Charles W. Whistler.

Havelok the Dane A Legend of Old Grimsby and Lincoln online

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stables, and on it were large saddlebags. No poor man was Berthun after
years of service in the palace, where gifts from thane and lady are
always ready for the man who has had the care of them. Across the saddle
bow also were his mail shirt and arms, and his shield hung with his helm
from the peak.

"You see that I must needs cast in my lot with yours, or rather
Curan's," he said, laughing; "but it is in my mind that in the end I
shall not be sorry to have done so. I think that I am tired of the
fireside, and want adventure for a while."

"Well," I answered, "you are likely to have them, and that shortly, if I
am not mistaken; but we shall see. Now about these horses, for we had
better get out of Lincoln as soon as we may."

The man he had spoken with was a merchant, who came yearly, and was a
friend of his. He had more horses than he meant to keep, as he had here
each year; for every one knows that a horse can always be sold in
Lincoln, and they were good ones. Then my gold came in well, and I
bought three, one for each of us brothers. I daresay that I paid dearly
for them, but there was no time for haggling in the way that a horse
dealer loves. Out of the way of Alsi we must get, before he bethought
him of more crafty devices. And I thought, moreover, that we should be
riding towards East Anglia shortly, and it was not everywhere that a
steed fit to carry Havelok on a long journey was to be had.

I had bidden him leave all this to me as we came down the hill, and glad
he was to do so. Now he had dismounted, and stood by the side of the
princess, speaking earnestly to her. It was plain that what he said was
pleasant to her also. But we left them apart, as one might suppose.

Now came a warrior into the courtyard, and he bore more arms. It was
Withelm, who had borrowed the gear of the widow's dead husband, that he
might be ready for whatever might happen: and it was good to see
Havelok's eyes grow bright as he spied the well-known weapons that his
brother had in his arms. He said one word to Goldberga, and then came to us.

"Let me get into war gear at once," he said, laughing in a way that
lightened my heart. "I shall not feel that I have shaken off service to
Alsi until I have done so."

And then he saw Berthun here for the first time.

"Nay, but here is my master," he added. "And I will say that I owe him
much for his kindness."

"Now the kindness shall be on your part, if any was on mine. Take me
into your service, I pray you, henceforward."

"Good friend of mine," said Havelok, "naught have I to offer you. And
how should one serve me?"

"With heart and hand and head, neither more nor less," answered Berthun.
"I have seen you serve, and now will see you command. Let me bide with
you, my master, at least, giving you such service as I may."

"Such help as you may, rather. For now we all serve the princess,"
Havelok said.

And with that Berthun was well content for the time.

"Well, then," said I, "see to Havelok's arms, while we get the horses
ready, for I want Withelm here."

So Havelok and his new man went into the house with his arms, and then I
saw Goldberga beckoning to us. It was the first time that I had spoken
to her, and I think that I was frightened, if that is what they call the
feeling that makes one wish to be elsewhere. But there was nothing to
fear in the sweet face that she turned to us.

"Brothers," she said, "Havelok tells me that it was one of you who
brought David the priest to me. I do not rightly know yet which is Withelm."

With that she smiled and blushed a little, and I stood, helm in hand,
stupidly enough. But my brother was more ready.

"I am Withelm, my princess - " he began.

"Nay; but 'sister' it shall be between me and my husband's brothers.
Now, brother Withelm, there is one thing that is next my heart, and in
it I know you will help me."

There she wavered for a moment, and then went on bravely.

"Christian am I, and I do not think that we are rightly wedded until the
priest has done his part. And to that Havelok agrees most willingly,
saying that I must ask you thereof, for he does not know where the old
man is now."

"Wedded in the little chapel that is in the thick of Cabourn woods shall
you be, for David has gone there already. We can ride and find him
before many hours are over, sweet lady of ours."

She thanked him in few words, and with much content.

Then came forth from the house Havelok, in the arms that suited him so
well - golden, shining mail shirt of hard bronze scales, and steel,
horned helm, plain and strong, and girt with sword and seax, and with
axe and shield slung over shoulder, as noble a warrior surely as was in
all England, ay, or in the Northlands that gave him birth either; and
what wonder that the eyes of the princess glowed with a new pride as she
looked at her mighty husband?

