Read CHAPTER XIII - ERIC THE RED IN HIS DOMAIN of The Thrall of Leif the Lucky, free online book, by Ottilie A. Liljencrantz, on ReadCentral.com.

Givers, hail!
A guest is come in;
Where shall he sit?

Water to him is needful
Who for refection comes,
A towel and hospitable invitation,
A good reception;
If he can get it,
Discourse and answer.

Ha’vama’l

Ten by ten, the ship’s boat brought them to land, and into the crowd of armed retainers, house servants, field hands, and thralls. A roar of delight greeted the appearance of Helga; and Sigurd was nearly overturned by welcoming hands. It seemed that the crowd stood too much in awe of Leif to salute him with any familiarity, but they made way for him most respectfully; and a pack of shaggy dogs fell upon him and almost tore him to pieces in the frenzy of their joyful recognition. A fusillade of shoulder-slapping filled the air. Not a buxom maid but found some brawny neck to fling her arms about, receiving a hearty smack for her pains. Nor were the men more backward; it was only by clinging like a burr to her mistress’s side that Editha escaped a dozen vigorous caresses. Alwin, with his short hair and his contradictorily rich dress, was stared at in outspoken curiosity. The men whispered that Leif had become so grand that he must have a page to carry his cloak, like the King himself. The women said that, in any event, the youth looked handsome, and black became his fair complexion. Kark scowled as he stepped ashore and heard their comments.

“Where is my father, Thorhall?” he demanded, giving his hand with far more haughtiness than the chief.

“He has gone hunting with Thorwald Ericsson,” one of the house thralls informed him. “He will not be back until to-night.”

Whereupon Kark’s colorless face became mottled with red temper-spots, and he pushed rudely through the throng and disappeared among the ship-sheds.

“Is my brother Thorstein also in Greenland?” Leif asked the servant.

But the man answered that Eric’s youngest son was absent on a visit to his mother’s kin in Iceland. When the boat had brought the last man to land, the “Sea-Deer” was left to float at rest until the time of her unloading; and they began to move up from the shore in a boisterous procession.

Between rich pastures and miniature forests of willow and birch and alder, a broad lane ran east over green hill and dale. Amid a babel of talk and laughter, they passed along the lane, the rank and file performing many jovial capers, slipping bold arms around trim waists and scuffling over bundles of treasure. Over hill and dale they went for nearly two miles; then, some four hundred feet from the rocky banks of Einar’s Fiord, the lane ended before the wide-thrown gates of a high fence.

If the gates had been closed, one might have guessed what was inside; so unvarying was the plan of Norse manors. A huge quadrangular courtyard was surrounded by substantial buildings. To the right was the great hall, with the kitchens and storehouses. Across the inner side stood the women’s house, with the herb-garden on one hand, and the guest-chambers on the other. To the left were the stables, the piggery, the sheep-houses, the cow-sheds, and the smithies.

No sooner had they passed the gates than a second avalanche of greetings fell upon them. Gathered together in the grassy space were more armed retainers, more white-clad thralls, more barking dogs, more house servants in holiday attire, and, at the head of them, the far-famed Eric the Red and his strong-minded Thorhild.

One glance at the Red One convinced Alwin that his reputation did not belie him. It was not alone his floating hair and his long beard that were fiery; his whole person looked capable of instantaneous combustion. His choleric blue eyes, now twinkling with good humor, a spark could kindle into a blaze. A breath could fan the ruddy spots on his cheeks into flames.

As Alwin watched him, he said to himself, “It is not that he was three times exiled for manslaughter which surprises me, it is that he was not exiled thirty times.”

Alwin looked curiously at the plump matron, with the stately head-dress of white linen and the bunch of jingling keys at her girdle, and had a surprise of a different kind. Certainly there were no soft curves in her resolute mouth, and her eyes were as keen as Leif’s; yet it was neither a cruel face nor a shrewish one. It was full of truth and strength, and there was comeliness in her broad smooth brow and in the unfaded roses of her cheeks. Ah, and now that the keen eyes had fallen upon Leif, they were no longer sharp; they were soft and deep with mother-love, and radiant with pride. Her hands stirred as though they could not wait to touch him.

There was a pause of some decorum, while the chief embraced his parents; then the tumult burst forth. No man could hear himself, much less his neighbor.

Under cover of the confusion, Alwin approached Helga. Having no greetings of his own to occupy him, he made over his interest to others. The shield-maiden was standing on the very spot where Leif had left her, Editha clinging to her side. She was gazing at Thorhild and nervously clasping and unclasping her hands.

Alwin said in her ear: “She will make you a better mother than Bertha of Trondhjem. It is my advice that you reconcile yourself to her at once.”

“It was in my mind,” Helga said slowly, “it was in my mind that I could love her!”

Shaking off Editha, she took a hesitating step forward. Thorhild had parted from Leif, and turned to welcome Sigurd. Helga took another step. Thorhild raised her head and looked at her. When she saw the picturesque figure, with its short kirtle and its shirt of steel, she drew herself up stiffly, and it was evident that she tried to frown; but Helga walked quickly up to her and put her arms about her neck and laid her head upon her breast and clung there.

By and by the matron slipped an arm around the girl’s waist, then one around her shoulders. Finally she bent her head and kissed her. Directly after, she pushed her off and held her at arm’s length.

“You have grown like a leek. I wonder that such a life has not ruined your complexion. Was cloth so costly in Norway that Leif could afford no more for a skirt? You shall put on one of mine the instant we get indoors. It is time you had a woman to look after you.”

But Helga was no longer repelled by her severity; she could appreciate now what lay beneath it. She said, “Yes, kinswoman,” with proper submissiveness, and then looked over at Alwin with laughing eyes.

Eric’s voice now made itself heard above the din. “Bring them into the house, you simpletons! Bring them indoors! Will you keep them starving while you gabble? Bring them in, and spread the tables, and fill up the horns. Drink to the Lucky One in the best mead in Greenland. Come in, come in! In the Troll’s name, come in, and be welcome!”

Rolf smiled his guileless smile aside to Egil. “It is likely that he will say other things ‘in the Troll’s name’ when he finds out why the Lucky One has come,” he murmured.