The Wanderer's Necklace eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 348 pages of information about The Wanderer's Necklace.

“And if we refuse it, what?” asked a voice.

“This:  That we shall be ringed round, and either starved out or shot down by archers.  Or, if we try to escape, that we shall be overwhelmed by numbers, and any of us who chance to be taken living shall be hanged, sound and wounded together.”

Now the leaders of the Northmen consulted.  Irene watched them for awhile, then turned to me and asked,

“What will they do, Olaf?”

“I cannot say, Augusta,” I answered, “but I think that they will offer to surrender you and not myself, since they may doubt them of that fair trial which is promised to me.”

“Which means,” she said, “that, whether I live or die, all these brave men will be sacrificed to you, Olaf, who, after all, must perish with them, as will this Egyptian.  Are you prepared to accept that blood-offering, Olaf?  If so, you must have changed from the man I loved.”

“No, Augusta,” I answered, “I am not prepared.  Rather would I trust myself into your power, Augusta.”

The conference of the officers had come to an end.  Their leader advanced and said,

“We accept the terms, except as to the matter of Olaf Red-Sword.  The Empress may go free, but Olaf Red-Sword, our general whom we love, we will not surrender.  First will we die.”

“Good!” said Jodd.  “I looked for such words from you.”

Then he marched out, with his companions, and again met Stauracius and the two generals of the Greeks.  After they had talked a little while he returned and said,

“Those two officers, being men, would have agreed, but Stauracius, the eunuch, who seems in command, will not agree.  He says that Olaf Red-Sword must be surrendered with the Empress.  We answered that in this case soon there would be no Empress to surrender except one ready for burial.  He replied that was as God might decree; either both must be surrendered or both be held.”

“Do you know why the dog said that?” whispered Irene to me.  “It was because those Northmen have let slip the offer I made to you but now, and he is jealous of you, and fears you may take his power.  Well, if I live, one day he shall pay for this who cares so little for my life.”

So she spoke, but I made no answer.  Instead, I turned to Heliodore, saying,

“You see how matters stand, beloved.  Either I must surrender myself, or all these brave men must perish, and we with them.  For myself, I am ready to die, but I am not willing that you and they should die.  Also, if I yield, I can do no worse than die, whereas perchance after all things will take another turn.  Now what say you?”

“I say, follow your heart, Olaf,” she replied steadily.  “Honour comes first of all.  The rest is with God.  Wherever you go there I soon shall be.”

“I thank you,” I answered; “your mind is mine.”

Then I stepped forward and said,

“Comrades, it is my turn to throw in this great game.  I have heard and considered all, and I think it best that I should be surrendered, with the Augusta, to the Greeks.”

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The Wanderer's Necklace from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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