But Mord almost shouted when he saw him come thus, and to me he said,

"It is Gunnar - Gunnar, I tell you - come back from Asgard to help my

"Wait till we get to Grimsby, and Arngeir will make all clear," I said.
"Get into your arms, and we will start. All is ready now."

We did not wait for Mord, but mounted and rode out, and the princess
looked round at us as she rode first beside Havelok, and said, "Never
have I ridden so well attended, as I think."

And from beside me, with broad face from under his helm, Berthun
answered for us all, "Never with men so ready to die for you, at least,
my mistress."

And that was true.

Half a mile out of the town we rode at a quick trot, and then thundered
Mord after us, and his hurry surely meant something. I reined up and
waited for him.

"What is the hurry, Mord?" said I.

"Maybe it is nothing, and maybe it is much," he answered; "but Griffin
of Chester has gone up to the palace, for I saw him. He has his arm in a
sling, and his face looks as if it had been trodden on. Now Alsi will
tell him all this, and if we are not followed I am mistaken. He would
think nothing of wiping out our party to take the princess, and Alsi
will not mind if he does. How shall we give him the slip?"

Withelm rode with his chin over his shoulder, and I beckoned him and
told him this. Not long was his quick wit in seeing a way out of what
might be a danger.

"Let us ride on quickly down the Ermin Street, and he will think us
making for the south and Norwich. Then we will turn off to Cabourn, and
he will lose us. After that he may hear that some of us belong to
Grimsby, and will go there; but he will be too late to hurt us. Hard men
are our fishers, and they would fight for Havelok and the sons of Grim."

So we did that, riding down the old Roman way to a wide, waste forest
land where none should see us turn off, and then across the forest paths
to Cabourn; and there we found the hermit, and there Havelok and
Goldberga were wedded again with all the rites of Holy Church, and the
bride was well content.

Now while that was our way, I will say what we escaped by this plan of
my brother's, though we did not hear all for a long time. Presently we
did hear what had happened at Grimsby towards this business, as will be

To Lincoln comes Griffin, with Cadwal his thane, just as we had left the
town thus by another road, and straightway he betakes himself to the
palace. There he finds Alsi in an evil mood, and in the hall the people
are talking fast, and there is no Berthun to receive him.

So, as he sits at the high table and breaks his fast beside the king, he
asks what all the wonderment may be. And Alsi tells him, speaking in Welsh.

"East Anglia is mine," he says, "for I have rid myself of the girl."

Griffin sets his hand on his dagger.

"Hast killed her?" he says sharply.

"No; married her."

"To whom, then?"

"To a man whom the Witan will not have as a king at any price."

"There you broke faith with me," says Griffin, snarling. "I would have
taken her, and chanced that."

"My oath was in the way of that. You missed the chance on the road the
other day, which would have made things easy for us both. There was no
other for you."

Now Griffin curses Ragnar, and the Welsh tongue is good for that business.

"Who is the man, then?" he says, when he has done.

"The biggest and best-looking countryman of yours that I have ever set
eyes on," answers Alsi, looking askance at Griffin's angry face. "There
is a sort of consolation for you."

"His name," fairly shouts Griffin.

"Curan, the kitchen knave," says Alsi, chuckling.

"O fool, and doubly fool!" cries Griffin; "now have you outdone
yourself. Was it not plain to you that the man could be no thrall? Even
Ragnar looks mean beside him, and I hate Ragnar, so that I know well how
goodly he is."

Now Alsi grows uneasy, knowing that this had become plainer and plainer
to him as the wedding went on.

"Why, what do you know of this knave of mine?" he asks. "He was goodly
enough for the sake of my oath, and the Witan will have none of him.
That is all I care for."

"What do I know of him? Just this - that you have married the queen of
the East Angles to Havelok, son of Gunnar Kirkeban of Denmark, for whom
men wait over there even now. The Witan not have him? I tell you that
every man in the land will follow him and Goldberga if they so much as
lift their finger. Done are the days of your kingship, and that by your
own deed."

Alsi grows white at this and trembles, for he minds the wondrous ring
and the names of the Asir, but he asks for more certainty.

