“I come,” said Eric. “Gudruda, fare thee well!”
She kissed him and clung to him, but did not answer, for she could not speak.
HOW HALL THE MATE CUT THE GRAPNEL CHAIN
Gudruda bent her head like a drooping flower, and presently sank to earth, for her knees would bear her weight no more; but Eric marched to the lip of the sea, his head held high and laughing merrily to hide his pain of heart. Here stood Asmund, who gripped him by both hands, and kissed him on the brow, bidding him good luck.
“I know not whether we shall meet again,” he said; “but, if my hours be sped before thou returnest, this I charge thee: that thou mindest Gudruda well, for she is the sweetest of all women that I have known, and I hold her the most dear.”
“Fear not for that, lord,” said Eric; “and I pray thee this, that, if I come back no more, as well may happen, do not force Gudruda into marriage, if she wills it not, and I think she will have little leaning that way. And I say this also: do not count overmuch on Bjoern thy son, for he has no loyal heart; and beware of Groa, who was thy housekeeper, for she loves not that Unna should take her place and more. And now I thank thee for many good things, and farewell.”
“Farewell, my son,” said Asmund, “for in this hour thou seemest as a son to me.”
Eric turned to enter the sea and wade to the vessel, but Skallagrim caught him in his arms as though he were but a child, and, wading into the surf till the water covered his waistbelt, bore him to the vessel and lifted him up so that Eric reached the bulwarks with his hands.
Then they loosed the cable and got out the oars and soon were dancing over the sea. Presently the breeze caught them, and they set the great sail and sped away like a gull towards the Westman Isles. But Gudruda sat on the shore watching till, at length, the light faded from Eric’s golden helm as he stood upon the poop, and the world grew dark to her.
Now Ospakar Blacktooth had news of this sailing and took counsel of Gizur his son, and the end of it was that they made ready two great ships, dragons of war, and, placing sixty fighting men in each of them, sailed round the Iceland coast to the Westmans and waited there to waylay Eric. They had spies on the land, and from them they learned of Brighteyes’ coming, and sailed out to meet him in the channel between the greater and the lesser islands, where they knew that he must pass.
Now it drew towards evening when Eric rowed down this channel, for the wind had fallen and he desired to be clear at sea. Presently, as the Gudruda came near to the mouth of the channel, that had high cliffs on either hand, Eric saw two long dragons of war—for their bulwarks were shield-hung—glide from the cover of the island and take their station side by side between him and the open sea.