Gudrid the Fair
by Maurice Hewlett
GUDRID THE FAIR
A Tale of the Discovery of America
The Forest Lovers,
The Life and Death of Richard Yea and Nay,
Love and Lucy, etc.
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
By Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.
This tale is founded upon two sagas, which have been translated
literally and without attempt to accord their discrepancies by York
Powell and Vigfussen in their invaluable Origines Icelandicae.
As well as those versions I have had another authority to help me, in
Laing's Sea-Kings of Norway. I have blent the two accounts into
one, and put forward the result with this word of explanation, which I
hope will justify me in the treatment I have given them.
I don't forget that a saga is history, and that these sagas in
particular furnish an account of the first discovery of America, no
less a thing. Nevertheless, while I have been scrupulous in leaving the
related facts as I found them, I have not hesitated to dwell upon the
humanity in the tales, and to develop that as seemed fitting. I don't
think that I have put anything into the relation which is not implied
in the few words accorded me by the text. I believe that everything I
give Gudrid and Freydis, Karlsefne and Leif and Eric Red to say or to
do can be made out from hints, which I have made it my business to
interpret. Character makes plot in life as well as in fiction, and a
novelist is not worthy of his hire who can't weave a tale out of one or
two people to whom he has been able to give life. All romantic
invention proceeds from people or from atmosphere. Therefore, while I
have shown, I hope, due respect to the exploration of America, I admit
that my tale turns essentially upon the explorers of it. My business as
a writer of tales has been to explore them rather than Wineland the
Good. I have been more interested in Gudrid's husbands and babies than
I had need to be as an historian. I am sure the tale is none the worse
for itand anyhow I can't help it. If I read of a woman called Gudrid,
and a handsome woman at that, I am bound to know pretty soon what
colour her hair was, and how she twisted it up. If I hear that she had
three husbands and outlived them all I cannot rest until I know how she
liked them, how they treated her; what feelings she had, what feelings
they had. So I get to know them as well as I know herand so it goes
on. Wineland does not fail of getting discovered, but meantime some new
people have been born into the world who do the business of discovering
while doing their own human business of love and marriage and
All this, I say, is implicit in the saga-history. So it is, but it
has to be looked for. The saga listeners, I gather, took character very
much for granted, as probably Homer's audience did. Odysseus was full
of wiles, Achilles was terrible, Paris a woman-haunting cheat, Gunnar
of Lithend a poet and born fighter, Nial a sage, and so on. The poet
gave them more than that, of course. Poetry apart, he did not disdain
psychology. There is plenty psychology in both Iliad and
Odysseyless in the sagas, but still it is there. And when you
come to know the persons of these great inventions there is as much
psychology as any one can need, or may choose to put thereas much as
there is in Hamlet, as much as there is in La Guerre et La
In Kormak's Saga, for instance, which I put forward some years ago
as A Lover's Tale, is there no psychology? It is no way out of
it to put down Kormak's tergiversations to sorcery. I doubt if that was
good enough for the men who first heard the tale; it is certainly no
good to us. In the strange barbaric recesses of the tale of Gunnar
Helming and Frey's wife, what are we to make of it all unless we reckon
with the states of poor Sigrid's soul, married to a gog-eyed wooden
god? How came Halgerd to betray Gunnar to his foes, how came Nial to be
burned in his bed? Can one read Laxdale and not desire to read
through it into the proud heart of Gudrun?
And having once begun with them one could go on, I believe, until
the hearts of all those fine, straight-dealing people were as plain to
us as those of our superfine, sophisticated moderns. For Nature is
still our mother and mistress, no less now than she ever wasand
that's a good thing for the story-reader as well as for the
Out of the Saga of Thorgils, which is a tale of Greenland's
exploration, I hope that I drew a portrait of a good Icelander. Out of
Eric's Saga and Karlsefne's Saga combined I believe there is a no less
faithful picture of a good Icelandish woman. Gudrid was wise as well as
fair, if I have read her truly; she was a good woman, wife and mother.
The discovery of Wineland is to my own feelings quite beside the mark
where she is involved; but I have put it all in, and wish there had
been more of it. Psychology and romantic imagination will not help us
much there. We want the facts, and they fail us. All that can be made
out is that Karlsefne sailed up the Hudson. His Scraelings were
Esquimaux. But who was the black-kirtled woman who appeared to Gudrid
and gave herself the same name? And where was the Maggoty Sea? And what
goaded Freydis to her dreadful deeds? I admire Freydis myself; I think
she was a femme incomprise. I have taken pains with Freydis,
though personally I had rather been Gudrid's fourth husband than
I am not afraid of the accusation of vulgarising the classics. It is
good that they should be loved, and if simplification and amplification
humanise them I can stand the charge with philosophy. Of all classics
known to me the sagas are the most unapproachable in their naked
strength. Their frugality freezes the soul; they are laconic to
baldness. I admire strength with anybody, but the starkness of the
sagas shocks me. When Nial lies down by his old wife's side with the
timbers roaring and crackling over his head, and Skarphedin, his son,
says, Our father goes early to bed, but that was to be expected, as he
is an old man, Professor Ker, exulting in his strength, finds it
admirable. I say it is inadequate, and not justified to us by what else
the saga tells us of the speaker. I am sure that Skarphedin had more to
say, or that if he had not the poet could have expressed him better. It
recalls the humorous callousness of our soldiers, which, nakedly
rendered, is often shocking. This is, however, not really the point.
Terseness may be dramaticit often is, as in Cover her facemine
eyes dazzleShe died youngbut in narrative it may check instead of
provoke the imagination. But if it provoke, is it not reasonable to let
the imagination go to work upon it? If Skarphedin indeed took his
father's death in that manner, is one not justified in going to work
with Skarphedin, to find out what manner of man he was who could so
express himself in supreme crisis? I trace a great deal of our
soldiers' crude jesting at death to their Scandinavian blood; and
nothing more intensely and painfully interesting has ever been given to
the imagination to work upon than their conduct in the face of horror
and sin of late, so dauntless, so blithe and so grim as it is.
Where heroism has been so shown on all sides of us in these three
dreadful years, it is no longer possible to pick and choose heroic
nations. One might otherwise have said that no such heroes were ever
given to the world as the heroes of Iceland. That they are not accepted
as such on all hands is no fault of the literature which presents them;
for that literature, like all great art, makes demands upon its
readers. It hands over the key, but if the lock is stiff it will not
give you oil for the wards. That you must find for yourself. Oil for
the wards is all I can pretend to here; and if I may say that I have
humanised a tale of endurance, and clothed demigods and shadows in
flesh and blood, I shall feel that I have done useful work, and bear
charges of vulgarisation with a philosophy which assures me that the
two terms are much of a muchness.
The great gestures, the large-scale maps, the grand manner are for
history and epic, but genre for the noveland what genre is so
momentous to it as the human? Let Homer describe the wrath of Achilles
and the passion of Hektor and Andromache. The novelist will want to
know what Briseïs felt when she was handed from hero to hero, will pore
upon the matronly charity of Theano, the agony of the two young men
Achilles slew by Skamander, and find the psychology of these pawns in
the great game as enthralling as that of the high movers. I confess
that to me Gudrid, the many times a wife and the always sweet and
reserved, is more absorbing a tale than the discovery of Wineland. I
like the two running Scots better than their country, would barter all
Greenland for the tale of the winter sickness in Thorstan Black's
house. So much apology I feel moved to offer for having put down
Exploration from the chief place in the tale, and put up a wife and
As for the verseGudrid's Wardlock chant is adapted from the Lay of
Swipday and Merglad in Corpus Poeticum Boreale, I, 92 seq., and Thorstan's Song of Helgi and Sigrun is a partial version of that
epic (ibid. 131).
GUDRID THE FAIR
Thorbeorn was old when this tale begins. His face was lean, his
beard was grey, he stooped somewhat in the saddle. But he had a fiery
mind, a high spirit, and was so rich, or believed so, that men said he
could buy off Death more likely than any other man, seeing he would
neither fail of hardihood nor money.
By this time, old age apart, he had done very well for himself,
having not only buried a wife, but married another; having not only
seen three sons out into the world and become a grandfather twice over;
but having had also, by his second wife, whose name was Hollweg, a
daughter, and an estate of Bathbrink which could be hers by and by, if
he so pleased. This daughter was by name Gudrid, and by all men's
consent Gudrid the Fair. Iceland has always been famous for handsome
women; but three are chiefly commemorated as the Fair. The first is
Gudrun, who was daughter of Oswif; but she was now old. The second is
Stangerd, daughter of Thorkel of Tongue, and at this time the wife of
Battle-Berse of Sowerby in the north-west parts. This Gudrid,
Thorbeorn's daughter, is the third, and was, at the moment, of
marriageable age, being full fifteen years old.
She was a tall girl, well and beautifully made, with carriage so
graceful and look so courteous that men used to stop in the road and
gaze after her as she walked. Her hair was very nearly black, and made
a plait which she could easily sit upon. She was no talker, but had the
best of manners, whereby it happened that those who talked with her
were eloquent and believed that she had been so. She had a beautiful
voice and notable skill in singing. Men heard her songs, and rushed out
into the dark emulous of desperate work, and the sooner the better, to
deserve well of her. Thorbeorn was very proud of her; but it had been
her mother's work to have her carefully trained. If she had lived this
tale might not have been written; but she did not. She died a year
before it begins, and left her old husband to a peck of troubles.
Thorbeorn was the last man to cope with trouble. He was too proud,
too vain, and too idletoo proud to confide, too vain to accept, too
idle to repair. He had always kept a great table and had a hall full of
guests. He had them still, though he had not the money to pay for them.
He borrowed on his property, and borrowed again to repay the first
loans; he had ventures at sea, which failed him. He might have had help
from his sons, but would not ask them. When Gudrid was fifteen years
old these things vexed him sadly; but what vexed him more was that
young men came to Bathbrink to see if they could get speech with her;
and that some of them put forward friends with proposals to marry her.
So far he had refused to treat with any. It is not to be thought of,
he generally said; sometimes, It is very unsuitable; and once, I am
greatly offended. Not that he did not fully intend to have her
marriedrather it was that he had a rooted belief in the greatness of
his family and in the girl's merits, and could find none of the suitors
at all equal to them.
He was one of those men who rather wish to believe in themselves
than do it. He was always on the look-out for flaws upon his mettle. He
thought that Gudrid was unapproachable, and when he found that she was
not, fretted to make her so. But Gudrid herself was not at all
unapproachable. She liked the company of her equals in age, and saw no
reason why young men should not be anxious to talk to her, or why, if
they hung about with the generality at the lower end of the hall, they
should not be invited to the fire. With the girls in the bower she
talked freely of courtships, and of young men. Thorbeorn would have
been cut to the heart to hear her. It might have been better for him to
have such a wound than the wound which actually he did receive.
He was riding home late one autumn evening. The weather was still
mild and warm. Nearing home, he turned his horse on to the turf and
walked him, with the reins hanging loose. Presently he was aware of two
figures together under a clump of trees. One of them he saw at once for
Gudrid. The other was a man, he knew not whom. Immediately hot water
sprang into his eyes and veiled their sight, but he saw enough to guess
The pair were taking leave of each other. Their hands were clasped,
their arms at length. They were far apart, the man talking, Gudrid
listening. Then presently the strain on the arms relaxed, their clasped
hands fell; they were near together. Gudrid, he saw, hung her headand
then, suddenly, the man put his other arm about her neck, and drew her
to him and kissed her cheek. At that she broke away and ran towards the
house. The man, looking after her for a little, then vaulted the turf
wall and ran down the hillside towards the river, making great skips
and jumps over the tussocks and boulders, as if he were as happy as a
man could be. That was what Thorbeorn saw in the autumn dusk.
He went home in a dreadful state of mind, and could hardly bear to
be served supper by his desecrated daughter. To think that those soft
cheeks had been profaned by a strange youth, that those grave young
eyes had looked kindly upon another than himself, that that fair hand
had clasped another's in kindnessall this seemed to him horrible. He
thought her a hypocrite; he thought himself insulted. Yet even he had
to admit that the kiss was sudden, and she evidently surprised and
(since she ran away at once) probably frightened. He judged that she
was a novice at such work, but for all that was very much afraid that
she took kindly to it.
He spent a great part of the night thinking it over, and before he
went to sleep had made up his mind. Early in the morning he was out and
about; before the day-meal he sent for Gudrid. She came, singing to
herself, fresh as a rose and as fair. She asked his pleasureand he
had not the heart to tell her his displeasure. What he did say was
this: Put your gear together as soon as you can. I am taking you to
Erne Pillar, where you will be put in fostership with Orme. Gudrid
looked up startled, and saw in her father's eyes what she had not seen
before. Her own eyes fell, she coloured up, turned and went away, to do
as she was told.
It may be said at once that she had done very little harm, and none
knowingly. The young man, who was one of the several who came to the
house, was the son of a neighbour, a man of repute. Gudrid favoured him
no more than any of the others, but it had so happened that he had been
there that afternoon, talking with the girls, and that Gudrid had
walked with him as far as the trees on his way home. He had protracted
the farewells, and had snatched a kiss; she had been frightened and run
away. That might have happened to anybodybut she knew now that Arnkel
had had no business at the house when her father was not there. That
could not be denied. She went soberly about her preparations, and the
girls were full of pity. They talked it over and over, but there was
nothing to be done. Her bundles and bales were corded upon the
sumpter's back. She embraced and kissed her housemates. There were wet
cheeks and trembling lips involved, but they were not hers. Then she
was put up before her father, and away she went.
As for young Arnkel, he no more comes into the tale than he had
stayed in Gudrid's mind.
Orme was a friend of Thorbeorn's, and a prosperous man. He lived at
Erne Pillar, which is below Snaefellness, and near the sea. There was a
haven there and a town. Moreover it was a Christian settlement, with a
church and a priest. Most of the houses and land there belonged to
Orme, who lived in a good house of his own with his wife Halldis. They
had no children, which was a grief to them.
Thorbeorn brought Gudrid to the house, and had a good reception from
the goodman and his wife. Take her with you, good wife, into your
bower, he said, while I have a word with Orme. He will tell you all
about it, or I will. It is good for me to be sure that it makes no
matter which of us tells you.
Halldis said, it was easy to see that Gudrid was not making a short
stay, and took her with her through the house into the bower. There, it
was not long before she knew all that Thorbeorn or Orme could have to
say, and may be more still.
Meantime, Thorbeorn, after much unnecessary havers, said to Orme:
The matter is this, neighbour. I ask you and the goodwife to take
Gudrid here in fostership. It will suit me in every way, and I hope you
will agree to it.
Orme said that it would suit him too very well. Nothing the
mistress would like better than to see herself reflected in a young
pair of eyes. Thorbeorn accepted that as a matter of course; but
presently he asked whether they saw much company at Erne Pillar.
Not such a deal of company, Orme said. Now and again a ship came in,
and there was a bustle, with men coming and going, cheapening the
goods. Nothing to you at Bathbrink, I daresay, he added. They tell
me that you keep a great house up thereas is fitting you should.
I have to remember what is expected of me, Thorbeorn said, and
felt that he was no nearer what he wanted to say than he had been.
Gudrid is young, he said, beginning again.
She's a beauty, it's evident, Orme said briskly, and instantly
Thorbeorn felt himself bristling down the backbone.
She is sought after on all handsbut not by any who is to my
liking. I hope that Halldis will look after her well.
She will look after her like one of her own, said Orme. Thorbeorn
had rather he had said more than that. He could not understand that
Orme did not see what was at stake, and yet could not enlighten him
further. The good wife then came springing in.
She will be happy, and so shall we be, she said. I have a roomy
heart, too long empty, woe's me. She will soon be singing about the
house, and then we old folks will fall to it. It will be like a nest of
linnets. She will scour our rusty pipes for us. Excellent!
Thorbeorn was put out that they seemed to think it pure pleasure to
have his daughter on their hands instead of great responsibility and a
call to duty.
Well, he said, you have helped me with a serious trouble. I leave
her to you with confidence. Where is she now? For I must be going.
She is with the girls in the wash-house, said Halldis. All
chattering together like starlings on a thatch. All talking at once,
and none listening. Do you wish her fetched?
No, said Thorbeorn, waving his hand. She will do better where she
is. He felt the impossibility of saying what he wished. Then he took
his way homewards, and the couple looked at each other.
A love affair, Halldis said.
It looks like it, said Orme. And there will be love affairs.
She's a paragon.
That remains to be seen, Halldis said. She's a beauty at least.
But a baby as yet. Wait till she's cut her teeth.
I hope she won't cut them here, said Orme; but his wife said
briskly, Better here than there. Halldis could see through Thorbeorn
and pity his barren pride.
Gudrid was happy at Erne Pillar, and soon very much at home. She had
found her voice at once, and now she began to find herself. Her
discoveries were made in the appreciative eyes of her foster-parents,
for that is the first place in which we get our notion of ourselves.
The portrait encouraged her. She became interesting to herself. Then
there were the neighbours, often in and out of the house, but always
under the heedful eyes of the good wife. Then there were the ships.
Last there were the priest, and his little church. All the people at
Erne Pillar had been christened, as had Thorbeorn himself been; but
there was a great difference when you had a priest and a church. The
priest at Erne Pillar was a serious priest. He said Mass every day, and
expected you, or some of you, to be there. Now Thorbeorn, Christian
though he were, had never been to Mass in his life. His Christianity
consisted in turning his back on Frey. Frey had been the chief God at
Bathbrink and in all the country round. Thorbeorn had been Frey's
priest at one time, but now would have nothing to say to him; and as
for Gudrid, she had never known anything herself about Frey or the
other gods, but had been sprinkled as soon as she could be carried down
to Erne Pillar. That, so far, had been the utmost of her Christianity.
But she had heard plenty of talk about the old gods; and now she was to
hear more about them, and something of the new gods too.
Orme and Halldis had both been heathens and knew a deal about Frey
and Redbeard, as they called Thor. Orme was not interested in religion
at all; but Halldis was. Halldis kept well with the priest, but on
certain nights of the yearon the night they called The Mother Night,
for instanceshe was restless, and used to go to the door and stand
there looking out at the moonlight, as if she would be off with the
others if she dared. That, too, was what plenty other women at Erne
Pillar were doing; but none of them went. The priest saw to it. Halldis
taught Gudrid numberless songscharms, incantations, love spells, and
long, terrible tales about Valkyrs and their human lovers. The girl
came to understand that love might become a tearing, wringing business,
and marriage a tame road for life to take. Halldis's songs were seldom
about marriage, but always about love. The two only came together in
the same song when it was a case of a giant with a woman for his wife,
or a Valkyr with a man for her husband. These cases, it seems, had
often occurred. They were exciting and ended in tearsbut not often in
marriage as well.
She went to Mass first of all with Halldis, but afterwards, as often
as not, she went alone. Halldis had plenty to do at home. If she kept
to what was of obligation she thought she did very well. But Gudrid
liked the quiet and darkness; she used to stare at the lights till they
multiplied themselves and danced like shooting stars. She liked the
murmur of the words, and the mysterious movements and shiftings of the
priest. When he lifted up the Host, she bowed her head, and used to
hear her heart beating. She supposed that something was happening
overhead, and used to listen for the rushing sound of wings. This was a
constantly renewed excitement; it never failed her when she was
welland that was always.
The priest, who was a serious priest, and came from the south, was
interested in Gudrid, and wanted her to confess and communicate; but
she would not. No, I couldn't do that, she said, without asking my
Ask her, then, my daughter, said the priest.
But she would have to ask my father, said Gudrid, who would not
But your father is a Christian, surely? said the priest.
Certainly he is a Christian. He went into the river to be one.
Then he will order you to do your duty.
Gudrid shook her head. No, no. He would not like it at all.
The priest spoke to Halldis about it, and scared her. It is not the
custom here, she said, but I will ask Orme. The priest himself asked
Orme, who rubbed his chin. One thing at a time is a good rule, he
said. We in Iceland are not much given to private talks between men
and women. Husband and wife is all very well. And Thorbeorn is a
peculiar man. I recommend you to wait for a little. These are early
days for new customs.
The priest was vexed. He did not care to be called a man.
The second summer after Gudrid came to Erne Pillar a fine ship came
in from Norway with a full cargo. She came in late in the evening, and
everybody was on the shore to see her. Orme knew whose she was and all
about her. She was Einar's ship, he said, and overdue. In the morning
she would discharge her cargo in his warehouse, and then, he said to
Gudrid, there will be matters for you to see to, which will last you a
good while. Fine cloth, Einar always brings, and embroidered lengths
from Russia. We shall have you going as gay as a kingfisher about the
Nothing was done that night except that Orme was rowed out to the
ship and stayed drinking with the master till late. But in the morning,
when Gudrid went to Mass, she saw men bringing up the cargo from the
quay; and when she came back from Mass, there, at the door of Orme's
warehouse, was Orme himself talking to a stranger who had foreign
clothes on him, a gold chain round his loins, from which hung a goodly
knife in a sheath, and rings in his ears. Gudrid, being well brought
up, looked neither to the right nor left, but dipped her head to her
foster-father as she went by. She had on her sea-blue gown, and a blue
silk handkerchief knotted in her hair. The handkerchief was there in
obedience to the priest, who had told her she must not come to church
bare-headed, even in the summer-time. The morning being fresh, her
cheeks were a-flower with roses.
Orme greeted her with a happy word as she sped by him, but Einar,
who was the stranger present, the master of the ship, looked after her,
and presently said, Tell me, who is that beautiful person?
Orme told him who she was and of what stock. Einar's colour was
high. She is a prize for a good man indeed, he said. And many and
many a man has tried after her, beyond doubt?
Many and many a man, said Orme; you are right there. But she is
not for the first comer, nor yet for the second. I won't answer for
herself, if herself had anything to say in itwhich isn't likely. But
for her father the Franklin, I will say as much as this, that he's a
great man, and knows it, though not so well to do as he was. And he
will be hard to come at in the matter of Gudrid.
Einar said no more about her just then, but turned to his affairs
and was busy all day long. Then, at supper-time, Orme took him home to
his house, where he was to stay so long as his occasions kept him in
the country. Halldis made him very welcome, and then Gudrid came into
the hall, and he had a greeting for her. He was young and
fresh-coloured, and showed fine white teeth when he smiled, which was
often. He produced his bales, presents for Halldis and Orme; and
presently, while they were all pulling over the things, he held up a
jointed girdle of wrought silver with crystals set in every square of
it. This he offered to Gudrid.
For you, lady, if you will accept of it, he said. Gudrid drew back
and blushed. Then she looked at Halldis.
Oh, may I? she asked.
Halldis, who had her hands full of scarlet cloth, looked at the
glittering thing. It is too good to refuse, she said. And why should
you refuse it?
You will make me proud and contented if you will take it, Einar
said. It will be a kind action on your part.
Einar speaks well, said Orme. Put it about you, Gudrid. Gudrid
put the belt round her waist and fastened it.
That's a good fit, said Halldis. It might have been made for
Einar was still looking at Gudrid, and smiling all the time.
Does it please you, lady? he said.
It is beautiful, said Gudrid.
It ought to be, Einar said. Then she thanked him fairly, and
turned and ran away to show herself to the maids in the bower. Einar
was very thoughtful for a time; but brightened up when Gudrid and the
girls brought in the meal, and served it. He told tales of his voyages
and entertained the company.
A very good tale he told of a friend of his called BiornBiorn
Heriolfssonwho was a ship-man like himself, and had come home to
Iceland two winters back expecting to find his father at home. But his
father in the meantime had up-stick with everything and gone off to
Greenland after Eric Red. That put Biorn out, because he was a man who
liked old customs. It had always been his way to spend the winters at
home with his father, and now here was his father flitted to Greenland.
So Biorn stood on the deck of his ship, very much put out. Shall we
break bulk? somebody asked him. No, says Biorn, you will not do
that. Let me think. When he had thought he told the ship's company
that he was minded to go to Greenland after his father, and they agreed
to make the voyage. He fastened down his cargo again, refitted, and
away. But it was one thing to resolve upon Greenland, and another thing
to hit it off. He had not sailed those seas before, and falling in with
bad weather, was driven out of his course; and thento make matters
worsethere came down upon him with a northerly wind a thick blanket
of white fog in which he could get no hint of his whereabouts and
drifted upon a strong current, fairly smothered up. He knew no more
where he was than Einar himself could tell them; he lost count of days
and nights, but estimated that he was three weeks at sea before the fog
lifted and he saw the stars. In the morning the sun rose fair out of
the sea, and he got a bearing. More than that, he saw before himlike
a low bank of clouda strange coast lying on his starboard bow. He
could not tell where he wag got to, or what land that might be, but was
sure it was not Greenland. The land lay low, and was dark with woods.