Then Griffin tells him that he was with Hodulf, and knew all the secret
of the making away with the boy, and how that came to naught. Then he
says that Hodulf had heard from certain Vikings that they had fallen on
Grim's ship, and that in the grappling of the vessel the boy and a lady
had been drowned. It is quite likely that they, or some of them, thought
so in truth, seeing how that happened. After that Hodulf had made
inquiry, and was told that there were none but the children of Grim with
him, and so was content. So my father's wisdom was justified.

"Now I learned his name the other day; and I have a ship waiting to take
me at once to Hodulf, that I may warn him. I have ridden back from
Grimsby even now to say that, given a chance, say on some lonely ride,
that might well have been contrived, I would take Goldberga with me
beyond the sea. I thought more of that than of Hodulf, to say the truth."

Now Alsi breaks down altogether, and prays Griffin to help him out of this.

"Follow the party and take her. They are few and unarmed, and it will be
easy, for men think that there is a plot to carry her off, and this will
not surprise any. Go to the sheriff and tell him that it has happened,
and he will hang the men on sight when you have taken them. Then get to
sea with the girl, and to Hodulf, and both he and I will reward you."

"Thanks," says Griffin, with a sneer; "I have my own men. Yours might
have orders that I am the one to be hanged. It would be worth your while
now to make a friend of your kitchen knave. You are not to be trusted."

So these two wrangle for a while bitterly, for Alsi is not overlord of
Griffin in any way. And the end is that the thane rides towards Grimsby
first of all, with twenty men at his heels, knowing more than we
thought. But he hears naught of us, and presently meets Arngeir on his
way thence to see us. Him he knows, for already he has had dealings with
him in the hiring of the ship. So he learns from him that certainly no
such party as he seeks is on the road, and therefore rides off to the
Ermin Street to stay us from going south.

But now we had time for a long start; and so he follows the Roman road
when he reaches it all that day and part of next, and we hear no more of
him at that time. There are many parties travelling on that way, and he
follows one after another.

Now Arngeir knew at once that somewhat had happened when he heard from
Griffin that the most notable man of those whom he sought was named
Curan, and therefore he turned back at once and waited for us. And when
we came in sight of the long roof of the house that Grim, our father,
had built, standing among the clustering cottages of our fishers, with
the masts of a trading ship or two showing above it in the haven, he was
there on the road to greet us, having watched anxiously for our coming
from the beacon tower that we had made.

Maybe we were two miles out of Grimsby at this time, for one can see far
along the level marsh tracks from our tower; and Withelm and Mord and I
rode on to him as soon as we saw him, that we might tell him all that
had happened, and we rode slowly and talked for half a mile or so.

Then Withelm waited and brought Havelok to us, staying himself with the
princess, that he might tell her the wondrous story of her husband; for
we thought that it would be easier for him than for our brother maybe.
Havelok was not one to speak freely of himself.

And when Goldberga had heard all, she was silent for a long way, and
then wept a little, but at last told Withelm that all this had been
foretold to her in her dream.

"Yet I am glad," she said, "that I did not know this for certain, else
had my Havelok thought that I did but wed him for his birth. Tell him,
brother, that it was not so; say that I knew him as the husband Heaven
sent for me when first I saw him."

Now Havelok listened to Arngeir as he told him the well-kept secret, and
now and again asked a question.

And when all was told he said, "Now have the dreams passed, and the
light is come. I mind all plainly from the first."

And he told all that had happened after Hodulf caught him, from the
murder of his sisters to the time when I helped my father to take him
from the sack. Only he never remembered the death of his mother or the
storm, or how we came to Grimsby. Maybe it is rather a wonder that after
all those hard things gone through he should recall anything, for he was
nearly dying when we came ashore, as I have told.

"But I am Grim's son," he said, "for all this, and never shall I forget
it. By right of life saved, and by right of upbringing, am I his, and by
right of brotherhood to his sons. Gunnar, who was my father, would have
me say this, if I am like him, as Mord tells me I am."

Then he looked at us in brotherly wise, as if we would maybe not allow
that claim now; but there needed naught to be said between us when he
met our eyes. He was Grim's son indeed to us, and we his younger
brothers for all the days that were to come.

