our favour, and therefore I set a man
on my horse, and sent him back with all speed to Havelok to bid him
hasten. Our host was not so far behind me, and I could see both from
this hill. We had full time to take position here before Hodulf's army
was in reach.
Now it seemed that the foemen would see what they could also, and they
began to move toward us. It was plain that we should have a small fight
on our own account directly, for I did not mean to let them take our
place. We moved, therefore, toward them, and at that the half-dozen
horsemen made for us at a trot. Then I saw that their leader was Hodulf
We were in a track that led across the hill, and here on the slope it
was worn deep with ages of traffic between the two towns, and on either
side the heather grew thick and high, so that the horsemen could not get
round us. So Hodulf rode forward to where we barred the way, and told me
to stand aside.
"What next?" I asked. "I may as well bid you go back, for I came here to
"Come over to me, and leave this half-crowned kinglet of yours. It shall
be worth your while."
"Hard up for men must you be, Hodulf," said one of my courtmen, laughing.
At that he made a sign to his followers, for they came on us at the
gallop, with levelled spears. We closed up, and hewed the spear points
off, and then dealt with the horses and men who foundered among us, and
they struggled back, leaving three men and four horses in the roadway.
It was bravely done, too, for there were only eight of them, and they
did us no harm beyond a bruise or two. I wished that we had taken or
slain Hodulf, however, for that might have made things easier in the end.
Hodulf got back to his courtmen, and now they came on. At that moment
over the hill behind us rode Havelok and Raven, and saw at once what was
on hand. They had ridden on, but the host was hard after them.
"Send a man to bid the host halt," Havelok said to me, "for we can end
the matter here. Now shall I be hand to hand with Hodulf, even as I
I sent a man back as he bade me, and he stayed the host half a mile
beyond the hill, where they were not seen. Hodulf's army was yet two
miles away across the heath, and none had gone back to hasten it.
Now Havelok went forward, holding up his hand in token of parley, and
his enemy rode from his men to meet him.
"There is much between us, Hodulf," Havelok said, "and we have been
together along this road before. Yet for the sake of the men who follow
us it may be that we can make peace."
"That is for me to say," answered Hodulf, "for you have invaded my land,
and are the peace breaker."
"I might mind you of a blood feud between us two," said Havelok, "but
that is not the business of the host. For the sake of the land I will
say this. Give up the throne that you have held for me, and you shall go
hence with what treasure you have gathered, taking your Norsemen with
you. There will be no shame in doing that, for I am able now to hold the
land for myself."
Hodulf laughed a short laugh.
"Fine talk that for the son of Grim the thrall, who drowned Havelok for
me! 'Nidring' should I be if I gave up to you."
"If things must go in that way, we will settle the matter here and now.
Will you that we fight hand to hand while our men look on, or shall we
go back to them and charge? I like the first plan best myself, as I
would avenge my father and sisters, and also that insult of the way in
which we passed this road together twelve years ago."
So said Havelok, and his words fell like ice from his lips, and he was
very still as he spoke, though the red flush crept into his cheek and
his brows lowered.
And Hodulf did not answer at once. He looked at the towering young
warrior before him, and maybe into his mind there crept the thought of
the children whom he had slain, whom this one would avenge. Well he knew
that the true Havelok was speaking with him, though he would not own it,
and branded my father with the name of thrall for the sake of insult to
his foster son.
At last he said, "We will go back to the men, for you have advantage in
that bulk of yours."
"As you will," answered Havelok. "Twelve years ago that was on your side."
He reined round at once, and touched his horse with the spur without
another glance at his enemy. And then we shouted, and Raven spurred
forward with a great oath, for Hodulf plucked his sword from the
scabbard, and with a new treachery in his heart, rode after our brother
and was almost on him. The shout was just in time, for Havelok turned in
his saddle as the blow was falling.
Quick as light, he took it on the shaft of the spear he carried, and
turned it, wheeling his horse short round at the same time. Lindsey
training was there in that horsemanship of his. Hodulf's horse shot past
as the blow failed, and then Raven seemed to be the next man to be dealt
But Havelok called to him to stand aside, for this was his own fight;
and at that Hodulf had his horse in hand again, and was ready to meet
his foe fairly.
And now Havelok had cast aside the spear, and taken the axe from the
saddle bow; and these two met, unshielded, for neither had time to
unsling the round buckler from his shoulder.
It was no long fight, for now Hodulf's men were coming up, and there
need be no more thought of aught but ending one who was ready to smite a
foul blow before us all shamelessly. Havelok spurred his horse, and the
two met and closed for one moment. Then down went the Norseman with
cleft helm, and the old wrongs were avenged, and there was but one king
in the land.
Then Hodulf's men were on Havelok, but not before Raven was at his back,
and over Hodulf there was a struggle in which Havelok was in peril for a
short time before we closed round him. Well fought the courtmen of the
fallen king, and well fought my men, and we bore them back, fighting
every foot of ground, until there were only five of them left, and these
five yielded in all honour, being outnumbered. Yet ours was a smaller
band by half ere there was an end.
It had not lasted long, and still the host of Hodulf was so far off that
they knew not so much as that there was any fighting. Then we went to
the hilltop, and set the banner there, and our line came on and halted
along the crest.
One hardly need say what wonder and rejoicing there was when it was
known how Hodulf had met his end, and Sigurd and other chiefs went to
where we had fought, and looked on him. And one took the helm, which had
round it the stolen crown, and gave it to Havelok.
"Set it on the standard," he said, "for we may need that it shall be
shown presently. As for Hodulf, bear him aside out of the path of the
host, that we may lay him in mound when all is ended."
One cried that he did not deserve honour of any kind, and there were
some who agreed to that openly. I will not say that I was not one of
them, for I had seen the foul play, and heard the insult to Grim, my father.
But Havelok answered gravely, "He has been a king, and I have not heard
that he was altogether a bad one. All else was between him and me, and
that is paid for by his death. Think only of the twelve years in which
you have owned him as lord, and then you will know that it is right that
he should be given the last honours. You had no feud as had I."
Then they did as he bade them, and that gladly, for the words were
king-like, and of good omen for the days to come. I saw Sigurd and the
older chiefs glance at each other, and it was plain that they were well
Now the host came on, and it was greater than ours; but when there was
no sign of its leader the march wavered, and at last halted altogether.
Whereon some chiefs rode to speak to us, and Havelok met them with his
leaders. He had to speak first, for they could not well ask where Hodulf
was. The helm was a token that told them much.
"I met your king even now," he said, "and I offered him peace and
honourable return to Norway with his property if he would give up the
throne that is mine by right. Maybe I was wrong in thinking that he
might do so, but he refused. There were certain matters between us two,
besides that of the crown, which needed settling; and therefore, after
that, I challenged him to fight on these points, that being needful
before they were done with. So we fought, and our feud was ended. Hodulf
is dead, and his courtmen would not live after him while there was a
chance of avenging his fall. That was before the host came up. Now I
offer peace and friendship to all, and I can blame none who have held to
the king who has fallen. It was not to be expected that all would own me
at once. Only those Norsemen who came with Hodulf or have come hither
since must leave the land, and they shall go in honour, taking their
goods with them. Their time is up; that is all."