The shore was sandy, with hummocks of blown sand upon it, covered with
grass; the surf very heavy. He coasted that country for two days and
nights with a good wind off-shore, but would not try for a landing
anywhere, being set upon Greenland and sure that he was not there.
Other lands he saw, and a great island covered with snow, and
ice-mountains rising sheer out of the seabut still he kept on his
course. After that he had a spell of heavy weather with green seas over
him constantly; and last of all he saw another land, on his port bow,
which he said was Greenland.
A great ness ran out far into the sea, which he made with safety,
and found smooth water, a town, an anchorage, and a man in a boat
fishing. Biorn drew alongside, feeling for his anchorage, and laughed
to himself when the man looked up from his fishing and presently raised
his hand and sawed the air once or twice. Hail to you, father, said
Biorn. I thought you would be coming along, said his father. You
have hit me off to a nicety. Biorn said, I don't know about the
nicety of it. I have been seven weeks at sea since I left Iceland, and
no man alive knows where I have beenleast of all myself. Be careful
of my lines, said his father. I am in the way to catch monsters, and
have pots down and out all round me. At that Biorn threw his head up
and laughed till he cried. A scurvy on your monster pots, he said.
Here am I come from beating round the watery world to seek you, and
you think only of pots.
Gudrid was thrilled to hear of the new lands; but Orme, who knew
Heriolf, Biorn's father, was tickled to death with the old man's
quirks. That is Heriolf all over, he said. And to say that such a
man could get on with Eric Red. Greenland is not wide enough to hold
But Gudrid held Einar with the most beautiful pair of eyes in
Iceland. And what country was it that Biorn found first? she asked.
Einar said, I can't tell you. He must have drifted south of
Greenland, south and by west. I believe that he crossed the western
ocean, which no man has ever yet done. It is a notable deedbut a
thousand pities that he made no landing.
But Gudrid still gazed at him, and into him. And will you not go
yourself, and seek out that new country?
Einar said, I have often thought of it. It would be a fine
adventure. But just now I have another adventure in my mind, which may
And what adventure is that?
Einar said, I cannot tell you at the moment. It is not a settled
thing by any means.
Halldis looked at Orme, and Orme nodded his head.
After that Einar saw much of Gudrid, and used to tell her tales of
the sea. He was busy, of course, most of the day, but found time in the
evenings; and in the mornings, too, he had the habit of going to church
at Mass-time and kneeling behind her. She was pleased to find him
there, and the first time showed it plainly. After that she was more
than pleased, but careful not to show it. They used to walk home
together, and sometimes did not go the straight road, but went round by
the frith and looked at Einar's ship lying out at her moorings, swaying
with the tide.
One day, looking at the ship there, Gudrid asked him again what his
adventure was, and whether anything was settled. No, he said, nothing
was settled; but he hoped it might be settled soon. It does not depend
altogether upon me, he said. My mind was made up at once.
But, said Gudrid, if that adventure were settled and done with,
would you not then think of seeking the new country which Biorn saw?
Well, I might do that, Einar replied. But a man tires of the sea
after a time, and I have had plenty of it. I am very well off, you must
know. I might set up my house-pillars, and find me a wife.
But you would not do that?
Ah, said Einar, but I am sure that I would. She kept her gaze
for the tide in the frith, feeling it would be indiscreet to say more.
A little later on he told her what the adventure was on which his
heart was set, and when she had heard it she gave him her hand. But she
told him that it did not rest with heras he knew very well it did
not. They sat together on the brae in the sun, and her hand remained in
his keeping. Presently she said, If my father says that we may, we
will go out to find the new country together.
We will go where you will, said Einar. It will be all one to me.
Again she thought, with her face set towards the sea. Then she
turned suddenly and put her arms round his neck.
Einar spoke to Orme about the affair, and Orme put on a scared look,
though he had been expecting something of the kind. You will find
Thorbeorn hard to deal with, he said.
Einar replied, Hard or not, I intend to come at him, for I love
Gudrid, and she loves me. She is worth fighting for, being as good as
she is fair.
She is so, said Orme; but, to tell you the truth, I don't know
how you will set about it.
I shall ask you to be my friend in it, Einar said. He will listen
to you sooner than any one.
Orme put his head on one side. I don't care much about your errand.
You will get me into hot water with Thorbeorn. Don't I tell you that he
is a great man, an old settler and what-not? He knows his forefathers
back to Baldur the Beautiful.
You are telling me what I know already, said Einar, who was rather
red, and showed a frown. My own birth is no such thing. My father was
a freedman. Well, I couldn't help that.
If I am telling you stale news, neighbour, said Orme, it is only
that you may see what I have to tell Thorbeorn.
Yes, yes, I know, Einar said. He is a man of rank, and I no such
thing. I grant it. But I have money, do you see? I am well off both in
ships and credit; my name stands well in the world. And I am young, and
he is old. I think I could be useful to Thorbeorn, if he would allow
itand I need not tell you I set no bounds in reason upon what I would
put down for the sake of the match.
Well, said Orme, I will go and see him.
Gudrid could hear nothing of this until the morning; but then Einar
told her what he had arranged with Orme. She now considered herself as
pledged to Einar, though she was nothing of the kind. Loyalty to him
persuaded her of it, and he found that very sweet, and was touched.
They sat close together on the brae; she allowed him her hand, and
rested her cheek on his shoulder. Einar, who was an honest young man,
began to fear that he was doing wrong to allow it. But he could not
resist a word or two for himself. He told her of his birth, saying that
his father, Thorgar, of Thorgar's Fell, had been a freedman, but had
done well since. It is right you should know these things, he said.
Gudrid said that it was nothing to her; but Einar warned her that it
might be much to her father. He went on: To you perhaps it is enough
that I love you dearlyand to me it is enough. But who knows? Maybe I
shall not have the right to talk to you after to-morrow or next day.
Now I wish to say this to you, that I shall never look at another
woman, and will bind myself to you if you will accept it of me.
She sat erect at that and looked gravely at him. You ought not to
bind yourself, she said, since I cannot.
You cannot. I know that, he said. But I both can and will.
Thereupon he brought out a handful of money from his breast and
chose a gold coin of thin soft gold, with the head of a ragged old king
on it. He told her where it came from, and how he had had it from a
dead man after a battle in the mouth of a great river in Russia. Then
he bit it in the middle with his teeth, and indented it fairly. He bent
it to and fro until it was broken in half; and next he bored a hole in
each portion, and gave one to Gudrid.
Now I have tokened myself to you, my love, he said. Do you wear
that upon a chain which I will give you presently, and remember when
you look at it, or take it in your hands, that I wear the fellow. If
ever you want me, you have only to let that half-moon of gold come into
Orme's hands, and sooner or later you will see me again. And so let it
be between us from henceforward if you will.
She took the coin, and closed her hand upon it until he should give
her the chain, but having it, she could not be to him as she had been
before. She sat up straight and looked at the sea. Her hand was free
for him; but he did not take it, and she felt sure he would not.
A constraint fell upon them; neither could find anything to say.
Fate was between them.
So it was until Orme came back with his news.
He had nothing good to report. Thorbeorn had heard him with
impatience, and as soon as he had ended put himself into a rage. His
thin neck stiffened, his faded eyes showed fire. Do you offer for my
daughter on behalf of a thrall's son? Well for him he put you forward
instead of a smaller man. But I take it ill coming from you whom I have
always treated as a friend.
Orme had excused himself on the score of Einar's meritsfor which
he could answer, he saidand well-being. He has two ships at sea in
the Norway trade. His credit stands high on each side the water.
There's many a worse man than he well marriedand he loves your Gudrid
beyond price. There is nothing he will not put down for her.
But that had wounded Thorbeorn in his most sensitive part. He knew
that he was ruined and could not bear that other men should know it
also. It is hard that his money should tempt you to insult a poor
man, he said. I am what I am, and that is a man not so poor but he
can keep his honour clear. You must think me poor indeed in other
things than goods when you ask me to trade my own flesh and blood. Let
me hear no more of it for fear I may get angry. It is the case, I see,
that I rate my daughter's marriage more highly than you seem able to
conceive of. I made a great mistake when I left her in your charge
precisely to avoid what you have brought upon me. Now she shall come
home, where she can be valued at the worth of her name and person. That
is what I have to say to you, Orme. With that he had looked Orme
straight in the face, and there had been no more to urge.
Einar heard it from Orme, but it was Halldis who told Gudrid the
news. Gudrid received it in silence, but put her hand up and laid it
over the token which fluttered in her bosom. My pretty one, said
Halldis, I blame myself.
No, no, Gudrid said, you must not do that. Nobody is at fault.
But Halldis thought Einar had been much to blame. She would have
comforted Gudrid and made much of her if she had been ablebut Gudrid
would not have that. She served the table as before, and sat by Halldis
afterwards while the men talked and passed the mead about. She was pale
and silent, but did not give way, nor leave them till her usual time.
When she was in her bed she sobbed, and buried her hot face in the
bolster; but even then she did not cry. She was always impatient of
deeds which led nowhereand crying is a great deed.
In the morning they parted. I shall sail as soon as may be now, he
told her. Iceland will be hateful to me if it hold us two apart.
Maybe you will seek out the new country, she said, with a bleak
Maybe, he said. But it may be you who see it first. She shook
her head sadly.
We do foolishly when we talk of my fate, she said, and then there
was a silence which was like a winter fog. She broke it by throwing
herself into his arms.
Listen, she said with passion, listen. They will give me to
another man, but I shall be yours all the while. They might give me to
two men, one on the heels of another, but it would be nothing. Do you
believe it? You must believe it, you must.
I believe it, said Einar; but it is dreadful to talk about.
No, it is not dreadful, because I tell you it is nothing, she
said. You are free to do what you will, and you offer me yourself. I
did not like to accept it, because I thought I could give you nothing.
But now I know I can. Tell me that you believe me, and then I must go.
He told her as he kissed her that he believed herbut it was not
true. He did not believe her because he could not.
Then they parted. She went back to Orme's house, and he went his way
along the shore of the frith.
Gudrid did not see Einar again. Kettle, the reeve of Bathbrink, came
down to fetch her away, and by now she was behind him on his pad, while
Einar was far into the fells. He did not return until late, and then he
told Orme that he should sail with the first tide. Whither will you
go? He said that he must go back to Norway to discharge, and after
that did not know what he should do. I am in heavy trouble over the
way this has turned out. At such times a man cares little what may
become of him.
Yes, but men get over it, Orme said.
I think that I shall not. There is that in her which will prevent
She is like all women, I fancy, Orme said; very tender where they
are loved. They set more store upon love than men do, and whosoever
offers it to them, it is a valuable thing, and enhances the offerer.
That is not Gudrid's way, said Einar.
Orme felt sorry for him.
Thorbeorn will make a marriage for Gudrid, you may be sure, he
said. And I dare swear she will be a good wife to the man who gets
It is certain, said Einar.
Early next day he weighed his anchor and went down the frith. Now he
leaves the tale.
But he did not leave Gudrid's mind, who now had little else to think
of. Her father said nothing to her of the reason which had brought her
home. He was stately and remote. Nor did he mention his difficulties,
which were gathering so close about his house. But they were common
knowledge at Bathbrink, and Gudrid heard of little else from morning
till night. There was scarcity there, not of provision, but of guests.
No young men came about the house, or filled the great table in the
hall. Other men came, who wanted money, and went grumbling away, with
voices which rose higher in complaint as they went further from the
house. Thorbeorn himself was often away, and used to come back more
silent and proud than he had gone out. The winter set in with wind and
drifting snow. Darkness drew closer about the country; the sky was
lemon colour, the fells were black. It was the time of great fires, and
long festivals within-doors; but Thorbeorn's hall remained empty.
In the face of such manifest misery the love she had given to Einar
and received from him shone far off like a winter star, which had no
warmth for the blood. She used to look fondly at her token and try to
make herself believe that his strong teeth had bitten the deep gauffres
into its edge. When she succeeded the scene came back to her, she felt
again as she had when he had been standing there beside her on the brae
overlooking the racing water. Her eyes grew misty as she looked away
into the dark, holding her relic clenched in her hand. But it was not
real; these were only dreams of him.
So the winter came upon Bathbrink and lapped it in snow, and love
grew numb with cold.
Towards winter's end Thorbeorn roused himself. He had made up his
mind to face his troubles, and now saw a way of doing so with nobility.
He would break up his homestead, sell his estates, pay his debts, and
go abroad. That would be at once just and of good appearance in the
But he would not go east where he would find a life ready made for
him, with the same state to maintain, and be no better off than he had
been at home. It was for Greenland he intended, a new country with but
few settlers in it yet. An old friend of his, one Eric Red, had gone
out there for good reasons some years ago, and had often sent him
messages begging him to join his colony. Now he would do it. The
thought warmed him.
He set the business afoot at once, and sold the whole of his estate
for a good price. When he had paid his creditors, which he did very
particularly and with a great air, he had a good sum over and above the
cost of his ship. His spirits rose, his taste for splendid hospitality
revived. He resolved to give a great feast to all his friends and
acquaintances, such a feast as should make men say that nobody had ever
confronted misfortune more gallantly than Thorbeorn of Bathbrink.
It was a noble feast, lasting three days and nights; the greatest
there had been made within the memory of men. Everybody came, for
enmities were all forgotten. Orme was there from Erne Pillar, and
Halldis was with him. Good Halldis embraced Gudrid, kissed her on both
cheeks, and held her closely, very ready to revive memories. And what
have you to say to it? And how will you face the hardships of the
strange land? Gudrid was very guarded in her answers. I shall like to
see Greenland, she said; we used to talk about it at Erne Pillar. It
was true, Einar had told them of it, and of his friend Biorn who had
found his father out there after seven weeks at sea.
And you go out there without a husband? said Halldis, with
sympathy ready and waiting in her kindly eyes.
Gudrid said, Why not? It is not I who have the wedding of myself.
She would not meet Halldis half-way, nor any part of the way. Halldis
felt the chill.
But Gudrid and her maidens did the last hospitalities of Bathbrink
sweetly and diligently. They say that the qualities of the mistress are
reflected in the maids. Gudrid was owned a beauty on all hands, but it
was agreed that her manners enhanced her good looks, as a fair setting
will show off a jewel. To see her at her service, you would have
thought her without a care in the world. She could laugh and talk with
one and all, she could be grave with the grave and gentle with those
who mourned. But she would not let any know that she mourned herself.
Any hint towards Einar turned her to smooth stone. She had that kind of
pride from her father, the kind that is tender of itself.
As for Thorbeorn, he was splendid, and the more splendid he was the
more he felt himself to be so. On the last night of his feast, when the
hall was full, the horns nearly empty, and the torchlight getting low,
he thumped the high table with the hilt of his dagger, and stood up in
a dead silence.
Neighbours, he said, it is time I should bid you farewell. In
this good land, where my fathers have lived before me, I too have lived
my life out, and kept my customs, and good faith with all men; and have
made many friends, and no enemies that I know of. As I have served
mankind, so has mankind served me. To you, friends and guests, I say
that we have proved each other and seen good days. But now, so it is
that I at least must see some doubtful days. I have been pinched and
straitened in many ways. I have had to consider whether I should stay
on here in a mean way of life or move out into freer quarters. Old as I
am, I choose to go abroad; nor do I think you will blame me if I can go
away honourably, leaving no man the worse for my departure. Now my good
friend Eric Red has asked me to share quarters with him in Greenland,
where he has a settlement and keeps a great trainand thither I intend
to go. And I shall go this very summer, if all turn out as I expect,
and take, as I hope, your friendship with me. In any case let this
feast stand to you as a token of my goodwill to every man here.
He stood for a moment looking forth upon the crowded tables, and at
the women clustered about the doors. He was much moved by the force and
plainness of his own words, and for a while every one kept silence,
thinking that he had more to say. But he had not, and presently sat
down in his seat. That was the signal for uproar. The men stood on the
benches and shouted Hail to him; they helped the women up, too, who
waved their hands or scarves, or whatever came handy. Gudrid saw Orme's
hand held out to her, and took it, standing with the rest, with Orme's
arm round her. In the excitement of everybody the emotions get loose.
Orme held Gudrid closely to him and whispered in her ear, If he would
let you stay with us, Gudrid, how happy we should be! She turned him
her pale face, smiling into his; but Fate held her fast, and she did
not even answer him. Shall I have at him again, for Einar's sake?
said the good Orme, eager to procure happiness for somebody. At that
she shook her head. He would not have it. I am sure of that. So was
Orme in his sober mind.
Meantime the neighbours were thronging about Thorbeorn, pledging him
in horns of mead and ale. Many of them offered him stock or provision
for the voyage; many cried that they would go with him to the new
settlement. They would never thole a new master, they said, and fully
believed it. Some thirty souls did actually go on the voyage. This was
the greatest day of Thorbeorn's life so far.
Thorbeorn's ship lay ready for him in Rawnhaven; but there was much
to do, what with hay and corn harvest, to get in, before he could
leave. He sailed, then, fully late in the yearhimself and his
household, thirty or more of his friends beside, his house-pillars and
all the stock he had left beside. He was burning to be off, the old
adventurer that he was, but Gudrid was not of his way of feeling about
it. The Icelanders were a race of stoics. What was to be held them
spellbound. Far from hindering adventure, it promoted it; for you never
knew but what Fate intended you to succeed. But Gudrid had seen how she
might have been happy, and could not understand how otherwise she could
be. The last night at home, so she fondly called Iceland, was spent
with Orme and Halldis, to whose kindness she thawed at last. She cried
upon Halldis's broad bosom, and revealed herself. You see how it is
with me now, she said. If I never meet him again I shall never love
another man. And I see no way of meeting himand so I must be
wretched. Then she fairly wailed: I might have been so happyI might
have been! till it was pity to hear her.
Presently she took out her token and showed it to Halldis. That is
all I have of Einar's, she said. Halldis said that she had the girdle
he had given her. Yes, she said, but this has his teeth-marks in
it. Then she sat up on Halldis's lap and looked shyly at her, saying,
I am going to ask you something.
Ask, my child.
If it should happen ever that I come home again, and want to see
Einar, will you give him this from me? He will know then what to do.
Halldis promised. He is mostly here every year, she said. But
there's no saying how it may find him.
It will find him waiting for me, Gudrid said. He promised me
Oh, my dear, my dear, cried Halldis, to be sure he did! What else
could he say or feel at such a time? But Gudrid held to her opinion,
and to her token too. She said that she should always wear it; and
Halldis had not the heart to exclaim.
They sailed with a fair wind, having waited for it, and were soon
out of sight of land; but it did not hold. Bad weather overtook them,
contrary winds, driving rain, fogthat overhanging curse of Greenland.
They ran far out of their course and had to beat back again; cattle
died, provision ran short; to crown all a sickness broke out among the
company, whereof near half died. Thorbeorn kept hale and hearty
throughout; and Gudrid took no harm. The wet, the clinging cold, the
wild weather did not prevent her attending the sick, or doing the work
which they should have done, had they been able. She had no time to be
happy or unhappy, and was never afraid of anything.
It was hard upon the winter; the days were short, the nights bitter
cold. The fog, thick and white like a fleece, seemed incapable of
lifting. The wind came in short spells, the sea was lumpy. But one day
as they were labouring and rolling, the ship straining and cordage
creaking, Thorbeorn lifted his head, and bore hard upon the helm.
Breakers! he shouted, and the crew sprang to the rail. A dark form
seemed to lift out of the fog, like a core of blackness, and clouds of
sea-birds wheeled overhead with harsh clamour. They were come unawares
to Greenland the White, and within an ace of breaking up against her
None on board knew what headland this might be; but Thorbeorn knew
it was not Ericsfrith, which he had intended to make. They rounded it,
however, without mishap, and had a fair wind when they were beyond it.
At last they could see a shore with a rough breakwater of stones; and
presently upon that shore some men standing together. They cast anchor
and let down their sails, and before all was shipshape a boat came
rowing out to them, with a man in the stern in a blue cloak. The boat
came alongside, and they were hailed. Who and whence are you?
Thorbeorn told his name and port of origin. I hoped to make
Ericsfrith, he said.
You have made a poor business of it, said the master of the boat.
This is Heriolfsness, a good ten hours' sailing from the frith; and I
am Heriolf at your service.
Gudrid's heart leapt. This was the father of Biorn, of whom Einar
had told her in the days of her happiness. That seemed for a moment to
bring Einar within touching distance.
Meantime Heriolf came on board and greeted Thorbeorn fairly. He was
a hale old man, with white hair and beard, and twinkling blue eyes.
You will do well, he said, to stay with me through the winter. This
is an unchancy country in winter time, what with fog and scurvy and one
thing and another. In Iceland you do better, because you have the
windbut here the fog smothers everything. If my son Biorn were at
home he could tell you of a new country, my word! But he's away, and no
telling when he will be here again. Now, if you are willing, we will be
going. My people will see to the housing of yours, and the stock shall
be looked after as if it was my own. But you and your girl here will be
happy to be by a hearth again.
So it was done. They found Heriolf a good host, his house well built
and well stored. He had a comely wife, too, who took kindly to Gudrid.
That's a paragon of a girl you have there, Heriolf said. If my son
were at home I don't know how it would turn out.
She's not for every one, said Thorbeorn, on his dignity at once.
But my son Biorn is some one, let me tell you, said Heriolf. He
is a traveller who has seen more of the world than any man living, I
dare say. And here in Greenland, you must know, a woman is a precious
piece of goods. There was a woman brought in here last summer with a
sick man who died before he had been a week in bed. Before he was
buried there were six men fighting who should be her next. And two of
them were killed outright; but none of them got her.
Would she have none of them? Thorbeorn asked, though he was not at
She had no opportunity, said Heriolf. For another man came and
took her away before they had done fighting.
Thorbeorn held his head stiffly. But my daughter is greatly
descended, he said. And Eric Red is of my friends.
All that may be, said Heriolf, but your daughter is a woman, and
Eric Red himself no more than a man. In this country you have to deal
with people as God made them. But there is a wise woman in the town,
and maybe she will tell us what is written in the book of life.
My daughter is a Christian, said Thorbeorn, but old Heriolf's
I dare swear she will be wanting to know what the book of life
says, for all that. Let me tell you that a marriage is not over when
the priest has said his say. No, nor yet begun, maybe.
Nobody could have been more easy to quarrel with than Heriolf upon
the subject of his son, except Thorbeorn upon that of his daughter; yet
there was no quarrel. It may be that Thorbeorn was too happy to stretch
his thin legs towards a driftwood fire again, or again, that he
recognised the sweet kernel of his host under the cruddled husk.
However it was, he let the talk of wise women and the Book of Fate
float over his head as the spume of the sea passes over the tangle far
below. The spume creams and surges, then disparts; but the sea-tangle
sways to the deep currents of the tide undisturbed. All well and
goodbut there was a Wise Woman.
Thorberg was the Wise Woman's name. She was the last alive of a
family of nine, all women and all wise in the art of reading the days
to come. It was supposed that she had come from Iceland, but nobody
remembered to have brought her, nor knew of her origin. In these days
she lived by herself in a hut of the Settlement at the Ness, and
crouched over a peat fire all the winter, singing songs to herself
which nobody could understand. In the summer she was often seen about
among the pastures below the hills, but always by herself. When she was
asked she might go out and show herself at men's houses where there was
a feast going on; if she was treated according to her fancy she might
foretell the fortune of the householder or of some guest of his, or the
upshot of the coming harvest, whether of the sea or of the land. But
everything must be exactly as she pleased. There was no telling what
she would do or say.
Heriolf was the greatest man at the Ness, and kept the best table.
He seldom lacked of guests during the dark months. He was a most
hospitable manloving, as he said, everything on two legs. He had
never accepted the new religion, and stood well with Thorberg, but had
such respect for her that he would never ask her to come to a feast
unless the entertainment were what he thought worthy of her. This year,
with Thorbeorn and Gudrid in the house, he felt that she ought to be
asked up, so sent a man out to invite her, naming the day when the
feast would be ready. Thorberg returned word that she would come, but
made no promises of what she would say.
Immediately, Heriolf set about his preparations and, immediately,
there was trouble with Thorbeorn. He did not like it at all. He took it
ill that there should be such a fuss. Thorberg, it seemed, must have a
high seat; she must be escorted to the feast; she must have her
particular food, dressed just so; she must be treated with great
respect, let alone, never crossed, never importuned. And he a
Christian! Heathen customs! he said. Friend, you shall have me
excused. These things smell of brimstone. I could not be present by any
means, and don't desire that Gudrid should be involved.
