Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 58

She greeted him courteously and asked his business, and he replied, “I have brought home Thorbiorn’s wethers which strayed this autumn,” and then the two talked together for a short time. Now Thorbiorn was curious to know what the business might be, and sent his nephew Vakr to see who was there; he went secretly and listened to the conversation between Sigrid and Olaf, but heard little, for Olaf was just saying, “Then I need not go in to Thorbiorn; thou, Sigrid, canst as well tell him where his sheep are now”; then he simply bade her farewell and turned away.

Olaf and Sigrid

[Pg 99] Vakr ran back into the hall, shouting and laughing, till Thorbiorn asked: “How now, nephew! Why makest thou such outcry? Who is there?”

“It was Olaf Howardson, the great booby of Bluemire, bringing back the sheep thou didst lose in the autumn.”

“That was a neighbourly deed,” said Thorbiorn.

“Ah! but there was another reason for his coming, I think,” said Vakr. “He and Sigrid had a long talk together, and I saw her put her arms round his neck; she seemed well pleased to greet him.”

“Olaf may be a brave man, but it is rash of him to anger me thus, by trying to steal away my housekeeper,” said Thorbiorn, scowling heavily. Olaf had no thanks for his kindness, and was ill received whenever he came; yet he came often to see Sigrid, for he loved her, and tried to persuade her to wed him. Thorbiorn hated him the more for his open wooing, which he could not forbid.

Thorbiorn Insults Olaf

The next year, when harvest was over, and the sheep were brought home, again most of the missing sheep belonged to Thorbiorn, and again Olaf went to the mountains alone and brought back the stray ones. All thanked him, except the master of Bathstead, to whom Olaf drove back sixty wethers. Thorbiorn had grown daily more enraged at Olaf’s popularity, his strength and beauty, and his evident love for Sigrid, and now chose this opportunity of insulting the bold youth who rivalled him in fame and in public esteem.

Olaf reached Bathstead at noon, and seeing that all men were in the hall, he entered, and made his way to the daïs where Thorbiorn sat; there he leaned on his axe, gazed steadily at the master, who gave him no [Pg 100] single word of greeting. Then every one kept silence watching them both.

At last Olaf broke the stillness by asking: “Why are you all dumb? There is no honour to those who say naught. I have stood here long enough and had no word of courteous greeting. Master Thorbiorn, I have brought home thy missing sheep.”

Vakr answered spitefully: “Yes, we all know that thou hast become the Icefirth sheep-drover; and we all know that thou hast come to claim some share of the sheep, as any other beggar might. Kinsman Thorbiorn, thou hadst better give him some little alms to satisfy him!”