It was a long speech for Havelok, but in it was all that could be said.
Long and closely did the chiefs look at him as he spoke, for none of
them had seen him before. His words were not idly to be set aside
either, and they spoke together in a low voice when he had ended.
"This is a matter for the whole host to settle," one said at last. "We
will speak to them, and give you an answer shortly."
"Take one of Hodulf's courtmen with you, that he may tell all of the
fight," Havelok said: "he need not come back."
I gave the man his arms again, for he might as well have them if he stayed.
"Thanks, lord," he said. "Here is one who will tell the truth for Havelok."
Then our host sat down, and we watched the foemen as the news came to
them. We could not hear, of course, for they were a quarter of a mile
away, but if any tumult rose we should be warned in time. They were very
still, however. There was a long talk, and then one chief came back to us.
"I am going to ask a strange thing," he said, "but the men wish to see
Havelok face to face."
Now Sigurd said that this was too great a risk, and even Withelm agreed
But Havelok answered, "The men are my own men, but they are not sure
that I am the right king. It is plain that I am like my father, and
therefore it is safe for me to go."
"That," said the chief, "is what we told them, and what they wish to see."
"Then," said Havelok, "I will come. Bid your men sit down, and bid the
horsemen dismount, and I will ride to them with five others. Then can be
no fear on either side."
"That will do well," said Sigurd; and the chief went back, and at once
the host sat down.
Then Havelok rode to them, and with him went we three and Sigurd and Biorn.
There was a murmur of wonder as he came, and it grew louder as he
unhelmed and stayed before them.
And then one shouted, "Skoal to Havelok Gunnarsson!" and at once the
shout was taken up along the line. And that shout grew until the chiefs
joined in it, for it was the voice of the host, which cannot be
gainsaid; and without more delay, one by one the leaders pressed forward
and knelt on one knee to their king, and did homage to him. Only the
Norsemen held back; and presently, when we were talking to the Danish
chiefs in all friendly wise, they drew apart with their men, and formed
up into a close-ranked body that looked dangerous.
"Surely they do not mean to fight!" said Withelm.
Then one of them shouted that he must speak to the king, and that seemed
as if they owned him at least, so Havelok went to them.
"You have heard my terms," he said, "and I think that they are all that
you could ask. What is amiss?"
"Your terms are good enough," the speaker said, "and we know that our
time is come. But we must have surety that the people will not fall on
us, for we are flying, as it were. And we want the body of our king. We
would not have him buried any wise, as if he was a thrall."
"He shall be given to you, and as for the rest none shall harm you.
Moreover, for that saying about your king I will add this: that if there
are any of you who hold lands to which there is no Danish heir, he shall
take service with me if he will, and so keep them."
So there was no man in all the host who was not content; and that was
the second king-making of Havelok, as it were, for now there was no man
against him. The hosts were disbanded then and there, and we went that
day to Hodulf's town, and took possession of all that had been in his
hands. Then was rejoicing over all the land, for a king of the old line
was on the throne once more, and his way was full of promise.
CHAPTER XXII. KING ALSI'S WELCOME.
Now there was one thing that was in the minds of all of us, and that was
the winning of Goldberga's kingdom for her; but that was a matter which
was not to be thought of yet for a long while. Two years were we in
Denmark, and well loved was Havelok by all, whether one speaks of the
other kings who owned him as Gunnar's heir at once, or the people over
whom he and Goldberga reigned. But we sent messages to Arngeir and to
Ragnar to say that all was well, and we heard from them in time how Alsi
feared what was to come, and had rather make friends with the Anglians
than offend them. So he had not given out anything that was against the
princess, but had told all how she had wedded the heir of Denmark, and
that she had given up her land to himself, and followed her husband
across the sea. It was not hard for him to feign gladness in her
well-doing; and Berthun counselled Ragnar to let things be thus, and yet
prepare for her return.
In my own heart was the wish to go back to England always, for there was
my home; and I found that it was the same with my brothers, for there is
that in the English land which makes all who touch it love it. And there
was the mound that held my father, and there were the folk among whom we
had been brought up in the town that we had made; and I longed to see
once more the green marshes and the grey wolds of Lindsey, and the brown
waves of the wide Humber rolling shorewards, line after line. I tired of
the heaths and forests and peat mosses of this land of my birth. And if
that was so to me, it was a yet deeper longing in the hearts of the
brothers who hardly remembered this place; and after a while we spoke of
it more often.
I do not know if we said much to others, but at last the younger chiefs
began to wonder when the promised time when they should cross the
"swan's path" for Goldberga should come. Maybe they tired of the long
peace, as a Dane will. But when that talk began, Withelm knew that
things were ripe, and he told Havelok. That was in the third spring of
Havelok's kingship, when it grew near to the time when men fit out their
"This is what I have looked for," he said; "and now we will delay no
longer, for here am I king indeed, and there is none who will rise
against me. Wonderful it is that men have hailed me thus. And now I will
tell you, brother, that I long for England. If I might take my friends
with me, I do not think that I should care if I never came here again.
It is not my home; and here my Goldberga is not altogether happy, well
as the folk love her."
Thereafter he called a great Thing of all the
freemen in the land, and set the matter plainly before them, asking if
they minded the words he spoke when they crowned the queen, and if they
were still ready to follow him to the winning of her crown beyond the sea.
There was no doubt what the answer would be; and it was said at once
that the sooner the ships were got ready the better.
"Then," said Havelok, "who shall mind this land while I am away? It may
be long ere I come back."
Now there was a cry that I should be king while Havelok was away,
forsooth! and a poor hand I should have made at the business. But I said
that it was foolishness, and that, moreover, I would go with Havelok.
And when they said that this was modesty on my part, I answered that I
had seen several kings, and that there was but one who was worth
thinking of, and that was my brother; therefore, I would go on serving
him where I could see him.
"This is what Grim, my father, said to me long ago," I said--"I was to
mind the old saying, 'Bare is back without brother behind it;' and,
therefore, I must see Havelok safe through this."
"Why, brother," says Havelok, laughing, "if that saying must be
remembered--and I at least know it is true--it would make for
leaving you behind me here to see all fair when my back was turned."
Then he saw that I was grieved, for I thought for the moment that he
would bid me to stay, and so I should have to do so; but he took my part.
"I cannot be without my brothers," he said. "If I had any word in the
matter--which mainly concerns the folk to be ruled, as it seems to me
(for I do not know of any man who would not uphold me)--I should say
that Sigurd the jarl was the right man, for all know that he is a good
ruler, nor will it be any new thing to submit to him."
That pleased all, and the end of it was that Sigurd was chosen to hold
the land for Havelok.
Then Sigurd sat on the steps of the high place at Havelok's feet, and
the king said, "I have no need to tell any man here who this is, and why
I think him worthy of the highest honour, for all know him and his worth
as well as I. Mainly by him was the thought of my return kept in the
minds of men, so that when the time came all were ready to hail me, as
you have done. Therefore, as by him I am king, so I make him king also
for me. He shall rule all the land while I am away, and to him shall all
men account as to me. And because it is right that his kingship should
be certain, I give him all his jarldom as a kingdom from henceforth,
only subject to me and my heirs as overlord. King therefore he is, and
none can say that you are ruled by naught but a jarl."
