Read CHAPTER XXVI - VINLAND THE GOOD of The Thrall of Leif the Lucky, free online book, by Ottilie A. Liljencrantz, on ReadCentral.com.

“... They sailed toward this land, and came to an island lying north of it, and went ashore in fine weather and looked round. They found dew on the grass, and touched it with their hands, and put it to their mouths, and it seemed to them that they had never tasted anything so sweet as this dew. Then they went on hoard and sailed into the channel, which was between the island and the cape which ran north from the mainland. They passed the cape, sailing in a westerly direction. There the water was very shallow, and their ship went aground, and at ebb-tide the sea was far out from the ship. But they were so anxious to get ashore that they could not wait till the high-water reached their ship, and ran out on the beach where a river flowed from a lake. When the high-water set their ship afloat they took their boat and rowed to the ship and towed it up the river into the lake. There they cast anchor, and took their leather-bags ashore, and there built booths.” FLATEYJARBO’K.

It was October, and it was the new camp, and it was Helga the Fair tripping across the green background with a skirtful of red and yellow thorn-berries and a wreath of fiery autumn leaves upon her sunny head.

Where a tongue of land ran out between a lake-like bay and a river that hurried down to throw herself into its arms, there lay the new settlement. Facing seaward, the five newly-built huts stood on the edge of a grove that crowned the river bluffs. Behind them stretched some hundred yards of wooded highland, ending in a steep descent to the river, which served as a sort of back stairway to the stronghold. Before them, green plains and sandy flats sloped away to the white shore of the bay that rocked their anchored ship upon its bosom. Over their lowly roofs, stately oaks and elms and maples murmured ceaseless lullabies, like women long-childless, granted after a weary waiting the listening ears to be soothed by their crooning.

“I have a feeling that this land has always been watching for us; and that now that we are come, it is glad,” Helga said, happily, as she paused where the jarl’s son leaned in a doorway, watching Kark’s cook-fires leap and wave their arms of blue smoke. “Is it not a wonderful thought, Sigurd, that it was in God’s mind so long ago that we should some day want to come here?”

“It is a fair land,” Sigurd agreed, absently. And then for the first time Helga noticed the frown on his face, and some of the brightness faded from her own.

“Alas, comrade, you are brooding over the disfavor I have brought upon you!” she said, laying an affectionate hand upon his arm. “I act in a thoughtless way when I forget it.”

Sigurd made a good-natured attempt to arouse himself. “Do not let that trouble you, ma mie,” he said, lightly. “When ill luck has it in her mind to reach a man, she will come in through a window if the door be closed. It is a matter of little importance.”

He patted the hand on his arm and his smile became even mischievous. “Still, I will not say anything against it if you wish to pay some forfeit,” he added. “See, yonder Leif sits, playing with the bear cub while he waits for his breakfast. Now, as he turns his eyes upon us, do you reach up and give me such an affectionate kiss as shall convince him forever that it was for love of me that you fled from Norway.”

A vigorous box on the ear was his answer; yet even before her cheeks cooled, Helga relented and turned back.

“Even your French foolishness I will overlook, for the sake of the misfortune I have been to you. Take now a handful of these berries, and make the excuse that you wish to give them to the bear. While you do so, speak to Leif strongly and tell him your wish. That he is playing with the cub is a sign that he is in a good humor.”

Sigurd’s eyes wandered wistfully beyond the cook-fires and the storehouses to the last hut in the line, before which a dozen men were buckling on cloaks and arming themselves, in a bustle of joyful anticipation. He thrust out his palm with sudden resolve.

“By Saint Michael, I will! I had sworn that I would never entreat his leave again, but this time there is no one near enough to witness my shame if he refuses me. There that is sufficient! It is needful that I make haste: yonder come Eyvind and Odd with the fish; Kark will not be long in cooking it.”

Carefully careless, he strolled past the open shed in which the new-found wheat was being stored, past the sleeping-house and a group of fellows mending nets, and came to the great maple-tree under which a rough bench had been placed. There, like a Giant Thrym and his greyhounds, Leif sat stroking his mustache thoughtfully, while with his free hand he tousled the head of the camp pet.

