Read CHAPTER XXV of Gudrid the Fair A Tale of the Discovery of America , free online book, by Maurice Hewlett, on

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 means — but 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 out — larger, 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 Scots.

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 everything else.

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 least — therefore 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.