But had I known that these two had been among the Welshmen that Hodulf led to Denmark when he slew Gunnar Kirkeban, and therefore knew all the story of the loss of Havelok, and how Hodulf had sought for news of him, I should have been in fear enough that we had not yet done with them. Rightly, too, should I have feared that, as will be seen.
Now while I looked about the hall for Cadwal, Mord the chamberlain saw me, and made me sit down by him while I ate. Hungry enough was I by that time, as may be supposed, for one cannot make a meal off the sight of a feast; and as I ate, the noise of the hall grew apace as the cups went round. Then some of the older thanes left, and soon Mord and I had that table to ourselves. It was plain that he was full of something that he would say to me, and when I was ready to listen he bent near me and said, “So that was the boy who fled with us.”
“Ay. He has grown since you saw him last.”
“That is not all,” answered Mord. “Well I knew Gunnar, our king, and tonight I thought he had come back to us from Valhalla, goodlier yet and mightier than ever, as one who has feasted with the Asir might well be. For if this boy of ours is not Gunnar’s son, then he is Gunnar himself.”
Now that was no new thought to me, as I have shown, and I was ready for it, seeing that even I had seen the likeness to the king as I remembered him.
“Keep that thought to yourself for a while, Mord,” I said. “It is in my mind that you are right, but the time has not yet come for me to know.”
“That is wisdom, too,” he answered; “for if once he gathers a following, there is a bad time in store for Hodulf. And it will be better that we fall on him unawares, before he knows that Havelok, son of Gunnar, lives.”
“We fall on him?”
“Ay, you and I, mail on chest and weapon in hand, with Havelok to lead us. What? think you that I would hold back when Gunnar’s son is calling?”
“Steady, friend,” I said, laughing; “men will be looking at us.”
So he was silent again; and now I thought that the time of which my father spoke had surely come, for it was plain that Havelok was a man whom men would gladly follow as he went to win back his kingdom. And I went and fetched Withelm from where he sat, and so we three talked long and pleasantly, until it was time for us to go forth from the hall. And we thought that it was good for Arngeir to come here, for the secret was coming to light of itself, as it were, and we would have him speak with Mord.
CHAPTER XIV. THE CRAFT OF ALSI THE KING.
Now Alsi the king went from the feast with a new and cruel thought in his mind under the smiling face that he wore, and long he sat in his own chamber, chin on hand and eyes far off, thinking; and at last he called Berthun.
“What is the name of this big knave of yours?” he asked, when the steward stood before him.