Scenting dainties, the bear deserted his friend and shambled forward to meet the newcomer. The chief raised his eyes and regarded his foster-son over his hand, seemingly with less sternness than usual. Yet he did not look to be so blinded by good-nature that he would be unable to see through manoeuvring. Sigurd decided to strike straight from the shoulder.

The cub, finding that the treat was not to be had in one delicious gulp, rose upon his haunches and threw open his jaws invitingly. While he tossed the berries, one by one, between the white teeth, Sigurd spoke his mind.

“It is two weeks now, foster-father, since the winter booths were finished and you began the practice of sending out exploring parties. In all those days you have but once permitted me to share the sport. I ask you to tell me how long I shall have to endure this?”

It appeared that the hand which stroked the chief’s mustache also hid a dry smile.

“You grasp your weapon by the wrong end, foster-son,” he retorted. “You forget that each time I have chosen an exploring party to go out, I have also chosen a party to remain at home and guard the goods. How is it possible that I could spare from their number a man who has shown himself so superior in good sense and firm-mindedness ”

Sigurd’s foot came down in an unmistakable stamp; and the remaining berries were crushed in his clenching fist.

“Enough jests have been strung on that thread! I have submitted to you patiently because it appeared to me that your anger was not without cause, yet it is no more than just for you to remember that I was helpless in the matter. Since the girl was already so far, it would have been dastardly for me to have refused her aid. It is not as though I had enticed her from Norway ”

A confusing recollection brought him suddenly to a halt, the blood tingling in his cheeks. He knew that the eyes above the brown hand had become piercing, but there were many reasons why he did not care to meet them. After a moment’s hesitation, he frankly abandoned that tack and tried a new one. Dropping on one knee to wipe his berry-stained hand in the grass, he looked up with his gay smile. “There is yet another reason why you should allow me my way, foster-father. Upon the one occasion when I did accompany the party, the discovery was made of those fields of self-sown wheat which you prize so highly. Since then I have remained at home, and nothing of value has come to light. Who knows what you might not find this time, if you would but take my luck along with you?”

Leif pushed the cub aside and rose to his feet, the strengthening savor of broiled salmon announcing the imminent approach of the morning meal.

“Although I cannot say that I consider that an argument which would win you a case before a law-man,” he observed, “yet I will not be so stark as to punish you further. Take your chance with the rovers if you will; though it is not likely that you will have time both to eat your food and to make yourself ready.”

Sigurd was already gone on a bound.

“It will not take me long to choose between the two,” he called back joyously, over his shoulder.

While the rest feasted noisily at the long table before the provision sheds, the Silver-Tongued hurried between sleeping house and store-room, rummaging out his heaviest boots, his stoutest tunic, his oldest mantle. At the last moment, the edge on his knife was found to be unsatisfactory, and he went and sat down by one of the cook-fires and fell to work with a sharpening stone.

On the other side of the fire Kark sat cross-legged upon the ground, skinning rabbits from a heap that had just been brought in by the trappers. He looked up with an impudent grin.

“It is a good thing if your fortunes have mended at last, Sigurd Jarlsson. It did not appear that the Norman brought you much luck in return for your support.” He glanced toward that part of the table where the black locks of Robert the Fearless shone, sleek as a blackbird’s wing, in the morning sun. “The Southerner has an overbearing face,” he added. “It reminds me of someone I hate, though I cannot think who.”

Sigurd’s fiery impulse to cuff him was cooled by a sudden frost. He said as carelessly as possible: “You are a churlish fool; but it is likely you have seen Robert Sans-Peur in Nidaros. He was there shortly before we came away.”

The thrall assented with a nod, but his interest seemed to have taken another turn, for after a while he said absently: “You will call me fool again when I tell you who the Norman made me think of at first. No other than that pig-headed English thrall that Leif killed last winter, if it were not that one is black and the other was white, and one is living and the other dead.”

