Havelok used to laugh if they asked him this, and tell them that it came by nature, and in that saying there was more than a little truth. So the housecarls, when they heard how Berthun was wont to treat him, thought also that he was some great man in hiding, and that the steward knew who he was. They did not know but that my close friendship with him had sprung up since he came, and that was well, and Eglaf and he and I were soon much together. The captain wanted him to leave the cook and be one of his men, but we thought that he had better bide where he was, rather than let Alsi the king have him always about him. For now and then that strange feeling, as of the old days, came over him when he was in the great hall, and he had to go away and brood over it for a while until he would set himself some mighty task and forget it.
But one day he came to me and said that he was sure he knew the ways of a king too well for it all to be a dream, adding that Berthun saw that also, and was curious about him.
“Tell me, brother, whence came I? Was I truly brought up in a court?”
“I have never heard,” I answered. “All that I know for certain is that you fled with us from Hodulf, the new king, and that for reasons which my father never told me.”
Then said Havelok, “There was naught worth telling, therefore. I suppose I was the child of some steward like Berthun; but yet—”
So he went away, and I wondered long if it were not time that Arngeir should tell all that he knew. It was of no good for me to say that in voice and ways and deed he had brought back to me the Gunnar whom I had not seen for so many long years, for that was as likely as not to be a fancy of mine, or if not a fancy, he might be only a sister’s son or the like. But in all that he said there was no word of his mother, and by that I knew that his remembrance must be but a shadow, if a growing one.
But there was no head in all the wide street that was not turned to look after him; and now he went his way from me with two children, whom he had caught up from somewhere, perched on either shoulder, and another in his arms, and they crowed with delight as he made believe to be some giant who was to eat them forthwith, and ran up the hill with them. No such playmate had the Lincoln children before Havelok came.
CHAPTER X. KING ALSI OF LINDSEY.
Three weeks after we came the Witan began to gather, and that was a fine sight as the great nobles of Lindsey, and of the North folk of East Anglia, came day by day into the town with their followings, taking up their quarters either in the better houses of the place or else pitching bright-coloured tents and pavilions on the hillside meadows beyond the stockades. Many brought their ladies with them, and all day long was feasting and mirth at one place or another, as friend met with friend. Never had I seen such a gay sight as the marketplace was at midday, when the young thanes and their men met there and matched their followers at all sorts of sports. The English nobles are far more fond of gay dress and jewels than our Danish folk, though I must say that when the few Danes of Ethelwald’s household came it would seem that they had taken kindly to the fashion of their home.