“What of it? Why ‘thus! and thus! and thus!’ didst thou bid farewell to Atli’s bride. Ay, ‘thus and thus,’ with clinging lips and twined arms. Warm and soft was thy farewell kiss to her who would have slain me, Brighteyes!”
“Gudruda, thou speakest truth, though how thou sawest I know not. Think no ill of it, and scourge me not with words, for, sooth to say, I was melted by her grief and the music of her talk.”
“It is shame to thee so to speak of her whom but now thou heldest in thine arms. By the grief and the music of the talk of her who would have murdered me thou wast melted into kisses, Eric!—for I saw it with these eyes. Knowest thou what I am minded to say to thee? It is this: ’Go hence and see me no more;’ for I have little wish to cleave to such a feather-man, to one so blown about by the first breath of woman’s tempting.”
“Yet, methinks, Gudruda, I have withstood some such winds. I tell thee that, hadst thou been in my place, thyself hadst yielded to Swanhild and kissed her in farewell, for she was more than woman in that hour.”
“Nay, Eric, I am no weak man to be led astray thus. Yet she is more than woman—troll is she also, that I know; but less than man art thou, Eric, thus to fall before her who hates me. Time may come when she shall woo thee after a stronger sort, and what wilt thou say to her then, thou who art so ready with thy kisses?”
“I will withstand her, Gudruda, for I love thee only, and this is well known to thee.”
“Truly I know thou lovest me, Eric; but tell me of what worth is this love of man that eyes of beauty and tongue of craft may so readily bewray? I doubt me of thee, Eric!”
“Nay, doubt me not, Gudruda. I love thee alone, but I grew soft as wax beneath her pleading. My heart consented not, yet I did consent. I have no more to say.”
Now Gudruda looked on him long and steadfastly. “Thy plight is sorry, Eric,” she said, “and this once I forgive thee. Look to it that thou givest me no more cause to doubt thee, for then I shall remember how thou didst bid farewell to Swanhild.”
“I will give none,” he answered, and would have embraced her; but this she would not suffer then, nor for many days after, for she was angry with him. But with Swanhild she was still more angry, though she said nothing of it. That Swanhild had tried to murder her, Gudruda could forgive, for there she had failed; but not that she had won Eric to kiss her, for in this she had succeeded well.
HOW ERIC WAS OUTLAWED AND SAILED A-VIKING
Now the marriage-feast went on, and Swanhild, draped in white and girt about with gold, sat by Atli’s side upon the high seat. He was fain of her and drew her to him, but she looked at him with cold calm eyes in which hate lurked. The feast was done, and all the company rode to the sea strand, where the Earl’s ship lay at anchor. They came there, and Swanhild kissed Asmund, and talked a while with Groa, her mother, and bade farewell to all men. But she bade no farewell to Eric and to Gudruda.