He commenced to grin over his work, a veritable image of malice, quite unconscious that Sigurd’s eyes were blazing down upon his head. By and by he broke into a discordant roar.

“Too great fun is it to keep silent over! What can it matter, now that Hot-Head is dead? Ah, that was a fine revenge!” He squinted boldly up into Sigurd’s face, though he did not raise his voice to be heard beyond. “Did you know that it was not Thorhall the steward who found the knife that betrayed the English-man? Did you dream of that, Jarl’s son? Did you know that it was I who followed you out of the hall that night, and listened to you from the shadows, and followed your trail the next sunrise, until I came upon the knife at Skroppa’s very door? You never suspected that, Jarl’s son. I was too cunning to let you put your teeth into me. Thorhall you could do no harm ”

“Wretched spy! Do you boast of your deed?” the young Viking interrupted hotly. “What is to hinder my biting now?” He had leaped the flames, and his hand was on the other’s throat before he finished speaking.

But the thrall fought him off with unusual boldness.

“It is unadvisable for you to injure Leif’s property, Sigurd Haraldsson,” he panted. “My life is of value to him now. You are not yet out of disgrace. It would be unadvisable for you to offend him again.”

However contemptible its present mouthpiece, that was the truth. Sigurd paused, even while his fingers twitched with passion. While he hesitated, a shout of summons from Valbrand decided the matter. Loosening his hold, the young warrior vented his rage in one savage kick and hastened to join his comrades.

Twelve brawny Vikings with twelve short swords at their sides and twelve long knives in their belts, they stood forth, headed by Valbrand of the Flint-Face and by Tyrker! The little German had left off the longest of his fur tunics; a very long knife indeed garnished his waist, and he used a spear for a staff. Yet none of these preparations made him appear very formidable. Sigurd stared at him in amazement.

“Tyrker! My eyes cannot believe that you have the intention to undertake such a march! Before a hundred steps, it will become such an exertion to you that you will lie down upon a rock in a swoon.”

The old man blinked at him with his little twinkling eyes.

“So?” he said, chuckling. “Then will we a bargain together make; for me shall you be legs, while I be brains for you. Then shall we neither be left behind for wild beasts to eat, nor yet shall our wits like beer-foam off-blown be, if so it happens that a beautiful maiden crosses our path.”

Sigurd swore an unholy French oath, as the laughter arose. Would those jests never grow stale on their tongues? he wondered. He sent a half-resentful glance to where Robert Sans-Peur stood, calm and lofty, watching the departure. Whatever else threatened Alwin of England, he had none of this nonsense to endure. Over his shoulder, as he marched away, the Silver-Tongued made a sly face at his friend.

The Norman caught the grimace, but no answering smile curved the bitter line of his lips. Smiles had been strangers to his gaunt dark face for many weeks now.

The sailors said of him, “Since the Southerner lost his chance at the bear, he has had the appearance of a man who has lost his hope of Heaven.”

When the noise of the departing explorers sank into the distance, Robert Sans-Peur strolled away from the busy groups and stretched himself in the shade of a certain old elm-tree. The chief stripped off his mantle and upper tunic, and betook himself to the woods with an axe over his shoulder. The hammers of the carpenters made merry music as they built the bunks in the new sleeping-house. Out in the sunshine, fishers and trappers came and went; harvesters staggered in under golden sheaves; and a group of bathers shouted and splashed in the lake. But the Norman neither saw nor heard anything of the pleasant stir. Through the long golden hours he lay without sound or motion, staring absently at the green turf and the dying leaves that floated down to him with every breeze.

A meal at midday was not a Brattahlid custom; but when the noon-hour came, there was a lull in the activity while Kark carried around bread and meat and ale. Combining prudence with a saving of labor, the thrall made no attempt to approach the brooding stranger; nor did the latter give any sign of noticing the slight. But the chief’s keen eyes saw it, as they saw everything.

From his seat under the maple-tree, he called out with the voice of authority: “Hardy bear-fighters are not made by abstaining from food; nor are wits sharpened by sulking. I invite the Norman to sit with me, while he drinks his ale and tells me what lies heavy on his mind.”

