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Fairy Tales Fairies Faery Woodlands Magazine Blog About
Vikings of the Baltic
I. — HOW JOMSBURG AROSE
II. — INSIDE THE BURG
III. — THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL
IV. — KING Harold's burial ale
V. — THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAP AND WHAT
VI. — KING BURISLAP AND HIS DAUGHTERS .
VII. — ASTRIDA's GOOD COUNSEL
VIII.— THE VIKINGS AT KINO BURISLAP'S COURT .
IX.-=-SIGVALD's wooing and KING BURISLAF*8
X. — THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL
XL— KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURG
XIL — THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS HALL
XIIL — HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAP .
XIV. — HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG
XV. — HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED
XVI. — ^THB RIDE TO JOMSBURG 211
XVII. — KING 8WEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK . . 230
XVIIL—BEORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA-ROVING . . . 245
XIX. — THE BURIAL OP THE VIKING .... 25&
XX. — BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO J0M8BURG . . 284
THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC
HOW JOMSBUfiO AROSE.
Now we must go away from this nineteenth
•century, with its manners and customs, its De-
Tastations and Ruperts, and Armstrong and
Palliser guns, far, far away into the North, in
the tenth century, with its bows and arrows and
1)road axes and spears. You do not care to
follow me ? Oh yes, you will ; for this will be
a very amusing story, full of perilous ventures
and hairbreadth escapes, and so utterly different
from your humdrum and everyday existence —
for I will not call it life — that the mere con-
trast must be as refreshing to you as a dose of
. quinine to a fever-stricken man on the Gold
There is no question, therefore, of going or
TOL. I. B
2 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
not going. You are to follow whither I lead
you, and in an instant, quicker even than the^
flash of the electric spark, time and space are
suspended, and you are standing with me within
the walls of Jomsburg, on the east shore of the
Baltic, in the last quarter of the tenth century
of the Christian sera. And now, before the
story begins, do let me beg you to shake off alL
that cant of conventionalities called civilization,
and forgetting all the prejudices which have
been engendered in your nature in all the ages
between this and the tenth century, enter fully
and freely into the life and being of tlie mea
and women whom you are about to meet.
Jomsburg was a castle, that the ending -borg
or -burg implies ; but what was Jom ? I am
afraid the answer must be left in doubt. Whe-
ther it were the name of a man or of a place,,
there in the tenth century stood the castle, not
far from the modern WoUin in Pomerania.
That part of Germany, as we should now call
it, was then held by the Wends, for the most
part a heathen Sclavonic race, whose name
still lingers in the Wends in Lusatia, as well
as in the title which the King of Sweden
HOW JOMSBtjRG AROSE. 8
takes as Lord of "the Goths and Vandals."
The names of the Wendish kings in those
days were very Sclavonic, and very jaw-
breaking. Burislaf is the easiest of them, and
Mieczyslaf not nearly the hardest. In this story
they will trouble us little ; a fact which I an-
nounce with great satisfaction both to my read-
ers and myself. Who can read a tale of fiction
with any comfort out loud when utterance is at-
tended with the probable loss of one's front
teeth ? A very short course of these Wendish
names would turn a man into a confirmed stut-
terer for life. But if we are not to use Wendish
names, how can we write of a Wendish castle ?
Did not Burislaf own it? No, he did not.
He was Lord paramount of Jomsburg indeed,
but quite another race held it, and that was
why the name sounds so easy. Jomsburg was
a castle held by a band of Scandinavian sea-
rovers, who used it as an asylum for themselves
and their ill-gotten or well-gotten goods. They
had seized it and fortified it without the leave of
the Lord paramoimt, who, not being strong
enough to turn the intruders out, did the next
best thing, made friends with them, accepted
4 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
the ' situation, and looked at last on the Joms-
burgers in the light rather of friends than ene-
mies, and as the garrison of a stronghold which
kept off worse enemies. On their part, the sea-
rovers or Vikings forebore to waste or harry the
Wendish lands ; their hands were against every
man but the subjects of the Wendish King, and
so at last they were regarded as friends rather
than foes, and as a source of strength instead of
weakness to the Wendish King.
When we talk of a castle, we are not to rush
off with our fourteenth century notions of a
graceful structure like Carnarvon or Conway.
It was no Edwardian pile that Palnatoki, for
that was the name of their first captain, built
for his Vikings on the Baltic coast. They were
sea-rovers, and as he pushed along the low
sandy Wendish shore, he spied out an inlet in
that tideless sea into which he could always run
his galleys, and which would hold 300 ships.
His first need was a constant depth of water
and a land-locked harbour, and this he found at
Jom or Jomi. All round the inlet he threw a wall
or curtain of cyclopean architecture ; huge ram-
parts more than thirty feet high, and of immense
HOW JOMSBURG AROSE. 5
thickness. Here and there on the wall were
low towers, out of which the garrison could look
landward, though, as we have seen, as time
went on, there was little need to look for an
inland attack. It was from the sea that the
Vikings expected enemies, and the defences at
the mouth of the harbour were very strong. It
was there that the Vaubans of Jomsburg ex-
hausted all their devices. Across the narrow en-
trance, which would only admit one ship at a
tinie, a rude arch was turned, and under it, as
ship followed ship lowering her single mast,
they shot into the smooth water of the haven.
Over this portal was raised the only approach
to a castle which Jomsburg possessed. It was tall
and massive, and shapeless, built out into the sea
on either side of the arch and towering above it
in twa stories. Woe betide the war galley that
tried to forc§ a way into that harbour, the en-
trance to which was further barred by booms
and chains. In that tower were piled up huge
stones, which might be suddenly dropped
through slits in the masonry on the devoted
vessel, as soon as she had reached the arch.
Within these Cyclopean walls the rovers or Vi-
6 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
kings of that famous free company, the condoU
tieri of the sea, lived in the wooden houses of
the time, when they were not skimming the
western waters in quest of booty and renown.
They had arisen out of the turbulence of the
time. Old things were passing away in the
North, and the new were not yet established ;
the ancient respect for the royal families and
petty princes of the Scandinavian kingdoms was
waning, and in the attempt to establish dynas-
ties the Kings of Denmark, Sweden, and Nor-
way had abandoned for the most part the duty
of leading their adventurous youth to expedi*
tions by sea. They were too busy at home to
care any longer for the harvest of the waves.
The age of Ragnar Lodbrog was over, and the
system of Harold Fairhair was yet in its infancy.
The northern kingdoms were slowly taking con-
stitutional shape and settling do\pL into a new
form ; but all over the north the old sea-roving
spirit still burned in many bosoms with a fierce
flame, and when their natural leaders failed
them, free bands of Vikings arose, of which this
famous company at Jomsburg was at once the
foremost and most famous. These political
HOW JOMSBURG AROSE. 7
'Causes were disturbing enough to throw the
time out of gear and joint, but at the end of the
tenth century a new root of discord was added,
in those germs of the Christian behef, which,
first sown by the Emperor Otho in Denmark,
gradually spread over the whole North, but not
without years of obstinate struggles and frequent
So now we have arrived at some notion of
Jomsburg and the Jomsburgers. It was a
stronghold held with the tacit leave of the
Wendish King, by a mighty band of free-
booters, or Vikings, as they were then called.
But we should much mistake the feelings which
filled their breasts, and the ties which bound
them together, if we imagined them to be a
mere mass of vulgar pirates, only fit to be exe-
vcuted at the yard-arm. They were sea-rovers,
because sea-roving was an honourable profession ;
just as much so as war in modern times, and
this story will at least show that the Viking of
the tenth century not only swept the seas and
•carried all before him, but that his career was
. .full of ambition and of high enterprise.
Nor was it a band into which any warrior or
S THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
sea-rover might be enrolled for the asking..
Very strict and searching were the enquiries in^
each case before admission to the band was
allowed, and very stem were the conditions of
remaining in it. In these respects it might bo
called a competitive examination, by which the
way was opened to Jomsburg and the ranks of
the sea-rovers recruited. No man might be older
than thirty or younger than eighteen on ad-
mission. No one might stay in the company:
who yielded to a warrior equipped with the same
arms as himself. Every man who entered was
bound to make a solemn vow to avenge each of
the others as he would his messmate or his own
brother. No man was to slander one of the
band, or to spread any news till its publication
WHS sanctioned by the captain of the band. If
he did so he was at once expelled. Even in the
case of the paramount duty of that age, the
sacred obligation to avenge a blood relation, if
two such natural enemies met in the company, the
captain was to settle what atonement should be
made in money, and then the blood feud was to
abate. All the spoil which the band took was to be
shared in common, and if sold, sold for the good
HOW JOMSBURG AROSE. 9*
of all. If anyone was convicted of holding any-
thing back he was to be at once expelled ; and if
in any trouble or contest anyone so far forgot
himself as to utter a word of complaint or fear,
he was regarded as a coward and forced to leave^
the company. All admissions were to be decided
by the valour and prowess of the applicant, and
no considerations of kinship or favour were to
be listened to. Last and not least, no one waa
to be absent from the castle longer than three^
nights without the captain's leave, and na
woman was ever to be admitted into it.
Such were the articles of agreement under
which the Vikings of Jomsburg, at once the
terror and glory of the North, had been founded;
and under these the band, which went out every
summer to harry, returning in the winter to
divide and enjoy their spoil, had won itself a
name for prowess and hardihood, until it
numbered amongst the brotherhood the boldest
warriors of the North and West, and its name
was synonymous with all that the Scandinavian
race had to boast of in daring and renown.
INSIDE THE BURG.
Now we are inside the burg. Below us is
the land-locked harbour filled with the long-ships
•of the band. Behind us are the huge rough
walls, and before us the loghouses built of timber
•of roughly squared fir-trees, in which the rank
and file of the Vikings dwelt. Out of one of
them appear close to us two of the band, one a
man long passed fifty, and the other a lad, tall
and strong, indeed, but whose youthful face
hardly shows the eighteen summers which were
needed for his election to the band. On all
sides are groups of stalwart warriors, some
tarring or painting their ships, some cleaning or
polishing their arms. These are the axe, the
bow, the sword, and the spear ; except a steel hat
or two, and very rarely a " byrnie ^^ or shirt of
linked mail, we see no defensive armour but the
^shield of oblong shape running down into a
INSIDE THE BURG. 11
point. Making allowance for the change of
times, the scene is not unlike the noise and
hum of a modern dockyard.
We forgot to say that all round the wall,
though at long intervals, stood sentinels, who,
like those of our own time, spent their time
idly for years, that they might be ready to give
the alarm when some danger arose, and which
in all probability would never come. Over the
arch at the mouth of the haven stood a warder,
with his horn ready to sound a blast of warning
should any stranger approach the castle from the
sea. But let us listen to what the two warriors
nearest to us say.
" I tell you, foster-child,'^ said the older man,
^Hhat this will never be for the good of the
band. What would your grandfather, our
founder, have said of such things ? I say it
again, the company is on the way to ruin. The
laws should not be broken.'^
" They were broken when I came among you,'*
«aid the younger, " and you break them now,
Beorn, when you speak against the captain."
" Broken, indeed," said Beorn, looking at the
lad with pride. "Broken, indeed, when you
12 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
came among us. Did you not come here in your
grandsire's time, just before he died, and did he
not refuse to let you enter the band because you
were too young ? and did you not challenge our
new captain Sigvald, him whom we now have,
to single combat, outside the harbour, with two-
ships and one hundred picked men on each side I
and did not Sigvald at last turn on his heel and
fly before you ? and then, did not all the band
who, with your grandsire, looked on from the
walls, declare that, though only sixteen, you were
man enough for us when you could make one of
our bravest warriors turn and fly ? and so you
were chosen to be one of us. That was breaking
the law, it is true, and it is always bad to break
the law ; but this which our new captain Sigvald
is going to do is breaking it in a worse way.
If women once come within the castle, there is
an end of Jomsburg and the Vikings.
" How do you know, foster-father, that the
Captain has such things in his heart ? One may
know that a girl is lovely, and feel it, without
bringing her into the Castle."
" Now, Vagn, my foster-child," said the old man
with a chuckle, " you are thinking of that cruise
INSIDE THE BUKG. 13
•of ours last summer to " the Bay " in Norway,
-when we harried Thorkell of Leira's land, and
•carried off his cattle and goods. You are think-
ing of Ingibeorg, that lovely lass whom we met
in the wood the day we landed, and whom
you would have carried off, only the law is, as
the law ought to be, that no woman shall set
her foot in Jomsburg, and so it ought to
be. Vikings should have naught to do with
While Beorn was growling out these disre-
spectful things against the fair sex, a blush spread
over the fair face of the young warrior, and it
was easy to see from the mantling hue that he
had not forgotten that fair Norwegian maiden.
All he said was :
*' We could not carry her off except to sell her
as a slave, and that would have been too great
an indignity even for the proud Thorkell ; but
enough of that. I say again, foster-father, what
makes you say that the Captain is going to break
the law ? ''
" One of these Wendish fellows told me,*' said
the old man ; " whether he were heathen or
Christian I know not, but he said that the
14 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Captain had sent word to King Burislaf that he
wished to marry his daughter."
" Marry his daughter," burst out Vagn.
" Then, if the Captain marries his daughter, the
rest of the band might marry/'
" And if they did, what would happen? " said
the old Viking violently. "The castle would
be filled with screaming women and squalling
children. The good old Viking times are over, you
know ; you can't spit a baby now on a spear, or
get rid of it in that way. We should all quarrel.
The castle would be filled with gossip and
slander. Tale-bearing would follow child-bear-
ing. There will be no comfort, no peace ; we
shan't even be able to get our meals in
" They would save us trouble in cooking," said
'* Cooking!" retorted Beorn. "My Welsh
thrall Griffin will cook against all the women in
the world, as you know well. But there's no
use talking of it, foster-child ; if the Captain
breaks the law, there's an end to the glory of
As he said this, two men came up to them ;
INSIDE THE BURG. IS
\)oth of commanding presence, and one tall be-
yond the stature of men.
" The glory of Jomsburg, Beorn," said the
shorter of the two. " I hope the glory of Joms-
burg will always be as great under my rule as
under that of our founder Palnatoki. Nay !
that it will be greater."
" Never praise the day, Sigvald, till it is over,^'
said Beom. " You are our Captain, and a brave
one, but your rule is not over like that of Palna-
toki. He is dead and gone, and he ever led us
to victory and kept the law."
** Except when he broke it, Beorn," said the
Captain, for it was he, as he pointed to Vagn
with his axe.
"I wish," said Beorn, " that no one may ever
break it for a worse cause. Sometimes, as the
saw says, laws are made to be broken."
*' So they are, Beorn," said the taller of the
two, and I am sure my brother will never break
them except for the common good."
"Tall as Yggdrasil's Ash^ fair of face, glib of
tongue, and strong as a bear," said Beorn. " So
you are, and so you will ever be Thorkell the
Tall ; but for all that, you never will lay your
16 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
tones in Jomsburg. That I can spae, without
asking either the Christian God or Thorgerda
Shrinebride, Earl Hacon's idol/'
« Why so, Beorn ? "
" Because you are too easy and yielding," said
the veteran. " There is not a man among us
who can reach farther with his axe ; at one sweep
of your sword men fly asunder, shorn through
the middle, their head one way and their heels
the other ; with your bow, so long as your arrows
last, you could keep off a host. The only man
we have seen like you in these waters is the
Icelander Gunnar of Lithend; but for all that you
are too easily led astray. The Captain's brother,
you ought to see that the laws of the company
"Come, Beorn,'' said Sigvald, "can you say
that the company was ever so strong? last sum-
«ner our war-snakes swarmed on the waters of the
West. Thralls from Ireland, maids from Scotland ,
mead and cloth and honey from England, wine
from France and Spain — have we not all these
in Jomsburg ? Had we ever more gallant men
ov braver ships ? Is not Burislaf both afraid of
•us and proud of us. Afraid, lest we should
INSIDE THE BURG. 17
become his foes, and proud of us as his
" Burislaf/^ growled out Beorn in disgust, more
like the bear after which he was called than a
"Why Burislaf?'' asked Thorkell, imitating
the growl in a way which made all the rest but
" Because I hate Burislaf and all his kin and
race/' said the old Viking. " First of all I hate
to be at peace with any man or any thing, and
we are always at peace with Burislaf. Our
hands ought to be against every man, and ours
are never against him. He lets us bide here in
this asylum, and his bards call us his vassals.'*
" Vassals ! *' exclaimed the Captain. " Vas-
sals ! Pretty vassals who seized a town and
held it against all comers, and a pretty liege
lord who never dare come into his own town.
We Vikings are King Burislaf s friends, and ho
is our friend. He loves us because no foes ever
dare invade his coast so long as we hold Joms*
burg, but we do not hold it of King Burislaf. It
is our good swords that are our liege lords.'*
'* Bravely spoken, and well spoken,'* said
18 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Beorn ; " but what I said to my foster-chilcF
Vagn here, I will say out boldly to you Captain,
It is true that we were never stronger. Never,
ever in the days of Palnatoki my foster-brother,
was Jomsburg so full of spoil. It is not that.
We are too prosperous perhaps ; but it is the
law that gets weaker among us, and by law, that
is by our Viking law, was this famous fellow-
ship founded, and by law will it be upheld.'*
** And is it not upheld ? '^ asked Sigvald.
" No it is not — not as it used to be," said
Beorn. " Men sleep out of the burg of nights
with your leave, sometimes a whole week at a
time, visiting their friends in the country rounds
as if a Viking ought to have any friends except
his brothers in arms."
" When Palnatoki came and seized this haven
and threw a wall around it," said Sigvald, " the
land was waste for miles and miles. Not a
^nan lived in marsh and wood, for this haven
had been for ages the haunt and lair of all the
Vikings of the Baltic side. None left the burg
because in all the country round there was
not a soul to be seen. But here the old saw
"las come to be true, ^ Set a thief to catch a thief.^
INSIDE THE BURG. 19
. I Now that Jomsburg is a place of strength,
both to Burislaf and ourselves, his people have
huilt them houses, and broken up the woods and
marshes into farms and homesteads. They sleep
peacefully under the shadow of these walls, for
what Viking band, or what King in all the
North would dare to harry or lay waste those
whom we shield with our arms. That, Beorn,
is why we have, not broken, but relaxed the
law. A leather thong may stretch and be as
good as ever again, but break it and its use is
gone for ever, and so it is with the law. Palna-
toki suflfered no one to go out of the Castle for
more than three nights, for if any man was to
be found near us he was an enemy ; now the
land is filled with the smiUng faces of our friends,
to whom we sell our wheat and meal and thralls
and all our fair female slaves. No harm can
come of visiting those who owe so much to us.
"Break the law in one thing," said Beorn,
*'and you break it in all;" and then looking
sternly at Sigvald, he said, " Next we shall have
women in the burg, and Captains married/'
And why not 1 " asked Thorkell.
Why not," repeated Beorn; "with that
20 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
question goes another of our laws. When we
take to asking why women should not be in
Jomsburg, and why Captains should not be
married, I foresee the ruin of Jomsburg.
" Was not Palnatoki married himself ? " asked
Sigvald ^^and were not you married in your
own country, Beorn the Welshman ? '^
" It is true," said Beorn, " that my foster-
brother Palnatoki, our founder, was married.
Here is Vagn, his lawful grandchild, to prove
that, but Palnatoki had no wife when he
founded Jomsburg ; and as for mine, she was
dead and gone in Wales, even before he and I
mingled our blood, and passed under the sod of
turf, and became foster-brothers. What I said
before, I say still. No Viking, Captain or com-
mon man should be married. Marriage is the
root of all evil in the band ; and when wives
come into the burg at one gate our glory will
depart from us at the other."
As the old Viking was so stubborn, neither
Sigvald nor Thorkell cared to stay any longer
to continue the discussion, but left Vagn and
Beorn to themselves.
As they parted, Sigvald said to Beorn, " You
INSIDE THE BURG. 21
y^Va be iu your seat in the hall this eyening,
messmate^ I have news which I wish to share
with all the Captains of the band/^
"News," said Beorn* *^No news is good
news," says the old saw. " If it were an autumn
cruise to England to harry Etlielred's land, it
would be another thing ; or to Norway against
Earl Hacon, or even to Denmark against my old
comrade Sweyn, the son of the seamstress, that
would be news indeed ; news such as we had in
olden days ; but this news, I'll bet my best broad
axe, will be only some soft words from Burislaf,
whose messenger, as I told you, has been in the
burg, and, like a leaky pot, has already let fall the
purport of his message, and that is, our Captain
Sigvald thinks of breaking the law and taking
to him a wife."
" Tell me, foster-brother," said Vagn, " how
the vessel came to leak ; how did you crack it
and make it yield its liquor V
'* Not as I would have wished," said Beorn,
**by giving him a knock on his shaven pate.
I hate these monks, whom Burislaf sends
always telling what they call their beads, always
pattering their paternosters ; if they sing, singing
22 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
doleful strains ; quite unlike Einar Scaleclang,
or Gunnlaug Snaketongue, How Egill, the son
Grim-Baldpate, would ha.ye laughed at their
music. And then that choking stuff which they
How much longer Beorn would have gone on
in this abuse of monks, no one can tell, had not
Vagn checked him by asking :
"But the message, the news, foster-father?
How did you get the mead out of the flask if
you did not crack it by a blow ? "
"By pouring in the mead itself. That fine
strong English mead which you and I got as part
of our spoil when last summer we threw in our lot
with Olaf Tryggvi's son, and harried Sussex,
while Ethelred the unready fled before us.''
"I have heard," said Vagn, "that monks
drink no ale or wine. How then did Burislaf 's
priest drink mead 1"
" You had better ask him that question when
3^ou next see him in the Captain's hall," said
Beorn ; " I can only tell you what he told me
before he departed, ' Mead,' he said, * was not
ale, and it was not wine. Both these he was
forbidden to drink, but mead he was not,*
INSIDE THE BURG. 23
^nd then he sate him down and drank stoup
after stoup of the rich amber drink, and the end
was that it took hold of him, and he spoke, and
he told me that Burislaf's message to the
Captain was, that if Sigvald would come and see
him, they would see whether he should have
Astrida to wife/'
" The Captain has a quick eye for beauty,"
said Vagn, '^ for if fame speaks truth, Astrida
is by far the fairest of all King Burislaf 's
daughters. But Sigvald must have first asked
for her hand, if Burislaf has sent that answer.
Who bore the offer to the King ; a bird of the
air or a fish of the sea ? '^
"Not so," said Beorn, bitterly, "but a worm
of the earth. Another of these monks whom
Otho the Emperor sent to Sigvald a while ago.
Don^t you mind his in-coming and out-going ? ^'
"Yes,'' said Vagn, "but I thought the
Emperor sent him to say that it would be good
for Sigvald's soul if he and all the band were
turned into Christians, and forswore the old
faith, if any of them still clung to it."
"True enough, boy," said Beorn, "and the
'<]!aptain said he thanked the Emperor much for
2* THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
the care be took of the souls of the company^,
but that he and they trusted rather in their own
good swords and stout ships and stalwart arms,
than in anything else. We had most of* us-
shaken off the fetters of the old faith, and were-
not so anxious to be fettered anew ; and so the^
shaveling shook the dust oflF his feet, as he called,
it, and went on his way, telling his beads, and
singing his doleful ditties ; but for all that he-
bore a message to Burislaf, and it was that
Sigvald would be willing to wed his daughter.
CHAPTER III. _ _
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL.
Now we are in the Vikings' hall, a long
building, with a high pitched roof, and lighted,
along each side with a row of slits, too narrow
for entrance, and too high to be reached very
easily from the ground. At the end of each
side of the building was a door, the gable ends
being blank, and without door or window, and
these two narrow doors were the only means of
entrance or exit. Inside each door was another
gate, or rather grate, through which an incomer
had to make his way. After he had got so far,.
he turned right or left into the spacious hall.
In the middle, in the winter time, blazed great,
fires of huge logs, the smoke from which made
its way out of louvres at the top of the roof..
All along the hall, on either side, ran a row of
benches, and in the middle, on each side, were,
two high-seats, one for the Captain, and over
^6 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
against him that for his lieutenant, or second in
command. On either side of the Captain sat
the bravest and oldest of the band, their seats
varying in dignity as they approached the doors
on each side. This was the order on the
Captain's or chief side, and the same prece-
dence was observed on the opposite benches. The
benches were not so far apart on either side
that everything said or done could not be seen
or heard by those who sat over against them.
When meat was served, shifting tables, formed
of boards supported on trestles, were borne
in, and when the rude meal was over the
thralls bore them away, and serious drinking,
which was the business of the evening, began.
Then it was that the Chief, rising in his seat,
and holding out his horn of ale or mead,
solemnly pledged the lieutenant opposite to him,
•draining the horn. The Lieutenant then rose
in his turn, and pledged the Captain, whose
•example was followed by the Chief on his right
hand, who pledged him that sate on the Lieu-
tenant's right. Next in order came the sitter
on the King's left hand, who went through the
same toast with the sitter on the Lieutenant's
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 27
left, and so the horn passed on, going across
the hall from right to left, till every man had
pledged him that sate opposite to him. It is
curious that this very order of drinking healths
in the loving-cup is still retained in civic feasts
in England, with the addition, unknown to the
earliest times, that the guests on either side of
him that drinks the toast rise, as he drains the
bowl, that they may guard his throat against
treachery as he drinks.
As we enter the Vikings' hall, which was
arranged generally in the same way as every hall
royal or simple in those days, the tables have
been removed, and the toasts and pledges are in
progress, when the festivities are interrupted by
a thrall, who played the part of master of the
ceremonies, who passed up the middle of the
hall and, standing before the Captain, called out
in a loud voice —
*' A messenger from King Burislaf
*' He is welcome,'' said Sigvald. " We are ready
to hear his message ; after that, let him have an
honourable seat and drink his fill."
In strode the messenger, clad in a dark blue
Idrtle, red breeks, brown woollen hose, and
28 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
high shoes with long laces which were wound
crosswise high up the legs below the knee. Iiv
his hand he bore an axe with a long haft, not un-
like the medieval halbert, and at his side he was
girt with a short sword.
Bending before Sigvald he said :
*'I bear a message from King Burislaf,
Captain. Wilt thou hear it now ? "
" It is never too soon to listen to the words of
a friend," said Sigvald; *' utter your message at
once, and let us all hear it."
*' King Burislaf bids you welcome,*' said the
messenger, "and asks you to come to him*
speedily to see him, that he may take counsel
" It is well," said Sigvald. " We will consider of
it and give you an answer* Meantime tell us-
your name, and say where you parted from the
" My name," said the messenger, " is Gangrel
Speedifoot, and I have come hither in one day
from Stargard, where I left King Burislaf in his.
"Speedifoot in truth," said Sigvald, "King
Burislafs messengers do not let the grass-
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 29
grow under their feet ; forty miles and more is
well run in a day. And now Beorn the Welsh-
man make room for Gangrel Speedifoot between
you and your foster-child Vagn ; make him
merry to-night, and see that he is not stinted in
mead. To-morrow morning he shall bear our
answer to King Burislaf "
Again the messenger bowed low before the
Oaptain, and then turning away took his seat
between Beorn and Vagn.
*' Tis ill jesting, they say, with a thirsty man,'*
-said the old Viking, " but I know 'tis just as ill
to talk with him till he has quenched his thirst."
As he said this he held out to him a huge
liorn full of mantling English mead, and wished
him a good errand and a safe return to King
Slowly the messenger raised the horn to his
dips, holding it out at arm's length, and throwing
>back his head as he drank.
As he did this, Beorn said to Vagn :
" See how deftly he drains it without spilling
a drop. 'Tis not the first time he has supped
mead. See how the tail of the horn goes up
^and up in the air, for all the world like Thor
• . ■
80 THE VIKINGS OF THE BAL/TJC. J ^ ^*
when he tried to drink the sea dry in thd^^ii of
At last the outstretched arm dropped, the
horn sank slowly down, and with a deep breath
followed by a grunt of satisfaction, Gangrel
Speedifoot handed back the horn to Beorn, who
peered into it, and said :
" Well drunk indeed, Gangrel, and never a
drop left. Is that the way you Wends always
" I am no Wend," said the messenger. " If
I were, my name would be 'Mystislaf,' or
* Myeckzyslaf,' or some other ' laf ' No ! I come
from the Low Countries between the Waal and
Ehine, and as I have just drunk we all drink
" I might have known that,'' said Beorn, " by
your name, which means a wanderer, and which,
here in the North, we should call ' Gangrad ' or
' Gangler/ The first Gangrel was the great god
Odin, whom all the North used to believe in.
Many is the story which tells how he walked over
this middle-earth shrouded in a loose cloak and a
broad flapping hat to search into the ways bf.inen.
And you, too, have seen much in your time and
A THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 31
passed on your speedy feet through many
" Have you any more of that rare English
mead 1 '' asked Gangrel with a chuckle. " How
it takes hold of a man. My feet already feel it.
Let me drain another horn, and then I will tell
you whence I came and whither I have been.'^
*'I have always heard that you Flemings
were great drinkers," said Beorn, " and at home
in Wales there are some of us mighty over the
mead and the ale-horn ; but your horn holds
good measure, and if you drained it all to your
own share you might not be able to tell your
story. Besides, our way of drinking is to drink
half and half with one's neighbour. See the
horn is cut in half inside by a peg. Half belongs
to thee and half to me." Then calling out to
one of the thralls, " here lad, fill up the horn
again with English mead and bear it to Gangrel
Speedifoot the King's messenger.''
The horn was brought, when Beorn took it
and said :
" I will teach thee how to drink in Viking
Then he slowly raised the tail of the horn in
32 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
air as Gangrel had done ; but when it was half
up he suddenly checked his hand and threw
down the horn with a sudden jerk, which made
the mead foam half way down the horn, but
without spilling a drop.
" There ! '' said Beorn ; " that's how we drink.
But maybe you will think it not worth while to
drain the little drop that is left, though it is at
least a quart after our measure.^'
" Two things I have learned on my travels,"
said the messenger, " one, to be content with the
half when I cannot get the whole ; the other, to
do as the folk do with whom I happen to be.
At home we should think it a scurvy thing to
drink half a horn of mead. Our horns are always
filled to the brim, and we drain them to the
last drop. Here you pledge each other half and
half, and it is not a bad custom if one gets halves
enough to make up many wholes. But I have
been worse off than this, for when I was in
Byzance, which you Northmen call Mickle-garth,
the town of towns, I have been with folk who
never touched one drop of wine or ale or mead,,
and yet said they did very well without
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 33
^* And what, then, did they drink at their feasts
and over the fire at Yule/' asked Beorn.
"In those lands," said Gangrel Speedifoot,
*' there is no Yule and no fires, and what that
folk drink is what we never see at our feasts
— either here or in Flanders — water."
" Water,^' groaned out Beorn ; " water ! Here,
boy, fill up this horn again with mead. Gangrel
Speedifoot, say that over again ! Travellers like
you see many strange things and tell many
strange stories ; but who ever heard of water at
a feast ? ''
" It is as I said," said Gangrel ; " believe it
or not, as you choose. When I was among the
Varangians, in the Great Emperor's service, we
went east to a land between two mighty rivers,
and there the folk believed in a prophet, and
drank no wine or ale or mead ; and if one went
into their tents and asked for a drink they gave
you water in an earthen vessel."
" It is many years," said Beorn, sententiously,
" since I had a drop of water in my mouth, ex-
cept it was river-water or sea-water when a
wave broke over my ship, and then, so help me
both Odin and the white Christian God, and
34 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
all the gods of all the creeds, I always spat it
out again. How can these folk fight or sing or
live at all if their blood is not stirred by ale or
mead ? "
" They not only sing and live and fight," said
Gangrel, " but they do all three well. Many and
many of your Northern Varangians have bitten
the dust after a flight of their bitter arrows.
Never saw I such bowmen as those water-
drinkers, or such lithe sinewy men."
" And all on water," muttered Beorn. " Well !
well ! the water in those lands must be stronger
than the rivers and streams in these northern
lands. Maybe the sun shining on it all the year
round puts life and spirit into it. But not here
— not in Wales nor in Flanders could men live
on water alone."
" The birds and beasts and fish and monks
do," said Gangrel.
" Ay ! ay 1 " said Beorn, " but man, a real
man, I mean, is, thank all the gods, not a bird or
a beast or a fish or a monk. That's just what
I say. What does a man live for but to fight ?
When he dies, our old faith says, he will go on
fighting all day, and feasting and drinking in
THE VIKIXGS IX THEIB HALL. oo
Valhalla for ever at night 3Ionks do not
fight, they pray both here and hereafter, but a
real man must drink strong drink. Xow, lad !
why so slow in filling up that horn 1 "
The horn came, the old toper drank his
share, and Oaugrel finished it with a smack of
*' Now, Beom,'' he said, " I have told you of
the land where there is no Yule and no snow,
and where the folk Uve and fight well on naught
but water. You drain your horn like a man, but
you have done much beside drink in your life.^'
" Why ask for an old story ? " broke in
Vagn, who up to this time had sat still and
listened. "All the world knows that for forty
years at least Beorn the Welshman has fed the
ravens, the yellow-footed kites, and the grey
"True as steel, I daresay,^' said Gangrel
Speedifoot ; " that is, true of all the northern
world, but the world has other parts, and for
many years I have been away from it, and have
not heard of Beorn's brave deeds.'^
" Would you like another half horn 1 '' asked
Beorn. '* I find it helps the memory. Perhaps,
36 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
then, I might tell you one bit of my life. Kc|
out of boasting, but as something in which
shared, though the chief glory was with m^
foster-brother, Palnatoki, the founder of thi»
gallant company/' \
" 'Tis never too late or too early for good 1
drink," said Gangrel; "though I have beea \
among the water-drinkers and did as they did, i
because I could not help it, I am ever ready 1
for a horn of stinging ale or mead, and it is all I
the better if it clears the throat for a good story 1
which deserves to live for ever. So up with the 1
horn and out with the story ; the night is still 1
young, and the fires blaze fiercely, and all round *
the hall runs wassail and song, man pledging
man, and cheering his neighbour. Yes, yes, by
all the gods, save those of the water-drinkers,
another horn of mead !"