But Heriolf scouted him. Hey, he said, please yourself! But as
for Gudrid, let her alone. Why should she not hear what the world has
to say to her? What harm can come to a good girl? All kinds make this
Gudrid, whose hair he pulled, as he spoke, in a very friendly way,
seeing his eyes twinkling and his lips twitching, coloured, but said
that she should like to be at the feast. It was true, but apart from
the truth, she would not hurt Heriolf's feelings.
Of course you would like it, said Heriolf, greatly pleased. I
never knew a handsome girl yet who did not like to be told about it.
Thorberg thinks a deal of handsome persons. You will find that she has
a wonder-deal to tell about you. And perhaps we shall learn what my son
Biorn means to do with himself when he comes home here, and finds a
flower in the garth. Gudrid coloured more than ever at this; but she
liked it. Thorbeorn waved his hand before him as though to brush
gossamer from his path, and stalked away with his chin in the air, and
his beard jutting out like a willow in the wind. He kept his word,
though; and took himself to bed when the feast began.
These were the preparations made for Thorberg's visit. A high seat
was set for her at the right hand of Heriolf's own, and upon it a
cushion worked with runes and dragons in knots, stuffed with hen's
feathers. That had to be wherever she went. Then she must sit in the
chief place at the table, beside the giver of the feast, and her food
must be seen to. First she must have a mess of oats seethed in kids'
milk; then, for her meat, a dish made of the hearts of animals.
Gizzards, too, of birds, and their livers, must be in it. There were to
be set for her a brass spoon, and an ivory-hilted knife with rings of
bronze upon the handle. She had a great horn for a beaker, adorned with
silver; and then her drink was to be hot mead, with spices and apples
floating in it. Heriolf saw to everything.
When all was ready, and the guests expected, a man was sent out to
her house to bring Thorberg to the feast; and when all the guests were
gathered, but by no means before, in she came. She was a tall fair
woman, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered and of large presence. She had a
wild, rich, comely face. She was dressed in a black robe which gleamed
and reflected light. It clung to her as if she had been dipped in
water. Silver clasps held it under the bosom, and from neck to foot it
was set with large blue stones. Round her neck she had a string of
beads, of red amber, as large as seagulls' eggs. She walked with a
staff, knotted with amber; on her head was a hood of black lambskin,
lined with white. There was a girdle round her loins made of dried
puff-balls strung together, and a fishskin pouch hung from that, in
which were the charms she used in her prophesying. Her shoes were
calfskin with the hair outside, and were bound to her ankles with broad
leather thongs. She had gloves on when she came incatskin gloves with
the hair turned inwards. So dressed, holding herself high and queenly,
she stood in the doorway, and said, Hail to this house, in a deep
voice, like a bell. Then she took off her hood and gloves and gave them
to him who attended upon her, while Heriolf came up to her, took her
hands and kissed them, saying, Sibyl, you are welcome.
After Heriolf all the company came crowding about her and saluted
her as if she were a princess. To some she was gracious, at some she
stared as if she could see through them to the wall beyond, at some she
muttered with her lips and looked about, as if she were uneasy till
they were gone. All the women curtseyed and kissed her hand, and
presently Heriolf brought Gudrid to her. Gudrid did not kiss her hand,
but curtseyed and spoke her fairly. Thorberg frowned, not unkindly.
And who art thou, my child?
Gudrid said, I am a stranger, not long come to Greenland. I am
Thorbeorn's daughter, of Bathbrink in Iceland.
You have a good face, and a fair one, said Thorberg, and yet you
will not kiss my hands. Gudrid coloured and looked down. Perhaps the
day will come when you will kiss them, Thorberg said. It would be no
shame to you to do it.
Gudrid then said, I will do it now if you will let me. But
Thorberg patted her cheek and said, By and by. The people thought
that Gudrid had shown good manners by offering and that Thorberg was
pleased with her.
They spread the table for the feast, and Gudrid served the guests
with the other girls of the house. Thorberg sat by Heriolf, and said
very little, which was all to the good, since it made men treasure what
she did say, and find more in it than may have been there. Then, when
the tables had been cleared, Heriolf stood up and asked her if she had
been well-treated. Thorberg said, You have given me your best,
Franklin. No one can look for more.
Would it please you, then, to reveal certain things to the
She stared before her. What do you desire to know?
Why, said Heriolf, we should like to know how it stands with this
house, and with those who are in it, and those who are of it; and how
long these plagues of sickness and death are to oppress us; and other
things which you may read out of the dark, and be moved to tell us.
She thought for a while, looking down the hall above the heads of
those who stood to hear her. Just below the dais Gudrid was standing
with the house-girls.
After a time Thorberg said, Set me the spell-seat, and remained
abstracted while it was being done.
Heriolf set up the spell-seat, and then Thorberg opened her pouch of
magic and took out certain small flat stones covered with writing, and
some tufts of feathers, a lump of brown amber, a ring of jet, and some
teeth of a great sea-beast. All these she laid round the seat in a
circle, except the ring of jet, which she kept in her hand. Then she
sat upon the spell-seat, and said to Heriolf, Bring me the woman who
is to sing the Ward-locks. Those were the charms which had to be sung,
not so much to invoke the spirits with whom she was familiar as to keep
away those who were adverse.
Every man looked at his neighbour; the women whispered together, but
all shook their heads. In and out among his guests Heriolf ran in a
great taking. Heard any one the like of this, that I should think of
everything, and fail for one? But nobody knew the songs. In his naked
bed behind the wall lay old Thorbeorn with the blanket up to his nose,
and jerked his thin legs, losing not one tittle of all this.
Presently, with Heriolf hot and flustered and at his wits' end, with
women scouring the kitchen and the bower to find some one not counted
yet, Gudrid turned round about to face the Wise Woman. She was pale,
but her eyes were bright. Whisht now, Thorberg cried in her deep
tones; heed the fair girl. The hush then was dreadful, but Gudrid
said what was in her. I am not a sorceress, and know nothing of magic,
but Halldis my foster-mother taught me some songs which she said were
Ward-locks and charms. Heriolf clapped his hands, and Thorberg smiled
and said, I believed thee wise when I saw thee first. And now perhaps
it is for me to kiss thy hands, or even for the most of this company,
for thou art timely as well as wise.
But Gudrid looked troubled. She did not at all wish to sing. The
songs, she said, were sung idly at home while we sat at needlework.
They did not mean anything to me. I thought no harm of them.
Nor is there harm, my child, said Thorberg.
Gudrid said, But this is a rite, and the song is part of it. I
think I ought not to sing, because I am a Christian.
Thorberg was still smiling, but her eyes glittered. It may be that
thou canst serve the company here, and do no harm to thyself. Who
should think the worse of thee? Certainly not I. But this is for our
host to see about. It is he who made me sit here.
Now it was Heriolf's turn, and he pressed Gudrid hard. The girls
too, and all the women who were there, were closely about her, asking
with eyes and voices. Gudrid could not resist them, though she knew
Thorbeorn would be angry, and believed herself that she ought not to
have anything to do in magic. But she promised. The women made a circle
about her; she thought for a little while, then lifted her head, and
sang loud and clear
To Vala sang Vrind,
The first charm I wind
What evil thou meetest
Let drop it behind.
Thyself for guide,
The ghost is defied
To what thou shalt find.
Next charm I call
If despair thee befall
As thou goest thy journey,
May the Good Folk wall
With wings, with wings
Fear not at all.
This third charm I make
If the dark thee take
On the road thou goest
For this man's sake,
May the hags of night
Do thee no spite.
My heart is awake.
The fourth charm I tell
Is the loosing spell
Though they bind thee in fetters
And cast thee in cell,
No walls shall clip thee,
The irons shall slip thee
All shall go well.
The song was to a strange wild air, very beautiful, known to many,
of whom many had tears in their eyes to hear it again, and sung so
well. Thorberg sat with her eyes closed, and nodded her head to the
beats of it. It made a great effect, and Gudrid was praised by
everybody. When it was over, Thorberg, being squarely on the
spell-seat, said to her: I thank you for the song, and for the good
heart which was in it. I tell you that many beings besides those whom
you see have been drawn in by the sound of your voice, beings who
without it would have passed over our heads and paid no heed to us and
our concerns. They have been here, they are here now all about us, and
by their means I see many things clearly. And first, you, Heriolf, need
not fear the death nor the sickness which are rife at this time. They
will pass with the winter, and return again with another winter; and
for a long time the winter will be hard upon you men in Greenland.
So much she said to Heriolf, but she had not ended her soothsay. Her
eyes returned to Gudrid, who stood just below her.
As for you, my daughter, she said, I can read what is in store
for you as if it was written in a book. You will have three husbands
here in Greenland, and shall not go far to get them. All will be
honourable men. One will be a famous man, and one an ugly man; but he
will be kind. With all of them you will go great journeys over sea, but
they will not all last long. One journey you will go, to a country far
from here, which will be of the greatest length, and have hardships in
it, and wonders, and a good gift for you. But all your ways lead to
Iceland, and thither you will return. Out of you will come a great race
of men, and you shall end your life-days in the way that pleases you
best. Then her eyes grew less blank, and seemed able to see more
clearly. She held out her hand towards Gudrid, who stood rooted,
staring up with great eyes. Farewell, daughter, and I give you hail,
she said. Gudrid ran up the steps and kissed her hand.
Gudrid's fortune was envied by the girls of the house, who expressed
themselves freely about it. With your looks, they said, it was to be
expected she would take notice of you. But to see so much, and to tell
you all! The poor girl herself, however, took it very hard, and saw
herself punished for impiety. She felt as if she was branded for
everthe girl who was to kill two men, and perhaps a third. In her
mind's eye she could see that doomed first husband of hers, the shadow
coldly upon him, herself looking sorrowfully at him, seeing him in the
shadow but not able to speak of it. Her heart gave a leap of gratitude
that Einar had been sent away by her father. It might have been he in
the shadow. But would he be the second? Ah, no, she vowed he should
not. Or would he be the third? Not if the third was to be an ugly man.
Then there was the promise of the end: Your ways tend to Iceland . . .
thither you will return . . . you shall end your life-days in the way
that pleases you best. Could that mean that Einar? But after three
honourable men had received death at her hand! She shuddered and hugged
herself against the cold. Not even the promise of Einar seemed
fortification enough for that. Nevertheless, there was comfort in the
last days. She told her bedfellow stoutly that she did not believe a
word of it, but the girl merely stared at her. Then she said: I know
who your first husband will be if he can persuade Thorbeorn. It is
Skeggi of Whitewaterstrand. After that Gudrid had to be told all about
She told her father toobut not so stoutlythat she did not
believe it; but in her heart she felt that it must be true. As for
Thorbeorn, who had heard it all through the wall, whatever he may have
thought, he was very indignant, and angry with her too. Put such
mummery out of your head. We are not Christians for nothing, I should
hope. A scandalous hag with her bell-wether voice and airs of a great
lady! What has she to do with good women, well brought up? A woman's
duty is to leave match-making to her parents, and the future to God and
His Angels. Who can foretell his end? Can the priest? Can the bishop?
No. And who would wish to know it? Ask yourself. I am vexed that we
should have fallen upon a heathen house, and much more that you should
have lent yourself to its wicked customs.
Gudrid excused herself. I couldn't help myself. They are kind
people. It would have been ungracious. And I did know the songs. How
could I have said I did not?
And who taught you such songs?
Halldis sang them, she said; I learnt them of her.
He had to allow for much that she urged. Well, think no more of
it, he bade her.
No, I must not, she said.
When the time comes, when we are settled by Eric Red, I shall find
a good husband for you, beyond a doubt.
Yes, said Gudrid.
Then we shall have the laugh of these mystery-mongers.
As for me, I never heard such nonsense in my days.
No, said Gudrid, looking about for a way of escape. She could
neither put it out of her head, nor believe it nonsense. Fate hung
heavy on her like a pall of smoke.
She had Skeggi of Whitewaterstrand pointed out to her by her
room-mate, and recognised him as a young man she had often seen at the
house. Now immediately she looked upon him with tenderness, and
received his advances to acquaintance with such kindness that he
conceived high hopes and went about with his chest swelling with pride.
But all the time he was talking to her, or at her, rather, with the
other girls, her heart was calling to him, Do not marry me, do not, do
not which he, unfortunately, interpreted in the opposite sense.
Oddly enough, though every one in the Settlement had heard the
soothsay, and nobody doubted it, she was the only person concerned who
took it closely to heart. Young Skeggi was earnest to have her to wife,
and asked Heriolf to put his case forward to Thorbeorn. Thorbeorn,
however, would have nothing to say to him. Skeggi disappeared, and
Gudrid had a moment's ease.
The first things foretold by Thorberg came about with the quickening
of the year. With the first blowing of the warm wet wind of the west,
the fogs began to roll away off the land and pile themselves upon the
flanks of the mountains. Then, when the earth had warmth enough in her
body to thaw the iron mail about her ribs, the sickness in the
Settlement abated. Men felt the light, and saw whence it came. The sun
showed himself, first like a silver coin, then with sensible heat. The
cattle were put out to pasture, the sheep could move and nibble about
the foothills. Hens began to lay, cows to give milk, sheep to drop
lambs. Thorbeorn made ready to sail to Ericsfrith, and Gudrid was able
to forget that she was marked with a curse.
So the day for sailing came, a bright spring day with a soft wind,
which crisped the waters of the bay and heaped froth upon the stones.
At parting, old Heriolf twinkled his kind and frosty eyes upon Gudrid.
Farewell, my child, he said; you are a notable woman who will do
great things. She smiled, but sadly. It seems I am to bring
unhappiness to many, she said. No, no, that's not how I look at it,
said Heriolf. Men must die, we all know. But more than one are to have
your love and kindness while they liveand that is more than they
ought to expect. If I were not so old, or my son Biorn were at home, we
would keep you in the family. Who wants a long life? Not I, though I
have had it. But who wants a good wife? Who does not?
Gudrid said, To be good is the least I can do. It seems very easy.
But to be happy is difficult.
I never found it so, said old Heriolf. And so they parted, she
whither Fate beckoned her, and he to go fishing.
Eric Red, who lived at Brattalithe in Ericsfrith, had been a notable
man all his life, and a man of mettle. In Earl Hakon's day in Norway he
had been a Viking, had made a few friends and many enemies; then he had
gone out to Iceland and founded a family in the west country, which
might have endured to this day if it had not been for his headstrong
way of doing. But, as before, he made more enemies than friends; and
when he killed the son of Thorgest the Old, and was pursued for the
slaughter at the Thing, he found that there was more feeling against
him than he had reckoned on, and that Iceland could not hold him much
longer. By what shifts a ship was hidden for him among the islands, and
how his friends got him down by night, and rowed him aboard, and how he
slipped his cable and escaped pursuit, cannot be told here. Enough to
say that he found his way to Greenland, and chose out a fair haven for
himself and his company. When he was settled in, and had his town of
Ericshaven marked out, and his house built, he felt himself like a king
and cast about for alliances. He sent out messengers to Iceland calling
upon all men who had been his friends to rally about him. Many came,
and by the time his friend Thorbeorn had decided to join him there was
a strong settlement at Ericshaven.
Eric was now grown old, and was very fat. He thought himself that
his work was over, but had hopes to see it continued in his sons. He
had three sons by his wife Theodhild; the eldest was Leif, who was
abroad at this time, supposed to be in Orkney. Leif was a fine tall man
who took after his mother, and had none of Eric's fiery colour; the
second son was Thorstan, who was as red as a fox; the third was
Thorwald, and resembled Leif, but was of slighter build. Then there was
a tempestuous daughter, named Freydis, a strongly made, fierce girl,
who was fated to do terrible things. She was married to one of Eric's
vassals, a man called Thorward of Garth, but treated him with great
contempt and did just what she pleased. As for Theodhild, Eric's wife,
she was a Christian at this time, and had taken herself out of
Brattalithe for religion's sake. She had built a church in Ericshaven
and found a priest to serve it; and now she lived in a small house hard
by and practised austerities. She was a very stately woman, and held in
great estimation all over the settled country. Eric Red was uneasy with
her, because he believed that she scorned him; but her sons used to go
to see her. She had quarrelled with Freydis irrevocably, and if she met
her anywhere would never take any notice.
Thorbeorn was made welcome at Brattalithe and great attention shown
to his fair daughter. Women were scarce in Greenland. Eric's two sons,
Thorstan and Thorwald, immediately wanted her; but Thorstan was the
elder and stronger, and soon came to terms with Thorwald. My mind, he
said, is set upon Gudrid, and I am older than you by a good deal. I
advise you to be my friend in the affair, otherwise no one knows how it
may turn out. Thorwald said that that was fair enough: But I advise
you to be sharp about it. Why so? said Thorstan. Thorwald told him
that he would be only one of many. He named one or two, and Thorstan
frowned. Thorstan was a very honest man; he was a good poet and a great
man for dreams, but slow and heavy minded. A man must not be driven in
such a matter, he said. A man should not need it, Thorwald replied.
As you have spoken to me, so do you speak to Gudrid's old iron father.
Hammer him smartly; knock sparks out of him. If you do not, some one
else will, and I shall have wasted benevolence upon you. If you are not
to be the lucky man, why am I to be thrown aside?
This was in the very early days, before Thorbeorn had taken up lands
in the Settlement. He was all that summer the guest of Eric at
Brattalithe, and there was a great deal to do. Eric and Thorbeorn rode
about the country, talking of this land and that. Gudrid fell into the
ways of the house and made herself useful. She was taken to see
Theodhild, and became friends with the stern, lonely woman. Theodhild
spent much of her time in the little dark church she had had built.
Until Gudrid came, she and the priest had had it pretty much to
themselves, for the people in the Settlement stood by Eric, their great
man. But Gudrid went to church with Theodhild, and renewed her
emotions. She seemed to escape from her shadow in there. One little
twinkling light before the altar shone to her through the fog and bade
her still to hope.
Then there was Freydis. Oddly enough Freydis took to her, though she
pretended to despise her. You are one of those women whom men go mad
aboutone of the meek, still women who madden men, she said. But I
am one whom men madden rather; for I hate them and detest their ways,
and yet cannot get on without them. Gudrid denied her maddening
qualities, and denied that she was meek or still. She assured Freydis
that she herself could get on very well without marriage. I used not
to think about it at all until I came to this country where, it seems
to me, nobody thinks of anything else. The first thing that happened to
me was dreadful. It is no wonder if I think about it now.
Freydis wished to hear what dreadful thing it was, and with a little
pressing Gudrid told her what Thorberg had prophesied. Freydis stared.
Is that all? You have only to live in Greenland and live to be a
hundred and you might have as many husbands. People die here in the
winter like tadpoles in a dry summer. Three! Her moderation alarms me.
But I must be sure of the death of two men! said poor Gudrid.
You must be sure of the death of every man in the world, said
Freydis. It may be that you will be glad enough to be sure of it
before you have done with them. I am sure that I should be.
That was all the comfort she got out of Freydis; but happily she had
a diversion of her thoughts. Biorn Heriolfsson, who had come round the
Ness soon after Thorbeorn sailed, now came up to see Eric Red.
He was a brisk, vivacious man, with a good conceit of himself, and
had much that was interesting to say of the new countries he had
visited. Gudrid was rapt in attention, for every word he said seemed to
make Einar visible to her, with his bright eyes, his ear-rings, his
soft eager voice and his white teeth. Einar now stood for all sorts of
things besides himself to Gudrid. He stood for home; he stood for
Halldis and Orme who had loved her well; and he stood for the days when
no heavy fate hung between her and the blue sky. He stood to her as to
us the song of a lark may stand, when we are shut up within the walls
of a town. She would have married him gladly, but for the Fate; but she
no longer thought of him as a lover.
Therefore on account of all that he stood forhome, freedom,
loving-kindness, hopefulnessshe was enthralled by Biorn's talk, and
could not hear enough of the new countries which he had seen. Einar's
account of what he had done and where been was quite true. A fair wind
took him out from Reekness, and he sailed before it until he had lost
the land for two days. Two more days it held, then veered to the
northward and blew down upon them the dense Greenland fog. He was now
helpless, and for a week or more had no knowledge of his course; but he
observed that a strong current was bearing him, as he thought,
westward. That might be all to the good, he judged, forgetting how far
south he had run before the thick weather caught him; anyhow, there was
nothing to be done except to keep a sharp look-out for land
a-starboard. He passed several icebergs and had a touch-and-go business
with some of them, he said.
At last the fog lifted a little, and a light and fitful wind began
to blowfrom what quarter they had no means of knowing, but it was a
chill wind. Biorn guessed it was northerly. He saw the stars before he
saw the sun, and got his bearings. Next day it was fair. The sun rose
out of the sea. The ship was heading nor'-nor'-west. He hoisted all
sail, and made brave work of it. In the course of that day they saw
land ahead, a long low line of dark, like a bank of rain-cloud. Biorn
ran on, heading straight for it, but he had his doubts from the first,
and when they could make out the country better he said to his mate,
That's never Greenland.
Sounding carefully, they came within two miles of the land, and
could hear the thunder of the surf, and see it too. The sea was like a
hilly country with troughs between the rollers like broad ghylls, Biorn
said. He would be a bold man who tried to land there from a boat.
The country looked to be low-lying, with a sandy shore blown into
small pointed hills. Behind those, so far as the eye could reach, there
was a dense woodlandmost of it black, or looking so, but with patches
and belts of red and rose-colour; like flames, said Biorn. No
mountains, no snow at all, though by now it was winter in Iceland.
Biorn said, I knew very little about it, to be sure, but knew it was
not Greenland the White.
Eric asked him why he had not landed. How should I land in a surf
like that? And what was I to do in the country with my Norway
merchandise still aboard, and my father God knew where? I knew he was
not thereand that was enough for me.
But, Biorn, said Gudrid, flushed and eager, that was a new
country you had found. How could you pass it by?
All very well, said Biorn, but I'll trouble you to remember that
Greenland was a new country to meand my father in it moreover. And
one new country at a time is enough, I suppose.
He went on to say that he coasted those flat wooded shores for the
better part of two days and nights, keeping the land on his port bow,
but when, as it seemed to him, the coast-line turned westward as if to
make a great bay, thinking he would cut across it, he held on his
course. It was another two-three days before they made land again, and
then it was the same thing as beforewoods, swamps, sand, driving
rain, or good sunshine; and still no snow. Now he had trouble with his
crew, who were for running into the land. They wanted wood and water,
they said; but Biorn wouldn't have it. I wanted my father, he said,
and besides there was abundance of water.
What you wanted your father for beats me, said Eric, and Gudrid's
bright eyes sparkled their approval of his judgment.
A man may want to see his father more than a foreign country, I
suppose, said Biorn. You forget that I have seen a deal of foreign
countriesRussia, Sweden, Dantzick and what-not.
Well, then they sailed for three days and nights before a spanking
breeze from the southwest, and ran into the true winter cold, and
presently saw land for the third timesnow mountains wreathed with
cloud, snow upon the sea-beach itself. Biorn said it was an unchancy,
inhospitable kind of country where his father would never choose to
live. It was deep water so that they could come close in. There were no
signs of habitancy; but there were white bears to be seen, in plenty.
That was an island, he said. They held on their course, which was N.E.
by E., the breeze stiffened into a gale; and then it came on to blow
hard. They had more than enough of it under shortened sail, and
shipping green seas every fourth wave. Then, for the fourth time, they
sighted land, and a great ness which ran far out into the sea.
Greenland! said Biorn; and Greenland it was. On the lee side of that
ness was the very town about his father's house; and the very first man
he saw was his father, with lobster-pots all round him.
That, he said, was how it had been, and anybody was welcome to the
news. As for himself, he was a trader, and had no mind for fancy
voyages. Eric said that he might take the adventure up himself, but at
any rate his son Leif would take it up. Thorwald said that he intended
to go if Leif would take him. I want to see that country where there
is no winter. That's the place for me. Will you come too, Thorstan?
But Thorstan was looking at Gudrid and did not hear him.
Biorn stayed on some time longer with Eric Red, and had some talk
with Gudrid. He had had his eye on her from the beginning, with
curious, considering looks. After several attempts, swallowed down by
himself with abrupt decision, he did manage to speak out. It was of
you that Thorberg prophesied at the Ness, I expect, he said.
Yes, it was, said rueful Gudrid.
He tossed his foot from the knee, and looked at it swinging. Such
things as that make a man thoughtful.
Gudrid bent over her needlework. You may be sure that she made me
Well, said Biorn, it is a glory to a woman to hear the like of
that. But it makes a man think twice. Now, I daresay my father spoke to
you about me, with a nod and wink, as we say? He is fond of me, is my
And you, certainly, of him, Gudrid said. You seem to be a loving
He spoke to me about you, Biorn went on, pursuing his own
thoughts. He was much taken with you, and seemed to think you were
singled out for great honour. And clearly you are. But I value my
lifeand so I told my father. And then he spoke scornfully to me, and
hurt my feelings. Gudrid found something to smile at in this.