It was with more embarrassment than gratification that Robert Sans-Peur responded to this invitation.

“It may well be that my head is drowsy because I have had too much ale,” he made excuse, as he took his seat.

Over the chunk of bread he was raising to his mouth, the chief regarded his guest critically.

“There is an old saying,” he observed, “that when it happens to a man that his head is sleepy in the day-time, it is because his mind is not in his body but wanders out in the world in another shape. In what land, and in what form, do the Norman’s thoughts travel?”

After a moment, Robert the Fearless rose to his feet and bowed low. “They have returned to rest contentedly in an unnamed land,” he answered; “and they wear the shape of thanks to Leif Ericsson for his many favors. I drink to the Lucky One’s health, and to his undying fame! Skoal!”

As he set down his horn after the toast, the Norman’s glance happened to encounter a glance from the shield-maiden, who was passing. Taking another horn from the thrall, he bowed again, with proverbial French gallantry; then quaffed off the second measure of ale to the honor of Helga the Fair.

Leif turned in time to catch a rather unusual expression on the maiden’s face, though her courtesy was a model of formality. He held out his hand peremptorily.

“Come hither, kinswoman, and tell me how matters go with you,” he commanded. “It is to be hoped that Tyrker has not lost you out of his mind, as I have done during these last weeks. How are you entertaining yourself this morning, while he is absent?”

Helga sped a guilty thought to a certain green nook on the river bluff; and winged heavenward a prayer of thanks that she had put off until afternoon her daily pilgrimage to the beloved shrine.

She answered readily, “I have entertained myself very poorly so far, kinsman, for I have been doing such woman’s-work as Thorhild commends. I have been in your sleeping-house, sewing upon the skin curtains that are to make the fourth wall of my chamber.”

Leif glanced at the Norman with a dry smile. “Chamber!” he commented. “Learn from this, Robert of Normandy, how a Norse maiden regards a stall! Yet, whatever hostile thing attacks us, a Norman lady in her bower would be no safer. Tyrker’s sleeping-place, and mine and Valbrand’s, lie between the house-door and the chamber of Helga, Gilli’s daughter.” He freed the girl’s hand, though he still held her with his eyes. “Whither do you betake yourself now?” he demanded. “Long rambles are unsafe in an unknown country.”

In her perfect composure, Helga even laughed; a silvery peal that sent a thrill of pleasure through the brooding old trees.

“By my knife, kinsman, you take your responsibility heavily, now that you have remembered it at all!” she retorted. “I do not go far; only a little way up the river, where grow the rushes of which I wish to make baskets.”

The chief released her then; and soon she disappeared among the trees.

One by one, the men finished their meal and drifted back to their various employments. The hammers began again their merry tattoo; and the wrangling voices of dice-throwers replaced the shouts of the bathers. Except for these, however, the place was still. The sun shone hotly, and the trees appeared to nap in the drowsy air.

Perhaps because he preferred asking questions to answering them, Robert Sans-Peur began an earnest conversation, concerning the harvest, the traps, and the fishing. But as the hour grew, the gaps between his inquiries stretched wider. As the tree-heads ceased even their nodding and hung motionless, the chief’s answers became briefer and slower. At last the moment arrived when no response at all was forthcoming. Glancing up, the Norman found his host tilted back against the maple trunk in placid slumber.

The young man let something like a sigh of relief escape him. Still, watching the sleeping face warily, he tried the effect of another question. Oblivion. He rose to his feet with a daring flourish of yawns and stretching, and awaited the result of that test. The deep breathing never faltered.

Then Alwin the Lover hesitated no longer. Quietly and directly, as one who treads a familiar path, he walked around the corner of the last hut and disappeared among the trees.

Many feet had worn a distinct trail through the woods to the edge of the bluff, and down the steep to the water; but only two pair of feet had ever turned aside, midway the descent, and found the path to Eden. Like a rosy curtain, a tall sumach bush hid the trail’s beginning; the overhanging bluffs concealed it from above; the tangle of shrubs and vines which covered the bank from the water’s edge screened it from below. Hardly more than a rabbit track, a narrow shelf against the wall of the steep, it ran along for a dozen yards to stop where a ledge of moss-covered rock thrust itself from the soil.