Then Havelok girt on the new king's sword, and set his own crowned helm
on his head for a moment; and all the Thing hailed him gladly, for he
was the right man without doubt.
Then Sigurd did homage for his new honour; and after that he rose up,
and grew red and uneasy, as if there was somewhat that he wished to say,
and was half afraid to do so.
Thereat some friend in the hall said, "You take your kingship worse than
did Radbard himself, as it seems. What is amiss?"
"Why, I wanted to go on the Viking path with Havelok, and now it seems
that I cannot."
Then one shouted, "I never heard of a land going wrong while its king
was away risking his life to get property for his men. There is no man
here who is going to rise against either you or Havelok. And it is only
to send a message to our great overlord to say what we are about, and he
will see that the land is in peace. Nor do I think that any king would
harry Havelok's land, for he is well loved by all his peers."
Wherefore it seemed that Sigurd must go also, and we had to set Biorn as
head man while Sigurd was away; but that would only be for a month or
two. So all things were ordered well, and in a month we set sail with
twenty ships, and in them a matter of fifteen hundred men.
At first we thought that we would make for Grimsby; but then it seemed
best to land elsewhere, and more to the south, for we would have
messages sent at once to Ragnar to call East Anglia to Havelok's banner,
and Alsi would have less chance of cutting us off from him. So we sailed
to Saltfleet haven, which lies some twenty-five miles southward from
Grimsby. Raven piloted us in safely, and there were none to hinder our
landing. The town was empty, indeed, when the ships came into the haven,
for all had fled in haste, except a few thralls, for fear of the Vikings.
Yet when we sent these thralls to say that Goldberga had come for her
own, the people came back and made us welcome, for her story was in
every mouth; and after that we fared well in Saltfleet, and men began to
gather to us.
We sent to Arngeir and to Ragnar at once, and next day the Grimsby folk
were with us, but long before any word could come to Norwich, Alsi had
set about gathering a host against us.
But we had not come to fight him for Lindsey, and our errand was to bid
him give up her own rights to Goldberga. One must be ready with the
strong hand if one expects to find justice from such a man; and Havelok
had thought it possible that if we came here first we should bring him
to reason at once, whereas if we went to Norfolk there would be fighting
with all the host of the Lindsey kingdom before long; while if he did
fight here we might save Goldberga's land from that trouble, and maybe
have fewer to deal with.
So a message was to be sent to Alsi at once, bidding him know that
Goldberga had come to ask for her rights, and that he might give them to
her in all honour. Arngeir was to take this, for it did not seem right
that a Dane should do so, and he was one who would be listened to. I was
to go with him, with my courtmen as guard; and we rode to Lincoln on the
fourth day after our coming to Saltfleet. Good it was to ride over the
old land again, and I thought that it had never looked more fair with
the ripening harvest, for when last I had seen it there was none. The
track of the famine was yet on all the villages, for fewer folk were in
them than in the days before the pestilence and the dearth, but these
had enough and to spare.
And when these poor folk heard from us that Curan and his princess had
come again for what was hers, they took rusty weapons and flint-tipped
arrows and stone hammers from the hiding places in the thatch of their
hovels, and went across the marshlands to where the little hill of
Saltfleet stands above its haven, that they might help the one whom they
had loved as a fisher lad to become a mighty king.
So we came to Lincoln, and already there was a gathering of thanes and
their men in the town, and they knew on what errand we had come well
enough. But they were courteous, and we were given quarters in the town
at once, that we might see Alsi with the first light in the morning.
I will not say that we had a quiet night there, for we did not trust
Alsi; but we had no need to fear. In the morning Eglaf came to bid us to
the palace to speak with the king.
"This is about what I expected, when I heard of the mistake that our
king had made," he said, "and so far you are in luck. It is not everyone
who is a fisher one day and captain of the courtmen next, as one might
say. I like the look of your men, and I am going to take some of the
credit of that to myself, for a man has to learn before he can command."
"I will not deny your share in the matter," I answered, laughing, "for
had it not been for my time with you I had been at sea altogether. Now,
shall we have to fight you?"
He shrugged his broad shoulders.
"Who knows what is in the mind of our king? I do not, and you know
enough of him by this time to be certain that one cannot guess. He may
be all smiles and rejoicing that his dear niece has come back safely, or
just the other way. He has been very careful how he has dealt with the
Norfolk thanes of late, and what that means I do not know."
Then he asked what had become of Griffin, and I told him. I do not think
that he was surprised, for some word of the matter had reached here by
the news that chapmen bring from all parts.
Now there was no more time for talk, for we came to the hall; and we
went in, Arngeir leading, and the rest of us following two by two. The
hall was pretty full of thanes and their men, and it was just as I had
last seen it. Alsi sat alone on his high seat, and there was no man with
him on the dais. I thought that he looked thinner and anxious.
Arngeir went up the hall at once, and stood before the king, and greeted
him in the English way, which seemed strange to me after the two years
of Danish customs; and then Alsi bade him tell his errand.
"I have come from Goldberga of East Anglia, and from Havelok the Dane,
her husband, to say that she has returned to her land, and would ask
that you would give her the throne that you have held for her since the
day that her father made you her guardian. It has been said that she
might ask you to give account of your management of the realm to her;
but that she does not wish to do, being sure that all will be rightly
done in the matter, and she only asks to be set in the place that was
So said Arngeir, plainly, and I could see that the thanes thought the
And Alsi answered, "Has this matter been put before the Witan of the
I suppose that he thought to hear Arngeir say that there had been no
time for so doing at present, but my brother was readier than I should
"Doubtless it has," he said, "for that was your own promise to Goldberga
on her marriage."
At that Alsi flushed, and his brows wrinkled. He had said nothing to the
Witan at all, but had waited in hopes that he should hear no more of his
niece, telling the tale that we had heard.
"I have had no answer from them," he said at last, for Arngeir was
looking at him in a way that he could not meet. "It was her saying that
she would do this for herself."
"Then they do not refuse," said Arngeir quietly, "nor did I think that
they would do so. It only remains therefore, that you, King Alsi, should
do your part. Then can the queen speak to the Witan, even as she said,
concerning her husband."
Now it must have been clear to the king that nothing short of a plain
answer would be taken, and he sat and thought for a while. One could see
that he was planning what to say, as if things had not gone as he
expected. Maybe he hoped to put off the matter by talk of asking the
Witan, and so to gain time, for we had certainly taken him unawares.
At last he said, "How am I to know that you are here with full power to
speak for Goldberga? For this is a weighty matter."
Arngeir held out his hand, and on it was the ring of Orwenna the queen,
which Alsi had last seen here on the high place.
"There is the token, King Alsi, and it is one which you know well," he
"Ay, I know it," answered the king with a grin that was not pleasant.
And then he said, "I will speak with my thanes, and give you word to
carry back in an hour's time, now that I know you to be a true messenger."
"There should be no reason for waiting so long as that, nor do I think
that the matter of the throne of East Anglia is a question for Lindsey
thanes," answered Arngeir at once. "All this is between you and the
Thereat one of the thanes rose up and said, "If a kingdom has been
handed over to our king, it is not to be taken again without our having
a good deal to say about it. I do not know, moreover, if we can have a
foreigner over any part of our land."
