“That is the best sense that this king ever spoke,” said the nurse. “Many a long year might you wait if you had your way thus. You are wise in sending that message. Well, after that I will ask him to let you see the priest, saying, if he is cross-grained, that a talk with him will make your mind even better fitted to obey. Many things like that I can say. We shall have him here presently.”
Now, all that seemed very good to both of them, and the nurse went her way. And when she came to Alsi, she gave the message plainly.
“That will save a great deal of trouble,” said the king. “Tell her that I am glad to hear it. She says this of her own accord, and not at your advice?”
“She told me before I had heard a word of what the trouble was between you. It was no word of mine.”
“I am glad of it. But I will say that I am somewhat surprised.”
And that was true, for this message seemed to Alsi to be nothing more or less than that Goldberga would marry his man. When he thought for a moment, however, he saw that it could not be thus; and also, it was plain to him what the poor girl had in her mind. And now he chuckled to think what a weapon he had against her. Nor would he be slow to use it.
Then the nurse said that he need have no surprise, for Goldberga was ever gentle and willing to be led, though sometimes the pride of her race came uppermost for a time. And then she asked if a certain priest of the faith might come and speak with her.
Now, Alsi knew that only one could be meant—namely, the hermit who bided at Cabourn. He had heard of him often, and would not suffer him to be hurt, for his sister Orwenna had protected him. The heathen English minded him not at all by this time, for he was the best leech in the land, and so useful to them. So Alsi said pleasantly that he was quite willing that the priest should come, deeming that he was at Cabourn, and that it would be a day or two before he would be brought.
So he called the housecarl from outside the door, and when he came he said, “Pass the word that when one who calls himself David comes and asks for the princess, he is to be admitted to her.”
So that was made easy, and the nurse thanked him and withdrew; and when he was alone, Alsi grinned evilly and rubbed his hands.
“Now is East Anglia mine in truth,” he said; and with that he bade the housecarl fetch Curan, the cook’s porter, to him. And then he sent one to Ragnar with such a message that he rode out that night and away to Norwich.
CHAPTER XV. THE FORTUNE OF CURAN THE PORTER.
While the nurse told Withelm to fetch the priest when Alsi was in the hall that evening, the housecarl came for Havelok; and much wondering, he followed the man to the king, and presently stood before him and saluted.
“Where did you get that salute?” said Alsi sharply, seeing at once that it was not English; and, indeed, it was that of Gunnar’s courtmen.