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- The Wanderer's Necklace - 1/53 -


THE WANDERER'S NECKLACE

by H. Rider Haggard

First Published 1914.

DEDICATION

In memory of Oodnadatta and many wanderings oversea I offer these pictures from the past, my dear Vincent, to you, a lover of the present if an aspirant who can look upon the future with more of hope than fear. Your colleague, H. Rider Haggard. To Sir Edgar Vincent, K.C.M.G.

Ditchingham, November, 1913.

NOTE BY THE EDITOR

It chances that I, the Editor of these pages--for, in truth, that is my humble function--have recovered a considerable knowledge of a bygone life of mine. This life ended in times that are comparatively recent, namely, early in the ninth century, as is fixed by the fact that the Byzantine Empress, Irene, plays a part in the story.

The narrative, it will be observed, is not absolutely consecutive; that is to say, all the details are not filled in. Indeed, it has returned to me in a series of scenes or pictures, and although each scene or picture has to do with every other, there are sometimes gaps between them. To take one example among several-- the journey of Olaf (in those days my name was Olaf, or Michael after I was baptised) from the North to Constantinople is not recorded. The curtain drops at Aar in Jutland and rises again in Byzantium. Only those events which were of the most importance seem to have burned themselves into my subconscious memory; many minor details have vanished, or, at least, I cannot find them. This, however, does not appear to me to be a matter for regret. If every episode of a full and eventful life were painted in, the canvas would be overloaded and the eye that studied it bewildered.

I do not think that I have anything more to say. My tale must speak for itself. So I will but add that I hold it unnecessary to set out the exact method by which I have been able to dig it and others from the quarry of my past. It is a gift which, although small at first, I have been able gradually to develop. Therefore, as I wish to hide my present identity, I will only sign myself

The Editor.

THE WANDERER'S NECKLACE

BOOK I

AAR

CHAPTER I

THE BETROTHAL OF OLAF

Of my childhood in this Olaf life I can regain but little. There come to me, however, recollections of a house, surrounded by a moat, situated in a great plain near to seas or inland lakes, on which plain stood mounds that I connected with the dead. What the dead were I did not quite understand, but I gathered that they were people who, having once walked about and been awake, now laid themselves down in a bed of earth and slept. I remember looking at a big mound which was said to cover a chief known as "The Wanderer," whom Freydisa, the wise woman, my nurse, told me had lived hundreds or thousands of years before, and thinking that so much earth over him must make him very hot at nights.

I remember also that the hall called Aar was a long house roofed with sods, on which grew grass and sometimes little white flowers, and that inside of it cows were tied up. We lived in a place beyond, that was separated off from the cows by balks of rough timber. I used to watch them being milked through a crack between two of the balks where a knot had fallen out, leaving a convenient eyehole about the height of a walking-stick from the floor.

One day my elder and only brother, Ragnar, who had very red hair, came and pulled me away from this eyehole because he wanted to look through it himself at a cow that always kicked the girl who milked it. I howled, and Steinar, my foster-brother, who had light-coloured hair and blue eyes, and was much bigger and stronger than I, came to my help, because we always loved each other. He fought Ragnar and made his nose bleed, after which my mother, the Lady Thora, who was very beautiful, boxed his ears. Then we all cried, and my father, Thorvald, a tall man, rather loosely made, who had come in from hunting, for he carried the skin of some animal of which the blood had run down on to his leggings, scolded us and told my mother to keep us quiet as he was tired and wanted to eat.

That is the only scene which returns to me of my infancy.

The next of which a vision has come to me is one of a somewhat similar house to our own in Aar, upon an island called Lesso, where we were all visiting a chief of the name of Athalbrand. He was a fierce- looking man with a great forked beard, from which he was called Athalbrand Fork-beard. One of his nostrils was larger than the other, and he had a droop in his left eye, both of which peculiarities came to him from some wound or wounds that he had received in war. In those days everybody was at war with everybody else, and it was quite uncommon for anyone to live until his hair turned grey.

The reason of our visit to this chief Athalbrand was that my elder brother, Ragnar, might be betrothed to his only surviving child, Iduna, all of whose brothers had been killed in some battle. I can see Iduna now as she was when she first appeared before us. We were sitting at table, and she entered through a door at the top of the hall. She was clothed in a blue robe, her long fair hair, whereof she had an abundance, was arranged in two plaits which hung almost to her knees, and about her neck and arms were massive gold rings that tinkled as she walked. She had a round face, coloured like a wild rose, and innocent blue eyes that took in everything, although she always seemed to look in front of her and see nothing. Her lips were very red and appeared to smile. Altogether I thought her the loveliest creature that ever I had looked on, and she walked like a deer and held her head proudly.

Still, she did not please Ragnar, who whispered to me that she was sly and would bring mischief on all that had to do with her. I, who at the time was about twenty-one years of age, wondered if he had gone mad to talk thus of this beautiful creature. Then I remembered that just before we had left home I had caught Ragnar kissing the daughter of one of our thralls behind the shed in which the calves were kept. She was a brown girl, very well made, as her rough robe, fastened beneath her breast with a strap, showed plainly, and she had big dark eyes with a sleepy look in them. Also, I never saw anyone kiss quite so hard as she did; Ragnar himself was outpassed. I think that is why even the great lady, Iduna the Fair, did not please him. All the while he was thinking of the brown-eyed girl in the russet robe. Still, it is true that, brown-eyed girl or no, he read Iduna aright.

Moreover, if Ragnar did not like Iduna, from the first Iduna hated Ragnar. So it came about that, although both my father, Thorvald, and Iduna's father, Athalbrand, stormed and threatened, these two declared that they would have nothing to do with each other, and the project of their marriage came to an end.

On the night before we were to leave Lesso, whence Ragnar had already gone, Athalbrand saw me staring at Iduna. This, indeed, was not wonderful, as I could not take my eyes from her lovely face, and when she looked at me and smiled with those red lips of hers I became like a silly bird that is bewitched by a snake. At first I thought that he was going to be angry, but suddenly some idea seemed to strike him so that he called my father, Thorvald, outside the house. Afterwards I was sent for, and found the two of them seated on a three-cornered, flat stone, talking in the moonlight, for it was summer-time, when everything looks blue at night and the sun and the moon ride in the sky together. Near by stood my mother, listening.

"Olaf," said my father, "would you like to marry Iduna the Fair?"

"Like to marry Iduna?" I gasped. "Aye, more than to be High King of Denmark, for she is no woman, but a goddess."

At this saying my mother laughed, and Athalbrand, who knew Iduna when she did not seem a goddess, called me a fool. Then they talked, while I stood trembling with hope and fear.

"He's but a second son," said Athalbrand.

"I have told you there is land enough for both of them, also the gold that came with his mother will be his, and that's no small sum," answered Thorvald.

"He's no warrior, but a skald," objected Athalbrand again; "a silly half-man who makes songs and plays upon the harp."

"Songs are sometimes stronger than swords," replied my father, "and, after all, it is wisdom that rules. One brain can govern many men; also, harps make merry music at a feast. Moreover, Olaf is brave enough. How can he be otherwise coming of the stock he does?"

"He is thin and weedy," objected Athalbrand, a saying that made my mother angry.

"Nay, lord Athalbrand," she said; "he is tall and straight as a dart, and will yet be the handsomest man in these parts."

"Every duck thinks it has hatched out a swan," grumbled Athalbrand,


The Wanderer's Necklace - 1/53

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