"Goldberga never gave up her right to the kingdom," Arngeir answered,
"as anyone who was here at the wedding would tell you. And as for
Havelok, her husband, being a foreigner, it seems to me that a Jute who
has been brought up here in Lindsey since he was seven winters old is
less a foreigner than a Briton is to us."
None made any answer to that, and I could see that the king was growing
angry at being met thus at every turn. But he began to smile in that way
of his that I had learned to mistrust.
"That is not altogether courteous to either Goldberga or myself," he
said, as if he would think the words a jest, seeing that he was half
Welsh. "Give me time, I pray you, to think of this, as I have asked, and
you shall go back with your answer."
There was no help for it, and we had to leave the hall in order that
Alsi might say what he had to say to his thanes. And I said to Arngeir
that it seemed that we should have to fight the matter out.
"Alsi risks losing both kingdoms if he does that," he answered, "for we
shall take what we choose if we are the victors. The visions that have
been thus right so far say that we shall be so."
"I shall be glad if we do come out on the right side," I said; "but I
have not so much faith in these dream tellings as some. Nor do I think
that it seems altogether fair to fight on a certainty."
"When it is a matter of punishing one who does not keep faith, I do not
think that it matters much," he answered, laughing. "I should like
certainty that he would not get the best of the honest side in that case."
We were outside on the wide green within the square of the Roman walls
at this time, and now from within the hall came the sound of shouts and
cheering which we heard plainly enough. But whether it meant that the
thanes cheered Alsi because he would fight, rather than that they
applauded his justice to his niece, was not to be known as yet. As for
me, I thought that it was hardly likely to be the latter.
Then came three thanes from the hail with the message, and it was this,
"Alsi bids Havelok go back to his own land and bide content therewith."
"What word is there for Goldberga, then?" asked Arngeir.
"None. She has thrown in her lot with the Dane, and it is he with whom
we will not deal."
Then said I, "How was it that she had to throw in her lot with Havelok?
He was Alsi's own choice for her."
"That is not what we have heard," the spokesman answered. "Now it is
best that you go hence, for you have the answer."
"This means fighting for Goldberga's rights," said Arngeir, "and I will
tell you that Havelok will not be backward in the matter."
"In that case we shall meet again on the battlefield ere long," answered
the thane. "I will not say that Havelok is in the wrong, and things
might have been better settled. Farewell till then. The Norns will show
who is right."
So we went, and I thought, as did Arngeir, that there was some little
feeling among his men that Alsi was wrong.
Now Alsi set to work to gather forces in earnest, and he went to work in
a way that was all his own: for, saying nothing about Goldberga, he sent
to all his thanes with word that the Vikings had come in force and
invaded the land, led by the son of Gunnar Kirkeban, whose ways were
worse than those of his father, for he spared none, whereas Kirkeban
harried but the Welsh Christian folk. He prayed them therefore to
hasten, that this scourge might be driven back to the sea whence he
came. And that brought men to him fast, for no Englishman can bear that
an invader shall set foot on his shore, be he who he may. Few knew who
the wife of Havelok was at that time, but I do not know that it would
have made so much difference if they had. None thought that into England
had come the fair princess who was so well loved.
Sorely troubled was Goldberga when she heard this answer, but it was all
that the rest of us looked for. And the next question was how best to
meet the false king.
In the end we did a thing that may seem to some to have been rash
altogether, but it was our wish to compel Alsi to fight before his force
was great enough to crush us. It might be long before Ragnar could raise
a host and join us, for there was always a chance that he might have
trouble in getting the Norfolk thanes to come to his standard for a
march on Lindsey. If we had gone to Norfolk at once there would have
been no fear of that kind, but the fighting might have been more bitter
and longer drawn out.
We sent the fleet southward into the Wash, that it might wait for us at
the port of the Fossdyke, on what men call the Frieston shore; and then
we left Saltfleet and marched across country to the wolds, and southward
and westward along them, that we might draw Alsi from Lincoln. And all
the way men joined us for the sake of Curan, whom they knew, and of
Goldberga, of whom they had heard, so that in numbers at least our host
was a great one. Ragged it might be, as one may say, with the wild
marshmen, who had no sort of training and no chiefs to keep them in
hand; but I knew that no host Alsi could get together had any such
trained force in it as we had in the fifteen hundred Vikings, for they
had seen many fights, and the ways of the sea teach men to hold together
and to obey orders at once and without hesitating.
So we went until we came to Tetford, above Horncastle town; and there is
a great camp on a hilltop, made by the British, no doubt, in the days
when they fought with Rome. There we stayed, for Alsi was upon us. We
saw the fires of his camp in the village and on the hillsides across the
valley, but a mile or two from us that night; and it seemed that his
host was greater than ours, as we thought it would be, but not so much
so as to cause dread of the battle that was to come.
Now there were two men who came to us that night, and we thought that
they had brought some message from Alsi at first. But all that they
wanted was to join Havelok, and we were glad of them. They were those
two seconds of Griffin's, Cadwal and the other, whose name was Idrys,
and with them was David the priest, who had fled to us.
"We know that Havelok is one who is worth fighting for," they said, "for
we have proved it already. We are not Alsi's men, and our fathers fought
for his mother's Welsh kin against the English long ago. Let us fight
for the rights of Goldberga, at least."
Havelok welcomed them in all friendliness, though he asked them if they
had no grudge against him for the slaying of Griffin.
"As to that," they said, "after the duel we think that he deserved all
that has befallen him. We were ashamed to be his seconds."
Now these two took in hand to lead the marshmen, and set to work with
them at once, for they were ready to follow them as known thanes of the
British. And that was something gained.
We slept on our arms that night, and all night long David woke and
prayed for our success, and I think that his prayers were not lost.
CHAPTER XXIII. BY TETFORD STREAM.
In the early morning Alsi set his men in order in the valley, and seemed
to wait for us to come down to him, for it was of no use to try to take
the strong camp which sheltered us. And so, after council held, we did
not keep him waiting, but left the hill and marched on him. We had the
camp to fall back on if things went the wrong way, and beyond that the
road to the sea and the ships was open, with a chance of meeting Ragnar
on the way, moreover.
Very long and deep seemed the line as we neared it, and it was formed on
the banks of a stream that runs down the valley, so that we must cross
the water to attack. But the stream was shallow now with the August
heat, and it was not much sunk between its banks.
When he saw that, Sigurd, who was a man of many fights, said that we had
better send the marshmen round to fall on the wings of the foe, while we
went straight for the centre of the line in the wedge formation that the
Viking loves. For so we should have no trouble in crossing the stream,
and should cut the force against us in two.
So the two Welsh thanes led their wild levies out on either side of us
Danes, who were in the centre, and then we formed the wedge. Havelok
himself would have gone first of all at its point: but that we would not
suffer, for if he fell the battle was lost at its beginning.
"Nay," he said, "for we fight for Goldberga."
"And what would she say were we to set you foremost of us all?" asked
Withelm. "Little love were there to either of you in that. You are the
heart of the host, and one shields that although it gives strength to
all the hands which obey it."