"One thing there is that makes me glad," he said, "and that is because I
may now be held worthy of this sweet bride of mine so strangely given,
as indeed I fear that I am not. Men will say that she has done no wrong
in wedding me; and for all that Alsi may say, it will be believed that
she knew well whom she was wedding. There will be no blame to her."

That seemed to be all his thought of the matter now, and it was like
him. Then he went back to his princess, and we spurred on to Grimsby,
and set all to work, that the greeting might be all that we could make it.

And so, when those two rode into our garth, and the gates were closed
after them, we reined our horses round them, and drew our swords, and
cried the ancient greeting with one mighty shout:

"Skoal to Havelok Gunnarsson - Skoal to Goldberga, Havelok's wife!
Skoal! Yours we are, and for you we will die! Skoal!"


Now one would like to tell of quiet days at Grimsby; but they were not
to be. Three days after Havelok's homecoming we were on the "swan's
path," and heading for Denmark, with the soft south wind of high summer
speeding us on the way. And I will tell how that came about, for else it
may seem strange that Havelok did not see to the rights of his wife
first of all.

That was his first thought, in truth, and we brothers planned many ways
of getting to work for her, for it was certain that Alsi would be on his
guard. And on the next day came a man from Lincoln to seek Berthun, with
news. That good friend had done what none of us had been able to manage,
for he had told the merchant, his friend, to bide in the hall and hear
what went on, and then to let him know all else that seemed needful that
we should hear. Now he had learned all from the words of Griffin and
Alsi, who took no care in their speech, thinking that none in the hall
knew the Welsh tongue that they used.

It being the business of a merchant to know that of every place where he
trades, and he travelling widely, there was no difficulty to him, and
mightily he enjoyed the sport. Then he sent off straightway to us; and
now it was plain that we were in danger - not at once, maybe, but ere
long. Griffin would hear sooner or later that his quarry was in Grimsby
after all. So we went to our good old friend, Witlaf of Stallingborough,
and told him all.

"Why," he said, "I will have no Welsh outsiders harrying my friends.
Light up your beacon if he comes, and shut your gates in his face, and I
and the housecarls will take him in the rear, and he will not wait here
long. I have not had a fight for these twenty years or so, and it does
me good to think of one."

So we thought that there was little fear of the Welshman.

When I came back from this errand, however, I chose to pass the mound
where my father slept, and on it, hand in hand, sat Havelok and
Goldberga - for it was a quiet place, and none came near it often. It
was good to see them thus in that place, and happy they seemed together.

Goldberga called me when I came near, and I sat down beside them as she
bade me.

"Here we have been talking of what we shall do now, for it seems that to
both of us are many things to hand," she said. "Good it would be if we
could set them aside; but we were born to them, and we cannot let them
be. And, most of all, here in this place we may not forget the duty that
Grim would remind us of. Havelok must go to Denmark and win back his
kingdom from Hodulf first of all."

"We have thought that East Anglia was to be won first from Alsi," I said.

"So says Havelok; but I do not think so. For, indeed, I am but the wife,
and the things of the husband come first of all. Now, this is what I
would say. Sail to Denmark before Hodulf knows what is coming, and there
will be less trouble."

"I am slow at seeing things," said Havelok; "but the same might be said
of your kingdom."

"Alsi is ready, and Hodulf is not," she answered, laughing; "any one can
see that.

"Is it not so, brother?"

So it was; and I thought that she was right.

"Let us ask the brothers," I said, "for here are many things to be
thought of; and, first of all, where to get men."

That was the greatest trouble to our minds, but none at all to hers.

"Get them in Denmark," she said, when we were all together in the great
room of the house that evening. "Let us go as merchant folk, and find
Sigurd, or his son if he is dead. If I am not much mistaken, all the
land will rise for the son of Gunnar so soon as it is known that he has
come again."

"Sigurd is yet alive," Arngeir said; "and more than that, he is waiting.
For he promised Grim that he would be ready, and I heard the promise. I
think that this plan is good, and can well be managed. Here is the ship
that Griffin was to have taken today, and he is not here. Gold enough I
have, for Grim hoarded against this time."