But while she scared Biorn she attracted the brothers at
Brattalithe, and others besides them. Thorstan Ericsson was exceedingly
shy, and would never go into the bower to talk to the girls, nor into
kitchen or wash-house when they were working there if he could help it.
So he saw very little of Gudrid, and had nothing to say to her when he
did see her. Yet he loved her deeply within himself, in an honourable
way of worship, with no jealousy about it. Thorwald, his younger
brother, was always in and out of the women's quarters, teasing the
girls, getting in their way, and making them laugh. He was often
outrageous, but they all liked him, and Thorstan trusted in his
loyalty. He told Gudrid that Thorstan thought a great deal about her;
but she knew that already. She used to sing in the evenings when the
hall was full, and everybody praised her except Thorstan; yet she knew
that he was more affected than any one. She felt his heavy eyes on her,
and used to think of songs which would please him.
But Thorstan was dumb, and others were not. One day in the spring
Gudrid was sent for. She was in the wash-house, up to the elbows in
lather and foam, in no state for company. All the girls stopped work,
and one said, A wooer for Gudrid, and another, Thorstan has found
his voice. But they all helped her to make herself tidy, and wished
her joy. She went out with all her colours flying. Her father was by
the fire in the hall; Eric Red with him; and another man was standing
there, tall and heavily made, in a red cloak. She had not seen him
before. He was a dark-hued man, with bent brows, rather shaggy, and had
a black beard. He kept his head bent, and his hands behind his back,
but looked at her as she came in. So did Eric, in a kindly way.
Thorbeorn only looked at the fire.
She went up to her father and put her hand on his shoulder. There
was a short silencebut not enough time for her to collect her
thoughts. Indeed, she had no thoughts.
Gudrid, said Thorbeorn, we think it is time for you to be
settled, and have here an honourable man who has asked for you. He is
our friend, Thore Easterling. He is well-descended and of good
estimation with our host. His family is of Ramfirth in Iceland, and he
has a fine estate here in Ericshaven. He has the new faith which we
believe to be the true faith. Now we think you ought to feel yourself
happy, being sure that you have every reason to be so. It will be a
good marriage for you.
Gudrid said nothing, and kept her eyes fixed on the ground.
Presently she removed her hand from her father's shoulder, let it fall
to her side, and stood alone. It was a painful pause, felt to be so by
all four, and broken presently by Thore himself. Lady, he said, I
hope to have your good will in this. I have few pretentions to a lady's
liking, but believe I am an honest and friendly man. If you will accept
of my love and service I am content to trust myself to win yours.
Gudrid's throat was dry. She had difficulty in speaking. I shall do
my duty, she said. And then, I shall obey my father in all things, as
Eric went over to her and took her hand. I won't deny I shall be
sorry to see you leave Brattalithe, he said. I tell Thore here that
if my Leif had been at home there's no saying what might have
happenedbut as it is, he's the lucky one. He will have a sweet wife,
and owe it to us that she is as happy as she is good. She gave him a
swift and searching look, a flash of gratitude in it for his humanity,
but resumed her searching of the floor. Thorbeorn rose from his chair
and said to Eric that they had better leave the pair togetherbut then
Gudrid looked wild. May I not go now? Must I stay here? Her eyes
asked so of Eric, but he only smiled. She caught at her father's
sleeve. Then Thorbeorn kissed her forehead and said a few words of
blessing. He and Eric went out together.
When they were gone Thore went over to Gudrid and put his arm firmly
round her. I see, my dear, that you are upset by this news of ours. Be
sure that I understand it. My belief is, that you will be happy with
me. I have a good house, warm and dry. You will see company, you will
have your maids to see after; and when we have settled down
togethermaybe before the end of the summer, we will take ship to
Iceland and pay a visit to my old mother who is in charge of my
property out there. Now let me hear your voice. I know how sweetly you
can talkfor I've heard you. And your singing makes me younger: a
dreamer of dreams.
He seemed kind; his arm was strong and temperate. She imagined him
much older than he was. But she didn't in the least know what to say to
him. He waited for her, still holding her close, but she said nothing.
So then: Come, come, he said, just a word or two; and when she
looked up and saw him laughing, she laughed too; and then he kissed
her. There, he said, that is better, and drew her closer.
You seem kind, she said.
Ah, said Thore, you will find me so. The fonder I grow the kinder
I shall be. He gave her a very friendly squeeze, and she began at once
to be sorry for this strong, gentle-hearted man as she thought him.
Her face was now against his shoulder, his black beard brushed and
tickled her forehead. She was rather breathless, but quite determined
to tell him her trouble. There is something which I ought to tell
Is there, indeed? I thought that you might find your tongue
perhaps, if I gave you time.
But I should have found it before, she said, if it had not been
for my trouble.
Well, he said, and now for your trouble. Mind you, I've seen a
good deal of the world, and don't expect miracles out of the church. So
if you have had a sweetheart or two, think no more about it. Bless
youdo you think I don't know?
No, she said, it's not that. But it is that I have heard
prophecies about myself. I am not a fortunate woman at all.
Hum, he said. Perhaps we had better clear up that. Now, you come
and sit on my knee by the fire, and let me hear all about it. She did
not decline that seat, but still she chose another. He sat in Eric's
great chair, and she brought up a stool. He noticed that, and approved
of it. This is a girl who is not for the mere asking, he thought.
When she had told him all about Thorberg, he did not scoff, nor
laugh, nor take it seriously either. He just considered it, with one
large hand grasping his beard. Well, he said, some people have the
gift, there's no doubt, and if your Thorberg had it not, all her
mummeries would avail her nothing. You set them up for a deal, I fancy,
but they are little to me. I am willing to believe her story, but what
then? So long as I am the first husband you have you may have twenty
when I am gone. Likely enough that you will see to the burying of me. I
must be twice your age. So much for your trouble, my dear.
It was horrible to me, said Gudrid; I have been unhappy ever
since. It seemed to me that I was accursed, and that no man ought to
look at me.
But how can they help looking at you, foolish girl, and you like a
rose! That gave her roses indeed, and a good deal more too.
You are certainly very kind, she said, and he replied that if that
was kindness, there need be no end to it.
She went away after a time, so free of her shadowy load that she
sang as soon as she was out of the hall. She accepted the exuberant
greeting of the girls with evident pleasure. Her colour was clear, her
eyes shone like stars. They had plenty to tell her of Thore. He was
very rich, they said, and a widower. He had had a querulous and sick
wife, and had always treated her well. He was not exactly near, but
thought twice about what he spent. He had a stone-built house up the
country. A just man, and one who did not bend his knee to any one. Eric
Red had often quarrelled with him. Except Theodhild he was the only
Christian among the great men. It was a pity he was so much older, with
such a great beard. They wanted to know if it scratched you, but Gudrid
It was all very pleasant, except for one small matter. Thorstan
immediately went away, and stopped away for ten days or a fortnight. No
one knew exactly where he was except Thorwald his brother. He was
teasing about it, when Gudrid asked him where Thorstan was. I shall
tell him you asked me, he said. That made her sorry she had asked, but
she did not like to say tell him by all means, nor beg him not to tell.
It turned out that Thorwald did tell him.
Freydis said, If you must marry, that is the man you should choose.
Not a half-skald like my brother Thorstan, nor a pranking pie like
Thorwald. You will have a master in Thore, and most women like that. He
might beat you.
I think he will not, said Gudrid. Freydis looked at her with
And I think that you are right. You know how to make yourself
respected, I believe. But many women like to be beaten. I know that I
should love the man who could beat me. But he would have to fight with
me first. My husband is as timid as a Norway rat. You don't see him
here often. Gudrid had never seen him. He comes when I send for him,
After that she saw Theodhild at Mass, and went home with her to her
hermitage and told her the news. Theodhild said little, but one thing
she said struck Gudrid. She said: You will have much trouble, and give
more of yourself than you can afford. But you will leave something to
give to God at the endmore than I have left. Gudrid said: It is
foretold of me that I shall have three husbands, then go to Iceland and
live as pleases me best. It may well be so, said Theodhild. Love is
all to women, but if they can love God they are happiest. Love of man
is more sorrow than joy. Love of God is pure joy. You will find it so.
Gudrid was young enough to wonder if that was true.
Thore was very good to her, as he had promised, but he had to be
obeyed. Directly he saw the token which she wore, he wanted to know
What is that which you wear round your neck? It looks to be gold.
She said it was a token. A token! And what kind of a token? She
said she had had it when she was a child.
Let me look at it, said he. He held it near to the light.
Rats have been at this, he said. Here are teeth-marks. Hungry
rats, too, they must have been. And that was a good coin of England
onceand valueless now. There's the half of a king for you. That was
Knut King of Englanda rare man I have heard my father say. And rats
have bitten him in half. Take it off, my girl. You don't want such
things now. She thought that reasonable, and took it off, to be laid
aside. She had not much feeling about it now, and yet could not bear it
should be lost. She put it carefully away in her chest next day.
By and by she told Thore that she had not spoken the truth. She had
not been really a child when it was given her.
I never thought so, said Thore.
And it was not rats that bit it.
Rats, indeed! Never in the world.
Then she told him the whole story, which he took very
good-humouredly. So that's it, is it? And when I take you to Iceland I
suppose you will call him up with that?
Not unless I want to see him, she said.
Not unless I want to see him, you would say?
I think you will be as pleased with him as I shall be, said
Gudrid. So all went well except for Einar perhaps, whose prospects
certainly were not enhanced by being talked about. The stronghold of a
lover is to be so deeply hid that he is never talked of.
It was the fact that Gudrid was happy with her blunt blackbeard of a
man. He was easy to live with, always much the same, and did not ask
for more than he was able to give. He was very thrifty, and taught her
to be so, for she was anxious to please. He was never jealous, though
Thorstan had a way of coming to the house. At the same time, he told
her one night that he wouldn't have him there when he himself was away.
He was often from home two and three days together. It has a bad
look, he said. The neighbours look pityingly at a man. I won't have
that. Not that there is any harm in Thorstan. He is the son of a friend
of mine, and a very honest young man, though I call him dull. A man
ought to be able to talk. I think him hot-tempered, too. He killed a
lover of his sister Freydis once, and might as well have left it alone.
She could have looked after herself. Besides, we are not so handy with
our weapons as our fathers were in Iceland. Life is hard enough in this
country without cold steel. Now remember and he pinched her
cheekno men here when I am away.
Certainly she did not love Thore as she believed she had loved Einar
the sailor. Thore never made her heart beat, or brought mist over her
eyes. But she was happy and proud of her great house and many maids and
young men. And she was happy enough to be sorry for Thorstan, who
followed her about with a dog's patient eyes, and evidently worshipped
her shadow. He told her that he went down to Heriolfsness when he heard
that she was promised to Thore. When there he had gone to see Thorberg.
What did she tell him? Gudrid wanted to know; but he wouldn't answer.
He said, however, that she had told him that he himself had the sight.
I had thought as much, he said, and now I know that I have.
Gudrid became very much interested, but not enough to dare probe any
further. Indeed, she asked him not to tell her what he had seen.
Thorstan looked away. I would not tell you even if I knew anything,
he said; I would die sooner. She felt that she might become very fond
of this moody and melancholy Thorstan, as a woman readily will of a man
who, through no fault of his own, seems marked out for misfortune. She
could not find that he had any faults. While very manly, and of great
strength and couragefor he was untiring at hunting, could swim like a
seal, and was believed to be afraid of nothingwith all this he was as
gentle as a woman. She knew that he was a poet, though he would not
sing her any of the verses he made. She thought to herself, I could
make him if I cared; and the thought gave her joy. She told herself
that if ever she loved a man again, as she had once understood love, it
would be this man. And upon the heels of that thought came another,
which she instantly put away, What and if Thorstan was to be her second
husband? She put that out of her mind for Thore's sakeThore's, who
had freed her and made her happy. It was odd that Thore, whom she could
never love, had made her happy, while Thorstan whom she could have
loved, it was certain, would never do that.
In the course of that year the great event was the home-coming of
Leif, Eric Red's eldest son. He sailed up the frith in the early
morning of a June day, and when Eric came out of doors, there was
Leif's fine ship in the anchorage, and many boats about it.
He had been away more than two years, adventuring greatly; but those
adventures of his do not belong to this tale. He had been in Orkney for
some time, and had fallen in love with a high lady whose name was
Thorgunna. He knew her to be of great descent, and that she had the
gift. He was much taken with her and she with him, and they set no
bounds upon their intercourse, it is understood. When it came to the
day before he sailed, Thorgunna said that she would go with him. Leif
said that could not be, because her kindred would never allow it.
Maybe my people are as good as yours, he said, but yours would not
believe it, and I have to make my way in the world. Think nothing of
my people, she said, but take me. But Leif would not. So then she
told him the truth, that she was with child, and the child his. If
that's the case, then I stay here till the child is born. Him I will
take, for it is the best thing for you. But Thorgunna said that she
would bring up the child, and send him out to Greenland as soon as he
was old enough. I will accept him, Leif said.
He sailed, then, as he had intended, and went to Norway. There he
fell in with King Olaf Tryggvasson, and was made a Christian. The King
put great trust in him, and when he heard that he was going home to
Greenland, gave it in his charge to change the people's religion. Leif
said that would be a hard matter. My mother is a Christian, I know;
but my father is not, and never will be, and my brothers are of no
account. But King Olaf was in earnest about it, and Leif promised that
it should be as he wished.
Thore and Gudrid went to Brattalithe to see Leif. Gudrid thought
that she had never seen so fine-looking a man. He was about thirty-five
years old, and six feet four inches high. He looked as broad as a bull.
He had golden hair and beard, and blue eyes. His face was burned to a
hot brown colour. He was frank and open in speech, and full of fun and
jokes. No secret was made of his intentions towards the religion of the
people in Greenland. He told his father what he had undertaken; and he
set about it at once. Theodhild, his mother, helped him, and Gudrid
made Thore give money to increase the church. Thorstan and Thorwald
were among the first to be sprinkled, but Freydis would have nothing to
do with it, and Eric Red said that he was too old to change. Leif took
that good-humouredly and laughed at his father. If I were to tell you
where was a great store of gold and silver coins, to be had for a
little cold water on your back, you would strip to the skin in
midwinter. But you will believe in no treasure which you cannot handle
and run through your hands. Where do you expect to go when you die,
with all that wickedness on your shoulders? You will come to a bad end,
and ask me then to help you. I know how it will be. But go your way.
He spent that summer preaching to the people in the Settlement up
and down the frith. Most of the people accepted what he told them,
because it was he who told it. Others said that if the King of Norway
was of that way of thinking it was more likely to be the right than the
There was another matter very much in Leif's mind, and that was the
voyage of Biorn Heriolfsson. He had to hear all about that, and he
heard it first from Gudrid. Her face glowed and her eyes showed fire as
she spoke of it. Leif watched her and thought her a lovely woman. If
you and I were to go out there together, he said, we should never
come back again. But your good man would take it in bad part. Gudrid
said, Yes, he would. But to go with us would seem to him still worse.
Yet you will go. Leif considered.
Yes, he said, I shall go, and as soon as may be. But first I must
know what course Biorn took, and next I must have his ship to go in. I
would not take my ownshe is neither roomy enough, nor strong enough
built for such great seas.
Gudrid had by heart the figures and bearings of Biorn's voyage, for
first Einar had drawn them on Orme's table, then Heriolf on his own,
and then Biorn on Eric's table. She fetched a charcoal from the kitchen
and drew the map, with all the company crowded about her. Leif was
absorbed in it and her eager explanations. I see just what he did, he
said. He drifted far south of Greenland, and didn't know it. Then when
he got a wind he sailed south-south-west, and made that low-lying
forest country. Then he steered north with a wind off the land, and
came into the winter which we have here. He followed the coast along,
and then, when it came on to blow from the south-west, he ran before
it, and made Greenland. That's what he did. And that's what I will do.
It is what I would do if I were a man, said Gudrid.
Good for me that you are not a man, said Thore, who sat by the
Before that summer was over Thore told Gudrid that he should take
her to Iceland, as he had business there. They would go almost at once.
How long shall we be there? she asked him.
He said that there was no telling. A year and more, I expect.
Her face fell. Then we shall miss Leif's sailing.
No harm in that, said Thore. What have you to do with Leif and
his affairs? Enough for you that you have made him go. He was not
angry with her; but he thought Leif altogether too fine-looking a man.
That was a man's reasonno woman would have reasoned so.
Leif bought Biorn's ship from him that winter, and busied himself
stocking her with tools, weapons and spare gear for his voyage. As soon
as the weather was open he was ready, and then it was a question
whether Eric Red would go with him. Eric was in two minds about it, old
as he was, and extremely fat. He had been a great traveller in his
youth, and was averse from exertion in these latter days, but he was
uncomfortable at home, with no wife in the house, and all his sons
holding the new faith. So he wavered until the last minute, and then
said that he would not go at all. Leif was not sorry.
He had a crew of five-and-thirty with him, and sailed his ship as
near to S.S.W. as might be. She ran for six days before a fair wind,
and on the afternoon of the sixth they made land on the starboard bow.
There were mountains with snow upon them, and much fog; but Leif said
that he would land in the morning, whatever kind of country it was. It
shall never be said against me, as it has been against Biorn, that I
travel six days over the sea and leave the land I reach because it is
not Greenland, he said.
They found a good anchorage, waited the night through, and then
rowed off in their boat and ran her up on to the beach. It was a naked
country of broken rock and shale. No grass was to be seen, and hardly
any trees, except a few stunted silver birch. They walked inland for a
mile or more to where the snow began, and then saw, as it were, one
vast unwrinkled sheet of snow stretching upwards into a bank of cloud.
The ground was all scree of slate and shaly rock. They saw no signs of
habitancy, and few tracks of animals. Then presently they looked at
each other, and Leif laughed. I think there is something to be said
for Biorn; but although this is a barren land there is no reason why it
should not have a name. I will call it Helloland, for such it is. 
Then they returned to their ship, and up-anchor, and away along the
coast, so far as that allowed, but always keeping a straight course.
They came to another land, lying low in the sea, and sailed in
towards it. Here also they landed, but on a shore of fine white sand,
very level towards the sea, but blown into hummocks, whereon grass
grew, towards the land. That was a flat country, and swampy, with trees
so far as they could see, in some places dense and in others more open;
but where the country lay open there were the swamps. This country
pleases me more than the last, Leif said. The least it deserves is to
be named. We will name it after its quality, and call it Markland, he
But nobody wanted to stay there very long, and there seemed nothing
better to do than to get back to the ship again and sail. Leif
considered the timber that he saw of little worth to them. It was
mostly small wood, and soft or of open texture.
They sailed, then, once more, with a fresh north-easterly wind
blowing off the shore, and were two days at sea without sight of land.
But then they made an island in the sea, and south of that saw the
mainland, and a great frith striking up into it. There was no snow
hereabouts, and the air was balmy and scented, blowing from the island.
Here, said Leif, is a land worth visiting, I believe. Let us cast
anchor in the lew of the island for the night; and to-morrow we will
row up the frith yonder and see what we shall see. They found good
holding-ground under the island, and then, as the light was good for
several hours yet, launched the boat and rowed to the shore. The place
lay peaceful in the level afternoon light, with trees softly rustling,
and birds calling to each other from thickets. They wandered about,
singing as they went, or calling to each other to see some new thing.
Gradually the sun sank and the light began to draw in. One of them by
chance stooped down and felt the grass. There was dew upon it. He put
his finger into his mouth; and then he said, This is a holy place. The
dew tastes sweet. They all tried it that were there, and believed it.
This filled them with wonder, and some of them walked about on tiptoe,
as if they had no business to be there.
They slept on board ship, and in the morning very early found that
the tide had gone down and that she lay on her side, high and dry. The
tide went back so far that it was possible to walk from the island to
the mainland. As for the frith, it had shrunk to a dribble of water.
But all this made no matter, so eager were they to savour the country
which was heralded by so fair an island. They jumped off the ship's
side on to the sand, which was firm and white, and ran to shore, and up
the frith, where the going was easy for a mile or two. They found that
it issued from a great lake, many miles in length, and many in width.
It was shallow at the edges, but in the midst looked to be deep enough.
On the shores of this lake were fine trees growing, of such wood as
none of them had ever seen before; flowers, shrubs, birds were alike
new to them. In the pools of the river left by the tide they saw great
fish lying, which Leif thought were salmon.
They wandered about all the forenoon, and when it was time to eat
something and they went back to the shore, the river was filling fast,
and their ship was afloat. They hailed her, and saw one of the hands
row off for them in the boat. Leif then said that they would tow up the
river and cast anchor in the lake, and that was done when they had made
their meal. They found good anchorage there and a snug berth out of all
troubles of wind or water. Next day they took off all their stores, and
pitched tents for themselves in a glade, for it was Leif's meaning that
they should pass a winter there. He was very much in love with the
country, and said that in all his travels he had never been in a place
so little likely to be vexed by cruel weather. In my belief, he said,
we should have no need to store fodder for the stock against the
winter. It seems to me that there should be grazing here the year
throughbut we will prove that, if you are willing. Everybody agreed.
In a little time they had established order in their camp, for Leif
was a strong and wise leader, a tall and fine man of wisdom and good
manners, and all obeyed him cheerfully. Duties were assigned to the men
in order; some were to fish, some to huntfor they found deer as well
as birds in plentyand some to explore. Leif made a rule that no more
than half his party should be away at one time, and that none should
wander so far as that he could not win back by nightfall, nor separate
himself from hail of the others who were with him. So the time wore on
and the seasons changed. A mellow autumn gave way to a mild winter in
which came no iron frost, and very little snow. If they had had cattle
with them, as Leif had foretold, they could have kept them out all the
winter. They found the light very different from Iceland or Greenland.
On the shortest day they saw the sun between the afternoon meal and the
day-meal. What puzzled Leif very much was this, that in so fair a
country there was no sign of habitancy. They saw no men, nor any traces
of menand yet it was hardly to be believed that such a country was
It was late in the autumn when a great discovery was made.
 York Powell and Vigfussen translate this as Shale or Slate-land;
and Laing says that it is believed to have been Newfoundland.
 That is, Bush or Scrubland. Believed to be Nova Scotia,
according to Laing.
It happened one day that Leif had not gone out with the exploring
party, but was by the tents expecting it to come home. When the men
returned late in the evening he saw at once that a man was missing, and
a man, too, of whom he was very fond. His name was Dirk, and he came
from the souththat is, from beyond the Baltic Sea, from some distant
part of Germany which no Icelander had seen. Eric Red had found him in
his younger days in Bremen and shipped him for a voyage. Dirk had made
himself useful, and desired to remain in Iceland. When it became
necessary for Eric to leave home, Dirk went with him to Greenland. So
it was that Leif had known him since he was a boy, and that there was
much love between them. Dirk was as ugly a man as there could well be
in the world, short, bandy and mis-shapen, with a small flat face, high
forehead, little eyes, no nose to speak of; but yet he was active and
clever with his hands and feet. The men told Leif that they had not
missed him before the call had gone about to assemble for the return.
They had looked all ways for himbut no Dirk. They had calledno
answer. There was nothing for it, since it was growing dark, but to go
Leif was troubled. You are good men all, he said, and yet I will
tell you that I would rather have missed any two of you than Dirk. I
have known him all my life, and grown up, as you may say, between his
knees. It shall go hard with me but I find him before another sunset.
With that they took their meal, and turned in for the night, all but
Leif. He had Dirk in his mind and no way of thinking of sleep. Instead,
he wandered up the shore of the lake in the moonlight, and presently
was aware of a whooping sound among the trees, as it might be of a
coursing owl. As he listened, it seemed to waver from place to place,
now high, now low; and then in the pause he heard something like a
chuckling noise; and then last of all a great guffaw. There is Dirk,
as I live, he said to himself, and plunged into the woodland to find
him. He had not far to go. Some bowshot within the forest, in a glade,
he saw Dirk plainly under the moon, dancing and waving his arms,
curtseying to his own shadow.
Ho, Dirk! he cried out sharply, and Dirk stopped short and looked
about him. Leif watched him.
Dirk stared into the dark, then shook his head. I made sure
somebody called Dirk, he said, and thenBut I don't care, and fell
to his dancing and whooping again.
Leif stepped into the moonlight, and Dirk saw him, but without
ceasing to caper. Dancing, he said, and went on.
Leif went to him and clapped him on the shoulder. Are you drunk,
Dirk nodded. I am very drunk. That is just what I am.
Come you with me, said Leif, and you shall be no more drunk.
