“I am under a spell,” he would say to himself, and stride more quickly over the heather, and then catch himself smiling at the thought of some word or look of Osla’s.
The hermit’s black mood passed away, and was followed by an attitude of grave distance towards his guest. He spoke little, but always courteously, and seemed to treat him at first merely as an addition to the live stock of the island.
One night Estein, after the manner of the skalds, sang a poem of his own as they sat round the fire. He called it the “King’s War Song.”
“On high the raven banner
Invites the hungry kites,
Red glares the sun at noon-tide,
Wild gleam the Northern lights;
The war-horn brays its summons,
And from each rock-bound fiord
Come the sea-kings of Norway,
To follow Norway’s lord.
“The cloven arrow speeding,
Fraught with war’s alarms,
Calls the ravens to their feast,
The Udallers to arms.
See that your helms be burnished,
See that your blades be ground,
When he of Yngve’s kindred
Sends the war token round!”
“Skoal, [Footnote: The Norse drinking salutation.] Vandrad! skoal!” cried the hermit.
His hearers looked at him in amazement. His eyes flashed, his lips twitched, the whole man was transformed for the moment into the Viking of the western seas.
“Once I was a skald myself,” he said. “You have quickened what I thought was dead.” And he rose and walked out into the night.
For a minute they were too surprised to speak. Then Osla said softly,—
“Your magic is too strong, Vandrad.” She threw him one glance that lived long in his memory, and quickly followed her father.
For more than an hour afterwards he could dimly see them pacing the shore in silence, her arm within the hermit’s.
Next day the old man was more silent and reserved than before, but every now and then Estein saw that his eyes followed him, and the few words he spoke were couched in a kindlier manner.
“Sing to him again,” whispered Osla in the evening, and night after night the young skald sang and the hermit and his daughter listened. Sometimes when he was finished the old Viking would talk on various themes. Brief glimpses of his earlier days, snatches of religious converse, his travels, and the strange peoples he had seen, he would touch upon before the evening prayer.
And so the time passed away, till Estein had spent six weeks in the Holy Isle. All the while he had made no open love to Osla. She seemed merely friendly, and he was distracted between a wild desire to break down the barriers between them and a strange and numbing feeling of warning that held him back, he knew not why. So strong was it at times that he fancied two spells cast upon him, one by the island maiden, the other by some unknown spirit.
One morning he found her wandering by the cliffs that formed the seaward barrier of the isle.