And at last we came to the valley of the little Lugg river which we sought, and then were perhaps ten miles north of Sutton and its palace stronghold. The day had grown dull, and now and then the rain swept up from the southwest and passed in springtime showers, just enough to make us draw our cloaks round us for the moment, soft and sweet. In the river the trout leaped at the May flies that floated, fat and helpless, into their ready mouths, and the thrushes were singing everywhere above their nests.
Those were things that I was ever wont to take pleasure in, and the more since I had been beyond the sea. But today I had little heart to heed them, for the heaviness of all the trouble was on me. Maybe, however, and that I do believe, I should have been more gloomy still had I been one of those who have no care for the things of the land they look on, lovely as they are. I dare say Erling the viking took pleasure in them, if he would have preferred the wild sea birds and the thunder of the shore breakers to all this quiet inland softness. At all events, he had no mind that I should brood on trouble overmuch, and strove to cheer me.
“Thane,” he said presently, even as I began to quest hither and thither by the riverside for the track of the cart, which indeed I hardly thought would have come thus far, “it seems to me that food before search will be the better, an you please.”
“Why,” said I, having altogether forgotten that matter, “twice men have told me that when Quendritha is at a man’s heels he had better not wait for aught. Yet I blame myself for having forgotten. It is not the way for a warrior to be heedless of the supplies.”
“When the warrior is a seaman also he cannot forget,” quoth Erling. “Had you bided with Thorleif for another season, you had found that out. I have not forgotten. Dismount, and we will see what is hidden in the saddlebags.”
We went into a sheltered nook among the water-side trees, and he brought out bread and venison enough for two meals each, and I was glad of the rest and food. He had helped himself at breakfast, he said, being sure that sooner or later we should have to fly the palace.
“Well, and if we had not had to fly?” I asked.
“Betimes I wax hungry in the night,” he answered, smiling broadly. “It would not have been wasted.”
When that little meal was done I leaned myself against a tree trunk, and said naught for a time. Nor did Erling. The horses cropped the grass quietly at a little distance, and the sound of the water was very soothing.
The next thing that I knew was that Erling was bidding me wake, and I opened my eyes to see that the sun was not more than two hours from setting, and that therefore I had had a great sleep, which indeed I needed somewhat sorely after that last night. The sky had cleared, but here and there the rain drifted from the sky over the hills to the west. I sprang to my feet, somewhat angry.