Then it was that Dirk said, Let us sit down. I'll tell you where I've
been. So they sat down together in the moonlight.
Then Dirk told him that he had outwalked the others and passed out
of the forest belt and reached a ridge of low hills. When he came to
them he found that they were a tangle of wild vines. And I know what
vines are very well, he stopped to say, for in my country there is no
lack of them. Now these vines, he said, were loaded with grapes, some
still ripe, but mostly over-ripe and fallen; and in a hollow of the
rocks he had come to a pool of water wherein the grapes had fallen and
fermented. There, said he, was my wine-vat, and there was I. The
rest, master, you know.
Can you take me to that place to-morrow? Leif asked him. Dirk said
that he could.
Well, Leif said, here is our work then. We will collect what we
can of your grapes, and load our ship with timber. That will fill up
the winter for us; and in the spring we will go home.
And that was the way of it. The timber which they got was fine wood,
and fit for building. They stored what grapes they could, and having a
good-sized meal-tub on board, they made wine in it. They had samples of
self-sown grain, too, and the skins of animals which they had trapped
or shot with bows. When the spring came, they loaded their ship and
sailed out of the lake into the open sea; but they left on shore the
huts which they had made, meaning to return. At parting Leif said:
That country deserves a good name, and shall have one. I call it
Wineland the Good.
Leif in after days had his name of The Lucky, not for the great
country which he had explored, nor for what he brought back from it,
nor for the good passage home which he made, but for another reason
altogether. It was the fact that the wind never failed them from the
day they set out until that one on which they first saw plainly in the
sea the snow mountains of Greenland. Everybody on board was in high
spirits. Leif himself at the helm, and the look-out man was waiting for
the first view of the great headland beyond which Ericsfrith with its
two rocks would open up, and a straight course for the haven. And then,
suddenly, Leif put down the helm, hard, and the ship veered several
points off the land.
What will you do, master? one asked him, and Leif replied, Look
out and see what I will do. Do you see nothing on the water?
The man said that he saw nothing out of the common. Well, said
Leif, look again. I see a rock, or else a shipand if a ship, then a
ship on a rock.
They all saw the rock now. Yes, said Leif, and there's a ship
too, or a piece of a ship; for there are men on the rock.
That was true too, but before they were near enough to count the
survivors of a wreck, pieces of the wreck itself, and baulks of timber,
which they supposed her cargo, came drifting by them; and then
presently a drowned man with a white face turned upwards.
Leif ran on, as near to the rock as he dared, near enough at least
to see the men huddled on the ridge of it, and their hands up
signalling to them. There, too, were the bows of a good ship rising
high into the air like a seal. The rock was a sort of shelf in the sea,
and stood out some ten furlongs from the great headland.
Leif brought up his ship and cast anchor. He had the boat out, and
himself rowed out to the wreck. They can do us no harm, whoever they
are, he said; but I think they are friends of ours. Some fifteen men
were huddled together, and apart from them was a woman in a blue cloak,
with a man lying beside her, his head on her lap, and a cloth over his
face. She did not move as the boat drew in, but all the others came
scrambling down the shelf to the water's edge.
Leif shouted. Who are ye? And of what country?
Thore's peoplefrom Ramfirth.
Where is Thore? They pointed to the woman.
Yonder he lies hurt. That is his wife.
And you are for Ericshaven?
They said that they were. Then you are well met, said Leif, and
stepped on to the rock.
Gudrid's eyes were great and serious. Leif came to her and took her
hands. I little thought we should meet again like this.
We must have died without you, she said.
Then he asked to look at poor Thore. He was unconscious, and had a
great wound in his temple, cut open almost to the bone. Gudrid told him
that when they struck, Thore, who had been at the helm, was thrown out
upon the edge of the rock. One of his men, thrown out also, had pulled
him up out of the sea. Gudrid herself had been below, sleeping. She did
not know how she had been saved. She awoke at the shock to find herself
in water. Then Leif saw that she was wet through and almost rigid with
cold. He did not believe Thore was dead, nor did she. No, no, he won't
die so. He will die in my arms. So Gudrid said.
They took off the sick man first, and Gudrid with him. Both of them
were put to bed, where Gudrid, who was now in a fever, soon became
light-headed. Leif attended to her like a woman. It was wonderful to
see so big a man so gentle and light in the hand.
He brought them all in safely, and Thore and Gudrid were taken up to
Brattalithe, to lodge with Eric until one at least of them was well
again. Gudrid very soon recovered, and seemed none the worse, but in
all her glow of beauty and health. Thore was much slower. His wound
pained him a great deal. Cold had got into it and inflamed it. The pain
made him fretful; he seemed much older than a year and a half's absence
could account for, and was anxious to get home.
Gudrid wished to go also. Everybody was very kind to her at
Brattalithe. She was a great favourite with Eric Red, who used to tell
her that she ought to have married one of his sons. Then I should have
been sure that things would go right here when I am out of the way.
Gudrid once replied to that that none had asked her, whereupon the old
man looked slyly about him, and then said: There was one at least was
thinking of youand so he is now.
She knew that too well. Thorstan was consumed by love, and must
always be with her if he could. She was gentle with him, as she was
with everybody, and had to own to herself that it was Thorstan who now
possessed her thoughts. That may have been going by contraries, for if
Leif paid her nothing but the good-humoured civility he had ready for
everybody, Thorstan, on his part, seemed afraid of her, and was
speechless in her company. But there's all the difference in the world
between a man completely easy in your company and one completely
uneasy. Leif was a young giant, the best-tempered giant in the world;
but it was clear to Gudrid that he had other things to think about
besides love. He was full of the exploration he had made, determined to
get more of the good timber over, and with more than half a mind to go
out and settle in Wineland. Dirk made wine of the grapes which they had
brought back. There was a great feast, and everybody got very drunk. If
Eric Red had not died and left the Greenland settlement on his hands
there is little doubt but Leif would have colonised Wineland.
Meantime, Thorwald, the third of the brothers, was on fire with the
thought of going. He said that he should go out next spring if Leif
would let him have his boat. Thoreto the surprise of allsaid that
he would go too, but nobody seemed to want him. Leif said: I don't
think you a lucky man, Thore. And I don't think your wife will care
about so long and rough a voyage, seeing what you made of her last.
The laugh went against Thore.
Gudrid shall stay with her father, said he; but Gudrid said, I
shall go if you do. Thorstan's face fell, and Eric Red burst into a
great shout of laughter. Oh, sour face, he cried out, let us hear
what you have to say about all this.
Thorstan was very hot, but he answered his father. I think that
Gudrid should not go, nor Thore eitherwhich made Eric chuckle.
When he was with her the next day, after a long time of brooding,
Thorstan said that he hoped she would not go to Wineland.
I must go if Thore goes, she said over her needlework.
If Thore goes, I shall go myself, Thorstan said after a pause.
Gudrid looked up, but said nothing.
He is not a lucky manthat is to be seen, Thorstan said then.
And he has no great knowledge of the sea, and is moreover infirm. It
would come to this, that he would hurt himself, and you would have the
care of him as you did upon the rock out beyond the head.
She answered him gravely. It may be as you say, that he is not
lucky. Indeed, I know it too well. For it was told me before ever I saw
or heard of him, that he would die before me.
Thorstan was now strongly moved. He wrung his hands together. I beg
you to tell me just what was said about that.
She coloured deeply. No, I cannot tell you.
But Thorstan said: I know what it was. It was said that you would
have two husbands. Was it not so?
She could not tell him the truth; so she said, Yes. Then Thorstan
said in a voice which did not sound like his, That is another reason
why I must go. And then they looked at each other for a measurable
space of timeand then Thorstan got up and left her.
When they met again he was as he had always been before; but Gudrid
was frightened, and insisted on going home to Stockness. It was hard to
persuade Eric Red to let her leave him. He had grown very fond of her,
and the more so because he hated his own daughter Freydis. But Gudrid
held to her determination, and won her own way. At parting old Eric
took her in his arms. I am loth to let thee go, dear child, he said,
and afraid lest I lose thee altogether. But thou art between two old
men who love thee, and Thore has the first claim. Promise me this, that
if he die before me thou wilt come back to Brattalithe and be a
daughter to me.
Yes, Gudrid said, I promise you that.
Right, said old Eric. Then I shall live to see thee again. With
that he kissed her and let her go.
Thorwald told Leif that he had been too faint-hearted in his
explorations of Wineland. You were bolder than Biorn, I grant you, he
said; but you only nibbled at the rind after all. I promise you I will
dig down deeper into the meat.
Dig, said Leif, dig by all means. But look that you don't dig
your grave. I saw no men the length and breadth of the land; and yet it
is unreasonable to think that no men have been engendered to live in
such a fine and fruitful country. If our father were not so old and
hard to move, I tell you I should be for cutting adrift from Greenland
and settling out there. But then I would go in a larger way than you
intend. I would take a wife first of all
So would Thorstan, our brother, if he could get her, said
But he cannot get her, Leif said, and then Thorwald, He won't
move from her until he does get her.
Leif said: He will go if Thore takes her out with you. But never
mind all that. You will need a stock of cattle if you are for settling,
and a strong body of men. It is not the way of our people to live in
tents and eat only of the beasts that we chance to take. We are too
fond of the earth to care to live without what she can give us. And if
by incessant toil you win a sustenance out of this frozen land,
consider what you could do in Wineland, where there is no frost, and
but a sprinkling of snow, and where the soil is four feet deep, or
double that for all I know.
You are talking of one thing, and I thinking of another, Thorwald
said. Time enough to settle when I have discovered the country for
you. That's what I mean to do.
Leif helped his brother with a ship and good advice; and Thorwald
sailed west in the spring with a sufficient crew. Thore did not go; for
that winter there had been a great deal of sickness, and old Thorbeorn
took it badly, and died of it. Thore himself had the sickness, and
Gudrid nursed him through it; but he was not fit for a long voyage. And
Thorstan would not go either, though he kept away from Stockness, and
saw nothing of Gudrid. Thorwald would have been glad of his help, for
Thorstan was very strong and a man who could be depended upon; but he
saw the trouble in his eyes and forbore to urge him. It came to this,
then, that Thorwald was in sole command. He was young and full of
spirit; he did not doubt himself the least in the world: but Leif
doubted him, and threw away much sound advice upon him.
They sailed out of the frith one fine afternoon, and were lost to
sight. They had a prosperous voyage throughout, and no trouble in
picking up the Island of Sweet Dew, the river and the lake. There, in a
glade of the forest and in full view of the lake, they saw the booths
still standing, which Lief and his men had set up. They were intact,
the bolts seemingly not drawn, and not much the matter with the goods
within, but what fresh air and sunlight could amend it. They spent the
better part of six weeks in and about those shores, but then, leaving a
garrison at the booths, Thorwald and the rest of the crew went far and
wide over the land, travelling mainly by boat up the great river which
fed the lake on the west. They did not return till late in the autumn.
They reported to their friends that so far as they had been the
forest land extended, with timber in it of incredible size and height.
It increased in density the further they went, and the country all
level, with no mountains to be seen. In the river were many shallows,
and islands too; the shores were white sand and firm to walk upon. They
had met with few animals, and no signs of men at all. Thorwald, who was
unaccustomed to a forest country, said that he should never settle
there, and that he should go further north, where a man might perhaps
see where he was going. But they stayed out the winter where they were.
In the spring they made their preparations to depart. They sailed
east in the first place, but always north of the land, but encountered
rough weather off a great headland which drove them on to the beach and
broke the ship's back. That gave them a great deal of work, and
involved a long stay while they mended her. There was abundance of
timber, and of good quality, and they were well stocked with tools; but
there was much building to be done before they could get at their work,
and it took them the best part of the summer. But they were away about
the time of harvest, and still sailing north, and being east of the
mainland, the country appeared to grow more open, the trees were
sparse, and they could see hills to the far west of them. So presently,
when there opened out to them the mouth of a great frith, Thorwald
sailed up it some distance till he came to a place where there were
bluffs standing up sheer in the water, and beyond a headland a broad
bay. Thereabouts, standing close inshore he berthed his ship, and was
able to run out gangways and walk from ship to land. He himself with a
party went into the country to look about them. It was fine open land,
with a good deal of wood growing on it, but well-watered and with
pasture of fine quality. This country suits me, Thorwald said. I
shall stay here and make a homestead in it. As it turned out he spoke
more truly than he thought for.
On their way back to the ship they struck the frith nearer to the
mouth than where the anchorage was. They jumped down the cliffs to the
beach, and in the very act to jump Thorwald saw something move between
two hummocks of sand. He collected his men together and advanced
quietly. There behind the hummocks they saw men. Three hide-boats lay
at the water's edge. There were three men to each.
Thorwald said, We must rush upon them suddenly. Let each of us make
sure of one man. There were twelve men with Thorwald, counting
The men, who were short and very dark, with black hair, in which
were feathers, had bows with them; but Thorwald gave them no chance of
using them. At a signal his party sprang with cries from behind the
hummocks, and fell upon them. Three fell at once; the others took to
the water and were slain there, all but one. He, as he went, slid out a
boat, and scrambling in, made off at a great pace, and was soon out of
sight behind the cliffs. Thorwald took the hide-boats and the weapons,
but left the dead men where they lay. Then he went back to the ship,
uneasy, thinking what he had better do.
It was everybody's advice that they should seek an anchorage further
from the shoreand that they did. Setting a watch, they went to bed.
Nothing disturbed them until the grey hour of the morning; but then the
watchman called loudly to Thorwald: Thorwald, Thorwald, arm yourself,
and come up! Thorwald leapt to his feet and ran out to look. The water
was very smooth and still, but listening intently, he could hear
countless paddle-strokes; and by and by in the mist the water appeared
to be moving, so many and close together were the boats, and so
shadowy-grey the men in them.
Out with your war-wall, Thorwald cried, and all the crew, now wide
awake, obeyed him. The war-wall was run up and made fast. Every man
took spear and shield and stood behind it, ready for the worst.
The natives came within easy shooting range and rained showers of
arrows at the ship. They did not venture to get at closer quarters, but
held on until they had shot all their arrows; then made off with cries.
The Icelanders looked at each other, and Thorwald, who was very pale,
said, Is any man here wounded? They told him No. Then Thorwald,
smiling rather queerly, said: There slipped in an arrow between the
rails of the board and my shield and struck me under the arm. You shall
take it out, one of you, but I declare it my death-wound. I feel the
venom working in me; and now I see how wisely I spoke when I said that
my homestead should be out yonder. So it will be, but a smaller one
than I thought to have put up. Now, he said, lying down upon a skin
which they had spread for him, pull me out this accursed dart, and
listen to what I say. You shall bury me there where my homestead is to
be, and put up a Cross over me. For though I am not long christened I
know that I belong to the true faith. Call that place Crossness in
memory of me, and when you go home tell my people where I lie, in case
any of them come out and are minded to see if I need anything.
He bore the pulling out of the dart with great cheerfulness, and
composed himself for his end. The poison worked swiftly. He was soon
discoloured, and rambled much in his talk. Towards the end they had to
hold him, and at sunset he died.
Everything was done as he had ordered it. They dug him a grave,
rather than piled a cairn about him as the custom had always been; but
sat him up in it with his weapons, thinking that more honourable. There
were no Christians among them to say any prayer over the grave; but
they made a great Cross and carved runes upon it. Then they went back
to the ship and got the anchor up, being ill-disposed to stay there
another day. The night passed without attack, and by daylight they
rowed out of the frith, and out to sea. They beat their way back to
Eric's booths in Wineland and found them unmolested. There they
remained for the autumn and winter following; and then went home to
tell Eric Red and Lief the fate of young Thorwald.
Thorbeorn of Stockness died of the winter sickness the winter before
Thorwald sailed for Wineland. Thore himself had been very sick too, but
he recovered and was almost himself that summer. Not altogether so, for
he had lost his lightness of heart, and with that his decision and
blunt common sense. Gudrid, who had fought, as it seemed to her,
against fate, and prevailed, was unhappy that he should care so little
to be with her. She did not know that he avoided her. But it was so. He
spent most of his time at Brattalithe, where he had taken a great fancy
for Thorstan. He did not tell her, and Gudrid did not know, what he and
Thorstan could have to say to each otherbut the two were great
friends. The fact of the matter was that Thore had now got it into his
head that Gudrid had cast a spell upon both himself and Thorstan, and
that the prediction concerning her was less prophecy than a gift of
magic power. He found that Thorstan would let him talk about his hard
fate by the hour togethernay, more, he found that Thorstan did not at
all avoid being cast in the same lot. Thorstan, indeed, was quite open
about it. I have so much love in me for Gudrid, he said, that you
may say whatever you please about her to me, and I shall hear you
gladly. Talk evil of her, sooner than not talk at all. I shall never
believe you, but I shall hear her name, and name her myself. That will
be enough for me. So Thore grumbled away about his troubles, and
Thorstan listened to him.
He himself saw Gudrid seldom, because he believed that it made her
uneasy to have him there. Nevertheless he prevailed upon Thore to bring
her to Brattalithe very often; and when she was there he would take
himself off cheerfully to work about the estate. Eric Red always made
much of her, and even Freydis liked her well enough. She was the only
woman for whom Freydis had a civil word. Freydis used to frown upon
her, with her arms folded under her bosom. You have soft ways, she
said, and can make men do as you want; but all that is nothing to me.
I see that you are made of steel underneath, for all that. I see that
you are no fool, and no doll. One of these days you will fall in with a
man worthy of you, and then I should like to see the pair of you at
Another time she said, Good for you, Gudrid, that you have no
Gudrid said, That is not my opinion. I wish with all my heart I
Wait, said Freydis, until you have a man for a mate. But that
made Gudrid's eyes bright.
You must not scorn my husband to my face, she said.
Pooh! said Freydis; he's not here for long. Then Gudrid turned
pale, and grew very grave.
You know that, then?
Why, said Freydis, it is common knowledge. We have all had to do
with Thorberg. She has the second sight.
That is dreadful to me, Gudrid said, but Freydis took it easily.
You are woman enough to bear what you must bear, she said. One of
you must die before the other. I hope you don't want to share graves
with such an old man as Thore? Well, then, suppose it had been you that
were to die firstdo you suppose that Thore would have left you for
some other girl? What do you take him for? Not he. He's man enough to
have his pleasure. Trust him for that.
Such was Freydis, who treated her own husband with a high hand, and
sent for him when she wanted him.
Freydis spoke of the marriage of Thorstan and Gudrid as of an
appointed thing. You will suit each other, she said. There is good
mettle in Thorstan.
Gudrid could say nothing to that. The fate hung heavy upon her. She
felt that she was killing Thore, and had the knife in readiness with
which to killnot Thorstan but herself. For she knew that she had
given Thorstan her heart, and that his death would be more certainly
Meantime, with a dreadful fascination, she watched the doom settling
like a storm about her husband Thore. She only saw it; he himself, now
that he was better, was unconscious of anything impending. He talked
hopefully of what he should do when Thorwald came home with news of
Wineland, having forgotten his dark commerce with Thorstan. But
Thorstan had not forgotten, and seemed to be waiting, like a raven on a
rock, until he should be dead. Gudrid, who was fanciful, saw herself
and him in that guisesilent and watchful, each on a rock, made
patient by certainty. All this was terrible to her, and made her old
before her time. She was not more than three-and-twenty even now.
Thorstan avoided her, which made matters no better, but worse, rather;
for she knew why he did it, and felt spotted, and longed to see him,
and felt that she was accursed.
So life drew along for that summer and autumn; and then the long
Greenland winter began, with the dark and the clinging, frozen fog.
Thore seemed to make no stand against it, but took to his bed, from
which Gudrid knew he would never rise. She waited on him hand and foot;
he lay there watching her with his aching eyes, and wounded her to the
heart. He hardly ever spoke, and seldom asked for anything. Thorstan
used to come up most days to ask how he did. Gudrid knew quite well
when he was on the road, and would tell Thore. Here is Thorstan
Ericsson coming. Will you not see him?
Nay, nay, not yet, was Thore's answer.
Then there came a day when, being very ill, and nearly blind with
fever, Thore asked to see Thorstan. So Gudrid opened the door to him,
and her colour came back to her when she said, Thore has asked for
you. Come in, then.
Thorstan, glowing in his health and strength, came into the hall.
Gudrid took his furs from him to dry them by the fire, for the fog was
frozen thick upon them.
Thorstan sat on the edge of the bed, and asked Thore how he did. I
do badly, said Thore, but before long it will be better with me.
Gudrid was turning away when he said to her, Nay, do you stop here. I
shall need you. So she stood where she was, a little way from the bed,
half dreading and half glorying in what was to come.
Thore shut his eyes and seemed to wander in sleep. They heard him
talking very fast to himselfcounting the same things over and over
again, and always failing at a certain number. They thought he was
counting sheepbut it was salmon in a net. Thorstan watched him
attentively, while Gudrid stood in a spell; but presently Thorstan got
up and fetched a stool for her to sit upon. She could not look at him
to thank him. So the time passed in silence, broken only by the
feverish whispering of the sick man. The thoughts of the man were
deeply upon the woman, and the joy of her nearness made his heart beat.
As for her thoughts, if there was no joy in them, there was great
content, and a sense of peace which she had not known for a long while.
She thought that a word from him might have broken down her peace.
What need of speech between us two? she thought. I would live with
him and know all his thoughts, and tell him all mine without speech at
Presently Thore woke up with a start and asked what time it was. It
is late, Gudrid said. I will bring you your broth, and maybe you will
sleep a little. She turned away to the fire, but Thore said sharply,
Stay; there is no need for broth now. Then he said, Are you there,
Thorstan? I cannot see you. Thorstan said, Here I am.
Thore spoke again. Take the hand of Gudrid, and tell me that you
have it. He faltered for a moment, but then looked at Gudrid, and
called her with that look. She went over and gave him her hand.
Is it done? said Thore.
Yes, it is done, he was told.
Her father was too quick when he married her to me, and you, maybe,
were over-slow, Thore said. She would have married you at first if
you had asked her. Now you must make the most of your time, for it
won't be long. And I knew what the matter was between you from the
first, but in those days I loved her dearly and could not let her go.
Now do you two be married soon, and take it not amiss with me that I
have outstayed my time.
You do wrong to speak so, Thorstan said. Gudrid has been faithful
and loving to you; and it is no fault of hers that she knew how it
would turn out.
No, no, said Thore. She has been good to me.
Now I will tell you, said Thorstan, that I have the second sight
myself, and know what my fate is, and that she must take a third
husband. But if it were my fate to die the day after my wedding with
Gudrid, I would wed her if she would take me. You, Thore, are dying a
Christian. See to it, then, that you do not die with hard judgments of
Gudrid in your heart.
Thore lay still, breathing very short. They believed he was
struggling with his thoughts.
Presently he called her, and she went to him, and kneeled by the
bedhead, and put her cheek against his. He lay very still, and she
remained patiently waiting. So then he had a great convulsion, and
struggled in it; and then turned violently in his bed and sat up. He
saw Gudrid kneeling, and smiled at her. It was as if he had newly
awoken out of sleep, and was himself again as she had first known him.
She, as if knowing his mind, leaned towards him. He kissed her
forehead, and lay down again. In a few moments more he was dead.
When they had laid him out, and lighted tapers about him, Thorstan
said: Do you now go and sleep, and I will sit up with him. She asked
with the eyes that she might stay, but he would not have it. So she
went away and made a bed by the fire, and slept long. He did not touch
her, would not look at her. They neither kissed when they parted, nor
at all until Thore was buried. But after that, when she was at
Brattalithe, and he found her there, he took her in his arms.
There were many things about her marriage with Thorstan which she
did not understand at the timeThorstan's urgency for it was one, a
kind of feverish haste about getting through with preliminaries; and
another was his opposition to living anywhere but at Brattalithe. He
would not go to her father's house, nor to that which had been Thore's,
and which was now hers for life. He put a reeve in each of them and
took her to Brattalithe. Afterwards she understood everything, and was
confounded by her former blindness; but it is the truth that Thorstan's
love for her was of a sort to forbid thinking. She was carried off her
feet and out of her common sense by his passion. He, so dumb and still
a man, was by the touch of passion set on fire. And fire caught fire.
The pair of them lived in each other, and the world seemed empty of all
other men and women.
As for Thorstan himself, knowing what he knew, it is not wonderful
that his love burned at white heat. Passion with him was in a trap and
fighting for an hour of life. What is wonderful is, that he never
betrayed in any other way that he had the end in sight from the
beginning. It was Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die with him.
But Gudrid did not see it. She was too happy to see it. Her doom was
flooded out by sunlight, as it were.