When Alwin pushed aside the leafy sprays, Helga stood awaiting him with outstretched hands. “You have been long in coming, comrade. I dare not hope that it is because Leif delayed you with some new friendliness?”

Her lover shook his head, as he bent to kiss her hands.

“Do not hope anything, sweetheart,” he said, wearily. “That is the one way not to be disappointed.” He threw himself down on the rock at her feet, unaware that her smooth brows had suddenly drawn themselves into a troubled frown.

She said with grave slowness, “I do not like to hear you speak like that. You are foremost among men in courage, yet to hear you now, one would almost imagine you to be faint-hearted.”

Alwin’s mouth bent into a bitter smile, as his eyes stared away at the river. “Courage?” he repeated, half to himself. “Yes, I have that. Once I thought it so precious a thing that I could stake honor and life upon it, and win on the turn of the wheel. But I know now what it is worth. Courage, the boldness of the devil himself, who of the North but has that? It is cheaper than the dirt of the road. If I have not been a coward, at least I have been a fool.”

All at once, Helga shook out her flying locks like so many golden war banners, and turned to face him resolutely. “You shall not speak, nor think like that,” she said; “for I see now that it is not good sense. Before, though my heart told me you were wrong, I did not understand why; but now I have turned it over in my mind until I see clearly. The failure of your first attempt to win Leif’s favor is a thing by itself; at least it does not prove that you have not yet many good chances. I will not deny that we may have expected too many opportunities for valiant deeds, yet are there no other ways in which to serve? Was it by a feat of arms that you won your first honor with the chief? It was nothing more heroic than the ability to read runes which, in five days, got you more favor than Rolf Erlingsson’s strength had gained him in five years. Are your accomplishments so limited to your weapons that when you cannot use your sword you must lie idle? Many little services will count as much as one big one, when the time of reckoning comes. Shake the sleep-thorn out of your ear, my comrade, and be your brave strong-minded self again. Without courage, never would Robert Sans-Peur have come to Greenland, nor Helga, Gilli’s daughter, have followed him to Norway. Despise it not, but mate it with your good sense, and the two shall yet draw us to victory.”

It was a long time before Alwin answered. The river splashed and murmured below; birds rustled in the bushes around them, or dived into the green depths with a soft whir of wings. A rabbit paused to look at them, and two squirrels quarrelled over a nut, within reach of their hands, so still were they. But when at last Alwin raised his eyes to hers, their gaze reassured her.

“The sleep-thorn is out, sweetheart,” he said, slowly. “Now is the whole of my folly clear to me for the first time. Never again shall you have cause to shame my manhood with such words.”

“Shame! Shame you, who are the best and bravest in the world!” she cried, passionately, and threw herself on her knees by his side, entreating.

But he silenced her lips with kisses, and put her gently back upon the rock.

“Do not let us speak further of it, dear one. I have thought so much and done so little. After this you shall see how I will bear myself... But let us forget it now, and rest awhile. Let us forget everything in the world except that we are together. Lay your hand in mine and turn your face where I can look into it; and so shall we be sure of this happiness, whatever lies beyond.”

A vague fear laid its icy finger, for an instant, on Helga’s brave heart; but she shook it off fiercely. Locking her hand fast in her comrade’s, she let all the love of her soul well up and shine from her beautiful eyes. So they sat, hand in hand, while the hours slipped by and the shadows lengthened about them, and the light on the river grew red.

With the sunset, came the sound of distant voices. Helga started up with a finger on her lips.

“It is the exploring party, returning! It is possible that one of them might blunder in here. Do you think we can climb the bluff before they turn the bend and see us?”

The voices were becoming very distinct now. Alwin shook his head.

