“That would be friend Jomar,” said Helgi.
“I know not his name, but treachery, he said, was determined; and I stopped all drink thereafter, and there was nothing at all left then but to play with dice and sleep. A little later this Thorar came to the town, and would have persuaded me to follow you to the king; and when I asked for some token he showed me a ring he said was yours. Mine own mind is not attentive to these gew-gaws, but a man whose eyes were sharp before a Jemtland axe clove his head this morning knew it for none of yours.”
“Did you not seize him at once?” said Estein.
“I was for taking him on the spot, but we spoke without the town, and he had such a company along with him that after a sharp bout he got off, though he left three of his lads on the snow.
“May werewolves seize me if this be not dry work! Ho’ there, bring me a horn of ale.”
As soon as he had quenched his thirst in a long draught, and wiped his hairy lips with much relish, the narrator went on:—
“So at night, as you may think, we kept a strict and sober guard, and rested in our harness. And well it was; for I had not slept an hour, it seemed, before the cry arose that the enemy were upon us. But when they saw we were ready for them, the vermin withdrew to the woods to gather more force, and it was not till day had well broken that they ventured out and offered battle. Thereupon I slew the hostages, set fire to the town, and fell upon them straightway, and a braver fire and a brisker fight while it lasted I wish not to see. They were seven to one, at the least, but never an inch of ground did we give, and never a stroke did we spare. Methinks,” he concluded with a chuckle, “they will remember their welcome.”
It was on a breezy April morning that the mountains of Sogn came into view again. A strong slant of south-east wind had driven the two ships out to sea; and now, as they raced landwards before a favouring breeze, they saw low down on the horizon one glittering hill-top after another pierce the morning mist bank. Helgi for the time had charge of the tiller, while Estein leant against the weather bulwark, busy with his new resolves.
“A ship must cross the sea again,” he repeated to himself. “The time for action is at hand, and we shall see what new freak fortune will play with me. Yet, after all,” he reflected, “though she has pressed my head beneath the tide before, she has always suffered me to rise and gasp ere she drowned me quite. It all comes to this: the purposes of the gods are too deep for me to fathom, so I must e’en hold my peace and bide the passage of events.”
Helgi had been watching him with a half-smile on his frank face, and at last he cried,—
“What counsel hold you with the seamews? Sometimes I see a smile, and sometimes I hear a sigh; and then, again, there is a look of the eye as if Liot Skulison were standing before you.”