The mead came and was soon despatched.
Then Beorn cleared his throat, and said :
" You have heard of King Harold Bluetooth,
the father of King Sweyn, the son of the
seamstress, the King of Denmark that now is 1 "
" I have heard of him in my youth, before I
left your land for the East," said Gangrel ; " but
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 37
what he did and how he died is more than I can
" Then hear how he died and how we ; drank
his funeral ale ; as for his life, he was a bad, un-
just king, and the less said of him the better.
At the end of his days he had one son left,
Sweyn, the son of the seamstress, whom Palna-
toki fostered and brought up. It so happened
that King Harold would never own him to be
his son, though all the world knew it as plain as
day, and the end of it was that from words that
father and son fell to blows, and Palnatoki of
course sided with his foster-child. It also hap-
pened that Palnatoki had to go west one
summer to see after a little kingdom which he
had won in Wales. There it was that I became
his foster-brother ; but of that I will say naught.
While Palnatoki was away. King Harold got
the better of his son, and at last caught him in
a cleft stick, that is, he shut him up with his
ships in an inlet like this of ours before we built
the castle ; and more than that, he was strong
enough to land with a band of his men on either
side of the inlet while his ships lay in a double
Une across the haven's mouth. Do you c^xynj
38 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
it ia your head, or is the mead too strong for
you ? ''
" I carry it all in my head just as well as I
carry the mead/' was the reply.
"Very well," said Beorn. "Then I go on
to say that on the very night that all this hap-
pened, Sweyn's good luck, or the will of the gods,
brought Pfilnatoki back from Wales, and we
pulled up in the dark to a little bay not a mile
from where the two fleets lay. Though they
knew nothing of us, we had heard from some
fishermen in the, Sound that the King and
Sweyn were at loggerheads on the Swedish
shore. So being forewarned we were fore-
armed, and Palnatoki soon found out that
Sweyn was hemmed* in, and that between him
and his foster-child lay King Harold and his
" As soon as our ship was safely moored, he
said to me, * Foster-brother, hast thou a mind
to land with me to see how the land lies. If
Sweyn is to be saved at all, he must be
saved to-night. To-morrow it will be too
late ! '
" * How he is to be saved to-night, when it is
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 39
too dark to fight, I cannot see/ I said ; * but if
you like, we will land/
" So we landed, taking with us our axes and
shields, and Palnatoki, who was the best
bowman in the North, worth a hundred of your
water-drinkers, had his bow and arrows. Well,
we had not gone^ more than a mile across the
wooded hill that skirted the shore, when we
fiaw among the trees a great fire of logs, and
men standing and sitting round it, for it was
already past the first winter-night, and the
weather was cold.
" * These be some of the King's men, foster-
brother,' said Palnatoki ; ' let us go closer to
" So we crept up to them among the trees. It
was an easy task ; they could not see us, but
they stood out clear to us before the fire, and as
for hearing us, the wind blew and the flames
crackled and roared so that we could have stolen
close up to them unawares. But we had no need
to do so. When we were half a bow-shot, it may
be, oflf, my foster-brother whispered to me :
" ' This is a royal hunt indeed ! It is the King
himself I '
40 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" Yes ! it was the King : there he stood, with
a steel cap on his head, round which was a fillet
of gold, and a-top of it a golden boar ; and just
then he turned his face towards us, lifted up
the lappets of his mantle, and warmed himself
over the blazing logs.
" ' This is how I save Sweyn,' said Palnatoki,
as he fitted an arrow to his bowstring. In
another moment loud sang the string as the
arrow sped on its way, and in another down
fell King Harold, stricken dead by the great
marksman. There among the blazing logs he
lay sprawling, while his chiefs swarmed round
him ; but it was all no good. King Harold
Bluetooth lay dead, slain by an arrow, and none
could tell who had launched the shaft.
"As for us, we two turned and went back
to our ships.
" ' I knew,^ said Palnatoki, ' that something
was in the wind, my nose itched so as we
went along. But not a word, foster-brother,
of this to any one. Sweyn is saved. I will
send word to-night to him to try to break out
of the inlet to-morrow morning at early dawn,
while we row up and attack the King's men
THE VIKINGS IN THEIR HALL. 41
in the rear. Then it will be they, and not
Sweyn, who will find themselves in a cleft
stick, and we will not let them out of it until
the whole host has acknowledged my foster-
child as lawful King of Denmark/
" To make a long story short,'' said Beorn^
''the King's host were thrown into confusion
and dismay by his sudden death, and next
morning, with little or no bloodshed, Denmark
had a young king, the King Sweyn that now is,
instead of the old King Harold Bluetooth.
That is the first fitte of my story, and if you
wish to hear the rest, say the word and we'll
drain another horn of mead before we finish
"With all my heart," said Gangrel Speedi-
foot ; " I like the story almost as well as I like
"Ho! boy!" bawled Beorn, "another horn
of mead for King Burislaf 's messenger."
KING Harold's burial ale.
After that last horn Beorn took breath
and went on.
"As soon as Sweyn was jBrmly set up as
King, Pahiatoki went back to his kingdom in
Wales, and left his son, this Vagn's father
here, to manage his estates in Denmark, which
he had got back with the new King. I do not
know how it is with you in Flanders, Gangrel,
but here in the North no man, from the King
on the throne to the lowest freeman in his
cottage, is thought to have entered fully on
his rights, and to have done his sacred duty
by the dead till he has drunk what we call
his heir of heirship, or funeral ale, and held a
high feast in his father's hall in honour of his
"We have no such custom in Flanders,"
said Gangrel ; " but there we are always drink-
KING Harold's burial ale. 43
ing ale in our own honour. In this respect a
father's death makes no difference ; the son
takes his land and goods, and drinks ale and
mead just as before/'
" Not so with us/' said Beorn. " It makes
no odds with us whether a father and son have
been at daggers drawn when they were alive ;
if within three years the son has not drunk his
ale of heirship, he is looked on as a ' niddering '
and a dastard, and no true son of his father.
Now, as I have told you, there was no love
lost between that father and son. Harold
would have slain Sweyn, and Sweyn Harold ;
but when Harold was dead, Sweyn could not
be his lawful heir till he had held that feast.
That is one of our customs ; and we have
another too, which no doubt you also have, for
it runs all the world over. I daresay your
water-drinkers have it too. This is what we
call the blood-feud, and by it Sweyn was
bound to avenge his father's death on the man
who had slain him.''
" We have that custom," said the Fleming,
"and the water-drinkers have it too. But if
Sweyn owed so much to Palnatoki, and was
44 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
his foster-child as well, perhaps he might have
taken an atonement/'
" You neither know our customs nor Sweyn's
nature/' said Beorn ; " but hear my story out.
All this time, you must know, not a soul but
Palnatoki and I knew that it was Palnatoki's
arrow that had slain the King ; at least, we
thought no one knew it. But for all that, when
Palnatoki was safe away west in Wales he did
not seem so eager to return to Denmark to be
present at that funeral ale. Three times in
three following years did King Sweyn send and
bid him to the feast, and once did Palnatoki say
that he was ill, and could not come, and once
that his father-in-law had died, and therefore
he could not come. As the King could not, or
would not, hold the feast without his foster-
father, he put it off twice ; but he was angry at
it, and so, when the third year came, he sent
so hot a message that Palnatoki made up his
mind to go, and said he would not fail to be in
the King's hall at Slesvig by a certain day in
autumn. Well, as I said before, to make a
long story short, we launched three brave ships,
manned by one hundred men, and though the
KING Harold's burial ale. 45
way was long and the weather bad, we reached
our haven the very day that the feast was to
be held. Whether it were chance, or whether
this was Palnatoki's purpose I cannot say, but
so it was ; we did not reach the Slei till it
was well-nigh dark. Then we laid up our
ships close to the shore in deep water, and
we turned their prows out to the sea, and we
laid the oars ready in the rowlocks, and we
left a man or two to mind them. Some of us
thought all this odd, but I did not, for I was in
the secret and knew what was passing in my
foster-brother's mind. All the rest obeyed and
said nothing, as true sailors ought.
"Well, our haven was close to the King's
hall, but it was so near a thing, that when we
got into the hall the King and his men were
all hard at drink ; still so sure was he that we
would come that he had kept seats on the
bench over against him for one hundred men.
Right glad was he to see us, and many were
the greetings that passed between him and his
foster-father. So there we sat and drank and
were merry, and never had there been such an
ale of heirship in Denmark before, no, not even
46 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
for Gorm the Old, when he and Queen Thyra
died. But it was not to end well, for you
must know that Palnatoki had a brother named
Feolner, who had ever been against him, and
who had been King Haro.ld's counsellor. There
was no love lost between him and Palnatoki,.
and we all thought it a bad sign when we saw
that he was in high favour with King Sweyn,
and sat next him at the feast.
" At last, just when the mirth and revelry
were at their height, and the ale and mead
began to speak in men, Feolner leant back and
said something in the King's ear, and all at
once he grew as red as blood, and seemed to
swell all over with rage. Then up rose a man,
one of the King's candlebearers, and stood
before the King, and Feolner handed him an
arrow on which a golden thread was twisted in
the feathering, and said out loud, so that all
could hear —
"'Bear this arrow round the hall, and ask
every man if he knows it again and owns to it.^
" So round the hall went Arnm*od — that was
the candlebearer's name — all along the benches
on the King's side, asking each man if he
KING Harold's burial ale. 47
knew the arrow, and none owned it. Then he
crossed the hall and came over to our side
of the hall, where our men sate on the outer
bench, but none owned it ; and at last he came
to Palnatoki in his turn,
" * Knowest thou this arrow ? ' he said, as he
stood before him.
" * Why should I not know my own shaft 1 '
answers Palnatoki. * Hand it over, for it be-
longs to me.'
" All this while there was dead silence in the
hall, for men were all listening to hear if any
man would own the arrow.
" But as soon as the King heard what Palna-
toki said, he called out —
" * Palnatoki, where was it that thou partedst
from this arrow last ? '
" ' Often have I done your bidding, foster-child
mine,' answered Palnatoki ; ' and now, if you
think your glory will be any the greater by my
answering outright before all this great com-
pany rather than before a few, still I am ready
to do your bidding. Know then, King ! that
I parted with it from my bowstring when I shot
your father, King Harold ; so that my shaft
4S THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
went in at his midrif and came out at bis
" ' Up, men ! ' roared out the King ; ^ up, and
seize Palnatoki and his comrades, and slay them
all, for now there is an end of all friendship
between me and Palnatoki, and of all the love
that was between us/
" At this there was a hum of voices and a
•crash of arms throughout the hall, and men
sprung up on all sides of us, and up we rose
too, as you may trow, with our arms in our
hands ; but Palnatoki was the readiest of all of
us, for in a trice he had his sword drawn, and
made a dash at his kinsman Feolner and cleft
him at one stroke down to the chine. But
even then he had many old friends in the hall,
and Feolner few, and none bore weapon on us
as we made for the hall-door, all of us except
one Welshman of our band ; for we were half
Northmen and half from Wales. When we
got out safe and sound we found he was missing."
Here Beorn made a pause, as though he
would have stopped ; but Vagn said to Gangrel,
*^ Make him tell his tale out ; there is more to
KING Harold's burial ale. 49
" Tell on," said the Fleming.
" Well, if a man must praise himself he must,"
said Beom. " Know then, that when we got out,
and missed our Welshman, Palnatoki said such
a loss was to be looked for, and it was no use
going back to seek for him, and was all for
going down at once to our ships, but I with-
stood him, and said :
" ' Thou wouldst not run so from one of thine
own men, nor will I.' And so I turned back
into the hall to look for him ; but when I got
inside there they were tossing him about on the
points of their spears, and had almost torn him
to pieces ; but by good luck I got hold of him
and flung him over my back and ran out with
him and the King's men after me, and then we
all rushed down to the ships."
" Bravely done indeed,^' said Gangrel ; " but
was he quite dead 1 ''
"Dead as Balder,'' said Beom, "after the
mistletoe went through him, or as Harold after
Palnatoki's shaft. But I bore his body down
to the shore, and then we got on shipboard and
fell to our oars long before Sweyn's men could
launch a ship. It was pitch dark, but the sea
VOL. I. *
50 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
was smootli as glass, and so our three war-snakes
cut the waters, and in much less time than
we had taken to come we were safe back in
Wales. And that was how Palnatoki owned his
arrow, and how King Sweyn kept his father's
" And how you stood by your Welshman and
carried him off; all these are feats which will
be told and talked of in the North so long as
the world lasts/'
" I do not know that,'' said the old Viking ;
"but that's how those things happened, and
that's how the blood-feud arose between Kin";
Sweyn and Palnatoki/'
"It was after that he built Jomsburg; this
castle that we are now in ?'' asked the Fleming.
" It was," said Beorn. " You see in some
things Palnatoki was the unluckiest of men.
So long as King Harold was alive he was
an outlaw, because he stood by Sweyn, the
seamstress's son, and after he had raised
Sweyn to the throne by that happy shot, in
stepped the blood-feud, and made him just as
great an outlaw to Harold's son. But in one thing
Sweyn was good ; he did not confiscate Pal-
KING Harold's burial ale. 51
natoki^s goods in Fiinen, but let Aki Vagn's
father have the keeping of them, and they will be-
long some day or other to my foster-child, just
as Strut-Harold's earldom in Scania will belong
one fine day to our captain Sigvald, and Born-
holm will belong to Bui the Stout yonder when
the gods take his father Veseti to themselves/'
" Why, you are all elder sons,'' said Gangrel,
" waiting, like Sweyn, to drink his own father's
funeral ale. But you, at least, Beorn, are too
old to have a father alive. You must long ago
have come into your inheritance. How fares it
with your kingdom in the West 1 "
" Much as it fares with all the kingdoms of
the West," said Beorn ; " one day smiling, one
day waste. As for me, I left ray lands to my
kinsmen when I threw in my lot with Paluatoki
and came here. Some day or other I may re-
turn, but as yet I have never been homesick ;
and besides, Palnatoki on his deathbed left me
his grandchild Vagn to take care of. He is
already equal to any of our bind, but the day
will come when no one in the North will dare
to stand before him."
" But see, Gangrel," he went on, " the fires
52 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
bum low, the captain rises, and Bui and Thor-
kell follow his example. There is but time for
one more horn of mead before we lie down to
sleep. Boy ! boy ! another horn for Gangrel
Speedifoot. Dear me, how dry telling these
long stories makes a man feel in the throat.''
" Could you drink water now if you were
with the water-drinkers ?" said Gangrel.
" I will wait till I get to their country,'' an-
swered Beorn ; " till then I will make shift ta
stay my thirst with English mead."
Then the pair drained their last horn, and
followed the rest of the Vikings out of the hall
to the log cabins, in which they slept by twos
As Sigvald left the hall he said to Gangrel
" To-morrow at the morning meal,*when the
sun has risen as high as half the shaft of this^
spear above the Griffonberg yonder, you shall
have our answer to King Burislaf."
-THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF AND WHAT CAME
Though not very early in going to bed, the
Vikings were early risers. In the summer they
rose hours before they had their breakfast, and
evidently had no rules as to the harm of fasting
and working on an empty stomach. At the par-
ticular time of the year of which we write —
September — they rose at five, but they had no
food till nine, and it was just at that time that
the sun was. half the height of Sigvald's spear
above the low hill called the Griffonberg, as he
held it straight before him at arm's length and
measured the sun's lower limb by a rude sort
There were but two meals in the day in those
times in the North — day-meal, or breakfast, and
night-meal, or supper ; the first at nine a.m. and
the other at the same hour at night, so that
54 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
there were about twelve hours between each.
Of these, more was eaten at breakfast and more
drunk at supper. The porridge and joints were
heavy at both, and ale and mead flowed with-
out stint ; but still, as we have said, much mora
was eaten at the first, and after draining a horn
or two men went about their business and their
work, while at supper work was over for the day,
and the band sat drinking over the fires, as we
have said, till far on in the night.
At breakfast, therefore, on that September
morning, Gangrel Speedifoot again met Sigvald,
and again was handed over to the care of his
" Well, Gangrel, hast thou slept sound after
that stinging English mead ? It was all needed
to wash down Beorn's long stories. And your
appetite, has it failed you, or wilt thou try your
teeth on this wild boar T
"I have slept well,*' answered Gangrel.
" The mead did not rob me of my rest, and
Beorn's stories, though long, were some of the
best I have ever heard.''
"Ah !" said SigVald, "they are fresh to you ;.
you have never heard them before."
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 55
"Deeds like those of Palnatoki are ever
fresh/' said Gangrel. "You will have hard
work to achieve greater things/'
"Say you so/' cried Sigvald. "Well, well,
Palnatoki was a gallant captain, but perhaps
ere we bite the dust I and my brother Thorkell,
and Bui, and Vagn, and even old Beorn himself,
may do something which shall even ecHpse his
" Would that it might be so," said the mes-
senger ; " but the sun is already more than half
shaft high. I have eaten my fill, the way is long,
the day short, and I shall have to run more swiftly
than I ran yesterday if I am to reach Stargard
to-night. What is your answer to King Burislaf,
my master ?"
" Tell your master," said the captain, " that
three nights from this I will sup with him
in his hall at Stargard with fifty of my
" A good message makes a merry messenger/'
said Gangrel Speedifoot, with a bow to Sigvald.
" Thanks for making my errand hither lucky.
Thanks to thee, Beorn, and to thee, Vagn, and
thanks, last of all, to this gallant company.
56 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Jomsburg lacks naught that I can see save the
presence of women."
" Perhaps we may mend that want even yet/'
said Sigvald, as Gangrel Speedifoot passed out
of the hall, and was soon beyond the walls on
his way to King Burislaf.
Though none of the band, save Beorn, had got
an inkling of what Burislaf s message meant, and
even he had only half guessed the truth, Sigvald
and his brother well knew its purport. It was
quite true, as Beorn had said, that Sigvald was
sick of a single life, and as true that he had
turned his eyes on one of King Burislafs
daughters. That he was in love with a woman
whom he had never seen was as little likely in
that age as this. There had been cases in
Northern tradition like that in which a great king
had given up his heart at once to a maiden one of
whose long golden hairs had been dropped by a
raven at his feet, but these were exceptions. Sig-
vald, the son and heir of the proud Earl Strut-
Harold, of Scania, was eager to marry, that he
might have an heir to succeed him. He had
not thought of this when, like so many of the
leaders of the band, he had sailed with his ships
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 57
to join the Vikings, and when he had accepted
the captainship, and sworn to obey the laws,
which in this point, at least, he was now ready
to break. The priest of whom Beorn had spoken
had sounded Burislaf on the matter, and the
mission of Gangrel Speedifoot was the result.
We have heard what the King's messenger
said. He was willing to see Sigvald with a
strong escort in his grange near Stargard, but
he had said nothing of the proposed marriage.
This exactly suited Sigvald's views, for he could
not take a wife without the leave of the band,
and that leave he must get before he started on
" So to-morrow there is to be a muster in full
arms in the open field,'' said Beorn to Vagn.
"We must all be there. Depend on it the
Captain has something to say about this visit to
"By this time to-morrow," answered Vagn,
" we shall know all about it. Meantime, what
is the use of guessing what it may be 1"
" Take my word for it, it will be about
breaking the law and taking a wife," said
58 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
''Well, then," said Vagn, "I for one shall
vote for it."
" You vote for it, foster-child ; you ! such a
boy as you are !''
"Who knows," said Vagn, "if the law is
changed whether I may not carry off and wed
Thorkell of Leira's daughter, Ingibeorg tho
" Sets the wind in that quarter still f ' said
Beorn, with a grunt. " We are all going down
hill as fast as we can."
To-morrow came, and with it the grand
muster of the Vikings on the plain outside the
walls where so many combats had been fought
by candidates for admission to the band. As
the Vikings filed through the narrow gate of the
burg a mere glance at them would have shown
why this famous company were the terror of tho
North, Taking the crews of their three hundred
ships at the very lowest estimate, they must
have numbered ten thousand, made up of tho
squadrons which great chiefs such as Sigvald^
Beorn, Thorkell, Bui, and Vagn had brought with
them. Even under such leaders, all, as we have
seen, were not indiscriminately admitted. None
THE ANS?r£B TO KING BURISLAF. o9
of the rank and file were beyond the Umits of
age, and none passed muster for entrance who
was not a picked man. A modern observer
would have called them, when considered as
sailors, all A.B/s, and as soldiers all grenadiers.
On and on they passed on that September
morning through the gate, armed with axe and
sword and spear and bow, but, as we have said
before, with no defensive armour except a shield.
Those were not the days of uniforms, and yet in
a certain sense all the Vikings of less mark wore
a garb more or less alike — a kirtle, breeks,
and hose of coarse russet woollen, shoes of brown
tanned leather, and on their heads a low-
crowned hat, the ancestor of our modern wide-
awake. A few among the ranks wore a steel
hat, and a " bymie " or shirt of linked mail ; but
these were so rare as to be scarcely worth notice.
Slowly the whole body, marching as one man,
with a tramp that made the peaty soil shake,
formed themselves into a hollow square, within
which stood Sigvald and his chiefs.
In the midst of the square was an ancient
cairn of huge stones, the last resting-place,
before it had been ransacked by the Vikings, of
60 THE VIKINGS OF THE BA.LTIC.
some Wendish chief. It was, in fact, precisely
what is called a cromlech in Wales — that is, the
cist or sepulchral chamber of a barrow, denuded
of the earth and gravel which had been piled
over it to form the tomb. There on the top of
the horizontal slab the Viking Captains had
always stood when they wished to address the
band ; but to the surprise of all, instead of Sig-
vald, Thorkell now took his place, and began to
speak in what the chronicler of that day calls
^' a clever oration.^'
*^ Vikings of Jomsburg," he said, "we have
met here to-day that I may tell you something
which concerns us all. You know all of you
how long this company has lasted, and won
fame and fee by the wise laws which our old
captain Palnatoki framed. These laws have
made us what we are, and by them we mean to
Here there was a hum of applause and a
•crash of arms as each man smote the iron boss
of his shield with his sword. As the sound died
away Thorkell went on —
" We mean to abide in them, I say, so far as
we can ; but laws grow old like all things else
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 61
on this middle-earth, and what is easy to one^
man to bear is a heavy burden to another.
Palnatoki was an old man when he came hither
with Beorn the Welshman, whom we all know
and all admire as one of our boldest. He had
already done with wife and child. The oak had
shed its apple on the earth, and borne goodly
saplings like his grandson Vagn here, the bravest
and strongest for his years of all our company.
One head of our laws, therefore, which many of us
find very hard to bear, was light as a feather to
Palnatoki. To him the love of woman was a
thing past and gone. In that he had quenched
his thirst, and drained his horn to the dregs.
But it is not so with most of us. How many of
you are like Freyr the ancient god, in whom
some of us still believe, when he saw Gar da in
the grange of Gymir the giant, and was so de-
voured by love of her that unless he had gotten
her to wife he had died? How many of us, as wo
have dashed in our sea-stags through the billows
of the West, on landing have found among the
spoil lovely maidens of high birth, and felt
like Freyr, but, unlike the god, have known
that we were cut off from them except
C)2 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
as slaves to sell by laws made by oi
Here another murmur of applause shovri
that in that assemblage of youth and vigo4
there were many who acknowledged the trufcl
of Thorkell's words. '
" I think, therefore," Thorkell went on, " tha^*
this law as to bringing women and wives inU^
the burg, and as to marriage, might be changed ^ \
not all at once, but that some of us might, with \
the^ Captain's leave and the leave of the company,
have power to take a wife. It is a wise saying
of our forefathers which bids us beware of too
much of a good thing. Thousands, or even
hundreds, of women in Jomsburg might ruin our
company, but ten or fifty would not. No doubt
the Captain has often felt like Freyr, and longed
for an heir to that earldom in Denmark which
our father Strut-Harold holds. He is a gallant
captain, and Jomsburg holds her head as high
under him as she did in the days of Palnatoki.
But we can do nothing without the laws of the
band, and so I ask you to vote that the law
may be eased on this one point, and that the
Captain may have leave to marry and bring his
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 63
wife home, and that he may, if he sees fit, allow
^nj of you who does a deed of ' derring do '
to take a wife to himself and bring her home
if he pleases. And now, before you vote, we
^e ready to hear what any man has to jsay for
or against the marriage of the Captain/'
As the tall Viking jumped down from the slab
on one side, it was slowly mounted on the other
by Beorn the Welshman.
" I am no speaker, like Thorkell GUbtongue,
as I call him, rather than the Tall ; and the
Captain, if he wishes the law to be broken, has
done well to put his brother forward, who can
say things for the Captain which he could not say
for himself. It is fine talking to say that the
Captain is like Freyr, and longs for a wife like
Oerda of the white arms, but Thorkell forgets
the price which Freyr paid for Gerda, and how
he had to give up that good sword to the giant
which would stand him in good stead at tho
great day of doom, the Twilight of the Gods.
That price was too great when weighed against
the white arms of Gerda, and so this company
will pay too great a price if women and wives
come into the burg, in the ruin that will surely
64 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
come as soon as the old laws are broken. It is
all very well to talk of tens or fifties of women.
We have all seen how thin a wedge will rend
asunder an oaken trunk ; so it will be with us.
To my mind one woman is as bad as a thousand.
We get on very well as we are without them ;
why not let well alone."
At this telling speech of the old Welshman,
there was again a murmur of applause in the
ranks, but it was not so loud as that which
followed Thorkeirs speech. Some shouts were
heard too of " the Captain, the Captain ; let him
speak, let him speak."
Then Sigvald mounted the slab, and there
arose a roar of voices, and another mighty
crash of arms, as every man smote his shield
with redoubled force.
" I am not so good at speech as my brother
Thorkell," he said, " who can do all things well —
sail a ship, smite a foe, sing a song, or make a
speech. And, though Beorn would have you
believe that he is no speaker, you have heard
what he said and how well he spoke it. As for
me, it is true, as my brother said, that I wish ta
marry, that Strut-Harold^s enemies may not
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 65
Relieve that his race will die out because his two
sons have thrown in their lot with you, and are
bound by the laws not to take to themselves a
wife. I am not like Freyr, for I have not yet
jseen my Gerda, and I am not pining myself to
death, like Freyr, for her sake. I own, though,
that I have turned my eyes where I know good
women are to be found, and that is to King
Burislaf s grange ; but I know not till I see these
fair maidens whether I shall love them as Frej^r
did Gerda. But this, at least, I know, that not
for the sake of any woman will I, like Freyr,
give up this njy good sword, which has cloven so
many of the foes of this gallant company to the
At this utterance there was another roar of
voices, and another crash of arms, and Sigvald
" There is another thing which the company
should think over, and that is, though I am
loath to say it, that times and seasons and men
change. My father, Strut-Harold, is an old man,
and before he dies I should wish that he saw
an heir to his earldom in a son of mine. Were
he to die, and I be still unwedded, I should give
VOL. I. rt
66 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
up the captainship and leave the burg, that I
might drink my father's funeral ale and marry.
But if the law were changed as to marriage, I
should stay here and still be Captain, and
Thorkell, one of the mainstays of the band,
would stav with me : but if the law abides as it
is, in a little time we must both go."
It was easy to see that this too was an arrow
that went home. There was no one in the band
who, for birth and bearing, could compare with
Sigvald. Bui and Vagn, and his brother Thor-
kell, might be stronger and more daring in fight,
but Sigvald, besides a strong arm, had a good
head on his shoulders, and this the band well
knew, and even Beorn, his great antagonist, had
to confess it. If Sigvald went, it was as though
the wit and wisdom of the company departed
with him. This was clearly shown when the
next speaker arose to address the crowd.
" My name is Bui, as you all know, son of
Veseti of Bornholm. My words are really few,
and this is what I say. Women and marriage
in the burg are an evil and a curse, but it would
be worse far to lose Sigvald. It would be as
the gods found out when Odin was lost from
THE ANSWER TO KING BURISLAF. 67
Asgard, and Thor had the rule in his own hands.
I shall never marry ; my good ship and my two
chests full of golden spoil are treasures enough
for me. But what is one man's poison is
another's meat, and sooner than lose Sigvald
and Thorkell, let us give them leave to marry
Hela herself if they please."
This short speech from one of the opposition
party, as Bui might be justly called, settled the
question. Thorkell, who knew the advantage
of striking while the iron was hot, sprang upon
the slab and roared out, in words which reached
every man of the company, " How say ye.
Vikings of Jomsburg, shall Sigvald, our cap-
tain, have leave to marry and to allow others to
marry at his own choice ; yes or no 1 "
'* Yes ! yes ! " roared the mighty crowd, now
completely moved and magnetized. " Yes ! yes I
let him marry as he pleases." And so, with
another great crash of arms, that question, in
which Beorn saw the ruin of the company, was
carried by acclamation.
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS.
Now the story goes to the grange of King
Burislaf, which lay some way outside the town
of Stargard. The kings of that race, though
the Wends dwelt much in towns, followed the
fashion of the German tribes, and lived for the
most part in the open country, shunning walls in
which they could be cooped up like mice, and
preferring to hear the birds sing, and to see the
green grass grow and the tall trees bud and
bloom. This grange of King Burislaf was not
at all palatial. It had an ample hall, which
stood apart by itself, in which the King sat every
day and drank and feasted with about a hundred
retainers of his body-guard. One reason why
he was anxious to be on good terms with the
Vikings was, that listening to the exhortations of
the Emperor Others priests, he had become half,
if not entirely a Christian. He had been what
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 69
the Northmen called " signed with the cross/*
or "primsigned/' traces of which practice linger
still in the English baptismal service in the words,
" and do sign him with the sign of the cross."
It was the first step to baptism^ but not baptism
itself, and those who had received it were ad-
mitted to social life with Christians, and to a
portion of their mass. If they died they were
buried on the outskirts of the churchyards
where consecrated and unconsecrated earth met ;
but the service of the church was not read over
them. While he was in this half and half state
of religious belief, which well represented the
shifting character of the time, his subjects, the
Wends, were for the most part obstinate
heathen, and if they could have combined
against Burislaf, would have burnt him and
sacrificed him to their idols ; but so long as
harvests were good and the King's Christianity
was kept in the background, the Wends still
yielded him a surly obedience, partly for the
sake of his descent from the old royal race and
partly from fear lest the Emperor Otho should
treat them as he had treated the heathen king-
dom of Denmark in Harold Bluetooth's time,
70 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
and convert them to Christianity by a German
crusade waged with fire and sword.
Besides the hall the King's grange consisted
of a series of separate buildings forming four
sides of a square, in the centre of which the
hall itself stood. One of these was a kitchen,
another stables for horses and kine, over which
was a long loft in which the King's body-guard
slept. Another was the Queen's parlour, another
the King's treasury and counting-house, in which
he certainly counted out his money when he
had any, ttough it is doubtful whether the
Queen ever ate bread and honey in her own
apartment. Another was the ladies' bower, and
it is into this that we now usher the reader and
introduce him at once to King Burislaf, his
queen, and his three daughters.
The King was a short, oily-looking man, with
a sleek, sly expression of face. The kings of
those days just as little as kings in modern
times, were in the habit of wearing their state
clothes on all occasions. Burislaf was, there-
fore, dressed pretty much like any other Wend
of rank, in woollen outer garments of finer
quality, though under his kirtle, instead of linen,
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 71
lie wore a silken shirt, which had come across
Russia from Byzantium. Kound his brow he
wore a circlet of gold as a token of his rank,
and in like manner the Queen and the Princesses
wore thin fillets of the same metal.
In these days we fancy that the costume
♦called " Bloomer '' is a modem invention, but in
reality it was but a revival of the women's dress
in the early ages. Their under-clothing was of
fine linen, a smock fitting close up to the throat,
-over that they wore a woollen skirt or petticoat,
which came down just below the knee, under
that their extremities were clothed in full
drawers or trousers coming down to the ankle.
These, with a kirtle or long jacket, woollen
stockings, and high shoes, made up the women's
attire of the tenth century. Over all, espe-
cially when out of doors, both men and women
wore a cloak, and in the family of Burislaf silk
seemed so common that all these fair members
of the royal family wore kirtles of silk.
We have already described King Burislaf. If
he upheld his ascendancy at home and re-
spect abroad, it was not by the strength of his
arm, but by the goodness of his head. He was
72 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
wily and politic above the princes of the time,,
and he had been taught this poh'cy by the con-
tinued struggles he had to keep on good terms
with the Emperor, to save appearances with his^^
heathen people, to keep the Vikings in good
humour, and, in a word, to make both ends
meet when both ends were far too fehort.