So Withelm and Arngeir and I went foremost, and behind us came the
courtmen, and in the midst of their shield wall was Havelok, with Raven
and the banner at his side. After them, rank on rank and with
close-locked shields, was such a force as had not been seen in Lindsey
for many a long day. Alsi's men grew very silent as they saw us come on,
until we reached, through a storm of arrows that could not stay us, the
bank of the stream, and then they raised a war song that roared and
thundered among the hills as though the tide was coming up the valley in
one great wave. But we saved our breath until the first of us were on
the banks of the stream, and then I shouted, and with a great shout of
"Ahoy!" in answer, we charged through the stream and up the far bank,
where Alsi's spearmen waited for us.
They crowded together as they saw how narrow our front was, and there
was a hedge of steel before us three brothers; but the spear is not the
weapon to use if one would check the onrush of the Northman's wedge, and
shield and axe between them dashed and hewed a way to the men who got to
their swords too late, and then we were in the midst of Alsi's line,
with the gap that we had made widening behind us with each step that we
Now it was sheer hewing at the mass who crowded on us; and I mind how we
seemed to fight in silence, although the battle cries were unceasing,
and waxed ever louder; for it was as when one walks by the shore and
thinks not at all of the noise of breakers that never ends. Now and then
there was one shout that was new, and it seemed to be the only voice.
Most of all, the noise grew on the wings where the savage Welsh fell on
their masters and ancient foes in wild tumult.
We tried to cut our way to Alsi, for we could see him as he sat on his
horse--the only mounted man in all the hosts; but we could not reach
him. And presently the time came when we who were foremost must let
fresh men take our places. Sigurd stepped to my side, and Withelm fell
back, and another took the place of Arngeir, and then my turn came, and
we went slowly from the front to where the hollow centre of the wedge
gave us rest. Only a few arrows fell there now and then; but the time
for using bows was past, seeing that we were hand to hand with all the
Lindsey host. And then I saw that Sigurd had done what we had failed in,
for he had reached the shield wall that was round the king himself. And
for a moment I was savage that the chance came to him so soon after I
had left the fighting line; but then I minded that Eglaf, my friend,
would be there, and I was glad that I need not cross swords with him
after all. I had thought of that happening before the fight began, but
in the turmoil of hottest struggle I had forgotten it.
Now Sigurd was before the thick mass of the housecarls, and hand to hand
with them; and then he was among them, and he leapt at the bridle of
Alsi's horse and grasped it. I saw the king's sword flash down on his
helm, and he reeled under the stroke, but without letting go of the
rein. Then the housecarls made a rush, and bore back our men, and the
horse reared suddenly. There was a wild shout, and the war saddle was
empty; and again our men surged forward, so that I could not see what
But now our Welshmen had been beaten back from the wings--not easily,
but for want of training--and they were forced back across the brook,
and there held our bank well, giving way no step further. The water kept
them in an even front, against their will, as it were; and Alsi's men
charged them in vain, knee deep in the stream that ran red. But that let
loose the men who had been held back from us; and now we were overborne
by numbers, and we began to go back. That was the worst part of the
whole fight, and the hardest hour of all the battle, as may be supposed,
for the wedge grew closer, as it was forced together by sheer weight.
None ever broke into it.
Presently our rear was on the water's edge, and it seemed likely that in
crossing there might be a breaking of the line; and when he saw that,
Havelok called to me, and he went to the front with the courtmen round
him. It was good to hear the cheers of our men as they saw the dancing
banner above the fight, and beneath it, in the bright sun, the
gold-circled helm of their king. The Lindseymen drew back a foot's pace
as they saw the giant who came on them, and I heard some call that this
was Curan of Grimsby, as if in wonder. Then we had to fight hard, and
Sigurd fell back past me, with a wound on his shoulder where Alsi's
sword had glanced from the helm. No life had been left to Sigurd had a
better hand wielded the weapon; but he was not badly hurt. I could not
see Alsi anywhere, nor Eglaf.
Steadily the numbers drove us back, though before Havelok was always a
space into which men hardly dared to come. The wedge was pushed away
from us, and we had to fall back with it, until we crossed the stream;
and there Sigurd swung the massed men into line, and then came the first
pause in the fight. The two hosts stood, with the narrow water between
them, and glared on each other, silent now. And then the bowmen began to
get to work from either side, until the arrows were all gone.
Now Havelok called to the foe, and they were silent while he spoke to them.
"Is Alsi yet alive?" he said; "for if not, I have no war with his men.
If he is, let me speak with him."
None answered for a while, and the men looked at each other as if they
knew not if the man they were fighting for lived or not.
Then one came forward and said, "Alsi lives, and we have not done with
you yet. Get you back to your home beyond the sea!"
And then they charged us again; but the water was a better front for us
than it had been for them, and across it they could not win. We drove
them back once and twice; and again came a time when both sides were
wearied and must needs rest.
So it went on until night fell. We never stirred from that water's edge,
and the stream was choked with valiant English and hardy Danes; and yet
the attacks came with the shout of "Out! out!" and the answer from us of
At last one who seemed a great chief came and cried a truce, for night
was falling; and he said that if Havelok would claim no advantage
therefrom, the men of Lindsey would get back from the field, and leave
it free for us to take our fallen.
"But I must have your word that with the end of that task you go back to
the place you now hold, that we may begin afresh, if it seems good to
us, in the morning."
Then said Havelok, "That is well spoken, and I cannot but agree. Who are
you, however, for I must know that this is said with authority?"
"I am the Earl of Chester," he answered. "Alsi has set the leading of
the host in my hands, for he is hurt somewhat."
"I did not think that Mercians would have troubled to fight to uphold
Alsi of Lindsey in his ways with his niece," Havelok said.
"What is that?" said the earl. "Hither came I for love of fighting,
maybe, in the first place; and next to drive out certain Vikings. I know
naught of the business of which you speak."
"Then," said I, "go and ask Eglaf, the captain of the housecarls, for he
knows all about it. We are no raiding Danes, but those who fight for
Goldberga of East Anglia."
At that a hum of voices went down the English line, and this earl bit
his lip in doubt.
"Well," he said, "that is Alsi's affair, and I will speak to him. We
have had a good fight, and I will not say that either of us has the best
of it. Shall it be as I have said?"
"Ay," answered Havelok; and the earl drew off his men for half a mile,
and in the gathering dusk we crossed the brook, and went on our errand
across the field. It was not hard to find our men, for they lay in a
great wedge as we had fought. There had been no straggling from that
array, and no break had been made in its lines. Alsi had lost more than
we, for his men had beaten against that steel wall in vain, and the arms
of the Northman are better than those of any other nation.
We took the wounded back to the camp, and there Goldberga and the wives
of our English thanes tended them; and as we gathered up the slain the
Lindsey men were among us at the same work, and we spoke to them as if
naught was amiss between us, nor any fight to begin again in the
morning. And then we learned how few knew what we had come for. It was
with them as with the Earl of Chester. They had no knowledge of
Goldberga's homecoming, and least of all thought that at the back of the
trouble were the wiles of Alsi. It was two years ago that Goldberga had
gone, and her wedding had seemed to end her story. Now the men heard and
wondered; and it is said that very many left Alsi that night and went
home, angry with him for his falsehood.
