The Welsh king was of the line of Arthur, and one who yet hoped to win back the land of his fathers from the Saxons and English; and so he listened to this Hodulf, thinking to gain a powerful ally in him for attack on the eastern coast of England after this. So, favoured by the wind that had kept us from the sea, Hodulf, with twenty ships in all, had fallen on Gunnar unawares, and had had an easy victory, besetting the town in such wise that only in the confusion while the wild Welsh were burning and plundering on every side had the messenger to the jarl been able to slip away.
But when the jarl and our men reached the town there was naught to be done but to make terms with Hodulf as best he might, that the whole country might not be overrun. For Gunnar had been slain in his own hall, with his two young daughters and with the queen also, as was supposed. Havelok the prince was in his hands, and for his sake therefore Sigurd had been the more ready to come to terms.
Then Hodulf sent messengers to the overlord of all Denmark, saying that he would hold this kingdom as for him, and backed up that promise with a great present from Gunnar’s treasure, so that he was listened to. Therefore our jarl was helpless; and there being no other king strong enough to aid him if he rose, in the end he had to take Hodulf for lord altogether, though it went sorely against the grain.
I have heard it said by the Welsh folk that Hodulf held the kingdom for their lord; and it is likely that he humoured them by saying that he would do so, which was a safe promise to make, as even King Arthur himself could never have reached him to make him pay scatt.
CHAPTER II. KING HODULF’S SECRET.
My father came home heavy and anxious enough, for he did not know how things would go under this new king, though he had promised peace to all men who would own him. We in our place saw nothing of him or his men for the next few weeks, but he was well spoken of by those who had aught to do with him elsewhere. So my father went on trying to gather a cargo for England; but it was a slow business, as the burnt and plundered folk of the great town had naught for us, and others sold to them. But he would never be idle, and every day when weather served we went fishing, for he loved his old calling well, as a man will love that which he can do best. Our two boats and their gear were always in the best of order, and our kinsman, Arngeir, used and tended them when we were away in the ship in summertime.
Now, one evening, as we came up from the shore after beaching the boat on the hard below the town, and half a mile from the nearest houses, and being, as one may suppose, not altogether in holiday trim, so that Grim and his boys with their loads of fish and nets looked as though a fisher’s hovel were all the home that they might own, we saw a horseman, followed at a little distance by two more, riding towards us. The dusk was gathering, and at first we thought that this was Jarl Sigurd, who would ask us maybe to send fish to his hall, and so we set our loads down and waited for him.