He made songs for her from the time of Thore's death onwards, and in
these his secret might have been revealed if she had been able to read
below the surface. He sang her one night as she lay in his arms the
terrible Song of Helgi and Sigrun. Certainly Death and Love embrace in
Helgi was a Wolfing, the son of Sigmund and Borghild. He was
forecast a hero by the Norns, and at fifteen slew Hunding, who had
slain his father. The sons of Hunding gathered themselvesAlf and
Eywolf, Hiorward and Hawardand the hosts met in the plain under
Lowfell. There was war in heaven while those armies made it on earth.
Out of the lightning flare came the Valkyrs, daughters of Odin,
choosers of the slain. They rode grey horses; they wore helms and coats
of mail; their spear-heads gleamed like fire. Helgi sat by the Eagle
Rock and cried out to them to stay. And oneit was Hogni's daughter,
Sigrunturned him her fire-hued face and answered: Other business
have we in hand than to pledge you in horns. My father has plight me to
King Hodbrord, whom I hold no better than the son of a cat. Yet he will
come for me soon unless you deliver me. Then love grew between them as
they looked at each other; and Helgi said: Fear not Hodbrord, for I
will meet him unless I am dead.
King Hodbrord called up his levies and mustered a host. The ships
flocked about Brandey, but still he waited, and warriors came to him,
hundreds of them, from Hedinsey and other islands. Then said Helgi to
Hiorleif, Is the host called? And Hiorleif nodded his head and
pointed them out over sea, high-beaked ships, hemmed with shields,
thick on the water like wild swans. They fought in a storm, and the
waves played their part in the battle. The waters drank as much blood
as the swords; from on high Sigrun the Valkyr guided the warriors of
Now King Hodbrord stood in the gate of his house, hooded and helmed,
his spear in his hands. He saw far off in the valley horsemen riding
with speed, whose cloaks flew out in the wind they made. Who come here?
Whose is the host? And Godmund, his housewife, told him of the
sea-fight, and that the Wolfings were coming against his house. Then
looking, he saw the helm-bright Valkyrs coursing the air, keeping pace
with the horsemen below. They met in a crash by the Wolf rock; the
swords flamed, the spears were like flying stars. Over the dead
Hodbrord Sigrun the Valkyr cried in triumph, Never for your arms is
Sigrun of Sevafell, and as she spoke the arm of Helgi the hero held
Their love was fierce, but it was short. Helgi is dead of countless
wounds, and laid in his barrow with his weapons beside him. Sigrun of
Sevafell keeps the house; she sits by the fire; her eyes are hard. She
says to herself
Now had been here
Had he been minded
The hero Helgi,
Out of the halls of Odin;
But the eagles roost
On the high ash-boughs,
All the household
Falleth to dreams
Faint is my hope of him now.
But her handmaid at the window sees a man riding in armour. He rides
a grey horse, his face is pale and streaked with blood. She speaks to
herself, and then to the dead
What wraith rideth?
Is Doomsday come?
Shall dead men ride,
Shall they drive spurs in?
Ho, pale rider,
Hast thou leave homeward to fare?
It is Helgi who answers her as he rides by upon a noiseless horse
This is no wraith,
This is not World's Doom
Though a dead man rides,
Though he pricks with spurs,
Leave I have homeward to fare.
And then he cries aloud, so that Sigrun hears him, and looks up,
Ha, come thou forth, Sigrun of Sevafell!
Here is thy lord
If thou wouldst see him;
The cairn is open,
Helgi is here
With the sword-wounds bleedingstaunch thou the blood!
For I must ride soon
The reddening roads,
My good horse climb
The ways of the air;
West of the sky-bridge
Needs I must be
Before the grey cock cry to the sun.
Sigrun is up now, and at the door. She pants as she pulls at the
bobbin of the latch. Her eyes are on fire with eagerness. But the maid
cries to her
Go not, go not,
Sigrun of Sevafell,
Sister of kings,
Seek not the house of the dead!
For the night is abroad
When the dead are mighty;
Await bright dawn, thou shalt be stronger.
But Sigrun is out in the moonlight, and Helgi is upon his feet. Now
she has him in her arms; now she holds his pale face between her hands
and speaks to him close
The hawks of Odin
Greet not the Storm-lord,
Scenting the slain, their smoking quarry,
Not more eagerly
Cry they the dawn dew
Than I cry thee, dead King Helgi.
Now I kiss thee, dead King Helgi,
Ere thou castest
Thy blood-clutter'd mail-shirt.
Bloody the dew
On thy dauntless body,
Heavy the rime
On thy raven love-locks;
Cold are thy hands, Helgi, my king's son,
How shall I loose thee, lover and lord?
But Helgi puts her hands away from his face and holds her apart
The death-dew is dank on me,
Sigrun of Sevafell,
This is thy doing, O sun-fraught lady,
Golden woman, the tears thou sheddest
Upon thy bed stay not beside thee;
Like blood they fall, cold and deathly,
Like sobs they stab me
Through the breast!
Then, seeing her despair, he throws up his white face towards the
moon and laughs without joy
Ho, let us drink
Deep draughts of joy,
We that have lost
Land and life!
Let no man keen us,
Let no man pity
The wounds shining upon my body.
He clasps her close in his arms, and speaks as it were between his
Now is a queen,
Sigrun of Sevafell,
Now is a queen
Shut in the cairn,
Living and warm with the cold dead.
But she strains him to her and cries aloud
Helgi, Helgi, here is thy bed made,
Thou son of Wolfings, a warm bed, a gentle
Fast in arms, Helgi, enfold me;
As when thou livedst
Clip me in death sleep.
And then the maid sees the cairn open, and Sigrun lying in it in the
dead man's arms. Helgi lifts up his face to the moonlight, and sings
Never on Sevafell
A great marvel
No more wondrous
That hill of magic
For Hogni's white daughter
Lies with a dead man;
A king's daughter
Alive in the arms of the dead.
There is no more terrible song than that, nor one in which love is
brought so close to death. When she remembered it after-wards Gudrid
saw well that she had indeed been lying with a dead man when that song
was sung to her. For if she could have had the wits she would have felt
at the time the death-dew on his face. But love had then bereft her of
She called that year afterwards the Little Summer, as well because
of the glory and promise of it as for the few days it held. By the end
of June she knew herself with child. Thorstan gave a sort of sobbing
gasp when she told him and pressed her to his heart. She felt the wet
from his eyes upon her cheek, looked at him and saw tears. You weep at
my news? It is because I am happy, my love. She herself was softly
elated by the gift she was to be enabled to make him, but not
otherwise. All her love was centred in him just then.
But in July the ship came home from Wineland the Good without
Thorwald, and with the heavy news. Eric, who had been ageing, was very
much cast down by it. He wished Lief to go out and fetch back the body;
but Lief did not seem inclined to move. He told Thorstan his reason.
If we can move out, house and homestead, gear and cattle, man, woman
and child, well and good. It is a finer country than this. I will
settle there gladly. But you see how it is with our father. He won't
last long, and you will see he will refuse to move. This is his
Settlement; he has made it for himself. He is king of all this country,
and he feels it. Now if we go and leave him here, he will dieand what
then? The end of Eric's kingdom. No, I shall stay here and take up the
government after him. But I think that you should goyou and Gudrid.
Thorstan said: I think so too. I will speak to Gudrid. But I shall
wait till after harvest.
He told Gudrid what he thought. They have buried him heathenwise,
sitting with his weapons, looking out to sea, and heaped the stones
over him. True, they have set up a cross atop. But he should have the
rites. I must see to that. We will go, my love, if you are willingbut
maybe we shall not come back.
She looked at him fondly. I will go wherever you bid me. But we
shall come back. It is wonderful that she did not remember what had
been predicted of her; but she did not.
Thorstan did not meet her eyes. We will go, then. But not till
Harvest! said she. You will not go in the winter?
No, no, he said. The harvest will not be done. Then she knew
that he did not speak of the corn-harvest, but of their own.
The year sped quickly, as happy years will do; the harvest of the
earth was gathered, the winter fell, the clinging mists, the still and
deadly cold. But they were a happy household at Brattalithe, for Gudrid
was found to be a solvent of much domestic ferment. Her sweet manners
drew even Theodhild to come in and out of the house, and hushed the
storms which periodically swept over Freydis the Wild. At Yule there
was a feast of many days, singing, eating and drinking, and games in
the snow for the young men. Gudrid sat apart and watched it, Thorstan
never far away from her. Still she didn't guess what lent such fervour
to their loves. Foolish with happiness, she thought it was the first of
many Yuleswhether here in this frost-locked country or in the forests
of Wineland mattered little to her. She saw them all in years to come
as they were now and felt her heart high in her breast.
And then at the end of March, when men began to talk again of the
ice breaking up, and the thawing of the passages, her child was born.
It was a girl, and christened Walgerd. And now Thorstan looked about
him at the still sheeted lands and knew that his hour was at hand. He
told nobody, he never betrayed himself; but went to work silently and
It was the end of summer again before they were ready to sail. The
ship which brought home Thorwald's crew had gone a voyage to Iceland
and not come back. It was necessary to find and furnish another; no
crew would ship until the harvest was over; and though Gudrid was
willing to follow Thorstan at a word, Eric had not wanted her to leave
him yet; so she saw one more high summer.
They fared badly from the start, with heavy weather as soon as they
were off the land. After a week of blustering south-west gales and rain
the wind went round to the north. Then from the N.N.W. there began a
storm the like of which none of them had ever known, and for week after
week they were buried in it, not knowing where they were. They lost
men, tackle, stores; there was not a dry rag on the ship; every day
Thorstan expected the snow. Instead of that, after a few days of sunny
weather, the wind dropped in a clear sky; it began to freeze, and then
came the white blanket to cling about sheets and spars, and hold them
close, a blur drifting upon a sea like oil. Gudrid sat like a ghost in
the after deckhouse, nursing her baby and trying to keep it warm. It
did not thrive and could not be expected to thrive. She was sure it
would die. And so it diddied in its sleep while she was suckling it.
She felt the cold upon its legs; and then it grew heavy. She looked
downits eyelids were blue. But she did not move.
Thorstan came down to see her. He knew at once. He went to her and
covered her breast in the blanket. He said nothing, but was very
Oh, husband, speak to me! Our little baby
Hush, my dear oneit is better. She is not cold now. He made her
lie down, with a hot stone for her feet and another for her arms to
hold instead of her Walgerd. When she was asleep he said a prayer over
the child and sank it in the sea. Then he comforted her as only he
could have done it.
There was a good deal of sickness on board and plenty for Gudrid to
do. The wind blew gaps in the fog, and as it stiffened tore it into
flying shreds and rags. The ship heaved and lurched in water now
inky-black. They got steerage way, and ran before a gale which they
judged came from the south-west; they held this course for many days,
hoping to get a sight of land. And land was nearer than they thought,
for one morning Thorstan saw a darkening in the fog, a kind of shape,
and then, quick as the thought, he put the ship about. She came round
slowly, and at that moment the spars and rigging seemed alive with
sea-birds. As the ship went round a huge black wall reared itself
a-starboard, and he heard the waves at its foot. As nearly as might be
he had broken up his ship on the rocks.
Thorstan ran out to sea for half a mile or more and stood off until
the weather cleared a little. When it did they all saw the crags and
headlands of an iron coast. The only thing to do was to keep within
hail of it until they found some sort of haven. Thorstan said he would
spend the winter there, whatever country it might be. Already it was
cold, and wherever the land stooped low enough there was snow to be
An opening in the land was reported next day, and as they drew near
they could make out a firth and a muffled ship lying at anchor within
it. The tide serving, Thorstan ran in between low hills all smothered
in snow. A settlement of white, muffled houses lay on the shore of a
bay, a deserted quay, a few boats drawn up on the beach: not a soul was
to be seen; the winter swoon was over all.
He drew up within hail of the silent ship and anchored in that black
water. The rattling of the chain and splash of the anchor echoed among
the hills, but awoke no man. Are we, dying, come to a city of the
dead? he thought. The chill lay on his heart like lead; the thought of
Gudrid gave him a dull ache; even the passion of desire to save her was
dead within him. He did what came up before him to be done, but could
not provide nor foresee.
Here we must see the winter out, he said, and had the boat out so
that he might go ashore and seek quarters. First he went below to see
He found her in the bed, rigid with cold, almost too cold to shiver.
He leaned over her in an agony of pity. Oh my heart! Oh my poor
heart! She looked up at him and smiled in his face. She was not able
I shall see the winter out here, he told her. I must find out
where we areI believe that we have beaten back to Greenland. If that
be so, then we may be able to reach home; but if that is not possible,
then we stay here. I will get quarters for the men, and for ourselves,
please God. My love, trust me to do for the bestand wait for me
She nodded her head two or three times, but her eyes were shut and
she did not look at him again. He dared not kiss her for fear of
finding out how cold she was. How could it be that men were allowed to
suffer so? He found some more covering for her bed before he left her.
The boat took him ashore; he went to the nearest house he saw and
thumped on the door. There was no light to be seen, and for long there
was no sound to be heard inside; but at last he heard the bolts drawn
back. A white-faced woman peered at him through a crack.
Let me in, for the love of God, said Thorstan. Then she beckoned
A sick man lay muttering in a bed; children huddled about a turf
fire. The place was very nearly dark, but he made out some six souls to
be there. He found out that he was come to Lucefrith in West Greenland;
the winter sickness was heavy on the place. The woman did not refuse to
take one of his men, and did not agree. She seemed stupid with misery.
He told her that he should send her a man, and went out. In every house
in the Settlement was much the same story. Sickness and death on all
hands, but no refusals. At the end of his rounds he had managed to
place out all hands. There remained himself and Gudrid. There was no
place for themnot room enough to die in. He had asked if there were
no headman in Lucefrith, and was told of one Thorstan Black; but he, it
seemed, lived far offover the hills, they saidand no way of getting
at him through the snow.
Then he went back to the ship and told his men to get ready to go
ashore. He took them off by companies in the boat, and saw them all
indoors before he left them. The last man under cover, he rowed back
alone to the ship. At this extremity, with frozen death and silence all
about him, he felt a strange uplifting of the heart in the thought that
he and Gudrid were now alone indeedthey two and Love. And what if
Death were a fourth in the party? Ah, he was welcome too. But before
Death came Love should be there. He rowed gaily, fiercely, that he
might be with her the sooner.
He was warmed by his exercise when he was on deck again, and wildly
happy in the thought which possessed him.
He went below and saw his love watching for him. My heart, I am
coming to you, he said. He took off his furs and most of his clothes
and got into the bed with her. He held her close to him, with a passion
which despair may have quickened into flame. Wildly as he had loved her
since she had given him herself, he never loved her as he did now, when
the end seemed close upon them.
For a week they lived so, the supreme week of Thorstan's and
Gudrid's lives. They were utterly alone, and they never left each
other's arms, but when Thorstan was busy mending the brasier fire, or
getting food. They cherished each other, the fire in them at least
never went out; they loved and slept, they loved again and slept. It
was the last leap of their fire, it was the swan-song of their love
maybe; but it was beautiful, and as strong as if they were breasting a
great flight through space. Thorstan sang to Gudrid, he told her tales
of lovers, he put their joint lives into verses; but he had not a word
to say of the future. Here fate was too heavy for either love or
religion. Fate stood with stretched-out arms holding a black curtain
over what was to come. Thorstan had seen behind it. He knew. But Gudrid
had forgotten, and he would not tell her. As for Gudrid herself, the
glory was to have Thorstan find her so lovely, and her love so full,
was enough for her. She lived on his needs. To fill them was her utmost
desire, and to be to him a never-failing well was a crown of stars. She
seldom spoke; she was as silent as the earth below the rains and heats
of heaven, and as receptive. She neither asked nor pondered what was to
be the end of this rapturous dream. If she had, her utmost desire would
have been that they should die together in some nuptial sleep, and lie
still, folded under the snow.
But Fate ordered it otherwise. The day came when they heard the
knocking of oars, and then while they lay clasped, listening, a great
voice hailing the ship. They looked at each other. The dream is over,
Thorstan said. My love, the world is about us again. She clung to
him. Let us stay herelet nobody forbid us that. Nay, but I must go
out and see who is coming.
He dressed and went on deck. A large man muffled to the eyes in a
bearskin was below him in a boat, standing up in it holding on to the
side. He pulled open his hood and showed a red face, black beard and a
pair of merry eyes.
The two hailed each other, and then the new-comer said, They told
me in the Settlement that you were under the weather here. It will have
gone hard with you, I doubt. And your lady with you! Now I make known
to you that I am Thorstan of this place, called commonly Thorstan
Black, and at your service.
Thorstan said: Then I must be Thorstan Red, for Thorstan is my
name, and the red is of Nature's doing, and my father's. I am Eric's
son of Ericsfrith. I was making the western voyage, but was driven out
of my course in a gale, and forced to beat up here against my will. My
men are in the Settlement, but I and the good wife could find no better
quarters than these.
I will show you better, said Thorstan Black. I knew nothing of
your coming till last night when a man came up asking for fuel. You
shall come off with me now if you will. In a week's time you will be
able to walk ashore. My mistress will be glad of your company, and so
shall I be.
Thank you for that, said Thorstan. We take your offer gladly. He
asked him up, but Thorstan Black said he was very well where he was.
Gudrid was dressed when he came down for her. The dream was broken,
and neither of them spoke of it. Their preparations were soon made, and
then they left the ship.
Thorstan Black rowed them ashore with strong and leisurely strokes.
He told them that he lived over the ridge beyond the Settlement. He had
a sleigh of dogs waiting for him, packed up Gudrid, put Thorstan one
side of her and himself the other, cracked a great whip, uttered a
harsh cry; and they were off. The dogs panted and strained at the
ropes; sometimes one yelped in his excitement. And so they came to a
broad-eaved house, and were welcomed by the good wife, whose name was
The winter fell upon them in bitter earnest within the next
fortnight. The snow was up to the top of the windows, and being there,
froze hard, and had to be cut away with an axe. That was how they made
a road to the byres where the stock were, and where they must be fed.
The two Thorstans worked hard at this and at fuel-getting, and hewing
of wood. Gurth the reeve helped them, but he was ailing already with
the sickness, and not much use.
Grimhild, a strong-faced, huge woman, managed all the house, but
Gudrid helped her now willingly. There were no maids there. In the
evenings they sat by the fire and told tales. It was as merry as might
be, and with Thorstan Black there was always some fun to be had. He was
the lightest-hearted man and the happiest whom Gudrid had seen in
Greenland, where mostly, it seemed, men had to fight with life at too
long odds to have any heart left over for pastime. Thorstan Black owned
to it. There is no people but ours of Iceland, I do believe, who would
hold out against this white death, he said. So fast as we come we die
of it. Then come others, and so the game goes on. It is the fighting we
love; we were always fighterswhat with horses, or our young men. But
here we fight with the earth, sea and sky, and do little slaughter of
our own kind.
It is the fog that kills us, said Grimhild; and Gurth smothered
his cough and hugged himself over the fire.
Gudrid said: Why should you stay here? I think it is a terrible
country. We shall go to Wineland as soon as the spring comes. Then she
told them of that good countryof the tall trees, and the clear sky,
of the dew which was sweet to the taste, of the vines tumbling over the
hot rocks, the birds' voices in the forest, and the strange stars at
night. Grimhild was moved by the recital.
Ay, she said, I have heard tell of such lands, and you may see
them, being young. But this place has made me old, and almost broken my
heart. In a little while I shall ask no better than to be laid in the
Thorstan Black patted her on the back.
Courage, old lass, he said. You and I have seen the worst of it.
I think it may be better hereafter. As for your land of summer all
round the year, I know not that it would suit Icelanders. If you take
our hardihood from us, what have we left? That which swills and eats
heavily, and plays the mischief. Nay, give me a dark ghyll in Iceland,
with a river racing down its length, and the sea never far off. That
means more to me than your vines and soft winters. As for this stricken
land, we shall beat the sickness yet. A man tempers himself. There
should be a fine race here one day, of them who have got through.
Gurth turned up the whites of his eyes. He was very sick.
By and by they had news from the Settlement, where things were going
badly. The sickness was very rife. Many of Thorstan's men from
Ericsfrith were dead of it. They took down stores in the sleigh, and
were much concerned at what they saw and heard. The strangers from the
east were all sick; six were dead, and could only be buried in the
snow. Thorstan promised that he would take all the bodies back to
Ericsfrith if he had to heap the ship with dead men. When they returned
to the homestead the first thing they heard was that Gurth was dead.
Gradually, as the winter thickened, gloom began to fall upon the
housemates. The hall grew cold; it was as if there were no heat in the
burning coals; as if the cold was become master of the fire. Grimhild
grew strange in her ways. She was always listening, waiting for
something. She said she expected a visitor, but would never say who it
was. She became very silent, and tried to avoid the others. Thorstan
Black told Thorstan Red that he feared the worst. The trustiest
woman! he said. She has stood by me in sickness and health for twenty
yearsand now she turns her back on mehunches her poor shoulders and
will take no comfort from me. That's a sure sign of the sickness. You
distrust your old friends first. Is that the way of it? said our
Thorstan, with fear in his heart.
Grimhild grew more and more remote, but remained on terms with
Thorstan Red, in whom she confided some of her growing fancies. The
dead are unquiet, she told him when she had him out of range of the
others, and how should I be quiet? They are all about us. So soon as
it grows dusk they come out of the snow. I hear them quarrelling,
murmuring, and some of them grieve. I shall be with them soonand
perhaps you will see me there. It has been bad enough other winters,
but none so bad as this. There are strangers herethat's how it is. We
shall never quiet them till we have burned the bodies. That's the only
They shall be burned, mistress, said Thorstan. I will see to it.
She looked at him queerly, with one eyebrow arching into her hair.
You? she said, then turned away her face. Well, wellChrist have
mercy on us.
When the fever took her and seemed to stretch her skin to
cracking-point, she would not go to bed, and nobody could persuade her.
She huddled by the fire, rocking herself, until the evening; but
directly it was dusk she was restless. The wind used to moan about the
house, and she heard in it the voices of the dead. She thought she
could distinguish one from the other. Gurth is railinghark to him. .
. . That was Wigfus answering, and that deep one is Kettleneb. Oh, let
me resthave done! She wandered forth and back, but was mostly in the
kitchen, listening at the door. Thorstan Black grieved for her and used
to try to coax her back to the fire. She scowled at him as if he were a
stranger, and would not let him touch her. Gudrid was afraid to go near
Once when she was out there on a wild moon-lit night, the others by
the fire heard her cry aloud; and then she called on Thorstan. The two
Thorstans looked at each other. Thorstan Black said, It's you she
wants. Go and talk to her. Thorstan Red went out.
Grimhild had the kitchen door open; dry snow was sweeping in upon
her; the front of her gown was white with it. Look at them there, she
said; look at them. Gurth is whipping them round the garth. See how
they huddleheed their crying. There, thereand there go I among
them, wringing my hands. She clutched his arm. Hushand there go
Thorstan's heart jumped, and then fell quiet. Do you see me there,
You are standing there in the shadow of the byre. He will not touch
you. Round and round. No rest in the snow. Then she turned to him and
screamed: Don't let him touch me! She caught at him and he tried to
draw her into the house; but she struggled fiercely, and before he
could stop her she was outdoors racing through the snow. Thorstan
shouted to his host, who came to him in a hurry. She's gone, said
Thorstan Red. Thorstan Black and he went out together, but by now she
had passed through the garth and was deep in the snow beyond. They got
her home at last, but she was quite mad and fought against them all the
They put her to bed and kept her there by main force until she was
exhausted. They were up with her all night, and she died in the small
hours of the morning. There was nothing for it but to bury her in the
Gudrid laid her out while Thorstan and his host were making the
coffin. She put candles at her head and feet in the Christian fashion,
with a cross of wood between her hands. Then she knelt by the bed to
watch the corpse. It was piercingly cold, and she grew numb with it,
and then drowsy. It is likely that she dropped off to sleep as she lay,
for she came to herself with a start and saw the corpse sitting up,
staring with open and glassy eyes. Her heart stood still, she neither
felt nor thought. How long they were, the living and the dead, staring
at each other, Gudrid could never have toldshe was incapable of
moving, being frozen with terror and cold. Presently the dead woman's
mouth opened, as if she were going to speak; and then her head fell
forward and she dropped. Gudrid staggered to her feet and ran out of
the house. She found the men in the outhouse, and caught Thorstan Black
by the wrist. Her face told her story; it was no longer that of a sane
woman. Thorstan went back with her.
That night they buried Grimhild in the snow; and Thorstan Red took
the sickness. He told Gudrid of it when they were in bed. He held her
closely in his arms and spoke with passion: My love, I am sick, and it
may go hard with me. Remember now what I saythat the thing which I
may be is not I. Be not afraid of it. You have had the best I could
beand it was you who made me. Remember what we have been, and think
of me as dead already. And when I am dead, take my body back to
She clung to him, but not with tears. Tears were denied her now. The
cold had mastered even them. For now she knew what must come.