“I think it better to remain where we are. Sigurd knows that we are likely to be here. He will turn them aside, if need be. See; yonder is his blue cloak now, at the ”

He broke off and slowly rose to his feet, a look upon his face that made Helga whirl instinctively and glance over her shoulder. She did not turn back again, but sat as though frozen in the act; for behind the sumach bush Leif stood, watching them.

How long he had been there they had no idea, but his eyes were full upon them; and they realized that at last he knew truly for whom it was that Helga, Gilli’s daughter, had fled from home. His lips were drawn into a straight line, and his brows into a black frown.

The voices came nearer and nearer, until Sigurd’s blue cloak fluttered at the very foot of the trail. When he saw the chief’s scarlet mantle mingling with the scarlet of the sumach leaves, the jarl’s son gave a great leap forward. It was no longer than the drawing of a breath, however, before he recovered himself.

His clear voice rose like a bugle call, “Diable! foster-father! I have just made a very different discovery from the one I promised you, Tyrker has been left behind.”

The chief was down the bank in three long leaps, shooting a volley of fierce questions. Each member of the party instantly raised his voice to defend himself and blame his neighbor. The remainder of the camp, brought to the spot by the noise, rent the air with upbraiding and alarms. When the shield-maiden suddenly sprang from nowhere and stood in their midst, the men did not even notice her; nor did the appearance of the Norman attract more attention. As an accident, it was incredibly fortunate; as a diversion, it was a master-stroke.

Yet it did not take the chief long to quell the up-roar, when at last he had made up his mind what course to pursue. Seizing a shield from a man at his side, he hammered upon it with his sword until every other sound was drowned in the clangor.

“Silence!” he shouted. “Silence, fools! Would you save him by deafening each other? We must reach him before wild beasts do: he would be as a child in their clutches. Ten of you who are fresh-footed, get weapons and follow me. The least crazy of you who accompanied him, shall guide us back.”

Only as he was turning away and ran bodily into him, did he appear to remember the Norman’s existence. His eyes gave out an ominous flash.

“You also follow,” he commanded.

As the little column moved over the hills in the fading light, Helga looked after them, half dazed.

“What is the meaning of that?” she murmured to the jarl’s son at her side. “It is certain that Leif recognized him; yet he chooses him to accompany them. I do not understand it.”

Nothing could have been sturdier than Sigurd’s manner; she did not think to look at his face.

“That may easily be,” he returned. “Since it angered the chief to find you two together, it would be no more than natural that he should wish to make sure of your separation.”

Helga did not appear to hear him. She stood transfixed with the horror of a sudden conviction.

“It is to kill him!” she gasped. “That is why he has taken him away, that he may kill him quietly and without interference. I will go after them... By running, I can catch up let me go, Sigurd!”

The fact that his foreboding was quite as black as hers did not prevent Sigurd from tightening his grasp, almost to roughness.

He said sternly, “Be still. You have done harm enough by such crazy actions. If by any chance he is not discovered, you would be certain to betray him. You can do nothing but harm in any case.”

As he felt her yield to his grasp, he added, less harshly, “More likely than not, nothing of any importance will happen; if Tyrker is found unharmed, Leif’s joy will be too great to allow him to injure anyone, whatever his offence.”

She interrupted him with a low cry of anguish. “But if Tyrker is not found, Sigurd! If Tyrker is not found, Leif will vent his rage upon the nearest excuse. A Norseman in grief is like a bear with a wound: it matters not whom he bites.”

Burying her face in her hands, she sank upon the ground and rocked herself back and forth. Out from the bower of long hair that streamed over her, came pitiful moans.

“He will slay him and leave him out there in the darkness... I shall not be by to raise his head and weep over him, as I did before .... Oh, thou God, if there is help in Thee ! I shall not be with him... Leif will slay him and leave him out in the darkness, alone...”

Sigurd’s face grew white as he watched her, and he clenched his hands so that the nails sank deep in the flesh.

“There is nothing to do but to wait,” he said, briefly. “If Tyrker is found, all will be well.” He paced to and fro before her, his ear set toward the river.

