CHAPTER XVII. HOW THE BRIDE WENT HOME.
Now the folk cheered, and loudest of all honest Eglaf and his warriors. I wondered what should come next, for neither feast nor bride ale was prepared, and Berthun was looking puzzled. Then I saw that the only face in all the wide hall which was not bright was that of Alsi, and his brow was black as a thunder cloud, while his fingers were white with the force with which he clutched and twisted the end of his jewelled belt. Plainly he was in a royal rage that none had scoffed at this wedding, but that all had taken it as a matter that was right altogether.
But he had one more evil thing in his mind that must be seen through; and he came forward, smoothing his face, as best he might, to the fixed smile that I had seen when he spoke with Ragnar, and learned that his first plot had miscarried.
“Now, friends,” he said, “all this has been so hasty that we have prepared no feast. Even now, it seems that the horses stand at the door to take bride and bridegroom hence, and doubtless there waits somewhere the feast that has been bespoken without my knowledge. Well, strange are the ways of lovers, and we will pardon them. I have therefore only to bid them farewell.”
With that he turned to Havelok, and held out his hand, as in all good fellowship, but Havelok would not see it.
“Fare as it shall be meted to you by the Asir, King Alsi,” he said, “for at least Loki loves craft.”
Then he turned to me, and asked hurriedly where we should go if we must leave thus.
“To Grimsby,” I said. “That is home.”
Alsi spoke to the princess now, and maybe it was as well that he did not offer so much as his hand. Wise was he in his way.
“Farewell, niece,” he said; “all this shall come shortly before the Witan of Ethelwald’s folk.”
“Farewell, uncle,” she answered calmly. “That is a matter which I will see to myself. You have carried out your oath to the letter, so far, and now it remains that you should leave the government of the realm to me.”
With that she put her hand on Havelok’s arm.
“Come, husband; we have heard that the horses wait. Let us be gone.”
And then in a quick whisper she added, as if nigh overdone, “Take me hence quickly, for I may not bear more.”
They wasted no more words; and through a lane of folk, who blessed them, those two went to the great door down the long hall, and I followed, and Berthun and the nurse came after me. One flung the door open; and on the steps, all unaware of what had happened, lounged Mord, waiting, and up and down on the green the grooms led the horses of the princess—six in all. On two were packed her goods, and the third had a pack saddle that waited for the bags that held her dowry. The other three were for herself and Mord and the nurse. There was not one for Havelok.