“Where to now, lord?” said Skallagrim.
“To Coldback first, to see my mother, if she yet lives, and to learn tidings of Gudruda. Then as it may chance.”
Near to the beach was a yeoman’s house. Thither they went to hire horses; but none were in the house, for all had gone to Gudruda’s marriage-feast. In the home meadow ran two good horses, and in the outhouses were saddles and bridles. They caught the horses, saddled them and rode for Coldback. When they had ridden for something over an hour they came to the crest of a height whence they could see Coldback in the Marsh.
Eric drew rein and looked, and his heart swelled within him at the sight of the place where he was born. But as he looked he saw a great train of people ride away from Coldback towards Middalhof—and in the company a woman wearing a purple cloak.
“Now what may this mean?” said Eric.
“Ride on and we shall learn,” answered Skallagrim.
So they rode on, and as they rode Eric’s breast grew heavy with fear. Now they passed up the banked way through the home meadows of the house, but they could see no one; and now they were at the door. Down sprang Eric and walked into the hall. But none were there to greet him, though a fire yet burned upon the earth. Only a gaunt hound wandered about the hall, and, seeing him, sprang towards him, growling. Eric knew him for his old wolf-hound, and called him by his name. The dog listened, then ran up and smelt his hands, and straightway howled with joy and leapt upon him. For a while he leapt thus, while Eric stared around him wondering and sad at heart. Then the dog ran to the door and stopped, whining. Eric followed after him. The hound passed through the entrance, and across the yard till he came to an outhouse. Here the dog stopped and scratched at the door, still whining. Eric thrust it open. Lo! there before him sat Saevuna, his mother, dead in a chair, and at her feet crouched the carline—she who had been Eric’s nurse.
Now he grasped the door-posts to steady himself, and his shadow fell upon the white face of his mother and the old carline at her feet.
HOW ERIC WAS A GUEST AT THE WEDDING-FEAST OF GUDRUDA THE FAIR
Eric looked, but said nothing.
“Who art thou?” whined the carline, gazing up at him with tear-blinded eyes. But Eric’s face was in the shadow, and she only saw the glint of his golden hair and the flash of the golden helm. For Eric could not speak yet a while.
“Art thou one of the Swanhild’s folk, come to drive me hence with the rest? Good sir, I cannot go to the fells, my limbs are too weak. Slay me, if thou wilt, but drive me not from this,” and she pointed to the corpse. “Say now, will thou not help me to give it burial? It is unmeet that she who in her time had husband, and goods, and son, should lie unburied like a dead cow on the