The old man remained lost in thought. “Strange, passing strange,” he muttered, pressing his hand to his forehead. “Can she have seen him? Or can it be—”
His eyes suddenly brightened, and he began to pace the room.
The last of the lawman.
In silence and haste the three men pursued their way. A thaw had set in, chill and cloudy; underfoot the snow was soft and melting, and all through the forest they heard the drip of a thousand trees and the creaking and swinging of boughs in the wind. As the morning wore on and they warmed to their work, the two Norsemen talked a little with each other, but contrary to their wont of late, it was Estein who spoke oftenest and seemed in the better spirits. Helgi, for him, was quiet and thoughtful, and at last Estein exclaimed,—
“How run your thoughts, Helgi? on the next feast, or the last maid, or the man you left bound to the tree? Men will think we have changed natures if our talk goes as it has this morning.”
“I had a strange dream last night,” replied Helgi.
“Tell it to me, and I will expound it to a flagon or an eyelash, as the theme may chance to be.”
“Nay,” cried Helgi, with a sudden return to his usual buoyancy, “now that I have my old Estein back with me, I will not turn him again into a reader of dreams and omens. I am rejoiced to see you in so bright a humour. Had you a pleasant dream?”
“Action lies before me,” said Estein—“the open sea and the lands of the south again; and the very prospect is medicine.”
After a time Estein came up to their guide’s side, and said,—
“It will take us surely longer than you said. We had to travel for long through open country when we left the town, and we have never reached the beginning of it yet.”
Jomar gave a quick, contemptuous laugh, and answered shortly,—
“Think you then that Thorar brought you by the shortest route? Those prisoners whom you set free reached King Bue’s hall many hours before you. You are not wise, you Northmen.”
Estein looked for a moment as though he would have retorted sharply, but biting his lip he fell back again, nor did he exchange another word with the man.
It was about mid-day, when, as they were coming down a wooded slope, Helgi exclaimed,—
“Hark! what is that clamour?”
Jomar too heard the shouts, for he stopped for a moment and listened keenly, and then started off faster than before. With every step they took the distant sounds grew louder and the shouts of men, and even it seemed the clash of steel, could be distinguished.
“The attack is made,” cried Helgi. “Pray the gods they scatter not the dogs before we come up.”
Jomar heard him, and looked over his shoulder with a savage glance.
“Sometimes dogs bite and rend,” he said.