The Queen had been a lovely Princess of the
Kussian race, which then ruled at Novgorod'
and on the Ladoga, and played so large a part in
the history of the time. She had been tall and*
fair, as well as proud and haughty, but twentj^-
five years of married life with Burislaf had
played sad havoc with her looks as well as with
her pride. She was very different from the
dainty princess who had once refused prince-
after prince who came a-wooing to Novgo^
rod, and all for what? To many Burislaf,.
whose lineage went up straight to the Wendish
gods, but who at last, to add to his other-
troubles, had been reduced to promise to pay
tribute to the King of Denmark. These humi-
liations, and the possibility, we might even add
the probability, that the fanatical Wendisb
priests might raise a levy of heathens and burn^
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 73
King Burislaf and the Queen and the Princesses
in one of their granges, added an excitement
not attended with dignity to the Queen's
But the Princesses ! Yes, they were Prin-
cesses indeed — lovely young things, full of life
and strength — except one very unlike Burislaf,
and very like their mother. That was the way
in which the natural pride of the Queen had
revenged itself on her husband. She had no
son, but two of her daughters were as little like
Burislaf as the Queen was like him.
Their names ! these Princesses. Astrida was
the eldest, and wisest, and fairest. Gunnhilda
was the second, less wise and most like her
father ; and last of all came Geira, the least
fair and leastwise of them. The reader need
not trouble himself with her, as she is out of
the story — she married King Olaf, the son of
Tryggvi, and may be heard of in his Saga.
Just as we enter that bower of the Wendish
royal family, it is plain that all things have not
been very smooth. It may help us to understand
the matter if we say that outside, just in the
very act of leaving the royal presence, we meet
74 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Crangrel Speedifoot, who, having run all the way
from Jomsburg, and havmg arrived late in the
night when King Burislaf was snoring off his ca-
rouse, had delayed delivering his message till the
next morning. So that it happened that at the
very time that the Vikings were debating at their
muster whether the Captain should be allowed to
marry, King Burislaf and his wife and daughters
were discussing Sigvald, and what answer should
be given to him when he came in two days to
ask for the hand of one of the Princesses.
What the Queen had said we know not.
Something no doubt to the effect that Burislaf
had better put the Captain off, for Burislaf in
answer said : —
" But suppose he will not be put off ? Sup-
pose Sigvald gives up the captainship, as Gan-
,grel Speedifoot believes he will, and the com-
pany breaks up, where should we be without the
safeguard which the Vikings are to us against
foemen from the sea. All these fair fields would
be ravaged, and we should lose untold sums."
" But how do you know he will choose any
one of us ? '' said Gunnhilda. " He may not like
«s when he sees us."
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 75
" That," said Burislaf, " has never happened
in our family. One of you he will choose, and
that one will not be you, Gunnhilda, but
" She is eldest and wisest, and ought to be
chosen first/^ said Gunnhilda, rather glad at the
prospect of getting rid of a suitor she had never
"Indeed!" said Astrida, "it ill suits my
temper or my rank to be so given away. Now
do you think, father, that Sigvald is a fit mate
to one of our royal race."
'' His father, Strut-Harold, the earl, thinks no
small things of himself," said Burislaf; "and by
^11 accounts Sigvald is equal to his father, at
least in his own conceit."
*' Deep-witted you are said to be, father," said
Astrida, " think of some plan by which you may
get rid of Sigvald as a suitor, and yet keep him
in good humour."
" Spoken after my own heart," said Burislaf.
^' I am quite content if that can only be done.
But if I am deep-witted, so are you, Astrida,
and besides you have quite as much at stake in
this as I. If Sigvald comes with fifty men at
76 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
his back, and his choice falls on you, what
answer shall be given him which will neither
enrage him, nor wed you to a man of unequal
birth ? Think over some plan, and teH me by
to-morrow at this time."
So saying, King Burislaf, with the look of a
man sorely puzzled, left the Queen and Prin-
cesses to themselves, and went oflF to see some
hedging and ditching which his thralls had done
for him during the morning.
But he had scarce gone a hundred yards,
when he and those of his body-guard whom he
had called to go with him on his round, saw a
band of men on horseback riding full up to the
Grange, which he had just left.
" These men have come far,'* said the King.
" Their horses are jaded, and they themselves
travel- worn. Let us turn to meet them ; may
be they bring a message to me."
" They be Danes," said the King's chief hunts--
man. " I know them by the golden boar which
their leader wears on his steel cap.**
When the horsemen met the footmen King
Burislaf bade them welcome, and asked the
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 77
" Our welcome would be a welcome indeed,
^ing Burislaf/' said the warrior who led the
band, "were we free to take it. We have
ridden far, and need rest and food ; but King
Sweyn, my master, bade us not tarry a moment
after we had reached your dwelling, but to tell
you his message, and to turn back."
" We are not so courtly, nor perhaps so great
^ king as King Sweyn, but never has this hap-
pened to us that any man who bore a message,
least of all if it be one from a king, should turn
^way from our court without tasting food or
^rink. The bees of the Wends make sweeter
honey than you can find in your Danish beech-
woods, and we have better mead, though not
«uch strong ale as King Sweyn brews at
" My master. King Sweyn," said the Dane,
*' forbade us to stay one moment. So soon as
we had given you our message we were to turn
bridle and ride back."
"Before you give it, what may be your
name 1 " asked the King. " We cannot take a
message from a nameless man."
"At home, in Denmark," said the Dane,
78 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" they call me Sigurd the Champion, and for
my office, I am head of the King's Guests/'
" And what may a ^ guest ' be ? " sa^d Buris-
laf. *^ It seems to be a diflFerent thing in Den-
mark from our guests, for you are a guest, wha
will be no guest."
" The king's guests," said Sigurd, " are fed
and paid servants of the king ; freemen whom
he takes into his service as messengers. He
sends them hither and thither to do his service,
to bear a message, or do an errand, cut oflf a
foe, or help a friend. At any time and any
whither we are bound to go at the king's
"And Sigurd the Champion," said King
Burislaf, " what is this message of King Sweyn's
that will bear such little delay ? "
" My master. King Sweyn," said Sigurd,
" bids you pay him the tribute which King
Harold Bluetooth laid on the Wends in the time
of your father Myeczyslaf before the last night
of Yule is out, what we, now that we are all
Christians in Denmark, call Twelfth Night, and
should you fail to pay it he will waste your
kingdom with fire and sword."
KING BURISLAF AND HIS DAUGHTERS. 7^
As he uttered these words Sigurd and his
companions turned bridle and rode oflF, and,
jaded though their horses were, they were soon
out of sight.
"Mount and follow and slay them," cried
King Burislaf. " Was such a message ever heard ?
And as for the tribute, though years and years
ago there was talk of such a thing when our
father and King Harold were at war, it has
never been paid, and, by God's help, never
As for pursuing and slaying the bearer of that
rude message, Burislaf 's chief huntsman and the
rest of his followers convinced the King that
his case would not be mended even if he seized
and slew Sigurd and his companions. In this
respect the person of a messenger, like that of
the heralds in later days, was looked on as
" Your majesty may kill the messenger," said
the chief huntsman, "but you cannot kill the
message. Let them go as they come. They
can bear nothing back to King Sweyn, for they
would not stay to learn whether you would pay
80 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" So Burislaf let them fare back on their long
journey to King Sweyn, and, instead of looking
after his thralls' work, went back to the Princesses'
bower, and told them of this new trouble that
had come on him."
" Misfortunes never come singly, father," said
Astrida ; " and this message of the rude King
Sweyn only makes it more needful to devise
some scheme which shall at once put off both
Sigvald and the King. By to-morrow at this
time we will all meet here, and each of us bring
the best counsel we can."
astrida's good counsel.
How Burislaf or his Queen or the other Prin-
cesses passed the night no chronicler has told.
'No doubt the King caroused with his men, and
then snored out the night-watches, as was the
wont of Kings when at peace in those days.
Perhaps he asked his oldest councillors about
that mythical tribute, what it was to have been .
rings of gold, Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, Cufic
money; so many hawks, so many sables, so many
horses, so many swords. If so, the answer of
his chancellor of the exchequer has not been re-
corded. We may be sure that even if he arrived
at a clear understanding as to what the tribute
should be, he went to bed even more deter-
mined not to pay it than ever. If the worst
came to the worst, it was a far cry to Stargard .
King SwQyn might come and take the tribute if
he chose. By this time the Wendish mead had
VOL. I. «
82 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
its way, and King Burislaf was sound asleep. In
his dreams he fancied, so far from paying
Sweyn a tribute, that he, at the head of the
Wendish host, had invaded Denmark, slain King
Sweyn with his own hand, and oflfered him up
as a spread eagle to Bielbog and the ancient
By his side lay his once proud and haughty
Queen, fretting at the thought that any king
should thus insult the husband of a princess of
the race of Ruric.
" At Novgorod," she thought, " foreign princea
and savage chiefs paid tribute to us, and now
Burislaf is told he must pay tribute to King
Sweyn, who but a little while ago was his own
father's exile and outlaw, and would have been
glad to find an asylum on our shores."
How Astrida passed the night the following
pages will show. She had, as we have seen, both
the pride of her mother and the wit of her
father. She was not the woman to pass
the night in vain hopes or in idle lamenta-
When the royal family met in the bower next
day, Astrida was fresh and lively as a bird, while
astrida's good counsel. ^S
Burislaf and the Queen were sullen and care-
" Well, fether," said the Princess, " have you
thought of a scheme first for Sigvald's answer,
and next for King Sweyn's tribute ? '^
" I have thought of King Sweyn/' said the
King, " and the end of my thought is that I will
not pay the tribute. Why, the oldest of my fol-
lowers cannot tell me even what it was to be.
Can a king pay a tribute when its very kind is
unknown to him ? No ! If Sweyn wants the
tribute he must come and take it.'*
" That I call no counsel," said Astrida. " If
that tribute is not paid or met in some way,
as soon as the paths are open and the waters
loosed next spring, you may expect King Sweyn
here, sword in hand."
" I know of no other plan," said King Buris-
laf, gloomily. " In old times my ancestors would
have offered up a hundred or two victims at the
altars of the gods, and so would most of my
subjects at the present day ; but we are un-
behevers, you know, half Christian half heathen.
We cannot sacrifice to the ancient gods, and we
are not Christian enough to beUeve what Otho's
84 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
mass priests tell us of the power of incense and
" The best oflFering to any of the gods, heathen
or Christian/' said Astrida, " comes out of one's
own head and heart. Good counsel comes to
man in all creeds if he will but trust in himself,
and not in idols and vain oblations.''
" Very true, no doubt," said Burislaf, with a
puzzled look. " But tell me first what counsel
you have to give about Sigvald the Viking, for
that concerns you most nearly. If he takes any
of my daughters he will take you, for it is easy
to see that he will take the best."
" I have thought it all over," said Astrida,
^' and, as the saw says, it is good to slay two
birds with one stone, I have devised a plan
which may get rid of Sigvald, or, if we cannot
get rid of him, at least reUeve us of the
" If you can do that, either or both of them,
you will do something that quite passes my wit
to comprehend ; but let us hear what it all
"WeU, then," said Astrida, "when Sigvald
comes you must make him and his men merry
astrida's good counsel. 85
and welcome, and not spare either ale or mead.
Your tables must groan with food, and your hall
be filled with every man you can muster. There
is still some valour left in the Wends, and your
body-guard may well compete, atleastinlooks, with
Sigvald and his Vikings. As for ourselves, we
may not be so brave as Sigvald, but we shall see
if we cannot match him in wit. I say outright
that I have no wish to wed at once. Even a
princess has many chances, and as yet I have
not had one. It is quite uncertain whether Sig-
vald's choice will fall on me ; but whichever it
falls on of us sisters, this must be your answer,
and you must utter it like a king of our ancient
race, and as though you had the whole nation at
your back. You must say that the daughters
of King Burislaf are worthy of husbands, better
born and of higher rank than the captain of a
band of Vikings, even though he be an earFs
son. But for all that, as you love and value
him, and know how brave and how wise he is
— mind you do not leave that out, father — you
will not utterly say no. Only, if he wishes to
have one of us, he must not ween he can have
us for the mere asking, just as if we were
86 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
apples that the wind shakes off the tree ^
fall into his mouth. No ! The daughters ^^ |
King Burislaf must be won by adventure ai^^
enterprise, and you will lay on him a task an^
quest which may seem great to others who ar^
not so wise and daring, but which will no doubfc
be easy to such champions as Sigvald and his
" And what task shall I lay on him, daugh-
ter 1 "' said Burislaf.
"Have patience and you shall hear," said
Astrida. " You know the way of the Northmen,
when they have anything to say they do not
say it outright, Sigvald will linger over his
ivooing like a cat over a mouse, and all the more
so as he will take tune to look at us three. Do
not be in a hurry with him, therefore. Give
him time, and say nothing of his wooing till he
mentions it himself ; but when he does speak,
mind and say all that I have said. And now \
for the conditions, which, if he is at all taken
with any of us, he will be the readier to accept,
for love, they say, makes all things easy in a
" Yes, yes ! " said Burislaf. " The conditions :
JL5^E^)A^ G-:* I* o T5:s:
^1 1 am as impatirat w hear ir^^Rra as sit j^Ti^er
teijf himself could be."
"The first ccmdiiion d iLe ifttidL nrssi be,"^
saidAstrida, "that be ^aH bk iLe lai»i free
from all taxes and tr^juies -^LSd: ile Wtiiis
Diay be called on to j «aT to anj f >rekii ttrig. If
jou put it in that waj be wi3 tiii it a Egbi
thing for bim and bis Vikir^gs xo meei socb a
claim : but do not tell him that Kin^ Swem bas
claimed tbe tribute. That is the first coniitic^
and I am sure be irill jump at it, if be is as wife-
willing as be is said to be. Tbe second is
harder, and bow it is to be done even I fail to
see ; but it all depends on tbe love tbat may
spring up in bis beart for any of us at first
" And wbat is that ? ** said Burislaf.
" This/' said Astrida. " You shall speak of it
as not at all bard. Far from it ; you must talk
of it as if it were quite a thing of course to such
famous warriors and bold sailors as the Vikings
of Jomsburg, to whom it is well known nothing
is impossible. Sigvald must bind himself to
bring King Sweyn hither to us before tbe first
night of Yule, and to bring bim so that be shall
88 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
be in our power. If he will undertake to da
that, then he shall hare his choice out of any of
your daughters ; and do you know, father/' said
Astrida, '' though I am not so husband-eager as
Sigvald is said to be, if he can only bring King
Sweyn hither I shall be quite ready to wed him
" What a jewel of a daughter/' said Burislaf.
" My own child, only far more deep-witted. Not
Bielbog himself, nor Swantevit adored in Rugen,
who knows all counsel, could have devised a
better plan. We shall get rid of Sigvald, that I
see ; but how we are to get rid of Sweyn and
the tribute, that I do not see quite so plainly."
" We shall get rid of both, father ; or if we
only get rid of the King and his tax, and keep
Sigvald, we shall have done great things. And
now go and prepare the feast, and look to your
men's dress and arms. Spare no pains or cost i
and even if the last butt of mead be broached,
never mind, if we only keep the Vikings in good
humour, and play Sigvald oflF against the King."
So King Burislaf went oflf that day to look,
after his thralls' work, and he was in such good,
humour that none of them smarted for idleness i
astrida's good counsel. 8^
and after that he and his followers rode round
the country summoning his men to the feast ;
and^ in a word, made everything ready on the
grandest scale that his resources afforded for the
entertainment of the Vikings.
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT.
Now the story goes back to Jomsburg and the
Vikings. The day after the muster was spent
in preparation and selection. Amongst Sig-
yald's fifty followers we may be sure all the
chiefs went> though one of the greatest, Bui the
Stout, was left to take the command while the
Captain was away. It was a strange thing and
worth mention, as proving how completely all
feuds of family were sunk in the allegiance paid
to the Captain by every member of the band,
that Bui the Stout, the sturdy son of Veseti of
Bornholm, had won all that golden spoil which
filled those two chests, of which he spoke at the
muster, out of a raid which he had made on
Strut-Harold's house not long before he joined
the band. But as soon as he was admitted into
the company, perfect peace ruled between Sig-
vald and himself. His gold he still guarded as
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF'S COURT. 91
the apple of his eye, and wherever he sailed
those chests went with him. By land, on horse-
back, they were not so easy to move, each weigh-
ing more than one ordinary man could lift. Bui,
therefore, was ready enough to stay behind,
hut, as we have said, most of the other leaders
went to Burislafs court, and among them Vagn
and Beorn the Welshman. It was a feature in
the movements of the Northmen in that age that
any form of travel suited them. If the waters
were open they could sail, and so we find them
in England and France pushing their long ships
far up the Seine, the Thames, the Exe, and even
the Stour to Canterbury. On land, when they
left their ships, if there were horses to be found,
they rode, and in all the Northern hosts the
only man we hear of who did not ride was RoUo,
. the founder of the Duchy of Normandy, and he
only did not ride because he was so tall, and his
legs were so long that the garrons and cobs and
ponies pf that age were not high enough to carry
Thus it was that those indefatigable hosts
flew like lightning from one part of England or
Prance to the other ; and it was this equestrian
92 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
spirit which we find afterwards developed into
the trained chivalry of the Normans. But when
there were no horses to be had every Northman
could march. They stood on their own legs, as
they said, and these never failed them.
The Vikings of Jomsburg, fifty-one of them,
under Sigvald, could have found their way to
Burislaf s Grange, not quite so fast, but just as
surely, as Gangrel Speedifoot ; but as their
neighbours, the Wends, had horses, and, indeed,
as many of the band had horses of their own, on
the morning of the second day after the muster
Sigvald and his men took horse at early dawn,
and at dusk had put the forty miles or so
which lay between Jomsburg and Stargard be-
hind their heels.
The country through which they rode was
varied. Now their way passed over great moors
and plains, now through forests of fir and oak
and linden and ash, growing more and more
wooded as they approached the King's Grange,
which presented the appearance of a large farm
in a clearing of the forest.
At the gate of the Grange King Burislaf s
marshal and his attendant thralls met them, and
THE VIKINGS AT KING BUBIx^LAF's COURT. 93
helped them to dismount. In an out-house
stood wooden buckets of water, in which they
washed off the traces of travel ; and it was re-
marked that there was a good store of towels on
which to dry their hands, a towel for each man,
proving that the Queen and the Princesses and
theii' women had not been idle with their
spinning wheels for years and years before.
" The Captain," said Beom, " when he brings
back his wife will bring a good portion of linen
with her. This is just as it is by the laws of the
good King Howel in Wales, who ordained that
no maiden should presume to marry till she
had spun linen enough for her wedding sheets
and enough besides to deck her husband's table.''
" She will bring back more than linen/' said
another. " The Wends have always been famed
for their mead and their wisdom. Let us hope
she will bring good store of both into Jomsburg/'
"You are a better judge of mead than of
wisdom," growled Beom, " and so I trow is the
Captain, or he would never have come on this
wild goose chase, breaking the law/'
" Hold, hold,'' said the other. " 'Tis now you
that break the law, since yesterday the law is
94 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
changed you know, and now any of us may take
to himself a wife with the Captain's leave/'
" All 1 " said another ; " but you forget, Karl
the Red, that before any of us gets that leave he
must do something to deserve it/'
" Well, then," said Karl the Red, whose face
was covered with a thick red beard, " I hope the
day will soon come, when this marriage and
feasting is over, that we may go out for an
autumn cruise, and then see if I do not dis-
tinguish myself, for, to tell the truth, I am quite
as set upon marriage as the Captain/'
" The Captain is not married yet,'' said Beorn.
" What says the saw, ' Many a slip 'twixt the
cup and the lip,* and so it may be in this case/'
By this time these ablutions which, we are
sorry to say, were performed with very little
soap — that being a great luxury — were over, and
the King's marshal now came to conduct the
guests to Burislaf s hall.
It was a building exactly on the pattern of that
of the Vikings. In the middle burnt the fires,
along the sides ran the double row of benches.
As you entered the hall from the door, quite at
the end of one side, the King sat in state, on
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. 95
the right hand in the middle, in gay coloured
garments, with his coronet of gold round his
head ; right and left on either hand were
his councillors and warriors, among whom
Gangrel Speedifoot was conspicuous, in the
precedence of their rank. But there was
this diflference between the King's and the
Viking's hall, that while the high seat or
raised chair over against the King was reserved
for Sigvald and his fifty followers, the Queen
and the Princesses, and their ladies and waiting
women, sat up on a raised bench at the end of
the hall opposite to the entrance, in a position
which exactly answered to the high table on the
dais in the mediaeval halls.
Behind the King stood pages in bright holiday
clothes, with wax-tapers in their hands, a piece
of ^ luxury which the Wends owed to their
wealth in bees. In the North, tallow, or more
commo^Jly still, long resinous strips of pine-
wood, served instead of wax. Pages also stood
behind the Queen and the Princesses, who ipight
be described as sitting in what passed in those
times for "a blaze of light." All down the length
of the hall stood thralls with torches in their
96 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
hands, and altogether, if between the fires and
the torches there was much smoke, it could not
be denied that there was more fire in the hall,
and that King Burislafs banquet seemed every
thing that was warm and bright and comfortable
to the Vikings, who had ridden all the way from
Jomsburg, who were both famished and thirsty,
and in whose hall at home wax was unknown,
torches seldom used, and where the horns of
mead went round to the low dull light of the
fires which warmed the building.
Up the hall strode the marshal, followed by
the Vikings, who wore their best attire, which
consisted chiefly in wearing blue or red, instead
of the more sober russet of their daily garb.
Every man carried his sword by his side, for it
was an unheard of thing to enter even a friendly
hall entirely unarmed. Their broad axes and
spears and bows and quivers and shields were
left behind in the out-house where they had first
entered, and now they stood a goodly band of
fifty most tall and proper men at Sigvald's back
before King Burislaf in his high seat.
Fine feathers, they say, make fine birds, and
King Burislaf, in his high seat, in his royal robes.
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. 97
vvith his coronet on his brow, looked a v^ry
diflFerent man from him who had turned two days
before to hear King Sweyn's insulting message.
He was short of stature, as we have said, but he
had that good fortune, which so becomes a king
who has to sit in state, that his body was long in
proportion to his legs, and so when he sate in
his high seat, he looked taller and more majestic
than he really was.
As Sigvald came before him, the Viking
Captain bowed his head gracefully but proudly,
and said never a word till the King spoke first
and said :
"Welcome to our hall, gallant Captain-
Welcome, both you and your brave Vikings,
who are the mainstay of our state and the de-
fence of our coast. Take the seats of honour
opposite in the order of your rank, and eat and
drink and enjoy yourselves as much as you can
under our royal roof."
" Thanks, noble King," said Sigvald. " We
heartily accept your bounty and your good
cheer,^' and with these words, after another low
bow, the Captain and his followers took their
seats on the benches opposite.
VOL. I. H
93 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
As soon as the guests were seated, a host of
thralls brought in tressels and boards, on which the
food was served ; when they had been arranged
and decked and covered with linen, in which
again the luxury and the industry of the
Wendish Court shone out, another crowd of
thralls bore in the joints, roast and boiled, of
beeves and boars and deers, which formed the
feast. After these had been despatched, the
bones, we are sorry to add, for the sake of the
manners of those days, being picked clean with
the fingers, and then thrown beneath the table
— a custom which, be it remarked, was con-
tinued in civiUzed Italy until Dante's time — the
thralls again bore in what were called kickshaws,
cakes, and puddings, in which women delighted,
but which the full-fed warriors passed away
from them by a sign. Eating over, and before
the serious drinking of the evening began, the
guests had time to look about them, and to scan,
through the glare of the torches and the smoke
of the fires, the faces and features of the Queen
and Princesses at the upper end of the hall. It
was not then the fashion for ladies to eat in
pubhc. For them those were the days of
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. 99
luncheon or snacks, which they took at odd
hours in an uncomfortable way in the afternoon.
Though they were present on state occasions in
the hall, they did not partake of anything ex-
^ cept the kickshaws, in the making of which the
Queen and the Princesses had ,a great share.
After the eating, they were present when the
great toasts to the gods, or to the guests, were
drank, and after that they speedily and grace-
fully retired, leaving the men to their ale and
mead, and to that wassail and merriment, in song
and story, which lasted till far on into the night.
On this occasion, as soon as the boards were
cleared, the King's butler, who was no thrall
but a freeborn Wend, stalked up the hall, clad in
a red kirtle and tight-fitting blue hose, and,
standing before King Burislaf, reached out to
him a huge horn of mead.
Up rose the King in his seat, and, bowing to-
wards Sigvald over against him, who rose as
Burislaf rose, called out :
" I drink to the health of Sigvald, Strut-
Harold's son ; to him and the Vikings that bear
him company. They are all right welcome on
100 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Then, half draining the horn, he gave it back
to the butler, who bore it across the hall, and
handed it to Sigvald, who, in his turn, raised it
aloft, and said :
"I drink to the health of the noble King
Burislaf, Lord of the Wends. Long may he live,
and long may he rule this land. In this toast
all my brethren in arms join as one man."
A murmur of applause followed tjiis speech on
the Viking side of the hall, and their joy was
complete when thrall after thrall flocked in
bringing horns of mead, which they handed to
the Vikings and the King's men alternately, one
horn to each pair of men, who rose and pledged
•each other from opposite sides of the hall.
When this toast-drinking was over, all eyes
were turned to the cr<5ss bench on the dais at
the top of the hall, for all the Vikings, and Sig-
vald the foremost, were anxious to see something
of the Princesses, one of whom was the cause of
But they should have looked before. They
were too late. In the midst of that revelry of
toasts and pledges, the Queen and her daughters,
^nd their women, had passed out of the hall, and
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. 101
King Burislaf and his men and their guests were
left to finish their carouse alone.
It was one consequence of the King's state,
and of the arrangement of the seats, that
nothing like conversation was possible between
the King and his guests. There the fifty-one
on one side sate over against the fifty-one on the
other, talking among themselves, and draining
their horns of mead, but without a word of com-
" This is dull work," said Beorn to Vagn.
." The food is good and the mead equals our own,
but for all the mirth and amusement we get,
we are far better off at home in Jomsburg than
in King Burislaf 's ball/'
Whether the King thought it dull himself, or
whether what followed was part of his plan,
certain it is, that he beckoned to his butler, who
in turn whispered to the marshal, who went out
of the hall, and soon returning went before
Burislaf and said :
** May it please your Majesty, your two blue-
men are ready to wrestle on the floor.''
"Let them approach," said the King, "and
let us make merry over their feats of strength."
102 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTICilf:^
. Then the marshal spoke to the butler, and
the butler to the warder at the gate, and it
was thrown open, and two negroes, or "blue-men/*
as they were called in that age, came bounding
into the hall. Their woolly heads were close
shaven, and they were clad in tight vests and
short hose, that they might wrestle with each
other with less hindrance.
It was a barbarous spectacle, but not worse
than the prize-fights which still sometimes dis-
grace this age. The two blacks flew at one
another with the fury of wild beasts, butted at
each other with their heads, and buffeted one
another with their fists, grinning and howling
horribly all the while. Then, coming to close
quarters, they wrestled with one another for a
long time, till one gained the mastery, and, with
a dexterity which either Cornwall or Cumber-
land might have envied, sent his antagonist
flying over his head with a fall which left him
stretched on the ground without motion. The
victor then squatted down like a huge ape on
the chest of his fallen foe, who was at last
dragged out of the hall, giving little signs of life,
by the thralls, who laid hold of his heels, while
THE VIKINGS AT KING. BURISLAF's COURT. 103
the i conqueror was rewarded by King Burislaf
with a horn of mead, which he swilled down
with the greediness of a brute, and, throwing a
somersault, K«n off out of the hall amid the
cheers of the Vikings, who were amused and de-
lighted with the exhibition.
" Whence do they come ? What are they ?
Are they men or apes % '' These were some of
the questions which ran round the Vikings, only
to be answered by Beorn, and some of the
veterans, that they were a kind of wild men who
lived in Africa, where the sun was so hot that it
turned all the blood in their veins black, and
then their faces grew black as well.
As to how King Burislaf had got possession
of them, all the butler could say was, that the
Emperor at Bizantium had sent them as a present
to Burislaf, when Gangrel Speedifoot came home
from the East, and that Gangrel said he would
not care to lead two such monsters, valuable and
rare as they were in the West, through Russia
again. No ! not for all King Burislaf 's treasures.
After this entertainment, which was very suc-
cessful of its kind. King Burislaf 's minstrels
followed, and sang to their harps the glories of
104 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
the Wen dish race, and how their kings in par-^
ticular had come down straight from Heaven
to found their dynasty ; but as the music, as
Beorn said, was very monotonous, and not to be
compared to the songs of the Welsh harpers, and
as, besides, the words were in the Wendish tongue,.
which few or none of the Vikings could under-
stand, that part of the entertainment was not
thought nearly so pleasant as the vn*estling of
the negroes ; and, to tell the truth, Sigvald, and
wme of his band, began to yawn terribly over
Perhaps Burislaf saw them across the hall,
perhaps he guessed it of himself. But however
it was, when the minstrels had at last finished
their interminable music, he sent them about
their business with a horn of mead, and after
they were gone rose and said :
" The gallant Captain and his band may well
be tired after their travel. To-morrow, too, we
must rise early to hunt the boar and bear and
wolf. The wax tapers are getting short, the
logs smoulder on the fires, if you have well
drunk it might be well to retire to rest.'*
" We have both v^ell drunk and well feasted,''
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. 105-
said Sigvald ; and then he added, with a courtesy
which well became him, " the wrestling of the
blue-men and the strains of the minstrels have de-
lighted both our eyes and ears. Thus sated with
food and mead, and with feats of strength and the
sweetest melody, we may well say that nothing
more is wanting to ensure us a good night's rest/'
Then Burislaf rose and strode out of the hall
in great state, preceded by the butler, and fol-
lowed by his followers, while the marshal and
thralls waited to lead the Viking chiefs to the
various outhouses, where they were to sleep, by
twos and threes in a room, a long loft over one
of the stables being reserved for the dormitory
of the rank and file.
These were not the days of tea and coflFee, of
headaches and dyspepsia. In a few minutes
every man in and about the King's Grange was
sound asleep, except the one or two who had to
sit up and keep watch and ward over the King
and his goods.
Next morning Burislaf and his men were up
early, nor were the Vikings missing from the
morning meal. Much the same state was
observed, the King sat in his high seat, with his
I - ■ ■ -
■ * '■
106 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
men on his side, and Sigvald with his followers
on his. The food and drink was much the same,
except that any who chose to abstain from ale or
mead might drink milk or milk mixed with honey.
The Queen and the Princesses did not appear,
and until they chose to show themselves, how-
ever impatient Sigvald might be, there was no
use in asking after them. That would have
been regarded as highly improper in that age,
quite as much so, in fact, as if King Burislaf had
all at once asked his guests what was the busi-
ness on which he came, though he well knew
what it was, or how long he meant to stay ! In
those days nothing was considered so imperti-
nent as curiosity, and nothing so inhospitable as
to let it be supposed that a guest was not wel-
<3ome to stay in your house for ever if he chose.
When the morning meal was over, King Buris-
laf and his men led the Vikings into the wide
woods which enclosed the royal farm, and there
all day, and till it grew dark, they bayed the bear,
slew the boar, and chased the wolf, having good
sport with all their game. With the bear Vagn
especially distinguished himself, for when all the
rest had left the forest, he turned back to fetch
THE VIKINGS-AT KING BURISLAf's COURT. 107
his cloak which he had thrown off and forgotten.
As he sought for it he came upon a huge brown
bear, not in the sweetest mood, which made at
him. But Yagn was as strong as a bear himself
and as cool as any bear as well. He threw his
cloak oyer the bear's snout as he rushed at him,
and, turning aside at the same time, got
behind him while he was entangled in its folds,
and with one stroke of his sword cut off the
whole snout just below the ears. Then picking
it up he walked off with his cloak, leaving Bruin
to reconcile himself to his position as best he
could. Wten he rejoined the company they
were just about to turn back to look for him,
Beorn, the Welshman, at their head. But when
they saw him dawdling along with the bear's
snout, or rather half his head, in his hand, King
Burislaf aud the Wends burst out in wonder at
the youth who could cope with a bear single-
handed, and even the Vikings and Beorn, slow to
praise one of their own company, all declared that
there was none among them who at a pinch was
better than Vagn, Palnatoki's grandson.
" If the Captain, foster-child," whispered
Beorn, " brings down his game as well as you
lt)8 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
have brought down your bear, he will be a
mighty hunter of women ; but here we have
been a whole day tracking them, and as yet we
have scarcely seen the game."
"All in good time," said Vagn, " all in good
time. Women are more wary than bears, and
don^t rush at a young man with a cloak as soon,
as they see him, like yon snoutless bear. As
soon as Sigvald sees them, he will trap them, or
one of them, take my word.''
But for all that there seemed little chance of
their doing more than seeing the Princesses at a
distance. When they met at the evening meal,
there sat King Burislaf in his high seat, as stiff
as his royal robes could make him ; there came
the marshal to lead Sigvald to his place, and
there sat the Queen and her three daughters
and their ladies on the cross bench on the dais.