The Greenland sickness took mainly the same course, varying with the
patient's personal quality. It began with a high fever, intense surface
irritation; there ensued violent rheumatic pains, mental alienation,
delirium, madness and death. It was characteristic, as has been said,
that the sufferer turned from his kind, and turned markedly from whom
he knew best.
Thorstan made his preparations carefully, and instructed Gudrid. As
a wife who may be allowed a last word with her husband condemned to
die, she took and gave her kisses. The time was too great for tears,
the heart too faint for strong embraces. All she could do she did. She
would obey him, she would not show herself; but she would be always at
hand. She sat mostly at the head of his bed in the wall, hidden by a
curtain, but ready to fetch and carry; to bring him food which Thorstan
Black could give him; hot stones for his feet, hot rags to ease the
pain in his limbs. He hardly opened his eyes, hardly ever groaned; but
when the fever ran high he talked incessantly, in fierce and rapid
whispersand she heard told over again the week of rapture and dream
under the snow in the empty ship. She suffered greatly under this
affliction, both by the memories it evoked and the knowledge that such
things could never be again. Her modesty might have been offended; but
Thorstan Black was very kind to her. He used to go gently away when the
sufferer began to speak, and would contrive his returns so as not to
intrude on any privacy. Her heart was full of gratitude to the
black-bearded giant, so huge and so gentle.
The fever seemed to eat Thorstan up; he became so thin that his
cheeks sank away into hollows, and his bones stuck out so sharply that
the skin cracked. Gudrid began to have horror of him. She thought that
her lover was dead, and that this was some terrible mock-image of him
sent there to haunt her. She seemed to become younger as he grew more
like an old man. She was afraid to be left alone with him. Love had
been frightened out of her, and even pity scarce dared to be there. She
could not believe that this was the man who had so keenly loved and
worshipped her body, and by his music had uplifted her soul. She had
seen Thore die and had been compassionate to the end. She remembered
how she had kissed him in the very article of death, and shuddered as
she thought of kissing this living corpse. Her eyes besought Thorstan
Black not to leave her, and he rarely didfor by this time her
husband's weakness was such that, whatever he may have said in his
fever, he could hardly be heard.
Towards the endas Thorstan Black knew it must behe persuaded
Gudrid to lie down at night while he kept watch by the bed. And so she
did. The poor girl was worn out, and went to sleep almost at once.
About midnight she was awakened. Thorstan Black stood by the bed
with a taper. She gaped at him, cold to the bones.
Come, my dear, he said. He is asking for you. She said nothing.
Then in the silence she heard her husband's voice, calling Gudrid,
Gudrid, Gudrid. She fell trembling, and knew not what she said.
Thorstan Black put his cloak over her, and helped her out of bed. Her
knees shook. Is he dead? Is he dead? Oh, don't leave me. I'm
frightenedhe looks so strangedon't leave me, Thorstan.
No, my dear, I won't leave you, he said, and put his arm round
her, for she seemed about to fall. Come, he said, I'll take you, and
stay by you.
She mastered her fear. Yes, she said, I must go. Oh, but you are
so good to me.
Don't go if you are afraid, said Thorstan. He may be dead by
No, no, she said, not yet. I must hear what he says, for it may
be he knows what the course of my life must be. If God will help me, I
will go. But you will come tooyou promised.
Thorstan thereupon lifted her up in his arms, and carried her into
the room where Thorstan Ericsson lay. He went to the side of the bed
and sat down, holding Gudrid on his knee. So they waited fearfully for
the dead man to speak.
Thorstan Ericsson sat up in his bed; his eyes were so deep in his
head that nothing showed of them but dark caves. His mouth was open, as
if his jaw had dropped. But no sound came from him.
Then Thorstan Black said: My namesake, you called to Gudrid, and I
have her here beside you. What do you desire of her?
The dead man spoke. Gudrid, are you there?
Yes, Thorstan, she said quaking.
I will tell you, my wife, that you need not grieve for me, nor fear
me, for I shall never hurt you nownor could I have the heart. I am
come to a good place, and am at peace. Now you are to know that you
will be married to an Icelander who will be kind to you, and give you
what your heart desires. But your life will be longer than his, and
your end will be piousand that, too, you will desire before you reach
it. And I pray you to take my body back to Ericsfrith and give me holy
burial. Farewell, Gudrid, and have no fear for me.
Gudrid, cold as a stone, sat on Thorstan Black's knee as if she had
been a child, and stared at the figure of her love. She could not say
anything to him, she dared not touch him. His head sank forward, and he
fell back in the bed and lay still. Thorstan Black touched him. He was
The good giant thought now of Gudrid only, and talked to her gently
for a long while, comforting her. He promised that he would never
forsake her until he had brought her safely home to Ericsfrith. He
would take Thorstan Ericsson to his own ship, and all the bodies of the
crew who were dead should be put with him there until such time as they
could sail. And as for you, dear child, he said, remember that you
and that true man have had the best that life can give youfor than
wedded love there is no more blessed thing. Think of me, my child, who
lived happily with my good wife a twenty years, and think that you are
better off maybe than I. For love such as yours is not a thing that can
liveno, but it must needs change as it grows older. You change, and
the world comes in between; and so it changes too. Now you have had
love at the fulland it is ended at the full. You should be thankful
for that. And be thankful too that he is at peace, and his fate
roundedand nothing for him now but folded hands and quiet sleep. Why,
look at him now, Gudrid. Even now he smiles quietly, as who should say,
I have done with it all. Look at him, and have no more fear of so
gentle a thing.
Gudrid turned her haunted eyes towards the dead man. It was true.
Thorstan smiled to himself wisely. And now she could see that his eyes
were shut. She slipped off Thorstan Black's knee and knelt beside the
bed. She looked at her dead lover, and without remembering her fear or
thinking what she did, she put his hair off his forehead and tidied it.
Then she leaned over him, looking tenderly down at him, and stooped and
put her lips to his forehead.
Thorstan Black left her, and returned presently with candles and a
cross which he had made. So they laid out Thorstan Ericsson, and
Thorstan Black watched him all the rest of the night.
She stayed out the long and bitter winter alone in the house with
Thorstan Black. No man could have been kinder to her than he was. She
felt with him the happy relation which there is between a father and
his married child, when you have the equality which comes of
experiences shared and have not lost the old sense of degreesbut that
lingers still like a scent which recalls times past.
He was as good as his word, when the spring came. The bodies of all
the crew were redeemed from the snow and put aboard ship; the
settlement at Lucefrith was broken up. He gave the survivors their
freedom, and free passage to Ericsfrith; for he himself intended to
settle there when he had restored Gudrid to Brattalithe. So they set
sail, and made a good passage, and came into the frith on a day of
fresh southerly wind and strong sunshine. Gudrid, standing on the
afterdeck, looked at the little town and the green fields about it, at
the snow-peaks whose shapes she knew well, whereunder, as she felt, her
life had been passed; and then she saw old Eric in his red cloak being
helped into his boat, and Freydis, bareheaded, with her yellow hair
flying in the wind, and her strong arms folded over her chestand felt
the comfort of home growing about her, and the dew of happy tears in
Eric's eyes looked anxiously up at her. Is all well, daughter? he
called out in a brave voicebut she could only answer with her own wet
eyes. He was hauled on ship-board, and soon had her in his arms. Her
hidden voice and shaking shoulders told him the rest. There then, my
sweetheart, it is done. Yet cry your fill. I have a fine son leftand
you into the bargain. Come home now, and leave me no more. So said old
Eric Red, a man not easily downed by fate. He made Thorstan Black free
of Brattalithe for as long as he would, and promised him the best land
that he had. So they all went ashore, and Freydis hailed Gudrid and
made much of her. Freydis was not changed at all. She was very fond of
Gudrid, and for her sake put up with her father and mother who, without
Gudrid, would have fretted her to a rag. Leif came in that evening and
embraced Gudrid like a sister. He heard her dreadful story and shook
his head over his brother's fate. Thorstan was born to misfortune, he
said. He had the second sight, and there is no worse gift for a man
than that. Brave as he was, that foreknowledge always baulked his
effort. But he was a fine man. You have had the best of us, Gudrid.
I love you all so much, she said, that I must have been happy
with any one of you, since he would have made me free of the others. I
would not have my Thorstan back again. He told me that he was at
restand how can you look for rest in this life?
She went to see Theodhild in her hermitage. To her only she told
Thorstan's prediction, that she should be married yet again, and
outlive her husband, and then find the life that she loved the best.
Theodhild nodded her head. That was a true saying of my son's. You
will find the only rest there can be in this life. Gudrid asked her
more, but she would not tell her. I know, I see, said Theodhild, but
God will reveal it to you when the time comes.
Gudrid, who had left Ericshaven still a girl in her bloom, had come
back to it a woman, made so by pity and terror. Her beauty was now
ripe, and her mind in accord with it. They held her at Brattalithe for
the fairest and wisest of women. She was rich, too, for she had her
father's and Thore's estates, as well as her share of Eric's wealth
which had been Thorstan's. She sold her father's house and land to
Thorstan Black, who settled down there, and came to great honour in
Ericshaven, as he deserved to do.
The spring and summer of that year passed quietly enough at
Brattalithe, but after harvest a fine ship from Norway came into the
haven and the owner came ashore. Eric Red, Lief and Gudrid rode down to
town to meet him and hear the news. He soon explained himself, for he
had a copious flow of speech. He treated Gudrid with great deference,
thinking her the lady of the land, and when it was explained to him
that she was nobody's wife, but a widow, he smiled, saying, So much
the better, and continued to treat her as before. He was a large man,
broad-faced and broad-shouldered, with light-blue eyes, and much fun in
them. He looked at you when he spoke as if he wished to make you laugh,
but hardly hoped it.
His friends called him Karlsefne, which means a proper man, and
his real name was Thorfinn Thordsson. Thord of Head was my father, he
told Gudrid, and was called Horsehead, not without reason, for I will
tell you that no man born could be more like a horse to look at than my
father was. He was the son of Snorre who was a Viking in Earl Hakon's
day; and that Snorre was the son of Thord, the first of Head. It
seemed that he was well-to-do, and that he had on board his vessel,
besides a crew of forty hands, a notable cargo of goods. He offered
Gudrid what she pleased to take of it. I do that, he told her, to
win your good will, for I see very well that you rule the roost
hereand rightly enough. I have never been to Greenland before, and
tell you fairly that I never knew there was the like of yourself to be
found here. If I had known that I should have been here long agoand
then, who knows? Maybe you would not be a widow this day. He said it
as if in joke, but yet he meant it. He was greatly taken with her
Eric offered him winter quarters at Brattalithe and he accepted it
gladly. His goods were landed, and stood in Eric's warehouse, his ship
was laid up for the winter, his men boarded in Ericshaven. As for
himself, he was very soon at home in Brattalithe, and everybody liked
him well. He was a good poet, and sang his own songs; he told tales, he
made jokesbut was always good-tempered.
Towards Christmas Eric Red, who was now very much aged and apt to
worry himself over trifles, became sad and depressed. They thought that
he was grieving for the two sons he had lost, but he would not talk to
any of them of his troubles. Karlsefne asked Gudrid what was the matter
with his host. He always talked to her when he had a chance.
She told him what she thought: He is an old man now, and cannot
help remembering his two sons.
That is not like an Icelander, said Karlsefne. You yourself,
lady, show the spirit of our people better. You don't fret yourself
vainly. You were wedded to a good man. You were happy in him; he died.
Well, you have had what you have had, and if there is to be no more,
you will wait your turn. Is it not so?
It may be, Gudrid said. I have learned not to build too high, by
falling so far. And I think my Thorstan is at rest. He would not be if
he were here now.
Very likely not, said Karlsefne, if he was of a jealous turn.
Moreover he was a poet, one who can always see in his mind a state much
better than that he lives in. That's no way to be happy. But I will
talk to Eric Red. He is friendly to me.
And so he did. What is it, host, which makes you so heavy? Your
friends say you brood over the past, but I tell them that is not
No, no, said Eric, that's not the way of it at all. The present
is bad enough.
You are treating me nobly, said Karlsefne. I should be a churl if
I did not tell you so. What else do you need?
Then Eric said that he was aware how his house was diminished by
misfortune. I had a wife, but she has cut herself adrift; I have a
daughter, but she has turned sour to me. Two of my sons are dead, look
you. Now the time was when with a great houseful I could give a feast
with the best. A man is best judged by his children. If they are free
and high-hearted, he is judged a good man. But now I must receive you
with broken rites, and it hurts me to the heart that you shall sail
away in the spring of the year, and say to your friends: 'Old Eric is
down in the world. A sadder Yule than that have I never spent.' I do
what I can, but that is heavy on my mind.
Nay, nay, friend, said Karlsefne, that will never be the way of
it. I am better off than I hoped foryou are treating me like an earl.
Now if we are to do better and all be kings together, remember that I
have a well-found ship out yonder, with stores of corn and meal, and
malt for brewing; mead also, and smoked salmon are on boardwhereof
you shall make as free as you will, and provide such a feast as
Greenland knows nothing of yet. But what a man you are to be fretted by
such a thing as that!
Eric said that he had lived in a great way all his life, and had not
been used to stint his friends of hospitality. He thanked Karlsefne
heartily, shook hands with him, and said, Ask of me what you will,
friend, and it shall be agreed to.
Karlsefne laughed. Maybe I shall ask a great thing of you before I
go to sea. He had made up his mind that he would have Gudrid from him
if he could get her, but did not wish to precipitate matters and risk a
refusal. That fair woman has a delicate mind, he thought, and is
very religious. It will be well to make myself her friend before I
offer to be her sweetheart.
The talk at the feast turned again to Wineland, and Leif Ericsson
was eloquent about the sweetness of the air, the fertility of the soil,
and the open winter weather which he had found there. Then Karlsefne
asked Gudrid whether she would not like to go thither.
She shook her head. Not now. Thorstan and I were on our way when
the fate turned against us, and he died. It has brought us no luck yet.
Two of Eric's sons have died for the sake of Wineland. But you, she
said, looking in his face, you will go. I think you are a lucky man.
You have luck in your face.
Eh, said Karlsefne, I have thought myself pretty lucky so far;
but now I am not so sure. I have been building on my luck since I came
here. But I may get a fall.
She laughed. You are bold, I can see, but yet you are careful too.
You do not build except on good footings.
If you think me bold, lady, he said, with raised brows, you will
think me too bold perhaps presently. Remember, when that time comes,
that if a man sees his profit within his reach he is a fool if he don't
stretch out his hand.
He may be a fool, she said, to think it so near. Her colour was
high, her eyes shone. His own, narrowed and intense, held them.
Do you know the name I give you in my private mind? he asked her.
She shook her head.
I call you Constant-Kind.
And why do you call me that? Do you think I am kind to every one?
I think that you have been, said Karlsefne, and I believe that
you would not willingly deny a service if you could do it.
And what service do you ask of me?
Ah, I ask none as yet. But maybe I shall.
Certainly she knew what he wanted, and wondered whether he was the
man predicted. Thorberg had prophesied an ugly man for one of her
husbands. That could not be said of Karlsefne. He was not handsome by
any means, but so full of fun that he would pass anywhere as
well-looking. She had no love to give him; all that was buried with her
doomed Thorstan; and yet she could see life to be a very pleasant thing
with him beside hera warm, sheltered, pleasant thing. She was rather
of Freydis's opinion after an experience of two kinds of life, that a
woman was happier in being loved than in loving. She had not thought so
when Thorstan was her lover. Then her triumph and pride had been that
she could give him inexhaustibly what he neededbut look how that had
ended. She said to herself: He will be kind to me, because he is kind
by nature. I believe that is my nature too. Therefore I can give him
what he wants, and find some comfort in it. I have known the highest,
and that is enough for me. That will never come again. Let the other
suffice, if it will satisfy him. With that she put the thought away in
her heart, wishing to leave it there; yet she could not resist taking
it out and looking at it now and again. It was still good to be loved,
good to be desired, good to be the centre of a man's thoughts. Every
time she looked at her hoard it seemed a little brighter.
Karlsefne took his time. It was close upon the spring when he asked
her if she would have him. She met his looks calmly, and told him what
she felt about it. I am not very old yet, she said, but I have had a
great deal of experience. I have been married twice, and loved deeply
once. That can never be again.
Nay, he said, I don't ask impossibilities of you. But I have love
enough in my heart for the two of us. Do you trust me?
Yes, she said, I do trust you.
Why then, said Karlsefne, will you give yourself to me?
She thought. You shall ask Eric if he is willing, she told him.
He loves me, and he is an old man. Since my father died he has been
father to me. I have had nothing but love and kindness from him and his
family. I will not leave him now, if he needs mefor he knows, and I
know, that if I leave him again it will be for the last time.
Karlsefne drew near her and put his arm about her. I will ask
himbut if he agrees you will come? She smiled and nodded her head.
Then, Will you kiss me? he said.
Is that in the bargain?
He drew her close to him. Oh, Gudrid, kiss me once. I'm on fire.
So then she kissed him.
Eric looked rather chap-fallen. You are asking me for the jewel on
my breast, he said.
That I know very well, said Karlsefne.
She is not only a fair woman, but a wise and good woman. She is
sweet-mannered, and sweet-natured. The soothsay about her is that she
will rear a great race.
She shall, if I have anything to do with it, said Karlsefne. You
know the name they give me.
I think highly of you, Eric allowed. Everything speaks well for
you. But I will tell you this. If my son Leif were not entangled with a
foreign woman, an earl's daughter by whom he has got a son, it would
have been my joy to see him take Gudrid and rear that great race to my
name. But it may well be that she will fulfil her destiny with you
I believe she will, said Karlsefne. The moment I clapped eyes on
her I said to myself, 'There stands before you the sweetest woman that
lightens the world.' And I have had no other thought or desire since
which has not drawn me to her. If you will give her to me you will do
me the utmost service one man can do another. And she will come to me
if you say the word. I tell you that.
Eric said it should be as he wished. The last feast that fine old
man was ever to see was that which he made for Gudrid's wedding with
Directly he was married Karlsefne began to talk about the Wineland
voyage, first to Gudrid, and then to the company at Brattalithe, where
he still lived. Gudrid was eager to go. She had always wanted that; and
when she found herself with child, that did not deter hernor her
husband either. I am a prosperous man, he said, and bring good
fortune with me. If you are not afraid, why should I be? Let us trust
to our luck, my Gudrid. She believed in him more than in any man she
had had to do with yet. He seemed to her a more fortunate man than Leif
himself. So it was agreed upon.
Whether it was the lucky star of Karlsefne or not which prevailed,
there was more stir about this expedition than had been about any.
There were to be two ships fitted for it. First of all, Freydis said
that she intended for itshe and her husband Thorhall; then another
Thorhall, him they called the Huntsman, offered himselfa tall,
oldish, glum fellow, liked by nobody and trusted by few, but a man of
great strength and courage, too able to be refused. Then came up Biorn
from Heriolfsness offering himself and his ship. Altogether there were
some hundred and forty people to be carried, of whom five only were
women, and goods in proportion.
Karlsefne, saying that you never knew how things would go, carried
livestock in the holds of both ships. He took ten head of cows, a score
sheep, some goats, and a bull. He took ducks and hens, a dog or two,
and some ponies for the women to ride. But he had some stranger stock
yet, human stock, which Leif gave him. They were two Scots, a male and
a female, whom he had had from Thorgunna's father in Orkney and had
kept ever since, hoping they would breed; but they did not. They were
wild, small, shaggy creatures, about the same heightthe man was
called Hake, the woman Haekia. They were said to be incredibly swift in
running, and were certainly hardier than most human kinds. Summer and
winter they wore but one garment, a long, sleeveless garment with a
hood, which fell straight from the shoulders, and, being slit from the
thighs, was fastened between their legs. It had no sleeves; their arms
were bare to the shoulder. They called it in their own tongue
gioball. You never saw one of these creatures without the other;
they were inseparableand yet they were never seen to speak to each
other, or to use any kind of endearments. They would not eat if any one
were looking at them, nor sleep except they were alone and in the dark.
Gudrid tried to make friends with them. They sat still, looking down or
beyond her; but never would meet her eyes.
So much for the company which, when all preparations were done,
sailed at mid-summer from Ericshaven, with Karlsefne as leader. Gudrid
shed tears at the parting with old Eric Red, knowing that she would
never see him again. Farewell, sweetheart, he said to her; you leave
this world the better for having had you in it. He rode his old white
pony down to the quay, and sat there watching the ships go out with the
tide. His red cloak was the last she saw of the haven.
The voyage was smooth, with a fair wind all the way. First they went
round to the West Settlement, and Gudrid looked out for Lucefrith where
her darkest days had also been her brightest. She could not have told
it for herself, but Karlsefne showed it to her. The black cliffs now
looked warm grey in the sun, the sea was green, sparkling with light;
the creek was smooth flowing water lipping on silver sands. Karlsefne
told her that nobody lived there now. Mariners run in there in
summer-time for water, and see the green flats and the mountains in a
haze of heat. They say: 'This is a sweet and wholesome country. We will
dwell here and work and be happy.' Then the winter comes upon them
suddenly, white fogs, madness and death. You, my child, know as much of
that as you ought. She shivered, and leaned her head against him.
There was great store of comfort in Karlsefne; she esteemed him, she
trusted him, she believed in his star; but Thorstan Ericsson had given
her wings, and she had shed them into his grave. She would never fly
again among the stars.
They took in water from the West Settlement and then sailed to the
Bear Islandssmall rocky, flat lands lying low in the great western
surges. Thence with a north wind they came into the ocean and were two
days without sight of land. But on the morning of the third day they
saw land ahead, and came within reach of it, and cast anchor in a broad
bay. This was the country to which Leif had been before and called
Helloland. Karlsefne had boats manned from either ship, and stayed a
couple of days to explore. It was a litter of rock, very barren, and
full of white foxes. They found plenty of fish, and laid in a good
store; but that was no country in which to settle, so they left it,
going south before a good northerly wind.
In two days' sailing they made out a land ahead, full of trees and
dense undergrowth. That was certainly Leif's Markland.
South-east of it, at no great distance, there was a large island. They
saw a great bear prowling the shore, and gave his dwelling-place the
name of Bear Island, out of compliment to him. Karlsefne did not stay
to explore it.
They ran on still before the wind for another two days or three, saw
land again, and made for it. This was a headland running far out into
the sea, which they made and passed, then ran in close to the shore and
coasted for some days without finding any haven. This was a very long
strand, great stretches of white sand with nothing to break them up.
Behind the dunes they could see the tops of great trees. It was judged
that the whole country was low-lying and probably swampy. Ferly Strands
was the name they gave to this interminable shore.
But yet it was not interminable, for it broke up at last into bays
and creeks, with many islands which had beautiful trees on them, and
rich herbage down to the sea-line, Karlsefne said that they would run
in hereabouts and live ashore for a while. We will send out our
runners, to see what they can find out for us, he said. That was
 Believed to be Newfoundland.
They landed on the mainland on hard white sand, but beyond that
there was turf, with patches of tall waving grass, then a belt of
timber, and beyond them, as they soon made out, an infinite rolling
country of woods and clothed hills, with lakes here and there. Gudrid
was enchanted: the nimble and sweet air, trees taller than she had ever
dreamed of, space, emptiness, silence: she stood with a finger to her
lip, looking up and all about, and sometimes at her companions to see
if they were not under the same spell as she. But the men were too busy
choosing a good place for the camp, and Freydis was with them.
Karlsefne had no mind to be surprised by savages, so sent out men to
cut wood. He intended to have a stockade round his camp in which at
least the women could be defended. There were but five of them, it is
true, but they were all married, and therefore precious. The men who
were not married always hoped that they might be. Who could say what
might be the lot of any adventurer? Let a married man die by all
meansbut not a wife. Tents were put up, a double stockade fixed round
them; hammocks were slung. Very soon they had a fire going, and a pot
over it. Gudrid, Freydis and the rest of the women saw to that.
Karlsefne arranged for the watch.
The ships were left well manned, and a company from the
landing-party put into each boat, and each boat at a sufficient
distance from its companion. These crews were to be relieved by
watches. Sentries also were posted about the stockade. They had found
no signs of inhabitancy; but Karlsefne was very careful.
