“Saving only in so far as it left me at the trysting-place alone,” said Estein.
“And me to shiver at the gate,” answered Helgi, with a laugh. “Well, after a time, which seemed long enough, though doubtless a shorter space than I thought, the hall door opened, and men rushed out with much needless uproar. Then, I must confess, I e’en left my post with all the haste I could, and concealed me in the outbuildings of a small house close without the gate. The door was open, but it was so pitch black inside that I knew they could not see me, though them I saw plainly enough as they stopped at the gate.”
“Who were they?” asked Estein.
“The black traitor Thorar, and with him some ten or twelve others, doubtless all the sober men at the feast. It took them but a short space to find the dead sentinel; and thereupon Thorar, who seemed almost beside himself with anger, sent the others off in haste to intercept our road to Ketill, while he himself ran to collect a force from the village. Then I bethought me it was well to have company on the road, so I even joined myself to my pursuers. Luckily they went not by the open glade, but kept a path well shaded and very dark, and for the best part of an hour we must have run together through the wood.
“At last we reached a solitary woodman’s house, and there for a brief space we paused to inquire of the good man whether he had seen us pass that way. It was a wise inquiry, and the answer was such as an entirely sober man might have reasonably expected. The woodman was in the village at the feast, and his wife, good woman, had been in bed for the last two hours, and strangely enough had not seen us. So our brisk lads started off at the run again. But there we parted company, for I was tired of chasing myself, and the woman had a pleasant voice, and, so far as I could see, a comely countenance.”
Estein laughed aloud. “My story will seem a tame narrative after this,” he exclaimed.
“Did not I say so,” said Helgi. “Well, I fell behind, and presently was knocking up the good woman again, for I said to myself, ’These dogs will not surely come to this house a second time, and a night in the cold woods is not to my liking.’ So to make a long story short, I wrought so upon the tender heart of the woodman’s wife that, Norseman as I was, she gave me shelter and bed, and promised to send me off in the morning before her husband returned.”
“As most wives would,” interposed Estein.
Helgi laughed. “Fate had decided otherwise,” he continued. “Even as I was eating my morning meal, the goodwife waiting on me most courteously, the door opened and the husband entered. I saw from the man’s ugly look that all his wife’s wiles were lost upon him; but the dog was a cowardly dog, and feared the game he thirsted to fix his treacherous teeth in. He had nothing for it but to equip me with this great sheep-skin coat and cap, and a stout