As the Vikings were not so hungry nor so
thirsty as they had been the day before, they had
more time to look about them, and the eyes of
Sigvald in particular often wandered towards
that end of the hall ; and as they were both
long- and sharp-sighted, he soon made up his
mind that the tallest of her daughters, who sat
THE VIKINGS AT KING BUEISLAf's COURT. 109
next the Queen, was at first sight the fairest of
the three. This was Astrida, of whom the reader
already knows something, hut of whom, up
to that time, Sigvald knew absolutely nothing,
except that one of Burislafs daughters bore
The feast that night went on in much the
BBjne way as that of the day before. The
boards, when brought in and spread, groaned
with food, and there was no stint in drink.
After the m^al, the King stood up and pledged
Sigvald and the Vikings ; the Queen and Prin-
cesses and their ladies disappeared, and the
minstrels began their monotonous strains. But
the Bluemen, or Blackamoors, did not appear,
for the very good reason that one of them lay
with three broken ribs after the struggle of the
last night, and his companion had no antagonist
with whom to contend.
" 'Twill be livelier in Valhalla, if we ever get
«o far,'' said Beorn. " If things bide so dull as
this, we shall have to quarrel with some of these
Wends, just to keep up our spirits."
" What think you of the Princesses ? " said
Vagn, when that observation was made.
110 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
"What I think of all women/' answered
Beorn ; " fair to look on, and foul to take. No
man knows what it is to have a real enemy till
he has a woman for his foe. All the harm in
the world comes from them."
" But the world could not exist without them.
Had you never a mother, Beorn ? ''
" Yes," said the Welshman, "but she was as
good as dead before I was born, for I never
Or a wife ? " asked Vagn.
Yes ; but she ran off with an Englishman,
while I was away on a Viking voyage to Ire-
land, and wasted my goods — all, that is to say,
that she did not take with her. That was
quite enough for me. I never took another."
"But some might be good,'' rejoined the
"Aye, that's just it," said the old woman-
hater. " They might, but they are not."
" Which of these Princesses now do you think
the Captain will choose T'
" My eyes are old, and I can see better to
bend a bow and steer a ship than to pick out
the fairest of three women ; but to my mind
THE VIKINGS AT KING BURISLAF's COURT. Ill
the tallest — she tha,t sat next to her mother on
her right hand — ^had the best of it in looks.''
" She looked proud as Freyja herself," said
Vagn ; " but for all that she is not so fair as
Ingibeorg, Thorkell's daughter. Do you think
she will take the Captain 1 "
" Take the Captain ? " retorted Beorn, " of
course she will. Setting aside his brother
Thorkell, Sigvald is the tallest and fairest of
the band, quite as comely as you, foster-child,
and withal an older and a more proper man.
If we talk of taking, it would be rather, will
Sigvald take her ? "
" Why he came hither to choose one of the
Princesses ; what can he do better than take the
fairest ? "
" Aye, aye ! " said Beorn ; " but marrying a
princess is not so straightforward a thing ;
Burislaf has no sons, and these three princesses
are his heirs. If Sigvald marries one of
them, he becomes entitled to a third of this
realm on Burislaf 's death."
*' Then we Vikings of Jomsburg, who have
everything in common, will share in this third
part of Wendland t "
112 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
*' True, boy/' said Beom ; " and pretty work
we should make of it, sharing the land among
us, and tilling the soil like thralls, and leaving
the burg, and being cut oflF by the Wends
and Grermans one by one. That sharing of land
would be even worse than bringing women into
"This question of the marriage must be
settled to-morrow," said Vagn ; " for I know
Sigvald told Bui we should be back on the
fourth night. We shall hear naught to-night ;
see, the King rises to leave the hall, and bids
Sigvald sleep sound, as we all shall, after our
long day's hunting.^'
So the Vikings left King Burislaf 's hall, and
sought their beds, and their first day among the
Wends came sleepily to an end.
«IGVALD's wooing and king BURISLAP's AK8WBR
Next morning at breakfast, when King
Burislaf and Sigvald met, the King asked what
1;he Vikings would hke to do— whether they
would spend it in hunting, or in fishing in the
river, or in manly sports .
''We had sport enough yesterday in your
royal woods,'' said Sigvald. " To-day let us
think of business, and of my errand hither.'*
''Eat and drink your morning meal first,"
said Burislaf. "No business sits well on an
So Sigvald and his Vikings and the King
and his men took their seats in the hall, and
despatched their meal in silence, for Sigvald
was thinking of his wooing, and Burislaf of the
clever ^swer which he had ready for his
When the boards were cleared, Burislaf said
to Sigvald :
VOL. I. I
114 THE VIKINGS OF THBrBALTI^
" Let US retire to my small room, and then
I shall be ready to know what business brought
He said this after he had risen from his high
seat ; and as Sigvald had also risen, *the King
and his guest met in mid hall.
" Not so, King Burislaf,'' said Sigvald. " Not
so ; my errand, hither, though but partly known
to thee, is well known to all my men. The
Vikings have changed that head of our law
which forbids any of us to take a wife, and my
errand hither is to ask the hand of one of your
The wily King — though, as we have said, he
had been informed already of Sigvald's intention
— ^aflfected great surprise at this proposal
" A king's daughter, sprung from the royal
house of Ruric, and the monarch of the Wends,^
married to a Viking captain ! That, Sigvald, is
an oflFer over which we must thipk twice.
Eagles do not match with hawks, nor ravens
"An earl's son of Danish race is a hawk
compared with the royal race of Ragnar at
home, but he is an eagle when matched with a
^irr.t^j: t ir:. 3
Wend, howcrer frm^j.^ ssul r^'ir^i v^juZ-^.
" As for daws, Uie roreis vc :aie J^inl ar^ nt
daws, and I iLrv^ zi^ i^riL vhsl h. ^dut
There was a Ha^:2-3irnr cf amiai»e itijil ^^
Vikings hdiind I 'n VLiii Biiinrei "lLw iii^j
were pleased witii S:zT5il55 i/iui v^j^^ r^iJic
the £cices of some ol" B::ris^§ fjll.'vert tuni^i
pale with fear. Ereii lite K iiig niiubc^i: Uiirj^L:
he had gone too isLi. ai^d ilisi h ^« liiii^ to
draw in his horns.
" Be not angry, noble Sigrali^ he Baii ** I
only meant to show that this oCer had taken
me by surprise, and that I had tLou^t 10 we 1
my daughters to men rf higher birth, high
though yours is, and In^Te and raliant as you
are ! ''
/' I came hither to consult you on business,"
said Sigvald, " and now you know my errand.
I await your answer, King Burislaf. To-morrow,
after the morning meal, my men and I will
mount and ride home/'
" Be it so/' said Burislaf. " Stay with us to-
day. To-night, after supper, you shall have
speech and nearer sight of my daughters, so
>.,. •:• .V tI'.-
■■ ■" ' ■^.
116 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
that you may make your choice, ^
morning, before you leave us, \ffc wi
you our answer to your offer."
Sigvald could do taught else than ^^pt
the King's terms. He and the Vikings spent
the day in feats of strength, in which their
might and dexterity were the wonder of the
surrounding Wends. All that day they saw
nothing of the Queen or the Princesses, but in
the hall after supper King Burislaf led Sigvald
up to the cross bench at the top of the hall,
where the ladies, contrary to their practice on
the two previous nights, remained sitting.
As they stepped on the dais, Burislaf turned
to the Queen, and said :
" This is the noble Sigvald, who is our friend,
and the great safeguard of our coast. He has
now told us of his errand hither. His secret is
out. He wishes to ask for the hand of one of
Though the Princesses heard this, they did
not, as perhaps might be the case with modern
Princesses, start up and hurry from the presence
of that daring suitor. On the contrary, there
they sat motionless, two on the right and one
tAff &£ of tAsot mDiii^: wha meraT^ cuk
eauf s sm. ami ^ ^asBt or ^mr awtn. ^motiilii
a^ fir ulBr Raoii of (I1I& of onr tj^jI r^v7
bor^ Bc^ as Taasalk ql (W WeavS^ Km^x Wis
bj our omB ^i^ swonls. I£ Km^ Buri$):idr
weens diai eitiher die eastle or o>ur wiu»
bdoDg to him, let him come aitvl trr to t^k^
** If not a Tassal, though I weene<) you Tr^r«
one, still an earl's son/' said the Queon«
** Earls in Denmark are kings elaowhare/'
was Sigvald's proud reply. " But earl's son or
churl's son, here I am, Sigvald IlaroId'H »on,
Captain of Jomsburg ; and I demand the Imiul
of that Princess who sits at your right. Mny
I also ask whether her name is Afttridfti Quuu-
hilda, or Geira ; but whatever name dlw hmrHf
her I choose, who sits now next to you qu ywr
"Her name is Astrida," said tUe Ku^, '*Wf*
eldest daughter Your clioic^ Um 4«^iUi4 44m l^
y 118 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
OH her soon, like a hawk among a flock of
" My eyes have not been idle since I sat in
yotir hall," said Sigvald. " Three nights now
have I sat in the same hall with Astrida, and
all last night my eyes wandered towards her
seat. My thoughts had already settled on her
before I spoke of my errand this morning/'
As Sigvald said this, he would* have turned
and spoken to the Princess, biit this was a step
utterly unknown to the court etiquette of the
Wends. After Sigvald's declaration as to his
deliberate choice, the Queen rose, and her
daughters and ladies with her. As they left
the hall, King Burislaf said :
** You have spoken your mind, noble Sigvald ;
and, as I have promised, you shall have your
answer in this hall to-morrow at the morning
meal. We will do all we can to further your
suit, for we look on you and your comrades as
the mainstay of our kingdom ; and though the
Queen uttered the word, it is not as vassals we
look on the Vikings of Jom^b^rg. But I warn
you if we grant your suit it may be coupled
with some conditions.^'
sigvald's wooing. 119
Sigvald's answer showed that even that short
glance at Astrida had enchained his heart.
" The Princess is fair as Gterda to look on.
Any condition which does not bind me to give
up my good sword, like Freyr, wiU be looked
on as hght by me/'
What Beorn the Welshman, the sworn woman-
hater, would have said had- he heard this gallant
^speech, is not hard to imagine, but as Sigvald
and Burislaf stood alone on the dais, after the
departure of the Queen and the Princesses^ no
-one heard it but the King, who said :
" Well spoken, noble Captain ; spoken like a
man and a Viking, ready to win his lady-love
by his good sword, and that alone. Be sure, if
we lay any behest on you before you get this
match on which your heart is set, it wiU be such
as will not require you to part with the sword
which has been such a terror to our enemies
and your own."
The two then left the dais, and returned to
their high seats, and the revelry and minstrelsy
filled out the evening as before.
While the King took counsel of his Coun-
sellors on either side, Sigvald and his brother
1 ?0 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Thorkell spoke long about the match. The
end of this conversation was that Thorkell said:
" Why, brother, you are so taken with this
royal maiden, that you are, after all, like Freyr,
and will do anything to get her/'
"Everything, brother,'' said Sigvald, "that
may befit my own honour, and the interests
of the band."
" May your honour and our interests ever go
together, brother ; but what a thing this love is
that pulls down a man's strong will, as though
it were a straw, and fills his soul with fancies^
when before, he had thought alone of war
"Marked you, foster-child," said Beorn to
Vagn, " how flushed and red the Captain's face
was when he came back from the dais T
" I marked it well," said Vagn, " and put it
all down to the good ale and mead."
"Ah!" said Beorn, "that was none of the
honest blushes which strong drink brings even
into my bronzed cheeks. No f no! but was
a blush of shame, caused by the poison called
love. Who can tell whether these Wendish
women have not bewitched our Captain with.
sigvald's wooing. 121
their runes and filtres. They are as bad in that
way as those Finns we burnt in their wigwams
last year, in Helgeland, When love once geta
hold of a man, no one can tell whither it will
Again the feast came to an end, the three
nights having been attended with a consumption
of drink and food which drove Burislafs butler
and marshal to their wits' end. One of the
matters of business on which they talked with
their royal master was the approaching end of
the stores, laid up in the cellars of the grange,
and they were, therefore, greatly comforted to
hear that the terrible Vikings were not likely to
spend another day with them, but that they
would mount ahtPrtde as soon as they had drunk
their stirrup-cup after the next morning's meal.
" Such men to drink I never saw," said the
butler, " and may it please your Majesty, the
worst of them all is the oldest of the band.
Horns of mead and ale go down his throat like
water, or far faster than running water. They
call him ' Beorn the Welshman,' that is, in their
barbarous tongue. Bear the Welshman, and
surely he is a bear at drinking."
122 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
"We grudge them nothing; they are our
friends/^ said the King ; " but be sure if either
meat or drink fail while they are here, you both,
our butler and our marshal, will come to grief.
I will cut a red stripe out of each of your
"They shall last," cried the butler; ^'but,
please your Majesty, if they oflFer to stay another
day, do not suflFer it, for we have not enough
left, either of mead or meat, for such another
"They will go," said the King in a grand
way, "but Burislaf the Wend can never turn
any guest out of his house."
So the King arose, and the Vikings went to
their rest, and the butler and the marshal
passed the night with great dread, lest the un-
welcome guests should prolong their stay ; but
they need not have been in such fear, for Sig-
vald was eager to get his answer and to depart,
that he might fulfil the conditions laid on him,
and return and bring back Astrida to Jomsburg
as his bride.
Whether he slept sound or not that night is
not recorded, but if lovers in those days were
sigvald's wooing. 123
iike lovers now, it is certain that the Captain
of the Vikings could not have had a wink of
He was up with the lark, looked at his own
arms, mustered his men, and made them look
to theirs, had their horses brought to the grange
from the fields in which they had been tethered
and fed on Burislaf s hay and corn. In a word,
like a prudent leader, he saw that all was ready
for a start after breakfast, and then he sat dovm
with Burislaf in his hall, feeling that he had
done a good morning's work, and yet it was not
What King Burislaf had been about in the
meantime does not appear. Perhaps taking
stock with his butler of the fearful inroads which
the sharp-set teeth of the fifty-one Vikings had
made in his cellar and larders. Perhaps in
renewed deliberations with the Queen and
Astrida. In whatever way he had spent the
morning there he was in his high seat in the
hall, bidding his guests welcome to breakfast,
and ready to speed in every way the parting
There was one new feature in that morning's
124 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
repast. It was shared by the Queen and the
Princesses, who actually had tables laid before
them, and lifted horns of mead to their dainty
lips. It was the first time that the Vikings had
seen the royal ladies by the light of day, and
though very little of that light found its way
into the hall through the side slits just below
the roof, they had a better chance of seeing
them, and taking the measuiFfe:;of their charms,
than was possible through the smoke and glare
" Lovely maidens all three,^' said Vagn, " and
the Captain has chosen well if Astrida be that
tall one with the raven locks and bright blue
eyes ; but for all that Ingibeorg — ''
Here his ravings about the fair Norwegian
were brought to an end by his foster-father, who
gave him a thump on the back, as he passed the
horn to him, and bawled out :
" Stop ! stop ! boy, I am sick of Astridas and
Ingibeorgs ; love-making is no 'trade for Vikings.
I heard the Captain say, if this match were
made it could only be on some conditions. I
only trust we may be sent on a quest as long as
that on which Thor went to Utgard, and that
sigvald's WOOIKG. 125
we may be all cut off in it, and go straight to
Valhalla, where you know there will be no
women, and so never have to bring women and
wives into Jomsburg."
At last the meal was over. In the court-
yard were heard the champing and snortiDg and
neighing and tramping of the fifty-one horses,
which the King's thralls held outside, ready for
the Vikings to mount and ride.
It is a dreadful and a dirty thing to think of
in these times of universal baths and shirt-
45hanging ; but not one of the Vikings had any
baggage with him. The clothes they stood in
were their best, and they had not brought a
change with them. Nor certainly was there a
sponge or a tooth-brush among the band. Even
towels, one to each man, had been looked on as
a great luxury. Verily most dusty, dirty and
But to return. The meal was over, when
Sigvald rose and said :
" The hour has come. King Burislaf, when we
must mount and ride. What answer do you
give me to my offer for the Princess Astrida's
126 THE VIKINGS OF l^E BALTIC.
'' The answer is ready," said the King.
" May I hear it in private/* asked the Cap-
"Not so," said the King with dignity.
" Your offer, Sigvald, was made in open hall, in
the hearing of your nien and mine, and my
answer shall be as open, so that all the men
may hear it."
" Utter it at once," said Sigvald, " and let me
go with my men."
"This is my answer," said King Burislaf;
"you shall have Astrida, though, as you well
know, I look on it as an unequal match. What-
ever you earls may be in Denmark, we in Wend-
land think earls far below kings. But as you
are a tall, proper man, the captain of a great
company of valiant warriors, and so powerful in
men and money as to find few your match in
the North, we are willing to give you my
daughter's hand on two conditions. The first,
that you set Wendland free from any tax or
tribute that other kings may claim from us ; the
second, that before the first night of this next
coming Yule, you bring King Sweyn of Den-
mark with you to this grange, and place him in
sigvald's wooing. 127
our power, to do what we like with him. If
you cannot do both these things, then, Sigvald,
you shall not have my daughter's hand."
That was what King Burislaf said, and it was
plain, from the crest-fallen faces of Sigvald and
his Vikings, that they felt themselves very much
in the position of the Norse gods in Asgard,
when one of them was asked to put his hand
into the Wolf's mouth ; or like Balder, when the
mistletoe flew through him. For a moment or
two neither Sigvald nor any of his men said a
word. Then, after he had recovered his speech,
he said :
" Set Wendland free from any tax or tribute
that any King claims ! Who claims any tax or
tribute from thee, King ? "
"That we do not tell you," said Burislaf,
"you must find that out for yourself, and
when you have found it, make the King that
claims it give it up."
" And then the second," said Sigvald ; " how
am I to bring King Sweyn hither 1 "
"That I am sure I cannot tell," said the
crafty Burislaf. "All that I say is, that you
have asked for Astrida's hand, and those are
128 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
the conditions. You Vikings cannot be iie
great and brave men you are said to be, or to
be so deep-witted as some of you claim to be,
if you cannot do both these things.^'
"Does the Princess agree to this?" asked
"Listen to her own words," said Burislaf.
"Astrida, you have heard what I have said.
Do you agree before all this company to become
Sigvald's wife, if he sets our country free from
any tax or tribute which other Kings may claim
from us, and if he brings King Sweyn of Den-
mark hither, before the first night of the next
coming Yule, and place him in our power ? "
" I do,'' said Astrida.
" Then,'' said Sigvald, " I accept the terms.
Before next Yule, King Sweyn shall be here,
and after that I will set this land free from
tax or tribute, so help me all the gods, and
if I do not, then I forego my claim to Astrida's
By this time the Vikings had recovered their
self-possession, and a roar of applause followed
the bold words of their Captain, in which eFen
the Wends joined.
sigvald's wooing. 12D
" Nothing then remains, noble Sigvald/' said
King Burislaf, '' than that you should drink
your stirrup-cups and mount and ride. As-
trida, bear a horn of mead to the noble Sigvald,
and bid him good speed on his journey and
*'With all -my heart," said Astrida, as she
handed the horn to her suitor. *
After he had drained it, Sigvald turned to
her and said, —
** Long before the first night of Yule, King
Sweyn shall be here, or I will die in the at-
tempt to bring him, and when that is done, the
tribute will be an easy thing."
" No doubt," said Astrida, "and if you will
take counsel from me, you will be sure to
bring 'him first. You may find then that it
will be far easier to rid us of the tribute."
Then Burislaf thanked Sigvald for the honour
he had done him in coming so far to see him,
md Sigvald thanked him in return for his
royal bounty and hospitality, and the Vikings
;ook horse and rode home, rather puzzled to
enow whether their journey had been success-
*ul or not.
VOL. I. K
THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL.
The very next morning after his return
Sigvald called together his chiefs, and especi-
ally Bui the Stout, the stern Viking, who
would not leave his chests of gold, and so had
stayed behind to rule the garrison.
When he laid the matter before them they
all agreed that if anything was to be done in
the matter it must be done quickly. Though
September was passing away, they might be
sure that the news of the conditions laid down
by King Burislaf would sooner or later reach the
^ars of King Sweyn, and when that happened
their enterprise would bo tenfold more difficult.
Nor, strong though they were in men and ships,
were they at all a match for the united strength
of Denmark, if any cause, such as an attack
upon the King, combined the nation in self-
If King Sweyn were to be caught and
THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL. 131
•trapped it must be by guile and cunning rathei-
than by brute force, but by what stratagem no
man could tell.
All this time Beorn the Welshman chuckled,
.as might be supposed, and declared that Buris-
laf had completely worsted Sigvald in the trial
of wit, and had laid on him conditions which
no man could fulfil. "Bring Sweyn to the
King's grange !" he constantly repeated; "it is
all very well to say bring him, but how is ho
to be brought f and, indeed, that was the
opinion of Bui and all the band. It would be
•easy to provoke King Sweyn to battle, and,
perhaps, to conquer his fleet and take him
prisoner ; but then, perhaps, he might defeat
them, and then the company would be ruined,
merely that Sigvald might marry a princess.
The end was that nothing came of their de-
liberations, and Sigvald was left very mucli
to his own resources, and became for a day
or two rather a laughing-stock to his men.
He got wan and pale, and wandered about
in deep thought, and Beorn, whenever he saw
him, held up his hands and said to Vagu, his
132 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" See how true it is all that I said of thosfrfc h
Wendish philtres and runes. Take my woTd|bT
for it, Astrida has bewitched him."
So two days or more went on and Sigvali
was as far oflF his end as ever, when one daj
Gangrel Speedifoot walked into the burg almost |«s*
unchallenged, as the warders knew him well,
and once in he came straight to Sigvald'^
" I have a message for thee, Captain,"
lie said, "and it comes from the Princess
Astrida, who says she has thought over your
matter, dnd this is how you must act if you will
bring King Sweyn. She is sure this is the way
it must be done, for she dreamt it in a dream —
and she is a clear dreamer — and this is what she
dreamt : " It seemed as though you had set sail in
your ships for Denmark to fetch King Sweyn,.
and that when you got to Zealand you fell
ill and were so sick that you could not land,
and that you sent for King Sweyn to come
on board ship to you, and lo ! he came — and
suddenly, before he could set his foot on shore
again, a great wind arose and carried the ship
and you and him in it to Jomsburg, and when
THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL. 13S
.^ou had him in Jomsburg it was an easy matter
to bring him to King Burislaf. She bade me
*^lso tell you, that it is King Sweyn and none
•else who claims tax and tribute from King
Burislaf, so that if you should be able to catch
him in that way, you may kill two birds with
one stone, and fulfil both the conditions at
once. In token of all this she has sent you
this golden ring, which you saw on her
finger as she handed you the horn that morn-
That was Gangrel Speedifoot's message, and
it is easy to see how very happy it must have
made the Captain. Why had Astrida taken
all this trouble, and told him the best way to
fulfil the conditions and win her hand if he
had not found favoiil* in her eyes by his bold
.suit for her hand ?
" Say nothing to any of the band about this/'*
said Sigvald to Gangrel Speedifoot. " Fill your
pockets w^ith these gold pieces and find your
way back to the Princess as soon as you can.
Stay ! bear this ring too as a token from me,
-and say that within one month — and that seems
.a very long time — I will either bring King
134 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Sweyn to King Burislaf or perish in the^
So Sigvald and the messenger parted, and no^
one knew of the Princess's message but the
Next day Sigvald summoned his chiefs again
to counsel, and said —
"I have now thought over this matter of
King Sweyn, and how to catch him with little
risk, but I cannot tell you the way in which I
mean to seize him, except that if it fail, and
I perish in the attempt, it will be with little
loss of life. I will only take three ships with
me, and one hundred men in each. They need
not be our largest ships, as they will'have to lie
close up to shore."
" We do not ask," said Bui, " what your plan
is. We trust you thoroughly, and have no«
doubt that if your wit cannot devise some plan
to catch the King no one else can. Only re-
member, that if you perish all the band will;
have a blood-feud against King Sweyn, for we
are all brothers in arms, and each bound to-
avenge the other."
" Thanks, Bui the Stout, and spoken like the^
THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL. 135
noble warrior you are. Believe me, I have
every hope that you will neither have to waste
your gold chests in paying a ransom for me,
nor will the band lose strength by any deaths
among my crew. I mean to win the day by
cunning only, and to bring King Sweyn hither
without losing one dop of blood ! But as things
turn out variously, and it may be fated that
I should die on this voyage, I leave Ae captain-
ship of the band to thee, Bui, while I am away ;
and as for thee, Beorn, and thee, Vagn, I pray
you both to come with me to share in this
hunting of a king."
" With all my heart,'' said Beorn ; " it is
nigh two months since I sniffed salt-water and
saw a foe. My arms are all rusty for want of
use while we waste our lives idlj at home. It
will do Vagn good too to see his own land,
even though he is now an outlaw of King
So it was settled that three ships and three
hundred men should go, and that Sigvald,
Beorn, and Vagn should steer each a ship with
a crew of one hundred men.
As the war-snakes ran out of the harbour.
136 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
the walls and arch over the entrance were
crowded with Vikings, who longed at once to
be with them, and wished them a speedy voyage
and a safe return.
The weather was mild and fine and the sea
smooth, as it often is at that time of the year
in the Baltic. Sigvald and his little squadron
sped swiftly over the waves, as the rowers plied
their oars, and it was not long ere they neared
the Sound and ran into the Belt between
Fiinen and Zealand, on which latter island they
heard that the King of Denmark was at one of
It fortunately happened, that though King
Sweyn was at enmity with some of the Vikings,
and more particularly with the house of Pal-
natoki, he had no quarrel with Sigvald or his
father, Strut-Harold, who was one of his great
earls, and so looked on the Viking captain
rather in the light of a friend than an enemy.
Even, therefore, if he heard that Sigvald had
been seen in the Danish waters the news would
not have alarmed him, and he would expect a
friendly rather than a hostile visit from the
THE CAITAIN TAKES COUNSEL. 137
All this Sigvald had reckoned on, and made
it part of his bold scheme. As soon as he knew
precisely where the King was he ran his three
ships boldly into an inlet where there were none
of the King's galleys, and then made his men
practise the old plan of Palnatoki, by which
they lay with their sterns towards the land and
their prows out to sea, so as to be ready to dash
forward as soon as the oars touched the water.
This done, now came the most difficult
part of the adventure, which Sigvald had
adopted pretty much after the advice of Astrida.
He knew the King was feasting in his hall hard
by with six hundred men, and that as soon as
he heard of his arrival he would expect to see
him. But with his three hundred men against
the King's six hundred he cojild not expect to
do much. If his purpose were carried out at
all it must not be carried out by force.
There sat the King in his hall, which was ar-
ranged very much like that of the Vikings and
King Burislaf, only on a grander scale, drinking
with his men, until the warder spoke to the
marshal and the marshal to the butler, and the
butler stood before the King and said :
133 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
** A message, King ! from Sigvald, son of
Strut-Harold, Earl of Scania."
" His messengers are welcome," said the King.
" Let them approach."
Then Thorkell the Tall, who also went witb
his brother, strode up the hall, the wonder of
all the Danes for his huge stature, and came and
bowed before the King.
"Welcome, Thorkell," said King Sweyn.
*' Speak quickly ; which will you do firsi, drain
a horn or tell your errand 1 "
" I will do both," said Thorkell ; " for both can
be done quickly."
Then he seized the horn and drained
it, and had scarcely swallowed it before he
*' My brother Sigvald craves speech of your
Majesty, for he has matters of great moment
to tell you."
" Craves speech ! " said King Sweyn with
an oath. " Why then does he not come and
speak himself ? Why send you as his messenger,,
tall though you be 1 "
" Because he cannot leave his ship," said
Thorkell. "Yonder in the bay he lies bed-
THE CAPTAIN TAKES COUNSEL. 139*
lidden on board. We ran out of Jomsburg
three nights ago to seek you, and on the way
Sigvald has fallen sick, and is now so weak that
he is at the point of death ; but before he dies
he desires to see you, and so he has sent me to
bear the tidings/'
'*Know you what he wishes to say V asked
" Know ! not I,'' said Thorkell. " Sigvald
is a man who ever keeps his own counsel, and
shares it not with others.^'
" But is he so bad 1 '' said the King. " Must
I go down to the bay this very night to hear
his words ? "
" The morning sun will scarce see him alive,''
said Thorkell. "He seemed at the last gasp
when 1 left. I trow it was something about
Jomsburg and the captainship that he wished to
"I daresay — I daresay," said Sweyn, now
thoroughly bent on going. "Something that
concerns us much. We will go.''
So the King, followed by two hundred men,,
and the twenty which Thorkell had brought
with him, left the hall and the amber mead and
140 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
went down to the creek in the bay where Sig-
void's ships lay.
When they reached the shore, it was only to
find a change in the arrangement of the ships.
They now lay lashed together end on, so that
the two that lay nearest to the shore were as
it were a jetty or bridge to reach the third, in
which the dck Sigvald lay.
As soon as Sigvald heard that they were ap-
proaching the shore, he took to his bed and
heaped the clothes over him.
" In which ship is he ? " asked the King.
" In the third,'' said Thorkell ; " and as our
ships are small and light, do not take more than
thirty men with you on board them, lest they
^should sink under us."
'^ So it shall be," said the King ; and up the
gangway he went into the first ship.
As soon as ever thirty men had stepped on
board her Thorkell made them pull in the
gangway and cut the ship off from the land ; and
when the King with twenty men had gone on
board the second ship, the gangway in that was
^Iso pulled on board, and that also cut off from
the first. So with the third, when the King and
THE CAI»TAIN TAKES COUNSEL. lil
ten of his men had set foot on board of her, in
was drawn the gangway, and the third ship was
cut off from the other two, which at the same
time slipped their moorings, while the rowers
sat on the benches ready to start
When the King — who suspected nothing, for it
was dark, and he was well drunk — got on board
the third ship he asked where Sigrald was, and
was told he was in the cabin at death's door.
" Has he his speech ? '' asked the King.
" He has, Lord,*' was the answer ; ^ but he Is
" Make haste ! " said Sweyn, " that I may
hear what he has to say before he dies.^
The ships in those days were half-decked^ or
rather decked at stem and stem. The stem
rose high up into a poop ; under that deck the
The King went into the cabin where Sigrald
lay in his berth, and leant over him, and said :
" Can you hear my voice, Sigvald 1 Tell me
what you have to ^\ ''
But Sigvald said never a word.
Then the King spoke again.
"What are these great tidings which you
142 THE VIKINOS OF THE BALTIC.
liave brought me hither to hear, for I am ready
to listen to them ? Speak, Sigvald, speaf
Then a low thin voice came out from the pile
of clothes under which Sigvald lay, and the
King could just make out —
" Bend over me a little, Lord, and then you
ivill be better able to hear my voice, for it is
now very low."
Then the King bent over him, and as he did
so Sigvald threw one arm round his neck and
took him with the other round his waist, and
held him with a grasp of iron, which showed
how little weak he was.
So he held him fast, and at the same time
called out as loud as he could to his crew to
fall to their oars as fast as they could, and row
out of ihe bay. And so they did on board all
three ships, and carried off the king and his
thirty men captive, and left the rest of his fol-
lowers standing staring on the shore.
KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURG.
All this time Sigvald held King Sweyn fast,
and even if he could not have held him, there
<5lose by stood Thorkell the Tall ready to give
help ; but, in truth, Sweyn, Viking though he
had been, and strong though he was, was no
match for Sigvald, and so the captain held him
As soon as Sweyn recovered his first surprise
he said :
" What ! Sigvald ! will you play me false ?
What mean you by this treachery ? Great
tidings are these in truth ; but, after all, I do
not see why you should treat me thus, who have
been ever friends with your father, Strut-
" No treachery is meant, Lord,'* said Sigvald ;
*' but it will be good for you, as well as for us,
that you take a Uttle voyage with us to Joms-
144 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" To Jomsburg ! " said the King. " I never
meant to fare so far when I got out of bed this
" Very true, Lord," said Sigvald ; " but no
man, not even a king, can tell when he rises at
morn where he shall lay his head at even.
Your father thought to trap and kill you at
dawn, but before the sun rose Palnatoki's arrow
rattled through him from midriff to mouth, and
he fell dead, and you rose to the throne.''
*' Chance and Fate rule all things, it is true,''
said Sweyn ; " but why I should fare to Joms-
burg I cannot see. Will you throw me into a
dungeon and put another on the throne 1 ''
" Not so — not so," said Sigvald. " Be sure,
Lord, we will pay you all honour, and treat you
in every way as becomes a king. Our hall in
Jomsburg is not so grand as yours at Hedeby
or Viborg, but so far as our poor means go, you
shall lack nothing. You and your men shall
be welcome as old Vikings and brothers in
" With some of you old Vikings I have lost
no love of late years," said the King sullenly.
