“If that hand is cold in death, then henceforth I wend my ways alone.”
“And if it be held of another hand than thine?”
“Then I will journey back to England, lady, and here in this fair garden I may crave speech of thee again.”
They looked one on another. “Fare thee well, Eric!” said the Lady Elfrida. “Here in this garden we may talk again; and, if we talk no more—why, fare thee well! Days come and go; the swallow takes flight at winter, and lo! at spring it twitters round the eaves. And if it come not again, then farewell to that swallow. The world is a great house, Eric, and there is room for many swallows. But alas! for her who is left desolate—alas, alas!” And she turned and went.
It is told of this lady Elfrida that she became very wealthy and was much honoured for her gentleness and wisdom, and that, when she was old, she built a great church and named it Ericskirk. It is also told that, though many sought her in marriage, she wedded none.
HOW SWANHILD WALKED THE SEAS
Within two days afterwards, the Gudruda being bound for sea, Eric went up to bid farewell to the King. But Edmund was so angry with him because of his going that he would not see him. Thereon Eric took horse and rode down sadly from the Palace to the river-bank where the Gudruda lay. But when he was about to give the word to get out the oars, the King himself rode up, and with him men bearing costly gifts. Eric went ashore to speak with him.
“I am angry with thee, Brighteyes,” said Edmund, “yet it is not in my heart to let thee go without words and gifts of farewell. This only I ask of thee now, that, if things go not well with thee there, out in Iceland, thou wilt come back to me.”
“I will—that I promise thee, King,” said Eric, “for I shall never find a better lord.”
“Nor I a braver servant,” said the King. Then he gave him the gifts and kissed him before all men. To Skallagrim also he gave a good byrnie of Welsh steel coloured black.
Then Eric went aboard again and dropped down the river with the tide.
For five days all went well with them, the sea being calm and the winds light and favourable. But on the fifth night, as they sailed slowly along the coasts of East Anglia over against Yarmouth sands, the moon rose red and ringed and the sea fell dead calm.
“Yonder hangs a storm-lamp, lord,” said Skallagrim, pointing to the angry moon. “We shall soon be bailing, for the autumn gales draw near.”
“Wait till they come, then speak,” said Eric. “Thou croakest ever like a raven.”
“And ravens croak before foul weather,” answered Skallagrim, and just as he spoke a sudden gust of wind came up from the south-east and laid the Gudruda over. After this it came on to blow, and so fiercely that for whole days and nights their clothes were scarcely dry. They ran northwards before the storm and still northward, sighting no land and seeing no stars. And ever as they scudded on the gale grew fiercer, till at length the men were worn out with bailing and starved with wet and cold. Three of their number also were washed away by the seas, and all were in sorry plight.