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Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about King Olaf's Kinsman.

So passed the day, and then were our wounded to be seen; but at last I might sit quietly in the house on the green and speak all that I would with Ailwin, and we had much to say.  I know not if I longed or feared now to speak of Hertha, but I would do so.  Yet first I asked Ailwin how he himself had fared when the Danes came; for I had thought that he would have been slain.

“Aye, my son, that I should have surely been,” he said, “but I found a hiding place until their fury was past, and the host swept on, leaving but a few among us.  Some of these were wounded men, and you mind that I am skilled in leechcraft.  So I dressed myself in a freeman’s garb and tended them, winning their respect at least, if not gratitude.  So I have been the leech ever since, for the church was burnt, and many a priest was slain, and these Danes are but half Christian if they are not open pagans; and I might not don my frock, else would there have been no one left to christen and say mass and marry for our poor folk in quiet places.”

Then I said: 

“Where did you find a hiding place, father?”

“It was shown me by one who made me promise—­aye and take oath, moreover, as if my word were not enough—­that I would tell no man where it is.  For such a place once known to any but those who use it is safe no longer.”

“Was it Gunnhild who helped you thus?” I said, for I remembered now my last words to him, that he should seek her.

“I may say that it was Gunnhild.  There she and Hertha and I were safe till the worst was over,” he answered, and looked in my face.

Then I must say what was in my mind all the while, and I asked him plainly: 

“Where is Hertha now, father?  Is she yet well and safe?”

“Both well and safe with Gunnhild,” he said.

“Where is she—­can I seek her?”

The old man looked at me meaningly for a minute, and I grew hot under his kindly gaze.

“What remember you of Hertha, my son?” he said gently.

“All, father,” I answered; “but does she remember aught?”

“She remembers—­she has never forgotten,” he said.

And I had forgotten for so long.  I think the old priest, who was so used to deal with men, saw what was written in my face, for he smiled a little and said: 

“Women have time to think, but a warrior of today has had none.  What think you of your meeting with Hertha?”

Then I said, being sure that Ailwin understood the puzzle that was in my mind: 

“Father, I know not what to think.  We are bound—­but now it is likely that we should not know one another if we met; in truth, I think I fear to meet her.”

“Is there any other maiden?” he asked, still smiling.

“Once I thought there was—­and not so long ago either,” I said honestly, “but I remembered in time.  Now I will say truly that there is not.”

I had no longing for Penhurst now.

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