“What is this, my king?” I said, trembling with the fear that comes of things beyond our ken.
“It is the fate of England that is falling on her,” he said quietly.
“Read it me, for I fear what I have heard and seen,” I said.
“We have heard the going of mighty hosts to England, and we have heard the sound of farewell. But we have heard no shout of victory, or wailing for defeat. Little therefore will be gained or lost by this sailing of ours. Yet all is surely lost if we sail not.”
Then he ceased, but he had not yet spoken of what we saw, and I waited for his words. Yet still he stood silent, and looked out over the sea, until I was fain to ask him what the vision meant.
“Surely it was the wraith of a son of Swein that we saw,” he said; “but it will be long years ere Cnut bears that likeness, for that was of a man full grown and mighty.”
Now the reading of this was beyond me, for I have no skill in these matters, as had Olaf. And he said nought for a little while, but seemed to ponder over it.
“Now I know,” said he at last. “What we have seen is the outcome of the going of the hosts to England. There shall be a Danish kingdom built upon sand. Cnut shall reign, but his throne shall fall. The wave of English love for England’s kings of her own race cannot be stayed.”
Then I was downcast, for hope that the Danes would be driven from the land had filled all my mind, and I said:
“Surely the vision may mean that we shall sweep away the Danish rule as the waves sapped the throne and swept over its place.”
“Aye, may it be so,” answered Olaf. “Often one may read these visions best even as their bodings come to pass. Let us go back. This is a lonesome place, and strange fancies weigh down a man’s mind when all he may hear is the wind singing to the surges. Maybe these are but dreams. What matters it if Cnut reigns over the old Danelagh as Guthrum reigned, if Ethelred is overlord? It will be again as in Alfred’s days, and once more an English king over the English folk, when Cnut is gone.”
So he turned, and led the way back towards the town, and when we saw the lights close at hand, he bade me say nought of this to any man.
“We have seen strange things, cousin,” he said, taking my arm, “and they will be better untold. You and I may see their meaning hereafter, and maybe shall have a share in their working out. Now let us sleep, and dream only of seeing England again tomorrow.”
There was a fair wind for us into the Thames mouth, and all seemed to be going well. But when we came off the Medway it seemed that there was to be fighting, for our way was blocked by a fleet and that stronger than ours.
Now as the longships were cleared for the weapon play, Olaf wondered how the Danes should have had word of our coming, for it was plain that this fleet of ten ships was waiting for us. Yet we had kept well away from the forelands, lest we should make it too plain where we were going.