Now when all was done we sought rest, and weary we were. I will say for
myself that I did not feel like fighting next morning at all, for I was
tired out, and the one or two wounds that I had were getting sorely
stiff. Raven was much in the same case, and grumbled, sailor-wise, at
the weight of the banner and aught else that came uppermost in his mind.
Yet I knew that he would be the first to go forward again when the time
The host slept on their arms along the bank of the stream through the
hot night, and the banner was pitched in their midst. Soon the moon
rose, and only the footsteps of the sentries along our front went up and
down, while across the water was the same silence; for both hosts were
wearied out, and each had learned that the other were true men, and
there was no mistrust on either side. When the light came once more we
should fight to prove who were the best men at arms, and with no hatred
Presently the mists crept up from the stream and wreathed the sleepers
on either bank with white, swaying clouds, and I mind that the last
thought I had before I closed my eyes was that my armour would be rusted
by the clinging damp--as if it were not war-stained from helm to
deerskin shoe already with stains that needed more cleansing than any rust.
Then I waked suddenly, for someone went past me, and I sat up to see who
it might be. The moon was very bright and high now, but the figure that
I saw wading in the white mist was shadowy, and I could not tell who it
was. And then another and yet another figure came from the rear of our
line, and passed among the sleeping ranks, and joined the first
noiselessly; and after a little while many came, hurrying, and they
formed up on the bank of the stream into the mighty wedge. And I feared
greatly, for not one of the sleepers stirred as the warriors went among
us, and I had looked on the faces of those who passed me, and I knew
that they were the dead whom I had seen the men gather even now and lay
in their last rank beyond our line.
Then I saw that on the far bank was gathered another host, and that was
of Alsi's men, and among them I knew the forms of some who had fallen in
the first onset when I led the charge.
I tried to put forth my hand to wake Withelm, but I could not stir, and
when I would have spoken, I could frame no word, so that alone in all
the host I saw the slain men fight their battle over again, step by
step. The wedge of the Northmen won to the far shore as we had won--as
they had won in life but a few hours ago--and into the line of foemen
they cut their way, and on the far side of the stream they stayed and
fought, as it had been in the battle. Yet though one could see that the
men shouted and cried, there was no sound at all, and among the wildest
turmoil walked the sentries of Alsi's host unconcerned and unknowing.
And to me they seemed to be the ghosts, and the phantom strife that
which was real.
Then I was ware of a stranger thing yet than all I had seen so far, for
on the field were more than those whom I knew. There stood watching on
either side of the battle two other ghostly hosts, taking no part in the
struggle, but watching it as we had watched from our place when we fell
back into the rear to rest, pointing and seeming to cheer strokes that
were good and deeds that were valiant. And I knew that these were men
who had fought and died on this same field in older days, for on one
side were the white-clad Britons, and on the other the stern, dark-faced
Romans, steel and bronze from head to foot.
So the battle went onward to where we had won and had been pressed back;
and then, little by little, the hosts faded away, and with them went the
watchers, and surely across the field went the quick gallop of no
earthly steeds, the passing to Odin of the choosers of the slain, the
Then came across the brook to me one through the mist, and the sentries
paid no heed to him, and he came to my side and spoke to me. It was
Cadwal, the Welsh thane, and his breast was gashed so that I thought
that he could not have lived.
"Ay, I am dead," he said, "as men count death, and yet I would have part
in victory over Alsi, for the sake of Havelok and of Goldberga. Stay up
my body on the morrow, that I may seem to fight at least, that I may
bide in the ranks once more in the day of victory. Little victory have
the British seen since Hengist came. Say that you will do this."
Then he looked wistfully at me, and I gave him some token of assent; and
at that came back all the shadows of our men, and seemed to pray the
same. And then was a stir of feet near me, and a shadow across the
trampled grass, and instead of the dead the voice of Havelok spoke
softly to me, and with him was Goldberga, clad in her mail. And I
thought that they and I were slain also, and I cried to this one who
seemed to be one of Odin's maidens that I too would fain be stayed up
with Cadwal and the rest, that I might have part in victory.
Then Goldberga stooped to me, and laid her soft hand on my forehead, and
took off my helm, so that the air came to me, and thereat I woke altogether.
"Brother," she said, "you are restless and sorely wounded, as it seems.
It is not good that you should lie in this mist."
At her voice the others woke, and for a while she talked with us in a
low tone, cheering us. And presently she asked of that strange request
that I had made to her.
I told her, for it was a message that should not be kept back, thus
given; and when he heard it, Withelm sighed a little, and said, "Would
that we had all those who have fallen. Yet if it is as they have asked
our brother, our host will seem as strong as before we joined battle in
the morning. Leave this to me, brother, for it may be done."
Then he rose up and went softly to where Idrys, the friend of Cadwal,
lay, and spoke long with him. It was true that Cadwal was slain, though
I had not yet heard of it until he told me himself thus.
Then I slept heavily, while the others talked for a while. It is a hard
place at a wedge tip when Englishmen are against one; and I am not much
use in a council. Presently they would wake me if my word was wanted.
But it was not needed, for the sunlight woke me. There was a growing
stir in our lines and across the water also, and I looked round. The
mists were yet dense, for there was not enough breeze to stir the heavy
folds of the banner, and Raven slept still with his arm round its staff.
Havelok was not here now, and I thought that he had gone to the camp
with Goldberga, and would be back shortly.
Then I saw that our rear rank was already formed up, as I thought, and
that is not quite the order of things, as a rule, and it seemed far off
from the stream. I thought that they should have asked me about this,
for there were some of my courtmen in that line.
And then I saw that in the line was no movement, and no flash of arms,
as when one man speaks to another, turning a little. And before that
line stood the form of a chief who leant on his broad spear, motionless
and seeming watchful. I knew him at once, and it was Cadwal, and those
he commanded were the dead. That was even to me an awesome sight, for in
the mists they seemed ready and waiting for the word that would never
come to their ears, resting on the spears that they could use no more.
It had been done by the marshmen in the dark hours of the morning, and
from across the stream I saw Alsi's men staring at the new force that
they thought had come to help us. There were men enough moving along our
bank with food to us to prevent them seeing that this line stirred not
There was a scald who came with us from Denmark, and now with the full
rising of the sun he took his harp and went along the stream bank
singing the song of Dunheidi fight and so sweet was his voice, and so
strong, that even Alsi's men gathered to hearken to him. His name was
Heidrek, and he has set all that he saw with Havelok into a saga; but
we, here, mostly remember the brave waking that he gave us that morning.
It was wonderful how the bright song cheered us. One saw that the
stiffened limbs shook themselves into litheness once more, and the
listless faces brightened, and into the hearts that were heavy came new
hope, and that was the song's work.
Now men began to jest with their foes across the stream, and those who
had Danish loaves threw them across in exchange for English, that they
might have somewhat to talk of. Ours were rye, and theirs of barley; but
it was not a fair change after ours had been so long a voyage.
It was not long before our war horns sounded for the mustering, and men
ran to their arms. The Lindsey host drew back from the talk with our men
at the same time, and, without waiting for word from their leaders,
began to get in line along the stream, where they had been when we
halted last night. But we had no thought of falling on them until we had
had some parley with the king or the Earl of Chester. And now it was
plain that with the grim rearguard behind us we outnumbered the men of
Alsi who were left.
