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- Vandrad the Viking - 28/28 -


"As the years drew on he became a Christian, and followed another God and another creed, and left the world and Viking forays, and came to a little island of the Orkneys with me, his only child. For both my brothers fell in battle, King Estein, and now there are none others left in the feud."

"How do men call you?" said Estein, asking only that he might hear her name again.

"I am Osla, the daughter of Thord the Tall," she answered, drawing herself up with a touch of half defiant pride. "He was the enemy of your family, but a lender-man [Footnote: Nobleman.] of high birth, and a good and noble man."

"Ay?"

"He lived in the island," she went on, "for many years, all alone save for me."

Estein could not keep himself from asking,--

"Alone all the time?"

"All--save once indeed, when a Viking came by chance, but he left shortly," and then she continued hastily: "My father thought often of the burning. Many deeds he had done which he repented of there in the solitude of the Holy Isle. Yet was he not worse than others, only he became a Christian, and so they seemed ill deeds to him."

"Even this burning?" said Estein, a little dryly.

"Think not so harshly of him!" she cried. "He was--he was my father!"

"I ask your pardon, Mistress Osla. Go on."

"At length he fell sick, and in the last of the winter storms he died."

So far Estein had been listening most curiously, wondering much what the upshot of it all would be, and keeping a severe restraint on his tongue. But at Osla's last words he had nearly betrayed himself. He was on the verge of crying out in his natural voice, and when he did speak, it was like a man who is choking over something.

"Then Thord the Tall is dead?"

"He died penitent, King Estein," said Osla. "And he left me a writing--for he had taught me the art of reading on the island-- and with it much silver, or at least it seemed much to me. The writing bade me seek King Hakon."

"Knew he not then of my father's death?"

"He was then alive," she answered; "for the writing further told me what I knew not before, that I had an uncle still alive, or rather whom my father thought was still alive, and first of all I had to seek him. Else should I have come to Sogn in time to see King Hakon."

"What is this uncle's name?"

"He is called Atli, now," she replied, "but--"

"Atli, a brother of Thord the Tall!"

"Know you him?"

"I have seen him," he answered evasively. "Once he came here. But how did you find him? He dwells in distant parts, so men say."

"The writing gave me the direction of one who knew where he could be found, and so I travelled to a far country--Jemtland it is, many days from Sogn. Thus it was that when I came here King Hakon had died."

"And now you seek me?"

"You are his son, and my errand deals with you, for the feuds which were his are now yours," she answered.

For a moment she paused, and seemed to Estein to look doubtfully at him, as if half afraid to go on. Then she drew a bag from under her cloak, held it out to him, and said simply, but not as one who craved a boon or sought a favour,--

"This silver is the price of atonement for the death of Olaf--will you take it?"

He took the bag, weighed it in his hand, and answered slowly,--

"This is a small atonement for a brother's death."

She gave a little start back, her pride stung to the quick, and he heard her breath come fast.

Suddenly he dropped the bag, stepped from under the shadow of the door, and cried in his natural voice,--

"I must have you too, Osla!"

She started this time indeed, and for an instant the shock of surprise took thoughts and words away.

"Vandrad!" she cried faintly, and then she was trembling in King Estein's arms.

"Nay," he said, "no longer Vandrad, but rather Estein the Lucky! Forgive me, Osla, for deceiving you before; but then, in truth, fate had treated me so ill that I cared not to have it known that I was son to the King of Sogn."

A little later he said,--

"So the feud is at an end, and I have found a queen."

"A queen, Estein?" she whispered.

"Ay, a queen, worthy of the proudest King of Sogn. And, Osla, do you know I have seen you since we parted on the Holy Isle? Can you call to mind a Jemtland village where you halted on your journey, and a man whom the villagers pursued?"

"And that--" she cried in astonishment.

"Was Vandrad; and Atli--"

"Is Kolskegg, foster-father of thy brother Olaf," said a voice behind them, and looking quickly round the lovers saw the venerable form of the seer standing within five paces of them.

For a moment they were too surprised to speak, and the old man went on with kindling enthusiasm,--

"Ay, Osla, I followed thee up from the ship, and awaited under the shadow of Hakonstad itself the issue ordained by the gods. King Estein, when thou wert with me I knew not who were the wizard and the witch of the Orkneys. My dreams revealed them not. When Osla came to me that night ye slept in the loft, I hid her coming from thee, for I knew the race of Yngve forget not the injuries of their kin. Nor when I knew all did I tell anything to Osla, for I wished the fates to bring matters to an end as they willed."

"But why did you tell me nothing of yourself?" asked Estein.

"I have said the reason. Thy race have long and bitter memories, and I knew full well that I could not serve thee hadst thou known. Ay, King Estein, long have I wished to come into atonement with thee, but my brother's rash deed--done to avenge what he thought my injuries--brought the blood feud on me. I was banished for mine own fault, thenceforth Thord exiled me for his."

Then raising his voice till it rang through the night, he cried,--

"But now, King Estein, the ship has crossed the seas!"

There was a minute's silence after he had finished, and then the king took Osla by the hand and drew her towards the door, saying,- -

"I wish them to see my queen to-night."

"Let me come to-morrow," she whispered.

"Go in, Osla," said her uncle, "I bid thee," and so she went in with Estein to the hall.

As he led her up to the high seat, dead silence fell on the guests, and all men gazed in growing wonder. Opposite Earl Sigvald he stopped, and throwing back her hood, cried,--

"You will live to see me married yet, jarl. My southern voyage shall be changed into my wedding feast. Behold Osla, Queen of Sogn!"

Before his father had time to reply, Helgi sprang from his seat with a shout, and saluting Osla on the cheek, exclaimed,--

"First of all King Estein's friends I wish you joy! Do you remember the sheep-skin coat? I have not forgotten the maiden. Skoal to Queen Osla!"

Instantly the shout was taken up till the smoky rafters rang and rang again; and so the feud ended, though the spell, they say, was never broken.

THE END.


Vandrad the Viking - 28/28

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