Then Gudruda drew out her shears, and without more ado shore off Brighteyes’ golden locks. It was no easy task, for they were thick as a horse’s mane, and glued to the wound. Yet when she had cut them, she loosened the hair from the flesh with water which she heated upon the fire. The wound was in a bad state and blue, still Eric never winced while she dragged the hair from it. Then she washed the sore clean, and put sweet ointment on it and covered it with napkins.
This done, she gave Eric broth and he drank. Then, laying her hand upon his head, she looked into his eyes and bade him sleep. And presently he slept—which he had scarcely done for many days—slept like a little child.
Eric slept for a day and a night. But at that same hour of the evening, when he had fallen asleep, Gudruda, watching him by the light of a taper that was set upon a rock, saw him smile in his dreams. Presently he opened his eyes and stared at the fire which glowed in the mouth of the cave, and the great shadows that fell upon the rocks.
“Strange!” she heard him murmur, “it is very strange! but I dreamed I slept, and that Gudruda the Fair leaned over me as I slept. Where, then, is Skallagrim? Perhaps I am dead and that is Hela’s fire,” and he tried to lift himself upon his arm, but fell back from faintness, for he was very weak. Then Gudruda took his hand, and, leaning over him, spoke:
“Hush, Eric!” she said; “that was no dream, for I am here. Thou hast been sick to death, Eric; but now, if thou wilt rest, things shall go well with thee.”
“Thou art here?” said Eric, turning his white face towards her. “Do I still dream, or how comest thou here to Mosfell, Gudruda?”
“I came through the snows, Eric, to cut thy hair, which clung to the festering wound, for in thy madness thou wouldst not suffer anyone to touch it.”
“Thou camest through the snows—over the snows—to nurse me, Gudruda? Thou must love me much then,” and he was so weak that, as he spoke, the tears rolled down Eric’s cheeks.
Then Gudruda kissed him, weeping also, and, laying her face by his, bade him be at peace, for she was there to watch him.
HOW SWANHILD WON TIDINGS OF ERIC
Now Eric’s strength came back to him and his heart opened in the light of Gudruda’s eyes like a flower in the sunshine. For all day long she sat at his side, holding his hand and talking to him, and they found much to say.
But on the fifth day from the day of his awakening she spoke thus:
“Eric, now I must go back to Middalhof. Thou art safe and it is not well that I should stay here.”
“Not yet, Gudruda,” he said; “leave me not yet.”
“Yes, love, I must leave thee. The moon is bright, the sky has cleared, and the snow is hard with frost and fit for the hoofs of horses. I must go before more storms come. Listen now: in the second week of spring, if all is well, I will send thee a messenger with words of token, then shalt thou come down secretly to Middalhof, and there, Eric, we will be wed. Then, on the next day, we will sail for England in a trading-ship that I shall get ready, to seek our fortune there.”