They had their meal in the open under a clear sky. The stars came
outlarger, wetter stars, Gudrid said, than they had at home. Far off
in the forest they heard beasts bellowing, and supposed them wild
cattle. The bull from Karlsefne's ship thundered his answer to the
challenge. They heard wolves at dusk, a chorus of them, and the barking
of wild dogs. No sound of men came near them, nor were they disturbed
in the night. In the morning Karlsefne sent a boat over to fetch the
They came, and fixed Karlsefne with intent blue eyes while he told
them what they had to do. He showed them the sun, and with a sweep of
his arm drew his course into the south. He made them understand that
they were to run due south for three days, and then work back to the
camp with whatever they could carry out of the country. They followed
every sign he made, they looked at each other and spoke together,
fierce, curt speeches. It was certain that they knew what they had to
do, for without hesitation they began to do it at once. They looked at
each other, then set off at a trot towards the creek below the
stockade. Arrived there, they stripped off their single garments,
folded them and put them on their heads; they swam the creek, which was
a good half-mile broad, clothed themselves on the further shore, and
then began to run towards the south. They ran like deer, incredibly
fast, with high and short bounds, as if exulting in their legs, and
very soon they were out of sight.
They waited for them three full days which were spent by the men in
hunting and fishing. Game of all kinds was plenty. Karlsefne had a pony
out and put Gudrid upon it. He took her a long way into the forest and
made her happy. She said to him: You are kinder to me than I deserve,
my friend. His answer was: It is not hard to be kind to you, for you
answer to the touch like an instrument of music. I win melody from you
that way which enchants me. She said: Believe me to be grateful.
Believe that I give you in return all I have. My dear love, said
Karlsefne, I know that. You have given me of your life. I never forget
it. And then it was her turn to say: It is not hard to give you
that. So they were a happy couple.
Freydis too was expecting a child, but took it hardly, as she did
At sunset on the third day from starting the Scots came back. Their
faces and arms were glistening with sweat, but they breathed easily and
were not at all distressed. One of them carried a fine bunch of grapes,
the other some ears of corn. It was wheat, but redder than what they
had in any country which Karlsefne or his friends knew about. They
collected from the Scot that it was wild wheat, and that the country
where it grew was fruitful and good.
There was a debate about this expedition, the first of many.
Karlsefne was sure that the scouts had found Wineland where Leif had
once been; Thorhall the Huntsman thought not. Karlsefne was for going
up the creek as far as a ship could go, and there to land their stock
and spend the winter. Biorn, who was afraid of attack by natives,
desired to keep to the open sea. It was compromised finally. Biorn's
ship would remain in her present anchorage, but Thorhall would go up
with Karlsefne. Thorhall was a man ill to deal with in any event.
Neither company wanted him, but Karlsefne's company wanted him
leasttherefore he chose for that. Most of the stock and all the women
but one were of that ship. Gudrid's child should be born about
Christmas time. Her husband was keen to have a good harbourage for her,
and all settled down before the time came.
So for a while the two ships parted company, and Karlsefne, having
all his party safe aboard, hauled up his anchor, spread his canvas, and
sailed into the creek on a flowing tide.
Right in the mouth of the creek there was an island which they named
Streamsey, because the currents about it were so many and so strong. It
fairly swarmed with sea-birds, which hung over it like a cloud. It was
very difficult to find a passage, but they managed that with hard
rowing, and once past it, found plenty of water, and a noble country on
either hand. They went up three days sailing, and there, where the
woods fell more sparse and there seemed plenty of herbage for cattle,
Karlsefne decided to make his winter quarters. The stock was
disembarked; the stores, and the tents. They built themselves a
stockade all round the camp, and hoped to have a good winter of it.
The winter came late, but was severe. There was great scarcity of
pasture, the fishing fell off; they had to kill some of their cattle,
but dared not depend upon that. There was trouble with some of the
crew, begun by Thorhall the Huntsman, who began to preach heathenry to
them, getting a few at a time in the woods and talking, and singing old
songs. Karlsefne was full of business all this time, with parties out
exploring the country, and so did not see what was going on in and
about the camp. Then, one day, news was brought him that a whale had
come into the creek and was stranded in shoal water. The men, short as
they were of food, were eager to get at it. Karlsefne went out to see
ita huge beast, greyish and arched in the back. He did not know what
sort of a whale it was, but the men were set upon it, and Thorhall
vehement. Get at it, get at itwhat do you fear, man? I tell you it
is a godsend, he said. He had been very queer in his ways for a week
or more, and one day had been found upon a cliff overhanging the water,
with his arms stiffly out, his chin towards the sky. His eyes had been
shut, his mouth open, his nostrils splayed out. He had writhed and
twisted about, talking in a strange tongue. They were some time
bringing him to his senses, and had no thanks from him for doing it;
but they had fetched him home and put him to bed. He had lain there
with his head covered up until the news of the whale was brought in.
That caused him to leap out of his bed. He was the most eager of them
all to cut up the great beast.
Karlsefne gave the word, and they fell on the whale with hatchets
and knives. Soon the pots were bubbling and the steam filling their
nostrils. Karlsefne would not eat of it, and would not allow Gudrid
any; but the rest made a feast. It was rich and savoury, very fat; this
was the hour of Thorhall's triumph. He came and stood by the messes as
they ate, with gleaming eyes. Does this not prove to you that Redbeard
was your friend? What had your white Christ brought you but death and
misery? Now by my incantations I have brought Thor round to look on you
with favour again. This is my doing, and your leader here thought I was
mad and tied me down to a bed.
Some men stopped eating as they heard him; some turned away and
would not begin to eat. Karlsefne, when he knew what was going on, came
down like a flame of fire. What is this he says? That this is his
doingwith prayers to Thor? And you of the new faith and the true
faith, eat of what he offers to his idols! Cast that beastliness to the
sea, and be done with it. Some of the eaters were ill already, and
many were to be so; but Karlsefne was obeyed. The cauldrons were
emptied over the cliffs, and the birds gathered from all quarters. They
went hungry, and suffered much that winter; but by leading the cattle
far into the woods they managed to keep them alive, and Gudrid did not
fail of milk. Her boy was born on Christmas Eve, and christened by
Karlsefne himself. He named him Snorre after his own grandfather.
After that things went better. There came rain which broke up the
ice and thinned off all the snow. They began to get fish again; mild
westerly winds enabled them to go farther afield. Biorn came up from
his anchorage to see Karlsefne, and debates about the future were
Karlsefne was now bent on going south, and Biorn, with Thorhall,
equally set upon the north. It was clear that the two ships must part
company; and so they did as soon as the spring weather was come. The
tale has little more to say of Biorn and his party. It is supposed that
they fell in with bad weather in the north, and that they were driven
over the ocean. Thorhall was heard of long afterwards in Ireland, as
having fought and died there.
But Karlsefne, the prosperous man, did well. He sailed along the
land in and out of beautiful wooded islands until he came to the mouth
of a great river. He entered that on the flood and sailed up for
many days. It was a broad and noble river which came, as they
discovered, out of a lake. Here was such a land as they had never seen
before, so beautiful, so fruitful that they had no desire to seek
further. They called this land Hope, for here was the utmost they had
dreamed of. There were broad acres of wheat growing here, self-sown;
upon the slopes of the hills wild vines were thick and full of bud; the
streams were full of fish; there were deer in the woods, and everywhere
in the early mornings the piping of birds. Karlsefne said: My Gudrid,
we have found Wineland the Good. Here we will stay awhile. She was
happy to be in so good a place.
They made their camp on the shores of the lake, and built themselves
houses of timber, with a stockade and trench about the whole
Settlement. There was abundance of food for the animals, abundance for
themselves, with promise of a harvest both of corn and of wine. No
signs of human occupation had been found as yet. They began to think
that they had Wineland to themselves, and used to go far afield, even
to being out for days together and sleeping in the open. But Karlsefne
kept his eyes wide for some possible attack, and was proved to be
Early one morning when he went down to the lake shore he saw boats
upon the quiet water. He counted nine of them. They kept close company
and came on steadily. He looked beyond them but could see no more.
With no more than nine of them, this won't be a long affair, he
thought to himself; but he went back to the Settlement and called out
his men. Then he went into his own house and called Gudrid to come.
Are you minded to see some of the Winelanders, my Gudrid? Bring your
baby with you, and I will show them to you. I don't think they mean us
any harm. Gudrid went with him without question.
By this time the settlers had lined the shore, and the hide-boats
had drawn up within bowshot and were making signals. A man stood up in
each boat and waved a pole over his head. He swept it round in circles,
and moved it from east to west, following the course of the sun. What
do they want with us? says Karlsefne. Not war, I think. Now who will
come out to meet them with me? We will show them a white shield, but
there shall be weapons at the bottom of the boat. He soon had a crew,
and was soon afloat.
The native boats scattered out in a half-moon as the adventurers
came on. Karlsefne saw that he was being hemmed in, but having the
notion fixed in his head that no harm was intended, he did not give
orders to cease rowing, and stood up in the bows himself with his white
shield displayed. When he was within speaking distance he bade his men
rest on their oars. By and by, as he had expected, curiosity did his
work for him. The hide-boats came in and in, each of them holding five
or six men. In one at least he saw a woman with a baby. If they bring
their babies out to see us, it's no more than I have done, Karlsefne
said. They mean peace, and they shall have it.
He invited them forward with open arms, and all signs of
friendliness, and presently they were all crowded about. Small people
they were, very dark brown, very ugly, with flat faces, coarse black
hair twisted and tortured into peaks and knots. They had broad fat
cheeks and enormous eyes. Their talk was like the chattering of birds.
Karlsefne invited them to shore, and very cautiously their boats
followed his. They landed and were induced to mingle with the large
company they found there. Gudrid and her baby were the great
attractions. The first man who saw her suckling it stared and jumped
about. He called shrilly to his friends behind, and a body of them came
to join him. They pushed forward the brown woman with her child.
Gudrid, not at all put out or frightened, held out her hand. The woman
stared hard at her white breast, then opened her gown and showed her
own. She gave her baby suck and grinned community of nature in Gudrid's
face. Gudrid, with one of those happy motions of hers, looked round to
see if Karlsefne was by, and finding that he was, put up her hand into
That shot told. There was much commotion among the brown people,
much bickering and stirring; and presently they pushed one of their own
men forward, and joined his hand with that of the mother. Joyful
murmurings arose. Everybody understood. Now it was Freydis's turn. She
stood disdainfully apart, with folded arms, but her colouring and shape
betrayed her. Here was plainly to be another mother soon, as they did
not fail to tell each other. Then nothing would do but her husband must
be found for her. His friends dragged him out and put him beside her,
no more willing to go than she was to have him. Handfast her, you
dog, said Karlsefne. How else will they believe you? So that was
done. Freydis fumed and burned, as handsome and furious a young woman
as you could have hoped to see. All went so well that Karlsefne was
moved to hospitality, sending a man off for milk and fish. They crowded
about for their share, and growing bold by degrees handled the women's
gowns, the men's weapons, and were for spying into the stockade. The
bull, who was feeding in there, snorted and puffed up the dust;
presently, wagging his head, he came towards them and sent them flying
back. Karlsefne, by signs, tried to make them understand that he was
ready to barter if they were. He touched the fur with which they were
all clad, and pointed to the milk bowls. When they saw what he would be
at, they in turn fingered the weapons which every man had about him.
Clearly they had not the art of forging steel. It was long before they
would leave the shore, and when they did go it was with one consent,
without any words passing. Quite suddenly they turned about and ran
down to the shore, launched their canoes and were out in the water like
a horde of rats. They rowed down the lake, as if towards the sea.
Nothing more was seen of them for some time, but presently they
began to come in numbers, always very friendly and willing to barter.
They brought furs with themfox and marten, beaver, as well as coarser
kinds, bear and wolf and elk. Karlsefne would exchange no weapons; but
milk he offered, and that they drank greedily and on the spot, and
cloth too, of which he had a good store. Red cloth took their fancy
most; they seemed as if they must have it, it was a kind of lust. The
breadths he could spare them grew narrower and narrower; they pushed
out their furs for it with no consideration of what they got in
exchange. At last it became a kind of madness, and Karlsefne said it
had better stop. They take it like strong water; one of these days
they will be killing men for it. It was a prophecy on his partfor
they came in greater and greater numbers, and when there was no more
red cloth for them, they howled and chattered and looked dangerous.
Karlsefne and the men with him faced them with the best heart they had,
but he ordered a retreat to the stockade, and when he was pretty near
the entrance bade a man go in and bring out the bull. That answered.
The great beast stood in the doorway pawing the ground and breathing
hard. When he saw what was in front of him, down went his head, and he
charged. The savages scattered all ways and saved themselves. In a few
moments the lake was black with canoes; it was, the tale says, as
though the water was covered with floating charcoal. Karlsefne did not
like the look of things at all. He doubled the watch on the ship and
strengthened the stockade; but did not wish to frighten Gudrid, who was
so happy with her child, and beginning, as he could see, to love
himself. He knew that she loved him, because at all sorts of times he
found out that she had been looking at him while he moved about, busy
over something or other. He taxed her with it one day. I think that
you love me, Gudrid.
She put her head on one side. What makes you think so? He told
her; so then she owned to it, and he wished to know why. She said that
she could not tell, but in such a way that he saw that she could, and
wished him to know. So then he pressed her. Tell me, Gudrid, why you
love me. She touched her child's head. Because you are strong, and
good, and brave. And because you gave me this. A woman must love her
Ask Freydis that, said Karlsefne; and she answered him; Freydis
loves more than she chooses to say. When Freydis has a child, you will
see that she will love it.
But not her man on that account, he said. It is only a heart like
yours, my Gudrid, that can love because it loves. For I see very well
that you love me because you love this boy, and did not until he came.
She looked gently at him, half excusing herself. I liked you well,
and was grateful.
Ah, yes, maybe, he said, but that was not how you loved Thorstan
She said: I was younger then, and I loved him so much because our
time was short. But I love you better than I loved Thorstan, because of
the peace you have put in my heart.
 The Hudson River.
There was no further visitation from the savages for some time. The
leaves fell, the nights grew short, and there came a spell of cold; but
if this were winter it was one which no Greenlander could fear. The sky
was blue, the sun warm on the skin; there was no snow, and the frost a
mere white rime which melted in an hour. Their cattle never failed of
feed, and as for themselves, they had so well harvested the wild wheat
and the grapes that they had nothing to fear.
The winter, to call it so, was well advanced before the savages
came; but one day they were reported in large numbers on the lake, and
Karlsefne gave orders how they were to be received. None were to be let
inside the stockade; all the men were to have their weapons; such stuff
as they had for barter was to be held up from within the defences and
thrown over in exchange. He himself with a few of the best men should
stand in the entry.
Now while they were waiting for the savages and could still see some
of them out on the water, while others were disembarking on the shore,
Gudrid was sitting just inside the door of her house with her child
asleep on her lap. She sat full in the sun, and was quiet and happy, as
she generally was. Presently there passed a dark shadow across the open
door. Gudrid looked up quickly. A woman stood there inside the pillars
of the porch and looked fixedly at her. She was dressed in black, drawn
very tightly across her; she was about Gudrid's own height, and had a
ribbon over her hairwhich was of a light-brown colour, and not coarse
as most of the savages' was. She was a pale, grave woman, and had the
biggest eyes Gudrid had ever seen. They were wide open, grey, and had a
world of sorrow in them. Gudrid was not at all afraid, because she
thought the woman looked too sad to be wicked or ill-disposed; besides,
she did not believe that any one could be ill-disposed to her. So she
smiled up in her face and waited for her to speak.
When she did speak it did not seem at all remarkable that she should
be perfectly understood. What is your name? she said plainly.
Gudrid answered her simply, My name is Gudrid. And what is your
My name is Gudrid, said the woman, and the real Gudrid laughed
Come then, Gudrid, and sit by me, she said, and held out her hand.
The woman stared mournfully at her, and seemed to have trouble in
speaking again. She turned her head about as if her throat hurt her.
Then she said, No, I cannotI may not. Again she struggled, as she
said, Go from here. Do not stay. There came a loud cry from the
stockade, and Gudrid started and got up. She went to the door and
looked out. The woman was not there.
By that time she was very much frightened, and saw them fighting at
the entry. The outside of the fence seemed thick with savages, and
presently some of them rushed the opening and came in. Freydis was at
the door of her hut and saw them. Her face flamed. Have at you,
devils! she shouted, and snatched up a double-handed sword. With this
she went stumbling towards them, being so far on with child that she
could scarcely walk. She had the long sword in one hand, but needed two
to swing it. Her shift incommoded her, so she ripped it open and let it
fall behind her. Then bare-breasted she whirled the great sword over
her head and began to lay about her like a man. Her yellow hair flew
out behind her like a flag; her face was flame-red, and her eyes
glittering like ice. The savages fell back before her, and at the entry
were caught by Karlsefne, returning from chasing a horde of them, and
all killed. The others had gone or been driven off. Two of the
Icelanders had been killed, and many were hurt.
After this they had a council what had best be done. Gudrid told her
story. Nobody had seen the woman but she, and nobody could make
anything of it. Freydis thought that she was a ghost, but Gudrid was
sure of her reality. I think myself, she said, that she was a woman
of our own people either stolen by the savages from a ship, or cast
ashore from a wreck, or lost by some adventurers of a former day. I
never saw any woman with so much horror in her face. I would do a great
deal if I could find her again. But the fighting began, and she went
away without my seeing her go.
I should like more to know how she came in, said Karlsefne, than
how she went out. But whether she lives or is dead she had a warning
which we had best take heed of. I am for going home myself.
Freydis said that she should stay. She liked the country and was
minded to live in it. Others were of her mind. About a hundred chose to
settle there with her and her husband.
There arose then the question of a ship, and Karlsefne said that he
could not go home and leave them there with no means of escape. He said
that he would go out in his own ship and look for the others, but
Freydis would not have that. Leave us here; we shall do well enough,
she said. As for the ship that has Thorhall the Huntsman in it, I
would far sooner have none than his, with him in it.
We have tools enough here, and timber enough, Karlsefne said. We
will build you a ship as soon as look at you. So it was settled they
were to build a new ship before they left. That night Freydis's child
was born. It was a girl, and she called it Walgerd. That had been the
name of Thorstan's daughter, who had not lived. Gudrid wondered why she
chose that name. She could never understand Freydisnobody could; yet
she had been right about her in one thing. Freydis loved the child more
than life itself. She was so jealous of it that she was uneasy when any
one came in to see her, and used to lean right over it and hide it out
of sight. Her yellow hair fell over her face, her eyes showed fire. She
was like a wild beast guarding her young. As for Thorhall, her husband,
she warned him out of the house, and he never dared put his head inside
the door. She allowed Gudrid the entry, sulkily, it is true; but that
was only her way of doing things. She was glad of her in her heart. I
am even with you now, she said, with her face to the wall.
I am glad of it, Gudrid said. I always wished you happy.
I have never been so, since I became a woman, said Freydis, and
Gudrid did not know what she meant.
I was happy enough, she went on, in a grumbling, even voiceas
even it was as the constant running of water in a drainwhen I was a
child, running and sporting with the boys. I loved all the things that
they lovedI could swim as well as any, and ride, and fight with
stones. But when they began to find me a girl, and to hold me and try
to be alone with me, I had horror. They made me ashamed. And worse was
to comeand I almost killed a young man for itand after that I hated
men, as I do still.
They mean no harm, said Gudrid. They do after their kind.
But their kind is not mine. To be held in a man's arm is horrible
It is good to me, sometimes, said Gudrid.
But when I saw you with Thorstan's child about to be bornand saw
how rich and sedate you walked the ways, and how peace sat upon your
forehead like a wreath, then I grudged you. Freydis turned round in
the bed and showed her burning face. And I said, 'This woman has a
secret joy, and for all she is so quiet and still she is stronger than
I.' And when the child died I was glad. I said, 'Now we are level
again, but I will be better than you, for I will have a child which
shall live and be strong like me.' But you have had yours first, and it
is a boy. So you are better than me still. Then her eyes filled with
hot tears, which made her eyelids blink.
Oh, Freydis, Gudrid said, you don't grudge me my boy?
No, no, it is not that. It is that I am ashamed. You are good, and
I am very bad. I hate myself now.
Gudrid kissed her.
Tell me, Freydis, now, she said, why did you call your girl
Freydis did not want to answer, but presently she said: I should
have called her Gudrid if that had been lucky. But we must not use the
names of living persons for the new-born, so I called her Walgerd,
because yours had been called so. I went as near to you as I could.
It seemed to hurt Freydis to talk about it, but Gudrid kissed her
again, and went away feeling happy about her. It is good to be loved,
even by Freydis, she said to Karlsefne, whose answer was, Who could
help loving you?
But before the ship-building was began Freydis changed her mind, and
said that she would go home with the rest. Nobody caring to stop alone
out there without some chieftain over them, it came to it that all must
go home in one ship. They killed what stock they could not take alive,
and sailed out of the river at the beginning of summer. Gudrid's boy
Snorre was just two years old, and Karlsefne was anxious to be safe at
home before he had a brother or sister.
They waited about at the river's mouth for a fair wind, then set all
sail and ran before it northerly along the coast. So they came again to
Markland and stayed there for certain days. It was there that Karlsefne
and some of the crew, on shore after game, surprised some savages in a
hollow of the woods: a bearded man, two women and two children. He saw
them, unperceived himself, stalked them with art, and made a dash into
the midst of them. He caught the two children, but the others
disappeared into the earth. He brought them home with him and gave them
to Gudrid. Can you have too many children? I don't think so. She took
them gladly and brought them up. They were brown all over and naked;
they had black eyes round and staring as beads, but a ring of blue all
about them, as blue as that on a thrush's egg. In time she taught them
her own tongue, and in time had them baptizedbut that was not until
she went to Iceland. When they sailed from Markland the wind still held
good, and they came safely into Ericsfrith, and picked up their
moorings in the haven. It was as if they had never been away.
Leif came down to welcome them, and they stayed with him the rest of
the year. Eric Red was dead, and Leif not married. He had his son with
him born in Orkney, but Thorgunna herself had not come, and Leif would
not marry any other woman. Theodhild his mother kept house for himit
was no longer the great hospitality which old Eric had loved to
They heard of the fate of Thorhall the Huntsman lost in Ireland, and
of Biorn who had sailed with him. Their ship had been driven out of her
course by tempest, and had drifted into a strange sea which they called
The Maggoty Sea. Here the water was full of worms, which fastened on
the ship and ate the timbers, so that she became rotten under them.
They had a boat with them which the worms would not touch, and cast
lots which should go in her and which remain. Thorhall drew a good lot
and Biorn another; half the crew got into the boat. But then, as they
were casting off, a young man who had been with Biorn in Iceland and on
many voyages looked over the side and said, Biorn, do you leave me
here? Biorn said, Why, what can I do?
You should keep the promise you made to me when I left my father's
house to go along with you, the young man said.
Biorn looked about. Well, he said, what would you have?
The young man answered, I would have you take me in the boat.
Would you have my place? Do you mean that?
The young man did not answer him, but said, Well, I am young to
Then Biorn said, In with you, then. Death is a hard thing for young
men. So they changed places, and Biorn saw the boat out of sight. It
was wrecked on the coast of Ireland, and many of the company drowned.
Gudrid's son Biorn was born at Brattalithe and named after a brave
man; and then it became a question for Karlsefne what he had better do.
He had had from Gudrid a fine estate in Greenland, but he had one of
his own at Rowanness in Iceland, and wanted to take her there. He told
her: I had the only good thing in Greenland when I had you; and you
were not born here, and do not belong here either. But it shall be as
She said at once, Let us go home to Iceland, and as she said it
her face fell and she looked sorrowfully at him.
What is it now, sweetheart?
I remember, she said, what was foretold of me when first I came
to Greenland, and all of it has been fulfilled but two things. Now I am
afraid again, though it was so long ago.
Karlsefne laughed. And one was that you should end your days in
Iceland? She nodded, fearing the rest; but he went on
And the other was that you should outlive me? She nodded again;
but he looked at her and laughed, until she did too, but ruefully.
Let be all that, my dear, he said. Death is not so fearful a
thingand the longer we live the less fearful it is. But I will tell
you this, my Gudrid: I should be a miserable man were you to die first.
And what would these children do without you? I call that comfortable
soothsay, for my partbut I am not for dying yet awhile.
He was not; for the rest of his tale is as prosperous as its
beginning. He settled down in Iceland upon his own land, and did well
by Gudrid and her children before his time came. As for her, it is said
that when she had seen her sons out in the world, and married her
daughters seemly, she turned to religion. A pilgrimage to Rome is
reported, and that she became a nun. Thorberg had predicted of her that
she should find the life which she loved best, and may have meant that
of religion. The fact appears to be that Gudrid was a sweet nature and
could be happy anywhere if she were allowed to love. And if it is not
permitted always to love men, a woman can always love God.