*' Beorn, the Welshman, Palnatoki's foster-
KING SWEYN IN J0M8BUBG. 145
brother, will exult when he sees Sweyn, the
son of Harold Bluetooth, brought in as your
" Captive, Lord, is not the word," said Sig-
vald. "Not captive, but King of Denmark^
though in Jomsburg/*
"King of Denmark, indeed,'' said Sweyn,
proudly ; " but why a King of Denmark should
be thus carried off by guile to Jomsburg passes
"You will understand it well enough, and
how all things will turn to your good and glory
when we reach Jomsburg,'' said Sigvald, And
as he said this he let go his hold of the King
and set him free ; and he and King Sweyn
went out of the cabin on to the poop. By this
time the three war-snakes bad made a good
offing in the smooth sea. As the King turned
to the shore there he saw the lights burning
through the windows of his hall, and he thought
of the strange ups and downs of fate, which in
so short a time had snatched him away from
his kingdom and his men, and given him over
into the hands of those who might either turn
out to be his Mends or his enemies.
146 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Sigvald seemed to read his thoughts, though
he could scarcely see his face.
*' Yes, Lord ! " he said, " there bum the lights
as we can see ; and there too, though we cannot
see them, tramp your men back to the hall, ta
tell how the mighty King Sweyn, the son of
Harold Bluetooth, has been carried off by the
Vikings of Jomsburg.^'
" It is a daring feat/' said Sweyn, " and so long
as the North is inhabited by men shall this story,
how Sigvald carried off Sweyn, be told in your
praise. I am ready to confess that I have been
worsted in this trial of wit ; by arms I could
have held my own, but against guile no shield
"Let us think and talk no more about it,
Lord," said Sigvald. " Of this be sure that not
a hair of your head shall be harmed, and if you
will only see things when yo\i are in Jomsburg
in the light that we see them, you shall return
to Denmark very shortly a greater king than
you left it."
" I trust I may," said Sweyn ; " but how that
is to be is another thing that passes my under-
KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURG. 147
** All will soon be made clear. Lord ! '' said
Sigvald, " and now let us drain a horn of meai^
and after that, may it please your majesty to
retire to rest in my poor bed, the best I have to
King Sweyn, as we know, had not always
been a king ; and if he had been, kings in those
days were not for ever lapped in luxury ; it was
no privation, therefore, for him to sleep on the
narrow bed in which Sigvald had so lately lain
to seize him. Added to this, he was young and
hopeful, and though all was dark before him, he
saw at once that the best thing to be done was
to believe all that Sigvald said, and to treat the
Vikings as his friends so long as they were
friends to him.
For the rest of the voyage, therefore, he was
merry and gracious. As the rowers, five and
twenty on a side of the long-ship, gave their
backs with a will to the work, he was full of
praise at their dexterity and sturdiness. Whether
like Olaf, the son of Tryggvi, then an exile
before Earl Hacon, but afterwards. King of
Norway, he showed his agility by running along
the blades of the rowers^ oars when their stroke
148 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
was in full swing, is not recorded ; probably not,
and yet King Swey n was foremost in his day for
such feats of strength and skill. All that ^e
know is, that Sigvald carried him off, as we have
said, and that on the morning of the third day
the three long-ships ran into the harbour of
Jomsburg, and thus Sigvald had as good as per-
formed the first of the two conditions which
were to make Astrida his wife.
Great was the excitement of the Vikings on
the burg when the warder blew his horn, and
summoned the Captain to the arch over the
entrance, whence he scanned the open sea.
" There be our ships yonder,*' said Bui the
Stout, " safe enough ; but have they sped
on their errand, and is King Sweyn on board
them, or has Sigvald perished, and come these
ships back to tell us 1 *'
" 'Tis too soon yet to say whether the flag at
the mast-head is red or black," said the warden
" The Captain told me before he sailed, that if
he had seized the king he would fly a red
flag, and if he failed the ensign would be
Then a little further on he called out, "I see
KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURG. 149
the flag now as it flies out from the truck, and
it is — yes, it is red as blood. Shout, boys, in
triumph,*^ he cried to the Vikings, who now
thronged the arch, " for the Captain has well
sped, and in that foremost ship he brings King
Sweyn with him as his captive/'
At this we may be sure the Vikings shouted,
and, then in a Uttle while they ran down to the
mouth of the harbour, to throw wide the iron
gates, and to hail the Captain and his comrades
as they shot into the port.
As Sigvald ran alongside the wharf, Bui the
Stout stood ready to greet him.
"Welcome home, Sigvald, son of Strut-Harold,'^
he said. " There is no need to ask how your
reward has sped, for I see it in your face.
But where is the King 1 Have you brought him
alive or dead ? ''
" Alive, and riot dead, Bui the Stout," said
Sigvald, " and not a drop of blood shed either
of his men or ours.''
" All power to your head as well as to your
arm, Sigvald," said Bui. " Sure, none of us is a
match for you in wit."
" Say not so," said Sigvald. " In this, too, as
150 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
in most things, chance rules, and not the wit of
" But where is the King ?
" In my cabin,'' said. Sigvald, " and ill at ease,
though he wears a cheerful face."
" No wonder — no wonder,'' said Bui ; " not for
all my gold in both my chests would I stand as
he now stands/'
"He said," Sigvald went on, "he would not
stand on the deck to be a sight for our men
when we ran into the port, and so he sits in my
cabin. But mind, I have given my word that no
harm shall happen, either to him or his men, if
he will only do what is best both for him and
" We should be dastards and truce-breakers
if we behaved ill to them in any way," said Bui,
" and so I am sure all the band will feel, though,
to be sure, it is a great feather in our caps to
have caught the mighty Sweyn, King of Den-
mark, and carried him off to our castle of
"Come on board and see him,'' said Sigvald.
" Your father, Veseti, and he have long been
friends, and, remember now the old friendship
KING SWETN IN JOMBBUBG. 151
liow Sweyn stood by you in your quarrel with
my father, Strut-Harold, when you spoiled our
" Will that scar never be filled up, I wonder/'
said BuL '^ I thought it had been long since
^' So it has, so it has, Bui the Stout," said Sig-
Tald. " I only thought of it to your good. Have
not the laws of this great company done awa}*^
^11 blood-feuds between us? Are we not bound
to avenge one another as though we were bom
brothers, as well as brothers in arms ? "
"True, true," said Bui, "and yet that old
<][uarrel passed through my mind, and also
this, that you are about to break the laws in one
point. If we break them in one, they may be
broken in all/'
" We break them in one point because times
change, and it is good now to marry, though it
<^nce was not. But the law that binds every
one of us to avenge another of the band as his
bom brother, must abide for ever. So long as
the band lasts, that law must abide."
" So long as the band lasts, that is the point/'
152 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
"Point, or no point," said Sigvald impatiently^
" come on board and greet the King, and let u*
lead him to our hall/'
Then Sigvald and Bui went into the cabin,
and led King Sweyn out of the ship to th^
common hall, while the Vikings gathered round ta
gaze at the great king, who had, at one time,
been a Viking hke themselves, and the boldest
of sea-rovers ; nay, had even been the brother
in arms ©f Beorn, the Welshman, and the foster-
child of their old captain, Falnatoki.
Nor was Sweyn unworthy to be matched
with any man in that stalwart host. Singularly
well made, broad across the shoulders, slender
in the waist, of that lithesome make which so
often conceals far greater strength than at first
sight appears ; he was, in stature, every inch
a king. If Burislaf were rather short and
squat, Sweyn was far above the middle height,-
and, except in a band where every man's stature
was dwarfed by such giants as Thorkell, King
Sweyn would have been called tall. Besides-
this, his hair was light brown, flowing in curls
down his back, his eyes were large and of a deep
blue, his features were straight, and his mouth
KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURa. 15a
open and winning. At heart he was sullen,
crafty, and revengeful, but he had no oppor-
tunity of displaying the first and last of these
qualities in Jomsburg. On the contrary, he
was open, and genial, and confiding, and soon
won the hearts of the Vikings, who, as we have
said, looked on him as almost one of themselves^
and a glory to the craft. Even Beom, the
Welshman, who owed him such a grudge for his
enmity to Palnatoki, was taken by the King's con*
descension. Sweyn had not seen him on the
voyage, as, though the three ships steered on
the voyage in company, no man passed from
ship to ship ; but as they walked in a sort of
procession up to the hall, the King picked out
the veteran from the captains, who bowed be-
fore him to do him honour, and called out —
" Well met in Jomsburg, old messmate ; where
was it we last parted ? "
" In your hall. Lord,*' said Beorn, " after the
arrow went round, and I went back into your
hall to look for my man."
"True," said the King, " but that was in
anger. We had parted in peace before."
** Whether it were peace, or whether it were
164 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
war, I scarce can tell/' said Beorn. " All I
know is, that it was on the morning after
Harold Bluetooth fell, and we Vikings said
that we had all helped to let the rat out of
" Both that and the arrow shall be forgotten,"
said Sweyn. " Let bjgones be bygones, Beorn,
the Welshman. Our blood-feud ceased when
" Spoken like a king,'* said Beorn, •' and what-
ever come of it I will ever be on your side.''
'* Spoken like an old messmate, Beorn," said
Sweyn ; " but where is Vagn, Palnatoki's grand-
son ? I would see if the bear's cub takes after
the old Bruin."
" He is not far off. Lord, for he is here," said
Vagn, who stood at Beorn's elbow.
" King Sweyn looked at Vagn for a moment,
and said :
" So this is Vagn, who, when only sixteen
fought with Sigvald and made him yield, and
so won his way into this gallant company.
Denmark is proud of you, Vagn, son of Aki.
Do you never long to return to Fiinen, and
settle down on your own estates ? "
KING SWEYN IN JOMSBURG. 155
" I am over young to settle down, Lord/^ said
Vagn. '' A Viking has no home ; like the bird
in the air or the fish in the sea, his home is
wherever spoil and fame are to be found. Like
the bird or the fish, he follows his food wherever
it may be found/'
'* But the day may come," said Sweyn, win-
ningly. " I, too, have been a Viking. You may
wish to wed, and I know no Viking is allowed
to take unto him a wife.''
"There," said Beorn, "you are, for once
wrong. Lord, for the law has just been changed
in Jomsburg, and any man may now marry with
the Captain's leave."
" When was the law changed ? " said Sweyn,
" Scarce ten nights back,^' said Beorn.
" Then," said the King, " I look for Vagn back
to Denmark sooner than I had thought. He will
marry, mark my words, and when he marries
he will come back to Fiinen."
After these words the King passed on to the
hall, and Sigvald led him to his own high seat,
where he had his morning meal, for it was still
156 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
early in the day. There we leave the King to
himself till the time comes for the great fea^t,
which the Vikings have to make for Sweyn ia
their haU that night.
THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS' HALL,
Never had so grand a feast been held in
Jomsburg, but though short the time to prepare
it, those were not the days of French cooks and
made dishes, and the magnificence of a banquet
<;onsisted rather in the number of the joints
and game of yarious kinds, and in the abun-
dance of the drink, than in anything else.
But for all that it was a grand and solemn
banquet, and in one thing it surpassed all others
€ver held in the burg, it was graced by the pre-
sence of a mighty king.
There in Sigvald's high seat sat King
Sweyn, in the robes which he wore when
he had been snatched away. By his side sat,
right and left, the chief of the men who had
been captured with him, who had not yet reco-
vered their astonishment at the success of Sig-
vald's stratagem. Over against the king sat
158 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Sigvald in the high seat opposite, and on either
side of him were on the right Bui, and on the
left Thorkell the Tall. All the chiefs of the Vi-
kings and theur best men, to the number of two
hundred, were in the hall in their best and
brightest clothing, collars of gold and sflver
ornaments, strings of beads and gems, the spoil
of many voyages, hung round their necks ; and
their arms, inlaid with gold on hilt and haft,
bespoke the success which had ever attended
that famous company in fight.
It so happened that the only weapon which
King Sweyn had with him when he was seized
was a light battle-axe, meant more for show
than work. This Sigvald had soon discovered,
and before the feast began, he stepped across
the hall and said :
" Though it is unlucky to give a friend steel,
I trample the ill-luck under my feet, and give
thee this sword. Lord, which I took away in Ire-
land in the west, out of the cairn of an old
As he said this, he held out the sword and
The King looked at it, and saw it was a thing
I THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS' HALL. 159
jprice ; a treasure which even a king might
kr. The hilt and pommel were rich with
Id and precious stones, and it had a silver
libbard, tipped with gold. The peace-bands or
tings which held it in its sheath were of
As the King held out his hand and grasped
the hilt, he said :
" There is no ill-luck, Sigvald, Harold's son,
in giving or taking a sheathed sword. It is
naked steel that cuts love, unless the giver first
draws his own blood before he gives it. But a
sword bound by peace-bands, as this is, a king
might take and a captain give, and yet their
friendship would be never the worse.''
All this the King said in a loud voice, so that
all in the hall might hear.
" Gird me now with the sword, Sigvald,'*
said the King.
Then Sigvald girded him with the sword, and
the King called out again, so that every man
" Now hath Sigvald, Harold's son, girded me
with his own sword, and done homage, in token
that I am lord over all this band."
1(50 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
There was a roar of voices at this among the
company ; but Beorn said to Vagn, " By this
trial of wit the King has got the best of it, for
he has treated Sigvald as though he were his
marshal or steward, and had girded him with
his sword in sign of homage."
If the same thought struck Sigvald, he said
nothing about it, but slowly returned to his
liigh seat, and taking a horn from his butler,
drank to the health of King Sweyn, Harold's
son, who had honoured the Vikings by paying
them a visit to Jomsburg, and accepting a ban-
quet in their halL Having half drained the
horn, he passed it over to the King, who finished
it, and in return gave the health of Sigvald and
all the band.
After that the feast went on in the usual way.
There was hard eating and deep drinking, even
while they were at meat ; but at last even their
appetites were satisfied, the tables were cleared
away, and the horns and mead remained be-
hind. There sat the King with the torch-
bearers behind him, the observed of all behold-
ers, and over against him sat Sigvald and his
THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS' HALL. 161
There was a pause, and Sigvald seemed
rather at a loss what to say, but in a minute or
two he came to himself, and rose, and said in a
voice just as loud as that in which the King had
spoken : —
" Right glad am I, and right glad are we
Joms vikings. Lord, to see you here at our head ;
and though that sword with which I girded you
a while ago, was not meant as an act of homage,
still I am willing, and we are all willing, that it
should in part be taken as such. We Vikings
of Jomsburg owe allegiance to no man. So
long as we are in this burg, we belong to it,
and it belongs to us. Out in the world
it is otherwise ; and when I am at home
in Scania, or Bui in Bornholm, or Vagn
in Fiinen, or Beorn in Wales, we each of us
owe allegiance to the King of those lands, and
are in so far his vassals. In one way, therefore,
we are vassals, we chiefs each of us of King
Sweyn, and in another not But for this time
at least, now that King Sweyn has been so good
as to visit us, we will not quarrel about words,
but will own that for this once we are all his
TOL. I. X
162 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
There was a murmur of applause, answering
to the modern " hear I hear ! " at those words of
the Captain, and every one Ustened what he
would add to such a clever beginning.
" It may seem to you, Lord, both that the
manner of your coming hither was strange, and
that what I have done was done without a
reason. But it was not so. You talked of
homage, and I talked of vassals ; but what is
worse for the vassals of any land — though I must
say, I thought all Danes were freeborn men, and
no vassals — what is worse for vassals or freemen
than to see that their king will not take to
himself a wife, and that should anything happen
to him, as happened, we all know, to Harold
Bluetooth, he would die and leave no heir to the
throne. And now I come to the reason which
led me to Denmark, to seek the King and to
bring him hither. King Sweyn, Harold's son,
hath been too long unwedded, and my eyes
have spied out a princess who is worthy of his
hand : in fact, she is by far the best royal
match in all the North. Let the King say the
word and take her to wife, and he may be
married, as his people desire, and we all desire.
THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS' HALL. 163
and be back at his ball in Zealand long before
^be first winter night."
Here the wily Sigvald paused, to let his Butler
<fill his horn. Then he raised it high in air, and
half draining it, passed it over to the King,
calling out as he did so :
" This horn I drain in honour of the Queen
^f Denmark ! "
As King Sweyn took the horn, which it would
iiave been the greatest slight to his host to re-
fuse, he said, with a very puzzled look :
" I may well drink this toast to the Queen of
Denmark, my queen that is to be one day or
other. This binds me to nothing, to drink to a
nameless queen, and sooner than spare your
4rink, Sigvald, Harold's son, I drain this horn,
declaring that I never yet heard of a king who
was given away to a woman whom he had not
As he said this. King Sweyn drained the
horn, amidst the shouts of the Vikings ; and
then Sigvald went on :
" I am well pleased that King Sweyn has ful-
filled the wishes of his subjects and vassals, and
^11 his freeborn folk at home and abroad, and
164 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
has plighted his troth to the princess of whom I
spoke. If he wishes to know her name, he shall
have it at once. It is Gunnhilda, and she is
daughter of Burislaf, King of the Wends, with
whom and his forefathers the Kings of Denmark,
as we all know, have had some dealings. Fill the
liorns/' he roared out, " to the health of Gunn-
hilda, Queen of Denmark ! but as the King has
not yet heard her name, he shall not drink the
toast, though, unless he learns to like her, I am
afraid he will have to stay longer than I expect
These last words were not lost on King
Sweyn. He knew that he was in a trap now,
just as much as when Sigvald held him in his
iron grasp, and that he could not leave Joms-
burg except at the Captain's good pleasure. He
rose therefore as soon as Sigvald had ended, and
" Bring hither the horn, and let it mantle
high ; I will drink to the health of Gunnhilda,.
Queen of Denmark ! "
If the Vildngs had shouted with joy before,
they were ten times as noisy now that King
Sweyn had yielded to their Captain's will. Th&
THE FEAST IX THE VIKINGS' HALL. 165
"King raised his horn in air, and up went all
the horns at the same time, and " Gunnhilda !
<3unnhilda ! Queen of Denmark ! " rang through
" He has swallowed the hook, brother,'* said
Thorkell, " which you so skilfully baited. He
is now in your hands. You may do with him
what you will."
When the uproar had abated, King Sweyn
rose, and said :
" Though I cannot compete with Sigvald in
his glib tongue, I may still crave leave to say
^ few words. As is well known to all of you,
this match is none of my seeking ; nor would I
have chosen a Wendish princess had I been left
to my own free will. There has never been any
>iove lost between the Danes and Wends ; and,
^besides, I have just claimed from King Burislaf
the tribute which my father Harold laid on his
father Myeczyslaf, but which has never been
paid. Still, as Sigvald has been so good as to
choose for me, and as you all know I am here in
a cleft stick, what can I say but that I will take the
-caaiden if she be fair of face and hale of frame."
166 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Having said this, King Sweyn sat dowiT'
amidst the applause of his hosts.
Then Sigvald rose again, and said :
*' I would never have set my eyes on a prin-
cess for you. King Sweyn, had she not been both
fair and strong. There are some here who think
Astrida, the eldest daughter of King Burislaf,
tlie fairest of the three, but for all that Gunn-
hilda, the second, is a princess in every way
fitted for the throne. It is not right, therefore, to*
look on this match, which we have chosen with
much care, as though it were one of force or
need. True it is, King, that you have come
against your will to Jomsburg, but that was only
to bring you to the princess, and in no sense are
you here as a captive, but as a king."
**Say no more," said King Sweyn. "This-
is not the bed on which I should have chosen to-
lie, but here I am in it, and I must be content
with it, be it long or short, easy or hard. L
have given my royal word to wed Gunnhilda, if
she is fair and hale. I am ready to go to King,
Burislaf 's Court to-morrow, that I may be the
sooner married, and the sooner get back to my
THE FEAST IN THE VIKINGS' HALL. 167
"There, again/' said Sigvald, *'! am con-
strained to speak a word against the King. No
doubt he is burning to fly to see this fair lady ;
but princesses, fair as she, are not to be
frightened. I must first go before the King to
herald his coming, and when that has been done
we will lose no time in bringing King Sweyn to
the Court of Eang Burislaf.''
By this time the King was weary of the
marriage and of the debate, in which it seemed
that Sigvald was to have it all his own
" Bring me a horn of mead/' he said, " and
let me wash this marriage out of my throat, down
which it has been forced. I will give you a
toast, Vikings, in which you will all join, I am
sure : * May all your marriages be as lucky as
mine, now that you have broken your old laws,
and are all eager to marry.' "
Round went the Butler and the thralls, up
went the horns, and down went the foaming ale
and mead. " May all our marriages be as happy
as King Sweyn's," was the cry, and then there
were no more speeches and no more wrangUng,
168 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC,
but drinking long and deep, till, as the Saga
says, King Sweyn and Sigvald the CaptaiD,
and all the Chiefs of the Vikings^ and every one
in that hall went well drunk to bed.
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF.
Now we leave King Sweyn, a king in name,
but a captive in condition, within the walls of
Jomsburg, treated with honour, but watched as
jealously as an infant, while Sigvald rode oflF in
triumph to King Burislaf to say how well his
errand had sped.
King Burislaf, as we know, was in no great
hurry to see Sigvald again. He wished, if he
<;ould, to be rid of both Sweyn and the Viking
daptain, though, as is clear, he could only get
rid of one at the expense of the other. It was
with no very pleasant feelings, therefore, that he
saw the company of Vikings, with Sigvald at
their head, again riding up to his Grange ; and
his Butler and Marshal groaned, when they
thought of the fresh inroads which the new-
<5omers would make on their stores.
But there was no help for it. There they
170 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
were, and the Wends had to make the best of
" How many days, Gangrel Speedifoot," said
the King, " is it since they were last here ? "
" Barely fourteen nights,'' said the swift run-
ner, " Sigvald, Harold's son, equals Thialfi in
the fleetness of his feet."
By this time the Vikings were in the court ot
the Grange. Thralls hurried forward to hold
their stirrups and tend their horses, and King
Burislaf greeted Sigvald as though he were over-
joyed to see him.
**What news, what news from Jomsburg,
noble Sigvald ? Is all well with your band ? "
"All is well," said Sigvald; "but as for
tidings, more has happened since we parted
than a fasting and a standing man can
" True ! true ! " said the King. " Here, you
thralls, lead the noble Sigvald to his lodgings,
and, as soon as he has bathed his limbs^ lead
him to our hall."
While Sigvald retired Burislaf went into the
Queen's bower, and, holding up both his hands,
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 171
** Here has that furious Viking come back
again^ and he has so much to tell that he must
wait to eat before he utters it."
" Back again so soon ! " said Astrida. " Haa^
he brought King Sweyn with him ? "
" King Sweyn with him ? '^ said both the King
and Queen in amazement. " Why should you
think that he could do such a thing 1 "
** Because a while ago I dreamt a dream/"'
said Astrida ; '* and methought Sigvald came
hither, and brought King Sweyn with him."
" Dreams always go by contraries," said the
King. " Why that was the very feat which we-
laid on this Viking, because we thought it would
be too hard for him."
** Sigvald is a proper man," said Astrida,
** and a crafty and a bold withal. To such a
man all things are possible."
" Well ! " said the King, " women, as is well
said, are as a turning wheel. One cannot tell
what they will say or do. Not a fortnight ago
you thought Sigvald beneath you, and were all
for putting him oflf by laying a quest on him
which he could never carry out, and now you
say he is a proper man, which no doubt he is,.
172 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
and bold too ; but, as for craft and guile, that vfQ
have got to see/'
" I feel, for all that you say, as though I should
be the Captain's wife, for you must keep your
word if Sigvald fulfils the conditions."
" Of course, of course,'* said King Burislaf ;
^* but what is the use of talking about it, when,
no doubt, he has come to tell us in a long story
that he gives up the match."
" That, something tells me," said Astrida, "he
will never do."
" We shall soon know," said Burislaf ; " and
now put on your best attire all of you to grace
the banquet. Thank the Gods, there are but ten
of them come this time to eat us out of house
" Something tells me, too," said Astrida, " that
you will hav6 to make a feast soon that will
waste all your stores of meal and mead and
" Something is always telling you ' some-
thing,' " said Burislaf. " Such another feast as
we made fourteen nights ago for these sharp-
toothed Vikings, and we shall never be able to
make both ends meet through the winter."
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 17.5
But, though close and stingy in his heart,
nothing could have been more hospitable and
generous than King Burislaf in his hall that
evening. Wax-tapers blazed, mead flowed,
boards groaned, and minstrels sang.
When the boards were cleared, the King rose
as before, and drank to the health of Sigvald,
who had again honoured him with a visit.
" Such a friend," he said, " he was always
glad to see. The more so, as he was sure that
he would not have taken the trouble to ride so
far had he not some news which it concerned
the Wends to know."
Sigvald rose, and drank to the King in return,
and then said, —
" Not much, has happened in Jomsburg since
we parted, but much out of if
" Not much in, and yet much out," repeated
the King. " You speak in riddles. Speak out,
man, if you have aught to say."
" I will," said Sigvald haughtily. " No news
has happened in Jomsburg, but in Denmark
King Sweyn is missing."
*' King Sweyn missing ! Since when and how
have the Gods taken him to themselves."
174 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" The Gods have not taken him," said Sigvald.
*' He has been missing from Denmark since I
took him five nights since, and carried him off
to Jomsburg, where he awaits your majesty's
"King Sweyn in Jomsburg," cried out Buris-
Jaf; "and awaits my pleasure. Strike up,
minstrels, your loudest and most joyful strains,
for now the ancient foeman of the Wends is de-
livered into my hands."
" How say you, King Burislaf," shouted Sig-
vald across the hall, " have I fulfilled one of the
conditions which you laid on me that I might
win your daughter's hand."
"All but,'' said the King; "the bargain
was that you should bring him here into our
power. He is not within it, so long as he is
shielded by the Vikings of Joms."
After this piece of news the feast went on for
a while, till the King rose, and said, —
" What you have spoken, noble Sigvald, is
Tight and fit to be uttered in open hall, but there
are things behind which we will wish to know
more privately ; rise, therefore, and mount the
dais, and sit beside the Queen and the Prin-
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 175
cesses, and tell us how you seized King
This was much after Sigvald's mind, and a
few steps brought him and Burislaf to the dais,
preceded by the taper-bearers. As he stood
before the ladies, his eyes grew bright and his
face flushed at the sight of Astrida, and it was
■easy to see that her charms had not been with-
out their workings on his heart.
As he bowed before the Queen, he ♦ said,
speaking to her, but in reality at Astrida, —
"Gracious lady, one of my conditions has
been fulfilled, more by the clever counsel of
others than of myself. King Sweyn is now
in Jomsburg, honourably treated, as is seemly,
by the band, and he only awaits your
" 'Twas a bold deed, and not wrought without
bloodshed, no doubt ? '' said the Queen.
" So far from that/' said Sigvald, " not a drop
of blood was shed in the adventure. King Sweyn
was taken by cunning, and by a stratagem re-
vealed to me in a dream."
" Sit down, sit down," said Burislaf. " It is
ill standing after a feast, and makes the head
176 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
swim and the eyes weak. Sit down, and tell
us how you trapped King Sweyn.''
So Sigvald sat down between Astrida and the
Queen on the cross bench, and the King and
the two other Princesses with them, and he told
them the whole story, which, as they abeady
know it, we will spare our readers.
When the tale had come to an end, King
Burislaf said, —
"And when will King Sweyn come hither
that w^e may have him in our power ? ^'
" That," said Sigvald, " depends altogether on
your majesty. If you will do as I advise. King
Sweyn shall both come hither, and you and the
Wends will be set free from that claim of
tribute, for it is to him that you are asked to
pay it, and besides, gain great honour.''
** Say on," said Burislaf ; " we are ready to
hear, though at this hour of the night our head
is wont to nod. Do you therefore, Astrida, who
are the wisest of us, mark well what Sigvald
says, and be sure you remember it all to-morrow
" I shall be sure to remember it, father," said
Astrida, whose blue eyes smiled on the manly
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 177
Sigvald, and showed that they were now
both on the same path and understood each
" King Sweyn shall come hither ; '^ said Sig-
vald, " but I will not bring him to be mocked
and made a prisoner, to be maimed and
thrown into a dungeon, as has been the fashion
of your Wendish Kings. If he comes he shall
come as a King to a splendid feast, guarded by
three hundred Vikings, and every inch a King.
He is my liege Lord in Denmark, though I am
his host and captor in Jomsburg, and I will not
bring him hither on any other terms.''
^' That is a proud bidding,'' said King Burislaf,
who had already begun to nod. " Proceed, I
^' King Sweyn shall come to a feast, indeed,"
said Sigvald, ** for it shall be his wedding feast.
He is as eager to marry as I am, and he has
fixed his choice on Gunnhilda, the second
daughter of the King."
Here Gunnhilda started as much as Prin-
cesses in any age are allowed to start, and the
Queen looked frightened. As for Burislaf, he
only snored, for the strong mead had mastered
178 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
hiniy while Astrida smiled as she thought what
a clever, crafty man Sigvald was.
"But suppose/' she said — ^for in her feihers
absence of mind she was spokeswoman-
" suppose we accept that as a fulj&Uing of the
first condition, and that we suffer King Sweyii
to wed my sister, what becomes of the second
condition, how are we to be set free from
this claim of tribute that King Sweyn has
made ? '^
" Very easily," said Sigvald ; " I have
thought of that, too, and this is what I think ;
King Sweyn, when he marries Gunnhilda, must
make her a morning gift the day after they are
wedded, and his morning gift shall be this claim
of tribute on the Wends, which his father
Harold Bluetooth laid on, but which has never
yet been paid. He will give up somethiug
which is nothing worth to him, but worth
everything to you Wends to be rid of."
" What a jewel of a man you are," said
Astrida ; " now I see it all as clear as day* I
see that I shall be Lady of Jomsburg, a prouder
title than that of Queen, while you, Gunnhilda
will be Queen of Denmark, a throne on whicli
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 179
any Princess of the North might be proud to
" Yes/' said Gunnhilda ; " it would be a very
proud thing, if it did not come on me quite so
suddenly. Here am I, never thinking of mar-
riage, and I am to be made a Queen, whether I
will or no/'
This was a very long speech for the second
Princess to make; and as she uttered it she
looked imploringly towards her mother. Those
«tern, haughty lips parted for a moment only to
utter in accents that chilled all love, —
" No one asked me whether I liked it when I
was given away to King Burislaf "
Then Astrida went on, —
" And when do you think King Sweyn will
come 1 I am so anxious to see my royal
"I have already told you," said SigvalJ,
"that King Sweyn awaits your pleasure. He
is eager to come himself, for all the band have
told him of Gunnhilda's charms, eager to be
married, and not least of all, eager to get home
again. It had best be soon, or else the Danes
may come hither to look for him, and then,
180 THE VIKINGS OF TtiE BALTIC.
perhaps, there might be some talk of a reat\
'' I see it all as you see it, Sigvald,'' said
Astrida, which we mark as the first time that
she called him ** Sigvald/' and he marked it as
well, and blushed just as much as a Viking and
a man of honour was allowed to blush in those
days, which was not often, and very little at a
" The sooner," she went on, " this match takea
place the better. There will be no peace for
any one while this matter of King Sweyn is
"After the morning meal to-morrow/' said
Sigvald, " I mount and ride for Jomsburg ; on
the second night from that expect me with
King Sweyn to his marriage feast."
"I said only to-day to my father," said
Astrida, "I was sure there would soon be a feast
which would consume all our winter stores, but
I own I was not thinking of a royal marriage.
But what our Butler and Marshal will now do,
I am sure no one can tell. They will be at
their wits' end, and we may have to move ta
another Grange, as this is almost eaten out.
HOW SIGVALD WENT TO KING BURISLAF. 181
But let them see to that, we Princesses and our
women must look after our wedding clothes.
Fortunately, my mother has pell, and bawdekyn
and sammit, and cloth of gold enough to fit us
both out like the daughters of a long line of
Here King Burislaf started up, and we
are sorry to say gave the back of hjs
head a great knock against the wooden
" What is all this,'' he cried, " which I seemed
to hear between the humming of the mead iu
my head? Pell, and bawdekyn and sammit,
and a royal marriage, and King Sweyn coming
hither 1 Astrida, mind you be ready to tell me
all about it ; and now, Sigvald, let us go to bed.
Beshrew me, if I recollect anything of what has
happened this evening, except what you told us
in the open hall, how you had caught King
Sweyn, and had him fast in Jomsburg, awaiting
our good pleasure/ '
And then, after the Queen and Princesses had
retired amid the salutations of Sigvald, King
Burislaf staggered off to bed, and Sigvald
sought his chamber, where, if he had any time
182 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
for reflection before sleep seized him, he must
have been overjoyed at the success which had
hitherto attended his enterprise to win Astrida's^
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG.
Next morning King Burislaf was up betimes.
After his first heavy slumber he had a weight
on his mind which could only be relieved by
Astrida. He knew that he had missed some
news of importance, and was impatient to hear
Luckily, Astrida was as impatient to tell
what had passed as he to hear. At early
dawn, therefore, the father and daughter had
met, and Astrida had told her story in the way
most hkely to further her own plans, which were
now to become Sigvald's wife.
As she went to the conference with her
father, she caught herself saying, —
" Why, he is as tall and fair and strong as
the Northmen's Sigurd Fafnirsbane, and as
wise as Heimdall ; what more could a woman
wish ? And as for King Sweyn, Sigvald has
184 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
vanquished him once in wit, and will vanquish
** What was all that about a royal marriage,"
said Burislaf, when they met> ''and pell and
rich stuffs and feasts ? I really thought we
had feasts enough lately/'
" I told you only yesterday I felt sure we
should soon have a much grander feast, and so
it will be when King Sweyn weds Gunnhilda."