Over in front of the cook-house, Kark’s fires began to twinkle out like altars of good cheer. Like votaries hurrying to worship at them, the hungry men went and threw themselves on the grass in a circle; with dice and stories and jests they whiled away the time pleasantly enough.

For the pair in the shadow, the moments dragged on lead-shod feet. Time after time, Sigurd thought he heard the sounds he longed to hear, and started toward the river, only to come slowly back, tricked. An owl began to call in the tree above them; and ever after, Helga connected that sound with death and despair, and shuddered at it.

When at last the distant hum of voices crept upon them, they would not believe it; but sat with eyes glued to the ground, though their ears were strained. But when one of the approaching voices broke into a rollicking drinking-song, which was caught up by the group around the fire and tossed joyously back and forth, there could no longer be any doubt of the matter.

Sigurd leaped up and pulled his companion to her feet, with a cheer. “They would not sing like that if they bore heavy tidings,” he assured her. “Do not spoil matters now by a lack of caution. Stay here while I run forward to meet them.”

Then, for the first time since the failing of the blow, Helga recalled with a flush of shame that she was a dauntless shield-maiden; and she took hold of her composure with both hands.

Singing and shouting, the rescuers came out of the woods at last and into the circle of firelight. On the shoulders of the two leaders sat Tyrker, his little eyes dancing with excitement, his thin voice squeaking comically in his attempts to pipe a German drinking-song, as he beat time with some little dark object which he was flourishing. The chief walked behind him with a face that was not only clear but almost radiant. Still further back came Robert Sans-Peur, quite un-harmed and vigorous. In the name of wonder, what had happened to them?

“It is the strangest thing that ever occurred.” “It is a miracle of God!” “Growing as thick as crow-berries.” “Such juice will make the finest wine in the world!” “Biorn Herjulfsson will dash out his brains with envy.” “Was ever such luck as the Lucky One’s?” were the disjointed phrases that passed between them.

Waving the dark object over his head, Tyrker struggled down from his perch. “Wunderschoen! As in the Fatherland growing! And I went not much further than you, only a step, and there like snakes in the trees gecoiled! So solid the bunches, that them your fingers you cannot between pry. The beautiful grapes! Foster-son, for this day’s work I ask you to name this country Vine-land. Such a miracle requires that. Ach, it makes of me a child again!”

He tossed the fruit into their eager hands and began all at once to wipe his eyes industriously upon the skirt of his robe. Swiftly the bunch passed from hand to hand. Each time a juicy ball found its way down a thirsty throat a great murmur of wonder and delight arose.

“There is more where this came from? Plenty, you say?” they inquired, anxiously. And on being assured that hillside after hillside was covered with bending wreaths of purple clusters, their rapture knew no bounds.

Ale was all well enough; but wine ! Not only would they live like kings through the winter, but in the spring they would take back such a treasure as would make their home-people stare even more than at the timber and the wheat.

“You need have no fear concerning Leif’s temper,” Sigurd whispered in Helga’s ear. “This discovery makes his mission as sure of success as though it were already accomplished. No man’s nose rises at timber, but two such miracles as wheat and grapes, planted without hands and growing without care, these can be nothing less than tokens of divine favor! The Lucky One would spare his deadliest foe tonight.”

“That sounds possible,” Helga admitted, studying the chief’s face anxiously. As she looked, Leif’s gaze suddenly met hers, and she had the discomfort of seeing a recollection of their last encounter waken in his eyes. Yet they did not darken to the blackness that had lowered from them at the cliff. They took on more of an expression of quiet sarcasm. Turning where the Norman stood, a silent witness of the scene, the chief beckoned to him.

“A while ago, Robert Sans-Peur, I had it in my mind to run a sword through you,” he said, dryly. “But I have since bethought myself that you are a guest on my hands; and also that it is right to take your French breeding into account. Yet, though it may easily be a Norman habit to look upon every fair woman with eyes of love, it is equally contrary to Norse custom to permit it. Give yourself no further trouble concerning my kinswoman, Robert of Normandy. Attach yourself to my person and reserve your eloquence for my ear, and my ear only.”