The following is a chapter of Frithjof, the Viking of Norway, by Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin.
The earth has donned once more her robe of green; few dragon ships still loiter along the strand, and those but wait for their youthful crews to take them out, on foreign ventures bound, as is Norsemen’s wont. But Frithjof’s thoughts do not roam the seas; he seeks the solitude of the woods, these moonlit nights of lovely May.
A few short days ago he was the proudest, the happiest of men: he had bidden the young kings to be his guests at Framnäs, and Ingeborg had come with them. The two had sat together, hand in hand, and their talk had been of their common childhood, when each day glistened with the morning dew of life. They had wandered together over rich meadows and in shady groves, and she had uttered many a little cry of joy as she found her own name cut in the silvery bark of the handsomest birches. But it was with a sigh that she confessed to her friend:
“How much better I feel here than in the royal castle! For Halfdan is boyish, and Helge is harsh; one wants coaxing, and the other, obedience. And there is no one” (here she blushed like a wild rose) “no one to whom I could confide a trouble, a sad thought. How different it was in our dear old Hildingsdale! The doves which we did raise together have been scared away by the hawks. Only one pair is left: take thou one, and I will cherish the other. If thou tie a message under its wing and let it go, it will straightway seek its mate.”
As the spring whispers in the green lindens, so they whispered to each other all day long; they were whispering still when the sun went down.
Now she was gone, and all Frithjof’s joyousness had gone with her. In a day or two he wrote a loving message and sent off the dove with it, but received no answer, for the bird would not leave its mate again.
This state of things was not at all to Björn’s liking, and he wondered to himself: “What can have made our young eagle so still and moody? What shot has pierced his breast or lamed his wing? Surely there is no lack here of meat or honeyed mead, and there are skalds enough, in faith, for them that love their neverending songs. What can he be pining for?”
The steeds stamp the stable floor with impatient hoof, the falcons wildly shriek for quarry; Ellide sways restlessly in the harbor, tugging at her anchor: Frithjof heeds them not, but still, day after day, broods in silence and alone.
At last, one morning, he loosed the dragon ship’s bonds — she bounded from her moorings and, steered by his will, bore him straight, with swelling sails, across the bay, to where the kings sat on Bele’s grave mound, holding open court of justice. Proudly, yet respectfully, Frithjof stood before them and spoke, without delay or preamble, what was in his heart:
“Fair Ingeborg, ye kings, I love as my own soul, and crave her at your hands for my dear bride. Such surely was King Bele’s intent, for it was by his will we grew up together in Hilding’s keeping. True, my father was neither king nor earl, yet his name will live in song for many a year; the story of our race is told in runes on many honored graves. I could easily win me a kingdom, but I would liefer stay at home and take care of your kingdom for you — guarding your royal castle and the poor man’s hut alike. We are here on Bele’s mound — he hears me as I sue to you; hear ye, his sons, his voice as he speaks to you from the grave!”
Then King Helge started angrily to his feet and spoke in scornful tones:
“Our sister is not for the bonder’s son. The daughter of the gods must wed with royal blood. Though thou shouldst, by force of arms, compel men to hail thee greatest of Norseland’s sons, never shall maid of Odin’s blood mate with a lowborn adventurer. Nor is there any call for thee to take thought for my realm; I can hold it and care for it myself. But I would fain have thee my retainer: there is a place free among my men-at-arms — thou art welcome to it.”
“Man of thine I will never call myself,” Frithjof answered quick, in clarion tones; “I will be my own man, as my father was before me. Stand by me, Angurwadel! Too long hast thou been idle!”
And as he spoke, the blue lightning of the steel flashed forth from the silver scabbard; the runes upon the blade burned in angry red.
“Thou black-hearted king!” quoth Frithjof sternly, “were this spot not hallowed by the peace of a beloved grave, my trusty sword should teach thee a lesson. As it is, thou hadst best heed my warning: see thou comest not too near its range!”
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And turning to where King Helge’s golden shield hung on a limb of the oak beneath which he sat, Frithjof with one mighty stroke cleft it in twain: the halves fell to the ground with loud clang, and the hollow mound echoed the ominous sound.
“Well done, friend Angurwadel!” cried the youth. “Now lie still and dream of nobler deeds; thy blazing runes extinguish for a while. Home now, across the blue waters — home!”