" Sweyn marry Gunnhilda I '^ cried Burislaf.
'' Well ! well ! I do just remember that Sigvald
said something about it; and what did I
say ? ''
" Say ? " said Astrida ; " why, what all must
say, that you thought it a very good match
and quite to your mind."
' Did I say as much as that ? What a thief
mead is of a man's wits ! I don't remember a
word of it ! "
" Quite as much," said Astrida.
" And what did your mother and Gunnhilda
'' Gunnhilda said it was a match made rather
in haste, and my mother rebuked her by say-
ing it was always the way with royal marriages,
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG. 185
aad that no one asked her if she hked it when
she married you, father/'
" That is very true/' said Burislaf. '' It was
all done in a hurry, for we had war in the land
with Harold Bluetooth, Sweyn's father, and we
could not wait ; but a match is hke a pancake,
the sooner it is made and swallowed the better.
And now, Astrida, tell me what did you say ? "
" Oh ! — I said — I said — I said I thought it
would be^ a good match for all of us if King
Sweyn gave up the claim to the tribute."
" Give up the tribute ! I don't see how that
goes with the match."
^' It goes altogether with it, and is part and
parcel of it. King Sweyn offers to give up the
tribute as GunnhUda's moruing gift."
" If that be so, I am all. for the marriage,"
said King Burislaf, with the air of a man relieved
of a great load of care. " It is everything to
be good friends with these Danes, and not to
have them always invading our borders. If
King Sweyn marries your sister and gives up
the tribute there is no reason why there should
not be peace for ever between the Wends and
]86 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
** Quite my view, father/' said Astrida ; " and
when King Sweyn cornea and is married — '*
" What then 1 " asked Burislaf.
** Why then, I suppose, as Sigvald will have
fulfilled both the conditions, that he will claim
my hand, and I shall be married, too, and you
will only have Geira left."
** I am afraid it must be so," said Burislaf.
" We have given our word, and words at least
even kings can keep. I am sorry for you, but
so it must be. I could have wished you a more
" I am quite content to take Sigvald as he is,
father," said Astrida. " To my mind, the man
who is bold enough and crafty enough to seize
King Sweyn and bring him hither, is more
worth having than all the Kings of the North.''
" If you are happy, I am happy," said the
easy Burislaf. "Besides, so long as you are
Lady of Jomsburg, we shall not lose you alto-
gether, while Denmark is far to see. But now
that you have told me everything, let us go to
breakfast. Nothing now remains but to tell
Sigvald that he may bring King Sweyn hither
as soon as ever he can.'*
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG. 187
But while Burislaf was making himself smart
for his interview with Sigvald, Sigvald and
Astrida had met, and she had told him all that
had passed. Of course he did not enter into-
that lady's bower, which in those ages was in
the case of unmarried women almost as sacred
in the West as in the East ; but love is just the
same in all ages, and laughed at locksmiths,
and parents and guardians just as heartily in
tlie tenth centurj^ as he does in the nineteenth.
Sigvald and Astrida met, therefore — where
we cannot tell ; but there was perfect intelli-
gence between them, and in that assurance
Sigvald went to breakfast with the Wendish
** We have thought over what you said last
night," said Burislaf, with the most barefaced
hypocrisy ; " and we have well weighed your
offer on the part of King Sweyn. Tell him
that he is heartily welcome on Wendish soil,.
and that we are willing to make this match
with our daughter Gunnhilda, if he will first
consent to forego that claim to tribute which
his father made/'
" I will bear your message to the King,*' said
188 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Sigvald ; " and in two nights expect us back to
the wedding feast.'*
" Two nights ; " said King Burislaf, " that is
but a short space. There are clothes to be made,
not to speak of the ale and mead and meat that
must be procured."
" King Sweyn bade me say," said Sigvald,
^* that he was eager to get home, as well he might
be, seeing how he parted from his people. The
•Queen's waiting-women must stitch their fingers
sore, and the King's thralls scour the country to
bring in beeves and sheep ; the King's huntsmen
must search the forest, and his fishermen the
I'ivers. There is good store of mead and ale
in the cellars of the King, and besides all
this there will be so much love at this banquet
that all shortcomings will be forgotten. Your
majesty will bear it in mind that as soon as I
liave brought King Sweyn hither and he
has given up the tribute I am free to claim
the Princess's hand, and be assured I mean to
" I will bear it in mind," said King Burislaf,
graciously, " but remember you shall not have
Astrida if Sweyn does not give up the tribute."
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG. 18^
** I am quite ready to agree to that, and for
that reason I beg your majesty to say nothing
of the second marriage till King Sweyn has
uttered his mind about the tribute ; say nothing
about me or Astrida till he has spoken out. A&
soon as that happens I will come forward and
claim her hand/^
" Be it so," said the King, and so those two
parted. Sigvald took horse and rode off, and
King Burislaf held long conferences with his
Butler and Marshal, while Gangrel Speedifoot
scoured the country to bring in stores of mead
and ale and meat. How the Queen's waiting-
women sewed and stitched and how the kitchen
chimneys of the Grange smoked we forbear to
tell. Suffice it to say, that when the evening of
the second night came everything was ready for
the bridal banquet.
During this time King Sweyn had sat moodily
in Jomsburg considering his hard fate; snatched
away from his realm and made to marry against
his will, he was in no very good humour.
Nothing that the Vikings could do gave him any
pleasure ; he showed no fear, but little joy, and
it was a relief to him when he heard by the
190 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
-warder's horn that Sigvald had re-entered the
But eager as he was to know the news it was
quite beneath his royal position, and, indeed,
beneath that of any free man in those days, to
show any curiosity about his fate. He and Sigvald
met therefore some time before the supper, at
which all announcements were inevitably made ;
but they talked of the weather or the ships or
the crops, or whatever was most indifferent.
But when the boards were cleared in the hall
Sigvald rose up as before, drank the King's
health with the usual formality, and passed the
horn. Then the King drank to Sigvald and the
Vikings, and while the mead went round waited
for what Sigvald had to say.
As soon as the hum of toast-drinking had sub-
sided, Sigvald rose and said :
" I have now, King Sweyn, to tell you how my
errand to King Burislaf has fared. I found him
well and the fair Gunnhilda well, and I did not
fail to plead your suit for her hand with all the
power that I could. The end of it all is, to make
a long story short, that King Burislaf is ready
to give you his daughter on one condition."
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG. 191
Here he paused, and King Sweyn caught him
" And what is that ? ''
" His condition is an easy one," said Sigvald.
'^ Easy for such a King as he to make, and easier
«till for such a mighty King as you to grant. In
the early days of your father, Harold Bluetooth,
there was, as we all know, and, indeed, you your-
self have named it, some claim of a tax or
tribute which your father said the Wends were
bound to pay, and which the Wends refused."
Here King Sweyn, says the chronicler, turned
.as red as blood, and was swollen with wrath.
" I will never give up that tribute," he said,
" which I have besides lately asked for ; a King
should never go back on his word/'
" The King says," Sigvald went on, " he will
never go back in his word. Some words arc
uttered to be given up, idle words, unreal
claims, rights as some men call them, like
" I say it again,'' said Sweyn, " I will never
go back on my word."
"Better that," said Sigvald fiercely, "than
not to go back to Denmark."
192 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" How SO, Sigvald ? " said Sweyn in the same
tone ; " Dost thou threaten me, thy liege
** Liege Lord in Denmark, but equal to a king
in Jomsburg," said Sigvald. " I make no threat.
So long as you are with us. King Sweyn, we wiD
treat you like a king, but then Jomsburg is not
Denmark, nor is the yellow East Sea the blue
Sound or Belt. Far pleasanter are the beechen
woods of Schleswig and the islands than the fir
forests of the Wends. Unless the King yields
this little matter of the tribute he will have to
stay long in Jomsburg, the winter over perhaps.
Not to mention the loss of such a match and
the third part of Wendland after Burislafs
" How sol" said King Sweyn, " I never heard
of that third part of Wendland."
" Because your majesty is so hasty,'' said Sig-
vald. " Had you waited I was coming to that.
King Burislaf has no son nor male heir. After
his death his three daughters will share his realm
between them, and if Denmark get that third of
Wendland which lies nearest to Denmark, that,
methinks, would be worth ten times this tribute.
HOW SIGVALD RETURNED TO JOMSBURG. 19S
which is only a claim after all and has never
'* I never thought of that," said King Sweyn.
^ It is a sad thing when men will not think,"
said Sigvald ; " worst of all when kings who ought
to think most think least, or not at all."
" I am willing to think over it," said the king.
" And not only to think of it but to do it,"
said Sigvald ; " and, while I am about it, there is
another thing that you might think of, and
that is this, kings when they marry princesKes
of royal race and when that king is of great
lineage are wont to give their brides on the
morrow of the marriage a morning gift What
better morning gift could King Sweyn give to
Gunnhilda, Burislaf s daughter, than this tribute
which he claims? That would be indeed a
royal way of giving up the tribute."
" I am willing to make the match on tho«^^
terms," said King Sweyn, "so that in all ihih'^a
I am treated as a king, and not pushed fi4^1<l<^
into a corner by Burislaf"
" That you may rely on," said Sigvald ; '' J sh4
three hundred of our bravest men will go witli
you to your wedding, and be your body guard,
you L ^>
194 THE VIKINGS OP THE BALTIC.
before two nights are out. All is settled and
arranged, and when you have given up the
tribute and have returned to Jomsburg with
your queen, we Vikings of Jomsburg will speed
you hence to Denmark with a squadron of
Then he went on :
"There is yet another thing too that you
must think of. It will be more to your honour
if your father-in-law is a king who pays tax and
tribute to no man, so that in giving it up you
will only increase your own grandeur, for those
kings are surely greater who pay no tribute. For
these and many other reasons you must see that
this match, so far from being unequal, is one
which will add to your glory and renown."
" You speak so forcibly and with such per-
suasion, Sigvald," said Sweyn, " that I say out-
right that this match is much to my mind, and
now I again say let us think no more of it to-
night. Ho ! butler, fill up my horn with mead."
So King Sweyn and the Vikings spent that
night in wassail and revelry, and when they
went to bed there was scarce one of them that
did not stagger, except Beorn, the Welshman.
HOW SIGVALD HETl^LSLJJ T:» ^JC'IMSITT^GL 1'?*
"Whatever I hare said of Si^cui aud Lis
breaking the law," he said ^o iiiinseK, "* I mast
own that no man is his match in wh. Thmk of
carrying King Swejm off aiid maiing Tittb marnr
BurislaTs daoghter, asd all thai Sigrald maj wei
the fisdr Astrida. It is a mad world, bo it Las
l^een and so it wiD be. Women with their
pretty &ces turn it upade down- I thaiik all
the gods that no woman cares to many me, jnst
as I care to many no woman-'"
With which sage reflections the Teteran lay
down^ turned over on his side, and was soon
HOW KING SWETN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED.
Two days after, as they had promised, King
Sweyn rode out of Jomsburg with Sigvald and
Thorkell the Tall by his side and three hundred
Vikings at his back. Never had such a gallant
band of horsemen been seen in Wendland.
As the night began to fall they came to
Burislaf 's grange, and the flutter which their
arrival caused at that court may be better ima-
gined than described.
As for Burislaf himself he was already seated
in his high seat in the hall, a position which so
well became him. To tell the truth he and his
whole household were rather alarmed at the
prospect of entertaining the hereditary foe of
their house, even when he came as a friend.
They had caged the lion and were afraid to look
The queen and the princesses, too, were in
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 197
the hall on the cross-bench on the dais, the two
brides with wimples over their heads and long
veils which quite concealed their features.
Whether Gunnhilda shed tears at the pros-
pect of leaving her home we cannot say, but we
are sure that though Astrida*s heart beat high
she shed no tears.
The King's chiefs were on his side of the hall,
^ne himdred in number, and room was left for
King Sweyn and as many of his Vikings oppo-
site. The rest of the three hundred were
feasted with men of equal rank among the
As for the butler and the marshal, they re-
ceived the King, led him to a room by himself,
held fine linen for him to wipe his hands and
face, and brought him warm water in a silver
When all was ready the warders sounded their
horns, all the hounds bayed and barked, the
steeds snorted and neighed in their stalls, and
all the world around Burislaf s grange knew that
the mighty King Sweyn was on his way to his
Into the hall strode the moody King, followed
19S THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
closely by Sigvald and the rest of the Viking
chiefs, of whom only Bui again had remained to
keep order and rule in Jomsburg. Before him
went the marshal and the butler.
When he had gone so far as half-way up the
hall opposite to the King's high seat, Burislaf
rose, and without moving from his high seat^
said, in a loud voice —
" Welcome, King Sweyn, on Wendish land \
Welcome to your bridal feast ! ''
Without bowing, Sweyn replied —
" Hail, Burislaf, King of the Wends. Right
glad am I to find myself under your roof."
"Take your seat opposite, you and your
men,'' said Burislaf, " and eat and drink and be
merry. When your hunger and thirst are over
we will speak of the wedding."
So the two kings sat and feasted, and the*
banquet was like any other banquet in those
days, except that more meat was consumed and
more mead drank in a given period of time than
the butler and the marshal had ever heard of or
When all this eating and drinking was over,
the boards were cleared and removed by the-
HOW SWEYN AND SGTAU) wiatE MJLiaaiir*, 19^
thralls, ^^^ ^^^ 1^ bisiiiesB 6F the eTening
Then Sigyald, who sat next to Kii^ Swejn
on his right, rose and said —
'' It is well known to you. King Borislaf, and
to you also, King Sweyn, why we are all here.
King Sweyn has heard, as we all have heard, of
the beauty of the Princess Gunnhilda. It is not
good for a man, least of all for a king, to be
without a wife, and so he has turned his eyes
where good women are to be found. This is
why he has come so far from his own land to
seek a wife in Wendland, and it is another mark
of respect to you, King Burislaf, that instead of
making his bridal feast in Denmark and baring
the bride brought to him, he has come to your
grange to keep this feast here, and then to bring
her home himself. For these three clay«, Kinp;
Burislaf, the Princess Gunnhilda hM Wn ^<h
trothed to King Sweyn ; and though tJi^ t(mtt-
ship has been short, there k an old nfsw whi<^/fr
says, ' the sooner the better hr * f^CtrA thit^^'
How say you, then, Kin<^ Burl^Uf, <^hh\] ff\y li^j<A
lord in Denmark, Kinjf Stw^yA h^^A^ h^/^4 y/'rtrf
daughter Gunnhilda tA w;fe '("^
200 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
"What dower will King Swejn give my
daughter ? '' said Burislaf, *' and what shall be
her mornmg gift 1 "
"She shall have Moen, and Falster, and
Langeland, and a third of the King^s dues at
Oresund for her dower/* answered Sigvald;
" and for her morning gift King Sweyn will be-
have right nobly ; but for that matter I would
rather he spoke for himself."
" How say you, King Sweyn 1 '^ said Burislaf ;
" shall my daughter, if she marries you, have all
these islands and dues for her dower, and will
you take her to wife by the most binding rites
which you Danes respect 1 ''
"I am ready," said King Sweyn, "to take
her as my wife, and to grant her those islands
and dues as her dower, and to wed her with
Thor's holy hammer, the rite in which we Danes
still put most faith, for our Christianity is as
young as yours. But if I do all this^ what shall
Gunnhilda have as her portion V
"That/' said Burislaf, "is soon answered.
The line of my father has ended on the spindle-
side. I have no male heir, no son, no brother,
no uncle, and according to our laws, when I die
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 201
my three daughters will share my kingdom be-
tween them. Gunnhilda's portion will be a third
of all Wendland. Is that enough T"
" It is," said Sweyn ; " and on these terms I
am willing to make the match."
" But one thing is still unsaid/' said Burislaf ;
*Hhe morning gift, which by our customs the
bride must have. Whether you have it or no,
' we must have it, for without it no marriage is
binding on the Wends. How say you, then, as
to the morning gift, King Sweyn ? "
" We have an old saw which says," replied
King Sweyn, " that there is always a short cut to
the house of a good friend. I little thought when
I left Denmark so suddenly that I should take
this long journey, least of all that I should so
soon find myself friends with thee. King Buris-
laf. But so it has been. This long way has
proved a short cut to friendship ; and though
there, has been sometimes enmity between our
houses and our folk, I am ready to forget and
forgive all those former feuds. My father,
Harold Bluetooth, as is well known, claimed
tribute from the Wends, and there are some
here at least who know that it is not so long ago
202 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
since I thought of demanding it. I think be-
tween father-in-law and son-in-law there should
neither be tax nor tribute, and that the son-in-
law is a grander man if his father-in-law is free
from all tribute. At the same time, there is
the claim. What I will do, therefore, King
Burislaf, in the matter of that morning gift of
which you have spoken is to declare here in the
presence of all these witnesses, my men and
yours, that as soon as I am wedded to Gunn-
hilda I will give up all and every claim to tri-
bute from the Wends."
A roar of applause followed from what may
be called the Wendish side of the house. To
tell the truth, the Wends knew they were no
match for the Danes in fight, and every man
just as much as King Burislaf blessed the happy
chance which had brought King Sweyn to seek
a wife among the Wends, and to give up the
tax which not a month before King Sweyn had
demanded so insultingly.
'* The King gives up the tribute ! " " No tri-
bute to the Danes ! " rang round the hall, and
the excitement was intense.
" That I think is a* right royal morning gift,""
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 20a
said King Burislaf, when order was restored. " I
think before we proceed further, as talking ia
dry work, we had better have a horn of mead
in memory of King Sweyn's gracious words."
Round went the horns, and they were speedily
drained, amidst shouts of "Long live King
Sweyn ! '' " No tribute to the Danes ! ''' and
nothing could now seem fairer than the pro-
spects of the feast.
When the uproar died away King Burislaf
rose again and said —
" As all that is needful has thus been settled
by word of mouth in the sight and hearing of
many witnesses, we will now proceed to the
Avedding. Yonder sits the bride on the cross-
bench. May it please you, King Sweyn, to
hallow the bride.''
Then a procession was formed, in which the
marshal went first and the taper-bearers, then
came King Burislaf, then King Sweyn, then Sig-
vald, playing the part of best man, then Thorkell
the Tall, and so on, Wends and Vikings ia
double file in the order of their rank.
Thrice they walked round the hall, and on
the third round halted before the dais on.
204 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
which sat the Queen and the Princesses on th^
Here a difficulty occurred, for there sat twc:::^
brides both closely veiled, and both dressed alik^»
in vifgin white. Hitherto they had escape(
Sweyn's notice. As they caught his eye hi
turned and said, half out loud, to Sigvald —
" Be there two brides, or do I see double r
though we have drank no mead to speak of.^'
" There are two brides," said Sigvald. " That
will be made clear presently. Gunnhilda is she
that sits on the right hand of the Queen in the
place of honour.*'
Then Burislaf called to the Marshal : " Where
is the holy hammer ? — produce it."
Then the Marshal drew forth from his robes,
or what passed muster for robes, an ancient axe
of flint, one of those stone implements which
we call celts, but which were then supposed to
be the thunderbolts of Thor, and tokens of his
maul with which he smashed the skulls of the
" This rite," said Burislaf, turning to King
Sweyn, " is common to both our races. In these
days we know not what we worship, for as you
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 205
well said, Christianity is young in the Norths
And so the old form lingers, though few still be-
lieve in the ancient gods. Whether it be Peran
or Thor, both Danes and Wends worshipped the
same God of Thunder under two names. Hallow
the bride, therefore, with the Holy Maul, and so
take Gunnhilda to thyself for thy lawful wife.''
King Sweyn took the flint axe, and stepping
up to the veiled figure on the right of the Queen,
laid it on the lap of the bride, and then called
out in a loud voice —
"With this Holy Maul, I, Sweyn, King of
Denmark, take thee, Gunnhilda, Burislafs
daughter, to be my wedded wife.''
As he said this the warders blew their horns,
and the harpers struck up their wild minstrelsy,
of which the reader has already heard. When
the savage melody died away King Burislaf
called out —
" Now are Sweyn, Harold's son. King of Den-
mark, and Gunnhilda, Burislaf's daughter, Prin-
cess of the Wends, man and wife."
Thunders of applause followed this announce-
ment, in the course of which the Marshal re-
moved the Holy Maul from the bride's lap, and
^06 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
held it in his hand, as if ready for further
All this time the bride sat motionless, and
made no sign. Her part in the ceremony was
purely passive. In this way brides were, as it
was called in old times just as much as in
modern, "given away" by their fathers. In
the earliest times brides were stolen from their
homes and carried oflF like captives by suitors.
Next they were sold by their fathers, and then
given away. In modern times they are as often
sold as given away, but it is the fashion to call
that a gift which in reahty is too often a sale.
As the ritualistic part of the ceremony was
over, and what was called the bride's feast was
about to begin. King Sweyn turned to go back
to his seat, but Burislaf touched him and
" Bide a while, King Sweyn, we have still to
wed the second bride."
" One bride is enough at a time for any man,"
said King Sweyn, whose wits at this period of
the evening were anything but clear. " I can-
not marry both your daughters.''
"It is not needed," said Burislaf, with a
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 207
•chuckle. " We have already found a bridegroom
for our eldest daughter."
"I see no other bridegroom/^ said King
"And yet he stands by you, shoulder to
shoulder/' said Burislaf.
King Sweyn turned again, and saw to his
amazement Sigvald in the act of reaching out
his hand to the Marshal to take the Holy
" Sigvald the bridegroom ! '' he exclaimed.
^' I never heard of it. He keeps his counsel
-close. Is there guile under this also ? "
" There is no guile/' King Sweyn, said Buris-
laf. Astrida and Sigvald have been betrothed,
«o to speak, much longer than Gunnhilda and
" I do not understand it/' said Sweyn.
" Hush ! " said Burislaf. " Do not break the
bride's peace. See, he lays the Holy Maul on
her lap, and hallows her as his wedded
wife ! "
" I see it al]/' said Sweyn, " but I do not
understand it ; " but his words were lost in the
shouts of applause with which the Vikings and
20S THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Wends alike answered Burislafs second an-
" Now are Sigvald, Harold's son, Captain of
Jomsburg, and Astrida, Burislafs daughter,
Princess of the Wends, man and wife.''
Then followed the brides' feast, as it was
called, a mere form, in which they still sat on
the cross bench, and were served with meat
and drink, which they could but taste under
their long veils, while the men looked on, and
the minstrels played. As soon as it was over,
they, with the rest of the women, retired for
the night to the women's apartments, first
paying the ''bride's fee" to the Marshal, and
their waiting women for their attendance at
the ceremony. The bridegrooms saw no more
of their brides that night, for, according to the
old usage, though lawfully wedded, they were
not " bedded," as the phrase was, till the
bridal or bride's ride had taken place, in which,
when the marriage was celebrated out of his
own house, the bridegroom brought his bride
solemnly home. On this occasion the home of
both the bridegrooms was taken to be the
Castle of Jomsburg.
HOW SWEYN AND SIGVALD WERE MARRIED. 209
After the women had departed, the men still
kept up the feast till far on into the night ; and
it seemed to Burislafs butler that the end of
the world, so far as quaffing mead was con-
cerned, had surely come. Even King Sweyn
seemed to have recovered his surprise at hear-
ing there was a second bridegroom, and that
Sigvald, in the hall. No doubt he felt as eager
as the giant in the Edda to lift the bride's
veil, and see what she was like ; but even he
was restrained by the manners of the time,
and whatever curiosity he felt, kept it all to
All things must have an end, and so had this
Avedding feast. What Burislaf was to do during
the winter with his empty cellar and larder,
literally eaten out of house and home, does not
concern us. Suffice it to say, that he had
married both his daughters, one of them to a
king, and another to a man who had proved
himself the boldest and most skilful warrior of
his time. He had, besides, struck up a friend-
ship with Sweyn, got rid of the tribute, and
was no longer plagued with periodical fears of
^ Danish invasion. As he lay down to rest, he
VOL. I. ^
210 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
might well chuckle and congratulate himself on
his good fortune in having such a friend as
Sigvald. Nor had Sigvald cause to complain.
He had changed the law at Jomsburg with
little trouble, married the woman of his choice,
and done that deed in carrying oflF King Sweyn,
and bringing him to King Burislaf, which would
for ever make his name famous in the North.
What more could he wish, except that King
Sweyn might not envy him the possession of
Astrida, and might not know all the circum-
stances which had led to his captivity. What
Sweyn thought is unknown. After all his mead
he slept, no doubt, sound and well.
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG.
Next morning every one was up betimes.
After the morning meal the brides were to be
given away by King Burislaf to their husbands,
and then they were to mount and ride for
When King Sweyn and Sigvald met, it was
plain to see that there was some coolness be-
tween them. Never, even on the morning after
he had been carried off, had the King seemed
so ill at ease. Sigvald, on his part, had some-
thing plainly on his mind.
" They stare at one another like two bears in
a pitfall, Vagn,'' said Beorn. " Were not Sweyn
so completely in our power, they would soon
come to blows.*'
Sweyn, like kings in all times, had little to
do on such an occasion. Had he been a king
now-a-days, in all probability he would have
i512 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
smoked, and so consoled himself; but as there
was then no such resource, he loitered about,
and did nothing till breakfast, while Sigvald was
busy looking after his horses, and getting all
things ready for their long ride.
At last the morning meal came, and with it
the critical moment when the bridegrooms were
to see the brides unveiled. Unless a man in
those times had seen his intended before the
wedding day, he was in the position, as Beorn
the Welchman irreverently remarked, of a man
buying a pig in a poke. He might be bound
for ever to the ugliest and loathliest woman in
the world, and in that plight was King Sweyn.
Now it could not be denied that Gunnhilda
was a pretty girl, only she was not so pretty as
Astrida, who was really beautiful. She was tall,
and dark, and majestic as her mother, while
Gunnhilda was simply a pretty likeness of her
short and squat sire. She would have passed
muster well enough had Astrida been away;
but there Astrida was, and there was no deny-
ing her superior charms. Added to this, Gunn-
hilda was believed in the family to be as stupid
as Astrida was wise.
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 213
When King Burislaf saw King Sweyn loitering
about the court-yard in that Ustless way, he
went up to him without ceremony, and hoped
he had slept well, just for all the world like a
courteous prince of the present century. We
say courteous, because there are some kings,
alas ! even in this century, though not English
ones, whose manners and address are anything
" Though not like Freyr," said Sweyn, "who
could not sleep for nights and nights till he had
got Gerda to wife, I may still say that I have
been awake long before dawn. I am eager, to
tell you the truth, to see the bride, and to
acknowledge the beauty of my queen.''
" The morning meal will be served at once,''
said Burislaf, " and then your majesty will have
your heart's desire."
When he had said that, he turned away, and
said to himself :
" I wonder what he will think of her when
he sees her ? "
"The morning meal is served," cried the
butler; and the two Kings and the Vikings,
every man of whom was as sharp set as though
ai4 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
they had never put morsel into their mouths,
streamed into the hall.
"If King Sweyn were hungry/' says the
chronicler, "his eyes were hungrier still to
behold his bride, of whose loveliness Sigvald
had told him so much, all which he had taken
His first care, therefore, was to look towards
the (jross-bench, where the Queen, and the
princesses, or brides, now sat in the light of day
without wimple or veil of any kind. The even-
ing before, still as death, they were now as
lively as larks, and chatted to one another as
only sisteris can.
While Sweyn was watching them, and taking
the measure of their charms, others in the hall
were watching him.
" Mark his face, boy,'' said Beom to Vagn ;
" he grows as red as blood, like all that family.
Other men turn white ; but the Knytlings
always show their wrath by a red face and a
swollen look. See, he swells as if his kirtle
could not hold him. Take my word for it, he
feels that he has been cheated in this wedding
by the Captain, who picked out the fairest
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 215
Tnaiden for himself, and left the less fair for him,
" He may feel wrathful/' said Vagn, " but he
^are not show it in words. He is quite in our
" True ; but for all that, I am much mis-
taken if he does not show it in words ere we
leave Burislars house."
'' So the meal went on as all morning meals,
only it was more ample. When it came to an
end the horses were ready, and nothing remained
to Burislaf but to give his daughters solemnly
away, to lead them out of the house, as it was
called, and to hand them over to their husbands.
*' May it please you. King Sweyn," he said,
■*'and you, Sigvald, Harold's son, to approach
the dais, and look upon your brides ? "
Up rose King Sweyn without a word.
When he reached the dais, he stared savagely
at both the princesses, and glared in anger,
saying never a word.
" Say, King Sweyn, is the ^ueen fair to look
on ? " said Burislaf, who, perhaps, thought that
Xrunnhilda, being like himself, must be more
beautiful than Astrida.
216 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" Fair is the maiden/' said Sweyn, swallow-
ing down his wrath ; " fair enough, were it not
that a fairer than she sits by her ! **
Then, turning to Sigvald,he said in a way most
shocking for a king, a bridegroom, and a lover :
" Why told you me not, Sigvald, Harold's
son, that Astrida was the fairer of the two ? "
"Because, King Sweyn," said Sigvald,
proudly, "because Gunnhilda was then the
fairest of King Burislaf 's unpledged daughters
when I wooed her in your name. Long before
that, Astrida was betrothed to me ; and when
a woman is once betrothed, King Sweyn, you
know she is not free to become the choice of
any other man."
" And pray/' said King Sweyn, whose blood
seemed now up, " pray what morning gift are
you, Sigvald, Harold's son, to give to Astrida for
giving herself over, and all her charms, to
you ? "
This question seemed to take Sigvald un-
awares, and he paused for a reply ; but, to the
amazement of all, his bride came to his relief.
" King Sweyn, Harold's son," said Astrida,
haughtily, " asks what morning gift Sigvald is
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 217
to give to me, his wife. Let me tell you. King,
this is one of those gifts which has been paid
beforehand : Sigvald has given it me already/'
" And pray what was it 1 " said King Sweyn,
" I am ready to utter it ; and all the more,
because it concerns yourself, King Sweyn,'* said
Astrida. " Sigvald, Harold's son, paid me mj-
morning gift; when he seized you, and carried
you oflF from Denmark, and brought you here,
and married you to my sister, who is too good
for a king who was so worsted in a struggle of
wit and daring. Besides all that, it would
have bojBn quite gift enough for me had he
only forced you, as he has, to forego all claim
to tribute on the Wends."
" So those were the conditions," said King
Sweyn, with the air of a man who at last felt
all the humiliation of his position.
" They were. King Sweyn," said Sigvald,
" All that I was to do to win Astrida's hand ;
and, against all hope, I have done it, I alone*
You would never have heard these tKings, lord,
unless you had asked questions. But as you
have asked them, you have had your answer.
218 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Now answer another, which I am forced to put
to you, King Sweyn. Will you take Gunnhilda,
and treat her in every way as your queen, on
your word as a king, and go back to Denmark
straightway with all honour 1 or, will you give
her up, and stay here in King Burislaf *s hands,
or come back with us to Jomsburg, and stay
there with us, and not go back at all to Den-
mark 1 "
" A plain question,'' said King Sweyn, " and
it shall be as plainly answered. No one can
strive against superior force. I will treat
Gunnhilda as becomes a queen in every way,
and I will go back to Denmark. Now let us
ride to Jomsburg as soon as may be/'
All this time King Burislaf had stood by as
speechless as his queen, while every man in the
hall looked on and listened. When Sweyn had
uttered these last words, the Wendish king
stepped forward, and said :
"We have heard from Astrida's lips the
morning gift which Sigvald has paid her. But
we have not heard yours in proper form.
We know since last night what it is to be, but
«ow deign to utter it ? "
THE RIDE TO JOMSBUKG. 219
Thus challenged, King Swejn looked fiercely
at King Burislaf, and said :
" About this there is a long story, deign to hear
it, King BurLslaf. Once on a time there was a
folk of eagles, and hard by their land dwelt a
a folk of tits. The tits were small, and of no
repute ; they lived on dirt and filth, while the
eagles lived on the fish of the sea, and the fowl of
the air, and the beasts of the field. But all at
once the tits went to war with the eagles in
their pride, and crossed the border ; but they
<50uld not do much harm, they were so small.
For all that the eagles were angry, and crossed
the border into the tits' land, and wasted it, but
they could not live on dirt as the tits lived, nor
could they catch the tits, they were so small,
and flew so fast. So they retired to their own
laud, and said : ' This land is nothing worth,
and the tits are poor and wretched. Just to
say that we have been here, we will make the tits
pay tribute, though they have nothing to pay it
with.' So it went on for years and years, the
eagles claiming, and the tits never paying
tribute. At last there came one eagle fleeter
than the rest, whose wings were stronger and
220 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
longer, and he said : * I will make these tits pay
tribute/ so he sent a message to the tit-king, and
said : * Pay me that tribute, or I will destroy
thee/ But the tits sent no tribute. It so
happened that the tit-king had a friend, called
the Pox, and they took counsel together, and
the fox said : 'If I bring thee the king of the
eagles prisoner, wilt thou give me thy daughter
to wife/ To that the tit-king said : *Aye/ So
the fox went craftily, as only foxes can go, and
found the king of the eagles asleep, and carried
him off to tit-land, and showed him to the tit-
king, and said : ^ Marry the tit-king's daughter,
or spend your life for ever in a cage, and give
up the tribute which the tits have never paid/
So the king of the eagles said : ' What good can
come of a match when one mate is an eagle and
the other a tit ? All the same, sooner than live
all my life in a cage, I will marry the tit-
princess/ So he married her, and was set free,
and gave up the tax and returned to his own
land. That is the story of the eagle-king and
the tit-king. King Burislaf, and I say, like the
eagle-king, * though my wings are long and
strong, they are of no use to me unless I am
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 221
free to fly whither I will, and so I marry your
daughter, and give up the tribute to her as her
morning gift ; but whether the eagle-king and
the tit-princess Uve together long and happily is
more than I can tell, for when birds are ill-mated
they do not thrive, and it is an old saw, ' that
birds of a feather flock most together,* and so no
doubt it has been with you and Sigvald."