Now came from the village in rear of the foe a little company, in the
midst of which was one horseman, and that was the king himself. His arm
was slung to his breast, and he sat his horse weakly, so that it was
true enough that he had been hurt. With him were the earl and Eglaf, and
the housecarls, and I sent one to fetch Havelok quickly, that there
might be no delay in the words that were to be said.
Alsi rode to the water's edge and looked out over our host, and his
white face became whiter, and his thin lips twitched as he saw that our
line was no weaker than it had seemed when first he saw it. He spoke to
the earl, and he too counted the odds before him, and he smiled a little
to himself. He had not much to say to Alsi.
Then broke out a thunderous cheer from all our men, for with Havelok and
Sigurd at her horse's rein, and with Withelm's courtmen of her own guard
behind her, came Goldberga the queen to speak with the man who had
broken his trust. She had on her mail, as on the day when we ended
Hodulf; and she rode to the centre of our line, and there stayed, with a
flush on her cheek that the wild shouts of our men had called there.
Then I heard the name of "Goldberga, Goldberga!" run down the English
line, and I saw Alsi shrink back into himself, as it were; and then some
Lincoln men close to him began to grow restless, and all at once they
lifted their helms and cheered also, and that cheer was taken up by all
the host, as it seemed, until the ring of hills seemed alive with
voices. And with that Alsi half turned his horse to fly.
Yet his men did not mean to leave him. It was but the hailing of the
lady whom they knew, and her coming thus was more than the simple
warriors had wit or mind to fathom. But now Goldberga held up her hand,
and the cries ceased, and silence came. Then she lifted her voice, clear
as a silver bell, and said, "It seems strange to me that English folk
should be fighting against me and my husband's men who have brought me
home. I would know the meaning of this, King Alsi, for it would seem
that your oath to my father is badly kept. Maybe I have thought that the
people would not have me in his place; but their voice does not ring in
those shouts, for which I thank them with all my heart, as if they hated
me. Now, therefore, I myself ask that my guardian will give up to me
that which is my own."
We held our peace, but a hum of talk went all through the English ranks.
The Earl of Chester sat down on the bank, and set his sword across his
knees, and began to tie the peace strings round the hilt, in token that
he was going to fight no more. Now and then he looked at Goldberga, and
smiled at her earnest face. But Alsi made no sign of answer.
Then the queen spoke again to him.
"There must be some reason why you have thus set a host in arms against
me," she said, "and what that may be I would know."
Then, as Alsi answered not at all, the earl spoke frankly.
"We were told that we had to drive out the Vikings, and I must say that
they do not go easily. But it was not told us that they came here to
right a wrong, else had I not fought."
Many called out in the same words, and then sat down as the earl had done.
And at last Alsi spoke for himself.
"We do not fight against you, my niece, but against the Danes. We cannot
have them in the country."
"They do not mean to bide here, but they will not go before my throne is
given to me. Never came a foreign host into a land in more friendly wise
than this of mine."
At that Alsi's face seemed to clear, and his forced smile came to him.
He looked round on the thanes who were nearest him, and coughed, and
then answered, "Here has been some mistake, my niece, and it has cost
many good lives. If it is even as you say, get you to your land of
Anglia, and there shall be peace. I myself will send word to Ragnar that
he shall hail you as queen."
Then up spoke a new voice, and it was one that I knew well.
"No need to do that, lord king," said Berthun the cook. "Here have I
come posthaste, and riding day and night, to say that Ragnar is but a
day's march from here, that he and all Norfolk may see that their queen
comes to her own."
Then Alsi's face grew ashy pale, and without another word he swung his
horse round and went his way. I saw him reel in the saddle before he had
gone far, and Eglaf set his arm round him and stayed him up. After him
Goldberga looked wistfully, for she was forgiving, and had fain that he
had spoken one word of sorrow. But none else heeded him, for now the
thanes, led by the earl himself, came thronging across the water, that
they might ask forgiveness for even seeming to withstand Goldberga. And
on both sides the men set down their arms, and began to pile mighty
fires, that the peace made should not want its handfasting feast.
For the fair princess had won her own, and there was naught but gladness.
CHAPTER XXIV. PEACE, AND FAREWELL.
Now there was feasting enough, and somewhere they found at a thane's
house a great tent, and they set that up, so that Havelok and Goldberga
might have their own court round them, as it were. Gladly did Berthun
rid himself of war gear and take to his old trade again. I suppose that
the little Tetford valley had never heard the like sounds of rejoicing
Near midnight a man came to me and said that a message had come to me
from the other side, and I rose from the board and went out, to find
Eglaf waiting for me in the moonlight. He was armed, and his face was
wan and tired.
"Come apart, friend," he said; "I have a message from the king."
"No, to Havelok. But you must hear it first, and then tell him as you will."
We walked away from the tent and across the hillside for some way, and
then he said without more words, "This is the message that Alsi sends to
Havelok, whose name was Curan. 'Forgive the things that are past, for
many there are that need forgiving. I have no heir, and it is for myself
that I have schemed amiss. In Lincoln town lies a great treasure, of
which Eglaf and I alone know. Give it, I pray you, to your Danes, that
they may harm the land not at all, and so shall I ward off some of the
evil that might come through me even yet. I think that, after me, you
shall be king.'"
"That is wise of Alsi; but is there no word for Goldberga?"
"Ay, but not by my mouth. I fetched David the priest two hours ago, and
he bears those messages."
"Is there yet more to say?" I asked, for it seemed to me that there was.
"There is," he answered. "Alsi is dead."
So there was an end of all his schemings, and I will say no more of
them. It was Eglaf's thought that it was not so much his hurts that had
killed the king, but a broken heart because of this failure. For the
second time now I knew that it is true that "old sin makes new shame."
Now how we told Havelok this, and how Goldberga was somewhat comforted
by the words that David the priest brought her from her uncle, there is
no need to say. But when the news was known in all the host of Lindsey,
there was a great gathering of all in the wide meadow, and we sat in the
camp and wondered what end should be to the talk. Ragnar had come; but
his host was now no great one, for we had sent word to him of the peace,
and there was a great welcome for him and his men.
The Lindsey thanes did not talk long, and presently some half dozen of
the best of them came to us, and said that with one accord the gathering
would ask that Havelok and Goldberga should reign over them.
"We will answer for all in the land," they said. "If there are other
thanes who should have had a word in the matter, they are not here
because, knowing more than we, they would not fight for Alsi in this
quarrel. If there is any other man to be thought of, he cannot go
against the word of the host."
"I have my kingdom in Denmark," said Havelok, "and my wife has hers in
Anglia. How should we take this? See, here is Ragnar of Norwich; he is
worthy to be king, if any. Here, too, is the Earl of Chester, who led
you. It will be well to set these two names before the host."
"The host will have none but Havelok and Goldberga," they said.
So the long-ago visions came to pass, and in a few days more we were
feasting in the old hall at Lincoln. But before we left the valley of
the battle we laid in mound in all honour those who had fallen. Seven
great mounds we made, at which men wonder and will wonder while they
stand at Tetford. For well fought the Danes of Goldberga, and well
fought the Lindseymen on that day. Yet I think that those who would fain
have lived to see the victory had their share in it, as they stood in
their grim and silent ranks behind us.
