Brand the thrall cowered in the house porch when we returned, and he was pale as a sheet, while his knees trembled even yet. We took him in and gave him wine and meat, and then asked him how the Danes got hold of him.
“Master,” he said, “they caught me but a little while after I had left you—as I set snares for rabbits on the hill. I let them come to me, thinking them some of the king’s men who are kindly. Then they said they needed a guide through the country to the sea, and kept me with them.”
Then Olaf said to him:
“No ill will come of this seeing of the White Lady, for she came to save Redwald your lord; you may sleep in peace therefore, but it would be unlucky to say that you saw her.”
Then the man said that he would not speak of the matter, and it was plain that he dared not do so. But he went away cheerfully enough, with his mind at rest from its fears.
“It would be ill luck for me if Rani heard of this,” said Olaf, looking ruefully at us; “for we cannot deny that he warned us. My foster father loves rating a king now and then, though it be only a small one like myself.”
So we said nought that night, and none asked where we had been. Now I slept next to Olaf, and in the night I woke with a new terror on me, and I put my hand on his and woke him.
“My king,” I whispered, “what if Gunnhild and Hertha are indeed in the woods yonder? These Danes will have found them.”
The king was silent for a moment, for the fear that my guess as to their hiding place might be right came to him also before he gave the matter thought.
“It is not likely. The thought of danger makes it seem possible again,” he said. “But I like not these prowling Danes—they are looking for hiding places for themselves.”
“She was safe before,” I said, but a great fear came to me with his words.
There had been nought to drive the Danes to seek sheltered spots before, now they were sure to do so.
“This matter is not in our hands,” said the king, when I said as much. “We can do nought. Pray, therefore, and sleep again. I think that you need fear little.”
Then after a while he spoke once more.
“Redwald, saw you aught upon the mere while we sat in the canoe in its midst?”
“Aye, my king,” I answered, knowing what he meant.
“I saw her also,” he said.
So it had been no fancy of mine, but the White Lady of our house had indeed passed before my eyes. I began to wonder if this portended aught to me, but soon I thought that it did not, for the like peril in which I had been, and even then had hardly escaped from, had not befallen any of my kin, as I was in peril at her own place, which was a new thing. So I judged that she showed her thought of us only.
In the morning matters fell out so that we had never need to say what danger we had run. For the men had seen Brand’s plight, which was pitiful, after Danes and thickets had done their work on him, and told Olaf that the man had met with and escaped Danes from the mere woods.