" Let us not prolong the war of words," said
Burislaf. "You came hither in peace, King
Sweyn, and in peace you shall return. It is
true that Sigvald has wrought all that Astrida
said ; but Gunnhilda and Geira were the only two
of my daughters left, for Astrida was as good
as given to Sigvald before you ever set foot in
Jomsburg. As for eagles and tits, I know not
what you mean. We Wends have often held
our own against you Danes, and so we will again.
It is not so long since the Danish eagle flew like
a tit before the army of the Emperor Otho, who
is an eagle indeed. But, as I have said, let there
be an end of this. Go in peace, and take
Gunnhilda with you. She will make you a good
wife ; and, as for Sigvald, though you are his
liege-lord in Denmark, here, on Wendish soil, he
2£^ THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
is your equal, and in every way worthy to be
the brother-in-law of the King of Denmark."
With these words, he took his daughters bj
their right and left hands, leading them out of
the hall in that way. As they passed the door-
sill, he turned and said to Sweyn and Sigvald,
who followed close behind :
" With these hands I lead my daughters out
of the house, that I may give them to thee,
Sweyn, Harold's son. King of Denmark, and ta
thee, Sigvald, Harold's son, Captain of Joms-
burg. Take them, and be good to them, as they
will be bonny and buxom to both of you, and
now may all the gods, both the old and the
new, speed you and them on your way."
Then Sweyn and Sigvald each took their
wife's right hand in theirs, and, leading them to
their palfreys, put them up into the saddle, each
saying as he did so ;
" Now are you, Gunnhilda, and now are you,^
Astrida, my lawful wife, and no other.''
Next all the Vikings mounted, and Burislaf
and his chiefs mounted too, and they rode off
as hard as they could on their bridal procession
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 22^
Half way between Burislafs Grange and
the Burg, King Burislaf turned and rode back
with his men, but the rest rode on ever faster
and faster till they neared Jomsburg, when the
ride became a race between the two bridegrooms
and their brides, which could first pass the gate^
into the Vikings' stronghold.
Here, too, fortune was against King Sweyn
and for Sigvald. The Viking Captain distanced
the King in the race, but men marked it as a
token that Sigvald himself was beaten by As-
trida, who at the last moment pressed her pal-
frey on, and just got through the gate before
" Sigvald for this once rules the roost over
Sweyn,'* said Beorn to Vagn ; " but the end of
this race is a sign that Astrida will rule over
Sigvald, crafty and deep withal though he be.
Depend on it, in this case, too, the grey mare
will be the better horse."
That night, again, there was a great feast in
the Vikings' hall, and theKing and Sigvald sat
over against one another in their high seats, the
King still keeping the seat of honour. Side by
iside with them sat Gunnhilda and Astrida^ and
224 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
it was remarked that King Swejn, having vented
his wrath, was in a better temper at night than
he had been in the morning. Whether it was
that the black cloud had passed away, or that he
thought it best to be on his good behaviour so
long as he was still in the Vikings' power,
certain it is that he was gentle and gracious, and
spoke as kindly to his Queen at meat, as though
she had been the true choice of his heart.
When the meal was over, Sigvald rose, and
"I have now accomplished all that I have
undertaken to do. Betrothed and married King
Sweyn to a fair princess of one of the best houses
in the North, and at the same time set the
Wends free from tribute, and so made King
Burislaf a mightier man, and a better father-in-
law to both of us. It is true also that I have
got a fair princess for my own wife, the very
sight of whom will prove to this gallant company
how good a thing it was to do away our law
against marriage. What I have now to say, is
to ask King Sweyn to remember our farmer
friendship, to forget any cause of quarrel which
we may lately have given him, and to feel sure
THE KIDE TO JOMSBURG. 225
that every man of this company would be
williug to follow him to the death. I now call
on you all to drink to the health of King
Sweyn and Queen Gunnhilda, and to wish them
s, safe and speedy voyage to their kingdom."
With a great uproar the horns were drained,
and when it died away, King Sweyn rose, and
" I cannot say that there have not happened
things lately which have made me rather look
to the new hatred than to the old love which
was between me and Sigvald. Perhaps Sigvald
may have thought that so long as his father
Strut-Harold Hved I held pledges of his in my
hand, and even now he may believe that I would
revenge on the sire the wrongs I have suflFered
from the son. But this, I speak it out before
you all, is not at all to my mind. I should think
myself a niddering and a dastard if I touched a
hair of Strut-Harold's head. JPor the sake of
future friendship, and in honour of this gallant
band, whose Kfe is b\it that which my own once
was, I am willing to let bygones be bygones, and
to part as much a friend of Sigvald's as I ever
was. The day may come when he will have to
VOL. I. Ok.
226 THE VIKINGS OF THE 'ULTIC.
drink Strut-Harold's funeral ale, just as you
noble Bui will have to drink it after Veseti in
Bornholm. Then, perhaps, it might seem that I
should have as strong a hold on Sigvald on my
native soil as he has now on me in this foreign
land. But I only speak of this to say before-
hand that whatever happens, Sigvald and you
Vikings are as free to come to Denmark, and
to have an asylum there as you ever were, always
on the understanding that you do not waste my
goods or spoil my subjects."
Here a murmur of applause interrupted the
King, who called for a horn of mead ; and,
holding it out at arm's length, called out :
" I drink to the health of Sigvald, Harold's
son, and of Astrida, the lady of Jomsburg."
This toast was received with rapturous ap-
plause, and it was evident that the King had
won back all his old favour with the Vikings.
All now went smoothly, Sigvald was merry
and cheerful. King Sweyn was no longer
dull or moody, and the feast was complete
when an Icelandic skald came forward, and
asked to be allowed to sing The Song of
THE RIDE TO JOMSBUBG. 22 f
'' Which of the songs of Frithiof ? '' asked the
'* His Viking Code, lord," said the skald.
" When one lives with the wolves, one must
howl with them," said the King. "Besides, I am
an old Viking myself. Let us hear the song/*
Then the skald stood before the King's high-
seat, and calling out " This is the Viking Code
of Frithiof Hilding's son when he took to sea-
roving," sung these verses :
'^^ As he hovered about as a hawk on the wing, and oer sea-
wastes his war-galleys rode,
For his champions on board he wrote statutes and laws ;
now list to his sea-roying code.
Throw no awning oer ship, never slumber in house, within
doors stand an enemy's crew.
On his shield sword in hand let a Viking take rest ; let
his awning be heaven, the blue.
Short haft hath the hammer of conquering Thor, but an
ell long the sword that Frey swayed ;
^Tis enough ; hast thou heart, stand up dose to thy foe,
and too short will not then be thy blade.
When the wind bloweth high hoist thy sail to the top»
'tis merry in storm not to flinch ;
Keep her full ! Keep her full ! none but cowards strike
sail, sooner founder than take in an inch.
228 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Maids are safe upon shore, they may not come on boards
were she Freyja, of maiden beware ;
For that dimple on cheek is a pitfedl for thee, and those
fair flowing tresses a snare.
"Wine is Yalfather's drink, and a bout is allowed ; if thy
head thou canst keep, never fear ;
Whoso stumbles on land can stand up, but to Ban, to th&
slumberous, stumblest thou here.
If a chapman sail by, his ship thou shalt shield, but the
weak must not tribute withhold ;
Thou art lord of thy wave, he is slave of his wares, and thy
steel is as good as his gold.
Now foemen are sighted, now strife comes and blows^
under shield now the warm blood is spilt ;
If thou yieldest one step, take thy leave of our band, 'tis
the law, and so do as thou wilt.
Wounds are Vikings' delight, and they set oS their man,.
on forehead and bosom when shown ;
Let them bleed ! never bind them till day comes again,
not sooner, wilt thou be our own.'*
The skald's song was received by the com-
pany with roars of applause. When it was over,
the King rewarded the singer with a ring of
gold which he took oflF his arm, saying, as he did
so, " This take in remembrance of the days
THE RIDE TO JOMSBURG. 229
•ij^hen I too roved the sea- wastes like Frithiof
" A right good song, foster-child," cried old
Beorn, "that I call a true Viking Code; no
houses, no women, no marriage, but ever roving,
ever fighting, ever spoiling, ever drinking until
It was now late, the pine-torches were ex-
tinguished, the log fires burned low, and every-
thing gave token that it was time to retire for
The Queen and the Princess had taken their
departure even before the Icelander had de-
livered his song. They and their waiting-women
found their way to the lodgings provided for the
King and Queen and for Sigvald and his wife.
The rest now jfollowed, and so ended the day
which gave Denmark and King Sweyn a Queen
and brought women first into Jomsburg.
Nothing is recorded of the appearance of the
-wedded couples next morning, but if King Sweyn
were but half as happy with his Queen as As-
trida was with Sigvald, he might well have been
<5onsidered as happy indeed.
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK.
It was not to be expected that King Swop
would not wish to return to Denmark as soon as
ever he could get free ; nor was there any longer
an excuse for keeping him in Jomsburg. The
season was growing short, and the late Septem-
ber nights were at hand, when it was supposed
that the seas grew unsafe.
Those were the days when little time was lost
in deUberation, Two days after his return with
his bride. King Sweyn was ready to depart. As
they had promised, Sigvald and the Vikings
prepared to see him home, with a squadron of
thirty ships, and altogether his homeward voy-
age promised, as it well might, to be much
more glorious than that which brought him to
The only person to be pitied was Gunnhilda^
who was now about to be trusted to the tender
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 281
mercies of the reclaimed Viking, who was now
King of Denmark.
Many and long were the conversations of the
sisters before they parted, and the superior
sense and wit of Astrida greatly helped to cheer
up her melancholy sister, who, to take her own
view of the case, felt very much as though she
were about to embark on the adventurous voyage
of matrimony with a Danish Bluebeard. Prin-
cesses talked in those days very much as they
talk now, and Gunnhilda's words of com-
plaint, translated into modem language, ran
"I am sure I shall never endure it; I am
sure I shall be worn and worried to death ; I am
sure Sweyn will be a brute of a husband."
So she went on with much more of the same
sort, to all of which Astrida only answered :
" No, no, I am sure he will not ; I can see
he is getting fonder and fonder of you every
day. If you are unhappy it will be all your
own fault. If Sweyn were my husband I could
rule him with a feather.''
" I am sure I wish he were,'' said Gunnhilda.
** If you think he will make so good a husband
282 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
why not change ; you would rule Sweyn, and
then you would soon rule Denmark/'
" I would not change if I could," said Astrida,
« Sigvald is more to me than if he were twenty
times King of Denmark/'
" That is just it/' said Gunnhilda, " you are
fond and proud of Sigvald, and he is fond and
proud of you. Yours, though it did not begin
so, ended in being a love-match, while mine was
one of necessity and force/'
*'So royal matches always are, my dear,"
said Astrida. " One cannot be a Queen with-
out smarting for it in some way/'
" It seems as if I should smart for it in every
way," said Gunnhilda.
"Not at all," said her sister. "Just think of
it. You will go home to Denmark, and have
ladies in your train, and see many new faces, all
smiling, and all willing to do you service.
Here I stay as yet the only lady in Jomsburg,
with a tire-woman or two to wait on me.
Would you not find that lonely."
"Now I think of it,'' said Gunnhilda, "it
would be very dull here, and perhaps I might
be better off in Denmark ; but why did we ever
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 233
leave home, where we were so happy ? How I
envy Geira in our father's grange."
"No doubt she too finds it dull without us
and envies us our lot. And what does it all
come to, but that no one thinks she is half as
happy as she ought to be, and so no one is quite
so happy as she might be. Now do try to
make the best of it, and rely on it you will find
being a Queen in Denmark not such a dreadful
thing, after all.''
"I will try,'* said Gunnhilda, and so the
sisters said no more about it.
The morning of the third day came, and the
thirty ships of the Vikings, which were to escort
King Sweyn, were ready for sea. Thirty long-
ships of fifty oars, each manned by one hundred
sturdy sailors, lay alongside the wharves in
As a little while ago we reckoned the strength
of our ships by the number of their guns, so in
those days ships were counted more or less
powerful for the oars with which they were pro-
pelled. In the tenth century, a ship of fifty
oars was considered large, and of the one hun-
dred men which composed the crew, fifty rowed
284 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
in what we should call "watches," or spells,
while fifty remained idle till their time came to
relieve them. These war-ships, or long-ships
as they were called, were not unlike the galleys
of the Barbary rovers in more modern times.
They were hardly seaworthy in a heavy swell,
such for instance as the large rollers which are
sometimes met between Norway and Iceland ;
but in the narrow seas in the Baltic, and even
in the North Sea between England and Den-
mark, they were the fighting-ships of the time ;
and in them, when the Crusades began, the
Kings and Earls of the North and West skirted
the German and French and Spanish coasts, till
passing into the Mediterranean by the Gut of
Gibraltar, they found themselves in waters
exactly suited to their craft.
They were high out of the water at stern and
stem, and the prow and cutwater were often
carved into a figure-head in the form of a
dragon, while the stern, the tiller, and rudder, took
the shape of its coils and tail. We have already
seen that in the stern under the poop was the
captain's cabin. In the bow under a raised
deck, which exactly corresponds to our fore-
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 23&
castle, was the sleeping place of some of the
crew. All round the undecked part amidships
ran a gangway, on which, in action, the fighting
men stood, and the gunwale, in the waist of the
ship, was heightened in action by a bulwark, on
the top of which was a rail on which the shields
of the crew were hung till they were wanted.
While they were in harbour, or when they lay up
for the night, the undecked portion of the ship
was covered by an awning, under which the rest
of the crew slept.
For the rest, these ships had a single mast,
and a large lug sail, with a foresail at the bow,
but they chiefly relied on their oars for speed,
and fifty stout rowers sent the long craft along
at great speed.
It need scarcely be said that great Kings and^
Earls, and such captains as those of the
Vikings, took great pains with their ships.
They were gaily painted and gilded at stem and
stern ; their sails were sometimes red and blue
and green in stripes ; their vanes and weather-
cocks and figure-heads were carved and gilded,
and in a word a war-ship of that period was a
sight to see, and literally "walked the waters
like a thing of life.''
236 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Let US add that besides bows and arrows and
spears and boat-hooks, with which the struggle
with foemen was carried on, each ship brought
with it into action a good store of stones, the
rude artillery of the time, which, hurled by the
stalwart arms of the crew, proved missiles
fraught with wounds and death to those on
whom they fell with full force.
Such and so armed were the thirty ships of
the Vikings which formed the squadron of
honour which was to escort King Sweyn and
his consort to the Danish shore.
First and foremost among them was Sigvald's
own ship, which bore what might be called the
Admiral's flag. Then came the war-drake of
Thorkell the Tall ; then Bui's, the son of Veseti,
whose boatswain bore at early dawn those two
famous chests of gold down to the wharf. Next
in order was the Snake, as she was called, of
Vagn, Aki's son, one of the trimmest and
fleetest of ships, and after her followed the
galley of Beom, the Welshman, higher out of
the water than any of the rest, for she had been
built to face the waves of the Irish Channel, and
ihe North Sea, and not so gay, but perhaps
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 237
more serviceable in a sea-fight than any of the
These were the ships of the leaders, the
others were made up by the ships of captains of
lesser note ; but there was not one of them
which could not hold her own against any vessel
that was likely to meet them in those seas.
The night before the King sailed, the Vikings
made him a great banquet, the details of which
we spare the reader. Suffice it to say that it
was a great and glorious feast, and • that the
Queen and her sister, who on this occasion had
gone back to the true place of women on the
cross-bench, were both merry and happy, while
King Sweyn was brimful of joy at the prospect
of his dehverance, and was proportionately
gracious to Sigvald and his captains.
At last the hour of departure came. Down
the King and Queen walked to Sigvald's ship,
between a double line of Vikings drawn up on
either side to do them honour. Then followed
Sigvald and his captains. When all had stepped
on board, the gangways to the shore were
drawn on board. Each ship in order was towed
out of the harbour by hawsers, made fast to the
288 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
arch above. As Sigvald's ship felt the waves,
the King took the tiller, for in those times Kings
and Earls and mighty chiefs steered their own
iships ; the rowers fell lustily to their oars, the
warders on the arch sounded their horns, the
<;rews cheered, and those cheers were re-echoed
by the thousands of the band who were left
behind. As the war-ships bounded over the
waters of the Baltic, King Sweyn exulted as he
felt that he would be soon a King indeed again,
and that each stroke of the rowers brought him
nearer to the end of his captivity.
One thing, however, we have forgotten to
say. Astrida went with Sigvald, and they were
now as inseparable as Bui and his gold chests.
She had an excuse, too, in departing from the
custom of the age, which kept women at home
while their husbands went to sea. She wished
to see the last of her sister, and only went, she
said, with a pardonable hypocrisy, to help to
keep up the poor thing's spirits.
Were they sea-sick, those ladies? We
should say certainly not, though we are not
sure of the fact. Perhaps the sea was too
smooth, perhaps Gunnhilda was too frightened.
KING SWEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 239
and Astrida too happy to be ilL They were
inland ladies, it was tme, who had scarcely ever
seen the sea in their lives, so that was against
them. We leave, therefore, the question as we
found it, in the conviction that if those ladies
were sea-sick for the first time they must have
felt most miserable.
" It did not take long — ^twenty-four hours, it
may be — to run a ship from Jomsburg to what
is now Swedish, but was then and long after-
wards Danish soil Down till the days of Gus-
tavus Adolphus the provinces in the South of
the Scandinavian peninsula on the Eastern side
belonged to Denmark ; and Scania, between
which and the Island of Zealand flows the
Sound, was the Danish earldom of Strut-Harold,
The Viking captains, running first through
the Sound between Riigen and the Wendisli
main, steered for a point in Scania, near which
the modern town of Malmoe stands, and to do
this they had to run between Falster and Moen,
the islands which were to form part of Gunn-
It was no part of Sigvald's plan to pay a
240 TRti VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
visit to his father Strut-Harold. Thej were to
turn neither right nor left till they had landed
King Sweyn safe and sound on his own land.
But as the King steered Sigvald's ship a
little ahead of all the rest^ the men on the watch
on the forecastle called out as they ran between
the islands, —
" Ships ahead ! full fifty of them."
" Ships ahead ! '* said Sigvald ; " then there
is gain and spoil to be got. Hold on your course,
On the Vikings came, and on board every
ship the crews got ready for battle, for to them
the odds of fifty to thirty were never counted.
A little while after the men on the forecastle
called out again, —
" They row out to meet us in two lines.''
" What shall we do, Sigvald ? '' said the King ;
" shall we hold on singly, or lash our ships to-
gether, and so await their onset ? "
" Hold on singly,'' said Sigvald ; " we cannot
tell yet whether they are friends or foes."
"I thought all men were your foes," said
Sweyn, "and that your hands were against
KING 8WEYX RETURNS TO DENMARK. 241
" Never against thee. King Sweyn, till the
day that force drove me to it'*
" Say no more of that, Sigvald,'' said the
King. " Let bygones be bygones.**
"I am loath to fight them,** said Sigvald,
" though they come on so boldly, and bear
themselves with such a high hand. This is the
only voyage I have ever been on which I hoped
might end as it has begun in peace."
" But what be they 1" said the King; "Swedes,
or Northmen, or Russians. Have you not a
man who can say which they be ? "
" On the look-out are ten of the best sailors
in the squadron," said Sigvald ; " and if they
cannot teU us no man can."
" Let some one hold the tiller and steer the
ship," said the King; *'and let us two go for-
ward and scan the strangers."
So said so done ; the King gave up the tiller
to a trusty man, and he and Sigvald were soon
on the forecastle gazing at the hostile squadron
which was still at some distance off gliding in
two lines through the still waters of the Sound.
" They be tall stout ships," said the King, as
he gazed at them closely.
vox. I. Tv
242 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" Tall and stout indeed," said Sigvald. " Such
as a man might wish rather to have on his
side than against him. Northmen, too/' he
cried, " and no Russians, by their even rowing
and their gallant trim.""
" They look," cried King Sweyn, " strangely
like my own ships, like the fifly I sent out this
summer to harry Elthelred's coasts."
By this time the strangers had swept on
nearer, and Sigvald cried out :
" True, king, these are Danish ships and none
other. See, there is your crimson standard
with the white cross at the mast-head, which the
emperor gave your father. Now we shall meet
them as friends and not foes."
On and on the two squadrons drew to each
other, till the Vikings, who still held their
straight course through the Sound, were between
the two divisions of the Danes, and were almost
within speaking distance.
Then ensued what, as Beom afterwards said
was worth coming all the way from Wales to
see. Just as the Vikings were in mid-channel
the Danish ships on either side of them turned
their prows towards them and bore dow^ on
KING 8WEYN RETURNS TO DENMARK. 243
them at full speed so as to get them between
what we should call two fires. There was just
time for the Vikings if they had chosen to pull
on and escape the onslaught, but King Sweyn
now seized the tiller and turned the prow of
Sigvald's ship towards the enemy, and in less
time than it takes to describe the evolution the
Viking squadron lay in a double line, fifteen
facing one way and fifteen the other, ready to
receive the foe. So there the two lay, fifteen
against twenty-five on each side, and all men
waited to see what would happen ; nor did any
one except those on board Sigvald's ship yet
know the nationaUty of the strangers.
At last the two lines drew near, and as they got
^thin hail the leader of the Danes called out :
" Who are ye who fare so unwarily through
the Danish waters 1 '^
"Vikings of Jomsburg,'' shouted Sigvald;
*' and if you must know why we fare so un-
warily, it is because we look on these waters
just as much ours as King Sweyn^s/'
" Know ye aught of King Sweyn ? " hailed
the captain. " We are on our way to Jomsburg
to seek him."
244 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" We know so much about him/' said Sigvald;
"that he is here with us on board this ship,
which he now steers/'
At these words which passed between Sig-
vald and the Danish Captain from the prow of
either vessel, the word was passed on board the
Danish ships to back their oars and to cease their
preparations for attack. The Danish Captain
shoved off a boat, boarded Sigvald's ship, and
«aw the King. Convinced of his safety the twa
fleets fraternized, and much as King Sweyn
may have wished for revenge he had no oppor-
tunity of wreaking it at once.
That night the squadrons lay together in a
creek in the Sound. Next morning the King
and Queen went on board his own fleet and
steered for Zetland, while the Vikings remained
behind. As he parted from Sigvald, King
Sweyn said :
" Thanks, Sigvald, Harold's son, for all your
courtesy. The next time we meet I trust I
may be able to repay you for what you have
done for us."
BEORN AND VAQN GO A-SBA ROVING.
When the Danes sailed off triumphantly with
their King, the Vikings remained behind, and
Sigvald proposed that they should all return to
Jomsburg. All agreed to this except Beom,
the Welshman, who said :
'^ You have to command. Captain, and we to
-obey ; but if I may have my way, I and Vagn
will go with our three ships on a short autumn
cruize. To tell the truth, I have had enough
of women and feasts. I long for the whining
of the arrow in the air and for the hurtUng of
spears. Sweeter far to me is the scream of the
sea-mew than the bleating of sheep. Let us
stay behind, therefore, and go you all back to
the burg : we shall be home long before the
first winter night ;'' which we may inform the
ireader fell on the 26th of October.
" Go as you please or stay as you please/*
246 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
said Sigvald, " You and Vagn will do honour to
the company whithersoever ye go. If ye fall,
to us remains the blood-feud and the duty of
'* Never fear for that, Sigvald/' said Beom ;
** the arrow is not yet feathered that shall be
my bane, nor the spear-head forged that shall
rattle through my ribs."
" Pare in peace then/' said Sigvald ; " we will
all keep this Yule right jovially in Jomsburg.''
So the rest of the squadron rowed back to
the burg, while Beom and Vagn and a captain of
theirs, whose name was Wolf the Unwashed, re-
mained in Bornholm Sound uncertain as yet
whither to turn in search of spoil.
While their comrades sails could still be seen
in the offing Beom said to Vagn, '^ Right glad am
I, foster-child, that they have left us here alone.
Now we shall do some good that we are here
together with three stout ships and three hun-
dred stalwart men. But as for your fleets and
squadrons, they frighten oflF chapmen and
Vikings. You may get fame in a fleet but never
fee. Sometimes to my mind spoil is better than,
BEORN AND VAGN GO A-8EA ROVING. 247
" I do not think so/' said Vagn ; " I feel as if
I had spoil enough and sigh for glory."
** What more glory could you wish for than to
beat Sigvald and make him yield before you in
arms. There's no satisfying some people. You
are at the top of the tree, and instead of sitting
there and plucking the fruit, you wish to
stretch out to climb higher in the clouds and so
down you will come with a fall/'
All this time Wolf the Unwashed, so called
because he seldom rejoiced in the pleasures of
the bath, a huge raw-boned, hrawny Viking stood
by Kstening to their talk. When it was over he
said to Beorn :
" Well, Master Beorn, which is it to be this time,
gain or glory ? Are we to lie in wait for chapmen,
or fall on some Vikings like ourselves and spoil
them ? Whither shall we turn, too ? Up East to
Lifland or to Samland where the yellow amber
lies thick on the shore, or to the Swedish Lakes
or through the Sound ' to the Bay ' where we
were last spring when we spoiled Thorkell of
" I am for the Bay," said Vagn with a blush.
** And I am not," said Beorn doggedly. '^No I
248 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
10 1 we have had quite enough of that work. I
will not go within a hundred miles of a woman
if I can help it. Enough harm has been
done already in that way this autumn. If we
go to * the Bay,' foster-child, you'll be putting
your head into the wolf's den only for what, to
catch a sight of Ingibeorg, ThorkelFs daughter.
This time we are out for adventures with men,
and not for woman's love. Far sooner would I
go back to Jomsburg without dipping oar in
brine than to go hankering after the prettiest
maid in the world.''
" Just spoken to my mind," said Wolf; "I never
could see the use of women. Why can't men
be born as they were in old time, when one leg
of Borr the giant rubbed itself against the other
and out came a man. But ever since men have
been born of women there has been naught but
strife in the world."
*' Strife," repeated Vagn indignantly ; " and
what would you be. Wolf, without strife ? why, it
is the bread you live on and the cup you drink.
You ought to be the best friend of women in the
world instead of being the worst."
" I mean another kind of strife," said Wolf;
BEORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA ROVING. 249
*^ the strife I hate is what comes of woman's
words and gabble, praising one man and abusing
another, sowing discord with the tongue and
ever reaping a fresh crop. That's the strife I
hate, and it comes from women. Another kind
of strife I like, and ever shall like, the strife of
men, when swords clash in sweet music and red
wounds rosier than the rose are given and taken.
That is the strife I like, but as for the strife
that comes from the backbiting and talebearing
of women, that I cannot abide.''
This was such a very eloquent speech from
Wolf the Unwashed, that old Beom jumped up
and clapped him on the back and bawled out :
" Well spoken, unwashed one ! I only wish
such words had weight in Jomsburg ; but, alas t
the golden time is over with us Vikings. It is
as if the peace of Asgard were gone for ever,
and the Frost Giants and their hags come into
the mansions of the gods."
Then while Vagn looked moodily on he said, —
" But all this is dry work. Let us have a horn
of mead, and when we have washed the cobwebs
out of our throats, we will settle what course we
250 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
While the two topers dispatched their mead
Vagn looked listlessly on. He was in a minority,
and the hope that had flashed across his mind
of seeing Ingibeorg again faded away. He could
scarcely venture on an expedition against Thor-
kell of Leira with one ship, and so was bound
to follow his companions in arms.
" There be nice creeks and bays all along the
Swedish shore among the isles/' said Wolf,
** whither the chapmen from Russia betake them
as they run down the Baltic in autumn. They
will be as full of rich prizes just now as an open
lake in winter is full of ducks. Let us try them,
" With all ray heart,'' said Beorn ; " we want
furs sadly for winter, and these Russian chap-
men bring richer sables and fox-skins and ermine
than ever Earl Hacon can get from his Finns
" Then there is amber and gold and honey and
wax and fine linen and pell and Eastern wares,
spoil to be had just for stretching out the hand."
" When shall we sail ? " asked Vagn, as much
for the sake of saying something as because he
cared for the cruize. '^
BEORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA ROVING. ^51
" Sail ! '' said Beorn ; " why this very minute.
Why should we lie idle here when there^s gain
to he got on every side of us."
Up the West coast of the Baltic, therefore,
they steered, that day and the next and the
next till they had run through Calmar Sound
and were oflF the coast of Gothland. But they
scarce saw a sail bigger than a fishing boat, and
Beorn and Wolf bewailed their ill luck in going
so far and finding so little.
On the morning of the fourth day as the sun
rose they again fell in with a fishing boat, and
asked the crew for news, and if there were any
" Yes," said the men, " there was one ran into
yonder creek last night, or, to tell the truth, five
of them ran laden to the water's edge with
goods. They would be an easy prey to your
long-ships, for they were ill-manned.*'
This was such good news to the Vikings that
they cleared the ships for action at once, and
swept at full speed with their oars round the
headland into the bay.
But the sight that met them therfe was hardly
so agreeably as they expected. There up in the
252 THE VIKIXGS OP THE BALTIC.
bight of the bay lay five ships indeed, but so
far from being those of chapmen or traders, they
were long-ships, of a size quite equal to any of
their own, and at one glance they saw that the
leader of the five was getting his ships under
way to attack theuL
"How say you, Vagn ? How say you. Wolf? "
hailed Beom to his two comrades. '' Shall we
hold on or lash ourselves together and await their
onslaught 1 For as to turning tail, I do not think
any Viking of Jomsburg would think three
against five too great odds."
" Lash ourselves together," was the answer ;
so they lashed their ships together in line, for
which there was just time before the enemy
came down on them.
When they came within hail, Beom stood up
on the forecastle of his ship, and called out :
" Who are ye that fare so boldly in this bay ?
See ye not that here are warships before you,
and what is your leader's name V^
" Atli is my name, Earl Arnvid's son, of East
Gothland, close by. But what men are ye ? *'
" We are our own men," said Beorn ; " and,
if you must know, we hail from Jomsburg.*'
BEORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA ROVING. 253
** Then there is little love lost between us/'
said Atli. " Yield your ships or do battle/'
" We Jomse-vikings," said Beorn, " never yield.
'Twere better that ye yielded yourselves ; quit
your ships and goods, and you shall have
leave to go on shore. Else let the steel decide
A haughty laugh from Atli was all the an-
swer returned to this speech. On bore Atli
with his five ships, and as he laid his galley
alongside Beom's, which lay on the starboard
side, while Wolf's was in the middle and
Vagn's on the larboard, the Earl snatched up
a spear and hurled it among Beorn's crew.
It was a good shot, and the Viking whom it
struck met his death.
Then the battle became general, and the
Swedes laid their vessels, which they had not
lashed together, alongside and athwart the
bows of the Viking's ships.
For some time the fight was carried on by
missiles. Showers of stones and flights of
spears and arrows flew fi-om one side and the
other, so that for some time it could not be
seen which had the advantage in this kind of
'camusEL jLi ibbl imw^veir. ii 'los cisB' '^a^ i^
'^u^\T hiih^iA -wesrt rs^ausLLx -^wmmK: xne ^
Jub^ Liieii AlH iB&de ss jcasn^ A csij
^vxjii <«i "i^e saii-2TJ^T iasiSri. sdj becaa i.? cut
dv*"!! 5iJ irlro £W»i bfifflre iiinL Four skb M
bj hit L^iiii btf:>re Ba<:*ni m^is avare rf ^
4auA^^:rn TLen Le nxsLel ^'jzig die ^oigwaj
to T/i'ir^ LiHL As he ax^pmciied, AiHs man
tliruht at Lim with Lis spear, but Beam held up
lihi hirjA<X, and the blow pased thiXKigh it ; and
whil^ hij$ foeman was thus entangled, Beom
^mote at Iiim with his sword, and dealt him
hiH death-blow. So he fell ; but he was now
followed by AtU himself who sfNrang on board
Beoni's ship with a band of m^i.
All thi8 time Wolf the Unwashed had re-
mained idle, except in the war of missiles
Ijctween the two ships to which his was lashed,
but ivhen he saw this fresh onslaught of Atli
he sprang across the gunwale on to Beorn's
ship, and called out :
BKORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA ROVING. 255
" Tip and at them, Beorn ! all power to your
arm this day/'
*• Powerful it is/* said Beorn, as he smote
down another of the foe ; " but something
tells me, Wolf, that you speak with a 'fey*
'* * Fey,' or not * fey,* ** said Wolf, " a man can
but die once,** and as he said this he threw
himself in Atli's way.