Then was a new crowning of those two, and messages to the overlord of
Lindsey, sent by the thanes, to say that all was settled on the old
lines of peaceful tribute to be paid; and then, when word and presents
came back from him, Goldberga rose up on the high place where she had
been so strangely wedded, and looked down at the joyous faces of her
nobles at the long tables.
"When I was crowned in Denmark," she said, "there was a promise made me,
that when this day came to me in Norfolk I might ask one boon of all who
upheld me. I do not know if I may ask it here and now, for the promise
was made by my husband's people. Yet it is a matter that is dear to my
heart that I shall seek from you all, if I may."
Then all the hall rang with voices that bade her ask what she would; and
she bowed and flushed red, and hesitated a little. Then she took heart
"It is but this," she said. "Let the poor Christian folk bide in peace;
and if teachers come from the south or from the north presently who will
speak of that faith, bear with them, I pray you, for they work no harm
Almost was she weeping as she said this, and her white hands were
clasped tightly before her. But she looked bravely at the thanes, and
waited for the answer, though I think that she feared what it would be.
But an old thane rose up in his place, smiling, and he answered, "If you
had commanded us this, my queen, it would have been done. The Christian
folk, if there are any, shall have no hurt. I think that we had
forgotten the old days of trouble with them. Yet I hear that in Kent the
new faith, as it seems to us, is being taught, and that the king looks
on it with favour. It may be that here it will come also. For your sake
I will listen if a teacher comes to me."
The thanes thought little of this boon, and they all answered that it
was freely granted. But they said that it was no boon to give, and bade
her ask somewhat that was better.
"Why then," she said, "if I must ask more, think no more of me as queen
save as that I am the wife of the king. Havelok is your ruler in good
That pleased them all well, and they laughed and wished that all had
wives who had no mind to rule.
"Here is word that is going home to my wife," said one to his neighbour.
"If the queen sets the fashion of obedience, it behoves all good wives
to follow her leading."
"Maybe I would let some other than yourself tell the lady that,"
answered the other thane with a great laugh, for he knew that household
and its ruler.
So Goldberga had her will, and then began the long years of peace and
happiness to the kingdoms of which all men know. Wherefore I think that
my story is done. What I have told is halting maybe, and rough, but it
is true. And Goldberga, my sister, says that it is good. Which is all
the praise that I need.
So far went Radbard, my friend, and then he would tell no more. So it is
left to me, Wislac the priest, who have written for him, to finish. He
says that everyone knows the rest, and so they do just now. But in the
years to come, when this story is read, men will want to know more. So
it is fit that I should end the story, telling things that I myself know
to be true also.
Sigurd's host went back in the autumn, rich with the treasure of Alsi
the king; and from that time forward no Danish host ever sought our
shores. Wars enough have been in England here, but they have not harmed
us. No host has been suffered to cross the borders of Lindsey or East
Anglia, save in peace, and in the wars of Penda of Mercia Havelok has
taken no part. Yet he has had to fight to hold his own more than once,
but always with victory, for always the prayers of the few Christians
have been with him.
They set Earl Ragnar to hold the southern kingdom for Havelok and his
wife; and presently, when he was left a widower, he wedded the youngest
daughter of Grim, Havelok's foster father. Eglaf was captain of the
Lincoln courtmen or housecarls, whichever the right name may be among
those who speak of them. One name is Danish and the other English, but
they mean the same. As for my good friend Radbard, he was high sheriff
before long, and that he is yet. He wedded Ragnar's sister the year that
Havelok was crowned in Norwich, which was the next year after the
crowning at Lincoln.
Raven went back to the sea, and he will now be in Denmark or else on the
Viking path with Sigurd, for that is what he best loves. Arngeir bides
at Grimsby, high in honour with all, and the port and town grow greater
and more prosperous year by year. Wise was Grim when he chose to stay in
the place where he had chanced to come, if it were not more than chance
that brought him. I suppose that for all time the ships that are from
Grimsby will be free from all dues in the ports that are Havelok's in
the Danish land. Witlaf, the good old thane, bides in his place yet, and
he rejoices ever that he had a hand in bringing Havelok up. Nor does our
king forget that.
Indeed, I think that he forgets naught but ill done toward him. Never is
a man who has done one little thing for him overlooked, if he is met by
our king after many years, and that is a royal gift indeed.
I would that all married folk were as are this royal couple of ours.
Never are they happy apart, and never has a word gone awry between them.
If one speaks of Havelok, one must needs think of Goldberga; and if one
says a word of the queen, one means the king also. Happy in their people
and in their wondrous fair children are they, and that is all that can
be wished for them.
There was one thing wanting for long years, that I and Withelm ever
longed for for Havelok--a thing for which Goldberga prayed ever. I
came to them from Queen Bertha in Kent, when good old David died; and at
that time Havelok was not a Christian, but surely the most Christian
heathen that ever was. I knew that he must come into the faith at some
time; and I, at least, could not find it in my heart to blame him
altogether for holding to the Asir whom his fathers worshipped. It was
in sheer honesty and singleness of heart that he did so, and I had never
skill enough to show him the right. But Withelm, who has long been a
priest of the faith, and shall surely be our bishop ere long, had more
to do with his conversion than any other.
Yet it did not come until the days when Paulinus came from York and
preached with the fire of the missionary to us all. And then we saw the
mighty warrior go down to the water in the white robe of the catechumen,
and come therefrom with his face shining with a new and wondrous light.
Then he founded a monastery at Grimsby, that there the men of the marsh,
who had been kind to him in the old days, might find teachers in all
that was good; and there it will surely be after many a long year, until
there is need for its work no more, if such a time ever comes.
So the land grows Christian fast, and good will be its folk if they
follow the way of king and queen and their brothers.
Now have I finished also, and this is farewell. Look you, husbands and
wives, that you may be said to be like Havelok and Goldberga; and see,
brothers, that you mind the words that Grim spoke to his sons, and which
they heeded so well--
"Bare is back without brother behind it." And that is a true word,
though it was a heathen who spoke it.
1 I have to thank the Mayor of Grimsby for most kindly
furnishing me with an impression of this ancient seal.
2 Now Nishni-Novgorod, from time immemorial the great
meetingplace of north and south, east and west.
3 The garth was the fenced and stockaded enclosure
round a northern homestead.
4 The seax was the heavy, curved dagger carried by men
of all ranks.
5 The northern sea god and goddess.
6 Men drowned at sea were thought to go to the halls of
Pan and Aegir. Ran is represented as fishing for heroes in time of storm.
7 The Norns were the Fates of the northern mythology.
8 The "Witanagemot," the representative assembly for
the kingdom, whence our Parliament sprang.
9 The greatest term of reproach for a coward.
10 The gold ring kept in the Temple of the Asir, on
which all oaths must be sworn.
11 The sanctuary of the Asir. Thorsway and Withern in
Lincolnshire both preserve the name in the last and first syllable
respectively, both meaning "Thor's sanctuary."
12 The northern equivalent of the Saxon "Folkmote," or
general assembly of the people.