Few words of introduction are needed for this story, excepting such as may refer to the sources of the details involved.
The outfit of the funeral ship is practically that of the vessel found in the mound at Goekstadt, and now in the museum at Christiania, supplemented with a few details from the ship disinterred last year near Toensberg, in the same district. In both these cases the treasure has been taken from the mound by raiders, who must have broken into the chamber shortly after the interment; but other finds have been fully large enough to furnish details of what would be buried with a chief of note.
With regard to the seamanship involved, there are incidents recorded in the Sagas, as well as the use of a definite phrase for “beating to windward,” which prove that the handling of a Viking ship was necessarily much the same as that of a square-rigged vessel of today. The experience of the men who sailed the reconstructed duplicate of the Goekstadt ship across the Atlantic to the Chicago Exhibition bears this out entirely. The powers of the beautifully designed ship were by no means limited to running before the wind.
The museum at Christiania has a good example of the full war gear of a lady of the Viking times.
Hakon, the son of Harald Fairhair, and foster son of our Athelstane, took the throne of Norway in A.D. 935, which is approximately the date of the story therefore. The long warfare waged by Dane and Norseman against the Irishman at that time, and the incidental troubles of the numerous island hermits on the Irish coast, are written in the Irish annals, and perhaps most fully in “the wars of the Gaedhil and the Gaill.”
Chas. W. Whistler.
Chapter 1: The Old Chief And The Young.
The black smoke eddied and wavered as it rose over my father’s burning hall, and then the little sea breeze took it and swept it inland over the heath-clad Caithness hills which I loved. Save for that black cloud, the June sky was bright and blue overhead, and in the sunshine one could not see the red tongues of flame that were licking up the last timbers of the house where I was born. Round the walls, beyond reach of smoke and heat, stood the foemen who had wrought the harm, and nearer the great door lay those of our men who had fallen at the first. There were foemen there also, for it had been a good fight.
At last the roof fell in with a mighty crash and uprush of smoke and sparks, while out of the smother reeled and staggered half a dozen men who had in some way escaped the falling timbers. I think they had been those who still guarded the doorway, being unwounded. But among them were not my father and brothers, and I knew that I was the last of my line by that absence.