Then we were alone, and while I set Arngeir’s weapons in a corner, my father put down the sack, and stood looking at it. It seemed to sway a little, and to toss as it settled down. And now that there was light it was plain that the shape of what was inside it was strangely like that of a child, doubled up with knees to chin, as it showed through the sacking.
“Hodulf or no Hodulf,” said my father, “I am going to see more of this.”
With that he took a knife from the table and cut the cord that fastened the mouth, turning back the sack quickly.
And lo! gagged and bound hand and foot in such wise that he could not move, in the sack was a wondrously handsome boy of about the size of Withelm; and for all his terrible journey across the king’s saddle, and in spite of our rough handling, his eyes were bright and fearless as he looked up at us.
“Radbard,” said my father, “what if Hodulf had met with a thrall who had done his bidding in truth?”
I would not think thereof, for surely by this time there had been no light in the eyes that seemed to me to be grateful to us.
Now my father knelt down by the boy’s side, and began to take the lashings from him, telling him at the same time to be silent when the gag was gone.
And hard work enough the poor child had to keep himself from screaming when his limbs were loosed, so cramped was he, for he had been bound almost into a ball. And even as we rubbed and chafed the cold hands and feet he swooned with the pain of the blood running freely once more.
“This is a business for mother,” said my father, on that; “get your supper, and take it to bed with you, and say naught to the boys in the morning. This is a thing that may not be talked of.”
Now I should have liked to stay, but my father meant what he said, and I could be of no more use; so I took my food, and went up to the loft where we three slept, and knew no more of what trouble that night might have for others.
CHAPTER III. HAVELOK, SON OF GUNNAR.
Now after I had gone, Grim, my father, tried to bring the child round, but he could not do so; and therefore, leaving him near the fire, he went softly to call Leva, my mother, to help him; and all the while he was wondering who the child might be, though indeed a fear that he knew only too well was growing in his heart, for there would surely he only one whom Hodulf could wish out of his way.
As he opened the door that led to the sleeping room beyond the high seat, the light shone on Leva, and showed her sitting up in bed with wide eyes that seemed to gaze on somewhat that was terrible, and at first he thought her awake. But she yet slept, and so he called her gently, and she started and woke.
“Husband, is that you?” she said. “I had a strange dream even now which surely portends somewhat.”
Now, as all men know, our folk in the north are most careful in the matter of attending to dreams, specially those that come in troubled times, holding that often warning or good counsel comes from them. I cannot say that I have ever had any profit in that way myself, being no dreamer at all; but it is certain that others have, as may be seen hereafter. Wherefore my father asked Leva what this dream might be.