Then he showed us the store that, through long years, my father had
brought together to take the place of that of Sigurd's which had been
lost; and it was no small one. And so we planned at once; and in the end
we three brothers were to go with Havelok and Goldberga, leaving Mord to
get to Ragnar and tell him that Goldberga was following the fortunes of
her husband, and would return to see to her own if all went well.
Berthun would go with him, and Arngeir would bide at home, for we needed
one to whom messages might come; and while none would know us now in
Denmark, either Arngeir or Mord might be seen, and men would tell Hodulf
that the men of Grim had come home, and so perhaps spoil all. Word might
go to Denmark from Griffin even yet.

We had little thought of any sorry ending to our plans, for the dreams
that had come so true so far cheered us. And so, with the evening tide
of the next day, we sailed in the same ship that had been hired for Griffin.

But first Havelok spent a long hour on my father's mound alone, thinking
of all that he owed to him who rested there. And to him came Goldberga
softly, presently, lest he should be lonely in that place. And there she
spoke to him of her own faith, saying that already he owed much to it.
For he was making his vows to the Asir for success.

"Shall you pray yet again to the Asir, my husband?" she asked.

"Why should I? I have vowed my vows, and there is an end. If they heed
them, all is well; and if not, the Norns hinder."

"There is One whom the Norns hinder not at all," she said gently, and so
told him how that her prayers would go up every day.

Fain was she that he also prayed in that wise to her God, that naught
might be apart in their minds.

Then he said, "I have heard this from David and Withelm also, and it is
good. Teach me to vow to your God, sweet wife, and I will do so; and you
shall teach me to pray as you pray."

So it came to pass that Havelok in the after days was more than ready to
help the Christian teachers when they came to him; for that was how the
vow that he made ran, that he would do so if he was king, and had the power.

Now there is nothing to tell of our voyage, for one could not wish for a
better passage, if the ship was slow. Indeed, she was so slow that a
smaller vessel that left Tetney haven on the next day reached the same
port that we were bound for on the night that we came to our old home.
And that we learned soon after she had come.

Into Sigurd's haven we sailed on the morning tide, and strange it seemed
to me to see the well-known place unchanged as we neared it. My father's
house was there, and Arngeir's, and the great hall of the jarl towered
over all, as I remembered it. Men were building a ship in the long shed
where ours had been built, and where the queen had hidden; and the
fishing boats lay on the hard as on the day when Havelok had come to us.
The little grove was yet behind our house, and it seemed strange when I
remembered that the old stones of its altar were far beyond the seas. I
wondered if Thor yet stood under his great ash tree; and then I saw one
change, for that tree was gone, and in its place stood a watchtower,
stone built, and broad and high, for haven beacon.

On the high fore deck stood Havelok, and his arm was round Goldberga as
we ran in, but they were silent. The land held overmuch of coming wonder
for them to put into words, as I think.

Presently the boats came off to us in the old way, and here and there I
seemed to know the faces of the men, but I was not sure. It was but the
remembrance of the old Danish cast of face, maybe. I could put no names
to any of them. And as we were warped alongside the wharf, there rode
down to see who we were Sigurd the jarl himself, seeming unchanged,
although twelve years had gone over him. He was younger than my father,
I think, and was at that age when a man changes too slowly for a boy to
notice aught but that the one he left as a man he thought old is so yet.
He was just the noble-looking warrior that I had always wondered at and

We had arranged in this way: Havelok was to be the merchant, and we his
partners in the venture, trading with the goods in the ship as our own.
That the owner, who was also ship master, had agreed to willingly
enough, as we promised to make good any loss that might be from our want
of skill in bargaining. One may say that we bought the cargo, which was
not a great one, on our own risk, therefore, hiring the vessel to wait
our needs, in case we found it better to fly or to land elsewhere
presently. Then Havelok was to ask the jarl's leave to trade in the
land, and so find a chance to speak with him in private. After that the
goods might be an excuse for going far and wide through the villages to
let men know who had come, without rousing Hodulf's fears.

And as we thought of all this on the voyage, Goldberga remembered that
it was likely that Sigurd would know again the ring that had been the
queen's, and she said that it had better be shown him at once, that he
might begin to suspect who his guest was. For we knew that he was true
to the son of Gunnar, if none else might still be so.

This seemed good to us all; and, indeed, everything seemed to be well

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Online LibraryCharles W. WhistlerHavelok the Dane A Legend of Old Grimsby and Lincoln → online text (page 15 of 21)