“There is somewhat like a sail on the skyline to the eastward,” he said. “I have watched it this half hour, and it grows bigger fast. I took it for a bird at first and would not wake you.”
That brought us to our feet in a moment, and we looked in the direction he gave us.
“A sail,” said Bertric. “She is bearing right down on us, and bringing an easterly breeze off shore with her. If only we can hail her!”
“It is not Heidrek again?” asked Dalfin anxiously.
“No; his sails are brown. Nor does one meet men like him often. We shall find naught but help from any other, if we may have to work our passage to their port. That is of no account so long as we are picked up.”
In half an hour the breeze from the eastward reached us, and we bore up across the course of the coming ship. She came swiftly down the wind, but was either badly steered, or else was so light that with her yard squared she ran badly. At times the wind was almost spilt from out of her sail, and we looked to see her jibe, and then she would fill again on her true course and hold it a while.
“She is out of the way badly handled,” said Bertric, watching her in some puzzlement. “I only hope that they may know enough to pick up a boat in a seaway.”
Chapter 3: The Ship Of Silence.
Soon we knew that she must be the ship of some great chief, for her broad sail was striped with red and white, and the sun gleamed and sparkled from gilding on her high stemhead, and from the gilded truck of the mast. Then we made out that a carven dragon reared itself on the stem, while all down the gunwale were hung the round red and yellow war boards, the shields which are set along the rail to heighten it when fighting is on hand. We looked to see the men on watch on the fore deck, but there were none, though, indeed, the upward sweep of the gunwale might hide them.
Presently she yawed again in that clumsy way which we were wondering at, and showed us her whole side, pierced for sixteen oars, and bright with the shields, for a moment, and then she was back on her course. We could not see the steersman for the sail, in any case, but we saw no one on deck.
Now we were right across her bows, and within hail of her, and yet no man had shown himself. Bertric and I lifted our voices together in a great hail, and then in a second, and third, but there was no answer. Only she yawed and swung away from us as if she would pass us, and at that Dalfin cried out, while I paid off fast to follow her, and again Bertric hailed. Now she was broad off our bows and to the starboard, an arrow flight from us, and Bertric and I were staring at her in amazement. She was the most wonderfully appointed ship in all sea bravery we had ever seen—but there was no man at the helm, and not a soul on deck.
“They are asleep, or dead,” said I; and hailed again and again, all the while edging down to her, until we were running on the same course, side by side.