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Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 234 pages of information about King Alfred's Viking.

“Why not?” said I.  “If the great jarl has called us as it seems, needs must that we know what he wills.”

Then said Thord: 

“I helped to lay him in that place, and I mind how he looked at that time.  Somewhat we left undone, doubtless.  I dare not go back.”

Einar looked at the hills, leaning his chin on his hand, and said slowly, when Thord had done: 

“That is the first time Thord has said ‘I dare not.’  Now I would that I had stayed to fight Harald and fall under his sword before.  I too must say the same.  I have left my brother unhonoured, and I dare not go back.”

Pale and drawn the jarl’s face was, and I knew he meant what he said.  Nevertheless it seemed to me that some one must know what Sigurd willed.

“Jarl Einar,” I said, “this is a strange business, and one cannot tell what it means.  Now Sigurd was my father’s close friend, and I have had nought to do with him.  I will go back, therefore, and learn what I can of him.  I think he will not harm me, for he has no reason to do so.  Moreover if he does, none will learn what he needs.”

“I have heard,” said Thord, “that a good warrior may ask what he will of a dead hero, so that he shows no fear and is a friend.  If his courage fails, however, then he will be surely destroyed.”

Then I said: 

“I have no cause to fear Sigurd, save that he is a ghost.  I do not know if I fear him as such; that is to be seen.”

Now Einar laid his hand on mine and spoke gravely: 

“I think it is a hero’s part to do what you say.  If you go back and return in safety, the scalds will sing of you for many a long day.  Go, therefore, boldly; this is not a matter from which you should be held back, as it has come into your mind.”

Then said Thord: 

“It will be well to ask Sigurd for a token whereby we may know that he sends messages by you.”

And Einar said on that: 

“In Sigurd’s hand is his sword Helmbiter.  I think he will give that to the man who dares speak to him, for he will know that it goes into brave hands.  Ask him for it bravely.”

“Put me ashore, therefore, before my courage goes,” I said; and they pulled the boat to the bank where I could step on a rock and so to shore.  And when I was there, Kolgrim rose up and followed me without a word.

“Bide here for two hours, jarl, and maybe I will return in that time,” I said.  “Farewell.”

So I turned away as they answered me, thinking that Kolgrim held the boat’s painter.  But he came after me, and I spoke to him: 

“Why, Kolgrim, will you come also?”

“You shall not go alone, Ranald the king’s son; I will come with you as far as I dare.”

“That is well,” I answered, and with that wasted no more words, but climbed the hillside a little, and then went steadily towards where the mound was, with Kolgrim close at my shoulder, and the jarl and Thord looking fixedly after us till we were out of sight.

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