So this seemed to me to be a matter easily managed, as I thought thereof, and I was content. And after we had talked a while longer, planning thus, I said:
“Now I must go back to Olaf as soon as I can. The winter is wearing away.”
“Aye; the good king will be missing you,” she said.
I was not ready to say more, for I meant a great deal by my words, as might be supposed. And the lady knew it, as I think, for presently she said:
“I wonder that you spoke not of Hertha before.”
“There need be no wonder, lady,” I answered. “I have lived but in the constant thought of war, until I must needs be quiet here. But for this, I should still have forgotten her.”
“That is true; but you must remember her now,” she said, looking quaintly at me.
“I will remember, lady,” I answered, kissing her hand; and she smiled on me and was content.
Truly that one who teaches a man that he is worthy of trust is his best teacher of honour, and the name of the lady of Penhurst is ever dear to me.
So it came to pass that I had nought wherewith to blame myself in the days to come, and I taught myself to look on Sexberga as a pleasant friend only, though it was hard at first, to say the truth. And I think that her talk of Hertha, and her jesting at my unknown bride, as she would call her, helped me, for it kept me mindful.
Then at last came a messenger from Wulfnoth to bid me ride to see him at Pevensea, and I went, wondering what new turn of things was on hand. But when I reached the castle, I saw a ship that I knew lying in the haven—one of Olaf’s own. For Ottar the scald had come to seek me with the first sign of open weather, bringing also many gifts of Danish spoil for Relf and his household, and many words of thanks also.
So in two days’ time I parted from Relf and his people, not without sorrow. Nor could I say all that I would to them of my thoughts of what I owed them for their care.
Then Wulfnoth and Godwine gave me twenty pieces of the gold from the treasure, and bade me return ere long.
“And I think that you will come back presently with an itching to get home a sword stroke at one whom I care not to name lest I break out,” said the earl grimly.
“At Streone?” said I, being light of heart.
“Aye; curses on him!” answered Wulfnoth, and turned away with a scowl of wrath.
Now Ottar had been to Penhurst with me, and we had come thence together to the ships. And when the old walls of the great castle were lost to sight as the vessel plunged eastward, he said:
“Relf’s daughter is a fair maiden, friend Redwald. It is in my mind that she will long to see you back again.”
“Not so,” I answered; “she is but friendly.”
“But she had much ado not to weep when you parted just now, and I saw her run home from the gate over quickly. These be signs,” he said sagely, being a scald, and therefore wise in his own conceit about such matters.