“By the hammer of Thor and the horse of Odin, this country is surely bewitched,” he muttered. His fancy, he told himself, was playing him a pleasant trick: he had seen Osla so continually in his mind’s eye, that this girl, for girl she seemed, shaped herself after his thoughts. That it could be she he loved, there in the flesh, was almost laughably impossible; yet as she talked, apparently with an air of some authority, to the men beside her, the resemblance became at moments stronger, and then again he would say to himself, “Nay, that is not like her.” As the men gesticulated and answered her their voices came to him indistinctly, while hers, strain his hearing as he might, he could not catch. There seemed to be a dispute about something which the whole party were engrossed in, when suddenly one man gave a cry and pointed at Estein. Then he saw that in his curiosity he had stepped outside the shelter of the wood and stood in a space between the trees.
At the man’s cry they all looked round, and he saw the girl’s face.
“It is she or her spirit,” he exclaimed.
Instinctively he stepped behind a tree, and at this sign of flight there was a shout from the men. One shot an arrow, which passed harmlessly to the side, and then they all came at him. He had only time to see that more villagers were coming out of the houses, and that the girl had turned away to join the other woman, when his wits came back to him, and turning into the path he set off as fast as he could put his feet to the ground.
For a time the chase was hot: he could hear the men scattering so as to cover the wood behind him, and once or twice the leaders seemed near. Estein was fleet of foot, however, and the wood so dense that it was hard to follow a man for far, and at last the sound of his pursuers died away, and he felt that, for the time at least, he was safe. But he had long left the path, and there was nothing to guide him save glimpses of the sinking sun, the ice that showed the north side of twigs and stems, and in more open spaces the lie of the branches to the prevalent wind. And as he wandered on, his mind hardly grasped the bearing and significance of forest clues. Twenty times, at least, he dismissed the resemblance he had seen as the work of fancy. The girl had