But with Athelstan Harald still hoped to be equal.
The following summer he sent a ship to England. It was commanded by Hauk, and into his hands Harald intrusted his young son Hakon, whom he was sending to King Athelstan. For what purpose you shall hear.
Hauk reached England safely, and found the King in London at a feast. The captain boldly entered the hall where the feasters sat, followed by thirty of his men, each one of whom had his shield hidden under his cloak.
Carrying Prince Hakon, who was a child, in his arms, Hauk stepped before the King and saluted him. Then before Athelstan knew what he meant to do, Hauk, had placed the little prince on the King’s knee.
“Why hast thou done this?” said Athelstan to the bold Northman.
“Harald of Norway asks thee to foster his child,” answered Hauk. But well he knew that his words would make the King of England wroth. For one who became foster-father to a child was usually of lower rank than the real father. This, you see, was Harald’s way of thanking Athelstan for his gift of the sword.
Well, as Hauk expected, the King was very angry when he heard why the little prince had been placed on his knee. He drew his sword as though he would slay the child.
Hauk, however, was quite undisturbed, and said, “Thou hast borne the child on thy knee, and thou canst murder him if thou wilt, but thou canst not make an end of all King Harald’s sons by so doing.”
Then the viking, with his men, left the hall and strode down to the river, where they embarked, and at once set sail for Norway.
When Hauk reached Norway and told the King all that he had done, Harald was well content, for the King of England had been forced to become the foster-father of his little son.
Athelstan’s anger against his royal foster-child was soon forgotten, and ere long he loved him better than any of his own kin.
He ordered the priest to baptize the little prince, and to teach him the true faith.
THE SEA-FIGHT OF THE JOMSVIKINGS
While King Harald was reigning in Denmark, he built on the shores of the Baltic a fortress which he called Jomsburg. In this fortress dwelt a famous band of vikings named the Jomsvikings. It is one of their most famous sea-fights that I am going to tell you now.
The leader of the band was Earl Sigvald, and a bold and fearless leader he had proved himself.
It was at a great feast that Sigvald made the rash vow which led to this mighty battle. After the horn of mead had been handed round not once or twice only, Sigvald arose and vowed that, before three winters had passed, he and his band would go to Norway and either kill or chase Earl Hakon out of the country.
In the morning Sigvald and his Jomsvikings perhaps felt that they had vowed more than they were able to perform, yet it was not possible to withdraw from the enterprise unless they were willing to be called cowards. They therefore thought it would be well to start without delay, that they might, if possible, take Earl Hakon unawares.