“The gods have sent for me,” he thought.
They were being carried by the current towards the place where he stood, and presently they made a landing on the rocks. There followed a consultation in low tones, and then one man left the boat and came up the bank. He stood out clearly in the transparent dusk—a tall, mail-clad figure, walking with a confident carriage.
Estein waited till he was opposite him, and then sprang up, dagger in hand.
“Who art thou?” he demanded.
The man’s hand went straight to his sword, but at the sound of Estein’s voice it fell again.
“Estein, my foster-brother!” he cried.
Helgi opened his arms and embraced him tenderly, speaking with an emotion he made no effort to control. “Estein, my brother, I thought thou wert in truth in Valhalla. I have wept for thee, Estein; I have mourned thee as dead. Tell me that this is thy very self, and not some island ghost come to mock me.”
The friendly voice and grasp, coming in this his hour of trouble, touched Estein to the heart.
“It is I, indeed, Helgi,” he said; “and never have I felt more glad to see a face and clasp a hand. How came you here? I thought I had parted from my friends for ever. I have been so long alone that they had begun to seem like dream-men.”
Helgi told him briefly how he had swum ashore to another island, and there been picked up by Ketill, the black-bearded captain of one of Estein’s scattered ships; how, giving up all hope, they had sailed for the south, and after meeting head winds and little luck, returned to the Orkneys, where, from a man who had been with Margad, news of the stranger on the Holy Isle had reached their ears.
“They say, Estein, that your hermit has a fair daughter. Methinks she would like to see your foster-brother; would she not?”
“Nay, Helgi, ask me no more questions, but take me quickly away. I am spell-bound here, and I dare not trust myself to stay one moment longer.”
“I know these spells, Estein; they have been cast on men by other maids before now. Better take your sorceress with you. It is unlucky to break such spells so rudely.”
“Laugh not, Helgi,” said Estein, taking his arm and hurrying him down to the shore. “This spell has meant more to me than you can guess.”
“By the hammer of Thor!” exclaimed Helgi, stopping suddenly, “there surely is the witch herself.”
Estein looked round, and standing against the sky he saw the slender form he knew so well.
“Wait for me, Helgi,” he said, “the spell is on me still,” and starting away suddenly he ran up the bank again.
“Osla!” he cried, and stopped abruptly.
“What means this, Vandrad?” she asked.
Her eyes were wide open with troubled surprise, and looking into her upturned face he thought she never was so fair before.
“They have come for me, Osla, and I must go. Farewell! remember me not.”