Just before they met. Wolf *s foot slipped on
the gangway, which was steeped in gore, and
as he fell he laid himself open to Atli*s attack,
who at once thrust him through with his
A shout from the Swedes behind Atli greeted
the death of one of the Viking chiefs, and Atli
and his men pressed on, and began to clear
the gangway of the Vikings. The battle now
seemed to hang in doubt, and Vagn, who
was less pressed, now flew across Wolf*s ship
to the rescue of his foster-father. As he
cleared the gunwale he found himself face to
face with Atli, who smote at him with his
sword, and clove his shield in twain down to
the boss. While Vagn was brandishing his
£56 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
sword, seeking a bare place on Atli, a heavy
stone discharged at random smote the Swedish
leader on the left wrist and made him drop his
shield. In another moment Vagn smote him
just above the knee a mighty stroke and struck
off his leg.
While Atli looked at the limb in wonder if it
were really off, Vagn called out :
" Yes, Atli, so it is, your leg is off.*'
As he uttered these words he stabbed him
through the body and gave him his death-
Then Beorn and Vagn, shoulder to shoulder,
turned on the rest of Atli's men who had
boarded the ship, and drove them back to their
own vessel. By this time so many of the
Swedes had fallen on board their five ships that
they had no heart to continue the struggle
after the loss of their leader. They backed
off, therefore, and then turned and fled up
"Shall they escape so, foster-father,*' said
" By no means," said Beorn ; " cut our lash-
ings asunder and let us press them home/'
BEORN AND VAGN GO A-SEA ROVING. 257
So said so done. In a little while the three
Viking ships, with diminished crews, but spirits
as bold as ever, were under way to attack their
foes. As they rowed up it was only to see that
the day was won already. The Swedes threw
themselves out of their ships and left them,
some in boats and some by swimming or
wading to the land. The Vikings took pos-
session of the abandoned vessels, and by mid-
day Beorn and Vagn sat on the decks of their
ships, weary and battle- worn indeed, but still
masters of five ships and a great store of goods
" Not a bad morning's work, foster-father,"
" No,'^ said Beorn ; " but I would give up
all my share could I bring Wolf the Unwashed
to life again.^'
" So would I,'^ said Vagn. " He was a brave
Viking, and if ever a man deserved to win his
way to Valhalla it was our comrade."
" We will bind our wounds and bathe our
limbs to-day," said Beorn ; " to-morrow we will
land and bury our friend, as a Viking should be
interred, after the ancient rites."
VOL. I. ^
THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
So they spent that day in rest and leech-
craft, and slept that night in peace on board
their ships, their late foes having fled into
the woods, too scared to venture to attack them
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING.
Some of our readers may, perhaps, feel in-
clined to inquire what became of Atli's body,
and those of his foUowere who were slain on
board Beorn's ship. On this point we can
satisfy their curiosit3\ It was no part of tlie
customs of that age to insult the body of a
fallen foe. On the contrary, it was looked on
as duty to bury it, and so the morning after
the conflict those of the enemy who had fallen
were taken on shore and interred. If any one
supposes that the last duties to the dead were
performed by " cremation,'' as it is the modern
fashion to call it, it would be a mistake. Burn-
ing the dead had long ceased in the North
when the events recorded in this story hap-
pened. That mode of burial went out with
what ethnologists call the Bronze Age. We
are now in the Iron Age, when swords and
2^0 THE TIKrSGS OF THE BALTIC.
mrrov-ieads were of steel, and bodies were
buried and not biimt.
HaTin^ di^K)9ed in this manner of their
fallen foes, the Vikings turned their attention
to their own men, of whom about twenty,
including Wolf the Unwashed, had been slain.
First, they washed their wounds and combed
their long hair, and arrayed theu- limbs in
their best attire^ for it was supposed that when
the dead reached the other world, and entered
Valhalla, they would need their bravest array
when they met the bravest and greatest of all
the Northern race in Odin's hall. As they
were thus laid out on the poop of Beorn's ship,
each man had his axe and sword and spear
by his side. A good archer had his bow and
arrows handy, and under each corpse lay the
When these duties had been performed,
Beom and Vagn mustered their crews, and
then a ciuious ceremony was performed. Though
clad in their best, it might be remarked that
the feet of the dead were shoeless.
Beom now stood up and said :
" Ye good men and true, who listen to my
THE BCKIAL OF THE VIKING, 261
^ords, you all know that faiths now-a-days are
Dauch mixed. One man believes in Odin and
the ancient Gods ; another in the White Christ ;
another, like the Wends, in Peran, the God of
Thunder ; or in Bielbog, the God of Light ;
or in Czemebog, the Black God ; and, lost
of all, there are some, and these not a few,
of our company who believe in nothing but
themselves and their good swords ; for, in
truth, what between priests and monks, Chris-
tian and heathen, no man knows what to
believe. If this be so while men are alivo, it is
not so when they are dead. Men come into
the world from darkness, Hke a bird that flies
in at night through a warm, lighted hall, and
out at the other end into darkness again.
That is death. But because it is not good
for a man not to know whither he is
going when his life is done, we think it
right to bury our slain after the old fashion,
so that, as they have fallen like men in
battle, they may now go to the God of
Battles, who is ready to receive them into
Here Beorn paused, and the Vikings mur-
262 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
mured their assent, after their usual custom, to
his words. Then he went on :
" We have dressed them in their bravest
attire. By their sides lie their best arms,
comely they all look in their wounds and in
their death ; but one thing is wanting : bring
hither the hellshoon, lads ! **
At these words twenty-one pairs of shoes
belonging to the dead were brought forward,
and Beorn went on :
" We all know the meaning of this. First of
all, these, our comrades, must walk on the way
to Hela's house, deep down below nine worlds.
That is the abode to which all the dead
must first come, and stay there three days,
till it is settled where they shall remain for
ever ; the brave with Odin and Thor, and the
coward with Hela, the grim goddess, the queen
of thralls and cravens. None have ever gone
on that way and returned, save Hermod the
brisk, Odin's man, who rode on it to hear
tidings of Balder, when Balder fell ; but we
know that the path is rough and rugged, and
that a man will need good shoon to his feet if
he will fare to Hela. These shoon, then, we
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 26S
liind on our brothers' feet ; for all who lie here
are brothers by the law of the company."
After these words, Beorn, with the assistance
of Vagn, put the shoes on each of the dead
men's feet, taking Wolf last. This was the
duty of a man's nearest relative ; but in that
band brotherhood in arms overbore the ties of
blood ; and Beorn, as captain, was looked on as
nearer to each of the slain than their nearest
a*elatives had they been present.
As he tied each shoe fast by its laces round
the ankle of the corpse, he said :
" So I bind this hell-shoe, that it may last to
When he came to Wolf, he said, besides :
" I know not how to bind on a hell-shoe if
this does not hold."
Then began what might be called the fimeral
procession. Four Vikings took up each body,
raising it on the shield on which it lay, stiflF and
stark, and bore it down the sloping gangway to
There, on a little knoll, the ground had been
levelled for the base of a cairn, large enough to
hold the twenty bodies of the rank and file, aa
264 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
they might be called, which were arranged round,
that of Wolf the Unwashed, though now well
washed in his death, which lay in the middle
in the place of honour.
When each had been thus reverently laid on
earth, a trench was dug round the knoll, so as
to form a deep ditch, and the excavated earth
was heaped up over the dead, till they were
buried about four feet deep. Then the last rites
were looked on as over ; and the Vikings went
back to their ships.
As Beorn walked slowly away with Vagn, he
"It cuts me to the heart that we had no-
time to bury Wolf, the bravest of men, like a
true Viking, in his own ship, under a cairn.
This is but a scurvy burial after all."
" No man need grieve,'^ said Vagn, " if at
any time he does the best he can. We had no
time to do more, and V/olf and the rest must
be content. They will not think worse of him
in Odin's hall — if there be such a hall — that he
comes there without his ship ; for the Valkyries,
who choose the slain in all fights, well
know how many brave warriors Wolf the^
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 265
TJnwashed has sent in his time to the banquets
" It is true/' said Beorn, " we have done our
best, and the best can do no more. The cairn,
too, looks high enough, and in days to come no
man will know how we eked out its height by
turning a little knoll into a cairn."
All that afternoon time hung heavy on the
hands of the Vikings. The funeral ceremonies^
still weighed on their minds ; and, in spite of
the strong ale and mead, in which they drank
heirship to Wolf and the fallen, dividing tlieir
goods among the crews. Beorn felt that some*
thing was needed to restore the spirits of the
" What think you,'' he said to Vagn, " of
marching up the country to-night, and seeing
what spoil we can find ? Somewhere here-
abouts is the temple of the Eastern Goths ;
and, if we hit upon it, Ave might find ample
*' But can we rob a temple 1 " asked Vagn^
" Have we not just buried our dead with the
rites of the ancient Gods ? "
" Temples," said Beorn, sententiously, " were
266 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
made to be robbed! They ever have been
robbed in my time, and ever will be. Why,
we had a priest, not so long ago, in 'Joms-
burg, that same shaveling, who- told his beads
and sang his hymns so dolefully, who said the
ancient Gods were but idols, and that no God
lived in temples made with hands."
" It goes against me to spoil the temples of
the Gods,*' said Vagn ; "but if all the band will
go, I will not stay behind."
"We will put it to the men, then,*' said
Beorn. "Poor fellows, they need something
to keep up their hearts. That Atli and his
followers fight well.*'
So Beorn went about the crews, and found,
as he had expected, that they had no scruples
of the kind which hampered Vagn's mind.
One said he thought it as little harm to rob a
temple as to burn a church ; and he had often
burned the churches of the Christians away in
the West. Another said he would not burn a
temple, though he did not mind easing their
idols of their useless goods ; another thought
if the idols were really gods, they would know
how to defend themselves. The end of it all
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 267
Was, that the Vikings agreed to go that nigt
in search of the temple of the Eastern Goths ;
what they might do when they found it, and
had accomplished the adventure, was another
thing. Perhaps they might neither burn nor
sack the temple after all.
So at nightfall they set out, one hundred
picked men, the rest being left to mind the
ships, and keep open the line of retreat. As
they passed along a path through the thick
pine forest, about as bewildering as the Ashantee
bush, Beorn said to Vagn :
" This wood is like a man's life, foster-
child ; no one can tell when and where it
As he said this, an arrow whirred through
the air, and one of the band behind fell dead,
stricken in the throat.
" There ended one," said Vagn ; " and yet
the wood has not ended/'
" On, on ! " said Beorn. " I see a clearing
ahead. If we reach that, we shall, at least, see
the hand that launches these shafts."
A moment after, one of the band behind
called out :
268 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" We have caught the man who shot the
arrow, if it be fair to call him a man/'
" Bring him hither," said Beorn. " Let me
scan him by the moonbeams,'^ for we have for-
gotten to say that it was at the full.
So the baneman of the Viking was brought
to the front, and found to be a boy of scarce
ten years old, whose puny arm seemed scarce
able to draw the bow which he had used so well.
'* Speak/' said Beorn, sternly. " What drove
thee to slay one of our band, against whom
thou hadst no quarrel ? ^'
" Did one of you fall to my shot ? " said the
boy. " Then I have avenged my father."
" How say you that ? " said Beorn. " W hen
slew we your father, or any of your kin ? "
" Two nights since,'' said the boy, " he fell
with Atli, Arnvid's son, in fight with you
Vikings. All day have I been watching you in
the wood to take my revenge."
*•' Spoken like a man,'' said Vagn, "though
you be but a boy. Beorn, we can never take
such a child's life. Let him have peace ; for,
after all, he only avenged his father, and the
blow fell nearest to him."
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 269
*' He shall have peace/' said Beoru ; " but he
must do something towards an atonement. He
shall show us the way to the temple which we
"What is your name, lad?" said Vagn.
** It is ill speaking with a nameless man."
" My name is Grim/' said the boy. " Grim
Askel's son, that Askel whom ye slew yester-
morn, and whom I have now avenged."
" Will you take peace of me. Grim ? " said
Vagn ; **and will you do something for us to
save your hfe 1 '*
"That depends/' said the boy, "on what
that something is ; there be things which I
could not do to save my life."
" Spoken Uke a good and true man again,"
said Vagn, kindly. "We seek the temple of
the Eastern Goths, which lies somewhere near ;
will you guide us to it ? "
The boy paused for a moment, while a smile
played across his face in the bright moonbeams,
and then said :
" Yes, Vikings ; I will guide you to the
" Lead on then,'^ said Beorn ; " and remem-
270 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
ber, Grim, that your life is forfeited already.
At the least sign of guile or treachery, I strike
you dead with this axe/'
This threat, strange to say, seemed to fall
on idle ears. All that the boy said was :
" Yes ; I see it is a broad and bitter axe.
No doubt many have had their death-blow at
its edge. Hath it a name, pray. Captain ? "
" I call it the * Ogress of War,' " said Beorn.
" Two nights ago some of you Easterlings felt
" Indeed ! " said the boy ; and on he went
So they passed through wood after wood,
and clearing after clearing, seeing no houses
until their patience began to fail, and then the
Vikings asked how far they had still to
" Are there no houses in this land ? ^' said
Vagn to Grim.
" None,'* said the boy. *' I thought it was
not houses, but temples, that ye wished to find?'*
** So we do,'' said Beorn. " Bring us speedily
to the temple, or — " And as he said this he
raised his axe.
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 271
" Can I bring the temple nearer than it is ? '
9sked Grim. '*Yoii Vikings, I know, are so
strong, and can do anything. I am but a boy,
and must do what I can, and that is but
" But is it near this temple ? '' asked Vagn.
"Not far oflF now," said Grim. "Not more than
five bowshots beyond this next belt of wood."
"Let us haste towards it," said Beorn.
**The night is wearing out, and it is as far
back as hither."
" So it is,^' said the boy.
The Vikings reached the belt, and soon
crossed it. As they came into the open space
beyond, Grim pointed to a building, partly
hidden in the mist, which clung to the ground.
" Behold the temple, the only temple that I
know of in these parts."
"The temple! the temple!" shouted the
Vikings, as they dashed forward into the open
As they drew nearer to the building, Beorn
" If it be a temple, 'tis the strangest one I
ever saw, though I own I do not know much of
272 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
temples either outside or in. But if I called it
anything, I should say it was a wooden church,
for all the world like those I used to see and
to worship in away in Wales, my native land."
" What you call a church we call a temple,"
said Grim. " We are all Christians in this part
of East Gothland, since Anschar came.''
" And who is Anschar 1 " asked Vagn, while
Beorn and the Vikings paused in their course.
'^Anschar is a priest from England/' said
Grim. " He has been here ever since I can
remember, and has built this temple to the
Christians' God, and made us all Christians
hereabouts, so to speak."
In the meantime, Beorn and the Vikino-s had
recovered their surprise to find that, while seek-
ing for a temple, they had fallen on a church.
" What is the difference between a temple
and a church % " asked he that had owned to
burning of churches in the West. " In both there
is silver, and sometimes gold. Both are the
fair spoil of such Vikings as us."
Then the Vikings dashed on, dragging Grim
But as they neared the church, they heard
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 27$
the strains of solemn music and of hymns
chanted in the little building. At the same
time they remarked that lights shone through
tte narrow slits which served as windows.
'' Be the priests in this temple up and stirring
^t this hour ? " asked Beorn of Grim. " If
they were honest men they woul d be in their
*' But are you not honest men ? *' retorted
'Grim ; " and are ye in your beds 1 "
" Do they always rise so early 1 " asked
" They are always in church at this hour/' said
^rrim, " and they call it Lauds or * Praises ' —
that is how they begin the day, with prayers
" Shavelings and cowards ! " said Beorn. " Let
us break into the church, and scatter them and
their praises to the four winds, and sack the
church of everything it contains worth carrying
"You will find little in it worth spoiling,"
said Grim. '* These priests are poor indeed,
and live by the labour of their own hands. All
these clearings in the wood were made by them.
VOL. I. T
274 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
Since they have been here we have never hadj
dearth in East Gothland, for they sow wheat, -^
and rye, and oats, and their harvests are always 1^
" And, Grim,'* asked Beom, as they neared the
church door, "when the harvests fail do you-^^
bum the priests in their church, as the Swedes L,
do their kings, in time of dearth ? '* ..^
" I tell you since Anschar has been here the L
harvests have been ever good," said Grim; h
" but see, the door opens, and he comes out to
As he spoke, out of the church came first a
band of choristers, singing a sweet hymn, and
then incense-bearers swinging their censers,
which gave out the perfume of frankincense, so
strange to the nostrils of the Vikings. Then
came Anschar himself, followed by his priests
and deacons, all in their holy vestments, and all
chanting the same solemn strain.
As they advanced a sort of panic-fear seized
the rude Vikings, and even Beorn himself re-
coiled before the advance of the Christian
Whether it was that Anschar was aware of
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 275
their approach, and had come out thus to meet
them in the hope of arresting their wrath, or
whether he thought it was a crowd of the in-
habitants of the country who had gathered to-
gether thus early to worship at the church, is
uncertain. What is sure is, that he, by a most
happy thought, came out thus boldly to meet
the invaders, and so took them at a great dis-
advantage by the suddenness and solemnity of
Slowly but surely the white-robed band ad-
vanced against the armed array of the Vikings,
who, as they came closer, opened on either side
to make way for them till Anschar stood face to
face with Grim, and Beorn, and Vagn.
Then the singing ceased, and Anschar, in a
still low voice, so different from the rude shouts
and hailing of the Vikings, said to Beorn :
" God's peace be with thee, noble Captain.
Come ye thus early to worship at our church 1 "
Beorn clutched his axe with uneasy fingers, as
though he was itching to cleave the holy man to
the chine, and some of the Vikings drew their
swords and waited for a signal to strike down
the Christians and sack the church. But no
276 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
such signal came. Beom, bold as he was, quailed
before the clear cold gaze of the priest, and with
<ering tongue he said :
" You bid us God's peace ; but it is on war
rather than peace that we come."
" War ! " said Anschar. " Why war with us ?
We are not men of war, but men of peace. We
bring peace in Grod's name to all the world, and
to you and your band among the rest.^*
Still Beorn quailed and winced before him,
but he would not yield till he had made another
" T tell you again, priest, we are men of war
and not of peace. War is the breath of life
in our nostrils. I tell you we came to sack your
church, and to slay you all if you resist, and not
to worship to your idols with that strange savour
in our nostrils."
" Slay us if you will," said Anschar ; " we will
not resist ; not one of us would lift his hand
against you. But sack not nor burn the church,
for it is God's house, and on him that takes
aught from God the wrath of God will surely
" You speak," said Beorn, " like the priests I
THE BURIAL OP THE VIKING. 277
leard wken I was a boy, not so big as this lad
tiere, and your words have a strange sound, as
an echo of things long since forgotten. So sang
and so spoke the priests in my father's house at
Deganwey in Wales/'
At these words Anschar looked at Beom and
said : " Are you British, and not Norse, by birth ?
and what was your father's name 1 "
^^His name/' said Beom, impatiently, but
with the air of a man who felt forced to answer
even against his will, ^^ his name was Howel,
Howel the Grood. He was lord of seven can-
treds, and some of that rule is still mine by
right. My mother's name was Githa^ daughter
of a Norse sea-king, and though a Welshman
bom, that was why I was called Beom. But
why, priest, do you ask so closely after my
" Because I, too," answered Anschar, ** have
been at Deganwey, in the good old times, in the
hall of Howel the Good. His soul is with the
saints, I tmst ; and here I, a missionary from
the Anglo-Saxon Church, meet his son in East
Gothland, and he tells me he will sack my
church and spoil God of his goods."
278 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
"It is the way of the world/' said.Beorn,
bitterly. " Every man makes the bed on which
he must lie. Had my father lived I had been
now, no doubt, a Prince and a Christian in
Wales, but I went early out sea-roving with my
grandfather, and one autumn, when we came
back from our cruise, we found that a band of
Vikings from Scotland had landed on the fair
sands of Conway, and had slain my brother, and
carried oflF my mother, and sacked Deganwey,
the strong castle, and only left me the wasted
land and starving folk. Then I took to the sea,
and harried the coasts of Scotland east and
west, and forsook the Christian faith, and took
to that of the Northmen, and now, as many of
us here will tell you, we halt between two faiths,
and know not which to believe. The old Gods
have no power, and as for your new white
Christ, he seems too craven and contemptible
for any Viking to trust in."
" The day will come,'' said Anschar, solemnly,
" when not only you Vikings, but every man in
the North, aye, and though it be far to see,
when every man on this middle-earth will be-
lieve in Christ, as I and these babes do, and when
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 27^
there shall be but one God and one faith in all
As he uttered these words, with a prophetic
fervour, he spread his arms wide abroad, as
though embracing the Vikings, who shrank
from him, while they gazed on him as it were
Anschar saw his opportunity, and went on :
" It was well that ye came thus early, for it is
the day of the Holy Saint Michael the Arch-
angel, and after this procession, in which ye
will join, we will all worship in the church, and
thou Beorn at least wilt renew the orisons of
As he spoke, Anschar gave the word to the
choristers, and the incense-bearers moved on.
Beorn and the Vikings — ^half in jest, half in
tamest — joined in the train, and the end of
that early meeting was, that those who went
out to burn and kill remained, if not to worship
with the Christians, at least to be spectators of
The church was filled to overflowing, and such
iauds had never been celebrated within its walls
i)efore. The Vikings sat the service out in
280 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC
gloomy wonder at the solemnity of the cere-
monies, the splendour of the vestments, the
sweet fragrance of the incense, and the briUiancy
of the lights.
When it was over,. Anschar said to Beom be-
fore they left the church : " Ye came out to rob
and spoil See what there is in our sacristy
worth taking. A man, were he to lose his soul,,
might lose it for things of greater price.''
As he uttered these words, he led Beom to-
wards the little cupboard in the sacristy, whicb
contained their church plate. A chalice of
latten, a patin of the same, and a flagon of brass^
were all their goods.
** If you wish for spoil from churches you must
go where Christianity is older," said Anschar.
** There you may find silver and gold and gems.
In Sweden Christianity is too young to be rich,,
and even our vestments, though outwardly
splendid, would be not worth your long march
" One thing we need,'' said Beorn, " if we may
have it, and that is food and drink."
"Both ye shall have and willingly," said
Anschar. "That is, bread and flesh, ale and
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 281
mead, we have none, and never taste ; but if milk
and cream will serve your wants, of these we-
have ample store."
" We were unworthy the name of Vikings,'*
said Beorn, " if we needed ale and mead every
day. In this world a man must take what he
So the Vikings were fed on the best that the
priests could furnish, and at daybreak they were
ready to return to their ships. Before they went
Anschar said to Beorn :
" One thing, Beorn, Howers son, I beg of thee,
and that is what thou mayst well grant, in that
I, all unworthy though I be, by the grace of God^
have saved thee from the commission of mortal
'* What is that r'
" The life of this boy Grim,'' said Anschar.
"He has guided thee back to Christ, and who
knows if the seed sown on this, St. Michael's
day, may not spring up in some of your hearts
" He has slain one of our men," said Beorn,
" and his life is due by all the laws of the blood-
feud to the band."
282 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
" But he was a true and faithful guide," said
Vagn, " and besides he only did what he was
bound to do in avenging his father/'
" Not so ! not so ! '' cried the priest, " it is
^01 idle and a wicked custom, and clean against
Ood's will, who says, ' Vengeance is mine ; I will
repay, saith the Lord/''
"What atonement can he offer to the band
for their brother," said Beorn, doggedly.
" None, ''said Anschar ; " the boy hath neither
kith nor kin now that his father is gone ; but I
<;an offer an atonement for him, and that is the
blood already shed for every man on the Cross,
the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
That atonement I can offer, and that blood far
outshines in worth the lives of all the peoples of
" But how do you offer it ? " asked Beorn.
" In the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and
Blood of Christ/'
"I do not understand thee/' said Beorn,
" though methinks I have heard something
before, as it were in a dream. But to show thee
that I value thy prayer, and in memory of the
days when I was a Christian in my father's hall.
THE BURIAL OF THE VIKING. 388
I will give thee the life of this boy, and I, myself,
'^vdll pay to the band the full price of a man in
atonement for the comrade we have lost."
" Spoken like a noble chief," Baid Anschar,
^^ and now Grim you belong to me/'
" With all my heart,'' said the boy, as he flew
to the priest's side. " Now I will be as thou art,
and slay no more men/'
Then the priest and the Vikings parted, and
Beom and his men marched back to their ships
through the wood. On their arrival they found
that nothing had happened during their absence.
But if we must say it, those who returned had
to bear many jests from those who stayed
behind. " Who ever heard," they said, " of men
going out to rob a temple, and finding it, and,
yet returning without a penny's worth of spoil."
BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBITRG.
On the 1st of October, two days after the day
of St Michael, the Yikmgs set off on their
return to Jomsburg. The day before they
shared the spoil which they had found on board of
AtU's five ships. Though not a man, alive or dead
or wounded, had been left on board, there was
great store of goods robbed from all the chap-
men, which that Viking had been able to board.
There were in fact all those costly Eastern
wares and silken stuffs which Beom had before
mentioned, as Ukely to fall in their way.
Amber from the Livonian and Prussian coasts;
gold and silver rings from Russia ; honey, mead,
ale, and arms.
All these were brought to "the Pole,^' as it
was called ; that is, to the Standard Pole, that
they might be shared or sold for the common
good. Everything was then portioned into ten
BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBURG.. 285
lots: one of which went to SigvaJd, the Captain
of the band ; two were reckoned the portion of the
company itself ; and one lot went to the captain
of each ship; and the other six were equally
divided amongst the crews.
When all was over, Beom said to Vagn, " This
has not been so bad an autumn cruise. How good
it was of Atli to save us the trouble of collecting
it from each of the chapmen.^'
" It has been a profitable cruize indeed,'* said
Vagn ; " but what shall we do with the ships, we
have not men enough to man them and take
" No,*' said Beom ; " then they must go the
way of all ships at last— either to be sunk in the
water or burnt in the flames. To Ran or to
Loki all wood comes at last, and these timbers
shall go both ways at once. The Goddess of the
Sea shall have her share, and the God of Fire his.
We will set them on fire as they lie, and when
they have burnt to the waters' edge, the hulks
will sink to the bottom, and the sea will have
That very night Anschar and his priests and
acolytes were astonished at a great glare towards
286 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
the coast, and sent the swift-footed Grim out to
spy and bring back news. Through the woods
the boy watched the flames, as they devoured
the trim ships on which his father had sailed.
Then towards dawn, when the flames grew low,
each hull blazed up for a moment, and then sank
to the bottom with a dull hissing sound. When
all was dark again, he stole back through the
black forest and brought word to Anschar.
"It was only Beom and his Vikings amusing
themselves with burning AtU's ships.'*
Next day the Vikings started on their three
days* voyage to Jomsburg. Three days and
nights, as they reckoned, would bring them home
if the weather were fine ; and finer morning
never smiled on man than that on which they
made their way out of the mesh of islands which
fringed the coast of East Gothland and ran out
into the open Baltic.
So the weather continued till they reached
Calmar Sound, and were running between the
Swedish main and Oland.
Early in the morning, when Beorn came on
deck, and took the tiller from the old sea-dog
who had steered the ship through the last watch.
BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBURG. 287
he looked round the sky, as all sailors are wont^
and then growled a little and shook his head.
" You may well shake your head, Beorn,^' said
the sailor. " We shall shake all over all of us
ere the day be over/'
It was dead calm, and there was a low haze
which hung to the coast on either side, and dis-
torted natural objects in a mirage or Fata Mor^
gana. Headlands were inverted, rocks seemed
double, trees stood on their crowns in the water
with their trunks in the air. Everything was
disturbed and turned upside down. Overhead
was a great bank of cloud coming up against the
little wind that blew in flaws as though it could
never find strength to blow across the deep
more than a dozen yards.
** Aye, aye," said Beom, " our timbers will
soon shake as well as our heads. Here is a
tempest and a gale coming up, and it will be on
us in no time ; and now that we have passed
Calmar Bay, there is never a haven to run for
on this h-on-bound coast."
'* Bad weather for long-ships, Beorn,'' said the
old sea-dog. " Now if this were a ship of burden^
short, and round, and deep, we might ride like a
288 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
nut-shell over the waves ; but what can one do
with one of these long, narrow craft but stand by
her till she breaks her back, and then make up
one's mind to sleep in the sea caves with Ran."
" Not quite so bad as that, I hope/' said Beom
"I hope still to bear my bones back to my
native land, and not to leave them by Baltic
side. But this is the time to do, and not to
talk. Put the ship about while I hail Vagn,
and say what I mean to do.''
The old sailor took the tiller, bade the
rowers back to starboard and give way to lar-
board. Round flew the ship, while, as they
turned, Vagn and the other vessel came up close
on their quarter.
" Whither away now, foster-father," he
■ shouted. " Back to East Gothland to look for
Atli's and Wolf s bones."
Back to where Calmar Bay opens into the
Baltic, our only shelter against the coming
storm. Follow my lead, and put your ship
" Were I you," said Vagn, " I would hold on
till every oar snapped in the row-locks, and tih
the mast came toppling down. Why be afraid
BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBURG. 289
of a cap full of wind, which, after all, may never
The words were scarce out of his mouth when
the black clouds oyer their heads broke, and
there was a flash of forked lightning, which
seemed to run along the water, and plough up
its smooth face. Then down came the rain in
torrents, and out blew the wind in their teeth.
In the narrow sound, where the water was pent
Tip between the high shore on either side, the
waves began to roll at once ; and, as to Vagn's
notion of holding on, it was confuted by the
fact that it was only with the greatest difficulty,
that he and his comrades succeeded in accom-
plishing the sifbple manoeuvre which Beorn had
As it was, each ship broke several oars on
either broadside, and shipped a deal of water,
and was altogether in a crippled state.
" Now, give way with a will," shouted Beorn
over the roaring of the wind and sea. " We
must run before the, storm, and try to make
Calmar Bay, but it will be as much as we can
do in thi9 sea, where long-ships can scarcely
vol. I. "Vi
290 THE VIKIXGS OF THE BALTIC.
So the three ships ran before the wind, which
sent great waves after them^ threatening to
poop them every moment. It was literally a
race for their lives, and the three ships cut the
water with awful speed.
And now the opening into Calmar Bay began
to show itself. This was the • most delicate
operation of the whole, for the way in was
fringed with reefs and rocks a-wash, and right
in mid-channel was a shoal over which the
breakers broke furiousl3\ Added to this, the
three ships had now to change their course,
and to bring themselves broadside to the wind,
which exposed them, but only for a short time, to
the full force of the storm.
On this occasion as ever Beorn led ; his was
the post of danger ; he was first to run the
gauntlet of those shoals and that raging
" Follow me close," he roared to the others.
" I know the way in well — I could find it in
On he went, making the men ease their oars
on the windward side, and pull with redoubled
force on the lee. It was a near thing, but he
BEORN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBURG. 291
contrived to run his ship in in safety ; and in a
moment, after passing the shoal in mid-channel,
was, so to speak, in smooth water, and able to
look back on those that followed him. He had
not to wait long. Next to him came Vagn,
whose crippled ship was harder to steer.
"He will cleai' it,'' cried Beorn ; "the boy
will clear it/'
But he did not. Just then the wind seemed
to blow spitefully with twofold force. Vagn's
ship was driven on the shoal to leeward, and in
a moment or two seemed to double up like
matchwood as she took the ground. Worse
still, her comrade, in trying to give her a wide
berth, was thrown on the rocks on the opposite
" Both gone, both gone," said Beorn. " Two
tall ships, and so many bold men. But launch
the boat, lads ; she will live in this smooth
water ;" and, with that, the hardy veteran
threw himself into the skiff, that danced
up and down on what he called the smooth
water, and rowed as near as he could under the
lee of the shoal on which Vagn's ship had split,
but still clung together at the forecastle, which
292 THE VIKINGS OF THE BALTIC.
was hoisted high up into the air, and over
which the waves broke incessantly.
As they reached the spot, Beorn's quick eye
recognised the form of his foster-child clinging
to the figure-head amidst the gleaming water.
"Back up/' he cried, ** as close as you can to
the shoal on the leeward side/'
This was done ; and, to Beorn's delight, he
saw that Vagn had seen their boat. It was of no
avail to shout, but Beorn beckoned to him what
to do. His last chance was to throw himself
from the figure-head, and to try to fight his way
through the raging surf into the still water be-
With a superhuman eflFort Vagn threw himself
into the waves. A little while and he seemed
lost, but at last he emerged bej^ond the line of
surf, and was drifted, battered and breathless, to
Beorn's boat. \
" Take him up tenderly,*' said Beorn. " There \
is life in him yet, and, in saving him, we have
saved the boldest heart in Jomsburg.''
Three days afterwards Beorn and Vagn
reached the castle, and were welcomed as those
vho had escaped out of the very jaws of death.
BEOKN AND VAGN GO BACK TO JOMSBURG. 293
They had not returned as triumphantly as they
hoped, but though the Vikings mourned tlieir
lost comrades and their tall ships, they felt con-
soled when they thought things might have gone
far worse, for they might have lost as well
Beorn the Welchman, and Vagn Aki's son, both
of whom all agreed Jomsburg could never
END OP VOLUME I,