“I was filling twenty long ships with enough stout lads to man them, and sailing the western main again,” replied Estein.
“And whither were you sailing?” asked Helgi.
“Westward first,” said Estein.
“With perchance a point or so of south—such a direction as would bring us to the Hjaltland Isles, or, it may be, the Orkneys?”
“Aided by a wayward wind,” replied Estein with a smile.
“Where, doubtless, it would be well to slay another sea-rover,” Helgi went on, “since they cause much trouble to peaceable seafarers from Norway. Witches, too, and warlocks dwell in the isles, men say, and it were well to rid the land of such.”
At this last speech Estein first frowned and flushed, and then meeting his foster-brother’s look, all outward gaiety and lurking mirth, he laughed defiantly, and exclaimed,—
“It may be so, Helgi. Everything I do is ordained already, and it matters not whither I turn the prow of my ship or what I plan. To Orkney I go!”
“Then run your thoughts still on this maiden?”
“They have run, they are still running, and while I live I see not what is to stop their course.”
“Remember, my brother, what stands between you,” said Helgi, more gravely.
“I have not forgotten.”
“And yet you sail to Orkney?”
“The gods have bidden me cross the seas,” replied Estein, “and they will steer my ship, whatever haven I choose.”
“Go, then,” said Helgi, “and while that shrewd counsellor whom men call Helgi Sigvaldson sails with you, at least you will not lack sage advice.”
“‘Helgi hinn frode’ [Footnote: The wise.] shall you be called henceforth, and Vandrad I shall be no longer.”
They were silent for a time, and then Estein exclaimed,—
“We are well quit of that country of Jemtland! Saw you ever so many trees and so few true men before?”
“Yet was it not quite bare of good things,” replied his friend.
“What, mean you the woodman’s wife?”
“What else?” said Helgi, and then he fell silent again.
They reached Hernersfiord towards nightfall, and as they crept up the still, narrow waters darkness gathered fast. One by one, and then in tens and hundreds and myriads, the stars came out and hung like a gay awning between the pine-crowned walls. Ahead they saw lights and a looming bank of land, and hails passed from ship to shore and back again. Presently they were gently slipping by the stone pier, where one or two men stood awaiting them.
“What news?” asked Helgi.
The men made no reply, but seemed to whisper among themselves, and Helgi repeated his question. Just then a man came hurrying to the end of the pier and shouted,—
“Is it then Estein returned?”
“My father!” exclaimed Helgi.
“What can bring the jarl here at this hour?” said Estein, springing ashore.