“Because I love not work overmuch, lord.”
“Then all my thralls are fellow to thee. Say, what brings thee here?”
“This lord. It was told among men down in the south that thou wouldst give a good gift to him who should discover to thee the fairest maid in Iceland. So I asked leave of my mistress to come on a journey and tell thee of her.”
“Then a lie was told thee. Still, I love to hear of fair maids, and seek one for a wife if she be but fair enough. So speak on, Koll the Fox, and lie not to me, I warn thee, else I will knock what wits are left there from that red head of thine.”
So Koll took up the tale and greatly bepraised Gudruda’s beauty; nor in truth, for all his talk, could he praise it too much. He told of her dark eyes and the whiteness of her skin, of the nobleness of her shape and the gold of her hair, of her wit and gentleness, till at length Ospakar grew afire to see this flower of maids.
“By Thor, thou Koll,” he said, “if the girl be but half of what thou sayest, her luck is good, for she shall be wife to Ospakar. But if thou hast lied to me about her, beware! for soon there shall be a knave the less in Iceland.”
Now a man rose in the hall and said that Koll spoke truth, for he had seen Gudruda the Fair, Asmund’s daughter, and there was no maid like her in Iceland.
“I will do this now,” said Blacktooth. “To-morrow I will send a messenger to Middalhof, saying to Asmund the Priest that I purpose to visit him at the time of the Yule-feast; then I shall see if the girl pleases me. Meanwhile, Koll, take thou a seat among the thralls, and here is something for thy pains,” and he took off the purple cloak and threw it to him.
“Thanks to thee, Gold-scatterer,” said Koll. “It is wise to go soon to Middalhof, for such a bloom as this maid does not lack a bee. There is a youngling in the south, named Eric Brighteyes, who loves Gudruda, and she, I think, loves him, though he is but a yeoman of small wealth and is only twenty-five years old.”
“Ho! ho!” laughed great Ospakar, “and I am forty-five. But let not this suckling cross my desire, lest men call him Eric Holloweyes!”
Now the messenger of Ospakar came to Middalhof, and his words pleased Asmund and he made ready a great feast. And Swanhild smiled, but Gudruda was afraid.
HOW ERIC CAME DOWN GOLDEN FALLS
Now Ospakar rode up to Middalhof on the day before the Yule-feast. He was splendidly apparelled, and with him came his two sons, Gizur the Lawman and Mord, young men of promise, and many armed thralls and servants. Gudruda, watching at the women’s door, saw his face in the moonlight and loathed him.
“What thinkest thou of him who comes to seek thee in marriage, foster-sister?” asked Swanhild, watching at her side.
“I think he is like a troll, and that, seek as he will, he shall not find me. I had rather lie in the pool beneath Golden Falls than in Ospakar’s hall.”